the surreal.

It’s just after midnight and I should be in bed. K has two early basketball games tomorrow and I’m walking a 5k and frankly, there’s just not a lot of margin between now and Monday morning.

Dad came over tonight to help me finish putting together the beds I made for one of the upstairs bedrooms. And after the headboards and footboards and side rails were all put together, after the slats were cut and put into place and I dragged the mattresses upstairs, I pulled out the sheets and comforters and pillows and made the beds. I thought about waiting until another day to do that, but after all of the work, I wanted to see them made up and ready to be used.

“You know, Dad,” I said, “one day my kids are going to sleep in these beds. Your grandkids.”

He agreed, because of course this was true, but I couldn’t help but be struck by how surreal it all seemed. As I was tucking in the sheets, I thought about how there would be many more times that I would do this in the future. Someday soon it would be a chore to climb around the small room (that seemed much bigger before we finished the beds)Maybe I’ll be changing the sheets in the middle of the night because someone was sick or had an accident. Maybe I’ll be sending one child on and need to prepare the beds for the next one God sends.

But tonight, I didn’t mind so much. Tonight I smiled as I snapped a couple quick photos for Instagram. Tonight, I’m looking forward to seeing who God is going to send, and what marvelous things He is going to do.


good reads.

Perfectly Imperfect: Small Town Life – Crumbling Places

“Sometimes, though…

I remember.  That while I am broken, used, less, angry, worn, snappy, selfish, and ungrateful…He is in the business of healing the broken.  Maybe all God needs is for me to rest, revel even, in the brokenness.

Maybe all He needs, friends, is for us to stop holding the crumbling bits together and let them fall to the ground unhindered and bound, so he can plant them firmly with Mercy and Grace.  Maybe He will work ever so diligently to make sure we don’t wind up there anytime soon, and when we do, we are not alone.”

Conversion Diary: The Mental Neat Freak

“And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’m a mental neat freak. You know those people who get all stressed out if their houses are messy? That’s me, but in my head (which I guess makes sense, since that’s where I live most of the time). I can stumble along for a while without mental clean-up time, but, like a neat freak living in a house that keeps getting messier and messier and messier, if it goes on too long, I snap.”

LA Times: How Not To Say The Wrong Thing

“If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.”

Huffington Post: It Ain’t Over: The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret For Three Decades

“Somewhere in West Tennessee, not far from Graceland, nine women – or ‘The 9 Nanas,’ as they prefer to be called -- gather in the darkness of night. At 4am they begin their daily routine -- a ritual that no one, not even their husbands, knew about for 30 years. They have one mission and one mission only: to create happiness. And it all begins with baked goods.”

This High Calling: Dear Foster Mama

“You are different than when you began this pilgrimage, when you set off amongst the strange looks and concerning questions. You’re more tender, deeper…more sober.

And you know you are waltzing through one of the most unnatural dances possible. You trip, stumble and often feel there is no one to lead you, spin search your eyes and see the caverns that now trace deep within your heart and cause the most sporadic tears to surface.

But He is leading you.”

short takes #1

I thought I’d try something a little different, in an effort to post more frequently. The following are just a few random tidbits that have been floating around my head recently. They may or may not have any correlation to each other.

-- #1 Morning Voice --

One of the realities of working from home is that it is entirely possible that someone can call me at noon and this will be the first verbal conversation I’ve had all day, even though I’ve been up (and working!) for hours. I can’t tell you how many times someone has done this and asked if they woke me up. Apparently, I need to speak some quota of words before I stop sounding like I just rolled out of bed. So I just want to go on record as saying, if you call me in the middle of the day, it is very unlikely that you woke me up, no matter what my voice sounds like.

-- #2 Work Clothes --

On the other hand, it is very likely that I will still be wearing my pajamas, or have changed into fresh clothes that could completely pass for pajamas. When your lunch hour often involves some combination of paint, sweat, or sawdust, getting dressed first thing in the morning seems counterintuitive. I’m willing to admit, though, that the main reason is because I just like wearing them. I’m convinced that I am much more productive in my pajamas than most people.

