New Home Tour

Last week Wednesday we closed on a home on the NorthEast side of Grand Rapids. As I hinted at in earlier posts, it’s a little dated but overall a great fit for our growing family.

Right now we are in the midst of packing up our current rental and painting and prepping the new home for our Thursday move-in, that being said I’ve found little time for blogging or social media. So let’s make this quick, shall we?

Stress levels are high-ish as we are busy working on one thing or another from the moment we get up to the minute we crash. It’s not a sustainable level but it’s been our reality for over a week now. Hoping that we can find some peace in the chaos and laugh about the mess.

I know we can, what I mean is that i pray that we will….

So all that being said, let’s have a tour of our new home via photos from my rapidly dying iphone.

photoWelcome to the new home, a classic white two story home. I have tried to figure out what architectural style this actually is and I can’t decide, not georgian because no columns. If anyone knows, help a sister out.

Right now we have no landscaping, none. I think they tore it all out because it seems unlikely they wouldn’t have planted any in the past 50 years.


Let’s start in the kitchen, eh? Here we are in the kitchen / dining area looking in from the living room. It’s a lot deeper than it looks in any photo I’ve managed to take but still a great space. The downfalls currently are not only the linoleum and wallpaper, but the small oven and fact that there is no dishwasher currently.


This is one space that we will have to save up to renovate and I will likely spend some time and money in here soon as a patch to get it looking cute, and functional. I may even get a small external dishwasher… Any thoughts or advice here?

IMG_2442Here’s another view from the kitchen sink area.

IMG_2463Now onto the living room, here’s the gorgeous fireplace with wood paneled walls, which we actually intend on keeping to get in a more cottage feel. And don’t fret those carpets, there’s a nice surprise under there. HARDWOOD FLOORS!

IMG_2437View from the front family room.

IMG_2441Front Family room, currently a mess of dated carpet and window treatments, but no worries, we have plans. The carpet will be gone soon, down to the hardwood and the wall color will change drastically.


See? Here’s a tester I did… for fun. It’s called Teal Zeal by Olympic, which I picked up at Lowes. This will be one of our more dramatic walls in a home that will lean a little more neutral.

IMG_2445 View from the front entrance. A pretty blank slate once you get rid of the carpet and drapes.

IMG_2443Oh, right! And here is the little half bath off of the kitchen area. I don’t love the placement but with a little love it will be nice for guests and us. Better than running upstairs I suppose, even if it is currently a wall away from our oven.

IMG_2448Let’s head upstairs, shall we? Speaking of the stairs, we will eventually go to hardwood under here as well and repaint the walls a lighter gray. Also I would like to go to a wooden handrail, over painted.

There are three bedrooms and a full bath upstairs here.

And here’s the bathroom. IMG_2452I didn’t take too many pictures in here, not hard to see why. There was originally pink carpeting on the floor but we are now down the the white linoleum, flecked with sparkles.

I want to change everything in here immediately, but time and money and oh… also energy dictate otherwise.

So instead let’s move on to the master bedroom. IMG_2457

The carpet is awful, but the bones are great, check out those his and hers closets and remember that there are gorgeous hardwood floors under there as well. God bless the hardwood floors and the owners for keeping them pristinely covered by all that carpet.IMG_2455They are deeper and more generous than they look in the picture.

So let’s move on to what will be the kid’s room.

IMG_2458This room is aqua right down the to trim and air vents. And the walls are in rough shape from years of posters and adhesive taking their toll. Also, these floors have been exposed for the past while and are in the worst shape. So they will have to be refinished before I can get the kids in here. Sigh…

So for now the kids will be in the nursery next door which I completely forgot to take a picture of. Shoot. Maybe I will add it in later?

Let’s go back downstairs and outside, this is our covered porch which will actually need to be torn down over the summer for safety reasons. It’s molding and when it was built they were skimpy with the support beams. So when it’s gone it will be a concrete patio for a while, maybe we will paint it and add landscaping?

