Many hands together: group of people joining handsI belong to my parents as their son. I belong to my wife & family because I made a commitment years ago. I belong as a member of Southern Hills Christian Church where I’m committed to growing in my faith and helping others grow as well. I belong to the Board of REALTORS because I’m a member. The most important membership I have is in God’s family. I belong to Him. In each of these situations I bring honor or dishonor to the place I belong. I’m thankful that the Lord makes up for the many deficiencies that I have. Check this out…

 For none of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; Lord. Christ died and returned to life for this: that he might be Lord over both the dead and the living. (Romans 14:7-9 CSB)

Sometimes I look at my hands and feet and realize that these are the same hands that did some stupid thing in 7th grade. These are the same feet that went places I shouldn’t have in High School. As my body ages, I’m coming to terms with the end of this life which is death. I am not afraid of death, I just want those who count on me to be prepared because it does happen. Hopefully I’ve got several more years of life left.  I need to be prepared today if eternity knocks. If I’m living for the Lord, my preparation is well on its way. If I’m living for me, then I’m missing the destination instructions.

I want to live today knowing that the Lord holds this day and He also holds tomorrow. It is not my role to worry, it is my role to trust Him and seek to honor Him. I want to live as someone who has already died to myself. If I’ve died to me, then I can’t change the stuff I worry about. I can’t protect my family – He does that. I really can’t do anything IF I’m already dead to myself. I trust in the Lord completely to direct my path and guide my heart. In dying to myself, I’m really living for Him. I belong to Him – all of me; all for Him.

Pressing On!


Heart Versus Flesh

Behind the maskSome people believe the end is near. I remember in 1988 there was some guy who believed that the world was coming to an end. He had made some calculations based on data he has acquired. He was wrong. Here we are nearly 30 years later. No one knows when this world will end. I believe we should be alert and ready at a moment’s notice. I could be taken in an accident while driving. I’m not trying to be morbid, but I am trying to alert and ready no matter what happens to me – I want to be ready when my time on earth ends.

My heart and flesh are the practical battle that fights inside of me. It’s the same spiritual battle that features God’s Spirit versus the enemy. Paul gives some practical counsel about preparing for this internal battle. Check this out..

11 Besides this, since you know the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.12 The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh. (Romans 13:11-14 CSB)

I want to cloth myself with the armor of light. This armor can cover me completely. Light exposes and reveals the darkness and chases it from the room.  When I sin, I like it to be quietly covered so that I’m not called out. I can’t hide my sin from the Lord. I am accountable to the Lord for everything I do, everything I say and everything I think. My wife holds me accountable for the first two, but God’s Spirit can assist with my thoughts.

I want to glorify the Lord NOT gratify the desires of my flesh.

I want be transparent before the Lord as well as others, NOT secretive and suspicious.

I want to live and work from a heart that is fully committed to the work of God.

Pressing On!


#WreckItWednesday- May 24, 2017

10 Ways to Fill a Blank Wall

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10 Ways to Fill a Blank Wall

Staring at an expanse of blank wall, it’s nearly impossible to dream up a way to fill it. The possibilities are endless, and because of that, it’s difficult to narrow down the options. We thought we’d suggest a few ideas:


Especially in an entryway, this is a great way to fill up some space. It’s an elegant focal point near a front door, but it’s also functional. Guests can lay their coats on the upholstered bench, and it’s a great spot to slip on your shoes before leaving the house. It’s also just so elegant!

We used our large Beaudry Mirror in Pewter and paired it with our Rene Bench in Soho Velvet Lemongrass.

Use a large clock to create a focal point on a blank wall


Our Chateau Betton Wall Clock in white looks striking against a navy wall. At 36″ wide, this clock is a great way to make a lot of impact on a wall that just seems never ending!

Use a large wall sconce to fill space on a blank wall


Our Valletta Wall Sconce is nearly 3 feet tall which means it has a lot of look and can make a dramatic statement on a blank wall. We love the patina-ed finish and the elegant gilding on the candle arms. Our favorite way to use this piece? In pairs on either side of a mantle piece!

Use a series of paintings to fill a blank wall in a living room


Really wanting to create drama but don’t know where to start? May we suggest a series of paintings in a grandiose scale, like our Seasons Art? No matter what room it’s in, we love the way a grouping of these paintings immediately create drama and impact.

Use wall hooks and a gallery wrapped canvas painting to fill a blank wall


Function is super important, especially in a hardworking space like an entryway. But, we always want to bring in a little personality too. In this space we paired a impressionistic painting of boat with a set of wall hooks to create a pretty space that also works hard for you and your family!

Dramatic drapery panels are a great way to fill wall space


We often forget about drapery panels when we’re thinking about filling wall space in our homes, but once your curtains are up, you’ll notice things feel far less bare! We suggest hanging your drapery rod brackets 3-6 inches out from your window moulding to make your windows appear wider, but you’ll see the added benefit of filling up wall space.

Neutral color palette in living room on pillows


You may have noticed how much we love the message board, and it’s true. We use them in nearly every room, but that’s just because they’re so practical! They’re like chameleons, changing to blend in with the decor around it. Simply switch out whatever you tack up there for a totally new look. Here we used a set of 8 botanical prints, all tacked to our Burlap Message Board as a pretty grouping over a sofa.

Shelving is a great way to use your wall space for storage and function


Don’t forget that walls aren’t just for hanging paintings and photographs. We love using this vertical space for something functional, like shelving. Our Calista Shelf has gorgeous gilded brackets and crisp, white shelves. They certainly take wall storage to an elegant space that works in a powder room, home office, dressing area, or formal living room.

Melissa Payne Baker's home featuring Ballard Designs Amiel Mirror


Here’s a sure fire way to turn an empty, ugly duckling wall into a glittering focal point: our Amiel Mirror. Our Exclusive Artist Melissa Payne Baker is a big Ballard fan (even before she became one of our artists), and she’s used our Amiel Mirror on her stair landing, flanked by homemade dried botanical prints.

Use wall pockets to fill a bit of blank wall in a home office


We mentioned how much we love using wall space to add function to a room, and wall pockets are a great way to do that. Labels make it easy to keep things neat and tidy, and we all know how easy it is for paper to get out of hand!

Standard or Upgrade


Web IconWhen buying a car, you can get the standard features or you can get the upgrade. The upgrade always cost more. When building a house or simple remodeling a kitchen, there are standard features you can buy, then there are upgrades. I guess standard is the starting point or the average. In our country, we don’t buy a TV when it wears out, we upgrade to the latest flat panel LCD. The other TV was working perfectly fine, but it was standard. There’s another category that I’ve seen since becoming a REALTOR; it’s called “sub-standard” which is below average or below the starting point.

In Romans 12 (possibly my favorite chapter of scripture), the Apostle Paul really lays out some standard Christian behaviors. These are meant to be the starting point, but they are often not even practiced by Christ-followers. Check this out…

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:9-10; 16-18 CSB)

As a Christ follower, I should not do the minimum standards or starting points. I should grow from there. Sometimes Christians look the same as others who don’t follow the Lord. My behavior should be different. My language should be kinder. My compassion should be deeper. I should keep the spotlight on the Lord and not on me. My life needs to be governed by the Spirit of God living in me. He longs to be seen in me. I can’t “out give” or “out love” the Lord. I should keep growing in these areas and not settle for the starting point.

Today as I begin my day, I’m so thankful for the Lord’s patience with me as I seek to build on the standards set forth and keep upgrading my faith by surrendering to His will and His way.

Pressing On!




Two Scuba Divers With CopySpaceI’ve been mesmerized by scuba diving in the ocean depths. I think that experiencing that in more shallow waters might make it to my bucket list.  I have a healthy respect for deep water because I’m aware that I don’t have gills and can’t breathe under water. I am fascinated by the ocean and the way it never stops. The waves come crashing into shore and the sound of that crashing calms my heart. I know that I sound a bit weird. I’ve never ventured way out into the ocean because I feel a lot more secure anchored to land. The oceans has a lot of unknowns and that interests me and scares me a bit at the same time.

I love how the Apostle Paul speaks of the depths of knowing the Lord. If the ocean is deep (and it is), the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge are deeper still. Check this out..

