The training wheels are off

This has been a hard season for us, but not without merit.

You never know what the classroom of your life will be until you find yourself sitting at an uncomfortable desk with a bloody hard test in front of you that you are pretty sure you didn’t study for.

I’ve been waiting to write this post until we were on the other side of the lesson but there is no guarantee when that will be and that’s okay. If anything the last five months have taught me in spades is “God’s got this.” He has the answer key, he wrote the test, he’s proctoring it in fact.

He’s got this.

We bought a house 7.5 years ago. At the time we knew we paid a little too much for it but we found it the day it went on the market and we had thirty days to move and they weren’t willing to dicker on price. We’ve never had any desire to be house poor and this was still on the low end for what we qualified for. We just had that “Aww shucks” feeling that if we had a little more time we could have gotten them down a few thousand more. Still, we loved that little cottage in the city. A 90 year old Craftsman bungalow with charm oozing out it’s pores. We upgraded the plumbing, kitchen, master bath, landscaping, anything we could save up for to make it nicer. Who knew in 2008 the realty market would begin a very rapid downward spiral. We can only work with the facts that are presently in front of us and we made a financially sound decision at the time. Sadly my crystal ball was broken or we would have chosen differently.

Isn't she darlin?

Isn’t she darlin?

You have all heard the stories of whoa over the last few years on the news about people foreclosing and going bankrupt left and right. Hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt over houses they couldn’t afford or unload. Scary stuff. A good name is better than great riches Psalms tells us. Who wants their credit smashed into tiny shards of glass like that? Devastating.

When we moved out to the country almost three years ago, we moved with our city house being under a lease purchase contract. What that means is the couple agrees to buy the house at the end of a year. They put down a hefty deposit because they just need a little more time to get their credit up to snuff and get their loan in place. There is definitely risk involved. If I had more time to tell you the beautiful, DETAILED, way the Lord brought us to our current house you would have the same peace we did in moving forward with the lease purchase offer. It’s a great story.

Much to our shock and dismay the couple at the end of the year had actually worsened their credit and decided to bail. (Cue our jaws on the ground…nervous laughter….what in the what????)

You ever been faced with the reality of two mortgages….it’s super fun, you should try it. Nothing has hit my panic button faster. Along with my broken crystal ball our money tree wasn’t growing either.

NEWS FLASH….YOU CAN’T MAKE YOUR HOUSE SELL!

I don’t care how awesome your realtor is, how great their marketing is, how much people LOVE your house (and believe me…people love this house). Only God can decide the timing of lifting that burden. And so we can submit with grace or go pout in the corner and lick our wounds.

Last year we ended up renting to a great couple. Did we want to be landlords? Nope…not one bit. Due to the awesome economy we could only charge our mortgage cost so we made zippo every month to put into savings to help us out if anything went wrong with the house. So zero times 12 months equals zero right? It’s almost a 100 year old house…so you can imagine things happen. Heck, stuff happens to brand new construction houses…that’s home ownership.

The couple moved out on Halloween night this last fall and there we were again, for the third time in a row, trying to sell this house. The unfortunate thing is what we owed the bank and what that neighborhood was going for since the market crash didn’t end in the same numbers. Me thinks this is a problem.

Due to all my health drama last spring, our car needing repairs, a trip we already booked to Costa Rica before we knew this was all going to go down, our savings account was about at zero when November’s mortgage was due. You know what’s sad? They won’t let you pay in charm at the bank. I’ve tried. Bankers need to lighten up for reals.

Haha…someone figured out how to add gifs to her posts (I know that’s so 2000…but come on they are fun….we were bleeding hundred dolla bills ya’ll)

And so we did a hail Mary with our photography business and we offered “mini sessions” for the first time ever in November and low and behold they filled up lightning fast. November and December mortgage paid for….whewwwwww….. A little bit of margin and financial breathing space.

Don’t you wish you had booked with us? I mean this is one just one amazing family we photographed. Our buds and fellow photogs. If you are in NC…book them!

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We listed with an amazing realtor after much prayer and started to swallow the golf ball reality that now we had to come out of pocket for commission (and that’s if we sold at full price.) I laugh that that was the worst reality we were trying to absorb in November…ha…HAHAHAHAHA…oh if we only knew what was ahead.

Praising the Lord for Ryan’s Christmas bonus so we were able to pay for January and February mortgage. Want to know what’s hard, incredibly hard actually….giving money to an empty house. Want to know whats gotten easier every month….giving money to an empty house.

God’s economy works mysteriously. What a beautiful and freeing thing to rest in. He gives and takes away…blessed be his name!! This is a season of our finances being taken. They just are and it stinks but it doesn’t end there. It never does.

I’m telling ya…Satan was all over this stuff pounding us with discouragement and jabs. We would just come up for breath and another punch would be thrown. Our heat got all jacked up in the house through unknown reasons and we got a $355 gas bill…FOR AN EMPTY HOUSE in February!!! Not gonna lie…cried when I opened that bill. Next month a $270 gas bill. Whoa satan….you aren’t playing. Consequently, the gas company will also not take charm as payment. Whats wrong with people? Don’t they know I’m an adorable 5’2″ girl with a big gummy smile??? Let’s call it even!

