Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best Build-A-Bear Score EVER!

Okay, so this post isn't related to USED things.... but its an excellent one all the same. You will not believe how I just walked out of Build-A-Bear.

First of all, the reason we were there was to celebrate Christmas with the Grandparents. They bought each of my children a gift card for Build-A-Bear. Then we all went together to experience the fun. Knowing that, I used our Discover Miles and received $50 gift cards to BAB as well. Total, we had $130 gift card dollars. In addition, I had a coupon for $30 off of a purchase over $100 (which, with four kids, of course I'd go over $100).

IN THE END (this is the best part), we got four stuffed animals, complete with accessories and outfits to their little hearts content... PLUS another $40 gift card (I only had to pay $20 for it and it doesn't expire) AND two $30 Merry Christmas Bears for only $5 each.

The end result??? I went in with $50 (that I hadn't used real money on) and left with $40! In addition to everything listed above... not to mention, I still have $3 left on one of the original gift cards. I have 6 stuffed animals, a gift card, and all their goodies.  HELLO???? Is that not the steal of the century???? SO COOL!

Did I have to compromise our resolution??? NOPE! I didn't spend a single penny in that store and got all of those goodies... and STILL have over $40 in gift cards left! I couldn't have planned that if I'd tried!

And, the kids had a blast. It was the first time for three of my four children and the grandparents. It was a blast, of course :)

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Used Gift Exchange?

I miss work parties. Of all the things I love about getting to stay home with my kids.... that one thing is true. I miss work parties.

So last year I decided to start an annual "work" party for stay-at-home moms. Apparently it was a hit, because I was getting emails in early December about plans for this years party!

Well, we had it. And it was fun.

10 mommies. 23 Children. It was awesome.

One of the fun things we do at this party (other than eat and chat) is a used gift exchange for the kids. We each find a toy at home that the kids don't play with anymore. We wrap it up (one per child) and give it away. Its great. Many of the kids even get in on the "give-it-away" part in anticipation of the "new" toy they will receive.

We throw all the gifts into the middle of the room (thats 23, mind you). Then we say "Go!"  Sounds like chaos, right??? It is. Fun, crazy, loud, sensational chaos. And that's just the moms!

Actually, it goes fairly well. The younger kids need a little prodding, but in the end, each child has a gift of some kind. This year was especially touching to me.

I had a brand-new Pluto plush that had been sitting in a bin. I actually have about three Plutos so decided this one could go. Considering that it still had its Disney tag... I tried selling it. No luck. Thank God! I threw it into a gift bag and gave it away. The sweet little boy who just happened to pick that bag was THRILLED! It so happens that his favorite character is Pluto! I couldn't have asked for a better home! I never would have known to give it to him otherwise... what a joy!

My little Hannah picked a bag that had a mini Toys R Us inside. Books, dolls, clothes, mechanical toys... HUGE. (That family cleaned out well!). I pulled out a couple things for Hannah and then let the other 22 kids pick what they wanted. It was so cute. The same little boy with the Pluto kept asking, "I can have two things?" Another little girl pulled a Strawberry Shortcake doll from Hannah's bag. Little did I know that Strawberry Shortcake was her new favorite character as well!

Finally, Corban, my 3-year-old, was among the last to pick a gift. Someone found one left labeled "Toddler boy." It was between that one and the one we had brought, so he took that one. Well, it happened to be a never-used (it seemed) Disney Cars book... complete with a whole set of mini cars and a floor map to play on. If you know my son, you know that this was HIS gift.

I sat back at the end of the party and was filled with such joy. One person's "junk" was another person's newfound cherished treasure. What delight! And, not to sound cliche, but I was so blessed by how God had so lovingly arranged the gift of each child. True, some kids were initially disappointed... maybe they got a baby toy and they were quite a bit older than that! Still, they all left with something special- whether it was traded, given, or found.

The smiles were mesmerizing and I found my own self smiling all throughout the day as I thought about the various ways children had been blessed. Isn't God good?

And all from something used....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What My Kids Think

My husband had this great idea of letting our kids blog! I thought it might be nice for you to hear what THEY think of our New Years Resolution of 2010... as the small ones sort of forced to deal with it!  Heres what they said, in their own words:

Elisabetta (10 years old) said:


Well, going to parties and having to make my own presents is cool and it gives me a chance to be creative. 

What I learned is that you don't have to buy things that are factory-made. You make the presents. When a person receives a gift if it is home-made or hand-made by you it is more special because... they know that you spent time on their gift.

I also noticed that YES! it is hard. But it can make a difference in your life. You can think Wow! I made something. You will be able to pay your bills faster and not have to worry about not having enough money to pay.  EMP."

Heres what Matthew (11 years) had to say: 

"In the experience of us only buying used stuff really helped me connect to God. The reason why is because God gave everything He had to us. He didn't go to a store and get it He gave everything He had. So I would inspire you to use what you have and use it wisely."

WOW!!!!!!!!!  Even I was a little surprised by their responses! What a blessing to know that our kids got something out of this experience too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Countdown is on!

There are 32 days left in this year. Where has the time gone? Its rather amazing. I thought "old" people were strange when I was young and they would say, "time just passes by more quickly the older you get!"  I must be old. Time is passing by rather quickly. Far more so than it seemed to as a kid.

I remember it feeling excruciatingly long between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now I hardly have a chance to catch my breath after the large Turkey meal before we are making a LOT of noise bringing in the New Year! What is this strange phenomenon that makes the same increments of time seem slower or faster depending on age? I'll save the answer to that mystery for another blog.

Back to the 32 days until the end of this year. I guess that means today marks the 333rd day of our 2010 Resolution to not buy anything new. Its... shocking? that we made it this long? Not that I didn't expect to. I'm a very goal oriented person and stick to my decisions (when I make them) very well. Others were skeptical. But here we are. We have failed a time or two... both intentionally and not. But the lessons we have gathered, the people we have met, the deeper relationship with God... are all such unexpected blessings to what we thought was just an experiment with the excess of our nation.

Someone asked recently if we've saved lots of money this year. It didn't seem so initially. I really like Neighborhood Thrift! :) But when I considered that we have had a pay cut with the economy (like so many others) and that we have adopted two children in the last year... the answer must be yes! It feels as though we are still paycheck to paycheck... and we are. But, are paycheck is considerably less and we are still making it!

Will we continue this on into the new year? In so many ways, definitely. Will I have guilt and shame when I buy something "new"? No way! But I wont trade in the neatness of seeing God provide for my own convenience any more (hopefully!) Those riches have far outweighed my own ability to meet my own needs. How about you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great options for your Consumable needs!

There are certainly those times when you can't find used what you want/need. For example, I am not going to find "used" toilet paper. Well, and even if I could, I would not be interested!!!!

For me, though, this issue presents itself very often with my family photos and what to do with them. I will not be finding a used Christmas Card with my family photo on it. :) That leads me to this post!  Shutterfly is offering some really great deals on holiday and non-holiday items alike! For example, just for writing this post to tell you about it, I am getting 50 free cards! I am way down with free!  I will be using those free cards to order my Photo Christmas Cards this year and I can't wait to get started!

I think most people know Shutterfly for photo prints or digital books but not as much for their cards. At least, I rarely hear people say "I ordered my cards from Shutterfly!" I could be totally out of the loop, but maybe not :)  Here are some quick links to various cards that Shutterfly offers.  Photo CardsCalendars! I make calendars for Christmas gifts every year. Its a gift that keeps on giving, thats for sure!!! And I love going to people's homes and seeing my creation on their wall :) Yeay! Another favorite of mine are Thank You cards. I love to personalize each one, even digitally, with a photo of my child and the gift they received from the person I'm thanking. Or, my current project, a photo of my race to give to all of my supporters!

