the miracle of the furnace.

The furnace would shut off sometimes. We flipped it off and back on again which restarted it. For a couple of years this sufficed.

This winter, one of the coldest I can remember, it began to shut off more frequently.

Mornings we awoke to 40 degrees. It would be 4 pm before it reached 67. Space heaters became our friend.

We started a savings account for a furnace. Obviously something was wrong.

One weekend it got particularly bad. I spent several hours of two nights awake. Down the stairs, ’round the corner. Flip the switch. Turn it on again. Up the stairs. Warm in bed. Falling asleep. I hear it turn off again. The cycle returns.

After two days I got into bed weeping. Exhaustion set in and I was tired of being cold.

So we prayed. We prayed hard. We begged God to fix our furnace.

And he did. He fixed it right up. It’s been several weeks and I haven’t touched the thermostat.

I had no idea how much of my time was spent worrying about the furnace. My head feels clearer, freer.

Thank you Lord. Thank you.

we’re all babies.

Today as I was wiping off the oven I felt myself asking God what I should do.

He nudged me to put the rag down and to walk into the living room where my 4 year old lay sleeping on the couch (a very rare occurrence for him).

I looked at him with his mouth wide open, leaning onto the side and thought about how much he looks like he did when he was a sleeping baby.

Then God told me to remember that he still is that baby.

That, sometimes, we are all still that baby.

A part of us stays infantile, ready to cry and pout and whine when something isn’t to our liking. How often do we raise a fit to get someone to notice us, anyone, to come and make things better? To come and make things whole for us again. To love us and hold us until it all feels better.

Today my soul is reminded to be much more kind that I want to those who are hurting or crying or whining or acting out against me.

For they, like me, are just a baby that needs to be comforted and told that everything will be okay.

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winter blues.

Winter this year.

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Whew.

I have been hardcore grumpin’ it since the holidays were over. I keep blaming it on the weather, the kids being sick, being stuck in the house, etc. But really? I just have nothing productive to do with my time.

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My day starts and I usually wake to a cold house due to weird furnace issues. I roll out of bed usually with the kids next to me and begin to make oatmeal in the kitchen. I clean up kitchen. Throw in laundry or wander around aimlessly. Tend to crying children or clean up a mess. Feed snack. Begin lunchtime prep with a small child who is usually fussy and getting tired. Eat lunch. Clean up food thrown on floor. Clean up kitchen again. Put child down. Play a little with older child. Clean up a mess. Make older child go to room for nap. Sit down intending to fold laundry or something else productive but usually end up staring at a screen or reading a book instead. Children wake up grumpy and ready for a snack. Begin dinner prep. Console crying child. Clean up mess. Eat dinner. Clean up food thrown on floor. Do dishes. Clean up living room. Put older child in time out for not cleaning up his mess. Bathtime. Bedtime. Ahhh.

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This day to day stuff has been getting me down. It seems so monotonous, boring and tiring. The other day when discussing how I was going to get my life back on track Brad suggested I do something with my time. Make something, start something. Anything. And then he said the important words “it doesn’t have to be important or helpful, just do something.”

I always feel like I need to put my time to really good use. That if I don’t it’s wasteful. But what is wasteful is feeling like I’m stuck in a rut and ruining my time with others because of it.

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So I made a list and I’m doing things.  Trying to make changes and brainstorming new ideas.

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I’ve also decided I need to take more daily photos again. I have fallen out of the habit and I miss turning mundane daily moments into beautiful lifetime memories.

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You know what? These very small changes helped tremendously. Winter still sucks and I still feel stuck inside but at least I’m creating something new and feeling like a productive human being.

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grandma.

Since my grandmother passed I’ve been trying to remember specific things about growing up around her as well as some of my favorite memories.

The thing I’ve realized is that many of my favorite childhood memories, running free and playing with my cousins happened around her than actually with her. And then I realized that maybe the role she played as mother to 8 and grandmother to 17 was to provide the opportunities for growth, success and play and to step back and let it happen.

She was the kind of grandma who was always there to give us red kool-aid when we were thirsty or toast if we were hungry. She made delicious food out of simple ingredients and kept an organized and tidy house. Every time I ate a meal there I savored every bite.

