Choose Beauty

Months ago I caught my thumb. At first it looked like only a scratch diagonally across the nail; but then the scratch turned aqua-blue, and then a purplish-black spread out from it. For a few days it was excruciating as the nail separated, except in a few spots, from the nail bed. I got used to the pain. The colors continued to change but a black line remained across it.

It was two months before I realized that what I thought was a dried scab under my nail was actually a piece of wood that had been shoved under my nail back when I injured it. It pulled out easily, and the pain decreased immediately. In a few days, the colors of my nail faded into yellows and the base of the nail seemed to be growing out in a fringing arch.

A few days ago I caught my nail, or rather knocked it squarely on the leading edge. The top, dead nail separated almost completely, except for the left edge which remained firmly and painfully attached. I wrapped it up and wondered if I’d be able to keep it like that until the top detached, but the pain told me I needed to do something. So I waited to get up my courage (and for the nausea of the idea to pass) and as quickly as possible trimmed the top nail back to where only the attached edge was left. The pain is much better now. It’s wrapped back up to prevent the remaining bit from snagging and I’m mentally preparing myself for the fact that at some point, if that bit refuses to grow out as the nail beneath it grows, I may have to grab some pliers and pull it out. The nausea of that idea has not yet passed and for now, since it’s not painful, I’m willing to put up with the band-aids.

How the nail looks is another story. The new under-nail is, well, ugly. The bottom half at least looks mostly normal, but instead of being smooth it is ridged and dull. The top part is crumbly and does not yet extend to the top edge of my thumb. I wonder if it ever will.

There are a lot of painful things in life we don’t ask for, yet we are forced to deal with them. They are ugly, sometimes excruciating, sometimes nauseating; but they are ours to deal with. We can choose to hide them and pretend like they aren’t there, or we can pluck up our courage to do something about them.

This nail may always be ugly, always stick out from the rest as damaged; but I still have a choice. I can leave it, or I can do something to make it better, something to replace the ugly with beauty.

We all have this choice, daily, to deal with the ugly. Choose beauty.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Be Kind

I was watching a documentary on the Sixties recently. One of the big slogans of that era was “Be Kind.” When I was in high school I was convinced I should have been born in that era. Friends thought that too. I was into Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund and anti chlorofluorocarbons. I loved The Mamas and The Papas and folk singers and my Best of the 60s cassette tape. I wrote a research paper on Haight-Ashbury. A friend from high school called me a “clique queen” because he thought I belonged to so many cliques; but the truth is I felt I belonged nowhere, so I was just kind to everyone.

I think we forget how important kindness is.

When I was counseling clients for my Masters degree, I realized after working with many couples, that kindness was key to the success of their relationship. If they were still able, despite their differences, to be kind to each other, there was hope. If the idea of being kind to each other was more repugnant than having their fingernails pulled out, it usually meant they had both already given up on their relationship and each simply didn’t want to be the one to end it.

Social media horrifies me at times. It seems to promote the idea that if someone disagrees with you, it’s not only acceptable but expected that you unfriend them (after you publicly denounce them as idiots for not thinking as you do). The idea of respecting individuals with differing opinions, ideals, or beliefs seems to have become a foreign concept. Almost as foreign as being kind to those same people.

Maybe it’s because I was taught in school to present both sides of any argument that I learned to have value for people who don’t think as I do. I don’t feel the need to banish them from my life or from my friends list if they don’t agree with my faith or my politics or my personal values. I desire diversity among my friends, not only in ancestry but in ideas. While I admit sometimes it is painful to hear the hatred attached to their concept of my views; without question is spurs me to be a better person. The differences lead me to think more deeply about who I am and what I believe and how I live. They are never a reason to not be kind.

I hope we, as a nation, are able to reclaim kindness. To stop yelling about why we are right and start listening to what others have to say. Maybe then we can see how often we really want the same things. We all want to feel safe in our daily lives, to know our loved ones are safe where they are. We all want a better world for our children.

Let’s be kind.

Posted in Christian | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Suicide Awareness

September is suicide prevention awareness month. It’s not the easiest thing to be aware of…but we have to change that. We really do.