As each month rolled on and each bill came in things went from stressful to kinda exciting. We knew we couldn’t make money appear so it would HAVE to be Jesus pouring out His provision. We decided to offer spring mini sessions to figure out how to pay for the March mortgage.

This time….one day filled up and NONE for the other day. Head scratcher. Okay Lord, we are availing ourselves and our gifts to you….let’s go….bring us some people to photograph….come on…what’s the hold up?

A wise couple came to pray with us one night and we were sharing the story how the mini sessions weren’t booking up and he said, “It’s like training wheels guys. That which seems so indispensable to keep you safe is now hindering you the most from trusting God.” The photography is our training wheels. It’s that skill we try to play like our trump card. We know it, we rely on it and fall back on it. When he took that away…..well, it really was “Let’s wait and see what GOD does.” Here is the mortgage bill God, here is that crazy huge gas bill God.

Ryan has the gift of faith. It’s a gift that very few people intrinsically possess. He has the ability to absorb devastating news, rapid change of circumstance and stressful situations with barely a flinch or emotional response. It is wonderful and annoying. (I kid… I’m thankful we are not both in a heap of snot and tears at life’s greatest trials)

I’m Philip. Maybe you are Philip too. Look at these familiar verses in John 6 when Jesus and Philip come upon the crowd near the sea of Galilee.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

You see Philip’s response? He LOOKS WITH HIS EYES and CALCULATES WITH HIS BRAIN the exact solution. An impossible problem to solve with the resources in front of them. Did you notice I left out verse six? Check out this gem (face palm for glazing over it my whole life.)

6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

HE was TESTING HIM. He already knew what he was going to do. (ummmm…fish and loaves miracle anyone?)

Here is Kelly seeing with her eyes our bank account and looking ahead at what is booked on the calendar and it is an IMPOSSIBLE problem to fix with the resources we posses.

Guys….this season of continual financial loss, waiting month after month for our house to sell which has come with setback after setback, extra bills, service calls, repairs, hours and hours on the phone, etc… This is my test much more than Ryan’s. Oh this is a test I want to pass. I want to be the teacher’s pet in fact. I’ve needed to learn ruthless trust and not just saying God is good and his provision boundless…but I want that to be the very air I breath in and out.

Jen Hatmaker spoke about “Real Faith” at IF GATHERING last month. I want you to read an excerpt of my notes:

” Faith does not mean you understand the whole definition of God or that you don’t doubt. Faith does not demand that God explain himself. He is mysterious and Paul says his was are “unsearchable” Don’t wait until you have full possession of knowledge before you take full possession of God. No one ever has or ever will leave this world unscathed. Suffering is a part of life while satan still rules. God is good. You want it to be true in the day, but it’s even better in the night.”

You want to know what I saw happen on March 15th?

The day our mortgage bill was absolutely due. As in the LAST DAY of the grace period of paying it. The huge gas bill was also due that day. Up to that point we had seen some deposits trickle in for the one day of mini sessions we booked. We had half the money we needed to pay those two bills on the 15th. I was giving it to 2:00pm that day for the mail to come to see if a miracle would happen or if I would have to call in those bills on a credit card. I was not crying guys, I was excited. Do you know that morning two people asked if they could PayPal me their full mini session payments today, Ryan called to say he had received a reimbursement for some doctor bills at work and in the mail came two more deposits. God did it…..to the minute. We had the money to pay those bills. It was amazing.

This calls for another GIF!

Do you know it’s been a year since we have booked a wedding? We have been slowly leaving the industry over the last five years just taking a few a year for fun and extra income. For some reason the Lord has all but dried up this area of our photography until two days ago when we booked a wedding, or should we say…God blessed us with April’s mortgage payment. I mean really Jesus? So incredible.

It’s 12:50pm on Friday. In about ten minutes an inspector is coming to our city house because we have a contract on it!! I have asked our prayer circle to pray what I am calling a “Daniel and the lion’s den prayer”. Whatever could kill, destroy, maim or stop this contract from going through… may it be silenced. We have an inspection and an appraisal to get through. We also have to come to the table with a sickening amount of money in order to close on this house. I don’t know how this story will end, or how we will ever recoup the tens of thousands of dollars lost but I know that this has been one of the hardest and best seasons of my spiritual walk.

Jen is right, God is good in the day….but he is even BETTER in the night.

Don’t be a Philip. Stop calculating with your eyes and your brain your circumstances. Don’t dwell on scenarios that may or may not come to fruition. Let God fully have your trust for His ways are unsearchable and they are always, Always, ALWAYS good.

It’s happening

I spend a lot of time in the mirror.

It’s true.

