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 The difference is that we aren’t told that we can no longer represent the name of Jesus; instead, when we misrepresent the name of Christ, we cause people to fall away from Jesus instead of running towards him.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:

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Fall is in the air

Hey everyone! Hope you have all had an amazing summer. I have the day off today, and what a beautiful day to have off! The sun is shining, birds are chirping, there is a nice breeze blowing and I have nowhere to be. So I’m just catching up on laundry and enjoying a nice cup of coffee. Summer has been so crazy and hectic and we took a little bit of a break from writing just to spend time with family and friends. Now that September is here, we can embrace the PSL (pumpkin spice latte) season. Since my husband and I haven’t written in a while and I had the day off work, I decided that I would take some time to write. So today I thought I would write a simple blog post regarding my favorite season: FALL!
I LOVE FALL! Everything about Fall; the leaves changing, pumpkin spice lattes, fall scented candles, pumpkin picking, apple picking, corn mazes, bonfires and s’mores, caramel apples, apple cider, the crisp fall air and hiking. The only thing I don’t like is the transition from warm days to cool days, but at least in fall I can leave my windows open during the day and I don’t need the A/C. Saves me some money on electric! My husband and I took our honeymoon last year to Hilton Head during the fall and it was nice, and unfortunately due to overbooking and the terrible weather we are experiencing down south, we have decided to cancel our HHI trip and head down to a cabin for the week. We are seriously excited about that, although I wasn’t prepared to spend $130 on hiking gear as I have none currently. That aside, we are still able to go do a lot of the same things, we just won’t be at the beach and swimming. Which is fine with us because we really didn’t spend all that much time at the beach last year, and we had to evacuate due to another hurricane (hurricane Matthew) last year also. We are so excited just to go spend a week in a cabin, relaxing, bonfire and s’mores and going hiking. We have a few fall traditions and we are always looking for more. So what kinds of things are there to do in this amazing Fall weather? I am going to share some of the places that we have gone and liked and also some of the places that we would like to try.

Szalay’s Farmer’s Market – Akron, Ohio
This place is a nice little farmer’s market, that during the fall season, they take one of the fields of corn that they have been growing and they carve out a maze inside. It is only $5 I believe and it’s a lot of fun. Not to mention I got some mini pumpkins from there last year during September and all the way through Thanksgiving they were STILL good! No mushiness and no rotting! Best part is that they were only $1 each for the mini ones!

54th annual Fall Hiking Spree
The annual Fall Hiking Spree is the largest and longest-running event of its kind in the nation. Trails range from easy to challenging. Choose the trails best for you.
We love to hike and we have hiked a few of these trails but would love to hike a few more

Hale Farm
My husband and I have been here a few times. We usually try to go during events but many times our schedules don’t line up with what they have going on so we have missed a few events the last couple years but we are planning on going to them next year. The scenery is really pretty in the fall.

Mapleside Farms – Brunswick, Ohio
We visited Mapleside Farms last year during their Pumpkin Village event and it was a lot of fun. Tickets are $12-$14 depending on the weekend, and each weekend has a different theme. We went during the Johnny Appleseed Festival and it was really busy, so I suggest going early in the day to get good parking and to avoid too much crowding. Check out their website for details http://www.mapleside.com/fallfestivals

Bonfires
Bonfires are always a great get together idea. Make some s’mores, hang out and just relax by a warm, fire with great friends

Apple Picking
I used to do this every year growing up and it has been a while, but I think my husband and i would like to do it this year. There are several places still allowing people to pick their own.

Wolf Creek Winery
One of our favorite relaxing spots. Bottles of wine aren’t that expensive and you can bring your own food/ snacks and the scenery is AMAZING!

Share your ideas on things to do this fall and check out some of the places we recommended! Let us know what you think! ourharttoyours@gmail.com

NFP – 100% All Natural – Good for the Body, Great for the Soul

Like we talked about in our initial blog post, there were many things my husband and I talked about prior to getting married, but two things that were most important. Last week we talked about the first of the two; Finances and gaining financial peace. This week we are going to cover the topic of intimacy in marriage, the use of birth control and what we decided to use in regards to our own marriage relationship.

