Picture this

Your vision of where or what you want to be is the greatest asset you have.  

Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.

(Paul Arden)

I’ve never been one to dream big – or even small – generally because I’ve never thought I could bring any of my dreams to fruition, and have a long history of never achieving anything I set out to do (but that’s a whole other story for another day).

In learning to look at my life with a different perspective – an ‘I can’ one – I’m learning more and more how effective it is if you can visualise or paint a picture of something you’d like to happen, or how you want something to be.  The first time I remember doing this was during the first year I was a single mum, just over 10 years ago.  A university was starting a nursing degree in our local town, and it was my dream to become a midwife.  I was talking with my counsellor about how I planned to apply, and hopefully start studying the following year, but I was also afraid I would end up not finishing the course, as had happened so many other times is my life.

My counsellor said to me ‘what would the graduation ceremony look like?’, and I described to her the vision that came to mind.  Walking across the stage of our local theatre in a cap and gown, my family in the audience, and how I knew they would be proud of me.  She told me to remember that as I went through the course over the next few years, to encourage me along the way.

It worked.

There were a few times I was tempted to chuck it all in, and I would recall that picture to mind, and keep going.

And when it came to my graduation 3 years later, the reality was a near-perfect rendition of the picture.

It has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life – work out where you want to go, what you want to do, and think about what that looks like.  There have only been a few things that I’ve started and followed through on since then, so obviously it’s still a work in progress, but each time I have pictured the journey or the end result, and I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

I share this with you now because after I posted on Monday, it occurred to me that I have never pictured my ideal financial life.  I’ve thought about it – many, many times – but I’ve never visualised what that my life would actually look like if I didn’t have to constantly worry about money.  This thought came after I reflected on how I had planned what I wanted the 1st of January to look like last week, what I wanted to do to start the year off well, and because I pictured the day and then wrote it down, the day went as I had hoped.  Simply because I had a vision, and a roadmap.

To travel somewhere, we need a destination and a map.  To make something, we need at least an imagined picture and directions or instructions for the process.  Creating your ideal financial life is the same process.  You need to know what you want that life to look like, and the steps to achieve it.  If we don’t have that picture, that destination, we get lost along the way and are left wandering.

Se before we even think about budgeting, ways to reduce spending, saving money or anything else, we need to clearly identify the picture that will guide the process.  Ask yourself the following questions:

What does my ideal financial life look like?

What doesn’t fit into that vision?

For me, my ideal financial life looks like trusting God every day that He will provide exactly what I need – that He will give me each day my daily Bread – whatever form that comes in.   It means valuing the money I earn and am required to manage well, and not taking it for granted.  It means honouring God with my giving, paying the bills (and on time), paying the essential living expenses for our family, paying down debt, contributing to savings and superannuation, giving generously to charities and organisations that God leads me to and saving for some minor luxuries such as family holidays and house renovations (pretty much in that order).

It means working and earning enough income to fulfill this and nothing more, so that I’m not tempted to fall back into old habits.  It means not letting worrying about money become an idol that distracts me from trusting Jesus.  It’s knowing that anytime I go to pay for something, there is enough money in my purse or bank account.  It requires spending time each fortnight planning a budget and working within that.

What doesn’t fit into this vision?  Putting off paying bills and other essential expenses so I can have the false security of leaving a bit of money in my account.  Buying things I don’t need, but convince myself they don’t cost much, or I deserve it,  or it will be useful to (insert any excuse here).  Feeling guilty about spending money on food and household items that we truly need, because I so often feel guilty about spending any money at all.  Feeling the squeeze in my chest every time I pay a bill and see the account balance drop.  Feeling the dread of knowing it’s another 10 days before I get paid again, and there’s already no money left after paying for the basic essentials.  The almost-despair of trying to work out how to reduce my expenses even more, when I’ve already done everything I can.  Having to say no to my kids to doing anything that costs any amount of money, because we just don’t have it.  Not being able to give my kids their pocket money, because I just don’t have it. I could go on and on, and on, but I think you get the picture.

Your vision is what you can picture right now.  It can be as detailed or as simple as you can manage.  Don’t overthink it, don’t worry about if you think you can or can’t achieve it (we’ll deal with that later), but do allow yourself to believe that your financial life can be different.

One point I do feel is important to make is that this process isn’t about stuff.  It’s not about working out how to earn more money to be able to spend more money, how to get allthethings that you think will make your life better or will fill some emotional void, or even how to grow a huge savings egg that means you’ll never have to worry about money again.

It’s simply about giving yourself permission to picture a different life, to lean into hope and to believe that with God, anything is possible (even changing 20 years of poor money management).

