If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do

Are we ready and listening for God’s next step in our lives?

How to Help Your Kid Dream Big Dreams (with some common sense thrown in just for good measure)

My dearest Beanie, who is twelve precious years old, has recently decided on a new life plan.

She’s decided to go to college in Hawaii.

As in, that collection of volcanic islands God placed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The islands I’m not sure He actually thought humans would try to live on, except for maybe in some sort of shipwreck emergency.

Forgive me, but I’m from a solid, land-loving kind of people. We do not venture across heaving seas to live on tiny rocks in the middle of shark-infested waters, especially if that venture puts us closer to the madman who is currently running the country of North Korea.

But back to Beanie and her life-shaking announcement. She’s decided that college in Hawaii sounds like the funnest thing ever, and she’s proposed her new plan to everyone from her grandmother to her father to her besties.

Of course her best friends are all about the same age so they think this plan is fabulous.

Distance to Oahu from Kalamazoo

The adults in her life are less excited about the plan.

“What about the travel? You won’t be coming home for Christmas,” we said.

“What about the cost of living? Do you know how much it costs to live in Hawaii?” we asked.

“What about the racism against white people and the homeless bums?” we pointed out. 

“Huh,” she said, then ran off to the computer to Google these very issues. Twelve year olds are caught in a strange place– still young enough to dream like children but old enough to understand the value of money, to a point.

She called me at work the next day with a report on her feverish fact-gathering. At first she thought it would be simple for her father and me to move to Oahu too, so she could live with us for free. But then she looked up the cost of a similar house on the island and realized it would cost WAY MORE.

Here, let me show you what we found:

cost of living Oahu vs. Kalamazoo

I’m guessing church secretaries in Hawaii don’t make 282% more, and I know writers don’t make that much extra. My husband’s company doesn’t appear to have a division in Hawaii, but maybe they’re just hiding it from our aforementioned North Korean Crazy Friend.

After a few days of all the tall people shooting down Beanie’s dreams with common sense, I suddenly got a little irritated at us all. What if this isn’t crazy? What if this is a desire that God placed in her heart? What if He has big plans for her there on those little volcanic rocks?

Let’s be honest, anything our kids want to do outside the county lines seems a little unsafe and unwise, right? How can I keep her safe if she doesn’t live right here and show up at my breakfast table every morning?

But God hasn’t called any of us to a safe life. He’s called us to bold, adventurous, giant dreams He places in our hearts. He didn’t give us the Holy Spirit so we could sit home and grow old on the sofa.

And that includes our children, if we’ve faithfully trained them to actually follow Jesus instead of just parrot churchy phrases.

I think that’s one of the best things we can do for our children– teach them to follow their dreams in a way that wisely considers the very real dangers and makes good decisions in light of all the good and bad possibilities. We have more experience to help them navigate the realities they will one day face– the debt, the need for an education, the cost of raising a family. We certainly have more common sense. But maybe we’ve lost that adventurous spirit over the years. (Having a mortgage will do that to you, I’ve found.)

Finally, a few days into these conversations, I leaned over to Audrey and whispered this: “You know you can ignore all of us, right? If you want to go to Hawaii, go to Hawaii! Let’s just find a way to do it so you aren’t strangled with $200,000 0f student loan debt when you get out.”

And she flashed me a big smile and said, “Okay. I think I can save money if I get a surfboard instead of a car.”

So we still have work to do on the reality check, but we’re headed in the right direction. Plus we have about six years to plan, so who knows where she’ll end up.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

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Which Way, Oh Lord? Which Way? (an interview with a dude who left a good job for another good job)

Do you know what I love?

Of course you do. I tell you on this blog all the time. You’re probably sick of hearing about the things I love.

But wait. I have ANOTHER thing I love– personal stories. Is there anything better than a personal story that inspires us to go whither God leadeth?

NO. There’s nothing better than a good man or woman who can say, “Hey! I decided to do this thing and it was difficult but I felt God was leading me to it. Here’s how it worked out.”

Today I’ve drafted my longtime friend, Josh Mosey (click here for his wonderful blog!), into telling us his personal story for our edification. Not too long ago Josh did something difficult. He left a perfectly good job he loved for a different perfectly good job that he didn’t know if he would love or not.

