Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Today is a huge day! I'm so excited to announce our brand new site, Uncommon Grace!
While it is a big transition, and a little sad at the same time, I'm thrilled for what this new site is going to offer! The new address is uncommongrace.net and yes, that is our very own domain!
You'll be able to sign up to receive new posts through email and it will be easier to contact me through this new site so come check it out!
Monday, May 19, 2014
This time in May is hard since I always remember the birthday we should be celebrating, but aren't.
It has been awhile; like most women who've miscarried, I can be far more specific about how long ago, but it probably wouldn't interest anyone to know how many years, months, weeks, days and even hours. The point is it is still with me. I think about the baby I never got to hold, but I will always hold in my heart.
Monday, May 12, 2014
I have a huge announcement, but first please let me explain:
I've been incredibly tired lately; exhausted is more like it. I keep reminding myself that some seasons of life are just more busy than others.
Like right now for me. Ethan and Luke are playing soccer so we have two sets of games and practices. Brian's work hours are such that he can't take the boys to practice so I'm doing it all on top of all of our foster daughter's meetings, appointments, and visitations of which there are multiple each week. To make matters more interesting, Jackson just learned how to take the baby-proof door knob covers off. Consequently, I'm afraid to go to sleep again since he is now able to wander the house.
In spite of all this life stuff, things are good. I'm having a fibro flare up, but things are good. God is good. For me, it is easy to praise God when things are good. Strangely enough, I always remember to praise Him when things are bad. His mercy and grace are usually so clear to me then.
I have a hard time remembering to praise Him when things are so-so. I'm busy, hurting, and distracted, but things aren't bad. This is when I tend to lose my focus, in the busy-ness of it all. But, God is just as good now as He is during those other times. That means things are good.
Even when things are hard, our perspective should be through the lens of God. One of my continual prayers is that I will be able to see things as God sees them. The pain and frustration has a point, even if I don't know what it is. The busy-ness is part of the life He has blessed me with. I shouldn't complain because He has blessed me. Things are good.
The main thing that has been keeping me occupied lately is also very good, despite keeping me up till the wee hours of the morning most days this week. I'd like to announce that I just purchased our own domain name and in a few short weeks, we'll be moving to a permanent place with our own site! I've been so excited, I probably have matched the enthusiasm of our kindergartner over his field trip to the fire station!
I've been working on the new site and it should be ready in a couple weeks. At the moment, I am transferring over some of the best content, formatting everything, and designing like mad. I'm not going to deactivate this site, but I will be linking everything over when it is time. In the meantime, please keep visiting here as I'm still going to be posting on my regular schedule.
I'm so excited to get to share this with you today! The new site is going to have a new name that I feel is absolutely perfect for what I am about, what God is about. While transition isn't always easy, I know God is moving me on to something better even though I've been writing here for years.
I have a favor to ask: when I officially launch the new site, I would really appreciate if you would go follow it. It takes a lot to get a new site launched and I could honestly use your help by doing this. You'll be able to subscribe through email too! Also, I would love to hear about what your favorite content is that I should make easily accessible on the new site. I'm in process of copying some over and don't want to miss something that really spoke to you! Just comment here or on the bottom of that post and I'll include it.
God has been good. I'm so thankful for everything, in spite of the so-so busy-ness. I hope that you have a blessed day!
Monday, May 5, 2014
As most of you know, Brian is an architect (and a very good one, I must add!). This often makes people assume some things: a) Brian designed our home and b) we make a lot of money.
(pause for any architects reading this to quit laughing)
We live in a tract home and though Brian would love to design something for us, it is a very expensive project which the modest architectural salary doesn't cover. That being said though, I love love love our house! Brian bought it without me seeing it when we moved across the country six years ago now. It has amazing natural light and the space is used incredibly efficiently. If there is one person to buy a house for you, it is an architect!
Because this is a builder home, it was fairly basic and looked like most of the other homes on the street. With Brian itching to make it his own, we have spent many a "date night" working on it together. We've been problem solving:
Our kitchen is extremely white. With white cabinets, countertops and backsplash, the effect is, well, stark. On top of that, when we moved in, all the appliances were white too. Thanks to a leaky dishwasher and a refrigerator that failed to actually refrigerate, half of the appliances are now stainless and the space has a little more definition to it. The way it is situated, there is very little wall space since it opens onto the living space which I absolutely love since I get to keep an eye on the kids while I make dinner.
