Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If you'll indulge me. . .

I'd like to share the contents of an e-mail I received from my fave drugstore. Fanfare please.

To summarize, it informed me that my Easy Saver Gift Card will shortly be credited $69.73.

After going through my records, I noted that I put $25.99 on our credit card and $29.97 on my gift card during the month of September. For those of you without a calculator-like brain like my husband's, that's $55.96. That's an impressive $13.77 in income for last month. But you have to remember that I bought waaaay more than the rebate stuff (meaning that in addition to the income, I've got some products to show for it . . . Well, I've got them, my college-student sister ended up with lots of them, I ate most of the M&Ms already, it's all the same, right?)

The way I see it, unless Walgreens majorly cranks out some killer deals in the next couple of years, I'm to the point where I have no excuse for ever giving them another cent. I hope they're okay with that.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Isaiah 23 Vanity Fair Overthrown

Isaiah 23 is about the fall of Tyre. After a brief description of the response of its citizens, the chapter proceeds to explain the cause for Tyre's fall by indicting the city for its excesses and materialism. Pastor Minnick noted that the descriptions of Tyre's wares closely resemble what is bought and sold in John Bunyan's Vanity Fair. It is possible that this chapter and others describing Tyre's commerce were on his mind as he wrote the Vanity Fair scene in The Pilgrim's Progress.

At any rate, God was determined to humble Tyre on account of her greed and materialism. So many parallels to our country were evident. But just as I sat there mentally "tsk, tsk-ing" the greed on Wall Street and the glitziness of a society that flaunts automobiles they'll never come close to actually owning, houses they can't really afford, and expensive THINGS they didn't actually give money for, the application was placed in my lap. The Bible addresses an admonition to people preoccupied with money in opposite ways. See, there are those who greedily store up too much, and then there are those who are anxious that they might not have enough. Both responses to money are wrong, because no one can slave for two masters. God and wealth are both full-time employers. No one has ever slaved for them both, and no one ever will.

Here's my lesson. So, I don't see myself on either end of the money-slaving scale. But I was reminded of my position of being "on top of the heap" when it comes to possessions. Who cares how much stuff I've got; very, very few Americans can rank themselves anywhere else on the global economic heap. And what I sat there thinking was, "Where's the sacrifice in moving down just a few notches to spend my life as a missionary? Who says I deserve my top spot? The Bible is telling me of the tremendous blessing there is in working in a church full of poor people." Don't tell the poor guy to fend for himself while you find a good place for the potential donor. Serve the poor who can't pay you back, because their Redeemer is strong. If I busy myself with the affairs of the rich for my whole life, there is a strong possibility that I'll never encounter anyone in need of a cup of cold water.

Remember Who made the promise, "He shall not lose his reward."

[The audio of this sermon is available for purchase here.]

Saturday, September 27, 2008

How it turned out

Okay, so I'm not quite $7.59 richer, but look at all the M&Ms! I promise one of them was an accident. It really was. I'd be $2.00 better off if that guy hadn't sneaked in. It's a long story. . . But this is my blog. I'll go ahead and tell it. I thought that the October coupon applied only to Halloween bags (which I despise, by the way). So I loaded 4 bags of Halloween peanut butter M&Ms into my basket. Then I went and hid while I tore out the appropriate October coupons (another long story, but it's not very interesting), and I noticed that it did not have to be Halloween bags. So I loaded up my basket with 4 normal, much more attractive bags and returned all (or so I thought) of the ugly Halloween bags. I know. The bag style is way too big of a deal to me. Anyhow, I ended up missing one, buying 5 bags of M&Ms instead of 4, and not catching it until I got home. My husband assured me that it was okay; I need not return the delinquent bag. He was confident we could put it to good use.

Anyway, here's how it turned out. They had everything I wanted, so I got:
2 Lipton teas
5 (growl) bags of M&Ms
3 Garnier Fructis shampoos
1 Pert Plus
1 Nivea men's body wash
2 bags of pistachios (which I love)
1 LypSyl lip balm
1 Revlon nail polish.
Used $27.50 worth of coupons.
Used $20 in RRs; put $6.88 on the gift card to finish it up and paid the remaining $6.52.
That's $33.40.
I'll get back (if the Pert Plus thing works) $34.28 in Walgreens cash of one kind or another.
(Incidentally, if the Pert thing doesn't fly, it's $30.44. Still nothing to complain about, you know? The Pert itself was still free on account of the $4.50 in coupons I used for a $3.49 item.)

To see the details on the cost per item and the coupons used, go here (one post down).

Friday, September 26, 2008

It all comes down to this. . .

Here's my Walgreens plan. I'm hoping to find the last few free-this-month things. I've got to spend 2 $10 RRs, and hopefully take advantage of at least one "double dipping deal." We'll see how it goes.

