GCBC Week 21: “The Lord’s Richest Blessings” by Elder Carl B. Pratt

As I looked over this talk again, I quickly remembered the great story he told about the bag of coins.  It’s worth studying one more time:

“The Lord’s Richest Blessings”

by Elder Carl B. Pratt

Of the Seventy

I love to pay my tithing because I need to pay my tithing.  With many years of schooling between Matt and I, there have been many (and will still be many) years of financial instability.  I love to write that check and turn it into the bishop because I don’t even want to know what would happen to our budget without paying off that debt to the Lord.  And though I can testify that our monetary needs have often been miraculously okay thanks to tithing, in my heart I also know that this is true:

He fulfills His promises, and if we faithfully pay our tithing, we will not lack for the necessities of life, but He does not promise wealth. Money and bank accounts are not His richest blessings. . . . I have come to understand that the Lord’s richest blessings are spiritual, and they often have to do with family, friends, and the gospel.

What stands out to you as you study this talk?  I would love to hear some of your experiences and testimony related to tithing.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’re new to GCBC, go here to learn more about it, then join us!

Faith in times of finance.

Does anyone else start to lose their mind when finances become precarious?

We have been bit hit with some unexpected, huge expenses that have extended beyond the limits of our savings account, and I have become paranoid. I’ve always tried to be a careful spender, but now I’m so tight-fisted, it hurts.

I was running errands yesterday and my mind was doing a number on me. I worried how this is all going to fix itself. On Monday night, I watched an old BYU devotional by Elder Holland that I had recorded: “Remember Lot’s Wife.” (It’s great, by the way.) Among many other really cool things, he said,

“… When we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future ‐‐ faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.  So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she had.”

So, in my van, I thought to myself, Is it possible to have faith about this? To believe it will all work out just fine, even when the money is simply not there to back up that kind of faith? I believe in God, and I know He has carried me through many other difficult situations, so why not this one? This is new territory for me, and I’m hoping that it’s just a chance for God to prove himself to me again, in a new way.

Can somebody reassure me that faith can work in ways of the wallet?

Just say no.

I just read this article.  Don’t waste your time on the link, really.  It’s basically about a group that is suing McDonald’s for using toys in their Happy Meals that lure kids in like little marketing drugs.  According to one intelligent group spokesman, it’s almost like having a salesman come door-to-door trying to sell products to your children.

Um, sure it is.  Except that it isn’t at all, since McDonald’s isn’t in your home nor does it visit there.

My favorite part was this claim he made:

“At some point parents get worn down,” Jacobson says. “They don’t always want to be saying no to their children. We feel like an awful lot of parents would be relieved if this one pressure was removed from them.”

Wow. Isn’t it a parent’s job to say no?  A lot?

I am not trying to make any statements about fast food, childhood obesity, or even about the level of stupid some lawsuits have reached; however, Continue reading

Budgets and other things that make me want to throw bricks

Goals are good things because they help you measure success.  They also help you measure failure.

I logged onto my bank account this weekend and I saw that I had earned $4.12 interest in my savings account.

For the entire year of 2009.

*banging head on computer desk*

We have maintained a very strict budget for several years.  In fact, it’s so tight, it’s almost impossible to comply with, but the striving for it keeps us much closer to our goals.  If I could only list the many areas in which I feel we have measured great restraint (would you like to see my wardrobe? or our dinner menus the last week of the month?), and yet . . .

Sigh.

The good news is, we’ve managed to steer clear of consumer debt (and pay off any minor lapses in judgment before falling prey to interest and fees) and always pay our bills.

The bad news is . . . well, we’re not rich.  And I’m ticked.

I just wrote that because that’s how I feel sometimes, and writing it out makes me realize how stupid it is.  My version of “rich” is this:  to have money piled up in savings so whenever I really want to buy something (or travel somewhere— that’s usually the big one for me), there are funds just sitting there waiting to be used.  And I’m not kidding when I say that there are about eleventy-billion times that I have wished I could anonymously help someone out or bless someone’s life with money.  I would love to be some secret benefactress and go about stealthily doing good while still living the most normal lifestyle and never being suspected.  Is that weird?

