Posts filed under "live well mentally"

Our Crestwood Cottage: A First-Time-Homebuyer Story

I'm writing this post today because two months ago, I had NO idea what all it would take to be living in our home. Technically, Jason and I were supposed to start looking at houses TODAY.

Jason and I are both hard-core researchers. We research everything before we buy, go, and do anything! Since this whole house thing kind of snuck up on us, we didn't have sufficient time to research and we really just had to walk through it step-by-step.

After we renewed our lease on our apartment last January, we made the decision that we would begin house hunting after our one year anniversary (September 22nd). Once we planned our trip to Seattle, we decided that the day we got back, we'd begin our search. Little did we know, God had another plan.

For all of you out there who are considering buying a home in the future, whether it's the near future, or the distant future, I hope that this post gives you a glimpse into what it may be like. Obviously, everyone's situation is different, so please keep that in mind. But at the same time, I know that I would have loved to read someone's account of buying their first home before I walked through this myself.

Since I'm addicted to HGTV, I thought that we'd have to be pre-approved for financing before we even started looking. I think that's the biggest thing I've been surprised about...because we weren't. I actually saw the listing for our house on a website I frequently looked at. I checked out the pictures, and I loved the price. It was in one of the areas that I knew Jason and I wanted to live in, so I forwarded him the website. He loved it too.

The next day was Jason's birthday, July 24th. It was a Wednesday. Jason wanted to go eat at a restaurant that is out in Trussville, so we did. On the way home, he suggested that we drive by the house that I'd sent him. So we did. We loved the location, loved the outside "in real life", and loved that the FOR SALE sign still said, "Coming Soon". We thought it gave us some time.

Back up a few weeks.

Jason and I were driving home from Publix one Sunday afternoon, and saw an OPEN HOUSE sign in Homewood. We thought it'd be fun to walk through one of the cute little bungalow houses and just see what it's like. So we did. The house was WAY too small for us and WAY too expensive, but the realtor was just right (there's my Goldilocks reference for the week). As I was looking around the house, Jason began talking with him. They just seemed to click. We got his card, and decided in the car that when the time came for us to begin our home search, we'd call him.

So, after driving by our house on Jason's birthday, I emailed Scott, the realtor, to see if we could see the inside of the house. Friday after work, Jason and I met at my office and drove over to "the house" for the first time.

We loved it. It was a great price, great size, and great location. It was everything we'd be looking for in a couple of months...but we weren't at that point in time yet. Standing in the living room of the house, I asked Scott what the next steps would be if we really wanted this house. He explained, and then we left. That night, Jason and I decided that we needed to see a few more houses in the area so that we could compare sizes, price, etc.

We also spent the evening in that area...we ate at the restaurants around, went to the bank around the house, and spent time at a friend's house in the area. We pretended that we lived there, which made our decision to proceed much easier.

The next morning, I went to work on this house stuff like it was my job. Scott emailed me the name of a few mortgage brokers, and he set up showings at a few other house for us. By Saturday night, we were pre-approved, we'd looked at 4 additional houses, we'd gone back our house, and we ended the evening sitting in Scott's office writing up our offer.

The next few days were nail-biters.

We didn't hear back from the seller until Monday. They didn't want to come down much on the price, and they wanted us to pay closing. Boo. We countered. They countered. We countered. They countered with 3 choices that basically gave them the same bottom line, but allowed us to decide if we wanted to pay more for the house over 30 years, or pay closing costs upfront. We chose not to pay closing costs upfront. Our mortgage broker told us that for every $1,000 in the sale price, it's around $7 added to our monthly payment. Good to know.

Just as I was signing the revised contract and sending it back to Scott, we heard there was another offer on our house. The seller wanted our best offer - and we were so afraid we were about to get into a bidding war. After some prayer and discussion, we decided to stick with our original offer that was being written up in the revised contract. We felt like it was a little on the weird side that we'd already agreed on the terms and they came back with a 'best offer' type thing. I know it's pretty common, but it just didn't sit right with me.

The next day, Scott called to say that they accepted our offer and it was ours. The seller did add something to the contract though. She added that she would not fix anything if there was something wrong with it upon inspection. Great...

We had 10 days to get an inspection done. We hired a really eclectic inspector known as Inspector Dave to do our inspection. He was really thorough, and thankfully the house had no big problems. Whew, that was a relief. We went ahead and set the closing date for Sept. 3rd at 4 p.m. Since we knew our closing date, we went ahead and scheduled everything to be turned on and connected the next day.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I sent tons of paperwork to our mortgage broker. Lots of signing, lots of sending. The crazy thing is, over the course of all that paperwork, all the phone calls, and all of the emails, we never met our mortgage broker in person. Technology fascinates me.

Then came the appraisal. Our house appraised at the selling value, but it was exactly our price. I kind of freaked out about that a bit, because we thought we were getting a great price. Turns out, many times, appraisers do that. They just put what the selling price is as long as it's worth that. They don't really look at the actual value unless it's way under the selling price.

More paperwork. More signing. More sending.

As I mentioned previously, we were scheduled to close on September 3rd, which was the day after Labor Day. Well, the Friday before Labor Day, we received a call that our closing was going to be pushed to September 5th. Not a big deal, right? WRONG. Since we'd planned for three weeks for closing to be on the 3rd, we'd scheduled movers, bakers, and candlestick makers cable people, and internet people all to come on September 4th. As it turns out...we would not own the place that day, so I had to call, before a holiday weekend, and reschedule EVERYTHING! It felt like a nightmare.

Later we found out that getting your closing date pushed is somewhat normal, and honestly, it ended up a little better this way.

So, Thursday, September 5th, Jason and I arrived at the closing attorney's office to buy our house. I brought basically every piece of paperwork I'd ever signed in my 24 years of life, plus my passport, marriage license, birth certificate, and social security card, but all we needed was a certified check. Leave it to me to be overly OVERLY prepared. We had our check made out a little higher than it needed to be, just in case. At the end of the closing, the attorney gave us the difference back, and another check for something we'd overpaid on previously. I know this is highly uncommon, but we ended up walking away from the closing with a lot more money in our pockets than we expected. Praise God...He really does take care of us...even in the tiniest things.

After closing, Jason and I drove straight to our NEW HOME, sat on the porch, and had our friend come over and take some pictures of us in front of the SOLD sign.

The process was easy in the beginning, hard in the middle, and then wonderful at the end. But isn't that the way most good things are? We know that God has placed us in our home for a purpose, and we intended to live in it well, for His glory.

Posted on September 24, 2013 and filed under "live well mentally", "new home", "trust".

A Three-Things Wife

Lysa TerKeurst is seriously one of my favorite people ever. I only know her through her books, but I think that we'd be friends if we met. I've quoted her multiple times from her book Made to Crave, but today, I'm going to pull an excerpt from on of her latest books, Unglued.

I seriously think every woman, man, boy, and girl should read Unglued. For women, it's so helpful in identifying how you handle frustration, anger, conflict, etc., and for men, it helps you understand all that we're going through in that great big brain of ours!

In honor of being a wife for almost a full 365 days, I wanted to post this story Lysa writes about in Unglued. I can totally relate to wanting to be an overachieving wife who can do EVERYTHING for her husband, while also being a well-rounded, put-together, Christian woman in every other aspect of life. For me, it just doesn't happen. What Lysa says here comforts me in knowing that I'm not the only woman who don't got it all together all the time most of the time, but it also gives such a practical way to deal with this.

The Three-Things Wife

an excerpt from Unglued, by Lysa TerKeurst

When I first got married, I was desperate to be a “good wife” and determined to figure out how to do it well. So, I took note in my head of what a “good wife” does:
  • She cooks meatloaf.
  • She vacuums every day so there are lines in the carpet indicating its cleanliness.
  • She sticks love notes in his briefcase.
  • She buys and wears lingerie.
  • She likes wearing lingerie and wears it a couple of times a week.
  •  She gives him his space when he gets home.
  • She hangs up the phone when he walks in the door.
  • She learns facts about football and watches games with him.
  •  She prays for him every day.
And the list grew and grew. 

Eventually the list in my head of what a good wife does so completely overwhelmed me that I cried. I felt inadequate. I started to shut down. I constantly felt unglued. 

I assumed the list in my head was in my husband’s head too. 

I grew bitter. And in a moment of complete exhaustion, I yelled, “Your expectations are ridiculous!” 

To which he replied, “What expectations?”

“The list … the list of hundreds of things I need to do to be a good wife,” I sobbed through the snot and the tears. 