IMG_2462So that’s it for now guys, hope you enjoyed the tour and remember that there are lots of fun after pictures on their way. We are already hard at work, for better or for worse!

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We Are Five, We Are Free

My daughter Noelle turned five yesterday. My oldest baby is five.

As I removed the classic, waxy number five candle from it’s packaging, while children gathered around plates of cupcakes, it struck me hard.

She. Is. Five.

We are five. Five years of mothering and daughtering together.


Five years of stories, kitties, curly hair and a bouncy brown eyed daughter playing upon my every imaginable emotion.

As I looked down at that candle in my palm I fought the urge to stop the party, scoop her up and never let go.

How can she be five? Telling jokes? Heading to kindergarten? Starting to make her way in the world?

Where has it all gone and for the love of mercy if I cry this much at preschool graduation, how on earth am I going to weather further milestones? I think I’ll have to bring a therapist and an oxygen mask to her high school graduation, and college? Forgetaboutit.


This weekend has been a time of celebrations, streamers, kitty masks and cupcakes.

But it has also been one of reflection for me, of inner processing and renewed resolve.

There is something that happened inside me over the last five years, this season of raising a daughter while grieving my broken, painful relationship with my own mother.

And this weekend it all came into focus for me: I have been mothering my daughter out of fear.

Fear that she will grow to hate me, fear that I will hurt her more than help her, fear that she shares all my worst flaws and that the world will hand her more than her fair share of pain and steal her joy.


Noelle and I are cut of the same cloth temperament-wise. We are extroverted, busy, bright and distractible. It’s more personality type than a diagnosis, more learning-style than disability, but here we are.

This shared temperament didn’t serve me well as a child, maybe it was my peers or the adults who had influence over my life, but I grew up a sad, lonely little girl.

I spent years of my life believing that although they said God didn’t make junk, that I was the exception to that rule.

I fought to fit in and generally failed, I grew up feeling rejected and small.

The past five years with Noelle have been spent worried that history would repeat itself, that she would feel rejected by the world and that our relationship would somehow be strained and broken.

That my life was somehow starting over again, through hers.

I don’t know if you project your worst fears and past issues on your children’s lives , but I do. It’s far more inward than outward, but I worry and wonder if all the worst things of my life are guaranteed to play out in theirs.

I worry, then I do everything in my power to give them a foothold for better.

Did I ever tell you why we named her Noelle? 

It’s because Christmas was a revolution, the baby in the manger came to offer a fresh start, a new thing, a rhythm of grace and love open to all.

Given the broken, painful homes we came from, we wanted something new, a fresh start, a revolution.

So we named her Noelle, the beginning of our revolution.

Yet these past five years haven’t felt too revolutionary, how could they when I’ve spent them mothering in fear?

This weekend as she bounced through the celebration of her life God showed me something new, something beautiful, something intrinsically true.


She is Noelle, she is His creation and she is exactly who he had in mind for her to be.

She will be loved, if not by all than by many, for she embodies his joy and creativity in her approach to life.

He will sustain her through the inevitable brokenness, just as he did me.

She is my beautiful daughter and the energy we share will flow through her to bring about good works, to bring grace to pain.

I need not fear her or what we share, rather I shall join in (finally) in celebrating what I have spent too long worrying about and projecting upon.

This is my daughter, sent to me by a wise and wonderful God on purpose, with purpose for the benefit of so many.

She is holding up to her name, she is healing brokenness through God’s work in her life.

And she has started with her Mother.


Do you project your worries on to the life of your children? How has God set you free from that?

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The Book that is Keeping Me Sane for Move Number 7 (review of The Nesting Place)

What am I up to over the next week?

Oh not much, just two birthday parties (both Noelle) two graduations (Noelle from preschool, Kel from Seminary) and closing on a house.

This is on top of the church plant, the pregnancy and the normal details of our life.

