Our New Normal

Our New Normal

It’s been a year of change for my family. We left the church we were a part of for 30 years, officially adopted two daughters, gained a son-in-law, started a business, moved (for now) from a quiet farm to an urban area, chose schools over full time homeschooling, and now my husband is cutting back at work. I think we are settled now. At least I kind of hope so. Change has always been a somewhat stressful process for me, but this year has been filled with joy and peace. We are slowly falling into our new routines, but to be honest, I’ve barely had time to think about our new normal in the midst of living it.

The most difficult area to find normal has been in my relationship with God. I’ve prayed and prayed that God would show me how to follow Him in the midst of our new circumstances. For so long I thought that homeschooling was me following God. Being a full time wife and mom was my service to Him. So now that I have a career in addition to caring for my family, and now that I’m not homeschooling full time, who am I and how do I live for God?

It has slowly dawned on me that homeschooling wasn’t what made me a Christian. Being in a particular church wasn’t what saved me. The kingdom of God is much bigger than that. God has called me to love Him with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself.

In a lot of ways my world has shrunk over the past year. And, in some ways it has greatly expanded. It used to be that when I lived out on the farm, I could go days without seeing anyone outside of my family. Quite often, my only outside interactions were with my fellow church members. Now I see all kinds of people every day. One day I counted all the interactions I had outside of my family. I met 18 new people in one day! This new normal certainly provides opportunities to be salt and light and to love a lot of people.

I do not have too many regrets. I am thankful for the years that I got to live on a farm and homeschool. I am thankful for the friends that we have made and for all that we have learned along the way. it was all part of the journey. But, I am thankful for this new normal as well!

It’s Okay to be Happy

It’s Okay to be Happy

I’ve decided that for 2022 I am going to write something every single day. It doesn’t have to be long or polished, and it won’t always be here on this blog. I’ve also decided to go into 2022 with as few hangups as possible. I’m starting early! I have been mulling over (and wrestling with) this topic of happiness for quite a while.

For a long time I believed that personal happiness was a selfish pursuit. My life was supposed to be dedicated to building God’s kingdom here on Earth. I was supposed to be like a soldier, following orders, walking in uniformity to the other soldiers that I had been placed with. I could not be an individual. I could not have hobbies or dreams outside of the mission that I had been called to. My life belonged to the work that was set before me.

Slowly I began to realize that I had fallen into a snare of legalism. I was following rules. I was allowing myself to be dictated by them and I longed for freedom. It felt selfish and wrong to walk away from the rules. Figuring out how to live without them has been a journey. And the question, “Is it really okay to be happy?” has come up again and again in my mind.

I am going into 2022 with a new revelation. It is okay to be happy. Being happy does not mean you are selfish. It does not mean that you are blind to the needs around you. It does not mean that life is perfect or that bad things won’t happen. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be painful choices and sacrifice. I don’t know if I can adequately define what happiness means to me, because I am still figuring out.

But, I think happiness is knowing what’s important. For me, coming to a deeper understanding of God and His ways is important. Loving and caring for my family is important to me. Having a minimalistic and comfortable home brings me happiness. And these days, building my business makes me happy, because the foundation of my business is making other people happy.

Happiness is not about going out and buying whatever I want. It’s not about being served. It’s not about making the world revolve around me. It’s about discovering the heart of God, loving others and being thankful. Being happy involves exploring and discovering your gifts and talents and then using them to bless others.

Does God want us to be happy? I believe He does. Psalm 144:15 says, “Happy are the people whose God is the LORD.” The rules are not my lord. Someone else’s vision is not my lord. Jesus Christ is my Lord and as I pursue relationship with Him I discover what happiness is and I embrace this gift.

A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things

These are in no particular order.

-Morning coffee with my husband

-When my table for ten is packed tight

-Going to the movies with my whole family

-Wrapping gifts

-Kind notes

-Date night

-Nice wine

-Fresh lavender

-Leo Tolstoy

-Lilacs

-Taking walks

-Meeting new people

-Beautiful churches

-Liturgy

-Leather bound journals

-Christmas lights

-Candlelit dinners with soft Jazz music playing

-Cats

-Waking up early

-Babies

-Scented candles and bubble baths

-Old books

-Old book smell

-Mother Theresa quotes

-Coffee shops

-Porch sitting with my mom

-True stories

-Old houses

-Authentic people

-Sitting by a fire when it’s snowing

-Summer nights sitting on a patio

-Bright white linens and towels

-Old movies

-Spiderman movies

-Girls’ day out

-Hugs from my boys

Oh, I’m just getting started! Life is a beautiful gift. Every good and perfect gift is from above. Thank you, Lord!

