Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Groceries on a Budget

I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been a coupon clipper, mainly because if I did clip them, I’d probably lose them or forget to take them to the store with me and then I’d be even more frustrated about my trips to the grocery store than I already am. I hate grocery shopping. I think this emotion stems from numerous trips to our small town grocer that ended up taking multiple hours because everyone in town that we knew happened to be shopping at the exact same time. Down every aisle, there was a 30 minute conversation waiting to happen. Looking back, I think that was most people’s purpose in even going to the grocery store. No one ever had very much in their carts…

Back to the point though, I hate grocery shopping. BUT, today I discovered something that makes me just the slightest bit excited about my next trip to Tom Thumb. I feel like the world deserves to hear about the exciting new option of online coupon loading. If you have a Tom Thumb rewards card, you can log onto their website, register your card, and load e-coupons directly onto your rewards card. Next time you go to the store, they scan your card and automatically deduct coupons loaded onto your card from your purchases.

This is genius to me. I went on the website and browsed through all the coupons and loaded everything I might even ever think of buying. There is also a link from Tom Thumb to the Proctor and Gamble site where you can register your card and load coupons for things like Tide, Cascade, Charmin, and Crest toothpaste! I think this is easy and exciting enough to motivate all of us non-coupon clippers to change our ways. Now if we could only get them to stop mailing out those huge savings flyers. I’m sure even the most motivated shoppers throw those directly in the trash. Paste the links below to let the fun begin!

http://www.tomthumb.com/IFL/Grocery/Coupons
http://www.pgesaver.com

Monday, June 22, 2009

Covenants and Contracts

This weekend I had the honor of standing beside one of my best friends as she became a Mrs. and entered into the Holy covenant of marriage. I have had the opportunity to do this for several friends lately (and have a few more to come soon!), but each time, I am moved by the tangible presence of God in that moment when two followers of Christ join their lives together to walk as one for His purpose.

In this ceremony, the minister made the comment that marriage is not about “being in love,” although that emotion is present, it is a covenant between a man, woman and God to stand beside each other through whatever path the Lord lays out and to respect, serve, and challenge each other along that path. This is not the first time I’ve heard the message of the marriage covenant spoken but I think it’s something that cannot be said enough in the church.

Statistics state that between 40-50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Among the Christian community (defined as evangelical Christians who attend church regularly), the statistics are not much better. Between 25-35% of Christian marriages end in divorce.

I am so thankful to be a part of a church body that emphasizes the true covenant of marriage as it is outlined in scripture. Most of our pre-marital materials revolved around understanding that my spouse’s job is not to meet my needs, expectations, or general wants and desires. In fact, our marriage is in no way about me. It is about learning, growing and understanding Christ’s love and sacrifice for his church through a model of selfless love. I am called to love William whether or not I feel like he is meeting my needs. My call is to serve him, to encourage him, to challenge him to grow deeper in his relationship with Christ and he is to do the same for me.

One of the best illustrations I’ve heard on the topic came from a John Piper sermon that we listened to during counseling. It was titled Covenant vs. Contract and outlined the differences in the two ideas. He said most people enter into marriage on contractual terms. As long as you hold up your end of the deal, I’ll hold up mine. They have their clauses built in to protect themselves if the other person breaches the terms that were outlined in the dating and engagement stage. There is always an out if things don’t end up like you thought they would. The covenant is entered into under the acknowledgement that regardless of the other person’s failings, I’ll hold up my end of the deal. The Biblical example of this is Christ and the cross. He gave his life for me, knowing that I was a sinner, and that I would constantly fail Him.

One of the hardest concepts for me to grasp as a female is that my marriage is not based on emotions. There will be times I don’t feel in love, but I made a covenant with God to stay with William, regardless of fluctuations in my feelings. There will be times I feel like he’s not meeting my needs, and in those times, my call is to examine my heart and realize that all I need is the Lord, the love I share with my spouse is just a bonus and blessing for this life. He cannot be all that I need, he is a sinner living in a fallen world, as am I, but I am so glad to be walking along side him through this journey and learning more and more from him each day.

