By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Adventures in Couponing July 11, 2009

Several months ago, my husband started expressing his desire for us to start spending less and saving more.  (This may or may not have coincided with a certain Democrat being elected president and vowing to “reform” health care.  But that is another story for another blog.)  He has repeated this preposterous suggestion many, many times.  And every time, my flesh (sinful nature) has done a good job of ignoring it.  After all, his job is pretty secure, he’s not making less money than he did a year ago–why should we cut back?  Shouldn’t I be doing my part to stimulate the economy and support my local retailers?  (I really want Gymboree to survive this economic turmoil.)  It seemed crazy for my husband to ask me to make sacrifices, and not even so I could use the saved money for something fabulous, like an iPhone or a cleaning lady.  Just for the sake of spending less and saving more.  He must be nuts, right?

After some conversations with my wonderful friends (if you don’t have godly, truth-speaking friends in your life, may I suggest you get some immediately?), I realized that this was a huge area of disobedience in my life.  My husband is asking me to do something.  He is not asking me to sin.  In fact, the thing he is asking me to do is perfectly reasonable, probably a good idea, and (gulp) would be glorifying God by thinking less about my own selfish desires.  I knew it was time for the S-word:  submission.  I couldn’t bring myself to submit right away, so I started by praying that God would convict me and enable to submit and obey.  And then I turned to my local expert on honoring your husband by spending less money:  my friend Lynette.

I’ve been giving Lynette my coupons out of the Sunday paper for months.  I had no idea what she was doing with them, but I knew I needed to find out.  I broke the sad news to her that she would no longer be getting my coupons and asked her to share her secrets with me.  Thankfully, she is very supportive of my saving money AND my submitting to my husband!  She taught me a few key strategies:

1.  Stop being married to specific brands.  I was shocked when I compared the shampoo I usually buy with some much cheaper alternatives.  I’ve been having shampoo tunnel vision for months, and my hair doesn’t even look that great.

2.  Track the cost of items that you buy on a regular basis.  When they go on sale, stock up.

3.  Keep your coupons from the Sunday paper, and then use blogs such as Common Sense With Money, Money Saving Mom and NWA Deals to find out how to maximize your savings by combining coupons with low sale prices.

4.  Don’t be afraid to shop at Aldi.  (I haven’t conquered this one yet.  Maybe when the kids go back to school in the fall, and I don’t have to take three kids with me everywhere I go.)

This concept of combining sales and coupons is amazing!  It is definitely worth spending some time on.  In my first week, check out what I got . . . serious bargain-hunting bloggers always take a photo:

IMG_4464

Pringles for 49 cents, family-size boxes of Special K for $2.50 each, Edy’s ice cream for $1.33 each, and deodorant for 38 cents!  I also got a pint of Starbucks ice cream for 50 cents, but I gave that to my sister-in-law, because seriously, how much ice cream does a girl need when she has baby weight to lose?!?

Back when I was just dipping my toe into the pool of obedience but not ready to jump in, I read on a stay-at-home mom’s blog that she thinks that her job is to save her family as much money as possible.  I thought, “Poor thing.  My job is much more enjoyable–spending our family’s money and having fun doing it.  Oh, wait . . . hmm, maybe that isn’t supposed to be my job . . . oh bummer, this woman is right!”  Now I have a new view on my job description, though sometimes I miss my old job.   I can’t wait to see what my new strategies will accomplish when it comes to lowering our spending, and (more importantly) pleasing my husband and letting him know that what’s important to him is important to me.  I want to honor my husband with my spending, following the example given to us as women in Proverbs 31:

An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.

Proverbs 31:10-11

 

Dealing with life’s craziness September 28, 2007

Filed under: marriage,parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 1:46 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I recently started attending Bible Study Fellowship, and our teaching leader is so wonderful that I’m sure I’ll be sharing many tidbits from her lectures. Last week, she said that all of us have craziness in our lives–I’m sure at this very moment, at least ten things have come to mind that you are dealing with in your own life. That’s what I started thinking about when she said it, going down the familiar path of self-pity, discouragement and mental exhaustion from worry. But the next thing she said grabbed my attention: “We can choose to deal with life’s craziness biblically or non-biblically.” Such a simple idea, and so obvious, and yet it has completely changed the way that I look at things. There are only two options, two black-and-white categories in which I can place the way I react to my kids, my husband, difficult circumstances and mundane responsibilities. One question to ask: Am I responding biblically or non-biblically?

