"Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing." Proverbs 3:9-10

There is a fine balance to how we should handle our finances. Matthew 6:24 tells us: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." So we can't love money and be consumed by it, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." 1 Timothy 6:10, but we need to spend enough time thinking about it and talking about it that we help take care of God's church. Both the physical church and the people in it.

Listen to to what the Lord says in Malachi 3:9-10 "'You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'" Wow! The whole nation was under a curse because they weren't tithing.

So what is a tithe anyway? A tithe is 10% of your income. Now Proverbs tells us that we should "Honor the Lord with our wealth, with the firstfruits of all our crops," so I've made our tithe to the church the first item on my budget and and give 10% of our gross income. Paul shares this guideline in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 "Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income..."

Well, let's say we've been great stewards of the money God has given us and we live well within our means. Should we only give 10% to God? Not at all! Giving an offering above our 10% tithe is what we should all strive for. Everything we have is the Lord's, so should we not use our wealth to bless others?

My husband and I get so excited when we receive back our tax return each year, because technically we've already tithed on this money since I tithe on our gross income, so it gives us extra money that we then take 10% of to use as an offering to the Lord. In this we can help our church in special ways or help a family that we may see in need. Seth and I both have a gift of giving, so the act of sharing or income with others brings us great joy.

Now for some, it is hard to fathom taking 10% of your income and giving it the church when you have mountains of bills to pay. For anyone in this situation, I invite you to check out Dave Ramsey's Book, "The Total Money Makeover." This book has helped us prepare and survive after I quit work to be a stay-at-home mom. Even with a huge cut in pay, God still gets our first fruits.

For more information about budgeting, please check out the "Get Life in Balance" series under Organization.
 
 
"If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:3-5

Wouldn't it be fun to go on a treasure hunt? To unroll that old map with strange symbols that need deciphered. To have clues in plain sight pointing you in the direction you should go. The thrill of finding the "x" and digging like crazy to get to the treasure.

Now let's relate that excitement of a treasure hunt to God's Word. Reading scripture should be fun! We should open our Bibles with anticipation of deciphering parables and using them to guide us through life. We should shout "Woo Hoo" when we find scripture that touches our heart and keep reading to find more.

Discipline...discipline...discipline. Any good treasure hunter doesn't find a treasure map and then stick it on the shelf only to be pulled out once in a while. Neither should we stick our Bibles on a shelf and only pull them out when we are in crisis. God has so much that He wants to reveal to us, we just struggle to take our eyes off our earthly treasures to search for heavenly ones.
 
 
"Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11: 33, 36

Recently I heard a beautiful woman speak on balance and depth. So many things she said struck me, but one that has caused a lot of personal reflection is that "we often feel an inch deep and a mile wide when we are out of balance." This is exactly how I feel! The depth of the relationship that I have with my Savior and King feels pretty shallow. How do I deepen it? How do I show Him love and take time to listen to His advice?

The first step has to be, to make time for Him in my daily routine. Now I acknowledge that as the mom of two children under three, that my daily routine can often be interrupted at any moment, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't make the effort. The season of life that we are in, plays a huge part in the time we set aside and the depth of our study. But we should NEVER be so busy and so distracted by the things of this life that we leave God out of our day completely.

I pray the words of David in Psalm 25:4-5 "Show me your ways O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and lead me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long." And claim that "God will instruct me and teach me in the way that I should go. He will counsel me and watch over me." Psalm 32:8.

Personally, I love to start my day in quiet stillness with the Lord. As the day progresses, mom and household responsibilities overtake me, so I've found the early morning hours to be my most peaceful time. Daily I read a wonderful devotional titled, "Jesus Calling," and look up the scriptures listed. This devotional has touched me in a special way this year and I would highly recommend it.

Now sometimes reading my devotional is all I get done, and it's not always read in some quiet meditative state. Sometimes I read it while in the bathroom with my 9-month old climbing on my lap. Sometimes I read it while blow drying my hair. Sometimes I read it while walking back to the washer and dryer to switch loads. The point is to make an effort to focus my mind on God.

Other days I am blessed like today, where I've been up for an hour and the house is still quiet. I actually have extra time to dig for treasure in His Word. In this time, I like to turn to Proverbs. I set out every month trying to read a chapter of Proverbs every day. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so it works out perfectly. I may not get every chapter read every month, but by reading it over and over again each month, I know that it's planting His Word in my heart.

