Handy Man

There are many reasons why I admired Matt enough to marry him. One of the brightest reasons was the way he had kept himself from the world and close to God's Truth during his teen years when most of his peers (myself included) had excused themselves from conviction for a summer or two of sin. There are beautiful things I knew about him before I married him, and these past (almost) six years, he has only become more impressive to me.

One of the things he does remarkably well is execute projects around our home. He tore out the chimney that was in our wall (from the old furnace) and in his free time (which he has very little of with his new job) he has been putting in built-ins beside our stairs. I'm so excited to have all of that space to style with books and pictures and pretty tid bits. It's going to be beautiful when he frames it all out. Our hutch looks a little empty in this picture, but that's because I had taken all of our neutral hardback books to be props in the Egyptian Escape Room we just threw at the church for the young adults and the teen group. I'm going to do a whole post on that later. It was pretty fantastic.

Have y'all gotten into Escape Rooms? Matt and I have done two recently with some friends, and we blew through one of them (solving it in half the time) and then bombed the second one, which knocked our pride down a solid notch. They're a fun date if you're into solving puzzles and observing clues. They are pricey, but we paid for the first one last October and received the second one as a gift, so we aren't breaking our financial goals to enjoy this fun. Focused and not finished.


Nowak ladies

Matt has fallen into a good pattern with his new job, putting in more hours and bringing home more bacon, and though we miss his occasional early afternoons, we Nowak ladies are falling into our new patterns too.

We've been taking longer walks around the neighborhood, collecting lamb's ears, gumballs, dandelions, and anything else we find in the median. Apparently there might be a snow storm this weekend, but this week has been the best, most beautiful weather for backyard swing sets and front yard grass picking, including long talks with endearing old lady neighbors.

With extra time every afternoon before Matt gets home, I've been baking little Trim Healthy Mama treats and meals, cutting the grass, and planning an Escape Room Teen Event that we're hosting at our church next week (which is going to be amazing).

We're still going through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, taking the steps, budgeting with intentionality, selling clothes that don't fit any more (boom!), and throwing all extra money at our house mortgage.

Lately Matt and I have been doing some Bible and heart searching, praying to be more like Jesus and unhypocritical (which describes Jesus perfectly) in our home.


His Image

Almost every day, someone messages or emails me with a specific question about Trim Healthy Mama. I love helping women make healthier decisions and make progress toward their weight loss and health goals. It's not just a couple of women, either. New women begin asking often. Yesterday someone who I have never talked on the phone with before asked me to call them about Trim Healthy Mama. It always amazes me, who all is paying attention, when I feel that I haven't heavily advertised my success.

Why do they ask me for advice? I've only been eating this way for a year. I know why they ask. It's because Trim Healthy Mama has made a visible difference in my life. Because I look different than I used to look. I look better than I used to look. They want to look different than they currently look. They want to look better than they currently look. I'm like a billboard for Trim Healthy Mama. A testimony that it works.

This morning when I woke up to a new message from a beautiful lady who I haven't spoken to in years, it hit me hard. I knew what the message would be about as soon as I saw it, because that's what people message me about. People know that I have learned this way of eating and am willing to talk about it. I was right. The message was asking me for tips and tricks as she begins this new journey.

I have been a Christian for more than a year, and I wish that I was a better billboard for being like Jesus Christ. That's all. That's the extent of this post. I'm not enough like Jesus Christ, and I want to be more conformed to His image and His desires for me as a woman, wife, mother, and friend.


House Debt

Regardless of who you are or where you are financially, I think Americans would benefit greatly from walking through Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps and being intentional about every single dollar, living a debt free life. Make an actual budget for every month before it begins, unique to that month, with a list of all of your expenses and where you're going to spend your money.

