Planning for the Future: Even When All You Have Feels like Nothing

All day I’ve been cursing at myself about how we haven’t been planning for the future. “We had one good paycheck and we used it all up. We should have saved every penny for the future. This is God punishing us because we messed up again.” Over and over again I thought of all of the things I could have done better, or should have known about.

It took my husband forgiving me for yelling when one of the little one hit me, hard, in the face with a wet swimsuit, to snap me out of it. I immediately called her out to apologize for yelling. I saw him looking at me and said, “Look, I know, I’m a bad mom now. I’m trying, it’s just been a stressful day.” He silenced me and told me that he was just letting me finish. “You are being a good mom, most moms wouldn’t have apologized so quickly.” He told me I was a great mom, and all of my discouragement came out at him. I told him I felt like there was no point to anything and we failed and nothing turns out right in the end. He told me, “What makes the difference is you keep going.”

It rang in my ear for hours.

What makes the difference is you keep going.

I kept thinking about how many times I had started something and given up, how many times I had told myself that I would never get better, how many times people told me I would never succeed. I thought about what if it wasn’t true, what if everything really is hopeless? I thought about how important my why is.

Then, I started to realize little ways I am planning for the future that I wouldn’t have before. Last month we bought diapers in bulk with extra money so we would have leftover to get things for the girls. We are learning how to plan how much we will need for groceries. We have been planning out which paycheck we will need our medicines on. Then, I realized some little ways we are planning for the future. My husband is going to school for our future. I am submitting my writing everywhere I can think of for our future, we are living with my parents for our future. Our sacrifices may look like nothing to my naked eye, but, it occurred to me, maybe they are the seeds we will reap(‘you reap what you sow’ has been on my mind lately.)

Then I thought about faith as small as a mustard seed, and how small a mustard seed. What we are sowing now in this dry and hard season feels as small as a mustard seed. It feels like it doesn’t matter, like there’s no point, but we ARE sowing. Every single day we are planting seeds of financial freedom, planting seeds of a loving family, planting seeds of hope for the future of our dreams.

I don’t know if we will get to the end and say it was all for nothing. I sure hope not. I know that I have been told over and over about how God does not promise happiness in this life. I know though that God does WANT happiness for us in this life. He wants abundance in our lives, and no matter how many people tell me otherwise, He has told me over and again who He is when it comes to that. God wants us to have abundance. I also know that I can’t get to the end and know I didn’t at least try for a better future.

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When Every Choice Feels Like Life or Death: Dave Ramsey with a Small Shovel

Last week, I spent too much of our grocery budget.

I was sick of not having snacks to eat or to give our toddlers. As any mom knows, all toddlers want to eat are snacks, all day long, every day, and it gets really old cooking a new meal every five minutes just for it to get thrown on the floor and crushed. Plus, I’m breastfeeding, so trying to get enough calories to sustain myself feels like a full time job in itself. On top of all of that, I was stressed, exhausted, and hungry, because the week before I didn’t overspend my grocery budget.

So I overspent.

Of course like every time I make a mistake, there was an avalanche of other things that went wrong in the paycheck, so there was nowhere to cushion. Plus, it was the first paycheck that I had really felt like I could breathe so I treated us a little bit. We got Downy Unstoppables, and I got the expensive bar soap. Some Dave enthusiasts would remind me that this was my stupid and it was fault, and I should’ve planned for the future better, do better next time. I can hear it now, because I’m telling myself all about it now.

The problem is, it’s not stupid. Right now, we really don’t have a lot of extra money. We are making big, big financial sacrifices to keep our babies healthy and loved. We can’t afford for me to be a stay at home mom, but we are working every day to make it possible and to survive it because it is so important to both of us that our little girls have me home with them.

Because of those financial sacrifices we are operating on a very low budget, with very few places to save money. Because of having so much going on, we have very little time to make more money, or to find ways to save more money. Yes, there are little places we could cut, but even our FPU coordinator said she thought we had it cut down to the barest bones possible.

The problem with being that low with only that much money coming in is that every single mistake is a world shattering stupid moment that can domino into a thousand different things going wrong. When more money is available, it’s easy to just switch around the budget to cover a mistake and it’ll be okay. In our situation, if I make a single mistake ever on how much I spend, it could affect our lives for the next month. If I get sick and don’t meal plan perfectly, or if I am tired, or if my husband works overtime, its like the entire world falls apart and I start to feel like there’s no point in even trying.

