2 Bigs + 4 Littles under 1 Midsize Roof = Life As We Know It
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A Half Dozen. . .

. . .things that changed my life in 2009:


1. Preparing and eating real food. Although my interest in the real-food movement actually began in 2008—when I first encountered such books as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma—my personal journey began in earnest this year. I read more books, including Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Nina Planck’s Real Food. I looked for and found local sources for grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured chickens and eggs, raw dairy, and in-season fruits and vegetables. I learned how to sprout grains and beans, as well as soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds; I tried my hand at making butter and cheese; and I converted the recipes for many of my family’s favorite dishes to meet real-food ideals. My husband and children went along—warily but willingly—on the journey with me, as we cut back on the refined flour and sugar in our diet and incorporated such new and strange (at first) staples as fermented cod liver oil and kombucha tea.


2. Reading some great books. Clearly, I’m a believer in the statement “You are what you eat.” And by now, you’re probably getting the idea that “You are what you read” would be another suitable credo for me. Simply put, books are—and always have been—a big deal in my life. I can recall at least one engaging novel I read in 2009—The Girls, by Lori Lansens (a diary-style portrayal of the life of conjoined twins)—but for the most part it was a nonfiction year for me. Aside from the above-mentioned food titles, the rest of what I read mostly revolved around marriage and parenting. Favorites here include The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood, both written by homeschooling mom of four Sally Clarkson. I can so relate to the personal challenges she recounts—from the physical and emotional strength required to be a 24/7 caregiver, nurturer and teacher, to the doubts and feelings of inadequacy that often creep in from a culture that places almost no value on those roles. What I so appreciate about Clarkson’s writing is her ability to transcend all of that—and to help me do it, too!—by putting those roles into an eternal perspective. Her books gave me a renewed sense of purpose that I continue to cling to on those difficult days when I desperately need a good answer to the question, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” Another author who struck a similar chord with me this year is Gary Thomas, whose book Sacred Marriage has garnered him speaking engagements at churches worldwide. Shawn and I were able to attend one here in Arizona in September, and since then I’ve added a few of his books (including Sacred Influence and Sacred Parenting) to my list. Sacred Marriage (subtitled What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?) intelligently and thoughtfully exposes the ruse of romantic love as a means to (elusive) fulfillment and instead challenges those of us who choose marriage to see the difficulties it inevitably brings as a way for God to shape our character and for us to demonstrate our commitment to Him. I haven’t delved into Sacred Parenting yet, but from all indications, the theme continues on its pages. In a particularly powerful essay Thomas uses to open a book of devotions based on Sacred Parenting, he writes: “I’d like to suggest a motto for Christian family life: ‘God is in the room.’ While God is always there, so often we act and think and behave and speak as if he were not. . . .Think of how differently we might treat our children in those frustrating moments if we responded to them with the knowledge that God is in the room. If we truly believed that the God who designed them and who is passionate about their welfare was literally looking over our shoulders, might we be a little more patient, a little more understanding?. . .Tell it to yourself, every morning, every noontime, every evening: God is in the room. Tell it to each other, every time you’re tempted to yell, or to criticize, or ridicule, or even ignore each other: God is in the room. Tell it to your children, throughout the day: God is in the room. Let’s keep telling it to ourselves and to each other until we practice it and live it, until we live and breathe with the blessed remembrance: God is in the room.”

SchoolroomSchoolroomcloset2

3. Having a homeschool room (where I especially need to practice the above-mentioned motto!). When we added two bedrooms and a bathroom onto our small home last year, we decided to convert one of the existing bedrooms into a homeschool room. It meant that our four children would have to double up and share the remaining bedrooms, but we were all OK with that. Shawn outfitted the room’s closet with plenty of shelves to store books and supplies, and he built new cases to replace the broken ones on three cast-off desks from the charter school where one of my sisters works. A bulletin board, dry-erase board and world map later, we were in business! And we haven’t looked back to the days when books, papers and manipulatives almost always covered the living-room floor and the dining-room table. Sure, we sometimes still “do school” in those other rooms, but having a place to put everything away when we’re finished—and a door to close when we haven’t had time to tidy up the mess—has gone a long way toward keeping me sane (see No. 2) and all of us organized and on track.

4. Finding financial peace. No, we didn’t win the lottery, receive an unexpected inheritance or invent the Next Big Thing and suddenly become fabulously wealthy. (I’m sure I would have remembered if any of those things had occurred this year!) 🙂 What we did do was solidify our financial philosophy as a single-income family with a tight budget and a desire to live relatively simply and to be completely debt-free. Toward both of those ends, we’ve begun a serious campaign to get rid of things that we don’t really need or especially love, and to pay off everything we owe (which is really just the mortgage, a car loan and a credit-card balance). Our champion of sorts in the process has been Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover, host of radio broadcast The Dave Ramsey Show, and creator of such catchphrases as “Sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next,” and “Live like no one else, so that later, you can live (and give) like no one else.” Shawn and I completed his 13-week Financial Peace University course at our church this fall and discovered that we were actually in decent shape with regard to some areas of our money, but that we needed to make a few changes and do a better job in other areas. Above all, the class helped us talk things through and agree on some goals to keep us focused. We’ve even gotten the kids on board, switching their “allowance” (which implies entitlement to free money) to “commission” (which solidifies the concept that money is earned).

iPod

5. Receiving an iPod Touch. As a lover of all things Apple, I’d had my eye on an iPhone for awhile, but because the only cell-phone carrier to offer it doesn’t provide good coverage in the areas I travel most frequently, I’d pretty much ruled it out. As a second choice, I liked the iPod Touch, but without the phone functionality I couldn’t really justify buying one. “Sure, it’s cool, but would I really use it?” I wondered. Shawn surprised me with one on Mother’s Day, and that question was quickly answered in the affirmative. The marketing lingo “There’s an app for that” became a reality for me as I started to use the iPod Touch for all things usual (checking e-mail and Facebook, surfing the Web, and keeping the kids entertained with movies, music and games) and unusual (recording Kellen’s first piano recital and watching TV—mostly late-night online streaming of current episodes of The Office and Parks and Recreation). And sometimes it’s an absolute sanity saver: It makes multitasking a cinch, as I can use it while I’m cooking (see No. 1) or folding laundry. And at the risk of sounding like a really bad homeschooling mom, I occasionally use it to tune out the constant din created when 2 Bigs + 4 Littles almost always occupy the house under 1 Midsize Roof (see No. 2). Whenever I need a little break, I simply pop in the ear buds and download a podcast of The Dave Ramsey Show (see No. 4) or listen to my current playlist faves (the cast recording from the Broadway musical Wicked, or the new Sidewalk Prophets album, These Simple Truths. To hear the Sidewalk Prophets song Just Might Change Your Life—which is, after all, the theme of this post, click the play button of the audio player below.)

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6. Starting this blog. I’ve only been a blogger for half of the year, but the impact of finally finding my voice—I’ve never been much of a first-person writer—as well as the guts to share it here—I worried whether I had anything relevant to say—has been huge. I’ve “met” so many other bloggers who are living inspired—and inspiring!—lives, and I’m writing more frequently than I have in a long time. And I can’t leave out the incredible learning curve I had to conquer just to set up the blog and publish a post! When I first started, I didn’t know a tag from a category or a plugin from a pingback—and HTML code? Forget about it! (Click here to find out about the Beginner to Blogger course that helped me get up and running.) Not that I’m all super tech-savvy now. I have much more to learn, for sure, but I’ve come a long way since I began, well, at The Beginning (my first post).

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on any of the book or CD covers above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase the items—and if you do buy them after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend.

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5 comments

1 Tawnya Hood { 12.31.09 at 9:17 am }

I Love to read your writings Sonya! So enlightening and inspiring! I am ready to leap into a change ( I feel that almost EVERYDAY!) And just yesterday, while I was in the shower- I reminded myself of the CDs- you so graciously lent to me and told myself I need to schedule time for Chad and I to do it. Thanks for sharing your life via this blog- it is never a boring read! xoxoxo

2 Juli Lonas { 01.06.10 at 12:16 pm }

I started a blog (with no clear goals yet). It’s prompted me to catch up on some blogs that I have bookmarked. Thanks for being inspiring and real. My head and heart know that God is always in the room, but sometimes it’s hard to get the rest of me to remember that. Love your school room!

3 Sonya Hemmings { 01.07.10 at 2:32 pm }

Thanks, Juli! I took a brief look at your blog, too! Glad you’ve taken the plunge into this forum, and I look forward to all that you have to share.
Love,
Sonya

4 Yvonne { 01.11.10 at 12:29 pm }

Sonya,
I am so grateful for your blog and look forward to it each week. I have learned so much from you. The knowledge you’ve shared inspires me constantly.
Its women like you who are helping to create a “new” culture for the future.
Again sweetie, thanks so much for all you do.
Aunt Yvonne

5 Sonya Hemmings { 01.12.10 at 7:22 am }

I think you’re my biggest fan, Aunt Yvonne! It really helps to know that someone is being blessed by my efforts. Now I just need to work on being more consistent and implementing all of the creative ideas that are occupying my head! 🙂
Love,
Sonya

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