I know– brave, right? Who leaves a good job? Mostly we leave crappy jobs or boring jobs or jobs with terrible schedules. But Josh loved his job and gathered his courage to make the switch anyway. I asked him many questions and he gave me all his answers. I don’t think many readers are thinking of the same specific job change, but I’ve included all his thoughts because different things are going to stand out to different readers.

Only you know what God might need you to hear today. I hope Josh’s story inspires you to follow where He leads!

Josh Interview

 

  1. Tell us what you do for a living now.
    • I’m the marketing manager for Discovery House, the book publishing division of Our Daily Bread Ministries.
  2. How does it fit with your interests and passions?
    • I’m a creative guy and I love having a hand in the development process of publishing. I’m also a bit extroverted, so I enjoy all of the interaction that I have with authors behind the scenes and with readers as I go out to trade shows and conferences.
  3. You recently left a job for this new job. What did you do before? How long? How did you feel about the old job?
    • I left a great job of 10 years to come to Discovery House. Previously, I worked in marketing for Baker Book House, the retail arm of Baker Publishing Group. I started at Baker as a part-time employee working in the music department. Before long, I was the music buyer (responsible for stocking our shelves with quality music and videos as well as merchandising the section so we’d sell things). I helped with organizing and marketing events, and the next thing I knew, my marketing and graphic design responsibilities didn’t leave me enough time to take good care of the music department. I loved my work and the people who worked there.
  4. Did you ever expect to leave?
    • I knew that I wanted to get into the publishing side of the industry, but I thought I needed to go back to school first so I could be credentialed. My degree is in Recreation, of all things, and the only thing speaking for me on my resume is my experience, which I didn’t think was enough to get me the job that I wanted.
  5. What was your first inkling, your first whisper of realization, that it was time to move to a new job?
    • My friend and writing companion, Andy Rogers, works for Discovery House as an acquisitions editor. He forwarded me the marketing manager job description and mentioned that it would be good to work with me again. We worked together at Baker Book House about 5 years before, when he went to work for a different publisher in marketing, transitioning a couple years later to his current role at Discovery House. Back story aside, I looked at the job requirements and there were too many similarities to my previous experience to ignore. They were looking for someone who was familiar with the Christian publishing industry, had experience in marketing books, as well as some knowledge of music and videos. It was like they had excerpted parts of my resume to create their description. So I submitted my resume and waited. It was almost a full month before I heard a reply, but they were interested in meeting me.
  6. Your wife just changed jobs too. Was this major change some a well-planned event for your family, or a coincidence? How have double new jobs changed your family life?
    • The timing of our job changes weren’t planned at all, but they do seem to fit into a larger trend of change within the family. Immediately after getting my new job, we had need of a new car, and we are working toward selling our home and moving into a different school district before my 4-year-old daughter begins her K-12 experience. Then, my wife got a new job that is less than half a mile from my new job, so we are able to carpool most days (thus making the need for that new car somewhat superfluous, but oh well). The biggest thing in managing the job shifts has been in budgeting our time more intentionally. The old routine got thrown out the window, leaving us scrambling for things like time to make dinner and time to write and time to simply enjoy our family. We have things mostly under control now, but things are about to change again, as we are about to move in with my in-laws while we finish and sell our old house.
  7. What new skills are you using and learning at the new job? Any connection to the old job?
    • There are aspects of my job that are brand new to me. I get to provide the direction to the art department regarding product covers, promotional images, and graphics for social media. After consulting with our finance department, I decide what price an item should be. I even get to sit in on publishing board meetings and recommend book ideas and titles. I actually use a lot of the graphic design and marketing skills that I used for the bookstore, but the scale is much larger. Our Daily Bread Ministries is a global organization with 600 employees spread around every continent (except Antarctica (yet)).
  8. Has anything about this journey surprised you?
    • Everything surprises me. I didn’t expect to be as happy as I was at Baker Book House. I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to work in publishing so quickly. Everything is changing at once—my job, my wife’s job, our car, our house. I didn’t expect any of that. It was like God decided that a certain chapter should close and the new one doesn’t look anything like the old.
  9. How much prayer did you put into making this decision? Was it an obvious desire, or a long and hard process?
    • I prayed that God would do what was best for Him. I’ve been a Christian for long enough to know that He’s going to do what He wants anyway. The best thing I can do is try to be on His side. I was very happy in my old job, and if I didn’t get the one at Discovery House, I knew I was already taken care of. I was surprised and delighted when they called with an offer, but I would have been completely okay with waiting as well. I’ve noticed a trend in my life that the really good things tend to happen when I am satisfied with my situation rather than when I am aching for change.aching for change
  10. What was the final step in the decision-making process? When did it become a yes, I want this desire?
    • After waiting for a month to hear back from Discovery House after submitting my application, I got called into two interviews fairly quickly. Within a few days of the final interview, I got a job offer. I immediately called my wife and asked for her thoughts. She knew that I was happy at Baker, but we both decided that the circumstances surrounding the job offer made it look like I should take it. My boss at Baker knew that I had interviewed as well, and even she was sure that I should take the job offer, even though it made her life more difficult. I knew that I wanted the job when I applied for it, but if it was just me wanting it, I don’t know if that would have been enough reason to take it. It felt right when other people agreed that making the job shift would be best.
  11. Advice for others in the same situation?
    1. Strive to enjoy the job you have now. It may make it harder to leave, but that isn’t really a bad thing. Also, it is nice to have your manager be able to put in a good word for you should you need it.
    2. Make sure that the new job isn’t just best for you, but that it is best for your whole family.
    3. Change is tough, even good change. Keep a friend handy to talk through any issues that arise because of the change.
    4. Pray through the decision, not necessarily that you get the job, but that the right person gets the job, understanding that you will be taken care of regardless.

