the best kind of welcome

We’ve been here at this little house I affectionately call “The Cottage” for four years now, and if you’ve read here for any period of time you know there are a few before & afters!

Although it’s been a long time (perhaps years?!) since the last one, ones are still remaining are
the Front Porch (which was just finished up this summer and I’ll show in this post),
the Master Bedroom,
the Kids’ Bedroom,
the Back Patio (completed just this summer as well),
the Master Bath,
and the music room-turned-school room.
Also in the near horizon is the finishing of the attic into two studio-style bedrooms!
Whew.

Anyone who is a homeowner, especially the owner of an house built in 1906, knows that the work is never really done. Sometimes that’s okay, and it’s fun to see the progress. Other times? It becomes discouraging and a rental sounds appealing!

But for now, we continue to work at The Cottage, and our front porch is a place we finished up this spring and use almost daily. Here we go!

// before, spring of 2010 //

The pillars were being prepped for painting, thus the scraping, but you can see the green paint from the trim color of the pillars and windows from before, then covered with grey.

It had pretty bones to it – the square pickets, the wood columns with a brick base, the wood floor. It just needed some work.

cottage porch before

front porch before

// windows with green trim and storm windows //
windows before

So after we bought the Cottage, we painted the house and the trim, but the left the floors as they were for some time. I thought I liked the old patina of the floors, and that it added to the cottage-y feel I wanted. It certainly did add to the old feel. :) And this is how we had it for several years.

// a red bench (found at an junk shop that was purple that I painted red to match the front door).
two old chairs Ben found in the, um, dumpster.
windows that were hung on the ends of the porch to create a “room” feel.
curtains hung on bamboo rods. //

August, 2010 015

I liked it fine, and we used it often.
But this year my husband decided it was time to paint the old floors, and to finish the trim around the pillars (see picture above). Some of the wood was rotted on the floor and around the bottom of the pillars, and some was gone altogether.

So we (meaning, my husband) began by replacing the steps that were nearly falling down. The entire project from start to finish was not an easy Saturday project. It took several Saturdays, two weeks with no front steps, and a couple of evenings until midnight. It just how this kind of thing goes when you’re trying to DIY.

Pink Cupcake Onesie 029 making the steps

the front steps needed to be replaced

Choosing a color for the floor was extremely difficult.
“I want white!” I declared, airing my non-practical idea freely.
Thankfully, my sweet husband who usually goes along with my whims, stopped me in my tracks, and said (kindly) that there is no way we are having white floors. Outside, and three kids? Just, NO.

Next up, was the color grey.
The CHAMELEON color GREY. Gray. Whatever.
(I do like the English spelling.)
But meaning that grey at the store is not grey at your house!
Grey can be green, or blue, or purple – anything but true GREY!

We wanted something that would hide dirt as much as possible, that would coordinate with the existing color of the house, and that would look good on the steps because that’s seen from the road. Our house is a light creamy color, so no brown tones, and charcoal, although pretty, would be too much contrast. Tricky for sure.

The samples we put on the floor:

the chameleon grey

And we went with… none of the six. But a true grey is what I wanted.

Instead we went to the nearest Sherwin Williams store and went with a new paint that they said is almost plastic, and that has a lifetime guarantee. Expensive, but it went on nice and thick. Like,  some of the nicest paint I’ve ever painted with. And I’ve painted a lot.

grey cottage porch with white railing and red door

At first I thought we made the worst mistake in the world with the color, and I was going to pour out my piggy bank and buy a whole new color with all my pennies. I just didn’t like it. It was so DARK compared to the nearly white of the patina we had before, and the contrast was too much for me. It was SO GREY.

But I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy a whole new gallon. And thought that I’ll just try to live with it for a while. Several months later? I like the color. Fickle woman.  Patient husband.

cottage kiddos

If I would have known how different, and how much cleaner, this has made our front porch feel, I would have done this from the very beginning. I really really like it now. And it makes the bit of furniture on the front porch pop, both the white and the red pieces I have there.

The only complaint I have about the floors is that they are hard to clean. I wipe up them once a week with a mop and SCRUB them hard. Those old wooden paint-chipped patina floors? They hid every little speck of dirt that every came on. So I don’t know if it’s this kind of paint that seems to be a magnet to dirt, or if that is painted floors in general?

A few details…

The purple bench I rescued and painted bright red to match the front door.
The $5 Aztek blanket from a yard sale.
The pillows made by me, except for the compass (H&M)
Shutters were being thrown away at a job Ben worked at once, so he brought them home and painted them and hung them. (answer to a prayer I never even thought to pray!)

grey porch floor with red and white accents

red bench to match the front door
// Little Eating Corner //
Table and chairs  (gifted) that were a light oak color that we painted cream.
Old window from a junk store.
Thrifted chandelier (for pretty only, and for head-bumping).

  little eating area on the front porch chandelier on the front porch

The old wooden columns came to life after Ben sanded them, used a grinder on them, and then primed and painted them before adding trim. (Yes, that man worked hard.)