What’s even worse is the ridiculous amount of guilt I am consumed by, like it is my fault that we are suffering and I don’t even deserve for us to be better because I am so stupid. I am not stupid, I am a human going through a million different huge life transitions all at once with hormones flying in a thousand different directions. I am swimming against the current with weights tied to my back. In these moments, it is important to tell myself that. It is crucial to remind myself how freaking hard our situation is, or I just crumble in shame at my own weakness.

I have to remind myself every single day that even though it doesn’t feel like it we are moving forward. I have to remind myself to be grateful for what we do have, but it’s ok to struggle with what we don’t. I have to remind myself that we are learning important life lessons, and we have to be patient. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to accept help when it is the difference between spending time with our babes or not. I have to remind myself over and over again that there is hope.

I’m not always good about this, and sometimes the reminders feel ridiculous and I start to feel so worthless because we haven’t worked it out yet, and we haven’t finished our journey yet, but we are still trying. We are not giving up, no matter what it takes. We are moving forward even if it feels like it will never be enough. Even on the days when I feel like I am inside of a tornado, I am not giving up this fight.

If you know what it’s like to struggle like this, and you want to cry when some people talk about paying off huge chunks of debt, know that I am here fighting alongside you, you are not alone. There will be good days when you make some headway, and there may be days where living within your means feels like dying, and I am here with you for every one of them.

If you don’t know what this is like, that is totally fine. I am happy for you, and I am glad that your experience is better, but please just be gentle with the people who are in different situations than you are. Don’t assume someone is lazy because they aren’t making every choice you would, don’t assume anything about them. The greatest thing you can do is to just be there, hear them, and remember when something was hard for you, and what you needed back them. I pray every time I feel this way, that when I am rolling in the dough in my nice, big, beautiful house, I will never forget how hard it was to get there, and I will love on anyone who is trying to make their own journey forward.

I hope we see each other on Baby Step 7 one day, have a blessed day. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

The New FPU

Did you know there is a new format to Financial Peace University?

I don’t know when it happened but I know it did and I L.O.V.E. it!

A little background on why this is such a big deal. I was not a fan at all of the original talks, they felt preachy and the props were cheesy to me. I knew FPU worked so I wanted to do it anyway, but my husband wouldn’t push through it. He refused to take it with me for years. I didn’t blame him because I didn’t want to do it either. When we finally did it, we spent a little while after each class sorting through what we thought was not quite the best way of saying it, and narrowing it down to the point of what he said.

The new format solves every single problem we had and some I didn’t even realize were problems.

1. He starts out with testimonies of real people and how much despair they were in before they started. It gives you a chance to connect with someone, because even if you don’t connect with him, one of the couples will remind you of yourselves in some way.

2. No more table analogy!!! This is huge for me and my hubby. I know analogies work well for some people but as a pretentious artist, I cannot stand them. I think they are cheesy and on the nose, and I feel like a kindergartener when I am subjected to them. This makes me so excited. ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

3. This is probably due to his years of experience but Dave connects with the audience much quicker and more authentically than the old videos. Theres a moment that is so powerful when he talks about the fear that he felt before he figured out the baby steps, and how he can hear that fear when his listeners call him. There is a little bit of an edge to his mockery of Dave-ish people and people who don’t listen to him, but his rants are part of what other people like so i guess it’s ok.

4. They included Rachel Cruze and Chris Hogan in different settings. This is an awesome choice because it adds visual interest, so you are not just watching one person on a stage give a speech the whole time. Plus, if you don’t relate to Dave, you may relate to Rachel and if not her then Chris, and if not them, then one of the testimonial couples. It’s brilliant and it solves a huge problem my husband and I had which is that we struggled with the way Dave sometimes puts things.

5. Rachel Cruze’s practical examples and talk about how a budget gives you freedom was incredibly encouraging and exciting! I am jumping and down inside about how much I love love loved her segment. In fact, since I stopped watching I can’t stop thinking about the $18 lemonade she bought that made her realizing how freeing budgeting is. I hate budgeting as much as she does, but I do love the freedom.

6. Chris Hogan. Oh. My. Word. What an amazing encourager. Starting the baby steps is hard and it can be discouraging. He takes a second at the end of the video to talk about how you might be feeling scared and discouraged but you can do this! I am a person who needs this, and I am so grateful.

At first, when I started noticing Dave adding people on, I rolled my eyes a little bit at the empire of FPU, but really, the more I see it, the more I see Dave’s humility and selflessness in sharing the spotlight. I think as he gets older, he wants to leave his legacy to the right people so that what he has created can continue to help people for years and years after he is gone, not that I expect him to die anytime soon or anything, but he is preparing us for that, or for his retirement, or for whatever else that might come up. He wants us to realize that the message is not about him, but about what he learned. It also shows his willingness to believe that maybe people need other personalities to relate to. It’s almost as if he knows that some people just don’t connect with him very well, and he cares about them too.

