Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Time To Do Our Taxes!

Some of you may have read about our monthly budget time, but today we will share about our yearly tax time!! This was our third year to use TurboTax. The first year was a bit of an adventure when B had played baseball in so many states and technically had gotten paid there - so we really had to put our two heads together and focus! Last year we felt like we knew what we were doing a little bit more - and had the motivation of the $8,000 new home buyer's credit on the other end of the line. This year was definitely our easiest year yet. 

The way we approach this time is very similar to our monthly budget. We carve out an afternoon (this year it was Sunday afternoon after B’s long winter’s nap, Whit’s favorite walk around the neighborhood, and watching UK beat UNC to move forward to the Final Four)... Before we start anything, we pray. We thank God for the many blessings He has given us - including our jobs that make this money possible. We know that this money is HIS...and we pray that He will continue to lead and guide us as to where to give it to bless people, as He has blessed us. 

Brandon gathers all the W2 forms, donation clips from the charitable giving throughout the year, and our files from year’s past - as I log on to TurboTax. It’s totally a team effort as I click the button and read out the question - and Brandon looks to our papers to find the answers. The key to a smooth tax filing session is ORGANIZATION!! When you have all the papers right in one place - it is smooth sailing. TurboTax does a great job of making the process simple - all you do is follow the directions and provide the information. We learned from years past that filing taxes is so much easier when you save all the tax deduction papers in one place. For instance, if you receive a tax receipt from a non-profit organization throughout the year - go ahead and make a folder that is your “catch all” for that sort of thing so that you know right where it is when it’s tax filing time. That has made our tax filing life so much easier!! 

Throughout the whole afternoon/evening of this process, we stop and look at each other multiple times and say, “We are so blessed”... It’s such a cool thing to see how the Lord continues to provide - and it really is motivation to keep a positive attitude about working hard. Nothing worthwhile is easy. It’s a cool team building time for us to set aside a few hours to crank this out in one sitting - and we always feel like we have conquered the world when we press the SUBMIT button after our last review, when it’s all said and done. Here’s to hoping that you have as much fun filing taxes as we do...
Closing statement from the man of the house: Filing taxes can be fun. Pick a day & get ‘er done!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Better Than I Could Have Ever Imagined

Earlier this week I was reading Beth Moore’s blog post “For Real” which asked us readers to “share a season in which we became convinced to the marrow of our bones that this is FOR REAL - that God is real”. I love this kind of thing and knew right away which testimony (limited to one “meaty” paragraph!!) I was going to share with the “siestas”! After I wrote out this testimony, I was thinking how this definitely applies to our blog as a marriage moment. Praying you’ll be encouraged by this testimony of God’s faithfulness. 

The first thing I thought of when I read Beth's post was how the summer after I graduated from Auburn...I had eight friends (close friends!!) get I was a professional bridesmaid and certainly caught my fair share of bouquets! The first month of the summer I went back to one of my favorite places on earth for a missions trip - Uganda. I encountered so many people that didn't have much but the ones that knew the Lord had everything they could possibly need. It was a reminder when I went back home to Tennessee that even though I didn't have the answers for the three recurring questions (1-Where was I gonna work?, 2-Which city was I going to live?, 3-Do I have a boyfriend?)...I did have Jesus in my heart, and I knew that He was all I needed. NO joke...after the last wedding was over at the end of August resume had been sent all over the world...from Charlotte to Atlanta to San Diego to Zimbabwe...and after the last wedding, I got a call from a company in Nashville offering me a job. The place I had done an internship before I graduated was in Nashville - so my stuff was literally still in a storage unit there. 

