Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why I Left Teaching

{via}

Lots and lots and lots and lots of people have asked me the following questions the last few months:

1. Why did you leave teaching?
2. Do you miss teaching?
3. Will you ever go back?
4. Do you like your new job?

On June 6, I embarked on a new adventure. After six years of teaching, I said goodbye to summer breaks and field trips and the three R's and stepped into a new role at my church, Watkinsville First Baptist.

So here's the skinny, folks. I'll give you the answers to these questions, and more!

1. Why did you leave teaching? 
I left teaching because I knew that teaching was not the only way for me to be a part of children's lives. When I was studying education at UGA,  my reasons for pursuing the degree were rooted in relationship. I loved school as a child, and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children at an early and impressionable age. Some of my teachers were people I looked up to greatly and wanted to emulate. I still have great respect for them and was inspired by their legacy of care when I pursued the field. Everything for me is rooted in Christ. I wanted to talk to kids about Jesus. Praise God, I was able to do that at Downtown Academy. :)

However, as many of you know, some personally, teaching is a mentally, physically, and emotionally draining career. There are many needs within the classroom that you just cannot meet. The responsibility is great. Lesson plans and classroom management are things that change and grow with time, but they cannot be "fudged" or thought up at the last minute. Teaching takes intentionality.

I have always been of the mindset that a job should be a job, not your whole life. And teaching, my friends, pretty much has to be your life if you want to do it well. At least if you want to do it really well. And I just wasn't ok with that. My primary calling is to take care of Rory, and when the time comes, kids. I'm not ok with giving the leftovers to my spouse, and that's what I felt like I was doing.

2. Do you miss teaching?
I miss my kids a lot. I think about them often and pray for them. Each week, I go to school to have lunch with them and catch up. I will also be serving on the Downtown Academy school board. But I don't miss teaching all that much. It was a wild ride, and I miss the relationships that are a part of that ministry. But y'all, I really like being able to visit my kiddos and knowing that I am no longer ultimately responsible for their academic success. It's a great weight that has been lifted!

3. Will you ever go back? 
I don't know. I like the idea of being a part of after school programs and extra-curricular activities, but I doubt I will go back full time.

4. Do you like your new job?
YES. I really, really like my new job. A lot of the skills I had to hone through my six years of teaching- organization, planning, scheduling, communication, etc- transfer quite well. I knew for a while that teaching was not going to be my thirty year gig, but I honestly didn't know what else I might be good at. But I am really enjoying the opportunity to use my administrative side to help my church, and I have gained a lot of confidence in my professional skills as a result. I also have had a lot more time to invest in my writing, which is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. God has been good to provide time to be able to do that.

I tell you (my friends) all of this to say that if you're afraid of trying something new because you've never known anything different, don't be! It can be easy to feel like you should stay where you're at because you just can't imagine life any other way. That's natural. But if you think that God could be calling you to use your gifts in another way somewhere else, pursue it! What's the worst that could happen? He is always, always, always faithful.

Grateful for you, friends.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Meal Plan

{via}

Friends, I am so super passionate about food. I love preparing, cooking, smelling, and eating it. In the South, our culture revolves around it. And I believe that it is important to be nourished well. I began learning to cook in middle school in FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class. Now, it is something that I enjoy doing in order to nourish me and my husband well. Cooking (almost) every night can seem daunting if you are accustomed to eating out frequently or didn't learn while you were growing up. But friends, it doesn't have to be awful.

Before the beginning of a new month, I take out my Purposeful Planner and consult cookbooks and websites to make a plan. I don't like to eat the same thing over and over again, so I really try to mix it up. I have a few go-to recipes, but I really like trying new things. I spend about thirty minutes making my monthly plan by doing the following steps:

1. I go to the cookbook(s) or website(s) I'm using for the month and write the name of a meal in each day of the week. There are usually one or two nights where we are eating out, so this is about 5 meals a week.
2. I look at the recipes for each week and make a grocery list on a big sticky note for each week, depending on what I know we already have, and place that in my agenda on the corresponding week's page.
3. Either Rory or I goes to the store and gets everything on the list. This helps with spending because there is an exact list and we can't say, "I thought we needed it." It also prevents us from buying random things that won't really help us make complete meals later.

This little system has worked for me for the past four months and has saved me a lot of headache in the kitchen. :) Do you have any favorite ways to meal plan? How do you make dinner happen each night?

Favorite Cookbooks
The Skinny Taste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor
Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun

Favorite Food Blogs

Budget Bytes
The Pioneer Woman
Skinny Taste

Monday, September 26, 2016

Messy Marriage Mondays: A Life of Intentionality

Y'all, today I get to welcome my best friend and sister Teresa to the blog. She's a wealth of wisdom, has a deep well of joy, and a loyal advocate. Today, she's talking to us about intentionality within our marriage relationships. Hold on, because she's got some good words for you!


