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Post-Valentine’s Date Night

My husband and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day. We know that it is a made up holiday created by card and candy companies to make money. Typically we do something small, have a nice dinner at home but we don’t do gifts. I usually get him a card and he usually gets me some flowers but that’s about it. This year, we spent Valentine’s day at home, like usual, enjoying a nice home-cooked meal and each other’s company. Thursday, however, we had the pleasure of seeing our favorite band play live at one of the coolest venues we have been to thus far.

Now, it has been almost 4 years (probably like three and a half) since we first saw them play a live show. My husband introduced me to The Ballroom Thieves, and we were able to celebrate our first dating anniversary in 2014 seeing them live. It was a great show at Cain Park in Cleveland, Ohio (similar setup to Blossom Music Venue), and we got to meet them at intermission and share how one of their songs was our song and that it was our anniversary. So they were not originally planning on playing our song “Save Me”, but after hearing our story they decided to play it and we were thrilled. Fast forward to this year and we finally got to see them live again.

The ended up playing at this really cool venue in Cleveland called the Music Box Supper Club. The venue is right on the water, and you can order drinks and dinner while you’re watching the concert. They also have a wonderful patio that looks like it would be great during the summer time. This particular night, however, it happened to be very foggy and raining and so it made the perfect backdrop to watch the band play. Everything from the valet, to the servers, to the food was excellent. We had an amazing time and once again got to say hello and meet our favorite band in person. That’s one of our favorite things about this band, is how much they appreciate their fans and that they take the time to say hello to you after a show and they are very talented! If you ever get a chance to check them out live, you definitely should, and as for the music venue, we will DEFINITELY be heading back there, whether it be for a concert or even just a date night dinner out. Thanks Calin (Cali), Devin and Martin for once again putting on an amazing show! We can’t wait to see you all again in concert soon!

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Getting to Know the Harts

This is the post excerpt.

Hello! My name is Melinda; I am 29 years old and a Cosmetologist. My husband’s name is Ryan; he is 30 and a Strength Coach and Personal Trainer. We are the Harts. We are a Christian couple who lives in Ohio, and have been married for 1 year as of yesterday! Happy Anniversary! I had been contemplating writing a blog for a while, and after a suggestion from a friend of mine, I thought ‘what better timing than our anniversary to get started!’. I love the idea of being able to relate to people in all the joys and struggles that this life brings. My husband and I are real, everyday people just like you. We want to be able to share our lives with you so that you can know you are not alone. We believe that our story is not our own, that God has given each of us a particular story and testimony and we want to share ours with others in the hopes that they can relate and find hope in what they are going through, but also to find peace and joy in the mundane of the everyday. Our history makes us into who we are today and shape the testimonies that we share with others. With that being said, my husband and I would like to share our story with you.
Ryan and I met July of 2013. Four years ago today to be exact. Ryan had a roommate that was a karaoke dj that I was mutual friends with. On this particular Tuesday night, it happened to be karaoke night, so I got ready for karaoke as I usually did. Prior to karaoke, my friend/ Ryan’s roommate had invited me over to go swimming at their apartment complex.
Ryan at the time was working 2 jobs, participating in 2 internships and going to school for his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science. So needless to say Ryan was never home. There was a staff meeting for the physical therapists at the hospital that Ryan was interning at and he wasn’t required to attend, so they gave him the rest of the day off. And so…
Ryan was already at the apartment, preparing to take a nap that afternoon, when his roommate and I returned to go swimming. This is when I first caught Ryan’s eye. We spent all afternoon hanging out, which led to me asking Ryan out on a date before I headed off to karaoke for the evening. Ryan, of course said “YES!”.
From here, we spent the next few weeks hanging out and getting to know one another a little more. Our first official date was at Otani’s; a little hibachi restaurant in the city where we live that is no longer open. Soon after that Ryan invited me to an afternoon cookout and hike at Mohican State Park. The hike consisted of a 2 hr. long trek in the WRONG direction! Ryan’s plan was to take me to Lyon’s Falls and ask me to be his official girlfriend. Once Ryan realized we were on the wrong trail we decided to head back and eat lunch because at this point we were pretty hungry. So we headed back and parked at a spot to grill out. During lunch, Ryan realized there was a different place he could take me to and ask me out officially. So after lunch we headed over to the Gorge Overlook in Mohican State Park, which is up on a large hill and overlooks a beautiful valley. It was here he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. So on August 18, 2013 we started our journey towards what we didn’t know would actually be forever.
From here we pursued an average life for a dating couple in our modern culture. I moved in with Ryan December of 2013, where we kind of “played house”. Although we were committed to one another, this was not God’s plan for us. Over the Spring/ Summer of 2014, I started working as a Mary Kay Consultant. I was invited to church by my MK director. The following week, I decided to give the church near our apartment a try, as I was seeking new faces for my MK business. (I am no longer in the MK business) I am not sure what lead me to go to church on my own, as I was not a believer at the time, however I feel that God was meeting me where I was, and using my circumstances to draw me closer to Him. He was probably looking down thinking to himself “whatever gets her in the door will work, because I have an important message for her to hear”. (This is something I love to share with people now, to show them that God meets us where we are and can use even the most selfish of circumstances to draw us closer to a relationship with Him). It was on August 10, 2014 that I discovered who God is, and I also began pursuing reconciliation with my mother. At this point, my husband was still absent from a present walk with Christ; even though he had been going to church all through childhood, he fell away due to family circumstances in his early adult years.
Even though I became passionate about the Lord and living a life that would honor God, I was still ignorant (or unlearned) to his word, and there were basic things that I didn’t understand that would go against what God would want for my husband and I prior to us being married. From August 2014 to November 2014, we continued our normal dating relationship just as we had been prior to going to church. All the while, God was continuing to work in my heart and beginning to work in my husband’s heart. In early November 2014, Ryan began to attend church with me because he had seen what a positive difference it was making in my life. On November 22, 2014, I got baptized, making a public declaration of my love for my Heavenly Father. It was on this night that God would change our lives and the path of our relationship forever.

