Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Psalm 19:7-11

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (KJV)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A YaHoo News Headline Caught My Eye Today ...

"How To Tell if You're Middle Class ... Are you close?" The link took me to the following U.S. News article by Rick Newman entitled, How to Gage Your Middle-Class Status
( ).

I've known for quite some time that although our family earns what is considered a middle-class income, we live a more modest lifestyle than most middle-class Americans. Why would we live a more modest lifestyle than many others within our socio-economic class? I think the two primary factors that contribute to our lifestyle are, 1. we lived at or below the poverty line for decades and 2. we are now trying to play a financial "catch-up" game with regards to retirement quickly approaching within the next 10-15 years while continuing to raise our two youngest children.

What are we currently doing differently?
Housing - we live in a much smaller and less expensive home than the "average". Not only did our home cost considerably less, but it's smaller size results in lower utility and maintenance costs.
Credit - we only use credit as a tool to maintain an active credit score. We never purchase anything on credit unless we already have the cash to pay for it. If we don't have the money, we simply make do or go without
College Savings - Yes, we are VERY bad parents. We don't have a college savings plan for our children. (The first 20 years of parenting we lived at or below poverty and it simply took every dime we earned to support our family - there wasn't any extra for college savings plans.) Although we've never implemented a college savings plan, our children still have access to college. AB enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and earned the Montgomery G.I. Bill. He has plenty of money to pay for his college education without going into debt. AB appreciates and cherishes the education he's receiving because it is something HE has earned. JP is currently serving in the U.S. Navy and contributing to his Montgomery G.I. Bill. Although JP enlisted in the Navy to gain job training and work experience, he recognizes that he may have a desire to attend college in the future and thus, is contributing to that savings plan. What about OG and EJ's future education? Like AB and JP, we are leaving that in God's hand. God has made a way for AB and, if he desires it in the future, JP to attend college. With the many scholarships, military, grants, etc. available, we are confident that God will also make a way for OG and EJ if it is within His will for them to attend college.
Autos - Mr. B and I share one vehicle. Like our previous autos, we bought it used. Although we did purchase this last one on credit (keeping that credit score active), we purchased one that was within our cash budget and since we had a no penalty interest rate (the only kind of interest rate we'd ever accept), we paid it off 14 months early.
Retirement - We contribute more than the "average" in this area. Until a few years ago, retirement fund(s) didn't exist for our family. Like college savings plans, the money simply wasn't there. We do realize that no matter how much we contribute now, we will never be able to "catch up" all the years that we missed out on in saving for retirement. But still, we don't want to squander the time we do have left to contribute to this possible future need so, we do all we can right now.
Discretionary Spending - We certainly fall well below the "average" in this area. We do not take annual family vacations, we do not eat out on a regular basis, we do not purchase new clothes on an annual basis, we do not regularly spend money on recreation, and I maintain a frugal grocery budget. Again, living at or below poverty for the majority of one's life, will accomplish one of two things. It will drive a person to "spend like a $20 h_ _ ker" every time they have a little extra OR it will drive a person to learn how to save and stretch every dime earned. We fall into the saving and stretching category.

Now, do we suffer a lifestyle of deprivation because we choose to live more conservatively? Absolutely not. We instead, examine our needs and wants and try our best to invest into them wisely. This has led to a content family that is not caught up in the materialism of "average" middle-class America.

If you'd like to learn more about living a debt free lifestyle or you just want to escape the trap of materialism, click the Crown Financial Ministries or Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace links in my sidebar.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Would You Do With $1M?

(photo courtesy of www.freephotocom)

There are many folks who daydream of winning the lottery or being blessed by a sudden financial windfall. I've heard some say things like, "If I had a million dollars I'd .... pay off all my debt and retire for life!; I'd make the world a better place by giving it all to the poor; I'd buy a BIG house, a fancy car and send my kids to college." The list of "what if's" goes on and on.

But seriously, think about it. What would you REALLY do with $1,000,000? Humm, maybe I should rephrase that question and ask, what ARE you doing with YOUR $1,000,000? Your response is probably something like, "What are you talking about, I don't have a million dollars."

Think about the following data ...