{Rudi B. Photography}

"I can't, I'm busy"

For me, this phrase is used what seems like everyday. I get annoyed hearing myself say it. Why am I so busy? What does busy mean? I feel as if I am missing out on things and events because I am doing other things and events. Weird cycle. So what "things" and what "events" can I/am I allowed to miss out on? Is there a priority or pro con list I have to make? For me, YES. There is totally a list.

Sometimes this list is written but most of the time this list is more of a reflection type exercise.

There are 24 hours in a day and 7 day in a week so there are 168 hours in a week. 
I work 8 hours a day for 5 of the 7. So that leaves 128 free hours.
I usually sleep 7 hours a night all of the 7 nights (yes I need my sleep) so that leaves 79 hours.
The gym normally takes about 1 hour of of 5 out of the 7 so that leaves 74 free hours.
So then there's church, 1 hour a week and our small group, another hour...now we're down to 72.
And let's say 1 hour at the grocery store a week so now... 71. 

Out of all the hours in a week, around 2/3 of those are allotted to other things. So then factoring in dinners, coffee dates, TJ Maxx trips etc. the hours are getting thin.

So yes, out of the remaining hours, of course I want to spend a lot of that time with my spouse! Really, remaining hours should already include time with my spouse AM I RIGHT?

Friends, my words are meant to be encouraging. It's okay to say NO!

I am so hard on myself when I cannot do or attend everything! I feel as if I have a duty to go to and be at everything for fear I miss out? Miss out on what? In reality, I am missing out on alone time with my hubby or time to, for goodness sake RELAX! Our culture tells us we have to be going and doing all the time but what about built in relaxation?!

I do not think every hour of everyday has to be planned, but I am a huge advocate for prioritizing our lives. The time that we spend with the Lord is also a factor in a shrinking amount of hours but oh how important! It seems that we are quick to busy ourselves with things that that confine us to a desk or things we HAVE to do but what about things that nourish our souls? Why are those things not first on the list? Maybe for some of you they are but for me, it's a struggle. I am being candid when I say that I do struggle with priorities not being prioritized properly.  

Sometimes, I give my husband my "leftover" time when he should be getting dibs! 

I am challenging myself that at the start of each week I will outline time that is just for us. Time for us to reconnect, to talk, to turn off the TV, to put down the cell phones (gasp!). AND how awesome would it be if we did that EVERYday! Why shouldn't we? Even if that means saying no to family or friends. 

Don't let the world tell you it's a bad thing to stay at home, relax and unwind. After all, we are better when we take care of ourselves!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Essential Oils and Emotions


When I first started researching essential oils, I was interested mainly because I want a home that smells and feels good, but that is also clean without the use of harmful chemicals. I had no idea that people also use oils to support their emotions. As someone who can be highly emotional, with mood swings and tears and laughter within minutes of each other, the thought intrigued me.

Essential oils can penetrate cell membranes and cross the brain-blood barrier within SECONDS. This allows them to reach the emotional center of our brain, where all of our emotions are stored. Essential oils support the body to come back into balance without harmful side effects or chemical based products. They can have a powerful influence over how we think, how we feel and how we behave. Because of oils bringing balance to emotions, we can do that simply through smelling them, through scents.


If you think of even just a warm day at the beach, one of the first things that comes to mind for me is the smell of the salty air. It makes me feel uplifted just thinking about it. Or remembering the smell of your favorite foods and the fresh tree at Christmas time can also bring positive emotions just by remembering the smells.


The smells of nature leave me feeling uplifted and energized, even just by taking a quick walk and getting a breath of fresh air. And nature is essentially what oils are so we can harness those feelings when we are breathing in its goodness!


My absolute favorite oil (of the moment) is Stress Away. It is a blend that has lime and vanilla, two of my very favorite scents. Every morning, I roll it on my wrists, and as I smell it throughout the day, it calms me down. I also use a blend of lavender, copaiba, and cedarwood each night for sleep support. If you would have told me a few months ago that a little bottle of oil could be good for emotional support, I would have rolled my eyes or thought twice. But now? I'm on the oily train. Not only have they promoted a clean and green home, but they have helped support my emotions and keep a sense of balance and calm when things around are me are straight cray. I by no means think that oils are magical potions that will somehow change my circumstances or give me joy. They cannot replace medicines and should not be used instead of medicines. I do, however, understand that scents have the power to create a mental shift within us.

So what about you? Does the thought of using oils for emotions freak you out? Don't let it! If you want to get started today, click here. And as always, ask me any questions, and I will do my best to answer them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why I'm Glad My Husband Is White


{Elissa Ewald Photography}

I originally started this post over two months ago when everything was happening in Dallas and Baton Rouge, but I just didn't have it in me to finish it. Sadly, the recent happenings in Charlotte have given me a reason to revisit the post and hit publish. This time it's different. It's much closer to home. My sister lives in Charlotte, and I don't want to go to bed at night thinking about her safety. Y'all, please hold your loved ones close and be kind to every person you encounter. This life is too short to get caught up on the small stuff.

The other night, when I was trying to process through all of this junk, I looked at Rory, and I said, "Is it bad that I'm glad you're white? Because if I had married a black man I might have to be more afraid of how my kids will survive in this world." He just looked at me and said, "Well, that's a really dark thought, but I understand."

