Thursday, December 31, 2015

2. Family First

Yesterday, I spoke a bit about my plan for spiritual growth in the new year.

Today, I'd like to focus on my second goal: Putting Family First.

Here's the deal.  There are a lot of things that I do day-in and day-out that are arguably putting my "family first"...working for hours at the studio editing pictures to make some extra money to pay off debt, spending time sitting in the waiting room of the dance studio because the older girls are in two separate classes with 45 minutes of wait-time between them, and setting up routines & schedules to help the house run smoothly.  

These things are great...but it's crazy that these things I have done to put the family first actually sometimes TAKE AWAY from spending time with them.  

And so, in 2016, here is my plan for putting family first.

1. Be Present.  Goodbye, cell phone.

Ha.  That sounded very dramatic, didn't it?  I won't be getting rid of the cell phone completely.  But in the evenings...from suppertime to bedtime, I'm going to charge it beside my bed.  

We have no home phone, so I'll leave the ringer on, in case somebody needs me, but no texting, no facebooking, no Pinteresting. 

Sitting in the same room with my family while I'm surfing the latest happenings on social media isn't the same as spending quality time with my family.

And so, goodbye evening cell phone usage.

2. Schedule monthly date nights with the hubs.

I said I was going to do this last year.  But it's hard to follow through if it's not on the calendar, isn't it?  

And so...we are going to put these bad boys on the calendar IMMEDIATELY!  Or maybe tonight...or tomorrow night.  Immediately just sounded so much more dramatic and sometimes I like to be dramatic.  ;)

The kicker to this situation is that we're REALLY trying to pay off debt this year and we REALLY don't want to eat out (more on that later!).  Soooo...our date nights will revolve around the gift cards we have in the gift card drawer. food!

3. Schedule "alone time" with each girl.

Matthew is good at this.  I almost always have all three of them at one time, and when he takes one of them to the farm, I have the other two.

Our oldest daughter loves hunting & farming with Dad, so the other two sometimes get left out of that activity.  

Our second daughter loves grocery shopping with me, so the other two sometimes get left out of that.

Three nights a month though, we are going to schedule a "one-on-one time" for each girl.  The third child will have to visit Grandma for a little while on that night.

We want the girls to know that we care about them individually and that they have our full attention sometimes.  

1. Read the Bible daily.
2. Put Family First.
- Be Present.
- Schedule date nights with Matthew.
- Schedule date nights with each girl.

How will you change your relationship with your family in 2016?

1. Faith

Each year, I set goals in eight areas.  In the past, I've made several sub-goals in each category, and's just not manageable.  

At the end of 2014, I was so overwhelmed with having a 6-month old that didn't sleep (thank you, God, for the tubes in her ears this past June!). I mentioned a few "resolutions" last December 31st and worked a little throughout the year to meet those goals, but until we all started sleeping through the night again (for the most part), I was in survival mode.

This year, I'm going to set ONE goal in each area.  ONE.  That's eight goals total.

Maybe if I meet a goal mid-year, I'll set another goal in the same category.  Or maybe I'll just ride out the rest of 2016 feeling pretty good about myself. ;)

Here are the eight categories:
1. Spiritual
2. Family
3. Personal
4. Career
5. Physical
6. Financial
7. Relational
8. Intellectual

Today, we'll start with my spiritual goal.  I truly believe it's the most important area of my life and the one I need to keep in constant check.  It's the category that affects all other categories and the one that matters eternally.

Spiritual goal for 2016:
Study the Bible EVERY day.

Seems simple enough, right?

Well, you would think.  

But sometimes, when babies don't sleep, when children want to eat, when houses need to be cleaned...spending time in the Word of God is one of the first things that gets thrown to the back burner. 

That...and showering.

I've created a plan to help myself meet this goal.

1. Study in the morning.

Seriously, when Jesus got up early in the morning and went to pray by Himself (Mark 1:35-36), He was onto something!  

Let's be real here...if I don't get up early and spend time with Jesus before my three girls are up and around, I can kiss that "quiet time" at my kitchen table goodbye.

I can pray in the car, read a few verses of scripture sitting at my desk on my plan period, and even listen to the Word on the way home.  

But it's hard to listen for God's still small voice when the kids are fighting in the backseat of the car and you're trying not to spill your Raspberry Iced Tea from Sonic.  Am I right? Jesus in the morning, before I have a chance to open my own mouth.

2. Make a checklist.

I am a "check it off" kind of girl.  When I make a "to do" list, I add the items I just did to check them off if they weren't on there to begin with.

When I'm trying to keep up with the Couch 2 5K running plan, I put a sticker on the calendar every time I run.

