"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Our New Home


We are five days away from moving into our new digs. Five days away from the culmination of years of answered prayers - and our first night sleeping under our new roof! It's been hard for me to visualize life on the other side of this process - hard for me to picture summer nights in our new backyard, hard to for me to envision watching the boys play basketball on our new driveway, hard to envision dinners around our new dining table. I can't wait for all of it, but we've put in so much work the last several months just preparing for the sale and the move that I haven't been able to picture what it's going to feel like when we're actually there. To feel settled and in our proper place and to be able to make long term plans in a home we know is going to be ours for years and years to come is going to be such a dream - and such a relief!

We are very grateful for how this whole process came together. April was a hard month - we listed our home at the very beginning of the month, which was challenging in and of itself because of my own workload during that time. We had showings daily, busy open houses, lots of last minute meals eaten out and a number of interested parties that had us sitting on the edge of our seats in hopes that an offer would be coming in from any one of them. On April 23rd I had to fly out to California for four days for our annual teambuilding - a stressful trip for me every year - but with added stress this time because I knew I was leaving my three boys behind to keep the house clean during the showings and open houses taking place while I was gone. Flying home on the 26th, I was just grateful that the big event was behind me, and I was ready to settle into spring and warmer weather and just hoped to have a house sold sometime during the summer. That was on a Wednesday. Well, by Friday night - just two days later - we had accepted an offer and our home was sold. We were given a closing date of June 5th - and just five weeks to find a house for us to move into! Luckily, we had already started our search and had been keeping our eyes open for months just to get an idea of what was and what would be on the market. Just one day after accepting the offer on our home, we had put an offer in on another house and had our offer accepted 24 hours later. Talk about a whirlwind of a week, but we did it!

A little about this home of ours - a home I know God hand-picked just for us. I'm grateful that Cody and I agreed on this one because we have so often struggled with finding a house we BOTH like, and this one touched a soft spot in us that we just couldn't say no to. We actually had looked at the house earlier in the winter prior to ours going on the market, and it was meant to be because it was still available for us when we were ready. The previous owners had even turned down other offers prior to ours. I could say so much about how God has intervened in big and small ways over the past two months - the way He has worked out the big and small details. And the house itself needs some work but it has the size, layout, neighborhood - and potential - that we were looking for. It's going to be so fun to watch it transform before our eyes, and we're looking forward to bringing it back to the value that it could have held all along.

What I’m most excited for in our new house:

The neighborhood. It’s a quiet street with plenty of trees - something both Cody and I cared deeply about. We love a good, established neighborhood with shade and character and charm. And God went above and beyond what we asked for in terms of neighbors! A friend of mine and her little family lives just a few houses up on the same side of the street. Best of all, Cassi, James, Ella and Ivy live just around the corner. The cousins will be able to easily ride bikes and walk back and forth between each other’s houses. And Cassi is just a short walk away if I need to borrow eggs or flour… or need somebody to join me in a happy hour glass of wine. J We’re also within actual walking distance to the Dome and the UNI campus, and considering we practically live there, that’s pretty darn amazing. And we already had a friend ask if we’d host tailgating parties in our backyard. ;) God did good for us.

Our yard – especially the back. It’s quiet and peaceful and full of little trees and singing birds. It’s cozy and pretty with charming houses surrounding it, has plenty of room to throw the football back and forth, and it’s the perfect place to roast some marshmallows around a fire with friends. Oh – and we have a couple of surprises in store for the boys in their new backyard space, too. We'll be working on beautifying it with some updated landscaping, making the cement patio space a little more inviting and eventually adding some fun and festive lights for all those backyard cookouts. J
 
My little covered front porch. It needs a little bit of sprucing up, and Cody rolls his eyes whenever I mention it, but I love a front porch and I’m excited for evenings spent there watching the boys shoot hoops and make chalk drawings. Now to get some rocking chairs!

It’s a ranch house! It’s hard to find a good sized ranch these days, especially one with an open floor plan, but we did it! It’s what we were hoping for, and as Tim mentioned to me one day, it will be easy to grow old in this house. ;)
An attached garage that enters right into the kitchen and a bathroom. Enough said. J

The size and the space. I’m not even going to know what to do with half of it at first. We’re going from a very small house to one with two family rooms, a four seasons room and a game room. We’re going from one bathroom to three, a couple very small closets to tons of very large closets. And… a walk-in pantry!

The floor plan. It has the open concept that was a must when looking at houses, and it will open up even more when we re-do the kitchen in a year or two. Just thinking about that gets me giddy! It has an all-brick wall fireplace that just needs a good solid mantle to go with it. A huge hearth made for cozy pillows and a cute basket of wood. A very large picture window overlooking our pretty backyard. And a four-seasons room with nothing but windows. The dining area is part of the great room, and again, when we knock out one additional wall with the kitchen remodel, the whole place is going to transform. In the meantime, it’s already what we need for hosting all the gatherings we want.