How messed up is this world that thoughts like this run through my mind? In light of all that has changed, there is still so much to be done. But it starts with the little things. The news portrays all of the tragedies that we see. People share statistics about why it is important to understand that black lives are not the only ones being threatened. There is ignorance on all sides of the issue.

I grew up in the suburbs of East Cobb in Marietta, Georgia. Not exactly a hotbed of racial tension, but also not a place with a ton of diverse attitudes and perspectives represented in the majority. People often would say "You're the whitest black girl I know" or "You're like an Oreo, black on the outside but white on the inside." I often would laugh and joke along with them, glad that I was "accepted." Um, false. Because when you qualify someone's personality by saying that they are more comfortable with you because you act like them and people with whom they are more comfortable, there's a problem.

Much as I hate to admit it, I wanted to be accepted, so I would poke fun at my color and make jokes that literally sicken me to my stomach when I think about them now. Because the fact is, it's not funny to make fun of yourself. It's not funny to continue cycles of shame. And it certainly isn't funny to do that because you feel as though you must in order to be accepted by the majority.

Last night, I was praying for the people in Charlotte, mainly my sister and her boyfriend. As I started praying, I said, "Lord, we come to you saddened by the events today-well, I don't know if Rory's sad, but I come to you saddened tonight..." And Rory kind of stopped me and was like, "Why do you not think I'm sad?" Because try as I may, there are still some very dark parts of my heart. Because maybe I still think that this is a "black issue." False. This is a human issue. I assume that because my husband is white that maybe he's not sad. Maybe he doesn't care. And that is completely and totally untrue. He cares because he's a person, too. He cares because he happens to love an African American woman. But he cares because he is a follower of Christ.

After crying and praying, I rolled over and said, "I'm scared to bring kids into this world." Because I may try to comfort my thoughts by thinking that maybe because our kids will be biracial it might not be "that bad." But the truth is, people are mean and ignorant. People are unkind and harsh. And our kids may face a lot of junk that neither of us faced simply because of their sweet caramel skin.

So why am I glad my husband is white? Because it forces me to face some dark parts of my heart. It forces me to be honest and be a truth-seeker. And it forces me to ask myself if I am truly loving as Jesus loved.

Further Reading

Why I'm Prejudiced & So Are You
The Real Reason White People Say 'All Lives Matter'

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Proverbs 31 Cover Devo Winner

Ok y'all. You voted, and the results are in! It was fun to watch all of the different designs rival against each other last week. I am so excited to be able to get this resource into your hands and cannot wait for you to read it! I'm a little nervous, but mostly really excited to be able to share this with you. So the total votes were TIED between covers 1 and 2, and I made an executive decision and chose my personal favorite, cover 2. :)



And a fun little announcement... the book will be available on October 10! October 10 was my Nanny's birthday. She was my maternal grandmother, and I miss her every day. October 10 you can get this little gem, and I hope it blesses you. There will be more news to come as the time gets closer, but for now, save the date!

Love you all.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Messy Marriage Mondays: From Discontentment to Gratitude

{Elissa Ewald Photography}

That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have more interesting things to do with our lives. Each one of us is an original. - Galatians 5:26, The Message

One of the best pieces of marriage advice I received was from my dear friend and mentor, Suzanne Chambers. She said, "Cultivate a grateful heart." When she wrote that on her little slip of paper at a post-wedding bridal shower, I wasn't really sure why that would be so important. After all, I had only been married for a couple weeks at that point! Well friends, at the time of writing this post, I have now been married for 433 days, and boy do I understand the weight of that advice!

Discontentment has its sneaky little ways of showing up in every facet of our lives. In finances, we are constantly pushing towards more so that we can keep up with everyone else and try to impress people we don't even like. In the professional world, we want the recognition or the job that someone else-anything but our own. In marriage, we may find it easy to look to the right or left and think, "Are we doing it right?"

There is much to be loved and appreciated about the age of social media. We can easily keep in touch with people who live in different cities, states, and countries for free! We can see what our favorite celebrities and athletes are up to in their daily lives. We can network and "meet" people through so many different avenues.

We can also find ourselves in despair as we scroll through our feeds and see everyone looking so dang happy. But we forget that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (well maybe not Twitter, people like to rant on there) is mainly a highlight reel! There is nothing inherently wrong with social media or movies and television for that matter. But sometimes, when our intake of these sources is great, our hearts begin to feel hollow and weary. We look to the screen to tell us who we are and why we matter. The likes aren't high enough, and before we know it, nothing in our lives seems good enough anymore if it isn't just like the movies.

Well friends, I'm here to tell you that life just ain't like the movies. It's even better. Seriously. God is incredibly gracious and wonderful. He allows us to walk through this life with Him if we so choose. He gives us grace upon grace and never leaves or forsakes us. And if we're married, He gave us a spouse to draw us ever closer to Him and to make us look more like Him.

