Opening My Door…

Before I begin, I’m not trying to turn this into a super serious blog. I’ve just had a few things on my mind lately, and this happens to be a good outlet for me to express myself.

Confession: I used to be a very judgmental person.

Technically, I still am, but God is redeeming that ugly part of me, so I don’t claim it as my current identity. I also used to be obsessed with perfection, particularly in my own achievements, and am also being healed of that. But I believe my desire for perfection is what drives the judgment. High expectations of self = high (unreasonable) expectations of others.

I guess through this transformation that is taking place in my life, I am now more aware than ever of the judgment that goes on around us all. I have posted about this on my personal Facebook page, read and shared blogs on the subject, and have had countless conversations with various people about it.

The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing how we (or maybe just me) are living in this weird dichotomy of longing for authenticity, but are too ashamed of our imperfections to openly share what is really happening in our lives.

My sister and I have joked that we would post a picture of the current state of our kitchens on Facebook to see people’s reactions.

But here is my question. If I were (or we were) to be completely open and honest in these social media forums where it is so easy to project some fallacious idea of ourselves, what would be the response?

Well, I’m going to find out. This is what my kitchen looks like. right. now.

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Truthfully, the only reason it looks this good is because I spent a large portion of the day cleaning. And even though that broom has been in the corner for a week, I have yet to sweep. The bowl on the sink ledge is full of bacon grease, but we haven’t had bacon in the house in over a week. There is a pile of papers on the bookshelf that I just don’t know what to do with. There’s a lid on the floor next to the pack ‘n’ play that I’ve walked by 1,000 times today and have yet to pick it up.

The reason I share all of this is because I am guilty of both longing for authenticity but also trying to make my life look perfect on these various social media outlets (and in person, for that matter). While sharing my thoughts and opinions with people, I always consider how it will come across to others, but not in the sense that I don’t want to offend. I do it in the sense that I want to make sure I am showing that I have my life together.

These photos are a very shallow depiction of how my life isn’t perfect. From time to time, I get the energy and/or desire to get things in order and make it all pretty and ready for others to view, assuming we have scheduled that viewing with ample time for me to get everything back to a state of perfection.

But this post is me opening my front door in my pjs, no make-up, letting you into my house unannounced, and allowing you to see and think whatever you want. Will you do the same?

I am tired of the façade. Let’s be real with one another. And let’s not judge when someone’s life doesn’t meet the unrealistic expectations that we project onto others–when we probably don’t meet those expectations ourselves.

I hope that this post may help to continue the conversation about authenticity and not judging others for the things that make them human.

Love you all.

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I am honored that my friend Heather at Simply Save would nominate me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  If you are looking for another great money-saving blog, this gal is the real deal.  Her concept is “living the good life at a cheaper price,” which I love.  I only know her through the blogging world, but I’m pretty sure if I knew her outside of wordpress, we’d be friends.  Also, I strongly support her use of the Oxford comma 🙂

veryinspiringbloggeraward

Here are the rules of the award:

  1. Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  5. Proudly display the logo on your blog and follow the bloggers who nominated you.

Here are seven facts about myself…

  1. My full name is Mariam, but I have gone by Mary my entire life.
  2. I am married to… literally… the hottest guy on the face of the earth.  I would share a photo, but I can’t for fear that all women would envy me 😉
  3. I have one son here with me and two babies in heaven.
  4. I accepted Jesus and was baptized on April 18, 2004.  It has been just over 10 years since I made this decision, and since then my life has been absolutely transformed.  If you ever want to know what I mean by that, don’t hesitate to ask!
  5. I started this blog because I wanted to share with others how we are paying down our (read: my) student debt by making radical lifestyle choices.  I know it’s not for everyone, but my hope is for someone to find a few things that will encourage them along their journey as well.
  6. I have a photographic memory.  Growing up and in college I never studied for tests.  I just memorized what my notes looked like.  Don’t tell my profs.  I don’t want them to revoke my diplomas.
  7. Speaking of which, I have 2 degrees in music (a Bachelors in Church Music and a Masters in Vocal Performance).  I always thought my life after my schooling would heavily involve music, but it turned out God had other plans for me.  I am very thankful to get to stay home with our son, and even though I honestly never thought I would be a stay at home mom, it is clearly where I need to be right now.

