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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the home stretch.

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I’m long overdue for a house update.

Our house addition started February 13, which means we’re entering our eighth week. Can you believe it?

People told me the construction process would feel like an eternity, but February and March were such extremely busy months for us, that it’s flown by. All except the weekend the roof was being replaced. That felt like an eternity for sure. If you’re wondering why, imagine the sound of something like large rodents scurrying and stomping overhead, interspersed with lots of pounding (on your very skull) and every so often, what sounds like bodies hitting the roof.

That kind of did a number on our family, partly because we hosted our two CPC New Members’ classes the weekends they were here working. I truly thought I might have a break-down at one point, from the stress of it all.

But God gave us the strength we needed to just put one foot in front of the other, and what’s more, He gave us joy. Just in the nick of time. We loved having the big group of people over, as we always do, and if anything it was even more special than usual, because they came to us in all our mess.

And then right after, the Lord gave us a wonderful gift: our window shipment was delayed, and so the builders had to take a week and a half off work. They apologized a lot, but David and I felt that the timing couldn’t have been better.

We desperately needed a break: from noise, from interruptions, from thinking about the addition at all really.

When business resumed last week, we felt rested and energized for the home stretch.

Right now Scott is estimating that they’ll finish up at the beginning of May!

Alright, enough talking. Let’s take a tour around, shall we?

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Here’s the current state of our current bedroom. We had this window boarded up a few weeks ago.

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Now I am standing inside the new little hallway of the addition, looking back into the house. As of tomorrow that window will be a doorway (the cord to that Roman shade gave out not a moment too soon, didn’t it?)! Up until now everyone has crawled in and out through a window.

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Still standing at the window, I’m turning and looking at what will be a tiny alcove. You can see the bedroom doorway to the left, and it will open out into that alcove. The room beyond that wall is our bathroom!

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Hooray! Here’s our bathroom! Isn’t that privacy window fun? There will be a built-in linen cabinet on the right, then the double vanity, and on the other side of that half-wall is the shower. To the left across from the shower is the room for the toilet.

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Here it is! The kids are enamored by the fact that someone can actually close a door and use the potty in privacy while other people are in the bathroom. You know what I love about a building project? You can design it to fit your family’s particular needs, and what we need is a multi-user-friendly master bathroom.

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Now we head out of the bathroom and turn to look down another little hall into the bedroom. That door on my right is the walk-in closet.

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I’m looking out of the hall window to our front porch.

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And here, my friends, is our lovely new bedroom. Don’t you love those big windows? And the vaulted ceiling? David gets all the credit for ensuring that it happened. I didn’t have an opinion either way, but now that I see how charming the room looks, I’m thrilled.

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I turn and look back down the hall I came from. The closet is that first doorway on the left, then the bathroom. Turn right at the end of the hall and it leads to the doorway to our living room.

Don’t you like how the addition isn’t just a big box-like room? It has a hallway and an alcove, and I haven’t shown you yet, but our genius architect figured out a way to add built-in bookshelves off the living room. Yes, it is tailor-made for the Gentino’s.

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Hello again, bedroom! Our bed will go against that wall. We plan to go with a minimal look, furniture-wise, but hope to fit a reading/drinking-wine-and-chatting corner in under the windows across the room from the bed.

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And here we are again at the outside. As you can see, we gained most of the windows this past week since I snapped the above photos, as well as insulation and hardwood floors.

If the addition looks large compared to the rest of the house, that’s because it is! It increased our square footage by a third. Here’s one more glimpse:

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Doesn’t that roof look pretty? It was worth all the craziness! I’ve never in my life considered roofing style, but suddenly found myself needing to choose shingles. I went with architect-style, light-black onyx, mostly by looking around and seeing what I liked.

If you don’t think the roof looks all that remarkable, may I give just remind you…?

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The roofers said that our shingles were pretty much crumbling in their hands as they removed them.

And that’s all for now!

Happy April, my friends!



lessons from anne.

Hello there, friends!

Forgive me for being MIA. Quite honestly, I haven’t had the energy for blogging. But I miss you all! I plan to give you a nice Spring Bookshelf post soon, but for now I thought I’d write about what I’m currently finishing up: the Anne of Green Gables series.

I was poking around for comfort books to read, and right around that time my Mom and I watched the movie Anne of Green Gables with Judah and Amelie for their first time. They adored it! Amelie said, “Oh Mom, I just love Anne. She has the best imagination, doesn’t she!?” And Amelie has had a “window friend” ever since, which is, now that I think of it, truly what I always hoped for in a daughter.

So I decided to read back through the series of books. I haven’t read them beginning to end since I first got married, and I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten. Now, I love the Anne movies — at least the original Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables, The Sequel — after that I stopped watching them.

But I’m reminded that if you’ve only watched the movies and haven’t read the books, you’ve missed out on so much! The series is full of sparkle and insight that the movies just can’t capture. Growing up I enjoyed the books for their stories and romances, but reading them again as a 35-year-old has me struck with just how profound L.M. Montgomery’s writing is. Old-fashioned it may be, but the true lessons I’ve gleaned from Anne this time around are timeless.

