Full of Thankfulness

I started this post to give an update on my Lynch Syndrome or HNPCC (Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer) after all the testing I’ve been through, but with it being Thanksgiving this week I thought it would combine well with what I’m thankful for.

After a whole slew of tests over the last couple of months, I’m thankful to finally be done with blood draws, MRI and CT scans, and doctor’s visits, except for one follow-up visit to my GI (gastrointestinal) doctor the week after Thanksgiving (the soonest my schedule and his availability coincided).

My first appointment was with my primary care physician, who’d had a chance to look over my genetic results for a week before seeing her. She liked the fact that I already had appointments scheduled with a GI doc, an OB/Gyn, and a urologist, but she also referred me to an oncologist. I thought that was a little strange since I don’t have cancer, but figured it was perhaps to establish a relationship in case I did need to be seen as a patient.

My second appointment was with an OB/Gyn doc. I’m thankful I had a hysterectomy (because of endometriosis) over a decade ago, but my right ovary, the good one, was left intact to provide the necessary hormones. I wanted to discuss taking out that remaining ovary, since the chance of me getting ovarian cancer with the MSH6 mutation is 10-30x greater than the general population (which is less than 1%). It’s not like I need it anymore, anyway.

My OB/Gyn doc didn’t have a chance to look over the genetic results before I saw her as I just took a copy with me. At first, she seemed a little reluctant to do an oophorectomy (remove my ovary), especially after the sonogram done in the office showed it to be fine and since I didn’t have the BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation (with which there’s a 30-70% chance of getting ovarian cancer).

I think it was just that she wasn’t as familiar with Lynch syndrome since it’s more readily associated with colorectal cancers, but after having a chance to look at the paperwork I took her, I’m thankful she agreed it would be a good idea. I left knowing the office would call me back, after being in touch with my insurance company, to schedule the surgery date, which will be early in the new year.

My third appointment was with the gastroenterologist and he knew right away what the MSH6 mutation meant. With that result and the family history, especially my mum dying of pancreatic cancer, I’m thankful he wanted to be proactive, which is what I wanted also. He ordered general blood work (complete blood count and chemistry panel) as well as tests for pancreatic enzymes (lipase, amylase) and cancer antigens for the pancreas (CA 19-9) and ovary (CA 125).

Pancreatic and ovarian cancers are called silent cancers, which means they often aren’t detected until it’s too late, so I’m very thankful he especially focused on those.

We also arranged for me to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy, which he would do, and scheduled a MRI scan of my brain and of the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts, with and without contrast (MRCP = Magnetic Resonance CholangioPancreatography). My gallbladder had already been removed about 10 years ago when it caused me a lot of nausea and abdominal pain, after it decided to get lazy on me and only work at 11% of its potential.

I had all those tests done before my fourth doctor’s appointment, which was with the urologist. Happy I’d come to see her after looking at the genetic results, she was genuinely concerned, especially since I was still excreting a small amount of blood in my urine after seeing her for that 18 months ago. She sent my urine sample off to Pathology, once again, to look for any malignant cells. I’m thankful she wanted to be proactive and that this time, because kidney cancer is often asymptomatic and slow-growing, she ordered a complete abdominal and pelvic CT scan with and without contrast, to get a better picture of my kidneys, adrenal glands (which sit on top of the kidneys), ureters, and bladder.

My fifth doctor’s appointment was with the oncologist. He said he found my case very interesting, especially knowing about the genetic mutation and how it has shown up so clearly in my mum’s and sister’s cancer histories. He seemed impressed with all I’d already organized and done, but he planned to send a letter to my GI doc recommending an endoscopic ultrasound be done. He said that, because the pancreas hides behind the stomach, it’s even better than the MRCP at getting a more complete picture of the entire organ, not just the head of it, and also of the surrounding area.

Upon my request, he okayed for it to wait till the new year. I’m thankful for health insurance, but our medical expenses had already long since exceeded our $1500 medical reimbursement amount for this year. Next year, we’ll have a health savings account with $1000 contributed by my employer on top of the maximum amount ($3450) I’ll be putting in there.

My oncologist’s job, at this point, was to coordinate all the other doctors, making sure they each ordered the appropriate tests and scans every year and that everyone was kept up to date with all the results. I’m thankful he’s going to take that job over from me 🙂.

