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Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Cause you knew how you’d save me before I fell dead in the garden, And you knew this day long before you made me out of dirt, And you know the plans that you have for me and you can’t plan the end and not plan the means…”

A few weeks ago, I had an email exchange with a woman who offered to help me improve my blog. This was our exchange-

Her- “Well, it sounds like you have a pretty good tribe in place already. Have you developed a plan to expand your brand?”

Me- “Uh…well, I mean I have some Native American in me, but I don’t think I need to go around branding people…”

Her- “Do you know your Klout score?”

Me- “I scored 1100 on my SATs.  Also I’m making that up because I have no idea.”

Her- “Astroturfing…SMO…Trademark…Tweeps…Champions…Lurkers…Vlog…”

Me- (curling in fetal position and crying)…

Guys, I’m going to be straight up with you. I have no clue what I’m doing. I love to write. I love to be creative. I love sharing what I think He says to me. But the idea of paying for people to follow this blog (for reals, y’all. This is a thing.) or paying  someone to tweet for me or marketing myself to become part of the “Twitterazzi” (apparently this means a twitter celebrity and it also means me gagging profusely) makes me want to throw in the towel.  So can we talk? Just pretend we’re sitting over some chips and salsa and sharing what’s really going on in our lives?

I’m struggling. This past week, I’ve been fighting a surge of anxiety and it has won a few rounds. I’ve been more quiet, more reflective this week. My heart feels tender and my spirit, bruised. There’s nothing specific that is causing this anxiety, just a thousand little things. And it’s an odd combination of trust and distrust.

I want to control my life so badly. I want to structure my environment so that I get the result I want. If I’m honest, I’m not always convinced He’s got it. That’s the distrust.

I know life is out of my control. I know suffering is part of following Christ. I know I don’t like suffering. I know suffering is good for me. That’s the trust.

So as I sit this week in the quiet place, I consider her words about my future. I think about all the advice and strategies and networking and more and more and more because if you have a dream, you better be ready to work for it.  There’s nothing wrong with working towards a dream, but I think the first step isn’t pursuing the dream.

The first step is letting it go. 

So here I am, opening my hands and saying “Take this and do whatever You want.”  This means that I may step back a bit to rebalance life, to make sure that ministry doesn’t become so attractive that I forget it’s ability to be an idol. It means that when I write, I want it to be an outpouring of truth, and not because someone told me that regular posting creates loyal followers. It means that I am okay with quiet and I’ll trust Him with the outcome.

I hope you’ll stick around, tribal members. (I can’t even type that with a straight face). But more than that, I hope you see that I love Jesus more than I love being loved.

the_calm_before_the_storm_by_mirre89

“When the road looks rough ahead And you’re miles and miles From your nice warm bed You just remember what your old pal said Boy, you’ve got a friend in me Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me…”

An open letter to Emma Watson…

Dear Em, (I can call you Em, right?)

Sometimes you just know, Em.  Some friendships develop like a souffle, they rise slowly and you have to be careful and delicate until you have something really good, and other friendships are like those microwave mug cakes that are on Pinterest- they look good in theory and sound easy and you start to crave them one night and then you make them and realize they taste like a chocolate scented mud pie. Other friendships, like ours, are like a creme brulee. It’s rare and beautiful and you set it on fire. I mean, don’t WORRY. I’d not ever set YOU on fire. I completely frown upon that in my friendships. The fire is a metaphor, which I thought you’d appreciate since you went to a fancy college and you got really good grades at Hogwarts. The fire is the difficulties in a relationship, like in ours it’s difficult because we haven’t officially met. But I can look past that, EmALem. (I like to give my close friends nicknames) I can tell- we would be very good friends. I am sure you have lots of people who want to be your friend, maybe some who just want to get close to that Potter kid, but not me. I mean, I wouldn’t turn it down if you like, arranged a dinner party and he happened to be there and Snape was there too and when you asked Snape how many lumps of sugar he wanted, he’d look over at me and say “Three hundred and ninety…..four.”  And then I’d look at him and say “Did you just siriusly do that?” and we’d laugh and laugh and drink our butterbeer.

But EmCat, even if that party never happened, I’d still be a great friend for you. I’d be like your cool older sister who gives you wisdom on life choices. Like, roles for example. I know you probably think I am just some big Harry Potter fan, but I have watched you in other movies. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” made me cry. “The Bling Ring”, well that might have been a mistake. But that’s another reason we should be friends- I will always tell you the truth. But you could let me read scripts you get and I will tell you if playing a spoiled girl who gets roped into a baby rescuing scheme by a glittery man in spandex is a good idea.  It’s not, by the way. It’s already been done in Labyrinth. And Twilight. But maybe you get a script about going on a girls road trip with a sassy southern bff type, and you drive through towns causing mayhem in a red convertible.  I can help you method act that.

