Having a No-Spend Lent to Grow in Holiness

A Holy Ash Wednesday 2017 to you! As promised in Monday’s post, How We Lent, we’re here to explain our No-Spend Lent to you! Rachel has mentioned the concept of a No-Spend Month before (see her post entitled Yikes, It’s Budget Time Again!! for more information). This year, we’re really drawn to extend the challenge of a No-Spend Month into a No-Spend Lent. I think about this every year, but it’s my first time to do it. Rachel’s a No-Spend veteran by now, so she’s going to explain it.

 

Rachel Explains What No-Spend Means

A No-Spend Month is exactly what it sounds like: you don’t spend any extra money from your income. It can sound intense at the start, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Actually, it’s really easy to do if you get organized.

The first thing you do for this adventure is to write down all of your bills for that month. You pay all of your bills—everything—then you look at necessities like food, gas, and tithing. Budget out for those necessities (we take the cash out and put them in envelopes); then put away your debit card. If you only carry around cash, then you are more aware of what you are buying.

What do you do with the money not being spent on bills and necessities? Any extra money is up to your family to allocate. You could save for a home project, new car, vacation, paying off debt, building your savings…use that extra money for whatever helps build up your family and its goals.

 

Kristi’s No-Spend Why

I’m intrigued by the concept of freezing all discretionary spending. It’s actually brilliant. We sat down to budget into January this year, so we overspent slightly that month, as our limits and categories came into existence after the fact. Initially, I chose this option to “make up” what we’d overspent.

 

But as I began to think about this Lent, I decided that I wanted to simplify. I want less stuff in the house, a more open schedule, and a deeper faith life. A No-Spend Lent makes so much sense, then, because I’m not spending my money on stuff or experiences that cost time and money. I’m also not spending my money on things that ultimately distract me from the true life I’m called to as a Christian. The money that I’m saving can be applied to more tithing or helping those around me in need.

 

Rachel’s No-Spend Why

We are firm believers that we should be debt free; to us, owing money is a form of addiction. The Scientist and I believe that owing money is stopping us from truly living our life for God.

The more we spend paying down our debt, the closer we become. It brings us together as a team to win the goals and expectations that we set for our family. Being able to help those financially is something we really think is important; not only with our own family, but to strangers that are in need.

This strategy also teaches us how to strengthen ourselves against some of our bad habits of selfishness, materialism, and not exercising empathy towards others. When we are only focusing on ourselves by buying things we want and have to have, we are not looking up and around to those who need our help.

 

Kristi’s Theoretical No-Spend Survival Hopes

  • Library—there are computers with interactive games, actual toys, and some pretty sweet children’s activities. There are also new DVD releases available for check out and—of course—books. Little Miss has just discovered Nancy Drew (much to Rachel’s delight), so there’s plenty there to entertain us.
  • Parks and Church Events—we have a ton of parks in our city and its three very nearby border cities as well as a lake that provide a wonderful place to play and exercise as a family. Our parish hosts weekly Lenten talks and the Stations of the Cross that are wonderful, too.
  • Freezer & Pantry For the Win—we’ve got a lot of food in the freezer and the pantry from bulk buying when it’s on sale (see these posts on Shopping Smarter and Organization & Saving Money on Groceries for more information), so even though we’re spending money on groceries during this challenge, our grocery bill should see a significant drop as we conserve our monetary resources by consuming our edible, perishable ones.
  • Prayer—we’ll be spending extra time in prayer to grow as a family, remember those less fortunate than us, surround ourselves in God’s Word, grow closer to God, and to sustain us on this journey.

 

Rachel’s Tried & True No-Spend Survival Tips

  • Begin with the Goal—with the money that we save or any extra income that we make, we put it towards our debt. We are a one-income family, so we are budgeters, and we plan for everything. If we make it through the month with extra money in our budget, we put that money (and what we’ve saved) towards debt and start over again.
  • Plan for the Unplanned—life always seems to throw something in our way, so we just have a small budget set aside for a surprise. This challenge helps us build up that “surprise” fund.
  • Look for God—when we cut out all of our extra activities, we are spending time not only bringing our family together but focusing on our prayer life together. We are intently choosing our time to do more activities together. I’m really excited to learn what God has in store for us over these next 40 days.

 

That’s our No-Spend Lent challenge and we are definitely gonna need your prayers! Anyone willing to join us in this endeavor? Have you ever done a No-Spend Month? Join the conversation here by leaving a comment below or head over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest to hang out with us there. Remember to use #HowWeLent!

 

Kristi & Rachel

 

P.S. Hey! Thanks to you we’re growing a TON on social media. We’d love to get some feedback from you on how we’re doing so far, so if you don’t mind, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. It’s totally anonymous and only five questions but will help with future content. Thanks!

How We Lent 2017

Have you picked up on the fact that we love Lent? Two weeks ago, we kicked off the onslaught of Lenten posts with our Meals Sans Meat post. Then last week we asked the question Can We Get Some Love for Lent?! and discussed Ash Wednesday in our homes. Today we’re divulging exactly #HowWeLent.

 

How We Lent: Ambitiously

One thing that Rachel and I are both participating in this season is a No-Spend Lent—and we’ll have more details on that in our next post on Wednesday—yes, the Lenten posts continue! We’ll be checking in about halfway through the season to report back on how it’s going!

Other than the obvious abstinence from meat, we continue our tithing contributions as usual throughout this season. We also increase our contributions to charitable funds such as our church’s food pantry, Operation Rice Bowl, and local drives.

This year, though, we’ve got plans for upping our prayer game and almsgiving through taking positive steps toward helping those who need it in our local community and the church at large. This Lent is going to be our rockstar Lent!

 

Lenten Accountability

Both Rachel and I like to see visual representations to help track our Lenten actions and keep us accountable throughout the six weeks of Lent. We do this in two similar-but-different ways: the Lenten Tree and the Bean Jar.

The Lenten Tree is something we’ve been doing since Little Miss was tiny. We write our Lenten goals on the back of a poster board. On the front of this poster board, we draw a tree that’s essentially a trunk with many branches. We write Bible verses around the tree and buy craft rose petals from a discount store. Each time a sacrificial act, an extraordinary prayer, or almsgiving happens, we write the act on a petal and glue it to the tree. By Easter we have a beautiful tree that’s fully flowered, symbolizing the new life we’ve all been given in Christ. It also serves as a great Easter decoration. Who doesn’t love something that pulls double duty?

What is a Bean Jar, you say? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a jar full of beans. Crazy how that a jar of beans keep us on track! We start with a bag of beans and an empty jar (any jar will do: a pickle jar, Mason jar…you get the idea).  Every time you accomplish a good deed or a sacrifice you put a bean in a jar. I love the fact that you’re not shouting from the rooftops “I sacrificed something!” You just simply put a bean in a jar and walk away. You are holding yourself accountable and focusing on your walk with God on your Lenten Journey.  It doesn’t matter who lives in your house; we’ve had in-laws, neighbors, and friends put beans in our jar. A subtle way to evangelize and witness to the beauty of the season is to welcome anyone at all to place a bean in the jar. Hopefully the jar is filled by Easter, and on Easter morning we replace all the beans with jelly beans.

 

Praying

We ensure that our Lenten Journey is always paved in prayer and reflection. One way we do this is to keep up with our normal morning and nighttime prayers.  We do tend to add a little more to our day individually, in this season. That looks different for all of us, of course, because prayer is the most intimate of the pillars of Lent. Prayer is literally how we relate to God and how he guides us.

The Scientist prays in between his classes and Superman refocuses his workouts to be more meditative so that it becomes time with God. Both of us ladies keep a more detailed prayer journal. Sometimes this means more time allotted to writing in the prayer journal. Other times it means adding on readings from the Bible, the Magnificat, or another devotional and then writing our reactions down. However you choose to do it, these forty days have such awesome potential to be more quiet and reflective. In that quiet and reflection, you’re much more likely to be open to God’s will (and much more likely to actually hear it!).

 

Excellent words for the Lenten Season from our friends at Pure Flix.

 

Adding through Almsgiving

So often we live our lives overwhelmed and overscheduled. It’s often portrayed as “the American problem.” We are just so busy! We never seem to slow down. Sometimes, that means that we forget to think of others.

Lent is the perfect reminder for us to take the time to slow down. We slow down in prayer, so why not slow down our day-to-day routines? When we stop scheduling ourselves so tightly, we can be intentional with our spontaneity. We can go out into the community and discover what we can do to make it better.

 

Service & Acts of Mercy: Rachel’s Additions & Almsgiving

I love making cards with my sisters-in-law to take to a nursing home. We also make cookies, play games, and visit with them when we’re there. Another thing we like to do is prepare homeless blessing bags and give out prayer cards. Here in the Dallas area there’s a very real homeless problem. It’s a great bonding experience between our family, the people we’re reaching, and God.

 

Double Duty & De-cluttering: Kristi’s Additions & Almsgiving

Superman and I decided that we are going to try and make our consumer dollars become additional tithing dollars; that is, where possible, we’re going to support Catholic missions, orders, and businesses. Beginning in March, we’re going to stop buying our whole bean coffee from Target and order it online from Mystic Monk coffee. It’s not any more expensive, but it supports the Carmelite monks in Wyoming and provides us with our much needed daily dose of caffeine and we can sign up for a monthly delivery. Easy. Catholic. Yes, please.

