12 Months of Arlo

Last night, on the eve of Arlo’s birthday, Caleb and I reminisced about Arlo’s birth and the past year with him. I know it’s the most cliché mom thing to say, but our baby has grown up to be a toddler so quickly.

It’s been decidedly the very sweetest year of my entire life so far. It’s hard to imagine the possibility of any future year ever beating this one! Carrying + giving birth to + learning to know my first baby has been sacred, surreal, and precious beyond words. Motherhood has been the culmination of my dearest lifelong dreams and aspirations, moreso than I ever thought it could be. We thank the Lord every day for the Gift of the life of our little son.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

(We love our wooden number & letter blocks from Bannor Toys!)

Honoring Headship in an Age of Feminism

2016-91

Two years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Why I Cover,” which was largely an attempt to explain to the curious souls I imagined to exist within my sphere of influence, my reason for always wearing some sort of bandana or scarf or hat on my head in public. I remember how vulnerable it felt to share my very personal thoughts on a subject I believed to be quite controversial, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well-received it was. I hope that those who read this next installment will hear my heart with the same level of grace.

Let me begin by reiterating again that I do not claim to have superior understanding of the passage of scripture cited for the principle of Headship. I am aware that there are different interpretations of the original text and that what is meant by “covering” has been beaten to death in debate with various sides believing their view to be Spirit-revealed. I have no desire whatsoever to reenter that debate.

I suppose that the deeper rooting and grounding of one’s beliefs and values and yes, even soapboxes, is an inevitable aspect of the passing of time and age. I also feel that a belief like the one I’m sharing today tends to be driven deeper by its increasing contrast to the popular or commonly-held views it’s surrounded by. And so, my commitment to covering my head as a visible reminder that I am not my own has only been strengthened since the time of my original post.

I’ve watched in amazement as feminist thought and glorified empowerment of women have infiltrated the hearts and minds of even the most “conservative” circles I’m a part of. I see even women who are still wearing the Anabaptist church-mandated head covering rallying with those marching for “women’s rights” and subtly buying into the idea that motherhood and wifehood and homemaking and the nurture and support of our families that we were created for are inferior to the entrepreneurship and social media influence and market presence that seem to define success and value among my generation of millenials. They might not admit it, but they’re living it. I hesitate to say any more here at risk of stepping on toes, but it bothers me enough and has bothered me for long enough that I can’t keep quiet about it any longer.

It feels more important than ever to me to continue to live out the Biblical symbol of headship, recognizing as I cover my head that Man is the head of Woman and that Christ is the head of man. (See also Ephesians 5:22-24.) As a woman, I was created to help, support, and commune with man, to be his companion. There is no shame in being “weaker” (reference to 1 Peter 3:7). Since it is what God intended, it is my honor!

Our world today is SO confused about gender. Gender defining, gender roles, gender equality…it’s all been so tarnished and twisted. I used to wonder why the writer of Genesis repeatedly emphasized “male and female they were created.” I don’t wonder that anymore. Misogyny, feminism, homosexuality, gender confusion…it seems clear to me that these are all tools of the enemy to work against the Lord’s design for humankind and the way they interact with and relate to each other. And I want no part in any of them! So I physically guard myself against his schemes by daily reaching for the symbol I’ve chosen to remind myself of the truth and beauty of the order of Headship. I am not my own, nor do I want to be.

 

You Need a Budget

IMG_0569

I first heard about YNAB, personal budget software from YouNeedABudget.com, just a few weeks after Caleb and I got married. (The timing on that one really couldn’t have been better, right?!) I downloaded the free trial right away and was instantly hooked.

YNAB makes it simple to track every penny of inflow and outflow, and one of my favorite things about it is that there is a mobile app (that automatically syncs with the desktop program) that you can use to enter a receipt as soon as you receive it — it only takes a few seconds. This really helps to keep the pile-up of receipts and checks to record from getting overwhelming! In addition, it’s possible to download transaction history from your credit card sites in order to mass-enter transactions quite quickly.

It’s easy to keep track of different accounts (checking, savings, and credit cards), yet see an overview of all at a glance. The software also comes with some great reporting capabilities that allow you to gauge your spending habits over the past month, year, etc.

While Caleb and I currently don’t necessarily stick to a super-strict budget with each category, it’s still helpful to be able to see exactly where all our money is going and try to put caps on certain categories. I also love that we have history of nearly every income and expense amount we’ve ever had in our 2.5 years of marriage so far, and can use the search tool to quickly locate any given transaction for reference.

