Friday, September 28, 2012

Give and Take

Is there anything more beautiful,
Than the love the waves show the shore?

Each morning as the sun rises,
the waves kiss the sand.
Each night as the sun sets,
the breaking waves land.

As are the waves,
so is our heavenly Father.
Always returning,
He is not prone to wander.

As waves smooth the sand,
God smooths our souls.
The sharp edges and rocks,
Softening with each waving roll.

As the land is shaped by the ocean,
Moving with each wave,
We are the same in the Potter's hand,
We reach and cave.

Our sharp edges smooth,
Our hollows fill.
The process unending,
The Potter's hand never still.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Quit

I know sometimes we all get fed up with our our lives are going at one point or another. When we get in those times, we are only seeing one snapshot of our life. We aren't looking at the memories behind us and we can't see the future in front of us. We see only one time that seems tough and nothing is going quite right.

We want to give up, say nothing is obviously paying off, and who would even notice if we stopped all of our hard work. The whole problem with feeling that way is that when we looks back through our memories, we remember being frustrated throughout the process but when we see the end results, it's worth it. Just because we don't see immediate results doesn't mean that we won't see them in the long-run. We are so impatient and want our lives to be at the rate of fast food instead of a sit down restaurant.  When I stop and think about life, I would rather sit down and take my time rather than rush through it all. Yes, we get frustrated. Yes, we want to quit. If you quit, you are making all of your work a waste of time. It's a self-fulling prophecy. You cause yourself to fail when you quit. If we keep going, our hard work pays off, even if it isn't quite in the way we expect.

The payoff could be getting exactly what we want or it could be the realization that what we thought we wanted really isn't the path we want to take. When we get fed up with not getting what we think we want, we just give up. It's like the little kid who wants that ice cream cone and when he doesn't get it, he throws a temper tantrum kicking and screaming. He ends up pouting and being mad when in reality he didn't get that ice cream cone because it was right before dinner.

We don't know what is going to happen next, we don't see the big picture. God can, we can't. That's where trust comes in. Trust that He will lead you where you need to go, not where you want to go. We may want that ice cream cone, but we really find out later that a healthy dinner before dessert is exactly what we needed. We'll also find that what we needed is really what we want in the long run.

So, when we get frustrated and want to quit, we need to remember that we could be on the horizon of getting to where we need to be. If we hold on, then everything could work out to being more than we can ever hope for, way better than a little ice cream cone.

Growth Happens

When my brother, Matt, committed suicide almost three years ago it felt like my whole world turned upside down. It was unbelievable. It felt unreal. A cruel, cruel joke. Matt was not someone who you would peg as depressed or insecure. He was loud, vibrant and everyone loved him. He, as we all do, had his troubles in life. He never seemed to hold down a job, relationship or even a car. He was constantly moving, never quite still. He was a great brother, son, friend, and more.

I was just getting out of Chem lab and walking to come home. My oldest brother, Kurt, and his family were here for a visit. I called my mom, said I was going to come meet them for lunch since they were leaving that day to go home. All my mom said was, "Tracie, come home." I couldn't understand it, asked why, what was wrong, and it just came out. Matt was gone. I stopped in my tracks. Disbelief and then tears poured out. I was standing in the middle of my campus with tears running down my face. Uncaring of what people thought I kept going to catch the shuttle. I waited at the stop crying. I wouldn't know it until later, but God showed himself then. A guy came over to me and said, "I don't know why you're crying but I think you should know that God loves you." It was beautiful and I couldn't even respond to him then. Later, I wished I would see him again so that I could thank him.

I was sobbing by the time I made it to my car and drove home. I called Brian, then my fiancé, and told him that the one brother of mine that he had met, was gone. He, like I, was speechless. I didn't speak to him for very long, just to tell him. When I got home, my family was a mess. We were destroyed by the absence of a life.

My dad wanted to go to a Catholic church that day since that's what  he was raised as. Sadly, the church was locked. I kept thinking that it wasn't supposed to be that way. God would want us there.

So we went home. We had a couple of precious hours together before taking my brother and his family to the airport. That was one of the hardest goodbyes we've had with them. After finding out you've lost one person, you want to bring everyone close and hold on to them and never let go.

Almost three years later, the hurt is still there. I cry every time I try talking about him. I will always miss my brother. We all will. There is always something not quite right. Something is missing.

Losing Matt was a harsh lesson we learned. I wish we had learned it without losing him. Even though he didn't tell us that he needed us, he did need us. You don't know how things are affecting someone you love. He was bright and beautiful on the outside, but on the inside he felt bad enough that he couldn't handle life anymore. We learned that it doesn't matter if someone needs you then or not, give your time anyways. Tell them you love them, hug them, spend time with them, just be with the ones you love. Through a phone call, e-mail, face-to-face, it doesn't matter. Spend the time your given together, don't let past grudges or hurts stand in the way.

Matt is the reason why I can never stay mad, why I don't let differences stop me. He is the reason why my family is even more close now. He is the reason that I don't hold back. He is the reason why I love he way I do. Fully, completely, without hesitation. Losing someone is not worth holding back. Trying to save yourself from the hurt of heartbreak is meaningless when you are devastated when they leave this earth.

