Monday, May 15, 2017

Cutting Costs When Planning a Wedding

My daughter got married in 2016.  I am so thankful that she was “on top of her game.” She was so organized, resourceful, and had done her research.  She made things so much easier for me!

As any parents, who have a child get married do, we learned a lot along the way.  Her wedding was in no-way cheap. But we also ensured that we didn’t go into debt throwing a beautiful day for her.

I had a reader suggest that I write a post on how to cut costs for a wedding. And although I am in NO way a professional, I WILL share a few things, that hopefully, will help other brides out there ,who are seeking to save some pennies (or dollars!)

1.     Decide what will be most important to you down the road. Will it be the pictures? Will it be the wedding dress? The venue? Then, once you have figured out what matters the most to you, invest the most into these things and cut costs on the rest.  In 20 years, you will still have your wedding pictures or video, but you may not remember what your punch tasted like, or what color your table linens were!  Prioritize.

2.     Flowers can get expensive quickly.  We cut costs here, by ordering ours from Costco. They were beautiful and very fresh upon arrival.  You can also get flowers at your local grocery store.  We also cut costs on boutonnieres and corsages. You can get some just for the parents and the pastor or ringbearer and groom. Instead of carrying fresh flowers, the bridesmaids can carry a single flower, or something else altogether like lanterns. 

As for decorations, you can limit your use of flowers to what matters the most to you. For the rest, use fake, or substitute candles.

3.     Sales. Take advantage of sales! Hobby Lobby often has 50% off sales where you can get your wedding items ½ off. You can also get signs, candles, d├ęcor, or anything else you may need at ½ the price if you simply go at the right time. They rotate their sales, so just keep an eye out and you should be able to hit it.

If there are any bridal garage sales in your area – go! We went to two at some nearby venues and they saved us huge costs. We got drink containers, linens, lighting, signs, and more. Some items the brides ended up not even using, so they were brand new! And you get that at fraction of the cost, because brides and grooms don’t really need 50 vases – right? So they want to get rid of their stuff.

4.     Linens. Check online. It’s often about the same price (or even cheaper) to BUY your own table linens than to rent them. And then you have them to resell after the wedding or use again, if that’s your preference.

5.     Music. DJ’s can be costly. Again, it’s what matters the most to you. But you can make your own playlist and just put someone in charge of managing the music timing to the events going on during and after the wedding.

6.     Use family and friends.  Do you have a friend who is great with video? Offer to pay him/her a little bit to video your day – instead of hiring a professional.  Does someone you know love to cook? Ask them to help you with some food.  Someone have a knack for decorating? Love to do hair? Use your friends and family. Most of them will be honored you asked, and love to be a part of your special day.

7.     Make your own.  Pinterest is phenomenal for “do-it-yourself” wedding ideas. Some are easy, some are not. But if you are creatively talented at all, you may want to make some of your own things to cut costs down.  My daughter’s flower girls got inexpensive dresses at Hobby Lobby, to which she made her own faux flowers and glued them onto their dresses. They did not look “handmade” but were darling. My husband also made a huge LOVE sign out metal and wood that was phenomenal.

8.     Food. Again, caterers are costly. If you know people who will contribute to make things – go that way. Or, you can do ½ and ½. Purchase some food yourselves, and supplement with some homemade things like deviled eggs, chip dip, or punch. Jimmy Johns, Chick Fil A, and Subway offer sandwiches for more casual food, and some restaurants offer fancier fare. But you need to decide ahead of time to give them time to prepare. And usually, you will have to pick it up yourselves.

9.     Makeup and hair. Do it yourself! Or, have a friend help you out who is gifted in that area.

10.  Venue. A lot of couples are getting married in venues instead of churches. To cut costs, get married on a weekday. The venues are much cheaper on weekdays, and actually, caterers, photographers, etc often offer discounted prices on weekdays as well.  You can also look for venues that include things to help you cut certain costs – cake, silverware, linens, tables, lighting, pastor, etc.

These are just a few helpful ideas. The best way to cut costs is to keep your mind open. Prioritize. Be flexible. And allow room for changes. Plan early, and stay organized!

Lastly, don’t forget that so much planning goes into the wedding day, and not as much into the rest of your life. Premarital counseling is very important. If you need to cut costs on this, some pastors do a few sessions for free, if they are already marrying you. Or, you can go online and take a few compatibility tests and purchase a book/workbook to go through together.

Best of luck to you all. Marriage is a gift. Always treasure it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Not WHAT You Do, It's HOW You Do It

“Actions speak louder than words.” Such a true statement.

