Thursday, February 15, 2018

FINANCIAL PLANNING--THE LORD'S WAY

Finances...this word is typically not a favorite.  Yet this whole "money thing" is so important in our mortal lives.  Without being financially prepared, we cannot be truly self-reliant.

While preparing for Law School, I got a job doing credit and collections for a small business.  I was the one who made the phone calls no one wants to get, I sent the nasty letters, I repossessed property, and I took people to small claims court for judgments and wage garnishments.  The percentage of the company's accounts that came to me was small, but there were enough to keep me busy full time.  I sadly watched how a $12 a month flute payment racked up to hundreds of dollars in unpaid rent, late fees, and court fees.  I quickly saw the difference  between those who could not pay, and those who would not pay.  I worked with families as they tried to pay off the debt before court action took place, and I was hard-nosed with those who were belligerent and angry with me because of their debt.  As I was training, I was told that this job would change me and help me budget and plan financially for the rest of my life...that was so true.  Watching the destruction of individuals and families over poor financial choices was heart-wrenching and devastating.

Like so much, control over our finances is a choice we make.  Before we got married, my bishop gave us a little pamphlet that has directed our family's financial state for the better!  Based on the 1975 General Conference talk by Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve, One for the Money is worth much more than its weight in gold!

I challenge you to read this small pamphlet.  Read it first on your own, then read it with your spouse.  If appropriate, read it in family home evening, or with individual children.  Talk and discuss how these principles can be followed better.  I love how Elder Ashton put it, "Whether we are anticipating marriage, or well into it, today is the time for all of us to review and repent if necessary to improve our money management skills and live within our means."

Take this next bit to specifically review and ponder Elder Ashton's first two points.  (1) Pay an honest tithing.  Keeping our commitment to the Lord will help us keep our commitments to our budget, and our spouse.  (2) Learn to Manage Money before it manages you.  I love this idea of forming new attitudes and relationships about money.  One of these attitudes I am developing to view money as my servant, not my master.

Please ponder and pray about these points and discover how Heavenly Father can help you command your financial state.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

BEARING EVERY TRIAL AND OVERCOMING EACH TEMPTATION

We just got back from a 2-week road trip.  We visited Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.  We had a great time visiting family and seeing the beauties of different parts of the country.

I can tell you though, 8 kids, 2 parents, and many hours of driving was not always easy, or exactly fun.  We did learn some things though:  the baby loves Winnie the Pooh, after eating citrus from our backyard Wal-Mart oranges taste terrible, Disney's Robin Hood has some great one-liners, Texas can get really cold in January, gas is super cheap outside of California, and we remember that it is so fun to visit and reconnect with family and friends.

Another really neat thing, is that everywhere we visited, there was a temple.  The first one we visited was in San Antonio, TX.  No matter how much complaining happened while we were trying to get there, once we got out everyone had a renewed spirit and was just happier!  I love the awe of the 3-year old when she discovers Angel Moroni and the quiet reflection of the 11-year old as he ponders his sacred feelings.  It was truly amazing to see how much we all quietly enjoyed being at the temple.  The peace and love we felt was incredible.

While visiting Dallas, we were busily going from one family member to the next and we forgot about the temple.  As we headed back to Jeff's brothers (later than expected) a little voice asked, "Were we going to the temple today?"  We tried to explain that we ran out of time and that we just were not going to make it.  All our reasons sounded hollow...we should not have forgotten.

A few days later we eagerly mapped the Oklahoma City temple, determined not to miss another one.  As the GPS chimed "You have arrived, " Jeff turned into a church parking lot and said, "I think you mapped the wrong address, I don't see a temple."  We stopped to change a diaper and let everyone out for a minute.  We soon realized that we were at the right spot...the temple was being rebuilt and in its current state, it did not look like a temple at all!  It was just a big construction site.  The feeling was weird, we were there, but the temple we expected wasn't.

Fast forward a few days and we were in Denver, Colorado.  The Denver temple was our temple for almost 7 years, so we knew just where it was.  It was too cold to get out, but the feeling we had as we drove up to it was unmistakeable.  That same feeling of love and peace reached out to us.

