You are the Wife your Husband Needs

You are the wife your husband needs.

That phrase popped into my head the other day and hasn’t left. You’ve probably heard it said this way- you are the mother your child(ren) needs. But what about when it comes to just being a wife, to living and loving and serving another person daily?

You are the wife your husband needs.

There was a time in my (recent) life in which I was working less for a purposeful reason and I somehow got it into my head that I had to become a perfect housewife to make up for the difference, that I had to clean everything spotlessly and make perfectly healthy paleo lemon poppy muffins and pack my husband’s lunch and have dinner on the table exactly when he got home and whatever else I thought up. Just typing that is anxiety-inducing. Thank God my husband pulled my aside and told me that he wasn’t putting that on me.

I read recently a passage in a ‘Stone for a Pillow’ by Madeleine L’ Engle that I think illustrates this well. She says, 

I learned that if I tried to be good, that is, if I tried to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, all I did was become exhausted and ill and humorless and help nobody. If I spent the morning at the typewriter; if, in the late afternoon before I cooked dinner, I went off with the dogs for a walk, the entire household was happier, and there was more laughter and song. I learned that if I was what I had considered selfish, that is, if I took reasonable care of my own needs, we had a smoothly running household.

We as women need to be set free from the notion that in order to be a godly wife, we have to attain domestic perfection. While I am obviously someone who takes my role in the home very seriously, we have to accept our own unique skill set and fall in love with the very characteristics that our husbands adore in us.

You are the wife that your husband needs.

I encourage you, that if you resonate with even a bit of this, to make a mental or physical list of those characteristics about you that are uniquely yours and exactly what your husband needs. Here’s a couple of mine to get you started. If you can’t think of any, I encourage you to ask your husband.  It might lead to an intimate conversation that builds your self esteem, who knows!

  • I am highly intuitive. I know how to read him often before he even tells me that something is wrong. Additionally, I have a high capacity for empathy.
  • I have many goals that complement his (career, lifestyle) and unique skills to make our dreams happen (ex. creativity, ability to follow through, financial sense).

I am the wife my husband needs.

photo source: jeffrey stroup

How We Lived Well on (Mostly) One Income

I wanted to share today something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately- how we managed on mostly one income for over a year. Many of you know of my health struggles and how it came to the point where we decided that it would be best for the both of us if I quit my job in order to focus on healing.  This lifestyle shift lasted a little longer than we initially predicted, and I want to share the basic principles of how we made it work.
 
I recognize that not everyone can (or desires to) live on one income, however, I believe that more people can probably make it happen than they recognize. It certainly may require a lifestyle shift, but for us the benefit of me not working during that time easily outweighed the sacrifices made.
 
How We Lived Well on One Income | naturallyjmharris.com
 
So, here’s some basic ways we made one income work.
 
We previously paid off my husband’s truck. This was a huge goal we met by funneling his commission money towards it. This freed us up a car payment, which made the monthly expenses list so much easier. I should also say that his truck was 13 years old but dependable, so we weren’t paying much toward repairs, either.
 
-We previously bought a house with a manageable monthly payment.  In fact, our house payment is lower than our 2 bedroom duplex rent! We bought a house with the goal of not being “house poor” and unable to do anything because all of our money would be going into the house.  We also bought it knowing that if one of us lost our job, the other could easily still make the payment.
 
We cut out the extras. Cable, high cell phone bills, going out to eat often, excess shopping, etc. etc. We really pared down to the essentials.  A friend wants to get together? Great. Make a desert and invite them over instead of going out. We need new clothes? Great. See what can be bought by thrifting before buying retail. Missing that morning latte? Great. Learn to whip up an even better concoction with that immersion blender you never use. It’s not about giving up as much as is it about adapting.
 
When something broke or ran out, we didn’t replace it. During this time, my computer crashed and our tv broke. We have yet to replace them (we do just fine with my husband’s old laptop and our ipad for Netflix). We cut out so many household expenses – instead of napkins, we use cloth. Instead of paper towels and cleaning wipes, we use rags. Basic principle – when something ran out, we improvised instead of re buying it.
 