All the tests so far have come back negative and normal, so I’m very thankful for that. The GI doc did say I had mild inflammation and erosion in my stomach, though, which is probably what causes my frequent bouts of nausea. He removed biopsies from there and the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum), plus a small polyp from my colon, of which I haven’t heard any results yet. In faith, I’m going to think positive and assume they were all benign since he didn’t rush me back into his office, but I’ll find out for sure next week what, if anything, they did show.

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So many blessings! Let me count them, one by one 🤗

I’m thankful for good health at the moment, with my fibromyalgia under control, and all my medical tests coming back normal.

I’m thankful that I live in a country where quality medical care is available and attainable, and for the freedom to choose my medical providers.

I’m thankful to have insurance that paid for most of the medical costs lately and for the financial resources to pay the balance without having to scrimp and watch every penny.

I’m thankful for the freedom in this country—freedom from oppression, freedom of speech, freedom of religion—and for the brave men and women who have fought so hard, and sometimes given their life, to retain those freedoms and help us feel safe.

I’m thankful for this wonderful, low-stress job that allows me to write and helps provide a roof over my head, enough food to eat, clothes on my back, and forty pairs of shoes in my closet (for real, I counted them)—those things that are so easy to take for granted by those of us who’ve never had to be without them.

I’m thankful for a loving, supportive husband who’s traipsed with me to the many medical appointments lately, who shows his love in so many little ways, and who’s stuck with me for so many years, through thick and thin.

I’m thankful for my entire family—including those who are not related by blood but still count as “family” in one way or another (such as my blog readers😊)—and to be able to share the holidays with some of them.

I’m thankful for the beauty of God’s amazing creations—eyes to see them, ears to hear them, skin to feel them, a nose to smell them, and a sense of taste to experience all the awesome flavors.

I’m thankful for the way God orchestrated my circumstances so I could meet Him and that He pursued me until I finally realized my need for Him.

I’m thankful for Jesus, and that through His death and resurrection, He saved me from my sins—past, present, and future—and pulled me out of a meaningless life of self-destruction.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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All in my Head

Straight-jacketed by fear,
I’m unable to clear
A path through the minefield,
That’s pockmarking my mind.
Erected walls my shield,
Wishing I could rewind,
Steeped in regrets instead.

But it’s all in my head.

The devil laughs and taunts,
Negativity haunts,
Unseen tears blur my sight,
Voices dull my hearing,
Critics plague me at night,
Past mistakes re-airing,
Rubbing wounds raw and red.

But it’s all in my head.

Deep yearning to be free,
Failure’s all I can see.
Lies choke every thought,
Darkness threatens my life,
A battle’s being fought,
Evil forces run rife,
Doubts, stagnation, and dread.

But it’s all in my head.

Inadequacies reign,
Too tired to try again.
Invisible ropes bind,
Pseudo-mountains loom large,
Success leaves me behind,
My life’s dream a mirage.
Hanging on by a thread,

But it’s all in my head.

Seen only in my eyes,
A master of disguise,
With a plastered-on smile.
Still, no one dares to ask,
You want to talk awhile?
What is behind the mask?
Where has the real me fled?

But it’s all in my head.

A World of Hurt

It’s a sad day when we realize that even churches would be better off with armed security personnel to protect their congregation.

It’s a sign of the times.

This year has been given the title of the deadliest year for mass killings in the US in at least a decade.

A recent CBS News article said, “Since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando 17 months ago, there have been 555 mass shootings as the FBI defines them: four or more people shot at once. Approximately 689 people have been killed, and nearly 2,700 wounded.”

Those who carry out these massacres most often use guns, but they have also been known to use their hands, a knife, a vehicle, poison, an axe, or fire.

In that same article, a psychiatry professor was asked about people’s response to all these killings. His sentiment was that, as with anything we are repeatedly exposed to, it loses its shock value after a while.

People become numb to news of these happenings.

We see it with the prevalence of sex and violence on TV. Neither of those shock us like they used to years ago, even as they become more and more graphic.

There’s an average of one mass killing every two weeks, although many of them aren’t considered newsworthy because they’re a result of domestic violence.

A Newsweek.com article said that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans have a gun and, “Guns are linked to roughly 33,000 deaths in the U.S. per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; about two-thirds of them are suicides.”

Those two statements in themselves say a lot about our culture.

One is that domestic violence has become so commonplace that it’s no longer newsworthy. In fact, it almost seems to me like it’s pushed under the rug. If we don’t see it or hear about it, then we can pretend it doesn’t happen. Chances are neither victim nor perpetrator will talk about it or seek help to end the cycle.

