Monday, April 30, 2018

Keys to Financial Freedom: Part Three

As we continue through our discussion about finances in marriage, we must come to what is perhaps the most difficult topic. This is the one that can really derail a marriage, but it doesn’t have to. Today, we discuss expenses and debt. Debt has always been a difficult topic for me, and I’ve waffled over the years on how much is too much and how to handle it. After good and bad experiences, though, I believe that Laura and I have a better grasp of it.

As I said above, this topic has been quite an odyssey for me. I was raised in a home where debt was the complete enemy. We were the Dave Ramsey family ten years before it was cool. I still have a hard time understanding how my parents paid off cars and houses so quickly while still putting food on the table. They are a great example of success in retirement, however, because they live a comfortable, debt-free life and are still able to afford to travel and enjoy life after a career in education.

You would think I would come from that and be fairly credit wise, but I completely ignored it. I got my first credit card and quickly maxed it out with no way to pay it off. To this day, I don’t know how I did this. I really didn’t end up with much to show for it. This just goes to show you how easy it is to do. I found myself with negative money in the bank and a maxed out credit card at 20 years old. Typical, right? It didn’t feel that way at the time. Looking back, income played a part in this. I was trying to go to college and live and eat on a part time salary. I even went hungry for about two weeks a couple of times. I was not going to go crawling back to my parents, though. I had too much stubborn pride. Thankfully, God looked out for me. My grandmother noticed I had lost some weight when I went to see her (and probably that I ate for a small family of bears), so she snuck some money into my suitcase. Thanks, Mamaw!

From that little seed, I was able to rebuild my meager finances and apply those lessons from my parents. I also got a job where I could eat at work. That’s a handy tip if you’re ever a single person in my position. And eventually I could afford to take a girl out on dates—specifically, a cute English major named Laura, who spent most of her time reading books or writing papers.

I married a very wise woman. Laura is incredible at squeezing the pennies out of dimes, and I mean that in the best possible way. However, we have mounded up debt at times. Sometimes, expenses just happen all at once. We’ve been there, and we didn’t have a nest egg to fall back on. The key with debt is learning from it and communicating about it. We both got down on ourselves for our excessive spending. Part of it was necessary, but some of it could’ve waited. Because of that, we made a pact together that we would always have a savings account that would be an emergency fund. It took a long time to build, but has prevented many fights. I’ll talk more about that next time. At first, paying off our debt seemed impossible. Little by little, though, it came down, and after almost ten years, we've now paid off over $90,000 in debt. That’s another truth about debt. You CAN knock it down. It just takes time and patience.

Hopefully, this little testimony has been helpful. I know it can seem insurmountable, and we have certainly fought about it before. Like anything else, you must be together on this. It takes a team to run family finances well. Everyone has to buy in, but once you do, things can really change.

~ Howell

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My Biggest Fan

Prepare yourselves, I need to gush on my husband for a second—and this isn’t even a Marriage Monday post.

We went to Colorado Springs a couple weekends ago for me to attend the ACFW “Write in the Springs” event with Margie Lawson. (Side note—the event was INCREDIBLE, and I learned a ton, and I’m back at chapter one to continue revising my first manuscript. But it’s okay. Every encounter I’ve had stretches and grows me as a writer, and I love getting to push my craft to be the best it can be.)

Colorado Springs is normally a little over six hours from our house, and we couldn’t leave until after work on Friday evening. And, as luck would have it, we ended up driving through a snow storm on our way up, so our travel time increased, which put us there after midnight.

So I have to gush about two things Howell did over the weekend that blessed my soul.

For one—he came! My rock star hubs got us there safely, and when I arrived at the event on Saturday morning, I was greeted by a table of friendly ladies who first couldn’t believe I’d come from Texas and then couldn’t believe my husband had brought me.

Howell has traveled with me to all of the writer’s conferences I’ve attended over the last four years—not because we’re inseparable (though we do love to travel together) but because he values what I’m trying to do, the vision I have for my writing.

It’s a no-brainer to us, and I forget it’s unusual until I’m confronted with perplexed faces and surprised reactions.

The second “aww-thanks-babe” moment happened while we were at lunch on Sunday. One of my writing mentors lives in Colorado Springs, and I’m grateful she and her hubs are willing to spend time with us when we come. She’s taught me so much about my writing and the industry.

So, we’re sitting at Mimi’s Cafe, and I’m giving an update about semi-finaling in Genesis for Restless Heart, which is a book she knows about, and finaling in First Impressions for Harvesting Love and preparing that second book for a publisher, which she doesn’t know about.

And she asks the question I’m never prepared for—though, I KNOW, I should be: what’s this new book about?

I stumble over words. It’s been so long since my pitch in September. What did I say again?

As I’m mumbling something incoherent, she turns to Howell and says, “You tell me.”

And he did. He gave a great set up of the story and praised it as his favorite one I’ve written.

We’re in the presence of an award-winning, bestselling, multi-published author, and he’s praising me.

Y’all, I can’t tell you what it means to have his support for my dreams.

He pushes me to be better, and he encourages me when I need what I have to be good enough for today.

I don’t know about you, but I’d say that’s priceless.

Friends, if God’s put a dream in your heart, surround yourself with people who will believe in you. And then don’t forget to thank your cheerleaders every now and then.

Thanks, babe. :)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Who's the Decision-Maker?

For my last Marriage Monday post, I talked about one of the greatest ways we can meet a man’s need to feel respected by his wife—when we appreciate his desire to work and achieve.