I can help with boys too. If you ask me, Prince Harry and you would make super amazing ginger babies. He needs a good girl to calm him down and you would have a crown. But there’s other choices, Eminem. Zac Efron would be presh. I’d even be willing to give up my celebrity crush to you, Rob Pattinson. You know what, on second thought, you wouldn’t like him. So forget about that. Maybe a musician? Justin Timberlake is married now so that won’t work because I am deeply rooted in reality, but I am sure we could find you someone.

You’re probably wondering if meeting each other would be awkward at first, but you don’t have to worry about that. I’ve already scripted our first coffee date in my head-

Me- “Hey Emazing! What’s up, girlfriend??”

You- “Ello mate! How are you doing?”

Me- “I’m brilliant. That means good here, you know.”

You- “I did not know that. Thank you for educating me in American dialect. I am not sure what I did before you fell into my life.”

Me- “Me neither. I for sure would have never gotten to meet Johnny Depp and charm him with my questions about dreadlocks and 21 Jump Street.”

You- “That is so true. I could tell he really wanted to stay longer and keep using the Jack Sparrow voice you were demanding.”

Me- “He DID find me delightful. But Emancipation, he really only had eyes for you. You should totally get together with him. And let me plan your Edward Scissorhands wedding.”

You- “I am speechless. You have successfully planned my future in a way that I could never have imagined. Will you be my matron of honor?”

Me- “Can I wear Hermione’s dress from The Goblet of Fire?”

You- “Uh, of COURSE! What else would you wear?”

We can make this a reality, EmRoll.  Just call me.

Love,

Brandy

“I got this emptiness inside that got me fighting for approval ’cause I missed out on my daddy saying, way to go… So now I’m looking at the media and I’m following what they feed me… Even though they lie they still tell me that they love me, They say I’m good at bad things, at least they proud of me…”

Get ready. It’s about to get mushy up in herr.

When Wes and I started talking about having kids, I am going to be honest- I kind of viewed kids like little pets. They were cute and sweet and sure, they caused trouble and were expensive, but they look good in pictures and buying tiny clothes was fun. I’d had plenty of experience being around kids and loving kids deeply, but I had no frame of reference of what the daily grind of actually parenting would be like.  I also really didn’t have any concrete ideas of what my husband’s role would be in parenting.

Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book that I love called “To Own a Dragon- Reflections on Growing up without a Father” and this is one of my favorite quotes. He speaks about listening to fairy tales with knights and princesses and dragons-

“I bring this up because in writing some thoughts about a father, or not having a father, I feel as though I am writing a book about a dragon or a troll under a bridge. For me a father is nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. And I know fathers are not like dragons in that fathers actually exist, but I don’t remember feeling that a father existed for me. I know they are real people. I have seen them on television, and sliding their arms around their women in grocery stores, and I have seen them in malls and in coffee shops, but these were characters in other people’s stories, and I never stopped to question why one of these characters wasn’t living in our house. I don’t say this out of self-pity, because in a way I don’t miss having a father any more than I miss having a dragon. But in another way, I find myself wondering if I missed out on something important.”

Man. That is some stupid good writing.

So for me, when I pictured being a parent with Wes it was sort of like picturing co-parenting with a dragon, to use his analogy. I was reasonably sure of the basics- he’d stick around.  I knew he would be involved with teaching our children about God. I knew he would provide for us financially.  I had observed Wes around kids and teenagers, so I knew he was playful and energetic and could relate well to kids. But still, when I pictured our family, I imagined that I would be the main character in this play, and Wes would be a willing and capable supporting actor. I didn’t consciously think this of course, but like a kid who has never seen a dragon, I couldn’t wrap my brain around a world where dragons come off of paper and into the sky.

This weekend we had Josiah’s birthday party. It was casual, as he is way too old for anything themed and cute, MOM. Just some boys, a soccer ball, and some cake. A cool cake. Not a baby cake. Heaven forbid.  As I am running around getting ready for this party, my husband walks into the living room looking like this hot mess-

photo (21)

Meet Jeffaree the Referee.

Jeffaree went outside and greeted all the guests, and then took all the boys over to the park to play soccer. And basketball. And football. And whiffle ball. He then took all those boys up to our church to play Gaga ball. Then he came home, put on a movie for them and helped them get snacks.

