Wednesday, July 21, 2010 Part Numero Dos: Gardening & Such

Let me set the stage for this post by saying, my husband would NEVER guest post on my blog, but he deserves most of the credit for this post.  Our garden is the fruits of his labor, with a side of adorable pint size helpers.  I have 'helped' on the occasion, but have made the inside of our home my domain.  I'm working on being more of a helpmate in this area, but wanted to be honest and give credit were credit is DUE!

As I mentioned in the last frugal post, this is a journey. One that we learn more as we press on.  We are not experts, but rather are learning to perfect our skills.  We started our garden last year.  We saw some success and we saw some fails.  Randy started by plotting out what part of the yard we wanted to use.  He used close to a 1/4 of our yard which was pretty substantial.  We rented a tiller for the day and I somewhat helped dig up our yard.  He built a fence out of a FREE old fence my parents replaced and offered us.  Randy used research from blogs and sites along with a few books to guide his planting process.  This year he changed it up some.  This year we borrowed a tiller and eliminated the rental cost.  He also implemented several methods.  Take a look:

This is a full shot of our garden.

This is a close up to show you the Square Foot Gardening Method. Just behind that is our compost pile.  We also have several trash cans we use for a homemade compost bins.  Randy simply drilled periodic holes for irrigation and turns them frequently.  You can also put casters on the bottom for more mobility.

These are 5 Gallon buckets with tomato cages.  Some are tomatoes, bell peppers, peppers, pole beans and squash.  You can't see it, but hanging from the awning on the far corner is a homemade Topsy Turvy made out of a 5 gallon bucket as well.

This is a potato plant using a Tire Method.  (I would need to locate the source if you are interested in specifics.) You basically start with the first tire and cut out a flap.  Plant your potato, water, and wait for the plant to sprout.  Then repeat.  The idea is to force the plant upwards and begin harvesting at the bottom from the flap you created...all the way up.  This method would allow for harvesting in intervals.  This one wasn't fruitful, but we plan to use it next year.

Here's a shot of our Junior Gardeners , giving you an idea of the height of our corn.  In case you are wondering we do not live in the country.  In fact you would never assume we have the size garden we did based on our neighborhood or it's location.  This goes to prove anyone can do this!  Start small, the 5 gallon buckets are a good one to start with.

So I'm sure ya'll are wondering...I would do you water that and stay in your budget.  Enter ghetto, but genius water system.

Randy made these with barrels and pallets he got from work, for wait for it...FREE!  We have two eave's in our back yard and no gutters.  He took the pallets to make a platform for each set of barrels to utilize both eaves.  Each barrel set has metal screening affixed to the top to keep out debris.  The water barrels, then have a PVC pipe attaching them to make water from both barrels accessible from one.   The barrel closest to the outside has a PVC faucet. We in turn use the rain water supply to water the garden.  We are able to fill a watering can or attach a hose.  We have been blessed with quite a bit of rain, but still supplemented with good ole city water.  

In either case the bounty of the garden and the minimal cost of water has greatly benefited our family and our budget.  Here are some reasons we feel our garden is of benefit to our family.

* cost effective on budget to eat from our garden instead of store bought produce

* pesticide free, we garden organically 100%
* Family time, my hubby LOVES to be in the garden and the kids love to be his helpers

* As homeschoolers, my kiddos are getting hands on teaching on so many subjects

* teaches our kiddos to be good stewards to the Earth

* Our family, friends, and neighbors can attest: we SHARE!

I will say we want to be the best example of stewardship to our kids while protecting them.  We try our best to be Eco conscious with in our budget.  Here are some other ways we help the Earth while helping  S-T-R-E-T-C-H our budget!

This is our adorable in door Compost Bucket that saves me from tossing scraps in the garbage disposal or trash can.  So when I bypass the disposal I save on electricity and water.  When I bypass the trash can I save on space so it creates less waste and I use less trash bags.  And lastly our compost makes FREE soil for our garden.
These were freshly laundered in this picture.  That is a regular occurrence each week.  We do our best to use cloth napkins at every meal and clean and dry with rags and dish towels.  The exception would be in the event I receive any free items that would eliminate the use of these items and if we have a function that would require more than we have.  Keep in mind if the items are free then that cuts down on the water, electricity, and detergent used to launder them.