-- #3 Foster Care --

I am absolutely certain that I am called to foster care. I know deep down in my bones and my heart that I am called not just to love and care for kids from hard places, but to engage with the whole messy broken system. Even on good days it makes me want to beat my head against the wall, but I am still sure that I am called to this.

-- #4 Personal Productivity --

My two best personal productivity/time management recommendations. First, read (and apply) Getting Things Done by David Allen. Second, use the Pomodoro technique.

-- #5 Paleo --

I’ve been eating a slightly modified version of the paleo diet for nearly six weeks now – no grains, no processed sugar, and very little beans and dairy. I basically eat meat, fruit and vegetables, and I love it. I’ve lost weight and inches, I have more energy and focus, and though this hard to say for certain, I think my immune system is stronger, too – I feel like I’m better able to fight off colds and other illnesses.

the pink bedroom.

When I first saw the real estate listing for my house, and I read that it had five bedrooms, I honestly didn’t believe it. A house in my price range with five bedrooms? But it does, because the upstairs was converted into a bathroom and three very small bedrooms. The pink bedroom is one of them.

This bedroom was pink when I bought it, except it was pastel pink. The carpeted floor had some pet stains, and there was a huge hole in the wall that someone had (tried) unsuccessfully) to patch. I ripped up the carpet last year, and A picked the wall color last fall.

This was my inspiration photo.

[Source: BHG via Pinterest]

And here’s the end result.

pink bedroom 1

The “ceiling beams” are just inexpensive 1x4s that I stained and screwed directly into the ceiling studs. The horizontal piece hides a PVC pipe that acts as curtain rod.

I painted the bed and dresser using a light gray paint I already had on hand. The dresser pulls are made from some leather belts I found on clearance at Target (inspiration here)– I painted them, used tin snips to cut the correct length, then drilled holes and attached them to the drawers with hex screws and nuts.

pink bedroom 2

The bookshelves are made from gutters (inspiration here) – I like the idea of tucking a reading corner into that area, maybe adding some pillows or a bean bag chair in the future.

The floor underneath the carpet was composed of old (and very ugly) vinyl tiles. I considered laying laminate wood floors, but knowing that I would want to carry the same floor through most of the upstairs, I decided to save myself the headache of all those cuts and angles by installing peel-and-stick vinyl wood-look planks instead. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and really look great. I painted the trim around the floor, window, and doors white, which really helped lighten up the space, and I added shoe molding around the perimeter (previously there was only baseboard). It really finished off the floor nicely and meant I didn’t have to be nearly so precise when installing the floor.

pink bedroom 3

The last touch was this word art. It was inspired by (ok, copied from) the art in this post. Since this is clearly a girl’s room (given all the pink), I wanted to send a message that most of us girls need to hear over and over again.

There are still other finishing touches I would love to add, like more art for the walls, or maybe a bulletin board of some kind. The lamp is on loan and I’d like to find/make something a little more distinctive. And of course, there is a pillow for the bed – it was just downstairs when I took these pictures. But for now, I’ve moved on to other projects.

recent conclusions.

I’ve come to a couple conclusions recently. One – that if I wait until things are done before writing about them (whether they are rooms, projects, or ideas), I will never write about them.

Two, that I can either get things done or my house can be relatively clean and organized, but never both at the same time. At this moment, I have two twin mattresses, a queen size bed frame, and several boxes of vinyl plank flooring sitting in my living room, my dining room contains an almost-completely-painted headboard and footboard that I made while their partially-finished counterparts are sit in the basement workshop area, and all of the quarter round has been removed from all of the rooms on the first floor, which is uglier and rougher looking than the slightly chipped stuff that was there before. Tools are scattered through my house (including all three floors), the top of my bookcase is cluttered with things I brought in from the car but don’t have a place for yet, and don’t even get me started on dishes and laundry.

