Being Brave in the Hard Seasons

My baby turned five today.  It’s really hard for me to write “my baby” because he truly is my baby.  I always thought there’d be one more.  I mean, we tried three times for one more, even though two of the conceptions were definitely not planned.  Three times I faced heartbreak chasing a dream.  The plan was always four babies.  That was always the dream.  Who’d have thought getting the fourth one here would be the hardest?

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Tomorrow we turn a page.  Tomorrow we close a chapter.  Tomorrow there’s no going back.  This was also the plan.  We agreed that this time was the last- no matter the outcome.  We agreed that whether Scarlett Mae made it here or not, there would be no more tries.  I know it’s the right choice.  I know if we don’t do this, if we don’t make it permanent, in a year, I’ll want to try again.  I know I emotionally cannot handle another pregnancy, especially if the outcome is the same as the last three.  I’m barely surviving this one.  Sometimes being brave means facing the truth, no matter how devastating that truth is.  Sometimes being brave means admitting hard things to yourself.  Sometimes being brave means doing something that hurts your heart.  Sometimes being brave means doing something that feels like you’re being ripped apart on the inside.

This has not been an easy season for me.  In fact, this has hands-down been the hardest season of my life.  I faced the loss of my second daughter.  I left a job I loved to go to a different job because it’s better for my family right now.  Don’t get me wrong, my current job is a huge blessing and the best way to serve my family and others right now.  It’s one I truly enjoy, but the job I left fueled my soul in ways I never imagined it would.  I went back to working full time, losing cherished time with my boys.  And now I’m saying a permanent goodbye to ever having another babe grow in my belly.  A permanent goodbye to ever feeling first kicks and the adrenaline of finally seeing the baby you’ve grown for the last nine months.  I wish I was like those women who can say with absolute certainty that they are done with kids, who adamantly don’t want another child.  I’m not like them.  I will forever long for one more, for the one that could have been.  Sometimes being brave is allowing dreams to die.

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Mourning dreams that have died is the bravest thing I have ever done.  Turning this page tomorrow, laying a dream to rest, will forever be one of the hardest things I have ever had the courage to do.  I know deep down that allowing these dreams to die will allow for Jesus to plant and grow new dreams in my heart.  In a way, it’ll be freeing to know that a choice has been made and that there is no going back.  But willingly laying down a dream?  It’s the bravest thing you’ll ever do.

In your hardest seasons of life, I’m a firm believer you are your bravest.  You’re brave when you get through another day without the one you lost.  You’re brave when you put one foot in front of the other when you just want to stay curled up under the covers.  You’re brave when you walk a path you never imagined you’d be walking.  You’re brave because life is still happening around you.  You’re brave because the world has continued on and so must you.  You’re brave because your family needs you to be.  You’re brave because you don’t have a choice not to be.

The Roehrich Family Savings Plan Road Map

I’ve gotten so many requests to write a blog post about this.  Numerous people have messaged me asking what we’re doing or for details on our Savings Road Map.  So here we go, I’ll go into all the details below BUT I have to say up front, what we’re doing is nothing new.  It’s a tried and true and a time-tested, fail-safe way of getting out of debt.  Are you ready for it?!  We work incredibly hard to live within our means.  That’s the secret.  I know it’s a shocker, and you may be saying “that’s it?” but, Friend, let me tell you:  it is one of the hardest things I do on a daily basis.  Like anything worth having (a healthy lifestyle, an amazing marriage, etc)- there is no magic formula.  It requires hard work and dedication on a daily basis.

We are BIG Dave Ramsey fans.  I mean, I’ve read all his books.  We’ve done Financial Peace University at our church.  I’ve even contemplated leading our own course for accountability at some points.  I actually discovered Dave Ramsey when I was working at a law firm.  One of my main responsibilities was preparing and filing bankruptcy paperwork for clients.  When you file bankruptcy, before your case can be discharged from bankruptcy court, you are required to complete a Financial Management Course so that hopefully you don’t end up back where you started in the next eight years.  We constantly got information from different companies wanting us to plug their courses and recommend them to our clients.  Then Dave Ramsey’s course crossed my desk.  Why I took the time to look into his course, I don’t know.  Normally the pamphlets were just put in a Resources folder for later, but God had much different plans.

