Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thanks for the Advice!

Yes, that's my 4-month baby belly!

Thanks to those of you who commented on my Super Saturday post when I asked for a little advice in the maternity clothes bargain-hunting department!

Texaus Momma- I had not thought of peasant skirts! $12 at Sam's huh? I love wearing skirts in the summer because they are so breezy and cool. And your comment inspired me to dig out a peasant skirt I hadn't worn in about a year to wear to church on Sunday- I loved it! So comfy! Great advice!

Sod Fam (Brooke)- Thanks for the support! I have a sister-in-law that just had her third and final child, and she and I are about the same size, only she's shorter than me (oh, the curse of being tall!), so maybe I can talk her into "donating" some of her maternity clothes to me...hmm...

SmallHouse (Sandra)- No Shopkos around here, but I had completely forgotten that Kohl's carried maternity clothes- thanks for the reminder! There's one right up by the Kroger I where I shop, so I will definitely be checking over there this week to see what they've got. 

Richelle- Yeah, I haven't had too much luck with finding things secondhand. Borrowing is a tempting option, though! ;-)

Thanks again to everyone for the advice, and if anyone else out there has ideas for me, bring 'em on! I'm open to suggestions. And by the way, I'm wearing that $40 pair of pants right now, and they are ohhhh so comfy. I hate to admit it, but I think they might have been worth the forty bucks...might have... ;-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spiritual Sundays: Lessons Learned From Ruth and Naomi

This week for my lesson in Primary I shared the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi with the children. I had heard the story before, but reading it again brought me a new understanding of the real beauty of the story. Let me give you a brief re-telling.

Naomi was married and lived with her husband during a time of famine. Because of the famine, their family moved to Moab. Naomi's husband died, and not long after, her sons married, one to Orpah and one to Ruth. The sons then died, leaving only Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. 

The three women left Moab and went to Judah where Naomi insisted that her daughters-in-law return to their own families because they had already suffered so much. She told them that she could take care of herself, and that the Lord would take care of her. They refused, and Naomi reminded them that she had no more sons for them to marry; she wanted them to go and remarry and find happiness.

Orpah took counsel from Naomi and returned to her home, whereas Ruth staunchly refused, telling Naomi, 

"Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."  (Ruth 1: 16-17)

Naomi realized she could not convince Ruth to leave her, and so the two of them went to Bethlehem where Ruth began working in the grain fields of a man named Boaz. Boaz took notice of Ruth and learned of her devotion to her mother-in-law. He was impressed by her kindness and her love, and eventually married her. They had a son named Obed, and in Matthew 1 we learn that Jesus Christ was a direct descendant of Obed.

I guess the reason that this story really impressed me today was in the realization that Jesus Christ's birth was partially the result of Ruth's actions. She chose to remain loyal to her mother-in-law, and to stand by her in her time of need. It couldn't have been easy; I'm sure she missed her family and had higher hopes for her young life than traveling around caring for an old woman. But her Christlike love for Naomi would not let her abandon her and so she stood by her. Those two verses containing Ruth's impassioned reply to Naomi are two of my favorite verses in all scripture, because they show such a complete and sincere love and devotion. 

It was that love and devotion that drew Boaz to Ruth, and planted the seed of love in his heart for her. And it was their love that created the descendants that would eventually include the Savior of the world.

It gives me pause to consider how my actions influence not only my own life, but the lives of those around me. We never know how significant our example might be to someone else, how making a decision can affect the outcome of our future ancestors. May we all look to Ruth as a righteous example, and remember always how her selflessness and love changed the history of the world. 

To learn more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit www.mormon.org.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Super Saturday II: Some Outdoor Play Goodies and I Need Some Advice...

Yes, this may all look like random junk that no one in their right mind would purchase from a store, but I promise, I had a good reason! The weather has started to get warmer, and my kids love to play outside, especially in the dirt and with our sand & water table. I've noticed that they love to have little toys outside to play with in the sand, water, and dirt, and they love to have containers to collect things like rocks, flowers, and sticks. So today we shopped with a mission: find some random little used toys the kids can use to be imaginitive outside!

We had heard earlier in the week about a Goodwill Distribution Center/Outlet not far from our home, and so we decided to check it out. When we got there, we found a large warehouse-type room with rows and rows of tables, and on each table were lines of bins. Inside the bins were lots and lots of stuff. Bins with clothes on one side, bins with random junk on the other side. And that was the extent of the organization! (oh, and shoes, purses, and belts had a section, and books had a section). 

