Friday, October 31, 2008

A Fun Week

This past week has been a busy one around the B house. We've had so much fun. OG and EJ had birthdays AND we attended the "School Days" at the Renaissance Festival. I also had the opportunity to enjoy a rare "movie day" with a couple friends. Our movie selections included "Sense and Sensibility" (one of my most favorites) and "Elizabethtown". I took an artichoke & spinach dip to the movie day. The girls asked if I would share the recipe, so here it is:
Artichoke & Spinach Dip
1 16oz. can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
1 4 oz. can diced green chilie peppers
1 c. mayonnaise
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients well. Pour into a greased 8"x8" baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot, bubbly and edges begin to brown. Serve with crackers or toast points.
As mentioned in a previous post, we join some other home school families for history and creative writing a couple times per week. This week I served fried rice for supper. Here's the recipe:
Fried Rice
6 tablespoons oil
6 c. cold cooked rice (I use brown rice)
1 c. frozen corn
1 c. frozen peas
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 1/2 onions, diced
4-6 green onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. cooked meat, (chicken, pork, beef, seafood, etc.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon lemon grass
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 eggs, beaten well
In a large skillet saute over high heat diced onions, carrots, celery and meat in oil until tender. Add garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce , spices; mix well. Add cold rice, stir and mix well. Add corn and peas; stir and mix well until hot. Remove from heat, stir in green onion.
(note: I always pre-measure all ingredients during my prep time when preparing this dish).
Here's a few photos from our week:
Birthday Cake
Gifts from Aunt Liz

A new outfit

EJ's 7th B-Day

A new 100 piece jigsaw puzzle
Excited about his gifts!!
Birthday Cake

Dress Up & Living History

Playing King of the Log
Who do you think won?


William Shakespeare

Posing with King Henry VIII

Our day was very educational. We saw many demonstrations, including glass blowing, metal casting, coin pressing, leather tooling, yarn spinning, paper making, movable type press, and a jousting tournament. Often times my little knight and fair maiden were the only students observing the demonstrations which afforded them an up close view and even a couple hands on activities.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Godly Stewardship, Part IV

Stewardship of one's time. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

As previously stated when many hear the word stewardship they immediately think of finances. However, there is much more to Godly stewardship than our finances. As Christians we are called and held to a different standard, a higher standard. Not only does this include our finances but, also our time management skills.

Time management is an area that I personally find challenging. For many years I couldn't understand why because time, in and of itself, is concrete. We all have 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week, 727 hours per month, 8,760 hours per year. Time is non-discriminatory. All of us, each and every one, has been allotted the exact same amount in any given day, week, month and/or year. I used to ponder, "If time is so concrete then why do many of us, especially me, find it so elusive?"

Once my husband and I grasped the concept of "managing our money" and we stopped allowing our "money to manage us", our perspective changed thus, helping us to improve our financial situation. Upon realizing that I had personally grasped and, through trial and error, had successfully implemented this change in my life, I had a personal revelation - "I found time to be elusive because I was not managing time, I was allowing time to manage me." I realized that I needed to establish my priorities, make a plan and work my plan.

There are many, many, many tools readily available to assit one in planning out their time - aka time management. However, try as they may, I still see so many people struggling with this issue. It seems like they've tried every idea and tool available and they still have trouble grasping that ever elusive thing we call time. In my own personal situation, all the tools and ideas failed because tools and ideas are not where one begins when it comes to time management skills. I had skipped previous steps and evaluations and I have a strong suspicion that many others have too.

The first area of focus in learning to be a good steward of one's time is prioritizing which, consists of three steps. The first is to recognize the season of our life. The second step is to accept the season of our life. Time may be concrete but the seasons of our lives are not. They are ever changing. Most of our lives will consist of four seasons. They generally include a spring, summer, Autumn and winter. Spring is the time of our life when we are children and teenagers. During this season, our time is, for the most part, managed by others. We then progress into our summers. This is the period of life that is the most adventurous AND busy. We enter adulthood, careers, marriages, and train-up our own families. The third season of our lives is autumn. Autumn, I think, is one of most beautiful seasons. Our careers are established, our husband or wife has become an extension of our self ("...and the two shall become one") and we can see the fruits of our labor in our grown children who are starting their own careers, marriages and families. During the autumn we have a tremendous oportunity to mentor the younger generation who is experiencing the summer of their own lives. Finally, most of us will experience a winter. These are the conclusion years of our lives. They complete who we are as a person. These years are meant to be grand because we get a glimpse of our legacy. We see our grandchildren grow up and some of us get to see a fourth or, for those of us who are really blessed, a fifth generation branch forward.

