Debt. It’s the thing lots of us just don’t talk about. Brad and I have made many money mistakes in our life. We’ve had Ups and Downs and relied on our families’ to help us out of both small and large pinches over the last fifteen years.

Even when we became mostly financially stable, we didn’t make the best choices because we didn’t focus on the right priorities first, but put that money into trying to grow our businesses versus getting creating a buffer for ourselves when the leaner months approached.

too much monthAll that changed for us in the last year. We realized we were making way more money than what our bank account showed on a regular basis. Where was it all going? Where were we losing money? When you have an irregular income, it’s super easy to SPEND it when you get a windfall because you’ve set yourself up to depend on that windfall to “catch you up”. The last quarter of 2018 for the first time in several years, the “windfall” wouldn’t catch us up. We relied on that to keep us from grinding when we should have, we relied on that to carry us through on too many occasions.

So, we sat down and really truly looked at our spending and made a decision that we had some choices to make. Putting our finances in the FOCUS seat was very eye opening and if I’m being honest, scary. Here are just a few things we discovered.

  • Working extra hours without a specific intent caused our childcare to be outrageous.
  • Working “a certain number of hours” per week was way LESS important than how many minutes we actually worked in each hour.
  • These extra hours took us away from our kids too much and did nothing to increase our overall income.
  • Focusing on others and pouring into them financially at the risk of our own income was a really bad choice.
  • Our end game goals were not being met because we were not focused on the daily, short-term stuff that matters.
  • The stress of never having enough time and/or money was becoming a strain on all our relationships.

A New Focus. The new focus we took was a journey into “what do we owe”. I had for months (well let’s face it, years) just shoved all those lovely collection envelopes to the side and went along with  my day. I dove in head first and started looking through piles of paperwork, calling hospitals and doctors offices, and was determined to find out what the true damages were. I looked at the total we owed for over 100 creditors. Why so many? Well many of it was medical bills from Brad’s stroke and every single provider sends a separate bill. Some of it was old debt that has just hung around on credit reports. Then there are the 6 credit cards we got to “rebuild our credit” after our bankruptcy in 2006.

I’ve spent the last 6 weeks logging the amounts, looking at what we’ve already paid, negotiating some of them being written off due to age and listing them all from smallest to largest. I’ve read every #debtfreecommunity and #daveramsey account on instagram and read as many blogs on the subject as I can.

We are taking the principles of what we’ve read, and we are forging a path that works for us and our original debt of $257,096.39. Thus far, between minimum payments, write-offs and negotiations, we have paid off $27,620.03 so our total now is $229,475.76.

That’s a ton of money right? Right! But having it out there for the world to see (or my immediate world at least) makes me more accountable. YNAB is the budgeting software we are using and it is an amazing product. It is helping us look at our money daily and putting it to work for us the way we need it to.

Until we are moved and settled, I won’t be doing anything other than minimum payments. For that reason alone, I almost didn’t publish this blog post but I feel like no matter how slow it may seem at first, any progress is just that….progress.

Here’s to some #debtfreedeasons ~





Touching Death

muerte-ninosCooper crawled into our bed this morning around 5:00AM. She was sobbing from a bad dream. It took me about five minutes to get her calmed enough to get her story out. She dreamed her Aunt Nichole had died as a car crashed into a store where she was shopping. Death was real to her in those moments. She moved from worrying over Nichole to missing Hunter (our lab) to then crying for her Uncle Chris, who you all know died about 5 months ago. She did not fully settle until we talked to Nichole on the phone at 5:23.Seeing death touch your kids is hard. Just yesterday Max was asking about Hunter and Chris and he didn’t understand that we would not see them again. He thought that at some point they would come back. I cry in those moments, moments when my kids lose a bit of childhood. I cry when I see their dad explain his brother’s death for the fourth or sixth time in a week. Pushing his grief to the side to explain life to the kids.

I cried this morning talking to Cooper because I know that death will touch her life many more times. Her and Max are the youngest members of our family by far. They don’t have a grandparent that is not under 60 and a few that are past 70. I cried because while I want to watch all 4 of my kids flourish and marry and have their own babies one day, I know that some days will be dampened by loss. By the time Coop and Max are having their own kids I will be in my late 60’s myself, Brad in the 70’s. The likelihood of us watching a brood of grand babies grow up into adulthood is slim.

Some people say that I’m too easy on the little’s, that I’ve gotten soft in my old age. I would say “so what”,maybe I am but just maybe I want them to soak up every good memory they can so that the good memories out weigh the bad ones when it counts. I’ve had friends this week lose a mother, a grandmother, a son and a pet. I’ve seen grief circle people I love too much in the last six months.

As Cooper and I talked about death this morning laying there on the couch, our conversation turned toward heaven. I said that one day, we would see our loved ones again and she said I know mom because Jesus is good. If all my kids get out of me is “Jesus is good” then I’m okay with being soft and too easy. I’m okay with a little less money and stress. Because when death touches us all, we need to be able to say “Jesus is good”.

Nice to Meet you. . . .

shelly deason

My name is Shelly and it’s nice to meet you. I cannot wait to see where 2016 takes me. I’ve been blogging off and on for over 6  years. Who I am today is not who I was when I started. If you are new to my blog and you start from the beginning, you will probably see the change much more clearly than I did as it was happening. This year, my focus is going to be on walking in authenticity. In 2015 I have really looked inside and discovered who I am on many levels.

Words aren’t adequate for what this last year has done to change me. To allow me walk in the authenticity of who I am. To finally know me. To finally love me, rough edges and all. This year forgiveness bathed me in so many levels of my life and I walk different now. It could have been a way different story but God led me to a small new church on Center Point Road in Hendersonville, TN on a Wednesday night in November 2014.

There are many stories to tell and many to revisit from past years now that I can look at them and see how different my life has become and the changes God has made. Today I am just thankful for where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I am going. I am thankful for who I surround myself with and who I am accountable to.

But today, please look at this blog and know that at least, I AM no longer there.




Wrestle the Alligator

wrestle the alligator1

Often times I compare taking care of Max as wrestling an alligator. He is strong and throws his head and wriggles as much as he can to get away from you when he feels like he is being contained for too long. You can come to the point of complete exhaustion and he is still fighting for all it’s worth. He has what seems to be boundless energy when it comes to getting his way.

Yesterday his caregiver called and said he needed to be picked up. They though he had pink eye. I felt like it was just allergies, he had not complained of hurting, his eye was not excessively red, he was sleeping fine. After we picked him up, we let him get his nap and then took him to a walk-in clinic. The clinic opened at 6pm and I got there with him, ALONE, at 6:15. Expecting to be in and out in about 30 minutes I did some classic mistakes: no snacks, phone at 50%, no toys, no sippy cup, etc. I did at least have the brain to bring diapers and wipes.

By the time we were seen by the doctor it was 9:15,two hours past his bedtime. The time in between, those three hours, are etched in my memory as a place I’d rather not have been. Max wanted to run around the room, laugh and play, scream, look at YouTube for 2 minutes, cry over someone’s snack, look at a magazine for 3 minutes, head butt me repeatedly, wave at all the people in the room, watch YouTube again, rip magazines in half, laugh and giggle, try and open the door to go outside. In a last ditch effort to keep him quiet, I even stood with him on my hip and let him play in the water fountains. The two hours in the waiting room seemed like ten instead. I was exhausted from chasing, soothing, tickling, reading, admonishing, kissing and by then my phone was dead after a play list of Baby Einstein.

