Category: home

Several years ago, I did a little blog series about contentment. I had this idea that contentment is contagious… and I wanted to spread it around. I still believe that those building blocks are a good basis for contentment, but I wanted to come back to the topic to expand a little as my experience and understanding has grown.

For one thing, friends, in a couple of months a very significant milestone is going to occur. We will have lived in this home for five full years, marking the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my whole life.

Shocked baby with the caption "Oh my gosh!"

(Because of that Army brat thing, which I talked about here if you’re curious.)

This spring, I started to feel a simmering discontentment in my soul. It was honestly unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, and I wasn’t sure at first how to handle it.

Pandemic Blues

For one thing, we were all cooped up here in the house 24/7 with our state’s shutdown measures. Even though I’ve always thought of this house as PLENTY of space for us… once we were all here, nonstop, for months on end I started wishing we had a basement. And a pool in the backyard. And a bigger plot of land where the neighbors were so far away you could barely see them.

That might have been another factor. Our backyard neighbors were… well, not exactly neighborly during the first few months of the corona quarantine. Being able to see a big portion of their home and yard made my blood pressure skyrocket every time they violated the governor’s orders. (And I didn’t say anything or turn them in, because I didn’t want to be mean or nosy. I just thought my thoughts, and wished there was an extra acre between us so I couldn’t see what they were doing in ignorant bliss.)

Ticking Clock

When I started reflecting on what was driving my discontentment, I realized there’s another big milestone approaching. I’ll turn 40 in a few months. Maybe this was my mid-life crisis?

A close crop of an old oil painting. Words are superimposed so the man is saying, "I think I'm having a midlife crisis," The woman responds, "You're 24..." and the man replies, "I might die at 48."

Whatever the causes or motivations behind my discontent, here’s what resulted: I started browsing the MLS. And do you know what happens when a gal starts idly surfing real estate listings? Yup. Eventually she spots a property that catches her eye and keeps her awake at night.

Bored Mom ISO Bigger House

So when that happened, it was a lovely place with 1.25 acres in a tucked-away development of a only dozen homes. The house was older, but it had 150% of the square footage we have here. There was a basement! (No pool.)

Once I saw it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I made an appointment with our realtor to go see it by myself, then told Chris all about it. A few days later, he went to see it, too. We spent about 24 hours feeling worked up about making a decision regarding this property. Should we jump on it? Make an offer? Scurry to get this house ready to sell?

But after a restless night’s sleep and a morning spent in prayer and thought and journaling, we decided to stay put.

Does that sound like resignation to you? Does it sound like settling?

I promise, that’s not it.

Intentional, Not Complacent

Here’s what I felt the Lord leading me to: we have been working hard to become debt-free, and moving house would move that needle in the wrong direction. Furthermore, if my restless, angsty feelings about this house are based on my Army-brat itchy feet, there’s no cure for that but tincture of time. If the problem is my looming birthday and some sort of age-related crisis – there’s nothing to do but wait it out. And if the primary problem is my unhappiness with my neighbors, well: Scripture has a lot to say about loving our neighbor, and I probably have a spiritual lesson to learn there – which I wouldn’t learn if I run away.

Sometimes standing still is the most obedient thing to do.

Investment for Contentment

What’s more, we decided we wouldn’t just “stay put.” Rather, we decided to get serious about allllllll those little home projects that we hadn’t gotten around to yet. We started a list, and shopping online for new fixtures, and have made a few calls to pros to get quotes on the work we can’t do ourselves.

Will we need to spend money to invest in these projects? Yup.

But will it be less expensive than moving? OH, most definitely.

Baby at the beach makes a fist pump with caption "totally"

We want to be good stewards of our home, and right now that means investing both time and money. We have a few little projects to fix –I’ll post pictures of the woodworking I had to learn to do when our dog decided to eat a wall!—and some new paint and fixtures to pick out. There are a couple of furnishing upgrades that will make a big difference, and some new storage built into a closet should help that space be both more functional and more pleasant to the eye.

