Tuesday, July 30, 2013


My hubby and I have been in a sort of evaluation mode for the past several weeks. Well, to be honest, it's probably more me than him since I'm slightly obsessive (read sarcasm) and an over-the-top perfectionist. I'm always looking for places we can improve.

Adding a second child has put some additional strain on our family. Pudgy, blue-eyed adorable strain, but strain nonetheless. So, of course, I knew it was time to evaluate!

I started with our monthly budget. We'd been using a free online service called Mint for tracking our expenses. It is wonderful and I highly recommend it to anyone. It gave us a real look at how much we spend each month on variable expenses like eating out, groceries and gas. It also helped us track recurring expenses like that pesky mortgage and cell phone bill. Mint also churns out some neat graphs and charts that just made me feel totally legit. Seriously, check it out.

Despite it's versatility, however, we still weren't sticking to our budget and were always coming up short at the end of every month. Now, for the first couple of months I gave us a big ole out that went something like this: "We just had a baby. We're still getting our bearings. Things will shake out eventually."

Can you hear my denial? Yeah, me too.

So, I started looking for alternatives. Our church recently spent a few weeks discussing wisdom from Proverbs. We spent a whole service on budgeting. Exciting, right? It really was! Money is a big deal to God, in case you didn't know.

During his sermon, our pastor mentioned budgeting resources available through Crown Financial Ministries. Eureka! I'd found my alternative! (Ok, I didn't actually say eureka.)

Crown's resources were different than any others I'd seen because they worked with percentages. They provide recommendations on what percentage of your bring-home pay (after tithe) should be spent on things like food, recreation and housing. Their recommendations are based on how much money you make so they're not the same across the board. A family that makes $60K a year, for example, can spend a slightly greater percentage on housing than a family that makes $100K. However, both families should be saving the same percentage of their income every month.

After using Crown's resources to evaluate our budget, I made a not too surprising discovery. We were spending 105% of our bring-home pay every month. No wonder we felt broke! I knew we were spending too much, but I hadn't ever thought of it in percentages. It really helped me.

It also got me thinking about other areas of my life where I consistently over spend. Even if it's just by 5%.

Just a few extra calories every day. Just a little less sleep every night. Just a little less quality time with my hubby.

We think those little bits don't matter, but over time they really add up.

My little evaluation has reminded me that living within limits is important.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Things that inspire me #1

This is my first in what I hope will be regular installments of sharing with you things that inspire me.  As I mentioned before, inspiration is what I'm after in life. Inspiration, to me, is that spark that motivates me to try something new or different. It's that ooey, gooey peaceful feeling that washes over me when I see something beautiful or share an amazing moment with a friend. Inspiration is what drives me to a life "outside the box." To a life and a calling beyond just the regular routines and expectations.  Inspiration points me to God and reminds me that He's at work on me and in this big world. Inspiration prompts me to just exhale and take in what's around me. To stop striving and to just rest in the goodness and serenity that exist in lots of things, moments and people.

So, here goes...

Have you guys seen this video?  It's well worth the 10 or so minutes you'll spend watching.

I know the themes of the video were political, but that wasn't what inspired me.  As I watched, my heart was absolutely moved for this group of people. They way they are searching to reconnect to their identity. The way they have lost hope, but not completely. Can't you sense their hunger? Can't you literally feel their desire to be understood and accepted just as they are?

You wanna know why that inspires me?

Because I can relate. If we're honest with ourselves, I think we all can.

You see, I may have been born into the "majority," but I've felt misunderstood.  I've struggled with anger and felt the sting of betrayal.  I've wished and prayed that my circumstances could be different, but they never really changed.  I've been hopeless.

I'm inspired because even though there are lots and lots of things that make me different than this group of people, there are also lots and lots of things that make us alike.  That, to me, is God's handiwork.  It's a reminder to me that God made us all alike (in His image) so that we could relate to one another.  So that we could help one another. That's amazing to me.

I hate it when we emphasize the things that make us different.  She's skinny, I'm fat.  He's smart, I'm dumb. They're loved, I'm forgotten.

Or the worst ones: I'm right, you're wrong.  I'm better, you're worse.

My prayer is that we would show God's love to people by putting aside the things that make us different and focus on the things that unite us.  We're not poor people and rich people, white people and black people, sick people and healthy people. This video inspires me to remember that we're all just people.  People with lots in common, the first of which is the longing in our hearts to be loved and accepted.  I think if we offer that love and acceptance in Jesus name our world will change dramatically.

Friday, July 19, 2013


I feel as if I'm in the process of an awakening. Since the birth of my second son (just over 5 months ago) I feel like I've been on a journey to "find myself."