$ 1.99-LypSyl lip balm
4. 79-Revlon nail polish
4. 99-Nivea for Men body wash
3.79-Pert Plus
20.97-3 Garnier Fructis shampoos/conditioners
5.00-2 pistachios bags
5. 00-2 boxes Lipton tea

$ 2.00 Revlon coupon
1.00 Nivea coupon
2.50 Walgreens October Easy Saver coupon
2.00 Pert Plus coupon (from before I was keeping track of which insert it came from)
(3) 3.00 Fructis Walgreens OES coupons
(3) 1.00 Fructis coupons (from various inserts)
.50 Lipton coupon
5.00 for $5/$20 Walgreens coupon
Total: $21.53 ($20 of which will, incidentally, be paid in Register Rewards)

Rebate amount (if the Pert Plus thing works): $28.12 (after 10% bonus)
Register Rewards: $1

That's $7.59 in Walgreens cash richer than I was when I started.

Edited to add: If you want to see the happy ending, go here (one post up).

Ezekiel 16

I read a story yesterday—a story sad, wonderful, and all too true.

There was a man walking in a field alone when he heard a pitiful sound. It was the sound of newborn baby. The man stopped and stared. This child, a girl, had been born moments ago it appeared. But no one was around. The child had been delivered and cast, unwanted, into a vacant field to die in her blood. The man decided to give the child life. He took the girl away from the field and saw to it that she was able to live.

Many years later, the man encountered this girl, now a woman, again. She had grown up, but her appearance remained undesirable. She lived in poverty with no hope of advancement in life. But the man had other plans for this woman. Though she had nothing to commend herself, he took her as his wife and clothed her in the finest of apparel and gave her many jewels and ornaments of love. Silver and gold, rubies and diamonds adorned the once neglected and bloody body. You see, this man was the king. He had unlimited resources at his disposal for honoring his beloved. And she was honored above all other women in the kingdom. Clothed in the finery of royalty, she possessed a beauty unrivaled by any. She began to notice the admiring looks of many others besides her king.

How wonderful to be sought after! She began at first to try to attract the attention of passing men. When she met with success in this venture, she was spurred on to greater and greater improprieties, until, at last, she was not content to live in the palace with her husband and king. She preferred the company of the worthless and vile. She drank in their adoration and bawdy professions of infatuation. She disregarded the king’s attempts to draw her back to her home.

Messengers were dispatched from the palace. “My lady, our gracious and kind king requests that you reject the lovers whom you are now pursuing. Return to your husband and he will receive you again.”

But the messengers returned to the king bewildered. “My lord, she will not come. She loves her liaisons too much to return to your care. My lord. I shrink from describing to you her debauched condition. She plays the harlot with anyone who will have her. Nothing is too low for her to engage in. My lord, it is not as though she has need of provisions and thereby must sell herself. You have promised to provide all she needs and more. And she takes no money. No, my king. She—my lord, how shall I tell you? She takes nothing from them but rather bribes her lovers to come to her. It is your silver and your gold she gives away in this fashion. Your majesty, will, I suppose, reject her from being queen. She will, no doubt be destroyed as many others who have not done as much.”

The covenant stood. The king had made her a promise. Go again. Warn her of the end of her ways!

“My lady?”
“What do you want?”
“My lady, you are transgressing against your king. Shall he not destroy you?”
“The king has said nothing.”
“Nothing, my lady? He sends again and again to urge you to return, to warn you of your impending destruction! Has he not cut off many others whose wickedness did not exceed your own?”
And with a toss of her head and short laugh, the queen dismissed the warning, “I am the chosen of the king. He could not destroy me. He will not. I will go on just as I am. If he wishes me to stop, he must stop me.”

Time passed. Messengers spoke again and again to the queen. They returned every time with heavy hearts to report still more atrocities.
“My lord? The queen—I cannot continue.” His voice broke into sobs.
Another spoke up, “She bore you a son, your majesty. The child was rightfully yours.”
“Yes, was!” began a third, more vehemently than the other two. “The wicked woman you loved and honored so has slain your child. With her own hands she has sacrificed him to her gods.”
“At the urging of her lovers,” was the heartbroken conclusion.

The messengers knew the end of the queen. Her ways would lead her to a pit out of which she could never climb until she reached the very lowest point. The king had no choice but to allow the lovers, who all along had wanted nothing but her riches, to ravage her until she was bereft of every joy she had ever known. Every joy but one. The love of her husband, her king, remained unchanged through all her treachery. And some day, the king knew, after her unfaithfulness had been completed, she would return. And to the awe of the messengers and the servants, he would forgive her. He would restore her to more prominence than she had before. And all the world would worship and adore a King so loving, so faithful to His promises.