Well, we went to work and started picking through the bins to see what we could find. The most interesting part was the pricing- it was by the pound. $1.39/lb for clothing, $0.99/lb for everything else. And purses were $1 each, shoes were $2/pair, kids' shoes $1/pair. We managed to come up with the following items for the kids to use outside:

- 1 plastic helicopter
- 1 metal airplane
- 1 plastic fire truck
- 1 little teacup
- 1 plastic grabber thing
- 1 plastic car
- 2 mini wicker baskets (one is not pictured above b/c my daughter has become very attached to it and has so far put her lunch in it, a rock she found and....)
- 1 mini My Little Pony (also not pictured because it's in the aforementioned missing basket)
- 1 plastic basket
- 1 plastic mini suitcase-type thing
- 1 doll shirt (a painting smock for my son's beloved teddy bear)
- 1 dinosaur hand puppet (I think they were playing with this and it got left in the car)
- 2 push-up grip bars for my husband
- And...

A Thomas the Tank Engine train car carrying case. Not for outside, but will get lots of use inside by this little Thomas fan!
The grand total for all of the above was....$3.74.

Like I said, really random stuff but it will all be used and loved (and probably fought over) outside in the dirt, sand, and water. :-)

For all of you who live in the metro Richmond area who are interested in visiting the Goodwill outlet, it's on Midlothian Turnpike, just a few miles east of Chippenham parkway on the right (if you're coming from Chippenham). It has a Goodwill sign out front, but it looks like a school. Just follow the road around to the right, keep going past all the big trucks in the back until you see a little parking lot and a door that says "Outlet". It's definitely hidden! I plan on going back again when I have more time and scouring their clothes bins to see what I can dig out. 

Now for the Advice I Need- after this fabulous shopping trip, I took some money I had earned from some babysitting and headed out to Motherhood Maternity to get some more maternity clothes I've been needing. I have never been big-pregnant through the summer before, so I needed some warm weather clothes (and the styles keep getting cuter and I want to look good!). Well, I found 3 pairs of capris, and I spent $90. 


I definitely faced some "sticker shock" when I checked the tags. But really, the biggest expense was a pair of super, SUPER comfy cargo khaki pants that roll up and button to become capris. They were really lightweight and I love that they are convertible. But they were $40. I can't remember the last time I spent $40 on a single piece of clothing. Do you remember last week's post? I bought entire spring wardrobes for BOTH of my children for less than that! 

So my question for all you experienced bargain mommies out there is- how do you save money on maternity clothes without scrimping on style and comfort? I hate to admit it, but I am shallow, and my self-esteem is completely tied up in how I look, especially with the changes in my body that happen during pregnancy. So it's really important to me that I like the way I look, otherwise I'm a miserable depressed person. Sad, but true. Any advice for me out there? I need more than 3 pairs of capris, but my $100 budget just got cut to $10! (I think I may have to increase it just a tad!).

Anyway, that was my Saturday. Some steals, some sticker shock, some super shopping! How was your weekend? (And don't forget to leave me some maternity-shopping advice!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Couponing Part I: My Story!

Image by Thrifty Mommy

Whenever I tell people about my couponing, I always get the same questions:

- Is it hard?

- Doesn't take a lot of time? It seems like a lot of work.

- Can you really find deals that are worth it?

- How much money can you really save?

- Do you have to go to a bunch of different stores? What about your kids- do you take them with you?

- How do you keep all those coupons organized?

Last year I had the opportunity to teach a couponing class at my church, and I think I got all of these questions- plus a lot more! I'd like to give my readers a condensed version of that class, focusing mainly on why I do couponing, how I do couponing, and the real benefits I see from couponing.

Today I'll start with my story, and how I got started, just so you can see where I was coming from. Let's go back to the beginning- well, the beginning for me, anyway, which was just over a year ago. It was the month of January, and I was facing the start of a new year. I've always been careful with our money, but still- that period of time after the holidays is usually when our family feels a bit of a financial pinch. I hit something of a wall when I came home from a grocery trip after having spent around $150 for one week's worth of groceries. I couldn't help thinking, There has to be a better way! Feeding a family of 3 1/2 (my daughter was not quite 2 yet) should NOT be this expensive!

Again, I was already doing a lot of things right- I was trying to stick to a cash budget, but the fact of the matter was when we were out of diapers and we needed more, I had to buy more. There was just no way around it. I felt I was mostly buying essentials and yet I was still struggling to stay within the budget.

