Friday, October 28, 2016

Just Be

This week has had to be a little slower with us fighting colds. There's a kettle of water steaming on the stove right now, some of us are still in our pajamas, and pooh bear is playing in the living room. It looks like a beautiful fall day outside, and I'd love to go for a walk later if we're all feeling up to it. It feels like October is more fleeting than ever this year, I can't believe this is the last weekend of it already. It helps to look back through my photos and see all the ways we've enjoyed it already though. Roasted vegetables, pumpkins everywhere, apple cider almost every trip to the grocery store, homemade breads and soups, celebrating Drew and Jaden's birthdays, powdered sugar lips on Isaiah's school field trip to the orchard, dressing my babies in knits and flannels and fleece, playing in the leaves... There's been a lot of coloring at the kitchen table the last few weeks, a lot of personal stretching and growth, rough moments and beautiful victories intermingled together in that dance that is life.

I'm in this season where I'm really digging into what self-care looks like. I suppose it all started with my desire to simplify life and saying no to everything I could all summer. With the beginning of September I decided to open myself back up and try to pour out all that I could to people around me. People literally came knocking on our door for help right within what felt like minutes of making that decision. Within a week I had hit the limits of my own resources. I'd been getting up extra early, babysitting for neighbors, trying to be there for others in difficult situations, and hit hard in private situations as well. Then the shame and discouragement of not being able to "do it all" set in.... Seriously, why do we all think we should be able to do everything?? I went up for prayer at church one Sunday morning and someone prayed with me and shared that IT IS OK FOR MY FAMILY TO BE MY FIRST (AND SOMETIMES ONLY) MINISTRY RIGHT NOW. Relief. It couldn't have come from a better person, someone who I know has a heart to help those in need more than almost anyone else I know. We listened to a message this week about how you can't give what you don't have, what it looks like to be self-aware, know what you are operating out of, and take a break if you just don't have anymore to pour out.

I have a huge burden inside me to help people in need around me. But I also have a bigger burden to not sacrifice my family to accomplish this. I want to be healthy. I want to be balanced. I'm still learning what this looks like. I am trying to put into place people and resources that will help me learn what this looks like and live it out practically.

The hardest bit to all of this is where I care what other people think about me. It's easy to imagine that people might call me selfish when they don't have a clue what's going on behind the scenes or why I said no to something. It's easy to wonder if people think my life is perfect just because I don't share publicly the hard stuff going on? I'm not a broadcaster of trials. I'm not a defamer of people. I'm not an open book to the world when I'm in pain or processing. I process internally and with close friends. I like to speak positively. I like to be encouraging. I love to share joy, beauty, truth, life.... That's what I share publicly. All of this to say, this is an interesting season for sure... I've stepped back from photography in an effort to be more present with my family in these next few months and to let the creativity in that art flow from a place of joy and inspiration rather than be forced and scheduled and full of pressure (most that I put on myself). It doesn't make sense to step back from something that can be very competitive, but it feels right to do. When I pick it back up again I have faith that if it is supposed to continue to be part of my life that He will make it happen. It feels like things are all a little shaky, that there is shifting happening, that I am weighing out priorities and making big decisions that still feel a bit cloudy in nature. It feels like letting go of the things I've found my identity in and finding that I am someone outside of the things that I do. There is someone inside me that I just am. It is a place of rest that feels unnatural and I find myself fighting. But I keep hearing/feeling the invitation to just come rest in His arms and be. And I have the strangest feeling that when I stop fighting and learn to do that, to not let it matter so much what people think, to not fear letting go of things I've found my identity in, that maybe, just maybe, I'll meet myself there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Our Farmhouse Dream

It doesn't come naturally to me to share stuff in my life that is 'in process.' I'd much rather share my story when it has a resolution, when it's a done deal, when the mess is over and the story has a clear ending, one that makes sense and you can look back at the bumps in the road and see what their purpose was... 
But I've been thinking lately that when we only share the finished "perfect" (quotation marks because nothing in life is ever really "perfect") stuff in life, it can give the impression that life is perfect. Or that messes don't ever happen. Or that you're never in situations that you don't understand while you're in the midst of them. And that simply is not the case. 
So here I go sharing something that we are in the middle of, and it doesn't all make sense yet, and there isn't a clear and definitive end to. But it's something that is dear to my heart and exciting, something we've dreamed of for a long time, and something we are spending a ridiculous amount of our time on right now. Something that feels like a risk, making big decisions that I don't know if I'm equipped to make.