Although Superman isn’t yet aware of this next one, I know he’s fully going to be on board. There’s this thing that goes around Catholic social media every year called 40 Bags in 40 Days. Basically, you donate 40 bags of stuff (Ziploc bags, grocery store bags, garbage bags…you choose) over the course of Lent. As Rachel and I have both stated in the past, we’re striving to be more minimalistic in general, but especially in the Lenten season.

But…how is this almsgiving? Excellent question! For me, this isn’t just about getting trash and junk out of my home. It’s about parting with useful things that I’m no longer using or needing—I know I don’t really need all three of my blenders!—that will bless someone else. Having just joined two households between us less than six months ago, Superman and I have plenty of eligible candidates throughout our home.

 

That’s the overview of our planned Lenten journey. What are you doing this Lent to help nurture your relationship with God and prepare for Christ’s ultimate sacrifice? Please let us know in the comments. We love to see how other Catholics celebrate this awesome season.

 

Kristi & Rachel

 

Need some more inspiration for Lent? Check out the CWBN Sienna Sisters Blog Hop for this month where multiple Catholic bloggers “join forces” to share our own spin on #HowWeLent. You can also check out our Pinterest boards Meals Sans Meat and Lent for further ideas and follow us while you’re there. Don’t forget to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

FIAT: Faith in All Things…Finding God in the Bubbles

Happy Friday, FIAT friends!

Today we’re chatting about finding God in the bubbles (and dust bunnies and garbage) of housework as a sacrificial act of love. We’re called as spouses to die to self and show love. Sometimes, that means we do the chores we loathe.

 

See? Polka dots! Doesn’t it just seem that housework would be so much better wearing that?!

 

Grab a cup of coffee and join us for a ten-minute conversation that includes some wisdom from the saints, laughter from Mr. Clean, fashion inspiration from the 1950s, and a lovely segue about NBC’s This Is Us.

 

This Is Us is amazing. We’ve watched the episode since recording this podcast and…get the Kleenex ready if you haven’t seen it yet. This image is from the NBC website.

 

If the media player above doesn’t load, please click on this link to download the podcast externally.

 

As promised, here’s the link to the hilarious Mr. Clean Super Bowl commercial we mentioned in the podcast. Note: This is NOT our video, nor do we claim to own the rights to it.

Enjoy today’s podcast? Share it with a friend and leave us a comment below. As always, you can join the conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out our collection of ideas on Pinterest. Have a fabulous weekend, friends!

 

Fiat: Faith in All Things, Season 1, Episode 8: Finding God in the Bubbles

We hope that you’re able to find God in the bubbles (and other housework you may have) today and that you have a wonderful weekend!

 

Rachel & Kristi

Ash Wednesday is Practically Here

Ash Wednesday is in ONE. WEEK. One week! Can you believe it? I know I was just posting about it being “so far” away (see Seeking the Extraordinary in the Ordinary for more on that), but time has flown and here we are, at the threshold of my favorite liturgical season: Lent. Usually, people are shocked when I tell them that this is my favorite season (and from the comments on Monday’s posts, it seems some of you know that feeling all too well!). I hear the same shock when I tell them that I love the sacrament of Reconciliation. But like I wrote in a previous post Reconciliation: God’s Mercy Made Tangible, these stand out to me as favorites exactly because God’s mercy is shown so thoroughly in them.

On Ash Wednesday we begin this penitential season in humility, getting marked with ashes reminding us that we came from dust and will return to dust (check Genesis 3:19). It’s a wonderful reminder of the fact that our time on this earth is limited and we’re tasked with making that time count. For the one who gave it all up for us, that we may have life and have it to the full. That verse is also about perspective. It sets the tone for Lent. It reminds us that Adam was made from the ground (read: dust) and Eve was made from clay. Rachel likes to remind me of this verse when she’s marveling at creation, saying “I was made from nothing, yet God made me to do something wonderful and to live his perfect will. I am loved by God and he sacrificed his only Son to die a horrible death for my sins.” Perspective.

One of the hallmarks of the Lenten Season—especially as compared to the other liturgical seasons—is its simplicity. We are called to live more simply through abstaining from meat, sacrificing through fasting and almsgiving, and adopting the monastic simplicity of increasing our prayers. In our last post, we told you how we prepare our homes for the Lenten season. As of Ash Wednesday, it’s here. The big kickoff to the season of mercy.

How Ash Wednesday Looks in the Hail Marry Homes

Morning Prayer—if you’ve been with us for awhile, you know that we both have a morning offering prayer routine (you can read this post about Kristi’s morning and evening routine and listen to our podcast on Morning Offerings here). That’s also true on Ash Wednesday, but it’s different. On this day, we’ll still do our mornings as usual, but we add reverence to it. In both homes, we pray as a family. For Rachel, that looks like a prayer of thanksgiving with the Scientist, followed by candlelit, silent prayer for ten minutes. That’s then followed by praises for the blessings God has bestowed upon them. For our house, we’ll also light a candle, but Superman will read the readings from the Mass to us at the breakfast table before our simplistic breakfast.

Breakfast—I have food allergies, so my choices here are limited. I can’t do oatmeal, toast, granola or cereal, so I have to be creative. My standard breakfast each day is typically three eggs which are scrambled with herbs, green peas, and safe spices. This is served alongside home-brewed coffee with coconut milk and coconut sugar or honey. It’s pretty tasty. For Ash Wednesday, since we’re called to fast and abstain, I will trade in that deliciousness for one boiled egg and black coffee. We don’t keep bread in the house, so Little Miss and Superman can eat a smaller serving of oatmeal for breakfast. Rachel and the Scientist will also consume a small breakfast—oatmeal as described above or toast made from Rachel’s homemade bread.

Lunch & Dinner—When speaking of dinner, Rachel says, “Today we eat simply; we fast today. For dinner, I’ll roast a variety of vegetables and serve some of the bread.” When I hear her say that, so plainly and so matter-of-factly, it strikes me as beautiful. It also strikes me as familiar. The meal she’s just described sounds so much like what I imagine most daily meals were like on a regular basis from the Medieval period through the Industrial Revolution. They didn’t gorge the way we modern Americans (and I suspect most Westerners) tend to. Ash Wednesday is a good reminder of that. Other simple food options for Ash Wednesday are soups, salads, and baked potatoes.

Mass—this is a given. Last year, before Superman and I were engaged, we went to Ash Wednesday Mass together. It’s actually where he met my mother for the first time. We knew then, not even as an engaged couple, the importance of such a day. We were there as a family. That’s something that will continue for us now that we’re married, and it’s something that Rachel and the Scientist do as well. The family that goes to Mass together honors God together. The family that goes to Mass together prays together. It helps model proper Christian behavior to our children. Going to Mass with my spouse helps grow the spiritual bond that we cemented before God, our friends, and our family when we administered the sacrament of matrimony to one another.

Prayer—this is Day 1 of 40. Forty days to truly look inward and seek out that which is holding us back from God. From intimacy with him. From communion with him. From accepting his mercy. I’ll be at work on Ash Wednesday, but I can make time for God—especially during Lent. I can read the Bible, read a devotional, or write in my prayer journal on my lunch break. I can pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the car rider line at Little Miss’s school. Rachel spends all of Ash Wednesday in prayer and reflection. “I usually spend the day reflecting in my prayer space, reading God’s Word or my daily devotional. I love to use the quiet to reflect, pray, and journal.” That quiet she mentioned? Another Rachel Ash Wednesday Wisdom Tip: no electronics of any kind, (cell phones are for calling), no internet. Not today. In the quiet, we can hear God speak.

That’s what Ash Wednesday looks like in our homes. We know that emphasizing simplicity is easy for us as young families of two and three, respectively, but we also know that some of our readers are from clans much larger. We’d love to know how you keep the reverence for this day with your family—regardless of family size and “years established.” Leave us a comment here and join the conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #HowWeLent and #HowILent. Check out our Meatless Meals for Lent post here Also, check out our Pinterest boards Lent and Meals Sans Meat for some awesome Lentspiration!

 

Kristi & Rachel

Can We Get Some Love for Lent?!

We absolutely love Lent and are so excited to share how we prepare for this somber and reflective season! Why do we love the season in which we deny ourselves caffeine and chocolate? Short answer? Because it’s so much more than that. What’s more is that today, this post is part of the CWBN Sienna Sisters Blog Hop and we’re all talking about Lent! You can check out the other posts in the series here. We’re all about sharing the love for Lent today!

Kristi: I have love for Lent because…

It’s a renewal of sorts. We’re knee-deep in the throes of the Winter Blues, wanting the spring that’s around the corner to be made manifest and things have become sloppy since we made our New Year’s Resolutions. Patience is running thinner, our domestic church tends to flounder a little bit here, and my prayer life is losing its luster. Lent is the ideal time to pause, assess, and fix those things. It’s the season of forgiveness and mercy. Plus, I’m a sucker for the chanting and reflection that accompanies the Stations of the Cross. Lent is a BIG deal in our house.

