A Playroom Makeover For My Boys

I had the age-old issue of not feeling like there was not enough space in my home for my growing family. Downstairs, we have a decent size living room and dining room and a tiny kitchen. Upstairs, our bedroom is large, the boy’s bedroom is on the smaller side, and we have an extra [small] room that was used as an office when I was finishing up my degree.

Since I graduated, I didn’t have as much use for the office. After a year, it became more of a storehouse for things we needed to get out of the way. The door was always closed because I was afraid to face what was inside and a bit ashamed by what it looked like.

This room is tiny. I did the math and it’s approximately 70-75 square feet. And, clearly, there was a lot of stuff in the room. First off, we had the beautiful 5-ft Hemnes desk from IKEA, an 8-drawer dresser (over four feet wide) that I was in the process of refurbishing to sell before having Ethan, and another dresser by Hemnes in the little nook in the room (not pictured). This space was also not being used to its potential.

Since turning 3, Joshua has taken less and less naps. The boys share a room and Ethan is a light sleeper, so if Joshua’s not sleeping when Ethan is and they’re in the same room, Ethan almost always wake up early. I try to call it a “quiet time” but it’s hard for a 3-year-old to be that quiet and, more often than not, he wants to play with his toys downstairs in the living room. All that means I don’t get a true break from the kids, I don’t get to clean up in the way that I would like and I feel pretty spent by the time my husband gets home, like I have nothing left to give him.

So, a few weeks ago, I decided we needed a change. My plan was to take that current spare room we had and make it into a playroom/office where Joshua can stay during his quiet time. I wanted it to be a place that he never wanted to leave, a place where he felt safe and comfortable. I wanted there to be more organization, less clutter, and more open area for him.

So, we removed everything but the Hemnes furniture from the room to paint it a light blue/green color (Sunken Pool by Behr).

IMG_6625

I found out two things at this point: 1 – the Hemnes desk was way too big for the space (so I convinced my husband for us to build a new 4-ft desk). 2 – I fell in love with the paint color, which I had not previously tested, and loved how it went with the color of the chair, which I had spray painted the week before.

After the painting was finished, we went on two shopping trips over the next 24 hours to IKEA and Home Depot. To buy us more productive time, we took the boys to the pool to tire them out (thankfully, the plan worked and they slept for THREE hours!). We went back to work when they went to sleep and literally worked through the whole night. Less than 48 hours after starting, this was our final product:

IMG_6641

We built a desk using IKEA legs (which we already had) and the storage “leg” by Klimpen, which was perfect for storing the printer and some books. We also combined two 1x10s and one 1×6 from Home Depot to make our desktop. I liked the light color of the wood, so I just did a few coats of polyurethane without staining it.

We used the same wood for wall shelves and got some storage boxes from IKEA so I can hide organize a bunch of my things. They’re sturdy cardboard boxes that came at less than $5 each and they fit everything perfectly.

We got a nice high pile rug for $30 from the as-is section at IKEA. It’s so soft, I feel like I could easily fall asleep on it! I was concerned about the color at first but figured it was a good deal for an area rug in good condition, and we needed one to warm up the place and add to the sound-proofing. We used a kid’s table (also from IKEA) that we had in storage from when my niece was little. Not staining the desk meant that I didn’t have to stain or paint this table (as I had originally intended). I might still make cushions for the chairs, if I come across a good fabric one day, but for now I’m satisfied with how they look.

To display the books, we used a picture ledge (guess where from? ;)) that we had in storage from when we took it out of the boys’ room because it no longer fit. Since we kept the Hemnes dresser (which serves as storage for some of Joshua’s toys/crafts, as well as storage for my own “toys” and crafts), I like that the espresso color was tied in a bit.

We also got a hanging bar with hooks for a total of $2.99 from the kitchen section at IKEA and some pails from Target for organizing different writing/drawing tools. For coloring books and paper, I splurged on a cute organizer from Home Goods. Speaking of cute, I painted some wood letters from the craft store and put them on the wall with adhesive magnets to spell out the names of the boys. Also on this wall is my favorite art project to date: an old cork board that I redid with some spray paint, acrylic paint, and painters tape.