Would you share your vision with me?  And tell me, how can I pray for you as we walk this path together?

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This is not according to the plan

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This is not what I planned for my first post in 2015.

I’ve had that post mulling over in my head since Christmas, dwelling on what I would and wouldn’t write, what tone I wanted to set to start the year off well, as this year my focus is on change, and making things different (in a good way), and moving forward in life instead of letting past stuff hold me back.

And then I had to buy an ink cartridge for my printer today.  One I needed to be able to print paperwork to do my job (the job that actually pays me an income).  I knew I had to, but I’d held off, until push came to shove this morning.

So off I went and bought said cartridge, which cost $25.50.

An amount for which I held my breath as the payment was processing, praying that there was enough in the account to cover it.  There was, and I breathed out, knowing that there wouldn’t be much left next time I checked the balance.

Then I got home, swapped the empty cartridge for the new one, and felt the weight of idontknowwhattocallit thud into my chest.  I realised I actually had a spare cartridge in my desk drawer, and could have saved myself the angst of spending money I could ill-afford to spend, on something I already had.

Something I didn’t realise I had, because I thought it was a different cartridge in my drawer, and I didn’t bother to check.

And now I only have $20.96 to my name until pay-day next week.

After I let all the feelings of shame and anger and self-loathing settle, I knew what my first post for 2015 would be.

Before I start, let me be very clear on something – I am not in crisis.  I have a roof over my head, plenty of food in the cupboards, clean water, a good job, people who love me, and the bills are (mostly) paid .  I am not seeking pity, or sympathy, or anything of the like, I am simply stating the facts of my life as they are as of right now.  I don’t want for anything, and this is not a cry for help. Well, it sort-of is, but I’ll get to that later.

My first thought was ‘this has to change.  Now’.  Not my monetary situation, there’s not much I can do about that for now, but the constant rinse-and repeat of ending up in this position.  I live week-to-week (well, fortnight-to-fortnight), and there is always more time left than money.  I don’t live extravagantly, I don’t spend to fill an emotional need, and I live a pretty quiet life, one I’m very happy with.

Except for this.

There is a bit of back-story to today, but I can’t even blame the events of the last 12 months for what led me to standing at the check-out this afternoon, holding my breath.  I have been living like this for one degree to another my whole adult working life, and it is all because of me and my choices.  Yes, of course, circumstances influence what happens to us and our financial situations etc (such as at the moment, my job is very variable in hours from one fortnight to the next), but at the end of the day, it comes down to the choices I make.  And apparently there’s still a huge lesson for me to learn, because there’s something I’m not getting, and here we are again.

I am so, so tired of being in this all-too-familiar place.  I want out.

I have no idea how to make that happen right now.

And this is why I’m writing – and sharing – this story, because I know I’m not the only one.  Far, Far from it.

I have read many stories of people working through and triumphing over their horrible financial crises, but they’ve always been after the fact – I haven’t come across any place where someone has shared their journey as they’ve travelled it, and that’s what I want to do here.  Share what I’m dealing with, in the hope that is will encourage even just one person wherever they are, who might be feeling alone and in despair and completely hopeless about their situation.

If that’s you, then please, please, if nothing else, hear this – you are not alone.

I don’t have any answers.  I don’t really know what I’m doing (obviously).  But I truly, truly care about the humans I live with in this world, and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s to encourage and walk with people in their travels, and that I can do in spades.  If you desperately need kindness, and encouragement and yes, accountability for whatever challenges you’re facing in your financial life at the moment, then please, join me here and we can walk this path together.

What I said before isn’t exactly true – I do know what to do when it comes to managing money (i.e budgeting, cutting expenses etc), it’s the practical working out of it with discipline where I get tripped up.

This journey isn’t just about money – acquiring, spending, managing.  It’s about self-discovery, being willing to face the hard stuff and finding the joy of enough.  I know this because I’ve been here so many times before, and I have learnt a lot along the way.  I’ve made lots of awesome, positive changes, and I know I have more to make.  This post is one of the first – not being afraid to talk about money (which I don’t believe we do enough of in our culture, but that’s for a different discussion), and turning away from shame and fear to bare all in a very, very personal topic, at the risk of judgement and criticism (even though I’m totally hesitating over hitting the ‘Publish’ button, and inviting people to ‘Like’ the new blog page, and yeah, there will probably be the whole vulnerability hangover thing tomorrow morning and I’ll be so tempted to delete this whole post….).  Maybe for me this is the turning point – full disclosure and no excuses in a public forum, there’s not much shying away from that!

