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Jamie Griffin Financial Management; Getting Back on Track

Happy New Year!!!

 

We are delighted to introduce a guest blogger we think you’ll love.   His name is Jamie Griffin, and, appropriately, he has experience and expertise in the area of managing finances.

 

He will be back again to give practical ideas about other aspects of financial management, but today he is talking about a most timely aspect:

 

Getting your finances back on track after the holidays

 

3-2-1…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! First off, let me introduce myself. My name is Jamie Griffin and I am a middle school teacher. Aside from teaching, my other great passion in life is to teach people how to get out of debt and get ahead in finances. I graduated from college with about $50,000 in student loan debt, which jumped up to $90,000 when I got married. In the last four years, my wife and I have worked extremely hard to become debt free. We will achieve our goal in April and we couldn’t be more excited! I want to share our story and help as many people as I can destroy their debt! My goal today is to help you get on the right track as you start the new year.

 

In all the excitement of a brand new year, millions of people around the country are creating New Year’s Resolutions. The idea of a new year is so freeing! It is a chance to start over, to fix past mistakes, to pave a new future, and a wondrous chance to make this year, better than last year. In the end, a New Year’s Resolution is a goal that people hope will last an entire year, many centered on improving the quality of life. On average, about 50% of Americans make some sort of resolution, but according to Forbes, only about 8% actually achieve or keep their resolution for the entire year! That is crazy! How is it that so few people stick it out? What happens along the way? I’m sure there are a lot of answers to those questions, and I am certainly not going to take the time to answer them. Sorry, but we have more important things to discuss! I am here to talk to you about financial goals.

 

The website Statistic Brain states that the third most common resolution made by Americans is to spend less, and save more. And I can see why that is such a common goal. After three months of holidays stacked back to back to back (Yes I am counting Halloween as a holiday. People spend a crazy amount of money on costumes and candy!), people are hitting the stage of the year where they think, “Oh crap! We really need to get back on track with our finances! It brings up the question, what does it actually look like to set goals and get back on track after an expensive holiday season? Let’s dive in and take a look.

 

Step 1: Analyze Spending from the Holiday Season

 

One important step to getting your finances back on track is to figure out how much you actually spent during the holiday season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all have expenses that need to be accounted for, and sometimes it is difficult to keep track of when you are in the midst of the hustle and bustle and the rapid succession of the three holidays. One minute you are buying costumes and planning trick or treating routes, and the next thing you know you are loading up the car preparing to risk your lives driving on icy roads to a Thanksgiving feast, while simultaneously planning out Christmas shopping lists and how on earth you can possibly attend four Christmas celebrations in two days. It is madness!!! It all flashes by so quickly and hundreds of dollars are spent along the way. Now here you are in January wondering what the heck happened. I believe this is a common scene in America, one I was certainly a part of as a kid. If you plan ahead and set aside money throughout the year to spend during the holidays, I tip my hat to you and invite you to keep reading to see if you have any advice for my readers. However, if you are like most Americans and are hitting the “Panic!” button, I have a few basic steps to figure out your finances for the new year and make plans to avoid the same spending extravaganza next holiday season.

 

So now that the dust has settled, it is time to start picking up the pieces and putting your finances back together. One thing my wife and I do to help plan and track holiday spending is to make notes in our budget. The notes include how much money we spent on Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas presents, and extra traveling expenses. As a result, when November and December roll around, we only need to look at what we wrote down from the previous year and plan to spend the same amount of money this year. It is super helpful! Without these records, there is no way we would remember how much we spent the previous year. Now, we didn’t always have this practice in place. In order to leave ourselves accurate numbers, we had to sit down after our first year of marriage and actually track how much we spent!