Building our farmhouse. 

I use the term 'building' lightly, because we haven't actually broken ground yet. ;) 

Back in the earliest season of our marriage I remember having vague conversations about building a home someday. By the time Drew was born in 2009 we knew that was for sure a dream in our hearts. In 2010 when we were beyond ready to move our of our teeny tiny two bedroom apartment we looked for land. We found some, but it didn't feel quite right. And although I could vaguely see a long front porch and open windows and peonies blooming outside, a clothesline perhaps and a vegetable garden, those were only the dim beginnings of the vision for the home that would eventually etch itself into our minds. 
We bought our townhouse in October of 2010 and I honestly love it so much I could stay here forever. But as our babies have grown (and as we've brought three more babies into our family since then) the yard seems to have gotten smaller and smaller... And the dream of a farmhouse where we can incorporate simpler ways of living into our lives has grown larger and larger. In the beginning of 2015 we began contemplating purchasing land from Shaun's parents' farm to build on. I really love the town we live in now, so it was hard for me to imagine moving from here. But we will only be about 15 minutes from where we currently are, and over the course of a few months I really started to embrace the idea. By May of 2015 (when I was a few days pregnant with Havilah but didn't even know it yet) we took a walk as a family around the farm scouting out where we would want to build. Because the farm is in ag preserve it was tricky to figure out where that might be. At first we thought we might try to buy ten acres but all the hoops to jump through were kind of crazy, so by the end of summer of 2015 we settled upon a one acre lot that had been kept out of ag preserve. In September of 2015 we had our first meeting with our builders. By that time I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Havilah and we had the idea that our engineer would be able to get all the storm water/septic/permits figured out by about January or February and we'd start building in the spring. Well that surely did not happen. The land was not subdivided, which takes time and more money than we realized to do, and turned out there would be all kinds of hurdles for putting in a septic system that would meet all the requirements and not be too close to any wells, and could actually be affordable if we wanted to still build a house after putting in a septic system. (One of our quotes was $200,000- just for the septic!!!!! Insane!!) Anyway, it has taken us a full year from that first meeting with our builder and we still haven't broken ground. It's been frustrating at times. It's brought situations where we have had to tread lightly in things we never imagined.  We've wondered if we should just give up. We've calculated our finances to make sure we can really do this about a hundred times. But overall, I have felt so so so much peace. The timing is in God's hands. We just need to keep walking. But He has it all figured out already. I would not have been ready to pack up our house with a newborn baby and move. I am content where I am at, and that is such a gift. 
In this process over the last year I have seen so many times where we were ready to call it quits, questioning if this dream of ours is really what we are supposed to do, and God steps in with the most amazing reassurance. It's been a really beautiful faith journey. Just a few examples... One night I was talking with Shaun's mom about how I'd really love to do a brick surround for our gas fireplace, maybe even a brick sidewalk, but how brick is expensive and I don't think we're going to be able to do anything extra like that... (I had originally wanted a white painted brick exterior, but just to do the front of the house was an additional $15,000... learning lots of numbers like that in this process :) ) Anyway, on our way home that night we passed a brick building being demolished. There was a sign in front of it with a number on it. Shaun called the number and the guy told us we could come take as much brick as we wanted. (!!!!) I found out later that my great-grandmother had gone to church in that building at one time. So now the brick that we will one day use around our fireplace was not only free, but has a story and history and feels like such a gift from Jesus. 
Another story... we want to put a wood stove in our basement so that we have a natural (and free) source of heat for our home. I found a style of wood stove that I loved online, and had pinned a picture of it. It was about $1000. I was hoping maybe we would find something similar on craigslist for half of that. A few weeks later we randomly decided to take a drive on a Saturday and go to Chic-Fila for lunch. On our way there Shaun suddenly hit the brakes and said "did you see that?!" I was like "Oh my gosh what??" Thinking there was an accident or something wrong... He was like "There's a woodstove on the side of the road!!" Ha! So we turned around and drove back. And I kid you not, it was the exact woodstove that I had pinned for sale for $125. We called the number and the lady came to meet us. She said they would take $100 for it. And her husband even delivered it to our house. They had used it for one winter and decided they were getting to old for a wood stove. It was in perfect condition. 
We have so many more stories like this... We got a dishwasher, a utility sink, a gorgeous chandelier, and six white cabinets for free from a customer of Shaun's that he does landscaping for because they were remodeling their house. There are more things I'm on the hunt for in the time we have left before we begin building, but I'm just blown away by the things that have already happened like this. 
The extra time to think over our layout, square footage, design, functionality, etc for our new home have been wonderful. This is a process I really don't want to rush. We've enjoyed it so much. 

I'm inspired by classic design. When we visited Williamsburg in 2014 I was head over heels for the clean lines, simplicity and symmetry of the homes. Add in the picket fences and lovely gardens and... oh my. Take a little farmhouse plus a little cottage plus what I mentioned above of colonial and there you have what I hope to create. I imagine chickens and a big vegetable garden and a farmhouse sink and an archway in the entry among so many other details that are growing more and more clear in my mind all the time. 

Here are a few images of homes that inspire me also: 

I hope to have an all white exterior with some board and batten detail for interest and to add a bit of a cottage element. I have always loved farmhouses where the peak of the gable faces the road. That was a huge starting place as I began sketching out our house about a year and a half ago. What I love about our builder is that they literally took our sketches and dimensions and everything we have asked for and turned them into professional renderings. This house and layout and the dimensions first existed in our dreams and that is just so, so cool to me. So here we are, still fine tuning our plans and figuring out what upgrades we can afford now and what projects will wait until later. We still don't have a ground breaking date yet. But it's getting closer all the time. I can feel it. And I'm soaking up and enjoying every day in our current home, because I know it will be so hard for me to leave it, even though I'm so excited for what is to come. 

So that's where we are currently in our journey. It is not finished, it's a bit messy, and I'm not quite sure what the ending looks like... but thanks for joining me in the process. :)  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Touring our Home: Havilah's Nursery

I thought maybe I would write a blog post on Havilah's nursery before she was even born. Here she is six months old and I'm just now doing it. 
I feel like this post is a lot more than just a nursery tour. Over the past few months, as you might have noticed, I've barely written at all. Sometime in May it all just hit me. I was doing WAY too much. Besides being a mom of four babies six and under I was Drew's kindergarten class homeroom mom, and involved in church leadership, and going back into what I consider "full time" photography, and trying to be a good wife and friend and "do all the things" that we are supposed to do... have a clean house and cook good meals, and plant my own garden and be responsible with our money and Shaun and I are also in the process of building a house (we have not broken ground yet but there is a LOT that goes into just getting to that point... our land was not sub-divided, had no storm water plans etc) It was all just TOO MUCH. The inside of me was screaming for breathing room. Something had to give. I remember sitting down in the gray tufted chair in the corner of our bedroom and just thinking "who do I want to be? What is most important to me??" It felt like such a big and confusing question, but the answer came so easily. As a lover of Jesus I want to be a good wife and mother. And I want my children to know Jesus. And that is all that I care about. I had to figure out how to clear space to breathe again. So from that place I made every decision about our summer. 

Instead of booking a photo shoot a week, I booked only one a month. Instead of blogging when something was stirring in my heart, I just let it stir and prayed over it and processed it for what it could mean for me without documenting any of it. Instead of saying yes to the opportunities that came my way I said no. It felt like loss. It felt like gain. It felt like setting boundaries. It felt like laying down burdens that were never mine to carry anyway. It felt like a retreat into myself, pulling all resources back to home base where I could regroup and think and just be. We got our kids into places of worship however we could, whether it meant taking them an hour away to a conference or just having worship music on in our house. Our bedtime routine became a peaceful one instead of a battle through incorporating worship into it. I began reading a chapter of Proverbs to them every morning. (That changed and challenged me the most.) We made a list of the things we wanted to do together this summer and hung it up where we could see it, and I wrote down the dates when we would do things and then we protected those dates from the other things that tried to crowd them out. I found behavior charts for character that I want to develope in my children and bad behavior I want to correct and we started implementing that. Instead of feeling five steps behind in this area I now feel confident and like a weight has been lifted.  I considered stepping back from leadership in church but my heart is so in that, and that never felt like something I was supposed to lay down just yet. 
As I re-evaluate at the end of the summer here I know there is still more to step back from, to say no to in order to give a big, loud, confident, committed YES to the things I am most called to. There is still not enough margin in my life, and still too much stress. I'm not quite sure how to unselfishly navigate this season. I desperately need to protect healthy boundaries and keep myself free to be a wife and a mom, and do that well. It is many lessons in grace, and it is a huge need to hear Holy Spirit speak clearly to me as I make decisions. 
But as I re-evaluate, I realize that I can lay down most all the extra things that I've said yes to in my life, but I have a very hard time letting go of writing. It is more than just a "thing that I do..." It is how I process, and it always has been as far back as I can remember. I've missed writing more than anything else that I let go this summer. Because this is all still a work in progress, I don't know how I will channel writing back into my life, whether it will be a schedule, whether I will wait for inspiration to hit and then just try to wing it... I don't have a clue. I just know I can't go months at a time without writing, even if it is just in a notebook for myself. 
So there. My explanation for why I've been absent, which has nothing to do with Havilah's nursery. 

Here is her room now: 
(and I don't know why really, but I just HAD to dust and vacuum and spray the room with lavender before I could take these photos... not that any of that is transferred through looking at the photos... but I just couldn't help myself. So her room is currently super fresh and clean which was an added bonus to this whole process. ) :) 

Here is almost the same photo, taken back when she was still in my belly. (Was there ever really a time I didn't know her yet?!)
My sweet, sweet, thumb sucking daughter, sitting smack dab in the center of the room I fussed and nested and decorated and fluffed for her for all the months leading up to her arrival. If she only knew how much love I poured into her nursery while I waited to pour it out onto her. 

Below is the hutch Shaun (with help from our boys) built for her a few weeks before she was born. He used an old shelf passed down to us from my grandmother as the base. We painted it white and he added the shelves with a bead board back. 
 A few up close shots of the scenes on the shelves:

A tea set from a dear friend, Little House books from my Mama. Hand-made quilts and blankets stacked on the bottom shelf. Some of her newborn photos. My mom's piggy bank from when she was a little girl. 

Her crib! The same one all three of her brothers slept in as babies. Above it is a fabric banner I made for my sister's bridal shower. 
This little antique bedside table was from the same place her dresser came from. I adore it. When the fan that was in the nursery before broke it was the perfect excuse to replace it with something pretty. I think functional items should be the most beautiful, since they are something you have to have anyway. This fan was from wayfair. The pretty print held by the binder clip was from... oh my gosh I am having the worst post-pregnancy brain moment and blanking entirely on the name of the shop I definitely know. PLEASE comment and tell me what it is cause it's going to drive me crazy til I remember. 

 Her dresser also functions as her changing table, and it is so special to me. My mom and I went in the rain to choose it at an antique store right after my ultrasound confirming she was a girl. 

 Side by side of the same view, one from while I was pregnant with Havilah still and thinking I was going to do this blog post soon (roses are still alive) and photo from now, roses dried. January light verses August light. :)

That is her little hospital bracelet in that tiny wooden bowl.

 Again... photo from before to now... maybe I should buy some fresh roses?? 

One of my favorite details in her room is this baby dress on an antique hanger... the dress is one of the first things I bought her. And those little socks... My sister gave them to Isaiah when he was a baby :) 
And because functional things should be pretty... I keep her baby powder in this little glass salt shaker :) 

So there it is, my girl's nursery, finally documented, it makes me so happy. 
I want to remember what this little space looked like, especially after we build and move to our new house. I get all sentimental just thinking about it.

For more "touring our home" posts:
Living Room
Dining Room
Back Porch
Boys' Room
Master Bedroom