Monthly Archives: January 2014

Jan 30

53 Easy Ways to Make Your Spouse’s Day

By Dustin | Romance

53 Easy Ways to Make Your Spouse's Day
A few months back, I asked our newsletter subscribers for their favorite ideas when it comes to showing gratitude to their husband or wife.

What is one simple way you can show your husband or wife that you appreciate them today?

As I read through over 100 responses, I found myself jotting down some of the ideas on a post-it so I could try them myself.

Some were unique, some were delightfully simple, but I could see how any of them would be an awesome way to show appreciation to the one that you love.

It (finally) occurred to me that I should share them with our entire community so we all have a “go-to” source for simple, fun ideas we want to do a little something special for our spouse.

Which easy idea can you use today to show your spouse how much you love and appreciate them?

  1. Ask her about her day…and really listen
  2. Let her sleep in and take care of the kids (quietly!)
  3. Buy him flowers – he never gets flowers
  4. Plan a fun date that includes new things to try in our hometown & arrange for the sitter
  5. Give her a nice long massage
  6. Cook her favorite meal before she gets home
  7. Call or text to remind him how important he is to me and our kids
  8. Leave a note on the pillow…and promise a “surprise” for later 🙂
  9. Take an interest in his hobbies
  10. Make him a special lunch for work
  11. Surprise her by cleaning the house while she’s gone
  12. Look her in the eyes and tell her how much she means to me
  13. Tell her to take a nap, and don’t take no for answer
  14. Let him watch sports
  15. Give her a gift bag including some of her favorite things
  16. Leave a note on the bathroom mirror telling him how much I appreciate him and why
  17. Do something together that is important to him
  18. Do the dishes without being asked
  19. Let her have some “me” time
  20. Listen to him 100% when he talks instead of checking my phone or computer or “multitasking”
  21. Write a love note
  22. Play outside together at our local park
  23. Getting up early to make him his favorite breakfast
  24. Making a collage of photos of us – a real book & not digital
  25. Work together on a home improvement project that she’s been asking about
  26. Choose to stay at home together for a peaceful evening instead of going out
  27. Bring her coffee in bed
  28. Turn off all of the electronics and hang out without distractions
  29. Cuddle on the couch
  30. Watch the kids while she takes a long bath
  31. Fix his favorite dessert and include a thank-you note
  32. Complete a task on my “honey-do” list without being asked
  33. Take a nap…together
  34. Let him play video games all day
  35. Take a drive in the country together
  36. Have a glass of wine poured and waiting when she gets home
  37. Make sure we spend our 15 minutes a day together
  38. Watch her favorite movie – without complaining!
  39. Champagne and strawberries
  40. Date night…no kids
  41. Put freshly washed sheets on the bed
  42. Take a shower together 🙂
  43. Surprise him with his favorite cocktail
  44. Make a list of all that he does that I’m thankful for and read it to him
  45. Put post-it love notes around the house
  46. Seduce him as he wakes up
  47. Leave a surprise note in his sock drawer
  48. Random hugs throughout the day
  49. Buy flowers for no reason
  50. Speak only words of love and encouragement for an entire day
  51. Write her a poem
  52. Make hot chocolate and snuggle up together
  53. Let her have complete control of the remote for the night

What an awesome list!  I hope you’ll pick your favorite three ideas and use them to put a big smile on your spouse’s face.

What simple act would you add to show appreciation to your spouse?  Share it in the comments below!

Jan 28

Financial Planning: The Costs of a New Baby

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

Note: This is a guest post by Georgia Banks.

The Costs of a New BabyLet’s say you’re either planning to have a baby or have learned that you’ll have one soon.

First, congratulations! It’s exciting news.

But it can also be a financial bomb. By the time your kid turns 18, they could cost you well over $230,000.

But don’t panic! With a little bit of planning, you can gird yourself against the pecuniary storm on the horizon.


Many first-time parents are surprised by the costs that a baby incurs even before it’s born.

Prenatal Vitamins
These are essential to making sure your baby has the best health possible when it’s born. Most adult diets are lacking in the nutrition necessary to sustain themselves, let alone sustain a baby.

Making your home safe for your little bundle of joy is a critical step. Some of the baby proofing tools and products are expensive, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Setting up a proper nursery can set you back thousands of dollars. From the crib to the changing table, from diaper storage to a sleepy-time swing, there are many things that you should acquire and set up now, before you have your hands full.