The other is the staggering number of suicides there are per year, whether by gun or other means.

I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of owning a gun or whether we’d be better off with stricter gun laws. The media has been doing a pretty good job of attacking those topics from every possible angle.

My point is: there’s a world of hurt out there that’s not being addressed.

But it can’t be addressed if it’s not acknowledged.

And it can’t be acknowledged if people aren’t willing to see it.

Yet people have a hard time seeing it with eyes blurred by their own pain.

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People are hurting.

And it seems, a lot of hurting people don’t know how to handle that pain except by lashing out, whether that’s at others in the form of violence or at themselves in the form of suicide.

I believe alcoholism, eating disorders, and drug abuse are all forms of suicide, just slower acting. They’re all cries for help. They’re all people who are hurting and don’t know how else to deal with it.

Yes, you read that correctly: I believe a lot of hurting people don’t know how to handle their pain except by lashing out, whether that’s at themselves or others.

Even the gunman who killed 26 people and injured dozen of others last Sunday in the Sutherland Springs church massacre, lashed out from his own pain. He obviously had some mental health issues that weren’t dealt with.

I think that he, and others like him, need to learn to handle their own hurt in more societally acceptable ways and their inability to do so only helps explain why they might have done it. I’m not condoning or even excusing him for what he did, any more than it’s okay for someone to bully another person or be cruel to an animal.

Everyone is still 100% responsible for the choices they make, and the consequences of those choices.

In this imperfect world, we’re all damaged in some way. We’re all sinful and are in need of Jesus as our Savior. Yet so many people are blinded to that truth.

If seeking a relationship with Jesus meant that all our problems would be over, though, then people would seek Him for those reasons, not because of who He is.

Unfortunately, and as much as we all wish it were so, starting a relationship with Jesus does not mean life will be pain-free. Nor will it necessarily be easy.

It does mean we have Someone to run to and cling to when things get tough. It does mean that in Him we have a source of strength, peace, and comfort. We have an anchor in the storms of life.

It does mean we have Someone who understands our pain. He was rejected, mocked, beaten, and eventually killed by ignorant people.

It does mean He loves us, even when we mess up and make a stupid choice with life-changing consequences. No matter what we do, or don’t do, His love for us is not going to change.

It does mean that when it is our time to leave this world—and none of us are exempt from that—we can be assured of eternity in heaven with Him. Whether that day comes at the hand of a gunman or peacefully in our own bed, we no longer need to fear that day.

 

“Jesus is the only one who can save people. His name is the only power in the world that has been given to save anyone. We must be saved through him!” Acts 4:12 (ERV)

 

 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

I mentioned to my husband that I was at a loss as to what to write my blog about this week and he suggested writing about the benefits of laughter and how we need more of it. I wanted to laugh at him right then!

I am probably the least qualified person to write about laughter. I do so little of it myself.

I come by my lack of joviality honestly, though. I’m not one of the extroverted, fun-loving personalities. I tend to be more of a deep-thinker, more analytical, almost flat-line as far as emotions go. I don’t remember my parents laughing much either, even though I remember my mum telling me to smile more.

I used to have a very witty, dry sense of humor as a teenager. I know because my sister once said she wished she could think of comebacks to things like I did. I loved words and word games, so that’s probably why puns and word-play came pretty naturally to me.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve lost it. Maybe it’s the change in culture, I don’t know. It’s hard to be witty and pop off with a good pun when nobody understands what you said.

To be quite honest, I find it hard to find the humor in a lot of things. I’m not amused by a lot of comedy, probably because it seems like most of it is crude or derogatory. I will try to laugh at most jokes, though, but it is because I feel for the person telling the joke and don’t want them to feel bad because I didn’t find their joke very funny.

Some of the funniest stuff to me can’t be scripted. It happens in real life and is spontaneous and, most of the time, the circumstances are what makes it hilarious.

I think what prompted my husband’s suggestion to write about laughter is because of something the youngest grandchild said when we took him and his brother downtown to enjoy the Halloween festivities on Tuesday. We got there around 5pm.

It had been raining earlier in the day, so they’d moved all the booths and candy under the shelter of a parking garage. That way they could continue the festivities without being hampered by the rain. Unfortunately, that meant there was limited room for people to be a part of the activities, so there was a long line winding around the square. A couple hundred costumed kids, and their parents/guardians, were surprisingly patient waiting for their turn to play a game and accept some candy from each of the volunteers manning the booths set up by local businesses and organizations.

It was a chilly afternoon but the boys only had shorts and t-shirts on under their Power Ranger and Flash costumes. The longer we waited, the colder we all got. Even though it was only in the 40’s, I think the slight breeze made it feel colder. I had on an undershirt, a long-sleeve t-shirt, a sweater, and a pea-coat, but my Raynaud’s still set in, turning my fingers purple and white. Gloves didn’t help.

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We were glad the youngest was getting such a kick out of seeing all the different costumes. He squealed and pointed, making each of us look as he hollered out what each person was.
“A ninja!”
“A pirate!”
“A wookie!”

About halfway through our wait, an inflated 6-foot dinosaur waddled down the street. Dinosaurs are his favorite, along with sharks. His volume and excitement doubled.
“Look, Mia! A T-Rex!”
“I see him. He’s so cool!” I said, finger held up to my mouth, trying to get him to tone it down a decibel or two.
“No, he’s warm,” he said, matter-of-factly and he was on to the next character.

Maybe you didn’t find it funny because you weren’t there and it wasn’t your grandchild, but my husband and I couldn’t help but laugh at that. Trust a four-year-old to take me literally.

We made it into the parking garage about ten minutes after 6, and much of it was already packed up. There were a few treats left, though, so the boys still got some goodies added to their buckets. A couple dozen hopeful kids waited in line behind us, too.

Talking about kids reminds me of something funny my youngest daughter said when she was about ten. For some reason it’s stuck in my head, and even though I know there’s many other amusing moments that should also be there, they escape me now.

My oldest daughter was telling us about something and suddenly forgot the word she was looking for to complete her sentence.
“…um, um, um—” was all that came out.
“Umbrella?” my younger daughter piped up, quite seriously. She was just trying help her find the right word to finish her sentence, even though she hadn’t even been listening to what was being said.
“No!” was all my exasperated older daughter could say, although she laughs about it now.
Even though she wasn’t meaning to be funny, we all found it hilarious at the time and my husband and I still crack up over that one!

Kids and animals are definitely two steady sources for comedic humor. It explains why they were so popular on the TV show AFV (America’s Funniest Videos). I love seeing the funny videos people share on FaceBook. One of my favorites is the “Ultimate Dog Tease.” Look it up if you’re not familiar with it.

Seriously, though, I think good clean humor is much needed these days. We’re bombarded with negativity in the news—all the natural disasters, sickness, poverty, crime, terrorism, and oppression happening all round the world. Being empathetic of those people who are suffering, like those who are injured or lost loved ones when the truck plowed through the walkers and bicyclers in New York a couple of days ago, sometimes it all just gets to me.

Even the Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT) The Contemporary English Version really speaks to me, though: “If you are cheerful, you feel good; if you are sad, you hurt all over.”

Maybe that’s why I have fibromyalgia. If I was more cheerful (and didn’t suffer from depression), maybe I wouldn’t hurt as much. Just a thought…

You’ll have to excuse me. I need to go watch some old AFV videos or a good comedy. Any suggestions?

 

 

 

#Me too

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has been difficult for me. And he’s just one of many perpetrators. Most cases aren’t high-profile like Weinstein’s, but just because they don’t get the publicity his did doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

It’s taken me a while to write this post because the whole thing has brought up some uncomfortable feelings I was quite happy to keep buried.

I’ve forgiven (I think), but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. I wish it did. I am very thankful I don’t have any clear memories of my childhood sexual abuse (thank you, Lord!), but I still have very vivid memories of the three in my teens and I know the ramifications still affect the relationships in my life today, almost forty years later, even though I wish they didn’t.

So many people are suffering in silence after being violated, and those closest to them may be clueless about what happened.

To be quite honest, it makes me mad, but it also brings up some regret and guilt feelings, too.

I’m angry that some people think they can use their size, strength, or position of power to coerce or bully others into doing something against their will.

I’m angry because, as open and liberal as our culture is about sex, there’s still a stigma associated with reporting a sexual assault.

Obviously, the victim suffers a lot of emotional pain, embarrassment, and shame afterwards, but I think our culture is largely to blame for that. The way a woman dresses and acts is really just a reflection of how the media portrays what a woman in our culture should be like — beautiful, provocatively dressed, and sexy, yet that’s what will come back to bite her in the legal system. It means the victim is often left feeling like they somehow “asked for it.”