I hope you all find a really great deal! And if you'd like the deal that I am enjoying, here it is!  Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly… apply here! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mommy Likes a Deal!

Okay, these Toyota Commercials are SO funny!  But let me just add.... we HAVE a Toyota Sienna (yes folks, we are the swagger wagon people :) AND, we bought it used!!!!!!!

NBC on Living with Less!!!

A friend told me that NBC had aired some great clips on living with less! I found them and thought I'd post them here for you!

Fun Ways to Spend Your Money :)

I realized that I've talked a little bit about how to do holidays and birthdays on a "buy used" resolution, but not as much about what to do every other day!

I'm going to offer a new-found (by my family, anyway) activity that gives your money to a number of great causes: a charity, your physical and mental health, family bonding!

We have discovered family races or walks that support a cause and encourage the idea among my family that fitness is "fun" even if you don't think so. I knew that I couldn't teach my children something that I wasn't walking. Hence, in order to prove to them that fitness was indeed fun (which, I didn't personally believe), I began to do it... in front of them. Jogging, family walks, family bike rides, workout videos, whatever! I have the cutest video of my 2-year-old doing the exercises he always saw me doing and LOVING it! What a treasure!

We live in such an obese society that on my list of "Things I Want For My Kids" I have 1: Radical for Jesus 2: Healthy. They have seen me lose 25 pounds and a couple dress sizes in the last year as I've raced to prove to them how much fun fitness is!

That said, I joined an amazing team of people who committed to running a 1/2 marathon and raising sponsors (like a jog-a-thon) in order to bring awareness and support to my friend, the Gilmores. They are moving to Haiti in January (Lord willing) in order to "live the need" among the Haitians in all of their current plights. Its one thing to hear about the need from friends... and a whole other thing to commit to understanding it through experiencing it. This is their goal.  You can see more about their mission here at Christian Friendship Ministries.

This commitment (which I made in total ignorance.... 13.1 miles is a lot of miles to run!) has kicked me into many of the smaller races around my town! I have found that MANY of them raise money for great causes and are just plain fun! We did Feet for Families to raise money for Adoption and Foster Care. That was a simple 3.1 mile race (or a two mile walk) and we got breakfast and all sorts of freebies! We also did a Walk for Huntington's Disease- 2 miles easy. At this one, my friend Dorina and I won a free Me-n-Eds pizza and a t-shirt for playing ping-pong with a snorkel flipper and shaking a ping pong ball out of a tissue box... attached to my bootie. AND, finally, we've just signed up for the Turkey Trot... a fun tradition for many families on Thanksgiving Day. Why not walk off all your meal before you eat it? Plus, "free" socks for the first 1200 to sign up!

All of these family walks and events were about $12 or less and supported causes we connected to. Plus, our family was able to spend the day doing something fun, for a common cause (not our OWN cause) and enjoying some physical activity. NOT BAD!

I just completed the half marathon yesterday. That was hard work! But I love what it has done for my body and my mind. I know that I can keep up with my kids. I feel better about myself. And my kids are biggest (and cutest) cheerleaders!

If you're in the Fresno area, heres a great website Pro Race Group with upcoming short and fun races.

So go at it! Use your money in a way that builds your family in so many worthwhile ways! Not on the next video game, movie, tv show, or "hottest" toy off the shelf! All of that will burn away.... but the time you spend together (supporting others) can never be undone!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Candy Buy-Back! Whoot whoot!

We caught wind that a Dentist (Dr. Treva) was giving children MONEY to sell her their candy. What a brilliant idea! A candy buy-back! We, just like most parents, would love a good way to keep our children from eating all of that Halloween candy. Or maybe its just me. As a child I saved my Halloween candy ALL YEAR! Not only was I a little savorer (enjoying special pieces only on occasion) but I lack a sweet tooth. My friends loved this about me. Every time they came to visit, I still had Halloween candy to share!

So maybe I'm just a nerd. But I jumped on this opportunity to sell all of their candy! In we went... a one year old, three year old, ten year old, and eleven year old... all bogged with bags of candy. Yes, even my one year old. Because she's so cute, candy distributors inundated her bag with sweets, regardless of her limited teeth to even chew it. I digress.

Dr. Treva bought their candy for $1 per bag. We made out of there with $5! Last year, we let the kids pick as many candies as they were years in age. Then we traded the rest for Jamba Juice. This year, we forgot about letting them pick out some and just sold it. Then we went to the Dollar Store (not a thrift store, but.... almost!). I let them each pick something with their dollar and offered to cover their tax. This way, each child had something tangible and fun. My oldest bought sun glasses. My next oldest bought fake money with a money tray (and kindly paid for the dinner I made her :). My youngest son bought a paddle ball. And my baby couldn't decide- so she kept her buck. And because it's the Dollar Store, its all only going to last a couple of days anyway and will then make it to the trash- minus the cavities, obesity, and sugar highs.  (Point in case, the ball and the paddle parted ways after only 4 hours).

I just wanted to share another really cool way to have a "loose" hold on things in life.. including our candy mountains. Maybe my "sweets" aren't actual sweets... maybe its my laptop, or my ipod, or my guitar, or whatever! Maybe its even my children! But to truly be at peace with our lives and the journey God takes us on, we have to hold things loosely, for the season with which we've been given them.

I loved seeing my kids so willing to give up ALL THAT CANDY for only a buck. Oh, and for our soldiers... Dr. Treva will be donating the candy to our deployed army men and women!!! So we did talk about how we were sending candy to our soldiers. The kids made cards to send with their candy. What a rewarding thing to give up something meaningful for the sake of others (and their cavities! j/k).

Monday, November 1, 2010

 Just sayin' :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrating for a Cause (other than myself :)

Finally, of the gazillion birthdays we've celebrated this year, MINE came around!

I love my birthday :) Not just because I get to be the center of attention for a little while, but because I have a scheduled reason to spend time with friends! Lots of them, all at once! Or, I have some excuse to do something ridiculous in the name of my birthday. Last year, we went to Medieval Times all dressed up... that was great.

This year, however, was the big 3-0. My husband and a dear friend, Dorina (along with some faithful helpers), jumped onboard for throwing me a party. It was filled with delicious food and tons of fun games based on the Minute to Win It game show. I had never actually seen the show but it was so much fun!

As far as gifts go... we've been trying to figure out how to handle gift-givers in light of our resolution. For a couple birthdays (maybe all of them?) we asked people to give previously-loved gifts rather than buying anything new. We didn't want people to spend money on new things for us since we weren't doing it for ourselves. Besides, when their birthday comes around, they are getting something used (or handmade) from us!

Facebook Causes sent me an email about having people donate to a cause in lieu of gifts. What a great idea! So I set up a birthday wish. You can view it here: My Birthday Wish. I decided to try to raise $500 for my friends who are moving to Haiti. They have had long standing relationships and history (like, for generations) and now are wanting to go and LIVE the need they keep hearing about from their dear Haitian friends. They have been to Haiti numerous times. In fact, my family joined them on a 10 day trip to Haiti during the summer of 2009. This has given us a heart-connection with the people as well. You can visit my friends' ministry here: Christian Friendship Ministry. (At this writing, my birthday wish is just shy of its goal and you are WELCOME to help me complete it by clicking here.)

But I thought, why stop there??? I asked ALL of my friends to send gifts to my Birthday Wish instead of purchasing me a gift.

