Tag Archives: Money

The Giver Gets to Pick the Gift

girl_staring_at_mountains

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Oh praise the One who paid my debt
and raised this life up from the dead

As I sang those words on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I thought about my almost-four-years of work at the church and the possibility of leaving them behind to take my dream job, the job I had just interviewed for and really wanted. The job I just knew I was going to get.

Your job at the church is a gift, I heard. And this new job, if you get it, that will be a gift, too. You don’t deserve either of them. You haven’t earned them. You’re not entitled to them like you think you are. They are gifts from Me. And as the Giver, I get to pick the gift. I know what you want. I know what you like. I’ll pick the right gift. And even if it’s not what you asked for, you’ll understand why I picked it. Maybe not right away, but you will.

Those words echoed in my head as I went home, as I went on with life, as I waited for the call I had been waiting for for nearly two months—the call that would mean I would finally be getting paid to sit around and read books all day. I’d finally be an editor. A real editor. Not the fake kind that just re-words awkward class descriptions for the church website and has to make sure the date is right on the bulletin. (Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. I know book editors are not the only real editors. And I know what I do at the church is important. I’ve just always wanted to edit books.)

Two months is a really long time to wait for something you’re sure is inevitable. I knew I might not get the job, but everything seemed just right. I interned there. I knew people there. I was encouraged to apply by someone who worked there. I know what they publish because I’ve read little else in the last three years. And the opportunity just dropped in my lap. I didn’t go looking for it. God was going to give me this new job. But in case He didn’t, I told Him, secretly afraid he was using this opportunity as some kind of sinister test, it must be because I’m not supposed to have it. It just made too much sense.

They’d assured me that I’d have an answer by Friday. After weeks and weeks of checking my email every five seconds and jumping every time my phone made some kind of noise and bugging my references to find out if they’d been contacted, the day had arrived. The same Friday our apartment lease expired and we’d have to sign another twelve month lease THAT DAY or pay an extra $80 in rent to go month-to-month so we could move as soon as possible. Since the new job would be a bit of a hike.

The hours crept by with no word. By this point, I’d convinced myself they’d picked someone else. Surely I would have heard by now if I was their choice. Around noon, I called and talked to an assistant. “No, they haven’t made a decision yet,” she told me, “They’ve had a sales conference all week. They’ll probably decide next week.”

So many emotions. I was so done with the waiting. I wanted to move on with my life. So many things were up in the air because of this job. We might have to move. I might have to stop reviewing books on my blog. I might have to give up the extra week of vacation I’ll have earned by the end of this year. I might have to start paying exorbitant rates for my health insurance. I might have to leave the coworkers I love.

Then finally, last Wednesday, my answer came.

No.

Seriously, God? If You knew You were going to tell me no, why couldn’t You do it after the first interview? The sample edit? Or even the Friday when I was supposed to have an answer? Why did You do this to me?

I still don’t know.

They told me I had the skills, but another candidate had more experience, and they encouraged me to try for an entry-level position next time one opens up. If those types of jobs still pay what they paid when I was in college, there’s no way we can afford that kind of pay cut. Not if I want to pay off my student loans and start a family some day.

It feels a little like the time my parents went to Disney World without me. When they asked what I wanted them to bring back for me, I asked for a dress just like Snow White—blue and yellow and red with puffy sleeves. But that’s not what I got. Instead, I got a white dress with neon paint splatters all over it. And flip flops with a rainbow of curly ribbons tied to the top. I’m sure my mom was so excited to give them to me. But I was disappointed. They didn’t match the picture in my head.

Now I know that the Snow White dress was too expensive. And the dress I did get was darling. But back then, I was too little to understand why that mattered, to understand that my parents had more information than I did. All I knew was they didn’t give me what I wanted.

So the dream I had for so long and then gave up and then thought might happen anyway has been taken from me again. This time I wasn’t quite so willing to give it up. This time it hurts like heck. This time it feels a little hopeless. And I feel a little angry.

But the Giver gets to pick the gift.

27 Lessons in 27 Years

globe babyToday I turn 27. Actually, in three minutes from the time I’m writing this. Honestly, I’m feeling old. My sister turns 21 in November, my baby brother is graduating high school next year, and I’ve been married for (almost) five years. This is the first year I’ve actually been grateful when people say, “You’re 27? No way!” And I finally understand why turning 30 is a big deal. I’m not there yet, but I totally get it.