Right now, the expensive fixes of new countertops and backsplash has to wait, but paint is cheap so that seemed like our best option thus we decided to paint our doors black to inject some personality.
I usually use Valspar paint from Lowes since it is inexpensive and does a great job. This time I used a semi gloss because I needed to be able to wipe down the doors. If I'm perfectly honest, I have to admit that the they desperately needed to be painted since they were permanently stained with little mucky handprints. (It was these same little grimy hands that stole my camera's memory card that have the before pictures on it; if/when I find it, I'll upload these, I promise!) It gives it a nice sheen too and provides some continuity with the trim since it is the same finish. I would never use anything less glossy than semi for something like this.
When we bought our home though, it didn't look like it does now. It was seriously the colors of Easter M&M's: pink, lavender, dusty blue, minty green, and several shades of yellow The one room that didn't fit the color scheme was the secondary bathroom that was highlighter yellow. I painted it after getting a couple migraines while bathing kiddos.
It surprised me how many people won't buy a house because of it's color. Painting is easy and cheap! For the cost of a gallon of paint, you can completely transform a room. No other fix can do that for $25! Even if you hate painting, you can probably cajole some friends into helping with the offer of pizza and tacos. Hey, you find me good Mexican street style tacos, I'll be there (as you rightly observe, I am still a Southern Californian who is languishing with the state of Mexican food in the South)!
The color is Valspar Lincoln Cabin. If this is something that you would like to do in your home, don't just pick up regular old black paint. It might seem easy, but don't. Straight up black is far too harsh and will look really stark. I love this color since it looks black, but it blends with our wall color (which is Valspar Arid Plains) because it has a hint of gray in it. If you are scared to take the plunge and do something striking in your house, going a slight off black is a great way to get started.
It looks far more designer as an off black and hey, my architect picked it out!
We painted all the doors in the house like this... all fourteen of them. I spent a weekend in the garage and I think somewhere around door seven I started wondering if this was a good idea after all; it took a long time to say the least! But, we did it right and it makes all the difference in how the finished product looks. As I usually say, no shortcuts! Do it once; do it right!
Here's the steps to getting your doors done right and adding some really fun, custom character:
- Take the doors off the hinges. I know this seems annoying to live without doors and a hassle to take them down just to put them back up. But, for the finish to be right, the need to come off. There will be far fewer paint drips if you paint them flat.
- Take off all the hardware. Don't even try taping around the door knob. I made this mistake before; it never looks right because if you are off just a little bit, you can see the other color, get paint lines, paint on the hardware, have paint leak under the tape... you name it. Thirty seconds and you don't have to worry about that; all it takes is a hand held screwdriver for this and step one.
- Wash the doors. You know how I said that our doors were stained from little hands? All that grime and even just normal dust will make the paint not stick uniformly or worse, get mixed into the paint and dull the finish. After hours of painting, you really don't want to see a sandpaper like finish in the crevices! The paint job is only as good as the prep work.
- More prep work. Fill any holes and sand out any rough spots. I have wood texture on my doors so I did my best to only fill where I had to lest I get a bunch of smooth spots in the middle of wood grain. Just do your best to match it and it will be great!
- Two coats of paint. I used a brush to fill in the panels in our six-panel doors and used a roller on the rest to get it as smooth as possible. The black can take awhile to cover so a second coat is an absolute must. Just make sure that the first coat is completely dry. I did this in really hot weather so it didn't take too long for me fortunately.
- Put them back up! This, of course, when they are fully dry. Also make sure that you have the right size door in the correct frame since that will be a bummer if you get it all screwed in and then you have a two inch gap. Our bathroom doors are a different width than the bedroom ones and closet ones so just keep that in mind... speaking humbly from experience.
- Re-install your hardware and you are done! If you wanted to change out your hardware, this would probably be a good time too!
And again, sorry for the lack of before photos. It is late as I write in order to get this done for it's scheduled post time and the two year old is sleeping already. I will be interrogating him about my missing memory card when he wakes up.