I must state here that my "love language" is gift giving. Not so much for the sake of the gift as much as for the knowledge that someone has been thinking of me. I laid that "love" aside for this Cause only to be completely taken by surprise. It has been SO neat to see people respond! I've received donations for my birthday from people who probably wouldn't even have given me a gift otherwise! I think I feel MORE loved by the response to the Birthday Wish than I ever would have from the traditional gift-giving of birthdays!

By the way, some people gave me purchased gifts as well as a sponsorship... THOSE gifts have still been wonderful! :)

Anyway, I've been so blessed by this experience that I've decided to support a cause for EVERY birthday here on out. Not only that, but my husband has been inspired to do the same. It's so exciting to see people give in my "honor." I'm hoping and praying that my children see the joy that overflows from celebrating ones birthday in this way and will thus become creative about how to celebrate their own!

In conclusion, I've known a number of people to use their birthdays to raise money for causes or to help the less fortunate. Here's a shout-out to everyone who already does that! I GET IT!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Convenience Culture Pay Off :)

I was humbled on Tuesday.

Actually, I find some humility every day.

Tuesday was different.

I had to take my older kids to school (which is unusual for me... usually my hubby takes 'em). This meant getting my older two in the car and ready to go. I had to get my two babies in the care (wake them up and feed them). I had to get my son's preschool stuff together. Throw in my guitar and Bible study book for Bible Study at 9. Oh, and the juice I had to bring for potluck.

All that to say, by the time we got to my son's little preschool... it was raining. Add to that- of all the things I could have forgotten that morning, it happened to be his backpack... complete with sweater and umbrella. Yep. Fortunately we were 1/2 an hour early. I quickly (but not too quickly :) drove to Goodwill. CLOSED. Actually, just about everything was closed at 8am. (really? When did all of the businesses decide 9am and 10am were better times to avail themselves to frantic mommies of cold children?) The only place open: Walmart.

In we went! $6 later we had a great warm sweater. We made it back to his school JUST in time for his class to start. (A couple days later I found a light rain jacket at Neighborhood Thrift. Score!)

As you know, Walmart is NOT on our list of places to buy "used" things from. However, on this day, I was reminded that our culture of convenience isn't ALL bad. It sure comes in handy in those emergencies that don't leave you much time for bargain and thrift shopping. And I still got a great deal!

I love when God restores balance to my little universe. I needed to remember that every new purchase is not a bad purchase. Not every transaction of convenience is utterly detestable or ridiculous :) It seems He certainly uses these methods to meet our needs as well as the others we are experimenting with this year! May the Lord lead and guide you as you wait on Him for your every need!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Little is Much

Theres a really great song by the amazing band, Downhere, called Little Is Much. Buy it.

Its so true though. I was in my garage yesterday. I have a bin beside my door for shoes. I have another bin beside my laundry for rags and towels. Actually, I had bins in these two places.

The rule was: only shoes in the bin. No clothes in the towel bin.

But what do I find every time? Socks in the shoe bin and clothes in the towel bin. AH! So what did I do? I tossed the bins! Put in a NICE shelf for the shoes and said "throw the towels in the washing machine." Little is much. Little is more.

I've also done this in my kids rooms. It seemed that if there was a cranny to shove a piece of trash or soiled clothing.... they stashed it! SO I took it all out. They have a bed and a desk. No dresser. No book shelf. Clothes all get hung. They have organizational bins in their closet for school, art, and personal. Thats it. And its amazing how much cleaner a room can be with less stuff in it.

I've even read studies lately stating that with all our technology we are producing LESS. And that the more STUFF a person has around them, the higher their stress levels. I can't quote the studies... but I can say on a personal level that this seems so true. Before facebook my house was a lot more clean! Or, maybe that was before KIDS! They both kind of kicked off about the same time, so I'm not really sure who the culprit is! :)

Anyway, as we try to live on the excess of our nation and to support our friends as home-makers and local businesses... we are also finding that getting rid of stuff is so freeing.

Even my three year old gets it. His sister tried to give him a new cool bracelet. He checked it out, said it was "cool" and gave it back. She said, "no, its yours." He said, "I don't need it." She tried to convince him that it was still his but he was adamant: He didn't need it.

May I be as quick to get rid of the things I don't need and thus free myself of more stress and perhaps even become more productive! Lessons of a three-year-old.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Birthdays, Birthdays, and more Birthdays.

Wow, its been awhile since my last post. Whoops!
Here's why: I've begun homeschooling my 11 year old which I believe will be short-lived. I have two toddlers. I've been invited to lead worship for my Bible Study which means I have to dust off the guitar and learn some songs ;) I'm a wife. I live in a house with five other people, a dog, and a cat (though the animals stay outside). I am a writer (ha!). I'm the publicity coordinator for my MOPS group. All of these are great blessings. All of these use up my resource of TIME :)

That said, its 11:02pm. The kids are asleep. The cat is asleep. The dog is asleep. The hubby is working on school stuff. My guitar is locked up. My MOPS work is done (for the time being) and Im ignoring the unswept floor. Finally, my laptop is open before me. Here we go.

Since my last post we've had at least three more birthday
s, a child with a tummy ache (too much candy at one of the parties), an entire summer, and the beginning of the school year. CRAZY! I mention the tummy ache because it was the only time (in these last months) where I chose to break our resolution... for the love of a child.

Unfortunately for this resolution, my love language is gift-giving. My then 2-year old had snuck a gummy bear too many and his body was working it back out... of both ends. Sorry for the details. We moved him to our room so he could wake
up if he needed to. Did I mention he was potty training? (side note: he woke up one day and agreed to "no more diapers" and now wont let us put one on him if we try! He made it through the above episode without ONE accident! He'd wake us up in time to make it to the potty!) Back to the confession. He needed some crackers and 7-up...
both of which I was out of. So at 1am I headed to my neighborhood 24-hour Winco. God bless that store.

While there I saw a Buzz and Woody toy. I'd passed it a bunch of times knowing that I "couldn't" buy it out of loyalty for our decision. This time, however, I made the conscientious to love my
baby boy with a new gift. Hearing him say, "what's that?" and cry as his gummy bears punished his gut broke my heart and my resolution. I came home to a sweet son, dealing ever so gracefully with his situation, and gave him the NEW buzz and woody. He slept with them that night and recovered very well from his tummy-trouble. It made me happy to see HIM happy in a moment of such discomfort and was worth the break from our goal :)

Aside from that, though, we've really stuck with it! I've discovered some of the BEST thrift stores in town... and re-realized that I'm a yard sale junkie... so I'm not sure if this whole plan is helping my budget yet or not! We've had an Olympic-themed party, a Caribbean themed party, and a Lion King party... all using previously owned or handmade items. Even the gifts were either used or food. :) I've bought some beautiful handmade tutus from a friend as gifts for other little girl toddlers. SO cute. Here are some pictures of the various birthday parties

I stayed up till midnight making Pride Rock :) Fortunately I had the right Lion King toys already to complete the scene :) A closer look at the onlookers will ... well, you'll see some familiar characters. My son LOVED this (he's three so it didnt have to be amazing to anyone but him :)
Dirt cupcakes! We all enjoyed some "grub" with Pumba and Timon. Favors were animal crackers in some safari themed favor bags (last minute compliments of a friend, thanks!)
This was for my husbands birthday. This has been the year of making fun cakes (and I am NOT a baker). My husband is "from" a Caribbean island, San Andres. This was an ode to his islander side :) Everything was edible... the palm trees are made up of biscotti, bubble gum leaves, and white chocolate glue. The coconuts are chocolate covered raisins. The sand is ground up animal crackers. And of course, gummy sharks and fish.
Olympic-themed bday party for my oldest daughter! So much fun! We made all of the medals and awards with chocolate coins. Cupcakes were easy enough... as you can see :)
This is what I presented my daughter so she could blow out the candles. FUN!

