Run Without Me

Thanksgiving snuck up this year. Someone on Instagram was advertising their Black Friday sale, and my reaction was, "Settle down. You're too early." Until I realized that it was NEXT WEEK (this week at this point), so I was the one who was late to the party, as opposed to her being early to it. 

When I think about what God has gifted us, His gifts are huge and abundant. I tend to complain, focusing on the one bad thing that happened today, when God has given us life and that more abundantly (John 10:10)!

The night before last, Charlotte went to bed without breastfeeding. We've been down to twice a day for quite awhile. Yes, she's almost two, and yes, I'd like to wean her before Portia comes, and, yes, I'd like her to wean herself before I have to cut her off, but the next morning she said, "I want some food from the fridge, please." Food from the fridge instead of mama. Maybe it's emotional, pregnant lady talk, but I felt unnecessary in my daughter's life and later that day, peeling squash for dinner, I cried. My husband loves me, and he whispered in Charlotte's ear all evening long, "Go tell mama you need her!" Charlotte kept running over with snuggles, face buried into me, "I need you, mama!" 

The goal of parenting is for your children to grow to be men and women who glorify God and love others, and I'll be the first to shout that that means babies have to become children, who become women, and there's no room for breastfeeding in that equation, long-term. How quickly I forget where we're headed. I want Charlotte to run without me, with God's words bound to her, following Him wherever He leads (Deuteronomy 6:8, Psalm 43:3), and though I'll miss this stage of dependence, I'm thankful for a daughter who has grown big enough to eat food from the fridge and run without me.


Gender Announcement: Baby Number Three

I remember the orientation of the shelf, the height of the book, and the light on your dada's face when we found the only thing we've ever bought specifically for you. It was sitting in an antique shop in Knoxville, just waiting to be found by a young, married couple with the dream of children.

When we visited Gone Away Lake together, your dada put your name down in writing then as one of our future baby names. We've loved the book and your name, Portia, together for years now.

Your middle name has been on my list since high school, when I adopted the life verse Galatians 5:1, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Welcome to the family Portia Liberty Nowak. We can't wait to welcome you home!


Children's Clothes

 I have not purchased a single new piece of clothing ever for Charlotte, and I don't intend to start.

To be fair, I consider her closet meticulously curated. We don't do loud colors, cartoony animals, or ruffles and frills. I'm picky and purposeful about what I choose for her, but my top priority in her closet is inexpensive.

1. Consignment Stores

  • When I was pregnant with Charlotte, I tried several consignment stores before I found the right fit. The key to this is to not go to the expensive, chain children's consignment stores (though those still beat retail!), but to find a smaller, out of the way store. When I was gifted a double without a receipt or found I had too many of something, I would take those things to my consignment store and be given either store credit or cash (depending on what I brought in). The owner was always happy to see me come, because I never brought her junk, but then I was able to take my store credit (cash always gets spent on other things) and shop the store! I pick through the racks, piling up dresses, boots, jackets, and cloth diapers and walk out without spending a dime, every time! She was happy with what I had given her, but I was giving her things I did not want or need and leaving with things I did! You can't beat free!

2. Thrift Stores
  • It is easy to get turned off by a dirty thrift store, so first things first: Get to know the thrift stores in your area. If you asked me which thrift store I would shop for children's clothes, I would give you a different answer than if you asked me which thrift store I would check for furniture. Some thrift stores are great for certain things and rubbish for others. This depends on the neighborhood they pick up from (or get things dropped off from) and the amount of turn-over in the store. If you need advice, ask people who you know go thrifting.
  • The amount of money children's items cost varies from store to store, and sometimes it's worth going to a more "expensive" thrift store to get something specific or in perfect condition still wearing its tag. $1.00 is always an agreeable price for a piece of clothing, but I'll spend $5.00 if I've been looking for a jacket I like for her in that size, or I see a pair of boots in great shape. It certainly beats retail.

3. Facebook Marketplace
  • Full disclosure, I have never bought children's clothes from Facebook Marketplace, but I sell children's clothes on Facebook Marketplace regularly. So I know that there are like-new clothes, way below retail (and often in large lots of a certain size), on Facebook Marketplace just waiting to be snapped up on the cheap. Just like the first two options, you do have to wade through the ugly stuff to find the gems, but for the money you save, it's worth checking into!

What is on the rack in Old Navy this season, is on the rack at the thrift store next season, and if you keep your eyes open you can find exactly what you like for 90% off retail, like new. This is one of the ways that we have saved the most money in our family spending.


Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater

Early this year our church got involved with the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater. We took a tour of one of their local facilities, hosted a bottle drive (fundraiser), and had a baby shower to benefit the mothers being served and loved during their unplanned pregnancies. Last night the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Tidewater hosted a banquet, and Matthew and I were happy to get dressed up for a date night and hear more about the ministry at CPC.

Because I'm one of our church secretaries (and a woman), I've been involved in the CPC activities that our church has participated in, and I also went to CPC myself this pregnancy to help them train a new ultrasound technician using tiniest Nowak as a helper. Previously, I had told Matt that I knew someday we would be more involved in this ministry, but neither of us planned for now to be that jumping point. Matt had only heard about CPC from my experience. We've whittled our budget down to necessities, and neither of us had any intention of changing our charity budget (above our tithe and monthly gift to missions), but as we sat in that room together listening to the passion with which the CPC spares lives, saves hearts, and furthers the gospel of Jesus Christ, all while loving not only unborn babies, but also the mothers and fathers who are considering abortion or have already been through it, we knew that this cause aligns itself with Jesus' heart of love for people in pain and need.

So much of what we're doing as a family these days is about spending less and making more, because God has given us the big job of breaking the chains of financial obligations to debt (mortgage), but yesterday the Holy Spirit spoke to both of us and said, "This can't wait. The battle for these families needs to be fought before your house is paid off."

This is a reminder to pause in your passions and listen to what action God wants your family to take. There are many beautiful, life saving causes, but God laid this one in our lap, and I'm thankful to be the helper for a man who is slow to change but quick to do what God tells him is best for our family.


17 weeks

Our next baby appointment (in three weeks) is the gender reveal ultrasound, and we can't wait to know tiniest Nowak's name and introduce him/her to the world.

People keep asking if we have an inclination, and to be honest, I feel 50/50 on it. I'd like to have a son and introduce him to Matt's Grandad (who is in his nineties), but I keep referring to it as a girl because of the familiarity with the daughter we already have. Truthfully, we want more girls and more boys, so we won't be disappointed in the slightest either way.

Back in August, I had a pap smear, and my results came back, recently, abnormal. They're calling the low-grade cell changes "pre-cancer cells." I had a colposcopy last week in follow up, and the doctor said the results were mild enough that we can wait until after baby is born (late March) to follow up again.

This is not an "I might have cancer!" post, but instead, a diary post to catalog this time of our life: Both these feelings of excitement in waiting to meet this little one, and these quiet questions of what God is going to choose for our family in these low-grade changes.



A week before his birthday we threw a party outside with all the best soups and some dear friends, the focus less on Matt and more on being together, just how he likes it. The day he turned twenty-nine, we started slow with breakfast in bed and presents; A new record on the record player while the three of us snuggled, morning light obscured by gray sky. Later in the day, his only request was a trip through the woods as a family, and we didn't let the rain slow us down.

I think you can see it in these pictures: I couldn't dream up a better father for our daughter.

Your girls are thankful for you. We're thankful for the way you trust God with our family. We're thankful for the way you work hard for us. We're thankful for the way you dream about the future. We're thankful that you're patient and kind.

Thank you for choosing me to spend your moments with. I love this life with you. You're my favorite friend. Happy Birthday, Matthew Gabriel.


October Mortgage Update

My whole life I've found pleasure in pushing myself to reach goals. Show me the goal and tell me that it can be reached, and I'm on my way. Even better, when it's something I know that God has handed our family.

In school that meant never settling for less than 100% on an assignment, quiz, or test, but after college graduation, it has shown its face best in my weight loss journey and debt payoff.

For three and a half years we puttered through mortgage payments. We were never late, but we had no ambition to pay off our thirty-year loan in less than thirty years. Then, this February, right as I reached goal weight, God gave us a new goal in the form of a class our church offered: Financial Peace University.

There are steps to follow, and our current step is "Pay off your home early." In three and a half years (40 months) of just making our mortgage payment, we paid off 9% of our mortgage. BUT Since this February, in the last eight months, doing extra side jobs, selling everything we can get our hands on, and budgeting with purpose, we've paid off an additional 17% of our mortgage! (see pie chart ^ for visual high five)

We have $63,900.00 left to go, before we reach this goal, but PROGRESS.

Actively working towards being completely debt free isn't a goal most people prioritize, and once we reach this goal, we aren't sure where God is going to have us put our money. When you owe someone money, your present and future earnings are already obligated to pay for your past. Every month, we are obligated to hand the bank about a fourth of our income to pay our mortgage. Just think of what that un-obligated money can do in His hands when we no longer owe it!

What's He going to have us doing in our thirties? Adopting, giving extra, traveling? We're not sure, but paying a mortgage? Nah.