So honestly, I’m feeling overwhelmed with details. All these beautiful, gorgeous, fun details that I want to give intentional thought to, but lack the time… or energy.

I’m feeling strapped, by both cash and time.

I want to invest a bit of both in our new home but if you review the details above it’s pretty obvious that I am limited across the board. Andplusalso did I mention I’m still in the final stages of my first trimester with baby 3?

Normally I would feel stressed to the point of tear-filled anxiety over all of this, but I’m trying a new approach, some of which comes from this book and its gorgeous tagline:

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

If you’ve spent much time over at The Nester‘s Blog this phrase isn’t new.

But when it’s implemented? When the seeds of it take root in your thought life? It’s revolutionary, at least it has been to this Idealist.

Kel and I have been married for eight years and this will be our seventh move. Seventh guys. Seriously, I want to feel settled.

We started in an apartment complex here in Grand Rapids, which I painted some of the worst colors imaginable.

Then we moved to a cinder block apartment in a partially condemned building at Seminary.


drinking completely contraband wine in seminary. SUCH a bad girl.

That was depressing my soul so we moved half a block a sweet little yellow duplex, my favorite place that we lived before kids.


Second anniversary, who needs shoes?

Six months later Kel was offered a job in Oklahoma so we loaded a truck and moved across the country where we moved into a rental that had a few bugs (literally)  oh AND a pull out stovetop.

I was newly pregnant and need to nest so we purchased new construction home and finished it ourselves, meaning we told the builders how we wanted it finished. We loved it, brought both our babies through those doors and left with bittersweet feelings to move back home.


Back in Michigan we moved into a rental ranch in a fantastic neighborhood that has been an absolute gift to our family, but where we never really settled in.

One year later we are moving to a lovely two story in North East Grand Rapids which we affectionally refer to as “Our Grandma House” because it’s still decorated with floral wallpaper and pink carpeting.


gorgeous new house preview!

More on this house later, I think I’m going to take a foray into home decor blogging now and again. It’s going to be fun, but like I said there is much to do, to think about and to be overwhelmed by.

So, with all this going on, I bought this book, on a whim at Barnes and Noble with $20 (It’s MUCH cheaper on Amazon) I really should have saved for paint or curtains or milk.

photo copy

My well loved, already slightly dogged eared in two weeks copy.

And I am here to tell you, it is the best purchase I have made in months. I couldn’t put it down or help myself from bringing it on play dates to show all my friends. 

The Nesting Place by “The Nester” IE Myquillin Smith, has infused grace and patience in my thought life as I approach this new home.

As she told her story of their thirteen moves and that all too familiar feeling of “The next house is the one I will really love and work on” I found myself amen-ing, tearing up and reading paragraphs out lous to Kel.

This book spoke to my soul.

If I pick out the wrong paint colors (uh, been there!) it will be okay. Why?
Because “Sometimes you have to make something imperfect before you can make it beautiful.” ~ The Nesting Place

My throw pillows are as flat as pancakes and this should make me glad. Why? Because it’s a sign that people have found comfort there, time and time again.

There is so much lovely imperfection that we find ourselves embarrassed by or apologizing for when in reality our homes are places of love that should be a refuge for those who live there and those who stop by.

I haven’t always been great at this, I get easily discouraged by our home budget, frustrated by the stray legos in the corner and crabby at my husband for always sitting on the couch in such a way that makes the cushions look weird and smooshy.

In reality, this is the place where the bulk of our life will play out and if I want a life infused with grace and peace, it starts with me. It starts at home.

This book is speaking to our my soul about our move
This book is teaching me to be a more understanding mom and a more gracious wife.
This book was a gift, a total splurge that panned out and was worth more than I spent.

It has a story that many will resonate with, grace that everyone needs and practical tips will prove  invaluable as we nest into our new home.

You’ll love it, I’d loan it to you but, I need it, I refer to it, I love it.