Anyway, money stuff makes me crazy.  Not because things are horrible (Good heavens, we’re blessed!),  but because it seems so HARD to get to that place where you feel “ahead.” And the fact that Matt’s law school student loan payments start kicking in this month pretty much seals the fate on $4.12 interest for a few more years to come.

So maybe I should change my focus to the fact that we are lucky to have all we do have and we are able to pay our bills.  Maybe I should realize that sticking to our budget has prevented us from a lot of pain and worst-case scenarios rather than squelching all my dreams.  Maybe I just need to take a deep breath and eat a Toblerone.  :)

This is a dumb post.  It doesn’t even really have a point or ask any specific questions.  But I already spent too much time typing it, so it stays.  And I’m not a bitter or unhappy person, I promise.  I just kind of unleash a little monster inside of myself when I start thinking about budgets.

The end.

p.s.  Your response to my post for book requests ROCKED.  Man, what are all you educated people doing reading my blog when you have so many books on hand?!  I am so excited to add them to my request list at the library and get reading.  I shall probably finish your recommendations in the Spring of 2017.

General Conference Book Club Week 12: Elder Hales

dnews halescesfiresideThis week’s talk is the first talk that was given in April 2009 Conference.  Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about relying on the Lord and taking steps to overcome any addictions, excesses, or patterns that can harm our spirits and our relationships.  This was a great talk, and oh, so timely.

>> Click here to read “Becoming Provident Providers Both Temporally and Spiritually” by Elder Robert D. Hales<<

This talk was the topic of our Relief Society lesson at Church today.  Most of the talk appears to focus on finances and staying out of debt and such, but our teacher did an excellent job of encouraging us to look at all of that counsel and figure out what the spiritual application is.  The title, after all, suggests that message is there.

I think so many of us have some kind of addiction or excess that keeps us from greater success and happiness, even if it is negative patterns of thought or mood, so I loved reading the article in that light and realizing that we have been given tools to overcome those challenges.  Great article.  I’m anxious to hear your thoughts as well.

If this is your first visit to the General Conference Book Club, click here to learn more about it. You’re welcome to join us at any point along the way, and we’d love to welcome back many of you that we haven’t heard from in a while.

Financial security and other mini-vacation lessons

We took a mini-vacation this past weekend because Matt has about two weeks off of school in between semesters.  I found a great hotel deal online, which simply required us to participate in a 90-minute time-share sales pitch,* and came with free food vouchers and everything.  So we packed up the kids, a few bags of clothes, and a variety of road trip entertainment items (read: DVD player, Leapster, junk food, and a pile of library books).  Before we left to come home this morning, I made the mistake of looking at some Webkins at a store.  This, to Grant and Clark, was a bona-fide contractual offer that a Webkinz purchase was in our near future.  Grant could not understand why the purchase was not made, and spent most of the trip home speculating about when we would go to a local store and pick up the Webkinz that I had cruelly and carelessly forgotten to purchase this morning.  I told him we’d take a look at the bank account when we got home and see about the possibility.

He immediately corralled me to the office upon arriving home.  I had transferred a vacation budget into my checking account right before we left town.  I didn’t do a great job of keeping track of spending, so I cringed a little when I looked it up.

“Uh oh, Grant, we have a problem.”

“What?”

“Well, it says here that my bank account has -$18.73.”

“Is that enough for a Webkinz?”

“Um, no.  It means I have $18.00 below zero.
(Long pause.)
“Don’t worry, mom.  I know where we have thousands and thousands of dollars.”
He ran across the room and came back with this:
DSCF2027Wow.  If only I had known, we could have vacationed in New Zealand.  Just leave it to a six-year-old to solve all your problems.  Verdict: Chores for Webkinz.  Hopefully, he won’t get done until the next payday.


