Day Twenty-Five: I’m Thankful For…Dave Ramsey.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

In January 2009, my church offered a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. I had never heard of Dave, but I was in desperate need of financial peace. I had a lot of debt (both credit cards and student loans), I didn’t budget, and I was always uneasy when it came to money matters.

I can truly say that this class changed my life. 

Throughout the thirteen weeks of this class, we learned about the importance of having an emergency fund of at least $1,000, how to budget, how to prioritize our debts to pay them off in what Dave calls a “Debt Snowball” (smallest to largest debts), what types of insurance we should have, how to save for retirement wisely, and many other practical tips.

We learned that it’s important to “Live like no one else (meaning to make sacrifices now) so that later you can live like no one else (debt free and able to do whatever you want!).” This simple phrase makes it easier to sacrifice things that we may want right now for the long-term goal of being debt-free.

My favorite lesson was the last one, the one that focused on giving. Dave emphasized that the greatest thing about being debt-free is the ability to “give like no one else” because you don’t owe anyone anything. 

Since going through FPU, our financial outlook has changed completely:

  • We LOVE budgeting and the peace that it brings. Seriously. We tell our money where to go – we don’t wonder where it went.
  • We have NO credit card debt (paid off our last one in August 2012) AND no credit cards!
  • We were able to buy a house last year.
  • We are hoping to be completely debt-free in a couple of years (if we sell our house, we can pay off our student loans with the profit).
  • We give so much more than we did before, and it is such a blessing to be able to do so.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to take one of Dave’s classes or read his books, please do so TODAY. He’s having a huge sale from now until Christmas (I believe) and most of his books are drastically discounted. It will be the best investment in your financial future that you have ever made!

Day Twenty-Four: I’m Thankful For…RYFO.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

I was introduced to RYFO a couple of years ago through a link to this video that a friend posted on Facebook. It immediately grabbed my heart, and I showed it to Brennan (along with this one) as soon as he got home from work that evening. We knew we had to join.

To put it simply, RYFO exists to serve musicians. To serve the voices as “rebranded fans” – seeking to serve and not just to take. It is a network of host homes, services, and resources for touring musicians across the United States. Host homes provide shelter, meals, fellowship, a place to do laundry, and a place to rest.

I have always loved serving people in my own place of residence. I love being able to provide a warm bed for the weary, great food for the hungry, and a place of rest for the weary. So when I saw that there was an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with musicians who are touring, living in their vans, trying to make a humble living, simply by opening up our home, we knew this was perfect for us!

When we began our house search in 2012, one of our biggest motivators was a desire for more space so that we could host bigger bands. Our house provides so much more room for our guests than our tiny apartment did! It is not big, it’s not fancy, but it’s a warm, safe place for road-weary musicians to rest and be fed.

Mouth of the South

Since we became a RYFO Host Home, we have hosted 4 bands (forgot to get a picture of the first one – Ilia) for a total of 20 people. There were several more bands that had intended to stay with us but whose travel plans changed last minute.
Each band has been so unique and has blessed us so much.

Leaders

If you have the gift of hospitality, or a heart for musicians, please consider becoming a RYFO Host Home.
It has richly blessed us as we have given what we have to serve these precious men and women.
If you have any questions about this amazing ministry, please let me know!

Lauren Mann & The Fairly Odd Folk

Day Twenty-Three: I’m Thankful For…The Start Experiment (and Jon Acuff)

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. 🙂

Meet-up in the food court!

If you had told me a year ago that in the summer of 2013 I’d willingly join a community of people I have never met, and that I’d be sharing openly and honestly with them about my passions, dreams, and struggles, I likely would have laughed at you. But that is exactly what happened this past July (and continues in the present).

In late June, I received an email from Jon Acuff inviting me (and all of his readers) to join him on an adventure. He said it might require a passport and a machete. He sent the email to 250,000 people, and only 2,500 responded.

I was at Christian Retreat Center doing camp photography the day I received the email, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be in on this…that I needed this. It resonated with me. So, even though I had no idea what was about to happen, I said “yes” and dove in.

The first round started on July 15, and my world was changed in some fantastic ways.

Here’s how it worked:

  • Jon Acuff created a secret Facebook group and invited those who responded to his invitation to join.
  • Each day for 24 days, Jon sent out an email with a challenge for the day at 5am.
  • A community was formed that is so hard to describe because it’s so awesome.
  • We all worked hard toward our various goals and helped each other along the way.
  • There ended up being a “Round Two” so that we could invite people to do “Start 101” while the “alumni” did “Start 201” – and it was awesome. Same format with emails being sent daily (and the theme was “audacious”).

(To read my blog posts about “The Start Experiment”, click here.)

When Jon sent out that email, I was in the perfect position to accept the invitation. I had been unemployed for almost two months. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a career. I didn’t know what my dream was. I was just taking one day at a time, hoping that God would give me some direction.