I had no idea I was lost, of course. I thought I had been living life exactly as I wished. That I was exactly who I wanted to be. That things were going along just fine. But something happened when that son was about two weeks old. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "Holy crap, I'm done."

I'm done with everything I thought I'd ever do in my life. I graduated from college, got married, got a good job, bought a house and had two kids.

Now what?

I suddenly felt lost, confused, overwhelmed. I felt like I didn't have anything else to look forward to. Like I was quickly becoming the stereotypical stressed out working mother who longs for the passion and zeal of her youth.

"Not me," I thought. But what's the next step?

I'm still figuring that out, of course, but what I can say I've learned is this: My identity is not determined by the job I have, the person I marry or the number of children I deliver. My identity is not determined by how much I weigh, how clean my house is or my debt-to-income ratio. My identity is not even determined by the gifts and abilities I possess.

My identity is determined by Christ and Christ alone.

When I pray to God to show me who I am, to help me figure out what He wants me to do with my life, He reminds me that I am created in His image. He calmly reassures me that the only way I'll know who I'm supposed to be is by knowing who He is.

It's such a simple truth, but it packs such a huge punch! (For me, at least.)

God is reminding me that there's so much more to be done in this life. He's awakening in me a passion to live life not for myself but for others. It's sparked a joy and an excitement in me that is tough to articulate. I feel like He's pulled back the curtain I thought was at the back of a room to reveal that the room actually goes on and on forever. I'm wowed.

I don't know what you may be thinking as you read this. Maybe you're in the same exciting place as me and are smiling and nodding in agreement. Maybe you think I'm crazy, that my impending 30th birthday has caused me to create an alternate reality to cope with the fact that I'm no longer young, hip or cool. Maybe you are down in the dumps feeling like there's nothing left for you.

Wherever you are, whatever you're thinking, I encourage you, implore you to reach out to Christ. Don't look to your circumstances for hope. Look to the One who is Hope. He knows you. He gave you an identity and a purpose before the foundations of the Earth were laid. He has a plan for you! Be encouraged, friends. Life is good!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A successful day: Kelly style

As I was walking to my car the other day after work, I was feeling very accomplished, like the day had been a success. Surprised by my own optimism, I asked myself what had transpired that day that made me feel so successful. My answers might surprise you, but here goes...

  1. I ate a vegetable. My life seems to move so fast that sometimes I get to the end of the day and think, "Did eat anything healthy today?" On this day in question, I had. Successful day check #1!
  2. I had a grown-up conversation. Conversations with children and about children are amazing, but I need to talk about grown-up stuff sometimes. On this day, I had lunch with a good friend. It soothed my soul. Successful day check #2!
  3. I felt inspired. If you've read the "about me" section of this blog, you already know that inspiration is important to me. I need to experience beauty, think deeply and dream big to feel inspired. It's tough to say what sparked inspiration in me this day.  Since I've made a conscious effort to look for inspiration, I now find it everywhere.  Inspiration is more a state of existence I strive for than a single experience I can point to. Successful day check #3!
So, folks, that was it.  On that day at least that was all that was required for me to deem the day a success. This short list seem inconsequential now, but the feeling of fullness in my heart that day was not. 

I'll take this short list as a reminder that it doesn't take much to be "successful." I'll also use this list as a reminder when I think the day has been a total flop.

What makes you guys feel like your day has been a success?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Motherhood: before and after

Sometimes I feel like motherhood has changed me so much that I don't even recognize myself.

I used to "have it together." Or at least I thought I did. I used to have energy. I used to sleep more than 5 hours a night. I used to feel like I knew where my life was headed. Now, to be honest, I'm not so sure.

Motherhood is hard. Seriously hard. In the midst of a literal emotional breakdown when my first child was a few weeks old a good friend told me: "Welcome to motherhood. It sucks. You're going to love it!"

3+ years later, that still about sums it up for me. There are things about being a mom that bring out the worst in me. I'm a very selfish person. I didn't know that until I became a mother. (To be fair, I probably did know it. Motherhood just exposed it.) And, whether I "have it all together" or not, I feel like the most incompetent person on the planet when my 3-year-old throws an out-of-this-world fit and I am powerless to stop it.

I asked myself: Is this normal? Can I survive this?

I honestly have no idea.

Lots of women survive motherhood, right? I mean, no one dies from the overwhelming stress that comes from being entrusted with the lives of two small human beings, right?


I wish I could end this post with a chipper, God's-got-my-back resolve. But, to be honest, I'm still working on this. I'm trusting, believing that I can be a mother. That God didn't give me these children so that I can be an example of what NOT to do.

And, just to make sure we're clear, I love my boys. I'm talking absolutely adore, want to kiss their faces off, LOVE them. They are sunshine and beauty, and I am blessed to have them. It's the notion of keeping us all healthy (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) that stumps me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The ABCs of me

Last week one of my dearest pals tagged me her ABCs of Me post. So, I'm playing along!