 

Make Notes for Next Year

 

My wife and I are pretty diligent budgeters, so tracking our spending is already a part of what we do with all expenses we encounter. If you don’t normally stick to a strict budget, it is time to go back through your bank account or read through your receipts and start adding up expenses. I highly encourage you to keep expenses separate for each holiday. If you are like my wife and I and don’t spend much on Halloween, don’t even worry about that holiday. By the end of tracking, you should have a number for how much you spend on each holiday. It is also really helpful to break it down into subgroups. For example, my wife and I spend $50 on Thanksgiving dinner so we keep that expense separate from our $50 we budget for our Christmas tree, which we also buy in November. In the same way, Christmas presents are a separate expense from any food we buy for Christmas. Once you have tracked all of your expenses and split them into categories, write it down in your budget! We keep our budget on Google Sheets, but Excel or paper work just fine too. Whatever your system is, utilize it efficiently by writing notes to help you plan for the year!

 

Step 2: Analyze Credit Card Spending and Make a Plan to Pay it Off

 

In the 1920’s, Henry Ford was rolling out his assembly line and making automobiles more affordable to the middle class working family. One great innovation that Ford, and several other businessmen of the era, used to help make big purchases like a car more affordable was to encourage people to buy expensive items on credit. This trend roared through the 1920’s but didn’t stop with the stock market crash. In today’s society, most people don’t save up ahead of time for holiday spending, instead relying on credit to make holiday purchases. As a result, families rack up credit card debt in the frenzy to buy everything on the Christmas list, especially big ticket items. In 2014, an average of $986 was piled on top of already existing credit card debt! If you rely on minimum payments, that could take over a year to pay off with high interests rates, especially if you open the all too enticing store credit card to save a few bucks at check out. The point is, if you used a credit card to make holiday purchases, it is time to make a plan to pay it off fast! (And then a plan to avoid using credit cards next year)

 

Pay more than the minimum and Make extra payments

 

If you used a credit card (or two) during the holidays, the new year is the perfect time to check out your balance and make a plan to pay it off. One of the best pieces of advice I have about any kind of debt is to always pay more than the minimum balance. Most credit cards only require $15-30 as a minimum payment, which is next to nothing and will take you forever to pay off. Instead, I urge you to pay as much as you can to kick this nasty debt in the pants! Plan out your monthly budget so you know exactly how much extra you will have, then pay as much as you can each month until the debt is gone! In extreme cases, this might mean you have to go on a spending freeze or limit yourself in other areas like entertainment or eating out, but it will be worth it to get rid of the nagging expense of a credit card payment each month.

 

Another great strategy for destroying credit card debt left over from the holidays is to make multiple payments each month. I have done this personally and it really accelerates the process! Some credit card companies even make it incredibly simple by giving an option to set up automatic payments. All you need to do is schedule a payment to occur every Friday or every payday and you will see your credit card bill quickly disappear! Whatever your plan is, make sure you stick to it. Getting out of debt is about many small decisions applied consistently over a long period of time! You can do it!

 

Step 3: Start Saving for Next Year RIGHT NOW!

 

You are already set up perfectly to do this after steps one and two! If you followed the first two steps, you already know how much you spent on the holidays. (For complete accuracy, make sure you include your credit card balance in this total!) Now that you have the total, you can plan ahead to save that much throughout the entire year. The simple math is to divide the total amount spent on the holiday by ten. I know there are twelve months in the year, but I prefer to have all of my holiday spending money saved up before the holidays really start to alleviate any anxiety about breaking my budget and spend more freely. If you want to include Halloween in your holiday spending, it might work better to divide your total amount by nine so you can start spending in time for costumes and candy. The dollar amount you get after this simple math is how much you should set aside each month. You can put the money in a savings account and keep a running total of how much is there, or pull the money out as cash. It might even work best to open up a separate account you only use for holiday expenses.

 

Tips for Saving

 

If you have trouble saving money, use this tip my dad taught me. For years, my dad has always budgeted for Christmas by setting up a direct deposit with his paycheck. Each payday a specified amount goes directly into an account set aside for holiday spending. The money is taken out before he even gets to see it and he always has enough spending money when the holidays come around. Regardless of how you choose to save up for the holidays, January is a great time to start so you can avoid the trap of swiping the credit card next year!