33 Oh, the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments
and untraceable his ways!
34 For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
35 And who has ever given to God,
that he should be repaid?
36 For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 CSB)

The Lord is difficult to describe. I’m a pretty simple minded person. I can’t begin to make the Lord simple. His love is simple. His mercy and grace is both simple and complex. The more I study the mercy and grace of God, the more I want to follow Him fully and experience both. I am a recipient of both His grace and mercy many times over even though I don’t fully grasp that depth of love.

I want to go deeper in my relationship with the Lord. I want to talk to Him differently. I want to hear the deep whispers in my journey with Him. I want to see His face. I want to put my head on His chest. I want to know Him fully. I want Him to speak to me through His Word. I want His Spirit to direct my spirit. I want His heart to invade my heart. I want to die to myself and live fully for Him. He is so deep and vast, but I want to keep seeking knowledge and understanding of His heart. I to live for Him so I can live forever with Him. I realize that I’m simply trying to follow Him fully, but that’s all He asks.

This passage reminded me of a song by one of my favorite bands of years gone by: Deeper by Delirious.

Pressing On!


#MoneyManagementMonday- May 22, 2017

Tax Advantages of Owning a Home


Tax Benefits That Come From Owning A Home

Tax Advantages of Owning a HomeIt has long been understood that there are considerable financial benefits to owning a home. You are paying money into an actual investment, instead of into your landlord’s bank account, after all. But beyond this basic financial benefit come some other advantages as well, particularly when it comes to tax time.

When you own a home, you can enjoy some tax advantages that renters just don’t have access to. These tax advantages of owning a home, along with fulfilling the American dream are what causes many to abandon their plans to continue renting for an indefinite period.

With rents around the country skyrocketing the tax benefits of owning a home only become more magnified!

The exact tax benefits that you will get from owning your home will vary based on some factors, but suffice it to say that the average homeowner typically gets thousands of dollars in tax deductions related to ownership. The value of these deductions is considerable, and will be especially notable if you have always rented before.

There are several common tax deductions that homeowners can claim, including:

Capital Gains Exclusion

The capital gains exclusion from selling your home is easily the most substantial tax benefit an owner gets from ownership. When you sell your home – hopefully for more than you bought it for – you get to keep the profits up to $500,000 when you are married and $250,000 if single. When you consider that selling other investments, like stocks or bonds, is often taxed at around 15%, you can see why this is such a great benefit. You have the potential to walk away with up to half a million dollars without paying taxes.

Typically these profits are used to buy another home, which is why the tax system is designed this way. You take your tax-free money and invest it in more real estate – the smart move for you and the economy. The latest version of the capital gains exclusion was a tax advantage that was put into place in 1997. You can read about real estate capital gains taxes in our comprehensive article that explains everything you need to know on the subject. Find out who is eligible and who isn’t. See some other provisions of the law you may not be familiar with including the military tax exclusion, spousal death exclusion and the wealthy tax loophole that was closed.

Mortgage Interest

In all the excitement of purchasing a home, many buyers forget about all of the home buying tax deductions come April in the next calendar year. There are lots of them too including mortgage interest, discount points, property taxes, pro-rated interest, mortgage insurance and a few others.

When you take out a mortgage, you can expect to pay a considerable amount of interest, depending on the price of your home and the rate of the mortgage. Much of this interest is paid up front on the loan, meaning that for the first years of home ownership, your monthly payments will be going towards interest – two-thirds of each payment, in many cases. Even if you get a fantastic rate on your mortgage, you are still borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars, which results in a sizable interest payment. Fortunately, you can deduct this mortgage expense on your taxes.

The federal government allows you to deduct all of the interest on the mortgage up until you hit $1 million in interest or $500,000 if you are married and filing separately from your spouse. For most home buyers this means you will be able to deduct mortgage interest throughout the life of the loan.

If you were to take out a mortgage for $300,000 and you had a fixed-rate loan at 4% for 30 years, you would be paying around $11,000 over the first year towards interest. If you fall into the 25% tax bracket, you would be able to deduct approximately $2750 off your taxes. Being able to deduct an extra $2750 off of your yearly tax bill is something anyone can appreciate. In fact, that could be a couple of months rent in some areas depending on what type of property you are renting.