Even though Matt isn't here with us, he is in our hearts. I carried him with me on my wedding day. My brother, Sean, brought this bracelet with him and surprised me during our rehearsal dinner. It was perfect. I had all of my brothers with me.

Even if you think you have plenty of time to make up with someone, heal broken relationships, you really don't know. Don't put it off until tomorrow. Do it now. Tomorrow may not be there. Matt is the reason why I won't ever give up on my biological father and his side of the family. I may not have a good relationship with any of them, but I never give up. I invited them to my wedding, even to a wedding shower we had where they lived. Even though only my Grandma and Aunt cared enough to come, I won't ever say I've given up.

God takes people from our lives, not because of anything we did, but because we need different relationships during different parts of our lives. While I did have my period of questioning why God took my brother, I can see it now. God gives us the people we need, even when it hurts us. And He takes them away, even when it hurts us. From those hurts, growth happens. We grow together, we grow up, we grow spiritually.

Breakfast Muffins

Being newly married, we are learning to compromise and big one comes with what we eat. We're both pretty picky so I'm limited as far as choices in types of meals. Neither of us are big spicy people, Brian loves his buffalo chicken but we can't handle Thai food like my Dad. My dad was stationed in Thailand when he was in the Navy and got to love the spicy food. I must have missed that growing up because I am total wimp when it goes to spice.

Anyways, I've been experimenting a ton with recipes. I'll try one, we'll decide what we liked about it and I'll change what we didn't. One recipe that Brian loves are my super easy breakfast muffins. They are certainly a crowd pleaser. I brought them to our small study group class at church on Sunday and they were a hit.

Brian loves those Jimmy Dean D-lights Breakfast Sandwiches, but as newlyweds on a budget those sandwiches are just too expensive and hard to find in the flavor he likes. They don't sell them at Publix, our local grocery store. They also don't sell them at BJs in bulk in his flavor. At Target, I can find them for $8.00 for a box of 4, which is ridiculous! So, I came up with my own!

Since the sandwiches are basically batter with add-ins, I started with your basic bisquick mixture. Now I've made two sizes of these muffins, regular and mini. Brian likes a better sausage/cheese to batter ratio than I made with the bigger muffins, so I stick with the mini these days. But they are super yummy for a hot breakfast in the morning that is quick.

 So, with the mini muffin size, I start with a half mixture of the Bisquick to make 24 mini muffins. The ingredients are just 1 cup Bisquick, 1/2 cup milk and 1 egg, exactly what you would find on the box.

Once you have the batter ready, spoon enough of the batter into each muffin section to just cover the bottom.

Then you'll want to get your add-ins ready. I usually start cooking the sausage first in order for it to be ready by the time I need it. I use Jimmy Dean sausage since I can get in bulk at BJs. You can use whatever you like, from a different brand to a different meat, or a veggie version.

Spoon enough of each add-in to just fill the tin. I added in the sausage and shredded cheddar cheese. I plan on experimenting with some other add-ins when I get time. Brian loves pepperjack cheese, so that's one way I plan on mixing it up. You could also just make them with the batter and have mini pancake muffins for a morning you don't want to cook but have the pancakes.

Once you have all your add-ins in, spoon about half a tablespoon of the batter over the top. It doesn't need to be completely covered. The great thing about pancake batter is that it expands as it is cooking.

Then, pop it into a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. Take them out and you have the yummy goodness shown below.

What I do is freeze a big batch whenever I make them and Brian has breakfast for a few weeks. He loves them since he's getting a hot breakfast and I love them since it's a bargain and I can freeze them.  He takes them out as he needs them and pops them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds or 1 minute for the big ones.

Mutual Growth

I love you not only for what you are,
But for what I am when I am with you.

I love you not only for what you have made of yourself,
But for what you are making of me.

I love you because you are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern, but a temple;
Out of the words of my everyday
Not a reproach, but a song.

I love you for the part of me that you bring out;
I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart
And passing over all the foolish, weak things
That you can't help dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out all the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked quite far enough to find.

                                                        - Roy Croft

I love this poem, I think it is a great representation of what a marriage can be. Marriage can be about mutual growth, where we serve and uplift each other. With Brian I am a much better person that I was alone. He makes me a better me. He doesn't try to change me. What he does do is bring out those qualities that make me better than I was before him.  I was a painfully shy girl when we met but Brian saw these spurts of what I'm like when you get to know me (a complete dork). Those spurts are what Brian drew out of me and I find myself more capable of being an extrovert. He showed me that who I am is worth showing to new people.

How does your significant other uplift you? How have you grown together?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Crockpot Lasagna

If you want a homemade comfort food with none of the hassle, then this will make you so happy. It makes me happy. Growing up with a mom who makes everything from scratch, you get used to the great meals. As a wife who works and goes to school full time, making homemade meals is very tough. I make all of the meals for the entire week, breakfast, lunch and dinner, on the weekend. So, I have to be creative if I want to get anything but cooking done. Here is another lifesaver that I keep close by.