I started an Instagram @kentuckyhome.and.cabin to track our progress and share pictures, so be sure to go follow if home improvements and DIY is your jam.

Beyond Home Improvement

But even if home decor Insta isn’t your thing, don’t miss the bigger message (like I almost did).

There can be many different factors that contribute to an underlying sense of discontentment. It’s good and healthy for us to examine those, and it’s important for us to take all of those things to God. He’s the giver of every good gift, and the one who gives us wisdom and understanding.

Maybe you’re in a stage of life where you DO need more space, more land, an extra bedroom, a garage – and browsing the real estate listings and daydreaming about different houses and neighbordhoods is perfectly appropriate. I’m not at all trying to say that any of those things are wrong or sinful.

The lesson I’ve learned this week is that stewarding the material goods we have looks different in different seasons. For the last few years, we have regarded good stewardship as just saving money and paying down our debts.

But investing in our space is a different way to be a good steward – taking care of this house helps all of us to enjoy it more, helps us to make even more great memories within these walls, and goes a long way to ensuring this place will be a safe and beautiful home for our family for 30 more years.

“In this house, you always have permission to:
ask hard questions * read * play together * give hugs
learn * express all your emotions * worship * ask for help * pray
share something you’re proud of, even if someone is having a bad day
talk about the people who have passed away”

Having a heart of contentment may require investment. Do you struggle with discontentment? Do you think an approach of investment could help change that?

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2015 was a complete blogging dead zone, and for a long time I wasn’t ready to talk about why.

For anyone new who stumbles across this blog and wonders, I’ll go way back to explain. In January 2012, my mom passed away. She’d been battling ovarian cancer for about eighteen months; it had progressed into her brain and spinal fluid, and she took her last breath peacefully at home with my dad and his mother and sister around her. I was in Kentucky, wishing I could be there, feeling torn about taking care of my little family and taking care of the family I grew up in. That’s a hard place to be, and reader, if you’re there: I get you. Hang in there. Over the next few months, I blogged a bit (and drank a bit) and cried a lot and got through the days. You will get through it, too.

In the fall of 2014, my two oldest kids started attending private school for the first time after homeschooling for their whole lives and we bought a new house. It was crazy around here, but exhilarating and vibrant. I blogged about it.

And someone from our family’s past showed up here on my blog. An old friend of my mother’s, who missed her deeply, and who had spoken angrily and rudely to all of us when my father remarried, found my blog and left awful comments. There’s this thing called comment moderation – on the backside of the blog, I can see comments and then I can approve them to appear or I can delete them if they are spam or, in this case, abusive – so the things she said weren’t made public, but they hurt me terribly.

After that, every time I sat down to blog about something – to share something sweet or cute or funny my kids did or said, to talk about something hard or challenging I was thinking about, to encourage anyone reading – I just couldn’t. I would hear her voice in my head, rebuking and incriminating and insulting, and I would shut the internet down and walk away.
Normally I have words to spare, but that encounter robbed me of my words. So for almost all of 2015, I didn’t touch this blog. I renewed the domain, and I kept reading the words of others, but I only put my own words out on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. This place felt invaded. Violated.

Now it’s the end of the year, and when I made my goals for 2016, I realized I wanted to use this space again. I’m going to work on a little facelift, and probably streamline the archives, and –most importantly– I’m going to start writing here again.

Life is too big and my words are too important to let the haters get me down. I’ll be here with bells on in the new year – and I hope you’ll join me.

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This is mine. Well, ours. And I seriously can hardly believe it. We had back-to-back closings on this house and the one we’re living in.

Derby Chase 1

 

Because in a so-crazy-even-my-realtor-had-never-heard-of-this-happening twist, the folks who owned that brick & stone beauty? Decided to put in a CASH OFFER on our 4-bedroom house, essentially giving us a golden ticket to move ahead with buying their house. And then our lending officer, the Vice President of AWESOME at a local bank, pulled off a dazzling feat of underwriting glory when the sellers of the big house asked for an as-quick-as-possible closing.

