Do the Thing You’re Meant to Do

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A few months ago I felt the urge to do get serious with my blog. I felt a fire in my gut and a deep assurance that if I wrote more posts and shared them on every social media platform possible, my blog was going to be the most amazing thing ever and everyone would flock to read the words I’d written. I asked God to never let that fire inside me to die because obviously the urge to write and share my stories and words with others was Him telling me I needed to do it.

A couple weeks into my “Blog is life” mentality, however, I felt the fire began to taper off. Not that the fire wasn’t still there inside me, it just wasn’t roaring with passion like it once was.

I didn’t see immediate results, and so, I stopped.

But here’s where I got it all wrong.

I was relying on God to do the work for me. By asking Him, “Don’t let this fire die. Don’t let my passion to write slip away,” I was basically telling Him that He was responsible for making sure that I kept putting pen to paper  or rather, finger to keyboard. But it’s not His responsibility to do that.

It’s my responsibility to be obedient to Him and do the thing that He calls me to do. And I believe that my calling is to write.

I read a quote the other day from another blogger‘s post whose writing I admire. He was talking about Ernest Hemingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea. The main character in the book is a fisherman, and after struggling each day to bring in his catch he says, “Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman … but that was the thing that I was born for.”

I think we can all relate to the fisherman’s words. Just because I don’t feel like writing doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. Just because I don’t have any good ideas waiting to be developed doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work on my craft.

And this relates to so much more than writing.

Maybe you’re a teacher and a few kids in your class are having a hard time grasping the material. No matter what you do, they just don’t seem to understand and you feel like a failure. You don’t want to teach because it’s just too hard. It takes up too much of your time. You just don’t feel like it anymore.

Or maybe you’re a nurse and you dread going to work every day because you don’t know what — or who is waiting for you inside those hospital doors. Your patient’s health is getting worse and worse. You feel like there’s nothing you can do to help ease their pain and suffering. You feel like a failure. You don’t want to help them anymore because it’s just too hard. It takes up too much of your time, and you just don’t feel like doing it anymore.

We aren’t called to do something because it’s fun all the time and makes us feel good. We are called to do something because it’s hard, but worthwhile. It’s not full of fun, but it’s fulfilling. It doesn’t make us feel good, but it’s not for us to begin with.

The teacher is called to teach because she is patient, understanding and strives for success for her students more than she wants it for herself. She was born to teach.

The nurse is called to nurse patients back to health because he is kind, gentle, compassionate and genuinely cares about the quality of his patient’s life. He was born to be a nurse.

The writer is called write because she is creative, believes in the power of a story well told, and has a knack for stringing words together. She was born to write.

So, friends, your calling isn’t always a fluffy, feel good one. In fact, rarely is that ever true. The thing you’re meant to do is hard, down in the dirt work. But not only were you hand-picked to do this work, you were hand-crafted by the Master Artist to live out your calling.

So do your thing. And do it well.

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Build Your Barn

If you’re a frequent reader, you may have noticed that I mention my mom in a lot of my posts.

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She is a talented writer, my most influential Christian role model, and truly exemplifies what it means to live out your faith. She has even had several devotionals published in The Upper Room, a daily devotional guide that is available in 33 different languages in 100 countries! I’d say she knows a thing or two about writing 🙂 She has always encouraged me to share my thoughts with others through the written word, and not only to write, but to write well.

She’s acquired so much wisdom over her lifetime and she and my dad have never been wrong in the advice they’ve given Daniel and me, especially when it comes to marriage. They will be celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary on Monday, so what better time for her to share some of her best marriage advice?

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When my daughter asked me to be a guest writer on her blog, my mind immediately whirled into overdrive.

After 34 years of marriage, I have quite a bit to say on the subject of newlyweds, marriage, husbands, and my contribution as a wife to the married state. In addition, I observed my own parents’ marriage of almost 45 years until my father passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 71.

So, after musing on the marriage subject for awhile, I hearkened back to the sageness of my dad, whose wisdom I deeply respect and still rings in my ears 21 years after his death. One of the first “talking-to”s (that Southern slang term for sitting your gluteus maximus in a chair while someone else talks and you listen) I got when I was a newly engaged bride-to-be was this:

Dad: “Wilma, look around at all that your mother and I have accumulated over the years.”

