All living

She's all soft edges and shy glances; There's nothing sharp about her. She shocks me daily with her unrehearsed brilliance: the lyrics of a song I rarely sing or the repeating of a phrase I said hours ago, slipped into conversation. She's a ready sponge, and we have the privilege and responsibility of choosing the pool she soaks from as she grows.

“Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room,’ should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking—the strain would be too great—but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest...” Charlotte Mason


Pregnancy: Debt Free / Sugar Free

We're pregnant, and those of you who have been paying attention have had a couple of very valid questions for us.

  1. How does this pregnancy affect your debt free journey?
  2. How does this pregnancy affect your sugar free journey? 

Our debt free journey: 

Since February, we've been working hard to get out of house debt, making extra money where we can and throwing it at our mortgage. At the end of July we found out we were expecting another baby. I guess it depends on your insurance, but having a baby costs us about $7,000.00. We've always hoped for a house full of babies, and we've been asking God for this baby, so the pregnancy wasn't a shock, but that's still a huge pile of cash.

We do have the money to cover the birth, BUT during this pregnancy we want to replace that money so that once we spend it we still have our full emergency fund. So, before the end of March, we need to save up $7,000.00, which is about $220 a week. No doubt, that will slow down our house payoff, but we've always said, "Depending on how many babies God gives us between now and then, we can pay off our house in x years." So we'll pile up that money as fast as we can, and once that's done, we'll go back to full force on paying down the mortgage.

I'm a huge fan of goals, so it's just a change of focus for me.

Our sugar free journey:

Sugar free is a simplified summary of our diet, but we follow the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan. We've lost over 100 pounds combined, and I'm so thankful for what this way of eating has taught me. The week after I found out we were pregnant, we went to teen camp with our church as sponsors. We spent the whole week outside: taking hikes, tubing rivers, and climbing mini mountains.

Pregnancy is exhausting anyway, and when you mix it with teen camp and watching a toddler, you'll find yourself HUNGRY. So, while I was at camp, I ate camp food. I think there was one meal where I was able to leave off the bread and stay on plan, but generally, I just ate the food they served and was thankful for it. I didn't gain weight or anything, but I definitely felt the difference in my body. Bleh. Since then, I've floated, eating mostly on plan, but not being 100%. Just to be clear, I haven't purchased anything off plan, I just haven't avoided things I've been offered. Basically, I'm dreading the detox, because pregnancy already has me feeling meh.

When you're pregnant, you're supposed to eat more crossovers to help baby grow, but you're also supposed to eat more crossovers when you're breastfeeding and at goal weight, so you don't keep losing weight, so it's not much of a change from what we've been doing.

I need to get back to making those best decisions again, because I know how good I feel when I eat on plan. It's better for me and for baby. I had my official hospital weigh-in on Monday and my starting (afternoon with clothes and shoes) weight is 133. I weighed 229 at my highest with Charlotte's pregnancy, so I'm thankful to be starting 100 pounds lighter. Also, I'm thankful for this platform. I like to pretend that y'all really watch me and want me to stay 100% on plan, so feel free to check in! Like, I said, I'm goal oriented.


Debt Free Tips

To get out of debt you have to spend less than you make. This part isn't difficult, it's just different. 

If you're used to spending everything (or more) than you make, than you're living like 76% of American families, who live paycheck to paycheck with little, to no, savings. For your life to be different, you have to make a change. Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

Matt and I don't have an extraordinary income. We've never made more than $50,000.00 a year (combined), so our income is  average or lower than the normal American family. YOU CAN DO THIS.

In order to make this big change toward a debt free lifestyle, you have to make as many changes as you can on both ends of your budget. I know the word budget can be an intimidating word, but really all a budget is is setting your goals on paper, with forethought, and sticking to it! You can get budget forms here ---> Budget Forms.  

The two ends of your budget are simple: income and outgo. What you make vs. what you spend. You want to increase what you make as much a possible, and you want to decrease what you spend as much as possible.

Most of the ways we have upped our income since we started this journey in Febuary ANYONE can do!

Sell everything. When we were searching for a way that I could stay home with Charlotte and still make extra side income, God gave Matt and I this same idea. We went through all the closets, all the drawers, all the attic spaces, and all the rooms, and we've been a part of several yard sales. We've sold things on Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, Let Go, and Offer Up. All of those platforms are free. They just take time, good pictures, and good descriptions. Selling things isn't limited to what you currently have in your house. Put out a plea online. Something like, "We're trying to make some big changes in our family, and we're looking to make extra money to get out of debt. If you have anything you were thinking about cleaning out or donating, let me know! I'd love to come pick it up from you!" Putting the word out has helped us so much. People have had us pick up their yard sale extras and other household extras. We also aren't above picking things out of the trash. If we see a piece of furniture or art etc. that is in great shape, we'll haul it off, clean it up, fix it if it needs work, and then sell it to its new family. We have not purchased anything to resell. God gave Matt and I the idea to sell things online as a way to make extra money towards our goal, and He has blessed it!

Work after work. I know how little fun it is to work extra. When you get off a long day of work, you want to see your family, get things done in your home, and relax some if possible, but if you'll work all the time for a short period of time, you can make big gains. We've babysat, cleaned gutters, pulled weeds, painted, trimmed bushes, and hung blinds. Again, the trick was just putting the word out, "We're looking for extra work in the evenings and on the weekends. If you have something that you need done, send me a message!" For the most part, we tried to do this work as a family, so we were able to still spend that time together. Again, remember that this is only temporary!

Just making those two changes ^, we have made an extra $1,000.00 a month, every month, towards our goal of getting out of debt. You can do that too! None of that requires you to have a degree (and if you have a degree, there may be easier ways to make extra: tutoring, electric work on the side etc.), but it will help you take big steps toward your goal of getting out of debt!

To give yourself more money to throw towards your debt, you'll want to spend less in areas you spend money in.

Clothing. Since February, I have not spent a single dollar on clothing or shoes for Matt, Charlotte, or myself. Obviously, if someone NEEDED something, we'd go get it, but we have plenty of clothes we can wear, and we're CHOOSING to not spend money in this category. I just found out I'm pregnant, and since I've lost seventy-six pounds since my last pregnancy, my old maternity clothes don't fit me. God knew that I was pregnant, and God knew I needed maternity clothes, and when we went to visit our friends in Knoxville even though they didn't know I was pregnant, they gifted me a huge tub of small maternity clothes. God will meet your needs when you're working on a goal He's given you!

Food. We haven't gone out to eat (unless we used a gift card someone gave us), since February. Mostly, this just requires planning. It requires you to grocery shop (or pick the garden) to keep your kitchen stocked, so that you aren't tempted to do the "easy" (and expensive) thing. Also, we keep our grocery bill under $50 every week (often under $40). We eat a lot of frozen chicken tenderloins, brown rice, and veggies. We have eggs and veggies for breakfast, or oatmeal, or a fruit smoothie. We have simple sandwiches almost everyday for lunch. We shop at Aldi. We're living on a diet and a budget, and it's totally doable.

Credit Cards. We don't have one. I used to keep one "just in case", but God has given us an emergency fund, and we don't need to borrow money for anything ever. The borrower is slave to the lender, and we're getting out of slavery as fast as we can, which means we don’t have a credit card.

Entertainment. We haven't gone to the theatre (or eaten out, as previously covered), or gone to a concert, or a sports game, or bought a movie, or spent any extra money. This is our decision to make small short term sacrifices for big long term gains.

Bills. Dave Ramsey offers a free resource of insurance agents who will shop insurance for you (for free) and make sure you're getting the best deal available on all our your different insurances. I highly recommend you do this ---> Insurance Check Also, you can save on your electric bill by leaving the air conditioning off (even when it’s 96 degrees inside). This pregnant mama turned on her A/C yesterday for the first time this summer. Keep in mind that these choices are about long term gains, not short term comfort.

Bank account. Maybe I didn't cover the things you spend money on. Maybe you buy coffee a couple of times a week. The easiest way to see where you're spending extra money is a good look at your bank account statement. Look through it and see what you could cut. I cancelled a subscription to a magazine (that I enjoy, but this is only for a time!), we stopped renting movies, and we stopped spending any extra money.

To help keep myself motivated in the slow and steady journey out of debt, I enjoy listening to the Dave Ramsey show and specifically Debt Free Screams. I enjoy talking to friends who are on the same journey as we are, and I do my best to avoid the subject with people who think we're crazy. I don't need people being negative about something we are sure God has told us to do. We have a friend who is finishing their debt snowball this weekend! I'm so excited for them!

All along the journey we're continuing to tithe and give to missions, because what God has told us to do now doesn't change what God has already given us to do. 

We've paid $11,000.00 towards our mortgage since February, and we have $68,800.00 left to go.That means that we've paid the same amount toward our mortgage in the last six months as we did for THREE YEARS before that. We've saved thousands on interest, long term, in these six months by putting more towards the principal every month (making one giant payment when we pay our mortgage at the end of each month).

This financial sacrifice is only for a season, and in the scheme of our lives, it will be a short season. I’d rather be really uncomfortable for a short period of time than mildly uncomfortable for a long period of time. We know God wants to use our little income in big ways that He couldn't while we were giving the majority of each paycheck straight to the bank to repay our house debt.

What are your questions for us? We want to help you as you reach toward your debt free goals!


A Tiny Announcement

It was a warm day near the end of July, when the line showed faintly. Dada came home with hands full of sunflowers, even before he knew, and we started whispering baby names out loud together again and wondering who you will grow to be.

For seven weeks now, I've been growing a new baby Nowak, and even though he's (she's) only the size of a blueberry, he's making big waves. My energy levels are low, my potato chip cravings are high, and at the end of the day, when I curl up under the covers, I feel like it was leg day at the gym. 

I've been staying on plan, which helps a bunch, and I haven't had the same itchy legs as accompanied my first two pregnancies. My starting weight is 128. I'm excited to watch this pregnancy take shape and compare it to my first two, unhealthy, pregnancies. 

We haven't had our first ultrasound, but my unofficial due date is March 19th. Charlotte talks about "tummy baby" at the sweetest times, so first official nickname! We're excited to get to know you, tummy baby!


Knoxville Weekend Trip

When I started attending the private, Christian college in Knoxville, my first order of business was GET A JOB. God placed an opportunity in my lap during class registration, and I interviewed for a babysitting position that first week in Tennessee. Soon I was spending my afternoons watching a one-year-old girl who didn't like to eat but loved to dance.

Over the next four years, a sister and a brother joined the family, and I spent hours playing with those lovely babes. Working for the Thorntons allowed me to graduate with my four year degree debt free. I can't tell you how many times other students told me how lucky I was to have that job. Without a doubt, God gifted this family to me. We've seen them a couple of different times since we moved back home to Virginia after graduation, but this was their first time meeting Charlotte. Watching those babies love on my baby was the most beautiful thing. I love watching kindness in action, and I'm thankful for the continued relationship our families get to enjoy.

If you haven't already entered, we're giving away a Trader Joe's Gift Card! The giveaway closes tomorrow, Wednesday, July 26th.

Details Here ----> http://ahelpmeetforhim.blogspot.com/2017/07/trader-joes-gift-card-giveaway.html


Trader Joe's Gift Card Giveaway

Last Saturday, while we folded laundry and played peekaboo, we paused for the crunch of gravel under tires. 

"Dada's home!" "I MEES YOU!" 

We rushed to the door, and found him standing on the other side of the glass with a bouquet of pink flowers, his hair wet from a hard day of work in the sun. He was home, and he'd brought my favorite flowers with him. By all means, if you win this gift card, use it to buy groceries. I’m just saying, if you use it all on flowers, you’ll get no judgement from me.

For over a year a half, Matthew and I have been following the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan. Trader Joe's is stocked full of healthy options. There are obvious things such as eggs, meat, fruits, veggies, and nuts, but some of my favorites include sprouted grain bread, pure powdered stevia, and the everything by the bagel sesame seasoning blend. I want to know your favorites too!

To win this $25 Trader Joe's Gift Card:

1. Head over to Facebook.com/ahelpmeetforhim and make sure you've liked my Facebook page.
2. Share this blog post on your personal Facebook page - "Trader Joe's Gift Card Giveaway."
3. Lastly, comment on the blog post ("Trader Joes' Gift Card Giveaway") on my Facebook page with your favorite thing to grab at Trader Joe's.

This giveaway will run from Wednesday, July 19th to Wednesday, July 26th. Winner will be announced on my Facebook page on Thursday, July 27th. This giveaway is open to anyone in the contiguous USA. For an extra entry, hop over to my Instagram @ahelpmeetforhim . 

Thanks for your support and happy trimming!


The Distribution of Beauty

The waves tug at my heart as the breeze tugs at my hair: I’m home beside the Atlantic Ocean. Charlotte is fearless, bravery wrapped in pink, loving the rush of the water over her legs. Dada has gone out near the dolphins, and he brings us back a friend, Mr. Minnow, who swam right into him with a soft bump. We wade back out together, my baby in her father’s arms. He holds her close as she splashes and laughs; Her bathtub will seem minute now compared to this water, as endless as the purple sky. We play together until the sun sinks too low, and then we head home for warm baths and snuggles in the rocking chair while the summer fans dry our hair. 

Sometimes I peek into other people's lives in the big city or near the snow capped mountains, and jealousy or covetousness creeps across my heart unchecked, but once we climb to the crest of the dune and hear the soft roar of the ocean, we're reminded again to be thankful for the distribution of beauty and God's gift of home.