Casting the Vision of Marriage

We just got back from a marriage retreat that had some pretty clear ideas around vision and how that affects your marriage. Initially when they started talking about vision I got super pumped because I am a planner through and through and our family is no stranger to goal setting.

Here is a simple thought that sums up what vision is like for your marriage: When there is no vision, there is no direction.

Selfie on a date nightThe world is ready to cast a vision of what your relationship and marriage should look like. The true question becomes “what do you want the vision of your relationship to look like”? I want our marriage to be intentional, filled with joy and laughter, adventure moments, and plenty of photographs to document the journey.

Selfie Sticks for LIFE

When you set a clear vision, you have a direction. You have an idea of the action steps that need to get you to your end goal of what you are passionate about. The key is to clearly write out your goals, your vision, so that the outside pressures do not take over with expectations of what your relationship “should” look like.

Vision spurs passion and passion leads to discipline.

What does this look like, though? Strategically plan what you want your marriage to look like in 5 years. What do you want to be true of your finances? Saving money each month allowed us to get out of our student loan debt. It wasn’t easy, but we knew in 5 years we wanted to be able to focus on adventures with our family rather than on paying down debt. The vision to become debt free created direction and ultimately action steps to project us forward.

Decide on the areas you want to drive the direction of your marriage and be intentional to create vision. Make a coffee date to slow down and reconnect. Make a weekend of it, alone, just the two of you. Whatever a strategy session would look like for you and your spouse- make it happen. Now is the time to cast the vision of what you want your relationship and family to look like in 5 years.

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Love is Square

Have you heard of Malvi’s?

They are these delicious little marshmallow squares, all homemade by a young woman in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course I first discovered them through Instagram and Conner and I stalked them out last year for our Anniversary adventure. They were doing a pop up shop at the local West Elm. I thought we would show up to try the treats but they had turned the little confections into ice cream sandwiches.

Malvi Ice Cream Sandwich

I die. So delicious.

Well fast forward over 6 months and they now have miniature malvi’s and I lack the tan that I had back in August. #WhatTheWhat?!?!

Laura was kind enough to send us some of the new mini’s and we decided to turn the goodies into a date night treat.Mini Malvi

Conner used his Boy Scout skills to create a fire for us and we made a little pallet on the floor to create our s’more’s. (Disclaimer this fire was from an outdoor shopping mall that we visited. I don’t know who I have become but I forgot to take a photo during the actual date night. Let’s chalk it up to be that I was simply living in the moment). We may or may not have fired up our current binge watching obsession of Parenthood because let’s be real- my ideal outdoor adventure looks more like glamping than a hardcore wilderness sans technology combination.Fire

Okay, so have I made you hungry or at least a little inspired to fire up your own indoor date night? Well, head over to our Instagram because Malvi has decided to gift one of their new miniature sets to you! Simply like the Instagram photo of the giveaway and follow our account and you will have a chance to win! Winner will be announced on Wednesday, February 18th.

I am always looking for new date ideas so let me know what kind of indoor date nights you have done before?

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Featured: MyFitnessPal


Today the fine folks over at MyFitnessPal shared our story on their blog! We were so excited to speak with them and share some tips on how we use their app. MFP was absolutely instrumental in our weight loss and we are so happy that they chose us to represent the success possible through their company.

For those of you heading here from their blog: welcome and we’re glad you are here! Below are some links to articles we have written with handy tips and tricks to help you along your own fitness journey. Be sure to stick around, connect with us on Instagram, and thanks for visiting!

Resolve to be Healthier

Where to Begin on a Fitness Journey?

Training Tips for Adventure Racing

Ahh Sugar Sugar: 4 Replacement Ideas

Health and Wellness Hits the Road

Money Monday: Fitness on a Budget

Looking back on the most transformative year of our lives!

Oh did we mention that we are on Pinterest pinning ideas? Yep- Don’t miss it!

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Christmas 2014 Recap

Oh you know, it is half way through January so why not recap Christmas? #It’sNeverTooLate.