I am so thankful for Dave and for what he has done in my life and what he has taught me. It is not easy by any means, but I am growing so much as a person in every way, and I am witnessing my husband learn and grow too. It is scary to change as much as FPU challenges you too, but it is rewarding and there is so much positive on the way, even before you have reached step 7.

Academy Nicholls, Here I Come

I did a thing last night.

It might be crazy. It may be a little arrogant? It takes a lot of arrogance to be an artist, or at least that’s what I tell myself so I won’t hide all of my work under a rock. Yes, this writing of mine is a conscious decision in favor of pride in the face of possible humiliation-in a way at least.

Anyway, the thing I did is bold if you say it nicely, foolish if not. We have been struggling so much with money. Last week I decided that I would use my fun money that I’ve been saving for months and all of my returns for our emergency fund and debt payoff. It was more important that little rewards right? I’m so discouraged about money, maybe that is what would make me feel better.

Then I found out that I hadn’t missed the deadline for the Academy Nicholls Fellowship.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is the most prestigious film competition out there for new writers. But that’s not what matters to me(although it’s the first thing I tell people so they get the context of what I did.) What matters to me, is that it is the answer to all of the prayers I’ve said this year if I get it.

It is just enough money that Patrick could stay home or work part time while he finishes school, so he could have some time to breathe, which I have been begging God for all year.

It is just enough money that we could cover everything. We wouldn’t be rolling in the dough by any means, but we would be ok. I have been asking for help with that.

I would be getting paid to write MY work. I would be getting paid to do what I always wanted to do, and not on someone else’s terms. I’d have a mentor, but I wouldn’t have to write a story fitting their guidelines. It would be mine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with getting paid to write for someone else, but this is a whole other level.) I have been asking God for this since I was born.

I would have a mentor to encourage and help me to improve my work and it would be their job to help me write another screenplay. I’ve got one almost done, one done, I’d have time to do another one. I’ve been praying for that this year.

I would have more time with Patrick and more time to breathe. I’ve been praying for this since Willow was born.

This year has been so hard. It’s hard to express how hard because some stupid things don’t make any sense if you describe them, but they can devastate you if you are having a hard enough time. I’ve noticed sometimes if I stub my toe I don’t even care, but if a day is bad enough it’s enough to resort me to a sobbing mess, or a cursing sailor. This year, has made the smallest issues into mountains that make me feel completely helpless.

It took over year for me to build the courage to do this. God has been working in so many ways in my life to prepare me. He healed my trauma about miscarriage and spiritual abuse through a hellish year teaching at a Catholic school and a horrific birth that was still the most amazing thing that could ever have happened to me. He healed the trauma from that birth a little over a year later with another birth. He healed the wounds from the Catholic school by bringing me to a new Catholic Church and Bible study.

My first time at the Bible study, I hated it. I was never coming back, until I saw the back of one of the books. “I am looking for a deeper relationship with you.” I knew without a doubt it was God talking to me. Every single time I have made it to this Bible Study He has shown up for me. He has taught me SO much. He brought me back to myself through the women that I met, the readings they supplied, and the time out that I got because of the study. I am incomprehensibly grateful for what He gave me in them.

If I tried to list all of the lies and fears that God came down and disproved this would be the longest blog in the universe, but suffice it to say that He worked on me hard, and that is exhausting and hard, but it was amazing in so many ways too.

Holy Week was like that point in labor when you decide you can’t do it and you are totally ready to give up. I started to think there was no point to anything that I had heard all year. I felt myself fading away, and I was so angry. Easter was, surprisingly, even worse.

It was awful. God sent me a free Christian concert(yes I believe it was from Him because it was my favorite Christian band and I had been longing for a Christian concert and mourning that we couldn’t afford it and this was free) and I was so excited, but then it was actually a Protestant service. I was raised that you don’t go to those, so I was in a tailspin of enjoying it, and being terrified of the guilt and shame of being there. They talked about “taking your place at the table” and “the battle is already won,” and I loved it, and I heard Jesus in it, but then I became lost in sadness about the Catholic Church and the fact that I couldn’t accept their message because I’m Catholic.

I fought that, because none of what they said went against the Church. They had a message that we are supposed to be giving and arent. And sure, I believe there are things Catholics have to offer too, but Protestants have some amazing gifts. So I prayed away the guilt and shame a little bit more everyday.

And I found out about Academy Nicholls.

Part of what I have learned this year through Dave Ramsey is that I have been serving money, not making my money serve God. I’ve got a whole lot more coming about that, and how it doesn’t always look like Scrooge hoarding money, but for now suffice it to say that I was convinced I couldn’t try for this fellowship that I believed God wanted me to try for, because money said no.

