Tuesday, August 15, 2017


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Light #1
I found this one for $15 at the Habitat Restore downtown. A little spray paint and fancy bulbs and we're in business! I love a black hanging chandelier in the dining room.

Light #2
The pendant light for the computer nook in the library. I found this light second-hand for less than $20. Bryce retrofitted it to be a straight hanging light (he can figure just about anything out!) and it works perfectly in that spot. Eventually there will be floating shelves and a built-in computer desk beneath it.

Light #3
And another black light fixture....black spray paint is just addicting. This little light used to hang in our entryway, with lovely 70's etched glass on all four sides. I removed the glass, spray-painted, and then Bryce hung it up in the laundry room. Free! And the perfect little bit of bling.

Light #4
And our personal favorite, the light Bryce built for over the kitchen sink. I had a design in mind but while online searching (for weeks) I could only find it for $400-500. So Bryce designed and built one for less than $100! We love it--a perfect fit for our kitchen.

**Bryce can make more of these lights if anyone is interested in placing an order! 
Fully customizable: variety of colors, # of lights, hanging length, etc. 
Let us know if you're interested!**

Saturday, August 12, 2017


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We've been in our Tree House for 6+ months now! Looking back over what we've been able to accomplish, it's definitely not as much as the first four months where Bryce worked full-time on the house. I guess maybe the projects aren't as big and the results aren't as visually-major. But we've still been "chipping away" at it, while also letting the budget play catch-up. :-)

New front steps (still need to be stained and sealed)

Here's a quick recap of projects completed along with some pictures!

Living areas & upstairs:
  • Painted the bookshelves and stained the mantle (photos of this project here)
  • Hung curtains in the guest room and living room
  • Organized the kids' rooms
  • Cleaned out the spare bedroom to make usable for guests
  • Unpacked all of the boxes (except for a few in the master bedroom since we don't have closets built yet....and a few left in the basement, which is still a horrible mess)
  • Started installing trim in the downstairs--about halfway done installing and only about a quarter of it is painted so far
  • Added transitions between the tile and laminate floors

The entryway in March vs now (notice the new floor/doorway trim and the new light fixture).

Decor misc:
  • Slowly added new lighting to the hallway, kitchen, dining room, laundry, and library--nine lights total (two were spray-paint projects, one Bryce built, one I found second-hand and Bryce retrofitted, two were given to us, and three we bought--blog post to come!)
  • Found a rug for the library
  • Arranged the living room (with a new-to-us gifted couch!)
  • Started to hang a few pictures on the walls

Living room is slowly starting to come together. 
And so happy to have our "bench" photos on the wall finally!

Kitchen & bathrooms:
  • Built, stained, sealed and hung shelves in the kitchen, and added under-cabinet lighting
  • Added cabinet hardware
  • Finished the pantry: built shelves, primed/painted, and hung a door (blog post to come!)
  • Built and painted (matching the cabinets) a frame around the fridge to make it look built-in
  • Installed a new water heater
  • Added towel bars and toilet paper holders to all of the bathrooms, and hung a mirror in the half-bath

Pantry straight ahead with antique door (not yet refinished). 
You can also see the built-in fridge and black cabinet hardware.

  • Built a frame for the deck swing
  • Built a front step
  • Got a trampoline for the kids (and Bryce)
  • More septic work completed and it's been holding up fine so far--thank goodness
  • Cleared a lot of brush and trees--an actual yard is slowly starting to emerge
  • Started cleaning out the pole barn
  • Installed an electric fence for Parson
  • Installed a new mailbox and post
  • Installed a solar-powered attic fan to help keep the upstairs cooler

Front yard torn up for a new septic pump.

New lights in the hallway, over the desk area, and over the table (this is looking from the entry way, half bath on the right, eat in area and deck sliding doors through to the left)

Deer sighted out the dining room window.

Want to see more TREE HOUSE posts? Click HERE.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


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It's time for an update on these crazy-wonderful kiddos of ours!