And I don’t want to give away the ending, but she shares a lesson about a celebrity death that struck her deeply and taught her a life lesson. This is uncanny because the same thing happened to me, same celebrity, very similar lesson.

This and basically every third sentence in the book caused me to adore Myqullin, her style and her grace-filled perspective on life, faith and home. I will be a regular visitor to her blog and a regular purchaser of this book for weddings, showers and housewarming gifts.

What is the one thing that is holding you back from nesting in your current place? 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, if you use them to make purchases on amazon you will help support this blog… and this blogger. 

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Love Showed Up: Bridal Showers, The Gift of Support

Today’s Love Showed Up Post comes to us from blogger Heather Tenzeca, I hope you enjoy her gracious story of support and love. If you’re interested in contributing, getcha some more info below. 


It was a few months before our wedding. Between my parents’ impending divorce, our own relationship struggles, and the stress of finding jobs for our after-college life, it wasn’t what I had pictured. In fact, I was so busy student teaching and applying for jobs that cake testing and dress fittings seemed overwhelming, and I outsourced many tasks to my mom.

And then there were the fears. Had the harshness that had crept into our relationship become too much? We fought a lot about silly things and about bigger things. And with every fight, I thought that things were falling totally apart. Should we actually be married? I felt a deep sense of certainty about marrying him, but we both brought a lot of our own baggage to a relationship that seemed so scarred. It wasn’t the perfect path to the altar I had pictured. Jealousy, stress, fears and our own family situations had taken their toll. Our relationship’s age often seemed less like the new beginnings of a rosy-cheeked baby and more like a rebellious teenager.

My second bridal shower was a warm day in May. It was hosted by friends of my mom–women who had played a crucial role in my own life too as Sunday School teachers, a mom of the children I babysat, moms of friends.

And as I walked into the home full of good food and smiling women, I thought, “What did I do to deserve this love and this support? Why were people so happy for us when things often seemed so dark–when we had seen the ugliness of each other and ourselves more clearly through our relationship already?” “How could people be so happy when the divorce rate was something like 50%?”

They gave their gifts extravagantly. I couldn’t believe the generosity given to two kids who might turn out to be irresponsible and not enough. But more importantly, they gave their support. They gave best wishes. I felt bolstered, all afloat in the love of a community–a community who had worked in my life up until this point and was gently pushing us forward.

On our wedding day, I distinctly remember standing at the altar and thinking, “I’ve messed up so much. So much.” But there were the faces–of our bridesmaids and groomsmen and family members and professors and friends all saying, “You can do this! This is good, and we believe in it. And you.”

Getting to the altar may be easier for some than it was for us, but marriage itself is hard work. And at some point most of us wonder whether we should and can make such a commitment. It takes the love of a community, their encouragement and stories and gifts and confidence to make it work.


I use their gifts every day–the silverware I put on the table, my most-used cookbook, our duvet cover. And behind those gifts, I see their faces and hear their own stories. I don’t deserve this. We aren’t the couple they might think. They don’t know our struggles and sins and the pain we’ve caused one another. They don’t know how often we’ve fought and argued.

But the fact is, it’s not that I don’t deserve this generosity because of the state of our relationship but because none of us can deserve love so freely given. Nothing I did made them love me, and nothing we did earned their support. But there it was.

When I think of love showing up, I see that undeserved, beautiful bridal shower foreshadowing an undeserved, beautiful marriage where love shows up time and time again. And I think of a baby shower–just about two years later–where many of those same women came again to give their gifts, love, and support and say again, “This is good,” giving me confidence to walk into the unknown and pointing to a God who gives even more abundantly than I could ask or imagine.

IMG_8639 Heather Tencza is an English teacher turned mom who writes about faith, parenting, wellness, and life with her husband and son. She blogs at Pilgrim Sandals



Interested in contributing to the Love Showed Up series? Send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and let’s have a chat about it. 