When I was trying to figure out what my “birthday post” should be, I decided it would be fun to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Some are happy, some are sad, and some are a little funny, but they’ve all been a part of “becoming me” in a significant way.

  1. If someone is trying to annoy you, ignore them. They’ll eventually get bored and go away. (I can thank my little sister for teaching me this one.)
  2. Churches don’t have to be full of hypocrites.
  3. Leadership doesn’t have to be loud. Sometimes quiet leadership is more effective.
  4. God is trustworthy. Always.
  5. It’s okay to ask for help.
  6. Relationships don’t work when each person only gives 50%. Each person must give 100%, so when one person can’t give their all, the other person can pick up the slack.
  7. God cares about the little things, too.
  8. Stories (real or imagined) change lives.
  9. Babies aren’t so scary after all.
  10. Adults don’t have it all figured out. Life is an experiment.
  11. We’re all different, and that’s a good thing.
  12. When you have a favorite thrift store, second-hand shopping is awesome.
  13. Budgets don’t prohibit you from spending money, they give you permission to spend it wisely.
  14. You can learn a lot from other generations. Everyone has something different to offer.
  15. Teaching four-year-olds about Jesus is SO FUN.
  16. Humility often means not seeking credit and taking blame.
  17. Regular dental appointments are important. You do NOT want to get a root canal.
  18. No matter how much you hate exercise, it will make you feel better. (If my husband asks, I did not admit this.)
  19. Divorce sucks. And it will affect your kids—no matter how old or young they are.
  20. Food doesn’t make you happy, it just makes you fat.
  21. You don’t have to have all the answers to be a good friend. Just be there.
  22. (Usually) good writing should go unnoticed. It should flow in such a way that the reader doesn’t even think about the act of reading, they just do it.
  23. What you want to do is not necessarily what you’re called to do.
  24. Working at a church is hard.
  25. There’s no such thing as a normal family.
  26. Minnesota isn’t so bad.
  27. Having a husband who’s your best friend makes life a lot more fun.

So there you have it. Obviously I’ve learned more than 27 things in my lifetime. At least, I hope it’s obvious…

Thankfulness?

Thanksgiving

This morning I heard that in five years, most stores will be open on Thanksgiving. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when stores started doing that last year. And not just because of the people who wouldn’t be able to spend what is perhaps the most family-focused holiday with their families (perhaps because it has nothing to do with getting stuff?). It’s the irony of it that makes me sick—a day intended for showing thankfulness has been turned into a day of greed.

One article I read quoted a Best Buy representative, who basically said they’re just giving customers what they obviously want. I would guess it has less to do with people wanting to shop on Thanksgiving and more to do with people wanting (and in some cases, needing) to save as much money as possible. So if the stores offer their best deals on Thanksgiving, that’s when they’ll to shop.

I recognize my thinking on that point may be a little naive—that want-to-save could easily be construed as greed in many situations. And there are people out there who would much rather be shopping on Thanksgiving than spending time with their families. (I can sympathize—it can be torture to spend holidays with a royally messed up family. Like Christmas the year my parents separated—we all got together on Christmas morning like nothing had changed, but it had. It may be one of the most awkward things I’ve ever experienced. And this year we’re going all the way to Michigan to see my family, but I don’t even know if we’re going to have a Thanksgiving dinner!) But that doesn’t change that Thanksgiving is meant to be a day to show thanks.

Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1863. Here’s part of his official declaration:

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Part of me wonders if that’s the problem in our country. We’ve removed God from everything else—why not remove Him from Thanksgiving, too, even if it is a day set aside to offer “Thanksgiving and Praise to ourbeneficient Father.”To add to the irony, Lincoln also said,

I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for each singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.

 So I won’t be shopping this Thanskgiving. Instead, I intend to spend the day thanking God for His many blessings, asking Him for forgiveness (for myself and my country), and begging Him to align America with His plan—‘cause I’m pretty sure buying more stuff (that will likely be broken in six months) instead of Thanking Him for what He’s already provided is not part of His plan.

Summer Reading List Reviewed

I like to take the summer off from doing book reviews so I can read whatever I want. Granted, many of the books I review are books I want to read anyway, but it’s nice to be able to read without a deadline looming over me or the constant questions in the back of my mind as I read (What do I like (or not) about this book? Why?) That said, I can’t resist posting about what I did read (I did a bunch of mini-reviews last summer, too).