We are still continuing to learn so much in this process. I'm still blown away by how easy it is to go meet our own needs and rob God of the opportunity to do it. Not that he doesn't sometimes meet our needs through Target... but I've had some really neat experiences waiting on Him. And its still amazing how much STUFF we have. Every time we have a yard sale or give something away I think: "Okay, now I REALLY have given everything I don't want away." And then someone says they need something, I happen to have it... and its gone. OR I just get in a mood of "thats gotta go." We will be having another yard sale in two weeks. :)

Thanks for patiently waiting for me. I'm not sure who I'm thanking really... maybe just the internet abyss out there... but regardless, its good practice :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Immersion Blender FREEBIE :)

This is such a fun story and I can't believe I haven't shared it yet! But since I used my "new" immersion blender tonight for our soup (and loved every minute of it) I saw it only appropriate to come here and write about this gift... while my soup continues to simmer :)

Awhile back I had decided that I would like an immersion blender. I make a corn tortilla soup that requires blending... and more than a few times I have burned myself as splashes of boiling soup attack me as I pour it into my REGULAR blender, which, by the way, doesn't fit the whole soup. Needless to say, visiting friends and watching them blend so beautifully and cleanly created some blender-envy. I decided to see what I could find used. This led to a lot of nothing as it seems that many people are not looking to get rid of their immersion blenders (no doubt).

SO one day I get on freecycle and see a woman offering kitchen things. I check it out and sure enough, at the bottom of her list, is an immersion blender. FREE!!!. So I promptly send her an email requesting it. After I sent my email I looked at the time... it was posted the day before. I thought to myself, "there is NO way that is still available a day later." Then I realized that my messages were flipped! They were showing OLDER to NEWER! Sure enough, once I corrected my posts... there it was, the fatal "Taken: Kitchen stuff." I sadly emailed the person back saying how sorry I was that I'd missed the "Taken" post and to disregard my message. Thinking it was over.... I moved on with my life.

However, I received a reply email stating that while all of the kitchen stuff WAS gone... the immersion blender was still available and sitting on her porch waiting for me (address included and all!) You can bet that I jumped in my car and drove right over to pick up my beloved gift from God.

Its crazy how often we think that God doesn't care about these small things in our life. And really, in relation to all the tragedies in the world, He shouldn't. But what a blessing to know that in his omnipresence and omnipotence, He can care about the silliest things that my heart ponders. And then to take the time to respond! Had my freecycle posts been in order, I NEVER would have emailed that woman about her kitchen stuff! SO many providential things in place with an eventual leading to my "new" immersion blender. And tonight, as in so many nights yet to come, I am extremely grateful for His thoughtfulness... and the thoughtfulness of the woman giving it away! :)

So to all of you who wonder if God cares about the BIG things in your life, let alone the small things... know that He does. And though not every answer is a "yes" or even comes in the way we expect... He does love to give His kids good gifts. :) May you continue to be inspired to allow God to meet your needs!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another Birthday! :)

Well, our new years resolution was tested yet again by another birthday! We celebrated my youngest love's first birthday! We decided to go Luau style (in April) since she wouldn't remember and we would have lots of fun!

I was so blessed by the generosity of friends AND our church to both loan and give us things for the Luau. EVERY decoration was provided for. My husband and youngest son had matching shirts (loaned to us :) and my birthday baby had three Hawaiian dresses to pick from! She also had the cutest little grass skirt given to us. I found a couple leis at thrifts stores but most were given or loaned to us. I offered leis as favors but most people just left them. I made the cupcakes and we all barbecued. It was a really fun day. Instead of spending money on gifts for my bday girl, we spent the money on loving our family and friends with a free meal. That was a definitely blessing. My daughter certainly wont remember that we didn't get her anything in particular... besides, so many others gave to her. We asked for used/re-used gifts so her bday wouldnt cause OTHERs to buy new either :) Some did, some didnt. But at the end of the day I was so honored to spend the birthday money on our dear friends and family who so love my little one... instead of filling our house with a bunch of new shiny noise imagination-killer toys ;)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Resoluting in Disneyland! :)

The inside of the book that I made. You can see that Corban added his own autograph too.
The autograph book that I made for the kids.

Yeah, you are reading that right. We went to Disneyland and worked VERY hard at not buying anything new! As a matter of fact, we worked hard at spending little to no money! Here is what we did :)

First of all, we jumped on the opportunity that Disneyland offered: Give a Day, Get a Day. I think its over now... but basically they gave 1 million people the opportunity to volunteer for an approved day of service and in return they gave a free ticket to the park! Jeremy and I and our two oldest children were blessed to help friends with a fundraiser for the domestic adoption. We made greeting cards for two hours and got tickets! (Just a note: we would have helped them regardless. The fact that Disney supported them was such a blessing!).

We were able to get ALL SIX of us into the park FREE. Do you know how much money that saved? Almost $300. Amazing. Liz had never been to Disneyland (Hannah either) so it was especially neat to take them!

We paid for gas with a Visa Rebate I had received for $90. Money already spent that we used to fuel our vehicle. I made lunch and dinner for the road. We stayed with a dear friend in Costa Mesa so our housing was FREE (along with a breakfast the next morning!). We slept and then headed to the park on Mother's Day. We paid $14 for parking. Then as we entered the park we were each given a number of buttons... Celebration buttons (for mother's day), Volunt-ear buttons (for earning our tickets) and my other two got First Visit buttons for being newbies. Then, they gave mothers a carnation for Mother's Day! There were all of our free souveniers (not to mention the plethora of pictures we took!)

We bought ONE meal in the park... which totaled about $50 (ridiculous, I know :) but used our saved up yard sale money from a couple months back. Then we bought sandwiches as we drove home that night.

Sounds easy, maybe. But really... I have had a tradition my WHOLE LIFE LONG of buying a stuffed animal (big or small) with every visit to Disneyland. I DIDN'T! And Im okay with that. I grew up in San Diego so you can imagine how many of these "traditions" I've collected over the years. The kids were content with their autograph books that I had made them, filled with signatures to pair with the photos we took. Our great friend Allison made all of the kids tie-dyed disney shirts (See above photo :). (the books cost $5 to make as opposed to the $10-15 for the ones at the park).

It was such a fun day and so inexpensive! I felt really good about our decision to stick to the "buy nothing new" plan. I think, in the end, we didn't have to use any of our month's income on the trip because we used my rebate card and our yardsale money... with some to spare! Its possible!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Because I told them I would: Why Not to use Avis Car Rental

A while back, some of you remember my troubles with AVIS. Here's the review in case you forgot (or never saw it :)

Before taking my trip from Cali to Orlando, I CALLED Avis to ask about renting a car. I needed to get from our cruise ship to the airport. I verified my trip with them to which I was told there was a free shuttle from Avis (at the airport) to my to my ship and back again.

Once we got off of the ship we were taken to the rental location in Port Canaveral. Here I was told that my car was reserved at the Orlando Airport (duh) and I'd need to pick it up there (with the free shuttle, right?). They told me that they'd change my reservation for me (which I had verified BEFORE my trip) but that they were out of cars and couldn't even provide cars for the people who HAD reservations. Really? There were a number of events in Orlando and they weren't prepared so people just weren't getting their reserved cars. I have 4 children... including a 2 year old and a less than one year old. So my family of 6 was stranded in Port Canaveral. They said they'd get us a shuttle to the airport which I was grateful for (since I'd been assured before my trip that there would be one, and it would be free). We all got on the shuttle when it arrived and only THEN were told that it would be $50/person PLUS a mandatory $30 tip. They even charged us for our 2 year old... so we had to pay $180 cash to get to our car (which again, I had verified would be there before I left for this trip).

When I returned home I contacted AVIS, explained the situation, and asked for some compensation, if not for an entire refund. After 2 1/2 months of faxing my receipts and getting past disconnected numbers, I was told they would only give me $75 in gift certificates. Seriously? I NEVER EVER EVER will use Avis again. They were rude, REALLY expensive, and wouldn't hold to their own mistakes of mis-verifying my information. I don't want gift certificates to use a rental Ill never use again... maybe Ill try to sell 'em. :( but certainly don't want to pass this problem company on to someone else.

I'm telling you this because in one of my letters to the supervisors of Avis, I explained that I would be using my various modes of social media to let people know how they handled the situation. They made their decision KNOWING that I'd be telling people about it. Unfortunately, as I'm reading the reviews now (so I can also leave one), I'm realizing many people find their service under par.

Of course make your own decision! But I wanted to share my story. Sometimes they come up as the less expensive option on expedia or orbitz... but really, they ended up WAY more expensive than any of the other options I could have used. Hertz made the same mistake on the way in and only charged me a $25 change in location fee. No big deal. They at least fixed it and gave me a car. Also, Hertz cars go through the tolls and Hertz pays them. NOT Avis! Guess what showed up on my credit card? TOLLS! I sincerely urge you to pay a couple dollars more to NOT use Avis.

That said, be on the look out for my next post: Hannah's Birthday Party, and LAPTOP LOVE!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Next birthday... comin up!

Its true. My daughter is turning one. Fortunately, it seems I've picked a theme that a lot of people can help with! We are having a Luau barbecue to celebrate her year of life. I have had so many people lend and give us leis, grass skirts, table cloths, lanterns... its been amazing. I've even found leis at a thrift store! It is slowly coming together and I'm so excited to see what the end result will be. I even found a grass skirt FOR my one year old! Oh, watch out for those pictures! Goodness.

Anyway, here we are in month four and still sticking to our resolution really well. Its amazing to see how little we need. In fact, we recently purged our house and had a yard sale. We made just over $100 on things we really would have PAID people to take away! The yard sale went something like this:

Customer: "how much for this _______?)
Us: "$5"
Customer: "Oh" and starts to walk away and look around
Us: "But how much will you take it for?"
Customer: "$1"
Us: "Excellent! Its yours!!!!!!!!"

We couldn't be talked down too low. The rest was donated to a local thrift store that I found on accident. The employer was out of tax deductible receipts and I didn't care- I just wanted to get rid of the left over stuff. That's the thrift store where I found two leis. He let me have them for free.

All that said... it seems our hearts are changing with this resolution in some interesting ways. Not only do we not want MORE but we are finding we don't even really want or need all that WE have. We are living on our own excess in so many ways. Its been so freeing to clear a bunch out. I feel round two coming on! Here's what we got rid of (in general): 3 dressers, 2 end tables, diaper changing table, baby video monitor, a bike, 1-2 bookshelves, bar stool, lots of clothes, broken skateboard (gave that away to someone who wanted to buy it!), lots of kitchen stuff... one woman even asked if we had any towels for sale. So we pulled out ALL of our rags and let her pick what she wanted! It was fun to run in our house and try to find things that people were looking for. A lot of it was just gave away too... so its amazing we made any money at all. One family was looking for baby dishes... so I ran in and pulled out my pantry for her to look through.

I pray that if there is anything hindering your freedom in this life, that you would be reminded that this is a HOTEL on our way to our permanent home. Your life is so short in the light of eternity. LET IT GO! :) This continues to be a lesson to myself... honestly, even as I look at my cluttered desk top right now. MOVE IT ON! :)

Blessings to you each as you endeavor to free up your lives however God leads you and to live on the plenty that we have!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One birthday party down....

As I mentioned in my last post, my most recent challenge with our resolution was a birthday party. The birthday party was a success... but we still had to complete my son's gift... his room remodel.

As you can see, it was a total success! My son had a number of gift cards that were unused... so we used them to get the paint from Walmart, the top blanket of his bed to match the room... and some storage bins. We figured that gift-card money was already money spent and we might as well use it. Other than that, EVERYTHING was used. My husband painted the city scape on the wall. Some dear friends painted pictures to accent the walls. And we are waiting on one painting that we will get to add shortly. It was so neat to see it all come together. My son LOVES his room (as I'm sure you can imagine).

I also got a bunch of hangers free from a fellow-Mops Momma :) THANKS Bergann!

Having four kids means... I have three more birthday parties (plus my husbands) to plan with this same sort of creativity. My daughter is turning ONE at the end of April and we decided on a Luau theme... which has been super easy to find things for so far! Im very excited about this one. Plus, I dont have to have a gift for her because she's one and won't remember anyway!

On a slightly separate note, I was putting together the kids' Easter baskets today. It struck me how much I was enjoying putting my creativity to use. Normally I would have gone out and bought a couple baskets at Target or Walmart. Today I scoured my house for old but still nice gift bags. I found one that was Tinkerbell themed... perfect for my 9 year old daughter. I found a solid red one that I added superman stickers to for my oldest son. I had one bucket that I'd won from MOPS for my 2 year old son. And a blue gift bag with a boa accent (which I'd purchased at a thrift store) for my almost-one-year old. I filled plastic eggs (thank you, Salvation Army) with candies and filled their little Easter bags. Ill post a pic of these soon too. Anyway, I found myself enjoying creating these things for my children and putting to good use things I already owned. It will be a fun day, regardless!.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Birthday Parties

Wow, its almost been a month! Clearly, living on used things hasn't been an over sized challenge worth writing about... until yesterday.

I knew that when the birthdays of my children approached, I would have a harder time with this resolution. Up until now, we have had the delight and challenge of providing GIFTS for the individuals who have invited us to THEIR parties. That was minor compared to planning a whole birthday party of things used... not to mention the gifts for my OWN child.

That said, I am thrilled to say that the birthday party AND our resolution remained a compatible success of which I'm excited to share the journey.The day was approaching quickly. I had posted a number of "wanted" and "looking for" ads in various internet locations in the hopes of finding things to use for our son's room remodel. That is our gift to him- a newly painted and decorated bedroom to the theme of his heart's content. My daughter had hers done last march for her birthday. Fortunately, that means no other material gifts (and, as we found with my daughter, ends up being more expensive than if we just bought toys and wrapped them!). These two older children are my foster children who shall be adopted ANY DAY NOW (Lord willing) and so we are especially thrilled to do whatever we can to make this place THEIR place.

