#Throughfire

As Quarantine began, the community led by Catholic Creatives exploded with innovators inspired to help others through their struggles. We faced our own giants of fear and trepidation, but something in us drove us to community and fellowship. My desire was to fill social media with art to help with the constant deluge of news all over our feeds. I went to Catholic Creatives who had a similar desire and together we launched the #throughfire.

We asked that you create art and share it on every form of social media. Now, the quarantine is at an awkward point of being kind of over but not really, and #throughfire is changing. Catholic Creatives must get back to their daily projects, so suzannagoretti.com will be the new home for the project. I will be sharing your art and hopefully getting to talk to you as you create it. I hope to get all kinds of projects involved so we can all see how many of us are joining together to walk through fire hand in hand.

Please continue to share your amazing works, so that we can keep this fire going. Thank you for all you are doing to bring Beauty to the darkness.

5 Steps to Take When the Baby Steps Seem Too Big

This week, I wanted to give up on Dave Ramsey so bad. I was so done and hopeless feeling I wanted to pull out the credit card and just spend it all. I’m a free spirit and spending as little as possible to put as much as possible towards debt and towards our future needs wears on me. I just want to spend with reckless abandon, but that’s exactly what I am learning not to do. I love spontaneity and hate planning, and I am learning to have a plan. I want to run free and go play and do whatever I want, but my poor wild heart has a lot of constraints on it right now, not just from Dave Ramsey, but from being a relatively new mom, from living with my parents, from being low income, from not having my own car, from helping Patrick do work and school, and from recovering from HG. (Wow, writing that is kind of comforting. No wonder I’m having a hard time!) It is a lot to be doing at once. In fact, I read an article on Dave Ramsay’s site that said it was ok to stop if you are in a big life transition, and we are in about 5 big life transitions. I have no plan of stopping, but it was nice to hear that even Dave would understand what we are up against. Anyway, the point is, I was crushed under the weight of it all this week, and I was convinced there was no point in working this hard because it will never get better.
To be fair, I am not completely out from under it yet because this week’s stresses are still there. However, I am working on pulling back out of it, and I thought I would share some things that help me when I feel like I cannot go on.

1. PRAY! I know some people will struggle with this step but Dave Ramsey teaches that financial peace only comes through the “Prince of Peace.” There was time in our journey when it seemed like everything was falling apart, it seemed like everything we had done was for nothing. I listened to Dave on the radio, and he said that line about the Prince of Peace. I realized we had been missing the whole point of FPU. I went back to the prayer that started us on this journey, and I offered my fear to God. Ever since then, when things get bad, I stop(or if Patrick is with me we stop) and we say that prayer. It’s not magic, manna doesn’t fall from the sky every time, but every time we have experienced enough grace to pull out of the anxiety spiral, and eventually, to figure out how to fix the problem. Sometimes, manna really does fall from heaven.

2. Take a Technology Break-My brain gets so buzzy from being on social media and reading all of the reasons why it’s not ok that I’m having a hard time, and all the reasons that it all is, what my life should look like, how many people have died, how much else I should be doing, who I should actually be instead of me, and whatever people think is wrong with me. Sometimes, it is time to just step away for a little bit, and get a chance to move around, breathe fresh air, whatever else you need to do to be ok.

2. Give Credit Where it’s Due. Quiet your mind for long enough to think about the good you have already done. Maybe even have some sort of ritual to be account for it. I redesign our tracking sheets periodically because actually writing out where we have been vs. where we are now is pretty amazing. Once, I thought we had done nothing at all, and we were making no progress, but then I was able to see that we had in fact paid down $3000 of our debt, on top of saving our emergency fund!

3. What is The Lesson. One thing Dave Ramsey is teaching me is how to give myself grace while still taking responsibility for my actions. This week, the lesson was, we have to get better about planning for the future. I started to downward spiral into despair and beating myself up about not doing it, but don’t do that. You are still learning, and you are going to mess up. This is not an easy lesson to learn, but it’s worth it. Don’t Quit.

4. Rest Most of the time when I am feeling this way, it is because we have been overly stressed about other things and it has dominoed into our financial life. Spend some time in quiet, or quality time with the family, or whatever is free and recharges you. It makes a huge difference.

5. Do Something About It Once you have rested(and NOT before), take some time to do something about whatever it is you are worried about. If you need some extra money, figure out how you are going to make it, or where you can look at the budget again to retool it, sometimes I go back and the problem I thought was there actually isn’t at all. If things are not going fast enough, do something that will make you money in the future, work on your big money dreams if you have them-for me it’s my blog writing and my screenwriting. When I am in these downward spirals, I stop working on this stuff, which is ridiculous because these are my dream for changing everything. Once I go back to them though, I remember that we are planting seeds for the future even if it seems like they are too small to mean anything.

Once I have followed each of these steps, it is amazing to see how much everything can improve. The heart of Dave Ramsey’s teaching is to become a person who lives by faith and not by fear, and doing each of these things transforms my heart everytime. I am so grateful for the little steps we are taking even though I am not patient and they seem like nothing. I pray one day we will look back in awe at what a difference we made when we gave our little seeds to God’s hands.

