Faith, Life, Momming

Is It Well?

Fun fact about me: I’m an Air Force brat. My dad was in the Air Force until I was 16. I’ve moved a total of 11 times, and lived in 5 states (6 if you count college) and two countries. Nine out of the first 13 years of my life were spent living in base housing (two of the houses we lived in were either condemned or torn down right after we moved out). So we never really settled in, and we knew those houses weren’t truly going to be home.

The year after we got married, we moved out of the house my husband bought when he was 24 (by putting the down payment on his credit card via a cash advance……..) and we bought our first house together. It’s a split level with four floors, and after finishing the basement, we’re sitting at about 2,200 square feet. We’ve done a lot to this house. We’ve refinished the kitchen, replaced the flooring on the main level, refinished the fireplace with shiplap, replaced the windows, replaced the hall bathtub and surround, replaced the vanity in our tiny master bath, finish about half of the basement, replaced the back door, relocated the door to the garage back to its original location, and replaced or refinished a few lights. The projects seem endless, and so many places in the house don’t quite feel finished or fully decorated.

Our master bedroom had been untouched until last year. We had the mismatched chest of drawers we had each brought into the marriages, and hand-me-down decorations on our walls. After I refinished our headboard and a matching set of dressers we found on Marketplace, our room felt so much more cohesive. The newly refinished furniture necessitated a new wall color, which meant new wall decorations were required. I found a couple of pieces I loved at Hobby Lobby for our room, and one that was perfect for our bathroom (did I mention how tiny our bathroom is?). It wasn’t until last month that I realized just how perfect the artwork was for our bathroom.

If you know my story, you may remember it took us a lot longer to conceive our firstborn than I had expected it would. We received a male factor infertility diagnosis the month of our first anniversary. It wasn’t what we had hoped for, but it was good to have some clarity. On our anniversary, we made a stop at IKEA. As soon as we got off of the escalator, my husband pointed out a family not too far from us and asked if that was the associate pastor of the church I had attended and worked at before getting married. It was. We were an hour from home, and they were two hours from home, and some how we were in the same place, at the same huge store, at the same time. They had been a blessing to me while my husband and I were dating, and knowing they had dealt with infertility, I confided in the pastor’s wife. Before we said goodbye, they prayed for us (specifically that we’d have 100 babies). Later that week, I spent time praying and surrendering to God, knowing that I needed Him to do something—whether that was healing me/my husband, taking away my desire for children, or at the very least assuring me that He was with me through the desert of infertility. I heard from God, and I knew He had either healed us or that He was least with us.

Two weeks later, I cried my eyes out when I saw the second line that I had prayed to see for so many months. When my son was six months old, I was shocked to see another positive pregnancy test. I love my two little ones! I think they’re pretty cute and special.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve experienced the exhausting roller coaster of hope and disappoint, the frustration, the jealousy, the questions, and the waiting that infertility brings. I’ve experienced the surprise, fear, and bittersweetness that an unexpected pregnancy brings. Both experiences solidified my conviction that God is the author of life, and whether I’m trying to conceive or trying to prevent pregnancy, He is the giver of life, and it comes in His timing.

A little over two years after our surprise positive pregnancy, we’re back to dealing with infertility. I’m back to seeing one line, when I have hoped and prayed to see two lines. Today we received a test result that shows our fertility has decreased since we were trying to conceive the first time. The doctor suggested we see a reproductive endocrinologist, which seems to say IUI or IVF are the next steps to take medically.

My heart is heavy. This is month ten, and I’m weary in this wait. This feels hopeless, medically speaking. My heart and arms long for another baby. While I was still pregnant with my second, I believe God gave me a vision of a third, a little boy in a blue and white striped romper. It sounds crazy, but I saw my older two sitting in front of me and the tiny little boy I held, and while I never pictured myself having a blonde baby and am still surprised that I have a blonde, my daughter had light hair.

I know nothing is too difficult for God. I know God is the giver of life. I know if the vision truly was from Him, He is able to give me a third. I know He has a good plan. I know He has perfect timing.

And yet, I’m still heavy hearted. I still feel like crying. I’m frustrated and disappointed in myself for feeling this was despite my faith and knowledge. I remember that Jesus cried at Lazarus’s tomb, despite His power and plan to raise him back to life.

