29 June 2015

Moving from Happiness to Joy

What's the difference between happiness and joy? Is there even anything?

Over the last few weeks, this is something I have been mulling over; do I want my one life to just feel good and be happy, or experience true joy?

And then I came across this great analogy: Happiness is like rising bubbles--delightful and inevitably fleeting. Joy is the oxygen--ever present.

Happiness is not a bad a thing. I mean nobody wants to live an unhappy, cranky life, right? But the thing with happiness it is closely connected to our feelings and emotions, which as we all know are constantly changing. Feelings like happiness come and go, but joy is stronger, richer, and lasting. Happiness is dependent on outward circumstances. 

Joy, on the other hand, is internal and constant.
Joy is ever present, enduring, and always there if we reach out and grab it. We can find joy in any and (I believe) all circumstances that the mystery of life throws our way. Joy is a beautiful unfolding that always be found in life; while happiness is something like the waves of the ocean that are always moving and changing. 

How is that people suffering or going through incredible hardships can still find joy in their pain? Honestly that's hard to explain, its a miracle. Joy is something we find deep down inside no matter the circumstances of life. And as Christians, true and ultimate joy is found in Christ alone.

While something like a good chocolate milkshake brings some happiness, I certainly do not want my life to only full of of moments of fleeting happiness. I want to recklessly seek out and find joy everyday no matter the circumstances. I want to be able to stop and see the beauty of life. I want my life to rich and full of the lasting things that matter and make a difference.

At the end of the day, life is not about feeling good and being happy. Finding joy in all things and situations throughout life is the answer to not letting life pass you by in a flash.

Happiness. Love it when it comes.

Joy. It's the love that lasts no matter what.

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15 June 2015

So Why Am I Still Catholic?

The whole question of why people remain Catholic is being talked a lot about on the inter-webs lately.

As someone who has been Catholic my entire life and never really left, reading what others have had to say on the matter has caused me to reflect on the topic myself.

I am a cradle Catholic; I never really left or had a difficult experience that prompted me to pack up shop and find a new spiritual home. Though I never really left, there was a lot of growing up, maturing, and learning I have had to do along the journey. I have had struggles and wrestling with faith, but I have always stayed.
So I wonder to myself, what is it that keeps me here?

Well there are many things that keep me here, but the ones most strongly are the Eucharist and Constancy.

One thing that's kind of awesome about being Catholic is the Eucharist.

We believe it is actually the same Jesus who suffered, died, and rose again we receive in communion; it ain't no symbol to us, but the real deal (that is is actually Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity).  Crazy concept, huh? 
And no, we don't "re-kill" Jesus at Mass and are not cannibals. 
But rather time stops at Mass...And...BOOM. We are present at the Last Supper.  BOOM. We are present at the foot of the Cross.  BOOM. We are present at the Resurrection.

Jesus told his disciples in John 6 to "eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life." 

Many thought he was way crazy and left him right there on the spot.  So either Jesus meant that this piece of bread/cup of wine truly IS his body and blood or either meant it was just a symbol.  But see Jesus didn't say "this is a symbol of me," He said "this IS me...do this in remembrance of me."

If people really knew WHO they were receiving in communion at Mass and why it matters, I really think they would never leave the Catholic Church. The Eucharist is spiritual food for our journey through life...to help us become holy, love others, serve the poor, and to follow Jesus with every ounce of strength we have.

I also love the the Church is constant and never wavers in the face of struggle.

The Catholic Church has the courage to stand alone.

When the tide of popular opinion sways, the Church stands strong and based in truth. Many organizations and religious institutions over the years, have caved to "get with the times" or "keep up with the modern world." I love being a child of the Catholic Church because the Church is constant, doesn't cave under social pressure, and for centuries has always had the courage to stand alone.

I certainly have not had to suffer at great lengths to live and practice my faith as many do around the world.

My heart breaks for my brothers and sisters in faith who are shedding their blood because of their profession of faith.

Their witness encourages me to live my faith and to "always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for the reason of my hope" (1 Peter 3:15).

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10 June 2015

5 Things You Pay For...but Maybe Shouldn't

As I get learn and get more into saving money and simple living, I am starting to see different things we spend money on that maybe we don't really actually need. Everybody in life will have different priorities and that's okay. But I guess I am starting to become aware of where we spend money on things perhaps we actually don't need to pay for.

