It’s no small secret that moms with young children don’t have a lot of down-time. It’s just part of life these days, and you know, it’s really okay. It’s a pouring out into these precious little lives, a giving back of all that I’ve been given by so many people and especially the Lord throughout the years.

One thing that has been a big change is in my reading. I’ve always been an avid reader, from the time I first learned to spell. My mom instilled in us kids a love of learning, and a love of education, something I want to pass on. Back in the day (i.e. before children) I would read scores of books a year, dozens upon dozens. And well, that has changed. :)

My love of reading has not, however. I still love to “travel the world” through written word, imagining the story in my mind. But because my time is a lot more limited in “free time” segments, what I do read has to be worth the time spent there. My goal is to read 2 books a month, which for me is a lot at this stage. :) And it doesn’t always happen, but when it does I feel very accomplished! Ha!

winter book list

This winter I’ve read some exceptional books, and I’ll share a few of them. Some were recommended by my sister, one was given by a friend, and some I just discovered along the way.

My favorites from the past few months are:

-Heaven is Here (by Stephanie Neilson)
-The Insanity of God (by Nik Ripkin)
-The Clouds We So Much Dread (by Sharon Stoltzfus)
-Lessons from Madame Chic (by Jennifer L. Scott)

Not pictured but read via Kindle:
-Choosing to See (Mary Beth Chapman)
-The Secret Garden (Zoe and I read together, by Frances Burnett)

I didn’t even realize it until now, but all of these books, with the exception of The Secret Garden, are real-life stories. I’m not sure why I’m gravitating toward that type of genre right now, except that I am incredibly moved by great men and women, people who rise above their circumstances and choose to learn and grow even from the most devastating situations (The Clouds We So Much Dread, Choosing to See, Heaven is Here). Or people who enter another country (Madame Chic), and view its culture and people with curiousity and delight. Or people who engage with those who have nothing, even at their own risk (The Insanity of God).

My soul has been stirred and deepened, and I am amazed at the strength of the human spirit, fueled by the Creator.

Sharon Stoltzfus, author of ‘The Clouds We So Much Dread,’ has offered a book to giveaway on my blog.

In reading through her story earlier this year, I was so deeply moved at the strength and courage of she and her husband and their four precious children as they walked through one of the most difficult things anyone could possibly face: a terminal illness,

The heartbeat of God that comes through made me cry on nearly every page. The response of raw honesty and gripping pain combined with open-hands surrender to the sovereignty of God is unlike anything I’ve ever read. The writing of Spurgeon and other great men of God were often quoted, and brought strength and perspective. The book follows their journey through the discovery of the illness and the walking through some of the darkest days anyone could face.

 I was so challenged in my own walk with God and my view of God through reading this book, and I highly highly recommend it to anyone who is facing or has gone through terminal illness or loss of any kind.

Shortly before the time that Sharon’s husband passed into eternity, my dear aunt Freida also reached Eternity. But before Freida passed, she had a passion for widows especially, and her heart and passion birthed a beautiful thing called “Handyman Ministries.” This is a businessmen-funded operation that employs men to care for widows and do household maintenance and repairs (and now other people in need) free of charge. The idea was so beautiful, and the carrying out of the idea into reality has touched so many lives and been an incredible blessing to hundreds of people through the past years.

All proceeds from the book, ‘The Clouds We So Much Dread’, go toward Handyman Ministries, at Sharon’s request.

the clouds we so much dread

The ways of God are so mysterious… Sharon is now married, to my uncle who was widowed upon the death of my dear aunt. She is a beautiful person and my life is richer for knowing her. Although she and we would never have wished the circumstances that brought us together, we are grateful for the fresh mercies of God and the way He can bring beauty from ashes. Only He is capable of doing that.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment about one of your favorite recent reads!
This giveaway will go from now until next week Wednesday, with the winner contacted on Thursday, April 2.

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One of my sisters and her husband spent a week with us in January! They were escaping the cold of the north, and happened upon a beautiful warm week in the south!

It was a wonderful time with them. Of course, with living far away from my family, it is always so special to be able to spend some time with them! We dream of the day of living near each other!

lovely ervina

One of those days was exceptionally warm, even for us in the south, and so we could not pass up a chance to go to the ocean together, in January of all times! It was a lovely day, and while not exactly toasty, it was very comfortable and the kiddos didn’t even seem to mind the frigidly cold water. Why do children never seem to mind icy water, I wonder?