We are so good at saying things to one another.  “I love you.”  “I’ll pray for you.” “I’m so thankful for you.” Sometimes we back up these words with actions. Little thank you notes, small gifts, time spent with each other.

It can be easier to pay attention to these types of actions.

What about other actions in our lives that say a lot about who we are, and how we respect, or feel about other people?

What about having arrogance when we speak to others, instead of using humility?

What about, not being a good listener when someone tries to speak objectively into our life?

What about, not returning things you borrowed?

What about, being continually late to a meeting, lunch date, or some other event, where you make the other (s) wait for you?

How about never meeting someone half way in a friendship or relationship?

There are so many more “what about’s” and “how about’s” that could be listed.

It’s not just what you say, it’s not just what you do – it’s how you do it.

I can say something in truth to my child in gentleness and love. OR, I can say it in anger.

I can give money when asked, grumbling about it the whole time – or I can reach into my wallet before I’m even asked.

Our true heart lies in our actions. Whether we conduct ourselves with integrity, kindness, gentleness, and humility….. or whether we act indignant, selfish, and use “pointed” words. It says a lot.

I’ve heard people say, “I’ve said the same things as you, but no one listened.” Well, my question would be – “How was your delivery?” “How was your timing?” And most importantly, “Where was your heart and motivation during that moment the words were expressed?’

Our hearts don’t lie. And people can see through our words. They often know if we are putting them off, trying to get something out of them, or offering false ‘niceties.’

People aren’t stupid. (Even though we try to pretend they are.)

I can have something very good happen in my life, but how I present it to others, can either bring them into my goodness and encourage camaraderie, or it can alienate them altogether. Simply by how I deliver and enter into, what I perceive to be a good thing.

We aren’t running life alone. We run it with others.  And although those others don’t run every race with us, they certainly can be our sending team.  I’d rather have a sending team than a “shut the door on my life” team, because of how I arrogantly handled something.

It’s not just WHAT you do in life. It’s not just WHAT you say. It’s not just WHAT happens to you. It’s HOW you do it. HOW you say it.
And HOW you handle it.

Think before you act. Think before you speak.  For the loss of relationships can be so costly.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Don't Be Afraid To Break

Fear is a big part of life. I don’t think anyone goes through life without having fears or having them affect our choices in some way, shape, or form.

A lot of times, I think our fears are relationship-based. They derive their power from some of our past experiences. We are afraid of rejection, because we’ve experienced the embarrassment of rejection.  We are afraid we aren’t good enough, because somewhere, at some point, we have been made to feel that we are “lacking,” and we are afraid of loneliness, because we know the pain of being alone.

There are so many more fears you can add to the list.

We are afraid. And we are afraid of doing something that makes us afraid!

It’s crazy.

I’ve felt fear in all of my limbs. At once. Never a good feeling. And I’ve seen how the power over me, was in the fear itself. It usually is never in the actual thing, I think I’m fearing. No. It’s in the fear that comes BEFORE the thing.

The fear is oftentimes, worse, than what I’m fearing. And it’s worse, because I’m afraid to fall apart. I’m afraid to break. I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle whatever it is.

Do you resonate with where I’m coming from?

The thing is…. I may not like whatever it is that I have to go through. I may not enjoy it. It may hurt. But allowing myself to be broken over it - it brings me freedom, instead of bondage.

You see, sometimes what we ask God NOT to give us; is the very thing we need the most.  It’s the thing we need, to be sifted, to grow, to improve, and to deepen. We may not want it – but we need it in our lives, somehow, somewhere.

Don’t be afraid to break. Don’t let fear hold you captive. Breaking may be the only thing that allows you to move forward. To heal. To gain strength and courage.  To become truly whole.

Fear is powerful – but God is MORE powerful. Let Him give you the strength you need to enter into what fears you the most right now. Walk into it, with Him at your side.

And find the freedom you crave.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No Matter Who Disapproves

I know who I am.

What if I know who I am, someone else should, but doesn’t seem to?

I am not perfect. I know that. I know I unintentionally hurt others’ feelings….as we all do. But I give so much. I cannot even talk about all the ways I give of my time, to help others. Why? Because I never want someone else to feel like they are a burden. And, because it’s what I love to do.

But someone always suffers. I cannot be everywhere. I cannot do everything. I cannot be present for each person I love in my life. There is always a sacrifice.  Sometimes it’s my husband. Sometimes, my children have to wait. Sometimes it’s a friend, a beloved relative….. I am only one person.

