Friday, June 30, 2017

Home Connection | Layered

For those of you familiar with my blog, you know I have been writing a series called "Finishing Touches" for about seven years. (No worries...that series isn't going away any time soon!) In this season of my life, home reno has been a common theme, and I started Finishing Touches to document the changes our various properties have gone through during renovations. Those posts have generally been light-hearted and full of pictures. I plan to keep it that way.

But for me, renovations take on something more...they are a tool for me as work in progress. In the middle of those finishing touches, I've felt the urge to go deeper. And that's what Home Connection is all about. Taking those seemingly insignificant acts of work and pushing them further...right into scripture, my God and life.

For those desiring to go deeper into His DEEP, I pray this will be an opportunity for us to step together!


Let's talk sanctification. I know, it's a big, theological word...exciting right? 

I have been painting trim for days. If you have ever taken wood trim/cabinets/drawers/doors from a wooden state to a painted state, you know I am not exaggerating. The transformation seems to take FOREVER! 

I always start with a good base of primer. Coat 1. In the case of our trim, I am painting it white, so the next step is to brush on a layer of semi-gloss right over the primer base. Coat 2. Even though paint likes to say it is a one-coat wonder, I beg to differ. Coat 3. It's still not quite right. Coat 4. Depending on the lighting, it might take one more go. Coat 5.

It's a stretch to say I am sanctifying my trim...but it's not a stretch to compare the process. 

The Greek word for sanctification is hagiasmos. At its base is the idea that we are separated TO God. That gives me chills. You? Since sanctified means we are separated to God, that implies we must be separated from something, right? In this process we are separated from sin (a barrier to a Holy God, no matter what it is), and in Christ, we are brought TO the Lord. Amazing.

Blue Letter Bible defines it this way: " 'Sanctification' is thus the state predetermined by God for believers, into which in grace He calls them, and in which they begin their Christian course and so pursue it."

We begin our journey by the grace of Christ. By the blood of the lamb, we are covered. But that's just the beginning! And that's exciting!

In the New Testament, sanctification is used to describe the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. We find scripture saying that sanctification is God's will for the believer and His purpose in calling by the gospel...we also find that it MUST be learned from God as taught in His Word...AND it must be pursued by the believer without deviation. (Blue Letter Bible)

But here's the part that really struck me...individually sanctification must be "built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God, and of following the example of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Blue Letter Bible) 

Doesn't that sound a bit a lot like painting trim? 

For a reminder, coat 1, coat 2, coat 3, coat 4, coat 5...until finally you can do the trim-painting happy know, the sweet spot when BAM, you can stop painting.

Layer upon layer goes on the paint. Layer upon layer goes on our lessons, knowledge, the living, breathing WORD sanctifies us...changes be more like Christ.

At one point in my journey, I was asked if I thought studying God's word was dangerous. This was the context of our conversation: I had just given an impassioned monologue about how much I hungered for the I just wanted more and I felt like I wanted to understand everything in it.

To be asked if I thought that was a good that stage of my faith at least...took some of the wind out of my sails. I already wrestled with guilt and shame, and the implication that my hunger for the Word was somehow bad really rocked me. I don't know that I had an answer for her at the time. But years later, I do.

Is God's Word dangerous? Absolutely. It is dangerous to all sin, disobedience, complacency. It is dangerous to anything that doesn't bear fruit. It is dangerous to anything that separates us from God. It has power to CHANGE US...and that isn't what we might call "safe." 

But is it dangerous to study and hunger for the Word (in the way I believe was implied, that I should back off and that my desire for more of God's Word was inappropriate)? No. 
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says this: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV, emphasis mine) 

Today, let's embrace the sanctification process as necessary. Let's embrace understanding of the Word as necessary. Let's embrace all the places God uses his word to teach, reproof, correct and train us in righteousness as necessary. 

As we get layered in this process, we become complete, equipped for every good work. And that truly is a happy dance sweet spot!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Book Tour | Whit Devereaux

I'm so excited to be part of my first online book tour today! Whit and I got connected through a Christian blogger group on Facebook, and she has recently published her first novel called "Not By My Own" (Lincross Publishing, 2017). In preparation for this post, I got to draw from my journalism background and do a fun interview. Please enjoy meeting author Whit Devereaux, and give her some love...she will be around to answer your questions and respond to your comments!

