I have several goals for vacations and travel:
- Take vacations with healthy regularity
-Have a meaningful and memorable time
-Use frugality and wisdom so you're freed up to go more often!
Since my husband is a business owner, I usually only have a couple weeks' notice to plan little trips, and I take great delight in doing so. We recently had an incredible little getaway in the Georgia mountains and I would love to share some tips for taking memorable and frugal vacations:
Please don't just call up Red Roof Inn or the Hilton and stay in a hotel. If you have to stay in a hotel, use Hotwire and at least get a great deal and make your location a mystery :) But try using AirBnb (click here to sign up and get $35 off using my link) for staying somewhere really interesting. It cost us $82 to stay in the basement of a cabin and get a gorgeous and delicious breakfast, and check out this view:
Also, state parks often offer cabins, cottages, and even yurts. Our lakefront yurt at Sweetwater Creek State Park cost $85 (and could've slept 6) and it was gorgeous. (But we didn't bring linens so we had to buy some at Walmart real quick. We were able to bring our sheets and blankets back home but it hurt to throw away $8 worth of pillows that we only used one night. Oh well, it was worth it.)
2. Find the best deals.
Rome2Rio is a site that shows you the cheapest way to get from one point to another. If flying, use Google Flights or a similar site that shows you a calendar and even bar graph of the cheapest rates at different dates and from various airlines. I feel uncomfortable with paying more than $100 for a round-trip plane ticket to anywhere on the east coast. It's far too easy to find them cheaper. (This morning I found round-trip tix to Cleveland for $40!)
I love discount airlines such as Frontier and Spirit. People complain that they nickel-and-dime you for everything, but I see that as A La Carte pricing rather than a ripoff. If I choose to only bring one carryon, I don’t care about where I sit, and I don’t expect food on my flight, I don’t want to have those luxuries added onto my ticket. And if I do want to pay for those things, I can factor that into the cost of my ticket and it will still probably be cheaper.
Also, Costco is an amazing resource for acquiring rental cars and they throw in some good benefits. And check back every once in awhile because you can cancel your rental car without penalty and book it more inexpensively if possible.
3. Pack light.
More stuff, more problems. If possible, avoid checked baggage because waiting for your suitcase can be pain, and only use a carryon. Max out their sizes for a personal item so you can fit more stuff and avoid paying for extra baggage.
4. When you arrive, head to a grocery store and buy some essential foods so you won’t have to eat out as often.
-A gallon or 1.5-liter of water and a nice drinking bottle for each person (smartwater makes really quality water bottles.)
-A bag of apples or oranges (or some other sturdy fruit)
5. If you see a glorious brown state park sign or scenic overlook, it’s probably worth pulling over to see it.
There's a hefty chance it might be one of the most breathtaking things you’ve ever seen!
8. Try to implement minimal amounts of time spent on social media.
Nothing makes a moment forgettable like spending it all on your phone. Be present. Set a goal, such as “No Facebook more than 2x a day”, and stick to it. Breathe in nature, make conversation, sit, pray, think, read. Almost anything we do is a better way to spend time than on our phones, especially when on vacation!
9. Visit a solid local church and hang out afterwards.
The Gospel Coalition, 9 Marks, Sojourn Network, and Acts 29 all have directories you can use to find churches that might be solid. Check out the church's website, read their values. I signed up for an email list of a church we were planning to visit, and the pastor reached out and asked if there was anything he could do for us. I told him we were visiting that weekend and would love to grab lunch with people afterwards. He offered us a place to stay (but we already had accomodations) and reached out to several couples in the church and arranged for us to have lunch with some of them! It turned out that we had some really awesome and random things in common with these people (most of all our love for the gospel!), we had some rich conversations over good BBQ, and we hope to stay in touch with them. That was a super encouraging highlight of our trip!
10. Plan times of praying together.
I remember being greatly encouraged hearing about John Piper’s times away with his wife and how they would pray through scripture. Choose some passages beforehand (John 15 is amazing!) and take turns reading those scriptures out loud and worshipping God through them, begging God to help you apply them. This might be your favorite part of the trip!