We must learn to recognize where we are. We must be content with and embrace the season we are experiencing. I find myself to be abundantly blessed in that I have been given an Indian summer. In regards to weather, an Indian summer is most commonly know as an extended summer. The heat of summer lingers, the trees keep their green leaves a little longer than usual and it often feels like the cool crisp air and the beautiful multi-colored leaves of autumn will never arrive. In my specific situation, my eldest child is 17 years older than my youngest. By the time I enter the autumn of my life, my husband and I will have have been growing and training up our family for approximately 37 years. Now days, most people's summer season lasts approximately 25 years. I am blessed with an Indian summer. I find it unfortunate that many seem to have a very difficult time entering the autumn season of their life. They continue to be too involved in their adult children's lives OR they make the terrible mistake of unnecessarily taking on the parenting role of their grandchildren. (note: I am not referring to those who are forced into parenting grandchildren because of the death, incarceration or other extended circumstance of their own children.) Here of late, I have met many folks whose children are adults, but mom and, sometimes, dad still drives them to the doctor for minor illnesses or check-ups, these adult children go to mommy's house when they have the flu (with all the grandchildren in tow), mom and/or dad is contacting prospective employers after job interviews, mom and/or dad is taking sides or getting overly involved in marital disputes ... this list could go on and on. It is obvious that these folks have either not recognized that the summer season of their life has ended OR they refuse to accept it. They are attempting to create their own Indian summer. They are doing themselves, their own families and society a great injustice. They are missing out on the joys and wonder their own autumn. How sad skipping autumn and jumping from summer into winter without the magic and scents of autumn. They are stealing their own children's summers by not allowing their children the satisfaction of victory of independently overcoming challenges. And they are robbing God of the mentor ship they have to offer the church and society.

The third step in prioritizing has to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ. Where is He on our list of prioritizing? I know many will scold me because I haven't placed Jesus before recognizing and accepting our seasons. However, I ask - when we haven't recognized or accepted the season of our life, how can we begin to put Jesus first? If we are living outside our season, aka out of order, then we will have a very difficult time placing the Lord in the position of first. Leviticus 27:30, "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord." I believe this includes our time. Our time has been given to us by the Lord. He has determined how many seasons we will spend upon this earth. We should gladly and with thanksgiving give 1/10 of it back to Him. We are all allotted 24 hours each and every day. The tithe of our time equals two hours and forty minutes to be set aside for Lord daily. This time should be spent in a combination of studying His Word, prayer, preparing for a Bible study class (as an attendee or instructor), volunteering for various outreach ministries, etc. We must recognize the season of our life we are in AND accept that season so we can then best prioritize our time with the Lord and still accomplish all the things we need and want to accomplish during each day.

The second area of focus when learning to a good steward of one's time is in recognizing the absolutes in our lives. The daily absolutes in my life are: time with the Lord, time with my husband and children, home schooling, preparation of meals, and the keeping of my home. When I began to scrutinize my priorities, I realized that I had confused many desires/wants with absolutes. For instance, I had a desire to be "super home maker extraordinaire" - I wanted to sew all my daughter's and my clothes, I wanted to cook and bake absolutely everything from scratch, I wanted a spotless home, I wanted my home decor to look like a magazine advertisement, I wanted the largest garden my property could provide, I wanted my garden to be as clean, neat and well designed as the one's in the gardening catalogs and how-to books, I wanted to home educate my children, I wanted to be active in the women's ministry, the kitchen ministry and the children's ministry at my church, I wanted to volunteer in my community, I wanted to be available to babysit for friends and family, I wanted all the gifts I gave at Christmas, birthdays, anniversary, etc. to be homemade, the list went on and on.

We must all stop for a moment and ask, "What desires/wants am I confusing with absolutes?" Homemade clothing and gifts, a beautiful garden, exquisite home interior are all very nice but, are they absolutely necessary for one to enjoy a simple and peaceful life? Are these desires/wants preventing us from giving back to the Lord? 2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work". When it comes to prioritizing our life, God has already given us an abundance of grace by allotting us 24 hours each and every day. It is our responsibility to prioritize that time sufficiently so that we may accomplish good works for Him. We must give some serious thought to our time management absolutes and desires/wants.

When I became aware that I had confused wants and absolutes with regard to effectively managing my time, I had to figure out how to get things in order. I began keeping track of exactly what I spent time doing each and every day. During this period, I kept a small pocket sized notebook and would quickly jot down various tasks/activities, the time began and the time finished. For instance, I wondered exactly how much time did I spend every day preparing meals and cleaning the kitchen? How much time did I really spend watching t.v. or surfing the internet? How much time did I spend in an average day taking or making telephone calls? How much time did I spend looking for things because of inadequate organization? At the end of the month I was very surprised by my tally. For instance, I found out that I spent more time watching t.v. and taking telephone calls than I had previously thought - I found that I had allowed many things to creep in that were robbing me of the time God had allotted me each and every day. These "time robbers" were also interfering with my relationship with the Lord.

