Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Financial Peace or Heartbreak: Which Will You Chose?

My confidence is shaken. A year ago, I was sure of my life and my calling. I was in my last year at FSU, close to getting engaged to my wonderful (now) husband, and I had no doubt in my mind that I would get a teaching job. That confidence continued through the spring and into the summer. I graduated from FSU and Austin and I got married. I was still confident that I would get a teaching job. After all, God called me to be a teacher- of that I was certain. If that was certain, then it was also certain that I would get a job. I was wrong. He had other plans for my life. It took me a while, but I accepted it and have worked to maintain peace with that and to figure out where He is leading me. It is true that throughout this fall I have had several opportunities to help friends through things and be there for them in ways I would not have been able to had I been teaching. That fact is not something to be ignored. I am grateful for every opportunity that God gives me to serve him and help my friends. But now I've started rambling...

My point in looking back and remembering all of this comes in when I look to the future. Austin is in a one year Masters of Economics program and will graduate next August. I am so proud of him. He is working extremely hard and excelling amongst his peers. He has already started putting his name out there and searching for jobs. He is beginning the interview process with a consulting company sometime this month. I have had no doubt that he would get hired with this firm and make his career with them. They are an excellent company with a drive to help their employees excel. As I said, I am so proud of him.
The unfortunate part about it all is that he will graduate with a large amount of student loans. Should he get this job (or another with a similar firm) we will have no problems in paying off this debt. Why? Because we are learning how to manage our money through Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. His motto is, "If you will live like no one else, later you can LIVE like no one else!" Meaning, that if we live modestly and below our means now and continue that way until we are debt free, later in life we will be able to live like no one else because we will be, in a word, rich. That is an exciting concept. Yesterday, however, as we went through his lesson on dumping debt, I had a panic attack. Right now, we do not have the means to make large payments on his student loans. This hasn't been a cause for concern because we figure that if he gets a job staring right after he graduates, we will be able to pour our resources and knock out the debt.

This is where my shaken confidence comes into play. What if he doesn't get a job? I was so sure I was going to get a job, but I didn't. What if my high confidence that he will get a job is going to prove to be untrue? What will we do? The job market is not a friendly place for job hunters, as I have discovered. What happens if we are both in this situation of trying to find any job we can? Here I must trust God, and we must live by the principles we are learning from Dave Ramsey.
I strongly encourage any one reading this to consider attending a Financial Peace University class. You will learn how to get rid of debt, make a complete budget and live on it, as well as save and invest to the point where all of your children's (or future children's) college, grad school, weddings, etc, will be covered. You will learn that it is possible to buy nice cars and even houses in CASH. Your marriage will never be torn apart by the most common cause of divorce: money fights. Whether you have debt or not, you live outside your means, or not; Dave Ramsey can and will change your life. I have seen it in my parent's life and one day not too far in the future, I will be reaping the rewards of living responsibly. So what will you choose? Financial Peace or Financial Heartbreak?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Though He Slay Me...

This season has probably been the toughest season of life I have faced thus far. Don't get me wrong, married life is amazing. I love my husband with all of my heart and I don't know what I would do without him. I certainly would not be handling this tough time as well as I am if he weren't supporting me.

My difficulty lies in the feeling that my dream is slipping away. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to teach. In elementary school I would line my stuffed animals and dolls against the wall and "teach" them whatever I was learning in school. I kept all of my old workbooks so I had something to use to teach them. As I got older, I sought out experiences that would help me get into an education program, and then into a classroom. It is all that I have dreamed of, all that I have worked towards. Two years ago, I got into the Elementary Education program at FSU. I was so excited, the next step towards my dream was coming true. Through the course of the program, I got to actually teach lessons and work in the classroom. I was thrilled. It was hard work, but it was so worth it.

When this past May arrived, I was ecstatic! I was graduating with my degree that would allow me to teach. I was ready! I was confident that God would lead me to the right job. He would orchestrate things so that I would be in the position he had designed for me. I knew that I would have to work for it, but I never doubted that at the end of the summer, I would be a teacher in my own classroom. After all, He had given me this dream. He had nourished it and led me down the path to being a teacher. Of course he would lead me to the perfect job. I was right there, it was within reach.

But now, I'm stuck by the realization that, at least for now, I am not going to teach. School starts Monday, and I don't have a job. These are the hardest words to write. I know that this is within God's plan, but I still feel like there are so many people that I am letting down. I know that I did everything that I could do; Leon County is a very difficult place to get hired especially in this economy. Yet that feeling of failure and letting people down remains. I dread facing the question from friends and family about what I am doing. These are people that have rooted for me and supported me in my dream. Now I will have to tell them all that I didn't get a teaching position this year. My heart hurts.

