The Illusion of Cliques

“That church has so many cliques.”

“No one said hello to me….again.”

“People are so selfish!”

These are all things I have heard over and over again in my 15 years of being involved in ministry.

I am hoping to encourage you lonely folks out there by giving you a different perspective.

I went to college in Northern California. I became a believer in Junior College and my first goal when I hit the campus at a “real college” was to get plugged in to a church, preferably one full of college students. I found one! They met on campus on Sundays and I couldn’t wait to go.

I walked in eager to have all these people flocking to me to make me feel welcomed. Um… nobody talked to me. I walked in and out without meeting a soul.

I went back. This time my heart was different. This time I would initiate. And that’s ok. Ya know why? They were like a family already. Some of these people had known each other for years and I couldn’t expect to walk in and be on the same level as them.

So, I introduced myself to numerous people. I did the same the next week. Sometimes to the same people who “forgot my name”. So I re-introduced myself a few weeks in a row. I didn’t quit going and get mad at the cliques. I kept pursuing friendship. I kept telling people my name. I kept going to all the things the church had to offer so that my face went from being unfamiliar to familiar. I went from being unknown to known.

But guess what? I still never really felt like I was part of the in-crowd. Nope. And guess what? I think I have a pretty good idea of why and it’s not because there were so many cliques. Nope. It’s because I was controlling and talked about myself too much.

Marriage has a way of helping us to get rid of some of our rough edges. Suddenly many of the character flaws that no one had the guts to tell me had come to the surface because a spouse has to live with those flaws and they are certainly worth confronting.

As a side note, my husband and I are very purposeful in training our children on how to not be annoying. We tell them when certain behaviors and actions are obnoxious. We tell them we want them to be well-liked and have lots of friends. That’s the loving thing to do. 

I for one am thankful for the iron sharpening iron aspect of marriage. My controlling, manipulative nature along with the propensity to talk too much was finally confronted and I am able to see more clearly that the cliques I thought existed were actually an illusion. There was a reason that a certain number of friends of mine were part of the “in -crowd”.

When I look back at those friends I notice some things that they had in common: they asked people questions like: “how are you doing?” and they really wanted to know! They listened well. The didn’t dominate. They weren’t restless. They enjoyed each other and served one another. They stuck around through awkward silence and just hung out.

I can’t help but wonder if some people feel lonely because others don’t have the guts to tell them they don’t want to hang out with them.

I know that was me for years and years and I am thankful for the people who have loved me enough to say: “Katie, it’s not them, it’s you.”

One time I ordered a “household meeting” with my roommates in college. We were going to “get it all out on the table” and tell each other what we really thought so that we could be honest. I let one of my roommates go first and she said to me: “Katie, I hate to come to you with my problems because you lecture me and don’t listen.” I did the mature, godly thing any woman who wants to grow would do: I walked out of the room and got into my car and drove off… um, yeah, so clearly I am amazing at receiving criticism.

We would all do well to listen to others’ criticism and seek to change. That’s the way we grow. If we want people to want to be around us we have to be open to growth and change even if the truth of how we need to change is super painful.

So here are some types of women I know drive people away. Sincerely seek the Lord and see if you fit into one or more of these types and ask the Lord to help you change.

Snarky Susie: This woman is always full of sarcasm. Nothing can ever be taken seriously. All of life is a big joke to her. Continue reading The Illusion of Cliques

Dear Mama Of All Littles

It’s hard isn’t it? Like really, really hard?

My husband and I got married in August and I found out I was pregnant in October with our first baby. I was super excited and super clueless as to what that really meant.

Scott and I began our marriage with the conviction to let God lead in our family planning but little did we know that I would be super sick with a condition called hyperemesis which basically means you throw up throughout your entire pregnancy. I was hospitalized with the first ones and given IV fluids. Even though it was really tough we continued to let God lead in family planning and I found out I was pregnant with our second child when our first was nine months old.

I was terribly sick again but continued to meditate and focus on verses about laying my life down for those that I love. And the one about how unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it does not produce life. Unfortunately for me pregnancy does feel like dying but it also brings forth beautiful life.

I remember throwing up in my bathroom with my 10-month-old baby, Rhea, sitting next to me crying and me looking at her in the eyes in between puking sessions telling her I loved her and trying to keep a smile on my face.

I got pregnant again when my second child was nine months old. I was obviously terrified. I got through those next nine months lying on the couch and delivered our wonderful third child, Johnny, on June 17th 2010, seven days after my mother’s death.

I had three children three and under and I was dealing with the grief of my mother dying from a heart attack. Not an easy time. Continue reading Dear Mama Of All Littles

HOW we paid off our mortgage on one income!

Last week I posted about WHY we chose to pay off our mortgage. Today’s post is about HOW we paid it off in six years on one income.

First, I should let you know I did some substitute teaching for about 5 months before we had children. So we were “double income” during that time, even though the amount I made certainly didn’t approach full-time employment.

On our honeymoon Scott and I read one of our wedding gifts: Total Money Makeover. After that we were sold on paying off our mortgage. But we thought: “How in the world are we going to do this on one income, and a teacher’s income at that?!”

One of the main principles I took away from the book is: “Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else.” Scott and I knew that if we were going to pay off our mortgage on one income we would have to do this! This became a mantra for me when I felt like a weirdo for not doing what everyone else was doing.

Here are ten things we did to “live like no one else” so we could put that extra money toward our mortgage. You’ll notice there are no fancy formulas or budgeting techniques. We simply lived in a way many others would consider extreme, and we still largely live this way today. I believe many people would consider our lifestyle extreme simply because we live in such an indulgent society.

