Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Tithe… on it’s own it’s an old word meaning a tenth, but the fuller meaning is to give back the tenth to God.  Do you tithe?

When Shawn and I started attending church, we’d toss the occasional “offering” into the plate.  Oh, we’d feel all good and generous about tossing in the odd $20.  But really, compared to the amount we were earning/spending/wasting, it was nothing.  Unlike the widow Jesus praises in the temple, it didn’t really cost us anything.

As our faith and commitment to Christ grew, so too did my conviction that this was not enough.  We began hearing a lot about this word, tithe, and it floored me.  “ What? People give that much to a church?!”.  I spoke to a lot of Christians that I knew and began exploring this idea.  Really, it’s a recognition that God gives you everything you have, including your salary, and that He asks you to return the “first fruits”, 10 %, back to Him. 

I began to question… 10 % of what though?  We talked to a lot of people about what they would consider income to tithe on.  Your pay? Definitely.  Child tax? Some say yes, others no.  That birthday check your parents gave you?  Probably not.  If you received a gift instead, you wouldn’t calculate the value and pay 10 % of that to a church.  Some do, though. Tax refund?  Again divided… if you’ve tithed only on your take home pay, this is income you haven’t yet tithed on, but if you tithe based on your gross pay, you have. That leads to my biggest question… tithe on your net pay, or gross??

Many years ago now, Shawn and I both felt that God was telling us to tithe and watch how he would bless us.  We worked up to tithing on his take home pay, my child tax and our tax refunds.  This was our personal decision and goal, and I am by no means telling you what to do, but I would also have to say that this is a very direct Biblical standard. I think this is something that each of us has to take to God, and not set our standards based on others or what they tell us.  If you feel an inkling that you should take this area of your life to God, pray about it and see what He tells you.

So, for several years, we have loved the fact that our church will direct withdraw the same amount from our account each month.  I figured out what an average month’s take home pay with everything included is and set an amount.  I don’t even have to remember to write a check!  I have, however, realized that when Shawn earns overtime, we are not great at calculating what more we should be tithing.  Slowly, an idea has been settling in my heart that we are not quite being faithful to this principle.    When I looked at the total gross income to this house, and looked at our total amount given to the church, I realized that it was under 5%, not the 10% we thought we were doing. 

Recently God has used several things to get my attention about this. Some excellent sermons at church, as well as that inner voice.  Next was a book I read called “ The Generosity Ladder”.  The author makes this point:  It’s called first fruits for a reason.  You are supposed to give this 10% first, before anything or anyone else is paid from what you make. Tithing on your take home pay is technically giving the first part of your income to the government, and giving God 10% of the left overs.  It’s not the first portion. 

As often happens when it’s a “God thing”, Shawn’s been thinking and feeling the same things.  We’ve talked it over and are in agreement.  It is our goal to work up to tithing a full 10%. 

I admit, this feels a little scary.  In a time where there is not a lot of wiggle room in our budget, working up to double what we are currently doing seems impossible. Part of me, the selfish and doubty part, would rather use this amount to pay down debt, or save or increase our monthly budgeted amounts for certain categories. However, I can look back and see how God has blessed our first efforts at this, and how I have never regretted it.  Not even once.  I can trust that He will also bless us as we seek to follow his command to give the full 10% back to Him.  This isn’t money just laying around looking for a budget column though, so we didn’t feel able to get there instantly, we need to change a lot of numbers to accomplish this.  We’ll be increasing once right away in the New Year, and then making it our goal to increase again, reaching the 10% mid way through this year.

Instead of focusing on how scary this feels, I am going to trust in God and look forward to seeing what He is going to do in my life this year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Lovely Little Guilt Trip

This year, I have not been able to stop feeling guilty about  Christmas presents.

Did I over spend? Nope.  I got some awesome deals, and was able to get what I wanted at prices I wanted to spend.

Am I doing some things to help those for whom Christmas can be a difficult season?  Yes. 

Have I focused our home on the true meaning of CHRISTmas?  YES.  We are enjoying celebrating advent with a Jesse Tree going through the Bible to see how it all builds towards Christ’s birth.   

So what do I have to feel guilty about?  I’ll try to put it into words.

I LOVE to give gifts.  I love to watch my children with joy on their faces as they see that they have gotten that much hoped for toy.  I enjoy giving them both toys and opportunities to do something as gifts.  This year, I have a huge pile of things that will delight them awaiting wrapping paper in my hiding spot.  Shawn is building the girls a Barbie house.  Which, to those of you who know him should read : He has another  project on the go, when it’s finished it will be huge and beautiful.  It won’t cost much, though since he can build it mostly out of pieces he has in the garage… which to those of you who know him is a whole other story!

