Monday, June 22

The best marriage advice ever (or what I wish I'd known 30 years ago)

Today is an important day in the history of my life.  On this day 30 years ago, I was a starry-eyed bride.

I'm stunned even as I write it: my husband and I have been married 30 years.  30 years!!

As we walked down the aisle together, I was absolutely certain we were heading into our very own happily-ever-after.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn.  Thank God, I've had lots of time for learning.

In honor of this special day, I'm going to tell you my secrets to a good, long-lived marriage. This is what I wish I'd known on this day 30 years ago.  The best marriage advice ever.

It's a pretty short list:
  1. Learn to forgive.
  2. Seek forgiveness.
  3. Practice forgiveness.
That's it. Those are the secrets.

Is there a key to a good marriage?  Yes.  Forgiveness is the key.

It seems that I must learn most things the hard way. One thing I've learned is that you shouldn't take marriage advice from someone who's never had marital struggles.  Perhaps that sounds counter-intuitive, but I've learned that it's true. It's quite easy for people whose marriage is all smooth sailing to THINK they know the secrets to a happy marriage. But I've learned that the best training for good sailing is to weather some storms and come out still afloat.

When I was a bride, I thought I knew the secret to a successful marriage. I was reared to strive for perfection in all that I did. I wasn't very good with forgiveness, because I believed that it would be better to avoid mistakes and not ever need forgiveness. I tried hard never to let God or my husband down, and I really thought my hard work would be the key.

I failed. I failed miserably. That didn't stop me from trying again, though, each new effort more valiant than the last. Stubbornly I clung to the thought that my marriage was different, that my husband and I were special. I just knew that God would honor my efforts and that we would be rewarded with an amazing marriage.

I was wrong. Only after my marriage has suffered some major crises have I finally learned.

I am human. My husband is human. We are learning and growing and trying to be like Jesus, but we make mistakes. Sometimes we make really bad mistakes. And over the years, some of our mistakes have deeply hurt us. I've hurt him. He's hurt me.  

But in the midst of the pain, here's what I've learned: With God's help, there is no hurt that cannot heal. There is no sin that can't be forgiven. God is powerful enough to redeem even the most difficult of situations.

That might sound unbelievable, even ridiculous to you.  And without God's help, it IS unbelievable. It's impossible.  Remember Jesus told his followers "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). But we don't have to do it without the Lord; we get to do it with Him.  And the truth is that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

Of course, there are times when one person doesn't want to be redeemed. I know that's true, and I'm so sad for people who find themselves in those situations. Sometimes there are spouses who must flee a marriage simply to protect themselves or their children.

But for those of us who have spouses who are willing to work with us, I stand by my list.
  1. Learn to forgive.
  2. Seek forgiveness.
  3. Practice forgiveness.
If I could go back and tell my young self what to expect from marriage, here's what I'd say:

Sometimes marriage will be wonderful.  Other times, marriage will be dreadful.  You will falter. You will fall. You will hurt and be hurt. But with true forgiveness, you can make it.

And my prayer for spouses, today and every day, would be this:
We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fulling pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.  He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)
I did not get my happily ever after.  But after 30 years, I can say that I got something even better.

In any marriage, you will not live happily ever after. You will have times of pain of sorrow. But with the Lord's help, "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well" (Julian of Norwich).

Tuesday, June 16

My updated kitchen

If you're like me, you really enjoy peeking into bloggers' homes.  Inspiration abounds, good ideas flow freely, and besides--it's fun to see what your online friends are up to!

But if you're like me in another way, it's sometimes discouraging to see into bloggers' homes. Projects appear to be completed overnight.  It feels as though no one seems to struggle as much with real-life interruptions as much as I do.  Sigh.

I started a kitchen mini-remodel last spring.  Spring of 2014, you understand.  And though I made great strides in just a few weeks, I did not complete the task until now.  15 months later.  Does this happen to anyone else?

Here's how things looked before I started.

And here's the same view today, with all updates complete:

This was not a dramatic makeover by any means, but I wanted to add more of a farmhouse feel to this big kitchen.  So here's what I did.

Changed the wall color.  This was the easiest project, of course, and I'm enjoying the new, light look.  The color is Sherwin-Williams Liveable Green.  Although my kitchen doesn't have a lot of wall space, I like this soft green color.

Changed the faucets.  I really like these faucets, which are from the Cassidy line by Delta.  They're nice and heavy, and I like the way the two faucets coordinate without being exactly the same.

Changed the tile backsplash.  I swapped the tumbled marble for a crackle-finish subway tile.  The new finish is lighter, brighter, and much easier to clean.  I also took away the stainless steel backsplash from the stovetop.

Painted the kitchen island.  This may be my favorite change.  The color is Oakmoss by Sherwin Williams, and I love the way the green island breaks up the sea of brown.  I also changed the knobs and pulls on the island to polished chrome ones (Gilmore by Restoration Hardware).

Added a beverage fridge to the island.  This was the most complicated and expensive part of the update, but we've enjoyed this so much.  I chose a ULine fridge, which is wonderful--it's part wine cooler, part cold beverage storage. Fitting it into the island required more extensive cabinet surgery than I expected, but I found a good carpenter who got it done.  All the details of that makeover are here.

Changed the lights over the island.  This was as simple as the fridge was complicated.  These pendants are from Ballard Designs, and they simply screw into existing recessed fixtures.  I especially like them with Edison bulbs in the sockets.

Painted and recovered the barstools.  They'd been black for a long time.  I spray-painted them and recovered the seats.

Created faux grain sack covers for the chairs around the table.  This was a fun project.  I simply cut a canvas drop cloth into squares large enough to fit my chair cushions, then just used painter's tape to create the stripes.  First I taped each square like this:

I painted that stripe with craft paint, then applied tape like this.  (You can see that I used tape to mark spaces on my plastic ruler, which is how I made sure that the width of the stripes was the same on all chairs.)

The painted stripes looked like this:

Then I simply used my staple gun to attach these to the chairs.

Changed the window treatment.  I liked the look of my faux grain sack chairs so much that I created a new faux Roman shade for the window over my sink.  I cut a drop cloth to the right size for my window, then used the same tape method to create stripes down the length of each side of my fabric.  I was very diligent to measure carefully from each side to insure that the stripes were straight, which was a little tedious but not hard.  Then I followed my own faux Roman shade tutorial (click here for that) to create the new shade.  I like it a lot!

And with that, I think I'm finished.  And it only took me about 15 months to complete this project. Here are some more views of the new space:

So what do you think of the changes?  And do you ever struggle to get projects finished?  Please tell me I'm not alone!

Cupboards: maple beadboard
Granite: Santa Cecilia
Drawer pulls and cabinet knobs are from Restoration Hardware
Major appliances: KitchenAid
Beverage refrigerator: ULine
Light fixtures: Ballard Designs
Faucets: Delta
Wall color: Sherwin Williams Liveable Green
Island color: Sherwin Williams Oakmoss
Table: Pottery Barn (no longer available)
Kitchen chairs: Bassett Furniture
Upholstered chairs: Pottery Barn
Barstools: T.J. Maxx
Window treatment: No-sew faux Roman shade (tutorial here)

Let me know if you have any questions!

I'm sharing at these wonderful parties:
Inspire Me Monday at Sand and Sisal
Fabulous Party at LouLou Girls
The Scoop at Worthing Court
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
One Project at a Time at A Bowl Full of Lemons
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style
Your Turn to Shine at Bless 'Er House

Tuesday, June 9

Things get worse before they get better

My life is chock-full of transitions right now.  For a brief moment in time, all three of my sons are at home again, each one awaiting a new stage in his life.

I know this big ole house is going to feel empty very soon.  Right now, though, it's very full.  And busy.  And kind of chaotic.

So, just for grins, it's time to do some much-needed work on the house, right?

Our timing is not so great, but this week carpenters began work on replacing our deck.  This is how things looked yesterday:

And this morning:

While we're doing the work on the deck, we're also changing the style of the railing all around the screened-in porch.  We've never liked the spindles that have always been there, so we'll get new ones to match the new deck railing.

Unfortunately, the deck is the route to the back yard for our doggies.  They've always let themselves in and out of the house via a doggie door, which is closed for now.  They're a little confused.

Innocent looking little things, aren't they?

I probably shouldn't have been surprised yesterday morning when Snickers the beagle knocked over the watering can on the deck while I was conferring with the carpenter.  She was nosing her way around, trying to figure out what's going on.

But guess who was standing on the downstairs patio, directly UNDER the watering can?

At least the carpenter didn't get drenched.  And it was clean water.  Thank God for small mercies.

In the midst of the mess this morning, I'm reminding myself that things always get worse before they get better.  Right?  Right??

Tuesday, June 2

The end of the beginning

September 1996.  My first little boy starts kindergarten.  His younger brother is in preschool; a third brother is on the way.

So begins an era of carpools and sack lunches and homework and tests and projects and papers and field trips and schedules and all the other things that go into what we call "School Days."

I am an eager mom, excited to see how my boys will grow and develop.

With three boys, School Days stretch out into weeks and months and years and years and years.

And then, one by one, those three boys finish their School Days.

Until finally the last lunch is packed, the last project is turned in, the last paper is written, the last test is taken.

When I think the progression of all these days, one after another, September 1996 through May 2015, it seems like a long time.  Nineteen years of preparatory education, all in a row.  That's a lot of sack lunches.

But when I think about the total of these days, the nineteen years they melted into, it doesn't seem like a long time at all.  It just seems like a special time.  A wonderful time.  A time that surely isn't over, is it?  Is it??

And I am comforted to know that this isn't the end.  It isn't even the beginning of the end.  But to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, it is the end of the beginning.

I am still an eager mom, excited to see how my boys will grow and develop.

And I am so grateful.

Dear God, I thank you for the privilege of being here for the beginning of the lives of these men.