But unlike the Kelly of her twenties who was curling her $140 salon colored hair, while applying her Bath and Body works lotion to her extremely tan body, put on her Victoria Secret underwear and spritzed her neck with her $100 bottle of Marc Jacobs (dang that stuff smells like an angels wing) The Kelly who is just 16 months from being forty…that’s FOUR-ZERO sits indian style on the counter of her poorly lit bathroom and sighs deep, sad sighs at the face looking back at her.

Whoa baby….time marched on and it marched all over my face!

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Can you even take this girl serious??? The photo on the left was a dare…the one on the right I totally own…I chose to wear that IN PUBLIC. ARE YOU KIDDING ME KELLY in her 20’s??? Oiy Vey!!!

Also why buy a tanning pass for 15 visits when for ten dollars more you can get unlimited visits in a month. I literally tanned for five years straight in my twenties…just ask my chest…wait…you don’t have to, the leathery look it’s taking on is proof enough of foolish vanity.

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Halloween party on the left…I was Louise of “Thelma and Louise”. Skinniest I ever was as an adult. Sniff..sigh. Looking good on the outside…GIANT HOT MESS ON THE INSIDE!!! Read this post for the story.

I now curl my $6.50 box of Feria hair and make due with a $15 haircut. I rub in my dollar store lotion given to me by my children that smells oddly of alcohol and flowers left in a vase too long. It immediately absorbs into my child bearing thighs. My legs pale, dimply and showing their first signs of spider veins beg me to throw my sweats back over them but not before I put my sad Walmart cotton underwear on…you know the kind with the odd, thin piece of elastic sticking out. I’m convinced my bras and underwear silently weep in the drawer at night. They really need to be put out to pasture. I spritz my imitation “Pleasures” on my aging chest and continue the arduous grooming process.

I got the short end of the stick in the skin gene department. Currently wrinkles and acne are duking it out for residency on my face. It’s not fair…acne AND wrinkles. Shouldn’t one negate the other? Don’t get me going on black heads and pore size (or baby bird baths as I call them). I stroke my children’s flawless cheeks and burn with envy at their non existent pores.

It’s happening….It’s happening like a Japanese bullet train and there isn’t much I can do but watch my Titanic sink and stand on the deck playing my violin with as much dignity as I can muster.

The exact wrinkle pattern around my eyes, which up to just a few years ago was only visible when I smiled hard, now sits well mapped out around my eyes even when I am straight faced and relaxed. When did that happen? When did I need to google eye creams? When was it necessary to pluck disgusting black hairs from my chin that are as thick as an 18 gauge stud. Why are 1/3 of my eyebrows now pointing straight up? WHAT IS HAPPENING?

I’m trying to make peace with the grays that are weaseling their way around my hair line, even invading my eye brows!!! To be fair…I did win the hair lottery in life. I always think of that line in the Little Women movie with Christian Bale ( swoon LAURIE!!!!!!!) Where Amy says to Jo after she cuts her hair. “Jo….your one beauty!”

DON’T YOU DARE leave a comment with affirmations, this post isn’t about that, I’m not fishing for compliments here…I’m just laying out some harsh realities we all face. We all get old. Nobody is exempt.

I bet about now you are thinking…”Wow that Ryan’s a lucky guy!!” Ha, dang skippy he is! Seriously, I have the BEST husband that not only helps me keep it light about the steep decline but has an awesome sense of humor about the parts of his body and skin that are boycotting youth.

Kelly in her twenties made it her life’s mission to hide any and all flaws she could. Now I’m all “Hey Ry…get in here…look at this weird tag wart…it looks like a baby claw.” I laugh so I don’t cry. I’m thankful Ryan grabbed me at my peak…literally. It’s not fair…girls seem to age in rough and dramatic ways and men seem to get more dapper and distinguished the older they get. What gives?

This is the power of photography at work ladies. You bump that exposure up a hair and voila! Wrinkles, scars, acne…be gone! Poof!!! It’s the reason I only use a select few head shots to “represent” me to the general public.

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Our amazing friend and photographer, Adam Barnes, gave us some amazing head shots in the new year.

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Just in case you didn’t realize there is 16 inches between Ryan and myself. I even have three inch booties on to help.

This is real life. Taken just now. Even the computer screen is giving me some help from it’s white hot glow. Left over mascara still clumped together. I tell the teachers at school there are two moms of my children. This is the mom that drops them off. (Sorry, don’t know why it’s flipped)
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and then somewhere along the day I get my act together and a new “more hip and fresh” mom picks them up.
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That mirror is supremely clean. Sorry for the poor iphone photos…the sun is boycotting coming out lately.