When we got in the room I thought, well at least now we are in a room. Nope, I shouldn’t have been so relieved. Now he could get down but he was into everything. He tried to pull the cords out of the computer, get in the trash, and he pulled over 1/2 the roll of white paper onto the floor. I finally turned off the light and held him down, hoping he would just go ahead and go to sleep. He fought and fought me but finally he got himself settled and played quietly on my lap, turning the light in the room on and off and on and off and, well you get the picture. By the time the doctor came in he was about as cranky as I’ve ever seen him. He had a bad ear infection that had spread to his eye, but you would have never known that from his response levels to pain. That boy is truly a tank.

While at morning prayer today, I was talking to God about being thankful for His love and tell Him that I have no clue why He loves me so much but I’m glad He does. I saw a vision of yesterday, of me wrestling Max, of me not losing my temper and continuing to sooth my baby even when he was not really very lovable. God spoke to me in that moment and said “This is how you can understand my love for you. I love you more than you loved Max yesterday. I love you when you walk the wrong way, when you try to go through the wrong doors, when you sit and scream or beat your head against the wall instead of relying on me.” I was overwhelmed with tears and just sat and cried for a while. God’s love is so amazing that He is willing to wrestle the alligator and sooth me when I don’t seem to reciprocate His actions.

What alligators are you wrestling today? What can they teach us about our response to God’s love for you? I am ever thankful that I serve the God that never gives up on me. Take some time and talk to Him and get in His presence consistently and see if some things start changing for the better in your life.

Most of All…..Be Kind

Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment was to love our neighbor as ourselves. How many of us do that on a daily basis?

Its important to look at these types of scriptures and evaluate how we are implementing them in our life. How are we showing love, the kind of love mentioned by Jesus?

I think as we get older our perspective changes on so many levels. I see it most in the way I parent the littles versus the way I parented the bigs.

When you get older you realize time is fleeting and that your chubby faced 15 month old will be a gangly 19 year old before you blink twice, or so it seems.

You realize that the important things you give your children are not things at all but morals and values and biblical foundations that will carry them through life long after you are gone.

At our house, we place a lot of emphasis on being kind. Because to be kind is to show love. It’s something that we all seem (in my house anyway) to give to strangers and friends without question but inside the gray brick walls of our house it becomes a place to forget kindness.

Home is where you can let down your guard and you can be yourself but somehow that gets lost in the translation and sometimes becomes rude and petty and thinking of oneself over others.

I remember Cooper became enthralled by Calliou. Now any parent who is with their salt and has seen this show more than once can attest, Calliou is not the nicest or kindest child. He whines about everything and pretty much runs his house. His boundaries are few and it shows.

We banned the show much to Cooper’s dismay and every time she asked why we replied with “he’s not kind”. She finally quit asking because the answer never changed. We were instilling in her that kindness is something we want around us. Selfishness is not something we want to be around.

I wish it were as easy to retrain our brain as it is to teach a little child. We put our hands forth in love and kindness  UNTIL we are hurt…..then the world changes for us. We are slow to give grace and mercy and second chances to anyone other than ourselves.

I experienced some severe unkindness a few days ago. Back to back two days in a row, from different people.  My first reaction was extreme hurt and anger because this person(s) doesn’t know me, they Dont know my life or my story. They were running on assumptions and on the words of others.

I began to realize that this person doesn’t know my heart and my intent. They haven’t seen my scars and pain and they certainly don’t know my reasons for making important life decisions. Ultimately I forgave that person and told them to be blessed, but I’m not sure I even meant it at the time. It was the right thing to say, it was the acceptable thing to do but it was not heartfelt and honestly it was a bit snide. I felt a little ‘above the fray’ for saying those words. So, were they really kind then? Nope!!

God has continued to talk with me about the situation and today I’m actually going to take care of this in love and kindness. Because following the commandments of Jesus is more important to me than ego and pride. If I want to see these gifts in my children, I need to walk them in my own life.

Never feel like you are too good or too old to learn how to be better at life and love and living. And most of all…..be kind.

