January 22, 2012

House Rules

House rules -- shoes off at the door, pick up after yourself, the one who didn't cook does the dishes -- these are the things you start thinking about when you're getting ready to marry someone and realize that two independent lives are coming to a glorious collision of dependency. As we have been stretched to learn and grow with each other, we have started the habit of having some "rules" that help us stay connected and on the same page, even if we're not physically in the same place.

Oh the places you'll go! The fiance is a youth pastor, which means he often goes on trips for a long period of time in places that take a long time to get to. An early "house rule" for us is that anytime one of us goes on a trip where we change zip codes and/or cross state lines, we are greatly encouraged to text each other and let the other know when we have: 1. left home base and 2. arrived at new and/or intended destination.

Thanks to this rule, we have grown accustomed to letting each other know where we are and where we're going. This has been especially helpful since we have been long-distance; you would think that it wouldn't make that much of a difference (since we're already apart), but I think I care more about his safety since we've been long-distance than when we're in the same place. Once we're married, I'll still want to know when he's arrived, but I will have known when he's left (because he'll be leaving my sweet embrace, duh).

Oh the people you'll see! Related to the above house rule is this house rule about who we spend time with and what we spend time doing with said people. This past summer, I got to join the summer bible study/small group for young adults at church. We started the summer off by going through Andy Stanley's "Guardrail" series. This six-part series defines guardrails as "a standard of behavior—that’s a behavior you choose—a standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience" (Part 3: Flee Baby Flee!) and in this series, Stanley discusses how we can set-up "guardrails" in our daily life that not only help tune our thoughts and actions to the beat of God's heart, but also to help guide us when we start making decisions in our daily life and in our relationships with others.

Example? One of the guardrails Stanley recommends for married couples is to not have coffee, lunch, dinner, etc with a member of the opposite sex alone. Some may read/listen to Stanley's "Guardrail" series and consider his suggestions ridiculous or extremely strict. However, I, like many others, have come to value his suggestions and have taken what he has said and made it work for me and my relationship with my fiance.When I first read that I thought to myself, "Well, duh! Obviously I wouldn't go on a lunch-date with a guy friend, that's not a problem I should be worried about." Then I realized how many friends I have that are male, and I began to realize that, while I am not physically or emotionally attracted to these friends, I have ample opportunity to become unhealthily invested if I didn't set up a guardrail that cautions me when that type of interaction is about to happen. Now, I have to confess, I have not taken Stanley's advice; I have met up with my guy friends sans fiance since hearing this message. It is hard to meet up and keep up with guy friends and not be alone, thanks to our long-distance relationship. However, the fiance and I have done our best to start the habit of letting each other know when this type of interaction will happen. It's as simple as texting that I might grab coffee with "Bob" and then calling if/when plans are being made with "Bob" to make sure it's ok and that everyone's on the same page.

Some may see this pattern of behavior and think, "That is foolish, why do you feel the need to let your fiance know who you're going to see and what you're going to do?" But here's the thing -- by letting each other know who we're with and what we're doing, there should be no surprises. I should not be surprised if someone comes up to me and says, "Hey I saw your fiance with female-so-and-so and they were having lunch and blahblahblah." It protects me and my relationship with my fiance, and it protects our ability to trust and respect each other in our own independence.

There are still more house rules to be thought of and created. I feel like we're just hitting the tip of the iceberg. And honestly, I don't really know much about this...yet. I don't live in the same state as my fiance and I'm not married yet. But I know this - if I am able to get in the habit of respecting my husband and respecting our marriage and our covenant to each other, then guardrails and house rules are just what comes with the territory.

January 14, 2012

Living smart

It should be no surprise to you that the fiance and I are not millionaires. In preparation for our non-millionaire lifestyle, the fiance and I have talked through (and continue to talk through) and worked out some ways we can be smart with our money. We believe that these are habits that can profoundly impact the rest of our lives if we put our minds (and our wallets and bank accounts) to it!

Continue tithing. Not only because we believe in it, but also because we have been commanded to do so. John Piper once said: "When we release a tenth of our income and give it over to the ministry and mission of Christ in the world, we honor the Creator rights of God who owns everything, including all our income." We were brought up in households that valued the act of worship through tithing, and have learned from our parents the importance of glorifying God in everything we have. We have also personally witnessed the power of tithing and how it impacts people in how they live their life in daily submission to Christ. We recognize that money, while needed, is not the definition of who we are and how we live. We choose to put our trust in Him to provide for us, "For where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).

Earn one, bank one. We got this idea through our pastor who led our pre-marital counseling sessions (shout out to pre-marital counseling!). This is by no means a challenging task, because it means that from our marriage on, we will be pretending we only have one income. Money + pretending we don't have much = hard. Let's be honest, who likes working hard only to enjoy half of what you earn in return? This is a revolutionary idea (at least I think so), and it challenges us to be more responsible with our money and how we spend it. This idea wonderfully matches our two varying views about money (spending what we can vs. saving what we have) into one; through this principle, we will have money put away to save for emergencies and big future plans, while also learning how to have fun with the money we set aside ahead of time.

Live below our means. What does this mean? It means we pick the 2 bedroom house instead of the 5 bedroom house. It means we pay for basic cable and not the 400 channels of HBO. It means we have weekly dinner dates with friends at our home instead of at a restaurant. It means we bring lunch to work. It means we get creative and DIY and go thrift shopping! It means we are constantly reminded that we have been greatly blessed and that we really don't need all those things we think we need.

