{kitchen update and the classroom of contentment}

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when we were first married we lived in this small, cottage of a house in northern ontario.
i had so much fun decorating, and re-decorating that little place as a young bride.
my favorite spot was the kitchen!
i had all my cobalt blue and yellow fiestaware proudly displayed
on these cheap plywood shelves from wal-mart.
the plates and bowls and all different sized cute pitchers. i loved that stuff!
then, my kim anderson prints..
you remember the ones? the little kids dressed up like adults?
so little rascal-isque.
the actual kitchen itself was nothing to speak of.
a corner of a room basically.
an old green stove. no dishwasher. a small white fridge.
i remember when someone gave us a dishwasher.. a portable one.
the kind you have to wheel over and hook up to the sink!
we thought we were so cool. finally, we owned a dishwasher!!

our next home our kitchen wasn’t much bigger.
but i loved the old wood plank floors and tall, open windows.
i had moved on past the cobalt blue and yellow fiestaware but still
so enjoyed decorating that space.
that’s the kitchen where we discovered a nice little family
of snakes were living in the wall!
there were many dishes washed and dinners cooked standing up on a chair.
you think mice are bad? snakes are way worse!!

then, our home now..
it seemed i was destined to only have a corner space of countertops…
and hunter green marble formica ones at that!
the dark walnut cabinets made it all the more dismal.
the stove that had come with it was old –
the kind you can’t scrub the grease from because it’s embedded into it.
and i once set a can on the glass top too hard and shattered it,
so then it also sported a huge crack.
i learned how to strategically place my tea kettle over that spot to hide it.
and hoped when company came, no one wanted tea! ;)

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to say God had worked on my heart in the area of contentment when it came to my home, specifically my kitchen, is an understatement.
i don’t know what it is about our kitchen as women..
maybe because it’s usually the center of the home.
the hub where everyone seems to first go when they come in.
the spot we gather. the place company always ends up standing.
where you spend hours thinking, creating, working, serving.
an extension, it seems, of who we are. how we love and care for our family.~
where memories are made. the cookies and gingerbread houses.
the easter eggs dyed and flour on the noses, as well as every possible inch of the kitchen too.

i thought i had learned about embracing what i had.
{an old busted stove can cook a meal just as well as a fancy one!}
being grateful. content.

when we bought this home last summer i was thrilled.
not only because it was the first home we’d ever owned,
but because i’d really given up that we ever would!
so, in the fall when shayne said we could start doing some reno’s,
starting with the kitchen, well.. i just couldn’t even!!
i mean, seriously.
i’ve always wanted to walk into home depot, stroll up and down the faucet aisle and say,
“i’ll take that one!”
i’d seen others do it. ;)
most of our times in there were always to only look. and dream.
and the day we bought our dishwasher. y’all!!
i STILL look at that thing and get butterflies!!

the whole process of deciding and planning and picking out has been so fun!
i’m so, so grateful for how God has provided.
and quickly, let me insert, to those of you struggling financially – –
that are living in that rental.
that tiny corner kitchen with the ugly cabinets and hideous countertops.
those overwhelming bills coming in faster than it seems you can make money.
we’ve been there.
i thought we always would be.
we might be there again in the future. who knows?
but, this i do.. that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. truly.
you might not see it yet. feel it. believe there could be. but there is.
there will be a way through. you’ll make it!
maybe money will always be a stress, but in coming “through” i guarantee
you’ll come out seeing how rich you really are.
that there are far more important things than owning homes and renovating kitchens.
you probably already know that now.
but on those days you forget.
for those of you still in that very real, very hard struggle of finances.
i totally understand.~

which is why you would THINK as i look at my kitchen progress..
the fact that i’ve never had anything this nice in my life i wouldn’t be able to be
anything but completely grateful.
and i am. but..
and isn’t that the way it is.
that small, nagging grumble inside. where the discontentment festers.
because it’s never about what we have, is it? but what we don’t.
and what we don’t have always, or seems to on those days we’re focused there, outweigh what we do.

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a few weeks ago i found myself in that old familiar battle..
kinda shaking my head in surprise! how could i?
i mean, from snakes in the wall to washing dishes by hand,
to now the opera song of dishwashers and quartz countertops!
how could i grumble about any of it.

but, i’m afraid. far too easy.

i was looking at all that still needed to be done. that feels it never will.
perhaps we’ll be living with hockey tape pulls as handles {thanks for thinking of that, ben!}
and no baseboard or finished window seat forever.~
or the floor! it’s one of my favorite things. i adore that floor!
but can we just have a moment of silence for how it shows every.little.thing!!!
and we have four kids and one big, hairy dog.
so when i say, every.little.thing!!! i mean, every.little.thing!!!
and every day i’m sweeping and thinking, “is this my life now?”
to never do anything ever again except SWEEP THIS FLOOR!!!!!

and the stove! hold the phone!!
i have to tell you about the stove. it’s absolutely gorgeous!
i still walk into the kitchen and stop and look at that shiny thing
and can’t believe it’s mine.
it was given to us by shayne’s parents.
his mom thought something was wrong with it..
the temperature didn’t seem to hold well when you’re baking, or something.
she asked if we wanted it, even if it might not work great.
i looked at our old, smash topped stove with the tea kettle hiding the crack –
“uh, hello! YES, we’ll take it.”

coolest thing. the company they bought it from was replacing theirs with another.
and since we’ve got this one, not a single thing has been wrong with it!
works perfectly.
so, new stove for them. new for us! win all around. {thank you, Jesus}
and it’s way fancier than anything we would have been able to afford.
but you know what?
that thing shows grease, and dirt, and the occasional dog hair that floats in, like crazy.
again. full time job i’m thinking just to keep it clean!

and so, there i was, grumbling around.
finding myself easily frustrated with everything.
and it struck me that after years of fighting for contentment with what i had. making do.
now that i had nicer. better. the things i had wished for back then..
discontentment was still an issue!

