Monday, December 22, 2014

A Season of Holy Nights

Christmas. "Jesus is the reason for the season." I have seen this sentiment thrown around more and more each year, often in the same breath someone is rattling off their to-do or have-done list. Christmas has become exhausting. But this year, I needed it to be different. I needed to be on my knees, in that manger, adoring the King who put on flesh to be among us. My soul was weary and my heart heavy. I really needed Jesus to be the reason this season.
I love lists. The joy I get from crossing things off is sad. The whole holiday season (Thanksgiving to the new year) carries so many "have to get dones" that I make a list as second nature as I take a breathe. But this year, the Lord has been teaching me to embrace the present and be present and to pour out myself as an offering in my daily life, serving Him and those around me as best I can.
I came in to December with high hopes. Being in a major metropolitan area, there are tons of options to see beautiful lighting displays. I wanted to soak a few in. I also had high hopes to make a ton of baked goods and pass them out to everyone I knew. I wanted to make each weekend memorable, with hot chocolate and Christmas movies and cookies. Our gingerbread house decorating adventure this year would be homemade and beautiful and delicious. My list just grew and grew. We had to do Christmas right. So I started with studying the scriptures, observing Advent. Then, He spoke in to my heart.
What would this season look like if I looked to Him instead of at this list? What if my primary objective this year was to be thankful for His promises instead of trying to do it all- all the things we feel like make up Christmas time. Those things are not BAD. Lights, cocoa, bows- small pieces of His grace and goodness evidenced here on the earth that we can share together. Things that can lead our minds to Him, His hand in creation, becoming creation. They can lead us to Him if we focus on Him instead of focusing on the many shiny things. 

So, I let those ideas go of what a "perfect" Christmas looked like. Instead, I embraced taking a few extra minutes on our drives to and from the house to see the lights in our own neighborhood. I enjoyed decorating a prebuilt gingerbread house. We have watched our favorite Christmas movies when we have a moment to. But mostly, I've dug in to His promises. I've spent moments praying that the Lord would change my heart to be like those Magi who followed a star for a King they heard about, a King swaddled in an animals feeding trough that they gave luxurious gifts to.

Christmas parties and presents and stockings are fun and happy and joyous. But all things should ultimately lead us to that humble place where Jesus came to live among us and ultimately die by our hands. Light the candles and sings the carols. Read the story of truth and hope. These are the things that have filled my soul this season. No lists. 

I have experienced more joy this year than any other year. A husband who embraces these same thoughts has been an enormous portion of that. Someone to reflect and give thanks with has made the difference. The availability of books that go along with scriptures have also been a blessing. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, a daily devotional to work through during the month of December, has been challenging and eye opening. Our church also has an Advent guide to work through weekly as a family that corresponds with lighting the Advent candles and it has made for a sweet time between The Mister and me. There are numerous other daily advent readings available that are wonderful and truth filled.
Now my prayer is that I carry this desire to know Christ more instead of follow what the world says should be done through every other season. May we be people who rest on His promises daily. May we remember that Immanuel came- our Savior God among us. All the wrappings and ribbons and holly cannot compare to the beauty of a baby in a manger. Let us be like Mary, treasuring all the truths of God coming in her heart.

 "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Living Room - Before and Progress

 Ahhh, the living room. It sits in the center of out home, between everything. The peaked ceiling creates a perfect, cozy spot. The tall brick fireplace is welcoming and comforting and is in the perfect spot to be the heart of the home.

 Here are a couple of MLS pictures of the space:

From the Front Door
Looking back at the Front Door
From the door to the Kitchen
Progress Pictures:
So much in one room! That huge opening to the left of the fireplace, looking in to the sunroom, had a large sliding glass patio door (what is seen leaning against the wall on the left). We had to take those out and we reframed that wall for some pretty French doors.

 The floors in the living room are legit BRICKS. I loved it and would have kept it, had there not been the patch of carpet in the dining room that cuts across (you can see where the carpet runs next to the the entrance and across the back of the living room in the top progress picture). Tearing out the carpet, we found concrete foundation. Demoing that brick was NOT going to happen. So, keeping our pup in mind, we chose dog-friendly 12mm laminate rustic, hand scraped looking floors to run throughout the main living areas. That was just one of the very few jobs we hired out. Getting someone else to lay those gave us the time to do the framing, demoing, taping, mudding, sanding, scraping, and painting needed.



We toyed with the idea of just repainting the wood paneling in the living room, but it was not anywhere else in the house. We had to tear out some when widening a doorway between the living room and the kitchen, and tearing out the built-in beside the fireplace due to some termite damage. With those things, it was either figure out how to match up the wood paneling in those areas or take it all down. So I took it all down! This added more mudding/taping/sanding dry wall work for me, but it really leant to a cohesive look in all of the rooms.
A job that was exclusively mine was scraping the popcorn ceiling (which is one nasty job). We did a light texture on that to match the rest of the ceilings and walls in the house. Then, I primed with some oil-based primer to seal in whatever yuck was in that drywall. Scraping that popcorn was the hardest job in the whole house for me, so far. I had to get a few massages because of the giant knots it gave me in my neck and shoulders.

My favorite job that was also exclusively mine (because Chris was using tools that I don't trust myself with to frame walls and hang drywall) was white washing our fireplace. The brick was in terrible condition but doing a 50% white paint 50% water mix wash on it definitely brightened the entire room.
Replacing the fan, replacing the gold eyeball light with an LED can light, updating some of the lights switches and outlets, and putting up crown were also some of the small jobs that were done to make the room complete. I'm excited to show you a finished photo when I show the other completed rooms.
The Mister always in action.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Home Specs

Remember when I shared that we bought our first home?!? It has been about 10 months, and there are days where The Mister and I look at each other and say "I can't believe this gift we have!" 

I have quite a few pictures of the front of the house, but have chosen this one because you can actually see the front of the home. One of the previous owners was a botanist, so we have plants galore. It is beautiful when everything is lush and blooming, as it was shortly after we bought the home, but it hides the fa├žade of the exterior.

So, the details. We bought a 1969, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1,800 sq ft house with a charming exterior and tons of potential inside. We also have a two car garage, which is so nice for The Mister's various tools and toys. In our 10 months of renovations, we have rebuilt many walls, torn out termite damage, insulated, replaced floors, renovated the entire kitchen, had a new fence installed, scraped popcorn, retextured, installed crown and baseboards, painted, painted, and did some more painting. Lots of jobs, big and small. Lots of learning. Lots of decisions. I discovered more about my design style and the things I believe are important.

We had 2 full months where we could live in our apartment and work on the house. This allowed us to get the nitty-gritty demo and major projects done without having to worry about living in it. For those two months, we both continued to work full time, then spend spare time at the house. For Chris, it meant his working until about 8 at his job, coming to the house until midnight, then going back to the apartment to sleep and do it all again the next day. It was an exhausting time, but we were able to get so much accomplished without having to also worry about living in the worst of it.

What we kept telling each other through the toughest parts of the renovation was how much the Lord has provided for us and how this gift should go beyond us. We dream about who will come through our front door, how we can love them well, how we can further The Kingdom with the conversations that happen around our coffee table and in the back yard. Our desire is that these walls we have the privilege of being surrounded by would be seen as a welcoming place for others. His Goodness never ends.

I look forward to sharing this crazy journey with you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Home Sweet Home

What a busy, busy year. So many blessings and so much fruit has bloomed from our labor. The big kahuna- we bought a home. Our first home. It is a true gift to be a homeowner at such a young age and after such hard work. I have talked about our plans to save, and we paid our debts off after only 6 months. Then it was save, save, save for a home. And we did it. We closed February 28th and renovated a portion of the home.

We have a three phase plan to fully renovate the house.
Phase 1: The main areas of the home- Living Room, Dining Room, Sunroom, Kitchen
Phase 2: The Exterior, Front Yard, Backyard
Phase 3: Bathrooms, Laundry Room, and Bedrooms

In no way do we plan to knock out all three phases in a year (or even any set period of time). We have almost finished up phase 1 and have eased in to phase 2. But as The Mister is about to go to school full time, we will be allocating finances elsewhere.

There is so much to share and say about our experience with renovating the home. And that will come. But for now, I would like to just say that all of the budgeting and saving and policing of our accounts was worth it. Laying down to sleep at night in a home that The Mister and I have worked hard to buy and fix up, knowing we don't have a lease that will end soon or have restrictions on what we are allowed to do is so cool.