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:


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


Lessons from Leviticus February 12, 2009

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 6:30 pm
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Leviticus? Seriously?  I never thought I’d write a blog post about Leviticus.  I should have seen it coming when I started the BSF study of the life of Moses, Exodus through Deuteronomy.  (I suppose there is a post on Numbers coming soon.)  I don’t think I’ve ever studied Leviticus, other than a random reference here and there in other Bible studies.  But as always happens with God’s Word, there are great lessons there.  Here are a few that were especially meaningful to me:

In Leviticus 8, we were studying about the consecration of tabernacle and the priests.  Our lesson asked the question, “Is there some area of your life that has not been consecrated (set apart) to the Lord?”  This question was very convicting to me, and I wanted to write, “Is there an area of my life that HAS been consecrated to the Lord?”  But I tried to narrow down some key areas that have not been dedicated to God like they should and came up with my perceived control over my life and the way I spend my time and money.  I’ve been thinking lately about how I can truly consecrate these areas to the Lord.

In Leviticus 10, we read the troubling story of two of Aaron’s sons being burned up by God because they did not follow the commandments He had given them about sacrifices in the tabernacle.   Our lessons often ask us what we learned about God’s character or attributes from the passage.  This chapter showed me how serious disobedience (sin) is in God’s eyes.  We know from elsewhere in Scripture that our sin is deserving of death, and Aaron’s sons got what they deserved.  It showed me how great God’s mercy to me is–I have not gotten what I deserve.  I have done much worse things than what Aaron’s sons did.  And not only has God not burned me up on the spot, He sent His Son to take the punishment for all my sin that I might have eternal life.

In an overview of Leviticus, we read various passages where God gives the Israelites instructions about how to offer the various sacrifices He required.  The lesson talked about how each of the sacrifices cost the worshiper something.  It pointed to 2 Samuel 24:24, where David says he will not offer something to the Lord that cost him nothing.  This was another convicting point for me.  What have I sacrificed to God at a great cost?  I volunteer in the church nursery once every three months, and that costs me very little.  I am also leading the children’s choir, which carries a greater cost, and most of the time I don’t have a great attitude about that cost.  My financial giving should be more sacrificial–am I truly giving something up that I want in order to give sacrificially, or am I giving what is left over?  Contemplating the true meaning of sacrifice has changed my perspective about my service and giving to the Lord.

I also liked Leviticus 19:9-10 where God commands the Israelites not to harvest their fields all the way to the edges or strip their vineyards bare.  They are to leave some for the poor and for travellers.  This made me think about how I use my resources.  When I know we have some extra money coming, I know we will tithe on it, but I usually have the rest of it spent, at least mentally, before it hits the checking account.  And, apart from this commandment, it would be my right to use it as my husband and I decided.  But in this commandment, God is telling His people not to consume all that they have a right to consume.  I think this principle applies to me as well.  I want to be more intentional about leaving some crops  around the edges in a 21st-century sense . . . stashing some away for needs that arise so we are able to meet the needs of others.


“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” (continued) August 5, 2007

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 3:02 am
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I’ve finished “Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman (see previous post below for the basic premise of the book) and have been trying to apply the principles for about three weeks. I recommend that every Christian mom buy a copy immediately, and just for the record, if you have read the book already and didn’t tell me about it, you are in big trouble! There are many ideas that were meaningful to me, and I should probably make your life easier by splitting them into more than one post. But I want to get this done while they are fresh in my head, so read as far as you can and feel free to come back tomorrow. I won’t know. 🙂 So here it goes . . .

p. 33: “Behavior is simply what alerts you to your child’s need for correction. But don’t make the mistake that so many parents make and allow your desire for changed behavior to replace your desire for a changed heart.” She goes on to quote Tedd Tripp’s words about how changed behavior that does not stem from a changed heart being the same hypocrisy displayed by the Pharisees. The tough part is that going beyond the changed behavior to a changed heart takes so much more time and energy and thought.

P. 40: “Our goal in probing our child’s heart is to bring him to the sober assessment of himself as a sinner, to help him recognize his need for Christ, and to teach him to act, think and be motivated as a Christian. It is not that difficult to train our children to act as Christians. We have really accomplished something when we have trained them to think like Christians. Thinking like a Christian will help them grow in wisdom and prepare them to govern their own behavior in a way that will glorify God.”

She makes the point multiple times that the reason we must train and instruct our children in obedience is so someday they will be ready to submit in obedience to God. It isn’t so people will marvel at my obedient, well-mannered children or to make my life easier because we all get along so nicely. I want their disobedience to point them to their need for a Savior. I want them to grow in wisdom as I speak God’s Word (Scripture) to them. As Ginger Plowman puts it, I want to prepare their hearts for the Savior by praying for them and being a godly example (p. 75).

One section of this book that was especially convicting was one of her guidelines for verbal correction: using the right tone of voice. She quotes Proverbs 15:28: “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Too often I fly off the handle and just start scolding Christopher without stopping to pray and choose my words and tone of voice carefully. Plowman also quotes H. Clay Trumbull’s writings in 1891 about scolding, which he defines as “an expression of a bad spirit and a loss of temper” and “to assail or revile with boisterous speech.” He writes: “If a child has done wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words. If the parent is tempted to speak rapidly . . . the parent’s first duty is to gain entire self-control . . . Scolding never benefits the one against whom it is directed . . . however, it may give physical relief to the one who indulges in it.” (p. 89-90 in Plowman’s book). All I can say about that is OUCH.

