I’ve been looking through before photos of our house lately and thought I’d share with you how far we’ve come in two years! And no…we’re not quite done yet. But is any homeowner truly ever done??

family room

family room-before 2

I can’t wait to show you!!

Remember…our house was a foreclosure deemed “uninhabitable” by the bank.

Does that scare you?

Oohhhh it just made Ben and I jump up and down at the possibilities. Ok, maybe Ben didn’t jump up and down…but you know, I’m sure he thought about it.


family room-before

De-popcorning the ceilings.

Did you know that as long as it hasn’t been painted, you can just wet the popcorn with a spray bottle full of water and simply scrape it off? Crazy easy. But a bit messy.


ahhhh….after. Doesn’t it just make you want to exhale?

I just love how it all turned out.

family room-after

{click here & here for more on the chevron fireplace}


kitchen-before 1

Yikes. Yuck, right?!

kitchen-after 1

We raised the ceiling, put in more lighting, obviously knocked out all the kitchen cabinets, and ripped things down to the studs in many areas. We put in a new sliding glass door by the kitchen table, laid dark stained hand-scraped wood floors {which we love by the way}.

kitchen-after 3

{click here for a tutorial on this coffee filter wreath. there’s another above the fireplace}

ALL of our appliances were found on Craigslist. Even our gorgeous Viking fridge. Yes, Craigslist people. Ben and I like our deals! We never buy anything full-price. Ok, rarely anyway.


Oh this house and it’s shoddy “updates.” The tiles were so easy to pull off because they were barely even held there with adhesive in the first place!



See the missing handrail on the stairs? The first time Anton toured the home,it came off in his hand. The spindles acted as dominoes and fell one-by-one off the tiled stairs. Which by the way, shifted under your feet as you walked.

Totally safe, right?


Wow, isn’t this different? It’s remarkable, really.

I have yet to really show those two rooms toward the back of this photo: my office and the powder bath. I’ve hinted at working on both of them, but am not quiiiiite ready to show them off. Still have a little more to do.

{check out the inspiration for my office and get a little peek in my post about our diy chore board}

dining room

dining room - before

dining room-after

{click here for a tutorial on this chandelier}

This is what was there before:


Ok, truthfully this photo was taken after the drywall guy retextured the ceiling {after the popcorn was scraped off}. But still, it wasn’t even a cute vintagey chandelier. It just looked really cheap and outdated in real life.

master bedroom

master bedroom-before

There were over 300 dead moths in the master. Ohhhhh it was so gross.


{click here & here more pics from our Christmas Home Tour & our Falling for Fall tour}

master 1

The wall opposite the bed used to be a wall full of doors. Door on the left {to the bathroom}, door on the right {to the hallway}…and door right in the center {closet}.

Now however, the closet door in the center has been patched over and a wall in the bathroom has been knocked out so dressing after showering means we never have to leave the bathroom…love that. {here are some pics & closet organizing tips!}

imani & elsabet

Imani & Elsabet's room - before

It was so dark and dreary. The pink and brown just wasn’t us. So we brightened it up.

imani & elsabet's room

And now Imani & Elsabet’s room is my favorite room in the house.

abreham & ezekiel

abreham & ezekiel's room - before 1

I don’t really show the big boy’s room because they’ve gotten to the age where they hang things aaaaaall over the walls {um, hello…isn’t that what those bulletin boards are for?!}. Plus, I’m still not loving the overall feel of it yet anyway.

So all I have for you is this one from Christmastime. It did look cute with the wreath and tree in the corner, though!

abreham & ezekiel's room 1

anton & laith

Anton & Laith's room-before

Hmmm…not a good look for a little boys room.

anton & laith's room 2

After!! Here’s a little peek into Anton & Laith’s “one day room redo.” I’ll show you more in the coming weeks.

And here’s what it looked like up until a few weeks ago {click here}.

arrows What do you think?

Would redoing a house like this thrill you or completely freak you out?

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It’s been a little nutty around here this week, has it been the same around your house?

Monday was the first day back to school for the bigger kids.

IMG_3312(Ben & I may or may not have hidden and attacked the boys with water balloons as they walked up our drive after their first day)

…and TODAY little Laith started Kindergarden.

Yes. My baby. I sorta can’t believe it.


It was so sweet how Anton & Ezekiel wanted to hug Laith before he joined the rest of the Kindergardeners.

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So…with all this celebrating and Back to School going, we’ve of course had several Breakfast Parties.


This one was from Monday, when the older three boys headed back to school.


And this one is from today, to commemorate Laith’s first day.


I just shopped the house, thinking outside the box as I rummaged through the basement storage area, the kids bookshelves and craft supplies, and bins of party supplies I am constantly filling as I happen onto things on clearance.