My mom once told me many years ago “You will love your 30’s and 40’s the most.” Well I don’t know about my 40’s yet but my 30’s have brought a mental and emotional freedom I could never have imagined in my 20’s. The women that have flanked my life for the last few decades…my soul sisters…we’ve learned a lot, we settled into ourselves and we’ve realized the folly and striving of our youth. We are all the wiser for it. We swap our aging whoa stories like a bunch of old vets sitting at a diner counter. Stretch marks mean the miracle of birth, crows feet mean years of laughter, saddle bags….well…I don’t have anything nice to say about those things. The point is, I am surrounded by women who have fought for a life well-lived. Who don’t just talk about kingdom living, they are walking it out. We see how doggone hard and misguided our twenties were and we’ve made peace with our foolish, insecure, petty, self-indulgent, narrow-minded, overly introspective and superficial pasts for the greener pastures of self-contentment, security in the Lord, simplifying our lives and burning off the chaff of cancerous people.

I got an email from Jen Hatmaker….I’m sure it was just to me because she and I are tight that way. Jay Jay and Kay Kay talking it out over email.

I kid. I wish.

Did I mention I’m going to IF: Gathering NEXT MONTH… IN AUSTIN… I will be just a few hundred feet from Jen laughing my full horse gum laugh and letting my eye road map wrinkles gloriously shine while I sit next to one of my best friends on this earth who I haven’t seen in over two years. The thought of next month is too lofty for me to hold in my brain.

Anywho…she sent an advanced peek for her book “For the Love” coming out in August. I know adding this on to my post makes is mega long but it is SO worth the read. She just NAILS the best parts of getting old and doing it with amazing women at your side. She is hysterical and I connect so well to her writing. Enjoy! Be of good cheer younger readers…it gets SO much better sans the aging part. It’s worth it…

“I turned forty this year.

Forty! Which is so weird because I’ve always been young. I’ve been young my whole life, as a matter of fact. No matter how I dissect this, I’ve aged out of the ‘young’ category to the ‘middle’ group. My brain feels confused about this because I am so juvenile. I make up my own words to hip-hop songs and quote Paul Rudd as an actual parenting strategy; surely I am a preteen. But much like Shakira: these hands don’t lie.

So gather round, young things, for I know you think me ancient. You think forty is so distant it cannot be comprehended, though basic math confirms it a mere, say, eleven years away. In my 20s, I pitied the middle-agers as they clearly had one foot in the grave. I will never be forty, said my young deluded self. I will always have this elastic body and newborn baby hands. My forehead will appear kissed by angels every morning. I will pee only if and when I want to.

Something weird happens to your brain. This brain has served you well for so long, but it starts punking out on you. You can’t remember directions, you forget why you walked into a room, for the life of you, you can’t recall that third kid’s name (“Take out the trash…I want to say…Chris?”). You will talk on your cell phone while looking around your house for your cell phone. No one helps because they are laughing at you; these people you live with mock this behavior. Sometimes your husband will say a sentence using English words, but for some reason, the sentence won’t compute and you stare at him blankly, like a pigeon, because the words are so confusing. What is he trying to say? What are these words? Is this a trick? Talking is hard.

And the learning. Heaven help if you need to learn something new. At this point, education is a fool’s mission. Your brain is not helpful. It is done. It already took you to college and did the heavy lifting the last twenty years, and it is taking a cigarette break. This is unfortunate because about this time you go back to middle and high school with your spawn. You are expected to help with algebra and chemistry and the remembering of all the things, but your brain resembles the bottom of your purse; lost pen caps and congealed undefined filth. It feels furious about this chemistry. It feels angry about this new math. It will not have this crap. It will take a nap and those children can work their own stuff out. Your brain already completed 11th grade. It has done its time.

Skin. Come close, all ye still bathing in the fountain of youth: TAKE CARE OF YOUR SKIN. I know, you’ll never be old and wrinkly and being tan is just the best, but you’ll soon regret this folly. It’s strange with the skin, because sometimes your brain helps you survive the bathroom mirror (remember it is addled, plus denial is strong, young Jedi), but then you see a picture and you’re like I was in some terrible lighting and also the angle is tragic and plus the shadows made my neck look weird and for the love of Annie Leibovitz DO MY FRIENDS NOT KNOW HOW TO USE INSTAGRAM FILTERS?? It is all very distressing. Sometimes I baby talk parts of my body into resisting the mutiny: Come on, Shins. I’m counting on you. You’ve always been good to me. You don’t want to be like Neck and Eyelids and Chest, those loose floozies. Hang in there, baby, and you’ll be the last part of me that sees the light of day.

Now listen, sweet young thing, in case you’ve lost the will to live, there is some good news too. You won’t just be a wrinkled, cranky chub who can’t find her glasses while wearing them. You get some other goodies besides incontinence.

You get a decent handle on who you are, what you are good at, what you love, what you value, and how you want to live. These questions used to keep me up at night. Young one, if you worry endlessly about purpose and trajectory, identity and worth, forty brings security you can’t imagine. I know what I am good at now and I do it. I’m not apologetic and uncertain and aw-shucks about running my race. I no longer tiptoe through my own life, doubting my gifts and my place, too scared to go for it, seize it, pray for it, dream it. When you’re forty, you no longer wait for permission to live. It’s time, and as Maya Angelou said, “Life loves the liver of it.”