Five months after I moved to Nashville and started working, I went on my first date with husband!! We had been introduced at the Passion 07 conference in Atlanta the January prior to our first date in January 08...and I honestly thought at the time we met that the Lord had introduced him to me as "hope" for that is the kind of guy I would LOVE to marry. So I had prayed and asked God to clone him. Well, turns out that God showed me that his best for me was not the clone...his best for me was the real thing!! I could not even believe it the first time my now husband called felt too good to be true. After a few months of dating, he proposed and we were married that September. Looking back, I still can't believe how perfect God's plan is. The fact that I had no idea how those three things would turn out but kept believing God to be right on time and thanking Him in the advance for how I knew He had the perfect plan for me - still amazes me. Be encouraged that God is into the big and small details of your life. Living in Nashville, working at a dream job, and being married to someone better than I could have ever imagined is truly a testament to God's faithfulness. 

I’ll never forget sitting in staff devotion one Monday morning when the leader of the devo asked us all to write down three “miracles” that the Lord did between now and a year ago. In other words, if we were making this list a year ago - what were three things that we would have said, “If this really happens - it would be a miracle”. It was so neat to write down these three things that seemed so far fetched at the time - and look back to how God had provided. Be encouraged by Ephesians 3:20-21 which says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Closing statement from the man of the house:  So far in my first 29 years, I've experienced  a lot of good things and I've had my share of trials. But one of my favorite verses says, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." -Psalm 16:2

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It’s That Time Of The Month...Get Your Budget On!!

What do Sunday nights...once a month...with the shredder, green tea, checkbook, stamps and spreadsheets all have in common? One word: BUDGET!

It’s not a joke that Team Nall actually enjoys our monthly time of going through our budget. Let me try and paint you a clear picture of how this statement is even possible...

It all starts with a Sunday afternoon. We choose the Sunday afternoon beforehand so that expectations can be clear in preparation for that time that comes somewhere in between 4pm and 8pm. Knowing ahead of time gives us plenty of time for that mental preparation - to get our Sunday naps, walks, and anything else in so that we can be solely focused on the tasks at hand. Brandon is great at going through the stack of bills and various pieces of mail that have stacked up on the right corner of the desk in the kitchen, getting out the oversized paper shredder that he inherited from his work, and organizing the table for success. (Oh, and he makes two splendid cups of green tea to get the natural energy flowing!!) I know my role is to log on to Regions and print out the last month from the first day to the last, staple the pages, and put the papers on a clipboard - with a pencil and a highlighter. I grab the checkbook and stamps so that we’ll be all ready for mailing our bills. Then I pull up our two budget spreadsheets on the computer and prepare for action. Once all the prep work has been completed, we start the budget time off in prayer - thanking the Lord for what He has blessed us with in this family. 

Brandon gets the clipboard and starts at the very first transaction of the month. It will fall into the category of food, other, gas, income, or one of our monthly bills. One of our spreadsheets organizes item by item of the food, other, gas and income - while our second spreadsheet keeps track of how much money is coming in and how much money is going out. It’s been very neat to do this for the past two and half years and now have the resources to look back on our progress and see how far we’ve come. 
There are three words that come to mind when we think of the budget: freedom, accountability, and challenging. There is freedom in the budget because you don’t feel guilty doing certain things inside your limits when you have a game plan (like going to a nice dinner, planning for a vacation and so forth). There is accountability in the budget because every dollar is accounted for on paper. And let me tell ya, it changes everything in terms of what you actually go and spend your money on when you know that you’ll be held accountable to the “clipboard role call” and the hubby sees all the visits to Puffy Muffin, Hot Pink and J.Crew! And last but not least, the budget is challenging because it does call you to living inside boundaries. I will add that this is a good kind of challenging! Once you get used to the challenge - it’s actually fun to live within the boundaries. You know what you have to spend and it’s a game to figure out how to make it happen. 
We will be the first to say that it’s not always easy to set aside a couple of hours to sit down and go through the budget. There are even sometimes when we may get a month behind. We can honestly say though, that we always feel encouraged to spend that time working through one of the “toughest things” - so the marriage experts say - which is money! At the end of every completed budget, B and I always look at each other and thank God for how blessed we are and we see exactly where our money is going. 
At the end of each budget review, we are reminded of how thankful we are for our jobs. The Monday through Friday grind takes on a whole new meaning when you see all the things you get to do and things you get to eat because of your jobs!! Once we see where all the money goes (aka: monthly bills...ha!), we look at each other and say, “And that’s why we work!”