I’ve known two people that have killed themselves.

One was the 19 year old son of a friend. He was sweet, socially awkward (possibly with Asperger’s) and bullied because of it. I watched my friend and her husband try to find something to hold onto as their lives melted through their outstretched fingers. I did my best to stay in touch; but my friend (his step-mom) was in so much pain I think it was just too hard for her to stay connected with this place. Last I heard they moved out of state.

The other was a dear friend. We attended the same church and became friends at a small group. She had miraculously survived a serious car accident and lived with chronic pain. Her husband lost a bunch of weight and decided he needed to explore the new attention he was getting and divorced her. She had to find a way to support herself emotionally and financially. She joined a single ladies’ Bible study I led as she didn’t feel accepted in the married ladies’ study of which she had been a part for years. I helped her get a job in the company where I worked. Every now and then when I had to go into the office she’d come running to find me (or I’d seek her out) and I’d get one of her hugs and we’d catch up as quick as we could.

You can imagine my surprise when one day I got an interoffice email saying that counseling was available for everyone who knew her and the memorial service would be at this date and time. I emailed my manager asking her through my denial if this email was about my friend. She quickly apologized for not realizing no one had told me before the email had gone out. No one seemed to know what had happened. It wasn’t until the service that we learned that they think the pain just got to her, or the pain medication had befuddled her, and she had taken her own life. I wanted to jump up screaming in the middle of the service. I couldn’t understand. This wasn’t the gal I knew who managed to smile through her pain and move forward through such difficulties and who had happily remarried a short time before her death. I managed to control myself until we all stood to leave the service, and I made a break for my car. I can’t remember how long I drove around, or where I went. I probably shouldn’t have been driving.

It’s been a couple years now. I was thinking about her just two days ago and realized, to my extreme horror, that I couldn’t remember her name. I know when you lose a loved one your memory fades. You forget their face. You forget their voice. But I remembered those as vividly as possible. I could not for the life of me remember her name. I tried for two days and finally had to ask my boss to help me remember. She did. She told me it was the pain that blocked it from my memory. She told me she’d been thinking about her lately too. I hate my inability to remember names.

I don’t know if you’ve lost someone to suicide; I know some of you have. Can we agree in this day and age of selfies and “my opinion is the only one that matters” and unfettered narcissism that we need to be all the more careful to be kind? We need to put down our electronic devices to connect with the people around us at the dinner table. We need to be a voice of kindness to that befuddled cashier. We need to be gracious when we drive. We need to look at the people in our lives and make sure they are ok. Yes, there’s a limit to what we can do—we can’t know everything going on in someone’s head. Ultimately we can’t stop someone if they have decided that’s what they want; but we can be more determined to love people well. How hard is it to send a text that says, “I’m thinking about you today. I miss you.”? Or call someone and tell them you don’t need anything from them, you just want to see how they are doing? Leave a note of encouragement for someone who needs it. Take a lonely person out for coffee or lunch or a movie. Tell the people in your life that you love them and that they matter to you. Please? Just do it.

Posted in Christian, counseling, grief | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Moving Forward

Today, I drove past the house where I grew up. I do that every now and then. Maybe I should stop. It always leaves me melancholy.

The house has changed hands multiple times since my family left it; but here it is, over 20 years later, and I live less than 2 miles away.

The first new owners pulled out my parents’ carefully cultivated rosebushes and the dwarf peach trees that blossomed with memories of sticky-sweet peachy-goo from finger tips to faces, and they slabbed it over with concrete on which to park their monstrous RV.

The next owners stumped the gorgeous silk oak in the front yard, leaving it as a wooden tombstone to my childhood.

The owners after that placed a giant clay pot on the stump. The mind reels.

The current owners finally removed the stump. The grass is a bit overgrown. The once open atrium at the front of the house, that was filled with plants that beckoned guests to the front door, is now empty and bars close off the entire opening to the front of the house.

I’m the sentimental one in my family. While my personality demands that I over-analyze and mentally work out all future eventualities so that I am always prepared for the worst-case scenarios; my emotional side tries to hold onto my past. I don’t want the landmarks of my life to alter, much less become unrecognizable. That house has become so. I had to drive by it twice before I could pick it out.