Yeah.  I'm not kidding.  I heart stickers.

So on a Bible Journaling Facebook group that I follow, a woman had created a Bible Reading Log in the back of her Erin Condren Life Planner (you guys know how much I love my planner!). 

I loved the idea so much that I made myself a little reading log in the back of MY planner, too!  (You saw that coming, right?)

There it is!  So I'll just color a little box each time I read and watch the page FILL UP WITH COLOR!  How fun is that!?!

3. Use technology to help me stick to it.

We live in a technological age.  I hate to admit that I am on my phone, iPad, and computer WAY more than I should be (keep this in mind when you read my "family" goal in the next few days).

Technology isn't always the best avenue to build relationships and encourage family interaction, but it can be a great tool in studying the Bible.

This little app has been a life-changer for me over the last few years.

It's called the "YouVersion" Bible.

This Bible has everything.  You can get the Bible in several different versions and some of them even come with the audio version, so you can listen in the car or during your (morning) quiet time.

It has plans that can help you stick to your reading...from plans that take a year all the way down to plans that take 5 days, from devotional plans to chronological plans, topical plans and certain books of the Bible.  

When you "sign up" for a plan on the app, it sends you notifications to read it and you can mark off your progress through the month (score!).

You can also take sermon notes on the app, which I absolutely love (although it looks like I'm texting through the entire sermon...).

Here is a screen-shot of some of my sermon notes from the last few weeks.  The thing I love about this is that my notes sync to my computer or other devices, so they're at my fingertips wherever I go.

I have started using this feature when I'm doing my Bible journaling.  I'll open up the message I want to focus on, read through my notes again, and pull out the main thing that has spoken to my heart that week.

Bible journaling is another great tool in my walk with Jesus, but that will have to be another post...

YouTube is another great Bible study tool, as many churches, ministers, and Christian authors, have tons of free resources over there to help with spiritual growth.

Our church subscribes to an online program called "RightNow Media" that has thousands of Bible studies available to help with spiritual growth.

It doesn't have to be complicated.  My dad uses his smartphone alarm to set reminders to pray for specific people at certain times each day.  He is a better Christian than me, obviously, as I hadn't even thought of that concept until my brother told me about it a few weeks ago.  Simple, but effective.

The point is...the information is there.  Technology can be a HUGE asset to your walk with Christ and I encourage you to use it to help you grow closer to Him.

So that's my spiritual goal for 2016.  
Be in the Word daily.
- Study in the morning.
- Make a checklist.
- Use technology to help me stick to it.

What are you going to do in 2016 to grow closer to Jesus?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Every year at this time, I start thinking about what I need to change in the new year. 

Don't we all kind of do that? 

I mean, surely nobody thinks there isn't SOMEthing they could change, right?

The new year always feels like a good time to "start over". 

In 2015, I made a lot of changes. I met a lot of goals. I followed through with some things I had been putting off for quite a while.

But, in true Hannah fashion, I still feel there are so many areas of life that I need to change. 

And so (also in true Hannah fashion), I made a list. 

Over the next few weeks, I'd like to share with you some of these goals and my plan to meet these goals. 



Friday, September 11, 2015

Resting State.

Well, hello there, friends!  Long time no see!

Would you believe that it's almost been two MONTHS since my last post?  Of course you would believe it...I'm the worst blogger EVER!

I'm sure you remember my posts over the summer about the KonMari process.  We got rid of LOTS OF STUFF.  In fact, even when I went back to school, I "KonMari'd" my classroom.

In the book (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, for those of you that missed it), Marie Kondo talks about how our physical clutter negatively affects other areas of our lives.

  • We miss out on time spent with family and friends because of the need to clean and organize our "stuff" every weekend.
  • We spend money replacing things we "know we have somewhere" because we can't find said item in our homes.
  • We get into the routine of "doing what we've always done" because we just don't have it in us to make any major changes.
  • We eat out or go shopping because the lack of control in our houses makes us want to just avoid being there.
  • We throw ourselves into our jobs, volunteer positions, or service opportunities to prove to ourselves that we can do SOMEthing right, even if it's not keeping up with our houses and cooking for our families.
Well, she was right when she mentioned those things and she was right when she said getting your house in order will cause you to rethink things in life.  

Now, Kondo mentions things like "divorcing a spouse" and "resigning from a job" as some of the things that might come up once you're seeing things more clearly after decluttering.  I don't agree with or understand THAT part of the book AT ALL.  

I could never KonMari my husband or my teaching job!  Those are both some of my biggest JOY SPARKERS! <3

However, I have definitely been able to clear my mind over the last few months, enough to reevaluate some parts of my life.