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.

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. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

Jaded

Ever since I grew to adulthood,

I hear the echoes

of everyone who told me,

“That’s not real.

That’s a fantasy.”

Most of the time, I silence them

With a wave of the hand,

And maybe a deep breath,

But then,

Sometimes, a wave of grief comes,

My heart begins to ask,

“Were they right?

Does God give us dreams to take them away?

Does He dangle hopes of a beautiful future,

Just to laugh when you are in pain?

There are times in my life when I believe them,

When the hope that God is listening grows as faint as a fading heartbeat,

The ache swells until my chest begins to cave into itself.

I cease to breathe in in terror of reality,

I force myself to breathe and anger overtakes me that God has turned His back.

But He hasn’t turned His back.

He is here when hundreds have told me He doesn’t hear me.

He is waiting for me when I can hear Him through the despair.

He hears me when I cry out in the pain of the skepticism that is our world.

Cast behind you the words of those who condemn you for belief in hope.

Cast behind you the belief that grief will win.

Cast behind you the grief that God doesn’t hear you,

And doesn’t love the real you.

There is a place for you.

Just because you haven’t found it doesn’t mean you won’t.

Use your wounds to heal others until you escape the chains,

And then free the slaves.

Sometimes God answers no, but not when it’s His promises to you.

If you are called to something, He will bring you to it somehow, I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

I believe.

Even here in the darkness.

I believe.

Opportunity Cost

The hardest lesson I learned while doing Dave Ramsey has to have been his brief mention of “Opportunity Cost.” He mentioned it as if it was a given, but ever since then I have been hung up on it, struggling with what it means. Basically, opportunity cost means that when you spend your money on one thing, you can’t spend it on something else, and vice versa. It’s a silly thing to be so hung up on, but as someone who is low income and struggles with money anxiety, it is really throwing me for a loop.

I keep catching myself about to spend money working myself into a tizzy about how if I spend this money on this now I won’t have it to spend later. This could be a choice between x or y. This paycheck we had a small amount of extra money, and I worked myself into a panic trying to decide whether to pay off debt, go to the doctor, or go to the dentist with it. It is an almost crushing fear that if I make the wrong decision God will never forgive me and we will never have money again, which is ridiculous, but it is the worst of the fears that arise in me. What sucks even more about this, is I’ve done it a couple of times, and ended up wasting the extra money because I couldn’t decide which important thing was most important.

Even writing this it sounds ridiculous. I keep debating if maybe I was too spoiled as a kid. Maybe I didn’t know it but I got everything I wanted, so now I’m incapable of accepting defeat, but to be fair, that’s not how my childhood was, however much the people say millennials are entitled because they got whatever they want, I didn’t. I watched my parents struggle, a lot. I was terrified about money as a kid, so I think it’s more likely that every defeat feels like a promise that there will only be more defeat, and it will never get better. I think what I fight within myself is less the spoiled rich kid and more the savage Scarlett O’Hara turns into when she is fighting to make sure her family never goes hungry again. Who knows which is crueler, one who is fighting for their life, or one who doesn’t know how to fight?

The point is, though, that I am working on learning to be patient as we work the baby steps, and to accept that we are meant to use our money, and it is ok to take the risk that we take every time we spend any. Every time we spend a single penny, we cost ourselves the chance to spend anything else. What I have found is that when my Scrooge takes over(the side of me that hoards and is afraid of letting go) the money doesn’t get spent until my irresponsible side screams her way out and throws the money away on something stupid. Then, I lost the opportunity to give the money to any of the truly important things that it belongs to.

As odd as it sounds, I have found the most effective way of fighting this is to spend some money. While I am in Scrooge mode, I go grocery shopping, or I set some money aside. I practice trust in myself and my decisions, let go of the money, and afterwards I am able to breathe a little better. It’s not irresponsible spending, but something that has to be spent anyway, to give myself the feeling of letting go, but in a responsible way. I’m not sure this is sustainable because sometimes I feel like I should have waited, but for now it works against the hoarding impulse.

The other thing that is really helpful for me is talking to my husband about it. Even if he doesn’t have the right advice at a given time, speaking my concern out loud sounds insane enough that I’m usually able to calm down a little and see what’s happening. But usually my hubby has some great calming words that help me to slow down, take a breath, and make the right decision.

Overall, doing Dave Ramsey is sure ripping up the carpets in my mental fixer upper. He’s opening up closets and caverns and broken pieces I didn’t know were there, or if I knew, I didn’t know how bad they were. I can feel the change happening in me as I try to stick with the baby steps and the intentionality that they require. It’s amazing to see how much money affects your personality and how much working on it can change who you are as a person. It’s humbling in a big way, but I’m hoping it pays off just as big in the long run. ♥️♥️♥️ Baby step 7 here we come!

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.

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.

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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