My family has been so supportive, all of them. I think my mom has cried as much as I have. Both my mom and dad have been praying nonstop for me since this all started. My amazing husband has listened to my rantings, my questions, and my tears. He gives me suggestions when he thinks of something, but then He just holds me and reminds me that God has a plan and we will get through this, together. I love him more than I can say. His family has been very supportive as well. I am very blessed in my in-laws.

As I said, I know that God has a plan for me. I know that somehow, someway, all of this will work out to His glory and it will be better than I ever imagined. Right now, however, it simply hurts.

I am learning to say as Job did. "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him." What else can I do? God give me the strength for I have none of my own.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reality Check

I am FINALLY updating my blog. The past month has been crazy, but absolutely amazing. Let me tell you a little bit about it.

1) I finished my application for my certificate and have begun applying for teaching jobs. This in and of itself is a mind blowing reality. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a teacher. Everything I have done up to now has been focused on that fact. Now I am done with college and actually applying to be a teacher. I am at the point in the process that all I can do is pray for God to direct the prinicpals' decisions and that I will be hired at the job that he has planned for me. (I also selfishly pray that it would be a job teaching 2nd or higher.)

2) I GOT MARRIED! I know, no surprise. This has been planned. But it actually happened. We got engaged in January and began the wedding planning process (and it is a process). January-April sped by at a maddening rate through the midst of student teaching, wedding planning, and enjoying my last semester as a college student. Then once graduation was over and I had moved back home, May crawled at the slowest rate imaginable. It was as if someone had hit the slow motion button on life. The worst was probably Memorial Day weekend when Austin flew to California for four long days. After he got back it was June and then we went from slow motion to FAST FORWARD. I had been told that things were crazy the last couple of weeks. I didn't understand what others were talking about until June 1st. Every day consisted of last minute wedding stuff. I was convinced that I was going to forget something (even with all of my extensive lists). Family started to arrive and life accelerated even more. Everything passed in a blur. When I get pictures from our photographer, I will write more about it and put up pictures. The slowest part of the entire wedding weekend was from 4:00-4:30 on wedding day. I was completely dressed and ready to go, pictures had been taken, we had our prayer time. All there was left to do was wait for the ceremony to start. That was probably the longest thirty minutes of my life. after we were told it was time to start, I blinked and the reception was over. Four hours passed in the blink of eye. I was married to the man of my dreams and headed out for our first night as husband and wife. (Don't worry, I'll spare you the gory details). Let me just say that it was magical. As were the next two weeks of honeymooning. First was the week at the beach house with his family. I really enjoyed getting to spend more time with my new family and just relaxing in the sun. We had the top floor master suite complete with a beautiful view of my beloved Gulf Coast. Then we had an amazing week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The week was perfect, right down to a room with a panoramic view of the Pacific and falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves. We even indulged in our first spa experience (which I could easily get used to). The second half of the week we hung out with another young couple who were also on their honeymoon. It was a lot of fun to get to know them.

Now we are back at my parents house preparing to move into our townhome in Tallahassee two days from now. Back to reality, not that I'm complaining. I can't wait to decorate our home and face whatever comes next, together.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wedding Central- 25 Days and Counting!

It has been dubbed "Wedding Central" in my house the past few days. It all started on the 12th of May (aka- 1 month out!) The head count was due to our location so they could begin planning for food and drink expenses (I'm not sure how that works since they did not require a food count...hmmm...) Because of this deadline we spent the few days prior to the 12th tracking down the people that had not RSVP'd. Once the 12th rolled around, we were left with only 3 couples that we could not get in touch with, but we pretty much know they cannot come. So what comes after a finalized guest list you might ask... SEATING ARRANGEMENT!

First: The Layout. The location has three adjoining rooms. To accommodate all of the people that we have we must use all three. For 6 days now, we have been desperately trying to figure out how to get as many people as possible into the main room.
Problem #1: What are the dimensions? You would assume that a location that is acclaimed as The Knot's top wedding locations would have exact dimensions of their main dining room. In this case, that assumption would be false. We received THREE sets of dimensions from them. After going there today and measuring it ourselves, which one was correct? NONE!
Problem #2: We wanted to put the dance floor in the main room. In discussions about layout with the event coordinator we were told that with a dance floor and a head table seating 14 we would only be able to fit 8 ten top tables in the main room. That is only 80 of our guests. They said they could squeeze in 10 tables. That is 100 guests. Leaving 70 of friends out of the main room and therefore out of a good view. (At least based on our memory of the layout of the location). This leads to Problem #3.
Problem #3: Who to give a lesser view? I didn't like any of the options we discussed. I had invited these people to the wedding to enjoy it, not be stuck in some back room corner. Even if some of them were coworkers of my parents, I still didn't like any of the options.

SOLUTION!- Finally, after agonizing over this layout for days, Austin and I drove to the location to measure it ourselves. After measuring it, looking at the layout of the rooms, and talking to the event coordinator; we found a solution! We are putting the dance floor in the middle room where it can still be seen by all in the main room. This allows us to fit 13 tables into the main room. WIN! Plus, the rooms are much more open than we thought, so there is actually only going to be about half a table without a view of the head table. This is the kids table... kids that don't really care about the head table, but they are right next to the dance floor. WIN #2!

In addition to the actual layout of the tables, we were working on the seating arrangement itself. This has been a lot of "who sits next to whom" and "wouldn't this person go better there"... but FINALLY, it is done. Everybody has a place and everybody in their place!

Project #2 (in the midst of the seating arrangement headache) was bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts. I already had one portion of my bridesmaid's gifts. The other portion consisted of a lot of searching online and not finding what I wanted for a price I liked. Therefore I decided to go to Michaels and make it myself. Great idea... right? Right, except that after I bought what I needed at Michaels. I found the main piece of this project at Wal-Mart for three dollars cheaper per person. Win/Fail. So I bought that, but now I have to find time to go back to Michaels and return what I had originally purchased...FUN...not. Austin finally decided what he wanted for his groomsmen and ordered it. Then I was jealous... I like his better. :P

Project #3- Table decorations. There were many things that had to be accomplished to officially check this project off the list.
1. Cut 36 8ft. pieces of yellow ribbon to criss-cross the table
2. Cut 160 5ft. pieces of pink ribbon to go around the chairs with the yellow chair sashes.
3. Cut 35 8 ft. pieces of white shimmer tulle for chair sashes for the head table, parents table, and grandparents table.
4. Cut 35 5ft. pieces of yellow ribbon to go around the chairs with the white shimmer tulle chair sashes.
5. Cut the 168 pink fake roses and 84 yellow fake roses off of their bouquet bases (with wire cutters)
6. Arrange 18 bouquets of the fake roses for centerpieces.
7. Pull of the leaves and baby's breath from 205 roses to go on the back of each chair.
8. Fill 18 vases with 40 frosted rocks each and put the bouquets in the center.
9. Fill 7 more vases with rocks for the bridesmaids bouquets as centerpieces for the head table.
10. Create two bouquets for either side of engagement picture
11. Cut 27 5ft. pieces of white shimmer tulle, twist and tie in a circle to go around the vases and candles in the center of the table.
12. Wrap pink ribbon around the tulle circles.
13. Print Table # cards and attach to circles of tulle.
14. Box it all up to be ready to transport to location
15. Breathe a sigh of relief that it is finished!

Project #4: Programs
1. Figure out design and wording for programs
2. Make it fit onto the cardstock we ordered and had pre-scored for easy folding.
3. Print 200 programs front and back (Austin's job)
4. Fold 200 programs.
5. Seal closed with a "N" monogram sticker
6. In calligraphy write "Austin and Kelsey" on each program
7. Box 'em up!

Project #5: Place Cards
1. Print place cards- this requires typing each person's name individually. There are four place cards on a page. Once again, this is Austin's job.
2. Punch out ALL the place cards... which took forever!
3. Sort the place cards into three stacks- one for those that want lasagna, one for chicken alfredo, and one for steak.
4. Stamp the place cards. This step requires a little bit of explanation- In order for the servers to easily know which dish each guest has ordered, the location asked that we indicate on the place cards in some sort of code. They suggested colored dots. My mom and I didn't like this, so we thought of a better idea. In gold ink, we were going to stamp one of three different sayings on the place cards. For lasagna, we were going to stamp "Mr. and Mrs.", for chicken alfredo "Happily Ever After", and for steak a picture of two rings. Perfect! I went and bought the stamps and the ink a few weeks ago. The night we were working on this, I had the cards all sorted and ready to stamp. I unwrapped the ink pad for the VERY FIRST TIME and found it was completely DRY! I was not happy. I know that this is not the end of the world, and I have plenty of time to go to the store and get more ink... the issue was that I was ready to stamp RIGHT THEN! So I was frustrated.
5. Go buy new ink. I actually opened it in the store to ensure that I wasn't going to get it home and find this one dry as well.
6. Stamp the Place Cards.
7. Sort into table placements.
8. Paper clip and label each table with a post-it note for easy identification later.

Other small projects include:
Decorating the mail box for the cards
Deciding on beverages to offer
Grow out my nails (I use Nailtiques to help prevent flaking or breaking)
Get a nice tan
Write thank you cards from Bridal shower before the next bridal shower this Sunday.

That has been my life over the past six days. Mixed in there was a little bit of golfing and some reading! As insane as all of that sounds writing down, I actually am really enjoying it. Austin and I joked about opening up a wedding planning business. He could do all of the logistics and phone calls and I'll do all the decorating and crafty stuff. I thought it was a great idea! This kind of thing is right up my alley. Now I really need to go to bed as we have an early tee time for golf tomorrow. Goodnight from Wedding Central!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Longing

Austin has been gone since Friday afternoon. This is the first time that I have gone more than a day without seeing him for almost a year! I know that I am incredibly blessed by this. As he was leaving, I was acutely aware of how longit was going to be before I saw him again, and the pain was intense. When he left, my heart went with him as it belongs to him. At first, I felt sorry for myself, but then I thought more about it. I have a friend who will see her soon-to-be-husband for the first time in over 4 months, the week before they get married. Then she will get to spend a week with him before he deploys for a year! I am so blessed that I get to have Austin by my side every single day!

This thought process led me to another: Do I long after God the way that I am longing after Austin? Do I eagerly anticipate some time alone with God the way that I carry my phone around the house with me so that as soon as it rings I can pick up and talk to the one that I love?

Today I am 33 days away from marrying Austin. I say this because we are counting down by reading Psalms backwards. Today when I was reading Psalm 33 in my quiet time, a passage hit me. (Think little light bulb moment... the *ding* then a chorus singing *ahhh*)

Psalm 33:20-22-

"We wait in hope for the Lord, he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you."

As I read that, I couldn't help but question myself. Have I been waiting in hope for the Lord? Have I been putting my trust in His name?

That led me to another one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

Isaiah 40:29-31-

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope [other versions say wait upon] in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

I thank God for allowing this weekend of separation that I might be reminded of His promises to me if I simply put my hope in Him. Don't get me wrong, it is perfectly alright to miss the one that you love (in fact I would be worried if you didn't!) The key is to use that longing to lead you right back to God. Everything in our relationships with others, especially with our significant other, is supposed to point us back to the one who created us, who loves us most of all.

Austin comes back today and I cannot wait for his car to pull in the driveway. I will eagerly run to him and be wrapped up in his embrace. I only hope that I will remember to wait on the Lord with such eager anticipation!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Old Has Gone, The New Is Rapidly Approaching

Well, I figured this would be as good a post as any to start off my blog as I am feeling very nostalgic after the events of this weekend.

1. My fiance and I graduated college yesterday. It is extremely hard to believe that I am a college graduate. It feels like it was only yesterday that I left the realm of high school behind me for the local Okaloosa-Walton College. And even less than that when I left the safety and known world of my parents house for the unknown and partially terrifying world of Florida State University. I am a small town girl so the thought of moving to Tallahassee, a "big city" (yes I know I'm lame for thinking that) where I knew only a couple of people in the ENTIRE city was absolutely terrifying! But I moved and God has done amazing things during my two years here. One of those things is putting me in the Navigator community. Another is allowing me to meet, get to know, and fall in love with my amazing fiance, Austin. After 18 years of nonstop school, I finally reached the end of this road, the road to my Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education. I graduated yesterday Summa Cum Laude. Austin also graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Economics. His grad school road is starting almost immediately, in August as he pursues his Applied Master's in Economics. (I am so proud of him!)

2. I am moving home tomorrow for the last month and a half before the wedding. Tonight is the last night that I will live in Tallahassee as a single woman. I can't believe it. Again, I feel like I just got here as a nervous junior in college who had never dated anyone. In the two years I was here, God brought a man into my life and we are getting married! God has blessed my life so greatly that I can't even begin to thank Him for everything that he has done (and unfortunately I sometimes forget to even try). I am excited to move home, but also am very sad to be leaving Tallahassee even for a season. I have come to love it here: the community, the city, the parks, FSU... all of it (well, not the crazy drivers- haha).

3. Austin and my families were in town. It was a great time of celebration and bonding as the families had spent little or no time together. Sadly, the last of the family will be gone as of tomorrow morning. It was wonderful to have them here and I can't wait to see them in a few short weeks for our wedding!

Life is about to change drastically. It is all for the better and I am so excited about what lies ahead, but I have my fears as well. Fears about finding a job as a teacher. Fears about being a good teacher. Fears about my skills of running a house. Fears about being a good wife. All things that I know will take time to learn. All things that only God can bring about. I repeat to myself

Philippians 4:6-7:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus"
I love that verse and it rings true every time I think about it. I am not a person that likes change, and I have a lot of it coming all at once. As I said, the changes are all great things and I am excited about each of them, but it is still change. I know that through it all, I will learn and grow and become closer to God and my family. I cannot wait to see what this next season of life holds!