Rachel: I have love for Lent because…

Lent is my favorite season for reflecting and having quiet moments with God. Preparing for Lent is really life changing in our home. The Scientist and I want our home to reflect that we are a Catholic home and we are not afraid to spread the word of God. We read in article a couple of years ago, that our domestic church should reflect the teachings of the church. We looked around and realized that we had cute sayings, and knick knacks but they didn’t mean or remind us of our daily walk with God. That really hit us. During Lent, we intentionally design our home to reflect our longing and desire to be in good standing with the Lord. We decided to start decorating every liturgical season. How we prepare for our favorite the Lenten Season is simple and easy.

The Goal: Kristi

Every year, I want to make sure that I am modeling the pillars to Little Miss: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and abstinence. I know that at age seven, she’s not bound by quite the same practices that I am; however, in our home…she is. She’s at the mercy of Superman and me as to our abstaining from meat, since we’re the cooks. She is allowed to plan out her own fasting, as we do, and her own almsgiving. While we encourage prayer as a family, we also encourage individual prayer. We have a beautiful tool that we’ve used for five years to help us keep things on track—and it’s lovely.

The Goal: Rachel

We feel that we should prepare our home, domestic church, hearts, and everyday thinking for the Death and Resurrection of Christ. We may not do it perfectly, but we put our hearts in it. We know that we can never come close to the Sacrifice of God. By preparing praying spaces, reminders of the sacrifice, and sacrificing ourselves we find that we have a deeper bond with God.

How Kristi & Superman Prepare Their Home

This is our first married Lent together, but we did spend a great deal of time with one another last year as we celebrated our only engaged Lent together. Outside of Advent and Christmas, we tend to be minimalistic in décor, but we do occasionally allow the dishes to pile up, or the laundry to defy gravity and attempt to reach the ceiling. Sometimes our mail overtakes the entryway and there’s the sporadic pile of shoes near our doorway, too.

For us, our first step is to remember that we like organization in our home (see this post on The War Zone). The next step is to actually get there. The shoes stop being dropped at the door and picked up. The mail is organized and dealt with as it is delivered. The laundry and dishes are done frequently, as is the dusting, sweeping, Sharking (like a mop, but it’s steam and so much cooler!), and vacuuming. The canvas that is the backdrop for our Lenten practices (i.e. our home) becomes clean and inviting.

From there, as we lead up to Lent, we have conversations about what we’re going to “give up” for Lent. We write these goals on the back of a poster board (as well as that which we’re going to take on, which usually ties in to prayer). On the front of this poster board, we make our Lenten Tree. This is our accountability tool. It’s a trunk with many branches, drawn by one of the adults and colored by Little Miss. On the top, it says Lenten Tree. On the sides are Bible verses dealing with sacrifice, fasting, abstinence, almsgiving, and/or prayer. Note: next week we’re going to share what exactly our Lenten journey for this year will be, and there will be more specifics on how this works there.

How Rachel & the Scientist Prepare Their Home for Lent

We like to do our Spring Cleaning before we put anything up. This always takes place the week before Ash Wednesday (so this week!). We love to deep clean our home, and get rid of the grime. We wash everything from the windows, to out back, to the shed. We put away all clothes that we deem in wonderful shape but no longer loved and get them ready to donate.

We organize the house so we can have space to have our at-home Stations of the Cross up. We also buy some white candles at a discount store. We like to put them on our home altar and around our house. We fill some of our candle holders with sand and we put little toothpicks in them to remind us of Jesus’ impending crucifixion. Like Kristi and Superman, we like to have our home minimally decorated—especially this season.

This season is about focusing and preparing for the death—and ultimately the resurrection—of Jesus. We do this by using additional candles in our prayer space (and home), praying the Stations of the Cross, fully utilizing our home altar, and also having a Lenten Tree. We have multiple copies of the Bible around to read and we have different books out for guests to look over  as well as a deck of cards and conversation cards for family game time on nights when there is no TV (similar to our set-up at Advent, which you can read here). This year, we’re also adding a Bean Jar. Note: as mentioned above, there will be more on this in our post detailing how we’re “Lenting” in 2017.

How do you prepare your home and domestic church for the penitential season of Lent? Let us know in the comments below. We love getting ideas from you on how to spruce up our routines and deepen our faith journey during this season. Need ideas for Fridays during Lent? Check out last week’s post on Meals Sans Meat here. Don’t forget to join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using #HowWeLent and #HowILent and check out our Lent board on Pinterest!

 

Rachel & Kristi