Wednesday, February 28, 2007


This has been a hard week of facing reality. We've been starting over with our budget and planning. We're working on the budget for our current situation, which looks great, but we're also working on the "baby budget" which is what the world will be like after I stop working (no, I'm not pregnant yet). That part is not so pretty. Not good at all. It should be fine, but isn't. My husband makes a great salary - and we've had many years now of two incomes. So, we've had the opportunity this week to think about WHY it is that things will be so tight.

We don't seem to be spendy least to us. Compared to our friends and co-workers, we seem to be pretty frugal. (Ok, except for eating lunches out way, way too much. But even then... they were cheap lunches, and we weren't getting coffee everyday like many people we know.) we are. After 8 years of living with two incomes, it is going to be really tight with just my husband's very good income. It shouldn't be. So, why?

Well, first - our house payment is pretty darn high. It's ok when it is based on two incomes, but it's too high for just his. We have a duplex we can sell if needed (to put the equity towards our principle) - that was actually our plan when we bought our house. Somehow, all the realtors, finance people, etc. convinced us to try to keep it. So, try we are... but our original plan was to sell it, and it looks like that might have been a smart plan.

Secondly, we are still paying school loans. Some of it is from undergrad, and some is from hub's masters. I HATE still having school loans. We keep playing the game of it being the cheapest money (cheaper than our house loan interest rate), but oh how I would love to just have it GONE. I do NOT want to be 50 years old and still paying for school. I also hate it because it just feels like it should be smaller/easier. My parent's paid for my schooling, but we had loans for hub's schooling, and then used some of the interest-free ones for life during college. I tend to forget about the "life" part, and tend to think this loan is just for one of us. To me, that makes it even worse to keep it around for years and years.

Finally, and most importantly, as much as I think we're not spendy people, I AM a spendy person. I'm not frugal, as much as I long to be. We don't spend money on "needless" (ha ha) things, but if we "need" something, and if it seems reasonable, and if we think it's a good price, we buy it. Immediately. Again and again. I think we need to figure out how to just not spend money. This is going to take a lot of change. I'm terrified of it. I don't know how to not buy something when I "need" it. I hate knowing that the way my brain is working is just wrong and needs to change. It's one thing to change behavior, it's quite another to change how you think.

This shall be a journey. I'm listening to Dave Ramsey everyday for inspiration, which is working well. Other than that, I just need to question every purchase decision I make and see if it's really a "need" or if there are truly any other alternatives.

So, here I am... feeling humbled, foolish, and a little beat up... but walking uphill, rather than tumbling down.

- kel.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy One Year Bloggiversary!

Today marks a VERY special occasion - it is my one year anniversary of this blog. It seems like so much has changed, and at the same time, like not much has changed.

My first blog post was about forcing myself to to the gym. My most recent post was about a renewed commitment to go to the gym. I've been trying to come to terms with the fact that working out is going to have to be a life-long thing for me. I can't get in shape and stop going to the gym. It's a cycle of denial that I'm tired of.

In my posts a year ago, I was struggling with the Easter candy out in the stores. I've already faced this struggle this year, with some failure, although less failure than last year.

I'm repeating some of the same mistakes. Failing in some of the same areas. I can also see that more of my life is cyclical than I ever recognize. I respond to seasons, weather, holidays, traditions, with both good and bad responses...but predictable ones. There is a benefit here. I can read postings from last spring, and prepare myself for the months to come. Last March, I struggled with the temptation of girl scout cookies. I forgot about that...I can prepare myself a month early...before the boxes are staring at me next month.

And much has changed. I started running, I ran a race, and I stopped running. I went through a re-org at work, enjoyed the outcome, but then decided I should be working as a wife more than an employee, and I now work part-time at home. I went to India last spring, and I won't be able to go back this spring, but I do think I'll have the opportunity to go to Africa this spring or summer, which has been a great desire. I struggled with my deep desire to have children, but have learned to rest in God's timing and plan, and have received His peace and contentment. I wrote about friends who got pregnant, and are now almost due...I'm in a season of baby showers. I decorated my home, bought a house, and sold a house (it closes to tomorrow!).

A year seems like a short increment of time in the grand scheme of things. It goes by so fast. Yet, a year ago, my life was completely different. I had different views of things. Different thinking. But, God continues to work on me - to mold me and shape me. I suppose that I keep working through the same temptations and struggles, but as God changes me, the outcomes will continue to change. I can't wait to see what my life will be like a year from now. =)

New day, new year. Happy bloggiversary to me!

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. -- Lamentations 3: 21-26

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Following the Father

For some reason, this February, the Father is using alliteration to teach me to follow Him fully. Last night during my Bible study lecture, God laid three words on my heart: food, fitness, and finances. I need to follow my Father faithfully, in my food choices, my fitness needs, and my finances. I wrote them down and knew I'd need them in my memory bank for later.

Somehow, with the help of the alliteration, I remembered to pray for strength this morning (to get up and go to the gym), rather than postponing it another day. I often give into the temptation (to eat another sweet treat, or go back to sleep, or buy some needless thing/food) before I remember that I'm even wanting to not do these things. I do it before even remembering to pray or ask for help.