I looked around and made the following wordless observations while I got my talking-to:

Me: Okay, life’s not bad. Our home is nice enough. We have three bedrooms and one bathroom. We have a car in the garage. We own our farm. Three square meals a day appear on our table, courtesy of sweet mom. You and mom sent me and sister to college. But, I wouldn’t say we are rich….no swimming pool in the backyard, no brand new car for me when I got my driver’s license, and we’re members of a REAL country club….we’re a farm family.

Dad: “I want you to know that when you get married, it takes YEARS to get established and grow your wealth. But just keep working at it. Time will go on and little by little, you’ll add to your bank account and build up your home.”

Me: Years? Oh, great. You mean when we get married, we’ll start out in a one-bedroom apartment with gold shag carpeting and matching harvest gold appliances, and we’ll drive two functional, but very OLD cars, and the A/C doesn’t even work in one?

Dad: “Patience is the key. Just work hard and don’t get greedy. Don’t go out and rack up debt on credit cards. Pay cash for things and build your barn slowly.”

Me: BARN?! Barns are great….for cows, horses, cats, tractors, cobwebs and mice. But I certainly don’t plan on living in one!

Dad: “You and Bill just work hard together, support each other, and don’t get in a big rush to get rich quick. That never works. Slow and steady wins the race, and at the end of the day, you’ll lay your head down on your pillow and have a clear conscience and you’ll sleep good. Marriage is a team effort, and if you’re willing to work hard and make some sacrifices, you’ll be like your mom and me someday and look back on the wonderful life you’ve built together.”

My dad’s advice and wisdom have never failed me. This is his wisdom that I am passing on to you too. Be blessed in your marriage, be patient and just enjoy the journey. Anticipation maximizes appreciation!

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Thank you, mom, for supporting my writing and sharing your marriage advice today! Happy 34th anniversary to you and dad, and stay spunky 😉

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Photography by Derek Couts

3 Ways to Be Financially Responsible In Your Marriage

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? – Luke 16:11

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Photo by Derek Couts Photography

Before the vows are said and the rings are exchanged, many couples like to prepare for the transition from dating to married life by discussing a variety of topics.

Where do we want to live? How many kids do we want to have? What church will we attend? What lifelong goals do we want to achieve?

Financial goals and expectations are topics that need to be discussed as well! Money is a large component of marriage, whether we like it or not, that has the ability to help or harm it. I’m not saying that money is everything, but when we steward our finances with intentionality and consistency, we add a level of comfort and convenience to our marriages that makes them more fun and enjoyable for both you and your spouse!

Here are a few things to help you do just that:

1. Keep a budget
I’ve hit on this topic before in a previous post, but it’s so important and I think bringing it up again is worthwhile. Setting a budget and sticking to it is how you and your spouse are going to reach your financial goals later on down the road. It might not be very fun when you first get into it, but you will thank yourself later for paying off debts and not overspending.

Being financially responsible by keeping a budget is just a better way to live. You will be able to do more things, go more places, and when unexpected events come your way, like an emergency room visit, you won’t be sent into a panic wondering whether or not you can foot the bill.

2. Make financial decisions together
Daniel and I have only lived in our apartment for a few months and we are just starting out. There are a few things that we’d like to have for our home, but we know that it’s not in our best financial interest to purchase these things just yet. However, there are several big ticket items I’ve had my eye on for a while now that I just know would make our little abode more homey and inviting. How easy would it be for me to hop on Wayfair and buy all the fancy rugs I’ve been ogling for months or go to Home Goods and buy everything in the store? Super easy!! But I have a feeling that my husband wouldn’t be very pleased with me if he were to check our bank account at the end of the day and discover that I had spent hundreds of dollars without consulting him first. So, we make our financial decisions together, no matter how big or small they are.

It might seem a bit trivial, but even when I plan on buying something small for our apartment, like a lamp or a pillow, or go searching for a new work outfit, I always let Daniel know what I intend to buy and how much I expect it to cost so that it doesn’t come as a surprise to him when he checks our account.

Communicating your purchases to your spouse can prevent a lot of arguments and ensures that you are both aware of your current financial status.

3. Have a joint bank account
I know this can be a wishy washy subject for some couples, but hear me out on this. When we commit to spending the rest of our lives with someone, why would we exclude our finances from that commitment? That’s like saying, “I promise to spend the rest of my life with you, through sickness and in health, till death do us apart … buuuuut I’m gonna need to keep my bank account separate from yours, ok?” It doesn’t work that way!

