13 Ways Following Jesus is A Lot like Going Natural

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1. Something’s different about her.

My sister and I had relaxed our hair for many years. We also had something else in common: dry, broken off, and damaged hair due to relaxers and not properly caring for our hair. One day, my sister stopped by and her hair was GORGEOUS! I couldn’t believe it. Even the little baby hairs behind her ear were beautiful. For the first time, her hair appeared thick and healthy.

In astonishment, I asked her what she was doing differently. She told me that she was “going natural”. In other words, adios relaxers & chemicals. She looked so happy with the decision she had made.

You and a friend have always been in the same boat, struggling to say afloat, but getting by. You see her and notice that something’s different. She seems upbeat, no longer a victim, no longer addicted to that old way of living. Maybe she’s going back to school or finally quit that draining job and is embarking on a new career. You’re amazed at the night and day difference and ask her what changed. She replies, “I found Jesus.”  [Read more…]

#WomanLiveGives to Safe Harbor!

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Hey Tribe!

This month we’re blessing the socks off (or on) the women of Safe Harbor! You can read more about their non-profit organization here.

We’ll be shopping off of their wish list the entire month of June. [Read more…]

Are Your Panties Clean?

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I was browsing Team Jesus Magazine when I saw the title Clean Panty Campaign: Are Your Panties Clean? I started thinking, “Well, I showered last night, so…I mean, are they referring to promiscuity?” LOL! Has there ever been a more eye-catching title? I was relieved when I saw that it’s actually an effort to provide clean underwear to homeless and otherwise less fortunate women. I love clever ways to give! And, I think we need to join in on the fun! [Read more…]

You’re Stressing Too Much! Chilleth Outeth Sayeth The Lord.

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My husband and I were on vacation last week and while deep in thought I began to pray. My prayer started out pretty chill. Lord, thank you so much for the opportunity. And, before I knew it I was a full-blown mess.  [Read more…]

You First. No Cheating.

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As beautiful as this photo looks, this day was a bitter sweet day for my husband and me. Admittedly, for different reasons. I knew the wedding would be an imperfect and emotional day, but I didn’t think the whole ordeal would be as hurtful and disappointing as it was.

As soon as I stepped off the elevator and onto the floor of our honeymoon suite, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. And, why would I? I knew it was safe to break down into my new husband’s arms. Without saying a word, he held me. It felt good to just be able to sob without explanation. He knew the road we had traveled to get to the “happiest day of our lives.”

For a long time we couldn’t look at our wedding photos.

And, for 2 years I couldn’t play some of my most favorite songs in the whole wide world….because they reminded me of that day.

Tonight, I found some CDs with the word wedding written on them. My stomach hurt. But instead of tossing them back into the unorganized pile I pulled them from, I prayed. [Read more…]

Have You Experienced Lifestyle Creep? 3 Steps to Help You Begin the Journey toward Financial Freedom

Lifestyle Creep

A situation where people’s lifestyle or standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises either through an increase or decrease in costs. As lifestyle creep occurs, and more money is spent on lifestyle, former luxuries are now considered necessities. (Investopedia.com)

When we first moved to Guam, I was a SAHM for the first four months. When God blessed me with a job, we thought we were handling our money well until  we got an epiphany a few months ago. Around June, I resigned from my job and became a SAHM…again. My family of three would be living on my husband’s income and that immediately made me panic…just a little bit. Our bills were the same as before, but we had grown accustomed to living off of 2 incomes so we must have needed both checks coming in every 2 weeks, right?  He said (very calculated), “We can live on my income for three months and then you should start looking for a job.” “Ok,” I said. At first, I was leery of everything. Can we afford to take our three year old to Chuck E. Cheese? Can we afford to stop for lunch when we’re on-the-go and our schedules are chaotic? And, after the first month of realizing everything was getting paid and there was extra, I began to loosen up the purse strings. And, even after giving in to a few chicken McNugget happy meal requests from my daughter, I realized, “Hmmm…we’re still not over-spending or feeling any financial stress.” That’s when it hit me. We can live off of ONE income. So, WHAT THE HECK have we been spending the extra money on? I was so disappointed that we had been “lifestyle creeping” BUT I was also relieved that I had realized it AND we could now do something about it. (When you pray for God to give you wisdom, He will.)

Since November, we’ve paid off 2 bills and are close to paying off the 3rd (which is quite large). Here’s how:

Step 1: 

Write down ALL of your bills. 

We wrote down every bill we had. Yes, even student loans. It was painful to look at, but we did it. It’s easy to spend frivolously when aren’t thinking about those daunting balances. <—THE PROBLEM. 

Step 2: 

Eliminate. 

Because I resigned from my job, perks we got through the job were eliminated: discounted gym memberships, etc. And, thank God because we didn’t need them. We popped in our workout DVD’s, purchased a pull-up bar, workout mat, headed to a park to run a few laps and voila… We started losing weight without getting our account debited $70/month. We were already living pretty lean so there wasn’t much to eliminate, but I would suggest:

  • Downgrade your cable/internet/phone packages.

