My Garage of Good Intentions: The Dresser

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As fall is rolling in and winter is soon to follow, it was time for me to get back out to the garage to complete another one of my projects. Mostly because I don’t want to be out there when it’s frigid, but also because it would be nice if my husband could park his car in the garage when the frost hits.

Like the hutch, the dresser comes with a story. Before we came to Bartonville, the church had been renting the parsonage out (the pastor’s husband was also a UMC pastor and they lived in his parsonage). I don’t know all of the details, but the tenants were awful. They got behind on their rent and had completely trashed the house. At one point, a nuisance notice had been posted by the county. They ended up being evicted. While they took most of their belongings, they left a lot of junk behind. A lot of junk. There were 7 TVs in the garage, along with a weight bench, some miscellaneous free weights, a patio chair, and this dresser.

 

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While the rest of the junk was being tossed, Vern (the man in charge of renovating the house for us) didn’t feel right junking the dresser. He thought it was in nice enough condition that it was worth giving away. When we came to look at the house, Vern showed me the dresser and I gladly accepted it. Yes, I needed that dresser to fulfill my Pinterest dreams.

It took me forever to get around to doing something with it. I just couldn’t decide what to do. I thought about removing some of the drawers and putting in shelves. But no, I don’t have the tools or experience for that. Then I thought about painting it and applying a textured paper to the drawers. But no, I don’t have the patience for that. So it came down to just painting, but I needed a color. I looked for inspiration everywhere, but kept coming back to the same answer: black.

I love black. My younger sister tells me I wear too much black, but what does one do with their favorite color? Wear it all the time. Decorate with it. Black is classy and timeless and should be used without reservation. At least that’s my opinion.

I used the same technique as my hutch. I sanded it down and then painted 3 coats. It was tedious work. I knew it would take several coats for the white to quit showing through. I was so eager to be done, I decided I would only paint the front of the drawers. That was until the incident.

I don’t know how many coats in I was, but I was lost somewhere between the thoughts of what else I could paint black and just how tired I was. I was so tired. So tired that one minute I’m holding the can of paint and putting the last touch on a drawer, and the next minute my hand is empty and the paint has spilled out into the drawer and all over the floor. It was such a mess! The only way to salvage the drawer was to paint the inside of it. And if I did that for one drawer, I would have to do it for all of them.

It ended up being a happy mistake. Except the paint on the floor. But it really did give the dresser a more finished look. Turns out sometimes you can’t take shortcuts.

The final touch was the pulls. What I really wanted to do was replace them. I had been looking at UFS and The Habitat Restore for something fun, fresh, and cheap. I had a lot of really good options, but nothing I couldn’t live without. It was going to cost another $5-$10 to replace the pulls. Not bad at all, but I couldn’t help think of how I could feed my family with that money. $8 will buy me a 10 lb bag of chicken quarters at Kroger. Or 3 gallons of milk at Aldi. 6 dozen eggs. Put into that perspective, it didn’t seem like I should waste the $8 if it wasn’t necessary. I would keep them, but not as is.

 

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Instead, I decided to look at what resources I had on hand at home. I had bought some gold spray paint for another project (waiting in my garage to be completed). I thought the gold would really make the piece pop and give balance to the black.

In the spirit of not taking shortcuts, I decided to take the legs off and spray paint them as well. Holy cow am I glad I did! When Nick and I turned the dresser on it’s back, we found several spider eggs. I almost lost it. I don’t do spiders. Just the thought of those things hatching in my house….

 

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Anyways, the dresser is finally complete! I absolutely love what it does to my living room. And it also gives me hope. If I could take an old dresser and give it new life, what more can God do with me?

 

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My Garage of Good Intentions: The Hutch

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The house I grew up in had a multi-purpose room. Officially it was the laundry room; unofficially it was the dog’s room and my mom’s craft room. There were cabinets lining one wall that were full of fabric. Some of it was leftovers from a project and others were intended for future use. My mom was really good at coming up with things to do, purchasing the needed materials, and then storing said materials indefinitely.

We (my family) would make fun of mom relentlessly for this. I was in grade school when my mom made my baby pillow. There’s a quilt she was making for my sister’s wedding gift (9 years later and it hasn’t been started). I can’t even remember what else has been started and not finished or not started at all.