One of the groups I am in on Facebook is dedicated to those people going through the "KonMari process".  Last week, a woman wrote a post on there about leaving her home in "resting state".  This clicked with me!  

And so this week, the girls and I have been going through each room in the house in the evenings and putting the house back in "resting state".  When we walk in, we want to be able to look around and feel pure peace and relaxation.  If there is a pair of shoes out of place, it just doesn't have that "finished" feeling and I LOVE that finished feeling!

Now, right now if you walked into my house, you would see a few things lying out, here and there, but the girls and I will go through before bed tonight and put those few things away.  

And when we wake up in the morning, I won't feel quite as guilty for taking such a long coffee and Bible time, instead of starting my to do list.

Does the phrase "resting state" click with you like it did with me?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Planner News.

This summer has been a summer of many changes in the Newkirk household. 

First of all, I started the KonMari process right when school was out and pared down our clothing, books, paper, and other miscellaneous items throughout the first few weeks of summer.  I am looking forward to doing one more big "purge" before the school year starts, but already the house feels so much more "light & airy".

I also started the Whole30 eating program and began to focus on getting healthy.  I'm still doing the Whole30 and getting ready to begin the 30-day Shred (Jillian Michaels) and the Couch 2 5K walking/jogging plan.

With these improvements in the house and in my lifestyle, I felt I needed to try and find a good way to maintain these changes.  

I started googling lots of organizational strategies and I landed on "bullet journaling".  It worked for the month of June, but I realized that with the way I was doing it, I would only be able to fit all of my information for about 2-3 months in one notebook, which isn't practical.

So I started research the Erin Condren planner.  I found some YouTube videos that gave me some ideas for implementing the bullet journaling method into the EC planner and I loved it.

So I ordered one.

Here it is!

The same day I got the planner in the mail, I got some fun accessories as well.  I had ordered some washi tape from Amazon and picked up some awesome pens from Target.

I started working away to figure out the best way to make my planner work for me!

Here is how I'm using the planner right now.

This is a blank spread of a month.  I'm using this for our budget.  I put our income and expected expenses on here so I can pay bills on specific dates and mark them off as they clear the bank.

I used washi tape to mark off the parts of the page that show the previous and following month, so I can make sure I keep some of those weekly expenses straight (like daycare and fuel).

To the right of each monthly page, there is a little "goals" section.

This is my "monthly to do" list.

I fill this out every time something comes up that I need to get done by the end of the month.  I've also started adding items to future months, such as "schedule session for ___" and "gather tax items".  This is where the bullet-journaling comes in.  In a bullet journal, you have a monthly to do list that you pull items from daily.  I'm doing the same thing in my EC planner.

Here is this week's spread.  There are two separate options for how you want your weekly pages to look...a vertical spread or this version, the horizontal calendar.  I'm not sure if i would stick with the horizontal weekly spread in the future.  I think I'll know more as the year goes on and maybe in 2017, I'll try the vertical pages.

On the left side of the page, I put appointments and special notes.  I also enjoy using washi tape to denote special events and just for decoration.  I use post-it notes for things I'm unsure of and write in pencil if there is a chance an event might change.

On the right side of the page, there is a little box that is just open.  I've been using that to be my "to do" list.  Depending on the time I have available for that day, I add 3-5 items that MUST get done.  This method has caused me to really evaluate what I'm able to get done in one day and it makes me feel pretty accomplished at the end of each day, when I have actually marked off the things I set out to do!  

You might notice some little labels with eight jars on them.  I created some "hydrate" stickers to remind me to drink 8 glasses of water every day!  I haven't done the best at keeping up with them, but I think this will be a huge asset to my health journey during the school year when I try hard to drink water all through the school day.

You can also see some of the stickers I'm using to denote certain events.  The washi tape on the right side of the page is showing when the girls and I will be on vacation with my mom later this week. 

Here is a week that only has school events on there right now.  I am planning to decorate each week the Sunday night before the week starts.  

I'll admit that I am still tracking all appointments on my Google Calendar that syncs with my cell phone.  I really love this app and appreciate the reminders it sends me throughout the day.

However, I have still been putting the appointments on my EC planner, as a reminder of the things I need to prepare for those specific events.

I purchased a cheap menu planner from Michael's this week and am using it in conjunction with this planner.  I think keeping my meals separate from what I've got going on here is going to work for right now.  Maybe if I move to the vertical planner with four separate boxes on each day eventually, I'll start meal-planning right in there.  We shall see!

It's a work in progress, but I am LOVING it so far!  <3

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Halfway There.

July 1st.

We're basically halfway through summer.

