Saturday, December 17, 2011

From Don Juan to Stan the Man Van

When we bought our 2006 Nissan Pathfinder, we were on a hunt. We had just recently purchased the bigger, nicer, swankier Armada, but it was too good to be true. After less than 2 weeks, we found out that it was leaking oil and was going to cost $10k to replace the engine. And that, my friends, was not going to happen. We felt pretty frustrated at the whole ordeal, to say things like a pastor's wife should say them...

The Armada was fully loaded. Nav system, DVD system, heated leather seats, sunroof...you name it, it had it. But that engine issue...well, we just couldn't get over it for some reason. ;)  All the bells and whistles that the Armada boasted paled in comparison to the fact that the engine didn't work properly. Here would be a great opportunity to write about some deep spiritual metaphor pertaining to this reality. But I'm not feeling deep right now, so I'm gonna hold on to that for later. 

So when we went looking to trade in the Armada (we didn't want to sell it outright and give someone else our huge headache), we were looking only a few things:
1) It had to be certified. 
2) It had to have a warranty in case anything happened later. 
3) It had to have three rows of seats because we were picking up and dropping off a lot of teenagers for church those days.

And we found a great deal just outside Atlanta. We disclosed the engine problem, but since we were at a Nissan dealership, it was a lot less burdensome for them to fix it as a trade in than it would have been for us to get it fixed. It was the end of the month, and they needed to reach quota, so we were able to negotiate a pretty sweet deal, and get a certified Pathfinder with 30k less miles, and a warranty for our Armada. The Pathfinder didn't have a bell or a whistle. But neither of us cared. It had what we needed. We affectionately named him Don Juan the Nissan, and ol' Don Juan proved to be a wonderful addition to our family.

But loading both girls in Don Juan soon proved to take an effort. Among the missing bells were running boards that would help us step up and lift the girls into their car seats. When they got older, they were unable to reach the door handle on their own because it was located halfway up the window. So we began making Ella put her hand on the tire while we opened the door, strapped Allie in, and then walked around to get Ella situated.

This was pretty stressful for me because at such young ages, the kids aren't 100% great at obeying, and I was always keeping my eyes peeled for Ella to take her hand off the tire and run into a parking lot. I was like the "hand on the tire" Nazi, spitting threats through clinched teeth as I strapped her squirming sister into the car seat at lightning fast speed.

As they've grown, they could (barely) climb into the car themselves after I opened their doors, but the backseat was so small that they couldn't climb across easily from one side to the other, and that necessitated me to have to open each door. As my pregnancy progressed, the thought of picking them up to put them in faster makes me want to tear my hair out.

Plus, since both of them are on the small side, they are both in 5 point harness car seats. And we were wondering how in the world we were going to fit three across the backseat. Or, if we could put Ella in the 'way back', we couldn't figure out how to get HER back there and strapped in safely. Seemed like a big pain in the butt, and I was imagining that after Caroline came, I'd be stuck in the house FOR.EV.ERRRRRR! Or at least until they got their own driver's licenses.

So we began facing our fears head on. The fear was that we were going to have to move from "cool SUV driving parents" to "not so cool but practical minivan driving parents."My friend, Jodie, had once declared any minivan to be a "mommy mobile with no sex appeal." And for some reason, I believed her, although most families who drive minivans have multiple children, so I guess sex appeal doesn't completely dissolve. I mean, we do know how those babies are made, right?

And, with less than a month before Caroline was set to be on the Berry scene, we decided to get serious about this switcheroo. We scoured Craigslist, visited some dealerships, and came up with Stan.

Stan the Man Van, that is.

Actually, Brandon spearheaded the effort. He found Stan on Craigslist, he took Don Juan down to the dealership in Lancaster, SC, and he negotiated the deal. Then he bought a red bow and surprised me!

I never EVER thought that I would be THIS excited about having to drive a minivan. Minivans scream, "MOMMY!", and I hear that word enough during the day as it is. But Stan is so suave, so plush, so cozy, so spacious. Stan the Man opens the doors for the ladies. Literally. At the touch of a button on my key chain, Stan's doors open automatically, allowing my 4 and 2 year old treasures to climb in to safety without much effort at all. And now that treasure #3 is here, and I'm lugging that huge baby carrier around (why can't they figure out how to make safe and light baby carriers, by the way?), Stan's debonair ways are even more appreciated.

I love how much space Stan affords our family. The girls no longer have to keep their legs bent so as to not touch the seats in front of them. I no longer have dashboard stuck in my teeth every time we go on a road trip. We stored so much stuff in Stan on our first trip to Greenville, someone would have thought we were moving back.