This summer I read quite a few books, though not as many as I would’ve liked. I did stay on track to read 24 books in 2013. I got sidetracked by crocheting. Usually that’s a cool-weather hobby, but it carried over into summer this year. Instead of reading my Kindle the other night, I made a cover for it.

Kindle-Cover-1

 That’s only one example. I’ve just had an insatiable need to create pretty things.

Anyway, here’s what I read (mostly in the order I read them in):

Stretch Marks

Stretch Marks: A Novel by Kimberly Stuart
This one wasn’t exactly a summer read—I read it in May when we were on our way home from Ohio. It was a quick, enjoyable read about a twenty-something girl who finds herself navigating a rocky relationship with her mother in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. Of course there was some romance thrown in—with someone other than her live-in boyfriend who doesn’t “believe in marriage.”

redeeming love

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
This book ruined all other Christian fiction for me. Seriously—if this book supposedly changed the direction of Christian publishing, why on earth is there so much crap out there? No offense to Christian fiction authors (especially the good ones), but why aren’t more Christian books this good? Even after I finished it, this gold-rush era retelling of Gomer and Hosea haunted me for a good part of the summer. It wasn’t just a good story—it showed me the depth of love and forgiveness God has for us despite our near-constant rebellion. This is a must read. Seriously—stop reading my blog and go read it. Now.

Stopping Words that Hurt

Stopping Words that Hurt by Dr. Michael Sedler
I broke my no-book-reviews-in-the-summer rule for this one. Not because of the writing (it’s not awful, but not fantastic, either), but because of the subject—how to stop what Sedler calls “evil reports” (what you’d probably call gossip). It was a problem I was struggling with, and I wanted to know what to do. This was a great resource. You can read the whole review here.

A Heart DeceivedA Heart Deceived by Michelle Griep
Miri Brayden, who depends on her brother for support while also hiding the fact that he’s losing his mind, takes in Ethan Goodwin, a man she doesn’t know is running from the law, and life takes some unexpected turns. This was one of the best books I’ve read in a few years.

The Subversive Copyeditor

The Subversive Copyeditor by Carol Fisher Saller
Rather than focus on only the nuts and bolts of copyediting, Saller, who edits the monthly Q & A  for Chicago University Press, focuses on the relationships by addressing the most common conflicts copyeditors encounter while editing. She also offers some great practical “best practices” when it comes to managing email, tracking projects, and making changes to a draft. That said, I was reading the Kindle edition of the book and was surprised by the mistakes and bad formatting—extra spaces, words run together, misplaced side bars, and typos. A little disappointing for a book about editing . . .

No Safe Harbor

No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig
I read this book thinking it would would be a great cure for my “book hangover” when I finished reading A Heart Deceived. The main character, Cara Hamilton, an Irish girl with no other family keeping her in Ireland, moves to New York in an effort to find her brother, whom she believed dead until he sent her a letter. But when she arrives, he’s nowhere to be found and she has to find a job and a place to live. Unbeknownst to her, she’s not the only one looking for her brother and the others searching for him plan to use her and do whatever it takes to find him. It was a good story, but I felt like there was something not quite right about the story. I still haven’t been able to put my finger on it.

The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
This book got me excited about attacking our student loans and car payment with “gazelle intensity,” as Dave Ramsey calls it. The Total Money Makeover is Dave Ramsey’s step-by-step plan for getting rid of debt and building wealth. My favorite part was the numerous testimonies from people who have followed his plan and experienced real life change—what an inspiration to follow through! I’m sure I’ll post more about the process as we continue to pay down our loans and plan for the future.

There were a few books on my list that I didn’t get to—The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Developmental Editing by Scott Norton, but I’ll get there eventually.

Hope for Dinner

Just a little update for you—our church has raised nearly $100,000 (I think we’ll hit it soon, even though we stopped our official fundraising over a month ago!) to send meals to Burmese refugees living in Thailand. Some of the meals have already been sent.

This is why we ran 100 miles this summer . . .

If you didn’t get a chance to donate and would like to, visit hopefordinner.org.

 

How Will You Use Your Freedom?

fireworks

This year, on the Fourth of July, while everyone else was celebrating, I was thinking about the Karen people.

The country Myanmar (formerly Burma) is torn by the world’s longest civil war—it started in 1948. The government is doing whatever it takes to wipe out many ethnic groups, primarily the Karen.

