Saturday, March 30, 2013

bathroom before & after pics

The previous 3-piece bathroom was not very functional and had a lot of wasted space. By moving a wall, we were able to create room for a linen closet, as well as a laundry area.
Gutting the bathroom
Removing the cast-iron tub
Gutting completed
New wall between the spare room and the bathroom framed
Shower framed in 
Insulated and drywalled

Finished result!

spare room before & after pics

Before we started, this room was l-shaped, with an en-suite bathroom in one corner. The floor was very unstable and dipped badly in the middle of the room.
Gutting the lath and plaster
Bags of blown-in insulation and debris
Gutting completed, brand new joists/floor installed
Insulation in and drywall up
Paint and carpet done
Finished result

We kept the en-suite bathroom, and widened the doorway to this room. If we ever add on to the house, it will be through the far wall of this room.

master bedroom before & after pics

Before we started, this was actually two rooms, though one was more like an alcove at the top of the stairs.
 Removing the wood paneling, the lath and plaster, and all the blown-in insulation.
Debris finally cleared.
Strapping the walls
Insulation done
Drywall going up
Original floor is sanded and staining in-process
Walls painted, trim, outlet covers, lights and doors installed

All moved in!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

home sweet home: the making of our dream house

Back in 2006, I moved into my grandparents' former home and thus began my life with renovations. But my love for restoring old houses didn't start there. As a teenager, I was an avid watcher of This Old House and one day dreamed of taking over my grandparents' home. One of my projects for an art class was designing and building a cardboard model of the house. This I did completely to-scale, with removable roof and upstairs, showing what it could look like if it was renovated.

When I graduated from university and found a job in the area, it looked like I was going to be able to make my dream a reality. However, aside from a new roof, minor bathroom repairs, insulating the basement, and painting the entire house, little else was completed during the five years that I lived there. Renovating an 1850's farmhouse alone proved to be no easy feat!

Enter Mr. Gryce. Shortly after our unofficial engagement (that's a story for another blog post), we discussed building a house somewhere in the County. However, with my job future uncertain, the fact that I was living rent and mortgage-free, coupled with Jared's desire to learn new skills, prompted us to consider renovating instead of moving. I was ecstatic to have Jared on-board, and was thrilled to be able to have someone help me complete my life-long dream.

Thus began the enormous task of gutting and renovating the entire upstairs. One of our main concerns (aside from the fact that basically no updates had been done since the 1970's), was that there was no insulation, except for some in the ceiling. (I had not bothered to use the upstairs for anything other than storage; however, my brother Dan who lived upstairs for a while, will attest to the freezing temperatures in the winter!)

Our first several months of renovations consisted only of gutting. Out came the cheap wood paneling, lath and plaster, blown-in insulation, old chimney, and pink bathroom fixtures, until we were down to the bare skeleton of the house. We dumped all the combustibles out back and the boys had a whole summer of rip-roaring good bonfires. In our naivety, we'd figured we would have the whole placed gutted and put back together again in time for our August wedding. Boy, were we wrong!

The time flew, however each project progressed with the speed of something resembling a turtle. Jared and I spend hours dreaming, planning, and arguing discussing how we wanted things to take shape.  We experienced many surprises (like burned rafters in the master bedroom from an old chimney fire), setbacks (waiting for help to arrive), and things needing replacing that weren't part of our original plan. Jared falling through the bathroom floor led to a complete removal and rebuilding of the joists and floor above our kitchen.

I drew, modified, and re-drew the floor plans. (I believe we were still in the framing stage by the time we got married.) Then came plumbing, electrical, insulation, drywall, mudding, priming, painting, and--WAIT--another year had somehow passed! We did much of the work ourselves (Jared is a very handy electrician), though my brother helped out tremendously in spite of his own renovations. (I think the free beer helped!) We hired contractors for some things, however, most of them didn't work out that well. It seemed like the old adage, "If you want it done right, you've got to do it yourself" proved true, time and time again.

I don't recommend doing massive renovations (while living in the house) during your first year of marriage, but somehow we managed. All in all, the upstairs turned into well over a two year project (and we're still not quite done.) Through it all, we learned how to work together (when we absolutely had to), and when to not work together (whenever possible). We learned that renovations really do take twice as long and cost twice as much as you planned.

