Category Archives: Thoughts

Simplicity: Six Months & a New Perspective

Today marks the end of our six months of intentional, financial simplicity. We began on January 12, jumping in to a commitment of six months of very little spending, meaning we were basically not going to spend any money outside of what was really necessary for our family. That included selling Pete’s Jeep and becoming a one car family. I was pretty nervous about this journey before we began. I just didn’t know what to expect. We were opening our hands and asking God to show us what changes we needed to make as a family. I knew I had some habits that needed changing, some material stuff that had sort of wrapped itself around my heart. As a family, we wanted to make space for God to speak to us about how we were spending our money and whether or not it was bringing him glory. Reflecting back on these last six months, I am realizing my heart has truly been changed in some really good ways.

IMG_8002

Leading up to January 12, Pete and I spent a good amount of time combing through our budget to see what we could cut out or seriously cut back. We canceled a few subscriptions, evaluated our food budget, and greatly reduced the amount we allowed for clothing, coffee, gifts, and other line items that were not necessities. We spent the first three or four months of this six-month journey very strictly sticking to the guidelines we set. At that time, after we felt we had broken the spending habits we knew weren’t healthy or what God wanted for us, we started to explore the areas we did feel were okay for spending. That doesn’t mean we started freely spending in those areas, but we did allow for some leeway. After watching for six months, I can pretty happily say that these are actually areas that line up with what we’ve listed for years as values for our family: relationship with each other and with friends, education, health and fitness, and adventure.

IMG_7983

1. Relationship with each other. I’ve mentioned a bunch of times that Pete and I have a weekly date night. We adore our dates and look forward to them all week. Before starting our six months of financial simplicity, we decided that we would definitely keep our babysitter budget so we could still go out regularly. We did, however, cut the spending for our nights out. That’s one thing that changed about three months in. We started seeing movies on $5 movie nights and going for inexpensive dinners. We know that our marriage is so much stronger because of the time we devote to each other one-on-one each week, and it’s so, so great to find fun things to do together. Pete has done the same thing with Ella on their weekly dates. They find lots of free things to do together but they’ve also started rock climbing at an indoor wall nearby and having other sweet adventures.

2. Relationship with friends. So many people mean a whole lot to us. We’ve realized even more since January that it’s super important to us to be able to love on our friends and family by giving them our time and by sharing meaningful gifts with them.

3. Education. We love books. Love love love. I am a reading teacher, after all. Way back in December, I felt like God was going to be opening a time for me to enjoy them more then I have in the past, which was actually the same time I discovered audio books. I listen to books while cleaning, folding clothes, driving, doing stuff on the computer. I get most of them online through the library, but I have found my newer reads on Audible. Pete also likes buying books, especially medical texts. And now Ella is diving into reading, though most of her books come from the library. I’ve also begun attending online classes and webinars as a way to keep up my learning after the kids are in bed. Some classes are free, but most cost a little something.

4. Health & fitness. We realized pretty early on that our food budget was so small we weren’t able to buy all the fresh food we feel is best for our family. It won’t be the case in Kenya, but for now, we have to pay more for the healthy stuff. So we ended up expanding our food budget about a month in. As for fitness, we want to be okay with attending a class or buying a workout program if it’s something we’re really going to use. Good health will allow us to keep going for a long time, so it’s worth the room in the budget.

5. Adventure. We would be so bored without adventure! It’s such a part of who we are as a family. This also kind of goes with our relationships with each other, since we usually have our adventures as a family. This is what gets our hearts pumping and minds racing. Definitely an place we feel okay spending money.

IMG_8085

Like I said, I’m pretty happy with those categories that came to the surface as being important for our family’s spending. But what about all the other places I was spending money before starting this journey? Honestly, most of them have almost completely melted away. I was making a list a couple days ago of things I want to buy tomorrow, and I honestly could only think of a few items. I would like a set of wine glasses and a couple new shirts for Sam. We are also in great need of new bar stools as ours are falling a part. (Seriously, if you visit, I will warn you before you sit down. Pieces are for real falling off.) There really isn’t much more than that. I just don’t feel the need to buy little things for my home or extra things for the kids. My heart has changed. I would much rather spend our money on the categories I listed above and not fill space around me. Experiences fill me with such happiness, far beyond what I could feel from a new shirt or a cute little ice cream bowl. (Though I certainly still like looking at these things! Just a few days ago, I oohed over an adorable set of cone-shaped ceramic bowls that would make ice cream treats such fun! But did I feel a need to have my own set? Not at all. Just noticing their cuteness was enough. That’s a good change for me.)