 

Wrapping it up

 

If the holiday season put your finances over the edge, sit down with your family this month to track your holiday spending, analyze your credit card purchases (if you have any) and make a plan to pay it off fast, and finally begin planning to take some of the stress out of next year’s holiday season by saving all year long. Now that sounds like a New Year’s Resolution to stick with!

 

Endnote: What strategies do you use to plan and save for the holidays? How does your family get back on track after the holidays? If you want to hear more about how my family handles finances, budgets for expenses big and small, and for tips on how to get out of debt, follow the link to my official blog at mrjamiegriffin.com

 

 

Practice Giving Thanks

Practice Being Thankful.  It’s a good deal!

By Sharon Sheppard

As a freelance writer and former teacher of writing, I’m occasionally asked to help people write letters.  I’ve never been asked to do a love letter or a “Dear John” letter, but one of the most extraordinary letters I’ve helped with did have to do with the heart.  Not a valentine, but the kind of heart that pumps.

While my husband was at Mayo Clinic recovering from a stem cell transplant, I met Scott, a young man in his 30s who had just undergone a heart transplant.   I asked whether I could interview him and write his story, and he agreed.  After the interview, he said, “I need to write a thank you letter, and I don’t know what to say.  I mean, it’s such a huge gift, how do you say thanks for a heart?  I don’t know where to begin.”

The family who donated their teenager’s heart had declined to meet the recipient of this gift, but the thank you letter was required by Mayo, and they would deliver it to the family.  Scott came to me with a rough draft, which needed only a little tweaking.  It was sensitively written and filled with abundant gratitude, as he expressed how important it was to him to be able to live to help raise his two little boys.  He had been at death’s door, and only a donor heart could save his life.  In his letter he told the grieving parents of the donor that his goal was to get out of the hospital in time to walk his five-year-old son, Chase, to school for his first day of kindergarten.  It was the most genuine and profound thank you letter I’ve ever read.

Most of us will not be required to write a letter of that magnitude, but we are constantly showered with gifts:  air to breathe, food to eat, stunning scenery and natural wonders we often fail to give more than a passing glance.   Many of us take the Creator and His work for granted.

Not long ago Forbes Magazine published an article written by Amy Morin, in which she cited a number of scientifically proven benefits of gratitude—physical, emotional, and even social.  Studies show that people who practice gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of optimism and happiness, fewer physical aches and pains, and feel less isolated.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

There is a Donor who gave His life for you and me.  It was an amazing act of grace—incalculable in value.  It was the act that made it possible for us to be forgiven for our sins.  No medication or treatment or white-washing of our sins could make us whole.  He died so we could live.  If we offered only one prayer on Thanksgiving Day, it should be this:  Thank you, Jesus, for dying in my place!  I don’t deserve it, but I accept your Gift!

The Apostle Paul gave us this recipe for happiness.  It’s found in I Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Life is Filled With Transitions

Life is filled with transitions . . .

~ By Sharon Sheppard

Expanding or downsizing.

Starting a family or emptying the nest.

Starting a first job or retiring from a lifetime of working.

Sudden or long-anticipated.  Carefully planned for or blindsided.

Whether change is chosen or thrust upon us, delightful or tragic, change can be bewildering.

No matter how excited we may have been about that first job, when the day came, it was terrifying.

One of the scariest days of my life was my first day of teaching.  I was afraid those college students would quickly figure out that I didn’t know what I was doing.  And then what?

When I walked our youngest child to her first day of kindergarten, I heaved a huge sigh of relief, but I cried all the way back home.

I learned many things from my wise husband.  For example, when I dreaded something, he’s ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”  And then, “What are the chances of that happening?”

When bad things happened, he’d say, “Is there a silver lining to this?” “What can we learn from it?”

