Friday, September 5, 2014

My New Favorite Devotional!!!

Life is tough these days for working moms because we feel stretched so thin and find ourselves constantly running from one activity to the next. Some days, we'd like to just shut the door on the world and not be bothered by one more question or demand. Remember the old commercial about the mom who needed a break and shouted "Calgon, take me away!" as she closed the bathroom door to magically soak away her problems in a nice, hot bath? That was me this week, which is why I was so excited to pick up Holly Gerth's newest release, a devotional entitled What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days, and proceeded to shut the door to the world in exchange for a moment's peace with God.

It's not that I am going through a tough time or anything, but most days are hard because I'm just plain exhausted. I'm anxious, too, that I may be crushed by the weight of one more item on my single mom to-do list. When I picked up my new devotional this morning, I felt my anxiety melt away. For a few moments, it was as if Holly was right there in my kitchen, having coffee with me over breakfast and encouraging me with her empathetic words. More importantly, when I turned to the devotional entitled, "God will Ease Your Anxiety," and read a verse from the Psalms, I was reminded that I am never alone because God is always with me. To my delight, I found a few lines at the end of each devotional to write down my heart's response to God. My day started off a little lighter this morning!

As busy moms, we have many responsibilities, places to go, and tasks to complete, but that is no excuse for neglecting our quiet time with God. In fact, the more we have on our to-do lists, the more we need to lean on God. If you aren't currently doing a morning devotional, try starting with What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days for a soothing journey through the Psalms broken down into 52 nifty devotionals that you can do daily or weekly like "God Knows Your Calendar" and "God is Bigger than Your Problems." Even better, you can connect with Holly and other readers through her free face{book} club beginning on September 8th by "liking" her Facebook page! Click on her link to join the book party, get 20% off the devotional, and take a time out from this chaotic world to connect with God and be encouraged by others: Holly Gerth's What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stress Management for the New School Year

“Class, can we spell s-t-r-e-s-s?” For children, educators, and parents alike, September can be a stressful month of numerous changes and drastic transitions. Back-to-school means a flurry of new activities, challenges, and demands that seem to whirl life into a breakneck frenzy, especially for working moms. On the other hand, the new school year also brings the promise of a fresh start, a blank page on a new composition book. This fall, how about enrolling in Stress Management 101 and learn to erase the stress so you can write a new story?

Cutting Corners: Think of ways to simplify the home routines. Use paper plates on busy nights. Have the kids clear the table and help with dinner clean-up. Pack dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. Set aside 30 minutes on a designated day for quick weekly clean-ups that involve the entire family. Throw one load of laundry in the wash prior to leaving for work each day, and throw it in the dryer as soon as you get home. After several days, the wash is done for the week.

Easy Meals: Heat up a frozen dinner such as lasagna on a week night that is particularly busy. Try to have a meal cooked one day ahead of time in order to avoid the drive-thru or trying to cook while starving. The family will be relieved to come home to a meal that simply needs to be warmed up.

Get Outside: Just because summer is over and the days are shrinking does not mean the family has to stay inside. Enjoy the changing trees and cooler weather by taking the bikes to the trails, exploring a local hiking spot, or picking apples. Take evening walks in the neighborhood as a family, eat dinner in the back yard, picnic in the park, and roast s'mores in a fire pit.

Time Out: Take at least 15 minutes for yourself each day to do those little things that help you to get happy and unwind like meditating, engaging in a hobby, taking a hot bath, reading, or catching up on your favorite show.

Plan a Trip: Plan a day trip for an upcoming weekend in September or October to have something to look
forward to once Labor Day is over. Go to a local tourist site the family has always wanted to visit or plan an overnight road trip for a relaxing getaway that does not have to be expensive. Book your stay at an inexpensive motel, use coupons for lunch and dinner, and fill up the tank with discounted warehouse gas prior to going.

Be realistic: Scale back to one or two extracurricular activities per child in order to protect family time, keep your kids from burnout, and avoid additional stress. Equally important is letting go of unrealistic expectations both for yourself and your children. Likewise, if fall is a stressful time for you, ease up on yourself.

Practice calm: Help you and your children cope with anxiety brought on by the new school year by doing deep breathing exercises, focusing on positive thoughts, being optimistic about the future, making healthy choices, getting enough rest, and counting your blessings before bed.