Praise God for the gift of marriage and for my wonderful friends and family who offer constant reminders of the beautiful covenant William and I have been called to.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Storms, Blackouts, and God

Yesterday evening began pretty ordinarily. I left work, got in a quick workout, and went home to start cleaning the house to prepare for our first big overnight visitors to the new Spencer home. William’s Dad and family are coming in town tonight for his Aunt’s 60th birthday party (Happy Birthday Aunt Laurie!) and will be spending the night with us. I had just finished the floors and had dinner on the stove when the house went dark. The TV, which had been broadcasting storms across the DFW metroplex, went black and all the lights went down with it.

Fortunately, we have a gas cook top so dinner continued to cook. This set the stage for a little impromptu (and involuntary) candle light dinner. It’s amazing how an annoyance (like a black out) can be turned into a huge blessing. For the first time in awhile, William and I enjoyed a peaceful, and pretty romantic, dinner. Afterwards, we both took some time to enjoy the storm, sitting on the front porch drinking a glass of wine and watching the rain fall. It’s amazing how in the midst of a storm, you often find greater peace than in the calm.

My life has been in a state of calm, or a peak, for quite awhile now. Yes, there was the busyness of wedding planning and the transition of being married and obstacles at work, but I have not been faced with a hard time or major challenge in a long time. Last night I realized that because I’ve been walking through the good times in life, I have not called out to and pursued the God who gives me peace in both the good times and the bad as often as I should. In the midst of the storm, we are very aware of the peace and calm that we long for and that can only be provided by God’s love and grace towards us in these struggles. I’m trying to learn to seek Him just as much in the calm as I do in the storms.

Praise God for impromptu blackouts and for every good blessing he bestows on my life…

But, as of 7:30am, our house still does not have power…I think I’ve learned my lesson and would like to have the lights back on please!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Soccer Mom


I never really imagined myself becoming a “soccer mom,” but, since I married William Spencer, I think that it’s inevitable that I will one day drive a large SUV, pack coolers of orange slices and Gatorade, and struggle to invent a new and more effective way to remove grass stains from white uniforms.

This past weekend, William’s team of 8-9 yr. old boys had a tournament in East Dallas. Since it was a weekend free of wedding activities (a rarity in the Spencer family), I decided to be a supportive wife and attend some of the games. Watching how great he is with his team foreshadows what an amazing father he will be someday. One of the mom’s from the team was thanking me for sharing William with her son and telling me what a great role model and coach he is and it reminded me that one of his most attractive qualities early in our dating relationship was how amazing he was with kids. I remember telling one of my friends that it was dangerous for me to watch him coach because it made me want to marry him and immediately start a family!

A lot of our close friends and family question the amount of time William dedicates to soccer and coaching this team. I sometimes get frustrated when he can’t make it to birthday parties, social functions, weddings, and church events because of soccer but hearing his team’s parents express gratitude and praise for not only William’s coaching skills, but his character and the example he sets for the kids and parents alike, I remember that William is more than a coach for these kids. For some, he’s the only example of Christ that they ever see. It’s more than coaching job, it’s his ministry and I’m so blessed to get to share this passion with him.

And, by the way, the 00 FC Dallas East boys got second place in the tournament. They lost in the finals to the infamous “Bandits” who always seem to stand in the way of FC and tournament championships. Hang in there guys, you’ll get them next time!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gardening 101






In light of some new developments, I’ve decided to go public with my gardening story. It turns out that my thumb might not be the complete opposite of green, but the universe was working against me in my first attempt at some pretty potted plants.


William and I took a Sunday about a month ago and bought out the Lowe’s garden section to spruce up our front yard. We planted some wild grass, flowers, and bushes in our front bed and they looked great. Then, William gave me the task of planting a few pots for the front porch. While browsing Lowe’s garden area, I came across some white and purple Calla Lillie's. I was immediately drawn to them for a couple of reasons.
1. Calla Lillies are one of my favorite flowers.
2. The purple and white Calla’s were one of the primary flowers used in our wedding.