The Have Nots

the have notsI think we all struggle at times with lack. Whether its lack of finances, patience, faith, peace, healing, security; it’s an issue everyone faces in this life from time to time. Currently, we are in a season of lack. Our business is in a transition and that makes things tight financially. It’s during these times we sit and re-evaluate what we HAVE TO HAVE versus what we WANT. It’s been a tough few weeks but I know that God is going to see us through.

As I began to think on this the last few days, a scripture came to my mind from the book of James. Anyone who has grown up in church has heard this at least 100 times in their life. “you have not because you ask not”. That is usually where the preacher stops. Just ask and you will get it. Well, let me tell you, that doesn’t always work. I felt myself struggling with this because I’ve been asking God to fix this for a while.  The Lord took me on a journey through the book of James as I was searching for this scripture. What I discovered was both eye opening and mind altering. The actual context of the scripture says this:

Jame 4: 1-3 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions

Looking in the actual context of this scripture, we see that even when we ask, we may not receive because we are asking for the wrong reasons. So the reason many of us have not is because we either do not ask or when we do, we ask wrongly.

Let’s look at what we’ve asked for recently.

  • Are we asking out of concern for the welfare of others or forourselves?
  • Are we asking out of passion to be closer to God or to exalt ourselves?
  • Are we seeking God’s will or are we just wanting to have our way?

You can see that as I asked myself these questions, there was some deep soul searching about what I’ve been asking God about lately. I had to redraw some lines in my own way of thinking and realize that whatever I ask, I need it to be for the right reason, whether it benefits me or not.

God wants good things for us. In Ephesians 3:20 it states that he is “… able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”. He just wants us to do it in the right spirit. Take some time and evaluate why we are asking what we are asking and it may just change you from a ‘have not’ to a ‘have’.


On the brink of breaking

Shelly Deason

For the last five days I’ve been traveling to and from Florida on business. We are on the cusp of some big business moves and the training, brainstorming and marketing sessions that we attended are changing the face of how we do things at MedLink.

This is an exciting and scary time because since I started this venture at my kitchen table in 2007, we’ve grown a little at a time. That worked for a long time and then a series of events happened from 2012 – 2013 that made us start going backwards. We ended up having to cut everyone’s pay and even laid off an employee. Until you’ve had to tell someone you love that you’re cutting their pay or that you are eliminating your job, you don’t know how tough it is to be the owner of something. Knowing that people we love and respect depend on…

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According to kidshealth, a scar is the pale pink, brown, or silvery patch of skin that grows in the place where you once had a cut, scrape, or sore. A scar is your skin’s way of repairing itself from injury.

Centuries ago, warriors showed off their scars as symbols of their bravery and to impress their friends with the exciting tales about how each one happened. Do any of your scars have a story?

Scars define us if we let them. Whether a physical or emotional scar, they pierce our skin and/or our hearts and leave a trail that you can’t help but remember because you see or feel them daily.

Physical Scars:

I have a crazy 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old that push all the boundaries on safety. When you are on kid number 3 & 4, you don’t panic as much as you used to but you worry just the same. I imagine the fear in my moms face when I stumbled and fell as a toddler and hit my forehead on the corner of the coffee table. I was her first baby and head cuts bleed alot! I still have a scar. That’s my oldest scar, one that I don’t remember getting. That scar let’s me know that there is healing and most of the time you can’t even see it, unless I’m frowning.

The chicken pox visited me twice, I was born long before there was vaccine for that dreaded itching disease. I spent an entire week one summer standing at the kitchen door, watching people play while I stayed inside and scratched and whined. The scars are mere dips on my skin now but they bring back the memories of that summer.

I have scars on my knees from four wheeler mishaps while camping at the lake and scars from various and crazy adventures that I had as a kid. Probably my favorite scar story is my hand. I have a scar on my right hand that makes me smile almost every time I see it. As a kid, my mom watched my cousin Nichole while her mom worked. She never wanted to leave at the end of the day. We had hard wood floors throughout the house and my mom pledged them religiously so they were always slippery. One day as my Aunt came to get her, Nichole decided to hide in the corner of the living room. I went to find her and in my socked feet, I began to slide across the room. I slid right into a curio cabinet my mom had filled with those ceramic avon figurines that still fill her home. The glass broke and a huge (to a small kid) piece of glass protruded from my hand. It bled and bled and my mom had the nurse that lived next door come look at it. No stitches were required but it left a great scar.