Just listen to the first seven verses of chapter one that explain the purpose and theme of the whole book. "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Whew! Makes you want to read more, doesn't it?!

I thank God for the riches of His Word. I thank Him for the lessons that He is teaching me in quietness and chaos. I can't stop life from happening around me so that I can take some monumental times of study and meditation. But I can bring God into my day by praying while folding laundry, reading Bible stories to my kids at nap time, and holding my tongue when I get overwhelmed by my 2-year old's unending question of "why?" I can make a small sacrifice of sleep and wake up early to get a few moments of quiet study.

I thank God for showing me that my organizational personality can be helpful in bringing calm and peace to my day. So, I'm officially claiming May as my "Get Life in Balance" month. I'd love to hear how you keep life in balance or if you'd like to take this challenge with me. Be watching the Organization page for the daily assignments and helpful tools to help keep you on track.

Assignment #1 - Make time for God in your daily routine. If it's first thing in the morning...be consistent. If it is the last thing before bed...be consistent. Find a devotional to read (in print or online) or start reading Proverbs. Just make time for God!
 
 
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'" Jeremiah 29:11-13

Saturday I attended a wonderful women's retreat, The Journey, at the Aledo United Methodist Church. This year's theme was, The Seasons of a Woman's Heart. God touched me in so many ways through the talks, music, and skits. I left feeling at peace and as though God had planted several treasures in my heart to dig through later. Now you all know what happened next, right?

I needed to stop at Dollar General so I could take advantage of their $5/$25 coupon and my husband needed a break from both kiddos, so I took our oldest, our 2.5 year old daughter, with me. Now, I should have known it was going to be an interesting trip when she kept refusing to get out of the van with Daddy and come with me. But, I convinced her that I was going to be looking for Dora flip flops for her, so she reluctantly came with me.

Holy Cow! I don't know what happened to my sweet child, but she went nuts in the store. She wanted to walk...but couldn't quit touching everything, so I had to put her in the cart. My coupon binder was in the front seat of the cart, so I had to put her in the basket part (yeah, bad idea). She then proceeded to keep standing up in the cart, which I repeatedly (in a calm tone that only came from a day spent with the Lord) that she had to sit down or she was going to fall out onto her head. Of course, she didn't care and kept standing up and wanting to turn the pages of my coupon binder. Before obeying and sitting down on her buns, she proceeded to give me a loud lecture about telling her what to do. I just kept repeating in my head, "Give me patience Lord. I don't know what to do with this mouthy child!"

She kept herself entertained for a while making a "couch" out of the toilet paper packs I put in the cart. Hey, she was sitting down, so who cares about smooshed TP rolls. A few isles later she decided it would be fun to throw things out of the cart. Now for this she did get her hand swatted (at least three times) before quitting this annoying little game.

Then, as I'm unloading the cart at the checkout, I realize I was missing two items that I needed for  my coupons. I immediately ask Natalie if she had thrown them out of the cart. Her repeated response was "throw them out of the cart?" The sad part is, I thought I had put the items in the cart, but I honestly couldn't remember for sure. So her and I made a mad dash to grab the two items while a kind women waited behind me in line.

Now my fellow extreme couponers know that checkout is the critical time of your shopping trip to make sure everything rings up correctly and coupons scan the way they should. I unfortunately couldn't pay any attention to what the cashier was doing because Natalie just kept whining about wanting to put on her new flip flops. We had obviously flustered the cashier, which I totally don't blame her because I was flustered too, because before we left she told me to check my receipts when I got home and let her know if anything was wrong.

By this time we are 45-minutes late to pick up our carry-out pizza. When we got to Casey's, I ran into a friend from high school and stood outside chatting with her for a while. When I finally got the pizza, the guy behind the counter says, "yeah, I was wondering what happened to you." I thought buddy, you don't want to know. When we left, I was trying to hurry and ended up leaving my keys in my car door, which provided a good laugh for both my friend and I. Her perfect response was, "I can't wait for motherhood." :-)

We FINALLY get home and for some silly reason I don't want to have to make multiple trips in the house with grocery bags and such; so I load myself down like a mule and tried to carry all the bags, including the bag with my huge coupon binder in it, and the pizza to the back door. I of course drop the package of paper towels, which Natalie snatches up and lugs to the back the door. The sight of us trying to get the doors open probably would have won us $25,000 on America's Funniest Videos. I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to wet my pants (any of you moms know that after two kids that was a real possibility.)