I was also doing menu planning, which definitely helped because we were only buying the food we needed. But my husband- a definite snack man- struggled with that. He wanted to have treats and snacks on hand- nonessentials- because he's a big guy (not in a bad way- just big and muscular) and he had a physically demanding job that brought him home hungry. It was frustrating for me to see him go from fridge to freezer to pantry trying to find something to eat that wasn't already designated for another meal.

Well, I was checking my local FlyLady group e-mails one day and someone made a comment about using a binder to organize coupons. She also recommended a blog called Money Saving Mom that had good ideas for coupon organization. I had used coupons sporadically in the past, but they never seemed to be for the exact product we needed, and half the time it was cheaper to just buy generic. But something about it piqued my curiosity, and as eager as I was for some way to save a few bucks, I decided to check it out.

When I got to the Money Saving Mom site, I saw that she was having a one-week special on her "Supermarket Savings" audio eBook about saving money on groceries using coupons. She claimed she could feed her family of four on a budget of $45 a week. $45 a WEEK? I was sold. If she could teach me how to do that, the money spent on the eBook would be totally worth it. I think the book cost $5 or something, and with our money crunch it took me a little while to talk myself into it, but I did and I began to listen.

I was soothed by her sweet, calm, and kind voice as I listened to her talk about the importance of knowing the lowest prices on various items, finding coupons, and scanning store ads to match up coupons with weekly sales. I had to listen twice to a few parts to make sure I was understanding the information completely- it was a lot to take in, and I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself into before diving in. I sat at my computer and took notes as I listened, and before too long I realized that while it would be more work than making a list and driving to the store, it was definitely doable and I was ready for the challenge.

The first thing I did was renew our newspaper subscription. Hard to save money using coupons if you don't have any, right?

The second step was to start taking notes and comparing prices. At my next Wal-Mart trip I looked carefully at the prices, and I was sure to save my receipt when I got home. Then I made a spreadsheet on my computer of the various items I regularly bought, and I noted how much they cost at different stores. This was helpful, because I also found myself going into stores I'd never visited before- like salvage grocery stores- to compare prices, and I found several that had much lower prices than Wal-Mart for the same items.

The third step had me looking through the sale ads that came with my Sunday paper. I started scouting out the main ones that Crystal had recommended in her book: CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and my local grocery stores Kroger and Food Lion. I began to compare their sale prices with the prices from my spreadsheet, and I began to see how the savings could add up. I began to familiarize myself with the money-saving programs in place at each store: ExtraCare Bucks at CVS, EasySaver Rebates and Register Rewards at Walgreens, rebates at Rite Aid, and Catalinas at Kroger and Food Lion. Before long, I was ready to shop!

Check back next week for Couponing Part II: Shopping and Feeling the Rush!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spiritual Sundays: Toothpaste, Good Stewardship and a Little Faith

Earlier this week I was, yet again, reading O Magazine, because the articles in there are always thought-provoking for me. I like that it's not just the usual "50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds" and "Navy Blue is the New Black" stuff. The articles are about life, problem solving, discovering yourself, and changing your thinking. I also kind of enjoy the fact that I don't always agree with them, because it gives me an opportunity to ask myself why I don't agree with them and I usually learn something about myself in the process.

So anyway, this past week I was reading an article comparing two business philosophies: the Just In Time (JIT) philosophy and the Just In Case (JIC) philosophy. The Just In Case school of thought supports the idea that you need to put aside something for a rainy day, and stockpiling is good because you always have what you need on hand- Just In Case. The Just In Time philosophy encourages a "buy it as you need it" approach, freeing up space and funds for other things, and celebrates the belief that if and when you need something, you will be able to get it- Just In Time, because the universe is abundant.

The article went on to talk about the many benefits of the Just In Time approach, not only in business but in your life. The author said that so many of our life's problems- financial, health, and relationships- are caused by our subconscious attempts to stockpile. We spend too much because we think we have to snag a good thing before it's gone; we eat too much because there's a part of us that fears not having enough food; and we do too much because we think we need to prove ourselves to others in order to build enough relationships to keep us safe. 

I was kind of understanding the pitfalls of this JIC line of thinking, but I just couldn't latch on to the alternative- the author said why not just let things be what they are and trust in the universe that when you need something, it will be readily available? 

To be perfectly honest, I thought that was just about the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. Especially in THIS economy! What about food storage? What about a 6-month emergency fund? What about having peace in your heart knowing that when the storms of life come, you will be prepared? So what if it takes a little more work to make it so?