11. Plan times of peacefulness and gazing.
As a business owner, there isn’t such thing as a true “vacation”, really—especially when you have employees who are depending on you—so my husband still had to spend several hours on the phone and computer each day of our trip. That was fine because it afforded me the opportunity to be alone and just behold. I sat on a rock for a long while gazing at mountains. I laid on a bench and gazed at the leaves above me for an hour and a half. Those moments of quiet peacefulness and worship were healing for my body and soul.
12. Bring a meaningful audiobook.
Before we left I bought a 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness audiobook by Eric Metaxas and we were able to make it through some of the book as we drove in the car. It was informative, interest, and thought-provoking and helped enrich our time and conversation.
13. Go Geocaching!
Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt that takes place around the world. It's free using an app and it's an awesome way to get yourself to go outside and explore places you've never been. Sometimes they have logs for you to sign or little treasures to swap. It's really fun! See that little ammo can peeking out between the twigs?
14. Pray beforehand!
You can spend hours planning and preparing, but your trip can still be really lame. You and the people you’re traveling with can be argumentative, whiny, ungrateful, sick, etc. I don’t usually pray that my trips will go smoothly because a lot of times disruptions, inconveniences, and even sickness might be the very things that God uses to increase my joy on the trip. Beg that God will lead you in worship on your trip and strengthen the relationships of those with whom you’re traveling. Pray that God will give you grace to love Him more and see Him as the source of all the beautiful things you’re about to encounter. And enjoy Him! :)
I hope this was encouraging to you! Let me know your tips and tell me about your travels! :)
And now for a few more pics of our trip:
I am one of the most ambitious yet least disciplined people I know. I dream big but don't like to do mundane work. I'm a Myers-Briggs ENFP and an Enneagram 7 to the max.
Lately, my shortcomings in responsibility have been really hurting myself and others. The house has been a perpetual disaster, making my home quite unhospitable (we're talking gross, not just "imperfect") and hindering my desires to have people over. Homeschool was inconsistent. I've been struggling with my personal disciplines too, and laziness had begun to rule me. I have started so many new systems and plans and bought or created so many organizational tools that I thought would help, but I haven't stuck with any of them. At the beginning of the year I read a really helpful book by Tim Challies called Do More Better that has helped me see why and how I should seek productivity, and what really changed everything was early this summer when my friend Rachel asked me if I had heard of Bullet Journaling.
Basically, a bullet journal is what you make it. You create an index at the beginning and you can use any notebook and turn it into your personal planner/accountability partner/diary/savings tracker/whatever you want it to be. Any short search on Instagram or Pinterest will overwhelm you with all the different ideas for how to implement Bullet Journals. Many of the bullet journals on Pinterest scared me, because with three kids and house that's at least twice as large as I can manage, I don't have very much free time at all. Spending hours color-coding and maintaining complicated keys and legends and focusing on artsiness (the skills of which I do not naturally possess) would be counterproductive for me.
So, as all BuJo users are encouraged to do, I've made it my own. And it's seriously changed my life.
This will be a large post so skim as you see fit.
Pens: I've tried Microns and Sharpie pens and Staedtler, and guess what I found: they're expensive and get stolen by toddlers and they're simply not conducive to my lifestyle. Plus, if I'm going to rainbow-color everything in my book, it will be really frustrating if my pattern is calling for a purple and I don't have a purple on hand. The inconsistency will stand out and I therefore might quit.
So guess what pen I've been using for my Bullet Journal:
Whatever cheap ballpoint pens are lying around! Usually they don't even have caps. But guess what, they work great, they deal well with water (unlike gel pens) and they look consistent.
Post-It Notes: Or their generic counterparts. You can spend money on various sizes or you can rip them to the size of your choosing.