That said, I was getting no response. All of a sudden it began to come together! I found a nearly new set of twin bedsheets, superman themed, on for $5! This was from a VERY nice and clean home and couldn't have been a better deal. I wouldn't have found that in a thrift store for that price! In addition, a number of guests to his birthday party presented him with things to accent his room... hand painted superman art, etc. BEAUTIFUL! Finally, I went into Salvation Army one day just to see what they had. I found still-new-in-wrapper streamers (one that actually said "happy birthday" and the other RED). PERFECT! I also found a big bag of plastic Easter eggs... which is nice because I love to use these for Easter but had taken all of mine to Haiti last year when I taught our students how to make egg shakers. I also found a blue valance and red fabric to make a curtain. All of that (plus some other little gems for myself) for only $7. I'll be going back too... tons of Easter baskets, GRASS for baskets, etc. Ya know, they got used once and ended up at the thrift store! Perfect, Ill use them once more and send them back! LOL :)

Needless to say, it was such a blessing to see friends, family, and thrift stores unite to make an amazing airplane-themed birthday party happen from scratch. We made paper airplanes (from the free LEGAL sized paper I'd received) and had races. I made airplane favors out of lifesavers, gum, and rubber bands... and hung airline themed signs all over the house. I HOME-MADE the ice cream cake (that was a first and lots of fun). Our next challenge will be completing his room by his ACTUAL bday.. this weekend. Debating on paint... may use some of what we have in storage or buy some of the "mistake" paints from Lowes or Home Depot.

One final blessing to mention... my church, The Bridge is doing a series on Heroes. The designed backdrop of the series is a very large painting, (designed by Chris Pitts) of a cityscape. The amazing part is days before I found this out, my son told me how he wanted his room painted... with a city scape. I thought Id ask about getting the template from the church so I could use it for his room... better yet, they offered to give me one of the paintings at the end of the series! What a "coincidence" (if I believe in coincidence) that would line these two events up at the same time and bless my son! Not to mention that I'm currently writing a book on humanity's search for a superhero... More to come after his room is complete! Enjoy the pictures!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Today I had an appointment with our amazing chiropractor. Have I mentioned them yet???? Dr Curry. There are four of them... today I saw Dr. Matt. During our time together (he worked on myself, Hannah, AND Corban) he mentioned how they are trying to live more simply... buying less things. He had no idea about our resolution.

Here we are, Feb 16, 2010.... and so far so good! Jeremy will have a post coming up on his Bahamas/snorkel experience. :)

We survived Valentine's day with hand made valentine cards, homemade cookies, and left over valentines from previous years (unused). The kids didn't lack anything in the way of traditions :) And Jeremy and I were forced to be a little creative... but in a way no less rich than previous years. Our real challenge will be with our oldest son's birthday party in a month. Hopefully we can pull the whole thing together under this resolution. I think we can!

Dr. Matt noted how much they were able to get used with the recent birth of their new daughter. They've had two sons... so they had nothing feminine on hand. But so many people have had things to give that they have had very little NEED.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

KLove Cruise and Bahamas :)

Well, we did it! We were gone for 8 days to Orlando, Fl and a cruise through the Bahamas. Again I was faced with how easy it is to want to buy something JUST BECAUSE. This was especially hard because i LOVE music and was on a MUSIC cruise with some of my favorite artists in the world. I also really enjoy supporting them....

At the mention of supporting others, our family has discussed this alteration to our goal. We have decided that we can purchase items "new" if they are hand-made and support the livelihood of someone... something not mass produced. We ran this idea by our children on the trip. We try very hard to not ever feel entitled to luxury. We aren't entitled. No one is. Not really. As we toured by the impoverished homes of Bahamians and hear of their "need" to do and deal drugs to survive, peering into their shacks of homes... we found ourselves praying for these people. As we listened to the stories of the many staff on-board the ship... our hearts were broken with compassion. Jeremy was even able to share the gospel with his room attendant the Good News of Jesus. The man had NEVER HEARD the gospel presented before! And he was right under our noses.

My oldest daughter found a hand-woven purse that she liked. It had a Tinkerbell woven into it. As she checked it out and asked the price, I questioned the woman about her "job." She said that it takes 2-3 days to make a purse, depending on its size and design. The purse was only $10 (considering the amount of work it takes to make, i'd say that was a deal!). My daughter decided to purchase the purse and told the woman, "I am buying this from you for two reasons: 1. I like it :) 2. I know you worked really hard on it and I want to support you in your livelihood." The woman began to cry. So did my heart. THEY GET IT!!!

However, here is my confession. My husband's, really. I stayed on board with the kids so they could nap (after a long tour of Nassau) and told him to go play. He left the ship and asked around about getting to a beach. After a bit of an ordeal, he made it to a beach... with no snorkeling gear. The snorkel tours wouldn't take him as a solo person and there was nothing to rent, only buy. So he bought a snorkel. I wasn't thrilled when he told me he'd broken our family goal. But I realized quickly that messing up, changing things, and dissecting our family direction is all part of the experience. I hope that whoever he bought it from needed the money! And now we know to work out some possible scenarios in the future to be prepared for situations like his. He had spent A LOT of time trying to get out there... that he finally figured to make it worth it, he'd just buy the thing and be on with it. Alright! Onward we march!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why wait?

We had an appointment with our financial adviser, Michael Burton, the other day. He works for MMA and is free... but also a dear friend of ours.

I remember the first time I walked into his office. It was Jeremy's idea and I was mortified. I felt like I was walking in totally nude as we laid bare our finances before his scrutiny :) It ends up that God has called him to his role in finances and he has not been our judge or enemy. But Im sure you know the feeling. I know you feel the heat rise and the heart rate increase when you think of someone looking at EVERY penny you spend wondering at all the things you might suggest cutting out. Well, thats not what he does. He has helped us get rid of all of our debt (except our mortgage, of course). And continue to live debt free... with good sound advice on purchases (when we seek his council, which we do often) and life insurance policies, living trusts, etc. AND, MMA is a faith-based organization so its all with Godly stewardship in mind. We still get to eat out, buy things, take trips, watch movies... etc. :)

Anyway, we had a meeting with him and shared our resolution for the year, which, funny enough, didn't save us any money this month. We still ran out. Of course... I did go to New York. ANYWAY (focus, Marcy)... I would like braces. We would like a repaired fence. I "need" a sewing machine... so many "things." We happen to have a source of set-aside money that we can pull from and periodically we ask for it...

During this visit, Michael kept asking... "Is that something you can save up for?" SILENCE. "Well, yeah, I guess we could!" Save up for things? Who does that anymore? (I know Allison, you guys are GREAT at it!).

We live in such a culture of immediate gratification. If I want something, I go buy it. And then I buy something extra just because I can. There's no waiting. No delay. Our national mentality (even in goverment) seems to be "Why save for what you can buy with credit today?" I hadn't even considered that as being part of my FAMILY culture. We don't have debt. We don't charge things. We don't finance things (except our house). But we do happen to dip into savings quite a bit... Jeremy's Masters program, my continued education classes, small road trips...

This has really got me thinking. The best things in life are the things you have to wait for: a spouse, children, a much needed vacation, fruits fresh off the tree in their seasons... some things can't be rushed.

My last blog was on the blessing we might lose when we meet our own needs. This one is on the blessings we lose when we wont wait for them from God's hand. Really, I've lived 29 years with these teeth. Whats another year of saving up for braces? Had I rushed out and bought a new sewing machine... I wouldn't have the blessing of the one loaned to me (that I get to give some life to for its owner :) And can I TRULY appreciate something if it took little or no effort to get it? I don't think so. I have a new appreciation for paper (read the last blog). I have a new appreciation for fireplace keys, sewing machines, dressers, my community.

Proverbs 8:34
Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.
Isaiah 30:18
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 64:4
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

We will begin saving for the things (even used ones) that we want/need. Greater, we will be waiting on the Lord to meet those needs and desires as He pleases! May we all learn the patience that leads to His blessing :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Paper Blessing!

Normally "paper blessings" might imply something flimsy, semi-transparent, or light-weight. Not today.