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just as floors still get dirty. stoves, no matter how fancy, still need cleaned.
yes, hearts have to be renewed. swept out. the junk removed.
ever learning again and again where my joy is found.
never in what i don’t have. in what i think i need or want.
but always, in what i already have.~
and more than that. not in what i HAVE, who i AM!
my things do not define me.
my home. my kitchen. no matter how nice or state of the art or shiny or fancy or all
natural maple whatever can make me kind and gracious and pleasant to those i’m called
to serve within these four walls.
they can’t give me more patience or humility or love.~

that only comes from a heart tender, surrendered, seeing the bigger picture.
only in remembering it is so not about me. about any of this..
and only about a life that brings glory to God! that is the only place of rest.
because when we recognize that. accept that. we realize that whether we’re living in a small, cottage of a house in northern ontario, with a dishwasher you have to drag over to the sink! or 250-year-old farmhouse with snakes in the walls and drafty windows. or a rental home, through a miracle, you were able to buy and begin to fix up!

no matter what.
no matter where.
it’s about a greater purpose.
all these {{things}} are only the tools to accomplish that.
whether brand spanking new, or old, cracked, and barely working.
that’s when we discover true contentment.
when we’re happiest.
living with a focus on something beyond ourselves.

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but now if you’ll excuse me.. the sun is starting to peek in through the windows and
i’m looking at that lovely wood floor.

where’s my broom!!!! ;))

 

happy thursday, friends.
xo

{looking back}

lighter bw -October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_53-2-2October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_666October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_709

usually every year i write a, ‘merry christmas from the hutch house,’
and share our family pictures and what God’s taught me the past year.
i meant to do it this year but time got away and when there was the time
i didn’t want to spend it writing all about it in a blog post.

so you say, “someday…” and tuck it away.
and yet. sometimes, you don’t even know yourself what you want to say.
how to process. sort through.
sometimes it all just needs to sit.
the ugly stuff settling to the bottom.
the fog of others thoughts lifting to reveal your own.
and over and over, when i wanted to write i was met instead with, “wait. be still.”
something i don’t do well. but something i’m learning.
no. i don’t always need to share. to explain. to prove. to be understood.
there is this tremendous peace when you stop trying so hard.

so january passed. february. is it really already march?
and i dyed my hair red cause it’s something i’ve always wanted to do.
and so liberating in this, “i didn’t realize how liberating it would be!” kind of way.
and turned a year older. and feel as if i’m only, finally now, growing up.

by the fence-shayne and amberOctober 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_690October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_148-2

i remember standing on the precipice of 40..
a girlfriend just ahead of me saying,
“something about 40 that makes you want to be done with all the bull crap of life.”
though crap wasn’t the word she used and yeah, it might not quite cut it.
but my dad reads my blog and so crap it is. ;)

but i felt that. the need for cleaning out. letting go. growing up.
i’ll never forget praying on my 40th birthday that this would be the year
i found freedom from the chains long captive to.
thing is, when you pray something, be prepared –
how God answers prayer is seldom how we think.
it’s no sprinkling of fairy dust and wa-la, chains fall free.
it’s often through pain and tears and crying out, “never mind, God! i take it back..
i changed my mind. freedom cost too much. i didn’t know it would hurt like this!”
and we exchange a heart of peace for captivity? why?
because.. because in the releasing, in the ripping away of all that needs ripping away
from our heart the pain is too great.

bondage feels easier in those moments.

so we trade in our birthright for satan’s lies.
our security for striving.
true relationship for smoke screen fears.
and we have no idea (not really) that it is for FREEDOM Christ has set us free!!
we walk as slaves. we choose to be slaves to those things that bind us because, yes..
freedom is never free and the cost can be too high.
like the children of Israel we wander in a desert wasteland.
we murmur and question and wonder where God is,
when the promised land lies inches away.

head of truth – what we know we’re to do.
heart of doubt – what we can’t bring ourselves to obey.

and the giants of our lives taunt and sneer and convince us.. slaves is all we’ll ever be!
and sometimes in the fight. in the midst of those prayers cried, “God, set me free!”
all you can do is stand, doubled over, one foot slightly stepping forward.
it barely feels like anything and you think you’re getting nowhere. the enemy has won.
but that’s the thing.. victory is in the small steps.

and then that day.. or was it that moment? or who knows when exactly?
you look up and realize you’re where you were trying to get!
maybe not very far in, but IN nonetheless.
you realize it most by the lightness you feel.
and looking back, there it is.. you see it now.
chains lay, not in a great heap at the start where you wished they had fallen.
but every step.
every hard, tear filled step you thought was too painful..
another link broken.

October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_739October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_716-2christmasedit6

the biggest lesson of 2014? two parts.
freedom in your heart is worth the fight.
and seldom comes about the way you think it will.
and in the fight for that freedom -no matter what ..
even if it’s that thing that had you thought of it on the other side
you would have seen no recovery from. no way to get past. get over.
but when that fear is realized, and then, (and because it always does),
the other side comes –
you look back and see God brought you THROUGH!
through the wilderness. through the red sea.
through what seemed overwhelming. impossible.
and though it’s not a loud, roaring, chest thumping cry of victory.
(because any soldier knows there will always be more battles)
but simply that deep, quiet confidence within, that fear is no longer present?
no. that fear no longer controls my life.

knowing as i move forward that no matter what may ever come..
“sweet Jesus, we’ve been here together before.”

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_104-2-2October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_3October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_208-2

seems so easy to write it now. almost flippant.
only God knows the intensity of doubt.
the times i wanted to utterly and completely give up.
the times of clenched fist in anger that it seemed He was nowhere.
and yet, and only if you’ve been there do you know what i mean..
still feeling the tenderness of His mercy never stopping it’s embrace.

eventually, stiff arms softened. and my hands opened in trust
free falling into His unconditional (and aren’t you glad it is) love.

part of the process of getting through something is coming to a place of surrender.
when it stops being about everyone else and it’s just, and only, about you.
when you stop holding others offenses higher than your own, and it’s simply about what
He wants to do in you.
nothing can harm us (not that it won’t hurt), when our hearts are yielded to His will.
only then can we see all things working together for good.
because it is? no, because He is!