1. We rarely ate out.

Perhaps twice per year and only when we were traveling more than four hours on the road. Usually we brought food with us. If we did go out for a birthday or anniversary we used a gift card. Making meals at home saves LOTS of money. I must admit one thing that helped us was having four children six and under. They didn’t eat much :).

2. We didn’t go big on holidays or birthdays.

For birthdays we buy one gift for each child, and have dinner and cake that I make. Scott and I don’t buy anything for each other on holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays. It’s a nice mutual agreement we have that keeps expectations and expenses low 🙂 For Christmas we let each kid buy their siblings a small gift and then we ask the grandparents to only buy one special gift for each child. Holidays can REALLY ADD UP. Our minimalist approach to toys saves lots of money. We buy the same types of toys but not a lot of different ones. Many kids have toys laying around they never play with! Figure out what toys your kids like and invest in those. Now that we paid our debt off we have invested more in quality toys. Continue reading HOW we paid off our mortgage on one income!

WHY we paid off our mortgage!

This is the first of a two part blog post! The next one will be on HOW we paid off our mortgage. This one will focus on WHY.

My husband and I paid off our house in six years of marriage. We owed $160,000 on our mortgage at the time. I also owed about $6,000 for school loans that we paid off within the first year of marriage. Scott (my husband) had some school loans but they would be paid off through a grant program as he taught at a low income school district in Ca. That was all our debt. We didn’t, and still don’t, do credit cards and we pay cash for vehicles.

Early on we wrestled with the idea of paying our house off because of the tax deduction we got for having a mortgage. Dave Ramsey helped us out with that decision though:

If you have the opportunity to pay off your home and you don’t pay off your home in order to keep the tax deduction, that would be an indication that you are poor at mathematics. Let me help you with the mathematics on this. Let’s say you have a $200,000 mortgage at 5% interest. If you have a $200,000 mortgage at 5%, that would be $10,000. We have a $10,000 tax write-off because we have a $200,000 mortgage at 5%. That’s a tax deduction, meaning if that couple makes $75,000 a year and they take a $10,000 tax deduction, they don’t pay taxes on $75,000. They instead pay taxes on $65,000. If you do this weird Dave Ramsey thing, though, and you pay off the house, you no longer pay taxes on $65,000 because you would not have a tax deduction. You’d have to pay taxes on $75,000. You’re in a 25% tax bracket if you make $75,000 a year. That $10,000 a year that we’re talking about is taxed at 25%. By paying off your home, 25% of that $10,000 that you’re going to have to pay extra taxes on is $2,500. In essence, you lost a $2,500 savings on your tax bill, but you gained $10,000 by not having to pay it to the bank. A $10,000 tax deduction is the same thing as saying, ‘I would rather give Countrywide $10,000 than give the government $2,500.’Continue reading WHY we paid off our mortgage!

Homemade Energy Drink

I posted this video on facebook yesterday and had quite a few people who wanted exact measurements for my homemade frugal energy drink. So here ya go!

We all know those energy drinks at the store cost way too much! This cost pennies AND is so good for you!

Recipe:
32 oz ice water
1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (try to get up to a 1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/8 tsp cayenne
stevia to taste (I like mine sweet!)
an emergen-c packet (I don’t always put these in)
1 scoop Ascorbic vitamin c powder (I don’t use this if I use the emergen-c packet)

Optional: If this is just a little too much for you… if the sound of it makes you want to gag then fell free to put these in! They are sweetened with truvia and super yummy.

Sometimes I like to toss in some matcha green tea powder as well! Especially if I’m feeling extra tired that day!

Wondering why so many ingredients?! I like to get the biggest bang for my buck at all times. Each of the ingredients (aside from the crystal light of course) have so many health benefits! Continue reading Homemade Energy Drink

Saving Money When Practicing Hospitality

Let me start by saying that hospitality is not a gift, it is a command. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.…” (1 Peter 4:8-10)

Notice the commands surrounding the part about being hospitable: keep fervent love for one another and serve one another with the gifts you have been given. Those are not things for us to choose to do, we are called to do them as Christian women and that is also the case with being hospitable. Some people may be better at it than you but you are just as called to invite others into your home as you are called to keep fervent love for one another.

Keep in mind since hospitality is something God commands then surely He is acquainted with the fact that it costs money, it is not a surprise to Him. I also think it is a GREAT use of God’s money. In our stewardship of His provision I think it pleases Him when we spend money on hospitality/loving the saints and strangers in our home. 
Continue reading Saving Money When Practicing Hospitality

How I Get My Groceries Delivered To My Door AND Save Money!

I love Safeway. I like their quality. I like their options. I just don’t like their prices. But here’s the good news! I have figured out how to shop at Safeway, get my groceries delivered for free, get a dollar off a gallon at the gas station AND save 25-45% off my grocery bill EVERY time! (p.s. I am not getting anything from Safeway for sharing this)

Here’s how I do it.

1) Go to: http://www.safeway.com/.

2) Sign up for: Just For U and for grocery delivery (you will have to sign up for both separately).

3) Go to Just For U and “clip” coupons. It doesn’t get much easier than this! You just push the button “add” and it’s put on to your account! Easiest couponing ever! ALWAYS look for a 20 cent gas reward coupon. This means for every $100 you spend you will get 20 cents off a gallon. (sometimes even more!) I also just saved $10 off on frozen pizzas with my just for u coupons! You also get extra gas rewards for using these coupons! For example today I got 220 EXTRA points toward my gas rewards from my “J4U Bonus”. (see receipt below) Gas rewards are such an extra perk to shopping with Safeway. We usually have a dollar off and that really adds up with a 15 passenger van to fill!

4) Go to your grocery delivery account. Continue reading How I Get My Groceries Delivered To My Door AND Save Money!