Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cheers To New Adventures

I sit on Alaska flight 637 headed to Seattle, departing from Phoenix. With anticipation in my veins and a hunger to learn, I’m embarking on my first work trip with my new job. Just a week into working! This would seem pretty minuscule if it hadn’t been for my journey leading up to this moment. But it has been magical for many reasons. Well, besides the fact that I forgot to check in my flight so I’m literally in the last seat possible, next to the three bathrooms where people keep bumping me with their butts as they try to discreetly exit the lavatories. But other than a few sassy flight attendants and some awkward airport people, things have been going smoothly. 

Let’s get to the magical part! I have some pretty ambitious goals for my career and personal achievements within the workforce. But if you would have told me 6 years ago, that I’d be where I am, on this flight, I would have been wide-eyed and terrified. When I decided to go to college I had a good idea that I wanted to get my degree in something creative and technology based. I love art and I love computers. Perfect, right?! Well, there was a degree that just opened at Arizona State University, it
was brand new and they only offered it online, they didn’t provide on campus classes. After looking into some of the courses I decided it aligned with where I saw myself in the future, plus I knew the digital world was growing and changing, so I felt like it was a great fit.

While I was finishing my degree, I entered into my first professional job, almost 6 years ago now! I worked Mon-Thurs and they started me at $8.00. Yeah baby, a full $8 bucks an hour. I was over the moon with an opportunity to gain experience while finishing my degree so I was cool with taking a clean $8. I ended up working at this small digital marketing company for a little over three years ending my hourly rate at $11.50.

My last 6 months at that company, I had gotten married, moved into our new apartment and felt a nudge in my spirit that it was time for my next endeavor. To be honest, it was in year two of working there that I started getting restless and sick of working in a really tough environment. From sexual harassment, being underpaid, and being more than micromanaged (if that’s a thing), it was tough to stick around. But I never felt like I wasn’t released from that job, until my last 6 months. It was a strong urge to leave and a desire to push myself to greater things.

The second company I applied for ended up being a winner! It was a lovely office in Downtown Phoenix with a cool culture and great people. I was ecstatic to join an agency and a team of young, intelligent digital marketers. I spent the next two and a half years learning more about paid and organic social advertising. I bumped my hourly rate to $15 bucks (or so) and felt like I hit the lottery. Well, compared to the position I had previously. Still not ideal, but it was better and I was grateful. I grew exponentially, I was challenged, and I had even more direction and clarity about the next steps I wanted to take in my career. Over the course of those two digital marketing job, there were times where I cried to my husband, about feeling underappreciated, underpaid and unsettled with where I was. But I knew that’s where I needed to be, I knew I needed those jobs, for my confidence, my experience and my personal growth in the corporate world.

But again, I was restless. I can’t truly describe the tug-of-war I experienced in my soul of feeling like I needed to be at that job but also knowing that a new door was going to open. I didn’t know what door, what opportunity, or what the heck all my feelings were about. So, I decided, until something else came along, I would keep my head down, work hard, stick in my lane, do the best I could, push myself and wait. And wait. And wait. Sometimes very frustrated and very impatient, but I waited! Although I couldn’t have imagined myself where I am right now, I was confident that I wouldn’t have to force myself into my next position and that it would open up, unexpectedly.

In my efforts to do my job well, I chatted with my dad about some of the things I was working on in my job and the desires I had to unite all of our departments more. My dad works in the direct mail and digital world as well, so he’s always been someone I bounce ideas off of. He asked if I wanted to chat with his company’s VP of Digital Marketing and I jumped on the opportunity to pick his brain. He lives in Seattle, so we set up a call to chat! It was a lovely conversation about social advertising, processes, and digital strategies. I got to ask and learn and gain knowledge from his incredible experience. My plan was to take all of my newly learned information and go back into my job and test out some of his suggestions and try to make our company a more fluid workspace. To bring new findings and create a more dynamic team. I know, lofty goals. 

By the end of our conversation, Bryan casually asked if I was looking to switch jobs or if I was interested in applying at their company. I was totally caught off guard, and I awkwardly stumbled over my words and I tried to explain that I wasn’t actively looking to switch jobs but that I was interested. He stated something that I will forever remember. He said, “We love to hire intelligent people like yourself.” Like MYSELF? What! I was totally taken aback. Especially for someone who struggles with confidence and feeling inadequate in just about everything I do. (Don’t worry folks, I’m working on it!) From our 45 min chat, he sparked a little flame in my spirit. Maybe this was the answer to my prayers, questions, and future career goals.