I mentioned it already, but can I talk about the fireplace(s)? Another thing Cody often rolled his eyes over, but it was on my must-have list: a fireplace or a place to put a fireplace. We’re getting two! The focal point of our great room and another white brick fireplace in our lower level family room. I can't wait to decorate them and hang some stockings, too. ;)
 
Our four-seasons room. I have big plans for this room to make it a cozy, comfortable TV-free spot for reading, card playing or just a good glass of wine with a friend. With windows all around and a perfect view of our backyard, I know it's going to be one of my favorite spots in the house - as soon as I can find the furniture to fill it!

It’s outdated. That sounds like a weird thing to be happy about, but I’m actually grateful that we get to do the upgrades ourselves because it means we get to update them the way we want – and not how someone else wanted to. It will take time and patience obviously, but the layout, size, neighborhood and bones of the house – the things that are harder to change – are already exactly what we wanted. Now we can work on making the house shine and have some fun in the process.

I might be a little silent on this blog here over the next week or so. We're a little busy! :)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

21/52

"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2017"


Jaden: Team pictures were last week, and you have your first game of the season tonight! Being with our baseball families in the bleachers a couple of nights a week, reconnecting from last year, has been such a joy for us again, and we are looking forward to another full summer of cheering on our Angels!


Brandon: It was crazy hair day at school on Friday, so you showed up with a blue mop on your head. There are just six days left until summer, and we just found out that your new school is getting a new playground before fall. You're pretty excited about this. Once again, the evidence of God's good timing in all of this!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Our Answered Prayer

"I have learned that waiting is like wind. It appears to be nothing, but it is a nothing as shapeless yet vital as breath. Waiting molds us, changes us, makes us ready in some way that is hard to grasp." -Roots & Sky, Christie Purifoy


I have so much to say that I don't know where to begin. I have so many pent up thoughts, feelings, emotions, stories... that I'm not sure how to articulate the full story into words right here in this blog. It's also an extremely personal story of our life the last few years, and I do feel that some of it should be kept just for us and for me.

But... guys... we're moving. I finally feel that I can share at least that much. Two years ago when we took our house off the market after not a single offer, it felt as though this moment might never come. There was anger and sadness and frustration and so much disappointment. And we had to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and trust in God's better plan. Trust that He knew the bigger picture, that He and only He could see the future... and trust that His future was better than what I had conjured up in my head. We also had to wait and wait patiently. And waiting and patience are two things I struggle with in every area of life. Just ask my husband. :)

"And though we can't predict his specific plans, the fact that God will work everything together for good is a completely predictable promise." -Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst

But about a month ago, we accepted an offer on our home. The home we'd bought as newlyweds but never intended to stay in for quite this long. Whereas last time we tried to sell our home, it sat on the market for six months before we pulled the plug on the idea, this time we waited just three weeks for our offer to come in. Those three weeks felt a lot longer, probably because we'd already gone through this process once, but really, we feel so blessed that it only took that long this time! We were told to expect at least a four month process, as that is the average in our area and in our price range, but the traffic coming through our house on a regular basis for those three weeks was intense, and we had some serious lookers even before our first offer. Our open houses were a lot busier than the open houses we held two years ago, and I've witnessed a number of other small little signs that prove to me that God's hands have been in on every little detail of the process this time around, and that if we wait on God's timing, that's when prayers get answered in big ways. He just wasn't ready for us two years ago, and looking back, I know He was right.

But it hasn't been easy.

For the last three years we have felt confined, trapped and stuck in a home that quickly grew too small for us. A home that we fell in love with as a newlywed couple with just one baby and dreams of more. Who wanted to abandon apartment living and start to live like grownups. Who at the time, wasn't real concerned with size of house or an open floor plan, but only longed for three bedrooms, a cute little living room and a garage - with at least a little bit of grass space to call our own. I sometimes cringe that we have been so negative about our current home for the last few years. It was exactly what we wanted and needed in the early years, and it's been good to us. We just stayed in it a few years longer than we ever intended to, and unfortunately the resentment about that fact took hold in our hearts more than I'd like to admit - instead of the gratitude we should have been feeling to have a roof over our heads that we could call our own. But - for the last few years we have been dreaming of a different space. A new neighborhood, a bigger backyard, an open floor plan to host family Christmas and Super Bowl parties and winter birthday gatherings. And every Christmas for the last few years, though we love the day and the month and the celebrating, there's been a private sadness in my heart that we haven't been welcoming people into our own home for gift opening and Christmas Eve dinners, but instead packing up our car with gifts and entering their homes instead. And there I cringe again at how that sounds, but I can't hide it because God knows it anyway, and I might as well fess up to it.

So in these last two years, I've had to do a lot of praying, a lot of reading and a lot of work on myself to not get hunkered too far down in my own disappointment and feelings of failure. It's hard when other's lives seem to be moving forward and your own life feels as though it's stuck in limbo. But now on the homestretch of this journey... with a closing date and a move just over a week away... I can say that it was worth it.

"And who knows if... what looks like it's falling apart - is actually falling together?"

Because as Lisa-Jo Baker once wrote, when I walk through that front door and into that great room of our new home, with its giant brick fireplace wall and its picture window into a backyard I once only dreamed about, I feel as though I am "standing on the holy ground of answered prayers."

About two years ago, Lisa-Jo wrote a blog post I swear just for me. She wrote it and published it right when we were about to take our house off the market without a sale. Massive disappointment settling into my own heart, Lisa-Jo was on the other side. Her 10-year wait to buy her family home had finally come to an end, and she was moving into the house of her dreams. And she penned these words and I have saved them all this time, "Waiting is not doing nothing. Waiting is some of the hardest and most faithful work that we can be called to do. You are not alone... I think we can be well and be sad at the same time."

And to bear my soul and my heart here a bit, I have indeed been well and sad at the same time. And He has drawn me closer throughout this season. He has grown me and stretched me and challenged me. I have cried out in anger at Him, I have asked Him why, I have struggled with comparisons and envy and learned sides of myself I'm not real proud of. And yet He has been faithful - before the wait ended and now and always. And I now stand on the holy ground of my answered prayer and with a relationship with God that is stronger than ever. Not because He gave me the desires of my heart. But because He was there for me during all the times he answered my prayers with a 'no.' And this ground that I now stand on is not perfect ground and there is work to be done in and around it and I am admittedly very, very tired from our journey over the last several months. But the work will be a labor of love, and I am grateful for it - so very grateful. As Pastor Dave once taught us, even Heaven itself will be a place where God will give us holy work to do - much like he did for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But I'm learning that some work is filled with its own kind of joy.

And oh, how I can't wait to sit beside my Christmas tree and fireplace in December and hang those stockings on our mantle and leave cookies for Santa on the hearth and welcome family into our home to unwrap presents and drink hot cocoa and know that this is what He had me wait for. He was working in my waiting. And He gave me more than I expected because He is good and He loves us so and all along I just needed to trust Him when He whispered to me all those times, "Be patient. It will be worth it. Trust Me."

When our realtor, Luke, called me earlier today to tell me that the final hurdle to cross to make the sale final - had indeed been crossed - I burst into tears. Poor Luke! There are seasons of life when you don't realize how long you've been holding your breath until you're finally able to release it.

More to come - eventually. I've got a lot of boxes to pack and a new chapter to start!
 
"Though waiting often feels like a placeholder we impatiently long to be done with, it is beneficial. We get to know God, love Him and others more, and grow in humility and holiness. By not giving up and letting God determine the how and when, we experience divine encounters with Him we might otherwise miss. -Wait and See, Wendy Pope
 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mother's Day 2017





It was a good Mother's Day weekend. Life has been chaotic and stressful, and these special days and weekends are so valuable, so important. And God knew exactly what I needed because he provided the perfect recipe to make my day full and complete.  Not just that day - but the whole weekend! There was family and good weather and time for rest... and our first boating excursion of the year. Something we've all been craving and longing for through the long winter months.



We kicked it off Friday night with a backyard fire and s'mores. Saturday Cody took our bikes to Scheels to have all new tires put on them for my Mother's Day gift and we all went on our first family bike ride ever - before picking up pizzas and having a picnic by the lake. And then there was Sunday...


It started with church and progressed to an early afternoon of Mommy getting some alone time on the deck with a book and her swimsuit. It hit 82 degrees! And then finally - it was time to put the pontoon back in the water! The lake near our house was expanded this spring, doubling in size and providing a new little sand bar along the east edge, with plenty of room for boats to park and kids to play. The bigger size also means boat traffic on the water is much more manageable, and I have no doubt it's going to be our new go-to spot. It doesn't take much to make me feel like I'm on a mini-vacay. Give me sand, give me water, give me some sun, and give me drinks. I'm pretty sure the room God has prepared for me in Heaven overlooks water. :)




The water was definitely chilly, with it being the first hot weekend of the year, but the kids didn't seem to mind too much!









 





Eventually all the cousins were together - see Jaden's greeting from shore ;) - and it was time for tubing. No words needed but check out these happy pictures!


































 
We ended the day with a cookout at our house and lots of sand mingling between our toes. The best kind of day. Bring on summer!