And can I just say that dishes and laundry are probably my two least favorite household chores? I don’t mind actually doing them, but it’s just that they are never-ending.

Did I mention that I’ve got out of town guests coming in next weekend? Thankfully, they’re friends who will gladly sleep on an air mattress on the floor (and have in the past), but I set goals for myself of getting certain things done before they arrive in less than a week and I’m not ready to concede defeat just yet.

So, things are kind of in upheaval over here while I work on getting the downstairs bedroom and the back upstairs bedroom completed. Or at least close enough to done for now. One of the other upstairs bedrooms is already there, so I’m hoping to check in later this week with photos of that. I’m also hoping to take the time to write out some of the other ideas floating around in my head – I miss writing.

new recipes, 2013–part 3.

This was not a good month for new recipes! The only successes were pretty unhealthy.

Chicken Egg Rolls – Ugh. Maybe I’m just picky about what kind of Asian food I like? These just weren’t enjoyable.

Sweet and Sour Citrus Chicken Stir Fry – Normally, I’m a huge fan of Our Best Bites. I actually don’t think that I have ever made one of their recipes that I didn’t love. This wasn’t bad, exactly, it just wasn’t great enough that I wanted to save the recipe to use again.

Fried Chicken – Fried chicken is one of those basic, simple dishes – but I’ve never actually made it before. M requested it for her birthday dinner, so I decided to give it a shot. It turned out pretty well, I think!

Coconut Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars – Fair warning – these are horrible for you. I mean, seriously – absolutely no redeeming nutritional value. But they are very good and also very easy to put together.

Creamy Taco Soup – Just not that good. I don’t know why. I’m the only one who ate it, and we tossed the leftovers.

an update.

I haven't found much time to post here lately. Inspiration comes in fits and starts, and the words that used to come more easily, I have to work for. God has been teaching me so much that in some ways I feel less sure of things. I don’t mean that I doubt Truth or Jesus or His Word – it’s more that sometimes it feels like a new revelation is just around the corner. Most thoughts and ideas don’t seem to stick around in the front of my mind to become a real blog post, at least not like they used to.

Plus, I wonder if maybe there are seasons to consider and ponder and yes, write about life, and other seasons to just be busy living it. Some people can do both quite well, but I’m not sure I’m one of them.

So, here are some of the latest parts of living going on in my world.

M and her daughters are still living with me, though they are actively looking for a place of their own. This is an important step for them, for M to be on her own and providing for her family. We’re thinking they’ll be here until the end of May, maybe mid-June at the latest.

K is still living with me, too (A moved out several weeks ago). It’s good, and also hard. I second guess myself all the time and the relationships are difficult to navigate. But I think most really good things are hard, too, and that’s part of what makes them good.

My sister Kelli and I made a bet. We both have to work out 30 minutes a week, four times a week, for eight weeks. If we fail, we pay the other $100. And we go jeans shopping at the end to celebrate. I joined a gym and worked out with a personal trainer for a few weeks (and now on my own). It’s both kicking my butt and also helping a lot with getting my knee back to full functionality. I had my last post-op today, barring any more problems, and got a great result. I joined Weight Watchers, and all of this together is (slowly) working (though I still hate measuring food). And another bonus to all of this – the only time I really have to work out is in the morning before work, which means that I am on a more normal bedtime schedule than I think I’ve ever been.

There’s another court hearing coming up in my CASA case, which will keep me busy for the next few weeks. The longer I do this, the more committed I am to this organization. This work matters. It makes a difference, it really does. I wish more people would get involved in this way.

And the biggest news – I’m in the process of training to be a foster parent. There’s a whole training/application/home study process that takes months to complete, but I’m working my way through, a step at a time.

My brother-in-law told me once that I’m more comfortable being uncomfortable than other people. He’s probably right, but it’s only because stepping out in faith is the best way I know to fully experience God. My friend Kim and I talked about this just the other day, that you can be scared and excited all at the same time. It’s a fun place to be.

So it feels like life is always changing around here, but I think I like it that way.

new recipes, 2013–part 2

Triple Chip Blondies – Oh, wow. So good and pretty easy. But, very rich, so a little goes a long way.

Baked Chipotle Beef Taquitos – These are a great way to use up leftover roast, though in my case, I actually cooked a roast in order to make them (which required a bit more planning). They’re tasty and have a slight kick (just remember that’s coming from someone who is a totally wimp when it comes to spicy). The trickiest part for me was getting the tortillas to roll without breaking. I eventually figured out that if I completely roll them, instead of using the roll-and-fold-over method like I do with tacos or enchiladas, it works better. (I also love the chicken version).

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken – I was out of town for a week for business, staying in a hotel with a small kitchen, and this is one of the meals I chose to make because it fairly easy to buy/bring what I needed. It was okay – not incredibly flavorful, but it came together quickly, was inexpensive, and was healthy, too. You could also do something similar using salsa instead of the canned tomatoes with green chilies and spices.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry – This meal was super easy to put together and so very good – and bonus, it was really healthy, too. I’ll definitely be making it again. Probably next week.

Pork and Peanut Stir Fry – I’m a big fan of stir fry – they’re quick, easy to adapt to taste, healthy and versatile. This version was good, but I left out the scallions (I’m just not a big fan). I’ll definitely make it again, but I think next time I’ll add in some veggies – maybe broccoli or green beans.

things I’ve learned about ministry, part 3.

Here are a few more things I’ve learned about ministry over the last eight months.

You can’t do it alone. There is absolutely no way I would have made it through the last few months with a support network. My family and friends have helped out with practical stuff, like transporting A & K and providing meals when I was laid up after knee surgery. But more importantly, they’ve been a sounding board, given me a reality check, let me cry on their shoulder, and prayed with me. I really think I would have lost my mind and probably thrown in the towel without their help.

It can’t be about the person you’re trying to help – it has to be about Jesus. This is really the bottom line for me, and I think it applies no matter what you’re doing. Because people will misunderstand your heart and your motives. They’ll fail to say thank-you and they will take you for granted. They’ll take a step back with every step forward. They’ll push your boundaries and break your heart and wear you out.

But Jesus. He sees your heart and honors your faithfulness, even when things don’t work out like you want them to. He gives rest and carries your burdens. He promises that His Word does not return empty but accomplishes the work He gave it to do (Isaiah 55:11). And the work He has started in you, the work He is even now doing in you as you serve others, He will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”

Matthew 25:34-40

things I’ve learned about ministry, part 2.

Here are a few more things I’ve learned about ministry over the last eight months.

It’s exhausting. Back before anyone ever moved in with me, a friend told me that people who weren’t used to living with boundaries continually try to push yours. I believed her, but I don’t know that I really understood what that would mean. I definitely didn’t realize how tiring it would be. This isn’t true for everyone, and I’m not even sure that it’s always intentional, but there are many days I feel like I’m constantly on guard, knowing that I give an inch, they’ll take a mile. And this is true for both the boundaries I set for their benefit (like curfews or due dates for rent) and for mine (like personal time or other friends or family who need me). I’ve learned that I need to be very clear about my boundaries and expectations, at least in my own head, and ready to set new ones when situations arise that I haven’t considered. I’ve gotten better at saying no and not feeling guilty about it.

It won’t always work. Or at least, it won’t always seem to. The hardest part of all of this has been when it feels like all of the time and effort and money and tears don’t actually change anything. Some people are stuck in old patterns and just aren’t ready to break out of them. So, here’s is what I’m try to remember. One, the story isn’t over yet. Lucky for me, I’ve got friends that have been doing this for a while who remind me of this, because they’ve seen things change long after we think it’s over. And two, that I’m not responsible for the results. My role is just to obey, to do what God tells me to, and to leave the results up to Him. It’s not easy, but if I didn’t trust that He is really in control, this whole thing would feel pretty pointless.