I got really fancy and asked Josh to help me make a pie chart. I wanted to know percentages– how much of this decision was based on the Holy Spirit’s leading? How much on his family budget, his natural talents? I bent Excel to my will and this is what it created for us. I hope this helps if you’re a visual learner or just don’t have much time today:

Josh's Pie Chart

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

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An Adult’s Manifesto

I’m here to simplify your life today. We live in a world cluttered by too many words, too many plans, and too many things. If I was a corporate goon I’d come up with a “mission statement” to help us focus our lives, but I’m typing to you while wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt I bought at the thrift store. It doesn’t seem like this is a corporate sort of outfit.

Instead of a mission statement, fellow writer Emily Freeman often produces manifestos. Now there’s a word we can all get excited about– manifesto. It rolls off the tongue, even if you’re wearing yoga pants and a crappy t-shirt.

So today, I offer you this. A simplified approach to living. An Adult’s Manifesto.

An Adult's Manifesto

Let me know what you would add to your own!

 

 

Radio Interviews, Bookmarks, and Reviews: Today’s Random Assortment

Hello, friends!

I apologize for my lack of decent blogging of late. But I’m excited, because I’ve started a new little project. It’s a seven-day devotional companion to If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do. I’m going to make it available for free on the blog soon, and I’m hoping it will benefit anyone who needs a week to sit and think with God before they make any of those huge life decisions we talk about in Plug My Ears.

The new project is taking up all my writing brain power (and time, frankly), so I won’t be blogging quite as much the next week or two. If you miss me terribly, you can pop over to my Facebook page and keep up with all the ridiculousness and sarcasm.

For this week, I have a few things you might find to be fun:

Thing #1: A radio interview! I’ve been doing lots of radio interviews all over the country since the new book came out, and they’re often quick little chats with hosts. But last week I had the chance to be on the Debbie Chavez Show for a nice, long, forty-five minute chat. I do not promise I made any sense at all, but you can listen and decide for yourself. In fact, after the interview was over I learned that both my ministers were listening to the live broadcast and I nearly had a little fit. Who knows what I said?!

Here’s the link if you’d like to hear it for yourself: http://thedebbiechavezshow.com/2015/07/08/boldly-stepping-into-god-sized-adventures-podcast/

Thing #2: Bookmarks! I have a TON of bookmarks my publishing company has provided for marketing purposes. I need some volunteers to take these bookmarks into your local bookstore and/or library and drop them off. Are you a brave soul? Would you be willing to do this for me? I’ll mail them to you. I’ll even sweeten the deal with a free copy of Plug My Ears for the first five people who volunteer. I would also be eternally grateful for help in spreading the word around the country. Just leave me a comment below or find me on Facebook so I can email you for your address. (Please do not post your address in the comments, what with the raving lunatics who frequent the interweb.)

Thing #3: Reviews! I need to beg another favor from my loyal readers. If you’ve read and enjoyed Plug My Ears, would you be willing to go to Amazon and Goodreads and leave a review? I can’t overstate how important feedback is for a book’s success, and your help would once again be appreciated. SUPER APPRECIATED, my friends. If I Plug My Ears, God Can't Tell Me What to Do

Once again, thank you. There’s no point in writing if no one reads it, and I’m so thankful to have you. You make all the difference and you’re wonderful.

