How a Family of 4 Happily Lives in 700 Sq. Ft. Home


After I posted the guest post on Why I Like My Smaller House, Roni left a comment talking about how their family of 4 lives in a 650-square-foot home. I was intrigued and asked if she’d do a post on it sometime.

I loved the post she put together giving us a very thorough walk-through of their small home and how they make it work. It’s inspiring and if you are currently living in a small space or you are thinking of downsizing to a smaller space, be sure to read it here.

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When She Gets That Thing You Really Wanted


A number of months ago, I was approached by a large national magazine. They said they loved my blog and my writing and offered me a position as a monthly columnist.

I was stoked and thrilled.

You see, because I’m a blogger, the mainstream media often doesn’t view me as completely “legit”. So this opportunity not only made me feel so honored, I confess that there was part of me that felt like it would add some sort of stamp of credibility to me as a writer.

That by signing on the dotted line, I would become “official”. I would finally arrive as a “real writer” and I’d be respected by those in the media as a result.

While I only told a handful of people, I secretly was sort of gloating about it. I’d walk past the bookstore racks of magazines and think, “Someday soon, MY article is going to be in one of those every month.”


There was only one problem. When I started working on my first article, it felt flat. I re-did it again and again, but I just didn’t like it. And the editors at the magazine agreed.

They had me try again — this time from a completely different angle with a completely different type of voice. Again, it just wasn’t coming together like I wanted.

After weeks of going back and forth, I got a call one day from my editor at the magazine. It went something like this, “We love you. We love your blog. But our editor-in-chief is asking us to find someone to write this column who has more credentials. We’re so sorry and we hope we can work together some time in the future.”

With that phone call, my hopes and excitement about the doors this opportunity would open were deflated right on the spot. I wasn’t just disappointed, I also struggled with the fact that I was told I didn’t have enough credentials.

It stung and it caused old insecurities to surface and fester. Thoughts ran through my head and ate at me, “Why am I even writing in the first place? I can’t measure up to other writers. I mean, I couldn’t even write one simple article that this magazine asked me to!”

I thought I had mostly worked through these insecurities, but when the glossy magazine arrived in my mailbox announcing the new columnist for this magazine — the columnist who had more credentials than me — those feelings surfaced again.

I’ll be honest and admit that there were even a few thoughts running through my head like, “Really? That’s who they chose? Why her and not me? Am I not good enough? Are my ten years of blogging not enough to earn some credibility?”


I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to contentment and not wanting what someone else has, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. Probably some of you have struggled with jealousy, envy, and hurt at some point in the last few years, too.

Maybe your co-worker got the promotion that you really felt you deserved. Perhaps you’ve desperately been hoping and trying to get pregnant and your neighbor just complained about her aches and pains and difficulties in her own pregnancy.

Or, you’re working so hard to get out of debt and making so many sacrifices to do so and your sister keeps going on and on about the amazing trip they are planning to Disney.

Maybe you feel like you’ve done everything in your power to restore a crumbling marriage and it’s just not working and it hurts so much when your friend whines about her husband not helping her more often with the dishes. And you think, “I’d give anything to have your problems!”

You might be the mom of a special needs child who requires round-the-clock care and it feels like a knife in your heart when someone at church comments about how grateful they are that their baby was born healthy and strong.

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Whatever your season or circumstances, there’s probably someone in your life who has something you wish you had.

Instead of feeling like you got overlooked or that you didn’t make the cut or that you’re not good enough, instead of feeling frustrated or hurt or jealous or bitter, here are three strategies to help you process the disappointment and work through envy:*

1. Remind Yourself of the Truth

Your worth is not dependent upon what other people think of you, how much money you have, the position you have at work, how many people read your blog, or whether or not you get asked to participate in that opportunity.

Don’t buy into the belief that says you don’t have anything to offer. Don’t believe the lie that because you were passed over for that promotion or have chronic illness or struggle with infertility or are in a difficult marriage or are still single in your 40’s that you aren’t good enough.

The truth is: you are enough — exactly as you are. You have gifts and talents and unique perspective. You are the only YOU in existence.

The world needs your story. The world needs your gifts. The world needs you.

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2. Rejoice in Others’ Successes

This is sometimes hard to do. I get it. When someone gets the very thing we were wishing and hoping for, the last thing we want to do is be happy for them.

But there’s so much joy in being committed to being a cheerleader versus being a criticizer. There are plenty of opportunities to go around. And honestly? Sometimes the very thing we want so badly is actually the thing that could end up wrecking our life — or at least making things really difficult.

