How we built a house

Now that we’re so close to moving into our new house, I have a few thoughts about what made the process work for us.

Going into it, we heard a lot of comments about how many decisions we’d have to make (and how many arguments they could spark) and it sounded like a lot of people felt drained by the experience of building their house. It was a little intimidating.

Still, we were pretty intent on building and it was something we both wanted to do before we met each other. So we did lots of research and went for it!

This was our timeline:

  • For several years we toured the Parade of Homes and made notes about what we liked about certain layouts and architecture.
  • We looked through lots of real estate listings online and made more notes about layouts and architecture, as well as lot and neighborhood characteristics.
  • While we lived in our first house we did projects like remodeling the front entry and master bedroom. We daydreamed a lot about how to finish our basement and make the most of the space.
  • When it was time to sell our house we first looked at what was available already and tried to find a house that would be good for the next 15-20 years – we figured we would build our house when the kids were a little older and we had more cash.
  • There wasn’t anything in our budget and in a location we liked that wouldn’t need remodeling and lots of tweaking. So we started to interview home builders that we had liked during the Parade of Homes.
  • We also met with a construction loan officer to find out what the process would be like.

This was when we started to make some compromises. We found out that we could afford to build a new house if we could sell our first house, rent for a year and save up a bit more cash. We didn’t really want to rent, especially with a newborn and a two-year-old. But we compromised.

Right when we were getting ready to put our house on the market we found a buildable lot that was in a neighborhood we loved. It was a lot more wooded than I preferred and I was worried about mosquitoes (when I was a teen our house in the woods was basically a fortress against swarms of mosquitoes, and you couldn’t enjoy the outdoors except for winter). But Good Cop loved it and he convinced me it would be okay. And, it’s true that the mosquitoes were really bad this spring at dusk and we had to pack up a picnic in a hurry. But we spent hours there during the day all summer and fall, and hardly noticed them. So I think it’ll be great.

We settled on a builder and were able to buy the lot in the same transaction as selling our house, so that was really great timing. I started to really research the house of our dreams. Two things helped me so much:

Love the House You're InUndercoverArchitect-Welcome-to-UA-Podcast.jpgThis book and podcast really solidified all the scattered ideas and dreams I had about our future home. They helped me learn about how to use our site to its potential and how to create living spaces we would be comfortable in. They were invaluable and I think they saved us a lot of headaches.

After we settled on the builder we met with them to talk about our budget and how much it would cost for each of our add-ons. We covered everything from solid-core bedroom doors to a third stall on the garage. There were about thirty add-ons, I think. That gave us a concrete budget to work with so we could see what was affordable and what would have to wait.

Then, we met with the builder again and looked at floor plans together. There was one that seemed like a great fit, so we made arrangements to walk through a home that had been built on those plans. Being able to see the space in real life was amazing and super helpful. We knew we had the right plan when we got done walking through it and couldn’t think of anything significant that we would change.

Then it was time for more compromise. About halfway through our year of saving up more cash, we noticed that interest rates were going up and we might need to sign a contract earlier than planned. That meant that we wouldn’t be able to afford some of the add-ons we had kept in the budget. It also meant that we’d be painting the interior ourselves in order to save some money. Some of the compromises stung quite a bit, like losing the 9-foot ceilings and the fireplace. And some we don’t seem to miss now that the house is almost finished. Painting was definitely a bigger job than we planned, mostly because we didn’t know that it involved a lot more than just painting. Thankfully, that part is done and we survived somehow. It does feel good to walk through the house and see how the long hours and bloody fingers paid off. I don’t think we’ll do it again though.

There have only been a few unpleasant surprises so far: a gravel driveway that we thought would be concrete, an overage on the septic system, a much larger time investment for painting than we planned on, and a shower installed that we didn’t pick out.