My children are so blessed with their aunties and uncles. The are so involved in our children’s lives, and intentional about relationships even with these little people. It’s no wonder my children adore them!

best auntie ever

As my daughters grow, it is so special to see a sister-bond develop between them too.
Having a sister is such a precious gift!

little sisters

sisterhood

And my very own sister, one of three treasured gifts.

sisters

 

The day at the ocean was also to celebrate 100 days of school for the girls – Kindergarten and 2nd grade. That day always feels like a milestone, and very throwing a party about! :)

This is a beach we have gone to very often, but never before have we seen sand dollars like we did this day. There were literally hundreds of them, buried just below the surface of the sand. The little guys had so much fun finding them from the tell-tale little air holes in the sand, and collected quite a pile! They were all living, so we did make sure we returned them to the ocean before we left. :)

finding sand dollars
“Wook, mommy! It’s a BABY one!” Hudson was so delighted.

baby sand dollars

100 days of school

Hudson took along his little stick horse – why,  I don’t know. But a lot of energy was burned galloping along the seashore.

Ocean day in January 003

And Zoe, little bookworm, brought along a book. Long-gone are the days when I am able to read a book at the beach (3 kids?!), but I remember how I used to love it, and I love to watch her.

book worm beach girl

 

As you can see, Ervina is expecting a precious little baby! Two of my sisters (Claudia and Ervina) are expecting new babies this spring, and we are just over the moon excited for them! We come from a long line of baby lovers, and we absolutely cannot wait for these precious children to join our family!!
And of course, we had to take a few pictures… The evening was a glowing, golden sunset, and it was so fun to be able to capture this precious time of pregnancy!

beautiful pregnancy

ocean maternity pictures ocean pregnancy pictures maternity picture at the ocean ocean maternity picture

maternity ocean pictures

beautiful pregnancy 20 weeks maternity 20 weeks 20 weeks maternity at the ocean

beautiful maternity

Isn’t she beautiful, and radiant? I love to just watch her, her peace and joy.

Those qualities are fascinating to observe. It’s something intriguing, curious;
making you wonder what is going on within to produce the outward character.

If you have followed my blog for some time, you will remember that a little over a year ago I did a maternity shoot for her, and then that her sweet little boy awoke to see the face of Jesus, rather than the faces of his mommy and daddy.

This past year has been one of incredible sadness and sorrow, of walking depths of pain no parents should ever walk. No parent should ever lose their child, not as a baby, not as a young man.

And more recently, there have been some months of such joy as a new baby is being formed with her, and she feels his/or her kicks and hiccups.  There is no way possible that this baby can ever replace little Kenneth, or take away the loss of their firstborn baby. This is a baby all his own, with his own place to fill, his own joy to give, his own life to live. This little baby is so loved already!

It is truly remarkable what the heart can endure. How it can feel such depth of grief and yet new joy, at the very same moment. I have been in awe of the spirit of Jesus that’s been in my sister and her husband, in the darkest hours of their lives. I cannot even pretend to know what it’s like to lose a child, except I can imagine it must be one of the most agonizing experiences ever to walk through. To see two people I love go through such pain was one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced.

I think of the quote by Corrie ten Boom, and it reminds me of what I’ve seen in them this past year:

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

It is true. The depth of God’s mercy and grace can never be exhausted.  That doesn’t mean life doesn’t hurt, that the pain isn’t real, that the loss isn’t felt. But it means that God’s grace is there, and HE is there. He has proved His faithfulness to us over and over again, in spite of our own lack of faith, and our times of weakness and despair. We have no boasting of our own to talk about this past year; we’ve been a mess of tears and pain sometimes. But we can tell you about Jesus, and about how He has gently carried us. About His goodness, and how He is a kind Father. We have an amazing God!

This month of March, on the 22nd,  will be one year since Kenny & Ervina’s little son was born, and went on before them. Would you be so kind as to remember them in prayer especially this month? Dates are difficult, and the one year anniversary especially so. I would be so grateful if you did…

Happy weekend, friends!

 

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So! I am over the top excited to show some pictures of our renovation process! Last fall felt like a whirlwind of action and work as we began the attic renovation and completed it in 10 weeks, just in time for the Christmas Tour of Homes we were scheduled for.

