Friday, October 30, 2015

real talk | overwhelm

last year around this time i kind of hit a wall. long story short, i had been working 50-60 hour weeks for about 9 months straight, Thomas was dealing with medical issues, bills kept coming in for those medical issues, and Thomas's job was ending right after the holidays and he hadn't started looking for a new job yet. so in a nutshell my life was 100% stress every day. 

that's where the wall comes in. a stress wall, if you will. and for the past year i've been slammed up against this stress wall and to be honest it's been miserable. it feels like stress has entered every crevice of my life and just stayed there. the littlest things and smallest decisions make me feel completely overwhelmed. even though my circumstances are completely different than a year ago, the stress has remained.

stress has affected my life in a huge way. it's affected the amount and quality of my sleep. it has affected my memory to where i can hardly remember things anymore. it has affected my ability to "shut my mind" off and rest. it has affected my body and i've gained so much weight in a year it's unbelievable. it has zapped me of my energy and left me feeling lethargic. it has left me feeling like i will explode if one more thing gets put on my to-do list.

to be quite honest, i have just had enough of it. i'm done. but how do you eliminate stress in your life when you can't eliminate the stressors? i can't just quit my job, refuse to pay bills, and say that i'm not going to deal with responsibilities. i can't just say i'm not going to be stressed anymore, it doesn't work like that. i have got to make a change because i can't go through another year like this, but where do i even start?

my answer right now is that i don't know. but coming through this past year i've realized that there will always be something that is overwhelming us as humans. it's just life. there is always going to be something taking over, but at the same time we do have a say in what that something is.

i've realized that i need to let Christ overwhelm me instead of letting stress overwhelm me. because when i'm overwhelmed by his love and completely in awe of his grace, there isn't room for much more. 

holding so closely to Christ especially when the world won't quit spinning around me is the only way i know how to tackle overwhelm. the circumstances don't go away and i still have to deal with the reality of life. but what happens is that Christ changes my perspective to be more like his. i start seeing things in a different way, and all of the stress starts to be less important. less present. 

turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace

linking up with the secret blogger club

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

a different kind of thankful

i'm thankful for the rain... because it helps me to appreciate the sunshine.

i'm thankful for my job even when it is stressful... because it reminds me to not let myself be lazy.

i'm thankful for Thomas working overtime almost every weeknight... because it reminds me that life is short & that i should cherish the time we have together.

i'm thankful for difficult people... because they challenge my understanding of true grace and they help me to practice loving better.

i'm thankful for loneliness... because it pushes me to prayer.

i'm thankful for piles upon piles upon piles of clothes to be washed... because it means we are alive to wear them.

i'm thankful for crazy emotions... because they point out when my heart is off track.

i'm thankful for awkward conversations with strangers... because it reminds me that there are people different than me & that the world is so big.

i'm thankful when people let me down... because it reminds me that i should only look to God to fulfill me.

and i'm thankful for inconvenient, last minute business trips... because they can be redeemed as a mini-vacation.

what are some difficult things you are thankful for today?

i'm linking up with the secret blogger club and thankful thursday

Monday, October 19, 2015

a love affair with fall

the chill in the air that reaches my core.
the crisp feeling of each day.
the warm drinks i can feel going all the way down my insides.
the comfort of wearing leggings & boots with dresses.
the pop of color that scarves & sweaters provide.
the perfect hiking weather.
re-creating our first date.
decorating our porch with hay, pumpkins, and sunflowers.
the smell of apple cider in the crockpot.
the vibrant colors adorning the trees.

these are my favorite things about fall.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

how to pay off student loans early

i went to a private Christian University, so it cost a pretty penny for college. long story short, i started college right after high school, ended up taking 3 years off, and then went back to school. so, i wasn't able to get all of the scholarships i had right out of high school. 

my first year, i had to put everything on a private student loan. after the first year, i got some scholarships and was eligible for federal loans, but the amount of loans each year was still cringe-worthy. 

i worked part-time at a grocery store during college, but obviously didn't make the big bucks. i did make some money though, and i used it to pay interest while i was in school. once i graduated, i believe i had 15 years to pay back the private loan, and 10 years to pay back the federal loans. 

i graduated in December 2012, so pay back officially started in June 2013. (they graciously give you 6 months until you have to start paying back the loans.) we got married in May 2013, so basically our whole marriage we have been paying on my student loans. 