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God Quilts with Mother Love

soul blossoms amy butler quiltI’ve seen a lot of great posts on Mother’s Day circulating the internet this week. Many advocate legitimate reasons why this holiday does more harm than good.

I understand these perspectives and in many ways I agree with them..

Often, Mother’s day hurts more than it helps, and those of us who have lost mothers or who never had one in the first place understand that with sharp clarity. We go into this holiday feeling like the outcasts, the ones with no one to celebrate, no one to celebrate us.

Anne Lammott said it best (have a I gushed about her enough lately? Get used to it.)

“But my main gripe about Mother’s Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat.”

There are so many people who kept me afloat after my Mom died and while she going through her long process of disappearing into depression. Continue reading

How to win friends and Influence People. With Guacamole.


Adorable banner cut by Noelle and created by WildOlive

My husband Kel is one quarter Mexican, at least we think he is (no one really kept track of genealogy in his family.) Regardless of whether or not it’s true, Kel FEELS one quarter Mexican, which is why he is famous for his enchiladas and why he always asks to throw a Cinco De Mayo Party.

Last night was no exception as three families with children and cheese dip in town made their way through the doors of our home to share a meal with us.

Kids sharing a meal, I love each face and their engagement.

Kids sharing a meal, I love each face and their engagement.

And of course I made a massive bowl of guacamole.

Why? Because we are famous for our guacamole, it gets requested often. Sometimes we theme dinner parties around these requests, seriously. It’s that good.

Our penchant for guac started while I was working at On The Border, a chain restaurant where, if you really want to annoy your waitress you can request to have your guacamole made table side. This is instead of say ordering a less expensive bowl of house guacamole for $3 less.

So as this was a menu item I was trained on how to make great guacamole while chatting up my restaurant guests. It was so good, so fresh, it blew my mind.

So, we started with the On the Border house recipe, without raw onions which are Kel’s kryptonite. 

Then we went on our Honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta and discovered even better guacamole while on a snorkeling excursion on a wooden sailboat. This is not just because we were margarita tipsy, the guac was THAT good.

I snuck down to the galley and bothered the cook with my limited spanish for an ingredient list, which he graciously shared. This is why we now add garlic and onion powder.

So, because I love you and because well made Guacamole is good for the soul I am going to share my recipe with you today.

Let’s pretend you’re making it for 4 people, you can adjust accordingly.


Some people wear purple medical gloves while chopping spicy peppers. Hi, I’m some people.

1) Slice two avocados lengthwise, using the sharp end of your knife, twist out the pit. Scoop them into a medium bowl with a soup spoon.

2) Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of a lime over the avocados and sprinkle roughly 1/4 tsp of salt on top as well, while you prep your other ingredients, the salt and lime will break down the avocado while you slice.

3) Dice roughly a shy 1/4 cup each of tomatoes and cilantro and one medium jalapeño pepper, set aside.

A NOTE ON JALAPEÑOS: When you chop them, take out the seeds (the spicy part) or your guacamole will be spicy. If you want it spicy you can leave them in, or add hot sauce, but in my very professional opinion, guacamole shouldn’t be the spicy portion of the meal. Also not a bad idea to wear gloves or at least wash your hands thoroughly after chopping all spicy peppers, some people I know have gotten juice in their eye, at the own college graduation party and cried off all their makeup.

4) Sprinkle a decent amount of garlic and onion powder (powder not salt) over your avocado and then, using forks, spoons or whatever you have on hand start to roughly work through your avocados. Chop them up but don’t mash them as good guacamole is still a bit chunky, creaminess will happen on it’s as tis the nature of ripe avocados.

5) Fold in your veggies until well incorporated and then taste to see if you’d like to adjust the seasonings, I almost always add more salt and lime. Remember that it’s infinitely easier to add more seasoning than it is remedy over-seasoned food. 

6) Serve Immediately with chips to hungry and appreciative guests.