Discount Points

Home Tax Deductions When you got your loan for the house, you may have chosen to purchase discount points on the rate of the loan. A point is essentially 1 percent of the loan amount. So using the example of a $300,000 loan one point would equal 1% of $300,000 or $3000. There is a price for each point, but then you get the enjoy the benefit of having a lower interest rate on your home and the lower monthly payments that result from such an interest rate.

Typically you should pay points if you expect to be in a home for an extended period. Some buyers choose to do this, and some do not, but those that do may be able to deduct the cost of those points. A single point purchase could save you $500 or more off of your tax bill the first year after you buy your home.

When trying to decide whether it makes sense to pay points or not, you will want to take the difference in payment between paying points and not paying them. You then need to figure out how long it will take for a payback on that difference. If you are only planning on staying in the home a couple of years, then you would probably opt not to pay points. As the difference in payment would not be enough to offset the cost savings.

Property Taxes

Wherever you buy your home, you can expect to pay some property taxes. The local school district, the county and the town or city itself may all need funds every year to provide services to the community where your home is located. Usually based off of the assessed value of the house, property taxes are an expense that every homeowner needs to plan for. They can be costly, especially in some regions of the country.

One bonus that comes from paying those taxes, though, is that you can deduct them from your yearly tax bill. You could easily wind up deducting $4,000 or $5,000 a year just from property taxes. Again, a deduction that everyone can appreciate. The amount you can deduct should be discussed with your accountant when preparing your yearly taxes.

Mortgage Insurance

For most people, paying a 20% down payment on a new home is just not possible. Unless you make a considerable amount of money from your job, enjoy some inheritance or have help from your family, 20% is often too hefty an amount for most people to come up with. In fact, many people incorrectly assume a small down payment precludes a buyer from purchasing a home. This is certainly not the case. The cost of not having a 20% down payment, however, is that you have to take out mortgage insurance in most circumstances.

Fortunately, you should be able to deduct the cost of your mortgage insurance off of your tax bill, as long as you make less than $100,000 a year. If you make between $100,000 and $109,999, you may also be able to deduct a portion of your mortgage insurance payment. Most people who claim this deduction enjoy a sizable deduction amount, averaging around $1,000.

As of now, the mortgage insurance deduction has not been renewed by Congress for 2015. If it is not renewed, you will not be able to use this deduction. However, Congress typically waits to renew this particular deduction until the end of the year, so there is hope that it will be there when you file.

Home Improvements

Tax Benefits of Owning a HomeIt is prudent that you save the receipts for all work done on your home that is considered an improvement. Things such as replacing old kitchen counter tops with granite, replacing a new heating system, adding new windows, replacing a roof are considered improvements. Keep in mind however that not everything you do to your home is considered an improvement. A repair, for example, is not regarded as an improvement. While in the real sense of the word it is, the IRS does not treat repairs the same as improvements. So fixing a window is not the same as replacing one.

While you cannot deduct these improvements from your current year’s tax bill, when it comes time to sell, they can be added to the purchase price of your home. This will be used to figure the cost basis for tax purposes. As a homeowner it is important to understand what home improvements add valueand which don’t. Many mistakenly believe that all home improvements add value. This is certainly not the case.

Home Equity Loans

One little-known tax break for owning a home is the ability to deduct the interest on a home equity loan. When making some of the home improvements discussed above you can take out an equity loan to do so. The interest generated from the loan can be deducted on your taxes up to $100,000 of mortgage debt.

Home Office Deduction

Another tax benefit of owning a home is the possibility of deducting a home office on your taxes. There are some requirements that you must meet explained in detail in the IRS guidelines including it’s a principal place of your business, or you are regularly using a space in your home for business. This is a deduction you will not want to fool around with as there is a high audit rate from those who claim the home office deduction.

Final Thoughts

There are more than just tax benefits for owning a home. Over the long haul, a home is an investment. While owning a home each month you are building equity in the property every time you make a mortgage payment. Even though we have just come out of one of the toughest times for real estate in decades, historically it is a wealth builder. In fact, from a long-term perspective, it is one of the best investments you can hold.

Lastly, the enjoyment one gets from having something tangible they own can’t be discounted. Many years of memories and happiness are made in the homes we live in. All these things make the American dream of home ownership alive and well.

Additional Helpful Tax-Related Articles

Use these additional resources to understand the tax benefits of home ownership including whether renting or buying makes more sense given your life circumstances.

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