For me personally, not getting the magazine column gig was humbling. And it was such a needed — and good! — reminder that I have so much already. I want to be grateful for my current opportunities instead of spending time wishing I had something more.

Plus, I think the opportunity would have caused me to have too big of a head. Having it taken away from me knocked me down a notch and back to reality. There are many others who are much more qualified and credentialed than me and I want to rejoice that they are getting these opportunities. They’ve worked hard and their hard work is paying off.

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3. Remember What Really Matters

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the day-to-day that we forget to take a step back and look at the big picture. What’s really going to matter in 25 years from now?

At the end of my life, is it really going to make a huge difference that I had a monthly column in a large magazine? Probably not. But it is going to matter that I invested time and effort into loving my children and nurturing them.

Not getting this additional opportunity frees up time every month that I could spend with my family. It also frees up brain space to devote to other projects. And it relieves me of the stress of pressing deadlines and meeting the demands of an editorial staff with high expectations.

Someday, another similar opportunity might come my way. And if it does, going through this experience and learning these lessons will better enable me to think carefully and prayerfully about what is best for my schedule, for our family, and most importantly, for my own heart.

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*Update: One commenter felt hurt that some of these didn’t apply to her struggle with infertility and I realized I should have made an important note on the post and points. I can’t cover every single struggle or situation in one short post and what applied to me in my situation won’t necessarily apply to you in your situation.

The last thing I want to do is cause further pain and hurt, so please know that not all of the points or suggestions would be applicable to every situation. However, I hope that hearing how I struggled through these things and processed them might give you some encouragement and perspective as you work through your own situations.

{Hugs!} to all of you who are hurting and struggling right now. My heart aches for you.

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Gretchen’s Walgreens Shopping Trip: Spent $4.69 out-of-pocket


Walgreens Shopping Trip

Transaction #1

1 Pull-Ups Flushable Wipes – $1.99 (Buy 1, Get 1,000 points)
Used $1/1 printable

Total with tax ($0.14): $1.13, Received 1,000 Balance Rewards Points (like $1)

Transaction #2

1 Windex & 1 Shout – $3 each (Buy 2 participating items, Get $2 Register Rewards)
Used 2 $1.50/1 printable
Submitted for 2 separate $1 rebates on Checkout 51

1 Felt Door Hanger – Marked down to $0.09 (My son loves doing crafts and I’ve been on the lookout for cheap things like this to keep him busy. You can’t beat $0.09!)

Redeemed 1,000 Balance Rewards Points from Transaction #1

Total with tax ($0.44) after coupons, points and rebates: $0.53, Received $2 Register Rewards

Transaction #3:

3 Garnier Fructis Hair Care – 3/$10 (Buy 3, Get 3,000 points)
Used 3 $2/1 coupon from the 3/1 RedPlum insert

1 Finger Paint Cards – Marked down to $0.29 (filler item)

Used $2 Register Rewards from Transaction #2

Total with tax ($0.74) after coupons and Register Rewards: $3.03, Received 3,000 Balance Rewards Points (like $3)

Total for all transactions: $4.69, Plus 3,000 points leftover

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Why I Can Never Complain About Doing Dishes or Cooking Again

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{These children usually just have pap to eat. We brought them some fruit and they were so excited to gobble it down!}

Of all the new and different things I experienced in South Africa, I think the thing that will stick with me for a very long time was seeing first hand just how significant the hunger problems there are in the world.

And I know they are not isolated to communities in Africa — or even in third world countries. Right here in America, there are children and adults who go hungry. There are children who go home from school and have no food at all over the weekends.

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{This JAM porridge is much more nutritionally dense than the pap that most South African children in the poorest communities eat. You can read more about it here. Take Action Ministries in partnership with Help One Now makes and feeds this porridge to hundreds of children every day in an effort to help fill children’s bellies with something that provides nutritional value.}

We want to change the world and make an impact, but sometimes, that starts with offering a bowl of porridge. When you have an empty belly, it’s hard to think of anything else. It’s hard to dream or imagine a life outside of the confines of poverty.

Those of us who have choices in what we eat each day are tremendously blessed. We worry about whether we’re giving our kids enough variety. We stress over whether we should buy more organic produce.

We wonder whether we should give our kids a different kind of vitamin or whether they should be eating more meat or drinking more milk or going off dairy or gluten…

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{Samp and beans — this was what they fed to around 100 kids at the Reagoboka Drop-In Centre the day we visited. It made me so happy for the kids to get something other than pap to eat. We got to eat it for lunch, too, and I thought it was quite tasty!}

And none of these things we worry about as parents are wrong. We should want to do our best to nurture our children and encourage them to develop healthy habits from a young age.

However, going to South Africa gave me a completely different perspective on life, including things like making food and washing dishes. I realized that there are many things that I’ve complained about in the past that seem so silly and inconsequential now when you think of them in the grand scheme of things.

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Here are two things I will never be able to complain about again:

1. I can never complain about having to do dishes.

I’ve often grumbled over a heap of dirty dishes… wishing cooking and eating didn’t make such a mess, wishing there weren’t burned pans to scrub, wishing I could just go to bed instead of staying up conquering that mountain of plates and cups and bowls.

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But how can I complain when I realize that those same dishes represent the blessing of food? Food that is readily available in our fridge and cupboards to cook and eat and, yes, dirty our dishes.

Dirty dishes mean that little people at my house have food in their bellies. That none of us know the ache and pain of a seriously empty stomach or the fear that must come when there is nothing to eat and no money to buy food.

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{The kitchen where the Reagoboka Drop-In Centre cooks food for over 100 children every day. And you thought your kitchen was too small for your family!}

2. I can never complain about how much time it takes to plan & prepare meals.

So many times, I’ve thought how easy it would be if we could just skip eating — or at least stick with really simple meals. I’ve sometimes dreaded the fact that it’s getting close to dinner and I need to make yet another meal.

I’ve had times when I’ve wished my kids weren’t hungry yet again. (Didn’t they just eat a few hours ago??)

But here’s the thing: I’ve never known what it is like to see my kids go hungry. To desperately wish I could give them something to eat and have nothing to give them. To see them suffer from hunger and be literally helpless to do anything about it.

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{Visiting the Maubane Community. While we were there, Take Action Ministries arranged a special treat — lunch for all the kids in the community! They had pap and Walkie Talkies — which are chicken feet and chicken beaks!}

Yes, we’ve had very lean years, but we always had food to eat — even if it meant eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches almost every day. We’ve always had a roof over our heads, blankets to cover up with at night, enough clothes to wear, coats to keep us warm in the winter time, enough money to buy gas to drive where we needed to go, clean water to drink and bathe with.

How can I complain about things like “having to cook yet again” when there are mothers all around the world who would give anything just to have something to cook for their starving child? To have even one small bit of food once a day to quell their baby’s empty stomach?

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From here on out, I hope that I look at that pile of dirty dishes, that messy kitchen, that refrigerator needing to be cleaned out, and the meal that needs to be made with completely new appreciation. Truly, we have so much more to be grateful for than we often realize.

P.S. If you feel called to help the children in some of the poorest communities in South Africa, we’d love to have you join us and over 100 others as part of the Ten Dollar Tribe. You can read all about this group and how you can get involved here. And thank you, thank you to each of you who have already joined. We are incredibly humbled and grateful that you’d join us in this!

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We LOVE the LEGO Club Magazine (+ sign up for a FREE 2-year subscription!)

Free subscription to LEGO magazine

As I was thinking about what topic to write on for this week’s How I Saved post, I saw my kids huddled around the latest issue of LEGO Club magazine that just came in and knew I had to share about this for the few of you who don’t know about or maybe have forgotten about it.

My kids have been getting a free subscription to LEGO Club magazine for the past few years and absolutely love it. In fact, it’s one of their very, very favorite magazines to get in the mail!

Free subscription to LEGO Club magazine

There’s truly no catch to this free subscription. It’s 100% free. Of course, LEGO is smart because there’s definitely some marketing and advertising built into each issue as they talk about the new kits coming out and all things LEGO-related.

However, we’ve found that it doesn’t incite much coveting in our children and moreso encourages their creativity to build new things with the bricks and kits they already have. The contests are especially fun as they give kids specific types of LEGO creations to “invent” on their own and then enter these into the contests to win LEGO sets and more.

Free subscription to LEGO Club magazine

The magazine is filled with stories, comics, contests, creative LEGO ideas, and more. The magazine is aimed at children ages 7-12. They also have a LEGO Jr. magazine for youngsters who are 6 and under.

Every single issues is pored over by all three of our kids and is read from cover to cover more than once by Kathrynne. This magazine has resulted in hours of entertainment for all of our kids and we’ve never spent a dime on it.

If you have LEGO-lovers at your house, be sure sign them up for a free 2-year subscription to LEGO magazine here.

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