I am in the unique position where people come to me from time to time for advice, support, and just love. One of my favorite things in the world is to love on people!  But in the process, I get behind in life on the things I don’t enjoy quite as much. You know, the things like laundry, dusting, making appointments, cleaning off my desk.

My mind gets full as my heart gets full. And I sometimes forget who, I tell what.

Beth Moore once said that God gave her a prescription for deliverance from being so exhausted and trying to be all to all people. She said God told her to, “Do what I tell you to do. Nothing more and nothing less. No matter who disapproves.”

I have followed that advice. And although in one sense, it gives me freedom to pursue the things I believe God has placed on my heart, on the other hand, I still grieve over always seemingly disappointing somebody.

I have always been transparent. I’ve always been honest. I’ve always loved with abandon. And if people who’ve been around me for any length of time don’t get that at this juncture of my life….well…. that grieves me. But I have to keep moving on with the calling I believe God currently has for me.

God did not leave us here to cater to the “found” or those who are whole. He left us here, to minister to the lost and those who are broken. That has always been my passion. And I cannot always tell those in my life that I’m talking to someone who is struggling with alcoholism. Or someone who is contemplating suicide. I can’t talk about how my time was spent that day, giving hope to a mom whose child became cross-gender. Or someone who needed a little encouragement for their marriage.

But I shouldn’t have to tell those I love where all my time goes.

I know who I am.  I wish everyone I crossed paths with, did too. But I can’t constantly remind and reassure people of who I am, and what I’m about. They either know it – or they don’t.

Does that knowledge pain me? Ohhh, yes. Yes, it does. I carry it with me minute by minute. But ultimately, I am accountable to my precious Lord and Savior. I am accountable to Him, for my obedience, honesty, kindness, integrity, patience, forgiveness, and grace. I try to prioritize and encompass all of these things in my life.

What I do in life may not seem important to someone else. But it’s important to that person who gets a little bit of hope, encouragement, and love because of the time I invest.

So I will keep doing it. I will keep being me. Even with the thorns that prick my heart from those who try to limit me.

For it’s only in HIM and HIS expectations that I find freedom. And I’m so thankful that God never places strings on our relationship.

He just encourages me to fly.

Monday, April 17, 2017

When The Page Turns

I remember when I was a young girl; thinking that I would never ever be the one who had a boyfriend. But I was.

I remember going through years of persecution and harassment; thinking I would never live a life again, in freedom.  But I did.

I prayed for years, to live somewhere warmer – where my bones wouldn’t be so miserable from the cold. I began to think God was telling me, “no.” But it happened.

We so often think that things won’t happen to us.

Then that day comes.

It’s not always good. Sometimes, we don’t think the bad things will happen to us. I could never have fathomed, as a child, that I would know 5 people in my life, who would commit suicide. FIVE!

When I looked down at my beautiful babies, the years seemed so far off when they would drive off on their own, get married, or go off to college. I couldn’t have dreamed my heart would be able to handle it. Yet, somehow, those times have come and I’m still here.  I’m still standing.

The page always turns in our lives.  We never stay in the same spot forever. (As much as we sometimes may wish it.)

Sometimes our hearts moan and ache with misery over the changes. Other times, we fall to our knees in deep thanks.

One thing I know…… is that God has been with me through each and every moment. And He has been with you.

It’s the only reason I’m still standing. The only reason I’m able to handle the broken hearted moments. The only reason, I’ve been blessed with favor in others.

He has been with me. He is STILL with me.

That day WILL come for each of us. The day we think will never come. The day we dread – or the day we’ve prayed so hard for, that we think we’ll never see the reward. It will come.

And what will we do when that page turns? How will we be changed?
Who will we thank? Who will we forget?

Who will we blame?

God is with us. Always. In the alone moments, and the moments when the tears fall down our face. In the rejoicing moments, when we lose ourselves in the glee, and forget it was He, who granted our wish.

He is always there.

It is to Him, who I owe my strength. My hope. And it is to Him, I will ever praise.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Marriage Is More Than "Having Fun"

I see a lot of young couples who are dating and in relationships. It is so great to see them laughing together and having fun together. But as the relationship matures and goes on, I often watch to see if things will change. For marriage is about more than just “having fun.” And this is a lesson young people need to learn.

It is great to have someone to laugh with. It’s important to be able to enjoy life together.  But there is so much more to life than those moments. So much more than those feelings and a marriage can’t survive simply on “fun.”

