Monday, May 31, 2010

Introducing to you my Mr. Right…

My sweet Daniel and I are complete opposites. But as the famous saying goes, opposites attract. He likes fishing, I like football. He likes running, I don’t! He is quite; I can’t keep my mouth shut. He thinks before he speaks, I speak before I think. He likes healthy foods; I like hot fudge sundays with extra hot fudge. As you get the idea of our differences, I must say that we compliment each other. I feel so incredibly blessed to call Daniel my husband. He is the man of my dreams, even when I get upset about dirty dishes in the sink.

I met Daniel at a Bible study right before heading off to college. His bushy wild hair was hard not to miss and His love for the Lord was contagious. When we started to date I couldn’t stop admiring Daniel’s knowledge of scripture and his dedication to the Lord. Before we would watch a late night movie, he would always encourage for us to have our quite time with the Lord. He would say that we would be too tired to understand it after the movie was over and he was always right about it.

After dating for four years, we got married and moved to a small town surrounded by deers and bears. FYI, I did get to see a bear for the first time in our area this year. Ok, changing subject back to Daniel. This summer Daniel and I will celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary (time is passing by way too fast) as we look forward to celebrating many more. God knew that I would be complete when He brought Daniel into my life and for that I am forever grateful.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lead Me to the Cross

I have struggled with the idea of tithing for a while. Yes, I am a believer in tithing because the Word of God says in 1 Samual 8:15, "He will take a tenth of your grain..." Today I can apply this verse to my pay check, which means that I should give 10th of the pay to God. All of it is His anyways, and He only asks for a tiny portion to be used for His Kingdom. However, I thought that I knew better what to do with the money and used for other purposes. It was never used for self gratification or for bill payments. I chose to use it to bless others or so I thought. I would send my family a package occasionally and use tithing to cover the cost or give money to people that I thought were in need. The saddest part is that I was in charge of God's money and how it was to be used and not Him. I would be so quick to justify my "good deeds" that I would not listen to others opinions on this matter.

Guilt or better yet, conviction would often get to me, when I saw people at church write checks for tithing that struggled financially, yet did not hold back from God what belonged to Him in a first place. All I wanted is for someone to tell me that what I was doing is right. I recall during one Sunday sermon the pastor shared with congregation that he gives his tithes at the beginning of each month. This way God gets the first fruits of his labor. I really wanted to block out that part of the sermon, but thankfully God instead imprinted it in my heart. "Fine, You win", I told God, “I will give it to the church, BUT when I need to use the money for my parents' packages I will." Stipulations were not part of God's plan. He continued to convict me to where I could no longer bare the burden alone.

I particularly felt heaviness one Wednesday evening. It was almost time to go to church, so I got in a car and had the radio turned on to a Christian station. As I tuned in to almost the end of the show, the host proceeded to tell the importance of tithing to the church. I knew God was telling me that He knows how the money should be used and that He will take care of others needs. At that point I knew that I must surrender and give what belonged to God’s church and let God handle the rest.

It has been the best decision that I have made in regards to tithing, because I have seen God provide with extra money to pay for the packages even when mathematically it does not add up at the end of the month to have the extra cash. How does it happen that we have money for something that we didn't have before? Numbers 15:21 says that God is "a giver of all good gifts." I now want to shout because the heavy burden is no longer there and I see God's bountiful provision in every situation. I also want to encourage you to not withhold what belongs to God. Please listen to me friend, I promise that when you give first to God, you will witness blessings of God's provision in a way that you may never witnessed before. The bondage that money has on us at times will be gone and replaced with joy and peace that surpasses our understanding.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


This week I wrapped up the $25 dollars a week challenge and am very happy to report that I did it!!!! At the beginning of the month I withdrew $100 dollars and paid cash for the groceries. Some days I wanted to spend more than $25 dollars, but I wanted to be honest with myself and you about my spending.

I recall one time I had to put one newspaper back, because I was going to be over the budget. Another time I had to put a pack of chicken that was on sale back simply because I didn’t have enough cash with me to pay for it. As silly as it may sound, but I loved the challenge. Each week $25 dollars was more than enough for us. In fact, I was able to buy things that we wanted and didn’t have coupons for. By the way I didn’t feel one drop of guilt.

This week I bought ingredients for taco soup (yummy). I spotted organic potatoes that were on manager’s special and used them to make yummy potato pancakes. I am sure by now you are getting hungry! Eggs were also on sale at Ingles this week, so I bought two dozens.

Ingles was running a promotion on cereal so I was able to buy 4 boxes of Cheerios of course with coupons. I couldn’t help and grabbed several packages of ground turkey that were reduced for quick sale. Organic orange juice was also on managers special this week, which we enjoyed drinking it this week!

All in all this week’s deals were boring, but all the items that I bought sure came in handy when I spent all day cooking. And I have a picture to prove my hard work…just look at my messy sink!

Total spent: $24.74

Total saved: $31.84

Friday, May 28, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

It was time for us to depart Kibera. For the next several days we debriefed as we shared with each other about our experiences. I was sad to leave Kenya, but was happy to come home and marry the love of my life. There are so many stories that are left untold of God’s work in Africa. For right now my work in Kenya is accomplished, but I am not sure what God has in mind for the future. I would like to conclude these series with a letter that I sent out to my sponsors summing up my trip in one page.

Dear family and friends,

I hope this letter finds you well. As you all know I returned from my mission trip to Kenya not too long ago. It was the best vacation with Jesus that I ever had and I would love to share my experience with you. First part of the trip we spent in a small village of Owaso, where God’s beauty is reflected in people and nature. We all quickly bonded with local children, and soon I had a 9 year old friend, Lillian. She touched my heart in a way I will never forget. Before the trip I asked the Lord to allow me love the unlovable and touch the untouchable. My God is faithful, He answered my prayer. My love for Lillian grew every day and it was love that was given by God. I never knew that I could fall in love with a stranger so deep and so fast. Through this love the Lord reminded me of His love for us. You see, you and I were once strangers to God’s family, yet His love for me and you was so unconditional and deep, that He extended grace and invited us to be a part of His family. Praise Him!!!

God’s unconditional love for people in Owaso was evident to us. We have seen the power of healing. We witnessed people coming to know the Lord during open air crusades. During VBS we loved on children and prayed that through our love they would see God’s unfailing love for them. God used people of Owaso to teach us as well. I remember the time, when we were picking up trash around the village. Trash was everywhere!!! My team was given rubber gloves and trash bags. As we began to pick up trash, which you didn’t know if you were picking up a bone of a goat or some other creature, children began to pick up trash, too. One minor detail to the story – we had gloves, while children didn’t. After picking up trash for a while, we stopped for lunch. I took off my gloves, and felt some one’s hand grabbing mine. When I looked, it was my precious Lillian’s hands, which picked up trash with no gloves, held on tight to mine. To be honest with you… I believe that my initial reaction would have been jerking my hand away, but at that time it was the beautiful hand of God’s child held on to mine and I wanted to keep on holding it and never let go. The Lord answered my prayer to be able to touch the untouchable. He reminded me of His love for all people from whom society tries to stay away. I love when God shows up, when I am least expecting, don’t you?

Well, before you know, it was time for us to leave Owaso, but our journey continued in Kibera slum, which is the 2nd largest slum in the world. The best way to describe Kibera is with the Christian lyrics “You can’t describe the indescribable”. I don’t think I am able to explain to you what my eyes have seen and my nose smelled in Kibera. When you walk to through the streets of Kibera, you are wondering if it is real. Can a child walk barefoot through the streets filled with sewage and think nothing of it? How can the government not acknowledge existence of 1.5 million people, who live in disparity? As I was walking my heart was breaking, but I felt numb to the pain of Kibera. Once again my God is faithful. He broke me, when He allowed me to share the Gospel with street children. I felt what they were feeling, when the Holy Spirit spoke through me about heaven, where there would be no more pain, hunger and death. I praise my God for what He did in Kibera.

