Four Truths of The Christian Life: Takeaways from TGC Women's Conference 2016

Thoughts have been swirling around in my head for days, and I've been nervous they'd slip away before I had to chance to write them down. Last weekend I attended the TGC Women's Conference, and four days later and I've finally finished unpacking my bags, and now I can unpack the truths I learned. While this is in no way a concise list, these were the things that bubbled to the surface – but it took all my might not to just write down a carbon copy of my notes for you all.

So many good truths were shared and I fear the below won't even do it justice. But I thought I'd share, to process the "big things" further, and in hopes that you might find an encouraging along the way.

It's a matter of the mind. 
I'm a long-time Christian conference attendee. I've been going to conferences since I was in Jr. High and most of them end with a high, high, HIGH emotional high – the last night's talk a capstone to make you sob and recommit something – or your entire life – to Jesus. And this is not always a bad thing, but I've come to realize because it's so focused on the emotions of the heart, it's often short-lived. I've always walked away from a conference "on fire for Jesus" (or something like that), but fairly quickly hit a valley when I'm no longer sleeping next to my best friends in a hotel.

At TGCW, there was never a "moment" or a major sob-fest where I could barely breathe. Instead, I came away with my head throbbing over all the new truths I encountered and ways I wanted to change and develop my thinking. Jen Wilkin talked about how the Christian life begins with the mind, and the importance of Biblical literacy in shaping our thoughts: "Right thinking starts with right desires, which creates right actions." She charged us to "prepare our minds for action" – to battle for holiness and against passions. And the only place I'm going to get right thinking is from reading and engaging in God's word.

Often I feel incredibly overwhelmed by all that I don't know. And at TCGW, it was pretty easy to feel small and inferior when there were Christian heavy-hitters at every turn. As a mom to young children, I often feel like I don't have time to apply myself to God's word the way D.A. Carson or John Piper does, so how will I ever grow in my knowledge of God? But God's not asking me to be Piper or Carson or Wilkin. He knows exactly where I'm at and the season I'm in. God doesn't listen to Jen Wilkin's prayers more than he listens to mine. All he asks is for me to spend time with him, learning about who I am because of who he is. He grants wisdom – "right thinking" to those who ask for it. And so in this season of life, I'm learning not to live emotional high to emotional high, but instead to rest in the steady, plodding, faithful faith I've known since I was a child. To consistently study God's word in the time I have. To find something to study, and learn it. To pick one thing and apply it. To believe in the transforming power of God's word in my mind to transform my desires, to transform my actions.

Sometimes, the right answer is to choose suffering.
I plan to write about this more, but the as the adoption process progresses, I confess that I've continued to go back and forth on whether this is the right decision for our family. I know, I KNOW, deep down that God is calling us to it, but certain things have come up since we started the process that have made me question if the timing is right, and Satan continues to bring lies to mind about choosing something that will make our life "harder than it needs to be."

While much of the conference focused on suffering, Don Carson said something that really stuck with me. "Sometimes choosing the right thing – the hard way – is sometimes choosing suffering." He went on to say that believers should have a place in their life where their life costs something. "You should choose something, not because you want it, but because you should – because you want to be identified further with Christ." I have no rose-colored glasses when it comes to adoption. I know enough friends that have adopted or been adopted themselves to know that my adopted children will bring with them deep, deep wounds of suffering. But I also know enough about God to know that he can redeem all things. That he makes all things new and that his grace will be sufficient for me and my entire family, no matter what we face. It was the perfect truth I needed to shut out the lies of the devil and walk fearlessly along the path to our children. I know adoption is what God has asked of our family – he made it undeniably clear last Christmas – and now instead of wanting to withdraw every time a bump in the road comes up, I will lean into it, knowing I am identifying more and more with my Savior, every time I face hardship and I can rejoice, knowing I am counted worthy of suffering for his name.