Love it, love it, love it.

So for all you haters out there, I'm telling you something. I'm a convert. Stan the Man Van has my heart.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner-Part 2

The closet nursery...

Is almost finished. I'm pretty excited, actually.

For those of you who didn't know we were putting baby Caroline in our walk-in closet, check this post out for a little catch-u-up.

As for us, we are less than a week away from the anticipated arrival of baby girl #3, and are beyond excited to meet little miss Caroline.

We have pretty much completed most of the big projects needed for the launch of RWOC Charlotte, set for January 15th, 2012. It's like finishing an assignment early. I don't know if Brandon knows what that feeling is like, cause he was pretty much notorious for turning in projects at the last minute, or after.

We have bought a family-friendlier vehicle. More on that later!

We had a small baby shower with some local friends. It was a diaper and wipe shower, since we have pretty much what we need gear-wise for a baby girl. It was a wonderful time to stop, reflect, and celebrate Caroline's arrival.

And...the nursery in the closet is almost finished. Hall-le-lu-jer!

So here's a little breakdown of what's what.

We are finally using the crib we bought as an infant crib for the first time! Ella and Allie both used the same crib that I did when I was a baby...teething marks and all. We had bought new hardware for it to make sure it was up to date with safety issues, and it was so fun to have them in it. But we bought this crib that turns into a toddler bed and a full sized bed a little bit before Allie was born. We had Ella in it with the mattress at the lowest setting, cause she was just a 20 months old when Allie came along, but it wasn't long before we transitioned it to a toddler bed. Since then, a new recall has outlawed drop-side cribs, so Caroline won't be using the same crib Mom and her big sisters used. Instead, she gets the newer model. 

The crib sheet was a gift from a dear friend who just had her first child. She sent it a while back, and I told her I liked it so much I was gonna use it as my nursery decor inspiration. Well, Katie, I'm a woman of my word. I've also picked out a couple other fabrics on sale at Hobby Lobby that coordinate, and am going to make a couple more crib sheets for lil Miss using this link I found on Pinterest. Cost for other fabric:s $15 total.

The crib skirt is a homemade touch of brilliance that I adapted from one of my favorite blogs, Young House Love. I seriously don't miss a day of these folks' posts. Love them. And this crib skirt was super easy, and cheap! They did a 3 sided skirt, but I only had to do 1 side for the time being, because sides 2, 3, & 4 aren't visible! I did, however, buy enough fabric to make the other 2 sides in case we move the crib to a different spot or move homes and Caroline ends up somewhere besides the closet. Cost for crib skirt (1 sided): $7

The lime green frame was in a give-away pile. It actually was a plastic, gold (read: gaudy) mirror. After convincing Brandon we needed to put it in the car (he thought I was CRAZY), I ran over to Lowe's and grabbed a bottle of spray paint. Then I put on 3 light and even (for the most part) coats of lime green to cover the gold. Total cost: $3.77

The hot pink name and scripture wall decal was a must to tie things all together. I found it on Etsy, which is another wonderful site for ideas and homemade/creative gifts. This was, by far, the most expensive aspect of Caroline's nursery...with shipping, it cost $27. It conveniently came in the mail about 3 hours before my baby shower, so I had Brandon sticking it on the wall before it started so my friends could get the full effect. It makes me smile every time I see it. I heart it.

The hot pink with orange polka dot blanket was purchased off a gift card that I got from my credit card rewards. So, technically, that was free. And it's so soft and sweet.

The kelly green boxes were already on hand from IKEA, and they house Caroline's clothes, blankets, and burp cloths.

It's not installed just yet, but we bought this super cute chandelier from IKEA the other day for $20. Right now we have a fluorescent tube light in there that casts a pretty harsh light on things. So we think this will soften up the ambiance a bit.

  • I hit up Pinterest again for a super easy and cost effective storage option...reusing old diaper boxes by decorating them with burlap and ribbons! This gal's idea gave me lots of storage for just a few bucks! Cost of two burlap covered boxes: $6.

       Again, since I am pretty much obsessed with Pinterest, I found another cheap and easy project for this burlap covered wall hanging with button "C" on it. This project took me about 15 minutes and $2.

        The wall clings were given to me by a friend who had them left over from her daughter's nursery. So not only were the FREE, but they also do pretty good to cover up Allie's 'artwork' --she took a brown crown to the flat paint, and I haven't had the energy to try to figure out if the Magic Eraser will work or not.