Now, only God could help me see the humor in the situation and not unleash a fury of criticisms. The lessons from the day kept rolling over in head and my heart: "He knows the plans He has for me" Jeremiah 29:11, "It is the Lord Jesus Christ that I am serving" Colossians 3:24, "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven" Ecclesiastes 3:1, "He will instruct me and teach me in the way that I should go. He will counsel me and watch over me." Psalm 32:8.

I praise God for His love and for His mercy. I praise God for this beautiful, chaotic, unpredictable season of life. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:33
 
 
"God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." Genesis 21:6

I thought it would be fun to finish out this month with a little devotion mini-series on emotions. We all know that as women we can be pretty emotional beings. Shoot...we can go through a roller coaster of emotions in 20 minutes which leaves our husbands dazed and confused. So I figured this was something that would touch all of us.

Laughter is definitely one of my favorite emotions. I love hearing Natalie and Jadon squealing with delight as Seth or I tickle them. I love family gatherings where everyone can reminisce and laugh at things said or done. I love it when Natalie does or says something that is so totally me, that I  As the saying goes..."laughter is good medicine."

In Genesis 21 we read about Sarah, Abraham's wife, who bore her first son at the old age of ninety. Her reaction to this is wonderful, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." She didn't whine and complain and fret over how she was going to care for this child in her old age, instead she laughed. We can definitely learn from her example and laugh at our circumstances instead of being anxious.

We also read in Proverbs 15:13 "a happy heart makes the face cheerful" and in Proverbs 15:30 "a cheerful look brings joy to the heart." When we choose to smile and be pleasant, it actually brings joy to our hearts. And the more joy we have in our hearts, the more we show it on the outside.

Today let's choose to laugh at our circumstances and change the world around us one smile at a time. :-)
 
 
"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

I love organization! I love to label drawers and totes. I love to file papers. I love to face all my can goods the same way. I love making sure my towels are folded a certain way so they "look pretty" in the cabinet. I love to make binders with dividers and special pockets. I love to color code my calendars. I love having things in the calendar so I can plan ahead for the kids. I love working on my homemaker binder that helps me stay focused on my daily tasks. I love working on our family budget. I could organize in nit-picky detail all day long. I just love all of it!!

Now, you and I both know that being a mom of two little ones can often throw a wrench in my nice, clean, detailed plan. There are far too many things to do to take care of their basic needs, that I'm left with not a whole lot of time to get the towels out of the dryer let alone folded "just so." The quiet time I plan to read my Bible, is often interrupted by a little one ready to get up and start their day.

God has really been working on this aspect of my personality over the past year since becoming a stay-at-home mom. I thank Him for helping me see that although days can get crazy with diaper changes, meal times, fussiness, more diaper changes, neediness, and battle-of-the-wills, He is still there, just a prayer away, for guidance. I praise Him for yet another reminder today, that although our "quiet time" may get interrupted, He wants me to commune with Him all day, not just when I plan it.
 
 
"But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge-do not give me over to death." Psalm 141:8

If you need an idea for a Mother's Day gift, may I suggest the devotional "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young? Once again this devotional has fallen right into line with what I'm struggling with. Last week was a full week of running (figuratively speaking of course...I've yet to start a solid exercise plan) here and there and spending quite a bit of time doing church related activities.

I loved taking focused time during Natalie & Jadon's naps to prepare for a Vacation Bible School Meeting and also a fundraiser for the Youth Group. It felt wonderful to go to a meeting and feel like I'd actually given it more than 5 minutes right before hand. I did it the "Denise" way which including typing up a one-pager with fun fonts as a reminder to those involved, and could give a huge sigh of relief that I was actually proud of what I'd done. I didn't do it for man's applause, because I'm pretty positive no one else but me cares I used Pink Broccoli font which matches the rest of the VBS theme. I did it to feel like I gave God my best. My detailed, obsessive, time-consuming best.