I have a scar from the c-sections with Cooper and Max. It’s been over an year since I got that scar reopened and while it is ‘healed’ there are still days where it is itchy or gets a pain in it. I have a friend who had a c-section over 10 years ago and it still bothers her when she does heavy cleaning or moving.

Emotional Scars:

For me, I would rather have a physical scar than an emotional one. Emotional scars are like that scab that just won’t heal. Every time you think you have the thing almost healed, you bump into something and it rips the scab right back off, making you bleed again and start all over.

We all have emotional scars although the list is quite different for each of us. It shapes how we move forward in social and family situations. It shapes who we allow into our inner circles and who we push away.

Those of us who have been cheated on have a radar for predators. We watch how someone tilts their head or bats their eyes. We look to see just how close they hug or how long they hold on. We listen to see if they compliments are too much or how our spouse responds.

Those of us who have been hurt by churches often find it hard to connect with ministry. We wonder how God can let us connect and be hurt, not once, but multiple times. We wonder why we are not enough that He can’t place us somewhere where we can thrive and reach others for him in a healthy environment. We wonder if He even cares at all. We wonder if we should even go to church again because connection = hurt.

Those of us who were sexually abused, are always looking for signs of a pedophile when they are with their kids in social situations. Your senses are heightened to anyone who pays specific attention to your child in a way you consider unhealthy

Healed but scarred:

Here’s the thing, there are no easy answers. Fresh cuts will eventually be scars that you can look back on and either have a funny story or at least try and remember something good that came out the event. It may be the knowledge of what to do differently in the future, it may be the knowledge that no matter what, your life is forever changed. There may be regrets, hurts, closure that you know you will never find. It may be knowing you will never get the apology you feel you deserve. It may be laughing because someone always said your name wrong on purpose because of a funny story only a few of your friends know about. It may mean smiling because I have three words for you…..(if that doesn’t make sense to you then that’s okay, everyone won’t get it).

It’s a season of thankfullness, do an inventory. What do your scars say about you? What do they say about your choices and how have they shaped your life? Let’s be thankful that we have scars, because they tell the story of our life. They are the testimony that we are alive. Maybe, if we are lucky, they will only show up when we frown.

This Yellow Chair

This yellow chair doesn’t belong in the middle of a field, alone.

It belongs around a patio with a firepit.

It belongs giving support to a smiling mom or s’more smeared child.

It belongs in a place of warmth and belonging, not a place of isolation.


Today I feel like this yellow chair but one day I won’t.

One day, God will move me into the place I’m destined to be.

Psalms 37:23

The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.

These little lights of mine…

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

It’s a simple lyric really, but sometimes the simplest things hit you the hardest. What started as a cute gift idea for Max’s first birthday has ROCKED my world into oblivion.

I’m one of those crazy people who reads blogs to the point where I feel a part of someone’s life. Like their family almost. One day I found myself talking about my friend Kelly and Brad said, you know she’s not  your friend, right? LOL ~ well yes, i do know she’s not my FIRL (friend in real life) but I think she could be if given the chance. My friend, my actual friend in real life, Jennifer McKinney is an amazing blogger and mom. I met her through her blog and she photographed our family and even stayed with us in Nashville when Cooper was about three weeks old and took her newborn photos.

Photo by Jennifer McKinney.

Being a Nashvillian, I follow local blogs of some really great people. I was introduced to the blogs of Jessica & Matthew Paul Turner through Angie Smith’s online blogs and book clubs. I said all that to say this. Matthew Paul Turner just released a children’s book that teaches children in a fun and exciting way that God Made Light. My thoughts were that this would be a great book to introduce Cooper and Max to how God formed the very beginnings of creation. Since Max’s birthday is today, I ordered it on Amazon Prime and it showed up two days ago.