        As far as other necessary nursery staples, we have the changing table pad in our room since she'll be spending a lot of time in there with us, and it's only a few steps from her nursery, and the same friend who hooked us up with the wall clings also donated her super cush rocker to us, and it is in our room doubling as a reading chair right now. It will be perfect for nighttime feedings and snuggling, and the light blue gingham blends in decently with our bedroom decor. 

        So there we have it. A sweet little place to lay her head. And it cost a total of $80.77 out of my pocket. Not too shabby, eh? The wall opposite the shelves has yet to be decorated, but we'll wait to either find a great deal on something we can't live without or until I discover a Pinterest project that I just have to incorporate. When that happens, I'll be sure to update, as I know you'll be on pins and needles. ;)
        • Monday, November 14, 2011

          Drives Me Crazy

          Things that drive me crazy...holla if you can relate.

          1) Grocery store cashiers who over pack bags or take no notice of the fact that I may not want my raw meat snuggling with my fruits and veggies... I recently had a cashier take the fact that I had a larger sized reusable bag for granted. Instead of putting many light things in it (like cereal boxes, pasta, etc...), she decided to put: 1 gal of milk, 1 OJ, 1 large apple juice bottle, 1 XL coffee creamer bottle, 1 carton of soy milk, 1 4lb box of Borax, and about 15 other light pantry things all in this one bag. The bag probably weighed 85 lbs. She must have not noticed that I'm not a body builder. She must have not noticed that I'm 8 months pregnant, either. Which brings me to the next thing that drives me crazy...

          2) People who make stupid preggo comments and touch my belly without asking. I've blogged about this before here and here. Yesterday, while I was taking my girls down the hallway at church to put them in childcare, one of the ladies who works in the nursery leaned out the door as I walked past, and called out to me, "Nicole...are you pregnant?" I turned sideways and she said, "Oh, you didn't look pregnant until you turned sideways" (okay, that was nice), but then she had to add..."you about to have that baby, Nicole? You are so big!" Really? Thanks!  Then we had to get up in front of the whole congregation for an announcement about the campus coming to Charlotte. And since Apostle Ron mentioned the fact that I look like I'm about to have a baby right there on stage (which really wasn't a big deal cause he made it somewhat funny), apparently that gave everyone else in the congregation the permission they needed to make comments and jokes and touch my belly in between services. I won't even begin. And while I was complimented by many sweet friends that I was glowing, 'looking good hot mama' (these are people who must have read the aforementioned blogs or had been pregnant themselves), etc... I was also told by someone who probably meant well that I looked miserable. Geez, makes a girl all warm and fuzzy inside. I also have a family member who insists on commenting on how fat I'm getting every time I see him. Or every time I reach for food. I need to go on to the next one before I get really mad...

          3) Traffic. It took us three and a half hours to get from Greenville to Charlotte last night. It usually takes less than two. Enough said.

          4) Pretty much all people who want to put more on my plate these days. Did you know that in the next two months the Berrys will be: hosting Thanksgiving, finishing Christmas shopping, wrapping and decorating, training and traveling back and forth to Greenville a bazillion times to get ready for launch, buying EVERY SINGLE thing we have to have for our church, HAVING A BABY, celebrating Christmas in a new house, still mourning the fact that my mom's not here over the holidays, celebrating Brandon's 30th birthday, sleeping through New Year's, and planting a church that is set to start on my birthday. That's on top of things like working on keeping our marriage great, raising godly children, and keeping our house from becoming a cesspool of clutter, dirty laundry and germs. So please don't get offended if we don't send Christmas cards, remember your kid's 12th birthday, call 'just to chat', come to your ugly sweater Christmas party, or randomly offer to babysit so you can go on date night.  We are usually pretty good at these things, but this year... We. Just. Can't.  In fact, if you cook, clean, babysit or are a computer whiz, could you please help a sista out so I don't check myself into a mental hospital in the next few weeks? 

          Okay, I should probably stop at 4. Plenty to chew on.  But feel free to add some of your own in the comments.

          Wednesday, October 26, 2011

          Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner

          But we sure as heck are about to put her in the closet.

          Yep. You read that correctly.

