Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Encouragement


via She Reads Truth

For the past couple of weeks I’ve slowly been studying along with the She Reads Truth study on Ruth. I’m through the middle of the second chapter of this short 4 chapter book. But it’s rich with encouragement. In my study book I bought from SRT there’s a “She Prays” section and I’ve been focusing on what I’ve gleaned of the Lord’s character. Here you go:


God CARES abundantly

God is NEAR

God WALKS with us ALWAYS

God SAVES and CALLS sinners

God is WORTHY of everything

God is WISE

His WAYS are not our WAYS


God is ALWAYS at work for our GOOD

God PROVIDES abundantly

His ways are GOOD

Two short little chapters and a wealth of encouragement. No matter our circumstances we have a God whose character is worthy of standing upon and trusting. When the day is long and so far from what we imagined, because of the truth of HIS character we can state with psalmist…

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

indeed I have a beautiful inheritance!”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Morning in the Strawberry Patch

June is never a complete month for me unless we visit the strawberry patch. Last year for some reason we never made it but we didn’t waste any time this year. As soon as I got an email update that the berries were ripe for picking, I chose the coolest and driest morning of the week and penciled it in.


I love doing morning activities like this one with Elizabeth. Strawberry patches are very family and child friendly…there were little ones strapped in Ergo’s and strollers lining the rows. Thankfully Elizabeth is the perfect age for picking…we didn’t need anything besides a bit of bug spray and our container and we were off.

As we started out down the row I made sure to tell Elizabeth that the last time we went picking she was in my belly just like the baby. Even though I’m certain she didn’t care about that fact, I loved knowing that we had started a little family tradition. We’ve been doing a lot of outings with her lately and she’s turned into quite the good listener. After sharing that we picked the red berries she went to town…although a few random white and green ones made it in for good measure. She was an excellent helper, picking handfuls of berries and staying relatively close by. She would taste a few but I was surprised she didn’t come home full of berry juice. Nobody minds little ones snacking at the berry patch!


And after about 30 minutes, she declared the activity “all-done” and so we began making our way to the car. I never have strong plans when it comes to activities like this because I want them to stay enjoyable. And besides we had 7 pounds of berries already which is plenty for jam and muffins and eating. The berries were prime for picking…you could just reach your hand in and come up with a handful of juicy, red, ripe berries.


It’s still hard for me to believe that the last time we were picking I was just 9 days from giving birth. We had such a nice time this morning on our little mommy and daughter adventure and now I better get going on making some jam.


For any MN Locals we headed to Lorence’s Berry Farm in Northfield. We’ve had such a great experience there and their berries are really well priced. Just $2/pound.

Now I just can’t wait for blueberry and raspberry season!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning to Eat, A History

Remember when I told you that I’m not perfect but I wanted to share some things that have been influential in our family? I’d love to share how we eat, or more specifically our “philosophy of food,” but it wouldn’t be fair unless I share my own history. It’s a story not so many know but it is a story worthy of being shared, at least I think so.

Because there’s a history to unravel.

When I was 24 years old, I struggled with an eating disorder. It was the year after I graduated from college. I was a 24 year old girl, with no real clarity as far as careers go, who had a history of insecurity and came home from a missions trip with far too much to deal with.

I would have never explained myself as a child or adolescent that was insecure or struggled with her weight. That is until a few months ago when I read through my old diaries. I definitely had a desire to be wanted, accepted, and definitely had body insecurities. I was never skinny but average and I grew up in a home with a mother who never talked about dieting or shared her own body insecurities. 

But throughout my junior high and high school days, I spent quite a bit of time trying to gain the attention of boys the wrong way. I made a lot of mistakes and my own history prompted me to feel a panic when we found out we were having a daughter. I always wanted to fit in, be accepted, be loved, even after I became a believer in Jesus I still held on to destructive patterns and friendships because they were familiar and accepting.