Monday, April 28, 2014
It started this week when I was on the phone with a nurse discussing my foster daughter's health. As many of my friends know, we've spent an incredible amount of time trying to do everything possible to get her healthy... or more realistically, as healthy as possible for the past 6 months. She is absolutely precious and I love her like she is my own so I am honored and humbled to be able to do this for her.
But, with this has come some surprising consequences.
On the phone, the nurse said that I have it all together and I'm a great parent. I laughed out at this because what she didn't know was that I was standing outside on our front porch so she wouldn't hear all the chaos that comes standard with three boys raging in the house. Let's just say that there is usually a lot of screaming involved (although if you've read some of my other posts like this and this you're not surprised).
I know I don't have it all together, but from the outside, it looks that way to some people. People praise me for all that I'm doing for our foster daughter and tell me that we are amazing and so special to be able to do this.
The truth is though, I'm not special. In a conversation with another friend a couple weeks ago, she asked how I am doing this since foster parenting is... well... hard. Very hard. It is complicated and messy. My answer to my friend was that this is what I know God wants us to do; I'm completely convinced that this is where I am supposed to be. She looked back at me and said, "Well, that's it then. He gives you everything you need."
She is right. I've often said, I'm not special. God is. He prepares us and sustains us in whatever situation He wants us in. I don't deserve the credit. I can't take any of the credit. I've said it before that we don't look like the ideal foster parent candidates on paper since I have fibromyalgia, three biological sons, and we live in a three bedroom house. I wasn't even 30 yet when we were going through the process of getting licensed. At 31, I don't really feel any more qualified! But somehow, He makes it work. He is giving Brian and me the wisdom and the ability to somehow pull this off. It's not us. It's Him.
So despite all of this divine intervention, there is a second consequence. There are some people who worry about our three boys as we go through this process. It has been hard explaining, feeling like I have to justify my actions for my foster daughter because it comes at a cost of some time and energy for my boys.
Honestly, there are times I feel like a bad parent.
God's been working with me on that. My life is complicated, messy even. Not just because of foster care. That is me. I'm a sinner and not a saint. He has redeemed me and His gift of grace covers all of my failures. Wallowing in my failures trivializes His grace, His sacrifice. So does pretending that everything is perfect.
We all live in some sort of a mess. From me, foster care birth parents, pastors, missionaries, the homeless person sitting on the street corner, and you. No difference really since the Bible says in Romans 3:23 that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" There really is no difference because a fail is a fail no matter how you do it. We are all in the same boat here. Our world is sinful hence the pain and struggles everywhere. That is why we need Jesus. His death paid the cost for our transgressions so that we might be made whole and reconciled to Him, if we ask and follow Him. He's the hero.
That is why I am sharing this today. All my authenticity is for the purpose of showing how God is the hero. He changed my life. I'm doing my best, but we have days like today where we missed church because of sick kids, one threw up in my diaper bag, a different one has wanted to eat nothing but goldfish crackers (and I considered giving in to avert some screaming), I've been telling one to climb in bed for more than an hour, and I am really sore from a fibro flare up so I can barely type.
I don't have it all together, but God does. This is how we parent. This is how we do foster care. Serving Him is like that; He uses broken and hurting people to make a difference for Him. It is so incredibly humbling and profound. What's more is that He wants all of us to serve Him with everything we do. That's worship, a way of life. God works best in this mess. Our church had a series awhile ago called "No Perfect People Allowed"; I loved it because we don't need to have it all together to follow Him.
So no pedestals please. God wants to do the same thing with you, if you'll let Him shine in your mess. He always gives what you need. He made me "enough" and I'll be forever grateful.
Please come check out more on this topic at my new site, Uncommon Grace!
Monday, April 21, 2014
I absolutely love Easter! It has been a part of my story since the very beginning. Let me explain:
I was born on Easter. It has always been a joke amongst our family that I was born into the church since my parents were timing contractions as they sat through the Easter morning service listening to Chuck Swindoll. Apparently, his message that morning got me excited about life and I made my official entry a later that evening.
I'm always thrilled when my birthday and Easter fall on the same day; it hasn't happened in years, but I feel like it always reminds me to celebrate my spiritual birthday as well as my physical one. When I decided to follow Jesus and trust Him as my savior, He gave me grace and forgiveness for all my sins. As Jesus said, this makes us born-again (John 3). Honestly, there is no better birthday present! I wrote a devotional about it for Rest Ministries; click here to read it.
So, where does that leave us on the day after Easter? We spend the day celebrating Christ's resurrection and then life goes back to normal. We, or at least, I tend to forget. It is kind of the post birthday blues, if you will.
I struggle with Guilt. I know most of us do. Maybe it isn't guilt with a capital G, but even minor guilt is pervasive in our lives. Some guilt is good; we need it as the Holy Spirit brings things to our attention with it. Things we need to deal with. Things we need to make right and ask forgiveness for.
But the rest of the guilt?
The guilt that I didn't get done all I wanted to because I was sick (like I said, check out my devotional) or the guilt that I should have been bolder with my faith when talking to someone. The guilt that comes when I don't feel like I am being a great parent and the guilt when I don't measure up to my expectations. The guilt that comes from the tyranny of the "if only" or "shoulds and ought to have".
That guilt. That life-sucking, draining, discouraging guilt.
When Easter is over, our focus fades from grace and makes room for the guilt to gallop right back in. I think it is because I don't focus on Christ everyday like I do on Easter. The good news of Easter is for everyday, not just that one Sunday a year. Translation: one day a year I live in God's grace and the other 364 days I try to do it all on my own.
I know I am more acutely aware of this than most people. I live with a chronic illness that has kept me in constant pain for the past 25 years. There were 6 days that I can count that the pain lifted for a few hours (I scare everyone because apparently my personality becomes extremely bouncy and extroverted instead of my normal laid back and quiet self- I am a totally different person!). This incurable illness has forced the issue of dependency on God; it is literally God working through me in my life. It has made me see God in everything. While this is not something I wanted, it has been a blessing in disguise because God has used it to transform me into a very different person that I would have been otherwise: I'm becoming more of who He would like me to be.
In spite of being dependent on God, I feel guilty because I think, somehow, I should be able to do more. I want to do more... but I can't. It is beyond frustrating to struggle with guilt from my inadequacies! And you know what? If we are all perfectly honest with ourselves, some form of this haunts all of us. It might not be because of a chronic illness, but we each have our bents as C.S. Lewis says.
We do this because we don't trust Him enough.
We do this because we don't give Him everything.
We do this because we think we know better than Him.
We do this because we don't live like Jesus's act on the cross was enough.
We do this because we don't fully realize the power of Grace.
Somehow, we think our pasts, our presents and even our futures might be too much for Grace to handle. But, if an infinite God paid infinitely for our finite sins, it is safe to say they are covered. That is Grace with a capital G. It wasn't cheap. It cost everything and if we live in guilt, what we really believe in is cheap grace. That is the kind of grace that can't fix our problems and the kind of grace that just buys fire insurance and doesn't mean that we actually have to give up ourselves to get.
I'm dying to myself little by little each day. As I do, God takes over and grace moves in. In terms of my struggles, I honestly don't have much, but if I do all that I can for Him, there is nothing to feel guilty over. Like the widow who only had two coins, but gave them both, God is far more pleased with that than if I only gave Him a fraction of my life even if I were healthy or rich or smart or anything else that I wish I was.
This is what Easter is: it is everyday grace. Even though the holiday is over, we can keep celebrating because grace is 365 days a year for the rest of eternity. As we die to ourselves and stop trusting in our own plans, we let God come in and slay our guilt. Give everything to Him today, again and everyday. It is time for us to live like Christ's death really meant something. We can't ask for a better "birthday" present, but we have to open it up and use it.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Since our eldest started school, I have dearly needed a place to contain the mess that is inevitably deposited on the floor the moment kids walk in the door. I've stared longingly at the catalogue photos of beautifully organized cubbies to corral the daily disaster. My problem though is I only kind of have a mudroom. I say "kind of" because it would be better to call it a laundry room since there is really only standing room to wash clothes and that is tight especially when I have a little "helper" underfoot.