Stand Still

Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! 1 Samuel 12:16

It is hard for me to stand still, sit still, or just be still. I am one of those people that tend to have two speeds: energizer bunny or asleep. It’s as if I have a battery and I just keep going until my battery dies, and then I have to sleep to recharge my batteries. Not only do I physically have trouble being still, but my mind has the same problem.

When I ask someone what they are thinking and they say “nothing” I have a hard time believing that because my mind is never off. I am constantly thinking…whether I mean to or not. You should hear some of the story lines that run through my mind. I am sure there is a blockbuster hit somewhere in there.

But, seriously, I think and think and think. Sometimes it is worry, but most often it is just wondering. Especially when I am waiting on the Lord.

What will things look like in the future?

Am I prepared?

Will I be content?

And then I read 1 Samuel 12:16 in my morning devotional, and I am reminded to be still. That the Lord is doing a great thing. That this great thing will happen before my eyes.

Listen, this verse was not written to me or about me, but I believe it applies to me. And I believe it applies to all of us at varying times in our lives. As I am waiting on the Lord to move in several areas of my life, I want to just be still and trust Him, knowing that He has a great thing waiting for me, and it will happen before my very eyes. I need only stand still.

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Tips to Avoid or Pay Off Student Loan Debt

In less than 4 years, I (along with my husband) paid off almost $100,000 of student loan debt. This debt was accrued during the pursuit and attainment of three degrees (Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral). How did I do it? Well, I’ll get to that. But, first, I want to offer a few suggestions I have to help current and future students avoid this type of debt in the first place:

1) Don’t buy into the lie and be pressured into believing you have to go to college a) right after high school, b) in order to amount to anything, or c) in order to make money. YES, I believe in higher education, but I believe it has to be pursued in the right way and for the right reasons. It has worked for me, and it can work for you…but it’s not for everyone.
2) If you know you want a college degree, but are not sure what you want to do, consider attending a community college for your first two years. You can get your general education requirements out of the way and have time to explore possible career paths with much less financial investment. You may miss out on some of the fun of a 4 year college, but it may very well be worth it.
3) Be intentional about any degrees you pursue. If you are interested in sociology, consider what a degree in this field would do for you. What kinds of jobs would you be able to secure? If taking out student loans to pay for your education, would your salary be enough to cover your student loan payments and allow you to pay the rest of your bills? Will you need an advanced degree in order to build a career in that field? If so, can you afford that degree? Do your homework before you ever start classes!
4) Don’t go to college if you are not ready, not invested, don’t have time, etc. It is much worse to have student loan debt when you don’t have a degree to show for it. If you are not committed to finish what you start, just don’t start. (Note: There are certainly times when someone must take a break from their studies for a period of time for a variety of reasons. This is not what I’m referencing here.)
5) Only take out enough student loans to get you through. Don’t take out more than you need in order to make purchases unrelated to school or even to make unnecessary purchases related to school (study abroad, fancy computer, etc.)

Now that we have that out of the way, I want to share a little about how I have paid off my student loan debt.

1) First of all, you have to set your mind and your attitude on personal responsibility and dedication to getting out of the debt that you accrued and that you owe.
2) Once you have determined to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, establish a budget and determine how much you can pay towards your student loans. Pay as much as possible. (If you owe multiple debts, it is generally suggested that you use a debt snowball…pay off your debts smallest to largest. You will still have to pay minimum balances on everything else.)
3) Be willing to make sacrifices in order to pay off your student loan debt. For example, drive older cars. My husband drove a 2003 two seater, nothing automatic except the transmission, truck and I drove a 2002 Camry with over 170K miles until we paid off my student loans. We purchased homes that were below what we could “afford” so that we could make higher payments to my student loans. We were cautious about food, entertainment, and shopping. We didn’t live like paupers, but we did more purposefully pay attention to our spending.
4) Work as much as you can and put the extra money towards your student loan debt. My husband has two jobs, and I work overload for my current employer along with taking contract work in order to earn extra income.
5) You don’t need to neglect your charitable giving to pay off your debt. We continued to tithe and make offerings this entire time, and believe our faithfulness to God was an important part of His returned blessings to us. While paying off this student loan debt, we also began saving and fundraising for an adoption. God has been just as faithful with that! The bottom line here is that God has taken care of all of our needs.

