Friday, September 23, 2016

How "Beauty and the Beast" can teach us about Jesus

Ever since I was a little girl, my favorite Disney princess has been Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” Like Belle, my nose was—and still is— always buried in a book. In fact, I remember wanting to be just like Belle when I was younger.

In case you’ve forgotten the story, a beautiful prince was cursed by an old witch and turned into a beast. In order to break the spell, he must fall in love before the last petal falls off of the rose. Belle’s father is captured by the Beast and she sacrifices her life outside of the castle so that her father could be freed. Over time, she falls in love with the Beast and her love changes him into a handsome prince.

I love this Disney fairy tale even more after realizing that it’s an allegory for our relationship with Christ. You see, Jesus Christ is Belle and the Beast is you and me.

One of my favorite lines from the introduction of the movie is: “As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope…For who could ever learn to love a beast?” Who could ever love us sinners? Thankfully, we don’t need to be in despair because we have hope in God. He sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross to cover our sins so that we could have a relationship with Him and have everlasting life in Heaven with Him. He loved us even before we became Christians. How amazing is that?!

When Belle’s father was captured by the Beast, she offered to take his place for him, knowing it could cost her life. Jesus Christ knew that He would die on a cross for our sins and willingly took our place so that we could be redeemed.

The Beast is physically repulsive, yet Belle still manages to see past his exterior and love him. Not only does he see past our imperfect physical exteriors, Jesus Christ sees past our sin nature—our naturally sinful hearts—and loves us anyways.

Just as Belle’s love transformed the beast into a new creation, Christ’s love transforms us lowly sinners into new creations: saints. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV). Just like the Beast couldn’t change himself, we can’t change ourselves to be more Christ-like without His help.

Since Belle represents Christ and our desire as Christians should be to grow more Christ-like, we should want to be like the characters in this Disney fairy tale. Not necessarily be princesses, of course, but to let Christ’s love transform us into new beings. To let Christ’s love be shown through our words and actions. Think about how amazing our world would be if we treated everyone like the love Christ has for us.

Be more than just your typical Christian. Be a real-life Christian Belle.

This post was originally shared on Girls Living 4 Christ.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Empties | Summer 2016

This post contains affiliate links. It doesn't cost you anything, but I do earn a small commission.

As I was packing up my entire life for The Big Move, I learned I have lots of beauty products. Lots. How many do I use on a daily weekly basis? 0.01%. In an effort to use up the products I have before the next PCS (move), I'm going to start doing reviews on them. The kicker? I can't review a product until I've finished it! (And yes, I'm borrowing the idea from Stephanie.) Also, this will inspire me to try new products... once I've finished the old, of course. (I have been using the same mascara since the 8th grade!)

I have had this face scrub since I was 16... meaning I bought it 8 years ago! Wowza! Nonetheless, I loved this scrub because it was gentle on my skin while still exfoliating the dry skin away. I would definitely buy this again!

I'm not great at eyeliner, so I choose to use an eyeliner pencil. The color looked great on me, which was a plus. Unfortunately, the pencil kept breaking... I think the crayon broke at least 4 or 5 times for me. I think next time I will try a different eyeliner crayon that hopefully doesn't break as much.

  Softsoap Fresh and Glow Body Wash, Hydrating Shower Cream
I ran out of body wash, so my sister Brandi (the extreme couponer) gave me a bottle of her fancy stuff. I never splurge on name-brand body wash, but this was so luxurious. It moisturized my skin so well over the harsh winter that I barely had to wear any lotion. I'm definitely a convert.

  Head & Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo, Classic Clean
I had a trial bottle of this shampoo, which I used after my honeymoon to soothe my dry scalp. Even though my scalp was peeling, I didn't notice any dandruff. It felt clean and refreshing and I definitely plan to use this again in the winter.

  Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Shampoo & Conditioner
I had mini bottles of this shampoo and conditioner that I bought a while back, and I wasn't sure how I would like them. I have fine hair, so thicker products tend to weigh it down but this didn't at all! It left my hair feeling soft and smooth. I've used Suave products before, and always love them because they work great at an affordable price.

What beauty products are you using lately?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 New Year's Resolutions Update

Since we're over halfway through the year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my 2016 New Year's Resolutions for a little check-up. I'm actually quite pleased with what I've accomplished so far this year and have high hopes for the remainder of the year!