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i’m thankful for the battles won in my heart over this past year
i’m thankful for the battles lost too.
both remind me how very much i need a Savior.

praise God, we’ve got one.

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_91-2-3October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_576October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_753October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_29-2-2shayneandamber-field4October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_661

 

“earth holds no sorrow, heaven cannot heal.”

 

October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_641

{when we think we’ve missed the miracle}

i sat with a friend last night in her living room.
the warm fireplace flickering to the side, glowing orange.
i stared into her face. warm, flush from the fire.
but something more –
this glowing that i would say i’ve only ever seen in few people.
it’s the glow of intimacy with God and you recognize it.

i had went with gift in hand to try to offer some sort of solace
a slight encouragement, maybe.
it was the anniversary of her daughter passing.
seven years ago now. and jennie would be seventeen.
same as kate.
i didn’t know her. we only met their family recently.
but i wished i had.
i love what i’ve heard of her.
i think she and kate would have been grand friends.

i sit. coat still on. not wanting to stay long.
not wanting to intrude. this ground of grief so sacred. so precious.
and i just listen..
listen as this mother talks.
talks of what it’s like to lose a child.
talks of loss. of pain unthinkable.
of things that can’t even be put into words.
and how i wished i had a pen and paper to write all the wisdom.
those who have weathered these kind of storms and not turned back-
they’re the ones i want to learn from.
i feel a lump rise in my throat and chills go up my arms as she looks
me in the eyes and leans forward slightly, saying,
with her british accent faint except on the word, “God,” and then i hear it clear.

“God is a good God. He really is.
i believe that with all my heart.”

and she talks on. of having to come to this place of believing.
that there comes a time in all our lives where we must choose. is it true?
more than the sunday school answers. the spiritual jargon we’ve heard our whole life.
when things shake us to our core we’re faced with the gut wrenching battle of,
“God is either who He says He is, or He is not.”

“but where is hope if not for him.” my friend says with a smile.

“it is not the life i would have chosen. nor ever imagined in a thousand years.
but i believe that God {that strong british accent again} knows what He’s doing.”

and i was gripped and challenged and my own problems seemed so miniscule.
this courage she had seemed contagious –
i felt it filling me.
we can trust His sovereignty.
the answer to our why is always Who!

“so many people said to us, ‘we prayed for a miracle, and it didn’t happen..’ ”

and i see a softness in her.

“but this is the miracle – He sustains.”

and i swallow and blink hard.

“and keeps doing so…
when i didn’t have any idea in the world how i was going to survive.
how i was going to get through a single day. go on.
i look back now and all i can say, He sustains.”

and i nod. this understanding. this hope. i get it.

we pray for healing. for help.
for bills to be met. for relationships to be mended.
we want rescued. relieved. ease. comfort. evidence.

we think God hasn’t given the miracles we’ve sought.
but that He has carried us through it all.
that we have been SUSTAINED.

THIS is the miracle.

——

“And the radical wonder of it stuns me happy, hushes me still:
it’s all Christ. Every moment, every event, every happening.
It’s all Christ and in Christ we are always safe…

When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ’s safe arms,
true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust!

We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect
in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust!

We can give thanks in everything because there’s a good God leading,
working all things into good. It is safe to trust!

The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye,
but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust!

Each bridge I need cross, from one moment to moment to next, is wholly safe,
each leading me deeper into Him and closer Home.

And I hear that hurting voice again.. those aching voices I have known and still cry:
There are moments that as sure as I bruise don’t feel like good things
have been given. What of all the memories where Christ seems absent?
When the bridge shakes and heaves..

Trauma’s storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie.

I draw all the hurting voices close and I touch their scars with a whisper:
sometimes we don’t fully see that in Christ, because of Christ, through Christ,
He does give us all things good – until we have the perspective of years.

In time, years, dust settles.
In memory, ages, God emerges.

Then when we look back, we see God…”     -one thousand gifts

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{the next day}

you know how it is, moms, when your kids are in school.
the PAPERWORK!!! {can we just take a moment?}
there’s just so much. every day. all the time. i can never keep up with it all.
new ones come before the old ones are read.
and i try, really i do, at first, in the beginning..
when there’s 50 million forms to sign and safe arrival? do we want that?
consent to play sports, go to the library, drink milk, use the class kleenex box…?
i’m pretty sure somewhere in there i’ve signed my kids first two years out of high
school away to serve in the royal Canadian Mounties.

but, seriously!

the agendas. and calendars. and lunch programs. and fundraisers. and special events. the side of my fridge is like a filing cabinet with all the kids constantly shuffling their
papers, making sure theirs is at the front of the stack. and always the, “hey.. who moved my football schedule?” or, “hey.. where’s my class list?” and things get buried. and
forgotten. even lost! {the fridge must be a relative of the dryer-things magically
disappear} and the paper about the kindergarten christmas program i’m pretty sure is still in a pile on top of the paint can sitting in the middle of my kitchen floor, covered in about six inches of drywall dust. good thing reese’s teacher emails too and when i got that one, way back the first of december, i immediately tore out a sheet of paper from the notebook in front of me and wrote the date and time and all the details in big letters across the whole page and stuck it front and center on the fridge!!

as the weeks passed and the time got closer i would often ask Reese, “are you excited about your christmas program? daddy and i can’t wait to see it!” and she’d grin all shy and proud and tell me she might forget some of the words. so we’d work on them. when sunday night rolled around i did my mental list of each kid for the week and what was happening and where and when they needed to be places. i knew reese had to have a red or green shirt for the program and i made sure to take care of that first thing. and there was basketball and volleyball and emma had some make up classes for dance.

by wednesday i was glad for a little break of the crazy two days and finally got my
christmas cards ordered and a bit caught up on some editing. i strolled over to the school early to get the girls and thought is was odd no other parents were waiting
outside the kindergarten class like they usually are. when the teacher saw me and opened the door reese was the only one left. i’m usually one of the first ones to pick up so i thought everyone else must have just been really on the ball and extra early to my
earliness. i thanked the teacher, like always, and told her we’d see her tomorrow. she smiled and waved and reese and i walked over to where we meet up with emma.

