Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life shares 12 secrets for seeking—and finding—the Good Life in our day to day lives. From time management and goal-setting to managing our homes and finances, these practical and concrete strategies can help each of us discover a life rich with purpose. Even so, a life well lived is not so much about what we have as who we are, and ultimately each one of us holds the key to our own secrets. Secret 13 is the truth that YOU have uncovered as you discover your own Good Life. 

Each week for 12 weeks we will select one finalist’s essay to feature here at Living Well Spending Less. At the end of the 12 weeks, Living Well Spending Less readers will vote on their favorite #Secret13 story, and the essay with the most votes will win a 7 day cruise for 4 on the Carnival SunshineToday’s post is our sixth finalist in the Secret 13 Essay Contest. For more inspiring Secret 13 stories, be sure to check out our Blog Tour!

My name is Amanda and I live on the beautiful western slope of Colorado.headshotamanda
I spend my days as mom/teacher to one spunky, unstoppable, 3rd grade girl, and wife to an amazing man – the kind of man who, when faced with a flood, simply says, “We’ll rebuild it. And better.”
On August 4, 2014, runoff from a 17-minute record-breaking downpour came hurdling down the desert mountain slopes and converged on our property. Our garage was leveled, our house was pushed from its foundation, and our vehicles were carried off in a wave. Miraculously, we were all out of the house at the time. That is a fact I wake up thankful for every morning.
I entered this essay contest out of an intense need to process the amazing journey we have been on since that day, and prepare for the journey that still lies ahead. I am compelled to make my struggles meaningful. I long for some small way of encouraging others – of giving back to so many who have helped us through this adventure. I want to remember someday, that we lived the good life right here in our camper, as we work to rebuild in spite of our “sorry you’re not insured for flood” financial situation. And, of course, I would love to escape it all for 7 days to doesn’t-matter-where.

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It's ok to be broken

By the time most of us realize Secret #1, that the Good Life is not what we thought it was, we are in a bit of a mess. Years later, we realize that “oops” moments are not a singular event, but a recurring one. Some are preventable and some are completely unforeseeable, but either type of crisis can paralyze us, and keep us from engaging in the beauty and excitement that is around us. For me, Secret 13 is about accepting my broken circumstances and living the Good Life anyway. I hope you see a little bit of your story in mine…

Seashell on the seashore

I walked through the sand at a near frantic pace as the sun rose. “This is the last day, there has to be one here,” I said out loud as I scanned the beach. A few months earlier, along the same piece of shore line, I stumbled upon the most perfect, big, conch shells – one each morning. But now, nothing! Hot tears rolled down my cheeks. “I don’t understand,” I whispered.

I really thought I needed to find a perfect shell that day. It had been seven weeks since the flood that destroyed our house, and two weeks since the rotting leftovers had been hauled away leaving a gaping hole where our home once was. I wanted some symbol of assurance that everything was going to be perfect again. I wanted something beautiful to hold on to. And, of course, I wanted all that very specifically in the form of a shiny, flawless, (preferably animal-free), conch shell.

In my last steps off of the beach that day, I found it. I ran my fingers along the mathematically perfect swirls and pulled it out of the deep sand. But as I turned it in my hands I saw that it was – gasp – broken! I sighed heavily and let that word sink in as I gently lowered it to my bucket, pasted back on my happy face, and steeled myself for the road ahead.

Living in a camper

In the weeks that followed, I rarely thought about that shell, which made a quiet home on my kitchen window sill. I was busy homeschooling our 3rd grader and trying to keep her life as normal as possible, making our new temporary camper home functional, preparing for a house rebuild, and settling on the reality that there is no “fund” for an isolated natural disaster in which a single desert home is destroyed by an unprecedented flash flood. We simply pressed on.

Fast forward to the new year. I stumbled on this verse last week, just grazing through the bible, looking for an encouraging verse of an entirely different kind :   Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’  -Isaiah 45:9 (NLT)

I actually laughed out loud, which was probably a devotion time first for me. I let that one roll around in my head before declaring inwardly,  “Cute. But not what I’m looking for.” I kept reading on for the kind of encouragement I wanted. I was specifically looking for the verses that assure you treasures, proverbs that promise wisdom as a reward for hard work, and something vaguely about fairness. No luck, so I brushed it off and moved on with my day.

Isn’t it funny how unwanted, yet important messages just keep weaseling their way into the spotlight, until “not what I’m looking for” becomes impossible to ignore? Our days had been getting worse lately instead of better and the weekend culminated in a doozey. Burst pipes,  major equipment failure, growing expenses and sleepless nights. The last straw was when I swiped my favorite coffee cup off the bench. Chunks of the sharp pottery flew across the garage. Broken. My husband and I, without looking at each other, agreed that we were done for the day. We cleaned up a few things, but eventually just let things be and trudged up to the camper to listen to Sunday’s podcast, the one we missed because of projects gone awry.

Clumsily bumping around, we peeled off our muddy boots and outerwear. I started the message and we slumped down in our chairs as we heard, “Turn with me now, to Isaiah chapter 43.” What’s this? I bolted up and hit pause. With new energy, I blurted out what I had read earlier in the week. We laughed together and agreed that chapter 45 was sure to be included, and we should probably listen on. I joked that all I wanted was some encouragement, but it appeared that we were in for a lesson instead. I feigned frustration, rolled my eyes and pushed play expectantly.

Broken coffee cup

As the speaker continued, I began to hear through my own history, the message that was meant for my heart. Memories flooded back of the time I walked on the beach this fall, searching for the perfect shell and finding only a broken one. I saw the house as it was crushed and reduced to five dumpsters of debris. I watched my coffee mug shatter in slow motion across the garage floor. I heard the words, “It’s okay to be a little broken.”

I laughed out loud to myself again. What pot could tell the potter it’s a little lumpy? Or that this edge is too thin and fragile? What pot screams to the potter, “I am ugly!” or  “Please hurry!” or “I am broken!” Let me tell you. This crackpot.

(It is great consolation to me – and maybe to you – that I’m not the first one in history to make this mistake and probably not the last. Isaiah was written hundreds of years B.C., and despite many chances for this little tidbit to get lost in history, still it remains part of the bible today. I’m guessing it wasn’t just for me.)

In the days that followed, I approached life with an altogether lighter attitude. Yes, there is still an overwhelming amount of work to be done and a never-ending stream of new bills to pay. Yes, it will be hard, things will continue to go wrong, schedules will fail and trusty equipment will break down. But, I have discovered these two more important truths. 1)  The stories I know don’t end with brokenness – they end with redemption. They end with something amazing. 2) I don’t want to give up the Good Life that is happening all around me while I am wallowing over the crack in my shell or pining for a happily ever after. So what is the alternative? Decide that it’s okay to be a little broken. And keep moving forward.

For my mom, my sisters, and all the women in my life who not only help me to endure through times of brokenness, but inspire me to see it as a beautiful part of my journey.

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Want to enter for a chance to win an all-expenses paid cruise for four on the Carnival Sunshine? In 750-1200 words, please share your own Living Well Spending Less® story. It could be a challenge you faced in your own life and the lesson you learned as you overcame it, or a personal story about how something within one of the chapters of Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life personally affected or changed you.

Next, send a copy of your essay to Be sure to also include your name and blog name (if you have a blog), as well as a photo of yourself and any other photos you’d like to include. For more details about the contest and how to enter, please check out our Secret 13 Contest Page!

Win a cruise

Ruth Soukup

Ruth Soukup - LIVING WELL SPENDING LESS. Practical solutions for everyday overwhelm. Food Made Simple, Life Etc., Home 101, Smart Money. Start organizing your whole life today!