But after I re-read the author's main points a few more times, I realized that what she was saying was basically a promotion of the Law of Attraction, like on the dvd The Secret (very interesting, by the way, if you've never seen it). It's the concept of karma- basically, if you put good out into the world, then good will come back to you

Now that is a statement I can agree with. I don't think it means that if you give all your money away then one day a check for a million dollars will show up in your mailbox (and I'm not talking about those lovely pretend Publisher's Clearinghouse checks). For me, it's believing that if I follow the Lord's commandments and do the things He has asked me to do with a willing heart and a spirit of love, then He will bless me with the things that are ultimately in my best interest- things I really need. So for me, it's really about faith. The Lord has promised, 

"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10)

Lately I've been thinking a lot about this with regards to stewardship. We haven't been doing so great with budgeting lately, and it's frustrating for me to sit down to look at our bank account knowing that we had enough money to cover all our expenses on payday, but now they money seems to have slipped through our fingers like sand and we're borrowing against our savings to catch up. We're still putting more into savings than we're taking out, but as far as I'm concerned, we should be increasing our contributions to savings, not constantly borrowing out of it. As I thought about it, I had something of an epiphany. I realized, Why would the Lord bless us with more, financially speaking, if this is the way we handle what we already have? 

One of my favorite mantras is, "That which does not change remains the same." With finances, there are only three main sources for that change- your employer/outside sources, God, and you. You can't rely on an outside source to give you more money- we simply cannot control what other people do so you could find yourself waiting indefinitely for that next big raise or that check from Publisher's Clearinghouse. You can't expect God to make the change, because let's be perfectly honest- if we're so desperate for more money then we're probably not doing His will when it comes to our money, and "when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." The one person we can control is ourselves, therefore, "That which YOU do not change remains the same."

Quite simply put, I have decided that I will handle my money as if I had millions. Do successful businessmen and corporations work without a budget? Do they spend without keeping an accounting of their expenditures? Do they cross their fingers, hoping they have enough money in the account to cover that last check they wrote? Obviously, the answer to all of the above is no, of course not! Therefore, why should I be any different? Why would the Lord want to bless me financially if this is the way I handle my finances? It's time to start acting like a pro with my money, to prove that I am someone who can be trusted. This includes recognizing the fact that I am blessed with the money I do have and using it to bless the lives of others as well.

I had kind of a silly experience that sort of tied this all together for me this week. With my couponing, I naturally fall into the JIC category because I am able to stockpile many items that I get for free or almost free. One of those items is toothpaste, and this week for our Relief Society Birthday Celebration we were doing a service project putting together hygeine kits. One of the items needed was toothpaste, and so I decided to raid my stash. They only wanted tubes of 6 oz or more, so I started pulling those out. As I did so, there was a little voice in my head saying, But what if you need those later on? What if you are in a desperate toothpaste situation and you gave them all away and your family has to suffer? It seems stupid, but there was a part of me that wanted to be greedy and keep some- Just In Case. Then my much more rational voice came in saying, Kasey, this is for a good cause. There are people out there who need this. Trust me, if you are ever in a desperate toothpaste situation and you didn't have any because you gave it away to someone else out of love, the Lord will provide for you and your family. And if He doesn't, then you were never meant to have this toothpaste in the first place.

Like I said, kind of a silly example, but it just goes to show how I was relying on the Just In Time philosophy, but applying it in a faith-based way. I was making good choices and trusting that by making those choices, I would be blessed when I needed it. I was being a good steward of the things God had given me, and therefore I have faith that He will bless me with more if I am meant to have it. By doing the Lord's will, I know that I will always come out ahead in the end.

Take some time this week and examine your stewardship- do you take great care with the blessings you have? If you were in charge of the universe, would you think you deserved to be entrusted with more based on the way you currently handle what you already have? Do you cling to bad habits and focus on your temporal needs because you fear the Just In Case, or do you exercise faith and trust in God to give you what you need Just In Time?

Just a few things to think about. :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Super Saturday- My $36 Kids Clothes Shopping Spree!

It's getting to be that time of year again- warm days popping up all over (even though at the moment it's cloudy, rainy, and in the mid-40s) and when I see the temperature start to creep up, I immediately start scrounging for something for my kids to wear that might still fit from last summer! Usually, the pickings are slim, and I realize that it's time to do some seasonal clothes shopping.

Well, today happened to be our local Moms of Multiples sale- a huge indoor "yard sale" event at a local school- so I decided to take out $40 in cash and see what I could find. After we were done there I had some money left over so we headed over to Goodwill to see if we could find anything else in the way of spring clothes for the kids. Lucky us- they happened to be having a manager's sale of 50% off all kids' clothes!! SWEET!