Less than a month and I'll most likely be back at school, preparing for the school year.

I've gotten a lot accomplished over the last month and a half.

Some of you might remember the book I read in March called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", by Marie Kondo.

Well, I read the book in March and didn't really get to "start the process" until school got out.  I'm happy to report that over a three-week time period, I stuck to the plan and "KonMari'd" my whole house.  I have over 30 tubs of items ready to be priced for a garage sale and I sent over 15 big trash bags of trash to the dumpster.

I will admit that now that I'm done, I'm getting ready to go back through the categories one more time before school starts.

It's absolutely addictive.

I've also started the Whole30 program.  My mom and I are on Day 17 of this way of eating and we are feeling great!

The Whole30 is explained in a book called "It Starts with Food", by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig.

The book was so enlightening and I was motivated to start the program immediately, mainly to hopefully help my mom with her joint pain management, due to her diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  It is helping and I'm praying she can stick to it for another 13 days!

After I started getting our house in order and focusing on my health, I began to research a management tool that would allow me to continue my steps in the right direction and that's when I found "bullet-journaling".

Bullet journaling seemed to finally be a planner system that I could make work for me.  I made my own bullet journal and quickly realized that for someone with three kids, a teaching job, a photography business, lots of involvement in the Church, and many other responsibilities...a traditional bullet-journal probably wasn't going to cut it.  When I filled out my first bullet journal, I had already used one notebook just for June & July.

I started searching YouTube for a way to incorporate the bullet journal method with a different type of planner and I found so many great videos.

That's when I decided to dive in head-first and order a new planner.

I ended up with this design and cannot wait for it to arrive this Friday!

Looking forward to sharing how I personalize my EC planner to work for my life over the next few weeks!  Look for a video in the near future.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July, friends!


Saturday, March 28, 2015


After reading the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo, my entire mindset has changed when it comes to decluttering my home, my classroom, and my photography studio. 

It seems as if God continues to put things in my path to remind me that this life is temporary. 

Our stuff doesn't matter much. It definitely doesn't matter as much as the people we love and the experiences we have.

I feel as if I almost became obsessed with our home addition over the last few months. I was just so excited to finally have a little more space to spread out in. I was also looking forward to giving the girls rooms of their own, so they could have a little break from each other.

When we found out we were unable to do the addition, I was disappointed at first. However, after speaking to my husband and a few of my dearest friends, I realized that maybe be home addition is not in God's plan right now.

Matthew and I began to plan to go another route. A route that would not include any more debt for the time being. A route that will include three daughters sharing one bedroom for a few years. A route that, I'm sure, will be forever etched in our memory as a joyful, stressful, and wonderful time of life.

It is also a route that will include living in our current square footage for a little longer than we had anticipated.

Therefore, it is time to truly put the Kon Mari method to work. 

We only have about eight weeks of school left (how is that possible!?!). I have lots of things I would like to accomplish at school during the next eight weeks...finishing the year with a bang, doing some planning for next year, and going through my teaching resources that have sat on a shelf for the last seven years. I would love to get the resources that are gathering dust together and get them in the hands of someone who will use them. 

So we'll finish the school year on May 13th and by the following Wednesday, I would like to have my classroom decluttered and organized for 2015-2016.

Starting the week after that, I am looking forward to getting very serious about purging in my home. I think I will designate those first three weeks of summer to some hardcore decluttering. 

My idea is to go through each room and essentially "move out". When we had satellite television (waste of time and waste of glad we dropped it!), I loved HGTV and other home channels. 

One of my favorite shows was Mission: Organization. On this show, they would move everything out of a bedroom to the yard and put out three big of stuff to keep, one of stuff to sell, and one of stuff to donate. They also had a place for trash. I would love to use this same method this summer, with the Kon Mari way of thinking...pick everything up, check and see if it sparks joy, and if not, GET RID OF IT. 

I'll put everything that sparks joy in the keep pile and box up the sell and donate stuff immediately. My plan is to make a trip to donate things every single day for those three weeks. 

Then I'll deep-clean that room, rearrange if I need to, and put only the items that spark joy back in there. Every single item will get a home. 

The next day...choose a different room and repeat the process all over again. 

I would love to be done with the process in 3 weeks so I can enjoy the rest of the summer with my babies in a clean house, free from clutter that will distract us from each other! 

Anybody else feeling overwhelmed with the "stuff" of life? 

Getting ready to hopefully feel a whole lot lighter,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Morning Struggles.

I feel like some days I am the worst morning mother ever.

In the whole world.

No, really.

We try so hard at night to be prepared for the 6:30 a.m. "walk out the door".

We lay out clothes.
We pack lunches.
We shower at night and try to get to bed as early as possible (we try for 8:30 and occasionally make it before 9:00...maybe I'm the worst evening mother ever, too!).

But even with all of this preparation...I still turn into a screaming lunatic at some point on many mornings.

In fact, most mornings it goes something like this:

5:50 a.m.  (I'm still sing-songy at this point) -- "Time to get up girls!  Let's make this a good morning!"

No movement.

5:55 a.m. -- "Girls, it's a school day.  Let's get up and get dressed!" (I'm still feeling somewhat sing-songy).

Claire gets up and slowly starts shuffling towards the living room.

6:00 a.m. -- "Harlee, if you're not up by the time I get back in here, we're going to have a big problem." (I'm losing my spunk at this point).

6:05 a.m. -- I shout from the bathroom, "Harlee!  Are you up?"

Harlee answers, as she jumps out of bed before I make it back there, "Yeeeeeesssssss!" (I'm sure she is rolling her eyes at this point, but I try to ignore it.)

6:10 a.m. -- "Girls, we have to leave in 20 minutes.  Let's get dressed a little faster, please."

They are struggling between every article of clothing to not lie back down.

6:20 a.m. -- "Are you dressed?"
"Do you have socks and shoes on?"
"Yes!" (Harlee)
"I'm trying to find them!" (Claire)
"I thought you laid them out last night!"
"I thought so too, but I didn't..."
"Harlee, could you help her find her shoes?"
"I guess!  Every morning, Claire!" (Harlee)

At this point, Claire starts crying and the clock simultaneously changes to 6:30.

I want to start crying, but I am an adult and that would be silly.
It would be ridiculous to cry over a morning like this.

I am dressed and ready.
Claire is crying and getting her shoes on.
Harlee is stomping around impatiently, waiting to go get in the car.

And then it hits me.

We have three children!

"Harlee...please grab the diaper bag!!!  We are so late and I haven't even gotten Mattie up yet!"

The goal is to walk out the door by 6:30 a.m. every morning.

The reality is that I feel pretty darn good if we leave town by 7:00.

Now it's 7:05 and we're driving under the overpass five miles north of town...

"Hey Mom, what should we have for breakfast?"

The morning struggle is real, folks.

Have you ever felt this way?

I'm sure tomorrow will be similar, but at least it will be a FRIDAY morning.

Much love,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Broken Together.

I am a music person.  I could sit here and name off song after song after song that have touched me in some way.  Songs can sometimes touch me so deeply that I listen to them on repeat for weeks at a time.
Many times, I hear a song that speaks to the core of what I'm feeling inside.
I feel like if Mark Hall (lead singer of Casting Crowns) and I knew each other in real life, we would be great friends.  
Casting Crowns is consistently coming out with songs that speak my heart.
Their newest song is called "Broken Together".
It's actually written about marriage.  I have been very blessed in my almost 11 years of marriage.  We haven't struggled much to "stay in love".  We haven't had any life-altering events that have made us grow apart.  We have had our disagreements here and there, and maybe a dry spell or two, but nothing like what some of my dear, dear friends have encountered in their own marriages.
I do believe that this song has an amazing application to married life.
However, in my own heart, I think of this song as something that truly is written for the Church.
Here are the lyrics.  
If you need the lyrics to speak on marriage right now...listen with those ears.  
But if you're feeling like me, and praying for unity in the Body of Christ, listen in that context.
What do you think about when you look at me?
I know we're not the fairytale you dreamed we'd be.
You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand
And we dove into a mystery.
How I wish we could go back to simpler times,
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light.
Now on this hallowed ground, we've drawn the battle lines.
Will we make it through the night?
It's going to take much more than promises this time,
Only God can change our minds.
Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete.
Could we just be broken together?
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I'll bring mine.
Could healing still be spoken and save us?
The only way we'll last forever is broken together.
How it must have been so lonely by my side.
We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind.
I'm praying God will help our broken hearts align,
And we won't give up the fight.
If you have the time, you should watch this video and listen to the beauty in the message.  You won't be disappointed.
Church, we are all broken...let's be broken together.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The best laid plans.


We're not building on right now.

We were unable to get the loan at this time.

It's funny how you think you've got everything covered...and really, you don't.

House plans...check.
Debt snowball paid down...check.
Proof that we can easily make the payments...check.

Approval for a loan...not check.

After some frustration and disappointment, we reworked our plan.

We've decided to save what would have been our payment and do a few things to our current structure.

We will add a bathroom in our closet first.

Then we'll redo our current bathroom.

Finally, we'll remodel the kitchen.