We planted Creeping Fig to go around the brick pillars (a southern plant, I think).

front porch trim detail creeping fig on the old brick

And we planted Confederate Jasmine to climb over the entryway. This is one of my favorite things about the front entrance. In the early spring, it blooms with hundreds of little while flowers that smell like a dream! I would plant this everywhere if I could.

confederate jasmine over front porch entrance

For a few accessories, I made curtain panels. I wanted something inexpensive and that would wash and bleach well. So I bought two of these sheets at Target in double size (even cheaper if you have a Red Card), cut them in half, hemmed the sides, and made a rod pocket on the top. In the end, they cost just pennies over $5 a panel, so about $20 for them all.

For a rod, we used bamboo that we cut and dried in the sun for a few days to allow it to turn that beautiful golden brown color, and then mounted them on curtain brackets (found in the hardware section at Walmart or Target or Lowes, etc. ). $10 for the brackets.

epsom salt is the secret to beautiful big ferns!

The globe lights I bought at Novelty Lights. I wanted a white cord, and I was very pleased with this purchase. I bought two sets of 25 lights. The magic they add to an outdoor space cannot be described! They are well worth the purchase (and Target often runs a sale on them in the fall)!

Also, if you want beautiful gorgeous ferns? Soak the whole planter in a large tub of water with a few heaping tablespoons of Epsom salt overnight, and do this once a week or so. They will become so big and beautiful and lush vibrant green you’ll think yourself a green thumb for sure! At least, it consoles my Black Thumb within.

A wall-mount mailbox was found at a junk shop.
“La Dolce Vita” means “The Sweet Life” in Italian. I painted it on the front porch wall because I always want to remember how precious this life is, and what a gift I’ve been given.

'la dolce vita' - it means 'the sweet life' in Italian

I bought two concrete planters with money I had saved, and filled them with small boxwoods. I loved the updated, formal look this brought to our porch.

boxwoods on the front porch red front door with planters cottage entrance

So now, in the early mornings, or for lunch, or on rainy evenings, or for no reason at all, this is where you might find us. Or our bunnies. And eating ice cream.

and then there was the bunny rain catcher. let them be little. front porch with patio lights the little guy

 It’s simple and understated, and it’s cozy and practical.
We love it.

 “After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” -L.M Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

 

Happy weekend, lovelies! Enjoy those simple little pleasures.
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Our computer has been giving us trouble all summer long. Basically, we never know when we will be able to turn it on or off, or when it does turn on everything seems fine until the screen turns off and the whole thing shuts down with no warning.

Along with that has been summer vacation, and with the kids out of school I didn’t want to spend much time on the computer. But all that to say, – lack of computer also equals no pictures or posts! :)

But until we get a new computer, here are a few of my favorite things recently – links for you to follow and check out. Here you go!

Set Apart Motherhood

Leslie Ludy has been an inspiration to me since the time I was first introduced to her books as a single woman. Her heart for the Lord, and for a pure life, influenced me greatly, and when her new book on motherhood came out this summer, I was thrilled! She is now the mother of 4 children with two more adoptive kiddos on the way, and continues to be an encouragement and inspiration!

The new book is called Set Apart Motherhood, which I read and highly recommend (purchase it here), and there is a beautiful coffee table-style magazine available as well.

Leslie Ludy is also hosting a Set Apart Motherhood conference in Colorado in October. While I’m not able to attend that, I am signing up for the simulcast and hosting a small version in my home for some women from church. I am so excited about that! Be sure to check out that option too.

Amazon Smile

Did you know that if you log into Amazon, instead of amazon.com, go through smile.amazon.com, and you will be able to choose a charity to donate to? Just go to smile.amazon.com and go under your ‘account’ settings, and select ‘choose charity’.

A portion of the proceeds of many items will be donated to the charity of your choice through Amazon. Just remember to choose one (one I recommend is International Justice Mission, also known as IJM, who works for the spreading of the Gospel and for the freedom of both slaves & sex slaves across the world .  I highly highly recommend their ministry. If you want an inside scoop of some of the things they’ve done, read ‘Terrify No More’ and you will want to join their mission as fast as possible), and log in through smile.amazon.com. If you are already an amazon member, your information and login info will pop up the same as through amazon.com.

Not all items are eligible for donation, but those that are will have a little tab marked for it.

We have an amazon prime account, and use it ALL the time. I order anything from toothpaste for the kids to an iron to sock monkeys to fedora hats. Seriously, it’s great. And to be able to shop from home as well as support a mission I love so much? It’s such a win.

