We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ready for Anything? When Life Re-defines You # 4

Barry with Jana and Sharon
The tears in my eyes surprised me as I mentioned to my daughter that July 31st would mark the anniversary of our move to Northeast Pennsylvania. Memories flooded my mind in living color as I thought back to that day so long ago . . . How could thirty years have slipped by? How could our little girls, then four and eighteen months, have grown to be young women with children of their own?

I remember that weekend well. We arrived with not much more than a suitcase, a vacuum cleaner, some cleaning supplies, and a couple of lawn chairs. My husband sanded down the worn hardwood floors and coated them with polyurethane by the time the moving truck arrived a few days later. Over the years we've toned down the flowered '70s wallpaper, replaced windows, remodeled the kitchen and bathroom, painted multiple times, and added a double garage and guest room. If our walls could talk, they would tell lots of stories . . . some humorous and some sad but mostly ordinary stories about an ordinary family, trying to hang on to the  extraordinary grace of God as we went along.

Perhaps the reason my emotions got the best of me is because I realized those years made up the peak season of our lives . . . and suddenly, they're gone . . . like "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:14).

November 1, 1997: Jana, Sharon, Baby Elisabeth, "Mom"
In 1987, we never could have imagined the blessings that lay ahead . . . the girls' school days, the birth of another baby, our family vacations, Daddy's garden, the secret swing in the woods, trips to the library and reading the Little House series under the old apple tree, singing around the fireplace on Saturday nights, our church family . . .

We never anticipated the many challenges that lay ahead either . . . a life-altering car crash resulting in lifelong limitations (told in Penned Without Ink), the death of three of our parents, job transitions, disappointment with life events--and even with ourselves . . .  

Which brings us back to our series on how to prepare for a crisis of any kind. So far we've highlighted several strategies:

Strategy # 1: Examine your relationship with God.
Strategy # 2: Check your relationships with others.
Strategy # 3: Keep complete and accurate records in one place.
Strategy # 4: Have adequate insurance.
Strategy # 5: Be intentional about how you manage your finances.
Strategy # 6: Simplify.

Today we'll look at Strategy # 7: Update your legal documents.

Keep your HIPAA current. Your privacy is protected. In order for anyone besides you to access your medical information, you need to authorize them to do so in writing. It's just a one or two page document. Usually you would list your spouse, an adult child, or a close friend. On the back of your health insurance card is a 1-800 number you can call to make sure this in order.

Have a will in place. Having an up-to-date will lets you decide what happens to your assets at the time of your passing. It allows you to determine who will be the guardian of your minor children. And it allows you to choose the executor of your estate, a trustworthy person who carries out the terms of your will. Remember a document can always be changed or updated as needed.

Have a financial or durable power of attorney in place, who is the person named in a notarized document who will care for your finances should you become unable to do so. For example of you were in a coma, this person would manage your finances, pay your bills, etc.

Have a medical power of attorney in place, who is the person named in a notarized document who will care for your medical decisions should you become unable to do so.

If you're married, your power of attorney is often your spouse. Your ideal choice is a trusted person who will make good decisions on your behalf, knowing the circumstances along with your wishes.

I've collected more "Ready-for-Anything" articles and information on my Pinterest Page.

Whether you're still at the "moving in" stage of life or you're looking back on thirty years, wondering where the time went, there's value in doing all you can to be prepared, especially in light of life's re-definitions that seem to  crop up unexpectedly. At the same time, let's not forget that we have a God who has proven His faithfulness over and over and is worthy of our trust for the past, present, and future . . . no matter what happens.

I took this photo at Nay Aug Park, July 2017.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ready for Anything? When Life Re-defines You # 3

Crash! Boom! Cracks of thunder, lightning, wind, and torrents of rain held us captive inside the lobby of the Montrose Bible Conference on Thursday afternoon. It had been a profitable week, full of instruction for writers, workshops, and one-on-one meetings with editors, not to mention networking opportunities. I and a couple others commuted each day. The storm delayed our drive home, but we eventually made it . . . fallen trees and some minor flash flooding notwithstanding.

My sigh of relief as we pulled into the driveway quickly gave way to an adrenalin rush as I entered the house and realized I had no power. My first thought? The pumps! Visions of water in my basement and crawlspace sent me flying to find a battery-operated lantern and head downstairs. My houseguest graciously helped me lift my box fan onto the chest freezer, roll the dehumidifiers to the "safer" end of the room, and move the bottom shelf of movies to higher ground. It didn't take long. We were ready.

Two years ago, a flooded basement would have meant a major clean-up project.

This post is the third in a series about how to prepare for the unexpected based on my workshop at the Women's LYFE Conference. So far we've talked about our relationships with God and others as well as how to keep records and important documents together and organized, using the "red file."

Today's post will briefly suggest a few more ideas of how to prepare for a crisis of any kind.

Strategy # 4: Have adequate insurance. The purpose of insurance is to cover risk we can't afford to take. It's a good idea to periodically evaluate what you need or don't need for car, homeowner's or renter's insurance, health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance. 

Strategy # 5: Be intentional about how you manage your finances. Have a plan. Use a budget. Be intentional about reducing debt and putting an emergency savings plan in place. And if possible, be sure both spouses have a general idea of how to pay the bills and what the overall financial picture looks like. Howard Dayton has written a helpful resource titled Your Money Counts.

Strategy # 6: Simplify. Try to imagine how another person would feel if faced with the task of cleaning out your house! Here's where my basement story comes in. My sweet, wonderful husband (and he truly was) had interests from A to Z. The basement was crammed full of . . . stuff. I couldn't fault him. He had resources at his fingertips to help educators, students, and colleagues. He had built shelves for the books, and the rest took up space on the floor in boxes, bins, and piles. It took months for me to sort through it all after he passed away . . . to find and file the treasures, toss the dated catalogs and papers, and give away materials others could use.

My motivation? Either I clean up the basement or my kids would have to do it. Little by little, the space began to take on an "emptier" appearance. So that by the time the power went out this past week, it took just a few minutes to get ready for the "flood," which never happened by the way! Ruth Soukup has written a practical book on the topic of simplifying titled Unstuffed. Great title. Great resource.

Just like our experience with the storm on Thursday, we never know when a crisis will delay our plans and bring about a flood of changes, from minor inconveniences to major losses. Yet God has written all the days ordained for us in a book (Psalm 139:16). And while it's important to be prepared, the bottom line always begins and ends with trust in a faithful God who promises, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
bing.com images/free to use

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ready for Anything? When Life Redefines You - # 2

When's the last time you tore the house apart because you couldn't find an important document? And you had to have it that day? The more you searched, the more panicky you felt . . .  You found yourself muttering, "I know it's gotta be here somewhere . . ." Keep reading. I found the perfect solution!

This is the second post in a series designed to explore how to be prepared for the unexpected . . . how to be "ready" in advance for a crisis of any kind. So far we've looked at

Strategy # 1 - Examine your relationship with God.
Strategy # 2 - Check your relationships with others.
You can check out my last blog post HERE.

Today, we'll take a look at Strategy # 3 - Keep complete and accurate records with important information in one place. In one place . . . Ah-h-h wouldn't that be nice!

Barry and I began to gather our information and records in a more organized way after our car crash in 2003. It took a little time, but then we just had to update it once or twice a year. After he passed away in 2015, I could find much of the information I needed quickly.

Create a RED FILE

Find a notebook and fill it with clear heavyweight sheet protectors in which to place the following:

Birth certificates, death certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, adoption papers, passports, visas, citizenship papers, military papers, insurance policies, leases, deeds, cemetery deeds, titles, US Savings Bonds, income tax returns (the last seven years), wills, power of attorney (POA) documents.

Then type up the following information:
Personal: Full names of all family members, social security numbers, birthdates, driver’s license numbers, location of user names and passwords

Legal: Names and phone numbers of attorney(s), location of HIPAA forms, wills, power of attorney documents

Insurance: List each insurance company, policy numbers, and phone numbers/contact information for car insurance (VIN and license plate numbers), homeowners/renters insurance, life insurance, disability insurance

Medical: Health insurance company, ID numbers of each family member, monthly premium, location of contracts and insurance information, contact information, copies of insurance cards, HIPAA, names and phone numbers of primary care physicians, dentists, eye care specialists, etc., immunization records, blood types, allergy information, list of medications

Financial: Name and contact information of financial advisor
Assets – home, property, car(s), jewelry, coins, trusts

Credit/debit cards – type, account numbers, expiration dates, PINs, passwords, 1-800   numbers, line of credit; Paypal account – user name, password, PIN, accounts linked to

Mortgage company/bank - contact information, contract, monthly payment amount, amortization schedule, etc.

Bank accounts: savings, checking, money markets – name, address, and phone number of each bank, account numbers, what each account is used for

CDs – name, address, and phone number of each bank, account numbers, due dates, rate
Retirement funds – 401K, IRA accounts, pension information
Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities

Personal loans to others - location of contracts, pertinent information

Business accounts, location of business/partnership agreements

List of debts with all pertinent information/account numbers, contact information: credit card debts, car loans, home mortgage, home equity loans, personal debts, business loans, educational loans

Account information for:  EZ Pass, AAA, cell phones, utilities: gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage, landline, internet, newspaper delivery, snow removal, lawn services, name/phone number of tax accountant
Home History/Maintenance: roof, siding, windows, furnace, driveway, hot water heater

Store all this information in a safe place: a safe, a fireproof box, a safe deposit box . . .

Make your system work for you . . . and be sure your spouse knows where the red file is located. No more panicky moments when you're tearing your hair out! For more on the red file: http://theredfile.com/financial.html.

I'd love to read about your ideas on this topic. Here are a few suggestions from the ladies who attended the Women's LYFE Conference this past June: 

"Get a three-ring binder with plastic pages to keep in the car. Every time your car is serviced, place the receipt in the binder."

"Here is a system for storing user names and passwords: Use a 3 x 5 card ABC file. Use one card per organization, and list the information that goes with that organization. Easy to use at your desk."

"One thing the military suggests is to keep a magnet on the fridge with emergency information printed on it in case someone is incapacitated and emergency workers need to come to their aid. They are trained to look for information on or around the fridge. In our case this also includes clear instructions on how to reach a deployed spouse."

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below!

Images from bing.com