Since this is a forever long post already, I’ll spare you all the details. But basically, I went through a month-long interview process, between that chat with Bryan to my final interview. It was a pretty intense interview process and it challenged me to really express my knowledge and experience. Plus, I was asking for a $17,000 raise, and I was anxiously believing for this new opportunity to come together! I finally got an email to call one of the ladies from HR for a quick chat. I was expecting a bit more HR related questions, but instead, she kindly offered me the job. But not at a $17,000 raise but a $21,000 raise. They offered me $4,000 more than I had expected. Paying for all my health insurance and great 401K benefits, which I’m very passionate about. I’m posting all this personal information, not to gloat about my new job, but to merely highlight the goodness I’ve been able to experience through staying faithful with what’s right in front of me.  And even more, to highlight how God truly listened to my prayers and blessed me with, literally, more than I had asked or imagined.

After officially getting the job, signing papers and putting my resignation at my previous job, I was told that there were 250 applicants for the position I got. The most applicants they had received for any job opening, ever, at their company. So many that they ended up closing the job posting. They said I was in the top 3 based on education and job experience. This is still so crazy to me, guys! I still laugh at the thought that somehow, as I was flipping through paperwork back in 2008 trying to select a bachelor’s degree, that it would have led me to this very moment, years later. I’ll take a few butt bumps by the bathroom lavatory if it means it gets me closer to my career goals. I am barely scratching the surface of my dreams, but goodness, I never thought it’d feel this good. It’s been tiresome at times, and confusing, but I couldn’t have planned this better, through the questions, tears, accomplishments, and frustrations, I am one step closer baby!

Stay faithful. You are seen.
Work hard and keep grinding.
But at the end of the day, listen to the spirit inside you, it will guide you better than any plans you could conjure up.

And here is my final encouragement to you… Wait for the right moment to move on. Do your best to end things well, in your job, in your relationships or just in life situations. How you end one season is usually how you start a new one. Don’t burn bridges, give people respect and by all means, be kind. You never know how opportunities in the future will find their way back in your life, so be nice and laugh a lot!

Sheena West

Monday, October 26, 2015

To Live & Give Like No One Else

Do you ever feel like you're fighting a silent battle? 
No one sees your struggle, your determination, your weak and weary heart - but you keep fighting! 

Well, my husband, Kasey, and I took the leap into marriage almost a year ago now. One area that we've been told could and WILL cause tension in our marriage is finances. Which makes sense, finances are a huge part of survival in this world. Money provides you the opportunity to buy something special for those you love. Go out to eat cause you're just exhausted from work. It gives you the ability to travel and see the world. To keep a roof over your head. And to bless others! Money is super important!

Prior to even getting married, Kasey and I discussed our financial situations. The debt we have, our finance goals and what makes us worry or feel secure about finances. I shared that I have never had a credit card, nor do I ever want one. My parents have blessed me by paying for my school, which means we are making NO payments for school. Basically, I worked really hard to fill up my savings and not buy things on credit. (All thanks to my parents teachings and financial help). So I had about $6000.00 saved by the time we were getting married. Kasey and I had a combined total of around $3000.00 left to pay in mine and his wedding rings. (I made him a custom ring, and it was a pretty penny, and worth every bit of it!) Kasey ended up in the hospital, for a week, about 4 months before we got married. We basically consumed $26,143.30 in medical bills by the time we got married. (Talk about daunting) Kasey shared, before we got married, about his one credit card that was around $7000.00. And his school debt totaling around $62,000.00 (give it up for those private Christian schools, YO!). Needless to say, it was a lot of money. Well, it STILL IS a lot of money. Those are BIG numbers.

I'm very passionate about personal finances! Seriously, you can ask my husband! So naturally, knowing the kind of financial state we started with, I brought up the idea before we got married, to take a little bit of time every Saturday to discuss finances. Since people warned us about potential financial strains, we took a proactive approach to be on the same page, EVERY WEEK, when it came to our finances. Airing out our dirty laundry was messy at first, but it has given us the opportunity to adjust and budget accordingly. It hasn't been easy, but from day one of our marriage, we've made an agreement to start paying off debt, to live within our means, and to become financially free! We use the envelop system, which means we have actual physical envelops of every expense we have. And every two weeks we take out all but $200.00 from our checking account and use cash to budget our life out. And we use the $200.00 we leave in our account for gas and emergencies if we're out and don't have the envelop we need.

