Month: November 2017

His Encouragement: John 14:27

His Encouragement: John 14:27

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — John 14:27, ESV

Some weeks are hard to get through.

I admit it. I have had a very hard two weeks now. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, was recovering from a week long (but nice) trip that required an uncomfortable two-day car drive there and then back again, my sleep has been severely interrupted for a number of reasons, my body was aching something terrible, I was low on my vitamins and iron, I was not eating properly, work is becoming increasingly stressful, and our finances are tighter than I am comfortable with.

I have felt so overwhelmed that I broke down and cried twice in just the last week. And I do not cry easily. One or two or even three things I could handle but it seemed as if everything was happening all at once. As the saying goes: When it rains, it pours.

Perhaps you, too, are going through some challenges right now. Maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances and feeling anxious for the future. Come. Let us read John 14:27 together. In it, our Lord Jesus gives us an important promise that we both need to hear: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…”

Especially during times of troubles or chaos, we need this gentle reminder. The Lord loves us so much and He offers us a peace that surpasses earthly understanding (Philippians 4:7). A deep, reassuring peace that calms our worries and gives us the strength (His strength!) to face the challenges of life. That is why we can “…let not [our] hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

That does not mean it is easy. There are times, like the last two weeks, where I struggle! Really struggle. Sometimes I try to do it all myself and forget to let go and let God. I need to be reminded to turn to the Lord. After all, He wants us to come to Him with our troubles, our worries, our burdens. Nothing is too big for God to handle and nothing is too small or insignificant for His attention either.

How comforting it is to realize that we don’t have to go it alone.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

10 Tips for Staying in Budget This Holiday Season

Here in the United States, we are now in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving has just passed, and with December only a few days away, many of us have turned our minds to purchasing presents. With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and some stores offering deals all week long, a lot of people are eagerly on the hunt for the best sales.

There are plenty of holiday parties with family, friends, or even at the office to attend soon, and many may include secret santa or white elephant style gift exchanges. Charities and various non-profits are also upping their advertising in hopes of getting more donations. There are also adopt-a-child and adopt-a-family style programs to help the less fortunate in our local communities.

With the social expectation of lavish gift giving during this time of year, how does the budget conscience person stay within budget?

I recently read an article on CNBC that shared approximately half of Americans surveyed went into debt to finance their 2016 holiday shopping — and many are still paying it off!

Don't go into debt this holiday season! Here are 10 tips to stay within budget. Click To Tweet

While we have always tried to keep to a reasonable budget during the holidays, this year we are having to tighten our financial belts even more. We have transitioned to a single income household and due to a few unforeseeable emergency expenses over the last few months, it is has been a bit of a struggle to maintain our “normal”. We had to dip into our savings more than I would have liked and have not been able to replenish it (yet).

So this year, we are on a very tight Christmas budget. Here are 10 tips we will be following on staying within budget this holiday season.

1. Set your budget in stone.

Decide on how much you can afford this holiday season. Be sure to think about all aspects of the holidays: gifts, dinners out, parties, decorations, food ingredients, charitable giving, etc. Be realistic but firm in your budget decision. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stay within your budget no matter what amazing “deals” you might see advertised or who asks for donations.

2. Make a list and check it twice.

All joking aside, seriously sit down and make a list of everyone that you would like to give a gift to and/or situation that may require a gift. Set a price limit for each gift and evaluate the total estimated cost. Then prune your list down as far as you can possibly go — both the recipients and the cost per gift.

3. Give a thoughtful card rather than a gift.

In some situations, a nice seasonal card with a personalized note could replace a more expensive gift. If you are like me, then you probably have blank holiday cards left over from previous years so you may not have to buy any new ones! It just costs you a little bit of time to write the note and maybe the cost of postage (if mailing).

4. Make a list and shop carefully.

This is the time of year that retailers and shops use many (often successful) tactics to convince you to overspend. Do not fall for their marketing gimmicks or get sucked into buying more than you need because of “good deals”.