With the kids back in school, use tips from Stress Management 101 to begin the school year with a fresh start. Create an easy transition for your family, and write a new story this fall! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quick and Easy Ways to Get into Back-to-School Mode

The inevitable is quickly approaching. School supplies, fall d├ęcor, and even Halloween items now in stores declare the arrival of fall to one and all. While the summer heat continues, the carefree days of summer quickly come to an end, and that means shifting into high gear once again. Back-to-school brings disappointment as well as relief that the fall routine will get the kids (and Mom!) back on track. Some quick and easy organization strategies will help tame the back-to-school stress and create a smooth transition for the entire family, so everyone can savor a few more precious moments of rest and relaxation.

A Frugal Fall Budget: Take 15 minutes to review the account balances, assess summer spending, and set up a realistic back-to-school budget. Use coupons, find sales, or even shop at thrift stores for frugal back-to-school finds. Many thrift stores carry brand new overstock items from stores like Target.

Quick Closet Clean-up to Make Room for Back-to-School Clothing: Set a kitchen timer for 30 minutes and have the kids clean out their closets and dresser drawers to make room for new school clothing. Put on lively music and use this activity as an incentive. When there is room in the closet and drawers for new clothes, the family can go shopping. Prior to shopping, assess clothing items that are still in good shape versus those that are actually needed and must be purchased. 

Smart School Supplies: Take an inventory of school supplies before buying more and making unnecessary purchases. Label bins or clear drawers with new school supplies for easy access during stressful homework sessions.

A Tidy Place to Study: Organize the desk or study area by tossing out last year’s school paperwork and setting up a tray or folder where the kids can place papers from school that need immediate attention and signatures. Hang a bulletin board near the desk or study area to post important school flyers or announcements for easy visual access.

Easy Breakfast and Lunch Options: Stock up on easy breakfast options to make mornings flow more smoothly by either cooking and freezing meals ahead of time or buying healthy frozen breakfasts. Likewise, cut out pictures of easy lunch and snack ideas from magazines to add some variety to brown bag lunches this year. Tack clip outs on a kitchen bulletin board or post them on the fridge for quick reference.

Better Planning for this School Year: Take 15 minutes to schedule all important school dates and extracurricular activities in a smart phone calendar or organizer in order to avoid last minute surprises in the schedule that cause undue chaos.  

An Organized Home Base: In the next few weeks or perhaps over Labor Day weekend, set aside a morning or afternoon to fix broken items around the house, replace light bulbs, do a quick clean-up, and organize misplaced items so the home front is tidy as the school and sport activities take over.  

While kids and parents alike mourn the rest and relaxation of simple summer days and transition into a busier season filled with homework and school activities, fall brings good things to look forward to like pumpkin lattes, football, apple pies, jack-o-lanterns, and cooler days. Staying organized and focusing on the positive can help moms and their kids weather the change this season brings to make way for the pleasures of fall.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Unbelievably EASY Ways to Save Over $100

In our fast food instantaneous need-it-now society, most working moms practically throw their money away here and there in a whirlwind of busyness and then end up with a mega credit card bill at the end of the month. Let’s find out how you are doing with your on-the-go spending habits. Is it tough to stretch out your family's income until month’s end? Do you find yourself relying on your credit card too much to make ends meet? Are you aware of the areas where you waste money on purchases that could be eliminated? For instance, stopping off at Starbucks in the morning, going out for lunch with your co-workers, and getting your car washed on the way home can easily cost you fifty bucks or more. By making smarter choices and planning ahead, even busy working moms can start saving hundreds of dollars each month.