Have a great week!

Jess

How to Have a Completely Calm and Chaos-Free Life

You, the dear reader, might find yourself stressed today. You might find yourself on the verge of a little breakdown, up to your neck in difficulty and strife. You might be wishing for a calm life and wondering how to find one.

I, the blogger, am here to solve all your problems, as I personally live a completely calm and chaos-free life. Free of charge, I’d like to share my tips with you. I promise if you follow these steps, your life will be as calm as sleeping lamb:

  1. Do not own a cat. Seriously, cat ownership is the exact opposite of calm. Cat owners spend most of their lives wandering around the house, seeking bodily fluids deposited by the feline. Save yourself the hassle and be kitty-free.
  2. Do not have children. If you simply must have children, limit yourself to one. Children will cause you to have discussions about poop, multiple times a day, for decades. This is upsetting. Children also cost you money and use up all your good napping time. In addition, they will eventually have friends who are also children, thus doubling your not-calmness. You might be coerced by a child to host a slumber party at your very own domicile. Worst idea ever, if your goal in life is to be chaos-free.

    I survived this slumber party, friends. I lost three years off my life.
    I survived this slumber party, friends. I lost three years off my life.
  3. Do not have neighbors or involve yourself in any situation where other people are unlike yourself. Try to steer clear of any place where you are forced to have conversations where you don’t care or disagree.
  4. Do not have any religious beliefs whatsoever. Religious beliefs make you a weirdo. The Supreme Court might make a decision that upsets your entire understanding of your nation, and then social media will violently point out that 49% of your friend are crazy one direction, 49% are crazy in the other direction, and you have exactly two friends who have any sense. This will be upsetting.
  5. Speaking of religious beliefs, stay far away from Jesus if you want a calm life. What with his insistence on sacrifice, loving others, and sold-out devotion to God, he really rocks a lot of boats. He even said it himself: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
  6. If you insist on having religious beliefs, make sure you stick to them with fervor. Make sure you know all the rules and the traditions and enforce them. You will also want to stay far, far, faaaaaarrrrr away from Jesus, what with his grace and heartbreaking concern for lost souls. Stick to your rules and order, and make sure you have a group of friends who are equally devoted to your religious beliefs. There’s safety and blindness in numbers, don’t forget. Avoid all reading of the Bible in context, as it might just point you to Christ’s grace and unending desire for God’s glory to be represented in His people.  John 12:27-28
  7. Do not try anything big. Do not attempt even the smallest thing that is outside your comfort zone. In fact, when faced with a new possibility ask yourself this question: “If I do this thing, will I be able to be at home from 7-10pm every night, watching my favorite television programs?” If the option presenting itself (going to college, becoming a missionary, having children, or serving at your church) will interfere with your butt being on your couch during prime television hours, this will cause you discomfort. Avoid it and buy an extra big bag of Cheetos.

So, to summarize– a calm and chaos-free life is possible. It’s close at hand. You just have to make sure you choose carefully, never making a decision that will require anything from you. Go with the flow, don’t make waves, and above all, protect your convenience and comfort.

And let me know how it all works out for you…

All Tangled Up in Nets of Our Own Making

Today’s blog post is going to be a lot more fun if you participate in a little hands-on experience. Run to your craft supplies and find some old yarn. Pay one of your children or a stranger off the street to run around you in circles with the yarn, trussing you up like a pig on its way to market.

If you pay the stranger off the street, maybe make sure your valuables are hidden safely away and you’ve stored all weaponry out of reach. Don’t blame me if you’re on tonight’s news because this ends badly.

But once you’re all wrapped up like the aforementioned market pig, we are ready to begin.

You are officially entangled. And you did it to yourself (sort of). And it’s terrible, isn’t it?

Yet, most of us live this way, to some degree or another. It’s just that we don’t use obvious yarn to do it. We get wrapped up in debt, in responsibilities, in an overbooked schedule, and expectations. We lose the ability to move and live and breathe freely because we say yes when we should say no and we often don’t think clearly at all. We end up trapped and sometimes we don’t even know how we got that way.

Hebrews 12:1

I found a book at the library the other day called Big Magic. It’s an advanced reader copy (ARC) that somehow ended up in our little library from Elizabeth Gilbert (she of Eat Pray Love fame). If you were here at the blog last week you’ll remember my yoga post, and if you know Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing you are now assuming that I’ve gone off to the transcendental loony bin.