The Birthing Process

The average cost of a birth in the US is over $9700, around $3700 for those with insurance and up to $50,000 for those without.

Did you know that a C-Section can cost $10,000 more than a natural birth? Have you thought about what your family will do if your baby needs to visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?

These are scary things to think about, but they need to be considered before they’re right in front of you.

Some choose to plan for a home birth, often utilizing a midwife or birthing coach. This can mitigate the costs of birth, but be advised that there’s always the possibility that you’ll end up needing to go to the hospital, anyway.

Birthing centers across the country are generally proven to be safe, so look into your options to choose what’s best for you.

As a note, I moved from the US to Australia a while back- the average birth cost here is the second most expensive in the world and it still only costs 2/3 that of the US.

Be mindful of what procedures and medications your doctor recommends- the amounts of tests and supplies hospitals suggest or use is often unnecessary.

Medical Costs

If you’ve been blessed enough for your baby to be born healthy, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet.

For the first year of your baby’s life, you’ll need to bring him or her in to see a doctor pretty regularly.

Most docs recommend coming in every month for the first 3 months, every 6 weeks until 6 months, and then every 3 months until the end of the first year. This is for vaccinations as well as for check-ups for appropriate development.

While important, it can also really add up financially.

Day to Day

Children grow out of clothes at a ridiculous rate. Buying a whole new set of clothes each time your baby outgrows an outfit is a great way to waste hundreds of dollars.

If you have friends or family members who have had children recently, consider borrowing their resources.

Disposable diapers can be the bane of a parent’s existence.

Some choose to utilize cloth diapers to save money and reduce waste, but this isn’t feasible for everyone.

Homemade baby food can save you thousands of dollars.

Instead of buying individual jars of baby food for every meal, try your hand at mashing peas and carrots, yourself. There are plenty of guides online and you’ll make sure your baby is eating fresh, healthy foods.

Toys are one of those things that all of your friends and relatives will jump to get for your baby’s birthdays, showers, and just because.

Such being the case, there isn’t much need to spend a ton on toys that might fall out of favor at any time. The only “toys” you should be concerned about are those used for teething, learning to walk, and recommended learning aids.

Little Things
Nose suckers and burping cloths and breast pumps aren’t necessarily things that you know you need right away. They can sneak up on you when it comes to cost, too.

Try to give yourself a budget margin so that you have the wiggle room you need to take it one day at a time.

Future Costs

With two working parents, you’ll need to find a good daycare that you’ll be willing to trust your baby with. Some of the best care facilities can be quite costly, so consider asking your parents for help a day out of the week.

It’s best to get into the habit of putting a percentage of your paycheck into a college or trust fund every month so that you won’t need to worry about tuition when your child grows up.

In the meantime, you’ll face many of the challenges in choosing schools that you face choosing daycare.

It isn’t just your baby’s well-being that you need to be concerned with. Now that you have a baby, you need to keep an eye on the future.

Life insurance becomes much more necessary when you think about what position your spouse would be in if you pass. I helped my sister-in-law compare insurance options at when she found out she was pregnant, which was a useful process when deciding which kinds of coverage she needed.

I’d recommend doing the same with your insurance provider.

You’ll come across many costs, expected and unexpected, when having a child. You’ll also pick up many money-savvy habits and tricks (couponing can be a lifesaver!) as well as home remedies.

Preparation is the best thing you can do to secure a future for your child. Plan smartly and utilize your support structure and you’ll be able to focus on the joys of pregnancy instead of the stress.

Jan 27

Grammar for Marriages: Why ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ Should Really be Verbs

By E.J. Smith | Help

FreeDigitalPhotos10097580editMy husband and I were driving down the road  on a particularly gorgeous Texas winter evening.  I guess I’d gone quiet—I didn’t notice—so my husband gently queried, “Whatcha’ thinking?”

I didn’t waste any time with context… I dove right in:  “You know what I think frustrates me more than anything about people trying to fix their marriages,” I asked rhetorically, “Half the folks I talk to are trying to restore something that was never there to begin with!  You can’t fix a broken vase if what you had to begin with wasn’t a vase…

You can’t really be a better husband, if you were never really a husband to begin with.  You can’t really be a better wife, if you were never really a wife to begin with.   That’s like looking at the remains of a house that’s been burnt down and saying to the contractor, “I think we’ll start by putting on a better roof.”