Ingredient List
2 large, ripe but not overripe avocados.
1 Roma Tomato
1 Jalapeño Pepper
I bunch cilantro
1 Lime
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Bonus 3 Guacamole pet peeves
1) No fresh ingredients, no tomato, no pepper crunch.
2) Adding mayonnaise or sour cream to it. Sorry guys, avocados are creamy and fatty enough as is.
3) Lemons over limes. I even know it’s more authentic but for me, it’s gotta be limes. Sorry.

Do you make guacamole fresh? Buy it from the store? Love it? Hate it? 
If you make this, check back in, I’d love to hear from you.

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Love Showed Up: Friendship Overpowers Shame

Today’s brave and breathtaking post comes from my friend Lisa. Kel and I were Lisa’s Youth Pastors almost 10 years ago and I’m so humbled and honored to have reconnected with her so she can share her brave story, which I still cannot read without tears. 


The ribbon included with my post is simple, but that simple ribbon means so much to me. That simple ribbon gives meaning to all I have been through…all I have overcome and all I will overcome. That teal ribbon stands for surviving sexual abuse.

“You haven’t beat me down. I may have fallen before but I will stand tall now.”

Those words were the last ones I said aloud in a very emotional speech on sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my father.  This is the first time I have ever written those words for the public to read.

I looked up to the small audience of close friends in my living room after speaking those words one close friend in particular overcome with emotion. I understood then that I was truly “loved”…love showed up. You see…the girl I was didn’t believe those words yet. I was brave enough to speak them again the following night at a Take Back The Night event, but that girl was desperate for acceptance. That girl was so strong that she was afraid to admit that she was actually weak.

The night I practiced my speech I shared this for the first time:

“From about age four to age six I was sexually abused by my father…In those two years he did the worst things you can imagine to a little girl. The abuse pretty much set the tone for the rest of my childhood. The effects were far reaching. I wasn’t confident. I didn’t feel pretty”.

I am 24 years old today and this speech took place about 4 years ago. I can say with confidence that this event was the first time in my entire life that “love showed up” for me (at least that I recognize). I shared such a vulnerable piece of my life with more people than my husband (boyfriend at the time) and expected to be turned away. Instead I was greeted with tears of compassion and quiet support from good friends.

A lot of survivors of sexual abuse wait for the proverbial “anvil” to drop on their heads. I was no different. This was the first time I got that people have the capacity to care…to care about me. Also in that moment I felt God’s presence. Love showed up has dual meanings in this event. I got that people cared for me, and I got that God cares for me…always. His presence was just a flicker… and to this day I struggle with trusting a heavenly father when my earthly one treated me so horribly. It was this event that made me understand that I truly had a family in these people. To this day I can count on them for anything that I need. If it’s a phone call after a hard day or lunch just to socialize…I can count on them. I also understand that I can bring anything to God. It’s just laying my problems (or especially myself) at his feet that I struggle with.

Through good friends, an awesome husband and an equally as awesome therapist I am closer to believing these words I wrote in my speech:

“For me taking back the night means taking back all I lost…taking back the world [I] had begun to fear. To say to [the person] who assaulted me. You will not stop me from living my life to the fullest. You will not stop me from becoming the woman I want to become. Strong, confident, poised. My head held high, you haven’t beat me down. I may have fallen before but I will stand tall now.”

419534_10151195673834275_311131210_n Lisa Smith is a devoted wife and student. She strives to move beyond her experiences and eventually become a licensed therapist. Lisa hopes to be an inspiration to others both that share her history and those who don’t. Lisa is passionate about bringing women’s issues to the forefront and out of the shadows of shame and silence. Her hobbies are far reaching…everything from singing and playing the guitar to writing stories and reading. If you find yourself wandering Barnes and Noble you can find Lisa in the psychology section, the reference section, or the fiction section (P.S. you should look in that order). Lisa hopes that she can touch others with her experience and for those who share her history she most wants you to know you are not alone. 

Interested in contributing to the Love Showed Up series? Send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and let’s have a chat about it. 

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