Rachel Awtrey

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3 years of marriage

3 years down and I say we’re getting pretty good at this whole marriage thing.
Nothing profound, just real grateful for this stud and the day when we became a family. 🖤
Happy anniversary babe. I like being an Awtrey.

Here’s a few of my past posts about what I’ve learned in marriage:

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You can’t expect to see if you don’t ask for vision. ✨

I’ve been reflecting (and not posting) for 2 weeks of where I’d love to see God move. It came at the perfect timing. A new year, clean slate, fresh vision.

This is the year of “immeasurably more” for the Awtreys. Hold me to it. Don’t let me forget it.

P.S. thank you, Lord, that we don’t need a holiday to ask for a new start. 🙌🏻 amen?

Our First Christmas Together

Joining forces on traditions is the most fun -- especially Christmas, I love Christmas. We never officially purchased our own stockings but my mom let us borrow ours from her house. Christmas Eve, we baked cookies, finished wrapping, put presents under the tree while watching Home Alone 2 with hot chocolate steaming in our mugs. We packed up Remi, in his Christmas sweater, and hopped in the car and headed down the road to some Christmas lights. When we came home, we plugged in the Christmas tree and kept it lit all night. 

Yeah, sounds dreamy until your dog (*cough* Remi *cough*) threw up all night because he ate all of the wrapping supplies that we wrapped presents with the day before. Ugh. 

Also, I went out and ran errands with chocolate on my face from making cookies so really Christmas Eve was just a blast. 

We did stockings for each other this year and it was the most fun, getting things for other people is my love language so BOOOYAH. It's tough to put together the stockings for each other without each other seeing. So, we assembled stockings and put them under a blanket on the couch for the morning. 

Christmas morning, I woke up to the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus playing. This is special to me because that's the song that woke us up every Christmas morning at my home. We lifted the blanket and opened stockings and gosh, my man knows me. All of my fave candies, nail polish and gadgets were in that stocking. 

We packed up our car with gifts and duffles and Remi, of course, and headed down the road to our home town to see our families. the car ride was full of jazzy Christmas music, and our travel book -- Me Before You. When we got to my family's house, we unwrapped presents after brunch with the smell of fried oysters, with excited shrieks and dogs running around each other eating wrapping paper. We unwound by taking a quick nap before heading to Thomas's parent's house. 

There, we had a blast opening presents, smiling until our cheeks hurt and sat down for a huge Christmas dinner. Needless to say, we went to sleep with stomachs completely full to the brim with food, incredible memories that will always last when we recall the first Christ we shared as husband + wife. 

 
Let's talk about money

I remember the first time Thomas and I sat down and actually talked about what was going on in our bank accounts. My palms got super sweaty, we were eating wings and fries, trying to make it causal, and we just straight up talked about right now, how much we had in checking and savings.  Lots of "ummm"s and "uhhh" and awkward pauses completed the conversation but at the end of it, I felt this relief. "We're going to be okay" I thought. 

We weren't going to be okay necessary because we had a lot of money, in fact we didn't. But, I knew we were going to be okay because the dialogue had been opened up. "Communication is key" you hear that a lot; seriously, it is when it comes to your marital finances, or finances in general.

When money becomes an issue for women, we feel unsafe, unprotected because there is so much unknown. When money becomes an issue for men, they feel uncontrolled, irresponsible which leads to a lack in confidence. 

I did some fact digging and here's what I found: finances and the struggle of is the number one cause of divorce in America. You may be thinking, "I'll marry rich so I don't have money issues" and I'm going to be real honest, you can't get away from them, honestly. You'll either have too much or not enough. 

Money is always an awkward topic. When friends asked me to go to out to eat and I realized I didn't have cash on deck to do so, I'd sometimes make up another excuse because, let's face it, no one wants to talk about the dolla dolla bills. It's tense, awkward and something we like to keep to ourselves. This can lead to destruction, "what's hidden can never be healed." Handling your money well is Biblical. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10. Whether this is spiritual gifts, characteristic gifts or financial gifts, we must steward them well. 

So, Thomas and I sought out some guidance on this issue, prayed about it and were actually gifted with an awesome wedding gift. My aunt and uncle gave us all the workbooks, audiobooks and classes for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University

This is a must take. This is not a sponsored blog, I am not being paid to say this. Actually y'all, this is the best class I've ever taken in my life. It gives you the low down on saving for emergencies, how to invest in your 401K, Roth IRA, how to pay off your student loans or other debt and how to spend smart and how to set up a budget. 

