Friday, October 28, 2011

Lookin' Good!

Peter John has new glasses! He is pretty proud of them. Unfortunately, he has my eyes: astigmatism, and his left eye is weaker than his right eye. A teacher told him it will make him look smart like a professor, so that made him happy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fun With The Cousins!

We are blessed to have my nieces here this weekend while their parents are speaking at a mission conference in Pennsylvania. Their older brothers and my son Peter John are spending the weekend with my parents. These girls are so fun and sweet. They are a bundle of energy and a blessing to have in our lives while their family is on furlough from mission work in Chad, Africa. These girls are close in age to my youngest two girls, Lizzy and Amy. I think Lizzy is having a bit of adjustment to all the activity of other kids in the house. She seems to cry a bit more than usual. It could just be her age, too. Tomorrow we will worship at church and then go see their grandparents and older brothers.

Today Ethan, Gretchen, and I did a lot more raking of the leaves in this yard. It is a huge job. We prefer borrowing a trailer from Ethan's work and hauling the leaves to the dump rather than bagging them. It seems less tedious and less expensive than the traditional method. I think we will be quite sore tomorrow! Even the little girls did a bit of work by stomping down the leaves in the trailer so we could fit more in. They had fun jumping into the leaves and burying themselves! They are all ready for baths, now!

Monday, October 10, 2011

How We Survived Graduate School and Stayed Out of Debt Part 2

Accepting God's will and and doing it. Trusting God and making choices to "not fret. It only causes harm." These are basic faith issues that people in all financial positions must come to terms with. Phil. 3:12-14 states: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I would like to add a few things to my running list of how we stayed out of debt during Ethan's seminary years. I hope and pray for all who read this, that they would know the God who supplies all their needs as they walk in faith and obey Him by faith every day of their lives.

The first five points I made can be found on the previous post with the same theme. Here are some more tips I would like to add:

6. Turn off the lights! Energy conservation is a wonderful way to save money. I am still struggling to train my kids about this, but the principle remains the same. If you are not using that room, turn the lights off. The same applies to appliances that are not being used. This sounds really cheap, but we even use half the lightbulbs in the dining room fixture and bathroom vanity to save money. It looks kind of "poor" but it helps save electric costs at least for now in our lives.

7. Turn down the heat! In the winter we keep the house at 64 degrees F. during the day and 62 degrees F. at night. It feels chilly, but we counter the cold with slippers that are always readily available, sweaters, and throw blankets. When I was a kid, my mom made us wear long johns, too. I haven't quite trained my kids to wear these yet. Some people cannot have a cool house for health reasons, especially older folks, so use caution. It also helps to turn down the water heater to a lower temperature.

8. Follow the advice of the gas or electric company for energy conservation. Last year, our gas company sent a pamphlet explaining ways to prevent heat loss in the house. I tried a few of these methods: close all window shades or blinds in rooms you are not using. Close all window shades or blinds during the night. This made quite an impact on our heating bill! Another great method is to cover windows with 3M window treatments.

9. Potty-train early! I prayed about finishing Amy's potty training at 22 months in order to save money on diapers. It went really well for her, though I know this is not the case with all kids. We worked on it very hard for three days straight (go to the potty every 20-30 minutes, stay there with her, praise her for a job well done), and we have saved a lot of money this way. Many friends of mine use cloth diapers. This is a great way to save, too. I figured that if Ukrainians can train their babies at less than a year of age to use a toilet, I could try to train my little girls early, too.

10. Buy second-hand or season end clearance. Don't be ashamed to accept hand-me-downs from friends for your kids' clothing. The gifts of second-hand clothing has helped us tremendously, and we are so grateful for it. We shop at Savers or Goodwill, as well as garage sales. It has saved us hundreds of dollars in clothing costs.

11. I took advantage of local food share programs. In this town we have bought groceries from AngelFood Ministries through a local church as well as purchased boxes of food from Ruby's Pantry in Inspiration Lutheran Brethren Church in Breckenridge, MN. Ruby's has been a huge blessing to us, and we are so grateful for this ministry.

