Before and After

I mentioned in my last post about how we're settling in. We've been taking some pictures around the house now that we have painted, decorated and hung curtains and light fixtures. It looks and feels like a completely different place. Checkout these before and after slides to get an idea of the transformation. (Click the fullscreen icon on the toolbar below for the best view.)

[slideshare id=1296708&doc=house-090415211824-phpapp02]

Next up - the landscaping. From the picture, it looks better than it really is. Lots of work to do, but we can take our time more with the outside.

Even though we've lived there for only 1 month, we already feel so comfortable and at home. I give Cori all the credit for making it feel so homey, so soon. What a wife!

Settling in to the New House

It was two weeks ago today that we moved in to the new house in Frisco. I am thankful that it was only 4 miles down the road, because moving is hard enough, but only having to go a short distance was really nice. Especially all the subsequent trips we made back and forth to get the miscellaneous items that don't fit neatly into a box - like a weedeater or a lamp.

So the past two weeks have been super tiring. Starting with the day we moved in, we've pretty much spent every night working until its time for bed; doing things like carrying boxes up and down stairs, putting beds together, arranging furniture, unpacking boxes, arranging closets, etc.

Another activity that took up a lot of time was replacing light fixtures. That is not easy, let me tell you. The concept is simple, but the execution is challenging, unless you have four arms with built in tool appendages.

We purposely waited to unpack and hang up certain things like curtains, pictures and nick-nacks. We were waiting until we got the walls painted. When we moved in, all the walls were white. While we appreciate the "blank slate", we were anxious to get some color on the walls to give it some warmth visually and to help make it feel more personalized. So last Friday, we were able to have all the walls painted. It makes a huge difference!

Little did I know that once the paint was dry, the real work would begin. Wow! This past weekend after the painters left, we began getting serious with personalizing this place with our own "stuff". Saturday and Sunday we worked like slaves. I worked like a dog and slept like a baby. :)

But it was fun work. And very fulfilling getting the new house to feel like home.

Cori and I are the type of people where our house is "our castle". We would rather have a nice home and drive old, shabby cars and not have the latest electronics equipment or cool gadgets. We feel like our house is our sacred abode where family nurturing and growth happens and we feel its important for us to establish a "homey" environment for that to take place. This is one reason why we are very thankful that we did not have to rent an apartment or house for awhile, which we thought we may end up having to do when this whole process began.

We are far from finished, as evidenced by the plethora of unpacked boxes in the garage and the array of nick-nacks and frames placed in the staging area (dining room) waiting to find a permanent place. But we are getting there and are taking pictures so we can show a before and after motif, hopefully.

I'm sure I'll leave some things out, but here's a list of things we've accomplished in the past two weeks:

  • Install light fixtures
    • Kitchen - over island (still a mess, pictures coming soon)
    • Kitchen - over sink
    • Breakfast nook
    • Front porch carriage light
    • Ceiling fan/light in living room
  • Assembled basketball hoop (much harder that it sounds or looks)
  • Assembled two bookshelves for kids' rooms
  • Put together 3 beds and 2 dresser mirrors
  • Curtains
    • Living room
    • Kitchen (still in progress)
    • Bennett's room
    • Chloe's room
    • Gavin's room
  • Several frames of artwork, a couple of wall shelves and numerous wrought-iron "things" all over the house
  • Installed a new dishwasher (and then cleaned up a huge water leak mess caused by the fact that I didn't realize one of the hoses was leaking. I made like 3 trips to Lowes and actually ended up installing twice after having to pull it all out to properly seal the hose. Also cut my finger real bad.)

I'm so tired of my seeing my toolbox. I want to just fling it in the creek out back, but I don't think I could throw it that far.

I'll end with a couple things I've learned through this whole process:

  1. Mortgage loans are much harder to get these days (tighter regulations, more expensive in terms of closing costs, origination fees, etc.)
  2. Directions that come with light fixtures, ceiling fans, shelves and basketball hoops are worthless.
  3. The guy who invented the Phillips head screwdriver: genius. The guy who invented the slotted type: not so much.



For awhile now we have felt unsettled and have wanted to move. Reasons? An extra bedroom for the kids; a bigger yard for the kids, preferably with a climbing tree or two - or ten. :) But this is Texas, so we won't get our hopes up. We also really want our next house to be the house the kids move out of when the time comes and come back to with grandchildren many, many years from now. We really want that consistency and "grounding" for them to grow up in and feel that now is a good time to make that transition. So, last month we put our house on the market. When we put our house on the market the first time back in 2006 and moved to Virginia, the house sat and sat and sat and didn't sell for over 6 months, which led to us moving back to Texas and staying in this house.

Since then, we have enjoyed our house and it is a great home. Cori has done an awesome job decorating it and making it truly beautiful and homey. Turns out she did too good of a job.

Thirty-five days (not months) on the market and we received an offer. It was a good offer and we accepted. That's the good news.