Ew, budget. Most of you probably just cringed. Let me clear something up; a budget is actually made for you, not against you. It provides healthy boundaries so that you can live the way that you want to. It gives you the power instead of your debit card. "If you don't tell your money where to go, it'll find a place to go itself." Dave Ramsey said it himself. 

We meet in a class with other people in the community also signed up, once a week at a local church in Greenville, South Carolina. Thomas and I take the opportunity for date night and to get out and do something fun.

I love the class so much because not only have you opened up a tense topic in your family, but you've opened up the conversations with strangers in your class. You're able to see that you're not alone in this money thing. Talking about it and being vulnerable about it leads to so much more closeness and intimacy inside your home. 

True story: when we first started the class, Thomas and I went one month budget free just to see how much we were use to spending and on what exactly. We'd log into our accounts and check out balances and always be shocked to see a massive decline in what we thought we had. But, if we know what we were spending, why was this a shock? Because there was no planning, no follow up and no idea where our priorities were set.

After that month, we sat down, looked at all the numbers and figured out that "oh my gosh, we spent that much on just coffee??" or "oops, yeah, sorry, I just really had to have that dress and shoes." We talked about priorities, we like to eat well and healthily, we like to have fun and go to concerts, we really don't care much about buying clothes (ehh, sometimes), we don't have kids to support, we really believe in tithing and saving. Once our "non-negotiables" were on the table we built a budget, a friendly guideline so that we don't blow all of our concert money on stupid stuff like "I'll just grab a granola bar" instead of waiting to drive 5 minutes to the house to fix food I already have in the fridge. (I bet you're catching on who's the spender and who's the saver, my bad.)

Here's how we track it. With another awesome money friendly tool we found, Mint. Mint is an app where you link up your bank account (I'm not skeptical but some are) and it tracks every time you swipe your card. When it catches a transaction it allows you to categorize it, in the budget you built, where you want it to go. Sometimes we pay for gas for a business trip for Thomas and it budgets that automatically, but then when he gets reimbursed, we're able to "pay ourselves back" on the app so that the money gets added back to our budget. Say goodbye to all the ins and outs and question marks that are normally left on the budget. That's the reason why it's easy to quit, it gets confusing. But, this app makes so much practical sense and keeps you accountable to every single swipe. 

Like I said before, we like to eat healthily and we all know that healthy grocery lists full of produce and fresh meat are expensive lists. But, no fear! Thomas found another app, Flipp. Flipp allows you to put in your zip code and it brings up all the coupons that may be available in your area. You can add your grocery list and it searches for deals in your area so that you can plan your trip accordingly. You can even add your rewards cards to the app so that you don't have to keep up with your bulky wallet, you just scan the app when you want to get those points. This makes grocery shopping fun (for me at least.)

Men, they don't like to walk around a grocery store with ya, honestly. Sometimes, I don't want him there either to be real with ya because he sees that thing he "has to have" that's not on our list and you spend an hour in the grocery store instead of the allotted thirty minutes. I have an app for you kind of people, too. It's called Shopkick. Shopkick is great because it acts almost like a scavenger hunt. You get "kicks" or basically points for walking into a store, scanning a certain item and buying that item. For example, we were in Target and we got 50 kicks for walking in and then we had to find a certain brand of cat food and dog food and scan it to get 100 more kicks. Thomas goes and finds the items to scan and I do the shopping. It's a win-win scenario because each kick adds up to give you money on a gift card. Yes, you read that right. You are going on a scavenger hunt for gift cards. How could you not resist. Hand over the phone to your distracted BFF, boyfriend, husband, or kid and have them earn you money. Work smarter, not harder people. 

Doing the money thing is totally possible, you just have to find the resources. 

Are you able to still buy the things you want even though you share money with someone?

I get this question at least 3 times a week. I'll admit, I love to online shop, I love the dollar section at Target and I can't go past nail polish without purchasing a new color. Thomas knows this about me. I wouldn't consider it a "struggle" because there's nothing wrong with treating yourself. But, as soon as the "treating yourself" jeopardizes someone else's goal, it's no longer a treat. So, Thomas and I set aside money in our budget called Pocket Money, another Dave Ramsey piece of advice. It's allotted money that is set aside for us as individuals. We both get the same amount and we can spend it on whatever we want, coffee, drinks, nail polish, a new shirt, fishing gear (Thomas), anything we want. And because it's our own money and it's set aside for us as individuals, it alleviates the "you bought something else??" or "what's in the bag?" It actually makes us excited for one another when we buy something because it was agreed upon. Woohoo to freedom. 