On July 11–14, our church is hosting something called “Run for the Border” to raise money and awareness for the refugees who have fled their homes because of the war. About 10 people are running 100 miles in four days, with about 30 people joining them for shorter distances on day three, and several groups who committed to set a mileage goal to run/walk/bike between Memorial Day and July 14.

The idea is to make a physical sacrifice while also raising money and awareness. The money will be used to send food to the refugees living on the border between Myanmar and Thailand. They can focus on rebuilding their lives if they don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. The funds we raise aren’t actually paying for the food (Feed My Starving Children is doing that), but it will cover shipping. Ten cents is enough to ship one meal.

Jonathan and I decided to ask our small group to participate. Four of us are, and we’ve committed to raise $500 and log a total of 425 miles over the seven-week period.

To be honest, I decided to do it mostly because I wanted something to force me to be active—I needed a goal if I was going to get in shape. And I’ve spent a lot of hours working on promotion and registration details because our department is responsible for the whole thing. It felt like just another church event. Just another thing we’re doing. Just another big production coming up fast with not a lot of time to plan. Just another reason to be stressed out.

But then I watched this video and everything changed. (If you have the time, please watch this 40-minute video and do something with what you learn. Be warned that it is graphic at times.)

I couldn’t believe how awful some of the stories were—women tortured, raped, and killed in ways I can’t bring myself to put in print; doctors and nurses killed for caring for those the government had injured; and people with missing limbs because they stumbled across land mines when they returned to find loved ones in villages the government had torched. And I know there are more, even worse things happening.

So this year, while my country was celebrating our Independence, I couldn’t help but think about the people of Burma. My freedom seems unfair when I think about what they experience on a daily basis.

In the video, a colonel of the Karen army says, “Fighting enemies in the forest is not going to win the war. We need like other support. Media support and also publicity overseas . . . especially in America. I think that the moment we can move the population, then the government can also do something . . .  the government will not do anything unless the American people support.” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking advantage of the freedom I have to fight for freedom in Burma. Please join me and do the same.

If you can help provide meals and hope for the people of Burma, visit our donation page. Help us meet our goal of providing 5000 meals.

Pocket Your Dollars by Carrie Rocha

Pocket Your Dollars Review If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be “conviction.”

Jonathan and I went into our marriage having already talked about money quite a bit. We had listened to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace talks on our trips between Indiana and Minnesota. And when we got married, it was the two of us living in (almost) the cheapest apartment we could find on one income for a year and a half while I finished school online. But we had a budget that we stuck to, and we tracked our expenses. And though we had to be careful, I never felt like we didn’t have enough. We managed to tithe, save for a new-to-us car, take several trips to Michigan, and spend a few days in Duluth for our first anniversary.

And then I started working full-time at the church, Jonathan switched to his job at the paper, and all of our careful planning went out the window. We could afford to be not-so-careful, so we stopped tracking our spending. We moved into a nicer apartment. We bought a Sleep Number bed (this was much-needed). And our monthly budget meetings? Those went out the window. While I think it was valuable for me to shed my “spending guilt” during those first few months (all I ever heard growing up was that we didn’t have any money, so the money I did get to spend was on cheap stuff), I regret that we stopped being so intentional with our money.

I’ve been thinking for awhile that we need to tighten things up and be more intentional about paying off debt and cleaning up our expenses, and I think Pocket Your Dollars was the kick I needed. The book is broken into three parts—“The Five Attitudes That Must Go,” “Skills You Need to Change Your Attitudes,” and “Now That You’re Ready, Some Simple Budgeting Advice.” Each section was helpful in a different way. Rocha uncovered the underlying attitudes that cause us to over-spend and under-save, shared the tools needed overcome those attitudes, and offered practical tips for creating a spending plan and saving money.

In part one, each chapter is on a different “attitude” and ends with a helpful quiz that allows you to identify if you struggle in that area because, let’s be honest, it’s not always easy to see things like that in yourself.

I was really impressed with this book. While I had heard much of it before from Dave Ramsey, I found myself getting excited about the changes we could make to our financial situation. It’s not full of jargon or boring, impractical information like these books sometimes are. Rocha included lots of great examples that just about anyone can relate to. Her writing style was easy and conversational, and because she was sharing out of her own experiences with debt, I never felt like she was talking down to me as the reader. It was more like listening to a friend give advice.

If you’re ready to have your saving and spending habits challenged, or if you’re ready to get to it and make some changes, read this book. It’ll be a motivating first step on your journey to financial freedom.

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my review. My opinion of this book is my own and was not influenced by the publisher or the author.