So if you could use some help in the budgeting department, or aren’t satisfied with your current method (or lack thereof) of expense tracking, give this software a try! (If you use my referral link there, you’ll save $6 and I’ll get rewarded $6 as well!)

Considering Strangers

Every Person You Meet

The gift may not be obvious, and it might not come in a pretty package. For me it seems to often come in the form of conviction. Even through strangers, the Spirit opens my eyes to areas of my life that He wants to redeem.

Believe that you  n e e d  people, and you will become rich.

Just a challenge for you today: extend grace to seemingly obnoxious strangers. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best.

The driver who cut you off may be distracted by the recent death of a loved one. The grouchy customer service rep may be stressed out by financial or relational turmoil. The telemarketer may have once been a refugee, directly exposed to the unspeakable horror of war. The overbearing co-worker may know abuse that you cannot fathom.

No one’s life is perfect. No one is exempt from the pain and grief of a broken, sin-cursed world. When you find yourself criticizing, complaining, or lashing out…imagine that the person you are dealing with is in the midst of a terrible tragedy. You’ll find it much easier to respond graciously. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated, even if you were behaving unattractively in the face of unfortunate circumstance.

Commit it to memory: there is a gift to be found in every human interaction. You can scoff and reject it, or open your eyes and accept it. The choice is yours.

Currently on My To-Read List

IMG_0416

I’m reading more these days than I have in years, and feeling relieved that I’ve finally found the discipline within myself to put down my smartphone and pick up a bound book at times. I’ve always been an avid reader, but in recent years I fell into a careless habit of relaxing by reading blog posts and news articles and social media during my free time instead of delving into a book. Fortunately I’ve been able to make a shift in the other direction again, and I’m once again enjoying the brain stimulation involved in committing to finishing a longer work.

The stack waiting for me at my bedside currently includes:

  1. Blog Inc. | Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho
  2. Surprised By Scripture | Engaging Contemporary Issues by N. T. Wright
  3. Sacred Marriage | What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas
  4. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet | Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things by Sara Haggerty
  5. Strong Women, Soft Hearts | A Woman’s Guide to Cultivating a Wise Heart and a Passionate Life by Paula Rinehart
  6. Go to Church,  Change the World | Christian Community as Calling by Gerald J. Mast
  7. Create Your Own Money-Saving Adventure | by Malea Politis Johnson
  8. Trim Healthy Mama Plan | The Easy-Does-It Approach to Vibrant Health and a Slim Waistline by Pearl Barrett & Serene Allison
  9. The Myth of a Christian Nation | How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church by Gregory A. Boyd
  10. Jesus Wants to Save Christians | A Manifesto for the Church in Exile by Rob Bell & Don Golden
  11. Humans of New York | Stories by Brandon Stanton

Some of these have been on my bookshelf waiting to be read for several years, and my recent KonMari attack brought them to my attention. The ones on this list are the ones I still wanted to read badly enough that I decided to keep them, at least for now.

You can keep tabs on what I’m reading and loving on Goodreads. My goal is to get through the stack by the end of 2015. Then, I can make a new list for the new year! What would you recommend that I add?

My Favorite Apps for iPhone

Image-1

In case you don’t know me personally, I will tell you: I am an iPhone addict. My first smartphone was a used iPhone 3 in 2012 and I have never looked back. I recently upgraded to my third one, the new 6s, and AT&T offered us a super sweet deal on an iPad mini that day as well that was too good to pass up. These devices bring me a lot of joy. I know that I am a rich American and that I don’t need or deserve them. But, I am grateful for the way they connect me to people, help me organize my life, and open up my world to infinite learning and discovery.

Here’s a short list of my current favorite apps…

Cortex Camera | My friend Rebekah just told me about this one; it’s a $3 camera app that takes amazingly high-quality pictures (much better than the built-in camera, even on my new 6s which was already a huge improvement over the 5).

IMG_0211

Stylebook | This virtual closet app is still one of my favorite things ever; read more about it here.

IMG_0212.PNG

Clue | I’ve tried a lot of different period tracker/fertility calendar apps and this is by far my favorite. The latest update includes a ton of new tracking abilities and it all integrates with Apple’s Health app, if you use that.

IMG_0213.PNG

CircleBack | If you’re like me and can’t stand clutter/disorganization with things like your phone/email contacts, use this great little app to manage duplicates and updates. But the best part is that you can mass-delete contacts — something you can’t do using the built-in contacts list on iPhone, for some reason.

IMG_0214.PNG

Cartwheel | Love this coupon app from Target. If you’re a frequent Target shopper, you simply must use this! So many money-saving opportunities.