One of my favorite things about Mandy is the emphasis she places on tradition. A recurring theme of our family goals each year is maintaining our current traditions and creating new ones. No time during the year are these more apparent than around Christmas. Just like every family, we have tons of things we keep every year to celebrate the holiday season.

Christmas Tradition Game StrongShevolpthamalooza

Our kick off to Christmas each year is called Shevolpthamalooza. That already tongue-twisting name will just continue to get more difficult as our siblings get married. The day after Thanksgiving all of our siblings come over to play games and spend the night. I love this time to enjoy time with just the “kids”. We have done everything from homemade pizzas to Settlers of Catan to painting canvases. This event was the beginning of the Celebrity game that our high school students love to play. Eventually, as the families grow with kids, we hope to turn this day into a Family Olympics!

St. Nick

Mandy’s German family gave us this early December celebration. On the night of the 5th every year, you place your shoes outside and St. Nick comes to fill them with small goodies. The Sheppard’s are serious about St. Nick and gifts have been delivered wherever you can imagine. In fact one year, Mandy got a kettlebell in her shoes in New York City while we were on vacation!

Christmas Eve 2014

Christmas Story

Growing up, Melissa and I were the typical kids who woke up somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:47AM to begin Christmas morning. We would walk to my parents’ room, wake them up, and be told to wait until they had everything ready. For the next hour (or two or three), we would hear my Dad downstairs making coffee, building a fire, doing dishes – whatever he could to give my Mom the most time to sleep possible. During these long waits, my sister and I created the tradition of getting the Bible and reading the story of Jesus’ birth to each other. Now thanks to technology, we FaceTime each year and I read Luke 2 before either of our families dive into the things under the tree. This year we created a new traditions where we all had cinnamon rolls that we could enjoy on Christmas morning at our various homes so that we could feel like we were together even when we were apart.Festive Snowman Cinnamon Roll Tradition

Advent Candles

Mandy’s family celebrates Advent with a special wreath at each table with candles. A few years ago, they had to replace the Christmas tree that was their Grandmother’s and Mommy used the branches from that tree to make Advent wreaths for each of us. Every Sunday leading up to Christmas, we light one additional candle in the wreath and gather around the table for a family dinner. On Christmas Eve, we eat the traditional weinerschnitzel, German potato salad, and sauerkraut. Once everyone sits and all of the candles are lit, no one is allowed to get up from the table for any reason until everyone is finished and the candles have been blown out. We always have to use the restroom and be sure to grab the ketchup beforehand!

Christmas Date

Anyone who knows Mandy knows that date nights are just about her favorite thing in the entire world. Christmas is no exception so we created a day just for ourselves. With as many fantastic Christmas celebrations as we have with family, we always take a day out to spend just the two of us. I’ll get up and cook a big brunch where I can try out my fanciest breakfast recipes. We always go see a movie and go grab dinner at a new restaurant. It’s a special time to spend with each other, recharge our quality time tanks, and celebrate our favorite holiday together.Sleigh Ride Atlanta Style in a Pedi Cab

These are just a few of our traditions. What traditions do you do with your family during the Christmas season?

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State of Our Union 2015

Each year, we get together for a special tradition called our State of Our Union. It’s kind of like the marriage spin on the State of THE Union address. What can we say, we like a theme.

We use the SOOU to look back over the previous year and analyze what worked, what didn’t work, what we want to do again, and things we want to change in the upcoming year. Also, this is where we sit down and create our list of family goals for the year. We have broken things down into six categories: family/marriage, social, financial, spiritual, fitness/health, and business.Goal Setting SOOU

This year, we were lucky to be able to take a vacation for our kick-off. We went to Seven Springs Resort just outside of Pittsburgh, PA and got to ski, snow shoe, and relax as we looked forward to 2015. Each year, we go through and do an individual look back before we come together and discuss the year ahead. This way we aren’t influencing each others opinions and we can honestly process our view of the year. PA Advenutre

Here are some of the goals that we have set for 2015!