Once again we were able to witness people coming to know the Lord through door to door evangelism, VBS and open air crusades. You know, before the trip I thought that I was coming to Kenya to preach, but in reality Kenya preached to me. In Kibear and Owaso I have seen people know the Lord with the faith so strong that you can feel the Holy Spirit’s presence. They worship the Lord at church so wholeheartedly that I am still longing to feel that experience in America. People in Kenya that I met had nothing, yet they have found EVERYTHING in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

From this trip I have learned that I am a missionary no matter where I live. I was able to experience what it is like to stand in the front rows of the battle, yet have faithful prayer warriors like you at home, who fought in prayer with me. I learned that planting seeds is equally important as picking up the harvest, “for the Lord rejoices over one sinner, then 99 righteous who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). I learned that the building doesn’t make a church, but the body of the believers does. I have seen from people in Kenya what it is like to be on fire for God even if you don’t know where your next meal will come from. Starving is a natural state that many children in Africa experience. I learned that being tired is not an excuse to not be ready to minister to people. I learned that having lights in your house is a privilege just as washing your face each morning with water and taking hot showers. I learned that God may not always use my words to be a witness, but He may use my actions that speak louder than words.

Dear family and friends, your actions spoke louder than words, when you supported me financially and prayerfully on this trip. I thank my God that He called me to Kenya and I thank Him for you. I pray that He would bless each one of you. I would love to close my letter with a quote from one of my team members; she said “I'll admit that for a while our American culture had me convinced that I pretty much rocked and that on my own power I had earned the right to live so comfortably. But when I went to Kenya, and looked into the eyes of a three year old orphan, I realized the only thing that kept me from being born into in her situation, was God's will. Each and every one of us could have been born into Africa's largest slum, and realizing it has made me more humble than ever before.”

In His precious and glorious name,


Freebies – they really do exist…

The first time I signed up for a freebie I was a little skeptical. Why a company would want to not only give me a free product, but also pay for the shipping. Later on I learned that companies spend thousands of dollars each year on promoting and advertising their products. Their goal is to get me hooked on their product so I will continue to buy it week after week, month after month and year after year.
When my very first sample arrived in the mail I was ecstatic. I mean who does not want to open a mailcox and see something fun besides boring bills?! From then on I continue to sign up for freebies, when opportunity presents. I now always look forward to checking mail with hopes that something besides bills is waiting to be opened. This past year I have received tons of free magazines, toiletries and food items just to name a few. My husband loves freebies too. In fact if he is the one checking our mailbox and there is a food freebie, he nicely eats it before I come home.

Last month I decided to do an experiment and collect all the freebies that I would receive in 30 days. Please note that if have no use for the item that companies are giving away for free, I do not sign up for it. Because freebies most of the time go fast, I believe it is fair to leave freebies for those who are actually going to use them. Anyhow, below is the picture of all the magazines and items that I received in one month.
If you wonder why I read baby magazines, let me explain. Although we do not have children yet, I hope that one day God would bless us with little ones. So why not get a head start on educating myself about diapers, formulas and crying babies. The first time the baby magazine came in the mail I had to explain to our post master that I was not pregnant I just like getting free magazines. We live in a small town, so I figured she may have wondered why I read Working Mothers. So, my friends, next time you see an offer for a free sample, sing up and wait for your surprise in the mail.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

It was almost time for us to leave Kibera and debrief before traveling back to the US. I was really bothered by the fact that I have yet to cry during our stay in Kibera. My God has blessed me with extra dose of emotions so I was confused by the fact that I cried watching infomercial about poverty, but when I finally faced it I was numb to it. On the way to the Nakumat (grocery store) I shared my burden with my amazing leader. I shared with her that prior to the trip I have been praying that God would allow me to feel what people living in poverty feel. Her response was this…”Don’t you think God answered your prayers? You feel numb to the surroundings because that is how people of Kibera feel. If they allowed the true feelings to come out, people of this slum would be swimming in their own tears.” Good point, I never thought of it that way.

Before the end of our stay in Kibera I shed my first tears. Several days before the departure, we decided to have unscheduled crusade in the yard near our house. We would do the usually drama, songs and a lesson. One of our leaders approached me and asked if I would be interested in teaching that evening. I was certain that during the trip God called me just to love on children as He planned for someone else to teach. But I agreed and went back to the room to prepare the lesson.

I knew what God wanted me to share and oh boy did the Holy Spirit came over me when I shared with small children gathered around the court yard. I shared with the kids Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” For a split second I felt the burden of the small children living in such poverty that is beyond my comprehension. As tears rolled down my face as I held on to the promises of one Mighty God that I serve. I absolutely love what Ps 56:8 say,” You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”. Are you in awe of how amazing our God is? I am!!! God loves and cares for His children and can use you and me to share His love with others.

Snack, Lunch or Coffee…Neither!

Hungry and desperately searching for quarters in my drawer and wallet, I was relieved when I scrambled enough money for a snack. For some odd reason right after lunch every day at work my stomach gives me hint hint growling signals that it is ready for a sweet treat. I give in and make my way to the snack machine. Hit with tough choices I stand for 5 minutes trying to decide if I want a Snickers bar or Twix. Finally voluntarily my fingers dial D4 and my favorite snack is in front of me in no time. Trying to avoid facing nutrition facts, I quickly rip off the package and take a first bite of fat laden amazingly tasting extra large cinnamon roll. My stomach gives me thumbs up as I make my way back to my desk. In 10 minutes I start to contemplate if my $0.85 cent snack was good for my body and my wallet.

I knew that my body was receiving only temporarily satisfaction consuming 1000 calories in one setting, while my arteries were probably screaming for help. My wallet most likely cringes every time I search for change to use on snacks. While trying to debate if I want to give in to my snack temptation this week, I realized that I am not following my tightwad nature. Simply said, I am throwing money away, every time I select D4 on the snack machine. By doing simple calculations this is what I came up with. If I buy two snacks a week that comes to $1.70 dollars, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money at first. But if I look in terms of a year, that comes out to $90.10! Now that’s a lot of money!!!

I want to take our calculations a step further. Occasionally I go out to eat with my co-workers and spend about $6 on my lunch. Now, if I was to go out to eat once a week and spend on average $5 dollars on my meal that would add up to $265 dollars a year. Oh yeah, and what if we did coffee spending calculations. Thankfully I do not like coffee, but let’s hypothetically say that on my way to work I stop and buy a cup of coffee from Starbucks for $3 dollars twice a week. My coffee addiction would cost me $318 dollars a year. CRAZY! Now lets add up all the spending that we calculated thus far… snacks $90.10 dollars plus lunches $265 dollars plus coffee $318 dollars. Drum roll please….that comes out to $673.10 dollars a year!!! Hmmm…what can I do with $673 dollars….quite a lot and you?!?!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

People in Kibera are thirsty for God’s Word and I mean it! The best part is that their thirst for the Word is contagious and sincere! I recall one night part of our group went to a local Bible college, where our leader taught a lesson to the local pastors. At the end of the session questions poured non stop as pastors were thirsty for the truth. It made me stop for a second and think about my walk with the Lord. Am I fed or thirsty? Is reading my Bible for 5 minutes a day enough to know my God? I knew the answer to my questions. In order for me to really know my God I have to spend more than 5 minutes with Him and thirst the truth just like local Kenyans.

Our Q&A session came to an end as it was getting dark outside. We were advised to not go back to the house through the “heart” of Kibera for safety reasons. Instead we walked on the outskirt of the slum and let me just tell you I was scared. Night life in Kibera slum is not quite. The presence of evil was so real that many times I closed my eyes and held the hand of my teammate as we walked in line back to the house. Reciting scripture and singing Christian songs out loud calmed our fears. Isaiah 41:10 says, 'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand

When we arrived to the house we enjoyed dinner, fellowship with our team and finally it was bed time. Every day when it was time to go to bed, I felt exhausted. In part I felt tired was because we didn’t eat nutritious meals, however it allowed me to have a glimpse of hunger that children in Africa experience daily. Another reason is that we stayed busy from the time we woke up until bed time ministering to local people. The Word of God says in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” I learned in Kenya that I am a missionary 24/7 no matter how tired or cranky I may be.

