Is Baby Gardner a Boy or a Girl?

Tim + Emily Gender Announcement 018It’s a BOY!

Tim and I are so excited about welcoming James into our home (he is already firmly planted in our hearts) in February.

Here’s a few of my favorites from the photo shoot we did this afternoon. Major thanks to my siblings-in-law, David and Holly, for braving the wind and cold to take these photos!!

Tim + Emily Gender Announcement 008Tim + Emily Gender Announcement 010 Tim + Emily Gender Announcement 024 Tim + Emily Gender Announcement 026

When The Scales Tip

Next Tuesday I’m scheduled for my second ultrasound. Tim and I will get to see our little one again and find out if BG is a boy or a girl. We’ve been counting down the days to this doctor’s appointment. It was incredible to see the small nugget of a person being formed at 8 weeks, so seeing his/her progress at 20 weeks is thrilling.

I’m beyond excited. And beyond terrified.


I shouldn’t be; there’s no reason for me to be alarmed. My pregnancy has been pretty smooth thus far. I was nauseous during the first three months but have yet to throw up, which for this barf-phobic gal is truly praiseworthy. All of my check-ups have gone splendidly – BG’s heart rate, my weight gain and blood pressure are all on track. I’ve been able to travel without complications. Tim is a sweet father-to-be and an exceedingly patient husband during this season.

But, I’m still terrified. The precious life Tim and I created is fragile, just like ours. There is no guarantee of health and safety. A multitude of things could go wrong in the next 20 weeks I carry our babe, some of which could be revealed next week at the ultrasound. The what-ifs are endless: mental handicaps, genetic diseases, physical deformities, a dangerous labor and delivery.

In my anxiety I tend to view God as a lawyer with His scales, apportioning blessings and catastrophes to each person, making sure that all is in balance. Despite the fact that I know this image of God doesn’t hold any weight scripturally, it feeds my worry. Subconsciously I think since I’ve had a good pregnancy thus far, I’m due for something to go wrong…

But God doesn’t use scales. We aren’t in a system of checks and balances. The truth is that bad things do happen. The doctors could find something wrong during my ultrasound. Labor could be horrific. I could develop some sort of third trimester barf reflex.

God doesn’t promise smooth sailing. He promises grace and love and strength and peace and healing. Grace that can cover our messy. Love that can stitch up our wounds. Strength that can get us through the unthinkable. Peace that can calm our irrational fears. Healing that brings new life.

In my excitement and terror, that’s where I want to camp out. I want to pitch my tent in green pastures, by still waters. God doesn’t dish out the good and the bad. He is Immanuel, God with us, in the good and the bad.

photo credit: procsilas via photopin cc

Intentional Love Stories

Four months ago, I got a thoughtful Facebook message from someone I had never met. Now there’s only two months separating us from grabbing coffee in person. Today’s post is written by sweet Katie of A Thousand Little Choices – author of that Facebook message. Turns out she hails from Coeur d’Alene and is family to the worship pastor at our church. World’s collide. I love having her heartfelt voice on Primitive Roads!

Intentional Love stories

Our various experiences are meant by our Heavenly Father to furnish fresh viewpoints from which we may see the loveliness of Jesus.

Charles Spurgeon

Has your heart been troubled lately? Have you been plagued by blustery seasons? In the midst of them have you wondered and asked the question, “why?” “Why, God, why would you let this season of life plague me now?”

You’re not alone if you’re asking such questions.

I have had many outpourings of my soul during difficult times. I wondered what my King was thinking while I cried each night during my years and years of singleness. I had struggles in college and after graduation, when my family was being torn apart and even now, a difficult season is on the horizon. Though I hate to admit this, I often asked the question “why, God?” A normal question, but unfortunately my heart had the wrong glasses on.

In the midst of asking “why” and beating our heads and hearts against the waves of pain, we often lack seeing the many details that come with unwanted seasons. What if I told you they are love stories? The times of tempestuous storms are all stories written in love. What would you say then?

I laughed at first, but then beautiful Emily told me her two words this year were community and intentional. I love those words and my heart started praying for ways to incorporate them in my own life. Community, thats a tough one being a transplant in Philadelphia, but Intentional captured my soul. I sat down and started writing all the ways I could be intentional in my life. Unfortunately, with our move (you can read about it here) and lack of community, I couldn’t come up with much. Then it hit me. This current state, this unwanted season, it is much more.

When we start to look at God in all that is happening around us, you see how intentional and loving He is. For years, I’ve known that He has been writing my life, chapter by chapter. Now, I’m not facing trials – no, life trials are really intentional love stories, written by a Great Author.

This is the first unwanted season of my life that I have looked at differently. I finally see that God knows exactly what I am dealing with. Though our eyes are misty and our souls are tired, we can rest in the intentional loves stories of life. Time is never wasted, experiences are never forgotten, and God has walked the path of this story before.  He hears your hearts cry. He is constantly there with you, and you shall never walk alone.

