Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Our Southern Road Trip - Myrtle Beach

I'm a firm believer that all Americans need to take a road trip every once in a while. 
It frees the spirit. Let's you get out in the world and be an adventurer.
Our ancestors (think back to the first Americans), were adventurers, dreamers, explorers. 

That's the American spirit. 

Daniel and I needed to get away and recapture that spirit badly! We planned and saved since Christmas, and last week we hit the road.


 First stop had to be at a Georgia Zaxby's.

Now I know we have a few of these here in Florida, but I had never been.

I had to try some Zax sauce!

All in all, it was a pretty fun place. Cute, quirky, inside decor. Good chicken tenders and yummy dipping sauce!







 Little by little, we made our way up to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

It probably took us about 9 hours (since we made stops) in the car, but we did get to our condo before dark.



 Sadly, it did rain the ENTIRE way. As each hour rolled by, the temperature outside got colder and colder.

We even got a flat tire on the ride up. Poor Daniel had to change the tire in the freezing cold! He is so strong for our family.

But, a little cold, wind, and rain (and flat tire) couldn't get us down! That's all part of the adventure and experience! I still treasure these moments when it's just the two of us, trying to figure things out and solve problems.



We stayed three nights at SeaSide Condos and LOVED IT! With an indoor pool and jacuzzi, we didn't mind that the beach was too cold. I could imagine how beautiful this beach would be in June and July (their prime season). They had plenty of outdoor lounge chairs, an outdoor pool, and a beautiful beach to walk right out to.

What I love about staying in condos particularly (we've stayed one time in Daytona before), is that they have fully stocked kitchens. You aren't confined to just eat out all the time on your trip. This has saved us so much time and money while vacationing! It's nice to have breakfast ready right when you wake up.



One thing that we did NOT like about South Carolina are it's roads! Oh my goodness! They had tons of potholes and cracks in major interstates as well as local roads. Apparently, it's some what of an issue and hot topic throughout the state.

Because of the weather, we weren't able to go to many of Myrtle Beach's (outdoor) attractions. They had tons of mini golf places, outdoor shopping, and destination dining.

Two of their famous spots include Broadway at the Beach and the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. For us, being from Florida, these spots seemed a lot like Daytona Beach. Even the dining (Planet Hollywood and House of Blues), was a little disappointing, as we have all of those and more in Orlando.



So, what's a Florida couple to do when the beach is cold? 

Explore other cities! 

We got the flat tire fixed and headed out for day trips to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA!
More to come...







Sunday, March 23, 2014

How Noah Helped Me Understand Vision & Strategy

Click for YouTube video




I can't help but to hum this song when thinking about the name Noah. It's an older song, by a band called Noah & the Whale. Too fun!







In any case, many of you remember when I posted this photo on Instagram several weeks ago...

I had just finished some personal quiet time reflecting and reading the story of Noah and the ark.

Since January, I've been really focusing on the idea of (biblical) vision and strategy. The story of Noah is a great place to see an example of God deciding on something, sharing His vision, and then giving Noah strategy.

While I did challenge you in my Instagram post, to see if you could find the different stages God walks Noah through, I thought I'd follow up with a blog post of my own notes.


Here we go.. Part One for ya...


What is interesting to me is that before we ever think, hear, or speak of something, God has already decided on it. Truly. He looks at His kingdom and decides what He wants to set in motion.

Then, God gives Noah the vision of what is to come. Notice that God doesn't tell Noah to build an ark just yet. I forgot that that happened in that order. God doesn't even say (yet) that he will spare Noah and his family when he destroys the earth (verse 6:13). Scary! Aren't all visions from God scary at first?! Thankfully, God reveals to us the strategy...

God shares what Noah should do, and then shares what He will do. Isn't that nice? God gives him specific instructions to carry out, and then God shares what will also do in this vision.

Now, Noah has an incredible decision to make. He hears the vision and specific instructions (strategy) God gave him, for him to carry out. He even understands what God will be doing ("I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth..." v.17) on his end. Noah can choose to ignore it, or embrace it. How many times have I ignored the vision and strategy? How many times have I chosen not to embrace the change? Or been hesitant, fearful, or upset about the change..?

Let's see what Noah does...



Yep, Noah does ALL that God asks of him. That's pretty incredible.

So, what happens next? God tells Noah to stand aside. Yep, many times after we've done our part we think there's still more work to be done. There is- it's just that God does that work. Stand aside and let Him work.

In my life right now, I feel like I'm in this stage- "Then the Lord shut him in". It's hard to stand aside and let God do his work. But I know that I can never get to the next stage in biblical strategy without standing aside. Now, let me preface that letting God work is NOT something you should say when you know you are being lazy, know that you are ignoring taking action, or knowing that you are sitting on the sidelines. If you know in your heart of hearts that God is keeping you out of things right now because He is working, then you're in a good place.

