It’s definitely Friday the 13th…kinda.

{I started this post at work yesterday but didn’t finish. Sorry it’s a day late.}
  
Hello weekend! I am so glad you are finally here!

 It has been a long week and yesterday was one heck of a Friday. I’m not sure about you but at my job all the crazies come out on Friday. I’m pretty sure the amount of crazies was tripled since it was Friday the 13th or it could be the fact that I was by myself.
 
I’ll blame it on the day. 
 
Do you ever have those weeks where you feel so busy every day, all day but at the end of the week you aren’t really sure what took up so much of your time? That was definitely my week. I started two fall wreaths last week- one for myself and one I’m selling, and for some reason they were slow going. I spent every night working on them and one still isn’t finished! I think I was too distracted with whatever trashy TV I was probably watching. In the middle of making the wreaths, I decided that I had to have my fall decorations out. It couldn’t wait any longer, I had to get them out on Monday.
 
They still aren’t finished, by the way. 
 
On top of two dogs and a husband who has been super busy with work, I had a half fall decorated house {because I’m slow and picky} and all my wreath making goodies cluttering up the living room, dining room and kitchen. 
 
I say cluttering like I’ve taken care of the mess. Nope, still there. I just need a few more hours in the day or a house keeper. Either would do.
 
One thing I did finish was my fall wreath and I’m in love. Owls are my favorite and I’m beyond excited that they are trending this fall. 

Fall Burlap Wreath
There’s not much on the agenda at the Sloan house this weekend. Clemson doesn’t play this weekend so no tailgating for us. After the past two weeks, I’m not too upset. It was nice to get to sleep in this morning! One of my favorite things about Saturday morning is letting the dogs get in the bed with us and snuggling as a family. And that is exactly what we did this morning.Hopefully our afternoon will consist of a little cleaning and a lot of football. Even if Clemson isn’t playing, there are some good games on today. Family and football-sounds like a perfect afternoon to me! 

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

 

MUZUNGU!

Rwanda
Hey guys, this is Cory, writing my first guest post here. Paige asked me if I would mind telling a little about my trip to Rwanda. It’s been a long time coming, partly because I’m a procrastinator and partly because I don’t know how to condense such a life-changing experience with so much to tell into one blog post. I put it off as long as I could, until Paige threatened my life for breaking my promise to do this, so…here goes.

My trip to Rwanda was a joint mission trip with Barnabas X and Reach the Children of Rwanda International. A little background summary on why we went: RCRI is a non-profit organization which has offices in Kigali, Rwanda and Abbeville, SC and works to support very disadvantaged children in Kigali and the surrounding areas. RCRI currently supports approximately 430 children, many of whom are orphans or from single-parent homes. The support includes basic healthcare, bedding, clothing, food, and school fees. Due to shortage of funds, the staff in Kigali has been cut to RCRI president Benjamin Mushuhukye, his wife Josephine, and Gaudence Mukasano—three people to serve 430 children. Our purpose was to spend two weeks supporting the RCRI workers and assisting in construction on a church in Nyabihu, a small village two hours outside Kigali.
Rwanda Africa Missions
The team at the airport before we left. From left, me, Traverse, Janie (Traverse’s daughter), Nick, and Justin.

The first thing to understand about Rwanda is the hurt that resides deep in Rwandan hearts as fallout from the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi people group. Nearly every person in Rwanda over 19 years old is a genocide survivor of some sort, and every single person is affected in some way. It is important to Rwandans that we understand what happened to them, so we spent our first day (at Benjamin’s request) at the Genocide Memorial in Kigali.
 
These are the mass graves of the Tutsis slain during the genocide. At the back of the Memorial grounds, there are more mass graves that are left open to accommodate the bodies that are still being found today.
 