Having separate bank accounts can potentially lead to bad spending habits and a point of contention between you and your spouse.

Having separate bank accounts can potentially lead to bad spending habits and a point of contention between you and your spouse.

Let me clear this up a bit: If you and your spouse share a bank account, your husband or wife has the ability to check the account whenever they wish. They can see every penny coming in and going out of the account. This holds each of you accountable. This is good!

On the flip side, if you and your spouse have separate accounts, you can spend as much money as you want without having to disclose that information to anyone other than yourself. So when you know you’ve spent more money than you should have and you don’t want your spouse to know, you might find yourself lying about how much you’ve actually spent. When lies and deceit begin to enter our marriages, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at first, we are setting ourselves up for a long and bumpy road that can easily be avoided.

When lies and deceit begin to enter our marriages, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at first, we are setting ourselves up for a long and bumpy road that can easily been avoided.

By keeping a budget, making financial decisions together and having a joint bank account, you and your spouse will set yourselves up for financial and marital success, and be able to fully enjoy the fruits of your labor “as long as you both shall live”!

3 Ways To Survive Your First Job After College

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When I was about to graduate college and searching for full time employment, a lot of people said to me, “Don’t snatch up the first job that comes your way!”.

I repeated these words over and over in my head and told myself, promised myself, that I would follow this advice.

But after I filled out a couple applications, talked my way through some phone interviews and was offered a job at a hotel a few weeks later, it was as if I had never heard that advice in the first place.

You see, after making nearly nothing at all in college, I jumped at the first job I was offered because it sounded like a million dollar deal at the time! Mind you, my starting salary wasn’t much, but for a fresh-outta-college gal like myself, it was enough to reel me in.

My start date was a week and a half after graduation and although I wished I had more of a summer break before I started working, I was ready to make some money. Donned in my new work clothes with my lunch box in hand, I headed out the door to sit in traffic alongside thousands of other working adults.

It didn’t take me long to realize what a big fat mistake I had made.

And I don’t say that because I didn’t want to work or that I was a lazy college grad.

Have you ever had a job that you knew you just weren’t cut out for? This was the exact thought that entered my mind after two short weeks at my new job.

Every day I dreaded going in and I practically sprinted out the door when my shift was over. I dealt with grumpy guests during my 10+ hour days which only added to my misery. Thankfully, I was transferred to another hotel once the summer came to a close, and my situation drastically improved.

But the good thing about going through tough times is that you come out on the other side having learned something. And maybe that something learned can help out someone else in the long run. Although I was very unhappy at my first job after college, I learned a few ways to cope with my less than idyllic situation that I hope you can put to use if you ever find yourself in similar shoes.

1. Find a mentor(s)
My parents were and are my best mentors. They didn’t let me take the easy way out by quitting my job, but they did help me see the good side of things. For example, they kept reminding me that I was able to save up money so that Daniel and I would have a nice little cushion once we got married. And my mom would always tell me, “At least you know now what you don’t want to do, which is just as important as figuring out what you do want to do!”. Keep this in mind when you are searching for a new job and steer clear of positions that are similar to the one you are trying to get out of.

Figuring out what you don’t want to do is just as important as figuring out what you do want to do. Keep this in mind when you are searching for a new job and steer clear of positions that are similar to the one you are trying to get out of.

Along with my parents, a few supervisors at the hotel I was transferred to after the summer took me under their wing. They made it fun to come to work, they taught me new things every day, and they listened to me when I needed to rant. Sometimes all it takes to feel valued and appreciated at your job is for someone to listen to what you have to say.

Sometimes all it takes to feel valued and appreciated at your job is for someone to listen to what you have to say.

2. Be a positivity sponge 
Most days at my job, the only thing that kept me going was listening to the Christian radio station, K-Love, during my morning and afternoon commutes. If it weren’t for those songs pouring out encouragement through the speakers and lifting my spirits before and after work, I wouldn’t have had the mental strength to go in each day. We can’t control what will happen to us at work, but we can control what we fill our minds with outside of it.

We can’t control what will happen to us at work, but we can control what we fill our minds with outside of it.