So since our Goodwill trip absolutely rocked, here's that pic first:

Items purchased: for my son: 4 short-sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of swim trunks, 1 pair of "Speed Shoes" (he already has a pair just like these, but he loves them so much we decided that for $2 we could get him some in a bigger size for when the current ones wear out); for my daughter: 1 dress (Polo), 1 dress/top (might be a little short for a dress, but will be cute w/capris), 1 top, 1 pair of capris, 1 pair of shorts. 

Grand total? $16.28 (excuse me for a moment while I jump up and down and squeal with delight)

Now on to the MOM sale:

Items purchased: 1 boys short-sleeve top, 1 girls long-sleeve top, 1 girls tank top, 1 girls sundress/beach cover-up, 1 pair boys dress shoes, 1 pair boys sandals (brand-new Nikes, by the way), 1 pair girls dress shoes. 

Grand total? $19.75

The most expensive items from the MOM sale were my son's shoes- $5/pair. But they were in awesome condition, and he really needed the new dress shoes. All in all, it was quite the successful day. I'll need a few more pairs of shorts for both of them, and more tops for Starlet, but I'm about 75% of the way there, which isn't bad for $36! If I were to buy clothes at any department store, I would have spent that much on 2-3 items alone. Or maybe one pair of shoes! THANKS GOODWILL!

Have you started your spring clothes shopping yet? Where do you plan on doing the bulk of your shopping? Leave a comment and share!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Funny Friday: Count on Kids

Monkey making his very first snow angel- and loving every minute of it- after we got 6 inches of the white stuff two weeks ago.

Monkey: "Mommy, guess what? I counted all the way to ELEVENTY!"

Me: "But Monkey, eleventy isn't a number!"

Monkey: "Yes, but I counted all the way TO it!"

Maybe you had to be there, but I was laughing, mostly because of how proud he was of himself!

Have a very funny Friday the 13th!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why Spend $150 When You Can Get It All for $30? ;-)

My Walgreens haul, with the exception of the Christmas clearance item (I might use it as a Secret Santa gift next year and I don't want anyone to see!) and the Tyelnol filler.
Ahh, it's days like these when the constant clipping, weekly ad-scouring, coupon collecting, and  careful calculating all pay off! I heart Kroger and Walgreens. Really do.

So earlier in the week I got my act together and managed to venture out to Kroger (kidless, thanks to my sweet husband) and may I say how much easier it is to score great deals when you go on a Monday when everything is still in stock? Definitely a bonus! I snagged $100 worth of groceries for $30, which included several freebies- Land O Lakes margarine, Shedds Country Crock, Quaker Rice Cakes (actually made $0.75 on that one) and Kens Lite Accents Salad Spray. I also was able to get some things needed for my pregnant self- Fiber One and Nature Valley granola bars for $1/box, Lean Cuisine Meals (love these for my lunches) for $1.35 each, and Tylenol for $1/box. Oh, and fruit snacks for the kids (okay, and for me too), and dixie napkins. And some ice cream...also for the kids....yeah...

Next I hit Walgreens and my total before coupons was $49.89, and I ended up paying $2.44. I should have paid less, but I didn't plan it well. Nearly everything was free after coupons- 6 Garnier Fructis products, 2 Glade Lasting Impressions, Gillette Fusion Gamer Razor ($0.99 after coupons and RRs), Edge shaving cream ($0.99 after coupons and RRs), and a cute little Christmas item that was on clearance for $1.24. I paid with $10 in RRs from last week, but the total was less than that, so the register beeped. I threw in the closest little item I could find as a filler, which ended up being $1.99 (but it was a purse-sized Tylenol, which I kinda needed) so it pushed my total to $2.44. But I got back $5 in RRs, so it was all good.

The house smells great, the pantry is well-stocked, and my hair has never looked better. This is truly the way to thrive in a lousy economy.

Check back soon for my long-promised series of posts about how I got started couponing and my system for staying on top of the deals and keeping it all organized (well, kind of). 

Easy Deals of the Week: Garnier Fructis and Salad Spray!


Easy Deals is back! Easy Deals of the Week are deals you can get using  only the coupons from last week's Sunday paper or coupons you can print from your computer. This week the two easiest deals I spotted were at Walgreens and Kroger-

Walgreens- Garnier Fructis Shampoo, Conditioner, and Stylers on sale for $2.99 each
Use $2 off 1 coupon from the Walgreens EasySaver Catalog (found in the front of the store)
Use $1 off 1 coupons from last Sunday's paper (there were actually 2 of these in each paper)
Final price after coupons- FREE!