 

Following my baptism, we were headed to a friend’s house to celebrate that same evening. On the car ride from the church to their house I mentioned to Ryan that I wanted to talk to him about something. Now mind you, when men hear this, all sorts of crazy things go through their head. Ryan’s first thought was “what did she just say?”. During that conversation, I told Ryan that God had been working in my heart and convicting me that we should end intimacy with one another until we were married. At this point, we were not even engaged yet, and in our current culture, this can be something that tears down and breaks relationships. However, I knew that God was ordaining everything, and I trusted in Him that Ryan was someone I wanted to spend my life with, and I could tell that Ryan was nervous but felt the same way. We both agreed to wait until we were married and even though there were times of struggle, we did everything we could to eliminate any temptation between us.
We got engaged on April, 26, 2015. Ryan was baptized on May 2, 2015 devoting his heart to the Lord as well. At this point, we were still living together and playing house, but we remained abstinent. On the day of Ryan’s baptism, Ryan and I both felt it in our hearts to separate our sleeping arrangements. We continued to live together, but I began sleeping on the couch, giving Ryan the bed, until we were blessed with a family member donating a second bed to us, where I could then start sleeping in our second bedroom. In late October 2015, a little over 8 months until our wedding, we met with our officiating pastor for the wedding, and we were informed that we must live separately or our church would not be able to marry us. This was very important to us that we be married by our church, and so I moved home with my dad until the day we would become husband and wife. It was probably one of the best times I have had in my life being able to spend some last times hanging out with my dad and really learning what God says about marriage and giving us a chance to grow in our faith as we learned to trust God and pursue a Christ-centered relationship.
On July, 9, 2016, three years exactly from the day we met, my husband and I exchanged vows and wedding rings, participated in foot washing, communion and celebrated our marriage with our closest family and friends. There were a lot of things that happened in our families and in our lives between April 26, 2015 and July 9, 2016. Our faith was tested, many times, but we always trusted that whatever life had in store for us, God would be our rock and help us make it through.
Fast forward to today, one year of marriage in. They tell you that the first year is the hardest, and while we believe that is partly true, we also believe that marriage is what you make of it. During our first year of marriage, my mother and step-father moved into a new house, my mother-in-law moved into an apartment, and my father moved down south to a new place, all within the week prior to and including the week of our wedding. My father was finishing up his divorce from my step-mother, a relationship that not only broke down between them, but I suffered the loss of her in my life as well. (A year later from our wedding and things just recently got finalized) In the fall of 2016, my husband’s father began to face a declining health situation, and would eventually lose his battle with alcoholism in January 2017. I had a falling out with a dear friend prior to my wedding, which caused her to miss my wedding, and we worked on forgiveness and started rebuilding our friendship shortly after our wedding. Things couldn’t be better than they are right now for her and I. Through that short time apart from one another, our friendship was strengthened and fortified.
There wasn’t just family things that we had to experience and learn how to deal with. We also had to learn what it meant to be married, how to handle different things, and how to make our marriage the best that it could be. Great marriages don’t just happen; they take work. We had to learn how to share the bathroom, how to communicate effectively and how to share the responsibility around our home as we are both working full time jobs. There were two very important things that we were told are really the breaking points for many marriages… Take a guess as to what those two things are… You probably guessed it; sex and money. While these two things don’t seem like that big of a deal, just look at the causes of many broken marriages and divorces; the end result of a broken marriage or why someone gets divorced is usually caused by those two things. This is not to say everyone who suffers a broken marriage or divorce that these are the reasons, but they usually tend to play a role in there somewhere. So how did my husband and I communicate about these two things and what did we do to alleviate the problems that they can cause?

My husband and I had long conversations about what things we could do to eliminate the stress that these two areas can bring to a marriage. We began looking into birth control options prior to marriage so that we would be prepared when our wedding came, and we found that NFP or Natural Family Planning was our best option. When it comes to finances, neither my husband nor I had great counsel on finances growing up. Both of our families had their own financial difficulties, between lack of budgeting, credit cards and frivolous spending. We discovered something, (that I had actually heard before but never really put to good use) called FPU or Financial Peace University. This taught us how to budget, pay off debt and prepare for our future, children’s future, home-buying, saving, etc. These two things have become strong pillars in our marriage and have worked to increase and strengthen our communication and our relationship.
This is just the beginning of our blog. We are thankful that you took the time to read about our story leading up to our marriage. We will continue to talk about what we think about marriage so far, how we’ve managed, where we have made mistakes, where we have had success and how we lean on God and our support systems through it all. In our next couple of posts we will dive into more detail on how we have built our foundation for success in intimacy and finances through using NFP and FPU.