According the 2009 U.S. Census Bureau (figures good until March 31, 2010) the median household income in the United States was/is $50,233.00.
$50,233.00 times 40 years employment = $2,009,320 - That's earnings of more than $2M in an average household during our working lives.

To that some of you will respond, "Yeah, that's great for those other folks, but I haven't been making $50,000 a year for 40 years." Well then, think about the following ...

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (the government agency that determines welfare eligibility and services) in 2009, a family of 4 had to earn less than $22,050 to qualify as below poverty.
$22,050 times 40 years of employment = $882,000 - Although that's $118,000 shy of $1M, it's still more than an individual would get to keep after the I.R.S. collected their share of a $1million dollar windfall.

So, do some thinking. Pull out a piece of paper and a pencil. Add up the the gross annual income you've earned since you started working. This is how much you've earned thus far in your lifetime. How much do you expect to earn in future years? Do you, like most folks, expect your income to steadily increase?

In the end, my questions, "What would you do with a million dollars? and What are you doing with your million dollars?" are posed only as food for thought. According to the data, we Americans earn good incomes when compared to the rest of the world. As Christians, we should strive to be EXCELLENT stewards of those incomes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Prayer Request

I've never posted a serious prayer request on my blog before. Yeah, I've asked things like, "if you happen to think of us, please send up a prayer on our behalf." or "Please remember us in prayer, if you think about us." But I've never come right out and entered a post directly asking for prayer from folks I've never actually met in person.

However, after a phone conversation with my husband last night, I am feeling absolutely discouraged, overwhelmed and defeated. Our family has been struggling with an issue for over a year. I'm not sure I'm reading the reactions of others correctly (I sincerely hope that I am misreading them), but I often feel that they think our situation is really, "no big deal".
Prior to accepting Jesus Christ as my saviour, I am ashamed to confess that I lived a lot of life ... a lot of very sinful life. Sometimes I think that those who know me personally and know my testimony, think that because of my past I am invincible or that I would be able to handle anything. After all, if I could survive all the ungodly choices I made in my "old" life, then I must be one pretty tough cookie, right? The reality is that my old life was literally killing me and my family. I wasn't surviving it, I was slowing and painfully dying and taking those I loved and cared about the most with me.

Upon acceptance of Jesus Christ was I was literally transformed into a new person, like 2 Corinthians 5:17 states. I was no longer a victim of my ungodly choices, nor was I a survivor of the consequences of the ungodly choices I'd made. No, Jesus Christ brought me into victory over my past. And my old life has passed away and I've become a new creature in Christ. However, this doesn't make me invincible. Just like everyone else in the world I am still susceptible to the "beatings" our fallen world dishes out to each and everyone of us - Christian or non-Christian. The difference between me, a Christian, and the non-Christian, is that I have a hope in Christ Jesus. When everything in the world tells me it's a "lost cause", God tells me that He has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11) and I have hope in Him (Michah 7: 8-9).

Today, I ask you all to earnestly agree with me in prayer that the Lord will open the doors that need to be opened for our family to find a home that not only suits our needs and desires but also is within our budget. I know some of you out there may think that we are just being too picky. Please indulge me while I try to expound upon the housing market where my husband works. He is in a area that is in the midst of an employment boom. A builder in the town where he works just finished building a large townhouse complex. The units were put up for sale and rent only 3 weeks ago. Monday of this week, a corporation went in and bought EVERY townhouse to use as staff housing for their employees. Folks, please understand that staff housing is NOT family housing - it is for employees only who are rotated in and out on a 2, 4, or 6 week work schedules. The individuals and families who rented within the first week of these townhouses going on public, now have less than 30 days to vacate. The delima, there isn't any place for these folks to go. Every RV park within 50 miles of this town has been taken over by "man camps" (portable trailers for employees only who are rotated in and out on 2, 4, 6, etc. week work schedules). Hotels, motels, inns, etc., within 100 miles, are rented at full capacity 7 days per week. Home prices and rentals, if you happen to find one, have SKYROCKETED, unlike the rest of the nation where housing markets have plummeted and foreclosures are higher than any other time since the Great Depression.