Why do I do that? Try to hold onto what once was, but isn’t now. It was a place of Wonderful World of Disney family popcorn-for-dinner nights and contests to see who could swim the farthest underwater in the pool. A place where we took hammers to the pool-side river rocks to see if we could find geodes (sorry, Dad). A place of tarantulas in the pool skimmer and lizards that made Grandma scream. A place of fire ants and root beer floats and Mom’s watermelon whale fruit salad bowl. A place where little girls with bandanas on their heads and brooms in their hands sang, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” or dropped to their hands and knees to be Snoopy in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown”. A place where my sisters and I sat in the dark front room of the house before the twinkle-lighted Christmas tree playing “I Spy” and shared what we hoped we’d find under the tree in the morning. It was a place of many things. It was. girls at sunset

But that place isn’t mine any more. No part of it. What is still mine are those memories. They always will be, as long as I have the ability to remember. But I don’t live there any more. Those memories can be momentary touch-points—the way you absent-mindedly reach out to be sure your phone is still next to you while you are focused on the task at hand. Those memories are still within reach, but they aren’t my “now”.

Before me is a path not-yet-taken. My curiosity propels me forward into the unknown that awaits. I may turn for a moment to watch the past fade behind me before stepping forward; but I must keep moving. There is so much more ahead. And for once, I’m excited at the prospect of that. The future is laden with hope, and not fear. It’s time to move further on.

Posted in Christian | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Creative Ache in Grief

When I grieve, I shut down. Most of the time I won’t let myself cry in front of anyone else. I’m just trying to hold it together.

I couldn’t speak to anyone without fear of crying.

My creative spark shut down too. When I sat down to paint or draw, the brush or pencil seemed heavier than Thor’s hammer. Impossible to pick up. Impossible to wield.

I tried to sing to ease the pain of my heavy heart; but even songs of the greatest melancholy left me dry.

At the same time I felt the deep ache to create.

I’m learning to let it out. To seek out safe places where I can ugly cry and no one will care. It helps. It’s much more healing than holding it in.

I took to writing. It helped me get out what I wanted to say, to process my thoughts, with no one to see me sobbing but my computer screen.

Some time ago, when I was visiting my parents and attended my mother’s church, I listened to a lady sing. She sang a powerful solo with tears streaming down her face; yet her voice never wavered. I was amazed. My own nerves could always be heard whenever I was asked to sing solo. I couldn’t imagine being that emotional, crying while singing, and yet my voice not being impacted. When I asked her how she managed it she said, “You can’t fight it. You have to just allow yourself to cry. Fighting it is what makes everything else go bad.”

There’s no way around pain. We can try to avoid it, but it just ends up hurting us more. Grief has to be allowed. Like a river, it plots its own course, not always going where you’d expect. The boulders and trees and mountains of each person’s life make it move and flow differently for different individuals. It must be allowed to flow.


It’s been months since I sat down and wrote the above. At the time my grief was still so heavy. I was ready to go off on the next person who told me to “just get another dog.” The idea of EVER getting another dog felt like a pole impaling my chest.

I fought to find an outlet. I tried to paint, feeling nearly manic about it, as if I started to sketch or apply brush strokes to paper or canvas I wouldn’t be able to stop. Would all night be enough to let it out? Would all weekend? Would any measure of time be sufficient to put a dent in it? In the end, I couldn’t even start.

I’m not sure what happened, what changed. At the 6 month anniversary of my little dog’s death I was still so full of pain; but a short time later it was like a door in my heart opened and allowed in sun and fresh air and I could genuinely see myself, one day, getting another dog.

I’ve also been able to be creative again. Not to the extent I’d like, not yet…but little by little. Creating a necklace for a friend, ready to do some bracelets for another. Working slowly on some watercolors for my sister, and an acrylic for a friend. Writing more regularly and more creatively than my normal wrestling with words to figure out what I’m feeling. I’m sure not everyone has this same creative ache in their grief, but maybe some do. And finally I feel the freedom and breath of life and love reaching back into those painful, wounded places…bringing healing.