As I was watching him play, I saw people tweeting about the A&M game.  Now, don’t freak out, but I had no idea there was a game on, much less an important game on. I’m not exactly what you’d call a sports fan. Trying to explain football to me is like trying to explain anything to a muffin. But I realized how this was a big game that apparently everyone except me was watching.

He never complained. He didn’t even mention it.

There’s a ton out there talking about choosing a man who will make a good husband, and it’s true, choosing a good man to marry is important. But as I sat there and watched Jeffaree be completely silly, I was thinking about how in some ways, Wes has become my dragon.

I spoke to a group of students at SMU last week about viewing God as a father, and how that can sometimes be difficult at best and painful at worst. I spoke about how becoming a parent was a huge piece of my healing towards being able to see God as a Father, and especially adopting our youngest. Loving and serving our kids despite their imperfections has given me insight into the fact that God doesn’t love me out of obligcation, but He loves me with affection and adoration. And yet my perspective is still as a mother. So watching Wes over the last ten years (as well as other faithful men) has given me a glimpse of what God is like as a dad. Not only father.

A Daddy.

Wes is the guy who doesn’t do that fake sleeping thing when the baby cries. He’s the guy who purposfully arranges his schedule so he can walk the kids to school, because he wants to take advantage of that time to speak wisdom to them. He’s the guy volunteering at school. He’s the dad who looks neighboring kids in the eye and invites them over for dinner. He’s the dad that plays a game with the kids almost every night and reads them stories. He’s the dad who has taught Josiah to do this-

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and modeled a passion for teaching others about Jesus.

Wes has far surpassed all expectations I had of what a father is like, and he continues to do so. I know that not every woman struggles the same with understanding God as a Father, but I think we all do, to some degree? (if you don’t at all, let’s have lunch. I have questions.)  So when I counsel my daughter about how to choose a spouse, I will be sure to tell her that choosing a future daddy is just as important as a future husband. Not only for her happiness, but because watching a good daddy can give you a picture of God that is more vivid, more full.

It’s being able to see the scales of a dragon shine in the sun instead of just imagining what they’d look like.

Wes isn’t a perfect dad. (ask him about the time he let Josiah roll off the changing table and then taught him a new word) But because of him, I now have a picture that someday, my Daddy might make me pancakes with extra blueberries and real maple syrup, because He knows that’s the way I like them. I imagine that my Daddy might makes jokes because He likes the sound of my laugh. I imagine that my Daddy would throw me a birthday party not because He has to, but because He can’t imagine not celebrating me.

That’s the happily ever after I can get behind.

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“And I won’t let you pull me in, because I know you’re gonna win, but the war is over, I won’t fight you anymore, I’ve never been so sure that the war is over…”

“I usually make all his food, but it’s just hard when you are out, you know?” she said sheepishly as she pulled out a jar of pureed carrots.  The statement was met with a chorus of nods and sympathetic looks. Of course, there’s usually one in the group, the one who starts sentences with “well, have you tried…?” and I watched as she gave her suggestion about some fancy contraption made for making baby food, some kind of machine that you place a whole carrot into and it automatically dices and purees it, then funnels it directly to the mouth while simultaneously filling out your baby’s college applications. There were appropriate oohs and ahhs over the “what-will-they-think-of-next” idea, and I watched the new mom’s face relax in relief as she passed this new level of the mommy test, an arbitrary set of rules and expectations that are constantly changing but NEVER spoken about.

First rule of mommy fight club. You don’t talk about mommy fight club. (that’s actually the second rule. First rule is we wear yoga pants on Wednesday)

I don’t know who came up with this horrible little game, but I imagine it’s been around for a long while. I’m guessing cavemoms sat around the fire and grunted about if babies should sleep on the ground or on rocks or how they just could not BELIEVE that some women give their babies Wooly Mammoth milk. Of course, before they could decide the winner, they were sadly eaten by that very same Mammoth but you get my point.

I think what makes this dynamic so difficult is that the standards of what a good mom is changes based on how many kids you have, where you live, what the current culture says, what time of day it is, sometimes what time of the month it is. It’s not like we can study for the exams- the answer key changes faster than Jenny McCarthy can write another book about “autism”.

See what I did there? Talked smack about Jenny McCarthy AND used quotes for a well proven developmental disorder. I get extra credit for that.