The summer following my first year out of college, I boarded a plane with several young adults I didn’t know on a Summer Project trip to Toulouse, France. And for the first time in my life I felt free. All the old strongholds were missing and for 5 weeks I came into my own. God grabbed ahold of me in a way I haven't’ experienced since and I felt at home. While in college I began learning to cook, I fell in love with food and France only heightened those new enjoyments. Food became an experience, a part of our day meant to be enjoyed, it became less about stuffing my face and more about experiencing.

And then I came home.

And the months that followed were some of the darkest and hardest to work through. Transitioning back to my old life, the strongholds, the friends, the reality was extremely hard for me. Upon hitting the ground I started graduate school, moved, re-entered the country, and my stepfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and given 8 months to live.

And for the first time in my life, I could barely come up for air. And to keep control of something I began a pursuit to keep the weight off that I lost while walking the streets of Toulouse. I became fanatical about healthy food. I memorized calorie counts, I spent hours in the Barnes and Noble health section reading diet book after diet book, I did South Beach, I ate black bean brownies, banana ice cream, and every kind of popular low calorie treat. And then when the weight began to creep back on I began binging and purging.

As a result my body went crazy. With travel and weight loss and everything combined my cycle ceased. I began feeling tingles in my fingers and toes and I began undergoing a series of testing to figure out what on earth was going on. And as one who can hide things well, I never shared my struggle with eating with any of the doctors. Instead they diagnosed me as under too much stress…saying my body was shutting down as a result.

Sometimes I wonder if I brought my infertility on myself, with my poor choices, with the desire to keep things under control. And then I remember…the Lord, giver of life, sovereign over all things, the one who brought me out of the pit and gave me new life.

Because in the winter, when my really close friend who went to France with me, sat with me at Barnes and Noble I shared with her what I was struggling with. And through honesty and the sharing of words, the pressure and struggle began to fade. And she didn’t judge me. She just sat with tears in her eyes and prayed for me and listened. And in my life until that point I couldn’t remember that many times when someone hadn’t chastised me or made me feel bad or put me down.

And then I told my mother on one of our very frequent car trips back and forth from MN to WI from visiting my family and my step-dad. And then I met my husband.

And then God did a work. I was serving in our church alongside young, junior high girls and I began the work necessary to become a member of our church. And bless our church, part of the statement of faith states that you will “not bring unwarranted harm against your body.” And I waffled and prayed and began to loosen the hands that were holding so tightly to control. Because I wanted more than anything to be obedient and I knew I couldn’t’ make that statement given what I was doing.

And then that friend, the one who listened and loved, begged me to join her at a conference for Campus Crusade, that New Year’s. And I went. And the speaker asked…asked young, visionary students to give a year of their life to ministry and it’s as if the Lord looked me right in the eye and said “Follow me.” Because I fell to my knees and begged forgiveness because at that point in my life I wasn’t even giving the day to Him. And I felt all the stress melt away.

I won’t say recovering from those days has been easy. But I also would say the Lord did a massive healing in my heart and in my life. When Alex and I began dating, I remember knowing that I would need to share this part of my history with him. And bless his heart, when I shared on the boat one afternoon, he just looked at me and listened, and told me it would be okay…he struggled with things as well.

He accepted me and all of my story. All of my history. Knowing I was a filthy sinner that had been made clean. And that first year of marriage the need to control popped it’s ugly head up. And I fell at times back into old habits and my husband never chastised me or made me feel bad. Instead he just prayed with me and walked with me and worked with me and built me up.

And I know, that in ways I will probably never be able to perfectly articulate, that the Lord used my husband as one of the major tools in helping me get well. You see, my husband loves food, but for as long as I can remember and what seems to be his status quo, he’s eaten like the French.

All in moderation.

He’s the only person I know that doesn’t really snack throughout the day. Well except now for Elizabeth and I. He is a crazy person about balancing out his meals. If he eats pizza he needs a vegetable to go with it to balance the grease. If he snacks, it’s usually on vegetables. His major weaknesses are candy and pop.

And so on the road to healing, my husband taught me again, what I had already embraced in France. He helped me learn to eat again. Everything in moderation. All for the benefit of food being enjoyed and savored and embraced.