The King is Yahweh. He chose for Himself a nation. The nation behaved like the queen. And Yahweh will restore her; He will make her beautiful and splendid once again. But in that day, she will not turn to others. She will have a new heart and an unfailing loyalty to her Beloved.

And here the story cannot, nor can any one story, contain the whole of the truth of the situation. Because the King is infinite. And His plan extends beyond an unfaithful ethic group. He deserves to be worshiped by all peoples of every language. He has determined to bring poor, vile sinners of every kind into His great banquet hall. And the story of the queen is held up to those people groups as a gleaming example of the richness of the faithfulness of the covenant of a God who will forgive the worst of treacheries and will pardon all iniquity and sin for any who come to take shelter in His abundant righteousness.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Walgreens Caveats

The point is that you beat the system. All I can figure Walgreens has realized is:
1. If we tout stuff as free, people will come into our stores and buy all kinds of other (overpriced) stuff in addition to the free stuff, so we'll still make money selling light bulbs and greeting cards and whatever to folks who think they're getting great deals, but they really care more about one-stop shopping.
2. If we tout stuff as free, people will buy it and then continue to buy it (here, hopefully) when it's not free
3. If we tout stuff as free, people will buy it and then forget to request the rebate. Then we'll sell them all kinds of things they never would have bought if they weren't "free."

That's my theory, anyway. But even if I'm wrong, doing the 3 things above will ruin the deals. By all means, use drugstore coupons and sales to get stuff that's not free but really turn out to be good deals to combine with your rebate or rewards stuff and so cut down on your grocery or WalMart bills (as I've done). But here are my rules: If I don't need it, I won't get it even if it's $0.15, unless it helps me get a better deal on something else. If it's free, and I don't need it, I'll think very carefully about buying it from somewhere that doesn't tack on 10%. Because, why pay even 6% of the price of something I will never use or even find someone to give it to? Kay? I'd suggest keeping track somehow of what you spend, and what they give you back and what you have to show for it. That way, you can have a big picture in several months of whether this game is saving you money or slowly using up funds on stuff you never would have bought without the Easy Saver Rebate program.

So keep good records each week. Which won't be hard, because it's really fun to tell people exactly what you paid for a trunk-full of goods and then inform them of what you'll be getting back.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What would you say?

What if you received this letter?
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?
Not exactly persuasive, is it? But the writer, Mr. Adoniram Judson, continues:
Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
When I read that, I went from thinking, "How could her father have said 'Yes'?" to "How could he have said 'No'?"

(Quotations taken from The Three Mrs. Judsons by Arabella Stuart, Particular Baptist Press, 2001, pp. 7-8.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coupon Central, Part 2: Entering Coupons

In the last post in this series, I did little more than admit to the world that I have nerdish tendencies when it comes to organizing pieces of paper. I really hate paper for the most part. If it can be on a CD or a thumb drive or the Internet or the laptop's memory, that's where it belongs. My dream is to scan most of my kids' artwork and display it proudly as the wallpaper on the desktop. But I digress.

My distaste for paper doesn't stop when it comes to coupons, but what can you do? I've heard that some stores have this iPod, phone, store membership card, download, coupon thing that is totally electronic. I haven't looked into it. I don't have an iPod or whatever you need, and my phone doesn't connect to the Internet, so I'll stick with paper until I get the concept more. At any rate, pulling out the paper and handing it over still works when it comes to cash and the glossy paper money that comes in the Sunday edition.

BUT, that doesn't mean I'm thrilled with shuffling through wads of paper to find what I need. I do it, but I try to minimize it. So I enter them in my database. Here's the form I use to enter them:

I really do take the whole stack I just clipped and type the relevant information into the laptop before filing them in the accordion folder. I've gotten pretty fast at it. Now all the information I might want to search later is in a table somewhere, and I can bring it up and find what I need. But that's for a later post.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I really like Publix. They are super close to where I live, and they are such a pleasant place to shop. Believe me, I love the prices at Aldi, but Publix makes one remember the days when (as a child a good many years ago) I would see cashiers pull your groceries out of the cart for you and another person would put the groceries in the bags for you and would walk you to your car and put them in the trunk for you. I could actually take or leave the bagger dude coming to the car with me, and I do put my own groceries on the conveyor belt, but there is a bagger dude at any rate, and if I've got more than one bag, he will offer to take them to the car for me.

So, I've enjoyed Fiddledeedee and the Publix Super Savers series (say that five times). I was really happy with my last trip to Publix for a number of reasons:

1. The race-car cart. Okay. This had its drawbacks to be sure, but I really wish I had a picture. My 13-month-old rode in the cart with a steering wheel for the first time in his life, and he is hooked. Let's just be honest, the cart is the size of a small continent, but come on. Would you trade hearing your little guy make motor noises as you maneuver through the aisles for a smaller turning radius?
2. The Advantage Buys. Factoring in coupons, I got some good deals (which I'll detail in coming paragraphs).
3. They doubled one of my coupons.
4. The bananas were the same price as Walmart's.