IMG_8201

These six months weren’t all about depriving ourselves of material things or experiences, which is really what I thought it would be. I was sure I was going to miss shopping and that I’d probably really struggle through the months. But I didn’t! Instead, I discovered God was showing us who we are as a family and how our finances and habits fit into that picture. This morning at church I was not at all surprised to learn the message was on finances. How fitting! It allowed me to think through the changes my heart has made and to ask if they really do line up with what the Bible says. I was reminded of a few verses I’ve heard a hundred times. “Do not store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.” (Matthew 6:19-21, italics mine) I love that last verse, and I truly want my heart to be focused right where God wants it. In order to keep it focused right there, I know I need to continue this journey.

So, where do we go from here? We plan to basically stick to the habits that have been created in the last six months. We’ll keep our overall spending to a minimum, and we’ll always talk to each other about purchases before making them. By doing so, we’ll able to continue our momentum toward paying off Pete’s medical school loans by Christmas!! We are confident that we would not be anywhere close to having them paid without our changes in the last six months. In many ways, we’re incredible thankful that God made it so clear to us last December that we should take this plunge. The freedom we’re feeling is pretty wonderful!

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us!

IMG_8293


Share

How Social Media is Impacting My Life

I often hear one of the following phrases when I ask friends how they feel about social media. “I’m on it all the time!” “I hate it. I actually deleted my accounts.” “I want to be on, but I just end up feeling horrible about myself.” I can absolutely relate to all of these statements. I used to (as in, just a few months ago) spend tons of time on Facebook and Instagram. Not long before that I deleted my Twitter account. And I have had to take breaks from all of it because seeing everyone’s apparent awesomeness was making me feel crappy. But, even with all this, there is a whole lot of incredible stuff going on through social media. And no, this is not an ad about why you should be on it, because I just wouldn’t do that to you. But I’d be lying if I said social media has no good points, because it has actually helped me become more of the woman I want to be. So yeah, social media can actually be a decent thing.

2015-04-17 02.29.44 pm

Instagram friends who are now real life friends! @thethomps & @dreambiglittleones

If you’ve not seen this side of social media, I know you could very well be thinking, “But wouldn’t this be better with someone I see face-to-face on a regular basis? Isn’t this kind of a fake relationship?” Yes and no. I would love to say that I get to see all my close friends every day, and that I know the big and little things happening in their lives. The truth is, with a busy husband, two young children, and multiple ministries to stay up on, I don’t get to spend even close to the amount of time with my dear friends that I would like. I’m terrible with phone calls and only okay with texts. Play dates can be challenging to schedule with nap times, winter sick-bugs, and tantrums (and not just from the kids, because, let’s face it, we all throw them from time to time). It gets hard to meet with friends in person. Being able to connect online fills in those gaps when we don’t get to connect in real life.

2015-04-17 02.31.09 pm

I connected with writer & mama Kelle Hampton on Istagram and then in real life! @etst

It’s not only about the people we already know, though. There is tremendous potential, as I’ve found through Instagram, to connect with countless others on a similar life journey. I began my Instagram life when I found other moms who had kids with Down syndrome. And let me tell you, those connections have turned into real friendships over the last two-and-a-half years. My Hope Spoken roommate, Andrea, for example, has been one such friend. This was the first time we were able to meet in person! The beauty of social media is that it’s almost as though the whole world is available. You can find people in the smallest of niches and actually connect with them. For example, I am now connected to Wendy, a missionary mama of nine, two with Down syndrome, living in Uganda. I would likely never meet someone so similar in my regular circles! Since Christmas, I’ve had the opportunity to meet (in real life!) four friends who have little ones with Down syndrome whom I only knew through Instagram. We were in Florida, Indiana, Texas, and Minnesota. And I’m planning more meet-ups for next month. I really do love how social media can make the world seem a bit smaller.

IMG_4171

Andrea & I finally met last month after being IG friends for 2.5 years! @ahtharpe


 Here are a few things to keep in mind as you build your community on social media.

1. DO follow accounts with topics that matter to you.

Start by searching hashtags. Some of my personal favorites are #downsyndromelove, #theluckyfew (also Down syndrome related), #thepursuitofjoyproject, #childhoodunplugged, #wildandfreechildren, Click on photos that inspire you and then click on through to see if you connect with the person posting or anyone commenting on their photos. It’s a great way to get started.