These amazing temples are here for us and for our families.  Are we taking advantage of them?  Are we taking the time to teach our children to love them, to see them, and to be there?  Are we prepared even though we may be at the right place, but a temple is not available? 

Love for temples starts early.  My parents followed President Kimball's advice; “It seems to me it would be a fine thing if every set of parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so the [child] from the time he is an infant could look at the picture every day and it becomes a part of his life. When he reaches the age that he needs to make this very important decision, it will already have been made”  (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 301).  I am trying to do the same, but just realized that my baby does not have a temple picture in his room!

I encourage you to make a temple goal to be there more often.  Whether you are a temple worker, or one taking steps to obtain a recommend, decide today to be at the temple more--either pondering outside or serving inside.  This spiritual preparedness is too important to miss.

I end with some prophetic promises.

"As we attend the temple,” counseled President Monson, “there can come to us a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart. We will grasp the true meaning of the words of the Savior when He said: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ [John 14:27].  Thomas S. Monson, “Blessings of the Temple,” Liahona, May 2015, 91.

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) promised: “If you will go to the house of the Lord, you will be blessed, life will be better for you. … Avail yourselves of the great opportunity to go to the Lord’s house and thereby partake of all the marvelous blessings that are yours to be received there” (“Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, July 1997, 73; emphasis added)

Elder Richard G. Scott promised: “Regular [temple] attendance will enrich your life with greater purpose” (“Receive the Temple Blessings,” Ensign,May 1999, 26; emphasis added).

President Thomas S. Monson also promised: “As we go to the holy house, as we remember the covenants we make therein, we will be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation” (“Blessings of the Temple,” Liahona, Oct. 2010, 15; emphasis added).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

3 MONTH MEAL PLAN--MONTH 2

I'm one of those people that you hate to see in front of you in a grocery line.  Yes, that person with the heaping huge cart that takes almost forever to get through the line.  What most people don't realize is that being able to get their cart to this state is an organizational feat that takes years to perfect.  It all depends on the store though.  When I go to Costco, I have a list.  I also know I am going to have to fit a huge amount of "stuff" in my cart.  I start organizing my cart with the first item and every subsequent one has a specific spot to maximize the amount I can fit.  Even the Costco checkers are amazed at how much I can fit.  My Target trips, on the other hand have zero organization.  As much as I try to  stick with my list, extra things inevitably jump into my cart, until it is all a heaping mess as I head to the checkout.  Personal experience tells me it is always best to have a list, and organize along the way.

Now that we have finished the first month (Find January's goal:  Plan, here),  here's the next step!  3-month preparedness, here we come!

February's goal:  Organize

(1) Recipe Compilation.  Get all your 3-month plan recipes in one spot and make a soft and hard copy.  Put these both somewhere where you can find it again.
(2) Ingredients list.  List everything you need to make your meals, along with quantities.
(3) Multiply your ingredient quantities by 12--yes you will be buying enough to make each meal 12 times.
(4) Make a master shopping list.  This is based on your multiplied ingredients lists and will include everything you need to make all your meals and snacks.  Some find it helpful to put the items in categories:  Spices, canned meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit, etc.  Don't forget the small things, EVERYTHING should be on your list.  Print (or copy) this list and put the original somewhere where you can find it again, and place the copy in your purse.
(5) Clear a spot where these items will be stored when you buy them.
(6) Report. Send me an email (raelynstoddard(at)hotmail(dot)com), text me 7six0-two24-721seven, or leave a comment on my blog post to let me know you have done this.  I want to hear!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

THE FIRST THREE MINUTES

I vividly remember my first earthquake.  Shortly after we moved to Escondido in 2011, I was sitting at my computer getting stuff done. At about 11:00 p.m. I heard a noise and the ground shook just a little.  It was as though a semi truck drove behind the house.  I remember thinking, "Wow, that was a big truck...except there is no road in my backyard..."  I googled 'earthquake San Diego' and my suspicions were confirmed.  Since then, I have felt a few more minor earthquakes, each one just a little different.