Aimee Weaver Designs

I “met” Aimee through our blogs several years ago, and loved the creativity and heart that flowed from this beautiful woman. We were able to meet in person a few times, which made me love her all the more. :) When I learned that she and her husband are adopting a little boy from China, and that her Etsy shop proceeds go directly toward the adoption, I was thrilled that I could help out in a very small way!

Aimee designed some adorable T-shirts that I love so much – they are super comfortable and soft, and they fit perfectly, and they support a wonderful cause!

Here are two:
Micah 6:8 with arrows

Women's, SIZE LARGE, white, Micah 6:8, arrow, adoption t shirt

‘Free Indeed’ Bike T-shirt

Women's, SIZE SMALL, gray, free indeed, bike, adoption t shirt

[both pictures courtesy of Aimee Weaver Designs on Etsy]

So if you’re wanting a new piece or two to add to your wardrobe, AND a great place to buy them, look here! Her typography and artwork are stunning as well, if you are wanting something new for your home.

These German Animals

Some of my kids favorite toys are these high-quality Schleich German-made animals. Zulily has them on bigtime SALE right now until September 11, and with more animals than I’ve ever seen in stores. I am trying to decide which of them to purchase for Christmas gifts for the kids!

She Reads Truth

signin

This is a Bible Study I learned about through Instagram, and you can choose to study either via a free app on Instagram (I think right now it’s available only to Iphones) or online via shereadstruth.com. Some of the Instagram studies cost $1.99 to go through, while all the ones online are free.

There is a group of 8-10 godly women who study and write, and you can choose different things from Ruth, Hebrews, James, Nehemiah, Titus, and more, with new studies always coming up.

There is a Bible passage to read each day, as well as a brief study/explanation on that passage. There is a current study all the time, with new studies beginning every 2-3 weeks. you have the option of receiving the devotionals through email too, if you like that. This is not an intensive study, like Beth Moore or Kay Arthur have done that takes 1/2 hour or more a day, but if you are wanting a few minutes of study more than just Bible reading, I do recommend this for the way the Gospel is shown throughout the various studies.

Here is a statement of what they believe.

My NEW Etsy shop:
My Faire Lady Designs

 Yes, this is a shameless plug. :)
I’ve had a Facebook page for my little home business for the past 4 years or so, but just this summer have begun the process of transferring everything over to an Etsy Shop. It makes ordering SO much easier for my customers, which I am thrilled about! I will still update the Facebook page (randomly, as in the past :)) but with new items and news and sales, but will direct you over to the new shop.

I’ve added many new patterns of fabric to the burp cloths recently, including some black & white choices, an organic retro fabric, and pink bikes!

And a completely new item are these bandana style bibs, that are super adorable and practical all at one!

Modern Baby Burp Cloths, Set of Three, in Black and White Hipster Zebra, Vintage Camera, and Modern Triangle Fabric

ORGANIC Modern Baby Burp Cloths, Set of Three, in campers, multi-colored dot, and elephant family

Gold Anchor Onesie for Baby Girl, Bodysuit

Reversible Bandana Bib for Baby, Aqua Floral and Polka Dot, Turquoise

PLEXUS

 

Plexus is a product I was introduced to several months ago through my friend Shelly. It’s an all-natural health product that at first I was admittedly a bit skeptical about, because it seemed to help so many different health issues! And how could one product help so many different things, from weight loss to fibromyalgia to adrenal fatigue to candida to diabetes to so many other things??

But I tried it, because I have had low-grade adrenal fatigue for years, and I was just so tired of being tired, all the time. And a few months later, guess what? I’m a believer in this stuff, this Pink Drink, as it’s becoming known as. My energy is increasing, my brain fog is lifting! I am just so thrilled, and I want other people to be helped as well!

The reason it works for so many different things is because rather than treating symtoms, it works at healing on a cellular level, which is the core of our health. If our cells are healthy, we will be healthy people. It is an all natural product, and there is also 60-day money-back guarantee, which is awesome.

If you’d like more information or want to try it out, here is a link. :)
I’m still learning about the product, but feel free to message me with any questions and I’ll try to answer them.

This song:
I Shall Not Want

You know how sometimes a song can speak more deeply to your heart than any words by themselves? Audrey Assad is a favorite artist of mine, and her song ‘I Shall Not Want’ from her recent album spoke so deeply to my heart. Jesus, Jesus, is enough for all I need; for my loneliness, my sadness, my fears, my wounds, my joy ~ when I taste His goodness, there is nothing more I need.

Her entire albums are so worth purchasing, I love them so much! Find them on ITunes.

I  hope you enjoyed the links! :)

Happy Thursday, Lovelies!

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June truly is the month of brides. The past three years we’ve had family weddings in June. Two of them my sisters, and two of them my husband’s siblings. Plus, we got married in June 9 years ago!

I adore weddings. The music, the décor, the dressing up, the ceremony, the pledging of lives together until death parts them… it’s just all so wonderful.