I feel like I need to stop and address the fact that we, by God's grace, did not start in debt as a couple. We didn't have a car loan or a student loan, and so in some ways I'm jealous of the people who get to do their "debt free screams" where they've paid off all this money and climbed this mountain hand in hand, though I know most people who are in debt would be jealous that we never were in debt. BUT we did have to make the choice (with every new life step), to not go into debt. To not get a car loan. To not get a student loan. And life happened along the way: burst pipes, car accidents, babies, job changes, and college, all paid with cash.

We CHOSE to always (through lows and highs of our income) live on less than we made and put money aside. That's a choice. It's not always easy, any change is hard, but in my experience, this change is worth it.

We didn't start off with money genius or intentionality. When Matt and I got married, like most well-loved couples, we were given some money. We used that money to buy a car with cash (whew, one good move, hail damage and all), and then we blew through the rest of it on meals out and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ELSE. Once the money was gone, we looked around, confused. Where did it go? What did we spend it on? And most of all, where do we go from here?

Matt had a job, and I had a job, but I was also in school, and every penny I earned was going straight to keeping my school bill current. Matt's job certainly paid for our expenses with some left over, but if we didn't want to live paycheck to paycheck, we needed to know what to do with any money we had left over. We wanted freedom from the chains of money, and eventually a house filled with babies, and a van to carry them around in. If these were our goals, what were the steps we should take to reach them? I see God's fingerprints all over our search. I wanted advice: craving someone else's experience to help us make good financial choices.

I blogged about it, a year into our marriage. It's there archived for the world to see: I essentially said, "We know nothing. How much should we save as a down payment on our future house?" and someone who I've known for my whole life, a few years ahead of me, took the time to respond and say, "20%. It's old fashioned and it's a lot, but do it." That was all it took for me. I'm goal oriented and focused when I get something in my mind, so even though I had no idea how much 20% would end up being, I could look at the prices of houses in our area and know that we needed AT LEAST $20,000.00 saved.

I am in no way making light of $20,000.00. $20,000.00 is huge, and it was even bigger then. Gigantic. A ton, but we had A GOAL: a step to take. So we started. God provided work and money. God gave us health. We took extra hours and side jobs, picking blueberries and delivering packages and babysitting and and and.

So, we saved up 20% and moved back to Virginia, entering into debt for the first time as a couple. But it didn't feel like debt. It was a house. And still, really, I think it's the best debt you can go into (because it has gone up in value since we bought it), but I wish we had waited, and I'll tell you why.

Now, three years into home ownership, as I mentioned in a previous post, we still owe $79,000.00 to the bank. AND WE HAVE PAID OVER $11,000.00 IN INTEREST TO THE BANK in those three years. Interest. Not principle. Not money towards the loan, just extra money for them to jingle in their pockets and buy big buildings and fancy cars with. $11,000.00 DOWN THE DRAIN. And if we follow their formula, we still have TWENTY SEVEN years left of payments to them. The math on that is absurd. Yes, I know the interest goes down as you go along, but $11,000.00 interest is ALREADY ABSURD, and they're going to get plenty more even if we throw every single extra dollar we get at this.

It's ridiculous. Americans BEG for debt. They want it SO BADLY. When you get approved for a loan, you feel like a million bucks, even though it's COSTING YOU MONEY. "Thank you soooooooooooo much for letting me pay you!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you, big bank for giving me money that I have to return to you and also give you additional money as well. You're the best!"

Yikes, it works me up. What a crooked system, that we're all living in and supporting. What if, hear me now... What if we saved up our money and bought things? With money. With our money. What if as God handed us money, we were intentional with it? If we can save up (over) 20% in two years (for a cheap house, mind you, in a not fancy neighborhood), that means in less than 10 years, we could have saved up 100%. Would it have been annoying in the short term, to rent and wait, deferring that desire? Yes, I'm sure it would have been, but we are, God willing, going to teach our children, so that they can start early and not spend their lives throwing money into the abyss that is Loan Interest.

After we bought the house, I found Dave Ramsey's plan. I knew about his general "stay out of debt" mindset, but finding his steps for saving, has helped us tremendously.