Nine days, y’all.

Say whatttt? Yeah. It was bonkers.

And here we are. Keys in hand and garage clickers clipped to my minivan visor. We are going to haul small things ourselves for the next couple of days (clothes, artwork, heirlooms) and the moving van is hired for all day Friday and half of Saturday. (Optimistically, we’d love to be DONE on Friday, but with uncontrollable weather our mover wanted to reserve an additional half-day just in case.)

It’s exciting and exhausting. I’m going to take a shower and put myself to bed early tonight!

—————–
(By the way: there are still a few more #ContagiousContentment posts in the works. Do you have any burning questions, points of debate, or random ideas to throw my way? Bring it, friends!)

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In about three days, I’m going to be the proud owner of a formal dining room. (Technically, this house has a space which ought to be a  formal dining room. However, as Susannah tells it: “Remember how we used to have a school room? And now it’s a BOX room!”)

The previous owners painted the room pale yellow. The floors are a dark hardwood with grayish undertones, there are lovely french doors (facing east) and white trim, and a white-ish slightly shabby-chic chandelier. I love the white, the fixture is alright, and I love the bright natural light.

Front Door with Dining Room to the left

Dining Room

We probably won’t do anything with the room immediately. (I want to spend my pennies letting the girls repaint their new bedrooms (currently blue and bluer!) and furnishing the rec room & homework nook with storage solutions for all the toys and crafts.) But eventually, I need to create a dining room.

I’d like a pedestal (or double pedestal) table. Seating for at least eight. A china hutch with space to store both heirloom sets we own, and maybe? a sideboard/server piece as well.

I recieved my mother’s china and Chris’ grandmother’s china shortly after we moved to Owensboro. I’m a big believer in using our “nice things” to celebrate special occasions and everyday victories, so we do put these pretty pieces to use. I’m really looking forward to having a cabinet for display, though!

My mama's china. Hutschenreuther "Lorelei" Platinum
My mama’s china. Hutschenreuther “Lorelei” Platinum

Yaya's china. Lenox Montclair Platinum
Yaya’s china. Lenox Montclair Platinum

 

 

So here’s where I confess my decorating ineptitude. Chris suggested last night that he’d like a white dining table and chairs – “to match the chandelier.” I started looking around online, and found a couple of tables, but then this morning I realized that our white & platinum china would absolutely disappear against a white table and in a white china cabinet.
I’m leaning toward gray for the walls — it will need to be carefully chosen, though, because (as you can see in the top photo) the dining room is right off the front door, which is a rich deep brown and the entry walls are a khaki-tan color. I don’t want the dining room to look too yellow-gray compared to those. And the wall color needs to play well with the floor color as well.

A quick look on Pinterest brought me to this:

dining room inspiration

Maybe something like this would work. The table (as well as chair legs) are darker wood than those floors; the wood trim, light fixture, and upholstered chairs pop with white; and the two shades of gray feel cozy and welcoming.

What do you think? If you have a knack for decor, or if you spot something that just screams “Michelle!” you can send it to me on Pinterest or comment here. I pinky-promise, I’ll post photos when we finally get around to decorating our new dining room.

 

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{Get caught up… Read Part One here.}

Our realtor, Matt, came to our house fully prepared. He had printed up comps on the yellow house  (poor guy! He wasn’t privy to the long, rambling conversations we’d had that led us to conclude we should not, in fact, pursue that one) and on our house here on Trotters Lane. We were really pleased by his assessment of the house’s value, and we caught him up on our new plan. There were four homes on the MLS that looked, on paper, like they would work for us going forward. When Chris had started investigating building our own house, we had created a list of what we would want a floorplan to include.Builder

First Floor:

  • Formal Dining Room
  •                 tray ceiling
  • Library (envision this being opposite the dining room at front of home)
  • Preferred center staircase
  • Powder Room
  • Kitchen (with eat-in space)
  •                 Pantry space
  • Living Room
  •                 Coffered (beams in a  grid) ceiling
  •                 Gas fireplace (stone? With wood mantel; capability to mount TV above)
  •                 French doors out to deck
  • Guest Bedroom with Ensuite bathroom
  • Mud Room