Discontentment can be a nasty weed to pull. It can be difficult to recognize and hard to uproot. But friends, it is worth. Walking in gratitude means that we fully realize that every good gift is from above. We say "thank you" more than "I wish." Discontentment clouds our vision and makes us see through the lenses of selfishness and greed. We can begin to strive and chase after the wind because we think there's something better out there instead of living fully where God has put us. News flash: God's got you where you are for a reason. No accidents on His part.

When Rory and I first got married, I was on this HORRENDOUS birth control that made me severely depressed. That may be TMI, but I feel like we're friends if you've been reading here for a while, so just stick with me. Anyways, I was taking this awful medicine that either made me want to rage or cry all the time. Loads of fun. I remembered what my friend Suzanne had said, and when I got annoyed, I would take out this little journal and write down ten things I loved about Rory. It took my eyes off of me and brought my perspective in check. Now I try to redirect my thoughts to gratitude when I find myself getting frustrated. It's certainly not a cure-all, but I have found that it helps me to get a little reality check in before I rail in on the hubs.

So, my friends, if discontentment's got you down, take inventory. Where are your sights set? What fuels your motivation? Where do you find your happiness? If it's in knowing that you're the best or that you've "made it," look a little deeper and ask the Lord to make sure that your sights are set on Him. Thank Him for all He's done and all He's given you. Chances are, you could make a pretty long list. And when you're done thanking Him, write a note to your spouse and tell him/her why you're grateful for them. You can never tell them often enough.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Top Five Uses of Lavender Essential Oil



It's Friday, so we're talking oils today, peeps. Lavender is one of the most versatile oils. Oftentimes, it is listed on recipes for various home remedies. When my starter kit first arrived, Rory was quick to let me know that he didn't really like the scent of lavender. Well friends, now he's hooked. The scent of lavender that he was thinking of was synthetic! The real, genuine lavender is sweet, mild, and calming. Just in case you're new here, let's review what we learned last week. There are three ways to use oils.


Top Five Uses of Lavender (so far!)
  1. When diffused at bedtime, it is super calming. You can also dab a couple drops on the soles of your feet and your wrists. 
  2. Add a couple drops to your bath and unwind. 
  3. Place a drop on a minor cut to help with healing. 
  4. Rub on dry skin with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil).
  5. Put a drop on a bee sting or bug bite to reduce irritation and swelling. 
Lavender was the first essential oil I was introduced to. This summer at the beach, I was stung by a pesky bee. It hurt like the dickens, as my mama would say. My sweet friend Laura offered me her lavender, and not only did it smell heavenly, the irritation was not nearly as bad as it could have been. If you're wondering where to start with essential oils, this one is definitely a go-to!

To get your starter kit, which has lavender plus ten other oils and an incredible diffuser, you can click here. And as always, email me with any questions you have. I love being on this journey with you and sharing all that I've learned!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Messy Marriage Mondays: From Anger to Peace

{Elissa Ewald Photography}

My friends, we are back, and today we are exploring the emotion of anger. Many people believe that anger is a negative emotion. Well friends, I am here to tell you that that is not true. Anger is not a negative emotion. In fact, none of our emotions are negative. We were made in the image of God, and He has all of the emotions that He gave to us. Thus, if we are made in His image, and He is good, then we cannot call any emotions negative. I'm getting on a soapbox here, so I'll stop. That's another post for another day. :)

Back to anger. Dictionary.com defines anger as "a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire." Anger is an indicator of other feelings. I was listening to the "That Sounds Fun" podcast with Annie Downs, and her guest, Christa Black Gifford, said that "anger is just deep sadness." She also stated that "what you resist persists." So if you've got an anger problem, chances are, you're dealing with some unresolved sadness. You may not even be angry about what you're fighting about with your spouse. When you're angry, sometimes taking a deep breath or going for a walk is good. But those options cannot be the last resolutions. You have to deal with what is in your heart. 

Anger is seen as a negative emotion mostly because of what people do with it. Oftentimes, anger can escalate quickly. Hurtful words are said that cannot be taken back. Discussions become arguments, and before you know it, you're talking about something that seems completely off the topic and irrelevant to where you were before. 

As part of the Influence Network, I have access to weekly classes taught by some amazing women. Earlier this summer, Dr. Leslie Nwoke taught a class entitled "Mastering Our Emotions Within a Biblical Framework" in which she shared about the importance of doing what she calls "Heart Work." This practice is essentially acknowledging your feelings for what they are and then allowing them to be brought into the light. We can do ourselves and those around us a world of heart when we attempt to hide our feelings or pretend like they don't exist. 

Dr. Leslie Nwoke explains that we have to take the time to examine and be honest with ourselves. We look at the feelings we're experiencing, and we 
1. Name it.
2. Explore it. 
3. Realign it. 

So instead of allowing anger to completely derail us and take control, we take a look at the roots of the anger, and we cover them in truth. People often will say that women are about feelings, while men are about facts. I mostly agree with this statement. But it is also true that facts and feelings can work together. I can examine the facts and then think about if my feelings match the situation or if I've literally just made up a bunch of stuff in my head. 