IMG_0215.PNG

Couple | This is a little communication app for messages, stickers, location sharing and more for only two people. Caleb and I are sappy romantics and we love it especially for the “thumb kiss” feature. 😉

IMG_0216.PNG

OverDrive | My sister recently informed me that you can “borrow” e-books from the library using this app. (Maybe you all knew that already and I’m behind the times?) The Lancaster County Library System that I’m a member of doesn’t have a huge selection, but there are definitely a few good options. Maybe one of these days I’ll become an e-reader.

IMG_0217.PNG

Reference Guide for Essential Oils | Everyone talks about the Reference Guide and how it’s a must-have for every essential oil user, but I prefer the electronic version. It’s cheaper than the book anyway ($4) and I have it with me all the time.

IMG_0218.PNG

Shopkick | This is one of those “points” apps to use while shopping; you get “kicks” for walking into certain stores, scanning certain items, and purchasing others. They add up slowly but they do add up and it’s a super easy way to earn free gift cards from your favorite stores!

IMG_0219.PNG

Think Dirty | I’ve mentioned this one several times before, but in case you’re new here, I use this app to check ingredient info on cosmetic and cleaning products. Makes the research on toxins so easy!

IMG_0220

You Need A Budget | I fell in love with this budgeting software right after we got married. Having the app on my phone that syncs with the software on my desktop makes adding transactions in real time so easy.

IMG_0221.PNG

What app(s) could you not live without? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Harry’s Razor Blades | My Review

IMG_0077

Subscription services are all the rage right now…and I love it. I really don’t enjoy any kind of shopping, so having high-quality products delivered to my doorstep when I need them without my needing to lift a finger brings me much joy + delight.

I kept seeing ads all over the place for Dollar Shave Club and their supposedly cheaper-than-average razor blade subscription program, so I asked my trusty Facebook friends for their feedback. Sure enough, a number of them had tried the service + liked it. But, a couple people who commented on the thread recommended that I try another razor subscription service that I had never heard of, instead. I ended up liking what I saw on the Harry’s website so much that I decided to forego DSC and order the German-made blades instead.

My first shipment, complete with blades, handle, and shave gel, arrived in beautiful packaging and appeared to be every bit as well-made as its creators claimed. I love the sleek ivory-colored handle (available in three other classy color options) and the bottle of gel sports a clean, minimalist aesthetic. Labels are ultra-important to me; I care a lot about how the things that sit on the shelf in my shower look. This brand definitely gets five stars in that department!

The decidedly-male scent of the shave gel took me by surprise at first. While the Dollar Shave Club specifically markets its products as being non-gender-specific, Harry’s is definitively designed for men. I’d been using a men’s shave gel for years (Aveeno Active Naturals) but hardly thought about it because it’s unscented. The Harry’s gel rates a lot better on Think Dirty, however, so I’m choosing to overlook the smell for now. (It’s not a bad one at all, just very–well, manly!)

The blades themselves contour better than any I’ve ever used. And they are certainly sharp! I was in fact enough unprepared for how greatly so, that I managed to nick my ankles about all three of the first times I used them [face-palm]. So, do proceed with caution (but fear not, for I’ve always been a rather clumsy shaver in general).

I’m about a month in to the three-month subscription I set up, and overall I’m very pleased with the results. My one complaint, however, is that the blades are…noisy. If I were a man, and using them on facial hair as intended, I’m guessing this might not be an issue. But in using long strokes as I do on my legs, my razor squawks a long, high-pitched squeak with each stroke. A minor flaw, but annoying all the same…right?!

I may end up taking the shave gel off my plan and just getting the blades, but at the time being I do think I’ll be a happy Harry’s customer for a good long while.

Anyone else tried a razor subscription service and have any feedback of your own to share?

Tucquan Glen Photo Session | Rebekah Viola Photography

I met Rebekah of Rebekah Viola Photography last summer when we worked a wedding together, and have admired her work ever since. It’s been a couple years since Caleb and I had professional photos taken, so we planned a fun woodsy shoot at Tucquan Glen and I knew Bekah’s shooting style would be perfect.

I could write an entire paragraph about Bekah’s talent + eye for a great shot, but I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves. If you like what you see, be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

See Bekah’s blog post on our shoot here.

me

M+C_2015-178

M+C_2015-170

M+C_2015-156

M+C_2015-159

M+C_2015-150

M+C_2015-60

M+C_2015-17

bandw

blog

M+C_2015-57

M+C_2015-89

another

M+C_2015-133

M+C_2015-121

yes

M+C_2015-141

M+C_2015-144

M+C_2015-94

flower crown | Megan Waltman of Pearls & Petals

hair | Jess Ziemer of Darla’s Hair Care and Spa

makeup | Rebekah Abreu of Darla’s Hair Care and Spa

dress | H&M

blanket | Sackcloth & Ashes

hat | Urban Outfitters

How My Shopping Habits Are Shifting | Why I Don’t Shop at Thrift Stores & Yard Sales

IMG_8310
My Sunburst Foldover Clutch (which I use all the time) is from Queen City Revolt on Etsy

I was raised a thrifter. Growing up, almost all of my clothing and many of my other possessions came from yard sales, Goodwill, and local consignment shops. I would estimate that I never personally spent more than $15-$20 on a particular item of clothing before I graduated from high school. My buyer mentality for the first two decades (plus) of my life was: brand-new things generally cost too much, and “the cheaper, the better” even for secondhand purchases.

Once I began working full-time and became responsible for my own finances, I gradually started allowing myself to “splurge” on new items. I realized how luxurious it is to bring something home with packaging and tags intact that has never been touched, utilized, or sweated in by another human. I also realized how much easier it is to shop for and actually find the things I wanted in the chain stores — eliminating the “hunt” for treasures on a yard sale table and the repulsive picking-through of not-so-sweet-smelling piles in a Goodwill bin. I fell deeply in love with the scent of “new.” 🙂 Still, I believed that the lowest price was always the right price for me, and I continued to pay as little as possible for the things I bought, both new and used.

Then my husband, Caleb, entered my life, and he challenged me on my “lowest price” mentality. When we shopped together, he always encouraged me to select the make or brand that would work well and last a long time, instead of the cheapest option. For us, this was one of the first situations we encountered where both of us had to adjust our mindsets in order to bring about marital compromise. However, now, almost 5 years into our relationship, I admit I’ve been largely swayed over to his side.

As a general rule, though there are certainly exceptions, we are prone to purchase high-end things like appliances, kitchen gadgets, tools, furniture, electronics, and clothing. I have learned that his idea that it’s better to pay $30 for stainless steel measuring cups that will last forever than to spend $4-$5 on plastic ones and replace them every couple years really is full of wisdom. Not only will that save us money in the long run, but it keeps all that plastic out of the landfill! On the flip side, he has learned that for things that get stained and dirty quickly and can’t ever really be restored to perfectly clean and sanitary condition, it makes sense to buy cheap ones and recycle them without guilt instead of hanging onto them.

Since I’ve begun my personal journey of minimalism, or essentialism, as I prefer to think of it, I’ve been evaluating my shopping habits more critically than ever before. It started with clothing, but is now taking root in other departments. One of the realizations I’ve made recently is: I have a hard time resisting a “good deal.” In other words, thrift stores and yard sales and the clearance sections at Target (to name a few) are danger zones for me! I tend to, without much thought, scoop things up that I think are cute and useful and interesting, just because they’re so cheap. And then I get home, don’t have an actual use for them or place to put them, and end up selling them at my next yard sale. Read, waste of time, waste of money, waste of energy.

Therefore, my simplistic + temporary solution is to steer clear of such places, at least until I’ve matured in my ability to (1) shop off my list instead of the displays and (2) shop with my heart instead of my eyes.

Now, I know there are people out there (including many of my readers) who have MASTERED the art of thrift-shopping treasure-finding. This post is a classic example of that. Also, my friend Claudia is a serious professional in that department. And I can’t tell you how much respect I have for you people! I want to be like you. I want to be able to score the things I consider essential and the things that spark joy for me for a fraction of the price. I want to contribute to the work of ministries and missions around the world instead of feeding the corporate machine. But for the time being, I’m not well-equipped to walk into the consignment shop, purchase that one awesome thing, and walk away. My shopping cart is too much of a magnet for all the other mediocre but cheap (!) items calling my name from the racks and shelves.

(My other problem is a lack of patience and diligence. I’m not a good hunter. But that’s a topic of its own.)

The second aspect of the transition I’m in stems from a desire to be more conscious of where products come from, how they are made, and how companies treat their employees. My understanding of things like small business, fair trade, ethical material sourcing, and care for the environment is growing by the day, and influencing my decisions on where to shop. I’ve been making baby steps in this direction for years, but recently my motivation has been skyrocketing. I hope to expound on this a bit more in a future post.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an unhealthy Target addiction. At the rate I’m going, there may come a day when I don’t set foot inside a Target store for months. And that would truly be progress. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me!

What about you? What’s been influencing where, why, and how you shop lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.