Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crawling Through a Forest

Things have been hard lately, and while Nick and I both know that God has good things planned for us, we are having trouble seeing past the obstacles in our path. We were talking through possible solutions to some of our current problems, and Nick made a comment about me settling for short term solutions while ignoring the long term consequences of those choices. And he was right.

For the past several months, I have felt like no matter what I do or don't do, say or don't say, feel or don't feel, I cannot achieve to the level I want. I feel trapped and suffocated.

Imagine walking through a forest, full of rocks and roots and bushes to get tangled up in. It is dark and kind of musty, and the air is so think you cannot catch your breathe. You collapse to the ground from exhaustion and can't stand up again. Your feet are slipping out from under you. The plants are holding you down. You start to crawl, knowing that there is a clearing somewhere ahead. There just has to be. Once you get to the clearing, the ground will level out and the plants will thin, allowing you to stand up and caring on.

That's where I am. I'm trapped on the floor of strange forest, tied down by rocks and trees and plants I've never seen before. I know my hands and knees are going to be sore, but I don't have any other option than to crawl. So I'm crawling. Inching slowly toward whatever lies ahead, knowing that I serve a Good God who has a clearing and a stream placed right where I need it. So I keep going.

But the forest floor hurts. There are twigs and sharp rocks here, cutting my hands and tearing my clothes. And all I can do is focus on the next movement. The big picture would be too painful. One step at a time, I know I'll make it to a clearing or a stream. And it will be beautiful.

But for now, I'm so sick of the trees.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Accidental Minor

Through my coursework here at school, I managed to take as many Introductory classes as possible. It's not that I don't like learning. I love to learn. I just love to learn in pre-laid out, easy-to-follow formats which include daily readings on the syllabus and a couple of exams. Plus, as a Sociology/Anthropology major, I write a whole lot of papers. I always wanted to fill in my schedule with classes that didn't have papers. I wanted a little more variety than hundreds of pages of essays. And no, that's not really an exaggeration. I really do write that many pages in a semester.

Last spring when I sat down to fill out my application for graduation, I realized that I was only one class away from a Peace Studies minor. All of my introductory classes had fulfilled the rest of the requirements. All I had left was Intro to Peace Studies! So I registered for it.

But what business do I have a Peace Studies minor? I'm an ARMY WIFE for goodness sake! My husband is a SOLDIER. Peace is a far-off dream in our world most days. Looming deployments and yellow ribbons are more of our norm.

I knew going into this class that it was going to be a struggle. After all... I go to a private liberal arts school. We are taught to criticize and tear apart documents and information. Our professors lean so far to the left I'm sometimes surprised they don't all walk in circles. We have a club called Queers & Allies but bringing in a Pro-Life speaker causes nothing but controversy.

Yesterday, our professor (a Godly woman who goes to my church) invited three Army ROTC cadets and one veteran of both Iraq & Afghanistan to class to talk about how they reconcile their military service with their liberal arts education. Because apparently, educated folks are ALWAYS against war and violence?

I was so impressed with the cadets and veterans. One girl, a very outspoken critic of all things violent and/or unjust, asked what each would do if they disagreed with a future war that we could possibly get into. As officers, how would they respond to an order to deploy in support of a war they didn't agree with.

Every single one of them stood their ground. "I signed a contract." "I gave up my right to speak my mind so that you can speak yours." "It's my job and I'm proud to do it."

It takes a lot of courage to say those things in a room full of zealous peace studies students who believe that cutting down trees for paper and houses is violent.

I saw nothing but pride in the uniform they wore, grace for those they were serving, and the honor I have so desperately missed in my time away from a military community.

What a privilege to participate in a conversation with such promising young leaders.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New Stove

When I first looked at our apartment to see if it was something we'd be interested in renting, one of the first things I fell in love with was the kitchen. It's not that it has a lot of cabinet room or counter space. It was simply adorable. We've got three beautiful windows in the kitchen that let the morning light and make mornings that much better.

After noticing the windows, the second thing I realized about the kitchen was the stove. It looked old fashioned and had a compartment I had never seen before on the left side of it. In all honesty, I still have no idea what that compartment was designed for. It became home to my strainers!

But last week, something went horribly wrong. I was trying out a recipe from Heavenly Homemaker when the milk I was simmering boiled over and made a huge mess. No big deal, right? Simply take the burners apart and clean it out. Except what I found was not very pretty at all...

That, dear friends, is what an electrical fire waiting to happen looks like!

We promptly called our landlord and the next day, this beauty was delivered!

 I cannot tell you how excited about about our new stove!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goodbye, Pontiac!

So Nick and I bought this car off of some friends of our last summer and paid another friend to tow it to our home in Minnesota since we were still in Washington. See, it needed a new fuel pump and Nick needed a project. We figured he could fix it in October or November when he came home and we'd sell it shortly there after.

Lesson #1: Never buy a car you've never seen.

Rust. And no door handles. And a flat tire. It sat there for five months before Nick came home. I was required to park on the street because it was blocking the garage and taking up the only available parking spot on the driveway. Bummer.

Nick came home in October and, of course, got caught up in life and realized that this was a two-man project. Our friend who towed it for us (you know... back in July...) found an open weekend in December and came down to replace the fuel pump with Nick. Finally.

Lesson #2: Treat your friends well.

They were able to move it INTO the garage so we could at least park our vehicles in the driveway. But we couldn't sell it because we had never gotten the title transferred into our names.

