Saturday, April 29, 2017

the river house #14: selling, staging and sexism...

We are up to our necks in houses, houses, HOUSES!  

Y'all, it's crazy.  It's the hot time of the market, so we need to get our current house up for sale.  

But the only problem is, what if it sells?!

Because if it does, then this is what I currently have.  

(and if you can't tell, that's not exactly live-able)

We are STILL insulating and fixing all the other thousand little things that need doing in order to get drywall.  

BEFORE: replacing the rotted wood on the back porch
AFTER: the porch is painted and the yard is landscaped
But first, in order to get listed on the market, we've had to switch our energies into our current house.

 I planted flowers for that extra pop of curb appeal.
Speaking of curb appeal, each year the city's Easter festival is in our neighborhood, and literally thousands of cars drive by our house that day, so it was important for us to be looking spiffy as we announced our house was coming for sale soon!

So in a typical day, I literally go from exterior work... interior decluttering...

 hanging insulation at the River house...

It's too much, you guys.

Moving is hard enough.

But renovating one house while staging and selling (and ultimately packing up) another is too much.

And to make matters worse, we fired our contractor.

(What?!?  I know.)

Yeah, we're now on our own with no help.  Just when we probably need it the most.

I could literally write an entire blog post about the interchange the morning I fired him.  It was so, so bad.  It was just me and him, but thankfully our intern, Audrey, heard part of it word-for-word and was there for me after it was all said and done.

What started as me calmly expressing some concerns about the hours that he was reporting quickly (so QUICKLY!) escalated into him using loud, threatening language.  I was caught in a situation where I was trying to keep things professional, and it was like I was talking again to my explosive young children who often don't have the capability to use calm words.  Except this was an adult.

When his buddies drove up on the street, he stormed out to talk to them, which provided me the opportunity to attempt to stop physically shaking.  But when I heard his inappropriate comments to his buddies about us, and then about ME BEING A WOMAN, that crossed a line.

So when he walked back in to speak to me again, I calmly confronted his choice of words about me as a woman.  And his sexist response only dug his grave deeper. ("Oh," he said as he cocked his head to the side and wriggled his fingers in my face, "that's because you women have FEELINGS.")  I was still trying to logically figure out some of his pricing discrepancies in order to resolve the situation, but it was like an animal who had been backed into a corner.  He was flipping out, threatening to quit, attacking me.  It was time for him to pack up.

What in the world, y'all?  How does he think he can treat someone that way?  Um, no.

So it's a new day.

We'll figure it out.

It's nice that my house is pretty stinkin' clean as we go on the market Monday.

But keeping it that way with my two children is going to drive us ALL crazy.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 23, 2017


I'm standing on the precipice of "Old Life."  (if you didn't catch the post on "old life/new life," read here.)

Most things still aren't yet settled into place, but they're coming.

Changes are around the corner.

Our house goes on the market next week.  (if that's not stressful...)

We received the letter in the mail that Caroline did NOT win the lottery system to get into the small public school where we felt God's leading.  God, what are You doing?  So we're on a waiting list and hoping to hear something as soon as this week.  We continue walking by faith through this wilderness-of-sorts.

Other steps towards "new life" are approaching that I'm not able to share publicly just yet.

But as I'm catching glimpses of "new life" on the horizon, I'm finding myself an emotional wreck about stepping away from "old life."

It's like I'm moving within my own city to another world.  And like any move, there are gains but there are losses.

Right now, I'm mourning the losses.  I am crying at the drop of a hat as things hit me.  There are people and things about "old life" that I just want to bottle up and take with me into "new life."  Thankfully, I'll still be in the same town and can see them, but I'm not naive- with change, it won't be the same.

On the other hand, I'm afraid that my dream of "new life" isn't going to live up to my hopeful expectations.  (nothing ever does!)  And I'm afraid I'll look back and kick myself for leaving "old life."