I failed to take a picture, but for
3 packs of buns,
2 18-count Chinet crystal tumblers,
1 200-count Dixie napkins,
a head of Romaine,
a loaf of bread,
2.93 pounds of bananas,
Hershey's caramel topping (for the bananas . . . and ice cream of course),
Kraft Singles Select cheese, and
2 pounds of carrots
my total came to $20.27.
2 $1/1 Chinet coupons,
1 Singles Select coupon, and
1 Dixie coupon (which was doubled; still don't know why),
my final total was $16.72. Not too shabby.
Coupon savings: $3.55
Advantage Buy savings: $2.86
Total savings (not to insult you, but they add it up for you on the receipt): $6.41

Isaiah 22

He wanted us to leave disturbed. That's what he said. I believe he accomplished his purpose. But more importantly, I believe God did a powerfully disturbing work in many hearts. I know I was sobered a great deal.

Isaiah 22 is a reprimand to celebrating civilians. Sennacherib's army has been destroyed without a bow shot or a sword thrust. One day the entire city of Jerusalem and her outlying areas are under siege with ramps and battering rams all around; the next morning, instead of troops, corpses surround the city. How would you respond? Probably like the Judeans--parties, feast, and loud celebrations. This is where the phrase, "Eat and drink for tomorrow we may die" comes from.

But Isaiah says, "No. What are you thinking? Have you not learned anything from those of your own people who died so ingloriously while under siege? God has called you to weeping, not to feasting!"

What follows is a sobering oracle to two men. One is an unscrupulous steward who abuses his power and seeks to make a legacy for himself. The other is a faithful counselor to Judah. Guess which one God wants them to trust in for security. The answer, of course, is neither. What does a nation do when it is faced with impending (financial) disaster? What if the economic house of cards falls? "Trust in the Holy One of Israel alone, for He only is salvation."

But what will God be calling us to if the government does indeed contrive a bail-out that grants a reprieve and sends the stockmarket skyrocketing? Feasting? Partying? Self-congratulations on barely missing disaster? Or weeping and wearing of sackcloth for the sins that brought on the disaster in the first place? "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).

Friday, September 19, 2008

We're in!

LifeForce, here we come. I was so schlude* of my husband yesterday. He passed the goals test with flying colors. Losing 15 pounds since the last appointment was especially impressive. We opted for Five Guys Burgers and Fries in lieu of pizza, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Jon keeps saying it was all me since I made up the charts and stopped making desserts so much, but it's not like I can go out and run for him.

So, we're official LifeForce Phase 2 members which means that the $60 credit should start rolling in any time. Wahoo!

*Schlude: (adj.) feeling a "pride" that is not of the sinful, puffed-up variety; taking proper pleasure in the accomplishments of another while acknowledging that all good things ultimately come from God

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Folder's Big Adventure

Once upon a time there was a fat little green coupon folder. There was nothing especially attractive about it. It was just a small accordion-style folder with a stretchy strap to keep the flap closed. But the folder's owner was very fond of it. She took Folder with her into every drug store, grocery store, convenience store, hardware store, department store, and discount store she went to. Folder always got a warm, fluttery feeling when his owner would whip him out on an aisle of one of the stores (Walgreen's was his favorite) and begin filing through for just the right coupon. Most of the time, even Folder didn't know what she was looking for, and certainly no one else could have followed her train of thought as she happened to catch a glimpse of a yellow sale ad taped to a shelf. Even if she tried to explain how buying the ZipFizz would actually save her $3 off her transaction, the response was usually, "I'll take your word for it."

Folder got used to the quick transfers from purse to cart handle, out of Baby's Herculean grip, onto the floor, back to cart handle for half a second before being set unceremoniously on an empty portion of a shelf for some serious fileage. But always he would leave the store safely tucked into his owner's humongous purse that also served as a diaper bag, smiling softly to himself as he thought of all the money he had had so noble a part in saving his owner.

One day Folder got to ride with the owner's entire family to a very cool grocery store. The owners didn't usually shop there because their prices were so much higher than Aldi's, but today was TRIPLE COUPON DAY at the fancy grocery store. Folder was so excited. He never got out at Aldi, but at the fancy grocery store, he was pulled out at almost every stop. You see, this purchase would be especially complicated because the store allowed only 6 coupons per transaction. So Folder's owner and her husband were checking out separately with different coupons. All this made for loads of excitement. Folder's owner had made a list on the Internet from the store's ad of the things that were a good deal and that she had a coupon for. The store let them print this list at a special kiosk, so it saved the owners from using their own paper.