And it’s a small glimpse of a much bigger reality! I am so passionate about marriage, because it either reflects the glory of God or it is a mockery to the image He has created. Marriage is so sacred! I could talk all day about marriage. :)

But this is about a particular wedding: my husband’s sister, and her husband Chad.

Pennsylvania in June 113

There have been many nights, over many years, when I heard my husband pray for his sister, that God would bring her a husband. And not just any husband, but one that fears the Lord, and is a man of character and integrity.

His prayers, and the prayers of many other people, have been answered. Our dear friends, Shelly and her husband, have been praying for years for a wife for his brother, Chad. She writes so beautifully about that here. Little did we know how the Lord would answer our prayers!

There is an indescribable beauty to a marriage that has been built on a relationship of purity and integrity. And even more so when a couple has waited for many years before marriage, choosing to believe in the goodness of God, even when single and waiting.

This was a wedding of such incredible JOY – because of the waiting, because of how God provided marriage, because of how He cared for them through their singleness, because they didn’t compromise and give up hope in God in the waiting, because God is so trustworthy.  Bethany and Chad – we are so proud of you guys, and of the Jesus we see in you!

The wedding was absolutely beautiful, and the outdoor reception could not have had more perfect weather! It was such a lovely day.

 The day began in a stunning old church…

  Pennsylvania in June 034
Pennsylvania in June 070

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 The bell girls were so beautiful.

  Pennsylvania in June 183

 Bethany grew up in the south, so there were some darling little southern flairs in the wedding. Including this adorable little guy wearing the “She’s fixin’ to marry you!” sign.

Pennsylvania in June 108

The soft colors of the bridesmaids’ dresses were stunning against the lush green of summertime.

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{four of the five lovely sisters}

Pennsylvania in June 098
{with the beautiful bride, all five together}

Pennsylvania in June 133

 Bethany was so happy, so radiant, and just beaming all day. I loved this casual picture with her bridesmaids – so engaged and happy!

Pennsylvania in June 186 Pennsylvania in June 168 Pennsylvania in June 196
Pennsylvania in June 159
I don’t have a good picture of the whole family
{it’s a big family, and my lens wasn’t wide enough: true story! :) },
but here is [a blurry] one of my husband’s siblings.

Pennsylvania in June 138
A rare picture of my husband and I. I love him so much.

Pennsylvania in June 148
And one with we. I {{heart}} them.

Pennsylvania in June 234

Pennsylvania in June 207

{cousin love}

Pennsylvania in June 293 the old car intriguing the kids
A bestie, whom I mentioned before. It was so fun to spend so much time with her over this weekend - and it was a family wedding for both of us [our husband's siblings got married]. Crazy awesome. :) my bestie Shelly

 The reception was under a big white tent, in the most idyllic setting ever. A stream ran by the side, a lovely terrace of immaculate landscaping… It was like a scene from Pride & Prejudice or something incredibly beautiful. :)

The name cards/place settings were so fun. A friend was in charge of a polaroid camera, and after the guests found their name on the door, they replaced it with an instant polaroid of themselves. I loved this!

Pennsylvania in June 295

polaroid camera and name tags
Bethany asked if I’d do some writing for the wedding, and I was honored to do it! I love this kind of thing.

Pennsylvania in June 383
{name tags}

Pennsylvania in June 006

{name board}

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{menu board}

wooden chalkboard menu

{pie bar sign}

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This was fabulous ~ having a pie bar for dessert!
wedding pie bar

The table centerpieces were vases filled with white and green flowers, a few old books, candles and a table number.

Pennsylvania in June 356

Annnnnnd, who says the bride can’t make her own cake? Bethany and Mary Jo (her sister) made the cake. It was so beautiful.

Pennsylvania in June 329

Best groom’s cake ever. With fun humor too. :)

best groom's cake ever! mr & mrs chairs

Pennsylvania in June 347 - Copy

Pennsylvania in June 376
The kids loved the stream.

Pennsylvania in June 370

[My little boy crush.]

he's my little boy crush

 There was an area set up for outdoor games for the guests to enjoy, which was so fun. Bethany asked if we’d make a set of cornhole game with a Mr. & Mrs. theme for that area. She showed us a picture, then my husband built it and I painted it. It was a fun project we did together.

mr & mrs cornhole wedding game

And there are so many pictures I realized later that I missed. Details I loved and enjoyed but forgot to capture on camera. Some people in the family I missed altogether. But that’s okay. That’s why she has a real photographer. :)

Bethany and Chad – we’re so excited for you guys, and bless your marriage! May your love only ever grow, and always reflect the image of Christ. We love you!

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Oh, that’s right.
It was actually, let’s see, a week and a half ago?
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Someone has turned time on fast-speed and I cannot keep up with life these days.