Once I identified "time robbers", I made a list of my absolutes and the tasks/activities required to accomplish these absolutes. When examining the time spent with/for the Lord, I must be careful that the "work" I am doing does not interfere with or replace my relationship with the Lord. Other women my age are taking on more challenging areas ministry. As exciting as this is and as temping as it is to become involved with, I must recognize and accept that I have been blessed with an Indian summer. My ministry priorities, husband, children and home, are still very time consuming because our younger children are elementary aged. The Lord, my husband and children expect me to be their mommy 24/7. Unlike their older brothers, they are not yet adults and thus, they require intimate care on a daily basis. Whereas our adult children are busy enjoying and building the summers of their lives. To the older boys we have become mentors and are no longer their primary care givers. I strive to be wise with my use of time, thus I have had to step away from some areas of ministry and, as much as I'd like to be involved, I've had to decline some ministry opportunities. A time will come when I will need to transition into the autumn season of my life. When that time comes, the Lord will have a ministry suited specifically for my talents awaiting me. This same concept applies to my relationships with my husband and children. I must also guard myself so that the "work" (home schooling, cooking, cleaning, keeping our home) done for their benefit, does not become a replacement for their relationship. It's O.K. if we eat a quick meal of leftovers from paper plates once or twice per week. This allows us more time to spend together. It's O.K. if our home does not look like a picture from the "Southern Living" magazine. I promise you, our children would rather have a relationship with mommy than a "picture perfect" house to live in. Remember, I also have adult children, so I know this is a factual statement.

Once we recognize and accept the season of our life and we prioritize our absolutes, we are then ready to focus on the planning and working the plan areas of our lives. Next time, I will share some ideas that I've tried, sometimes successful and sometimes not. It is my prayer that you will take the opportunity this teaching has afforded and begin a new journey toward becoming a good steward of your time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Call Me Lucy ...

I was too panicked to take a picture. SOOOO, you'll have to use your imagination ... (which may make the following story even funnier).

Have any of you ever seen the "I Love Lucy" t.v. episode where Lucy decides to bake bread and puts too much yeast into the dough? The loaf of bread that comes out of the oven is about 12 feet long! Too funny ....

Last week I posted a photo of the beautiful bread I baked using H4MH's recipe. Well, her recipe turned out so nice, I decided to use it again this week. This afternoon was, as usual, busy for me. I had a ton of laundry to do, as usual AND I'd got a late start on my baking. Well, while I was mixing the dough in the mixer my washing machine stopped and I needed to put some clothes out on the line and begin another load. So, I decided to turn the mixer off "for just a moment while I hang the wash", was my thought.

Out to the clothes line I go. While hanging the wash, the mail was delivered. Once all the wash was hung, I collected the mail. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. Once inside, I glanced through the envelopes and noticed my husband's pay stub had arrived. I decided I'd "quickly" pay a few bills. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. After paying bills (not as quickly as I intended), I noticed a small stack of filing and figured that since I was already at my desk, I'd go ahead and take care of it. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. Upon completion of the filing, I, again, decided that since I was already at my desk, I'd quickly check my e-mails. Now, remember, I had bread dough in the mixer. As I was checking my e-mail, an interesting news article caught my eye and I began reading it. About half way through the article, from the kitchen I hear OG,

I then very calmly thought to myself, "Oh yeah, I have bread dough in the mixer." So, I got up and walked into the BREAD DOUGH! I had let it sit in the mixer so long it had risen. It wicked up the dough hooks, all over the top of the mixer, down the bowl, onto the counter, dripped down the cabinets and pooled onto the floor. It was everywhere!!
My family and I are still laughing OUT LOUD over this one! It is just too funny. From now on, you all can just call me Lucy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Godly Stewardship, Part III

Financial Stewardship. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

According to Wikipeia, in 2007, there were 111,162,259 households in the U.S. According to the Barna Group, in 2007, 46,688,148 (42%) of those households regularly attended at least one Christian church service each week, excluding weddings and funerals. With that information, lets take a look at what America would look like if Christians were to eliminate their household debt, consistently give tithes and offerings and invest in savings.

In 2007, the average annual US household income was $50,233.00. The average full-time employed male earned $45,113.00 annually and the average full-time employed female earned $35,102. 00 annually. Since I have a strong conviction that women should be keepers of the home, the following figures will be based on the average annual full-time employed male earnings of $45,113.00. So, let's do some math ...

$45,113.00 x's 10% = $4,511.00 tithe (1/10 of a whole)

$45,113.00 x's 10% = $4,511.00 savings/investments

$45,113.00 - 20% (tithe & savings) = $36,091 living expenses

If every Christian household consistently tithed, then $210,610,235,629.00 ($4,511.00 x's 46,688,148) would be funneled into churches, ANNUALLY, for the spreading of the gospel and social programs. Subsequently, if every Christan household saved and invested 10% of his earnings that would ANNUALLY inject $210,610,235,629.00 into our nation's economic foundation.

What would our nation look like if our churches had $2.6 billion annually? How many urban and world missionaries would that support? How many low-income American families would that feed through "food pantry" or "soup kitchen" programs? How many bundles of school supplies and clothes would that purchase for low-income American school children? How many affordable private Christian schools could be started? How many affordable Christian child care and after school programs could that support? (these programs would give children a Christian, Biblical foundation for their lives) How many young widowed mothers could stop working 2 jobs to support their fatherless children? (the Bible directs Christians to care for widows and orphans - not governments) How many prison and recovery ministries could be established? How many sick and elderly could have the loneliness taken out of their lives by implementing visitation programs? When asking these sorts of questions we also need to remember that the $2.6 billion dollars that should be going into Christian churches is a full $2.6 billion because ALL OF IT, every dime, is exempt from taxes. God has been so generous with us that He's placed us in a nation where churches are considered non-profit organizations which do not pay taxes. Thus, we qualify for a personal tax exemption when we sow 1/10 of His blessing back into His kingdom. Matthew 25: 34-40, "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when we saw the sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

What would America's economic foundation look like if Christian families saved and invested 10% of their household incomes? In addition to the $700 billion Wall Street bail out, just last week our government decided to purchase an additional $2.5 billion in junk assets (these are worth less than the paper they are printed on) from our banking systems to ease up "cash flow" between lenders. Today's headlines read that our government is now poising itself to begin purchasing money market mutual funds. We need to remember that this is OUR money. I find it ironic that if Christians had saved and invested 10% of their annual incomes in 2008, then we would have put more than $2.6 billion into the US banking system, just in this year alone - that's more than the $2.5 billion the government decided on last week. Am I the only person who finds our nation's economic situation absolutely disgusting? In all reality, we have no one to blame but ourselves. In 2007, full-time employed Christian males earned approximately $2,106,242,420,724.00. However, Christian households spent $463,373,332,559. 00 more than they made - all of it borrowed. We must realize that this figure does not include the compounded annual interest that will be charged on that borrowed amount. Am I the only Christian in America who thinks it's time for all this to stop? It is time for Christian households to repent of their worldly attitudes regarding the financial blessings God has bestowed upon them. Deuteronomy 28 speaks of the blessings of obeying God and the curses of disobedience. God desires to bless us far above all others. Deuteronomy 28: 12-13, "The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou harken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and do them." How do we achieve this awesome financial blessing? By ridding ourselves of the god of materialism. Philippians 4:11 says, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." When will we be content with what God has blessed us with?

I'd like to share a personal testimony. When I was a young adult and not living for the Lord, having enough food to eat was a challenge we faced every day. As the years progressed, I eventually surrendered to the Lord's call and accepted the free gift of salvation. No, our finances did not magically improve overnight. We continued to struggle for several years, until my husband found Dave Ramsey's radio program. He began listening to it daily. Over time, a hunger for a debt free lifestyle began to grow within my husband's heart. He realized that if we were debt free then I would be able to stay at home and care for our children full-time. But more importantly during this time, he and I both began looking outside ourselves and our selfish wants and desires. We began to see that although we had a lower than average American income, we still had far more than 80% of the rest of the world's population. We began focusing on our areas of blessing instead of the areas of want. Over the course of about a year, we learned how to not only be content with our socio-economic station, but to also be thankful for the things we did have. This change in perspective assisted us in changing our financial behaviors. Within 9 months of making a decision to become debt free, we paid off our debt. Once debt free, I quit my job resulting in a more than a 50% reduction in our household income. We were able to support a family of 6 on considerably less than the national average income. Yes, at times it was tough, but we did everything we could to be good stewards of the blessing God had bestowed upon us. We continued to view our financial situation as a blessing. We were a one vehicle family & that vehicle now has more than 320,000 miles on it. We shopped at re-sales stores, we made our Christmas and birthday gifts. We did not have cell phones, internet, cable t.v., etc. We never went out to dinner or movies. Most importantly, we continued to live debt free. As time went by, my husband, who is not a born again Christian, decided, without prompting from me, that we should begin to give to the church the children and I attended. After consistently giving for about two years, week in and week out, no matter how tight our finances may have seemed, my husband was offered a career change that included a significant pay increase. After he had made the transition into his new career, he decided to increase the amount we were giving to the church. Not long after implementing that decision, he was awarded a pay increase.

Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For withal it shall be measured to you again." The greatest testimony from our financial freedom is the joy we find in our family. By gaining control over our money we inadvertently, gained control over our time and the relationships within our family. We can not, nor will we ever be able to, out give God. When we are obedient, thankful and content, God will bless us abundantly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Menu Day

In keeping with the recent frugal theme of my posts, I'd like to, once again, share our upcoming supper menu with you. As always, these meals are simple and frugal. Limiting the amount of meat we eat is only one of the many ways I work to maintain a frugal grocery budget. You will notice that 7 of the following 14 meals are meatless. The absence of meat does not reduce the nutritional value. Most everyone who knows our family will tell you that we are some of the most healthy individuals they know. We rarely become ill and we have an abundance of energy.
leftover black eyed peas, homemade bread w/ melted cheese
tacos, Mexican rice
pot luck @ Mrs. M's; will bring twice baked sweet potatoes & spinach dip w/ crackers
grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup
chicken-n-dumplings, carrot salad, yeast rolls
meatless spaghetti, garlic bread, salad
left-over Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, salad

vegetable soup, quick bread
oven baked macaroni & cheese, green beans, carrots
tuna cakes w/ dill sauce, steamed spinach, buttered corn, salad
venison sausage & sauerkraut, roasted potatoes
fried rice, egg drop soup, salad
sliced ham w/ raisin sauce, sweet potatoes, creamed peas
baked potatoes, salad

About My Friends

Friendship Pictures, Images and Photos

My dear sweet friend over at Heart 4 My Home ( has awarded me with another blogging award - A Friendship Award! This is a wonderful blessing to my heart. A few questions come with this award, so here goes ...

1. Do you have the same friends since childhood?

No. Not one. There was a time in my life when this answer would have made me very sad. However, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. I am now able to look back and see where God has brought me from. He placed my feet upon a different path. He has and is leading me closer to Him.

2. What do you value most about your friends?

First and foremost I value their prayers. I have come to understand Roman 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." When my friends pray for me and my family, I know that I have advocates petitioning the throne the God with me. I will be able to see the blessing of God's hand directing all things in my life.

3. Are your friends your sounding board?

I hate to admit this, but yes, sometimes they are. For sometime now I have been working on leaving a prayer request just that, a prayer request. It is my desire to continue growing in the Lord and learning to lean on Him. The Bible is a life manual. The answers to all our questions and quandaries are right there in God's Word. If I don't like the answers He gives or I find myself with a different opinion than He, that is a cue that my heart has been lead astray and I am in need of repenting.

4. What is your favorite activity to share with your friends?

Fun get-togethers that include cooking, eating, and fellowship. Sometimes we get together and go camping. When we do this, I love our Sunday morning worship time. Worshiping the Lord in His beautiful creation is really special to me.

As always with blogging awards, it is customary to pass the award on to others who are special.

Sarah @ As Lillies Sewing ( Sarah is a beautiful young lady whose heart's desire is to follow the Lord. She is a terrific friend and mentor to many. Her blog has been a wonderful blessing and ministry to my very own little lady - OG.

Jewels @ Eyes of Wonder ( Her posts are inspiring and absolutely poetic. The Lord has blessed her with the most amazing gift of writing. Visits to her site are always a blessing to my heart.

Jamie @ Homeschooling Baptist Brood ( This lovely young lady really has a heart for training her young family up in the Lord. It is such a blessing to see her growing into a Titus 2 lady.

Nicole @ Heart 4 My Home ( She has become a terrific friend. I look forward to our friendship growing and I thank the Lord that He brought her into my life.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fresh Baked Bread: Less Than $0.50 Per Loaf

Mmmmm ... fresh baked bread. Nothing smells better than bread baking in the oven, except for maybe apple pie ...
Today I decided to try a friend's, H4MH, recipe (& I'm proud of myself because I made only 1 very small change to her recipe ... her's calls for all-purpose flour, I replaced 1/2 of it with whole wheat). As you can see, it turned out GREAT and it was large enough for 2 loaves of sandwich bread, 1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread and a dozen rolls. Not only did OG and I have a terrific time in the kitchen, but we saved several dollars. Do you realize that baking your own bread generally costs less than $0.50 per loaf? That's less than half the cost of cheap unhealthy generic brands and several dollars less than the expensive healthier brands. If you'd like to try H4MH's recipe just click here . Thank you H4MH for a terrific recipe!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Freindly Fun: About $1 Per Person

This evening OG and EJ shared "movie night" with a couple friends. This is a fun and economical way parents can provide entertainment for their children. The entire evening cost less than $5. The children enjoyed homemade pizzas, popcorn, a beverage and a movie. Tonight's feature film was "Time Changer", a Rich Christiano Film starring D. David Morin, Gavin MacLeod, Hal Linden, Jennifer O'Neill and Paul Rodriguez.
While I prepared the mini-pizza assembly line, the children played a couple games of tag outside. I divided the pizza crust into 4 mini portions and placed the toppings, peperoni, ham, bell peppers, cheese, pizza sauce, pineapple, and onions, in serving containers.
After washing up, the children assembled their own mini pizzas. While the pizzas were baking, the children started watching the movie. They enjoyed a pizza picnic upon a blanket in the living room. As they watched the movie and ate their pizzas, I popped popcorn, the dessert. OG and EJ had such a fun time hosting their friends. I hope they can do it again soon.

The recipe for yeast-free homemade pizza is in the recipe section. The popcorn was the old fashioned pop-on-the-stove kind which much is cheaper and healthier than microwave brands, 2 # for $2.39. Only 1/3 c. un-popped corn (about $0.20 worth) will make enough popcorn to fill 6 popcorn containers, shown in the above photo. The movie was from our home movie collection.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Entire Meal Less Than $0.80 Per Serving

A couple times per week our family shares history and creative writing home school classes with two other families. The other two moms teach and I bring supper. Since I love to cook and I love to cook for a large number of people, I think this has been working out great. I hope the other moms are enjoying it as much as I.

As I was preparing this evening's meal, I recalled a segment from a morning television program about "dining on a shoestring". This program hosts guest chefs and each chef is allotted $40.00 to prepare one meal for a family of 4. When I heard this I thought, "$40 for one meal? Why that's almost half my weekly grocery budget and I often feed quite a few more than 4 people."

This evening I prepared enough food to feed 11 people for about $8.00. Our menu included black eyed peas, fried cabbage, potato cakes, and sweet tea. Here's a breakdown of my expenses:

1 # black eyed peas $1.19
1 med. head cabbage .88
2 onions .66
1 # salt pork 2.25 (sale item)
1/2 bell pepper .44 (.88 ea.)
2 # potatoes 1.25 (sale 5# @ 2.50)
1/3 bag frozen corn .70
1 1/2 c. grated cheese 1.25 (buy in bulk & grate myself)

pantry items: 1/2 c. sugar, salt, pepper, 1 tsp. pinto bean seasoning, 1 c. flour, 2 eggs, 1 jalapeno, tea

The entire meal cost less than $0.80 per serving. Where I come from and in today's economy, $40.00 for one meal for a family of 4 ($10.00 per serving) is not a bargain. No wonder we have families all across America drowning in debt ... thanks to television, most don't have a realistic concept of what dining on shoestring really is.

The recipes for my fried cabbage and potato cakes are in the recipe section. Here's my recipe for

Black Eyed Peas

1 lb. black eyed peas (rinsed & sorted)
3/4 lb. salt pork, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 whole jalapeno pepper
1 tsp. pinto bean seasoning
1 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot cover black eyed peas with water. Bring up to a boil and boil for two minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to stand 1 hour. Add salt pork, onion, bell pepper, jalapeno, pinto bean seasoning, sugar, salt & pepper. Add additional water if necessary. Simmer (do not boil) over med. low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until black eyed peas are tender. Remove jalapeno pepper before serving.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Godly Stewarship, Part II

There are many in today's church who hear the word stewardship and think it has to do with making good financial decisions. However, there is more to stewardship than finances. A basic definition of stewardship is, "the management of property and/or affairs". When one is a good steward he has learned how to effectively manage his property AND his affairs.

I have noticed that many folks behave in ways that indicate that they believe the words stewardship, management, budget, balance, etc. are defined as restrictions, limitations, confinements, etc. On the contrary, stewardship, management, budgeting, balance, etc. are nothing more or less than planning and prioritizing. It is vital to today's Christian church that we learn how to plan and work our plans so we can be a successful and a shining light that the rest of the world would want to emulate. I have never found any biblical scripture that tells the church to emulate the world. Time and time again we are warned that the ways of this world lead to destruction and we are reminded that the following of Jesus leads us to abundance. Jesus says in John 10:10-11, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep." Jesus gave His life so that we could have life AND have it more abundantly than the un-saved world.

Abundant life. It is something we all seem to want. As a matter of fact, I've never met anyone, Christian or non-Christian, who didn't want an abundant life as described in the Bible. The problem is that most folks do not seem to have an understanding of Biblical abundance and thus, they are being misguided by the false light of materialism. Biblical abundance is a life lived to it's best and to it's fullest. It is a lifestyle lived in safety, reward, love, blessing, charity, health, purity, grace, contentment, honor, excitement. It does not contain regret, remorse, guilt, discourse, strife, loneliness, anger, bitterness, etc. The Bible is literally an instruction manual on how to avoid the pitfalls of life and how to gain an abundant life. If only we'd begin reading it with an open mind and heart. If only we'd apply it's life giving words with repentance and thankfulness.

What good is it for a person to have an abundance of money or property if he does not have healthy relationships or time to enjoy it? What good is all the time in the world if one does not have anyone to share it with or is suffering from a lack of food? How is one to obtain strong healthy relationships with others if he is never available to cultivate those relationships? When learning to be a good steward we must learn how to prioritize our finances, time and relationships.