"It's family business."
There was a powerful panel one morning on the persecuted church and K.A. Ellis said something that struck a chord with me. "Advocating for the persecuted church is not advocacy, it's family business." Growing up in a family business, this hit home. I started working for my dad as soon as his business started when I was in grade school. Sweeping and moping floors, painting trim and walls, filing paperwork that I didn't even understand how to read. It was an expectation that everyone always pull together and get things done. We always had each other's backs, protected each other and provided for each other - no matter the cost. In a family business, everyone rises together, and everyone falls together. This thinking challenged me to see my Christian brothers and sisters in a new light - we rise and fall together, we support each other, we depend on each other. Even outside of the persecuted church, in my local church, how often do I really have this thinking? One day, my blood family will fade away and I will worship before the King only with an eternal family. If I took the attitude I have for my nuclear family and applied it to the rest of the church, I think I'd be a whole lot more invested. I'd serve more. I'd give more. I'd pray more.

A fearless life because of hope.
Ten minutes of watching the news today and I can't help but be filled with sadness, anger and a whole lot of fear. And it's becoming increasingly clear that as a Christian, I am walking the uncommon, unpopular path – one that often feels lonely, scary and disliked. But a major takeaway from the conference was that I don't have to live as a fearful woman, one that is scared of the coming elections, the shifting cultural values, or the future society my children will grow up in. I live differently from the rest of the world, with an extraordinary courage, a rare fearlessness, that can only be explained by hope of something beyond this world, hope of something more than what I see around me today.

Mary Wilson reminded me that my story is not depended on what happens on the news, in the world. I may be a United States citizen on paper, but ultimately, eternally, my citizenship is in Heaven. My story is the Kingdom story, a redeemed daughter of the King's story! John Piper charged me to live in an odd, peculiar, unpopular way, because I have hope in a reward beyond this life. As a mom, I almost feel like if I'm not worried for my kids and their future, I'm not a good mom. But as a woman of God - I can laugh at the future! I have nothing to fear for me or my kids, because I know ultimately God is in charge. He will provide, protect and care for me, my husband and my babies! No matter what happens to me, no matter what suffering, pain and adversity waits, I don't have to fear! One day I will be with Christ and enjoy him forever – my glory won't happen in this life because I don't need it now – I will be exalted for eternity with Christ! 

I feel like much of my motherhood has been fighting the snares of the devil telling me that I'm not good enough, I'm not doing it right, I'm not thinking ahead enough or training my children well. I've always known that I "shouldn't" fear or worry about these things, but throughout the weekend, the reasoning was solidified for me. It gives me so much freedom to mother with confidence in the gospel hope of the future coming of Christ. To know that I will not receive any reward now – and that's okay! My future reward is so much better, so much sweeter and more wonderful – IT IS WORTH THE WAIT. Oh, how I wish I help each of you mothers out there feel what I feel now! It's empowering to know that life doesn't depend on me. I can live like the great women of the Bible, having faith because of what God has done in the past, and hope for what I know he will do in the future. 


And that was trying to keep it concise! There is so much more I could share, but I know this is getting long, and my coffee's getting cold. I've heard TGC is planning on putting all the talks online for free, so if you weren't at the conference, I highly encourage you to take time to listen to some of the sessions while you go about regular life. This was my first year at the conference, but it definitely won't be my last. Anyone else go? I'd love to hear about what you took away!

Why "Give Yourself Grace" Often Falls Short

It was a rare day for both my friend and I. We were in the car alone, coffee in hand, and all the carseats in the back were empty. During the drive, we got to talking about the bible study we were in at church together, about how it's hard, requiring more thinking than our mom-brains have done in years.

"Give yourself grace," I said. "God knows the season we're in, it's okay if we don't get it done each week."

It was a nice thing to say, balm to our guilt, salve to our failings, but was it true?


A month or two later, I'm on a walk with a different friend of mine. Each of us pushing our double strollers, doling out apple sauce and cashews every ten minutes to keep the kids quiet. We're talking about how we can't do it all. How we try to add something to our plates, and for a time, it seems pretty good, but after a few weeks or months, we start to see our plates cracking and we know something has to give before they crash.