I prayed every day for the money, but I was convinced it would be a no.

Then I got the money, and I fell into despair and misery because I became sure I wouldn’t win it.

Then I went home and I read the reading from the Bible Study. Ephesians 6, about putting the armor of faith on to conquer evil in the world. And I knew.

So I entered the Academy Nicholls Fellowship competition, and I probably will not win, but, I could. With the money I spent to enter it, I bought freedom from fear financially, I bought hope, I bought one of the greatest acts of faith of my entire life, I bought a new life. So wish me luck, and say a prayer when you can for my dream job. ♥️♥️♥️

Praying for your Husband

I am constantly hearing women ask, “How do I get my husband to do Dave Ramsey too? I’m on bored, but he is not.” I have so been there. I was so frustrated with my husband for years that I couldn’t convince him, and he wouldn’t hear me. We tried to do it once, but he just got frustrated with how preachy Dave Ramsey can be and wouldn’t finish it with me. I was patient with him about it, but it was really hard for me.

Then this year, I was incredibly stressed and despairing about money. Every time I talked to Patrick, I felt like he wasn’t hearing me. He would tell me everything was fine, or he would just get frustrated with me, and I would just get more frustrated with him. Out of nowhere, I found this prayer that I still pray today:

http://thywordisalamptomyfeet.blogspot.com/2013/06/prayer-for-my-husbands-work-finances.html?m=1

It is a prayer for my husbands work and finances, and immediately I started to see a difference in him. Just a few days later we got into the worst money fight we had ever had. We live with my parents, so there was that cherry on top too. At the end of it, I was just exhausted and I said, “Look, if we don’t do Dave Ramsey, I don’t think we are going to make it.” Miraculously, he said ok.

It hasn’t been sweet sailing the whole way, baby steps 1 and 2 are not easy at all, and staying on the path when you are low income is exhausting sometimes, but we are making progress, and our relationship is getting better, and we are becoming better people through the struggle we are facing, instead of letting our lives fall apart while we do nothing about it.

I still say this prayer as often as I can, I try to remember to say it every day when I can, because it really lifts both of us up and we can feel the grace from it, especially with financial worries. I am so thankful for this prayer, and for all the answers we have received through it.

The Problem with Gazelle Intensity

I should begin this with letting you know we are a low income family with a lot of big graces from God and our family right now. We are rich in so many ways, but when it comes to money, we are in a hard season.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling guilty over every single purchase I made. We set aside a small amount of fun money, and I spent it and my leftover Christmas money on gifts for my daughters birthday. I did go a little over budget, but I corrected it immediately when I got home. After that for a while, every time I spent money I felt arrested in a terrified state of “what if I spend it on the wrong thing, what if I spend too much, what if I buy the wrong thing?” And the worst question I asked myself, and I asked it the most, “Am I being gazelle intense enough?”

It was a constant refrain in my head. When I was cooking dinner, when I burnt dinner, when I cuddled with the kids instead of going out to earn extra money, when I watched a tv show, when I had to buy gas, when I made menus for dinner, when I worked on my writing instead of making money, it repeated over and over in my head, a sea of despair waiting for me around every corner.

Our lives right now are crazy, I know a lot of people’s are, but my husband is working full time, and in school full time, I stay home with our 2 kids one and two, who have been sick, teething, and not sleeping. I have a side hustle, but both of our cars broke so I couldn’t get to it for a while, and it’s hard to find time for it anyway. There are big sacrifices we are making for me to be able to stay at home with the kids, especially living with my parents, who have been gracious enough to allow us to do so.

Living in a basement has its challenges, we don’t have a standard kitchen set up, our storage is all makeshift and not built in, we don’t have a ton of space, cleaning and organizing and trying to figure out what to cook and trying to keep things from getting dirty so we dont have to clean take up a ton of time. Those things take money too. I couldn’t stop feeling guilty for the extra money spent on making sure we didn’t make a mess when we cooked, or staying home to clean instead of finding a way to make money, or forgetting to do VIPkid because I was caring for sick littles.

This last paycheck was tight, and then it was full of unexpected expenses. We got a really good look at being as Dave intense as possible, and it did not go well. I ended up in the hospital thinking I was having a stroke because I had the worst panic attack I had ever had. My husband and I started fighting constantly. We started resenting each other, the kids, and everyone else around us. We were miserable.

