Mama, You Are Beautiful.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Every stretch mark.

Every scar.

Every stitch.

Every bag under your eyes.

The milk-stained shirt.

The yoga pants with baby food splattered on them.

You are beautiful. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you haven’t showered in days. Believe me, I’ve been there.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve had my little girl. I still cannot believe she is going to be one! It’s been the most rewarding and the most challenging year of my life. With everything going on, sometimes I forget about myself. Honestly, I feel weird for wanting time to myself when I know I should be doing other things. So I usually come last. Last to eat, last to shower, etc. I haven’t gotten my nails done or my hair since she’s been here. Granted, the coronavirus happened and shut everything down, but my point still stands. It’s a good day when I put on makeup. It’s a MIRACLE if I can do my hair as well. I know I’m not the only new mother who feels this way.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s okay to be a little selfish and do something for you. I know, I know. I heard the gasps and saw the large eyes in my head as I was typing that. However, I believe we need to be a little selfish once in a while for our mental health’s sake. I suffered with the baby blues, which almost turned into full blown postpartum depression. Thankfully I had my husband, mom, and mother-in-law to help me through it. They told me to go take a nap, to go out and get some air, to go and just take a break. They told me to take care of myself.

Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t look the same. There’s new rolls that you’ve never had before. Your hips grew. The pooch isn’t going away, even though you’re breastfeeding and you thought that would be the answer to losing the baby weight (if you can’t tell, I’m a little bitter about this one in particular). At the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves that our bodies are incredible. God designed us so intricately and gave us the ability to grow a new human. Our organs shifted and our hormones went crazy all for this little one we so desperately love. When my baby runs up to me and gives me a big hug, it reminds me that every change we go through is worth it.

I want to challenge you. Take twenty minutes for yourself every day. I’m not talking about your time alone with Jesus. I’m talking about your time alone with YOU. Read a book. Go get your nails done. Rest your eyes. Ask your hubby to take the baby and other kiddos for a little while. If you’re a single mama, first of all you’re a rockstar, but maybe that time alone is trickier. I would suggest getting a friend or someone to come babysit for just a little while. Yes, I’m giving you permission to leave mom duty aside.

When the guilt starts to creep up on you, I want you to remember this: if you want to be the best you can be for your spouse, your children, your job, etc., you have to take care of yourself.

With love,

Em.

Mama, Get Off Your Phone.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. This is also to myself because I struggle with this daily. It’s something that I think many of us struggle with, regardless of whether we have kids or not. Our phones are a thief of our time. They also destroy our self-esteem. They create monsters inside of us called jealousy when we see an influencer’s new wardrobe, or their third new home in the last few years; each one more grand than the last. I should know because I’ve experienced these emotions and consequences. Yet it does have its virtues believe it or not.

Our phones connect us in ways past generations thought impossible. My daughter loves to FaceTime our family that lives 1,000 miles away. We can send pictures and videos instantly to our friends and relatives. Our phones also give us the ability to find the best deals on Facebook Marketplace, for example. Youtubers give us opinions and advice about products for our littles so we can make a sound purchase. See, I told you our phones have some good qualities!

Yet how many moments have I lost scrolling through Instagram, or watching video after video on Youtube? Moments of my daughter’s life and mine that I cannot get back. I believe that we would have so much “more time,” if we took a minute to see how much we waste on our devices. I love the screen time feature on the Apple iPhone. It was a rude wake up call to see how many endless hours I was wasting on my phone PER DAY. I’ll get transparent so you don’t have to feel as bad. I was averaging about five hours a day on my phone. What the heck?? I will also admit that it was mainly social media that was stealing that much of my time. Endless scrolling and mindless viewing.

I got to work and thought about what I could do with five hours of my day. I could definitely work on laundry. I could finish that book that’s been sitting on my bedside table for a year. I could throw in a thirty minute workout that I keep telling myself I don’t have time for. I could work on a mommy blog that I’ve been dreaming about (hello!) and make it a reality. There’s so much you could do that you “don’t have time for” if you looked up from your phone.