Your blog says that you once struggled with low self-esteem, faced abuse, and worked through teenage pregnancy. Please tell us how you became an overcomer: Growing up, I didn't feel attractive and always second guessed myself. The slightest bit of male attention affirmed me. It wasn't healthy for me to put so much of my worth in man's hands. It wasn't until I turned my life over to God that I was able to finally see myself the way He created me - fearfully and wonderfully made. Seeking God and counseling helped me to see my value and no longer allow someone else to determine that for me.

As a fellow trauma overcomer, I find great comfort in the words of Isaiah 61. Please describe some ways God has given you “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit”: God has been so good to me! At one point in my journey I had become suicidal and diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I didn't look forward to doing anything and actually wished that I wouldn't wake up some days. He restored my mind. He gave me hope for the future. I am no longer depressed and when anxious thoughts try to get the best of me, I utilize the word of God as my sword. His word says, "He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind." His word is true.

In your author bio, you say you desire to inspire, educate and empower those who are in abusive relationships to be free and enter into a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven. What are some ways you do that? For years, I served alongside a great group of women through my church home. We specifically serve women that are impacted by Domestic Violence. I have helped to organize domestic violence walks and have sponsored women who were unable to afford to participate. Now I use my blog to educate others on domestic violence and also show them steps I took to overcome abuse and become one with God. My newest book, “Not By My Own” is further education, inspiration, and empowerment.

Tell us about the storyline in your new, debut novel, “Not By My Own”: It is inspired by the Bible verse John 5:30 which starts with, “I can do nothing on my own.” Devereaux Sawyer is a young woman dealing with feelings of insecurity and worthlessness who finds herself in an abusive relationship that later leads to teenage pregnancy. Throughout this book, you will see the challenges Devereaux faces as she fights to become free from the bondage of abuse and generational curses. She could not do it without God.

How do you find your own story weaved into the pages of “Not By My Own”? Much of Devereaux's story is my own struggle with overcoming abuse.

By telling your redemptive story through the pages of your novel, you are raising awareness for the effects of trauma. Why do you feel it is important for trauma overcomers to have a voice in public awareness of the effects of trauma? The Bible is very clear that we overcome by the words of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb. People need to see that it's possible to move forward in healing and most importantly they need to know the God who heals. There's no one better to share this than those of us who can testify on both accounts.

Before we get to the book links, is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself, or about your book? I am a firm believer that all fiction is based on some facts. Though it is categorized as a fiction novel, I'm sure many will be able to identify with Devereaux or even Bryce's characters.  It is designed to break down the stigma associated with domestic violence and get the discussion going surrounding the uncomfortable truth behind incest, depression and anxiety.

Thank you for sharing, Whit! I am excited to read your book, and more than that, your testimony. If you would like to purchase "Not By My Own," please visit the following links:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

hard things ARE hard

While I adored the porch on my old house, it lacked sunlight for plants. The level of sunshine on my new porch is much more attuned to plant growth, so this spring, adding hanging plants--two ferns, one geranium--was one of the first things I did to spruce up the new place. 

I have tended these plants in such a way as to inspire and encourage growth. 

Aren't they just so happy? From this angle, they look like they are all thriving, right? Nice, full, lush. Lovely.

Let me widen out your view...

Things are a tad off-balance. The geranium and one fern are thriving. The guy by the drain pipe? Not so much. Its stunted growth is throwing off my porch symmetry!

But, not to fear! In my extremely novice plant understanding, I found the culprit...

For weeks, a little mama (or papa)...I know less about birds than plants...has been in and out of the fern. A few days ago, we discovered this nest. You wouldn't think that something as natural as a nest with an egg could be so destructive. The bird wasn't even big! But the activity happening inside was more than the fern could take.

Sure, it's alive. But it definitely isn't thriving!

As I pondered this, I realized that it is the perfect illustration of childhood trauma. It's easy to look at instances of trauma in children and think, "What's the big deal? It's just a small problem." But that small problem starts taking over. 

That small problem starts making a nest. That small problem lays eggs. That small problem manifests into something larger, until one day you realize that the trauma was a BIG deal.

Like my fern, trauma kids stay alive. They may not be easy to spot from various angles. I guarantee most of my teachers would not have guessed my inner turmoil. I was an excellent student...good grades, good classroom behavior. In the outside realm, I kept my nest well-hidden.