Speaking of laundry is ours.  Randy (yep that guy again) makes ours.  He adapted a recipe he found online with a couple of You Tube videos and we were all set.  And I assure we smell just like store bought! I would have to figure the math again, but it's something crazy like $.08 a load and we use 5 gallon buckets that do over 80 loads.  That would be a 1 to 4 ratio of the cheaper version of detergent that most stores offer.  (If you are interested in the recipe/videos let me know and I will get back to you.)

These three shots are our edible goodies.  The first is canned peaches, the second peach jam, and the third okra, squash and onions from the garden.  We all got a chance earlier in the summer to go pick FREE peaches from Randy's Uncle's property.  Again, Randy is the gifted hands behind the peach creations (I swear he's related to Julia Childs!)  We helped in the picking, boiling, peeling process, but he cranked out the yummy goodness in each jar.  I think he's a keeper?! Then the veggies are of course from the garden.  We have also enjoyed pole (green) beans, strawberries, mint, oregano, rosemary, basil, chives, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, cantaloupe, potatoes, red potatoes, corn, peppers, bell peppers and tomatoes.

The heart of this post is that being frugal is SOOOO attainable.  Most of the suggestions I have posted can be implemented  simply by taking a look at what you ALREADY have at home and DOING IT!  I promise you can!  The other thing I want to highlight is FREE!  Be creative.  If you don't have someone who has items to give freely ask around.  One of the things I'll be talking more about are resources to get the things you need for a more frugal lifestyle for free or very little out of pocket and/or time.  If I could give you one tip to get started, it would be be humble.  Don't be afraid to ask, the worse someone could say is no.  Become the person (not tacky, overtly expectant) who people think of when they get rid of useful items they no longer need.  As far as gardening and canning goes, acquaint yourself with someone who has the knowledge, skill set, and garden and/or supplies.  I'm sure if you can find a friend who has an abundance of something like the peaches they would be happy to exchange it for manual labor, a few canned jars, etc.   Or maybe a farmer who needs free labor in exchange for experience and free produce.  I hope this is a blessing and welcome questions or tips you may have on these suggestions.

Linking up to Works For Me Wednesday

Disclosure: I have no affliation, nor am I receiving any compensation to any companies mentioned in the above blog post.  Opionions expressed are based soley on my personal experienes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gratituesday: Celebrating Carter



I have been looking forward to snuggling with my nephew, Carter ever since I said goodbye in February and he jetted off to Boston.  I've missed him.  Each time I see him I have the opportunity to see the living example of how precious life is.  He doesn't speak, with the exception of a few words.  Ironically he doesn't have to.  People are mesmerized just being in his presence.  He signs a few things, but in true Carter fashion he gives it his own spin and adds a few to the batch.  This weekend he showed off his newest. As we asked him to show us 'I don't know', he would stretch his hands to each side of his body and shrug his little face side to side.  My favorite is 'pretty eyes' when he clamps his eyes open and shut all the while flashing a toothy grin.  His small body packs quite a punch to the personality that oozes from him.  His life is a testament to the gift God bestows Doctors, the love he brands on the hearts of parents, and the will to survive that Carter cranks out day after day.  Please read his story, and consider the gift of LIFE.  Most importantly soak up the goodness of each healthy child in your life!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Craftaholics Anonymous: Christmas in July Gift Exchange

Is this not ADORABLE!?!?  I love decorating for the holidays, I love the USA, and I love me some Carlisle's! Kelly must have just read my Memorial Day tribute post, because she was right on the money!  Kelly and I both participated in Linda's Craftaholics Anonymous' Christmas in July craft exchange.  Linda is super talented and posts the best craft tutorials.  She is so popular she had to host a US & International giveaway!  I was excited to see all the crafty goodness that would be swapped.  Can't wait for another one!

Bloggy Flip Flop Exchange...look what I got!

Getting back in the swing of blogging has reminded me of some long over due 'to do' items I've neglected. Opps!

