Monday, November 9, 2015

Setting Goals

Do you ever feel like you set goals only to miss them? Ugh. That's pretty much the story of my life! I loved the Whole 30 and the Living Well Spending Zero challenges because there was lots of accountability. But really I think where I was mentally had a huge impact on my success. I was all in and totally motivated. I also gave myself a lot of grace and didn't beat myself up when I slipped or messed up. I was able to keep my goals in view and stay focused to reach them.

Normally, I'm really good at planning, thinking up large (and what I think are reasonable) goals, and setting out the path I need to accomplish them, only to get started but then decide I don't want to do it. And I'm so good with the excuses. So good. Didn't get enough sleep last night. Need more time to prepare. I'll start next Monday. I'm in pain. Going on vacation. Too much to do. Got a party to go to. And on and on.

So here I the end of two large challenges, which I nailed! And trying to decide where to go from here.

I will admit that since the end of my Whole30 my eating has not been stellar. (If you follow me on Instagram you will know exactly how that went down!) And I may have gone on a little shopping spree this week. Just a little one. But what next? I determined to not beat myself up as I "re-entered" reality. I wanted to take it slow and stay out of the stores...

I want to stay healthy. I want to be money-wise, a good steward.

Can I just say that these last two weeks have been quite wonderful. I've not just sat on the couch stuffing my face and shopping online! The Hubby and I were able to sneak away on a little vacation to celebrate our nine year anniversary. We spent 4 days ALONE! We ate, we exercised, we rested, we relaxed. It was amazing, and so needed. We were home for only a few days, when we hosted the snack bar at our church's Harvest Carnival: Nachos. Hot Dogs. Chips. Hot chocolate. The same night my brother and his wife, who live in Australia, and my sister and husband and their baby, who live in Alaska, all flew in! My mom made a huge dinner of Mexican food: enchiladas with all the fixin's. So. Flippin'. Good.

I've spent all week with my family, eating and shopping, and celebrating our close family friends who got married. It's been so fun and a great few days of just hanging out. So, these are not things that happen all the time, not "normal" everyday life things we do all week. But two to three weeks of "vacation mentality" could easily set me up to fall back into old eating and shopping habits. How do I avoid that. How do I beat the sugar addiction, and the love of stuff?

I could not go. Not go out to eat. Not go shopping. Not spend quality time with my fam because that's what they like to do. I could go and not indulge. Take my own lunches, which requires forethought and preparation. Leave my credit cards at home and window shop. (My heart just stopped a little. Maybe I need to post a fashion show of my wonderful finds. Then you'll know it was worth it! LOL) Or... I could engage in moderation (does moderation ever work?!) and hope that the addictive tendencies don't creep back in. That is, of course, the path of least resistance, the one (for now) which I have chosen.

Only time will tell if it was the right choice. Hubby and I have decided that as soon as life gets back to normal (as in when my family heads home and we're all so sad!) we will return to eating Whole 30 style until Thanksgiving, except for the day of our pre-Thanksgiving with our friends, and the day we decorate the sanctuary and have a party with our church music peeps... So many celebrations. The goal for now is to stay the course when eating at home, with only a few changes, and try not to overspend on Christmas.  

"Don't buy yourself a gift for every one you buy for someone else!" is what I'll be telling myself!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Living Well Spending Zero Week 3 Recap

Christmas basket for our PRC silent auction

We are a full three weeks into our spending freeze and I can tell you I feel great! I thought I would have withdrawals, like I did from sugar and grains when we started Whole 30. But it turns out I'm not as addicted to shopping as I thought! Apparently, if I'm not out and about, in stores, and out at lunch time, it's actually not that hard not to spend. Go figure! The LWSZ challenges -- deep cleaning the house, organizing, getting creative, and pampering myself -- have kept me busy and happy. I will say, I have gone over my food budget a little bit, but hey I'm a work in progress! And I have had some shopping therapy. Not what you're thinking though... I'm not cheating! I've just had the privilege to shop with someone else's money. Woo hoo!!