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Next week Imani begins preschool a few days a week, which means I’ll only have sweet baby Elsabet at home.

I can’t quite wrap my mind around that.

BUT I am really excited to get some stuff done that’s been simmering in the back of my brain all summer.

The first one is updating our Welcome page and sharing with you a few of my personal favorite posts through the years.

Interested in checking it out? Head over by clicking here.

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Are you gearing up for school in your house? Abreham is currently jumping up and down because he got his schedule today. Goofy kid. Apparently he got the classes he wanted.

I have a gift for you!

Saturday morning, those of you who Subscribe to my blog will receive these colorful Bible verse/encouragement lunch notes to sneak into your child’s lunchbox.



 I showed them to our kids and they’re really excited about them.


 When you receive the file in your inbox, simply print, cut out, and place it in their lunch.


 As you can see, I left one blank…so you can write your own message, if you like.

Hope your kids enjoy them!


(Another gift for subscribers every month: lock screen memory verses for your cellphone)

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. . let me know if you have any requests on verses, etc (for another month), I’d love to know! . .

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I have an editor. Did you know that? Her name is Meredith and she’s smart and talented and really, really insightful. She’s crazy fun and has become one of my closest friends (even though she lives in San Diego). And she’s doing great things for my book.

Meredith Watkins

Meredith had the extreme privilege to be one of 250 bloggers chosen to review Jen Hatmaker’s new book, and has been gracious enough to let me steal her content for the day and share it with you…

So, in celebration of all things Jen Hatmaker (her new show, My Big Family Renovation debuted last week and her new book, Interrupted is now available for purchase), I give to you Meredith and her takeaways of this incredible new book.

Jen Hatmaker 3


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Well, shoot, Jen Hatmaker. Now you’ve done it. Gone and wriggled inside my head and my heart, plucking out the derelict collection of questions that have been wandering around, bumping into each other, and handing them a warm meal of simple, profound, and life-giving answers.



Fortunately, God has been systematically tearing apart the structure of my old life for years now, pulling down the pretty but structurally unstable roof and walls, tossing out the functional but uninspiring furniture, and generally making a mess of everything. The wrecking had begun, so I wasn’t too put off by the book’s tagline: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.

You don’t scare me, Jen Hatmaker.

I live amid wreckage.

I may have underestimated how much demolition was still required. Shoot.

As you may recall, I was one of the 250 bloggers chosen to be part of spreading the word about the revised and expanded version of Jen’s book, Interrupted. The good people at Tyndale House Publishers sent me a copy {a free book is like a kiss from an angel}, and once I cracked it open, I could not put it down.

Right from the beginning – as in, the introduction, people – mama’s dishing out meat and potatoes. Like stick-to-your-bones goodness.

interrupted 1


Girlfriend is talking straight to me. As a matter of fact, yes I am plagued with tension and discontent that there must be more, Jen. I had pretty much suspected he was calling me forward…maybe sorta kinda hoped it wouldn’t require too much sacrifice, but I hear you. And you’re telling me it’s not a weekend makeover.

interrupted 2

Wow. OK. Yes, and thanks for the kick in the booty.

But let me back up for a moment. Lest you think Jen is sitting on her spiritual high horse as pastor’s wife/author/blogger/funny gal extraordinaire, let me fill you in on a bit of her story (which she shares through the course of the book).

Yes, she actually was a pastor’s daughter, and then became a pastor’s wife and Christian author, churning out witty, helpful devotionals like a sharp-witted one-woman factory.

And then.

Then Jesus said, “Well that was fun! Now let’s get down to the real work. All the great things you think you’re doing to serve me? Not so much. Do you really love me? Tend to my sheep.”

Jen Hatmaker 1


To which Jen replied: “I don’t know if You’ve noticed, Jesus, but I write Christian books You told me to write! I travel and feed sheep all over the nation! What the heck is this?”

interrupted 3

And that, my friends, is what we call a game-changer. As Jen researched the stats about the homeless and hungry in her hometown of Austin, Texas, she discovered that Jesus was dead-on with his numbers and that clearly he was asking—telling—her she needed to do something about it.

Jen Hatmaker 2


In the following months, Jen and her husband Brandon left the church in which they had served well for years and ventured into the wild world of complete trust and abandon into God’s calling. They also gave themselves a crash course on Austin’s social issues. Suddenly, the scope of the work ahead of them was not just daunting, but completely overwhelming. Still, when God calls you to something, it’s best to follow through.

Through a supernatural turn of events, Jen and her husband planted Austin New Church and set out to change the face of the Christian church. One that more closely identified with Jesus. Like how he actually lived his life during his brief stay on Earth. You know, having dinner with prostitutes and tax collectors (socially on the same level in Biblical times, apparently), feeding the hungry, loving the unlovable, being polite to telemarketers. That kind of thing.