Through the course of Round One, while I worked on being more self-disciplined, I was able to discover what I believe I was created to do: missions photography. I was able to take steps forward and bring this dream a little bit closer to reality. And I couldn’t have done this without Jon’s leadership/mentoring AND the amazing community that he built in The Start Experiment. 

My dream...

This community is real, open, honest, a little silly, loving, supportive, encouraging, non-judgmental. It’s a safe place to share your fears and your successes (“brag table”) without fear. It’s the closest thing to Heaven that I’ve experienced here on earth, by far. 

A literal brag table

I had the amazing privilege of being able to attend The Start Conference in Nashville in September, during which I strengthened these friendships “in real life” and made connections with people who are doing what I want to do (like Jeremy Cowart). I left that conference feeling so inspired, empowered, fulfilled, and energized. 

Punching Fear in the Face

If you are struggling with finding your dream, or if you know what your dream is but are struggling to make progress, please check out Jon’s website and his books – Quitter and Start. Both of this books have really impacted my life and have given me wise and practical advice about chasing my dream. If you’d like to join our Facebook community, let me know and I can talk to you about it!

If it weren’t for The Start Experiment, I can honestly say I’d be in a totally different place right now in terms of my career and plans for the future. I have gained so much confidence and have overcome so many fears through this community!

I am so thankful for Jon and for his leadership through example.

A place to type our fears...and then destroy them.

Day Twenty-Two: I’m Thankful For…Food (and plenty of it).

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This was originally posted on 11/22/12 (with slight changes made today).

I don’t take for granted the fact that I have plenty of food to eat, each and every day. After spending time in countries where poverty is the norm, my perspective was forever changed about the wealth that we experience in the United States. It is truly heart-breaking that so many around the world will have nothing to eat tonight while we had more than enough…but I’m thankful that God has provided for Brennan and I, just the same.

Along those lines, I’m thankful for organizations such as World Vision that allow us the privilege of sponsoring children, which ensures that they do have food to eat (among other things).

I’m also thankful for the variety of food choices that God has given us…He could have simply created us to eat grass and we would have never known the difference. But He chose to bless us and allow us to experience vastly different flavors and textures. He created food to be so colorful! He gave us a piece of his creative ability so that we could be creative with food and develop new dishes. I love that He has so richly blessed us in even the smallest of ways.

Thank you, Lord, for food…

Day Twenty-One: I’m Thankful For…Traveling.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This was originally posted on 11/21/12 (with slight changes made today).

One of my greatest passions is traveling and exploring God’s beautiful and wondrous creation.

God has blessed me with opportunities to travel to three continentssix countries, and thirty-eight states in my first thirty-one years of life.

I love experiencing new cultures…learning from them…enjoying them…photographing them.

There’s a whole lot of the world left to see (including Guatemala in February!), and I can’t wait to experience it with Brennan!

So thankful that God has created such a diverse world for us to enjoy…

Day Twenty: I’m Thankful For…My Pennsylvania Family.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This was originally posted on 11/20/12 (with slight changes made today).

I came to Pennsylvania for the first time eleven years ago. I came as a “summer missionary” to serve in Williamsport, PA for ten weeks. It was my first time traveling east of the Mississippi and I was excited, but a little nervous at the same time: I left Southern California having little idea of what to expect, but I was armed with plenty of stereotypes that had been fed to me by friends. Thankfully, most of those stereotypes were proven to be incorrect (i.e. “everyone’s Amish there!”) and I had a fabulous summer.

I remember the first night in Williamsport so well. I spent time with the pastor and his family while I waited for the couple with whom I would be living to arrive. A terrible storm had come through earlier and the power had been out for a while in much of Williamsport. When we got to the house that would be my home for the summer (and the next summer), it was dark, raining, and we had to use candles and flashlights (so I felt like we were Amish!). I got to spend a couple of hours talking with Toby and Susan, and I met Cheyenne briefly…little did I know that these wonderful people would become my “Pennsylvania Family” 🙂

I lived with them for two summers and have stayed in touch with them ever since. They flew to California to be there for our wedding, which meant so much to us. Toby and Susan love Jesus and they have been such an encouragement and support to me/us over the past decade. I cannot thank God enough for allowing me to live with them and to know them. They helped my two summers of ministry be successful in so many ways.

God has always been faithful with placing people in my life who are great role models, who live out their faith genuinely, and who love others abundantly, and Toby and Susan are two of the greatest examples of those things in my life. 🙂

Day Nineteen: I’m Thankful For…Reliable Transportation.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This was originally posted on 11/19/12 (with slight changes made today).

I’m so very thankful that we have two reliable vehicles for which we have paid completely!

Like Dave Ramsey says, you don’t “have” to have a car payment your entire life!

Our cars may not be new or pretty, but they function properly and that is all that matters. 🙂

We are SO thankful that God has kept them running so well throughout our journey to become debt-free!