Planning

Living in the Present

By CarrieBeth Sherwood

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There are lots of negative aspects of social media, I admit. But ever since Instagram became popular (2012, 2013?), I have found the online community of Christian women to be life-changing for me.

At any given time, you would find about 150 screenshots on my phone of inspiring posts that I don't want to forget. Now, of course, my main direction and instruction is found in the Bible; in studying God's precious word. But I feel like God has put social media in my life so that I can have access to wisdom from women who are going before me, and pointing me and others to Jesus.

There have been times in the past when I was drowning in babies, work, and responsibilities and I didn't have many opportunities to be with other women. I could have felt so alone in those times. However, social media allowed me to feel connected and spurred on, even in those seasons.

My most recent inspiration came from Jess Connolly; she lives in Charleston, South Carolina where she is a mom, author, artist, and pastor's wife. She recently posted:

"I almost made a huge mistake. I've had this idea that I'd pick a date on the calendar that would feel 'normal' and I'd count down to that day...here's the truth for me and for you.

ABUNDANCE IS HERE. Joy is a promise from our Father in the busy, broken, beautiful, easy, boring, stressful-ALL THE DAYS. Abundance is here. This is it. This is life. Now is where I get to worship, to love, to rest, to talk to Him, to laugh, to trust, to smile. Abundance is here."

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This spoke to my soul because I feel like I LIVE in the in between. I have had three different jobs in the past five years and am even looking to transition to a new job in the near-ish future. I am 8 1/2 months pregnant and patiently waiting for our new baby to arrive. We have lived in 6 different houses in the last 6 or 7 years. There is always something I am looking towards where I can finally settle in and just BE. But this post inspired me to do what Jess says and worship now. Right here. Love now. Be with Jesus.

The Bible says that the enemy's plan is to "steal and kill and destroy" but Jesus came so that we may "have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) It would thrill Satan for us to put our worship on hold until we "arrive."

But there is no ARRIVING until we get to heaven. Until then, my lifelong goal is going to be to live in the middle, worshiping and serving and being until I see Him face to face.


The Get Outta Debt Dance

By Lindsey Racz

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In a survey published with CNBC in 2017, it was reported that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Not just the lower and middle class, though; even ten percent of Americans who make over 100k report having trouble making ends meet. Debt has become a way of life in our culture. More often than not, accumulating debt is the only way to live up to what are considered cultural norms—you know, shiny cars, vaulted ceilings and pretty Pinterest chandeliers and the like—but I am here to tell you, folks, there really is another way!

The reasons to get out of debt are numerous. For us, following biblical principles, seeking financial peace, being able to give freely to others in need, and teaching our children financial wisdom rank among the very top. This is our debt story—at least part one of it.

When I married the love of my life, Matt, he had 40k in student loans leftover from a bachelor’s he’d received from a private university. I had an expensive graduate degree from the same university and 20k of student loan debt left to repay myself.  We both loved the university and our respective experiences there; we both hated the debt. And because when “two become one flesh” nothing is left out, we started our life together with a whopping 60k in student loans that carried payment obligations of over 500 a month. Ouch.

I’m exhausted when I think about where we were just four years ago. We both worked full time; my husband worked a full-time day job and owned his own freelance graphic design firm. I had a good job on staff with a local college. We were raising two children, clocking lots of hours at the office, and falling into bed utterly spent each night. And still, after all our efforts, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We were still working toward our original goals of paying off our student loans, but life didn’t always go as planned. We would pay off our phones only to have a car break down. We would pay off a student loan and then have a child break a foot and add back double the amount of the loan in medical bills. We had a pregnancy that had complications and a baby that requires consistent medical care.  It was two steps forward, one step back. Okay, more like five steps back. My dream of working less and spending more time investing in our kids seemed to be slipping further and further away.

 It's no surprise that we felt like slaves. God warns us about debt in Proverbs 22:7,

The rich rule over the poor; the borrower is a slave to the lender

No sugar coating there. If you choose debt, you’re a slave. Simple math. Yes, we had at one point allowed ourselves to become slaves. But by God’s grace and wisdom, He had plans to change all that. It was time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thankfully, Matt and I each had goals to work toward being debt free even before we met one another. I had knocked some debt out, he had knocked some debt out, and most importantly, we had like minds when it came to our dislike for debt. We both studied and followed some principles of financial guru, Dave Ramsey. We knew how to work hard and, most importantly, we were ready to take some risks and get creative to reach our ultimate goals of living a debt free lifestyle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! 

Fast forward four years. That was then, this is now. Let me paint a picture for you of how things have changed.  One month from now we are on track to be 100% debt free (excluding a mortgage which we always factor in as an investment). We will have a three to six-month emergency fund fully funded. I will continue to work part-time—one day out of my practice and a couple of days from home teaching online psychology classes. We will soon welcome our 4th child, and we will be ready to begin saving for future goals of retirement, building our own house, and most importantly, being able to give cheerfully and generously when we come across another’s need. 