Stay tuned for our next blog post!

 

It’s What We Do

For the last five weeks, my husband and I have been involved in the What We Do Challenge. This five-week challenge consisted of prayer, fasting, memorizing scripture and serving others. The purpose? To make Jesus to make sense to anyone and everyone and to express the tangible love of Christ to those in our community and path of life. Christians can be a bit weird and this series aimed at making sense of why we do what we do.

Last weekend was Go and Do weekend, where over 2,000 people went out into the community to work on different projects; from building tiny homes for the homeless, yard work for a single mom, building skate ramps for kids and teens, cleaning up local area parks to serving at a memory care facility. That’s where my husband and I chose to serve last weekend. So, we met up at our church with our group and headed out into the community from there. Our group was large, and we had several different activities that we would be doing with the residents of the memory care facility.

Sometimes I think God has a way of using something you’re doing for others to bring awareness of something in your own life, and possibly calling you out beyond a point where you feel comfortable but there is something he is asking you to do that will bring him honor and glory. I feel like God was doing that with me last weekend. I remember being a new Christ follower, a baby Christian, so to speak, and hearing the song “Oceans” by Hillsong for the first time. That song was so powerful and spoke into my life giving me direction and guidance during those first few years. I had a goal that I wanted to sing that song in front of others, declaring God’s truth and power that he had used to transform my life and rescue me, that sometimes he calls you out beyond where you can see, but he keeps your eyes above the waves and doesn’t let you sink below the surface of the water. He is your life preserver, giving you not only life in the here and now but life for all eternity if you choose to accept it.

There was one problem with my desire and passion to sing that song in front of other people… First, I have always loved singing, and have even done my fair share of karaoke; but let’s face it, singing worship in front of a bunch of people is way different than Tuesday night karaoke at the bar. Second, I don’t have the voice of an angel, I can get away with karaoke but I’m not so sure about singing in front of a group of people, especially when there are far more musically talented people who can do a much better job than I. Third, I cannot really sing worship music without breaking into tears at the thought of how loved I am by God and how blessed I am to have the life that I do. It is an overwhelming feeling. So, I had finally come to terms with the fact that I would probably never sing worship songs in front of people, just on my drive to work. Fourth, I’m usually nervous when I must be up in front of people, although I do enjoy speaking and singing, it still makes me nervous.

Well sometimes God uses something that you’re doing to help others, to work in you and speak into your life also. So, our group was supposed to be leading worship and doing a short devotional with the residents. One of the gentlemen in our group played the guitar and started singing some older hymns that I didn’t recognize, but I felt the urge to get up there and provide some back up vocals. Sometimes the calling that God places on your heart doesn’t make sense to you and might seem like the total opposite from where you think he would call you. Yet that day, he called me to sing in front of the entire group with the man playing guitar. After he got through two older hymns, he pulled out the lyrics and sheet music for “Oceans” and I tried to not break into tears. There is something about that song that just touches my soul; something I can’t explain.

When I was singing that song, it may not have sounded like angels, but everyone said what a great job our small group did singing, and no one said anything negative. Does that mean I have a future leading worship? Probably not, but God called me into a place that I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable and I got to sing the song I had always wanted to. He also reminded me that although I may think I have no gift in singing, I may not be as bad as ‘I’ think I am. We are always our own worst critics.

So, what is the big takeaway from all of this? I think it would have to be to trust in God, listen to where He is leading you, and be willing to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense and that even if you feel like what you’re doing is small compared to someone else’s efforts, it still makes a lasting impact when you can tangibly show the love of Christ to others who otherwise may never know who Jesus is. Even a cool glass of water given to someone in the name of Christ is praiseworthy and honorable for the kingdom of God.

So where is God trying to lead you that you aren’t sure about? Do you trust Him enough to listen and to follow? How is God trying to use an opportunity you’re in to work in your own heart to shape and mold you?

I am blessed and proud to be part of a church that loves and cares about those who don’t know Jesus, and who would pour out themselves for others who may never thank them or give them praise for what they have done. We do it because we care and because it has been done for us.

God bless you and we pray that God would continue working in your lives. If you have any questions for us, or would like more information please email us at ourharttoyours@gmail.com

Out With The Old, In With The New… Goodbye 2017 & Hello 2018!

Good Morning! Happy Sunday! Can you believe that today is the last day of the year?! A whole year gone by! Where did this whole entire year go in the blink of an eye? If your year was anything similar to ours, it may have seemed that the year simply blew by way too quickly. This year was a wonderful yet difficult one, full of many different events and emotions, both good and bad.

With the way last year ended and the beginning of this year started, we weren’t sure what the year was going to bring us, or how we were going to make it through the year.

Our family suffered horrible losses starting in early January, all of them within one week of one another. That also bringing about memorial services and funerals. Even though the loss of family was hard, things started to look up after January. We celebrated new job opportunities, weddings, Easter, birthdays, packing meals with Feed My Starving Children to provide meals all over the world, I rescued 3 baby racoons from a sewer hole at our apartments on my birthday, my husband and I celebrated our first anniversary as husband and wife, I got to experience Alive Fest for the first time and sit ON STAGE for Needtobreathe, my husband celebrated another birthday and we had an amazing vacation in Hocking Hills. This year the holidays were pretty low key, and we enjoyed that instead of rushing around to 10 different places and only getting to stay a short amount of time.