2. Have an end date in mind 
I knew I didn’t want to be at this job for much longer, but I didn’t want to quit either. The only way I could keep going was to dangle a carrot in front my nose. I told myself, “Just make it through the summer”. So I did. Then I told myself, “Just make it until the end of the year”. So I did that too. And around this time, Daniel told me that he had been offered a job back in Knoxville. With his new job lined up and our wedding right around the corner, I knew I only had 2-3 months left at my job. I was ecstatic! Finally, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. With an end date in sight, my outlook completely shifted.

Now, I don’t encourage you to up and quit your job without seriously thinking it through and consulting with your family and mentors first, but the truth of the matter is, if you aren’t happy at your job, nothing is going to change if you don’t have a plan in place to improve your situation. Whether that’s applying for five new jobs every week or making a deal with yourself to only stay put at your current job for one year and then move on, having an end date in mind with a plan to meet it will keep you motivated and determined to reach your goal.

If you aren’t happy at your job, nothing is going to change if you don’t have a plan in place to improve your situation.

With guidance from your mentors, staying focused on the positive, and reminding yourself that this season of life won’t last forever, I am confident that you will not only survive your first job after college, but that you will set yourself up for success for your next job as well!

Being Hospitable Even When Your Home Is A Mess

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Maybe you’re like me and you’ve just moved into your first home. Or maybe you’ve been in your home for a while, but there are so many projects that need to take place before it even begins to mirror the vision in your head.

And the last thing you want to do is invite people over when you feel like your place of rest is a mess.

You’re afraid of what they might think or that your home won’t feel inviting. Maybe you’ll call them up when you have some new furniture or when the yard has been cut or when all the boxes have been unpacked. But not right now because your home just isn’t ready yet.

I’ve been there before. In fact, I’m still there! Many times throughout the day I think of all the things I wish we had in our apartment to make it more cozy, more decorative, more put together. I see what it looks like now and compare it to how I want it to look, and that makes it really difficult to be content with what we already have.

I’d tell myself, “When we have everything set up and it looks how I want it to look, then we’ll have people over”. But that’s just not what we’re called to do.

1 Peter 4:8-10 tells us, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Did you get that? Use whatever gift you have received to serve others. It doesn’t say, “Wait until your home looks perfect before you open it to others”. It doesn’t say, “Wait until all the shelves have been dusted and every room has been vacuumed before you open it to others”. It says whatever gift you have received is all that you need to serve others.

I began to realize that if I waited until our home looked exactly how I wanted it to look, it would be a long time before we’d have anyone over.

God doesn’t say “Come find me when you have your life together, and then we’ll talk”. Instead, he meets us where we are, unpacked boxes and all.

We can do the same thing when opening our homes to others. We don’t have to have it all together. We don’t have to have new furniture or a freshly cut yard to be hospitable.

We do what we can with what we have and God will take care of the rest.

Finding Joy in the Marital Routine

Have you ever heard someone say, “I love my job because no two days are the same.”?

They enjoy going to work because each day brings new and different challenges, and they never know what to expect when they walk through door.

I admire people like that because that is so not me.

I live for routine. I’m a creature of habit and I can turn into a pretty crabby creature if something interferes with my routine. I’m not lying when I tell you that I wake up at the same time every morning, eat the same breakfast (oatmeal with a lil’ cinnamon and honey), leave for work at 7:35 a.m. on the dot, park in the same parking spot every day, and the list goes on. Many people would grow bored with this routine, but I thrive on it and that’s something I learned at a young age.

My parents often tell of the time I was involved in several school sports during my middle and high school days. On the days I had practice, I was much more productive because I knew I had to wake up at a certain time, get a meal in me, and prepare my workout bag so that I had the right uniform and equipment when I got to the school gym. On the other hand, when my coach gave us a day or two off, I would stay up late, sleep in until noon or later (one time I woke up at 1 in the afternoon and was so mad that I had wasted half the day), and lay on the couch watching MTV reality shows (Parental Control or Room Raiders, anyone?). These behaviors are still true to this day. If I’m not careful, I can blow a whole evening on our couch watching The Office while eating boxed mac’ n cheese out of the pot. Which is exactly what happened last night.

Anyway, we’re getting off topic here!

