Oh yeah, we live the basement life.

I love beautiful Instagram accounts. You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones where all of the pictures fit together. I don’t. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself lol!

My pictures are all over the place. Instead of taking time and working to capture the perfect picture that will fit with all the rest, I find the moment to capture that I want to remember forever. Those moments where time is slow, and sweet, and the closest thing to my “perfect.” The moments where your feelings are kind to you. 

We got amazing news yesterday, that Paul and I will be closing on our first home this Tuesday! Can you see it through the trees?! And while I am so excited to start making a home (the hours I spend on Pinterest from midnight until 2 a.m. sometimes is terribly terrifying), I will miss leaving where we are.

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Some of you know that Paul and I moved in with my grandparents (Wela and Welo) two years ago, this week. We moved all of our hand-me-down furniture pieces into the basement apartment (it’s the freaking sweetest basement apartment I’ve ever seen). It has a kitchen, a bathroom, storage space, a nice window by our office area, an alcove where we put curtains up and made a bedroom. This space became a haven for us. Rent free. CHYA (that is a cool way to say “yes” – I wanted to try it). And grandparents that love us so much, and always give us our own space (except when my Wela tells me I can’t lift heavy things because I need to take care of my body for when I get pregnant).

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We lacked nothing in this season of basement living. If you look close enough, you’ll see index cards that are sticking to the white column by the bookcases. I filled the cards with reminders that I learned in counseling sessions a year ago, like “you are not responsible for world peace,” and “I can take ALL the time I need.” That’s RIGHT, I can. I can take as long as I need to make decisions, change something I don’t like about myself, and learn something new.

God provided us everything we needed during these past two years, including jobs where we could save $2,000/month so that we could buy a home and Paul could start grad school, with me shortly following to get a free Masters at RIT where I work.

Sometimes I felt embarrassed to tell people I was not paying rent, and living in my grandparents basement apartment. Now I am feeling beyond blessed for this beautiful season of provision, rest, and growth. Life tends to get busy quickly, and we forget to stop and remember. That’s why I took that second picture above, and posted it to my uneven-a little bit ugly (LOL) Instagram account: I want to remember this sweet, slow moment. I want to remember this haven of a place I got to live in for two years, rent-free.

There’s a verse in the Bible that goes like this: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13).

I’m not putting that verse out there to say “wow, I used to live in a basement, and now I have a house! The goodness of the Lord is upon me” hahah….

I’m saying that I am moving slow today, and capturing this moment to remember his goodness in this season. In my own little corner of the world, I have so much that the world sometimes tells me is not enough. But I know it always is. 

Why I left Miss Saigon

Recommended for 12+.  Children under the age of 4 are not permitted in the theatre.  (Miss Saigon contains some scenes and language which may not be suitable for younger audience members, including scenes of a sexual nature.)

This was in the descriptor for the Broadway comeback of Miss Saigon.  

As I sat in the second to last row of the Rochester Auditorium Theater,  I was transported to a strip club with roughly 2,500 others for the first 10-20 minutes of the show.

I know the story of Miss Saigon.  I know she was sex trafficked and fell in love with the first man who bought her the first night she became a prostitute.  As my eyes glanced up to the stage a couple of times, I watched women thrusting themselves into men’s crotches, men grabbing their boobs and graphically humping them on tables and stairs that spread across the stage.   Flashing lights, loud & festive music, and colorful bras and skimpy underwear hovered at every angle as I tried to force myself to look into the darkness on the floor.

I wanted to vomit.  

My entire body began to shake, and my stomach grew hollow while my throat felt as though there was a knife sliding down it.  Writing this now triggers a physical pain. This is what they mean by recommended 12+?   

Looking around at the people sitting around me, the lights from the stage were reflecting on their faces, and I saw people’s eyes glued.  Some were smiling. Some were lusting. Some were covering their kids eyes. Some were shocked. I hope some were disgusted and disturbed like I was.  And I know some were triggered, after reaching out to friends that I knew were at the show. I felt personally exploited, as a woman, and as an advocate for people who are reduced to sex objects and entertainment.

After the first act, I read what was supposed to happen in the second half.  Another scene or two with women exploiting themselves on stage. My mom and I left.

