Thursday, August 29, 2013

"What you doin' Mommy?"

"What you doin' Mommy? What you doin'?" my inquisitive son asks a little too loudly as he scrambles up the chair beside me. Small hands reach forward and grab my cheeks, pulling and pinching my face until we are eye to eye, foreheads touching, "What you doin' Mommy?"
We were in chapel and I had noticed the girl at the end of our row crying during worship. My heart went out to her and I wanted to encourage with a soft hand on the shoulder and kind words spoken in prayer. But life is different now with my bouncy little boy dancing and clapping to the music beside me. Any encouragement I could offer this stranger would be seconds short and awkwardly interrupted. Looking around to the people standing near I had hoped someone would see her.

But no one else does. They are lost in worship while she cries alone.

Knowing I will only have a few seconds I walk to her, reach out, and begin to pray. I feel her shoulders slump and shake with deep sobs.

Little hands now grabbing, pulling, my prayer interrupted. "What you doin' Mommy?" Isaiah asks."I'm praying for this lady. Do you want to pray for her too?" He decides he will and smiling says "Pray this lady. Amen."

I walked back to my seat a bit disheartened that I couldn't spend longer praying with this girl.

A little later that day I spotted the activity book that I'm using with Isaiah. The title is "Teaching Children to Pray." The arts and crafts projects Isaiah and I had done together that week were all on based on a portion of James 5:16 "Pray for each other".

And then I see it, cleverly disguised hypocrisy hiding in plain sight. I want to teach my child to pray, but am not willing to do so other than by books, coloring pages, and bedtime prayers. Is this really what prayer is? Or is prayer connecting to God's heart and living by what you see and hear from Him? And if this kind of prayer, the kind that moves you to the end of the row to comfort a stranger, is the kind of prayer I want to teach, shouldn't I include my son?

Admittedly, this approach is difficult to manage, but I am willing. As I review next week's activity topic "He Cares for Me" I pray, Lord, bring opportunities to live this with Isaiah. Awkward or not, I want him to see and hear you in the everyday. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The $50 Grocery Budget Challenge

Years ago, when we first arrived to Florida for Ben to start flight training we were quite short on money. Our only income was my $9 per hour 35 hours per week job as a customer service rep at the airport where Ben flew. During that time I used to say the dollar menu at McDonald's was a major financial decision. In many respects it was.

Endeavoring to live within our means, we set a $50 per week limit for groceries. By groceries I mean toiletries, cleaning supplies, food, everything. My work schedule was such that I had 3 days off each week. I'd spend one day planning out my purchases and the next day cooking and freezing meals. I admit there were many times I'd go to the grocery store and lust strawberries or any other luxury items we simply couldn't afford. There was just no way I could spend 10% of the week's grocery money on a box of berries, no matter how mouth watering.

In recent years I haven't given any thought to my grocery bill. Advancing through the company to a manager position and Ben gaining employment meant we had more than enough to live on. I'd buy whatever I fancied and didn't worry about coupons, sales, or whether I could afford organic.

As we arrived this week to our new home for bible college, unemployed and living on the generosity of others, we've reassessed the areas we spend. Groceries is one of my easiest places to go over board so we've established a $50 per week grocery budget challenge. Don't worry, I won't resort to feeding my family rice and beans (unless of course it's Huevos Rancheros which we gobbled up for dinner tonight! Spanish eggs, rice, black beans, and salsa. Yum!).

Part of the budget challenge is to make sure I am still serving healthy, well balanced meals. Of course if I need to spend more than $50 to feed my family then I do it. And it'll be ok to splurge for strawberries should one of us really want them! The idea is to purchase what we need/will consume each week. We want to avoid impulse purchases and buying that extra box of elbow noodles because it's nice to have on hand and I can't remember if I have one at home get the idea.

Yes, it takes work to successfully plan a $50 week. I am grateful for our earlier years when I learned to plan, shop, and cook on such a budget by absolute necessity. And this week? I've purchased the fixings for 5 dinners and all we need for lunches and breakfast. Total bill so far is  $43.16. What's on the menu? Tuna melts and tomato soup, cheesy pasta with carrots and green beans, loaded baked potatoes, Huevos Rancheros, and Gypsy toast with British style baked beans. I need two more meals for under $7. I'm thinking chicken curry and chili with corn bread. The challenge is on!  

Blankies and Bible School

In the rush to either give away, ship, or stuff into our car every single belonging we have, I really didn't care what happened to our blankets. "Just throw them away" I told my husband. Although soft and comforting, the blankets we'd used each night for the last who knows how many years, were quite worn. With a few holes and dingy spots they certainly didn't belong in the giveaway pile.

I went back to cleaning and sorting, not caring what would become of the blankets. In the last two weeks I had left a job that I loved after 8 years, went on a week long church mission trip, and came home to a manic week of sorting out our life before we would leave for bible college and ultimately for Indonesia. At the point we were discussing blankets, I was too preoccupied with the mountainous task ahead of us to care.

With the help of many volunteers we were able to accomplish everything necessary and vacated our apartment on time. As we packed up the final items into the car my husband Ben stuffed the blankets in the window area behind the back seats. Shaking my head I opted not to say anything. Obviously blankets were more important to him than to me.

We had decided to take a week to drive from Florida to the bible school in New York, planning to stop for a couple days in DC on the way. We always talked about seeing the capital and this seemed like the last chance to do so, at least for a long while.

Arriving at our new apartment I was quite pleased to see that the unit was larger than I anticipated. Nicely, but not overly, furnished I was excited to start this new chapter in our lives. That evening, tired from driving and unpacking, I climbed into my new bed and pulled up the comforter. "My love" I said, "I want my blankets." He pulled our soft, worn blankets onto the bed and I fell into an easy sleep.

Of all the belonging I brought, my blankets turned out to be the most comforting. Strange how such a little thing can mean so much when in the midst of change.