So we’ll just enjoy life twice, even if it’s 10 days late. :)

Who all loved that July 4th fell on a Friday??
*RAISES BOTH HANDS*
I mean, seriously. Not only was it a holiday, but it was also a 3-day weekend.
How much better does it get?!
Which meant Ben was home for three days.
Which meant it was lots of family time.
Which hasn’t happened much lately, so it was all the more blessed.

I posted that day:
It’s a cookie-baking, lemonade-making, pet-bunny-buying, daddy-at-home-deck-remodeling, red-white-and-blue-wearing, pool-swimming, flag-flying, holiday-celebrating, kind of day!

It really was just a wonderful kind of day.
Sometimes the most special days are those of just BEING TOGETHER.
I think I realize this more than ever, because of recent deaths in my family, and my dear friend passing…

So this post is just a celebration of that beautiful simple gift: of being together.

I suppose it’s a little tradition around here to take a few holiday pictures each July 4th, and it’s so amazing to see the change from year to year. But because it nearly makes me cry to look back on even last year’s pictures and see how much the kids grew, so I think we’ll just skip that part. (I’m all in sentimental-mom-let’s-just-freeze-everyone-right-here-mode.)

Happy 4th from the Cottage & Co

4th of July kids

flag kiddos

4th of July kiddos

I’m a little fanatical about anchors right now. It’s a theme of my life, this Anchor of my Soul, so I have it on chalkboards in my house, and painted it on T-shirts for me and the kids. Hudson “cheeeeese”-ed for me in his shirt. Anchor shirt

 

We also bought an early birthday gift for Zoe…
She has longed – and I mean LONGED – for a pet rabbit for years.

Granted, she’s only 6, but she’s been calling her daddy since she was 4, leaving voicemails,
asking if she could “pleeeeeeeeease have a pet bunny? Because it really would be so wonderful to have a pet bunny and I would take care of it and would love to play with it and they’re so cute and soft and I JUST REALLY REALLY WANT ONE.”

We live in the city (read: more like development), and having a pet of any kind (other than a goldfish) is a little impractical at best, and troublesome at worst. Our backyard isn’t fenced in, and how would a pet even work?

But, when you have a little girl with big blueberry eyes that nearly fills with tears because of her desire for a pet bunny for the past two years, it’s rather hard to resist. My mommy heart melted, and I didn’t care about the impracticals: I just wanted a pet bunny for Zoe, non-animal-lover that I am.

Her daddy’s heart melted too, and craigslist came through for us. Found: Netherland Dwarf Rabbits. As I mentioned, I’m no pet lover (after my best-friend-dog died when I was 10 and I cried for days and I’ve never loved another animal since. But that’s a story for another time, maybe I should go for counseling first.), but the sight of those adorable little fluffy bunnies, well, they really WERE cute.

Ben wanted to surprise the girls, so they were waiting on the front porch when he came home, eyes closed. Someone (we won’t mention names) needed to hold her eyes closed.

waiting for the surprise

The look on her face…

bunny delight

bunny love

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You’ve got to admit, they really are adorable. :)
After 10 days, the newness has worn off just a bit for the kids, but they are still loved.
The rabbit hutch has yet to be built [because of the following deck project, see below]
so the bunnies are, um, in the house.
I can’t believe it either.

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We did the “staycation” deal over this holiday.
If you can call working-around-the-house-day-and-night a staycation.
We were thrilled with the arrangement however.
When you are homeowners, you know that nothing is ever fully completed.
There is always SOMEthing to do.

This time, it was the back deck.
I suppose I haven’t shown many pictures of it.
And when I have, it’s been blurry, in the background, you know?
Camouflaged by pumpkin painting and flowers in vases that my little girl picked.
Not really something I’m ashamed of, but not really anything worth seeing.

Not when it’s had nails poking out everywhere, or rotten boards falling down.
Not when it hurts your feet to walk barefooted because of all the splintery things poking out everywhere.
We used it strictly as a place to get out of the house and into the backyard, or out to the car.
The table and chairs and everything else are only for looks, trying to make a café-esque feel to distract from the bigger elephant-on-the-deck,  lest you’re wondering.

Well, we finally saved up money to replace it. (*yippee!*)
This was the perfect weekend to complete get started on the project.

// back deck before //

back deck- before

// My view out the kitchen window, beginning the tear-out. //
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// Olivia and I made them fresh lemonade and fresh cookies //

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Day two: leveled to the ground

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Day two: rebuilding began

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As I speak, er, write, it is still a work in progress.
We teeter across 2X6 boards standing on end 18 inches apart as we go out to the car because we haven’t had time yet to  put down the floor boards.