We start talking about how thankful we are for God's grace, how he knows our hearts and how there's grace when we fail. But then she says to me, "You know, I used to always say, 'I just have to give myself grace.' But really, I'm learning I should say, "Come stand in the grace that's been offered to you.'"

And in that moment, I had never heard anything more profound.

"Give yourself grace." It seems to be the latest catch-phrase. I'll admit, it sounds good and  I've caught myself saying it multiple times. And sometimes, it's a good saying, a truth to hear when holding ourselves to impossible, unrealistic standards of perfection in areas we don't need to be.

But usually, that phrase can quickly lead us to sticky ground.

I don't know about you, but when I'm truly honest with myself, I often find myself saying "give yourself grace" as an excuse for my sin, rather than something to motivate me out of my sin.

When I lose my temper with my children from impatience, or choose to ignore the dishes in the sink out of laziness, or tear apart my post-partum body out of insecurity, then tell myself, "It's okay that I do this, I'll be better tomorrow, don't worry about it, give yourself grace." What I'm doing is coddling myself by excusing bad behavior and tolerating sin. "Giving yourself grace" skips one giant, vital, all-important step: repentance.

Self-grace isn't true grace at all - it's taking the grace right out of grace, to a point it no longer has any meaning. It's cheapening grace - effectively disgracing, grace.

Cheap grace ignores repentance. Cheap grace ignores the cross. Cheap grace ignores our need for forgiveness. Cheap grace ignores the beautiful, sacrificial redemption story.

Because when you truly understand what Jesus Christ crucified has done for you - when you understand the full weight of your sin and what grace cost: the pain, the suffering, the undeserved wrath poured out on the Son - you will no longer use grace as an excuse to sin in your heart or actions. 

We are not able to pardon ourselves with self-imposed grace, it is based purely on the will and good pleasure of God. Grace doesn't mean you did a little something here or there or even a little bit, grace means you did NOTHING - least of all to impart it on yourself.

Moms, grace isn't about giving yourself anything - it's about receiving and accepting the work that's already been completed on the cross.  We don't give ourselves grace, we accept the grace that has been given to us by God.

And that is true good news. Because time and time again, we will fail – we cannot be perfect moms – but the gospel of grace brings us back to the cross to refine us, transform us and make us new.  It is his grace from beginning to end. It is his grace forever and for always. It is his grace alone.

Come stand in the grace offered to you.

What Moving To A New City Taught Me About Life

When we made the decision to move from Minneapolis to Chicago, I don't think I had any comprehension of the storm that was about to hit. I had just had a baby five days before, had a 20 month old toddler clinging to my leg and must have been on some sort of post-partum drug I didn't know about to have agreed. It set in motion the hardest, most difficult year of my life thus far, but it also began a refining, purifying and growing process that I never would have experienced had I not gone through it.