even though i had a ton of money to pay back (when i graduated the total was $55,000), i did a few things that helped cut down on the ever-growing amount of loans. i took classes over the summer (hello cheaper summer classes!) and graduated a semester early. so instead of having 4 years of loans, i ended up only having 3 1/2 years worth of loans to pay back.

also after living on campus for 2 years and paying for the dorm plus the mandatory meal plan, i moved off campus. a family from my church let me stay in their spare room my last year and a half, and that helped me save around $12,000. so that was less money i had to take out for loans. 

i also turned 24 right before my last semester, so i was able to get a federal grant. when you are 23 and younger, the government uses your parents income to decide if you get financial assistance (even if they don't pay for your schooling). so my first 3 years, i didn't get any assistance. 

however, when i turned 24 and they started looking at my tiny income, i was able to get a certain grant which i believe was specifically for people over the age of 24. (i forget the name of it, but if you're in this situation, ask your financial aid office about it and they will know!)

the grant was even available for summer school that year, so i was able to do 2 summer semesters for free, and then it covered most of my last semester. i still had to take out a small federal loan my last semester, but no private loan! hooray!

being an accounting major, and my father's daughter, the first thing i did when i graduated was create a pay-back plan on my loans. it was during this time that i realized what compounding interest was, and that i hated it! even though the amount i owed was $55,000, with compounding interest i would have a larger principal than that when it compounded, and more to pay back in the long run.

i was determined to pay as little interest as possible, so i created a schedule to pay back all $55,000 in 3 years. if i stuck to this plan, i would save $13,000 in interest! (so even though they give you 10 years to pay it back, if you pay it off early you really save a TON of money!)

in order to pay my loans off early, we have been paying about triple what the minimum payment is. as time has gone by, the minimum payment has gone down, so right now we are paying about 5x what the minimum payment due is. 

what this has looked like, is basically half of my take home pay goes towards loans each year. and we also put a good majority of any extra money we get towards the loans. that means that tax refunds, bonuses, and even some birthday/Christmas money has been put towards student loans these past 2 years.

since i started paying the loans off in June 2013, that means my 3 year plan will be ending in June 2016. (which is only 8 months away... i thought i would never see this day!) we have been steadily paying on these loans and i am so excited to say that we only owe a little over $15,000 now! and i want to share with you some of the things we did to make this possible!

HOW TO PAY OFF STUDENT LOANS EARLY (or any loan, really)

1) pay interest while you're in school.
if you can afford it, pay interest payments while you're in school. if you don't, after graduation when you have to start paying back the loans, all of the interest that built up those 4 years will start compounding. so if you pay the interest as you go, there's less to compound at the end. (what that means is, when it compounds it is added to the principal, and you will have to pay interest on it. so you're basically paying interest on your interest.)

my first semester, the interest payment was about $40 a month, and then it increased each semester when i had to borrow more. luckily after my first year i was able to get more scholarships, so the amount i had to borrow for the rest of the years went down. i really can't remember what the interest payment was my last year, but i want to say it was only around $100-$150 a month.

2) don't just pay the minimum payment. 
that's how they get you - the minimum payment is basically a large chunk of interest and a small amount applied to the principal. if you don't pay over that, the principal hardly gets touched those first few years & the interest keeps building. if you pay over the minimum payment, more of your money will go towards the principal, and it will keep your interest from growing as much.

3) allow yourself to take off a few months. 
give yourself grace and allow for breathing room. let yourself skip paying extra a month here or there. if you really have other expenses that come up or just need to save some extra money, allow yourself to. don't get overwhelmed. 

when i graduated & saw that i had to pay back $55,000 it really freaked me out. but i've learned to just take it a month at a time. it will feel slow when you are paying it back, but if you keep steady & then look back at how much you have paid off you will see how slow & steady wins the race! (seriously if you told me in June 2013 that i would have paid off $40,000 of that debt in 2 years i would not have believed you! but the numbers don't lie now that i'm looking back on it!)

last year when we found out Thomas's job was ending, we took a few months off of our extra payments so we would have that money incase he was out of work for a while. because we did that, we will probably be a few months behind my original plan of having it 100% paid by June 2016. but just remember that you are still paying it off early even if it's a few months behind what you planned.