First let’s start by talking about how we got to this place of searching for better options. Like we mentioned previously, when my husband and I met, I did not know the Lord and he had fallen away from the Lord. When we met, I was an avid user of hormonal artificial contraceptive prescribed by my doctor and my husband and I were intimate. As our relationship grew and we developed a relationship with God, our hearts changed and we decided we no longer needed to take any sort of birth control because we wanted to abstain from intimacy until we were married. Therefore, I quit taking the birth control and we remained abstinent until our wedding. During our engagement, we thought it was important to discuss birth control options and what we would do once we were married. A married couple who are close friends of ours who were mentoring us discussed with us some things that we should think about regarding marriage, one of which being intimacy in marriage and birth control. They were open and honest with us and shared that they had learned about NFP prior to getting married themselves and had used it, successfully, all 11 (now 12) years of their marriage and three children later. They began using it when they got married and they haven’t looked back since.

What is NFP exactly?
Natural family planning (NFP) is fertility awareness, which is simply knowledge of a couple’s fertility. It is a means of reading the body’s signs of fertility and infertility; applying this knowledge through the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) is over 99% effective in postponing pregnancy. A married couple’s virtuous application of this knowledge either to try to achieve a pregnancy or to postpone a pregnancy is called responsible parenthood.

Practicing NFP is 100% natural — there are no drugs, chemicals or devices involved, which is one reason many today find it to be a positive and refreshing alternative to contraceptive methods. NFP honors our dignity as persons by respecting the natural rhythms and functions of the body. It is very common to hear couples who use NFP speak of an increased awe and respect for femininity and their mutual fertility, and a greater sense of empowerment through self-knowledge (ccli.org)

We use what is called the “Sympto-Thermal” Method of fertility tracking; not to be confused with the rythym method, as every woman’s cycle is not the same and every woman’s cycle varies even month to month.

“The Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) taught by CCL is based on three key signs of fertility: cervical mucus, basal body temperature and changes in the cervix. By observing and recording these signs you and your spouse will be able to identify Phase I, II and III and therefore know if you’re in a time of fertility or infertility.

These signs are easily noticed by any woman who has learned to watch for them. It takes only a minute or two each day to record them in CCL’s mobile app, CycleProGo, or on a paper chart. The chart provides a daily record that can be used to identify the days of fertility and infertility. Once the fertile and infertile days have been identified, couples apply “rules” that they learn in class (and that are explained in CCL’s Student Guide) to frame the boundaries between the phases of the cycle.” (ccli.org)

What are the three phases of a woman’s cycle?
“The female fertility cycle can be divided into three phases.

Phase I begins on the first day of menstrual bleeding, and normally includes a few infertile days after menstruation.

Phase II begins as soon as a woman’s daily observations detect the onset of signs of fertility. This fertile time lasts up to and a few days after the time of ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary). In a normal, healthy woman, Phase II will typically last up to 12 days.

Phase III is the post-ovulation time and is a time of infertility. Phase III typically accounts for the last one-third of a healthy woman’s cycle.
The three phases of the female cycle are the result of the interplay of four key hormones – estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These hormones are also responsible for the fertility signs that a woman can learn to observe.”

So why did we decide to used NFP instead of alternative methods to birth control?
My husband and I decided that we didn’t want the responsibility of responsible birth control to fall just on one person or the other. We also realized that the effects of using birth control long term can have lasting effects that can cause issues with conception when a couple is ready to start having a family. In regards to the health issues alone, we decided that an all natural option was our best bet. So we signed up and took the class, which our friends are certified to teach and they helped us understand it better and how to use it effectively.

Upon beginning the classes and trying to track the necessary information, it was definitely overwhelming and confusing, and it usually is until you get into the swing of things and actually know what you’re doing. Now that we have been charting for a year and a half and actually implementing the use of NFP for the last year of our marriage, we have found it to be easier to track and understand as time goes on. I’m sure there are people out there who doubt if it works, or are skeptical or scared to try it out but I assure you it does work. I am also sure that there are some people who would ask if there are any drawbacks to using NFP over other alternatives, and there definitely pros and cons to every decision you make. One reason we ultimately chose to use NFP was because we wanted to honor God with our marriage relationship and with our family. We feel that using NFP promotes trust in God and using our bodies how He intended them to be.