I spent the entire time at the Memorial in tears. Throughout the grounds and inside, there were Rwandans crying everywhere as they remembered loved ones lost and the trauma they experienced. There was a room that contained family photos of victims hanging on string and pins, followed by a room that contained skulls, some from children, with bullet holes and machete gashes. No one was left untouched by the horror.  
Rwanda Africa Missions
The second thing, though, to understand about Rwanda is the deep love the people feel for each other and for muzungu, which is Kinyarwandan for “white people”. You never meet a Rwandan that is not happy to see you—you will always be greeted with a handshake and at least one hug. It is customary for all sexes and all ages to show affection by holding hands, and the children want nothing more than to hold your hand for a moment and practice their English.
Rwanda Africa Missions

Rwanda Africa Missions

We spent our first week visiting homes of children that were being supported by RCRI, meeting, assessing needs, giving out clothes, and praying with the families. As we visited these one-room homes with no floors, some no windows or electricity, no running water, and very little furniture, I was overwhelmed. It was a shock to my system—having never been to anyone’s home in another country, I have never been exposed to what would by American standards be nearly extreme poverty. 
Rwanda Africa Missions
Rwanda Africa Missions
I was also overwhelmed by the response to our presence: the families in these homes were so grateful for muzunguto come into their homes, let alone hold their hands and pray for them, they would often weep or sing and thank us repeatedly.
Rwanda Africa Missions
Rwanda Africa Missions
Rwanda Africa Missions
I soon learned that these people believe so strongly in the power of prayer and in the power of American prayer, that they fully expect for everything to be okay simply because we prayed for it to be. What a lesson in faith for us spoiled Americans!
Rwanda Africa Missions
Clemson Rwanda Africa Missions
Of course I never pass up an opportunity to do a little Clemson evangelism.
Clemson Rwanda Africa Missions
Rwanda Africa Missions
Every Saturday, RCRI hosts a children’s program at a local school with an open invitation to all children supported by RCRI to attend. The children take turns leading songs and preaching short sermons, then give status reports, pray, and spend time together. Not only does this give spiritual guidance and growth to the children who may not attend a church on Sunday, but it also allows them to build a sense of community with one another and form a network for future support. We were privileged to be a part of the program while we were there, so after the children sang and delivered their lessons, Nick and Janie spoke and we sang a few songs with them. Afterwards we went into the school yard and played with the children.
 
Rwanda Africa Missions
Paige’s best friend made a pair of matching parachute cord bracelets–one for me to wear and one for me to give to a child. This is Claudine, the little boy that I made friends with during the children’s program, displaying his new bracelet. And his banana.
 Rwanda Africa Missions
That evening, we packed our bags and journeyed to our hotel in Musanze, a city not far from Nyabihu. 
 
Nearly all of the children in Nyabihu are RCRI-supported children. There is not currently a school there, so RCRI has arranged for the children there to attend school inside the newly-constructed (unfinished) church. As part of the deal, RCRI is required to provide partial funding and labor to complete the church. Simultaneously, a school is being built near the church by RCRI funding, and we were there to assist with labor in whatever way we were needed. 
 