12. Hang your wet laundry on a clothesline and use homemade laundry soap. Here is a recipe for detergent that I got from my friend, Christine. The only change to the recipe I made was to use Ivory Soap instead of a Fels-Naptha bar. It has saved us hundreds of dollars. Laundry detergent is one of the most expensive items we buy. By the way, I don't hang my laundry on winter days or when I am super busy! I am not that crazy.

13. I use Folgers coffee or even Great Value brand instead of the expensive brand of coffee. This was admittedly a sacrifice on Ethan's part as he really enjoys a good cup of coffee, especially after enjoying Lavazza and Illy coffee in Europe.

14. As a last resort, take advantage of certain government programs such as WIC and government medical assistance if you cannot afford these basic health/medical needs. Our local WIC program has benefitted our small children tremendously.

15. Be generous. Don't quit tithing to the Lord. God will supply all your needs.

16. Reuse things and "Do it Yourself." Hah! My sister-in-law gives the Larson family grief that certain family members wash out and reuse Ziploc bags. I can't help myself! It is a great way to save money! And, the other Larson sensibility in life is to do it yourself. I am blessed to be married to a great handyman, and I have been known to try some things myself, sometimes successful, sometimes not. It has been fun, anyway!

17. Don't use credit cards and avoid taking out loans. Pray and see how God supplies!

18. Did I mention trust in God?

God did supply! Did I mention all the wonderful family and friends who have been there for us during this time? We are humbled and grateful. Thanks be to Him!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How We Survived Graduate School and Stayed Out of Debt Part 1

Graduate School or Seminary can be a very financially trying time for families. God has been so good to us and provided everything we have needed, though I would be dishonest if I told you we did not have moments of panic. God has turned those moments of worry or fear into trust as we see God's faithfulness and care just like a shepherd cares for all the needs of His sheep. We are still waiting on God for long-term employment, but as we work each day and trust God, He is providing our needs. God's word is a shield guarding our minds and hearts and changing our hearts of fear into faith and trust in Jesus, who is rich in mercy.

Recently my sister helped me to see that God may be using these times of our financial leanness for the sake of others. She encouraged me to teach others what God has helped us with to survive this time. In the years to come, more families are going to have to make decisions that are not comfortable because of these precarious times. People cannot afford to live in the luxury they have become accustomed to. The choices we will have to make must begin now in our daily habits. People cannot see their spending habits as a "right" but rather a privilege, and a rich responsibility of stewarding all that God has given them. This takes planning, conservative spending habits, and trust in God and His promises. I hope this will not be a legalistic view, but rather a help to people who are struggling. God did it all, not us, so to His name be the glory. So, here is Part 1 of a list of things that have helped us live debt-free during hard times:

1. I stayed home with the kids. Though some would consider this to be foolish or irresponsible especially during lean times, it has actually given us a stability and saved us hundreds of dollars through the work I have been able to do at home which I will describe in some of the following points. I have some friends who worked to put their husband's through school, which I know they feel is best for them. I do not judge them for that. I admire their devotion to their family in working so hard. For us, though, my staying home was the best option for our young children which we do not regret.
2. Gardening, Canning, and Freezing. We have been blessed to live at my "In-Law's" house during our seminary years, thus providing a wonderful garden plot that has provided pounds and pounds of fresh produce during the spring, summer, and fall. I preserve whatever I can get my hands on through canning and freezing. Some people have blessed us with the gift of produce from their gardens and from local produce they have bought. One family anonymously gave us a box of pears last year which I promptly canned for the winter. Two families blessed us with a large amount of potatoes both years Ethan was in seminary. We kept these in a cool place and they lasted throughout the winter.
3. Only spend money on what you need, buy generic items, and only buy what is on sale or with coupons.
4. Financial gifts and scholarships from Christian family, friends, and churches. The love and generosity people have shown us these years, as well as the support they have given is remarkable and a great testimony of the love of Christ in these people.
5. Trust in God. Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Unseasonably Warm

For those of you who live outside of Minnesota, these pictures may not appear all that odd, but for us, it has been extremely warm for October in Minnesota. The kids and I took some time in the afternoon to enjoy the nearby lake, warm air and sunshine. This is good for all of us.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Twelve Years Ago

Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth. Psalm 115:1