Since then, my world has been rocked.

Rocked by a children’s book.

Rocked by a God whose love for us is so vast.

Rocked by the responsibility and joy for my little lights.

Here is the page that rocked my world:

2014-10-30 11.30.58

“You’re as spendid as lightning when it flashes so bright

’cause on the day you were born, God said, “Let there be light!”

When I got to this page, I wept. Wept like a baby. The thought that God created Cait, Logan, Cooper and Max as HIS LIGHT,  it hit me as a ton of bricks. God said let there be light when He made my kids, when He made me, when He made you. We are the light that God made, not just the moon and the stars and the sun, US.

God gave me four incredible lights to nurture and grow. He trusted ME with maintaining their wicks, keeping their oil clean and making sure their flames stayed glowing bright. These kids, these parts of my DNA, they are the light of the world, that is what God created them to be.

Jesus said in Matthew 5: 14-16  14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Some days I could go crazy having 6 people in the house. Two adult kiddos and two kiddos under three and then us makes for interested days and sometimes emotions run from laughing, crying, fighting and back to laughing. All in the span of about 15-20 minutes. Other days, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I was a really young mom with Cait and Logan and I’ve learned the way I parented then was not always the best. I hope they see as we all learn to parent these little people that it’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to find a better way and it’s okay to lean on your family.

These lights, these miracles of mine I want them to shine brightly so that others can see Him in them. I have made myself think about my children in the terms of light. What kind of light are they? What can I do to make them more shiny, more ablaze for life? What have I done to snuff their lights, to obscure the light that God intended to ooze out of them daily? What can I do different going forward to keep them glowing?

Cait is my radiant beam. She is my right arm, I’m really not sure what I would do without her. She reminds me so much of myself but she is a much better version. She is the best big sister in the world. My hope is that she’s still learning from me while I am still learning from her. I honestly can say I’ve seen her grown and mature more in the last year than I thought possible. She is sure of herself and is beginning to plan out where she truly wants life to take her.

Logan is my vivid streak of light. What he believes and feels is always done with great passion. Logan is so much like his Dad when it comes to being a jokester and an instigator but if he is on your side, no one else should come against you. Logan works three jobs and is saving money to travel the world. Whether that happens or he chooses a different path completely, I know he will illuminate whatever corner of the world his is in.

Cooper is an unclouded glowing light that was unexpected but makes our world a completely amazing place. She is funny and silly and loves to sing and dance. She’s also opinionated, sassy, loving and stubborn. She loves her “maxie boy” as she calls him and gets really upset when she sees him cry. My hope is that she continues to glow unfettered by the world around her. I hope she continues to sing and dance with confidence.

Max, my last little light, he is one today. He is a flashing, shiny, sunny light that warms every single person he meets. Max oozes smiles and giggles. He rarely cries and always has a dimpled grin for the camera. He is a fast moving train and we have always compared dressing him to wrestling an alligator. We are so blessed that God gave us this sweet spirited boy as the closer of our family. I am overwhelmed by the joy that he brings to our days.

Today is bittersweet because Max is One. It is bitter because he is about to walk, learning new words every day and he needs us less than he did yesterday. It is bitter because while I am fine with him being the last, there is something that is grievous to knowing I will never carry another baby, knowing I will never feel another kick from within or hear the little heart beat on an ultrasound. It is sweet because I know I won’t have many more sleepless nights, heartburn or gestational diabetes again. It is sweet because I know they all four still need me to help nurture the flames in both big ways and small.

Am I doing that right? I’m not sure but I know that I’m trying and as parents that’s all we can do, try. All we can do is make ourselves approachable and available. We can makes sure our homes are full, of love and grace and prayer. We can guide them when they ask and we can pray for them when they don’t. Whatever we do, we need to let our little lights SHINE!