Overall, the decisions were fun and pretty easy! Our interior designer was helpful and divided our decisions into about three meetings. At the first we picked out the exterior materials. During the second meeting we chose flooring, counters, cabinets, tile and plumbing fixtures – that one was pretty intense! I think the third was lighting fixtures. We had to bring the kids to one of the meetings and she was really accommodating of them, which was great. We also met with our project manager at the lumber supplier to pick out doors and windows. More than once we heard that we were exceptionally easy to work with, and I think it’s because we did our research before we started. And, we stuck to our budget, so our choices were pretty limited. It was cool to make decisions together and then watch the finished product come together in our house!

Now that we’re getting ready to move in we’re still dreaming about projects – I’m dreaming about unpacking our storage unit and discovering how our furniture and art will fit in this house. And we’re dreaming of lots of yard projects for this spring! I’m looking forward to spending the second half of the winter there getting cozy and exploring everything before the snow melts and uncovers a yard of mud. :)

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Fog and snow

Advent reading – December 12

Today’s poetry, art, music and reflection made me smile, wince, and think new thoughts. I heard Scott Cairns at a Festival of Faith and Writing a few years ago and that makes today’s poem even better. What a writer.

Advent 2017

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

This is a small gathering of some of the things that give me life right now, centered on the themes of advent.

If you’re familiar with A New Liturgy (I love their Examen), these reflections will feel familiar. Spoken word, original music and scripture are woven together in lovely ways. There are four reflections to guide you through the end of the year: Gratitude, Lament, Imagination and Hope.

I’ve learned so much about food and people from this radio show over the years and this episode was especially beautiful. Invitations have been on my mind a lot as we near the end of construction on the new house and get ready to welcome our people to the new space. I’m always nudged toward generous hospitality by my friend Sher, and I want our house to be built on community like the JUSTembrace house. Our expression of community will probably look different as God uses our strengths and unique situations. Whatever form that takes, I want this house to Nurture + Nourish our family and others. I listened to this episode of Splendid Table while I was filling nail holes at the new house and it was like a meditation.

Y’all know Sarah Bessey has become my favorite writer of the last few years. I loved hearing the background story of how the last two years of loss and failure unfolded for her and how she’s learning about resurrection in new ways. I named my daughter “resurrection,” so you might say I’m pretty into that theme.

Advent is such a brilliant, complex picture of resurrection. The darkening days, the long nights, the small candle lights lit one by one each week, the waiting and longing for the promise of Messiah. The faint echo of “Hosanna… save us” as the now-grown baby rides in to celebrate Passover, the celebration of God’s mercy and liberation. The violence of death being conquered once and for all to show us a better way. I love all of it.

During advent we celebrate communion every week at church. This year the advent messages are centered on rest. Sabbath. I think about Jesus’ last Passover when he invited us to the table to feast on his generosity, his complete oneness with God and the Spirit – community – and his perfection.

Then a terrible dark season of waiting while it looked like death had won.

Until. Until! Resurrection.

“Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he came and set his people free.

He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives, and in the very house of David his servant,

Just as he promised long ago through the preaching of his holy prophets:

Deliverance from our enemies and every hateful hand;

Mercy to our fathers, as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,

What he swore to our father Abraham— a clean rescue from the enemy camp,

So we can worship him without a care in the world, made holy before him as long as we live.

And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,” will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,

Present the offer of salvation to his people, the forgiveness of their sins.

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,

Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death,

Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:67-79‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Your first year is coming to a close

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Song for Baby-O, Unborn
By Diane di Prima