Moving to a new city where you don't know anyone is certainly a leap of faith - and one that a lot of people are scared to do. But now on the other side, I can say that I think everyone should try it at least once, because the growth and life lessons gleaned along the way are invaluable. Here's what moving to a new city taught me about life:
  • Moving doesn't separate a family. In Minneapolis, I had most of my husband's family within a 20 minute drive, and my family was only three hours south in Iowa. While I first learned this lesson when I moved from Iowa to Minnesota, I learned it again when I moved again from Minnesota to Illinois and my closest family was suddenly five hours away. But if anything, some of my relationships have become deeper with the move because the time I do get to spend with them is so precious and we're so intentional with it. Plus, with video chat, FaceTime, Voxer and all the other amazing technology out there now, I keep in touch with some family members multiple times a day and my kids talk back and forth with their cousins all the time. Moving hasn't pulled us apart, if anything it's drawn us closer together as we strive to keep extended family a priority. 
  • The world is full of amazing people. One of the things I was most scared of was leaving the strong community I had built in Minneapolis. Leaving my mom-friends, old colleagues, church home and neighbors, I was fearful I wouldn't be able to find people like them again. But wouldn't you know, world is full of loving, kind, caring people and I've been amazed by the depth of the friendships I've already built. Great people live all over the globe, and I'm thankful to know a few more. 
  • Time helps you learn to like something. I really, really, really didn't like Chicago when I first got here. Many things looked and functioned differently - and I found myself picking apart everything from the way the streets were laid out to the quality of the parks to the grocery store options. I compared everything to what I used to have and decided on the spot that "It was worse." But being here for a year, knowing how to get around without GPS, and just getting more familiar with the area has completely changed my mind. Things are different, yes, but time has allowed me to stop comparing and to see and enjoy the good things about the city. And realize the things that are better - and that if I moved back, I probably wouldn't like. Ha!
  • Friends can be like family. I've always been blessed with really strong, supportive family relationships - even from my extended family. And I was fearful moving far away from family would leave me stranded and unsupported because there was no family member around that had a "duty" to help me. But I was so wrong. As I said, the world is full of amazing people, and slowly but surely friends are becoming like family to me. Whether it's bringing me meals and sweet gifts of encouragement, babysitting my kids in a pinch, or just hanging out and letting me cry or laugh until I cry (I'm a big crier, what can I say?) - some of the women I've built relationships with here are truly like family. 
  • You grow the most when life doesn't go to plan. When moving, everything is in chaos. There are a lot of things that don't go to plan, and for me, even the move wasn't part of "my plan." But the growth I experience over the past year - spiritual and emotional - has been exponential. (Thank goodness the growth has not been physical!) Moving ripped away my security blankets and forced me to figure out who I was and what I found my strength in. Because my identity could no longer be in my community, in my home, in my perfectly laid plans, and even in myself - who was verrrrry unreliable - I had to lean on my faith, in the one person who is unchanging, immovable, and loves me more than I could ever comprehend. 
  • You can't do it all, but you will get what needs to be done, done. It truly is a myth that "you can do it all." But, somehow, you will get the important things done. When moving, you're buried in things "to-do," and often it feels so overwhelming to leave one place and get settled in another. But things have a way of working out and while the buzz of stress was a familiar sound in the back of my mind, I learned to just "do the next thing," and my small efforts eventually paid off to where the tasks weren't coming quite so fast. It was weird, one day I felt like we were still "wrapping up the move," and the next I realized it was done! There was nothing left to do but to enjoy being "settled." 
  • You are more resilient than you know. During the move, there were so many days I just wanted to hide in an empty bathtub and just stare at a blank wall I was so tired and overwhelmed. And I confess, there were days that I did! But each time it happened, I got back up and dove back into life. Motherhood is a sure way to realize your resilience, but moving is another. I learned about my ability to bounce back and roll with life's punches, and I know I'm better for it. 
  • Home really is where your heart is. My family truly makes up my best friends and as long as I have them I'm home. Even when I didn't know a soul in my new city, I just had to look at my children or my husband and remember that I have everything that's important in life right next to me, and in the end, that was what mattered. 
  • Finding new opportunities takes risk. Moving has opened so many doors for me that I never would have had if we had not come to a new city. It was a risk to move, and it's also been a risk for me to put myself out there to meet new people, serve in my church and even start up new projects (like Risen Motherhood). But each time I've taken a leap of faith, I've been amazed by the doors that have opened. I'm so glad I've taken risks over the past year - beginning with the move - because there are so many opportunities I would not have experienced if I hadn't.
Basically, moving makes you feel indestructible. It solidifies who you are and makes you agile, adaptable, open to changing and moulding as you need to in life. And honestly? That's a pretty good skill set to have.  Many of you long-time readers have walked through this move with me, and you've see just how hard it was for me. There were some really dark, dark days in there, but you know what? The darkness has finally, generously, graciously lifted and it feels like now is the time to enjoy the sweetness of the light. Things are not perfect of course, there are still hard things, things I can't even talk about here on the blog. But overall I'm truly thankful that we've moved and the lessons I've learned along the way. 