We thought our following two months would be slow(er), but they’ve also been filled up with some unexpected events, bringing us almost to March and I still haven’t shown the attic reveal!

There are several rooms that have been changed around here at the Cottage as a result of two additional rooms upstairs, but today we’ll begin with the attic, and the Office Studio on one side.

attic office

 

I have told people that if someone would bring me food and water, I could literally live in these two rooms upstairs. I absolutely love it!

I (I saw “I” because my husband very kindly let me choose the colors and style up here, but he did 99% of the work) went with whites – white on the walls, white on the floor, painted white wood on the end wall… A lot of white.

I was inspired by Swedish and Norwegian homes of much white space, and therefore minimalistic décor. I wanted a very simple look with clean lines. I couldn’t be happier with how this space turned out!

But first! A before shot. No windows, no insulation, not even a floor. Just dark.

We were working with a small-ish space, with very steep roof lines, and so wanted to use the fullest potential of this area.

bedroom #1 before
And the same space, after:

a white attic office

 

I know!!!!! Can you even believe it’s the same space?! I feel like I’m walking into a dream every time I come up here.

Our basic game plan for this room was to add a dormer window toward the front of the house, a big double window out the side, add electric and A/C, add knee-walls and then dry wall on the walls and ceiling, add flooring, add wood to the end wall. It was a LOT OF WORK. My husband did most of the work himself, along with working a full-time job. He put in so much time and hard work! And the way he transforms a place is simply amazing. His German work-horse roots come out in full force during something like this. :) I am simply in amazement of his vision and then the way he reaches his goal. There’s a reason he is wanted in the construction business!

The ceiling is high, about 13 feet at the peak. And this room is sized about 10 X 12, so we weren’t looking at a huge area, but because we only have two bedrooms on the lower level of the house, having this additional space was going to be wonderful! This room could be a bedroom, but we are using it as an office studio for now.

Ben and I share this office space. It’s simple, it’s white, it’s clean. I LOVE IT! Long-term our set-up probably wouldn’t be ideal, but for now we have a table for a desk, some filing cabinets hidden to the side, and a closet which holds any extras for us.

There were two brick fireplaces going up through the attic, due to two double fireplaces (that equals four) in the four front rooms of the house. I was so thankful we were able to place the rooms so we could save one of the chimneys going through the roof. I love the warmth it brings to this attic space, and gives it such a studio feel.

He also MADE (insert a million heart eyes) this sliding barn door, or actually three of them, for the upstairs. The closet uses one of them.

sliding door in the office

 

This table I found for super cheap at a thrift store, and my husband thought it was so ugly and couldn’t believe I would pay money for it. So he added the reclaimed lumber to the top and it turned into a gorgeous piece!

farmhouse style desk for the office

 

The sofa (which I found for $35 dollars on craigslist (and now I a.d.o.r.e. craigslist all the more) adds the perfect touch of warmth and texture to the room.

tufted sofa for the office

vintage sofa with modern pillows

 

The décor is minimal, but this little area is a favorite of mine:

floating shelves

floating shelves with simple decor

 

I’m learning, when having a palate of white, that texture is essential. So while most of the décor is white, here are a few ways I’ve added texture:

- the Eiffel chairs add a modern element [wooden legs, smooth chair]
-the table [white painted legs, top made of reclaimed lumber - thank you, dear Husband!]
- the shelves [floating style, shiny finish]
- wood boards on the end wall, and painted
- wooden floor, also painted but slightly different color than the walls
- metal pendant lights, painted black for contrast
-metal distressed ampersand

Each thing is a slightly different material, or color, or texture. And putting it all together with the slight differences but similarities are what give it a clean but warm feel.

an attic office

 

I think the work of restoration is so amazing. And such a picture of the redemption of Christ in the life of a person! He takes what we think is ugly, useless, beyond hope, and turns it into a masterpiece. If we as humans can do physical repair, how much more can the Great Restorer work on a deep soul level! I love that picture.

Be blessed because of the work of the Restorer in your life today!