“how was your day?” i asked reese as we walked.

“dood.” she stopped and kicked at a pile of snow, then jumped over it. “our prodram was today.”

“what program?”

“da one for da moms and dads.”

by this time emma was with us and emma piped in, “your program wasn’t today, reesey..
that was the primary classes in the gym.”

“NO! IT WAS TODAY!!” reese insisted.

“i don’t think it was, mom.” emma went on, “the primary classes put on two programs and i was at both of them and i didn’t see reese on stage..”

“i was in da ober stage.”

“reesey, i think you must have just been practicing.” i told her. “your program is
TOMORROW. on thursday. mommy has it all written down and everything. your teacher emailed me. daddy and i are coming tomorrow, THURSDAY, to watch your show!”

by now we were to the van and the talk of school and programs kind of dies off. the rest of the night was spent picking up older kids, watching basketball games, a trip to the grocery, and not another thought about the program that was, for sure, TOMORROW.

this morning, i got up in enough time to give reese a bath and wash her hair. her little red and white shirt laid out all ready for her to wear. as i dressed her and asked if she was nervous and did she think she’d remember the words for her songs she looked at me confused,

“i did. i did it yesterday..”

suddenly. it was one of those mom moments where you’re looking into your kids eyes and you know! you just know!! and i went to my laptop and opened my email, searching quickly and finding the one with the subject line, “Kindergarten Christmas Program.” i clicked on it and my heart immediately fell as i saw in bold, black letter
“Parents are invited to join us in celebrating the Christmas season on WEDNESDAY…”
i didn’t even get past that part. i just sat there. staring at the word, WEDNESDAY.

then.

“no, wait? is today wednesday? i think it is? the 17th right?”

and i went and dug my pocket organizer out of my purse {a lot of good that thing does me!} to see what today’s date actually was. “the 18th? that can’t be right! did we skip the 17th? is this like those months that only have 30 days and i can never remember which ones they are? every 10 years we skip the 17th day of december or something? why did i think thursday? and WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THAT PIECE OF NOTEBOOK PAPER I PUT ON THE FRIDGE???”

as the harsh reality set in that there wasn’t actually some kind of cosmic lapse of dates i felt sick to my stomach. literally! s i c k. who does that? this wasn’t, “oh, i forgot it was ‘wear your reindeer antlers to school’!” no. this was, “it’s my baby’s first ever christmas program at school!!” and i was sitting, not even FIVE minutes away at home, editing
pictures!! clueless.

i went to reese and got down on my knees at her eye level.
“reesey, ” i gulped. “your program was YESTERDAY!!!!!”
she just looked at me blankly. “i know!”
“i’m so, so sorry daddy and i missed it..” launching into this whole, long explanation that i’m not sure her four-year brain really got, or even cared.

“vell.. i didn’t know where you duys were and i ask-ed my teacher and she said i tood sit wif her tause you weren’t there. but tristian’s mom wasn’t there eiber but he didn’t sit wif da teacher..”

and my heart just sank as i listened.

EVERYONE was there! {well, except christian’s mom but still.. that’s practically
EVERYONE!} and i hated thinking of her looking for us. anticipating us being there.
and not. and then. bless her! she had gotten herself dressed that morning – a little brown shirt and black leggings with a hole at the knee that i didn’t see until we were walking out the door, and then it was too late to change and i had thrown her hair up into a couple lopsided pigtails after we pulled into the school parking lot. i cringed a bit
inside picturing the scene.. like in a movie, as every other child stands festive and coordinated and hair combed, and my sweet little bright-haired, sad-faced raggamuffin with her brown shirt and holey leggings and lopsided pigtails looking like an orphan child!

when we got to school this morning i went in and explained to the teacher.
she was kind and, “oh, there were a few others that forgot too..”

“but.. i DIDN’T forget!” i wanted to say. “i just wrote down the WRONG date!! and that’s SO not the same thing as forgetting!!” but i smiled weakly and thanked her and said, yes, i would like a picture of all the kids from the program {yesterday} when she offered to email one. and all day i just.could.not.get.over.it. i felt so awful!!

worst mom of the year award?
{*raises hand* pass it down?}

because as moms THIS is what we do!! this is it.
our lives. pouring into theirs.
every day. all day. trying not to miss a thing. trying to get it right.

and we’re constantly thinking of who is where and where is who and when is this and what is that. are they too hot? are they too cold? did they eat enough veggies? did they eat TOO many veggies? are we being too strict? are we being too lenient? did we take enough time? did we make them feel loved? accepted? cared for? important? this is our JOB! our priority. and though crazy chaotic most days. we.love.it. because we love them. that’s why we organize and pack and prepare and keep track and remind and read and stay on top of it all and get up and make up and most days no make up because there isn’t any time and we get everyone where and when and how they’re supposed to be somewhere. and always, always we SHOW UP!

so this? this of all things. of not being there when she needed me.
this feeling i had let her down. it crushed and defeated me a good part of the day –
but then driving back from home depot this afternoon i had to smile remembering as i put reese’s boots on her this morning. emma, ever my little encourager, saying brightly, “it’s okay that you missed the program, mom. you’re still the best mom in the world!.” and then a little prodding to her sister, “isn’t she reese?”

and reese looked up, hesitating a minute, and i cupped her face in my hands and put my nose to hers, “what do you think, baby?” and she broke out into this huge smile and threw her arms around my neck, squeezing hard, “you’re my favorite!”

and i held that little girl and thanked God for the resilience and tenderness of young hearts and how old hearts have much to learn from them!

yes. there’s going to be days we get it right.
and days we get it oh, so wrong.

but there is something called the next day
and it waits with fresh mercies and new opportunities.

so we let it go, and move on.

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_181 October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_184 October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_187

*photo credit to the beautiful alyssa fleming of joline photography :)

{shop.the.house.-a little bedroom facelift}

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it all started on wednesday with me deciding to make my bed at four in the afternoon..

which led to me noticing all the dust that had piled up on the carpet around the bed posts. which led to me lifting the bed skirt in an attempt to get to it. which led to me realizing someone had obviously been LIVING UNDER OUR BED!!!!

oh, the STUFF!

and the only way to get it out was to move the bed.
which resulted in needing to rearrange the whole room. {of course}.

since the boys were gone to basketball practice i called the girls in to help.
and with christmas music piping out in the background we all pushed and pulled and LAUGHED at our efforts and finally decided taking mattresses off beds and drawers out of dressers make things WAAAY lighter and easier to move!

we eventually got things where we were trying to go.
and after “shopping the house” to pull in some new additions including my garage sale chandelier that used to hang in the kitchen, i’m pleased with the open, brighter feel.

not to mention completely EMPTY space under our bed!!
with the downstairs still in disarray from the kitchen renovations it’s nice to have a spot that’s clean and together.

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i’ve been wanting to do a gallery wall somewhere in the house for a while and realized the other night one of the big long walls in our rooms would be perfect –
so after gathering up all the frames i could find and laying them out on the floor first to kinda have an idea of where to hang them, i started nailing away. i always cringe and chuckle at the same time thinking whoever would buy this house after us.. once all my things are off the walls it’ll look like someone was having target practice in here.
my husband tells me there’s such a thing as a tape measure and level, but.. ain’t nobody got time for that!!! ;)

i don’t have any before & after pictures since i wasn’t exactly planning to tackle this room, but i do have a couple of shots from last year that show the “gallery wall” before.

here it is before:

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and after:

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our bedroom furniture is what we’ve had since we were first married.
18 years old now.
it was dark cherry and i ordered it from j.c. penny catalog.
i remember how thrilled i was at the idea of our very own first pieces of furniture!

when i got tired of the dark color a few years ago and wanted different i broke out the white spray paint.

the little bookshelf that sits behind the door was actually mine when i was a teenager.
it’s been nearly every color in the world – including my attempt at a rose vine down the sides when i was in my “artist phase.” ;)

{there’s nothing a little white spray paint can’t fix!}

i’d paint that confederate blue carpet too if i could.
but for now, it’ll do.
besides, if you squint just right it kind of, sort of, could be grey, no? haha.

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i mentioned in my last post about contentment
and our homes feel like such a center of that often for us as women.

i know the budget isn’t always there for us to do the things we want or even need to do at times but i think with a little creativity and determination there is so much we CAN do. with what we already have.

my mom was so great at this when i was growing up.
i would watch how she would rearrange the living furniture every few months –
angle a chair just so. throw a cozy looking blanket over the footstool.
all small touches that made big differences without having to spend a dime.

amazing how the right perspective effects even our decorating.
i love it. i think it’s cool watching it all unfold and grow..
not only with our style changes but heart changes too.

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happy week-ending, friends. xo

{the mess of christmas}

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yesterday was one of those mornings i felt tired before even getting out of bed.
followed soon after by the toddler meltdown over having to wear her coat to school.
{sorry, baby. we live in CANADA! get your flippin coat on!!!!!!!}
then the dog tracked mud all over the entry.
and the whole middle of the house looks like it’s been blown up from the kitchen reno.
{those shows on hgtv? yeah, lies!! all of them!!}

after the kids were finally off to school i sat on the couch.
my shoulders slumping over further with the mess that seemed to
meet me in every direction i looked-
plywood floors colored over by my kids and every other kid in the neighborhood.
pipes exposed. two by fours piled. sawdust building. pots and pans
stacked along the wall.

“i’m just not sure much christmas is going to get up..” i thought to myself.
and i could feel the grumpiness, the discontentment, setting in.

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funny with all that, because for 18 years i’ve had these tiny, ugly kitchens..
never owned a brand new anything hardly.
now that we’re gutting the kitchen and getting all this new
you would think i’d be ecstatic.
which i am.
only.
and this is the thing with discontentment.
it’s never about what i have. or even what i’m getting.
discontentment only looks at the now!
it’s always about what i don’t have. in this moment!

like a disease
eating away at my peace.
and when my life is not grounded in peace, i am easily shaken by the tiniest things…
stressed. overwhelmed. consumed. miserable.

what is going on INSIDE me is what comes OUT of me!
and what comes out of me is what aura will fill my home.
{sobering thought}

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later that evening. as the little girls sat next to me on the couch.
emma, out of the blue {but sometimes i wonder if God doesn’t just even..}
pipes up and says, “I love our house.”

i looked down at her. almost shocked.
and she wasn’t even looking at me.
she was fiddling with whatever was in her hand and saying it as if to no one.
but i knew who it was for.
i smiled. though she couldn’t see me. and kissed her head. “i’m glad.”
and suddenly, right then, it clicked.
i saw it.

that the beauty of our home to my family is {way} more in what is felt than what is seen.
what matters most is a place of safety and acceptance and unconditional.
it is the spirit i create more than the spaces i decorate.

sure i like to decorate. i think it’s important. even needed. i think my family likes it too.
but not to the extent of allowing it to rob my joy.
cause me to get sulky and snappy when things aren’t as i want.
or living in comparison to everyone else whose homes seem
more perfect and put together.
thinking somehow if mine were, that my kids would be happier? feel more loved?

i wonder at times why i do what i do.
when i get wound up all tight that another day’s past and the tree’s not up or the storage bins even down from the garage. who is it all for? could we have christmas without all the s t u f f?

i know it’ll happen. eventually.
we’ll haul those bins in. the tree will make it.
we might even stay on schedule with our advent.
we’ll have christmas, just like every other year, and it will be grand.
but. even if it doesn’t all end up looking exactly how i wish, or go according to plan..
that’s okay too.

i want to be a mom that creates and nurtures a home my kids want
to come to. enjoy being in.
and i have a feeling that has nothing to do with how well it’s decorated.
and everything to do with how i made them feel.

and when things get messy. as they do and will. and some seasons messier than others.
may i remember even in that there is good.
because what does the mess represent?
LIFE.
blessing.
process.
change.

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so. excuse me while i go wipe the dry wall dust from a plate for my lunch and sit and look around at the same mess that was here yesterday – only, it’s looking a little different today.

 

 

a contented heart makes the loveliest homes.

 

{we’re not through yet}

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i sit on the bed and he across from me on the other side of the room.
both our shoulders slumped.
mine even more.

i feel the extra burden of wanting so badly to say the magic words to make the light come on and everything to suddenly make sense and be easy like it was when he was younger and i thought my worst battle was trying to get him to sit still and not hang upside down from his chair while i homeschooled him.

now. moments like this…
i wish for those simpler days of a hyper boy standing on his head during math.

i stand to leave his room. and pause.
“is there anything else you want to say?”

and you wait for something like,”thanks, mom! this is exactly what i needed!! i know God is using you and dad in my life and tomorrow, i think i’m going to go start a bible study in the neighborhood…” ;)

instead. it’s only a shrug and slight nod, “no.”
and i pause longer. {oh, those pauses. how many will we have throughout motherhood – when everything inside us is screaming to just “fix it,” and yet you know.. you know the fixing cannot come from you} so, i let out a soft sigh under my breath and turn and walk out.

later i tell shayne, “sometimes i get fearful in all this parenting stuff. are we doing it right? are they going to make it?” {and when things weigh heavy on our hearts the enemy of our soul works overtime to convince us the darkness is darker and light cannot win.}

but shayne smiles calm, as he always does, and puts his arm around me –

“we’re not through yet. there’s going to be tough places along the way, but i’m confident the kids are going to be just fine!”

—-

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it’s been weeks ago now that i recorded that in my journal.
but a conversation in the kitchen last night, going into the wee hours of the morning..
and feeling that familiar fear, had this truth meeting my discouraged heart when i woke up.

we’re not through yet!

i love that word. through.
it’s a journey.
beautiful. wonderful.
we’re crossing this life together.
kids. parents. all learning.
but there’s going to be rocky parts.
the ebb and flow of the tide.
things are going to get stormy.
there will be those times of stale mate across a bedroom floor.
midnight talks in the kitchen of tears and frustration.
those feelings that you’ve completely screwed up. done it all wrong. ruined them.

that they’re too far gone.
heart too hardened.
nothing can penetrate.

but when God is our God, that’s just not the case.
because greater is HE.
GREATER is He!!!
He never stops saving us. rescuing. coming to our aid as we cry out.
He doesn’t just restore, He redeems.
He takes what might seem broken and all wrong, and gives back something better.
nothing stumps Him. nothing stops Him. nothing sever’s His will being accomplished.

so in God’s economy –
there’s no such thing as too far gone.
too hardened.
or too screwed up.

and as we’re going t h r o u g h we can go through with calm and confidence.
there’s no need to fear.
because we’ve got this?
no. because of WHO’s got us!!

i’m learning, or relearning some things lately though.
like, choosing battles in parenting.
asking myself, “why does it matter?”
is it based in fear? my own pride? wanting to squeeze them into my mold? worrying what other’s might think?

oh, man! how i’ve parented too many times from the perspective of others opinions!
social media has revealed this in my heart big time.
“you put WHAT on twitter?” ;)
not necessarily because it was “bad,” only… yes, “what will so-so think?”
so there’s times i have to just let them be themselves and let something go –
even if it might cause others to judge them. i have to rest in how God is calling shayne and i to parent.
and no, that’s not always like everyone else parents.

but in letting things go, i also have to be willing to hold onto some things too.
to not be afraid to take strong stands with my kids.
they’re my best friends and of course i want to please them and be “popular” with them ;)
but i’m their parent first and have to be willing at times to risk a little popularity
in order to protect and guide where they can’t see they need it.
to remind them that yeah, they better believe i love them exactly as they are right now –
but i love their future selves as well!
and they don’t always get that.
{it’s okay. they will one day}

how many of us can recall things we hated and didn’t understand our parents doing?
a decision. a boundary. a rule. a sleep-over we weren’t allowed going to?
and yet, looking back we see the wisdom of it.

parents-
love them through.
walk them through.
PRAY them through.

more important than clean rooms and pants pulled up over their boxers are HEARTS!
and good thing God is in the heart changing business and always a very present help when it seems their hearts are far away.

it’s such a delicate balance of guiding these young, moldable hearts
and yet not allowing ourselves to get in the way of GOD’s work in their hearts.

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i remember when my two oldest started high school after homeschooling them the eight years prior.
i was afraid of all the things people said about public school.
what if it was true? the drugs and partying and sex?

well, it turns out what they say about public school is pretty accurate.
lots of scary stuff there.

one day while washing the dishes and worrying over the, “what if’s?”
it’s like God said to me, “yes, what if? am i not big enough for those things too?”

and though we’ve not had drugs, or drinking, or sex to deal with yet we have had other things..
some that landed us in counseling with one child a year and a half ago.
and i went through the shame at first, but then, crazy found freedom that, we were that family! and it was okay.

no matter what.
homeschooling.
public school.
super strict rules.
or more lenient.
unless The Lord had been our help we would have never made it through.
and be making it through still!

it’s about daily humbling ourselves and recognizing we can’t do this in our own strength.
that we have a God that loves our kids far more than we ever could and we must avail ourselves of His power by coming boldly before His throne of grace, crying out for our sons and daughters. do we think that Christ would die on the cross for us when we were still sinners, and now that we are His children He’s going to leave us desolate and not come to our aid?

i’m convinced more and more that all these things –
the hardships. the battles. the fears. they are for our GOOD!
because they drive us to Him. dependent. needy.
and in our need He meets us there and His glory shines through all our cracks and brokenness.

so keep running to The One whose parent heart beats deepest.
and rest on His unconditional, all-wise love.

i know the battle is intense for these kids of ours.
and i want to shout out loud and clear to all you fellow warrior mama’s –

carry on!!

carry on.

—-

and since this feels to be a very personal post..
anytime i write about my kids i weigh the words carefully.
i want to say to those who have asked before about me being so open here-
God has brought shayne and i, and the older kids, to a place where we’re kinda tired of the bull crap. {anyone?}

we don’t want to just do the “good christian, cookie cutter thing.”
to play a part. go through the motions.

we want real and authentic.
and at times that means opening our mouths and making ourselves vulnerable to share our story.
easy to do 10 years down the road, but harder when we’re still going through it..
but sometimes, God wants while still in the middle. before its necessarily all sorted out nice and neat.

and there is a wonderful freedom in letting go of what others think.
to be able to own your own junk and be okay with it.
to admit, this is where we are.
and it might not be where we need to be. where we could be.
but praise God, it’s not where we used to be!!

every day is NEW. and we’re moving forward.
one grace paved step at a time!

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{surviving love}

it was eighteen years ago today i walked down the aisle and became his wife.
funny how eighteen years can seem only a few days and a lifetime all in one.~

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i laid in bed long after he left this morning.
the sound of the wind howling and fierce all around as my mind went back over the years..
of all the winds that have threatened to rip us right apart, and near did.
those times when i felt we might not make it to this point.
and then i smiled as, “but we survived,” washed across all the other thoughts swirling..

to say you’ve “survived” sounds about the most unromantic thing you could say about your marriage.
i’ve heard older couples say it and wrinkled my nose in the past. positive they must have lost sight of true love.
but. now i wonder if they didn’t know more than i gave them credit for.

maybe those who’ve made it the longest know love the truest.

surviving love.
committed. loyal. determined.

and maybe surviving love is really the most romantic love after all.
the real kind. the kind only God can give. the kind that has endured the battle. stayed.

the kind that says i’m not just fighting beside you. i’m fighting with you. for you.
we’re going to make it to the other side. and we’re going to make it together.
we might be limping. we might even be crawling. and yes, there might be times one will carry the other.
but we will get there. we will survive.

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how easily we forget or grow passive about the fact that we have an enemy of our souls that’s stops at nothing in trying to destroy our homes and marriages and lives. he never lets up. he never gets tired. and he’ll never feel he’s suddenly done enough and just leave you alone. he is constantly {constantly} seeking those he can bring down and devour and he loves nothing more than taking something that is supposed to be the very picture of Christ and his church and making a mockery of it. making it seem that God has lost His power. that maybe He’s not strong enough to change and transform lives and hold hearts together.

but i’m here to say today. that’s not true!
He does transform. and yes, and amen! He does hold us together.

these past two years have been hell for our marriage..
the hardest we have yet to face.
i’m ashamed to say the word divorce crossed both our thoughts if not our lips.
it’s what happens when focus is on self and you’re looking to someone to be your saviour other than who your Saviour truly is.
that’s what i was doing in my marriage. trying to put my husband in the position only God can fill.
but no human alive can meet the deepest needs of our heart apart from God.

we try so desperately to cram in what’s tangible. what we can see. what seems to be bringing fulfillment at the time but it’s not lasting. not solid. not the kind of stuff battles are won from and storms endured.

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you can be married to the sweetest guy in the world. i know i am!
you can be great lovers and have the hottest sex.
enjoy each other’s company and be the best of friends.
but if you’re not constantly looking and running and finding your source to love IN HIM..
when the battle intensifies, the winds increase, the burdens press in..
well, all the sweetness and sex and best friend feelings in the world cannot sustain and carry you through.

we need HIM.

our marriages need Him.

and though my marriage is not where i want it to be. i praise God it’s not where it used to be.
i hope i never feel completely content with where it’s at but always want deeper and more and closer.

and i just want to encourage anyone reading this that no matter where your marriage is at.. keep on!
if it’s good – keep fighting for better.
if it’s shaky – remember where the victory lies.

there is healing for the hells of our lives.
and there is {always} grace to be and room to become.

there is love that survives because there is a Saviour that redeems!

heart

 

*from the archives:
because sometimes you just need to replay redemption’s song.
how great is our God. sing with me, how great!

{letter to my senior}

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dear kate,

you bounded down the steps with your hair curled and floral book bag
draped over your shoulder.

“it’s my last first day of school, mom!” you beamed.

i just stared.

those moments where you seem so big and so little all at the same time.
and i wonder, how can it feel only days?

only days since i first found out you were in me.
only days of first steps and first words and that first day of school.
sitting across from me at the kitchen table.
how inadequate i felt. always.
to teach you all you needed. still do.

i so often feel i haven’t got a clue.
but you’ve been the best child to learn to parent on.
you’ve made it easy.
you are gracious and patient and let things go quickly.
i’m sure this is why we’re still friends.
not because of anything right i’ve actually done but because of how forgiving you are.

your spirit of easily letting go will take you far.
far in relationships.
far in freedom you’ll find within.
far in keeping your heart tender.
never lose that.
your open heart towards others.
hurts will come and you’ll want to shut down. cave in. give up on people.
but when you stay tender. sensitive. you win!

because loving the way Jesus did always does.

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i love that you already see this.
that taking a chance on people is what it’s all about.
that a life lived for others is a life truly lived.

i pray your senior year finds you living hard. living free.
living full and living without fear.
there’s so much talk and emphasis put on what you’ll do when school is done.
don’t sweat it, babe.
you’ll do what you always do. what any of us can do –
you’ll do the next thing.

the same God who’s led you till now will keep right on leading.
people plan and save and map out their lives.
nothing wrong with that. only..
all the preparation in the world matters little if it’s not His voice you’re following.

sure. chase dreams. follow your passions. embrace your gifts. run after adventure.
but always let your steps be guided by the still small voice within.
His way – though not ours – is best.
and His will – though not always making sense –
is exactly what we’d choose if we knew all the facts.

you can trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God.

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i think of how much i love you. how my love only grows..
and the more i know you the more i fall in love with who you are.
but in all that. in the deepest, most glued tight together bond a mother feels for her child
it can’t compare to that of your Heavenly Parent.
His love is perfect. it is everlasting. it is your life-line.
and it is, and will be, your confidence.
loved by God. cherished daughter of the King. crafted by the Creator of the Universe.
who thought about you. planned for you. made you on purpose. for a purpose.
of any title you could ever claim remember it is this one, “He knows me”
where your true identity is found.
it always comes back to that.
that we know Him and are known of Him. and loved just as we are.

it is the hope that anchors us.
you are precious and valued.
you matter to God!
where else can hope like that be found?

education can inflate.
degrees fade.
friends disperse.
plans change.
dreams take on new forms.
and paths aren’t always as straight as we once perceived.
but this.
love God. love others.
this is success!
this is eternal.
this is life!

i don’t know what the beginning of all these lasts this year looks like.
we’ve never walked this way before.
where you’ll be next year. what lies ahead.
but i have confidence in the One who gave you to me to begin with
and i put you, once again, where i’ve put a thousand times since..
right back in His more than capable arms.

fly high little bird.
you were made to soar.
do it without fear.

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i love you.

mom

{the shards that remain}

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i’ve always cooked my roast in the crock pot.
same as my mom always did.
then. my crock pot broke and when it came time to fix another pot roast,
i’d yet to replace it.
so, as things like this can go i happened to be watching the food network late one night.
trisha yearwood was sharing her favorite pot roast recipe where she cooked it in the oven. in a pan.
“well, there i go,” i thought.
“tomorrow i’m going to make my pot roast, in a pan. in the oven.”

about 2 in the afternoon i put it in.
a whole onion chopped on top. salt and pepper to taste. aluminum foil wrapped round.
and tucked down into a glass 9×12 pan with a layer of water in the bottom..
i remember there was a lot of emphasis on making sure to keep water in the pan.
i set the oven at 250 and pretty soon the house was filled with it’s alluring smell.

i love meals like that.
10 minute prep. cooks all afternoon.practically fixing itself.
ready.set. go at dinner time.
always makes me feel like such a june cleaver kind of mom.
so organized and with it!

and with head held high at my rare super mom status for the day,
i went to take a walk with reese.
we were just going around the block. but we pass the park..
so of course, there had to be a stop.
and then all the pretty flowers {weeds} blooming everywhere she just has to pick for me.
by the time we got home i was rushing to grab the van keys to hurry to pick up one
of the older kids from somewhere…
but passing through the kitchen a smell that wasn’t quite burnt
but soon to be caught my nose.

“my roast!!!” i said, as i threw open the oven door.
totally forgetting that earlier feeling of accomplishment as i stared at my very
parched looking roast sitting in a very dry pan.

i grabbed the oven mitts and pulled the rack out to access the roast.
all i could think was trisha yearwood said, “whatever you do don’t let that
water dry up in the bottom of the pan!”
so i grabbed a glass of water from the tap and poured it over the roast
as if putting out a fire.
and the instant.. the instant, that first drop spilled over the edge
and before i could even turn my wrist back upright again,
i suddenly realized what i had just done.

extremely hot pan. cold glass of water?

i turned my head back in the opposite direction to brace myself just as..
the glass exploded with a loud bang in every single direction possible.
and when i turned back. there was my poor little roast
sitting on the only tiny section of what was left of the shattered pan,
looking quite pitiful.

it took awhile to clean up the mess.
and even days of making the kids wear their shoes because i knew i missed slivers of it…
there was just no way to possibly get every little piece.
i knew there were some i had missed.

but crazy thing is. this was months ago. and even after all this time now –
still, i’m finding remnants of what happened that afternoon.

just the other day something shiny caught my eye in front of the sink on the floor.
looking closer, i saw it was glass.
and yesterday. sweeping, as i’ve done a dozen times since,
a huge piece came out from under the stove!
“how?” i thought.
“i’ve swept this same place so many times since then.
why is this piece just now coming out?”

and as i moved the stove to find even more pieces i had missed..
i began thinking of times throughout my life where my heart has felt the exact same.

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shattered by something that happened. something someone did. someone said.
a lie. a humor. a piece of gossip.
an action. something you never expected coming from that direction.
something that came quickly. suddenly. poured out over what was going to be so good.
and.. just like that, and in that moment. in an instant.
sending your heart. your trust. your insecurities. your fears.
your relationship. your belief… flying in a thousand pieces.

and as most hurts go.
we pick up the major pieces right away.
the ones we see. the ones obvious.
but that’s the thing with anything that’s broken..
we don’t always know exactly where all the pieces landed.
where they ended up. where they might be tucked away.
and there are times. times when we least expect it.
times we feel we’re doing just fine. times we think we’ve got it all dealt with.
then. one casual, any kind of day, we’re sweeping away in the kitchen and bam!
there it is.
a huge chunk we didn’t realize was still there.

an ugly jagged piece.
a piece it seems too obvious to have missed.
a piece that even puzzles us.
and we sweep it away. and hope there aren’t any more.
but somehow, we know there will be.
somehow when things shatter you can never really, truly, find every single
tiny part and put it together again.
with some things, there is no putting together again as it was.

at first, as i’m cleaning behind my stove and thinking all this, it saddened me.
that what was, could never be that way again.
that things can’t just go back to how they were.
that once shattered. there is no fixing.

but then, this truth came to mind.
i give beauty for ashes.
and the years the locust have eaten i restore.
behold, i make all things new.

it doesn’t say He gives back what was.
HE GIVES NEW!!
and He doesn’t give what we had. He gives beauty in place of ashes.
yes, He puts the broken pieces together again. but He puts them together in His way.

a vessel with cracks and marred and imperfect.
but the holes only give His light more places to shine!

suddenly i see that the things that have shattered me
have not rendered me less valuable or useless.
only the opposite.

and though there will still be pieces always coming from places i didn’t expect.
that’s okay.
with each piece i can see it as a chance for His grace to fuse together what was broken.

there is beauty in the shards that remain.
the pieces missing.
the pieces still to be discovered.
each one an opportunity to allow Him to take and put together again. as it should be.

as only He can do.

cottage weekend-leamington 356 cottage time 480 _MG_2649

“I’ll make up for the years of the locust,
the great locust devastation—
You’ll eat your fill of good food.
You’ll be full of praises to your God,
You’ll know without question
that I’m in the thick of life with you,
That I’m your God, yes, your God,
the one and only real God.” joel 2:25

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” isa 43:19