With list in one hand and Folder in the other the owner and her family navigated the fancy grocery store making the most they could of Triple Coupon Day and the store's plentiful B1G1 sales. The last stop was the juice aisle to get a certain brand of pomegranate juice. Since it was the last stop, the owners were both preoccupied with distributing the right products to the right cart and lining up the corresponding coupons. Folder chuckled to himself as he envisioned how happy his owners would be when they looked at the receipts and saw what their savings had been. He also wished he could do something to entertain the baby who was getting restless.

It must have been the confusion of transferring items; maybe it was the fact that the juice on sale and the intended coupon did not coincide as originally planned; or maybe it was the baby's eagerness for the cart to start rolling again. Whatever it was, Folder watched in silent dismay as both his owners and the baby pulled out of the juice aisle and headed for the check-out to triple the piddly few coupons they clutched in their hands while he sat there stuffed full of hundreds more.

Folder could not have known what was happening back at the owners' house. How they glibly made the entire trip home not even noticing his absence from his usual place in the humongous diaper bag purse. All through an entire Sunday, Folder knew it would not be likely that he would be missed. Rarely did his owner utilize him on that day. Folder would have been relieved to see the utter dismay and even horror on the face of his beloved owner when at last, on Monday, the sickening truth dawned upon her, "I left my Coupon Folder in Bloom!"

In great loneliness Folder sat at the lost and found at the fancy grocery store, ignorant that at that very moment, his owner, with heart pounding, was making a call to Barbara at Bloom. In response to Barbara's inquiry as to how she could make the owner happy, the owner began to explain her loss. Folder whiled away the hours in the store safe waiting for the less and less likely arrival of his owner. How could he have know that the owner's husband was working in a different location than normal and absolutely could not swing by that day? How could Folder have possibly anticipated a return to a normal schedule the following day that would result in the happy reunion with the owner's husband, and at the end of the work day, with his beloved owner herself? But that is exactly what happened to Folder.

And if Folder could talk, I suppose his bit of wisdom for all of us would be, "I suppose you'll be more careful now, won't you?"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Life as a Seed

But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own (1 Corinthians 15:35-38).
This passage and the following verses give so much material to stimulate the imagination! We will be raised one day (or at least, if we don't die before the Lord's return, we will be changed). So, if we are not now what we one day will be, what will we be like? It sounds like Paul is urging us to think way beyond anything we are accustomed to in this life. What we will be when we see our Savior as He is so far surpasses what we currently are, that the change can be compared to a seed and its plant. Seeds are unremarkable. Seeds are basically the same on the outside as other seeds. Seeds are buried. But what comes to life? Oh, here we have beauty, variety, something useful, something to display!

Now, I'm thinking about the beauty we have on this world. There are talented, intelligent, gifted, generous, noble, and beautiful people. But, Christians, we're seeds. Just wait until we're planted and spring up with joy unspeakable! Think for a moment of what a whole garden of us will look like! There's Moses. Over here, Job. Paul, James, Augustine, Luther, Newton, Spurgeon. Me, you. The folks in your church. Thomas Kelly got it right:
Then we shall be where we would be,
Then we shall be what we should be,
Things that are not now, nor could be,
Soon shall be our own.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I am a nerd.

No, no. I really am. Ready?

I have all my coupons organized in an Access database. There. I've said it.

See, I had the wonderful experience of working in an office for the first three years after I got married. I learned tons of stuff about all kinds of things. One of those things was navigating my way through Access. Now, I wouldn't market myself as being able to build databases, but I do know how to use the little "Help Paper Clip," and I came up with a coupon database.

I'm still not sure whether it saves a ton of time, but I believe it helps me get deals I would have otherwise missed. Here's what I can do with my database (since I've set it up to spit out alphabetized reports):

I sit at the computer and look at on-line ads for drugstores (CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid). When I see a deal I'm interested in, I can just click over to Coupon Central and see if I can make it a better deal. No shuffling, flipping, or searching. I'll give more details as I go along, but I thought I'd share my confession of nerdhood so we can get that out of the way. Here's what my main menu looks like:

Pretty nifty, huh?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Isaiah 21

Part of what encouraged me to begin blogging was this post by on Girl Talk. She shares how the Lord has worked in her heart about meditating on Sunday's message(s) the following day. I am often guilty of forgetting quickly (or not fully processing at all) the messages God gives me through His ministers. I thought that writing about them on Mondays would help me, not only to share what God provides for me, but also to keep it for myself in a more memorable form. Of all the good gifts brought to me on a proverbial shovel, preaching is most certainly of utmost value. How ungrateful of me to treat it as worthless.

