august tuition update

we're $157.76 further away from our goal than we were at the end of july. and i'm okay with that. [shout out to the Big Man upstairs for that!] here's the update, read on for a more detailed account of the crazy month of august.

total tuition for 2011-2012 school year: $9,654.00
total tuition paid so far: $2,090.00
savings at the end of august: $1,476.60
difference: $6,087.40
percentage saved: 37.96%
percentage left to save: 63.06%

at the beginning of august, we had a broken back door, a broken dryer, and a broken moped. my first paycheck was quite a bit less than i was expecting it to be (i assumed it was taxes). and i told bryan that i wanted to be prepared to empty our entire savings account if God asked us to. [He didn't, by the way]

throughout august, it became apparent that this was another month to carry our checkbook around with us and trust in God's provision. we have a friend fighting cancer, a friend going to kenya [and working hard to support adoptive families!], a friend going to the dominican republic to rescue children off the street, and a friend who just moved to iowa city who needed a place to stay for a few weeks.

we didn't want to miss those opportunities God was giving us to give.

we haven't fixed our door yet [because the duct tape seems to be holding up] and we haven't fixed our dryer yet [because the clothesline is perfect for summer]. we did get the moped fixed, so bryan can easily get to class. we still need to put at least $613.40 in our tuition savings sometime this semester. the exact amount of loans we're taking out this year is $5,474.00.

the month ended with a little gift from my parents, bryan's grandparents [yet again] paying for all of his textbooks, and my paycheck being more than last months. we once again experienced joy in giving, and joy in being astounded by God's provision.

the goal before all other goals.

calculating kids

my husband wants to be a goat farmer in switzerland and live off the land. he doesn't want to live a conventional life. ever. he doesn't want to live for his career or money or a big house or new cars or anything the american dream entails. bryan would love to be in fulltime ministry or a missionary or move all around the country with various church plants.

now, you won't find me complaining when bryan starts some sort of career after he graduates college or when we have a house that isn't on cinderblocks. but i don't really want to live a conventional life either. i'm not convinced that means we're moving to switzerland and purchasing some goats. i'm not even convinced that means we're going to be fulltime missionaries and live off of support. i like money and stability and america. but i don't want to live my life for those things and bryan and i agree on that.

in order to keep ourselves accountable to our lifestyle goals, we've come up with a financial goal that directly affects all of our other financial goals:

give generously, all the time, no matter how much is in our bank account. 

our idea is that if we're always giving generously, than we'll never get fully caught up in making more money, buying bigger and nicer things, or focusing on our careers.

my goal is to be transparent but not prideful. so while the below ideas are indeed things we have implemented into our own lives, i thought it would be fun to point out all the amazing examples that have influenced us to give more generously. we've had a lot of good examples.

tithing is a non-negotiable.
this one is exampled by many people we know. whether rich or poor, they are disciplined to tithe. my favorite story about tithing is when my best friends parents were teaching their youngest child about tithing. after he thought he understood he asked: "wait a minute, we give God 10% and then we get to keep all the rest?!"

giving to God's work is first priority. 
i can't express how thankful i am to be receiving support from some of my dearest friends. i've been support raising for just two months now, but i completely under-estimated how cherished i would feel by receiving support-thank you! (you know who you are!) now that i am on the receiving end, i am all the more eager to give, give, and give some more whenever we get any sort of support letter.

not just money, but time and resources too.
two families stick out in my mind. first, my best friend's family practically always had someone living with them. i got to know so many college students/random people because there seemed to always be someone new living in there basement. it was awesome!
second, the family of one of my old roommates might be the most modest and generous family i know. they are so quick to borrow out their possessions, be it their truck, their tv, or their vacuum. seriously, they are ridiculous. it makes me jump at the chance to give away our stuff, too!

putting others before ourselves.
i can't think of anyone in particular that exudes this character, aside from the above people. i'm going to admit, sometimes we just like to challenge ourselves. sometimes, we write a check to someone in need just because it's a little uncomfortable. sometimes, we offer our home to people just because it might be a little awkward.

in our experience, giving can be challenging, uplifting, frustrating, annoying, and freeing. but i can't say we've ever had "giver's remorse." it's always good for us!


