if you’re the praying type

I have always prayed, since I was a kid.  It was taught in Sunday school, and church and youth group (again at church) and well – it was everywhere.

Sometimes its a quick “Lord, please help me get through this day” and sometimes I will spend the entire time I’m in the shower praying fervently for 10-15 minutes (however long it takes me that day).  As I fall asleep at night, same thing.  I woke up in the middle of the night on Saturday night and for the life of me, could not go back to sleep.  So I prayed.  I prayed for God to watch over friends in Virginia, and name after name popped into my head – even people I haven’t thought of in a long time.  One thing that stands out in my mind from youth group when it comes to praying is “ACTS” – it was sort of a guideline to prayer.  A – Adoration, C – Confession, T – Thanksgiving, S – Supplication.   The first being a time to adore our father, and all the wondrous things he has done for us.  The second being a time for confession, and asking god to forgive us for our sins.  Third, thanksgiving – thanking him for all the things he has done for us.  Lastly, supplication, asking God “for stuff” (lack of a better way to put it).  I think sometimes people focus more on that last part, versus the other 3 parts.  After learning about the “ACTS” – I don’t think I have ever prayed in any other way, I always follow this format.  (thanks Rutledge family for teaching us this!)

We have a prayer list in our Sunday school class, and this Sunday we wrote “house stuff – of course”.  We have been trying to sell Jake’s house since November 28th – we just didn’t think it would take this long or be this hard.  We knew listing it between holidays was a bit dicey, but we didn’t have a thing to lose.  Houses in his neighborhood typically have been selling within 2-3 months.  We are about to hit that 3 month mark and we are both starting to worry – a lot.   Last week we finalized the offer on a house that would be perfect for our family.  Its beautiful, and in the right price range and schools.  It has 4 bedrooms AND a bonus room.  It has a cool backyard and an office.  It fits us, it has room for the kids, and room for maybe 1 more.   It has a 2 car garage, and it is honestly exactly what we have been looking for.  The only catch – we have to sell Jake’s house.  We had to do a contingency contract and that’s terrifying.  Needless to say Jake and I worry, a lot.  I think sometimes I worry more than him, because his typical response to me is “we will figure it out, we always do” (and in some ways, he is right – we always work it out).

The Bible says a lot about worry.  Matthew 6:33-34 says  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

True, we need to seek god first, and not worry about tomorrow.  But wow, how hard is that.  I once told my mama that I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t  worrying about something!  I now spend most of my days in this almost literal constant state of prayer.  I refer a lot to my bible and passages that calm me (along with a good dose of essential oils).  Some of my favorite verses are: Phillipans 4:6, which says  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” and Ephesians 6:18 which says And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
  We have talked a great deal in Sunday School lately about praying for our neighbors.  When our teacher David asked “what does it mean when Jesus says love your neighbors” – one of our friends in class said “neighbor means anyone but yourself”.  So please remember that I am praying for all of you, whether we are friends in real life or not.   We all need to cast our cares & situations upon god, and let him sustain us through everything.  That is exactly what Jake and I are trying to do.    I know that in every situation stuff happens in God’s time, not our time.   I guess my reason for writing this long post was that it was something that was on my heart to talk about.  But also to ask, that if you can please say a prayer or two for us and the whole house situation.

Tuesday Topics – Love

Today’s Tuesday Topic is love.  4 things I love!   

Of course, the top 4 things I love are my kiddos Katie, Jonathan & Natalee and my fiancee Jake.  

However, I’m going to talk about some of the other things I love with a passion!

College Sports – if I had to rank them in order, it would be Football,  Baseball/Softball then Basketball.
– We are season ticket holders for South Carolina Gamecock football.  We plan on going to a bunch of baseball games, and most likely will be season ticket holders for baseball next year (2018 season).   I am the woman who reads stats & articles, and can actually follow a football game (and a baseball game).  I don’t just pretend to know whats going on, I actually GET it.