Although I flourish on a routine and like to have plans in place, I realize there are many of you who consider yourself to be more spontaneous and like to take it one day at a time. There are times when I wish I was more like that. More flexible, easy-going, not so structured and rigid. But that’s why I married my husband who is the most easy going person in the world 🙂

But I don’t think routine is a bad thing. And over time, I’ve come to realize that there is comfort in the routine and I think that can be true for anyone. During these past couple months of being married, Daniel and I have established some of our own routines that have helped us tremendously and that I think any married couple can adopt. For us, they serve as checkpoints throughout the week and times we can simply enjoy being together.

We encourage you and your spouse to start your own marriage routines. Here are a few of ours to help you get some ideas flowing:

  • Navigator’s Council

If you’ve ever watched TLC, you might know of a show called Little People, Big World. One of the twins on the show recently got married and he and his wife started a marriage blog called Beating 50 Percent. The blog inspires couples to have a better than average marriage by giving more than 50 percent to their spouse. They also created a marriage journal called the Navigator’s Council, which is a weekly journal where you ask your spouse the same six questions every week and record the answers. There is a short devotional and a weekly calendar that you fill out too, so that you and your spouse are on the same page for the coming week.

I’d been eyeing this journal for a few months when Hannah (Daniel’s brother’s girlfriend) got it for us as a wedding gift! Although we very much enjoy and get plenty of use out of our new dishes and beautiful home decor from everyone who was so generous to think of us during our engagement, this journal was the best wedding gift we’d received. We sit down every Sunday (we’ve missed a couple Sundays due to varying work schedules) and read the devotional, fill out our weekly calendar, catch up on things to come in the next week, and ask each other those six questions. Some are easy and some are hard to answer. They get us thinking about the direction our marriage is headed and open up the floor for conversations that might not have taken place if we hadn’t taken the time to sit down and really listen to each other.

I can’t say enough good things about this journal and how much our marriage has benefited from it in just two short months. We highly encourage you to consider this resource for your own marriage. Thank you, Hannah, for gifting this journal to us!

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  • Grocery shopping

This may seem like a chore to some, but Daniel and I get excited to go grocery shopping. Mostly because we just really enjoy food, eating and cooking, but also because we get to spend time together and plan out our meals for the week. We’ve recently discovered that we’re big fans of meal prepping for the whole week, rather than cooking a large meal every night after work (we’re big lazy babies).

My mom told me that she and my dad enjoyed grocery shopping together when they were first married too, and I hope it’s a routine that we don’t grow out of.

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  • Keeping up with the budget 

You probably aren’t surprised to know that finances is one of the biggest marital stresses (if not THE biggest). Many couples have gone their separate ways due to money stress. So if something like this is the cause of such stress and could potentially lead to the demise of your marriage, don’t you think we ought to be paying even MORE attention to it? *Enter the Handy Dandy Budget Book*

I can’t take much credit here, since Daniel is the one who stays on top of our budget every week, but we do work together by writing down every penny we spend, categorizing it (rent, groceries, insurance, etc.), and tracking our progress, or lack thereof, from the previous month.

It’s easy to think you’re doing OK on your budget until you start keeping track of each expense and those numbers begin to stare back at you judgmentally. It’s as if they’re saying, “Wow, did you really need that pineapple print welcome mat you found at Target when you already have two others??”

However, by keeping track of where your money is going, you will start to see trends form. For example, you might notice that a big chunk of your paycheck is going toward eating out at your favorite pizza place or getting one too many brownie sundaes at that cute, old-timey pharmacy downtown. Now that you’ve identified you’re spending tendencies, and realize that you can live without that brownie sundae, no matter how much it kills you inside, you can create a plan to be more intentional with your spending. Daniel and I have some work to do ourselves in this area, but we might not have known that if we hadn’t started keeping track.

We record our spendings in a cheap notebook from the Dollar Store and I am sometimes hesitant to buy things because I know that when I get home, I’ll have to write it down in that pesky little blue spiral notebook. How’s that for a money saver?

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Your routine can be something as simple as going on an evening walk together once a week, going to the gym after work, or even watching a couple episodes of your favorite show (as long as you don’t waste the entire evening and eat the whole pot of mac’ n cheese). Setting aside specific times throughout the week allows you and your spouse to get on the same page for the upcoming week, simply be in each other’s presence and reflect on the progress you’ve made so far.

What are you favorite routines or little moments throughout the day that you get to spend with your spouse?