Finding myself on Instagram later that night, I looked up the actresses that were playing these women on stage.  I’ve been in over 25 shows. I was an actress for a long time, and appreciate the art of dance, acting and singing.  I know the kind of hard work it takes to put together a show and to play the part you are given.

But as I scrolled through these actresses personal Instagrams, I saw them in their bras and underwear — the same bras and underwear they were wearing in that opening scene.  They used #misssaigon and #theheatison. One shared how excited she was to bring her love for pole dancing to stage. Some of them used #stripu which leads you to a re-occurring event that Broadway stars put together to raise money for HIV/AIDS. They literally strip for money.  Their past Broadway Bares event raised $400,000 because actresses and actors strip down to nothing but some tape strips across their boobs in the name of charity.

I know what I was looking for when I was digging a little deeper on Instagram: 

PLEASE! Someone! Talk about how sex trafficking comes in the form of stripping and prostitution and sex work.  Make your audience aware that this still exists and leverage your performance to create a platform to educate ticket buyers about this reality:  today, in your country, your state, your city, and most likely your town — people are being sexually exploited for someone else’s financial gain.

But I found nothing.  The only positive messaging I found from these actors is that we shouldn’t body shame.  

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I found myself calling my dear friend who used to strip.   I told her what I had just witnessed, and asked for her perspective (as she had seen Miss Saigon several years ago).  She recalled to me that after she left the life, she would go back to the strip clubs in Rochester and care for the girls that were still there.  She remembers their eyes while they were stripping on “pervert row” (what she called the area where people would gather close to the stage and have their eyes glued to their asses and boobs).  My friend remembers their eyes being distant — shut down — and it brought her right back to when she was stripping and learned to shut down and act the part. They were actresses — like the ones in Miss Saigon.

Being on the board for Brightstar Community, interacting with organizations around the country that are dedicated to educating people about the dangers of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking — I couldn’t sit here and not tell you the other side that I see.  

The other side: being desensitized to the sexual exploitation that we listen to, watch, and fall victim of being a bystander to without even realizing.

It is things like sitting through these scenes of Miss Siagon or listening to Cardi B glorifying her life as a stripper and getting your man to cheat on you and pay big money to exploit another woman….

It is things like this that we are saying are ok by not saying anything at all.  There are stark links between pornography, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and violent sexual abuse.  

This topic is notorious for bringing up a lot of shame.  My hope is that instead of letting this cover you with shame, that you will observe.  Observe what you consume: in movies, in magazines, in books, in music, in shows, in theater.

Are we stepping over the line of being a bystander for the people who are exploiting their bodies sexually in exchange for our demand?

Being a millennial, I am grieved that my generation is so confused.  I’m confused! We advocate and latch on to social justice movements, but then we look up to artists like Cardi B as our icons for women empowerment.  

May we think a little deeper, and act a little slower when these choices come up.  It is a hard line to define, and a hard discussion to have with each other – and more importantly, oneself.  

Check out this podcast to learn more: Sexploitation

Eight Ways to Make Ends Meet While Searching for a New Job

I would like to introduce you to my first guest blogger, Rufus Carter!  Rufus has been in recovery for 9 years, and is founder of Recovering Works.  Rufus focuses on career resources for people in recovery, and I wanted for him to give some helpful insight into what you can do when you are in the in-between.

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As someone in addiction recovery, you’re no stranger to challenges. Along the way, you’ve committed yourself to getting clean and staying clean, seeking treatment and mending relationships. So now you’re faced with a new challenge — making ends meet while you’re looking for a new job. While this may feel daunting, there are ways to stay afloat financially until you find the right job opportunity (otherwise known as “When the going gets tough, the tough start side gigs!”) Before you say, “I can’t do that!” read on to explore these eight lucrative side jobs for inspiration.

1. Dog walking and dog boarding. If you’re a dog lover, what’s not to love — Fresh air, exercise, adorable company, and cash? Many dog owners need someone to walk their dogs between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., so you’re a hot commodity if you’re available during those hours. You can post flyers in highly trafficked areas such as pet stores or find an already established pet sitting business in your area.