Nouns State the Obvious.  Verbs Take Action.

The terms husband, wife, spouse, and partner are not just terms used for social status and updating your “life events” on social media or filing your tax returns.   These terms connote a certain set of actions.  Simply stated, the words husband and wife in healthy relationships are verbs rather than nouns.

With this in mind, I want you to think about your marriage and ask yourself: 

Do you husband?  Do you wife? Do you partner?

It even extends into other family roles as well—

Do you mother?  Do you father?  Do you parent?

Recently, a dear friend of mine flew from Florida to our home State of New Jersey just in time for the Polar Vortex and some serious snowfall.   His children joyfully requested that he make a snowman.

Now as my Northern  friends will clearly agree—there are different types of snow—for simplicity sake I will divide them into 2 categories:

1) Those that are great for building snowmen

2) Those that are not.

The snow there was of the “not” variety.  And yet, several hours later, this was on facebook with the caption:


You try telling a 3-year-old Florida girl who’s never seen snow in her life that it’s too light and powdery to build a snowman. Daddy can — and does — do anything. 

The whole thing is just too flippin’ precious isn’t it?  However the warm fuzzies alone are not the reason his statement stuck out to me.  It stuck out to me because of the last line… “Daddy can—and does—do anything.”  Daddy can.  Daddy does.

For my friend… “Daddy” is an active word.

And from what I can see from him and his wife, so are the words “husband” and “partner”.

Defining Your Verbs

Perhaps one could argue – and rightly so—that the definition of “husband”, “wife”, “partner” is going to change depending on the person.

And to that I say, “Absolutely! It should.”

It needs to be different because every relationship and personality in that relationship is unique. Create your own definition of what that verb means to you.   And while you’re at it, ask you spouse what “your verb” means to them.  It’s a very simple way of learning what your spouse values in a partner, and it’s also a lot healthier to answer than the poisonous, “What the [censored] do you want from me?!”

Doing Makes a Healthy Marriage… er… Doable.

So where and when to start?

Honestly, start now.    Start today—this minute even!

Often, I think we (and believe me, therapists are guilty of this too sometimes!) think the ‘end goal’ of our efforts is a distant point further down the line in our marriage. Tell me, have you ever thought or heard someone else speak this way:

“Our marriage is in an awful spot right now, but if I/we do all this work—at some point—maybe two, three, six months down the road we’ll be better. “

Instead of thinking about it that way, I’ll invite you to consider this:  What if the process a couple goes through of co-creating a healthy marriage IS the result.  What if the creative process IS the goal?

I think its important to view healthy marriage in this manner, rather than as a fixed point, because the alternative has you chasing a moving target.  A healthy, happy marriage is not something a couple arrives at—it’s a constant process.

 Decoding the Process:  Questions 

I think by now we all know that I’m not going to close an article with out leaving you to ponder some difficult questions.  And from the comments I get every month, I know you’re doing the work.   So here it goes:

1)  Ask yourself this question:  “If I were married to me, would I be happy?”

Be honest.  This isn’t time to be narcissist, or a martyr.  Just answer the question.  What do you think you would appreciate? What would you have a problem with?

2) Only you know your true potential as a mate.  Are you really giving your role in your marriage 100% or are you doing enough to get by?  The idea that marriage is 50/50 is a lie.  Marriage is 100/100.  Each person needs to give it his/her best shot.  This is supposed to be for life.

If you’re not entirely sure about your percentage, look at other areas of your life—your spiritual life, your work life, your fitness routine.  Are you dedicated to the fullest extent or do you do just enough to stay out of trouble?  Do you value comfort over success?

3)  Do your actions add value to your relationship, or do they simply perpetuate the status quo?

Because let me tell you, friends, “neutral” is a death sentence for relationships.  In fact, according to some research by the Gottman Institute, those marriages that had more active arguing actually lasted longer than those who had silent, disengaged partners.  To get angry with someone means, on some level, you’re still plugged in.  (Unless of course the only time you get angry with someone is when they’re not leaving you alone).

So I’ll leave it there for now.  I look forward, as always to hearing your thoughts and listening to your feedback.