The Lord has blessed us with a wonderful church in our area. My pastor is a very careful Bible expositor. Several months ago, the Lord laid on his heart to preach a series of messages on the book of Isaiah. Now, when Pastor Minnick preaches through a book, like any good Bible expositor, he does not feel at liberty to omit passages he comes to for any reason. If there were any good reasons to skip a chapter, he basically admitted to us last evening that Isaiah 21 would have several. But the blessing of the message was the more vivid for the realization that God Himself had placed this obscure passage in this long prophetic book "for our instruction" (1 Cor. 10:11).

The passage predicts a horrifying overthrow of the kingdom of Babylon. Isaiah's vision is not even detailed, merely the prophet's reaction to it. To make things more baffling, the timing of the event prophesied is unclear. However, God had spoken these things to drive home to His people Israel the message of the whole prophesy, "Trust in the Holy One of Israel alone, for He only is salvation." Though Israel may have been tempted to trust Babylon for security, God assures His people that Babylon is only as strong as the true Sovereign of the Universe allows her to be.

In the end, a remarkable application for God's people today is found in Isaiah's response to the destruction of these wicked people. Isaiah is stunned and physically sickened by what he sees will happen to them. Pastor urged God's people present in the service to have a real compassion for the fate of lost people. God has told us what destruction will befall those who fail to turn to Christ for salvation, and we ought not glibly go about our lives unmoved by the certain terror that will befall them. May God help me be a more fervent evangelist as I dwell on the judgment that awaits my neighbors.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Moose Rack

Well, here's how it actually turned out. Kind of differently than I'd planned due to their being out of some stuff (it's what you risk when you wait for the weekend coupon), but with a little patience from my 13-month-old, we worked out a Plan B in the store and ended up with the following:

$19.99 A Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner Starter Kit (impressive name, no?)
$7.99 Walgreens acid reducing tablets
$1.98 (2) Turtle-flavored Chex Mixes (low-fat, they claim)
$11.97 (3) Children's Dimetapps
$4.49 Crest Pro-Health mouthwash
$2.00 The socks we talked about
$1.49 (Ahee) Some really cute summer clearance flip-flops
-$6.00 (3) Dimetapp coupons
-$1.00 Chex coupon (Now that I look at the receipt, it appears that I got credit for only one rather than their adjusting down both to $1.98. Not complaining, just saying.)
-$5.00 Shower cleaner thing coupon
-$10/$40 Walgreens coupon
-$2.00 Register Rewards
Total $28.79 (The Register Rewards counted toward the payment, not the coupons. I'm not inclined to do the math it would require to figure out what tax would have been to do it otherwise. But it's all on the up-and-up, I promise.)

So then I walked out of the store with the above merchandise along with $10 RR for the Dimetapp, $10 for the shower sprayer cleaner thing (I'd love to install it in our shower, but it would make a great. . .sorry, "shower" gift too. Hee, hee.), and $4.50 for the mouthwash. That's $24.50 if Saxon Math did it's job on me.

I'm not done, though. Chalk up another $8.79 to the gift card for next month for the acid tablets. (I love adding the 10% bonus right away.)

So, I'm about $4.50 richer in Walgreens cash than I was yesterday. That sound you hear is NOT me complaining.

And what I call the really good news is that we've got a long way to go before we've bought all the free stuff for this month.

Adding to the Shovel

We all know how important it is to stay physically in shape. All kinds of benefits, right? I mean there are (obviously) physical benefits, some say emotional benefits, probably social benefits if you have a good running partner, and so on. But sometimes, lots of times really, the greatest motivator to anything comes in the form of monetary benefits. Kind of telling about our natures to be sure. But there it is.

So, after fairly active high school and college years, my husband (the coolest guy on earth) and I settled into a more sedentary early married life. Our occasional bursts of "Let's exercise more" were easy to transition in and out of. We could kind of do what we wanted as long as work schedules and seminary paper due dates permitted.

Enter Baby. Now, he's a fitness program all his own, don't get me wrong. Just turn him loose and decide you're going to follow every step he takes, and you'll see your own steps racking up right quick. But he does require constant supervision. So "Hey, let's go running" doesn't work any more. It's now, "Hey, let's one of us go running." Not as easy to get the workouts in now that it takes twice as long for us both to get it done. And we've all heard about broad-daylight abductions of joggers. And the excuses continue to pile up.

But there are ways to get with it and not throw out the gift of physical health that God has blessed us with. And one thing He has used to put some extra icing on the cake, or fat-free dressing on the salad rather, is LifeForce. Good ol' LifeForce, the employee wellness incentive program at my husband's work. And what an incentive. I believe it comes out to like $60 per month savings on insurance premiums, which are deducted from his paycheck. Sweet. So while we're still careful with our spoons, it's always nice to keep more on the shovel from the get-go (as they say).

So, we instituted a little friendly competition, complete with a spreadsheet, to motivate our continued progress im preparation for the big LifeForce Do-You-Meet-The-Benchmarks appointment this coming Thursday. I think we're good, but we'll see. If they give him the ticket to "Phase 2," there will be great rejoicing. We'll probably go out for pizza. Somewhere with a salad bar, no doubt.

Friday seems to be a good day to update the whole (potential) world on who's winning said friendly competition. I'll give some more details in the coming weeks (maybe even screen shots of our spreadsheets, who knows?) on just how we get points. I mean, after the big appointment, we need some additional accountability. The whole potential world would work, I guess.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Week's Anticipated Walgreens Trip

Okay, and now for the Walgreens deals we mentioned earlier. I decided to wait for the weekend to see if they send out a coupon, and I was rewarded. I at first thought, "Well, no way this week. I'll never come up with $40 since it has to be $40 after coupons and before tax." But I did it. I have the columns of ciphers on an old envelope to prove it. If all goes as planned, here's what I'll get:

$2.00 Socks (I've never bought socks at a drugstore before, but I'll check them out. We need socks.)
$3.79 Scrubbing Bubbles Action Scrubber
$2.49 Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner
$2.49 Scrubbing Bubbles wipes
$2.49 Pledge product of some kind
$11.97 3 bottles of Dimetapp
$4.49 Crest Pro-Health mouthwash
$1.98 2 Chex Mix(es)
$7.99 Walgreens brand acid reducing tablets
$3.99 Excedrin
$9.99 Living Solutions vacuum bag
$54.90 plus tax

-$2.75 Action Scrubber coupon
-$1 Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner coupon
-$1 Scrubbing Bubbles wipes coupon
-$1 Pledge product coupon
-(3) $2 Dimatapp coupons
-(2) $1 Chex coupon (probably only $1.98 after they adjust it)
Final Total $41.17
-$10/$40 Walgreens Coupon
Final, Final total $31.17 plus tax (which I'll pay for entirely with Register Rewards and my gift card)

But wait. Of course it gets better. After I hand over the total above, the machine next to the register will print me $19.49 in Walgreens cash to be used in the next 2 weeks however I see fit, because I bought the Scrubbing Bubbles and Pledge stuff ($5), the Dimetapp ($10), and the mouthwash ($4.49).

Then I'll go home and type my receipt information into our computer, and that will assure my getting added to my gift card a whopping $21.97 for buying the acid tablets ($7.99), the Excedrin ($3.99), and the vacuum bags ($9.99--if you're curious about this one, see MoneySavingMom's post about it here). And that's not counting the 10% bonus.

So let's do the math. I pay them (roughly, since I'm not sure when tax gets figured): $33.04

They pay me (and let's tack on the 10% bonus just for kicks): $43.65

I'll take it. And that's not even all the free stuff for this month. Hooray! I'm particularly pumped about the vacuum storage bag.

Walgreens and Why I Like It

All over the coupon, money-saving, frugal blogs (at least the couple I've frequented), CVS is the big hero. And they may have started the whole thing. I have no idea. But I'd like to say a word on Walgreens's behalf. (By the way, the Chicago Manual of Style stipulates the " 's " after a proper noun ending in "s." I'm not sure I'm a huge fan either, but after editing some according to Chicago, it's hard to flout their authority. So, try not to let it bug you. I did it on purpose.) At any rate, I'd like to go on record as saying that for the three months or so that I've done the drug store thing, I've found more out-and-out free things at Walgreens than anywhere else. Plus, you absolutely cannot beat the 10% bonus. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I am indebted for this information to the tutorial and subsequent "deal updates" I've read on MoneySavingMom. She (the aforementioned mom) provides an in-depth guide to Walgreens shopping on her website.

By "in-depth," I mean really in-depth. If you've avoided drugstores like the plague because they are always more expensive than WalMart, you're smart. They are. Unless you're selective. But I digress. If you're not familiar with drugstores like Walgreens, you might get lost in her terminology. I'd advise you to get a copy of the Easy Saver Catalog and see for yourself what the store is doing. Skip the first half with coupons for a moment and peruse the Rebate Items. The first several will likely be stuff touted as "free." If you're willing to think about it like Walgreens, the stuff is actually free. No really, it is. Here's what happens:
1. You buy the stuff with actual money
2. You go home, create an account at walgreens.com and enter the receipt information
3. You repeat steps 1 and 2 until the end of the month
4. You request (via walgreens.com) that your rebate be put on a Walgreens gift card
5. You wait several weeks
6. You check your account numerous times during those weeks to see what progress has been made on your rebate's return to you
7. You receive in the mail a genuine Walgreens gift card

"How much is my gift card for?" you ask. Well, for the moment, let's suppose you bought only the stuff touted in the catalog as free. And that you used no coupons, and that the total price of everything for the month was $20. (Now adjusting for my state's 6% sales tax, that should come to $21.20.) Since Walgreens will tack on 10% of your rebate amount, your gift card will be good for $22. So, if you adjust for sales tax, what just happened is that you received $20-worth (which is debatable, I know, but stick with me) of necessary or fun products for -$0.80. You're 80 cents ahead of where you were before you started shopping there.