In the same way, I don’t look sideways as much. Oh my stars, when I was 29, I was so hamstrung by what everyone else was accomplishing. Other people were my benchmark and comparison stole entire years. I lost much time in jealousy, judgment, and imitation. I just couldn’t find my own song. I struggled to celebrate others’ achievements, because they felt like indictments on my uncertainty. Now fully able to cheer wildly for friends and colleagues, a constrictive mesh netting is removed from my heart and I am free to be me, everyone else is free to be themselves, and I am thrilled about both.

At forty you develop resiliency. I needed approval desperately even ten years ago. Criticism crushed me. Conflict paralyzed me. Disapproval evaporated me. Consequently, I took the safest path through every scenario to avoid reproach. As an approval addict, it shocks even me to tell you that, to some degree, you won’t care much what anyone thinks of you, your parenting, your marriage, your career, your politics, your house, your wardrobe, your hair, your kids, your choices, your church, your dog, your new red front door, your comfortable flats, your stretchy pants, your daughter’s hair, your son’s weird occupation with vintage ska, your favorite college sweatshirt you still wear, your decision to homeschool/private school/public school, your new resolve to go vegan, your consistent purchase of Lunchables, your decision to work, your decision to quit, your random idea to purchase chickens. It just won’t matter. If people don’t like it, well, tra la la. It’s not that you become unteachable or unleadable or uncorrectable, but differing opinions stop shaking every decision and critical words won’t send you to bed. You develop chops, sister. You’re going to love it.

So sure, your body and mind get whack, but I promise, sweet young thing, you wouldn’t return to your 20’s for all the unwrinkled skin on earth. You’ll like it here. You will love better, stand taller, laugh louder. You’ll pass out grace like candy. Real life will temper your arrogance and fear, and you will adore the next version of yourself. We all will.

But just in case: wear sunscreen every day, for the love.”

I can’t tell you how many paragraphs I left out because I wanted to copy and paste them all!! So good right?

Happy New Year readers.

HAPPY ONE YEAR TO ME, to you….to all of you that have hung in here with my unbelievably infrequent blogging pattern and still chose to check in, read and leave your words of love here, on FB or Instagram. I have read and cherished each word. I have LOVED pouring my heart out on these pages and look forward to an incredible year full of MANY adventures going deeper in the kingdom!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. XOXOXO

The foolish woman and a blue chair

I nervously eyed the price tag and then back at the sales clerk, “Four hundred dollars huh?” She watched me lustfully stare at the blue beauty beckoning me from the store display.

“Don’t worry, we have our own credit card with a low interest rate so you will have it paid off in no time.”

I knew better. I was raised to never, ever buy something unless I had the cash BUT (there is always a but when we justify spending) I was 21, had my first full time job making 18K a year AND my first apartment!!! Besides, they said I would have it paid off in no time.

Yeah….no time translated to $50 plus interest for the next eight months. That was just ONE thing I bought for my apartment in 1998. The decorating bug hit me and my champagne taste on my Coors Light budget started an ugly ball rolling in my life that compounded….literally…over the next ten years.

When I bought that blue chair in 1998 I thought my apartment was the shizzzz. Compliments started rolling in about what a great place I had, what an eye for color I had,”You should be a decorator” etc…. Words, words…more words people…Kelly needs all the words.

I found these few snapshots in my basement of my super trendy apartment, ha!
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Do you see my blue chair in all its glory? I clearly have a future in decorating in Florida one day with my white pillars, glass top and bright colors. That dining room set was my other debt I incurred after the blue chair. Got it at Pier One! I was somethin’ I tell ya…somethin’. I was taking over the world one electric blue, lime green and white item at a time.

Three years later I went to Kazakstan for 10 weeks on a short term missions trip. I subleased my apartment, furnished, while I was gone to some friends. When I got back I found out that my precious blue chair now had a glob of dried super glue smack dab in the front center of the chair.

Cue sad tears, shock, horror, and knots in my stomach. How? Why? WHY?????

At the time I was devastated, showing my true attachment to this physical item. Now I think it is hilarious because it was the first of MANY lessons God was going to teach me about letting go of what rust and moths (and super glue) can destroy and really just live and use my stuff whether it was perfect or not. Super glue did not negate the fact it was a fun color and super comfortable chair.

Remember, I do come from a heritage of perfection and OCD…so I had to un-do a lot of thinking in my twenties. A LOT OF THINKING.

I’d like to show you the blue chair today. It currently takes up residency in my basement as a “junk” chair. Dried super glue is the least of this guys worries these days. Faded, stained, swirled with blue marker and left for dead by three ravenous children. I throw a blanket over him to hide his shameful secrets. Maybe someday I can afford to recover him. Maybe.

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It’s time to talk about debt and over shopping. It’s time to address the foolish woman that lives inside all of us. It’s time to look at the “blue chairs” in our life.

Proverbs 22:7
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

Proverbs 14:29
“He who is impulsive exalts folly.”