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Sources:
Wall and Ceiling Color: Dove White, Sherwin Williams, eggshell finish
Floor: White Exterior Grade Paint
Eiffel Chairs: Amazon, similar here
Floor Lamp: Target, found here (and they are 10% off now!)
Floating Shelves: Lowe’s, found here
Metal Pendant Lights: we found them free!
Swiss Cross/Plus Sign Rug: Urban Outfitters, here
Table: thrifted, and Ben added the reclaimed lumber to the top

 

Some time ago I had a giveaway that included A Farmer’s Daughter cookbook.

And let me tell you, this cookbook has quickly become one of my favorites! Each time I try a new recipe from there, I know it will be good. Because Dawn is just a fabulous cook, that’s why!

Here is a new favorite from there, called Farmer’s Skillet. It’s in the breakfast section of the cookbook, but I’ve made it for breakfast, for lunch, for supper… It’s filling and easy and delicious! So here is Dawn’s recipe, all credits to her.

farmer's breakfast skillet

 

 Farmer’s Breakfast Skillet

1 pound pork sausage
2 1/2 cups red potatoes, cubed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
6-7 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried chives (or 1 Tablespoon fresh)
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley (or 1 Tablespoon dried)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Additional toppings:
Salsa
Sour Cream
Cilantro
Avacado

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage and potatoes until potatoes are soft about 8-10 minutes. Drain most of the drippings from the skillet. Return skillet to the heat and add peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Lightly beat eggs with the salt, pepper, paprika, chives, and parsley. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and reduce heat to low: cover and cook until the eggs are set. Sprinkle cheese on top. Garnish with additional parsley and toppings of salsa, sour cream, fresh cilantro, and slices of avocado.

Serves: 6

A few changes for healthier choices: turkey sausage could be substituted for pork sausage. And sweet potatoes can be substituted for white or red potatoes. My favorite was to use half the amount each of red potatoes and sweet potatoes – it had excellent flavor!

 

This cookbook is available in printed form, and also on a Kindle format! I just downloaded it to my iPad because I love having easy access to recipes on there!

And the Kindle download is on sale from February 19-28 for only $6.99 at this link! Here is a small sampling that Dawn says you will find in it:

Wouldn’t it be fun to make Baked Peach French Toast for breakfast or French Puff Cinnamon Muffins?  For lunch, Santa Fe Chicken Soup or Apple Pecan Salad with Sweet and Sour Dressing would make your innards happy!  Dinner could be as simple as Baked Rosemary Chicken and Whipping Cream Potatoes.  There are also some fun recipes for Pumpkin Spice Latte, Swiss Cheese Quiche, Homemade Bread with Wheat Flakes (you can always sub oatmeal for the wheat flakes) and Chocolate Meringue Bars.  Some of these items you will have on hand if you’re snowed in.  Some of them you will not.  It’s ok, substitute.  You really can’t hurt these recipes.  They are very simple with basic ingredients!

So, that is the perfect answer for what in the world am I going to cook?? this weekend! :)

 

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So I thought it would be fun to do a little series on my blog from time to time called “My Favorite Things.” It might be things around my home, or featuring a theme, but a way to share with each other things that we love! That’s what women and friends love to do, right? Tell each other all about the latest best most wonderfullest things we’ve discovered! :)

I have quite a few friends that are such talented small business owners, and I want to show you their darling shops today! Many of them are on Etsy, and others are on another website of their own. But since I began My Faire Lady Designs a few years ago with some friends, I have absolutely loved to see and hear about other small businesses too.

For those of us that have chosen to take up a small business, I’ve noticed it’s often come through a hobby, a gifting we already have. It’s an overflow of something we already love to do, and out of that we love to bless other people. It’s our way of loving them, by giving them something we’ve created. It’s a personal gift, something that has taken our time to create, and time is precious. Sometimes it feels risky and vulnerable, because the things we create are so much a part of us, and what if the work isn’t valued? Sometimes we can view (wrongly) that we ourselves are rejected then. The artist is almost inseparable from his work.

But then we want to offer our gifts to other people too, so that the giving can be passed on. That’s what’s happened with many of the small businesses that I’ve known about and seen – and I love it! It’s exciting to support people that I know, men, women, some of them parents, some of them single, loving the Lord, their families, living fully, and “playing”/creating for their business.

So while I don’t buy exclusively from small business owners, I definitely have been more intentional to support them. It makes me happy to know that something I want or need is being purchased from someone that will truly benefit from it, rather than a huge corporation or website getting all the cash.

Christmas is over, I realize, but perhaps there are birthday gifts you are needing and might find just what you are looking for here. :)

So here are a few of my favorites! I’m happy to introduce you to my friends –  whether I’ve met them all in real life or whether some of them are yet to be met, they are all my friends. :)

Across Fields

Custom Watercolor Art by Grace

Watercolor Custom 11x14 Painting - Made to Order

Grace is a friend that I met several years ago at Ellerslie Training, and what a dear sweet woman she is! Her name fits her perfectly!

Her Etsy shop is so beautiful, the detail on her work amazing, and she can create almost any custom painting requested. If you are wanting a painting of meaning and sentimental value or to remember a precious time of your life, notecards, calendars, custom paintings, special projects, illustrations, invitations, personalized gifts – these are all things she can mentioned that she would love to do with! Grace would be a wonderful person to talk to.

100% of the proceeds from her etsy store (whether paintings, prints, notecards, etc) go toward paying for surgery/ongoing treatments that she needs for her health challenges.

Follow her on Facebook at Paintings by Grace Lyn

Handmade Soap

Heritage Soaps is a family owned business that makes quality, handmade soap.

Within the past months I’ve begun to care more about what goes into my body, and when Beth surprised me with a lovely gift of their soaps, I was delighted!! Now that I’ve used their handmade soap, I can’t imagine going back to the “normal” body wash again. I love her these, and the scents!

This is a little excerpt from their website:  All soaps are made by hand using only the finest ingredients. Our oils are chosen for their qualities to moisturize, for hardness and luxurious lather. Our soap is made by the cold process method, which retains all the naturally occurring glycerin of the saponification process. The oils we use are all food grade which ensures you are receiving the best quality ingredients that are available.  

The presentation was darling when it arrived, and there are all kinds of scents to choose from on the website. I love some of the names – Green Irish Tweed, Morning Glory and Honeysuckle, Christmas Cabin, and so many others.

 The Parcel Post Company

This Etsy shop is so fun – the inventory is constantly changing and you never know what fun new things will pop up next! From baby hats and bibs to clothespins to banners… Nicole from Today is my Favorite blog is sure to delight!

Hipster Baby Bib

Knotted Baby Beanie // Navy Scallop

Floral Clothespins

La Bella Prints

Inspirational and Decorative Prints

This darling Etsy shop has beautifully designed art prints in fun colors and designs! There is a wide variety of styles, from birth announcements to scripture to humor. Some of them are available for instant download which is really nice! And her prices are unbeatable.

Here are just a few that catch my eye:

Why Hello

Why Hello - Instant Download - Typography - Printable

Nursery Art

Custom Nursery Art - Birth Subway Print - Anchor Art Print - Instant Download - Printable

Quite possibly my favorite:

Earth Has No Sorrow That Heaven Can't Heal - Instant Download - Printable - Typography

 This one is pretty awesome too :)

INSTANT HUMAN Just Add Coffee - Kitchen Print - Instant Download - Printable - Typography

Earthy Elegance Design

I met Lauren several years ago, and what a beautiful woman! She is now a mother of a beautiful little baby girl, and has been studying midwifery. She has a wonderful eye for design and style and these little headbands are darling! Her shop changes inventory so keep checking by.

Pink Rosettes Baby Headband

Tangerine Rosettes Baby Headband

White Rosettes Baby Headband

Southern Grains

Quality hand-crafted wood products

Solid Cherry Circle Cutting Board | Serving Board

Solid Maple Cutting Board | Serving Board

I’ve followed Hope’s blog for a few years and love her inspiration – for cooking especially. Her beautiful pictures and recipes have often been the reason I chose a particular dish for our dinner.

But her talents extend beyond the kitchen! She and her husband have created these beautiful wooden cutting boards and serving utensils, and I think they are just so beautiful!

Pearls N Joy

Unique and meaningful hand-crafted jewelry

Hope as an Anchor

Hope as an Anchor Scripture Necklace

Give Me Jesus

Give me Jesus

Be Grateful

Be Grateful {circle}

These pieces of art as are beautiful as they are unique. I love the different variations of hymns, Scripture, and all that point to Jesus!

Wanda is the mother of six children through adoption, and has one of the biggest, most tender hearts I’ve known. Each month a percentage of her sales will go toward adoption expenses of a family working toward ONE less orphan and ONE more family.

December Caravan

December Caravan creates unique & beautiful scrapbooks, cards, artwork, memory pieces, and family treasures out of everyday materials to inspire joy and hope in every part of your life through handmade creations!

Vintage Map Quotes

Vintage Map Quote- Be Brave with your Life (Mini- Greens)

Take Note Journal

Mini Multi-Colored Altered Journal

Custom Storybook Bunting

Custom Storybook Bunting Order (6 foot)

Rebecca is a brave and beautiful soul who has undergone very difficult health challenges, including Lyme Disease and cancer at the same time. Every purchase will go to support Rebecca’s Medical Expenses.

Are they not all simply DARLING? I am so wowed by the talent of so many people, and this is only a sampling. I love how God gifts people with creativity, and how they share it with us.

There are more shops that I’d love to share, but perhaps that can be for a Part II. :)

Happy browsing!

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I know, I am on a break-neck speed with blogging recently, what can I say? But it’s still January February, so we can still talk about last year and things like that, right? :)

Each beginning of the new year I like to spend some time in reflection, in thinking back over the past year, the sweet things, the hard things, the things I learned, the ways God proved He was faithful, the things that surprised me.

It’s almost humorous how at the beginning of each year there are scores of new goals made (which are all good and well!) and yet, really, the true outcome of the year lies completely out of our control.

I’ve always been a Type A Personality. The kind that likes lists and plans and goals. A 5-year plan of my life? Yes please. I’ve been a more aggressive grab-life-by-the-horns kind of person for many years. And that has some good aspects to it. And some not so good.

Interestingly, the last few years God has had me not focus on goals as much as simply walking forward and living in the moment. For us Type A people, we’re so excited about the next goal that we have a hard time enjoying right NOW. There is always the adrenaline rush of a new something on the horizon. :) I wrote a little about BEing goals vs. DOing goals here some time ago.

I think there are times of our life when goals are healthy, very healthy. Without any vision for our life, we won’t go anywhere (paraphrased, from the book of Proverbs). And yet sometimes goals can become our identity, our focus, our source of pleasure instead of who we are as a child of God, and letting Him be that truest fulfillment. It can become about ME, rather than about God, and about how we can fulfill His will for His glory!

But that could be another whole subject in itself. I’ve been thinking the past few weeks about how God was so faithful in 2014. I’ve been reflecting on the different ways I saw Him at work in my life, and it’s been beautiful to see. So I thought I’d write a bit about those different ways…

the sweet things

 

When Family Visits 368 When Family Visits 371

A few things stand out about 2014 in sweetness levels… Friends visiting us, time with people we love here in this area. But one weekend in particular stands out: Mother’s Day weekend. Some good friends of ours and we were planning to spend the afternoon in beautiful Savannah, and my parents join us there later in the day.

The first surprise came when my sister Jana and her husband drove 3 hours and surprised not only me, but my parents for the day! There is nothing like a sister to make a wonderful day even better!

The second surprise came in Savannah, when my sister Ervina surprised both me and my sister Jana! There surprises upon surprises even for the ones who were surprising other people (follow me yet?!). And so we spent the afternoon together at Forsyth Park (legendary in Savannah, you simply MUST go one day). It was just a wonderful day!

The sweetest things in life are relationship, and probably also the most painful things in life are relationships. But this day was full of the sweet things, and I still love to remember it!

the beautiful things

 

The joy of being a little family, getting to do life together in our very own little group of hand-picked-by-God people. I love our extended families, but it has been so special to enjoy our own little people, to like us. The kids love to play games, and even little Hudson becomes so engrossed in Sequence Junior that we must cool tempers when a sibling wins. But it’s been a precious year of getting to know them more personally, taking time for one-on-one dates with our kids, doing fun family days together. And let’s be real; there are also super hard days of raising three little children, which makes five of us in desperate need of Jesus every day.

Pennsylvania in June 230

the hard things

The most painful thing we walked through in 2014 was the death of my little nephew, born to Kenny and Ervina, but who had entered Heaven before this world… We never got to know that sweet little boy, but we already loved him so much and it broke our hearts to say goodbye before we even said hello. It has been a difficult thing for our family to walk through this year, to see our sister and her husband lose their first child so unexpectedly, and for no known medical reason.

It is things like this that show us the reality of this world not being home. That remind us that we are longing for something, Someone, who can fill our deepest aching hearts, and turn the eyes of our heart toward eternity. The birth of a child, and the death of someone we love, brings eternity more near than any other time. With Little Kenny, it brought it so very near. There are more reminders than ever that we are longing for a place of no separation, of always being with those we love, of being in the presence of Jesus who is perfect peace and joy.

the ways God proved He was faithful

 

Walking through grief takes away some of the carefree-ness of life. Before someone walks through a tragedy or death there is a general feeling of “Everything will turn out okay!” And after going through a death, there is the harsh realization that “Everything will NOT be okay.” That this world wasn’t meant for everything to be okay. That’s a hard realization to come to, because we long for perfection, death to end in life, not the other way around. But it is an honest looking at life that makes us realize our longing for Heaven, for eternity, for the Place God is preparing for us. All the longings within us are meant to be fulfilled in eternity; not on earth. If they could be fulfilled on earth, there would be no need of Jesus, or of Heaven. While we still long for the carefree days and wish our stories didn’t include such grief and loss, I am also so grateful that this isn’t the end of our story; there will come a day when all will be well, when peace will flow with no imperfection, when joy will reign with not even a tinge of sadness or loss.

This year has been a time of remembering I am only a pilgrim on this earth, and that Heaven is Home. And for now, Jesus proves His faithfulness over and over again. Through the tears, through the sadness, through the joy that is returning. He is so faithful, so preciously faithful. Oh for grace to trust Him more!

 

a few things I learned

…That a family of five can survive a house remodel while living in the middle of it. Even if there is a 3-inch layer of dust through the entire house for the entire 3 months and it drives the OCD mom nuts some days.

…That being in the house alone – just our family – feels like a luxury after having construction workers in and out for weeks, er, months.

… That we could survive on a crazy little amount of sleep and work a crazy amount of hours.(My husband’s record week was 96 hours. In one week. Including his normal job and then attic remodel. Yes, he is super man. Yes, this was only one week, thank God.)

… That the end result is worth the months of hard work and labor. WE LOVE IT!!

a white attic bedroom

the things that surprised me.

…That God restored my health this year!! I feel like a completely different person than I did one year ago this time, and I am so incredibly grateful! I talked more about that in detail here and here.

… That I am now a runner, which surprises me more than anymore. I had been dealing with fatigue and exhaustion so much the past 5-6 years that I could hardly exercise at all, much less run any distance. This is part of what I wrote on Facebook on January 2, 2015:

“Yesterday I set a new fitness record for myself; I ran a distance I’ve never run before in my life! My tracker stopped working after 7 miles; but my calculations are a total distance of about 10 miles. Of running. And as I ran, I smiled, I was exhilarated, and I thanked Jesus for the completely different body I have from a year ago! Yes, my legs felt like a combination of rock and jello, and there was no one more surprised than me at what I had just done.

One year ago I had NO health or fitness goals. I was exhausted, all the time. I had very little strength, and could not even run 1/2 mile if I tried my hardest. I was reading yesterday in my journal from a year ago (the only place I really talked about my health because I didn’t want to be a whiner to people), and it was filled with things like, “I just can’t sleep enough…” “I’m always so exhausted…” “Is this what it feels like to be old…” “I’m so overwhelmed…”

I nearly cried for the person I was a year ago! Because one year later, I feel like a completely difference person. I not only feel better, I AM better, I’m healthy and strong. I may have days here and there that I’m tired, but that is not the story of my life anymore. I might have moments of being overwhelmed, but it is a foreign emotion to me now rather than a daily companion. One year later, I am on a wonderful journey to health. I am strong. I can exercise and run and feel energized afterward. I am not overwhelmed by the daily things of life, but can smile at the days ahead.

You may have seen my posts about Plexus here and there, and it’s not because I’m just trying to sell you something; it’s because they are products have been life-changing for me. If I had not been so helped by Plexus products, there is no way I could promote them. Now I talk about them because if someone else is looking for answers for their health, I want them to know that there is hope! They aren’t magic potions or overnight fixes – my health took years to decline so drastically, and it took months to recover. But in recovering, it is healing me from the inside out. I feel better than I have in years, and it’s for real.”

I am SO GRATEFUL for renewed health and strength!