Sovereignty of a Loving God

Sovereignty of a Loving God

Sometimes I stand in awe of how the Lord so obviously goes before us. I have so many testimonies of how He met a need before we even knew that we had one. So many times we were placed in the right path at just the right moment. And sometimes the Lord is very kind and gives us the desires of our hearts without us even asking. I could never deny the existence of God when I think of the sovereign events of our life. I’ll share some recent ones.

As I have mentioned before, we recently purchased a house, renovated it and turned it into a vacation rental. I told my husband, I would like to have three properties and I would like them close together so that I can easily manage them. One day my husband was sitting on the front steps of our property when a neighbor came across the street and asked if we would like to buy the two houses across the street. So, yes, I now have three vacation rental properties, very close together. The only issue is that I have fallen in love with the neighborhood and one of the houses, and I want to live there!

A couple of years ago my husband and I each individually began to sense that God was getting ready to add to our family. I even began to plan for it, decluttering my house and making space, even though I didn’t know who or what I was making space for. My husband and I heard about a situation and we had a discussion about it. We made a decision that if we were by some chance approached about the situation we would open our home, even though we had no reason to think we would be approached. The very next morning we were. Our hearts were ready, our home was ready and it was such a joy to be able to say yes to a tremendous need.

Even now there are situations that I clearly see the Lord leading us in. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” I have seen this to be true over and over. The God who we cannot see is very real and very present and I am amazed by Him.

Over the past year or so, my family’s life has changed so much. I used to wonder if anything would ever change about our life, and now, everything has. There are moments when I stop and wonder if I should be terrified. There have been scary moments for sure, but I know that in every situation our loving Heavenly Father is with us and He is leading us.

As this crazy year is wrapping up, I feel so thankful for the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. I have no idea what the next year holds, but I know that He will be with us through it all.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

According to some very wise vegetables, Bob and Larry, “A thankful heart is a happy heart.” I agree with this sentiment. Since it is Thanksgiving week, it seems appropriate to share a few of the many things that I have been thankful for in 2021.

I am thankful for my husband. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year. We’ve been through some stuff over the past 25 years. There’s nobody else I would rather go through it with. I am blessed!

I am thankful for my growing family. This year we officially adopted our two new daughters, and we gained a son-in-law. It fills my heart with joy when everyone comes home and we cram around the table for a loud and chaotic family dinner. It’s been somewhat of an introspective year and I appreciate the quietness of family life as much as the craziness.

I am thankful for the Orthodox church. There have been phases to this journey. In the beginning I was curious. Then, I became interested and started to learn about it. Along the way I realized that, in some ways, I have always been Orthodox in my beliefs. Over the past couple of months, I did pull away from church activities, because I wanted to figure out if I was drawn to the vibrant community, or Orthodoxy itself. I realized that I have come to truly love and fully embrace Orthodox Christianity. I am thankful that I was able to pull away and have this quiet season to pray and listen.

I am thankful for teachers! After so many years of homeschooling, I was tired. There were needs that I didn’t feel qualified to meet. I believe that the Lord has led us to great schools for our kids. So much stress has been lifted off of me and the kids are learning and getting what they need. I feel so relieved and I am extremely thankful for that.

I am thankful for my career. When we decided to add more children to our family I thought that my dream of having a career was probably not going to come true. I was okay to let it go, but the Lord opened doors. I now own three Airbnbs and I absolutely love it! This is truly a dream come true. Maybe I’ll add career number two and write that book in 2022.

I am thankful for true friends. I’ve discovered that you don’t need a hundred friends. I know who my people are and I am truly blessed to have them.

Of course I have many more things that I could list, but these are a few of the things that have been big in my heart. My heart is filled with thankfulness. Life isn’t perfect. There have been some difficult circumstances, but the Lord is near in the midst of them. My heart is indeed happy.

I hope that you have an extra thankful Thanksgiving and are blessed with a happy heart this holiday season.

The Lord is good!

It’s Okay to Not Feel Guilty

It’s Okay to Not Feel Guilty

I am going to write a series of blog posts about things that I have been learning about life. The truth is I used to focus a lot on the things that were not okay. I had some pretty serious hangups! I was in bondage to fear and exhausted from trying to live up to some ridiculous standards. But over the past few years I’ve been gradually letting go of the “not okays” and adopting a more “it’s okay” outlook on life. Fear is slowly losing the tight grip that it had on me and I am realizing that “it’s okay” to speak my mind. It’s okay if you don’t agree with me, and it’s even okay if I offend you. I guess I threw a couple of extra it’s okays in there, but I will get to the subject at hand.

I have learned that it is okay to not feel guilty. The truth is, for a long time, guilt was my motivation. I believed that the most important thing in life was building the kingdom of God, but I let other people define what that meant. Now I realize that the kingdom of God is built in many different ways.

A series of life events opened my eyes. I realized that guilt was suffocating me. I was imposing my guilt and my shame on my family. It was suffocating them. I was ready for us all to be set free.

So, what does this new (mostly) guilt free life look like? Well, it looks like not blaming every bad thing that happens on my not measuring up. It’s doing what my husband and I prayerfully decide is best for our family. It looks like pulling back and just taking care of my family when needed. It’s having time to go on dates with my husband with the only agenda being enjoying one another. It looks like saying yes to the things that we feel called to say yes to, and no to things when we don’t. It looks like seeking help when we need it, without feeling ashamed. It’s loving like Jesus loved; full of compassion and free of judgement. It’s being free to be myself and not what somebody else says I should or shouldn’t be. It looks like going on vacation and having a blast with my family, without fear of judgement. It looks like horse riding, gymnastics and ninja warrior training for my kids. It looks like giving myself to creative endeavors. It’s being able to say, “We have decided to do that this way.” It’s not worrying that being happy is selfish. It looks like rest. It looks like being able to trust the alarms that go off inside of me. It’s being able to have boundaries. It looks like not forcing myself to trust an individual just because I’m supposed to. Simply put, it looks like freedom.

It’s been a process, and guilt still plagues me from time to time. In those moments, I focus on what I know to be true.

I know that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) I am not perfect and while the goal is to grow ever closer to the Lord and become more and more like Him, chances are high that I won’t ever be perfect this side of heaven. I’m learning to lean deeply into those mercies.

I know that I am called to live unto God, not man. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) I don’t want to give another second of my life to fearing what other humans think of me.

I choose to live free from guilt and shame. I choose to press into God and His word, to know Him and His ways, and to let Him show me who I am and how to live. I will make mistakes, and I pray that I will respond to true conviction with a repentant heart.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Gratitude

Gratitude

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for your goodness and kindness. Thank you for your mercy and your compassion. Thank you that you never leave or forsake us. Thank you that you are patient and slow to anger. Thank you that you are a shepherd who leads us along paths of righteousness, and that when we stray, you come and find us. Thank you that you rescue us.

Thank you, Lord, that with you, all things are possible.There is hope for the hopeless, healing for the sick, and forgiveness and redemption for the sinner who cries out to you.

Thank you, Oh Lord Jesus, that when you walked upon the Earth, you ate with sinners, you were not afraid to put your hands on the unclean, you had compassion on the hurting. Thank you that you did not shy away from the unrighteous, but rather you shared the love of your Father with them.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, that you do not forget the orphans and the widows. Thank you that you love the outcasts of society. I think of the most beautiful painting that I have ever seen, where Hagar, a desperate mother, held her dying son alone in the desert, and you sent your angel to minister to them. Oh Lord, thank you that you hear our desperate cries and you answer them.

Thank you, Jesus, that you were an example to us. Your command is to love, as you loved. Thank you for your great, selfless and perfect love. Thank you that you loved everyone. Thank you that you chose love over comfort and elitism. Thank you that you went out into the world. You did not hide or isolate yourself from the world. You chose love over safety.

I love you, Lord ,and I am grateful that you have been merciful to me, a sinner.

Letter from the Porch

Letter from the Porch

Dear Friends,

I have spent the last two hours sitting on my front porch. I’m wearing my cozy day pajamas and drinking from my favorite coffee mug. (Cheerful, cute, perfect size and weight with a handle big enough to have a good grip) I have enjoyed the friendly wake up announcement of my rooster, the beautiful mist rising from the Kentucky river, listening to the birds sing, watching a daddy long legger turf war, and purry snuggles from my cats. The kids have since woken up and have been calling foxes and riding bikes. I am enjoying this peaceful, sabbath morning. (Note that I didn’t say quiet. The fox calling is rather loud!)

This afternoon my adult children will be coming home for a family dinner. We used to do this every Sunday, but everyone has busy lives now and I have settled for once or twice a month. Family dinner day is my very favorite day! I am making one of our favorite family meals, chicken enchiladas with Mexican street corn and salad. My son-in law’s grandparents have blessed us with an abundance of rhubarb, so I am making my husband’s favorite pie, strawberry rhubarb.

My husband has been on call at the hospital this weekend. It’s been strange. Just when we thought that the vaccine had done its job and life would get back to normal, things have gone crazy again. Maybe what you aren’t hearing on the news is that, at least in Kentucky, all of the hospitals are full with very sick patients. It’s been a very long year and a half for healthcare workers. They are exhausted, they are discouraged and they are frustrated. I see the toll it has taken on my husband and it makes me sad. Please pray for them. Keep supporting them. And for goodness sake, get vaccinated if you can and haven’t yet. Yes, you can still get covid if you get the vaccination, but the likelihood of serious illness or death is drastically reduced.

Also, several people have asked us what we are doing about our unvaccinated children. We have them wear masks to church and public places. We have them wash their hands frequently. We are not socially distancing, but we are taking precautions. I have one kid starting equine therapy, one in a ninja warrior class and one starting gymnastics. All of their classes are small. They are starting at a micro-school on September 2nd. We are allowing the kids to live their lives, but we are being careful and trying to avoid large crowds. They miss certain things. The other day they asked me to take them to a big, indoor arcade/play/gym place. I had to tell them that wouldn’t be the best choice right now, and they understood. We went on a bike ride instead. I am very thankful that our kids have each other to play with. They are best friends and they have a lot of fun together. (Big family perk!)

The renovation life continues. Some days I walk in the house and see exactly where we are going with this project. Other days I walk in and wonder what the heck we were thinking. My husband, as I mentioned, is tired and stressed and part of his self-care includes staying far away from the renovation project. We hope to be able to stay there for our fall break in October. It will be his first time seeing the completed project, but there is a whole lot that needs to happen between now and then. I’ve tried to keep a schedule so that there is no down time, and I have quickly realized that contractors keep their own schedule. Sadly, their schedules do not revolve around mine.( I didn’t set out to be my own general contractor, but here I am, living the dream.) We have hit a bump in the road because, for some reason, nobody seems to want to fix a few floor joists. Can someone please enlighten me as to why it’s so hard to get this particular job done? Also, why do contractors keep ghosting me? Is this a thing, or is it me? The painters are almost done and we want to start putting the floors down as soon as they are done. But, we can’t until the joists are fixed. (Sigh) However, I did get to catch a glimpse of the painting yesterday. I just have to say that Sherwin Williams French gray is my new favorite paint color. It is gorgeous! The entire Sherwin Williams minimalist palette is lovely and what I am using throughout the house.

I have done some praying, thinking and reading out her on the front porch this morning. It still shocks me to think about how much our life has changed since February of 2020. If we had just adopted two more daughters, that would have been huge. If it had just been the pandemic and all that came with it, the impact would be extremely significant. If it had just been leaving the church community that we were a part of for thirty years, that would have been enormous. But all of those things happened, plus a few more things. In some ways it has been a very difficult time. In other ways it has been a time filled with joy. There have been ups and downs and all arounds. But the Lord has been with us through it all. Over the past several months I have done a lot of questioning what I believe, how I have lived and how I want to live. It has most certainly been a crisis of faith. However, I am thankful that my questions are not too hard for the Lord. He is not offended by them and I have sensed His loving and comforting presence in the midst of the chaos. My Heavenly Father loves me and that is something that I could never question. I’m just trying to figure out how to best love and serve Him.

Well, I’ve been sitting on this porch for three hours now. It’s been lovely, but my family needs me and I need to start dinner. Thanks for reading my ever random thoughts. Have a beautiful, restful Sunday! Enjoy your families and make memories.

Love,

Chrissy

Bungalow Dreamin’

Bungalow Dreamin’

Over the past several months I have discovered a new passion for making things beautiful. This has come with big dreams! I thought about becoming a professional wedding decorator. But then I decided that I don’t want to spend every weekend in the summer working. (But, I’d be willing to help out every now and then!) My latest exploit is renovating an old house with my family.

My husband has been looking at real estate for a while. I am a sucker for old bungalows. I once joked that my dream was to be the bungalow queen of Lexington, Kentucky. His goal was always to buy and flip. Mine has always been to get into the Airbnb business. A few weeks ago a friend told us about a property and we went and looked at it.

It was a mess! There was evidence that somebody had been living in the supposed uninhabited house. The house was filthy and filled with trash, there were holes in the floor, and the kitchen and bathrooms needed to be totally gutted. But I saw beyond all that. I saw 100 year old wood floors, beautiful woodwork throughout the house, a unique, granite floor, gorgeous old windows, and breathtaking stonework outside the house. In the midst of the mess, I saw beauty, character and good bones. Also, the location is perfect for an airbnb. My husband felt that it was a little overpriced, but the seller wasn’t coming down. I had to fight him a little on this one, but he paid the price and my bungalow renovation dream is coming true!

This is an all hands on deck project. My older boys have done the demo. I’ve taken the younger kids to the house to do cleanup. My son-in-law is going to conquer the backyard. I will be calling on my daughters to help with decorating. My husband and I have divided and conquered when it comes to all the phone calls. He handles money and bids. I do the footwork and anything to do with design. It has been extremely fun and joyful to work on this together as a family. A general contractor would probably make things a lot easier, but I am enjoying this and my boys are going to learn a lot. It seems most contractors are short staffed right now and they seem pretty happy to have my boys assist and learn.

I have a vision for this house. To be honest, I never saw myself as a visionary. I thought that my “dreaminess” was a curse. Daydreaming is what always got me in trouble in school! I have seen always looking ahead as a weakness and would chastise myself for it. But, now I realize that, as always, there is an upside and a downside with every gift. I do have to learn to be in the moment. I can’t daydream my days away. The upside is that when I walk through this old house I can clearly see what I want it to be. In that torn up bathroom, I see the beautiful tiled walk in shower. In the kitchen I see shiny floors, white cabinets and a lovely little coffee nook. Outside I see beautifully painted brick, and a sweet porch, complete with an old fashioned porch swing.

I am sure there will be discouraging moments along the way. I asked one contractor how far out he was from being able to complete our project. He said, “Not farther out then you are.” Ha! I know he’s right. One general contractor that we talked to said he could complete this job in five weeks. I’m no expert, but my goal is to have it done and ready to list by the end of October. I’m quickly learning that most things are more expensive then we thought they would be. But, I am also learning that if we are willing to put in the labor, we can save money. (Here’s to hoping we do a good job!) I hope that in those moments when the budget is tight, the contractors are late, and we have to redo the floor that we messed up, that I can still see the beauty that lies ahead. My Pinterest page serves as my vision board that I can turn to when I lose sight of what we are doing here.

I think that there are a whole lot of life lessons that can be learned from renovating an old house. I am sure this theme will be coming up a lot! In the meantime, I’m going to attach some photos of the work in process.

Living Boldly and Other Random Thoughts

Living Boldly and Other Random Thoughts

I suggest that you grab some coffee or tea, because this is very much going to be one of those rambly, chatty posts.

My daughter and her husband got married three days ago. The wedding was simple yet lovely, and tons of fun! It was worth everything seeing those two standing up there pledging their vows to one another. I was on a Mother of the Bride Facebook page and moms coming out their daughters’ weddings would remind us all to slow down and enjoy the day. So, I made an intentional decision to do that. I did truly enjoy it! I am extremely thankful for friends and family who stepped in to help with all the little things that I didn’t even think of. It may not have been such a calm and fun day if my friend Karen hadn’t of stepped into the role of day of coordinator. I roused my sister-in-law from sleep on Sunday morning to come to our hotel room and help us figure out how to bustle the wedding gown. We had a team of decorators, (my mom, sister-in-law, Karen, the bride and me) and it went so quickly. Everything was simply beautiful! I’m pretty sure that the party would have gone all night if we hadn’t stopped the music. It was fun watching everyone dance and celebrate. It was a wonderful day and I have found myself smiling every time I remember it. I hope that my daughter and son-in-law do the same.

The past several weeks have been insanely busy, and at last I think that life is going to normalize a bit. But, who gets to say what’s normal anyway? I am jumping right into our next project. We bought a 110 year old house in downtown Lexington. We are going to renovate it and turn it into an Airbnb. My husband has been wanting to get into real estate for a while, as it is something that our whole family can participate in. Our older boys are currently on the demolition phase of the project. After twenty-two years of being a full time, homeschooling mom, I am ready to have a career. My kids will be going to a hybrid, cottage style school three days a week, and I will be stocking, decorating and managing the property. We are hoping to find more properties as I’d like to have several to manage.

I confess that it’s strange for me to be sending my kids to school and starting a career. I have certainly loved and enjoyed my years as a stay-at-home mom. I loved homeschooling. But, it’s simply not where we are at anymore. It’s best for everyone to have someone else teaching the kids now. They have needs that can be better met by someone else, and I need a break from teaching. We have not been a family that did a lot of extra curricular activities, as church and homeschooling took up most of our time. We will have some extra time now for those kinds of things, and I think it will be good.

In so many ways my family’s life looks completely different than it did a year and a half ago. For starters, our family has grown! We ave added two daughters and a son-in-law to the mix. My house has been bursting at the seams over the past several months, and if you know me, you know that I have loved every second of it. Now that my daughter is married there is one less person in the house. My oldest son will be moving out soon as well. I am thankful for the time that I had with all seven kids at home…but I’m also looking forward to not running out of hot water halfway through a shower.

Mostly, I have learned so much during this season of life. In February of last year I sat with a friend who was dying. She had been an amazing teacher who impacted a lot of lives. She was a youth leader when she was younger, and several of those now adults came to our house and celebrated her fiftieth birthday a couple of weeks before. She had adopted two daughters and loved being a mom more than anything in the world. Rhonda loved and was loved, and it was beautiful. It was heartbreaking to see her losing her battle, but two days before she passed away, she reached for my hand, took a deep breath and told me that she was at peace. She knew that everything was going to be okay. Sitting there with a friend my age who was dying changed my life.

I learned that life is truly a gift from God. We should draw near to Him and ask Him what to do with the gift He gave us. I learned that at the end of your life, how you loved is what matters most. Also, she inspired me to be brave. One day my daughter and I were having a conversation in the room where (we thought) she was sleeping. My daughter was debating about doing something that she wanted to do, but was scared to do. My friend spoke up and said, “There are so many things I wish I had done.” That was all she said and she was silent again, but my daughter decided to do that thing that she was nervous about. In that moment, I decided that I was done being held back by fear. The fear of what others think has stifled me in many ways throughout my life, and I refuse to let that fear keep me from fully living anymore. As a result, I am definitely sassier, I ask more questions, I say what I think, I let people know that I disagree with them and I stand up and fight for others. I refuse to be timid or silenced. I am going to live the rest of my life boldly. It’s really fun living this way and I sure hope that I have many years left. I have learned that we all have our issues. There are bound to be mistakes and I think we all have regrets. We have to learn to forgive, be forgiven and move on.

I could go on and on, but I will stop here. I just want to end by saying how very thankful I am. I am thankful to my Heavenly Father who is ever close, leading, guiding, protecting and pouring out His perfect love in abundance. I am truly blessed.

And now it’s 10:34 A.M. and I am still in my pajamas. This is the first day that I have had to just stay home and recover from all the recent busyness, but I suppose that I should at least get dressed. I hope you have a great day.