In Which The Insane Act of Flying With Two Under Three Taught Me Resilience

Even three months later and I can't really figure out why I agreed to do it.

I willingly chose to fly with my two kids (ages 14 months and two months shy of three) alone on a three hour flight to Florida. When I told people what I was doing, most gave me a severely concerned look and told me I was ... brave. Others just spoke truth and said, "You're insane."

Looking back now, I fully endorse those that told me I was insane.

You see, initially I thought the actual flight would be the hardest part. The kids were missing their afternoon naps, and so I assumed they'd be crabby and cranky and that my toughest job would be trying to get my one year old to nap on me - even for 15 minutes (which is the exact amount of time she ended up doing so).

But in fact, the most difficult thing was getting on and off the plane.

Yes, that short window of time when one is preparing to board or has just finished deplaning is what now makes me swear off flights with little people forever.

Our stroller is a somewhat complicated double stroller. It's this one, if you're really curious. Which normally is a BOMB stroller - a smooth ride, skinny for doorways and sidewalks, lots of space for the kids, and the parent console is amazing (If you're a mom, I know you're nodding along with me and appreciating these benefits. If you're not a mom, you are now probably wondering if I have any friends.)

And in preparation for the flight (Including an obviously desperate email to all my mom-friends asking for tips/advice/gear for the trip.) I borrowed a carrying case for the stroller from a friend to store it in when I gate checked it. My plan was to bring the kids through security and the terminals in the stroller (Simply because I do not have the required six arms that one would need to care for two children and all their necessities.) then package it up at the gate to check it. And in this process, the stroller had to be broken down - not just in a couple of pieces, but in SEVEN PIECES. SEVEN PEICES. THE WHEELS COME OFF, PEOPLE.

When I practiced this at home, I thought it wouldn't be a huge deal, that it would be worth a little extra work to have the stroller while going through security and to not get it damaged when being gate checked.

But I didn't practice it with my two crazy children running around, all my luggage nearby and a few hundred people watching.

When I got off the flight after landing in Florida, they brought out my stroller last, after everyone had deplaned. There were about three different gates converging where I was standing, about 200 people sitting down and milling about, waiting for their own flights.

I was in the middle of the room with a toddler shouting, "Is this Florida? Where's Papa? I need snacks! My legs hurt. My toes are eating me! Colette is running away! Colette is drooling! Momma! Is this Florida?"

And my one year old was in fact running, er, crawling away as fast as she could accompanied by a high-pitched laugh of freedom.

When I got my stroller, I didn't even know what to do. I felt like I was on a stage with two maniacal, destructive side-kicks who's only job was to push me off the edge, brining the curtain, lights - the entire set - down in flames with me.

So I did the next thing. 

I set that stroller up in what had to be record time, maybe three minutes? And that's with stopping every 30 seconds to pull Colette back if she got too far out of my sight, or to answer Eli's burning, pressing, important  LOUD questions. The entire time I never looked up at the room, I was too embarrassed, too exhausted, too nervous to see how many people were actually watching me.

When I stood up and looked around, every eye in the room was on me.

Seriously. In my focus to set up the stroller, I hadn't even noticed how silent it had become in there besides my kid's announcements of their own needs.

I stood there, just looking around for a bit ...

And then I said to the entire terminal, "Sheesh, I feel like I need to bow or something."

And right there on the spot, I curtsied. And the room halfheartedly, applauded.

Then I loaded my whining toddler in the front seat of the stroller, my crap in the back seat, and carried my screaming, angry-to-be-held-again, daughter under one arm while pushing the stroller as fast as I could with the other.


I tell you this story, not because it's particularly good, or special. There was no random act of kindness from a stranger (although I experienced many throughout the two flights), no heroic move on my part, no sweet words with a deeper meaning from my toddler, or magical moment with an obvious mom-lesson. I don't even share this with you to scare you off from flying with two kids two and under (Although you should be - kidding. No seriously. Don't do it.), I share this because this is normal life. This was a real moment where I felt incredibly alone, humiliated, inadequate, embarrassed, and just plain wanted to melt into the floor instead of be where I was at.

