Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 7.31.12

It looks like I completely forgot to post my gratitude list yesterday. Truth be told, I wasn't feeling very grateful yesterday--and my attitude toward my children reflected that. Life goes better when I pause throughout the day to see the endless succession of gifts, but too often I am too busy, and settle for jotting down a list the next morning. Better than nothing, but it's the *in the moment* gratitude that makes the bigger difference. And why do I think I can't write something down unless it's unique or new? The same gifts I receive every day, multiple times a day, are still undeserved gifts, no matter how frequently they are bestowed.

Anyway. In lieu of a list this week, a little Simple Woman's Daybook, which I also haven't done in a while:

Outside my window...
hot, hot, hot. And mosquitoes. We stay inside as much as possible. 

I am thinking...
that I really need to go work out, and clean up the kitchen, but I'd rather sit here and watch Olympics videos. 

I am thankful for...
our church's practice of pastoral oversight. 

From the kitchen...
an experimental pizza of sorts was on the menu last night--the crust, a cheese-herb breadstick recipe, was delicious, but the sauce and toppings were a disappointment. Tonight we're having BLTs with tomatoes from the farmers' market and corn on the cob. I hope to try Smitten Kitchen's zucchini bread pancakes soon. 

I am wearing...
a ruffly dark blue skirt and a white tank top, with flip-flops and a red headband (not as patriotic as it sounds). 

I am creating...
a freshly remodeled office (part of the bathroom project)! Naptime hours these last several days have been devoted to home improvement projects: painting, priming, spackling, sanding, and painting again here in the office. Hoping to show some "in-progress" pictures soon. 

I am going...
to change my clothes and run as soon as I finish this post. Yes, yes I am. 

I am reading...
Catching Fire while I run on the elliptical (great motivation to exercise!). World magazine's Books issue in the bathroom :) Love to Eat, Hate to Eat with the girl I'm mentoring. Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline with another dear friend. And I'm trying to decide what to pick up while nursing. This week I've started and abandoned both Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First Class Passengers and Their World and Boys Should Be Boys. Life is too short and there are too many good books to spend time reading something that doesn't really grab me (though I will probably come back to Boys Should Be Boys at some point). I'm thinking of dipping back into Leigh McLeroy's The Beautiful Ache, but as soon as an Amazon box arrives on my porch, I'll be eagerly opening Kelle Hampton's memoir, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected. I remember reading and being stunned by the birth story of her daughter a couple of years ago, but I didn't continue following her blog--so I was delighted to find out recently that she had published a book. 

Bible-wise, I'm in Daniel (about to start Hosea) and Psalms. Still finding my reading plan to be very helpful.

I am hoping...
that Elijah will enjoy soccer and make some new (local) friends. He alternates between seeming excited, and telling me he doesn't want to play soccer. And he tends to be stubbornly resistant to new things for a while before finally discovering that he loves them, so it could be a challenge getting him to give it a try. 

I am hearing...
nothing but the whirring of the ceiling fan. Just blissful silence. Ahh, naptime.

Around the house...
the office is covered in a layer of fine dust from all the sanding. The kitchen is piled with clutter as usual. And my dining room table can frequently be found covered in Legos as Daddy and Elijah work on their newest project. 

One of my favorite things...
sales on products I love. Hurraw Balm had a nice sale a couple of weeks ago, and this week (hurry, it ends today) Paper Coterie is offering $100 gift cards for $30! Nice!

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Steve and I have "date night in" tonight. Tomorrow night is our usual dinner and prayer with some dear friends, and then Thursday is Elijah's very first soccer practice. Should be interesting :) I also need to go vote on Thursday. Then on Saturday morning I'm meeting with two ladies from our church to begin planning next year's women's retreat. 

A picture thought I am sharing...
an old friend of mine from childhood/high school, Shanna, took some photos of us while we were in Ohio earlier this month. She captured this sweet shot of the boys:

After this one, they weren't being super cooperative, so a few days later, I tried another photo shoot of my own. That didn't go a whole lot better, but I did get this one that shows Jude's ornery grin:

...and several cute ones of Elijah, in between his cheesy, fake smiles.

I'm so disappointed that his face is out of focus in this one and many of the others - it's the number one problem I have with my photography right now. Argh. I still like his expression well enough to keep the photo, but I'm frustrated. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Bathroom Remodel, In Progress

This is how awesome my in-laws are: after our having made plans to be in Ohio for the first week of July, they responded with a proposal. What if Steve's dad and younger brother came home with Steve at the end of the first week, and Amy and the boys stayed in Ohio? The guys could work on the bathroom all week, and then Steve's mom could drive down with Amy and the boys, and ride back with her husband and youngest son a couple of days later.

Um...twist our arms! Seriously? Steve got them started on Monday, but had to return to work the rest of the week--meaning that Tuesday-Friday, his dad and brother spent all day at our house alone, framing, plumbing, hanging drywall, and mudding. Is that crazy-generous and wonderful or what? It also meant that I got extra time in Ohio to enjoy...

...a playdate with my best friend's boys...

...lunch with a college friend...

...dinner with my cousin...

...an evening with my college roommate...

...and girls' night out with my two best friends from high school!

All this was thanks to my awesome parents, who were so gracious to babysit while Mama got some time away. And then I got to enjoy my lovely mother-in-law's company for the drive home (she actually squeezed into the backseat between the two carseats for the home stretch when Jude was screaming!). 

We arrived back in Tennessee to discover that the guys had indeed been working hard. What a transformation! By the end of the weekend, I was able to take a shower in my fully-functioning downstairs bathroom! So, without further ado, some "before" and "in-progress" pics: 

Let's review what it looked like at first (minus a small cabinet hanging on the wall--I never think to get "before" pictures until it's almost too late)...

Oh yes, that is a window *in* the shower. When we moved in, it was covered only by a small curtain in the window, rather than a full-size curtain--it is a miracle that whole wall was not rotted right through. There were all kinds of other awesome things about this tub, like that it was original to the house (ever tried to clean a 70-year-old bathtub?)...the classy tile job along the end...I could go on.

Here's another angle:

Better hope no one opens the door while you're sitting on the toilet, or you'll get slammed in the knees. Better hope you have nothing but a toothbrush to set down on that tiny vanity. Be careful you don't get electrocuted, with the outlet so close to the faucet. And if two of you want to be in there in the same time? Well, I hope you really like each other :)

One more view:

Notice me in the corner, pressed up against the wall, trying to get as much of the room in the photo as possible. That's with a very wide-angle lens. The green cabinet with a mirror, for the record, is full of the HVAC duct for upstairs. It used to be a bit of linen storage, but I lost that five years ago--meaning we had NO linen storage. (You'll get to see that in a future post.)

What I unfortunately did not get a picture of was the ceiling. Words can't do justice to the level of disgusting that ceiling was. Mildew everywhere, causing the paint to peel. That would be because the brilliant builders "vented" the bathroom fan into the *attic* instead of through the roof. All that humid air had nowhere to go except elsewhere in the house. OY.

Anyway, moving on...here's what the bathroom looked like during demolition:

Walls behind the tub in better shape than we imagined, though as my father-in-law pointed out, it was a bit like a historical dig, what with 27 layers of paint and wallpaper underneath the cheap, ugly wallboard.

Fast-forward through a pricey and unexpected professional asbestos abatement, as well as Steve in a respirator and coveralls knocking out a possibly-lead-paint-covered wall...

And now...

Ta-da! The window can actually let natural light into the room instead of being covered by a shower curtain! And there's floor space! You could have a party in that bathroom!

Guess what's behind that door? A LINEN CLOSET! And do you see my pristine shower?!

No grody tub to clean! And from the shower, here's the view:

Cutie in the doorway says "Teeeessss!"

We gained several square feet for the bathroom by knocking out the closet in our office, and it made all the difference in the world. There's still a lot of work to do here, of course. First I have to figure out what in the world I want it to look like, which I haven't even begun to consider because until a week before we left for Ohio, I assumed that process was still quite some time away. We'll be getting a new, larger vanity; for now, the tiny old one is still in use. Besides the obvious paint and flooring and woodwork, there are the little things, like a mirror (right now it's the chipped front of the old medicine cabinet, held in place by oh-so-classy bare screws) and a shower curtain or glass door, and some kind of treatment for the window instead of those improvised five-feet-too-long blinds. But, y'all, I have a working bathroom. And it is already a massive improvement over what we had before!

Celebrate Progress
This Old House: Always Something

Monday, July 23, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 254

 After two weeks in Ohio and a week of playing catch-up with housework, etc., I'm hoping to settle back into the blogging groove this week :) A few things I'm thanking God for this week include...

4120. zero-VOC paint
4121. Sunday afternoon naps
4122. fellowship with a dear family
4123. more community groups starting up among our church
4124. the gift of good communication with my husband

4125. a missing favorite pen, found
4126. our neighbors' lovely perennial garden, right along the front sidewalk for everyone to enjoy
4127. discipline to get back into the workout routine
4128. The Hunger Games to keep me motivated to get on the elliptical
4129. Steve wrestling with the boys

4130. early morning time to journal
4131. the fact that I spilled flour all over the floor *before* I vacuumed
4132. bookworm-talk with a friend
4133. date night in, lots of time to talk with Steve
4134. Steve's humility and gracious attitude toward others' sin

4135. Jude's belly laugh
4136. Steve having Elijah help him paint shelves for the linen closet, apply drywall mud in the office
4137. a long phone chat with a dear friend
4138. productivity while we talked
4139. gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from the farmers' market

4140. a happy bouquet of orange, blue and yellow flowers
4141. Jude learning to say "please"
4142. an unexpected date with Elijah, after I'd been harsh with him all day and needed the time to reconnect
4143. getting to see Annie Get Your Gun for the first time since I performed in it 12 years ago
4144. belting "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" in the car with Steve (one of our big duets from the show :)

4145. the way our pastor always makes much of Jesus
4146. sending His Son not only to forgive us, but to set us free
4147. the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, living in me
4148. an ocean of grace that's mine in Christ

Friday, July 20, 2012

Celebrate Progress

I joke about all the unfinished projects at our house, but the reality is, we *have* made a lot of progress on our house since we moved in almost six years ago. I constantly think about how the previous owners, as well as our realtor, would be shocked at how much has changed! Yet I don't put up "after" pictures because I think I have to wait until every last detail is perfectly in place--every nail set, every coat of paint applied, artwork on the walls, decorative baskets in place.

Recently I was reviewing my notes from the first counseling class I took a couple of years ago, and I was encouraged to be reminded of something Dr. David Powlison emphasized many times in his lectures: "Change is incremental," he said. "Validate incremental change short of perfection. It's not what it should be, but it's better than what it was." He urged us to put our guilt in context, to affirm baby steps. If you struggle with anger, then "a decrease in frequency of anger outbursts, decrease in the intensity of anger, decrease in the duration of anger, an increase in how quickly you turn to God...these all count." Are you still angry? Are you still sinning? Yes, but you are moving in the right direction, and that's worth celebrating!

In the syllabus, Powlison wisely pointed out: "The actual process is usually slow. God seems content to work on a scale of centuries with the church, and a scale of decades with individuals. ...The unfolding process is invariably messy."

Decades! It's no wonder I get impatient, when my expectations are that complete transformation will come in a matter of weeks or maybe months, a year or two at most. Haven't I learned this lesson in our remodeling adventures? With an old house, a project always, ALWAYS costs more money and takes more time than you expected. It's always more involved than you anticipated. And believe me, one room or another is perpetually a mess :)

Thankfully, God is in it for the long haul, and He's not in a hurry. He wants to see me conformed to Christ, and He knows that will take a while--there's a lot of work to be done. He is patient. He perseveres.

I can focus on how far we still have to go with the house...or I can give thanks for what has been accomplished. I can wallow in a sense of failure about my sinful heart...or I can get excited about evidence of grace, and let that inspire me to press on with fresh hope. I don't have to have arrived at the finish line of holy perfection to see that God has been at work in me. I've come a long, long way from where I started! And we don't have to have our house market-ready to show you the improvements we've made along the way. You just have to use your imagination to visualize how great it will look when the work is done--or in the case of my heart, you just have to use your eyes of faith to believe how much like Christ I will look when God's work is complete.

I say all this because my so-easily-discouraged heart needs to hear this truth...and also because I want to show you what my husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law were up to last week :) But that will have  to wait for another post, because this one has gotten long and my writing time is just about up!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Multitude Monday, Take 253

So many blessings over the last couple of weeks! Where to begin? Thanking God for...

4087. peaches from the farmers' market
4088. hot, dry weather in Ohio = no mosquitoes
4089. seven years of marriage to the man of my dreams
4090. grandparents keeping our boys so we could enjoy an anniversary getaway
4091. a whole day and a half of laughing, talking, flirting and just being together

4092. the boys' excitement to see us when we got back
4093. the way absence makes the heart grow fonder :)
4094. Elijah helping Pops water his flowers
4095. Grammy fighting lightsabers with Elijah
4096. walks with my mom late in the evening

4097. Steve talking theology with his brothers late into the night
4098. hats, sunscreen, air conditioning, kiddy pools, cold showers
4099. lifting weights with Steve
4100. Elijah handling his disappointment better than expected when we had to tell him that the fireworks he had anticipated for two weeks were canceled
4101. fireworks on TV from Washington, D.C. as the next best thing

4102. Elijah voluntarily sharing with Jude
4103. a visit to the park where our family and friends were camping
4104. Jude climbing all over me, showering me with kisses
4105. card games with Steve's family
4106. opportunity to see a friend I hadn't seen in probably 12 years

4107. her taking pictures for us, coordinating crazy schedules, working in the extreme heat
4108. reminders of how weak and broken I am
4109. extended family gatherings
4110. Aunt Dewey reading to Elijah
4111. my brother's girlfriend entertaining Jude with the video camera on her phone

4112. getting to see fireworks later in the week after all
4113. opportunity to sing at church with my dad
4114. my niece calming down when I volunteered to sit by her at dinner
4115. "Woohoo!" texts from friends excited to see me
4116. swinging on the porch with Jude

4117. His Word that nourishes my soul
4118. the promise that fullness of joy and ultimate pleasure are found in Him
4119. calling me to Himself fifteen years ago today

Monday, July 02, 2012

Seven-Year Itch

I've heard people talk about the seven-year itch for as long as I can remember. Well, we've been married seven years, and I have an itch.

It's the itch to roll over and snuggle with my husband when I wake up in the middle of the night and we aren't touching.
...the itch to flirt with him via text message in the middle of the day, and imagine him smiling at work.
...the itch to see him recognized and appreciated in his job, to see his skills develop and his talents well-used.
...the itch to talk to him about what I read, what I hear, what's on my mind.
...the itch to get his perspective, to learn from his wisdom.
...the itch to embarrass him by writing blog posts like this, because I just can't keep to myself how I love this man of mine.

Our marriage isn't perfect. Steve is a sinner, and I'm a worse one. But six years ago, I learned to see.

I was at a crossroads as a new wife. We had been married less than a year, and while I was still over the moon about my husband, I was also not completely satisfied. I longed for certain things to be different. And I didn't know what to do with that longing.

It was at that point that the book Sacred Influence came into my life. Having read Gary Thomas's brilliant and beautiful book Sacred Marriage, I was eager to pick up this follow-up as soon as it was published. (A book for wives, written from a husband's perspective? Seemed like a no-brainer!) And I'm convinced that the book changed my marriage. Thomas wrote:
"How is God using the reality of living with an imperfect man to teach you how to grow in patience and understanding? ...How is he using your marriage to teach you how to love? When you find yourself in...a basically good marriage with one particular issue that grates on you, you can be sure that God wants to mature you as you face this problem with strength, courage, dignity, and biblical wisdom."
I thought I loved Steve when I said "I do" in 2005. But over the course of that first year, I began to realize that God wanted to use marriage to teach me, among other things, how little I truly understood love and how much more deeply I could love. He wanted to grow my love for Steve so that I could be better equipped to love others.

Thomas continued:
"Only one perfect man ever walked this earth, and he never married. Since every wife is married to an imperfect man, every wife will have legitimate disappointments in her marriage. Are you going to define your husband by these disappointments, or will you pray that God will open your eyes to the common blessings that your husband provides and to which you often become blinded?"
That resonated with me deeply--it reaffirmed a theme that God was beginning to play in my heart six years ago and has continued to reinforce ever since. Would I focus on what was lacking? Would I feed the critical spirit that comes so naturally to me? Or would I "make the daily spiritual choice of focusing on qualities for which [I] feel thankful"? Thomas reminded me: "no man is ever 'on' all the time. ...The spiritual challenge comes from the fact that you are likely more apt to define your husband by his bad days than you are to accept the good days as the norm. Hold on to the good; begin to define him by the good; thank him (and God) for the good--and thereby reinforce the good."

In other words, take Scripture seriously:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8)

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:9-10).

"Love is patient and kind...it is not irritable or resentful; it...rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

At that crossroads in June 2006, by the grace of God, I made a decision to see. I chose to give thanks for who Steve is and what he does--which truly gives me plenty of material on which to meditate! I shifted my focus to gratitude instead of complaint, to affirming the good instead of lamenting what was lacking. And I think God used that choice to change me. I shudder to think of the nagging, disapproving, proud and critical wife I so easily could have become, apart from His grace.

Instead, when my mind does go to disappointment or dissatisfaction, thoughts of what he hasn't done or what I wish were different, I choose to look at who I'm not and all the ways I have failed. Have I been the wife Steve truly needs? Have I prayed for him faithfully in these areas where he is weak? Have I loved him in the ways I know he wants to be loved? That stops the complaints pretty quickly, when I am convicted about my prayerlessness and reminded of his patiently bearing with me in all my faults and flaws.

I'm so thankful for Gary Thomas's wise words. And I'm beyond thankful for the incredible husband God has given me, and the fact that God has given me eyes to see and appreciate this gift. I know Steve's flaws better today than I did seven years ago. But I also know his strengths better, and I have seen God's grace at work in him in more ways than I can begin to recount. When I truly see this man of mine, I truly love who he is and who he is becoming. I love that I have been chosen for the privilege of walking by his side, hand in hand for the journey. I pray that God will satisfy my itch to grow old with this amazing man.