It's no secret that I haven't blogged for a while. Why haven't I? Two reasons mainly: "business" and self-doubt. Yep. Neither are very good reasons either. Yes, life has been "busy"... I say "busy" because what exactly does "busy" mean? Yes, we've had lots going on including applying for a couple of passports, my British citizenship, my daughters' birthday parties, a trip to visit my in-laws at Easter and the planning and preparation needed as well as planning our long-anticipated holiday to Disney World this month... which we're very excited for, as you can probably imagine!
Not a day goes by that I don't think about my blog. I think of ideas about what I could write about and tips and ideas that I could share. But I haven't written... why? It's not really about busyness. It's been mainly due to self doubt. Self doubt that I am good enough to write... good enough to inspire... good enough to make anything of Finding the Pennies. Here's the thing... I've realised it's the Devil who has placed that doubt in my mind. He is telling me I'm not good enough, telling me that no one will ever read my blog and be inspired by it.
This doubt seriously strengthened when I decided a few months ago it was time to follow my God-given gifts to write, talk and share my money-saving mindset from a more Christian perspective. The Devil has crept in to my weak places and has caused me to procrastinate writing another blog post. He doesn't want me to share the Gospel and our wondrous God and His many, many blessings. The Devil doesn't want me to use my gifts to mentor others, to help others steward their money in a way that honors the Lord. He wants me to give up and shut down the blog. But I won't.
What doubts are you facing today? Are you doubting that you can make any change in your life? Are you doubting your ability to get on top of your finances? Are you doubting that you can use your God-given gifts to impact others?
For me, the doubt stops NOW. No more hiding. No more believing I can't do this. God is bigger than our doubts. God is more powerful than our doubts. With God, ALL THINGS are possible. Nothing is too big for God to handle. Whatever you're doubting today, whatever is holding you back from progressing towards your goals, today... right now... ask God to help. Trust that God will help. Allow God to help and to guide. Trust Him.
Happy 2019, Friends! I am so excited for what God has in store this year, I could burst! What about you? How are you feeling about the upcoming year? What are you looking forward to?
Our first day of 2019 started with taking the family to see Mary Poppins Returns in the cinema. There were so many magical, touching moments in the film that may have left a knot in my throat and a tear in my eye. While watching movies, I absolutely love to listen for meaningful words and phrases, ones that I can take away and "chew" on for the rest of the day, or perhaps even the remainder of the year. For instance, when I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time, the song "This is Me" impacted me dramatically and left me with the word "warrior" to reflect on and, later, encouraged me to take courageous steps many, many times in 2018.
There were two phrases that made me gasp, both quoted by Mary Poppins: "Today is now" and "Everything is possible... even the impossible". I wish I could remember the scene better for the first phrase and I haven't found the relevant clip on YouTube, unfortunately. Today is now, isn't it? It means not to put off what you could do today until tomorrow. Take small, penny-sized steps to create change today. Whatever your goals and dreams may be for 2019, start to take the necessary steps to make them a reality. No step forward is too small. It's still progress.
If you'd like to pay off debt this year, the first step for you may be to figure out how much debt you have by listing all of your debts out on a piece of paper, smallest to largest, and create a plan (i.e. budget) to paying off the debt. If you'd like to save a certain amount this year, write down how much you'd like to save and by when, the divide the number of months or paydays until the date to figure out how much you'd need to save each month to reach your goal by that date.
One of our BIG goals is to pay off our mortgage early... very early... as in, the next 5 years. So, how did Jeff and I spend our NYE?? By taking a close look at our mortgage - romantic, eh?! We looked at how much we have left to pay off. Yes, it's a big number. We looked at the conditions of overpaying the monthly mortgage payment. We then agreed to how we'd accomplish over payments each month by looking at our budget - then we transferred our very first over payment... just a couple hours before the stroke of midnight. Gasp! I don't want to spoil the ending of Mary Poppins Returns for you, so I won't say any more... but there's a parallel I just realised while typing this! Today is NOW... I'll leave it at that.
"But Lauren, I'm in such a hole financially, I'll never get out", you may be thinking. Or perhaps you're thinking, "Lauren, how can I save a 3-6 month emergency fund when I can barely make to payday?" Mary Poppins reply would be "Everything is possible, even the impossible." I couldn't even believe this is in the movie. It's almost Biblical! In fact, it's almost the same as the verse in Mark (10:27), "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Furthermore, when the angel Gabriel explained to Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is going to have a child, even in her old age, Luke 1:37 states - "For nothing is impossible with God." This impacted me in a new way this Christmas as I boldly move forward with Finding the Pennies despite how impossible I see the task ahead of me.
I pray that you find encouragement in these quotes from Mary Poppins Returns and the Bible. I pray with the freshness of a new year, you take action today to work towards your goals, whether they're financial or not - with God, ALL things are possible.
I don't know about you, but I am so looking forward to the upcoming year! I have thought quite a bit about goal setting the past few weeks, listened to numerous podcasts on goal setting and considered what I'd like to achieve in 2019. I am so excited for the opportunities the Lord will present to me, for the ways I can help others and for the ways I will have to trust in Him to guide my life.
Trusting the Lord with ALL my heart is NOT an easy thing to do. My sinful nature can make me want to rely on myself, family, friends, money and possessions rather than Him for my security. I'm pretty sure this is the same for you, too.
As I attempt to prepare for the year ahead, I am excited for what the new year may bring... but also a little apprehensive. What does God have planned for the next year of my life? What if I choose not to follow His nudges? What if I let worry get the best of me? What if I let the voices (you know.. the ones in your head telling you you're not good enough) control my choices and thoughts? What if I believe those around me who tell me I'm not worth it? Let me just tell you.. those self-limiting voices - whether heard or unheard - are NOT TRUE. They do not come from our loving Father.
Our loving, gracious Heavenly Father knows the plans He has for us; plans to prosper us and not to harm us; plans to give us a hope and a future - this truth comes from Jeremiah 29:11. If I trust in HIM and not rely on myself this coming year, He will direct my steps. He will help me to make the choices that will prosper me, not harm me.
I have been told that my goals are ambitious. And?! Yes, some are related to our finances. I also want to serve others while serving the Lord. I want to serve my family better and strengthen friendships. I want to find more ways of being generous. With Christ ALL things are possible, right?
If you haven't done so already, I want to challenge you to think BIG. Allow yourself to "dream the impossible dream". Maybe these ideas may never happen, but what if they could happen? Start TODAY to work towards those goals and ignore the doubt in your mind. Make 2019 the year of freedom... whatever that may relate to for you.
Dear Friend, I care about you. I want to hold your hand and tell you that you'll be okay. I also hope you'll feel the love of God in 2019 and his presence in your life. Whatever you are facing today, you will get through it. I want to encourage you to speak to God and ask Him for His guidance. Please know I am just a message away, if you need someone to talk to or dream with. Please feel free to message me through the Finding the Pennies Facebook page. As you get ready for 2019, whatever your goals, your ideas, your dreams... I pray that you will put your trust in Him. Take care, Lauren. xo
In yesterday's blog, I introduced an easy way to give with a Reverse Advent Calendar. Basically, instead of taking items/chocolate out of a box for 24 days, put 24 items into a box for 24 days... then donate that box of goods to a local food bank. Simples!
Watch this short video to see which items we've chosen to put in our Reverse Advent Calendar Box. I hope you join my family and me in giving back to your local community!
(I can't help it. My heart strings are easily pulled when I hear someone is in need. I'm like, "You need some money?! Here, take a tenner!" (that's £10 for my non-British friends). No biggie... right?! I look around me... I'm sitting in a warm home with a satisfied, happy tummy. My family's needs are met, and for that, I thank God every day. I also know that there are plenty of families near us - it could be just a few doors or streets down - who can't say the same. I know there are plenty of people in need, those I may know, those who I may not know, but nevertheless, whose needs are not fulfilled. I'm sure you're aware of this, too... but perhaps you don't know what you can do to help. I'm going to introduce you to a very simple way of giving back in the lead up to Christmas - a Reverse Advent Calendar. #FoodbankAdvent (Photo of food basket above used with permission and thanks to Faith Archer at https://www.muchmorewithless.co.uk/)
I'm pretty sure that most people know that with an advent calendar, you open a door or box and take something out of the advent calendar each day for the 24 days before Christmas. But with a Reverse Advent Calendar, you put something into a box for 24 days, one item each day. Those 24 "somethings" are then donated to your local food bank, such as a Trussell Trust food bank (click here to find your nearest location) or one in your local area. How simple is that?! I am joining other UK Money Bloggers in this nationwide campaign, so there are (hopefully) hundreds, maybe thousands, of other individuals and families participating UK-wide.
Before we go any further, please take a few minutes to watch this short video.
Heart strings pulled yet?? Right, if you're ready to join me and take action, find a Wish List below and links to the Trussell Trust's food and non-food lists below.
After looking over a list of needed items from our local food bank @Telford Crisis Support, as well as that on the Trussell Trust website (here) and non-food items (here), I am going to pick up 24 items from the shop, focusing on the non-food items. Each day for the next 24 days, one of my daughters - taking turns every other day - will choose an item to put into the donation box. I want to show our daughters that these are items that others NEED and that they may take for granted.
If you're going to join me to help provide basic necessities, I want to urge you to start soon... like, today or tomorrow. These boxes need to be delivered to the food bank at the beginning of December so the volunteers have time to sort through donations and get them in the right hands as soon as possible. If you're in the Telford area, please get in touch with me, and we'll organise pick up and delivery of the boxes to the food bank.
I know that many of my readers are not located in the UK. I urge you to join me anyway! The same concept can be applied anywhere in the world. Please let me know if you're going to participate in the Reverse Advent Calendar and post your photos to the Finding the Pennies Facebook page! I'm looking forward to seeing how we can all make a difference.