Washi tape: You don't need much, but they will prove very helpful for making tabs. As you read this post, notice that I folded over pieces of tape to create tabs on the pages that I visit the most. I like to get mine from Raindrop Washi Shop on Etsy. Sometimes they sell a discount grab bag of slightly damaged rolls, and slightly damaged is my jam!
Separate planner: One of the most impractical things about the Bullet Journals I've seen are that people are taking the time and space to make them their weekly planners. That takes so much time. I will show you how to do otherwise.
So I recommend having a separate planner for your week. I use the Passion Planner for scheduling my week and choosing my meals and prioritizing my tasks. It is not overwhelming to have a weekly planner in addition to a Bullet Journal. By the way, you can print out the Passion Planner PDF for free.
Let's take a peek at the first page of my current journal's index.
I found it important to include in the first few pages of my journal why I'm doing these things in the first place, what my roles and goals are, and how I'm hoping to achieve them.
Bottom line: I want to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. But from that comes another way of phrasing why I want to be productive: Bless the World.
The scriptures I included to motivate my productivity were:
1 Corinthians 15:58
2 Corinthians 9:8
I divided my roles into spheres of influence, or spheres of blessing, and I included their ministries:
Self - Nurture my own body and soul so that I may enjoy Jesus and welcome others into this joy.
Family - Disciple and educate my children, strengthen my husband, and actively pursue all aspects of healthiness for each member of our family.
Neighbors - Be a good neighbor to all the people I know and meet by sharing and reflecting the gospel.
The World - Let my faithfulness in closer spheres of influence extend to far-reaching ministry.
This is the single most useful thing about the Bullet Journal for me. I'm able to use a chart and track how frequently or infrequently I'm actually accomplishing the things I really want to do. It was quite humbling at the beginning to realize that I thought I was much more disciplined than I actually was. "Oh, I actually only read out loud to my kids twice in the past week?"
"I never really have private prayer."
"Yikes, I'm not as consistent doing ___ as I thought."
It's excellent accountability for many different things about my life that I'm trying to improve. And I'm improving! That's so encouraging and I feel so much better getting more done each day.
Of course I recommend putting some things on your list that are a piece of cake to get done (such as making your bed or taking your vitamins.) And some things should really challenge us.
I don't think it's wrong to set a timer and make sure you spend 10 min in prayer or 15 min reading the Bible. That doesn't necessarily make a duty out of what should be a delight. If you've already decided that you delight in those things and know that you'll only delight in them more if you actually do them, that's evidence that this is not a dutiful task. But oftentimes we just get distracted and it's easier to scroll down Facebook than do what you know your soul needs.
As I look at my older notebook, it's neat to see that I'm shading more and more blocks over time. Some habits were set in and I was able to remove those from the list when I made this one. I hope to always be challenging myself and making new habits.
On the adjacent page I have stuck the following Post-it notes:
-a To-Do List post-it note of time-sensitive items that are not habits (such as "email this person" or "buy this thing")
-a lift of people I'm trying to remember to encourage
-the week's scripture memory verse
-the references to previous week's verses.
I also recommend putting your habits in order so you can move down the list as you go about your day.
For example, I want to read my Bible as soon as I wake up, so it's near the top of my list, but there are some things I plan for doing while the kids nap, after lunch.
Here's my list:
I also keep a tracker of my weekly habits; things I want to accomplish each week. (Don't judge me for how pathetic I am at keeping habits! Lol!)
Affirmations/Daily Truths:The popular thing lately is to repeat "affirmations" to yourself to begin your day. The idea is that you tell yourself things that you want to be true and they will therefore actually become true, such as "I am will love myself no matter what because I'm worth it" or "Wonderful things are going to happen to me today." If you want to see a list of examples, click here.
My personal belief is that the "love-yourself" mindset is not only selfish and foolish but also ineffective in actually helping your self-esteem. So, to be clear, I think self-focused and wishful-thinking affirmations are harmful, and I hate them. Also, denying that suffering is going to happen in no way prepares you for suffering.
But I like the idea of repeating things to yourself so I have come up with my own true affirmations, taken straight out of the Word of God. It's helpful to wake up each morning and remember eternal reality that changes everything for today.
