Monday, March 29, 2010

As for us and our home...

There are many reasons Mennos have gravitated toward certain areas of the country. Though I'm sure they could not have predicted the incredible chasm between home prices on the coasts vs the Mid-West, I am willing to bet that's one reason why they've stayed in these areas!

In Wichita, KS, a couple can buy a three bedroom, two full bath home with a garage, a fenced-in back yard and several other great amenities for just over $100,000. You need only watch HGTV on a Saturday afternoon for a few hours (or live somewhere other than the middle of the country) to know how freakin' awesome that is.

In fact, those same two people can live in an amazing house like that, and after spending a year paying off every last debt except the mortgage -- including both cars! -- that same couple can live comfortably on one income, and save the other person's WHOLE INCOME!

We are so excited and blessed and grateful to be one of those couples. When Brant and I met, he was in an apartment. Before we were engaged (but when we knew engagement was eminent) we started searching for a home. And we both agreed (hallelujah!) that the home should be inexpensive enough for us to be able to pay our house payment and ALL our bills on one income, so we could save and give away the rest. Praise God and thank you, Brant!

That means we can save mightily for Emily's college fund, be generous to our church and other causes about which we're passionate, pay cash for our next cars (after we've driven these two until they're dead -- thank you, Dave Ramsey) and many other opportunities to create and give away wealth. Personally, I've never known such freedom. And we both know ALL OF THIS BELONGS TO THE LORD who can and does give and take away in His perfect timing; we hold all this lightly, and gratefully. But we're already setting ourselves up to live a life of freedom from financial debt, and we so appreciate that both of us have been called by God into the same ways of thinking about money.

So here's the house!

As an additional blessing, Brant and I discovered early a shared love of mid-century architecture and design. So this house just so happens to match our tastes perfectly. Who could ask for more??

Here's the front of the house; the front door is on the side.

Here's looking onto the back deck, which is really cool and wraps around from the area between the house and the garage, and the back yard. Lots of trees!

This is looking into the back yard from the opposite direction. There's a nice shed and plenty of room for entertaining guests, for Izzy and Emily to run and play, and for just enjoying Kansas evenings by ourselves.

Here's the living room portion of the uber-open floor plan. Note Brant's awesome vintage furniture, including the coffee table, end table and lamp. The house is all hardwood or tile. Not a stitch of carpet in the place! (We're shopping for area rugs.)

This is moving to the right from the living room area. Brant and his dad built these fabulous shelves for all our books and I went ahead and moved in my books last weekend. (It was fun to do some pre-nesting!) Eventually this will be a reading corner, complete with lamp, end table and 1 or 2 chairs.

Moving again to the right, this is the dining area. (Note again: Brant's vintage dining set.) There's a corner that was meant to house a wood-burning stove, but we don't see ourselves going that direction so we're trying to decide what to do with the big concrete thingy in that corner. The tile work sure is nice!

Moving along to where the dining area meets the kitchen. This is all one, big U shape, separated only by the half wall you see on the far right. We both really love the floor plan and it's very conducive to preparing meals, interacting with each other and Emily, hosting guests, etc. Lots of sunlight. Awesome floors. We love it!

And here's the kitchen! It's not a great picture b/c it doesn't really capture all the cool, fun aspects of the space. But you get the idea. The countertops are concrete. There's plenty of cabinet space on both sides, even after previous cabinets were replaced with those dark wood shelves. The tiling and backsplash are really great colors. We just instantly loved this kitchen, and still do! We're looking forward to preparing lots and lots of meals here!

We hope you enjoyed this photo tour and look forward to having you over in person soon!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nothin' But Grace

As of this week, I have nothing but empathy and grace for all those friends and family who have gone before us and who chose to use credit cards to pay for parts of their weddings. We're staying strong! But the temptation is great.

Brant's overload teaching is doing a fine job of padding our "wedding account," and my little house-sitting jobs make fractional contributions to it, as well. But with 99 days left until W-Day -- and with lots of unpaid cells in the budget spreadsheet -- I'm admittedly feeling the pressure. It's amazing to me to that we can be as conscientious as we're being about costs and savings, and still feel this pinched.

For the record, I believe the main reason for this is that real life does not yield to wedding planning (the nerve!) I need four new tires; Brant received some unpleasant surprises regarding his taxes; we are putting a high priority on end-of-life and estate planning with an attorney (something about which I'm very passionate and could be a blog post of its own); we've mindfully committed to giving extra to our church right now as they invest in the future of our youth by creating a middle school/high school space in an unfinished part of the church building; and sometime before the wedding, we'd really like to take a trip to North Dallas to IKEA for a few inexpensive modern furniture pieces.

So, of course, most of these and other expenses are choices we're making (though the taxes aren't a choice and the tires are close to making the choice for me) and therefore there is nothing "unfair" about them. They're choices we'd be making quite comfortably were it not for that pesky wedding day! But it's amazing and challenging -- and transformative even -- when we commit to paying cash only for all expenses because it forces us to discern and agree on priority status for everything that comes up.

There is no conclusion or tidy ending to this blog post. More of an observation, and maybe a bit of a confession. I confess that I desire more than I can afford, and that I struggle to choose wisdom and the "things of heaven over the things of this earth." I suspect I always will. Thank God for the grace of Jesus...and for the fact that my credit card is hidden in someone else's house! :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Menno Friendly Wedding Invitations

Please forgive the long absence. Everyone asking, "So, how's the wedding planning going?" has gotten the same response: All the planning is done! Now we just have to hurry up and wait to get married. This long mid-western winter has definitely felt longer since we're counting the days until our wedding. I believe we're at something like 106 or 107. Whatever it is, it feels like a LOT!

Anyway, we really haven't had to work on anything so there hasn't been much to blog about.

I can share, however, that we're ready to go to print with our invitations, and the story of those invitations is one any Menno would love.

First, there's the piece itself.

With years of event planning experience under my belt, I know how expensive invitations can be. Even if one wants a simple invitation, outer envelope, reply card and inner envelope -- that ain't cheap! I was inspired by another woman's invitation, therefore, to go with a folding self-mailer. Our invitation folds up and the reply card is perforated at the bottom so when invitees open it up, all the information will be right there and they can tear out the reply card to send it back. No envelopes, no extra reply card. It's all printed two per sheet, and then cut, perf'ed and folded. Voila!

Second, there's the printing.

I realize not everyone's mother works for a print shop, but mine does and I'm not ashamed to ask for favors. (See honeymoon post.) We were able to pick out a beautiful linen paper, of which we'll only pay the cost, not the mark up. And I'm hoping we'll get a discount on the printing, folding, etc. AND I know their work is great. Check 'em out.

Lastly, there's design.

One of my favorite people in the whole world is a young woman I met when she was attending "Real Life" high school ministry at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, and I was a volunteer adult leader. I knew the second I met Frances MacLeod that she was special, but I really had no idea. Over the years, Frances and I have hung out in some of America's coolest cities -- Chicago, Kansas City, Boston...Andover, KS. She's got the kindest, most loving heart I've ever known. If you want to meet someone who embodies the 1 Corinthians 13 scripture that gets overused at weddings, find a way to introduce yourself to Frances.

She also happens to be a very talented designer.

She is in her second year at Columbia College in Chicago studying design/art direction and she's rockin' it out. Brant and I humbly asked her if she would consider designing our invitations, program and any other printed pieces and SHE AGREED! I'm not going to reveal the AMAZING AWESOME COOLEST-WEDDING-INVITATION-I'VE-EVER-SEEN invitation, but I will leave you with some fun examples of her work. Keep an eye on this one. "Great things" doesn't even begin to describe what she's going to do.