We always wrap up budget time more encouraged and thankful than before we started. There’s no hiding anything when we go through the budget together...everything comes out in the open! It’s a way for us to love each other by being transparent. It’s GOD’s money anyways!! It’s freeing to go back to the bottom line and make sure we’re spending less than we make. It’s great accountability for seeing if we’re being good stewards with the money He has given us. And it’s challenging to honestly look at each item and see if what we’re spending the money on is worth it! 
Closing statement from the man of the house: Having a budget makes Team Nall stronger for sure. With freedom, accountability, and challenging goals - we can’t help but to grow closer.” 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Congratulations, Parker & Liz!

It is with hearts full of JOY that we congratulate my brother & B's brother-in-law on last night's engagement!! CONGRATULATIONS, Parker & Liz! We are so happy for you two & look forward to all that the Lord has in store!! 

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." -Psalm 126:3

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Girl Time & Guy Time

Being with my giggly girls and eating at the latest and great frozen yogurt spot is just what this girl needs from time to time. In fact, I meet each Monday night with two of my soul sisters who know what’s going on in my life and can tell by a simple look what kind of day I’ve had.

Brandon has a group of guys that he can text in one minute and be playing basketball with in the next. They all share a common love for getting out and running around and it is really energizing for him to go hang out with them for a Saturday afternoon sometimes. 
I grew up going to an all girls high school and can be the first to say that I truly value time with my girls. It’s a life giving thing to sit down and be understood by the girls. Beth Moore says in So Long, Insecurity that (paraphrasing) we can’t expect our girls to be our guys and we sure don’t want our guys to be our girls. She says, “I once heard a comedian on television say that he’d finally come to conclusion that what a woman wants in a man is another woman. Isn’t that the truth? Don’t we frequently wish our men were more sensitive and nurturing? Don’t we wish they liked to eat at Souper Salad, see a good chick flick, and talk afterward about how it made them feel?” Then she goes on to say, “And then there are other times when we think if we have to hear another woman whine, we’re going to put our heads in the washing machine and hold our breath. You know you’re on the verge of unrealistic expectations when you want to tell your girlfriend to get some hair on her chest and take her situation like a man.” 
The truth is, there have been times when I said I supported Brandon going to hang out with friends on an early Saturday, when really I wished he was hanging with me running errands. It was after one bad round of Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx, with Brandon with me, that I realized that it’s got to be ok for him to not be with me all the time. It was from that point on that we developed the saying of “you have my blessing” to go hang out with the guys. Now when Brandon is asking to do something, he asks first by saying, “Do I have your blessing?” It’s been a neat way for us to bond because he doesn’t want me to just say “yes” to him going and hanging out but then back at home holding a grudge that he’s not hanging out with me. It makes all the difference in the world when we know we have each other’s blessing for whatever activity with our guys and girls may come up. 
Basketball outings with the boys are so much more enjoyable for him when he knows his main squeeze has given her blessing. And dinner with the ladies to our favorite “girly” new restaurant around town are so much more delightful for me when I know that he has given me his blessing for our time. This weekend Brandon was in Baton Rouge hanging out with a family he knew from his LSU days and giving baseball pitching lessons to their son while I was hanging out with my family in Chattanooga. It was an enjoyable time for both of us knowing that we had each other’s full blessing. 
Closing statement from the man of the house: “This post is really just about love and encouragement. It means a lot to me when Whit encourages me (aka: gives me her blessing) to do things that I really want to do. Knowing that she is fully supportive,  makes me feel love and respected.”