I thought I had escaped that gene from my mom. I’ve never considered myself all that crafty, so I figured this wouldn’t be an issue for me. But two things happened to me: I had a baby and got a house. Only it’s not fabric I’m collecting, it’s furniture.

If you were to come to my house, you would notice we have a two-car garage, but Nick parks in the driveway. At first it was because we had boxes from the move stored on his side of the garage. Those boxes are long since gone, but it’s been taken over by furniture.

Since moving in, I have collected a dresser, patio chairs, a child-sized armchair, two medicine cabinets, a chandelier, and a hutch. All of which need to be painted, stained, or installed. The only problem is I have spent more time on Pinterest coming up with ideas for it all than actually working on anything.

This week I decided it was time to get my rear-in-gear. We were having an open house on Sunday for the members of both churches and I wanted to show some progress on making the house our own. Ok, and I also felt the need to prove that I do stuff other than sit around at home playing with my child. Yes, I still have some stay-at-home-mom guilt. Anyways…

The hutch had been give to us by a couple in the Bartonville church. It had been his grandpa’s, but when they got married he sold them a table and chair set, the hutch, and the dishes in the hutch for a mere $100. Now this was the 60s, but even then $100 was a steal.

They had kept the hutch all these years and finally decided it was time to get rid of it. They offered it to us, and otherwise it was going to be donated to a thrift store. At first sight, I knew I needed this hutch. Not for what I could do with it, but for what I could do to it.

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I had contemplated painting it, but every color I envisioned (usually black) just looked horrible in my mind. I also had this fear I would disrespect the couple by altering it too much. I mean, they had given it to me so it was mine to do whatever I wanted. But it has a history and I felt the need to preserve that as much as possible.

So thanks to Pinterest, I found a tutorial on how to stain furniture. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by giving my version of how I did it. Someone else already did that for me and I just followed her instructions. But there are a few observations I’ll make on the process.

For one thing, I am waaaaaaaay too literal. As I was getting started, I read the tutorial over and over again and checked the can of stain numerous times to see if I needed to stir or shake the stain before I started. Neither one told me to, so I didn’t. I’ve never worked with stain before, so if I wasn’t told to do something I wasn’t going to do it. Stupid. I dipped my brush in the stain and started on one of the drawers. Now my can says espresso, but what I painted on was clear. What kind of sorcery was this that would go on clear and then dry a rich espresso color?!

But none of the instructions said to stir, that contents might settle, so I kept going. I painted every drawer and started on the base. But the feeling that something wasn’t right kept haunting me. BUT IT DIDN’T SAY TO STIR! When my conscience could take no more, I tried stirring the stain. Imagine my surprise when the contents turned a beautiful brown. So I had to go over all of my work again, just in order to actually stain it. Stupid.

Also when embarking on a journey like this, always keep the destination in your mind. I kept working on each piece as an individual piece and forgot that they were part of a bigger picture. Had I paid more attention to it as a whole, I would have noticed how there are stripes of wood along the drawers that should have been stained as well. Or that just because the doors will normally be shut doesn’t been they’ll never be opened, so you might care more about the other side of the door. You know, little stuff like that.

But all in all, I overcame my fear of staining and my “mom” genes and completed a project. The best part was being at the open house and having the couple tell me how beautiful the hutch looked. The husband told me his grandpa would have been proud; I could have cried.

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So on to the next project! I’ll keep you all updated as I knock off my list (and add more projects to it)! And of course, if there’s a project you’ve been working on, dreaming of, or always wanted to do but have been afraid—I’d love to hear about it! Maybe we can get ideas from each other 🙂

Life Here

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It’s better. There’s no doubt about it: life here in Bartonville is better. It’s slower, more peaceful and even the dog is happier. The way we live is better and where we live is better. It’s amazing how a change in jobs and a move can make such a huge difference.

It’s quiet. We don’t hear people coming and going from our building any more. There’s no longer a small child living above us running around and crying. Instead we can hear the birds chirping in the morning. There is the occasional car that drives by our house. Other than that, it’s silent.

And we have space. Milo and Diesel have room to play without fear of being trampled. Milo has long stretches of uninterrupted floor that he can roll and squirm across. Don’t even get me started on our yard. Diesel is a dog in heaven running around in the backyard. Even Milo loves exploring the outdoors. I’m starting a very modest garden. It’s just a couple tomato plants, a bell pepper, basil, and mint but it’s a start.