Family/Marriage: Take Brinkley on more walks and to the dog park more often, go to a marriage retreat
Financial: Create Adventure Fund, increase tithing
Social: Start having a Dinner Club, spend more time bonding with our small groups
Business: 5 new Fox Den Woodshop projects
Spiritual: Begin a new married small group, find a place to speak about issues that are part of our story
Fitness/Health: Mandy – Finish a half-marathon, try aerial silks; Conner – Complete a Spartan Trifecta, find my elusive abs

9acBBu1DC7oDsPLXHto-9_l2cGUgwfDDsxIZ8TgjxD4Those are just a few of the things we are working towards this year. What are your 2015 goals?

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Vision Owners

Last night, Mandy and I were thrilled to attend the first volunteer training session at the new home of Gwinnett Church. I’ve been lucky to go by the building a couple of times over the past few weeks, but last night was quite different. From the moment we walked in the door something felt more exciting, more expectant – even electric. The building is fantastic, but when you pack it full of the most passionate volunteers it takes it to a whole different level.


Paul, Adam, Trey, Matt, Rica, Tim, Ryan, Jonathan, Davis – the GC worship dream team – kicked things off by literally shaking the walls. Seriously some of the best worship I have ever experienced. You guys absolutely rock!

One of the other awesome highlights was walking through all of the environments and seeing the level of thought and detail that was put into everything. The woodwork around the place obviously stuck out to me most of all, but everywhere you turned there was some other meaningful art piece. We saw photos of events that we attended through the years and found our signatures on the old #FORGwinnett sign. We saw the representation of the 280,000 unchurched people in Gwinnett County. We saw representations of the church’s mission and strategy. We even saw the colors in the mural that we helped paint in the children’s environment. Each detail looks fantastic; I think Mandy wants to get Lauren’s shopping list so that she can redecorate the house now!

small group room

However, more importantly than the physical building was the vision that Jeff shared with those of us that he called “vision owners”. The #FORGwinnett hashtag has spread quickly and represents one of our mission statements with which I could not agree more. For too long the church has been known for what it is against, but we want people to know that we and the God we serve are FOR them. As is the case anytime Jeff speaks, I was fired up big time.

We are so excited for this next chapter in the life of Gwinnett Church. Mandy and I are incredibly blessed to be involved with this staff, these volunteers, and these people. There is so much greatness ahead for the folks of Gwinnett County so let’s go have fun. Here’s to the crazy ones!

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Learning to be domestic

Eating out is probably the easiest thing you can do when you hate cooking or, in my case, can’t cook. I was very discouraged when an automatic switch didn’t turn on when I said “I do”, turning me into a domestic goddess. I mean, I thought by saying “I Do” it would create an instant knowledge base of how to make something other than dinner from a blue box.

I was wrong.

Dinners were burnt

There was not enough money to eat out every night.

And the tears flowed.


I began to question my ability to provide as a wife (Sorry to anyone gnashing their teeth right now at the thought that cooking is a wife-only duty).

Yes, Conner cooked frequently, but I needed to be able to cook too and prepare meals that I could invite people over to enjoy with us.

Luckily a sweet mentor friend stepped in with a few easy recipes once we identified that I just needed “simple” recipes with less than 3 ingredients in order to set myself up for success. Thus began my 101 in 1001 journey, which included new recipes to try.

Fast forward two years and that cooking journey transformed in to how to take these recipes and tweak them to our healthier lifestyle. Because let’s be honest…I thought making a whole box of penne pasta with meatballs was appropriate for two people.


Cooking ideas for a healthier lifestyle

So, we scoured the interwebs for easy recipes that could be tweaked for our meals. My favorite resources for recipes include Dashing Dish, Skinny Taste, Skinny Fork, and a cookbook called “America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook”.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Good-for-you Brownies

Stuffed Quinoa Peppers

Finally you have my Pinterest board with recipes I am working up the courage to make.

If you are looking to incorporate a healthy meal tonight, check out our favorite recipes. Also, if you have one that you usually love to make- send it my way because I am now a little more confident in the kitchen. But don’t send over a recipe if it has an ingredient I can’t pronounce or more than 5-6 ingredients because I will still get overwhelmed.

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