Debt Free ~ Best Gift to Self EVER

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As I sit here typing today, I have now reached a pinnacle that many of you have already attained. Folks, I am now FORTY years old. (aka. over the hill) How does that make me feel? No different than yesterday, honestly. But, it does make me think ahead to the next forty years and where I want to be. You see, I am a goal setter, and work hard to achieve them to the best of my ability. I felt compelled to share with you today the best gift I could have ever given myself for my fortieth birthday – to be debt free. (consider yourself warned that this is going to be long, but so worth it)

Prodigal Pieces ~ Larissa Haynes, Over the Hill | prodigalpieces.com

I come by my drive to achieve honestly. My family has an extensive line of people who worked with such tenacity to get somewhere in life. Both my parents came from families who don’t quit, who fight for what they have, and never give up despite their circumstances. I don’t know any other way to be, so I am very thankful for who they are and what they mean to me.

When I graduated high school I went on to a local branch of a state university and my parents generously paid for everything. That summer before attending, I became a Christian and realized in a more profound way the saving grace of Jesus at 18 years of age. Talk about life changes! When I decide to do something I go full bore – no turning back. At this point, I had also been dating my high school sweetheart, JC, my now husband. He was integral in leading me to Christ even though he was a baby believer himself. Not to mention I was a year ahead of him in school.

The second year of school my parents bought a condo for me at the main campus of the university and I prepared to go. What I didn’t know was that my heart was slowly being pulled in a different direction. I started classes living in the state capital, which alone rocked the world of this country girl. But more so I felt that I was headed the wrong direction. I broke my parents heart when I told them I didn’t believe I was supposed to be at that place. They let me come home and graciously let me find my way.

I took the next year to work and seek the Lord though it was so very hard as I felt like I had let everyone down. I clung to Scripture and felt the Lord leading me away from everything I ever knew, but into a glorious new world. During this time, JC had started to attend a local college, a highly sought-after school noted for its stance in the academic world. JC is the smartest man I know, really. Not just for picking me (hee hee hee), but truly has a gift. He excelled in every academic area he tried, and ended his year earning highest award in languages like Greek. And also excelled in sports where he was state ranked in track & field, and also a basketball star. However, at this same time he too felt a pull from the Lord in a different direction though he had no idea where.

By the end of JC’s freshman year he had decided to leave the scholarship he had earned to his school and cause a wound in his parent’s joy as well. Neither one of us liked causing such friction, but felt the call to do so. During that year, both of us were on our knees praying and asking for the Lord’s guidance for our future. Both seeking a school where God would want us, but we never talked to each other about where we would go. Why? We wanted to see if God would lead both of us in the same direction.

To make this shorter, after that long year, we both felt a call to the same school out of state, both of us applied, and both accepted without knowing what the other had chosen. That’s scary stuff, right there. Not just because of the unknown, but this Ohio born and raised gal was headed to Georgia. Say what?? The funny thing is, we both planned to go, but had no way to pay for it since we had both given up the means we had to fund our education before. We were trusting and waiting.

JC & Larissa Haynes of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

We work out in the frigid cold all for the sake of DIY.

It wasn’t until a few weeks before I needed to leave (if I was going), that I got a call from Toccoa Falls College that someone had donated $5000 on my behalf so I could attend. I fell to my knees in tears thanking God for such a huge blessing. This moment was real and I can relive it over and over to this day. Funny thing is JC got that same phone call. Simply surreal, I tell ya.

I prepared to leave my family and everything I knew to follow God’s leading. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I had never set foot on the school campus, didn’t know anyone there except JC who was going too. It wasn’t until we pulled into the campus that I knew I was right where I should be. I cried and was overjoyed at the peace I felt, which was crazy to me because my home and family were so very far away. There is much I could fill in the gaps of how God worked, but I’m trying to keep it short.

My first semester went well with trials and errors, but then came the second semester and I was at that point of not knowing how to fund my next part of the year. I had always been taught to stay out of debt and believe animately in doing so. However, I felt God had led me to this point and I couldn’t just quit with so much on the line. JC felt the same and we both signed for our very first loan. I still remember the day and the, “What did I just do?” feeling.

Fast forward to our graduation after a two more years of school and loans, and newlyweds after the first year of attendance. We both graduated with honors, he top in his class with every award you can imagine, and I top in mine. Such a blessing! His degree is in Biblical Languages (he rocks Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic – the dead languages), and I am an Interpersonal & Organizational Communication major with minor in Business. Big surprise, right?

Early Morning Worm Rescue ~ Homeschooling Rocks | prodigalpieces.com

Early morning worm rescue is a must.

JC felt called to continue his education into a Masters, then Ph.D. to pursue teaching. We left to move on to the next stage of schooling, and life threw some curves at us. There was a break in schooling which led us back to Ohio where I became pregnant with our first child and left me unable to work. Those loans we had accrued needed paid and we struggled to keep up. Kinda belittling when each year we paid large chunks off at a time beyond the normal payment.