You’ll also want to research the competition in your area in order to figure out how much to charge your clients. Once you establish your clientele, you can branch out into pet sitting, boarding and more. You might even consider volunteering at your local Humane Society. While making a positive contribution, you’ll be gathering new skills as well as meeting new contacts.

2. Blogging/marketing. At a time of day or night that works for you, write about whatever you want while partnering with affiliate companies or advertisers. As a blogger, you could also be a drop-shipper. As a drop-shipper, you wouldn’t have to stock any inventory. Customers would place orders on your site, you would send the orders to your supplier for fulfillment. The supplier would then prepare and ship the orders, and you would get paid. All you need is an e-commerce platform, a software solution that lets you build an online store on your website. Marketing with Instagram is another lucrative channel at your disposal. Depending upon your following, the sky’s the limit regarding earnings.

3. Freelance work. Opportunities abound on sites such as Upwork for people from all kinds of backgrounds, from graphic design to writing. If you are a teacher, consider offering your services as a tutor. If you can teach musical instrument lessons, there are always opportunities for work.

4. Sell on eBay or Amazon. Do you love to shop and have a knack for buying low and selling high? Finding items to sell can be as easy as combing your local garage sales and swap meets or by heading up to your attic.

5. If you’re a homeowner, rent out one of your rooms. If you live near business districts or tourist attractions, your room might be popular on Airbnb or VRBO.

6. Sell your homemade goods. Turn your passion for crafts, soap making, or carpentry into goods you can sell on Etsy or at your local farmer’s market.

7. Grocery shop for others. Shipt has an app that sends you order requests from people that you can accept or pass. Once you accept an order, you receive a grocery list. Using a company credit card, you buy the goods and deliver. Shipt contractors earn from $16 to $22 per hour, not including tips. Depending upon your personality, you can bring in some fine tips.

8. Be a virtual assistant. All that’s required are great people skills, even greater organizational skills, and a strong Internet connection. As a virtual assistant, you might be called upon to help people with scheduling appointments, managing their email and social media accounts, drafting emails, completing data entry and other administrative tasks they’re too busy to do themselves. To find these opportunities, you can either search online for openings or check out a site like TaskRabbit.

All of these side gigs offer ways to bring in money regardless if you have gaps in your employment history or have burned bridges with former employers. You can do them all on your terms without being distracted from your recovery. Who knows? You might do so well you won’t ever need a 9 to 5 job again. Kudos to you getting out there and stepping outside the box.

Fake it til’ you make it

Last month I spoke to a small auditorium of college students, sharing my personal story that involved faking it til I made it. It was one of my top 5 takeaways and suggestions to improving thought life via cognitive therapy exercises we did together.

We focused on an exercise I call Control Circles, where you break a situation or event happening around you or to you into categories (circles), writing out what you have control over, what you can influence, and what you don’t have control over.

Writing it out helps you to: 

  • solidify your thought process
  • acknowledge that there is in fact aspects you have control over and aspects you don’t
  • figure out what you will do next
  • feel empowered and confident to move forward

The “fake it til’ you make it” phrase was one I used to look down on as disingenuous.  I mean, that’s literally what you’re saying: fake it. 

But now I think this phrase holds great value in helping you become unstuck.

Here’s an example. I attended the Avanti Entrepreneur Show last month. My business cards were not done yet, and I knew I would be surrounded by successful Rochester businessmen and women who have started several businesses in Rochester.

I made the last minute decision to BE CONFIDENT in my creative capabilities. I often muddy down my creativity in order to fit in a specific mold of what I believe others want from me.

So, I pulled out an old box that was filled with old post cards and pictures that my grandparents gave me when they moved out of their house.  It just came so quickly into my brain: “Thanks for capturing a moment in time with me.” Wow! I like that!

Even though I woke up feeling stupid for not having beautiful crisp business cards to hand out and network with, I faked my confidence to push against my self-condemning thoughts. Because truth is: I like who I am when I’m confident, and I have a lot to offer people. 

I am freaking amazing. I am so talented. I am so creative, and now I can give people a one of a kind “business card.” I am not going to apologize when I give this to them. When they ask to trade business cards, instead of hesitantly reaching into my notebook for one and having to explain that I didn’t have time to make business cards, I’m going to respond with “I have something BETTER for you.” And then whip this bad boy out:

So what was the result of me faking my confidence until it felt like I was actually confident? (This was within a 7 hour time span)! 