So I sat down and thought about the three primary areas of my life that cause my emotional and spiritual struggles and then outlined my non-biblical responses and what some biblical responses would be. The first task was easy–I struggle with impatience with my kids, frustration with my husband, and feeling a lack of significance as a stay-at-home mom.

Kids: I tend to respond non-biblically by avoidance (“Just go play in your rooms for awhile, please!”) or in anger. Biblical responses would include responding in love (I Corinthians 13), displaying the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), being thankful for the time I have with them, and covering all of my parenting with a heavy dose of prayer (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Husband: I usually respond non-biblically because I am focused on myself and my needs. I am only seeing things from my perspective (I am tired and had a long day, and he better swoop in with a smile and unending energy and rescue me), and I end up being demanding and angry as a result. Instead, I should remember that I am called to love him sacrificially, just as God has loved me (Ephesians 5:1-2). I need to remember the stress he’s under and do what I can to support and encourage him (I Thessalonians 5:11). I need to view marriage as a tool for God to teach me and for God’s glory, not as a way to get my needs met. (More on that later from a great book I’m reading, Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.)

Burnout: I struggle as a stay-at-home mom because I am focused on my need to feel good about myself, and I am desperate for a way to earn the praise of others. (Doing laundry and raising kids isn’t working out too well in that regard.) I want my life to be easy, fun and comfortable, or at least be significant in the eyes of the world. A biblical response would be to understand that I’m working for God’s glory and His eternal purposes by investing my time in my husband and children (Colossians 3:23-24). I must remember that God is faithful to sustain me through the work He has called me to do (2 Corinthians 12:9). I must resist laziness and ask God to show me how He wants me to spend free time–it probably isn’t those continuous Law and Order reruns I’m so addicted to on cable (Proverbs 31–especially verses 15 and 27).

I wonder what it would look like to put all my thoughts and actions through a biblical/non-biblical filter. My response to my kid’s tantrum–biblical or non-biblical? My judgment of someone I encounter during the day that annoys me–biblical or non-biblical? My shopping habits–biblical or non-biblical? (Ouch.) My response when my husband wants his back scratched at 10:00 pm–biblical or non-biblical? If I could permanently attach this filter to my brain, my husband would probably have more money and more frequent back-scratching. 🙂

One side-note: Thank you to Rachel for the comment on the post below. I really appreciated the use of the word “temptation” to describe your struggle with discouragement. I so often forget that when I am feeling discouraged because I am believing lies rather than the truth, it is sin. I’m not supposed to tolerate it or continue in it, but rather identify it as sin, confess it, and turn from the temptation to give in to those sinful emotions.

 

A brief note about marriage June 19, 2007

Filed under: marriage — Marissa Henley @ 12:44 am
Tags: ,

I was listening to a R.C. Sproul series on marriage today, and I was reminded of a lesson that apparently I’m going to have to learn and re-learn a thousand times. He was talking about the marriage relationship and how the two become one flesh. He said that marriage is to be a duality, not a dualism. A dualism is two things that are in inherent, relentless conflict with each other–good and evil, light and darkness, etc. The word duality, however, comes from the words dual (two) and unity. So a duality is a plurality becoming a unity. It struck me that I feel like a dualism with Noel much more than I feel like a duality. So often, I think it is me vs. his work, my interests vs. his interests, my free time vs. his free time. I’m constantly battling him, trying to extract from him the kind of love I think he should be giving me to meet all of my needs. What if God could transform my thinking so that I put my interests aside and joined Noel as a teammate, not striving for my own comfort and happiness, but working together with Noel for the glory of God and the good of our family??

So how do the two become one? R.C. went on to talk about the end of the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24-25: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. ” Now don’t be nervous, I’m not going to get into physical nakedness here. That’s what the verse is referring to, but I think the application goes beyond that. What if I were to be completely “naked” with Noel in the sense that I let him into every back corner, every bit of ugliness, every aspect of my emotional life, spiritual life, pain, guilt, and fear? As R.C. said, this kind of vulnerability is only possible when we stand before God clothed only in the righteousness of Christ. And that truth of who I am in Christ allows me to let Noel in, knowing that he’s promised not to leave no matter how ugly it gets. This is definitely an area for improvement in my life, even after almost 9 years of marriage. (9 years?!? Have I even been an adult that long? How bizarre.)