So here are my daily affirmations. (I underlined the highlights for if I'm in a hurry.)
I am not strong in the area of private prayer. That shows a lot about my pride, yuck! So I've found it helpful to organize my prayer foci by week:
Sunday - my church
Monday - my family
Tuesday - people who don't know Jesus
Wednesday - the world
Thursday - my community group
Friday - my city / my country
Saturday - prayer requests gathered from the week
The prayer requests I wrote on the other days are general; I embellish as I pray. But Saturdays are for the more recent struggles; sickness, natural disasters, current events, friends who suffered loss, etc.
I like the way this works and I don't feel bound to the list. If it's a Thursday but I really want to pray for my family, that's okay. If I want to pray for multiple days that's great. I want to be led by the Spirit but also make sure that I'm actually praying for people.
Child Translation Guide:
Anyone who lives or works with young children will have a blast with this one. Sometimes kids really mispronounce words. It probably doesn't make any sense to other people who don't know them, but, for example, every time my daughter sees a buffalo and calls it a "buffafo", I want to cry happy tears because it's extremely cute. I want to always remember the cuteness. My parents remember words my brother and I mispronounced as young children and it makes us feel loved.
I printed some of my favorite hymns or songs and stuck them in the pocket in the back. Recently my heart felt really overwhelmed by some news from a friend, but the lyrics to William Cowper's "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" were right in the back of my bullet journal, so I was able to quickly turn my heart to the Lord through song.
Here are a few other peeks into my present or former bullet journal. I will post much more later but these are just some ideas to get started. Please let me know the creative ideas you have! I might feature them in a future follow-up post about bullet journals!
The second chapter of David Powlison's latest book, Good and Angry, is titled "Do You Have a Serious Problem with Anger?" When I saw it in the table of contents, I was excited to read it and take a personality questionnaire or something of the like to find out if this is something I struggle with. Then I discovered that the entirety of chapter consists of one singular word:
We all have a problem with anger. Whether it's---to use Powlison's examples from real life---exchanging gunshots with your spouse in your home or intentionally ignoring a frantic person who is asking you for help, every single one of us struggles with anger and we might all have different kinds of blind spots. It was very humbling to see these. Nobody wants to admit that they have an anger problem, but after reading this I'm seeing that I really do and I always have.
The thing that surprised me most from this book, however, is that anger is not inherently bad. I knew this to some degree because I know that Jesus flipped the tables when the temple was being misused. I know that God has righteous wrath against evil. I knew that it's good that I'm angry about the slaughter of millions of unborn children each year. But I didn't even know what anger is, exactly, or in what ways it affects me, or in what ways I can channel it for good. Good and Angry answered more questions for me than I knew I even had.
This book is an incredible resource that was so instructive on each page. The reflection questions at the end are excellent for personal or group study. I have never read very much gospel-centered perspective on anger before so this was refreshing, humbling, and good. I'm grateful.
Buy it on Amazon here!
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Nobody should have to go into debt over visiting Disney World. It's just not worth that. But don't feel like that means you can't go.
I love going to Disney, partially because it's an amazing and beautiful place with so much to behold, and partially because I live for the deal and finding good deals at Disney is a delightful challenge for my odd little soul.
And I have figured out how to stay there---and have fun there---for cheap without ever even entering the parks.
September is an amazing month to visit Disney. As you can see, Florida residents can stay at a Disney's Fort Wilderness campsite for as low as $39 before tax. 10 people can stay on a campsite. So if you're a family and you split the campsite with another family for one night, it'll cost each of you about $12 a day to stay at Disney. Or, if you're a single person and you can find nine other people who will go with you...you can go to Disney for less than $3 a day! I'm giddy with delight at the thought.
Or, if camping is a deal-breaker, you can stay at a value resort for $86 before tax (. Those resorts are fun and you can still do a lot of the same things I'm about to mention, but the hotel rooms are nothing special and you don't get the same experience.
When I'm looking at rates, I google "special offers Disney resort" and make sure I'm seeing the Florida resident discount. It's usually 30% off. But be aware that prices fluctuate immensely. At Christmastime, the cheapest campsite might very well cost $100!
Newbies to Disney might think that all the fun to be had is in the parks. I beg to differ! There is so much fun that's included in the price of staying at a Disney resort. And staying at Fort Wilderness makes it super easy.
So what would you do at Ft. Wilderness for two whole days?
I figured the best way to describe what you can do is by making a sample schedule (complete with meal plan!)
10 am - Arrive and park in the parking lot while you wait for your campsite to be ready. (However, it's possible you can check in early!) Take a bus to Disney Springs.
Visit Basin and try the different hand lotions. Visit Ghirardelli and get a free chocolate just for walking in the store. Check out the LEGO store and build stuff. If you want to eat out, Earl of Sandwich is reasonably priced and you can get coupons in your email if you sign up beforehand. If you want to see a movie, a matinee at the AMC Theatres Disney Springs 24 costs $5.49. There's plenty more to do, and Disney is expanding this area massively.
You can also take a boat from Disney Springs (for free) to the following Disney Resorts (all of which are really different and special in their own way and deserve exploration): Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West.
1 pm - Take the bus back to Ft. Wilderness, check in, and ride your car to your campsite and set up. I recommend bringing twinkly lights or something with which you can personalize your site. Some people go all out, especially at Halloween and Christmas, and if your campsite is not decorated you will feel very Eeyore-ish.
2:30 pm - Hit the pool! Fort Wilderness has an awesome kids area as well as a decent water slide. They often have poolside crafts or activities too.
5:30 pm - Head back to the campsite for hot dogs or burgers from your grill. Oranges are great fruits to bring while camping.
6:30 pm- Check out Tri-Circle-D Ranch and say hello to the horses and ponies that are used in the Magic Kingdom parades!
Evening hours fluctuate based on season so these are tentative times:
8:00 pm- Go to Chip and Dale's Campfire Singalong. They have a cowboy leading in live music as well as the beloved chipmunks who dance and take pictures with everyone in the audience. It's an incredible experience of community celebration. They also have campfires lit so bring your S'more stuff! (Or pay $10 to buy theirs! Ouch!)
8:30 pm- Watch a movie by the campfire. The projection quality is incredible and of course they'll be showing Disney movies.
9:30 pm- Head to the marina and sit on the beach for the electrical lights parade. The music is dated and the floats are odd, but it's still a neat experience. I mean, you're seeing a parade in the water at night while you're sitting on the beach!? They also have tetherball nearby.
10 pm- While you're on the beach, enjoy an awesome view of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom! The everyday fireworks are great, but the fireworks during Mickeys Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party are exclusive to those who pay zillions of dollars to attend those events, but anyone watching from the beach gets to see them for free! The sound is even pumped in to the beach so you get to hear what they're hearing in Magic Kingdom.
One of my friends joked that he was sure he saw a firework shaped like a dollar sign, and Peter replied that "Disney is where your money goes to die," but hopefully this article is helping to disprove that theory.
10:30 pm- Go to bed!
Peter likes to stay up and go to the quiet pool (that doesn't close late at night) and sit in the hot tub and/or play Guitar Hero in the arcade. Or, if you're riding your bike, you can head to the Wilderness Lodge via a bike trail and enjoy their arcade. It's living the life for sure.
8 am - Wake up and grab some breakfast you brought from home. Orange juice + muffins will fill you up nicely. However, here are some eating-out options:
~Trails End buffet - For Disney standards, it's an excellent value at $20 per adult and $10 per child over 3 (and the price includes drinks, and there's a discount if you're an annual Passholder.) That's still really expensive and I've only been there once, but check out the menu. The food is so good.
~P & J's Southern Takeout - You can get some decent grub for affordable prices. A very filling breakfast "bounty" is under $10. See menu here.
~Take the boat to the Contemporary resort and eat at the bistro. A kids meal breakfast platter is $5 and has a decent amount of food.
~Take the boat to Wilderness Lodge and eat at the Roaring Fork. They have super-fancy waffles for about $8.
9 am - Ride your bike around the trails or take the bus to somewhere you can take a nature walk (there's a really lovely nature walk by the marina that gives you incredible views of the lake.) This might be your favorite part of the trip because there are some beautiful sights for a walk.
10 am - Start packing up your campsite as you must check out by 11 (though you can always call and ask for a late checkout.) Park your vehicle in the lot and head to the marina for another day of fun!
11 am - You can ride a boat to Disney's Wilderness Lodge or to Disney's Contemporary Resort (both are deluxe resorts.) Here's what you can do at each (all for free):
~Wilderness Lodge is something to behold. Outside they have an impressive geyser that goes off every hour on the hour. The landscaping is beautiful. Inside the lobby you'll be amazed by the architecture and theming. There's a huge lovely fireplace.
We also like to play at their playground and beach (though there is presently lots of construction transpiring, which might spoil those plans.)
We usually indulge and eat one meal out. At the Whispering Canyon Cafe, the servers yell at each other and show you lots of sass. It's really fun and the food is tasty.
But the Roaring Fork Cafe has delicious food too that costs about $10-12.
~I'm not sure why Disney's Contemporary Resort can charge so much money per night because, in my opinion, it doesn't have much to offer, besides one big thing: the monorail.
The monorail can take you to Magic Kingdom, the Ticket and Transportation Center (eventually to Epcot), Disney's Polynesian Resort, and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.
Visiting Polynesian is my favorite thing to do when I camp at Fort Wilderness. Sure, it takes some effort to get there, but it's such a fun luau-ish atmosphere and you can get Dole Whip!!!
Dole Whip is dairy-free pineappley soft serve magic and a decent-sized cup of it is $5 (which, again, by Disney standards, is pretty good. And you just saved so much money that you can totally justify this!) I like to get my Dole Whip, sit on a swinging bench, and watch my kids play on the beach.
Do remember that this is the same lagoon (but different resort) where that terrible tragedy with the alligator happened. Keep a close eye on your kids and enforce the no-water rule. But the beach is large and fun for playing.
And lunch at Polynesian's Capt. Cook's restaurant is, in my opinion, a must. Their grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, cheese, pineapple salsa, housemade chips, and fresh coconut bread bun, is so amazing and $10. The other menu items are also incredible and decidedly pineapple-infused.
From Polynesian you can walk or ride the monorail to Grand Floridian. I love beholding this resort, especially at Christmastime, because it's so intricately fancy. Even going up the elevator is a treat. They also have a Basin store where you can try different soaps and hand scrubs. (Buying some soaps that are in the clearance pile makes great souvenirs! Their bath bombs are awesome too.)
From Grand Floridian you can take the monorail back to Contemporary and then take the boat back to Ft. Wilderness, but I think it's much faster to take the monorail to Magic Kingdom then the boat to Ft. Wilderness. (Longer, more enjoyable boat ride, and less walking around.)
The rest of the day is up to you!
Here are some other tips:
-You cannot use a car to get around Fort Wilderness. You must either walk, ride a bike, take a (free) bus, or rent or bring a golf cart. (We ended up buying one on Craigslist since we go to Fort Wilderness so often! We hope to eventually sell it for approximately the same price we bought it for, ha!) Especially if you're with friends and can split the cost or you can't ride bikes, paying $60 for a golf cart rental might be the best decision you'll make on this trip. :)
-Whenever you ride a bus, a boat, or a monorail, your child can ask the driver, captain, or attendant for a Transportation Trading Card for free. Collect all 12! :)
-I really enjoyed Disney Pin Trading as a kid, and now my kids really enjoy it, and you can partake with the Cast Members at the resorts. If you want a good deal on getting started, visit Disney's Character Warehouse at the Orlando Premium Outlets. It's where you can go to get clearance items from Disney World! I got a 2015 lanyard for $1 (originally $8) and a set of Monsters U trading pins that ended up costing about $2 each (pins typically cost at least $7 each.) Teaching my kids to trade pins with Cast Members has been a great way to introduce manners and approaching adults with respect. And they love it, even though I think the pins they choose are really odd. (Did you really just give up Tinkerbell for Hades on a necktie?)
-They have lots of playgrounds at Fort Wilderness, and they're really good! Check them out!
-Bring glow sticks and glow bracelets! Dollar Tree will give you 8 for a buck.
-Going with friends truly is more fun. See if anyone will go with you!
I hope you have a super fun time at Disney! Send me your tips if there's anything I forgot to mention. The awesome thing about Disney is that even though I've been so many times in my life (probably 50 or more), I'm always finding new things and there's always so much more to discover!
And now for some pictures from my trips! We've probably gone to Fort Wilderness at least 6 times in the past year. It's our favorite little family getaway.
Here are some other posts I've written about Disney or frugality:
8 Ways Disney Helps My Soul
How to Have Meaningful Conversations About Disney
How to Save Money on Vacation
We Thrived on Less Than $20k (and How You Probably Can Too!)
I am, by almost every definition of the word, a “crunchy mama.” All my children have been born at home or a birthing center, I try to use natural alternatives to medicine and feed my kids healthy whole foods, I co-sleep and babywear, etc. And I’m very pro-breastfeeding. I’ve even written about 8 Ways Breastfeeding Leads Me in Worship. I nursed my older two kids until they weaned themselves as toddlers. I nursed in public. I championed other moms who nurse in public. You get the idea.
But then my third baby, Evangeline, came along and nursing was hard. I was in shooting pain almost every waking moment and—sorry if this is TMI—nursing was making me bleed so much that her stools turned black from consuming my blood! That freaked me out a little bit.
I tried everything I could to fix it; she had a lip-tie correction procedure, I tried pumping and using shields, I visited a lactation consultant multiple times…I felt so frustrated. And from all this pain and stress (combined with my own selfishness and sin) I was becoming a pretty terrible mother to all three of my kids.
After four and a half months, I talked to my husband and we prayed about it and decided to switch to formula feeding. I looked at the label on the formula I bought, and the first ingredient was “corn syrup solids.” How can that be considered food!? I cried so much. A couple weeks later my husband and I were watching a comedy and someone even made a joke about how formula-fed children aren’t as smart as breastfed children. This also made me cry.
I've read the statistics. I knew the benefits of breastfeeding. I imagined my Evangeline scoring lower on tests than my other two; I pictured her with more allergies and health problems than the other two. I could see her cute face becoming unnaturally, unrecognizably plump from the formula. I wondered if she and I would ever bond like I did with the others. And all these problems would be because of me. Because I couldn’t tough it out and do one of the most natural things in the world.
But now Evangeline is over nine months old. She’s been formula fed longer than she was breastfed. And you know what?
She’s a little thicker than my other two but she is not obese.
She is extremely alert and she is not dazed and unintelligent.
She’s bonded more with my husband than she has with me but that's really sweet.
I found a non-GMO formula with pretty decent ingredients from Costco that lasts me two weeks and costs $15. I’m really okay with that.
And guess what?
My life is so much easier.
Sometimes I ask the other kids to feed her a bottle. Actually, at this point, she even prefers to feed herself. Either way I am confident she gets sufficient snuggles.
She sleeps through the night, which means I do too. (Because of my other children, I went over four years without sleeping through the night. You have no idea how much of a gift this is to me.)
I can go on outings without her, no problem. For our anniversary, my husband and I had our first overnight getaway since 2011.
I went to Africa for nine days, for crying out loud. I didn’t think I’d be able to do a trip like that until I was, like, 40. But the day I decided to bottle-feed, I realized I could go! (And it was awesome.)
I’m not trying to get pregnant right now, but if I found out God gave me another baby, guess what! I wouldn't be stressed about it. Formula-feeding has given me so much independence that I don't feel like another baby would be "too soon."
And another huge benefit of this new experience is that I’m able to relate to a whole bunch of other moms now. When I’m speaking to a formula-feeding mom who might be suspicious that I’m being judgmental of her, she can now have confidence that I’m not judging her, and I’m not competing in the Mommy Wars, because I actually formula-feed my child and love it.
If God gives me a fourth baby, will I try to breastfeed him or her? Definitely. I don’t want to ignore God’s beautiful and gracious design for mothers to feed their kids this incredibly nutritious stuff that comes from our own bodies. Formula companies even openly admit that, health-wise, breastfeeding is best for infants.
But now I also know that formula-feeding is not the end of the world. I trace God’s hand through my nursing troubles and see His kindness to me through all of this. My baby is perfectly fine. Motherhood is quantifiably easier. It was the right decision for our family for this time. And I totally trust other families who make that decision too.
So I hope you’re encouraged, mamas or anyone, that if God gives you a perspective-broadening situation, that’s a gift. And who knows? Even though you didn’t ask for it, you might really enjoy it!
I've been struggling spiritually for the past few months. Lots of wrestling, lots of mentally-escaping, lots of unhelpful thinking. At one point I decided to consciously not read my Bible for awhile because I felt like my faith has just made my life harder. At times I want to ignore the reality of a sovereign God for a little while because life just feels easier that way.
But in the midst of all my rebellion and empty striving, God has been pursuing me so hard. I am unable to get around the fact that I belong to Him and that Christ has indeed paid for my sin. It's been so humbling to have such weak faith the past few months, but today especially God did something huge (through something very small) to show me that He is bigger than my struggle and He doesn't turn a blind eye like I often do when my children are disobedient. He is drawing me back to Himself.
Today was one of those days during which I was not desiring God. I had a really hard morning and there were about three thousand things I would have rather done than read the Word or pray. But my 2-year-old daughter sat down at the table for her post-nap snack and said, "Mommy, could you please read the Bible to me?"
I was very surprised that she requested this because a) she's two and not very spiritually-minded at this point, and b) I don't usually just sit and read chapters of the Bible to my kids. I have not modeled this before.
But how could I refuse such a request?
I asked her where she wanted me to read and she said "Psalms." So I opened to Psalm 46, a faithful friend of mine and many other believers throughout all of church history, and started reading. She listened and smiled and asked me to continue. I kept going. "Next chapter, please," she said. And this continued until Psalm 51 or so. As I read, my voice broke and my eyes filled with tears as God was comforting me through His Word, compelling me through the puppy dog eyes of my toddler, to seek Him whose face I've been avoiding.
It was made quite clearly to me in that moment that God was sovereign over my daughter's request. That request was unlike her but God knew what I needed, and He used my Piper to direct me to Him. Every single time a baby smiles or a kid does something cute or a teenager puts the dishes away or a husband kisses his wife, it's because our Jesus who "upholds the universe by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3) has caused it to be so.
And we know He does not tempt anyone to sin, but isn't God in at least some way sovereign over every time a baby cries or a child throws a tantrum or a teenager lies about his whereabouts or a husband fails to lead his wife? Proverbs 21:1 tells us the king's heart is a stream of water in the hands of God.
Psalm 147:15 says "He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly." Today the Lord saw my need for Him and he sent help. My sweet 2-year-old, though totally oblivious to being directed by the Lord, asked something of me that I so desperately needed to do, for my own sake far more than hers. And I'm so grateful. Hopefully, when my sweet 2-year-old has a potty accident or throws a tantrum in the middle of the mall, I'll also see this as God pursuing me and I will also feel grateful. He is such a kind God, and even His destruction is overflowing with righteousness (Isaiah 10:22.)
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!
I love God.
My name is Hope.
I'm 24. I have a sweet husband (Peter) and three little people ages 4, 2, and squishy-baby. I like lime green, Sherlock, spinach brownies, and about 10,000 other random little passions.
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