  • I got a job interview with an amazing businessman that presented at the event who I walked up to and asked if he was hiring. We exchanged information, and set up an interview.
  • I connected with a woman who moved to Rochester from London who started a business driving the creative process for local businesses via storytelling.
  • I met a few other coaches, who helped me to re-evaluate WHO needed me as their coach: I can’t be all things to all people. So who needs me in their corner? From there, I created a video for one small group of women who live in California based off of a connection and idea, and have several other phone conversations set up to reach people I haven’t met yet that need my coaching.
  • I networked so that I could make forward movement happen with Jericho House. I have already met with four additional people in the Rochester area who are like-minded, passionate, and more knowledgeable than I am in how to start a nonprofit.

People are attracted to your confidence. So practice it. 

They might not know that is what attracts them to you, but you are an expert in something. Are there people out there that are doing something similar but better? Sure. Are there people that look like they have it together, but are actually just as unsure as you are? Yes. Have you ever thought about practicing confidence as a way to gain it? Well…now you have. 😉

Questions for you: 

  • Think about where you spend most of your time…is it at home, is it at your job, is it traveling? Now think about who you are with: your family, your coworkers, your clients? What do you bring to the table to these people with the amount of time you spend with them? List all the positive things you contribute. (Those are your “expert contributions”). 
  • Where have you neglected to be confident in your various roles? Have you gained anything from doing so?
  • How can you fake it til’ you make it by choosing confidence, and not acting the way you think but acting the way you want to be treated?

Read the stories you write.

Do you journal? Whether you do or not, stick around and read some magic I found as I took the day to re-read the stories I’ve written down in my pile of journals.

I have always enjoyed writing. And reflecting. And now that I’m married to the biggest reflective person I know, I feel like I need to step up my game hah! I have about 15 journals that are 25% – 90% full, and y’all – the ones from middle school Jacs are hilarious. 

Here’s some gems, a little peek into my two decades of journals: 

January 16, 2015 RE: prophecy I received at church “You will love the unlovely – the ones who are abandoned and unlovable.”

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August 2, 2004 (8th grade Jacs) “Sometimes I don’t get sisters. I get in bed, and then they tell me to vacuum the bathroom floors. When I refuse, a simple dramatic hit on the shoulder wakes me up. Sometimes I feel like she controls me so much, I get mad her her and want to hit her or something. I need to work on the fruits of the Spirit!”

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October 2, 2014 RE: the Story conference notes “Failure teaches. Love something. If you’ve solved something the 1st time, you might have solved the wrong thing. Struggle a little. That way you know what you’re willing to fight for.  This shows you what/who you truly love. /// I seek distractions because doing what I really love is hard. I want to have more creative confidence: all about trying, not achieving perfection.”

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Florida Trip 2002 “This trip was a blast. In fact driving to Florida for 25 hours down and 25 hours back was part of the fun. It started out that we drove from our house to South Carolina where my cousins live. So we stayed there for 1-2 days. While we were there all of the ladies including me and Janel went out shopping for wedding dresses for Yvonne. We all couldn’t choose. They looked so wonderful on her.” (I then went on to describe on the proceeding 4 pages what the hotel in Florida was like – including that we had three tv’s in the hotel suite) HAHA!

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September 17, 2013 “One thing I want to remind future me: be careful and tactful in how I advise people. So many people in this season have given me their advice on what I should do / their opinions. Do you know where all of those opinions have brought me? To confusion. To questions that don’t end. To chaos in my mind. To an anxious heart. A ball of yarn people keep adding to. I understand peoples’ motives in trying to give me their opinion , but it is the people who spoke encouragement and truth to my soul about how God sees me that brought me to peace. It was those who directed me to a much more important questions: who is your God? What are you believing Him for? Instead of stating ‘this is what you should do.'”

E3E4E8AA-28DC-41C3-8D47-B6A73192EC10.jpegI put a couple of fun gems in there, but to be honest: my soul needed the promises and notes of encouragement and realizations I had over the last several years to encourage me today.  There have been seasons of writing when I find it more of a venting tool, but here I am today reading those vents over coffee and seeing roots. Roots that were established from experiences and relationships and heartbreaks and fun trips and revelations from God or prayers I needed reminding of that came to pass. And today, I need little Jacs – younger Jacs – to help me understand those roots and why they matter today. She has wisdom and feelings that matter today. Realizations that matter today. 