I’m angry because the lack of reporting means the perpetrator often gets away with it and is therefore able to assault others, which is why more than 60 women have now admitted to being harassed or raped by that sick man.

I’m angry at myself for not reporting the sexual crimes that happened to me, that I allowed them to get away with it, that I left them free to do it to someone else.

That’s where guilt and regret raise their ugly heads.

I wonder how many other women have had to go through the trauma of being violated because I kept quiet.

I wonder who else is having to live with the shame of a sexual assault because I was too ashamed to speak up.

These thoughts made me look up the statute of limitations for reporting a rape in Texas. If the victim is an adult at the time of the assault, it’s 5 years for a civil lawsuit and 10 years for a criminal case. It’s a criminal case if it was originally reported to law enforcement.

Hopefully, one of the other victims reported him in time, or even better, there was no one else victimized. Either way, my window for speaking up has long closed here.

However, there’s no statute of limitations in NZ. Hmmm…🤔 There’s definitely one I’d prosecute if I knew, or could find out, his name.

My husband just wants to send John Wick after them all, not just my perpetrators, but anyone who’s committed that crime against another person. That would keep him busy for a long time! In fact he may need some help.

Sex has deviated so far from God’s ideal that it’s no longer recognized for what it is—the intimate joining of a man and a woman under the covenant of marriage.

It’s been cheapened to a casual act between acquaintances, a lustful act of passion and weakened resolve, expected in most circles, so much so that the person who doesn’t participate is thought of as weird and is definitely a minority. And, what’s more, it’s almost like it’s trendy for it to no longer just be between a man and a woman, either.

I think God is saddened by that.

Sexual harassment and abuse is more widespread than we’d like to admit, but ignoring it or downplaying it does nothing but perpetuate it. The #MeToo’s posted all over social media prove that, but unless each of the victims (majority women, but also a few men) actually file charges against the perpetrators, nothing’s going to change.

In fact, it’ll probably just continue to get worse, as the Bible predicts. The growing number of porn addicts and the increase in sex trafficking are a testament to that.

It’s sad. It’s sickening. It’s heartbreaking. It’s demeaning. It’s demoralizing.

If there’s one thing I want people to get out of this post, it’s this: Please, please, please learn from the women that went before you and made the mistake of staying silent.

Do yourself and others a favor—break the cycle—report sexual abuse or a sexual assault as soon as possible after it happens.

One victim speaking up means one more perpetrator brought to justice, and others spared.

Be that one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money Talks, Money Walks— Tips for Smart Money Management—Part 2

 

Continuing on from last week’s Part 1 post:

7. Drink water. Not only is it better for you than drinking sodas, but a cup of iced water is generally free at restaurants. Living in small town Texas, it’s only about $2-$3 per soda or iced tea at a restaurant but, depending on what state and city you’re in and which restaurant/fast food joint you’re dining at, it can be much more than that. If you’re like most of us and eat out more than once a week, that adds up quickly. Even if you only eat out once a week and buy a $2 drink each time, drinking water instead will save you $104 per year.

Alcoholic drinks are marked up even more and can increase a bill exponentially, especially when adding tip on top of that. Buy your own beer or bottle of wine from the grocery store or liquor store and drink it at home. Not only will it save you big bucks in the long run, but it’s much safer than drinking out somewhere and then driving home.

8. Don’t buy at convenience stores. If at all possible, plan ahead and take what you need on your trip to avoid having to pay inflated prices at convenience stores. I’m amazed when I hear of people stopping every day on their way to work to buy a Dr. Pepper or Coke.

A 2 liter bottle of soda at the grocery store usually costs less than a 16-20 ounce bottle at a convenience store. Even buying the multipacks of 16-20 ounce bottles from the grocery story is considerably cheaper per bottle than the convenience store price. Even better, buy a 2 liter bottle and a 6 pack of the smaller, easier-to-carry bottles from the grocery store and then refill your small bottle from the 2 liter bottle several times before throwing it in for recycling. Potential savings = $1.50 x 5 days per week x 52 weeks = $390/year.

9. Be aware of monthly charges/subscriptions. It’s easy to ignore or overlook the fees that are charged each month for services or goods, thinking, “It’s just $10. That’s not much.” However, little + little + little adds up to lots. You may think it’s not too bad to pay $15/month for an audiobook service, or $10/month to listen to music, or whatever, but if you add up all those monthly charges, you may be surprised how much you’re actually spending. If it’s something you can do without for a short time while you’re getting your finances sorted out, that’s the best option. However, if it’s something you absolutely need, the best thing to do is shop around for better prices.