I tell my husband I’ll gladly learn how to saw the boards and use the drill to put them down myself, but he’s not so keen on that idea. So I tell him I’ll also gladly – GLADLY- be his right-hand assistant, whenever he has time. Which he says may be today. I’m really trying not to get my hopes up too high, and my lips will speak nary a reminding word. I’ll just offer him fresh-squeezed lemonade and (microwave-warmed) cookies. :)

As a grand finale on the lovely day, we went to a local blueberry patch and picked blueberries. I forgot my camera, but I have an Iphone picture. Kids in a blueberry patch are just so precious. My son was too adorable ~ grabbing blueberries from bushes, from our buckets, and stuffing his little mouth. I laughed at him all evening.

picking blueberries
My sister Ervina worded it so beautiful when she said, “I’m so thankful most of all that freedom is not a flag, but a cross.” 

I am thankful for the freedom of the flag represents, yes. But the Cross purchased the truest freedom, one that can never be taken captive. Thank you, Jesus.

Happy Monday, you all!
Mine is off to a busy start, including a bowl of cereal and milk spilled all over the floor, and little boy in the throes of potty training. Yep. I’m choosing joy, peoples. :)

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So it’s been nearly two months?
I feel like we need introductions again. :)

Thank you so much for those who have expressed care and love to our family, as well as to my sister and her husband during the past few months. We still grieve the loss of dear little Kenny so deeply, and miss him every day. There have been so many of you that have cared that we could never thank you all personally, or express our gratitude and tell you how much it has meant to us.

The combination of life events and various commitments to some bigger things the past little while has been the reason for the blog hiatus. The Lord has been so faithful to us, to me. His faithfulness doesn’t mean that the difficulties of life simply go away and all is ease, but that He is walking so closely, so tenderly, with us through it all. And it has given us a perspective of eternity like a life void of heartache could never do. Heaven is ever more precious, and what feels like Home, even before I arrive.

I really don’t even know where to start catching up from the past few months. This year in general has been the most sparse with blogging that I think I’ve ever done, since I started writing on this little pad. :) Instagram has taken the place of blogging, I suppose, and I put little life snippets there. So, I don’t know if I’ll try to do some catchup-posts [because we've had some special things like birthdays and a family wedding (on my husband's side) and surprise visits from family and some house projects] or if I’ll just start from here and go forward. But I’ve missed this space and the connection with you all here, and hope to be back more often.

Also, the look of this blog may be changing just a bit, just a little experimenting with headers and fonts and such. Just giving you a heads-up if you come here and think someone with ADD keeps changing things around. :)

And because no post is ever complete without pictures – at least on my blog – here’s a few of that one time we pretended to be hipsters. :)

that one time we pretended to be hipsters

  i love my little family

  wanna-be hipster family

It’s true. We were total wanna-be’s. :) We girls tried to dress the part, in the full 10 minutes we had to prepare, and my sister asked me, “Uh, aren’t you, like, trying too hard?”  You know, she was totally right. And obviously Hudson was there in his jammies and Husband didn’t know he’s get conned into being in the picture. But we had fun anyway. Ha!

the three littles

My brother [ a true hipster, and one who loves Jesus so much] is the owner of this super rad vehicle. He has plans to take a west-coast road trip in Melody [his name for this VW bus]  with some guys later this fall. I’m just a little jealous.

with the yellow bus

 // James, one of my brothers, and two of my sisters.//

This was a fun early morning when my brother rattled up to have coffee with me, and then we snapped a few pictures before everyone left for church and we returned home to the south.

four of we

Sorry girls. To get to him? You go through US.
[We were trying to look fierce and scary. I don't think it worked.]

to get the bro, you have to go through us

Have a lovely weekend!

Remember you are loved by your Creator. ♥

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'we have this hope as an anchor of the soul' chalkboard
This little blog has been very quiet of late.

The circumstances surrounding these days have been such as need no apology for the quiet, and the thoughts and feelings such as are difficult to translate into words. Pen to paper, or words to computer page, are normally how I can easily express myself. These days, articulation is difficult at best in any form.

It is not a question of my faith, or a shaking of what I believe. It is more a deep feeling for those I love so dearly, that are facing such loss in varied ways… It may be a death, or the losing of a family member in other ways that are equally painful. The details are not mine to tell, but probably all of us know of times in our own lives or in those we love, when we suddenly saw life as the battle is really is: the blissful carefree perspective disappeared, and the reality of the sorrow of life nearly takes your breath away, it’s so severe.

Sometimes my heart feels torn in two for those I love, and the how they experience such raw agony. I wish there was some way I could take it away for them, make life happy and carefree again… and I can’t.

anchor of the soul chalkboard

 

Quote from The Church Initiative, Inc

“Grief will either make you a better person or it will cause you to harden your heart as you resist its lessons. You have the opportunity for unparalleled spiritual growth. This will not happen quickly, but you can grow deeply. By learning that life is a precious gift, you can do more than just exist; you can live on a higher plane.

