Friday, December 19, 2014

Tips for Creating a Budget

I don’t know that this will work for everybody, but when we originally created our budget, this is exactly how we did it. Things have changed for us financially because of AdvoCare, so we aren’t as strict as we used to be. However, a lot of this is already engrained in our brain & helped us tremendously early on in our marriage. We are still very conscientious and work hard to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. We always want to live beneath our means and work towards complete debt freedom so we are able to give more. Our goal is to ultimately live on 30% of our income (including saving & investing) and give 70%.

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Jonathan & I both know how to use Excel & I recommend that if you do too, but I am a pen and paper kind of gal so I hand write all of this out. Mint.com is another great {free}tool that I highly recommend if you’re just getting started!

1. We began by setting goals. “Without a vision the people will perish.” You have to know where you’re going, WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, why that’s important to you, & when you want to accomplish that. That all has to come BEFORE the “how to” or you’ll eventually fall off the wagon. We prayed about it individually and as a couple, discussed it, and determined exactly what we felt the Lord wants regarding the direction for our finances. We wrote down (for accountability- there is power in WRITING it out) SPECIFIC amounts and a timeline. We have a set $$ amount we want to earn each month, give each month, save each month, invest each month, etc. We wrote a monthly, yearly, 5 year, and 10 year set of goals. It’s so important to create those small, tangible goals with a big picture ‘long view of time’ in mind as well.

2. The next step was to track our income and expenses for 1 whole month. Every.single.dime. If you want to know where you’re going & how to get there, you have to know where you’re starting by taking an honest inventory of your finances. Most people are like we were and spend more than you think you do. I will never forget when we realized Jonathan was spending $100 + a month at the gas station! Be real with yourself about your total income & total expenses. I know some people who really struggle financially but buy tons of soft drinks & lottery tickets, or maybe have on a new outfit every time I see them. The reality is, most people spend everything they earn & don’t even know where their money went. They have no idea how much they’re really spending. Little things like buying your kids candy every time you check out at the grocery store or being late returning a Redbox (SO GUILTY) can add up to surprising amounts over time.

We personally use our one and only credit card for pretty much everything we can and then pay it off in full at the end of the month (for the credit card points- helps out a little bit with travel expenses). But I ONLY recommend that if you can be extremely disciplined & won’t be tempted to overspend. Jonathan & I are both more on the frugal side so that’s not really an issue for us. We wrote down every penny we spent- whether cash, EBT, or on the credit card.

3. We set our budget up into categories based on our spending.

These are the non-negotiables we spend money on every month. You may have to add or take our a category (ex: cable, prescriptions, medical bill, Netflix, pet food/meds, etc.)

  • tithes (this is the very FIRST thing that comes out when we get paid)
  • mortgage (includes escrow, taxes, & insurance)
  • health insurance premium
  • car insurance
  • life insurance
  • water
  • electric
  • gas bill
  • gasoline
  • groceries
  • internet
  • gym membership
  • phones (we are both still on our parents’ plan because it’s cheaper, so we just pay them once a year for the total)
  • AdvoCare products
  • diapers/wipes (we buy at Costco to save money/unit)
  • savings/investments
  • lawn service
  • pest service

We also have a category that differs depending on each month, but we do have a place for it in our budget.

  • travel
  • books
  • entertainment
  • clothes
  • toiletries (all from Costco)
  • hair cuts/highlights for me (I get my hair done every 3 months & budget $60)

If there is something we know comes up each year, we go ahead and write it out in that month’s budget. Here are a few examples.

  • Christmas
  • birthdays
  • gifts (wedding, showers, birthdays, etc.)
  • anniversary
  • tag renewal
  • taxes (we have an AWESOME accountant and will never skimp on that service)
  • IRA contributions
  • oil change
  • new tires
  • car repairs/home improvement
  • dental cleanings

4. We went back in the the previous 6 months to determine averages in each of those categories. For example, obviously some months the gas bill is higher than other months. Discover has an awesome spend analyzer that breaks it down really well for you too.

5. We made sure we were spending less than we were bringing in and looked for places in the budget we could cut. For example, cutting cable saved us nearly $1200 a year. We also stopped going out to the movies & started watching Redbox at home. That saved over $600/year. We started buying Zaycon chicken and that saved big time on our grocery bill. We no longer stop at the gas station (except for gas, obviously, and even then we use our Kroger Fuel points to save) or eat fast food. We buy in bulk at Costco to save money on things like diapers, toilet paper, soap, detergent, & paper towels. Say it with me now… “Live beneath your means.” I remember growing up hearing my mom use the phrase “They have steak taste & hamburger money.” So true for so many Americans, thus the debt issue crippling most families today. We live by a pretty simple strategy….If you can’t pay cash for it, you don’t need it. 

6.  Savings are crucial, but so is investing. So we came up with a plan for both by reading several books & studying what financial experts have to say on the issue. By savings, I specifically mean a 6 month emergency fund. On top of that & contributing to a retirement plan (we have both a traditional and ROTH IRA), you want to invest. Make your money work for you!

7. If you can’t afford to do these things, you want to increase your income. Based on everything we have read from financial experts, the BEST way to increase your income is to start an in-home business. I am personally a huge advocate for moms having the opportunity to be home with their babies, so this is where the entrepreneurship kicks in. Pray about what you can do on a part-time basis from home to bring in additional income.  Proverbs 31 even discusses a woman contributing to her household in this way, but not at the cost of managing the home taking a back seat. That is always priority. Both Jonathan and I believe it is ultimately part of the husband’s role to be the provider, so this has just been a way for us to work together toward a common goal for our family. That has strengthened our marriage even more.

Because time was an issue for us, we preferred a ready-to- go biz with no monthly minimums, quotas, autoships, etc., minimal initial investment, and zero overhead.

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8. Continue to monitor your results, track your progress, & make adjustments based on your family’s needs & changes income/expenses.  This is not a one-time and done type deal. We look at it every month to make sure we know ahead of time where our money is going, & every few months we sit down more at length to really discuss where we are and our progress towards our goals. Sometimes we are missing the mark. Sometimes we make more money and determine where we want to give or invest.

9. Educate yourself. If you’re looking for a starting place, my top four favorites are:

**Also, here are a few things we choose not to take the “cheap” route on:

  • food – real food, quality & organic is important to us. You can’t put a price tag on great nutrition & the PROVEN benefits.
  • supplements (although we do get a 40% discount on world’s finest nutritional products, so that’s only a half truth I guess)
  • hair products (uhhhh, not to sound gross, but I only wash my hair a few times a week so they last me forever)
  • shoes (I’ve said it forever, but taking care of your feet helps your entire body. we avoid cheap-o flats, flip flops, & tennis shoes)
  • our accountant. SO worth every penny!

Hope that helps! Anything else you do that I’m missing??

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#babybutlernumerodos is 15 Weeks!!

Oops…I missed a week.

Baby Growth:

#babybulternumerodos should be weighing around a half of a pound by now…around the size of a navel orange.  And yes, I have been eating 1-2 oranges every day again this pregnancy.

My Symptoms: My hair is so big, full, & out of control. I cannot WAIT to get some highlights & get some serious inches chopped off. Hopefully she can squeeze me in next week.

I feel decent. Nausea is easing up (hallelujah!) but energy isn’t back to normal yet. I just don’t feel quite like myself. Super thankful & blessed though, so really can’t complain.

Moodiness seems to be easing up jusssst a little bit. And only a little bit. I have had to bite my tongue a few times this week with strangers. Seriously, some people are so stinkin RUDE. (Yes, lady at Kroger, and other lady who pulled out in front of me when I had the right away and then threw your hands up at ME…I’m talking about y’all.)

I have also experienced some round ligament pain & stretching – especially if I roll over a certain way or stand up too fast. It only lasts for a second but is pretty sharp. I also get dizzy when I stand up too fast and have to lean forward to stop the dizziness.

Bathroom habits are resuming back to normal, but still need to be drinking more water.

Sweet tooth is back in full force with no MNS. Such a love/hate. I HATE how much I LOVE sweets. I really like when I’m on MNS & the cravings go completely away.

I get full super quickly so I can only eat really small portions, and I have to eat OFTEN or I get nauseas. If I accidentally wait too long, I’ll throw up. Fun times!

Jase also has a pretty bad cold & I’m picking up the cough. Germs are EVERYWHERE right now & it makes me want to just stay locked up at home.

Weight: It fluctuates. As of this morning I hadn’t gained anything, but sometimes I’m up around 4 lbs from my normal weight. It looks like WAY more though because of this belly though. Y’all, the bump.is.huge! I mean whoa. It looks like my 20+ week bump with Jase. I’m still in regular clothes (even jeans, although I have no idea how) but they are starting to get a little tight & uncomfortable. (Please ignore my grumpy face.)

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Gender: We are having our anatomy scan later in January, so IF we can wait we’ll find out the gender then. If we can’t stand it anymore we might make an appointment for a gender only ultrasound in the next few weeks. I’m trying to do as few ultrasounds as possible though, so hopefully we can have some patience. My gut says boy, Jon thinks boy, and our parents think boy (although I think they secretly want a girl). And I know, I’m so wishy washy. Early on I was thinking girl too, but this pregnancy just seems so identical to the last one.

I cannot WAIT to find out though! I’m ready to start calling this sweet baby by name!! I am pretty certain we have some names picked out either way.

Maternity Clothes: Still wearing all regular clothes right now but that probably won’t last much longer. Got some sweet maternity leggings from StitchFix this week. Cannot wait to rock those bad boys. (FYI: I LOVED Stitch Fix! I was so surprised that she pretty much nailed the clothes. I sent everything back but the leggings though because they were more expensive than I would ever pay for clothes. Turns out they don’t shop at Marshall’s I guess.)

Movement: Oh yea!! Started a week or two ago. I didn’t know if it was too early, but it was definitely that sweet baby moving. I can’t wait for more of this. My favorite!!

Sleep: I nap when Jase naps. I’m sleeping decent,  just feeling a little worn out. I miss MNS & 2 Sparks a day.

Jase has been sick this week so that broken sleep has been a little tough. He has been waking up because he’s coughing and is so stuffy…poor guy! I can tell if he will go back to sleep or is he really needs his Mama, and if he’s sick I typically go in and hold him for a little while to soothe him. Worth every sweet minute of being awake though, and that is some of the sweetest prayer time I’ve had.

Is that not the most pitiful little guy??

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Cravings:  Nothing that I can think of this week. I still have ZERO desire to cook so we’ve been eating out way more than I’d like. I eat decently healthy when we eat out, but we all know it’s still wayyyy more healthy to just eat at home. I have been more intentional about juicing & I always always eat a super healthy breakfast. That counts for something, right?

**New Favorite Juice Recipe: (thanks for sharing Candice! The lime totally did the trick!)

  • 2-3 handfuls of spinach
  • cucumber
  • 2 anjou pears
  • 1 green apple
  • celery
  • 1 lime

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Work Outs:   I’ve done body pump a couple of times, but nothing impressive on my part & not working out as much as I’d like. I ALWAYS feel better after I work out but I’m so wiped out it’s tough to find the motivation. When I was pregnant with Jase, Jon & I always went together and he would encourage me to go even if I didn’t feel like it. It’s way too easy to skip now.

Questions/Concerns: I had another doctor’s appointment this week & everything went great. We are really, really happy with our doctor & praying the Lord works it out so he can deliver #babybutlernumerodos. Heart beat was strong at 152. I had a few more questions about VBAC and was excited to hear the answers to those questions. So far I feel pretty confident. The only answer I wasn’t thrilled about was the fact that I have to have an epidural this time. If for some reason I have to have an emergency c-section, I’ll need the anesthesia to be ready to go because the only other option is to go all the way under. He also said I need to get to the hospital much sooner this time & laboring at home isn’t a great idea. I’m a little nervous about that because I have a super high pain tolerance and had no CLUE I was at a 7 when I went to get checked when I was in labor with Jase. That was almost an issue because I was GBS + so had to get to the hospital with him to have the antibiotics in my system for 4 hours before delivery. Our doc said we will just monitor closely & he’ll help me to know.

Also, we are on track to earn an all-expenses paid trip with AdvoCare this May and the doc said I’ll be too far along to go. Again. This happened with Hawaii too. Boo. I was a little bummed, but this baby is such a blessing that it’s not that big of a deal. Jase owes us a trip to Hawaii, so #babybutlernumerodos will owe us a family trip to Destin. Smile Even though I can’t go, we may still send Jon. AdvoCare trips are WAYYYY too good to miss out on!

I have also been a little stressed out over some family stuff going on. Praying more than stressing, but also want to incorporate some yoga into my routine because that helps me tremendously.

Goals for next week: More water! More veggies. Maybe start Christmas shopping?? Ha! (No really. I don’t have ONE single gift.) We aren’t going big this year though because we finally traded my car in (it was having some big time issues) and got something new to us/used, so that’s our “gift” to each other.

Thoughts: I don’t know if it’s because we are so busy with Jase or if it’s just different the second time around, but we sometimes ‘forget’ I’m pregnant. Jon says all the time “I keep forgetting your pregnant.” Of course we don’t really forget, but it’s just not at the forethought of my mind constantly the way it was last go round. I know it’ll feel more real to me when I hit that 20 week mark & know the gender. That is so special to me! I am super, super thankful to be home and not working this pregnancy too.

Comparison: Here is my 15 week post with Jase. Funny, I was talking about my big hair being out of control, my pants getting tight, & trying to stay away from all the germs. Here is the 15 week bump from first pregnancy.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

2 Clean Chili Recipes

Georgia can’t seem to make up its mind with the weather, but we have had some pretttttty chili days (pun intended). Seriously, I don’t know how I ever played ball or ran outside in the freezing cold. I have turned into a total wimp & can barely survive walking to the car from the grocery store if it’s less than 60 degrees. So….cold weather means warm comfort food. What better than two tested & approved clean chili recipes??

I can’t take credit for either, but they are DELISH. And they are both pretty quick & easy too. Here ya go…enjoy on a day when it’s not 75 degrees outside (11 days before Christmas- weird).

Clean Turkey Chili:

Here is the link to Niki's recipe for clean turkey chili. Only thing I do differently is add 2 more cans of whatever kind of beans I have in my pantry…light red kidney beans, reg kidney beans, whatever. I also top with Greek yogurt cuz it tastes just like sour cream to me. Here are the ingredients you’ll need and her pic, which is way prettier than mine. (FYI: She has lots of great stuff on her blogs. Check em out!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 - 2.5 lbs. extra lean ground turkey (grass-fed beef or bison)
  • ½ cup chopped onions (or 1 tbsp. onion powder)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 -- 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 – 15 oz. can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 - 3 – 14.5 oz. cans Organic Diced Tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 -- 14.5 oz. can yellow corn (drained)
  • 1 -- 28 oz. can Rotel (do not drain)
  • 1 -- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. Splenda Brown Sugar blend
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. regular yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 - 2 tsp. salt

 

5 Ingredient (maybe 6) White Chicken Chili:

And HERE is the link to the white chicken chili. My mom found the recipe on Pinterest a while back and it was a total hit. We like to boil plain potatoes, cut them up & add them too, but that’s just a personal preference.. This is a little spicy, so take it easy on the salsa verde if you can’t handle some heat. Directions are on the link, but here is what you’ll need.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups cooked shredded chicken (*or see slow cooker method below, which uses uncooked chicken breasts)
  • 2 (15-oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained
  • 2 cups salsa verde (storebought or [homemade|http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/tomatillo-salsa-verde/])
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • potatoes (optional)
  • optional toppings: diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, crumbled tortilla chips

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Destination Diamond: Why We Love AdvoCare

Jonathan and I have the honor and privilege of being invited to an elite training offered by AdvoCare called Destination Diamond on November 11-13. We were truly humbled by the opportunity, especially when we saw the list of other attendees. If you were at Success School this August, several of the Rising Stars you saw recognized on stage were a part of our group, along with several other new diamonds and some sweet friends of ours. Earning an invitation to Destination Diamond has been a goal of ours for a while, so saying that we were beyond excited to get invited is quite an understatement.

I know some of you may not know exactly what we do or what our company stands for and might think we are just “vitamin salespeople.” (That couldn’t be further from the truth.)  Or maybe you just drink Spark & love the products but have no idea that we are a part of something so much BIGGER! I hope to give you a little glimpse into what AdvoCare is REALLY about by sharing some of our trip with you. These are a few of the reasons we know 100% we are in the RIGHT company. Destination Diamond was further confirmation & conviction for us to continue helping others through this vehicle God has used to bless us and so many others.

Our company was founded by a man named Charlie Ragus back in 1993, and he developed 10 principles that guide our direction and are the basis of our success.

  • Honor God through our faith, family and friends.
  • Respect and strengthen the family.
  • Believe in the dignity and the importance of the individual.
  • Create a standard of excellence recognized as superior by the direct sales industry.
  • Believe that honor, integrity and principles are the foundation of a great life and company.
  • Commit to mutual loyalty and trust between AdvoCare and its Distributors.
  • Establish and continually improve the vehicle of opportunity and the pursuit of financial freedom for all AdvoCare Distributors.
  • Commit to ongoing personal growth and development through professional training and educational programs.
  • Build self-esteem by promoting a sense of personal worth among all people.
  • Continually expand our market by providing the most effective and highest quality products and service available.

AdvoCare’s commitment to training us up and supporting us has always blown me away. For this event, they flew us out, provided our room, all of our meals & transportation, gave us all the free Spark & Rehydrate we wanted (I have been pregnant BOTH times we have visited corporate so I never get to take full advantage of the Spark fountains- ha!), and trained our socks off. Some of our leaders also spoiled us with some goodies. We are truly part of an INCREDIBLE team & are so thankful for all of the leaders we get to work with who have invested into our business and our lives.

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We all know that debt freedom leads to all other types of freedoms, especially in the realm of giving back. Because AdvoCare is a debt free company (and will soon be a billion dollar company at that), our corporate office gives back in our communities & to important causes. Richard Wright is our current president & CEO. He is an incredible family man that we greatly respect and admire, but has also been recognized in the part couple years from some pretty awesome achievements. Two that stick out to me the most are the 2013 Ernst & Young CEO of the Year, and the 2014 Seal Legacy Award Honoree. I am thankful he and Sherry lead by example and encourage a generous spirit amongst distributors.

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We just so happened to arrive in Dallas on Veteran’s Day, and that evening Richard was being recognized at the 4th Annual Seal Legacy Foundation Benefit & Gala. They were kind enough to invite us to attend with them & it was absolutely a highlight of our trip.

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It was held at AT&T Stadium, which is an absolutely incredible facility. Troy Aikman (one of Jonathan’s childhood faves) was there along with Roger Stallbach and Trevor Bayne. There were also several Navy Seals in the crowd. Really, really fun time.

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Right around 10 weeks pregnant! Whoop whoop! And check out my studdddd of a husband. Hottttie.

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Training started bright and early the next morning, and it was more than we could have imagined. We both filled up our journals with pages and pages of notes to bring home to our AMAZING team.

No seriously, have I ever told y’all how much I LOVE these people? Several of our team members have become really great friends of ours. They challenge us, support us, & raise our lid. We are super thankful for the friendships and relationships that have come into our life from being a part of this company. (People we NEVER would have otherwise met!)

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We loved getting a tour of the MASSIVE new distribution ’center that is equipped to handle the exponential growth AdvoCare is experiencing and going to continue to experience in coming years. Yep, still debt free, and guess what? Providing MORE jobs. That’s what’s up. (And can I just tell you that we KNOW it is a great place to work….smiling faces everywhere, incredible culture, and happy employees. That is rare. If you’re in the Plano, TX area, you should check them out if you’re looking for a job you will love.)

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We so enjoyed spending time with some of the corporate team & making new friends, but our favorite part was the reminder of exactly WHY we are doing AdvoCare.

I know I have said it before, but Jonathan and I both truly feel that being a part of this company is the best use of our time, resources, and God-given talents. The products are phenomenal- backed by science and they do what they say they’re going to do. They work when taken correctly, no doubt. And they are helping America, a country in a health crisis, become a healthier place. That makes my heart happy!!

But what makes my heart even happier is the intangibles. The things I am ever MORE passionate about than health, which y’all know is super, super important to me. AdvoCare is about creating a culture of strong leaders- specifically strong men- and couples who are leaders in their families, communities, and churches. AdvoCare encourages personal growth and for people to become disciplined and work hard. AdvoCare encourages debt freedom because it leads to all other types of freedoms, but more specifically allows us to give back at a higher level with our time and resources. AdvoCare encourages STRENGTHING of the family unit. America is in desperate, desperate need of all of those things. And it brings me such JOY to know that we have the opportunity to play a small part in adding value to the lives of others & helping them improve their circumstances.

In fact, my girl Niki just wrote a JAM UP blog post about this very topic. About how AdvoCare helped her become the best version of herself. This is so worth the read. And THAT is what it’s all about folks. (By the way, Niki is also a stay-at-home mom of 3 boys and earning a six figure income as one of the fastest growing leaders in all of AdvoCare…could not be MORE thankful to have her and Justin as part of our team.)

SOOOOOOOO…..These few days were completely refreshing & exactly what we needed.

I know we are blessed beyond measure to do something from home and LOTS of family time….something we both LOVE and look forward to every day…something that pays us substantially more than we could have ever made in our previous careers, which in turn allows us to give like we’ve always wanted to….something that is rewarding because we don’t make a dime unless we are helping others…something that has caused us both to grow substantially as individuals….something has strengthened our marriage because we get to work TOGETHER towards a common goal for our family every day…something that has allowed us to DREAM again. So here’s where it gets fun.

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We love the opportunity to help others who are looking for something similar. We know this is not for everyone, but it might be for you. I know that not everyone wants to be a work-from-home family. Actually, Jonathan & I both really enjoyed our jobs before we were introduced to AdvoCare. We did plan on bringing me home to be a stay-at-home-mom, but had no intentions of bringing Jon home. God had different plans for us! We also have people on our team who are earning a full-time income on a part time basis as a plan B income. Some are working to pay off debt with the extra income…some are saving for retirement…some are paying for private school or college education…some are able to cut back to part time or at least stop working so many jobs…some are looking to make enough to fund their 4-G network (groceries, gas, gifts, and games) in cash…some people do dislike their job/commute/boss & aren’t paid what they’re worth, so they want to replace their income so they can walk away. There are some people like us too, looking for a way to be able to bring mom home with the babes. That is one of my greatest passions.

We have found that it doesn’t take any specific background…anyone CAN be successful here…but there are a few qualities many of the top leaders possess that will absolutely help you in your journey. Some already have these naturally, and some have had to be worked on, but here they are.

  • hard worker
  • extremely coachable
  • WILL NOT QUIT (only way to fail in AdvoCare is to quit)
  • person of integrity/strong character
  • desire to help others

If you feel like this applies to you and you’re looking for more time, more money, more options, or all of the above, please feel free to reach out & let’s talk. We would love to help you see if this might be a good fit for you. If we can do it, I can assure you…so can you. And if it’s not for you, maybe someone popped into your mind who would be all over something like this? We would love for you to send them our way too.

And if nothing else, you seriously need to at least try Spark. It will ROCK your world & you will thank me.

Marriage Conference 2014

Jonathan & I attended a marriage conference with our church on Oct 31-Nov 1. I know I have shared before, but we are incredibly blessed that God placed us in a Sunday school class with such incredible mentors. They teamed up with another godly couple and Sunday school class to prepare for the marriage retreat. There were about 25 couples total. It was held at Winshape Retreat Center in Rome, Ga (on the campus of Barry College) and the facilities were absolutely GORGEOUS.

Somehow I managed to make it through the whole weekend without taking a single picture, so these are straight from Google. I wanted y’all to be able to see the facility though.

This was the group who went. We were the last ones to the picture (top left) because I had to potty. Story of my life.

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Marriage is SO, SO important to me. God takes our vows to Him very seriously, which means we should too. It is so sad to me to look around and see the state of the family unit across America, and I know that all roots back to bad marriages. You can take one look at the divorce rates in our country to see that not everyone takes marriage seriously.  No one is ever going to convince me an differently than believing that the BEST way to be a great parent is to be a GREAT spouse.  Kids NEED to see that. Great families start at home.

I am convinced that the only way to turn this nation around is to bring restoration to the family unit, and the best way I know to do that is to start by focusing on solid marriages. I am EXTREMELY passionate about godly marriages, but having been married for over 4 years & watching both of our sets of parents have marriages going strong after 35+ and 40+ years, I know it takes WORK. It takes a lot of effort. Compromise. Forgiveness. Devotion. Did I mention work?? Jonathan & I know strive to live a life pleasing to the Lord and to honor him through our marriage and family, but we also know that we are not immune to struggles. That’s exactly why we are such big believers in "Fixing the roof while it's not raining." 

The retreat theme was “Life for Marriage…Marriage for Life” and was based on Galatians 2:20.

They used some videos from Jimmy & Karen Evans’ video series called Marriage on the Rock. Here is the link to their Youtube page with tons of great videos. Wouldn’t it be AWESOME if you & your spouse took 10-15 minutes every evening before bed to watch just ONE video? I can’t think of a better investment of your time.

It was a really impactful weekend, but one thing I have learned from attending lots of conferences is that you need to pick just a FEW key points to work on and start implementing them. It will take work & time, but you can discipline yourself to start making changes & daily progress. That is more effective than trying to take it ALL in because that’s too overwhelming. What I took from this particular conference was very personal, so instead of talking about that specifically I’m going to share some bullet points with some of the points that stood out to me the most.  (They purchased the license for Marriage Today: Marriage on the Rock by Jimmy Evans if you’re interested. Would be a great small group or Sunday school study.) Enjoy!!

  • God has a plan for you to enjoy an awesome marriage, but you can never be husband/wife your mate needs you to be without Him.
  • He desires for you to fully surrender your life to Him, trusting Christ to live and love through you.
  • Christ IN us is the Life needed for a successful marriage. He wants your marriage for life to demonstrate His commitment to us, His bride, for eternity.
  • With the Lord, we can experience a fresh dependence on the Father to walk together in marriage one day at a time.

1) The Foundational Laws of Marriage: Marriage works when you do it God’s way.

  • 4 Foundational Laws:
  1. Law of Priority: God designed marriage to operate as the top priority, except for your personal relationship with God.
  2. Law of Pursuit: Never quit pursuing your spouse. Marriage requires work. Are you pursuing your spouse the same way you did when you were dating?
  3. Law of Possession: Never make an important decision without the input and agreement of your spouse. Everything you owned before marriage is now yours together.
  4. Law of Purity: Learn to quickly say “I’m sorry, I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
  • God has created marriage based on 4 foundational laws. He will bless and protect every couple that honors these laws. Even though you may be convinced that your spouse has most of the problems, you cannot change your spouse. You can only change you. Listen carefully to the warning signs from your spouse when your priorities are in the wrong order. Pursuing your spouse isn’t just work for special occasions, it is a daily decision that you are going to work on the relationship so that your marriage gets better year after year. True intimacy comes from two people creating an atmosphere where they can share everything and admit they need each other.

2) Understanding and Meeting Your Spouse’s Needs: Our different needs can bring us together.

  • God has made us to be different. Let us not make these differences a battleground, but rather celebrate God’s unique design.
  • Selfishness destroys marriage. The best marriage is two servants in love.
  • His needs: Honor/Respect, Sex, Fun & Friendship, Support at Home
  • Her Needs: Security, Non-sexual affection, Open & Honest communication, Leadership (These are all general…the rule & not the exception.)
  • Only Jesus can meet our deepest needs. We may open ourselves up to Him to meet our spouse’s needs. His life in us meeting needs through us. That’s when marriage is amazing and long-lasting.
  • When a woman gives her husband honor and meets his needs, it fills his world and draws him back to his wife. Many women are waiting to honor their husbands until they see the change in his heart. This is backwards from what God says. Only the Lord can change your husband, but you can be the agent of that change by praising him for what he does right.
  • Just like men need their wives to be honoring and fun, women need men to sacrificially love them. By following Christ’s example to be a servant leader, men can fulfill their wife’s desires and reignite the passion in their relationship. For a man, meeting your wife’s needs is not just a matter of responsibility, it is the basis for romance and spiritual connection in your relationship.
  • Wives- win your husband with a gentle and quiet spirit, without a word. The enemy is the “accuser of the brethren.” We are not meant to be accusers, so stop nagging, blaming, and criticizing.
  • Most people take the energy God gave them to LOVE each other and spend it trying to change each other.

3) Destructive Husbands and Wives: You can disarm destructive behaviors in your relationship.