Now it gets fun. What if, say, Proctor and Gamble want to help you buy something they make? So they issue a coupon. So you buy something touted as free from the catalog. You pay Walgreens $4, P&G (by means of a coupon) pays Walgreens $1, and Walgreens pays you $5.50. It's intense. If you like Sudoku, you'll go for this.

That's Walgreens.

(By the way, since this is my blog, I get to share another, more sappy reason I love drugstores. My husband and I had our first date at, among other places, a CVS. Okay. We were actually going to breakfast, but we had to get some pictures developed first, so we dropped them at the drugstore. We had a few left on my roll--and I admit I wanted a picture or two of both of us--so we had the store clerk snap a few. Henceforth in our dating, we tried to get a picture in a drugstore near every major major attraction we visited. Everyone together now . . . "Awwwww!")

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

That Nothing Be Lost

I know my generation is not characteristically conscientious about conserving resources. My grandparents' generation is. I imagine that there have been people in every generation who took their possessions for granted, glibly presuming upon replacing things with little sacrifice on their part. But they have historically been in the minority. Today, however, it is difficult to find someone (other than our grandparents) who understands the mindset of Mrs. Jonathan Edwards.

In the Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards, the author makes this observation:
She was conscientiously careful that nothing should be wasted and lost; and often when she herself took care to save any thing of trifling value, or directed her children or others to do so, or when she saw them waste any thing, she would repeat the words of our Saviour--"That nothing be lost;" which words she said she often thought of, as containing a maxim worth remembering, especially when considered as the reason alleged by Christ, why his disciples should gather up the fragments of that bread which he had just before created with a word (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1, Hendrickson 2005, p. lxxxvii).
Not only do these sentences reveal something of Sarah Edwards's good stewardship of resources, but they impressed me with her astute biblical application. How many times have I read those verses and skimmed over that quotation of Christ as ancillary to the "real" lesson of the recorded event? Necessary to advance the action, but not really pertinent to what was being communicated. And not just that narrative, but dozens more in Scripture are written for my admonition.

The challenge for me in this passage from the life of Mrs. Edwards is to see that nothing of God's gifts of resources or of instruction be lost on me.

Getting Started

I intend that this website will turn out to be a web log in it's most obvious sense. I do not harbor any notion that many people in the world (particularly those I've never met) actually care about my daily activities, and most of those that do probably should be spending more time on their own. I have, however, come to the conclusion that maintaining a web log can be profitable to me for a number of reasons.

First of all, it provides some measure of accountability in my own devotional life. I intend to share regularly what I have learned in hearing the Word of God preached and in reading it for myself. In order to share truth with anyone, I must first understand it. Therefore I believe that taking time to digest truth enough to then present it in a logical format will be a help to me in my own spiritual growth.
Along those lines, I believe it is profitable to think through things enough to be able to write about them. Some of the things I intend to share will come from my own reading, and currently I am working through the memoirs of Jonathan Edwards. Something helpful about Edwards's practice that I would like to incorporate into my own life is his control over his thoughts. When he left his house to walk by himself in the field, he would determine ahead of time, even writing it down, what he would think about. I began to think of the hours I have wasted in useless thought that could have been spent in meditation on Scripture or better articulating to myself the truths of the gospel and God's work in me. Writing is a tangible way of controlling and organizing thoughts.

I enjoy writing, I enjoy communication, and I must improve at both throughout my life.

That being said, I do intend that the subject matter of this blog be practical as it represents what I do at this stage of my life. Our family blog is a great way for my parents and other relations who live away from us to keep up with how our son is growing up. This blog will be a great way for my mom to keep up with what's on sale at Walgreens. I'll talk about how I use coupons, save money, and enjoy myself way too much in the process. I would see all these other money-saving coupon bloggers posting pictures of their drugstore trips, and I would go, "Wow. They really need to get a life." Then I went to a drugstore and bought like $35.17 worth of merchandise, and typed it into my computer which told me to expect like $37.24 back in the mail, and I went, "Hmm. I wish I could tell my husband just how great a deal we just got. But I just did. He's already sat through the detailed list and been impressed. Who else cares? Let's see. . ." And then I realized why people put pictures on the internet. It's like mounting a moose rack. Only your virtual trophy room has seemingly unlimited space, and your local drugstores keep cranking out the ads, and the season lasts all year.

So about spoons and shovels. Appreciating what my husband brings in materially is an obvious applicaiton. But not throwing out, or treating as worthless, anything God gives me is commendable in His sight. Sunday sermons, devotional reading, mental powers, and financial resources should be conserved and highly valued as provisions from the Father of Lights.