We awoke the next morning and prepared to go to church in Nyabihu, where Janie and Nick were to speak again and where I was to play a song (Break Every Chain by Will Reagan); however, when we got outside we found that our car battery was dead. After a lot of hand signals and struggling to communicate with the locals, we were able to get a young man out to charge our battery and send us on our way. We arrived late to church, but it didn’t matter, because the service is so long and they had made preparations for us to be there–we had only missed music and there was still much more to come! As soon as we found our seats, children from the village started bunching up around us–by the end of the service we all had two children in our laps. After church, we were given a tour of the church grounds and shown the progress on the school building. 
Rwanda Africa Missions
The church in Nyabihu
Rwanda Africa MissionsGroup of kids that all hung out together–I called them the Goonies of Rwanda
The next day, we arrived in Nyabihu to find that the children had posted lookouts on the street, so we traveled up the hill to shouts of “MUZUNGU!! MUZUNGU!!” and found the children at the top of the hill running into the schoolhouse to prepare for our arrival. As we walked in, the children shouted in unison “Good morning, Teacher” to all of us as we walked in. They sang some songs for us before Janie took them to play games and the men went outside to work. This would be our routine for the week.
Rwanda Africa MissionsKids with their homemade soccer ball after playing soccer all afternoon with Janie 
Rwanda Africa Missions
Rwanda sees a rainy season each year that brings constant heavy rains for months. The people of Nyabihu use red clay mud as the mortar to lay bricks, and did so on their church. It was important that the joint between the bricks be pointed and tucked with cement mortar before the rains so that the mud wouldn’t be washed out from between the bricks. This was our job. Part of RCRI’s mission is to provide help, which often comes in the form of muzungu. It is a big motivator for American’s to come and begin a project–we started the week with around five helpers and finished the week with nearly twenty, and left with the church nearly finished.
Rwanda Africa Missions
The love we were shown by the people of Nyabihu–children and adults–was staggering. We were treated to African tea, which is made with Rwandan tea, milk, ginger, and honey as a sweetener, made with fresh milk from the village cow as all the children loved on us and the adults asked us questions about America and made fun of one another’s accents. Now that I’m home, there are people from Nyabihu that message me on Facebook when they can get to a computer just to let me know that they miss me and love me and are sending their prayers.
Rwanda Africa MissionsOkay, so I don’t hesitate to do a little Baltimore Ravens evangelism either
You may have seen Paige’s Rainbow Chevron 1st Birthday post here where she and her friend made decorations with a foam floral ball covered in Dum-Dum suckers. After the party, those suckers filled three 1-gallon Ziploc bags that I took to give to the children. It never occurred to me that the children would never have seen suckers before! They stuck them straight in their mouth, wrapper and all, until we showed them how to eat them–then they caught on really fast! They treasured the suckers like gold, which was a kick in the gut to me…we were using the suckers as party decorations and probably would have just thrown them away, while these kids were running home with them to show them off to their parents like it was a hundred-dollar bill. The children did the same thing with empty water bottles, or agacupa. They would spot someone finish a bottle and scramble to be the first to grab it, shouting agacupa! agacupa! at the top of their lungs; keeping it to hold their own water in. The child in this shot grabbed one and hid it in his shirt so that nobody could take it from him.
Rwanda Africa Missions
Rwanda Africa Missions
When it was time for us to leave at the end of the week, the children, with no provocation from the adults asked if they could pray for us. We were led into the church, where a rug was laid out so that we could kneel without getting dirty. We prayed for the children first, with the kids standing and our hands outstretched above them. Then we knelt on the rug as the kids gathered around and laid hands on us. The feeling of those hundreds of little hands all over our heads and shoulders and the knowledge that they believed wholeheartedly in the power of their prayer overwhelmed me as I heard the little boy pray for us–never for themselves, but for us–to be safe and healthy and thanking the Lord so deeply that we came to them. This was perhaps the single most incredible spiritual experience of my life.
 
Rwanda Africa Missions
I could go on forever. There is no end to the stories and things I could tell, the poverty I could describe, the love I experienced through hugs, meals, and things I was told, the movement of the Spirit in me and the people with us, and just interesting anecdotes from the trip–there’s so much to tell and so many pictures to share that I could never tell it all so I will just end with this: please pray. Pray for sponsors for these children. Pray for a full-time missionary who could do so much in Rwanda. Pray for Benjamin, Josephine, Gaudence, Onesme, Anastase, and all the families of these children who teach and support them. Pray for the love of Christ to reach all corners of the world. Pray for Rwanda.
Clemson Rwanda Africa Missions

Go Tigers!

 –Cory

Our Journey to Financial Freedom

Let me start by saying that even though I have a degree in financial management, I am not a professional financial advisor. I’m sharing what worked best for Cory and myself using the Dave Ramsey program. We are not affiliated with Dave Ramsey nor are we paid by him. We are just avid followers who want to share our success story.
Financial Peace

It all started in January of 2012 with a living room suite. The worst decision we’ve {as a married couple} made to date led to the best decision lifestyle change we’ve made.

Cory and I had been in our house for over a year and we had this  green and red plaid sectional that my grandparents gave us. Even though it was comfy, it didn’t match the decor of our house. I had been looking for months and finally found a set I liked that wasn’t too outrageously expensive. It was one of those deals where if we bought the whole living room set {coffee tables, lamps, etc} they would throw in a TV and 0% financing for XX months.

The TV is what sold Cory and the 0% financing sold me.

While standing in the store, we told ourselves that whatever we got back from our taxes would go straight to the furniture.

Two problems with this theory: 1) We didn’t know how much we were getting back on our taxes since we hadn’t filed them yet. We were estimating {bad idea} how much we would get back based on what we had gotten back for 2010. 2) 2010 was the first year we were married, we bought a house and we only had half a year of Cory’s salary because he started his job in June. 2011 was a full year salary for Cory {higher tax bracket} and I had a 401k that I rolled into a Roth IRA when I changed jobs.

I’m going to be a little financial for a second and explain that a 401k is deducted before taxation meaning you don’t pay taxes on the money you put into it until withdrawn during retirement. This helps lower your taxable income when it comes tax time. A Roth IRA has a future tax break meaning there is no up front tax deductions for your contributions but offers tax free income during retirement. Unlike the 401k, the Roth IRA doesn’t help lower your taxable income.