In years past, I have restricted gifts to one for each child from us, one from “Santa”, the stocking, and one from the other siblings combined.  But you know what?  I hated that.  It put a lot of pressure on me to make sure that the gift was “the” thing they were hoping for.  If you’re only giving one, it had better be the biggest item of the wish list!  They still got piles of presents from grandparents, friends and other family members, and the pile looked huge enough! I usually ended up thinking “ Why should the grandparents get all the fun of being the ones who got the awesome toys?”.  I just felt this was the thing to do to keep Christmas from being too much about the presents, so I kept planning this way anyway. 

This year, I did not even attempt such a limit.  We have saved ahead, bought items over time and made room in the budget for several large and dreamed about items for each kid. I bought a lot of the items used, and we planned which things we could make ourselves. We even ended up with several for Bremen, who at just six months will have no idea what is going on!  We weren’t going to do much, but still, there has to be something to write in the baby book as the item he received from us for his first Christmas, and the kids would notice if Santa didn’t leave Bremen a gift and stocking.   Then they insisted they wanted to pick out something to give him too!  Now, we have many gifts for each of them.

But, as I looked at it, I wondered: Is this too much?  So many people have so little, or are not able to feel peace and joy at Christmas.  Why do I feel bad that I can give my children good gifts? 

As much as I want them to enjoy the surprise of all those gifts, I also don’t want them to think they need those things to be happy, at this or any time of year.  I don’t want them to be materialistic, always wanting more or bigger things.  I want them to happy with the simple things, enjoying what they do have.  I don’t want them to forget about the real reasons for all the traditions, but I still want to give them the gifts! Can I have it both ways?

Should I feel bad that we will celebrate an idyllic holiday complete with a turkey and piles of presents? Is giving them a pile of presents more about me wanting to be proud of what I’ve given them?  I don’t think so, but still I can’t help feeling that this year, they have way more than they need.

The mom side of me also had a panic attack when I realized I would have to find homes for all these things!!!

I want to be able to just relax and enjoy the fact that all my planning, hard work and bargain hunting have led us to a year that will delight them all.  But I keep stumbling over my own feeling that the amount of money, though it may not be large in some people’s opinions, really could have been spent more wisely.  That I could have done more for others instead. That my kids don’t need more things! And that maybe the truth is, in the end it would have been better to put the money on debt and pay it off faster, something that no doubt would have paid dividends much longer than the Littlest Pet Shop set out in the garage.  I just can’t help feeling that when it comes down to it, I have chosen the lesser thing.

How to I find balance between my desire to lavish my kiddos with gifts they are going to love and my feeling that it has all become too much?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Hat Trick of Nifty Thrifty Gifties

Ok, I have been meaning to get a few more gift ideas up before Christmas gets any closer, but just haven’t found the time to sit down and blog.  So, instead of making this into three separate posts, I figured I’d slap ‘em all together and share ‘em with you faster!

DSC_0225 1. Make your own paper dolls.
I happened upon this neat site once, looking for some craft idea or another, can’t quite remember!  ANYWAY!  I think these little paper dolls are so sweet!  You print off the outlines of the dolls ( or you can choose to print them in color) and choose from hundreds of sheets of hair, accessories, clothes and themes.  There is a complete nativity set, including animals, pirates, princesses, doctors, holiday themes, seasonal sets, cultural themes, the ideas go on and on.  I printed out a pilgrims and natives set right before Thanksgiving and used them as part of a quick study on the holiday. 

The site is www.makingfriends.com .  There are craft ideas, the paper dolls and lots of activity ideas based on theme or age group, definitely worth checking out if you craft with young children!

I got a cute flowered folio from the dollar store and printed off a pile of the outfits and accessories. I’m including some popsicle sticks to glue onto the backs once they are coloured.  They’ll make neat puppets in the puppet theater of a certain little girl I know!  Quick and easy, or hours of fun colouring and designing outfits for kids !  I don’t know how to price this gift, it’s basically just the cost of printing it off at home ( which for me with our photocopier is less than 1cent a page).  Whatever it costs you to run your printer, this is still a cute and easy gift.

The site also suggests you can laminate them after colouring and use a repositionable glue to hold the clothes in place.  Then you’d be able to change outfits instead of just gluing them in place as I’ve done with my kids.  I haven’t found this repositionable glue ( but I haven’t really looked too hard either).  If anyone tries this, let me know how it works for you!

2. Nail polish and stickers.

Ok, nail polish is not exactly a ground breaking gift idea, I know!  But, I like to give the little stickers with it.  I think adding the extra of the stickers makes it a fun gift for a little girl who I happen to know will love them!  I like to buy what (for me) is at least a decent nail polish, as opposed to a super cheap one that will not go on well and chip fast.  Added to the stickers, this gift cost me about $10 all together.

3. Mini dish cloths and doilies.

Lots of little girls love their play kitchens.  It takes no time at all to whip up a mini doily or cute fun sized crochet dish cloth, and give them some special “linens” to play with.  I made these out of some left over cotton I had, so there is no real cost to speak of.   My girls use theirs as place mats, table cloths, dish cloths… you name it!  Send along some new play food or little dishes for a sweet gift!

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