Marriage and finances should be the ingredients for success because you have someone that can keep you accountable on spending and saving, you also have someone to chat about your fears and failures within the world of finances and also, you have someone to share them with so when you can't make a decision on your own, you don't have to. These are all great "pros" to money + marriage but if you don't actually talk about it, none of these will occur. 

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Question Submission
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This past summer, Thomas and I had the privilege of being on a dating panel. We were asked questions by high schoolers about our dating experiences, engaged experiences and our so far marriage experience. Needless to say, we loved talking about love and each other. We realized that throughout the several times we sat on the panel, nearly every time we would get the same questions. 

After the panel ended we chatted about:

1. How mature those middle and high schoolers were. There's no way we could have come up with those thought provoking questions when we were there age.

2. With the amount of times we received the same questions, there are probably more that are thinking the same ones.

3. Not that we did it "the right way" because there's multiple right ways. But, we do love to share our experiences, date ideas, pursuits, and mistakes with others so they can learn from our experiences, try out the date and pursuit ideas and avoid the mistakes.

So, we have decided to continue the "dating panel" on the blog. 

Submit your questions below and we will respond in our creative way in a few weeks. Include your name, keep it anonymous, just your email, whatever you want! We will only be able to see what you submit. We just ask that you ask the questions that have always been on your mind, anything you're curious about and we promise to be as honest as possible. 

If you'd like to continue to be included in upcoming news, some fun videos, short word vomits of what's on my heart and just to be informed whenever a new post comes out, subscribe while you're at it and we'll make sure you're included in some exclusive fun. 

Looking forward to posting the answers to your questions soon!

Name (feel free to leave anonymous if you wanna) *
Name (feel free to leave anonymous if you wanna)
5 reasons I knew he was the one

Most of the time when people hear our story, or get to know Thomas and I as a family, they’re interested in our process and why we decided to move forward in engagement and then eventually marriage. My reasons for knowing he was the one were great for me, but by no means is this for everyone or a method or a checklist for you and your relationship. I just want to invite you into my thought process and the convictions I had for my life to be vulnerable and hopefully that vulnerability will lead to a breakthrough for you. So here were the five things that stuck out the most to me and propelled me into following Thomas into this season:

We met in high school when I was 15 and he was 17 at a church youth group. It was great but let’s be honest: not everyone is the same person they were the other six days of the week as they were in the sanctuary. Of course, he was great and a gentlemen but I wanted to know the entire Thomas, not just the "Sunday-Thomas" and I’m glad I did. I was often invited over to his family’s house after church for lunch, so I’d go. He was the same Thomas at church as he was with his family. I was then invited to a few of his baseball games and was able to sit with his friends and soon figured out that he was the same guy around his family, our youth group and his friends. This says a lot.

Thomas will admit that a lot of times guys are quick to impress someone, especially us women, and I found this to be true. In their attempt to impress you, they may alter who they are because of them wanting to impress the other people they may also be around at the same time which leaves us confused about their character. Thomas’s consistency was comforting to me. I saw him as "safe". He was confident and because of that he was the same Thomas at the movies with friends as he was at the dinner table with my family. 

Some people don’t know but Thomas and I actually broke up my junior year of high school and rekindled about 2 years later during my first semester in college. In those two years we were separated, lots of things changed. My normal routine had changed, my friend group had changed, my dreams and aspirations had shifted, my family life was completely rocked and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure who I wanted to be which drove me to make a few decisions that I wasn’t too excited about catching him up on. Here’s how that conversation went:

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Thomas and I were broken up, it was towards the end of my senior year and he had just returned back to South Carolina from all of his military expeditions with the Air Force. He called me to let me know he was in town, I loved/hated it because I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him but I gave in to a “smoothie get-together” that I didn’t want to categorize as a date. I dreaded it, not because I didn’t want to see him but because I didn’t want to answer the conversation I knew was coming: “so, what have you been up to?”, “how’s your family?”, “what’s changed?”

...I’ve been up to the worst things, I don’t know how my family is doing and what’s changed? Ha. Absolutely everything. I was in a dark spot and my pride never wanted to admit it because deep down inside, no matter how hard I tried to hide it, I still felt something for him and the last thing I wanted was to disappoint him with the direction my life was headed. 

I held back as much as I could when those questions surely came up but it didn’t last long. I word vomited all over him, told him everything. I immediately regretted it just imaging his reaction. But, he surprised me. He looked at me with kind eyes while I held my breath and he replied, “That's it?”