When I was pregnant with our second, we bought a home so that instead of paying rent we were earning equity. During those first months of homeownership and about 4 months into pregnancy, I came down with pneumonia, which led me to the hospital where I picked up a staph blood infection. I spent 11 days in ICU fighting for my and my daughter’s life and nearly lost the battle. That kinda thing will make you rethink your next steps in life. More debt was accruing and we were still fighting to keep ahead.

Haynes Boys Working Hard | prodigalpieces.com

My boys working hard.

Our goal was to remodel our home and sell to pay off all debts. We tried for over 4 years to sell with well over 150 showings in just one of those years. I am not kidding. That many people came through my house and we had so many near misses. Me with 3 small children and I was wore out feeling that God had shut the door and we were beating on it.

We decided to call it quits and stay right where we were. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to finally claim my home as my own and begin decorating as I wanted to and not worry about resale. During that time, we had many difficulties and blessings: two more children joined our family, but also kissed our sweet baby girl a heart-wrenching goodbye and another baby not long after. Again, these things set us back financially emotionally, and wee are aching to be debt free.

Haynes Girls | prodigalpieces.com

Sneaking up on my girls making a dessert.

It was also in this time 4 years ago on Mother’s Day that I had had enough. I was tired of being ignored for various reasons and I signed up for a blog. I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING. The idea of cell phones, computers with social media appalled me. I would be just happy as a barefoot bumpkin homeschooling my kids, tending my garden, and keeping home. Believe it or not, I am a foodie with a heart for nourishing your body from the inside out. But…I needed to do something. I had been either nursing my babes or pregnant for over 10 years and had such a chasm in my life for a span of four years with the loss of our babies. Plus, we needed the money.

Countless hours I poured in to learning code and design. I began blogging just because I felt I had something to say. However, I knew it had to be profitable in more ways than one. That gap between when my babies died left me a huge hole and this is how I chose to fill it. We had a financial need and this was the only way I could figure out how to earn while staying home with my children. My Etsy shop was already up and running while I tried to sell bags, purses, and dolls. That didn’t work with me because I really hated the idea of being a machine that turned out the same product over and over. My creative brain was suffocating.

It wasn’t until I saw a free dresser on Craigslist that I thought…hmm…I could fix that up and sell it. I have always been into painting and redoing things for my home, including working for a few years on paint crew during college. We had no money and I took a chance at giving it a go. That thing sold within a day and the delight I felt at being able to head to the grocery store with several hundred dollars just floored me. God is so good.

Prodigal Pieces First Dresser Makeover | prodigalpieces.com

Mind you, JC is still his brilliant self, and is setting aside everything he has dreamed of to keep his family fed and in a home. We both have repeatedly asked God why we are still here, why is JC at a job that is not only unfulfilling, but not making use of any of his gifts.  I am slowly learning more of why, but question it all often.

From there I went on to find many more free or cheap items to redo and sell. JC and I have worked hard to give our family what it needs, but also trying to keep improving our situation. I continued to learn more about blogging and building my brand. Pouring myself into my kids for homeschooling during the day. Then in early and late hours working to grow the business and blog. All the while this song played in my head, “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford.

At this point we were making the most minimal payments on our loans because that’s all we could do. After a year or so of blogging I became pregnant again. I had the same issues as before with a subchorionic hematoma, but trusted God to see us through. Our little girl couldn’t wait to meet the world and came 6 weeks early. That led to a 3 week stay in the NICU at a hospital over an hour away. That meant more setbacks, and blessings as well. She was my healing balm for sure. Full story HERE.

When I received a renewal letter for my bare minimum payment plan back in January of 2015, I made a commitment to myself. After 15 long years I had only been able to pay off about $2000 of my debt. That’s even after all I had sent in excess of regular payments in years prior. All because I couldn’t knock out the interest that accrued. That to me was disgusting and unbelievable – that’s it!! I am going to pay off this $11,000+ debt by the time I am 40 – which was in 18 months. I took on freelance work, new sponsors, and worked and worked and worked.

Horseback Riding with Family | prodigalpieces.com

Taking a break for some fun.

My children took on my chores for me so I could work while they cooked meals. They actually love it and I have to ask to cook sometimes…hahaha. JC works full 40+ hour work weeks as well, then after hours wraps and ships our furniture and sends out orders. He also teaches our oldest his Algebra II before leaving for work in the morning to help with the school workload. Then, he comes home to do his daily work around the house and we begin again.

Splitting Wood for Coming Winter in Ohio | prodigalpieces.com

JC worked 40+ hour day. Then, came home to clean up the downed tree in our neighbor’s yard for our winter wood stash. Kitchen will have to wait…again.

It is with great pride I can say that we paid that loan off two weeks before my birthday. I wasn’t excited about it. Actually I was angry, but at the same time so very thankful. I felt, and still do, feel that I sold away my life, my time with my children, and time with my husband.  We are solid as a rock, though, and praise God in every situation. I can hardly believe that I have been able to more than double my own income in such a short time. It’s an absolute blessing…just amazing…and only done with my family, my team.

Family Teamwork to Pay off Debt | prodigalpieces.com

And, as many of you know, our children are even working on projects of their own to build their savings and live debt free. The find a project piece, purchase it, rework it, and sell it all for their own benefit. What a blessing it is to see them growing in leaps and bounds. At least we can see them learning from our mistakes.