Maybe your kryptonite isn’t house stuff, maybe it’s fancy purses, staying on trend with clothes, new cars, vacations, eating out constantly, jewelry, crafting supplies, technology, gym memberships and gear, organic living and supplements. Is there anything evil in the examples listed..not at all! It’s the manner in which they are bought and the heart intention behind them that has to be called in to question.

The never ending wall scuffs. Praise God for Magic Erasers.

The never ending wall scuffs. Praise God for Magic Erasers.

The United States is the poster child for excess…in our country of credit card offer after credit card offer filling our mailboxes, online shopping, free shipping, cash checking stores, layaway, etc…. We have become insatiable in our desires for stuff and the accessibility in which we can acquire it. The idea of moderation, cash only purchases, self control, saving up, and saying “No” makes you some freak of nature person who lives in the dark ages.

Whoever invented stainless steal never had kids.

Whoever invented stainless steal never had kids.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established, through knowledge it’s rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

A couple of posts ago I blogged my first house tour using this Proverb. This was to show a home that was filled with “rare and beautiful treasures” thriftily and thoughtfully arranged for use in the kingdom. That will be the purpose of any future house tour posts.

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I really want to tackle the first part of that Proverb. WISDOM BUILDS.

I’m showing you my imperfect home. I still love to decorate but now I only use cash and 90% of what is in our home is second hand or free. That was huge and liberating for me to realize you can still have a great house and not purchase it brand new from a store.

Truly the worlds most comfortable chaise lounge bought off a friend for $50.  It's struggling in areas but nothing a nice throw can't cover up in a jiffy.

Truly the worlds most comfortable chaise lounge bought off a friend for $50. It’s struggling in areas but nothing a nice throw can’t cover up in a jiffy.

I am most miserable when I am trying to maintain perfect in my home. I birthed three “home wreckers” named Sticky, Dirty and Poopy. Their job is to smash my dreams of a clean and picked up home within seconds of being awake. It doesn’t mean I don’t try to keep the house picked up, and truthfully it is picked up most all the time but I have to hold my belongings with a very VERY loose grip. The kids have chores and are quite helpful at times but still…I have a toddler that is running rampant all day making out with my windows among other annoying, destructive things.
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Bennett was mad he had to write lines for a punishment so he wrote on my vintage chair. Then I burned all his Legos....in my mind.

Bennett was mad he had to write lines for a punishment so he wrote on my vintage chair. Then I burned all his Legos….in my mind.

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We have actually acquired some sweet stuff from Ryan’s work place at Moore and Giles. I mean they make GORGEOUS leather goods. Gonna brag on my baby. He is the photographer and web designer there. All those incredible photos of leather and leather goods on their site are his skills that pay our bills!!

They have a warehouse sale once a year and this is where we scored deals like this…. $800 metallic gold poof for $25 because we bought it already “broken in”! I simply spin the poof towards the chair and WAHLAH it looks perfect!
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Or this $1000 buttery soft leather chair we got for $75. Rhett thought is was a super great spot to sharpen his claws. You never know when your kids will act like feral children.
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Our well worn hide.
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Why am I showing you all this? Partially to show that all of these items were new at some point and now they clearly are not. Not in the least. They have been loved and at times abused.

My huge white shag carpet in my living room is now a marbled pattern of white and gray. SO MANY PEOPLE have come through our living room and that’s the pattern of conversation, prayer and hospitality that is well worn over the last 2.5 years. I got the carpet at the Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity) for $100 (90% off!) So I can let guys who work manual labor and don’t want to take off their work boots and gag us out with their stinky, hot feet keep their boots on and come and sit in our living room and enjoy the cup of community. I don’t have to uncork my butt every time something is spilled or ripped. It’s not a free for all at my house. The kids aren’t allowed to eat anywhere but the dining room but stuff happens. I’m the worse coffee spiller offender of anyone in the house hands down!

My IKEA Craigslist Couch..came pre-stained!

My IKEA Craigslist Couch…my coffee spilling handiwork

Aftermath of quiet time.

Aftermath of quiet time.

When Ryan and I got married almost ten years ago we had a collective debt of $60,000. YUP….GO US!!! 28K in student loans, 12K in credit card debt, Car loans and various other things. Also Ryan didn’t have a job and I got pregnant six months later so we were losing my income shortly. You want to know what it is to panic? To feel like a vice is around your neck when you open your mail? It’s an awful feeling. We know debt.

Apparently not awful enough for most people.

I googled statistics on the average household debt in America as of this month.

Current as of December 2014
U.S. household consumer debt profile:

Average credit card debt: $15,608
Average mortgage debt: $154,847
Average student loan debt: $32,397
In total, American consumers owe:

$11.71 trillion in debt
An increase of 3.8% from last year
$881.8 billion in credit card debt
$8.13 trillion in mortgages
$1,126.0 billion in student loans
An increase of 9.6% from last year

That is D-I-S-G-U-S-T-I-N-G. There is no end in site. We are a country grossly out of control. Ryan and I were a couple who had blown giant holes in our marriage ship and we were sinking rapidly. One of the number one reasons for divorce in our country is financial strain.