4) at the same time, don't skip too many months of extra payments. 
don't continue justifying why you can't pay extra. once Thomas got a new job, we started back the extra payments right away. it would've been easy to say we need to save more or find excuses to spend it on other things. but sticking to the plan as much as you can will pay off in the long run. literally. :)

5) use tax returns & bonuses on debt. 
you don't have to spend all of it on debt, but spend at least 50% on debt. it's fun to have extra money to treat yourself - but the sooner you pay off the debt, the more money you will have in the future. the longer the debt sits, the more interest builds. so take those bonuses and put a portion towards your debt. 

then once you are out of debt, you will be used to not blowing all of that bonus money at once and you can be more responsible with your money! and when you're paying hundreds (or thousands) of your bonus on debt, remember that the faster you pay it off, the less interest you will pay. and the faster you pay it off, the more bonuses you can enjoy 100% of later!

what are some of your tricks to paying off loans?

Monday, October 12, 2015

to the woman who isn't ready to have kids:

*please note* this is a letter to women who aren't ready for kids yet. it is in no way directed at women who long to be moms, women who are moms, or women who are struggling with infertility. it is simply written one-sided to this specific type of woman, so please do not find offense in these words if that is not you. because it definitely is not intended. :)

you're finally at this place in life that you've dreamed about your entire life. you're married to your most favorite man in the world & enjoying this sweet time of just living life together.

you've heard it your whole life. once you get married, the next stage in life is to have kids. you've seen your friends follow this pattern. you love seeing your friends welcome a new child into their lives. you're so happy for them because they're following their dreams. but you feel like there's something wrong with you because you don't share this dream. not right now. 

it seems like every month another couple is announcing that they are pregnant. every few months someone is asking you when you are going to start a family. and oh, how you dread some of the reactions when you answer. 

i want to tell you that there's nothing wrong with you, and that it's okay to wait to become a parent. yes, a lot of people follow the pattern of getting married and immediately starting a family. but just because that's the norm doesn't mean that's the best plan for you. there is no checklist that you are required to live up to.

each couple is unique and what's best for someone else may not be what's best for you. and vice versa. don't let society make you feel wrong about the choices you make for your family. and don't apologize for doing what you feel is best for you and your family.

it's okay that you don't have baby fever. that you don't desire with every ounce of your being to become a mom. it's okay, i promise. women were not meant to be 100% the same, and God gives us all different dreams. if the only reason is that you just don't feel called to being a mom right now, then that is enough.

it is good to be content in the stage of life that we are in, instead of constantly rushing to the next "big thing". and having kids is definitely not something that should be rushed. maybe one day you will become a mom, or maybe you won't. but continue enjoying the life stage you are in now and rest in the fact that it's okay to do so. 

live the life you've imagined.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

October 26th | Part 6

This story is written like fiction, but it is very true. It happened in October of 2012, so some of the details may be a little hazy to me but the story is as accurate as I recall. I wanted to have an account of the craziest thing that happened to me in my life thus far & thought it would be fun to write it in story form. This story is written in parts, so it will make more sense if you read from the beginning!

warning: this recaps everything i wanted to remember from post-surgery so it is a bit lengthy!

I'm awake. I'm lying on some type of table. It's cold. I'm in a strange room. I can't really move that well. OUCH - that hurts... forget moving!

After a few minutes, a nurse comes over and says she is going to wheel me to my room where my family is waiting. At this point, I'm wondering what in the world I got myself into. How long is this pain going to last? Because right now it feels like it will never end. Oh, and I guess I won't be going back to school this week, huh?

The next few days are filled with pain, sleeping, pain, attempting to eat, pain, hazy visits from friends, pain, and dreading getting up to walk. I am perfectly content laying here in minimal pain, thank you very much! But I get up. I walk. And I have never been more aware of how many muscles it takes to move. Oh, the pain. Did I mention the pain?

I stay in the hospital for 3 days. My parents and Thomas take shifts staying the night with me. No one is more surprised than me that my dad is letting a boy sleep over in the same room. But, I guess he figured it was pretty safe since, ya know, I couldn't move a muscle without writhing in pain.

My dad says a nurse gave him a picture of the cyst that they removed from my body. He asks if I would like to see it. Not yet. Normally I would jump at the chance, but I am just not ready for that yet.

He says he will wait. He does inform me, however, that it was 22 pounds and the size of a watermelon. What in the world? A watermelon?!?! Yes, a watermelon. We discuss the fact that 22 pounds is the equivalent of 3 babies. There's an achievement. 

After a day or two, I am brave enough to see the picture, and I find out more details. I really cannot believe my eyes when I see the picture. How in the world was that thing inside of me? Where was it? Why did I not look like I was 9 months pregnant?! 