On Sunday, we met up with my good friend Molly and her family.  I’m stealing pictures of Grant, Clark, and Natalie from her blog because she’s one of those moms who actually thinks to bring along a camera when her family has a little outing.  It was great to see her.  She’s on my top-ten cool list.
DSC_0767DSC_0763DSC_0769
p.s.  Indoor water parks are really fun, but they have way too many stairs for out-of-shape people, especially the adult variety that are forced to carry all their children’s inner-tubes over and over and over again.
p.p.s.  Even if you look over your things 7 million times, you will always leave something behind in your vacation locale, like a portable DVD player power cord that is still plugged into the wall behind the dresser, and the library book that is still in a booth at the local Pizza Pub.

*Those people who do time-share pitches are tricky, tricky, tricky.  If Matt had his way, we would now be the proud owners of 40-years-worth of tropical vacations and an Alaskan helicopter skiing package.  Since I am only slightly more disciplined, and withstood their amazing deals and plummeting prices, for four– yes, FOUR– hours, we are instead only the proud owners of a pre-purchased vacation to Disney World that we had already planned on making when Matt graduates in the spring.  Call me a sucker if you will.

p.p.p.s.  If you are a careless packer, you might have to use your husband’s deodorant, and it’s a weird, unpleasant kind of feeling when you find yourself smelling manly.
p.p.p.p.s.  That Excedrin Tension Headache really works.
The end.
(I have just a few more Women’s Conference classes to review over the next several days, so watch for those, and then we’re back to our regularly scheduled . . . um, stuff.)

Mourning, money and the wonder of window markers

dscf2000 This weekend we had a death in the family.  Clark threw Grant’s beloved St. Bernard Webkin, affectionately called “Giblets” on top of the fireplace.  His paws and half his face melted off.  May he rest in peace in the office trash can.  This was a tragedy beyond Grant’s capacity to endure.  He cried and cried.  He’d settle down for a little while and then the memory of his loss would bring another round of tears and sorrow.  When he came into the office and saw Giblets languishing in his garbage grave, he flung himself upon my lap and sobbed.dscf1999 (That lovely lap is clothed in Frosty the Snowman pajamas.  Don’t judge.  It was snowing.)  Finally we determined that Clark will do chores to earn money and buy Grant a new Webkin.  Grant, who is anxious, and also aware that Clark’s not the most industrious kid in the world, volunteered to help out with the chores to expedite the savings.

In the van on the way home from preschool yesterday, the boys discussed their money-making plans and were trying to guess how long it would take them to earn the money and how many Webkinz they would be able to purchase with their jackpot.  Clark declared, “Mom, I’m going to work and work and work all day.”

“That’ll be great, Clark.”

So I wrote up a handful of chores on the living room window with these fancy new Crayola Window markers I purchased as a late-conference distraction.  While Natalie happily scribbled on the window (and surrounding window frame and wall), the boys wrote their names next to the chore they wanted to undertake first.  Clark chose “clean off table.”

dscf2002Well, it only took about 5 minutes before he changed his mind and declared that it was the most boring job in the world and he didn’t want to do it.  He moaned and wailed and insisted that he should be able to choose another chore because he didn’t like that one.  (This has been a pattern lately.  I refer you back to the Angry Mom sign.)  I said, “Sorry buddy, you need to finish that one before you can start another one.”  He wanted me to do it.  I told him that if I finished the job then I would earn the money.  He whined some more about how he really wanted the money, and finally declared his true intent:  “I want you to do the work and I get the money.”

Um.

Nope.

Wasn’t it Elder Oaks who talked about entitlement?  How we somehow think we deserve things, but aren’t willing to labor for them?  I’m probably stretching his context, but I was not giving in.  I taught high school and I know what entitlement looks like when it grows up.

After much wailing, and a broken record stuck on phrases beginning with the words, “But I don’t waaaaaaaant to…,” Clark decided it would be easier to do his chore.  (Incidentally, I decided it would be easier to move to a desert island.)  Then for a short while, they both worked quite peacefully and even Natalie got in on the action with some Lysol wipes.

dscf2001And for anyone keeping track, there is now $1.25 in the Webkinz fund.  (Yeah, I don’t really care about minimum wage laws.)

In other news, before 7:30 this morning, sweet little Clark who is FOUR AND A HALF years old pooped in his nighttime diaper (nothing brings on more morning rage for me) and Natalie removed her diaper and peed on the living room floor.  There may be another death in the family by the end of the day.