Before I became a widow, my husband worked hard to prepare me.  But even though his preparation was enormously helpful, I found that few things could truly prepare me for the tremendous sense of loss.  Though I will never truly “have it all together,” here are a few things I’ve learned from my transition to living alone:

  • If you are a person of faith, cling to God. Let Him become more real to you than He has ever been before.
  • Become your own best friend. Learn to savor aloneness by developing hobbies, interests, and inner resources that don’t necessarily depend on other people.  What have you always wanted to do?  What gifts or interests do you have that you’ve never fully developed? Travel?  Music?  Fitness? Crafts?
  • Find new purpose in life, a reason for living. This may involve volunteering, reaching out to others in need, helping others less fortunate than you.  You’d be surprised at what a difference a change in focus can make.
  • Cultivate your senses and learn to savor—new tastes, textures, aromas, musical (either as a performer or a connoisseur).
  • Don’t wait for others to come to you, reach out. But work toward creating a balance between enjoying your own company and enjoying the company of others.

 

Alice Koller says, “Being solitary is being alone well:  luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice….  Solitude is an achievement.  It is your distinctive way of embodying the purposes you have chosen for your life.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a Little Snap

Back to School

By Mary Z

In my memoir, “An Upside-Down Heart,” I gave a snapshot of how life was in the late-forties…quite different than today. I went to District 32 country school, where grades one through eight met in the same room. Usually, there were 15 to 20 kids for all the grades, and of course there was only one teacher. We had a potbelly stove that heated our one room.  In the winter my sister, Sharon, and I walked the mile to school.  Our teacher sometimes had a basin of warm water waiting where we could soak and thaw out our feet next to the stove.  We had no such thing as indoor plumbing, so we used the two-hole outhouse, a short walk behind our school.                                   

Lunch time was interesting.  If you were willing, there would be a lot of sandwich trading.  Anyone who had something better than a pickle sandwich was willing to trade up. Typically, Mother packed an egg salad or Spam sandwich for me, and I would sometimes be willing to trade half my sandwich for an apple.  A lot of families in our neighborhood were extremely poor.  Occasionally, a milk delivery truck dropped off half-pint glass bottles of milk in the cloak room. Because there were fewer chocolate than white pints of milk delivered, there was always a race for the chocolate flavor.

Recess was the highlight! By the time I was a fifth grader, I was pretty mature.  My classmate Arlys and I had put away the Sears Roebuck paper dolls that we had cut out of the catalog and played with at recess. Now we had our personal diaries with little gold keys to lock up all our secrets. At recess we would take out our diaries and share our hopes and dreams. One of my secret dreams was to be a pastor’s wife, cherished and loved.

Children today may not have the same rural inconveniences I had, or the simple lifestyle, and Sears Roebuck dolls to play with as I did as a third and fourth grader, but children today are still full of dreams and desires to “belong and be somebody.” In my observation, there is a slow erosion for children’s well-being in today’s busy, device-driven, distracted world. May I suggest three ways that will help prepare our children and grandchildren for being more grounded and socially influential.
~ Encourage play time: Children need time to be imaginative and creative. Therefore, they need time alone to be free to explore and grow. Set limits around screen time and be sensitive about not over-scheduling your children with extra-curricular activities. Kids who play by themselves learn to have more fun on their own, and also playing by themselves brings a sense of calmness and well-being.

~ Encourage reading time: Children will learn to read and enjoy books if they are surrounded by them. Have a large array of interesting books at their reading level. Encourage them to read menus, road signs, movie names etc. Reading and time alone to create and imagine are the foundation for a child’s development.

~ Encourage sleep time: Children need to go to bed early during the school year, no excuses. It’s important for hormone growth because a child’s growth is produced in the fourth and final stage of sleep. Moreover, children will be more active in class and have better recall and memory when well rested. The habit of children going to bed early will have positive consequences throughout their entire life. By being aware of these practical principles, we are helping our children embrace a sense of security and a knowing that they belong and are important individuals.
       

                 “Children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

 

Mary Z.