1. Get married!!! and 1a. Pay cash for a wedding. On June 12, 2016, I happily became Mrs. Andrew Cummins. We didn't quite pay cash for a wedding, but we did sock away as much money as we could for the wedding/honeymoon/building our house. I'm not upset about this in the least, and shared why Andy and I took out loans for our wedding in this post.

2. Pass my PHR certification. Bummer news: I'm not eligible to sit for the PHR, since my HR employment was hourly and not salaried. I do plan to sit for a similar certification (the SHRM-CP) and I'm currently taking a prep course this fall. So, I'm still working on this goal, albeit in a different way than I had imagined. I'm planning to take the exam in February 2017.

3. Visit one new country and 2-3 new states. We visited Jamaica on our honeymoon, but we haven't done any other traveling since then! Money is going to be a little tight for a while, but that's okay. We'll probably just stick to local camping trips for the time being, which I'm actually looking forward to because I haven't really seen much of central and eastern Kentucky.

4. Make big strides in my blog. I have had more time to devote to the blog in the past few months than I did before. I recently redesigned my site, as well as wrote some sponsored posts, so I'm quite excited! I'm also switching over to Wordpress. I'm not quite done with this goal for the year, but it's safe to say Becoming Bailey has come very far this year!

5. Complete a 5k. I haven't yet walked an official 5k, but I've been doing 5ks at the gym and loving it! Andy bought us a used treadmill at a steal of a deal, and I'm excited to work out from the comfort of our house! :)

6. Read forty-five books. As of the time of writing this post, I've already read 48 books for the year-- which means I knocked this goal out of the park! I'm hoping to continue to read 1 book a week until the end of the year, making me finish the year with around 75 completed books or more. There's just another 100 on my bookshelf, waiting to be read :)

7. Trust in the Lord with all my heart (based on Proverbs 3:5-6). This is a goal that I don't want to count as accomplished yet but I have been working on. I've been working hard to trust Him in my adjustment to marriage and my job search. I think I'm doing pretty good, but there's always room for improvement when it comes to the Lord!
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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Sacrifices We Make to Make Room in Our Budget

After Andy and I got married and began combining our incomes, we knew both of us would have to live off his income because I didn't (and still don't) have a job at Fort Knox. We're fortunate that the military pays for things like housing, healthcare, and a portion of our groceries (technically BAS is for the servicemember only, but we've found it's more than enough for the 2 of us), which helps us with our budgeting, but still.... I won't lie, I was terrified when I made our first married-life budget. We knew we would have to cut corners somewhere, and below are the areas that we decided to cut out of our lives. Shockingly, I don't miss them that much anymore.

Gym Membership
I loved my Planet Fitness back in Owensboro, but when I moved to Fort Knox, I knew I would have to end the membership because the nearest Planet Fitness was 30-45 minutes away. Thankfully, we get free memberships to the on-post gyms. We did, however, splurge on a used treadmill because I prefer to watch on the treadmill while watching television.

Cable Television
Neither one of us are big television watchers, so this was a pretty simple choice for us. We do have a Netflix account to watch movies and tv on occasion (and when I walk on the treadmill.)

New Cars
I paid off my car last year, and Andy paid cash for his truck before he even met me. We both plan to drive these babies until they die. We hope to have enough money saved for a used, new-to-us vehicle when either car kicks the bucket.

Gas Station Sodas & Snacks
This one was a hard one for Andy, because if he was feeling hungry, he'd just stop at the gas station for some grossly overpriced soda and snacks. After showing him how much money he could save by buying snacks from the grocery store and packing them with him, he was totally convinced that preparing ahead of time would help us save money.

Nice Clothes
I used to go to the mall when I was bored and buy some more work clothes. I realized when we were moving that I have way too many clothes, and wear only a small fraction of them. I'm not buying any new clothes until my old ones fall apart! Also, I'm not currently working, so I don't need as many nice clothes.

New Books
This one was a hard one for me, because we all know I'm a huge bookworm and love to read. I also used to work at LifeWay, so it wasn't unusual for me to spend hundreds of dollars a year on books. It was sickening, really. Andy and I have decided to forego buying new books, and for me to read the books I already own or borrow from the library. If I absolutely need to buy a book (only when I need a book on a specific topic for an issue I'm going through), I'll look for a used or ebook copy instead of paying full-price for a hardcover.

Eating Out
Before we got married, we were huge restaurant frequenters. It wasn't easy for Andy to cook in the barracks, so he'd often order takeout multiple nights a week. When we began dating, we went out to eat all the time because it was so hard to cook at my mom's house. Now that we have a house of our own, we are cutting out the excess restaurant meals and cooking at home.