Sweetheart

when you break thru
you’ll find
a poet here
not quite what one would choose.
I won’t promise
you’ll never go hungry
or that you won’t be sad
on this gutted
breaking
globe
but I can show you
baby
enough to love
to break your heart
forever
Little man, you’re almost one! There is so much to love about you. You’re still an easy baby and you learned how to sleep through the night a couple months ago. That has made the rest of life much easier! You and big sis still get me up a few times a week for something or other, but it’s really refreshing to see progress.
You’re such a crawler, so fast and sneaky! You have the cutest way of scurrying away super fast when we catch you getting into something naughty. You freeze, grin, and take off like lightning. It’s adorable. You crawl like you’re going to leap-frog with half your body – you get around on your right foot and your left knee. I don’t know how you do it, cause I’m not that flexible and my legs are too long, but it doesn’t slow you down.
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You’re not much of a talker but you discovered scream-squealing lately. Big sis is good at yelling and you learn so much from her! You say ‘mamama’ and ‘dadada,’ and you wave hello or goodbye, and you raise your hands high in the air when you’re in the highchair. I raise mine too and say, “tall like a tree!” You love that. Those eight little teeth are super cute when you smile. Your face just lights up! You study everything new, looking and looking without making a sound. When we visited the Gardens to see the butterflies this week you spent a lot of time looking up like this. It’s so fun to watch you figuring things out in your little head. And those blue eyes… they’re the real deal. True blue. Just like you.
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Your hair is so blond it’s almost invisible. Everyone says you’re bald. Sorry, kid. You do have hair, it’s just hard to see. So far it’s really straight and not too thin and not too thick. You’ll be wearing lots of hats this summer to keep the sunburn away. Yesterday we went outside to play in the grass with big sis. You crawled around all over the place, pulling yourself up to stand at the split-rail fence, picking up bits of leaves and twigs to chew and spit out, and taking it all in. It’s starting to warm up a little bit and we’re excited for summer! It’s going to be a busy one. You’ll be walking in a couple months and I’m looking forward to that; less mess on your hands and less wear and tear on your pants. But I’m grateful that you’ve stayed a baby for this long. You’re the last one for a while and I love soaking up your bedtime cuddles and the dimples in your hands. You’ve been such a comforting and sweet baby. You lean in for a kiss when big sis hugs you. When I put you down for a nap or bedtime I get your pacifier and your muslin blanket and you get so excited. The blanket goes on my right shoulder, and you lay your head down there, looking up at me while I sing the little lullaby from Bedtime for Tiny Mouse.
Lay down your head, little dreamer
Close sleepy eyes
Time to drift off, little dreamer
Beneath starry skies
Cozy and warm, little dreamer
Arms hold you tight
Sleep safe and sound, little dreamer
All through the night
You are the perfect little person for our family, baby boy. I’m so proud of you and I can’t wait to grow more with you this year.

Five years since our wedding

We just got back from two nights away from the kids to celebrate our fifth anniversary. We packed so much rest and conversations and fun errands into those 46 hours, and we missed the kids like crazy the whole time! It was harder to be away this year now that there are two of them, plus Vinny was feeling under the weather. But they were in great hands and we were close enough to come home within 10 minutes if they needed us. So we ate delicious food, watched relaxing movies, read books, took walks, and had more uninterrupted conversations than we’ve had since the last time we went away for a night. We’re still best friends and we had a lot of fun together. IMG_8277.JPG

The highlight of this getaway was walking through a new house that looks exactly like the one we’re building next year. It was amazing to see everything in person after spending four months studying the floor plan and trying to picture it. We loved it! It felt so right for our family. Can’t wait to start building, and making decisions about flooring, counters, back splashes and fixtures! 1

On Christmas Eve this year we took a walk on our lot. Hopefully next Christmas there will be a foundation to explore. And hopefully for the following Christmas we’ll have been there for half a year already. The wait is worth it but it’s hard.

Vinny is growing into an adorable crawler with seven teeth so far. He’s super curious, he loves coming to find us in another part of the house if we’re gone more than a couple minutes, and he eats any finger foods like a champ. He’s still getting up about twice a night but he takes three naps a day. He’s been teething or dealing with an ear infection for most of the past four weeks, so perhaps he’ll start sleeping better at night when his teeth take a break. He’s such a happy, friendly, silly, lovely baby. He’s really starting to initiate some playtime with his sister and she’s generally happy to play with him for a couple minutes before she gets bored and moves on to something else.

Ana is in a happy season of life full of new words and phrases. It’s hard to keep track of all the cute things she says right now.