Going into the surgery, the doctor thought the cyst was about the size of a grapefruit. So, he made an incision accordingly, then realized it was a bit larger once he started digging around. So, he made a second incision to extend the length. Nope, still not big enough. But, the third time's the charm because once he makes the third incision, which goes up and around my belly button, he finally has enough room to remove the cyst. Final incision? 7 inches. And I believe it, because I feel all. seven. inches.

Because the cyst was in my ovary, and so large, it had stretched the ovary as it grew. Try not to think about that too long. Yes, somehow it stretched to be as big as a watermelon and did not break! However, the tissue was so thin that they couldn't separate it. So, they had to take the whole thing out. I'm told that one works just as well as two, so it won't cause any major biological changes. I'm thankful for that. I'm also thankful that it didn't burst open inside my body.

I also found out that they took my appendix out while they were in there, because it apparently causes ovarian cysts and they didn't want me to have to go through this again. Yes, I agree! Because it was my left ovary they took out, and my appendix was on the right, I basically hurt all over inside. 

My dad tells me that our family friend Brian has shared a joke about the whole ordeal. I tell him not to tell me the joke yet, I've already found out how much it hurts to laugh when you have a 7 inch incision in your abdomen. I never knew it was possible to laugh and cry at the same time, but it is. At one point I swear off laughing forever. But that could just be the morphine talking.

(So the joke was "Robyn is such an ovary-achiever." Yes, it's a groaner. My favorite kind of joke. I laughed when I finally had my dad tell me. Unfortunately, it still hurt.)

The surgery was on Monday, and finally on Thursday I am cleared to go home. On the ride home, I learned that we have really bumpy roads in South Carolina. So that was the longest 20 minute ride of my life.

They gave us care instructions when I was discharged. When we get home, I read that when you get your appendix taken out, it makes you nauseous for about a week after surgery. More good news. You know how much getting sick hurts when your stomach has just been cut open? It's worse than laughing or sneezing. And yes, unfortunately I had a few sneezing fits which made it feel like my stomach was being ripped open. But hey, at least the bright side is that I will never have appendicitis! 

[to be continued]

Monday, October 05, 2015

o9 | project 12

Project 12 | a picture for each month of the year

- one of my best friends is officially a married gal! her wedding was labor day weekend & it was a weekend full of labor for sure! as the matron of honor, i helped her out with a few things the week of & night before the wedding so i was so exhausted by the time sunday came! however, it was totally worth it & i was so honored to be the matron of honor! :)

- ever since i've been working downtown, i've discovered how awesome ducks are! i hang out with the ones who live downtown almost every day on my lunch break & i never knew ducks have so much personality! some friends of ours have ducks, so we went to visit them this month & i got to hold a duck! #bestdayever

- i can't believe it was this time last year that we found out Thomas's job would for sure be ending in January. his company merged and they were moving the SC office to Iowa so everyone's job was ending in stages. he ended up getting a job offer (for the first job he interviewed for) 3 days after his previous job ended & was only out of work for a week and a half before starting the new job. now he is in a new job that he loves, even training new employees! it is crazy to look back at how we were feeling at this time last year & see how God orchestrated the entire thing!

September 4 - wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, & sign making
September 5 - wedding festivities all day!
September 7 - smoked ribs & pork shoulder at my parents house for labor day
September 8-13 - i had food poisoning & Thomas had some kinda sickness that landed him in the ER
September 19 - Farm Fresh Fair & dinner with my parents
September 22 - recreated our first date (for the 4th year!)
September 26 - Thomas's grandpa passed away
September 29 - visitation & the funeral

- the joy of feeding animals
- sunshine & pretty flowers
- having someone to be silly with
- my best friend's wedding
- gorgeous fall wedding colors
- my husband all dressed up
- making mini star wars characters
- photo op with the ducks
- lake sunsets practically in our front yard
- finding old books
- first date re-creation
- remembering the positives in life
- our groundhog eating squash
- holding a duck (!!!)

- our passport to fun date took us to Athens, Greece!
- i shared the 7 arrows of Bible reading that my pastor came up with as a Bible study tool.
- i made a list of 30 random things i love about life!
- i shared 5 new restaurants around town that we tried out as part of my 30x30 list.
- i shared how we re-create our first date every year & how it's my favorite tradition!
- i joined in with The Circle link up to talk about our favorite things about fall!
- and of course i had to share about the perfect autumn afternoon! :)

what are your highlights from this month?