Although my head knows it's the right direction for our family.  Though we don't know the destination, I know it's the direction God has clearly been guiding us.

But knowing something doesn't take away the emotions I'm feeling on this precipice.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

the river house #13: all things unseen...

It's Springtime at the River House!

A sweet woman at church came months ago to plant some bulbs in the backyard.  One day we'll have nothing else going on and can tend to the yard...

My amazing handyman hubby
But right now, we're tending to all things unseen.

Heating and air conditioning.

Oh framing.  I think we've been framing for over 6 months now...

There's just a TON of work to be done
before any walls go up.
Work that you take for granted in a finished house
when you can flush a toilet
or turn on a light switch
or not have your ceiling cave in on you.
(that's always a nice feature)

It's work that's hidden behind your walls,
and will remain unseen.

But boy, if it's wrong, you'll know it.

So it probably doesn't look like too much has changed.

(I have to tell myself as I watch all the money drain out of my bank account that it has.)

framing and more framing

We got our fridge!

We had the wall custom built to recess the fridge to be in line with the countertops (you can see the green tape line on the floor).  This will save us space, we didn't have to spend a billion dollars to get a countertop depth fridge, and we still have all the room of a standard-sized fridge.

Here's a sneak peek at the cabinet layout of the kitchen.  (minus the cool custom hood I'm going to build above the stove)

I can't wait to see this view in REAL LIFE.

And speaking of views, I can't wait to see THIS view of the river as I'm soaking in my jetted tub.  (which we found new off of craigslist- yay!)
Restored original brick fireplace in front room
The exciting news is we have now passed the BIG inspection on all things unseen (HVAC, plumbing, framing, and electrical), and it's on to insulation!  (also unseen, but also very important!)

Which sounds great and exciting, until you have to go and pick up a gazillion bags of the stuff... 

I seriously hit my low at Lowe's.  Now we call it "Slowe's."  I used to like the place.  But what I thought would be a 30 minute errand turned into a 3 HOUR+ ordeal just to pick up an online order because they couldn't figure out their new system and slipped up with a TON of miscommunication. I lost all patience at the very end when the security guard wouldn't let us leave with all of the insulation and my son was screaming bloody murder because he was hungry and tired because WE DIDN'T HAVE A PRINTED TICKET (that the front desk couldn't print for us, of course, because they couldn't figure out their new system).  

Uggghhhh.... you get the picture, right?  Misery. 

beginning insulation
 Nevertheless, now we have insulation, and we're doing it ourselves to save a few thousand bucks.

 Here you see Marc joyfully demonstrating the insulation process.

It's pretty tedious with all of the cuts, but here's what a finished wall looks like.

And once we finish and pass inspection for insulation, guess what's next?

Drywall, baby!

So if anyone wants to come over and learn the skill of insulating, you are more than welcome!!

to be continued...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

the big things...

I feel like I'm working on "big things" right now-- rehabbing the River House, working to be a catalyst for a multiethnic church plant downtown, starting a "Be the Bridge to Racial Unity" discussion group, performing across the city with our band-- "big things" that change our city and our world.

I'm so passionate about the things I'm doing in the city, and I love what I'm doing.  More on that another time.

But there's really only TWO "big things" in my life.


And him.

 So here's what's big around here...

first day of preschool
My baby boy has now started preschool!

We were going to begin next fall, but the preschool we chose thought it best that Jameson started getting used to the routine of school now with a month left to go in the school year.

first day!

And he is just eating it UP.  He LOVES his school.  In the first few days, he's already made two friends that he talks about all the time.  I can tell he is being so stimulated educationally, and it's exciting to see him grow and mature into this phase of life.  The preschool director told me he's so pleasant and super smart.
But as you know, preschool is exhausting work.

Especially when you've got to get home to have lightsaber battles.

I love these two!
Caroline is having an amazing school year in 3rd grade.  She continues to be at the top of her class academically though we've now entered the point of girl drama with a few friends.  I guess that's just part of the growing process.