If you're young, start the plan. Start the steps. If you're not young, start the plan. Start the steps.

I will list the steps below. You do not start on the second step until you have finished the first step etc.:

1. Save $1,000.00 as fast as you can. This is your tiny emergency fund, a buffer between you and life.
2. Pay off all of your non-mortgage debt. List your debts, smallest to largest and pay the minimum on everything except the smallest debt. Knock it out fast. After you knock the smallest out, you take that payment and throw it at the second debt and on and on until you're DEBT FREE except your home.
3. Save up 3-6 of expenses (not income) in case of an emergency.
4. Put 15% of your income into retirement. If you have a 401K match at work, start there. Then a Roth IRA for the rest of it.
5. Put money toward your children's college fund.
6. Pay off your house debt.
7. Live and give like no one else.

My point is not that you shouldn't own a house or a car or go on vacation; I just think that we as Americans are living blindly. Accepting the myth that debt is fine and normal and everyone does it, so that makes it ok.

I'm not doing it. We don't have a credit card. We only have house debt, which we are throwing every extra dollar God hands us at, and when that $79,000.00 is paid off, I'll be thrilled to owe no man anything, but to love him. (Romans 13:8)

Join us.



The world keeps spinning, the sun keeps setting, and I have experienced twenty-seven years of life.

My husband Matt loves me so hard. God knew exactly what I needed when he gave that man to me. On Sunday he told me to go back to sleep when his alarm went off, which was a gift in itself, and then he brought me (on-plan) breakfast in bed. He's working a new job, which, thank God, means more money and one of his best friends is his co-worker, but also means longer days, and (especially while I'm finishing out my evening pottery class) less time together. It forces me to be intentional and thankful with/for the time we have as a family.

Charlotte Pear is the brightest spot. She's sweet and easy, easy, easy to love. She's started stringing steps together, which is another way to say, our baby walks. She also is intentional with certain words and sign language. On the way to the car the other day her soft, sweet voice was on repeat, "Uh oh. uh oh. uh oh." I had my hands full, and when I realized she was talking, I noticed she didn't have her bunny. "Did you drop bunny inside? You were saying 'uh oh!' You were telling me!" I cuddled her close, rewarding her communication, letting her know I understood. She lit up, smiling and cuddling, as we walked back to the door and unlocked it, bunny laying lonely just inside. Obviously, that's a small thing, but to see her make connections between actions and words is a beautiful gift. Every milestone is a gift.

This birthday was probably the most low-key I've ever been. I wasn't counting down the hours or days, but I'm excited, hopeful, expectant, and intentional about the time and money that will pass this year.

I had hoped to be pregnant on this birthday. When I was expecting Christian, I should have been pregnant on my birthday (he was due in April), but he was born early, still, in January, and I was empty on my birthday. For Charlotte, I got pregnant in March. Being pregnant on my birthday is a gift I'm looking forward to thanking God for one year.

God's been good to my family. He's given me beautiful, God honoring friends. Just in this last week I've met two separate friends for coffee, and it's been more than small talk. It's been, "What has God shown you lately in His Word." and not in a forced, "Christian-so-we-should-ask" kind of way, but just, this is what He's doing. This is how I see Him changing me to be more like Him. I'm praying that this year will be less about me and more about Him.


Financial Goals

We're all driven by different goals and different dreams.

I'm a Christian, which means that I strive to look at life through the lens of the Bible. I'm a wife, which means I have a built in best friend to help, support, and receive love and help from as well. I'm a mother, and I hope to teach Charlotte to look at life through the lens of the Bible, as well as many beautiful life skills.

During the week, I fold a load of laundry a day, make meals at home, and do dishes at least once a day. During those times when my hands are busy and also when I'm riding in the car without Matt, I like to listen to podcasts, because they're a free way to acquire someone else's opinion, and, often, some wisdom. I work a part time job as a secretary, and I am currently taking a pottery class as well as a Financial Peace University class. I want to be continually growing in knowledge about the things I'm passionate about, from people who are giving glory to their Creator. Because of this Financial Peace University class, we're focused on budgeting this season, and taking steps toward our financial goals.