I participated in a really fun Flip Flop Exchange at The Texas Darlings...Becca is a sweetheart by the way. 'Course the South has that affect on us Texas ladies (stop laughing). Anyway, kind of bummed I didn't get my kids involved after I saw Becca's packages for her littles.

My package was PERFECT!  SO along with fun mail, GREAT flops, I also have a new friend in Florida, Kelly!

Kelly got me some great beach flip flops, perfect for an upcoming vacay, a sweet note, a sermon/worship CD from her church and PEZ dispensers for my littles...notice the package is LOOOONG gone, as is, the candy!

It was such a fun swap....looking forward to next year, hint hint Becca!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Follow Up CSN Review

So I posted here about an opportunity to check out a new online website called CSN.  My post was honest, I was impressed with the variety, prices and overall ease of the site.  Because I completed the post website review I was compensated with a gift certificate to purchase anything on their site.  I was in need of cookware bad!  SO I shopped around until I found what I thought was an overall good choice and price.

So then I was faced with a dilemma. Because I use SWAGBUCKS I also had the option to use gift certificates I acquired cashing in my SWAGBUCKS  OR I could see what CSN could offer me.

The items I looked through on the CSN site had an option to select a "Seen It For Less" button and submit a competing price.  So comparing the price of the item on CSN with Amazon I thought let's see if they will match or better yet beat the price.  ***Crickets***  As in no response for a week.  Placed a call, only to find out even though the option was listed, it WAS NOT available for that item.

Huh?  I was a tad annoyed.

Sooo, I quickly got over it knowing I could purchase it at Amazon, which I did and decided I would stick to getting a free item and be done with it.

Or so I thought.

I decided I still wanted a skillet to go with the set I purchased from Amazon. They have a clearance section, so you KNOW that was calling my name!  There were two skillets available and either would work and would still be free.  I selected the first one, went through the entire order process until I got to the payment instructions.  It required I provide my credit/debit card information prior to selecting a payment option.  No bueno, I was paying with a gift certificate that would make it free and it also had free shipping.  Needless to say I called up Customer Service and the SUPER NICE rep went took care of the entire process with me over the phone. Ahhh, but wait.  Then she explained the item was no longer available.  It seems they have a 30 minute hold once a item is selected for purchase and that this particular item was not available since I had just tried to purchase it.  Although she was SUPER NICE I told her I would call back later.

Funny enough I decided on the other skillet by the time I called back (a day later).  Enter another SUPER NICE rep!  Only problem it happened AGAIN!  And I PROMISE I did not put it in my (online) cart this time.  She suggested that she would watch it til it was available again and call me back to complete the purchase.  What else was I supposed to do? Yes, PLEASE please call me back.

All the while the SUPER NICE rep who contacted me originally about the review was keeping my sanity  corresponding by email and sent me a free shipping code in case I selected something without free shipping or over the gift certificate amount.  Because I am not one to waste a dime, I scouted the CSN website to see what I could possibly get with my free shipping code and the remaining $5.01.  I settled on paper towels, because who can't use extra paper towels ( I had not yet hit my 58 package windfall)?

Not 30 minutes later the last SUPER NICE rep I talked to, called back and gave me a confirmation number for my order as she was so SUPER NICE to place the order on my behalf the minute my skillet was available.  Ummm, paper towels?  Yeah, had to let that one go, but I did get this beauty 5 days later.

***SIGH*** Free? Yes, depends how much you value your time.  Truth be told, I LOVE the skillet and it was ALL worth it in the end.  CSN  has quite a bit to offer and I would actually shop there again.  Their AWESOME customer service is definitely money in the bank, however they should use some of that money to polish up the site and policy issues they have.  So there you have it...thumb and three quarters up.

Disclaimer:  I was compensated for my review of CSN with a gift certificate to purchase any item of my choice.  This review is in no way affiliated or being compensated by Amazon or Swagbucks.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Carter Bear is THREE!

This amazing little boy is my nephew and it's his  

That may not seem like a big deal, but this little guy beats the odds every single day!  If you haven't already read his story, I highly recommend you do.

Here are some pictures from the last time I saw our trooper.