Because it’s all good and all been given from the one who created it all for our good and for His glory. We eat to the glory of God and savor magnificent bites of almost everything.

Savoring and enjoying with hearts of thankfulness.

And that’s the history.

How a girl opened her hands and relinquished control and embraced the good gifts from above.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Great House Update: Kitchen Selections

I’m back with another little update. Before I do a kitchen reveal post I thought it would be fun to talk about what goes into kitchen updates and how to get the look you are after.

Here are all the past House Update posts:

Great House Update / Update List / The Exterior / The Exterior Pt. 2 / Pre-Nursery / Kitchen Sneaks

When you are remodeling any part of your house there are so many decisions that need to be made, especially when doing the kitchen. Alex, the resident remodeler, always advises his clients to spend time on Pinterest and perusing design magazines, making note of what they like and dislike.

When it came to our kitchen I was lucky because we had previously created my dream kitchen in our second flip. It looked like this:



1. What style are you after?

Traditional/Modern/Classic/Country? Check your Pinterest boards and magazines. I had pinned plenty of kitchens with navy or grey cabinets but at the end of the day I wanted classic white. Kitchens are spendy to renovate and while I like some trends today I didn’t want to go with something I would regret. Everyone is different…go with what YOU like.

My most pinned images…sensing a theme?



           via Little House Blog                        via decorpad                     via dougelissa

2. Think about how you will use the space.

When we first moved into our house, we spent time living in it and making note of what we liked/disliked and how our home could function better. Most people are surprised we did not choose to take down the walls in our kitchen. Our reasoning was two-fold: When looking at the floor plan on Alex’s design program, our main level footprint was too small to create an open concept. Secondly, I tend to agree with this article: Against Open Floor Plans. I love to cook so I don’t want everything to be in sight nor do I want everyone in the kitchen with me. And while I’d love more room for my girls to join me, I love how just changing the opening to our kitchen helped us achieve more open living.

I wanted the most storage I could get which meant tearing out our soffits and taking everything up. I also really wanted to incorporate a cabinet for our stick vacuum/mops and overflow pantry.

3. Be realistic about your budget.

Kitchen renovations are not cheap. You can do a lot of updates with just paint and changing out a few key things but if you are doing a gut job take your budget into account. Everything adds up. There are great ways to save and as we all know great ways to splurge! It’s a great idea to set allowances for each part of the kitchen to keep you on track and looking in the right places. Also know what to do now and what to wait on. We could have sprung for paint and spent the sweat equity changing up our kitchen for a few years until we could spring for a new one. At the end of the day saving those pennies to be used elsewhere was a better plan for us and so we kept saving for the kitchen we really wanted instead. Sometime it pays to do an interim remodel.

4. Pick out appliances you will use.

Sticking with one brand of appliances is starting to vanish. Many homeowners choose to mix and match based on what and how they cook. We ended up going with a Kitchen Aid appliance suite that we bought open box from Appliance Smart. We were able to save a lot of money buying appliances that had been staged in a house but never used. For our kitchen we knew we needed a counter depth refrigerator and they are not cheap. Because of that we ended up with a side by side instead of a French door. Fine by me because we have a freezer in our basement for backup but not everyone would want to sacrifice that. We also really wanted a slide in range, also not cheap. These two appliances themselves could have exceeded our appliance budget had we not been strategic in getting a deal. While a convection microwave sounded great for extra oven space at the end of the day I realized I wouldn’t be cooking that many meals that required a double oven which saved us money in the end.

5. There are things to splurge on and ways to save.

My husband calls the drawer pulls in kitchens the jewelry. This is one area you can splurge on but make sure you have the budget. We were *this* close to going with IKEA cabinets to save money on our kitchen. At the last minute we were given an incredible rate for custom cabinetry through a contact of my husbands. We ended up not having the greatest experience with the cabinet maker but at the end of the day we ended up with more custom touches like our hutch that otherwise would have been impossible. IKEA makes incredible cabinets…my husband was shocked how much he liked them and felt they were very good quality. Expensive hardware on a less expensive cabinet is a great way to make your cabinets shine. We ended up REALLY splurging on our hardware at Restoration Hardware because we knew we needed some long pulls. I’m so glad we did because it’s one of my favorite things. We also saved by using white subway tile for our backsplash. White subway tile may be one of the least expensive tile options around and it’s incredibly classic.