I made a request on Freecycle and the LivingHebrews135 facebook group for computer paper. Scrap, half used, or extra. Not something that would cost or be unethical (i.e. I dont want your work paper if you have to steal it from work :) Just your excess.

Though I was immediately met with an obstacle to my request... it caused me to really think about what is "okay" to buy new and what isn't. Before I finished deciding, the offers were coming in.

Two separate women quickly responded to my requests... full of encouragement and appreciation for our resolution. Both had paper that was excess and both felt that Freecycle was exactly the place to make such a request (I asked their opinions).

Well, the first woman ended up being someone with whom I'd shared some of our baby things. When it was SHE who showed up at my door... I was blessed all over again. I can only imagine how good it felt for her to RETURN a favor... and for me to be the recipient of what she now had to offer. I took note of God's detail.

The next women owns Secondhand Rose. This is a thrift store that opened last summer on Shaw and Armstrong. Maybe that sounds WAY out there... but its really not. She has a great little store... but the "catch" is that a portion of her profits goes to military families. She has a heart for helping people and often gives things from her store to people on freecycle asking for it. She embroiders, sews, makes beautiful dolls and baby things... as well as sells second hand items. She'd found a big box of 8 1/2 by 14 paper on the side of the road... no one has wanted to buy it from her store and she saw my request. I went to her store to get paper and left with a total blessing. Visit her store if you can! You don't just buy used, but you help the families of our soldiers when you do!

Then today a dear woman from church asked if I was still needing paper. I said "sure!" She brought me two brand new reams that she had extra of... and said, "my husband mentioned you might have some legal sized paper... thats what he uses if you don't need it." Well, PRAISE THE LORD! Now I dont have to cut the last couple inches off... I get to give it to someone who needs it AND in return get more 8 1/2 by 11 paper!

Ya know, on any other day or year I would have run to walmart and just bought some paper. I would have missed all of these blessings... a favor returned, a conversation with a servant, and the opportunity to give what I have. I certainly didn't expect paper to be so rewarding!

This is all causing me to wonder... how many times has my need for immediate gratification of a need robbed God of a blessing for me? How many wonderful people have I missed meeting? Or ministries have I missed contributing to? Or robbed others of blessings? Or myself been robbed? I hope that the end of this year will find me a more patient person for the things I think I need. And in return, may I become a less hurried and more intentional person.

Wouldnt it be so cool if life wasn't actually about the end goal? But instead about the journey of getting to it? Hmmmm :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moochers :)

I have noticed an interesting phenomena over the last 20 days of our resolution.

First thing: I often feel the need to explain that I'm not just taking from the community, but that I'm also giving. Some people respond with thrill when we describe our goal... some even feeling inspired to join us in some form or another. Others seem to have a... "so you're gonna mooch on society" type attitude. This has been rare but not absent.

Second thing: I often noticed others feel the need to defend their own use of "freecyle" or the idea of re-using other people's items. Now, I KNOW that I am not standing in judgment of them so its not my subtle attitude causing them to give me an explanation.

These two things have caused me a lot of pondering :) Why would we feel... embarrassed? defensive? judged? for choosing to live within a community that shares its excess??? This makes me sad. I don't have the answers now. I can imagine that the few people in this world who have taken advantage of the generosity of others has given ALL recyclers fear of being viewed as the same. This is unfortunate.

Acts 2:45-47 says, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

What an awesome vision for this life of living on excess! THIS is my vision... not to spend as little money as possible taking from others... but to support ALL who are in need... and to be supported. There was no shame in this. Only joy.

May we each find the joy as we are blessed with the "extra" others give as well as the joy found in giving our "extra" to others. Give to everyone who has a need, no matter how big or small, and see how God meets your OWN needs... sometimes through others, sometimes through sheer miracles, sometimes through freecyle :)

I will end on this note. I will not defend our choice by listing all of the things I have given away... as if to justify my asking for things I am in need of. Just as I will not ask for a list of donations from a brother or sister in need of whom I am giving my things. In a world SO focused on self-interests and self-gain, we will certainly come across people who just don't understand. May we seek only to please our Lord and be justified before Him as we make decisions based on prayer and Scripture in an effort to live Spirit-filled lives. Go, therefore, give and receive! :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti and Me

This project of living on used things seems more appropriate in light of the situation in Haiti. For those of you who don't know, my husband and I were down there in July with one of three mission teams our church sent. The three teams combined helped build an orphanage, ran a music and fine arts camp, sports camp, vbs, and spent time with the orphans who were to be living in the orphanage. Our church, the previous Feb, raised money for the orphanage, a church, sugar cane equipment, wells, and more.

We've heard, so far, that our friends and all of the orphans are accounted for. Fortunately, the orphanage is in a town called Pignon some 80 miles north of Port au Prince. Still, dear friends of ours were in the capital for a number of reasons, one of which was to pick up a shipment of shoes (over 600) that our church gathered and sent.

When my husband and I left Haiti with our two youngest children, we left behind all of our clothes and shoes but one pair (whatever we had on). I was totally blessed to see a little boy in pictures wearing my 2-year-old's clothing after we left. The earthquake and resulting devastation has weighed heavily on our hearts, as well as on the hearts of our teammates and church body.

I sit at home, glued to the news (yahoo) and facebook... waiting for updates on friends or their family... crying over the pictures. The hotel I stayed in, the Karibe, is gone.... that's so hard to fathom. It seems easy and awkward to walk away from the computer and pretend this horror isnt occurring in Haiti. Obviously, it never really leaves my mind... but how strange it is to gaze in shock at the destruction... and then pause to feed my children a meal so readily, or use the restroom with running water, or KNOW that my family is safe and well wherever they happen to be... then to return to the computer and rejoin world of Haiti through photos and friends. It doesn't seem fair- especially when I think of all of the people who can't just turn it off. They are THERE and stuck... with nothing.

I know this is a heavy blog so far... but its a heavy situation. Hopefully the load lifts a little here. Though I have everything and they have nothing, in terms of material... so many are finding relief in communing with one another and singing and wailing before the Lord. This is baffling our nation... how people who already had little and have lost what they had... including their family, shacks of homes, friends... are praising Jesus in the midst. My dear friend Dorina reminding me of a powerful verse for this time: Isaiah 54:10
"'Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,'
says the LORD, who has compassion on you."

Regardless of Haiti's past (as we've all been untimely reminded of recently by Pat), God LOVES Haiti and His creations. And though we can't ever fully understand why He allows such calamities to happen... we KNOW that He is good and His ways are higher than ours. We live in a fallen sinful world yet we can praise Him still.

My point, as I process this in front of you all, is not why God lets bad things happen. :) (though I will have my fair share of questions when I get to heaven too :)

My point is this: even in a nation with such excess... we still have nothing if we don't have Jesus. I can have everything and have nothing. I can have nothing and have everything. I've had dear friends in Israel, Paraguay, Guatemala... from all over, envy my life as an American. A life with "freedoms" and the "American Dream." And monetarily... religiously, materially, there is truth to these privileges of America... However I have often envied them. The community they live in and rely on, their very deep relationships with one another... the way they MUST rely daily on the provisions of the Lord... the way they see His miracles, grand ones, in ways we've only hoped to... so much so that some of us even think God doesn't do miracles anymore.

Even in our excess we can have nothing. My prayer is that I may be like the Haitians singing in their perfect harmony... praising God in the storm, in the midst of questions, confusion, and chaos... in the midst of grief deeper than a heart can bear on its own strength... that they can yet praise Him.