He can move the mountains
My God is Mighty to save
He is Mighty to save
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave!
I was going to write a post about how I've saved money today, but I just can't... I need to praise and boast in my Lord! Hillsong's "Mighty to Save" has been playing through my mind over the past two weeks while the search and rescue of the Wild Boars football team in Thailand were underway. He is mighty to save! I prayed, "God, You can move mountains. You are a mighty God. You can lead the search team to these boys. You are a mighty God." Thousands, maybe even millions, of people around the world have been praying for the safe rescue of this team, for their families and for the incredible number of professionals and volunteers involved in their rescue.
If you were anything like me, you were often checking for any update on the situation in northern Thailand. Lord, You are mighty to save! The amazing news came today that all 12 boys and their coach have been saved from the depths of a mountain. The Lord showed the whole world that He is in control. He's in control of the circumstances that led the boys to go into the cave. He's in control of that monsoon that caused the water to rise rapidly in the cave, trapping the team inside. He led the rescuers to the team. He sustained the team the whole 17 days they were trapped in the dark. He gave everyone the ability and the knowledge to guide them out and into the light. Was it easy?! Absolutely not! The cave had it's ups and downs and it's very narrow points. Yes, unfortunately, a life was lost inside that cave. The Lord has His reasons that we find difficult to understand. But tonight, the team are resting in the care of the doctors and nurses, soon to be reunited with their family and friends. What an AMAZING picture of God's salvation!
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see!
If you live in the dark, without the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, in your life, you have every opportunity to ask our Heavenly Father to come into your save you. Jesus Christ came into the world to save you and me from eternal condemnation and separation from the God.
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever shall believe in Him, shall have everlasting life!"
Friends, if you don't know your Saviour, Jesus Christ, I want to encourage you to seek Him. Ask Him into your life. You will find rest in His care. Please feel free at any time to send me a message if you'd like some support or encouragement. He is mighty to save! Amen.
You know that feeling when you're on holiday/vacation and the world just seems right? You leave your cares at home and you're enjoying time with you family and your friends when suddenly the brain fog clears, you feel inspired and think, "Something has to change." Well, that happened to us last weekend - us, meaning, my husband and me.
Last weekend for the 3-day bank holiday weekend, we visited our friends in London and felt relaxed the second we walked into their beautiful, spa-like-scented flat. I don't need to go into detail about our friends' amazing generosity or what we did in London, but I definitely want to let you in on the changes Jeff and I want to make to enjoy life more.
1. Once-a-month date night - Jeff and I love spending time together, especially on our own without the girls, but we hardly ever get to due to not having parents around to babysit and not prioritizing money in our budget for a babysitter and dinner or a movie out. Not anymore: at the beginning of each month we're going to decide our date night, book a babysitter (do you book a babysitter?!) and budget for a night out.
2. Home Improvements - After 4 years in our house, we're having a back splash tiled and 4 rooms painted... eventually. As the self-declared most indecisive person in the world, I haven't completely settled on the tile for the back splash, nor have we completely decided whether or not we're going through with this. I kind of drive myself crazy going back and forth on whether do something or not... I'll let you know what we decide.
3. De-clutter the house - We also desperately need to de-clutter the house due, again, to my indecisiveness that has led to piles of papers, magazines, toys and clothes. All of this stuff doesn't bring me happiness - very Konmari, indeed. I've decided to concentrate on one small area of our home per week. Again, small changes consistently worked on will bring change.
4. Achieve my weight loss goals - of course, this goal is only for me. A month ago, I decided to rejoin Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time, which you can read about here (the-night-before.html). It's been slow until due to giving myself too many allowances (aka: treats), but I'm focused and determined to reach my goal. Life will be so much more enjoyable when I can finally stop thinking about reaching my goal weight.
5. Our careers - because I don't know who will be reading this, I can't exactly go into detail about thoughts and plans. Our friends encouraged us, however, to consider where we want to be in 5 and 10 years time and start working towards it.
What "something" in your life has to change? What is holding you back from making these changes? Are there some changes you'd like to make that you don't have control over? I want to encourage you to speak to your spouse or close friends about these changes and ask them to help you put them into action and hold you accountable to making those positive steps in your life.
Ready. Set. (Deep breath.) Go! Finding the Pennies' new website is officially launched! Combine a few months of deliberation, research, work, help and insight from friends who know their stuff and trust in the Lord that He has a plan for this blog... and voila!... FindingthePennies.com is launched!
I will be the first to admit that there is plenty of work to be done and plenty for me to learn, but you know what? - that's okay! I am not here to present you with a perfect blog; I simply want to share my thoughts in the hope that it inspires you in some way - be it through discussing my money-saving mindset and the absolute thrill I get when I find money, penny-sized (aka "small") changes that could make a real impact on your life, reflecting on God's goodness and unconditional love, or simply through a recipe our family enjoys.
So, here it goes. I hope you join me for many more blog posts. Take care, Lauren.