Bad news is - we hadn't really even started looking for a house until this past weekend. So now all of a sudden we are in scramble mode. We're closing on March 16th and need to move somewhere at that time. Ugh!

I realize that this is a good problem to have and I feel fortunate that we live in a market where there are numerous options of affordable housing. We are blessed.

Our problem is that we don't want to just move anywhere. This was supposed to be our final move. This next house is the house we want to stay in for years to come, meaning we wanted it to be big enough for us to grow into and also be in a neighborhood we felt we could plant ourselves in long-term.

Since Sunday we have looked at about a dozen houses. Two very seriously, both of them in foreclosure. One, we decided against because there was way too much work to be done and the other one, which was absolutely perfect in every way, we were beat to the punch by another bidder.

Things don't always go how you expect. We thought our house would have sold in 2006 - it didn't. This time, we really didn't expect it would sell. We thought we'd let our 4-month listing contract expire in April and then just wait awhile longer. That didn't happen either. This time it actually sold.

One could look at this as God's great sense of humor. To be sure, there's irony there, but ... God is not Brian Regan. :) He's not a comedian.

I know this whole ordeal will work out according to God's will. I don't really see how at this point. A lot has to happen in the next week or so. If not, we may be moving into an apartment until we can find "the house". If that's God's will, that's ok with me. I hope its not, but I realize it won't be the end of the world.

There are people far worse off with much bigger life issues to deal with. I thank God that my biggest problem right now is that my house has sold and we haven't found another one to move into yet.

I am extremely blessed. I've said it dozens of times and its one of the truest things I know: I don't deserve to be this happy.

36 Reasons

My beautiful wife had a birthday on Friday. I made her a little card telling her all the things I love about her - one for each year of her age. I've recorded it here for posterity (and also to brag about how great she is!)

  1. How you're such a cookie monster
  2. The way you make tea
  3. The way you mommy
  4. Your soft skin
  5. Your pretty eyes
  6. Your silky brown hair
  7. Your beautiful hands
  8. The way you look when you sleep
  9. Your perfect feet
  10. How you make our house a home
  11. The way you tease me
  12. Your love of learning
  13. Your passion for educating our kids
  14. How you listen to my stories
  15. Your blog
  16. The way you dance with me
  17. Your love of books
  18. Your compassionate heart
  19. Your past
  20. How you've changed over the years
  21. Your style sense
  22. Your ability to dominate in Nertz
  23. Your sense of humor
  24. Your love of simpler times
  25. How you love your bath time
  26. Your kickboxing prowess
  27. How you love reading to the kids
  28. How you share the CNS with me
  29. Your efficiency
  30. Your constant support and encouragement
  31. How you think I'm smarter than I really am
  32. The way you laugh
  33. How you've taught me to appreciate history and literature
  34. How you are always so diligent
  35. The Kermit smile
  36. The way you love me

If you know Cori, then you know that she is refuting all these things. She never gives herself enough credit - and that's one more thing I love about her. I'll add that to next year's list. :)


I fell in love 10 years ago today. That was the day Gavin was born. That was one of my best days! Soon after he was born, stabilized and spent some time cuddling with Mommy, the nurses took him to the nursery to give him a bath, take measurements and perform some minor tests. I got to go with while Cori rested.

For as long as I live, I'll never forget the time he and I shared in the nursery. I got to be right there with him, studying his every feature, watching his every move. I kissed his cheeks and his little hands and feet and tummy. I touched his soft skin and talked to him the whole time. He was so small, but perfect in every way. It must have been close to two hours that we spent together and I treasure every minute of it. It was our bonding time.

Since then, I've had about a million more times of bonding. And I've loved every minute of those times as well.

As a toddler, he went everywhere I went. He was the epitome of Daddy's Little Helper. He insisted on helping me do whatever I was doing. Fixing the vacuum, mowing the lawn, clipping the hedges, washing the car - it didn't matter what it was, he was right there. I loved it too. I never considered him in my way.

I think the best part of all that is just having time together. That's how relationships develop. That's how you bond with someone - by spending time together. Doing every day things together.

It seems that Gavin understood that as a child - he just wanted to be with me, whatever I was doing. I'm so glad he did. And I'm glad I let him and didn't consider him to be a nuisance, because I'd have missed out on that time together.

He's still that way, too. Loves to help. We still spend lots of time together. Almost every night after Bennett goes to bed, he still has 30 minutes before his bed time and he asks, "So Dad, what do you want to do with me?" I love it! :) When he says that as a 10-year old, I'll still look at him and see that little guy next to my side asking, "Daddy, what I do help you for?"

So obviously, I've completely enjoyed the past 10 years. Its been by far the best decade of my life. I really cannot believe its been 10 years since Gavin was born. It has gone by so fast. And that's what makes me a bit sad. Because I know the next 10 years are also going to go by fast, maybe even faster. By then, he'll be an adult, in college or working or who knows what, but most likely not living at home any longer. I try not to think of that time, because I know we have 10 (maybe less) more years with him before he goes off on his own as adult.

I plan on making those years count, just as much as the past ten. I'll be spending as much time with my little helper as I always have. We have a lot more to do - teaching, learning and helping each other.

Happy Birthday, Gavin. I'm thankful you are my son, my little friend. I love you with all my heart!


The Bible defines faith as this:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1

So what happens when the things that are hoped for never materialize? Why is that your "faith level" is usually determined by the number of things hoped for that actually do come to pass?

Are you a more "successful" or "spiritual" Christian if most of the things you pray for actually happen? What if you pray for something for a long time and earnestly believe that it will happen and then it never does? Do you not have enough faith? Do you need more practice praying?

I don't know. But I do know there have been at least two times in my life where I have earnestly believed that something would happen and it never did. I prayed and prayed. I even rested. But the things I was believing for God didn't happen.

The first time was when I was in 7th grade. Financially, were not very well off. My mom never had enough money and she was driving my late step-father's old paint truck. Somehow she was entered into this contest at a dealership to win a new Dodge Caravan. I wanted her to win that van so bad. I can't remember how long it all took, but it seemed like I spent a couple of weeks of fervent praying and believing and trusting in God that he would allow mom to win that new van.

Well, long story short she didn't win it. And I really had a hard time with that. I just couldn't understand why not. Would it really be that hard for God to just grant this request? I mean, He's God, right? This should be easy for Him. And, its not like we were asking for something that we didn't really need. Seems pretty petty now, but, for some reason, it really effected me and I was very dismayed that God wouldn't go ahead and give us that van.

The other time was not too long ago. In May 2006, I took a job at Rosetta Stone in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We believed this was God's plan for us to move. We put our house on the market and a couple weeks later packed up all of our stuff and moved to Harrisonburg. We figured the house here in McKinney would sell shortly and we could then buy a house in Virginia and move to the next phase of our lives. Until the house sold, we stayed at Cori's parents house (I commuted back and forth on weekends) for 2 months and then rented a house for 4 months.

Throughout this whole time, we had 55 showings at our house, which was sitting empty in Texas, but not one single offer. After a couple months, we lowered the price. A couple weeks later, at the recommendation of our realtor, we lowered the price again. Then again. Then our 4 month listing agreement expired and we signed a different realtor to market the house hoping that a change of pace would make the difference. Since we were already at our lowest list price, we just waited. And prayed and waited. And prayed some more.

We were in Virginia for 6 months. At long last, we could no longer afford to make a mortgage payment in Texas and a rent payment in Virginia as well as utilities and all that nonsense. So we packed everything up (again) and moved back to Texas in November. The day we arrived back in Texas was exactly 6 months to the day that we left.

During that whole time, we were very patient. We never really doubted that we made the right decision to move there, even when things looked bleak. But that didn't change the fact that we had to move back. The whole time we were plagued with questions of why the house wasn't selling? Maybe we did make a mistake. Maybe we weren't supposed to move after all. What the heck is the point of all this? There just has to be a reason, right, God?

That was almost exactly 2 years ago and I am still trying to figure out the why's of it all. People have asked me, "So why do you think God allowed you to go through all that?" I wish I could say I knew. I have no idea why it worked out the way it did. Did it grow our faith? I suppose it did. I still feel like it was the right thing to do at the time. Although it wasn't a fun experience going through many of the emotional ups and downs that went along with that, I will say we had a good time in Virginia.

As a family, we look back on those 6 months with fondness. If I had it to do over again, I would. Maybe the point of it all was the process we went through rather than the end result. We joke about that being a really fun 6-month vacation ... and next time, let's not bring EVERY household belonging on vacation with us! :)

Regardless, those are two times in my life (there could be more, not sure) where I have tried to exercise faith to believe God for something and it didn't happen. At least not the way I wanted or expected it to.

I admit, those are 2 very innocuous examples. There are people out there praying and believing for much more important things than that. There are people with cancer praying for healing. There are people with failed marriages praying for reconciliation. There are mothers of dead children crying out to God, "Why?".

So what if we have faith but what we're believing for doesn't come to pass? Not enough faith? Is our faith misguided?

I don't know. But I do know this: Faith is not getting what you ask for. The people with the strongest faith are the ones who ask and pray and don't receive, but still believe! The Bible says the world is not worthy of them (Hebrews 11:38).

I think the biggest lesson I've learned through all of this is - its not about the destination, its about the journey. God is not a magic genie that does our bidding. Most of the time we think we know what we want, but God knows the desires of our hearts and his plan is better than ours. God is interested in our souls, our relationship with him, not our comfort.

If faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, then that's where God wants us. Not seeing, just believing and letting Him see. He sees the big picture - the infinite, spiritual realm while we never can and that's where our hope is, not here, not now.