Lord beer me strength

right now i've been experiencing a little thing i like to call insecurity.
it's awful.
if you know me at all, you know i come from a family that is extremely self-confident and secure. my mom is a great example of this attitude that has affected most in my family. the duvicks are simply confident people, everyone knows that.

it's not that i've never experienced insecurity before. trust me, i have. but this is different some how. it's a crippling kind of insecurity, the kind where i find myself saying "i can't do this."

i've always been one to buck up and getter done when faced with challenges, i've never found myself so scared to face challenges.

before you start to feel sorry for me, let me redirect this post: this is a really good thing. once again, i find myself 12 years after accepting Christ into my life and yet only scratching the surface of understanding Him. i've had some very real moments with God. i've had to surrender these fears in a very real way. once again, the fact that i can't do this is being made real to my hard heart.

i can't lead an international student to Christ.
i can't effectively disciple a college girl.
i can't give perfect and wise counsel on how to budget.

i really can't do those things. they're too big for me. too scary for me. those things are crippling to me.

but God? oh, He can do those things. He doesn't have any problems with those things. and what's more is that He can use someone like me to do those things. i have no talent for evangelism, i have no good track record with discipling, i can do my own budget but teaching is another story.

but this year, it's different. because i joined a family group, a bible study for internationals. a friend asked me to disciple her and i said yes. another friend asked for wisdom with money.
in other words, i'm here. i'm showing up.
i'm crazy for it, but i'm still doing it.
i'm freaking out, but it's humbling me to my knees. i seriously doubt i'll be at all effective in any of this if i forget to pray.

surprisingly, this newfound insecurity and flat-out terror is actually a good thing. because i finally know that i can't do this.


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you drive up onto the curb and pull up mcdonald's style to your mailbox. you even keep your mailkey in your car, for that added measure of convenience. and why wouldn't you? everyone else does. sometimes we even wait in line.


family photos: two+ years

bryan & lisagrace_0043

my almost-sister-in-law, valerie, is an aspiring photographer. and when i say aspiring, i mean awesome. : ) she gave us a super sweet gift of a free photo session with her! here are some pictures from the shoot, and here's a link to all of them.

bryan & lisagrace_0115
definitely my favorite

bryan & lisagrace_0211
well aren't we just adorable.

bryan & lisagrace_0010
can you say epic tree?

bryan & lisagrace_0088
isn't this so bryan?

sorry for the lack of actual posts, i haven't had much time to write! hopefully i'll catch up soon. until then, you'll have to settle for lovely pictures and adoleo music videos.


a little adoleo update

here's the video that i posted a couple weeks ago, they made a few minor changes and now it's back online!

in the meantime, the adoleo cd has been released!!!!!! get your copy today!

amazon: $7.99

itunes: $9.99

kunaki (hardcopy): $10 + shipping

veritas church (hardcopy): $10


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

the streets don't have easy-to-read bright green and reflective street signs like the average city street. no, your special trailer park streets have wooden posts that have the street names etched into the wood. because  you live in a classy establishment trailer park.



Photo on 2011-07-22 at 13.42 #4

so, wanna hang out later?

i've come so close to doing this.


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when....

your neighbor is always sitting in his driveway with 6-10 birdhouses for sale or inside his open garage making more birdhouses.

apparently he sells birdhouses for a living.


i'm 4 and you not 4!

<a href='http://video.msn.com?vid=fa30d254-8cd7-4c0b-b84a-02cc477eefb0&mkt=en-ID&src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='Cutest Argument Ever' >Video: Cutest Argument Ever</a>

dear miranda,
when you and clint adopt some asian babies, please record lots of video of your kids fighting. especially if you live in china and i don't get to see them.

 sincerely, lisagrace


the cost of the future

calculating kids

if i could say one thing about our marriage, it's that it's kind-of a miracle.

the way bryan and i are designed could not be more different. i was recently talking to a friend of mine about how my marriage was going. i babbled about various struggles or victories we've had in marriage for a few minutes, but finally i just told her, we don't fight about those three things that they warn you about: sex, money and family. we fight because our personalities are so different that we have a lot trouble understanding each other. 

i know opposites attract but really, have you met me and bryan? i think a lot of people are secretly puzzled at how or why we ever got married.

but somehow, it seems to work. we're head over heels crazy for each other [for the record], and i truly believe God is glorified through our marriage. we're much better together than separate.

the above may seem like a non-sequitur, but i assure you, this post is about finances.

the kitschy little tagline to this series is "the stories of a couple of youngsters calculating the cost of the future."

as i told my friend, we don't really fight about money. we've had our disagreements, yes. but regardless of how different we are in method or personality, we have the same mind about the future, that is, we want to invest in it. we don't want it to hit us like a ton of bricks. we don't want to be dead and have nothing to show for it. and we don't want our future to be just about us.

so what does the future look like for us? what goals do we have for ourselves? what do we want our lives to look like in 5 or 10 or 50 years?

[gotcha hooked didn't i?]

read more next week!