Now for the fun part… My nominations (in alphabetical order):

Amber Under Construction is awesome.  Her tagline is “More like Him and less like Me.”  She shares her journey through this life with such authenticity and is definitely one inspiring lady.

Indebted Mom has a fantastic blog with a unique perspective on debt.  We have very similar stories, which I think is cool.  She has also been a great encouragement as I’ve continued my blogging journey, and you need to check her out.

The World of J Patrick Avery is my brother who is a fantastic writer.  He shares excerpts from the novel he is currently writing, flash fiction, streams of consciousness, etc., as well as tons of information about writing and grammar.

The Zero Waste Chef  is super cool.  She strives to live a lifestyle of zero waste (thus, the title, I’m assuming), and has great ideas for utilizing every aspect of food, making things from scratch, and eliminating waste.

Well, that’s not 15 people, but I firmly stand behind these blogs and the causes and concepts they support.  I hope you will check them out and enjoy them as much as I have 🙂

Another Update and a List of What Not to Do.

I’ve mentioned that it’s been a challenging few weeks around the Moore house.  I didn’t imagine I would share this so soon, but I just feel like maybe it would be helpful to someone else.  Or therapeutic for me.  Or something….

We found out that we lost our third baby.  This is our second pregnancy loss, but our third pregnancy.  After our first miscarriage, I didn’t tell anyone for a looooong time (other than the people who knew we were pregnant in the first place).  But I’m learning that in life that it’s okay to share our hurts as well as our joys.  It’s what makes us human.  Things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and to pretend that they are is just inauthentic.  And that’s the last thing I want to be.  My life is awesome sometimes and kinda sucks other times, but I live in a place of grace.  I am not afraid to share our stories of loss or hurt or imperfection because there is grace for all those things.  I am secure enough in my relationship with Jesus to be able to express myself and hopefully use a terrible situation to His glory.

That being said, here’s a few things that I feel like are important for people to know.  This may or may not apply to all women in the same situation, but these are things I’m learning as we go through this for the second time.  Also, this may be a bit cynical, so I hope you will forgive me for that.  I’m not trying to be particularly sage or encouraging.  I’m just trying to be real.

1.  Don’t try to make me feel better.  While words of encouragement are greatly appreciated, there is really nothing that can be said that will make it any less painful.  A woman needs to be allowed to grieve the loss of her baby without people immediately trying to help her get over it.  It’s okay to still be sad about it a year, two years, 10, 15, 20 years (etc.) later.  That’s your baby and the sting of losing a baby will never really go away.

2.  The stats really don’t help.  Yes, 15-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Maybe 40% of all pregnancies (known and unknown) end in miscarriage.  But really, nothing positive is accomplished by stating this.  End of story.

3.  Having another healthy baby doesn’ t make it any easier.  I am so very, very thankful for our sweet Josiah.  He is precious and perfect and the best thing to happen to us since we got married 5 years ago.  But as I just stated, that doesn’t make it any easier.

4.  “It just wasn’t meant to be.”  Ummmm, just don’t say that please.  Thanks.

5.  “Some people have it much worse.”  Yep.  That’s true.  But am I really supposed to be comforted by someone else’s pain?  That’s just silly.

I could probably come up with a few more, but I think what I’m really getting at here is that losing a baby is terrible no matter what.  It hurts no matter what.  Of course people want to help, and that is amazing.  Don’t think your offers to help are unappreciated.

But I think the most helpful thing that can be said is, “I’m praying for you.  Let me know how I can help.”  That’s really all that needs to be said.  Anything more and you’re likely to dig yourself one of the previously mentioned proverbial holes.  Or if you’re a really good friend, you can offer to be my bartender 😉  (shout out to my buddy).

Please know that in spite of all that has happened this last week, we are doing okay.  Yes, we are hurting.  But we also know that God is still in control and is taking care of our family.