These are just a few ideas for you to consider if you are in either position (current/future student or student loan debt holder). There are certainly other considerations to be made, and this is not as easy as I have made it sound in this post; however, it is possible to get out of debt…even student loan debt. Best wishes!

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Josh Duggar Is Only One

You may have heard that someone revealed the members of a website for people who want to have affairs. Ashley Madison is the name, and cheating is their game.

Josh Duggar is among the over 39 million members. Yes, I said 39 MILLION. Let that sink in. That many people are on one site wanting to cheat. Josh Duggar has gotten a lot of heat lately (which I understand), but understand this…he is only one. Only one of the millions upon millions of people who choose to break their vows of marriage. Truly a heartbreaking statistic.

With Josh Duggar, one issue is that he has professed to be a Christ follower and has focused his career on espousing family values while living a completely different life. And, sadly, he is not the only “Christian leader” to succumb to this. We should expect more from Christian leaders, but really…shouldn’t we expect more from all Christians? From all people?

I am sure most people don’t start out their marriages with an intent to cheat, but somehow they fall into this sin. Prevention is possible, with the right knowledge and effort. With that in mind, here are some ways that can help prevent extramarital affairs:

1) Before you commit a lifetime to someone, go for pre-marital counseling. While pastoral counseling for a few sessions prior to tying the knot is excellent, most couples would greatly benefit from more in-depth counseling prior to walking down the aisle. Make sure you are compatible before marriage…don’t wait until after the honeymoon is over to discover there are traits or characteristics about your spouse that you cannot tolerate for a lifetime.
2) Once you commit, COMMIT! You’ve said “I do” or “I will” and you should stand by that vow. You know the saying that nothing worth having comes easily. A long and healthy marriage doesn’t come easily, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your efforts.
3) Put God first in your marriage. Growing in your faith as a couple is critical in maintaining a strong and healthy relationship. Attend church and Bible study together. Pray together. Worship together. A strand of three cords is not easily broken! It’s through Christ that you are really able to stand by your commitment.
4) Attend to your marriage. This means placing your spouse second only to God. This means nurturing your relationship. Choose your wife over football. Choose your husband over a night out with the girls. Listen, I am not suggesting you can’t ever spend time with people or activities other than your spouse (in fact, just the opposite); however, if you are consistently placing your spouse on the backburner, your marriage WILL suffer. P.S. I know some women like football and some men like guys night out. These were just examples. ☺
5) Be willing to sacrifice for your spouse. Your marriage doesn’t have to suffer, but you may have to. Be open to communication. Speak your spouse’s love language (see Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages). Fight fair. What does this mean? Be willing to listen more than you speak (a personal challenge for me since I naturally talk more than my husband. Ok, I talk a lot more than my husband.) Be willing to apologize when you are wrong and do so quickly. Be willing to set down your pride for the sake of your marriage.
6) Guard your heart. Just because you are in love with the person you marry does not mean you never find anyone else attractive. When you become attracted to someone else (whether it’s their appearance, personality, similar interests, etc.), that can lead to dangerous territory. Be very careful about placing yourself in a position that might expose you to temptation.
7) Don’t rely on your friends. Don’t, I repeat don’t, rely on your friends to fix your marriage. Venting to your friends may feel good in the moment, but in the long run it can damage your marriage AND your friendships. I am not saying you can’t speak to a trusted friend and align in prayer for your marriage, but this is completely different than bad mouthing your spouse. It’s also different from getting marriage advice from your friends, which is also not a good idea. One good use of your friends is to have a mentor couple that you and your spouse can learn from. This should be a couple who has been married longer than you, is in a different season of their marriage than you, and has a fully committed marriage with a foundation and focus on God.
8) At the first sign of struggle, seek help. You might start with pastoral counseling, and maybe this will be enough to get your marriage back on track, but finding a licensed therapist may be the best thing for your marriage. Don’t allow your marital problems to become an excuse to seek comfort in the arms of another. Our help ultimately comes from the Lord, but He has provided wisdom and knowledge to other people who can be instrumental in not helping your marriage survive, but thrive. Place your trust in Him and love your spouse with His love. Impossible to do 100% of the time, but worth the effort.

There is a lot that goes into establishing and maintaining a marriage in which both partners are fully committed to one another. In the midst of problems, cheating is never the answer. Say no to Ashley Madison…say no to affairs…say yes to your marriage!

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