Here are a few I’ve been mulling over:

1. Be a lover of nature

From the very first moment we meet Anne, on the carriage ride with Matthew Cuthbert to Green Gables, she’s exulting over nature. And she never stops. I love the way Anne has an actual relationship with flowers and trees and brooks and meadows. She notices them. She enjoys them as if they’re friends.

As a little girl she builds imaginary playhouses with Diana and names her favorite spots, as a college student, she goes for long walks, and as a busy mother of six, she gardens. Her enthusiasm for the great outdoors is so genuine and contagious, that her children grow up loving it too.

Anne makes me want to get outside, open my eyes, and see the things around me — not in order to make a nature lesson for my kids, but just for the sheer pleasure of it.

 

2. Never lose your imagination

One of the things that makes Anne so beloved is that she’s no stranger to adversity. Orphaned as a baby, she lived in and out of the orphanage and foster care until age eleven. It seems that one of the gifts that saved Anne during those heart-breaking years was her imagination.

She had imaginary friends. She loved poems and stories. She spun stories about people, or pretended that life could be different than what it was. And don’t we love her for it?  Her imagination was a wonderful comfort and joy to her, both as an orphan, and later as an adopted daughter.

And as a grown up too! One of my favorite conversations Anne has with her children ends with her saying to her daughter, with the wisdom of someone who has lived and knows, “An imagination is a wonderful thing to have . . . but like every gift we must possess it and not let it possess us . . . you must learn to keep on this side of the borderline between the real and the unreal. Then the power to escape at will into a beautiful world of your own will help you amazingly through the hard places of life.”

 

3. Determine to see the best in people and in life

This is Anne’s second gift that allowed her to live a difficult life without becoming consumed by despair and resentment. There’s a way to read Anne’s story in two narratives: one of her seeing the best in people, and one of her fearing the worst. I found myself reflecting back over the books and thinking of the things she could have chosen to feel about her life.

Even after she found a home, Matthew and Marilla certainly weren’t always ideal caregivers. Marilla could be gruff and strict. Matthew was shy and quirky. They didn’t have a lot of money. And Anne always knew she wasn’t pretty — at least not in the way other girls were. There were hard seasons for her and losses and people that were unkind, and she married a doctor who worked incredibly long hours.

But from the very beginning she had this amazing strength of character that said, “I choose to find the best.”

Because of that, Anne’s life turns out very, very differently from the way it might’ve (you can contrast her to Katherine Brooke, for instance). It isn’t trouble-free, but it is rich in the best of ways: with people and with gratitude.

 

4. Stay young at heart

I love the Meredith children’s speculation about grown-up Anne . . .

“They say she isn’t like other people,” said Jerry.

“Mrs. Elliott says that is because she never really grew up,” said Faith.

“She’s taller than Mrs. Elliott.”

“Yes, yes, but it is inside — Mrs. Elliott says Mrs. Blythe just stayed a little girl inside.

I love Anne’s sense of wonder throughout life. I love her imagination. I love that her growing in life responsibilities and wisdom doesn’t come at the expense of her child-likeness.

It makes her a delightful friend and wife, and a wonderful mother. My favorite thing that Anne’s children say about her is that: “Mummy understands.” It doesn’t keep her from setting rules and disciplining and keeping house and sometimes doing things for herself that she enjoys doing.  She never tries to be her kids’ best friend. But it means she can put herself into their shoes and truly remember what it felt like to be a child.

They love they way she listens to them. They love that she doesn’t laugh and make light of their funny sayings. They love that she takes their dreams seriously. They feel accepted by her, exactly the way they are.

 

5. Embrace a simple life

Here’s something that just astounded me on this most recent reading through the books — something I’ve forgotten from years of re-watching the Anne movies and forgetting how the story was changed. Do you know that in the original story, Anne never gets a book published?

I was so certain that was a fact in the movies that I looked avidly for it, but couldn’t find it!

When she graduated from Redmond College, Anne was full of promise. She was smart. She was popular. She’d had several small pieces published in magazines and had lots and lots of potential to do great things.

And she chose the other path.

She settled down. She got married and had a bunch of kids and kept house and reflected that there was no time any more to really write in the way she’d once dreamed of doing.

That is my favorite little hidden gem.

Does Anne ever feel a pang thinking of the “what might have beens”? Yes, probably. But she is happy with the simple life she chose. She keeps learning and growing within the limits of her life. She never ends up needing to prove anything to herself or the world in order to feel joy.

She is content.

She knows that people matter more than success.

This, more than so many things, is what I long to teach my children. Yes, I want to encourage their dreams. Yes, I want them to be passionate and inspired and work hard and have great opportunities. But most of all, I want them to see that success does not always equal what a lot of the world says it does. I want them to see that there is great value in a simple life. And no matter what form it takes, success never, ever makes you happy.

Oh, Anne, thank you for being so delightful and for teaching us so many things!

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