Posted in creativity, grief | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On Grief…with Thanks

Grief leaves you with puffy red eyes that you cannot hide.

Grief makes you hear and see things that aren’t there.

Grief weighs you down like a lead-lined blanket.

Grief makes you endlessly tired but unable to sleep.

Grief takes away your ability to answer questions, to think straight.

Grief pokes at you day in and day out; and just when you think it might have finally given you room to breathe it looms large again.

Grief makes your emotions change randomly and frequently.

Grief dehydrates you.

Grief is lonely.

Grief is work.

But I’m thankful to those who gave me so many kind words on Facebook. To the one who called to ask if I needed help with final arrangements. To the ones who dropped everything to be there for me in that moment and gave me a safe place to fall. To the one who sat with me and made sure I ate something and told me I was doing really well through everything. To the one who kept reaching out when I pulled away, until we worked through this. To the one whose words shortened the distance between us and provided great comfort. To the one who called long-distance to be here with me. To the one who let me cry on her shoulder and told me sometimes dogs are just better than people. To everyone who understands that you really can grieve over a dog as deeply as you can a person…I just wanted to say thank you.

Posted in Christian, pets | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Losing Kobe

It’s 4:30am as I sit here and write this. My head still hurts from crying all day yesterday, and much of last night. I knew this was coming. In some ways it helped, but only in some. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.

Over fourteen years ago I went through some major health stuff. When I finally made it back to work, I was weak; but managing. They had me training someone for our job. Over the course of three days, the person I was training had learned of my health challenges and it turned out many of them were in common with ones she had survived. She didn’t like that I lived alone while I was going through everything. “You should at least have a dog.”

I had looked into getting a dog, I told her, but between the pet deposit on my apartment and the cost of the dog I just couldn’t afford it, especially with all my medical expenses. I don’t do puppy mill dogs. If I went to the pound I’d want them all. I found a gal in my office who had one, but she wanted $300 for it because it was an AKC papered-Lhasa Apso she had bought for her daughter who was moving and didn’t want to keep him.

The next day I came into the office and the lady I was training handed me a check for my pet deposit and told me I could pick up my Lhasa Apso from the lady in the office whenever I was ready. She had paid the entire amount for me. Needless to say I was floored. No one had ever done anything so kind for me, especially someone I had known for only three days.

When I first met Kobe he was a tangled, overgrown ball of matted fur. Because the daughter hadn’t wanted him, he was left outside on his own most of the time, not cared for. It didn’t matter. It was love at first sight. He was mine. His actual name was Colby III (yes, “the third”); but his owners called him Kobe and I didn’t want to confuse him. He was only a year old. A black, course-haired Lhasa with a white patch at his chest.

If you’ve ever rescued a dog you know how grateful they are to you. They know when they aren’t wanted. They know when they’ve found someone who loves them. He laid on my feet while I sat at my desk. He laid on my feet when I used the toilet. He followed me everywhere. Once he pulled away from me when I was walking him and he ran away…disappearing around the corner to the parking lot. I ran, praying a car wouldn’t hit him. Suddenly he was running back straight at me with the look of a terrified toddler, his eyes screaming, “Where did you go???”

I soon taught him to sit, lay down, shake (with both paws), roll over, beg, and give kisses. His kisses. There were times I thought I was his salt-lick. He loved to lick my legs when I laid down to sleep. Drove me nuts sometimes. When I was sick he would lay down next to me and lick my throat. When I tried to sleep in he’d sit on my hair so I couldn’t move and lick in my ear! Sometimes, for no reason I can think of, he’d walk over to me, touch his tongue lightly on my leg, and then turn and walk away. It always cracked me up. I know a lot of people hate dog lick. I never have. It was always sweet to me.

Kobe was small, about 18 pounds; but from the other side of the door his bark sounded like he was Rottweiler-sized, which made him perfect for life in a small studio apartment. He was also formidable and protective.