So here you go- let’s at least agree to make this a little easier to pass or fail, okay?  Take the quiz below to determine where YOU fall in this good/bad mom scale. See scoring key below

  1. While in labor, which of the following did you do?
    1. Lamaze breathing while focusing on a sonogram picture of your baby
    2. Swam laps in the baby pool that you set up in your living room while your husband played a recording of whales joyfully talking to each other.
    3. Have your husband construct a harness so your personal photographer can hang over the doctor so they don’t miss any of the special moments.
    4. Scream at a med student and kick your ob/gyn in the face when they try to check you. (these questions are not necessarily created out of someone’s experience. I just heard some women probably do that)
  1. Your toddler wants candy at the store, and begins to whine and scream. You-
    1. Firmly tell him no and ignore the whining
    2. Leave the store because of all the stares
    3. Tell him he can have candy if he asks nicely
    4. Tell him no. Buy the candy. Eat it in front of him to prove a point.
  1. What do you do when your child is refusing to go to sleep?
    1. Compromise with one more story
    2. Pretend you don’t hear the footsteps moving around upstairs
    3. Tell your spouse that it’s their turn
    4. Tell your child about the lava monster that lives under the bed that eats children’s feet at night when they touch the floor.
  1. Your child is angry and screams “I hate you!”  Your response is-
    1. Lovingly wrap them in a hug and tell them you understand
    2. Yell back that you’ll give them something to hate you for
    3. Ignore them until they take it back
    4. Send them to their room, eat ice cream and hum “Butterfly Kisses” through tears

Scoring Key-

If you scored mostly any of these, that means you actually read through this and that means you are a wonderful person. It might also mean you have too much free time.

We talk a lot about the mommy war, and how we should just all accept and support each other, and stop being so critical of each other. I agree with this, but I’d like to propose another possibility.

Stop prepping for battle.

Let me tell you an embarrassing story about me. When Selah was about four months old, Wes and I went to a party at a friend’s house and we took her with us. It started to get late, so I asked this friend if I could borrow a pack and play to put Selah down in. She led me up to their room and set it up for me. As I changed Selah into pajamas, she asked me how old Selah was. I answered “four months” and she said this world crashing statement to me-

“Wow. I could never have put my babies down like that at four months old”

Now, if you are not neurotic and over sensitive and generally crazy, you understand that she meant that at four months, her babies would not have tolerated being put down awake without screaming. That is a very reasonable interpretation of that statement.

I, on the other hand, was horrified because in my head, she meant “Wow. You must be a terrible person who hates her baby and probably hates babies in general. I am a most excellent mother and highly attached to my children. I could have NEVER have left their tiny sides a mere four months after they emerged from my womb. I am sad for you that you can carelessly toss your baby into baby jail. Just how many puppies have you murdered today?”

I’d love to tell you that I realized how crazy I was being right away…but I didn’t. I didn’t even CONSIDER that she didn’t mean that. And you know what, I believed that this woman thought I was a bad mom for Y-E-A-R-S. One day, I was talking to another younger mom about putting babies to bed, and it hit me like a ton of bricks what she really meant. And then I felt REALLY stupid.

This has been a huge lesson for me. She didn’t do anything wrong. Her innocent remark got wrapped up in MY insecurity, and was swallowed up by my desire for her to think I was a good mom and my fear that I wasn’t. Her opinion, or my assumption of her opinion, became more important than what God thought. Now, when I am sitting in that group of women and the subject of breastfeeding versus formula comes up, I try to make a choice to believe that these women are not judging me. When I am with homeschooling moms, I can choose to believe that they don’t care that my kids are in public school. When my child throws a huge fit in the park, I want to choose to believe other moms are looking at me with sympathy, not scorn.

The mommy war is real…but I don’t think the battle flares nearly as often as we think it does.

So mamas, take a deep breath today and relax. If you are holding a weapon against another mom, lay it down, but make sure you lay down your armor too because there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t being attacked.

boxing

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“The road is long with many a winding turns that leads us to who knows where, who knows where, But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him, he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…”

My name is Josiah and I want to tell you what it’s like to adopt a little brother. I was really little when my mom and dad told me that we were going to adopt another child. I think I was like, four years old. I remember that I was really hoping that it would be a boy. I already had a sister. That was enough.  I also remember being nervous because I never had a brother before and I hoped we would get along and he would like me. I also was excited because I never met anyone from another country and I really wanted to meet someone who lived somewhere else. I REALLY hoped he would be younger than me. I told my mom that it didn’t matter, as long as it was a boy, but actually I really really really wanted to stay the oldest but I didn’t tell her that. My mom and dad prayed and I remember that they taught me how to pray for a new brother or sister.