And yes, I know the woman is a bit of a kook. I skimmed through the Love portion of Eat Pray Love just like every other Midwesterner, wondering if the woman had lost her dad gummed mind. But she can write. A few dissenting ideas in a book never killed anyone (not even an Evangelical Midwesterner), so I read her work and enjoy it.

In the chapter on Permission, Gilbert takes a sudden turn to the practical– she writes to creative types who wish to grow in their craft and are willing to go to Big Time Schools to do it. Those are fine, she says, but the debt that often comes with those schools is not. She writes:

Going into massive debt in order to become a creator, then, can make a stress and a burden out of something that should only ever have been a joy and a release… Please understand that I am not against higher education by any means; I am merely against crippling indebtedness–particularly for those who wish to live a creative life…Nobody needs debt less than an artist. So try not to fall into that trap. And if you have already fallen into that trap, try to claw your way out of it by any means necessary, as soon as  you can. Free yourself so that you can live and create more freely, as you were designed by nature to do. (Big Magic (ARC), page 106)

Not all of us are creative types, but most of us reading here are trying to follow God’s plan for our lives and that often includes creativity. Pastors, missionaries, mothers, teacher, engineers– we all need emotional and spiritual freedom so we can be creative, unencumbered, with God. Maybe we need to dump our debt, lighten up the schedule, or relieve ourselves of some of our overwhelming responsibilities.

Even the book of Hebrews weighs in on this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (12:1-2a).

So at this very moment, Elizabeth Gilbert and the writer of Hebrews are telling us the same thing: get rid of the tangle. Cut it off, dump it, claw our way out. And then we can move freely into the life we should be living. We can move easily in the race Jesus calls us to run. Do we want to run our race in full snowsuits, with bungee cords wrapped around our legs and arms, clomping in heavy boots? Or do we want to run in some sleek spandex pants, a tank top, and some spiffy running shoes?

The choice is up to us.

My question to you today is this: what would it feel like for you to live freely? What would it feel like to wake up without burdens and strain? What would you have to get rid of to move with grace and ease? I’d love to know.

And if you don’t have someone handy to cut you out of your yarn mess, give me a shout. I’ll be over with the scissors right after dinner.

Jesus and My Yoga Mat (work with me, here…)

(If you’re the kind of person who equates yoga mats with New Age thought, and therefore Satan himself, give me a second. I’m pretty sure this is going to make sense in a few paragraphs without you feeling like you need to go buy patchouli and attire yourself in tie-dyed hippy clothes. I don’t promise I’ll make sense, but stick with me and then mail me angry letters if I’m wrong.)

I write to you today from my yoga mat.

Jesus yoga FB

Just kidding. I sat there long enough to take a picture and then I skeedaddled to a real chair. I feel like a five-year old on a story rug when I sit on that thing for anything other than yoga.

So now I’m here in my grown up chair, and I need to explain a thought that’s been rattling around my head for a few weeks. Last Sunday I was interviewed during the sermon at church. Nic and I were talking about obedience to God in the small and regular things of life, and how good intentions don’t equal godly outcomes. We can hope to obey God and we can think we are obeying God, but unless we’re actually obeying God, we’re not actually obeying God.

Does that make any sense?

For example, there have been some pretty horrible things done throughout history and then the perpetrator said, “I did this for God!” And the rest of us shoot our eyebrows way up to the top of our foreheads and think I’m not interested in God if that’s how He operates. Slavery, the Crusades, concentration camps, the KKK– you get where I’m going. There’s a nut in each group that could look you in the eye and tell you God himself is sanctifying his or her actions.

If those actions are directly opposite of what Jesus told us to do, we walk away. Nope. Not God. Not good. No thank you.

Those are extreme examples, but we see that sort of thing happening on a smaller level all the time in our own lives. We go to church, we own a Bible, we love God… so then whatever we think or feel must be honoring God, right?

No. Incorrect. Whatever floats through our mind is not automatically God-honoring or obedient.

While Nic and I were chatting in front of church, we talked about how we can be obedient. One of the things I said was that we need to be present (cue hippy music and yoga pants…) as much as possible so we can be clued into the Holy Spirit and the situation of the moment. We can’t always be filtering the past, present, or future through the lens of our own motivations and understanding. We have to be present (cue incense and vegetarian dinner) so we can notice what’s going on around us, both physically and spiritually. Then we need to respond appropriately.