Once my back went out at 2 in the morning. I tried to force myself up to use the bathroom but ended up passing out, hitting my head on the bathtub. It took me almost 3 hours to crawl to the phone to call for help. Kobe was next to me the entire way. He whimpered and circled me as I tried to move; and when I stopped moving he’d lick my face. When the firemen came to help me, he had all FIVE of the big guys backed up against the wall. He wouldn’t let them near me. I had to explain to them that he knew something was wrong and was just trying to protect me from strangers. One of them got down on his knees and started speaking kindly to him. Only then did he calm down enough to let the fireman move him into my kitchen.

Most nights he slept snuggled up at my feet. If I turned away from him he’d move up behind my knees or my back. I called him my furry hot water bottle. Even in the 117 degree heat in the summer with the a/c broken, he still wanted nearness.

He still did at the end. He’d had a congested lung for nearly a year. The vets disagreed on what was causing it; one thinking cancer or valley fever and the other thinking merely an infection. Four rounds of antibiotics and steroids did nothing. He didn’t seem bothered by it, aside from the occasional cough. He was perky as ever. Eating and doing everything else normally. He’d loved moving in here. Renting a room from a friend with two dogs gave him an instant pack. He wasn’t sure what to make of it at first; but soon he was following around the largest (and youngest) dog, watching her every move. We joked that he wanted to be like her when he grew up. She put up with him walking under her (he could actually walk under her belly, because of the size difference).

The day before yesterday his breathing changed. It became rattling and wheezy. It was much more labored. They had already told me there was nothing more they could do beyond extreme measures I couldn’t afford. He was fine when he was laying down, but when he’d move he’d erupt into prolonged coughing/choking. Even still he wanted to be near me. Sitting at my feet while I worked. Forcing himself to follow me if I left the room. But he was changed. He seemed confused. I had to pick him up to put him outside and then he just stood there instead of going into the grass of the backyard. He had stopped eating, uninterested in even his favorite treat. I had to lift up the bowl of water for him to drink. I laid him on my bed so his head could be elevated as he laid down; but as I turned around to work he’d breath harder, more urgently. He didn’t want me to leave him.

During my first break of the morning I laid down beside him. Almost immediately his breathing became desperate. His head raised up and back until he could see me and then he went limp. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped. I screamed for my friend to come. We said our goodbyes. Then he moved. Incredulously we watched as his breathing started again, only seriously labored. Again his head raised up and back until he could see me. I told him it was ok. I was with him. He wasn’t alone. Again he went limp. Again, what seemed like minutes later he moved and breathed again. I was nearly hysterical. I was ready to rush him to the vet. I didn’t want him to suffer; but he HATED the vet. I didn’t want his last moments to be full of fear. This time his breathing gently slowed, and stopped. I felt his heart stop. We waited. No movement. No more. The alarm signaling my break had ended went off. It took just over 15 minutes.

A friend came and I wrapped him in his blanket and we took him to the vet for them to confirm he was gone. I couldn’t bear the thought of burying him if he was only in a coma. They came out to the parking lot to check him so I didn’t have to come in. They confirmed. He was gone.

I’m so thankful I had him. I’m thankful I didn’t have to make the choice to put him down. He was fifteen years old. Fourteen of those we spent together. My friend told me the fact he wanted to be with me, to stay with me when he died, spoke of our closeness as many dogs seem to go off to be alone when they die. I hope that was true. I hope that he loved being my companion as much as I’d loved him.

I have a furry water-bottle-shaped hole in my life now. I keep thinking I hear his paw move on the floor. I worry about stepping on him when I put my feet down from the bed. I think for a second I left him outside.

When you live alone for 14 years, there are many challenges in that. He was my only companion for most of that. He made my life so much better. I’m so thankful.

Posted in dog, pets | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lucy Died Today

It wasn’t at all what I thought it would be like. I didn’t see it coming. I couldn’t tell it had happened, at least not right away.

I was working when from the other room came a terrible cry. I ran in but couldn’t figure out which dog made the noise. There are three dogs in the house. One was with me. I knew it wasn’t him. One was running outside. The other was sleeping, breathing normally. I went back to work.