Infertility is like exercise for my faith. It isn’t fun. It hurts. I don’t enjoy it. But I know that it’s good for my faith. I know that when my faith is put to the test, I get to see God’s hand at work.

And so, the artwork hanging in my bathroom is unintentionally perfect. As I wait for the tests to show one line or two, I see the words, “It is well with my soul.”

After I read the test and my hope turns to disappointment or to joy, I read the words, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not it feels good, “It is well with my soul.”

Whether or not I feel it in that moment, “It is well with my soul.”

This is one of those times it doesn’t feel good, and I don’t feel like “it is well”. But I know the truth is that God is faithful, able, sovereign, and so good. Despite my feelings, it truly is well.

Faith

Good News or Bad News?

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I can never decide which order is better. Does the good news make the bad news not so bad if the bad news goes first or does the bad news take the joy out of the good news if the good news goes first? If the good news goes first, does it give you strength enough to hear the bad news? If the bad news goes first, what happens if the good news isn’t as good as you had hoped? I think I’m leaning towards the bad news going first.


When my son was born, I was amazed. My labor and delivery had been quick and uncomplicated. He had really good apgar scores. He wasn’t jaundiced. We even got to come home a day early. He gained his weight back quickly. By one and a half months, he was sleeping from 10 pm to 7 am. Everything was great, and I was so thankful.

I left his four month well child appointment feeling disillusioned and very afraid. While listening to his heart, the doctor heard a murmur. He assured us it was probably unothing, but just to be sure, he wanted to get it checked with an echocardiogram. I spent the rest of the afternoon crying and holding my baby close.

He had an echocardiogram a couple of weeks later, and we got the results a few days later: my son had a hole in his heart, an atrial septal defect to be specific. My four month old had no symptoms of the hole. He was happy, meeting developmental milestones, and he was extremely active. He jumped on my lap during our entire consultation with the cardiologist.

The cardiologist informed us that, because of its size, the hole was unlikely to close on its own. We were told to watch for signs of heart failure, to watch his color, to monitor his growth, to watch his breathing rate. Flying in an airplane could be risky.

Another echocardiogram and another consultation at a Children’s hospital, showed that the hole was even bigger than the first echocardiogram indicated. The hole would need to be surgically closed between the ages of three to six because large ASD’s like his were unlikely to close on their own. There were two possible methods to closing the hole: transcatheter closure or open heart surgery. Open heart surgery would be required if there wasn’t enough tissue surrounding the hole. Clinically, he was healthy and showed no signs of having a heart defect.

We prayed nightly for the hole to close. Friends and family joined us in praying for our little boy. Despite the doctors’ lack of optimism, we knew God could cause the hole to close. And while I hoped and prayed God would close it, I knew that He had a good plan for my special little boy, and I knew that His plan might mean we cross paths with people in the hospital who needed to hear of the hope we have in Jesus.

At our next appointment 6 months later, we were told there was no change, but that we needed to monitor his growth because he was on the small side of the growth chart. Nine months later, he had another echocardiogram, and the cardiologist told us the hole had grown in proportion to his heart. There was good news though: there was enough tissue surrounding the hole, and open heart surgery would not likely be needed.

Last week, a year after our last appointment, we had another echocardiogram and cardiology appointment. Because of Covid, the hospital has implemented a one parent per patient policy, and I was unable to be at his appointment. I prayerfully braced my self as my husband and our little guy left for the appointment. We’re getting to the timeframe we were told surgery would be likely, and I dreaded it. The thought of my son sedated while doctors performed surgery on his heart unnerved me, despite the knowledge that it was a common procedure.

During the appointment, I kept watching the patient portal for any uploads of clinical notes or discharge instructions. An hour after his appointment time, I saw the discharge instructions, and I read the words: “Today a limited echocardiogram was completed which showed spontaneous closure of the atrial septal defect.”

I broke down. I was dumbfounded. All I could say was, “No way, God! No way!”

His 11mm ASD, the one doctors didn’t think would close on its own, is gone. In the vast majority of studies I’ve read online, no instances of spontaneous closure of large ASDs were noted.

I’m so grateful for doctors and medicine, but I’m beyond thankful that God intervened before the doctors needed to.

I don’t know what you may be facing today, but God is still working miracles. He is still healing. He is still doing things doctors don’t expect.

I can confidently say it was worth hearing the bad news to be able to hear the good news. It was worth the tears of sorrow and fear to get to cry tears of joy and relief.