In addition to losing family this year, we also had friendships that shifted. Some friendships were lost in our lives, but we also gained new friendships and grew closer to friends that we weren’t as close with last year. As my husband and I reflect back on all this past year has brought us, we are extremely grateful for the people God has placed in our lives and for the relationships that he has helped grow and strengthen this last year.

As we prepare to head into another year, my husband and I think it is extremely important to review your last year and see where you made progress, where you can look back and have gratitude for the things you had this last year and see areas where you drifted this last year. Then you can head into the new year with goals to have health in different areas of your life, you can begin to take initiative for making progress throughout the next year in the different areas of your life, and you can make correction for the places that you have drifted in the last year of life. So below, my husband and I are going to share a resource with you, that if you want to copy it and use it to help reflect on the last year, you can do that. There are also some questions and a reminder to set goals for next year for each area of health. Some of them may not apply to you (singleness doesn’t apply to my husband and I, nor does parenting, at the moment, but parenting will apply one day)

(S/O to Pastor Ryan Rodeman for creating this easy to use template for everyone to use)

A Guide To Refocus for the Year

Take Time To Refocus

Keep these three points in mind as you look back on the past year:

1) Start with prayer. Prayer is key. Ask God to show you what he wants you to see as you look back

2) Reflection: What has happened over the past year? Take time to get above your life. Start by writing down major events in the categories below

3) Set goals for each area. Based on your reflection, you may find some areas need more attention than others.

As you go through this process, two things should happen:

  1. When you begin to see the areas you have made progress, stop to thank God for his work in your life. It is good to celebrate the victories he has given us.
  2. Inevitably areas will emerge where you have drifted. Don’t let this get you down. Ask the Lord to help you pursue health in the coming year.

SPIRITUAL HEALTH

–          Am I interacting with God’s word more or less than the year before?

–          When was the last time I read through the whole bible?

–          Have I been praying more or less than last year?

–          Am I praying daily?

–          Do I have a closer relationship with Christ than a year ago?

–          Are there areas of my life that I have not given Jesus control over?

–          What did God teach me over the last year?

–          Am I more motivated to become like Jesus today than I was a year ago?

–          How is my faithfulness in attending church services?

Set Goals for Spiritual Health

FAMILY LEADERSHIP

–          What’s our culture like as a family?

–          What are our strengths?

–          What are our weaknesses?

–          Are we a thankful family?

–          Is service part of our family?

–          Are we an active family?

–          Have we worked on our family this year?

–          Has entertainment or something else taken too high a priority in our lives?

Set Goals for Family Leadership

MARRIAGE

–          How is our marriage?

–          Did we make any intentional investments in our marriage this year?

–          Do we still date each other?

–          Are we protecting our marriage?

–          Is God at the center of our relationship?

–          How is our sex life?

Set Goals for Marriage

FRIENDSHIPS

–          Who are the key friends that I have?

–          Are they good friends?

–          Do they encourage me in my relationship with Christ?

–          Have I been a good friend?

–          Do I encourage them in their relationship with Christ?

Set Goals for Friendships

PHYSICAL HEALTH

–          How has my health changed over the last year?

–          Was there major change in my health?

–          Did I gain weight?

–          Am I more or less fit?

–          Have I had a physical?

–          Did I consistently exercise?

–          Have I been avoiding getting something checked out by a doctor?

Set Goals for Physical Health

FINANCIAL HEALTH

–          How has my financial landscape changed?

–          Did I incur any more debt this year?

–          How was my giving this year?

–          How was my saving this year?

–          Has my income changed?

–          Have I been faithful to God in this area of my life?

Set Goals for Financial Health

SINGLENESS

–          How am I doing in my singleness?

–          Am I viewing it as a gift?

–          Am I fully giving myself to building God’s Kindgom?

–          Am I being faithful to God in this area of my life?

Set Goals for Singleness 

PARENTING

–          How is my relationship with each child?

–          How is our connection?

–          Did I make intentional investments into their lives?

–          What are the passions that I see in their lives?

–          What are their gifts and abilities?

–          What might God have in mind for their lives?

–          Are there areas of their lives that I might need to come alongside them and help them

Set Goals for Parenting

Friendsgiving, the Christmas Season and Blessings in Disguise

Now that Thanksgiving is over we can finally talk about and start to celebrate Christmas! I love Christmas music, but I’m one of those that always appreciates if everyone can wait until after Thanksgiving at least before we start playing it. I prefer to celebrate one holiday at a time. Except in the case of putting up the Christmas tree and decorations, which typically I like to do Thanksgiving evening, or the weekend following Thanksgiving. This year we have yet to put up our Christmas decorations, but we’ll get into that later on.

So the last few years, my husband and I will host an annual Friendsgiving. Basically, it’s a Thanksgiving meal with your friends, aka, the family you GET to choose. So we celebrated with our small group from our Church. This year’s was a little different however. Instead of hosting it at our place, some friends graciously opened their home and agreed to host it at their place. So my husband and I made homemade cranberry-apple sauce, cran-apple punch (yum!) and we got so many compliments on our turkey. (I was worried I hadn’t cooked it enough, so I kept cooking it a little longer, then I worried I had overdone it, but everyone said it was so good!) So everyone pitched in other side dishes and we had a wonderful feast! Seriously, that was some of the best food I’ve had for our Friendsgiving! I found the cutest little gratitude tree where everyone was able to put a little leaf on that said what they were thankful for, so we went around and shared those out loud. After a nice delicious meal, we all had some homemade pies (thanks Amy!) and we got ready to do a white elephant gift exchange. Now if you don’t know what a white elephant gift exchange is, you’re missing out! Let me explain how it works.