Our local Pregnancy Resource Center has a banquet and silent auction every year.  I have the exciting job of putting together baskets from our church's Bible study groups, which requires... SHOPPING! I actually got it all done in one afternoon with the help of my mom. It was super fun! I'm able to do 7 baskets this year with the funds we raised, which is awesome! I love our Pregnancy Resource Center. They help so many women in our little city, it's kind of amazing!

I must say, I usually pick up a few things for myself along the way, but this year I kept my focus and didn't buy myself a single thing! Can you feel how proud I am!?!

Sorry, I just couldn't help it!
I think the biggest thing I'm seeing is how little I need to buy to enjoy what I've got. When I take care of what I have it reminds me to be grateful for having it. That even goes for my kiddos! When I sit and play with them or read to them, I remember what a blessing they are. God's really been speaking to me about contentment and thanksgiving throughout this month. "pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thessalonians 5:17-18) "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Timothy 6:6)

I feel like I vacillate between wanting everything I see and wanting to be frugal and not buy anything. It's the same with food: I want to be healthy but I also want to eat whatever I want. It's like I'm split... I guess that makes sense, "For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." (Galatians 5:17)

My whole life I've believed, or maybe I was taught, that I am my flesh and I have to try to live by the Spirit. My spirit is not who I really am, but who I want to be. Living by the Spirit is hard because I am flesh. But if I look at this verse a little more closely it says "so that you are not to do whatever you want." That's the NIV, but the NLT says it this way, "so you are not free to carry out your good intentions." So, maybe, I'm my spirit man, the one who desires to live by the Holy Spirit. Maybe I'm the good guy, and the flesh is the influence of the world and the lies of the enemy, trying to entice me to be who I don't want to be. And maybe, just maybe, if I dig really deep, and decide to be me... Maybe the real me, my spirit man, is frugal, content, happy with who God made me, not in need of any kind of food/shopping/social-therapy. 

Maybe I'm just in need of some Jesus-therapy, the kind of therapy that actually works, so that I can be who I was made to be -- who I really am.

You guys, I've saved over $1800 in the last three weeks compared to last month...and the month before. EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! (Insert woman cutting credit card emoji here.) Now to be fair, some of that money the previous months was budgeted money that we had planned on spending, and some was donations for the church renovation. But the majority of the money I've saved comes from a category I call "miscellaneous". Purchases that, when I see them on the credit card bill, I cannot remember what they were. Places like Target, Walmart, Ross, Marshalls, Michael's, Dollar Tree, etc. And then there's the way-too-much-to-admit we spend on eating out. And I feel like I cook A LOT. So, yeah, learning a big lesson here. Want to know what it is?

I'm not that person. It's not who God made me to be. I have this desire to be content with what I have and to steward my resources well because that is who God made me. 

It may take some time and effort, but I will retrain my brain and my credit-card-swiping hand to think, evaluate, and process before I make a purchase. I'll plan better. I'll pray about this more. I think that may be the most helpful!

I read a blog about creating a capsule wardrobe, and she said she gives herself a week to think about a clothing purchase before she decides if it belongs in her closet. A week. If I did that I think I'd forget about most of the clothes I've purchased!

So, baby steps. I'm starting with a plan for next month, a new Living Well Spending Less program called Your Best Year Ever (you can sign up here), and a goal to de-clutter my life. I won a book from the LWSZ Instagram challenge about a clutter free life and I am all set to dive right in.

I can't wait to see what God has in store for the next few months!

And, a quick update on our Whole 30: we are FINISHED! We ended our Whole 30 on Tuesday. Wednesday we added refried beans to our meals, and can I tell you they were heavenly! Believe it or not, that's what I've missed most. LOL. I officially lost 10 pounds and two inches off my waist!! My energy is up (now that we're sleeping through the night again!!! WOO HOO!!), and I'm feeling great! We're planning on keeping the general Whole 30 rules in place in our home going forward. I still have another 10 pounds to lose according to my health assessment to get my risks all the way down for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. So that's the goal. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Almost There!

Whole30 Compliant Grilled Hot Wings
Today is Day 29 (!!!) of our Whole 30! Can't believe it's almost over. It really has flown by. I must admit I did have a little bit of honey or maple syrup in my tea here and there, but other than that I haven't cheated! (I know hardcore Whole 30-ers will consider that cheating, but a girl can only do so much!) I can't believe it myself. My formerly "skinny" jeans -- the ones I wear when I'm skinny -- are now saggy in the bum and have almost turned into my fat pants! Thrilling!