NFP, although all-natural and 100% cost effective (aka free), it can definitely be taxing, as you have to take certain periods of time and abstain from sexual intimacy if you don’t want to get pregnant. However, that has never caused us to choose anything differently. Is it frustrating, at times, that I cannot be with my spouse whenever I want? Absolutely! Are my health and well-being along with the communication that is built between my husband and I worth it? Yes.

My husband and I have had to learn over the last year of marriage, how to communicate regarding our charting and how to take time to spend together when we aren’t able to be physically intimate. We have found that during times of fertility we simply take care to enhance our marriage through reading marriage books to strengthen our marriage. We love the times of spending intimate time together that doesn’t involve physical intimacy just as much as we enjoy spending time together when we are able to be physically intimate. The biggest challenge that we have faced using NFP is making physically intimacy a priority during times of infertility. We love the freedom that NFP has given us and the way it has strengthened our marriage and we highly encourage married couples and engaged couples to look into this option for themselves.

You can find more information by visiting CCLI.ORG. Feel free to shoot us an email with any questions you may have, and we will do our best to answer them for you. Have a great day and God Bless!

Keep an eye out next week for a special blog post!

Ending the Paycheck to Paycheck Life & Living Financially Free

Alright folks, let’s be honest; if you’re anything like my husband and myself, you have probably had your fair share of weeks just hoping you would make it by until payday and maybe even having to count your lose change just to scrape up some money for gas in your car. If we’re being totally honest and transparent, my husband and I have definitely been at that point at one time or another. After living paycheck to paycheck for a while, we both decided that enough was enough, and we sought out some wise council from some financially savvy friends of ours. They gave us some mind blowing information… It was then we discovered Financial Peace University and the beginning of financial freedom for us. Now FPU is not fool proof and it does take dedication and discipline. You have to live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else – Dave Ramsey.

So August of 2016 we began our journey to financial freedom. We used extra cash we earned towards paying off some smaller debts that we had. Since August 2016 we have paid off about $10,000 in debt. Now mind you, my husband and I aren’t rich and we don’t make a lot of money. In fact, we make combined what most people make on a single income. So how does the journey to financial peace and freedom work? By following the 7 baby steps. If you want to learn all of the baby steps and how to apply them, we highly recommend looking into taking a financial peace class of your own. It’s the best $100 investment we have ever made and will ever make. For now we are simply going to talk about what we have done so far.

As of right now, my husband and I are currently working on baby step 2: Debt Snowball. With the debt snowball, you pay your debts in order from smallest to largest. Start with your smallest and pay it off as fast as you can. Once you have it paid off, you take the monthly payment you were making and apply it to the monthly payment you are making on your next smallest debt.

Ex: medical – $389 – $25/mo
dental – $471 – $25/mo
credit card – $1,864 – $115/mo
car – $8,976 – $275/mo

Once you pay off the medical bill, then you apply $25/mo in addition to the $25 you are paying on the dental, thus paying $50/mo on your dental bill until it is completely gone. So on and so forth. You do this until all your debts are gone. The key to making this successful and work is to also do a monthly budget in addition to using an ‘envelope system’ things that we will only pay cash for such as groceries, gas in our car, tithing, a car repair fund, etc. We make up a budget based on the worst month we have had pay wise. If we create our budget and we have extra money left over at the end of the month, we decide at that point what to do with it, usually putting it towards debt. On payday, I sit down with my husband and I take the amount of each paycheck, add them together, and then look at our budget and see what things need taken care of before our next payday and then start deducting things from the total pay, until the amount reaches zero. In essence, my husband and I “TELL our money where to go instead of wondering where it went”. Using the envelope system is key because once the money is gone, that’s all there is, there is no more, unless we look and see where we can move money from one envelope to another. We don’t use credit cards and we don’t put bills off so we can do other things. We prioritize what is most important, and if we have something coming up like a wedding, birthday, etc., we budget for that as well, setting aside cash in an envelope just for that reason.