You know, it’s incredible how much comparison steals our happiness. I have to keep myself in check every day when looking on Instagram. I see her immaculate house, her expensive wardrobe, the endless hauls of hundreds of dollars she spent on a whim, the exotic trip that we all know cost her nothing because it was sponsored. That green monster of jealousy rears its ugly head and I become ungrateful for everything I do have. Do you want to know the secret to squashing that annoying monster? Get off your phone. If you’re a christian, get in your Bible. I cannot tell you how much better my day goes when I reach for His Word in the morning when I wake up before I open social media. If you’re not a christian, then I suggest keeping a notebook and write down a list of what you’re thankful for. How about the roof over your head? The fact that you were able to eat dinner last night? The fact that you and your family are in good health? How about the realization that it’s a luxury to have a smart phone? (Obviously these are examples, and it is different for everyone.) I remember always hearing, “If you have breath in your lungs, thank the Lord, because He’s the one who put it there.” How many times do we ever think about how blessed we are to be alive? Probably never. We’re too busy complaining about things we don’t have.

I hope this was encouraging for someone. I’m talking as much to myself as I am to someone else. No one in particular, I promise. I meant in general. I want to challenge you to utilize that screen time feature on your phone and schedule a part of your day where social media is blocked. Put your phone in your bedroom, in a drawer, in a safe, I don’t know. Just leave it somewhere you can’t get to it. Take a minute and breathe. Start on that hobby you’ve wanted to learn. Read a book. Journal. Go on that walk you didn’t have time for. Crack open those dusty recipe books and find a new one that looks delicious. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve done this. Leave me a comment or connect with me on the contact page! Or we can add each other on social media (I know it sounds ironic, but if it’s in your allotted time I’ll allow it 😉) and let me know that my blog sent you!

Let’s to this challenge together. Starting the month of July. Let’s go.

With love,

Emily

 

Our Debt Free Story

My life has changed drastically in the last few years. From dating, to getting married, to finding out I was pregnant, to having a baby. All in the time span of three years. Yes, you read that right! Yet somehow my husband and I managed to pay off $80,000 worth of debt. It’s truly all a blur, but we managed it. It was all thanks to Dave Ramsey’s principles.

When my husband and I started dating, we discussed finances many times. If you read my other blog post here, you will know that we were not the beating-around-the-bush type. My husband is very numbers-minded and frugal, whereas I am a shopaholic and a free spirit. We both had to learn how to work together, and we did that with Dave Ramsey. I watched his videos every spare minute I could get – I was fired up and wanted to become debt free with “gazelle intensity” like Dave puts it. After we got engaged, we sat down and looked at our finances. We looked at each of the baby steps and figured out our timeline and goals. We set a budget for the wedding, and created a plan for our money after we were married. I brought two credit cards and a car loan, he brought a car loan and student loans.

I didn’t think it was possible to cash flow the wedding of my dreams, but we did it! I scoured Pinterest and found easy DIY ideas for creating decorations for less. We enlisted friend’s expertise, and hunted for the best deals throughout the months of our engagement. It was truly perfect. (We even cash flowed a week at Disney World for our honeymoon – another win!) And with that, we were finally married. Oh, did I mention that I also paid off both of my credit cards during this time?

“Even though we talked this through beforehand, it was a wakeup call for me. I was not a child anymore. So I had to stop acting like a child in a candy store with my….wait, with OUR…money.” 

I thought budgeting would come easy, but for someone who never budgeted and just spent money willy-nilly, IT WAS HARD. I wasn’t on my own anymore. I had to consider another person in the mix. It was also the first time I lived away from my parents. Payments I never had to worry about came flooding in during the first month – insurance, gas, electric, rent, more insurance, internet, etc. Even though we talked this through beforehand, it was a wakeup call for me. I was not a child anymore. So I had to stop acting like a child in a candy store with my….wait, with OUR…money.

I know that I am a visual learner. So with the first few months of budgeting, the EveryDollar app really helped! It’s also free! It took us a while to get the hang of it – they say that it takes about three months to figure out one’s budget. I’ll tell you what. It took us longer than that. However, we did get the hang of it. Cue another life change.

Four months after being married, I found out I was pregnant. We were in shock. Our debt free plan did not include having a baby. “They are expensive!” “How are we going to afford this?” “How much is a crib?” “How much do diapers cost every month? How will we know how many we need?” The questions went on and on. Mainly coming from my husband.  Although we knew a baby was going to change our entire world (and our finances), being a nanny for years helped me figure out an estimate on what to spend monthly. I sought out advice from other mom’s and my employers past and present. I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and that meant our income was going down significantly. Yet when you have a plan, it’s not as scary.

