Wednesday, November 26, 2014

True Thanksgiving

I love the Thanksgiving season. I feel like people are much more grateful about big and little things in their lives. It truly is a time of thanks and I am glad that we take time to celebrate it each year. 
Some people may feel like they do not have a lot to be thankful for, and some may feel that they have much. I fall into the much category. I have so many things, big and small, that I am thankful for. All of the "typical" things, like my family, friends, church, home, food on the table, etc. Who isn't thankful for those things?! Everyone I know is, of course. But this year I am thinking about what it really means to be thankful. And I know it starts with God. 
Do you know Christ? Not just in the "oh yeah, I know He died for my sins. I know He was a perfect man." way. But in the intimate way. The way where you can feel His presence in your life and you can talk to Him about anything and everything? The way where you crave more of Him. More of His word, His goodness, His faithfulness? If you don't, send me an email! I want you to know Him in that way and would love to share with you about how I came to that place in my life. 
With all that being said, if you are a true believe in Christ, it is important to remember that God calls us to give thanks in every circumstance. Not just when things are going right. Not just when we have all that we need. He wants us to give thanks when we are in sticky situations. When we don't have enough money to put food on the table. When we are dealing with crises. Can you honestly say that you regularly give thanks for those things? I know I don't! Thankfulness is not typically something I am experiencing in the middle of life's trials. Or even in the day to day annoyances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Give thanks in all circumstances. I want to be able to regularly be saying "Hey, thanks!" to God for stuff I wouldn't normally be giving thanks for. Every trial I've ever experienced has brought me closer to Him. It has increased my fruits of the spirit and in the end, I walk away from it a better person and a stronger believer. That's not to say that my relationship with Him hasn't had it's ups and downs during those times, but the end result is always me walking away better than before. I want to recognize that during the trial. I want to have a true heart of thankfulness. 
Are you willing to praise God for what He is doing in your life? Not just for all of the wonderful blessings that He has bestowed upon you, like cars and computers and cute kids and clothes on your back. But to praise Him for the bad day you had. And the car that wouldn't start. And the kids who threw tantrums all day. He is worthy, friends. 
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, celebrating all of the many blessings in your lives, but more specifically, remember Who we have to thank for Life. 
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" 
Psalm 150:6
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Taming Your Sweet Tooth

Before I had kids, I didn't have much of a sweet tooth. I mean, don't get me wrong, I liked a chocolate chip cookie as much as the next guy, but I never craved sweets.
Post kids, holy cow, GIVE ME ALL THE OREOS, CHEESECAKES, MUFFINS, COOKIES, M&M'S, CHOCOLATE MILK, DONUTS, AND CANDY BARS. Seriously, I can't get enough. I know that sugar is highly addictive and I think I am "there". It's been hard to break the cycle, because I really do crave this stuff now. It started almost as soon as my oldest was born, and has been going on ever since. I once read an article about high correlation between sugar cravings and lactating mothers. Not sure if it's true, but for me it seemed to be. It didn't really die down after I stopped breastfeeding either, but I guess by then I was highly addicted.
Aaaanyway. I thought I'd share a few things that have been helping me curb the cravings and tame the crazy sweet tooth I have going on.


Get busy. When I'm craving sweets, the craving will usually go away pretty quickly if I get busy doing something and get my mind off of it. Taking my kids to another room to play, doing some house chores, going on a walk, etc.

Drink water. Drinking water will sometimes satisfy me. Not in the same way a Milky Way would obviously, but it'll get rid of my thirst which makes me not feel as desperate for sweets. I'm not sure if it makes sense, but it lessens the intense cravings sometimes.

Replace it. I feel like for me, the time I want something sweet the most is just after I've eaten. It's like I need to "finish it off" with something sweet. Just a little something to get that sweetness onto my lips. So I've started replacing it with a little fruit. After a meal if I'm craving sweets, I'll eat a small clementine, or a small handful of grapes. They're just sweet enough that it usually does the trick. Again, not the same as a handful of chocolate chips, but it works.

Chew gum. It keeps my mouth busy and makes me forget about the craving.

Brush your teeth. Usually I don't want to eat something just after I've brushed my teeth. Especially not something full of sugar. By the time I feel like eating after I've brushed, the craving is gone.

Set a limit. I'm not one of those 'everything in moderation' type people. If I have one oreo, I want another, and another, until I've eaten half the pack. BUT depriving myself also doesn't work. The minute I tell myself I "can't" have something, it's all I want. So I set a limit before I start, then do something immediately to keep myself from getting more. For example, after church I might allow myself one cookie. So I take my one cookie, walk away from the refreshment table, and find someone to chat with. I'm not going to excuse myself from the conversation to go get another cookie...that would be rude and embarrassing, so I'll stop with the one. Another example: I'll grab a handful of chocolate chips, put the bag away, and go to another room to eat them. Then I brush my teeth when I'm done so I'm not tempted to get another handful.