  1. Get your kids off the couch and help you wash the car. Savings? $10-$15 per car wash. If you live in an apartment or do not have access to a hose hook-up, find a dollar car wash near your neighborhood where you can insert quarters for a car wash that will cost you as little as $2.
  2. Paint your own toes and nails. You can get a great color of nail polish for $4-$7. Savings? $20-
    $30 per manicure or pedicure. An added benefit is that mothers and daughters can carve out some
    home "spa time" and establish a bonding ritual a few times a month by doing mani's and pedi's. 
  3. Stop spending over $100 per month at the coffeehouse! Instead, buy a pound of coffee the next time you go grocery shopping for $5 to $6 and brew it yourself each morning. An entire pound of store bought coffee can cost as much as a fancy drink or two at Starbucks. In addition to all the money you’ll save in a mere week, you will also be able to sleep in the extra 15 minutes it would take you to wait in line at Starbucks in the morning. Savings? $100 per month and some sanity!
  4. Say yes to brown bagging your lunch. Pack leftovers from dinner for your lunch the next day rather than throwing out the food or letting it go to waste. Savings? $25+ per week if you typically go out for lunch with your colleagues. The added bonus is you’ll make healthier meal choices since home cooked meals are usually lower in fat and extra calories. 
  5. Check out books and audio CDs from the library or borrow them from friends. Set up a book
    exchange with friends, family, and neighbors. If you simply must purchase your own book, shop at thrift stores, library bookstores, used or discount bookstores, warehouse stores, or, a website that offers the lowest prices on used books. Savings? $5-$15 per book.
  6. Skip the movies, rent a DVD, and make fresh popcorn at home rather than throw your money away on a film. While enjoying a movie in the privacy of your home, you can still have your candy and eat it, too. Just stop by the dollar store on the way home for movie-style boxes of Good and Plenty, Raisinets, and Milk Duds. Savings? $25 - $30.  
  7. Be unique and shop at thrift and vintage stores. Who wants to wear the same dress as your co-worker, anyway? Take an inventory of your closet to see what items need to be thrown out due to overuse and what items you need to replace for work or play. Give yourself extra time when shopping at thrift stores since you will have to hunt for those one-of-a-kind treasures. Savings? $5-$100.
  8. Save your plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Store plastic bottles and aluminum cans for about a month and recycle them at  a freestanding recycling center for a voucher to redeem credit or cash at the nearby grocery store. Savings per month? $5-$20.
With a little creativity, organization, and common sense, even busy working moms can utilize daily money-saving strategies that will add up to hundreds of dollars saved over the next few months. Enjoy the feelings of financial confidence that come with knowing you are no longer wasting money on expensive lattes, clothing, or manicures, no longer throwing out food or plastic bottles, and no longer worrying about making ends during the last week of the month. The added bonus is that your children will learn to appreciate the value of a dollar and make frugal choices for themselves if they see their smart mommy doing it first!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Artist's Perspective on God's Dream for Your Life

Last summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing watercolor artist and Bible Study Fellowship leader, Martha, on God’s plans and dreams for her life. Martha reassures us busy moms, who often place our dreams on the back-burner to make priorities of our children, husband, job, and church service, that God will find a way to keep our dreams alive for His perfect timing. Find out what happens when a woman aligns her priorities up to God’s!

First, I jumped right in and asked Martha how God developed her artistic talents . . . 

Q. Why do you think it’s important for people to use their God-given talents, and how have you made time for your talents throughout your life?

A. The Church is made of a body of talents. He did it for a purpose so He can have us contribute. I wanted to draw since I was a little girl. I knew I was an artist, but had to help take care of my siblings and then later raise my children. The important thing is you have to keep the desire. God will use it when you come back to it.

When I retired, I went straight to college. The first picture I drew was of a baby called “God’s Blessing” because I realized after all these years, I still had my talent! His timing is perfect for when he will use your talent!

I wanted to teach art at the adult school. I woke up each morning and thought of my art first thing. I even want to step down from BSF to focus solely on my art, and I wrestled with the Lord. After a struggle, the Lord changed my perspective, and I surrendered. He told me when I entered Heaven, he wouldn’t care about how many credits or degrees I had. What He cared about was how many souls I brought to Him. So, I put my art aside again to continue leading in the Bible Study Fellowship and make Him number one in my life. And then He gave me everything I needed to make the time and the way for me to do my watercolor art AND minister for Him through BSF with my cards and bookmarks. It wasn’t me. It was the Lord who led me, and this is exactly what I needed. Now, my ministry through BSF and art are married. God will often speak to me and have me give a participant a bookmark including an appropriate Bible verse just for that person.

After many years of serving others, today Martha’s artistic talent and service to BSF are blended through her watercolor greeting card ministry. She creates watercolor paintings, cards, and bookmarks for people who God places on her heart to encourage, including specific Scriptures that correlate with particular art pieces.

While trusting God with her dream, Martha raised her two children with her husband, who she has been married to for decades since the young age of 16. I wanted to glean some wisdom from her life experience and hear her advice for busy moms and single moms.

Q. What advice could you give single moms who are going through a difficult season want to grow closer to God and get their priorities straight?

A. First off, I have never experienced being a single mom. I can’t know what it must be like, but I do know the effects, the difference it would make in your life and the kid’s lives. Since 1999, I have been a Bible study leader for the international organization, Bible Study Fellowship. Young mothers of all denominations, both married and single, bring their babies and come for Bible study. They want to raise their children so they would know God and also get support and spiritual help. Joining BSF enables them to benefit from childcare while they learn about Jesus. After BSF one day, a mom even pulled over to the side of road to pray for her child to know the Lord. Both the mom and child can grow together in Christ. The attachment to God produces a joyful life of being filled up through Him.

Every Tuesday morning before BSF, I pray that the Lord would empty me completely so He can use me. I pray for Him to give me the eyes to see these young women like He does. I want to help people know God through the Bible study. All kinds of women share their heartaches and pray for each other. When you are praying for each other, you have a closer bond.

