Christian Blog: Irrevocably Beloved

For Jesus And For The Culture. . .Being Black, Christian and a Millennial In America

Gratitude From THE SHADOWS

Dear Reader: 

Gratitude seems all fun and dandy until we’re going through a dark night of the soul–until fear or despair gets a grip on us and we can’t seem to think of anything else. I’m not talking about clinical depression or any psychological illness. I’m talking about grief or short-term sadness from an event or the bit of anxiety when we’re gearing up to have a big milestone. Sometimes it’s just hard to be grateful. 

This is why it’s so important to already have a gratitude practice in place. When you are gloomy or thinking about how you need a nuclear saferoom because you’re afraid the world will end– you should just follow through with your gratitude routine. So go ahead and form the habit. Start a Friday night text thread gratitude list with your bestie. Write every morning or evening in a gratitude journal. Take a break during your workday to be grateful for what’s happened so far during the day. Use your lunch break as a gratitude break. 

Life is not linear; there are ebbs and flows. There are mountains and valleys. Having healthy habits in place that soothe your spirit will help you find your way. This is not one of those just do it or fake it till you make it strategies. . This is just a practice of reflection on what is good in your life. It could be something simple. Like I had two meals today. Someone gave me a compliment. My coffee was delicious. My shoes are really comfortable. Small wins are still wins. And being grateful for where we are and what we are experiencing can only beget even better fruit. 

A Gratitude Practice

Dear Reader, 

Today I want to talk to you about having a gratitude practice. Nothing but breathing and your heart beating come automatically in this life; everything else takes practice. 

Why Practice Gratitude?

I don’t know why… I could tell you the science, but somehow gratitude automatically elevates the mood, and takes the focus off of us and what we’re not doing and what we’ve been given. A lot of twelve-step programs, and many spiritual communities encourage their followers to engage in gratitude or gratitude-related practices daily. 

When/How to Practice Gratitude?

One of my favorite things to do before I start my morning prayers is to just take stock of all I have and write in my gratitude list. In the past, I’ve had a gratitude text chain with friends where we just texted 3-5 things we were grateful for every single day. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal every day or start a text chain to start a gratitude practice. You don’t even have to say it out loud  (although I recommend it). You can just look around the room you’re in right now and silently acknowledge the blessings God has given you. You can sit in your car for a minute and thank God that you have a car, that you have the skill to drive, and that you have all the physical health and functioning to be able to drive. Those are all blessings.  Before you eat lunch, thank God for the food and all the people who had a hand in making it. The people who farmed it, the people who processed it, and the people who shipped it all the way to you. 

If you already do those things, another way to practice gratitude is to get involved in your community. Volunteer at the shelter or the food bank. Donate your time more than your money. 

Benefits of Practicing Gratitude?

  • It statistically makes people happier by over 10 percent than people who don’t practice it. Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005
  • Increases self-esteem (Rash, Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011)
  • Improves symptoms related to work stress (Cheng, Tsui, & Lam, 2015). 
  • Helps you sleep  (Jackowska, Brown, Ronaldson, & Steptoe, 2016)
  • Increases your resilience (“A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.” quoted from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude

Go out there and enjoy the day! And remember to practice gratitude. Afterall, Practice makes perfect.

Breath of Gratitude

Dear Reader, 

This month is going to be all about feel-good vibes. We’re gonna dive deep into how to live out gratitude. I may talk about some stories in the Bible, some biblical affirmations to help you speak truth to the darkness, or just talk about my birthday! That’s right May has my born day. I was born on a Saturday during the Sabbath, so it’s only natural that I spend my birth month giving thanks for what God has done and talking about rest and all that is good.

As we breathe

 As you probably know, breath is something that we spend a lot of time talking about in church, and singing songs about in worship. Breath is often mentioned in scripture and it is a medical phenomenon that we still really don’t know a lot about in 2022. Breath is automatic, we don’t know what starts it or finishes it and just know that when it stops we need to make it to the ER ASAP. 

In the bible, there are names for God based on the concept of breath. He is the Breath of Life. It is also believed that the name YHWH actually comes from the sound made when breathing. It is important to note that an automatic function that we have a lot of mystery about is attributed to God in such a deep way.  That God is the start and finish of every breath. 

Breathing In Gratitude

There are a few stories in the bible where I think to myself “ man what a crazy time to be grateful.” They come in the story of Jonah, Job, and Daniel. 

Let’s start with Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of a whale after being swallowed up for his disobedience to God’s call/ to rescue him from drowning.  In Jonah 2: 9, Jonah is within the belly of the whale when he says “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you;

what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” I mean when you think about it one way, he had a reason to be grateful. He was alive. But the other half of the situation is he has no idea when and if he’s ever gonna leave the belly of the whale, or if he will leave alive after passing through the whale’s digestive track.  And then right after Jonah’s expression of heartfelt gratitude, he gets vomited out and onto dry land.  I mean what a crazy story.

Then there’s Job. He finds out all of his kids have gotten killed in one fell swoop while hanging out at their eldest siblings’ house and he thanks, God. He says naked I came into the world and naked I will go. It’s a crazy story. 