1 lb. lean ground beef
6 lasagna noodles
15 oz part-skin ricotta
1/4 cup parmesan
1  egg
2 tbsp parsley
1 16 oz jar spagetti sauce
2 cups mozzarella
1 cup water

First, brown your ground beef. I like to use lean ground beef because it will have less liquid and it's just a little bit healthier. Once your beef is all cooked, you will add a jar of your favorite red sauce. I vary it depending on what I have in my pantry. This is also where you will add the water. You want it to be very juicy since your lasagna noodles go in uncooked. 

The cheese mixture in the lasagna is a mixture of the ricotta, mozzarella, parsley, egg and parmesan. Add the ricotta, grated parmesan, grated 1 1/2 cup mozzarella, egg and chopped parsley to a bowl and stir. Make sure its well combined. Leave a little mozzarella for the end, about a 1/2 cup.

Next part, layering.

First, add enough of the red mixture to the bottom of your pot to cover it evenly. It will be about 1/3 of your sauce.

Next, break up 3 of your lasagna noodles to make a layer. 

Spread 1/2 of your cheese mixture over the noodles. Be gentle when spreading otherwise you'll take your noodles with the cheese.

Repeat the steps with the 1/3 of sauce, 3 lasagna noodles and 1/2 of the cheese mixture. You'll finish with the last of the sauce.

Cook for 2-3 hours, until the liquid is mostly gone on top. With 10 minutes left I like to add the 1/2 cup mozzarella to melt over the top.

Serve with some warm bread and a veggie. You're left with about 6 servings of yummy lasagna that will be sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. I say this since my handsome husband is pretty picky and he loves this lasagna. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Your Words

If you've read my previous posts, I've mentioned before the importance of guarding your marriage. It's amazing how easy it is for someone or something to infiltrate the boundaries that you have set. At work when you eat lunch with a friend and the topic is your significant other... watch what you say. The words that come out of your mouth can never be taken back. They stay out there for the other person to assume different things about. When I'm talking to a coworker about our lives, I find myself pausing before I speak, wondering how they could take what I'm about to say. If they could take it negatively about my husband, I don't say it. It doesn't matter how I mean what I'm saying. No matter how positively I mean something to be, the other person can take it negatively. When you are guarding your marriage, part of it is guarding your mouth.
I have the problem, as I have my whole life, that my brain thinks to quickly for my mouth to catch up, so I stutter. If I'm stuttering I know that I'm not thinking about what I'm going to say. That is dangerous. As one half of this partnership, I don't want to present my other half in a bad way. We have to be a united front. One wrongly said sentence can have the other person assuming things about your relationship. Those assumptions are then told to other people and then when they get back to you or possibly your spouse, what you said is horribly distorted. Those distortions can hurt your marriage. What your spouse hears about their own marriage can cause insecurities and hurt. 

Before you speak, think. Think about how it's going to come across, how the other person will hear it, what assumptions could be drawn from your words, and what hurt could be caused. It is always better to uplift your spouse than to talk about things that could be taken negatively. Point out their great qualities, it will remind you why you love them so much and it will only cause your spouse to find confidence in your relationship. Anything else, besides uplifting words, those are for between you and your spouse. Only. Also, before you speak those words to your spouse, make sure that they really need to be said. Your spouse will take to heart every negative word, every negative tone, every negative look. If you bring down your spouse, it is ten times as hard to build them back up and they will not be as strong as before. Love your spouse, not just in your heart, but in your words, tone, looks. Love them with everything you have. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Crockpot Pulled Pork

I love recipes that I can spend little time on but it turn out to be a budget friendly recipe that tastes like I spent forever putting it together. My crockpot pulled pork is one of these recipes. If you love barbecue places, then you will love this recipe.

The reason I love this recipe the most is that I can pick up all of the ingredients in bulk. What a money saver!


4-6 lb Pork Shoulder Roast
1 onion chopped
1 bottle of beer or apple juice
1 bottle barbecue sauce

First, roughly chop up an onion and drop into the bottom of your crockpot. At this point I also like to add some garlic salt. It adds a little flavor. Other seasonings could be added of course.

Next, add in your pork shoulder roast. A pork butt roast also works really well. Here is where I save the most. I get a 12 lb. pork shoulder roast and cut it in half. I use one and freeze the rest. Instead of buying a 6 lb. one at my local grocery store for $12, I got a 12 lb. roast for $16 in bulk. It's easy to cut it in half and freeze the rest.

Make sure to place the roast fat side up, so that the meat stays moist. I also add some garlic salt over the top as well. Then, pour in your beer or apple juice. The first time I cooked this, I decided to try beer even though we don't really like beer at all. Since most barbecue places cook their meat in some sort of beer, I thought it would make it the closest to what you can get in a great barbecue place. We used Blue Moon since it seems like a lot of people like that beer. We tasted it and thought it wasn't too bad. Turns out it makes great pulled pork.

Here is where you turn your crockpot on low and leave it alone. Just leave it. Come back in 8-10 hours, depending on the size of your roast. When it's done it will fall apart when you test it with a fork. Let your crockpot do the work for you!

So, since my was pretty big, I cooked it for a little over 10 hours, more like 11, since it was also partially frozen when I put it in. I'm impatient and it was taking forever to thaw. It worked out fine just cooking it a little longer. What you see in the picture above is a roast that literally fell apart when I took it out of the crockpot.

So, using two forks, shred the pork to your liking. This is the most time intensive part, it took about 15 minutes to separate the meat from the fat. I don't like fat mixed in, but maybe you do. I clean out my crockpot of the leftover juices, to make sure the result isn't watery. Place the shredded meat back in the crockpot.

Pour your favorite barbecue sauce over the top. I used a 16oz bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's. Then cook the pork for another 2-3 hours, depending on your preference.

I cooked it for another 3 hours. I let it cook with the sauce on top for about 2 hours and then stir it up before letting it cook the last hour. The result is a weeks worth of lunches and dinners. It's great on a bun or just by itself. Best part is the whole batch cost about $10. We get about 10 meals out of it, which means it's $1 a meal. It's definitely a recipe easy on your budget.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Compromise. Brian and I went the first 5 months of our marriage without cable. We had Netflix and it was easy to decide what to watch since there were really too many options. Only movies and reruns get old fast when you have run through all of your favorites.

A month or so ago we decided that we could afford cable and it was just in time for football season. Of course, now is the issue of what to watch since there are so many options. Compromise is a funny thing. Brian is one of those guys who would watch sports 24/7 and only mix it up with car shows and a few select miscellaneous shows. I however enjoy food shows, tbs, etc. We don't overlap very often when it comes to TV. So, compromise. It's been a learning experience. When we were dating it was easy since we only saw each other 2 or 3 times a week. It's easy to compromise when you can go home and watch what you want. When you live together and have to share...well that's a whole other story. Now, I like a fair share of football, as long as it's relevant, like a favorite team. Brian however loves watching everything, he has three fantasy football leagues going to prove his football devotion. Football has tested our sharing abilities for sure.

We found our balance through the fact that we don't want our mate to outright suffer. So when I want to watch America's Next Model, I usually record it to watch when Brian is busy doing something else. Since I'm ok with football most of the time, it comes on our TV fairly often. Otherwise, we try to compromise.

A lot of our marriage is about compromise and allowing the other person to partially take over your life. When I lived at home I looked forward to moving out and having my life to myself a little more. When you live with someone you don't realize how much of your life is taken up by them. I thought I would have more time to myself, HA! I was so naive! Marriage is all about having a joint life. If I thought I didn't get much alone time before, I get even less now. Brian and I are introverts to the extreme. We love hanging out at home and just being with each other. We enjoy our friends but I'm sure hearing that we are introverts is no surprise whatsoever.

Brian and I have this understanding that if we get alone time, it's ok, it's more than ok, we love it. So when he goes out with friends or I do, it's okay. We don't have to feel bad. Little things like time alone, TV selection, etc, they look like little compromises, but sometimes they can be the hardest to get through. Like when Brian turns all of the glasses up to dry instead of upside down, that used to get to me. It comes down to what matters. All these little things that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, why am I going to insist that it be done my way and potentially hurt my marriage?

Now, I have gotten to the point where if something he does strikes me as different, I just move on. The people we marry are not exactly like us. We can't expect them to act like we do, think like we do, or even like the same shows we do. Compromise is tough but it doesn't have to be if we remember our differences.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Room to Grow

We live in Jacksonville, Florida and while Brian was born and raised here, I definitely was not. I was born in Virginia but was mostly raised in Michigan. When we moved down here it was culture shock for sure. It's completely different here than it is up north.

I was raised in a super small town, well actually it's considered a village.... Brian likes to point out that it has only one stoplight. While the town is very small, I still love it there. I always look forward to visits there, no matter the season. I just love the feel of the wide open fields, the small town and being no where close to a city. I'm definitely a country girl at heart. There's a sense of peace I get when I visit. The small town that you could walk to both ends in 20 minutes, the waves since everyone knows everyone, the lack of anything to do but visit with friends, cook and live, it's perfectly simple. When you take away this complaint of nothing to do, you find things that really matter, that really enhance who you are. People who live in Jacksonville love to complain that there is nothing to do and every time I hear that it just makes me smile. There's always something to do. When you take away the movie theaters, malls, all of those distractions, the only things left are the things that really matter. You have your family, friends and a few little things to do. Instead of spending your time spending money, you spend it visiting people, getting work done, and loving your family.

When I visited during summers after we moved to Florida, I loved to just see old friends, spend time with my family and curl up with a book. Life sort slows down and you get to enjoy those cool breezes. When I'm in the city, life gets put on fast forward and I never feel as if I can get caught up. When I'm caught up in the speed of life here in Jacksonville, I always think of life in Deckerville. It helps remind me of the important things in life. Does everything on that list of to dos have to get done? Or am I getting caught up in the speed of life here? It reminds me to take a break and make myself slow down.

Sometimes we need a reminder that what we think is important becomes distorted by the lives of others. We see others doing things every weekend and we feel the need to fill our lives with those things as well. Then we become overwhelmed and stressed. We need to cleanse our lives of those unnecessary things that have been put there because of our perception of other people. It's like when you plant a garden, every so often you have to go through and weed it so that the plant can have enough room to grow.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Taking Risks

Since I've started a new job, I've mentioned that I've experienced growing pains. I haven't yet found where my niche in the company which is normal for a new job but I think in the past couple of weeks I've started to find it. I am covering for a lady who is on medical leave and it's been a little frustrating since it isn't at all what my job will be when she comes back but I've focused on looking at it as an opportunity to learn and develop in the company. The faster I learn the sooner I will be we're I would like.

So, lately I've been just looking at everything as a learning opportunity as well as an opportunity to show that I am open to anything. Just because my title says this or my job description says that doesn't mean that I can say no to helping with other things. I've also been working on my patience. Of course things aren't going to go as quickly as I like. Life in general isn't that way. We have to develop and grow, otherwise no one would be a lower level worker.

This new attitude of just going with the flow has come across well with my boss. She gives me more interesting things to do along with little things she needs even if it's contact information for one of our vendors. If she needs me to do those things, well then I do it and I do it quickly.  As a result, she's mentioned me spearheading different projects and potential opportunities have been mentioned.

Every opportunity, even if it doesn't really look like one because it is something small or seemingly insignificant, can turn into a big opportunity that can lead anywhere. My attitude is based on that. Since I'm new, I don't know what will turn out to be the opportunity that helps me grow, so everything is an opportunity, even if it looks like it's boring, beneath my position or not. Taking advantage of opportunities requires that you don't get a big head and say that some of them aren't worth your time. If you want an opportunity, everything is worth your time and work.

It doesn't have to be only job related either. It could be in relationships. If Brian hadn't taken a chance on me 4 years ago even though he certainly didn't expect marriage, we wouldn't be here today, happier than ever. Opportunities are just open doors that you need to work with to make something out of. Just because an opportunity presents itself doesn't mean that it will do all of the work for you.

Since the response of my boss to my new outlook has been great, I think I'm starting to find what my company needs out of me and it looks like it will be a very exciting opportunity. I'm glad now that I took the risk.

There are no benefits without risking something, your heart, livelihood, or stability. The risk could be anything, it's all about deciding the risk is worth it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Green Smoothie

We are always trying to find ways to be healthier since sweets seem to call our names. We both don't get a lot of time to exercise except for on the weekends, so we definitely need to eat well. On that track, Brian requested that we try green smoothies. I thought that it would get us our veggies and our fruits, so great idea. Here is the one I tried. I mostly made up the ratios as I went along since I was making in the Magic Bullet that we got for our wedding. It's definitely more of a regular blender job but I thought that the amount per serving I used worked to make a great tasting smoothie.

1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup organic fat free yogurt
3 strawberries
1/2 banana
1/2 orange
1/2 apple

They are right when they say that you can't taste the spinach very much at all. I like the flavor of spinach and thought it might be more of a factor, but it definitely is more of an underlying one. 

With the Magic Bullet I had to add the fruit in a little at the time since it didn't all fit, which is why it's more of a regular blender type of smoothie. But, it was quick to make, only took about 10 minutes, which is great since being healthy is typically seen as something that isn't quick or fast like being unhealthy ( fast food ).

I used the Magic Bullet since it can be made in travel mugs, which is so simple. It's all ready for the morning!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Those Who Listen

When I was in high school, I used to write poetry quite often. I was in poetry club and even got to the point that I could perform in a contest and after performing two times, I won the second. If you know me, you know that it is difficult for me to speak in a public setting. My knees shake, my voice wavers and my heart is beating so fast it feels like it will literally jump out of my chest. The first time I performed my own poetry I'm sure it's no surprise that I lost. However the next year, I was determined to learn why I had lost and then fix it. It was all about my presentation. With poetry you have to speak with emotion. It's pretty much a rap song without the music. You have to have a rhythm, emotion, and style.

I haven't written much poetry since high school between work and school. Writer's block has also stumped me. Poetry was how I got out all of my frustrations, hurt, and anger. It was a safe outlet when I was hurting. When people started liking it, it was weird to me, since it was all of my frustrations coming out. Yet, people like hearing that what they're feeling isn't exclusive only to them.  I didn't realize it when I was writing, but I was reaching out to other people. I was pulling them into my world. I was helping them not feel alone. I didn't know that I could give that gift to other people. All I had to do was share my gift. That's it. It was as simple as putting myself out there.

Even though it sounds simple, putting yourself out there is a very scary thing to do. People can be mean, make fun of you, judge you. The backlash could be great. It is so easy to stop yourself, to hold yourself back because of the fear. But, if I had never shared my gift, others wouldn't have benefited from it. I would have been hogging it, keeping others from sharing in it. It's scary but worth it.

Even now as I write this blog, I know others don't share in my opinion. I know others don't share in my beliefs. I'm not going to be mad or angry at comments I get for putting myself out there. What I am going to do is rejoice with those who benefit from me sharing my story and my marriage. What I have come to realize is that sharing your gifts aren't about those who don't like it. It's about those who do.

If Jesus had worried about those who would condemn Him for sharing his gift of forgiveness instead of sharing it for those who would benefit then we would not have a savior. We are told that as Christian we will be condemned by others, but if we don't share that gift as well, we are hoarding the gift of heaven for ourselves. Give to others. Share your stories. Share your gifts. Share and don't worry about those who don't like your story. It's the ones who listen that matter.

Given how many people have nothing in this world, the least we can do is give that which costs us nothing at all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sing To Me

My life is full of song.

Brian sings me at least once a day. It's a perfect snapshot of my life, those moments that my husband sings to me. I have two choices in those moments. I can either sing along and have fun with my husband or I can laugh it off and just call him silly. That decision of course is a little harder when I'm in public and he's singing to me, dance moves and all. In the past few years, that decision, which was once always laughing it off, has turned to singing along with him. It's a perfect decision that is about living in the moment instead of worrying about others opinion of us. Why not sing along with my husband? Why not twirl when he twirls me? Why should anyone frown at me for something as simple as that? But that's just it, people look at you like you are crazy.

It used to bother me when people stared at me for being a little out there. I know that I'm a completely clumsy, dorky kind of girl who paired herself with a husband that sings and dances in public. Don't get me wrong, we are by no means breaking out in the salsa in the middle of a grocery store. It's way more subtle than that. At least we hope...

When I think about it though, it's those moments of the simplest decisions, whether to sing or not, whether to dance or not, they are the ones that rule your life. Yes, big decisions have the most impact on your life, but those little ones, they accumulate into the path that your life follows. Each time I choose not to sing, not to dance, I'm holding myself back. I'm afraid of what others will think of us. Well, at least I did. It came down to one single thought. Why should I care what others think? I need to focus on what God thinks, what I think and what my husband thinks of my actions. Not the world. The world is not what I want to be like. I do not want to be of this world.

So, I sing, I dance, I live in the moment. I choose to live in the little moments as well as the big ones. Those moments of singing and dancing with my husband bring a smile to my face daily. God gives us these little moments to see how we react, to see if the decision will change, to see if we will grow. My decision used to be embarrassment. Now, well I'd much rather sing, I'd rather grow. Live in the little moments. Live in the big moments. Just live.

Monday, September 17, 2012

52 Date Nights

So, in my addiction to Pinterest, I came upon a list of 52 date night ideas for once a week for a year. I thought it would be a good idea to make my own list. Some of her's wouldn't work for us or aren't plausible this early in our marriage, but you can find her list here: So on to my own list. I will be using a couple of her ideas, just because I love them and I think they would make for a fun date night.

Most of my ideas I wanted to be free or under $20, for a couple on a budget, like us, or those who want /need to spend that money elsewhere.

Here we go:

1.   Start a mason jar at the beginning of the year to open the next New Year's Eve and fill it with all of the good things that happen to you during the year. Write each one a piece of paper and fold it up. Your first one can be the beginning of a new year together.  (This one is ongoing but you need to start sometime.)
2.   Look through your wedding pictures/video and just reminisce. Great way to remember how you got to where you are now.
3.   Do a puzzle and order a pizza. Good chance to catch up and just talk to your partner.
4.   Go blueberry picking (or what is in season where you are), then make some dessert! Don't forget some iced tea or fresh lemonade.
5.   Play games together, either board games or video games.
6.   Sketch out your dream home and list your must-haves. (Brian would love a big garage)
7.   Have a marathon of your favorite show. Brian and I did this when we had no cable and only Netflix.
8.   Go window shopping....for houses. Drive around and pick out what house you like best. You may find your tastes differ...=).
9.   Play 20 questions.
10. Star gazing, grab a blanket and head somewhere you can see the stars.
11. Mute the TV and make up the dialogue.
12. Make a list of places you want to visit, then rank them.
13. Go put-put golfing or to a driving range.
14. Go bowling.
15. Watch your favorite childhood movies.
16. Get up early, watch the sunrise and go eat breakfast somewhere. Here in Jacksonville, FL we love Metro Diner.
17. Go antiquing! There are some great finds for under $20.
18. Go to a farmer's market and grab your dinner. We like Riverside Arts Market here, they have crafts along with the fresh fruits and veggies. Makes for a fun outing.
19. Plan your next vacation! Whether it's a weekend trip, one to see family or somewhere exotic.
20. Make a combined bucket list. Then, watch The Bucket List.
21. Go to a fun area and window shop! We like St. Augustine, FL, since it's historic and eclectic.
22. Go to a museum!
23. Have a craft night. I'll put up a couple of my favorite crafts for you to try out. Crafts can make living on a budget easier and look better than store bought items.
24. Go to Michaels and pick out some decor items. We've found things for decorating our bathrooms that ended up costing $10-$20.
25. Take a long walk. We have the beach but just in your neighborhood would be just as good.
26. Write love letters to each other.
27. Talk about your future and make goals.
28. Make a list of baby names to see how your tastes change when you get there.
29. Cook something daring and outside of your comfort zone.
30. Curl up on the couch and chat/nap. Just enjoy each other's company.
31. Go rock climbing.
32. Go to the mall and window shop/people watch.
33. Just have a movie night, cook the popcorn and curl up together.
34. Invite friends over and play some games. Rate Your Mate would be a fun one =). Gets pretty competitive.
35. Put on some music and dance.
36. Have a baking night!
37. Teach Brian to cook something.
38. Have Brian teach me about football.
39. Make a pillow fort and tell each other stories.
40. Make a playlist for your next road trip.
41. Spa night, including facial masks or foot soaks. Don't forget some chocolate fondue!
42. Go to a pumpkin patch and have a carving contest.
43. Have a slumber party in your living room, including staying up late talking and junk food.
44. During Christmas time, go look at the lights.
45. Take some quizzes, how well do you know each other? Make it fun! Quizzes can be found online or a bookstore.
46. Go to an arcade. Be kids together =).
47. Scrapbook your memories. I always mean to and never have the time. This would make it easy to get done.
48. Go to a fair.
49. Make cookies for the people you love and surprise them!
50. Go to a corn maze and come home to some crock pot apple cider!
51. Photo collage date. Grab your camera and take a walk to find objects that make letters! Spell a word and hang it.
52. Plan your dream vacation. Each of you pick a place and present it to the other person. Grab a book from Barnes and Noble and plan an adventure!

And don't forget to take pictures along the way!!

Also, a great way to go these would be to put them in a jar, color coded. Make the seasonal ones one color, the stay at home ones another, and the going out ones another color, like in this blog post: I'm currently in the process of making us one!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Marriage Rule #1: Finances

When we were engaged one of the top things we heard from numerous people is how money is the biggest reason for divorce. Being both accountants we looked to each other and decided that it would be our strongest point. We wanted to be united and not pulling each other in different directions.

We struggled a bit when we were newly married. We had no real concept of how much money it took to live neither of us having lived by ourselves before. We knew it would be more than we expected. What hurt us was treating money exactly the same way we did before we were married. You can't do that. You aren't an individual in the purest sense anymore. You need to think of the other person when you purchase something, when you plan to purchase something, etc. Even though we thought of each other, we didn't plan together and that hurt us. We didn't go into debt but we were definitely headed that way.

What stopped the downward spiral was a huge reality check when we started doing our budget on The website lets you set each part of your budget, goals, investment, etc. It gives you graphs and more to show you how you are doing and even notifies you when you have gone over budget. When we first started we noticed that we had a negative net income for the last couple of months. It was a huge eye opener. Even though the money was there, we were depleting our savings unintentionally. In that moment we decided we needed to reroute our marriage back on track.

We set our goals, like my new car, and more long term goals like a house and a trip for our five year anniversary. Since then, which was three months ago, our net income has been been in the green! Now we spend our money with purpose, setting aside our tithe and goal amounts and still have some for a emergency fund. Now that we have purchased my car, our goal for the rest of the year is to get our savings back up to where it was. Next year, we want to get as close as possible to paying off Brian's car. we should almost make it, almost three and a half years early, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Ever since we started focusing more instead of preferring to remain oblivious, our marriage has gotten stronger. We both have our goals in keeping track of our finances. Brian focuses on making sure our bills are being paid and I make sure that I save as much as possible. I watch what I spend in groceries and make sure to make enough for all of our meals so that we aren't spending money at restaurants when we don't need to. We found our trouble areas were food and the home. Food because I had not figured out a routine as well as overspending in groceries/restaurants. I was buying wayyy to much and we would throw it away. I've gotten much better at estimating how much we will need for all of our meals during the week. A meal plan and grocery list have become my bread and butter. I have all of my recipe ingredients written down so that it's planned our week. It works out great. We waste little and are eating healthier than before. Perfect.

Home decor items was also a trouble are since it was our first home and we had nothing. While we would love to have it fully decorated, only certain areas are. We stopped at decorating the living room and our bedroom which are mostly used. We bought a couch, bed and an entertainment center. Everything else could wait. Even that sent us on the road to debt, so we reined it in. We have borrowed furniture from Brian's parents, such as our dining table and chairs as are our side tables in the living room. It may not be what we want, but what we really don't want is to have a ton of debt.

We both have gotten through college without having debt and we certainly don't want to start now. Our rule for finances, which is that we will not be divided but united in all decisions and planning, has been our number one rule. I'm sure it has saved us from many threats to hurt our marriage. It all started with a budget, which can be scary or exciting depending on who you are (we love budgets, I mean we are accountants!). makes is non-scary for everyone. It's so easy to use. If you don't have a budget, start there. You will love it!

