Monday, July 30, 2012

Use E-mail Filters to Save Money

Most of us avoid signing up for e-mail lists because we don't want a bunch of commercial advertising cluttering our inbox. Besides, we know how advertising works. The more we look at advertising, the more we're tempted to buy things we don't really need.

But avoiding e-mail subscriptions to the stores and restaurants we frequent also means we are missing out on exclusive deals and coupons -- ones that aren't available on RetailMeNot.

I think you can have your cake and eat it too. The solution is simple. Here's what you need to do:
  • Sign up to receive e-mails from all of the places where you shop or dine (or might like to shop or dine if you had a decent coupon).
  • Set up e-mail filters  to automatically "skip the inbox" and categorize these incoming e-mails as coupons. (Gmail users can learn how to use filters here.)
  • Click on the label/folder to find new e-mails before you go out to eat or shop.
Here's an example from my inbox:

As more retailers offer mobile coupons (i.e. coupons you can just show on your phone instead of printing out), e-mail filtering will become even more helpful -- at least if you have a smart phone. You can just scroll through potential coupons on your phone once you're at the store -- no need to remember to print them before leaving home.

Hopefully this strategy will help a few of you save some money. If you have questions or other good ideas for saving money, please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Transparency and Steadfast Love

Eleven months ago today I had a D&C.  I had found out five days before, when expecting to see the sweet moving form of a seventeen week old baby in an ultrasound, that #7’s heart had already stopped beating.

In prior years, I’ve had my ACL replaced, my wisdom teeth extracted, and six natural labors and deliveries. None of these prepared me for the incredible pain and long recovery my body would go through due to the second trimester D&C. And none of the major life pains and losses we had previously endured prepared us for the loss of this precious life, and all the hopes and dreams attached to our youngest child.

Over the next several months of dark grief, we keenly felt this loss and there have been many days I’ve longed for heaven and many nights that I’ve wept in anguish.  My sweetest comfort in the darkest moments have been the assurances that my God knows the pain of such loss and that, despite my failure to come close to the holiness of His Son, He loves me as His cherished daughter and sees me with the righteousness of Jesus – the Son He watched die for my sins.

The clearest lesson that God impressed on my heart over the darkest months that followed was that He wants His people to be transparent.  The Bible contains a lot of “one anothers” — Love one another… pray for one another… weep with those who weep. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Share one another’s burdens.  How can we do any of these things if we don’t know what is going on in each other’s hearts? How can anyone know what is going on in my heart if I don’t share?

I’ve stretched myself to share our pain when I wanted to hide or pretend it wasn’t there. I’ve talked about #7 to people without knowing how they would respond. I’ve listened when people have said dumb things, warring with my heart to assume the best of their ignorance. And God sweetly comforted our hearts this past year with those of you who grieved with us.  You valued our precious baby – a baby that society counts as expendable – when you wept with us.  You loved us and carried some of our grief for us. When you continued to care for us and listened to our pain long after the “acceptable grieving period” had passed, you showed us the very heart of God.

A couple dear friends lost their five-year-old to cancer five months ago.  Logan, a precious, life-loving child who had stolen our hearts, love, and prayers, went to heaven six months to the day after we found out that #7 was already there. His loss, again, shifted my view of life on this earth and made me long for a day where there would be no more pain or tears or death.

A Facebook post that Logan’s mama wrote yesterday made me think that I still have far to grow in this whole transparency area. 

In many ways, I’ve lost some of my transparency these last few months.  I don’t want people to think that I’m not incredibly grateful for the many blessings God has given us. I don’t want people to think that I’m comparing my loss, pain, and fears to theirs.  I don’t want people to misjudge my heart… or even judge it correctly.  And I don’t want to be the one who is hurting or cause others to hurt unnecessarily. I know the path that God has chosen for others makes mine look like a piece of cake.  I don’t want to fail to see that.  And I don’t want others to think that my heart is not breaking for them, too, as I have such sweet gifts that others still long for.

We still miss #7. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard David whisper his head count this past year: “4, 5, 6… feels like someone is missing.” “Doesn’t the house feel too quiet for some reason?” A couple weeks ago, when David and I were driving on our getaway vacation, I distinctly remember looking over my shoulder to check on the baby in the backseat. I had to shake my head at the realization that there was only luggage and an ice chest back there.  When we had first started thinking of this trip, we had expected to have a six-month-old baby along.

Some friends know the continued pain the loss of #7 has wrought in our hearts… how we have desired another baby, all the while knowing that another baby would not change the reality of this loss or even how our children now have a whole new view of the fleeting reality of life. Some friends have watched me battle with my heart, knowing that God opens and closes the womb, as I’ve watched my body stay out of whack after the D&C. 

David and I don’t have a set number of kids we want to have. We’re kind of just playing it by ear, seeing what life brings, knowing that God makes babies, and He knows what He’s doing.  But my heart has ached at the thought that maybe #7 was the last baby I would carry. I certainly didn’t want our family’s count to end on that note.

These are all things that are still hard to share sometimes, especially in light of the legitimate burdens others already carry. But I also don’t want people to think that I simply love God because my life is so beautiful.  David and I have gone through some really tough situations these past few years. We’re still going through some difficult things.  Yet God has been kind to show us His mercies in many ways that we continually fail to deserve.  He is a kind, gracious, generous God.  He’s given us His Son, adopted us into His family, and has taken care of us in ways that only the King of Kings and Lord of Lords could.

And, on top of all of that, He’s blessed us with another baby, due in March. We continue to miss #7. We continue to battle fears for this next baby. But we’re blessed by His kindness.  And we’re blessed by our children’s excitement for this next baby, and even the transparency they have as they share their fears and cares for this wee one.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
 Lamentation 3:22-23

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pacific Northwest Photos

Christina's and my tenth anniversary isn't until later this month, but we've taken the liberty of starting the celebration a few weeks early.

Here are photos from our recent getaway to the Pacific Northwest.

And, yes, thanks to Lila and Amy, we left the kids at home!