Tuesday, December 28, 2010

He Provides: Guest Post

A sweet reader friend who wishes to remain anonymous sent me an email detailing how God provided for her family in a big way this Christmas season. I had tears in my eyes reading her story and would love to share it with you. I get so much encouragement hearing about how He has provided for others, in both big ways and small. It is a long read, but well worth it. So without further ado....

It goes back to this last spring when we were hit with a flood and lost our bedrooms downstairs. We never got it all back together and for the last eight months my kids have been sleeping on the floor, or scattered here and there; the baby has been in a pack 'n play.

This fall when I had my daughter's birthday party, my friend who had no idea how we were living saw the state of our lower level and basically couldn't hide her shock. She immediately had her husband install carpets for us (that's what he does for a living) and went on a mission to find us beds. We had lost them all in the flood and there was no money to replace them.  We spent as much as we could to replace all the walls and floors that had to be taken out. Anyway, she called me a day or two later and said she had a mattress for the baby. We were so thankful!

She said she was still working on the mattresses for our bed. I thought it was sweet, but seriously didn't think anything would come of it. Then she called with this news! She said that we were going to get a brand new mattress and box spring. She said that some friends who wanted to stay anonymous heard what was going on and wanted to help. We were overcome with joy! After almost nine months we would be able to get our house back in order and my kids in beds. It was a miracle.

Then she called back and told me she had another surprise for us. She said to just accept it as a gift from God. She then went on to say she really had nothing to do with it and that it  was something big! She said that as she was spreading the word about the mattresses she spoke to a friend and they spoke to someone and it was decided that we would be "adopted " by this group of people and their church as a family to help this Christmas!  I almost passed out with this news. We had NO MONEY!!! Nothing to buy gifts with this year! I mean not a penny!!! We just barely had enough for our mortgage and when I say penniless , I mean we were penniless.  She told me to have the kids write their Christmas lists and give them to her. Everything was taken care of. Even a ham for dinner! I know Christmas isn't about the gifts, but the thought of six kids with nothing under the tree on Christmas morning was breaking my heat.

Jesus in his endless mercy just took care of everything. And as usual, in the most unusual way!!! I swear He gets a kick out of surprising us in ways we never , ever imagine!

Then on Dec 23rd, I was sitting and praying. I was so thankful for everything that was done for us, but I had one problem. Every year we get the kids pajamas for Christmas, and they open them up on Christmas eve. Well, I forgot to add them to the kids' Christmas list and we didn't have extra money to spend on them.  It was really bothering me because I knew they would be disappointed.  I mean this was a small thing in comparison to what could have been.  But it still made me a little sad. As I was praying, the phone rang and it was our Pastor. He started to leave a message and I was a little nervous as to why he was calling us at home.

Get this!!! He said he had just finished the eight o'clock mass and a couple approached him. They said they wanted to help out a family this Christmas, and asked if he knew anyone. He said he thought of a few, us included. but then he told me that they said something a little strange. They said that God was telling them to help a family specifically in danger of losing their home! Our pastor is well aware of our plight and he said he couldn't believe what they said! He immediately decided we were the family!!!
When he asked them how much they wanted to give, they said 600.00! But not just once, 600.00  every month for ONE YEAR!!!!!!!!
I have been brought to my knees this year by the love and mercy that Jesus has for all of us. And if it weren't for all the excruciating hard times we went through and are still going through, my faith would be no where near as strong as it is now.  I will never get over this Christmas and the miracles that surrounded it.
Did you get goosebumps at the part where my reader friend says that the couple wants to give her family $600 every month for one year?? I know I did. Right along with the lump in my throat and the tears stinging the corners of my eyes. What a wonderful Christmas story!

Want to read about an awesome blog post that got people from all around the world giving to perfect strangers?? Here!

For more posts about how He provides, click here.

With a heart overflowing,

Monday, December 20, 2010

He Provides: Extravagant Love

It began about a month ago with a simple card in the mail. Bright yellow. A little inspiration. No signature. No return address. And it contained a significantly large Wal-Mart gift card. My children were in the car when I opened the mail and witnessed first-hand my reaction to this kindness. Could this person have known about all the little needs we had? About all the odds & ends that we had been going without? About too small pajamas for our littlest one? About some homeschooling necesseties? About Christmas gifts that my heart so desired to give? No, he or she couldn't have known.

But He knew.