But there were many, many places where growth was stunted.

It's difficult to BE a trauma kid, and it's difficult to PARENT a trauma kid. I know both difficulties. You never know how a trigger will make yourself or your child respond. You never know if rage will surface, or fear, or sadness, or a combination. And there is also a certain amount of fear that your rough road as a trauma victim or secondary-ptsd as a parent (YES, that IS a thing!) will be recognized among family, friends and peers as a burden worth helping to bear.

Without raising awareness, the public...our communities, schools, churches, organizations...will continue to view trauma from this angle:

It is my hope that by working hard to raise awareness of the effects of childhood trauma through my writing, through my relationships, and through my various roles, that people...whether trauma victims or not...will start seeing the effects of trauma like this:

Trauma experiences are real. Let's stop pretending hard things aren't hard. It's then that real growth can happen!

To read more about childhood trauma, please click on these links:

Malinda's Story - my personal testimony of trauma and restoration

Project: RESTORE - various aspects of my journey toward healing

Trauma - professional counselor explains the sensory nature of trauma

CDC ACE study - a great resource for understanding response/reaction to trauma

Monday, June 5, 2017

Finishing Touches | progressing bedroom

At the beginning of April, as we did a final walk-through of our soon-to-be home, I held back tears as I took photos of every room. It was a visual of the long list of projects I would soon grapple with. While the home has a great layout and ample space, the magnitude of what we were stepping into weighed heavy on my heart.

I was leaving a home I adored, and even though I love home design, moving to a home that needed updating in every single space was overwhelming. In my emotional state, it seemed like a giant step backward. In order to give ourselves a glimpse of possibility, we decided to tackle a room reno before we moved in.

To save some sanity, we chose the smallest room...which happened to be our son's future bedroom. This is what it looked like before we moved in:

Like the rest of the carpet in our new home, this kinda looked OK at a glance, but upon closer inspection, it was terribly stained and lumpy. We knew we wanted wood floors, and when a corner pull-test revealed disappointment--AKA, no hardwoods--hubby and I got our budget-minded creativity juices flowing. 

We landed on DIY hardwoods. At first hubby thought I was crazy. But google DIY hardwoods, and lots of inspirational photos appear. We settled on 1/4" maple plywood and got to work. Because we don't have a table saw large enough for this project, we had the plywood sheets ripped down to nearly 6" wide planks. Hubby and FIL worked to sand all the edges of every plank. We ripped out carpet and scraped off the linoleum underneath. After it was clean, we laid black felt and started in with the floor.

We decided not to stain the wood, so after sanding and applying a clear coat x5, we were ready to move stuff in. Our son actually slept the first two nights in our new house in our room so the coats could 100% cure.

Here are some photos of the in-progress room. When I first saw the floor paired with fresh paint, my heart swelled. In my mind, it was eye-candy, and helped make me excited to start this new adventure.

Here is a close-up of the finished floor. I love it, and can't wait to get it installed throughout our main level! 

Hubby made the shelves for toy storage in our old house, and they fit great in the new room, too.

The closet doors still need painted...part of the in-progress part of the room. I also need to finish hanging items, and need to sew pockets for the curtain panels. (fun side-note...they are shower curtains!) 

And for a final showcase...BEFORE & IN PROGRESS:

Next up in Finishing Touches, a dark hallway:

See you next time!

The Finishing Touches series is inspired by the lengths Solomon went to, not only to build the temple, but to decorate it (2 Chronicles 3-5). Sometimes I have felt guilty for the joy I find in decorating my home. I like pretty things. And it was such a wonderful moment when I realized God made me as a creator. Like the temple, my desire is for God to be in the center of all I do.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Home Connection | White

I've painted a lot of walls. 

But as I worked on a Phase 1 update to our new home's main floor bath, I realized something. In the course of our home-ownership tenure, I have painted seemingly miles and miles of trim with four coats of semi-gloss white, but until the other day, I'd never painted a wall white!

I'm typically a color girl. And as I plan the list of renovations for our new abode, nowhere will you find the words, "keep the walls white." So why, in the name of all things colorful, did I make this decision?

1. I had two half-used gallons of eggshell white on hand. I knew this would be a temporary fix, as we plan to do a major overhaul in the future. When I went to the shop to look through my leftover paint, I didn't know what I would find. White was a viable option when compared to other colors I had once used and discarded. 

2. I was itching to paint. It's not every day that my adrenal fatigue gives me a break, so when it does, I try to go with it. Energy combined with stencil-disdain fueled my decision to #workwithwhatyougot.

3. Have I mentioned this project was free? Using the white I already had saved me some bucks. And if you've ever renovated/updated a house from top to bottom you know how costs add up! (seriously, nothing will go untouched in this place, except maybe this lizard/salamander hook 😊):

So I started painting. With white.

As coat one dried, the stencils reappeared. Expected. As coat two dried and a faint trace of stencil again showed through, it got me thinking...and my thinking led me right into the DEEP...

Even though I love color, I'm not immune to the value of white. White space in graphic design is extremely beneficial. It gives the beholder a chance to breathe. And in the case of my 80s-90s stencils, white gave me a chance to minimize some chaos. It gave me a clean starting place. 

And, Jesus...He does the same. In his blood, He washes us white. In his death, we start afresh. We are given new life and a clean starting place. Unlike my walls, which needed three coats to cover the stencil, Jesus need only die once to say, "It is finished."

Currently I am reading through the Gospel of John, and Jesus' words from John 6 continue to stick with me. Jesus had just fed the multitudes. He had just shown 5,000+ people a spectacular miracle of an abundant gift...and yet the crowd was not satisfied.

Here's a snippet:

..."They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, 'Rabbi, when did you get here?' Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don't be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.

"They replied, 'We want to perform God's works, too. What should we do?'

"Jesus told them, 'This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.'

Jesus' response was profound. How often do we want only perishable things from Jesus? How often do we ask, "What should we do?" But Jesus doesn't give a list. He doesn't pick up an extra paintbrush and tell the people to start painting. He simply says, the ONLY WORK God wants is a belief in the one he sent. 

Without that fundamental belief in the Lord, we can never cover our stains. We might be able to grab a can of white paint from the shop or store, but just like the stubborn stencil in my bathroom, left to our own devices, our sin will just keep resurfacing. We can't enter into His rest if we're always striving to look good. 

So today, let's pause to consider the white. The clean. The Way. The Truth. The Life. Let's stop and ponder that the only work God wants from His children is to believe in seek eternal life. Anything we try to add to His already completed work just serves to add more stencils!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smell Standards

We're currently in the process of moving to our new home. I love the flow of the floorplan. I love the shop. I love the potential. But I hate the smell. The day after we closed, I went to the new place with three large value-size boxes of baking soda to dumb on the carpet...and an hour later I went back to the store for three more boxes. I also bought odor absorbers at our local auto parts store. Then I set to work taking down all the curtains.

While all those efforts helped the main floor (though it's still not up to my smell standards), the basement is still a mystery. It smells different...and it's not pleasant. But I know that an air freshener just won't do the trick. So we will continue to work to solve the smell mystery.
In the meantime, this whole experience with smells really hit me between the eyes in another way....
Easter: Escape from the Stench
(originally published as Lipstick & Pearls in the 4.19 edition of the Hillsboro Free Press)

Allergies aside, the human nose is a pretty spectacular tool. It humidifies inhaled air. It prevents large particles from entering the lungs. And of course, it smells.
Some smells pass through the nose like a sweet perfume. Some smells have the ability to transport us to another time and place--like Grandma’s kitchen.
Some smells are headache inducers. I always take a wide berth around Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle--the cacophony of smells can quickly make me regret my super smeller.
And some smells have the ability to turn up noses and maybe turn us a little green. The stinkiness of these smells generally indicates some kind of problem that needs addressed.
Sometimes those sour smells are readily identifiable--garbage rot, skunk spray, the stomach bug.
Others take a little more sleuthing.
I’ve had moments where I know the fridge stinks, but I just can’t pinpoint the source. Or the times I searched for a smell only to find a missing sippy cup full of curdled milk pushed far back into the dark abyss under the couch.
There are lots of products on the market made for mystery odors. But pulling out a fragrant air spray or said Yankee Candle doesn’t do much besides mask the stench. The best way to get rid of lingering stink is to find the root of the problem and then determine a course of action. For the random fridge smell, it’s best to pull out the rotting leftovers and then treat the odor. For a forgotten milk-filled sippy cup, it takes emptying the offensive contents and then washing the cup.
And this brings me to Holy Week and the Easter celebration of the Christian faith.
Really? How do bad smells relate to Easter? I’m so glad you asked!
Easter, in all of its glory, encompasses the eradication of the stench of sin in a believer’s life. The risen savior does so much more than send up a puff of Hawaiian Sunset or Lavender Rain. The risen savior overcomes the grave and tears the veil! In the risen savior, sin and death lose.
I remember when I started to comprehend the importance of the cross. I was a student at Tabor College, and I went with a group of friends to the movie theater to see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion.” The horrendous brutality was difficult for me to watch. Even so, I remember thinking, “I did that. My sin did that to Jesus.”
It was a painful, but necessary, realization.
Sin’s stench is offensive to the Lord, and it also has a ripple effect to those around us. It damages and destroys, and we don’t get to control the consequences.
A.W. Tozer, who has long since departed this world, still has it right. He said, “God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hated the polio that would take the life of the child.” Sure, polio has since lost its potency. But other illnesses have taken rise. Just fill in the blank.
Sin is stinky. Sin leads to death. But Jesus, on that wondrous cross, gets to the root of the problem. He pulls out the rotten and replaces with life:
“Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” (Matthew 28: 5-7)
Admittedly, there was a time in my life that I would have brushed off the implications of Easter. Shrugging, I would have thought, “I’ve turned my life over. No need to dwell here. No need to keep pressing into my shortcomings.”
How wrong I was. To avoid my shortcomings--to mask the smell by appearance, word or deed--is to take a can of air freshener and spray.
I have come to realize life is more enjoyable when I don’t mask my odor. Bit by bit, the Lord opens my eyes to my sin and its danger. To places I stumble. To places I fall. To places I slide down into a pit. Oh, to glory in my obvious lack, that the power of Christ may rest on me!
I’m finding great joy and great hope in repentance and the deep rooting that comes from submitting to a risen Lord.
As we move forward from the 2017 Easter season, may we encourage each other to take out the trash, for Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

HSH108 | Kitchen

Guys. We CLOSE ON OUR NEW HOUSE Monday. I can't believe we're at this point already! We're living in a sea of boxes at 108, and I will be glad to get some of them moved out. Due to the difference in closing dates of each property, we will be able to gradually move stuff to the new place...which is a blessing to me as I gear up for three track meets next week. I still might need to transform into Wonder Woman in order to get everything done...

Before the madness begins, and as I take a break from packing, I thought it would be a good time to get in another HSH post. We'll head to the kitchen this time.

To date, the following photo has been probably one of my top 5 interactive Facebook posts over the years, and it's not even a good photo! It was taken in August 2013, as I was trying to select a blue to match the vision in my head:

Despite people weighing in, none of these were quite right. So I just used the leftover gray from Case's room. It was sufficient for a time!

But before getting way ahead of myself, this is what the kitchen looked like shortly after we moved in:

I love wide trim...I will definitely miss the character and depth it provides!
What you can't see in the picture is that the cabinets on the left side of the photo had begun to sag. We often commented that there must have been an angel or two holding them up...because when we took them off, we realized they were only connected by short finishing nails.

This is how much they had pulled down by January of 2013:

After securing the cabinets, we started tackling the paint. If you've painted cabinets before, you know it takes A LOT of time. Good thing we had cute helpers...

And look how understanding our family is...they came to a dedication party while our cabinet painting was in progress! I had forgotten about that...

I also forgot that it took 9-10 months to get everything buttoned up in here...and I also forgot to take kitchen shots of the room with gray walls. Mom brain??? (I believe it's a thing...) Look beyond the birthday set-up, and you can at least see the gray on the walls. Definitely not bad...but I still wanted blue...

So, because I still had visions of blue dancing in my head, I started thinking about a change. Hubby likes darker colors than me, so I compromised. We do the kitchen again...and we go I like navy. OK, deal.

So that brings you up to are the most recent shots:

If I use navy again, I will go a little more muted...with more of a gray undertone...though it reads more low-key in person. It was fun to experiment with a bold color! 

Finally, artwork provided by my girls right after we moved in. Soffits always drive me crazy, trying to figure out what to do with them. This worked well! And, another piece I consider art...the for-real leaded glass window made by my father-in-law. I already have a place in mind for it at the new house!

If you made it to the end of this colossal post, congratulations! I will see you again soon in the rest of the HSH series. Have a lovely weekend 😊