We budgeted like crazy. Now, this is an area we could both still grow in, so I don’t want you to think we have a perfect system in place. But we organized and reorganized our expenses. We had a list of every monthly expense, when it was due, and every debt & when we could expect to pay it off. We started paying for essentials in cash. We didn’t use credit cards. 
 
We prayed through the tough times. I know what it’s like to do all the above and still watch your bank account drop so low you don’t know how you’ll pay the electric bill due in 2 days or buy groceries. Start praying. Start repeating His promises to yourself and declaring them (“I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread,” “look at the birds of the air…”).  You have $20, or even $5? Great. That’s enough for groceries for a couple meals or gas to get you where you need to be. Start thinking day by day versus month by month. 

Have you ever lived on one income or a limited income? What worked for you? Please share your strategies below!
 
[This is part one in a two part series. Check back next week for part 2 -lessons learned from living on one income.]

Bless the Changes

I had a reader ask me recently where the blog updates were. It’s been a while, has it not? I reflexively want to extend my apologizes, but on the other side of that same coin, I don’t feel remorse for taking a necessary break. It wasn’t anticipated or planned, but somewhere along the way it started happening and it felt justified. It’s not because life was “busy,” because life is always busy, and you should never buy that excuse from a writer.  I just needed a little head space to process some huge changes and events in my life. That said, please trust that I love this little online space and I have no intention of going away for good. (btw, You can subscribe on the right over there so you don’t miss any of my posts).

I’m always processing and taking down notes. It’s a switch I cannot shut off. It is how I am wired. If left to long without “dumping” said thoughts onto a page I will start to go crazy. I will become an irritable, emotional hypo manic mess.  Just ask my husband who has learned when it is appropriate to ask me if I’ve been writing and if that is all that is the matter with me. Sigh, such a glamorous way of existence! 

bless the changes | naturallyjmharris.com

Anywaysssssss.  We’ve both been experiencing some big changes. After a long process of deliberation, Solomon made the decision to leave the company he was with for 5 years for another contractor opportunity. It wasn’t an easy choice for either of us because we love his boss and the company in general to death and it served us so well. It had nothing to do with any issue. It was just time. He experienced many mixed emotions about this decision, not excluding sadness. Shortly after he accepted a new job we came across a Craigslist ad for the job I have now accepted. I wasn’t looking, though I knew the season I’ve been in for over a year would come to an end at some point. I’ve been wrestling with similar emotions.

What started as such a rough time for me has blossomed into a season of deep growth and refreshment. I’ve never learned so much about myself in such a concentrated amount of time. For months I didn’t work at all due to my health, and then I sort of self-employed myself with odds and ends – tutoring, consistent babysitting. I think a lot of people assume I haven’t worked at all in 2 years which is simply not the case, ha. The real story is that while I have worked, it hasn’t been my main focus. Which was entirely appropriate due to a whole host of reasons, but that season is now closing. I worked hard at home. I hung clothes on a clothes line and made all kinds of meals from scratch. I decorated and purged belongings we no longer needed. I planted flowers and took tons of hikes with our dog. I caught up with friends and learned to invest in interests I didn’t know I had.  I went to doctors appointments and got testing done and problems corrected.  I learned a healthy work- home life balance that will serve me so well in the future. 

bless the changes | naturallyjmharris.com

In short, I’m not the same person who quit her office job 2 years ago. I’m healthier in more ways than one.  It would be easy to keep doing what I’m doing now because it works so well for us.  Similarly, it would have been easy for Solomon to stay at the same job. But if he had he would have had less opportunities and less room for growth. I’m realizing that you have to allow life to unfold in the way it must. You have to keep moving where it moves. Even when it is hard and frustrating and emotional at first – that doesn’t mean it’s not right. 

So, I’ll go to my new job in a couple hours, and I’ll put my heart into it. I’ll work hard to prove myself at an opportunity I never saw coming and didn’t know really existed. I’ll bless the Lord for it and bless the changes. And I’ll promise to keep reflecting. Because we know nothing good comes from a bottled up Michaela 😉

[tweetthis]You have to allow life to unfold in the way it must. You have to keep moving where it moves…bless the changes.[/tweetthis]

Our Home Ownership Journey (part two)

This is part two. Read part one here.

I think that sometimes when you are going through a difficult situation, it can be easy to downplay your emotions or write them off as unfounded.  After all, if at the end of this season we were able to purchase our own home, why should it matter what we went through to get there? But that’s just not the way that it works. Every time that emotions surfaced, I had a choice. I could call them illegitimate and attempt to bury them, or I could deal with them and accept them for what they were. The latter is more difficult. It takes time, self-acceptance, and energy. But if I had never done that, my personal growth would be stunted.  I would have missed out on the opportunity to recognize the depth of the blessing and joy that the Lord provided in the midst of the process, and we might not have grown as close together as a couple as we did.  

photo by mari feitosa

We moved in in November 2015, just in time to share our first Christmas in the house together. We were asked often if the house felt like home. For the first few months the answer was honestly not yet. By that time in our 2 years of married life, we had moved 4 times. The process was wearisome and it didn’t just feel real that we’d actually be able to settle and call our house home for years to come. A friend told us that it would feel like home in time – after we had shared memories in the home, meals cooked, people over. Hearing that was relieving. The feeling couldn’t be forced.

photo by mari feitosa

Lately, though, my feelings have shifted. We’ve started to live in the house and develop rhythms that make it ours. We’ve shared meals with friends, watched the sunset outside the kitchen window, arranged and rearranged rooms and begun cleaning up the wooded yard. I don’t long for what we used to have, but instead am grateful for the goodness that this process birthed.  We are looking ahead to the roots we will put down in this home, but recognizing still that permanence doesn’t come from our earthly dwelling.

photos by the so-talented Mari Feitosa- check out more of her work on her website here or her facebook page here!

Our Home Ownership Journey (part one)

In the spirit of my last post, I woke up this morning with a desire to share a little more of our journey that brought us to the place we are now – more specifically, the home we are blessed to call our own.

photo by the so-talented Mari Feitosa- click to check out more of her work!

 

If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you may have realized that it was my original intention to share many steps in the process of renovating our fixer upper.  And while I haven’t completely closed the door on that category, it has obviously not been fleshed out in the way I originally planned. But that’s okay.

The truth is is that the series of events leading up to the purchasing of our home were very much unexpected and difficult. We had moved from our first rental to a 2 bedroom duplex in May of the previous year with the intention of lowering our cost of living so we could save for a house. However, we ended up loving the duplex and talked about staying for longer than we’d intended, even discussing using the second bedroom for an eventual nursery. It might not have seemed like much to anyone else, but to us it was just right. It was in a quiet neighborhood where we could walk the dog at night and a yard we let our cats roam during the day. We had a garage and a basement and just enough space to easily make ours and enjoy married life. I’ve said before that I never minded renting, and I still hold to that. 

It seemed like it was just after we really made the place a home that I started to get sick. As soon as we realized that it was from the city water that had toxic levels of by-products in it, we moved.  Quickly. I’m talking overnight. I was too sick to do otherwise, so we moved into a bedroom at my parent’s house and packed up our belongings within a week. We spent a little time discussing whether we’d rent again or go ahead and buy before we decided to put the money we’d saved into a down payment and speed up our timeline for purchasing a home. I realize now that having that money at that time was nothing less than the Lord’s provision and care for our lives, but it still hadn’t been our plan and the sudden loss of our home was difficult to contend with.

We didn’t find our home until after the winter, so the purchase date was almost exactly one year after signing the least on our duplex, allowing me some time to recover before beginning work on our now home.

For some time, if I drove near our rental or past our exit on the highway, feelings would surface that I’d have to place before the Lord.  Feelings of loss, of frustration over my illness, of anger at the sudden forced move. I had someone ask me recently why this was the case- wasn’t I so glad to own our home? And the answer is yes, absolutely. Our course I am grateful for the way these series of events lead to where we are now. But I can’t hide the fact that for both of us, it was a very difficult year. 

Look for part two next week – tues., april 5!

Lately (March)

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hello, gracious reader.

If you’re here, I just want to say thank you – thank you for sticking by me through these past couple months of infrequent posting. I care about this space very much and I thought it was high time to fill you in on some of the recent happenings in my life.

since the new year it’s been crazy. we made it through the holidays, through my husband’s new job position, through new jobs of my own (tutoring & babysitting, both of which I am loving), though an unexpected family crisis, and now through the recent surfacing of my health issues. All this on top of an already new home with unpacked boxes and routines that have yet to be found.  Needless to say, it’s been a LOT in every way.

The dust has settled some and we’re feeling our way through these changes.  Here are some of the ways I’ve been coping with change and busyness – perhaps you’ll be able to glean something through my necessary adjustments to apply to your own life

  • I’ve created a new housework routine that works, combats overwhelm & makes it possible for me to get done what needs done in spite of varying degrees of chronic fatigue. I love it! It’s so much more manageable than how I previously was doing things.
  • I’ve been fighting for my health, making necessary adjustments where need be. I’ve been getting tons of sleep, eating well, visiting doctors & getting bloodwork done, and learning about my body’s needs. [more on this subject soon.]
  • I’ve been asking for help. My husband’s been making dinner on my longest work day, which is the hugest relief.  He’s also been paying bills and doing tons of other work around the house, which takes weight off my shoulders.
  • I’ve been having fun – seeing friends, taking walks at parks, and this weekend going on an overnight trip. I’ve started viewing this time as a recovery period and giving myself the necessary grace to support that.

I want to state simply that I’m still here, that naturallyjmharris.com is not going anywhere, and that I so appreciate any grace you extend me through this transition.

Create a Housework Routine that Works

If you follow me in Instagram, you might have seen the post where I recently identified a pattern of mine: saving every single home-to do for one marathon day of cleaning/organizing/grocery shopping.  The obvious issue with this method is that it leads to overwhelm and relies on large reserves of time and energy. I’ve known this for a while, of course, but I’ve justified it by saying that I’d rather do it that way then have to clean every day.

This weekend I found myself with a house that has literally not been cleaned in weeks, an entirely empty fridge, and 5 loads of laundry that needed washing. Obviously, this “system” is not working!  With a couple of new work days and an increased amount of fatigue that I’m trying to figure out, I can’t afford to not change my ways.  I’m leaning into self-discipline once again, and I thought I’d share some of my ideas in the chance that you can relate to my craziness. This method could certainly apply to work or really anything that requires self-motivation, but for the sake of this post I’m applying it to housework to help you create a housework routine that works for you.


  1. Write out a master list of home chores and break them down.  Full disclosure: my husband and I actually wrote out the chores like this
    create a master list & break down tasks for a housework routine that works. | naturallyjmharris.com
    master list

    months ago. He’s done his share and I have as well -mostly- but I’ve never successfully broke them down. To do so, I plan to use my new get to work book project pad on a weekly basis. I’ll write out all current tasks that need accomplishing and tackle them step by step throughout the week.

  2.  Assign them to days on the calendar. To ensure a solid home rhythm, I’ll look at my planner at the start of every week and drop tasks in on the
    create a housework routine that works! | naturallyjmharris.com
    weekly task breakdown

    days I think I can accomplish them. For example, today I had “clean out oven” and “start chicken in crock pot” as priorities. If I accomplish those and have time/energy to spare, I can check the get to work book pad to see what else needs done. It’s up to you how specific you want to get with this. I’m not planning on including tasks that we do every day like the dishes. Because my days vary, I’m not planning on doing a traditional schedule (Monday laundry, Tuesday floors, and so forth), but that could work well for you.

  3. The days that I have more energy – get more done. This will easily allow for unexpected sickness, events, tasks, and so forth – not to mention days that I just don’t feel like doing housework and want to spend my energies elsewhere.
  4. Remind myself of the value of discipline. Personally – I’m doing this because it will guard against overwhelm and create peace and order in my home. I value stewardship of my home & what the Lord has given me. I value openness of my schedule and flexibility, & this will help support that.  I value my well-being and recognize that my current pattern doesn’t foster joy.