          You see, we recently moved to Charlotte, and have been renting a nice home in a nice neighborhood. There are three bedrooms...one for us, one for E & A who have shared a room since Allie was 2 months old, and one for our guests. We thought about turning the guest room into the nursery, but a few things stopped us:

          1) We have overnight guests ALL THE TIME. I think out of the three months we've lived here, we've been home 6 weekends all together. And of those 6 weekends, we've had overnight guests 4 weekends. So that leaves a big, whopping 2 weekends that we've not had overnight guests. And that doesn't even take into account the overnight guests we've had during the weekdays. Hotel Berry. We like having guests and know that we have been blessed to be a blessing, so offering our home for friends, family and launch team members who are looking to move to Charlotte isn't a big deal for us. We know as we get closer to the launch and even into the new year, we should expect to have that room occupied with people from out of town. And that's cool.

          But we couldn't imagine having to deal with the awkwardness of rearranging a guest room, incorporating a crib, changing table, and baby decor, and making our guests feel like they are intruding on baby's normal routine when they are visiting. Nope. Strike One.

          2) It's expensive to make a nursery.  As mentioned before, it would take a lot of planning (and money) to bring our existing guest room decor and baby decor into agreement. In fact, it just wouldn't jive, so either we'd have to switch out the bedding for the baby or the bedding for the guest bed, or both. Or just live with clashing decor. No thank you. Strike Two.

          Well, in this game, two strikes is enough. It's kind of like the opposite of T-ball where the players get unlimited attempts to hit the ball. We play hardball around here, yo.

          So, looking around for other options, we had two options left. Put baby's crib in our bedroom or put baby's crib in our enormous walk-in closet.

          At first we were gonna go with the bedroom. It's a rather large room, and even with a king sized bed and furniture, we could make it work without cramping us too much. But then we would run into the whole "how do we meld these two decor styles together" question again. We looked again at the closet. It has a vent and, again, it's huge. And the fact that we don't have very many clothes (certainly not enough to fill it) made this option a bit brighter.

          Here would be an awesome opportunity to put a picture of the "Before" closet. Alas, I suck at thinking ahead these days and we got to work before I remembered to snap a pic. Boo me.

          We took out the shelving on the back wall and on the right side, and consolidated all of our clothes to the front left part of the closet. 
          Then we set up the crib on the back wall. This is a in-progress shot. I just put a rug down and a crib sheet on but don't have the skirt, or any decor yet. But you see how big this is? That is a BIG crib in there, people.
          So next up is to think of some creative and renter-friendly way of decorating the wall. I'm thinking vinyl wall decals that stick and unstick easily. Also, I would really love to switch out the fluorescent tube light for a dainty chandelier...but that is going to have to be up to the owners, I think.

          At first I was a bit hesitant to consider putting baby in the closet, but a few things really changed my mind:

          1) Baby doesn't care. She's not going to even know the difference. I came to grips with the fact that most of the time when people spend crazy amounts of money and time on a baby nursery, it's not even really for the baby. It's for them. Not that it's some horrible thing to want to design a beautiful nursery. I remember when Ella was about to be born, setting up the nursery really helped me see the reality of the whole thing. There really is going to be a little person in here one day. But Ella could have cared less what fabric I picked out or the fact that I had her bumpers, crib sheets, Roman shade and diaper holder custom made, or how everything coordinated perfectly. All she cared about was being loved, well fed, and clean. Same with Allie.  Neither cared that their room was the second largest in the house, and neither even really used it except to sleep and be changed until they were older. By the time Caroline is old enough to know she sleeps in a closet, we will most likely be in a new house and she'll have a room (maybe).

          2) It's close to us, but not too close.  We have to go through our master bathroom to get to the closet. And there are two doors that we can close if needed. This is a better option in our opinion than having her in a crib in our room because it does give us a little bit of privacy when we really need it. After she starts sleeping through the night, we will most likely want to have some semblance of rest and retreat sans baby in our bedroom.

          3) It offers a separate, quiet spot for her to rest. Said another way, her sisters won't be all up in her grill all the time. And they won't have to tiptoe around because when she's asleep in her crib, she won't be able to hear them anyway unless they are playing in our bathroom (which has been known to happen at times--little girls LOVE to get into Mommy's lotions, makeup and hair stuff).

          4) It's a great use of a space that would normally become a dumping grounds for junk. I really wish I had the "Before" picture of the closet. Because "Before" for us really meant "before I unpacked everything". We had lots of boxes and baskets of unorganized clothes that easily could have stayed put for months if I had not had the motivation of "let's transform this into a nursery". So, it forced us to purge some clothes and shoes, organize the others into seasons, and store the unused seasonal clothing elsewhere. When we go into the closet now, we are more likely to put things where they belong instead of just being lazy and dropping them on the floor (gasp...yes, we did that from time to time!)