Everyone brings a gift (the amount is set in advance, usually $5-$25 depending). Slips of paper with numbers for the number of people who brought gifts is placed into a bowl and everyone takes turns pulling out a number until no numbers remain. Once everyone has a number, the person with #1 goes first. They pick any gift they want from the pile and they open it. Person #2 goes and can choose to steal or open a new gift. If they steal, the person they stole from opens a new gift. Once more people join, the person whose turn it is, can choose to steal from anyone, the person whose gift was stolen can either steal from someone else or open another gift and the rotation continues from the last number drawn. This continues until no gifts remain. Typically we put a cap on stealing a particular gift twice so that way it’s not an endless stealing of the same gift.
This year instead of doing something store-bought, we decided that it would be more fun to have everyone bring something from home. This turned out to be a lot of fun! Not only did everyone get rid of something that was just hanging out in a closet, but it was fun to try out something different for a change. There was one gift in particular that was the highlight of the exchange. It was this old vintage lamp with plastic crystals and a gold base…. So when it comes time for my husband to pick a gift, he chooses this large box and inside was this lamp. Well NO ONE wanted to steal this thing! We tried pawning it off several times. Until the end of the exchange and I somehow managed to convince one of the younger boys that his mom would really like this lamp for her mantel! He totally bought my sales pitch and decided to take the lamp for mom! HAHA Everyone couldn’t believe it and we all just started cracking up laughing! It was probably one of the best white elephants we have ever participated in. Now that Friendsgiving is over, we can focus on Christmas and getting our apartment ready to decorate, which will still be a little while because we are preparing for carpet to be installed… which means moving a ton of furniture around!

In the midst of all the preparation for Friendsgiving my husband and I have continuously been moving furniture for carpet installation and we had to break it down into two separate days since we had to move all our own furniture for the carpet installers. So for the last two weeks we have been shuffling things around and now that the final day of carpet install is done and our apartment can get put back together! I used to watch the show Hoarders and I always wondered how people could live like that, and this last week our apartment has felt like it was a scene from Hoarders with everything from one floor being crammed into our loft space, there seriously isn’t even room to walk! However, this process of moving furniture has actually been a blessing in disguise. Not only were we able to get rid of some of our old furniture to someone who really needed it, but we were able to pray for some gentlemen who really needed some prayers this holiday season. I love seeing how God chooses moments like these to shine his love, mercy and grace on his people. So not only did we meet two people and were able to pray for them, but we found an amazingly good deal on some furniture for the living room through Facebook and we now have the capacity to host more people in the future, which is something my husband and I have wanted to do for a while. Not ONLY that but this has allowed us to downsize the things we have into more of essential things and to really open our eyes to how blessed we are and just to see how fortunate we are.

Now that the carpet is finished we can finally decorate for Christmas! I love Christmas time! Probably one of my favorite parts is putting up our Christmas tree! Every year my husband and I purchase a new ornament while on vacation to put on our tree. This year, we now have 3 new ornaments thanks to two friends of our giving us additional ornaments to add to our tree! You’ll have to keep an eye out on our instagram (www.instagram.com/ourharttoyours) to find out what they are! I can’t wait to finally get everything back in order and to decorate and to finally be able to truly enjoy our apartment as it was meant to be enjoyed for a while now. Looking forward to all the memories we will make while we are still here. In addition to Christmas decorating, I enjoy the wonderful Christmas services our church puts on. They are some of the best services I have ever been to and they get better every year! I know that Christmas is more than just about gifts, family dinners and decorating.

Christmas is when God gave His ONLY Son to be born for us that through him, we might see and believe and we might live. Jesus came not to condemn us for our sins, but he came to be atonement and sacrifice for our sins that we could have a right relationship with God. I love Christmas but when I sit back and think about what God did through his Son Jesus, that is the best Christmas present that I will ever receive. Jesus came to be a living, breathing example of how we should love other people and interact with them and he also became human that he experienced everything we experience in our own human existence so that he could relate to us. Jesus walked in the flesh here on earth. He was put through trials, temptations, hardships, being mocked, cursed, bruised, beaten, tortured and put to death. All for us. He knows what we have been through, he knows what we’re going through and he knows what we will go through in the future, but he is there every step of the way to walk with us and to be our helping hand.

So this Christmas take some time to reflect on the reason for the season and what that looks like in your life and how we can embrace this ultimate expression of love even more so that through us others might see God’s love and be blessed.

Remember you can email us any time with stories to share, prayer requests or to simply reach out by sending inquiries to ourharttoyours@gmail.com.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

A New Thanksgiving

Happy Post Thanksgiving! Sitting here reminiscing thinking about all that I’m thankful for. I’m also thinking about how this year, thanksgiving was different than it has been any other year.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. We get to eat amazing home-cooked food and share special time with friends and family. If you’re family is like mine, you can also realize how quickly it can become a very stressful time of year. When I think back to Thanksgiving, I quickly remember how I typically have to spend my day shuffling from one house to another and trying (unsuccessfully) not to stuff my face at the first house so I would be able to eat a plate of food at any other house I had to make an appearance at. My parents are divorced (have been for years) and therefore, there would typically be an appearance at both places and then also at my in-laws. Typically for Thanksgiving, we would start early in the afternoon around probably 12 or so and not get home until sometimes 8 or 10 at night after traveling around all day. This year things were different however.

