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.


fourteen weeks

Our newest baby flutters low in my belly as I start the second trimester. I'm recharged: cleaning, mixed in bursts with decluttering, instead of the long, necessary naps when energy was low. With the Great Yard Sale of 2017 behind us, the upstairs is inhabitable again, and I'm in a mood for rearranging all the rooms and making a bedroom up there for a blonde baby who will soon be our big girl. I'm not supposed to do heavy lifting, so it's mostly mental rearranging currently, but there's decluttering and cleaning to be done in preparation, and that, I can do.

Fall began with warmth and well-watered earth here by the ocean. Saying goodbye to September has been beautiful; a study of God's faithfulness. There was a whole week that Matt didn't have work this month, and I doubted we would stay on track financially. I thought we would fall short of goals and stumble through. But God. God had plans for us to prosper: to run and not grow weary. We sold the Dodge Journey this month, had the world's most successful yard sale, and I think the best monetary month we've had in the six years we've been married. For that to happen even though my husband was out of work for a week, just goes to show that all of our best efforts are nothing compared to God's good and perfect gifts. He has rewarded my husband's faith and our hard-work. (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 14:23)

Matt's birthday party is a couple of weekends away, and we'll gather, as always, around a fire pit with homemade soup and welcome October the right way, celebrating the man of my dreams. I'm thankful for our little family. In all of our selfishness, pride, and impatience, there is a growth toward the love that suffers-long and is kind. Love that we can only learn from Jesus. Love that covers a multitude of sins.


A Yard Sale Worth Planning

Early in the summer, I posted some Yard Sale tips after being a part of two Yard Sale Events with other Yard Sale vendors. Between the two weekends, I had made $230.00. For all the hauling to other locations, set-up, and tear-down, the return wasn't great, but after God gave Matt and I the same idea to collect things to sell (donated from other humans who heard we were selling and offered things they were ready to get rid of and also picked up from the side of the road), things started piling up. We knew if we continued, even selling $250 worth a week online, we'd have a huge haul left by the end of the summer.

Matt works on a local military base as a contractor, and every September they have an air show. This is fun and patriotic for the community, but for the people who work on the base it means a mandatory week off work as the base prepares for the airshow. This was the perfect (forced) opportunity. We knew a week of no work was coming, and we set our yard sale date accordingly for September 16th.

All summer we told people, "We're saving up for a yard sale, if you have anything you're getting rid of." All summer people handed us things. I was bold. If I saw someone (a stranger) advertising their yard sale in a Facebook Group (specifically people who were moving, and thus ready to unload everything that didn't sell) I would tell them that I'd come and pick up whatever they were ready to get rid of after the sale (while wishing them well on the sale. I'm not heartless). I picked up boxes and boxes from different families this way. It was some of our best stuff. Between donations from friends, donations from strangers, and things we found out for the trash we populated the largest one family yard-sale (which was of course representing lots of different families) you've ever seen. One of my sister-in-laws who worked at a thrift store for years said, "Y'all honestly have more stuff than the average CHKD out here."

Matt's prayer for the weekend was for the Yard Sale to make enough to replace his week of work, which is roughly $700. My hope for the weekend was to make a couple hundred dollars to offset some of Matt's missed work week. I'm thankful for a husband who prays and expects God to answer. We made $692.00 in our one-day Yard Sale, and between that and a side job my husband did during the week, I think we had the best financial week we've ever had. How good is God?

A couple of tips:

  • Take killer pictures on your nice camera before hand and post them everywhere that's free.
    • Get your best stuff in these pictures. People love to dig through the piles of treasures for a deal, but seeing the pretty pieces together makes them come out. 
  • Paint neon signs with black letters "YARD SALE ALL DAY" and arrows. 
    • Place them at every major intersection and on a clear path toward your house. This is worth the hour of placement the night before.
  • Get things out of boxes where people can see them.
    • I had all of my linens in boxes and when we un-boxed them and spread them out on a table (a couple hours in, there was SO MUCH to do!) they sold like hot cakes.
We didn't sell expensive things. The most expensive single item that sold was $25 (we sold a camera couple of days before the yard sale for more, but that's not included in the numbers I gave you). It was a lot of $1 items that piled up, up, up throughout the day.

I'm so thankful for all of the people who donated towards our Yard Sale; the family members who helped with Charlotte, set-up and tear down, and meals the day of; and mostly, the God who knows the desires of our hearts even when we're not brave enough to pray them out loud.


A Hand-Sewn Quilt

In a quiet neighborhood with a large backyard, a mother and father raised six children, teaching them always to live a quiet life and work with their hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11). As the children grew and married, the mother gifted them, one by one, a quilt, pieced together from their childhood, embroidered thoughtfully with details of their life.

My mother-in-law hand-stitched this quilt, square by square, remembering to incorporate all of the important bits of our story. When we unfolded it I immediately recognized watermelon squares from my own childhood; a favorite pair of culottes, hand-sewn, originally, by my mother. The longer we looked, the more we saw: references to our homes together, our adventures, our animals, and our babies. It's a gift to be treasured, for sure.

All day today Charlotte climbed onto our bed, not to bounce, but to ask, "Mama? Dada?" I would pull back the quilt to show her the underside, where our likenesses lay, tucked away. She's as in love as we are.


Toyota Tacoma (New Truck!)

We bought a truck! No, you're not blind. That ^ is a Dodge Journey, not a truck.

My husband's plan, since leaving his window washing job this spring, has been to start his own Window Washing company next spring. The largest expense (by far!) for the start of that business was my husband's dream truck, a Toyota Tacoma with a truck bed cover and a ladder rack. We've been looking locally for months now, and praying for the perfect truck to show up in our price range, but whenever we would go and see a truck (and fall in love), we'd make our best offer ($8,000.00 cash), only to be turned down. Over and over.

Toyota Tacomas hold their value forever, because they last forever, because they're fantastic trucks, but their lasting value makes it hard to find a steal of a Toyota Tacoma.

My brother-in-law stopped by Norfolk on his way to path of totality for the total eclipse, and we mentioned that we were looking for a Toyota Tacoma. When he went back home to Philadelphia, he poked around and sent us a link. It was Matt's dream truck (with the truck bed cover and the ladder rack) for $8,500.00. We were close. Matt prayed hard for clear direction and open doors, and a couple of weekends later, he road tripped to Philadelphia, handed a Polish gentleman $7,850.00 and came home with his truck. Some of that discount was because we only had $8,000.00 for the truck, some of it was because of the ten hours of travel, and the last $50 came off because Matt is Polish too.

So, on Saturday we bought a truck, and the next weekend we listed our Dodge Journey. We have someone looking at it this afternoon, and I'm trusting God for whatever he wants to do in our family, while praying that it sells quickly.

This weekend we're having a GIANT Yard Sale, which we've been hoarding for all summer. Everything people have given us to sell, will be priced to move, and we're hoping that it will make up for the (mandatory) week off work that Matt has this week. I promise to take some pictures of the truck (I should be driving it this week) to show you, but I also promise that all week this week I'll be up to my eyeballs in treasures, sorting and pricing, to place them out this weekend. If good deals are your thing, come out and visit us on Saturday!



Eating: Cheesy chicken and brown rice because pregnant, nursing mamas need all the good fats and all the good carbs.

Reading and Recommending: Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins and Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot.

Listening to: Baby Beluga by Raffi on repeat in the car and on the record player, because Charlotte knows what she likes.

Feeling: Thankful to see tiniest Nowak wiggling around on ultrasound again this week. We're on track for a March 30th, 2018 due date!

Buying: Nothing extra so we can put money towards Tummy Baby's birth, while still working toward paying off our house. After chatting with Matt about it, we decided to split what we save every month in half and put half towards the house and half towards the birth! It felt good this month making progress towards both!

Getting Ready For: A giant yard sale next month. If you know anyone who has things to get rid of, send them our way! Or, if you have anything big you want us to sell for you, we're game for that too! Anything that looks good in the ads!

Studying: Knowledge, in the light of what God wants for me as a wife and mother: Ex. 31:3-5. Proverbs 1:20-22, 5:1-2, 8:10-14, 21:11, 23:12.

What have you been up to as summer comes to a close? Reading books about homeschooling even though you're still years away from starting? Yeah, me too.