Overall I've felt pretty good for the majority of the program. If it hadn't been for my little man getting up multiple times a night almost every night for three out of the four weeks I think my energy would have continued to be through the roof. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to see a drastic improvement in my sleep because of this too. Oh well, though! I don't think I could have survived the multiple night wakings without being on Whole 30 and having extra energy.

On Saturday, we had a great visit with some friends who we don't get to see very often and we were able to share our Grilled Hot Wings with them. Our friend Joel shared this recipe with us after we had them at his house. We loved them, so like a good friend, he passed it on! They're so good, messy, and delicious! Visiting with non-Whole 30-ers is a little bit difficult, but our friends were so accommodating. We brought the wings, and the sides were roasted broccoli, sweet potato fries, and dessert was strawberries and grapes. Easy and delish!

So, without further ado, Grilled Hot Wings, Whole 30 friendly and absolutely yummy!

The easiest and yummiest Grilled Hot Wings

Grilled Hot Wings


Chicken Wings
Frank's RedHot Original (Hot Sauce)
Ghee, or butter if you're not on Whole 30
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder


Season the chicken with a little bit of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cover the wings with sauce, not a lot, just enough to coat. Marinate the chicken wings (if you have time). Preheat the grill on high. When it's nice and hot, reduce heat to low and cook those babies up! Meanwhile, heat a couple tablespoons of ghee with about a cup or so of the hot sauce. When the wings are cooked through -- they take about 25 minutes -- remove them from the grill and toss them with the buttery saucy goodness!

Now eat them up!! We served them with roasted broccoli and sweet potato fries. YUM! What do you like to eat your wings with? And don't say blue cheese!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Seeking His Presence

My momma praying with my baby
You know those times when it just seems so hard to pray? When you find every excuse, and every little thing to occupy your mind so you don't go there? Or when you just don't do it because you're too tired, too emotionally drained, too scared that you may come unglued if you go there? Yeah. Me too. Over the last year-and-a-half there have been so many times that I knew I needed to get to my knees. I knew God was calling me deeper into Himself. I knew I needed to be in His presence. But I just didn't go. I didn't cry out. I didn't make the time, or if I had the time I didn't take it. I slept. I shopped. I ate. I watched TV.

When life is chaos or it just plain hurts, it takes everything inside me to hold it together. I know in my mind that God's the only One who can fix it. I know in my heart that I need Him more desperately than anything else in all the world. But I'm afraid if I go there, if I pour out my heart, I may not get up. I might just finally break. That's one of the lies I've had to break free from, that I'm on the edge of breaking, that just one more thing will do me in. In my mind's eye, I remember this scene from a movie, I don't even know which one, where the mother is having a total mental breakdown on the front lawn. The father is trying to get her up off the ground and the grandmother is ushering the children inside. The lie is that was going to be me. Just one. more. thing.

I went up for prayer at one of our women's events last year sometime, and the pastor's wife who prayed with me looked at me and said, "That's a lie. You will not break. God's got you." It was like a breath of fresh air and a reminder that I needed to get out of my head and onto my knees. He always tells me the truth.

Some days it's been all I can do to just lay on the ground and cry. "But the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:26) 

It's so easy to come up with some sort of idea of what prayer or spending time with God should look like. We see others, or at least what they portray, and think that's what it looks like. We hear stories of people who read their Bible for hours or who pray every morning at 2 and think that's what it looks like. But it's so much more than any of that. A long time ago, I promised myself that I wouldn't compare my relationship with my husband to anybody else's marriage. It helps me focus on him and how he loves me, and I'm better able to appreciate what I have. I think the same must be true of our individual relationships with the Lord. My quiet time will not look like anyone else's. It can't. God speaks to each of us in so many different ways. He knows exactly how to love me based on my needs and my personality. And He knows that some days all I can do is cry. And He lets me. Because that's how He is. 