Here's a list of some of my favorite financial podcasts, so you can listen when your hands are busy.
  • Dave Ramsey: Dave's radio show has helped Matt and I make sound Biblical choices and stay away from debt while we save and invest. Listening to this show often, helps keep these goals in my mind and makes the daily "sacrifice" of not spending easier for me.
  • Business Boutique: This is a podcast about running a business. We're hoping to start a window cleaning business in 2018, and I have been soaking up information from this podcast.
  • Retire Inspired: This is a podcast about setting goals for Retirement. This guy has the best voice and motivates me with his wording. If you think retirement is an old people thing, Chris Hogan says, "Retirement is a smart people thing."
We've budgeting hard core this month, paying attention to all of the categories and being purposeful not just to live on less than we make (something I wish more Americans did), but to meet our financial goals.

In the past, like with my weight loss goals, I have found that I do best when I make my/our goals public. It holds me accountable to keep taking the same steps forward.

Our financial goal for this year is to pay as much of our mortgage off as we can. We currently owe $78,937.13 on our home. If you knew our income, you would know that we can not meet this goal this year, or next year, and that probably this goal will take us at least five years of focus. Chris Hogan says, "I'm focused, and I'm not finished."

What's the point of paying off our home? What's the long term goal? What's our "WHY?" 

Long term, Matt and I would like to pay for our next home, our dream home, with cash, and live a completely debt-free life. Long term, Matt and I would like to teach our children to be intentional and generous with their money. Long term, Matt and I would like to change our family tree, and not by handing our children the world, but by teaching them, from an early age, that there are specifics in the Bible concerning money and the way it should be handled.

The Bible Says:

Proverbs 21:20 "There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” A fool lives paycheck to paycheck, with nothing left over.

Hebrew 12:11 “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” This is hard work. This is not easy, but it will change your life.

Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Look at your budget. Look where you're spending your money. That's where your heart is.

Proverbs 13:22 “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children...” 

Proverbs 22:6-7 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." Teach your children early that debt is making someone other than God your master. 

Romans 13:8 "Owe no man any thing, but to love him..." That's a pretty clear verse. 

The Bible isn't a rule book that we should use to smack people into line, the Bible is spotlight to show us the best possible path through life, with our dependence on Jesus Christ.



Goal Weight

When I began my Trim Healthy Mama in January of 2016 weighing just over 200 pounds, I set my goal weight at 128 pounds. After thirteen months on plan, I'm excited to say that I've made it!!!!!

The sisters who started this plan, give all the glory for this way of eating to the God who created our bodies and also created the food we eat, and that's one of my favorite things about this plan. God made me. God gave us this beautiful gift in delicious food. He gave me the personality I have, and thirteen months into this plan, I have lost seventy-two pounds and feel FANTASTIC.

Give credit where it's due, and I could not have had this level of happiness (and maybe even success) on this plan doing it alone. My husband Matt has been on plan with me for nine months now, and he has lost thirty pounds and maintained at goal. My parents make an on plan meal for us every time we eat at their house, and my in-laws make on-plan meals for us every family night as well! There have been some beautiful, supportive ladies at church as well. It takes a village, right?

I feel like screaming, William Wallace style, "FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" That's what this plan has given me: food freedom. I know what food does to my body. Some foods energize me, some foods satisfy me, and some foods make my blood sugar spike and my body feel like it has been run over.

This plan is doable. After the initial learning curve, it's easy. This plan works and works and works and works, and I and my husband are proof of that.

If you want to see most of my Trim Healthy Mama posts, check them out here.

Also, there's a giveaway for 3D Fiber Lash+ Mascara, which legitimately adds length to your eyelashes when you apply it. Don't miss that opportunity!

I'm hopeful that in the future I can use my experience to help other women win with food freedom on Trim Healthy Mama!