Just a few days ago, another envelope arrived. It's the same handwriting, I thought. Maybe they sent a Christmas card and now I will know who bestowed that act of kindness on me! I tore into that envelope to find a typed story about the Invisible Mother. That encouragement was enough to find tears pricking the corners of my eyes. But upon looking further....another envelope. Bright yellow. A little more inspiration. This time with money. Not a twenty-dollar bill. A large sum of money. My hands started trembling. The tears overflowed. Could they possibly know? About how many repairs our car has needed in the last month? About the empty supply of firewood? About the small gifts I'd love to bestow upon others? No, they couldn't possibly.

But He does.

If my Secret Encourager is reading this somewhere out there....thank you. Please know that your generosity has reminded me about God's extravagant love for me. He doesn't just give, but gives abundantly. He doesn't just love a little, He loves me extravagantly. And when I think about giving this holiday season, know that your gifts have inspired me to give more than I think I can, to love without reserve, and to give the gift of myself whenever possible.

You can read more posts about how He has provided here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Dresser Made Lovely

Part of my Master Bedroom plan involved repainting the furniture. I think using what you already have is one of the most economical ways of changing your decor. I bought one quart of paint (Dutchboy Lined with Silver) to update my dressers and nightstand. After priming and painting and priming and painting some more, I decided to just relocate my highboy into the walk-in closet, which a) made for less painting and b) created more space in the room itself. Here is the side table:

 :: side table - This is representative of what all the furniture looked like. It seems like a country French style, which has some nice molding, trim, and curves. I wasn't too crazy about the knobs/drawer pulls or color of the wood. ::


:: new pretty glass knob and light distressing around the edges ::

:: You can see here the painted leafy flowery design that was on certain drawers in the set. The flower shaped back pieces of the handles left significant ruts in the fronts of the drawers. ::

:: Wood filler became my best friend. I used those little plastic reward cards for your keychain for filling and scraping. ::

I applied two coats of primer and one of paint, theorizing that primer is cheaper and since I only bought a quart of paint I needed to stretch it as far as I could. It wasn't until after I returned from the home improvement store did I realize that the holes on the drawers were NOT a standard size distance and my new drawer pulls would NOT fit in the holes and the internet does NOT carry a weirdly size drawer pull. I nearly had a melt-down. I just wanted these dressers to be done. So, I decided to use more of this:

And fill in one of the holes for each pull and then redrill new holes for the right fit. After filling, redrilling, and touching up the paint on nine holes....

:: New pretty drawer handles! See that scrollwork above the drawer? It was a pain, pain, pain to paint that. A royal pain. I had to use q-tips to kind of swoosh the paint around so that it covered the inside of them::

:: I lightly distressed the edges of the drawers and dresser itself to make it feel a little more casual and cottage-y. ::

:: Don't forget to make a big mess in the process. It's all part of letting those creative juices flow. ::

:: These purdy glass knobs where on the Husband's old hand-me-down dresser in our closet. I never really noticed the knobs because the dresser itself is so 70's. But in the midst of this project I realized that they would be perfect for our "new" dressers and so they were reassigned! ::

:: Big dresser in all its new loveliness ::

I am so happy with how these turned out. I can't believe the huge difference some paint & handles can make!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


These festive beauties make me soooo happy. They were created for a ministry meal that serves children and their (possibly) underprivileged families. I really wanted them to look special as some of these kids might not ever get treats like this. I was going to tint some of the frosting, but I'm so glad I didn't. I love how the sprinkles stand out against the mounds of white.

Any cupcake questions?

**Answers: I used a pastry bag and a piping tip. The exact name of the tip escapes me though. It's not really a star tip, but it has an open top with edges that zig-zag. That's the only tip I ever use on the cuppies! You can get them at Hobby Lobby, JoAnns, etc.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Our Farmhouse Bed

I mentioned in my last post that the Husband and I celebrated 12 years of marriage this fall and decided to forego a getaway in favor of decorating our Master Bedroom. The centerpiece of our new decor would be a new bed. Handmade. By us. I must say that the extent of my building skills was assembling laminate bookcases or a simple Ikea side table. I did put together a grill once, while I was 8 months pregnant. But I have never built furniture. Kinda scary, huh? But after months of stalking following reading Ana White's Knock-Off Wood, I was feeling a little more confident. It's kinda like following a recipe (which I know how to do), only with wood and huge power tools and it's more expensive.

My husband and I have never owned a new bed. Never. I realized that when our Pottery Barn knock-off Farmhouse Bed was close to completion. They have always been hand-me-down beds. Never something that was us. And these last few years, we didn't even have a bed frame at all. Just some king sized mattresses on the floor with a queen sized headboard pressed against the wall. So this bed, our bed, would be very special.

Let's get started, shall we?