 

Second Floor:

  • Master Bedroom with Ensuite
  • Closets with built in shelves,rods
  •  Three ‘kids’ bedrooms
  •  Hall bathroom
  • Laundry room

Basement:

  •  Family Room
  •  Home Theater
  •  Office
  • Craft Room
  • Powder Room
  • Walkout Access to Backyard

Other Features:

  • 3-car garage
  • Front porch

 

We set aside the following Thursday, July 10th, to meet and tour houses; Matt left and got to work. When the day dawned, we gave the kids each a clipboard and a pencil, so they could write down their impressions of each place and feel part of the discussion, and set out.

We toured house #1. It’s in a charming neighborhood; one of my very best friends in Owensboro recently moved a block away. It’s been on the market for about a year, and I’ve been dreaming of moving into it for almost as long. Romantic visions of the shady, rolling backyard – our kids riding bikes together – jogging up the street to hang out in each other’s kitchens — I mean, I was *seriously* jonesing for this home.

Woodbridge Trail

It was built in the late 1970s, and while it has had some updates (primarily in the lovely kitchen), it needs some TLC (primarily in the sad walkout basement). It was a steal at $259,000 – and at that price, we could afford to rip out the entire basement and put it whatever we’d like! But Chris isn’t keen on living in a place being torn up by contractors; the four bedrooms are very close together upstairs; and it only had a 2-car garage.

 

House #2 was huge and had nearly everything on our “if we build” list.

CopperCreek

The colors on the walls were NOT our style, but we aren’t afraid of paint. The master bedroom had a closet… oh, that closet… it was bigger than my first apartment. There were some updates needed, though – the powder room and the basement guest room were straight outta the 80’s. The lovely backyard would need a fence. And while the neighborhood is nice, we don’t know anyone who lives over there, which is a minor point against.

 

 

 

 

 

OakhurstWe’re personally acquainted with the sellers of House #3. It was my favorite, based on the listing information. Checked off all the “build it” boxes, and other than a few walls to paint, was move-in-perfect! 

The fenced-in backyard was absolutely lovely, with landscaping right up my alley, a huge playset for the kids, and a great lake view from the upstairs deck. The master suite was dreamy, even though it had wallpaper in the bathroom – we both, surprisingly, loved it! However, the last house was the one Chris had preferred from the listings, so on we went.

 

 

 

 

And we drove up to this:
Derby Chase 1

From the very first impression, Chris was smitten. The stone, the circle drive, the three-car side-load garage. This house doesn’t fit everything on our list; there’s no basement and no media room, no center staircase and ‘traditional’ formal living and dining layout. But the bedrooms are perfect; there’s a jack-and-jill bath that would be great for our girls to share while Jonas would have a bedroom and a full bath slightly apart from them. (Looking ahead to the teenage years, that’s a great idea!) There’s a mudroom and a pantry and a craft room, and the backyard space is huuuuuuuge. There’s 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, 3 fireplaces, and we were fully impressed.

That night, neither of us could sleep. We woke up Friday morning and decided that, with House #4, we could throw out the plans to build. We started a punch list and told our realtor we were going to list this house. Our plan was to take a few weeks to get this house ready; put it on the market; and then draft an offer.

A few days later, Matt came to us with an alternative. The sellers had been on the market for 47 days with no offers; they were happy to hear of our interest and were hoping we would write an offer BEFORE our home was listed. We put it together on Monday (July 14) and after much countering late into the night, came to an agreement. We signed the official counter-offer package on Tuesday, and then started scrambling to get this house ready!