Also, if you are dealing with or have dealt with pregnancy loss and would like to talk to someone, please, please get in touch with me.  I don’t have all the answers, obviously (or any, for that matter), but I do know that sharing with (or crying with) women who have been in your same situation is sometimes necessary.

I hope you all will have a good week, and I’ll try to get back on the bandwagon of accomplishing something related to saving money on here soon.  Love you all.

It’s been a while….

Well, I took an accidental two-week break. The last two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind at the Moore house. We went on a quick trip back to my hometown for 4th of July, and had a great time seeing family & celebrating the 4th.

For our trip, we budgeted $400. This was to include gas for the drive there and back, meals on the road, and a date night while we were there. We actually went $135 over budget, but for the first time in life, I wasn’t stressed about it at all!

There were two things that caused us to go over budget.

First, we paid for a dog-sitter. We usually have friends or family take care of our pups, but ended up finding a college student who was very sweet with our dogs who was able to come to the house a couple times a day to let the dogs out, play with them, and feed them. That was $50 well spent–the dogs didn’t have to be stressed about not being home for four days!

The other $85 was spent on a giving opportunity while we were there. Without going into too much detail, it was an opportunity to bless family and we felt led to do so.

Even though Dave Ramsey would probably be mad at us for going over budget, we feel like we did what was necessary and are content with our decision to do so. Big moment in the life of this crazy budget lady.

Hope you all had a great holiday! See you back here soon 🙂

When Discouragement Rears Its Head

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Source: daveramsey.com

Disclaimer: I’m going to be pretty open with yall today. If you aren’t feeling hearing about Jesus, Dave Ramsey, or about how our we deal with discouragement in our family, then you will probably not want to continue. If you don’t have a problem with any of those, then I strongly encourage you to read.

Just a quick bit of background info.  The debt we are currently paying on consists of my two student loans, a car loan, and our mortgage.  We set a goal recently to pay off one of my student loans (a very ambitious goal) by the end of 2014.  The way we have attempted to accomplish this goal is by paying all our bills and necessities, and then all extra income goes toward the debt.

Next.  I’m going to sound like a complainer for a minute, but bear with me.

It seems that any time we start to make some headway on our debt payment, something happens to throw us off course.  In January, our washing machine died.  Thankfully we were able to purchase a new one and get a great deal!  But then our entire kitchen went out of commission for about a week (no electricity or water… long story).  Then Josh’s car needed a sizable repair.  All within about a two week span.  Thankfully, the Lord provided the means for us to pay for all of these things.  I had just sold off a lot of inventory from a direct sales job I decided to retire from.  The plan was to put that money toward our debt… didn’t happen.  We ended up using that money for the car repair, and then also using a large portion of our emergency fund.

We spent the next two months replenishing our emergency fund.  When we finally did, we had a large chunk of money to put toward my student loan in April (yay!).  Then the next month, we overdrew our account twice.  I can’t even remember what happened… other than life.  It took us the entire month of May to get back on track.  I wasn’t able to pay any money on my loan for that month.  Finally, it seemed like we were back on track for the month of June, and I could pay another large sum on my loan (yay again!) and then we got an estimate to trim our trees…  $4000.  No joke.  Unfortunately, the tree trimming is a safety/insurance issue at this point, so it is absolutely necessary.  The extra income we were going to put toward my loan seemed to once again be allocated for us.

I’m not going to lie.  When things like this happen it is incredibly discouraging.  It is so easy to get mad, spend weeks or months getting frustrated, and just give up.  I have actually wanted to do this multiple times.  And yet, we have continued to make ends meet and slowly but surely pay down our debt.

This is how we have managed to do it.