On the other wall, we used chalkboard paper from Amazon to cover the closet door. Once we got in a groove, it was simple to use, and an overall easy and cheap fix for a plain, unappealing door for the closet. In spite of the closet, though, we still have to utilize other space in the room to hang winter coats. To maximize space, I made the last minute decision to transform the nook into a type of cave for Joshua, complete with a mini road play rug from IKEA (a whopping $7.99). We made a “roof” from a curtain panel and added in his own little wall light for a cozy effect.

This room has easily become a favorite in the house. It’s definitely my favorite and I am proud of the work that we did to see this vision through. I love that there is a spot for everything in this room, so even when there are toys everywhere, it isn’t difficult to clean up. Ethan loves crawling on the rug in this room. Joshua is obsessed with playing with his new play-doh set in this room.

The longer I live in this small home, the more I realize how little space I need in my life for my family. In an age where bigger is often equated with better, I find myself becoming more and more satisfied with the notion of living small. After completing this room, especially, I’ve learned how just a bit of creative thinking could be used to redefine the confines of square footage.

Moreover, I’m thankful to God that I have this place to call home, that I have a space for my boys to play (both inside and out). I’m grateful for all that I have, that I could surprise my son and brighten his day. And I’m especially grateful that every day, He is teaching me to be a little more thankful.

A Generation Rising Up — God’s Promises

“I see a generation rising up to take their place.”

Those were the words that came to me this Sunday morning in church. I stood, worshipping and singing, as I watched the group who was leading worship. I saw that it was made up of youth and young adults, no one older than I am. 

That was my generation up there and I had never been so encouraged. 

There are many statistics and articles out there on the subject on young adults leaving the church. They are grim and disheartening. And I saw it happen in my own church. But on Sunday, I saw hope for this generation. 

I didn’t always feel this way in my church. There was a time about 5-6 years ago when I was very discouraged in my church. I remember sitting in the parking lot of McDonald’s with my now-husband, crying. I told him I was spiritually dying in our church. I wanted to go some place else, some place with a vision. I wasn’t even 21 years old and I was already so tired. 

My husband and I grew up in the same church. We had gotten close in our youth group. We had felt connected in a group of young people led by a youth pastor who was part-encourager, part-teacher, part-friend. Although we were college age, we still considered us to be a part of that group. But by this point in the parking lot, our youth pastor had, for many reasons that we understood, left our church. We did not have a senior pastor at this point. I could count on one hand the people our age who consistently came on Sundays. To me, it was time to leave. My now-husband wanted to stay. Although we weren’t engaged yet, I knew that we would get married and I thought it was important to stay in the same church even before we did, so we stayed. 

We stayed in a church that was dwindling in numbers. There were many reasons for this, but I believe that most of it had to do with not being culturally relevant to the time and place the church was in and a lack in local outreach. 

Soon after that, we assumed the position of Sunday School leaders. I remember that I did not have a passion for it but accepted it because there was nobody else. I had no training for this position. 

I became resentful when I would hear of friends and family having the opportunity to visit other churches like Hillsong (which I wanted to go to for years when I saw there was one in London). As a Sunday School leader, I had to be in church every Sunday. I felt more discouraged to not only not be able to go to a church with loved ones, but to not be spiritually fed in a Sunday morning (because Sunday school was held during he main service) and to not have a friend in church to commune with. 

So this Sunday, looking at the worship team that was playing, I couldn’t help but smile. I saw two girls from Sunday School class all those years ago on stage, using their beautiful voices. I like to think that my husband chose to stay all those years ago because he has sensed something like this was in store and he knew I would not have wanted to miss it. 

With all this madness in the world today, it was refreshing to see my generation praising the name of the God I love. It was encouraging to know that I am not alone. 

Three years ago, during another period without a senior pastor, I sat in the church nursery with my newborn son and I heard the voice of God telling me that my generation was going to rise up and take over this church. Two days ago, I noticed the fulfillment of His promises. 

Two years ago, there were no youth or young adult ministries in our church. Today, they are the fastest growing ones in our church. 

I want to be clear that I in no way am against an older generation. Just as church should not be exclusive to an older generation, it should not be exclusive to a younger one. There should be a rich cultural and age diversity inside of the body of Christ. No group should aim to kick out another. All groups should work together with the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of Christ. 

“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:25-26‬ ‭MSG‬‬

http://bible.com/97/1co.12.25-26.msg

God keeps His promises. Even in our lowest points, He whispers something to us, gives us a small reason to keep hanging on. And then, without even realizing it, we see He has been working in the background the whole time and His promises are being fulfilled. 

I pray this encourages you in the same way it has encouraged me. 

In All Circumstances


I want to be grateful for the things that often get overlooked, and to genuinely express my thankfulness. 

Those are words from my last post

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t pray for patience because then suddenly your patience will be very tested?

Well

I have to admit that if you had seen me at any random point this past weekend, you would’ve never thought that I was trying to be more grateful in life. If you were to look up complainer in the dictionary, I could almost guarantee that you’d see a picture of me and my ol’ grumpy, tired, stressed self. 

On Thursday night, we noticed that there was a leak in the basement coming from our apartment’s plumbing. We live in an old 2-family house and, unfortunately, leaks and plumbing issues are a fairly common occurrence. Thus, they’ve been normalized. It means we have to rent the snake from Home Depot, put it through the drains, clear the clog, pack it up, bring the machine back, enjoy the use of our water. 

I was told on Thursday night to not use the kitchen sink. On Friday, I was told to not touch any water in my home. (I have a small bladder and two kids with sticky hands. I need to use the water in my house. And you know how much I love my shower.) As annoyed as I was, I was happy that my husband would be home soon with the rented snake to go about business as usual and that we can then enjoy our pizza/movie Friday night with the boys. 

Five hours

That’s how long my amazing, determined, hardworking husband worked to get the snake to go through the drain. To no avail. It just kept getting stuck. He decided he would try again in the morning through the opening under the toilet. 

The next morning, we enjoyed a nice breakfast with homemade pancakes and fruit. Afterwards, I wished my husband good luck as he went to the upstairs toilet. I was convinced we would have the afternoon to enjoy ourselves. 

I was so happy when he came down and said that all 75 feet went through and he was going to check for leaks. That is, until he noticed that all 75 feet were on the ground in the driveway. 

Somehow, it had gone up the exhaust and over the roof until it spilled on the driveway.

We rolled our eyes and laughed as he started his work again. 

For five hours

But then, something happened!

One of the PVC pipes cracked. 😩 Which meant that our issue was not only in the clogged pipe, but also in the broken piece that my husband now had to fix on Sunday after church. On top of this, I was stressed and overwhelmed with the boys, being inside with them all day, and the dishes that were piling up in the sink that I couldn’t wash. I wanted the day to be done. 

Eventually, nighttime came and we got up on Sunday and actually had a nice break from the reality at home. We even stayed extra late to avoid going back home and facing what was there. 

But my husband had a plan to temporarily reroute the water so that we could run the shower and sink, but no solid waste was allowed. I found that to be very annoying, though I was grateful to use my own shower on Sunday night.

Two plumbers came on Monday. Plumber 1 insisted he could do nothing because, well, our whole plumbing system is messed up. Plumber 2 stayed longer, tried diagnosing the problem with a camera, but came to the same conclusion. Also, they cut open a coupling that completely undid what Roland did on Sunday. 

To top all of this off, Ethan decided it would be fun to sleep like a newborn this weekend so I’ve been exhausted. And tired me = grumpy me. 

So here we are, on Tuesday, and I’m still waiting for a conclusion to this story!

Now in all of this, there was one prayer in the back of my mind. It was one that I was too afraid to utter or even think because I wasn’t sure I would be happy with the answer.  

“God, what are You trying to tell me?”

But I heard Him on Saturday night. He said to me,

Just the other day, I taught you about having the thankful heart of a child. I showed you what it was to unashamedly thank Me for even the smallest things in your life that often go unnoticed. If I took one of those things away from you — the ability to use the running water in your house with little discretion — what would you do? Would you complain about what you now lack? Or would you still be thankful for the things that you do have? What if you were to lose everything, like Job did. What would you be thankful for?

The words of the Bethel song played in the background. “We thank you for the cross.”


See, I conveniently left out many things from this story. 

In this old 2-family-house, we live in one apartment and my parents live in the other. So every time I couldn’t use my own toilet or shower, I was able to use my parents’. I was still able to use their washing machine which meant I didn’t miss a beat with keeping up with laundry. As much as this old house drives me crazy with all of its issues, I have a really good deal living here. And my husband, the amazing man he is, was able to take over inside the house for twenty minutes when I was overwhelmed on Saturday so I could get the boys down and simply have to worry about the dishes (which I could do next door) all while he had work of his own to do. 

In all these things, I am so blessed and fortunate. In all of these, there are reasons to be grateful. Because even when I am frustrated by what I temporarily lack, there is so much that I still have. 

every post could use some baby pictures – these boys are something to be grateful for
But even if all of that got stripped away too, there would always be the Cross. I pray that I will one day learn to be content in that alone. 

To Become Like a Child

I was praying about what to write for today. There’s a list of things that I have on hold to share, but none of them seemed right for today. So in these times, I ask God for guidance. 

In the midst of these prayers, I heard the prayer of my 3-year-old son. 

“…Thank you for my toy, 1-2-3-7-9 toy. Thank you for napkin, thank you for tissue, thank you for baby food…”

I watched him, hands together under his chin, speaking ever so quietly, like a whisper for only God to hear, peeking out through eyes he was trying to close, looking around the dining room, finding things to be mentioned in his prayer. I almost lost it when I heard him say “thank you for my spoon.”

I watched my little boy and I tried to learn from that moment. It made my mama heart so proud to watch him WANT to pray and then make a huge thank you list of everything. As his mom and his Sunday School teacher, I often feel like I don’t set a good enough example, like I could always do more. And yet somehow, with the help of his dad and many other influences, he had learned from somewhere the values that I want him to learn. (We clearly have to work on counting, but that’s besides the point. ;))

But I learned something else. I listened to  him thank Jesus for every little thing that he saw around him — things that I so much take for granted. 

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.18.2-3.esv

Oh, to be like a child. To not feel ashamed or silly to pray “thank you for my spoon.” Rather, to see the beauty in the small things and realize the value in having them. 

There are so many things that I am blessed to have. Often, it’s easy to focus on what I don’t have. But if I list all the things that I do have, I would find it to be a very long list. 

I want to have that mindset. I want to be grateful for the things that often get overlooked, and to genuinely express my thankfulness. I want to look at what I have and know that it’s because my God is the God who provides.

It is work to practice this line of thinking, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll make for a happier lifestyle. 

Yeah, I wanna be like this silly kid. 😁

Blessed Are Those…

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

What an amazing promise this is. 

When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he specifically said that those who mourn are blessed. It took me years to understand WHY people who are in such distress are considered to be blessed. It feels like the exact opposite. It feels like when your world has suddenly crashed down, when part of your heart has been ripped out that you are anything but blessed. Often it feels like God has done something against you, or at the very least has overlooked you. But those who mourn will be comforted

The Message puts it this way:

““You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:4‬ ‭MSG‬‬

…only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

I often feel that the nighttime is the worst when grieving. You’re tired, and often not in the company of others. You’re alone with your thoughts and with your grief. When all you need is some rest, you can’t get any. When all you need is a warm hug, you feel nothing. 

And yet, for Christians who mourn, God is right there holding us. 

Sometimes, the pain goes too deep to even feel Him there, but He is. 

Even when we push Him away, He does not let go. 

Even when we fight Him, He still holds us. 

Even when we are angry with Him, He does not relent. 

And then, when our exhaustion has won over, when our energy is spent and  we are too tired to feel anything else, we collapse. But we are already held. 

We finally rest in the everlasting arms of Jesus. 

And it’s in those moments, those of comfort and rest, that we realize that we are blessed in spite of everything. That no matter what, Jesus has held us tight. We we may not have answers, our heart may not be whole, but we have found rest in His comfort.

And for that, we are blessed. 

Tonight • All Sons and Daughters

Life is Precious II

As Christians, it’s easy to make a big production of being perfect before we come to the throne of God. It’s easy to feel like we need to be worth of God’s grace and blessings. It’s easy to put on the right clothes and a smile before going to church instead of addressing what’s really going on. 

But the throne of God is there for the imperfect, for the lost, for the hurting and broken. We don’t have to do anything to come before Him. 

The same God who loves us in our high moments loves us in our low moments. 

This is what kept me going today. This is the promise I held on to. This is what I repeated in my mind when I heard of the sudden death of a dear old friend. 

It still doesn’t feel real and I am in shock. I’m sure I will grieve more as the week draws on, but for now, in between waves of some tears, I am in a place of peace. These are the things I want to remember. 

I thanked God that my boys were with me, alive, well, healthy. Only hours later, I learned that a mother lost her beautiful 25 year old son. A family I knew lost one of their own. 

There was always a special spot in my heart for this old friend. We grew up in the same church but I think we only became friend as late teens, but he spent many Sunday afternoons at our (my parents’) house for family dinners. Over time, I stopped seeing him as much but I always tried to be encouraging to him, whether by text or in person when I did see him. I saw him a handful of times in the past year and was always excited to hear about his life and how he was doing. He was a young man with a wide smile and contagious laugh who was trying to find his place in this world. 

He had his ups and downs in life. I had seen him more in the “up” parts, but the downs became obvious around the time of my wedding. He made mistakes in his life, and one of those mistakes cost him his life. 

But my God is the God of highs and lows. His grace isn’t reserved for those who are always righteous. His grace reaches down to the depths of the earth, to the lowest points. 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/rom.8.38-39.esv

I do not know what happened in his final hour. I believe that’s something that his loved ones can only guess about. But I do believe that he is free today. That he is living out his eternal life, away from this broken world and any battles he has faced. 

We who are left behind are in pain. We feel that someone was taken from us too soon. He was loved by many and is therefore missed by many. I cannot imagine the pain that his family is in in this season. I pray for rest for them and that, with rest will come peace and comfort. I pray that they will one day be filled with the hope that they will see their son/brother/father again in a place where there are no more tears. 

Rest well, friend. You’re home, you’re free. You’re in your Savior’s arms now. 💙

You're home now.
Alive • All Sons and Daughters

Life is Precious

I had one of those restless nights last night. It’s usually on those nights that I pray (or at least should pray), “God, what are you trying to tell me? What do I need to pray for?” But last night, I just hummed worship songs. 

The songs I sang to myself reminded me of Ethan’s stay in the hospital. Normally the songs remind me of when he was in the PICU at the second hospital. But this time, I pictured the room at the first hospital. 

I saw the window that overlooked the playground, the same one where I thought “Joshua would love to play there while he visits” forgetting about the blistering cold January weather. 

I saw the room where I sat with my infant son, convinced that he was getting better.  I was so excited that I would hopefully be able to take him home that night, if not the next morning. 

It was the same room where I saw my son struggling to breathe only hours later. The one where I wept when the resident doctor told me I have to seriously consider him being transferred to their sister hospital where there is a PICU for him to stay. It was a truth I was unwilling to accept. She gently told me that babies, like the elderly, go fast, and she didn’t want him to get any worse where they did not have the equipment to transfer him. All I heard was “your son may very well be at death’s door at this moment.”

I didn’t see it. 

The decision for Ethan to go the PICU should have been an easy one. But it took a while for me to realize “even if he isn’t so sick, he will get better faster there.” I was so set in my own idealized thinking, that Ethan was getting better, that I did not see him getting worse before my eyes.

When I finally accepted his condition, I turned on All My Sons and Daughters. (I put a link to their entire YouTube page. I couldn’t even name a favorite song. All of their songs got me through that difficult time, and any difficult time since. I encourage you to listen to worship music like this if you are going through a difficult time yourself.) I was so tired and sick that night but I hardly slept by the time the EMTs came to take Ethan to the second hospital. 

I watch my son get strapped into a stretcher with a makeshift car seat made of blankets. I listened to his weak cries and whimpers, as he was not strong enough for anything more. Up until that point, I was his entire source of life, and yet there was nothing I could do to help him on that day. 

There is no worse thing than to watch your baby suffer and to not be able to do a single thing about it. 

I had to rely on God that He will be the source of life for my son. “Speak life,” I repeated to myself, numb as I was. 

As I thought about all this last night, I thanked God that He had brought us out of that dark time. Many people have experienced even harder times, but I wouldn’t wish those feelings on my worst enemy. I thanked Him for the life of my boys, that they are both strong and healthy. I thanked Him that, although not perfect, I have all of my family right here. I praised Him because even when I’m not sure of the way, He guides me and we make it out, thanks to his sustaining grace. 

Life is a sweet, precious blessing. Embrace it.