Our Tiny House Build: An Update by Rachel Nordgren


The whole country seems rather fascinated with tiny homes right now. The trend is, by any standards, positively exploding. When Hans and I went to the Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado last year, they were anticipating maybe a couple thousand people to show up.

40,000 people later, they figured out they were on to something.

Hans and I started the tiny home conversation in the early months of 2014. I had stumbled across an article about them online about six months before, became utterly obsessed, and tried to talk Hans into building one. He was reticent for a while, which makes sense...we had just gotten married and finished remodeling our first home a few months before. One more project? No thank you.

But then, simplicity started becoming our heartbeat and we started talking about the financial freedom a tiny house could bring, and dreaming about a tiny house sort of became the logical next step.

Then we started looking at plans.
Then we started drawing tiny house plans on our back patio with chalk (it's actually a really effective way to get an idea of the scale of a tiny house).
Then we went to the Jamboree last August.
Then we got rid of a ton of stuff.
Then we bought plans. (source: Simblissity)
Then we bought a trailer. (source: Tiny House Basics)
Then we got rid of a bunch of other stuff.
Then we turned down an offer to be on Tiny House Nation.
Then we modified the plans.
Then we modified them some more.
Then the plans became more of a rough guideline.

I'm blessed with a husband who has a natural knack for math/geometry and who grew up in a home where his dad runs a construction company. Hans has an incredible work ethic and absolutely loves physical labor. What a weirdo ;) So, he's been handling a lot of the "heavy lifting" with the build up until this point. My role is more moral support/visionary/hold-this/hand-him-that right now, but we're getting to finishing stages. Which means smaller (and less structural) projects that will be easier for me to help with.

If everything goes according to plan, our build will be completed in 6-8 weeks. The outer shell of the house is completed, so the interior + finishing touches are next. I've been getting inspired on Pinterest with different ideas of what I want the interior design to look like!

Some stats on our Tiny House:

Size: Our trailer is 24 feet long by 8 1/2 feet wide.

Square Footage: Interior dimensions are roughly 21 feet (we have a little front porch) by 8 feet, which brings us to 168 square feet, plus a sleeping loft and a storage loft.

Number of windows: 10 + 3 skylights.

Location: Our neighbors are fantastic (except for one ornery old couple who is threatening to burn the tiny house down in the middle of the night because they don't want us to leave the neighborhood) so we're building the tiny home in the driveway next to our "big house."

What about a toilet? Composting all the way, baby.

Where will we put it? To be decided! We have several options right now, so we're working on talking with people and figuring out the best (and most legal) place to park it.

View the nitty gritty details of our Tiny House Build on our Facebook album below!

Make sure you're following me on Periscope and Snapchat for even more tiny house updates!

Essay No. 2 | The Sheepdog's Story by Rachel Nordgren

The Sheepdog's Story: An Essay from Rachel Nordgren
This is the second post in a new series I'm writing: Essays. They're more freeform, memoir-ish at times, reflective pieces. You can find the first post, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, here.

If we're going to be friends, there's something you need to know.

I love my dog.

Hans and I had just gotten back from a walk with Banjo when he asked to pursue a serious relationship with me, and I pointed to Banjo and told Hans that the dog and I, we were a package deal.

Maybe that's how I need to preface all of my relationships...

The dog and I, we are a package deal.

If you're going to be my friend, you should probably get used to me planning get-togethers based on whether or not I can bring Banjo. I'm probably going to bring him to your house. If you're going to follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, you're in for fur mama posts galore. If you come over to our house, there's a 115% chance you will walk away with Banjo hair on your clothes.

So, you should probably know his story.

I still remember the first time I saw Banjo at the shelter...planted firmly at the front of his cage, tail wagging, to make sure I spotted him.

I remember the first night I brought him home, and how he whimpered because he was scared and confused, and how I dragged all my covers onto the floor and curled up next to his kennel to comfort him.

And there have been so many times when he's curled up next to me when I've been scared or confused.

When I was overseas, Banjo stayed with my parents. His ears would perk up every time I skyped home, and he would sniff around behind the computer desk to try to find me. When I walked in the door after being gone for 6 weeks, he couldn't contain himself. He whined, jumped, licked, and about pawed me to death.

He always makes people smile. ALWAYS.

When Hans and I first started dating, Hans wasn't too thrilled about having to share my affections with a dog. I believe he rather resented Banjo at first. But several months into our marriage, I caught Hans letting Banjo up on the couch.

Now? Banjo spends almost every night curled up on the bed, we take him on volunteer hospice visits together, and he and Hans roughhouse together on the daily.

We've met so many families in our neighborhood because their kids wanted to pet Banjo when we're out on a walk. Curbside conversations have sprouted into friendships.

He is so gentle with small children, even when they flop all over him and pull his ears.

The other main man in my life, my dad, loves Banjo more than words can describe. One of my favorite pictures from our wedding day is the three of us with big goofy grins in our backyard.

When we road tripped to Galveston two years ago, he simply adored the beach and going camping. I'd never seen him run so much or sleep so hard.

Except, maybe for the time we went to Colorado last summer, and he discovered mountains for the first time. When we were packing up on the last morning, he took off down the sidewalk like an absolute boss, ignoring all our calls to come back. Hans and I couldn't stop laughing at his determination to never leave the mountains. He teetered between elation and exhaustion for four days straight.


Car rides are his favorite.

Peanut butter jars are his favorite.

Basically, just being a dog is his favorite.

Our bed is just low enough that he can stick his big furry face into mine every morning. His tail thump-thump-thumps against the wall because he's so excited for the day and he can't wait for me to get up.

He's stolen my heart and given so much joy in return. He is one in a zillion million, and I'll love him until the day he closes those big brown eyes for the last time.

Essay No. 1 | Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet by Rachel Nordgren

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet | An Essay from Rachel Nordgren
This is the first in a new blog series that is simply entitled "Essays". These will be more creative pieces, with dashes of storytelling and reflection and occasionally a pinch of humor. They won't follow any particular formula, and will more often than not simply be my way of processing life. Enjoy!

I grew up on the velvet cushioned seats of comfortable churches.

It wasn’t a deliberate move on my parent’s part to keep us in comfortable, easy places...it was simply a matter of routine and familiarity. Like so many American families, Church was a thing we did instead of the way we lived. It was a comfortable box to check, right next to “five bedroom home”, “American flag on the front porch”, and “Conservative political viewpoints”.

But here’s the thing about comfortable Christianity: it doesn’t move you closer to the Gospel. There’s no need for the Gospel if life is easy and snug and tidy. The Cross can stay hung up on that stained glass window, thank you very much.


I grew up on Sleek, Produced performances of praise.

The check-a-box church culture creates an accommodating environment for manufactured worship music. It’s not deliberate or diabolical...it’s simply the way it’s been done. Worship is an art show instead of an atonement, a performance instead of an offering. It’s to warm up the crowd and give us fuzzy feelings.

But here’s the thing about concert Christianity: it doesn't move you closer to the Gospel. There's no need for the Gospel in the middle of a performance, because we've made ourselves the center of attention. The Cross needn't impose on our place in the spotlight, thank you very much.


I grew up on Artificial grape juice and wafers.

Communion felt more perfunctory than anything else, simply another step in the church routine. Sing, sit, sermon, supper of the Lord, sing, stand, shake hands. I’m ashamed of the casual way I approached Communion - seeing it as a perfunctory ritual rather than prayerful remembrance - glossing over what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 11 concerning those who partake in an unworthy manner. I let the stale wafer and syrupy sweet grape juice pass my lips and rush straight past my heart.

But here’s the thing about contrived Christianity: it doesn’t move you closer to the Gospel. There’s no need for the Gospel if we aren’t honest about our busted up bleeding hearts. Jesus’ broken body and His poured out blood can stay in that glib pre-Communion speech, thank you very much.


Then we tried a new church.

I won't sit here and pretend that any church is perfect, or that we're somehow "better" because we left a mega-church in favor of a pint-sized flock. I'm simply going to tell you what happened when we walked away from what a comfortable, cookie-cutter country club of a church and folded ourselves into a humble, ragtag group of believers.

Disclaimer: there's this temptation in Christian circles to think that smaller is better, that the barer the bones means the better the believers. This isn't true.

What is true is this: the Gospel is for all people in all places.

But, back to the new church.

It's small. It meets in another church's building on Sunday nights. It's mostly college students and young couples. There are two pastors on staff and exactly zero moving fancy LED spotlights. The first Sunday we were there, the sermon was "Sex, Marriage, and the Gospel." I've had three separate conversations with the lead pastor about how to make iced coffee for the summer services.

What caught me off guard, though, was this: they use real wine at communion.

The first time we had communion there, I took my torn piece of bread and dipped it in the blood red wine, cupping my hand under the soaked bit of loaf as I made my way back to my threadbare seat. I remember studying the crimson stained bit of bread, the meaning of communion becoming more real than a teensy wafer and shot glass of grape juice had ever represented.

This is My Body, broken for you. This is My Blood, poured out for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

The bread and wine tasted bitter and strong on my tongue, a shock after years of Welch's and freeze dried flour. And suddenly, the Gospel made a little bit more sense. The Cross became a little bit more real.

The Cross was a bitter thing for Jesus to bear.

A bitter, horrible, unimaginably painful thing.

And yet. It's the sweetest gift that could ever possibly be given.

Every bitter thing is sweet.


Currently : Vol. 1 by Rachel Nordgren



How much dithering can one person do? Apparently quite a bit, since it's been three months since I've posted anything and five months since I've posted anything worth reading. I feel like this winter kicked me in the shins, pelted me with snowballs, and then threw a handful of tacks over it's shoulder as it gleefully dashed away. A lot happened. Difficult, heavy, stinging and salty things.

And yet. Good, grand, glorious things happened, too.

In late December I had one of those watershed days. A paper thin 24 hours. By nightfall my emotions were white-knuckled from holding it together under the weight of all the things that had fallen into place.

God's goodness was so apparent in that moment. Not because things worked out perfectly (they didn't) or because everything was pretty (it wasn't) or because I felt lovely (I didn't). I knew God's goodness because I got smacked in the face with it. Hard.

God's goodness stings sometimes. Hebrews 13 talks about being equipped with everything good that we may do His will. Fun fact: the word "equip" translates to mend, repair, fit or frame...and also to re-mend. As in, re-breaking a bone that didn't heal properly and re-setting it so that it will mend correctly.

Y'all, this winter equipped me.

Now that spring is pressing against the edges, now that the broken bones have healed up a bit, it's time to stretch and put some weight on these joints that have spent the past several months curled up and quiet.

Also? Here's a glimpse into what I'm into currently.

READING : "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr (the fuss is well-earned)
LISTENING, PART ONE : "In The River" from Jesus Culture
LISTENING, PART TWO : The perfectly fluffy + funny podcast, The Popcast  
WATCHING : The final episode of Downton Abbey whilst sobbing my face off
SAYING : "In Jesus' Name" (because it keeps my wandering heart tethered to truth)
THANKING : Erin Nausin at Primavera Studio for her help with getting my new site running
STARTING : A job with Day Designer on their Marketing Team!
FINISHING : This blog post, because homegirl has a lot to get to today

December Update by Rachel Nordgren


Hello there, friend.

I won't waste any time with excuses or formalities...let's just say that I've missed you and I've missed writing and the fact that the holidays are a crazy time of year isn't news to anyone. So, consider this December update post a quick catch-up on life, blogging, and plans for 2016.


Life | Here's what the past couple of weeks have looked like. Went to Phoenix for a childhood friends' wedding. Visited the home I grew up in. Got to have brunch with Madison Wetherill. Shouted "Well done, Sir!" to God when I saw this sunrise. Taught a class with the Influence Network. Learned how to cut my husband's hair. Hosted an epic Friendsgiving. Also hosted a Downton Abbey baby shower for my dear friend Kendra. Spent Thanksgiving with my parents down in Derby. Binge-watched four episodes of The Americans with Hans (unsure of how I feel about this one).


| After

Write 31 Days

came to a screeching halt, I did what any self-respecting blogger would do and hid from my blog for six weeks.

Because, you know, that makes sense.

Mostly, I've been getting super introspective about what I want my blog to be about. What do I want to spend my time writing? What do I have to say that I think will be of value to you, the reader?

This is the conclusion I've come to: ultimately, I want to write things that give life.

This means I won't be cranking out posts as often, and that there won't be as many 7 Quick + Dirty Decluttering Tips or How to Get Rid of 25 Things in 5 Minutes type posts. But it does mean that you'll be getting more of my heart and less of my hustle.

Tiny House | Hans and I picked up our tiny house trailer a few weeks ago, and haven't done much since. We (and by "we" I mean mostly Hans) were working on remodeling/finishing our basement, and Hans only wanted to be working on one big project at a time.

Now the basement is finished (#praisehands) and we can bust out our tiny house! We've ordered framing plans from

SimBLISSity Tiny Homes

, so the goal is to get the house framed and sealed before Kansas gets too unbearably cold, and then finish the interior over the winter.

Things I'm loving lately... + Make Room for Advent + Around The Table Podcast + QALO Rings + Lara Casey's PowerSheets Workbook + What Advent + Adele Have In Common + Cranberry Sangria Recipe

What's YOUR December Update, friend? How are you??