          5) It forces me to keep things simple. Between parenting 2 other angels, being a wife, and starting a church, I have a lot on my plate. And the fact that I love to be creative can actually work against me when thinking of designing a nursery..."Oooh, I saw this on Pinterest, I could do that!" thought a hundred times could really add up in time and money! Yes, I'd like to still make it special, but the fact that there isn't a ton of space will help me stay reigned in a little bit (I hope).

          And yes, for those of you who are concerned about stuffiness, there is a vent in the closet that allows air to circulate, and we'll probably put a small fan in there for white noise/air circulation as well.

          So that's where Lil' Miss Caroline will be spending her first few months (or until we move). And guests, we welcome you to Hotel Berry!

          Do you have any ideas that you'd like to share on how we can make the closet nursery a sweet little spot? Please share in the comment section!

          Wednesday, September 21, 2011

          It's Been A Year

          Warning: this post contains raw emotions and real talk about death and grieving. It's not for the faint of heart.

          It's been a year since I've seen her face, held her hand, felt her tangible presence. It's been a year, and yet sometimes it seems like it just happened and sometimes it seems like it's been a decade.
          She's missed so much this year:
          Us moving to Charlotte, finding out we're having another baby, finding out it's ANOTHER girl(!!!), the craziness of trying to start a church, birthdays, Christmas, vacations.
          Those events have been hard...the feeling of knowing she's not with us is especially heavy when we gather around a celebratory table to enjoy a meal together or cross another milestone in our young family's life. But what is even harder are the random mornings when I just feel like picking up the phone to chat, and tell her about the mundane things in life. That happens almost every day. For a while, I was so used to picking up the phone for our daily talk that I wouldn't even realize what I was doing until I heard her voice mail, "You've reached Cris Malseed. Please leave a message." So professional...I think she set that before she got sick. My heart hurts when I walk into their home and though things look pretty much the same, it's just...different.

          I ache during the times when our girls are acting especially cute or talented or when we notice that Allie's vocabulary exploding again (she and Allie always had a special bond), and I think, "Gosh, Mom would LOVE to be here right now soaking this in." I hate that she's missing out on hopscotch and Ella's soccer games and seeing how sassy but fun Allie is--true Cris fashion! It stinks not having my Mom to talk to after I've been up all night with sick children to encourage me and remind me that this will be in the past soon. She was great at holding back unsolicited, outdated parenting advice. I miss the joy on her face that I saw when we brought the kids to see her and she soaked in how her baby was now somehow a mommy herself. Parenting small children without Mom is just harder.

          But as much as I hurt still, I'm overwhelmed by a sense of thankfulness.

          I'm thankful for the five years we had together between her diagnosis and the end of her battle with Pulmonary Hypertension. Along with her physical changes, she changed spiritually and emotionally. Brandon and I were talking this morning about how special that time was. It felt like we squeezed 30 years of heart-to-heart real relationship into 5. We became more than mother and daughter, we became friends, confidants, prayer partners even. Our time together wasn't taken for granted anymore. We knew there was a chance that it would be short-lived, so we took advantage of the opportunities to spend time together and make them count. Not everyone has a reason to stop and recognize how precious life is. So many take it for granted, but we didn't take those 5 years for granted.

          I am so thankful for that.

          I am so thankful to have been able to see my dad step up in ways I would have never imagined. His faithful sacrifice was so endearing, so inspiring. As her primary caretaker, he learned more about Pulmonary Hypertension, administering Flolan, and patient care than most nurses. He gave and gave and gave, even when it wasn't easy. Mom was still Mom...although she was sweeter MOST of the time, the bulldog Cris who used to be so important at huge law firms was still itching to have control over something. She couldn't control what was happening to her body, so she many times overcompensated by trying to control things like how the books were arranged on the shelves, how her sandwich was made, how the bills were paid. Dad graciously accepted more than most people would, and at least tried to accommodate her wishes. That was hard. I know because during my visits, he would get a break and I would take on that role, and if the Spirit of the Living God wasn't in me at times, I would have probably caved. But that is just how she was, and who can blame her for wanting to keep her grip on something, anything...as the rest of her life was slipping through her fingers. So I am so thankful to have seen my dad stay true to his wedding vows, to never give up, to sacrifice so much until the very last moment.

          I am also thankful that in this year, he has had a lot of healing take place. I can't imagine the grief he feels over losing Mom, but the fact that he can get on his always-dreamed-of Harley Davidson and go for a ride to think, cry, clear his head...worth every over-priced penny in my opinion. Their friends have stepped up in wonderful ways to support him and love him and keep him included as much as he feels up to it.