Please don’t let me come across like this journey has been a cake walk. It’s been anything but! On my next post, “The Get Outta Debt Dance Part II- How?”, I will break down how this miraculous transformation in our finances has occurred. Let me be clear—there was no magic lottery ticket and no massive promotions that came to the rescue. We have never made six-digit salaries, even with our income combined! We know there are some who may shake their heads as we bare this much information about our personal finances, but we know there are even more who are out there drowning in debt and stress and pressure to keep up with current culture. It’s the second group of people to whom we write this post and the next. Take heart and have hope; if we succeeded at learning the get outta debt dance, you most certainly can too!

To read HOW in part 2, head over to Lindsey’s website here or by using the button below.


Releasing Control and Embracing God's Design for Your Family

By Mollie Talbot

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I really want a little girl. I don’t know why; they sound complicated, emotionally volatile, and terrifying but still, I know my husband would father a daughter so beautifully that I might feel remiss if at the end of our lives I don’t get to see that relationship lived out. Here’s where I should mention that I’m 35 weeks pregnant and we don’t know what we’re having. With both of our pregnancies, we’ve chosen to forego the gender reveal in lieu of a big ol’ hospital surprise. 

When we tell someone that we’ve chosen not to find out, we’re often met with the response “I don’t know how you do that, good for you, I’m just too much of a control freak.” Ladies, let me just tell you this is the exact reason we choose not to find out; because this is one of the few times in my life I can discipline my desire for control in a way that puts me in near-constant submission to trusting God’s will and design. So then when you find yourself at 35 weeks gestation with a desire to give your husband a little girl but almost entirely convinced you’re getting another little boy, you’re driven lovingly to your Father’s arms for comfort and reassurance. To crawl up in His lap and say “I’m doing it again Dad. I’m not trusting that your way is better than mine. Will you remind me again how far you’ve brought me?”

As believing moms, we’re in a constant tug of war with our desire to white knuckle the outcomes of our family or to relinquish control and trust our Father. We set up systems for success—plans and calculations that help maintain the heart of our homes. If we didn’t have some of these systems, we’d end up with hangry husbands, empty refrigerators, and some pretty creative means of accidental cloth diapering. We have to make it to the grocery store, or at least clicklist here and there and sadly, cleaning is an unfortunate necessity every once in a while. But when we can no longer accept interruptions to our plans and calculations as areas that God is present and working in, then the thorns of our sin will begin to draw blood.

Isaiah 55: 8-9 says,

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’

But do we believe this when our second grader comes home from school crying because the same twit from first grade is in her new class and tormenting her again?

Or when we find ourselves transactionally approaching our marriages, riding on a wave of building resentment? “I just cooked dinner after cleaning, running errands, and taking care of the kids all day and you’re telling me you won’t even be home for it?”

Do we believe God’s ways are higher than ours when we desire nothing more than to grant our husband his silent wish for a daughter when we just KNOW that we’ve got another boy coming… and it’s breech?

This is not a message saying you should suffer in silence, or submit and sacrifice your needs and wants—it’s merely encouragement to contemplate that even when you’re frustrated someone else has shown up during a nap time you were going to use to write, that God might have work and love waiting for you in a moment that looks completely unlike your initial plans for it. That His ways, His thoughts and His will are higher than yours and worthy of your whole-hearted trust.

I write this from the eye of the storm. I may be peace-filled enough right now to put language to the conflicting feelings in my heart about the gender of this sweet little baby and my fears about it being breech but I’m also prepared that the second wave of the storm will still come. That I might need to crawl back in my Father’s lap after a C-section and brand new baby boy to have Him walk me back down memory lane saying, “Mollie, remember when you stood on the steps of the AA hall smoking a cigarette and bawling your eyes out? When you threw your head back in defeat and asked, ‘Why me, God?’ You didn’t see Kyle’s love for you then; you couldn’t know Banks’ blonde curls; just as you don’t see what I have in store for you now. TRUST Me, but even when you don’t, you’ll know where to find Me because your posture toward Me will never alter My proximity to you.”

This morning, as if by some sort of sweet encounter with the Holy Spirit, I laughed hysterically with God when Banks, my two-year-old boy broke into my room at 6:45am saying “MAMA! ROLEY POLEY.” I laid there smiling in the dark at how sweet these moments are; that he woke up after thinking about roley poleys and rushed to come tell me about it. That was until I felt something small on my neck and realized he hadn’t been dreaming of pillbugs at all, but instead had legitimately found one on his floor and ran immediately into my room and put it in my hair. I laughed hysterically and began my day with an extra heap of joy as I recognized—I don’t know many moms who would calmly pick a bug from their hair first thing in the morning and thank their son for wanting to share it with them. Maybe boys are exactly what I need.