Friday, December 30, 2011

Useful Gifts

Post-Christmas is a great time to discover our new normal, now that we have new toys to play with - both kids and adults. So the girls have new legos, a new doll stroller, and a whole restaurant's worth of play food. I got an iPod touch and Caleb will be getting a smart phone.
In our precarious financial position, the holidays are the only time when we get silly electronic toys. I say silly since there's nothing I can do on the iPod that can't be done on the computer. Also silly because now I can carry around Facebook and angry birds, as if they need to be in my back pocket. I detest the idea of my girls being iThingy orphans, but have already caught myself ignoring them for the sake of whatever I happen to be doing online. Grr.
But what, you may ask, do Christmas gifts have to do with becoming debt free? We are not going to sell all these new toys for the sake of paying off our debt, though some in our situation might. While I do have an app for budgeting, that probably won't get us out of debt any sooner.
What will get us debt free is discipline. The iPod is an opportunity to practice this. I've already deleted Angry Birds and the only game apps I'll have are Fisher-Price. I'll need to keep myself from constantly checking Facebook and email, just like I keep myself from stopping at McDonalds when I'm out. Being in control of my sinful and selfish desires is key to living life as its meant to be lived.

Temptation to quit

I was speaking with my father-in-law this morning about C.S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy." Books that I have read and re-read countless times and find something wonderful to explore each time. Truly, one of the finest literary works of the 20th century. Gushing aside, there is a message that permeates each book in remarkable ways: the temptation to quit comes when we are most determined to finish. Here are some examples:

In Out of the Silent Planet Ransom (our kidnapped, space marooned hero) experiences heartache when, rather than go quickly to see Eldil on Malcandra. He and the creature who have adopted him go on a hunting trip first. In the process his friend is killed and the creatures realize that he should have gone to see Eldil right away. Lesson: distractions can be fatal.

In Perelandra Ransom (now exploring Venus) has summoned the story's narrator to his house before the scheduled interstellar excursion set for him by a visiting Eldil. While the narrator (Lewis himself) is walking between the train station and Ransom's house, he is beset with any number of fears and temptations that cause him to nearly flee in terror back to his own home. The lesson: when setting out on the virtuous path, the temptation to give up early will be overwhelming.

The temptation to quit is pervasive these days. So easy to just give up the ghost and let things slide. I have thought more than once that the dreams we have for our family and our future are nothing but smoke in the wind. I have grasped at straws. I have been let down time and time again. The temptation to circle the wagons, protect ourselves, avoid the dangers, avoid the heartache is sometimes more than I can handle. To be honest, I would love to just give up. It would be so easy to just go back to the way things were.

Why don't we just quit? Why not listen to the voices that are surrounding us? Because we believe that we can reach this goal. We want a better life for us and for our girls. We are tired of insecurity. We are fed up with foolishness. The cycle ends now....or at least is now coming to a close. No excuse will be good enough: only results.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goal setting for the new year

The moral of the story is not the tortoise was faster than the hare. Clearly, the hare could have beaten the pokey tortoise if he had focused on the goal and not stopped to nap in the clover. What is clear from the story, however, is that the tortoise was able to win because he never let himself believe that it was impossible. Even when the hare left him in the dust, he still believed that the desired goal was achievable--so long as he didn't stop moving towards the finish line. This year, we have set several goals to be accomplished over the next twelve months. Some of these may take only a few weeks, some a few months, others the whole year. You can follow our progress here on this blog, and join us by creating a Finish List and following #FinishYear on Twitter.

Below are Caleb's goals for 2012:

I'm going to read 12 non-fiction books and 12 fiction books (no more than two books per month) for the year 2012

I'm going to help my wife follow her dream and start a small business

I'm going to finish writing my novel

I'm going to start memorizing the book of Psalms

I'm going to make it to the 12 Great Feasts

I'm going to finish my Church History and Christocentricity of the Old Testament curricula

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Letter

This is the first year that we've the opportunity to write a Christmas Letter.  This is a tradition in my family, so I felt compelled to write out all our accomplishments for the year and to send it to various friends and family members (in limited quantities, our postage and ink budget was not as generous as I'd like).
For those who don't have a hard copy, here's our year in review.

December 2011
Dear Friends and Family,

In January of this year, we set ourselves an ambitious goal: to complete the calendar year without any major life changes. We are happy to report that during 2011 we have not moved, have had no births, and no changes in employment status – a first for our family. However, we have made some important changes.
First is a renewed commitment to becoming debt free. We began following Dave Ramsey's baby steps to financial peace in 2008, but haven't really been able to make headway until this year, due to unemployment. So far we have paid off Caleb's car, bought a used one for Emily with cash, and are beginning to make a dent in the student loan mountain. To motivate ourselves, we are planning a HUGE road trip for the summer after we get out of debt, hopefully 2014. You can follow our progress on the blog we set up:
Secondly, we are extremely excited to make joining the Eastern Orthodox Church our first act of 2012. On January 1, Z will be baptized and the rest of us will be confirmed, or chrismated as the Orthodox say, at New Skete Monastery, which is just down the road. We covet your prayers as we embark on this new journey of faith.
Turning now to our personal accomplishments this year:
Caleb has found great joy in his teaching position at Augustine Classical Academy. For 2011-'12 he has a very full course load, including three levels of Latin, Theology, Church History, and Drama. His students are currently: translating Virgil and Dr. Seuss's The Grinch Who Stole Christmas; wrestling with Augustine's Confessions; debating early Christian heresies; and rehearsing “A Winter's Tale” for performance in March.
Emily spends her days running after A and Z, as well as running around with them. Most weeks, they enjoy Story Hour at the library and MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers). Fridays the girls play at a neighbor's while Emily has some adult-time volunteering at the Food Co-op. This fall, she has also enjoyed the challenge of creative cooking with a weekly basket from our CSA (community supported agriculture), True Love Farms in NorthBennington, VT. Some of our favorite meals have been Kale Enchiladas, and Potato, Leek, Carrot and Celeriac Soup.
A, 2 ½, is growing into a responsible, inquisitive and creative big girl. She enjoys painting, singing, playing pretend, reading and cooking. She frequently declares her love for various objects and people, and is always willing to give hugs, snuggles and kisses. Her cute phrases and adorable actions are too many to mention, but here are a few highlights: “reading” the insides of a sandwich; saying “untundle” instead of “untangle”; switching personae by declaring “I'm Sister Bear” or “I'm Anya”.
Z, 16 months, is sweet, loving and quickly becoming a natural comedienne. Flashing her dimples, she says “cheese” eagerly for every camera, and happily dons any object she can while declaring “Hat!”
We look forward to next year and all the excitement it might bring!
Hoping you are well,

The Shoemakers

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Never seen the righteous forsaken

...or their children begging bread (Ps. 37.25)

This year we were the recipient of a Christmas basket provided by the Elks in Greenwich, NY. We had no idea how we got on their list, but we received the call on Wednesday and the "basket" this afternoon. We got a 12lb. turkey, rolls, vegetables, apple sauce, milk, eggs, butter, potatoes,  pasta, sauce, and more! It was so much more than we were expecting! God has been so good to us, and it's becoming very clear every day how much we need Him to reach our goals.

We are down to $150 in our emergency fund, behind on a couple of bills, and trying to wrestle our way through the NYS health insurance maze. This was one more example of the way His provision is always exactly the right amount at the right time. Here are some pictures!