Then there’s Daniel who was told not only not to praise God, but to definitely not do it in the window or he will be put to death. The verse says in the ESV version “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel went about his business with His God; he did not care. 

While we can pass off these stories as man, that’s crazy. The real lesson they were so cray .. is that they were so tight with God and their relationship was so deep that they could be grateful, anyway, and on any day. The reason gratitude needs to be likened to breathing is so that it could be automatic. It needs to be automatic like Daniel, who didn’t need to think about the regulation that just passed, he just did his routine. He just walked daily with God and thanked him thrice a day and wasn’t going to stop for anyone. 

What are the non-negotiables in your life? Do you not drink milk after brushing your teeth?  Do you not turn on social media before noon? Do you have any spiritual non-negotiables? Like I won’t leave the house without praying, or start my car without talking to God? Let’s think about inviting God and gratitude into our lives more often, so that we may be able to suck the marrow out of life and live in the sunlight. 

How to Save Intentionally: No Spending Days

Dear Reader,

Don’t you just love the shot of dopamine that you get when you click buy on an online website? Doesn’t your heart just sing when you walk away from the store with a bag? Then scheduled no spending days are for you. 

A spending day is any day where you spend more money than you intended. It can be caused by anything from a spontaneous shopping spree to buying lunch when you already had dinner plans. Unfortunately, these days can quickly add up and wreck your budget. If you’re looking for a way to save intentionally, then consider trying out no spending days. A no-spending day is exactly what it sounds like: a day where you don’t spend any money. This can be a great way to get your finances in check and start saving for the future!

Choose a day or two each month to abstain from spending money

You might be surprised at how easy it is to live without spending money for a day, and you’ll probably find that you don’t miss it as much as you thought you would! Just make sure to plan ahead so that you have everything you need for the day. It can be really eye-opening to see how much money we spend without even realizing it, and this exercise can help us to be more mindful about our spending in general. Plus, it’s a great way to save some money! So why not give it a try?

Plan ahead by creating a list of things you can do instead of spending money

There are plenty of things you can do on a no-spending day, and many of them are probably free! Here are just a few ideas:

• Read a book or watch a movie

• Go for a walk or explore your city

• Have a picnic in the park

• Cook dinner at home

• Play games with friends or family

• Work on a hobby

• Clean your house or apartment

• Organize your closet

• Learn something new (take an online class, read about a subject you’re interested in, etc.)

Get creative with free activities in your area

There are plenty of free activities to do in your area if you get creative. For example, many parks offer free events and programs throughout the year. You can also find free concerts and performances at local libraries or community centers. If you enjoy being active, take advantage of free group fitness classes or hiking trails. And if you have kids, there are often free or affordable activities offered at schools and daycares. With a little research and effort, you can find plenty of ways to have fun without spending a lot of money.

Make sure to have enough food and essentials on hand so you don’t have to go out and spend money unnecessarily

You should also take some time to plan your meals for the week so you know exactly what you need to buy and don’t end up wasting food. Meal planning can help you save a lot of money in the long run! Cooking at home more often is a great way to save money. Eating out can be expensive, so cooking at home can help you stick to your budget. Be careful. You can also get carried away with spending when cooking at home. Got an elaborate meal planned?- Make sure it’s in your budget. 

Stay disciplined and resist the temptation to spend money unnecessarily.

It can be difficult to stick to a budget, but it’s important to remember that every dollar counts. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:

  • Make a list of your regular expenses and track where you’re spending the most money. This will help you identify areas where you can cut back.
  • Set aside money each month for savings and emergency expenses. This will help you avoid dipping into your savings when unexpected costs come up.
  • Try to stick to cash instead of using credit cards. This can help you stay within your budget and avoid accumulating debt.
  • Avoid impulse purchases by waiting a day or two before making a decision. This will give you time to think about whether you really need the item.
  • Talk to a financial advisor if you’re having trouble sticking to your budget. They can help you develop a plan that works for your unique circumstances.

Celebrate your success at the end of the day or week!

You did it! You completed your goals for the day or week, and now it’s time to celebrate your success. Whether you treat yourself to a new book, go out for dinner with friends, or just take some time for yourself, make sure you enjoy the fruits of your hard work. This is an important part of keeping yourself motivated because it shows that your efforts are paying off.

Credit Cards: Necessary Evil or Financial Lifesaver?

Dear Reader, 

There is a lot of debate about whether credit cards are necessary or evil. I personally didn’t even attempt to get a credit card until my thirties! My mother told me that credit cards were from the devil and I believed her and that was that. Now, I have come to believe that they are necessary, but with the caveat of being very very careful. Credit cards can provide emergency funds, help you finance big purchases, and protect you from fraud. Not to mention that using them responsibly is also a great way to build credit.

Some people argue that credit cards are unnecessary because you can function without them. My debit card is good enough. Yes, that is true. However, a debit card does not build credit and the days of paying cash for everything (without your credit being run) are over. I believe that having at least one credit card in your wallet is a good idea. In the event of an emergency, it is always good to have access to funds. Additionally, if you want to automate bill payments, you never run the risk of overdraft. 