Kroger- Ken's Lite Accents Spray on sale for $1.49, but as part of their 10-Item Mix & Match Mega Event, you can get $5 off your order if you purchase at least 10 participating items, so as part of that deal the sale price would be 1.00
Use $1 off 1 coupon from last Sunday's paper to get it FREE!

I wanted to include a few more deals you can do using printable coupons, but my printer is currently unable to print in color, and as a personal rule I try to only post deals that I know will work- which includes getting the coupons to print! Hopefully by next week I'll be able to post some good internet printable deals for you.

Later today I'll be posting about my highly successful shopping trips to Kroger and Walgreens- it feels really good to be gettin' my deals again! 

Have you found any great deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Funny Friday: CAUTION!

That's right, Funny Friday is back! Because there's nothing more beautiful and thrifty than a good laugh!

I hear they're offering a million dollars to anyone who can figure out SOME WAY to remove this hazard! Oh, if only there was a WAY so we would not have to live in FEAR of the SIGN!

Have a very funny Friday. :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spiritual Sundays: Unbeknownst to Me, I Was in Training

First, I would like to apologize that my "Beautiful Thrifty" blog has mostly turned into Spiritual Sundays posts. To be honest, they're my favorite to do, but I promise I won't let you down on the rest of the beautiful and the thrifty, because I love that too. I am still coming out of my first trimester so the motivation for thriftiness has been overtaken by the need for REST! But never fear- I have a few treats in store for you this week. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Last week I wrote about the fruits of my newfound scripture study/personal morning devotional time, and I remain grateful for the things I learned, but as I continued with it this week, it took on a whole new meaning as I faced a serious trial on Thursday. 

To protect everyone involved, I won't go into details, but let me just say that a good friend did something, purely by accident, that was very hurtful to me, and pretty shocking as well. She felt absolutely horrendous about it, and I know that she did, but I was so hurt and upset by what she had done, that it took me some time to work out my feelings and think through how I would handle it. Luckily (well, we know it wasn't luck) one of the first things that came into my mind as I began to attempt the process of forgiveness was a scripture I'd read the week before (that I'd mentioned in my last post)- Matthew 7:1-2:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

I pondered that scripture, and I began to think about how I would feel if I was my friend and had made such a mistake. I hope and pray that I never do, but our lives are full of uncertainty- what if I somewhere along the line I really screw up? Would I want to be cut off as a friend and never trusted again? I knew the answer was no. And I knew that the Lord was watching, and He would be paying very close attention to how I handled the situation, because sometime in the future I may be handed the same judgment as I gave my friend.

I also took some time to reflect on the Atonement, and on the book, The Peacemaker, which taught me so much about forgiveness and the way the Atonement works in our lives. I knew that Christ has already suffered for my friend- for her sin, and for her pain and guilt. I knew that He had suffered for me- for my anger against her, and for the pain her mistake caused me. To not forgive her would be to reject His suffering, and tell Him that it wasn't enough, because I would be holding on to my anger that He had already paid for and blaming her for something He had already erased. I know through my faith that He can restore and make whole any wrong that anyone ever commits against me. And I know that He loves her, and that He feels her pain as well. He doesn't want her to suffer, nor does He want me to suffer.

Armed with my faith in those things, I knew that forgiveness was essential, and that we could heal our friendship. I wrote my friend a letter, in which I expressed my feelings and extended forgiveness. I think it may take her more time to recover because of the guilt she felt, but I just hope that we can meet halfway and both begin to allow Christ to heal our hearts. She is special to me, and I do not want to lose her friendship. I hope that she believes that.

Back to my scripture study- as I looked over my study notes from the past few weeks, nearly everything I had written down became a strength to me in this trial. I had thought that my notes were little solutions to little problems- little did I realize that they were all merely small parts to a big solution to a bigger problem. The Lord had had me in training for this for 2 weeks and I never even knew. He knew the test I would face and He made sure He gave me the study materials I needed to pass it. Not that I've necessarily passed it yet, I think that really it's ongoing. Luckily, thanks to the gift of the scriptures, it's open-book, and every answer I will ever need can be found within His Word.

If you haven't picked up your scriptures in awhile, and a little voice is telling you to start, now would be the time. You never know when you might need the strength that they will bring!

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