As of today, America as a whole is facing tremendous financial uncertainty. Our average household debt is more than any previous generation could ever imagine. Our corporate debt is leading us into ownership by foreign entities. Our national debt is leading us into slavery by foreign governments. Our democratic government is considering and implementing measures that are quickly leading us from a capitalist economy into a full-blown socialist economy. How did we get into this situation? Well, when one looks beyond all the excuses, name calling and finger pointing the answer is poor fiscal management. The wheelers, dealers and powers that be had/have skewed priorities and poor planing. It is obvious to anyone who's ever opened a Bible, that these guys have not been looking to the Bible for principals when it comes to fiscal management, ("the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy..."). Unfortunately, American citizens also stopped following the Bible with regard to fiscal management and began following the wheelers and dealers who have lead us down a path of destruction.

The average American seems to have forgotten that the cornerstone of our nation's wealth lies within it's foundation. The foundation of our nation is not our government or corporations. The corporations are the walls/support beams and the government is the roof. The foundation is each and every single individual family. It is Joe and Mary Smith's savings account. It is Ben and Sue Jone's retirement investments. It is old man Martin's 2 bedroom, 1 bath home where he and late Mrs. Martin trained up 5 children. Looking at the savings rates vs. credit/loan debt, American families are in the negative. Looking at retirement investments vs. inflation, future retirees are in the red. Looking at home ownership vs. home mortgages, mortgage brokers and attorneys are the only ones seeing black in their ledgers. The financial foundation of our nation is faulted. When the foundation of a house cracks the rest of the structure becomes unsound and unsafe. In time, if that foundation is not shored up and repaired, the entire structure will collapse. American families seem to be looking at our government for a fix to our nation's financial problems. Unfortunately, repairing the roof on this structure will not prevent it's demise because the foundation is faulted.

I do not personally know anyone or group of people, for that matter,who can repair the financial trouble of our nation's corporations and government. However, I do know that the average American citizen is in the position to shore up and repair the financial foundation of our nation. It all begins with each individual family. We can return to Biblical principals and learn how to effectively manage our finances. By paying off our individual debt and funneling those loan payments into savings accounts and retirement investments, we have the ability inject a tremendous amount of cash into our nation's financial base. Not to mention, debt-free is equal to a whole lota stress elimination.

Now, becoming debt free is not an easy task to undertake, especially when we are currently looking at a 5+% inflation rate. But, hey, it could be worse - I remember the 70's when the inflation rate was hovering around 14%. However, do you really need that Starbucks coffee, and you currently have 23 pair of shoes - do you really need another pair? Do you find yourself complaining about the amount of time your children spend on the X-Box - then why are you buying them another game for it? Are you going out to supper and movies each and every week because you're bored or maybe you're uncomfortable spending one-on-one time with your husband and children? How many days during the past year has your family actually spent in that RV, 3, 5, how about 10 - how much are those payments every month? Most families are in debt because they've developed some very poor spending habits. Most have fallen prey to the lies of materialism, the lies of, "well, after all, you work so hard - you deserve a few toys.", "The Bible does say that Christ came to give life and give it more abundantly." Yes, we all work hard and deserve some reward AND Christ did come to give us an abundant life, BUT when one has to go into debt to have these things, is it really abundant living OR is it slavery to the credit card and loan companies? If one has to borrow against future earnings for anything other than a home (they generally appreciate in value AND it gains equity), they are enslaving themselves to that lender. Luke 16:13 says, "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." It is not God's will for any of His children to be enslaved by anything of this world.

Financial stewardship. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

1. We must accept personal responsibility for our financial situations. No one forced us to purchase that 4 bedroom/3 bath house, the new furniture and big screen T.V. for the living room OR that $40K car. Realistically, we could have gotten by without them and many other "extras".

2. It is time we sit down and identify our poor financial habits. Begin to carry a small notebook and record ALL purchases for an entire month - even that vending machine cola. At the end of the month, what did you find? Is Wal-Mart an impulse buying trap for you? If so, shop else where - you'll save money. Do you go out to supper frequently because you're too tired to cook? If so, consider "Once A Month Cooking", "Shared Cooking" with another family, "Assignment Cooking" for your teenagers - brainstorm and try various ideas until you find one that works for your family. Are you embarrassed that you drive the oldest car on the block? Reality check yourself and get over it.

3. We must seek forgiveness from God for our poor stewardship. Yes, failing to be a good steward of the blessings God gives us is a sin and we must repent of that sin. James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Apologizing and continuing in the sin is only remorse. Apologizing and choosing to change is repentance.

4. Look at the consequences of refusing to change. No changes equals continued financial stress in your marriage and family. (My Aunt J always said that if a husband and wife have financial troubles they will have every other sort of problem too. During the years that I've talked with and advised families with regard to debt, I've found she was right.) No changes equals one more step towards bankruptcy, repossessions and foreclosure. No changes equals an ever expanding gap in the foundational fault of our nation's economy.

5. We must devise a financial plan and set goals. Call it budgeting, balancing, managing or whatever else makes you feel comfortable. Just make sure you get out a pencil, pad and calculator and DO IT. Be honest and realistic. Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett have terrific budgeting tools - free to you. Just check out the Internet and your local library. (No I'm not going to give these to you - I've found that if you are not willing to do this yourself, then you are not willing to change.)