Interrupted 4

And then presenting a new vision for Christians that actually reflects their Christ:
“It’s hard to hate a rich country that is feeding you, advocating for your orphans, building schools in your villages, championing your human rights, and empowering your leaders. It’s difficult to dismiss the idea of a redeeming Christ when His followers are pouring their lives out. It’s tough to hate the Christian church when her members refuse to sit idly on their piles of luxuries while the rest of the world suffers.”

Truth bombs left and right.

There’s no getting around it. If you want to identify with Jesus, you have to get your hands dirty. But when you’re dealing with “the least of these” in our country, a complete reorientation of mindset is in order. People can sniff out inauthenticity a mile away. No one wants to be condescended to. The heart of a real servant doesn’t see the person you are serving as beneath you, but above you. A servant serves a master, not one inferior.

mother teresa


That turns modern philanthropy on its head, doesn’t it?

Interrupted 5

Dang, girl. Not letting up for a blessed minute, are you?
And she doesn’t. And I’m glad.

What she does do is offer a new way to be the church. The way Jesus showed her and her family, that is revolutionizing their city. That’s revolutionizing the ways in which people who previously had no time for Jesus or his professing followers stop and really look at them. Curious. Interested. Maybe there’s something to this Christ after all.

“Mercy to the hungry, poor, homeless, and orphaned has the threefold advantage of administering relief to the most distressed, identifying with Jesus on the deepest level, and drawing the skeptic through an action he is already compelled by.”

Jen Hatmaker 4

Then the call to action gets more personal.

“We can continue to invite unbelievers to church, but we must first invite them into our lives. Have them over, go to dinner, welcome them in. Create a safe place for them to belong without agenda… We must become their advocates, embracing them as dear friends so they might one day feel comfortable belonging with us. This is not a strategy for rapid church growth, but the patient hard work of love is the way of Christ. It is the subversive path into the kingdom.”

This, of course, makes perfect sense. As Jen says:Interrupted 6

Where I was wrestled with the bad name the American church has made for itself and what to do about it, Interrupted provided answers. Shockingly simple and obvious answers.

Interrupted 7

It’s a simple call, but not always an easy one. But at this point, I’m pretty sure there’s no other way I’d rather live.

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What are your thoughts? Do you feel the same?

I sure can’t wait to read this book.

. .  Make sure to swing by Green Sparrow Literary Services for Meredith’s blog, editorial services, and such! . .

 take joy-signature-new-pink


My mom has made homemade jam forever. In fact, I don’t remember ever having the store-bought stuff growing up. And every summer I think I’ll try making it myself. But I’m too intimidated and just don’t.

Until now. And I cannot believe I waited so long…because it’s CRAZY easy.

I mean like I could be half asleep and make it. With one arm tied behind my back. Really. It’s that simple.


She and my dad were in town last week so we decided to do a taste-test and see which brand we liked better.

Sure Jell brand is one she’s used for years. But finding pectin by Ball {yes, as in the mason jars}, we thought we’d try that one, too.


I’m going to feature the Ball Brand (pictured on right) because it ended up being our favorite. Not only does it have waaaay less sugar, but it didn’t require the extra step on the stove that Sure Jell did.

raspberry jam 1

Step one: wash your berries!


The best way to do this is fill a large bowl with cold water and place the berries in. By doing it this way and not running water directly over the berries, they stay intact and it’s easier to find and toss out bad berries or leaves.


Fill your freshly washed berries into a colander to rid of excess water. Shake gently.

raspberry jam 2

Step two: mash, mash, mash!


I have two mashers in my kitchen and trying both, we found we absolutely loved how well (and quickly!) the potato masher worked.


raspberry jam 3

 Once your berries have been pressed and softened, it’s time to add them to your mixture of sugar and pectin (read the box for exact measurements).

raspberry jam 4

Step four: stir!

Our recipe called for stirring constantly for three minutes. So I enlisted help from a sweet, chubby fingered little girl, who couldn’t wait to help mommy & grandma.

raspberry jam 5

Step five: DONE! Yes, seriously…that’s it!

Just make sure you have plenty of clean jars. I used these for us and these to give as gifts.


Pour jam into jars and let sit for 30 minutes before placing one into your fridge, the rest into the freezer.



As for the Sure Jell brand, it’s still fantastic jam and if you like it on the sweeter side, this one is probably for you.

The extra step of cooking on the stove only added a few minutes to making our batches. It really wasn’t a big deal, though I was really impressed at the simplicity of Ball.

Sure Jell also has a little thicker consistency.


making jam

//// have you made jam or canned anything yourself? Tell me! I’m dying to try more! ////

 take joy-signature-new-pink



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