One big lesson we learned is about our priorities. As much as we love being comfortable and would like a fully furnished home that we owned and the fancy vacations and more, we know that those are also not our priorities. Maybe one day we'll be there but it isn't the be all end all. Early on in our engagement and marriage we talked about gradually being able to give God more than 10%. We want to be able to one day give away at least half of what we make. We want to keep our priorities with God. The fact of the matter is, you can't take any of this stuff with you when you die. While it may be nice during our lives here, it doesn't mean anything when you get to the other side and you spent all of your money on things that are meaningless. Put your money where it matters. In relationships, fellowship, missions, charities and God. We all like to live comfortably, but that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice God and it also means that in giving back to God we have to sacrifice our comfort. When you give to God, He gives back. Usually it's an exponentially more than what you originally gave. He gives back opportunities, gifts, relationships, love, laughter, a promise for your eternal life. Quite a beautiful gift in return for some of our luxuries.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Let Go

Sometimes in the hectic pace of life I need to take a break. When the week ends and I finally get a break, sometimes I just can't keep up the pace. Usually I have an even longer list of things to get done on the weekends than during the week. Most weekends I successfully complete my list and maybe even sleep a little. Then there are those few weekends that I just crash and burn. I get to Friday evening and all I want to do is be lazy. I want to sleep in, or rather catch up on the sleep that I've missed in the past several weeks. Hibernation sounds like an amazing idea at that point.

When I feel like that, my neatly written list of to dos don't get crossed out. Things go undone and it's all because I just need a break, even if it drives me crazy and I have to make it up later. At least, I used to have to make it up. Even though I tend to be the clean freak and love to do the laundry and wash the dishes (which Brian thinks is just weird), Brian picks up the slack when I need to let things slide a little.  As much as I would love to be super wife and do everything, I know I need Brian's help. So, on those weekends that I let things slide, he steps in and helps with the laundry and the dishes. Even though Brian doesn't like either chore, he does it anyway.

It took me a while to let go of those things, because I would love to not make him do it when I like doing those chores. But when you need help, you just need to let go. I've always struggled with that option. I'm your classic overachiever. I'd like to do my job and more and look good doing it.

Yet, it just reminds of how God is in our life. When we get to the point that we let go a little bit, He steps in to pick up the slack. He keeps you going, keeps your momentum. He proves that if you would relax a little, stop worrying as much and let go of the reins, life would not fall apart. Instead you may be pleasantly surprised.

As I've noticed with my life with Brian, when I let go a little, things still get done. The world does not fall apart, it does not end. Instead, I usually get through the weekend feeling rested and ahead for the next week. When I try to do it all by myself I barely make it through my list and usually start the next week even more tired than I was going end. It's a unending cycle that makes me crave sleep. When I accept the help I get more done and I get some sleep.

When I started giving things to God, my life got easier. I don't worry as much as I used to, I don't wonder what I'm doing with my life, don't question if what I'm doing is right. Instead, I'm still moving through life, easier than before, and I feel as if I'm accomplishing much more than I was before handing over the reigns. Before, I worked in retail, had no life, and didn't have much to show for. Now, I have an amazing job that is relevant to my degree, have time for friendships, fellowship and family, and have so many blessings it's amazing.

Sometimes, when life gets hard and you can't keep a handle on things, maybe it's because you just need to let go. It's scary and you won't know what to expect but when you hand over those reigns, life gets so much easier. You'll still have that long list of to dos sometimes, but accomplishing them will be easier when you aren't worried about life in general.

Just let go.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Catch Me When I Fall

If you are close to me, then you know how dangerously clumsy I am. I run into things, drop things (like knives..) and do pretty much anything I can do to get in trouble. I of course don't mean to, it's just part of who I am. I think it's like the fact when I was younger I would stutter because my thoughts were going too fast for my mouth to catch up. It's a different problem now, my thoughts are going too fast for my body to catch up.

Since I'm so clumsy, my husband is always saving me, catching me, stopping me and more. Last weekend I walked into the edge of our bed and still have the huge bruise to show it. Today I slammed my thumb into a drawer and burned myself cooking. It's magical, I know. Brian said he needed to babysit me.

I had a mini epiphany when he said that. God does that throughout our lives. He catches us when we fall, stops us before we ram into a wall, says no when we are going in the wrong direction. God saves us each day from hurting ourselves, we just don't see it. I wish I could see each moment He saves me, just so that I could thank Him.

There are times in my life that I definitely felt at rock bottom and just when I think there is no way this could be fixed, it just seems to be fixed. At those moments I know it's God saving me. Those moments that are so huge in my life make me wonder at how many little ones He saved along the way.

It's so easy to not pay attention in life and get yourself into a rut. Yet, it could be so much worse. God could let us fall, could let us hit rock bottom. Where would we be without Him?

When I look at our marriage and the way Brian saves me daily, he is just showing me what a Godly husband He is. He is my rock, my strength, as well as my keeper. When you can see God in your husband it reminds you why you got married. While I love Brian with all of my heart and soul, our marriage is more than that. We took vows before God and were very aware of that fact on our wedding day. We wanted our marriage to glorify God and when Brian acts as my keeper, He is glorifying God in my eyes. He acts in a way that God does in our lives. I have been blessed with a Godly husband.