Even when it’s something you’ve had for a long time, like car insurance or cell phone coverage, don’t be loyal to a company if it means you’re paying more. Of course, a company may offer you a lower rate if you let them know you’re thinking about switching because So-and-So company has the same service for such-and-such rate but you’d rather stay with them if they can match it or present you with a better offer. They probably will, too, especially if you’re a good customer who pays the bills on time. A little competition between companies can be to a customer’s advantage.

Be aware of hidden fees, too. Phone companies, credit card companies, banks, and the like, have been known to inch the bill up by sneaking in little “this and that” fees, so keep an eye on things like that and dispute them if necessary.

10. Buy used or refurbished if possible. Sure there’s some things this tip doesn’t apply to—no one wants used/refurbished underwear 😉—but many items are perfectly fine and much cheaper when purchased second hand. The Mac I do all my writing on is refurbished, some of our furniture (especially earlier on in the marriage) was gently used before we got it, my car was three years old before we paid cash for it, and my husband got his iPhone from a coworker for a steal when she upgraded to the latest one out. Of course, it may be last year’s model, but you can save hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars by acquiring big ticket items especially, in a “previously loved” condition.

11. Look for discounts through apps and coupons. Many stores and restaurants have generous incentives through their own apps and loyalty and rewards programs. My husband and I take advantage of as many of these as we can because we love free!

We use a Hilton Honors Amex card and earn free hotel stays for our vacations—5 nights in San Francisco at a Homewood Suites completely free! We get cash back, store credit, and shipboard credit on cruises, with purchases using our Costco Visa card. We get ThankYou Points with our Citi Bank card and with those points we’ve earned a free grill, Lowe’s gift cards, rental cars, and numerous other items. Of course, we have several grocery store loyalty cards that offer discounts when we shop there, such as Kroger’s 10 cents per gallon discount on gas and WalMart’s Savings Catcher program which checks sale prices of surrounding competitors and refunds the difference without me having to search through weekly ads and clip coupons. I’ve been refunded $164.16 so far.

My husband is having fun taking advantage of the McDonalds app lately where he frequently gets free or BOGO food and drink offers (and their coffees are providing some pretty stiff competition for Starbucks at half the cost, I might add). We also have the Starbucks app and indulge our guilty pleasure fairly often which earns us stars for a free drink or food item, but one of the catches I’ve found, with this app especially, is that they suck you into buying more than you might normally buy with all the games and special offers and double star days, so restraint is needed. You’re not really saving if you’re spending money you wouldn’t normally spend anyway, just to get something “free” so be sure to do the math first.

Also, like I mentioned in tip #4 last week, remember not to spend more on your credit cards than you can afford to pay off at the end of the month, otherwise what you’re paying in interest takes away from any other benefits.

12. Tithe. I’m mentioning this one again because it is so important. God is the one that provides the opportunity to earn a wage and He is the bestower of all good gifts, so it’s in our best interest to honor Him, not only by being a good steward of all He’s blessed us with, but also by giving back to His work in the community and around the world.

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With Christmas coming up, consider giving above and beyond the 10% to special charities like Salvation Army Angel Tree and Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. You’ll be blessed as much as the person receiving the gift.

Money Talks, Money Walks—Tips for Smart Money Management—Part 1.

My husband is a fan of financial podcasts and websites. Larry Burkett was one of the first people he heeded advice from, now he’s an avid listener to the Clark Howard show and he also likes Wes Moss. Listening to those programs has helped him grow in financial wisdom considerably, which is why he says, “Money is like time. You have to decide how you’ll spend it, or it’ll just disappear.”

Money problems are one of the top reasons for marriage difficulties and divorces, so I thought I’d share a few nuggets of his wisdom for those interested in getting their finances sorted out. Hopefully, putting these tips into practice will help avert more serious problems before they develop.