A quick note on comments: A lot of the comments I’ve gotten recently focus on a person who is actively trying to save the marriage while their spouse is otherwise disengaged.  I hate to be the bearer of bad (albeit obvious) news, but your marriage is a covenant between TWO people.  Two.  You didn’t get into this marriage by yourself, and you’re not going to save it by yourself either.

Now before you reach for your favorite copy of the Love Dare to tell me I’m wrong, please realize that the “happy ending” of that movie was contingent on the Mike Seaver’s Kirk Cameron’s character’s wife getting on board.

All you can do is give it your best shot, right?  Actually no.  You could choose to not give it your best shot.  You have choices and power over what you ultimately do or do not do for the sake or your marriage.  And the truth is, so does your spouse.

While I will NEVER dissuade someone from taking ownership for their part of the pie, I have to caution you from trying to own more than your part.  As a dear mentor used to say, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”  Own your part, and give your partner the respect of owning theirs– good, bad or indifferent.


Image courtesy of stockphoto /

Jan 20

5 Secrets of Sexually Confident Wives

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

sexually-confident-wivesI love to make cheesecake.

It wasn’t always this way, though.  Despite my deep love for cheesecake (I mean, it borders on obsessive), I was always hesitant to actually make one.

I had heard that it was difficult, wrought with several things that could go wrong.

Then I started thinking how ridiculous it was to be paralyzed by that kind of fear.  About cheesecake, nonetheless.

Instead of wallowing in my paralysis, I took action.

I set out to learn all the secrets of making scrumptiously awesome cheesecake.   And because of that, I can now make rock star cheesecake.

If you were my neighbor or a close friend who wanted a cheesecake for her baby shower, I would be your gal.  You’d be coming back for more.  I guarantee it.

Along the way, not only did I learn how to master homemade cheesecake, I also discovered something else — the secrets in making remarkable cheesecake are strikingly similar to the secrets of sexually confident wives.

(See how I did that.  I managed to put “cheesecake” and “sex” in the same conversation. Sounds like a little slice of Heaven, if I don’t say so myself).

5 Secrets of Sexually Confident Wives

1. Don’t wait for perfection.

Do you think everything has to be “just right” in order for you and your husband to have sex?

You have to be well rested.  The house has to be picked up. The kids have to have spent the evening quietly reading books before putting themselves to bed early. There can’t be any dishes in the sink.

Well, sexually confident wives don’t operate that way.

They embrace that life is messy. And they know it is possible to weave sexual intimacy into all the chaos that is inherent with everyday life.

I think one of the reasons I was so paralyzed in making cheesecake is that I really thought I needed all these fancy kitchen tools and the perfect oven and gourmet chocolate shavings and so on and so forth.

That’s just not true.  Waiting for perfection will leave you… well… waiting.

That’s not good if you really want cheesecake.  And it’s not good if you want tender sexual connection with the man you married.

2. Plan ahead.

Don’t confuse “plan ahead” with “things need to be perfect.”  As I said above, waiting for perfection isn’t going to pan out very well.

However, with regard to planning ahead, cheesecake bakers know the secret of setting their ingredients out ahead of time so they are at room temperature.  In other words, the cheesecake will turn out better if you plan ahead.

Same is true of sex.

Planning ahead simply means that sexually confident wives have mastered the art of all-day foreplay and preparing themselves for sex.

Do you wait to get in the mood for sex or do you spend the day getting in the mood?

I encourage you to become more intentional about setting the mood for sex — a tone that you begin early in the day with your husband that sends the message that sex is on the menu tonight.

Sure, a sexual quickie now and then is nice, but some of the richest sexual encounters happen after the groundwork has been laid throughout the day.

3. Find pleasure in it.

When I make cheesecake, it brings me tremendous joy to know that not only will others partake in the outcome, but I will as well!

When it comes to sex, your pleasure matters.

If you view sexual pleasure as just something for your husband, then you will quickly grow weary of sex.  But if you learn that those intimate moments between just you and your husband are meant to be pleasurable for both of you, then you will see sex as a blessing.

Not a burden.

I’ve written extensively about orgasm and you can find those posts on this page on my site.  I also wrote a post here on Engaged Marriage titled “Wives, Do You Know Why Your Orgasm Matters?”