6. Implement the plan. Many years ago when I worked in the advertising industry, we had a sales manager who told her sales staff, "Make a plan and work the plan - you will be successful." She was right. Those who took her advise made very high commissions, those who ignored her advise got pink slips. Her sales force was one of the top in the nation for our company. There are times when your plan will have some kinks in it - that's O.K. Kinks just mean that you need to improve, expound upon, take away from or add to your plan.

Get Out Of Debt Strategy:

Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." Continue to tithe and give offerings. Every American should be able to give 10% of his income to tithes and offerings, 10% to himself for savings (retirement, purchase of new home, college funds, replacement vehicle, etc.), and live on the remaining 80% with a little breathing room left over. If your family is not able to do this comfortably, then your family is in financial trouble and there needs to be some serious changes.

Pay off smallest credit card/loan first. Pay the minimum payment on all debts except for your smallest one, pay all the extra money you can toward it. (yeah, I know there are math guru's out there who will try to convince you and me that the loan with the highest interest rate should be paid off first. In a perfect world that is great, but we ain't perfect and if we had learned sound Biblical fiscal management to begin with, we wouldn't be in this situation today. You will need the emotional momentum that will come from paying off that smallest debt to motivate you to continue pressing forward.)

When that smallest debt is paid off move on up to the next smallest. Apply 100% of whatever you were paying with the last debt PLUS the minimum payment for this one.

Progress to next debts adding amounts paid on smaller debts. example:

Currently, you owe the following:
visa - $130 / payment $15
master card - $300 / payment $30
auto - $6,500 / payment $150
mortgage - $25,000 / payment $350

You can afford to pay an extra $20 per month towards your debt:
visa - $130 / you pay $35
master card - $300 / you pay $30
auto - $6,500 / you pay $150
mortgage - $25,000 / you pay $350

When visa is paid off:
master card - $300 / pay $65 (= $35 visa payment + $30 master card payment)
auto - $6,500 / you pay $150
mortgage - $25,000 / you pay $350

When master card is paid off:
auto - $6,500 / you pay $215 (= $65 from master card + $150 car payment)
mortgage - $25,000 / you pay $350

When auto is paid off:
mortgage - $25,000 / you pay $565 (= $215 from auto payment + mortgage)

When you pay off a debt DO NOT acquire more debt to replace it. By doing so you are only prolonging the agony. "If you can't pay cash you can't afford it so, you'll just have to survive without it."

I know my words may seem harsh to some folks. I do not write them to be harsh or critical, I write them to illuminate a path to financial freedom. It is God's desire that we have an abundant life in Him. I pray these suggestions will help you begin that journey toward the abundant financial freedom He desires all His children to have. I occasionally have reason to drive into the city. For the past year I've noticed that Dave Ramsey has billboard ads that read, "Act Your Wage". This is a simple concept that seems to elude many. It has been far too long since the majority of American families acted their wage. I see most families struggling to maintain a lifestyles consistent with the the folks next door, their brother-in-law or even the pretend families shown on T.V. sitcoms. These families are not happy or content. They are miserably chasing more and more stuff or recreation that, in time, will rot, rust and wither away. God wants to bless us with a peace that the rest of the world longs for and desires. If we Christians have peace with whatever financial situation God blesses us with, then the rest of the world will desire that too. The lost and dying of this world only look for more of the material because they don't see peace and contentment within us. How can they when we are chasing the same lies they are? In order to find that peace, some may need to downsize, some may need to cut back a lot, while others may simply need to cut a few small corners. Where ever you are please know that if your family is struggling financially, God wants to deliver you from that struggle. However, please realize that the deliverance comes through repentance and a change of habits. Although it is not easy to change years of ingrained habits, it is so worth it. When we are in a position to take our focus off financial stresses and instead reposition our focus on growing the Kingdom of God through our giving (financially and through volunteering) and growing our savings for future needs, we then have the freedom to enjoy the two other most important aspects of good stewardship, our time and our relationships.

Monday, October 6, 2008

All In God's Timing

My Dearest Readers,

I know some of you have been patiently awaiting my Godly Stewardship, Part II article. This is a topic that I have very strong convictions about and I am eager to share with everyone. I assure you I am not procrastinating.

It looks as if the Lord is about to move our family into a new lifestyle and environment. Thus, the delay in completing the Godly Stewardship article. Properly aligned priorities are the keys to Godly Stewardship. During the past few weeks, I've had to focus on the needs of my family and preparation for the possible changes we may be facing. Thus, I've had to put this blog and my article on a temporary hold.

During the course of this week, I am hoping to post Part II of the Godly Stewardship article however, I make no promises. As you are, I am patiently awaiting God's perfect timing regarding this topic.

Thank you all for your patience, understanding and most of all prayers of support.

Mrs. B