We had the good fortune of connecting with Theresa Flynn Gray and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Theresa, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
I decided early on in my parenting career that my number one goal would be to make sure my kids knew that they were always loved. I wanted them to never doubt that they would be loved when they were in time out; that they were loved when they were expressing their anger at me; and that even when their dad and I were arguing, that they were loved. I made sure to tell them that they were loved in each situation – not constantly throughout the day so it got old to hear, but not just in the happy Instagram-worthy moments when they were clean and well behaved.
When they were in trouble, getting talked to about what they did and what the fallout would be, they also heard that they were loved. Once, after a rough weekend, I printed up signs and placed them in their rooms and the bathrooms reading “You are loved. It’s okay to make mistakes.” When things got better and I thought we were over that incident, I took the signs down and they both asked for them back! I think that we have pretty high standards for our kids, and we are quick to let them know when we don’t agree with their behavior. They know that we aren’t holding back our critiques! But they have an underlying foundation that no matter what they do wrong, they are accepted and loved.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The work that I spend the most amount of effort on, and that I’m most proud of doing well, is being a mom, wife, friend and homemaker. To be able to do that work well, I make sure that I’m grounded in my faith, that I take time for myself, and that I keep ‘the big picture’ in mind. I also put aside time each week to do additional ‘work’ outside those boundaries – focusing on financial coaching and writing. I love helping people find a way to identify their priorities and to make sure that they are living that life. I get excited when I can take someone’s confusing financial life (multiple bank accounts, money moving everywhere) and find the clarity to see inflow-outflow clearly.
When all the monthly spending is accounted for and categorized, it usually reveals that spending is much higher than income. That’s when I like to think I shine! I use those same parenting techniques of “you are loved, it’s ok to make mistakes” to teach my clients to not focus on past errors, but that going forward they will need to choose wisely. I focus attention on what is shining in their lives, and what they want for themselves. And, I offer encouragement to make changes to create a balanced budget. As a starting point, I encourage people to attend Financial Peace University, at my church, Daybreak Church in Carlsbad. I know that this is a safe atmosphere and that students can benefit from the multi-faceted environment there. I don’t charge students for my financial coaching services while they’re enrolled in the class. The church donates the space and resources for this class, and I donate my time. I lead this class twice a year – in the spring and in the fall.
My husband and I just finished up our 15th class! Some people would rather have the one on one sessions instead of class, so I do still offer paid private sessions. I have found that focusing on gratitude for what we have in this life helps with contentment. And contentment helps to keep the budget balanced! In 2018 I wrote and published a Family Gratitude Journal (available on Amazon) to teach families how to be thankful for what they have, instead of focusing on what they wish they had. I have since then written and published three additional journals (all available on Amazon) – a Christian Travel Journal, two journals focusing on Disney Cruises. I also made a special edition Holy Land Travel Journal for my mother and her church to use. I thoroughly enjoy the whole process of producing these journals: imagining the final product and then the work of research, design, creation and compilation. The current pandemic has been highlighting how important it is to have an emergency fund. Many people were living paycheck to paycheck and felt like they were too busy to make a budget. They might have looked good on Facebook, but their spending was out of control.
I hope that the silver lining of this event can be that people become more aware of their finances and that they take the time to plan their spending. In my ideal world, each of us would mindfully decide on each of our expenses based on criteria of ‘what matters to me’, ’can I afford this’ and ‘does using my money this way help me achieve my goal’.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In no particular order…
Eat Handels Ice Cream in Encinitas while sitting on a park bench watching the waves at Moonlight Beach
Hike Torrey Pines – Bring a backpack with a picnic, park along PCH walk to the top of the Torrey Pines and take the beach trail to the ocean.
Picnic by the tide pools and prepare for some great photo opportunities.
Walk back to PCH Take the train to downtown and walk around Seaport Village.
Be sure to watch the guy who stacks the rocks, buy a kite and fly it down on the point, ride the ferris wheel and get Mexican Food
Spend a day at the Zoo Spend a day wandering around Balboa Park
Visit a few California Missions – they all are interesting
Get on the water – either kayaking at Mission Bay, a harbor cruise, or whale watching tour
Go boogie boarding, play some beach volleyball, walk on the sand
Watch a Padres game at Petco Park and tailgate with friends ahead of time
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband and I can attribute all of our successes to Jesus! And locally, to the support and nurturing from Daybreak Church, located in Carlsbad and online at https://daybreakchurch.org. We have become better parents and citizens from belonging to their community. They offer wonderful classes throughout the year on parenting, marriage, other life skills. The class that made the biggest impact on our lives was one on financial management, called “Financial Peace University”. This class got us on track to pay off our debt, stop our fights about money, and started me on my Financial Coaching journey. The FPU class is produced by Dave Ramsey, the radio personality, and it taught us how to create a budget, save and build wealth.
Colleen Earl, Eric Gray, Juliet Gray, Blue Wesley Photo