Life Anew

Obviously, I’m no good at keeping up my blog, much less a series on a blog. Just want to post to assure any possible readers I had that I haven’t abandoned the site.

It’s been quite an eventful few months. Academically, I have officially declared my major in International Studies, and I’m scheduled to graduate in a year and a half! The end is in sight! I’m excited to have a bachelor’s degree soon.

My family found out over Christmas that my sister and brother-in-law are expecting their first child, a boy! My first nephew! (or first child to be the aunt to, for that matter) She’s due to deliver August 14th. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law is away in Naval Officer Candidate School (OCS). My family will be going up to Newport in a couple weeks to see him graduate, and we’ll be staying for a few days to visit Boston, Plimouth, and other surrounding historical sites. We leave the morning after my finals!

As for myself, to be quite honest, I’ve been struggling a lot. I had been in sort of a dry spell lately in my walk with the Lord. My grandfather died in February. The day after his funeral, I came down with an attack of appendicitis, and thus missed a lot of work to recover. Luckily, my tax return arrived when I was in the hospital, offsetting my lack of work a little. Then earlier this month, I found out that a friend, who was like a brother to me in high school, passed away. Two deaths in three months. Coincidentally, my grandfather died on my friend’s birthday.

Honestly, my friend’s death hit me harder than my grandfather’s. My grandfather death was expected. He was incredibly sick and declining really fast. I knew that the last time I visited him was going to be the last time that I would see him alive–only hours before his death. With my friend, Seth, it was a complete shock. I was in denial even. I went to his memorial service, but I had never been to one where there was not a body present. Seth lived in Boston, so he had to be brought back to the metroplex. I couldn’t make it to his funeral, but what hit me most was seeing a picture my sister had taken at his funeral of his close friends surrounding his closed casket. I wept. And I wept hard.

Death has been very real to me. The shortness of life has been very real to me. And because of it, it has led me to cling to the Lord, to expose myself to His Word and His laws, to focus on Christ, the gospel, and my purpose in life and why He has put me on this earth. Not that I had forgotten, but it’s been a good slap-in-the-face reminder of the depth and importance of it all. I’ve actually just decided to take a mission trip this year. It’ll be a 9 day trip to India, evangelizing, church planting, and being involved in a 3 day conference for missionaries all over Asia to come and be refreshed spiritually and physically. I’ve been studying Hinduism for the past few days in preparation for evangelism so that I don’t offend the people of India who practice Hinduism. Just today, I was reading that they worship representations of God (what we would call idols) and keep them in their own home as a shrine so they keep their focus on God. Learning that, it humbles me in how often (or lack thereof) I focus on the Lord. Additionally, they put their whole lives into trying to focus on God, and yet, because their focus is on idols, they are completely missing him. It’s all vanity! And they don’t know it. An entire nation, nearly exceeding the population of China works so hard in every aspect of their lives to see God and yet misses Him completely. That realization is heartbreaking.
And yet, we do that same thing when we neglect to focus on God and spend time with the Lord through His Word and in prayer.

I pray that you and me alike, as well as the Hindu Indian people, will see God–the true God–and worship Him. Over any idol.

Onward and Upward,
Holly

Stewardship: Finances

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. – Proverbs 21:21

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20

If riches increase, do not set your heart on them. – Psalm 62:10

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds. – Proverbs 27:23

The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5

Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. – Proverbs 16:3

Finances are not always easy to discuss. In fact, they rarely are. The thought of managing your money is not exactly the most exciting thing. However, the act in doing so is rewarding. Additionally, if you’re the type of person who manages their affairs well, your family will thank you for it. If you squander all your money, without thinking of your family, that shows a lack of provisions and suggests that you’re lacking in love.

Now, I’m not here to counsel people on providing for their family. I’m a college student residing in my parent’s house, so it would be out-of-place for me to tell people who are the head of their household how to handle finances. However, for all you college students out there: We’re in the same boat.

Although, it may differ upon whether you live in a dorm or at home and whether or not you have student loans.