I learned many things about my husband. I love how he tackled this project head-on. Armed with only a handful of tools, some books, Google, and Youtube, he had a vision and made it happen. Even though it was overwhelming at times and he needed to take some breaks, he never quit on me. I also learned that he has a knack for electrical work, and think the 4-way light switch in our master bedroom is pure genius! Jared is meticulous when it comes to little details. While this often drives me crazy (as he says, I want things to be done yesterday), when I look at the end result, I see how the extra time and effort paid off.

 I also discovered many things about myself. I love to design, create, and nest. I love order and cleanliness. I am terribly impatient. I don't enjoy compromise. I miss my pink bathtub, but I love my new shower with built-in bench seat. My biggest accomplishment was choosing to separate myself from the house--if something isn't good enough in the house, it does not mean that I am not good enough.

We have come a long way. We have shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears over this project. But when I look through all the before and after photos (blog post with some of those to follow soon!), I stand amazed at all that we accomplished.  (Now we just have to renovate the downstairs.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

the danger of love

"To love at all is to be vulnerable [--living with your heart open.]  Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it careful round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up the coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, un-penetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers...of love is Hell." (C.S. Lewis).


All my life, I have struggled with rejection, but the past several years have been especially difficult. I have lost many friends in that time, for a variety of reasons. Each time I wonder why God allowed this person into my life if (s)he was going to leave me in the end. Recently, I stumbled across an old email (ironically from a former friend), that explained how people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

"When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die, sometimes the walk away, sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered, and now it is time to move on.

“Some people come into your life for a season, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it—it is real. But only for a season.

"Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.”

Sometimes the pain of loss and betrayal has been so great, that every ounce of me wanted to shut down. You can only be rejected so many times before the pain becomes unbearable. Last year, I began to deal with, and grieve a lifetime of pain. Many times, I felt like sitting in the safety of my self-created hell, as opposed to risk the hell of having my heart broken yet again; however, the thing about locking up your heart is that it's a very lonely place to be. Eventually the pain of being alone is worse than the pain of rejection. Despite my sadness, anger, and brokenness, I am learning to forgive. And I am learning to live again.

However painful it might be, I want to take the risk to live with my heart open. Along with all the friends I lost, there have been a few who have stuck by me, despite life happening and circumstances changing. For every friendship that ended because we grew up, moved away, or moved on, another was forged. For every friend who lied, gossiped, and betrayed me, I can count another who was truthful, encouraging, and loyal. While many of my friendships have been of the reason variety, I dare to hope that a few of them will be for a lifetime.  And unless I live with my heart open, I will never know.

Monday, March 25, 2013

oh how He loves us

I first saw this video last Easter Sunday, and I have watched it over and over since. I have yet to find another short video that continually moves me as powerfully as this one. Please take a look...

"My circumstances don't change that God is good. He's still healing by broken heart!"  What would your testimony say?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

this one's for the girls

Throughout my life, I have been betrayed and abandoned by many people who I believed were “forever friends.” However, there are a few amazing women who have stuck by me though it all, and this post is for them. 

K: I fondly remember all the Sunday afternoons of playing Barbies, writing our own mystery stories, playing in the graveyard, and swimming in the pool as kids, and then playing church league baseball in high school. And how could I forget your mom’s soup with the Shake & Bake chicken, and ice cream with strawberries for dessert? Through the years, there were several long periods of time where we drifted apart, but we always seemed to be able to pick up right where we left off. Even though much of our 20’s were spent in different stages of life, we have still been able to stay connected. It was only fitting that you were the one to help me choose my wedding dress! I love how we can get together every other week for our “girls’ group.” You have an amazing gift for leadership and teaching and I’m blessed to have you lead our group.

T: I love how we’ve grown through our 20’s together, and that along the way, we’ve been able to share so many of the same stages of life. From pilates classes, to home ownership/renovations, to dating and marriage, we have shared some pretty intense experiences together. I love that we have been able to walk with each other (sometimes literally—all over town), and help each other through the “tough stuff.” You know what it’s like to grieve unspeakable losses while learning how to balance that with just “doing life.” You are not afraid to ask the hard questions that so many people shy away from. Thank you for never judging me, and for sticking with me through everything, even if I didn’t deserve it. I hope that I can always be as loyal of a friend to you as you have been to me.

J: I will never forget how you instantly welcomed me into your family and made me feel just like a sister. I love your honesty and vulnerability and am thankful for all your encouragement during the tough times. I cherish the time we spend together every other week, and I love watching you be a Mom! You may feel often feel overwhelmed, but I have been so blessed watching you grow more and more into the woman God wants you to be over these past three years. Listening to you sing in front of hundreds of people gives me so much joy. You are such an inspiration to me in so many ways! Whenever I feel down, I think of you overcoming so much of the crap in your life, because as you always tell me, “Jesus is bigger than that.” You give me so much hope, and I hope someday I can be more like you.

N: I will be forever grateful to you for introducing me to my husband. I cherish our long phone conversations and the ways that you have been there to listen to me vent. Even though the season of life that we presently find ourselves in doesn’t allow for much time to spend together, I know that I can still count on you if I need you.  I miss you a lot; we have done bonfires, bars, and Bible studies together, but I know that as seasons change again, we will still be friends, regardless of time and space. I have always appreciated your honesty and thoughtfulness. You have a beautiful heart, and I look forward to watching where God leads you next.

R: Even though we don’t get together frequently, I love how we can catch up over lunch or dinner and it feels like no time has passed. I love how the gap of time, space, and age doesn’t matter with us. I feel so safe when I confide in you; you are one of the most non-judgemental people that I know. I love that you bring so much wisdom and experience to our relationship. I am so thankful for all your support, no matter what the problem or situation. I love how you support me by coming to everything I invite you to—whether it’s a party, a sales show, or just lunch. Your generosity of time and money just blows me away! I am proud to call you my cousin, as well as my friend.

J: You taught me so much about myself, and I will be forever indebted to you for that. You asked me hard questions, and got me thinking, evaluating, and WRITING! Even though our season for meeting together has ended, I am profoundly grateful for the support I received from you as I began my journey of healing.

There are so many other women who have touched my life – many of whom I have only known for a short time (Ladies, you have already impacted me for the better. I hope one day you will be on my list of “forever friends” too.) 

I love you all so much, and don't know where I'd be without you all. xoxoxo 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

they will know we are Christians by our love...not by how well we market ourselves

This week I noticed a lot of people on facebook posting links to their church’s new promotional video, and quite frankly, it made me mad.  In my experience, the best way to promote a church is to have humble, people showing the world that they care, not some fancy program or promotional video. 

A promotional video is meant to promote the good and only the good. It tries to sell something by making it look awesome; however this will only leave people disappointed and hurt because the product is never as good as advertised. (How can it be? We are all imperfect human beings!)

It saddens me when I see big churches being run like a corporation. Church isn't about luring people in and trying to sell a product. Christianity is not a religion to be marketed and sold, it’s a relationship. I am not against the church’s use of media; I would love to see a church produce a video with life testimonies about how God has used the church or people from the church to bring healing, and change lives, instead of bragging about how great everything is at their church. I know of churches where I have experienced the exact opposite of what their videos promoted. That’s dishonest, not to mention false advertising. 

Church should be where people can present themselves as human--flawed and in need of forgiveness. I don't want to go to a church full of squeaky-clean people who look good on the surface because they pretend to have it all together.  I want to be able to admit my failures and confess my imperfections without the fear of being judged. Too many times, I know of those who have received the cold shoulder, or who were gossiped about when they dared to be honest and vulnerable. Sadly, I have experienced times in my life where my non-Christian friends showed me more of Jesus’ love than the church ever did.

A great church doesn't need to advertise--people will be drawn to it. All it takes is someone from that church to show that they really care. My beautiful sister-in-law is the mommy of a 3 ½ year-old and 6-month-old twins. The other day, she shared: “...just sitting here thinking how blessed we are to be part of a church community that has SO wrapped its arms around us at a time when life has seemed SO overwhelming!! Just wanna say thanks, thanks, THANKS!!”   THIS is what church is all about—being the hands and feet of Jesus in real, practical ways. No promotional video will ever be able to do that.