March 2016 Goals

I love March. It brings the first hints of spring and longer daylight hours as well as my husband's birthday and the anniversary of our engagement! This time of year often feels like a season of new birth as we emerge from winter, and it is sweet.

We learned so much and had a great time with other married couples at  our church 's marriage conference this year!

We learned so much and had a great time with other married couples at our church's marriage conference this year!

February had several full weekends including traveling to Tennessee for Valentine's Day with two other couples, hosting friends for our church's marriage conference, and spending a long weekend in NC visiting sweet friends and family. In between all of that, our family calendar kept us in a great flow of communicating with each other and spending our days intentionally.

Most of all, I'm so grateful for the people and precious relationships that made February special, and I look forward to how we can continue cultivating that this month.

I cannot describe how valuable spending time with other couples who share similar values has been for us. Investing in these friendships has brought so much richness to our lives. For the second year in a row, we went on a Valentine's weekend trip with friends, and we hope it will be an ongoing tradition!

I cannot describe how valuable spending time with other couples who share similar values has been for us. Investing in these friendships has brought so much richness to our lives. For the second year in a row, we went on a Valentine's weekend trip with friends, and we hope it will be an ongoing tradition!

Franklin TN_The LovingKind

February Goals Progress

  • Have three meaningful date nights with Woody
  • February family calendar planning
  • Plan and enjoy Valentine's weekend with Woody and friends
  • Invite Mom for a weekend in Birmingham
  • Kick off Young Marrieds Small Group with the Bradshaws
  • Post friendship list where I can regularly see it
  • Have two friend times-coffee, lunch, dinner, etc.
  • Write for the TLK blog (two posts plus goals)
  • Host The Orchard, meeting two
  • Try YNAB (We are loving YNAB so far!)
  • Write thank you notes (I got a few done, but still a few to go!)
  • NC trip with Woody to visit family and friends
  • Choose blessing fund purpose

March Goals

Three date nights with Woody
Family calendar planning night with Woody
Family budget party
Host Woody's family for a weekend in Birmingham
See all of our parents in person
Supper Club
Work on writing projects
Two blog posts in addition to monthly goals
Research bedding options (mattress, bed, etc.) for guest room (suggestions welcomed!)

I'd love to connect with you about your goals for March. Share in the comments below or leave a link to where you've shared them online. 

Also, if you're looking for a great tool to get started with meaningful goal setting, my absolute go to are PowerSheets from the Lara Casey Shop!
 

July 2015 Goals

Well, hello there, July 13! Woody and I embarked on an impromptu beach vacation at the end of June through the weekend of the Fourth, and that put a kink in my goal setting flow. I'm realizing more and more these days that I simply can't do it all. In this case, a week away with my love won out, so here we are with the first mid-month goals post! 

Sweet moments on the pier in St. Simons captured by our friend and photographer,  Sarah DeShaw .

Sweet moments on the pier in St. Simons captured by our friend and photographer, Sarah DeShaw.

In every year of our marriage so far, Woody and I have saved the majority of our vacation time for our anniversary celebrations in November. Last year, as I watched friends and coworkers head to the beach in June and July, I realized waiting for vacation until November just wasn't cutting it! There is something about a midyear break that is good for the soul, and I wanted in on it.

We began the year intending to take a summer beach trip, but when we got a contract on a house in the spring, June and July turned into home renovation months. Then, that contract fell through (full story to come), and we found ourselves in late May with no house and no beach plans. When June arrived, we decided it wasn't too late to make it happen and planned our summer vacation in about two weeks. As we quickly made plans, I realized it would be our first full week away since our honeymoon two and a half years ago! I couldn't believe it.

These bikes are the best! We rented them and rode around  Sea Island  even as the rain sprinkled down on us. They were adding more bikes for the weekend of the Fourth, which explains the lovely truck and cardboard boxes behind us! 

These bikes are the best! We rented them and rode around Sea Island even as the rain sprinkled down on us. They were adding more bikes for the weekend of the Fourth, which explains the lovely truck and cardboard boxes behind us! 

Our vacation week was so good for us, and it's safe to say we won't let another year pass without taking off for a full week (or two!). It was refreshing to step away from the flow of daily life and breathe in some different air. We have a lot of great things happening in Birmingham right now, so it was actually a little hard to leave, but it was so important that we did. In addition to giving ourselves time to retreat from life's everyday responsibilities, it was a helpful reminder that things can go on for a week without us (shocker, I know). For our getaway, we chose to return to St. Simons Island, one of our favorite spots in the world. I hope to share more with you about why we love this place soon.

How is your summer going, friends? Have you made time to retreat? Whether it's a day, a week, a month, or some length of time in between, I hope you'll create the opportunity for your soul to rest this summer. In fact, it would make a great summer goal for all of us!

S'mores in the summer! While on vacation, we got to see our dear friends,  Sarah  and Brent, who live in the St. Simons area. This particular evening, we went to hear the bagpiper play on the golf greens at The Lodge at Sea Island as the ocean waves rolled by. And yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.

S'mores in the summer! While on vacation, we got to see our dear friends, Sarah and Brent, who live in the St. Simons area. This particular evening, we went to hear the bagpiper play on the golf greens at The Lodge at Sea Island as the ocean waves rolled by. And yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.

June Goals Progress

  • Make vacation plan with Woody Not only did we make our vacation plan for the year, but we also took an impromptu beach trip! Double hooray for accomplishing this goal!
  • Clean out my closet in prep for capsule wardrobe This hasn't happened yet, but I did start reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" which is setting me up for success!
  • Write and post three blog posts
  • Celebrate Christy's wedding
  • Continue triune wellness plan with Woody I'm learning I need a really solid plan to make this happen effectively
  • 30th birthday planning
  • Celebrate Father's Day with my dad We had a special weekend at the lake, and I prepared all the meals, which is a big step for this cook-in-training!
  • Sigma Kappa work group research
  • Make prayer list

Standing monthly goals

  • Send June birthday cards
  • Write Woody a love note
  • Goals blog post
  • Budget party with Woody
Happy Independence Day! Love this festive flag at the  Sea Island  Beach Club.

Happy Independence Day! Love this festive flag at the Sea Island Beach Club.

July Goals

The numbers beside each monthly goal indicate the corresponding yearly goal.
Also, I am continuing to work on staying simple, yet very purposeful with my goals.

Write four blog posts (5)
Close on our home! (1) I can't wait to share the full update on our house journey!
Host Sarah and Brent in Birmingham (31)
Send 30th birthday party invitations (12, 33)
Watercolor (10, 11)
Celebrate July 4th with family (25, 33)

Standing monthly goals

Send July birthday cards
Write Woody a love note
Goals blog post
Budget party with Woody

What are you excited to do in July? Even though we're now mid-month, there is absolutely still time to make it count for what matters in your heart. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or leave a link to your own goals blog post!

creating a wedding registry: part 1

I’m so grateful we got to create a wedding registry and even more grateful for friends and family who blessed us with thoughtful, beautiful and useful gifts. From my favorite cake stand to our practical microwave splatter shield, I love knowing people who care for us helped us establish our home.

Just after we said "I do!"  Photo by  Sarah DeShaw

Just after we said "I do!" 
Photo by Sarah DeShaw

Planning a wedding can be challenging, throw in selecting items that have the possibility to be part of your home forever, and it can be downright overwhelming. When we were engaged, I kept coming back to the memory of when my mom gave me a hand mixer in college. It was one of three she received as a wedding gift in the 70's and it was unopened. That's a long time for a mixer to be hanging around, so I was feeling the pressure to make some really good registry selections!

Now that we're a couple years into marriage, I love my hand mixer, but I'm comfortable knowing I may buy a new one someday and that is ok. Simply put, registering for wedding gifts is important and worth doing well, but it is not permanent or irreversible. It's not worth panicking or arguing over, however, if you do both, trust that you are not alone. 

Registering for gifts is not something you do every day, and while it can be fun, it's not as easy as it looks! Hopefully these tips will make it a touch easier for you.
Get your registry guns ready, friends, here are my best tips for registering from the heart!

1. If you don’t use an item (or even know what it is) before getting married, chances are you won’t use it after you're married.

It’s taken two and half years of marriage for me to start feeling comfortable in the kitchen—I still avoid touching raw meat, just for perspective. But, for some reason, I had the false impression that the bulk of a wedding registry should be focused on kitchen tools. So, I proceeded to fill our registry with kitchen items I suppose I thought some "magical marriage dust" would teach me how to use. With our combined kitchen experience adding up to very little, even trying to choose the items we wanted from the never-ending selection proved difficult.

Instead of walking into registering trying to meet some false expectation of what you think you need or "should" register for, take the time to talk about what is important to you in building a home and create your registry around that. Whether it’s cooking, entertaining, relaxing, being outside, hosting overnight guests, or a combination, let your values for your home guide the items on your registry.


Tip: A friend of mine told me that after creating their initial registry, she often edited it online, and I think this is so smart! Registering can be daunting, but the option to update and change things online helps take some of the pressure off because you can fine-tune your choices along the way.


The first wedding gift we received was this beautiful cake stand. I found it in  Macy's  and "begged" Woody to register for it. Of course he said yes even if he didn't totally understand the value of a beautiful cake stand. He now loves eating homemade cookies that are often kept in it, and it is one of my favorite pieces in our home! Photo by  Rachel Coffey

The first wedding gift we received was this beautiful cake stand. I found it in Macy's and "begged" Woody to register for it. Of course he said yes even if he didn't totally understand the value of a beautiful cake stand. He now loves eating homemade cookies that are often kept in it, and it is one of my favorite pieces in our home!
Photo by Rachel Coffey

2. You don’t need to determine your “forever” home style before you get married.

As ridiculous as this seems to me now, part of me honestly thought we needed to determine our “forever” home style when registering. From linens to décor, I was focused on defining our style as a couple, but as an almost three-year-old wife, I see how unnecessary and unrealistic that effort was. I now appreciate how our style has developed in the first few years of marriage, and expect it to continue to develop throughout the course of our life together. 

If you’re feeling pressured to pick out the perfect “forever” items, let go. Pick what you love now and enjoy every bit of it. Then, as your life develops and grows, be open to transitioning pieces to a different use in your home. People give you wedding gifts to help you build a home as newlyweds, not for you to be committed to the same style your whole life long.


Tip: Many stores offer a registry completion discount. This allows you to buy remaining items on your registry at a discounted price after you're married. This is especially great if you want to complete sets of things like plates, mugs, towels, and sheets, or purchase more expensive items that you may not have received as wedding gifts.


We chose  Restoration Hardware  to register for bed and bath linens because it was the place where we found our personal styles collided; we both loved this store. We have been so happy with the quality of everything we received from RH and enjoy these pieces so much! Photo by  Jacob Blount

We chose Restoration Hardware to register for bed and bath linens because it was the place where we found our personal styles collided; we both loved this store. We have been so happy with the quality of everything we received from RH and enjoy these pieces so much!
Photo by Jacob Blount

3. Keep it simple and intentional.

I found it easy to get carried away when registering; they put that little gun in my hand and it felt like I could have anything I wanted in the store! While you certainly could register for everything in the store, that does not help you create a purposeful home. Being intentional about the items you love and that help establish a home reflective of you as a couple is much more valuable than binge-registering for lots of stuff.

Gift-givers love the guidance registries provide, so it helps everyone when you are intentional with the registry you assemble. Depending on your circumstances and wedding timeline, you may get everything on your wedding registry or you may only get a portion of the things you’ve selected. Either way, if you register for items that have value and purpose for you as a couple, the more pleased you will be with the collection of gifts you receive. Ultimately, you want to have pieces that will help build your home, not just fill it.


Tip: You can register for gift cards! If you’re unsure of where you’ll be living when you get married, are planning to move, or just don’t know what all you will need yet, gift cards to your favorite places can be a great option. Some people will choose to give a gift card regardless, but registering for them lets people know they are something you specifically would like to receive. Then, you can use your gift cards in your first few months of marriage as you get settled in, along with that registry completion discount too!


Most of all, the best tip for registering from the heart is to keep it all in perspective. Registering is valuable, important, and fun, but at the end of the day, it is just about things and not nearly as important as the marriage you are building.

What questions or advice do you have about wedding registries?

Buying our first home

As you may have read in my 2015 goals, one of our family goals this year is to buy our first home! After renting a fun downtown loft for the first two and a half years of our marriage, we decided we are ready to sink our roots a little deeper and purchase a home.

Over the last year or so, we have spent hours discussing what we want in a home, afternoons walking neighborhoods in Birmingham, and weekends going to countless open houses. This pattern falls in line with the how we've always made big decisions as a couple; we tend to take our time being methodical and thorough as we do research and consider the options.  As we come upon what we believe to be the end of the home-buying process (those updates coming soon!), the time and thoughtfulness we invested is paying off for us.

As we chat about searching for a new home, I thought it'd be fun to share some photos of our current loft along the way!

As we chat about searching for a new home, I thought it'd be fun to share some photos of our current loft along the way!

As we dreamed, planned and saved for our home over the past couple years, I was so excited for when we would "officially" begin the search. I anticipated it being SO much fun, but I can't say it completely met my expectations. While there certainly have been fun, exciting moments, this home-buying thing is a lot harder than it looks! I have been more emotional than I would have expected, and the constant learning in this process is good, but very hard and time intensive.

We love buying local art, and that Honey Bears piece by Birmingham artist  Jayne Morgan  is one of our favorites!

We love buying local art, and that Honey Bears piece by Birmingham artist Jayne Morgan is one of our favorites!

We still have a lot to learn, but I thought it'd be helpful to share with you a few tips I've gained along the journey. I found great help and comfort in reading through my friend Emily's home search, and I hope this will be helpful to you in a similar way!

1. Where you make your home is less important than who you make your home with.

In all the excitement of the journey of buying a home, it's easy to become consumed with it. Much like wedding planning, if I'm not careful, I find it's all I think about and all we talk about. Don't get me wrong, buying a home (especially the first time around) is a BIG deal, and it does require a lot of thought, work and communication, but, at the end of the day, it is not the most important thing. I can get so lost in dreaming about marble countertops, that I fail to focus on the person I'll prepare meals with and share conversations with over those very counters.

So, the encouragement is this: during your home search, make room for intentional daily moments where you are not talking about it and make sure your spouse feels the most valuable. After all, when buying a home, it is with the hope to create an environment for love, community and family, so it's vital to keep building those things most of all throughout the process.

2. Have a few, trusted people you share EVERYTHING with, including numbers.

I got this advice from a coworker who recently bought a home, and it has been so helpful! Finances are something people often keep private, and understandably so. I know for me, money definitely falls into my Southern upbringing category of an "impolite" topic to discuss. Needless to say, this philosophy carried into our home search nearly to our detriment. By keeping this completely private, we were missing the opportunity for valuable guidance and perspective from people who love us and could share great wisdom and advice.

In our process, we chose to share numbers most specifically with our parents. Then, we have close friends who recently bought a house in the same neighborhood we hope to live in, and who share similar financial values as us. Finally, we have opened up to a friend who goes to our church and has experience in the real estate business and can give a good outside perspective as well as connect with how faith plays a role in our decision.

Creating this gallery wall was one of my goals last year, and it is filled with many special items that make my heart so happy, including that gorgeous portrait of my Great, Great Aunt Mattye who I am named after.

Creating this gallery wall was one of my goals last year, and it is filled with many special items that make my heart so happy, including that gorgeous portrait of my Great, Great Aunt Mattye who I am named after.

This small but mighty group has made a big impact on our process and decision-making. Ultimately, Woody and I make the final call as a couple, but the perspective and feedback we have gathered from these few trusted people have been invaluable. And, a happy by-product is these people have become our biggest cheerleaders and encouragers throughout the journey.

Being first-time home-buyers, we discovered it wasn't healthy or wise to keep all of the details to ourselves, but on the same token, it is not healthy or wise to share all the details with everyone. Ultimately, the consistency and trust of a few will go much father than the opinions of the many.

3. Do your homework. 

Everyone likes recess, but few enjoy homework. Home-buying is very much like this. The dreaming and initial searching is fun, but the number-crunching, inspections, more inspections, waiting and negotiating are not so fun, yet they are totally worth it.

We have chosen a neighborhood with very old homes, and the one we like was built in 1925. You can do the math, but I'll do it for you—that's 90 years old—an entire lifetime. As you can imagine, while it's full of lovely character, charm and good bones, after 90 years, there are a few areas where this home needs some love.

Baskets are key for storage when living in a small space like a loft. I say you can never have enough, Woody says I have basket problem. Perhaps we're both right!

Baskets are key for storage when living in a small space like a loft. I say you can never have enough, Woody says I have basket problem. Perhaps we're both right!

The importance of doing your homework when buying a home (no matter it's age), is that it allows you to be an informed buyer. It will help minimize surprises once you move in (notice I said minimize, not eliminate!) Understanding the condition of the home and what it would cost to update or upkeep it from the point you buy it is so valuable to your decision. Then, as you're negotiating and figuring numbers, you have as much of the full story on the home as possible without living there, which of course will ultimately give you the full story.

For the home we are pursuing, we did the standard home inspection, and after what we learned through that, we had two electricians, a general contractor, and a sewer inspector come out to the property to give us more details and quotes on what needed to be done. We are well under $1,000 invested at this point, and it's been some of the smartest money we've ever spent. Doing this research and seeking professional help has allowed us to be as informed as possible about what to expect in this home, and that gives us great peace of mind moving forward.

4. Pray your heart out.

This point should probably be first, as it's the most important, but we'll count it as saving the best for last. No matter how much homework you do, how much money you've saved, or how many people you seek advice from, there is still risk involved in buying a home. There is uncertainty, emotional highs and lows, and challenges throughout the journey (and this is coming from a girl who doesn't even own a home yet!). So, the best thing you can do in this journey is pray your heart out before, during and after you buy.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

-Philippians 4:6-7

 

You may wonder if God cares about your home-buying journey, and let me assure you He does. The home you buy is about so much more than an amazing front porch, high ceilings, and yes, even more than idyllic marble countertops. Where you choose to buy a home is a highly spiritual matter. It impacts your neighbors, where you spend your time, the environment in which your children are raised, and where you build your life. There is no doubt that God cares about this tremendously.

"From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live."

-Acts 17:26

 

I encourage you to start praying for your future home now or at least as soon as you know you want to buy a home. We have been praying in general for our home since last year, but in January, right before we would dive fully into the search, Woody and I spent a focused time of prayer for our home during 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting at our church. Here are some of the things we asked God for:

  • -Guide us to the right lender and realtor.

  • -Give us wisdom and direction.

  • -Go before us and direct our path.

  • -Give us peace and unity as we make decisions.

  • -Give us a good price for our home.

  • -Let us live in Crestwood (the neighborhood we loved and felt drawn to.)

  • -Give our home a strong physical and spiritual foundation.

  • -Bless the community where we will live, let it be protected, and a place of peace.

  • -I also prayed specifically for one of the "must haves" on my list-- a place out of the general living spaces to put the cat litter!

Y'all, I cannot tell you how many of these prayers have already been answered. And I know that when we move in, we will continue to see God's plan unfold and His love and purpose enrich our home and our lives. God wants to be part of your journey, and He will guide you if you'll just invite Him and allow Him to do so.

I'm amazed and grateful for all Woody and I have learned in this process, and I know there is so much yet to come! I would love to hear from you! What advice or ideas do you have for a first time home-buyer?

Photos by Jacob Blount Photography and Rachel Coffey Photography.

Adventure Together

I recently heard someone recount the advice they gave their son, "you'll never get a girl to fall in love with you until you go on an adventure together." As a romantic, I love this advice, and I also think it imparts a valuable truth that matters for marriage. Adventuring together is so important to enjoying each other and continuing to fall deeper in love and companionship throughout your life together. 

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When I hear "adventure," my mind automatically thinks "spontaneous." But, I've learned that as romantic as spontaneous adventures can be, if you sit around waiting for them to happen in your marriage, they probably won't. You have to purpose to adventure together by dreaming, talking, planning, and committing. Woody and I have made it a point to dream about travel and adventures, mark our calendars and make it happen! For us, once it's on the calendar, we have an accountability to plan, book rooms, research restaurants, and show up. What steps do you take that help you commit to making adventures happen?

This Valentine's Day, before even talking to each other about our plans, we both separately had the idea to go out of town together and celebrate with another couple. After considering a few options, we decided we didn't want to travel too far since it was just a weekend trip, and we were going by car. Living in Birmingham, we thought the Nashville area would be nice, but weren't too excited about the hotel options and prices we were finding.

After checking our usual travel resources, we hopped on the popular VRBO to see what we could find. We stumbled upon the most adorable cottage called Brigadoon by Shelter & Roost in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. The location was perfect, the price was perfect, and we were in love with this romantic getaway spot. Woody contacted the owner, got the details sorted out, and our adventure was booked within 24 hours.

Wanting friends to join us for a Valentine getaway, we invited fellow adventure lovers, Rachel and Lucas. It didn't take them long to say yes after our persuasive pitch of how much fun it would be! We all got together a few times to make plans for our trip, but for the most part, adventuring in Leiper's Fork was easy and laid back and didn't require too much work beforehand. With most things being within walking distance of our cottage, we knew we could do as much or as little as we wanted with ease. We decided to eat out Friday night to enjoy some local flavor and then to cook in Saturday to avoid the Valentine's crowds, and it was perfect.

Delicious Southern lunch and live music at the original  Puckett's Grocery  in Leiper's Fork.

Delicious Southern lunch and live music at the original Puckett's Grocery in Leiper's Fork.

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I surprised Woody by making his favorite cookies, and it's safe to say the look on his face at first bite was priceless!

I surprised Woody by making his favorite cookies, and it's safe to say the look on his face at first bite was priceless!

One of the things I loved most about this trip was the relaxed flow. We planned enough activities that we got to experience the location, but left enough flexibility in our schedule to relax and be spontaneous. It helped that the vibe of Leiper's Fork naturally contributed to the laid back flow we wanted for our weekend away. In fact, one of my favorite memories is simply walking hand-in-hand with Woody exploring new shops and places. 

Looking back, as adventures should be, this trip is like a bookmark in our relationship. It's something we can turn to as an experience we embarked on and enjoyed together. The memories we made and the time we spent together truly served to fuel us and our marriage.


Adventure helps to build companionship in a marriage. Whether it is camping in the Tetons or traveling to New York to see a Broadway show, the excitement and mystery of adventure can be strong coffee for a marriage. The new sights and sounds, the need to pull together to erect a tent or hail a cab—and yes, all the tensions also—they awaken us from the dulling effect of the daily grind and make us more alive to our world, to each other, and to God.
— Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge

 When you adventure together, something new happens as you find yourselves in unfamiliar places absent of usual routines. This allows you to see your partner in a new way and experience something fresh together. As husband and wife, we are designed to make it through life together, so it only makes sense to keep your skills sharp by making adventuring a regular part of your marriage!

In addition to making your marriage better, shared adventures are a great place to build friendships. It's important to pick the right people to welcome along on your adventure, too. One of the things we love about being with Rachel and Lucas is that we feel inspired in our marriage after spending time with them. They are the kind of people that make you want to be a better spouse because of how they love each other. It's no mystery that who you spend your time with will impact how you live your life, so find other couples that you respect and enjoy and invite them along your journey!

Rachel is a fabulous photographer, and she captured all these beautiful and sweet moments of our adventure. I hope you've enjoyed a little peek into our Valentine weekend, and that it inspires you to take an adventure with your spouse. Whether it be long or short, near or far, just get out and go and get ready for your marriage to grow! 

What are your favorite adventures you've shared together? 

marriage and money

Last month, I shared some of my two-year marriage lessons, and one of them was "we need to communicate about money." Knowing that and doing that are two very different things, so I wanted to do a follow up post to share a few practical tips with you!

Photo by  KLP Photography

Woody and I don't have it all figured out, but we have put some principles and practices in place that have led to peace and health in our finances and our marriage. I have written from the perspective of marriage, but truly, I think these are good practices for anyone who wants to create financial health in their life.

set a budget.jpg

Setting a budget is all about giving every dollar a name. Dollars that you don't give a name are automatically called "spent." Your budget tells your money what to do, letting you dictate your money instead of your money dictating you. When created together, a budget is  is very beneficial because it gives you guidelines for spending, putting you and your spouse on the same page about whether you should spend money on something or not. It's simpleif it's in the budget, you can spend it. If its not, you don't. This initially seems controlling, but when you live it, it is completely freeing. 


at the end of the day, your budget exists to equip you to use your money to promote your goals and your life purpose, not your impulses.


I kind of think of our budget as our ticket to board the train to the life we want. Random, everyday spending can be gratifying, but the sensation is fleeting. However, purposefully sticking to a plan allows us to create a meaningful life and lasting legacy. At the end of the day, our budget exists to equip us to use our money to promote our goals and our life purpose, not our impulses.

Initially setting your budget can take time, but it's worth every minute. If just the word "budget" overwhelms you, you may want to plan two to three different occasions to meet about it before you finalize it. We found great resources that helped us set our first budget from Dave Ramsey. We loved his budget worksheet with percentage values that helped determine how much to budget for food, gas, clothing, etc. We also use his cash envelope system and it has transformed our finances. We started using only cash for a few areas where we struggled to keep our spending in check (eating out, groceries and clothing), and ended up loving that system so much that we use cash for almost everything now! Spending cash feels more real than swiping a card and makes it easy to see exactly how much you have left in a budget area at any given time. We highly recommend it!

It can take a few months to get in a good flow with your budget, but stick with it! You can tweak it as needed until you find a rhythm that works. Also, your budget may change from time to time as your goals and life circumstances change, and that is good! It means you are using your money with intention to create the life you want.

Yes, calling it a party is my attempt to trick our minds into viewing this as fun! No one wants to go to a meeting, but everyone loves a party!

This is all about regularly having intentional time to talk, plan, and make your money work for your family. I recommend a monthly financial party to review the past month and plan for the next month. Also, plan an annual, extended party to discuss what worked in the previous year and what didn't, to review your budget, and to set new goals for the year. 


Don't let the idea of this monthly financial party overwhelm you. Progress over perfection, friends!


Your monthly party does not have to be super long, and you don't have to be a CPA to do it well. Our monthly party is when we review categories of our budget where we underspent or overspent and balance those areas. We also distribute our next month's cash for our cash envelopes in this meeting. Once we've received our monthly income, we also come together to pray and submit our tithe before we pay any bills or spend any money for the month. 


Here are a few questions you might ask yourself and your spouse to get the party started:

In what area do you feel like you consistently have money left over?

In what area do you feel like it's challenging to stay within the budget amount we've set?

Are there any new areas we should add? (This came up for us when we realized we hadn't budgeted for things like dry cleaning and gift giving)

What savings or financial goal are you most excited about right now?

What do we want to do with the money we didn't spend at the end of the month? (here are a few ideas: put it into savings, go to a favorite restaurant, bless a friend with a treated meal, get your home professionally cleaned, or put it toward an upcoming trip or celebration!)

 


Don't let the idea of this monthly financial party overwhelm you. Progress over perfection, friends! The main point is that you reconcile any items from the previous months, make necessary adjustments for the coming month, and talk. You may want to pray, repeat your purpose and goals to each other, or just share how you're doing and feeling about your financial plan. Also, take time to celebrate the progress you're making toward your goals! Whether general savings, giving, or a specific goal like a trip to Europe or buying a house (two things on our list this year!), you should pat yourselves on the back for working hard toward what matters!

There are no ifs, ands or buts about this one. Secrets create division and separation, not unity and there is no place for them when it comes to money. As husband and wife, you are one, and you must promote unity in every area of your marriage, including finances.


there is absolutely nothing you can buy with your money that is as valuable as unity and honesty with your spouse.


Woody and I combined our bank accounts early in our marriage, and we view all of our combined income as "ours." As we build a life together, our money is a big part of it; it helps us accomplish goals, have fun, and bless others. It only makes sense that if we want to be unified in our goals, fun, and giving, that a tool we use to accomplish many of those things (money) should be unified too.

If you and your spouse haven't combined your finances, I highly encourage it. I'm not speaking as a financial expert, but I am speaking as a cheerleader for love and your marriage. That means I am not a fan of anything that might stand in the way of complete unity and openness with your spouse. You may not be tempted to have financial secrets now, but removing the opportunity for the future will set you up for success.

To put it in practical terms, ladies, this means no covering up a day at the spa, and gentlemen, no hiding the new golf club you bought. If these things are important to you, they should be important to your spouse. There is no reason you can't save and plan to enjoy things like spa days and golf clubs within the realm of your budget through open communication and agreement. For instance, Woody and I get a certain amount of "miscellaneous spending" money each month. We both have the personal choice to use this within the month or save it for a few months and then put it toward a big purchase. Also, there are some hobbies or endeavors that we want to invest in as a family or in support of each other, and after discussing it and agreeing, we choose to pay for it from our extra savings (not our emergency fund or other specific savings). 

When it comes down to it, there is absolutely nothing you can buy with your money that is as valuable as unity and honesty with your spouse. Get on the same page, be open, and let truth manage your finances and strengthen your marriage.


Friends, I hope for complete peace and prosperity over your finances as you seek a life of purpose and fulfillment. The area of money for us has been full of lots of learning and some challenges, but I am so thankful for every ounce of effort we have invested. As I see the payoff happen a little by little, it is so rewarding! If you have any specific questions about how we implement any of the above steps, I would love to answer! Just email me or comment below and we will connect! It may even call for another marriage + money post!

My two-year marriage lessons

Last month, Woody and I celebrated our second anniversary! Now that the celebrating is complete, I've spent some time reflecting on what I've learned in these first two years of marriage. As I share my personal lessons with you, I'd also love to hear what marriage has taught you. In addition, I've included some sweet photos from our journey as a couple so far. It's a fun walk down memory lane!

Our first photo together in Charlotte, North Carolina| September 2010

Our first photo together in Charlotte, North Carolina|September 2010

It's hard for me to believe Woody and I have been married for two years. I can still so clearly remember waiting for him to call me when we were dating, hoping for us to live in the same city, longing for him to propose, and of course, counting down until our wedding day. I recall my feelings during these seasons of waiting so well, that it's hard to believe I've already spent two years as his wife!

While our second anniversary seemed to come quickly, it certainly did not come without a lot of growth and change. When I think back to the wife I was in 2012 and 2013, I'm SO grateful for the wife God has made me into in 2014.  Seeing how God has already refined my heart and softened my actions since our wedding day makes me hopeful for how He will continue to grow and change me throughout our marriage. 

We go from long distance to walking distance. Woody moves to Birmingham| July 2011

We go from long distance to walking distance. Woody moves to Birmingham|July 2011

I initially hesitated to offer my "advice" for marriage, believing the lie that I have nothing to offer because two years is barely any time at all. Then I realized that marriage is a journey, making each year as valuable as the next. Our second year is just as important as our 25th year because they are both part of building our marriage. Also, I would love to look back on the lessons I learned in year two when we reach our 25th anniversary!

Wherever you are in your journeysingle, engaged, newlywed or married for 50 years, I hope you'll find a connection to my two-year marriage lessons and a fresh perspective that helps you build a better marriage! 

Woody surprises me with the most beautiful proposal on Jekyll Island, Georgia| March 2012    Sarah DeShaw Photography

Woody surprises me with the most beautiful proposal on Jekyll Island, Georgia|March 2012

Sarah DeShaw Photography

Marriage Lessons

1. I am, in fact, not always right.

Ouch. This has been a hard one. God bless my sweet husband for his patience in this lesson that keeps on keepin' on. I imagine I'll be learning and relearning this for many years, which makes me thankful for a God who is gracious and husband who is patient. 

I do things the way I do them for the same reason everyone else doesI think it's the best way! What I love about marriage is that it has given me new, better ways to do things. (note: You do have to actually try a new way to discover if it might be better than your own way. Do yourself a favor and do this early and often!)

Engagement photos on Saint Simons Island, Georgia| May 2012   (this is the photo we used for our Save the Date!)    Sarah DeShaw Photography

Engagement photos on Saint Simons Island, Georgia|May 2012 (this is the photo we used for our Save the Date!)

Sarah DeShaw Photography

Woody has a very different approach to situations than I do, and I initially viewed this as my opportunity to enlighten him to a better way, namely my way. (I know, laugh it upI told you I had plenty to learn!) Over time, what I've found instead is that Woody has some really great ways to do things that have bettered my life!

For instance, I no longer frantically rush to get off an airplane alongside people who are only hurrying up so they can wait some more at the next gate. Also, I don't feel guilty for taking naps anymore because Woody has encouraged me that it's just my body telling me it needs rest, and that naps are good for me. Now, I also give more generously because Woody has shown me generosity is freeing, while unbalanced frugality can be controlling. 

And the list goes on. The point is, marriage will broaden your viewpoint, enlarge your opportunities, and make you better, if you let it. And, notice I said I'm not always right. Well, sometimes I am! Just as Woody has brought new perspectives into my life, I have done the same for him. When we put aside our stubbornness and our own way, we discover we truly are better together.

Our Wedding Day!!!| November 3, 2012    Sarah DeShaw Photography

Our Wedding Day!!!|November 3, 2012

Sarah DeShaw Photography

2. We need to communicate about money. 

I have often heard statistics indicating that finances are one of the primary reasons couples choose to end their marriages. When I was single, I never thought much about this, mainly because I didn't understand it. Then, I got married.

I don't know what it is, but when we approach the topic of money, I start to get snappy and cranky. There is something about handling money that can so quickly elicit stress and sharpness in me. The funny thing about this is, we don't really have much of a reason to be stressed! We have no debt, we combined our finances early in our marriage, we set up and follow a monthly budget, we have savings and financial goals that we have met and exceeded, and we consult with a financial professional regularly. Yet, even with all that in place, many of our most aggravated conversations start with money.

I don't say this to be discouraging, but rather encouraging about what I think can make or break your financial relationship: healthy communication. It's not just about having the right tools in place to handle money (budget, goals, financial planner, etc.), but also about taking the time to get your hearts in the same place and to communicate calmly and regularly about your thoughts, concerns, wants, needs and questions about money. I'm convinced that most financial discord in marriages isn't as often about actual financial issues, but rather heart issues.


Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. -Matthew 6:21 (NLT)


What we do with our money is directly connected to what we desire in our hearts. As a married couple, its important for this to be in alignment. If you can get your hearts in the right place, you can face financial circumstances with unity. Stay tuned for more details on how we do this in an upcoming post!

First Anniversary photos in Birmingham, Alabama| November 2013    Todd Helzer Photography

First Anniversary photos in Birmingham, Alabama|November 2013

Todd Helzer Photography

3. Cell phones ruin date night. 

Cell phones are a powerful tool for staying connected; they're also a powerful tool for staying distracted. One of the best things Woody and I have done for our marriage and our date nights is to remove this distraction.

When we are going out to spend intentional time together, we leave one or both phones at home. If we feel like we need to take a phone with us, we turn it off or leave it in the car. Not only does this eliminate the actual distraction of messages and calls coming in, but it also eliminates the mental distraction of thinking about our phones, social media, and anything we think we might be missing, except, of course, the thing we would actually be missing—quality time with each other.

We go "no-phone" often as we can, but focus on it for weekends and date nights—times we are purposing to be together, relax and rejuvenate. It feels weird at first to be without your phone, but once you get in the habit, it becomes one of the most freeing and enjoyable parts of the week!

This probably looks a little differently for everyone, but I highly encourage you to find intentional times with your spouse where you have removed the distraction of a cell phone. Whether its during mealtime, after a certain time at night, or for the first 30 minutes after you get home in the evenings, find a way that works for you and commit to it! You'll both be thankful you did, and Instagram probably won't even notice.

Second anniversary photos in Birmingham, Alabama| November 2014    KLP Photography

Second anniversary photos in Birmingham, Alabama|November 2014

KLP Photography

Reading through this list, I'm so thankful for where we've come and so expectant for where we are headed. Marriage is a beautiful gift, and I'm grateful to get to experience it alongside the best man I know.

We all have SO much we can learn from each other! What have you learned during your months or years of marriage?

it's our second anniversary!

I loved our wedding so much. So much that I was honestly concerned that our anniversary would make me miss it. I feel like on Instagram this is where I would follow with #sadbuttrue.

While I love looking back on our wedding, and do miss it from time to time, our anniversary is not just the "reminder" celebration of our wedding that I thought it might be, but it is truly a special celebration all its own. 

It's easy for a wedding to feel like the "main event," but the truth is, it is just the beginning of the real main event: the marriage.

I love this first-married moment right after we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. I feel like our excitement could just leap off the page!   Photo by Sarah DeShaw Photography

I love this first-married moment right after we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife. I feel like our excitement could just leap off the page!

Photo by Sarah DeShaw Photography

I am so proud and honored for each year (today marks two!) I have been able to spend as the wife to my dear husband. Every anniversary is a time to remember the vows we made and the fabulous event that kicked off our marriage, to be thankful for the years we've been given, and to renew our love and hope for the future years to come!

This year, we're celebrating our second anniversary at the most magical place on earth: Disney World!

In the spirit of our anniversary this month, soon I'll be sharing what I've learned in the first two years of marriage, as well as some thoughts on ways to celebrate an anniversary. But for now, I'm going to spend time with my sweet husband having new adventures! I hope you'll also begin this month by doing something fun and by giving a kiss to the one you love! 

Happy November from the Woodcocks!