When I need that arms-wrapped-around-me feeling it usually takes me a couple days (ok, sometimes weeks) to finally give in and get with my Jesus. But then I wait, I pray, I cry, I seek. And He knows just how to show me what I need. It's not always a physical tangible feeling. And it may not be, actually usually is not, what I expect. Sometimes it's peace. Sometimes it's calm. Sometimes it's rest. Sometimes it's a hug from a wonderful little boy who prayed for me yesterday, "Dear Lord, help my Mommy to be a good mommy, and take care of us."After they both had anointed me with oil as my mom and I had done to them. "Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3)

At all times, He knows exactly what I need and how I need it. I have to constantly remember to run to Him instead of from Him. Even when it hurts. Even when it's hard. Even when I don't want to.

Come out from despair
Grab on to Life
The blood Jesus shed
Is your freedom and mine

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Living Well Spending Zero Week 2 Reflections

Oh how I hate filing paperwork!
Well, I blew it! Waaa! I spent un-budgeted money. I won't even tell you what I spent it on because it's not a big deal. And if I did tell you'd probably be like, "Oh, you needed that. No biggie." And I'm not into excuses. I didn't spend a lot, but I really wanted to stick to the goal. Boo.

On the bright side today went much better. I had budgeted 20 bucks for our "field trip" to the pumpkin patch and I only spent $17! Woo hoo! I think not beating yourself up when you mess up is one of the hardest things. But I've learned that the less I sulk the more quickly I get back to being awesome! ;-D And today I was awesome! Seriously, have you noticed how quickly a little outing can turn into Starbucks + all the attractions + lunch + possibly another Starbucks? Yeah, me too. Lame. That's where I've noticed the biggest change in my spending. I'm not out running errands all the time at lunchtime, and when I know I'm going to be out late I pack snacks.

At the end of each week of the LWSZ challenge we have a "Reflection" assignment, so here's my thoughts... There was A LOT of cleaning this week! I still have a pile of papers to sort and file. This lovely picture of my laundry basket full of just papers that need to be filed is one of two. Blah. But my living spaces, my kitchen, my bathrooms are BEAUTIFUL! Oh and did I mention how my master bedroom is coming together? Well, it is and it's so great and calming to walk in and not have a pile of, well, anything staring at me! I'm loving having a clean home. I am hoping to implement a cleaning schedule going forward to maintain all this loveliness. There's just something about having a clean space to live in. Ruth Soukup, the author of the challenge, says when you have a clean house it's like you have a clean brain. And I agree!

My beautiful work-in-progress bedroom
The best part of the challenge thus far is that compared to last month we've already saved over $1400!! Mind. Blown. I can't believe it! I've been going over our expenses the last two months with a fine tooth comb and I'm in awe. I realized how a little bit here and a little bit there adds up to so much. The things we think are inconsequential really never are. What I find most interesting is how our finances and our eating were spiraling out of control almost at the same time and the same rate. Eating out is a huge contributor to both of those things.

Many times we'll eat out simply because I didn't have a plan. I've noticed big time how I hate to plan lunch every day. I even forgot to plan it for the weekend so we were scrambling because I didn't have any leftovers and we'd been cleaning all morning. Whoops! This was a weekend when we would have very likely eaten out lunch and dinner. I'm learning that I need a plan if I'm going to be successful in saving money and eating healthy. It's a good thing, just not always an easy thing. I've also found that as I've been intentional about cleaning up the kitchen after every meal it's so much more mess it up again! It's good though because I'm not having to wash every pan right before I use it again. Super helpful!

My little man standing tall!
My biggest "reflection" though is how I pour myself into these things, challenges, goals, and ideals that I want to attain. I forget about the other things as I hone in on one thing. Like last week when I should have been prepping the Christmas music for our first choir Christmas rehearsal and I used the challenges to procrastinate. I ended up with an over full and very stressful Sunday as I scrambled to throw it all together. And then there's my boys. Number 2 is still getting up at least once a night. I think it's a combination of waking up for some unknown reason mixed with testing his boundaries. But I read an article today about how much our little ones need us, and I thought maybe he just wants to be with me. It made me sad because as I looked back over these last three weeks (since I started Whole 30) I realized that I haven't been taking as much time for my little guys as I could, or maybe even should. I want to pour myself into them and do the other stuff if it fits. They need me. And I love that about them.

Look it up!