1. Cable/Gym memberships
Growing up we had cable, but I only ever found myself to watch a small handful of channels (mainly old movies). When Jim and I got married, I was amazed how crazy expensive it was to have cable, especially if we don't even watch half of it. Netflix has done just fine for us, although they need a MUCH better selection of old movies and musicals.

Gym memberships were the same thing. Our town had a Planet Fitness and at $10 a month seemed reasonable. The only problem with that is you actually have to use the membership. We never did, so once we began following Dave Ramsey's principles, the gym membership was the first thing to go. It was crazy because to even cancel the darn thing was expensive too!? Our apartment complex has a decent work-out room, pool, and I enjoy running outside; all things that don't take extra money from our budget.

2. Internet Router
This one we just learned about. Our Comcast prices aren't great but are not awful either. But we only recently realized that renting our router from the company was costing us an $10 on our monthly bill. Umm heck.no. While its not a crazy huge amount, I am still all for saving where we can.

Double check with your internet provider and see how much they charge you to rent your router. See if you can purchase your own and save some dough.

3. Books/Movies
I LOVE books. Since the new year, I have read almost 30 books. To me, books are like dear, old friends and each one holds special memories attached to it. But over the years, I have seen how much money I have wasted by purchasing brand new books from local bookstores. Since we got married, we live really close to our local library. Now instead of always buying books, I have a running list of books on my phone that I want to check out from the library. This has worked out SO well!

Some of the librarians even know me on a first name basis and they've ordered several books from my request/constant badgering. Same thing with movies! You can rent movies and TV shows from the library for a week at a time for free. I find myself going to the library at least twice a week to either pick a new load of books or return them.
Go make friends with your local librarians! If you're a book lover like me, its a great tool to use!

4. Bread
I certainly do not claim to be Suzy Homemaker, but I am slowly getting into making our own version of different things so we don't have to buy them. Bread is one of them. This recipe for bread is the bomb dot com. Really! If you're a lover of carbs, check out this book.

5. Cleaning Supplies
I am still slowly easing my way into this one. Reading more on natural living and simplicity has increased my interest in doing things ourselves. My two favorite blogs for inspiration and lots on information on this topic are here and here. On the horizon, I want to make more homemade cleaning supplies and take a crack at making laundry detergent.

What are some creative ways you try to stretch your dollar? Are there things in your life you pay for that maybe you don't need to? Do share! I am always on the look-out for new ideas :)

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08 June 2015

Easy, Homemade Artisan Bread...only 4 ingredients!

I like my carbs, but honestly who the heck doesn't?! I thought I was a master at the Atkins diet during college, and then I started working in the bakery at a local Panera. I was toast. Since my days of being known as the "bakery princess" at work, I have developed a taste for a good, hearty bread. And none of that white, processed Wonder crap. I'm talking good bread, the kind served at fancy Italian restaurants with oil to dip it in. Oh yeah. It really is that good.
Go on, scroll down to see what's in this deliciousness.

Since we started to get our financial act together, I have been eagerly reading and researching ways to stretch our money and minimize excess in our apartment. One way is by evaluating products we buy to see if any easier homemade version can help our monthly food budget. A really good friend has recently peeked my interest in baking homemade bread. So when she let me borrow this book, it opened my eyes to see HOW easy it is to bake tasty, non-processed bread in our home.

The book features ALL kinds of bread, but all with the same basic ingredients (salt, yeast, flour, and water). This particular recipe is for a light, whole wheat bread, but in this book are all kinds of bread recipes from pizza dough to French baguettes.

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

What To Do
1// Mix the yeast and salt with the water in 5-quart bowl.

2// Mix in the remaining dry ingredients using a spoon. Do not knead, but you may need to use your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

3// Cover (not airtight) with foil, and allow dough to rise at room temperature for two hours.

4// The dough can be used immediately or stored in your fridge for up 14 days. The dough is easier to handle after it has been chilled for awhile.

5// On baking day: Dust your hands and surface of the dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the dough with more flour and shape into a ball.

6// Preheat the oven to 450. Place an empty broiler tray (or we used a cake pan) on the very bottom oven shelf so it will not interfere with the bread.

7// Sprinkle flour on baking pan and place loaf on baking pan. Sprinkle loaf with flour and score the loaf.

8// Place pan in the oven. Add cup of hot tap water to the broiler tray and close the oven door. Bake for about 35 minutes.

9// Allow to cool before slicing and eating

Thick, crusty bread hot from your own oven. And any time you want some fresh bread throughout the week, just slice off another hunk of dough waiting in your fridge!