This year, we spent thanksgiving at one house, eating one meal that was around 5:00. We didn’t have to get up early and make food. We didn’t have to spend hours in the car traveling from house to house. Instead, wonderful friends of ours opened up their home to my husband and I, and my mother-in-law, and we got to enjoy spending time together without cooking a huge meal and without having to worry about leaving at a certain time to make it to the next house. This year, we were able to celebrate with not only family but friends also. This year was also the first year we were without certain closer family members.
Typically the holidays are a time for celebration and thanks and making memories; but for many people, it is also a reminder of the people that are no longer with them. This year, we also had to experience the holidays without certain family members around to celebrate with us. The holidays can be a tough time of grief for those who have lost loved ones, especially if the loss occurred more recently. This year we lost not only one but two members of our family and the beloved family dog. Dealing with those losses was hard enough on their own, but then having to look forward to a holiday without those family members there, is another hill to climb. We weren’t sure how, or if we would even be able to make it through the holidays. Although we had our moments of sadness and remembering, this year, we were able to laugh, cry and remember the moments with our loved ones that meant the most to each one of us.

The few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, my husband and I took a grief class, that not only helped us process through the grief we were experiencing, but also taught me that I was experiencing grief of certain people who were still living but no longer part of my life. Grieving doesn’t always insinuate that a person is passed away; it can also mean people who are still living but no longer a part of our lives, in a way they once were. This can be a family member, or even a friend. Regardless of who it is, it still hurts that they are no longer around. Through our grief class, my husband and I were able to work through our grief in different ways and to enjoy the holidays even with the losses we experienced. This is by no means an end to our grief, it simply means we were able to make it through and as time goes on we will continue to lean on one another for support and to ensure that we are grieving properly and not dealing with complicated grief.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with grief, know that you are not alone. Although each situation is different, the relationships we have with people are different, the losses we experience are different, the facts are still the same. We all deal with grief and we all experience loss. The way in which we experience those things might vary but we can all learn from those experiences. Even though the holidays were hard without our family members here, we are grateful and blessed for the time we got to spend with our family and friends this year and for being able to have such a great support system.

If there is anything we can pray for you about or if we can help you in any way through this holiday season, please reach out to my husband and I at ourharttoyours@gmail.com and we would love to talk with you! Happy Post-Thanksgiving!

Change of plans

Well Good Morning everyone! Hope you’re having a fantastic week so far! It’s been about a month since our last post, and we have been crazy busy between vacation, work and I recently moved to a new salon, so I have been adjusting to the new work schedule and to traveling for work a little further from home. Back in the beginning of the month my husband and I took our once yearly vacation. Last year we had the pleasure and privilege of visiting Hilton Head Island as our vacation/ honeymoon; a gift that was given to us by a friend for our wedding. (Thanks Mike!)
So last year, my husband and I saved our spending money, rented a car and we headed down to Hilton Head. We had an amazing 3/4 days before we unfortunately had to come home due to Hurricane Matthew moving in. We made the smart decision to come home the day before the mandatory evacuation and we are glad we did because traffic was crazy down there and many of the gas stations ended up running out of gas before we even got out of town! So our plan this year was to revisit Hilton Head since we had a credit towards our condo stay for the remainder of the time we missed last year. We had everything set up and ready to go and we were so excited about all the things we had planned that we didn’t get to do last year and then revisiting the things we really enjoyed this year. Around Labor Day, my husband and I were visiting some friends down in Southern Ohio, and a friend of ours who lives in Beaufort, South Carolina was posting updates about the impending hurricane(s) and bad weather that was to be heading towards the coast right about the time of our vacation.
So I advised my husband to call our rental and ask if we could pay the amount we owed for the additional days we would be staying this year, a little closer to our trip date so we could see what the weather was going to do. If we needed to make vacation arrangements elsewhere we wanted to be able to do so, so that way we would still be able to take our vacation. We found out unfortunately that somehow our arrangements got double-booked, by no one’s fault, it just happened. So we started to talk to friends who were to be visiting with us during our vacation, so that we could potentially make other arrangements. After all was said and done with the continuous surge of bad weather making its way towards the coast, we decided that it was in our best interest to go ahead and make other plans. We were fortunately able to get the deposit from our initial rental back and use that towards our vacation elsewhere. So with our Hilton Head vacation cancelled, and the deadline of our time off work getting closer, what are we to do? My husband and I sat down and we discussed the various options and we decided that it was best to stay somewhere a little closer to home but still be able to get away for a week and just spend time relaxing and with one another.
So in just a couple days, we went from heading down to Hilton Head Island, to heading down to Hocking Hills, Ohio. We managed to find an inexpensive cabin down there and in such a short amount of time. Most cabins this time of year book up rather quickly. So with our new vacation plans in place we were set. We only had the cabin rental from Sunday through Friday, so we had some extra time off work to spend doing other things. The first day of our vacation, Friday, we had a relaxing and pampering day. I got my hair done, we got manis and pedis, and we had a fun evening having dinner with my family and then we went out and played pool. Saturday we were able to spend the day down in Mohican for my husband’s family’s annual camping trip, in which one of our cousins got engaged to her wonderful boyriend! (Congratulations guys!) So Sunday came and we finally headed down to our cabin!
The drive was a little long, because as you can imagine we had to travel through Columbus traffic and that being such a large city, there was plenty of traffic to be had. We finally got to our cabin and when we pulled up, it was seriously so cute! It was perfect for the two of us to just get away from the hustle and bustle of life for a few days and just focus on reconnecting with one another, which we feel is so important to do on a continual basis. Our cabin had a fire pit outside and a jacuzzi! Probably one of the best perks of our stay was just relaxing in the evening and listening to the quiteness of nature out in the country. Our whole week was so much fun. We hiked about 6 different trails, all ranging from extremely easy to challenging, with varying elevations and over the course of 3 days we probably hiked about 15 miles! The scenery was AMAZING to say the least. Some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. All in all, the best part of our trip was that it was inexpensive (as the hiking was free), and that it simply allowed us to just spend time together. We didn’t have to follow a schedule, be anywhere at a certain time and we didn’t have to spend money to have fun. We were able to have fun by just going out and hiking and seeing all the wonder there was hidden in such a short drive from where we live.
When we first learned that we wouldn’t be able to go to Hilton Head this year, we were extremely bummed. But the more we sat back and thought about it, we realized we wouldn’t have to spend 12-13 hours driving, we didn’t have to spend the money renting a car and we especially didn’t have to worry about missing out on our stay because of bad weather and hurricanes again this year. After we thought about it more and more, we realized that this was a blessing in disguise. Will we eventually go back to Hilton Head? I would say that’s a definite possibility; just not during hurricane season! All in all we had the most amazing time just investing in our marriage and spending time together.
If anyone would like info on the cabin we stayed at or some of the other things we did during our stay in Hocking Hills (restaurants/ attractions, etc) please feel free to contact us at ourharttoyours@gmail.com.
Have a wonderful week and keep checking back for future blog posts!