I’ve written this post off and on over the course of the afternoon, and I’ve had time to think about where to start.  I’m an information gatherer by nature (the putting it into practice bit is where the challenge often lies), but in my many, many hours of research over many years I have collected a wealth of information and resources, so that’s what better place to start than with what I already have.  So over the course of this whatever-you-want-to-call-it, I’ll share books and blogs and websites along the way (as frugally as possible, of course!).  I don’t need to re-invent the wheel, and there are plenty of experts who talk about things way better than I can, this series is about sharing the journey and encouraging each other along the way.

Will you join me?  You can find me here on Facebook and Instagram, and of course in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your story, and for you to tell me in what particular way I can encourage you.

To quote the awesome Ben Lee, we really are all in this together, and that makes all the difference.

And again

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Oops.

I kind of slipped in that writing-every-day part of 31 Days,but oh well, it is what it is!!

Truth be told, I’ve been away from the computer as I’ve been sorting – deeply sorting – some parts of my house, and that has taken up my focus and energy.  Even though I had fully intended to write every day, I’m not sorry for the break as it happened, because it’s part of the process of learning my limits, and the importance of prioritising where I spend my limited energy.  For right now, I have an innate need to press deeper into my home, which actually means doing things in my home that make life more livable for me and my family.

Much of that activity at the moment is sorting and purging, to make way for breathing and creating.  Enter exhibit B (Exhibit A was my back room from last week):

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That’s my garage, and my workspace.

Yep.

I know this is not an unusual picture, for me or anyone really, and that most of us have spaces that become dumping grounds.  I could barely even walk through here, and it had gotten to the point where I was afraid to even start, feeling frozen with not knowing where to start.  But the thought of leaving became even more frustrating and downright painful to some degree than continuing to actually ignore it, because every time I thought ‘oh, I”ll pain that/ fix that/ make that’ etc, I knew I couldn’t because I didn’t have access to the space.

So, I just started, and after a few hours spread over two days, I now have this:

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Much, much better.  Still some stuff stored that will go back into the house, but plenty of room to move, to breathe, and most importantly, to create.  Again, just like after clearing out and organising the back room last week, I felt like I could let out a breath I’d been holding for a long time.

As much as I’d love to click my fingers and have my entire house sorted right now, I know that this is a process, and one that takes time.  As I’m going through it, I can choose to put all creating and decorating and making-this-house-a-home-ing on hold until everything is purged and organised to my satisfaction, or I can start putting pictures on the walls and sewing covers for the couch and painting rooms and re-purposing sideboards at the same time as cleaning out cupboards and sorting way too much paperwork and purging the Tupperware cupboard.  Again.

I vote for the second option, because waiting for the right time means nothing will ever happen.  My life to this point is testament to that, and I’m changing my story now because I can.

How do you manage to create beauty whilst trying to keep life in order?  

 

 

Unexpected delight

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I walked into the kitchen tonight, getting home after the biggest boy’s basketball game, and was caught by what I saw before me –

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The vignette I had originally created of bits and pieces of things I love had been added to here and there, showing more of a picture of my life. Framed words that inspire, whimsical beauty from a local artist, a creation from a girl who loves her dad fiercely, memories in a jar, sunshine in a bowl, gifts brought back from a land far away, and books overflowing. And dinosaurs, of course (doesn’t everyone use dinosaurs in their decorating?).

It’s not anything that will ever appear in a style magazine, but it’s my life today, perfectly imperfect.

Comforts

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I had plans today. Ones that involved cleaning out and sorting allthestuff in the garage, that would make space to create and work on some of the projects in my head.

Buuuut, no. I got gastro instead, and have spent the day on the couch, very close to the required amenities, with this view

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At least I can see blue skies and sunshine.

Instead of getting the job done that I’d planned and set aside the day for, I’ve read books, played games with the youngest boy, put some of the inside of my head on paper, drank cups of bone broth and peppermint tea, and counted my blessings of the comforts of home when I’m not feeling my best.

That’s the way life goes sometimes, and I love that at times like this, home wraps itself around me like a big, soft blanket.

What are your home comforts?

Thank God I’m a country girl

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I live in rural South Australia, a town of about 27,000, a city by definition, but where within 10 minutes of driving, I see this:

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Without fail, when I’m outside in the beautiful landscape that God has created here, be it farm land, the bush , the river or the ocean (all within 30 minutes from my front door), I know peace and a stilling of my soul.

I love where I live.

Where is ‘that place’ for you?

Lines and loops

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I’ve had art projects for my home captured in my head for years, and I haven’t done anything about bringing them to life.

Tonight, I put pen to paper and started working on creating one of my visions. Tucked up on the couch in between checking on the moon turning red outside with the smallest boy, I drew words that make my heart sing.

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