If I could speak to young couples who are dating, I would tell them to find someone who is honest. Look for that person who you can trust – for trust will be so vital in a marriage relationship! I’d tell the young ladies to find a young man who is chivalrous. Does he open doors for you? Does he walk closest to the street to protect you from traffic? Does he let you go first in the shower, eat the last bite of leftovers? Or does he think of himself first?

I’d tell young couples to watch how the other person is with finances. Do they actively save money and think of the future? Do they work hard to get a job, and keep one?

Does your dating partner have humility or do they always have to be right? Are they good at being open to other opinions? Do they have a strong sense of morals and values?

These are all things that are very important in a relationship. Things that can cause arguments down the road if you aren’t in sync with one another. 

It’s great to have “fun” together. Fun will be important during certain phases of marriage. It will help you keep things in perspective. It will help your temper simmer after an argument. But “fun” won’t pay the bills. It won’t take care of you when you’re exhausted and sick. “Fun” won’t raise mature, grounded children.

So, look for more than “fun.” Yes, have fun. But add to it. Add to it integrity, character, depth, and vision. Give the relationship time to evolve in different circumstances and around different people so that you can see each other in their full light.

Choosing a spouse for a lifetime isn’t to be taken lightly. So although having fun is “fun,” it isn’t something to hinge a huge decision on. You have to use your head along with your heart.

It’s in your best interests.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

She Wonders If it's Worth It To Love So Much ~ If You Aren't Loved As Much In Return

She’s the one left behind.  The one sitting in the coffee shop with a sweet smile offered to all who pass by.

She’s the one always willing to give a hug, lend a hand, or offer a discerning word.

She’s the one outruled. Overlooked. Taken for granted.

And I see her. I know her.

She has a huge heart, that one. She only wants what is best for those she loves. And oh, how she loves!  She loves deep. And she hurts DEEP.

But it’s rarely seen. It’s rarely known how deep she aches for love in return.

Yes, she loves. She gives. And she loves to love. She loves to give. But the risk is to hurt. And she feels it when it comes. She feels every wave.

She wonders if it’s worth it to love so much – if you aren’t also loved as much in return.

She doubts her worth. Her likeability.

And the tears well up in her eyes.

She vows to not love that much again. To be guarded. To set up boundaries. And then time marches on. And she can’t help it. She finds herself loving someone else who needs to be loved. A broken soul. A wounded heart. A clipped wing.

Because she knows how it feels. She feels what they feel.

And it moves her soul.

So she opens her arms again. She opens her heart again. Hoping. Waiting. Wanting the same in return.

Only to get left behind once again. To be liked, but not liked ENOUGH. To be loved, but not loved AS MUCH as someone else.

To come in second. Always, second. Always, an afterthought.

And yet the world needs her.

I see her. I know her.

I’m cheering her on. Hoping she will feel the rewards of all she is, and all she does. Hoping she will see how much she matters. And praying – she will be chosen FIRST. First by her family. First by her friends. First by the strangers she steps out to love.

So she has fuel to continue on.

She could be your wife. She could be the girl in the college dorm down the hall. She might be that teacher who always smiles.  She could be your Aunt. Or, that faithful friend on facebook who always leaves an encouraging word for you.

Look for her. FIND her. And love her back.

She needs it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

When Your Soul Feels Convicted

My heart got convicted the other day. Well, actually, it took a full day for what I heard to truly set in and convict me. And then it just overwhelmed my soul. 

It’s not that I am living a perfect life with no need to feel conviction. On the contrary. My heart had gotten a little “tough,” as hearts can so often do, when you go through life.

I met the sweetest woman. She was leading a Bible Study and it didn’t happen to be the one I had registered for, but God placed me so that I would intersect with her conversation to someone else. She was talking about distractions. How everything is a distraction these days. And how often we are on Facebook when we should be reading Scripture. Or how we go through a busy day, and we fail to read, ponder, and dwell on God’s Word because of all the distractions in our days – in our lives.

And I felt it. Not at first. But I felt it. The weight of all those distractions in my life.

I believe that God made us for these days and these times. I think Facebook is WONDERFUL. I want to be on the record for saying that. The connection to other people can truly be a good thing. I don’t think God is asking me to give up Facebook, however, he may be asking me to read His Word BEFORE I get on Facebook. And He may be telling me that if I can stay up late on Saturday night, that I can get my behind to church on Sunday morning.

Our choices have changed and we haven’t even noticed. We haven’t noticed how we have facebooked, movied, shopped, read, partied, socialized, eaten, travelled, and worked God right out of the equation.

We are too busy.

How can He be the greatest thing in our life, if we fail to even give Him any time in our day?