Know what you are going to buy before you walk in the store and stick to that list.

5. Shop dollar stores.

You might just be surprised by all of the things now available at dollar stores. This should be the go-to-stop for the frugal shopper. For example, why spend all of that money on expensive gift baskets when you can put together your own, customized gift basket using items from dollar stores?

6. Shop secondhand.

Not everything has to be bought brand new, in the original packaging and with price tags still attached. There are many thrift and secondhand stores that sell interesting or unique items of good quality at affordable prices.

7. Re-gift.

There are times for birthdays and holidays when we might receive a nice gift that we already have or cannot use for some reason. The thought behind the present is extremely meaningful so why not pass these unused items on to bless others? Just be sure you do not accidentally re-gift an item back to the original gift-giver — that might lead to an awkward conversation!

8. Shop in your home.

While similar to the last tip, this one is even more personal. Who among us is not trying to simplify our lives and declutter our homes? I know we are!

During the purging process, we sometimes find items that we really love or have used previously but no longer need or have a place for. Instead of donating these items to strangers, why not give them as a gift to someone you know (or hope) will appreciate it? To make the gift extra special, write a nice note about what the item means to you and why you are giving it to that person.

9. Re-use gift bags and wrappings.

I started collecting birthday, special occasion, and holiday themed bags and gift wrappings a few years ago when my husband and I married. We even save tissue paper if it is in good condition. (I fold tissue paper neatly for storage.) This has been a lifesaver when it comes to saving a little money on the “wrappings”.

If you don’t have any bags to re-use, go for a fun vintage feel by wrapping your gifts with old newspaper or brown paper from grocery bags.

10. Be honest with family and friends.

If you are going to be changing your giving habits noticeably, be sure to let your family and friends know ahead of time that this year you do not have much to spend and will be cutting back to stay on budget. You do not need to go into detail, but be honest and genuine. Most people will be more than understanding.

Bonus Tip: Homemade gifts

Inspired by the comment below from our friend, Trisha, if you are crafty in any way maybe you had make a few gifts yourself! Handmade gifts are treasures to keep for years to come! Depending upon how crafty you are, you may already have plenty of things lying around your house that you can use to make a homemade gift.

The perfect gift can be anything from a card to an ornament to a home decor piece or framed drawing/painting or going to a local print shop and printing photos, canvas, mousepads, etc. You could put the ingredients for the perfect hot cocoa or cookie recipe in a mason jar and write cooking directions on a little label. If you are not sure what to do, browsing Pinterest is a good place to get ideas!

 

It is our intention that, by following these ten tips ourselves, we will be able to stay within our meager holiday budget without having to sacrifice the joy that comes with gift-giving. It will take careful planning and a commitment to our budget, but if we can do it, so can you!

His Encouragement: Psalm 37:3

His Encouragement: Psalm 37:3

Welcome, welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a new Bible verse and a little discussion of hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts become a source of encouragement to you and help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” — Psalm 37:3, ESV

Last week I ended with the first part of this verse: “Trust in the Lord, and do good…” so today I figured we can take a slightly deeper look at the verse in its entirety.

The first thing that popped out to me is the curious wording of the second part. “…dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” What does “befriend faithfulness mean”, I wondered. That is when I noticed the Bible I was using had a little footnote attached to the end, and the footnote read: “Or and feed on faithfulness, or and find safe pasture.”

The imagery that this phrasing brought to my mind was very reassuring. I was reminded of a video I saw not too long ago of shepherdesses in the desert of southern Israel who lead their sheep among the hills. At first glance, the hills appear to be barren; nothing but dirt and rocks; however, as you go closer you see tufts of green grasses poking up here and there.

Since there is not enough to eat in one place, each goat or sheep has to rely completely on their shepherdess’ knowledge of the landscape ahead. It is not a lush green meadow like we are used to seeing, but nestled among the dirt and rocks of those forlorn-looking hills is enough grass to nourish their little flocks… as long as the flocks keep trusting the shepherdesses and follow their leading. Nibble here, move along, nibble there, move along.