The comforting thing about waiting on God is that He knows there will be an end to His work. I promise He'll remember you- that you're sitting on the sidelines ready to take action. Eager to work on that vision.

When Noah feels like the flood is over, he tests to see if God's work is complete. What shocked me when I read it was that Noah tested the situation over several weeks. WEEKS. I can't tell you the amount of times I've made a snap decision, because I was tired of waiting. Boy, that never helped me. Noah is wise in that he tests the situation. He doesn't anchor up and park the ark, and let down the gangway (sorry, I'm terrible with nautical terms). He doesn't let down one of those small boats to row to shore, or jump off the ark for a swim. He tests.

And then, something amazing happens...


God tells Noah that this journey is over. Wohoo! The vision is realized! What God desired and Noah's obedience came to fruition! Isn't it special when God tells us that His vision is complete? That He is proud of us. Sweet, sweet moment.

But what does Noah do next? Does he build himself a new home? Does he scout out for the best land where he can settle?

No.

He works on building an altar to make sacrifices. Noah spends time worshiping and praising God. Now for some of us, when God tells you the journey is over, it makes us really, really, want to worship and shout for joy! Praise God this is OVER WITH! But other times, do we want to just skip over this step and get on with life? Are we ready to just move on?

But where do we go when we move on? What if Noah skipped over the praise and worship thing? What would he do?

He would do what HE wants. But that's not the best for our life. By worshiping, Noah gives God the opportunity to show him how to live in this next season. Things are different. Life has to be lived differently. Allow God to show you how He wants you to live after this vision has been realized.



Lastly, I'm calling this final stage in biblical vision and strategy, the "God is pleased" stage. God is pleased. How joyous!

Notice how it started with God in the first stage, and God in the final stage. We just work and wait some where in the middle.


So, I want to challenge you... Take some time to read through this passage starting in Genesis 6 and think on God's current vision for your life. 

If you feel like the word "vision" is a little to ambiguous, think of the words "change" or direction".


What direction has God been orchestrating in your life right now? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our Essential Oils Craze


All the ladies at work are getting into essential oils. Out of a team of about 30, there are 7 of us who are diffusing away!

Exciting!

I never knew much about aromatherapy, but one of the girls shared with me about it, and then I started talking to another girl about it, and so on, and so on...

Basically, essential oils are derived from sections of plants, and are used to help with physical, mental, and emotional needs. Different oils are used for different things. Each is a very highly concentrated liquid that comes from the plant. Aromatherapy is the practice of using those essential oils for healing purposes.

Young Living seems to be the big guy out there for essential oils and aromatherapy. But, I have also found two other brands that sell the oils- now essential oils and Piping Rock. Between all us ladies at work, we have all 3 brands and love them!

There are a few ways to use essential oils. You can apply to the skin, ingest, or diffuse in the air. If you are doing anything other than diffusing, please make sure you read up! There are some do's and don'ts of applying to the skin and ingesting.

In any case, I've been diffusing and I love it! I found a cute little diffuser online and have been using it at night and on the weekends at home. My favorite scent is the lavender, but I just recently bought orange, lemon, and cedar wood. I wanted some citrus scents (especially the orange) to cheer me up. They are believed to help people feel energized, positive, and happy. Lately, I've felt lethargic and not so cheery.

Some other favorites of the ladies at work include peppermint (helps with headaches), wintergreen (helps with nasal passages and congestion), and bergamot (helps with stress anxiety). I can't wait to get paid and buy some more!











Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why I Finally Stopped Doing Work Outs I Hate



Last summer, Daniel and I got motivated to go through the P90X program. So many of our friends started it and stopped, so we wanted to see if we could be the ones to finish! We got through two months of the three month program, and totally quit. Life got in the way (hello- August hit!), and neither one of us loved the program enough to finish.

Also last year, I signed up for a several 5K races (I completed 4 total). Training to run was new and totally different. Daniel encouraged me and motivated me the whole time, but after the second race, I was over it. The third race really did me in, as the cobblestone-paved route in downtown Orlando tore up my feet.

Before last year (back in 2012) we joined Planet Fitness. That was a fun experience too! It was close to home, the monthly membership price was great, and we enjoyed going right after work together. But, there were no classes (traditional ones like Zumba, spin, Pilates, etc), which is what I loved in college. And after a while, the novelty of the gym wore off too.

Finally in 2014, I decided that I'm done with work outs that I don't like. I thought to myself- there's got to be more out there than just running (running people swear up and down nothing's better), and gyms I see advertised on tv. This just can't be it!

I pulled out my handy-dandy tablet, and searched around on the internet for top-rated women's fitness dvd's. I found this super-helpful article from Women's Day, that shared their top picks for women's dvd's. It was like a light bulb went off. FINALLY! Work outs that look like I could do them! I took a chance and bought the first two dvd's listed- Denise Austin's Body Make Over Mix and Ellen Barrett's Fat Burning Fusion.

OH MY GOODNESS- these changed my life!



I finally felt like I wasn't doing some program or activity meant for someone else. I was actually interested in the dvd's I chose. They were girly, had just enough reps for me to complete, but not exhaust myself. And, these women were encouraging, positive, and friendly! Could this get any better?

It's been two and half months now, and I'm discovering more and more dvd's and work out types that I love. I've added another dvd to my collection- Denise Austin Latin Dance. And I've found so many routines that I can stream for free using my Amazon Prime membership! Denise is on there! Wohoo! I've also found Mary Helen Bowers with Ballet Beautiful. Love it!



Ones that are not on my list to try- anything that says "bootcamp", kickboxing, Jillian Michael's work out dvd's (love her on The Biggest Loser, but not as my personal trainer!). I'm also not into the 30-day, 90-day programs out there. I've realized that I'm not on a "program". I exercise because that's what all humans need (kids and adults!). We were designed and created to move our bodies! I learned about this idea in my Made to Crave book last month.



So, where do you start? Well, think about what you liked doing as a kid. Were you into soccer? Did you ride bikes around the neighborhood all afternoon? What got you moving as a kid? Swim practice, track meets, neighborhood basketball?



I was into dance when I was younger. I also really enjoyed riding my bike around the different neighborhoods in my small town. Now as an adult, I'm enjoying dance dvd's (Zumba, ballet, some Pilates) and my husband and I ride our cruiser bikes around our neighborhood as well. I know that because I enjoy these types of exercise, I'll be more likely to stick with them throughout adulthood.

What gets you moving?


Friday, March 7, 2014

First Friday Book Review - The First Five Years

Title and AuthorThe First Five Years: Make the Love Investment That Lasts a Lifetime By: Bill & Pam Farrel

Release Date: September 2007

Page Length: 272 pages

How I got the Book: ChristianBook.com

Find OnlineGoodreads Amazon ChristianBook.com

Description: "Every couple plants seeds of success or failure in the first five years of their marriage. If they lack basic communication skills and the ability to solve conflicts in areas like sex, finances, and emotional intimacy, they won't make it past the five-year-mark. 

Authors, speakers, and columnists Bill and Pam Farrel offer sound, simple-to-apply advice to help couples establish firm foundations for their relationships. Based on their own successful twenty-five-year-marriage, Bill (who is also a marriage counselor) and Pam have developed strong principles for staying the course when life challenges their relationship. Lively, fun, and practical for newlyweds anywhere in THE FIRST FIVE YEARS, this book is the best investment a couple can make in building a happy, long-lasting marriage."

My Thoughts:

With February being the month of all things love, I thought it'd be fun to read a book on marriage. This one has been on my bucket list to read for a loonnnggg time. Although, coincidentally, I think now was the best time for me to read it.

Daniel and I read one of Bill and Pam's earlier books, Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, when we were dating. LOVED THIS BOOK! The First Five Years has the same type of wisdom, but is relevant for married couples (rather than dating or engaged couples). Specifically, I would say married couples between the 2 year and 4 year anniversary mark could really gain from this book.

So Why Those Years?

Something very special happens when we are first married. Life is good, love is blissful, and the sex is red-hot! And then some time after you eat that year-old frozen cake...life begins to set in. During those early years of marriage, we "create patterns of living and relating".

Not only are we trying to grow and nurture this new living thing (your marriage and new family unit as a couple), but we have to walk through each one of these difficult decisions:

  • Where will we work?
  • Should we complete more education, training, or career development?
  • Do we want to rent or buy a home? What kind of home? What kind or mortgage?
  • Where will we attend church? How involved will we be? 
  • How involved will we be in the community? 
  • Do we want to be parents? If so, how many kids do we want to have? If not, what contraception will we use to prevent pregnancy? 
  • How will we deal with in-laws, single friends, married friends, extended family? 
  • What cars will we drive? 
  • How do we want to spend or save our money? 
  • How will we spend our recreational time? Where do we want to spend the holidays? 
Daniel and I have walked through each one of these in just the 2.5 years we've been married. And trust me, we have a fun story for each one of them! 

After year one, but before you get closer to year five, you probably want to take a breather and evaluate how you're doing on laying the foundation of your marriage. This book is a great resource to do just that. With Daniel and I being married 2.5 years, we've walked through enough of the decisions mentioned above, but we still have time to change bad or ineffective behaviors, before lifetime patterns set in. 


Outline & Writing Style: 

This book is divided into four sections- Get in the Game, Invest in Your Sex Life, Figure it Out, and Tough on Me, Tender on You. It was a very easy read, and I was able to read this book one section at a time. I found myself really engaged in the material and stories. 

Bill and Pam share personal stories from their early years of marriage, which are adorable, and totally relateable. Here are some quotes and snippets I especially loved!

  • God has a specific dream and purpose for each married couple. "Here, at the beginning of your life together, your adventure begins. It is now your privilege to find the dream, fine-tune the dream, and fund the dream."
  • Time with friends and family: "...you will want to spend time with those people who have been, are, and will be committed to your success as a couple."
  • "Women feel a need to control. Men feel a need to be selfish." (Yep, that was an eye-opening chapter!)
  • "Everything looks better after sex." (Opening sentence of Chapter 5!)
  • "Sex resets your happiness clock." (Why on earth do we forget that after year 1?!)
  • Decision making skills: "The way you make decisions sets the emotional atmosphere of your relationship."
  • "We all make mistakes. It is what we do in response to the mistake that makes the difference between great marriages and miserable couples." (Amen! Lord knows I've made bad decisions and mistakes, and yes, I was definitely miserable!)


Overall:

Such a good book! This book has given me great confidence as we enter into the later half of our first five years together. I now know what it takes to strengthen our marriage even more, and to lay a firm foundation for the rest of our life.  

If you feel like you want a good gauge on the health your marriage, I would strongly encourage you to take the time to read The First Five Years. I promise, you won't regret it!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

A One Truck Family





We're now a one car- or maybe make that one truck- family. Yep, we took the plunge and sold our Honda Civic.

Raise your hand if you think we're crazy! :)

Many of you know that Daniel and I have been living paycheck-to-paycheck for a looonnngggg time. What that means is that your paycheck covers all of your living expenses, but when something out of the ordinary comes up, you don't have money for it. There's no wiggle room, no extra. Car repair. Friend/Family birthday presents. Haircuts. Yeah, you just don't really have the money for it.

We've had other seasons in our marriage (mid-2012) where we've scaled back on month-to-month expenses to help get some relief, but it never was a big enough sacrifice to really change our paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.

In the past two years, we've prayed for the windfall. The flood. The outpouring of money. That big lump sum that was going to be our saving grace. Or the higher raise at work that would make us feel worthwhile. We know that God is big enough to do that for us. He loves us enough to do that.

Well, we saw that time after time, that was not going to happen for us. There was no non-sacrificial option for that to happen. God could do it, but He knew (and deep down, we knew) that would never the best option for us emotionally or spiritually.

Recently I started researching how families lived on one income. There are so many couples we know that live on one income. How on earth do they do it?! What's their secret?

With just browsing the internet, I discovered that many families try to get their rent or mortgage down to $500 a month. Ummm.. what? Yep, they recommended that your monthly food budget be about the same as your monthly housing budget.

I was crushed.

We bought a house in 2012, and while our monthly mortgage payment is great, it's not $500 great. So, shoot, maybe we can't be a one-income family. Maybe we can't get out of debt. Oh, do I feel like the hamster on the wheel.......

Fortunately, after enough searching around online, I did find one other secret to living on less- one car families. Yep, families that choose to have one car. Now, this I could get behind!

They described the benefits they've experienced...
  • Less money going towards car insurance
  • Spending more time as a family in the car
  • Less responsibility with managing only one car instead of two
  • More active thinking about where you are driving around to
And some challenges... 
  • Planning who gets to use the car when and where
  • Carpooling to work
  • Realizing that using one car will rack up miles and maintenance quickly
Daniel and I talked about it, prayed about it, and moved forward. We realized that we were really a one-car family anyway. We already carpool to work (which by the way- I love carpooling with him. We get to talk more each day because we're apart of each other's commute!). On the weekends, we really don't go any where. We both have bicycles (yes, bicycles) and like to ride them around our town. So, we can always use those if we need to go to the grocery store or Target, etc. Fortunately, in our town, everything is very close. 

By selling this car, we no longer have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. We will have money left over each month so that we can start saving again. Giving again. Breathing room. It's a huge relief and a great feeling. 

If you are struggling with debt and high month-to-month living costs, please know that it will get better. Let me say that again: it will get better. 

Keep in the faith and turn to God's word to comfort your spirit and show you a way out of the endless cycle. God will show you a way if you come to him with a gentle spirit and open heart. Challenge yourself to see where you can cut-back and live without. But also identify your must-have. Yes, that's not a plural. Just one must-have. For me, it was my iphone. I use that thing for so much, that I just was not ready to get ride of my smart phone. 

We've been a one car family for about a month now, and nothing feels weird or like a sacrifice. It's a huge relief to know that I'm only responsible for the maintenance of one vehicle. I love spending time with Daniel each day during our commute. 


What a wonderful and treasured gift this has become. This idea of living with less.