I personally have no debt. I started my college career going to a community college with a far cheaper price tag than a 4-year university. And yes, community colleges get a lot of crap for supposedly being terrible schools, but I don’t regret my community college experience. Pst: It’s kind of why I have no debt. Also, my parents have helped me in paying for it. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

However, transferring to a university, I’m on my own, financially. I’ll be gradually transferring to the University of North Texas, starting in the spring, and by gradually, I mean that I’ll be doing concurrent enrollment with TCC, just so I can take all the transferable classes I can at a cheaper cost.

I currently work at a burger joint, Kincaid’s, and get decent money doing so. (The key to making money: Getting a job! Who would’ve thought?!) I’m blessed to not have a lot of bills since I live with the ‘rents (if you can, take advantage of that), so the only bills I pay for are my cell phone and my need to have gasoline in the tank. 10% goes towards charitable giving, and I only allow myself $20 per paycheck to spend, which generally goes toward meals from work on double-shift days. The rest goes into savings, which I’ve managed to bring up to $500 per month, enough to cover 9 credit hours at UNT if saved over a 6-month period–with a cushion for tuition increase and books. If there is a little more than $500 in a given month, it goes into my emergency fund, an ideal baby step of saving money according to Dave Ramsey… and advice that I got from my parents growing up. But primarily Dave Ramsey since I wasn’t interested in hearing about finances growing up.

Going through Financial Peace, I’ve grown fond of Dave Ramsey. Here are his baby steps for saving money and building wealth:

  • $1,000 emergency fund. Or if you’re like me with an income less than $20,000 a year, $500 emergency fund. Because life happens.
  • Paying off all debt
  • 3-6 months of expenses in your emergency fund
  • Investing 15% of income in Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • College funding for your children
  • Paying off your house
  • Building wealth and giving!

If you’ve never done Dave’s Financial Peace University, or never even heard of it, I highly recommend it. But just a warning: You build a love/hate relationship with the guy. He saves you money, but it requires some major financial changes.

That’s pretty much all I have!

Holly

Stewardship: Shelter

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… – Colossians 3:23

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. – Titus 2:7

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will be dishonest with much. – Luke 16:10

The Lord’s been revealing to me a lot about stewardship lately. Being in a family of four while all of us have jobs makes house upkeep a bit of a challenge. Being a college student makes finances a struggle. Working six days a week gets exhausting. Not being the one in the house who buys the groceries makes eating healthy harder. My overall busy schedule gives me only so much time for fitness.

And it doesn’t necessarily get any easier.

So my next few posts are on stewardship of various areas of life. In this particular post, it’s the house.

I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person who, by walking into a clean house after a busy day, is relieved that I don’t have to do any house labor. When I get home, I generally want to sleep. With this mentality, it gives me motivation to take care of the house in such a way that it doesn’t necessarily have to get that messy for it to be cleaned up. And when it is cleaned up, it doesn’t take forever. Clean as you go. Plus, if the house stays fairly clean, there are less complains/requests from the ‘rents. I have also come to the conclusion that, if you’re the type of person who struggles with getting your house chores done, there is an issue in your servanthood. Even if you serve in various other aspects in your life, if you’re not serving your family, your priorities are all wrong. Family first.

Plus, my love language is service. I like to show love through service and be shown love through service.

For a long time in our household, we had our chores organized in a manner where if I had kitchen duty for a week, Katie had bathroom duty, and vice versa. We alternated weeks. We still do that, although, I frequently clean our restroom simply because it’s a small space, so it doesn’t take long and is easy to clean. I do it even if it’s not my “week”. When it comes to the kitchen, however, I absolutely HATE cleaning accumulated dishes, glasses, silverware, AND cookware to be washed in the dishwasher loaded with already-cleaned dishes still in there. So, in my attempt to lighten this load a bit. I unload our dishwasher when the kitchen is still clean. That way, it doesn’t accumulate so many dishes to deal with at once. Once you use a dish, you rinse it and put it in the empty dishwasher and do so until it’s enough for a load to be washed. That way, it KEEPS the kitchen clean.

Cleaning our bathroom is simple because it’s conveniently located next to our laundry room. So anytime we take a shower, we can just throw our clothes in the washer! Everything else that may be out are basic essentials that we keep in the cabinets. Those are easy to put away.

We just redid our living room floors, and they are now laid with vinyl tile, which is a lot easier to maintain than carpet. Rather than vacuuming, we can dustmob. Anything else that gets messy in our living room are minor things on end tables, the coffee table or chairs against the wall.

Those are really the only rooms I make a huge point to work on since they are common areas. My own room tends to not get worked on as much since I spend my cleaning time on common areas. But having my room a mess only affects me, and when I have the time to clean it, it’s generally not too bad.

Laundry is everyone’s job in our house. I like to keep our hamper as empty as possible, and I LOVE a full closet of clean clothes. So if I have time in the mornings before work, I like to throw together a load before leaving the house and dry it when I return home.

The key to maintaining a clean house verses cleaning a messy one is the few moments you have between other obligations to get any housework done. I have cleaned our living room, kitchen, bathroom, AND eaten a meal in a 45 minute duration where I was home. It shouldn’t be too hard.

Cheers!
Holly

God is Never Wrong

I’m currently in a ladies’ Bible study with some women from my church singles’ group, studying the character of God every Tuesday night. One of our co-leaders and good friend, Traci, shared this little story on the sovereignty of God two weeks ago, and (even two weeks later now) I thought that it would be nice to share with my readers. So here it is. 🙂

 

GOD IS NEVER WRONG

 

A king who did not believe in the goodness of God, had a slave who, in

all circumstances, said:    My king, do not be discouraged, because

everything God does is perfect, no mistakes!

 

One day they went hunting and along the way a wild animal attacked the

king. His slave managed to kill the animal, but could not prevent his

majesty losing a finger.

 

Furious and without showing his gratitude for being saved, the nobleman said

“Is God good? If He was good, I would not have been attacked and lose

my finger.”

 

The slave replied:

“My king, despite all these things, I can only tell you that God is

good, and he knows the “why” of all these things. What God does is

perfect. He is never wrong!”

 

Outraged by the response, the king ordered the arrest of his slave.

Later, he left for another hunting trip and was captured by savages

who made human sacrifices.

 

On the altar, ready to sacrifice the nobleman, the savages found that

the victim had not one of his fingers, so he was released. According

to them, he was not so complete to be offered to the gods.

 

Upon his return to the palace, he authorized the release of his slave

whom he received very affectionately.

 

“My dear, God was really good to me! I was almost killed by the wild

men, but for the lack of a single finger, I was let go! But I have a

question: if God is so good, why did he allow me to put you in jail?”

 

“My King, if I had gone with you in this hunt, I would have been

sacrificed for you, because I have no missing finger, therefore,

remember everything God does is perfect. He is never wrong.”

 

For His kingdom,
Holly

Marriage > Wedding

(I realize that I never finished my blog challenge, or at least not yet, and am far behind in it, but for this post, I’d rather write about real life as it is right now.)

I’ve always been a people watcher, which makes sense growing up as a shy person. Instead of talking, I listened and watched. Certainly made the concept of “thinking before you speak” much easier for me. In watching people, I particularly took interest in watching couples–how they interact, how they related to one another, what made relationship fail or flourish. Overtime, I developed a discernment in figuring out what healthy and unhealthy relationships consisted of, and when I ever had someone who was interested in me, before I even considered a date with someone, I would first think about whether or not I would even approve of our relationship if I were an outsider looking in. I’d say that for having been on any date with only three other guys before Fernando, I’ve done fairly well.

In watching couples, particularly young adult couples, a common issue I saw (although not deal-breaking by any means, in my opinion) was that, for serious couples, the girl often felt ready to get married before the guy did. I didn’t understand this until Fernando and I started talking about marriage and I read For Women Only. Being a woman, I know that women have a huge desire to marry and can’t wait until the day that they do. For men (and this is what I gather from the book and from Fernando’s take on the issue), they need to know without a doubt that you are both ready to get married (financially mostly, but in other ways too) before the wedding and, with Fernando’s case, before even an engagement. If you know how to handle it, it’s not so much an issue as it is just a difference in focus. The men have a very valid point.

However, when he and I did start talking about marriage, I was on Pinterest, looking at a BUNCH of wedding stuff and planning our wedding in my mind. I had picked out a wedding dress, cake, my bridesmaids, their dresses, the honeymoon destination(s), and was debating between three venues. Admittedly, I got a little carried away.

Okay, a lot carried away.

My focus was primarily on the wedding and honeymoon rather than the marriage itself. Every once in a while, we’ll still talk about what we want for our wedding, but my focus has now shifted to preparing myself for the marriage–and just life in general. Even if a wedding wasn’t in the picture, there are still some habits that I would like to develop in my life. I’ve started waking up earlier to get things done, and worked on keeping my house clean. Rather than primarily looking at wedding ideas on Pinterest, I’ve found workouts and recipes; I want a healthier lifestyle. I’ve started to watch what I eat and to workout a bit. It hasn’t become as habitual as I would like, but it’s a start. Fernando and I have also started Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University with our church so we could better manage our finances. I also often look up some date ideas and godly relationship/marriage advice so that I can better show love and respect.

I’ll pray for us, too.
Cool thing about that: If you’re a romantic like me, you may also want to be able to love more than you already do. So, I’ve prayed that God would give me a larger capacity to love. The cool thing about this is that God is love, and therefore, when I’ve spent time studying Scripture and taken time to be with the Lord in prayer, which leads us to live by the Spirit rather than the flesh, it is then that God manifests Himself in us through His Spirit that we are able to have a larger capacity to love. Isn’t that awesome?!

In conclusion, if you’re in the same boat as me where a potential engagement awaits (however long that may be), I urge you to keep your focus on how you can prepare for your marriage rather than preparing for the wedding, and to do so as you study God’s Word so that God may lead you to love more than you could ever possibly love on your own.

Onward and upward,
Holly

Blog Challenge Day 23

I apologize for my absence the past few days. We had family in town, and we all celebrated 3 birthdays and an anniversary. So my time was spent with them.

Day 23: Your dream job

I’ll be 22 this week. I have an associate’s degree, and my bachelor’s is in progress. When asked what I want to do for the rest of my life, I don’t think I could give you a straight answer. I’m pursuing my bachelor’s in international studies with a concentration in international development, in hopes to work with a non-profit organization within the anti-trafficking sector (–I’m thinking World Relief or International Justice Mission, and you’ll find out shortly). However, studying traffick statistics, hearing the stories of victims, and the like is immensely heart-breaking. I absolutely want to work in this particular field at some point–because I’m passionate about fighting against it, but I also know that with such a heavy focus on something heart-breaking, it could also affect my own life in that I could feel so burdened by victim’s stories and perhaps looking for the criminal with no avail, that sometimes my job could feel hopeless.

I know it wouldn’t be.
Because God is faithful and just. He avenges those who do wrong to others, and he looks after His children. But if there was ever a time where I felt too overwhelmed in the field, I would like to fall back on another area of great need within the same organization, hence why I’m looking into organizations that sponsor and fight for/against various causes rather than just one. At some point, I would like to work with orphans–and hopefully be able to adopt someday. I’ve also enjoyed disaster relief in the many times I have been to New Orleans. I still want to go to Haiti.

Jesus came to earth as a man bringing hope, hope for the spiritual and for the physica; we see it throughout the gospels. He gave sight to the blind, raise from the dead, healed a cripple. While I don’t know exactly where God will lead me throughout my life, I do know that as we are called to make disciples, we are also called to care for orphans, comfort widows, and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Onward and upward,
Holly

Blog Challenge Day 21 &22

Day 21: 5 favorite foods

The original number was 10, but after a handful of different foods, my cravings for certain cuisines change a lot.

If you ask my family what my favorite food is, they’ll all tell you mashed potatoes. I’d take mashed potatoes with any entree. As for entrees (other dishes), here’s what I like:
1.Pot roast
2.Steak (cooked medium)
3.Mac n cheese
4.Grilled salmon
5.Asian Orange chicken

—–

Day 22: The best thing to happen this year

I don’t think that I could pinpoint one thing as the best, but if there was, it would probably be an experience or event with Fernando. Being our only long-term relationship, we’ve reached milestones in our relationship that neither of us have celebrated with anyone else, and that’s exciting! For both of us, we had never had a relationship longer than two months before each other, so we made our 2 month anniversary something special. Fernando has now been the one I got to go on a third date with (and when I say third date, it does NOT mean what society says it means. I had just never been on more than two dates with someone), spend my first Valentine’s Day with, exchanged I-love-you’s with (I dare you to guess who said it first!), meet the parents of, talk about future marriage with, and soon, celebrate our 10 month anniversary with next Thursday, which is extra exciting for me because it also falls on my birthday! He’s got something special planned. 🙂 I just don’t know what all we’re doing. I just know (and I say know very loosely) that there’s unlikely to be a proposal at this point.

All in all, the best things to happen this year are the continuous milestones that Fernando and I get to spend together!

With love,
Holly

Surprise! New Look!

While I recently posted the purpose of my “Conversation and Coffee” blog style, I have also been wanting to change it for some time. I wanted something fresh and not dark, something where just the appearance brightened one’s spirits because of the color scheme, but whose appearance tied in with Scripture.

If you’re not familiar with WordPress, there are premade themes that you could use free of charge. If, however, you wanted to create your own from scratch, it was $30 per year. I had something completely different in mind, heading and everything, but in order to do it, I would have had to create it myself. So I opted for a premade.

The heading is from Proverbs 20:15, “Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.” Since my blog is to express my knowledge, experiences, and opinions, I thought that it tied in well with my blog.

Onward and upward,
Holly

Blog Challenge Day 20

Day 20: A difficult time in your life

With such a topic on which to write, many might expect me to look back in the depths of my mind and pull out a deeply hidden memory of a tragic event or circumstance that I have experienced, causing emotional feelings yet to be properly dealt with to resurface as I convey to my readers a very moving, yet heart-wrenching memory.

However, I’m not going to do that.

Looking at one’s life, you realize that there are very few non-difficult times in one’s life. Sure, overall you may be content, but you are not void of challenges. Perseverance in difficulty builds character, regardless of how small or extreme a circumstance may be.

Currently in my life, I find myself working a part-time job, which I enjoy, but doesn’t pay enough to cover a 4-year university tuition bill. Because my finances are limited, my number of classes is limited as well. After having already been in college for 4 years now, I have the desire to be done, to be out of school, graduated with a bachelor’s degree and working in my desired field. Quite honestly, sometimes I feel stuck. I’m running out of community college courses to take while lacking in tuition funding. But through this difficulty, however small it may seem to you and however large it may seem to me, the Lord provides. That’s in His very essence of who He is. Jehovah-Jireh. We see this in His character in Genesis 22 when the Lord tests Abraham in telling him to sacrifice Isaac, his son and promised descendant under their covenant. Abraham goes so far in following what the Lord commands of him up to lifting his hand to slay Isaac when the Lord stops him–and provides a ram caught in the thicket behind him to be a sacrifice instead.

This post kind of rambled and went off on a tangent.
Oh well. 🙂

For His kingdom,
Holly

Blog Challenge Day 19

Day 19: What do you collect?

I’m not one to hoard tangible items. In fact, I like to clean out drawers, closets, and cabinets every once in a while to purge myself to unnecessary items which I haven’t even realized that I still owned. I like to have enough to decorate with and use with practical purposes–but then that’s it.

However, I do collect elephants. They’re my favorite animal, and people give me elephant-related gifts when they have a chance. My sister bought me some elephant figurines when she returned home from working at a summer camp for a whole summer. My parents brought me a tiny white, porcelain elephant and an elephant tea pot home from their trip to Italy last summer. Three out of the four guys that I have any history in dating (and for a couple of them, I say “dating” very loosely) have given me plush elephants. I bought myself a wooden elephant/baby and an elephant painting in some markets in Malawi and Tanzania last summer during my Africa trip. Various other additions to my collection came from garage sales bought either by myself or my dad. I don’t, however, have a herd of elephants in one place in my room. They’re spread out as decorative pieces in various areas.

I also collect foreign currency. I have both Mexican and Colombian pesos, Malawian kwacha, Tanzanian shillings, Japanese yin, and I think a Euro coin.

Holly