Faith, Life

A Drive Through the Flint Hills

Currently we are driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas on our way to visit my grandparents. I’ve been a lot of places—the Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains, the Grant Canyon, the Ozarks, the Azores, and a flight over the Alps—and yet the Flint Hills are still an area I find breathtaking. They stretch as far as I can see, in every direction. The varying heights adds to the interest, and on top of that, my stomach isn’t in knots while we drive through the Flint Hills, unlike while driving through mountains. And then, there’s the lush green. Gorgeous.

You know why the Flint Hills are so green? Because they are burned and because they are rained on. These two things, things that can be devastating, produce lush, green, gorgeous hillsides. 

While I was growing up, rainy days were always disappointing. I couldn’t play in my backyard or in my neighborhood with my friends, I couldn’t go swimming—basically my plans were ruined. As an adult, rainy days mean my kids are confined to the house, my patio furniture will be all wet, any outdoor play dates or zoo visits get cancelled, and if we go anywhere, I have to stand outside getting soaked while putting kids in car seats. Bleh! Rainy days can be disappointing and they can be dreary. 

I’ve had a few rainy days the past month and a half. From conflicts, to sickness, to an unexpected surgical tooth extraction, to yet another negative pregnancy test, I’ve been feeling like the rain just keeps coming. It’s wearisome. I’m ready for sunshine. 

As we drive through the beautiful Flint Hills, I’m reminded that rain is needed. Without rain, my backyard turns brown, and without rain, my garden would die (because let’s be real, when the temperature hit the upper 90s and mosquitoes declared war on me, I started making my trips out to the garden as short as possible, and dragging the hose out and watering my garden didn’t fit in the time span I was willing to spend in my backyard). Yes, there is such a thing as too much rain; it’s called a flood, and no one needs one of those. But rain is needed to help things to grow and to thrive. 

Without rain in my life, I grow complacent, I get comfortable, I’m not challenged. When I’m not challenged, I don’t grow. 

Over the past month, I’ve been challenged. I’ve felt my strength tested, and I’ve had to depend on God. I’ve had my patience tested, and I’ve had to surrender and trust God (this one still trips me up sometimes). I’ve had my actions, my character, and my faith questioned, and I’ve had to walk in obedience to resolve it instead of walking away. It’s been a rough month. But I know I’ve grown. I know my endurance has increased. I know my faith has increased. Not because it’s been sunny and beautiful, but because it’s been rainy.

I’m still ready for at least a few sunny days! 

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Faith, Life

Wrestling with the Noise

When I think of today’s climate, this is what comes to mind.

https://youtu.be/bM-beloWExE(Hint: it’s a orchestra warming up.)

Its loud and jumbled. Everyone is trying to be heard. No one is playing the same melody.

It’s exhausting.

I’m exhausted.

I’m confused.

I’m tired of hearing the shouts of so many different, impassioned opinions. I’m tired of seeing so much division. I’m tired of the hateful words and actions of people who are disagreeing with each other. I’m tired of wrestling internally trying to figure out my own thoughts and opinions in all the confusion—knowing that no matter what conclusion I come to I could face hateful words from people who came to other conclusions.

Our country is so divided. Between Covid-19, Racial tensions, and an election year, discord is everywhere.

I want my friends and family to be safe and healthy. I know people who have been impacted by Covid-19. My husband knows people whose family members have died from it. It’s real.

But I also don’t want to live in fear. It’s also uncomfortable for my freedoms to feel so fragile. It’s uncomfortable to know I will be judged by people who want to live life as normal if I am cautious or by people who want to isolate themselves if I am less cautious.

I know that every person was created with dignity in the image of God. Let that sink in.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

No one is any more or less valuable. No one is any more or less loved. The most quoted Bible verse, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus to die for our sins before we loved Him, while we were still His enemies, while we were separated from Him, and while we were unrighteous, and He did it because even then He loved us. If God loved the World even then, I think it is safe to say He loves everyone equally. Romans 2:11 says, “God does not show favoritism.”

It is sickening to me that people are judged and treated or mistreated according to the color of their skin. It is horrifying to me that people are killed unjustly by people who are responsible for protecting our communities and our laws. It breaks my heart that my friends and family members have experienced the ugliness of the sin of racism.

It is also saddening to me that our law enforcement officers are being unappreciated, judged, and threatened regardless of their individual actions, behaviors, and thoughts. It is also disturbing that uninvolved businesses have been vandalized and stolen from.

And then…there’s a whole political scene with opposing sides bashing each other, hanging on their candidate’s every word, and often putting their identities more in their politics than in their faith.

Can I sit somewhere in the middle? Can I be cautious while not living in fear? Can I love and value people who do not look like me, despise and denounce their mistreatment, and celebrate the beauty in the diversity God has created while also valuing and appreciating the just police officers in our country and also denouncing lawless acts? Can I be a responsible, law abiding citizen while remembering that my hope is not in a political candidate and that neither the United States nor this world is my home?

Ultimately, I want to be like Jesus. I want to live like He did, trusting God and submitting to the law of the land, which happened to be the Roman Empire for Jesus (His relationship with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law is a whole other issue because they were perverting God’s law). I want to love like He loved and to honor and value those He made in His image. I want to live at peace and to be a peacemaker. I want my words and actions to be glorifying to God. I want to live in light of eternity.

What about you? Where do you stand? How are you wrestling with the noise?

DIY

Garage Sale Refinish

My dad was in the Air Force until I was 16, and we moved every 1.5 to 4 years. When I was 8, my parents bought their first home. Homeownership gave my parents the opportunity to do things they’d been unable to do while we lived in base housing. My mom finally got to hang curtains, they repainted almost every room, they changed light fixtures, and they got new carpet.

Their improvements took them, and me, to a store I hated going to: Lowe’s. While they debated light fixtures, carpet, paint colors, and wallpaper borders (#90sKid), I resisted the urge to cry. It was so boring. I groaned every time our 1993 teal green Ford Aerostar pulled into the Lowe’s parking lot.

I knew I was officially an adult when I no longer disliked Lowe’s.

Their former slogan, “Never Stop Improving,” must have been a winner, because it comes to mind whenever I work on projects.

I love making things better. I love seeing something and knowing that it has potential just waiting to be revealed. It’s a mixed blessing. I look around my house and make a mental list of all of the projects I would love to do and changes I dream of making. It’s so much fun to see the finished project, but my husband probably groans whenever I start dreaming.

My latest project came from my grandma-in-law’s house. She’s lived in the same home for decades, and her kids recently redecorated it. The old furniture found its way to my house just in time for our garage sale. One of the pieces caught my attention as soon as I saw it. I knew it had potential.

I had the supplies left over from other projects, and decided to put in a little bit of work so that I could increase the sale price at our garage sale.

Here’s the piece before!

It’s solid wood, and I knew it had the potential to be beautiful! We started by sanding it down with a palm sander. (The sandpaper was the only thing I didn’t already have.)

It took a little bit of work to get the finish off, and I think I did a little bit more sanding after I took the last picture of the the top—at least I hope I did!

After staining the top with an espresso stain, I added a coat of chalk paint to the legs and drawers.

Confession: I’ve never used store bought chalk paint on furniture. I’ve used diy chalk paint for my last four refinishing projects. The recipe I’ve used is 1 part water + 1 part plaster of Paris + 3 parts paint.

First mix the water and plaster of Paris together. Mix until there aren’t any clumps. Next, add the paint to the mixture and stir.

Super simple, and it works well. The best part is, it’s so much less expensive than buying pre-made chalk paint. I’m a fan. I bought a gallon of Dover White a few months ago when I refinished a couple of Facebook Marketplace dressers for our master bedroom, and I still have tons of paint and plaster of Paris left.

First coat!

The first coat is always scary. It looks awful. For my first couple of projects, I thought, “Oh no! What have I done?!” Thankfully, after two more coats, it starts looking great.

After the third coat dried, I gently sanded all of the chalk painted finish until it became smooth to the touch. I sanded the corners and edges a little more roughly to distress some of the table, and after wiping off the dust, I sprayed it with a layer of polycyclic. The antique brass drawer pulls were leftover from another project, and they fit the style of the table perfectly.

Pretty much everyone at the garage sale stopped to look at this table. Unfortunately for them, it was one of the first things that sold. My almost pro-garage-saler aunt said before the makeover, I could have sold the table for $15. Thanks to a little bit of work/fun and supplies I already had on hand, it sold for $80!

I’ve already started on my next project: an IKEA Malm nightstand hack. Keep an eye out for it!