But instead, I had to press on. I had no choice but to keep moving, keep setting up that stroller, answering questions, bringing my one year old back to safety. I had to keep moving forward even though everything in me wanted to give up.

And isn't this a lot of mom life? Sure, my inadequacy was highlighted by a particularly unfortunate situation (and a large crowd). But aren't we all pretty inadequate? Insufficient for the job? Aren't there so many moments every day where you don't know what the heck to do, and you just want to give up?

But I'm here to remind you, we moms are pretty resilient.

Motherhood is not glamorous. It's not fancy, or beautiful. Sure, there are some moments that are really moving and touching - but normally, motherhood is pretty mundane. It's setting up the stroller when you'd rather be anywhere else. It's chasing down your kids in the airport terminal over and over again, making the work you're doing take twice the amount of time. It's stares, judgements, going at it alone while people just gawk. It's not feeling understood or heard. It's wanting to explain yourself but not having the time or voice to do so.

Motherhood may allow us to bring life into the world, but we still have to figure out what our own life stands for. Because motherhood hits like a hurricane and unless you figure out who you are and know deep in your core that you're not defined by others, it'll drop you to your knees.

And among many, many other things, motherhood is about finding our own resilience, realizing our own ability to bounce back from difficult, embarrassing, awful situations. It's about figuring out who you are, what you stand for and believing for the first time that you don't owe anyone anything when it comes to your motherhood.

You'll mess up. You'll be embarrassed. You'll falter and question.

But you are resilient. You are durable. You are strong. And you are not defined by other's perceptions of you or the pressures they put on you. It's stubborn motherhood at its finest. Where we keep moving forward all the time, even when life does everything it can to beat us back. When you're lost, remember who you are and what you stand for, then just do the next thing.

Find your resilience.

Chicago Kitchen And Living Room - Details and Sources

Well it took me a million years, but I'm finally back to talk about the living room/kitchen (as promised) with a huge photo dump as I work you through the furniture and decor. I'm not going to list every single thing, but I'll try to hit a few of the things I've been asked about and highlight some of the process. If you missed it, here's the background on the renovation.

Also, I do want to give a huge shout-out to my dear friend, Joanna. She and I have been friends since I moved to Minneapolis and she has a great eye for design - which I used to my advantage as I began decorating our house. She and I are always swapping home ideas and talking about the latest decor trends, and she was a huge help in being someone to bounce ideas off of as I was working through decisions. I truly could not have done this without her! 

If you've been a long-time reader, you might remember our old house in Minneapolis - it was tiny. When we moved in, most of the rooms in this house were completely empty since it's so much larger. If you're wondering, most of our old living room furniture ended up in the front room (which isn't finished yet), but you'll spot few old things that did end up in these rooms.

You might recognize the card catalog, still my absolute favorite piece of furniture in my home and I knew I wanted it in a prominent spot in this house as well. It's fun to look back and see how many different ways it's been styled over the years! 

Every time I sit on this couch (from RH), I close my eyes and my tiny little heart flutters. We wanted something that was timeless and would stand up to the kiddos over the years. So far, so good - it's one of those things that just looks better with age.

Those white bookshelves are from Ikea. I spent a full week spray painting them from black to white - and wouldn't you know, one month later Ikea comes out with these shelves in white. I nearly died right there in aisle 1.

I filled the shelves with all sorts of things, some have meaning, some are just from the clearance racks at Home Goods, Crate & Barrel, Target, etc. It's not perfectly styled yet, but I figure it'll evolve over time as I find the right things. The baskets on the bottom are from Ikea, and each one is filled to be brim with toys or books - making them easily accessible for the kids.

A lot of people ask me how I can have "nice" things at the kid's level in the house and really, I've found that as long as I tell my kids "that's not a toy," they're really good about leaving stuff alone. I think it's good for kids to understand that everything in the world is not theirs to manhandle and do anything they want with, and as long as I'm diligent to teach them at the beginning, they understand. Every once in a while I'll find small toys in the vases, or cars lined up on the books, but I don't mind at all. Nothing in our home is too precious to break - if it was, we wouldn't have it!