I remember that Ms. Amy came over to our house to talk about adoption. She was really nice and pretty and she was nicer than I thought she would be. I thought she would be not as nice, kind of like Professor McGonagall. Not as strict as Professor Snape, but still pretty strict. My mom made cookies for her and wouldn’t let us have ANY. That was so weird. Ms. Amy even gave us hugs and she had cool clothes on. My sister Selah and I went into the back of the house and played while she talked to my mom and dad BUT my sister and I were hiding and trying to listen. I was listening because I thought maybe Ms. Amy had a brother for me in her car and she was waiting to see if we wanted him. Selah was just listening to see if they were eating all the cookies. I remember that Ms. Amy looked at our rooms and I messed up Selah’s room so it would be messy because I wanted Ms. Amy to tell my mom and dad that the little brother should only sleep in my room. I never told my mom this but I cried really hard after Ms. Amy left because I really thought she had a brother in her car. Mommy heard me crying but I didn’t tell her why.

I don’t remember very much about when we found out about Malachi. I was only four, remember? I remember that mom took us up to my daddy’s office and she didn’t even notice that I didn’t have shoes on and my sister had her swimsuit on. I remember that I sat on Daddy’s couch in his office and everybody kept coming in and crying and stuff. I could tell it was happy crying though you know, like the kind girls do a lot when they wave their hands and stuff. I saw a picture of Malachi and he was the cutest boy I’ve ever seen. His hair was HUGE and I remember telling my mom that he and I looked exactly alike because we both have brown eyes. I know, that’s crazy because I have peach skin and blonde hair, but I was four. Remember that I was four. Mommy also read that Malachi had breathing problems. I remember telling mommy later that maybe God put Malachi in our family because I already have asthma and so I can tell him that it’s not that bad and I can hold his hand if he doesn’t like breathing treatments. I remember that mommy cried and did that hand waving thing when I said that.

My sister and I stayed with my MawMaw and PawPaw and I remember that they took us to NASA. I remember that PawPaw told me about a space shuttle that crashed and I cried later because I got scared about the plane crashing. I also remember I had to sit in time out but I don’t remember why. It might have been Selah’s fault.

The day that my brother came home is one of my favorite days. We got dressed and went to the airport which was so boring. I remember that there were lots of people there waiting and we made a really long sign to hold. When mommy and daddy walked out, I ran and hugged my mom first. I didn’t hug Malachi right away because I wasn’t sure if he would like me, but I remember being a little mad because everyone was crowding him and I was thinking “back off, that’s MY brother!”

If you already have kids and you want to adopt another, I think you should. I think adopting from Ethiopia is really cool, but there are lots of kids everywhere that can be adopted. My brother calls me his best buddy for life, and I am! He makes me really mad sometimes like when he ruins my legos or he won’t let me sleep in or when he won’t stop singing trouble trouble trouble because my sister is like, obsessed with Taylor Swift, but I love him and he’s awesome. I’m sure there’s more that happened but remember, I was only four.

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Mama Mondays- “Money, you’ve got lots of friends crowding round the door, When you’re gone, spending ends, They don’t come no more…”

“I recently quit my job as a full-time teacher to stay at home with my two kids. I know it’s the best thing for our family, but I am finding myself more and more anxious about the money. I’d love any money-saving tips you have!”

Sometimes I flip through Netflix and watch a few episodes of “Extreme Couponing” with the kids. That show always makes me feel incredibly lazy and worse at math than I am already know I am, but then inevitably they mention how they spend 30-40 a week couponing and I realize that while it may be an incredible saving strategy for your family, it can also be a full-time job. I already have a full-time job, so who needs another one?!

That being said, no one goes into full-time ministry to get rich (well. Full time ministry not on television or massive book deals), so I do have to work hard to save money. I will be totally upfront about the fact that I know I could do much better at this than I do, so I am going to be watching the comments later to pick up some tips! But before I jump into techniques, what I’d first say to you is that you can be anxious with $10 or you can be anxious with $1,000,000. Anxiety is a heart issue, not a wallet issue. So I can give you all kinds of money-saving tips, but if your heart is struggling with trust and wise stewardship, it won’t really matter. It’s easy to view money stewardship as simply a question of “how can I save enough money to be able to do the things we want to do?”. The problem with that is that the heart of that question is- how can I make happen what I want to make happen? When I start thinking this way, there’s not much room left for Him, and even less room for me to be generous. What I want when thinking about money is to think- how can I be wise with whatever He’s given me, knowing that it’s all His, so that I get to be more generous to my family and others? When I view it this way, it shifts from being anxious to trusting, and from what I want to thinking about what He wants.

I promise you that you can’t teach your kids to be generous if you don’t first teach them that money doesn’t really belong to us.

The first thing I’d say is something Wes and I have counseled premarital couples when talking about how to plan ahead for living off of one income, if that is a desire of the couple.  The shift from two incomes to one can be quite dramatic, and for some it seems impossible. If your goal is to be a stay at home mom (or work part-time), then we counsel couples to try as much as they can to live off of that one income. Babies can be expensive, so living as though you only have one income helps you practice what that lifestyle is like, and may give you some room when unexpected expenses come. This definitely requires self-discipline, but that discipline will only help you in the long run, when you have to make choices about what to purchase for your kids and how to help them learn to manage money.

Clothing

*Buy used and trade with others. My kids are older now so we don’t really get many hand me downs anymore, but they were a lifesaver when they were smaller. Kids grow fast and they are rough on clothes and shoes. I know that my kids will get holes in the knees of their jeans in about a month’s time or less, so I buy them jeans at Once Upon a Child or Goodwill. Every once in a while, I will find something at Goodwill that I know is worth much more, so I buy it and sell it back to a resell shop and buy clothes for my kids (once, I found a rack of Janie and Jack dresses at a Goodwill, and was able to buy coats for all three kids).

Be generous in giving clothes away, older moms. Remember what it felt like to open up a beautiful dress for your baby that someone gave you. I remember that a very sweet friend gave me a gorgeous smocked dress for Selah simply because I had told her how pretty I thought her daughter looked in it. That was years ago and I still remember that generosity and kindness. 

*Buy in off seasons. This is more difficult when your child is younger, since they grow so quickly and it’s hard to predict what size they will be but as they get older, it gets a little easier to buy for the next year. More expensive items like boots, coats, sweaters are discounted at the end of winter so I try to buy for the next year.

*Buy quality, not quantity. I realize that seems counter intuitive since I just talked about Goodwill, but I have found that if I will buy cheaper pieces that I know will get destroyed faster, then I can spend a little more on higher quality pieces. Example- I like to buy Selah’s shirts and dresses at Gymboree or Gap. She chews on her sleeves and collars, and these stores clothes can hold up to that, but I’ll buy jeans or leggings much cheaper since I don’t mind replacing those more often. My kids will also wear shirts and dresses for much longer than pants, so it makes sense to spend more money on those.

*Buy basics, not outfits. At the beginning of each season, I will buy pants or shorts in basic colors and shirts that coordinate with those. Selah gets a few basic dresses that she can wear in summer and fall with a sweater.

*Invest in a good laundry system. A high quality stain remover, bleach pens, and getting to stains as quickly as you can will save many clothes from being made into dust rags.

*If you have girls, consider learning to sew a few basic patterns- this is something I am still working on. I’d love to be able to make Selah a few summery dresses and skirts because she lives in them, and because as she gets older, it has become more and more difficult to find cute modest clothing. One of my favorite blogs for repurposing clothes has inspired me to look more closely at clothing to see if I can make it into something new that will work for me or my kids- check it out- http://refashionista.net/

Food

*Learn to cook. I know. I can even hear the eye rolling. I’m sorry, I don’t want to be *that* friend, but I can’t lie to you. Cooking is cheaper than eating out- not only financially, but cheaper in long-term health costs, and a better investment in time spent with your kids. This is especially important if you have a child with any kind of food allergies- I’ll be honest, I am not sure it is possible to address a food allergy if you don’t learn to cook. Learning to cook can be overwhelming, so start small. When I was learning, I decided to learn one new technique and one new recipe using that technique each week. The very first thing I learned to make completely from scratch was lasagna- sauce, filling, and noodles, and now I can even make the ricotta cheese and I am working on learning to make mozzarella.  This doesn’t mean spending money on a bunch of cooking classes or cookbooks! Find a cooking friend, borrow some basic cookbooks from the library, even YouTube has great instructional videos on basic cooking methods.

*Shop in season, and learn proper food storage methods. Right now I am buying pickling cucumbers and corn on the cobb in bulk- why? Because it’s the end of the season and it is very cheap. I will make pickles to store and I am shucking the corn and freezing it for later. I in a few weeks, I will do this with tomatoes as the season winds down. Last year, I got two huge boxes of very ripe tomatoes at the farmers market for $20 and made about 20 batches of spaghetti sauce. Combined with a $1.00 bag of pasta, I was feeding my family for $2.00 a meal! With some homemade bread and a salad, that was still under $5.00 for a dinner for a family of five. This tip honestly probably saves us the most money, because much of our wasted money comes from having to throw food away that has gone bad.  Obviously, you can’t freeze everything, but when you can buy milk, eggs, and bread on sale, freezing them makes a big difference in your monthly bill.

*Start a stockpile of sale items. This probably seems difficult if your food budget is tight, so I’d suggest decreasing your weekly food budget by $10 a week for about two months until you have set aside some money for surplus deals. This way, when chicken goes on sale for $1.00 a pound, you can stock up and freeze the excess.

*Start a small garden- even a few tomato plants for the summer, and herbs year round to freeze can save money.

*I try to make at least two vegetarian meals a week, and I rarely use canned beans, and I never use canned vegetables. This may be more difficult if you were raised in a meat and potatoes family, but the fact is, you don’t need meat every day, and eating a meal of vegetables and/or lentils will help not only your wallet, but your body too.

*Make a budget and plan ahead. If you only do one thing, do this. I spend so much more money when I don’t have a plan and when I don’t pay attention to budget. Use a cash envelope system if you need to, but try to sit down with the grocery store ads to figure out what is on sale at the beginning of the week, then plan meals around that and stick to it.

Other areas to save-

*Make your own detergent, soap and cleaning supplies. I do this and I truly does save money, and I haven’t noticed a difference in my clothes.

*Keep up on car and home maintenance. Spending money on appropriate air filters for your air conditioner is much cheaper than repairing a broken air conditioner!

*Pay attention to utilities to determine where you can reduce cost. Turn off your lights. Make sure your plumbing is working properly, and that your kids are turning the water off all the way. Unplug your appliances when not in use.

*Consider having only one car. I’ve heard people say “this is impossible” and I would say that for some, this would be very difficult, but it is not impossible. Inconvenient, yes. Not impossible.

*Consider new opportunities to generate income. I do NOT mean jump into every Mary Kay/Advocare/Tupperwear/Company of the moment chance that comes your way. Please. Don’t become *that* person. But if you have a talent or passion, pray about how you might be able to use it for income. I’ve taught voice lessons before, and Wes has taught piano lessons. I currently do cake decorating and some catering. Right now I don’t make any money writing, but I’d love to someday. The important thing here is to try to do something you are passionate about, because working and being a mom is difficult, and even more so when you are working at something you hate.

I’d LOVE to hear your tips! Is figuring out how to save something that exhausts you, or energizes you? How have you tried to teach being a good steward of money to your kids?

Have a question for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“Dress us up in your righteousness Bring us in with a ring and a kiss When you walk into the room you know we can’t resist Every bottle of perfume always ends up on the floor in a mess…”

I remember the first time I felt pretty. I’m sure my parents told me I was pretty before this, but this was the first time I remember making an intentional effort on looking a certain way, and feeling successful at accomplishing pretty. I was in the fifth grade, and about to go to my first dance. For some reason I can’t remember, I didn’t think about what I was going to wear until the day before the dance, which of course meant that I flew into a frenzy of tween panic because I didn’t have ANYTHING THAT I COULD WEAR AND RAYMOND MARTINEZ WOULD SURELY BE THERE. My mom, amused and sympathetic (although probably unaware of my crush on the fifth grade bad boy), took me shopping to our favorite discount store to try to find that perfect combination of elementary and middle school coolness.  I remember sitting in the car while Carman’s “The Champion” played on the radio, a perfect soundtrack for my inner pep talk that I WOULD find the perfect dress, and I would BE the champion of this dance.

Look. I know that song isn’t as much about sleeves versus sleeveless and more about salvation, but what do you want from me? I was ten.

I convinced my mom to buy a white bubble skirt, pink shirt and the piece de resistance-

butterfly belt

This belt. Do y’all remember these?? I was sure this belt would shove my make-uped face into the cool zone, a place I had danced along the fringes but hadn’t ever quite broken into yet. I got dressed, carefully curled my hair and stepped into my new and incredibly uncomfortable white heeled sandals. I’m sure they were only 1/2 inch, but in my mind I was Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2, just waiting for my own coooooooool rider.

I looked in the mirror. Smiled. A little less, Brandy. Not so much teeth. There. Flip the hair, cock my head to the side. No, other side.

I felt pretty.

It was a nice feeling, but it only lasted halfway to the punch bowl when my own version of Mean Girls walked by me, three of them in coordinating strapless dresses (it was fifth grade, I have no idea how they were holding these dresses up, but I suspect glue or maybe staples were involved). Their skirts were fitted and coordinated with their pantyhose and all of a sudden I felt like a little girl playing dress up in her mother’s clothes.