          I am so thankful for that.

          I am so thankful that things happened the way they did on the night she passed. I had received a call from her hospice nurse letting me know that she had been taken to the hospice house that afternoon and she was in a lot of pain, and had been put on strong doses of morphine. I knew that the hospice house was only used for two things: to give the caretakers a little rest or to have constant high-quality care during the last days of one's life. I spoke to Dad that day who told me that he would keep in contact with me if things seemed to be spiraling downward anymore. Otherwise, he didn't want us to have to make the big effort to pack up two kids and drive down just to wait indefinitely. She was such a fighter that no one knew how things would turn out. That night after dinner, Brandon and I had been talking about what to do and the girls were up later than usual. Brandon said, "you know what, let's just go. At least you can sit with her, give your dad a break, and be there if anything happens." So we packed, got in the car, and drove down there, arriving at 11pm. I relieved Dad at Mom's bedside so he could get some rest. He hadn't slept in 2 days.

          My time at her bedside was short. I sat in a chair and read my Bible and prayed and journaled and listened to Kari Jobe. I praised God for opening Mom's eyes to see who He really was, for drawing her to himself, and for securing her eternity by his sacrifice. I praised Him that this wasn't the last time I would see my mom, but that I could rest in knowing where she was going. It was truly a time of worship...hands raised, tears flowing as I felt His presence so strongly in that room. The nurses had told me she was in crazy pain, and as the morphine wore off, she would come to because of the excruciating pressure on her lungs and pain in her body. They said it could take weeks for her to pass. So as I was praying and journaling, I felt led to ask the Lord to have mercy on her and us...

          And right as I wrote that the most amazing thing happened. Mom opened her eyes and turned her head to look at me. Though she had not been coherent all day, I could tell that she knew I was there. She tried to sit up. She started to take off her oxygen mask. I stood up and leaned over her, stroking her hair and whispering, "It's okay, Mom...it's okay. You can go be with Jesus. Just go be with Jesus, Mom. I love you, Mom." The fear in her eyes dissipated and she relaxed, closed her eyes, and I could tell the end was near. I called Brandon to tell him to wake Daddy up. Thankfully the hospice house was just minutes away from their house. He made it just in time to say goodbye. It was a precious, priceless moment.

          The sense of relief and peace that washed over us was strange. The battle was over. She had won. Sort of. She finished well. She was at that very moment probably being told by Jesus, "well done, my good and faithful servant. You have finished your race, you have won the prize...the prize is Me." We had finished that battle well, too, loving and serving her to the best of our ability. The first thing we did was ask that she be unhooked from all the tubes and wires she was chained to for so long. She was finally free from all of that.

          I am so thankful it happened that way.

          Yes, as difficult as this year has been, I have much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for the growth that's come in the grieving process...the closeness of God that I feel when I'm brokenhearted. I'm thankful for the wonderful memories that remain etched in the fabric of my mind as I think of her. I'm thankful each time my girls bring up Grammy, and I'm thankful that they can watch firsthand how someone who is anchored to the Rock of Christ grieves with hope. I'm thankful that life moves on, albeit differently. I'm thankful for the wonderful support from our family and friends who have rallied around us during this difficult year. And I'm thankful for a God who brings beauty out of ashes.

          Tuesday, September 20, 2011


          I have an interest in Pinterest.

          What's that, you don't know what Pinterest is yet?

          Well, just think about this... (cue the Wayne & Garth's dream world sequence: doodley doo, doodley doo, doodley doo...)

          You are just getting a chance to sit down on the couch and prop your feet up after a hard day of __________________ (work, parenting, LIFE...whatever). You have a tall glass of _______________ (tea, wine, lemonade, Diet Coke...again, whatever) next to you and you reach for your favorite magazine or catalog.

          "Oh, this is a cool recipe...I should try it sometime". Riiiiiiiippppppppp! Out comes the page.

          "What a beautiful kitchen! One day when I build my dream house..." Riiiiiiiippppppppp! Out comes the page.

          "I love the way she has her hair done. I bet I could do that..." Riiiiiiiippppppppp! Out comes the page.

          "Cute shoes..." Riiiiiiiippppppppp! Out comes the page.

          "Dude, the guy from 300 is BEAST! What? Here's his workout regiment...I'm totally gonna look like him next month!" Riiiiiiiippppppppp! Out comes the page. (Had to throw in a guy scenario for all my dude readers.)

          And the next thing you know your relaxing time on the couch has turned into this...

