Monday, May 24, 2010

Just a walk in the backyard . . .

Yes, this is where I live. Spectacular isn't it? Yesterday Nathan, Andy, Katie, Aaron and myself braved the weather forecast, geared up for an adventure and went to hike Mist Falls. It's at the bottom of Kings Canyon, about an hour away from us. We knew we had the possibility of rain or snow, but decided we didn't have many other weekend options coming up . . . so yesterday was the day.

The 9 mile hike wasn't too bad. A good portion of it was flat (that's my kind of hiking). It started snowing. Although, this was actually better news than rain, which would have been so much wetter. I'm thinking I may need to invest in some sort of light waterproof hiking jacket. As we reached the falls, the mist from it coupled with the icy temperatures and the snow made it instantly really cold and really wet. So we went a bit off the trail, surrounded ourselves with some rocks and trees to be a little dryer. Then good ol' Nathan took his handy dandy mini stove and we boiled water for hot chocolate. It definitely hit the spot. He even pulled out some fancy Venezuelan dark chocolate. This kind of stuff sure makes hiking worth it! I'm sure glad we have friends that are up for snowy adventures!

Here's some pictures from the day:

Starting off

The mountains were beautiful, and still had snow on top!

We came upon a sign. That's always exciting. You know you can't be lost.

Pretty plant I found. I'm not sure what it is though. Mini pumpkins?

Us and the Kings River. The water is running so fast!

It's hard to tell, but it's totally snowing here. It was so cold and windy at this part.

So we warmed up with some hot chocolate. Go Nathan!


Awww, isn't he cute?

That's Mist Falls behind us. It was so misty and wet . . . we didn't enjoy it for long. We booked it the 4 1/2 miles back to the car!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Debt Free!

Today is a very special and memorable day for me. I paid off my student loans!! I graduated less than 2 years ago with about $20,000 in school debt. This is a miracle in and of its self that my loans were only that much for my $125,000 Biola degree. Paying off my debt is a huge accomplishment for me and I definitely feel ok about saying that I am proud of myself :-) I remember years ago when I set up my savings account at the bank, that I told the person there that if I didn't go to grad school right away, that my goal was to pay off my student loans by the time I was 25. They just laughed at me.

Well here I am, just turned 24, and today I have made the biggest financial accomplishment of my life.

God has been so faithful to provide for me. I have paid off my entire loan while working in ministry and making barely above minimum wage. I even make less than 75% than what I did working for Coffee Bean. But paying off debt has been such an enjoyable and worshipful experience. I get excited every month when I can take another portion of my financial burden away. And what really gets me . . . is that even though I am living so simply and without so many things . . . I really don't feel like I have ever been suffering or missing out on anything during this process. I have been very content the entire time. I made some significant changes to my life while paying my loans in order to help make it happen though. I dyed my hair brown so that I didn't spend money on highlights anymore, I got rid of my cell phone and switched to pre-paid and google voice and I took 2009 as a year of not buying any new clothes. Oh, and I have no car. Needless to say . . . I've definitely developed some healthy spending (or not spending) habits.

And God has continually provided for all of my needs-and more. I love that I've still been able to tithe and give to the people and the causes that I care about this entire time. I'd like to think that I have been a good steward of my finances . . . but I also can't help but realize that the true test of my stewardship with what God has given me, is really going to begin once I have the freedom to spend my money how and where I please. With no deadline and no loan balance, will I still be found faithful? I think to some extent, I can loosen up a little bit and spend more here and there, but in the end I want to be spending my money and time on things that have an eternal impact. After all, it's all God's resources anyway, and he has entrusted them to me to use in a way that brings Him glory.

Years ago I vowed that I would always be a generous giver. So I am especially excited to now have more resources to support the things and the people I care about. I have several friends working/will be working overseas doing missions work, and I am just beside myself to be able to begin supporting them monthly. What better way to use my finances, than to support Kingdom work?

Anyways, sorry this is long. But for me, this is a big deal and I am so excited to have a financial fresh start.

Here's 2 pictures for you. This is the first loan payment I made . . .

. . . and the last!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hike and Bike

This past weekend was quite the outdoorsy weekend for Nathan and I. But I guess when you live in a National Park at one of the most beautiful places ever . . . it's ok to go out and enjoy it. On Saturday we hiked up Sunshine Mountain. It's the mountain on one side of us that forms our little valley where we live. There's a metal cross that's up at the top of it and it's got a beautiful view looking over the lake. It was a hard hike for me, quite steep. But the beautiful view and the fun of hiking back down hill made it worth it.

Then yesterday we borrowed my neighbor's tandem bike and took it for a spin around the lake. Other than getting a little muddy and ducking under the fallen trees that are on the trail . . . it was fun. So after a great weekend outdoors I was definitely a bit sore and definitely a little sunburned. But it sure was lovely.