Tuesday, January 12, 2016

{reading} Retire Inspired

“Did you know that today, close to 35 percent of American retirees over the age of sixty-five rely almost entirely on Social Security payments? … The average Social Security benefit is only around $1,194 a month. That means a third of all retirees in this country are living on an average annual income of just over $14,000!” – Chris Hogan, Retire Inspired

I just finished reading Chris Hogan's Retire Inspired, and highly recommend it. This book isn't just about retirement, its about dreaming for your financial future. Whether you’re 25, 35, 65 or 75—I think this book is for you. Hogan writes often in this book that “retirement isn’t an age, it’s a financial number” and this book gives practical advice about dreaming for an incredible retirement. Through step by step chapters, Hogan leads his readers through the process of dreaming, and the practicals of setting up and living on a budget, selecting investments and insurance.

“A dream without a plan isn’t really a dream at all. It’s a wish. … A wish requires no follow-through, no discipline, and no action on your part at all. Wishes are as good as giving up! If you are going to have a real dream, you need a real plan!” – Chris Hogan, Retire Inspired

Yes, I am only 34, but I am dreaming and planning for retirement!

As an attorney, I appreciated the chapter on estate planning. Hogan clearly broke down the essential elements and documents everyone should know about and use. He outlines the things many are afraid of-- probate, estate taxes, and disability; and clearly gives advice about how people can use proper estate planning and insurance to protect themselves. I love that Hogan recommends everyone have a Dream Team of people to help arrive at your financial dream-- everyone from an accountant to your lawyer. As Hogan puts it, we need to assemble our team, so we're not alone on the basketball court. We aren't alone, and we need to utilize the experience and skills of others to help us achieve our dreams. 
“76 percent of people in the United States are living paycheck to paycheck!” – Chris Hogan, Retire Inspired
Granted, I will admit that we’re not living the dream yet, as we’re working hard to pay off debt (stupid Student Loans!). However, we love to dream of a time when we are debt free, financially free, and are able to live in a way that will bless our families and others. We dream of being able to support ministries around the world, specifically campus ministries. We dream of paying off our house. I dream of living on land again, and having animals to take care of (Ok-- I'll admit, I dream of having my own ranch). We dream of paying for our son to go to college, and enabling him to never go into debt for an education.

While this book is inspiring, full of easy to digest information to plan your retirement now—before you actually retire, this book is also about dreaming for the future. Check out the book today!
“Remember, failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. You’ll never get where you want to go if you don’t plan your route; that’s true for road trips and retirement!” – Chris Hogan, Retire Inspired
So what’s your dream retirement?

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Proverbs 31 Woman

I have a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. 5 years ago I blogged about her for 31 days straight, and while I don't think I'll be blogging about her every day, I have decided to continue studying about the Proverbs 31 Woman for the rest of the year. 

I hate this woman. 

I love this woman. 

Depending on the day I'm having, I'll swing back and forth.

When I consider the last chapter in the book of Proverbs, the incredible depth of envy, awe, and guilt is staggering, but in the next breath, I find myself wanting to BE her. I respect this unnamed woman SO much, and yet she sets a standard that is impossible to imitate. Or is it?

Almost ten years ago, just months after my marriage, I picked up this book: Beautiful in God's Eyes: The Treasures of the Proverbs 31 Woman. After chapter two, I literally threw the book across the room. Seriously. I really threw the book across the room.

An impossible woman! Why is she even in the Bible? To make women feel bad about themselves?
But over the years, I have developed a hesitant, but growing interest in her. The verses tickle my mind, heart, and imagination. What would it be like to really set my heart on studying this woman? 

Would I grow in admiration? 

Would my life change? 

Would my marriage change?

Trust me, I am NOT June Cleaver. 
I am not Martha Stewart. 
Hey, I'm not even Monica Geller Bing. (Any other Friends fans out there?)
But I feel that the Proverbs 31 woman is a little bit June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, and Monica Geller with a whole lot more wisdom and grace added in. 

There is a reason Proverbs 31 is in the Bible, and I intend to explore and meditate on that this year. 
Join me on my adventure as I spend the next year with the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Reflections on 2015

Last year wasn't my best year ever. I'll be honest, it pretty much stunk.

All November, I was struggling to figure out what to write in a Christmas card, because sending Christmas cards are one of my favorite holiday traditions. I didn't just want to send a card with a picture of us that had been Photoshopped and where we looked like we didn't have a care in the world. While I don't like form letters, I like to share what's been going on in our lives, even if in a short snippet on the back of the card. 

I tried drafting something short to sum up the year: 
 Friends and Family, We send you greetings and joy! We moved this year and bought a big 'ole house because we were planning on filling it up with a new bundle of joy. Then I had a miscarriage. Then another. And another... Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
It didn't really sound merry. I was struggling to compose something more cheerful and faithful about the year, my husband called to tell me that he was losing his job. 

Yup, the Chef's entire department got outsourced and he lost his job 3 weeks before Christmas.

So I started rewriting the Christmas Card.
So we bought our dream house! Its a big house for just the three of us, but we love it. But the Chef lost his job, so now we don't know how we're going to cover the mortgage. Fa, la, la, la la, la, la, la, la.
Finally, my husband kindly reminded me that we don't have to send out Christmas cards this year. There is no requirement for cards, and after all, with the job loss and all, we're kind of on a strict budget. 

Whew. I scrapped my Christmas card ideas, and made cookies instead. 