Let’s look at one of my favorite Bible stories so I can illustrate my point. In Luke 10:38-41, Jesus is at Mary and Martha’s home. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, absorbing his presence and words. She’s laser focused on her Messiah.

Martha, her sister, is busy because she has a bunch of guests for dinner and there’s a ton to do. She gets cranky because Mary isn’t helping like she ought. She goes right to Jesus and says, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Now, let me step in and defend Martha for a second. I can guarantee that woman didn’t wake up in the morning and think, Hey! I think I’ll micromanage the Holy Spirit today and make sure everything works out just like I want! I get to boss around God’s Son this afternoon! Yay! 

I’ve hosted large groups in my home, and I can tell you the woman was thinking about fifty details at once. She was wondering if she had enough goats on spits in the front yard. She was hoping she had enough clean towels. She was wondering how many guests were spending the night and if she had enough bread for breakfast. And Mary wasn’t helping, so Jesus was the most direct way to get her sister’s attention. (“Hey, Lord! Get that woman off the floor and into the kitchen!”–Jessie translation.)

Jesus didn’t share Martha’s perception of the situation. He said, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Shush it, sister. Get with my program.— Jessie translation.)

This is what I want to point out– Martha had Jesus in her very own home. He was in the same room, seeing the same things. Smelling the cooking meat, hearing the servants in the kitchen clanging pots, and frankly not worried about any of it. Martha assumed that Jesus was worried about what she was worried about, but she needed to be present in the moment to notice she was off track. She needed to get over herself to notice what was important. 

And so, as we all sit together with our organic yogurt and hemp sandals, I hope we can take a moment to be present with the Holy Spirit and to find Mary’s laser focus on Christ. It’s only then that we’ll really know what we’re called to do, and what obedience looks like in this moment.

Namaste.

I mean, Amen.

 

3 Tips for Not-Stupid Money Management

Do you currently have a credit card in your wallet? Yes? Do you currently make or spend money, ever? Yes?

This post is for you. Especially if you are young and are inexperienced at using your money in a safe and not-stupid manner.

I didn’t just wake up this morning and decide to preach a little sermon to the youth about money. I was actually contacted by Credit Card Insider, which is a group reaching out to college graduates to help them build their credit and use cards wisely.

Wisely, I said.

In a not-stupid manner.

They asked me to share my top three tips for financial management and so here we are. These are the things I think form a basis for setting a good foundation financially.

Financial tip 1

Tip #1: When you are out of money, stop spending it.

I realize this is un-American. I realize our entire economy is based on people spending money they don’t have to fill up their already jammed houses. But it’s dumb. It’s especially dumb when we use debt to continue purchasing things we can’t actually afford.

Ask yourself this question: Will I have enough money to pay the rent or buy gas next week if I buy this thing today? If the answer is no, do not buy the thing.


Financial tip 2

Tip #2: Credit Cards are just like dynamite. One wrong move and you’ll be sorry.

Dynamite is a very useful tool– it’s hard to blast through rock without it. It’s useful, but extremely dangerous. That’s why we don’t give it to children to play with, sell it at the grocery store, or keep it in our purses. Because KABOOM. Body parts go missing and it’s hard to regrow an arm.

Credit cards are not so different. Sure, there are times they are the only financial tool that makes a lot of sense. It’s hard to get the internet to take your cash, frankly. And debit cards work fine in most situations, but there are times a credit card and its reward points come in handy.

But a credit card in the wrong hands is just like tossing a stick of dynamite to a seven-year old. That money will have to be paid back. Too many people have gotten themselves hopelessly close to an explosion because they didn’t use common sense when they started using their card. There is no grown up who is going to stop you from being an idiot here– you are the grown up. You have to stop yourself.

Ask yourself this: Do I have the money in my account to cover this purchase when the bill comes? Or, alternately, am I truly at risk of bodily harm if I don’t use this card? If the answer is no, do not use the card.

financial tip 3

Tip #3: Seek to be generous in all situations.

Money is a gift, a resource. Some of us have more than others. There are few things more attractive than a heart that cares for others, so be generous. Tip lavishly– the woman waiting your table probably isn’t doing it for a hobby. Churches and charities do not run on air and magic– they need your financial backing. There are families in your town and even friends in your living room who might need a helping hand. Be the generous person who is watching and waiting to share what you have when you see a need.