My next post will include a list of practical ways to start journaling and reflecting, but I found it extremely valuable to share my why. Why does it matter?

For me: my why is because I want to learn about myself and learn from myself, and writing things down in the moment gives me great clarity – if not in the moment of writing – older me can begin to process and have those “ah-ha!” moments that I crave.

What is your why if you enjoy writing and reflecting? 

What could be your why if you don’t? 

Be gracious with yourself.

Be gracious with yourself. 

This was the most valuable lesson I learned this past year. Working out, and then stopping entirely for 3 months…then going back to the gym and feeling so discouraged.  Laying in bed for over an hour and realizing I could have spent time with God. Watching episode after episode of Jane the Virgin, Friends, Fuller House, or New Girl just so I didn’t have to complete my therapy homework or journal why I was feeling sad and depressed. Not eating meals or skipping meals because I told myself I don’t need energy to just lay around the house.

People, 2017 was a rough one of learning to stop condemning myself. Grace. Have grace for yourself, dear Jacqui. Be kind to yourself with the words you say about yourself, with how you treat your body, with how you spend your time.

We usually put ourselves last on our to-do list. When I have time, we say. When I am feeling more up for it, we say. When I am not so freaking lazy, we say. When I finally get my act together and change, we say.

If we wait to do things when we feel like it, we will most likely stay stuck in our toxic routines.

For the month of January, Paul and I are challenging ourselves to go vegetarian. We have planned and prepped meals ahead of time, we are exercising 5-6x/week, and we are investing in our health to see what changes we see.

You need people. I wouldn’t stick to this health journey if it wasn’t for Paul, my friend Christy who is a trainer, my family asking about how our eating is going, my girlfriends in my Celebrate Recovery step study, and one of Paul’s best friends who I text to let him know if I wasted the morning or did what I planned to do. It is easy to slack off, make excuses, find what’s more convenient, or talk yourself out of why you originally set the goals that you did when you were really motivated.

The key is to focus on the smaller goals within your big goalInstead of tracking how much weight I will be able to lift by a certain date, or permanently change my diet – I set goals for one week or one day at a time. Whatever it takes to see progress and be encouraged. The larger goal is important, but not more important. 

We are more likely to keep going even if we have a cheat day or sulk into laziness for a day or two to realize it’s worth getting back into the healthier routine you originally wanted to create. It helps us get out of our self condemning mindset, recognize what should change so we avoid going there again, and be gracious with yourself to keep making the progress you are already seeing. 

Some questions to ask yourself if you look at an area you want to change: 

  • What area are you dissatisfied with? Why?
  • What is your big goal that you want to achieve in that area?
  • What is a small goal within that big goal that you can start working on today? What is a small goal within that big goal that you can implement this week?
  • Who can you ask to help keep you accountable? How often do you want them to check in with you?
  • What self-condemning thoughts come to mind? Write them down. Now write down what you can say that would help you practice being gracious with yourself!

Dear Mindreaders,

Do you know that I’m a recovering mindreader who finally found out that I’m usually not right?! Me, not perfect? Huh. 😉

Some things that get stuck in the corners of my brain and like to linger and twist and settle:

  • I’m not smart. I lose my train of thought so often. People must think I’m so dumb. I have to try really hard to do anything well. I’m not intelligent.
  • If this person doesn’t like me, it’s my fault. What did I do wrong?
  • My husband is going to resent me if I bring up the fact that I would rather stay home than go over to our friend’s house.
  • I literally can’t do anything right… I want to work out more, I want to gain muscle… but I’m not getting results. Oh my gosh, I complain all the time..people at the gym must think I’m a joke for only lifting this much.

When you read these, what kinds of things come to your mind about ways you mind read and solidify what people think about you?

Poison. That’s what these thoughts are. And that’s what these exactly are – thoughts. These are not actual thoughts or feelings people are portraying or vocalizing. These are stuck points we arrive to internally that we can draw on to make excuses for why we can’t move forward and see success.

