God is My...

When I'm sad, God is my song.
When I'm confused, He's my guide.
When I'm helpless, He's my helper.
When I'm in the dark, He's my light.
When I'm afraid, He's my fortress.
When I'm weak, He's my strength.
When I'm insecure, He's my rock.
When I'm in trouble, He's my deliverer.
When I'm in need, He's my Provider.
When I'm lonely, He's my comfort.
When I'm in despair, He's my hope.
When I'm worried, He's my peace.
When I'm overwhelmed, He's my burden bearer.

Where are you today, dear Mum? 


Tips on Being Frugal

Well, I don't get around to blogging much lately, but I have kind of missed it. So I thought I'd write a post on one of my favourite practical topics--saving money! Looking back I have shared some of these tips before, but that was a long time ago!
I am a stay at home mum and we have four children, so I try to help my husband by being frugal where I can.
These are my tips.
1. Buy used when possible.
2. Buy on sale as much as possible.
3. Buy the cheapest brands of food--unless you really notice the difference!
4. When buying fruit and vegies, look for what is in season and the cheapest.
5. Make an effort to use up leftovers before they go bad.
6. Grow some food--every little bit helps!
7. Buy online.
   (This helps me save money, as I don't so easily impulse spend online. But it's not for everyone.)
8. Don't buy more fresh food than you can manage!
9. Buy whole chickens on special, cook, divide up meat and put in casseroles, chicken sauces with rice or pasta, pizza, soup, wraps etc or use on sandwiches. Make stock out of the carcass.
10. Cut males' hair at home with clippers.
11. Make a fried rice dinner with leftover rice, meat and vegetables. Make satay sauce for on top out of 4tblsp peanut butter, 1tblsp sweet chilli sauce, 1 tblsp sweet soy sauce and 3/4 cup of water. Mix together and heat in a pot until sauce. If you make a big batch of rice and freeze the leftovers, it makes easy fried rice!
12. Accept offers of food even if it means a bit of work--for example a box of vegetables that need freezing or canning. But within reason of course. 
13. Accept and appreciate hand me downs. I read once that if you are given something and you write a thankyou note or show some appreciation, you are often given more. I have found that to be true! A few times we have been given the odd dress or skirt etc. and I've shown some appreciation and the person has said, 'Would you want more? We need to get rid of them!' I hardly have to buy my children any clothes and we get given so much we have to give some away! Although it sometimes nice to go shopping and pick out your own clothes for your children, using what we are given means I save a ton on clothes.
14. Ration treats or expensive foods.
  By that I mean don't buy too much in one go. Buy one this week and one the next week or whatever. Balance more expensive deserts/baking/meals with the cheaper ones.
15. Be a giver not a hoarder.
   When you make an effort to be frugal, you can easily become a hoarder without even realizing it! But we need to be a channel not a Dead Sea! But again, within reason!
16. Be thankful for what you have.
17. Have a budget and stick to it as much as possible.
   I have only just learned how to have a budget that works for me, and it is helpful.
18. Pray about your needs and be patient.
19. Live simply.
20. Tithe.
21. Only buy from your list, unless it's something you definitely need. Otherwise wait and think on it first.
22. Learn to be less cluttered and more minimal--it will make you think twice before bringing more stuff into your house.
23. Stay out shops as much as possible--don't shop for entertainment! :)


What Do You Love...?

What do you love about being a homemaker?
Thismorning I read a blog post about what the writer loved about being a homemaker. I didn't have time to read the whole thing as the list was very long! I couldn't help being convicted but also encouraged. Lately I haven't found much joy in being a homemaker. I have sighed a lot and often felt stressed!
Reading through the list of all the blessings of being a homemaker, I realized I was focused on the difficulties and challenges. 
Being a homemaker is difficult and has its moments, but a good perspective goes a long way to being a joyful person.
I decided to start my own list. It is not nearly as poetic, but it helps me to focus on what I love, rather than what I find difficult. I'm sure I'll find many more.