6. Know what you can deal with and what will drive you nuts

I’ve always wanted marble in our kitchen. Always. This was the first time my husband has ever put it in a kitchen because he’s always been a naysayer to the idea. Marble etches, stains, and gets water marks no matter how hard you try to keep it clean. I’m okay with that because those imperfections don’t bother me. If that would drive you nuts, steer clear. Contrary to popular belief, Carrera marble is not that expensive. It’s comparable to most types of granite with Quartz/Cambria countertops being far more expensive.

7. Create a kitchen for your way of life

Pinterest has all sorts of great ideas when it comes to adding things to your kitchen. Little personal details can be added pretty easily for the most part. As someone who likes to cook, I use a lot of different small appliances but I don’t want them all on the counters. We created our hutch in the kitchen to house overflow dishes, glasses, and our coffee maker/espresso machine. But this area is dual purpose because it becomes a drink station or bar when we have parties. We just store the coffee appliances and the hutch becomes the perfect place for drink mixing.

Another example would be our sink. When I polled FB and my blog for sink suggestions there were very few people who picked a single bowl sink over a double basin. I went against all the advice and picked out a huge single bowl sink with a grate at the bottom. I LOVE it mainly because when walking up our main stairs the first thing you see is the sink. A single bowl hides all the dirty dishes and pans from wandering eyes. While it’s not as ideal for dishwashing, I just add a small plastic tub to the sink when I actually do dishes. Since I’m a dishwasher kind of girl, not having another basin hasn’t flustered me in the least.

So there you have it. 7 great tips on what to think through when planning a kitchen renovation.

Happy renovating!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Life Lately on a Monday

Life is beginning to get a bit full.

Not the day to day as much as the weighing of the to-do list, activities, birthdays, and general life. As a rule I tend to slow down in the summers…getting somewhere before 9:30am is difficult as we have already begun enjoying our long leisurely mornings. I tend to play outside and go more places in the summer to take advantage of the three good months of the year before having to pack up the summer things and hibernate for the winter.

Today we headed to the pool to use our annual pass and it was perfect. So perfect our darling girl We had my dad and step-mom in town over the weekend and between Father’s day festivities and a full Saturday playing with G&G, she was a tired girl.

Speaking of tired girls, we put the crib rail back up on her bed. This doesn’t deserve it’s own post in the least. For 2 1/2 weeks she did okay but the thing we noticed the most was that her wake up time got earlier and her naps got shorter. That combination was enough for us to throw in the towel and buy another crib mattress for the baby. With her naps down to 45 minutes and her waking up screaming and still tired, we’re now back to normal and this mommy can breathe again knowing I have at least 90 minutes to get things done during naptime.

So this weekend while my dad and step-mom were in town we headed out to get some bedding for the nursery. After picking it all out we realized that it didn’t quite work with the chair and due to a brilliant idea from my step-mom, the chair went out the window, literally today, while Alex was installing the new one.


Remember how he wasn’t going to take it out the way it came in? Well I lucked out. I’m so happy that it will be moving with me down to our spare bedroom/craft space as I truly love the chair. With the chair gone I’ve come up with a game plan I love for the nursery…here’s the direction we are headed.


1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

The gray wall color and rug are staying put and the photo of the crib above is basically the same one my mom has although it’s a drop-side and super old. We will modify the crib but free is better than buying new. As far as the bedding, etc. goes, it will all be white. The white ruffle collection from Pottery Barn Kids and their ruffle edge blackout curtains. I probably would not have gone all out with this room but when someone is begging to buy you new things the polite thing to do is say “yes and thank you!” I love the artwork for the walls and since the wooden closet doors and base trim are staying put for now the crib will not be the only wooden piece in the room. We plan to do a double rod in all the bedrooms now that our new windows are in with sheers on the interior and curtains on the top rod. We had wooden blinds in each of the rooms but our windows are far too pretty now to have shade on them:) And as far as the chair goes, cheap and utilitarian from IKEA since I can’t bring myself to steal Elizabeth’s nursery glider. We still use it all the time with her. Spoiled girl!

Other weekend ramblings…if you are in the Twin Cities you should run to the Edina Grill and eat the Toad in the Hole breakfast (puff pastry, Parmesan, bacon, roasted tomatoes, fried egg, arugula salad, hash browns). I’m still savoring it’s goodness. Elizabeth made out like a bandit with early birthday celebrations and her new baby and stroller are prized possessions.


I wish we would have just invested in this stroller in the first place. The big wheels don’t bang our walls, it’s quiet, she can’t sit in it and there are no buckles anywhere. They thought of parents when they build this one.

So that’s our little update. Things are beginning to fall back into place and as soon as all this rainy weather passes through we are hoping to get our brick painted and the rest of the windows in. The transformation on the outside and inside is pretty amazing…although we have a long ways to go.



That was a wordy, random, long post.

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Vacation Is a Lifeline for us


On Wednesday afternoon we returned from a 4d/3n trip up north to one of our very favorite Minnesota cities, Brainerd. We found an amazing deal on Crowd Cut that required us to sit in on a timeshare spiel. And it was interesting to say the least.


Alex and I love to vacation. Seriously, love to vacation. And our vacations include lots of relaxing. If our vacation at the end leaves us wanting another vacation, then we did not plan our trip well. We travel not only to see new places but for rest and rejuvenation.

I’ve been reading Kent and Barbara Hughes book Disciplines of a Godly Family, and I was so encouraged that they made a point to talk about the discipline of family vacation. As a family we make a “disciplined investment” in taking family vacations.

To share with you just how important vacation is to us I’ll share the answers we gave the timeshare man in response to his questions. Realize we had to answer individually and we ended up answering simultaneously with the same answers.

1. How many weeks/how much time do you spend on vacation each year? 4 weeks

2. How important, on a scale from 1-10, is vacation to you? 10

3. How much to do typically spend annually on vacation? 6% of our take home pay

The last question we obviously answered more specifically for the man but to give you an idea of our vacation budget, we spend 7.5% of our take home income on groceries, household items, and clothing. We value vacation. In fact, just to illustrate that I’m selfishly human, there are times all year long that I get a bit jealous of what everyone else can buy, spend, decorate, etc. I’m often reminded by my husband of the sacrifice and investment we make in taking vacations. As soon as he says it I realize I’d much rather be gone in the winter than have such and such for our house or more time at the salon, etc.

Elizabeth will turn 2 in 9 days and in her little lifetime she has been on an airplane for 4 trips, only one of which had direct flights. So that’s 14 plane rides. She’s become quite accustomed to the airport! We’ve been up north with her twice as well and the memories we’ve made already make my heart swell. In those 4 weeks of vacation, we usually spend two of them traveling in the January and March to escape the cold, Alex uses one for his annual guys ski trip and the other 7 days are split between long weekend trips.


In our timeshare presentation, after answering his questions, the man just kind of stared at us. Apparently he doesn’t get that many couples in his office like us. And then he asked a question that I’m sure helped explain things for him. He asked if we traveled a lot as children with our families and both of us answered yes.

Vacationing for us is really important, obviously, but as our two girls grow up it’s taken on a new level of importance. We really want to expose them to other places, other cultures, create family memories, and create opportunities for us to do fun things, without normal tasks getting in the way. We can’t wait to take them all over the United States and overseas. We figure we are 5 years out from being able to take them across the pond and show them some of our favorite spots.


If you’re thinking we’re either crazy or that we’ll wake up and realize we don’t want to be with our kids, or take them on vacation…it may help to understand what vacation is to us.

Vacations are a means of creating and fostering family relationships, creating positive family memories, and having fun as a family unit. Right now our vacations are more about keeping things really simple, relaxing and trying to fit in one or two fun activities that are age appropriate but that mom and dad enjoy as well. As the girls get older we’ll have to be a bit more strategic in creating great vacations but ones that also have some learning components as well.

For instance, for 4 days up north in MN we did the bare minimum. We rented bikes and went on an hour bike ride, we went to the beach/lake at least twice a day, and we relished naptime when we stretched out and read books. Alex even managed to play 27 holes of golf.

I think we like and value getting away so much because everyone is unplugged for the most part. Work isn’t taking the forefront, nor are daily chores, instead there’s eating out or eating in simply, playing together as a family, extra screen time for Elizabeth, ice cream and lots of quality time.

Things I’m sure will shake up a bit when our next little one arrives, but we already have earmarked trips in January and early April. Obviously everyone can’t afford or set aside money to take big family trips. We’ve been blessed until this point with either free lodging, inexpensive lodging, and free airline tickets via credit card points. We usually eat in our unit and eat out less. Our trips are far from extravagant but they are really enjoyable and rejuvenating. Even a stay-cation for one night in your town or camping can be great ways to get the benefit of family vacation on a budget.

As far as this past trip, it was so enjoyable. Elizabeth is at the perfect age for vacation, she adapts well to being somewhere else, and she’s game for almost any activity. Growing up with a lakeside cabin in the family makes time at the lake so special to me. After our trip I told Alex that we have to start planning that every summer, starting in a few years, we will head up north in the summer as a family for a week. I need the lake. The view, the memories, the boating, the sand and smell of lake water.  We’ll see how that pans out…but a girl can hope, especially since I’ve been told a cabin is not in the long term plan!


And while the timeshare spiel was enticing, we turned it down. Too many unknowns.

But that’s okay because the vacation was worth it!

Do you vacation as a family? Where is your favorite spot to go?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vacation in pictures


Needless to say, our vacation was a success. More details to come after we recover.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Digging Down Deep


These past few weeks I’ve been spending quite a bit of time hunched over in our overgrown backyard pulling weeds. Elizabeth for the most part waters the weeds, plays in her water bucket and helps “dig” with her shovel. We don’t last long, just an hour or so, and some days we are out there bright and early and others after dinner.

Today was the first time I had been out in about a week and I sighed when my eyes hit the weed patch. All my work in previous weeks was gone and in it’s place weeds had taken over every spare inch of dirt. And it got me thinking.

About my sin and how similar it is to weeds. Because stooping in our backyard, 6 months pregnant, while not difficult, is energy sapping. And just taking one day off leaves room for weeds to sprout back up. Some have roots deep down beneath the surface of the soil, requiring extra toil to remove and others pop out with very little effort.

For me, that root of sin that always needs pruning is my tongue. For too long I let my tongue loose and as a result of my youth there have been consequences. Broken relationships and friendships, really. And the initial toil to tame my tongue and my anger was enormous, years really, to get things to a point where I can most often hold things in. Like a garden bed, carefully worked and pruned to keep the weeds out.

And yet, my tongue and my anger need constant pruning, like the weeds in our backyard. I cannot go gallivanting for long…for in due course my tongue is sure to err. Smart remarks or disdainful looks. Quick anger with our girl and callous words for those around me.

As I look around our yard, and I pulled the weeds, constant effort and constant reward, I was reminded of the great reward that comes as we fight our sin. As I put the effort in, day in and day out, pruning my words and working towards patience, I’m rewarded most often. And when things are let loose, there is much work to be done, again and again, to get at the root.

I’m thankful for the tangible ways the Lord uses the world around us to teach us about His ways and His desires. There’s weed repellent for our sin in the blood of Jesus but there’s also constant toil to get at the root, to pull off the chaff, and to grow. Sanctification, growing more like Him, in beauty and grace.

Getting my hands dirty never felt so fulfilling.