Lifestyle Secrets

Lifestyle Secrets

By Mary Z

I think it would be safe to say that most of us have secrets we are not so proud of, or would not want to share with the world. However, that reminds me of one of the quotes of the AA recovery program which states, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

I deceived myself for years that my secret wasn’t hurting me or anyone else. I was a closet eater, though out in the world I was a pretending and in-control dieter. For years excess food had become a source of comfort, and a lifestyle–and a secret.  However, it backfired by fueling a bigger fire—the continuing of self-hatred.

My weight had fluctuated over the years, and at one time I weighed quite a bit more than 200 pounds.  But I didn’t weigh that now, so I could pretend there wasn’t a problem. Lots of friends would ask, “How do you keep your weight down so well?” Needless to say, they didn’t know the misery and vexation inside my heart. As Overeaters Anonymous teaches, “The irony of addiction is that it eliminates hunger and intensifies cravings.”

The truth is that a lot of us crave counterfeits to fill the voids in our lives, but life becomes increasingly difficult in this dark place of deception. Buried within and under the disguise of excess food was the continuing nagging lie, “You are not good enough.” Yet, the cycle continued my human effort, willpower, and promising to do better at controlling my secret. Coping skills developed as an attempt to manage deep wounds that do not vanish overnight. But God has been faithful to me and provided His Living Word, the Bible, as my roadmap.

I now have a lifestyle secret that has transformed my life, and that I want to share with the world.  I have faith in a God who claims, whatever the secret lifestyle, “I have made a way of escape for you. I will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you cannot stand against it, and when you are tempted, I will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

I with the Apostle Paul declare that we are transformed into new persons by changing the way we think. Then we will know what God wants us to do and we will know how good and pleasing His will really is. (Romans 12:2)

Will you join me in accepting God’s way by declaring; “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God!” (Hebrews 10:9)

In Honor of My First Piano Teacher

In celebration of the month of MAY,

A Tribute to My First Piano Teacher, MAY Johnson

By Sharon Sheppard

The woman who patiently unlocked the puzzle of note-reading for this undisciplined young musician who had learned to play by ear deserves a (posthumous) medal.

The term musician is used very loosely here.  I began playing the piano as a young child on a homemade keyboard drawn out on butcher paper.  With carefully crayoned black keys in sets of twos and threes as markers, I could plunk out the tunes I heard in church each Sunday, though not nearly as intricately as red-haired Caroline Bundy played them.  I sat near the front each week watching with my eyes and listening with my heart as her nimble fingers rippled over the keyboard.  Someday, I determined, I would play like Caroline.

When I got a little more sophisticated, I created an octave of notes by filling drinking glasses with graduated quantities of water.  It was easy to tap out melodies with a spoon.

Then one magical winter day the parents of my dearest childhood friend, Shirley Beggs, hauled in their old upright piano and slid it onto the linoleum floor of our living room.  It was a painful tradeoff as Shirley and her family headed north to accommodate her dad’s railroad transfer to another small Minnesota town.

I lost and gained my best friend that day.

There would never be another friend like Shirley, but the ecstasy of having a real piano in our living room can’t be captured in words.  I played and played each day almost to the point of exhaustion until my dad would finally say, “Time for bed, Sharon.”

Eventually the day came when my parents decided that it was time I learned to read notes, an exciting, but threatening prospect.  I could already play.  Why did I have to learn a whole new system?

Our town of 350 people did not have many piano teachers to choose from, but fortunately, May Johnson lived just two blocks from our house, and she was patient, kind, and long-suffering.  There was so much to know, and I didn’t like all the constraints that note-reading required.

Each Monday after school I’d trudge over to May Johnson’s house two blocks from our own, with a crumpled dollar bill in my pocket.

What difference does it make which finger I use on which key?  It sounds the same no matter which finger plays the note!  If she would just play through the song for me, I could play it on my own without going through the agony of learning the names of the notes.

The worst part was the lousy time signature and having to count out the rhythm.  It was all so tedious.  But eventually it began to make sense to me.  And when she pulled out cardboard boxes of musty-smelling sheet music, my heart thumped.  Sheet music!  And the ability to play a song I had never heard!