Cash only? I've toyed with the idea of a cash-only budget system for our expenses (mainly groceries). Financial make-over superman Dave Ramsey suggests an envelop budget system, where cash is allotted to specific envelopes per month; once spent, that means you've done spent it all! I did this my first year of having a big-girl job...for the first few months. After the honeymoon period with my envelop system, I misplaced a few envelopes, "borrowed" some cash from one envelop and moved it to another, and spent too fast before the end of the month rolled around. However, what I remember working with this cash system was this: when I am holding cold hard cash, it's harder seeing the dollar bills flying out of my hand than it is swiping a card through a machine.

Make smart decisions. Don't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

There is still much to learn and much to figure out, but I'm excited to start this journey of finding a place for money in our lives. What about you? How do you save and spend your money?

January 9, 2012

2011: Recap

In the spirit of being thankful, I thought about the highlights of 2011. What I remember is: a lot of laughter, a lot of love, and whole lot of grace!

In January, my brother and I were gifted a trip to Cambodia after our family trip to Thailand to visit my dad. It was a wonderful trip and a great bonding experience for the two of us.

In March, on a 'normal' Saturday afternoon, the love of my life got down on one knee and proposed. I still can't believe that happened. Sometimes I wake up and look at my ring to make sure I haven't been dreaming this whole time. True story.

Shaheen & I with our crowns; Ms. Cad's cut-off head because she was running so fast!

In April, Prince William got married to the gorgeous Kate Middleton. This was also the month I saw a couple of friends from college. My friend Shaheen came to visit. We woke up at 5AM to watch the royal wedding, and made ourselves some crowns. Then we went to visit our friend Julia in Philadephia. She ran in a marathon when we were there!

In May, my brosef graduated from college! It was a wonderful time, even though my grandparents fell asleep during the ceremony.

In the summer, the fiance and I spent three months together, pretending like we weren't in a long-distance relationship. We went on dates, we cooked at home, we went on bike rides, we went to Deep Creek with our kids. It was wonderful. Also wonderful? Our parents meeting for the first time.

I started my last year of graduate school in September. I also started working on this blog. Then November came, and it was our 2 year anniversary and Thanksgiving. Saw the fiance for the first time in three and a half months (remind me to tell you that long-distance relationships take a lot of work and patience). Counting down the days!

Then it was December, and before I knew it I was five months away from my big day. Freak out!

2011, you were so good - too good - to me. 2012 - bring. it. on.

January 2, 2012


The last photo I took in 2011

Twenty-twelve is going to be a very special year. In all my years of life, I cannot think of a more exciting and significant year than this year. In the next five months alone I will be: turning 25, finishing graduate school, moving to the South, becoming a Mrs., and nesting in my first big-girl place with a boy.

All this excitement means oodles and oodles of stress...if I let it succumb me. Instead, I decided to counteract the craziness that is about to happen with a couple of new years resolutions. I have never actually made new years resolutions, and if I had in the past, I clearly failed at them because I can't even remember them!

There are some obvious things on my "to-do" list that I restart every year, but this year there is something about sticking to them that I am really passionate about. Maybe it's my realization that I am going to need far more than my own strength to get me through the next couple of months. Whatever it is, I'm ready, and I'm excited. Relevant Magazine posted an article yesterday of 10 ways to make your resolutions/new determinations for this year last longer than they did last year. Following their suggestions, specifically tip #10, I am making these resolutions public so you can keep me accountable! From this day forward I give you all authority to ask me if I am doing any one of the these things, and have all the right to publicly shame me if I confess that I am not.

Go to bed earlier so that I can wake up earlier. I always seem to find an excuse for not having enough time. However, on the times I have too much time, I always manage to waste it and stay up too late. I want to be in bed early enough so that my alarm at 5:30AM does not come like a thief in the night. I want to be in bed early enough so that I have the time, body, mind, and spirit for the Lord before the craziness of the day becomes my idol.

Find a Bible reading plan and stick to it. My church provided us with a link to a bunch of Bible reading plans. I did some research and picked a plan that peaked my interest; M'Cheyne One-Year reading plan. Why did I pick it? New Testament twice, Psalms twice, the Gospels twice, and the Old Testament once. Not gonna lie to you, the majority of the Old Testament makes me zzzzzzzz. NT, Psalms and Gospels twice throughout the year? Yes please.

Pray intentionally and fervently for my man. I prayed fervently for the Lord to provide a God-fearing and God-loving man in my life, if nun-hood was not His will for me. Once the fiance was in my life, I kind of stopped praying for him. The older I get, and the more I learned (I went to a workshop about Biblical Womanhood offered at my church based off of Sharon Jaymes' book and it rocked my world), the more I realized that my role as a wife and a help-mate is to, among other things, support my husband. What does support look like? Prayer, prayer, prayer. I don't know how I came across this 31-day prayer guide, but I'm glad I did!

Less snacking, more doing. I was inspired by one of the uncles on the fiance's side when he gave up snacking for lent. I was definitely straight-up judging and probably stuffing my face when I heard that. But now that I'm older, and getting fatter faster/easier (and preparing for a particular "wedding day" approaching), I want to get my body in gear. But not too much in gear -- I already bought a dress.

Four goals for the year. Let's do this thing!