I often remember her in the kitchen doing dishes. I think she was always doing the dishes. I can see the jars of dried beans and peas lining her counter and how it smelled in the kitchen. The radio was always on and I can remember where she hid the good snacks.

Many Sundays were spent in their living room with legos on the green shag carpet. Sometimes my cousins and I would gather in one of the ladybug filled bedrooms and create a “show” to put on for the adults. Other times we would play basketball or hide under the big pine behind the house.

Right before they cut down their cherry tree I remember picking the bright red fruits and watching Grandma make them into a pie. I think that was my first farm to table experience;)

When I was a child my dad would tell me my bedtime stories about the shenanigans he and his siblings got into when they were children. Once someone ran through a glass door once and another time my Uncle Bob fell out of tree and a stick went into the corner of his eye.. There were stories of pedaling their bikes fast to get past the mean neighbor dogs and sneaking out of the house as teenagers. . Recently I learned my dad had encephalitis as a kid (how this was never mentioned before, I don’t know) and almost died. When he was on the mend he was allowed to drink chocolate milk, a rare treat. My Uncle John said he would sit there and stir it very slowly to rub it in that he got to drink something delicious. As an only child I always thought growing up there sounded so fun and adventurous, a little dangerous too.

I don’t remember my grandparents as the most affectionate people. There are only a handful of times that I remember even hugging them. However the way they treated us with respect and care showed the great love they had for their great big family. As I look back on the time spent there I felt very free and happy. They allowed us to test our own limitations and make good decisions (or bad ones, like the time I broke my arm jumping off the swing).

I hope to employ much of her approach to life and parenting to my own existence here.

Thank you Grandma Michel for your infinite kindness and wisdom (and noodles). We will all miss you immensely.

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epic mess.

Every single day my son builds a fort. This has been going on for about 6 months now. There are days that I try to insitute a “no building” day but I still end up stumbling upon a pile of blankets, books, and couch cushions.

Everyone says “ Oh he’s being so creative, don’t worry about the mess!”. Yes, I agree. He’s fantastically creative.  However, it is more than just a little mess. Books get destroyed in the process, the living room becomes unusable and once it’s time to pick up a child goes berserk because “It’s too much, wahhhhh”. Timeout. Cry. Repeat.

I am at my wit’s end. I want to be the kind of mother who doesn’t care about the state of her house, but this house is already too big and difficult to keep up with.  I cannot handle the normal upkeep as well as having everything including laundry baskets, hangers, baby toys, etc. strewn about and a child who generally refuses to clean up at the end of the day.

This week has not been good. I have yelled a lot, cried a lot and generally feel like a pretty terrible mom.

“Why can’t my child behave like all of these other sweet kids?”

“Why can’t he just play with his toys?”

“Why do I keep yelling?”

“Why do I feel like I have no one cares?”

“Why is my life the worst?”

Wahhh, right? So quickly I go from loving life, knowing that I have a great family and support system to feeling like the sludge at the bottom of a garbage disposal.

Something has to change. I need to change. I need a better attitude and more grace for myself and my children if I am going to survive parenthood.

So today I came up with the idea to post the epic messes. Sometimes the only thing that can make bad things better is laughing at them and being honest about what my life looks like.

So here we go.

Epic Mess 11/23/13.

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remember cocoa manor.

Brad is a man who hates to change his desktop wallpaper.

The same rotating architecture photos have been on it since the day he got it (windows users, you know what’s up) and I’ve grown tired of asking him when he’s going to change it.

Yesterday I picked up his laptop to check my email and noticed (cue angel singing) he had changed the background photo!

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Later that evening I asked him why he changed it to this picture from the beginning of summer, a Memorial Day party on our old brown porch.

“I want to remember our house that way, I like it”, he answered. The beauty of friendship shared contrasted to the ugliness of the porch.

Our house has changed so much this summer. Dare I say it actually looks beautiful on that outside? After 4 years of living in a really ugly, broken brown house it feels refreshing to know that the outside of our house matches the feelings in our hearts towards this place.

But, like Brad said, I too like to remember that old brown house and how far it’s come. It makes me a little sad that people who visit from here on out will never know how God used our skills to redeem this corner lot and bring it back to life.  At least not by looking at it.

However nice it is to remember the past and how we’ve changed, I suppose it’s best to live in the present. So my present consists of being so very content pulling up to this nice gray house with a green door. It will always be my cocoa manor, but I thoroughly enjoy the beauty a coat (or two) of paint can add.

(PS- Thanks for the picture Jessica:))

the life of dreams.

We’re having second thoughts about moving.

In fact, we’re pretty sure we’re probably going to be staying here a little (or a lot) longer.

Although we feel that God has “released” us from this place and would bless us if we decide to leave, through prayer, conversations and reading we’re starting to realize that we still belong here.

Four years ago we had a dream to be good neighbors in a not so good neighborhood. To put others first, to love them and to create community with them.

So much of our lives these past four years has been focused on house renovations, learning how to raise children, and trying to once again attain our revised version of the American Dream. We’ve traded our original ideas of being poor and living with the poor for embarrassment over the state of our house and judgment of the actions of our neighbors.

I cringe when I think about the opportunities we’ve missed. The people we’ve scowled at instead of smiled and those to whom we’ve given money instead of an hour of listening.

We’ve been taking the easy way out, the less radical, more safe way. I so strongly desire inside of me to love our neighbors. To become one with them and for them to see that Jesus was poor just like them.

It’s hard to let go of my dreams of a nice country life working an acre of land. There’s no doubt there will be difficult times ahead of us despite the peace autumn has brought to our street. I get overwhelmed when I think about what we’ll face but we are taking steps to surround ourselves with support. From the beginning we had very specific ideas of community that we wanted to implement in this house but perhaps we need to care less about our visions and more about just loving people just like they are and finding community where we can.

We’re probably crazy but I want our family to know what it truly means to love others and we have not yet scratched the surface of that.

This past year we shared our Easter dinner with our neighbors and their four children. I was terrified about how our families would react to these strangers showing up to share our ham. But it was incredible and it felt right. It felt like something Jesus would have done. Just a couple of months later these same neighbors fell into a deep downward spiral and it broke my heart because I had let them into my life. Instead of moving closer to them, I pushed them away. I let my own feelings come first and I harbored anger and bitterness toward what she was doing to herself, her children and what she brought so close to our home.

They have since moved away and I still have such mixed feelings toward what happened. But when I really think back to those first months that they moved in, to the Saturday mornings that I accompanied her to the food pantry and to taco salad we ate in their kitchen, I know that these things are what make the kingdom of God here on earth. Our lives were very, very different but it didn’t really matter because right then we were together trying to make it through this hard life.

I want more of these beautiful, loving experiences. I want to dance, sing and cry with those around us. This means we are also inviting more pain into our lives however I cannot imagine what kind of safe and comfortable life we could live after seeing so much sadness and poverty right before our very eyes.

It is no joke that the devil is trying to win over neighborhoods just like ours. Ones that our full of vulnerable children and impoverished dreams. We need an army of love to conquer the evil that lurks in places like this. We need prayer warriors and people who are willing to take the time to listen and smile. We need to convince the poor that there are people who truly love them and that the love Jesus has for them surpasses everything.

We need a revolution.

If any of these words sparked a flame in your heart, please consider reading An Irresistble Revolution with me. It’s changing my heart and for that I am thankful.

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how sweet the sound.

You know that feeling when it feels like a mask has been taken off your eyes and you can once again see clearly?

I was blind but now I see.

Yea. That.

For the first time in a long time I feel pretty good. Despite my circumstances, I can see the good in people. I can remember to pray instead of judge and I can remember my true calling, the calling that Jesus first spoke into me many years ago.

The world is a hard place and I’ve allowed it to give me a hard time. But now I can see some light and it’s ohhh so good and yet it’s oh so different than what I expected, wanted.

I don’t know how it’s so easy to forget that I’m in charge of my own happiness. That everyday I have a choice to treat life with grace or to blame it on someone else. I hope, hope, hope I can remember to choose grace. Always grace.

How precious did that grace appear.