He has been the Author this whole time, writing gorgeous stories with courageous characters and the most beautiful of settings. Think about the last time your tempestuous season came. You might have thought, “I can’t do this anymore”, but look at you now, getting ready to face the hardest moments in life. He thought you were strong enough, brave enough and courageous enough to face them.

With His writing, love, and grace, we can get through the storms that are soon to come. I hope you can turn them around and look at them as great, passionate, intentional stories of love.

Oh child of God! If you could only see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of heaven, the bright light of Christ’s face, you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over mountain slopes of existence.


KatieKatie Sjogren is a twenty-something living in Philadelphia, PA with her sweet husband Jordan. Katie is an avid choice maker, Starbucks consumer, chunky sweater wearer, blustery weather lover, and deep conversation maker.  You can read more about Katie & Jordan’s life on her blog, A Thousand Little Choices, where they choose joy, follow Christ and live fearlessly for love.

(photo credit–Pamela Moore, Getty Images)


How To Have A Money Date

A Money DateA couple weeks ago, Tim and I payed off all our credit card debt. It was a joyous occasion with much merriment and some living room dancing {um, more from me than Tim}. The next week, we had all of these overly adultish things happen at once. Being debt free was short-lived due to root canals and tax surprises. Those unexpected expenses were the best thing that could have happened to our finances, despite the damper they put on our recent freedom.

That sounds utterly absurd, but those expenses forced us to finally sit down and have a serious chat about our budget – a Money Date as I like to call it. {I’m capitalizing here because I really think it should be a recognized proper noun :) }

Money Dates are the best thing you can do for your finances because talking about money  is the first step to financial health. You have to communicate to make money work for your family and your budget. Plus, the date aspect makes financial planning fun – well, at least more fun that it would be without the date part.

Our Money Date

Tim and I wanted to be more intentional about how we spend our money, so our Money Date revolved around building a detailed budget. We are excited to take on April expenses with this new structure in place, though our budget system is by no means revolutionary. We haven’t taken Financial Peace, but we believe in Dave Ramsey’s money principles. So, we created a budget that snowballs debt (which for us includes Tim’s student loans), creates an emergency fund, and leaves a zero balance at the end of each month.

We happened to be staying in a beautiful cabin in Montana last weekend, which was the perfect setting for our Money Date. A large fire roared as we snuggled into the couch with blankets, tea, dessert, and a spreadsheet. A calculator came in handy, too! The atmosphere made a somewhat stressful topic seem less daunting.


How To Have A Money Date

Here are our recommendations on having a successful Money Date:

  • Who: Just you two. This is a great time to build intimacy as you work together to examine spending habits, fight financial woes, and create a budget. The less distractions the better.
  • What: Both Tim and I think Money Dates work best when they are part of a shared experience. You want to already be relaxed and having fun. This could be a day trip, a hike, a few hours in a coffee shop… Whatever you do, make the experience feel special and work in time to discuss your finances. The fun will make finances less burdensome. 
  • Where: If you can avoid distractions in your home, being alone is really nice. However, a cozy coffee shop or secluded restaurant booth would work nicely as well. Just be sure you can camp out for a while. Tim mentioned it’s nice to be in neutral territory where you wouldn’t incorporate past discussions or stressful associations into an already sensitive topic.
  • When: Be wise and know thyself. Pick a time when both of you will be alert and happy. Don’t force your night-owl husband to go on a sunrise hike then expect him to settle in to a cheery discussion about finances over a latte. That won’t end well.
  • Why: Communication, communication, communication! It’s so important to get everything out in the open – bank statements, credit card debt, receipts, pay stubs, etc. If you don’t have a budget, make one. If you do have a budget, evaluate how it’s working. Money Dates are for you to communicate and get on the same page about your finances. It’s not you against your spouse because of finances; it should be you and your spouse against your finances. 

Tim and I built our budget using Mint – it’s free and you can access it on any electronic device. After importing your bank accounts, Mint will categorize all your transactions and keep track of your spending in an easy to read chart. If we weren’t using Mint, we would probably be doing the envelope maneuver {putting cash for each budget category in envelopes and purchasing everything from those envelopes}.

We plan to have weekly or bi-monthly {haven’t decided yet} mini Money Dates to go over our budget and see how our spending is adding up.

After lots of calculating costs and allocating funds, we were pleased to have a solid budget as a result of our date. Though we have always been of similar mind about money, both of us kept saying we wished we had had this detailed of a discussion at the beginning of our marriage. It’s surprisingly liberating to live on a budget.

Have you ever been on a Money Date? What are your strategies to keep money from creating marital conflict?

photo credit: donbuciak via photopin cc
photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via photopin cc