I can't wait to see my mom...

It is almost time! In less than a month my mom from Belarus will be here with us. In over 10 years this would be the 5th time that I would see my mom. For 3 whole weeks I will get to have my mom’s hugs every single day and her hugs are priceless. And my tummy is ready for my mom’s homemade cooking like blini (crepes), dranki (potato pancakes) and vermisheli (pasta with butter) just to name a few. I will take pictures and share her good cooking with you all. At night I will get to watch a Russian movie with my head resting on my mom’s lap as she would gently rush her fingers through my hair. It always makes me feel like I am 5 years old again and I love it.

I also can’t wait to ride in a car with mom, because we always blast Russian music and sing on top of our lungs. During her stay I am planning to take her coupon shopping again with me. Since we do not have coupons in my country, she always gets a kick when we pay very little for our purchases. Oh, and we will make our annual trip to Ryan’s. When I first came to the US, I was only 11 years old. My host family took me to Ryan’s and I thought I was in heaven. When I came back to Belarus, I told my family that I ate at a restaurant that you can eat as much as you want and only have to pay for a plate. My dad then looked and me and said, “Well, can you bring your own plate and eat for free?” This cracks me up every time and I have to thank my dad for my tightwad ways.

I miss my family…a lot. There are times at night, when my mind is clear from all the business that all I think about is my mom and dad. My heart breaks that I haven’t see my dad in over 10 years and I daily beg God that He would bless me with the opportunity to hug my dad again. I hope that I will get to see my dad next summer. There are times when I have a bad day that all I want is to pick up the phone and hear my mom’s comforting voice telling me that everything is going to be OK…but I can’t because of the time difference and it is ridiculously expensive to call overseas. I am thankful for the time that I will get to spend with my mom in a few weeks hugging her and letting her know how much I love her. This time with my mom I will treasure forever and ever and ever.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

The smell of trash no longer bothered me, but I still couldn’t believe what my eyes witnessed every single day as we walked through the slum. The level of poverty was unreal. Even the smallest house in the US seemed liked a mansion in comparison to the Kibera’s mud huts. Thrift store clothes seemed like the designer clothes compared to the worn our dirty clothes that children of Kibera had on. McDonald’s kids meal would most likely taste like a five start restaurant to many residents of Kibera, because starvation was a norm to many. Oh yeah, how could I forget hot water! It was non existent to most along with TVs, cars, and latest electronics just to name a few. During one of our door to door visits, I met a woman who had nothing. From her story I learned that she lost a baby and had nowhere to go. She came to Kibera to look for relatives, but could not locate them. Her feet were unbelievable swollen and someone gave a chair for her to seat on. She didn’t know what she was going to do and look so hopeless. My teammate and I laid our hands on the woman’s feet and prayed, prayed and prayed. My friend, do you feel blessed right now to have a job, a roof over your head and hot meal every evening? Stop right now and thank God for your blessings!!! Those who know God and reside in Kibera are blessed too. Yes, they do not have all the material things, but they have faith that can move the mountains. The Word of God says in Matt 17:20, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." I will never forget the church service that we attended while we lived in Kibera. Quickly I learned that the building does not make up the church, but the body of the believers does. Locals worshiped God so wholeheartedly and with such joy that I still long to experience that in the US. It was normal for the church service to last 3 years and no one around me looked at their watch as lunch time approached. The simple truth was that most of the people didn’t have lunch plans but their growling stomachs didn’t interrupt their time with the Lord. Every moment of worship with God was treasured by Kenyans as they danced and praised Him. And for the first time the Bible verse 2 Sam 6:14 became a reality for me, “And David danced before the LORD with all his might”. It was so amazing to be real with God not worrying if my pew neighbor going to think that I am crazy for jumping up and down or singing every other verse to the song that I have never heard before. When the Holy Spirit does cartwheels inside of me, which happens often when I am listening to the Christian music, I should join in and not worry about what someone else thinks of my worship style. As I hummed a very well known song, my God was right there with me. “When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that's of worth that will bless Your heart”.
To be continued…

Homemade Chicken Broth

Chicken broth can become very expensive if bought at a grocery store, plus one can is packed with sodium and preservatives. So why not make your own healthy chicken broth for pennies.

Whole chicken
Any seasoning

Place chicken in the crock pot and add water enough to cover chicken. Then cut up onions, you may also want to add a little bit of garlic. Spice it up with your favorite seasoning and turn your crock pot on low. Let it cook for 10 hours.

After the chicken broth cools off remove chicken from the crock pot and pour the liquid contents through a fine mesh strainer into another dish.

If you don’t need to use chicken broth right away, you can pour into ice cubes and freeze it. It takes approximately 10 ice cubes to make up one cup of chicken broth. It taste wonderful and the best part it is healthy and free!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

In about two hours we arrived to Kibera. If you are not familiar with Kibera, it is Africa’s largest slum with population of 500,000 to 750,000 people whose existence the government of Kenya does not recognize. Kibera was everything that I imagined for it to be. If you watch infomercial about poverty in Africa, this was 100 times worst. The smell of sewage was so strong that until your nose adapts to it, you fill sick to your stomach. My eyes couldn’t believe that it was actually possible to live in such poor conditions. Our group stayed in a house on the outskirt of the slum. The house was small and simple with running cold water and it made me happy that I can actually wash my face. Before too long our guide (local pastor) took us on excursion around the slum.

It was hot outside and as we carefully walked through what looked like a trash dump I was in disbelief that I was walking through the land that people reside on. Little children would run up to us shouting, “How are you?” with an accent. We were told prior to the trip that was the only phrase that little children knew and loved letting others know about it. Before too long we came to a building, which turned out to be the local Bible school. As the pastor was talking to the group, his words became a blur to me and I felt that at any moment I was going to pass out. I have never felt that way before and became very scared. I grabbed my leader and told her that I had to seat down because my legs were barely holding me. The next thing I know the whole group gathered around me and started to pray as the guys took their hats off to fan me. I know that God was watching over me as Is 40:29 says, He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak”. I felt better but my leaders weren’t sure if I would be capable of walking around for another hour. One of the leaders and a group member walked me back to the house, where I rested until the rest of the group came back.

The following morning I felt much better as we prepared to go to the local school to teach kids God’s Word. As we jumped over the sewage puddles, local kids barefoot would walk through them. To them it was not a big deal since their surrounding was all they have ever known. When we arrived to school, each one of us was assigned a classroom. I had girls around 11-13 years old, who were extremely shy. As I tried to remember their names and asked questions, none of them wanted to share too much information about their families. Later on I learned that some students drop out of school in order to work to help feed the family. Most children had one parent while others were either orphans or lived with extended family members. Unlike children in Owasso, these children were reserved and held their distance. I didn’t bond with any of the girls and I wondered if they dreaded the hour that I spend with them each day. As I prepared different devotions to share with the girls, every day on our way back to the camp I couldn’t stop thinking if the girls learned anything. However, I must leave the speaking part up to the Holy Spirit and keep praying earnestly for the girls’ future.

To be continued….

Saving Money on Makeup

Not too long ago I came across an article in the Women’s Day magazine on how to save money on expensive makeup. At first I wanted to skip the article. I am a tightwad and I buy my makeup at the drug stores for pennies. However, I was bored so I decided to read it. The author (will call her “deal seeker”) shared that her family was trying to cut corners in their budget and her husband suggested that she would stop buying expensive makeup. Although she knew that her husband was right, the “deal seeker” could not imagine going a month without her favorite makeup products. And the experiment idea of acquiring free makeup was born.

The “deal seeker” decided to find ways to continue to use her favorite brands of makeup for free. One weekend she took a trip to the department store, where she browsed through the makeup isles. Finally she became brave enough to ask a sales associate for a free sample. The rejection came quicker than she expected as she was informed that free samples were not available.