The thing is, that the baby steps are, for some people, a marathon, not a sprint. A tired, weak, broken gazelle cannot run at full speed ahead, they can only limp forward as fast as they possibly can. Yes, I know we need a bigger shovel(for Non Dave Ramsey people that means we need a higher income) and we are working on it, but we are not willing to sacrifice these early years with our babies to work every minute and lose this part of their lives when we are meant to be loving on them. We lost babies before, and I will not lose this time holding them, and snuggling them, because I know what it feels like to never get to hold your baby, and I never thought I would get to hold the ones I have.

But back to the point of the post, the problem with gazelle intensity, is that it looks different for everyone, and it can sometimes be hard to see your progress if all you can see is how slow you are running.

Last night, my husband sat down with me, and told me that our credit card is down $1000. All I knew before that, is that the payment just isn’t going down like it used to. We talked about the fact that we are cash flowing things that we never could have before. We talked about how many sacrifices we have made, and we talked about times in our lives when we made bad decisions, but for once, we also talked about the times we made good ones, and really, some of the bad ones we made as carefully as we could, and minimized damage.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have room for improvement, or that other people shouldn’t be working as hard as they can, or that YOU don’t need to be more gazelle intense. What I am saying is that it is important not to get so caught up in where you’re going and how fast you are or are not getting there, that you miss what you are becoming and what you are experiencing along the way. Gazelle intensity is important, but it is not everything. Your health and happiness still matter, so do your best, be as gazelle intense as you can, but breathe, and take care of yourself along the way.

FPU Virtual Group

Hey guys! In May I’m going to be leading an FPU group virtually, for people who have a hard time getting to regular classes. I’m a stay at home mom, so I feel your pain! Let me know if you are interested!

Why would I lead a group you ask? I’m obviously really struggling with money, because I’m talking about my worries about it all the time! I’m leading a group partially for me, because I want to keep learning and keep doing the class. I’m also leading a group because there are things in FPU that have changed my life for the better already, and I can see it changing even more as I go. Baby step 2 is HARD and doing it with a low income when the rest of your life is crazy is even harder, but we are doing it, and we are so proud of how much we have changed thanks to Dave Ramseys influence.

Positive changes in my life since doing FPU-

1-we were finally able to get to baby step 2, after YEARS of trying.

2-We stopped our credit card downward spiral that started during our move across the country/HG pregnancy/premature baby/job loss

3-My relationship with God has gotten better

4-We got my daughter the mermaid I wanted to get her for her birthday.

5- We are cash flowing the chaos of the past month of our lives.

6-God has provided for us every time we just couldn’t take it anymore. The change hurts and He’s not making it too easy, but He is getting us through it

7-I started submitting my writing and my screenplay is being read by two different film industry professionals right now. Also, the author of a book I love responded to my blog post about the book.

Give Like no one else: Stay at Home Moms

As many of you know, we are doing Dave Ramsey baby steps. We are working so hard, and definitely struggling at this point. What has brought me a lot of hope in our movement forward is turning every single one of my struggles into a hope for the future.

In that vein, I thought I would start talking about those things on here, and the first thing I want to talk about is a way I want to “Give like no one else.”

I was doing my taxes a while back and we didn’t qualify for the child care credit. Why? Because I am our childcare so we don’t pay for it technically. But really? We DO pay for it. We pay a LOT. We paid my entire salary from a job I actually really enjoyed(although not at that place we will talk about that later), we paid in moving from one state to another, we paid in giving up our beautiful perfect apartment because we couldn’t afford to stay there.

The thing is, every stay at home mom is also paying in so many ways, especially in our culture. She is paying in buckets of humility as everyone around her makes jabs about how she doesn’t do enough, she tries to handle the family’s finances and see her own worthlessness in the money spectrum, she may see the other moms on facebook or tv and do her best to give up the longing to feel like a cool mom.

All of this doesn’t even start to touch the moms who would give anything to be a stay at home mom, but can’t and are paying for it in baby kisses, and missed memories. It’s one thing if they are doing something they love and are missing that time in exchange for something else, but many moms are going to work because they have no choice, being treated like crap, and feeling alone and overwhelmed.

All of this to say, my give like no one else for today is the You Are Worth It Stay at Home Mom Grant.

One day, when I make ridiculous amounts of money(I’m working on it people) I am going to fund stay at home moms with as much money as I can,and if I can it will be retroactive-meaning you will be able to get the grant for work you did in the past.

When I have the money, I’m going to have someone do an official breakdown of everything being a stay at home mom is worth, and then add a love tax, and I am going to give that to them for every single year they did it. Who receives it will be based on prayer, because sometimes the ones who need the most have the hardest time asking.

That’s my promise to you-one day stay at home moms, you will get to feel your worth. One day moms will get PAPER! 😉

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