Life as a family is better. We have dinner at the table every night. (Confession: until Milo was 6 months old, we had never eaten at our table.) Most nights of the week, we go for a family walk after dinner.

I love my work at home. Milo can be challenging at times, but it’s amazing getting to watch him learn and develop. More and more personality is showing up and I truly delight in spending so much time with this little boy. I’m also getting to explore the handy/crafty side of myself. Already this week I made a valance for one of my kitchen windows (cost me $3!!!!) and painted a pair of lamps to go in the master bedroom. I love having the time to do these projects.

Nick is happier. He comes home every day proclaiming how much he loves his job. He’s really jumped right in to these churches and is getting very positive responses. He’s loving and caring for these communities in ways they have felt for many years. He is definitely in his element.

Yes, life is so much better for us here. But just like any place this side of heaven, it has its challenges. And I think it’s fair to say, in our household, I’m the one who’s struggling.

I still don’t know how I’ll make friends here. It would be easier to meet people if I was working; that’s a sacrifice I knew I was making. Fortunately, Nick has some good friends here and they’ve befriended us.

I’m also struggling to find my place in the church. I was very active at Windsor Road; not just because I was staff, but I was also involved with the high school ministry. I really love my high school girls and feel called to work with that age demographic. We don’t have any students at either church. Milo is the only regularly attending child, so I don’t know how to get involved. Nick is working to develop a pastoral ministry in the church who will visit our shut ins. That’s not my giftedness; I’m not exactly a people person. So for now I’m the pastor’s wife. I’m just another person in the pews. That’s really hard for me.

And then there’s the ongoing struggle for balance. How do I not feel like all I do is work? And how do I work in order that Nick might have times of rest?

It will just take more time. My father-in-law was texting Nick and I the other day and he made the comment “find the blessings every day.” So that’s my goal: to quit worrying about everything I don’t have figured out and to enjoy the joys each day offers.

From Bread Winner to Bread Maker: Part 2

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(If you’re just joining me, read Part 1.)

I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, just before Milo was born, I repeatedly told my friend, Nancy, that I would be itching to get back to work from my maternity. I would be bored at home and longing for work. I would never want to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m publicly admitting: Nancy, you were right. You told me I might change my mind once Milo was here, and I did.

But it was about more than just Milo that changed my mind. It was the health and wellness of my household that concerned me. I feel called to care for a space that allows my husband to relax after a long day at work. I feel called to prepare meals that will keep us healthy and ward off sickness. I feel called to maintain a space that our church family feels comfortable in. And that they feel secure that we will not do anything destructive to the house they’ve so generously given us.

I also want a job that allows for me to have a healthy work/life balance. That might sound crazy considering that my work and life co-exist. But I was trying to accomplish these things while also working full-time. It wore me ragged. I was exhausted all the time but couldn’t rest because “there was too much to do.” I knew this lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and given the choice between working outside the home full-time and letting my home be my job; I chose my home.

While it catches me off guard that this would be my choice, I feel like it really shouldn’t. Hands down the best job I’ve ever had was working as a waitress at Ike’s Fish House in Monticello. I wanted to be at work as much as possible because I loved it so much. When I was serving a table, my attitude was that for whatever the reason these people needed a break. They needed to take a time-out from life and just be cared for. I felt like I was giving them a form of therapy. The same goes for my other jobs in the food service industry. I have a passion for taking care of people, especially in terms of meals. How does that not relate to caring for a home?!

I never realized how those jobs, those passions, would be preparing me for a life as a wife and mom. It wasn’t until the opportunity presented itself that I realized God had been preparing me for this job all along.

That doesn’t mean I’m not nervous. I worry that I won’t measure up. That I was never really equipped to be at home full-time. But the reality is I’ve been more than equipped; I’ve been called. Just as Nick has been called to the church as a pastor, I have been called to the home to be the caretaker. And I take my calling just as seriously as I take Nick’s. I’ve come to realize that it’s no less of a calling that one to work outside the home, it’s just different.

So here I go. Forsaking the paycheck and the identity that I’ve held so tightly to money and embracing the job that has no monetary value.