The pillows on the grey chairs are from one of my new favorite Etsy shops, Thimble and Cloth. If you can't tell, I'm a little obsessed with indigo dyes and mudcloth. They're all over in this new house!

The pillows on the couch are from all over the place, Etsy shops, CB2, West Elm and - recycled from our old basement.

The mudcloth fabric over the back of the couch is also from Thimble and Cloth. I wanted something to break up the solid back of the couch and this worked perfectly to add interest, yet sill show off the leather. 

That black lamp is actually from Target - it's this white one, I just sprayed it a matte black finish to get the look I wanted. The vase is filled with eucalyptus from Trade Joes - it lasts a long time, but I need to figure out a more permeant solution as I don't like to have to go monthly just for one item. 

Although, it's probably worth it, right? I mean, look how pretty it is. 

I really wanted a round table in the kitchen as you can usually fit more people around it for the size, and I thought it would help break up all the rectangular shapes in two rooms. I found a tulip table knock-off on Amazon and it ended up being the perfect fit. We eat most of our meals around this table, we just pull up Colette's high chair (from Ikea) when it's time to eat. I removed the tray and she eats directly on the table, making clean up super easy.  

The kitchen hardware is from Home Depot. I originally wanted to go matte brass, but because we decided not to change the counters, I went with the safer, silver choice. The rug is an Ebay find. Searching for affordable and unique pillows and rugs on Ebay has become a new obsession of mine. I love the thrill of the hunt and finding something that's lived many lives before it comes to our house - which is also perfect with kids

The stools are Target - they spin to raise them higher, which I thought might be a nice feature for kids, but in reality, it's awful. Eli's favorite game is to set his toys on the seat and spin it as hard as he can until it flies off - denting the wall. I'm thinking we'll need to find some hardware we can add on so they don't spin anymore ...

The lights over the island are from West Elm and the wood blinds are crazy-affordable from Overstock, though what they lack in price is made up for in lack of function. They're a little hard to raise and lower, so you need a bit of patience. But most other roman shade options I looked into were well over $1,000 and these were $60. So, call me crazy, but I guess I'm willing to have to finagle them a little for the cost savings. 

Overall, I love the way this space functions so much. It's been a game-changer to have an open-concept house, and these two rooms work so, so hard for our family, it's been worth every ounce of work to renovate the space and the headaches I've faced while decorating it. And just for fun, I've included a few progress shots - so you can see how evolved over about the eight moths I was working on it. It just goes to show that decorating is hard, it's a slow process, and how it takes patience and time to find your style. Especially if you look at our old house compared to this house - my style is pretty different!

Looking back at these photos makes both my stomach churn remembering how hard it was sometimes, and makes me grateful it's all over! Don't get me wrong, it was worth the work, but it's so nice to be at a place where we can enjoy our home and I don't feel like I'm constantly tweaking it (at least these rooms, that is!)

Please let me know if you have any other questions and I'd be happy to answer!

Jonas Paul Eyewear + A Giveaway!

When Eli got his glasses at 14 months old, so much of me was afraid of how he'd look. In classic motherhood fashion, I didn't like his "beautiful blue eyes" covered up, and I didn't like the way they changed his look because he was so "perfect" already. But today, I almost don't recognize Eli without his glasses. They are so much apart of who he is and I LOVE the way he looks in his glasses. 

Over the past year since his strabismus surgery, we've had a lot of ups and downs with his vision. At his last appointment we found out his eyes were still not working together enough, so we're discussing patching and other types of vision therapy again, but right now we're just giving it a bit more time before making a decision. 
It's funny, because I know logically that his vision isn't the end of the world. No matter what, my baby boy is going to live a full and happy life, I know this is a small thing, a hurdle that we can, in fact, jump over together. But when you're a parent there's an element of wanting the easy path for your child. Of wanting them to have every opportunity, advancement and convenience that you can't help but mourn a little when you realize that won't be the case. 

