This somewhat lazy summer morning, a sleepy PinkGirl and I are snuggling before our day gets rolling.
Me: “I love you.”
PinkGirl: “I love you more.”
Me, going straight for the win: “I love you to infinity.”
PinkGirl: “Well, I love you to Buzz Lightyear.”
PinkGirl: “Lightyears are bigger than infinity.”
I’m not gonna let her dad or her brother explain light years or infinity it to her.
This was also posted over at my family blog, Pragmatic Commotion.
I’ve been cooking dinner. Every day. And I’m not talking frozen, microwavable meals.
this is a big deal people.
Yesterday, I made Pork Tenderloin Diane for the first time since I originally posted the recipe back in January.
It’s a fast, easy, cheap recipe with a light sauce made from deglazing a pan with lemon juice, Worcester sauce and Dijon mustard. Except I didn’t have any lemon juice. FirstHusband (a sauce man) said he would substitute Sprite, but that just seemed too sweet. I googled “substitute lemon juice” and found a suggestion to use vinegar – but half the needed amount. I was doubling the sauce for this recipe and it called for a total of four tablespoons of lemon juice so I used two tablespoons of vinegar.
PERFECT. The sauce tasted exactly as I remembered it and everyone liked it – even PinkGirl!
I’m definitely going to remember this because I probably won’t remember to buy lemon juice in the near future. I know me. But vinegar is a great substitute for lemon juice when used in small amounts.
And I wouldn’t substitute vinegar if I was making lemonade from scratch.
Me. make lemonade from scratch. yeah. that’ll happen.
I’m on a freakish quest to lower and/or eliminate our expenses in an effort to become debt free.
First thing on my list? Significantly reduce the number of times I have to apply the category “restaurant/dining” to an item in our checking account register. So far, so good. And I haven’t burned anything yet – food, pots or pans, myself…
Next up? Lowering our monthly bills.
“Reducing your living expenses so they fit within 80 percent of your income requires scrutinizing every expense and then finding the best way to reduce it. By reducing everything a little bit, you may be able to avoid eliminating any spending categories. This is going to require creativity and discipline.”
I feel like I’ve been on the phone for two weeks! I think I’ve called every vendor we deal with. Here’s how the conversation starts:
“I’m doing an expense audit, going through every bill we have and making sure we’re spending our money wisely. I’ll be getting quotes from some of your competitors and before I do, I just wanted to make sure we’ve got your best price. I also need to know what sets [insert company name here] apart with regard to services so that when I get quotes from your competitors I take into account any special or unique services you provide.”
With only one exception (our AT&T land line phone), in EVERY case, with EVERY vendor, they lowered my bill during that first phone call. Most lowered it so much I’m not even going to get quotes from other vendors because I can already tell from advertisements and web pages that my current vendor is lower. With some companies, I changed the terms of our services to fit our needs better. In some cases our payment stayed the same, but our service was better. In some cases, changing the terms of service also lowered the bill.
I’ll be writing about this process and updating this post with links to those posts. I’m also creating a category called “debt free living.”
First up? Phone service. (Saved $839.28)
Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.
New(ish) songs by Pomlamoose. I can’t decide which one I like more, but I think it may be the second one. It’s the one stuck in my head.
I remember when the best Father’s Day present was a nap. oh. wait. that was TODAY’s present!
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I’m anxious. Yet at the same time at peace. Trying to figure out what I have to do. Waiting on answers from other people. At the same time I’m literally OVERwhelmed with a sense of “it is what it is” and a profound belief that God has a reason for allowing this in my life.
I’m not clear on the meaning of the Subpoena Duces Tecum sitting here on my desk, but my accountant tells me I’m being audited by the Florida Department of Revenue. It seems the payroll service hired to file my quarterly taxes . . . didn’t.
It started last Friday when my husband got a call on his cell from a gentleman at the Department of Revenue. The message? Copies of my quarterly tax documents needed to be faxed to him by Monday or a lien would be filed against my company.