Since then he spent quite a bit of time back in the hospital in Boston only to come home and have some more stays at a 
hospital in Dallas.

I can't wait to celebrate his AMAZING life this Sunday, but today on HIS 3rd. birthday would you like to join in by 
celebrating his life?

For his THREE years of life I would love it if you would prayerfully consider doing one or ALL THREE of the following:

1.  Go to his website and leave him a special birthday message.

2.  Donate to his paypal account for their growing hospital bills and expenses.

3.  Consider being an organ donor, so some other family can 
celebrate each and every birthday with their loved one!

4. AND  of course ONE to grow on!  Please continue to pray for Carter's health!  Pray for his Mommy, Chelle that worries so for her little man.  And pray for (my big brother) his Daddy, Sean that is still seeking employment to support his two biggest fans.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 Part Numero Uno: Coupons

So I'm gonna try my best to complete a series on how my family makes our income stretch by being frugal. (I like to call it 'Frugality'!) I pray that this is a blessing to all who join in on this Frugal Living Journey!

First up: COUPONING! Let me start by saying I am NOT an expert.  I was taught by my sister-in-law Melissa and have picked up new techniques along the way that work for my budget, location, and time investment. I wrote a blog post in 2009 just after I started on the adventure of couponing and much is the same, but this will be an updated version.  (For locals who may be interested in getting together for a possible in depth class, leave me a comment or email me indicating interest and maybe we can set it up if there is enough interest.)

Let me give you some background on why I coupon and how it benefits my family.  I began couponing while working full time, but currently care for my children at home while home schooling them.  We have benefited from couponing in both seasons of life, but it became crucial that we save money when we dropped to one income.  I see the time I invest in couponing as a job, a means to aid my husband in the financial responsibility of providing for our family.  I truly believe we are to be stewards with the finances of our home. 

I also see couponing and being frugal as a tool to save money.  The first step to making coupons work for you is to start with a budget. I am surely not an expert in this department either, but we are learning and growing everyday. When we are successful in budgeting it is because we are applying  the tools we learned from Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover System.  Having a budget, wether using Dave's methods or your own gives you something to compare your savings.  If you don't have a budget you may end up with 150 tubes of toothpaste and no food to feed your family.

So, what about you?  I know some people have strict diets, are vegans, vegetarians. lactose intolerant, etc.  Trust me couponing will STILL work for you!  If for no other reason, I would coupon for the toiletries and cleaning products. I promise as cheesy as it sounds couponing has something for everyone.

One thing I didn't mention in my original post is to start by getting a new email address.  I prefer HOTMAIL, so that I can access all my accounts from one spot.  The need of an additional email account is to keep your couponing separate.  As you get more and more acclimated to couponing you may want to follow blog posts, subscribe to company product updates, enter giveaways, etc.  Trust me this will save you lots of headache to have one spot to organize it all.

Next start by buying papers every Sunday.  My rule of thumb is typically one paper per person in the household.  Depending on the age of the child you may buy one paper per two school age, toddler, and/or baby.  If that is overwhelming start with one.  Now, CUT EVERY SINGLE COUPON.  The only exception I use is if it is something I will not use even if it's free and cannot donate. Also, go though the ENTIRE paper.  In the last several weeks I have found coupons for FREE Bush's tea (locals know that is liquid gold!) and FREE rentals at Blockbuster. These were sandwiched in ads and columns, so scan each section carefully. Also, make sure you look through the Parade, it is known to have coupons, as well. The paper can carry anywhere from 1-3 inserts.  These are Red Plum, Proctor & Gamble, and Smartsource.  They are referred to as RP, PG, and SS in most blogs. 

Now you need a filing system for storing your coupons.  Everyone is different and there is no one way to do it.  You can get a small accordion file that fits into your purse/backpack.  You can keep them in an envelope.  You can put them in a file box with tabs.  I personally prefer the Binder Method.  You can see in the image below it is a fabric zippered binder (cousin to the Trapper Keeper).  I have organized my coupons by categories using dividers and each divider has several plastic baseball card sleeves with coupons in them.  (This is were you shuck your pride and get ready for the stares.  I'm typically complimented once each shopping trip).  I keep my scissors, pens, paper for shopping trip lists, circulars, rebates and any additional coupons (store, restaurant, etc.) in this binder too.