  1. Tithe (from the gross amount of your income). There are many verses in the Bible talking about giving, specifically a tenth of all your income (a tithe) should be given back to the church for the Lord’s work to be carried out, but the one that speaks to me is Luke 6:38 that says, “Give, and you will receive, Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and poured over into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” If you read my post “A Miracle in Obedience,” you’ll know why. The Lord is good and he will reward you for obedience done out of love, but don’t do it just to get something back. Your heart needs to be in the right place, too. You will not be blessed if you’re just giving a tithe to test God, nor will you necessarily be blessed by just throwing a couple of dollars in the offering plate (unless a couple of dollars really is 10% of your gross income).
  2. Save 10% of your income. Easier said than done, you might say. It is, I know, and unfortunately, that’s why so many people reaching retirement age can’t afford to retire. They’ve not planned or saved for it (the simplest way to start saving for retirement is with a Roth IRA). The earlier you start, the better off you’ll be because interest on savings and investments compounds. By that I mean, if you let the interest earned stay in the bank with your savings, or in the case of investments you reinvest that earned interest, even your interest will earn interest. Unfortunately, plain bank savings accounts don’t pay much interest these days, but it’s better than not saving at all and there are such things as “high yield” savings plans. If you’re looking at me like I’m crazy because there’s no way you can afford to save 10%, try starting smaller. Save 1%, then reevaluate after 3 months and see if you can bump it up to 2%. Reassess on a regular basis and keep bumping up the percentage as often as you can. Most employers do direct deposit of paychecks and if that’s the case for you (it’s much better than being given a check to cash), specify a certain amount from your paycheck to go into a separate savings account. Then don’t touch it, out of sight, out of mind. If the money’s gone off the top before you even look at what you have in your checking account, you’ll be less likely to miss it.piggy-bank-477979__480
  3. Don’t spend more than you make. That may sound like a very basic thing to say, and your first thought may be, “If you don’t have it, you can’t spend it, right?” I wish that was true, and if we lived in a cash only society it might be true, but because we live in the age of plastic, phone apps, and online shopping, hardly anyone even deals in cash anymore. I know I don’t. However, credit cards make it way too easy to allow more money to go out than you have coming in. It’s very common for people to rack up huge balances on their credit card statements and then only be able to pay the minimum payment each month, which makes the credit card companies very happy. To cut back on credit card spending so you can get those debts paid off, try going back to a cash only system. That way, when you run out, you have no other choice but to stop buying. High credit card balances ushers in my next tip…
  4. Earn interest, don’t pay it. If you do use credit cards, only spend as much as you can afford to pay off each month. When you pay off your credit card balance each month, you’ll be depriving the card company of the exorbitant interest they charge for a rolling balance and that’s a good thing—for you. Likewise, when considering a purchase, stick with assets and keep liabilities to a minimum. By that I mean, favor purchases that are going to increase in value or have the potential to earn you money (like land, a home, an investment of some kind), rather than decrease in value or drain more money from you (like a new car, a new wardrobe, or another pet). The best way is to not buy anything until you can pay the whole amount for it, but at least save up as much as possible for big purchases, and that will lower the amount you’ll need to finance, which brings me to my next tip…
  5. Wait at least 24 hours before buying big ticket items. Giving yourself some time to think about it, maybe research it, can help avoid impulse buying. Sometimes I’ve found it helpful to wait even on smaller ticket items, something I want but don’t necessarily need, like another pair of shoes 😉. Sometimes I’ll be rewarded by finding the same item for a better price elsewhere, other times I talk myself out of buying it, and occasionally I have been known to go back for it and it’s gone. I figure that’s God’s way of telling me I didn’t need to buy it anyway. Likewise, going grocery shopping while you’re hungry results in more impulse purchases. We’ll come home with more than we intended, and usually it’s stuff like cinnamon rolls or bite-size lemon cakes (insert whatever your weakness is), which most of us don’t need anyway. Talking about big ticket items…
  6. Drive your car at least ten years. So many of us get tired of our cars long before they lose their usefulness. Vehicles belong to the liability group of purchases and new cars especially lose hundreds of dollars in value as soon as you drive them off the lot. Some people end up financing a vehicle for the longest time possible to get the lowest monthly payment possible but then sell or trade it in after a couple of years for a new one while they’re still upside down (owe more than it’s worth) on the first one. Not wise money management if you’re wanting to get out of debt. For as long as you own a vehicle, money will be going out on gas, oil changes, tires, inspection, registration, and repairs but if you take care of a car and keep up with preventive maintenance, many models last 200,000 miles or more. That’s a whole lot cheaper than swapping out cars every couple of years and never getting away from making that $300-650 monthly payment.

That’s it for this week, more to follow at a later date.

What do you think? Helpful, or not?