Not wanting to quite her mission, the “deal seeker” decided to take a different approach to free makeup. She came up to a different counter and told the sales associate that she was interested in trying a specific color of lipstick. The sales associate quickly found the right lipstick color with hopes of making a sale. The “deal seeker” than asked if she can have a sample to try it out for a few days at home just to find out that her request was welcomed with open arms.

Feeling the empowerment of her success, the “deal seeker” moved from counter to counter asking to try out different products while receiving lots and lots of free samples to take home. Overall she saved over $100 dollars and her free makeup lasted her several months.

Saving money on expensive makeup was appealing to me too. But I am not a big fan of makeup, so going and asking for samples was not of interest to me. I was proud of the “deal seeker”, however did not want to try her approach until I thought of my mom. Right before my mom came to visit us for Christmas I spent several hours one weekend e-mailing companies asking for samples. Many companies like Clinique responded that they do not send samples, but I can go to the make up counter at the department store and ask for samples there.

When my mom finally arrived, several days into her trip we did just that. We went to the mall and walked from counter to counter asking for free samples. Taking the approach of the “deal seeker” pretending that I was interested in buying make up products was not my cup of tea. Instead I would politely introduce my mom to the sales associate informing them that she is visiting the US for Christmas. I then nicely ask if they would be so kind to give her samples to take home with her.

I was really surprised how many sales associates were willing to give samples to my mom. I learned that Clinique workers were the most generous in giving full size products, while Sephora store had shelves stuffed with samples. By the end of our free makeup hunt my mom’s free bag courtesy of well known make up company was full of expensive makeup ranging from face lotions to Estee Lauder face foundation. Happy that our mission was a success I asked my mom if she was embarrassed by me asking for free samples. My mom looked at me and said, “Why would I be embarrassed?! I didn’t understand a word you were saying so I just stood there and smiled.” As we giggled walking through the busy isles of the mall, I was happy to know that my mom can enjoy her goodies. In fact, several weeks ago during our phone conversation she mentioned how much she enjoys using her free samples. One time use packet of lotion lasts her several days as she carefully squeezes every bit of the lotion out it. In several months, when my mom returns for a visit we will repeat our mission of acquiring free makeup and I will be certain to update of us success.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lead me to the cross

Witnessing to family members is tough and I know it first hand. “Dad, did you go to church as you promised me?” sternly I asked him over the phone one day. “No, I am waiting for you to come home so we can go together”, he replied without hesitation giving yet another excuse. I wish I could travel home so I can go with my dad to church; the problem is the ocean is between us making it impossible. My dad is not the only one who does not know God, my mom also does not know Him. My conversations with mom usually go like this, when she comes to visit. “The preacher is doing an invitation for anyone who wants God to be their Savior. Don’t’ you want God to be your Savior?” I translated to my mom during the church service. “No, thank you. I am not ready”, she replied politely. And that’s it. Sometimes I would rather not ask them, because I don’t want to hear what they have to say. It is always the same ole stuff, they are not ready. Why can’t they just believe?! And why can’t it happen NOW! Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.” God’s timing is perfect, it is just so hard to seat and wait.

I have been patiently waiting the last 10 years while I have earnestly been praying for my parents’ salvation. There are days when the burden for my parents is so heavy that it knocks me down to my knees as I cry out to God. He has been faithful in hearing my cry and I believe that one day I will be rejoicing with angels in heaven, when my parents commit their lives to the Lord. Luke 15:7 says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” When I feel faithless God finds ways to remind me about His faithfulness.
The reminder came the day I talked to my dad over the phone. Our conversation went something like this.

Dad: Do you remember our neighbor who lives on the 2nd floor?
Me: Yes. Didn’t his wife passed away from cancer, when I was still living in Belarus?
Dad: Yes. Not too long ago he remarried and I have seen his wife in passing several times as we exchanged hellos.
Me: Ok.
Dad: Well, one day I was seating in the kitchen when the door bell rang. I went to open the door and our neighbor’s wife was standing right in front of me. She asked me if I go to church and I said no. She then started to ask me questions about God and if I believed in Him. As we talked for several minutes she invited me to go to church with her family, but I politely declined. You know it is no my cup of tea. The neighbor then insisted that she will not give up on me and will continue inviting me to come to church.
Me: Dad, you should really go.
Dad: I will when you come to visit me.

As we hung up, I cried. You see, I have been praying for a long time that God would use someone or something to minister to my mom and dad (my parents are divorced by the way). I was certain that God would not use someone, because in my country there are very few Christians. I did however believe that God could use something, like a circumstance to minister to my family. But God proved me wrong. He has used our neighbor, who happened to live in the same building entrance as my dad. Just to give you a picture our apartment building in Belarus is 9 stories high and has 7 entrances. Our neighbor was obedient to God’s call to go and speak to my dad who she has never met. It blows my mind! But it shouldn’t because nothing is impossible to the God that I serve. That day God has encouraged me to keep on praying for my parents’ salvation as He is working on their hearts. It may be another 10 or 20 years before my parents come to know the Lord, but I will continue to hold on to God’s promise in 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” My friends, if you feel weary and hopeless because your prayers have not been answered do not give up. Even when we are faithless, God remains faithful and will answer your prayer in His time and according to His will.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tightwad's Savings

I hit another makeup jackpot this week. During my shopping trip to CVS, I was able to buy inexpensive diapers, free lipstick and eye pencils. Although we do not have children yet, I did not want to miss out on buying cheap diapers that I can give for a baby shower. While walking towards the diaper isle, I notices lots of clearance stickers on makeup. I was thrilled to find Revlon makeup marked down 75% off, plus I had $2 dollars off coupon. All the makeup ended up being free after the discount and coupons! Free makeup is for my mom to take back to Belarus, when she will come to visit us in June (woot woot!!!)

I made another trip to CVS on Sunday to pick up free shampoo and a razor!

On Friday I made a quick stop by Wal-Mart to buy meat for BBQ (yummy). I have $5 left on a gift card, so I decided to utilize it at the store. While shopping, I grabbed several packets of different seasonings for taco soup and cucumber sandwiches. I also had to buy a spray bottle to fill up with the homemade bug spray to protect my strawberries from pests.

The highlight of the week came when I stopped by Staples. My friend shared with me that she found Marcal paper towels at Staples for less than $1 a roll. Since I had 10 coupons for $1 off, I only had to pay pennies (tax) for 10 rolls of paper towels.

Total spent: $25.47

Total saved: $124.47

Friday, May 21, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

Kibera Slum

It was time to leave Owasso and head on to Kibera slum, where we would spend the remainder of our mission trip. I will never forget our last evening in Owasso. It was the toughest day during the whole trip, when I had to say goodbye to my sweet Lillian. All the locals were invited for dinner at our camp, and guess what we ate that night?! A goat! I actually met that goat the day before when he was tied up to the pole next to our shack. Needless to say, I went hungry that night. I was dreading for dinner to be over, because I am not very good with saying goodbyes. As I hugged my Lillian, I didn’t want to let go of her. God showed me through Eph 3:18, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”. My tears ran uncontrollably while my Lillian sobbed. Her tiny arms were wrapped around my waste would not let go.

All the local adults started to call children to come home and that is when Lillian’s arms became unglued and she ran away as fast as she could. As I watch her run and her slim figure was disappearing in the distance, my heart was torn apart. Two of my other teammates were seating on the grass crying also. I joined them and we shared with each other how much this children meant to us. We then prayed for God’s hand to be upon them protecting and providing for them.

In the morning it was time for us to leave Owasso. The problem arose when our bus didn’t show up to pick us up. For the next three hours we sat on the grass talking what foods we will eat upon our return to the US. We were so tired and hungry that I would have probably eat en cheese if someone offered it to me (just a side note, I do not like cheese). After a while we began to wonder if our bus drivers forgot about us, but we were then informed that we were in Africa where concept of time does not exist. Finally our bus arrived and we were ready to see what God had in store for us in Kibera.