Now that you are ready to shop, were to?  Locally I shop at Target, CVS, Walmart, HEB and the occasional Walgreens.  Each store has their own Coupon Policy, which I have linked to if you click on the store name.  You will see that CVS and Walgreens do not provide their policy online and the sites I selected have inquired to receive the information for their post.  The information for CVS is accurate to my knowledge, although I will share some additional tips.  I have to be honest, I am not a fan of Walgreens.  Typically they are pretty unreliable to work with your coupons and can 'make up' the rules as they (employees/managers) go. However, I keep trying and hoping they will make a liar out of me...please don't make my experience keep you from shopping there.

Along with shopping at these stores and knowing their policies you need to know what sets them apart.  Here's some general tips each:


* They have mobile coupons that you can have sent to your phone here.

* They have online coupons you can print from their home page here

* They reward shoppers $.05 off per reusable bag you use for each purchase. Example: 5 bags = $.25 off your total.

* ALWAYS shop the end cap for clearance deals, you never know what coupon will make an item FREE!

* If you miss a coupon, bring it to the Customer Service desk with your receipt and they will adjust your total and refund the amount of the coupon. The policy states same day only, but I have been able to do it within a week of purchase.

* Target has updated their system to insure the value of an item that is free is adjusted down to prevent overage.  With any new update be careful that this is correct and takes off the full value.  Example: $5 off purchase of two items may only take off one item's value instead of both or the $5.  Be the expert and watch the screen every time you shop.

* If an item goes on sale after you purchased it, they typically will refund the difference if you follow the guidelines in this policy, which also covers their Price Matching policy.

* They have a rewards card, called the Extra Care Card that allows you to earn 'Extra Care Bucks' for weekly and monthly ECB deals. An Extra Care Buck/ECB is treated like a gift certificate towards a future purchase.  For example if a deal lists that you 'buy a candy bar at $.99, get $.99 back in ECBs',  you will receive a $.99 ECB that prints at the bottom of your receipt after payment. This is eligible to be used on your next purchase. Their online Extra Care Card does not indicate how many cards you can have per household.  I personally have four cards, one per member of my household.  I would suggest starting out with one.  (If you would like more information on how I manage all four, shoot me an email.)

* Their price scanner also dispenses coupons daily per card.  KEEP all the coupons that print from their coupon machine.  Because these don't expire you want to hold on to them until just the right deal comes along.  Remember per CVS policy, they accept one CVS coupon and one MFG coupon per item.  I saved several coupons from 2008 that got me 58 rolls of FREE paper towels a few weeks ago!

* This is not mentioned in their policy, but their ECB's or CVS coupons DO NOT expire.  Some couponers have reported that their store managers wont push them through, but locally all three of our stores do. (I've also shopped in Dallas/Ft. Worth and they do, as well.) The cashier will have to manually override their system, so just make sure you ask if they don't do it automatically.  The worse they can say is no.

* You can purchase what they call a Green Tag for $1, to use when you use reusable bags each time you shop. It tracks your number of uses and on the fourth use you will receive a $1.00 ECB. So it will pay for itself after that fourth visit.  You will need to remember to hand it to the cashier with your Extra Care card in order to receive credit and you are only able to use it once per day.  You can find these near the registers or ask a cashier for help.

* ALWAYS scan your card at the Coupon Printer/Price Checker before you shop for coupons and ALWAYS check your store for clearance items.  Our local stores either have a rolling cart at the back of the store near the restrooms or at the front of the store near the cashiers. Again, you never know what coupon could make an item FREE!

* CVS does accept competitor coupons for Pharmacy prescription purchases.  I use this option for my CVS spending money.  Typically a CVS Pharmacy coupon is valued at $25, this can go a long way with coupons.


* No special card or tricks, I typically shop the list of items some of the blogs I follow provide.


*  If you haven't already signed up for a HEB Points Card, do it before the next time you shop.  This card tracks your spending in the store and gas purchases.  In turn you receive a quarterly bonus with HEB bucks that are treated like cash.  Typically this will also include coupons.

* I have to say writing this post I actually learned the correct coupon policy.  They will not combine HEB Manufacturer coupons with a company (HEB) sponsored manufactured (mfg) coupon, BUT they will accept a manufacturer coupon with their 'yellow' store coupons.  I have several family members that work there and have been told they will not combine any MFG coupons with store coupons, so get ready to educate your cashiers and bring the company policy with you.  (I plan to look into this with local management and at the corporate level and will add what I find out at a later date.)

* Typically I have found that if I purchase something and it's out of date, doesn't taste 'right', etc. they will accept a returned item for full refund, with no questions asked.  You will need your receipt if you expect a cash refund.


* Register Rewards (RR)-  These are similar to CVS' ECB's, however they DO expire and you can only use it on a different 'deal'.  Example if they offer a $5 RR for purchasing two packages of toilet paper and the 'deal' has a two per person limit, you can't turn around and use those RR to purchase two more packages.  In this case I would suggest using it to either do a different deal or something of that value you already intend to buy.

*  Walgreens also has a clearance section, typically located at the rear of their store and I have been somewhat successful scouting those out.

Now let's talk rebates.  Rebates may be offered on an item, a in store rebate promotion, online, etc.  I find most of mine listed on line with blogs/sites I subscribe to.  My only suggestion with rebates is to NEVER buy something specifically for the rebate.  I only purchase something if I need it, can afford it, and it's a good deal.  Most of my rebates are on items I get free if not well under the rebate value.  For example, last month I sent off more than $50 in rebate offers that I paid less than half for.  One tip is to keep rebate offer paperwork with your coupons.  That way if you happen upon the product unexpectedly, then you will know whether to purchase it or not for a rebate offer.

So what about all these blogs and sites, I'm talking about?  Let me first say like anything too much of something is not a good thing.  Couponing IS time consuming.  You have to have a balance with your time and you have to weigh the value of what you save against the time that it takes away from the other things in your life.  You CAN be successful taking my tips and applying it to the ads and call it a day.  The blogs/sites I use are a tool, but I DON"T read every post or do every deal.  I take what works for me and leave the rest.  If you don't have a balance you will get SWALLOWED in this aspect of couponing.  That being said I will give you a list of blogs/sites I subscribe to and you can see which ones are of value to you and which are not.  Most have been suggestions from other blogs, but there are many, many, many more.  You can always search for ones in your area as each blogger blogs deals that match the stores in his/her area (yes there are men out there couponing!).  This is where your separate email account comes in handy.  A lot of these blogs are supported by sites such as blogger and you may not want to set up an account to follow or remember everyday to go check on them. Most have an option to follow by becoming an email subscriber.  I personally do not like the readers out there that support those blogs and if I cannot subscribe to their blog by email I will save it as a favorite under my internet bookmarks.  As you get rolling following these sites you will find deals online as well, I will talk more on this in a follow up post that I hope you will check out.


Along with these sites there are couponing sites that you can print coupons directly from. Each site typically has a coupon printer you will be required to download to print from their site.  Most of the printers will allow you to print a coupon twice.  However, I recommend never using the refresh button as you may cancel the print job and/or jeopardize your second print.  Copying or adjusting coupons is ILLEGAL. (Incase you are tempted, each internet coupon has a unique bar code for each coupon and can be tracked if duplicated.) If a store policy allows internet coupons these are LEGAL and acceptable to use. I also will warn that using these printers can possibly slow down your computer and I caution against dowloading them to any computer you do not personally own.  We are fortunate to have more than one home computer and use both to print coupons.  This allows us to print double the coupons and in turn do double the deals.

Along with the paper and these blogs I also get coupons from a magazine called Allyou.  This magazine is chalk full of coupons and also has helpful money saving articles.  I happen to get my copy from a monthly subscription (this was of course due to a really good online deal).  You can also purchase Allyou Magazine at any Walmart. I also get coupons from anyone who will give them to me, mailers, fliers, some I see on the ground, and in store promotions (peelies) as long as the coupon does not say use on this item. Lastly, check out sites for items that are must have or preferences for you or your family.  You can typically follow a newsletter that will promote new products and coupon offers.