Check to see if you really need all the minutes you pay for each month. Or, if you’re paying overages every month, inquire on the next plan up. Do you really need all 20 of the cable channels? Would Netflix/Hulu Plus/or Apple TV be a better deal for you?

  • Start making lunches! 

We tried this before and we ended up eating out due to boredom. Monday – Sandwich & apple slices / Tuesday – Sandwich & Chips / Wednesday – Grilled Chicken & Corn / Thursday – Sandwich & apple slices <–This menu makes me die a slow death.  Buy things you enjoy eating! We like to throw in nachos & salsa, chicken quesadillas, yogurt parfaits, wings, our favorite fruits and lately my husband and daughter have been fighting over mozarella cheesesticks. We try to make lunches that we look foward to eating.

  • Be mindful of electricity.

Guam is HOT! And, we have individual units in each room. Read: Expensive Power Bills  So, when we’re home during the day I keep the fan on, the lights off, TV off if I’m not watching it. It’s small, but it helps.

  • Shop sales/Couponing

This goes 2 ways…..I love to good sale! Whenever mandarin oranges are $0.89/can, I rack up! (We love mandarin oranges!) But, just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Sometimes you spend waaaay more than you would have normally.

  • Get creative with food in your cupboards.

Sometimes I buy food and then I eat around it. My favorite beans are green beans so the kidney beans kept getting shuffled around the cabinet. One day I said, “That’s enough! I’m using these kidney beans!!!” I looked up recipes with kidney beans and found one that my family loved!

  • Sell anything of value you’re not using or don’t need.

Grab a box and go through each room. Throw anything in you’re not using or don’t need. Have a garage sale. Put it on Craigslist. Or, give it away. If nothing else, you’ll have a cleaner home! 😉

Step 3: Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey

  • The Envelope System

I can’t say enough good things about the envelope system! You cash your check and divide your money among the envelopes: grocery/eating out/date night. And, the idea is that you don’t spend what you don’t have. Ahem! Credit Cards. Every dime should be accounted for. It’s hard to budget $250 for eating out up front. But, it’s easy to swipe $250 worth every month. Out of sight, out of mind.

Also, the little things ADD up. No, they don’t add up, they MULTIPLY! Guam is the home of the potluck! Every weekend we’re meeting for cookouts and church dinners and women’s luncheons, etc. This can put a hurtin’ on your wallet IF you don’t budget for it. We have an envelope just for potlucks. We put $40 aside every month. So, when it’s time to pick up a pizza or some sodas, we have the money to do so. And, if that month isn’t as festive and we have some left over, that’s even better! We never keep more than $40 in that envelope so that next month we’ll only add enough to get to $40. There are other envelopes like our “gas” envelope where we’ll keep adding even if we didn’t spend the budgeted amount the month before. We let it grow because we pull car repair/oil change money from there, as well.

We also have an envelope for Christmas (in order to save $1000 for Christmas, we need to put back $90/month), new luggage, vacation, date night, the Arden fund (she’s always asking us to stop by the playport, the American Cookie Co., or a visit to Chuck E. Cheese on a whim), etc.  Some months, the luggage, date night or vacation envelopes are neglected. Paying off debt is the most important. So, having date night at home is a sacrifice we’re willing to make to pay off the debt.

The envelope system is just a very small part of Financial Peace University.

  • The Debt Snowball

The debt snowball requires you to pay the minimum balance on all of your bills and add any extra money to the smallest debt you have. Find a five dollar bill? Add it to your smallest debt. Got 3 TV’s in the house? Sell 2 and add the money to the smallest debt you have. Now, what do most people do once they pay off a bill? They celebrate!
“Now, I got extra play money!!! Whoo-hoo!!” Dave Ramsey says instead of celebrating, act like you’re still paying that bill by putting that minimum balance toward your next smallest bill. So, you’re paying the minimum balance on the new bill, the minimum balance from the bill you just paid off, AND don’t forget to add any extra pennies to that debt as well. Get the picture? Instead of the 5 years it’d take you to pay off that bill, you’re doubling and tripling payments each month and cutting the time in half or more! WARNING: This can be addicting!  I write down our new balances each month and seeing that number go down is a feeling I can’t even describe. And, if the new balance is $1532.88. I’ll even forgo something that month: pedicure, eating out as much, etc. just to get it down to an even $1500.00. <–It’s the little things. Find your motivation and get out of debt!

  • Modify! Modify! Modify!

Dave Ramsey suggests a cash only system. We tried this. We never stuck to it. We gave up. And, we started lifestyle creepin’. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Modify the plan so that it works for you.

Uncle Dave would probably scold us for this, but we still use our credit card. On the island of Guam, all the perk programs are air miles! Why? Because flying is the ONLY way to get off this island! So, having a credit card that racks up on air miles saves everyone big money. We also get $20/month everytime we pay off our monthly balance in full. That’s $240/year. So, we do a couple of things our own way.