     He usually starts talking in the morning around 7:30 or 8am. I send JD up to "help" him get out of his crib (but he doesn't really need help--he can climb in and out by himself). He walks down the stairs by himself. If Bryce and I are still sitting on the couch, he says, "Good morning dad, good morning mom" and then walks to the dining room table and climbs up to his chair for breakfast. :-) It's the most adorable thing! 
     The older kids crack up when he says "mummy!" for "yummy."  Oh how he loves them. Loves to ask about them and call for them and follow them around. He also has started to "tell" on them: one day he came in from the deck and told me very seriously, "Silas hit [Miss A]." Lots of words from this one! The other day he was standing in the kitchen asking me for something very insistently, and it took me a bit to realize he was asking for a "lemon drop" that I keep in a glass jar (because he hears JD asking for one quite often). If I was to give him a piece of candy he would start hopping around on two feet--it makes him so happy!
      Lately he has been learning colors, and without us directly teaching them. Already he can pick out blue, green, yellow, orange and pink without prompting. Because of the game "Sequence" that the older kids like to play, he can pick out the tiger and lion cards (and growl loudly!). He likes to jump off our fabric ottomans--always jumping and climbing and exploring. Such a trooper when we're out and about, but I guess child #5 needs to be! My favorite is when he grabs onto my legs and says, "Got you, mom!"

Miss A
     This little girl loves to dress up and play pretend and carry her baby around. She and Silas could play together like that for hours! She wears a green dress-up Frozen dress and he wears a blue cape..and they both carry around little bags. Oh they are cute--best pals. She also likes to play games with the older two and put together puzzles, and she does pretty well too!
     Most days she still has a rest time after lunch, but lately I've been giving her books to read and she doesn't always fall asleep. Bedtimes are a little easier if she doesn't get a long nap, but the rest time (+ break for the mama) is nice.
     A couple of weeks ago I took her to get her hair done at an ethnic salon. The lady spent three hours washing, combing and twisting her hair. Miss A sat like a champ! (Lots of snacks and books and tablet time.) She does this for me every week, so I wasn't worried about her being able to sit for an appointment, but the ladies there were so impressed with a 3-year-old! They said she puts the 12-year-olds who come in to shame. 
     She loves for me to paint her nails--"paint nails" she calls them. And something funny I've noticed, she is a pretty hilarious backseat driver. She tells me when something is in the road, makes sure I'm watching out for other cars, and gasps if she thinks I stopped too fast. This one is the only one of the five who consistently calls me "mama"....in her adorable little voice.

     Another one potty-trained! A few weeks after we moved into our new home, we decided to tackle it and about three days later he was done. Feels so good to only have one in diapers now!! He says "I got one!" after he poops...he always makes me laugh in the bathroom. My favorite was when we were potty training him--it was a warm-ish February/March and so he would follow Bryce around outside at the new house with a winter jacket on, rain boots, and little shorts underwear. 
     Silas is cuddly with me often but he is Bryce's little pal. Loves to ride around on Bryce's shoulders and follows daddy around on his days at home. They are so cute together. Bryce taught him to ride a bike like a big boy a few months ago...yay for a balance bike: it just took one day. Just 3-years-old and he's now cruising around our driveway. Silas has a bit of a lisp (which I forget about.....I just love the way he talks). Cute examples: very = bury, sticky = skicky. 
     No more naps for this little guy. He still could use one technically but he just doesn't go to sleep at night when he does. We still keep an early bedtime of 7pm for all of the kids, so it's worth it to have no naps and send them all to bed at 7! At nighttime, it is very important for Silas to give Bryce and I proper hugs and kisses: kiss right cheek, big squeeze, kiss left cheek, another big squeeze.

Justus (JD)
     Our thoughtful, fun little man. I feel like he's growing up so much these days. Always thinking, processing. And we love to see glimpses of his sense of humor. It's so cute when he cracks himself up...many times Bryce and I genuinely laugh at something he says, and he was meaning to be funny!
     He has a good brain for memorizing. He and Bryce play this game where one of them hums a song and the other has to guess it. JD usually can name the song within a couple of bars. The other kids like to join in too, but it's a little more comical when they do it (Miss A's hums always come out sounding like "Jesus Loves Me.") Bryce has also been working consistently with the kids at dinner time to memorize 12 verses that the church kids program highlights. JD memorized all 12 a couple of weeks ago (verses and references), so he got a special ice cream outing with dad (and a Silas tag-along; he also quoted all 12 with minimal prompting).  Another game we like to play at dinner time is "I Spy." JD gets the gist of the game, but with the others we're still working on teaching them to decide on the object before everyone starts guessing!
     Justus loves all things super hero or star wars (which is hilarious because he's never watched anything for either of those). We got him a light saber a while ago....because he has literally been talking about one for a year. There are strict no-hitting-siblings rules, but he loves to put his batman cape on and have imaginary battles. 