  • The other day it was time for her to try going potty and I told her I’d be helping her in just a minute when I was done eating. She loves independence, so I added, “Or, you can do it all by yourself this time.” She shook her head no and replied, very nicely, “Sorry, sweetie.” What? She doesn’t normally call us sweetie. It was pretty funny.
  • A few nights ago she had a stomach bug and threw up on our bed. The next morning she was telling Good Cop about the mess she made and how we cleaned it up. “Sorry, everyone. I spilled on the bed.” Yes, I guess that’s one way to put it!
  • That same day I was using a little vacuum and she was in another room with daddy. She heard the noise and got a little nervous and wanted him to come with her to check it out. “Come on, daddy, don’t be scared. Let’s see if it’s a hippopotamus.” Oh my goodness. She’s adorable.

Tonight we’re all cuddled up at home together. We’ll make root beer floats in a minute (Good Cop and I made root beer floats on this day five years ago too, newly married and enjoying the novelty of not having to say goodbye and leave for our separate homes at the end of the day). The last five years have been so full of good things and kept promises. So grateful.

Good stuff

slowly processing

I’ve had so many ideas coming into my head through podcasts, books, music and Netflix that I needed to put all of them in one place as I’m slowly processing them. (For a great “she’s-channeling-me” description of slowly processing, this one is saved on my phone to re-read when necessary: Simply Tuesday)

Podcasts

Sorta Awesome Show: What we know now that we’re here

I regularly listen to about 25 podcasts and this one is consistently a favorite. Who doesn’t need some Awesome in their day? This particular episode is about what we learn about ourselves and the world as we get older and wiser. It was so refreshing!

The Simple Show: Starting a Book Club

I heard this episode right around the time I heard an episode on the Sorta Awesome Show about book clubs and reading in general, and after mulling it over for a few days I gathered two friends and started a book club! I haven’t even started reading our book yet and we don’t meet until the end of August but just the planning of it has given me a lot of joy. I’m grateful those two friends were up for it; they don’t know each other, so they’re just trusting me to be a good matchmaker. We’ll find out!

Related to this, I’ve been dabbling in Voxer for the book club conversations. It combines the best of walkie-talkies, voicemails, and text messages into one app, and it’s super fun!

What Should I Read Next

This is my second-favorite podcast. Anne Bogel is an awesome host and a brilliant literary matchmaker and it makes my insides so happy to hear people talking about books they way that they do on this show. Definitely scratches my book nerd itch.

Shalom in the City

I’ve been reading Osheta Moore’s blog for a while and now she just started a podcast, yippee! Over the years she’s helped me think through a lot of my questions about racism and how to bring the kingdom of God to our own neighborhoods. I love the way that she’s bringing us together to be Shalom Sistas.

The Liturgists: Black and White: Racism in America

I just listened to this episode after hearing it recommended on a Sorta Awesome Show episode a while ago. It took me two days, which is unusual because I usually power through podcasts like M&Ms. I needed to stop and take a break a few times because this stuff is deep and complicated and makes me wince. I’ve done a lot of reading and listening over the last four years about how black people experience life in the US, and this is one of the clearest, most in-depth conversations I’ve heard. I’ll be processing and sifting through it for a long time.

Movies

Chef’s Table

I love a good cooking show. I love a good travel documentary. I love stories about chefs. I love beautiful movies. I love food. I love art and creativity. I love cookbooks. This series on Netflix is like all of those things combined in the best way. When the second season came out I saved the new episodes for times when the house was relatively quiet so that I could soak them up. I don’t multitask (except maybe nursing baby Vinny) while I watch these, which should tell you how much I’m into them.

Books

Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

My goodness, Sarah Bessey is my girl crush right now. Her two books are speaking my soul language. I could read them every month if I had the time.

Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

Recently Sarah Bessey recommended this series so I ordered Still Life from the library immediately, as any fangirl would. So much fun! Book four is waiting for me on the Holds shelf right now and I’m impatient to get over there. The only problem is that I devour them within a couple of days and I let the housework go so I have to space them out a bit for the sake of being a slightly responsible adult.

Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement

In the last four years I’ve also been doing a lot of reading and listening (and experiencing first-hand) about the law enforcement experience in the US. It is one of the things that brings me the most pride and the most frustration in my daily life. Pride because I get to see what kind of an amazing person my husband is, and frustrating because the rest of the world doesn’t usually agree. This job has never been easy but it seems that it’s gotten a lot more dangerous in the past few years. I’ve done pretty well accepting the risks and working it into my life in healthy ways like enjoying the time we spend together and not sweating the small stuff, but since the night in Dallas that cops were killed as they protected protesters it’s been easier to give in to fear. This book is a fantastic resource and I wish it was required reading for everyone.

Music

Spotify playlist

With all of the big thoughts and fears going on, I needed a playlist. Music has been a staple in my Processing Toolbox for every big life event and this summer definitely requires a playlist. It brings me back to the basics about who God is, what he wants for me, what he wants for the people I love, and what he wants for the world.

 

For posterity

This is not a thinly veiled cry for help. It’s not a pity party. It’s simply a recording of my past few days for the sake of looking back when these kids are older, because heaven knows my memories of these months will be hazy and missing many details.

Friday:

Good Cop and I finished installing a new storm door on the front entrance. It took us two or three days, I can’t even remember exactly how long now. We worked together, me looking at the almost-incomprehensible instructions and illustrations and him doing the actual constructing. It took three times as long as it should have because we were constantly chasing the toddler, soothing the newborn, or keeping them alive with more food and clean diapers. Thankfully the door looks amazing and works perfectly.

I took my girl out for our first bike ride of the season and she loved it. It was short and sweet and it made me wistful for our freedom last year to take off whenever we had time. This year we’ll be limited to times that her baby brother has someone else to watch him.

At night, after the toddler was in bed at 7:00 we probably watched Jeopardy and took care of the baby. He’s been in a needy stage from 7-10:30pm lately. I went to bed as early as I could after the baby was asleep, probably around 11.

Good Cop left when I went to bed to take care of his second job and he got back sometime in the middle of the night. He may have also stopped for groceries on the way home but that might have been another night this week. Or he may have come home and watched Father of the Bride II with the baby and kept him asleep as long as he could so I could rest more than two or three hours. As I mentioned, it’s all hazy. I know I got up at least once to feed him for an hour, because I always do.

Saturday:

I had plans to meet some friends for breakfast at 9:00. From the time I woke up, probably around 6:30, I was busy getting the two kids and myself ready to go. It literally takes two hours to get us out of the house in the morning. And that includes about 15 minutes for me to get dressed in clothes that don’t quite fit, brush my teeth and wash my face. It does not include make-up or a shower or doing my hair.

At the restaurant the baby slept soundly in the middle of the busy aisle where I was constantly watching servers and patrons to make sure they didn’t trip, and to be ready to catch a hot plate or a spilled coffee. The toddler sat next to me in a booster, and all six of us friends were smushed in a booth that was so narrow we hardly had room to take a deep breath. Over the next hour my sweet daughter climbed in and out of the booster, turned backwards to greet our neighbors, and blessed them with a wet sneeze and greasy pats on the back. I tried to listen to my friends and add something meaningful to the conversations with the 5% of my sleep-deprived brain that wasn’t involved in watching my kids. I’m glad we went but it was more of an eat-your-veggies kind of investment in our friendships than a dessert-buffet fun memory.

The toddler was actually really sweet most of the day after that. I had high hopes for doing stuff together or being productive but I was worn out from the morning. I just tried to keep the kids quiet so Good Cop could sleep, which is kind of a joke. He left for work and I think I gave the toddler a bath.

The baby cluster fed from the time the toddler went to bed at 6:40 until about 8:30. I took a shower, the first in almost a week, and went to sleep. Got up to feed the baby around 1:00 for an hour, then slept again for about 90 minutes. During that time I had a long, intense nightmare about Good Cop being killed by a cop hater, in our own driveway, and I woke up from crying. It took a while to calm down and I cried myself back to sleep. After an hour or two the baby was up again, and then Good Cop got home from work and the toddler woke up, and it was a new day all over again.

Sunday:

Church is a highlight of my week but I just wasn’t gonna make it this morning, especially by myself with the two kids. I watched online on my phone because the toddler was watching a video on tv. I hate how much screen time she gets right now. She was watching tv because she doesn’t like to read with me while he’s on my lap, and I need her to stay occupied for an hour so I can feed him without her making too many messes or running into our bedroom to jump on her sleeping dad too many times.

High hopes for doing something fun or being productive again, but I didn’t get to change out of pajamas until 2:00 and the two kids never synced their “happy and manageable” or “both asleep” times for more than 15 or 20 minutes. After Good Cop left for work I put them in the car (a 40-minute process, which boggles my mind) and got myself an ice cream at the drive-thru. I drove by the water on the way home. When we arrived I put the toddler to bed while the infant screamed to be fed the entire 15 minutes of the shortened bedtime routine. He cluster fed from 7:00-9:30, I gave him a bottle around 10:00, and put him to bed. Just before I fell asleep he worked himself up again and I went out to calm him down. As I stood by his bed swaying and patting I had to catch myself a few times from falling asleep and tumbling over.

We were up during the night once for about an hour, and then again at 5:30.

Monday:

Good Cop came home and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, took out the kitchen trash, got the toddler up and took her and her iPhone Netflix to bed with him so I could get a cat nap after the baby was done eating. But although the baby slept, he fussed every two or three minutes with gas and a poop, and I never fell asleep. I gathered the toddler, kissed my amazing husband, and started breakfast and strong coffee.

The baby was fully awake and hungry again now, which made the toddler jealous and hyper. By the time the baby was fed and sleepy, the toddler was not in any mood to play with me. We did get a few minutes of cuddling while she watched more videos – yes, more videos after my attempts at reading books or playing with her toys just made her jump and scream as close as possible to the sleeping baby. Eventually she went off to do her own thing again, which was inevitably loud and mildly destructive, and I tried to finish my breakfast and coffee. Her nap time was quickly approaching and her mood was deteriorating. As I got her ready for bed she kicked and clawed everything, screamed and cried, and threw herself at the window to get attention from the neighbor. Meanwhile her screams had finished the work of waking up her brother, who was still tired and needed more sleep. I left her room quietly while she thrashed about and wailed in bed. In her defense I felt like doing the same thing and it was only my desire for Good Cop to eventually get some kind of sleep that kept me from throwing myself on my pillow and screaming too.

Instead, I brushed my teeth and washed my face and thought about how crazy this season of life is. I thought about how quickly it will go by in the big scheme of things, and how fun it will be again when we have just a little more sleep around here. It’s a short time, I know, and we’ll survive. I won’t tell myself to “enjoy every minute” because that’s just stupid and adds more guilt, but I’ll remind myself that it won’t be like this for long.

this is the life

 

a prayer for my boy

Little man I love you so. I love the way that you stretch and spin methodically and thoughtfully, quietly testing your strength and your boundaries as you grow into your shrinking space. I love your hours of silent sleeping and your moments of slowly coming awake. I love the thought of getting to know your boyish newborn face in just a few weeks. I love the thinking and planning for your first year – all those amazing changes and milestones waiting for us just around the corner.

Your daddy and I pray that you’ll be strong and healthy, not necessarily in the physical things (although that’s always a bonus) but primarily in your spirit and soul. Content with what you have but always hard working. Kind towards your family (which is always the hardest), and a defender of the weak and vulnerable. We pray that you’ll be strong and gentle. Honest and gracious. A peacemaker and a fighter. Wholesome and spirited.

Lucky you, you have a million uncles and you can learn something from each of them. You have two grandpas who will go fishing, show you how to cut and stack firewood, travel down the street or around the country, and answer all your questions. If you watch them all you’ll learn how to take care of your things, your people, your self, your work and your faith..

Lucky you, you have a few aunts who will cuddle and kiss you until you’re much too old to be cuddled and kissed. They’ll show you what a strong and tender woman looks like. And you have two grandmas who will bake all day for you, show you how to tie your shoe and read a book, make your bed, and answer all your questions. If you watch them all you’ll learn how to use your mind, your heart, your hands, your words and your soul.

Even luckier you, you have your daddy. Out of all of them, he’s the best one to watch. He’ll be your first friend and your biggest fan. He’ll show you what it means to do good work. You’ll learn how to do little things that matter, like brushing your sister’s hair or getting flowers for your mom. You’ll find out what it means to use your strengths and talents in your job. He’ll teach you how to play basketball, soccer and chess. He’ll show you how to be curious and adventurous about everything but to pick a few favorite things to be especially good at.

Your sister, too. Oh, little brother, you’ve got a fierce and sweet girl in your life from the very beginning. She will love you with tender kisses and a firm grasp on your unsteady shoulders. She may knock you down a few times. She may be jealous and confused about her feelings. She might even say strong words that make you cry when you’re older. But I’m almost certain that she will be your best gift in life. She is passionate, determined, strong, lovely, playful, smart and thoughtful. She gives the best hugs and the biggest smiles. She is sunshine on cloudy days, a chocolate chip when you expected a raisin, and bare feet on warm grass after a long winter. You will love her. I’m so excited to watch you together.

And then there’s me, your momma. I don’t know what will actually make it from me to you but I have a few things I hope to pass on. A love of libraries and learning. Inner hope that doesn’t depend on circumstances, but on God’s character. An appreciation of small graces like a good donut, a view of the lake, or a poem. Construction of all kinds of forts, indoors and outdoors. The ability to enjoy quietness and being alone. Perseverance and perspective. Enough confidence to be an encourager and not a comparer. Creativity and discipline. Just kidding – you won’t be learning discipline from me, unfortunately. Hopefully you can learn that from someone though. It’s super helpful when you’re an adult.

I’ve been thinking of these verses when I think about you lately:

Psalm 19:14: “May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my defender.”

Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak out for the one who cannot speak,
    for the rights of those who are doomed.
Speak out,
    judge fairly,
        and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.

That’s the kind of man I’m praying you’ll be. May we be the kind of family that gives you a safe place to be angry, a nurturing place to try to new things, and a loving place to learn how to be generous.

Boy

Our fourth Valentine’s Day

love

At our wedding reception we had a large dictionary and some sticky notes with a sign that asked our guests to mark the word that described marriage to them. I found the sticky notes again the other day. Here’s what our friends and family thought of marriage:

  • Honesty
  • Forgive
  • Marriage – what gets you through all of the quap (French pronunciation of crap) that life throws at you!!
  • Marriage – 2 awesome people joining together to walk hand in hand serving God
  • Forever
  • Best Friends!
  • Fun!
  • Rewarding
  • Rewarding [it was marked by two different people – and it’s true!]
  • Partnership
  • Sanctifying – a big word to say that marriage can be a tool to make you holy, individually and together
  • Balance
  • Putting aside one’s self
  • BFF!
  • One of God’s greatest tools he can use to refine us & teach us to serve as Christ came to do
  • Unity

Today is our fourth Valentine’s Day together and we celebrated four years of marriage last month. They’ve been, without question, the best four years of my life! I know that today isn’t an easy day for a lot of people and I’m super grateful to be in this season of life right now. It’s so much better than I ever imagined!

Marriage with Good Cop is defined by all of those sticky note words, but this winter I’m especially noticing the partnership we have. I recently read Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey and loved it. I think overall the book got reviewed as groundbreaking, forward-thinking and progressive – the front cover even calls it “radical.” But there wasn’t anything new for me in her thoughts about marriage and how it can be a partnership of two equally submissive and loving leaders. It was immensely encouraging to realize that I wouldn’t change anything about our relationship. We both follow Jesus and that means that we both give ourselves for whatever need we can fill. Sometimes it’s him doing the dishes and laundry because I’ve been working online during nap times. Sometimes it’s me making our meals and packing his lunch because he needs sleep. Sometimes it’s him watching Ana so I can be on the worship team, and me taking her to church alone when he’s working. Sometimes it’s him being in charge of paying bills and sometimes it’s me. I remember our premarital counseling session that covered household duties and how we planned to distribute the work. He said then that he expected each of us to pitch in with whatever was needed, and that he didn’t think there were certain roles we had to fall into. I didn’t really believe him but it turns out that he did feel that way. And it’s not just with chores around the house; he’s a partner like that in every part of our life. We live by the saying that marriage isn’t 50-50, it’s 100-100. It creates a really safe place to love and be loved.

Sometimes I try to figure out why we work together so well. Is it our age and how long we waited for the right person? Was it our similar childhood experiences? Is it the high rates of divorce, suicide and early death for his career – the daily reminders that life is precious and love is sacrificial? Or maybe we just have personalities that blend without much conflict? Whatever it is, it’s a gift. I see glimpses of God’s faithfulness, trust, forgiveness and extravagant love through our relationship. Love you always and forever, Good Cop. I’m so proud to be your wife.

2016 is here!

I love this time of year when everyone is doing “best of” and “countdown” shows and blog posts. It’s fun to look back over the year and remember the highlights.

I’ve not been good at keeping track of favorites, but these are a few that come to mind right away.

  • Simply Tuesday (book) — I’m 3/4 through this one and I feel like I need to buy a copy for myself instead of borrowing it from the library, just to laminate some pages and put them around the house. There’s a certain portion of the book that I’ve read over and over because it hits such a good spot in my soul. It’s inspiring, healing, freeing and empowering. The whole book is full of things to re-read again and again.
  • Jessica Flannigan on The Lively Show (podcast) — This episode with its theme of being “intentionally average” really stuck with me.  Her encouragement to focus on a few important things (and be okay with average instead of amazing) was perfect for me. I listened to it in the same season that I heard Andy J. Miller’s episode Do Less More Better and I was really digging the theme of specializing and using my time & energy on only the things that matter. I think I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” around that time too. Now that I think about it, I did start out 2015 with the goal to Just Do One Thing. Sounds like I might as well hang on to that goal for 2016 too.
  • Enjoying the Small Things, Micha Boyett, Orangette, Addie Zierman and Sprouted Kitchen (blogs) — all of these women have been staples in my soul-food diet. They always make my day better.
  • Mommy-daughter dates (family) — These were a big highlight this year. I love taking my girl to get a snack or drink and bringing it to a park or the boardwalk, or sitting in the car by the water, depending on the weather. We’ve had so many little dates and it gets more and more fun the older she gets. Right now she loves to dance around on the wood floor of our favorite cafe after she’s done with her muffin or cookie, and while we’re there she’s the official greeter to anyone who comes or goes.
  • Time as a family in Europe (travel) — Sometimes I can’t really believe that we all made it to Vienna and Split last year! I love thinking about the new memories we made and the good conversations we had with friends. The word that summed it up for me was “encouraging.” It was definitely worth every penny and every minute I spent working for it.  I can’t wait to go back again some time with just the two of us so we can have different adventures and see new things without the special needs of a small traveler and a pregnant woman.
  • Fun at work (career) — Tidy Little Office had a great second year and I felt like I found a bit of a routine. I love this job so much. This year I’d like to get my schedule a little more solid and dependable, maybe in the fall when baby boy has some structure.
  • Baby boy! (family) — Another milestone for 2015. We really were looking forward to either a boy or a girl (and my first reaction to the boy was a small moment of panic). I’m so glad we were able to find out this time! It’s awesome to feel him moving around (so active but not nearly as strong as the Bluebird) and to talk to him as my son – he’s usually “little buddy” or “Lefty” or “brother.” Still haven’t landed on an official nickname. But we’re so excited to have a boy in the mix with Ana and I’m pretty sure she’s gonna love growing up with a brother.
  • Less debt (finances) — Even with the big trip and the untimely death of our recently purchased truck, we still managed to pay off a lot of debt. It’s exciting to think about the freedom we’ll have next year when we’re not putting so many of our resources into paying it off. Good Cop is an amazing partner when it comes to that stuff.
  • Deeper friendship (relationships) — Going through a dark valley with a friend really brings out the truth about your friendship. 2015 brought an unexpected death of a son within our circle of close friends, and it changed all of us. I ended the year feeling grateful that I have friends who’ll be there for me in the hard times, and with new memories of how God is there with us in the darkness.

There are so many highlights that come to mind the longer I think about it, but I’ve been working on this post for six days already so it’s time to move on. Welcome to the new year!

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