Having a baby changes you. Your decisions, your wants, the need for sleep; everything. The idea of getting out of debt became more of a requirement than a want.

As per Dave Ramsey’s advice, we paused our debt snowball and saved every penny we could. It was disheartening after only just getting started, but we knew it was for the best. However, to keep the momentum going, we paid off the remaining balance on my car loan! Fast forward nine months (little babe wanted to stay in for a few extra days) and we had our beautiful baby girl.

Having a baby changes you. Your decisions, your wants, the need for sleep; everything. The idea of getting out of debt became more of a requirement than a want. We moved into my parent’s basement to get rid of rent payments. We pinched and scraped. Slowly but surely we paid off my husband’s car loan. Then his private student loans bit the dust. We were making great headway! Then the coronavirus hit America.

COVID-19 seemed like a curse, but it was a blessing in disguise in some aspects. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of the disease, but financially it relieved some burdens. We were hardly driving, so our gas budget went down significantly (yet more cooking at home meant more groceries, so it balanced out). Thankfully my husband did not lose his job, but our income took a hit when his salary went down twenty-five percent. I will admit, it was a scary time. I was fearful of staying in this debt trap forever. Not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were so close to becoming debt free!

God had everything under control. Little blessings would come up when we least expected them. The government’s stimulus check, our government loans going into forbearance so the interest was gone, etc. We even sold my car. With rigorous saving and penny pinching, along with those unexpected chunks of change, we hit submit and paid off $21,000 in the span of three months. Our next goal now is to save for a down payment for a house! Wondering how we did this? I am going to be writing more about our budgeting tips and tricks – specifically my mommy tips on budgeting for a baby and meal planning. Talk to you soon!

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”

Luke 12:22-24

With love,

Emily

Dealing with Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 NIV

Being a Christian and dealing with anxiety attacks can be difficult. It’s like your body is doing one thing while your brain is telling you otherwise. Let me explain to you what I’m talking about (for those who have no idea what an anxiety attack is).

For me, when I get nervous about a situation or an event that I’m not entirely confident with, I will start to have anxiety and dread it. My heart will pound really fast and there will be a sick feeling in my stomach that won’t go away. My body will literally shut down and I can’t think of anything or talk to anyone while this is happening. I usually have to calm myself down in my head and try to distract myself with doing things like watching TV or that require me to think about something else entirely.

I wish I didn’t have anxiety about certain things. I hate it.

It prevents me from doing things that I love because my mind can’t handle it emotionally and my body physically. It stinks. Also, it’s not something that you can make “go away,” either. I can’t force myself to not be nervous (I’ve tried, it only makes it worse if you push it down). Another thing about anxiety is that you fear having another attack and avoid places that can trigger an attack. For example, I am on the worship team for my church and I had stage fright – so much so that I got off stage and threw up. Ever since then, every Sunday morning my body woke me up at an unreasonably early hour and I would be nauseous all morning and dread going on stage because I feared I would have another anxiety attack and throw up. It lasted until church was over.

I didn’t know what to do. They became more frequent until I couldn’t handle it anymore and finally cried out to God. I know, you’re probably saying, “Well that’s what you should’ve done in the first place!” And you’re right. I should have. Yet I’m human and I thought, even though being a Christian, that I could handle this and control it on my own. Without God, though, it’s next to impossible to handle on my own, and I learned that the hard way.

I don’t think I’ll ever not have anxiety. I’ve accepted that. Yet I do know that whenever I feel anxious about anything, I go to God. Of course, I’m not perfect and I let my fears get the best of me; which happened recently and that’s what triggered me to write about it. This is a reminder to myself and to anyone reading this that God is bigger than anything we worry about. He understands everything and takes care of us. Every time I talk to God, about anything really, I get this comfort that no human could ever give. My spirit is calm, my heart isn’t palpitating out of my chest, and I know that everything is going to be okay. I encourage you – anyone who is dealing/has dealt with anxiety –  acknowledge that you have worries and fears. Crack open your Bible and start reading it. Memorize scriptures and recite them. Talk to God – He’s always there and will help you through anything. I can tell you right now that He’s better than any therapist or doctor or medication.

Anyway, there’s my little rant. I’m sorry I haven’t blogged anything in a long time. I’ll try and get better.

With Love,

Emily