How perfect to select these beautiful flowers to adorn our front porch as well. So I bought 2 of each color (each w/ multiple blooms) and also a deep purple plant to surround the flowers and add some depth. I spent a good hour potting and arranging everything just right and it looked amazing when I was done…but as the days went by, my pots started looking worse and worse. After trying countless ways to perk my plants back up (including moving them off the porch into the sun, watering them with rain water, adding fertilizers and more potting soil), I finally looked up online remedies for calla lily care. I discovered that they are particularly high maintenance plant and will only bloom if the conditions are perfect. If it’s too hot or they get too much sun, they burn up. If they don’t get enough sun, the wilt. If they don’t get enough water, they die. If they get too much water, they rot.


When I checked the soil, it felt pretty saturated which led us to believe that they had been over watered. One of the things it said online was to make sure your pots allow adequate drainage at the bottom and upon inspection, we found our pot had one center hole and that’s it. So last night, William decided to drill a few extra drain holes in the pots. It took only one hole to discover what the problem was with my lilies. An impressive amount of brown water started running out of the new drain immediately and a smell that resembled rotten eggs solidified that indeed the pot had held in too much water and it had rotted at the bottom.


Above are pictures of my pots in their current state…next time, I’m planting something more durable and little less high maintenance, so I guess I’m looking for a plant that’s a little more like me.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Real Housewives of Richardson, Texas

So, I’m pretty sure Bravo TV is not jumping on the Richardson housewives reality show pitch but, if they had have, here’s what you would have missed in episode 1.


Title: Domestication of a Newlywed


I’ve always considered myself ahead of the curve among my peers on being what we traditionally call “domestic .” I briefly worked as a maid for my parents and know my way around house cleaning, I taught many a freshman girl how to do laundry in the Collins dormitory, I started ironing in the 5th grade, and given the proper gadgets and access to my “phone a friend” lifeline (shout out Mama Becton), I can follow almost any recipe successfully. In light of all these facts, it came as quite a shock to me that I managed to look completely clueless about running a household during my first few weeks of marriage.


Disaster number 1: The kitchen is full of suds


William’s soccer team went together and bought us a very nice Calphalon cookware set. I was really excited about this since I hadn’t had new cookware since my first college apartment so I began the process of unwrapping all the pieces so I could begin making 5-star quality meals with my new pots and pans. I decided to read the care instructions since they were so new and shiny to see how I could make my cookware last for the long-haul. The manual said you should always hand wash the pots and pans because dishwashing detergent would ruin the non-stick coating. So, I’m sitting here looking at all 14 pieces of cookware and the task of handwashing every piece seems a little ridiculous, plus, I remember that mom had similar stuff and always ran in the dishwasher. Suddenly, I get a great idea. If it’s the dishwashing soap that ruins the pans, I’ll just run them in the dishwasher with hand wash soap instead! Brilliant! Or so I thought. About 20 minutes after I start the cycle, I hear William yelling my name. I come to the kitchen to find white suds flowing from the bottom of the dishwasher onto the kitchen floor. William had stopped the cycle and the entire dishwasher was full of soap. We cleaned up the floor, emptied what was left in the soap dispenser, and re-started the cycle to try and wash the remaining suds out. Well, a few minutes later, the soap is flowing through the kitchen again. At this point, I could tell William was frustrated and I was so embarrassed I told him to get out of the kitchen and that I would handle cleaning it up. It took two more rounds of shoveling out suds with a big plastic cup and soap running into the kitchen before I was finally able to finish the cycle and, subsequently, wash all the pots and pans by hand. I think in the future I’ll probably just run them in the dishwasher with regular detergent and risk losing the non-stick coating. That’s what Pam is for anyway.


Lesson learned: You cannot run anything but dishwasher formulated soap in the dishwasher.

After rehashing that little episode, I think I’ll save my lack of success in gardening for another day. My ego might not be able to handle so much public ridicule at once.