Our church offers a financial study called Crowne Financial Ministries. We did not walk, we ran to register for this study within the first few months of marriage. What in the free world were we going to do to get out of debt, financially recover from losing my teaching salary and bring peace into our home?

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Say it with me….self-control. Now louder…..SELF-CONTROL. Snip, snip, snip the credit cards went. We absolutely, positively did not eat out, go to movies, exchange gifts, travel, take vacations, etc. It was so hard. I MEAN IT. A stupid cup of Starbucks coffee was cause for discussion. We sacrificed by staying home for most of the first 5-7 years of our marriage. You know what…that’s a hidden blessing!

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One of the questions Crowne asks of it’s attendees is “Is there anything you and your spouse can do to generate income?” This is where the idea of Kellan came about. People have some misunderstanding that we were two banging photographers that got married and this business just took off. Nope. I took one year of film photography in high school 12 years prior and Ryan had a Canon Rebel he took pictures with for funsies. I had a business/marketing background. He is technologically quite advanced and so we pushed our skill chips in together to see what we could come up with.

It is a miracle that anyone booked us in 2006. We had ZERO portfolio and no equipment but with my born saleswoman pitch and Ryan’s photography ability (which saved his ignorant wife who had no idea how to shoot digitally)…we razzle-dazzled our first 12-18 months with a giant cloud of smoke and mirrors around us until we actually knew what we were doing.

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Our photography business took off and off and off and we could raise and raise and raise our prices the better we got. Now that also brought a whole host of issues in our marriage with working 24 hours a day 7 days a week. (Read my About tab for that drama) but I am so happy to say that we not only took back our marriage we have paid off over $50K in debt in the last nine years (takes a bow). That is so crazy to even type but man I know the struggle and it was real to get to this point of almost being debt free. We are down to Ryan’s student loan and then the monkey will be off our back. It will be a glorious day once it happens and it will.

So I’m going to continue this post another time because there is much more to unpack about building a wise home. Let there be no mistake that the number one thing to a wise home is living in your means, saving, GIVING generously away to kingdom work, and USING what you have been given to bless your family and others. I can see no other way to live to cultivate peace and freedom in a home and marriage than that way. It may take years to get there but it is worth it! Don’t buy into the lie, especially in this season of “presents” that any “thing” is going to make you happy or fulfilled.

This season of Advent “coming” of baby Jesus is the perfect time to start fresh and new. He came to give us abundant life and freedom. To unshackle us from the chains we have on us voluntarily and involuntarily. His burden his light. He came to rescue us from all the weighs us down.

We put polaroids of places we have traveled and people that bless our lives to remember each year.

We put polaroids of places we have traveled and people that bless our lives to remember each year.

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UN-spoiling Your Child

Last year I was honored to be asked by the Central Virginia Family Guide to write an article on “Avoiding the Overload (a.k.a. quit spoiling your children) I’ve been saving this to post strategically the week before Black Friday because in essence….it’s the anti Black Friday theory. I’m not against saving money…good golly I’m not against that. I’m ONE HUNDRED MILLION TRILLION QUADRILLION PERCENT against excess and spoiling. An epidemic amongst our culture. I too am also guilty of it and continue to have honest conversations with myself sometimes daily. Please join me in this worthy pursuit to raise grateful children.

“Mine” and “More”

Two cringe inducing words that children need no help learning or demanding when it comes to “stuff”. As parents we work hard trying to instill a sense of gratitude and appreciation in our children as soon as they can utter the words “thank you”, and yet we find ourselves blushing at Christmas or birthday parties when we see our children fall into a “present trance” ripping open box after box with little to no reaction; let alone gratitude leaving their mouths and faces.

We live in a society of “stuff”. So much stuff our closets, basements, attics and playrooms are positively bursting at the seams. Inside we wrestle with a sense of guilt because we know our children really only play with 5-10% of what they posses. Cough cough…sounds a little like adult garages, attics and closets. Is it possible to trade in the tidal wave of presents in exchange for the calmer waters of satisfaction, gratitude, and perhaps even “giving away” instead of receiving? I think we can.

We have three children ages seven, six, and three. We are familiar with the insatiable present hunger that can manifest itself at Christmas or on their birthdays. I wanted to crawl in a hole one Christmas when my daughter flatly stated after opening her mound of gifts, “Is that it? I didn’t get that much stuff.” Somewhere in the universe a record scratched.

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OR THE FACE YOU MAKE WHEN YOUR CHILDREN ARE UNGRATEFUL BRATS!

Although my gut instinct was to throw everything in my trunk and return it, I realized the problem wasn’t her, it was me. We created her blood thirst for things and we can “un-create” it with some “stuff detoxing”.

We in no way have arrived to the sweet land of gratitude but I have seen, by making some serious changes a few years ago, that their attitudes have significantly shifted and we are definitely going in the right direction. Cue clapping hands emoticons.