Ask yourself this: Do I want to be that nasty jerk who hoards his entire box of doughnuts and eats them alone in the break room while everyone else eats carrots? If the answer is no, share.

What have I missed? What are your top three financial tips? Let’s keep people from making dumb decisions, all together!

 

Where We Find Ourselves

I quit writing on Tuesday morning.

And I don’t mean that I was in the middle of writing something and shut my computer for a short while.

I mean I QUIT WRITING.

I told God it had been an interesting six-year experiment, I’d found it exhilarating and awful and wonderful and quite, quite terrible. At any rate, I was done.

I was ready to go back to being a normal person, I explained to the Almighty. I was tired of obsessing over every word and how it would sound on the other side of a screen. I was tired of stats and editing and also of comparing myself to other writers who very much have it all together.

There may have been some loud, snotty tears involved in this exchange. I may have been thinking up lies to tell my children if they wandered up the stairs and asked why I was weeping into my morning coffee.

They slept on. I didn’t have to lie. Or, heaven forbid– tell them the truth.

I was tired of the pressure and the time constraints and constantly burning dinner because I was running back and forth to my computer between stirring pots. (Also, I simply burn dinner a lot– even when I’m not writing.)

So I quit writing and gave myself the day to adjust to my new life. I worked at my job, I picked up the kids, then– in the space where I would have been writing after school– I helped my father-in-law wire up the hot tub and scrubbed an old metal cabinet clean. I felt calm and wonderful, starting life back over.

As the day progressed I backed off a little. I told God that I was done unless he wanted to change my mind. But this was going to be a major act-of-the-Holy-Spirit kind of change, not the kind I was going to be able to dredge up with a good attitude.

By 8:30 I was sitting in the Fatty (which is what we call our settee, because settee is the most pretentious  word ever. It’s obviously a Fatty.) reading a decorating book by the Nester. And she was telling me that my house doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful and I don’t have to put all that pressure on myself to try to make it perfect.

See what I mean? Obviously a Fatty. She's got a broad beam.
See what I mean? Obviously a Fatty. She’s got a broad beam.

Just calm the heck down, she was telling me.

And the thought occurred to me that my writing didn’t have to be perfect either, and maybe all that pressure I felt was from myself and not the writing. Certainly not God.

And then I thought I’ve really got to get these thoughts down on the blog.

And I find myself typing away it my kitchen, wearing yoga pants and writing to my friends who aren’t perfect either.

Where do you find yourself tonight?

Ever Feel Like Your Work Is a Complete Waste?

A few days ago I was scouting through a magazine, trying to determine if I should submit an article to the editorial team or not. It was a tough call– the magazine sort of relates to what I do, but not completely.

I don’t think anything makes an editor lose his or her will to live faster than a submission that has nothing to do with their publication, just so you know. So if you write poetry about unicorns and fairies, don’t submit your work to the car magazine. Your submission will be pinned up on a bulletin board next to the water cooler where the entire staff will throw ratchets at it when they’re bored.

I’m guessing, but probably not wrong.

At any rate, I was speed-reading through the articles to get a feel for what they had to say, and I came across a short piece about marriage. This article had a little suggestion to wives. It said that maybe our husbands would appreciate it if we took the initiative and planned a date night every once in a while.

It’s been about forever since I planned a date night. That’s Eric’s job because I gave birth to the children. (I use this excuse for everything.) But then I thought, Heck! He’d probably like knowing that I’d like to spend time with him! I texted him and asked him out.

He said yes.

The kids are old enough to stay home alone for a few hours, so we went by ourselves to eat grownup food and have a conversation. This was a joyful experience, indeed.

But wait, I have a point here. The writers of that magazine article took the time to carefully craft an article and then they released it to the wind. One small thing they said caught my eye, I took it to heart, and put it into action. Will I email them and tell them? No! Even though I’m a writer who thrives on feedback, I still don’t plan to tell them. Even writers worry about sounding like weirdos to other writers.

They aren’t going to see the fruit of their hard work, but there is fruit.

Colossians 1:10

So many of us are working hard and aren’t seeing the results. We’re wondering if there’s any point in continuing. Maybe our time could be better spent in a new ministry or job, we think.

Or maybe the fruit is lying just outside where we can see it, nourishing people we’ll never meet.

…We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. (Colossians 1:9b-10, NLT)

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