Coupon Sites: (this includes coupons and Allyou exclusive coupons)

I hope the vast amount of information hasn't overwhelmed you too much and that you truly seek the Lord to see if this is for you and your family. I find great joy in being able to stretch our dollar and in turn share the fruits of my labor with family, friends, and charities, as well as the little bit of knowledge I have learned along the way! 

As always, please feel free to email me, my email address for this blog is  I'm always eager to help someone with coupon shopping!

Linking up to Works For Me Wednesday

Disclosure: I have no affliation, nor am I receiving any compensation to any company or blogs mentioned in the above blog post.  Opionions expressed are based soley on my personal experienes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

learning to forgive and let go, part two

I don't know how many parts will be included in this series, but I figured I would write while I was feeling vulnerable and brave.

This one is gonna be a doozie, so we're gonna do the bandaid trick and rip it off.  I wasn't a virgin when I got married, neither was my husband.  If you know me personally or have read all of my posts than most likely you know that about me, but I had to start with that to preface what I'm going to write about.

If there is one thing I could do for my marriage, I would erase our sexual sin.  Don't get me wrong, Jesus paid the price and we are forgiven in every sense of the word.  He forgave us, we forgave one another, and we've forgiven ourselves.  However, sin has a tricky way of rearing it's ugly head.

When we each had sex outside of marriage we gave pieces of ourselves away.  Pieces we can't get back. Sex and the intimacy surrounding it was made for marriage and marriage alone. We have had the who, what, where, and when conversations and they are not for the faint of heart.  Because we were High School sweethearts we know/knew most of our ex boyfriends/girlfriends.  And because we still live in the town we met and married in, on occasion run into said ex boyfriends/girlfriends.  It can be awkward and painful, and it could have been avoided.  Not the run away and hide my head in the sand avoided, but the chose the path God intended for you way.

One particular boyfriend/girlfriend, you know 'the' boyfriend/girlfriend...the last guy/gal you dated before you met, dated, and married your spouse..sometimes that one is the hardest to forgive.  Randy pursued me while I was still dating this particular guy and we broke up shortly after that (fyi: not because of Randy).  Newly single, my husband saw his opportunity and two months after my break up I gave in.  I'm so thankful for God's love for me that through unusual circumstances I was led to the right guy for my heart!

So anyway like I said before, sexual sin is a tricky thing.  My heart hurt for many years that I wasn't able to fully give to Randy my whole heart...pieces were missing.  Please understand, I was not romantically tied to these previous relationships, but none the less I gave away pieces of myself God asked for me to save for my husband...a husband HE chose for ME.

In time that last guy got the best of me.  For whatever reason, I set out to track him down and ask for forgiveness for this sexual sin against God and him.  You see I took something from his future bride, too.  I can't explain (again) the guilt I felt.  I know someone reading this is completely confused.  I am in no way saying these feelings were justified, nor an I saying you need to repent of this sin to a former bf/gf. For me, I just had to do something. So, he responded politely to the email and that was that.

Enter the wonderful world of Facebook and their lovely friend requests.  Yep, you guessed it he requested my friendship.  I knew then what I needed to do.  I have no idea what his intentions were and I never will.  More than likely he honestly wanted to be friends. But, I've learned through far too much heart ache the grip of sexual sin. Sin is cunning, manipulative, and devastating. I knew right then and there I had to shuck my pride and I responded (this is the exact FB email):

Hey, I wanted to send you a quick note so you don't think I'm a total jerk. I know I was the first to reach out and contact you a few years ago. It was completely innocent, as I'm sure your request to be friends on Facebook is. To be honest when I sent you the email a few years back I didn't consult Randy and in retrospect really didn't honor him or our marriage in the process. I don't want to make that mistake a second time, so I'm going to decline your request to be FB friends. I KNOW this sounds overtly dramatic and I don't intend it to, but I made too many mistakes in the past to lightly disregard what could potentially harm my marriage. I truly wish you the very best and hope you are happy and healthy!