Our house officially hit the MLS on Friday, July 18th. Our purchase of House #4 is contingent upon the sale of this place, so we are waiting in patient hope that everything will fall into place. (But we’re in agreement that if, for some reason, this house doesn’t sell within the time parameters and House #4 gets a competing offer, we will take that as a divine sign that it wasn’t meant to be our house at all.) Our realtor feels very confident that we’ll get a lot of traffic and can sell within just a few weeks. Pray along with us that he’s right!

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Home staging is a big buzzword in real estate these days. You’ll hear about it on HGTV, and see it on the DIY network. Bloggers love to talk about staging, and it’s all over apps like Houzz and Pinterest.

If you haven’t dipped your toe in the staging waters, I’ll explain:

“Home Staging” is the act of turning a lived-in (or vacant) home into a neutral, appealing space for the purpose of attracting potential buyers. Home staging removes the personal touches of the current (or previous) occupants and creates a ‘blank slate’ where buyers can envision their own furniture, family, and life.

Home staging, my dears, is a pain in the butt. We’ve done some staging here – hid away the 5’x7′ rug to make the entry appear larger; slipcovered the ratty loveseat in our front room, tidied up the bookshelves (but a true home stager would make me pack 75% of those books and have ‘styled’ shelves); removed all the homeschool items, hung new curtains, and turned the schoolroom back into a dining room (but a real pro would probably make me create a faux ‘leaf’ to extend our dinky table and buy slipcovers for our ugly mismatched chairs). We reduced the items on the kitchen countertops (but if I were hardcore, it would be nothing but the KitchenAid and the Keurig!) and took most of the toys out of the family room (that room might pass ‘real’ muster, actually). Purged things from the kids’ rooms (again, probably a pass), but we didn’t change the office-slash-guest room (and a properly staged home has no dual purpose rooms. You’re supposed to pick one and make it shine!). Bought new handtowels for the powder room and hung the nicest towels in the other two bathrooms.

Living in a house which has been staged feels stilted. This is still my home, but it’s “off.” It’s like sitting in a nicely decorated hotel room. I feel awkward if I leave a dent in the sofa cushion. On the surface, it looks great – and it’s supposed to, that’s the point, for real estate purposes.

But today I was thinking about how many Christians are walking around fully staged. We are prepped and polished. We have packed away our unsightly clutter and mess – but it’s not really gone. We have hung up new curtains of humility, modesty, patience, grace – but there remains pride, greed, selfishness, anger.

We want to gleam and glow, and when others in the church ask how we’re doing, we give them our “listing” answer. (Four beautiful bedrooms! Gas fireplace! Eat-in-kitchen!) “I’m so blessed… Things are really busy, but we’re doing great….” I’m not saying that we’re being dishonest when we present these generic answers, exactly. After all, the houses on your local real estate market really DO have the features with the funny abbreviations: 4bd, FP, lg bkyd…. Right?

What I am saying, though, is that one of the functions of the body of Christ is to build each other up.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

It’s impossible* for me to help a sister shore up the foundation of her marriage if she never shares her fears or hurts. I can’t speak encouragement and hope into the heart of a friend who doesn’t confide her doubt and desperation. My Sunday School class recently finished a study of Romans 12, and the author used this passage to exhort his readers to build an authentic community with each other.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

“You can’t be a genuine part of this Body,” he said in one of the videos, “when you’re so busy keeping your mask on straight.”** And that’s the truth, y’all. I accept the challenge – and I hope you will, too – to take off a mask of holy-roller perfection, to stop “home staging” my life and my spiritual walk, to start sharing even my doubts and ugly moments. When I do, my brothers and sisters can step INTO their God-given calling to build me up! When I do, the saints around me may be emboldened to de-mask and de-mystify and share their own hurdles and difficulties, which gives me (and others) the chance to step up and serve my Lord by building them up.

 

 

___________

*I should add a note: we’ve probably all had times when an unknowing person did or said something profoundly needed which interceded in our lives at just the right moment. Those are great examples of times when the Holy Spirit prompts us to aid, even though we don’t know the specific need. But those examples don’t let us off the hook for being transparent and authentic with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
**I didn’t take perfect notes: that’s a paraphrase. 🙂

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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