As excited as I was about those two meetings, by the end of the week they were overshadowed with the growing list of things I did or needed to do that had fallen short of my "perfect" expectations. I became extremely short tempered with the kids; with my bright and shining moment being a huge fit right before we left for church because Natalie wouldn't sit still so I could put in a pony tail...nice, huh?! It all left me questioning if I should be a stay-at-home mom; if my heart could ever be at rest in the crazy chaos of 24/7 with two little ones.

So what do I read this morning? "I never lead you to do something without equipping you for the task. That is why it's so important to seek my will in everything you do...In order to know My Will, you must spend time with Me-enjoying My Presence." *Ding*Ding*Ding* News flash* Denise Bowker can't do it; but God through me can! The more time I spend with Him, seeking His will, the more equipped I will feel. God knows my personality quirks better than I do and He still called me to be a stay-at-home mom.

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11
 
 
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1

Today my baby boy is 9 months old. Where have the last 9 months gone?! There were days that seem to have taken forever, but overall it feels like the blink of an eye. As I watch him now being super cute smiling, laughing and jabbering (very loudly) while standing up in his pack & play, I'm getting a bit teary eyed. What a tremendous blessing the Lord has given me!

I love watching Jadon and Natalie explore and learn new things. To see the sparkle in their eyes and smile on their face as they've accomplished something new, just makes my heart soar. When they actually "stop" when I tell them to or when they behave well around others, it makes me breath a sigh of relief that all the stress of parenting is not in vain.

I have to remind myself that we are God's children (Romans 8:16) and He too delights in our obedience and learning. Hmm...ponder that for a moment. Think of the comparison between parenting your children and how God "fathers" us. Oh dear! I too often act like a toddler and a baby!!! Why don't I just listen and obey?!

I think this must be a lesson that God want's me to think more about today because the demands of my children are calling right now and I can't focus and write any more. Thank you God for children and the lessons they teach us! :-)
 
 
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Taking time out of my day to spend with God is so very important. In this time I can offer to Him the things that are weighing heavy on my heart and also listen to His guidance in His Word. Writing these devotions has challenged me to dig deeper into what I’m reading rather than just reading the surface. I love reading a verse and then having God direct me to another part of scripture.

I’ve found that I have to wake up at 5:00am in order to get quiet, quality time with the Lord. As much as I love my son and am incredibly grateful for time we get to share at 6:00am, he’s a bit distracting. :-) For example, I slept in to 6:30am this morning and so did he, but now it’s taken me an hour just to write two paragraphs.

There is something so beautiful about the dawn of a new day. I echo the words of David in Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” At 5am my day is quiet and peaceful, untainted by the demands of life. I feel I am truly able to “Be still and know that [He] is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

This season of my life may not allow me two hours a day to study scripture, but there is no excuse for not spending at least 5 minutes of quiet/quality time with Him each day. It’s not always easy or convenient to make time, but we’re talking about spending time with the Creator of the universe; the Savior of our souls; our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Does He not deserve a sacrifice of our time?
 
 
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I've been convicted the last couple days about my complaining-attitude. In God's amazing goodness, He has blessed me with so much, yet all I do is whine and complain.

Why can't I see the Cheerios on the floor and thank God for providing food for my family rather than grumble and growl that I have to sweep them up? When my children are crying and need snuggle time and a nap, why can't I give God glory and praise for blessing me with two precious children, rather than be frustrated they interrupted me folding laundry? Why do I yell and get angry when clothes are left on the floor in the morning, rather than thank God for a husband who loves me and that he has a job to rush off to.

God has given me two wonderful children, an amazing husband, a beautiful home, and all of our daily provisions. He deserves my praise and thanksgiving; yet He also knows that with our sin nature, it takes continual prayer and communing with Him for me to be joyful and thankful.

I thank God that when we had storms roll through this weekend, He reminded me that I have a husband who will hold my hand during lighting and make me feel safer. I praise Him for the smiles and laughter yesterday when my son felt rain drops on his head. I thank God for all the big hugs and kisses my daughter gives at random times during the day and for the joy of watching her learn new things.

I am truly blessed with good and perfect gifts from my Father! Thank you, Lord!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17.