Monday, February 8, 2016

Hope Fulfilled is a Tree of Life

It's been three months since my last post, in which I reported being entirely lonely and weary of not belonging. While there are still days when I dwell on the people and places I miss, the hopelessness and loneliness are no more.

For one thing, one of the two things I've been praying for has been given to us: we have a house under contract. What a relief! So many things about it are better than I could have expected, and it will be another fixer-upper (though it needs far less updating than the last).  But what this house means is what is most important:

1) We now know where we will be settling down. It's 35 minutes away from where we are now, so a renewed sense of hope about my other prayer - finding community and friends - will soon be answered. Also, it means that I will be too busy with repairs and homemaking and exploring our new neighborhood to slip into the "depths of despair" as easily as before.
2) One of my two desires has been extravagantly fulfilled. This gives me renewed hope that the other will be fulfilled, regardless of how or where. My trust is strengthened. I am resolved to make it through.
I've also made a few friends, though we haven't had many opportunities to visit. One is an artist, and she is encouraging me to make art again, though I doubt I'll find too much time for that in the near future. But she has piqued my interest in art again, and so I've found my old photos of the work I did over 10 years ago, and uploaded it to a portfolio blog of sorts.  Maybe I'll be able to add to that.

Right now, I'm planning out our new house and helping to prepare the house we've been staying in for sale. Painting, caulking, cleaning, and removing an old screen front door. I've also planted more bulbs here. This Spring will bring new and exciting beauty both at this temporary residence, where we've put in some landscaping, and at our new house, where we have no idea what lies dormant beneath the surface because we're buying in the dead of winter.

Winter here is lovely. The sun hides most of the time, but sometimes there's snow. And spring is just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Just Want to Belong

Not too long ago, life was busy and full and good, and I decided nobody needed to hear the ramblings of my heart, so I changed this from my personal blog to a "home improvement and gardening" blog. I told myself I was narrowing the scope, focusing on my target readers, simplifying. There really wasn't time for pouring out my heart, what with the patter of little feet in the unfinished house and each week filled to the brim with time spent sharing food and time with friends. It was easy to feel the love of Father God then, tangibly. But things are different today, and I must air the thoughts that churn in my heart.

I guess this isn't purely a home and garden blog anymore.

My husband was made an offer at a company back in NC, where he would be appreciated and respected as never before by an employer. I didn't want to go. I knew immediately, long before the offer was made, that things were about to change, but how do you say no to your spouse getting the offer of a lifetime? You can't, not for the promise of the familiar.  Things change whether you stay or go. I dreaded the change. I clung to spaces while friends carried on nearby, in the foyer at church or a friend's kitchen, unable to process that I might never stand there again. I measured faces in my gaze, and little hands in mine, and my ears memorized sweet voices and laughter. We said so many goodbyes. I'm not good at holding back now. I tried to be mysterious and immeasurable when I was younger, but once you are known and loved as you are, it's hard to go back to keeping safe spaces in between. Those spaces are cold and empty. You must tell people how you feel about them. You must say "I love you" and "you're a faithful friend" out loud, and you must say it now, while you can.

So we moved. And now we've been here for four months, in the town where I mostly grew up, and everything has changed. Life goes on, but I feel like I'm on a raft, floating out to sea, and no ships will take me in. My husband has his work relationships, but I have only the chaos of children at home. We did the math, realizing we found our community in Texas a little more than 4 months after moving there. I know it's not been long and we could find our new community any day now, but couldn't we also not? We've visited churches (and I hate visiting churches, especially dragging the kids to a new children's church every week), but no one here does what we were so used to - sharing life together. People here are mountain folk - they are good at being self-sufficient (or at least that might be one factor). But we are used to being needy and sharing everything. Greeting someone at church on Sunday is not sharing life with them, as friendly and genuine as the greeting might be.

Sharing life is taking a woman's small children for a couple of hours so she can go to the doctor. It's helping them move into a new house, and making sure their bed is made so they have a place to sleep the first night. It's sending a care package with your husband on his lunch break because someone's got a fever and 4 kids to care for. It's taking a walk on their street and being invited in for an impromptu visit. It's loving their kids and their parents as much as you love them. It's sharing food with them a couple of times a week. It's getting boxes of produce and plants and baby clothes and homemade gifts at church for no particular reason. It's being cared for, no matter what.

There are no stay at home moms just a couple of minutes away here that I know. There are no home groups open to families with small children at church. There is an aching in my heart that feels keenly the absence of a love that amounted to more than just the individuals and our interactions.

But, thankfully, there is still Jesus, his creation, and his church. There are family members my children get to see often now, and there is free babysitting (hallelujah). There are just a couple of friends from my youth who are here and (thank God) still like me, and long-time friends a few hours away that always feel like home. But it's so different. I have so much to give, but no place to put roots. Here's hoping those who sow in tears will reap with joy this side of Heaven.

I just want to belong.

Monday, August 17, 2015

First Project in NC

We moved to the mountains of NC almost a month ago, and are staying in a home owned by family for now. We've been slow to begin projects beautifying this house because ... well, we moved from TX to NC with four little kids! I'm just going to say that's reason enough for a pause. But back to the project. 

We chose to first address the narrow flower bed in front of the house, because 
1) it's good to be outdoors
2) gardening is my favorite thing to do, and 
3) it will add curb appeal with very little effort. 

Here's a before:

And after:

And another before:

And after:

We planted mostly perennials because I wanted an English cottage style - wildly colorful. There are blue asters, blue rug juniper, cool pink dianthus, hot pink dwarf echinacea, variegated heuchera, and some herbs and purple kale for me to cook with. We chose a cool palette (with the exception of a yellow rudbeckia) because the house's exterior is very warm. I can't wait to see how this bed fills in next spring!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Texas House Before and Afters Part 2

Here are more photos of the house's transformation. It's been really enjoyable being able to see the plans we had for our home come to life, though it is to become someone else's home. I feel more confident in my tastes and style decisions for a house. Now if I could do the same for my personal style...

Today we'll go through the rest of the main house, and include a few back yard and apartment photos too. Enjoy!

Den Before:
Now Master Bedroom:
Bedroom 1 Before:
Bedroom 2 Before:
Back Yard Before:
Apartment Before:
Isn't it amazing what some paint and tiles can do? This whole renovation was so inexpensive there at the end, and I'll have to write at some future juncture about why that worked out so well for us.

Well, that's it for now, friends and family!  All too soon we'll be leaving many of you to join many others of you. Now if I can deal with the grief of leaving such a loving community, I'll finally become excited about the adventure our family is on, and try to post some photos of the new place for you. Much love to you all! 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Texas House Before and Afters

I'm excited to share some photos of the main house with you today. The transformation of some of these is shocking even to me.  I hope you enjoy!

Exterior Before:
Exterior After:
Entry Door Before:
Entry Door After:
Bathroom Before:
Bathroom After:
Living Room Before:
Living Room After:
Kitchen Before:
Kitchen After:
Sadly, we have no "before" of the old pantry/water heater, but it was divided into two closet spaces with wooden sliding doors. The "after" here is the little mud room my husband ingeniously crafted. He used a sliding door for the seat, and some door trim from another doorway for the trim beneath the seat. 

The best part of this renovation, to me, is that apart from major repairs (electrical, plumbing, replaced water heater, replaced appliances), the actual upgrades we installed were very inexpensive. These past three weeks' upgrades cost less than $2000. It doesn't have to cost a fortune to be beautiful! And this is just the beginning of the photos I have to share. Next up I'll share another installment of before and afters - the bedrooms and back yard. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rapid Reno: Week 3

We have some big news this week. Obviously, renovating an entire home in three weeks is not a task to be entered into lightly. Our reason is that we are moving - much quicker than planned - back to North Carolina. So our renovations are with the average buyer in mind. During the third week my husband and I worked from morning until 10pm or midnight, and most days had between one and six friends helping us for several hours. 
This week my husband tackled the task of finishing this closet at the back entry. When we bought the house, this closet had a vertical dividing wall that separates a pantry on the left from the outdated water heater on the right. When the water heater had to be replaced last year, we walled up this space to deal with it later. He's transforming it into a tiny mudroom.

We also began painting the bathroom walls. 

I tried my hand at chalk board art. This is a clearly pandering attempt at attracting a buyer. 

Our master bedroom, which is paneled in pine on four walls and ceiling, is being painted. 

The renovation is done and our house is listed. Stay tuned for before and afters!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Rapid Reno: Week 2

This week we...
Painted the front door...
And the back door...
Finished painting the kitchen, painted the laundry table legs, and stained its top...
Began scraping the exterior of the detached mother-in-law suite to prepare for painting...
Finished painting the hallway walls and trim, and laid vinyl tile...
And grouted said tile...
Painted trim in the bathroom...
Aaaaaand learned the value of thoroughly degreasing around the bathroom closet. The primer would not adhere, so great was the buildup of who-knows-what hair and skin products. I had to scrape the loose sections, sand through the finish, and prime again. We also replaced an old brass lighted ceiling fan because the wiring to the lights was bad.

Stay tuned! More to come.