Thursday, April 30, 2015

So What About this Baltimore Junk?

I know this isn't the first article, post, or opinion you've read regarding this topic. It made national television, went viral on the internet, and has been the trend of nearly every conversation for the last few days. And it still infuriates me.

I keep hearing all the "heartfelt wishes" for America to "evolve..." We need to "evolve" into a new way of thinking, "change" the way we view crime only when committed by certain races, and "transform" what marriage is, has been, and will be. Well, I don't believe in the theory of evolution one bit... Yet, even I look at videos and news clips and think to myself, These people are barbaric! They're running around like cavemen, starting fires, and grunting and groaning like idiots. And I don't even want to hear, Well, they're hurting, or, They're just longing for justice. That is malarkey if there is such a thing. Any and all participating in these ludicrous riots are the injustice. How just is it for innocent bystanders to have to hideaway in fear or children miss school due to probable harm? What about the good, moral, kind human beings that have worked tirelessly to build businesses that have been damaged or burned in this madness? Where is their justice?

Hear me now and understand that I do not like the thought of someone being killed at all, let alone unfairly. TD Jakes said it best, "We're not saying we don't want our youth tried; we just want it done in a courtroom instead of on the streets." I get that. But, if the way people are choosing to "take a stand" is any indication of the victim's behavior... Well, I don't think I really need to say anymore. I also want to make it clear that I'm not saying it's impossible that an occasional citizen in uniform hasn't acted out of anger and sheer frustration. However, why has this become an issue of race? What about similar cases in which the color of the skin was reversed? For example, what about Dillon Taylor? Does that name ring any bells? Probably not. This incident didn't make the headlines like that of Michael Brown. Dillon Taylor was an unarmed 20 year old white male that was killed by a black police officer in Utah right outside a 7/11.  Let's not forget about white 18 year old Gilbert Collar, if we've even heard of him. Although unarmed, he was killed by Trevis Austin, a cop of a darker color. There's also the case of Cameron Tillman. He was a 14 year old African American unarmed boy shot and killed by an officer sharing his skin color. Where was the outrage over this tragedy? It just doesn't make the news, because it's not going to create enough energy or animosity... and that's what American has become infatuated with.

Do you see my point? These issues are not about race. The "race card" really can't be played anymore in most cases. I understand that there are always going to be ignorant people that can't see past skin color, ethnicity, or even religion for that matter. But the majority of the population doesn't even think twice about it. Seriously. Do you know who has been in the White House for the last 7 years?

People are people no matter what they look like. They all have talents, skills, and gifts to offer the world. I am a strong advocate of treating people right and looking at the "content of their character." I abhor the thought of anyone being treated unfairly for any reason at all, but especially because of anything as meaningless as an outward characteristic. But, I'm also sick and tired of being on the defense because of my appearance. I'm a white woman... and if I say "black" some people are offended. If I say "colored" people are taken aback. If I describe someone by saying "white woman" or "African-American gentleman," a comment of disapproval is never far away. You can't say "Muslim" without a "Why does that matter?," and now "really skinny" and "bigger" have become words that can easily destroy your reputation if spoken around the right person. If you know me at all, you know what I think: We were created equal and God loves us all. Period. If you don't know me yet, don't dare assume how I feel about situations simply because of where I come from.

If we're not being attacked because we're a part of the so-called "majority" regarding color, we have to shield ourselves from darts thrown at our belief system. Apparently Christians are now old-school and unlearned simply because this faith has been around for millenniums. If you're someone who upholds, respects, and supports traditional marriage you're immediately classified as a bigot and a hater, instead of someone who simply stands by their moral conviction; one in which has forever been appreciated and valued. If it's not something the gay community is after, there's always the feminists. So now people who are against the inhumane torture and death of an unborn child can't speak of it without being spat at and mocked because of our "selfish, conservative ways." But then, if you agree with a  parents right to correctly spank their child, you're showing support of abuse? If you eat meat, be prepared for someone to preach at you about animal treatment. If you fully encourage homeschooling, please know that you will be labeled as one who stands in the way of your child's proper social development.

It will never end. The very ones who cry out for "justice and equality" are the same ones who lash out and destroy businesses and reputations either by defacing their property or attacking their faith with a lawsuit. It's become acceptable, and even applauded, to belittle anyone associated with any majority group. They receive nothing short of national humiliation, because they were literally targeted for the sole purpose of having their thoughts and opinions criticized. Ridiculous and ruthless.

Remember Phil Roberson? How about Tim Tebow? And most recently, Christian owners of bakeries? Remember that animosity I mentioned earlier? That is the fire fueling our country; not the pursuit of justice. Our culture is driven by revenge, is in love with quarreling, and has become addicted to looking for offenses to address. The larger part of the population has fallen prey to immaturity and selfish behavior.

I appreciate so much the people of every race, nation, gender, and religion that have learned to view humans as just that: humans. We all breathe the same air, our entrance into this world is achieved the same way, and one day we will all die. No one is any better than another. There is no respect of persons with God, (Deuteronomy 10:17, Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34, etc...) and there shouldn't be with any of His children either. There is a way to love others, without always agreeing with their choices. Pray for wisdom to get it right no matter which end of the spectrum you fall on.

It can be done, and I'm delighted to say some are leaving quite the example. Despite the countless crazies, there have been some who have taken a stand and won the respect of this great country during this time of immaturity and shame. I'm sure you've ran across these photos before, but they are worthy of re-sharing.
Amazing people offering protection for cops.
A mother doing her job. Get it!
Precious baby... I want to hug him!

This last picture, though... This is what it's all about. If America is ever going to see peace... it's going to have to start in the heart of its citizens. Check yours. I'll check mine. Together, we can make a difference. We can get this incredible country back into shape. And guess what? God can help!

1 Chronicles 7:14- If my people, which are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven; I will forgive their sins and I will heal their land.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Say Goodbye to Debt

Today, I want to put on my "Dave Ramsey" and talk about freedom from something else; the ever growing, all too comfortable monster of our society...

While I am fully aware that I don't have millions in the bank or the reputation of being wealthy, I am thankful that I can say, "I am almost completely debt-free." Therefore, I feel like I can say a little something about how to handle money. Well, at least how we did and how it worked.
Although the choice we made early on to become financially "set" sounded incredible, the decisions stemming from that choice weren't really as smart as we thought they were. I thought buying things on credit was normal, saving for anything other than emergencies was impossible, and waiting until you could pay cash was unnecessary. I honestly thought debt was a no-brainer for the "bigger" needs and wants of your life. I sincerely felt it was worth applause when we "sacrificed" what we really wanted for something that carried a lower monthly payment. I really thought I hit the jackpot of wisdom when I discovered another fa├žade of awesomeness- "12 months same as cash!" What a disguise that offer puts on! Yet, at only 19 and 21, we were trying to use what little "real world smarts" we'd acquired. Debt wasn't a big deal as long as you didn't have a ton of it, right?

According to the guy who has become a millionaire from scratch... twice... that is utterly and completely wrong. I started reading Dave's "Total Money Makeover," and my brain was soaking in a crazy amount of wisdom. This guy was genius! He knew so much about mutual funds, interest, consolidation, the myth about "building credit," and the list could go on. He made me see that just because you have expensive things doesn't mean you have a lot of money. It actually means the opposite. You buy a brand new vehicle for 50K, you don't have 50K... you owe it! And what's crazy is a recent poll showed that 90% of Americans buy things they really can't afford. As Dave said it, "We buy things we don't need with money we don't have in order to impress people we really don't like."  He was a husband, a father, talk show host, author, and realtor. I was completely impressed at how he had so many avenues of expense, yet he disciplined himself to paying cash... for everything! He was quite the financial example.

Then, the more I read, I quickly learned this man was also a Christian. Well, what do ya know? So am I! The principles he pulled from the Bible convicted my heart. Those words have been there for me, too. Why did I not see them?
   I did. I just didn't understand their significance.

I read about the borrower being servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7), and good parents leaving an inheritance for their children and grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22). Proverbs 22:26-27 says it plain, "Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from  under you?"

More and more I was starting to see just how against debt God seemed to be. Then, I read Luke 16:13, and I understood why. "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Proverbs 13:11- "Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it." What about the verse in Luke 14 that references Jesus asking a question, "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?"  What seemed to be a common sense rhetorical question back in Bible times, leaves the majority of the world today saying, "Not me!"


That's how my attention was grabbed. I started reading Dave's book, soaking in these Scriptures, and observing my own habits and plans. Was I thinking at all about the future, or did I just dive into spending any "new" money I received? Jobs are never secure, no matter what you think. Income is never permanent. Health is never guaranteed. We have to grow up and actually use some common sense. It is pertinent that we find a balance in enjoying our life and preparing for it. As recorded in his book, Dave says, "You need an emergency fund; an old-fashioned Grandma's rainy-day fund... Sometimes people tell me I should be more positive. Well, I am positive; it is going to rain, so you need a rainy-day fund." I highly encourage you to read his book, if you haven't already. I learned a whole new concept of enjoying life. What's crazy is it doesn't even include spending money!

Yes, I want to travel. Sure, I want nice things. Of course, I would love to purchase an entire new wardrobe on a whim. But, no, I won't sacrifice maturity for them. I don't want to mimic a child throwing a fit in the store because I can't buy the toy I want due to the fact that I'm out of birthday money. There's really no difference between the over spender and the spoiled kid; just the piece of plastic one of them now has. I have been nothing short of amazed at how some people just can't say no... to themselves. We grow up learning to share, waiting our turn, dropping coins in our piggy banks; but for what? So we can grow up, hoard all our fancies, cut people off at McDonald's drive-thru, and spend money before we even earn it? I've worked in finance nearly my whole adult life. Now I'm venturing into property management, and I honestly can't believe people. They'll be late on rent or mortgage, car payments, and electricity, before they put back a pair of shoes they find at the mall. It's unreal. When did it become acceptable to owe so many people for such frivolous things? What about what God advised in Romans 13:8? "Owe no man anything..." I remember a sermon I heard when I was a child that still resonates in my brain quite often, "God Doesn't Make Suggestions." If anyone knows the best road to travel, He does. From what I can see, He does not like the thought of His money being used in advance for things that aren't really necessary. What about the homeless? The hungry? Foster children or orphans? What if we invested just 1/4 of the money we spend on designer bags and furniture on them?

Now, please hear me. I'm not saying I don't buy things I don't need. Of course, I do. I hope you do, too. Live a little. I just think it should be done in the right manner. And yes, I'm practicing what I'm "preaching." We have been working hard and cutting corners to pay off what little debt (besides our home) that we have. And once that's done, there's a plan already in place to cut down time owed on our house. We do without what we want sometimes. But, we always have enough. God always provides. One thing I will say to you, from firsthand experience, God will  bless your efforts when you try to be a wise steward of the money He's placed in your care. Since we started pursuing this, money has come in from many directions. We got job offers, promotions, raises, offerings, gifts, lower payments on some bills... Almost every time I go to balance the checkbook, it feels like I subtracted wrong. There's always a little more in there than I feel there should be.

Because He blesses.

One point Dave Ramsey makes that opened my eyes to so much is this: "Your greatest source of wealth is your income." Seems elementary enough, but we seem to forget that. We always think we need to make more and get more. No. We just need to spend less and build up. If you only made $500.00 a month, but had no payments, that little amount of cash would still get you further than someone who made $4,000.00 and owes $3800.00. It's not always about your salary.
Now, for you people fortunate enough to bring in more than a decent amount, be smart with it! Before you jump into a crazy amount of payments, make sure you have enough back to sustain that lifestyle you're living should a tragedy take place in your life. No, we shouldn't worry our lives away and never enjoy what we've been given... Just utilize maturity and moderation.

This is not to pin a feather in our hats by any means at all, but stress has decreased tremendously in our home because of our choice to try our hardest to be smart with our finances. We get to do more, go more, get more, help more, and pay less. It's a victory all the way around. I understand that not all families can do the same things, but the principles can still be adapted. It's up to you ultimately. What's most important to you? If getting to buy whatever you want, or going on several trips a year, or dining at the most chic restaurants is what brings you your truest pleasure, then so be it. But, if you have dreams of making a lasting impression with your life, take debt out of the picture. It's just not a wise choice. Ever. If you're already there, get out... Then save up to stay out. It IS possible. Read Dave's book. It's the most interesting "self-help" book I've ever dug into. You will glean so much information derived from Christian principles. His word never returns void, so I know that if you're heart is sincere, He will help you financially.

You walk in, live in, and wear the favor of God...