Essential Oils – I have been a distributor for Young Living for 2 years and have steadily moved up in ranks.  I have a team of amazing women who share this huge insane love for oils.  We use them to help us sleep at night, to help us get through our days (energy, focus) and for overall wellness.  

Locally owned restaurants – We love trying out new places to eat, but we try to save it as once or twice a month date night kind of thing.  We are trying to buy a house, so we are saving as much as we can.  We love locally owned restaurants.  We have tried quite a few in Lexington, and some are hits and some are definite misses!  We so have two “chains” that we love, but its a local chain and that’s San Jose Mexican.  Each is owned by one member of the same family, and they are located all over Lexington & Columbia.  We also recently discovered Egg’s Up, which started as a local place and slowly became a chain across the southern region.   

Country Music – Music is an obsession of mine, and always has been.  I have this uncanny ability to hear a song once and remember all the lyrics.  Give me a few times of hearing it and chances are I can sing the entire thing.  Here is one of my favorite songs sung by one of my favorite bands – Zac Brown Band singing “Free & Into the Mystic” with Clare Bowen.



Swagbucks for Valentines!

Still looking for the perfect gift to get that special person in your life? Do you Valentine’s Day shopping through Swagbucks and get cash back for all your purchases!

The best part? Through Valentine’s Day, select retailers are offering double cash back or more! Just click here to sign up for Swagbucks and learn more.

If you don’t know about Swagbucks, it’s a site where you earn points (called SB) for doing things like shopping, watching videos, discovering deals, searching the web, and taking surveys! You redeem your SB for gift cards or PayPal cash.

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me and spend at least $25 in shop, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus!  Since I signed up for them, I have paid for 2 Christmas’s worth of gifts with the amazon.com gift cards I have received, plus some to Target!

Throwback – Its been a year?

Not quite a throwback Thursday, its going to have to be a throwback Tuesday.

This is the first photo we took together.  February 7th, 2016.  We were at church.  Its a grainy, taken with a cell phone in the middle of our massive sanctuary as we were waiting for services to start.  

We were hosting a super bowl party later that day at Jake’s house, I was nervous to meet all his friends, but excited at the same time.  I was content in this moment, as Jake went out of his comfort zone to attend church with me.  It felt special, and it felt right.  It didn’t feel forced.  We have attended church nearly every Sunday since, and have joined a Sunday School class that we love.  We have made friends and grown not only in our relationship with each other, but also in our relationship with Christ.  

Today I look back on this last year in amazement, from this first photo to planning our wedding in July.  We’ve come a long way baby, and we have a ton of years ahead!



Becoming Mrs.Carey – Save the Date!

So, since so many of our family lives far away – we opted to do a “Save the Date” card to everyone.  This gives them some pertinent information about the wedding – in plenty of time for anyone who needs to make a long term plan.  Jake & I went back and forth on these.  He saw some that he liked on pinterest that looked like sports tickets.  There are dozens of examples for sale on etsy in all teams, colors, sizes, etc.   We both have a ton pinned of ideas of what we were looking for.  I of course wanted ocardswith anchors & maybe a bible verse along with all the pertinent information.  Jake wanted the ticket look.  

Jake won out (more on that later).  However…..I could not get anyone on etsy to write me back about a custom design!  I emailed a few folks who said they offered custom design, and crickets….I heard nothing.  I reached out to a friend (Ashley)who sells save the date bookmarks .  She did respond and after some back & forth, determined that she could not do them (which is fine, she has a literary focus – not a sports focus!).  So what’s a girl left to do?  Make my own!   I spent 2 hours while I was on my lunch breaks using PicMonkey to make a custom image.  

A little editing, a little cursing at the screen and I think we finally have what we were looking for!   The Carolina helmet was a pain to create. I found the Michigan helmet first, super simple.  Went to see if could find the same style in the Carolina one.  Nope – I found one with a missing facemask, one that was tilted (and could not be edited).  Finally, I had to take a similar looking SC State helmet and edited out their logo, and added the Carolina “block C” logo.