A. Attached or Single? Very much attached. Married eight years to Dave. We're complete opposites in just about everything. Sometimes we scratch our heads at why in the world God brought us together! We believe He did though, and I think we're both much better for having put up with each other this long ;)

B. Best Friend? Oh my, this is a tough one. My inner circle is pretty small, but once you make it in everyone is on a pretty level playing field. There are about five amazing women that I'd qualify as my best friends. They know who they are.

C. Cake or Pie? That's a silly question...BOTH!

D. Day of Choice? Saturday, since it typically involves more relaxation than work.

E. Essential item? Gonna have to agree with my pal Tiff and say cell phone. I didn't own my own cell phone until I was 18. Can you believe that?! I don't know how I lived without one that long.

F. Favorite Color? Again, agreeing with Tiff on ORANGE. You can see why we're friends.

G. Gummy bears or worms? Neither. If I'm eating candy it has to be chocolate. I don't like to waste calories on others.

H. Hometown? Owasso, Oklahoma. Home of the Rams. End of the Trail. (What? Don't you know your Native American history?) My momma still lives in the house I grew up in. It was a little town that in recent years has grown a lot. There's now more to do in Owasso than I ever could have dreamed about when I was a teenager. We used to have to drive to Tulsa to buy socks. No joke!

I. Favorite indulgence? Cheesecake, ice cream sundae, cherry coke. Anything sweet will do. (Well, except gummy bears or worms, of course.)

J. January or July? Easy. January. I hate hot weather. Hate.

K. Kids? Yes, two boys. They are the joy of my life and keep me guessing all the time.

L. Life isn't complete without? For me, it's inspiration. I need/want/love to be inspired. Without that spark, life is just too boring and mundane for me.

M. Marriage Date: July 1, 2005

N. Number of brothers and sisters? Two blood sisters. Three step-sisters. One step-brother.

O. Oranges or Apples? Gonna go with Apples, as long as they're Granny Smiths.

P. Phobias? Failure. Oh, there's a need for therapy in there somewhere, I'm sure.

Q. Quotes? I actually never remember something well enough to quote it. I'm more about absorbing the general concept/overall gist of things.

R. Reasons to Smile? My boys. All the funny things they say and do.

S. Season of Choice? Fall would definitely be number one, but Spring has really moved up the ranks lately. I love the newness that comes with Spring.

T. Tag five people. I'm not sure I have five blogging friends to tag. Skipping this one!

U. Unknown fact about me. When I was a very immature junior in high school I thought I wanted to attend OU. Shriek! ;)

V. Vegetable? I like most all of them, except tomatoes.

W. Worst habit? Comparing myself to other people. Talk about a fast-track to blues-ville!

X. X-ray or Ultrasound? I think this is a silly question. Who wants either? I guess I'll go with ultrasound. Those were fun when I was pregnant, mainly because after one I was reassured that my babies were healthy.

Y. Your favorite food? Anything. I love food! Pizza, mexican, italian, chinese. Yum!

Z. Zodiac sign? Virgo.

Monday, July 8, 2013

DOMA...thoughts on grace

So recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act - one that strictly defines marriage as between one man and one woman - was unconstitutional.  By this action, the Supreme Court essentially opens the door for states to award civil rights to gay and lesbian couples. (As far as I'm aware, California is the only state to have done so.) Many people are up in arms over this ruling.  "Conservatives" say it's going to be the demise of our great country.  "Liberals" say it's about time.  I wondered...what should "Christians" say.

So, I went to the Lord about it.  I asked specifically about my children.  They will grow up in a society where homosexuality is no longer hidden, but is accepted and often celebrated.  How, as a Christian, do I resolve the tension between believing something is wrong and believing people - ALL people - are loved, absolutely adored in fact, by a wonderful, marvelous, amazing Father God.

I think...it all comes down to grace.  You see, everyone needs it (grace) but I think we're often so busy doling out judgement we're blind to see it.  I need grace.  You need grace. The WalMart employee needs grace. That guy who just cut you off in traffic needs grace. I'm no "better" than you or than a gay person. We're all just people...people in need of grace and the love and forgiveness of a Savior.

What I want to instill in my children is an awareness of grace.  I want them to be moved by their need of it enough to let it change them.  I pray they become people so transformed  by the power of grace that there is no judgement left in them.  Would this be a miracle?  You bet!  But I can ask God for it nonetheless.

For society, I pray that we would no longer be at war with one another.  Animosity and division are breeding grounds for the Enemy.  Grace, on the other hand, along with forgiveness and love are a foundation for God to move and to do His work, which as a Christian is what I should be all about anyway.