With that being said, our taxable income in 2011 was much higher than in 2010. With higher income comes higher taxes. Even though we knew the tax implications for the Roth IRA, we didn’t expect to be pushed up two tax brackets from the year before. Not only were we not getting money back for our taxes, we owed the government!

I remember walking out of our accountants’ office and literally felt sick to my stomach. How did we accumulate almost $7,000 in debt in a few months?

Something had to change.

So, we started looking into Financial Peace University (FPU) by Dave Ramsey. We had some friends who had completed the class and they let us borrow their DVDs. We got online and ordered the workbooks and the envelope system to go with it.

Please understand that this program is for everyone. A lot of the success stories we read were from people who had serious debt. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, on the verge of losing their house kind of debt. Fortunately, Cory and I were not in that situation. When we started this program, other than our house, we owed around $10,000. I know this number may not seem big to some people, but it was more than we felt comfortable with and we had accumulated it so quickly. We could see the path we were headed on and it scared the living heck out of us.

One of the first things you do in FPU is make a budget {after cutting up your credit cards, of course}. Even though I am a numbers kind of girl, I really dreaded doing a budget. I like to spend money and didn’t want to be tied down with my spending. If it weren’t for Cory completing our first budget, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The thing about doing a budget is you can put the money wherever you want it, as long as it all has a place to go. Soon after creating our budget, I realized how much money I wasted. In order to curb our spending, we use the envelope cash system. Once the money is gone from that envelope, you stop spending.Easy, right?

Ahem.

I’m not gonna lie, the principal is easy but the practice is hard. The whole programs takes discipline and communication and it caused some nasty arguments. Arguments over money are the worst because defenses come up and in our case some not so nice words were exchanged.

But month by month, it got easier. We figured out how to talk about money without it turning into an argument, and about what works best for our budget. Sure enough, we started to have money left over each month.

FPU has baby steps that you follow and where your extra money goes depends on which step you are on.  As of February, we are on baby step 3, meaning that we have paid off all our debt {other than our house} and are working on building up our emergency fund.

One thing we love about FPU is you can set your own pace and goals. Cory and I weren’t in a dire situation to get out of debt so our pace was probably slower than others. Dave recommends that you don’t put any money towards savings until you reach a certain point in the journey, allowing all extra money to go towards your debt.  However, we have a few retirement accounts that are automatically drafted, so we left those alone. This program is all about doing what works best for you and your financial situation as long as you are controlling your money.

Honestly, I don’t know how we ever lived without a budget. Yes, it sometimes get tedious because I have to adjust ours weekly to allow for changes in Cory’s paycheck, but it has become second nature to us.  We still have our moments when we want instant gratification but if we don’t have the money for it, we don’t buy it. It is much more satisfying to save your money and buy when you can afford it. Plus, you don’t have buyer’s remorse afterwards!

I am thankful everyday for making that bad decision and buying the living room furniture because of the lifestyle change it led to. Even though we have had to make small sacrifices over the past year and a half, our lives are so much more enjoyable.

I understand that finances are a sensitive subject to discuss but I wanted to share our journey in hopes that it might help someone else. I will be happy to answer any questions about our journey but I encourage you to check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University if you want to learn to control your money or if you’re struggling with debt.

Friday Night Shenanigans

Some may think that a young couple like Cory and me would be living it up on Friday night. It’s the weekend so we should celebrate, right? 

Oh, we celebrate. Toys “R”Us style. I’m sure one day we will dread going in there but for now, it’s still Cory’s favorite place. 

If you know Cory at all, you know he is an action figure fanatic. He grew up collecting action figures and reading comic books. Maybe he is a little nerdy but I love my nerd! At some point in the past ten years, he has lost the majority of his action figure collection and has made it his mission to get them back. 

Hence the trip to Toys “R” Us

He lights up like a kid in a candy toy store {pun intended} when he sees all this stuff and always states that toys are so much cooler nowadays. I can’t argue with that!

Cory wasn’t the only one who got to visit his favorite store. We did make a trip to Hobby Lobby and Michaels so we both were happy campers. 
 
So our date night was pretty exciting, right? It may not be crazy wild parties but Texas Roadhouse and a little shopping with my sweet nerd is the perfect start to our weekend!