This is what we've accomplished after being married just under a year:

- Within the first three months of marriage, we made big payments and paid off our rings. So we brought $3000.00 down to ZERO! A very happy day in our home! That felt like a small but encouraging feat to keep us going and paying off all the rest of our debt. 

- On January 27th, 2015, Kasey called me, on my way home from work, and told me he had big news. I got home, he told me to sit down, and explained that insurance covered, $8157.81 of our medical debt. Which means we still had $16,223.30 - BUT, he said that the amount was totally dismissed (I still have no idea how), and we only had to pay $1,762.00. Which we have already paid off! Not to mention another couple thousand we have paid off from different colonoscopies, doctors' visits, prescriptions, etc. Our medical debt is done and GONE!  

- We've been slowly working at our $7000.00 credit card debt. It's not gone, but it's so close! We did a balance transfer from our one credit card to another, in order to receive no interest rates on $2000.00 of that amount. I am happy to say, that Kasey and I are one more paycheck away from paying off that $2000.00 bucks. And, we are on track to pay off the rest of the credit card debt by May or June of 2016! Yes!!! We can't wait to have no more credit card debt. And in about 6 months, WE WON'T! 

- As for that big school loan number, well, I wish I could say it's gone, BUT, it's not yet! We've been making payments on it and slowly bringing that number down. People act like I should just keep our school debt around like it's a pet. But that's not our goal, nor our desire. So we will keep paying minimum payments on the school debt until next May or June (once our credit cards are paid off), and then we will dump anything and everything we can into paying that little sucker off!

But we have good news! God keeps blessing us. Kasey just recently got a new job, and a pay raise to go with it! This means, we can achieve our goals faster. I just recently set up my 401(K), and now Kasey will have the room to do the same. This will help us prepare for a better future down the road. 

I hope my writing and excitement about finances isn't fooling you - it has been really rough at times in the West household. Kasey and I both sacrifice a lot in order to make $600.00 payments a month in just our credit cards (alone). We hardly ever eat out. We make breakfast, pack snacks and lunch every day, and we also make dinner every night. We live off $100.00 for groceries each week, and we make it WORK! We don't take lavish vacations, go out and see movies on the weekends, or buy things on a whim. And at times, it feels like we're drowning in debt. There has been Friday and Saturday nights where I curl up on the couch with Kasey and cry, just sharing how hard it is to be diligent and careful with our money. It's hard to see others going to concerts, traveling, buying houses and getting new cars while we look at each other and understand that's not where we're at in life. Not yet at least! 

I listen to Dave Ramsey, A LOT! His ministry and story keeps me motivated, encouraged and hopeful for our future. I have been laughed at, made fun of, and talked down to because of the way Kasey and I are handling our money. It doesn't make sense to everyone. I've been asked why we would strive so hard, especially in the first year of marriage, when there are so many other stresses. My answer is, we want more years of our life not "just making it" financially, but instead thriving, helping our kids pay for their college, and blessing others with random gifts just for the fun of it! 

"When you keep doing smart stuff for 5 days you have a good result, but when you do smart stuff for 5 years you really start to see a thing take on a life of its own." "You have to live like no one else, in order to live and give like no one else!" 
- Dave Ramsey 

So, we march on! Making small dents in our financial debt, while we learn to enjoy the process. God has been so good to us, and we've learned so much about Him and each other. We have learned what makes us feel secure and what things are important to us. We've seen God provide in big and unusual ways and I know he will continue to. We will continue to fight our quiet battle, and make choices that will lend us a greater future! 

I give everything to You Lord 

Monday, December 29, 2014

We're done with 2014?

You know those days, months, and years that you can't wait to be over? The times that seem like nothing is going right, everything has been crazy, and you just want a dose of relief? As I look back on twenty-fourteen, I am truly in awe of how much life has happened in JUST one year. My sister and I recently chatted about some major events that have taken place over this year, the good stuff, the hard stuff, and the amazing miracles that have taken place.

Then we agreed that if 2015 is less hectic, we wouldn't be mad! 