You may also know we have been remodeling at the same time, all debt free. So not only are we able to continue to earn, but have been blessed enough with a surplus to continue in our endeavors. We work on our home in those tiny bits of time. When people ask why we are not done yet, I have to sigh. They truly have no idea of how limited our time is, and that’s okay. For instance, our kitchen has had the supplies to be completed for over a year, but we can only work when we can.

Or how about when people are hateful to me in criticizing my work? I want to reach through the screen and poke them in the eye sometimes. Those words hurt. I would love to blog just for fun instead of income, and get back time to being the mom and wife I used to. To be truthful, I am tired of my house being full of 6 or more extra pieces of furniture and inventory. It feels like we live in a warehouse. But, I also take a minute an look at all the love I am surrounded with and thank God I am able to do what I do. I can only ask that He will continue to give me strength. So many of you shower us with love. It’s a funny mix of emotions, that’s for sure.

For future’s sake, we have more debt for JC’s schooling to tackle. Lord willing we will take care of that soon too. Most importantly, I want to thank you for reading to this point because you helped me earn by doing so. Thank you to those who purchase from my shop, or share my work in various ways. It all helps us to keep on keepin’ on. I give huge thanks to all my blogger friends for their awesome support, to the sponsors that have found me worthy of sharing their products, to my extended family for being there for us, and to my God for refining me in the fire.

JC and I are at a point where we need to make some decisions. Our growth in business and blog are so awesome that keeping up is a challenge. We need direction for the next steps. If you could say prayer for us, we know it will be heard. We have already seen how God can move mountains and know He will continue to do so. I am also on a mission to improve my health. I am in the worst shape of my life from working hard, sitting and creating, and that’s gonna change too.

My entire point of sharing this with you is to:

  • inspire you to not give up – you CAN DO IT!
  • show love to others because you never know what they are going through
  • lean on the everlasting arms of One who is there to guide you.

Ages ago as a teen, I picked a Bible verse to be my sort of motto. It’s found in Mark 9:23: “All things are possible to him who believes”. My family and I are living testimony that those words are truth. Being debt free is the best gift ever.

How a Family of 8 Paid off over $11,000 in Debt in 18 Months. Debt Free is the way to be. | prodigalpieces.com

In the meantime, we are hoping to bring you more of our work and endeavors to inspire and uplift you. We would love to have you be a part of our newsletter to keep up with the action. Thanks for tuning in. Until next time!

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More DIY posts like being debt free:

How to Nourish Your Family with Home-Cooked Food by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.comDIY Patio Makeover Complete with Pergola all done on a budget by a family of 8 by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

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93 Comments

  • WENDY A OLGINE

    Beautiful testimony from your heart, Larissa. Your blog is always my first one to open because of your transparent heart and wild creativity. I love your family and your commitment to them, your faith, and to God.

    June 6, 2017 at 6:32 am Reply
    • Larissa

      That makes me proud, Wendy. Thank you to take time to read through. We are proud to share. 🙂

      June 6, 2017 at 6:33 am Reply
  • pamela creadick

    Although I am not overtly religious or faithful as you, I do keep and read your blog weekly, as you are an inspiration.
    I respect your morals, faith, dedication and hard work. You are talented, loving, and resourceful. I do believe God has blessed you with the ability to keep persevering despite truly tragic events that would have set back most. I truly enjoy your style and your stories and so you have made a difference in at least one life, an awesome accomplishment. You make me step back and thank God for what I do have and to strive to be a better person. Keep it up!!!

    June 6, 2017 at 6:44 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you, Pamela. Yes, the ability is key and I thank you for all your support. It means much.

      June 6, 2017 at 6:46 am Reply
  • Debrashoppeno5

    Happy Birthday. This brought tears to my eyes. You are an inspiration to me in so many ways. I have always known you and your family work so hard. God is truly guiding you by giving you the talent and the ability to share it with the rest of us.

    June 6, 2017 at 6:49 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you for the birthday wishes and for all the love you shower us with, Debra. It means so much.

      June 6, 2017 at 7:05 am Reply
  • Gilly Reardon

    A truly amazing story – thank you for sharing it with us all. Please try to ignore the nasty comments from people – who obviously don’t know any better. I look forward to hearing how the next years go and in what direction you will travel. Love and best wishes – Gilly (in Cornwall UK)

    June 6, 2017 at 6:51 am Reply
    • Larissa

      You are so sweet, Gilly. Thank you for the love you have shown. 🙂

      June 6, 2017 at 7:06 am Reply
  • Janette Deans

    You know what, I hope your all very proud of who you are, your a shining light you truely are, what a remarkable story, and you gave me hope for my daughter, she and her little family are facing very similar hurdles, I see how hard it is for them and no matter how hard you work the debt’s are a huge bind…I bought her one of those key fobs that have the words, She belived she could so she did….you do remind me of her, well done so far, you will ‘get there’, and the memories you will look back on will make you laugh and cry, but you know, no amount of money can buy what you already have….Have a wonderful forthieth year and many more to come, take care sweet girl…xxx

    June 6, 2017 at 7:09 am Reply
    • Larissa

      We are proud, but also humbled at how much can really be done once we set our minds to it. Your daughter is blessed to have a mom like you with such awesome support. Thank you, Janette, for the blessings!

      June 6, 2017 at 10:07 am Reply
  • Jamie Kennemer

    I read every word and am in awe that you were free enough to share your thoughts and emotions so wonderfully! Life isn’t always easy and knowing that the Lord is with you in the good and bad times brings much comfort! I love your blog and can’t wait to open it when it comes! I appreciate your realness and love all that you create! As you grow older you’ll be amazed at how perspectives change and some things that were such a big deal no longer seem so big. The peace that the Lord gives is like no other and I pray you rest in Him and know that you are in the best arms ever with God! You are an amazing lady and I can’t wait to see what journey you take us on next! You inspire me with every update! Thank you!! ❤️

    June 6, 2017 at 7:37 am Reply
    • Larissa

      It hard to share as we feel at times we are failing, but know truly that it is all for a purpose. Thank you for encouraging us on our journey. Your prayers are felt.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:07 am Reply
  • Dodie

    Thank you for sharing your story, sweet Larissa! You ARE an inspiration and all your hardships as you say is God’s way of refining you and making you who you are today. You’ve always inspired me in every post – your creativity, your sense of humor, the remarkable way you’ve trained your kids so early on – teaching them virtuous values that will carry them on to adulthood is priceless. Actually your circumstances have taught them to be as tough as you, to be responsible, independent, willing to tackle whatever challenges they face. What better way to teach and carry on your legacy. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

    June 6, 2017 at 7:37 am Reply
    • Larissa

      We covet your prayers, Dodie. Thank you for taking the time to leave a kind word and let us know that what we are doing is heard. Hugs. 🙂

      June 6, 2017 at 10:08 am Reply
  • Susan

    You are an inspiration to many young couples facing the same type of debt challenges, proving that you CAN succeed once your mind is set to achieving that goal. Love reading your blog and seeing your projects. Thanks for sharing your story, your family and your dreams.

    June 6, 2017 at 7:45 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you for the words of encouragement, Susan. We hope someone can learn and be inspired to never quit trying.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:09 am Reply
  • Kimberly ~ Serendipity Refined

    Congratulations, Larissa! We’re facing some of the same hurdles. We’re 2/3 of the way done with our home remodel and have just put two sons through college. I’m still waiting for my kitchen (along with interior doors and trim) and we’re working long hours to pay bills and save money to finish this renovation. I have faith that there is a plan and I trust in His timing. One day at a time! I’m blessed to have you as a friend and so proud for all that you’ve accomplished. xo

    June 6, 2017 at 7:45 am Reply
    • Larissa

      High five to you, Kimberly! Not only for your remodeling efforts, but also giving your kids your all. Blessing to you and I hope are able to complete your project with steadfast speed. You are also such a blessing to me through the years.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:14 am Reply
  • Laura stewart

    Congratulations Larissa! That is a huge accomplishment! You inspire me and are always so kind and it means a lot!

    June 6, 2017 at 7:50 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Hugs to you, Laura! You have been nothing but supportive of me and my family. Thank you!

      June 6, 2017 at 10:15 am Reply
  • Deirdre Breau

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY LARISSA!! I too have reached one of “those”milestone birthdays. The years just seem to fly by now. I so enjoy reading your blog and seeing your hard work come to life in the pieces you restore. Your dedication to your family and yourself is evident in your work and words. The day you were born God knew that you would be right where you are at this point in your life. He knew the journey you would take to get here and the rugged paths before you. However He created you in His image and with His determination and not only did you make it down that path but climbed mountains that others would have run from.
    I must admit that I read your opening paragraph and got to the “warning” part and almost turned back. Did I really have time to read a long blog right now? I havent even had a full cup of coffee yet! Then I heard that Still, Small, Voice say READ IT. So hear I am at the bottom even after reading the comments, wanting to know more.
    I feel myself at a turning point as I reach those milestone years in my life as well as my little family. I need to get my life in order and find ways to diversify as well.
    I was an instant fan the first time I stumbled on your blog and will always be. You inspire me with your dedication, determination and will.
    So to that I say;
    God loves Ya
    I love Ya
    and there aint a DOGGONE THING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!!!!

    Your Friend in Christ
    Deirdre

    June 6, 2017 at 7:56 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I’m so glad you hung in there, Deirdre! Thank you for uplifting me today and every day. Your prayers and love are felt in more ways than one. I love your tenacity!! 😀

      June 6, 2017 at 10:16 am Reply
  • Becky

    Happy, happy, HAPPY birthday!!! What a testimony! What an on-my-way-to-debt-free story! What a way to start my day! : ) God bless you, Larissa! Your blog is wonderful, your work is wonderful, your family is wonderful. I so enjoy reading what all you are up to. I’m with you in turning 40 this year, going debt-free (just a house to pay off), being a believer, homeschooling, having a pack of kids, losing babies (and almost an 11y.o. to cancer!), and DIYing/home improvement like crazy, but NOT having my own business, or cranking out the volume that you do, (and my computer skills… are just about zilch, haha) -WOW! Hats off to you!!! May the next 40 years contain 40 times the blessing of the first 40!

    June 6, 2017 at 8:16 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Yay! Your enthusiasm has made me giggle. Thank you so much for your faith and sharing your life, including your struggles. I will pray for you too in that your strength and faith will carry you through. We all are so blessed.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:18 am Reply
  • Darlene

    Happy Birthday Larissa, it is many years since I was forty, but remember it well. Your blog is the one that I look forwardthat interest to the most. It is your down to earth attitude and love for your family., as well as your talents, that interest me. We too have chosen to live a debt free lifestyle as much as possible and taught our sons and their families to do so as much as possible. It is a very freeing lifestyle and well worth the effort and work hours involved in doing so. Keep up the example for your children. In this society of wanting everything now it is a wise lesson to teach them. My grand daughter is attending university and working two jobs, and just bought her first car(used) and is trying to remain debt free, with some of her parents help. Her brother the same. It is a terrific work ethic instilled in them and is something missing in today’s society. Blessings and continue your truly amazing life.

    June 6, 2017 at 8:35 am Reply
    • Larissa

      What a testimony to your faith and strength. That is wonderful for you to see them grow. Blessings to you!

      June 6, 2017 at 10:19 am Reply
  • Rickie Engelsman

    Larissa,
    I follow you on your blog, Facebook and Instagram. I’m not a stalker, but find you so inspiring in many ways – your creativity, dedication to your family and faith and more. What an accomplishment to be debt free at 40. You often remind me of one of my daughters who is approaching 40, working on being debt free and raising 4 children. She and her husband are also remodeling their home. Thank you for the inspiration! ?
    Rickie

    June 6, 2017 at 8:39 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thanks so much for showing me such support, Rickie. I like your kind of stalkers…hahaha… I can’t wait to share our new adventures with you.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:19 am Reply
  • Mary Gallagher

    You’re authenticity is why I follow you. Thank you for sharing not only the glory but the hard work involved in what you do. Like you my life has never taken the usual course and when I lost my job in January I knew it was The Lord saying, “are you going to pursue that dream now?” I’ve always wanted to write so now I’m taking that step to blogging and learning how I could make this my new career. It’s bloggers like you who are willing be honest and inspire that help me to take a little step faith each day! Thank you.

    June 6, 2017 at 8:43 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I’m so happy to hear it, Mary. Yes, this is not my chosen path, but one that I choose to follow. I will pray for you and know God will lift you up to unbelievable heights. Let me know if I can help in any way!

      June 6, 2017 at 10:21 am Reply
  • Connie L Elam

    I loved reading this blog. I believe in my spirit that many ppeople will be touched and encouraged by reading this. God said he would always be with us but did not say the going would be easy. You have taught your children much more than book learning. You have taught them to depend on God and to push. So many children feel they are entitled. God bless you, your family and your endeavors.

    June 6, 2017 at 9:01 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I have prayed that is so. I didn’t want to publish this post for the most part, but felt led to do it. Thank you for your uplifting words, Connie.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:22 am Reply
  • Deb

    Thank you for your honesty. How refreshing. You cyber Moms are real people with real issues. I’m heading over to your shop to help you, my pleasure. I know in my heart you will soar above all this because you have a good heart. Keep the faith.

    June 6, 2017 at 9:25 am Reply
    • Larissa

      It is my pleasure to share because so many can only see so much of what’s on the screen. I am real and try to keep it real while having fun. Thank you, Deb.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:22 am Reply
  • April Adcock

    Thank you for sharing, you have a true gift in expressing yourself and inspiring others to not give up. Shame on those people who criticize your work, they should keep that to themselves. I’ve airways taught my children to be compassionate, you never know what that person has been through and the journey they’ve taken to get there. I love your style and everything you create!! I enjoy reading your blog and will be celebrating all your admirable accomplishments right along with you!!

    June 6, 2017 at 9:29 am Reply
    • Larissa

      You are awesome, April! Thank you for showing love and kindness. We need more people like you in this world.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:23 am Reply
  • Andrea

    What a lovely, honest piece of writing. Thank you for opening up and allowing yourself and your family to be a beautiful example of tenacity, teamwork, and just plain hard work. God has a wide and deep plan for you, as He does for all of us. We must use our gifts, fully, to honor Him and to bless and give to others. My heart breaks with yours, reading of your angels in Heaven. I’m so very sorry. I don’t understand why, but having faith makes all the difference when we experience such a loss, doesn’t it?
    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Larissa, and always ignore the critics.
    God bless!

    June 6, 2017 at 9:49 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you, Andrea. We are truly blessed beyond measure and consider it a duty to share all of God’s goodness through good times and bad.

      June 6, 2017 at 10:24 am Reply
  • Patty Soriano

    Larissa, God bless you on this birthday milestone! I hope you take time to celebrate. You and hubby are great role models for your children and others. I have always strived to be debt free and I think it’s something I learned unknowingly from my parents. Ethics and morals also come from our parents, and mine were great. I see others in the family who learned the opposite from their parents, sadly, and I realize they will have a lot of problems in the years ahead. Although I have tried to teach my experience to them, they are unwilling to learn. So many young people these days are just not interested in anything but themselves and the “party on earth.” I was sad to learn of your losses….I went back to read your posts on the babies. That was before I discovered you. God had another plan for us and we did not have children, and that is sad for me. My nurturing needs are met by taking care of plants, pets, and other kids. 🙂 I feel sorry for those people who are so ugly to you when they criticize via comments. Something must be very wrong in their lives for them to cast such evil in your direction. Mom always said “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I try hard to live with that, but I am also a very honest person, and if someone asks me what I think, they get the full response. Still, I try to give my thoughts kindly and not hurtful. You are inspiring, Larissa, and so many people can learn a lot from you and your family. I wish I had friends like you. Take care, have a beautiful day, and let us know what you do to celebrate.

    June 6, 2017 at 9:55 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Yes, debt free is the way to be. It surely wasn’t in our plans for all of this, but God has seen us through. And yes, I often repeat that phrase to those who comment with negativity. It really is easy to tear someone down, but building up is what I’m all about. Thank you, Patty, for the blessings!

      June 6, 2017 at 10:26 am Reply
  • Jolinda

    We have been blessed by you and your family. Happiest birthday to you. Thank you more than I can say for sharing your faith, family and everything else with us. You are so beautiful inside and out and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. Thank you for being the example we need.

    June 6, 2017 at 10:05 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Hugs to you, Jolinda. What fun to hear from you and others that we are doing the right thing. Thank you!

      June 6, 2017 at 10:27 am Reply
  • Sandra

    Larissa –
    A very Happy Birthday!

    June 6, 2017 at 10:12 am Reply
  • Rachel C.

    Larissa,
    Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You and your family are an inspiration!

    June 6, 2017 at 10:45 am Reply
    • Larissa

      My absolute pleasure, Rachel. 🙂

      June 6, 2017 at 12:14 pm Reply
  • Sherry Stuifbergen

    Wow, thank you for the wonderful story of being debt-free from your hard work. I love your blog…look forward to seeing what you will do next. You are an inspiration and I said a prayer for you on your big decisions. You have a great family. I love reading about all they do. So glad they don’t spend their time texting and playing computer games. (A scourge.)

    June 6, 2017 at 11:29 am Reply
    • Larissa

      We feel ourselves blessed to have the ability to share. I’m happy to hear you enjoy what we do and know that your prayers are felt. Thank you, Sherry.

      June 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm Reply
  • Carolyn

    i’m sitting here reading this thinking we are so alike Larissa 🙂 I’m praying for you & your family, that you achieve all the goals you set forth. Please know you are an incredible inspiration & a true testimony to God’s love <3
    & BTW, Happy Birthday & welcome to your 40's! Its a wild ride, lol 🙂
    Carolyn

    June 6, 2017 at 11:54 am Reply
    • Larissa

      That’s a blessing to know, Carolyn. Thank you for your uplifting words and for the birthday wishes. Young at heart forever!

      June 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm Reply
  • Mary Kaiser

    In my prayers and thoughts for your family.

    June 6, 2017 at 12:18 pm Reply
  • Nancy Walden

    Thank you for sharing your story. Keep listening to Him and He will guide your steps!

    June 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm Reply
  • Lindsay Eidahl

    Wonderful story! Like you, I have been wanting to be debt free and last March we paid off our home. I still can’t believe it! We are completely debt free. The blog has helped with that. We are now closing on a flip home this week or next. It is a dream and goal we have wanted to do and since being debt free, we feel like we can do it. God is good! Trusting in his plan is so important and listening when you don’t want to is also important. Like I have always told you, I don’t know how you do it all! It is amazing and an inspiration to all of us! Thank you for sharing!

    June 6, 2017 at 12:39 pm Reply
  • Marie|The Interior Frugalista

    Another Happy 40th Birthday greeting, Larissa. Congratulations, that is one huge feat – love your Can Do spirit! Girl, I have so much respect and admiration for you and your family. You inspire me beyond words. Sending hugs your way ♥ Keep moving those mountains ♥

    June 6, 2017 at 12:47 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      I just need another 40 years to catch up! hahaha… Thanks so much for your unending support, Marie. It truly keeps me going. hugs!

      June 6, 2017 at 4:39 pm Reply
  • Sue Pagels

    Happy Milestone birthday! I will have the big 6-0 coming in a year and a half and can’t wait (said sarcastically 🙂 ) I really enjoy all your posts and your creativity! You and Miss Mustard Seed are my go to blogs on a daily or every other day basis. Although I am not religious, I am more spiritual and thank Whoever for Whatever I have in this life and try to pay forward what I can. God may provide in some instances, but I feel that people should till work hard and not expect it will just be “provided”. You and your family prove that hard work pays off and are an inspiration. Miss Mustard Seed has also grown her brand tremendously and she may be of help if you have questions – she is super sweet in case you don’t know her. I am so sorry you get hateful comments – for the life of me, I never understood that. If you don’t like something, then just scroll on. I may not always love each and every project you do, but I can tell you the majority of them leave me in awe! Your children also are amazing and creative! Keep up the wonderful posts and the fantastic furniture. I also love your styling as well. Take care and continued success!

    June 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Wahoo! Those milestones make me appreciate every day. Thanks so much for the love you have shown me, Sue. Yes, Marian is quite the inspiration and has been a sweet friend.

      June 8, 2017 at 9:11 am Reply
  • Gilmer Gal

    Larissa, this blog of yours is a testimony, a gentle way of planting seeds, one of your gifts from God.
    And, FYI, you will look back when you are 66, like me, and think, WOW! I WAS SOOOO YOUNG THEN!

    June 6, 2017 at 1:28 pm Reply
  • liz

    Congratulations! I remember the day I finally paid off all of my debt, how proud I was of my accomplishment. I was so frugal my furniture was cardboard boxes covered with remnant fabrics. I am glad to hear you are taking care of yourself as it is very important especially when you have children. Please make sure you are getting enough rest too, you deserve it!

    June 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm Reply
  • Carol S

    Great story and great goal. Thank you for sharing and persevering. I’ve been concerned about your all too frequent health issues and I am happy to hear that taking care of yourself is going to be a priority. You have so many people that need you, so be sure to not let the well run dry. Happy, happy birthday and God’s blessings on the year ahead.

    June 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm Reply
  • Judy Black

    Larissa-
    Your truth and heart shine through in every post you make. Although I do not believe in your God I admire your faith, conviction to family, morality, humanity, work ethic, and love of life. We have never met yet I consider you a friend. I am always happy to see your blog and read your posts. If more people in the world had the values of you, JC , and your family we would be living a kinder life.

    Sending you light and love on your birthday.

    June 6, 2017 at 3:16 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you for the wonderful support you have shown us, Judy. We feel so blessed to share.

      June 8, 2017 at 7:21 am Reply
  • Sarisa

    First: You happen to be the only lady I follow. I was inspired by your diy and furniture makeovers. The name you chose for your business was another reason to follow. I don’t know you, but your spirit shines through your work and words. I began reading this post to myself, then stopped and told my 18 yr old daughter, Listen to this! I proceeded to read it in it’s entirety, out loud. What a beautiful testimony to Gods mercy and unfailing love. Thank you for sharing your life with strangers. You are amazing in my eyes. Keeping your heart right in the face of so many trials. Thank you for your sincerity.

    June 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      I am so flattered by your comment, Sarisa. Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know you are there. So often it seems I’m speaking at an empty room in a sort of way. I hope you are blessed today!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:20 am Reply
  • Mary

    Oh Larissa I am so, so happy for you! God works in funny ways and we never know what he has in store for us around the corner. Through all these difficulties you have bonded as a family and achieved so much together. And that is really all that matters. Many families don’t survive the difficult times and fall apart. The journey is more important than reaching the finish line. You are a true artist making over those furniture pieces like no one else. And you have taught your children well. Why I can take lessons from you dear friend! May you always be blessed.

    June 6, 2017 at 4:56 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      I agree with you, Mary, that we can either be strengthened by our trials and form stronger bonds. It sure make the hard times easier. Thank you for all you have done to support me and my family. Hugs to you!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:19 am Reply
  • Doris Vaught

    Thank you for your witness. Love your blog. Read it every day. You are so talented & I learn so much!

    June 6, 2017 at 9:09 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      I’m excited to hear it, Doris. Thank you!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:18 am Reply
  • Vanessa

    What a blessing! God is good and your post is so encouraging.

    June 6, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      I’m happy to hear it, Vanessa. Thank you!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:18 am Reply
  • Bonnie Hipps

    What a wonderful woman you are and an inspiration I am sure to your friends and family. I wish I would have had a head on my shoulders like yours when I was young and handled my family and time so different. I am 56 and been starting over for the past 10 years but, had the love of the Lord to help me and my kids. Your story is honest, sad, inspiring, and a go to feel good that it can be done. Thank you for sharing and letting us get to know you. God Bless you and your family!

    June 6, 2017 at 10:48 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Hugs to you Bonnie for letting me know that my sharing was the right thing to do. Thank you!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:14 am Reply
  • Kristyn Baker

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I can relate in so many ways! Homeschooling mom of six, hard working husband worimg 55+ hours a week and needing to get debt paid off. my husband and I were just talking this evening about our future and trying to sort things out prayerfully though a difficult time that we are going through and i happened to see your link to this post on Instagram. Thanks so much for being vulnerable and sharing your heart. It encourages me to keep working hard at a business I’m trying to build to help better our future.

    Happy Birthday!
    Kristyn

    June 6, 2017 at 11:40 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Kudos to you for hanging in there, Kristyn. It can be oh so hard, but I know it is all for a purpose, just sometimes I don’t know what. Thank you!!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:14 am Reply
  • Kim Banko

    Larissa!! Congratulations on achieving your goal, and on turning 40! Both are to be celebrated! You work so hard at everything you do. You remind me of my mom, one of the hardest working people I know. Mom of eight, she worked full time outside of the home, as well, as crafting to earn extra income. She lost 2 children too, as adults, not as infants. My brother and sister died in their 40’s from cancer. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, and a piece of your beautiful heart in all you do. God bless. xo

    June 7, 2017 at 7:38 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you, Kim for being a good friend and supporting this online world I’m in. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. You too, are carrying on her tradition of love.

      June 8, 2017 at 7:13 am Reply
  • Sharon

    The first time I “met” you, you truly amazed me. You are totally creative and I wanted your brain. I still do, actually! But I admire you even more now with your love of God and your tenacity. You have been and continue to be a blessing to me. I will pray that the Lord shows you your next steps.

    June 7, 2017 at 10:46 am Reply
    • Larissa

      haha…you may rethink that brain thing…it’s scary!! 😀 Thanks so much, Sharon for your support and love. The prayers are felt for sure.

      June 8, 2017 at 7:12 am Reply
  • Bonnie

    I’m really, really proud of you and your family and for all that you have accomplished together. Happy Birthday! You are truly gifted with creativity and are able to see the beautiful in items that are far from beautiful. I will be praying that the Lord will guide you in expanding your business and for your good health.

    June 7, 2017 at 6:10 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you so much, Bonnie. I am blessed to have people like you to share with. 🙂

      June 8, 2017 at 7:11 am Reply
  • Susie Mertl

    Happy birthday, sweet friend! You and your family are so inspiring….I can’t even find the words. I’m so happy for you and so very proud of you. May God continue to richly bless you, this blog, and all of your businesses. XOXO Susie from The Chelsea Project

    June 7, 2017 at 8:57 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Susie, you are an ever-loving soul. Thank YOU for all you have done to support me and my family. Hugs!!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:11 am Reply
  • Marti VanRavenswaay-Waddell

    HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! YOU are a true inspiration to many — as you must be well aware by now. YOU are the “real deal” and I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your blog somehow a couple years ago!!! I will pray for you and your husband and family as you address the various challenges of your new crossroads. With God’s help, you guys will choose the best path over another and YOU will continue inspiring all of us who strive to be more like you!! Your willingness to share intimate details of yourself, your family, your losses, your financial challenges, and especially your struggles to NOT lose yourself while striving to do so much for six children, a husband and a business, is a blessing for me. By sharing about yourself, you have proven that even with many challenges, your faith is stronger and through it all, you have become DEBT FREE!! How could we not be inspired? God Bless!!

    June 8, 2017 at 1:16 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you for understanding that this wasn’t easy to share because as much as I rejoice in our achievement, it’s hard not to feel like a failure that it happened at all. Thanks so much for your loving words, Marti!

      June 8, 2017 at 7:10 am Reply
  • Carol Prygo

    Larissa, I don’t know how I missed this post when you published it, but I’m glad you mentioned it today. What a wonderful story of your life. I’m so glad you shared it. Congratulations on being debt-free! I know the feeling. Back, many years ago, we paid off our house, when I left my “real job” and started out in my business as a full time crafter. Once we got started and found out we really could make it on our own, we wished we would have done it sooner (because I worked for a man who thought women should be subservient to men). We’ve never looked back. Keep up your wonderful work and your great outlook on life. Don’t pay any attention to those who send you bad words – we love you!

    June 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      What a wonderful testimony you have to living life to the full. Congrats to you, Carol, and thank you for taking the time to encourage us.

      June 9, 2017 at 6:02 am Reply
  • Sam @ Raggedy Bits

    What an absolutely wonderful goal and achievement to you Larissa!!! A very BIG Happy Birthday to you and hope you had a wonderful day!
    Thank you for sharing a peek into your beautiful family and your story! You are such an inspiration and I am very grateful to have “met” you through blogging. I wish you and your family all the very best in all that you do moving forward!!

    June 9, 2017 at 2:58 am Reply
    • Larissa

      You are such a sweet friend, Sam. Thank you for stopping by to uplift and show love.

      June 9, 2017 at 6:00 am Reply
  • Catherine O'Neill

    Dear Larissa:
    Happy 40th! I read your story, cried and then prayed for you and your family. Don’t forget that 1Peter 2:24 says By His wounds we WERE healed. I also prayed for prosperity for you. It’s our inheritance as children of God. Always remember just how much you’re loved by Him and the the rest of His family. I’m so looking forward to meeting you and your family when we get to heaven. There you’ll get to see just how many people love and are inspired by you.

    I have to say that you and JC are amazing. Don’t know how you find enough hours in the day to do all that you do. But I can see the results – a close relationship with our Lord, your husband and all 5 kids. They truly are treasures. You are a blessing.

    Cathy O, London, Ontario, Canada

    September 13, 2017 at 11:52 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you, Cathy! You have made my start off well and your words mean much. Hugs from all 8 of us! 😉

      September 14, 2017 at 6:14 am Reply
  • Cathy O

    Forgot to tell you just how much I love what you do. It’s the first thing I check in my email. You have an amazing talent.

    September 14, 2017 at 1:24 am Reply
    • Larissa

      What a treat to hear! Thank you. 🙂

      September 14, 2017 at 6:14 am Reply

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