Identifying our most likely natural disasters is an important part of being prepared.  Fire is our #1 threat, with Earthquake probably being #2.  Are you ready?

San Diego County has a website, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which gives great guidelines for emergency preparedness.

What do you do if you have 3 minutes to get out of your house, day or night?  Neighbors helping Neighbors says it better than I, "We recommend you assemble a 'First Three Minutes' kit for each member of your household and attach it to their bed. This kit is simple: it’s made up of a plastic drawstring bag containing sturdy shoes, a flashlight, leather gloves, a whistle, and lightweight clothes. All of these items are easy to get, and you probably have many of them already in your home. Get prepared for the first three minutes!"

I thought this was a great idea...it gives every member of your family what they need to safely get out of (and possibly away from) the house.  I plan to use my kids' shoes they have just about worn out and old clothes We don't care about (as I hope this kit never gets used).  Amazon has pretty cheap flashlights--don't forget the batteries--that would work in an emergency.  Grab a pack of inexpensive gloves from Lowe's (they come in packs of 3 for about $5).  Whistles can be bought on Amazon or in the party favor section of Target or Party City.  Throw it all in a white plastic drawstring garbage bag and tie it to the bed frame.  If you have kids, the clothes will need to be rotated about once a year or so.  Plan to do it at the end of the summer after back-to-school shopping.  This is so do-able.

I challenge you to put together 'First Three Minutes' Kit' for your family...and don't forget to tie them to the bed frame--it would take more than 3 minutes to find it if it is swimming under the bed!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

THE MOST IMPORTANT DISASTER PREPARATION

After a natural disaster, destruction and devastation can be seen.  The blackened landscape, melted fences, or a lone chimney without a home from our recent fire reminds us of the destructive power of the elements.  Debris after a hurricane or earthquake likewise is a physical reminder of a recent disaster.

There is one disaster we can guard against, working each day to insure it never occurs.  The disaster I am speaking of is a spiritual disaster.

Being spiritually prepared is just as important, if not more important, than being physically prepared.  After a disaster occurs, we often want to run out and buy things we need to be prepared.  But to prepare spiritually against life's winds and ravages, it takes time and effort.

Picture a sign on our church building that reads:
“Spiritual Fuel Available—No Rationing—No Stamps—No Quotas—Come and Prepare.”  We may automatically think of the New Testament parable of the Ten Virgins.  10 were invited to the wedding ceremony; 5 were prepared with extra oil for their lamps, 5 were not.  Referring to those who were not ready, Marvin J. Ashton (a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) said, "Today thousands of us are in a similar position. Through lack of patience and confidence, preparation has ceased. Others have lulled themselves to sleep to a complacency with the rationalization that midnight will never come. The responsibility for having oil in our personal lamps is an individual requirement and opportunity. The oil of spiritual preparedness cannot be shared. The wise were not unkind or selfish when they refused oil to the foolish in the moment of truth. The kind of oil needed by all of us to light up the darkness and illuminate the way is not shareable. The oil could have been purchased at the market in the parable, but in our lives it is accumulated by righteous living, a drop at a time" (Conference Address April 1974).

President Eyring tells us how to spiritually prepare ourselves to meet "The great test of life [which] is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life."  He continues, "What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends."  President Eyring also gives us four specific ways to develop this necessary faith:  "One is the command to feast upon the word of God. A second is to pray always. A third is the commandment to be a full-tithe payer. And the fourth is to escape from sin and its terrible effects. Each takes faith to start and then to persevere. And all can strengthen your capacity to know and obey the Lord’s commands" (Conference Address October 2005)

I encourage you to follow these four steps and practice them over and over to fill our oil lamps. This faith and preparation is essential to our salvation and avoiding spiritual disasters in our lives.  

Sister Beck, former Relief Society General President shares that this personal spiritual preparedness helps lead to the ability to receive personal revelation, shared so eloquently in this Mormon Message.