Representing Your Brand

Alright, it’s finally here… VACATION! You think I would be sleeping in since I have nowhere really to be today. Nope… Unfortunately, my brain decided it couldn’t shut itself off this morning after my usual 5am morning alarm went off, so I’ve been up since about 5:15. I’ve had a cup of coffee and done my devotional time with God this morning so I feel pretty accomplished already today. I figured since I don’t actually have to be anywhere until 10am this morning that I would sit down and write a blog post since it’s been a while and this topic has been on my mind a lot lately.

Recently I have had some close people in my life that have had some disheartening trouble in their relationships with family. It breaks my heart to see people that I love and care about, hurting in such a way that is so easily avoidable. This has been an eye-opening and self-reflecting time for myself as I want to ensure that what is happening to them, isn’t being reflected in areas of my own life. What exactly am I talking about? I’m talking about being an ambassador for Christ. As followers of Christ, we can all too easily hide behind this “title” of being a Christian, hide behind scripture and we can misuse and misrepresent the name of God. All too often in today’s society we see this happening a lot, not only within family dynamics, but also in the media. In the realm of big brand name companies, if you take on their name and you claim to be a part of that company and represent them, you must abide by their standards, their code of ethics, the way they choose to run their company and their policies. If you fail to do so, then they can easily ask that you no longer call yourself an ambassador/ representative of their company and you will no longer have any part with that company. As a brand ambassador for a company you have to ensure that you are representing that company in a true and correct manner.

This is also true of being an ambassador for Christ. The difference is that we aren’t told that we can no longer represent the name of Jesus; instead, when we misrepresent the name of Christ, we cause people to fall away from Jesus instead of running towards him. I have heard it asked many times that “why would someone want to follow God, if people are representing him in such a way?”. I have two answers for that. One, we have to be careful that we are connecting directly to the source (ie. the gospel/ God’s word) and finding out exactly what a representative should embody. Should we notice that someone is misrepresenting the heart and mind of Christ, we should pray for them, love them, meet them where they are and ultimately remember that they are not perfect. Perhaps they have a misrepresented view of God from how others have represented God to them. We can’t hold it against them; however, we can hold them accountable. Two, we shouldn’t place our decisions to know and love God based on the actions of others. Human beings are imperfect and flawed, and we will inevitably fail one another at various times. Our faith in God is about having a relationship with God. It all comes down to a choice. Faith IS a choice; I put my faith in something, meaning I am CHOOSING to believe or not believe. Don’t let someone’s skewed view of God and misrepresentation of him cause you to miss out on the most amazing relationship you can ever come to know.

For those of us who are followers of Christ, I urge us all to take some time this week coming up to evaluate where we are in our walk with Christ and to ensure that we are being good ambassadors for God. We don’t have to be perfect; we aren’t called to be and we couldn’t be perfect even if we tried our hardest. As fellow believers we should be able to encourage one another and hold each other accountable for our actions; however, if someone is not yet a follower of Christ, we need to meet those people exactly where they are in life and love them in the midst of where they’re at. We can easily cause someone to walk away from pursuing a relationship with God because of our actions, which is unfortunate and avoidable.