Here’s some questions you can ask yourself next time you have a mind reading episode:

  1. What triggered this thought? (break down why you have the insecurities you do)
  2. What evidence supports this thought or feeling in me? 
  3. What evidence do I have that does not support this thought or feeling I have (i.e. I think my husband will resent me because I would rather stay home, but there have been plenty of times he has changed his plans for me and did not resent me; I didn’t ask him yet if we could stay home – so I can’t state that this is how he will respond)?
  4. What strides have I taken to get unstuck? // How can I celebrate myself in this moment? (I might not be lifting the weight I want, but I am going to the gym 3-4x/week and pushing myself while also listening to what my body can handle)
  5. Who am I mind reading, and ask yourself “Is this what they have vocalized to me before, or is this something I have made up in my head?” 

Getting stuck in your head happens. Whether we get to this point because we are codependent, we have practiced walking on eggshells, we are afraid to ask people how they actually think or feel about us, we don’t want to come across needy, etc…try to analyze and process the questions above next time you are stuck in mind reading mode.

Steal my date night hack

This is a fun post…who struggles with date nights?

Not to brag, but I love the system Paul + I have set up. Here’s our one-two-three-punch date night hack formula…

  • Schedule your date nights, and DON’T compromise that time you set aside to spend time together. Since Paul + I don’t have kids, we set aside every Thursday night after work for each other. No added friends, no family, no double dates! Just me + him time for one night a week. If we both agree on really wanting to do something with our family or friends, we make a rare exception and reschedule it for another night that week.
  • Alternate planning and surprising your partner every other week. You take turns! This makes the dates feel special and exciting. You each practice being spontaneous, and also teaches you how to plan ahead and be thoughtful in picking an activity the other person would enjoy.
  • Be creative! Planning a date night for you and your partner every other time helps you to be creative, especially when you’re on a budget. Paul + I didn’t want to spend any money the month of December because we wanted to put that money towards a weekend getaway right before Christmas. Plan out in advance how much you are both willing to put aside each month towards date night, and be creative when the budget is tight! 

Some of my favorite dates with Paul (feel free to steal) 😉

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Sombrero Night: This was a Paul-planned date. We had to drive around Rochester, and we had to find creative poses and scenarios where he would take pictures of me wearing a sombrero. We then had to post them on Facebook, and have people vote for their favorite.  |  Cost of date: Less than $10 for beverages at a coffee shop that was our last destination

Comedy + Old Toad: I planned a night to a local place that hosts lots of writing workshops, stand-up comedy, book clubs, etc. We got there late, and they were wrapping up on the last stand up comedian, but we were able to check out new events that were coming up! We then went to the Old Toad, which is an old-fashioned English styled pub where we played darts and stayed for their trivia night.  |  Cost of date: $20 for drinks

Dinner Party: We went to one of our favorite restaurants and split an entree, and while we waited and ate… we had to write a murder mystery themed dinner party that we would one day like to host and invite friends to (we only got as far as creating the characters and the plot… but it was such a fun and unique conversation to have over dinner).   |   Cost of date: $0 because we used a gift card!

What are some of your date night hack ideas, or favorite dates you want to share? What are some things that get in the way? Is it not finding a baby sitter enough in advance, do you struggle with finding creative ways to have fun together, do you feel stuck when it comes to coming up with dates or way to connect with your partner? What is one thing you can do differently so that you can move towards greater connection in your relationship?

Why my goals were pushed to the sideline

I woke up this morning feeling inspired to write…reflecting on the year as so many of us do. I began to weave memories and stories together, and thanking Jesus that I decided to keep my life and to remain faithful to him in this year of great despair and great hope. How can a year change me so much? 

Then I went on Facebook. I read these words from another young wife like me: “Brad went home to be with our Savior at 2:33 this morning. I will post visitation and service details once his dad and I finalize everything.” 

My heartbeat felt deep and noticeable. My throat tightened, hard to breathe.  I had been following Brad and Joyce’s story via Facebook for months, found out Brad was cancer free in September, and then found out his cancer metastasized and was now in his bones and all down his spine a couple of months after that. What gripped me even more was Brad and Joyce’s story of still choosing to love and trust Jesus, no matter the outcome of what the cancer would do. In a time when I felt abandoned by God, I asked “how are they in this place?” 