Another great thought from the book is the way she defines the standard of obedience. In their family, they must obey “all the way, right away, and with a happy heart” (p. 117). She talks about expecting complete obedience, immediate obedience, and joyful obedience. To fail in any of these aspects is an act of disobedience. The thought of enforcing this standard is overwhelming and exhausting to me, but I am motivated by knowing that this is how my children should someday obey Jesus. It is my responsibility to not let them become lazy in obeying me so that they will not be lazy in obeying their Lord and Savior.

Finally, I continue to be convicted of my need to know Scripture better and use it more often in the training and instruction of my children. After reading I Corinthians 13 with Christopher and mentioning it often, I praised him one morning for how kind he was being to his brother. He replied, “Yes! Just like we read in Mommy’s Bible!” It was so encouraging to me that he is starting to understand that these are not arbitrary principles given on my own authority. These are principles given to us by our Creator as we submit to His authority. I went through Plowman’s book and made notecards of all the Bible verses she mentioned. The notecards are sorted into two stacks: verses of encouragement or conviction for my kids and verses of encouragement or conviction for me. Here’s the list–and if you don’t have a Bible handy, you can look them up at

For the kids:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (love)—Galatians 5:22-23 (fruits of the Spirit)—Matthew 5:9 (promoting peace)—Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 (obeying your parents)—Philippians 2:14 (complaining)—I Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Psalm 100:2 (having a joyful attitude)— Proverbs 17:5b (not rejoicing at your brother’s sorrow)—Matthew 18:15 (solving conflict with your brother)—Ephesians 4:32 (kindness and forgiveness)—Proverbs 6:16-19 (six things God hates).

For moms:

James 1:2-4 (positive results of enduring trials)—James 1:5 (wisdom)—Proverbs 15:28 (weighing my words)—Hebrews 4:12 (the power of God’s Word)—Colossians 3:13 (forgiving my kids–see post below)— Proverbs 3:5-6 (trusting the Lord)—James 3:17-18 (God’s wisdom)—Ephesians 6:4 (do not provoke your children)—Proverbs 22:15 (the rod of discipline).

And the verse I’m clinging to as I pray for the wisdom and strength to put all of this into practice:

Galatians 6:8-9: For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I’m not sure when that due season is–it is probably not anytime soon, and may not even be during my time on this earth–but God has promised that we WILL reap what we sow if we do not give up!


“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” July 25, 2007

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 2:03 am
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I can’t believe it has been a month since my last post. Two weeks of our entire family being sick, immediately followed by a 600-mile move . . . in the midst of the chaos, I’ve barely had a coherent thought in my brain to speak to new people I’m meeting, let alone several to form into a blog post! 🙂

As I was moving in, a friend of mine here in Arkansas invited me to a book discussion group. I thought, “I certainly don’t have time to read a book, but I could use some friends, so why not?” Little did I know that God didn’t only bring this opportunity along for the new friends (although that is a nice by-product) but for the wisdom that is found in the book we’re discussing–“Don’t Make Me Count to Three” by Ginger Plowman. If you’ve read “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp, it is a similar parenting philosophy (she actually quotes him quite a bit), but she also provides lots of practical suggestions on how to discuss disobedience with your child and Scripture passages to use in instructing them in obedience. This will probably be the first of multiple posts I’ll write about this book as I finish reading and work on applying what God is teaching me.

This quote from the book summarizes it well: “Biblical disciple gets to the heart of the problem. After all, if you can reach the heart, the behavior will take care of itself. In order for us to reach the hearts of our children we must realize that there is far more to parenting than getting our children to act right. We have to get them to think right . . . We do this by training them in righteousness. Righteous training can only come from the Word of God” (p. 26).

It seems that so many times, I can only muster the energy and time to punish Christopher for what he’s done wrong. This book has shown me the importance of delving into the heart issues behind Christopher’s disobedience and then training him to do what is right and, as Plowman puts it, “think like a Christian” about his behavior. And as she says in the quote above, this can only be accomplished with God’s Word playing an integral role. I’m hoping my new routine will look like this: 1. punishment for disobedience, 2. discussion about the heart issue behind it, 3. instruction from God’s Word about what he should have done instead, and even role-playing how to do it differently.

I Corinthians 10:13 says: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” In reference to this verse, Plowman writes: “When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, we will exasperate them because we are not providing them with a way of escape” (p. 48). I’ve never thought of it this way before, but now I see the importance in providing Christopher a way out, and it makes so much sense. How could he possibly be expected to figure it out for himself?

A few days ago, this actually worked. I woke up Christopher that morning, and when I told him it was time to go potty, he stated in a very whiny voice that he wanted to wake up Will before going potty. I told him that I could not say “yes” because he was whining, and then I walked him through how he could ask me correctly the next time. I had completely forgotten about it the next morning, when I woke Christopher up and said it was time to go potty, and just like we had practiced the day before, he said, “Mommy, can we wake up Will first, please?” I was shocked!

I’ve been very convicted by this book that I need to know Scripture better to truly train my children in righteousness. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The other moms in the discussion group and I are all planning to make notecards with Scripture references pertaining to different situations we encounter with our kids . . . if anyone has some great verses to share, please leave a comment. So far, I’ve just been reading I Corinthians 13 with Christopher and talking about what it means to love his brother. This gets applied many, many times, every single day. “Love is not rude! Love does not seek its own interest! LOVE IS KIND!!!! STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER!!!!” (Is it training in righteousness if you are yelling Scripture at them? Probably not.)

More to come . . .