And I think that's okay. It's okay to be sad for a moment, to let the feelings swim and settle in your soul for a bit. But then the time comes when it's time to let go. To remember you can't control your child's future, no matter how "perfect" they seem to be. To remember that really, this is their's to own and conquer. Your job as a parent is to teach them where to find their identity, to help them grow to be secure and confident in who they were made to be, and know that their value isn't found in their looks, performance or abilities. It's about teaching them resilience. To bounce back and charge on.  

And so I'm working on that. With each new update, each high and each low, I'm finding that I set the tone for Eli with how to respond. And I can choose to be upset. Or I can choose to be resilient. 
In the mean time, I'm so excited to say that we have found the most adorable pair of glasses for Eli - a pair that doesn't hide his eyes, but highlights them and makes him look even more adorable than he already is. (Self admitted #mombias here.) Eli is now a brand ambassador for Jonas Paul Eyewear (JPE), a company that makes the cutest children's glasses I have ever seen. I found JPE through another mom on Instagram. Her little boy is a little older than Eli, but the resemblance between the two of them is crazy! I was immediately obsessed with the glasses he was wearing so I reached out to her to find out where she got them. She pointed me to JPE and soon enough, they reached out to see if I would be willing to test them out with Eli and be a brand ambassador. 

I was so excited to get the free at-home try-on kit to test out all the glasses on Eli and he loved getting to try out different frames and pick the ones he liked best. Ultimately we went with the Paul in navy matte, which is Eli's favorite color, so he's completely obsessed because they're his, "favorrrrrite color!"

It's so funny, because when Eli first got glasses at 15 months, I can't tell you the number of comments I received about them. Most all of them were positive, talking about how adorable he was or just how cute it is to see just a little person wearing glasses. But eventually the comments slowed, we weren't stopped as often while out and about. But now, with his new JPE glasses, the comments are back full-force, all of them commenting about how much they love his glasses and how adorable he looks. It's so fun to hear so many people liking his glasses, and Eli loves telling them, "Thank you. They're my new blue glasses. They don't have a strap, see?" as he turns his head around. 

Originally we went with a different brand that was made of one piece of plastic and had a backstrap, which worked well for when Eli was really little, but it has been so nice to be able to upgrade to a more stylish pair of frames. At first, I was worried about them staying on without a backstrap, and while you can add one, I'm so happy to say they stay on perfectly without one! In addition, they are amazing at holding up to the rough toddler life. Eli loves to wrestle and play hard, and I've been so impressed by the durability. 

The other thing I love is that it's a company I want to get behind. I love the origin story of JPE. It was created by a mom and dad who have a son with vision impairments. They found a gap in the market for fashion-forward children's glasses, and created JPE to fill that void. In addition, JPE does a "Buy Sight, Give Sight" program, where for every pair of kids glasses purchased, they work to provide prescription glasses and corrective surgery to people in need. 

Pretty great, huh?
And JPE also makes non-prescription glasses and sunglasses. So even if your kiddo doesn't wear prescription glasses, you can still order awesome, stylish frames through them. 

So today, JPE and I are giving away one pair of prescription or non-prescription sunglasses (with 100 percent UV protection) for your little one - a $200 value! So ALL of you should enter, regardless if you have a child in glasses or not!

And in the meantime, if you want to order a pair of glasses from JPE they're giving all Oakland Avenue readers 10 percent off their order, just use the code "OaklandAvenue10," good through 5/12/16.

Enter to win in the rafflecopter widget below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And just in case you missed it, here are some other posts I've written on children in glasses:

Other Posts on Oakland Avenue:
Eli Gets Glasses
Kids In Glasses: Frequently Asked Questions
Tips and Tricks for Introducing Glasses To Your Toddler For The First Time (And Get Them To Keep Them On.)

My writing on other websites about glasses:
Little Four Eyes Blog: The Benefits of a Second Opinion
Twin Cities Moms Blog: How To Tell If Your Child Needs Glasses