Yes, our family has some specifics we are looking for in a home and the thought of settling for something in town that I really don't want makes me very sick to my stomach. BUT, it is not for the reasons many assume. You see, we aren't planning on this being a temporary move for our family. When men work in my husband's industry, it is common for families to move around - they have to follow the work. This nomadic lifestyle allows more flexibility in home purchases because it is viewed as only temporary housing. These folks are saving and planning for the "dream house" they'll permanently move to upon retirement. Our family wants this move to be our LAST. We want a place that will suit our needs and desires for the rest of our days here on earth. Ten to fifteen years from now (if the Lord tarries), we don't want to settle down to "nice place in town". We are looking to settle down now. Our desire is a house on a few acres (min. 5 / max. 10,000, yeah, we want as much land as reasonably affordable for our budget) out in the country that is large enough to accommodate our children when they are home for family gatherings (2,600 - 3,500 sq. ft.). An open kitchen, dining and living room would make up a world of difference on other floor plan issues.

I recently posted about a home we found this past summer. We loved the floor plan, the large heated shop (with winter temperatures dipping to 35 below 0 heated shops/garages become a necessity), and the 11 acres. The price was spot on for our budget. In January, the owner's mortgage company told our realtor they are leaning toward foreclosure on this property. Many buyers in our situation would then say, "Well, that's O.K., we'll just wait and purchase it out of foreclosure." Which is exactly how we were thinking. It is now March and the owner's mortgage company continues to "drag their feet". They still have not officially decided if they will proceed with the sale or go ahead with foreclosure. Also, the mortgage relief act of 2009 has prolonged the foreclosure process from 3-4 months to 6-9 months. Meanwhile, my husband's company has lost the lease on the staff house he is bunking in (a relative of the owner needs housing thus, the owner is not renewing the lease with my husband's company). My husband's company has told him he must find alternative housing for himself and his crew and while he's at it, he needs to find housing for his family and get them up there - the travel home (5 three day visits in 2009) is nearing it's limit. You see, where many in my husband's career field rotate in and out on a 2, 4, or 6 week work schedule, my husband does not. My husband's position keeps him "on call" 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. That's why Mr.B's company wants him to move his family as soon as possible.

I sincerely, do not want to sound like I'm whining or complaining. After all, Mr. B is employed when many in our nation are unemployed and have lost everything they've worked so hard to achieve. But still, I miss my husband (even though we are often a combination of oil and water). My children miss their father. I am tired of playing the role of single parent (If I'd liked being a single parent, I wouldn't have married). I am feeling the fatigue of carrying all our family's life on my shoulders - Mr. B can't do anything to help when he's 1,500 + miles away. I am becoming deeply discouraged by the long wait for a suitable home for our family. There are times, last night was one of those times, when Mr. B considers resigning from his position and returning home. But, in all reality, that's not a sensible option (and we both know it) - my husband's career field has completely tanked in our area and there aren't any jobs here. Change careers? Although his health is excellent and he works like a 35 year old, Mr. B is 55 years old . In all honesty, companies are simply not interested in employees over the age of 50 looking to break into new careers.

We need some earnest prayer. We need a renewed strength. We need some Divine wisdom on what our next step should be. Regarding our housing situation, we need a door to open and the wisdom to walk through it.

Thank you for your time and most importantly, thank you so much for your prayers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2 days and $115 later ...

JP has a new bed ... but wait ...It's also a bed for EJ!
Yep! that's right folks. JP and EJ have brand new, never been used by anyone else, beds. Grandpa, built the twin with a trundle for only $115 worth of materials. He built the bed in only one day. Day two was dry time for the wood stain.
After some window shopping, I realized we could not have purchased beds for any less -even when looking at used furniture. The old beds, a bunk bed and a loft bed, that were in the boys room were close to 30 years old and in REALLY, REALLY bad shape. Both were so old that anytime one of the boys crawled into bed, or even turned over while sleeping, the beds would sway considerably. We called it "air surfing". Now, they have a VERY sturdy twin with a trundle. Since AB, BT and JP are adults and home only for visits (currently, JP plans to come home more often than his brothers, thus a bed for him), a twin with a trundle are all we really need.
EJ absolutely LOVES his new bed and JP is excited about sleeping on his when he comes home on leave. Thank you, Grandpa - The new beds are WONDERFUL!