I have missed Him. I have gotten distracted. I have gotten busy. And I have “busied Him” right out of my days. My love for Him has not changed, but I have had to strain harder to hear Him. He didn’t move. I did.

We are to prioritize living for Him. Obeying Him. Reading His Word. KNOWING His Word.   And yet we don’t even talk to Him.

I used to turn off my radio in my car, and just talk to God. It’s been awhile since I did that.

I used to listen to Christian podcasts weekly. They have sat on my ipod for quite awhile until recently, when I opened one again to get some fuel for my soul.

I started writing Scripture out in a journal so that I could meditate on His Word. It has sat abandoned for a few years.

It’s one of the reasons I do Bible Study. It forces me to get in His Word because I fail in disciplining myself to do that consistently.

I am ready to get back into prioritizing my precious Savior. I am longing to clearly hear His voice when He speaks to me again. I’m excited to see Him work in my life and the life of those I love – because I’m looking for it.

Life is full of distractions. Most of them aren’t bad. They just need to be prioritized. If we have time for them – we have time for God. It’s as simple as that.

I don’t want a “tough” heart. So I’m thankful to feel it stirring. I’m thankful for the conviction. It means things can move again. They can grow.

And that’s what I desire.

How about you?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Ground Is Shifting

Seasons. Oh, how they come and go.

I’ve been in the desert. Climbed the hills. Maneuvered the windy roads.

A season is entering my life right now. I can feel the winds of change blowing stronger and closer than ever.

The winds of change.

Sometimes, I like change. It can be energizing and exciting. Other times, I dread it. For change means stretching of the soul, and painful lessons.

I’m not at all sure what this season of change will bring for me. A little of both, maybe?  But, I’m nervous. I feel like I’m standing on shifting ground and it unnerves me.

I COULD look at it like I’m being taken to new lands. New adventures. Or, I could look at it with a sense of loss and sadness over leaving something that I’ve grown to love.

The empty nest is knocking louder on my door. It’s so close. And other things in our lives are shifting as well.

What will the new season of life feel like? Will I embrace it? Will I have a hard time adjusting?

So many unknowns.

One thing I know, is that I don’t walk alone. My God is a God full of surprises. He loves me. He roots for me. He has the best in store for me. (And for those I love.)

So, as I head to answer the knocks growing on my door, I can do so with courage. I can do so with thankfulness. And I can do so with confidence, knowing that my God has a gift waiting for me on the other side.

The ground may feel shaky now, but “upon the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sound.”

I won’t sink. Of that, I’m sure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Perspectives Change

It’s funny how our perspectives change in life.  When I was first faced with the prospect of having adult braces (after already having them in high school), I said, “no way.” I wasn’t going to touch that idea with a ten foot pole. Then, when it repeatedly came up over the years and the idea escalated to braces AND jaw surgery… everything in me JUST wanted to do braces. “I’d give anything to just have to do braces!”

When my baby girl started looking at colleges, I did not want her to go to college an hour away. Then she started looking at colleges several states away and I was like, “Please, choose the one that’s only an hour away!”

Oh, how the years and the situation can change our perspective!

That’s how it’s been in my life with so many things. And I’ll bet it’s been the same way in yours.

We can be so adamant about things…. Until down the road, we see them differently. We feel them differently.

Maybe, you’d call it karma. Some people might call it maturity.  I call it, being humbled. Because our pride speaks so often in our lives. It speaks quickly, and LOUDLY.  Until we are forced to confront things in a different light.

Sometimes it’s funny. You can joke about how you used to say such and such, then turned out to be right where you said you’d never be.

Sometimes it’s painful.  You don’t want people mentioning the past AT ALL, because things might have been easier.

But sometimes, it doesn’t matter at all what we WOULD have done, or what we said in the past. Because, God has His own plans and agenda for our lives. He likes to stir us up; when we don’t like to be stirred.

That’s how we grow.

That’s why we rely on Him.

In our own strength and control, we have little to no need for His impact or influence in our life.

I wish with everything in me, that I could embrace things better. I wish I could have peace of heart that was ready to accept any outcome. But I’m human. And I don’t.

So, the lesson I’m learning is to try to keep an open mind about people. About things. About situations. Because tables can so easily turn. Change can so easily happen.

Our perspectives in life are colored by our experiences. So, it’s important for us to remember that we haven’t experienced ALL of those colors or shades. That there are options, alternatives, and outcomes different than what we want or envision.

They may even be better.

Not everything is going to go how we thought it would go. If we let it, those are the exact times that can turn us into better people. Those very things that change our priorities and perspectives – can change our hearts.

We just need to let them.


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