Speaking of a closer bond, are you looking for love, ladies? Martha also had a thing or two to say about what it takes to develop a successful marriage, so listen up!

Q. For single moms who have finally found God’s man for them, what advice do you have for them to do things differently and make their marriage work?

A. What I would have lost if I would have given into my feelings instead of my marriage! I prayed to be a better wife. When you meet someone who you like enough to want to spend time with and have a future with that person, check your heart. If you like this man exactly how he is, then he is the one you want. A man needs respect from his wife. If he doesn’t get it from her, he will find it somewhere else. If you respect that man, you will love him.

You have to ask yourself, what do you not like? What is he covering up? You have to find out these things before you marry him.

Learn from the mistakes of others. I had a woman friend who was nearing her forties and she had a heart for caring about people, but wanted to get married and have kids desperately. She had lots of specifications, but wasn’t thinking about character. She was focused on appearances.

She met a man who was a very smooth talker and misquoted the Bible in order to have control. She ran off and got eloped. Unfortunately, he was abusive, controlling, and had a criminal record. In order to be protected, the authorities gave her a complete change of identity, and she had to cut ties from all her family and friends so she could go into hiding to escape from him.

On the day of the wedding, the man is typically hoping she will never change, while the woman is hoping she can change him! Marry somebody you don’t want to change.

Always remember that the person is your best friend and you don’t want anything to get in the way of that, including hardships, finances, or  even the children. Marriage can be such a blessing, and a joyful blessing! Once you get to know the Lord and He’s in control of your life, you receive joy and peace through submission. That’s what I have.

Interested in joining or serving at Bible Study Fellowship International? Click here for a location near you: Bible Study Fellowship International

Linking to: Coffee for Your Heart

Saturday, July 5, 2014

8 Money Saving Tips for Single Parents

With the prices of gas and food on the rise these days, we could all stand to save a dollar here and there. Please enjoy this guest post on smart money saving tips by the UK's Ella Moss.

One of the aspects a lot of us struggle with as single moms is money. Only having one income can put huge pressure on what is often already a stressful situation, even if it can be immensely rewarding. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help and many of us need it. Here are some tips on how you can make money a little less tight if you’re a single mom.

Save money where you can
Make a budget and stick to it. This will allow you to consistently spend over the course of the month without money getting tight towards to end. Also, have a safety net where you can keep your savings. That way, if unexpected costs come up, you don’t have to use your budget to pay for it and if you don’t spend it, you can dip into it for small treats for you and your child.

Collect food vouchers and keep an eye on offers. These don’t necessarily have to be for groceries - collecting restaurant coupons is a cheap way to take your children out for meals without having to pay huge prices. Also, buy and cook in bulk in order to not only save money, but save your time throughout the week. Stews, chili con carne and Bolognese all keep well in the refrigerator and are easy to grab and heat up if you’re busy with the kids.

What are you entitled to?
Although we don’t offer child benefit like other countries, like the UK, the US does offer Child Tax Credit and you’re perfectly entitled to this if you have a child under the age of 17. This can reduce your federal income tax by up to $1000, according to the IRS website. To qualify for this, you need to meet the criteria, which includes age and relationship status. However, if you’re a single mom, your needs should be understood.

You and your child are also most likely entitled to child support. As long as you’re the custodial parent of your child, the father should be paying maintenance in order for you to raise him or her. The majority of the time, the father is more than happy to pay child support and it can be settled outside of court. The amount of child support is usually determined by how much each parent is earning, how many children are involved and how often the children see the other parent or stay at their house.

Read the rest of the article here: 8 Money Saving Tips for Single Parents

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Happy 4th of July to One and All!

"I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments." ~Psalm 119:45

As we celebrate our nation's freedom today, I reflect on my many blessings. Today, I am very grateful to be living a happy, joyous, and FREE single mom life with a beautiful daughter who is growing into her own person. Summer (and 4th of July) is my favorite time of year, so I am truly glad to have the day off and enjoy all the red, white, and blue everywhere!!! 

THREE CHEERS TO FREEDOM! Now, I gotta get going to to 2nd annual Angel's game followed by a fantastic firework show. A happy 4th to one and all! 
My spirited friend and I at the first annual Angel's game last 4th of July!

I made these red, white, and blue flags and hung them in the kitchen with my cherry stuff. 

Almost bought one of these soy wax candles today from my favorite vintage shop. . . 

Let's end on a sweet note with a patriotic dessert! 
Linking to: Pink Saturday!


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