This seems like a really little thing to a lot of people, but to me it was more that an apology five years ago and more than a FB request recently.  It was me taking back the power sin had over me to believe the lies that because of that sexual sin I hadn't surrendered all that I am to my husband.  Because God covers a multitude of things, I know my covenant of marriage is whole, no pieces missing.

I still believe that the temptation of sexual sin gravely affected my marriage.  I can't change that.  What I can change is any opportunity for the enemy to have a foot hold in my thoughts to allow something to harm my marriage.  I can use this as motivation to teach my children the gift of being a pure bride/groom for the spouse God chooses for them.  I can teach them about appropriate relationships for marriage.  And hopefully, I can share with you and others the bondage sin has when we give it the power.  Marriage is a gift, guard it with your life.

Monday, July 12, 2010

learning to forgive and let go, part one

To say I've been in a funk is an understatement.  I've tried to shake an unsettling feeling for a few weeks now and then I realized what had been keeping me from the fullness of joy that God has for us.  I'm still healing, but what is important is that even though the pain tugs me towards feeling powerless, God redeems who he called me to be and I find strength in him. So here it goes...

I wrote a little over a year ago about an accident I had that shaped me in so many ways. Well, it happened ten years ago Saturday and the man from the accident, Duane G. died ten years ago yesterday.

When the accident first happened I was very much in shock. I had suffered a few scratches and a fractured pelvis, but I was alive.  While still in the hospital I asked a nurse how the motorcyclist was and was informed he had died due to injuries sustained in the accident.  My heart crumbled. I cannot explain the feeling of sorrow, remorse, and guilt that ensued.  At the same time my son was still a baby and I was practically a newlywed.  I was thankful for my life and my responsibilities pushed me forward.  In the days, weeks and months following so many people cared and loved me through the physical and emotional pain.

Shortly after my accident a boy I graduated with, Johnny O. also died in an accident while driving a motorcycle.  He left behind a family and newly wed wife.  His wife, Kelly was also a friend of mine.  I was able to pray with her and encourage her and it gave me the greatest peace to use my experience for good.

In the year that followed I would find out there was still parts of my heart that were not healed and full of fear.  I couldn't drive near the accident and would avoid that part of town at all cost.  I couldn't talk about the accident.  I forbade Randy from every owning (this would change) or riding a motorcycle.  And one day as Randy was driving and I in the passenger side, we turned in front of a motorcyclist.  There was no need for panic, and he was driving completely safe, but the image of the motorcyclist coming at me took me exactaly back to that moment and I was terrified. I freaked out and began crying uncontrolably. Randy calmed me down and I was fine convincing myself I overreacted.

In the years that would follow Randy's desire to own a motorcycle would not be quenched.   He eventually bought a motorcycle against my wishes. It became a very difficult point in our marriage. But in time I forgave him and it became a non issue, or so I thought.

Now I know, every trigger to bring me back to that accident had nothing at all to do with the 'triggers', but the fear and guilt that still existed in my heart and that brewed and eventually boiled over until I realized it, called it what it was, and chose to lay it at the feet of Jesus.

I know in my heart that I didn't kill the man from my accident, but I had to own up to the feeling of guilt so I could I CAN heal.  I'm thankful everyday for my life and the opportunity to know the Father that loves us so.  I'm thankful for every one of my family members that I've been blessed to meet and enjoy because I wasn't critically injured that day.  I'm thankful that my daughter was born a year after that accident and that my injury didn't hinder the blessing of her life.  I'm thankful that I have an opportunity to grow old with my husband.

And although, I'm so grateful for my life, I never want to forget his.  In  a very sad and tragic way I will forever be connected to his family.  I cannot fathom what pain they feel with the loss of their Father, son, brother.  Please pray for this family and the pain they have endured without their Father, son brother over the last ten years.

I don't share this for pity, I share because I truly desire to live a life fully given to Christ.  I want to challenge myself to live as transparently as possible and in turn continue to repent and lay my imperfections, my sin at the feet of Jesus.  If I encourage just one person to see a fear, guilt, or sin issue and they are able to freely give it to Jesus, then it is worth it.  Because HE is worth it!