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.


Christian Vir: 2018

On the back of my right hand there's a tiny scar where they finally found a vein to stick the morphine pump. I wear my "C" initial ring on that same hand, a simple reminder of the baby boy who I couldn't keep from rushing out of my body, lifeless. There was panic the moment he came. I've never felt so intensely unable to control my life. I couldn't keep him in any longer, and I could feel my body helping to accomplish something that my mind didn't want to occur. In my panic, I called to the doctors, who were discussing quietly across the room, "He's coming! I can't stop him!"

But really what I was shouting was, "I don't want him to be born dead! Help me keep him from being born dead!"

We stopped by his grave as a family in the biting wind, and this year, three years after his birth, we brought both of his sisters. Dada carried Charlotte in his arms, and he cried softly as he shielded her from the January cold. I carried Portia in my belly, hands full of orange flowers, grateful to be past the twenty-five week mark with this pregnancy. Our first-born child is officially our youngest again.

A couple of months ago, I filmed some of his story, and I'd invite you to watch it, here. It's the saddest story we have, but there's so much peace and beauty in it too. God gave us Biblical comfort before we lost him, on the way to the hospital, and every sad day after. He has been the balm that heals the hurt, the cord that holds our family together, and the brightness of future promises: a joy-filled life.


Mortgage Payoff for 2017

$109,000.00. Purchase price of our home in October of 2013.

$87,200.00. Our house debt. The loan we took took out in October of 2013.

$79,000.00. Amount left when God told us to get out of house debt in February of 2017.

$60,000.00. My original goal for December of 2017.

$54,362.40. How much we have left on our mortgage as we leave December of 2017.

When we started this journey in February, I took our remaining debt ($79,000.00) and broke it into bite size chunks using the house image above (from debt free charts). Originally we had hoped to make it down to $60,000.00 left on our mortgage by the end of this year, but God kept handing us extra money (ideas post, yard sale post) to put toward the mortgage, and the ball was rolling faster than we had imagined.

At the end of November 2017 we had already passed that goal, and so we changed our goal to get to the bottom line on the roof of the mortgage chart (above). When we saw how close that number ($54,692.32) was to 50% of our home's original purchase price ($54,500.00), we made our official 2017 goal to get to the 50% payoff of our home purchase price. The goal for the end of this month was officially set at $54,500.00.

Just like in September of 2017 (when we had our yard sale), Matt had another mandatory (unpaid) week off in December. So we knew that with that week off (and Christmas expenses and Charlotte's birthday), it would be incredibly difficult to hit this new goal. We needed over $3,000.00 extra this month to put toward the mortgage. I type these updates out periodically because it is absurd to me how God helps us when we obey Him.

He gave us a long list of verses directly from His mouth in February and said, "Get out of debt as fast as you can, so that I can use your money for something else." Recently He spoke to us again and said, "I don't care if it looks like it will slow down your debt payoff, I want you to give extra money to a specific, local charity every month going forward." When we listen to what God says, He rewards us with both hands. When we open our mouths wide, He fills them! (Psalm 81:10)

This month, we had a week off work, Christmas expenses, and our daughter's birthday, but God wrote us checks all month long. Over and over and over. I'm not talking about Christmas cash or expected gifts. I'm talking about a car accident that we had no fault in, and the kindness of strangers, and money we DIDN'T EARN. All month long, God handed us money we didn't earn. 

I sold $40.00 worth of stuff this month. Since we began this journey in February, that's our lowest month of sales. I had (logically so) thought that December would be a month full of people buying things from us, but God keeps pulling back and saying, "No, Amanda. I'm doing this. You're not doing it."

Matt made less than two hundred dollars doing extra jobs this month. That should have left us thousands of dollars short on our debt payoff goal for the year, but God handed us thousands of extra dollars. He quietly demands that I give Him glory on this journey. We're not doing it. We can't do it. We don't make enough money. 

We don't have a big enough income to pay off our mortgage, but we have a big enough God.

December closes this week, and we have less than 50% of our house left to pay off. $54,362.40.

How long will that take us to pay off? I don't know, but something tells me that God will do it way faster than I can. 


25 Weeks: Portia Liberty

This past week someone who loves our baby inquired, "Do you know what size fruit Portia is this week?"

People around us glanced inquisitively between us, some of them thinking she was referencing our other daughter's middle name being a fruit, but I understood. She was referring to those phone applications that people use to track their progress. They'll say, "Today baby Nowak is the size of an asian pear!" or "Today baby Nowak is the size of a pomegranate!"

The answer flooded me, having nothing to do with Portia, or her sister, Charlotte Pear. I don't have one of those applications for Portia, but that didn't change my answer.


I know what size Portia is this week.

I know that her head barely fits in the palm of her dada's hand, and I know how her tiny fingers curl. I know how her mouth would open as you tilted her head back, pixie lips parting gently. She's about a foot long. She's around twenty ounces in weight.

I've held a Nowak baby at twenty-five weeks. I know what size she is.

I could never be upset by the unexpected reminder of my son. There was no pain in the memory, when the answer came to me. Twenty-five weeks will always be the week that I gave birth to a dead child, and I'm not angry to remember him. In fact, I'm thankful that he lived, even though he died.


Charlotte's Garden Party

Dada had trimmed our fir tree and put his years working at a Christmas Tree Lot to good use, making yards of garland for our baby's birthday to decorate our little home. I made wreaths with the other bits to finish the walls, and we spread the china across our table with candles, flowers, and fruit. She woke up late, and we surrounded her with birthday cards and white balloons and sprinkled love all over her before the rest of the family arrived. 

We're blessed to be surrounded well by both sides of our family and even had siblings come from states away to help us love our Charlotte Pear. We had appetizers to start and then shared the best creamy Thai carrot sweet potato soup, a fitting, fresh pear salad, and some veggies before we cut into my sister-in-law's moist raspberry almond cake. Charlotte unwrapped all the presents, shared all the giggles, and managed to cheese through a missed nap. Two years of this beautiful babe have gone in a flash, and we're nothing but grateful for this chance to learn deeper love.