4. Add variety.

Some Christian wives hear the words “sexual variety” and immediately feel anxious, thinking that such variety means sexual acts that are outside God’s guidelines for the marriage bed.

Not so! Sexual variety is definitely possible without sinning.

God after all is creative!  I believe He gives a husband and wife tremendous freedom within the exclusivity of their marriage to explore sexual pleasure.

Try different positions, various types of touch and other aspects that engage all the senses (guys tend to be very visual, so your husband would likely enjoy seeing your body more!)

When I’m making a cheesecake, I rarely make plain cheesecake.  I branch out and make turtle cheesecake. Or white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Or Irish Cream cheesecake.

You get the picture.  Sexually confident wives love adding variety — and embracing it — during sex.

5.  Learn new skills.

I was reading the paper one day and saw a review of a book titled “125 Best Cheesecake Recipes.” I couldn’t sign on to Amazon quick enough!

As Christians, we now have ample access to books and resources on sexual intimacy in marriage. I literally have three bookshelves full of Christian sex books.

If you want to better understand the gift of sexual intimacy as God sees it, as well as learn new techniques, you can do that!  For example, I just co-authored an eBook titled Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage.

I’m not trying to plug my book (well, maybe I am a little).  I’m just saying that you can learn more about sex from trusted Christian authors and bloggers.

Whether you are making cheesecake — or making love — follow the secrets that will leave your husband coming back for more!

Any other secrets you would add to the mix?

Jan 18

How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together

By Dustin | Finances & Careers

How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together“It would be great to pay off our debt and have more money for things we enjoy. But where do we start?”

“We’ve tried budgeting before, but it never sticks. Plus, it’s boring!”

“I try to save money, but she’s a spender.”

“When he questions what I spend, I feel like he doesn’t trust me or understand how much things really cost.”

“It’s been years since we’ve even talked about our dreams for the future. It seems kind of pointless when don’t have any extra money.”

There’s no question – Money is a huge issue in your marriage.

Managing the family finances can create a lot of stress, so it’s no surprise that money fights are the #1 cause of divorce.

Of course, when it’s handled the right way, money can also be the source of much joy in your marriage and family life.

Getting debt free was one of the most rewarding experiences in our marriage. Along our bumpy road, we learned how to budget effectively, save on our spending, earn more income and ultimately how to live with contentment and plan for the future we want together (and start to live it).

It took us many years to get our money on track through a lot of trial-and-error and many missteps. Fortunately for you, there is a “fast track” option that I’m proud to be able to offer you today.

I’m excited to share that help is on the way – real, practical help that I know is going to give you the money plan and fun tools you need along with a lot of excitement to put it into action.

We’re hosting a very special online event called “How to Get Control of Your Money & Create the Future You Desire Together.”

I’ll be joined by my go-to resource on this topic – Ann Arceo of Savvy Duo Financial Planning, Inc. – who will be our main presenter. Ann has helped couples across the world get on the same page with their money so they can be happier now while preparing for an exciting future enjoying their dreams together. Here’s a brief bio:

Ann ArceoAnn Arceo is a Financial Planner and President of Savvy Duo Financial Planning, Inc. Savvy Duo Financial Planning, Inc. provides affordable flat fee financial planning to newlyweds and couples.

Ann began her career in financial planning at PartnersInWealth, a wealth management firm based in Houston, Texas. The firm catered to high net worth individuals. Ann worked with the firm’s President to train the financial planners. She developed a new method of training to help the advisors learn to deliver technical financial plans in an easy, “plain English” format that clients would understand.

She then worked for LPL Financial, an independent broker dealer, where she earned her Series 7 & 66 securities licenses. She worked alongside a branch manager creating financial plans, account summaries, and investment performance reports for high net worth clients.

Ann holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Houston, Victoria, and she is currently working towards earning her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ designation. Ann lives with her husband in Los Angeles. They enjoy spending time with friends, hiking, hanging out at the beach and of course planning their financial future together!

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this live workshop:

  • How to create a financial plan together that works using SMART goals
  • How to create a simple, non-boring budget using the 3 bucket system
  • How to pay off debt quickly & start saving $$$ right away
  • How to start a savings & investment plan to support your future ambitions
  • How to discuss money with your honey – so you can be happy now while you create the future you desire…TOGETHER!