Lord, may that be the story of my life as well. May I be like the Haitians, whom you love deeply and with compassion and mercy, when all this life has to offer is removed from me, that I will be found in your presence- in the midst of rubble, dust, destruction- praising You.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New York- fashion capital of the world!

Hello again! I know its been a couple of days. I went to NYC with my sister. I MADE IT! I didn't buy a single thing. I heard the shopping deals were incredible. I wouldn't know. Some of you may be super impressed at the moment. "You went to NEW YORK CITY and didn't even walk into Bloomingdales? Macys? JC Pennys? THE HERSHEYS FACTORY?" As incredulous as that my seem... I'm not a big "shopper" as it is. I get a headache.

The hard part was not buying a souvenir! My plan was to find a thrift store and then tell you how funny it was that I bought an "I LOVE NY" shirt from there... but nope. Plan fail. I only saw ONE thrift store the entire time I was there... and I was passing it on the tour bus. There were "cheap" gifts everywhere. I could get SEVEN shirts for $10. My tourguide assured us that we'd only get one wash out of those... but still. I DID, however, take 400 pictures.

On that note, I again felt the weight of how easy it is to buy something JUST to buy it. I think, even though I didnt NEED anything (and I surely don't need another knick knack statue to remind me of a place) I would have bought something. A mini lady liberty. Some momento for the kids. The payoff was this: my family spent a good half hour together enjoying my photo slideshow and watching the videos (esp. of our crazy cab ride!). That kind of gift to my family is worth far more than a re-made blanket of the titanic or a jumbo souvenir mug.

That said, I'm glad I made it! My sister was good at trying to find ways to twist the rules, like: "I'll buy the $2 shirt, wear it, then sell it to you for a quarter!" Sweet girl :) LOL :) In the end, I realized NY had nothing that I NEED. But is an amazing city regardless.

More to come! OH, and I found a free used fireplace key! WHAT????!!! Amazing...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The REAL Reason

Ive been trying to put my finger on the ACTUAL reason I am doing this... I've had people ask, "Is it to save money?" No, though I hope that happens too. "Is it to be content with what you have?" Well, another hope, but also not the driving force. Finally I figured it out.

I was looking in amazement at the 81 members who'd joined the Facebook group within 24 hours of its start (link in previous post) that I had spun from this idea... feeling so blessed by all of the conversations that were happening: the swapping, selling, taking, giving, sharing. And it hit me.

I am in love with community :) I LOVE to see the community of friends and family joining together to meet each other's needs. I love to see people helping each other out. I love to see someone find value in someone else's junk. Its such an awesome blessing! I am NOT buying anything new this year so that I can be a bigger part of the community that cares for one another. To give what I have... and find what I need... and even those things that I just want. More importantly, I'm excited to see God meet our needs in a different way. We live in a country that has made it very easy for us to meet our own needs on our own time. That's not necessarily bad... but it is easy to forget the ultimate Gift-Giver.

I hope that this year ends filled with blessings all around as people rise up to share- a lesson we can't teach our children with words alone. Thank you for joining me and doing whatever you can to join the community of giving!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Used/Re-used Resources

There are some really great online sites available for giving/taking free things as well as selling your items. Here are some links:

Clovis Freecycle
Clovis Yardsale
Fresno Craigslist

There are also a number of thrift stores in Fresno... I looked in the online yellow pages and there were about 20 LISTED. There were some I noticed that WEREN'T listed. I don't want to offend anyone BUT here is my opinion... Salvation Army has a really great ministry and service to the community... one that you see the fruit of and I've even had dear friends participate in. Their prices are good and they offer sales all the time. Goodwill, I have found, is too highly priced and not as service oriented... at least, not in such visible ways as Salvation Army. Go where you want... but I have found a number of things at Goodwill that was MORE expensive than the SAME item next door at walmart. When I brought that (on both occasions) to the attention of the staff... they told me to shop at Walmart.

There are also great websites life,, where you can get used items at a decent deal. Google will compare prices for you. Lots of great options!

Your best options, I believe, are your friends and family and local community. The blessing of sharing as a greater body is awesome! Just a taste of what the Church recorded in Acts must have experienced :)

You may also join my facebook group: Living Hebrews 13:5 where local friends and family in the Fresno/Clovis area are swapping goods as well. :)

Now, on a slightly humorous note... I came home last night and found that I'd won a $25 gift card to Target. Of course I did!!!!! :/ Instead of getting to use it on something new, like I would normally do, I will be buying toilet paper and diapers! :) "Thank you Lord for your blessings which come in such timely ways!"

Monday, January 4, 2010


Here's a thought for January 4, 2010. Perhaps you think that you will only be reading my story and now somehow involved. WRONG :)

When your birthday or Christmas or Valentines Day or WHATEVER comes around... you will be getting a USED gift from me. Don't be offended or surprised :) At best, it will be homemade. At worst... it will be clearly used and re-gifted. Regardless, I love you. :)


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The reason

I wanted to start this blog with the purpose behind our 2010 journey.

I have often said to others (and myself): "How is it that companies make any money selling new stuff??? There is so much used stuff out there, I don't think anyone really NEEDS to buy anything new." Of course, I was speaking specifically of those living in the US- a country of excess. It seems to me that most new items purchased are either upgrades from already owned items, bought new for convenience/warranty, or just because thats what we do.

So the other day I was pondering potential New Years Resolutions and a thought popped into my mind in such a way... that I knew it was the Lord. You know them. Those thoughts that show up that are CLEARLY not yours. That was THIS thought: "What would it be like to go a year without buying anything new?" Hmmm.... seemed plausible. I already buy a lot of things used... or trade/swap on certain websites.

I began to think of all the things I'd need to buy before Jan 1. :) Well, that didn't happen, but it probably should have! That said, Jeremy was quick to jump on the idea and here we are, as a family of 6, embarking on a journey of living of the excess of our nation :) Jeremy found Hebrews 13:5 as a rock for our journey. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." There are a number of verses that could apply... but the idea of being content with what we have, not needing the newest model, and stretching ourselves to trust more deeply in God's provision is the flame igniting our excitement. And we will be sharing this journey with you!

On that note, here are some exceptions to our "buy nothing new" rule. We will continue to buy groceries (I don't want your used broccoli :) Actually, Id love to live on your leftovers... bring 'em buy ANY TIME. We will exempt home necessities such as diapers, toothbrushes, TP, shampoo... I DO NOT want your used TP. Keep it. Flush it. We will also continue with service items... such as servicing our vehicles. I will have to continue to spend $35/month for clothing for my foster children until their adoptions are complete. (We are not allowed to buy them clothes at a thrift store/yard sale yet.) And finally, my Creative Memories business will be separate from this family goal.

Other than that, nothing new can be bought!

That said, heres how the first 4 days have gone. Jeremy was at Vons and almost grabbed a movie to buy... when my oldest son said, "Dad, arent we NOT buying anything new?" Conviction! Jeremy hadn't realized how easy it is to just grab something on a whim and go. It was also humbling to have our child remind him! Especially since we hadn't announced it to the family yet (yeah, our little eavesdropper :).

In the first 4 days of this year, my sewing machine had broken down, Jeremy's Bible has flown off the roof of our car, and a big drawer in my kitchen has broken. We ran out of duct tape and lost our fireplace key :)

I posted a wanted ad on the Fresno Freecycle and got a bunch of duct tape AND masking tape free from a wonderful woman. Still waiting on the fireplace key. But we are so excited to see what God is going to do through this! I'll definitely keep you posted and give you some great tips as I figure them out.