six years

Six years ago we stood in a large auditorium surrounded by our favorite people and said, "With God as my witness I give you this promise." We promised forever, no matter the trial. Since then, we've grown together.

For two years we lived in a tiny, brick apartment in Knoxville, on top of a bar, right next to the railroad tracks, away from our families in Virginia. Together, we prayed for a baby. We bought our first home in Norfolk, Virginia, with lots of green grass, the perfect garage, and plenty of room for growing and improving. God gave us the desire of our hearts, our first baby, and we felt joy. Twenty-five weeks later, when our son was born still, we mourned together, full of sadness, but also filled with overwhelming peace.

Eleven months later, our daughter was born screaming. She was everything we needed her to be: alive. We've changed jobs and bought cars together, loved half a dozen house pets, and put band-aids on scraped baby knees.

I love the openness of our relationship. We talk through our emotions and feelings, even when we're moody, never letting the sun set on an unresolved conversation. We've kept our promises to each other and set big, long-term, impossible to reach alone goals.

You've made marriage easy, Matthew, by loving me hard and letting God lead our family, step by step. I'm excited to see the elderly version of us, surrounded by babies, having loved each other hard for dozens of years.


Mother's Day 2017

This morning my husband brought me breakfast in bed. He snuck out of bed and made homemade, on-plan jelly for my sprouted grain toast and homemade, on-plan chocolate syrup for my vanilla almond milk. He made me eggs and bacon and brought me a bowl of grapes. Charlotte was all smiles in tow, with my napkin and fork. It was a beautiful way to wake up. I'm blessed to be loved so well.

Matt and I hadn't budgeted any money for Mother's Day this year (homemade gifts for our mom's using resources we already had), and he showed his love to me by honoring that and not spending a penny on me. He did finish a project he'd been working on that I'm excited to show you.

This morning, in church, my mother and I were handing out baskets of flowers to some mothers who "won" in a certain categories (most grandchildren, woman who has been the mother the longest etc.) and one of the categories was "mother with the youngest child." We have a mother with a seven month old, and (since the pregnant mothers weren't in service today) I was pretty sure her child would be the youngest. But when mom said, "If you have a child who is one or younger, remain standing." I, from next to her, standing on the platform, said, "Technically, I'm still standing." What I meant was, you have to get below a year for Janet to win, even though we all know Charlotte is older than Joel, Charlotte is one, so I'm still in the running, but mom turned to me, full-shock on her face, "YOU'RE PREGNANT!?!!?"

Oh, mother.

I'm not pregnant. Mom and I have grown closer in the last couple of years. I think having a baby of my own has helped me see how much she loves us kids, even when we don't see eye to eye on details.

On Mother's Day I feel predominately light. My baby is sweet and beautiful (even though she's willful). But I also have to acknowledge a heavy feeling in my core. There's a hole in me that speaks on Mother's Day. I have a son who didn't climb into our bed this morning to share grapes with me. On this day, remember the mothers who have lost. Recently, the Virginia Pilot Newspaper published an article about a woman who counseled women in situations of losing a child. In that article they took pictures of the grave where Christian is buried. Part of the article says, "Today there are teddy bears, and pinwheels, tiny dinosaurs and even a little badminton set for children who never got to play." The tiny dinosaur is a Fred that Matt made for Christian. Man, that article caught us off-guard.

Two years ago on Mother's Day we announced that we were expecting Charlotte Pear. She's such a gift, and I'm thankful to have had this beautiful chance to mother this sweet baby kid.


Yard Sale Tips

The past two weekends, I've woken up before the sun, borrowed my mother's van, loaded it full of stuff we don't need (including some things my Grandparents, parents, and sister-in-laws were ready to part with), and showed up for a multi-vendor yard sale event. Two weekends ago, the event was in a church field, with thirty-two vendors, and last week, the event was in a church parking lot with fifteen vendors. Between the two events, I made $230 profit. That isn't life changing, but it's extra money we can put toward our goal of paying off our mortgage over twenty years early!

Here are some of my tips to a smooth multi-vendor yard sale:

1. Put thought into your prep work.
When you're taking items somewhere else to sell (as opposed to selling them in your own driveway), make sure you box like items together. Put the items you're going to hang on hangers together, put the kitchen stuff together, put the baby stuff together etc. When you're loading up your car, remember to put things in in the opposite order that you want to take them out. Make sure you put your clothes rack, tables, and shelves in last, because you'll want them out first.

2. Price everything individually.
I love the idea of a "Everything on this table is $1" table, but it doesn't work. People miss the sign, or they assume things have been moved around, and it's better to just have a price on everything. I found that when I individually priced items that had been "everything is .25" or "everything is $1", people started snatching things up.

3. Be flexible.
You learn to read people who are willing to pay full price, but be flexible with someone who wants a deal (an even lower deal than you're already giving). This isn't stuff you want to load back into your car, so be willing to drop the price to come to an arrangement. I had a couple of big items I was firm on, but everything small was negotiable. Most people just paid what I was asking, but if someone asked for a deal, and they were reasonable, I went with it. One man tried to get something for .50 that was worth way more, and I held higher, but a couple of people were so surprised by my low prices that they gave me a dollar extra cause they felt the item was worth more.

4. Make bulk deals.
Sometimes your style really meshes with someone. I had a man buy 34 pieces of children's clothes from me, and I cut a couple dollars off for him when he asked what his total would be if he got them all. The same was true for a lady who bought all of my PS2 games.

5. Advertise for yourself.
Just because the event you're at is advertising for you, doesn't mean you shouldn't advertise for yourself! I put pictures and prices up on Facebook Yardsale, Craigslist, and a couple of other Yard Sale sites for both events to help bring people out, and I know that it brought several people out (and possibly more who didn't tell me!).

I'm not pretending to be a professional multi-vendor yard sale vendor, but I've had some recent experience and thought I pass on to you guys what I found worked! Also, don't forget the sunblock (or your shoulders will cry for a week), the food (if you have to buy found while you're there, that's profit lost!) and water! It's a long day outside!


Financial Peace University

We finished our Financial Peace University Class, and everyone turned in their numbers. I am so proud of the group we had and their commitment to this plan! Different class members were starting on different baby steps, and when we finished, two more families were DEBT FREE!

I was unofficially moderating the group, and through the ten weeks, Matt and I chipped hard at our mortgage, knocking it down $4,000.00! We have $75,100.00 left to pay off until we own our home and are completely debt free.

If you need someone to talk you through Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps, hit me up. I'm passionate about people breaking the chains of payments! Matt and I have been using a mortgage payoff visual aid from these charts. It helps me to have my goals where I can see them!


Aldi: Grocery Shopping for under $50 a week

Matt and I are budgeting this year for the first time. I used to think I was budgeting by just spending "as little as possible", but now I realize there were hundreds of dollars slipping through our fingers in my carelessness. We've been going through Financial Peace University and living on a purposeful budget (budget forms here). This involves sitting down before each new month and talking about what we will need to spend money on this month that we didn't need to spend money on last month.

We are a family of two adults and one toddler. When we started budgeting we were having trouble staying under $150 for groceries every two weeks, but lately I've been grocery shopping for under $100 every two weeks! I accomplish this by shopping at Aldi, and shopping once a week for the week instead of once every two weeks.

Here's a list of my last grocery store trip.

Pink Lady Apples (2)
Light String Cheese
Large Carrots

Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
Large Eggs
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

Sprouted Bread
Colby Jack Cheese (2)
Roma Tomatoes
Iceberg Lettuce

Fresh Green Beans
Frozen Cut Okra (2)
Frozen Broccoli Florets
Frozen Fancy Green Beans
Frozen Chicken Tenderloins

Coconut Oil

That was my list (reading straight from the receipt) and the total was $43.29 (I had a $5 off coupon, so I actually spent less than $40 on this run).

For breakfast we eat a lot of eggs (with a side of veggies, or on toasted bread with butter, tomato, and lettuce) and oatmeal (either in almond milk microwaved and then add apple bits, or I always toast half of the oatmeal in coconut oil with vanilla(not purchased this week) and sweetener (not purchased this week) to make granola, which we eat like cereal with the almond milk poured over it.

For lunch most work days (5 or 6 days for my husband and 2 or 3 for me) we pack a sandwich with meat, lettuce, mayo, and tomato (meat and mayo not purchased this week), but some work days we bring leftovers from the night before to eat for lunch. We also take apples, carrots, string cheese, celery, peanuts etc. as snacks for work.

For dinners we're pretty easy going, meat and veggies with herbs and spices often. Our last dinner, I steamed broccoli, cooked chicken and then mixed up some mayo, cheese (which I shredded), onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mixed it all together and baked for awhile, and it was yummy and satisfying. I only bought chicken this week because we already have fish, ground beef, and a full turkey in our freezer, so this week we can have a little of each of those to get through dinners, and I may not need to buy any meat at all next week.

Next week I will have to get more vanilla, but we should have frozen veggies and some cheese left over, so I'll get less of those, etc. It's a give and take every week, but we're staying under $50.

I can totally understand if you're used to eating fancier than we do, but I'm talking about grocery shopping on a budget, spending less than $50 a week, while maintaining a no sugar/white flour/white rice/potato diet.

Good luck, happy budgeting, and if you're headed to Aldi don't forget to bring a quarter!


Growing Pains

One of our apple trees, two springs into its life, is covered in apple blossoms. I have every expectation that the apples, which were small last year, will grow bigger as the years and tree progress. Our God thought of everything when he gave us color and taste and sight and sound and touch and smell and wonder. He gives the best gifts.

God continues to work on our family, directing Matt and I separately toward the same verses, growing our family. We're learning that our opinions, our friends' opinions, our families' opinions, our church's opinions, and our culture's opinions are irrelevant. Satan has spent his long life convincing God's children that God doesn't mean what He says, and we have to measure our choices, and thus our lives, against God's actual words.

Genesis 3:1-4 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field with the LORD God has made. And he said unto the woman, "Yeah, hath God said, 'Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'." And the serpent said unto the woman, "Ye shall not surely die:..."

Jeremiah 23:16-17 & 22 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, "Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, 'The LORD hath said, 'Ye shall have peace'.'and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of their own heart, 'No evil shall come upon you.' ... But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words,  then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.


Living Waters

God's been making changes in our family lately. He put His finger on wordliness in our home recently, reminding us that friendship with the world is enmity with God, and it has continued from there.

My personality (ENTJ) is the commander type. So, when God teaches me something true, I want to take it to everyone and say, "Look. Truth. Adjust accordingly." That's the way my personality works, but God has also given me verses in Matthew 7:3-5 recently that say clearly, "Don't be concerned about what other people are doing. I want to work in your life and your family."

Here are the verses He's given us this week. Here are the verses He's using to change our family:

Proverbs 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. And I will be a father unto you and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Proverbs 5:7-14 Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her(the strange woman, the world), and come not nigh the door of her house; lest thou give honor unto others, and thy years unto the cruel; lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labors be in the house of a stranger; and thou mourn at the last when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation of the assembly.

1 Kings 18:38-39 Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God.

Galatians 5:13 & 16  For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.