She's doing an after-school math club once a week, gymnastics once a week, and playing outside in the yard with neighborhood kids almost every other waking minute.  This is my social BUTTERFLY.

She just lost her 16th tooth. (she's counting)

And can you believe, the Tooth Fairy forgot to come the night she placed her tooth out and wrote a letter!  (#parenthoodfailure)

The next evening, Caroline came up to me, "Mom, I'm just gonna put this in your room so you won't forget again."

*SO* happy the recorders came home
 Another parenthood milestone was the day the school sent home the recorder last week and my ears went ouch!

But y'all know my Caroline.  She's an excellent musician.

So thankfully, it didn't take too long before all the ear-piercing shrieks turned into controlled, decipherable notes.


her first persuasive essay
And you know what? I'm not the only one thinking about "big things."

When other classmates were writing persuasive essays about "why we should have a class pet" or "why we should get an ice cream party," my sweet girl decided to write "Why We Should Help the Homeless."

I could not be a more proud mama.

I'll update you all on all the other stuff going on, but wanted you all to know about the truly BIG things in our life.

Monday, March 6, 2017

waiting is the hardest part...

The other day I decided to publicly share our journey and transition from old life into new life.  I shared how as a family, we generally now know what we need, but in practicality, we don't know what it's going to look like or what the path is to get there.

In some ways, it feels like I'm locked in one of those escape rooms.  You know what I'm talking about?  It's like, I know there's a way out of this old life, but it's as if there's a series of puzzles to solve or doors to unlock before we can figure out how to get through to the other side.  Nothing is "opening up" at this point.

I don't know what school either of my children will be attending next year, and that feels HUGE and overwhelming.

We've elected to take Caroline out of the private school she's attended since kindergarten in order to put her into a small, magnet public school that specializes in the performing arts, but it's an "invite" system, and I don't know when we'll find out if she'll get in.  So we wait.

I found a preschool I liked for Jameson, but of course, his classroom is already full for next year.  Thankfully the director is open to trying to work it out with us, but again, we're waiting to see if and how it can happen.

I don't know if or when we'll be selling our current house.  We're nowhere near ready to move to the River House (that feels like forever away...), but the house market will be heating up very soon, and the likelihood of us selling this house next fall or winter isn't high.  So that brings up more questions... what if we sell the house before we're able to move in to the River House?  If that's the case, where do we LIVE in the meantime?  And how can we get the River House completed sooner?

We're in the middle of a semester of ministry, so it's not like we have time to work on the house.  So we pay our contractor and wait as he works.

Our dream of a multi-ethnic church here in Lynchburg seems like a long way off.  We're doing all we can on many fronts to help find a church planter, but ultimately, there's a lot of waiting involved..

So naturally, what does anyone do when they're struggling with waiting?  I googled "how to wait" and found a silly wikipedia how-to article.  (Am I the only one who does this kind of stuff?)

But the article's suggestions actually weren't too bad.

1.  Occupy your time.
2. Don't try too hard.
3.  Wait with other people.

1.  Occupy your time.  Check.  No problem there.  Between two kids, a campus ministry, a historic house renovation, a worship directing job, a band, a racial reconciliation group, etc., I'd say there's no problem filling up my time.

2.  Don't try too hard.  Not really sure what this actually means.  Don't try too hard to wait?  Okay, sure.  I won't try too hard.   (???)

3.  Wait with other people.


In all of our uncertainty about what's next for us, I'm finding that it's life-giving just to bring others into the wait with us.

It's why I'm typing this blog now.

I need others to make this wait not feel so unbearable.  I need others to commit to pray for our family, that God would guide us in all of this crazy uncertainty of schooling, housing, and the need for a multi-ethnic community.

So much feels up in the air right now.

Tom Petty was right.  Waiting is the hardest part.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

old life, new life...

It's become apparent to Marc and I in recent months that we're in a transition phase in our journey right now.