How did Jake “win out” this option?  Well, because the invitations themselves will be a bit more formal.  He wants to be so involved and I love that.  Its nice to have someone who wants to help, versus someone who says “just tell me when to show up.”
We have had some other discussions where he has picked an idea and really researched it, and its been fun to see what he comes up with.  Currently, he has picked out our wedding favors, in addition to the save the date below!    We ordered them from Vistaprint.  I love that website, so many good things and there are always tons of discounts & coupons available.  

These will be hitting mailboxes around mid to late February and we are so excited about them!  

Tuesday Topics – Favorite Blog Posts

Its been awhile since Lauren over at Live.Love.Lauren did a Tuesday Topics, and I am excited she brought it back!  This weeks theme is “Favorite Blog Posts”. 

It didn’t say if it had to be my blog posts or others, so I am going to go with my own!  This week we are on the #6!

1.  Hands down, my favorite will always be when I told my story about postpartum depression & anxiety.  Climbing out of Darkness

2.  My second favorite is a story about forgiveness.   The Most Freeing Thing

3.  A little story about being the bigger person.  Grace

4.  I would be remiss in leaving out this one about our engagement.  Surprise!

5. That time we made boiled peanuts.  A semi-failed attempt.

6.  Sometimes jealousy pops up. Envy & Substance


I hope you enjoy reading through those posts, I know I did!  Tune in next week for another fun Tuesday (not a Tuesday Topics, but still fun!)





Becoming Mrs. Carey – The Dress….

So, this post will contain no photos of me because….we want to keep some things a surprise!    After Christmas, I went with my matron of honor Laura, my bridesmaid Allison, my friend Melissa & Jake’s mom Marge to look at dresses.  I honestly did not think I was going to end up picking something that day.  I went in with a list of dresses from David’s Bridal’s website that I wanted to try on.

When we got there, we met Fran – my dress assistant.  She first gave me my “foundation garments” – a corset that had probably 20 snaps down the back, and a crinoline.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting into the corset, I had to call Allison in for help.  Once I was cinched into that, we started the dress parade.  Unfortunately they did not have everything on my wish list and that was fine.  A few dresses I had to try on the dress in a larger size, and be “clipped” into the dress.   This is an interesting experience because you are literally standing there in this beautiful gown that’s essentially being held together with giant binder clips.  First dress was gorgeous, full of beading and lace.  I walked out and got all the appropriate “oohs and aahhs”, and immediately Melissa said “you don’t like it”.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, I am pretty sure it weighed about 15 lbs.  It was so heavy from all the lace and beading.  All I could think was how my arms were going to get scratched up on the sides from it (weird, I know).  After some discussion about how hot it would be in July, along with a “can you lift your arms” (Laura’s #1 dress question), I said no to that one.

Into another dress, and same questions – can you walk, can you sit, how do you feel, can you lift your arms?   One more dress that required several lines from Gone with the Wind to be said.  It sucked because I had nothing to hold onto while Allison pulled the back of the gown together just like a corset.   Example:   

I had said when we came in that because some of the dresses were not available, that everyone should just go pick out something they want to see me try on.  Allison and Laura did just that.  Allison said “I know you probably won’t like it, but I want you to try it on”.  I tried it on and absolutely loved it.  It is light & airy, and almost floats around me.  It is simple – and perfect to wear with my boots!   We have one very easy adjustment to make to it, which hopefully Allison or my mom can help me with once I get the dress in hand.  Lucky for me, the dress was on sale and I was able to put it on layaway last week.   A few more weeks and it will be mine!

Jake & I have opted to NOT do a “first look” before our wedding.  He wants it to be a total surprise when he sees me walk down the aisle, and I am okay with that.  I cannot wait to share my portraits and wedding photos here after our wedding!