2. DO follow accounts that inspire you.

You may not have a whole lot in common with them right now, but maybe something in their photos connects with who you want to be. I follow a few writers, photographers, homeschoolers, and missionaries who show bits of life that I want to adopt into my own life over time. Another big thing that inspires me? Showing pieces of real life. No one’s life is picture perfect all the time. Even if they do post lots of gorgeous photos of their little girls playing in the garden in adorable vintage dresses or sitting in front of an incredible sunset with drippy ice cream cones, I want to see the real stuff from time to time. Like the pile of laundry that has been ignored for two days or the moment their little girl fell asleep on a lovely quilt because she was so exhausted from throwing a fit at the grocery store. Because that stuff happens! Pretending it doesn’t it a bit too fake for me, and it doesn’t do any of us any good. They don’t need to post tons of awful, real-life dramas, just enough to keep things real.

3. DON’T follow accounts that make you feel like you’re not enough.

It’s one thing to be inspired, but it’s entirely different to feel you don’t measure up. Protect your heart and your mind when you choose to follow someone. Even if you feel inspired by them today, those feelings might change next month. You’re not in a relationship (unless they are your real-life friend, of course), so feel free to unfollow them. Again, keep your heart and mind protected.

4. DON’T analyze who has unfollowed you.

It can hurt to lose followers, but the truth is, you have no idea why they’ve stopped following you. So don’t analyze it. And don’t send a message to someone who has stopped following you. That’s just awkward. Someone did that once when I decided to stop following them due to the amount of drama they were posting. It made me feel terrible.

IMG_4982

Overall, if you choose to be a part of social media, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or one of the many, many other options, keep in mind that you can control what you let into your heart and mind, just as Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8, The Message). Perfect guidelines for how to keep ourselves focused on the positive aspects of social media instead of getting caught up in what can get yucky.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram! I can be found under TheMangoMemoirs on both or by clicking the links in the sidebar.

Do you have a favorite part of social media? Who are your favorites to follow?

 

 

 


Share

Living in Community

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I don’t know as a mom. It’s not that I necessarily feel terrible about it. I’m just recognizing the fact that there is a countless list of things I would love to know about being a wife and mom that I just don’t. I feel there are secrets to motherhood that I haven’t been told, and I really, really want to find out what they are.

photo 2

Do you ever wish we could live in a big community of families just to give us the opportunity to watch how women with more experience do things? Some cultures do this incredibly well. However, I feel like we so often end up living fairly isolated lives on a daily basis, making it almost impossible to know what the same tasks look like for others in similar situations. Yes, we can have play dates and coffee dates and be a part of moms groups and Bible studies and life groups, but how much do we get to dig into the dirt of real life in those settings? I would love to be a fly on the wall in a few different households of women I admire. I would take notes on how the house is kept in neat but livable fashion, how the mamas interact with the children, how much time they put into creative activities, what they do for family meals, how they make time for their own projects and goals, and how they love on their husbands in the midst of the constant pull of young children. I know there are books and blogs and YouTube videos about all of the above, but it’s not the same when we are living in our ‘for real’ settings.

photo 1

The one time in my life that I feel I got to experience such community was when we were living at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya last year. There were at least five families living in immediate proximity to us. We would all open our doors in the mid-morning and let the kids run out into the grass, eventually hopping on bikes and scooters or running around as superheroes. It was during that time, when the parents would sit and chat while the kids played, that I soaked in a lot about how different parents do life. I didn’t get many weeks with the families, but I got a tiny taste of a really amazing way to do life. I would love to have that experience here in the States! I don’t know what I need to do to make that happen, but believe me, I’m asking God about it and discussing it with friends. That’s the tricky part, though. I feel like my friends are awesome (because you are!), but I really want to learn from more experienced women who have already been through this phase of life I’m walking through right now. I want to steep in their experiences and knowledge. Why should we feel like we have to reinvent the wheel when so many parents have already lived similar lives before us?

Friends, I would just love your thoughts on this. Do you have these same feelings? Do you have mentors who have taught you how this can be done? Do you feel like you have this kind of community already? I am truly longing for this kind of life. Are you?

 


Share

Finding My Worth: How Much I Can Do

In our society of busy, busy, busy, hustling from place to place with so little margin, it’s hard to know what to feel when something falls out of place. We can so carefully set everything up, like a perfectly arranged line of dominoes, each piece placed precisely where it will be of greatest use. My dominoes are pretty clearly labeled, as I know they are for most of us. Fitness, cooking, laundry, errands, phone calls, cleaning, groceries, appointments, planning for upcoming teaching sessions, spending quiet time with Jesus, Ella, Sam, Pete… We’ve all got our own stack of dominoes. But what happens when something gets bumped and the whole line of blocks starts falling?

photo-1 copy

Continue Reading


Share
Design by: Bumble + Buzz Design // Copyright © The Mango Memoirs