We’ve decided to keep the cost of this workshop very reasonable, and in addition to some awesome “take action tonight” live training and lifetime access to the recordings of the event, you’ll also have the opportunity to ask any question you’d like of Ann and me.

Plus, Ann is including copies of TWO of her company’s most popular money resources for couples – The Savvy Duo Guide to Getting Financially Intimate with Your Partner workbook/video and The Savvy Duo Budget Tracker for everyone who joins in the fun.

The live event takes place on Thursday evening 1/23, but if you already have plans, no worries – everyone who registers gets a full recording (both video and audio versions) to enjoy at your convenience and you can submit questions in advance.

That said, we have to limit the number of “seats” to the event because our webinar service can only accommodate so many live attendees, and we want to be able to respond to every question that’s submitted personally and thoroughly. So grab your seat soon.

Reserve my SeatClick here to reserve your seat to this special event

By the way, I’m all about delivering the goods and making sure you love your experience with this event. So, even though I’m sure you’ll love what Ann has to share, I’m covering all attendees with a 100% guarantee. If you’re not blown away by the workshop, I’ll refund your money – and you can keep both the Budget Tracker and Guide to enjoy!

I’m so excited for this third Engaged Marriage “How-to” Workshop, and I hope you will join us for a marriage-enriching event!

Jan 13

How to Make it a Valentine’s Day He Won’t Forget

By Debi Walter | Romance

How to Make it a Valentine's Day He Won't Forget

Valentine’s Day – Do you have plans? Or do you plan NOT to plan?

Sadly, I’ve heard many couples who have chosen to ignore this day because they don’t like the commercialism behind it all – Hallmark, 1800Flowers, Ghiradelli Chocolate, etc.

Honestly? I don’t like that part either. But ignoring this date on the calendar is like ignoring Christmas because you don’t like how others have commercialized or paganized (I made that word up) it.

But there’s a better way!

Tom and I were married 10 days after Valentine’s Day on February 24th. This year marks our 35th wedding anniversary AND we’ve celebrated both days in February from the very beginning.

The deal has always been – I romance him on V.D., and he romances me on our anniversary. It’s been a fun tradition and gives us both something to look forward to in surprising the other.

Some Valentine’s Day guidelines to consider:

  • We never go out to dinner. There is nothing less romantic than sharing a nice cozy restaurant with hundreds of other couples.
  • I go all out to bless Tom in unexpected ways.
  • He is not allowed to come home until the time I set. He must take his change of clothes to work with him and shower and change at the gym or at a friend’s house.
  • I would fix a nice dinner sometimes picking a theme for the evening. Other times fixing his favorites.

For some reason, I’ve heard many wives say they expect their husbands to do all the work on this day. I believe that’s because they’ve bought the commercialized version of the holiday.

What’s wrong with women taking this day to love on their man? It takes the pressure off of him and let’s him enjoy being romanced by me for a change. AND, I get to do something to make the holiday a memorable one.

I don’t enjoy the day any less because I’m the one doing the planning. In fact, I think I’ve enjoyed Valentines Day all the more because of the anticipation of blessing Tom.

Don’t let these excuses hold you back:

  • Excuse #1 – We can’t afford a babysitter.

Well, neither could we. I remember years when we had no extra money for a babysitter, so I planned to have the kids spend the night with my parents OR I got them ready for bed early and let them watch a movie OR I put them to bed and planned the evening to start a little later.

One year our older children served our dinner to us. They grew up watching us celebrate this day, and they came to expect it.

  • Excuse #2 – I don’t know what to do.

I realize there are many women who lack ideas when it comes to romance at home. This is one of the reasons we started The Romantic Vineyard 5 years ago – to provide ideas for you to try.

We have an Only Wives page and an Only Husbands page where we provide romantic ideas for all the holidays to help you surprise and bless your spouse.

  • Excuse #3 – I’m too tired.

I understand this one all too well. Especially if you have a house full of little people.

But may I encourage you to give this a try? Pray and ask God to give you the energy you need to romance your husband this year. And don’t let him know what you’re doing until you mail or e-mail him an invitation to “your place” for dinner on February 14th.

The excitement and anticipation will most likely boost your energy, at least it has for me. You never know what it’s like until you try it. Hey, it sounds like I’m trying to convince you to eat your vegetables, doesn’t it? 🙂

Romance is more like the icing on the cake, than it is like brussel sprouts, aren’t you glad?

  • Excuse #4 – My husband will think it’s silly.

I understand, if romance hasn’t been practiced in your marriage for years, how this could be a temptation. But you never know until you try.

If you’ve studied your spouse well, you know what would bless him for Valentines Day. Make this an evening where you highlight all his favorites. Additional reading: Valentine’s Day–Hype Or Help?

I’m not one to encourage you to do something, and leave you on your own to figure out how. I’ve provided lots of ideas on our blog, The Romantic Vineyard. Simply scroll down to our search box and type in Valentine’s Day.

May this year be one where your marriage grows stronger and your love more intimate, one romantic act of love at a time.

(photo source)

Jan 06

Budgeting: Change your perspective, change your life

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

Budgeting change your perspective, change your lifeWhen I think of budgeting, I am reminded of what Elizabeth George wrote in Putting on a Quiet and Gentle Spirit about learning to read the Bible:

There is the cod liver oil stage when you take it like medicine; the shredded wheat stage when it’s nourishing but dry; and the peaches and cream stage when it is consumed with passion and pleasure.

That quote has stayed with me, especially because I felt that way almost my entire life.

I was a cod liver oil gal for sure—Why in the world would anyone read the Bible?!?—and then, less than ten years ago, I was introduced to the beauty and blessing of having a relationship with Christ.

My world was forever rocked.

Now I’m a peaches and cream girl. 🙂

I realized that my hubby and I followed that same thought process with our finances.

We knew budgeting existed, but what a bothersome thing to do.

Why, it would be like taking cod liver oil when we were FINE.


What would be the point?

The point is that budgeting is either tasty preventative medicine to help you become even more financially healthy or a welcome and necessary cure to help you back up onto your feet.

The truth is that about 7 out of 10 Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

According to an article on CNN Money:

Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Monday.

. . . online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency, while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.

Living on that edge means one event can push you over the cliff, and the odds of you going over are much higher than you can imagine.

Budgeting helps you avoid that steep and painful fall.

I have put together ten tips to help change your perspective so you can become a peaches and cream budgeter, too.

1.  Accept that in the beginning it may taste like cod liver oil. Yes, putting ALL your debts, expenses, and income on paper is painful, but it’s far better than continuing to live in ignorance. Been there, done that. Trust me on this, and please, just take this step. Dustin has a great how-to on the basics, and more on why to budget here.

2.  Understand where you are is not forever. Putting those figures down doesn’t condemn you to that place for your life. It’s  just a financial GPS so you can see where you are right now.

3.  Realize that once you have your bearings, you can plot your journey forward. You will never be able to move to where you want to be unless you figure out where you are.

4.  Know that you will mess up. Yes, failure is an option and an integral part of the learning process. It’s like piloting a ship to a distant port. The craft can’t travel in an absolutely straight line. The captain doesn’t throw up his hands in anger and irritation every time he goes off-course. He just adjusts direction as needed.

5.  See budgeting as freedom. Yes, sweet, sweet freedom! You may believe as we did that budgeting meant we’d never have fun again. EVER. But, like the optical illusion below, what we saw depended completely on our perspective. Duck or bunny? Chains or freedom? Once we realized the budget was our opportunity to choose intentionally where each dollar went, we saw the freedom we could have from guilt, worry, and fear.

duck bunny optical illusion6.  Embrace the hope that follows budgeting. We have seen hope bloom in folks my husband and I have helped with getting their finances in order, and we felt it ourselves. I can’t explain it. I can tell you there is a mental load you are carrying you probably don’t even know is weighing you down. Once you begin budgeting, you will be surprised at how much more hopeful you feel.

7.  Enjoy greater confidence in handling financial emergencies. Our youngest daughter and her boyfriend decided to surprise us at Christmas by driving nearly non-stop from Montana to New Hampshire. The 2,500 miles were not without excitement. They hit a deer, which ripped off the right side of their bumper. They drove over two big potholes in the middle of the night, which flattened a tire and bent a rim. The service that came to help backed into their car and put a hole in what was left of the bumper. The intrepid travelers had to rent a car to finish the distance from western NY to NH, and back again. Needles to say this was costly, but they handled it all in stride.