Pursuing peace means that we take the time to see someone else's perspective. It means that we own our feelings and run towards reconciliation instead of beating around the bush or avoiding hard conversations. Anger can help us see what's really going on instead of pretending like everything is just fine and dandy. And once in a while, when we allow ourselves to get honest and be vulnerable, it can be beneficial!

Friends, have you ever found that anger has been a help instead of a hindrance to you?


Don't miss any part of this series!

Messy Marriage Mondays
Pulling Weeds
Sowing Seeds

From Selfishness to Selflessness
From Pride to Humility

Friday, September 9, 2016

Proverbs 31 Devotional Cover Vote

Y'all. I am so very excited to share with you that I have written a devotional that will be for sale via Kindle next month!!! I cannot even begin to tell you how much it excites me to share that news with you. This devotional has been in the works for about two years now (off an on). The Proverbs 31 woman has always been a bit of an intimidating topic for some of us- we read the passage and think- "There's no way I could ever be half of that." You know what, y'all? That's ok.

Jesus did not come to put us bondage, but rather to set us free. He knows the many pressures we face and understands the ridiculous societal expectations placed on women today. And He cares. He wants us to shred the to-do list, not shred ten pounds. He wants us to rest in Him and forgo the hustle.

The devotional is entitled Proverbs 31: A Life of Truth and Grace and is my first foray into self-publishing. I've worked hard and am very excited to share with you what the Lord gave me to share. The words are not my own, but His. I can't wait for you to read it!

My talented sister-in-law, Whitney Mathisen, is an incredible graphic designer. I shared with her my thoughts about what I wanted for the cover, and y'all. She killed it. The only thing is, all of the cover designs are INCREDIBLE, so I cannot pick just one. I've got my favorites, but they are all beautiful. This is where you come in, because I need your help! Would you please vote on your favorite cover? As my faithful and wonderfully great readers, your opinion matters to me. There are four options, and below you will find a place to cast your vote. The winner will be announced next week, and then next month, you will see it on Amazon! Ah! That is crazy to type. Geeze Louise. Alright y'all, without further adieu, I give you the cover choices.

Cover 1




Cover 2




Cover 3



Cover 4




Which is your favorite cover?

Cover 1
Cover 2
Cover 3
Cover 4
Quiz Maker



What Are Essential Oils?



Last week, I shared with y'all about how we are trying to pursue a more natural lifestyle. I don't think that all chemicals and medicines are evil and can never be used. Trust me. I just want to be mindful of what I put into my body and how my body reacts to substances.

So you may be wondering, what exactly are essential oils? I'm so glad you asked. There are a million different plants on this earth, and some of them have incredibly powerful properties that can positively benefit our physical, emotional, and mental health. Essential oils are:

1. Aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants.
2. Plant concentrates.
3. Complete chemical profiles in every drop!

There are three different ways that we can use oils:
1. Topically: You can apply some oils directly to the skin. Other oils need to be diluted first using a carrier oil, like coconut or almond oil, and then can be applied. It is really important to read each label carefully to understand whether dilution is necessary. A little goes a long way, and one or two drops of what you're using can easily get the job done. 
2. Internally: Some oils can be ingested. For example, I was out of mints and gum the other day and instead just put a drop of Peppermint Vitality on my tongue! It worked like a charm. 
3. Diffusion: You can diffuse oils using a diffuser, which creates a cool mist that will allow a room or area to smell just delightful!



When I bought my starter kit, I was super overwhelmed. There are two different kinds of oils. Some are labeled specifically with the word vitality, meaning that they can be ingested. Others are only meant to be used topically or diffused. You can look at the labels to make sure you understand. If you take the time to read each one, it's all there on the little bitty bottle. 
Another thing I did not realize was just how powerful these little bottles are. Less truly is more, and you don't need to feel like you have to use a lot to get the job done. My favorite thing to do is diffuse them for a fresh aroma wafting through our home. I also love to apply certain oils to my wrists or neck, and I find immediate relief!
I'm here to answer your questions, friends. Everyone's got to start somewhere, and there are no dumb questions! If you want to join me on this journey, you can click here to get started. You can also email me at jess56@gmail.com. I'm excited to be learning with you!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Contentment Challenge



A couple years ago, I stumbled upon the Contentment Challenge on Nancy Ray's blog. She is an incredibly talented photographer, and I had begun following her after she shot my friend Gretchen's wedding. She also is a part of the Influence Network and just has a passion for seeing the beauty in all things and pointing others to Jesus through her art. She wrote about how the Lord had led her to give up shopping for three months in order to pursue contentment. Not gonna lie, sounded a little insane to me at the time, y'all, and I was just not about it. But within my goals this year, I stated that I wanted to:

Cultivate a life of joy, gratitude, and peace, not of fear, negativity, and comparison.

Pursue a life of simplicity by chasing contentment.

Become a better steward with our finances and give generously.

I've gone back to her blog post about contentment several times since first stumbling upon it, and I've mulled it over and chewed on it, etc. And y'all, I am ready. When Rory and I took Financial Peace University, we learned that when it comes to money, he is the "nerd" and I am the "free spirit," meaning that spreadsheets excite him, while they make my skin crawl. He wants to save and once put away a big ole chunk of change to go towards paying for grad school, while I used to live paycheck to paycheck and wanted to embrace the YOLO attitude, believing that "It'll all work out." Well, yes. And no. God is our Provider, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Nothing is impossible for Him. But He also doesn't want us to flounder away our funds irresponsibly. On the flip side, He also does not want us to be such penny pinchers that we hoard away our money and don't give to others in need. There's always a happy medium, folks.

Before we got married, Rory and I discussed our beliefs on money pretty extensively, more than most couples maybe. We talked about our value system and how we learned about money growing up. Praise God, we both came from families who tithed, so that was never an issue for us. But there are some things where we just don't always agree. I want to travel (preferably by flight) and see ALL THE THINGS, and Rory would love to stay home (or drive, I shudder). I want new clothes and he wants a new phone. In this first year, we have learned a lot about having those hard conversations and being able to give in to the other's side at some points or meet in the middle.

When we first got married, I was like, "OMG TWO INCOMES WE ARE RICH AND I DON'T HAVE TO FEEL BAD ABOUT GOING ON A SHOPPING SPREE TO TARGET EVERY OTHER WEEK!!!!" False. Oh so false. Haha. That got nipped in the bud real fast. We have had a lot of changes in the first year of marriage; both of us are working different jobs, so our monthly income has changed three times! Even so, we have learned about how to communicate effectively regarding money, and that has made a big difference.

{Lara Casey}

In our first year of marriage, we have made some significant financial gains:

We bought a house. (WHAT THE HECK)
We paid off Rory's car. (Just a family loan)
We paid off my car - one year early!!!
We have an emergency fund and are working towards our three-six months living expenses nest egg.
We cut up two credit cards and only have one through the credit union where our savings is that we use very very sparingly. (Ok, and the Gap one that lets me get rewards that we always pay off immediately...)

There are still big goals we have ahead of us, though. We may be out of most debt, but there are still student loans and significant costs up ahead, because LIVING LIFE IS EXPENSIVE. Anyways, we want to be smart and be good stewards of the money with which God has entrusted us. In our premarital counseling, we were advised to live off of one income so that we would be prepared for any kind of financial hardship and not live above our means. Well, friends, we aren't doing that yet, but it is our goal to get there by the end of the year!

The Contentment Challenge Guidelines (from Nancy Ray's blog)

Prepare
For two weeks leading up to the start, prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months. (This is not a last minute shopping spree! This is one final trip to the store for items you will need.) Done and done. See Target cart below. (I do have to say that I used the Cartwheel app along with my Red Card and my family discount (thanks Pops) and saved a butt ton of $$$ on my little stock-up trip, though).

Read
Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time. I'll be reading Uninvited, Unashamed, and Interrupted

Be Gracious
Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or a piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.

Use Common Sense
Necessities are okay! If you drop and break your phone, please go get a new one! If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don't start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. ("I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.") I know for a fact that I am probably getting a new phone and new glasses (oh the irony) soon because my glasses are so yuck-o I can barely see through them. I am switching over from Verizon to AT&T to save us moolah as well because Ror has a great family plan that is dirt cheap. 

Try Something New
You must actively pursue something-anything-that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you've always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it. I want to read more and do more self-care. I also want to exercise consistently and invest more time in my friends and family. 

Encourage
The official hashtag is #contentmentchallenge! So be sure to share your struggles and victories along the way on social media. 

2 separate transactions: groceries and Contentment stock-up. Gotta track that spending, folks. #adulting

In order to prepare for this challenge, I did another little sweep through my closet and sold/gave away some more items that I no longer wear. I went to Target and stocked up on a lot of items that I know I will need in the next three months- mostly toiletry items, but also a prayer journal and some thank you notes. I was very tempted to buy a pumpkin candle but resisted. It was tough, y'all. I've decided that in these next three months, I will not shop for clothing or house "stuff." I will also not be buying myself little snacks/treats to "treat myself" when I have food that I can/should eat from home.

Y'all, I have been putting this off for a lonnnnngggg time. I like stuff way too much. In Mexico, I lived off of support and made like 1/4 of what my income is now. Without Rory's income. I had a Nokia brick phone, a tiny little house, no car, and not a lot of new clothes. And you know what? I was super happy with my simple life. I mean I definitely could see how more money would have made things a tad easier, but it really wasn't all that bad. People were very kind and generous to me in that time, and I never starved or was in super shabby clothing. When I returned back to the States, I had some serious culture shock and was saddened by the materialism that seemed to be around me everywhere. But now, y'all? I drank the Kool-Aid. I wouldn't call myself a big spender by any means, but I LOVE STUFF. I want more things. I want my house to look like Pinterest or Fixer Upper. I want my wardrobe to be perf. And I really like to eat. Plus it is not lost on me that I am choosing to do this from September-November, which is the BEST SEASON FOR CLOTHES and ALL THINGS PUMPKIN. Le sigh again. God is able, peeps.