(By the way, I'm so thankful that he and I are united in this.  I don't think I could stay sane right now if we weren't on the same page!)

Through a great deal of soul searching and some really helpful counseling, we've been able to understand ourselves and our family's needs and desires more clearly.

We've been through alot of change since moving to Lynchburg 8 years ago.

Who we used to be is not exactly the same as who we are now.   Life molds you and shapes you, you know?  Different experiences, different environments and different relationships bring new perspectives.

So we're finding ourselves to be a little caught between our old life and our new.

(I suppose I should probably clarify for those who we haven't seen in a long time, we haven't gone off the deep end in any way.  We're still very much the same Marc and Amy, ha ha!)

But we're Marc and Amy that God is leading on a journey into some new places that we've never ventured before.  We've realized we need some things to change (not just for the sake of change) in order for our family to thrive.  I run the gamut of emotions about this- everything from fear to sadness to excitement to follow where He's going to guide us.

The other day I was finding myself completely overwhelmed, crying to Marc on the couch about our situation.  As he listened to my fears, he picked up the nearest crayon and a paper and scribbled out this picture to help me see our situation:

"This is our old life, Amy.  And these were the things that our heart was attached to in that life.

We lived across town in a suburban, homogeneous neighborhood.
We had one child.
That child went to this school.
We went to this church.

And now, we are entering into a new life.

We live downtown in a very diverse neighborhood, both racially and economically.
We have two children, who both have different needs and challenges.
We don't think the old school will be the best fit for our family anymore.
We don't think our church will be the best fit for our family long-term.

And Amy, we're in a hard transition process of cutting those ties in the old life and replacing them to fit the new life.

First we adopted Jameson.
Then we moved downtown.
(And now we're working to move again to the River House, just a block away.)
We're looking to change schools next fall.
And we're dreaming of bringing a multi-ethnic PCA church plant to downtown Lynchburg.

Whew!  Same town, but a very different "new life."

Crown and Joy Presbyterian Church (Richmond, VA)
The elders at our church were so gracious to give me a month off of my job as worship director.  (I've led worship for 15 years now, so it's a welcome short break!)

And each Sunday, we've been visiting different PCA multi-ethnic churches in our region.  (Washington DC, Richmond, Charlotte, etc.)

Similar to our experience in St. Louis, these multi-ethnic churches have been so life-giving to us.  It just feels like it "fits" us on so many levels.  We love our current church dearly, but you guys, my son calls it the "white church."  He doesn't have a mirror there, someone that looks like him and knows his realities in life, someone that he could look up to and model after.  I love that there's a growing network of multi-ethnic churches in our denomination (as well as homogenous culture churches who are recognizing their unintentional biases and are working to transition towards becoming more diverse), and I've come to understand that in order for us to thrive, our family needs to have a supportive, diverse church body in our city.  

So we've begun that process!  We're praying for God to do this while we're active about doing it.  (I used to be apart of the "just wait on God" crowd as I sat around and waited for things to fall in my lap, but now I see the kingdom so differently... how does God work?  Through his people praying and being faithful and active to GO and do.)  

We're networking, we're making calls.  
We're praying.  We're building relationships.  
We're telling people and our presbytery about our hope for our city.  

(sorry I can't figure out how to rotate the photo)
I've also gathered some friends from different churches and different ethnicities around town and we've begun a small discussion group called "Be the Bridge to Racial Unity." (I posted the Week 2 questions above, but here's their website if any of you are interested.)  It's an easy 8 week curriculum for churches that we're using and meeting every other week.  

I just felt like we needed a place to begin these much-needed conversations in our city.  I'm learning what a loooong, slow road racial reconciliation is, but I've already seen small glimpses of God slowly opening eyes just as He did mine, and that is SO exciting.   

This group has been a safe place for people to share their hurtful experiences with race as well as a safe place for others to listen and ask questions in order to learn, too.  