The plan is to save cash for these projects and then do them.  We should be able to get them done in 2015, if we don't have any big financial surprises.

That will either raise the appraisal value enough to get the home addition loan, or it will make our house more marketable if we decide to sell and go buy or build somewhere.

The best laid plans.

There "they" are again with those cliches...

We're still blessed and content, but I'm planning another HUGE decluttering session coming up since we're not building on a playroom anytime soon.

Have a great rest of the week, friends.

Monday, March 16, 2015


This is a blog post that is a long time coming, as they say. Whoever "they" is.

This has been quite the year for me.

Just in case you don't know me, let me tell you a little bit about myself… I am a people pleaser. It's me.

I will do whatever it takes to make someone else like me. If I feel like someone is mad at me, it absolutely eats me up.

Even if I should not value that person's opinion of me, for some reason, I just want people to know who I am and what is on my heart.

Let me tell you, for me, this leads to much exhaustion, and even some heartache.

Without disclosing the full details of what happened in my life about a year ago, I will just tell you, I lost some friends. Some lifelong friends.

And this isn't just people I grew up with. These are people who were in my wedding. People who visited the hospital when we had our children. People who held my hand through the loss of my grandfather, and I held their hands through many trials in their own lives. People who taught me things that I still apply to life today. Some of my oldest and dearest companions.

People who knew (probably still know) me better than most of the general population.

Things were said.
Feelings were hurt.
And then, they were gone.

Just gone.

No "can we work through this?"
No "can we sit down and talk?"
No "can we try to figure this out?"


I spent many sleepless nights trying to solve the problem on my own.

I penned a few emails (only one that I actually sent).

And finally, I came to the conclusion, that it just wasn't going to happen. At least not right now.

I needed to, as the old saying goes, "let go and let God."

And so I did.

I let go.

And God came through in a big way.

In the depths of sorrow at the loss of these dear, dear friends (really family members), God came through.

In the midst of pain and heartache, God came through.

As I tried to find my new "normal" without these people in my life, God really, really came through.

Fast-forward to now.

My heart still hurts.

I still am holding out hope for reconciliation some day.

But I can honestly look back at our memories through the years fondly.

I can think of these friends now, and feel a peace in my heart about the situation. I can see those moments through the past year, where God has used specific situations to give me hope for the future.

I have seen my ministry change, and I am serving joyfully again. I don't feel unsettled, unnerved, or angry. I have seen the Lord fill the hole in my heart left by these individuals.

If you would have told me a few years ago that these people wouldn't be a part of my life at this point in time, I never would have believed you.

But things change.
People change.

At the end of the day, the only One who is unchanging is God.

He is unchanging and He is here.

And I am thankful.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Adding On.

We've been throwing the idea around of building on to the house for (at least) the last five years.  We currently have a three-bedroom, one-bath house with a living/family room, a (kind of outdated) kitchen, and a small laundry room.  The garage is detached and we have no basement.  Storage is limited, to say the least.

The time never really felt right.  We went through several "plans" in our conversation of where to add on, what to add on, and of we would ever afford it.

Well, through our journey with good ol' Dave (Ramsey), we have paid some debt off and now feel like we have the monthly income that we could sustain another payment for a construction loan.  After the construction is complete, we are hoping to be able to roll our current mortgage and the money we borrow for the addition into one loan, with a lower rate than the construction loan will be.

Anyway, so in this journey of "home addition dreaming", we've discovered a great iPad app called "Room Planner".  I was able to enter the dimensions of our current structure and the addition and see what the whole thing looks like in 3D.  I was also able to print these plans for our builder, which was pretty sweet.

My favorite part of the app is that by upgrading for $2.99, we can actually "walk through" the space.  Pretty crazy to feel as though we are actually in the "new part" of the house.  

Technology is so cool.

Here is my original notebook paper drawing... 

As you can see, the red line goes around our current house.  The addition will basically double the current square footage, plus we're hoping to add a loft over the two bedrooms to be a playroom (aka HIDE ALL OF THE DARN TOYS AND KEEP THEM OFF OF THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR room).

Here is what I have been able to come up with using the app...

We're planning to turn the current living room into a dining space.  We're also hoping to turn the two older girls' current bedroom into a laundry room/bathroom combo.  (Yes!  Two bathrooms!!!).  The older girls will get their own bedrooms out in the new part and we'll have a big ol' great room for family gatherings and future slumber parties (with three girls, I feel like this is inevitable)...

Now, here is a screenshot of the 3D part of the app.  How cool is this?

I could even add wall colors and furniture!  The floor plan above has changed a little bit since I took these pictures, but you get the idea.  Very cool.

Anyway, so tonight, the hubs and I are sitting down and talking about the most dreadful part of the project...the financing.  We were going to go talk to the bank today and we just didn't have everything ready that we needed.  So tomorrow, I'll take all of our stuff to the loan guy and say some major prayers that it all works out the way it needs to.  

Of course, we don't want to stop progress on our debt snowball, but we feel like adding square footage and equity to the house isn't really a purchase that we will regret in the future.  And we'll be able to enjoy the house more without living right on top of each other.

Thanks for reading.  I'll keep you posted!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blogging Fail.

So one of my oldest and dearest friends has reminded me this week that I need to blog more often.

It's true.  I do.

I really enjoy writing and should take the time to blog.  Just like I should really restart the Couch 2 5K walking plan in the evenings and I should run the dishwasher every single day.

I should.

I think like many people, I have this revolving of list of "I should" items in my brain at any given time.

I should eat healthier.

I should keep my house clean.

I should just drive right past Sonic in the morning, instead of stopping for an unsweet raspberry tea (Okay, that isn't going to happen...let's be realistic).

I am a failure at SO many things.  I am broken and messed up in more ways than I like to admit.

But I am also making progress in some areas.

I have been paying attention to my caloric intake since Tuesday consistently and have been making sure to drink enough each day.

I got all caught up on grading AND cleaned off my desk at school before spring break

I spent the evenings this week with my babies, even though I had other stuff that needed to be done (this is a HUGE step in the right direction for me).

I made it through another year (31...eek!).

We are paying our debt down a little at a time, but have made HUGE progress if you look at the big picture!  We're paying down more each month than we have planned for in our budget and that is a big accomplishment!

We are getting ready to build on to our house and have been working together to come up with some great energy-efficient plans to save money and keep our little family warm.

I have many, many things that I should be doing...but I'm growing a little bit each day.

With that said, I'm a total failure at blogging and will be trying to blog at least three times a week, because it really makes my heart happy to write!!!  <3

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Decluttering 2015.

I made a Facebook post yesterday about a wonderful book I have just finished and the impact this book has had on my home so far.  I have cleared out over 20 big tubs of clutter in the last two weeks.

The book I read is called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" by Marie Kondo.  

I would highly recommend purchasing it on Amazon for yourself, because obviously, she's the best-selling author...not me.

However, I'll give you a synopsis, in case you'd like to get started right away!

This young woman named Marie Kondo (a famous professional organizer in Japan) has come up with a method of decluttering and organizing that she calls the "KonMari" method (a combo of her two names).

It. Is. Incredible.

You guys.


Everything she says in this book is the opposite of how I've always been told to do it.

I have books......  
and books and books...
and more books about organizing and housekeeping and being a better home manager.

This is obviously a struggle for me.

All of these books have the same advice.

- Break it up into chunks.
- Go room by room.
- Do a small part of your house every day.
- Buy a storage system that works for you.
- Don't try to do everything at'll get overwhelmed and quit.
- Get rid of one item every time you bring a new item into the house.
- It's all about the binders...the office supplies...the HIGHLIGHTERS!

Okay, I added that last one, but surely some of you can relate to me there!!!


I have tried to declutter and keep a clean house using these methods and, let's be honest, IT DOESN'T WORK.

Kondo gives reasons that these things don't work and it makes SO MUCH SENSE.

If you break it up into chunks or do a small part of your house every day, you will be decluttering for the rest of your life.  You will get one room decluttered and by the time it's all neat and tidy, the room you did last week will be a mess again.  It's a vicious cycle.

If you spend dollars on intricate storage systems to try and "organize" unnecessary clutter, you're not only wasting dollars, but space in your home.

She says that a formula, such as "getting rid of one item when you bring one new item in" isn't really practical and will actually limit the number of items you get rid of.

Kondo tells her clients to do a "special event tidy", all at once.  Go big or go home!

She didn't really say much about the office supply problem, but come on...I know some of you are right there with me at Target being drawn to the office supply aisle EVERY SINGLE TIME.


Like I said, I definitely recommend that you read Kondo's book, but here are some steps to get you started.

1. Write up a "vision" for how you picture your life after you've decluttered your home and have it exactly how you want...a sancutary of sorts.  

My vision of life involves being able to spend more time with my husband and children, relaxing in our home, and time to work on being a better teacher and building my photography business in a way that will help my family without taking moments away from them.

2. Add the "why" factor to your vision.  

My "why" factor includes serving my husband and being able to provide a peaceful home for him, giving the girls memories to look back on as they mature, and teaching them how to not allow the "stuff" of life to clutter their minds and hearts.

3. Start discarding.  

This is the real deal.  The big dance.  The life-changing moment that you've all been waiting for.

Kondo says to sort and discard by categories, starting with your own clothing.

She recommends starting with shirts.  Get all of your shirts in the house and put them on your bed.  Get shirts from the dirty clothes, from the closets, from your drawers, and from anywhere else you store them.

Pick up each shirt and say, "Does this shirt spark joy?"  If it does, great!  If not, into the "get rid of" pile it goes.  This could be a donate tub, a garage sale tub, or a trash tub.  Wherever you choose to put it, do it right away!

Go through each category of clothing like this.

Shirts, pants, hang-up clothes, seasonal clothing, accessories, bags/purses, socks, underwear, etc.  
Make a list and stick to the list.  

4. Clean and put back.

Once you've discarded your unwanted shirts, decide where you will store them.  The KonMari method includes lots of great tips for folding your clothes in a way to keep them nicer for longer (check out YouTube to see these in action!).  

Clean the space you're going to put these shirts and put them back nicely and neatly.

Every time you do laundry from here on out, you'll know RIGHT where the clothes go.  Make a space and keep it!

5. Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

After you do the clothes, move on to another category...books.  Find all the books in the house and go through the same process, asking yourself, "Does this spark joy?"  If it doesn't...out it goes!  If it's something that you "think you'll read later'...out it goes! 

After books, move to paper, then to CD's & DVD's, then to skin care products, makeup, valuables, electrical equipment, etc.  You can make up a category list based on your own home.  

Think of a category, collect all the items that fit into that category, and ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?"  

It is much more effective to decide what DOES spark joy and what you WANT to keep, than it is to decide what to part with.

So try it out.  See what you think.  It is rather addicting once you get started!

If you need more convincing, or for more motivation and detailed inspiration...check out Marie Kondo's book!  

I'd love to hear your thoughts and about your decluttering progress in the comment sections! 

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Ah.  There is something so fresh and new about that word.  


It's a chance to start over.  A chance to make a "new you".  A chance to move past the things of the previous year and set some goals for yourself.

I have had 30 years of Januarys now.  Well...about 25 or so that I can actually recall.

Starting somewhere in high school, I started to set New Year's Resolutions for myself.  I would stick to a few and not stick to others.

Each year, though, one thing never changed.  I set too many resolutions and some of them weren't attainable at all.  

And are my 2015 goals.  

Simplify our belongings.
Become healthier.
Get better at paperwork.
Focus on frugality.
Blog more often.
Be more like Jesus.

Here's the deal.  

2014 was a year of BIG changes for the Newkirks.  

We welcomed baby #3 into the family.
I cut back on my photography business.
I changed my teaching job description by departmentalizing.
I lost 15 pounds.

These things were great for us.  However, these things also came with some transitional bumps in the road.  

Mattie was born on June 11th.  I had about 2 weeks off school before she was born and I used that time to clean and organize the house (with lots of help, as I was not very comfortable!).  We kept it really clean until school started.

When my teaching partner and I decided to departmentalize, I was thrilled.  However, it was a whole new ballgame for both of us and we are still learning.  Due to these big changes in my job, I slacked big time on the housework.  I stayed late at school, worked on lesson plans at home, ate out way too often, and quite frankly, kind of stunk at being a wife and mom.

My photography business had already been cut down significantly, in March of 2014, due to the impending arrival of Baby M.  However, after she was here, I realized how much I would miss photography if I cut it out completely.  And so, I started to work some sessions back into my schedule.  In 2015, I'm going to continue to work sessions into my schedule, using a year-long plan that I will reveal with all the juicy details next week.

Having a baby and cutting down on the photography sessions I was doing also really affected us financially.  We have insurance and therefore were charged some astronomical fees by the hospital.  In fact, we are still paying on these bills (the last payment will be THIS MONTH...thank you, Jesus!!!).  This was a big chunk of change out of our budget every month.  Add these payments to the fact that I wasn't cooking at home, and let's just say we had to put the debt snowball on hold for the last few months of 2014.  

This had it's added benefits, as I was FORCED to cook at home in November and December.  In fact, by cooking weight watchers meals at home, I actually stuck to my Weight Watchers plan and I have lost over 15 pounds since August.  I call it the "I can't afford food, so I just won't eat very much" diet.

2014 was a great year.
2014 was a difficult year.
2014 was a beautiful year.

We had some growing pains.  We had some heartache.  We made lots of memories.

I'm looking forward to 2015 and can't wait to share progress on my New Year's resolutions as the year progresses.

Thanks so much for sticking by my side through these last few years, even though I'm the worst blogger ever.

I appreciate each one of you.

Happy 2015!