I want to share some amazing things that have happened over this past year.
Not to show a highlight reel, but to hopefully show you how good God has been to my family & I. 

My lovely sister, after years of dreaming of being a momma, became a stunning and super amazing mother to the cutest nephew an aunt could ask for! Although she was sick pretty much her entire pregnancy, Luke and her managed to produce quite a charming young man! It's been an awesome experience to watch my sister navigate motherhood. Her transparency, and openness about the good days and the hard days, shows me how much she desires to love her little man! So blessed to have an ever growing family.

Kasey and I got engaged! In June! In Portland! It was wonderful! We were so excited to get engaged and to be surrounded by loving friends and family. 5 months later, we got married. I might be a bit bias, but it was the most amazing wedding, EVER! I married a man that God plopped into my life as one of my best friends, never realizing that he would one day be my husband! I couldn't have picked a better human being to walk through life with. To fight for God's best for our lives, and to navigate through the madness of life. He's irreplaceable & incomparable! I'm officially MRS. WEST!

After Kasey and I got engaged, he started experiencing some pretty serious health issues. So the time that is usually spent celebrating our engagement, was actually spent figuring out how to operate with each other. It was a very good, and hard test of our relationship. After spending a week in the hospital, Kasey being out of work for two months, getting blood transfusions and having tons of tests done, he is healthier now. The scare of almost losing your soon-to-be husband, is enough to stress a girl out. But in those dark times, we saw God moving, working, healing, renewing, and drawing us closer to Him. Kasey and I figured out, before our wedding, that we truly meant, "in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor."

Last year in October, my sweet little niece was born! The next day, we found out that she was born with heart complications and she had to receive open heart surgeries. It was a scary time. Wondering, hoping, and praying that this little warrior would make it. But she's proven to us all, that she's a fighting, a very determined fighter! This year, in October, we got to celebrate this beauties first birthday. A miracle celebration that was lathered with the reminder of God's grace, His goodness, and His healing power. She's a walking testament to her parents love and prayers, and God's sweet reminder to live fully, love passionately, and waste no time on tomorrows but to live in each moment, today!  

Now, this picture may not look like much, but to me, it screams that God is faithful. It's a moment that I truly cherish. I have gotten to share my heart a few times at the women's event at my church, and each time I'm asked to hold a mic, I'm humbled. I had to make some really hard decisions in life to hold onto what I felt like God was calling me to. This is just a little glimpse of how God has shown me that He will bless me in my faithfulness, even if no one notices my efforts or acknowledges my desires to remain steadfast. He shows me daily, that He is watching over my life.

On top of all that, I've enjoyed countless cups of coffee with people who trust me enough to share their lives, their hurts, and their struggles with me. I've celebrated birthdays. Moved into a new place. Attended weddings. Wrote new spoken words and sketched new drawings. Seen God move and change lives in the youth students I do ministry with. Learned more about myself. My God. & My husband.

And although so much was packed into one year, I don't want to rush into 2015 to escape the madness of 2014. I actually feel quite lucky to look back over this past year and remember and embrace every life event. I'm thankful for each moment that exposed, even more, how thoughtful, loving, detail oriented, and personal my God is.

As I finish out 2014, I have so many things that I am looking forward to. All the new visions, dreams, ideas, plans, goals, and adventures that have yet to come to life. I am so expectant for the new things that will unfold in twenty-fifteen. I am anxious, in the best way possible, to see the amazing ways God will show Himself to me and to my family.

I'm ready to kick some major butt in 2015. Let's do this!
Cheers to 2015!  

 I give everything to You Lord

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Favorite Day Ever

I walked down the isle, November 22nd, to a man that I am so in love with. When the doors opened and I saw my husband-to-be, I can't begin to share the confidence that I felt in that moment. I was certain. Without a shadow of doubt, that this was the man I wanted to walk through life with. I couldn't even cry, walking down the isle, because I was just overjoyed that God has taken Kasey and I so far in life.  It was a beautiful feeling to know that I can stand tall, in the confidence that God has been leading, and will continue leading, our relationship. 

Kasey and I had so much fun celebrating our wedding with friends and family. It was perfect! Being surrounded by amazing people on a day that is such a life changing experience. 
Here are some stunning photos from my favorite day ever!   

A big shout out to our photographer, Danielle! 
Check out here website here: Danielle Apple Photography