Of course, none of this matters if you do not use your credit card responsibly. Just like with anything else in life, moderation is key. You should only charge what you can afford to pay off and make sure to pay your bill every month. If you do this, using a credit card can be a great way to build your credit.

What are credit cards and how do they work?

Credit cards are a type of loan that allows you to borrow money up to a certain limit in order to purchase items or withdraw cash. You will need to repay the amount you have borrowed plus any interest and fees that may have accrued. The credit limit is determined by the card issuer, based on your credit history and income.

How can credit cards help me?

There are several ways that credit cards can be helpful:

  • Emergency funds: Credit cards can provide you with emergency funds in case of unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or medical bill. BUT REMEMBER TO PAY IT BACK, PROMPTLY. 
  • Finance big purchases: If you need to finance a large purchase, such as a new appliance or piece of furniture, a credit card can be a good option. You can often get a 0% APR promotional period, which means you won’t accrue any interest on the purchase if you pay it off within the specified time frame. REMEMBER, PAY IT BACK. It’s not free money. 
  • Protection from fraud:  Much like a debit card, when you use a credit card, you are protected from fraud.  If your card is lost or stolen, you can report it to the issuer and they will cancel the card and issue you a new one. You will not be responsible for any unauthorized charges that are made to your account.

How can I use credit cards responsibly?

There are a few things you can do to make sure you are using your credit cards responsibly:

  • Pay your bill in full and on time every month: This will help you avoid interest and late fees, and will also help you improve your credit score.
  • Keep your balances low: It’s a good idea to keep your balances well below your credit limit. This shows lenders that you are a responsible borrower and helps you avoid paying high-interest rates.
  • Use automatic payments: Setting up automatic payments can help you make sure your bill is paid on time every month.
  • Monitor your statements: Keep an eye on your account balance and transactions so you can spot any fraudulent activity quickly.

Credit cards can be a helpful tool if used responsibly. They can provide emergency funds, help finance big purchases, and protect you from fraud. Just be sure to pay your bill in full and on time every month, keep your balances low, and monitor your statements closely. Doing so will help you avoid paying interest and fees, and will also help you build good credit.

Cash Envelope System

The Cash Envelope System: An Opinionated Look at an Old School Money Management Method

Dear Reader, 

The cash envelope system is an old-school money management method that has been making a comeback in recent years. This system involves using envelopes to track spending, and many people find it to be a more effective way to stay on the budget than using a traditional budgeting method. However, I am not personally a fan of this system- here’s why…

One of the main reasons I don’t like the cash envelope system is that it can be very difficult to stick to. Once you’ve withdrawn your budgeted amount for the month, it can be tempting to dip into other envelopes- or even worse, to take out more cash from the ATM. This can quickly lead to overspending and getting off track with your budget. Plus what’s with the cash and the envelopes? It’s 2022!

What is the cash envelope system and how does it work?

The cash envelope system is a budgeting method where you divide your money into different categories, or “envelopes,” and only spend the cash you have allocated for each category. This system can help you stay on track with your spending and avoid overspending.

To use the cash envelope system, first, decide what categories you will need to budget for. Common categories include food, gas, entertainment, and savings. Once you have decided on your categories, determine how much money you can afford to allocate to each one. Then withdraw that amount of cash from your bank account and put it into separate envelopes labeled with each category.

Whenever you need to make a purchase in one of the categories, use the cash from that envelope. Once the cash is gone, you cannot spend any more in that category until you replenish the envelope. This system can help you stay mindful of your spending and stick to your budget.

What are some of the advantages of using the cash envelope system?

One advantage of using the cash envelope system is that it can help you become more aware of your spending patterns. When you have to physically hand over cash for a purchase, it can be easier to see how much money you are really spending in each category. Additionally, this system can help prevent you from overspending in one area by limiting the amount of cash you have available for that category.

Another advantage of using the cash envelope system is that it can help you stick to your budget. If you have a set amount of cash for each category, you are less likely to overspend or make impulse purchases. This system can also help you save money by forcing you to be more mindful of your spending.

What are some of the disadvantages of using the cash envelope system?

Some people may find that the cash envelope system is too restrictive, as it can limit how much money you can spend in a day. Others may find it difficult to keep track of their spending when using cash, as opposed to using a debit or credit card. Finally, if you lose your cash, you may be out of luck! Overall, the cash envelope system may not be right for everyone. However, if you are looking for a way to stick to a budget and better manage your finances, it may be worth giving it a try.

Alternatives to the cash envelope system that might work better for you

There are a few alternatives to the cash envelope system that might work better for you, depending on your circumstances. One is the “Pay Yourself First” method, where you automatically transfer a fixed amount of money into savings each pay period, before paying any other bills. This ensures that you’re always putting some money away for yourself, even if it’s just a small amount. Then you just follow your budget- My fave is the per-paycheck biweekly budget. 

Another thing to remember is the ” Debt Snowball” method, where you focus on paying off your smallest debts first. Once that debt is paid off, you move on to the next one and so on. This can help to motivate you by seeing progress being made quickly, and can also save you money in interest payments over time.

Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s one that you’re comfortable with and that you can stick to. Otherwise, it won’t do you any good! You’ll just be a grumpy goose.