Uh, what do you mean that’s it? That’s like the plot of a Lifetime movie…

But, right then and there I knew that, although we weren’t dating yet, he was the one. He wanted all of me, not just my right now, not just my dreams but he was excited about me, my story, my past, my mistakes and he saw my potential. I wasn’t too little, I wasn’t too much, I was just enough. 

Despite him now knowing everything, it never held him back from seeing the true me, seeing my potential even when I didn't. Standing up for myself when I was the one tearing myself down. He fought for me whenI wasn't fighting for myself and held me accountable to the dreams I had once verbalized. He asked me the hard questions no one else would want to, he challenged me further in my goals by asking me "why" and then again to my answer to drive me into a deeper meaning of why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. He was/is my advocate and was driven to coach me while cheering me on, and that was something that not many other people had done for me in that point in my life. 

When I felt that others were holding me to what people heard about me, what mistakes I had made, my grades, my family situation, my living situation, etc. Thomas chose to see through that and remind me that I "am not defined by my circumstances." When my circumstances become (and have now became) our circumstances, I knew he would fight to see through them and chose to see the true me. 

He slowly started mentioning, "we" into his futuristic vocabulary which sort of freaked me out at first but eventually became comforting. I couldn't figure out what about the idea of "we" was so comforting to me. Then it hit me: the choice in his vocabulary about our future, the choices of behavior (financially, personally, academically) all of them were becoming less and less about him and more and more about us. This use to scare the shenanigans out of me because of my "commitment issues" but slowly I became more and more okay with this idea because he, unlike a lot of others that had come across my path, was looking out for my best interests, our best interests. Sometimes those weren't fun. It's in the shift from an immature fun to a mature fun that I realized he was the one. He made hard choices so that we would later have an abundance. He was putting aside what he knew would be fun now so that he could have more fun later, so that we could have more fun later (financially, relationally, spiritually). His mind wasn't so "in the now," he was no longer a boy, he was a man. Boys are fed a harvest, men sow and reap the harvest. Thomas was starting to sow what he wanted to reap and I trusted him more because of that. The idea that I could hand him something as small as my phone to something as big as my dreams and know that he was going to handle it, take care of it and steward it well meant the world to me. 

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One of the biggest red flags for me in previous relationships was telling my friends or parents about the relationship and immediately getting nervous. I had my first boyfriend in sixth grade, I remember telling my mom that I now had a boyfriend and she told me that I needed to tell my dad. My spit somehow got so much thicker in that moment and it became hard to swallow. Not because I feared my dad but because I knew that this guy wasn't someone I was super pumped to bring home (even though his mom would have had to bring him at that point), I knew it was silly. It was a gut feeling. This "intuition" carried through my experiences in high school and there were times that I became all weird when something would happen and I wouldn't want to tell my friends or I wouldn't want to tell my mom, I just wasn't excited about it. Or sometimes, I was excited about it and I got some weird faces back at me that said, "what the freak" all over them.

In the case of Thomas, I was thrilled to tell my parents, no shame, no guilt because I was confident that we were doing it healthily. Having a blessing on my relationship from my parents in the beginning has had so much benefit on our relationship now, I can't even explain all of it. It's moments I'm grateful my parents were involved when Thomas and I were in a small tiff and I was able to ask my dad for manly help. Or when I was going on a date and my mom was able to stand in my closet with me and help me pick out an outfit. I felt supported, loved and nurtured through this process. 

In fact, our very first date was at my house on an autumn morning. Thomas came over and brought his rode bike and my dad dismounted his from the garage and they peddled away down our driveway and the Lord only knows what they talked about. Mom and I cooked them breakfast, they came back and ate it and that was it. It was lovely, so pure and so simple. The greatest part, he had a better time than I did. Cue the sigh of relief, the release of pressure, the permission to be myself. From the support of my family, I too, like Thomas, was free to be consistent and confident in myself and never having to strive for acceptance from this once high school boy and now man. 

But at the end of all of these reasons, there still was a risk because I didn’t know and I still don’t know how my life will play out, what obstacles are waiting five or ten years down the road and if Thomas and I will make the best team. But, although I don’t know it, I chose to believe it. The Lord made himself evident and if I knew everything that was to unfold, there would be no room for faith. Yes, there are five reasons sitting above for a little back story to my confidence in our relationship but those aren’t just to share with others, they’re for me. To remind me, to keep me accountable because somedays marriage is the best thing and other times marriage isn’t the best thing. So, I chose to believe that although people called me, and still do, “crazy” and “too young” that my God is bigger than logistics and my obedience would lead to blessings. So, here I am. 21 years old and married to love of my life, my soul mate and the person I can’t wait to tackle these hardships with.

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Photography // Sophie Brendle