Like I said earlier, we have paid off about $10,000 since last August and about $6,500 of that was paid since we started and completed the class in February. By this time next year we will have paid off an additional $15,000 in debt and then we can tackle those pesky student loans, hopefully paying off about $100,000 in three years. Impossible? Not if you really dedicate yourself and work hard at becoming debt free. People have told us it’s impossible, and don’t get me wrong, we have had our set backs and things that we have had to work around, but it all breaks down to being dedicated, disciplined and working through whatever comes your way and always keeping the end goal in mind.

Check out the class for yourself! Visit http://www.daveramsey.com and check out ‘classes’ and then click ‘financial peace university’ and then click get started. There are classes everywhere happening all the time. It’s always a great time to get started!

Stay tuned for our blog post next week when we talk about Natural Family Planning, how we came to the decision to use it and how it has impacted our marriage so far.

Year 1 of Love, Laughter & Learning

What an amazing weekend we had last weekend celebrating our anniversary in style; breakfast at our favorite place, church service on the laptop from our patio, mini golf, shooting some golf balls at the driving range, ice cream cones, a 3.2 mile hike on a new trail for us, time hanging out poolside, eating our year old frozen then thawed wedding cake and then to top it all off an amazing dinner at a new restaurant. I can’t believe that my husband and I have been married for 1 year and 1 week already today. Where did the time go? A lot has happened in the last year and we have learned SO much! We thought we would share a little bit of our last year with you guys and just the small things we have learned in such a short amount of time. I am sure that as the years go on we will learn so much more, but it is exciting to see how we have already incorporated what we have learned into our marriage thus far. Here are just a few of the things that have happened since our wedding:

First let’s talk about living together. Although my husband and I had lived together prior to marriage, like we said in our initial blog post, we did separate our living arrangements about 8 months prior to our wedding. (See our first blog post to learn more). That being said, we still had to learn how to live together once we were married. It was definitely something that was challenging and exciting. It was exciting because we now get to spend everyday waking up next to one another and sharing our life together. It was definitely challenging because we are both human and we do things differently so we had to figure out how each person likes things done and then meet in the middle.

The first trip we ever took together was our honeymoon in October 2016, where we headed down South to Hilton Head Island to enjoy some sun, sand and relaxation. We rented a car and took turns driving the 13 hr trip that it took us between rest stops and bathroom breaks. We drove overnight so it was definitely a little more tiring driving in the dark than it would be during the day. But, we made it safely and our first day was spent just unpacking our things and just relaxing after such a strenuous drive. We spent the next few days doing some really fun things including when my husband surprised me with a dolphin cruise where we got to see some dolphins up close and almost touched one! However, our trip was cut short due to Hurricane Matthew, and as sad as I was to cut our trip short and come home, we turned it into a stay-cation and had a lot of fun catching up with friends and family that we don’t see too often. Since our honeymoon we haven’t traveled really, with the exception of a friend’s Michigan wedding back in June. What a blast it was to get away for a few days and celebrate such an awesome time!

Other than our honeymoon and the wedding, we have pretty much stayed home, just focusing on work, saving for our fall vacation and working on our debt snowball. Our life is pretty unexciting to most, but we are in the stage of our marriage where we are working hard to pay off our debt so we can buy a house and start our family. Prior to us getting married we didn’t have much to go off of with how a good marriage works. We certainly had examples of what NOT to do, but we didn’t have a lot to go off of in regards to what makes a marriage successful, and easy work, rather than hard work.

We both really dislike the phrase “marriage is 50/50”. FALSE. Marriage is not 50/50; it has to be 100/100. The 50/50 mindset is deceptive and sets you up for failure. We are taught in 1 Corinthians 13:5 that we don’t dishonor others, and we are not to be selfish. We are also taught that we shouldn’t be easily angered or keep a record of wrongs. I also believe this goes along with that we shouldn’t keep a record of “I did ____ so now you can take care of ____. My husband and I both work full-time, and I have a small part-time job on the side cleaning for a family every couple of weeks. There are times where my job will take up more time than his and vice versa. We do not sit here and say things like “I did the dishes so you can wash the clothes”. We don’t keep track of things that need done and say you do this and I’ll do that but simply we work together. There are times where we do separate chores around our apartment, while there are also times that we do things together as a team like emptying the dishwasher. We had the mindset going into marriage that we would do our best to give 100/100 all the time. Is it difficult and at times exhausting? Absolutely. No one said marriage was easy. Marriage is work; the amount of work and how you choose to view it is dependent upon if you are willing to sacrifice and give everything. When two people choose to give everything then they are sacrificing for the good of the other person and when you have two people loving one another selflessly, it takes the “work” out of marriage and turns it into a team sport. In essence my husband does not “help” me with responsibilities around our apartment; our view is that we both use dishes to cook and eat, we both need food to survive and we both occupy the same space and use the same amenities. Why should we leave all the responsibilities to fall on the shoulders of one person? We don’t believe we should; therefore we simply work together to maintain a clean, safe and enjoyable living environment, which in turn evens out the work load between us.

Let’s talk about an article I read for a moment. It totally hits the nail on the head for me. It is titled ‘Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness’ and it can be found by visiting http://relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/marriage-isnt-about-your-happiness. Its tagline says “what true love will teach you about you”. Now that’s a pretty bold statement!

The entire article points to the “cost” of marriage. When you think of marriage costing you, you may simply go back to what you spent on your wedding; what about the other things that marriage costs you? Now my husband differs in feelings on this article as he thoroughly enjoys serving me and our marriage and I do also, but I love the reality of this article. It is written perfectly for sharing the heart behind a good marriage. I can say that prior to meeting my husband I was a pretty selfish person. If I wasn’t happy in a relationship I would simply break things off and get out. I didn’t know HOW to have a good relationship. There were no examples of good relationships in my life. When I met my husband I knew something was different. HE was different. He was selfless, loving, kind, compassionate and always cared more about what was best for me and for us than he did seeking out his own motives. It was from the beginning of our relationship that I started to see what a good relationship could look like and how to live selflessly because of his example.

The article goes on to say: “If you’re getting married with your own happiness as your main goal, you will be disappointed in a severe way.” We have seen plenty of people in our lives get married because they loved the other person, but when it came to the action of actually loving them, it was a different story, and before you know it they were fighting constantly or getting divorced. My husband and I learned this long before we got married and we are still working on applying it every day of our marriage.

What’s important to recognize, is that the culture that we live in teaches us about putting ourselves first and seeking our own happiness, rather than regarding others above ourselves. The issue with this is that it is selfish and completely neglects the key principles of sacrificing for one another that is necessary to have a successful and lasting marriage. A key place to learn about what this sort of sacrificial love looks like is through God’s word.

An example of this would be 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:
Love is patient (love never gives up)
Love is kind (Love cares for others more than for self)
It does not envy (it doesn’t want what it doesn’t have)
It does not boast (Love doesn’t strut)
It is not proud (Love doesn’t have a swelled head)
It does not dishonor others (Doesn’t force itself on others)
It is not self-seeking (It isn’t always “me first”)
It is not easily angered (Doesn’t fly off the handle)
It keeps no record of wrongs (Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others)
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth (Takes delight in the truth)
It always protects (Puts up with anything)
Always trusts (Trusts God always)
Always hopes (Always looks for the best)
Always perseveres (Never looks back and keeps going til the end)
Loves never fails (Love never dies)

Now this is one example of many from the good book but you get the idea. Often times for us to succeed in marriage, we need to go against the grain so to speak, especially in a culture that has a 70% divorce rate. With that being said, we talked about the two major things that couples fight most about in marriage: Finances and Intimacy. In our next post, we will cover the topic of finances and how we have gone from struggling and living paycheck to paycheck, to gaining a good foundation of our financial management using a financial system based on biblical principles.

Stay tuned for our blog post next week when we talk about Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey, the 7 Baby Steps, our financial journey so far and how we are gaining financial freedom one day at a time.

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!