Miss S
     While her sister loves to "play house," this one loves to be crafty or play a memory game or ride her bike or make a paper/glue/scissors creation or build with legos. Lately she and JD have been pals with most of these things--it's fun to watch them when they're actually getting along! They love to make things with paper and tape (requires a lot of patience from this clutter-clearing mama with all of the paper scraps and "special" creations to save). She and JD took swim lessons back in April and they are getting more and more confident in the water. We've been trying to take them all to the pool at least once a week this summer. It's quite the feat just to put sunscreen on them all!
     I love to hear Miss S "read" aloud to her sister. If it's a book I've already read to them, then she usually does a really good job remembering what I read and telling it in her own words. I've been taking the kids to the library every 3 weeks. The older four have to pick out the number of books that match their age before they can play on the computers. It helps us to read more throughout the week when we have new books to get through. They all sit so well for reading time! (D-man not always quietly, but he's getting better.)
     A few months ago Bryce and I instituted a chore chart for the older 4 kids, with the 5-year-olds being responsible for a quite a bit more than the 3-year-olds. It has helped organize our morning schedule. The charts are connected to a small allowance, and the older two have enjoyed watching their saved money add up. JD wants to buy a transformer with his savings and Miss S wants to buy a costume.

Fun events/activities of the last few months:
* Bible Study Fellowship with all five kids in classes
* swim lessons for JD and Miss S
* celebrated D-man's 2nd birthday
* lots of playground, hiking and pool outings this summer
* Eberly family reunion in Fort Wayne for a week
* visit to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
* Aunt Kristin and Noah's wedding (which they were all in!)
* Wendy/Mimi's family reunion
* Indians baseball game for Bryce's birthday
* 4th of July parade in Lebanon

Monday, July 10, 2017


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We are moms. So by definition, we are those who wait.

Waiting for a positive pregnancy test.
Waiting for that due date to finally arrive.
Waiting for the sleepless nights to end.
Waiting to receive the overseas adoption court order.
Waiting to find out that you can finally fly to get your child.
Waiting to get them all out of diapers.
Waiting for the day when they can do their own laundry.
Waiting for the day when God will heal them.
Waiting to get a call about a foster placement.
Waiting to get a call that a bio mom picked your family.
Waiting for summer to come (yay! school's out!).
Waiting for summer to end (yay! school's back in session!).
Waiting for them to turn to Jesus with their whole hearts.

My current place:
Waiting to know whether they will be ours forever, or not.

W a i t i n g.

“The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most temporal part of time--for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters

We will wait; it is our lot as mothers. Therefore, the question must be: How does one continue to live well in the waiting? How do I honor Jesus when the Present is painful or the Future weighs on my heart?

W a i t i n g.

Three do-nots come to mind:
Do not be afraid. (2 Kings 6:16)
Do not worry. (Matthew 6:25)
Do not be anxious. (Philippians 4:6)

All of those are exactly where my heart wants to be--afraid, worried and anxious. Some days, a heavy dread pulls at my soul, making me wander aimlessly around the house, hopeless and discontent. But Jesus says, "Do not!" He is calling me to Himself in the waiting. The Present ("lit up with eternal rays"!) is where I am and exactly where He is with me. Therefore, I wait with hope.

Last week He gave me a prayer for the waiting.

O Lord, out of the depths I cry to You.
Please, hear my voice. Thank You for hearing me.
I am crying out for mercy--
      mercy for my heart,
      mercy for the children,
      mercy for our family.
You, O Lord, are holy and the Great Forgiver, 
      therefore I stand in awe of You.
I wait for You.
Please help my soul in the waiting.
In Your Word I choose to hope--
      Your promises,
      Your faithfulness
      Your love.
With You is unfailing love and Full Redemption.
You Yourself will redeem.
In the morning, I know that You will come.
(paraphrase of Psalm 130)

Monday, June 5, 2017


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The past few weeks I've been wrestling through emotions and situations that leave me breathless with fear and heartache. Yet this truth has been my solid foundation through it all: He is God (which means that I am not). Three characters from the Bible keep coming to mind: Hannah, Job and Jeremiah. All three, when faced with horrible and heartbreaking scenarios in their life, turned to God in worship and surrender, with great humility.