Looking ahead

This year will be a year of much change for our little family. It is very bittersweet, but for the next few months I just want to enjoy each moment, each day, each relationship, without focusing too much on what could be overwhelming and stressful. Each day is a gift, and a choice to live in trust and rest in a Precious Savior.

Coming up in the next few weeks/months of blogging, I want to finish the before & afters of the Cottage! There are a few rooms that haven’t been documented and I want to be sure to do that. :) So stay tuned!

Happy Thursday, my friends!
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Merry Christmas, everyone!

We are so enjoying being finished with the attic remodel and actually being able to enjoy the finished product now! It’s been a very busy autumn, and the feeling of having it completed is wonderful. I’m looking forward to showing some more pictures of the finished attic, but for now, here are a few pictures of the Cottage at Christmastime.

The Christmas Tour of Homes was a little over a week ago, and so I snapped some pictures on Monday when it was all over – not having time before (we were crunching until THE very last minute to finish everything up).

It was interesting, because earlier this fall I wrote an article for this magazine about Christmas décor and about wanting to keep Christ in the center. The very same autumn we were asked to be part of a tour of homes in our community. And the words that I wrote were being tested, because I heard that sometimes interior designers are hired for the homes on the tour and that it can be a rather big deal.

My décor is very simple, and I only pull out a box or two of Christmas décor from the attic while the rest of it is natural live greenery. My first thought was to be intimidated, and scared! My house isn’t interior designer style – it’s full of second-hand treasures, and thrift-store finds, and handmade. It’s what we done because of the budget we live with, but truly, it’s what I LIKE. I like the eclectic mix, the treasure troves from different places, the uniqueness of the things coming from many different places.

And so we made the choice to just offer the simplicity that we have. Not to make it something we are not, not to try to impress a certain group of people, but just to do what we normally do and not to apologize for it.

Like I wrote in the article, people are so different and God made us all like that out of the beauty of creativity. And as people are different, so styles will be different, and there is not a right or a wrong style of décor. Each person will have something that they like, and it expresses who God made them to be, and brings glory to the Creator because of that. The hard thing to remember sometimes is that it’s okay to be different, to like different things, to have a different style, as long as it’s not a try-to-keep-up thing, or a comparison thing that makes us feel better or worse about ourselves. The style doesn’t matter nearly so much as the heart behind it; what is my motive,  the reason behind why I do I do?

All that to say, I had to check my motives during the house tour preparations. Different parts of our homes have been featured various places, but not a house tour before, so this was a new experience for us.

So, let’s just pretend you came for the tour, and are walking through the house.
Welcome, and please feel free to look around!

Please come in at the

front door…

 

front cottage entrance

plaid blanket for a cozy porch the front porch

  welcome to the cottage

hanging baskets with fresh pine

Step inside to the

Living Room…

 

quiet aftermath living room

living room

living room   Christmas Cottage l mantel with antlers and garland Christmas Cottage l JOY marquee mantel Christmas at the Cottage l JOY marquee DIY merry and bright living room bookshelf

The Dining Room

 

dining room centerpieces tiny trees for a centerpiece living room

dining room mantel

The Kitchen

 

a christmas cottage kitchen

  kitchen vignette

oversized fork and spoon little fir tree in the kitchen kitchen shelves greenery a tiny tree in the kitchen

The Hallway

the nativity

Hudson’s Bedroom

 

little boy

  little boy room

The Music Room/School Room

 

music room cozy corner music room desk corner
The Master Bedroom

master bedroom with wreath

master bedrorom vignette master bedroom master bed room vignette master bedroom decor

gold and polka dots

And then let’s go up into

the new attic!

 

the new stairway   christmas sled christmas sled and gifts

The Attic Bedroom

 

a white attic bedroom   attic bedroom greenery

silver and white attic bedroom bedside

The Office

  a peek into the attic office office christmas shelves office vignette   wood and brick

And that concludes the little Christmas tour at the Cottage!

I hope you all enjoy your Christmas Day, but even more than that, that you can truly worship and rejoice in the salvation that Christmas signifies. What an incredible gift! May the wonder of it never cease to amaze us!

This read by the Gospel Centered Mom is beautiful and inspiring in teaching our children the true meaning of Christmas.

Thank you for visiting this little corner of blogland and the encouragement you’ve been to me throughout this year!

A very happy Christmas to each and everyone!

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