To be continued…

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

Before coming to Kenya, I thought that God would use us to minister to hundreds of people and they will all come to know Him. That was not the case when we actually arrived to Owasso. Almost every evening we would have crusades in the middle of the village. We would sing songs, perform drama and then a group memeber would share God’s Word through a translator. People would gather and watch, but very few took the opportunity when invitation was given. I recall guys in my group praying for a man who was suffering from back ache. Boys prayed over the man and the next day this elderly man came to our camp to share with us that his pain was gone. Some girls in our group ministered to older women, while the rest of us loved unconditionally on local children.

God reminded me of His love for people of Owasso, when He placed Bible verse (1Cor 3:6) on my heart “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow”. You see, before picking up the harvest someone first must plant it. God was using us to plow the acre and plant the seeds. Next year when a group of students come, God perhaps would use them to water the seeds. And in His time He will make the seeds grow. Sometimes as Christians we get disappointed when we do not see the fruits of our labor right then right there. When we are witnessing to someone and they reject, we feel discouraged. But during this trip, God reassured that it is just as important to plant a seed as it is to pick up the harvest.

Planting a seed can be through our actions and not necessary through our words and one evening the Lord reminding me just of that. Ever so often we would have a Bible study where our leaders would pour their hearts in sharing God’s Word with our group. Sometimes older local kids would come and join our Bible study. That night it was very cool outside and I put on a sweatshirt over my short sleeved shirt. I am cold natured and my co-workers would agree with me. I have a heater at my desk on during the winter months and summer months. I am miserable, when I am cold. Our group leader began to teach and I couldn’t help but notice a local boy who was seating next to me shivering. I started to pray, “God, would you please warm him up. He is very cold…please!” The boy kept on shaking and then I began to pray differently, “Lord, you know I am miserable, when I am cold. Would you warm me up?” I took my sweatshirt off and offered it to the boy, who gladly accepted it. And this when my God showed up and showed out. During the next 20 minutes of the Bible study, gentle and warm breeze would touch my skin softly as I listened to my leader. This gentle and warm breeze was so familiar, because I have felt it the first time I encountered God’s presence during high school years. God kept me warm, so the stranger could see through my actions’ God’s warm and carrying love for him. God gets all the glory, honor and praise!

To be continued…

Saving Money on Organic Products

Buying organic food doesn’t have to break your budget. There are many coupons for organic products available for a consumer that when combined with a sale allows you to purchase very inexpensive products. Previously I have been able to buy organic crackers for $1 dollar a box, while purchasing a big bottle of organic juice for $0.50 cents. My absolute favorite store for organic groceries is Earth Fare. Unfortunately for me, the closest store is an hour away. When I visit my out of town family, I try to make a point to stop by Earth Fare on my way.

When entering the store, I always make sure to grab several coupon booklets that are filled with coupons. Some are store coupons that can only be used at Earth Fare, while others are manufacturing coupons and can be used at any store that accept coupons. At the beginning of each month, the store updates its monthly flyer that shows which items are on sale for the duration of the month. I usually look through the flyer at as soon as the store makes it available and circle items that we either like or would like to try. I then spend an hour on the weekend e-mailing companies asking for coupons. That way at the end of the month before the sale is over; I make a trip and use my coupons. As I have mentioned before, you will be surprised how many companies send high dollar coupons and coupons for free product.

Well, several weeks ago I received an e-mail from Earth Fare with a nice little surprise letting all the shoppers know that they now can print a variety of coupons for organic product through the store’s website.  What made this deal even better is that some coupons are manufacturing coupons, which means that you can redeem them at any store that accepts coupons. And if your store doubles coupons, well…then you may score an even better deal by shopping at your local grocery store with these coupons. Either way, go and check out the list of coupons that Earth Fare offers and while you are there don’t forget to sign up to be on their mailing list. Every week, you will receive an e-mail with a special promotion like a jar of free peanut butter with any purchase or 20% off any bottle of vitamins. I truly enjoy shopping at Earth Fare, when I get a chance!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

me and my sweet Lillian

We slept in tents inside the metal building that really looked more like a shack. Every morning, we would get up and be ready to eat breakfast. Every morning for breakfast we would have homemade doughnuts like pastry and they were simply amazing. We were told that girls usually gain weight during the trip because carbs become your best friend. After breakfast we would take turn washing dishes and spend an hour in quiet time with the Lord. VBS was next on our agenda, where I would see my sweet Lillian laughing and having a good time. She would always take my arms and wrap herself in them. During VBS we would teach kids of God’s love, sing songs and play games with them. For lunch we would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (every single day…sometimes twice a day) and then we would go off to the near by villages to interact with locals through community service.

I recall a day, when we went to pick up trash in the near by village. The place was covered with paper wrappers, animal bones and all kinds of yucky items. After gloves were distributed we started to work. Some locals couldn’t understand why Americans came to their village to pick up their trash and were pleasantly surprised by our actions. Before you know local children started to mimic our action helping us pick up the trash. My Lillian was my helper and her bare hands would grab whatever was before her and throw it in the trash bag. At times I wasn’t sure if I was picking up the bones of a goat or some other creature. However, children did not care one bit that they were picking up odd object without gloves. We finished our task and it was time for us to go back to our shack for lunch.

As we were walking children started to follow us and all of a sudden I felt someone grabbing my hand so tight that it scarred me. When I saw that it was Lillian’s hand my initial reaction would have been to jerk my hand back. As I have mentioned before, kids did not have gloves when they picked up the trash. However, at that time, I didn’t care about her dirty hands and instead my hands tightly held on to hers. Before going on this trip, I prayed that God would allow me to touch the untouchable and love the unlovable and He was faithful in answering my prayer. Through Lillian God showed me how much He loves His children. He doesn’t care about our dirty hands or our dirty past; He loves us all the same with love that is beyond our understanding. Psalm 58:8 says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever”.

The love that God gave me for Lillian was unexplainable. I never knew that I was capable of loving a stranger so much in such short period of time. It was as if God kept on pouring in to a cup that was overflowing with love for my sweet Lillian. One day our group went to a local school to teach children about God. On our way to school I saw Lillian going home with her friend for lunch. After hugging me, she didn’t just walk home she ran home. That child must have been moving 70 mph because half way through our walk to school she ran up to me and grabbed my hand with a bowl of food in her hands. That day, one of my teammates preached God’s Word to the little ones and a big crowd of children came to know Jesus! AMEN!!! My Lillian was one of them. She frantically was searching for me in a large crowd and when our eyes finally met, I felt like I was a proud mother of this beautiful little girl.

To Be Continued….

Update on visiting my parents in Belarus

“Faith doesn’t mean we will always feel the power of God in our lives. But faith does mean that we will somehow find the strength—even in the midst of our greatest weaknesses-to shout, “Where are you God?” That cry to the heavens, even if it seems to be made in moment of little faith, is actually a moment of great belief that God is present and listening”. (taken from a devotion book)

Psalm 68:29 Show forth, O God your power, the power, O God, with which you took our part.

Last week I found out that going to Belarus to visit my family that I have not seen for over 10 years was going to be impossible. My heart ached as my knees trembled at the thought of never seeing my dad or my grandmother again. I am thankful for being able to see my mom. This week our family friends confirmed my fears after discussing my situation with government officials. I can not go to Belarus any time soon, because it will take an act of Congress to bring me back to the US.

How do I feel right now? Confused, but at peace. God knows something that I do not know, because He sees the future and I don’t. He knows the desires of my heart and I truly believe that He will answer my cries on His timing and according to His will.

If it is God’s will my mom and dad together will come to visit us in the US next summer. Please pray that God will open all the doors that are necessary for my dad to open a visa. Thank you!

Making Money at CVS

My biggest and proudest moment at CVS was when I spent a little bit over $ 3 dollars on products worth $301.10 dollars. In no time you too will be able to save just as much at CVS and this is how we are going to do it. Let’s say that CVS is running a special on Colgate toothpaste, buy one at $3.49 and get 3.49 ECB, and in small print it is noted limit 5 per household. This means that you will pay out of pocket $3.49 and CVS will give you at the end of your receipt 3.49 Extra Care Bucks to use on your next purchase (expiration date on the ECB is listed on the coupon). ECB can be treated as real money at CVS and any item can be purchased with them. Now, since the ad stated that you can purchase 5 tubes of toothpaste per household, this means that you can reuse the same 3.49 ECB to purchase 4 more tubes of toothpaste at no cost to you! At the end, you spent $3.49 out of pocket, purchased five tubes of toothpaste and left with 3.49 ECB to use on your next purchase. The trick of using ECB is to keep on rolling over the free money before it expires, which will allow you to purchase discounted items or score free items. CVS has an item almost every week that is free after Extra Care Bucks. Sure, you initially might have to invest $20 out of pocket to gain ECB money, but it is all worth it in the end.

Now that you have invested in ECB, you are ready to make money at CVS. Let’s use the same scenario with the toothpaste. You are purchasing Colgate toothpaste that cost $3.49 and you have $1.50 manufacturing coupon that you clipped from your Sunday paper inserts. Now you will only have to pay $2 dollars out of pocket and CVS will award you with 3.49 ECB. I call these transactions, playing a CVS game. So if I have five $1.50 manufacturing coupons, when rolling my ECB from one transaction to another I can pick up a pack of gum for $1.50 to make up the difference and pay nothing out of pocket. This means when I hand over one tube of toothpaste and one pack of gum, my total would come to $5 dollars. I then hand over $1.50 coupon for toothpaste that brings my total down to $3.50 plus I have 3.49 ECB this means that my purchase is free. However, please note that you do have to pay taxes on the items that you purchase and ECB do not cover it.

Since I have acquired so many free items by playing CVS game that I now utilize my ECB each week on free items. When I make extra ECB by combining sale with coupons, I save the bucks and then redeem them for items that we need. For example, I paid only tax for two boxes of trash bags because I had extra ECB that I needed to spend. I hope that now you feel confident in shopping at CVS and making ECB to cover your needs and wants. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at tightwadintraining @ gmail . com (remove spaces).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

me and mama Virginia

I was anxious about seeing the real Africa and couldn’t wait get to work! We finally arrived to Nairobi, capital of Kenya, where we spent our first night. In the morning, while waiting for our bus to arrive I met a woman, whose name was mama Virginia. She shared her life story with me and oh boy was I touched by it! Mama Virginia was a single mother who hoped that one day her children would attend college. I learned that it was not unusual for her to walk 2 hours one way to work. In fact, she didn’t have a steady job and often relied on small tasks that would pay enough to feed her family. She wasn’t sure what kind of task she was going to perform tomorrow, but she was certain that God would provide. Faith and love for God were evident in mama Virginia’s life, which made me wonder how I would act and react in her situation. I was compelled to pray and as I held this woman’s hard working hands tears began to run down my chicks. I was ready to pray, but was lost for words. Imagining what she has to deal with everyday was not comprehendible to me, making me unsure how I should pray for her. I love what God’s Word says in Romans 8:28 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” After the prayer time we hugged and said our goodbyes since it was time for us to leave for Owasso village.

The ride to Owasso was bumpy and scary at times. Infrastructure is not the best on the outskirts of Kenya but what made the ride frightening was that none of the drivers obey road signs. If they do not want to stop at the stop sign they keep on going beeping at each other letting each other know that they are moving. Because we were all so excited to reach our final destination we tried to ignore the crazy ride. And finally we arrived to Owasso where we were greeted by a group of women with children. We dropped off our bags and began to interact with children.

It was difficult to interact at first, since the language was a barrier. However we quickly learned that we can point at objects and draw pictures in the sand to communicate with one another. I quickly bonded with a little girl Lillian. She was 9 years old, spoke very little English and loved to play games. During the next 10 days, Lillian captured my heart in the way that I have never imagined.

To be continued…

Ten Steps to Saving Money at CVS - Part 2

Yesterday we talk about the first 5 steps that will help you save money at CVS and today we will continue to talk about the last 5 steps that will help you maximize your savings.

6) Get to know your cashier and please be nice to them

Cashier can be your best friend or your worst enemy, when it comes to coupons. I am always nice to all my cashiers because I can only imagine what goes through their mind when I present 20 coupons for them to scan. Most of them do not mind and I always try to make their scanning job as painless as possible. If you nice to your cashier, they will be nice back to you. My favorite CVS is about 20-25 minutes away, which is 10 minutes further from the CVS that is closer to our house. I do not mind driving 10 extra minutes because I love customer service and I got to know the manger of the store, who is super nice and always there to help. When you do establish your favorite store in which you like to shop, give a call to customer service and let them know about your pleasant experience. Sales personnel at the store work hard to please you (customer) and deserve the recognition from time to time.

7) You can shop at CVS on Saturday for the upcoming Sunday’s deals.

The sales cycle at CVS starts on Sunday. However, most stores switch to Sunday sales on Saturday around lunch time. This means that on Saturday you can score this week’s and next week’s sales. Check with your local CVS to find out when they switch to next weeks sales. When I walk into the store on Saturday, I ask for the upcoming week’s sales paper just to make sure that I grab the right size item that CVS advertises. You can also visit to have a sneak peak of upcoming sales.

8) Always stop by the Red Coupon Machine

Most CVS stores around the US now have the red coupon machines. As soon as I walk in to the store, I scan my card and it prints coupons. The best part about shopping at CVS is that I can combine store coupons with manufacturing coupons. For example, when I recently scanned my card, I received a store coupon for $7 dollars off $20 dollars purchase of Revlon products. The following week CVS had B1G1 sale on their Revlon line, plus I had $2 dollars off any Revlon product coupon. I used $7 dollars off $20 dollars off coupon combined with several $2 dollars off manufacturing coupon. I paid pennies for 4 mascaras.

9) Look out for unadvertised sales and clearance

CVS likes to be sneaky sometimes and have unadvertised deals that I came across several times. One time I was buying miniature snickers to send to my dad in Belarus. My plan was to use my ECB and pay nothing for two bags of candy. When I brought two bags to the cash register, I learned that the price is not $4 that I anticipated, but instead $0.49 per bag. You guessed it right; I went back and grabbed several more bags. Next time you shop also look out for clearance. Right after Christmas time, CVS marks down most of its cosmetics 75% off and when combined with coupons can cost you less than $1 dollar.

10) Pay attention to the limit

When you spot an amazing deal while studying weekly CVS sales paper, read carefully the limit underneath the deal. Let say the sales paper is advertising toothpaste for $3 and you will get back 3 ECB. If the limit states 2, that means that you can purchase 2 tubes of toothpaste and will received 6 ECB. However, if the limit states 1 the 3 ECB will only print once. If you decide to buy another tube of toothpaste no ECB will print at the end of the receipt.

Happy CVS shopping!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Send Me, I'll Go...

Before going to Kenya I had high expectations of watching people coming by hundreds to know the Lord. I thought that we would see healing right and left but most of all I thought that God was going to use my big mouth to share the Gospel with others. Just to give you heads up, God has taught me lots of lessons about my expectations. My prayer prior to the trip is that God would allow me to touch the untouchable and love the unlovable and I can’t wait to share with you how God was faithful in answering my prayer.

I knew that others were praying for me too, especially my soon to be husband. The day came when Daniel took me to Atlanta airport where I met up with my teammates. It was hard to tell my future husband good bye, but I knew that two weeks after the mission trip we would spend the rest of our lives together. Once all the group members arrived we departed to a camp for one week, where we would be preparing for what God had in store for us in Kenya. During the week of training we bonded as a team praying for each other and encouraging each other on during the team building activities. We were told that during the next 4 weeks, we are going to become best friends with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When God spoke to me on my way to work and I complained about eating goat meat, He faithfully provided peanut butter sandwiches in its place. And trust me, they weren’t kidding when they said that peanut butter would be our lunch every day. Oh, and by the way, we were also informed that showers would be a luxury. If fact, during the 4 weeks trip, I only took about 5 cold showers. Baby wipes and I became very close! Moving on with the story, at night our team would worship together as God’s presence would fill the room. Matt 18:20 says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." That week on several occasions the Lord revealed to me that He not always going to use my words as a witnessing tool, in fact He showed me that my actions speak louder than words.

The Lord continued to speak to me when we were all gathered together to be commission and prayed over before leaving for Kenya. As I waited for my turn to be prayed over, God brought to my attention that I am safe in His arms. About 6 months before the trip, I was shopping at Wal-Mart. On my way out some kind of organization was doing a fund raiser so I bought a key chain for $10 dollars. The key chain was supposed to serve as a protective tool, in that if someone was to attack me, I press the button and the loud siren noise would scare them away. When I came home, I put the key chain in the drawer and forgot about it until I was packing for Kenya. I decided to take the key chain with me; just in case someone was going to kidnap me (I have a wild imagination). As I removed a piece of paper that was going to activate the alarm, I found out that my key chain likes silence rather than a loud noise. I was so disappointed that I wasted $10 on a key chain that doesn’t work, so I tossed it in a trash can.

Back to the commissioning prayer time. As I was standing the Lord started to speak to my heart. He reminded me that the key chain did not go off not because it was broken, but because God wanted me to fully trust Him in protecting me. Isn’t our God awesome?! Yes, He is!!! Psalm 121:3-8 says, “The Lord will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watcher over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over our coming and going both now and forevermore”.

To be continued…

Ten Steps to Saving Money at CVS - Part 1

When I first started to coupons, all the ECB and RR lingo was confusing to me. I was so thirsty to learn how to save money using coupons that I read anything and everything that had a word coupon in it. I learned that saving money at stores like CVS can be very rewarding, but also frustrating if you are a newbie. So today, I would like to take you shopping with me to CVS and share tips to maximize your savings.

1) Sign up for CVS customer loyalty card

All your savings at the store are tide to your customer loyalty card. Make sure every time you purchase a product from CVS; you let your cashier scan your card. Every quarter I received free Extra Care Bucks (ECB) based on a percentage of my spending for that particular quarter. Usually I get $1 ECB per quarter, which I can’t complain because it is free money and I didn’t have to break my nails to earn it. During weekly promotions if you buy a specific item that awards ECB, your card recognizes the promotion prompting the register to print your bucks.

2) Sign up for e-mails updates

I get very few e-mails from CVS promoting their products. Most of the e-mails I receive are surveys, which award me 4 or 5 ECB for participation. Not too long ago I received an e-mail from CVS with a coupon for $4 dollars off $20 dollars purchase. So make sure to sign up for updates and customer survey with CVS

3) Utilize your Extra Care Bucks

Extra Care Bucks, also known as ECB in the coupon world, are your free money! You can buy almost anything in the store; it does exclude purchase of gift cards, stamps, prescription drugs. I like it because instead of spending cash to buy a product that I want or need, I utilize my ECB to acquire the item for free. And we all know that free is good. ECB print at the end of your receipt, so make sure to check it before throwing it away. Also make sure to check the expiration date on the ECB. I love the fact that CVS has long expiration period and most of the managers will allow you to use expired ECB (ask first).

4) Read your receipt carefully

At the end of your receipt is a place where it says how many more purchases are needed to fulfill the requirement. Let me explain. If you open an ad and let’s say this week they are running a promotion that would require you to purchase $10 worth of Cover girl (CG) products in order for you to receive back 5 ECB. The good news is that you do not have to purchase $10 worth of Cover Girl products in one transaction. Your loyalty card tracks for you how many more items you need to purchase to fulfill the requirement. I can buy $4 dollar CG product today and $6 dollar CG product tomorrow. The day that I fulfill the requirement the ECB will print at the end of the receipt. Please note that you must purchase all the required items to qualify for ECB during the week of that promotion.

5) Invest in Green Leaf Tag

The cute little green shaped tag will make you money. It only cost $0.99 cents and you will make money that will cover the cost plus more. The way it works is that every time you scan the green leaf tag along with your card, it registers that you made a purchase. After four purchases you are awarded 1 ECB for free because you simply used your green leaf tag. Now, you can scan your tag only once a day, in other words you can not have 4 separate transactions in one day scanning your card 4 times. This will not generate you 1 ECB, because computer keeps track of your scanning. The creation behind the green leaf tag is to encourage customers to use reusable bags. However not all stores enforce this rule. You will meet some cashiers that will not scan your tag until you show them your reusable bag in which he or she will place your purchased items. Other cashiers will scan your card with no problem without enforcing the rule.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

God hears and answers

photo credit:Oli Haukur
"It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four solders each (that’s 16 soldiers for one person…crazy!!!! ~my comment). Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him". Acts 12:1-5

If you continue to read chapter 12, you will learn that the angel of the Lord appeared and Peter was able to follow Him out of the prison. Ok, so your initial thought may be "How cool is that?!" The Lord reassured once again that He is much bigger and stronger than any man. This can be particularly reassuring to us as Christian during tough times knowing that God has our back. However, when I read this passage, what the Lord impressed on my heart was the power of a prayer.

If we all earnestly prayed for one another, can you only imagine the power of a prayer that we would witness?!?!?!?! The church who earnestly was praying for Peter was able to witness a miracle, when Peter walked out of prison while 16 people were guarding him. We can also pray earnestly for each other. Do you have a prayer request or praise report that you can share in the comment section? Let's commit to care for one another and earnestly lifting each other up to our Heavenly Father to whom nothing is impossible.

Lead Me to the Cross

Several Sundays ago I shared with you a story of when I failed to obey God’s call to minister to a crying mother at the restaurant. Today I want to share with you of a time, when I actually answered God’s call (not without giving excuses first). The purpose of me sharing is not to have a spot light on me or a good pat on a back. In fact, I believe what God tells us in Matt 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” So why would I want to share this story with you? Well, simply because I want to show you how God blesses His children, when they obey. At the end of the story God gets all the glory, honor and praise!

Ever since my junior year of college I began to pray that God would reveal the real meaning of Christmas to me. Each year I pray that it would be in a different unexpected ways and I always look forward to see how God would show up when I am least expecting it. It has been fun watching every year God revealing the true meaning of Christmas in different ways. It is better then any material gift that I have received or even wonderful desserts that I get to eat at Christmas. If fact I can now completely understand what Luke 2:10 means, when angel was proclaiming the birth of Christ “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” I now get the real meaning of Christmas.

One particular Christmas season several years ago I was once again asking the Lord to reveal the true meaning of Christmas to me. One day after work I had to stop at Wal-Mart to pick up several things to cook for supper. It was windy outside and I felt chills going through my body as I was walking to my car with bags full of groceries. I noticed on my way out two people standing at the door of the store ringing bells for Salvation Army. I thought that they must feel miserably cold standing on one spot for extended period of time ringing the bells, yet I kept on trucking to my car.

The first thing I did when I got into my car was to turn heat as high as it would go, so I can warm up quickly. I buckled up and started to head home. Well, that was not quite the plan that God had in store for me that evening. As I started to drive, God impressed on my heart that I needed to go and buy hot chocolate for the bell ringers, who are probably freezing in front of Wal-Mart. “Oh, no!”, I told God. “For one, they will think that I am absolutely nuts. Two, they may not even like hot chocolate. I mean, I don’t like it, so how do I know that they like it? And while we at it, God, what if they will think that I put something in their drink (I know my mind wonders sometimes).” So I quickly brushed off the crazy mission that God wanted me to do and kept on driving. At that time my heart was beating faster than I could press my gas pedal when the light turned green.

I had a few cars in front of me and right as I approached the light, I made a U turn. I stopped by Taco Bell first and was not surprised when I was told that they do not serve hot chocolate. “So where do I go, God?” I asked quite a few times. Chick-Fil-A was next in line and I was pleasantly surprised when I was informed that they do serve hot chocolate. I asked for two cups and made sure to ask for a receipt. I was going to hang on to the receipt just in case the bell ringers wanted to know that their drinks were safe to drink. So now I was on a mission of delivering the drinks. My heart was beating so fast and I kept thinking what in the world will I tell these people, when I present them with drinks. Well, I am so thankful that God gently reminds us in His Word in Matt 10:19-20, “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be giving what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”. By the way that is one of my favorite Bible verses and I find it to be very comforting.

I desperately needed some kind of comfort, when I parked my car in the no parking zone and headed towards the bell ringers. My hands were shaking and I felt like I was about to start crying (God has blessed me with lots of emotions). When I came to the bell ringers I said, “You may think that this is crazy, but I felt that the Lord placed on my heart to bring you two cups of hot chocolate”. As I handed them both a drink a woman said to me, “We are at the end of our shift and were just talking how nice it would be to have something hot to drink, since it is cold outside.” I was speechless! God really knew what He was doing and He knows it all the time, even when I doubt Him. As I got back in my car I felt like I was swimming in a pool of blessing. I felt like God just took a huge bucket of blessings and showered me with it. God used me (big time sinner) to provide hot drinks for two people who were probably pretty cold that night. I felt so incredibly honored and humbled that God would even consider me for this job and I am so glad that He did not give up on me, when I gave Him gazillion excuses for why I didn’t want to do that mission.

Accomplishing the mission felt wonderful, but not without first giving all the glory, honor and praise to God. He knows our needs and He uses different situations to provide for our needs, even if it is bringing hot chocolate to strangers. At that moment I got my puzzle piece to a Christmas picture. If you look at Jesus’ life, He has set so many examples for us as Christians to follow. Just as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, I am to follow His example. I am to have a heart that radiate a true desire to serve others in the way that Jesus would serve them. My friends, is your heart beating faster than your eyes can read this story? Is God asking you to do something that you think is absolutely crazy? Has He placed someone on your mind? Make that U turn right now to go wherever the Lord is leading you and I promise you will not regret it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tightwad's Savings

This week was very interesting in terms of budget shopping. One day at lunch I stopped by Rite Aid and combined B1G1 coupons with B1G1 sale on Cover Girl makeup. I paid $3.30 (tax) and saved $110.06 dollars on makeup. Because I had a Rite Aid gift card, I ended up paying nothing out of pocket. I will be able to give all the makeup to my mom for her to take home, when she comes to visit us this summer. She always brings gifts back from America for family and friends.

I have to share with you about my sweet mom. My mom checks my blog daily and although she can’t read or speak English she loves to look at the pictures that I post. It tickles me when I receive an e-mail from her asking me, “So what did we get for free this week?” I can’t wait for my mom’s visit and I will make sure to introduce her to you all.

Another stop I made this week was at Ingles. I bought reduced for quick sale meat and other staples that we needed. Prior to my $25 budget goal, we usually spent $50 a week on groceries. However if I saw a great deal on meat, I would buy it and at times go way over my budget. But this week I had $25 dollars in cash so when I went shopping and picked up 3 packs of meat, after quick calculation I put one pack of meat back. I was going to be over the budget and wanted to be honest with myself and you in keeping my $25 a week goal.

Quick run to CVS concluded my shopping trip. I utilized my ECB and snatched a free tube of toothpaste and free milk.

Total spent: $22.23
Total saved: $138.34

Friday, May 14, 2010

Juicy Strawberry

This week I harvested my very first strawberry!!! I don’t think any words can describe the joy that I have experienced. The strawberry was sweet and juicy and was 100 times better than grocery store bought strawberries. I may be bias in my opinion and that’s ok. There are at least a dozen more green strawberries in my hanging baskets that I hope will be ripe in a week or so.

My squash plants are growing rapidly. Every day I stop by the buckets to see how much the plants have grown since I’ve been at work. I notice that my plants grow much faster when it rains rather than when I water them with H2O from the sink.

And of course my tomato plants… they are growing fairly fast but the steam is still pretty weak. My loving husband decided to take my tomato plants outside because nets have been admiring the plants all week as well. When I looked through the window and all tomato plants looked pretty weak, so I had to bring them back to the house. I don’t think they are quite ready to be replanted. In fact, one plant had to be doctored. I took a straw and stuck it in the dirt right next to the plant that looked like it was going to die any second. I then took a string of dental floss and tied the base of the plant to the straw allowing the plant to have support. In about 30 minutes the plant was back to normal. I think it was just a high maintenance plant.

As my garden continues to grow I realize how impatient I am with the whole process. Instead of waiting for the proper time when the plants are ready to produce on their own, I desire for the plants to produce on my timing. In that the Lord has reminded me how impatient I am in my prayer life. When I submit my requests to God, I expect for Him to acknowledge them right away and answer them on in my time and according to my ways. Thankfully Isaiah 55:8 reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My way.”

Send Me, I'll Go...

Even though I knew that God would provide for my trip to Kenya, I still managed to stress about it because I did not know where the money would come from. I sent out a lot of support letters to family and friends but did not receive good response. This intensified my worries as the time was ticking and only small potion of the total costs was covered. My best friend suggested that I speak at her parents’ and grandparents’ Sunday school classes. However I still doubted that my trip would be possible because no way would $30 or $50 donations would cover the cost of my trip. But God proved me wrong! The Word of God says in 2 Tim 2:13, “If we are faithless, Christ will remain faithful”. Amen.

It was bright and sunny day. As I was driving to church to speak about my upcoming trip to Kenya, I was a little nervous about asking for people’s support. During the first Sunday school class, I received several checks and promises to support my mission trip. As I was walking out of the class to go to the next one, one lady stopped me and handed me a check. While walking to the next room, I opened the check and saw that it was for $500 dollars! “O, ye of little faith (Matt 8:26)”, the Lord gently spoke to me. I felt ashamed that I did not trust God’s provision. While sharing my calling to go to Kenya with another Sunday school, I felt much more confident that money will not be an issue. In fact, I received several more checks and promises of support along with $1000 dollars donation from one couple!!! Did you get this? Within two hours God covered almost half of my mission trip cost. I was so thankful for the obedience and kindness of the people that donated money to make my mission trip possible. The Word of God say in Phil 4:19, “God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Jesus Christ”. God had a plan for me to go to Kenya on a mission trip and He met all my needs.

As a mission trip date was approaching fast, I was amazed at how fast my account was growing that would cover my trip expense. Not only did God provided money to cover my trip, but He also provided enough to cover all the medical expense that was associated with going to Kenya. I should have never worried nor doubted God’s abilities as an ultimate provider. He knew my needs and He blessed me beyond my imagination. Now it was time for me to seat and wait until it was time for me to depart on my trip.

To be continued…

Saving Money on the Phone Bill

When I married Daniel, I was introduced to a very thrifty idea on how we can save money on our phone bill. Since we live in the area where cell phone signal is non existent, having a land line is a must. The absolute cheapest plan that we signed up for was $16 dollars a month. If you have a land line you know that phone companies love to attach all kinds of taxes and fees making the actual bill twice the original amount. Our cheap plan offered nothing fancy like caller waiting or caller ID, the only thing that the plan did offer was local area coverage. Hmmm… most of our friends and family live further than 30 minutes away, which means calling them would be considered long distance. This also means that if we call them using our current phone plan, our bill each month would be outrageous filled with extra charges.

Since we were trying to keep our phone bill low, my husband shared a money saving trick with me. When we call family and friends, we dial their number, let the phone ring several time and then hang up before they have a chance to answer it. Once they see our number (all of our family and friends have caller ID and long distant plans) they know to call us back. We then enjoy our conversation without stressing about the phone bill. This system has worked for us for almost 3 years now and saved us lots of money. If we do need to make a long distant call to someone who does not know our system, we use a calling card. In fact, one calling card ($10 in value) lasted us over 6 months.

Calling card or no calling card, you too can save money on your phone bill. If our calling system is not appealing to you, reduce your phone bill by canceling all the extra services like caller waiting and caller ID. Ask yourself if you really need these services. Yes, I can find lots of excuses to justify the convenience of knowing who is calling me. But I can live without this luxury and I promise you too can live without it. You may say that it is only $20 dollars more a month but that is also $240 dollars a year. There are many more ways to save money on the phone bill and I would love to hear from you. What is your money saving trick?