The next “scream” was longer. I ran into the other room again. This time I saw it coming from the sleeping dog. I assumed it was a dream. Her feet were moving. She was breathing like she was running. I tried to rouse her, but seconds after her head lifted she’d lay it back down and start snoring. It must just be a dream. I went back to work.

There was another yelp. This one short. I ran back to the room. I tried to rouse her again but she wouldn’t wake up. She was breathing hard. There was a bad smell. She had vacated under her chair (her favorite sleeping spot). I tried to lift her and she yelped. I called her owner (my friend who rents me a room here). I told Lucy to hold on. I petted her and talked to her and told her that her momma was coming.

Before my friend could get home, Lucy stopped breathing. I watched my friend touch her and confirm she was gone. She handled it far better than I did. Talking sweetly to her. Saying it was probably the best way for her to go. I’m still crying.

She was old. A 12-13 year old cream-colored cocker spaniel who looked like a sheep when she needed a haircut (seriously, kids who saw her would point and say, “Look mom, a sheep!”). She was blind. She would often walking straight at my dog and get into a tussle because my much smaller dog thought she was picking a fight. She was sweet. We called her the ninja dog because of the way she would sidle up to the coffee table when there was food on it, her nose going the whole time; then, when she sensed no one was looking, she’d move quick as lightening to snatch whatever she could.

She would be sound asleep and as soon as you pulled out food (cold, hot, didn’t matter) you’d see her nose start wiggling back and forth and soon her big, sleepy head would raise and lead her toward the smell.

It was the first time any living thing that I’ve loved had ever died in my arms.

I’ll miss her.

Posted in Christian | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Daily goals/Daily needs

There’s an animated prehistoric squirrel with which you may be familiar. He finds an acorn (the Holy Grail of squirrels, prehistoric and otherwise). From there it becomes an epic undertaking for the squirrel to get his hands (or teeth) on the acorn. Every time he does, something happens. The acorn gets catapulted to a dangerous height or plunged to a dangerous depth. The squirrel exerts every ounce of furry determination in his power to reach his goal, only to have it snatched away when he thought he had finally triumphed.

Ever had a day like that? Or a week? Or a year?

We all have goals. Some little, daily goals…others bigger life goals. Sometimes they seem just within our reach when something catastrophic happens: a car accident, a house fire, cancer. Our life goals often get pushed farther and farther away by inescapable events.
life goals

For me, though, it’s harder to deal with those little daily goals and the ump-teen daily setbacks. Most of us view our life goals as dreams. Things we wish for when we are conversing with friends about winning the lottery. Things we fantasize about when we are standing in line at the grocery store or at the DMV.

Our daily goals are the post-it notes on the computer or the to-do list on the fridge that need doing; yet somehow it feels like the entire universe is conspiring against us completing them, at least on our time table. That thing that should have been easy to fit in before work gets way-laid by oversleeping, discovering a grease-stain on the top you wanted to wear, and demanding pets or children or spouses. The thing that absolutely needed doing during your lunch break gets set aside by the four phone calls, one after another, that all came in unexpectedly. Your frustration builds and in your haste to accomplish one or more things even if it kills you, you end up making a giant mess, creating more chaos and sabotaging your to-do list for that day, the next day, and likely the entire weekend.
to do list

I have days like that on a regular basis. Days when I go out into the garage to let out a tension-breaking scream and go back inside to a couple sets of canine eyes full of concern, worrying that they did something wrong (or worrying that “she’s finally lost it”). Oftentimes it just takes a few moments of peace and a few glimpses of something beautiful to reclaim my sanity. The irony being that I’m the one who deprived myself of that peace and beauty in the first place.

Why do I skip the most important part of my morning assuming that it is the easiest thing to do without? The older I have become the more I see the need for my time in the Word, my time with God. The more I see its direct impact on my day. Yet I still sabotage myself by ignoring it in lieu of getting things done. And I suffer the consequences. I need the Lord the way some people need their morning coffee. If I don’t have my morning meeting with Him, I spend the rest of the day grouchy, frustrated, and impatient. When I spend that time with Him, regardless of the circumstances of the rest of the day, I have a reservoir of peace and beauty from which to draw. My natural pessimistic attitude can be overcome by positive thought choices. I have more energy, can think more clearly, and get more done. But most of all, I am a much more pleasant person. This manic squirrel needs to stop thinking of my goals as the acorn, and realize that my God is my never-ending supply.