What are some sacrifices you make to make room in your budget?
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Our Top 5 Financial Goals

About a year ago, I wrote this post about my top 5 financial goals. It's funny to see how much my life has changed over the past year. Some of those goals are no longer applicable, like paying cash for a singles' cruise (I'm now happily married!!!) or buy a house by my 35th birthday (we don't want to commit to a house until Andy gets out of the Army since we're not sure where life will take us). Now that Andy and I are a team for life, I thought it would be fun to discuss our top 5 financial goals as a couple. And yes, I'm a nerd because I think this is fun :P

1. Be debt free by my 27th birthday in July 2019. If you read the original post, you'll notice that this was my number one top goal. I managed to pay off $17,000 before the wedding, and get my total loans down to $6,000, but our $10,000 wedding loans brought our debt back up to $16,000. I'm so excited to work as a team with Andy to decrease my debt. I know we can do it, and I bet we can do it sooner than we thought as well!
1b. Do our "Debt-Free Scream" on the Dave Ramsey Show. Andy was originally not a fan of this idea, but he's warmed up to it since this idea is what kept me going on my first Debt Snowball adventure. (Literally, I would daydream about it!) I can't wait to do our Debt Free Scream as a team!

2. Pay for my Bachelor's or Master's degrees and Andy's Associate's and Bachelor's degrees without any loans. I'm wanting to go back to college to study Human Resources, but can't decide if I want to get a second Bachelor's in Business Administration with an emphasis in HR, or get an MBA with an emphasis in HR. I still have some debating to do on which degree would be better, but I do know I don't want to take out any loans to continue my education! Thankfully, we're pretty sure that Andy will transfer his GI Bill to me so I can get my second degree without taking out loans like I did for undergrad. We just have to wait 2 more years for Andy to hit the 6 year service mark before he can transfer it to me (he'll also have to agree to 4 additional years in the Army, but he wants to stay in until retirement if possible.) Andy plans to do tuition assistance and possibly Green to Gold to fund his Associate's and Bachelor's degrees as well. Andy and I are so, so grateful for the military's education benefits.

3. Save $20,000 in an emergency fund. They say Murphy's Law is true (especially for military spouses when your husband is on deployment!) and it would make me feel much safer to have an emergency fund just in case-- not if, when-- the unexpected happens. Ideally, this would also double as a PCS fund because everyone knows moving is expensive. Unfortunately, the military requires you to pay up-front for moving expenses and they will reimburse you later if you're planning to do a DITY (do-it-yourself) move like Andy and I prefer.

4. Pay cash for a road trip across the US as well as other travels. We're not planning to have kids for 4 or 5 more years, because we want plenty of time to travel and finish our degrees. In our pre-kid days, we're wanting to do an epic road trip to Las Vegas and back, with plenty of stops along the way. We'd also like to travel more, both within the US and internationally, so we can add more stars to our maps. Of course, trips are more fun when you don't go into debt for them.

5. Pay cash for our next vehicles. Both of our cars are 15 years old, and we expect them to keep ticking for the next 10 years or so, but we do want to stash some cash for when Kim or Daisy kicks the bucket. (We're taking bets on which car is the first to go. My bet is Andy's truck, Kim. Even though the mechanic said she would make a fine truck for someone. I still think it's Kim. Andy says my car, Daisy, will be the first to go. Only time will tell!)

What are your top 5 financial goals?
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Friday, September 16, 2016

(Andy and) Bailey's Budget: August 2016

August seemed to be an unusually long month, because by the end we definitely felt how tight our money is. Thankfully, we made it through!

August Income- $2,468.00
Andy and I live on last month's income. For an explanation of how we do that, check out this post by Stephanie at Six Figures Under.
Andy's Paycheck - $1,841.00
You may ask why I'm comfortable sharing my husband (and my) income online. Since Andy is a military member, his pay information is easily accessible on Google. This is his net, take-home pay. 10% of his paycheck is already allotted towards his TSP (retirement fund.)
Various Sources- $627.00
We ended up getting some refunds on various things (like a U-Haul reservation that got cancelled and our wedding video that didn't end up how we wanted it.) I also sold some things on Bookoo and we also had some extra left over from wedding gifts. 