I love staying home!
    I am very thankful I don't have to work outside our home, as I love being at home.
I love sweet notes/cards/gifts from my children.
I love cuddles.
    Little Lydia is the cuddliest child ever! 
I love hearing "I love you, Mummy!"
I love watching my children playing happily together.
I love vacuuming and the look of a clean tidy floor.
I love the aroma of freshly baked bread.
I love the satisfaction of picking vegetables from my own garden.
I love being able to choose the menu.
I love making things fresh and clean.
I love the way my flower garden looks when I've pulled out the weeds.
I love finding a bargain and knowing I've used my money well.
I love reading stories to my children.
I love playing games with my children.
I love to put a hot delicious smelling meal on the dinner table.
I love to see my family enjoying food I've prepared.
I love watching my older children love their younger siblings.
I love the cuteness of little children.
I love the variety in being a homemaker.
    There are so many things I can choose.
I love that I can rest when I need to.
I love being creative and making a new meal from leftovers.
I love it when my husband comes home at the end of the day.
I love having a hot drink and biscuit with my husband when the children are in bed.
I love the funny things children do and say.
   The other day I was putting some stuff to kill snails on my vegetable garden. When I told Joseph what they were, he misunderstood and said "You're planting snails??"


Ideals and Expectations

There are a few areas in my life that really frustrate and upset me. I have only just realized that all these areas have something in common---they are simply unmet expectations! It was an eye opener to realize this.
(In this post I will not explain the details like I usually do to get the point across, since they involve other people. I will just generalize it.)
Do you have ideals/expectations?
 The ideal of how your life will turn out
The ideal upbringing
The ideal of who you will marry
The ideal of what your husband will be like
The ideal marriage
The ideal family
The ideal of being able to get pregnant
The ideal house
The ideal income
The ideal church
The ideal health
The ideal children
The ideal school or home school

I think we all have ideals and expectations of how we want these things to be. But since we live in a fallen imperfect world with imperfect people, these things can turn out much different than what we want. As a result, we can get very frustrated, upset, bitter and angry when these areas do not measure up to our expectations.
I have been praying about my specific areas and how to deal with them.
 How do I not let them determine my mood and joy?
I found some answers.
1)Pray about them.
 We don't need to be blind to other people's faults that affect us, but complaining doesn't help. Praying does! We can pray for God to change the person or the situation. We should also pray for God to change us. We're not perfect either and sometimes we are part of the problem.
2)Accept the facts.
The fact is life is hard and nothing and nobody in life is perfect. We all make mistakes in spite of our best intentions. This is sometimes hard for a perfectionist like me to accept!
3) Do what you can.
There is not always anything we can do, but sometimes there is. Sometimes we need to have courage and speak up in love. Sometimes we need to make new habits etc.
2)Be thankful.
In each of my areas, there are MANY things to be thankful for. There are far more positives than negatives. If I pray about the negatives and then focus on the positives, I will be much happier!


Learning to Give

I have just one more story to share! I'm a little hesitant to share it, but a few weeks ago I was looking for stories like this because I desperately needed the encouragement. Thankfully I found some! So I'm only sharing my story to encourage you and to prove that God is real and that He does indeed keep His promises.
In my last story I shared how the month of March was very stressful financially. Well, in the thick of this I learned to tithe!
Before then I had just left that up to my husband as he manages the majority of our money. (I just manage the money that I use--like groceries, clothes etc.)
Do you ever have the fear that if you give something away you won't have enough left for yourself?
I definitely had this fear, and God convicted me about it. But to start giving away 10 percent when we were so tight? It seemed a bit ridiculous!
But after our tightest week, I decided to start putting aside ten percent of all money that came into my (household) bank account. I will add that I was already having less put into this account so that we had more to put into The Little Haven. So you can understand my doubts and fears. I made this decision with much fear and trembling and after a few weeks of thinking and praying about it!
I wrote these three verses in my journal and decided to put them to the test.

Proverbs 3:9-10  Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. 

Malachi 3:10  Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 

Luke 6:38  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 

The Biblical principle is not "Give and you will run out." It's Give and it will be given unto you!" There are many stories in the Bible that prove this truth. And yet I still have trouble believing it sometimes.
As I shared in my last story, God provided amazingly the money we needed for the building.
A few days ago, I went to check the mail and I found a fat envelope from an anonymous person. When I opened it, out fell $500 worth of gift vouchers. $300 worth was for Countdown, the supermarket I shop from!
Wow! I actually cried! Those Countdown vouchers had huge significance for me. It was God's confirmation that his promises and principles are true! 
Those vouchers were more than triple what I had tithed!


