Portia Liberty : 34 Weeks


Portia Liberty Nowak had her toes against her forehead last we saw her. Quite the little pretzel. She looks a good deal like her sister across her nose and pouty lips, and I look forward to observing all of their similarities and differences.

Charlotte began sleeping upstairs this week, in her "big girl" bed, in her "big girl" room, but today when she asked if we could play in her room, she led us to the nursery, the room that has been her room for the past two years. They'll be so much change with the coming of a sister, and we certainly don't want Charlotte to feel displaced when avoidable. She's too sweet to Portia, often kissing or hugging my belly, and saying things like, "I love you, Portia!" and then to me, "She can hear me with her tiny ears?" We're excited to foster their love for each other and teach them together about the God who loves them both with a never stopping, never giving up love.


Focus and Finish

Do you ever look at your to-do list as too big to conquer, hopping from item to item, leaving things unfinished?

As soon as Christmas ended, my mind moved on to the business launch in February, and the official to-do lists began to compile. Ever since then, I've spent a good portion of every week designing, researching, or filling out paperwork, online or downtown.

Some of these tasks are more enjoyable for me. I enjoy designing door hangers, ordering business cards, building websites, and working in photoshop/illustrator to get the truck lettering just right. On the other hand, some of the tasks were drudgeries: particularly any task that hit a roadblock and required extended phone or email conversations with a poorly trained customer service representative.

I would have a tendency to focus on the tasks that were snag free from conception to completion and to put off the tasks where I may have to interact with someone who had proved their incompetence already.

At the beginning of last week, I was listening to the StoryBrand podcast and heard the phrase, "Focus and Finish." The point being that we should prioritize our lists and focus on each task from start to finish. It resonated deeply with my current to-do list and the items I had been avoiding. I moved through the list then, one by one, seeing each item through to the finish line before moving to the next.

"Focus and Finish" has been such a helpful, simple phrase for me, and I knew it could encourage you to stay on task as well. I designed several desktop backgrounds, with different designs, containing the phrase, and you can download them by clicking on the pictures in this blog post and then right clicking on the image to save or download them to your computer.


To the Great Unknown

You know that feeling, when something that excites you is just around the corner? Normally, at the turn of February, my birthday is on my mind, but this month there's something even bigger happening in our family during my favorite month: This month, we're starting a business.

Over a year ago, my steady husband announced that after five years in corporate window cleaning, he knew our next step was to begin our own window cleaning company. Since then we've been learning and waiting, fulfilling a non-compete clause that Matt signed when he left his last corporate window cleaning job.

We read in Proverbs many "best business practices" for handling money, and there is great relief in knowing that God blesses integrity, honesty and hard work (Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 11:28, Proverbs 12:2, Proverbs 13:11 etc.). Still though, while we're being honest, there's a mist of fear surrounding the idea of leaving a 9-5 "steady paycheck" and wearing the weight of finding clients, doing jobs, and collecting money. It seems, absurdly, more volatile.

If there's one thing God has proven to us in the last seven years, it's that He has cared for us in every step. Not just that he loves us, but that He has provided actual, physical care for us at every turn. Our first married winter, Matt's seasonal lawn care job didn't pan into the winter painting job that had been assured us. He worked for Chickfila and UPS (seasonally), and God met all of our wants and needs, even in that rocky interim. That's a good God. There was no precedence for the window cleaning job that was offered to him at that point. Someone who I grew up with "happened" to live in Knoxville at the same time as us, and he offered Matt a job out of the blue, and changed the course of our lives. That's a good God. This job was a franchise, and so, over a year later, we were able to transfer home to Virginia without missing a beat. That's a good God. When Matt left window cleaning to serve out his non-compete clause in preparation for our business start up, the job he worked in the gap year was the best paying job he's ever had, and helped us to save for the business, another baby, and put money towards paying off our mortgage: a goal God handed us the month Matt started the new job. That's a good God.

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

We've experienced both the joy of receiving something from God's generous hand and the pain of loss, and we're standing here at the beginning of something new, beautiful with possibilities and opportunities, while shining fresh with the shimmer of unknown, able to clearly say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

I'm thankful for a husband who is easy to follow, because he follows Jesus.


Off-Registry Roundup

1. 23. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

My mother and I have different personalities. 

When my mother hears that someone has a wishlist/registry, she thinks, "I can't buy them something from their registry because they'll check their registry to see what has been purchased, so they'll already know that they're receiving it, and it won't be a surprise when they open it."

Because I am an accommodating gift receiver (and also because I had coffee in the evening yesterday and was awake long after the rest of the East Coast was sleeping), I made this round up of things I would like to receive for my birthday (that aren't on a registry), so people who want me to be happy, but also want to surprise me, can buy me something I'd like to receive. 

1. Willow and Burl sells beautiful, handmade wooden pieces, and I'm a huge fan of the dreamy dark wood these wall hooks are wearing.