          What to do with all your great new ideas, recipes, workout regiments? How do you keep them organized, accessible, and relevant?

          Well, ladies and gents...that is where Pinterest comes in.

          Pinterest is an online board for you to 'pin' anything your heart fancies that you discover on the internet...PG rated, of course. And you have access to it from your computer, smartphone, ipad, whatever! You can also share your pins with friends and see what they are into as well.

          Gone are the days of piles of magazine pages littering your living room. Gone are the searches for that recipe you tore out three months ago that you are just now getting around to trying.

          I have gotten so many cool ideas off this site. And, just being on it stirs up my creative juices. Yesterday alone, I made this:
          and this:

          At your fingertips...ideas, creations, wisdom. Pinterest rocks my face off. Hallelujer.

          Monday, August 29, 2011

          The Risk in Relationships: Lottie

          (Sorry about the wonky sideways pic, but I couldn't get it rotated!)

          There comes a point in every relationship when each party has to take a risk. Many people have already decided not to take that risk before they enter into even a first conversation. These are the people with whom you can never get past the surface. Every conversation seems to be taxing and forced because there comes a time when you just simply run out of things to say if no one opens up.

          With our pets, it's different. They are usually the opposite of the surfacy conversation person. They give love and receive it as they trust their owners with their every need. They let us in to even their messiest details. We see them when they are hungry, tired, thirsty, needing attention. They don't hide behind masks, hoping no one will ever find out who they really are. And so, especially when we adopt them as babies, they work a special way into our hearts and families. 

          Lottie was like that. From the moment we laid eyes on her, both Brandon and I knew she was supposed to be a Berry family member. We adopted her on December 23rd...kind of on a whim as we were hosting Dad for Christmas and missing Mom tremendously on our first Christmas without her. She loved kitties and cats have always been part of their households. Plus, Ella had asked Santa for a puppy for Christmas, but Brandon and I knew that we didn't have enough time or expertise to take care of a puppy the way he/she deserves. Kitties are different. Not that they don't need time and love and attention, but generally they are a lot more self-sufficient than puppies. So...we went on a hunt for the little kitty that would light up our lives on Christmas morning. After searching multiple adoption options, we found this little blue-eyed kitty who was recommended to us by an ex-con (think John Coffey from "The Green Mile") who was working there. In fact, his exact words were, "You should wait for the kitties in this here box. They took 'em to go get their shots. Them are some real cute kitties." Who wouldn't take his advice?

          Through a series of events that couldn't be described in any other way except the Lord working it out for us to take her home, we had her in our car on the way home just before the place closed for the holidays. We sat in the driveway trying to figure out how to hide her until Christmas morning, but underestimated our oldest daughter, who had gone up to the bonus room, peeked out the window, spotted the kitty on Brandon's chest through the windshield and ran downstairs yelling, "Pappy, pappy, Mommy and Daddy bought me a kitty." That solved our problem on hiding a little kitty for 36 hours.

          The first person Lottie captured was Brandon. She must have known that he didn't really like cats. He had what we called "cat baggage" and the only other cat he'd had he had nicknamed "Lucifer". Lottie climbed up onto his chest at every opportunity and purred her little heart out...until she had captured his.

          We meant for Lottie to be an indoor cat because of the obvious safety hazards associated with outdoor living. But she found ways to sneak outside, and then we kind of caved. We lived on a safe cul-de-sac in the back of a neighborhood without many dogs, so it wasn't too stressful.

          When we moved to Charlotte, our new home was only one house removed from a main parkway, which made me nervous for both my kids and our pet. But we'd allow Lottie to go into the enclosed backyard some times when we were enjoying a morning outside.

          This past weekend we hosted Brandon's family at our new home for the first time, and celebrated Papa John's birthday on Friday night. After going out to dinner, we all returned home, and Lottie was inside as usual, waiting on us. I took the girls upstairs, but I guess as everyone was getting inside, Lottie slipped out somehow. I didn't notice until the next morning when she wasn't asleep at the foot of our bed as usual. We searched numerous times for her that day, and made up fliers for our neighbors to be able to keep an eye out for her. One neighbor said she heard a cat the night before near the creek that ran by the golf course. So we went looking for her around there, but realized we couldn't really get back there without scaring the neighbors tromping through their yards at night. So we decided to get there through the golf course route. But unfortunately, before we made it to our destination to start the search, we found Lottie. She was soaking wet, and only 20 yards from home and had been hit by a car.
          I think she had been trying to find her way home, and was just so close. It broke my heart.