Anyone else have a crazy bad sweet tooth? What do you do to tame it?
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Downsizing in a World of Up-sizing


I feel like this world is in up-sizing mode. We want bigger houses, bigger/better cars, bigger meals, more expensive things, and on and on. When we bought our first home in 2009, I will admit that I thought bigger was better. We bought a 100 year old home, so it wasn't the newest and nicest house, but it was big. And I loved that about it. I quickly found out that an almost 3000 sq. ft. home is a lot of work to keep up on. Impossible to have it all clean at the same time, honestly. 
Well, we recently moved from that home into a 950 sq. ft. home with an unfinished basement (which we have since been working on finishing and just have a few things to finish up, but the basement is live-able now). Honestly, we were terrified. We weren't sure what we were getting ourselves into. We knew we'd have to downsize some when we moved, and I really wanted to because that house was just too much work, but we didn't think we'd be moving into a house the size of our first apartment. We went from having 5 bedrooms with 2 "bonus" rooms and 3 bathrooms, to having 2 bedrooms and one bathroom. 
I'll never forget the day that the opportunity for building this house presented itself. We had been looking at other lots through this program we were building in, but none of them were right. When we found out about this new lot, we were immediately intrigued, but shortly after, we were told that there was only one floor plan available to build on this lot. And that floor plan happened to be a two bedroom, one bathroom. Eek! We were just not sure if we could make it work. Besides the large amount of stuff that we owned, our kids had never shared a room, and we both really love hosting and weren't sure how to do that in such a small space.
Long story short, we decided that we were willing to sacrifice more space for other things that we wanted in a house. And I am so, so glad we made that decision! 
We were recently out on a bike ride, and I asked my husband: now that we've gone through the whole process, downsized and have been living here a few months, do you think we did the right thing? He said without a doubt, 10/10, 100% yes. I agree. 
Being able to let go of so much of the materialistic stuff in our lives and focus on being more minimal has been a blessing to us. We are still working to get there. We had a lot of stuff. We totally became the people who friends and family pawned all their old junk off on because 1) we had the space for it, and 2) my husband is kind of a sucker when it comes to things like that. We got rid of so many van loads full of stuff before we even moved and have gotten rid of so much more since we have moved in and been unpacking! We are a work in progress, but I have loved just getting to focus on the important things in life. Having 1000 sq. ft. to live in for several months wasn't one of those. It was fine. We made it work, and actually I kind of love it. I can clean the whole house super fast, I can be in the kitchen and hear my kids playing in their bedroom, and I have to be picky about what stuff I'm keeping and how I'm organizing things. The fact of the matter is that we are beyond blessed to have this home. Not buying it because it was "too small" would have been silly for us. Sure, we had valid concerns, like how we would be able to host gatherings, which is important to us...especially as a family in ministry, but God has worked all of that out. We've hosted many life groups and a few larger gatherings already, and it has been totally fine. 
I could see God's hand in all of the little details of this move so much more than ever before. Every little thing that had to go right for this to work out, every time that He seemed to drop money in our laps when we'd find out about something else we had to pay for, etc. It made me think that it was His way of telling us this was the right move. 
I am really excited about continuing to learn to live with less. To be thankful for what I do have. To break the mindset of wanting so much unnecessary stuff. With the completion of our basement (mostly) we have added another living space, a bedroom and another bathroom. This will certainly help out some, but it's only another 450 sq. ft. It has been fun figuring out how to utilize the space to its fullest potential and to customize it to make it work for our family. Now that we are used to living in a smaller space, I could honestly see us staying here for a long, long time. It feels so homey and so "us" and I love that about it. I love that it's just what we need, and not a lot more. I love that God showed me how much I was holding space and things as an idol...they were wants, not needs. And I love that we are learning to be content with much less. 
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Broken Door Handles, Hoods That Won't Stay Up, Leaky Roofs and More Stories From This Season

Last week, we were in the middle of a frustrating car issue (the millionth one in the last few years), and then I just had to stop and laugh at the picture. Let's go back in time a little bit, so I can paint a picture for you. 

Last year, we had a bunch of issues with our van not starting. We went over to my in laws one day and my mother in law opened the garage for us to pull in and get the girls out in the garage since it was freezing and snowing. When we went to leave, it wouldn't start. We tried to jump it and no dice. My husband tried a ton of stuff and nothing worked, so we gave up and took his mom's car home. A day or two later, his dad went out and it just started on its own. Ok, I kid you not when I say that about a week later this exact same thing happened again. Went to his parents, pulled it in the garage and had no problems with it that entire time in between, went to leave and it wouldn't start. My mother in law and I both thought he was kidding when he came inside and said it didn't start. What are the odds?! We couldn't get it to work at all again so we called the shop to take it in. The next morning they went out and guess what? It started! So we took it to the shop and they couldn't find anything wrong with it. Took it back to his parents and, well, you know where this is going. It wouldn't start again. So we called the guys at the shop and they actually ended up coming over to his parent's house to see what the deal was since they couldn't find anything wrong with it just hours before. No one could get it to start so we called a tow truck to come get it and right after they got there...it started. Couldn't make this story up if I tried. It was ridiculous. So, to make a long story short, they replaced the starter and about a week or so later it wouldn't start again. So we took it back in and it was a faulty part so they replaced it again free of charge. We were good to go for awhile. Sometimes I still needed jumped though and my husband said it was just because it was soooo cold last winter. Warm weather hit and we had no more problems until we needed a new alternator. So we replaced that this summer. Well, we were getting ready to take the girls trick or treating on Halloween and the van doesn't start. It was the first cold day of the season, so we jumped it with our car and were on our way. Side funny story: we got home that night and the car was running in our drive way. My husband forgot to take the keys out after he jumped it and it just sat there all night, with the keys in it, running, while tons of people walked by on Halloween. Thank God it wasn't stolen! Anyway, we don't have any more problems for a few days and then it won't start again on a cold day. After twice, I am paranoid every time I go somewhere that it is not going to start for me when I'm alone. Well, of course it was bound to happen sometime. So last week, we are at gymnastics. The van started fine on our way over, but when we come out it doesn't start so I call my husband to come jump us. He leaves work and heads over. By this time I am frustrated because we have replaced the starter, alternator and had just gotten a new battery less than 2 years ago. Everything should be working fine! So he gets there and pulls his car nose to nose with the van I'm sitting in. He rolls down his window so that he can reach his arm out the window to open his door from the outside because it won't open from the inside. If you aren't lol'ing right now, read the story again. I'm sitting in an empty parking lot with two kids because our van that we've recently replaced everything on won't start, and my husband has to roll down his window just to open his door. That's when I just couldn't help but laugh. What a sight we must have been! It was just laughable at that point. We have had so many car woes it was just par for the course, but the door handle just cracks me up. How ridiculous it looks! Then I have to get out to hold the hood of the car up because it doesn't stay up on its own like its supposed to. So we've currently got a dead battery, broken door handle, hood that won't stay up, along with a missing wiper on the van that has been gone for....literally months(This was after we finally took it off because it would just occasionally go rogue and the wiper would randomly freak out and go in like a circle and scratch the whole windshield. Seriously. Oh yeah, at one point we had a soft dog bowl on it to keep it from scratching....Wish I was kidding). Only one license plate on the car because the other one was stolen last week (who does that?!). Let's see, what else....need a new roter on the van because it shakes when you break going faster than 40 mph and when my husband changed it this last weekend, found that we also needed new brake pads because they wore out too fast from the bad roter even though they were just replaced this summer. Add this to the oil drip, the leaking antifreeze that sometimes makes our heat turn into freezing cold air for a few minutes before it comes back on, and the cracked bumper that was just replaced after someone hit us a few years ago and I'm calling it a day. I QUIT CARS. Ok, I honestly didn't realize we had that much wrong with our cars until I wrote it all out! It sounds a little bit ridiculous, doesn't it?! This all has a point though....
I was talking to my friend Rachel about this season we're in right now. The one where we don't have nice things and the things that we do have don't even work apparently. And the one where we don't have a lot of money to fix said broken things, or better yet, buy new ones. Yeah, that season. And we were talking about how it is just a season. A season that will be fleeting like any other season we've been in or will be in. Soon we will be able to afford nicer cars that won't have everything go wrong with them. Well, hopefully anyway ;) It is hard to be content in these seasons sometimes. I want nice things! I want cars that run and that you can open the door without having to roll down the window! Is that so much to ask?! But then I think about how blessed we are to even have cars. I feel like that is so cliche to say, but it is really true. How many people in the world would love to have one of these cars? How many people are walking, or waiting at bus stops in the cold and snow and wind because they can't afford these luxuries. And in that conversation, I felt better about our season. Not only is it teaching me life lessons, like that things aren't as important as I often make them out to be. But I'm learning contentment and thankfulness. I'm realizing how much we really do have! And I'm learning to laugh and realize that this season makes for some hilariously awesome stories. These will be the stories that we tell our adult children as we encourage them that someday this season will pass for them too. 

Ok, now even though this is getting long and I've made my point (we don't have nice things, but its only a season, in case you needed a re-cap...), who wants more funny car stories?! 

We were really very lucky to have two cars over the last several years that we got for a steal in basically perfect condition. The first one I got my first year of college from my aunt for $2,000 and had around 50,000 miles on it. It was the purple Saturn and it never needed anything except a new clutch around 100,00 miles. It was such a reliable car. Then we got the pearl colored Saturn. We had two cars and weren't looking for one, but one random day my husband's aunt said she had a friend who was trying to sell her elderly mother's car and house. The mom had been living in a nursing home and they were just sitting. We had absolutely no reason to go look at this car but we did. It had 40 some thousand miles, had been sitting in a garage its entire life and driven by an elderly woman. It was in perfect condition. And she told us we could have it for $1,100. This was pre-kids and we had money to blow so we said sure, why not. That car would have lasted us seriously forever, but my husband was in an accident this summer when someone turned right into him and the car was totaled. Saddest day. After dealing with a super frustrating insurance agent for months while we tried to get what we were supposed to, we finally got the check and he bought an older, but reliable Toyota that hopefully will last a long time. Even though it is reliable, things, like random door handles, still go wrong. 
Ok so before the pearl Saturn, my husband had this 1988 Toyota truck. It didn't even have a model name it was so old. I hated that thing with every ounce of my being. It was old and rusty and he loved it so much. It was a small truck so it wasn't even good for hauling or moving big stuff. I hated it from the day he bought it, but he loved it and he was the one who drove it, so.... 
My friend Ashley needed help getting some furniture after she moved here, and for whatever reason the men were unavailable I guess because we went to pick it up alone...in the truck. Well let me just tell you what that was like. We were in the sweltering, humid, midwest summer in this super old pick up with no a/c. I know how "princess-y" that sounds, but it was really hot. So we are cruising down a main street and oh, it just randomly back fires. It did that sometimes. It was always 100% embarrassing. Not to mention the fact that it had no power steering so I had to literally use every part of my body to turn this thing with one arm, while controlling the stick shift with the other, trying not to hide my head from the embarrassing back fire and sweating buckets. We were in hysterics by the time we got to the furniture place. See, years later it made for a good story!

My last funny car story is about my husband's little red car. Right after we got engaged, he and some other people were headed to a church conference over Christmas break when his current car broke down and was totaled. I think it was the head gasket. Well, we lived in the same dorm and I worked on campus, so instead of him buying a new car, we just shared mine for the rest of the semester since I hardly ever drove it. This was the purple Saturn, by the way. That summer, he moved home and I moved into an apartment, so he needed a car. He found the little red convertible. I don't think I hated it from the moment I laid eyes on it, but I certainly didn't love it. The first night he got it (this was prior to the truck, so my friend Ashley didn't live here, but was in town visiting), we went over to his parent's house. When we got there, he was happily washing and detailing his new baby. It was a soft convertible top. It was certainly not a fancy car. Ashley called it "The Stuart Little car" because it was sooo teeny tiny. We decided to take it for a little cruise. Ashley sat in what I guess was considered the back seat. I'm not sure how a person could actually fit back there because it was so small, but there were seats so she did. We put the top down and we were off. I think Ashley literally just laughed the entire drive. It was so tiny and he would just step on the gas and I don't even know. You probably had to be there. So funny little Stuart Little car. Well, we soon find out that the soft top actually leaks. A lot. So pretty much every time it rains (which was all the time), it gets soaked. But only the passenger side. You know...the side where I get to sit. I remember one night we were in a colossal storm and had to drive home in it, so I climbed into the already drenched seat and got my butt totally soaked. For the entire drive home, I held a sweatshirt or blanket or something along the window/roof so the rain wasn't just pouring in on me. It was just a slow leak instead. I may as well have just walked home because I was drenched from head to toe. But my husband still looooooved that thing. He was so sad to see it go when we sold it after we got married. He never got wet in it, though. Did I mention that it just smelled like musty old rain all the time, too?! Yeah. 

Ok, I'll stop talking now. Those are my funny car stories and life lesson for today. And just for the record, when we got our van a few years ago, it truly felt like quite the luxury. You know after the back firing truck and the Stuart Little mobile. If only all these things hadn't gone wrong with it, but I suppose that's par for the course with car ownership. 

Got any funny car stories?! I wanna hear 'em! 
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So...What Exactly ARE You Paying For?

Adoption is expensive. You probably already know that. Most people know it is expensive, but I have found that most people don't realize just HOW costly, or what exactly those costs are for. Majority of people get that you aren't "buying a baby" but there is definitely a lot of confusion about where $30,000+ is going. And rightly so! I wanted to try to break down some of the costs of adoption so you can better understand the process and help spread the word. I have heard too many people saying how "unfair" it is that adoption costs so much. Of course we would love to not have to come up with this kind of money, but once you realize how many people this involves and what you are paying those people for, it makes a little bit more sense and seems a little less unfair. We want the whole process to be ethical and make sure everyone is being taken care of and that means a costly process. 
Please note that these numbers are average and could be more or less in reality.
Homestudy Fee: $1,000-$2,500
Agency Fees: $15,000-$30,000+ (This is for application fees, paperwork, matching you with a birth mother, and sometimes covers birth mother expenses and counseling. The agency also takes care of all of those minor details like putting you in touch with the birth family if need be, notifying you when the baby is coming, supporting you and the birth family post birth, etc.).
Attorney Fees: $2,000-$4,000 (You need an attorney to finalize the adoption of your child).
Birth mother expenses/counseling: $1,000-$5000+ (This may include living expense such as food, rent, transportation, etc. This is often included in the agency fee).
Medical Expenses: $1,000-$10,000+ (Depending on your insurance and the birth mother's insurance)
Travel Expenses: $2,000-$3,000 (If your baby is not born in the state where you reside you will need to travel to the state the baby is born. Of course this will include gas or airplane tickets, hotel stay for a week +, etc.)
Other Expenses: $1,000-$5,000 (Other paper work that may not have been included, printing profile books, applying for and mailing grant applications, using a consultant, etc.)
Hopefully this break down helps you to understand where all of this money is going. It definitely takes a village to successfully pursue an ethical adoption but it is worth it in the end. Majority of families that we have talked with have said their adoptions costed $30,000-$40,000 so that is what we are expecting to pay as well. 
We have had several friends suggest that we start a crowd funding page to spread the word about our adoption. Sometimes random strangers can stumble upon these and your story may touch their heart. This is an easy way for friends and family to share on their social media pages and get the word out. We are so grateful to everyone who has already given to our adoption. We certainly don't expect anything from anyone, but every cent that we have received has been such a blessing. I really wanted to share more about the adoption costs because I know this question is often at the back of people's minds when they are feeling led to give. They want to know exactly what they are giving to. I hope this helps, and you can always let me know if you have any questions. If you feel led to give or share, you can view our profile on YouCaring. Thank you for praying for us, our future baby and their birth family. 
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Christmas Countdown Chain Printable {With Scripture References}

Who doesn't love a good countdown chain?! My kids love putting them together and tearing them up every day. I'm not sure they quite get the "counting down" part yet, but it will come soon. Instead of just doing our usual construction paper chain, I wanted something a little more cute-sy this season. I decided to make up some prints on the computer with the date and a scripture reference to go with it. I am planning on having the girls rip one off each day and then we will look up the verse together and read it out loud! I got the verse list from this doc.
Feel free to print this out and enjoy! (You can right click to save each photo, then print as full page photo).





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Monday, November 17, 2014

Naturally Lazy

I'm naturally lazy. Just going to get right to the point and throw it out there. Work is hard for me, as funny as that sounds. And I don't just mean hard, physical or exhausting work. Just anything. It's hard for me to make myself do the laundry instead of just plopping down in front of a movie. It's a challenge for me to choose to cook a meal instead of going out to eat. I have to force myself to clean the house instead of doing, well, basically anything else! I would rather take the easy way out on almost anything, and I always want the outcome without having to do the work to get it (i.e. I love clean sheets, but I hate stripping the bed, washing the sheets and putting them back on). 
I used to think that this was normal...who liked work, after all?! But I've come to really think that this is ingrained in who I am. I see similarities in other family members that make me think that it is some kind of genetic thing. My husband is NOT like this. Movie marathon on a rainy Saturday? Forget about it. He's good for about an episode of Revolution and then he's done. Ready to move on and go tackle a project. After marrying him, it was my first clue that everyone wasn't the same as me. I think part of it was that I was a bit in denial about how bad it really was. I honestly thought I just liked lounging/relaxing/taking it easy every now and then. I feel like this is all coming across really bad and I'm making myself sound like such a bum...I promise I'm not! All this to say that keeping a home, cooking, cleaning, etc. doesn't come naturally or easy for me! 
So how do I manage to not have laundry and dishes piling up every day? How do I make sure that my toilets aren't unsanitary, and that I am getting food on the table at every meal? 
The biggest thing is prayer. I have to consciously choose to live out God's Word in this area. This is what He is calling me to do. Yeah, it's harder for me than it might be for some other people, but I want to follow His command. In verse 13 of Proverbs 31, it says that the noble wife "works with eager hands". Did you get that? She works with eager hands. She doesn't just work. She doesn't just work hard. She works eagerly! The rest of the chapter goes on to talk about what that looks like for her. I want God to look at me and see that I am working eagerly! I want Him to to know that I'm not begrudgingly picking up millions of toys and cleaning the stove, but I'm doing it with a joyful heart! For Him! And for my family. Colossians 3:23 says "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." In Titus 2, it encourages us to "be busy at home". Busy. Not lazy. 
The other big thing that I have to do is plan ahead. Making lists, having goals, telling my husband what I'm going to get done that day, etc. They all help me to hold myself accountable. Making check lists or spreadsheets, like this one, help me to know that I'm getting done what needs to get done. If I don't, then days pass, weeks pass, and everything is the same. That's not who God is calling me to be as a wife, mom and homemaker. 
I want to say that it gets easier all the time, but it really doesn't. I go through seasons of life where I'm more 'with it' and more eager to get things done, but I also go through seasons where I let lazy habits get the best of me, and my home and family suffer because of it. I have to choose each day to be proactive and be a 'do-er'. 
How about you? Are there any other naturally lazy people out there? Are you like me, or are you more like my husband and a bit of a 'go-getter'? 
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Five on Friday

I have never participated in this link up on this blog, but I used to do it on my old blog and loved it! 

::one:: I've been meaning to post for awhile that we have gotten started using essential oils. We have only been using them a few months so I don't feel like I have a TON to say on the topic yet. We have been liking them and I think they've really worked for several ailments/sicknesses. But I feel like there is already so much on blogs/instagram/pinterest about oils that I have no idea what else I will say. Eventually I will get around to a longer post about why we finally decided to take the plunge, but just know for now that we are loving them! 
::two:: Adoption stuff is moving right along! Again, not something that I feel needs a post of its own so I'll just quick recap. We had our first home study visit at the beginning of the month and our social worker will be coming down to visit our house next week! After she gets it all written up, we will be officially ready to take a baby whenever the Lord blesses us with one! Yay! 
::three:: I try to go to a few stores every year the day AFTER Christmas to buy discounted outfits and PJs for the kids for the following year. The main reason I love doing this is because by the time I get them out the next year I have totally forgotten what I bought and it's like going shopping without spending money since it has been a whole year. Love it! I vaguely remember that I couldn't find that much last year, but I snagged up quite a few cute pairs of PJs. And we totally wear Christmas PJs for like the whole year following...anyone else?! I pulled all the loot out this week!
::four:: I recently came across this AMAZING makeup line! I have been starting to look into using more natural beauty products and these are all natural, organic, vegan products. I asked for some for Christmas and can't wait to get my hands on this stuff! The best part is I actually found out that it is based really close to us! 

::five:: We are heading to Texas for Thanksgiving again this year, but this year we are going for a good long time! I am so excited. We are also driving there for the first time which is not so exciting, but plane tickets are getting too expensive as our family grows. Plus, we can stay longer this way because we don't have to work around flights! I am super excited for everything (swimming, warmer weather, Thanksgiving dinner, and time with my incredible family), but I am super SUPER excited because my little sister is captain of her cheer squad and they are cheering at the Texans game during half time while we're there! I have never seen her cheer so I am super excited to get to be there for it! 
Can't wait to see these three!! Happy Friday! 
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Truth About Being A Church Planter's Wife

Did you know that we are a church planting family? It's not something I talk a lot about. Probably because it feels normal to me. We go to church and are involved in church related activities just like we were before we planted. Those things are the same, but the journey....oh the journey is much, much different.

Years and years ago, after my husband had expressed interest in someday becoming a pastor, our pastor sat me down and asked me how I would feel about my husband becoming a pastor in the future...about being a pastor's wife. I told him the honest truth. I didn't want my husband to be a pastor. I didn't want to sacrifice our time with him so that he could do things for other people. I didn't want him to be getting calls at 10 p.m. to go counsel someone. I didn't want to have to give up our weekends so that he could prepare and teach sermons. I didn't want him to travel often for pastor's conferences, out of state seminars, missions trips, and more. It was ugly, but it was the truth. That was my heart. Yes, it was selfish, but that was how I felt. It wasn't in my plan for our family. It didn't jive with the happy little dream I had always imagined for us. 

Somewhere along the way, my husband was told that he would probably not be on the road to becoming a pastor because his wife wasn't on board. It would be too hard on our marriage. On our family. That is when I realized that I was being selfish and ridiculous. How could I stand in the way of what God was calling my husband to do?! How could I say "I don't want you to..." because it wasn't what was most comfortable for me? How could I ever stand myself, knowing that my husband didn't get to fulfill this wonderful gift that God has given him to encourage and counsel other people and teach them God's Word, all because I didn't want him to? This is when God changed my heart. I knew I had to get on board. I knew I had to give him my full support so that he could do ministry. So I have. And while my heart is no longer that of "I don't want you to [xyz]", the new honest truth is that having a husband in ministry is not easy. Maybe it is easier for some wives than it is for me, but for me, easy would not be a word I have to describe being a church planter's wife. 

My husband is incredible. He is the kindest man I have ever known. To everyone he meets. He has a gift of encouragement. He has a passion for marriage and parenting that he shares with many. He is a great teacher, who prepares and gives wonderful sermons that help me and many others to grow. He is an amazing father. Amazing doesn't begin to describe how he is with our girls, actually. He would do anything for our family. Anything. He takes amazing care of us, he works hard, he provides for us in every way, and he does it all with poise. He is humble, hilarious and handsome. He's the total package, you might say. So I knew going into church planting, that he would do everything he could do to balance it to the best of his ability. And he has. The hard things about being a church planter's wife aren't because of anything he is or isn't doing. It's because of me. It's because of my heart and my weaknesses. But the truth is that it can be lonely. There are a lot of things that call him away. Meetings, counseling appointments, sermon preparation, church planning, event planning and execution, conferences, men's events, and probably more things. This is on top of regular church attendance on Sundays, for Life groups, small groups, and other church related activities. Our life is our church, and I truly truly love that. That is part of church planting, and I'm ok with that part. It would feel weird to not be so involved in our church and so committed to this Body. So the loneliness doesn't come from a lack of involvement, or a lack of friendships, or a lack of social events. It comes from me desiring more. More than my husband can or should give, probably. Quality time is my love language. I feel disconnected, lonely, sad, etc. when we aren't spending time together. So on those weeks where he is gone 3/5 nights and then teaching on Sunday, well, those weeks are hard for me. I feel unloved (again, not because of him). And I feel lonely. Hey, what can I say...I really like the guy and want to spend every waking hour with him! 

So what's hard here, is that I have to sacrifice. And my flesh doesn't want to. Satan plants these lies in my head so that I have these emotions of loneliness, sadness, feeling unloved, etc. My husband is doing good work here, guys. Great work. For God's kingdom. What could be more important?! Lives are being changed, people are being saved. And the Devil hates that. He hates that my man is working for the Lord. I'm an easy target! It doesn't take much for me to believe these lies and then he wins. So I have to have my armor on. I have to be ready and remember what amazing work my husband is doing. And my "sacrifices" aren't really sacrifices at all. Not in comparison to eternity. 
The other truth is that it is amazing. Watching my husband grow in his leadership, watching him become confident in his teaching and counseling, seeing him grow in his relationship with the Lord and understanding of the Bible-nothing really compares to that. I am so proud of him and who he has become in Christ. I had the somewhat unique privilege of knowing him for a short time before he was a believer. So I have truly watched him grow from day one. I saw who he was and who he has become. I have watched his mind and soul transform, and what a blessing that has been.

 Other things that are incredible is that I get to stretch out of my comfort zones. I am a person who LOVES comfort zones. I don't like evangelizing. I don't like trying new things. I just want to live in my little bubble and have that be that. But church planting, and specifically being one of the leader's wives, has forced me out of that bubble. I can't live there. I have to support what my husband is doing here and God has grown me so much through it. Our kids will learn about sacrificing from a young age. They will learn to be bold in their faith and in inviting people to church and telling people about Jesus. I am excited for that and I don't know if those would be things I would encourage if we hadn't planted this church and been forced to learn these things ourselves. So I am thankful. The truth abut being a church planter's wife is that it's hard and happy. Lonely yet amazing. Uncomfortable but edifying. And really, really good. 
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Starting with Cash

Sometimes being on a budget really stinks. Not to be a complainer here, but if you are on one, you know how hard it can be to stick with it sometimes. We have gone through seasons in our marriage where we are really good about setting a budget and sticking with it. We've gone through other seasons where we have the budget in place, but don't really think about how much we're spending...it's more of just a "guideline". Those seasons usually end with us getting strapped for cash and getting back onto the budget, ha! In preparing for our adoption, it is more important than ever for us to be serious about how we are spending our money. Or should I say, serious about NOT spending money?! 
We have been big Dave Ramsey fans since we got married and read Total Money Makeover. He has great ideas and plans to help you overcome debt. Give it a read, if you haven't already. I have never wanted to use cash, though. I don't like carrying it. I don't like going to the bank. I feel like there's more at risk if your wallet gets stolen, etc. It has just always been so much easier to carry plastic. We don't use credit cards for day to day purchases, only debit, so we aren't in risk of overspending at Target. Anyway, all this to say that we've decided we needed to get a much more strict budget. I roll all of our toiletries and household items into our grocery budget, but we don't budget for things like our dog. Obviously it would be wise to set aside a little money every month for the one time a year we take him to the vet so we aren't just out that money in one month. The real issue was that we needed to set spending budgets for "fun" money, eating out, gifts, clothing and entertainment. Those were the places we were overspending. It is way too easy for me to go to the store for one thing, see something else cute and buy it and before I know it, I've spent all this money! I know it happens to everyone. 
We've only just started this system this month, but so far it has been working out great. Knowing that something isn't in the budget has been great for me. I'm not tempted to buy stuff that I don't need. Then we have more money to put toward our adoption expenses! There are also times where it is hard because I'm not sure where something falls, or there is something that is on sale that isn't in the budget right now and won't be around in a month or two when I've got the cash! Of course these "hard" things are really good things...I've been re-learning the value of a dollar and gaining more self control with spending. 
Do any of you use the cash system? 
Right now, even though we've been budgeting for these things more seriously, I've just been keeping a spread sheet whenever we spend something and tracking how much we have left in that category for the month. There are some things I haven't figured out yet with cash, like do I go to the bank twice a month and cut every budget in half? I feel like that doesn't work out well because what if I have $20 in one of the budgets but it's only the 10th of the month so I have only taken out $10 so far and can't spend the rest. But I can't take out every single budget at the first of the month. So I'm a little confused on how that should all work. What do most people do for that? Right now it seems to be a little easier to be paying cash for only a few things (like groceries) and just keeping track of the budget for other things, like fun money. 
What are your thoughts on the cash system? Have you been turned off the idea like I was for years? Or do you use and love it? I would love to hear any and all thoughts about budgeting and using cash/envelopes. 
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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kids Christmas Craft Round Up

Some may say it is too early to be talking about Christmas, but I say it's not! You've gotta plan ahead, right?! I feel like by the time Christmas actually gets here each year I'm too busy planning everything out to actually enjoy the season. I always have good intentions to plan and execute some things early, but in true Natalie fashion, I'm just getting everything done the night before. So if you DON'T want to be like me (I'm trying to do better this year, really!), here are some of the fun Christmas crafts I've been pinning this year. I would ideally like to do a craft each day with the girls during the Christmas season, but I think we will realistically do a few per week. I am pretty picky when it comes to crafts, honestly. The former teacher in me LOVES crafts, but in order for it to be worthy of my time and choosing, it has to: be simple, not require a lot of materials or hard to find materials, be something my kids will enjoy, be something my kids can actually DO and I'm not just doing most of it for them, BE CUTE!! (I don't care too much about a mess. We pretty much always do crafts at the kitchen table with shirts off or smocks on and I just wipe it all up afterwards). I think all of these links meet my criteria...hopefully you agree! 


{Click on the title of each craft to take you to the direct post}
Love this cute little idea! I love that it's perfectly imperfect and a child of any age could do well with this.

I can't tell what she used for the hat, but I think cutting out a triangle of cardboard and then wrapping it with festive wrapping paper would work well and be adorable. And what kid doesn't love gluing cotton balls?! 

Simple and cute...my kind of project!

All I'll have to say is "marshmallows" and my kids will be in! 

I love any craft that brings it back to the reason for Christmas! Plus it helps that this one is adorable :) 

My MIL and SIL made me a similar canvas last year of the girls' feet and it is my favorite thing ever! So cute and such a sweet memory. I am going to display it every year for the rest of time! 
I want to make this one this year to go with it...

This is so cute! I'm not sure how easily I would be able to get my girls to put their fingers where I drew the lines, but we will attempt it! I may try to just "connect" each bulb AFTER they put their fingers on instead?

So so cute! A little bit more "mom heavy" than the others, but still adorable. Love anything with my kids handprints!

Do you have any other cute Christmas craft ideas for kids?! I know there are so many good ones out there! 
I will be sharing a lot of the cute DIY ornament ideas I found soon, as well!
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

How to Find a Quiet Time Routine That Works

Ahhh, quiet times. Such a vital, important part of the Christian life, but sometimes finding a routine that works and that you can be consistent with can be really daunting. For years, I have struggled with being consistent in my quiet times. I go through phases where I read my Bible and spend time with the Lord every day, faithfully, for a period of time. Then something knocks my routine out of whack and I'll fall off the wagon and sometimes it can be weeks (and in the early days of mothering, months even), before I jump back on. I am a routine person-I thrive on a routine and schedule and I started to notice that when my routines would change, my quiet times suffered. For example, I'll do really great on my QT routine until we go out of town. Then, because my days are totally different, I forget to read and don't even give it a second thought until we return home. Then, because it has been a week since I've read and my Bible is still packed away and I'm not physically seeing it, it's not at the forefront of my mind and another week passes before I realize I haven't read my Bible in two entire weeks! Yikes! BUT. I am happy to say that I have been on a really consistent quiet time for several months now and this time it is working, and sticking for me. 
Here are some tips to help you figure out what will work for you, too! 

Remember why quiet times are important.
First and foremost, you need to ask yourself why you want to have a quiet time. Why it is important to you. And even more importantly, why it's important to God. Why does God want us to spend time with Him consistently, reading the Word and talking with Him? 2 Timothy Chapter 3 tells us "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

What do you want your quiet time to look like? 
What IS a quiet time to you? Is it reading the Bible? Is it journaling? Is it praying? Is it listening to worship music? Listening to a sermon online? Doing a study? Ask yourself what you want it to look like and what will keep it enjoyable for you. 

How do you learn best? 
One thing that is important to keep in mind is how you learn. I love writing, so for me, journaling really helps me to retain the information. I typically take "notes" as I am reading through the Bible. I will write down key points or verses that I want to remember, and even if I never come back to it, I typically remember it better from writing it down. If you learn best from listening, maybe online sermons would be really effective quiet times for you. 

What time of day are you most alert?
I once heard a sermon where the pastor was saying that while he hated to be legalistic, he really thought that everyone should aim to have quiet times first thing in the morning. While I tend to agree with him because it starts our day off on the right foot and we are in the spirit and hopefully that would continue on through our day and we can be thinking about what we read and praying over it throughout the day, I simply can't make it work. I have tried time and time again to get into an early morning QT routine and it does.not.work. for me and my family. I have tried waking up 30 minutes-1 hour before my kids and it just doesn't ever happen. I either hit the snooze button, or that is the week that they start waking up before my alarm even goes off, an hour earlier than normal (how do they know?!). Evening quiet times also don't work for me because I am too tired by then. I am skimming it just to get through it and not really taking things in and getting anything out of it. After A LOT of trial and error, I've found that the best time for me is in the afternoon, immediately after I put my kids down for their nap. I am most alert and relaxed during that time and I can retain the most information then.

Set "restrictions" if you have to.
I don't typically need to do this now, but I remember in college, I had a sticky note on my lap top that reminded me not to get on Facebook before I had a quiet time that day. If I hadn't had my quiet time yet, I didn't have time for Facebook. It worked really well for me during that time. I know some people have a lot of success with setting a reminder on their phone. Some need a restriction like you have to do X before you can do Y. 

Remember that it doesn't have to look perfect.
For a long time, I wanted the instagram perfect quiet time. You know the one I'm talking about-early morning just after the sunrise, with your bible open, pen flowing and cup of coffee steaming. Ok, maybe I still kind of want that ;) But it is not realistic for me in this season of my life. Most days my quiet time looks like me sitting on the couch or bed, listening to babbling voices as they start to fall asleep. I have had seasons where I've had my quiet times where one child is awake because that is all that works (and I'm sure with a baby coming and one child growing older and probably out of a nap soon, that will soon be reality for me again).

 A wise older woman in my church once told me, while I was going through one of those phases-having quiet time while my oldest was awake and antsy for me to play-that she thinks it is a beautiful picture of obedience and that God will really bless that. She said that for her, whose children are grown, its really easy to just sit down and have her quiet time and have it be QUIET and really easy to focus and get it done. But what she saw when I described my quiet time was obedience to the Lord in the fact that even though it is not ideal and not easy to focus, I'm still committed to doing it. That really changed my perspective on the whole "perfect quiet time" thing. God is happy you are spending time with Him. He doesn't care if you are doing that in the bathroom, on your back deck or sitting on your floor in the dark with a flash light. 

If you fall, get back up.
This is the hardest thing for me. Once I don't have a quiet time for a few days in a row, for whatever reason, it is hard for me to start having them again. Am I alone here?! It is so important to pick right back up where you left off. It is probably not realistic to say that you are going to be able to have a dedicated quiet time every single day for the rest of your life, no matter how committed you are and how badly you want to do that. Life happens. You might get sick, travel, have an emergency come up or just forget one day. And that is ok! Grace abounds. I have gotten to the point where I know what kinds of things get me off the band wagon-it is always being out of my routine in some way, whether that is caring for a sick little for a week, traveling, having a change in my kid's nap schedules, having my husband off work for a holiday, etc. I now know that I need accountability to get me back on track. I can ask a friend or my husband to remind me to have quiet times when we are on vacation. Or set alarms to remember to do it. Putting my Bible right out on my kitchen counter is always a good reminder because then I see it all day and remember to do it. Figure out what you need and don't be afraid to ask others to help you with that. 

What does your quiet time routine look like? How do you stay consistent and what has helped you to be faithful in this area? Share away! 
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