08 September, 2012

The Sanctuary

I'm really happy to finally take a few minutes to post these photos.

My mom always emphasized the importance of the master bedroom.  She said it should always be prioritized as a special place.  (You should ask to see hers.  Tell her I sent you.  She'll be so embarrassed but their room is awesome. :)  She had reason to stress this point so heavily in my childhood; my bedroom as a teenager was usually wrecked (aren't they all?)  Mom was trying to plant the seed that eventually, my bedroom would be more than my bed.  It would be mission control for my marriage...a haven for two tired parents of young children...a refuge from life.

Once, when we were building our Amway business, we visited a home in a backwoods town.  The home was very small and packed full of stuff.  Cheap toys picked up second hand at a yard sale.  NFL memorabilia and tacky figurines perched under a thick coat of dust, on random shelves hung sporadically on the walls.  Childrens school photos, stuffed crookedly in their dollar store frames.  A TV screen entirely too big for the small room, glaring over dark stains on the carpet. 

I don't judge people for their homes, and even in these troubled surroundings, I was loving.  I didn't see drug paraphernalia or pornography, so it was less troubling than some other places we had been.  But when we asked to use their computer, we were led into the master bedroom.  The desk was along a cheaply paneled wall, next to the master bed, with about 8 inches between for walking.  No lamps in the room, leading to the switch of a harsh overhead light, creating unflattering shadows and hues.  An open potato chip bag, two empty glasses and a stack of various paperwork on the nightstand.  A cat litter box in one corner serviced by three enormous cats, which smelled horribly and hadn't been cleaned in several days.  A ratty screen-printed comforter presided over an unmade bed.  This room was full, too...crammed full of stuff.

I surveyed it briefly, and determined to keep my heart right.
  • Small homes are so difficult--there's just not a lot of storage
  • Families have lots of stuff.
  • Perhaps they work off shifts and one of them just woke up
  • Maybe they're artistic types, and they like clutter
  • Not everyone has a interest in decorating, homemaking or cleaning.
  • Women work hard outside the home; to come home and be Wonderwoman is often impossible.
But when you combine all the possibilities with the crumbs on the nightstand and the smelly litter box in the corner, this room was telling a story, and my heart ached at the punchline:  our marriage is not our priority.
You might think that is judgmental, and its possible but I have not learned all I need to in this area.  Its possible I should have more grace for this scenario.  As described in the disclaimer tab on this blog, I'm open to God's continual revelation on this subject.

But let me get to my point.  It was extraordinarily uncomfortable for me to be in that room.  Not simply because it was their bedroom, but because it was so clearly unkempt that I itched to dig to the bottom of the piles and begin helping them bring order to their lives.  Not because of my preferences, but because it was obvious that those two married people did not spend any leisurely time in that room by themselves.  It was not a comfortable or quiet place.  Nothing about it invited their communication or intimacy.

When we moved here to Liberty Street, we used the rooms upstairs as the former owners had, making our master bedroom the same room theirs had been.  After living here over a year, it occurred to me one day that we were not using the rooms as our family would best benefit.  And Nick saw my vision immediately.  Within a week, we had swapped furniture with Aly, and we were in the bedroom at the front of the house.  With the bright yellow paint that came with the house.

I am not a bright yellow paint girl.  When we were in the other room, I could reasonably delay "finishing" that room, because the fixtures and paint were at least temporarily pleasing.  But now that we had moved into our permanent room, it was time for me to invest in us.  With two young'uns underfoot, we were coming into a need of our quiet place, our refuge.  In our eight years, we had only had two new sets of sheets--using one set so thoroughly that one day, I slid my feet into the bed and punched a huge rip right through the bottom sheet.  We had only had one comforter in all that time, bought on clearance as a bed-in-a-bag set with some Christmas money one year.  Other than two valances bought for $10 from Ollies one year, our bedroom has never had curtains.  Our mattress is about fifteen years old, and we are the second people to use it.  We have beautiful bedroom furniture, given to us as a gift from Nick's parents when we got married, so we had that in our favor. 

Here are some photos of the "new-to us" room, complete with the new paint, sheets, curtains...  And it's attractive and orderly.  It's us--not fussy, not elegant, not retro, not even very trendy.  But we both walk in and think ahhh, I love this place.  We both relax here.  We like to come here and close the door behind us.

And it's clean.  It's still not natural for me to prioritize this room, to make sure it is vacuumed and tidied, perhaps even before the major rooms of our home.  It still takes effort for me to remember to make the bed, to put away the laundry, to put wallets, dishes, Kleenexes out of sight.  To slide the curtains back and put the blinds up.  But something about the act of creating an us place, something about intentionally investing in a sanctuary for our marriage, has been enormously impacting.  Our sex life is better, too.  (Bonus.)

We are using a basic mattress frame for now, which includes these delightfully tacky wheels.  Eventually we'll commit to some sort of mattress base...probably something with storage beneath.
Can I highly recommend lights like these?  Awesome for reading, and nice hue and brightness for other activities, adjustable, and low profile.  We didn't have room for lamp stands, so this was awesome.  (And they came with our house, which was nice!)
Bookshelves were a blessing from some friends recently--came on the exact day when I was thinking "Hmmm, what to put over our bed?"  What a blessing!
I took a chance following an idea to paint the ceiling darker.  I loved how it turned out!  It would only be a good idea for high ceilings (this house has 9 ft ceilings) or the dark topper makes the ceiling feel too close.  But I was so glad I risked it!  Even though I was in so much pain the next morning from painting over my head so much!
Another risk I took:  painting the window frame black.  I LOVE the touch it adds, but its at a standstill until I can borrow an extension ladder.  The outside of the windows were very sloppily-painted by a previous owner, and the windows have paint on them--which makes the inside job look poor.  But we'll finish at some point--and I just think it's such a classy touch!
I'll be honest, that's primer on the door.  I may never paint it.  I just can't make myself cover up that weird look yet.  I just really like it.  I know Mom, I know.  And I'll probably paint it at some point.  But not today.  I just think it's interesting to look at.
When I went to visit my friend Jen in Pittsburgh, she had eucalyptus in her house.  I loved the smell of it!  I had always avoided it because Mom used it years ago in her house, but something about it was so attractive to me.  So now I have some in our bedroom.  The lamp is temporary--not sure what I want that to look like yet.  The dresser is part of the bedroom suite Dad & Mom Helman gave us.

So whattya think?
Does your Master Bedroom need your attention? It doesn't have too look like ours.
Maybe you like a dark room.  I like lots of light.
Maybe you like bright yellow.  More power to you.
Maybe you don't care if the bed is made or not.  Awesome--as long as it doesn't hinder your ability to relax (for me, it does.)

The moral:  is your bedroom--the one you share with your lover--a safe place?  Is it comfortable and clean?  Is it attractive and appealing?  Do you seek it out?

If not, don't stress.  Just start, however slowly you like.  The next nice lamp you find on clearance, consider it.  Need sheets?  Start a fund.  Wish you had new pillows?  Talk to God about it.  Just start problem-solving and solution seeking.  No need to overhaul like we did.  No need to go crazy and do it in a week, like we did.  But use what you do have, and more will be added.  I can't wait to hear how it blesses you and your marriage!

21 June, 2012

The Big Reveal

Recently, my very heartbeat has cried out for authenticity.  My unrehearsed strategy was to start by encouraging those around me to be authentic with me--perhaps that would create the environment in which I could simultaneously and safely begin to reveal my true self as well.  It has been something of a slow process.

I've learned to be careful but persistent.  I had dinner with my mom and sisters this week, and had to broach a difficult subject.  I was intimidated, and in my awkwardness, I said things poorly.  The atmosphere was immediately strained.  They are patient with me, and I kept trying.  They know my occasional verbal ineptitude, and eventually we got it sorted out.  But in all honesty, that solitary assault on my confidence nearly dismantled the entire effort.  What if my purehearted honesty meant the loss of those most dear to me?

And then, tonight, it happened again: another occasion arose that shook my resolve.  I had a phone conversation with someone that I love.  It was ill-timed from the start: I was at the YMCA in gym clothes, ready to work out.  But I thought it would only take a moment.  I had a question for her that I knew I could phrase better in writing.  But I wanted to try to do it verbally, to try to grow in that area.  And once again, I did it so poorly.  The conversation was good, and it ended well, but when it was over, nearly an hour later, I cried.  I knew that very little of my true heart had been represented.  I knew the case against my true authentic self had been strengthened.  She is patient, and eventually I will figure out how to be authentic with her too.  But I ache, because my heart is weary of this constant effort.  It seems often, in my effort to be authentic, I constantly feel vulnerable and embarrassed.

Since we hung up, I have been wrestling with myself.  I cried in fear that perhaps I am misplaced.  I nursed my proud heart and mourned my embarrassment (my least favorite emotion). I have spent several years in the shadows and have become comfortable in the ambiguity.  I feel exposed now, and nervous.  I wonder if the quest to be real is worth it?  Why was I so foolish to accept advancement?  My heart is crying out: what if they don't like me?

I came home, and began to write.  And I cried.  Nick took the kids and I hid in our dark bedroom, like a wounded animal.  I wrote and deleted and wrote, sobbing.  I wanted to erect a verbal anthem in defense of my heart.  I reread at one point and realized I had droned on for a whole paragraph about toilet paper and why I don't buy tissues very often.  And then things became very quiet and one dawning whisper came to the surface.

Divine One, it's time to get over this.  (my name means 'Divine One'.  God knows I prefer to be spoken to directly.)

In that moment, I was surrounded by Love himself.  I felt Him lift up my spirit.  My chin followed.

My journey, my obsession, really, with authenticity is not about what people know about me.  It's not about people's perceptions of me.  It's not about how I dress, or how I shop, or what I like, though all those daily decisions do reveal my priorities, my character, and my tastes.  Authenticity is coming to stillness and acceptance within myself.  It is the concrete refusal to hide what was meant to be seen.  It is the courage to display what God did when he formed me.  He created my temperament, my personality, my gifts, my skills, my abilities.  He permitted my weaknesses.  He delighted when I was finished.  Before the world was created, I was in Him.

Authenticity is a personal confidence, believing that when Jesus said it was finished, He meant it.  It means that I can, without shame, admit that I consider myself to be pretty awesome.  Shame is dismantled.  Fear dissolves.  Jesus has fully invested in me, so courage replaces timidity. 

It means I stop hiding.  It means there is nothing to hide.

There is Someone within me who must be revealed by the best of me.  When I hide, when I sidestep confrontation by masking myself, I serve fear, and I limit the true revelation of He Who Is.  My Quest---this solitary obsession--is only the beginning.  The ultimate burn of my heart is to see Jesus lifted up!  He cannot dwell in types and shadows.  He does not have power behind my mask, within my disguise.  When I reveal myself, my heart, my thoughts, the true glory of His Original Work is revealed.  He must come.  He is magnetized to me, my spouse, my children, all those whom my life affects.  (When you consider this, you must consider the possible origin of the instinct to hide.)

Oh, how I yearn to see His Kingdom come!

The trick is not in the loyalty to design, it is in the delivery.  It is the thorn in my side, my moment-by-moment challenge.  By nature, I am brief and matter-of-fact, to the point, no detour.  People take time.  I value direct honesty.  People are easily wounded.  I am wired to find solutions.  People need the process.  I am easily transparent.  People can be intimidated by that, or mistake it for confidence.  I am chronically transparent.  People are guarded and complex.  I am a good writer.  People like to talk.  I battle: be polite or be honest?   Be flexible or be honest?  Be silent or be honest?

I just gotta relax and trust Him to guide me.  He must.  If I am to have any friends at all on the other side of this journey, if I am to have a single companion left, if I am to have any influence at all, He will be faithful to me.  He will burn up the chaff and leave the good.  I can trust Him to be my helper.  In fact, I can delight in these weaknesses, because as I learn His voice, His power and glory will become apparent in me!

So I end this with a earnest entreaty for you to be authentic with me.  I am uninterested in your disguise, regardless of it cleverness or maturity.  I want to see you in all God's glory.  I need you to release me.

04 June, 2012

The Void of No Goodbye

My heart hurts.  It seems like my heart aches most of the time.  Before I had children, before I fought for my marriage, before I really experienced some of the darkness of the world, my heart didn’t feel so much.  I grimace now, when I reflect on the past.  I am embarrassed by my judgments and criticisms.  I ache over those I have lost because I failed to be transparent and vulnerable with them.  Life has served me well with its troubles and pain; it is largely because of them that I learned to love people.

But I wish life lessons didn’t cost so much.

My heart is troublesome to me now.  I am still resilient and strong, but my heart aches so much these days.  Nick was watching a scene from Book of Eli recently and I wasn’t really paying attention.  But even in my distracted activities, my spirit heard the screams of a woman about to be raped by two villains and I nearly had a panic attack.  I wasn’t enthralled by the drama as I once would have been.  I didn’t get caught up in the storyline.  It didn’t matter that soon the hero would sweep in and save the day.  My spirit rose up and burned in pain because the fictional soundtrack sincerely communicated the heart of a woman was being abused.  There seemed to be no defender for her, and I literally curled up in a ball.  Physically, my body responded to my sudden panic.  I closed my eyes and covered my ears like a small child, trying to shut it out.  I tried to tell Nick to fast forward but the words came out slurred and choppy and he couldn’t understand.  Everything in me was shutting out and shutting down. It seems love has broken the crust away from me.  Ideally, this was what I might have asked for—that God would break me open.  I didn’t know I relied on that crusty shell so much, to filter my spirit from input better ignored.

I am hurting today, again.  I am aching—once again with a burden I could once have filtered away, labeled and stored, quite conveniently.  But this time, the ache is a hole that someone left when they left me.

I wish people would say goodbye.

I realize with my adult mind that people move on; it is a fact of life, and that any mature, logical mind must adapt.   Nick and I have had difficult transitions in life; we have learned that it takes great courage to say goodbye.  It is far easier to leave, in the stillness of the night, or through a casual fade, then it is to cleanly adjourn to a new course.  I will always remember the day Nick drove to Leesburg, Virginia to say goodbye to someone we deeply respected.  He texted me in panic from their home, nervous and intimidated.  I pray-texted back, begging God to honor our desire to be people of character.  We were desperate for God to give Nick an opening.  Within ten minutes, Nick had not only had a full-on miraculous conversation concerning our departure, but also a cash gift of blessing.

Goodbye is difficult—sometimes because we don’t know it’s goodbye until we’re gone.  Goodbye requires an explanation, which is easier not to give.  Goodbye requires confrontation, which makes us vulnerable.  It demonstrates respect, which is humbling.  Goodbye is difficult but necessary.  Life is full of changed courses and new directions.

But in recent months, several people who I love have simply faded away in the passing of life.  People who are my friends.   People whom I was falling in love with.  People whom I was beginning to reveal myself to, build relationships with.  People who said “let’s have a coffee date soon” or “we want to have dinner with you guys” but their invitations never extended beyond the hypothetical.

Suddenly, they are gone and I hardly know how to ask what happened.  I don’t know if they changed or if I offended them.  I don’t know if I wasn’t friend enough, spiritual enough, loving enough, interesting enough.  I wonder if I am just another local bumpkin that was easily discarded in pursuit of greater destiny.  I find myself wanting to invite conversation but I worry that I’m missing the coded message to keep my distance.

You know when you pull a plant from the ground, like a tree, and a crater remains where the roots once sank deep?  I have a crater in my heart like that for each of these people.  I am starting to feel like Swiss cheese.  I have real estate within me that is in limbo—do these people still desire to have relationship with me, or should I fill in the holes and plant anew?

They didn’t say goodbye and because I love them more than I love myself, I don’t know whether to respect the distance or to cross the chasm in pursuit of the answers my heart is aching for.  It would be easier if the defensive crust on my heart remained---for then, I could simply be angry that I was easily discarded.  Or I could be arrogantly skeptical about their undefined direction.  I could be judgmental about the weakness they demonstrated when they left without goodbye.  But I do not seek to protect myself—my heart’s deepest craving is restoration.  I don’t care that they’re flawed—as Paul admitted, I am chief of the flawed.  Their flaws only attract me closer.  It is what endeared me to them in the beginning.

How is it, that someone so loved, someone with so many wonderful companions, someone so blessed, can still feel the chasms they left behind?  I am so loved with such affection.  And yet my heart aches for a few.  This realization is startling!  My mind is drawn to the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 in search of the one that was lost.

Suddenly it makes sense.  In the realization that my heart is becoming more and more like my Father’s, of course I miss them.  It is because no one can fill the place they were designed for.  Each person is so special, so unique, so wonderfully made.  I miss them because we are a Body—for all our divisions, for all our diverse perspectives and viewpoints, we are ultimately one unit.  I miss them because I am designed to.   I miss them because I must.

Unity is a tough thing.  We like to pretend that it’s a two-way street, like ballroom dancing or making a baby.  But unity is a state of heart.  It is the refusal to be separated.  It is a stubborn loyalty to the man over the matter.   It is an absolute decision.

I will choose unity.  Even though there was no goodbye, no explanation, I still get to choose.  I choose unity.  I choose to love, to be of one mind, to be of the Body.  I choose to fully embrace them as Brother, as Sister, as heartbeat.  I choose to stay vulnerable to my need of them.  And if that means I ache, if that means a lifetime sentence to being confused as to where they went, that’s okay.  I am not my own.  I will surrender to missing them—so that in all things, my heart is fully invested in their success, in their fulfillment, in their encouragement.  Like Jesus, I will love without demanding.

So because I choose, because He lives dynamically in me, I can forgive the non-goodbye.  I will let love fill in the places that feel abandoned, the relationships that feel discarded.

To a heart filled with love, there is no goodbye.  Perhaps I’m a late comer to this lesson.

Perhaps the reason they didn’t say goodbye is because in the Kingdom, goodbye does not exist.

24 April, 2012

Shingles, Pink Eye, Libido & Cayenne

So I have shingles.  At least I think I do.  I am as diagnosed as I can get for a few more days, as I am in transition to hubby's insurance policy and am too stubborn to pay out of pocket for a doctor to look at me.  I send a photo to my sister, who is an RN, if that's any consolation to those who think I'm nuts for not seeking care.  Truth is, according to my best research on Google, there's not really a whole lot they can do for you in terms of treatment.  There are prescriptions, of course, but several places I found comments that they did not help or exacerbated the symptoms.  So yes, I'm pretty uncomfortable at times, and no, I'm not contagious to you, and no, I have no idea how I picked up shingles.  But I think I have them, and along with them, a new compassion for those elderly folks who suffer from them.

I took baby girl to the Dr for the first time in ages to check out a rash on her cute little hiney.  She had been uncomfortable at times in her diaper, and Mom and I both agreed it wasn't diaper rash.  We waited for 45 minutes (seriously!?) in the waiting room, and she did so good, looking at her books (boos) and waving bye to other patients.  I felt a little silly though, because the first thing the doctor noticed was a raging case of pink eye.  Oops.  I knew her eyes looked funny.  I swear sometimes I'm unqualified to mother.  They recommended antibiotics for her little hiney, which I requested in topical form.  $69 for three prescriptions...oh, and the blue Toostie Pop (I turned my back for a moment) and the pack of Fig Newtons (bribery to sit patiently at the pharmacy).  Sigh  that was a long evening.  I'm just really thankful for good medical care when I need it for my babies.

In other news, welcome back, Libido.  I post this only in solidarity for those women in my life whose enthusiastic partnership bedside has been affected by birth control hormone imbalances.  After baby boy came a few months ago, we opted to try something different: an IUD called Paragard.   It relies on copper as the active contraceptive, instead of hormones.  I really really wish I had been more open-minded about alternatives sooner in my life.  I just took the pill because all society seemed to be in agreement.  I have had an outstanding experience with it, and along with it, stabilized appetite and cycles, and other benefits.  'Nuf said.

I made the Fauxlafel and the Sweet Potato fries tonight.  Both had potential that was ruined by too much cayenne.  I have done this before--someday I'll learn.  So A had bits of hot healthy food, and one healthy-sized shortbread cookie for dinner.  Lucky girl.

18 April, 2012

Timeouts, Healing Up, Gervais, and Faith.

I know some moms set a timer for their children on time out.  My sister-in-law sets the timer for the same amount of time for her son's age.  I gotta confess, though.  Timeouts and Aly have a relationship that follows the same sequence nearly every single time:  first, she must express her heartbroken frustration for about 3-5 minutes.  She will do this in varying forms of intensity.  Sometimes it's loud, obnoxious yelling.  Sometimes dinosaur tears stream down her face and snot pours from her nose.  Occasionally she approaches it with a ladylike fussing.  But inevitably, it takes her at least three minutes to accept that she's on timeout.  I find that its the moments after her initial reaction that create lasting effect in her.
So I don't set a timer.  I wait.  I wait until she calms down and sits quietly.  I wait until my heart is no longer frustrated with her.  I wait until her little heart is connected to me again.  I wait until she and I can respond peacefully with each other.  And then I release her and kiss her and whisper gently to her.  Sometimes I might plop her into that sequestering chair with enthusiastic frustration.  But I always release her with gentleness.
Sometimes it might take a while.  And I wish it was only two or three minutes.  But sometimes it's fifteen.  I hope God works through this with her and me.  I often ask God with my brief mommy prayer to turn those unmeasured minutes into salve for her little free spirit.
I fret sometimes that discipline in this house takes so long.  Sigh.  But when her little foolish heart thinks that a flat-faced tantrum in the church parking lot is a proper response, Mommy needs to respond.  In a more effective manner than a hot, embarrassed face.  Sometimes that's timeout.  Sometimes its a spanking.
Jesus, please turn my earnest purehearted attempts into the right rod of correction for this sweet little lady.  Help me keep my tongue loving when my heart is angry.  I sometimes feel at such a loss.


You know those subjects that are socially yucky?  Well here's one...it's sincerely amazing how much one's sinuses can produce during an infection.  This one came out of nowhere.  One day I have a dry cough--the next its a full-blown event. I am on my second box of Kleenexes.  I'm one of those who usually doesn't take anything for an illness--I prefer to let my body fight infection naturally when possible.  Same with my kids--I usually don't deal out meds for a fever until we reach 103.  Which isn't often. 
But this time, I took four ibuprofen at the height of the sinus pain--Nick and I were both fighting headaches and the sinus pain was so severe that my teeth were aching.  We found ourselves unable to parent--so I took some pills and a short nap and that helped.  (I'm just thankful Aly didn't spit in my mouth while I slept.  She was playing with Anderson and Meghan the other day, and when Anderson pretended to sleep, Aly spit in his mouth.  So funny--and poor Anderson.)
I find that when I let my body heal, I am always so filled up with amazement and appreciation for the body God gave me.  It is sincerely incredible how complex and well-made it is!
So my sinuses still hurt a little.  But I'm healing.  And as usual--I'm just so wide-eyed at how well made I am.  Evolution is such a weird thing for an intelligent person to believe in.


Ricky Gervais is my favorite guest on Sesame Street.


And to close this very bizarre entry that took several days, the other day the thought crossed my mind like I want to get my nose pierced.  And then, outta nowhere, a thought crossed my mind that stopped me dead in my tracks: am I too old to do that?


Too old?  When did I reach the point in my life where that becomes a valid question?  I'm turning 30 this year.  That is hardly old.  I think that thought process sneaks up on you while you're aging in the middle of the night, because you're mothering an infant and you've never been this tired in your whole life.  And then you have another infant and someone would be honorably justified to stamp a "she gambled and she lost" stamp on my birth control decision.

It is your mind that ages.  Your body regenerates for the most part--but your mind feels stretched and you are too strained to consider new adventures.  You approach opportunity with casual ambivalence.  You believe yourself to be in need of a vacation--forgetting that life ticks away while you wish for easier circumstances or better timing.

When I was a girl, I had a great aunt who was a perfect example to me.  She was a delightful Mennonite woman named Elva, with her silver hair in the proper knot behind her proper prayer covering, and wearing a proper blue cape dress.  Elva had a constant smile and was always so friendly and loving.  Twenty years ago, at a family reunion, my sister Steph wore a pair of black platform sandals (the soles are super clunky and heavy, held on the foot by leather straps.  They were stylish then--you can find them at Goodwill now.)

Steph had taken off her shoes to run and play, and Elva saw them out of the corner of her eye as she carried some food into the kitchen.  A look crossed her face, and she slipped off her sensible adult support shoes.  Gripping the wall for support, she maneuvered her properly-hosed feet into those ridiculous platforms.  She took two shaky steps and then stood there precariously like a newborn fawn, with legs she couldn't trust.

And she laughed.  And we laughed.

Elva completely abandoned how people would perceive her to chase this funny little curiosity in her mind.  It didn't matter to her that some of my other aunts would probably think she was ridiculous.  Elva has passed now, but in that willingness to abandon self preservation, she stamped herself affectionately in my mind forever as one of my favorite people on earth.  I will tell my children of Aunt Elva.

I'm from a family that takes itself seriously.  We are logical sensible people, salt of the earth.  Common sense usually means we do few things without significant benefit or calculable value.  We are trustworthy and responsible, and abhor appearing foolish.

This also means us sturdy types are the first to overplan, overthink and overpanic.

Jesus called us to faith like a child.  I sometimes wonder if that feels so difficult to me because I am so determined to be taken seriously.  My mind is old--adult.  But the spirit within me--my soul--my heart must be vulnerable and childlike to achieve--or rather, to relax into--a childlike faith. 

I so desire childlike faith.  I am only twenty-nine, but I have already had enough of a worrisome tremulous lifestyle for a lifetime.

So today, when I put on this ruffled polka-dotted shirt and cropped leggings, I hesitated.  It has a ruffle on the back that in my opinion ill-suits my derriere and looks rather girlish.  I usually prefer no-nonsense lines.  But I smiled, put on some earrings, and closed the closet.  I'm not saying that poor fashion choices are my future; but something about wearing these ruffles is stretching my heart.

So perhaps I'll get my nose pierced.  Maybe I'll finally get a tattoo.  Maybe I'll actually pay money for a massage (I've never had one--it's just not a sensible way to spend $50.)  Maybe I'll get some funky highlights or a pair of funky earrings.  Maybe I'll turn down some design work I'm not inspired by.  Perhaps I'll actually embrace some sexual adventures with my husband instead of being intimidated by them.  Maybe I'll actually order a glass of wine instead of just being afraid that I won't like it and it will be a waste.  Who knows?  I'm not pursuing a license of stupidity--merely to enjoy my freedom to be purely authentic.

Maybe people will notice me--maybe I won't blend in.  But are any of us designed to blend in?  If we do, are we truly embracing the uniqueness of what God put within?  As I do things that have always been within me, it will be in actuality a revelation of who I always have truly been inside.  An outward manifestation of my inward authenticity.  I'm not planning to have busty nymphs tattooed on my arms, or have gauges put in my ears.  That's not me and I'll own that!  But for several years I have wanted to do red hair--not the dark reddish-brown that I usually end up compromising to.

And it is possible that as I pursue authenticity, I'll do things that someday bring regret.  I hope not.  My true self still values careful consideration and general sense.  However, I have drawn my virtual line in the blogosphere sand...I am not too old.  What a crock!  I am beautiful, free, transparent, independent yet sustained, impulsive yet sensible.  There is no one like me and I am really falling in love with what God did when He made me.

As one who hates waste,  the desire to blend in is fading away.

I am not my own to waste.

My failures, my mistakes, may they be relatable and endearing.
My regrets, may they be in the pursuit of laughter.

And me?  May I be spent in the pursuit of you, and Jesus in you.

05 April, 2012

Dining Room...well, at least 85% of it.

Ok, so the key difference between me and those folks who show their homes in interior decor magazines is that they hide their real life from folks.  I don't.  So I have zero motivation to put away the kids toys and the wetmop (but if you notice the shiny floor, I did atleast mop up Aly's breakfast oatmeal before I photographed.  Haha).  Plus, this project is probably not truly done yet.  I'm not completely happy with the shelf decor yet, and I'm hoping to find some West Elm-style drapes on clearance that I like at some point (and that's your fault, Laura).  But since I do this slowly, as the right things present themselves, it might be another six months until this project reaches its cinematic zenith.  Therefore, observe--a project 85% done, but complete enough that I'll share it with you. :)

The before-and-after:
The room has not been touched since we moved in over a year ago. 

The wall color is Sherwin Williams' Ancient Marble (SW6162) in eg-shel and semigloss.  Notice that I painted the top and bottom moulding the same color as the wall.  The window frames and door trim are white.
Light fixture was $99 at Lowes.  I was allergic to the original light fixture from the moment we signed the bank paperwork, but for me, these projects are all about timing.  I could have slid my credit card for a new light, or I could wait until I squirreled away the cash.  I chose Option B, and it's always more satisfying.

I bought these sconces at a thrift store back in April of last year for about $5.  They aren't legit--they're originally just thick tacky gold-toned plastic.  I thought they were mismatched but I noticed that the candelabra part is the same, so now I don't know.  I spraypainted them with Krylon's Looking-Glass spray paint (I scoured the entire town until I finally found it at Hobby Lobby.  Kudos to Pinterest for making me want it so badly).  But I l.o.v.e.d how they turned out!

The shelf was original with the house.  I had to pry it off the wall (a previous owner painted it to the plaster wall and removing it created a crater that required spackling.  The fiend.)   But I scuffed it with sandpaper and I'm playing with some decor.  I already know this isn't how I'll finish it but here's where I am at the moment...

And the window frame, $5.  I found it at a junk shop on Main St during ChamberFest last year.  I was lugging the stroller, my one-year-old, and a 7-month pregnancy around town, so I paid the man to hold it for me til I could come back.  Which didn't happen until my fetus was 2 months old.  Thank God the guy had character enough to hold it that long!

And the H...$5 at Hobby Lobby.  Two years ago.  I originally planned to spraypaint it a less gaudy color, but when I looked at it against this room, I decided to let it alone. I like the juxtaposition.

I'm loving it so far!

02 April, 2012

Kitchen Makeover: the Heart of my Home

Ok, this is going to be a quick post because my husband just got back from a three-day trip and I want to hang out with him instead of you beautiful people.  So here's what I did while Nick was gone...well, OK, that's a quarter truth...here's half what Mom and I did while Nick, Wes, and Dad were gone.  We painted the dining room too.  But that project is still underway.  So here's what we have so far...

In hindsight, it's bizarre that I didn't start with the kitchen in terms of painting this house since we moved in a year ago.  My kitchen is the heart of things around here.  Guess I just had to wait for inspiration to strike.


It's super warm, but modern because of the mint blue shelving, square light shade, and modular floral valance. 

Whaddya think? :)

And, of course, a shot of the kids while the project progressed...here's two for you.
1st, Aly's white sweater, featuring a swipe of bright burnished paint...

And Aly with Daxman...this pose is courtesy of Aunt Steph, who had no idea how difficult it would be to pry my son from his sister's possessive hug.

05 March, 2012

Hallway Make-Over!

I'm so glad to finally post this: a nasty cold found me this weekend and delayed me...but I'm feeling better so here you go!

Until Dax was born, my hallway wasn't really featured on my list of house tweaks.  I figured it could wait.

And then my dear newborn son insisted on being fed at o'dark thirty for several weeks...and every night, through the haze of exhaustion, I rocked my little guy as he ate and stared despondently into my hallway.  Where there was no rest for the weary.

And as the weeks past, the thorn became infected, until one day, come hell or high water, it was going to be fixed.

That said, I was fresh off maternity leave and disinterested in a big investment.  But between resourceful God-given instincts and courtesy my Pinterest bug, solutions presented themselves.  Hear me when I say this: these projects are less about what you spend and more about when you buy.

So, voila!

The worst part for me was the floor, which was worse than any floor in the rest of the house, no question.

However, I wasn't interested in spending the time or money to refinish it.  So I simply used some of the stain a previous owner had left behind to touch up the finish, and gave the whole thing a coat of Minwax Floor Refinisher (thanks, Mom!).  The results were perfect.

But since this was a high-traffic area and I wasn't applying a durable finish to the floor, I decided to add a carpet runner.  I looked at the pre-fab ones available on the market, but didn't find what I was looking for.  So I measured the hallway and visited Essis & Sons carpet remnant room.  The runner cost me $25 to have cut and bound, so I sprung for a pad for under the rug as well, to muffle hallway noise and creaks.  Plus its a little more cushy, which I like.  That was also $25.  I picked it out on Saturday afternoon and picked it up on Monday.  You should visit Essis & Sons.  Nice folks, and a great way to get rugs tailored for your home.

Cost: $50 (and elbow grease)

Our home features the old heavy solid-wood doors of years gone by.  Which I like, because of the character.  And I'm sure someone will string me up by my toenails for painting them, but sincerely, the dark doors sucked all light from the already small hallway.  So Mom & I primed them with BIN primer (which I did not figure in my costs because I always have it on hand--it's about $30 at Lowes) and finished them with two coats of the same trim paint that I'm using everywhere in the house (also not figured into the costs because again, I have it on hand).  Sorry if that's cheating. :)

We also painted the walls.  I wanted something fresh.  Not to sound uber-spiritual or whatever, but one night while I was nursing, I feel like God told me I would find my hallway paint on the "mistints/mistakes" rack at Sherwin Williams.  Which I did.  For $5.  It's a shade called "Grasslands" but since it was on the mistake rack, who knows if its right. :)  It was semi-gloss, which I typically wouldn't use for hallway walls, but the sheen is fairly unobtrusive and the finish will whip easily.  So perhaps that was a blessing as well.

White doors made an ENORMOUS difference.

I found a perfect chunk of fabric for the window at Joann's.  I spent about $12 on the fabric and $5 on the mini blind that I destroyed to make the Roman shade.  I also used fabric glue (which I keep on hand) and instead of gluing the sides, I sewed them for a better overall look and durability.  I've made a few of these shades now (here's the tutorial I use), and this one took me 45 minutes total.  I'm slowly getting better with picking out fabric.  It's like paint--you have to screw up a few times before you trust yourself.
Cost: about $17

Now for some wall decor, which for me oddly is the hardest part.  In every room of my home, I struggle with what to put on the walls.  I'll get there--I'm just slow in this area.

Pinterest got me started with two terrific ideas:

The first is a framed piece.  I created the insert in Photoshop as an 8x10.  It looks like odd numbers, but its all the significant dates in our family life.
If you want one, I'll make one for you.  It's a piece of cake.  The 8x10 costs $2.95 at LA Cameras.  I bought the frame on the clearance rack at Michaels for about $8.  I liked it because it was a little different--it's a 12x16 matted down to 8x10, instead of the more standard 11x14.
Cost: $11.

And these are my favorite:  8x10 photos mimicked as gallery wrap canvases.  I love canvas-wrapped photos but they're too spicy for this project.  This Pinterest link showed how to use artist canvases and 8x10 photos to create a similar look for much less moola.  So in this case, I had about $9 in the 8x10s and $6 in the canvases.  (I bought them when Michaels was running them BOGO, and a twin-pack of 8x10s was $5.99).  In a lot of cases, its just about buying at the right time.

Note: this project calls for ModPodge glue, which I am a novice in using.  And it's not cheap, starting about $8 for a small bottle.  But check out this tutorial: you can make it yourself using Elmer's Glue and seriously reduce your investment--more like less than $2 for a bottle of Elmers.  Sweet!

This project also suggests using patterned scrapbook paper around the edges of the wrap, which I think looks terrific but I couldn't find a pattern I liked for my hallway.  So I just painted the edges with orange acrylic paint, which I thought would juxtapose great with my wall color.  Then I realized I bought the wrong shade of orange and went brown instead.  The paint technique worked just as well.  $3 for the acrylic paint (I'm not counting my error!:)


I'm going to make more as my kids grow.
Total Cost: $18.  I know, seriously.

And a shot of my supervisor, whose appetite is the reason this whole project happened in the first place...