1.  We pray about it.  When it seems like life is falling apart financially, we talk to the One who holds our future.  God promises to provide for all our needs.  We may not be able to accomplish all of our wants on our own personal timeline, but he is faithful to provide all our needs.  This has obviously included monetary provision, but also it has been a provision of faith for us too.  When we want to give up and stop trusting God, he always seems to speak in such a way that increases our faith.  Most recently when I was praying about our finances (probably a month or more ago), He gave me the word “victory.”  At the time I didn’t know what exactly he was speaking to, but now I know that He was speaking to our life in general.  He has given us victory over our circumstances because we already have victory in Jesus.  The verse that I was given was Psalm 118:14 “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”

2.  We read the Bible.  I believe that the Bible is the word of God and that it is true.  When we face difficulty in life, we spend time (aside from our regular time with Jesus) reading the Bible.  Lots of times, God will highlight a passage that speaks to our situation.  Other times, I go back to the promises that I know he’s already spoken.  This one is always helpful, particularly in times of financial crisis:

Matthew 6:25-34 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?  So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God  above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

3. We speak truth over our thoughts.  When things get especially difficult, it is easy to let your mind wander and make things even worse.  An example… “Nothing ever works out for us.”    “This isn’t fair.”  “Everyone else seems to have things work out just right.”  Etc.  When these kinds of things pop into my head, the first thing I do is to speak biblical truth over those kinds of destructive thoughts.  The verse that has helped me through a whole lot of frustrating situations in life is Psalm 126:5-6 “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.  They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”  Sowing is hard, and we are definitely in the sowing season right now.  But when we reap the harvest, it will be glorious!

4. We continue to give.  Even in our need, we give to others.  We may not have much to give, but that is always a non-negotiable in the budget.  And we always give of our first fruits… aka, first thing that comes out of the budget in the month is our tithe.  Our church gives the best, most thorough explanation on why we give.  If you don’t feel like reading all of that, the short of it is this:  “So, the answer to our question, “Why do we give?” appears to be clear. All of it (our stuff) is all His anyways. We are His stewards and managers and even our ability to earn income and build assets is a gift from Him. We are blessed generously to the extent we give generously and He wants the needs of His house to be met.”  Source:  antiochcc.com

5.  We remain diligent.  It is so important that no matter what our circumstances, financial or otherwise, that we stay the course to meet our long-term goals.  Giving up in times of frustration or discouragement will only push us back even further for when we finally get a grip and get back to it.  We make the conscious decision every single day to be diligent and to commit to our goal of financial freedom.  It’s not easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

So that’s what we have done through our times of discouragement.  This is specifically written about our financial woes, but absolutely 100% applies to all areas of life.  I hope if you or your family is struggling that this can be an encouragement to you.

Please know if you ever have questions about any of the information above, please feel free to contact me and I would love to discuss this more in-depth with you.

p.s. we are getting another estimate on the trees 😉

 

 

38 Reasons Why HEB is the Best Dang Grocery Store in the World

By now everyone knows of my love for HEB. And it’s clearly not just me. Thanks BuzzFeed for this gem 🙂

http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/h-e-butt?bffb&s=mobile

Happy Mother’s Day

This may or may not be your typical Mother’s Day post… I guess that just depends on how you generally view this day.

I want to first say, I am so thankful for my mom. Over the years we’ve had our moments (both good and not so good), but to have a mom who forgives your dumb decisions and harsh words is truly such a gift. My mom is that mom.

I hope I can be that mom too. My prayer for my son Josiah, and our future children is that I, alongside my husband, can disciple them to know the Lord. That we will demonstrate Christ’s character in our life as parents and help lead our children to intimately know him and reflect his character as well.

I know, however, that doing that 100% of the time is impossible. I am not perfect, nor is my husband. We will mess up and forget that we are supposed to be the light in this world. We will do things that don’t reflect the character of God. We will say things that hurt people–maybe even our children.

But it’s important (for me) to remember that even though we can never be perfect parents, God is our perfect parent. He is the God of second chances. He loves us unconditionally. He forgives us when we make those dumb decisions. He allows us to pursue an intimate relationship with him where we can truly be made new in him.

Whether this day brings up feelings of joy, ambiguity, disappointment, or sadness, remember, we have all we need in the Lord. He is our perfect parent.

And even though your mom isn’t perfect, and you’re not perfect, she is the perfect parent for you, and you are the perfect son or daughter for her. Let God be the one who is perfect. And let moms be who they are… The most caring, giving, loving, imperfect people on this earth.

Happy Mother’s Day