Are any of you into baking? What are some of your favorite recipes? I love new tasty ideas to try!

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03 June 2015

15 Things Running Has Taught Me

Happy National Running Day! I thoroughly enjoy this day falls 2 days before national doughnut day...which is the real reason I run ;-) #themoreyouknow

It was about this time last year I started running and have stuck with it since then. Sometimes I am still amazed I have stuck with it, because my track record of exercise and I has not been that great. But here I am; already on my second pair of running shoes and marking October 18 on my calendar for the Detroit half marathon.

Last year I started out slow. Now I am little less slow.

So here's a little love to something that has helped me love myself better and taught me a lot the last 365 days...

1. Self-confidence 
2. A reason to use all those work-out pants and tops I've bought over the years
3. An opportunity to stretch myself physically and work hard for a goal that matters to me
4. The ability to memorize all types of music, from musical soundtracks to hip hop...
5. More acceptance of my body and physical appearance than I've ever had in my entire life
6. 'Me time'...Teaching me the importance of self-care and that it's not selfish to take care of my health and body as much as I would my soul and spiritual life
7. A way to take of my body that I actually enjoy
8. A stronger body
9. A lot of practice at healthy, positive self-talk
10. The importance of chasing dreams (even if they feel impossible at times) and working hard for goals that matter to me
11. To NEVER give up on myself
12. All kinds of new information to help me reach my full potential
13. Why and how the food I eat matters
14. How to prioritize taking care of myself
15. I can do anything I set my mind to with hard work

Any of you into running? Do you have any tips or tricks to keep you focused on your fitness goals?

Happy running!

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01 June 2015

5 Quick Tips for Cash-Based Grocery Shopping

The first time and I went grocery shopping was the week we got home from our honeymoon. This was well before we were living on budget and before we got to know our friend Dave. We just went up and down the aisles happily tossing in whatever we wanted. When we got to the check-out counter we spent around $300. For two people. We happily charged the bill because we were happily in love newlyweds blah blah blah blah.

Fast forward almost three years later. We are no longer using credit cards, will pay off my car by fall, and then its onto my school loans. One of the greatest lessons I have learned in getting our financial act together is the importance of using cash. All the time. Especially at the grocery store.

So what's the big deal with shopping with cash? I learned through Financial Peace University that studies have been done that show when you actually make purchases with cash it activates pain receptors in your brain. Bottom line? Your brain actually feels something when you use cash...somehow it hurts more. Crazy, right?!

We strictly now use only cash, NO debit cards even (we don't even carry them on us!). If we don't have enough cash, it doesn't get bagged and waits for a later grocery trip. Here's a couple things that have really helped us stay focused and using only cash for grocery shopping:

1. Bring only the amount of cash for groceries into the store
I only bring my wallet with my when I grocery shop. In it, is one white envelope labeled "groceries." I have that amount of cash to purchase groceries enough to last us about two weeks. In not bringing any other cash with me I am not tempted to move money around. Not to mention it is a good reminder of sticking to the budget.

2. If you don't have enough cash, don't bag it!!!
I know it sounds simple, but actually this can be a hard one and especially was at the beginning. As the groceries are being rang up I am holding the cash in my hands to remind me of what I can spend. Under no circumstances do I get it unless there is the money. I have gotten pretty comfortable at asking the cashier to take things off merely because we don't have money for it.

3. Find the best grocery store to get the most from your cash
There is a Kroger right by us, so I usually get our produce and certain brands we like from there. But about a year ago, I discovered Aldi. Oh how do I love this place! It is a grocery store with significantly lower prices than your average grocery store. A few things that makes it stand out besides the prices are you have to bring your own bags and pay a quarter for a cart and get it back when you return it. Since shopping at Aldi, it has really helped our grocery budget a lot! I actually get thrilled to pieces when I come home and show Jim the bill, and how much I was able to get. Look and see if an Aldi is near you today.

4. Meal Plan & Grocery List in Advance
Throughout the week I am adding items we need as they come up, and finalizing the meal plan. Going grocery shopping with a focused, itemized list is another way I stay focused with our cash budget.

5. Meal Plan Around Deals
This one I am still working on but from the research I've done it helps save money too. Before grocery shopping, look to see what is on sale and then build a meal plan around that. It takes more time, but can make a difference at the checkout counter.

Now when I come home from grocery shopping I typically do a little happy dance, proud of the saving skills we're learning and using.
So what are your tips and tricks for grocery shopping? Do you stick to a cash budget?
Happy shopping:)

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