As hard as it may be to not go cray in Michael's/Target/Amazon, God wants me to give generously and stop all this dang consumption. I don't need more clothes. I have a closet full, and I wear my same favorite things all the time, anyways. So I'm embarking on a journey- stop the spending and chase contentment! We will see where it takes me! Anyone else with me?!

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.- Philippians 4:11-13

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Currently: September



Well friends, we are entering into the -ber months. The "bers" always make me think of all things cozy and sweet. Friends, football, family, what more could you ask for? I love when the air has a crisp feeling to it, and the smell of pumpkin obviously excites me. :) Here's what I have going on currently.

Reading: I have been a reading machine lately. I finished reading Present Over Perfect only to begin reading it again, because it was just that good. I am going to dig in deep to some more books this month that I am super excited about though, among them Uninvited, Unashamed, and Heart Made Whole.
Trying: All kinds of blends in my essential oils diffuser! I have been learning so much about the power of oils and how they can help support our health and make our homes cleaner and brighter. I'm a tad obsessed right now. :)
Hoping: I am hoping that I do well with my contentment challenge and learn a lot from it. Shopping is so fun, and I love new things! But I want to love Jesus more than my stuff. 
Decorating: We are still slowly but surely putting things on the walls in our home. I'm hoping that we can get things up in our master bedroom and in our guest bedroom soon, because we are going to have some guests this month!
To-do listing: Oh, do I love a to-do list! I can't even specify what I'm to-do listing because there are so many things I to-do list on the daily, y'all. 

What are you doing this month? I'd love to hear what's going on in your neck of the woods. 

Linking up with Anne and Beth today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September Goals

It is finally fall, y'all. Ok, so not officially in that it is technically still summer seasons-wise, but my mind is totally on the fall train. There is a cooler feeling in the air in the morning and evening, and it hasn't been so hot during the day. Not to mention that COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS HERE, PEOPLE. :) All the smiles for that lovely fact.

Last month, I kept my goals simple, because I knew that we would be traveling and there wouldn't be time to really make a ton of progress in a million different areas. However, I still had goals, and sometimes, simplicity is good. I am really, really excited about this month. After a summer of traveling and doing and going, I am looking forward to enjoying, being, and resting.



Here's what I was working towards in August:

Monthly 
tidy books/papers
get brows done (it just didn't happen, peeps)
track my spending using the Every Dollar app
continue working on devotional
follow blog plan
follow prayer schedule

Weekly
workout/be active 5x a week
call a friend
call a family member
weekly gratitude with Ror

Daily
pray
read the Word
listen to/read/quote James
encourage Ror
encourage someone else

The Nitty Gritty

August was another crazy month. We traveled a lot, and it seemed as though our schedules were perpetually full. However, the month was full of good things. We were able to spend time with friends and family, which is always a huge blessing. I did get my brows done, and I felt a bit more like a human again afterwards. ;) I have finished the content for my devotional, which should be coming your way soon. This project is one I'm very excited about. Rory and I have done pretty well with our prayer schedule and are trying to be more intentional in our prayer life.

Working out often was going really well, but then...we got the puppy. Ha. He has changed things for the better, but our routine is just a little off and will be for a little bit as we get him adjusted to life in our home and as we figure out our new normals. :)

I'm still struggling with my James memorization, and I am behind. But I've decided that it's ok to go slow, and if I'm still memorizing next year, that's ok, too. I've gotten chapter one memorized and am about halfway through chapter two.


{via}

What I Was Grateful for in August

August was truly a celebratory month. My little sister turned 25, and I got to go to my ten-year high school reunion. We had a blast celebrating my sweet friend Lyndsey and her husband Will at a couple's baby shower as they enter into parenthood. We also had a blast in NJ/NYC visiting Rory's family and getting some great furniture for our home. And this last weekend, we had a short getaway with the interns from church at Lake Oconee. August was full, full, full.

What I'm feeling for September is rest in all sorts of ways. Staying home for most of September and just enjoying Athens and our friends here is top on the priority list. I'm pretty stinking pumped about it, honestly. I love to travel, but I also love our home. I'm really looking forward to hosting friends and family this month and am also glad that we will get to kick off the college football season!



What I'm Working on in September

Monthly
make a plan for devotional launch
begin contentment challenge (more on that coming soon!)
decorate master bedroom
decorate guest bedroom
meal plan for October
blog plan for October

Weekly
work out 5x a week
call a friend
call a family member
weekly gratitude with Ror
memorize one new verse from James
take Bailey on a walk (The struggle is real, folks.)

Daily
pray
read the Word
quote/listen to/read James
encourage Ror
encourage someone else

What are you working towards this month, friends?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Messy Marriage Mondays: From Pride to Humility

{Elissa Ewald Photography}

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. -Romans 12:3, 9-10

So far in this series, we have been exploring the different weeds that can fester in our hearts and thus poison our marriages. We started by identifying weeds and then talking about the different seeds we can sow instead. Last week, we looked at the weed of selfishness and how it can be uprooted and instead turned into selflessness.

This week, we are taking a look at one big ugly weed. Pride. Many say that pride is the root of all sin. Pride is thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. When we believe that we are somehow better or that we've got it together and everyone else is a jacked up mess, that's pride. When we refuse to see our own shortcomings and magnify everyone else's, that's pride.

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” - Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Pride can be super ugly, friends. It can be manifested in myriad ways, too. But not only can it be manifested in myriad ways, it can also be sneaky and subtle. It's not always overt and obvious. Pride can be in your tone of voice or a glance of the eyes. It doesn't always shout and scream, although it can.

"I've asked you one million times to take out the trash."
"I just don't understand why you don't listen to me."
"I would never do it like that; my way is better."

One thing that can guard against pride is having a realistic view of yourself. That's not to say that you need to be afraid of who you are or living in shame, constantly berating yourself for when you inevitably fall short. But rather, take a look at yourself. Identify areas in which you are being stubborn and aren't letting go because you just want to be right. Where can you yield your pride and give way to humility?

Humility places someone else's needs before your own. Humility says, "I love you and I am for you" at the end of an argument instead of trying to get the last word. Humility stays instead of leaving. Humility speaks with grace instead of shame. Humility gives instead of take. Don't you want to be humble instead of proud? It's tough stuff, friends, but it's worth it.

Don't miss any part of this series!

Messy Marriage Mondays
Pulling Weeds
Sowing Seeds
From Selfishness to Selflessness



Friday, September 2, 2016

Our Journey to Natural Living: Discovering Essential Oils

For a couple years now, the thought of natural living has intrigued me. It started with organic food, then learning about dangerous chemicals that pervade not only our food, but our clothing, cosmetics and many other household items. In reading The Unveiled Wife last fall, I learned about the danger that parabens pose to female reproductive systems. Through reading The Honest Life, I learned that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate the bulk of what goes into products that we use every single day. Many of these chemicals that we unknowingly ingest are harmful to our bodies and are illegal in other countries. Y'all, this crazy scary, and it is serious business.

I used to believe that being green was a hippie-dippy-trippy thing. You know, for like tree-huggers and such? Well, if caring about my body and wanting to take care of what God has given me to steward makes me a tree-hugger, so be it. I believe that it is not only important to take care of ourselves, but to also take care of the world around us. We only have one body, and we only have one earth. God took the time to create us with a purpose, and I believe He wants the best for us.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”- Genesis 1:26



All that being said, I have been on a bit of a journey in the last year to remake our home and our lives and foster a more natural approach. It started with my makeup: I researched the products I was using, and they were horrible. So out the window went most of the makeup bag, and instead I am using products without a bunch of junk. Next came hair products, then cleaning products, and of course food and diet, too. I've found that when I pay attention to what I am putting on or in my body, I feel better and know that I'm doing my part.

Essential oils are something that kept coming up in my reading and various social media platforms. I had heard about them for quite some time and had friends who were definitely into them, but I just didn't know much about them and was kind of weirded out by them. As a child of pharmacists, I grew up taking medicine for ailments and was very unfamiliar with natural treatments. I began to discover, however, that God has given us a lot of things within His creation that can be used to help us emotionally, physically, and spiritually- holistically, if you will.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

In the past couple years, I have read a lot about them and learned about how they can help in so many ways- chemical free homes, alternative medicine, etc. Rory and I have been talking for a while about trying to make our home chemical free and pursue a more natural lifestyle. After hearing about the power of essential oils from friends on our beach trip in July, I was more convinced since it was someone I knew in the flesh. We talked about building the money for a starter kit through Young Living, and then in August, I took the plunge and clicked buy! I chose Young Living because I knew people that already used them, and I learned that the essential oils that you buy at the drugstore are not as pure. They often have yucky additives, which takes away from the whole point of trying to live naturally!




Y'all, the ten or so days I waited for my kit to come from Utah were tortuous! I was so excited about all of the fun things I would try with my kit and couldn't wait to dig in to it. The whole process has been very enlightening but at times overwhelming. There has been a whole team of women who have been able to answer questions for me, and the girl I bought from actually sent me a personal thank you note and a little care package with a free roller in the mail! I was blown away by that personal touch and super grateful for her kindness. The past few weeks, I have been learning so much about all of the uses of essential oils and am really excited to tell everyone I know about them. I know, I know, I drank the Kool-Aid. But y'all, these little bottles of plant juice are incredible. One or two drops goes a long way, and headaches have vanished, I've had an easier time falling asleep, and our home just smells good. I love these things and can't wait to continue to expand my collection.

If you want more information about oils, shoot me an email at jess56@gmail.com, or leave a comment below! I would love to tell you more. You can get your own premium starter kit at this link, and this month, each starter kit comes with a free Thieves laundry detergent! Pretty wonderful bonus there. Each Friday, I will be featuring a specific oil and talking about its uses and what makes it awesome. Can't wait for you to join me!

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