As promised, here is the post about what the next season holds for the Howards.

Well, Jay and I are actually looking into buying a house. Believe it or not, after 12 different spaces, we are ready to stay in one for more than a year or less. We decided a few months ago to stick around Springfield for the foreseeable future. We (gladly) placed our PhD aspirations on the back burner for now and decided to focus on building up Spare Key and creating that long term intentional community that all of our different living situations and relationships have led us to.

ObCWRa1FLrD6Yw8d-LENNjnC5B5I60g5fOzrHh4cX5oWe are really excited about the house hunt. We are looking for a house that enables us to add to our list of people we have lived with. We want to continue our adventure in community through this major purchase. We have no timeline on this process. We are waiting for the just right house to pop up in West Central Springfield, the neighborhood we have grown to love.

The idea of “settling down” has often made me turn up my nose and think, “that’s not for me.” Well, in those seasons, settling down
wasn’t for me. We find ourselves in a different place in life now. We are ready to be here. I constantly have trouble being fully present and content where I am. I am always looking at what’s around the corner. Where will I live next? What job will I do next year? What is community going to look like for us tomorrow? Over the past 2 years I have worked on that. I have come to value the present. While I still look ahead, what I see next is still in this same neighborhood with our same friends at our same jobs. And I’m okay with that. I no longer feel the need to move every 12 months in order to change things up or in order to pursuUnknowne something new. (Although, I did feel the need to deep, deep, deep clean our house after being here 12 months).

I am reading back through Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove’s book The Wisdom of Stability and I came across this quote,

“We find the stability we were made for as we come home to life with God in community with other people. This is our true home. But settling in isn’t always easy.”

Well, I think I am finally ready for that stability. I look forward to seeing who joins us in our search for stability as we continue pursuing community through long term intentional community.


In recent months I have been contemplating how many people I have been blessed to live with in my life. It’s kind of a silly number. In my short 28 years, I have lived with 23 different people. Jay’s number is a bit higher than that. Is that normal? Probably not.

For 18 years, I lived with my family as I grew up in a tiny town. That provided a steady and stable 4 other people to share life with. Then I entered college. Since I moved away from home ten years ago, I have lived in 12 different places in three different cities with 19 different people! Is that normal? Probably not.

Simply put, I am drawn to community. That is the reason I have lived in so many different places with so many different people. I have loved every living situation I have had. From a college dorm room to living with a family from my church to a newlywed apartment to a huge house with 8 other people. They were all sweet and joyous and trying and challenging.

It seems like everyone I talk to has an awful roommate story to share. Perhaps I block out the bad stuff, but I really can’t think of any stories to contribute during these times. I can’t put my finger on why that is, but I am thankful for it. I’m so grateful for the 23 people I have been blessed to share my life with in this way. I am looking forward to adding to that list in the next season. I’ll write about that next season soon. This blog was just to reflect on our past communities.

Spare Key Community!https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=607970292629464&set=a.607970582629435.1073741826.607967872629706&type=1

Our little community of adventurers here in Springfield have started our own blog to share our journey! We all take turns posting weekly. Check it out!


My dear friend Bethany has got me into pinning some of our old blog posts on Pinterest as a way to get readership up and tell the world about our adventures. She’s smart and social media savvy like that. Well, as I was looking back at old posts, I came across some really fun reads! I thought I would highlight some of my favorites here and maybe you would want to go back and read some of them. A lot of them are pretty humorous and heart warming. Enjoy!

Why Live in Community? 9-28-09
This is an old post about why we want to live in community, but still pretty accurate. Perhaps we will write a new post based on this one with current reasons why we want/have community.

“We don’t want to live in community so that it can change us into people that we are not. We desire community so that we can change the world to bridge the gap between what is an what should be.”

Community of Squirrels 2-25-10
This is just a fun post about feeding squirrels.

“Eat with some animals today.”

Rethinking Art 5-19-10
Here is a cool post about living in the present.

“Let’s thoroughly enjoy the foreground and let God paint the background as He wills. Perhaps if we rethink the way we paint, then we will savor our life in the present rather than just making other plans that will likely go a rye.”

Considering the Birds 7-25-10
A post about not worrying after a pretty alarming event occurred.

A Picture of Love 9-7-10
This one is a picture post of this really cool tree in Pittsburgh with names carved in it.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland 1-15-11
This is a fun post about walking in Pittsburgh during the winter.


Gosh, I could keep going with so many more. I still have two years worth of posts to look at. I am so thankful we have this blog that we keep coming back to. I hope you enjoy reading it. It’s been a fun walk down memory lane. Jay, we have had a lot of great adventures together. Let’s have many more!

My husband and I recently had a very good conversation about what we want in terms of our community life. It was good to get on the same page about things. Jay was very insightful and expressed that we need to be clear about what we want, and then find a way to make it happen. And it will happen. He had to assure me of that several times, because I kind of feel like our ideas are far-fetched dreams that seem unlikely to produce fruit. It is possible that I am just in a somber mood, though.

So, I thought we should tell the world what it is that we want. Here goes!

“Our ideal community consists of…”

Our ideal community consists of several small (perhaps tiny?) houses where individual families live. That way, Jay and I would have our own small space to call our own, while other community members—whether they’re married, single, with children, no children, etc.—would have their own spaces, too. Together, the community would share and maintain a common house that is larger (perhaps just a normal sized family home). In my dream, the common house has a very large table for shared meals and a kitchen big enough for many people to prepare food together. Perhaps there would be a room for a library and a room for entertainment. Maybe there’s even a guest room or two for family and friends who come to visit.

I can see us working together on a large garden and preserving much of what we grow. We could share vehicles so that not everyone has to own a car. Everyone can have their own jobs outside of the community but work together on various community projects.


This community doesn’t have to be in the middle of nowhere in the woods, although that is an option. It could be in the middle of Springfield, maybe within walking distance of some staple locations like a grocery store or work, maybe in a neighborhood that could use a little extra love. We are pretty fond of Springfield, so anywhere around here is a good location for us.


At the core of everything would be a spirit of intentionality and cooperation.

At the core of everything would be a spirit of intentionality and cooperation. I don’t want to live in just some subdivision where I barely know my neighbors’ names. Really, what I am describing is pretty much just your average neighborhood with the beautiful added element of intentionality with one another. I crave those shared life rhythms like meals together, and work together, and prayer, and book discussions, etc.

Well, that’s pretty much it. What do you think? I ask because I am truly curious about who else in the area might have similar dreams. Who knows—maybe there are lots of people out there who share these dreams, but just haven’t got the word out about their dreams because they, like me, feel like the dreams are too far-fetched. If something you read here resonated with you, let’s get coffee sometime! Better yet, come over to my house and we can share a meal. Let’s share our dreams together.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

-Henry David Thoreau


I walked to the grocery store to grab some cream cheese for a delicious cream cheese, tomato cucumber sandwich today. As I walked there, I passed a young lady who was having trouble with a wheel on a stroller that held her 6 month old daughter. I stopped to help her for a minute and then she was gratefully on her way. 

At the store, I was tempted to purchase several things that we did not really need such as orange juice, wine, and olive oil. I was deterred from purchasing them knowing I would have to lug those heavy items up the hill to get home instead of just throwing them in the car.

As I left the store to make the short walk home, I was greeted by a really pretty butterfly. It landed on the sidewalk in front of me. Then flew further up the sidewalk and landed until I approached again then flew further up the sidewalk again. This butterfly and I played leapfrog in this way all the way up to my doorstep. It was almost like that butterfly was making sure I made it home safely and once I was safely inside, it flew away to watch over another traveler. 


We got a Toyota Corolla after the wreck in hopes that it will last forever.

When I sat to eat my tasty sandwich, I pondered what it would have been like if I had drove to the store instead. I wouldn’t have been able to help the lady with the stroller. I would have come home with far more groceries than I really needed. I would not have had the pleasure of journeying with a butterfly. I wouldn’t have got the small bit of exercise walking required. I likely wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now.


When Jay and I got married, the idealists in us decided that we would never have more than one of anything. Only one car, one computer, one television (if that!), one table, etc. Since that time, life has set in to change that a little bit. We currently have three computers (see yesterday’s post to find the reason for this), only one of which is truly functional. We have two tables because it worked out to have two tables and I got to refinish one and now it makes me really happy to use it. We have two desks and more pillows that any couple should really have (but gosh darn, they just look so good on the bed and are super cozy!) 

But, one thing that we have stuck to in our original plan is to have one car. I have had a lot of people ask me why we only have one car, and many people have thought we were pretty strange for not following the norm in this area. Well, here are some reasons we consider ourselves very blessed to just have one car:

1. It’s cheaper! We are super fortunate to be 26 and just now have a car payment. We would still be driving our old paid off car if it hadn’t been totaled in a wreck last spring. Cars are expensive to maintain, and I’m grateful we only have to worry about one.

2. It makes us coordinate and communicate more. Pretty self-explanatory. If Jay needs to be across town at 3 and I need to be on the other side of town at 4, there is some fun planning and orchestrating that takes place. Which leads to my next point…

3. It allows us to rely on others more. I have a hard time with this one pretty often. I like to be independent, but it turns out, that’s not really what we were made to do, and that’s for sure not what community is about. For example, last April, a car pulled out in front of me on one of those crazy days when it was sleeting in the Spring. Both cars were damaged pretty badly, but I wasn’t too far from home. I called Jay and he, of course was quite worried and alarmed. I was still pretty dazed and confused from the impact, so I asked him to come get me on his bike. No, his bike doesn’t have a sidecar or anything. I don’t know what I was thinking. He was smart and a little less foggy-brained and called our good friend Rob. Within minutes, both of them were there in Rob’s car where we sat to warm ourselves while we waited. That’s the kind of inter-dependence that having only one car leads to.

4. Having only one car forces us to be intentional about where we live. We currently live within biking or walking distance of both of our jobs, our school, a grocery store, Walgreens, the farm where we get our CSA, lots of friends, another local farm, the Greenway trail, the dog park, and several other parks. This is not coincidence. We would like to always live within biking or walking distance to at least one of our jobs so that this one car lifestyle can last.

5. We bike and walk so much more! A few weeks ago Jay took the car out of town for the weekend while I stayed home. I won’t lie, part of me dreaded not having transportation, but it turned out to be one of the most delightful weekends I have had in a while. It was nice to bike all over the place. Whenever I walked anywhere, Nutmeg joined me. She loved not having a car around!

I’m sure I can think of lots of other reason why having one car works for us and why it is important to us. I mean, who wouldn’t want to walk home from the store with a butterfly?

 Do we think every couple should only have one car? No way. Honestly, we don’t care what you do as long as it works for you. I mean, maybe four or five cars is a bit excessive, but hey, whatever floats your boat! We are thankful that life over the past four years has allowed us to joyfully manage with having only one car. Who knows what will come our way though. We hope that one car is a sustainable long-term thing, or maybe we can even get down to no car. Whoa! Now that might just be a little too crazy.



I think I just completed one of the craziest years of life yet. At least one of the craziest summers for sure. Jay and I started on this little adventure called grad school last August. With a year under our belts and a year to go, I can’t help but reflect back on the past year. Can I blame grad school for not blogging? Like ever? At all? I think so. Let me explain…

We moved back to Springfield from Liberty to begin our adventure in higher education. Since moving a little over a year ago, I have had a grand total of six jobs (at one point all at the same time!) and we have lived in two different apartments. I have accumulated 28 hours of graduate work already. I took 9 of those hours this past summer which added up to 3 hours online and 6 in a face to face course that met four days a week for over four hours every day. Oh, and I worked around 20 hours every week. Just for giggles (or to make me depressed, I’m not sure which one) I counted how many pages I have written in the past year for only grad school related stuff. It came up to 472 pages. I think that’s reason enough to break from blogging. 

So, yeah, it’s been a pretty busy year. But I don’t mind it really. This wasn’t a post to complain or rant, just to update. I like feeling productive. I like knowing that what I am working towards and what I am doing right now makes a difference, even if it’s only in a small way. 

I have a week off between ending this summer semester and beginning the fall semester. I think I will spend it reflecting and pondering how blessed we are to be where we are. I’m hoping that produces a few blog posts. But, I’m not going to promise anything, so don’t  get too excited. Oh, and I might just bake some bread. Wanna come have some with me?