I'm excited to see what God will do in and through this group, but for me personally, it's been another piece of the puzzle in the "new life."  

River House
I guess what I'm learning is that we are much like the River House right now.  
God has laid a great foundation and structure.  
He's given us a beautiful family.  
And He's continuing to work and "frame in" the places in our life He wants to restore.  

Just like the River House, I can acutely feel in my soul how we're in the process of taking the old life and rehabilitating it into a new one.  

He's working towards one day making it a beautiful finished product.  

We just can't see His plans.

Monday, February 20, 2017

white mama at the black barbershop: a busted chin and a lollipop...


It's been one of those days.

In the midst of alot of stress... ministry situations, fund raising (our main supporting church just had to cut their yearly giving to RUF from $10,000 to $0...that's not stressful...), confusion over schooling for our children next year, etc., I just needed one more thing on my plate.

So how about a fluke fall onto the floor which landed a gash and a busted chin?

It was one of those motherhood rite-of-passage moments.  Where I, with wet hair and half dressed, am simultaneously grabbing my purse and rushing out the door to the doctor, holding a tissue against Jameson's chin to stop the bleeding.

And thankfully, it only needed a little cleaning and some glue to put the skin back together.  (No stitches this time, thank you, Jesus.)

This white mama doesn't do well with blood, so I'm still trying to calm down.

So we got the chin all fixed up, just in time to head to a hair cut.

New barbershop.  New barber.

A glued up chin.

A mini Simon Says game in his hands.

He was so tired from all the morning's "excitement"
and I saw his eyes getting heavier and heavier...


...until they couldn't stay open any longer.


HOWEVER cute and peaceful that may be, Jameson's now at the age that if he naps EVEN FOR JUST A FEW MINUTES, he'll be up until 10pm at night.

(And though I love my kids, I don't want to be with them at 10pm.)

So Trell, the barber, had just the trick to entice him to wake back up:  a lollipop.

That did the trick.  For whatever reason, Jameson hasn't been as fussy with a male barber like he was with our female one.  (I guess it's a pride thing...)  He doesn't ask me to sit in the chair with him, either.

We're definitely moving up.

But he still doesn't want to talk, either.  Trell tried to ask him questions, and this white mama SO appreciated it.  My son needs all the opportunities he can get to interact with black men in his life.

"Come on, Jameson," I encouraged him.  "You've gotta talk. That's what you do in a barber shop."

"That's right!" Trell said.  "And then eventually one day when you're old enough for your mama to start dropping you off, then you and me can REALLY talk."   Hahahahahaha  

We made it to the end of the cut, and isn't my baby so handsome??  He is going to be a heart breaker, y'all.

As much as I like how trim and styled this hairstyle looks,
(and my goodness, it's SO much easier to style)
I've gotta admit, I'm missing his curls on top.

But after the busted chin incident,
it was so, so good just to see him SMILE again.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

the days are long but the years are short...

Seeing as how this blog is my kids' "baby book" of sorts, here's what life is looking like these days...

Jameson is my silly guy, with a small streak of mischievous.

Still obsessed with Star Wars and potty humor, of course.

One day I let him take a bath in my tub.
A minute later, I turned around and
somehow he had found a way to fill the entire tub with bubbles.

 Caroline just switched from dance to gymnastics.

(She was doing handstands during ballet class, so I took that as our cue to leave...)

 Y'all, I can't believe my baby girl is about to turn 9 next week!  How can this be?!

She is so, so smart and outgoing.  A social butterfly of her school, neighborhood, and our church.  She continues to be a natural leader.

She's also on the intense side and needs help lightening up sometimes.  :)

We've entered the 3rd grade girl drama, so much of our conversation is centered on who was mean today at recess, who's not speaking to who, and how to be a good friend.

It's kinda crazy to watch the world grow larger to your child as she grows older.  New, bigger challenges arise.  New fears and anxieties arise.  Many times I find myself lost as to what parenting well looks like at this age.
 Jameson's not in gymnastics class, but occasionally on Saturdays, he and Caroline go to "open gym" and he loves it.

He's getting so tall these days.

Though he's able to reason more now at 4,
it's so difficult to persuade him to do every little task.

Get on your shoes.  
Go use the potty.  
Wash your hands.  
Get your coat on.

The struggle is real.

Recently we surprised the kids with a trip to the trampoline park and every day they still ask to go back.

It was like the best hour of their life.  ha ha ha ha
Who do you think won this battle?

We've only had one snow this year thus far!  The kids LOVE to sled down the hill behind our house.

10% of Liberty University students are sick with the flu this week, so we are keeping our fingers crossed it doesn't reach our house.  (!!!)

Can I just freeze time still right now??  Be still my heart.  May he always want to carry his baby around in public.

oh, I love him

But really, how many lightsabers does one need?

The days are long, but the years are so short.

Every day I want to cuddle and kiss them.

God, give me grace to be their mama.

Monday, February 6, 2017

river house #12: wall of windows and a homeless ministry

Y'all, this River House is going to do me in.  My hair is going gray and this project is probably why.

Don't get me wrong, I love it.  I have the vision, and I'm ready to see it come to life!  I wish I was moving in tomorrow!

But oh, the days and weeks just drag on, and it feels like our wallets are empty and we are still in framing.

This project has become so much bigger than just a house.  Oh no, it's giving us stories.  It's giving us connections.  It's giving us ministry.

It was a sad and discouraging day when we had to let our former contractor, Mr. Larry, go.  The bills were just getting too high.  And through friends of ours who are also in the business of renovating properties, God brought us Mr. Jim.

Mr. Jim
"Mr. Jim," as our kids call him, is our new contractor and we love him already.

10 years ago, Jim lost his son at age 16 to suicide as a result of childhood bullying.  Through that tragedy, he admits he lost his marriage and he lost his faith.

But every year on the anniversary of their son's death, Jim and his former wife (they're still best friends) host a party in his remembrance.  And this year, being the 10th anniversary, was the biggest yet.

They hired magicians for the kids, they had pinatas and lots of food and candy.  We were so honored to attend, and we are praying for Jesus to carry Mr. Jim through so much pain.

In just a short time, Mr. Jim has made quite a splash at the River House.  
Remember the large great room that didn't even have windows yet?

(Designing the focal wall of windows for a river house is a little intimidating to say the least...)

Here it was the night before windows....

And here it is AFTER.  The windows took my breath away when I walked in and saw the view for the first time.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  

NOW it looks like a River House.

Those windows are so great, you'll be able to see all the way to the back wall of windows as you walk in the front door.

Jim also put the window in that will go above my tub.  I can picture it now.... ahhh....

Beginning of fireplace wall

getting essentials together for the homeless man
It turned out that Mr. Jim had compassion on a homeless man who happened to stop by one day and ask for work.  But after he worked at the house all day, we caught the man trying to sleep on the dirt floor under the house.  (so, so sad.  He just wanted to stay out of the cold.)  It's a long story, full of twists and turns over the next few nights, but I'll just say that a ministry to the homeless wasn't exactly in my plans when I bought this house...

Obviously God had other plans, and it was a good opportunity to wrestle with what it looks like to live out the Gospel we claim to believe... especially when the person literally shows up in your house.

It was a very tangible reminder that our own Savior himself entered this world with no place to lay his head.  He, too, was relegated to a dirt floor.  

Great Room
So this is where the open Great Room currently stands.  Isn't it GORGEOUS?  Can you envision it?
Looking into the dining room and kitchen

Burn, baby, burn

Instead of hauling a bunch of wood scraps to the dump, we decided to burn it one day.  (I'm not sure we realized the fire would get so big??)

The kids absolutely loved playing "firemen" with the hose, though!

If anyone has a crew of construction workers and about $100,000 sitting around,
we'll take it...

To be continued.