I am glad that I got to share this moment with my girlfriends, and especially Melissa who moved away to “the islands” a few days after that day.  I’m glad Jake’s mom could also be there to share in it!   Next up will be taking my daughters to pick out a bridesmaids dress, along with Allison and Laura trying theirs on.  Also need to get Natalee a dress – but we will probably wait until later in the spring to do that, simply for “growth spurt” reasons (as suggested by the manager at David’s).



Feeding a Family of Four for Less Than $200 per Month

Grocery shopping for a family of four for less than $200 per month may seem like a dream to most, but I can assure you it can be done if you apply the right strategies.  And no, we don’t have to live like it’s 1920, living on bread and water.  These are meals that will actually be healthy and fun for your family.

I started this strategy a year or so ago when I was sick of going to grocery store and spending $200 every single time.  It seemed like once I was home and unloaded the groceries, I had no idea what I spent my money on!  I’m sure you can feel the frustrations, right?

If you don’t want your next monthly grocery bill to be as high as your mortgage payments, here’s what you need to do.  I promise it’s simple!

#1 Meal plan for 30 days

Before you even go to the grocery store, you’re going to want to create a menu for the entire month.  However you do it, it’s up to you, but what I do is simply create a calendar on Microsoft Word, and I will insert what I’m going to make for the day, along with the URL where I can I find the recipe.  What you’re going to want to focus on are recipes that cost less than $5 to make, and all of these recipes can be found by simply searching “$5 recipes” or even visiting Pinterest for countless ideas.  One of my favorites, even though it does charge a small fee ($5 per month), is 5dollarmealplan.com.

#2 Plan one or two meatless meals per week

If you’re a fan of meat, great, but as you may know, meat is going to be a budget killer.  It’s not uncommon to buy steaks and roasts for more than $10+ per pack.  Try to make it a habit to eat one to two meatless meals per week, and by doing so, you can really help your budget.  These meatless meals could include homemade pizzas, alfredo pasta, macaroni and so forth.  Again, use the Internet for inspiration as there are tens of thousands of ideas.

#3 Add the beans

If you like beans, then get in the habit of adding them to as many recipes as you can.  As a cheap, healthy filler, beans can easily be mixed into burgers and meats to stretch the meat to add more portions.

#4 Consider breakfast for dinner

Breakfast meals are some of the cheapest meals you can make, and if you have kids, you probably already know how much they love pancakes, waffles and eggs.  Try to cook a “breakfast for dinner” meal at least every 10 days to help stretch your budget.

#5 Always use leftovers

Chances are, especially if you have a kid that doesn’t eat for the night, you will have leftovers.  Don’t throw these away just yet since they can be a great meal for the next day for either lunch or dinner.  Whether it’s leftover soup or pulled pork, throw it in some Tupperware for an easy 10-minute dinner or lunch at the office.

#6 Limit your grocery shopping

As a family, I try to grocery shop no more than two times a month, but right now, I shoot for one time only.  If you can, try to create your 30-day meal plan and purchase everything for the next 30 days.  Yes, while you will probably need some staples such as milk and eggs, it’s okay to go grocery shopping for these, but if you’re afraid you’re going to spend too much, just go in with $20 in your pocket and that’s it.  Doing so can make you budget better.

Spending less than $200 per month can be done if you’re really good with planning.  It can take some tweaking at first, but I promise once you get into the swing of things, it’s a lot easier than you think!  Aside from the tips above, you can also do the following at first to help your meals in the future:

  1. Purchase meat in bulk and freeze for the future.
  2. Make your own bread with a bread maker.
  3. Always buy produce and fruit that’s in season.
  4. Avoid the processed food aisles, which are usually in the center aisles of the store.
  5. Consider lemon water as a drink of choice.
  6. Try to cook as much as you can from scratch. If it comes in a package, there’s a good chance you can make it!
  7. If you have the time, consider growing a garden.

There you have it!  If you have any ideas you’d like to add or any questions, I’d love to help.

Stephanie Lynch is from Howmuchisit.org, a cost-helping database designed to help consumers find out what things cost in life.