I am speaking about this from a place of love, compassion and personal experience.
Growing up, I would visit church with my grandmother on Sundays. I would have to wake up way too early, put on something formal that I didn’t want to wear and go sit through an hr or so long sermon where someone read to us from the bible. I noticed that the people there were nice, but didn’t invest too much time into sharing the heart and mind of God, but rather they would simply read stories from the bible, which I could do on my own. I never knew who God really was or what he was like until I found my home church now and they didn’t talk down to us, or read to us like we couldn’t understand the bible any other way; instead, they take real life everyday problems, and give us ways to apply scripture to our everyday lives.

I have myself, misrepresented the heart and mind of God to a fellow believer and sister in Christ only last year. I had a hard conversation with her about where she was at in her life and some decisions she was making. I had good intentions and my heart was in the right place, but I went about it all wrong. It took a good friendship that was growing well, and damaged it. That friendship was broken for a period of four months. For four months she wouldn’t talk to me; she wouldn’t return calls or text messages. I would kindly send her a text here or there just to remind her that I cared about her and I hoped that we could talk again. I continued to pray for reconciliation with her even when I continued to gain no response. After a while, my prayers were answered and she reached back out to me. During that four months I never gave up on the hope that God would reconcile our friendship. I discovered through our conversation that I had deeply wounded her. That was not my intention but that is what happened. Our friendship is the strongest it has been since meeting one another and I am blessed to call her my sister in Christ and one of my best friends. I recently sat down and had a video call with her and asked for feedback on what had happened during that time of our original conversation and four month time span and how I could have been a better friend to her and a better ambassador of Christ.

Essentially, I simply needed to meet her where she was at and remind her that I was there for her and that I cared about her and what was going on in her life. I had the right intentions, but the conversation we had that day was poorly executed. I loved on her too harshly and instead of simply holding her accountable, (which as Christ followers are called to do with fellow believers) I came across as judgemental, which there is a fine line between the two. Now if someone isn’t a believer, you need to meet them where they are and love them. LOVE THEM. That’s it. Pray for them, love them and ask God to change their heart because He is the ONLY ONE who can.

During the last year, I have met a girl who completely blew me away by the way she represents God and is an ambassador for Him. We went out for a smoothie one day and she paid, and as the girl handed her back her debit card, she looked at the cashier and asked “Is there anything you need prayer for?”. My head kind of did this tilty thing that dogs do when you ask them if they want a treat, and I kind of chuckled inside and was awestruck. As blown away as I was by her boldness in faith, I stopped for a second and thought to myself, “are you allowed to do that? Can you really just ask people that?”. The answer: YES. The girl of course was dumbfounded by the question and didn’t have anything that we could pray for her about but this opened up a whole new world on the way I saw being an ambassador for God.

We actually recently did a series at our church where we talked about being an ambassador for Christ and they talked about being bold in your faith and actually living out the things we talk about. Practice what you preach – don’t be a hypocrite. At the end of service our pastor pulled up a video of Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller talking about his experience after one of his shows. A man came up to him, prosthelytized to him, sharing the gospel with him and gave him a copy of the bible. Now Penn, who is an atheist, wasn’t offended by this, but instead he was blown away by the boldness of this man’s faith; the fact that this man cared enough for a stranger to be concerened about Penn’s soul and knowing God. Penn states in his video that he is an avid athiest and he probably wouldn’t change his beliefs, but the monumental statement he makes in his video is what caught my attention most. If someone truly believes that someone’s soul is in trouble and the only way to heaven is through knowing God, then how much do you have to hate someone not to share it (the gospel) with them? This changed my whole view on being an ambassador for God.
So I set out on a deeper faith journey and I boldly asked God to help me be a better ambassador for him and to help me be more bold in my faith. (Ask and you shall receive)

When my husband and I have gone out to dinner the last couple months, we usually pay cash for our meal and tip. When the server comes back to cash us out, we let them know that we don’t need change but I usually stop them and tell them I have a question for them. They pause for a second and then I ask them “Is there anything my husband and I can pray for you about?”. We haven’t had any no’s yet, but I’m sure there is one coming eventually. So far we have been met with great response and the people we are meeting aren’t offended, but rather touched by the fact that someone cares enough about them to do something that takes boldness but doesn’t cost anything. Doing something like this is a great way to represent the heart and mind of Christ without blatantly asking someone, “do you know Jesus?” After all, we aren’t called to change people, we are called to love people. If my simple act of compassion and caring about someone enough to pray for them shows the heart and mind of Christ without pushing my beliefs on them, then I’ve done what God has asked me to do.

Ultimately we can turn people to Christ or away from Christ. I would hate for my actions to cause someone to doubt the heart and mind of God and choose not to pursue a relationship with Him because of false assumptions they have based on the actions that I portray. If I have ever personally misrepresented the heart and mind of God to anyone I know personally or have met in passing, first let me apologize and ask for forgiveness because I would never intentionally do that. I ask for accountability when it comes to being an ambassador for Christ and I pray that when others look at me they see Him, how He has worked in my life and that the only way I can love others the way that I do is through my relationship with Him.

So with that message coming out of my mind and onto this blogpost, I pray that it may have struck up some thought in you about how you can use your faith in a similar manner. If you’re not yet a Christ follower, I pray that God would work in your heart this week to show you HIS true heart and mind and not to let hope and faith be lost through the actions of others, but rather that you would seek out truth for yourself.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:13

If there is anything my husband and I can pray for you about or if you have any questions we can answer, please email us at ourharttoyours@gmail.com.

God bless you and have a wonderful weekend!

Here is the link to the video of Penn Jillette talking about his experience: