No Dryer Challenge Update

  

Well the No Dryer Monthly Challenge of May was kind of a bummer because it rained and stormed so much this month! I also decided that Shiloh’s diapers don’t do too well drying outside and just need the extra fluff that the dryer provides.

That said, we did save on electricity this month! Our bill was a mere $22, which is the lowest we’ve ever seen. (It’s usually $25-$30 with no AC.) So our efforts didn’t go completely unnoticed!

Still, I’m not satisfied at how many times I begrudgingly had to throw soggy clothes in the dryer, so I’m extending this challenge out for the rest of the summer. Like all of our challenges, this isn’t about perfection, it’s about changing our habits. I really want to get in the habit of drying my clothes outside when it’s warm and sunny. If I can do that, I’m not going to beat myself up about the times I can’t due to weather or crunchy diapers. The goal is to change my habits, and a summer of mostly drying clothes outside should do just that!

How did you guys do this month? Was your May soggy or sunny or both?

Comfort is Overrated

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Comfort sells. But it doesn’t fulfill us.

Our modern American culture tends to glorify comfort and convenience.

Cars with heated seats.

Living rooms with recliners.

Memory foam pillow top mattresses.

Drive thru windows.

But it’s no secret that hardest things in life are often the most rewarding.

Running a race, giving birth, and climbing a mountain are personal examples that come to mind. Josh and I intentionally strive to live a life that defies the modern idea of putting comfort over personal growth.

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Running with my family while I was pregnant: challenging and rewarding.

Challenge Brings Fulfillment

My favorite days aren’t the ones where I sit around and do nothing.

Lying in bed eating ice cream and watching TV is fun, but only for a few hours.

My favorite days are the ones when I am stretched.

My  favorite days are the ones when I am faced with a challenge and overcome it.

The best days are the hard days, not the cushy soft days.

The days when I do something difficult and rewarding.

The days when I face a challenge, fix something, overcome an obstacle, learn a lesson, or defeat laziness.

That sense of accomplishment at the end of a productive day is the crowning glory of a life well-lived and it far outweighs momentary comfort in my book.

I can lie down at night feeling fulfilled on the days I gave something my all – whether it was a bike ride instead of a car drive, a day spent making meals from scratch, a challenging hike with my family, or a new skill learned on a DIY house repair.

Those are small examples, but they are real-life examples. Our daily accomplishments don’t have to be earth-shattering to be worth doing.

It can be as large as delivering a baby, or it can be as small as trying a new food or hobby for the first time.

I learned firsthand about how to have “miserable fun” by camping with my family growing up. We experienced many breakdowns and mishaps over the years. We drove thousands of miles with a van filled with five kids and all our gear. We camped in sweltering heat in Florida and frigid cold on Lake Michigan. We camped during a tornado in rural Oklahoma.

We lived to tell about it. We bonded. We had a good time! 

I learned valuable lessons on those trips. I learned the power of staying optimistic and insisting that there was fun to be had.

That makes me think of all the good things we potentially miss out on because we’re afraid of momentary discomfort!

We Aren’t Called to be Comfortable

I know several families that have given up “comfortable” lives, predictable routines, and even their “lazy” retirement years to follow an unselfish calling to serve others. Their stories make me look at my own life.

What does “more” look life for me?

What is the next adventure God is calling me to?

When I was pregnant with Shiloh, I had mixed feelings. I was excited of course, but I was saddened and nostalgic about Malachi not being my only baby anymore. God distinctly spoke these words to my heart:

Don’t let sentimentality keep you from moving forward in life. You aren’t meant to be stagnant.

Tough words. “Stagnant?” Like standing water with smelly algae on the surface? Wow. Kinda harsh, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I had gotten the hang of taking care of Malachi. He was almost 2 years old. He slept through the night. He spoke well and expressed his needs. Parenting was pretty smooth. I felt like I had served my time and survived the turbulent newborn stage.

But God was calling me to more. He was asking me to embrace this change – the blessings and the challenges – with open arms.

And I’m still doing that. Is raising two kids harder than one?

Yes, so far.

Are the rewards also multiplied?

Yes!

Some days I have no idea what I’m doing. Some days I’m teetering on the edge of a complete meltdown.

But I know I’m in the midst of my life calling, and that’s reassuring.

And I’m confident that once I “get the hang” of this stage, there will be another new adventure awaiting.

Giving of Ourselves

We often open up our home to bands, guests, and students from around the world. We do this because hospitality is one of the core goals of our family.

I’ll be honest, sometimes hosting is challenging with small kids. Sometimes I stay up too late visiting and the kids wake up too early.

Those weekends with guests can be filled to the brim.

Filled with dishes, laundry, late-night conversations, sleep-deprivation, blessings, community, and love. All rolled into one.

When I pour myself out the most, I am filled.

Sometimes discontentment doesn’t mean you need a vacation or more me-time.

Sometimes it means you need more challenges in your life.

If life inside your little “comfort bubble” is unsatisfying, try giving more.

Volunteer in your free time, learn a new skill, babysit for a friend, visit the elderly, or plant a neighborhood garden.

If those things are outside of your comfort zone, great!

I’d rather live a full life than an empty one.

I’d rather have a home full of guests and crying babies than a quiet one.

There’s a place for finding rest and being filled up, of course. We can’t give out of what we don’t have ourselves! (As a matter of fact, Josh and I just returned from a restful trip to the Flint Hills of Kansas!)

But even if I’m only thinking of myself, I find more personal fulfillment and satisfaction from giving rather than taking.

Seek Out “More”

We’re all called to different things of course.

But I’d like you to ask yourself what does “more” look like in your life?

It’s ongoing for us.

Where are we choosing comfort over calling?

Where are digging our heels in the dirt and saying “No, not there. I can’t do that.”

What would it look like if we just said yes?

If we weren’t afraid of failure.

If we weren’t thinking about ourselves first and foremost.

If we surrendered all that and said YES!

 

If all that’s holding me back is my own fear and selfishness, then it’s time for a change.

We should never be afraid to answer God’s call. In fact, there’s no safer place to be than in the middle of his plan. I’d rather give myself fully to his work, even when it’s challenging, than go my own way and fail at that.

It’s not about me anyway.

And even if it was about me, God knows what I need better than I do.

Shifting my focus away from myself is both liberating and humbling. How will he use me to build his kingdom? How will I allow him to rule in my home?

In what areas of life are you comfortable and scared to change? Is there anything you feel called to do but fearful to let go?

Luxury or Necessity?

Josh and I are excited to announce that we’re housing two foreign exchange college students for the summer! One is from Uzbekistan and one is from Azerbaijan, so it will definitely be a summer full of learning and exciting cultural experiences for all! We’re pretty excited.

Honestly though, we wouldn’t be able to host these students if we weren’t a little flexible. Our two boys were in separate rooms when we got the call. While it was always our plan for them to share a room someday, agreeing to host both meant that “someday” needed to happen this weekIMG_0335.jpgIMG_0336.jpg

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Two boys in one room. Still extremely luxurious.

It’s not a huge deal for two boys to share a room. There’s people that do it from day one out of necessity. Rather than view it as an inconvenience that we must combine two beds, two routines, two closets, and two sets of sleeping habits, Josh and I are choosing to view it as a luxury that we had the space to give them their own rooms at all. When we think of it this way, it becomes much easier to adjust our crazy luxurious habits in order to assist others.

(So far the switch has taken some getting used to. They’ve been sleeping through the night, but the mornings have been pretty early. Still, I’m currently sitting here writing while both boys snooze in the same room…so I say success!)

Everyday Luxuries

What else in life do we view as necessity that really isn’t?

Vacations, maybe? I cringe whenever I hear someone say “I need a vacation.” The accurate truth is you want a vacation, and that’s totally fine. I admit that sometimes we all get burnt-out and need to fill ourselves up. But does that really require a cruise in the Bahamas? How can we change our thinking to reflect our situation of privilege? How can we recharge without being frivolous spenders, but rather mindful stewards?

What about the ability to open the fridge and choose from several snack options? I got a small taste of this after finishing our Frugal Grocery Month. In order to save money, we didn’t stock snacks. My only option was usually leftovers of what we had for dinner the night before. My mantra was “Pretend it’s your favorite” inspired by my frugal friend Kalie who writes how life isn’t about our preferences. I eventually got so used to eating from limited choices, when the month ended and I was able to fully stock the fridge, I couldn’t believe the luxury! An apple? Grapes? A piece of cheese? I had choices! What’s more, I finally appreciated having choices.

What about shopping? I’ve nearly gone an entire year without buying clothes. Some may have called this impossible, considering new clothing every season a necessity. I’m living proof that clothes shopping is indeed a luxury. And when I do return to buying clothes, I’ll do it differently. More on that topic soon!

I’ve started training myself to notice the smallest things as lovely and refreshing. The fresh air on the porch. Sitting outside in the sun. I don’t need to be lying on a beach to soak up the goodness of the outdoors. I can close my eyes and pretend I’m just about anywhere without even leaving my city. In the same way, I can thoroughly enjoy the quiet and the stillness and the alone time on my bike ride home from work. Biking may save me money on transportation, but it certainly feels like a privilege!

Due to a little spring storm in the area, we were without power one night this week. Wow, what a great reminder of the luxury of electricity! I enjoy camping, and I always thought we were pretty good at conserving electricity at home…but nothing like a power outage to put me in my place. I realized with frustration that since my stove is electric, I had no way to heat up water for coffee or tea in the afternoon. (Yes, coffee and tea are almost necessities in my life, but not quite!) We managed just, but it felt absolutely amazing to have electricity the next morning!

Media Myths

I’m convinced TV is largely to blame for dissatisfaction in the middle class. Reality shows and commercials don’t show “normal.” They show excess. They feature celebrities, inflated lifestyles, extravagant “cribs” and people saying “yes” to $10,000 wedding dresses. It’s no wonder many Americans say they feel poor when, in fact, most of us are extremely privileged.

Commercials are designed to make us feel like we lack something. Advertisers will invent problems for their products to solve. Consumers buy and consume. We keep buying new things, even if the old one isn’t completely used up or worn out. We can justify almost any purchase to ourselves. He has one just like it. She said it looks great on me. If I can get it now, then why not? And the more we own, the more we feel like we must protect it. We secure, lock, and insure our stuff on top of buying and storing it. Then we’re left wondering why it doesn’t make us happy….

New Habits

Of course we’re not perfect over here. Josh and I still wrestle daily with our needs and wants. I don’t write because we’re experts; I write because we’re on a journey. That said, we have learned a few good habits in the past few years of our journey toward simplicity.

My biggest suggestion here is one I learned during our self-imposed Buy Nothing Month.

Just slow down. Never rush to the store for only one thing. It’s stressful, it wastes energy, and leaves you no time to find a creative solution to your problem. No “need” is as urgent as you think it is. It can wait and be evaluated. The fewer trips to the store, the less time spent in the car driving back and forth (unless you walked.) The fewer trips to the store, the fewer impulse purchases you’ll be tempted to make. Sometimes I delay a purchase a few days only to find I no longer need it. I guess it was a luxury after all.

My second suggestion is simply turn off the TV. Focus on those around you rather than those on the screen. You might be amazed at the change of perspective.

And if you really want a change of perspective, here’s an additional challenge: befriend the less privileged. When your friends are refugees from war-torn countries or single moms or at-risk children, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

We live a life of luxury. Even though my family aspires to live frugally and generously, we admit we’re a long way from suffering. We find great joy in our simple lifestyle. Noticing the everyday luxuries is just one small step toward contentment and meaning.

What about you? What are some things you once considered necessary that are truly luxuries? How can you take a step back and fully appreciate the luxury around you now?

Do Kids Kill the Marriage?

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First this…
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Now this!

I recently read an interesting article called “How American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage.” It’s true that in my personal experience parenting is harder than marriage. I was a bit blindsided by the adjustment of children. But do they really kill the marriage if we let them?

People hinted that the first year of marriage would be hard, but Josh and I didn’t find it particularly difficult. Our lives meshed well and we were compatible roommates and lovers. The testing didn’t come until the first child came.

People said that children would be tough…but this time they were right! People also said it would be the greatest thing ever. They were right too!

But how does becoming a parent affect the existing marriage? Whether parenting is difficult or amazing or both, it changes you and your spouse.

Focus

There is a shift of focus when you have children. It goes from focusing on your spouse’s needs to focusing primarily on the child’s needs….and small kids can have a lot of needs! This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it could be difficult if you’re blindsided by it like I was. It’s a natural progression. I look back on me and Josh’s first years of marriage and when we were dating. Those years were special because it was just us! We were able to fully focus on each other and dream. Things are different now – they’re actually a lot deeper, but those first years were fun!

When the focus shift happens, it’s important to not fall into the trap of letting your child become your whole world. A fellow blogger Phylicia writes a great article on this and pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter. Yes they are awesome and you love them indescribably! However, it’s not healthy for you, your child, or your spouse to become completely absorbed. There’s an intricate balancing act to learn. When both parents are totally focused on the children and neglect one another, there will be nothing left of the marriage when the kids grow up and move out. Make an effort to keep that connection alive throughout the parenting years. We all have many life roles. “Mother” is one of my roles now. But it is just one of them. I’m also a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a coworker, a writer, a runner, a documentarian, an artist, a child of God. What are your roles, and how will you preserve them in parenthood?

Service

I probably couldn’t have told you until I had babies that acts of service was one of my main love languages. My love for Josh reached a whole new level when I saw him become a father. He lays down his life everyday for me. He shows me incredible love indirectly by baby-wearing every weekend so I can sleep in, and reading books to Malachi so I can cook or go for a run. You don’t truly know the quality of someone’s character until they’re bouncing a baby in the middle of the night without complaint. It stretches Josh, I’m sure. I try to serve him the same way. There’s endless opportunities to show one another love through daily acts of service. For us this powerful love language was untapped before! It has definitely drawn us closer together.

Stressors

Adding a new family member adds new stress, for which it helps to be prepared. Lack of sleep, raging postpartum hormones, and a crying baby are enough to push almost anyone to their edge. Josh and I never really got on each other’s nerves until we had Malachi. The situation really brings out the best and the worst of ourselves. Recognize that this is normal and doesn’t mean your spouse is horrible and your marriage will fall apart. Babies are a very new, stressful, adjustment at first and it doesn’t help that everyone else just oohs and ahh’s over them rather than asking how your emotions and your relationship is doing. Be patient with one another. Give lots of grace. Forgive one another for things said in tired frustration. With time a new rhythm will emerge and your family will learn to function smoothly.

Romance

Alone time can take a backseat during the small-child rearing years, especially the first year after baby is born. This isn’t something we need to hide or sugar-coat. There are lots of nights when sleep is more appealing than intimacy. Have reasonable expectations. Josh and I talk about this a lot. As long as we’re on the same page and communicating, we know the other doesn’t feel neglected. Sometimes we’re so busy with the kids, guests, and potlucks, we honestly don’t have time to miss each other! We make it a point to check in with each other, and make alone time a priority at least once a week. However, it all goes back to thinking long-term. Our main expectation is lower now and we’re okay with that because we realize it’s only a season. Our kids will have phases when they need us 24/7 and they’ll have phases when they’re independent. There will be plenty of time later on for date nights every weekend and uninterrupted one-on-one communication every night. Right now this is our reality and we’re fully embracing it.

Trust

Not all intimacy is from being together. I feel incredible freedom and trust when I’m not with Josh all the time. I feel supported when he stays home with the kids, allowing me to work part-time and get out of the house. It might sound counter-intuitive, but I find that getting away from my hubby and kids periodically gives me a chance to miss and appreciate them. It’s easier to notice the sweet smiles of my children and the integrity of my husband when I take a step back and look in like an outside observer – without a toddler clinging to my leg and a baby crying to be held. This goes for both spouses. Exercise trust with one another and give each other chances to briefly escape the daily duties and rekindle that appreciation. These breaks not only refresh the spouse getting the break, but they also help me and Josh appreciate each other’s unique contributions when we’re together as a family!

Vision

Another huge thing that brings us together is making long-term goals. Kids are a commitment. Josh and I are completely committed not just to one another, but to raising our kids together. We sow seeds in their lives everyday that we want to see through to fruition. It’s difficult sometimes. We won’t see the profit of investments like discipline and education right away, but we’re going to stick it out and celebrate every victory along the way.

Parenting can be monotonous and feel unfulfilling at times. But you don’t change the world in a day. You can create a family mission statement and work toward it everyday inch by inch. Ours is summed up in these words: Simplicity, Generosity, Hospitality, leading to Community.

It’s not one big life-altering thing, but a hundred little choices everyday that hopefully add up to our family vision. One of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the end in mind.” By having a vision for where we want our life to go, Josh and I are able to focus on our family, but also on how we fit into the larger picture of God’s plan. We’re excited to grow old together and see our long-term visions come true.

This is totally our experience and I can’t speak for everyone. Challenges, stressors, and life changes like having kids have the potential to affect marriages for good or for bad. We don’t have to fear this. Everyday I’m given chances to choose love or to choose selfishness. When I choose selfishness my relationship suffers – that’s what has the potential to kill the marriage. But when I choose love my relationship is enriched.

Becoming a parent isn’t a death sentence for marriage. It has the potential to allow you to grow and serve your spouse in ways you never could before. For Josh and me, parenthood has changed us, but in powerful and positive ways. It has changed who we are as individuals, and who we are as a couple. But we are more than our children. Our identity is not completely wrapped up in them. Our relationship is why our children are here! And our relationship is what will remain when our children are grown and moved away. The change of focus and the building of life-long goals together has brought us closer than ever before!

Why I Love Being a Pedestrian

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Little Malachi is a happy pedestrian!
Spring is here and I’ve been excited to get outside and experience my city through walking, running, or biking as many places as possible. Here’s a couple small reasons why I love being a pedestrian rather than a motorist.

Environment

The first and possibly the biggest benefit is how great it is for the earth. If more of us relied on human-powered transportation, the air would be much cleaner as a result and we could rely less on fossil fuels. Aside from that, there’s the joy that comes from simply getting out there and being a part of nature. Even if you live in an urban area like we do, there’s a lot of nature and wildlife to be enjoyed in the city. We could probably all use to get outside a bit more than we already do!

Financial

The next-largest benefit is not needing to fuel the car or worry about wear and tear to your vehicle. While Josh and I still have a car, we’re happy to be a one car family rather than the two car family we used to be. We reap significant savings by only having to license one car, inspect one car, fuel one car, repair one car, insure one car, etc. (Bikes require maintenance and repairs occasionally, but these repairs are very affordable compared to car repairs – usually in the $20 range!)

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Frugal, healthy, and fun – biking to work is a win / win!

Health

Being active is great for both your physical and mental health. Why pay money to drive to a gym and walk on a treadmill? Why set aside a special time to workout, when you can actually incorporate it into your day by running a few errands on foot? Save time, money, and stress by getting fit going places that you already need to go. It’s amazing how quickly the miles add up. You may not run marathons, but over time those micro-commutes equal many marathons. Vitamin D from being outside and the endorphins from physical exertion are both excellent for your mental health too. When I’m having a bad day, a run to the library with both my boys in the stroller can often do the trick. The boys love being outside too! My hope is that by the time they outgrow the stroller, they’ll be ready to jog or bike alongside me.

Traffic

Traffic can make or break your day if you have a long commute. Josh loves not having a motorist commute anymore. Highways can be unpredictable and stressful. Most walking / bike routes have lighter traffic. When the street we live off does get backed up at rush hour, Josh is able to move faster than the cars because he’s on a bike. My bike ride home after work isn’t the least bit agitating. Instead, I’m able to mentally clear my mind and arrive home refreshed and exhilarated. 

Awareness

I never really know a street until I’ve walked or at least biked on it. It’s like experiencing my neighborhood in real life vs television. I’ve driven down our street countless times, but there was a really interesting building that I never knew existed until I walked to the hardware store recently! What things are you missing in your neighborhood? Take a walk down the street – go further than you usually go – and see what new things pop out at you.

Connection

You can actually meet people when you walk and bike. Almost every human-powered trip out is a chance to connect with other humans. This small act creates community. Other pedestrians nod and say hello and make funny comments that you could never get within the bubble of your car. We share a special bond. I feel like I’m actually connected with my neighborhood when I walk through it. We go down the same streets often enough that the neighbors know who we are and often say hi. It’s a special feeling that driving can’t replicate. Suburbanites who get in their cars, go to work, come home, and park in the garage have nary a chance to speak to one another, especially in the wintertime. Just a regular walk around your block will have you meeting people before too long.

Demand

Being a pedestrian regularly will increase demand for bike lanes and better trails. Most cities want to be more pedestrian-friendly, but if no one is out there doing it, the projects will keep getting pushed back further and further. St. Louis is one of those cities that’s started doing some big projects, like the Great Rivers Greenway. There are plans in the works for much more in the future, so the more we use the existing trails and give feedback, the sooner those updates will happen.

No Excuses!

Most people I talk to want to be more active and want to save money and do good things for the planet. However, almost everyone has an excuse as to why they aren’t a pedestrian. “I live too far.” “I’m worried about bad weather.” “I’m in awful shape.” “It’s too dangerous.” “I don’t want to bike at night.” These are all valid things, but most excuses also have a remedy if you’re willing to search for it. My biggest excuses for not biking to work were “I just had a baby, and I don’t have a bike.” Those excuses are now no longer valid. Under most excuses is someone who is interested, but unwilling to take the leap. 

I’m here to encourage you – it’s possible.

Ease into it. Allow yourself lots of time. Go out on nice days first and then work up to bad weather. You can get most places on foot or bike year-round if you have the right gear, but don’t worry about that at first. Just get out there a few times and maybe you’ll become addicted like I did. It’s empowering and practical to not have to rely on a car. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal. We still drive to the grocery store sometimes! I still drive to work most of the time. But every little bit helps. Get out there and enjoy being an active, informed pedestrian!

The Strength of Femininity

Have you ever seen Brené Brown‘s Ted Talk on vulnerability? It is one of the most popular Ted Talks of all time. In it she discusses how increased vulnerability in social situations isn’t detected as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength, confidence, and connection. I couldn’t help but think about how this applies to women. Check it out if you aren’t already familiar with it.

I’ve had strong women on the brain lately. Several friends and I have been going through rough patches that require we cry out to God for strength just to get through the day. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are both feminine in our transparency with one another and incredibly strong in our dealing with these situations. But how do these two traits go together?

I studied film in college and worked as a filmmaker for several years. It was a very male-dominated field. I felt that I needed to “man up” in order to fit in. On several occasions I wished I had been born a man. Why would God make me a woman and then call me to this field where men get more jobs, better pay, and women are so sexually objectified? It is only in the past three or four years – basically since I became a mother – that I have fully embraced my role as a woman.

I don’t think it is an oxymoron for us women to be both feminine and strong. Women can be more vulnerable then men, both physically and emotionally. But like the Ted Talk explains, vulnerability is not a weakness. Vulnerability takes great strength.

Vulnerability doesn’t mean we submit ourselves to fear. Being more vulnerable simply means it takes more courage for us to do the same things as men. Maybe I have slightly more fear to overcome in order to bike to work alone than Josh does. Do I let that reality hold me back or control my life? No way! There is great joy in overcoming those sticky fears. When I ride my bike or go for a run at night I don’t feel vulnerable or in danger – I feel exhilarated, slightly rebellious, and incredibly powerful.

Women may show more emotion than men sometimes, but this also is a sign of strength because we are willing to face our emotions. Sharing and opening up are signs of confidence. Strength isn’t being emotionless. Strength is learning to handle our turbulent and confusing emotions with grace and steadfastness. Strength is listening and praying for one another when our hearts are heavy. Strength is staying the course in spite of our mood swings because we realize life is a marathon and not a sprint.

Additionally, women may not seem as strong as men physically. Our frame and muscle mass is pretty different in some cases. But then take into consideration what we are able to accomplish in spite of monthly cycles accompanied by pain, raw emotions, and raging hormones. Consider the sacrifices we make to grow children – the morning sickness and nausea, the sharing our bodies with them for nine months. The strength and inner drive it takes to labor and give birth is incredible, not to mention the nurturing, caring for, and sometimes breastfeeding on top of that.

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Nothing quite sums up feminine strength like pregnancy and childbirth!

We give up our personal space for not only the pregnancy but the first year or so that the child is with us. Our bed, our arms, our lap, our torso, and our legs are not our own – they are tugged and sought out constantly by little humans. While pregnant and breastfeeding, us mothers give up the best nutrients from our diets, and must take extra care that we’re eating well and eating enough.

Us women must handle the sleep deprivation of night wakings with a baby and then take care of our jobs and our other children by day. And we are somehow expected to do this with cheerfulness, savoring every moment with our little bundles of joy before they grow up.

It takes strength and determination to workout with small kids, which might make it even more impressive for a mother than anyone else. Even if our time on the track is slightly slower, or the amount of weight we lift is slightly less. Our weight training doesn’t end when we exit the gym. We’ve got a children and diaper bags to carry every hour of the day, that will gradually strengthen and chisel our muscles.

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Not gonna lie, I feel pretty powerful when I run with these guys.

Women who stay home with their children all day, I applaud you. Those of us who have done it know how hard it is. The men who have done it would probably all agree that working full time is easier than staying home with young children. I know my paid-work is personally easier than my mommy-work. Rejoice in this task. It is a huge undertaking worthy of someone of strength, intelligence, and great patience.

Playing with our kids and providing for their needs daily is a sacrifice. But it can be a sacrifice of praise. We can tell God when we’re exhausted. We can praise him for his work in us. Does he give us more than we can handle sometimes? Yes! He does! It’s the only way growth happens. It’s the same as training for an endurance run or building muscle mass. He stretches the fabric of our being just like muscle tissue and we will come out strengthened.

God did not have weakness in mind when he created women. He knew she would need to be nurturing, yet powerful. Indeed, God has a feminine side. We believe he is neither male nor female since he created both in his image. In Luke 13, Jesus laments over Jerusalem and says “How I wish I could gather your children together like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing.” This is just one small example, but I think it paints an exquisite picture of Jesus’ nurturing heart for God’s children.

The Wife of Noble Character in Proverbs 31 is strong, sufficient, and womanly.

She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
Proverbs 31:16-18

Verse 25 repeats “Strength and dignity are her clothing.” Strength. Women need not be masculine to be strong. Femininity is strong. Being exposed, being transparent, and showing emotion is strength.

Women, rejoice in who you are. Don’t compete and compare yourself with men. Don’t wish your emotions were less visible. Don’t regret the fact that you struggle with “woman issues.” Don’t think that you must act manly in the workplace in order to be valued. Don’t feel that you must apologize if something makes you cry. Don’t neglect your value and your contribution to society, even if you mostly stay home with your family. There is purpose and beauty and power in your feminine self.

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Strong. Feminine. All of the above.

Buy Nothing Month Results!

Happy May!

April was a gorgeous month! A month full of 5Ks and getting the hang of biking to work. It was also a month of house projects. What it hasn’t been a month of is buying stuff!

Last month I declared April was Buy Nothing Month for our family. That meant everything but gas, groceries, and small home repair items was off-limits.

There were a few times this month that I thought I might have to give in and purchase something. I figured out ways to get by though. I started a list on the fridge whenever something popped in my head that I wanted or “needed” to buy. All these purchases could be delayed a month and reevaluated.

I started biking to work for the first time this month, which has been a major goal of mine. With the bike commute, I found myself craving little pieces of gear I didn’t have. I’d like some actual bike gloves and goggles for instance…but I made it work this month with borrowed safety glasses and work gloves! Functionality over fashion, right folks?

So What Did We Buy?

Here’s what we bought that wasn’t gas or food:

  • $17 on pray paint, caulk, and weatherproof tape for house roof project – technically exempt because we knew this project was coming.
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Before.
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After!

We had the caps made by a custom online seller. I spray painted them to match the house and Josh and his friend installed them! We got a quote from some roofers for this project at $850. We were able to purchase these caps and install them ourselves for just under $200!

  • $3.03 on some mousetraps – also a thing we deal with in this house sometimes…
  • $3.99 on a company lunch out for Josh – affordable but it’s technically not groceries so it’s included.
  • $18 on beer for the month – yes, I started buying alcohol again. More on that decision here. Does this count as groceries? I’ll let you decide…

What We Didn’t Buy:

There were lots of little things that I wanted but resisted. A bigger SD card for my HD videos, the aforementioned cycling gloves and glasses, cycling shorts, a clothesline and clothespins, potting soil, needle-nose pliers, houseplants, and running shoes (which I’m still resisting! Hoping to make it till the end of my clothes-shopping ban in June!) My frugal mantra has been: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. 

Some things are necessities, of course! But none came up this month except those random mouse traps. We didn’t run out of disposable diapers (our kids use one a day for overnight), toothpaste, TP, or anything else that would have been allowed other than gas or groceries. We probably just got lucky!

This was honestly one of our easier monthly challenges. We’ve already gotten pretty used to not buying things impulsively, so doing it for a month wasn’t that hard. I made a list of things I wanted to buy, and if I still needed them when the month was out, I was allowed to get them. Not going to the store is actually easier than going to the store. Sometimes minimalism and frugality aren’t a sacrifice after all! Unlike our grocery challenge, sugar challenge, and phone challenge, I wasn’t counting down the days for this month to end. It’s freeing to realize that I don’t really need anything. I don’t need to run to the store for every whim that enters my mind.

We Didn’t Just Sit Around

We still got out, even if it wasn’t to go shopping. We went to the library, the grocery store, to church, to friends houses, to the botanical gardens, to parks, and to work. I biked to work several times, utilizing the gorgeous weather we had this month! Shopping doesn’t need to be a recreational activity. There’s many better recreational activities out there!

We also weren’t so frugal that we forgot to give! We saved money by not spending this month, but we did do things like run the Rush 5K to benefit a great charity, and we still gave gifts. This whole thing is about discipline and priorities. Not spending on ourselves so we can give to more important things. The goal is not to hoard and be miserly with our savings.

I made the goal to run at least two 5Ks this year, one for fun and one for speed. This month I did both the Color Run for fun and the Rush 5K for speed. Josh and I both set personal records on the Rush 5K (my time was 23.51 minutes, nearly a minute less than my previous PR!) And we both won 1st place in our age divisions. So I’m pleased with how both runs went – the fun one was very fun and we met our goals on the speedy run. 

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Shiloh thinks my prize mug is pretty sweet!

What We Learned From Not Shopping:

  • Not buying things is pretty easy – at least for us since we broke the shopping habit.
  • Writing things down and saving them for later helps us evaluate what we truly need.
  • Borrowing / sharing stuff is awesome when it can prevent a purchase.
  • Sometimes you need to spend money, like we did on our house, to prevent further costs from accruing.
  • The best things in life are free – fresh air, sunshine, and time together. Cheesy, but so true!
  • It’s way more fun and rewarding to give money away (and support charities by running) than it is to buy unnecessary stuff for ourselves.

What did you buy this month? How much of it was truly a necessity? If you participated in this challenge, what did you take away from the experience?