Wednesday, February 10, 2010

pre-Lenten Reflections

At the last Staff Seminar training I was at for my campus ministry job, I bought a book called Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross. As is my custom, I had more books than I could read at one time, and never got around to reading past the foreword. It's arranged, naturally, by the Christian year, and every time I thought about beginning it we were in the middle of a season. But Lent begins next week with Ash Wednesday, and today I had some extra time to sit down and read through that section.

The traditional 40-day period of Lent reflects long biblical fasts by the likes of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Catholics typically give up meat during Lent, but in my Protestant upbringing, people abstained from a variety of things including chocolate, pop, sex, gossip, coffee, ice cream, etc. Thinking about what I might give up this year left me feeling shallow, because what could I possibly give up that would compare to the sacrifice that Jesus made for me? But Gross's notes helped me to remember the benefits that humbly choosing sacrifice during Lent can have.

We adopt practices that help to sharpen our spiritual awareness. Through prayer and Scripture meditation, moral inventory and behavior changes, fasting/abstinence, and generosity/service, we open ourselves up to receive God's grace and blessing.
I also liked the idea that during Lent, we revisit the declarations we made during our baptism: we renounce satan and all evil powers and sinful desires, we trust in the grace of Jesus Christ our Savior, and we follow him as Lord.
(summarized from p. 128)

How can I put those ideas into practice? My roommate and I decided to do "Frugal February," a month where we cut out all unnecessary shopping and basically only buy gas and groceries. I think I'll continue that through the end of Lent as a part of my fast. I've begun reading through John, so I'll focus on that during Lent in addition to any other reading I might do. I'm also considering doing a day-long juice fast on Ash Wednesday, Fridays during Lent, and Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday. And I hope that through that process, I will be able to reaffirm the declarations from my baptism: I renounce satan and all evil powers and sinful desires, I trust in the grace of Jesus Christ my Savior, and I follow him as my risen Lord!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The $5 Savings Plan

I'm really horrible with money. What I mean by that is, I'm horrible at managing/saving money. I'm pretty good at the spending part. (What can I say, I love to shop!) But with a big move and a new house creeping closer every day, I'm starting to feel the pressure to save.

Let me introduce you to the only plan that I have found so far in my short life that is actually effective for me:
The $5 Savings Plan

It's pretty simple. Are you ready??

I read in a magazine once that if you take every 5-dollar bill that comes into your possession and put it in a jar/box/bag/under the mattress, it adds up to a nice sum within about 6 months.

So that is what I have been doing. Since I got back from Christmas, I've taken all the change and every $5 bill in my wallet and put it in a big jar. The effectiveness of this system naturally depends on how much of a cash flow one has, but since I get cash tips from Starbucks every week, I always have something to contribute. I realize that I won't be using this for the down payment for a house or anything big, but it's there for emergencies and, hopefully, for some splurges for the new house (which you can read about here!).

There are a few reasons why I think this system works for me:
(one) I'm particularly motivated to save money for this house project, because I'm really excited about it!
(two) It's become a fun challenge to see how much money I can put in there each week.
(three) The jar I'm using is transparent, and it's fun to see the bills and change piling up.
(four) The jar also has a really small neck, so if I was ever tempted to take money out of the jar, I would have to dump three pounds of change on the floor and then pull the bills out with tweezers.

I know it's not the best savings system in the world. I'm not earning interest or protecting my assets. But it works for now, and it works for me!

Monday, February 1, 2010

I love to cook!

Tonight for dinner, we had:

  • Lemon Pepper Chicken

  • Crash Hot Potatoes from here

and for dessert:

  • Pear Apple Cranberry Crisp from here


ALSO... This is my new favorite blog person, Color me Katie. So fun and sweet!