We believe that "our" money is not ours, but God's, so we give a 10% tithe on Andy's paycheck.
We ended up giving our tithing money to a raffle at church to raise funds for our Ft. Campbell campus. Money well spent! I *may* have been motivated by the lure of winning half of the proceeds if our ticket was picked...
Total- $178.00 (7% of budget)

Monthly Bills
This includes our cell phones, internet, and Netflix. 
The cell phone bill was unusually high because I had to pay the activation fees for my new phone.
Total- $385.67 (16% of budget)

Everyday Expenses
This includes groceries, fast-food meals, household items like toilet paper, home improvement items, and renter's insurance. 
Our grocery bill ended up a little higher than expected, partly because we had company come visit but mostly because I didn't meal plan towards the end of the month. We also bought the last of our wedding furniture needed.
Total- $719.23 (29% of budget)

This includes doctor's visits, my dental insurance, and chiropractor visits.
I had some leftover medical bills from when I was on my mom's health insurance that I had to pay. Coverage for my Tricare MetLife dental insurance also began this month. I also drove home one day for a chiropractor appointment since my back was hurting pretty badly.
Total- $83.39 (3% of budget)

This includes gasoline, car insurance, car repairs, AAA membership, and car taxes.
I had to switch my driver's license to my new last name, but thankfully that was only $12! We came in under budget on gasoline expenses (thank you, low fuel prices!) I had pre-paid my car insurance through the end of September, so next month this category will be higher once we add my car insurance to the policy. We're also switching Andy's truck (and my car) to USAA to lower costs.
Total- $263.83 (11% of budget)

Andy's Work/Education
This includes new uniforms, college classes, haircuts, and everybody's favorite-- mandatory "fun" events.
Andy had to buy a few new uniform pieces, but thankfully those weren't too expensive. We decided I would stop trying to cut his hair after a few privates made fun of his horrible haircut and would just suck up the cost for him to go to the barber. Andy also had to miss lunch one afternoon and grabbed food from Burger King.
Total- $37.86 (2% of budget)

This includes any and all Gracie-related expenses.
Gracie had to go to the on-post vet to get microchipped and registered to live on post.
Total- $62.00 (3% of budget)

Date Night
This is for any date-night related expenses, including activities and eating out.
We went to the Ben Rector concert in Louisville this month, but I had already bought the tickets a few months ago, so we only had to pay for parking and a late-night McDonald's snack on the way home.
Total- $10.64 (1% of budget)

Fun Money
This is for Andy and Bailey's individual fun money allowances. They can spend them however they please.
No fun money for this month since things are still tight :(
Total- $0.00

Moving/PCS Fund
Like most military families, we're on the move every 2-4 years, so we try to save in advance for these moves. 
The Army did not cover my move to Knox after the wedding (meaning we paid in full for it.) This is from the U-Haul we rented at the end of July to move my things from Owensboro to Knox. We were also gifted a couch from a neighbor, and bought a different neighbor some beer as payment for helping us move it.
Total- $149.33 (6% of budget)

We're working to pay off our debts, so I decided to list these with more detail than our other budget categories.
Discover Card- $101.00
This is for the minimum payment on my Discover card.
Student Loan- $72.54
This is for the minimum payment on my student loans.
Personal (Wedding) Loan- $230.39
This is for the minimum payment on my personal loan, which we used for the wedding.
Debt Snowball- $0.00
This is for any payments above our minimum payments.
We didn't do a debt snowball payment this month, but hope to next month!
Total- $403.93 (16% of budget)

If you do the math, you'll notice that this doesn't quite add up to 100%. For the life of me, I can't figure out why! But, we did a good job of staying on budget despite our limited income.
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

(Andy and) Bailey's Budget: July 2016

This was our first month budgeting as a married couple!!!! I'll be honest, the nerd in me was WAY too excited to do this as a team!!! Andy was also excited because it meant he doesn't have to mess with budgeting on a regular basis anymore, as I now do the daily maintenance of the accounts. All he has to do is answer my questions about "Honey, what did you buy with this?" and look at the budget at the beginning of the month with me so we can decide on it together. :)

July was a tough one because of so many one-time expenses, like moving our furniture from the apartment to our house (and all of my things from Owensboro to Fort Knox), establishing new cell phone and internet accounts, and a major car repair. (The A/C went out in my car, Daisy, last year and I never got it fixed.) Money was so tight that we didn't go out to eat except for my birthday with my family and after I got home from California at  4 am. Our only date activities were free, namely hiking and playing Pokemon Go. That being said, I think we did a great job at handling all of these unanticipated expenses and staying as close to our budget as we could.