I hope that lesson sinks into my head so deeply that it can never come out. I need Him. Daily.

Beloved Brews Linkup

Posted in Christian | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Financial Clutter

In the continuing quest to remove clutter from my life, I’ve been putting a lot of thought as to how to apply this to my finances. What exactly constitutes financial clutter? My first thought is an obvious one…credit cards. These little con-artists hide in your wallet or purse, trying to convince you that you can afford that thing in front of you, or that unbudgeted meal out, or that vacation you really “need”. This leads to a greater accumulation of things along with a greater accumulation of debt. Clutter abounds and peace disappears. You end up awake at night under the great weight of “how did it get this bad?” When I operate on a cash-only basis (pay all my bills the day I get my paycheck, then remove my budgeted money for groceries in cash) I know exactly what I have on hand to spend. Either I have it in my purse or I don’t. No conning myself into charging it. I dwell in peace. credit cards The next financial clutter-fighter is to re-examine your definition of “wants” vs “needs”. If your finances need de-cluttering…focus on needs only. When you get in a habit of overspending, it so easily snowballs. You start off buying extra things at the grocery store, then you are eating out when you can’t afford to, followed by pedis you “need” (when you have all the stuff to do it at home except the fancy massage chair); the next thing you know you are charging a week’s vacation because you really needed a break. What you don’t seem to remember is how you will feel when those bills roll in. There’s no vacation that will make those go away. Putting “wants” on a credit card is a great way to remain in debt forever. wants vs need Another side to that coin is putting “needs” on a credit card. If you are in the position where you are going into debt for basics like food and fuel for your car, you are not in a good place. Going into debt over necessities is a sign of the need for drastic change. Yes, you may have to spend some time eating cheaply and missing out on time with friends because you can’t afford it; but you have to regain the discipline of living within your means. No, it’s generally not fun; but it is WORTH it. Yes, there are instances of people who can handle credit cards…people who can pay them off every month or only use them for things like renting a car. If you can do this, fantastic. You already dwell in peace with your finances. If you find yourself in a cycle of maxing out your credit cards and then struggling to pay them off, you need to de-clutter your finances. If you hold your breath when you hand over your credit card at the check out because you aren’t sure you have enough room on there to buy bread, you need to de-clutter your finances. If you can’t look at without making a purchase and then realize your purchase was never sent to you because your card was rejected, you need to de-clutter your finances. If you can’t remember the last time you paid your bills where it didn’t come with a panic attack and a need for an antacid, you need to de-clutter your finances. savings Savings. You may find what I’m about to say about savings surprising, but hear me out. Savings can either be a source of peace, or a source of stress. Seriously. When your savings account is a source of peace you view it as an emergency back up. It’s there for expected issues, like car repairs, that don’t fit into your monthly budget but hopefully don’t occur often enough that you can’t replenish your savings before the next one hits. But that’s the thing, most of us seem to get hit with one thing after another. Your almost 20 year old car needs new tires, then a new a/c switch, then a new timing belt; and the same week your 7 year old laptop decides its on its last legs. Your dog needs multiple trips to the vet in a month where everyone you know seems to have their birthday. There’s always something.

Yes, it is good to have money in savings; but we cannot depend on our savings to save us. We have a Savior. He has unlimited resources. We need to be responsible with our money; but ultimately we need to remember that He is the One who is taking care of us. We cannot lose our sense of peace because our savings are depleted and we don’t have room on our credit card. We must find our constant and consistent peace in Christ. He doesn’t waiver. He doesn’t ebb and flow with our need. He is our peace, even when we don’t know how we will get through. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. Sometimes it’s a long, hard haul; but we get there, if we stay diligent and dwell on what we have and not on what we don’t. The one thing we will always have is Jesus.

Beloved Brews Linkup

Posted in Christian | Tagged , , | 1 Comment