Many of us wives want to respect our husbands, but we might not know how. In Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs gives practical steps for ways that we can meet this need in our men.
So today, I want to focus on a couple more from Emerson’s list:
When we appreciate his desire to serve and lead
When we appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel
If the wife makes a lot of decisions (taking on the expression “she wears the pants in this family”), it might be that she’s not letting her husband lead.

BUT sometimes women don’t mean to become the decision-makers, and in reality, they don’t want that responsibility. Unfortunately, though, they feel like they aren't getting any decisions from their men. Instead they get a grunt or a shrug or a “whatever you think.”

And we've found that, despite their desire to serve and lead, to analyze and counsel—men react this way for a couple possible reasons.

First, they might feel like they’ve tried to make decisions in the past that have been vetoed by the wife and/or kids. It’s the cliché comedy line where the wife asks the husband what she should wear/do/say, and the husband tells her his opinion, to which the wife responds by doing the exact opposite of his suggestion.

Ladies, if this has been you (it’s been me before too), your husband is shrinking back because you’ve not made him feel respected. You’ve not appreciated his desire to be a decision-maker.

Second, our men are sometimes afraid of making the wrong decision—and perhaps have done so in the past, only to have it hurled back at them as failure. (Think: “I knew we shouldn’t have done what you said…”)

I know I’ve been guilty of both before, but you know what? His mercies are new every morning. A fresh start. Each day is new opportunity to change, to make better choices.

I’ve found over the last few years I’m capable of exerting self-control, even in the small things. If I ask Howell where he wants to eat or what he wants for dinner, and it’s not what I wanted—well, you know what? I asked him for his opinion, and I’m going to honor that.

When I ask him be the final decision-maker in areas small and big, he not only feels respected but he also grows in confidence to lead, and I shared with y'all in a recent post how grateful I was for Howell's leadership in 2017, a hard year of transition and change for us

The other thing I’ve learned is when he isn’t giving me an answer, if I’m getting an “I don’t know” or “I’m good either way” or “whatever you think,” I will tell him, “Babe, I need you to make this decision for me. It’s important, and I will honor whatever you think; I just need you to decide what’s best for us.”

When I say something along those lines, he knows he can trust my heart to not backfire his decision. And it puts me at a place of peace because I am taking the burden off of me and letting my husband do what God equipped him to do—serve and lead, analyze and counsel.

Friends, if this is an area of struggle, I encourage you to start small—and then watch how your husband shows love in return because you’ve filled his cup with respect.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Recommended Reading: Her Texas Cowboy

I'm excited to recommend my friend Jill's latest book, Her Texas Cowboy, which will be in stores on April 17. This is the third book in a series set in Fredericksburg, Texas, but you don't have to have read the others to enjoy this one.

From Goodreads Review:

Jill Lynn has a way with words. Her characterization and wit impress me every time. I loved getting to see Rachel’s story, and I felt every conflicting emotion that both she and Hunter experience. My favorite lines:
“He’d been teasing her about something, and the next thing she knew, he’d stopped, buried his hands in her hair, and kissed her. Kissed her as though she was oxygen, and he needed to breathe.”
 “Whatever happened, she reacted strongly. If she shut down, it was with ten locked doors and a No Entrance sign. If she let someone in, it was like seeing the sun up close and not getting burned.”

Jill subtly weaves in messages of God’s love and grace while painting an accurate picture of the doubt and fear that plagues many of us. If you’re looking for a well-written love story that’ll keep you turning pages, I highly recommend Her Texas Cowboy.

*I was given an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About Jill Lynn:

Jill Lynn Buteyn is a co-author of Just Show Up with Kara Tippetts, and the author of the inspirational romance novels (as Jill Lynn), Falling for Texas, Her Texas Family, and Her Texas Cowboy. A recipient of the ACFW Genesis award for her fiction work, she has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. Jill lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children. Connect with her on social media or at

  • Just Show Up--2016 Selah Award for Non-fiction General and Book of the Year.
  • Falling for Texas--2016 Booksellers' Best Awards Finalist for Best First Book

p.s. I'm also a big fan of her novella, The Start of Us, which is a prequel to this series. :) 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Keys to Financial Freedom: Part Two

In my last blog, I introduced a four-part series on home finances in marriage. This is a really important topic to me because it’s something that often tears marriages apart or creates the cracks in the foundation that ultimately lead to a failed marriage. I started the series with Planning, and this week, we will be discussing Income.

Income can be a tricky subject to address when discussing personal finances because of differences in beliefs or personal preferences of different families. I highly recommend reading what Laura has to say here about supporting your husband's work. 

Let’s get started…Over a long period of time, you can’t spend more money than you make. You’ll run out. BREAKING NEWS, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s never that simple, though. When you went through the planning session I discussed last time, did you decide your finances just didn’t add up? Did you find you couldn’t or weren’t willing to cut your expenses enough to make ends meet? If so, then increasing your income is the only other way.

Intuitively, I imagine this is something people would think of, but I’ve been surprised by how many people haven’t seen this as an option, so I feel it’s worth talking about. No matter your situation, you can increase your income. The question is, are you willing to make the sacrifices to do it? Sometimes, this is finding a different job or having a second family member start working. It could just mean delivering pizzas, driving for Uber, or doing odd jobs on the weekend. Your situation dictates how much more you need. I’m stressing the word need here. Most of what I just listed may only be temporary options to get something paid off or maybe serve as a bridge until you get that dream job.

What I really want to stress in this blog is this: You have options. If your current income is simply not enough, don’t let it continue to be a stressful point in your life and your marriage. Don’t let complacency in your job or all those closed doors you keep running into get you down. There are options in today’s economy, more than ever before!

I pray you're led by the Holy Spirit to make wise decisions for your income. God's promise is to provide for you, which means He will always give you what you need.