Even though I couldn’t relate to this beautiful couple with the days and months of quiet sadness, feeling like my body had failed me, praying over my husband as he died a little every day – it brought me great hope that God was still a good God because he wants to be near to us no matter what. I think Tim Keller explains it well in this sermon (if you have a half hour commute somewhere…and unlimited data).

As a life coach, I love hearing peoples’ dreams. After 10 minutes into a session with a client, I feel the adrenaline rush when I think of a great question to ask them that will breakdown this huge dream into a sizable chunk they can actually tackle that week.

But today. I’m reminded to love my people. I’m reminded that death and sickness are a part of this world, and a part of our lives.

I’m reminded that I want to remind my husband why I love him so much and grateful for how much he makes me laugh. I want to remind my mom that she is still loved by me, even though we disagree on things.

I want to remind younger couples to talk through their expectations and communicate what is in their head (stop mind reading your spouse, people!), or older couples to invent new memories or traditions with one another. I want to remind widows and widowers that they still have purpose to live, and have so much love to offer.

I want to remind kids to daydream and use their imagination. I want to remind my grandparents that they have wisdom and stories that I will learn from.

That’s what I want from 2018. I want to love my people well.

As I change, as I grow, as I make decisions, as I move forward, as I get a new job, as I remember, as I make new memories, as I travel, as I do hard things, as I do fun things, as I reconnect with friends, as I make new ones…to love my people through listening, being present, making time, creating with, verbally affirming them, etc. etc. the list goes on.

As you reflect on 2017, whether it was the best year or worst year yet… how can you love your people well? 

Stressed with $$?! Where does it all go?

We just passed Giving Tuesday, Small Business Saturday, Black Friday, with Christmas around the corner.

Giving has been a big part of my life.  My parents were always very generous with their money.  My dad would pull out a board game that was to help teach kids about how to steward their finances wisely.  I didn’t care for it. All I wanted was to play a “FUN” game! But I did grow up knowing that giving was a value that mattered and should be practiced.

As my husband and I sat down to do our budget again, since jobs and living location have changed – we were excited to start giving again after having to pause for about three months as we dipped into our savings and implemented an emergency budget we put together after leaving our jobs.

We can be so possessive with money.  Trust me, it is hard for me to give sometimes.  It is hard for me to see why it is worth spending money on some things, or giving when I know I could use it to make my life more comfortable. My natural bent is to save as much as possible. Not a bad thing, just an unbalanced perspective.

As we are now in the thick of that time of year where we are being asked to donate, spend money on lots of Christmas gifts, and lose sight of any kind of budget we have or wanted to have because “that’s the right thing to do, is to just give,” I would challenge you with a few things and a few tools you can use to help you make wise decisions with the plastic cards in your wallet and dollars in the bank.

  • Put together a budget at the start of the new year for Christmas gifts specifically. Save a little every month, instead of waiting until the month of November to start thinking about where you’re going to pull that money from. Write down everyone you want to give something to, and a $ amount next to them. Divide and conquer for Christmas 2018!
  • Use a budget system that works for you! Research some different tools that are FREE to you, and start tracking. We use mint. It will take a few months of adjusting to figure out how much you actually save, spend, and give.
  • If you love to donate, put that in your budget as well! Do you enjoy giving on a spontaneous basis – creating a category in your monthly budget is a good idea! If you really love a specific organization or set of organizations, become a monthly donor and keep track of it in your monthly budget. Do you tend to give a lot during the holidays? You might want to save a little every month so you have a bucket of money ready to give from at the end of the year!
  • People hate bringing others into their finances. It is a very vulnerable thing; no one tells you what their salary is, what their bonus was, or what their debts are. Get it out of your head. We need help from others when we are feeling stuck. Money is a big deal, and it is important to get counsel from people who know us best and have worked through a lot of financial decisions to help us make ours. Paul and I brought our budget and our emergency budget to a couple we trusted, sat down with them, and showed them how much we both were making, how much we were giving, where we were spending our money, and what we knew we could cut back on to live off of savings for a few months to carry us through until we both were able to get jobs again. We walked away with so much peace as they affirmed our decisions and said “you guys are on the right track.”