          The risk in every relationship comes with the fact that as we get close to someone, we could get hurt. The closer we are to one another, the more risk there is to be hurt. When we lose someone whom we were close to through death, divorce, or other means, we lose parts of ourselves that we gave away. But real relationship is always worth it. Whether it's with a two-legged or four-legged friend, our lives are richer when we are in relationships. The hurt we feel when we lose them is outweighed by the enrichment we received while we were in them. If we took off our masks, put in the time and energy, grew through the process, and committed to seeing the best for the other, then we have become better, more fulfilled people.

          Our family spent some time on Sunday talking about Lottie and all of the wonderful memories we had with her, how she was a great pet for our family, how we know she felt loved by us, and how we are glad that we had had her--even if it was just for a short time. We are all hurting, but we are so thankful that we opened our hearts up to love and be loved by such a special little creation.

          We will miss you, sweet Lottie girl. Thank you for giving us the gift of knowing and loving you. The tears we've shed and the hurt we feel is worth it for all the love you gave us.

          Monday, August 22, 2011



          Things don't always go as we think they should.  I am reminded of one of my favorite holiday movies, "A Christmas Story". You know..."You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"  Yeah, that one. There is a line in the movie that keeps playing over in my head when I think of this newly revised picture. The Parker family has torn through all of the Christmas presents. Ralphie has opened his new Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model Air Rifle (aka, the beloved BB gun), "shot his eye out" and lived to tell about it. The dad is sitting in his recliner reading the newspaper. Randy, the little brother, is asleep amongst all the yet-to-be-thrown away wrapping paper. Mom is somewhere upstairs, probably recomposing herself after her fear of her 8 year old boy shooting his eye out just practically came true. And the narrator, Ralphie as an adult, says, 

          "Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us."

          I wouldn't consider this the most unthinkable disaster that has descended upon us, but it is a pretty big bummer. (Oh, by the way, for those of you on the edge of the cliff regarding what happens next in the movie, the neighbor's dogs break into their house and destroy the beautiful turkey that is about to be served for Christmas dinner. The family has to go out to the only restaurant open on Christmas night, which is a Chinese restaurant. They get serenaded with some amazing Christmas carols, and then watch a duck get its head chopped off and declared to be Chinese Turkey. Great movie.) But, in terms of us thinking things were going so swell and then feeling like the rug was pulled out from under us, yes...we kind of relate to this quotable quote. 

          In this post  I shared about how wonderful it felt to have our house under contract, to come home to notice our agent put the "Sold" sign up, to be able to make real plans to move forward and relocate to Charlotte, to get to a place where we could settle in and not have to keep so super spotless (a daunting task for a preggo with a 2 and a 3 year old to say the least). 

          We found a house that would work with our needs and our budget close by the area where we are going to be planting the church. We got ready to sign a contract to rent that house for 1 year. We got word that the contract on our home in Greenville had come up against some bumps in the road. We talked to our leaders, expressing our concerns about moving before things were sealed up. We were encouraged to go ahead and get on the ground. Things started smoothing out for the sale of our G'ville home. We packed. We moved. We began unpacking. We realized the A/C was broken on the hottest day of the year in our new place. 

          And then we got the call.
          Our agent said somethings I didn't really understand, but then after asking her to talk to me plain, she spelled it out for me. A week before closing, the buyers lost their financing. We were NOT sold. We were now responsible for a rent payment AND a mortgage. Phew. That's heavy stuff. 

          But that's not the end of the story. I don't actually have an ending for you, beloved reader, but I do have a couple thoughts that God has placed on our hearts as we have walked through this:

          1. We cannot look at this situation with our natural eyes. We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us eyes to see what He is doing, how He is working on our behalf to bring about something even better. 2 Kings 6:17
          2. We cannot fear. This battle is the Lord's, not ours to fight! We have done everything we can in the natural to get out of that house, and we just have to leave the rest up to the Lord. We can't fear the future, our financial outlook or anything else! We have to just trust, trust, trust. (But, it's not always easy to do that!) 2 Chronicles 20:17
           The good thing is, these truths are not just for our situation!  Whether you're facing an army of thousands circling the city like Elisha's attendant did, or you just found out your home's sale fell through at the last minute, or you're facing any other issue that, on the surface, doesn't seem to possibly be able to work out for good, you can apply these truths and watch how God takes care of everything. It may not be the way you would have scripted it, but God is glorified through our testimonies! We are excited to have a testimony one day of how God worked all things together for us who love him and are called (to Charlotte, in this situation) according to his Name!