Make your own Spiritual Preparedness a priority, to see you through winds that may come and to avoid a personal spiritual disaster.  It is worth it.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

3 MONTH MEAL PLAN--MONTH 1

Life is about adjustment...When we moved to Stoddard Valley almost 5 years ago, I found myself at least 20 minutes away from any grocery store (even Daniel's).  Those quick trips to the store for the forgotten or unplanned-for item were simply not an option anymore.  I learned to plan a little better, or adjust to meals we could make with what we had on hand.  Luckily I had a fallback.  Can I tell you how amazing it is to have family living next door?!  I knew that I could borrow a can of tomato sauce, a package of graham crackers, or just about anything else, anytime.  It was like having a grocery store next door!  Awesome.  Then, adjustment came again when my grocery store family next door moved away.  I cannot even begin to tell you what a bummer this has been, but we move forward.

The church is amazing, they have given us a plan to get in place to totally solve my dilemma.  It is called a 3-month supply and all we need to do is follow it.  The short version is that we are supposed to have food in our homes to last our family for 3 months.  Brilliant.  During 2018, I invite you to follow along as I challenge myself to build an amazing 3 month supply.  The blessings will be many-fold!  Some of them include: less last-minute trips to the grocery store, knowing you can always make a meal, food on hand in case of need, and much more!  LET'S DO THIS!

January's Goal:  PLAN

(1) Finances.  Determine an amount you can spend on Food Storage every month and incorporate it into your budget.
(2) Make a list.  Come up with 7 breakfast meals, 7 lunch meals, 7 snacks, and 7 dinners that can be made entirely from non-perishable food (think: cans and pantry items).
(3) Gather Recipes.  Make a recipe file (binder, cards, etc.) of these recipes.  If you need ideas, Pinterest has a plethora of them.  I searched for "LDS 3 month food storage recipes" and got more ideas than I can use!  I shared one dinner recipe for Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup awhile back, so you can for sure use that!  The #1 rule for this step is you can only list and gather recipes you KNOW your family will eat (and love).
(4) Follow up.  Visit my blog and leave a comment at the end of this post with a recipe or an item you have on your list (then check back to get ideas from other people).


Thursday, December 28, 2017

2018 NEW YEAR RESOULUTIONS--PREPAREDNESS

I have a friend who takes New Years Resolutions very seriously.  She and her husband come up with amazing goals.  But what is even better...they keep them.  One year they resolved to lose weight, and they did!  She remarked near the end of the year that they had lost a whole person (about 110 lbs) between them.  Another year, she determined to play the piano better and pick up where she left off about 30 years earlier.  I was her piano teacher and it was amazing to see her work ethic as she practiced and came to lessons week after week.  When the recital came around, she really did not want to play, but decided she would--but thought seriously of wearing a sign that said, "This is what happens when you quit piano as a kid, and your mom says you will always regret it."  I want that sense of purpose as I make my 2018 goals.

Remember as you set your goals to make them S.M.A.R.T.   Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Provident Living (my calling) includes helping you--and me--become self-reliant, helping us help ourselves so that we do not have to rely on others, and so that we are in a position to help others when they need it.  The categories of provident living provide a wonderful outline for goals to set.  I challenge you this week to make resolutions to help you and your family become more self-reliant in 2018.  Here are a few ideas:

SPIRITUAL SELF RELIANCE  Increased Church and/or Temple attendance, Meaningful Scripture Study, Purposeful Prayer.
PHYSICAL HEALTH Exercise, Good Eating Habits, Good Sleeping Routine.
EDUCATION Learn A New Skill, Obtain Knowledge by Reading Good Books or Attending Classes,  Increase Job Proficiency,  Receive Know-How for a New Job.
HOME STORAGE AND PRODUCTION Plant a Garden, Preserve Food, Store Clean Drinking Water, Obtain a 3-Month Food Supply, Build a Year Food Supply
FINANCES Make and Stick To a Budget, Work Toward Getting Out of Debt,  Gradually Build a Financial Reserve.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS Make 72 Hour Kits, Have Plans for Several Types of Emergencies, Build a Family First Aid Kit for Home or Car.

“All of us are responsible to provide for ourselves and our families in both temporal and spiritual ways. To provide providently, we must practice the principles of provident living: joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies.”
--Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles