Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Best Gift Ever

Today we celebrated the life of our sweet Lois who went to be with Jesus last month.  Several people shared stories of praying with Lois and listening to her pray for others.  She was seriously the best prayer warrior/interceder that I've ever known and left some Goliath-sized shoes to fill.

But, as I reflect on Lois, I am reminded of many other things.

I met Lois when we worked together in childcare at our church.  From day one, she loved my Caroline. She was in the room next to where Lois and I worked together and the ladies in there had problems with her, because she cried a lot.  After them coming to get me one day, Lois told me, "Bring that baby in here--don't take her over there again.  I've got this."  And she did.

A few years later, I started working full time at the church and needed to find childcare for Caroline.  I tried a couple of different places and had this crazy thought that I should ask Lois.  So I did.  And she said, "YES."  We weren't able to pay her much, but I really think she would have done it for free.  She and Caroline adored each other.

They had lots of adventures.  Lois took her to the park and to feed the ducks.  She bought a pool for her backyard and she and Caroline spent a lot of time out there in the garden and sandbox and back porch.  She turned one of her bedrooms into "Caroline's room" and filled it with books and toys and a play kitchen. 

And she taught my daughter to be creative.  They baked all kinds of desserts in the kitchen--kolaches and rolls and cupcakes and cookies.  They made fairies out of flowers from her garden and fairy houses out of  egg cartons and paper towel holders.  They painted and colored and watched videos of "Hermie"  and played with her cats--Tigger and Missy. 

One of my favorite memories was of her talking about a day our church sent everyone to buy food for the local food pantries.  She told me that she used her "babysitting money" to go to Costco and was able to buy several items to donate.  As she said this, she laughed and clapped her hands.  I remember being struck by how utterly joyful she was about being able to give. 

We still have the dresses and poodle skirt and pillowcase that Lois made for Caroline.  We found one of the dresses a few years ago and took a picture of Caroline wearing it like a halter top to show Lois.  We have a few pics of the gorgeous gingerbread houses and little chocolate mice she made and great memories of the kolaches she use to "pay" Brian with when he came over to fix things around her house.

When we remodeled the church and created a servant cafe for our kids ministry volunteers many years ago, I asked her if she would make kolaches to feed our leaders while they were serving.  Every Tuesday, she came up to the church and with one other volunteer, made kolaches for hundreds of leaders who devoured them every Sunday morning.  We would have to hide some so that those serving during the 2nd service could have some.  I think those were the years we had the highest attendance numbers and I KNOW it was because Lois prayed over those kolaches as she made them and for the leaders who ate them.   

I've asked people to pray for me any times over the years and most of them probably did.  But when I asked Lois to pray for something specific, she would remind me that she always prayed for me and my family and would add this to the list of things she prayed for us.  And the tone in which she said it, let me know that she believed her prayers would be answered. 

And while I selfishly grieve that she's not here to pray for my girl, I take comfort in knowing that she is in her true home now.  I can see her now, grinning from ear to ear, and not leaving Jesus' side.  Brian asked today if we thought she had whipped all the angels in shape by now and Caroline and I laughed.  Truth is, she probably did that before her first day there had ended.

One of the best gifts anyone can give a mom is to love her kids.  Lois did that for me and I will forever be grateful for that.  I can't wait to hug her neck again. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What I'm Learning

There's this hill by my house.  Well, it doesn't SEEM like a hill.  If you look at it, it just looks like a long, flat street--but it is SOOOOO not! 

A few years ago, when I was riding my daughter's bike (because I was too cheap to buy one of my own), I felt the burn when I was halfway down it.  You know the feeling--when you have to stand on the pedals, but your legs are so shaky you feel like you are gonna topple sideways?  Or maybe that's just me. 

ANYWAY, I could never figure out why it was so hard--it looked flat and surely I wasn't THAT out of shape (which I probably was, but telling ourselves little white lies every now and then is okay).  Then, one day, I mentioned it to someone else and they said that there was no way that street was flat--there was definitely an incline--you just couldn't see it because it was so gradual, but anyone who walked/rode on it definitely felt it. 

That's kinda how life is these days.  Now, don't get me wrong--there are several things that make that street harder to travel--like the wind in my face this morning and the podcast that stopped working yesterday and the zero dark thirty it looks like out there.  BUT, it's the getting up and going anyway.  Even when I know that I will have to do more than just walking a mile and a half to get rid of this overly excessive amount of weight my body seems to want to hold onto.  Even when I know it means I will have to juggle some other things and figure out what I won't have time for today.  Even when my legs feel like jelly from JUST WALKING!

And even when I look back and it doesn't seem like it should've been that hard for as little progress as I made.

What I feel like God is telling me is to continue to be faithful in the small things.  "Do the basics and don't stop.  Empty the dishwasher when you are tired.  Put that load of laundry in the washer before you go to work.  Answer that next phone call at work and follow through on what needs to be done.  Make the time to sit with ME--even though you think you need to plug in and work."

It's not glamorous.  It's not even fun most days.  And I certainly don't look back at the end of the day and see much progress (the sink is ALWAYS full of dishes, there is ALWAYS laundry that is waiting, the girls ALWAYS seem to want to eat lunch--go figure--I could go on and on, but you get it). Somedays it's only walking 1/2 a mile because that's all I can do in the moment. 

BUT, it's consistent.  It's putting one foot in front of the other when I'd rather just sit. 

And while I wish that one day I will look back on this time and see how God was preparing me in this season for something BIG and GLORIOUS, I'm not setting my hopes on that.  I'm trying to hear His voice in the little (emphasis on trying--I don't do that very well most days) and have it be enough.

Today, that means walking that hill and putting the blanket the dog peed on in the wash and making lunches and choosing to not open up work email so that I can sit and listen (and maybe even shaving my legs when I know I'm wearing pants to cover them up anyway--I know TMI--guess this is where I need to stop, before this gets really awkward). 

It also looks like writing this blog when I know the words are not necessarily life-changing or ah-ha moments for me or anyone reading them. 

But I do it because it's the next step in front of me and sometimes, that it enough.

The Gift of Giving Nothing

Yesterday was Brian's birthday.  The weeks leading up to it are stressful for me as I try to figure out what to buy or do for him.  When I ask him, the answer is always the same--"Don't buy me anything."

Now, when most people say that, they don't mean it, but when Brian says it, he means it.  Over the years, I've ignored it and tried to be creative with my gifts.  Last year, I was out of town for work on his bday, so I had his favorite bbq place in Tulsa send him their bbq sauces.  But, I'm not usually good with coming up with those kind of creative things.

This year, he allowed me to invite 3 of our favorite family friends over and we had a fish fry and sat around the fire pit.  So simple.  So relaxing.  So fun.  So US!

Even with that, I still felt myself feeling the need to come up with a present.

As I was out gathering twigs for a project (more about that later) and clearing my head--don'tcha just love how being out in nature does that for you?--I had an epiphany.  What if the best gift I could give is nothing.  What if I actually honored what he wanted and didn't do anything else?

What if we didn't make a big deal at the fish fry that it was a birthday celebration?  What if we didn't sing and make him blow out candles?  What if we didn't do a present?

Those little voices in my head that tell me what a loser I am started speaking up and telling me I HAD to do something or else I was a bad wife.  I had to have a surprise element of the night so that he would feel celebrated and loved.

And that's when I just STOPPED.  Brian would NOT feel celebrated and loved by being the center of attention and feeling the need to give a speech.  If I did that, it would be to make ME feel better.

How often do we do this in life?  We say we are doing something for another people, but we are really doing it to make ourselves look and feel good. We don't want to look like the loser wife who didn't  buy candles or a card.

But in doing stuff that makes us feel better, we dishonor those we love most?

So, while my love language is acts of service, it's not Brian's.  Love gets past our own hang-ups and expresses itself in the way others' feel celebrated--even if it would make us cringe.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Being Invited

Today, I received 2 different texts, inviting me to things.

Now, you may receive 2 invitations on the same day all the time, but, honestly, I don't get many invitations.  One was to play hooky and watch a movie and the other was to attend a fundraising gala.  Both were from dear friends that I don't get to see enough.

But what they were for and who they were from are really not the point in this post.

Being invited is.

I was taught years ago to "never do ministry alone."  What that means is to always bring someone with you--whether you are doing something big (like creating a non-profit AND when you're doing the mundane--like grocery shopping).  For those of you who are introverts, this probably just sent cold chills up your spine--I get it--the older I get, the more I need my space away from people.  Sometimes, I even make #mynameiswillow leave my room.

I used to be a great inviter.  I embraced what I was taught and just did life alongside people--a LOT.  The last year, I haven't been such a great inviter.  First of all, I live kinda far from most people.  Secondly, I haven't had the finances to do much and who wants to come hang out at my dirty house where someone always seems to be yelling and the dog hair never goes away?  Thirdly, I've been in a bit of a funk and really haven't wanted to spread that to anyone else.  I could go on and give you many other excuses, but you get the idea...

And here's the kicker, I couldn't do one of the things I was texted about, and I don't think the other will work out either.  So, both of those people might feel like they wasted an invite on me. (Be honest, haven't you ever felt that way when someone turned you down?  I know I have!)

But those invites were NOT wasted.  They came at a time when I needed to be invited to something outside of myself.

And it just makes me many times do we think of inviting someone to something and we don't because we know them saying "YES!" is a long shot?  How many times do we get frustrated when we are turned down, once again by that friend who says they never get invited?  How many times to we attend an event and afterwards think, "??????  would have loved this?"  And how many times do we just want to feel like our presence is wanted somewhere--even if we can't go?

So, what are you doing today or this weekend or next month?  What is on your agenda that you can invite someone to do with you?  Who's name/face is God bringing to your mind right now?

You don't know how powerful that seemingly small invitation is.  And honestly?  You may never know.

But do it anyway.

Invite someone today.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Conversations with a Teenager...Part 1

I've decided to start a new series since I can only do so many #askingforafriend posts.  I thought I had "interesting" conversations with my girls when they were little, but I've had some doozies lately.  I'll have to edit out some since many of our conversations are not appropriate outside our home, but we'll see how many come along.

Here's part 1:

Me: Did you see the comments on the pic I posted of you on facebook?
Unnamed Teen (UT): Yes.
Me: You should say "Thank you" to those who commented.
UT: No.  I don't want anyone to know I'm on facebook.
Me: are fb friends with them and I tagged you in the photos so they already know.
UT: Yeah, but I don't comment.  I just look at what you post.
Me: But people still know you are on there
UT: Yeah, but they forget.
Me: (Rolling my eyes) Oh, okay...THAT makes sense


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Long Road Ahead

I took this picture tonight on my way to pick up Hope at the barn. It's striking to me and almost takes my breath away.

One reason is that I feel like sunrises and sunsets are God's way of kissing us good morning and goodnight.  I don't have to see them to know that He loves me, but they just make me feel extra warm inside.

Another reason is I love the symbolism of the long road in front, but I forget about the length--just a little--when I see that it leads to the sun.

So many times I embark on something that feels like heading into a tunnel with only a pinhole of light visible.  And, because I know it's the way to go, I will trudge through the dark and do my best not to trip and fall too many times onto the ground that I cannot see. But, by the end of the tunnel, after my eyes have adjusted to the blinding light, I see the scrapes and bruises on me.

This pic reminds me that life is not always dark tunnels.  Sometimes it's open roads where I can see all around me.  And I'm in a car, moving at a faster pace.  And I have the S-O-N waiting for me at the end of my adventure.

So, I will soak in the drive and maybe even roll down my windows a little bit and turn the radio up just a tad louder.

And most of all, trust that where I'm headed is where I'm supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Basil in a Broken Pot

A few months ago I was walking into Sprouts and saw herbs on sale.  Now, I've tried to plant things in the past.  Brian even planted me a salsa bar last year.  But, for the most part, I kill everything.  I just don't have "the touch."

But, the thought of fresh herbs makes me happy, so I put 3 of them into my cart.  (I'm learning to surround myself as much as possible with the simple happys)

I bought plain, inexpensive pots for them--just in case they didn't make it into the next week--and put them on my window sill.

One of my favorite things (and maybe part of the reason I keep trying to plant with my black thumb) is getting to see the physical changes that take place in plants.  When you first put a plant into a bigger pot, it looks so small, but within days, you see how it's "owning" it's space and growing--not only outward, but upward. And even though I can't see the roots, I can only imagine how the tangled mess I buried is now stretching and spreading out of that clump.

I went out of town for a few days and when I came back, the basil pot was cracked and the plant looked dead.  Why?  Because Willow.  Apparently, the flycatcher extraordinaire did not see value in the  fact that my herbs were still alive when she was hunting and knocked my basil to the ground.  My family put it back up but Brian (who DOES) have a green thumb told me it probably wouldn't survive.

Now, I wish I could say I left it on the window sill because I had hope and believed I could nurse it back to heath, but the truth is, I was just too lazy to throw it away (our trash is almost always full--even right after it's emptied and if I put it in there, it would mean I would have to take the trash out.  If I just walk it out to the dumpster, then I might as well take the trash out.  It's tough being in my head).

BUT, I regress!  I continued to water the basil--cracked pot and all--just not as much as the other herbs--it got the last drops of water after I finished with the others.  The thyme and rosemary were both thriving and soaking up the water, but the basil was brown and shriveled and most of the water soaked the soil with no sign of life.

Until one day, I spotted some green in that pot!  So, I started watering it a little bit more intentionally.  And it continued to grow--cracked pot and all!  In fact, I even used some of it for a meatloaf a few weeks ago!

What's ironic is that there are still dead leaves in the pot, but the basil has decided to spring up around the death and not let it choke it and keep it from growing.  I have to water it a little more and in smaller amounts than the other two, but that just makes me more intentional with it. And ironically, that basil is actually taller than the other two beside it!

I can't help but think that many of us are like the basil in the broken pot.  We don't look like we have much to offer, but, God, in His grace, continues to water us and turn us so that we get Son on each part of us, so that we grow.  And those cracks in our pot, while still there, are not the focus and don't limit us.

Brokenness doesn't have to define us.  It sure doesn't that basil in my window sill.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bittersweet Beginnings

The beginning of a new school year has started at the Royal house, and, once again, there is change in the air!

First of all, the girls decided to transfer to a new school district.  For one daughter, it was a no-brainer, but it was a bit agonizing for the other.  After many lists and conversations of pros and cons, she made the decision to move as well.

As they are getting older, Brian and I have been trying to back off and let them make their decisions. It's hard and we DO have to step in sometimes, but we also want to launch adults in the world who can think for themselves.  We help by doing the homework and asking the hard questions, but leave the final call to them in most cases.  It's a bit frustrating to them at times because they want to be able to blame us if it's not the right one. Sometimes parenting feels like a no-win situation!

What's funny/ironic/sad is the one who didn't have to think twice about moving is the most nervous.  Every few days she's asked another "what if" question.  The hardest was "What if nobody wants to sit with me at lunch?"  We've all heard the stories and seen the yuck that happens with overt bullying, but we don't always talk about the subtle stuff.  I hate that she had to experience that in the past, but am also praying she doesn't forget it--so that she makes sure she is not on the other end of letting someone sit by themselves because she is scared of what her "friends" will think of her.

Along with a new school, another beginning for us is that Hope has started working at a new barn.  She had to say goodbye to her precious Sharay and the trainer who gave her her very 1st real lesson.  Even though it's the right move for her, it's still hard to let go of the familiar for the unknown.

I want to be able to tell both of my girls that it will be easy and fun and that they will never have a regret.  I am hoping and praying that for them, but I know from personal experience that the right decision will not always "feel" right.  They may doubt themselves--and even if they don't, the new adventure won't always be easy.  And there will be people who question them--some aloud and some behind their backs.

At the end of the day, I want them to learn--just as I am learning--that you pray about a decision, do your homework, pray some more, talk to people who love you and pray again.  Then you make the decision that YOU feel is best in light of all of that.  It might be easy.  It might be hard.  But at the end of the day, you have to answer for YOUR actions--not anyone else's thoughts or words. Have courage and be kind.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Sweet Stench of Victory

Hope has been working at a barn this summer.  And when I say "working," I don't mean just grooming horses.  She mucks stalls, makes feed, cleans water troughs and all the other grunt work that goes into keeping a stable clean.  Needless to say, she works really hard.

She also comes home stinking to high heaven.

We've decided she has to sit on towels when she gets into the car because there is so much grime on her.  And the smell is really horrific.  We tell her it smells like a horse has peed on her. (Aren't we just the best and most supportive parents??)

I know, I know, you may think your kid stinks after a workout or practice, too.  And I get it.  We once drove home from Oklahoma from a soccer tournament in August with Hope's shin guards, socks and cleats in the back, wafting their smell to the front of the car until we made a pit stop to tie them up in a bag so we didn't gag anymore.  Athletics make for stinky kids AND gear.

But I digress...

Since leaving my full time job last year and Brian's subsequent surgery, we have not had a lot of discretionary income.  Horse gear has been one of the many things that has had to fall by the wayside.  While it's been discouraging to her, Hope continues to work hard to find a way around it.

She mucks out stalls in $20 boots from Academy while others are taking their horses out in their $200 boots from Dover and then they change into their $400 riding boots.  And as they push past her, she continues to be gracious and cleans up after their horses.  It's not glamorous and I may get in trouble for writing this because sometimes it's embarrassing to her.  But she continues to do it 5-6 days a week.

She doesn't make much.  Definitely works harder than most people I know who make 3xs what she does.  And while she complains a little (after all--she IS a teenager), she puts in her time and does her job well.

A few weeks ago, she was able to take her paycheck and buy her very own saddle.  It's a used one from a rider at her other barn--where she rides, but it is HERS.

As a parent, I want to be able to give her a saddle and expensive paddock boots and new riding pants.  I don't want her to feel "less-than" because of what she has or doesn't have.  But just like she is reaping the rewards of the hard work, I am watching her and seeing a character develop that might not have if I had given her all the things I want to.

Victory and success don't usually come easily.  It's hard work and you are bound to get a little (or in Hope's case--a LOT) stinky in the process.

But it's always worth it.

Just ask Hope.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Unfriended: A Book Review

I love to read.  Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I get books that sit on my nightstand for weeks, months, even years before I open them.  I'm fickle and there's really not a rhyme or reason to why I read what I do and when I read it.  I've always just chalked it up to "When I read it, it will be the perfect time."

That's how this book was.  I've had it for a little while.  I bought it on a whim and then figured it would be one of those cheesy "Jesus is your best friend" kind of books. (and yes, I DO believe Jesus is my best friend, but I don't want to read a couple of hundred pages beating that into my head).

This book was a delightful surprise!  It took me a few weeks to read because I wanted to let the words sink in.  So many practical things, so many challenging things and so many hopeful things are packed into this little nugget.  The author wrote also wrote a Bible study called "We Saved You a Seat" that has videos that will be free to watch starting Aug 3rd.  I can't wait to dive into that as well and am praying I can do it with a few people.

I underlined a lot in this book.  Here are the things that hit me the most:

"Being willing to be a neighbor in the heart sense of the word is being willing to connect with the people who God puts in our path...How can I BE a friend?"

"We might have defined friendship our whole lives by what others do to us, but in the end it's what we do for others that will define us as friends or not."

"At the end of the day, we get to choose who will have the final say in our lives and our relationships: fear or love."

"God didnt come to make bad people good.  He came to make dead people alive."

"Forgiveness is making peace with the past so that there is opportunity for relationship in the future.  Not necessarily with the same people who've scarred us."

"There's always room for one more friend and room to know each other more.  Better.  Deeper. Uglier. Weirdere. Funnier.  For better or worse, female friendships take courage to start and courage to maintain."

"The cardinal rule of friendship:  You have to be willing to go first."

"In the beginning, God made us in His image.  It's the only image we're supposed to fit."

"Loving people means loving them the way they need to be loved, not the way you like being loved."

"Anyone is good company at a cocktail party.  But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right...If it is real, friendship is usually untidy."

"Latching onto a friend with the hope that they will give us God-sized affirmation will always disappoint...God and only God can give us the words and the lives that fill us up."

"Jesus is never tired of me always needing Him.  Instead, He is deighted by how desperately I need His validation and He never, ever withholds it from me.  Or from you."

"There is no 'done' when it coes to sacrificial love.  There is only more."

"Stop keeping score--who called who last, and who owes an email or a play date or a lunch date--and start initiating.  Friendship isn't something we passively receive.  Friendship is something we actively do.  It's a gift we offer for free, not a demand we make with a stamping foot."

"The shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared story about our broken places."

"Depression lies and tells you that it's not worth fighting and that you're better off alone."

"It may seem like He's asleep in the boat, but it's not because He doesn't care.  It's because He's so deeply confident the Father is in control."

"No matter how much you clean or remodel or move or rebuild, hospitality will always be more a matter of the heart than the architecture.  And your guests will only feel as comfortable in your house as you feel in your own skin."

"Missing out on community is a kind of dying."

"To become real, friendship more often requires becoming comfortable with the snapshots of life often taken at an unflattering angle."

 "And don't let the fear of getting it wrong stop you.  We all get it wrong."

"Blessings are not for hoarding, they're for forwarding.  Because that is how we reflect God's gory back to Him."

"The best antidote to jealousy is choosing instead to encourage."

"Everyone is on the outside of something.  But that is only half the story.  We are all, each of us, also on the inside of something--often without even realizing it."

"Forget the hundreds you wish would come, the cool or the trending you want to impress; feed the hungry who are already there.  Feed them your best."

"The one seat I need to focus on is the one right next to me.  Not the one across the room or the aisle or even the other end of the table."

"The words we say to ourselves matter because the God who is The Word says we matter.  And it's time we start believing Him."

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Different Kind of Date Night

Last night I worked an event This Side UP! Family does every month.  It's called I Date My Spouse" and is an opportunity for married couples to take advantage of free childcare while they go on a date--often with a giftcard given to them by TSUF.  It's amazing!  The kids get some quality programming and have a blast while their parents connect.

I wish there had been something like this when my girls were little.

I know of people who are consistent in dating their spouse.  They go to dinner.  They take vacations. They spend time together.  All without their kids.

When my girls were little, we were not good at the dating thing.  Partly because we had so little family time to be all together that we just didn't take the time away from them.  Partly because date night is expensive when you calculate babysitter, dinner and an activity.  And partly because both of us are more practical than romantic.

To this day, we still don't have a set date night, but as the girls have gotten older, we have found some different rhythms that work for us.

When the girls both started elementary school, Brian worked retail hours and I worked for a church, so weekends were not really an option for us and weeknights were hard because the girls needed to be fed, bathed and in bed at a decent hour.  Brian usually worked late on Fridays or was off and that was my day off, so we would either do breakfast or lunch together.  There was a season when I had a pt job on Fridays and he even came up to eat lunch with me there a few times.

During the summer, the girls started staying with my in-laws for a couple of days at a time.  Some nights, we would cook stuff they wouldn't eat (this is how I finally learned to make guacamole and potato salad--not together, of course--that would be soooo YUCK).  Other nights, we'd head out to some local places to eat (it's amazing how much cheaper your bill is when you don't order queso and soft drinks).

For a short season, we had a boat.  This was my favorite kind of date.  Some mornings, we would drop the kids off at school and head to the lake for the day (once, we barely made it back in time and had to bring the boat through the carpool line--eek!).  Sometimes, we'd eat dinner and then head out for a few hours.  It was glorious.  Basically, our date consisted of Brian fishing and me reading.  We seldom talked, except to comment on the size of the fish, but the comraderie we built during that time was the BEST!

Most recently, we've started watching Longmire again together on Netflix.  Every night, we head to the bedroom and shut the door.  Usually, we are interrupted a few times by girls wanting to make the dog play with them (she loves Longmire time because she sleeps between us on the bed).  We watch one episode and then go to sleep.  Again, no talking, but it's time spent together.  We are almost finished with the series and I'm already dreading not having that time together.

Most days I think it would be easier if we didn't have to worry about finances and could do the traditional night out that most other couples do.  But, when I look back on our dates, I don't really regret how we've chosen to do them.  I only regret the seasons where we didn't do anything--when we let fatigue and work and kids' activities keep us too busy to spend time together.

What types of dates work for you?  What's your favorite thing to do with your spouse? Also, I'm taking suggestions on what series we can watch next!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Gettin Dirty

When was the last time you got dirty?  I'm not talking about your regular every day dirt.  Or even just sweat from working out.  I'm talking about the kind of dirty where there's crud under your nails.  And the dirt is caked on every part of  your shirt, leaving you nowhere to wipe the sweat off your face without rubbing more yuck on in your eye or mouth. And there is so much grime stuck to your legs that you look like you have a tan line when you take your socks off.

That kind of dirty.

I shower every day.  Well, okay, I shower MOST days.  And I don't really think much about it.  If I've gone a day without washing my hair, I feel the clean after lathering it up.  And on the days I shave my legs, they SEEM to be cleaner.

But there's something about a shower after you've gotten really dirty that just feels extra good.  The kind where you look down and see the dirt twirling down the drain.  When your skin feels so much smoother and you swear you've lost several pounds.

Like redemption.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Unspoken Prayers

Sometimes, I think the prayers we don't speak are the loudest.  The ones that make you sob with grief and you just can't even think of words to say what's in your heart.  The ones that leave you feeling so small and insignificant.  The ones that come from a place of pure desperation.  These don't need words for our Father to hear them.

In fact, I have to believe that God hears those as well as the ones we articulate well.  I have to believe that He comes alongside us when we can't speak them and just holds us while we cry.  And I believe that He's not worried about fixing it in that moment--he's more worried about comforting our heart.

Like when a child breaks a glass and is bleeding.  We don't clean up the glass first, we tend to our child's wounds.  Once they are cared for, we go about putting things in order, but not until we know our child is safe.

While I THINK I want the fix first, I believe what I really want--what any of us want--is the comfort.
The peace that washes through me when I know I am loved.

The grace that even if the thing I need fixing is my fault, He will not hold it against me.  

The hope that my brokenness is not only seen, but is cared about.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What's Buried Inside You?

I graduated with a design degree a few (*ahem*) years ago from UNT.  I used it for about 6 years and then never thought much about it again.  I wasn't the best in my class.  I mean--how did people remember which leg style was Queen Anne and which was Chippendale?

So, I moved on to sales and corporate training and then stay at home mama.  The best was when I was a kids pastor and people asked me what seminary I went to--the shock on their faces when I said I didn't and explained my degree was priceless. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the 1st season of Fixer Upper.  Watching Chip and Jo was bittersweet for me because, when Brian and I were dating, our dream was to do exactly what they were doing.  We wanted to flip houses--Brian handling all the building/structural parts and me designing the spaces. It started stirring something up inside me again that I didn't even know was there, but I kinda just ignored it most days--I had a job I loved that provided insurance for my family and paid the bills.

In 2015, Brian and I took a post anniversary trip and started dreaming again.  Road trips do that for us.  While we were in the beautiful Missouri outdoors (in a hotel room with no internet or tv), we started talking about "What if..." again. 

I won't bore you with the details, but there were several things that happened in the space of those short few days that caused us to know the time was right for Brian to leave his retail mgmt. job and start his company back up again.  I would stay on at my job until the end of the year and then I'd join him full time in the adventure of BR Construction.

Needless to say, we got comfortable again and it took another full year before we made the leap for me to quit my job.  And I was only going to manage the office for Brian because I was going to pursue some other things. 

Some of those things worked out (I have a part time job for a little non-profit that I LOVE, I was able to consult with NBCF and create a volunteer mgmt. process for them, I traveled a little as a meeting planner), and some didn't (I have gotten no further in writing my book). 

The last month has opened up a new aspect to working with Brian.  First of all, it's WITH and not FOR (which is how it started out).  Secondly, he's making me use my design experience again. 

At first, I was so very nervous.  It's been years since I stayed on top of the latest color trends and knew what was the next hot thing in design.  So I started looking on the internet and buying magazines and talking to realtor friends.

And you know what?  I found that the designer in me is still there!  I buried her under insecurity years ago, but as I talk color and shower tile and cedar vs brick with our clients, I've found that it's as exhilarating as that first time you hop on a bike and ride downhill with the wind. 

So, I wonder, what's buried inside YOU?  What have you pushed aside because it won't pay the bills or just seems impossible to pursue?  You may have to wade deep through your insecurities to find it like me or you may know exactly what it is.  But, no matter what, it's worth naming and claiming.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We're just a Little Cracked

One of my favorite things about getting married was registering for new stuff.  Shallow, I know, but I LOVED looking at dishes and fajita pans and mixers and, and, and...I could go on forever.

It was fun to start over with new stuff. Kinda symbolic, don't ya think?

Then you start using the dishes everyday.  And after a few years, they get cracked or even worse, broken and you have to throw them away,

These bowls in my cabinet remind me of my marriage.  They are used often and show the wear.  If they don't have a chip around the rim, they have hairline cracks in the bottom of them--not enough to get rid of them, but definitely making them more fragile and definitely not looking new anymore.

Our marriage started out like a cabinet full of new and shiny dishes.

And then the every day happened.  Work and kids and finances and unkind words said in bad moods all created cracks.  There have been things we've had to throw away. In some cases, we've replaced them with a better model, in others, we realized we never needed them in the first place.

A few weeks ago, Brian and I had an honest conversation about our marriage.  "Is it better now after going through the hard stuff?"

What a loaded (and scary) question!  I wanted our answer to be YES! surrounded by heart-eyed emojis and general sappy-ness.  Brian said it best when he said "It's more real."

In the beginning, our dishes were seldom used (after all, when it was just the 2 of us, we ate out a lot and it took a while to rotate through 12 bowls), so of course they looked pretty and shiny. And that mixer was wiped clean after every use.

As life happened, we didn't pay as much attention when we took the bowls out of the dishwasher and accidentally hit them on the side of the countertop.  And the poor mixer started getting flour caked on it because there wasn't time to wipe it down before the girls woke up from their nap--it was a miracle that the cake got in the oven!

Real isn't always pretty.  And it's usually surrounded by the monkey covering his mouth emoji instead of the heart-eyed smiley face one.  Sometimes it's no emoji at all.

But real is GOOD.  In fact, it's real good.

It's truth and love and laughter mixed in with the hurt and the frustration and the hard.  It's eating on those cracked dishes and being thankful they've survived. It's not thinking twice about throwing away the broken and making do with what's left.   It's still loving the pattern and knowing you would pick the same one again if you had it to do all over again.

No cracks means the dishes haven't been used.  Or that they've been handled very carefully and never had anyone banging their fork on them or scraping the bottom of the bowl with their spoon. It's the china in the cabinet that seldom gets taken out--it's pretty to look at, but you can't always enjoy eating on it because you're trying to be so careful.  It's hand-washing slowly instead of rinsing and laughing as you casually put it in the dishwasher.

Cracked dishes tell a story.  Not always the easy story, but the GOOD and REAL one.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 Things to be Grateful for

I had this great idea to create a list of things I'm grateful for.  But it couldn't just be a list, it had to be a significant list--I would come up with 2017 things I was grateful for in 2017.  When I did the math, it came out to just finding 5 1/2 things every day.

That's not hard to do, is it?

Well, it's May 2nd and I've made it to 354.  To reach my goal, I should be at 671.  So, basically, I'm a little over halfway where I should be.  Or I'm halfway behind.  Whichever way you choose to see it.

I might catch up.

Then again, I might not.

But even if I stop today, I'll have 354 things I can look back on that I've been grateful for.  And yes, there may be several different types of food in that list, but there are also people.  So many people in my life to be thankful for.

What I'm finding is that gratitude breeds hope.  Some days that hope is brighter than others, but even on the darker days--especially on the darker days--hope can still be seen.

And it's good.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sundays are my Favorites

I'm sitting here in my bed, with a book and pen in hand, praise music blasting through the house, hubby making breakfast in the kitchen.  I was thinking what a great morning it is, and then realized that this is how I feel every Sunday.  It's truly my fave!

I don't set my alarm on Saturday nights.  I wake up when the sun comes streaming through my windows or Willow starts scratching on her kennel to be let out--whichever comes first.  After letting her and the big dogs outside, I begin the feeding ritual for the menagerie we have here at the Royal house.  Truth be told, sometimes I give the chickens a bit of extra on Saturday evening so I don't have to feed them as early on Sundays. Shhhh!  Bwahahaha!

When something is good, I find myself analyzing it.  Is it because I don't have to race off to work?  Because I don't have to deal with cranky teenagers and getting them to school when they would rather be sleeping? Because we are slackers and attend the latest service possible at church?  Yes.  And yes.  And yes some more.

Maybe it's the anticipation of knowing I can take a nap if I want it.  

Maybe it's because it truly is a day of rest for me.  

Maybe because I usually plan our dinner meal on Saturday and am not scrambling to find time to not only figure out what we are going to eat, but to actually cook it.

Really, who cares?  And does it even have to be Sunday--could it be Friday or Wednesday or Monday (okay--probably NOT Monday)?

I think it all boils down to being unhurried.  Enjoying and savoring every moment of it.  Being cognizant of the details and feeling gratitude for them--for however long they last.  Even if only this morning.  

I realize I NEED Sunday mornings.  I need the slow, unintentional time to just think and dream and read and maybe even create.  

Do you have a "Sunday Morning Day?"  Maybe yours is not morning, but evening--after everyone is in bed and the house is still and quiet.

What do you do with your "Sunday Morning Day?"

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Am I really a Consultant?

Last week I finished my very first big consulting gig.  I created a volunteer training management process for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I still get kinda giddy when I say that--it's pretty awesome, huh?!?!

If you would have told me a year ago that someone would hire me to write down and teach them what I know, I would have laughed at you.  I mean, seriously, how many people get this opportunity?

It all started with a conversation with a friend.

Actually, it started before that conversation.  It was when I told God I would walk through any door He put in front of me and I would reach out to every person he put on my heart/mind.

I haven't kept track of how many people I actually met with over the last year, but it's been a LOT.  And there are still many more that I reached out to and either never heard back, or it just hasn't worked yet to get together.  And I won't even tell you how many doors I've walked through that didn't lead anywhere.

But back to that conversation...It was an early one--I think I met him at 6am (which meant I left my house at 5:15).  And it lasted for 3+ hours.  I just spilled what was on my mind and he took notes.  He had covered a couple of pages on his legal pad by the time we were done.

And here's what I learned in that conversation: What's ordinary for me could be extraordinary for someone else--and vice versa.  We have so much more inside us than we know.  SO much more that we don't even realize is buried under all the regular day-to-day stuff.  If I personalize that--I have so much more that I would have ever dreamed inside of me and there are people out there who are dying to have that info that just comes second-nature to me.  In fact, when I was meeting with the team I was creating the project for, I lost count of the number of times they would ask me questions and I would answer and then they would ask me to put that in the project--stuff I didn't even think to add because it was just "ordinary" for me.

And here's what I also know.  I met with that friend on the suggestion of another friend...because of a comment I made about wanting to write a book...which we barely even touched on in that conversation that led to this consulting gig.

In this season of life, I am learning that things don't always look like I thought they would.  In fact, they almost never look like the vision I have in my head.

My choice is to keep trying to make them fit inside the box in my head OR let go and just follow them in the form they appear in.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Meeting Mister B Herd

Have you ever been to Salado, Texas?  This past weekend, we stopped in on our way home from Austin.  As we were driving through, we were trying to remember the last time we visited and it was before our girls were born, y'all!  Way too long.  It has grown quite a bit and we showed up in town with only a little over an hour before all the shops closed so we didn't get to see much.

But that's okay.  We visited the one shop that mattered.

The B. Herd Gallery.

When we walked in, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful bluebonnet paintings hanging on the wall and sitting on the shelves.  The vivid flowers seemed to jump out and grab me!  I was engrossed so deeply in my ooh-ing and ahh-ing, that I almost jumped when I saw a movement in the corner and a voice asked us how we were doing.

I told him we were fine and continued looking at all the gorgeous-ness surrounding me.  Then, one of my girls grabbed my arm and told me that the man that spoke to us was painting a canvas.  I turned and had to get a look for myself.  Sure enough!  Mister B. Herd was smiling at us with a paintbrush in one hand and paper plate (being used as a palette) in the other--sititng in front of a canvas that was 3/4 of the way done.

I think I was still just a little dazed as I stepped closer to see what he was working on.  I mean, how many times do you walk into a gallery in a little town and see the very talented artist at work?  I went to school at UNT where there were tons of artists, but this is a different level than a starving artist sale.

He explained that he was working on a commission. A client had looked on his website and liked different elements from 2 different paintings so he was combining them into one.  And y'all!  It was gorgeous!!!

As we started chatting with him, he told us he had been painting for 50 years and loved doing it while he talked to guests in his shop--he wouldn't have it any other way.  He gets up every morning, looking forward to coming to work.

I took away a couple of things from that conversation:

  1. To love what you do that you keep coming to work at the age of 83 is just plain awe-inspiring.
  2. He was close to my age when he stopped working his retail job and started following his passion.
  3. Whether it was intentional or just a by-product of his people-personality, his presence adds so much to his paintings.  I went from liking them to feeling like I NEEDED one of his paintings hanging in my home,

We went into a couple of other galleries that day, but they just didn't compare--even the ones who had the famous painters that Brian and I have always loved.  Those just looked dim in comparison to Mr. B. Herd's beauties.

The next time you are driving to Austin, stop in and visit.  Let me know if you do--I'd love to hear if you are as captured as I was.

And if you've already been there, did you leave there inspired?

The B. Herd Gallery is located at 600 N. Main St. Suite 12 in Salado.  If you can't make it down there any time soon, you can visit him online at  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Depression is Real...And H.A.R.D.

Depression is real, but not something I talk about except to those who are close to me.  It's not like heart disease or cancer where, when people know you have it, they have sympathy.  Depression elicits fear in people.

Fear that being around me will bring them down too.

Fear that they will say the wrong thing.

Fear because they simply don't understand it.

I've struggled with depression most of my life, but didn't realize it.  Looking back, I can't believe I missed the signs, but, I didn't even know what they were.  Even if I had known what to look for, I still might not have seen it because depression doesn't always follow a rulebook.

In fact, it never follows that damn rulebook.  That might make it easier to deal with.

Sometimes depression has looked like not being able to get out of bed.  Sometimes, it's felt like there's a cloud following me.  Other times, it's just been a feeling of tired-ness that blankets everything.

Yes, there are medications for it.  And yes, counseling can definitely help.  But true depression doesn't always go away, even with those things.

Depression for me isn't usually completely black--I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but most of the time, the light is so far away and trying to figure out how to get there seems so very exhausting at the least, and impossible at the worst.

One of the hardest things about depression is knowing the struggles my friends have--loss of a baby, kids with major illnesses, divorce, parents with alzheimer's, etc.--and feeling like my pain is so inconsequential compared to theirs.  It creates feelings of guilt and shame and makes me feel helpless because I want so badly to do or say something that will help them, and I know it will take my mind off of my own crap, but I can't even handle getting dressed that day.  Which then leads to feelings of hopelessness.

Recently, I watched Beauty and the Beast and was thankful I was at the end of the row, because I found myself sobbing during a song in one of the scenes.  Here are the words:

Days in the Sun

Days in the sun
When my life has barely begun
Not until my whole life is done
Will I ever leave you.

Will I tremble again
to my dear ones gorgeous refrain?
Will you now forever remain
Out of reach of my arms?

All those days in the sun
What I'd give to relive just one
Undo what done
And bring back the light.

Oh, I could sing 
Of the pain these dark days bring
The spell we're under
Still it's the wonder of us 
I sing of tonight.

How in the midst of all this sorrow
Can so much hope and love endure?
I was innocent and certain
Now I'm wiser but unsure.

I can't go back into my childhood
One that my father made secure
I can feel a change in me
I'm stronger now but still not free.

Days in the sun will return,
We must believe
As lovers do
That days in the sun will come shining through.

I know this song isn't about depression, but it fits.  Some days, it's almost easy to believe the sun will shine through again, and that's the hope that pulls me through during the darker times.  When I shared this with a friend, he asked me to break down the parts of the song that spoke to me and explain why.

I love this line:
Oh, I could sing Of the pain these dark days bring...Still it's the wonder of us I sing of tonight.

I find myself so often stuck in the pain, but I don't want to.  When you sing of the good, it makes the pain more manageable--that's what the character in the movie learned.

How in the midst of all this sorrow, can so much hope and love endure?

Depression brings out the yuck.  It makes me want to turn my back on God.  Yep, I said it.  It makes me think that He has forgotten me--that He has bigger fish to fry--more important people to care for. I tell myself to walk away and move on in life without God.

But I can't.  As dark as it gets, I KNOW He's there. My head tells me I'm just a glutton for punishment, but in the depths of my soul, I feel like He is rooting for me.  Even though I can't feel it. Or see it.  Does that sound as crazy as I feel it does?

I'm stronger now but still not free.

Ugh.  No matter how many times I think I've figured it out and won't struggle with it again, it comes back.  This doesn't just apply to depression.  This is most things in life.  The only word picture I can think of is a butterfly that has it's wings, but is still trapped in the cocoon--there's room to flap them, but not go anywhere. It knows what to do, but can't.

Days in the sun will return, We must believe...That days in the sun will come shining through.

I MUST believe.  The only other option is despair.

Like the characters in this fairy tale, I WILL remember my days in the sun (or maybe it's days with the sOn) and push through.

And I will give myself grace when pushing through looks like laying in bed listening to music or watching a mindless tv show for a while.

And I will celebrate when it looks like having a drink with a friend or sitting in the backyard engaging with my daughters.  

Being Original--kinda

I didn't invent the hashtag "Asking for a Friend," but I have made it my own. 

A few years ago, I wrote a facebook post asking my friends which hair color they used if they dyed it themselves.  I made a joke about it being for a friend and had LOTS of comments--from people who had heard from their "friends" which ones worked best. 

I laughed out loud every time I got a comment--I have really funny friends. 

That's when my #Askingforafriend started.  I began posting 1-2 times a week with a question that I answered, "Yeah. me neither." It was usually dumb stuff and there were more chicken posts than I car to admit. 

But it's my thing. 

I'm not the most original person.  In fact, I really do best if someone else has the initial idea.  I can steal better than the best!

Tornado Warnings

We had a big storm tonight.  One with tornado watches and hail and big thunderstorms.  Of course it would happen on the night before Caroline has a big project due at school (that she waited to finish until tonight).

We knew all afternoon it was coming.  I even put the chicken food under the coop so it wouldn't get mushy on them.  We found flashlights and candles and Hope took her shower early--in case the electricity went out.  I took over typing Caroline's project as she read it to me so that we could get it printed before the weather got really bad.

It didn't help that Hope was yelling any time a change happened.  "HAIL!!!  THERE'S HAIL!!!  THERE'S A TORNADO COMING!!!  WE ARE UNDER A TORNADO WARNING NOW!!!

And Brian was being responsible and unplugging the electronics...including the printer we were madly rushing to get pages from. 

So we cleared spots in my closet, moved all dogs into the room and the girls hunkered down.  Well, actually, Caroline grabbed snacks for her and the dogs first.  And Hope was frantically searching for the portable charger in case she was in there for a while.  And I was gathering jackets and lighters and trying to keep the dogs from going back out.  Oh, and getting a paper towel for Brian's hand that had blood running down it from a cut that he didn't know happened. 

And just when we got everything settled, the storm passed.  And missed us all together. 

That's life in the Royal house for you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

13 Reasons Why...A Review for Parents

There's a series out on Netflix right now called "13 Reasons Why."  It's based on a book by Jay Asher.  If you have teens/pre-teens and haven't heard of the series yet, more than likely they have watched it or know someone who has.

We all have our own parenting style.  This post is NOT designed to tell you how to parent your child and what you should and should not let them watch/read.  That is up to you.

I read the book a few years ago and liked it--it made me think.  It's based on a suicide.  Hannah Baker takes her life, but before she does, she records tapes letting people know why.  I say people and not everyone, because each side of the tape is about a person and how they contributed to her suicide. Once they listen to the tapes, they are to pass them along to the person after them.  There are 13 people she names--hence the name of the book/series. The series goes way more in-depth/graphic than the book and there's talk of a season 2.

As parents, I think shows like this are critical for us to watch.  They are hard and definitely not how I want to spend my down time, but they are necessary.

Here are my 13 reasons why you should consider watching it if you are a parent:
  1. As parents, we need to know what our kids and their friends are watching.  Even if you choose to not let your child see something, they may hear about it from their friends.                                                                                                                                                                                             
  2. Bullying is not just physical.  This series does a great job of depicting other sides to bullying and how language matters.                                                                                                                                                            
  3. As much as we will protect them, they will be exposed to alcohol and drugs.  This series shows what that looks like in a realistic way--how things happen when they are not in complete control of their senses. How "harmless" drinking isn't harmless.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  4. Popular does not equal Happy.  Remember when you were in high school and you thought how much easier life would be if you were the most popular kid?  Our kids need to know that EVERYONE has issues--no matter how well liked they are.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  5. Social media, while a great way to connect with friends, can have irreversible effects.  If you are like me, you probably harp on this all the time with your kids, but it IS real.  Hannah traces her feelings of despair back to one picture that was shared and taken out of context.                                                                                                                                                                              
  6. No one is an island.  Everything we do affects others.  Our kids need to know this. George Bailey figured this out in "It's a Wonderful Life."                                                                               
  7. Rape happens more than we want to think it does.  In looking for statistics, I found that 1 in 5 high school girls report dating violence.  I hated the rape scenes in this series--partly because I know it happens just like they were depicted.  It was so very hard to watch.                                                                                                                                                                                            
  8. It's okay to not be okay.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness--it's courageous.  Every one of us struggles at one time or another.  We don't have to always have it all together.                                                                                                         
  9. People will let you down.  No one person will ever be perfect--except Jesus.                                 
  10. There is hope.  No matter how dark things seem, there is ALWAYS hope. The suicide scene at the end was horrific.  It was depicted differently than the book and as hard as it was to see it, I think it was more realistic in showing how it's NOT an answer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  11. Good kids make bad choices.  I once read that all teens lie to their parents.  We want to think ours won't do that, but chances are, they will.  They will not always get it right--no matter how well-grounded they are. They will disappoint us and maybe even themselves.                                                                                                                                                                                              
  12. One word/action has the power to change life for someone.  This sounds dramatic, but we've all had one of those days when someone says something kind or unkind to us and it changed the trajectory of that day.  There is a scene in one of the episodes where one of the students even says this--they each had the power to do something, but they each chose to do nothing.                                                                      
  13. We have to talk to our kids about these issues.  Even when it's uncomfortable. Even when we think they aren't listening.  Even when we didn't make good choices ourselves at their age. It's important for them to know we are their safe place and that our love for them is not conditional on their actions--even though we will always pray they do the right thing.  
Again, I want to re-iterate that I think PARENTS should watch this.  You can decide whether you want to let your kids see it.  BUT, I will also tell you I've talked to several whose kids are watching it already.

If you've seen it, I'd love your thoughts.  Are you letting your kids watch it?  Why or why not?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Waxing Made Me Sad

Hope waxed her eyebrows.  Or rather, her friend waxed them for her. 

And I am sad.

Not because she had them waxed--I have actually been telling her she should get them plucked a little. 

Not because they look bad--her friend did a great job shaping them.  In fact, I'm wondering if it would be weird to ask her to do mine.

And not even because I wasn't there--some things I don't want to miss out on, but if I had done it, there more than likely would have been yelling (probably from me) and tears (again, probably from me).  This is one experience I am really okay with missing.

I'm sad because it's just one more step in her transitioning from a girl to a woman.  When her eyebrows were unruly, I could close my eyes to the rest of her that was changing--all I had to do was focus on her eyes.  Now, the eyes looking back at me look more mature and less na├»ve.  More all-knowing and less innocent.  More aware and less oblivious. 

As much as I am sooooo ready for them to be grown some days (teenagering is occasionally H.A.R.D. y'all!), there are other days when I want to go back a few years (not all the way back to the diaper phase--puh-leaze!) and tell them all the things I wish I could tell them now--those things that would elicit an eye-roll or a "Mom, you're being overprotective."

But for now, I've got to figure out where to look at my daughter and still see the little girl inside her. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Before You Remodel

Are you thinking about remodeling?  Almost weekly, I am stopped by someone who tells me they "think" they are ready.  After being in this business for several years, there are some things we've found that are helpful to think through before you begin.

The Green Stuff
Let's just get this out of the way.  How much can you realistically spend without eating ramen noodles the rest of your life in your beautiful kitchen?  Before going down the road to hire someone to create your dream, do your homework and crunch the numbers.  Similar to getting pre-approved before buying a house, this will help not only speed up your process, but will also keep you from being disappointed when you fall in love with those handpainted tiles that are not in your price range, but you can't get them out of your head. You may need to narrow down your project and cut some things out to get others that you really want. 

Pinterest It!
Figure out your real style--not the style you think you like. When I was in design school, we cut pictures out of magazines, but the unveiling of Pinterest has made this so much easier (not to mention less expensive).  You don't have to like everything in the picture--maybe it's just a floor or a staircase railing or a light fixture.  Create boards for elements that are important to you.  As you start to amass pics, you will probably see a theme or particular style emerge.

Let's Get Real
Let's face it--we all like things that are just not realistic for our current stage of life.  If you have kids and pets running amuck, white carpet or marble floors may not be your best options.  Subway tiles with white grout lines are beautiful on tv and in pictures, but if you are a messy cook who sometimes get spaghetti sauce or food coloring in places you care not to talk about, you need to rethink those. Will that beautiful sofa you pinned above coordinate with your current furniture?  Along with this, think through how long you plan to stay in this home.  If you will move in a couple of years, you may not want to invest in the heated floors and put that money into something else.

Party On!
Do you like to entertain?  Even when remodeling your bathroom, this is important to think about.  If your guest bath is also one that your teenage daughters use, you need to think through ways to hide the makeup and flat irons.  Can you widen the space around your kitchen island to accommodate more friends? Do you need an outdoor living space more than remodeling your current one?  Is there a good traffic flow or should you consider moving your furniture?

The Other Green Stuff
Are you environmentally conscious?  While appliances have undergone a huge transformation in the last few years, there are still many different levels of efficiency in windows and toilets and dishwashers.  Do your homework--look at consumer ratings, talk to friends and take a shopping trip to touch and feel before you make a decision. 

Stuff It
Is there a such thing as too much storage?  NEVER!  Can you turn a useless niche into a closet?  Is there room to add a shelf under the island?  Instead of leaving 12" at the top of your cabinets to collect dust, can you take them all the way to the ceiling and store your less-used appliances/dishes there?  Are your linen/coat closets placed in convenient places? Would a built in shoe rack or double tiered closet rod be beneficial?

Doing the Laundry
So many houses have itty-bitty laundry rooms.  I know it seems more logical to spend your square footage on living spaces, but, I find that I live in my laundry room more than my formal dining room.  Do you need a sink or clothes drying rack?  Are your bedrooms small?  If so, consider putting in a built-in hamper in the laundry room.

Have Patience and Be Kind
No matter how easy you think the remodel will be, it WILL take longer than you think it should.  I wish I could give you a "one size fits all" reason why, but there are so many things that go into a project.  The drywaller may get tied up on another job longer than he thought which then puts the painter and tile guy behind schedule.  Ask for realistic timelines, but be understanding that it's not a robot doing your remodel.

Dust, Dust, Baby!
It's gonna be messy--even if they put up plastic sheeting and cover all your floors.  Dust seems to just infiltrate all the cracks in all the areas of your home.  Prepare yourself for living in a construction zone for the length of your project.  If you have a more extensive remodel, you may want to consider moving out for a while.  We recently had a client sleep in their travel trailer in their backyard while their master bed and bath were being remodeled. 

Gossip, Girl (or Guy)
Before hiring someone, ask around.  Get the dirt on what your neighbors liked/didn't like about their contractor.  Social media and your neighborhood link are your friends--use them!  Anyone can create a good website and market themselves--be sure to go a deeper. Nothing is better than word of mouth.

Trust Your Gut
You are the best judge for your home.  Trust your instincts.  If you think you should make a room bigger/smaller than your contractor recommends, don't just ignore that feeling.  If you don't trust him or her, get a 2nd bid.  Just because he was right for your friend, doesn't mean he is right for you. 

Hopefully, these tips gave you some new things to think about before you start your project.  If you are thinking about remodeling or building, we'd love the opportunity to collaborate with you to create a space that you can truly will love to live in.  Comment below or call Brian at 972.259.0378 for a design consultation.