July Income- $2,675.85
*You may ask why I'm comfortable sharing my husband's salary information online. As a military member, his pay is public knowledge so most people know about what we make each month anyway.

Andy and I live on last month's income, so this amount was what we earned in June. (For an explanation of what "living on last month's income" is, check out Stephanie's post.) This amount was higher than normal because we had some extra cash stashed away from the wedding.

This is for giving to our local church as well as sponsoring a child through Compassion International.
We really wanted to start off our marriage by giving a 10% tithe, but it just wasn't possible this month due to some unforeseen expenses.
Total Budgeted & Spent- $38.00 (1.4% of monthly income)

Monthly Bills
This is for bills such as our cell phone, Internet, and Netflix
This was a little higher than a normal month because we had to pay to establish our cell phone and Internet accounts. We put extra into the cell phone category to cover next month's unusually high cell phone bill.
Total Budgeted & Spent- $232.89 (8% of monthly income)

Everyday Expenses
This is for expenses such as groceries, eating out, household goods/toiletries, home improvements/DIY projects, and cat expenses.
We really stuck to a low grocery budget, bought only the toiletries that were necessary, put DIY projects on hold and didn't eat out.
Total Budgeted- $344.70
Total Spent- $379.90 (14% of monthly income)

This is for all car-related expenses, such as car insurance, fuel, repairs, car taxes, and AAA membership.
Ooh boy! This was much higher than we anticipated because of the expensive repair to fix my car's A/C. My annual car taxes were also due this month.
Total Budgeted- $867.60
Total Spent- $1,128.61 (42% of monthly income)

This is for anything related to Andy's employment, including new uniforms, college classes, mandatory fun events, and haircuts.
Andy had to eat out for lunch quite a bit because he wasn't given enough time to come home for lunch. We're hoping this will no longer be an issue now that we are living on post. Since Andy and I were living in the temporary apartment, we opted for him to go to the barber shop for a haircut instead of me cutting it at home as we didn't have a place to cut his hair. Next month I'm going to learn to cut his hair to save us money. We also budgeted for some new uniform pieces as we don't know what will fall apart next, but something will :)
Total Budgeted- $247.34
Total Spent- $60.48 (2% of monthly income)

This is for any of Bailey's health expenses.
Since I didn't switch to Tricare until the first of August, I had some doctor's visits and prescriptions in July that we had to pay co-pays on.
Total Budgeted- $4.00
Total Spent- $13.95 (1% of monthly income)

Date Night
This is for any date activities or any restaurants meals other than "I burned dinner so let's get fast food."
Other than the birthday dinner with my family at Texas Roadhouse, we opted to forego paying for date night this month to save money. Instead we hiked and watched Netflix. We still had a great time :)
Total Budgeted & Spent- $17.81 (0.06% of monthly income)

Fun Money
This is for both Bailey and Andy's monthly "allowances" to do with as they please.
Other than Andy buying me a card and flowers for my birthday, we both decided to do without fun money to save money this month. (Andy had bought my actual birthday present before we combined our finances.)
Total Budgeted & Spent- $13.86 (0.05% of monthly income)

Rainy Day Funds
This is for expenses such as our emergency fund, renters insurance, etc.
My old laptop cords went kaput so we had to buy new ones.
Total Budgeted & Spent- $126.56 (5% of monthly income)

PCS Fund
This is for any upcoming moving/PCSing expenses.
Although my move to Fort Knox wasn't a PCS, we used money from our "PCS fund" to move me to post.
Total Budgeted- $227.68
Total Spent- $368.11

Vacation Fund
This is for any upcoming trips we plan to take.
We opted out of our vacation fund for the month to save money.
Total Budgeted & Spent- $0.00 (0% of income)

This is for paying off my Discover card, personal (wedding) loan, and student loans as well as any debt snowball payments.
I paid my July personal (wedding) loan before we combined our finances, so we only had to pay my Discover card and student loan.We unfortunately can't start our debt snowball until I find a job, which is hopefully soon.
Discover card- $102.00
Student loan- $72.54
Personal loan- $0.00
Debt Snowball- $0.00
Total Budgeted & Spent- $175.00 (6.5% of monthly income)

Total Expenses- $2,555.17 (95% of monthly income)
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thoughts about being unemployed

When Andy and I were engaged and planning our next steps for after the wedding, the topic came up about my job. We were originally so conflicted as to what to do. Anyone that knows me knows I LOVE working and being in Human Resources, especially at my old job in Owensboro. I looked at commuting 4 hours a day to Owensboro so I wouldn't have to leave jobs, but we ruled that out pretty quickly. I looked at driving 1.5-2 hours round trip to Louisville each day at an affiliate office of my Owensboro employer, but ruled that out as well. I couldn't see myself commuting a long distance each day and missing out on quality time with my husband. (My thought: if I didn't want to see him during the week, then we shouldn't have gotten married because him spending every weekend with me at my mom's house was working out fine.)