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Let’s tackle Christmas first.

For us, our faith plays a pivotal role in how we approach this holiday. We practice Advent for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. The purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts for the gift of Jesus. It is something we discuss EVERY day leading up to Christmas. How can we think of and “gift” others during this season?

Be aware of your dialogue with your kids. Saying things like, “Can’t you wait until Christmas Day for presents?” or “Be good or you won’t get any presents!” is an extremely confusing message. Getting children to think bigger than just Christmas DAY is very important. Continue to emphasize the joy of the SEASON and the focus of thinking of and giving to others as most important. Kids will get on board and think of some awesome ideas on how to bless others when challenged to do so. (cards, treats to neighbors, food for families in need, making gifts for friends, caroling, visiting nursing homes etc…) There are great ideas online for families during Christmas that are very budget friendly.

A few other suggestions:

– Have your kids purge their own toys and clothing on December 1st. I have been blown away by what my kids willingly put in a bag to give away to children in need or to donate. Teach them less is more and how to be good decision makers about what is most important. Take them with you when you donate, it’s important they see the process all the way through.

– Ring the Salvation Army bell as a family or a group of families. Take a shift at the Soup Kitchen downtown together.

– GIVE! We have a very limited budget for Christmas gifts on purpose. We match penny to penny on gifts as we do to giving by partnering with World Vision. Our kids sit with us and look through their catalog with monopoly money so they can tangibly understand spending. They pick out what they want to “buy” as far as farm animals, medicine, school equipment, etc… They LOVE this! World Vision has kid friendly videos on their site to explain to children how their giving works. This has been a major eye opener to them as they learn what REAL need is and why we don’t give them but a few things each Christmas because there are greater needs in the world. Great family lesson!

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– Get grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends on board! I hear my friends talk about how their parents “spoil” their kids rotten on Christmas. Although I know it is well intended, it does more harm than good. You need to have honest conversations with the “spoilers” in your life. Tell them at this point, when your children are young, you are really trying to shape their character and need to work together as a team at Christmas time. It’s okay to set boundaries on giving.

-Think outside of the box. I heard of a family that gives no presents at Christmas time but instead gives a large envelope to their children with 12 individual envelopes inside filled with one adventure a month for the whole year, one of which is a major family vacation. What an awesome investment not only on your wallet to spread out the cost over 12 months but this is exactly what our children want above else, OUR TIME.

Now let’s address birthdays.

– Taking our cue from Christmas and continue to address the “spoilers” in your children’s lives. Encourage them to take your child on a special date rather than giving them more stuff. My parents once took my older two children to a local hotel that had an indoor pool for one night. Every time we drive by the hotel….EVERY TIME…they STILL talk about how that was “The BEST time ever.” Time and face to face events will ALWAYS trump a gift.

– When I send out invitations I always give gift suggestions. This might not meet etiquette standards but it has saved me a lot of headache after the party. There is nothing worse than your child receiving ” A Lego guy, A hot wheels pack of cars, A Playmobil boat, A Polly Pocket, A Barbie, A this…..A that…..” Next thing you know you have started brand new veins of toys. Instead I let people know, “Hey, this is what they are really in to now and we would love to keep adding to that collection or series instead of starting them on new toy line.”

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– For each toy my children get, I have them purge a toy in it’s place. Our house didn’t magically get bigger since their last birthday so they need to choose what needs to be purged to make room. Chances are they have outgrown many toys so this will be painless. Start your Christmas donation boxes early!

– Delayed gratification is not a dirty word. Our daughter told us last year that she wanted an American Girl doll for her birthday. I naively did not realize that I would have to sell my last born in order to pay for this doll. I had to have a conversation with her that went something like this.” Chloe, you don’t really play with dolls that often and an American Girl doll is very expensive. You will have to show daddy and I over the next year that you really do like dolls and will play with them for us to consider buying you one.” So she did. For a year she took a small baby doll she owned and carried it around, took care of it, made sure we saw her paying attention to it. FOR A WHOLE YEAR. When it came time to plan her birthday we revisited the American Girl doll again. I reminded her that this was an extremely expensive toy and if she really wanted it then she needed to know that it would be her ONLY gift and that we were going to have a small party at our house with no bells and whistles. She decided on her own it was worth it. So that is what we did. One doll and a bare bones 7th bday party. They had a blast and she loves her doll. It was a good lesson for her on many levels.

We let her open it up the night before her party. Priceless……
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Pulling the plug on the volume of gifts given in your home and shifting the emphasis to simplicity, giving, and thinking of others will require YOU, the parent, to be disciplined in spending and standing firm on your new normals. You are sure to receive resistance but consistency always wins. The JOY of giving will eventually sink in to their little noggins and you and others will reap the benefits. This isn’t easy but I can assure you that you are investing in your children’s character and teaching them early on what is important in life. A thankful and thoughtful child makes a thankful and thoughtful adult. Now that won’t make you blush!

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