8.  Find a method to make it easy and convenient. Find a way that works for you, whether it’s on paper or in the computer. The longer you create budgets, the easier it becomes, and the more you can see the distance you have covered. That makes life go down so much more sweetly!

9. Use the power of the Wow! Factor. It’s about figuring out the opportunity costs, determining what you truly value, and what really fits you and your family today. Integrating these areas brings lots of joy and satisfaction to the process and follow-through.

10.  Remember that budgeting is a tool. It is a means to an end to help you to achieve a goal, like a car gets you to work. Just. A. Tool. When you realize this, you can let go of the negative emotions attached to budgeting.

Everyone has problems, and if you try to run away from them they tend to eventually run you over. Instead, embrace them and learn what you can. It is often the most difficult times that grow you the most, but are also the most gratifying.

Solving problems, whether after the fact or preemptively, is a task for which budgeting is wonderfully suited.

Now go create your budget so you can change your life for the better!

Question: Where are you in the budgeting process? Cod liver oil stage? Peaches and cream? Please share in the comments so we can help one another!

Original image credit: Alan Cleaver

Jan 05

3 Reasons I Still Believe in Marriage

By Dustin | Spirituality

This post is part of the Happy Wives Club Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

3 Reasons I Still Believe In MarriageIf you had no preconceived notions, and you spent even one day simply watching television, reading magazines and browsing the social media updates of the most popular sites on the web, what impression would you have of marriage?

I’m afraid you’d learn that marriage is an antiquated idea where two people are imprisoned in a house together with no sex life and lots of bitterness.

You’d be led to believe that most couples get divorced and those that don’t are either naive or they’ve been brainwashed by their church or family to continue to suffer.  You’d learn that married couples are missing out on freedom, personal fulfillment and lots of exciting, casual sex.

Well, I believe differently.

Despite all the forces against traditional marriage these days, I still believe in it.  I believe that marriage is good and that it’s a worthy vocation for many.

I believe that strong marriages are the key to making the world a better place.

Here are a few reasons that I’ve come to believe so deeply in this old-school institution:

1. I Believe Marriage is a Gift from God

As a Christian, I believe plenty of counter-cultural ideas, and one of my deepest beliefs is that God has a special plan for each of us.  For many, I think we find our highest calling as a married couple leading a family.

God gave us an example through the holy family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.  And he gave us the ultimate example of love and commitment through the passion of Jesus Christ.

While it requires a spiritual lens, I see the relationship between Jesus (groom) and his Church (bride) as a beautiful example of married love.  And I’m super wacky because I think us married couples have the opportunity to serve the world and be an example of God’s love to others in the way we live out our marriages.

2. I Have Witnessed the Goodness of Marriage in Others

The reality is that the example of married life I grew up with was pretty bad.  It left me wondering how marriage could really work (and a lot of other questions).

Fortunately, I did have healthy models of married life to experience outside of my own home.  I could see the goodness of married dedication through my friends’ parents, and I ended up finding one of the strongest examples of a great marriage in Bethany’s parents.

In fact, their relationship went a long way toward helping me choose to be a Christian in my college years.

3. I Live the Gift of a Happy Marriage

Last but most importantly, I live the gift of marriage every day.

Like all couples, Bethany and I have our “moments” but we are certainly a happy and blessed couple.  Marriage is one of the absolute best parts of my life, and I know God has called me to be a good husband and father, even if he chose a pretty crazy path to lead me through to get here.

I obviously care a lot about marriage, and about YOUR marriage, which is why Engaged Marriage exists.  Like I said, I think that we can change the world for the better by supporting and encouraging strong marriages.

But the bottom line is that no matter what TMZ reports or a sitcom portrays, I still believe in marriage because marriage is so good for me.

Thank God for that.

A Word About the Happy Wives Club

HW Club Tour

I wrote this post as part of a worldwide blog tour to raise awareness about happy marriages, coinciding with the release of a new book by a dear friend of mine.

Fawn Weaver is an awesome person who has taken a stand for the goodness of love and marriage, and I’m thrilled to support her and her great book – Happy Wives Club.

I encourage you to check it out and read about the best marriage secrets the world has to offer.  She traveled to six continents to write it, and it’s truly a gift.  Here’s a short video trailer for the book for you to enjoy.