So 2015 was a tough year, but honestly, I feel like I have seen so many blessings because of it. 
Those blessings include: 
  • Dimples and Star Wars. Our son is 5 now, and we can't imagine how we are able to love him even more every day.
  • Gaining a roommate. A sweet college girl moved in with us and has become a member of the family.
  • Understanding the peace of God and knowing He has an incredible plan for our family.
  • The Chef received severance and all of his paid time off when he left his old job.
  • The Chef immediately found two temporary jobs.
  • Recently, the Chef has found a full time job, where he can cook and work mostly days (almost unheard of in the restaurant world).
  • Nesting in our new house, its truly my dream house.
  • Enjoying an incredible sewing room and being able to quilt to my heart's desire.
  • Having a supportive work environment. 
  • Above all, God's miraculous grace on each of us.
Its been a tough year, but I really feel that I'm finally understanding and holding on to this verse: 
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7

My quote of the year is this: 
Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory. -- William Barclay
 As an optimistic person, I've not written much on the blog either, because I felt that I didn't have much to share and nothing really helpful to contribute to the blogging universe. However, I've decided to just keep it real, and share about my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly-- with a lot of quilting pictures thrown in.

So there you have it, my reflections on 2015. Bring on the New Year!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Due Date

October 7.
Today is my due date.

That’s right, you didn’t misread that. Today is the day that my third child should have been born. On February 1, I snapped this picture of my pregnancy test confirming that I was pregnant.

The emotions I felt when I read that test was mixed.

I was thrilled. I love babies, and can’t wait to have another child in my life.

I was terrified. I had been spotting for a week and felt physically ill and worn down. 

I felt faithless. I was afraid that this pregnancy would end in a heart-wrenching miscarriage like my first. While I knew God was in control in all situations, I struggled believing that I was being blessed with another child. I had been praying for another baby for so long, and felt that the pregnancy test was almost too good to be true. When my doctor later confirmed another miscarriage I was devastated. 

My son was born in December 2010, but he is my second child. I lost my first baby in February 2010. It was an early term pregnancy, and my doctors brushed off my grief with cold statistics.

According to statistics, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage -- most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant. About 15% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. More than 80% of miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy.

But statistics did not help. I had lost a life. I lost my precious baby in February 2010.

And this February, five years later, I lost my third baby.

Four months later, I lost my fourth baby.

People don’t know what to say when I tell them about my miscarriages. I don’t know what to say most of the time either. The process of grieving has been slow. Not only am I grieving the loss of a tiny baby I was never able to kiss and cuddle, but I grieve for all of the memories we won’t have together.

Becky Thompson wrote: “And even if the world never got a chance to know them, I want it to be known that they were loved.”

I had a miscarriage. 

In fact, I have had three. I will not forget these precious babies, and I will never stop loving them.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

House of Dreams

A tour of the Sad House my House of Dream.

A quick side bar--
When we were looking at houses in April, I heard that Jonathan Crombie, the actor who played Gilbert Blythe had passed away. Growing up, I loved Anne of Green Gables, the books, the movies, the tv series Avonlea. I'll admit I even was a bit in love with Gilbert Blythe himself.

As I was looking at these pictures, I realized, in homage to Gilbert Blythe, I should stop referring to the house as the Sad House, but instead, my House of Dreams, in reference to Gilbert and Anne's house.

The pictures here are of the house when we first did the walk through of the house. The sparceness and lack of personality made me call it the Sad House to begin with.

The best thing about the new house is how open it feels, and how much natural light fills the rooms.

The first thing you see when you step into the house is the staircase winding down to the front hall. I love the curves, and I can just imagine taking pictures of my kids lined up on the staircase waiting for Christmas morning.

Or Prom.

Or whatever.

Just to the left as you step into the house is the office.
The office is a bit sad and empty now... but I have plans. And my plans may include acres of quilting fabric.

Next is the the formal Living Room.
Another view of the formal living room, looking back towards the front door.

The Dining Room, the view from the formal living room. The little door way leads into the kitchen.

 The Dining Room looking back towards the Formal Living Room.

Bored yet?

This picture is at the back of the house, where the kitchen sits.

I swooned over the cabinets, they are exactly what I would have chosen.

My husband, the Chef, thinks the "triangle" is screwed up in the kitchen, as each point of the cooking triangle-- the stove, refrigerator, and sink-- is interrupted by the island. So the Chef says that you spend all the time going around the island instead of cooking.

The bad Triangle doesn't bother me that much, as the cold cereal and the bowls are right next to each other. I don't know why he's complaining.
 The kitchen looking towards the family room
 Sad empty family room.

 Upstairs, the master bedroom also is barren and sad.

The master bathroom.
Another view of the master bath, with the swimming pool sized tub. Swoon.
 Master Closet. Double Swoon.

I can get a lot of clothes in there.

 Yup, still swooning.

The picture below is the en-suite bedroom at the front of the house on the second floor. There is a bathroom and walk-in closet attached to this large room.

Looking from the ensuite bedroom back down the hall. The doors on the right lead to a guest room, bathroom, and our son, BB's (Baby Buckaroo) bedroom.

 Finally, the back of the house.
 And the backyard.

Since May we have moved in and filled the house with our belongings. It is no longer a Sad House, but it is slowly becoming my dream house. I am trying to take things slow, but I am dying to start painting and planting. Maybe next year.


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