May Johnson lifted out sentimental songs from the 1940s by Carrie Jacobs Bond, their covers adorned with pink cabbage roses.  “When you come to the end of a perfect day,” one began, “and you sit alone with your thoughts…”  Sappy, but I was learning to play by note.

It wasn’t long before I was playing one of Carrie Jacobs Bond’s most famous songs at weddings as a 14-year-old pianist: “I Love You Truly…”  Again, sappy, but I could play it. Reading the notes.

Though I eventually graduated to more advanced teachers, minored in music in college, and ultimately taught piano, I’ll always prefer the free-wheeling, no-rules method of making music.  Improvisation.  Jazzed up hymn tunes. Make it up as you go along.

Playing by ear.  Playing by heart.

©Sharon Sheppard, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

A Ray of Hope

A RAY OF SUNSHINE . . .

During April’s Autism Awareness Month, I blogged about some of the challenges families often experience when they are unexpectedly called upon to transition into a lifestyle that includes raising children with special needs.

In honor of my daughter Carrie on this MOTHER’S DAY, let me share some of the joys of raising a special needs child.

My dear autistic grandson has always had a marvelous smile.  One day when he was about four, Carrie said, “Aaron, when you smile at me, you make the sun to shine!”

Like many kids on the autism spectrum, he has a wonderful memory for numbers, dates, and trivial facts. And when he wasn’t much more than a toddler, the family would often defer to him when they couldn’t’ remember exactly when something had happened.

“That was July 23rd,” he might reply.

And when they checked their calendar, he was always right.

One Sunday early in May, four-year-old Aaron was up long before his mother, checking the calendar.

“Mama,” he called out, running into his parents’ bedroom.  “Mama,” he said.  “Wake up!  It’s May 10th!  Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!”

Then he walked over to the window and peeked out.

“Oh, but it’s raining!” he said, his heart sinking.

Then he remembered.

“But I know how to make the sun shine,” he said.  And he ran to the bed and gave her that wonderful smile.  The kind that makes the sun to shine.

Now Aaron is a 21-year-old college student, and a couple of days ago I overheard Carrie and Aaron sparring with each other, good-naturedly teasing.

When Carrie left the room, Aaron said to me, “That’s one of the things I love about my mother.  I can give her a bad time, and she will give it right back.”

And that’s one of the things I love about them both.  They know how to make the sun shine for each other.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, CARRIE!        From your proud mother, Sharon Sheppard

©Sharon Sheppard 2016

Reflections on Special Needs Kids

Spring is a time of transitions . . .

A time for fresh starts, new enthusiasm, a time when all things seem possible . . .

From cold frozen ground and gray skies, suddenly new life springs:  tulips and daffodils and crocuses, trees sprouting tiny leaves of the most beautiful shade of green. . .

Life is filled with of transitions, some of them welcome, long-anticipated, joyful.

Others, well, not so joyful

 

Since April is Autism Awareness Month, here’s a reflection of a sad surprise that turned out to be a terrific blessing.

 

Talk about a major transition . . .

My Grandson is Autistic

By Sharon Sheppard

My daughter was sobbing on the phone so hard I could barely make out what she was saying.

“I took Aaron in for his two-year checkup today,” she blurted out between gasps, “and the pediatrician says he needs to be tested for autism.”        My heart plummeted.

Aaron had started talking at eight and a half months.  A genius for sure, we thought.

Then he quit talking at two.  Could be a hearing problem, we rationalized.

Not so.

Twenty years ago autism was a big scary deal.  It still is.

But back then it wasn’t as common as it is now, and there weren’t nearly so many good therapies for treating it.

Talk about a major life transition!  This one brought huge changes for every member in the family.  And even if the child is lucky enough to graduate from high school someday, parental responsibilities still don’t stop there.

Having a child with a disability is like having a grief that keeps on giving.

When friends are bragging about their child being in the “gifted” program at school, your child may be in the lowest reading group and spending hours in therapy.