It was when Isaiah’s friend died that he had a deeper experience of God.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Isaiah 6:1-3). ”

[end quote]

…Grief will either make you a better person, or it will cause you to harden your heart…
Yes, I can so see how this is true.
I so much want the first one, to be come a better person, to grow a deeper heart in relationship with God. Grief has a way of revealing what a person is truly made of, and of what truly matters in life – that it’s GOD that matters most of all, that life here on earth is so transient, so short, in light of eternity. And it’s PEOPLE and relationships that matter…

There are days when I wake up and feel that I could never be exasperated or upset with my kids again – I mean, how could I be, when I’ve been given three of them as such precious treasures, when some women long for even just one baby of their own?

And then, that very same day, real-life happens.
…Food gets strewn all over the floor at lunch time (and maybe even breakfast).
…Little guy cleans off the chalkboard so sweetly with a wet paper towel, and I suddenly realize that the only water he can reach is the toilet! So into the bathtub he goes, along with his sister who needed a bath anyway.
… I hear water splashing outside, and try to think of when and how I left a faucet on somehow. I look out the door and see the two freshly-bathed kiddos splashing in mud-puddles they’ve made, jumping and laughing, and muddy from head to toe.

And this all happened, for real, in one day. Disasters? Not at all. Exasperating? You betcha!!

Never becoming exasperated again? Maybe that will start tomorrow. :)

It’s in these times ~ in the great heartbreaks of life, of deep loss, of pain to the core of our beings, of relationships that are imperfect and painful, and yes, also in challenges of mothering when I’m brought to near tears – I realize so much how I need my Anchor.

anchor chalkboard mantel

I changed out the chalkboard in the living room recently with the verse that’s been on my heart so much the past six weeks, through various heartbreaking things we’ve lived through and heard, and through the daily responsibility and gift of being mommy to three little people.

“…It is impossible for God to ever prove false or deceive us, so we who have fled to Him for refuge might have mighty indwelling strength and strong encouragement to grasp and hold fast the hope set before us.

“We have this hope, as an anchor of the soul, sure and stedfast…”
[Hebrews 6:18-19, Amplified]

What hope? The hope of Jesus Christ, the truth, and the knowledge that He IS everything I need. He never promised that life wouldn’t disappoint, or that circumstances wouldn’t be hard. But He did promise that HE would never disappoint us.

I don’t profess at all to know the great “why?” behind so many questions… The why of little babies born to a godly father and mother who wanted them, who prayed for them, who would teach them in the ways of God, and then tragically taken. The why of babies born out of sin and lust, put into families that are full of the flesh, that are determined to live their own way no matter what God says, and living in the midst of sin. The why of babies born and growing up, sold into the sex trade (1 million every year). The why of families enduring pain as the result of a father making bad choices, and the innocent are left to suffer and pick up the broken pieces. The why of health challenges, of sickness that is incurable.

Did you know that many atheists have come about not as a mere logical conclusion, but as a result of being angry at God, for all the sin in the world? And so they deliberately turn their backs on Him, refusing to have anything to do with a God who tolerates such pain in His created world.

I don’t profess to know the answers to these hard questions. I just know that I cry tears as a result of this sin in the world, of the pain and brokenness. And I am don’t understand how God can respect the free will of man, even when it results in such sorrow and disaster. But I know that sin is responsible for all the sadness and agony in the world: this was not God’s design.

But can I trust God in the middle of all this? In the wreckage of humanity? In the sorrow of loss?

It comes down to a belief: Either God IS who He says He is, in every situation, or He isn’t. He is either faithful and trustworthy at all times, or none of the time. He is either kind and good in all things, or in nothing.

I choose to put ALL my stakes in with the first – He IS trustworthy in everything, He IS good at all times, He IS God.

anchor chalkboard

Because He is an Anchor. When life brings storms and everything is torn apart, He never changes. He gives peace, even when it seems unfathomable that there should be peace. He brings comfort in sorrow. and we grieve with hope because we know HE will have the last word, and this life isn’t the end of the story.

And if you want a beautiful, powerful song to listen to, go here. Music ministers so deeply…

Happy Monday, my friends! Rejoice in the Anchor of our souls!

And thank you, truly truly thank you for the great outpouring of love and support we’ve felt from so many people – through words on the previous blog post, messages, texts, but also cards and love and even food brought to us and to my family. The family of Christ is just so precious. We could never repay you. ♥

 

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It’s been almost three weeks now, since I became an auntie to the most beautiful, perfect little baby boy. My first nephew.

Not a one of us ever even had an idea of what these weeks would hold ~ weeks we thought would be brimming full of joy, and excitement, and wonder at a new little life, turned into weeks overflowing of tears and sorrow and how can this be true.

They have been weeks when the grief washes over and over us, like waves at the ocean, never stopping, just sometimes bigger waves than others.