2. Article sells my dream couch: the Sven in Grass Green. When our last mortgage payment is paid, this couch is the first thing on my list, but if anyone wins the lottery in the mean time and wants to pay off our house or buy us this couch, I'm flexible.

3. This tiny, hand-painted piece reminds me of romance. It makes me want to run off and elope in a mountain church off the beaten path.

4. We need a new front porch mat, and this one makes me warm and fuzzy.

5. Henly sells beautiful pieces, and I want to get in on the velvet sale even if I have to wait til fall to wear it, postpartum.

6. Hot showers are one of my favorite required activities, but washing my hair every time I shower (and then there's the air dry, towel dry, blow dry dilemma) isn't what my hair needs. Enter a shower cap that I will keep forever.

7. The business we're gearing up to start could buy its own supplies, but I want something pretty, not just functional, to store receipts and such in as we begin.

8. On-plan sweetener (specifically for my tea, but obviously the applications are immense) is a treat that we don't keep on hand these days, but I miss it. 

An evening of web surfing for pretty bits felt a lot like retail therapy, so there may be more of these roundups in the future. All the window shopping, none of the spending; Can I get an amen?


Why the mortgage?

If we're being honest, it had never occurred to me to pay our mortgage any faster than the monthly payment. We were going to to finish paying off our mortgage (at the typical thirty year pace) in 2043, when I was 53 years old. That's ALOT of life spent with this mortgage as our largest monthly expense, for a starter home.

So, when I give Dave Ramsey credit for telling us that it was an option, it's because no one had ever mentioned it us in person, but Dave Ramsey can't have full credit, because the only reason we're committed to seeing this goal through to completion is because we saw it clearly in the Bible.

Proverbs 6
"My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, thou art snared with the words of thy mouth...

Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler."

When I read those verses God says to me, "You owe someone $54,362.40. As fast as you are able, like your life depends on it, I want you to pay them the money you owe them."

Do you know how fast an animal that is being hunted would run? For its life. There's no room there for apathy. There's no room for retail therapy or exceptions.

If you think we're paying off the mortgage because it's fun, you misunderstand. If you think we're paying off the mortgage because it's our fastest track to wealth, you misunderstand. The borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7), and we're tired having to serve a mortgage company every month. The end goal isn't wealth. The end goal is for us to owe no man anything, but to love him (Romans 13).

If you'd like to hear some of the practical steps we've taken to pay off our mortgage as quickly as we can, I blogged about that here.


New Year, New Goals

Resolutions are relatively fluid for me. I set goals for myself all the time, and the change of calendar doesn't affect me much, but as I'm looking at the next twelve months I have specific, measurable goals that I'm focused on crushing.

Financial Goal

  1. Last February, God gave our family the goal of paying off the mortgage. So when He handed us $24,700.00 extra last year, we took that money and put it straight against the mortgage principal. To meet my goal of paying off the mortgage before I turn 30 (February of 2020) we have to pay $2,376.00 a month toward principal between now and then. So that gives us the goal of putting (at least) $28,512.00 toward the principal of our mortgage debt this year.

Business Goal

  1. Next month, my husband and I are starting a business. It's been a long time coming, and I'll be sure to share the process with you, but my main role will be office related: scheduling, invoices, communication, and marketing. My goal for this year is to help my husband run his new business with honesty, efficiency, and profit (see previous goal).

Personal Goal
  1. At the end of March, Lord willing, we'll have a fresh, new daughter join our family. With her birth comes the re-birth of a goal I successfully completed in February of 2017: Goal Weight. My last goal for the year is to get back to goal weight (128) after delivery. I'll follow the same method as last time, the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating, and give my body plenty of grace as it heals and adjusts down to its new normal. 

I have many other goals that I consider unmeasurable or unquantifiable, like giving both of my daughters the love and attention they need individually and together this year, or growing stronger in my relationship with my husband as we begin this business, instead of letting all of the extra work, time apart, and unsteady income worry us, but if a goal can't have a specific number attached to it, I can't work towards it incrementally and cheer when I hit it, so I'm sticking to those three as my 2018 goals.

What are your specific, measurable goals for 2018? I'd encourage you to attach numbers to your goals so you can watch your progress!


Snow Day : 2018

"Snowflakes!" She kept saying, and she was right. There were quite a few snowflakes blowing around  and piling together in front of our frosted pane. We bundled her up and took her out (not in proper snow clothes, mind you, since we live fifteen miles from the Atlantic Ocean and certainly hadn't planned on getting a foot of snow this winter), to stomp through the snow. Her sole desire was to step in all of the fresh spots, and I recall that same joy: There's a beauty in imprinting yourself on something so new.

After a hot bath, we hit the road for our annual family trip to the Outer Banks to play board games by candle light. If that sounds romantic to you, you misunderstand. We lost power for a few hours, but it didn't interrupt our play. Matt made fantastic candles out of vegetable oil and swiffer pads, and God answered our prayer for a warm house by the time it was Charlotte's bedtime.