Let the phone calls begin. Accountant. Payroll service. DOR Representative. Can’t reach the accountant, payroll service wouldn’t talk with us because technically, the accountant was their client, not us and the DOR representative interrupted my husband explaining this to say, “I don’t care about any of that, I just need the documents by Monday.”
Anybody know me? How do I handle it when a problem that needs fixin can’t be fixed? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it the rest of my flippin life: “I don’t do “nothing” well.”
FirstHusband prescribed a day on the boat Saturday.
Monday. Let the phone calls begin again. Accountant is reachable. Payroll service rep is not. (at the time of this writing – Thursday – I have no idea if a lien has been filed against my company.)
Tuesday. We wait. Payroll service is figuring things out. I’m scouring (for HOURS) the entire house for any tax paperwork I might have missed. Nothing. I’m scouring my accounts to find the tax payment that the payroll service was supposed to automatically withdraw. I have no date of withdrawal and no amount. I finally found it. January 8th. For $0.00. No. That’s not a typo. The automatic withdrawal was for ZERO.
Wednesday. Accountant faxes every tax document that exists for my company to the DOR. The DOR rep, finding my accountant’s phone number on the fax coversheet, calls and asks for the UTC-6 form, which was included in the original fax of 24 pages. That particular document is faxed again, this time alone. The Payroll service finds the error and assures that they will refile and cover any delinquencies.
Thursday. I call the DOR rep to ask him to please clarify that the appearance time on the Subpoena is a typographical error, that the time of appearance should be 2 P.m., not 2 A.m. I also ask him if there are any other documents I need to bring other than copies of the ones already faxed to him.
Now I wait. Did I mention that I don’t do “nothing” well?
Friday. Tomorrow. I hope the DOR rep, currently in possession of all the documents he’s asked for, does not require me to personally deliver additional copies of them tomorrow. I’ve got rides and childcare covered for now, but I’ll need to pick FavoriteSon up by 4pm or his sits on the curb at school and waits after basketball camp.
it is what it is.
I’m looking at it this way. Either God is allowing this situation so I can learn something from it or God is allowing me to be used so He can work in someone else’s life. If the lesson is mine, here’s what I’ve learned:
I can do everything I know to prepare, but in the end, the result is not up to me. I did the right thing. I don’t know diddly or squat about taxes, so I took trusted advice and thankfully outsourced those responsibilities to professionals. One of them made a mistake. I’ve made what I see as a much bigger mistake in my business before. Their mistake was just a clerical error. Like the a.m./p.m. typo on the subpoena. Hopefully the DOR rep will see the parallel.
I need to take action, to do what I can do, but in the end, GOD is all powerful and nothing happens to me that he doesn’t allow. Sometimes he allows stuff I don’t particularly like. Sometimes he affords undeserved blessings that blow me away. I don’t sit around and wait on God to serve me like I’m at Olive Garden. I need to get off my butt and cook my own dinner. And even then? The couscous could turn out lumpy. Cause I don’t control how water seeps into a grain of couscous.
I can pray and ask God for what I want and/or think I need, but in the end, He is all-knowing and all-powerful. I either trust that in EVERY situation or I don’t. No middle ground. He knows what is best for me and He has the power to make ANYthing happen in my life. When I ask Him to allow me to serve Him more, when I ask Him to “SEND ME!!” I have to trust that sometimes He sends me and doesn’t let me in on the reason why. Sometimes, I get exactly what I’ve prayed for – He allows me to serve Him more – and I don’t even realize it. He may allow me to be a part of His story while not allowing me to read that part of the book. Since I don’t know the ending, prayer is the FIRST thing I’m to do, not the last resort after I’ve tried everything else first.
This perspective permeates my life.
My husband and I can work as hard as we want to make a life and a home for our family, but in the end, GOD is in control. Every time my husband arrives home from a business trip, it is because God kept him safe and returned him to us. Every time we leave the house, it is by God’s grace that we aren’t involved in the accidents we see as we rush from one place to another. Every time my son steps out onto the football field or the basketball court or the track, he walks away uninjured because of God’s mercy. Every time my daughter sings I hear God’s gift to her. Every time I arm our alarm and our family curls up in our beds in an air conditioned house I am trusting God for another night of safety and rest. I know how fast a home can be lost, a person can be taken and safety can disappear. It is by God’s grace that we are undeservedly blessed and unconditionally loved.
As I raise my kids, I can make the best choices I know how, actively seeking to learn more as I encounter problems and decisions along the way. I try and equip them spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically, relationally . . . but in the end, GOD loves them more than I do. He knows what they need to experience so they will grow into the people He knows they can be. I can pray to be a good steward of these precious gifts in my life, but in the end, they belong to Him and everything that happens to them passes through His hands first.
I have an opportunity to record two songs next month instead of just one. I can rehearse and go to voice lessons and listen to harmonies and work out what I’m going to sing and where . . . but I canNOT control when my voice cracks. or when I become too tired after hours of singing in that little booth. I can select a song I like or I can pray and ask God to lead me to the song He wants me to record. He knows if and when that song will reach out and meet a need I may never know about. He can use the recording of that particular song to speak to the heart of one of the guys working in the sound booth. I can’t control whether I get the harmonies right when it counts, no matter how much I rehearse. The end result is up to GOD. HE gave me my voice. He can do with it what he pleases.
I can market my business as much as I want, but in the end? The phone rings because He allows it. The prospective client emails me because He allows it. The clients cancel because He allows it. An opportunity to sing or speak is offered to me because HE allows it.
But still after writing all that, there is anxiety. It causes my husband to say “stop eating rope.” when I tell him my stomach is in knots.
It takes conscious, continuous effort to trust God sometimes. Like today.
Today, I’m doing nothing. Another word for that? Abiding.
“Like others, I have prayed for healings, for miracles, for guidance, and for assistance.
Frankly, there were times I was sure God would answer me because I had mustered strong feelings of faith. But many of those times nothing happened – or if it did, it was entirely unlike what I had anticipated.”
Ordering Your Private World
by Gordon MacDonald
This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.
These two must live and breath music.
Blessed to be leading this song tomorrow at our 9:30 Praise and Worship Service. Written by our Worship Leader, Curtis Froisland. Lead in the video is sung by Kristina Allard.
I love the last line in this one. What a no nonsense kid.
This one was a little difficult to follow until about 15 seconds in. First a question, then a statement of fact and finally, a serious diagnosis.
If you’ve got time to hang out for a few minutes, check out what else makes me laugh: Pragmatic Compendium’s “laugh!” category.
Thank you to Heather at God in the City for prompting this post. It’s been a long time coming.
For me, one of the most difficult things about being authentic is that it’s not possible to be authentic in a vacuum. Exposing my weaknesses inevitably walks the line of exposing the weakness of another person. And that’s not my call to make.
A significant number of my internal struggles stem from my relationships with other people. When the challenges I’m faced with require the factoring in of what other people do and say, how do I externally work through them?
I usually don’t. I work through things INternally. But never showing anyone my “dark side” can leave people thinking I’m obnoxiously perfect. Let me be the first to tell you. I’m not.
Let’s take one example. I’ll keep it as generic as possible. What do I do about a particular relationship that nags at me? When, in real life, I want to look emotionless at this person and say:
“Sarcasm and passive aggressive manipulation and the silent treatment do not move me, so you might as well find the courage to say what you really mean and/or ask for what you really want, because when you lash out with sarcasm all I hear is my own voice saying ‘Give her grace, Julie, this is all she’s capable of. She can’t control her anger. She doesn’t have the courage to communicate directly. This is it. This is all she’s got.’” Sarcasm and passive aggression and the silent treatment from her. Pity, and if I’m honest, very little respect from me.
What weaknesses am I exposing here? For those who know me well, one of them won’t be a shocker. On an emotional scale, I’m pretty much below the radar. Scream and yell at me. Go ahead. You know what I feel? Annoyed at the noise. And before you are finished, I’ve already decided to distance myself from you in the future. I admit this can be a problem. I’ve had a therapist tell me I have “issues.”
Maybe I’ll write more on this particular character flaw another time.
But back to my example. Regardless of the weaknesses I might expose about myself, if I were to really work through this relationship, what weakness do I expose for the other person in this scenario? She appears to have said yes to more than she can handle. When she fails to meet the responsibilities required for a certain commitment in her life, she lets people down. She makes the job more difficult for the other people involved. Then she explains how busy she is and expects her excuse to be the equivalent of a free pass.
Who is NOT busy? Anyone? Anyone?
I hear crickets.
EVERYone I KNOW is busy.
Nobody has more time than anyone else. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. And in those 24 hours, we have choices. Some choices are difficult choices. Some choices are so difficult we think there aren’t any choices. (Tangent: I can’t help thinking of people who are 24/7 caregivers to a loved one. If that’s you, please don’t try to go it alone. PLEASE choose to get help.)
In this case, the person has committed to SO. MANY. THINGS. And from my point of view (humanly flawed and self-centered, I know), I see this person getting a lot of accolades. Most of these commitments are very visible. Does she commit to all this for the affirmation she receives? If so, does she even know that’s why she commits to all this? When she talks about how overwhelmed she is, how many people express their sympathy for her impossible (and I do mean impossible) schedule?
You can probably guess I am not one of those people. When she plays the “busy” card with me to explain why she isn’t prepared, I got nuthin. Now that I know what she’s bringing (or not) to the table, I’ve got more work to do. Is it because I don’t respond with sympathy that I’m a target of the sarcasm and passive aggression and the silent treatment? Because those responses appear to be an uncontrollable defense mechanism. She seems angry with me. Is it because I don’t express sympathy when she talks about how overwhelmed she is? Is she angry because she thinks I’m judging her? I admit it. My opinion? I can’t depend on her.
When she complains about how overwhelmed she is, the little voice inside my head is saying “SOLVE. YOUR. PROBLEM. Make the hard choices. Decide what’s important. Give up the things that are least important to you. Consider the possibility that you are hogging a job somebody else really wants – and might do better.”
I had to face these issues myself and it was no cake walk.
I picked this scenario as an example because this other person is so busy she doesn’t have time for the internet and I kept it as generic as I possibly could. But can you see the problem? Writing about the things I struggle with is one thing, but publishing it on the internet can hurt people.
How do I reconcile that?
Who of you by worrying can add a single day to his life?
There’s something I pray about on a near daily basis. Something I want to change. Something I’m not in a position to change myself. Something I want God to change. I’m not picky. I’m not asking for a specific thing to happen. I’m praying for an end result, not a method to get there. I don’t care how God wants to work things out, I’m following His direction no matter where it leads. Even in the middle of this situation I don’t particularly like. (okay. this situation I HATE.) I’m praying for the people who are in a position to make the changes needed to get to the result. I know the situation isn’t simple. I know the details of the solution aren’t obvious. If it was easy, it would be done already. There are people and opinions and feelings involved, which always complicate things. So the last thing I’m saying every time I pray about this is “Lord, please let Your will be done.”
And I’m not gonna stop praying about it. I’m like the persistent widow. I already told God He was gonna get tired of hearing me ask for this same thing every flippin day. But I’m not gonna get tired of asking.
And still. The situation stays the same.
So I gotta believe that God is allowing the situation to continue for some reason I don’t understand. Because God can do anything. And if He wanted things to be different. They would be.
Until the situation is resolved – one way or another – I’m going to continue taking responsibility for what I CAN do myself.
And I’m going to keep praying.
Worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive…relinquish the
situation to Me…I will either take care of the problem Myself
or show you how to handle it. In this world, you will have problems,
but you need not lose sight of Me.
by Sarah Young
This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.
Lord, please bless me with empathy and compassion and kindness.
“Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like their Christ, I don’t like their Christians.”
Friedrich Nietzshe said, “I will believe in the Redeemer when the Christian looks a little more redeemed.”
Their points need to be taken.”
The Case for Faith
by Lee Strobel
This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.