So we decided I would work on my blog while searching for full-time employment. It's been a nice outlet to occupy my time and let me earn a little bit of money, but my heart longs to be working. As much as I love the flexibility of being at home, I miss going to an office, talking to my coworkers, working on projects all day, clocking out at 5 pm knowing I worked hard, and coming home in the evening to relax and do it again tomorrow. I especially miss the steady income of a typical office job; I long to be able to pay off Andy and my debts as quickly as possible, and each month that I'm unemployed means another month in debt.

Applying for jobs is frustrating. With all of my experience reading resumes and conducting job interviews, it's a bit discouraging when I look at my own resume and think about the reasons an employer wouldn't want to hire me. Overqualified. Underqualified. She wants too much money. Not enough experience. No education in the field. Military spouse, so she won't be here more than a year or two. The list goes on and on. I'm doing my best to beef up my resume, by taking a prep course for a certification in Human Resources this fall, and starting a second Bachelor's next fall or the year after.

It's hard being in a transition period like this one. I have no idea how long it is going to last, so making plans is impossible. Should I join the FRG or a Bible study? I don't know when I'll start a job. It may be tomorrow, it may be next year. Knowing Andy only has 2 more years at Knox makes me nervous that I won't find a job before we leave, and that we won't have money to fund another PCS and we'll be in the same boat we're in now.

The other hard part? Reminding myself that I still have value. As a Doer, I tie so much of my self-worth into what I do each day and making a paycheck. Without that, I feel empty and worthless. Each time someone asks me or my husband where I work, and we have to respond with "She's currently not working" it hurts my heart. I imagine people are judging me for being a housewife with no kids, like I only married my husband so I could be lazy each day. That's not the truth. I long to be able to bring in a consistent income like my husband and contribute to our household finances equally.

I'm learning throughout this whole experience to trust God. As much as I love being in control of my whole life, I really have to rely on Him to take care of us. Maybe this is a lesson God wanted to teach me, and the only way to learn it was to be in this type of situation.

"When we are resting or not doing any work, especially in the Western world, we feel as if we lose our identities. We no longer know who we are. That's why people are willing to sacrifice their whole lives on the altars of their jobs; at least then they think they look important." -It's Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Recent Reads | August 2016 + GIVEAWAY

I received two free copies of  The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee from the publisher in exchange for this blog post, one for me to read and review and the other to give away. All opinions are mine alone.

I Said Yes by Emily Maynard Johnson
When Chelsea sent me this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. Chelsea said I would love it because I love The Bachelor/ette, but to be honest, I already had preconceived notions in my head about Emily. She was just looking for fame, lied about being engaged to Ricky Hendricks, etc. Nonetheless I read it anyway-- and discovered my judgments about her were completely wrong! The entire book weaves her relationship with Jesus into her experience on The Bachelor/ette. Emily doesn't know why God allowed her to go through the shows, but I think I do-- so that He could use her as a platform to share Christ with the world. I really, really enjoyed it, and this book would be perfect for any Bachelor fan or anyone who is looking for a good faith memoir.

The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer
So I know this book came out a few years ago when the movie Courageous released, but I still wanted to read this book. Actually, I listened to the audiobook and I loved it. Priscilla's writing kept me engaged, and I had no trouble picking up right where I had left off. This book really inspired me to think about how I will be leaving a legacy for future generations, and what kind of legacy I want to leave. I have a print copy of the book on my bookshelf and plan to re-read it again in the future.

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
I am totally a Martha. Type-A, perfectionist, high-strung-- that's me. I was excited to discover this book so I could learn to "let go and let God." The author does a great job at explaining how Martha changed from the first time we meet her in Luke 10 to when we meet her again in John 11. If "the original Martha" can change into focusing on Jesus instead of things, then so can I. It's okay to serve others, but we can't let it be our primary focus instead of Jesus.

The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee
I was so excited to get a copy of this book because my husband is always telling me I need to look at the brighter side of things and to be happier. I couldn't wait to find out Jennifer's advice on how to be happier and, more importantly, why God wants us to be happy. Because God made us in His image, he wants us to experience happiness. He never said we won't experience sadness, because we wouldn't know happiness without sadness. But overall, God wants us to experience happiness in this life as a preparation for the amazing joy and happiness that will come from spending Eternity with Him.

The book comes with a free happiness style assessment that I found to be valuable in determining what makes me happy as well as what makes Andy happy. We're both Doers, so we like to do things. Andy's secondary styles are tied between the Giver and the Thinker, while my secondary styles are tied between the Experiencer and the Thinker. Honestly, I've found myself so much happier when I've been able to incorporate these styles into my day-- spending the day marking off my to-do list, enjoying a nice walk around the neighborhood with my husband after dinner, spending 30 minutes reading before bed and discussing the book with Andy. 

This book was so influential in my life that I'm giving away a free copy to one of you lucky readers! All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

Rules: Must be over 13 to enter. Open to US/APO/FPO residents only. The giveaway is open from Tuesday, September 13th until Tuesday, September 20th. The giveaway winner will be contacted via email on Wednesday, September 21st and will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If no response is received within 72 hours, a second winner will be contacted.

What book are you wanting to read this month?
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Monday, September 12, 2016

{Fort Knox, KY} Tioga Falls

Andy and I visited Tioga Falls on a Tuesday morning at the beginning of July. The weather was warm and humid, but thanks to the dense trees on the trail, the temperature felt comfortable.

Tioga Falls is north on US31 (Dixie Hwy) in West Point (about 8 miles north of the main post gate) with signs visible from the highway. It's 1 mile to the falls, with about half of the first loop uphill and the rest downhill, and then you return the way you came, making the total distance roughly 2.1 miles. It's not terribly difficult for beginners, but the terrain is rocky so be warned.

It is located on the north part of Fort Knox, so sometimes the trail is closed to visitors due to military exercises taking place. Climbing the falls or hiking off the trail is not permitted, and violators are subject to the US Code (civilians) or UCMJ (military members.) The trail is only open during daylight hours. I think the trail also runs near the hunting area of Fort Knox, so it is closed sometimes during hunting season.

One portion of the trail crosses a railroad track, so be sure to use caution as a train does travel through the area.

The waterfall didn't have a ton of water, but it was a decent amount (especially due to the rainfall the day before.) Of course, they weren't as spectacular as Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica!

Overall, we both really enjoyed Tioga Falls and plan to return there in the future! It's the perfect, free family outing!

Where's your favorite hiking spot?
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

What I'm Watching {July & August 2016}

For someone who barely watched Netflix in the past year, I'm sure changing my ways now! I've been watching at least a couple of episodes of Netflix each day, with more to be watched once we move into our new house. Here's what's keeping me (and Andy) entertained these days.

The Office
Andy and I started watching The Office last fall and barely made any progress. Now that we're both living in the same place, and date night consists of "Netflix and dinner", we've been watching as many episodes of this show as we can. I love Jim and Pam and totally ship them. I don't even care that I know what happens in the final episode (someone spoiled it for me) because I am totally loving this series. Right now we're on Season 3.

Fixer Upper
I first got started watching this show at Planet Fitness. I'd turn my treadmill tv on to HGTV and would watch an episode of whatever's playing and walked. It was usually Fixer Upper, and I got hooked. When Brandi told me it was on Netflix, I knew I'd have to check it out. I love Chip and Joanna's relationship and how they use their story to glorify God. I'll admit, I'm totally dying for a Fixer Upper of my own. If the Army powers-that-be send us to Texas, we're definitely making a trip to Magnolia Market. (Also, you can rent the Bardonimium that was in Season 3 for over $1,000 a night. If only we had an extra $1,000 to spare!) Right now I just started Season 2.

The Giver
I remember reading this book in 5th grade and absolutely loving it. Fifteen years later, I can still remember a large chunk of the plot. I always thought it would make a great movie, so I was thrilled when the movie came out in 2014. Somehow, I forgot about it and re-discovered it when it came to Netflix a few weeks ago. Andy and I watched it together one evening after work and we both loved it. Andy said, "Sometimes you pick good movies."

What are you watching lately?
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