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. ♥️♥️♥️♥️

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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.

God Hears Your Petty Prayers

Earlier this week, I laid on my stomach in our bed in complete despair. I was budgeting, and we couldn’t make it on what we had. There was no way to meet all of our needs. I was going to have to get a job and leave my sweet little girls in daycare, or Patrick was going to have to get something soul-sucking somehow. It was going to be so stressful. I couldn’t believe it had gotten this bad. I really believed that we were doing what we were meant to be, so why was everything falling apart?

About an hour later, I felt a certainty in my gut that we would figure something out. “We are meant to be exactly where we are,” said to my husband, “Something is going to work out.”

It did. We realized I could do some food delivery when things got really bad. If his paycheck was as low as it was this week, I would deliver groceries for as many hours as it took to meet the need. Then, I did it! In 2 days of delivering, and a miraculous $45 order, I met what we needed, and our paycheck transformed from a desperate, we aren’t going to make it, to we will make it, all the way to we will be good!

Then, last night, I was curled into a ball crying about how I can’t afford to provide for my girls. It was a seemingly petty mental breakdown over my oldest girl’s 2 year old birthday. I had only been able to get her one gift, and it was one with hard memories attached. What I was really upset about is all of the years of fear about money that I have felt, and the hopelessness I sometimes feel about it getting better(even though we are working really hard on it,) but one of the things that hurts the most, as petty as it may seem, is that every day I am losing the baby years, and I missed out on a lot of fun, happy things about babyhood, and every day there’s a new thing I’ll never get back. Things like designing their first nursery, or buying their baptism dresses, or Christmas presents, or just toys that I like for them. Anyway, I was consumed by guilt for how petty all of this is. I was taught that materialism is wrong, and I was so ashamed of myself, but at the same time I was feeling so much grief about the joy I couldn’t get myself to experience. I prayed so hard, “God I know this is so stupid, and I should be better, but I just want to be able to do her birthday.”

This morning, I awoke to notes from a Facebook group of mine encouraging me, and uplifting me in my struggles, and a fellow foodie group member complementing my birthday dinner idea. Because of the Facebook comments, I was inspired to go shopping. Whoever is reading this, you would not believe the shopping trip I had. I knew in my gut exactly what to get her, which stores to go to, and when. I got done with exactly 5 minutes left until the party, and spent almost exactly what I had left of my Christmas money.

When it came time for the gift opening, I caught myself wondering, did I get enough? Was it the right stuff? She had to go through the gifts so quickly, but a voice in my head said, “it’s not about this moment, it’s about forever-it’s about watching her play with these years from now,” and I calmed my worry.

After the party, I was able to be truly gracious and grateful for the gifts I was given, because I wasn’t desperately hoping that they would miraculously be what I wanted to get her. Anything at all would have been amazing. I have really struggled with gratitude for a long time, because I have felt grateful and angry at the same time and it has made me so confused. Every time I got gifts I would end up in tears beating myself up over how ungrateful I was. But I realize now, I wasn’t ungrateful, I just wasnt meeting my own needs, so the wants that were getting met weren’t enough to fill me. I was angry because I was feeling empty, and the gifts couldn’t touch what I was needing.

It was incredible to be able to appreciate the gifts she was given(let me note here that since I am a stay at home mom, anything she gets is what I am surrounded with all day every day, so it’s my life too! Lol), because I had provided for her too. I could enjoy the playdough she got, because I bought her mess free markers. I could love the pajamas she got, because I bought her tutus. I could enjoy the baby bottles someone else got her, even though I meant to get them for her, because I got her other things instead, so it was amazing that she still got them!

All of this is to say that God hears your petty prayers. Nothing is too small for Him to hear you. I read a meditation just after the birthday party about how we think that God needs to help someone else whose needs are worse instead of us, and I realized I always feel that way, but that’s not what He wants. He is able to be present for anyone. He can help the woman who just lost her husband, and the one whose makeup got screwed up on the way to work. He hears the woman with cancer and the one who is mad at her boyfriend. He was there with me when I lost my first baby, and He was with me when I wanted to get my two year old a mermaid.

Don’t underestimate Him. He is more than any of us know. His answer may not always be yes, but He will bring you comfort, even if it’s not as soon as you would like. There will be evil, but He hates every time you suffer as much as you do. He is there in the big things and the small. Let Him love you no matter where you are. Be His whole entire world. ♥️♥️♥️ Then, love Him back.

♥️♥️♥️

PS I was watching The Bachelor a couple weeks ago, and Colton got Caelynn bags and bags of fun stuff. I asked God to do that for me-He’s been spoiling me rotten lately with miracles. ♥️

#Checkyourprivilege

The Church was on my list of parishes to check out anyway, so when I realized it had the only Mass time that would work for me today, I hurried to the car. I went back and forth the whole drive over whether it was crazy of me to skip Mass at our home parish, but I hadn’t been to praise and worship in months, and it had been years before that. I started to get a little nervous when I saw the exit I was supposed to take. There was nothing around but power lines in disrepair and a junk yard of cars. It even had the trademark blue jalopy with the orange roof, netted in with the chain link fence that is an immediate warning sign. As I drove I remembered another church that was in the industrial part of town, but in a gorgeous haven inside. Maybe it will be ok I thought.

I started praying as I drove, “God please protect me. Don’t let it be too dangerous of an area. Please don’t let me get infested with bugs. Please don’t let my car, or anything in my car get stolen.”

I laughed nervously when I saw the train tracks. “Haha, I’m literally going to be on the wrong side of the tracks. It could get better on the other side?”

The train passed quickly, luckily, and I drove through a lovely little park. The played ground was a little beat up, but it allayed my nerves a little bit. That was when I saw graffiti on someone’s house.

I had never seen graffiti on someone’s house before. Instantly, a scene played out in my head of a family walking up to their house and seeing it, trying to explain it to their child. It flared red against the grey peeling paint of the house. I saw all of the houses differently after that. I saw fear and lack of safety, and I realized how ungrateful I have been for never having been in a situation like that. I felt like the Pharisee from scripture, “thank you for not letting me like that person.”

I’m ashamed to admit how judgemental I got. There were couches on the front porches, one on the curb, I could feel myself separating myself from “these people.” Then I saw the Church. They were spidery black tendrils wrapped around the stone that seemed to be barely holding itself up. It was contained by another chain link fence, and I was so relieved that that was not the Church I was going to-because it was obviously condemned.

It wasn’t.

It was the Church I was going to.

The parking lot was crowded to say the least, and you could barely call it a parking lot. It was a series of pot holes and piled asphalt so big you could barely tell where the ground originally was. There were no painted lines except in the very back and I got trapped in a corner because the parking lot was designed badly. I grumbled to myself about it, and inner road raged about the other cars that pushed me to know how to get out of my spot.

I walked in alongside a Spanish teenager holding a guitar decorated like a mariachi band instrument. The inside was breathtaking. The stained glass windows in particular were some of the most magnificent I had ever seen. They rose high above the congregation in saturated color bringing life to everything inside. I asked for the location of the bathroom and was directed out of the church to the basement next door.

I had never seen anything like it. The ceiling was low and jagged, the floor slightly uneven. There were areas where stone and rock peeled through as if the walls could not hold back what was here before the Church. The tile was grungy white like my church had when I was a kid, before my mom and our family spent hours scrubbing it to make it look better.

Inside the women bathroom, the ceiling was large lumps of hard plaster that hung so low that I had to bend to get into the stall that couldn’t lock. I hurried as fast as I could to finish. Only after did I realize that there was no sink, and went looking for one only to find it in the main basement space next to a washer and dryer. The hand dryer was suspended on a stone wall, someone had scrawled on it “this works.”

I went back in to the Church and sat down to wait for Mass to start. Mass was in Spanish completely. I guess that made sense since I was the only white person there, but I was too annoyed by it, now what? I was going to have to sit there in silence and pray while the Mass went on around me. To be fair, I hated Latin Mass when I was a kid and it felt like that all over again, so I probably over reacted because of that, but still I would like to be excited to see different cultures Mass styles.

The language barrier left me free to think and observe throughout the Mass. I couldn’t focus on actually praying. I gazed into the gorgeous stained glass windows, but squirmed in disgust at the smell of mold rising from the burgundy vintage carpet. I watched the families thinking how cute they were, but also thinking how they just wore normal clothes. They wore the kind of awkwardly shaped outfits that thrift stores have to give. I simultaneous thought, they are so poor this is all they can afford, and maybe this is what I am supposed to be like. Maybe I should figure out how to just be happy with shabby worn out clothes.

It occurred to me that I was on such a high horse, like I was better than them because I don’t shop at goodwill, or because my Church is so beautiful, or because I kept thinking about how good I had it. I became a swirl of thoughts and emotions.

Well, Mother Teresa talked about how loving the poor are to each other, maybe my suffering is just different from theirs because I’m so lonely.

Maybe we are supposed to be poor so we can love each other as much as they do.

Some people would say it was their fault they are stuck at a church like this. Couldn’t they go to my Church too? Why would they come here?

Maybe they don’t have cars and they don’t have a choice.

Oh my gosh I am so judgemental.

They are all duh better Catholics than we are.

They are just normal people.

I used to hang out with more people, since when did I sound like such a racist?!? I love Mexicans!

They are just normal people.

Why does it feel so much like a Latin Mass? The Spanish church in Dallas didn’t feel this way.

At communion, the priest said something, and then a small percentage of the congregation went up and received communion. I ran through scenarios of what he might have said, but I dared to go up for communion anyway. Most of the congregation remained in their pews. I still can’t wrap my mind around that. It seems absurd to think that they would all think they were in mortal sin. I had never seen anything like it. In every Church I have ever been to, almost everyone goes up for communion.

By the end of Mass, I had realized that I was coming up against my privilege. I was face to face with a completely different culture, and realizing what I did and didn’t have. I was seeing my discontent as completely absurd, but I needed to work forward better. I wanted to be just one of them, but at the same time, I thought of them as something other than myself. I wanted to think of them as people just like me, but I was suddenly so aware of the divide, and of how completely I did not understand them or their lives.

Finally, I resorted to prayer for them, and for myself, that I would know how to love these people, but not pity them, how to help them, but not to make them feel like less. I tithed more than I ever do, because it was all I could think to do. I wanted to restore their Church, to remodel their bathroom, to rip up the awful carpet, but I couldn’t. It occurred to me that if I were to do that to the Church, it could skew the value of property in the area, so I would rather help the whole neighborhood a little bit, than remodel just the Church, or they could end up feeling out of place. It could be such a sweet area, if someone had the money to help them.

The more I see places like this, the more grateful I am for what I have had, but simultaneously I learn more about what I don’t have. I hope that one day through everything my husband and I are doing to help ourselves financially we can be there to help others too. I hope that I rebuild every low income area I can find. I hope I can remodel the lost places. I hope I can give to all people a sense of home when I talk to them, and treat them all as equals, no matter how different their culture is.

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