Notice that the beautiful promise in Psalm 37:3 is conditional? We too will “find safe pasture” and “feed on faithfulness” in the land we dwell in as long as we “trust in the Lord” and “do good”. We must let go of our need to control and rely completely on our Shepherd, the Lord, trusting that He will always care for us. We also must not neglect to obey His teachings about loving and caring for others, for doing good in the world around us. (See Micah 6:8; Galatians 6:9; and Philippians 2:13 for starters.)

We, like those little flocks, may not have an overflowing abundance of material wealth nor will we always avoid danger and trials, but we will have the most important thing of all: a Shepherd who protects us and loving guides us through the challenges to safe pasture.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine.

You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps. That is how you show you care.

His Encouragement: Psalm 147:3

His Encouragement: Psalm 147:3

Happy Thursday, dear friends! Welcome to His Encouragement. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a new Bible verse and a little discussion of hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse of encouragement as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts become an encouragement to you and help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” — Psalm 147:3, ESV

There have been a lot of tragic events in recent days, weeks, and months both here at home and also around the globe. Throughout the Gospels but especially in Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus warned us that there will be times of great trouble and His followers will experience great challenges. However, it is one thing to read about what might happen in the future or hear about trouble happening in far-away places. It can be jarring when we see such trouble starting to take place around us, effecting our immediate communities and our families.

How do we cope with the tsunami of emotions that such traumatic events bring? Immense sadness at the loss of life, righteous anger at the evil behind it, and perhaps even fear and anxiety. If you are feeling any of these emotions or notice members of your family, especially children, trying to process the evil and sad events that are happening more and more frequently, do not try to walk this road alone.

First and foremost, take your all of your concerns and anxieties to the Lord in earnest prayer. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to “…cast all your anxieties on him [God], because he cares for you.” Bear your heart to Him and let Him take your burdens and fears away. Because “…God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) No matter what is happening, remember that God promises to “heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds“.

Claim that promise and hold on to it. Take comfort in the knowledge that this broken, sin-filled world is not our home and one day evil will be completely and utterly vanquished. Until then, as the psalmist wrote: “Trust in the Lord, and do good…” (Psalm 37:3)

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for your Thursday

His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for your Thursday

Good morning, dear friend! And welcome to my inaugural His Encouragement post. His Encouragement is the brainchild of friends and amazing bloggers: Trisha of Joy of Reading and Nicole of The Christian Fiction Girl.

Lets be honest, the middle of the week can be a challenge. So every Thursday, a group of us bloggers will be sharing a new Bible verse and a little discussion of hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by adding your daily verse of encouragement as well.

Trisha and Nicole decided on calling this series “His Encouragement” because our real source of peace, strength, and security can only come from Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, is our constant! We pray and hope that these Thursday posts become a real encouragement to you and help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” — Psalm 46:10, ESV

The average modern life is filled with hectic activity, busy schedules, stressful situations. It seems society has trained us to need to be constantly doing something or we feel useless and under-productive. We run ourselves ragged trying to keep up a pace that is near impossible to manage. I am guilty of this and perhaps you are too. I long for a slower paced life, a quieter life, one with less outside obligations so I can focus more on my relationship with the Lord and my family.

That is why this verse means a lot to me. I have it posted at my desk at work so I can be reminded of its wisdom whenever I start to feel overwhelmed. “Be still and know that I am God…” No matter what challenging situation you may be facing today or this week, take a moment to just pause. Pause, be still, and remember that God is God, the Almighty, the Creator of the entire universe.

And, here is the real kicker, this most amazing and powerful God loves you, far more deeply than any love we can truly comprehend on earth. He really does cares about you and what you are going through! Nothing you are facing is too big or too small for Him.

So be still, take a deep breath, praise the Lord for His everlasting love, and ask for His peace to enter your heart today. He will help you through.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Bloggers participating in His Encouragement: