this week.

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You guys are truly the best. Thanks so much for checking in to see how we’re coping with our house craziness. Here’s a few things we’ve been up to this week:

– Gabe turned six years old on Saturday! We celebrated with a walk at the Farmer’s Market in the morning, and then met cousins and birth family at a splash pad in the afternoon. He got some fun gifts and felt very special. Six is when you start getting a weekly allowance at our house so he’s pretty excited about that too.

– David and I celebrated 13 years of marriage on Monday. Guess what our totally awesome anniversary gift was: we got to move into our new bedroom! That’s right, it’s pretty much completely finished. We even postponed the anniversary date night Steve and Linda gave us in order to hunker down and hang blinds and move furniture. It was amazing.

Like I said, it’s not finished and my temptation is to wait to show you photos until it matches the Pinterest-worthy image in my head, but you know what? That’s silly. When is anything in real life truly Pinterest-worthy? You’ve been cheering us on the whole time. So I’ll be posting some photos this week.

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– David’s anniversary gift to me was to buy a CSA share with a local farm. It lasts for 18 weeks and we pick up our produce on Saturday mornings at the Soda City Market downtown. We joined a CSA years ago in PA when Judah was just a baby and I’ve always wanted to try it again.

There have been many years in between where it was simply not a priority for our family, but I’ve been day-dreaming about reconnecting with this passion. There’s something magical about casting your lot with one farm, for better or for worse, and getting to know the people who grow your food. Happy Earth Farm is about 45 minutes away and we plan to take the kids out soon. They even have an Airbnb glamping tent if we want to stay for a night!

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In the meantime, I met Steve and Karen on Saturday and instantly liked them. Who wouldn’t melt at the sight of those cute cloth bags? And I’m not kidding, the food is just plain delicious. Suddenly our salads have sparkle and verve again. My favorite part of our first produce share was the recipes Karen included. I feel like David didn’t just give me food, but a hobby.

– Speaking of hobbies, Amie started a six-week sewing class on Friday that a neighbor is putting on for a few girls. She came bounding home with great enthusiasm, and a notebook syllabus full of homework and a fun schedule for the summer. If you’re wondering whether I’m the sewing type, I’m desperately not. But I love that my girl is excited about this and vow to do all I can to help her practice this summer. Thankfully I get to sit in on the class with her. And there’s always YouTube to help us out in a pinch, right?

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– You may be wondering whether I’ve given David his anniversary gift yet: our backpacking trip, and the answer is “no.” We’re going Thursday and Friday of this week. As you can see, we practiced setting up our (adorable! new!) two-person backpacking tent this weekend and wearing our packs. Don’t I look like I know what I’m doing!?

If you’re also wondering how a not-so-rugged girl like me is gonna do for two days in the sticks with no running water (and, um, no restroom), the answer is “Who knows!?” But I’m game to try something new! And no matter what, two days of just the two of us is going to be fun. It’s like a sort of marital team-building exercise, right?

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– Guys, I love summer, but I don’t love being out of our regular routine. Wait: I say this every.single.year don’t I? So now that things are slowing down with the renovation, I’m going to sit down tomorrow and write out a little schedule for us. Hear me out: I don’t do it to be rigid and over-bearing.

I just realized that what I want from summer is to spend unhurried time with my children. But somehow, when we don’t have a routine, I don’t slow down and spend time with them, I just find new, non-homeschooling things to busy myself with.  I start thinking that what my kids need is to be entertained, but what if they just need me?

I’m fairly good at being a chauffeur yet terrible about just relaxing and really connecting with each of them. So that’s what our routine will consist of. Also, remember chores? Remember baking projects? Yeah. That’s not really happening either. So this week is about getting us organized to make good use of our summer. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

– Finally, I’m trying to be very selective about internet time these days, but one of my favorite bloggers and her family are spending a couple of months in China, working with kids in a foster home. It makes me so happy to follow along with their adventures. You should check them out.

Happy Memorial Day, my friends!



sunday gratitude.

1. A member of our building crew brought me this lovely house-warming plant

2. As David says, the overpowering smell of wood floor stain and polyurethane is “the smell of progress.”

3. The last coat was applied this morning! The final inspection happened on Friday.

4. Re-watching two favorite movies: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and The Hundred-Foot Journey

5. I haven’t seen a single slug in our yard since we got the chickens

6. The colorful India-made rug I found for our new bedroom

7. Judah and Amie got invited to a friend’s Harry Potter birthday party and both are overjoyed

8. This morning David preached a sermon that I really needed to hear, about idols (you can listen here, today’s will be posted by tonight). Wanting to mull it over for awhile.

9. Hugs at church, from all sorts of people

10. When people who come to CPC tell me, “I feel like I can be myself here”

11. Our Lexington church planter, Adam, will be ordained as a pastor tonight

12. Margaritas and tacos with Anna

13. A new meal plan for the summer, which I’ll most definitely share with you

14. Ideas for the blog

15. My blog readers!

16. Tomorrow I’ll be married 13 years to the love of my life

17. Working up the courage to offer him an anniversary gift of a backpacking trip together, complete with 20 miles of hiking

18. My friends Annie and Liz got me hooked on two delicious tea flavors: Harney and Sons Paris, and Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice. Feeling that coffee is fun once in awhile but not necessary to my existence anymore.

19. Judah ran two miles with David at the river yesterday

20. Six happy little blueberry plants lining the fence behind my chair

21. Neighbors who tell us, “You guys are inspiring us to stay in the neighborhood and make our house great”

22. Unexpected texts from friends

23. Realizing that if I want to be a good writer and an interesting person, I need to do interesting things . . . rather than using my free time to scroll blogs and social media

24. Friends you can go months without talking to, and then pick right back up where you left off

25. The Deep Run Roots cookbook

26. The Aarti Paarti cookbook

27. The Luckiest, by Ben Folds

28. The living-warm feeling of a child cuddled on your lap

29. Being smothered in kisses by Gabe

30. The simple pleasure of making our house look pretty

31. The first blooms on my gardenia, and the neighbors’ crepe myrtles

32. Thankful lists help me remember this fact: There are two ways to look at life. I want to choose the better way.

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all about the chickens.

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Are you tired of chicken pictures yet?

I just can’t resist. What’s cuter than kids and chickens!?

Our flock of eight is 4 months old now, which is hard to believe (the chickens are a week older than our master bedroom addition project). A pullet is a female chicken that’s less than a year old; we call ours “teenagers” right now. They typically start laying at around 6 months. And if you can believe it, we won’t know until close to then for sure that they’re all females, so we use the term “pullet” in faith.

We’ve had some friends say they were certain they had all girls until they suddenly started hearing a distinct “cock-a-doodle-doo,” and had to go searching to find its source.

But we couldn’t resist naming them all, and Amelie continues to pray against roosters.

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Everyone in the family got to name one, and Amie got to name three because, after all, she’s their mother. So here’s the line-up and the breeds, we’ve got two of each:

Wyandotte (pronounced Wine-dot). They’re the strikingly pretty black and white chickens Amie is holding in the photo, and are our largest and feistiest birds. They’re a bit aggressive for my taste, but Amie is very devoted, despite receiving several nasty scratches. She named them Eleanor and Scarlett. They’re strong women.

Black Star. These are black-and-copper-colored. Noah named one Goose almost immediately after we got the chicks and it stuck. I called the other Penny.

Minorca.  The Minorcas are all-black. Gabe chose the name Flowie (short for “Flower”), and Amie named the other, our smallest bird, Lola. Flowie and Lola are the speediest girls of the bunch.

Maran: These two ladies are black and white speckled. Judah’s is called Bellatrix, which you understand if you know Harry Potter (and I suppose reveals what he really thinks about chickens as pets), and David named his bird Annie, after his two favorite authors, Annie Proulx and Annie Dillard.

We’ll keep you posted about which breeds turn out to be the best layers. In the meantime, we love their funny little personalities, and Amelie is definitely the only only of us who can keep all the names straight.

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Thus far, owning chickens has proved to as delightful as it sounds. We read that they’re the easiest pets to care for, and have found it to be true. Amie takes care of all their food and water, and David changes the straw in their coop once a week. We can compost both straw and poop.

Feed for eight chickens costs about $30 a month. I’m not sure how much the straw costs exactly, but it’s quite inexpensive. Don’t ask how much materials and time for the coop cost. Think of it more as a work of art.

Now, like I mentioned, chickens do produce a lot of poop. Though their coop is larger than standard for eight chickens, for awhile we let them free range in our backyard all day. However, we soon became a bit overwhelmed with clean-up (I feel like they deliberately poop on our patio and picnic table), so now we let them out for a couple hours a day. It’s sure hard to resist their longing clucks when we walk outside in the morning. They just love to be free to roam (kind of like our children).

They walk saucily through the garden beds whenever they can get away with it, but haven’t tried to eat anything. Our favorite is when they roost on the playhouse ladder.

We haven’t had trouble with predators yet. Our backyard is securely enclosed, and since we’re in the middle of our neighborhood, rather than bordering the woods, we haven’t seen raccoons. We do have a hawks that like to circle over our yard from time to time, so we keep an eye on them. It’s pretty amazing how chickens instinctively seek cover and are able to blend in with their surroundings, but so many friends have lost chickens to other animals that we don’t want to get lazy.

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The larger the chickens grow, the more difficult it is for Gabe and Noah to catch and hold them, which makes me so happy that we got them as newborns. Holding chickens often supposedly makes them more mild-mannered, although this has not exactly proven to be the case with Scarlett and Eleanor. Come to think of it, maybe it has. How much worse would they behave if they were left to their own devices!? So the kids still play with them lots.

And it’s about the most charming thing in the world to be pulling weeds or reading a book in the pavilion and have a little flock of chickens rooting around for bugs in the pine straw. There’s something about having a happy animal nearby that just makes life better.

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Yes, four months in, we’re very happy chicken owners.

If you’ve got kids and are thinking of getting chickens, as several of our friends are, I’d definitely wait until the kids are old enough to help with the chores. It will make your life easier, and as with any pets, it’s a great way for them to learn responsibility.

We’ve decided we aren’t indoor pet people, but now I’m wondering . . . should we get a rabbit??

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rim of the gap.

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By David

A few weeks ago I grabbed Judah and Amie and headed to one of my favorite places, Jones Gap State Park, a stone’s throw from the North Carolina border and a million miles from distracted days in Columbia.

Weighted down with snacks, books, stuffed animals, and a thermos of coffee, we chatted on and off on during the two-hour drive.  At one point I asked Judah to read aloud from Romans 10.  Amie had asked the night before how someone could be sure they were a Christian.  And so we talked about what it means to confess and believe.

I think that both our older kids are born again, both with very different expressions – Amie loud, confessional, eager; Judah quiet, steady, willing.  I’ve seen Amie sob over sin.  I’ve heard Judah say very simply, “I know God is real because he’s helped me in hard places.”  I have learned so much from both of them.

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Our first stop was Tandem Creperie in Traveler’s Rest, my favorite breakfast in the universe.  If I ever land on death row, I’ll be choosing my last supper between a pimento cheese burger from the Whig bar in Columbia and a Tandem lumberjack crepe.  We loaded up on carbs and more coffee and basked in a glutinous stupor.

Thirty minutes later, we pulled into the park and headed to the ranger’s station.  I’d hiked most of the trails there on my own or with friends but somehow missed the Rim of the Gap trail, touted as one of the top five hardest hikes in South Carolina.  The ranger took one look at Judah and Amie and said, “You know, I don’t see too many kids that age do this trail.  Actually any.  Why don’t you try the waterfall?”

Judah and Amie must have smelled the condescending tone.  Or else they misheard him.  We came for Rim of the Gap and we were going to do Rim of the Gap.  Or bleed trying.  Which we did.

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The weather was overcast and cool, the river water high.  We saw all kinds of animals: turkey, chipmunk, butterflies, salmon, snakes, salamanders.  We walked, jogged, scrambled up and over eight miles of rugged terrain.  I held Amie a few times.  We stopped every thirty minutes or so for a breather.  From parking lot to parking lot we were on the trail for five hours.

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My general rule of thumb is that I like to be hiking slightly longer than I spent driving to get there and back.  We did that and then some.  I couldn’t be more proud.

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There’s something to be said about quantity time over quality time, long hours in each other’s company, with nature unfurling before us one step at a time.  Breathing hard, single file, without a word between us is it’s own kind of intimacy.  I cherish these memories and can’t wait to share them with Gabe and Noah.

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noah two-year adoption interview.

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What’s your favorite…?

Fruit: Avocado

Vegetable: Peppers

Dinner: Soup

Treat: Chocolate donuts

Snack: Ring pops

What’s a food you really, really don’t like?
Lemons

Restaurant:
Go eat sushi and then go on a walk

What do you like to play outside?
Play with the water table, swim in pools

What do you like to play inside?
Play some toys

What is your favorite thing to do at the park?
I like climbing up, spinning, and I like eating snacks

What’s your favorite book?
My favorite book is Harry Potter

What do you like about swim practice?
Getting out and getting warm and having a snack like Cheerios

What don’t you like about swim practice?
I don’t prefer swimming

What’s your favorite TV show?
Batman and I like Voltron and Hoopa Ring (Pokemon)

What’s your favorite movie?
Lightening McQueen

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I wanna be a cooker who cooks

What are you really good at?
Making some snacks, making some dinner

 
What are you scared of?
Of a monster. At the night there’s a monster and it’ll scare me. But then I’ll wake up and see and then Gabey will wake up too and see a monster and be scared too.

What do you like to play with Judah?
Play some Legos and play some Everything is Awesome and play zombies and tag somebody and kill them (ghost zombie game)

What do you like to do with Amie?
I like to play with Amie’s Lego set

What do you like to play with Gabe?
With his storm trooper Lego sets

What do you like to do with Daddy?
I like to play fighting

What do you like to do with Mommy?
I like to play with toys and blocks

What’s your favorite thing about school?
Going to my class, having lunch

Who’s your best friend?
Sam

What do you want for your birthday?
A Hoopa Ring toy (from Pokemon)



gabriel two-year adoption interview.

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What’s your favorite…?

Fruit: Watermelon and cantaloupe and pineapple, grapes too

Vegetable: That’s a hard question. Broccoli.

Dinner: Inside-out pizza (calzones)

Treat: Decorations on desserts, all different kinds of decorations on donuts, cake or cookies

Snack: Oreos, the cookies you put on your finger like a ring (Fudge round cookies)

What’s a food you really, really don’t like?
All different kinds of veggies, salad

Restaurant: Papa John’s

What do you like to play with outside?
Ride bikes, play with the chickies

What do you like to play inside?
Make projects, play with my stuffies (stuffed animals), I like to play games, drink all different kinds of drinks but not grown-up drinks. I don’t really like coffee. I tried it once with a little sugar but I didn’t really like it. I like lemonade, fruit punch, and apple juice. I like boxes of juice.

What is your favorite thing to play at the park?
The splash pad

What’s your favorite book?
Superhero books, Star Wars, Elephant and Piggie, I like lots of different books

What do you like about swim practice?
The warm shower

What don’t you like about swim practice?
I have to swim in the cold water

What’s your favorite TV show?
Iron Man, Voltron, I like the girl elf in Voltron because she’s so pretty

What’s your favorite movie?
I like all three Toy Story movies

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A policeman to protect the whole world, and a daddy. A daddy policeman.

What are you really good at?
I’m really good at puzzles and at games. I think I’m good at hard games but first we have to read the instructions. I’m good at putting the ball in the hoop on our trampoline sometimes

What are you scared of?
That’s a really hard question. I’m not really scared of anything, even the dark is not scary. I think I’m scared of a thief if they come in the dark and grab my stuff but they don’t.

What do you like to play with Judah?
I like to play games with Judah, I like to play cannons with the blocks

What do you like to do with Amie?
I like to play with her in her fort

What do you like to play with Noah?
I like to play blocks

What do you like to do with Daddy?
I like to go on dates with Daddy and today we’re going to the Fireflies baseball game

What do you like to do with Mommy?
I like to do cooking

What’s your favorite thing about school?
My favorite part is the iPad

Who’s your best friend?
Sam, Judah, Amie, Noah

What do you want for your birthday?
A remote control



friday gratitude.

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I struggled with depression all week, which hits me from time to time. It’s a thick cloud that creeps into the edges of my life — it doesn’t take away my ability to function, it just seems to steal my joy. I’m sure it doesn’t help matters that our house is still in disarray and that David was out of town for a few days.

Last month, very suddenly, we lost some friends at our Classical Conversations campus, who died in a house fire. My heart still aches for what happened and I don’t understand it at all. My friend Mandy and her husband died, as well as two of their four children. I’ve been thinking about them so much, about a couple of conversations that she and I had this semester. Mandy loved Jesus and children and adoption and homeschooling. She struck me as someone who was content with her life.

And even though I’m sad, I’ve thought more than once that the way I can best honor my friend is to choose joy. Every day. Even when my life feels stressful. That’s the way I’d want people to honor me if I died. I’d want them to open their eyes wide and look around them and see the gifts, and treasure them.

I think of Mandy, who is with Jesus, but who had hoped to grow old with her husband and raise her kids into adulthood. And I remember, Life is a gift. Even the hard is a gift. Even waking up with the thick cloud is a gift, because I woke up.

In this season, in the moments when I’m tempted to complain, I’m trying to cut myself short and instead say, “Life is good.”

That’s not some superficial, wishy-washy thinking that ignores the reality of trials. It’s just true. Life is good. There are always, always things to be thankful for. Always. And because we’re human and the bent of our hearts is to complain, we have to fight every day to see them.

And so here’s a little Friday gratitude:

1. Delays in our renovation process this week meant three wonderfully quiet days, with no strangers in our house.

2. We had a good, hard rain last night and all our plants are happier today

3. Our little flock of chickens brings endless delight and amusement (and yes, a lot of poop)

4. But the poop is good for making compost!

5. David got to spend three days in NC with a group of pastors. My husband who spends his days pouring into others got to relax and have fun and be poured into by people who really care about him.

6. The most delightful Mysterious Benedict Society series, which Judah and I are loving

7. Noah: “When I grow up I’ll get married and become a daddy. And my hands will get bigger so I can put my kids to bed.”

8. School is finished! And I just get to be Mom for awhile.

9. The first milky white blossoms on our Little Gem Magnolia

10. The At Home Podcast

11. The Wild + Free Podcast

12. When I feel depressed and helpless and at the end of my rope, I cry out to Jesus more

13. God is exposing my sin of anger and a bad temper. It’s humiliating, but I trust that this is a needed step in becoming free

14. Realizing that there are things I can’t do in life, and people I can’t possibly love, without supernatural help from the Holy Spirit

15. Our swim team friends: both friends for my kids and friends for me

16. Today was the last gathering of our Book Club and Field Trip group, and the first year was a great success

17. Piling on the sofas at night with David, Judah, and Amie to watch season three of the Great British Baking Show

18. Indah Coffee, which just opened up and is less than five minutes from our house (and where I’m sitting now with a chai latte to write this blog post)

19. CPC’s new worship space, which is right next door to Indah! Renovations on our space should begin soon

20. Disney movies. They’ve brought happiness and fun memories to my life from my childhood until now (Pixar too, for that matter). Every month or two I purchase a classic, like Beauty and the Beast, to add to our family’s library. The kids’ current favorite is Moana, and we have the soundtrack on repeat.

21. My husband is home, and after we’re apart there’s always a fresh new sweetness to our marriage. Also he’s painting our new bathroom and giving me an afternoon out

22. Trader Joe’s

23. Money to buy things we need for the addition, and even a few things we don’t need

24. I finished reading Little Dorrit! It wasn’t my favorite Dickens novel, but as with every single one I’ve read, it had a very satisfying ending

25. A baby bird with the sweetest golden throat flew into our kitchen this morning

26. I found a way to manage one cup of coffee per day! The trick is to use decaf and brew it a bit weaker and not drink Starbucks, which is what seems to make my stomach so upset. It’s just lovely to have that one cup to sit with my Bible at 6:00 am. After that I switch to tea.

27. Amie can now make a plate of scrambled eggs completely by herself (now if only I could get her to clean up her dishes all by herself …)

28. We had two lovely years with our house-cleaner, Sandy. She was a pure gift in a time of need.

29. A new plan for tackling house cleaning, and a summer plan to make the kids a bigger part of my chores and cooking. We’re going to be a team!

30. Our social worker, Tricia, who two years post-adoption is still our friend and gives such wise advice



i’m still here!

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Hi friends!

I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog lately, and I feel bad about it. Not that I expect you to be sitting by your computer waiting for a post.

It’s so odd, really. For years I wanted to experience a home renovation so that I could take pictures and blog about the process, but I neglected to factor in one very important thing: that during the renovation I may have zero — and I mean zero — energy for blogging or really anything beyond laying on the sofa with glazed eyes and watching Netflix every night.

Ah well. I’m sure some of you could’ve told me that was a pretty good possibility.

I have absolutely no idea how these DIY-ers manage to do enormous home projects and also blog about them. They have all my respect. Meanwhile, I’m most certainly not a DIY-er, and I’m still just hanging on for dear life.

Things got a whole lot harder here during the last third of the addition when a giant hole was cut in our living room wall, and various and sundry people began traipsing in and out every day. Oh and there’s the dust. And the noise. And the piles of clutter around our house. And a lot of kids to keep out of everyone’s way.

And the shopping. I know, I know, you’re like, wait, she’s complaining about shopping now? Must be nice. But as anyone who’s ever experienced a house or yard project can attest, you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot on average 1.5 times a day. There are so many decisions, about things I never in my life expected to care about, but are suddenly vitally important. And remember this: whatever you buy will have to be exchanged at least once.

Yesterday I’m pretty sure I blanked out at least two times in Target, and when I came to I was wandering aimlessly in an aisle and had no idea how I got there. It’s bad, people.

For all their challenges, here’s where Gabe and Noah are just the best.

Me: “Hey, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but we actually need to go back to Lowe’s.” Amie and Judah: “Noooooooo!!!!” Gabe and Noah: “Yay!!!! Lowe’s!!!!!”

And enough of my whining already, right? I mean, I’m getting another bathroom! And a bedroom! And a closet! And a lovely little hallway for books and plants. Truly, I’m very very thankful, and David and I say constantly that it’s going to be worth every inconvenience and every penny we’ve spent. It’s turning out better than we ever imagined it could be.

Also, we couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant group of people working on our house: not just our builder and his crew, but all his subcontractors have been so nice that Amie said, “I’ll be so sad when all the workers leave” (that’s my extroverted child speaking).

We’re almost there! We’re so close we can just about reach out and touch it. Maybe two weeks until we can move in? That’s nothing, right!?

Tell me that’s nothing.

And now, because I’ve proven to us all I’m definitely not one of those cool DIY bloggers, can I please just give you a hodge-podge of low-quality phone pics to fill you in on our month?

Thanks!

Okay, first, the house!

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We have brick! Actually these photos are outdated. The brick is completely finished, and I’ll post more after the masons come this weekend and clean of the mortar and it looks all nice and crisp (who am I kidding, I’ll probably post photos a couple weeks after the fact).

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Oh, how much my little guys are going to miss having an “instruction site” in our yard. They were mesmerized by this dumpster exchange. And meanwhile, I was consumed with guilt over the fact that our little house project has generated over a dumpster’s worth of waste. Wendell Berry would be horrified. Please don’t tell him.

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For those who are interested, here’s the roof tie-in from the back yard. Isn’t it cute?

And speaking of back yard . . .

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A few weeks ago, the kids and I went on a lovely field trip to a nearby family-owned farm outside Columbia, and the farmer showed me this whole area where she lets her one-year-old daughter garden to her heart’s content. I told David how inspiring it was, and about two days later he put in a third raised garden bed, for our kiddos.

The other two beds are David’s babies. He loves them. He tends them. It’s one of his favorite ways of unwinding. But we want our kids to learn the gardening process and to be able to do it all by themselves, so this bed is for them. Soil and plants aren’t especially cheap, so it’s more than “digging in the dirt.” There are rules. Think of it as a little hands-on class. They are thrilled.

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And now we go inside!

Here’s our new doorway, in all it’s glory. I love that Scott made it larger than a traditional doorway, in order to let in more natural light from that window. The bookcase to the left will go in Judah’s room to open up that space more, and those books will be moved to the new built-ins, which will be in the nook to the left when you walk through the addition doorway. The brown chair will go elsewhere too.

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We’re doing the painting ourselves in order to save money, and by “we” I mean mostly David, with some help from my brother and me. It’s a whole lot of painting, especially with all the new trim. Some pieces were primed but still need two coats. He’s been wonderful about it.

I really wanted to go with an almost-white to make our space look big and light-filled, but worried that all white would feel a bit stark. So our exact color is Olympic Hourglass, which is a very-slightly-gray white. The trim and doors will be the Behr paint match of Benjamin Moore Simply White (I highly recommend this color if you’re looking for a true white; I got the tip from Young House Love).

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The hardwood floors will be sanded and stained next week to match the floors throughout our house.

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Here’s our closet! After getting the quote for custom shelving, we decided to go with an IKEA metal rack system, which is considerably less expensive. There will be carpet in here too.

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And here, my friends, is the bathroom. In the last two weeks the shower and floor were tiled. We planned to save money and use vinyl flooring in the bathroom right up until this very week. The cost turned out to be reasonable, since we went with larger tiles, and we are so, so glad we did it.

I found our bathroom paint color on an HGTV Pinterest post: it’s the Olympic brand of Sherwin Williams Intellectual Gray (from Fixer Upper!), and it’s a Gray/Taupe. I spent some time really stressing that it was too dark (of course it was the one color we didn’t get a sample of), but the light floors and cabinets make it look better. I wanted it to feel cozy and I think it does!

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Look at this shower! We think it’s stunning. We wanted to go with subway tile with an inset and little shelf, and because we were willing to use remnants from our builder and the tile guy, we got the floor tile and that pretty inset design for free. We still walk in the bathroom and look at each other and say, “This can’t really be ours.”

Actually our other bathroom is kind of disintegrating during this building process (for example, we now have to use a wrench to turn on the hot water, and more floor penny tiles pop free daily), so I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that the entire family will be using the new bathroom for the foreseeable future. That’s okay: at least we’ll all comfortably fit, right?

If you’re wondering what all my Home Depot and Lowe’s trips consist of, let me give you a list of things we’ve needed to provide: shower tile, door knobs, cabinet hardware, sink faucets, all paint and primer, light fixtures, mirrors, shower head kit and shower curtain, towels, towel rack, toilet paper dispenser, closet shelving system, not to mention furniture for our room and Amie’s.

Okay, now that I look at it written out, it doesn’t seem like that much stuff. Why, oh why, does it feel like it?

Whew. Let’s move on:

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My baby is a Classical Conversations Memory Master! He did it! He was tested on 400 pieces of information from our school year in the subjects of Latin, English Grammar, History, Math, and Science, and had to achieve one hundred percent in order to get the award. He was the youngest student at our CC campus to become a Memory Master this year.

Words cannot express how proud I am of him. It’s not that I care if all my kids are Memory Masters. But God has given Judah an amazing mind, and I loved seeing him set a new goal this year and work hard for it and do his best. We told him he’d get the reward of a fun experience if he became a Memory Master, and I’ll let him tell you about that in a post after the experience.

We had our CC end-of-year program on Monday, and have just about three days of school left before we’re officially finished. It seems early, I know, but last year we started back during the summer, and that worked really well for us, so we plan to do it again.

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Monday was a big day for another reason: we celebrated two years with Gabe and Noah.

Two years! Can you believe it?

I’ll give you an adoption post here soon, probably after the addition is finished, because I have some thoughts. But I’ll just say now that choosing to adopt our boys is the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.

It’s a mark of what God has done in making us a family that we had to consider how exactly to celebrate this anniversary, because they don’t even really think of themselves as adopted now. They’re just ours.

But we love adoption and want to celebrate it and support it for the rest of our lives, and of course we know one day they will have lots more questions. And so we decided our family’s annual Adoption Day tradition will be Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. The kids loved it!

Today David took the two older kids on a big hike in the Greenville area, and I took Gabe and Noah to the zoo and to Chick-Fil-A. Personally, it was my favorite two-year celebration because it’s rare that I get to be alone with just the two of them, just having fun. Spending today enjoying my boys felt beautiful. They make my life better.

Thank you for enduring my long-windedness, my friends!

And now will you do something for me?

I know all of you have your own busy, stressful lives, but if you get a moment, shoot me an email or text letting me know what’s up with you! What’s the hardest part of life right now? What’s the best? (those could actually be the same thing)

I love hearing from you and hate that this blog often feels like a one-sided conversation. In all of the construction stress, the most restful thing for me is to NOT think about the construction. I love hearing from my friends and family (and internet friends! you’re not a blog stalker!).

Happy Friday!



fasting.

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Until this year, I never fasted for Lent. Fasting is a word that has always made me feel a bit uncomfortable. As a child, I remember my parents fasting, and I fasted from a meal for the purpose of prayer a couple of times back in Bible college, but quite honestly haven’t given it much thought ever since.

Even though I’ve known the Lord for years and years and should’ve known better, I think in my head I thought of fasting as something religious people do to make their god happy with them, and something non-religious people do for health reasons. And so when I heard of Christians fasting for Lent — the 40 days before Easter — I didn’t understand. It felt very legalistic to me: “If I give up ____ for 40 days, then God will be pleased with me.”

But one of our pastors, John, preached a sermon about fasting last month to begin the season of Lent, and it had a big impact on me. He spoke of fasting as a way to get hold of the Christian’s attention. We’re so distracted. We don’t truly, deeply hunger for God because we’re never hungry for anything. We’re so desperate to be comfortable, and the opportunities to make ourselves comfortable are limitless.

We fill up on all the gifts this world has to offer, and the consequence is that our appetite for Christ has grown small.

What fasting really is, is the act of setting aside something we really want for a season in order to grow our hunger for what we need.

John told the story of asking his wife Anna what he should give up for Lent. She told him, “Reading.” And he was incredulous. “What!? That’s not even a thing! No one in the history of the Christian church has ever given up reading for Lent!” But she told him when he comes home from work and picks up his phone to read texts or articles on Facebook, when he picks up a book in the evening, he’s distracted. He isn’t connecting with his family. What they need is for his full attention those few hours of the day and of the weekend.

So John decided to listen to her, and give up reading at home for the 40 days of Lent. He shelved his books and checked his phone at the door each evening. He didn’t do it to try and win points with God; he did it in order to pay attention, in order to see if the hunger he felt for his phone and his books would increase His appetite for the right thing. He chose to trade something he really, really wanted, for something that he needed.

He challenged our church family to consider doing the same thing; fasting doesn’t have to be food, although it could. It can be any good gift of God that we hunger for.

I really wanted to try it. And, so after a bit of thought, I made the decision to fast from caffeinated drinks for Lent. I’m not a soda drinker, so what that means for me is coffee (including decaf) and caffeinated tea.

I’ve had a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I needed to stop drinking coffee for a long time, but honestly haven’t had the courage to do it. I adore coffee, as you well know. And I was drinking way too much. Up to three cups a day, with an afternoon teatime of English Breakfast tea.

Drinking coffee and caffeinated tea had such a hold on me, and I feel kind of ridiculous admitting it. More than anything, reflecting back on the last five weeks, I felt like I had a right to have them.

Life is stressful. Social interactions are hard. Running errands is exhausting. So when I feel blue or even just bored, I make another cup of coffee. I bring my travel mug to church and homeschool co-op and swim lessons to get me through the awkwardness of feeling anxiety around people. I stop at Starbucks for a $5 latte because I’ve got a huge to-do list and I deserve a treat.

I also knew that I felt miserable, physically. My stomach always hurt, my bottle of Pepto-Bismal always close at hand. My anxiety was still simmering below the surface of my life most of the time, even with medication and exercise. I was disproportionately stressed and angry. And I couldn’t stop drinking coffee.

But I thought of John’s decision, and it gave me the strength I needed. Fasting is an exchange. It’s setting aside this thing I really, really think I need to survive, in order to pay attention. I don’t want to need it so badly. I want to be a less stressed-and-angry person for my family. I want to need Christ badly. I want to want Him more.

Having said all of this, I was very scared.

I honestly didn’t know how I was going to live for 40 days without my comfort drinks.

But on March 1st, I gave them up. And I learned a whole lot about myself in the past few weeks.

In his book A Hunger for God, John Piper says, “Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us,” and this month I’ve had some humbling, un-lovely things to learn about my desires.

The biggest thing it exposed is my idol of comfort: that’s what my desire for coffee and tea are really. And if we get honest, this fast only just pulled back the top layer of that idol back since I still consumed many other things that bring me comfort: sweets, wine, the Internet, and books, to name a few.

Removing just one of those crutches showed me how very selfish all those cravings are. They’re about me; making myself comfortable, myself happy.

If Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control me, then I failed the test.

What’s more, the very first week a friend offered me a cup of coffee and without even thinking, I said, “No, I’m okay, thanks, I gave up coffee for Lent.” I actually said those words. I could’ve kicked myself for being that person. No one wants to be around that person.

So from that moment on, suitably chastened, I decided not to talk about it, except to a very few people. That isn’t what this exercise is about at all, having people know what I’m doing. And more than anything, the goal of all of it is to help make coffee not the point of my life. Constantly talking about giving up coffee is still making it the point.

That first week was the hardest. When I felt those overwhelming cravings and even surges of anger and feeling like a victim, I made a practice of saying to the Lord, “I hunger and thirst for You more than coffee.” Many times it was just words. Many times I really hungered and thirsted for coffee way more than God.

I’ve gone off coffee one time before, several years ago, and remembered this: that first week left me literally depressed. I wanted to sleep all the time. I felt a thick, dark weight settle over my life. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

At the beginning I counted down the days until I could drink coffee again. I fantasized about sitting down with our straight-from-the-oven Easter cinnamon rolls and a steaming mug  and my mouth would water. I’m not sure if that’s the exact right thing to fill my mind with during a fast.

But I also remembered that it gets easier over time.

Gradually, over the 40 days, it did get easier. Until, ironically, last week leading up to the end I rarely thought about the breaking of my fast. I finally started to enjoy my cup of hot herbal tea. And when I woke up on Saturday morning and made myself a French press of Starbucks Pike Place roast, it tasted delicious, but I didn’t even finish the cup. It was decaf, but it instantly made me feel sick (is coffee intolerance a thing!?), and just didn’t feel worth it to me. So I heated water for a cup of Rooibos tea.

I wish I could tell you I had some really deep quiet times with the Lord over this month, but you know what? I didn’t. I take medication for anxiety that left me so very sleepy without caffeine. I don’t think I ever once got out of bed before 7:00 am this month, and usually it was 7:30 or later. I rarely exercised because I didn’t have the energy.

I feel like I lost a big part of my personality all month.

But after the initial withdrawal wore off, you know what I also lost? A lot of my anger. And stress. And anxiety.

So much so, that I had to gradually keep shaving off my medication dose over the past few weeks. That was never my intention; I just needed to do it in order to be functional. Now I take a fraction of the dose. I can wake up early in the morning again. I went for a run today. I have energy. And I feel great.

I found a lot of my other driving desires seemed to be less intense. I didn’t crave a glass of red wine every evening. I didn’t need our bedroom addition to look like a Pinterest post. I didn’t need to be on Instagram — in fact, a couple of weeks into Lent I stopped checking it altogether.

Quitting coffee did not solve all my life problems (wouldn’t that be nice?). I still get stressed and angry and anxious and materialistic. But I would say it’s at a much more proportionate level to the reality of my life and my sinful heart.

And I was reminded, many many times I day, how much I do not hunger for God.

Isn’t it just like Him that I give up something I desperately desire and have so foolishly chased after, and He gives me gifts? I don’t deserve that at all. I deserve His displeasure, because I replace wanting Him with silly, silly things like coffee and tea. At the very least, I deserve His halfhearted, distracted attention, because that’s what I give to Him.

But instead He blesses me and blesses me and blesses me. With His good pleasure. With His forgiveness. With His attention and with freedom from my addiction to self. This month He’s allowed me to taste and see that He is good in a fresh new way. Before, I had what I wanted, but really I was missing out. In what other areas of my life am I doing that?

I used to be a bit terrified of fasting. It felt like too much to ask. I thought of every reason to rationalize my way out of it by pretending it was about legalism. And, just as with sin, the person I was hurting the most was myself.

I’m not scared anymore. I’m stronger than I thought I was. I don’t “need” all these comforts in my life, all the time. There are things I really need, and I’m interested to be embarking on a journey to learn more about them.

I also know this now: fasting is very deep.

It’s deep in a way that sitting with my Bible and going to church on Sunday aren’t. Maybe that sounds irreverent. I believe those two practices are essential to the Christian life. But possibly, by neglecting the practice of fasting, I’m not fully experiencing the good that the other spiritual disciplines have to offer me.

I’m still perpetually, unceasingly “nibbling at the table of the world,” as John Piper says. Like Anna’s example of trying to have a conversation with John while he’s checking his texts, I’m giving half my attention to God and half to things that don’t matter.

Fasting isn’t about making God happy. God is happy with me, because of Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Fasting is about longing. It’s about looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. It’s about joy and it’s about freedom.

My first Lenten fast was imperfect — there’s much more I could’ve done, more I could have given up. It didn’t begin to plumb the depths that fasting has to offer me. After 40 days, I see that more clearly than ever. But it’s a start, and somehow, I feel like starting may be half the battle. It’s made me hungry for more.



easter 2017.

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My parents are selling their house in Blythewood and hoping to buy a house a little closer to downtown. So yesterday we celebrated one last family holiday there. It was also my brother Danny’s 30th birthday! We had fun eating fried chicken and chocolate cake, hunting for Easter eggs, and enjoying this lovely spring weather.

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