Now this isn’t a plug for Dave Ramsey (although he’s amazing and I think everyone should take the course or at the very least, read his book), but it’s important because it started us on this journey.  I feel like at this point, I need to make one more caveat-  we are NOT financial experts.  Staying on track is extremely hard.  The first time we did Financial Peace University (FPU), we killed it.  All of our credit card debt got paid off.  We were saving money left and right.  We only had one child, and we were on a roll.  Then life happened, more kids were added to the mix.  We got lazy with our intensity, let instant gratification take over, and one thing led to another.  How I wish we’d been smarter with some of our finances the last few years!  How I wish we’d been more diligent with our budget when our income was substantially higher!  But I think we all have those wishes, right?  I mean, I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you’re likely looking for a way to save money and get out of debt.  The point is, I’m right there with you, Sister (or Brother for my dude-friends).  The point is, we’ve made mistakes, even after completing FPU.  The bigger point is, we got back up.  We’re still fighting.  We’re still chasing our debt-free dream.  And if that’s you right now, if you’re feeling awful about how you’ve handled your money in the past, then I’m reaching out to you right now, pulling you up off the ground, telling you to dust off your big-kid britches and run towards that goal with all that you are!

Ok, pep talk- check.  Let’s do this!  The very first thing you need to do is get a budget set in place.  I’m a crazy Excel nerd so I actually have a spreadsheet with formulas and bells and whistles, but if that’s not you, don’t make it harder than it needs to be!  You do you, Boo!  Write it out on a piece of notebook paper, but write it all down!  It needs to include:  all your sources of income and all your monthly expenses.  I’m not going to go into intricate details on budgeting here.  (If you all really want to know how I write our budget, feel free to reach out!)  A couple things I suggest adding to your budget though that likely aren’t already in there-  a Christmas fund (because y’all, that happens every year!  Put a little bit away each month all year long so that you don’t go into debt when it happens!), fun money (which I recommend taking out in cash) and a small misc category (for the unexpected doctor co-pay, school club money, etc.).

When we decided to get super serious about paying off our debt again at the end of last year, Greg and I were ready to make the changes.  We went through our budget.  Anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary was cut out, and we began working on our debt snowball again.  We already had a small emergency fund in place for the unexpected, so we didn’t need to worry about that at the time.  Next step, getting the kids onboard.  Now, we don’t buy our kids everything they want.  (In fact, they earn allowance and if they don’t do their share around the house, they don’t get their money…you know, like real life.)  But they were used to getting to go out to eat on a regular basis or getting ice cream or going to the movies.  And then an amazing friend of mine (and fellow Dave Ramsey lover) shared the brilliant thing she was doing with her family-  the Savings Plan Road Map!

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As much I love the Debt Snowball of Dave Ramsey…Friends, it can get tiring.  You’re on fire and you go, go, go! and then…it feels like it’s taking forever.  So we break it down a little more.  We celebrate every $1,000 we pay off.  This also helps keep the kids onboard too!  Note that this $1,000 is principal only!  It does not include the accrued interest every month!  This is where the Road Map comes in.  Our road map includes paying off all of our debt (other than our house) and an emergency fund that would cover four months of expenses if something should happen.  So yes, it’s huge.  Yes, it’s a lot of money.  But, it’s also very, very possible!  Each space is $1,000 and when we reach it, the boys get to pick out a small celebration prize.  This could be going out for ice cream, going swimming at the local community center or a trip to Sky Zone.  We try to keep the cost of the celebration under $50.  This visual reminder is perfect for our kids!  “Mom, can we get Happy Meals for dinner?”  “Remember how we’re working towards our next goal on our road map?  If we get Happy Meals today, it’ll take us longer to get there, but when we hit our next goal, maybe Happy Meals can be our celebration prize!”  (Please note, when I say this, I’m also mentally praying that McDonald’s is NOT the prize they pick!)  The last time we hit our goal, the boys chose to go bowling.

We have these little celebrations along the way, but we also celebrate big time when we pay off a debt!  When we actually pay off something on our debt snowball, the boys get to pick a bigger prize!  This might be a night at a hotel swimming or going on a weekend trip somewhere or going to the big waterpark in the summer.  The point is- celebrate ALL the victories!  The big and the small!  Or you’ll quickly lose momentum.

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Here’s the other, perhaps more important, thing about including our boys on this mission:  they are learning the value of money, service and hard work.  They are watching their parents save for the things we want instead of just going out and buying on credit.  They are watching their parents persevere in the midst of frustration.  They are watching their parents work hard, pick-up extra hours here and there or a side job every now and then to bring in a little extra money.  They are learning how to manage money and be good stewards with it just by participating in this adventure.  They are learning that when you create a situation you no longer like in your life, it’s your responsibility to get out of it, not anyone else’s.  They are watching as we pray when something comes up we weren’t expecting and seeing God provide just as He promised.  Yes, we’re working on becoming debt-free so we aren’t slaves to the lender and have financial freedom, but the journey will bring about so much more than that!

Some last minute tips and tricks I’ve found that have helped immensely when it comes to staying on track with our budget:

  1.  As I mentioned above, start a Christmas fund right now!  Figure out how much you usually spend at Christmas time on gifts, baking, etc.  Divide it by the number of months left in the year, and start putting that much aside each month!  Is the number too high that you can’t afford to set aside that much?  Guess what- you won’t be able to afford it at Christmas time either.  So maybe this Christmas, things need to be scaled back a little bit.  (The fund method also works for any annual expenses-  car registrations, vet appointments, dental cleanings, etc.)  Our Christmas fund also has birthday gifts/parties figured into the amount so we’re ready for those special days too.
  2. Utilize a Grocery Pick-up service.  This has been huge for us in keeping our grocery budget in check!  By ordering my groceries online, I can see my total before I get to the check-out.  If it’s too high, I can go through my cart and take out things that can wait until next week.  By picking-up, I don’t go into the store so I’m not tempted to purchase things not on the list or in the budget that week!
  3. Fun money.  Friends, you need to have some sort of fun money worked into your  budget.  Here’s what happens if you don’t-  you’re working hard, throwing money at debt like it’s going to get you backstage passes to Justin Timberlake, and then something comes along that stalls your progress.  Medical bills show up that have to take some of the money meant for debt.  Your kid grows two sizes in a month and needs new clothes you weren’t ready to purchase yet.  Your hours get cut back at work and your monthly income decreases.  Something will happen, you’ll get resentful because you haven’t had any extra money to go to a new movie or buy a bottle of wine…and then you blow a crap ton of money on something frivolous and end up in an even worse situation.  Work fun money into your budget!  Greg and I alternate fun money.  One week, he gets $25.  The next week, I get $25.  That’s our money to spend on whatever we’d like.  When it’s gone, it’s gone (that’s why I recommend getting it in cash).
  4. Hang your road map in a place where you and your kids will see it every day!  This keeps it at the forefront of everyone’s mind and is a daily reminder of what you’re working towards.

These are the basics, Friends.  I could go into so much more detail on so many things, but then this blog post would become a novel.  If you have specific questions about anything- our budget, how we handle allowance for our kids, etc., please don’t hesitate to reach out!  If we get enough questions about a specific thing, I can definitely look into making another post about it!

Until then, welcome to the journey, my Friend!  It’s hard and long and harrowing.  It requires grit and perseverance and determination.  But you’ve got this!  I know you can do it!  You know the destination is worth it!  If you need a pep talk, hit me up!  If you need accountability, let me know!  From one financial freedom pursuer to another-  don’t give up!  There’s a literal pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

When You Take the Time It Takes…

When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to go through some amazing self-development training.  Some training that forced me to dig deep.  To look at why I do things the way I do them.  To learn why I react to things the way I react.  We worked with horses as we went through this life-changing training against the backdrop of God’s artistry in Wyoming.  During our time there, this line was repeated- “When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.”

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It’s a nice sentiment on it’s surface:  if you take the time it takes to read an entire recipe instead of getting halfway through prepping dinner to discover you don’t have all the ingredients, it takes less time to get dinner on the table because you don’t have to scrap that and figure something else out.  If you take the time it takes to properly potty train your new puppy through consistency, it takes less time because your puppy isn’t confused about what to do when it needs to go outside.   But this quote?  This idea is far too intense to let it just sit as a nice little saying.

We live in this age of instant gratification, instant information, instant food, instant anything really.  We live in an era of everyone wanting something done and wanting it done right now.  We live in this space where if something is taking too long or is getting too hard, we decide it’s not for us any more.  We want the biggest and best without having to put in the actual time and effort to get those things!  We want to lose weight in a week with a magic shake.  We want to make six figures as soon as we graduate from college without having to work as an intern and do the grunge work while working our way up the ranks.  We want to have that big house or that fancy car or the vacation home without putting in the years of saving and investing and time.

A child throws a fit because he doesn’t get his way, so you give them what they want because it’s easier and it’s hard to see them so upset.  Then down the road, you try and change that behavior after it’s been established (or worse, you continue to give them what they want leading to an entirely different battle of entitlement, but we’ll leave that for another time).  If you’d taken the time it takes to teach them right away “that’s not how you get what you want,” it would have taken less time (and your preschool years would have been a lot easier with established expectations for behavior!).

You start a business, and you’re excited and passionate and can’t get enough of it…but you aren’t successful overnight.  It’s hard!  It takes so much time and effort and blood and sweat and tears.  It takes trying new things and making sacrifices.  So rather than give all you have to your dream, you quit and move on to another business venture and start all over.  Or worse yet, you settle for something that doesn’t bring you any fulfillment at all.  Or you can take the time it takes so it takes less time to do something that feeds your soul.

You discover marriage is hard.  You discover living with another human being everyday means you committed to the good things and the bad things.  It means learning to share your entire self with that person- hopes, dreams, feelings and frustrations.  It means learning how to communicate and to not go to bed angry and not hold in feelings that build up.  But that’s scary and hard, to let someone see your entire self, so instead you choose the easy path and walk away because that’s less work for you.  But if you’d taken the time it takes, it takes less time.

You lose a baby at six weeks.  You’re devastated but you hear “you can always try again” and “there’s always a reason for everything” so you make yourself “get over it” and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal.  Until weeks later, all those feelings come flooding to the surface because you weren’t allowed to grieve that little life.  If you take the time it takes, it takes less time.

You have these dreams and these goals and a vision of what you want your life to look like…but it’s taking too long.  Instead of letting it take the time it takes, you try and make things happen faster or skip the important parts.  The necessary parts.  The growth.  The learning.  The valleys and the mountaintops.  The recognizing it’s not always all about you.  We don’t like that.  We don’t like it when it’s not all about us.  So we walk away from those things too and decide those dreams just “aren’t meant to be.”

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But when we take the time it takes- If we continuously point our babies in the way they should go, they learn from early on that it’s not always all about them.  We learn that the little things that seem so tedious and monotonous, done day after day, build upon each other to create an amazing business or career that ignites our passion.  We learn that relationships get so much better over time if we take the time it takes to tend to them faithfully and learn how to do life with another person.  We learn that if we take the time it takes to grieve losses, it takes less time to bring beauty from ashes.  We learn that our greatest purpose in life lies not in living a mediocre life spent focused on ourselves but in an amazing life filled with purpose and happiness and joy that’s chosen and overflows to serve those around us.

We learn that when we take the time it takes to grow, to learn, to listen, to reflect, to take the hard roads, it takes less time.  While the easier roads may seem faster, you have to travel and backtrack and turn around on far too many of them to reach the same destination.  In fact, you may never make it there at all, and then you get to look back on a life of regret.  On a life of giving up when you should have given it your all.  On a life of quitting when you were on the brink of a breakthrough.  On a life of just getting by instead of a life of thriving and passion.  On a life wrapped up in your own wants instead of a life marked by making a difference.

When you take the time it takes, it takes less time.

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