I’ve been so excited about my first niece or nephew arriving on my side of the family. Ervina’s Southern Maternity shoot was taken last fall when she visited us to excitedly document 20 weeks of pregnancy, and I had so much fun preparing little clothes and accessories for the little love. We were so in love with that sweet baby, even before meeting him.

I come from a long line of baby-lovers. And by that, I don’t just mean the women gushing over a baby. But in my dad’s family, even the men absolutely adore babies. They are seen with a baby in their arms as often as the mother is, talking in sweet tones, chuckling and teasing and adoring. And I have to say, my brother-in-law Kenny topped even that. I had never seen a father-to-be more excited about his baby! So many people talked about his excitement.

When Ervina comes to visit 557

The day finally came when my sister went into labor, and at a checkup before heading to the hospital came the shocking, gut-wrenching news, “Your baby is not alive.”

There is nothing in the world that can prepare someone for words like those. All had been fine just one week earlier at the checkup, and even the day before the baby was moving. There was no warning sign at all that anything was wrong.

Little did we know, as Kenny & Ervina were preparing a nursery for their baby, the most beautiful nursery I’ve ever seen in all my life, that Jesus was also preparing a home in Heaven for their precious baby boy.

Little Kenneth, named after the man who was so proudly anticipating being his daddy, weighed 7 pounds, and 11 big ounces, and was 22 long inches. He was born on March 22, 2014, safe in the arms of Jesus.

Baby Kenny

[photo courtesy of Ervina Yoder]

Whoever knew that a little life could mean so much to us, to me? I am not even the mother, but my heart had all kinds of butterflies when I thought of that little baby joining the family. When he was overdue, I was trying to stay busy and occupy my mind because those six days seemed like an eternity! And now, the loss feels so so deep, a continual ache. And I’m just the auntie, not even the mother. My heart breaks for my sweet sister.

These are her words, about a week after his birth…

It’s been six days since Kenny and I found out we’d never get to see our precious baby boy, the delight and expectation of our hearts, take his first breath. The anguish of this has pierced our hearts beyond what we could have imagined possible. We’ve needed Jesus more than anything and have found Him to be so near, so faithful, so sufficient, so redeeming. We miss our son desperately, but through your prayers, words and presence, God has shown His comfort through His Body… we are humbled and grateful.

“I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” [The Apostle Paul, Philippians 1:12]

We have been slammed headfirst into the Grace of God, as my sister Claudia speaks of it. That doesn’t mean the tears stop, or that the hurt goes away. But it means that the presence of God is so precious, He is so faithful. As big as the need, He is bigger still. Jesus is everything.

I spoke with Ervina about a week after the death and birth of her little son, and asked her how she can go on from here, what the anchor of her soul is through this. And her words were powerful and tender… “I don’t know why this happened, and it hurts so much. But, I know my God. I know Who He is, and even in this, I can trust Him.”

In times of deepest grief and tragedy, what truly is within a person comes out. And in Ervina and Kenny, there is a sweetness and strength even in the middle of the agony. The foundation of their lives was built on Jesus long before this tragedy ever happened.

We as a family are so grateful for Jesus, for the promise that He is good, even now. Even though our hearts are breaking in the loss of little Kenny, and seeing our precious sister and her husband walk such grief, we choose to believe Him, and trust His faithfulness to us.

the coming joy[ via]

Without the perspective of eternity, of a Sovereign God, life is hopeless. But Jesus makes all the difference in the world. He gives us strength to endure the pain of today because of the joy of eternity. One day, all tears will be wiped away, and one day, sweet little baby, we will be with you again.

we have not lost him.

Just about a week before the birth of little Kenny, I wrote this quote in my journal, being deeply impacted by the truth of it, and also deeply missing my friend Ruth. And now it touches me so much again, healing and ache all in one.

“We have not lost him, He is only gone a little before us. There we shall soon find him, and enjoy him again and forever – far more than we ever did in this life.” [E. D. Griffin ]

Yes, the loss is still felt so deeply, achingly so. But there is a perspective greater than the pain, that of Jesus, of the preciousness of eternity. For that better world to come, that HOME to come.

Eternity, and Heaven, are all the more real, and precious. We were not made for this world, for all the pain, for the sorrow and agony, for the effects of sin. There IS a bigger reality than what we can see: there is a Heaven, there is a Hell. And it’s real. The life we live here matters. The choices we make on earth matters. ETERNITY MATTERS.

Ten thousand more words could be written, and it still wouldn’t sum up the emotions, the grief, and the way God has carried us these weeks.

But we also want to say we are so grateful for the outpouring of support to our extended family, and especially to Kenny & Ervina. We are seriously blown away by the kindness and care of so many people. The body of Christ has become ever more dear to us. Thank you, thank you…

Please continue to take Kenny & Ervina to Jesus in prayer…

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