This story has a point. This is the first time I remember feeling pretty, but it’s also the first time I remember choosing a side in the battle I created in my mind. I chose the “good girl” side, the team that doesn’t dress to impress. Our platoon has differing reasons for this- some cling to being a tomboy, some can’t afford to care, others use it as a defense. Not consciously of course, but I decided that trying to look nice was just a little bit silly and indulgent and probably Jesus was rolling his eyes at me and just waiting for me to get back to reading my Bible.

Years later, I sat at a youth camp and watched a girl get whistled at by some boys as she got out of the pool. I thought I was imitating Jesus as I rolled MY eyes, because I mean, she could have just left her shirt ON while swimming, she didn’t have to take it off. Never mind that she was wearing a full swimsuit and shorts…showing those shoulders was just asking for it. I sat back as I watched her eyes dart around for her towel and I’m not proud to say that I felt a tiny bit of satisfaction that I wouldn’t be that girl. I wouldn’t cause boys to stumble. I pictured these nice Baptist boys in their Disciple Now t-shirts walking along innocently until a giant bikini jumps out from behind a rock. The boys cry out in alarm and try to shield their eyes, but what boy can resist a giant bikini? It had sharp teeth and was humming sinful George Michael lyrics, especially the one about wanting your S-E-X, which of course I only knew for research sake. So I’d know how to pray for him. If the boys had on their armor, they stood a chance, but more than likely they would be devoured by the savage swimsuit, leaving just scraps of t-shirts and a lone cross necklace.  Feeling pretty just wasn’t worth the guilt.

Fast forward to today, when I read this-

http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/

Disclaimer- I have no interest in getting into a blight (blog fight). I get it that lots of people love what she is saying, people who I love and respect. I don’t disagree with her in many ways. I think she makes many good points…but when I read it, there was just something that made me shake my head. But clearly, she’s a mama who loves and cares about her kids, as I think it’s also clear she loves and cares for the girls she is addressing. 

It is these words that evoked this heart response in me…

“Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it?  You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?

Neither do we.

And so, in our house, there are no second chances, ladies. If you want to stay friendly with the Hall men, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent.  If you try to post a sexy selfie, or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – you’ll be booted off our on-line island.

I know that sounds harsh and old-school, but that’s just the way it is under this roof for a while. We hope to raise men with a strong moral compass, and men of integrity don’t linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls.”

The thing is, it’s almost impossible to define what modesty is. 1 Timothy addresses how women should dress, but he speaks more about showing off by dressing in expensive and fancy clothing, rather than a guideline of how long hemlines should be. Matthew 5 talks about men lusting and it’s equivalence to adultery, but makes it clear that this is the man’s responsibility. It doesn’t say “if you look at a woman and find her attractive, you have committed adultery”. It says “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I don’t want to get crazy here. I don’t want to raise a pig with gold ringed snout (“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”-Proverbs 11:22), but I am equally uncomfortable teaching my girls that they are responsible for boys “only thinking of them in a sexual way” because of a choice they make regarding dress. I am even more uncomfortable letting my boys off the hook by even entertaining the idea that boys will be boys and they just can’t help themselves and if SHE would just cover up, this pesky sin thing wouldn’t even be happening. Is there less sin happening in Arab nations, where women are covered head to toe? Is there more sin happening in cultures where nudity is more accepted? What about when you have a baby and everyone and their dog sees you in various states of undress- how much sin are we talking about there?

Of course not. So it must be more about intent and heart. So bottom line for me- Butler kids, don’t dress in any way that is going to make it difficult for someone to actually hear what you are saying. That can’t be controlled completely, one man’s sleeveless is another man’s lingerie. But what you have to say is so much more important than what you look like, so be wise and don’t shoot yourself in the shirt. Josiah and Malachi, you are responsible for where you choose to take your thoughts.  If you fantasize and lust after that beauty who is covered up and carrying a bible, your sin isn’t prettier. Selah, it’s going to be tempting to draw attention to yourself in various ways and play a role. It might be the confident with her body role or the church girl who is above such nonsense role but baby girl, the point is, they’re all roles in a play that eventually will stop having applause. The lights will go down and you’ll have to figure out who you really are.

The other thing is this- I’ll always give you second chances. And your friends. That doesn’t mean that I will foolishly expose you to things that will hurt you, or that we won’t ever have rules about what you can and can’t wear. But I need a million second chances every day, how could I not extend that same grace? Boys, the day you tell me that your friend showed you porn on his computer? I’ll cry for him and the next time I see him, I’ll look him in the eye without contempt. Selah, your friend? The one who I fear will be auditioning for a Girls Gone Wild video? She gets invited for supper, and she gets hugs from me, because girls gone wild usually need more, not less hugs.

I’ll always give you a second chance.

Have a question for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

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