February 20, 2013

Love...and stuff.

It was nice to love on my man this year, now that we're finally in the same place and getting to "celebrate" every day of being together since we've gotten married (ok not every day, but pretty close to it!). We're stayed home and ate delicious barbecue from our favorite local BBQ joint. Mmm, ribs.

But you know, love (and being in love) isn't about loving your main squeeze on one 'super special day' one day of the year. At least, that's not enough for me. This is probably something you've heard already but I think it's worth saying again -- we should try to love people every day. I try to do that...secret: I usually fail at loving people every day, but at least I start every day determined to try!

I read in a commentary somewhere that when Paul wrote about love in 1st Corinthians 13, he described love as it being an action, not an emotion; "love is seen, experienced, and demonstrated". When the oh-so-familiar verses start listing what love is ("Love is patient, love is kind...") there is a sense that 'love' is used in terms of "action, attitude and behavior" (Keith Krell). So, then, it should be assumed that love reveals itself in many beautiful, defying and God-glorifying forms.

On valentines day, love reveals itself as a husband picking up dinner and flowers for his wife.

There are currently 27 million living in slavery right.now. Find out more here and here.

On a random Sunday, love reveals itself as a bunch of young people sacrificing time and money for their brothers and sisters around the world. A couple of weeks ago, our 8th graders participated in a Love Walk over the weekend and raised close to $1500 for a local community center...then some returned to church the next day and participated in our "Shine A Light on Slavery" event as our entire youth ministry learned about human trafficking and raised $1,013 (in change - pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters) for the End It Movement to see an end to human trafficking in their lifetime.

Every day, in ordinary (but really not so ordinary) people's lives, love reveals itself as a tireless commitment to someone - through thick and thin - because they know and cling to the fact that they are loved by One who loves them. Ian & Larissa's story tore my heart apart, and challenged me with the question: would I be willing to love my husband this way too? And if I had to care for my husband like Bill cares for his wife Glad, would I have the strength and the joy to do so?

Love is about thinking others more highly than we think of ourselves - through our acts of service. Love is not to be confined between you and the man-candy (or woman-candy) you have in your fleeting life. I am thankful for that reminder this post 'valentines day season', because sometimes the candy hearts and the sweet tarts make love an emotion too easy to get caught up in.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poora nd give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3, NIV)

Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13, NLT)


February 6, 2013

An update on the "B" word

There is something about a year ending and another beginning that can sometimes be uncomfortably unpleasant in the money department. There are just too many opportunities for money to do it's magical disappearing trick during the holidays. Between all the traveling to visit family and all the gifts you buy, it can almost undo all the saving and budgeting you've been doing the past 10 months. Thankfully, with some of our money-conscious decisions made early on in our marriage, we were able to survive the holidays without feeling it in the bank.

The last time I discussed the topic of our "B" word (that's budget if you're totally lost) was back in June (here & here), when the hubs and I were young in our marriage and super ecstatic about budgeting and keeping our finances in order. Now that it's February, I thought it might be helpful to look back and what we did and see how far we've come.

First of all, I have to say that I am really glad we had the "money talk" early on in our marriage. That helped prepare us for our shared life together, when things weren't hectic and we had time to set priorities straight. One idea that we stuck to was the earn one, bank one idea. We did that for the months of June - October, from when we were newlyweds and I was unemployed til I got a job and was employed for a couple of months. When we set off to earn one, bank one, we had one goal in mind: to have enough in savings to cover 3-6 months of emergencies, as suggested by money guru Dave Ramsey. I am so glad we decided to do this before I was employed, because let me tell you -- once I got a job, it was really hard putting my paycheck straight into our savings account when I first started. I had to constantly remind myself that this money was money we had discussed to be put away for later, and slowly started realizing that 'saving for later' was a really, really really great idea. Looking back now, there is relief in knowing that if anything were to happen, we have a safety net to fall back on.

We tithe 10%. We still believe we are commanded to do this. We will continue to do this, and hopefully one day, we will increase the percentage in which we tithe, even if we get back on one salary again. Now with two salaries, it brings me great joy knowing that we have the opportunity to give back and are able to do so. Shortly after getting married, I found out that my husband was designating his tithe to a specific line-item in the church budget where he felt he was called to give (I basically fell in love with him all over again when I found out he did that). Now that we're married, I have joined him in supporting that calling, happily giving to our church's emergency fund, which helps individuals in our community cover, well, emergencies! If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, I believe that we need to stand in the gap for them financially and help keep their lights on and their houses warm at night. This idea of portioning your tithe to something specific is not uncommon. My parents tithe to the missions department at their church. People tithe to sponsorship programs that help people in their church go on missions trips. Some tithe to a line-item that helps support church families undergoing the adoption process. Doesn't that give you joy, knowing that your tithe can go specifically towards something that you are passionate about?

The hubs and I continue to be blessed in being debt-free. We do not take this lightly. We are so very thankful that we never had to take student loans for school, nor are we in any credit card debt. Now that the hubs is in grad school, we continue to be blessed to not have to get loans for school. Through our strategic saving and several scholarship opportunities, we are able to pay for his school without the stress of having to pay it off later. Yes, it is a rude wake-up call when chunks of money suddenly 'disappear' when we pay his tuition bill, but I'm glad that we do that comfortably without having to worry about paying it back later. I hope and pray that as bigger things start coming up in our lives, we will continue to watch our steps and do our best to avoid getting into debt (or too much debt, if we have to).

Summer will be here before we know it, so we are starting to tighten things up around here in anticipation for what's coming. Knowing what's coming up helps us plan for what to do right now. We have two weddings that we are planning on attending two weeks apart from each other this summer, and while they seem like lightyears away, we are already talking about saving money for travel expenses and accommodations. Better safe than sorry I always say, or in other words: better saved now and spent later.

So that's what we've been up to in the money department. How about you? What kinds of 'check-ups' do you do to make sure you're on track with your financial spending?