::piles of wood::

:: my plans & tools ::

:: the very crucial drink (Chai) in one of my fave mugs ::

:: laying out the footboard ::

:: footboard complete! ::

:: repeat everything you just did, but make it taller. voila! headboard complete! ::

:: now, prime, paint & paint some more ::

:: more priming & painting for the headboard ::

:: now haul the whole project up the stairs and build a frame from for the mattress. we don't have a one piece boxspring, otherwise we wouldn't have had to do this step. we only would've had to add cleats for the boxspring to rest on. ::

**not pictured: realize at 10:30 pm on a weeknight (yes, I was impatient) that you didn't buy enough plywood to cover the bottom for the mattress to rest on. put the mattress in there anyways. thank God that it fits. go back & forth with dear Husband about who will get on the bed first to make sure it's safe. Wife sits on it first. It's holding up! Decide that you don't want the mattress in there by itself because it will sag through those slats. Put in the boxsprings too. Stare wide-eyed at your gigantic new bed. **

:: feel free to break into a chorus of "Isn't She Lovely?" ::

The total cost for the wood in this project was around $110. We also needed screws, liquid nails, wood filler, primer and paint. The headboard called for 1x8"s to make the planks, but somehow in between Menard's and home they metamorphisized into 1x6"s, so we just went with it. I sanded around the edges and applied a light stain to make the distressed areas a little warmer.

I found the plans, made my list (checked it twice), learned how to use a compound miter saw (with laser!), cut ALL the wood, laid out the pieces for assembly, sanded, primed, painted, and distressed. The Husband did most of the assembling.

The best part, besides the fact that we made a $1500 bed for about one-tenth of the price, was that we did it together.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Letter

Dear Sorely Neglected Blog,

It's been far too long, hasn't it? On a few rare occasions over the last couple months, I have thought about deleting you, but that would be like throwing out a journal just because it's been awhile since the last entry. I would never do that and I still have journals from 10 years ago to prove it. I guess I've just been busy. Busy making new friends, busy cherishing the old ones, busy living life, busy grieving, busy entertaining, busy homeschooling, busy crafting, busy with a little Etsy shop, busy building things, busy decorating. Just. Plain. Busy. And then after so much time passes, I wonder where to even begin. Just pick up where I left off? Jump head-first into the details of my latest project? Tell of all the ways God has shown up in the last few months?

We have celebrated each day that the Husband has had his full-time job and this Thursday will be his 4-month-iversary. We are thankful. Although, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to carrying around a lump of uncertainty in my heart. When bad news has stricken so many times, it leaves one feeling jumpy. I have been relishing the security that a regular paycheck provides and continually reaffirm in my heart that 'it all comes from Him anyways'.

We celebrated 12 years of marriage back in October and decided to forego an anniversary getaway in lieu of decorating our master bedroom. I say 'decorating', as opposed to REdecorating, on purpose. One would have to have had something already decorated in order to redecorate it. With these last several lean years, cans of paint and curtains have been the last thing on our purchasing list. Heck, they haven't even been on the list. But I think God is slowly fanning the flame within me to make my home more of a haven, to use my creative skills to feather my nest, and to really think & plan out how I can make this house a softer place to land. I can't wait to tell you all about the big bedroom projects that the Husband and I undertook together.

My only son turned 3 yesterday and it leaves me feeling bittersweet. I clung to his babyhood so fiercely because of Olivia's death. In God's mercy, Sebastian was still young enough for snuggles, rocking chair lullabies, walks in the stroller, and cries of "Mama". But there is no denying that his baby days are long gone, only to be replaced by a young boy who is smarter than his years, who thinks in paragraphs but talks in fragmented sentences, who is witty but shy, who is crazy about Spiderman/Iron Man/Superman, who loves the measuring tape, who hates baths and still suffers from eczema, and whose favorite song is "Jesus Loves Me", which he refers to as " 's I know".

This time of the year will always leave me missing Olivia more than the other seasons. I discovered I was pregnant just two days before Thanksgiving and the holidays make me think about family more often. We do lots of things as a family, have our family picture taken, hang up the stockings for our family, get together and celebrate with family, and yet, although some 19 months have nearly passed, I am keenly aware that our "whole" family will never be together on this earth. She will always be missing, until the day when everything will be made right. The girls desparately want Olivia to have a stocking to hang up with the others and I'm supposing I will have to get to making one. The rest were hand-made by me and I really should make one to match. I'm thinking only a tiny stocking will do, but my heart needs to brace itself just a bit more before I undertake it. I pray that before Christmas day I will be able to add that little reminder to our holiday decor.

I hope this letter finds you well, dear blog, and all my friendly readers too.

Until I write again,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Falling for Fall

I *love* fall. It's my absolute favorite season of the year. Sometimes I'll go outside and just take a really deep breath and close my eyes, face toward the sky. A gentle breeze is just the icing on my autumn cake. It's a great time of year for photos too. These were taken on an impromptu nature walk today.

Hope you're finding time to relish His Creation, the heavenly weather, and simple blessings!

 Happy fall~

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the Easy button

Sometimes the only way out is through.

How many times in life do we just wish we had an Easy button? Press it and POOF! You are on the other side of the trial, obstacle, or difficult season. I know I have. I remember early on after losing Olivia and being in constant emotional pain, my mom wanted to do something, anything, just to have me feel better. Something to just stop the torrent of grief and pain. She was even willing to pay my way on a vacation, bless her heart, if it meant that I would feel better. But in grief, just like in many difficulties, the only way out is through.

There have been times when I've come along willingly on this journey. There have been other times when I have proverbially kicked and screamed my way through each day. I don't think I will ever learn to embrace suffering or trials, but I do think I can embrace whatever God wants to teach me along the way. Had I pressed that Easy button, I would've missed it. I would've missed my heart becoming more compassionate. I would've missed all the opportunities to share my heart with other broken-hearted people. I would've missed depending on Him like ever before. I would've missed the confidence that comes with knowing that He can get me through.

Because sometimes the only way out is through. And I know that it is just as true for you as it is for me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One Year Ago: Repost

This post was originally published one year ago, September 14, 2009 and it seems just as appropriate today as it did 365 days ago. I have only changed the words to reflect how much time has passed
It has been sixteen long months.
Sixteen months...
...since Olivia left us....
...of snuggling and sleeping with a baby blanket, instead of with a baby...
...of painful memories...
...of trying to put back together the pieces of all that has been broken...
...since the miracle we hoped for was lost...
...of longing for Heaven like never before...
...of spoiling our other three children on earth...
...of trying to make sense of that which just can't be understood...
...of sleepless nights and tear-stained pillows...
...of wondering what Olivia's legacy will be...
...of running to God and running away from Him...
...of imagining how things could've turned out differently...
...of dreaming of how Olivia looks in her Heavenly body...
...of missing the joy of another daughter.
Oh, Olivia. Mommy still cries great big tears for you. How I selfishly wish you were here. It seems like forever since I felt your little fluttery kicks. My heart still aches to have you near and hold you in my arms. Will our family ever feel complete while we are separated by eternity? Will my heart ever feel whole again? I miss you, sweet baby girl. I miss you something awful.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I'm in love with a camera. My old faithful Sony Cybershot died in DisneyWorld and so I've been camera borrowing ever since. Right now I'm in possession of my neighbor's Nikon D40. I'm tempted to keep it, but I'm sure she'd notice. *sigh* In the meantime, what's a girl to do besides hold some really fun photo shoots. My most recent subject wanted to show off her new cowgirl boots and handmade cowgirl skirt.

By the way, I also discovered the histogram adjustment layer on Photoshop Elements. That's just a geeky way of saying I can make the photos look really cool. I like that last shot so much, I might have to frame it for my wall. Not bad for an amateur, eh? Now if only I can get a great camera....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Only when

Only when we understand that God has ordained our suffering
can we begin to make sense of it.

Only then can we be certain that He has a purpose in it.
When tragedy comes, when adversity strikes,

we will not be shaken.
Yes, we will cry. Yes, we will grieve.
But we will move on confidently
knowing that God is on His throne,
that we are in His hand,
that our circumstances are His
and that He is working them for our good.”

~Terry L. Johnson, When Grace Comes Home

Friday, August 13, 2010


com·mis·sion vb.
1. The act of granting certain powers or the authority to carry out a particular task or duty.

I received my recommissioning. My authority and powers as head homemaker have returned. All because my sidekick has flown the coop. In other words...
...the husband got a job.

Not just any job, mind you. A job that seems so good that my head is still spinning. I am still holding my breath, waiting for the "catch" or the "attached strings", which have yet to materialize. He will be working as a Bilingual Employment Recruiter and I don't think that a different position could use his skills and gifts as well as this one.

I'm still shaking my head.

But in the last few years, my homemaking skills have grown a little rusty. The advantages of having a husband home a lot are many, but one of the downsides is being out-of-practice as a one-woman-show. I need igure out some semblance of a routine, make a meal plan including filling the freezer, and reignite the flame for making this home a soft place to land. 

On the Husband's first day, we took him to a small local restaurant as a way of honoring and celebrating him. It's only about 10 minutes from home, but as we sat down my 5-year-old remarked that "it took forever to get here".

"Yeah. About two-and-a-half years," I said.

The kids were confused.

But the Husband and I exchanged a knowing look.

It has been a really long road.