Stressed but Blessed

The month of March was a very stressful month for us!
About 9 months ago, my husband brought a little shop in the middle of town to renovate and make into an outreach for the community. He has been working on it ever since. But the end of March was when we needed to pay most of the money to the owner. When we first brought the building, the bank couldn't guarantee that they would lend us the money, so there was a bit of risk involved.
Anyway, when it came to March the bank decided to not lend us any money at all, and we were a little stuck. Only a few people knew about it.
Around the middle of the month, the stress started to get to me--the stress of trying to stretch our money, the mountain of money we needed, and the possibility of having to sell our house and start all over again.
One night at the end of a very busy and physically exhausting week, I came to the end of myself.
I felt like the disciples must have felt when they found themselves in the middle of a frightening storm and Jesus was fast asleep in the boat.
As I was in the shower I cried out to God and asked for His help.
I told Him I felt like I was in a storm and I was scared and needed to feel His presence.
When I came out, I lay on our bed and opened up my favourite devotional. The first thing I read was "Wit's End." It was a poem about how God is there for us when we come to our wit's end. Naturally it caught my attention since that's exactly where I was!
The poem was based on a verse in Psalms. So I decided to look up the verse and read the passage. I was surprised at what I read.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. 
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (I had just done that in the shower. Now God had a promise to fulfill.)
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. (I was just telling God I felt like I was in a storm.)
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. (This phrase really hit me, because we have named the building, The Little Haven!)
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:27-31
Nothing was solved that night, but I had peace and joy. God had confirmed to me that everything was in His hands.
During the last week of March, two cheques came in the mail as donations for the building. The first one was for $60,000. The second one was for $30,000. These two cheques covered most of the cost!
Wow!! One cheque for such a large amount? Amazing. 
But two cheques? Unbelievable!
Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5
So, while I've been having a break from blogging, this story is just too good not to share!Talk about a very stressed but truly blessed month!


Reduce, Wash and Reuse

Dishes and Washing are two areas that can really get overwhelming. So this tip "Reduce, Wash and Reuse" works well for these areas.

I went through my linen cupboard and found sheets I didn't even know I had! Most of them were just sitting there growing dusty. I realized we had way more towels than we use. So I kept what is necessary and donated the rest.
When I have so many towels, I can let lazy and just pull more out instead of keeping on top of the washing. Then I get overwhelmed when the washing turns into a mountain. I also sorted through my bibs, tea towels and cloths. I got rid of a whole heap of them a few months ago and haven't missed any of them yet. That drawer is not jam packed anymore and doesn't annoy me every time I open it! 
The same tip applies to clothes, since they make up much of our laundry pile. Having less clothes (especially kids clothes, since they like to wear their favorites all the time!) motivates me to keep on top of the washing.

I don't have a dishwasher, so maybe this tip doesn't apply if you do. I don't know. But it's certainly made a huge difference in my kitchen and to my sanity! I haven't donated any plates and bowls yet, because we do need a certain amount to be able to have visitors. But this is what I did. I took all the plates etc. out and only put back what the 6 of us need in a day. That's 6 dinner plates (the kids use the same size plate for dinner and lunch), 6 bowls and 2 lunch plates. It sounds extreme, but now I wash dishes a bit more often and I don't get overwhelmed! I also only kept the cutlery we really need in the drawer, which forces me to rewash instead of pulling out more. This has made such a difference with baking and cooking. There is always dishes at the end, but if you wash and reuse (clean as you go), it is much less overwhelming.  I simply put the extra plates, bowls and cutlery into a different cupboard in the kitchen. They are still there for when visitors come or when I really need them, but most of the time they are not needed. I really thought my husband would think I was getting a bit extreme with this one, but he just said, "You're getting wiser every day!"
Maybe I am a bit extreme sometimes, but he can see that it makes me keep on top of things a lot better. It helps me not procrastinate and be lazy. It also helps me to be less dependent on him for help! Other comments he has given me about all the changes I've made is "You're finally learning!" or "Why did it take you this long to learn???"