This morning I woke up and was so sleepy. Thoughts of going back to sleep danced in my head...luring me back. The mental debate began.

Pillow is so soft. I love bed. I can go to the gym tomorrow. I won't have very long to workout anyway, so it's not really going to make a big difference. Mmmm...bed. No, stop it. I was supposed to remember three things. What were they? Think... What were they? Ugh... too tired. Oh yeah - food, fitness, finances. Oh yeah. Alright God - wake me up - this has to be you. I want to glorify YOU in my food, fitness, and financial choices. And I can't do that laying in bed every morning.

And it worked. Up I went. I made us breakfast and headed to the gym. It was only a meager 15 minutes of cardio, and 10 minutes of strength training, but that was so much more than...staying in bed.

What a personal God I have. He knows my sleepy mental debates and my sleep-filled temptations. Somehow He knows that alliteration will help me remember Him in the morning.

I've been repeating these words today. When I wanted a sweet treat, I thought...what were they again? Oh yeah: food, fitness, finances. No sweet treat, but no deprived feeling either - just thanks to God for the self-control the Spirit gives us.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Home again, home again

My hear husband (and some helpers from church) moved all of our furniture from our old house to the new house this morning, and this last week, Hubs diligently brought over all of the decorations and accessories. We've been living in the new house for about two months now, but since the old house was being staged to sell, most of our things were left there.

It is amazing how much of a difference a couple of bookshelves and OUR books make. The walls are still white (ok, pale yellow), but it really makes it feel so much more homey. My decor style is anything but sterile, so the white/empty thing has really been a challenge for me.

Even with our belongings here, it will still be very empty. We've gained 1200 square feet in this home, so our furniture doesn't go too far. I don't want to just fill it up with STUFF, but would like a few things to make it more warm and inviting...just normal feeling. I'd really like a coffee table, an area rug, and one or two recliners - but not too overly-stuffed - that's just not our style.

I'm hoping and trying to get some of these things on Craigslist. I love craigslist. I do. I love that you can find anything, and that it's not a game like on ebay. We have bought and sold a lot of stuff on craigstlist before - probably sold more than we've bought. Amen to that! I've realized today that this will be a lesson in patience, disappointment, and heartbreak. Already, we fell in love with an area rug (and matching runner) that was beautiful and perfect, and we were one person too late. Same with a perfect coffee table. I tend to get too attached too soon.

And so we will wait and see how the Lord provides. God brought us to this house, and I'm guessing He planned that it would have at least some furniture. I'm hoping that the perfect things will appear on craigstlist, or at least on sale somewhere.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Church battles

Yesterday was a long day. Very long.

We actually got up and made it to church in time for Sunday School, followed by worship service. The church served lunch, although we went out for lunch - I'm craving control over my food after travelling for a week. While in DC, I had Lebanese food for dinner one night and Afghani food another night, and while both dinners were good, I really wanted something nice and normal, and that I picked out! After lunch, there was an annual congregational meeting at church that lasted until 3pm.

Our church is having a huge debate about spending $130k (an after-effect of just spending a couple million on a new sanctuary building). Basically, we are not contractually obligated to pay the 130k, but it seems like the "higher road" to take in some debates we're having with the contractor. The elders have voted that we should pay it, and we won't need to pay interest on it or anything. I love that they took this approach. A church shouldn't waste God's money, we need be good stewards, but we shouldn't hang on to it too tightly either. The meeting got really ugly. People were horrible. People are vaguely hinting about leaving.

We're a bit shocked. This is $130k out of more than 2 million. Really, this is small in comparison. Also, we have an elder-led church, and I'm surprised at how easily it has been for congregants to fight meanly against our leadership when we don't like what they have to say.

Our church is almost always wonderful, loving, gentle, etc... and the only two times that I've seen people act otherwise are both regarding money issues. It's sad, and gives me something to pray about for my church.

We cancelled our church small-group meeting in the evening. After two hours of church argument, we were all exhausted. Today, I'm tired and disappointed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

reflections from afar

I'm in Washington DC, the "other" Washington. First, I will tell you that it is bitterly, FREEZING cold here in February. Seriously. AND oh my gosh! It's cold! It did snow the other day, and that was pretty. I was in a hurry as I prepared for this trip, and I didn't think through the logistics very well. I'm taking the metro to the office, and there is a bit of walking involved. Thankfully, I did bring boots (although, walking in the snow with high-heel boots was interesting), pants, a coat, gloves, and a scarf. BUT, my silk long-johns, and a hat would have been beneficial. Really beneficial.

I lived here (well, a bit more in the country...we didn't live down town at all) when I was a child for three years. Eight through eleven. I didn't come back at all until last summer. It's fun to be here again so recently - there is a bit of familiarity in a foreign place.