Jesus Himself asked us, "If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" (Luke 16:11-12)
Hebrews 13:5- "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have..."

If you've been around me any at all over the last year, there's no doubt that this subject has been brought up. Since we've started budgeting and saving and paying things off, several of our friends and family have noticed a difference in our finances. I've had a few of them ask me to sit down with them and help them budget. There has been absolutely no negative feedback. Just last week, one of them called me to tell me that they had noticed a big difference in their money since they started  budgeting. They started "telling their money where to go instead of wondering where it went." I recommend to everyone: really try to pursue the possibility of becoming debt-free.

I'm guessing that right now some of you are taking notes, nodding your heads, or resolving within yourself that you are going to handle your money differently. I also guarantee that some are rolling their eyes and labeling me extreme or absurd. Whichever category you fall in, just know that none of this "wisdom" came from me. I gleaned it from someone else. I committed to taking what I'd learned and putting it into action. I did this because I didn't want to be considered foolish or ignorant. I didn't want regrets or bankruptcy. I didn't want to miss opportunities God wanted me to grab because my hands were full of bills. I want God to bless me more. I want my finances increased and my ability to help His kingdom expanded. I realized something had to change for those desires to come to me. He told me so.

Proverbs 17:16- "Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, if he has no desire to get wisdom?"

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

It's Time to Say Hello.

Really, it is. Recently I've come to realize two facts about my 26 years of thus far lived life.

1)It has been amazing.
2)It has not been as amazing as it could have been.

While there are several things that I would not change, there are still a few that I wish I could.

For too long I allowed my insecurities to hold me back. I refused to ask questions when I did not understand. I accepted lies as truth because I doubted my ability to reason correctly. I allowed people to simply brush my ideas under rugs of their choice because of my unassertiveness. I let dreams all but get away, because I convinced myself that I was meant to remain unheard and unseen. And, I always walked on eggshells when a touchy subject was brought up in conversation.

No more!

I am a human being who truly believes there is good in everyone, humility is admirable, and kindness is the greatest quality one can possess, so I can assure you now that this blog will not be a place in which I humiliate others. However, I will also guarantee that I will no longer embarrass myself by keeping locked up  what I feel God intended me to set free. I want to use my passion for writing to address issues of concern, offer encouragement to friends, cause people to smile, and inspire others by sharing what I've finally learned to overcome.

This year I've learned many things, but the one I want never to forget is how to truly be happy. God said He would give us abundant life and joy unspeakable, so why do so many seem to be lacking in those areas? Why did I? How did things become different for me?

Because I finally found a place of freedom... and I decided to unpack and live there.

Now anytime you move to a new place, it takes time and effort, right? It's nearly impossible to get everything in perfect order overnight. We've moved across the country a few times, and still it never gets any easier. I misplace things, stuff gets broken, tempers are lost... You've been there. You know. The same thing happens when you're moving to a new level of maturity, too. You think everything is just where it needs to be, but when it's time to use it, you can't find where you've packed it up. You're positive your heart is whole and your head is on straight, but someone shows up unexpected. In your pursuit of rushed perfection, failure and frustration build up, and your pride or their feelings are bruised and broken in the process.

Does that mean you're not on your way? No. You just have to keep emptying boxes. Get your dressers loaded back up, your pantry packed, and your closets filled, and you'll feel at home. Next thing you know, unwelcomed guests knock on your door and you're completely unaffected. You've settled. It's familiar turf. It's your home.

I've made it home.

Freedom from worry, fear of failure, and offense at people's opinions of me, seemed like nothing short of a dream vacation that only few were privileged to afford. Thankfully, I listened to someone who was there, and I quickly learned just how easy it was to get a ticket. Round-trips are too costly, so I decided a one-way was all I needed.

Lucky for you, that freedom allows me the confidence to express what I've held inside... Makes for a much more interesting read, I'm sure! Not everything will be serious or personal. I am solid in my crazy humor, too, so if I find something comical, I may write about that. If I try something that totally transforms my life, I will be kind enough to pass on my newfound secret. I love writing, I adore trying new things, I enjoy sharing what little knowledge I possess, and I like most people, so "Kristi Said It" is just a place for me to connect all these interests. So... stay tuned! Read on! And feel free to nicely express your opinions on here, as well!

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