Each new milestone the child doesn’t reach at the same time as his peers reinforces the grief.  It’s the death of one more dream these parents once had for their child.

While your friend’s teen is shopping for a prom dress and touting her high SAT test scores and college scholarships, your child may be longing for a friend—just one.

Parents of special needs children love their kids just as much as the rest of us love ours.  Maybe more.  They are willing to go without almost anything to be able to afford therapy and expensive medications.  And while their friends go to Disneyland or on cruises, parents of special needs children scrimp along on one income so one spouse can stay home full time with their child. It’s no wonder that disabilities take a serious toll on marriages.

But parents of special needs children are proud of their kids, too. Just not for the same things as parents of typically-developing children.  One day an autistic child may speak a word, and it’s the right one for the occasion.

And the parents will shed tears of joy.

One day not too long after my grandson had been diagnosed with autism, I

was talking on the phone with my daughter, who said, “It hasn’t been all bad, you know.”

“What’s good about it?” I asked.

“I might never have known the meaning of unconditional love if I hadn’t had Aaron,” she replied.

What a blessing!  What a remarkable gift!

I, for one, am proud to be the grandmother of this delightful young man who is now a college student—fun and funny and smart.  (Yes, he did learn to talk all over again, and he hasn’t stopped talking since!) He has been a tremendous source of joy to me.

April is Autism Awareness Month.  If you know of a family that has a child with autism, give them the gift of empathy.  Bring a meal to their home.  If it’s feasible, offer to care for their child to give the parents a night out. Teach your children to befriend children with autism or other special needs.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”  Matt. 5:7 (NIV)

For more information about autism, check out: www.autismspeaks.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 yrs ago, it was a very big scary deal

Repetitive actions, obsessions, retreating into his own world

A grief that keeps on giving

 

The Secret to Eternal Life

The Secret to Eternal Life . . .

The resurrection of Jesus has given Him the authority to give the life of God to us, and the experiences of our life must now be built on the foundation of His life. It takes the omnipotence of God to live the life of the Son of God in human flesh.

The proof that we have experienced crucifixion with Jesus is that we have a definite likeness to Him, and walk in the light and obey all that He reveals to us.

“If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5)

Happy Resurrection Sunday!!!

 

Mary Z.

Go For It!

A time for new beginnings . . .

Shortly after my husband’s death, our son and daughter were talking about some of the best things they had learned from their dad.  They both agreed that one of his most important gifts to them had been his Can-Do attitude.  He practiced this, and he instilled in them a sense that they could do or be anything they set their minds to.

During their college years, I had to admit that their idea of going up to Alaska to earn money during the summers—working on the slime line in canneries, living in tents or working on board small fishing boats in the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea wasn’t my idea of the safest way to earn money.  But their adventurous dad cheered them on.

After our daughter graduated from college and before she enrolled in graduate school, she decided to take a backpacking trip around the world (using some of the money she had earned in Alaska).  She set off alone, equipped only with her backpack and a small tent, working as she went, for one of the best adventures of her life.  She did, indeed, go around the world twice—once in each direction.  It made for some anxiety on our part, but we were proud of her independence, and couldn’t wait to hear all about it.

Early on I had also benefited from my husband’s Can-Do attitude.  When our children were preschoolers, and I was a stay-at-home mom, I confided in him that I had always wanted to be a writer.  Though I had earned a degree in English, I’d had no courses in creative writing.  That year for Christmas he gave me a correspondence course in creative writing from the University of Minnesota.  It was his way of saying, “You can do it.  Go for it!”

This course was the impetus I needed to develop some skills that eventually resulted in my selling hundreds of magazine articles—a dream I would probably never have had the courage to pursue without his encouragement.

So my point is this:  It’s a NEW YEAR, a time of new beginnings.  Dare to try something new.  Maybe for you it’s a quilt you’ve always wanted to make.  An ancestry study.  A college course you’ve been meaning to take.  Hot-air ballooning.  Volunteering at a hospital or nursing home.

Now is the time.  Go for it!

©Sharon Sheppard