His blank stare dumbfounded me. He had no such list. 

It was a perception. These were idle thoughts allowed to run rampant in my mind for so long I confused them with truth. The truth in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds me love is patient, kind, not proud, and keeps no record of wrongs. I had so broadened my scope of things to do that I had diminished my vision of simply loving my husband. 

Do less. Be more. Clear out the clutter of idle words. Find that white space. Honor God. 

If I would have been practicing regular Sabbaths, at which times I sought God on this issue, I suspect I could have saved myself years of coming unglued in my marriage. Years. Finally, I went to my husband. “Honey,” I said, feeling the entanglements of expectations loosening their grip on me, “I can’t do everything good wives seem to do. But I can do three things. So, tell me your top three things, and I will do those well.”

After all, I could spend a whole marriage doing a hundred things halfway with a bitter attitude and an overwhelmed spirit. Or, I could do three things wholeheartedly with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

His three things were simple: Be an emotionally and spiritually invested mom with our kids, take good care of your body and soul, and keep the house tidy. (Notice he said “tidy”— not perfectly clean.) That’s it.

He could care less about home-cooked meals. He is fine with me hiring someone else to vacuum the carpet. And he’s totally okay if I watch 48 Hours while he watches man-cub events on a different TV.

Now, he didn’t say anything about lingerie. But, he could argue that it is a subplot of my taking good care of my body. The problem is, I’m much more of a sweatpants kind of girl. Yes, Victoria has a little secret, and I haven’t a clue what it is.

But that’s a topic for another day entirely.

For today, I’ve narrowed my scope to three things, and this narrowing has broadened my vision for a great marriage.

I am a three-things wife. It’s simple. But simple is good. And, more importantly, I stopped sabotaging my marriage by stopping the idle thoughts.

How might this help you? How might this improve some of your relationships?


To check out Lysa's blog, click here.
To check out the books she has written, click here.

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My Plan vs. His Plan

Right about now I should be signing my name 1,000 times. Someone should be handing Jason and me a new set of keys. We should be driving out to Crestwood and opening up the door to our new home.

But we're not. 
Our dining room. Don't ya wanna come over for dinner?
We're serving cereal.

You see, that was our plan. That was our plan that worked with our schedule, and fit nicely into our calendar for this week. If our plan worked, we'd be spending the night in our new house, in our new bed, with all of our stuff there tomorrow. But we won't. In fact, tomorrow, the house won't even be ours.

God's plan was different. 

Friday, as Jason and I were taping boxes and wrapping everything we own in newspaper, we got a call that we would not get to close on our house Tuesday (today). Instead, we'd have to wait until Thursday.

"What!? That's only two days I can handle it, no biggie I had everything planned and I just don't know if I can live two days, this is the worst thing ever," I said. I stomped and yelled, and basically acted like I was reliving my terrible twos. After a few minutes hours, I calmed down enough to see the bigger picture.

You see, God has a way of slowing us down. If you know me at all, you know that I'm super laid back and I like to roll with the punches, except, if you think that, you probably don't know me very well. I'm pretty laid back about where to go to dinner, but when it comes to big life events, I'm like a really controlling control freak meets military officer (or Jillian Michaels). I get really bossy, I want things done in my way, and in my time frame. Our plan was to close today and move in to the house tomorrow. Even though we have our apartment for about 3 more weeks, there's no doubt that I would have required every box under the same roof  Wednesday night and I probably would have stayed up all night unpacking to make sure everything was in it's place.

Yeah, I'm ridiculous like that. Pray for my sweet husband.

Fortunately, God is working on this in my heart. He's shaping me and creating me into a much better image barer of Himself but forcing me to slow the heck down. Part of the reason I pitched an ever-lovin' fit on Friday when we got this news was because I knew it wouldn't push our move back just two would push it back a week. Since Jason works in a retail environment, he has to work on the weekends, so that means that his next day off is the following Wednesday. I almost volunteered to handle the whole thing on my own on Friday, but Jason put in end to that before I even finished my sentence.

After a couple of days of letting our new plan settle in, I've come to see how much better God's plan is. Now we will have the time to do things in a more organized manner, and I won't give myself a stroke trying to get everything done. It even works out better for some of the remodeling that we're doing in the master bedroom because now the work will be finished before we actually move all of our furniture and start living there.

I don't know where you are in your walk with Christ, or if you even have a relationship with Christ, but I do know that He cares for you deeply. Jason and I are buying a house, which is a HUGE deal to us, but to God, it's just us using the money He's blessed us with so that He can shelter us in a different zip code. Only, it IS a big deal to Him too. He's protecting us and working out each and every detail for our good, even when it's not in the way or in the time frame that we wanted or expected.

Wherever you are in your life today, cast your burdens, your plans, your timeline on Him...because He truly cares for you. In the battle of my plan vs. His plan, His plan will always be victorious. Praise Him for that today!

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:6-7
Posted on September 3, 2013 and filed under "live well mentally", "live well spiritually", "new home".

Big Blessings from Left Field

If you follow me on any sort of social media, you probably have heard our news.

We're buying a house!!!

Next week at this time I will have woken up in a new zip code, driven a short little drive to work, and I will leave at the end of the day and head home to Crestwood. Jason and I could not be more excited to move, and more importantly, we give all of the glory to God. He truly has given us this house...for us, it came out of left field.

On September 22nd, we will celebrate our first wedding anniversary! Since January, we've been planning to begin our house hunt after our anniversary. We've been saving like crazy since before we got married for this ambiguous "something", and back in January we realized that "something" would probably be our first home. Jason and I have never picked out a place to live together since when we got married, he moved into the apartment that I already lived in, so that has made this whole process even more exciting.

Obviously, thing did not go as we planned. By September 22nd, we will have been in our house for 3 yeah...good job planning Morales'! But as always, we know that God has a bigger plan for us than we can even fathom, and that has never been more true than in buying our house.

Here's how this happened - 

A few months back, I started to get an email each morning that showed me new listings or listing that had been reduced in price in the areas we wanted to look at buying a house. I figured that it'd be good to get a feel for what's out there before we actually start looking, and also, it's just really fun to look at houses and dream. 

Also a few months ago, we randomly drove by an open house on a Sunday afternoon in Homewood. The house was way too small and way too expensive, but we really liked the realtor who was showing it. We got his card and information, and we decided we'd call him when we were ready to start looking in late September.

On Jason's birthday, July 24th, I got an email with this cute little 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house as a new listing. So I did some investiaging. I looked at the pictures, looked where it was on Google Maps, and ran the numbers for our budget. After I decided that it had some potential, I sent it to Jason. That night after we went to dinner for his birthday, we decided to drive by it just to see if we liked the neighborhood and the outside in real life. We did. We really really liked it.

The next day, which was a Thursday, we decided to contact the realtor we met at the open house to see if we could go see the house on Friday. So Friday after work, we headed out to Crestwood to look at our first house together.

We loved it.

Jason was a little concerned about the size of the bedrooms, and our realtor assured us that the size is pretty standard for all of the houses in the area. Our realtor said that he wished we'd already looked at a few homes already because if we had, we'd probably love this house even more (which I didn't even think was possible).

We had a lot to think about. Jason and I spent the rest of the evening in the Crestwood area. We ate dinner there, we hung out with friends there, and we kind of just pretended that we lived there. That night when we got home, we decided that we needed to do our due diligence and look at comparable houses, but we were probably going to make an offer on that house.

Saturday Jason went to work and I spent the day on the phone with a mortgage broker to get our financing in order. He got all of my information and basically said that we were good to look at anything under a certain amount. That was good enough for me, so that night we looked at 4 other houses, and then went back to the first house. We still loved it most.

We spent Saturday night in our realtor's office writing up our offer.

It took until Tuesday or Wednesday for us to hear that we had the house. It was ours if we wanted it. It's taken a couple of weeks, a lot of signing, proving our incomes, and a lot of other stuff, but in 5 days, we will close on our house!

I can't help but dream about where we'll put our furniture, how I'll decorate, what we'll change, and what we'll leave the same...but even more than that, I can't help but dream about all of the memories we'll create there. It's a perfect home for us in so many ways, but most of all, it's the perfect home for us because this is where God has placed us.

Stay tuned for updates about moving, decorating, and some DIY projects that I'll be doing over the next couple of weeks and months!

Your Everyday Addict

Someone very close to me this week pointed out that I'm an addict; a media addict. They didn't use those exact words or that exact phrasing, but that was the point.

Being on the receiving end of any sort of criticism makes me really uncomfortable. I know that I'm my own worst critic, so if anyone ever brings up anything to me that could be taken as a critique, I'm usually not okay with it. I guess, in my mind, I figure that I am hard enough on myself...therefore I don't need anyone else to tell me what's wrong with me.

Thankfully, this particular time, I kept my cool. Maybe it was because I knew they were right, or maybe I was just too tired to fight back, but regardless, I sat, listened, and agreed.

My name is Jessica, and I am a media addict.

Until recently, I couldn't ride in the car without some sort of sound. I've gotten better about it now, but it still bugs me if all I can hear is the sound of the car engine. I read an average of 5 blogs a day. It's rare that I don't turn on the TV at night...or in the morning. There was a [not-so-distance] point in my life where I considered about 20 TV shows my "favorite shows" and kept up with them almost religiously. I subscribe to 4 podcasts, and a week doesn't go by that I don't listen to all of them. I listen to audiobooks regularly. I usually am reading at least two books at once. I've seen every movie out that I want to see that is in theaters right now. Out of all of the new music that is out, I have everything I want.

There's probably more media in my life than that...but I'll stop there so that this doesn't get embarrassing or anything :)

To be clear, I don't think that media is bad.

I love music. To me, it's one of the most tangible ways of expression and I love to listen to this audible art form. I don't listen to crappy bad music either, I listen to a lot of very inspirational music, a lot of worship music, and a lot of just plain good stuff.

I have really enjoyed getting into blogs over the last few years. I've learned a TON, and even started my own (obviously). I read blogs that are encouraging that that teach me things.

I really like TV. TV shows are probably my biggest downfall, but I try to be careful about what I watch. I have my "guilty pleasure" shows like the Bachelor/Bachelorette, and yes, I do keep up with the Kardashians, but the thing that brought me to watching those shows was community. When Jason was traveling a lot, my Monday nights were awesome because I always knew I'd be able to hang out with friends for a Bachelor/Bachelorette viewing party. And honestly, I'd never heard of Kim Kardashian until I started watching her show with a few of my sorority sisters after our chapter meetings on Sunday nights. Maybe those aren't real justifications anymore because I now watch these shows either alone or with my enthusiastic sweet husband, but regardless, my original intentions were good.

Podcasts are awesome. When I get up at 5:00 a.m. to walk, podcasts are part of the reason that I'm able to get out of bed. I listen to a lot of sermons and a lot of just really good content. I've learned A TON about the bible through podcasts, I've learned about new authors that I now really like and have learned from, and I always finish a podcast encouraged.

Audiobooks and regular books have made a suprising comeback in my life over the last year or so. I used to love reading fiction, and I still do, but I've really come to love nonfiction books too. Lately I've been reading a lot of books that have helped me grow into this new stage of life - being a working wife. I've learned a lot about biblical womanhood, marriage that is grounded in the gospel, and how to really dwell where God has me.

So, as you can see, the media that I'm absorbing is not bad. But when I put it all together and think of the hours and hours I spend sitting in front of the TV or sitting and reading a blog or a book, I can't help but thing that media has become an idol in my life.

My life has come to revolve around these things. When I think of my life without cable or without podcasts at my fingertips, I get really sad - and I almost start to feel anxiety. That's how I know this isn't healthy.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, "'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up." Even though I'm not doing anything wrong by watching TV, reading a blog, or listening to music, it's important for me to recognize that it's also not always helpful either. Since I'm taking in so many messages and so much content on a day to day basis, I realize that it leaves little time for me to either think for myself or just spend time resting in God. 

What is something in your life that your addicted to? 

We all have idols, so let's take action against them.

Tomorrow I'm going to spend a day in silence. I'm not going to be silent, but going to silence my media. I'm going to challenge myself and not listen to a podcast on my walk. I'm not going to listen to music in my car. I'm not going to turn on the TV. I'm just going to be. I'm going to be with myself and those around me without an distractions and see how God uses that time. The goal is to be more conscience of what I'm missing because my brain is always engaged in something else.

If you're someone who makes any sort of media (or maybe social media?) an idol in your life, won't you join me in a day of silence?
I just searched through my Facebook photos to see if there was a picture of me with
headphones in or something. I found this...from our honeymoon. I'm seriously kicking
myself for not taking advantage of all of the quality time with Jason!
Also, how awesome is the attire of the lady walking behind me? Just sayin'...

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