  1. We pay everything with our credit card.
  2. We examine our spending every week or every 2 weeks. Ex: $10.50 at Pizza Hut
  3. We go to the designated envelope. In this case, that would be the “eating out” envelope.
  4. We transfer $10.50 to the “deposit” envelope.

We do this for every transaction. Then we go to the bank, deposit the money we spent that week and pay off our credit card balance.

Also, we don’t bring home cash for reoccuring bills (power, tithes, credit card bills, phone, etc.). We keep that money in the account because we pay it with our credit card and then pay off our credit card with the money already set aside in the account.

Our credit card helps us gain air miles to fly home ($1500/plane ticket), gives us money ($20/mth.), and helps our credit score because we’re paying it off every 2 weeks. WISDOM! When we were in college, we swiped because we didn’t have the money! Now we’re swiping with the money already set aside. Like I said, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Credit cards are only bad if you lack financial wisdom.

*Financial Peace University has additional steps that I have left out. Please visit the website for the entire program.*

I’m so glad we realized that we were using our money poorly. It’s truly changed our lives and given us hope. Before the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace system, we would cringe at our debt.. Now, we enjoy watching the balance drop! 

What are you doing to put yourself in a better financial position this year? 

With Love,

100 Questions to Inspire Rapid Self-Discovery & Understanding: Brandi Answers Q1

 

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A short while ago, I met a church member at a coffee house to sit and chit chat. I see her every Sunday and we’re Facebook “friends” but had never had a real conversation. So, I invited her to “coffee.” And, by “coffee” I mean vanilla bean cream fraps. I’m asking the usual questions What do you do? What do you do for fun? Where are you from? when out of the blue she asks So, what’s your salvation story? Huh? What? Um…

It reminded me of Alexandra Frazen’s 100 Questions to Inspire Rapid Self-Discovery & Understanding. People are so much more than their occupation, relationship status, and the town they grew up in. And, if we asked these questions around the table, I think we’d all get to know, really know, each other a little bit better.

So, I’m going to post & answer one or more questions per week. Answer the question for yourself in the comments. Or, you could type your answer as a blog post. Just be sure to link-up with me so we can all read your answer.

So, are you ready to learn more about me than you ever wanted to know?!! This should be fun! 

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Question #1

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? 

Two come to mind.

One Christmas season I was driving home with my daughter, brother, and nephew. Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year! When I was younger, my grandma always took me and my siblings to look at the lights. We’d ooh and aah in the backseat. My daughter was about to turn 2 years old and this was the first Christmas she was old enough to join in the ooh-ing and aah-ing. So, whenever we’d see a neighborhood with a lot of lights and decorations, I’d pull in and drive up and down the streets pointing out stars, snowmen, and reindeer. And, oohing and aahing with her, of course!

We’re heading home when my nephew says, “Aunt Brandi, you’re a good momma.” “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Because you took the time to take Arden to look at all the lights.” Taking your child to see Christmas lights isn’t really a huge thing, I don’t suppose. I mean, parents do that every year, right? But, somehow, in that car, on that cold, winter night it meant a great deal to all of us.

My 2nd answer…

I was working as a pharmacy technician at CVS and there were lots of issues with a lady’s prescription. I don’t remember all the details, but let’s just say her daughter drove her through the drive thru at least 5 times as we worked and worked on getting her medication ready. I’d guess there were probably insurance issues or something outside of our hands. I felt horrible as they would pull up to the window for the 2nd and 3rd and 4th time and I’d have to say, “We’re still working on it. I’m so sorry. Please pull over to the side.” And, about the 4th time, the daughter looks at me and says, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” I did that thing where you open your mouth and nothing comes out. And, finally I said, “Yes. Yes, I am.” And, she said, “I can tell. You’ve been so helpful and so kind…” and she goes on about the customer service they had received that day. And, there I was dreading seeing their car in the drive thru because it was taking so long. But, even though they were inconvenienced, they saw that I was really doing my best to help them. Needless to say, I felt pretty awesome for the rest of the day.

I can’t wait to read your response in the comments! 

Woman, Live!

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Ask. Believe. Receive.

My Guam SistersBefore I moved to Guam, I prayed. A LOT. One of my prayers was that God would provide a playgroup for my daughter and I to join since we would be leaving all of our family and friends behind.

When we arrived on Guam, my husband showed us a play area in the mall. Not knowing anyone on the island, we visited that mall and play area often. One day, we went to the play area and noticed lots of  moms and children.

I’ll let my Guam friends, Erika, Shoshanna, Brenda & Karen take it from here:

One Wednesday afternoon, we were trading phone calls right before playgroup, trying to decide whether to play inside or outside. It had been raining all afternoon, but wasn’t currently raining. Not all of us wanted to get muddy, so we decided to go to the mall. It was such a last minute decision that we were hoping we could get a hold of everyone before they were waiting at the Hilton playgroup.

While our kids were playing at the play area in the mall, we began to chat with another mom named Brandi. [Read more…]