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you definitely saw your neighbor walking a three-legged dog the other day.


the clothing pile


so, i've had this growing pile of clothing that i can't wear. whether it's a missing button, and stain or a tear, i convince myself that i'll fix them all and make them wearable again.

today's the day.

today i'm mending, tailoring, sewing buttons, bleaching and dying.

i'll post some pictures of my adventures tomorrow!


adoleo cd sampler

here's a little sampling of the reason why bryan quit his job. it was worth it, i think. this picture is actually from a music video they recorded last weekend. [yes, my husband is in a music video, feel free to laugh], i'll post the video when it's finished also.

the cd will be available on august 23rd, 2011, let me know if you want one!


details are my friend

calculating kids

maybe i'm a gossip, but i love knowing the details of peoples lives. that sounds awful. i work for a church, for heaven's sake. let me clarify. i'm fascinated with people and i'm a copycat. i love knowing all that i can know about people i respect so that i can mimic them and thus become a respectable person. does that sound better?

because of my love for details, i assume everyone else has an intense desire to know everything that is going on in my life. you probably already know that if you read this blog.

so, for that reason and for the reason that personal finance can be just plain hard, i thought i'd give those who are interested some insight into how things roll in this house. and for those that are not interested but can't take their eyes off their computer screen, i'll try to make it an enjoyable experience.

i do everything.
just in case you've been wondering who keeps track of all our expenses, bills, and receipts in our household, it's me. bryan is willing to take over if it's ever a struggle for me (read: if i ever become a budget-monster and start acting like king richard from the robin hood era). but details really aren't his thing. and details really are my thing, so i really enjoy keeping our check register up to date.

we make decisions together. 
bryan has less opinions then i do about our budget, but we make decisions together. sometimes, i'll give him an idea of what we need to think about and he tells me what we should do. but a lot of times, i'll come up with some change to our budget and tell him what i did and he'll approve. every once and a while, he'll disapprove because of something i hadn't thought about and we'll rework it together.

we don't have that "jerry rule" that restricts us from spending a certain amount of money without talking to each other. we have so little money that we talk to each other about every extra expense outside of our budget. it's not really in a, "can i have permission" way, it's more in a, "this is why we should spend money, do you agree?" way.

excel is free and it's my best friend.
i use excel for all our budgeting needs. i do fancy stuff like formulas and crap. it's top of the line, let me tell you.
it's pretty simple, i have one sheet for our monthly budget, which is inspired by the zero-based budget idea. on this sheet i have all of our expected expenses listed out. throughout the month, i'll add what we actually spent and our incomes before and after taxes.
the second sheet is a pretty simple check register that i use to balance with our checking account. i balance a little more often than weekly thanks to online banking.

we try to stay one month ahead
we start the beginning of the month with all the money we need. for example, our expenses for august add up to $1,766.84. so we started the month of august with that much in our checking account. this way, we don't have to wait on my paycheck to have money to pay our bills. throughout the month, my paycheck will refill our checking account and get us ready for the next month.

at this point in the series, i hope i've given you some more insight into how we deal with finances in the alsbury family. so far, you may be able be able to conclude that we're pretty committed to staying out of debt and living within our means. the road is hard, but so rewarding.


God and slaughterhouse-five

if you're soooo interested in my life and read this blog every day, you can keep yet another tab on me by checking out my book list. i know, i know, i'm so cool and interesting.

i'll admit, i do have a somewhat random assortment of books on the list. christian fiction [don't judge me], christian non-fiction, non-fiction, marriage books, young adult fiction, classic american lit and even an unpublished novel just so you know i've got sweet connections [thanks erik].

anyway, i just finished slaughterhouse-five last weekend.

it's a novel that was on every recommended reading book list i received in my english and history classes in high school. my sophomore year i heard some stupid boys joking about a sex scene in the book and i decided i probably should never read it. then i married a guy who owned the book and after two years of it being on our bookshelf, i decided to give a try.

i was instantly "in." it normally takes me an average 30-50 pages to get into a story, but i loved the writing style immediately. i asked bryan, is the whole book like this? because i love it.  i was not expecting this book to have such an effect on me.

and somehow, i'm pretty sure vonnegut did not intend for me to be effected in the way i was.

"I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber." [pg 85-86]

in the midst of a heavily satirical book about the senselessness of war and violence and hatred, all i could think about was God.

i thought about how God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. God has been and always will be. time, as we know it, has no effect on Him or His will. God does not change.

we see death, we see destruction, we see foolishness, we see beauty, we see love. and we see those things in these little moments of time, because that's all we can see. we're bugs in amber, limited by the small amounts of time before and after us. in the meantime, God is endless. He sees all of these same things, but together, at the same time. He is not bound by time. He sees us as what we were, who we are, and who we will be at the same time. God sees "all time as you might see a stretch of the rocky mountains."

kurt vonnegut, i believe unintentionally so, helped me immensely to truly understand how God sees us and the world.

slaughterhouse-five, of all books, made me in awe of God and allowed me to understand Him a little more clearly.


trailer park life

you know you live in a trailer park when...

you see a sign posted on your mailboxes that reads: