Mama, Get Off Your Phone.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. This is also to myself because I struggle with this daily. It’s something that I think many of us struggle with, regardless of whether we have kids or not. Our phones are a thief of our time. They also destroy our self-esteem. They create monsters inside of us called jealousy when we see an influencer’s new wardrobe, or their third new home in the last few years; each one more grand than the last. I should know because I’ve experienced these emotions and consequences. Yet it does have its virtues believe it or not.

Our phones connect us in ways past generations thought impossible. My daughter loves to FaceTime our family that lives 1,000 miles away. We can send pictures and videos instantly to our friends and relatives. Our phones also give us the ability to find the best deals on Facebook Marketplace, for example. Youtubers give us opinions and advice about products for our littles so we can make a sound purchase. See, I told you our phones have some good qualities!

Yet how many moments have I lost scrolling through Instagram, or watching video after video on Youtube? Moments of my daughter’s life and mine that I cannot get back. I believe that we would have so much “more time,” if we took a minute to see how much we waste on our devices. I love the screen time feature on the Apple iPhone. It was a rude wake up call to see how many endless hours I was wasting on my phone PER DAY. I’ll get transparent so you don’t have to feel as bad. I was averaging about five hours a day on my phone. What the heck?? I will also admit that it was mainly social media that was stealing that much of my time. Endless scrolling and mindless viewing.

I got to work and thought about what I could do with five hours of my day. I could definitely work on laundry. I could finish that book that’s been sitting on my bedside table for a year. I could throw in a thirty minute workout that I keep telling myself I don’t have time for. I could work on a mommy blog that I’ve been dreaming about (hello!) and make it a reality. There’s so much you could do that you “don’t have time for” if you looked up from your phone.

You know, it’s incredible how much comparison steals our happiness. I have to keep myself in check every day when looking on Instagram. I see her immaculate house, her expensive wardrobe, the endless hauls of hundreds of dollars she spent on a whim, the exotic trip that we all know cost her nothing because it was sponsored. That green monster of jealousy rears its ugly head and I become ungrateful for everything I do have. Do you want to know the secret to squashing that annoying monster? Get off your phone. If you’re a christian, get in your Bible. I cannot tell you how much better my day goes when I reach for His Word in the morning when I wake up before I open social media. If you’re not a christian, then I suggest keeping a notebook and write down a list of what you’re thankful for. How about the roof over your head? The fact that you were able to eat dinner last night? The fact that you and your family are in good health? How about the realization that it’s a luxury to have a smart phone? (Obviously these are examples, and it is different for everyone.) I remember always hearing, “If you have breath in your lungs, thank the Lord, because He’s the one who put it there.” How many times do we ever think about how blessed we are to be alive? Probably never. We’re too busy complaining about things we don’t have.

I hope this was encouraging for someone. I’m talking as much to myself as I am to someone else. No one in particular, I promise. I meant in general. I want to challenge you to utilize that screen time feature on your phone and schedule a part of your day where social media is blocked. Put your phone in your bedroom, in a drawer, in a safe, I don’t know. Just leave it somewhere you can’t get to it. Take a minute and breathe. Start on that hobby you’ve wanted to learn. Read a book. Journal. Go on that walk you didn’t have time for. Crack open those dusty recipe books and find a new one that looks delicious. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve done this. Leave me a comment or connect with me on the contact page! Or we can add each other on social media (I know it sounds ironic, but if it’s in your allotted time I’ll allow it ūüėČ) and let me know that my blog sent you!

Let’s to this challenge together. Starting the month of July. Let’s go.

With love,

Emily

 

Our Debt Free Story

My life has changed drastically in the last few years. From dating, to getting married, to finding out I was pregnant, to having a baby. All in the time span of three years. Yes, you read that right! Yet somehow my husband and I managed to pay off $80,000 worth of debt. It’s truly all a blur, but we managed it. It was all thanks to Dave Ramsey’s principles.

When my husband and I started dating, we discussed finances many times. If you read my other blog post here, you will know that we were not the beating-around-the-bush type. My husband is very numbers-minded and frugal, whereas I am a shopaholic and a free spirit. We both had to learn how to work together, and we did that with Dave Ramsey. I watched his videos every spare minute I could get – I was fired up and wanted to become debt free with “gazelle intensity” like Dave puts it. After we got engaged, we sat down and looked at our finances. We looked at each of the baby steps and figured out our timeline and goals. We set a budget for the wedding, and created a plan for our money after we were married. I brought two credit cards and a car loan, he brought a car loan and student loans.

I didn’t think it was possible to cash flow the wedding of my dreams, but we did it! I scoured Pinterest and found easy DIY ideas for creating decorations for less. We enlisted friend’s expertise, and hunted for the best deals throughout the months of our engagement. It was truly perfect. (We even cash flowed a week at Disney World for our honeymoon – another win!) And with that, we were finally married. Oh, did I mention that I also paid off both of my credit cards during this time?

“Even though we talked this through beforehand, it was a wakeup call for me. I was not a child anymore. So I had to stop acting like a child in a candy store with my….wait, with OUR…money.”¬†

I thought budgeting would come easy, but for someone who never budgeted and just spent money willy-nilly, IT WAS HARD. I wasn’t on my own anymore. I had to consider another person in the mix. It was also the first time I lived away from my parents. Payments I never had to worry about came flooding in during the first month – insurance, gas, electric, rent, more insurance, internet, etc. Even though we talked this through beforehand, it was a wakeup call for me. I was not a child anymore. So I had to stop acting like a child in a candy store with my….wait, with OUR…money.

I know that I am a visual learner. So with the first few months of budgeting, the EveryDollar app really helped! It’s also free! It took us a while to get the hang of it – they say that it takes about three months to figure out one’s budget. I’ll tell you what. It took us longer than that. However, we did get the hang of it. Cue another life change.

Four months after being married, I found out I was pregnant. We were in shock. Our debt free plan did not include having a baby. “They are expensive!” “How are we going to afford this?” “How much is a crib?” “How much do diapers cost every month? How will we know how many we need?” The questions went on and on. Mainly coming from my husband.  Although we knew a baby was going to change our entire world (and our finances), being a nanny for years helped me figure out an estimate on what to spend monthly. I sought out advice from other mom’s and my employers past and present. I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and that meant our income was going down significantly. Yet when you have a plan, it’s not as scary.

Having a baby changes you. Your decisions, your wants, the need for sleep; everything. The idea of getting out of debt became more of a requirement than a want.

As per Dave Ramsey’s advice, we paused our debt snowball and saved every penny we could. It was disheartening after only just getting started, but we knew it was for the best. However, to keep the momentum going, we paid off the remaining balance on my car loan! Fast forward nine months (little babe wanted to stay in for a few extra days) and we had our beautiful baby girl.

Having a baby changes you. Your decisions, your wants, the need for sleep; everything. The idea of getting out of debt became more of a requirement than a want. We moved into my parent’s basement to get rid of rent payments. We pinched and scraped. Slowly but surely we paid off my husband’s car loan. Then his private student loans bit the dust. We were making great headway! Then the coronavirus hit America.

COVID-19 seemed like a curse, but it was a blessing in disguise in some aspects. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of the disease, but financially it relieved some burdens. We were hardly driving, so our gas budget went down significantly (yet more cooking at home meant more groceries, so it balanced out). Thankfully my husband did not lose his job, but our income took a hit when his salary went down twenty-five percent. I will admit, it was a scary time. I was fearful of staying in this debt trap forever. Not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were so close to becoming debt free!

God had everything under control. Little blessings would come up when we least expected them. The government’s stimulus check, our government loans going into forbearance so the interest was gone, etc. We even sold my car. With rigorous saving and penny pinching, along with those unexpected chunks of change, we hit submit and paid off $21,000 in the span of three months. Our next goal now is to save for a down payment for a house! Wondering how we did this? I am going to be writing more about our budgeting tips and tricks – specifically my mommy tips on budgeting for a baby and meal planning. Talk to you soon!

“And he said to his disciples,¬†‚ÄúTherefore I tell you,¬†do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.¬†For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.¬†Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.¬†Of how much more value are you than the birds!”

Luke 12:22-24

With love,

Emily

Finding Love in an Unexpected Place | Journal

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:20-21

I would categorize myself as a hopeless romantic – one who believed that someday my prince would come. I know I sound like a Disney princess movie, but that was my view. Those movies had a very large impact on my life, okay? Yet reality is so much different than a fairytale. Throughout the years of never having a boyfriend or never holding someone’s hand in a romantic way it had an effect on me. Every single Christian girl can vouch for me when I say I’ve heard all the remarks from older generations on marriage and “the one” and I was sick of it. I was immensely tired of hearing that my time will come, or that there are plenty of fish in the sea, or something along those lines. Well, he wasn’t really coming in my timeline at all. I was supposed to be married three years ago with at least a little one on the way by now. Reality had a cruel way of showing you that life isn’t a movie, and social media also has a way of letting people pretend that they’re perfect and happy, giving you the feeling of loneliness that amplifies into untruths. I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

I wanted a relationship so bad for so long, I eventually gave up hope if I’m being completely honest. In January of 2017, I threw in the towel and wrote a letter to my future husband and to God, saying that I was done looking. I was fed up with my own failed timeline creating doubt and disappointment. I was finished with feeling sorry for myself and painting false ideas on myself that I wasn’t pretty enough, or outgoing enough, or just plain likable. If I claimed to be a child of God, it was time for me to start acting like one.

I did a lot of soul searching, and found that I was not ready for a relationship with someone when I wasn’t strong in my relationship with God or myself. I leaned on what God said I was, and started to finally place my worth in what He said versus what the world said a young twenty-something girl should be. (I could go on about how social media is a blessing and a curse to society, but that’s another soap box that I need to not step on, otherwise I could go on forever.) Let me tell you, it’s hard changing your mindset. The beauty of serving a mighty God is that it didn’t take very long for me to be free of those untruths. It starts with talking to God and telling him your fears, your concerns, your failures, and just giving them up. It also means finally being okay with HIS timeline.

I wrote a post on here a few years ago proclaiming that I was done with dating (I’ll link it here if you’d like) and while for the most part I stuck to this, words are easier said than done, because after that I still struggled. Just being completely honest. Yet who knew that I would meet my husband eight months after truly declaring, by myself at night in my room, that I was handing it to the Lord. Also, who knew that the internet/social media was the way I would meet him. I know, I just went on a little tangent about social media, but remember I said I have a love/hate relationship with it? Well I found him on none other than ChristianMingle. Yes, you read that right. At first, I was skeptical of trying it. I thought and prayed hard before I started and during the whole process. I kept my mindset pure and on God. At first, I felt like it wasn’t right for me to give my dating life to God and then turn around a few months later and look for him myself on an internet dating site of all places. However, I prayed a simple prayer, “I’m going to try this for a little while, and if it’s not what you have for me, God, then shut the door.” Surprisingly, he didn’t shut it.

I want let this phrase sink in, because it is so true: God’s timing is PERFECT. All those years of wishing and crying and wanting someone taught me to trust in God’s plan. If I didn’t, I would have never met my husband, because all this time he was 1,000 miles away from me until he moved to Michigan in June of that same year I gave it all up to God. In August, we had our first date and talked for hours. We both opened up to each other and asked serious compatibility questions, like ones about finances and other relationships. I know it sounds crazy, but I was not messing around, and neither was he. By our third date, we both knew that this was it. We had found our soulmates. In December, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes. In August of the next year (two months ago) we made the most important covenant between a man and a woman official. I’m telling you, when God is in the mix, things just happen. I look back at all those “wasted” years of being single as a lesson. I put the word “wasted” in quotations because they were not wasted at all. All those years of saving myself and growing into the person God wanted me to be paid off. We each other’s firsts in everything. And that is something truly special that I thank God every day for. When we do relationships and marriage God’s way, it is truly beautiful and the most romantic love story of all.

I want to say this as a sort of disclaimer – God’s timeline for everyone is different. I know I would read these types of posts and say to myself, “Okay, if that’s how it worked for them, I’ll try the same things and see if they work for me!” It never did. If you’re struggling with singleness and all the other issues that come with that, I understand your pain. I was right there with you for many years. Remember this: a girl should be so lost in God that a guy needs to seek him to find her. That way the struggle is easier, and the waiting doesn’t seem like an eternity. I hope my story resonates with someone, and if it does, then my goal is made. I will see you next week with another blog post (I’m determined to keep this thing going)!

With love,

Emily

Busyness: a New Disease

I usually like to write about what I am going through at a particular moment in my life. I am going to school (yes I am almost twenty-four and still in college – that’s a testimony for a later post lol) and working full time. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job and I love being back in school and getting a higher education. I will say, though, it comes at a cost.

I have found that I hardly have time for anything anymore. I get up early, go to work, come home, and go to bed. On school days I get up early, go to school all day, go to a coffee shop to get my homework done, go home, and go to bed. That is my routine five days a week. I forgot to mention: I also have photo sessions on the weekend. I have no time for a social life, and I feel that I have no time for me. Yet I feel that I have no choice – I have to have so many classes in order to not be in school forever, and I have to work so many hours to pay my bills and stay afloat.

Remember when you were a kid and could not WAIT to be an adult and make your own decisions and have your own car (insert anything you wanted as a kid, but could not have)? Yeah, it is not what it is cracked up to be. In fact, it is downright awful.

The more freedom you have, the more responsibility you have. That also pertains to your spiritual walk with God. No one holds your hand anymore. Your parents do not make you go to church anymore. YOU are your own responsibility. It has to be YOUR choice to shimmy in some time with God, no matter how “busy” you are.

I am not afraid to acknowledge that I have been lacking in my spiritual walk. I really detest the “holier-than-thou” attitude, so I will not be one of those people. Every one has ups and downs in his or her spiritual walk. I believe we should not be afraid to admit our faults for fear of judgement, rather confess our weaknesses to seek support and help. Yet busyness is a dangerous place to be in your life; I am learning this right now.

What happens when you do not have time for God?

With Love,

Emily

A Time for Everything

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

There has been so many significant events this year. Some exciting, some heartbreaking. I’ve witnessed three marriages (with one more this year) and two deaths. I’ve seen couples welcome bundles of joy into the world, and I’ve grieved with friends who have had devastating news. There is a season for everything – this year being a pinnacle of whiplashing happiness and sadness.

It’s so easy to question God’s motives and timing. It’s even easier to doubt and make our own timeline for our lives. Yet that can lead to despair and rebellion in the hard times. I’ve had my own season of questions this year. I’ve moved recently (a year ago in August) and I found myself lost as to finding a home church. I’ve been with the same church family for twenty-one years. I visited many churches and had only negatives to say because the “worship wasn’t the same as my old church,” or, “It just didn’t feel like home.” ¬†I began to go to a place of complacency that I’ve never experienced before. It was like I’ve given up hope in finding a church home; given up on finding my fit to where I could lead worship again; given up of God to show me where to go because it wasn’t in my time line. It was a hard time in my life.

It took a while to realize that God had put me through this season of hardship for a reason. There was a lesson to be learned – although we face problems or situations that contradict God’s plan, we should use them as opportunities. Without God, there can be no solution. If we face them alone, we will only sink deeper and deeper. The secret to peace in troubled times is accepting God’s perfect timing. Surrendering myself and my doubts and concerns was hard. It means trusting God completely no matter what happens; giving God the reigns to you life. Yet it was so worth it – not worrying and having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It doesn’t mean I’ve found my “home church” yet, but I’m going with a positive outlook and an open heart.

There is a time for every season. We just have to learn to trust and accept God’s perfect timing for everything. What seasons have you been going through? Joyful, trying, or something else? Leave a comment below!

With Love,

Emily

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a hope and a future. In those days when you pray I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Malachi 1:6-14

Malachi 1:6-14 “…Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.” ESV

In the Old Testament, God required His people to offer a sacrifice to Him; His requirements being a perfect and faultless animal. Malachi is talking about how the people became lazy and would just offer any animal, even though it was sick or lame. The people are going back and forth with God because He’s accusing them of cheating Him and profaning His table with unworthy offerings. These people; however, have been doing this for a long time and don’t understand how they are making God angry – just because they are becoming a little lax in their offerings.

Here’s the point – God wants the best from us. He requires the best. He is the Kings among nations and he deserves the best from us! We cannot become apathetic in our worship, or anything for that matter, towards Him. Being a Christian for a long time can blind us to become watered-down and just go through the motions, slowly giving less and less of our best. I mean, thank goodness we don’t have to slaughter a perfect little baby lamb anymore because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and now we only have to ask Him into our hearts to be saved, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to do anything else for the rest of our lives. We have to continually pursue Him and strive to be like Him in everything we do.

Trust me – I know it’s hard. With everything from Facebook to our favorite T.V. shows, it’s difficult to make time. With being a future college student on top of having two jobs and being a young adult leader for our youth in the church, I know I have to set a good example for our kids. Add on being a church kid for twenty-one years. It’s so easy for me to become stagnant because I know all about this. I’ve heard every version of this message preached hundreds of times from sixth grade to now. Does that give me an excuse? No. Does that mean I get a free pass because I go to church every week? No. Does that mean I get a free pass because I have Jesus in my heart? No. This was a great message from my youth pastor this past Wednesday. Point of the day: God deserves our best. Don’t be an apathetic Christian just going through the motions. Pray to be constantly on fire for Him. He gave us life – He gave us everything we have. The least we can do is serve Him passionately.

With Love,

Emily