I become a bit reflective being in a place as an adult where I have childhood memories. I can remember me as a child, but now also remember my parents - and how my current existence is so much like theirs was then. I met a friend for dinner yesterday and was debating if we should meet at the metro stop in Silver Spring or Rockville. It made me pause. My dad used to work in both of those places. To me, "Rockville" and "Silver Spring" mean grown up, mean adult at work, mean impressive adult things happen there. And now I'm taking there metro there to meet a friend. I don't think this happens when you grow up somewhere and stay there. You go through each age, and each experience with the same things around you. As you age, you naturally go places your parents did and do things adults do. Suddenly, you are part of that group, but it doesn't seem sudden or strange at all because you have become part of that group without any drastic observance.

But, when you go back as an adult to a childhood place, there is an abruptness about it. As I put my ticket in the machine at the metro station and wait in the bitter cold, I can't help but think about my dad taking the metro train. He did the same thing. Last night, I waited at the Silver Spring station in the bitter cold for eight minutes (because it was late at night) for the next red-line train to come. I bet that 20 years ago my dad may have waited in that same exact station for his train, complaining abou the bitter cold. Only now, there is a starbucks right next door; the last 20 years has been good to that metro station.

I loved taking going into the city with my parents when I was little. I was in awe of the metro - I thought it was so cool. I bet my dad hated it. He hates crowds. He hates extreme weather. He hates strangers.

I don't remember my parents as adults. I know them now, but as a child, you are so self-centered, that I don't remember them as adult-people. As I become closer to their age that they were when I was young (although, I'm not there yet - I'm now the age that my mom was when she had me), I understand them more. I feel like I know my dad more for having been at his metro stop, waiting in the cold in my nice work clothes.

Last night, I went out to dinner with an old friend. She was one of the "across the street girls" I lived next to when I was little (and lived out here in the country). I stopped by their house when we were here in the summer and the family was still there. Two of three daughters are back living with the parents for a bit, so we got to talk. They invited us back on the 4th of July, which we happily did. It was so wonderful - a Maryland country 4th of July BBQ. I loved it! She and I have emailed a few times since then, and I was so excited that she wanted to get together when I came out.

What a blessing and a joy. I think we will really be friends, which is so funny. I moved away in 1990 - 17 years ago! And we were little: just finished 5th grade. We used to argue about religion (what 10 year old does that!??). Seriously. Their family is Seventh Day Adventist and mine isn't...and we used to get into theology debates, only we didn't know that's what they were called, and we really didn't know how to do it nicely.

And now? We both work for Christian organizations and are living for God's glory. We got to share a blessing over our food, and share what we are learning in Bible study. We've been brought so far. Not one argument. =) Isn't God good? I guess we were always both a bit passionate.

God is good - whether it's 15 degrees, or 50 degrees, and whether you live in Washington or Washington.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Lots of People

I just returned from a weekend retreat with 2,400 other leaders from Bible Study Fellowship. Oh my gosh - that is a lot of people! It was so wonderful to sing beautiful, timeless hymns to our Lord in a choir of 2,400 people. I don't think I've ever had an experience like that, and I can only pray that I will again this side of heaven. And not any 2,400 people. I got to worship our Lord with 2,400 people that I KNOW are all committed Christians with a desire to serve Him and spread His word across our land. That was an amazing experience.

This weekend just made me fall in love with God even more, and BSF for being a wonderful tool in His hand. God is so good, and the only way we can know Him is through His word.

If you are looking for a God-centered Bible study, GO. Try it. Just do it. Don't wait. I'm serious. Really. You can find classes on the website. There are a jillion of them, so you have no excuse. If you have a hard time making God's word a daily part of your life, or a hard time understanding scripture, or a hard time figuring out how to apply it to your life, you will love BSF.

God is good - ALL the time! (You know, since He created time and He exists aside from time and is timeless, He would have to be good ALL the time, wouldn't He?)

Now, to get my lesson done for tomorrow... =)


Never got around to posting this last week, so here are two at once:

Questions 3 & 4 from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God,[5] and what duty God requires of man.[6]

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit,[7] infinite,[8] eternal,[9] and unchangeable,[10] in his being,[11] wisdom,[12] power,[13] holiness,[14] justice,[15] goodness,[16] and truth.[17]

These are such great attributes of God. What a great way to begin our prayers - telling God that we know who He is by the attributes He has shown us. I think we often act like God is so mysterious, very distant, and like we don't know Him at all. And of course, many Christians really don't know Him. However, God has revealed Himself to us generally and specifically. There is no reason we shouldn't know Him. As Question 3 tells us, all we need to know and believe about God are in the Bible. All that God expects of us is there too. He has fully revealed Himself and His requirements to us. We are truly left without excuse.

I have known many (including myself at times) who struggle and struggle to know what to think about a situation or theological issue. Yet, have they searched for the answer in God's word? No. Should the confusion be a surprise? No.

Should we expect to find the right answer in our own wisdom? No.

Should we be surprised to find ourselves lost when we refuse to walk on the marked (and maintained!) trail? No.

I wish I could add to #4: God is worthy of our glory and praise...because He is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, wise, powerful, holy, just, good, and true.