Lesson #3: Never buy a car without exchanging the title at the same time as the cash switches hands.

The friends we bought the car from didn't have the title. His mother did. But she wasn't in the state except for a few weeks over Christmas. But she lost the title. And then her OTHER son found it (after she left, of course). We FINALLY got the title signed and brought it into the local courthouse to transfer the title.

We still don't have the new one, but we printed up a Bill of Sale and listed it online anyway.

One guy came to look at it and seemed pretty interested. He took it for a test drive and came home, turned the car off and (GASP!) closed the door. Remember that bit about there not being any door handles? Yeah. The car wasn't locked, but the doors only open from the inside. And the key to open the trunk was in the ignition. Thankfully the guy had turned the car off before getting out. Nick pushed it out of the way for the night (using the grille guard of his Beloved Truck) and called a locksmith the next day.  $40 later we were back in business.

Lesson #4: Don't put all the keys in one place.

Tonight, a couple of younger guys came and took it for a test drive. They didn't seem to mind that the doors can't close if you're not in it. They even enjoyed climbing in through the one door we had left open. The younger had to interpret for the other because he didn't speak English. Turns out he was buying a car for his mother. How sweet. They haggled with Nick and little and he lowered the price so they could get the passenger door handle (we already had the driver side handle... it just wasn't installed yet!). And they took it. They filled out the bill of sale, left their address for us to send the title to when it arrives, and drove off with the spot-stealer.

Lesson #5: Craigslist works. Patience is essential.

And we finally have our garage and driveway to ourselves :-)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Envelope FAIL

This whole Dave Ramsey envelope thing is going to be a lot harder than I imagined. We got our cash out on Wednesday, but not until AFTER we had already spent quite a bit on groceries. I figured it wasn't a huge deal since we have quite a bit of wiggle room in our budget this month.

But then when I went to Target today, I FORGOT to split my transaction into "Groceries" and "Household" so i got flustered and ended up giving the cashier $20 in cash and putting the rest on the debit card. Hopefully it evens out...

I did buy small envelopes though. Hopefully that will help me get organized a little more. Also, I'm going to make another envelope for "Household." Also, I need to get a better system for my coupons. While I was able to use everything I was planning on using today, I forgot the item I REALLY went to Target for and had to run back and grab it while the line grew behind me at the check-out. I hate being THAT customer.

Tomorrow's task: fix the grocery envelope and get organized!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Envelope System

Tomorrow is an exciting day for Nick and I. We are FINALLY making the switch (as partial as it may be...) to the Envelope System encouraged by Dave Ramsey. We took Financial Peace University when we first got married, thanks to a very generous scholarship by Cadence International, a ministry we grew to love for its service to us before Nick deployed.

We got "gazelle intense" and saved $1000 of our wedding money to have the beginnings of our Emergency Fund. We had to spend it on some repairs for the truck a few times, but that is what it is for! When our reception came around 5 months later (because we got married out in Washington and had a reception in Minnesota when we came home on Nick's leave), we got our baby emergency fund established for good and threw the rest of that income toward the only credit card debt we had. We made the very last payment the week before the beginning of the deployment, and canceled the card right after.

With Nick deployed and me back at school, living on campus and splitting a grocery budget seven ways with my roommates, our expenses dropped considerably and I began to stockpile money to take to the bank and pay off Nick's truck. There is something VERY exciting about walking into a bank with thousands of dollars of cash in hand, handing it all to the woman behind the counter and getting a ticket back with the remaining balance on your loan: $0. That was a little over a year ago on February 4th, 2010. Three days before our first wedding anniversary.

I celebrated by myself, because Nick was still in Iraq, and went back to school, spending money and bills and groceries, but saving for our life after the Army. Nick came home in June and ETSed (his Active Duty contract ended) in October. He moved back to Minnesota, where I was already living as I was working on my last year of college.

Somehow (read: because God is AWESOME!), we ended up recieving money from the Army for a lot of little things we forgot we coming (per diem pay, travel pay, etc.) and we threw all of that money into savings. Then came Christmas and our very generous families. More straight into savings. And taxes. Also to savings.

But our expenses are still higher than they should be. Not that they are higher than we can afford. We just don't have to spend as much as we have been spending.

So tomorrow, Nick and I are going to the ATM, withdrawing some cash, and moving toward the Cash Envelope system for the first time ever. We aren't going to put everything on the Envelope system, though. Just a few of the categories we routinely overspend with.

I am excited to finally live within a firm, written budget instead of treating our budget as a good idea or a guideline. I am so excited for March 1 to come so that we can get started on this new phase!

And it case you were wondering, we have one more payment coming from the Army sometime in the next two weeks. That money will complete Baby Step 3 (3-6 month of living expenses). Because God is Awesome.

At 23 and 21, Nick and I, both full-time students, will be debt free and have 3 months of living expenses set aside as an emergency fund.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On the Brink

Life is passing us by quickly, and I don't want to forget a moment of it. Seeing as I'm not very creative, scrapbooking is much more of a chore than a hobby. I need something that I am comfortable with. Something I can remember and take with me everywhere. We're young. We're mobile. We have enough stuff to move around as it is. A blog is a whole lot lighter than a giant box of craft supplies and a million books filled with pictures and phrases. So here we are at the start of another blog. Another beginning. Another season. On the brink of a million fantastic memories!