How My Family Discovered Our Core Values

I’m a big believer in living simply. It’s become my life’s work, in fact, encouraging other people to simplify their lives so that they can freely live according to their unique passions and values.

But there’s one problem with living simply: it’s not easy.

See, “simple living” isn’t just a checklist of things to do or not do: drive only one car, live off the grid, grow your own food, toss the TV. Those might be some things you do because of a simpler life, but they don’t define it. No, in my experience, the definition of simple living is, quite simply, this: “Living holistically with your life’s purpose.” That’s it. It’s a simple manifesto that believes that living simply happens when all the parts of your life—your work, where you live, how you spend your free time, how you educate your kids, how you spend your money, what books you read, who you spend time with—are all pointed in the same direction. And that direction is towards your life’s purpose.

So when people ask me where they should start with that behemoth of a goal called “simplifying,” I always, always tell them to start by first finding your family’s life purpose. Once that happens, it’s a million times easier to make those little daily decisions that make up the sum of our life—those things that make up our family’s core values.

The next logical question, then, is, “How do we discover our purpose in life?” That’s quite the question, really. I mean—that is THE question, right?

Since I’m a follower of Christ, I believe the reason I’m here on Earth is to know God and enjoy Him forever, much like the time-tested Westminster Catechism’s classic statement. But what does that look like? There’s not a formula for discovering our purpose—it simply involves prayer, reflection, wisdom, and tapping in to that still, small voice from the Holy Spirit.

A few years ago, I spent a few weeks in serious prayer and exploration, asking God questions and journaling my thoughts. I asked questions like this:

What makes our family unique?
What gets us excited?
What bothers us?
How do we relax and enjoy each other’s company?
What would make us proudest about our legacy to future generations?

And after days upon days in quiet introspection, I scribbled out this purpose statement, showed it to my husband, and we agreed collectively that this was our family’s unique purpose:

As a family, we will…
• Put each other first
• Cultivate deep relationships with one another
• Extend love to those around us
• Live simply
• Be true to who God made us
• Take care of our health
• Be good stewards of creation
• Be lifelong learners

We eventually had this purpose statement printed on canvas, and it has hung in our living room over the years in our many homes—having it front and center helps us remember what we’re about when we’re faced with a decision. Now, we don’t literally refer to our purpose statement every single time we need to make a decision (“What toppings on the pizza tonight, dear?” “I don’t know—let me check our purpose statement”), but it totally helps when we’re torn between something that’s good versus something that’s best.

For example, if we’ve been spending too much time outside the house apart from each other, we might say no to another outing with other people—we need to put each other first and cultivate deep relationships with one another. When we’re tempted to buy something we don’t need only because it’s on sale, we’ll remember that our family is called to live simply. We can live out our daily decisions in peace, because we know they align with our purpose.

These are the things that make up our core values. And our values are the stuff of our daily life, our liturgy.

Creating a purpose statement isn’t a formula, but it’s certainly helpful. It’s helped us narrow down what makes us, us—and it’s helped us live simpler because our daily decisions reflect our core values, our purpose. We sense a deeper tapping in to our Creator and His unique ways for our clan.

Living simpler has become—well, simpler. I’m grateful.


Tsh Oxendreider

Tsh OxenreiderTsh Oxenreider is the founder of (previously Simple Mom), a popular community blog dedicated to the art and science of simple living. She’s the author of Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time, a regular contributor to (in), an advocate for Compassion International, and a top-ranked podcaster. A graduate of University of Texas, Tsh currently lives in Bend, Oregon with her family.

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Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

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Making a Big “To Do” I was a grade school girl, I was rather dramatic. A skinned knee would cause me to wail as if I’d been mortally wounded. A tiny spider would set me screaming and send me running for cover as if I’d seen a tarantula. If a friend were mad at me, I’d worry and pout and get a pit in my stomach thinking my social world had come to a complete end.

My antics often found my mom saying this to me, “Oh…you’re making a big “to do” about nothing.”

I never understood what that meant.

{And she kind of pronounced it “ta do” not “to do”. What was up with that?}

In college I studied Shakespeare. It was then I discovered he wrote a play called Much Ado About Nothing. Perhaps over the years that phrase had morphed into my moms cliche’. Who knows?

All I know is I am faced with a big “To Do” as of late… in “TO DO LIST”.  You know, the kind of week or month where just making the “to do” list takes the better chunk of an hour.

Then, you are almost afraid to read what you wrote, surmising that perhaps, if you ignore it, it will go away. Kind of the opposite of the whole “If you build it they will come” thing. :-)

Can I get a witness?

Well, this week, let’s talk about making a big “to do”. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years:

~ Do NOT make just one “to do” list. If you write down 23 things and then, at the end of the day, you’ve only been able to cross off 5 items, you’ll feel defeated.

~Split your list into three categories: Today; Soon & Someday. The first list is what you have to do. The second is what you want to do if there is time and the third list holds those projects you may never get around to but would feel oh-so organized if you ever did!

~Beyond just prioritizing by splitting into the three lists, prioritize each list. By that I mean even the things on your Today list will need to be in order. You can either write them in order of importance. (That usually takes me a couple of tries and involves scratching or erasing and frustration.) Or, make the list and then wield a bright colored highlighter. Highlight only the first thing or two you must do. When they are done, cross them off and highlight something else. It doesn’t matter this way if they are in perfect order.

~Use a legal pad or top-bound spiral notebook. I put my fun and funky colored top-bound spiral notebook on my clipboard opened to my Today list. It is down the left side of my page. My Soon list is down the right side of my page. My Someday list is on the very last page of my notebook and I keep adding to it as I think of projects.

~Also use a clipboard that opens up to reveal a compartment for papers and pens. By having it on a clipboard that holds papers and my pen and highlighter, I can toss in any items that must be dealt with today; an overdue library book notice, a bill that must be paid asap, a permission slip that needs to be filled out and returned for an activity, etc… Make it a habit to check in your clipboard before nightfall and deal with any papers there.

~If you want to get even more specific, split your Today list into three categories: To Call; To Do and Computer. This helps me to see my work in chunks. Do I have lots of computer time work to do like answering and sending emails, writing or ordering items online? How many phone calls must I make for that project at church or for my son’s baseball team party?

This way, I can tell when it is best to do those tasks. If I have a half hour of calls to make and my son needs to be at his game 45 minutes before it starts, I can drop him off, whip over to a local cafe to grab a coffee, go back to the ball diamond, position my lawn chair where I’ll get a good view, and make my calls until the game starts and I have to start hollerin’.

(Yeah… I’m one of those moms. And I will not stop. I’ve had too many of my sons’ teammates tell me, ” Mrs. E, When I was up to the plate, I heard you yell, ‘You can do it! You know you can! Come on now, give it a ride!’ And I thought, “I can do it ” The next thing we heard was the crack of a ball on a bat! I like to think it is due to the encouragement they heard and not due to the fact that the opposing team’s pitcher just lobbed it in there. So I say yell for those kids. Only positive things now…. This concludes this unplanned editorial.)

How about it? Is it time for you to make a big “to do”?


Karen Ehman,

5 Things I Learned from Writing ‘Moms’ Night Out’ (Plus a Giveaway)


Do you have a dream that you don’t dwell on long because the idea of it coming true seems so unattainable? I’ve had a dream like that. It’s seeing one of my novels make it to the big screen, and on May 9th that’ll be happening!

Well, to clarify, I wrote the novelization of Moms’ Night Out. That means they sent me an “almost complete” copy of the movie, and I wrote a novel from it. Yet even though I didn’t come up with the concept, there so much of “me” in this book. And more that what I gave to the project, I’m blessed by what I was given, too.

Moms Night Out Novel PK

Here are 5 Things I Learned from Writing Moms’ Night Out

  1. Sometimes God gives you the desires of your heart even when they don’t look like what you think they do. Writing this book made me feel special. It’s as if God knew how much I’d love this project, and He honored me with it. He showed me He knows my heart even better than I do. He knew what would bring me great joy.
  2. Sometimes God uses past struggles to encourage people we’ll never meet. The main characters of Moms’ Night Out are a teen mom, a ministry mom, and an overwhelmed mom. I’ve been all three! How crazy that I was able to share the struggles and journeys of each of these characters, mainly because they were my story, too.
  3. Sometimes fictional stories hit our hearts deep. I’m not too proud to admit that I cried in this movie a number of times. Yes, it’s a comedy, but there are also heart messages that hit deep. The most important one is, “Mom, you are enough.” I’m getting teared up just thinking about it.
  4. Sometimes you think a project is about one thing, but it’s actually about something else. Yes, I loved working on this book, but the new friends I’ve made along the way are amazing! Because of working on this project I’ve found heart-friends that I won’t trade for anything. (I’m pointing at YOU, Kerri Pomarolli!) I’ve often found that the people I get to work with are a bonus beyond the projects! Have you found the same?
  5. Sometimes moms need a break . . . and they just need someone to get the ball rolling for the fun to start. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve just gone out with mom-friends. After watching this movie, I realized I needed to do this more. I might have gone a little over the top because I’ve rented a whole theater for my girlfriends to watch Moms’ Night Out with me. (A little over the top.) All I can say is that it’ll be great to be surrounded by 148 dear ladies (and a few brave gentlemen). And no popcorn fights, please!

What about you? Do you need time out with friends? I highly recommend Moms’ Night Out, to be released on May 9.

Also, friend, don’t be afraid to talk to God about the desires of your heart. Yes, there are some things that seem over-the-top, but I’m discover a God who loves to bless His daughters. Turn to Him with your desires and see what HE can do!

Leave a comment below and tell me about what you’d like to do during a time out with your mom-friends, and I’ll give one person a copy of my new book, Moms’ Night Out!


Tricia Goyer,

Growing a Family on a Next-to-Nothing Budget

It’s true that you can grow a family on a next-to-nothing budget.

Depending on the location where the family resides, the cost-of-living, and other factors in or out of the family’s control, the actual amount of money in each family’s budget can differ greatly. Let’s just agree to not put a number on what is considered a “next-to-nothing budget.”

If you are in a season in which you are living on just such a budget, you know who you are and actual numbers aren’t necessary.

Some families are in extreme situations where God buys their groceries (He is faithful!); others use wisdom and make sacrifices to stay at home with their kids when they can barely afford itIn our situation, we are a growing family of eight–six children that range in age from 1 up to almost 14. We’ve lived on a tight budget for our nearly 16 years of marriage and have been stretched again and again. It has made us strong as a family. It has also made us  seek the Lord and His will over many situations in our lives. 

Growing a Family on a Next-to-Nothing Budget


Joy is free! However, there are so many without joy in their lives.

Don’t let budget woes steal your joy. It’s not so much a love of money that steals your joy when you have no money; from my experience it’s the pressure that can be produced by the lack of funds. When I have felt that pressure, I have to take a moment and hand it back to the Lord. He is so much better than I at bearing that weight!

“Okay, Father. You see our needs. You know this situation. I have to release this to You to get it off of me. Help us use wisdom to handle this situation for your glory. I am handing it to you now. Thank You for your sovereign care.” (And often times when I release a care to the Lord I physically act like I’m handing off that care to Him.)

Choose today to have joy. Enjoy your children. Enjoy your home. Enjoy your husband. If you’re reading this, enjoy the gift of being alive! If you have joy, no matter the circumstance, your children will learn joy from you!


Take inventory of what you have to work with and give the Lord thanks.

Over the years I have practiced radical thanks, very much like what Ann Voskamp shares in her book 1000 Gifts. The Lord has taught me a lot about contentment in our run-down old farm house. Many years, as I watched the paint peel, I felt like layers of my soul were peeling too. My praise report is, after saving (and praying!) for quite a while, we were finally able to have our house repainted! It all came together when I least expected it.

The Lord is faithful to honor the desires of our heart, and I’m certain that being thankful in the process is a big part of the picture.


I have some basic practices, simple things really, that over the years have saved us money in small ways that really can add up. Here are a few of my tips. Be sure to leave your best tips in the comments after this post.

No Cable TV: Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we would pay almost $1,000 a year for cable. About 5 years ago we ditched our cable bill and checked out free movies from our library. Now with great services like Netflix, and even Amazon Prime, we have access to thousands of movies and educational shows for a fraction of the cost.

Shop with Cash Only: This can be a hard one, and at first it even seemed unnecessary to me. We don’t use credit cards anyway, so I didn’t see the problem of shopping with my debit card. However, after finding Dave Ramsey’s book in the trash our perspective seriously changed and I gave shopping on a cash-only system a try. I found that I saved at least $30-$50 a month doing so. Click here to watch my video on How to Save Money On Groceries: One Easy Step That Can Save You $300-$500+ Annually.

Don’t Fear Thrift Stores: We’ve shopped at thrift stores for years. Our local Good-Will has all children’s clothing for $2. Our children have mostly name-brand clothing in new or almost new condition. I also heavily shop the seasonal sales at Walmart. As fall begins, I know that I can stock up on sandals, t-shirts, bathing suits, and shorts for the following year. Just this spring I bought stacks of little gloves and mittens for $0.10 a pair because I know next winter I’ll be thankful that I thought ahead.

Saving Money on Travel: I share Money Saving Tips for Traveling with Lots of Kids which includes ideas such as taking our own food, planning our travel around Free National Park Days, and pre-purchasing treats for the kids from the Dollar Store. We try to plan in free or nearly free activities for when we go visit family and friends.

Go Paperless in Your Kitchen: Another simple step is, instead of paper napkins and paper towels, recycle reusable cloth for napkins. When I get the thrill of getting a new set of dish towels, I cut my old set into several reusable napkins. This step alone saves my family over $100 a year!

Drink Water: We drink a lot of water at our house. The big choice here is whether to have ice cubes or no ice cubes in the cup. We never buy juice or soda. It’s water and then more water. This is a big savings.

Homemade Cleaning Products: A way to save another $300-$500 a year is to make homemade laundry detergent. You don’t have to stop there; you can make natural homemade cleaners, do household cleaning with vinegar, make homemade soap, and even homemade toilet bowl cleaner.

Last month on The Better Mom I shared 107 Ways to Save Your Family Money – BIG TIME! What are your additional money saving tips?

This post is by Jamerrill Stewart of JamerrillStewart.TV where she shares weekly videos about homeschooling, motherhood, and more, as well as where she daily helps thousands of homeschooling families afford the homeschool life!

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