  • The Four Reasons We Become Destructive
  1. Ignorance
  2. Past hurts
  3. Bad friends & negative influences
  4. Defensiveness
  • The four main destructive behaviors in marriage:
  1. Criticism
  2. Control & dominance
  3. Checking out
  4. Cruelty & abuse
  • Whether control, criticism, past hurts, or unforgiveness, we can all be destructive in our behavior. We need to realize that we can’t change our spouse, but we can take responsibility for ourselves. Freedom occurs when we admit our destructive behaviors to God and each other. Commit to building up your spouse with praise and positive actions. As you do your part, God will heal the destructive areas of oyur marriage.
  • Forgiveness means cancelling a debt. 1 Cor: Love does not keep record of wrongdoing.
  • Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.
  • Pray for your enemies, even if your feelings don’t line up.
  • Pray for and BLESS those who persecute you. You can’t hate those you’re praying for.

4) Parents- Past and Present: Everything we do affects our family for generations.

  • More than any other factor in your life, parents have the greatest impact on us. If your parents had a good influence on your life and then you get married, you carry that influence into marriage. But the problem is any negative influence you saw from your parents, you also brought that into marriage. You may not remember everything your parents said, but you do remember the example they modeled for you. We have all been greatly influenced by our families. The good news is, we can overcome any negative behaviors in our lives so that future generations live in freedom and blessing. (EVERYTHING we say and do affects our children and grandchildren for FOUR generations. -Exodus 34:7 WOW!! What in incredible responsibility.)
  • More is “caught than taught.” We speak more with our actions than our lips.
  • We want mercy for ourselves but don’t want to give it to others.
  • These next two pages were extremely valuable, so I just had to take a picture because it’s way too much to type. Definitely some great info about parents & in-laws.

photo 1 (6)photo 2 (7)

5) Sexual Fulfillment in Marriage: God’s design for sex is a lifetime of pleasure and delight.

  • Sex should be something we enjoy and look forward to in marriage. In a healthy relationship, there is effort and forethought given towards sex to make it fun and pleasurable. However, Satan’s ultimate goal is that we be ashamed of our sexuality so that we don’t talk about sex with our spouse.
  • God created our sexual differences to make our relationship more fulfilling. For example, men are in tune with their emotions after sex while women need to be emotionally in tune with their husbands to feel sexual. Men are visually responsive. Women are relationally responsive. Men are compartmental. Women are inclusive.
  • The Five Ingredients to Sexual Fulfillment:
  1. Commit to meeting your spouse’s sexual needs in a committed and faithful manner.
  2. Communicate your sexual needs and allow your spouse to communicate.
  3. Commit to sexual purity to protect the integrity of the marriage.
  4. Create an atmosphere of sexual pleasure.
  5. Communicate and deal with sexual problems together.
  • God built the fence to keep the wild animals OUT. We can have FUN within the bounds God gives.
  • Do not withhold from your partner.
  • Sex is a special gift from God and sacred to marriage. We are different by God’s design and when we respect and serve each other, we complete each other and our marriage becomes fulfilling for us both. We have to work at creating a pure sexual atmosphere in our marriage where we can communicate, pursue each other, and meet each other’s needs. We have to be committed to working out our problems promptly when they arise as as our sexual needs change throughout life. It’s especially important to women that you romance your wife and meet her emotional needs.
  • Guard yourself before marriage. Obviously this post is geared toward marries couples, but it is so important to help our children understand that sexual immorality and anything outside of the marriage bed is sin. There are consequences (no matter what society says, this is what the BIBLE says) & that can negatively impact marriages. Encourage & pray for sexual purity.

SO….there you have it! I hope you got some value out of that the way I did the first time & rereading it to write this post. Here is my best encouragement to you. Choose 1-2 areas to really focus. Study scriptures, pray God’s Word, and focus on improving in that area daily. Focus on what YOU can change in your marriage. Our natural tendency when talking about marriage or reading a post like this is to focus on our spouse’s shortcomings and what they can do differently rather than on our own iniquities. We tend to minimize our own actions and maximize others. I pray you recognize that as pride and avoid the natural urge to focus on the speck in your brother’s eye when you have a plank in your own. (This is especially a struggle for me.) Focus on the things YOU can do today to improve your marriage, set the example that will impact your family for generations to come, and have the long-lasting abundant JOY God designs for our marriage. It’s never too late for restoration…