I met Karen through Pursuit Community over 3 years ago, and I am so excited to be sharing her with you. Karen is the sweetest girl, with the biggest heart. She is a wife, mama, ministry founder and small business owner. I hope you enjoy this conversation with her.
1. Tell us a little about yourself?
Growing up I was a rebel rousing country girl who dropped out of school and barely graduated. I've grown up in many ways over the years and by God's grace He keeps me going. And I keep following His footsteps. As much as I adore lipgloss, and boots and sparkle now, in my heartbeat still lies big trucks, country music and dusty dirt roads. As much as I pretend to hate my roots I think they might just be my very best parts. Because they keep me humble and true. That's where I found my fight, and learned to dig my feet in the ground for things that stung my heart. God found me there. In the broken crumbly bits of darkness where I tried to run, He found me. And He picked me up. And He put me back together and has been washing me in healing and grace and forgiveness ever since. I know what it's like to feel the burn of betrayal and the emptiness of abandonment. Yet I've found that God is in those too. He's in all of it. Drawing us closer to Him and turning us into love. For without the wounds we wouldn't know the victory in the winning. Or carry compassion in our communities. And isn't that the point? To use our story to help heal others? To lead them to Him? To keep walking? To keep fighting? To keep loving? Isn't that the point? I think it is.
These days you'll find me in a cozy house in Oregon dreaming of sunshine, and oceans, and farm living. I'm learning what contentment feels like, but I also believe that "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29:18 and that God places dreams and desires in our hearts to fulfill His purpose. So that's where I am. Breathing in the tension of what is and preparing for what's to come. My hubby and I just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. No, I don't feel old enough to say that. But I was 19 when we got married, so, you do the math and decide. We have 3 kiddos, 10, 8 & 1 and are in the process of adopting some more from Uganda. I founded Pursuit Community a few years ago which is a community and conference network for Christian creatives. So between that, my blog, our shopIntentional Home, and wrangling 3 kids and a hubby, my days are rarely quiet, or predictable. But they sure are filled with tons of laughter, dance parties, and making out in the kitchen.
2. What does a typical day look like for you?
My days are simple, and lovely, and I wouldn't change it for anything. We get up and make breakfast and lunches and get the big kids off to school. Once they are on their way I come home and Logan, our baby, plays around the living room while I get started with my day. He naps most of the morning which allows me to get all of my work done before lunch. Around mid-day I try to be all wrapped up with my work so that I can focus time on my house, family, and getting things ready for the evening. It's a really easy balance for me. I have work time, and family time, and I try my best to not mix the two. I don't want my kids remembering me on my computer, or phone, or distracted by all my things. However I don't want them to be ignorant of it either. I want them to know that I work hard, that God has called me with a purpose and them too. That walking that out is difficult at times, and takes sacrifice, but it's worth it. We are very open with our kids. They know when I have a deadline, or when I have to work more because of a conference, or ministry project. I just try and be present with them as much as possible. And I pray that they feel that.
3. What helps you stay organized?
Well, MY ASSISTANT Kristin is amazing. I would be really lost without her and our conference coordinator Kathleen. There is no way I could do what I do without those amazing ladies. My husband Isaac is also a huge, HUGE gift to me. He's very a-type, super organized and helps keep me on track.
Tangibly speaking, we have a lot of systems. Google calendar, Basecamp and voxer actually keep us very organized for all things Pursuit related. Google Calendar and Basecamp allow us to all have access to the same files, see what needs to be done, assign tasks to different people and send out announcements and messages to our team. Voxer is almost like our daily skype with each other. It allows us to have group voice messaging like a walkie talkie. This is a saving grace for our team... no joke. We can get questions answered easily and quickly, and ensure that we are all on the same page so we don't end up giving out different information.
For my side of things, blending Pursuit, my blog, Intentional Home responsibilities and running my home I actually developed a system that specifically works for me. That's actually where Intentional Home was born. I've ran a creative business for ten years. The whole time I've juggled kids and marriage. I honestly don't know what it's like to run a business without juggling all of those things. I needed a system that worked for me. The work at home mama who had a million things going on. The women who needed quiet time, and focus, and specific lists to get things done. I love planners... and I usually buy them all because they are so pretty. But sadly most of them didn't work for me because my day doesn't run on appointments, and strict timelines. It runs around baby schedules, a husband who is home a lot and business and ministry needs that change daily. So, I created theIntentional Home Daily journal... I needed one product that could help me focus and bring purpose and order to all my things... and this was born out of that need. My favorite part about it was actually one I never planned on. I love how it's become a tangible legacy for me. It's more than a planner, it's a glimpse into my life. What I was thankful for, what I was praying for, what God did, what projects I was working on. I've only had it a few months and I'm already loving looking back and reading through the things God has brought me through. And honestly, I can't wait to pass them down as I fill them up, so that my kids can read them one day. That's been a really fun added bonus.
4. You recently downsized and are on a #1000ftjourney, what have you learned in the process?
Wheeeeewww... that's a loaded question! LOL! Honestly it has been a really great experience. We used to build houses for investments. We would build them, live in them, and then sell them in 2 years. The goal was to do this 3 times and build our 4th house, our permanent dream house, debt free. When the economy crashed in 2009 all of those plans were gone in nearly an instant. We lost a large amount of money, all of our savings, and ended up in quite a bit of credit card debt trying to save our house. It was seriously devastating.
For a few years we went on living as if this didn't happen. I think we were in full blown denial. We kept spending the same, had another gorgeous house, and pretty much continued our cycle. In 2014 we got pregnant with our 3rd child and it was as if God was shouting a wake up call to us. Something had to change. We couldn't continue in this cycle. We've heard that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results. And that is precisely what we had been doing. And that needed a drastic redirect. So that's what we did. We moved home to live with my mom for a few months while we could find a more affordable place to live. When this house came up in our searches we just knew this was what God was asking us to do. So we signed the lease, and then later bought it to use as a future rental investment. We now live in 1,000 square feet with the largest family we've had. Our daughters room is smaller than our last master closet, and our boys share the third bedroom which isn't much bigger. It's crazy small.
However small, this journey has taught us so, so much. It's taught us that God is good. Always. It's shown us proof that we reap what we sow. If we sow bad financial decisions, and bad spending, our financial snapshot will show that. If we sow in responsible budgeting, saving, financial planning, buying with cash, living within our means, our financial snapshot will show that as well. We've learned the fruit of hard work and dedication. Isaac and I both struggle a lot with self control, living here has given us many opportunities to practice self control. So that's been an unexpected blessing. For one thing, my shopping addiction has kicked the bucket because there simply isn't any room to put anything else! Secondly, we've seen the benefits of living on less so that we can have more of what we want. With less costs we can save more. We are in the adoption process so that's huge right now. With less to manage we have more free time that used to be spent maintaining a large house. Those are two big wins in our book!
Overall it's been a really great time in our lives. Living in this small house, all on top of each other, has brought really great memories. I feel like as a family unit we are definitely closer than we have been in the past. I'd be lying if I said it hasn't brought it's fair share of challenges, like a 7 year old sharing a room with a crying baby, and getting stir crazy because we live in a rainy climate and there's no where to play or escape, but that's just part of the story. And honestly, we are so thankful. These huge changes have allowed us to pay off nearly all of our debt and save quite a bit for our adoption fund. Those are HUGE pieces of fruit because of God's goodness and our stewardship. The other silver lining is we have really found where our hearts lie. People. We, as a family, just love people. We love hosting, we love sleepovers, we love community groups. We LOVE people. And we would love for our house to be full of them all the time. Our current house doesn't quite accommodate that passion like our past houses have, but we've tried to be a good steward of it anyway and keep our open door policy. Even in our cozy abode we've had several friends come and stay. It just takes a little creativity. Someday, we dream of having a farm, with a guest house, and community barn so we can minister to more people, but for now, we are thankful for these 1,000 square feet, for this season, and for the promise that God will restore what the enemy has stolen.
5. What is the biggest thing God has been teaching you this year?
Oh gosh.. REMAINING. Hands down. I used to think of myself as a glass half full person. I've always been a crazy optimist. Like to the point where people got really annoyed with me. But wow, these last few years have taken a toll. On my heart, my faith and my smile. Things just honestly haven't been rose colored, and it's been really difficult to swallow.
God has been after my heart to remain in His love. To stay. To not run when all I want to do is run. To not give up when it seems like closing the door would just be easier. I've had to cultivate it daily. I have to choose to forgive, to love, to be thankful, to remember all the good God is doing, to stop and breathe and realize that this IS my life... and if I don't cherish it, and use every season to bring Him glory, than what's the point?
This has been my life verse lately.. "If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15 11 & 12
6. You run a shop called Intentional Home, what does it mean to you to have an Intentional Home?
It means exactly that.. being Intentional with my home. This means my marriage, my kids, my business, our ministry, making sure I take care of my health and needs, all with intention. I strive to do it all on purpose instead of letting it slip through my fingers. Life is fleeting, and each day is a gift. It is my mission to bring purpose to as much of it as I can. This truth comes to a whole new level if you're a mama. If you are, you know what I mean. We have 18 years.. if God so chooses, to have our kids under our roof. We need to make them count.
We do a lot of cultivating gifts and praying for vision in our house. We believe that God has knit a specific purpose into each of our hearts. It is our job as parents to encourage that in our kids, even if it's not the direction or dream we would've had for them. They are God's kids first, and HE created them for something greater than we can even imagine. So we do a lot of watching, and listening, and calling out the greatness in them. When we see a passion, or gift emerge, we do our best to give time to that gifting. To nurture it, to train it, to practice it. We have no idea what God put that in them for, but if He placed it there, it is our job as parents to help it grow. We talk through everything. We hurt, and cry, and yell, and pray, and repent in front of our kids. We try not to do the yelling thing very often but I didn't want to leave it out because it's real life, and it happens sometimes. We want our kids to see that life is crazy, and hard at times, and that God is in all of it and we can lean on Him for help. And that He is always, always good. We want them to see the pain so they can celebrate the victory. This doesn't mean they see everything obviously. They are kids, and their hearts are precious and pure. Some things aren't meant for them to hear yet, so pray and use wisdom. But when our car dies on the side of the road and we still owe $7,000 on it, and we don't know what we are going to do, yes, they see me bawling my eyes out and crying to God on the living room floor. They hear me say that I don't know what we are going to do, but that God does. Then, when God gives us a car a week later and brings someone out of nowhere to pay off the old one, they see the miracle. And they celebrate with us. Because they were part of the struggle, and they prayed alongside us. They see that He is real, and that He provides. Not just in the Bible, not just in the big things, but in the little everyday concerns of our life today. And there is a precedent set for their lives... because they have seen Him work, and they know that He will do the same for them when they need them.
There are no secrets to having an Intentional Home...it really just comes down to our hearts and our priorities. We were given everything we have by God. And it is up to us to be the best stewards we can with it. That's all intentionality is I think... being a good steward. When it's work time... I work. When the kids are home, I'm fully present with them. Family dinners are important to us, so I steward that. We plan, we shop, we include our kids in the cooking, and preparing, and cleaning. Being intentional is just a lot of little choices every day... and choosing to steward what God has put in front of us at each moment though out the day. It makes me crazy when I hear people say they don't have enough time. We all have the same amount of time. It's just how we choose to use it. We have to learn to pray and ask God when to say yes, and when to say no. If we listen to what He says, He will give us enough grace to sustain us in ALL things. Every minute is a choice to steward what we've been given... Whether it's to stop working to kiss your hubby when he walks in the door, helping your daughter with a book report, emptying the garbage so it doesn't overflow, calling a ministry leader or employee because they need it, or cuddling your son to sleep just because he asked... Just ask yourself what God would have you do throughout the day. What is loving on others? What is honoring others? What is helping further your purpose in the Kingdom. And do that. Over and over.
7. What are your must have products?
This is a hard question for me to answer because honestly, my favorite products, at least for organization, are mine. Insert awkward teeth smile emoji here. Is that bad??? I hope not. I needed a system that worked for me. I needed something that was simple, and not overwhelming, and that was focused on scripture and purpose. When I couldn't find one, I made it. And then I thought, well, if I needed this, maybe someone else did too. And that was that. We have a line of journals designed to help people stay focused on Jesus and their daily purposes...We have a few releasing soon that I am seriously GIDDY about!!! So I will keep you posted on that! And we have Printable Club, which is a line of organizational printables to help with other organizational stuff. There are prayer cards for your kids/spouse, meal planners, project planners, date night ideas. It's all born out of stuff I wanted to have, so I'd be lying if I didn't add it to my "must have products" list.
Other than my own things... I adore Emily Ley's storage boxes... she had me at Navy and White stripes... I also love Grace & Salts everything. I feel like a have a million wood signs around my house. There are a lot of beautiful print shops with verses, that I love, of course, Kristin's is pure gorgeous... and I love Naptime Diaries and Lindsey Letters.. but I love how Grace and Salt seems masculine, and with 2 boys it's nice to have scripture art that's a bit manly too. I love the app Moment.... it helps you track how much time you spend on your phone! Awareness is more than half the battle friends! I appalled myself, and am making fast changes to get that back in balance. Honestly, anything life giving and pretty is my favorite.. There are SO many incredible creatives making amazing products right now, you can't go wrong with any of them. You just have to find things that work for you, your style, and your budget. I seriously think it's such an honor and privilege to be a part of such a beautiful community of women creatives.
Thank you for taking the time to read a little bit about my story.. I would LOVE to connect with you! So please feel free to reach out to me through my blog or instagram :) xoxo, Karen
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