There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God.
Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God Who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed.
The LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up.
The LORD sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts. (1 Samuel chapter 2)

Then Job replied to the LORD: "I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job chapter 42)

It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust--there may yet be hope.
Who can speak and have it happen if the LORD has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
Why should any living man complain . . . ? (Lamentations chapter 3)

When I focus my mind and soul on the God-ness of God--the unchanging, unfailing truth that HE IS GOD--three things happen:

1. I am awed by Him
           There is no one holy like You. There is no one besides You. You are a God Who knows. You can do all things. No plan of Yours can be thwarted. Nothing happens unless You decree it. You weigh deeds. You bring death and make alive; send poverty and wealth; send calamities and good things.

2. I am convicted of pride
          I must not keep talking so proudly or let my mouth speak such arrogance. [I see You and then] I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Let me bear the yoke. Let me sit alone in silence. Let me bury my face in the dust. 

3. I am encouraged to trust
          There is no Rock like our God. There may yet be Hope.

Daily (hourly?) I am striving to humbly submit and let Him be God. This truth is the one place I can settle myself down in without a doubt: He is God. (So many other things in life are uncertain but not this!) Deeper certainty of this truth brings hope in the midst of heartache, joy where there are no easy answers, and peace when my life is unsteady. God is God. Amen.

Even in darkness
     my heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord
     my heart is secure
I will have no fear (Psalm 112)

Monday, May 1, 2017


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It's time for a Tree House update! The wall of built-ins in the fireplace room was desperate for fresh color. And I was desperate to unpack my books. Over the course of a few weeks, I cleaned and scraped and painted and stained and painted some more. 

The main built-in structure and shelves got a coat of "Dorian Gray" (same gray as the bedrooms upstairs, two shades darker than the gray on the walls of the main floor). The back of the shelves I painted "Jasper" by Valspar, a deep green. The crown molding got a fresh coat of bright white. Plus, I stained the mantel a dark espresso brown and Bryce removed the corbels. 

Here is the evolution in pictures: from listing photo to current.

Listing photo.

New wood stove (surround still needs to be added).

Starting the painting!

Couldn't wait to get the dark green started!

One side done!

Both sides done! And the fireplace surround is up.

Painting 16 shelves in the basement.

Staining the mantle--the old reddish-brown is on the bottom.

Stained mantle and corbels are gone.

Lower cabinet doors are drying, and finally was able to unpack all of our games on the bottom shelves. This is an accurate photo of projects in the midst of real life.

Bright white crown molding (made such a difference).

Bright white crown molding and shelves in place. Trying out different lights. Bryce put on new outlet covers and added a plug underneath for the stove.

Unpacking all the books after the shelves dried for two weeks. Such a happy day!

Books on shelves but not styled yet.

Doing my styling thing: put a few things in, step back and look, repeat a million times.

I didn't know Bryce was sneaking photos of me.

And the final reveal! The room feels so much more like home now and I am relieved to have all of my old book friends back again.



Thursday, April 27, 2017


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So, you're just about to be a first time foster mom? If we sat down to have coffee, here is what I might share with you. A list of thoughts and suggestions for you and your heart as you start this crazy journey. **A big thank you to the ladies of my adoption & foster support group--they helped brainstorm many of these ideas.**

1. Set aside money for initial expenses. When our two foster daughters came to us quite suddenly (with about 5 hours notice), we needed many practical items right away. And with the way the calendar fell, we didn't get our first per diem check for almost 30 days. In those cases, it's helpful to have some cash set aside, ready for immediate needs in case the state checks don't come for a while.

2. Appointments, visits and phone calls galore! Just be prepared for many, many visits in the beginning from state case workers, therapists, agency case workers, CASA (court appointed special advocate), etc. And there will be many calls with all of these people, along with e-mails and texts. Plus you will need to set up initial doctor appointments (tracking down a medicaid-approved doctor if they don't have one yet!), as well as dentist and eye doctor visits, if needed. If your child has medical challenges, add in all those specialty appointments. Don't forget visits with bio parents. Basically, be prepared for your calendar to blow up.

3. Keep a binder of documents and a calendar of events. Prepare a binder for each child with all of your foster paperwork, medical reports (at every visit the doctor will fill out and sign a sheet for the child which you will scan to your agency or DCS), communication from the court, etc. It is so helpful to have everything organized in one spot! Similarly, start a specific calendar for your child to record appointments, visits with bio family (and missed visits), and other important events. This will provide a good reference should you need it later in their case.

4. Be careful of the battles you pick. If I could have given myself one piece of advice when we started fostering five years ago, it would be this: don't fight the food battle too soon! For the little boys who were with us for two weeks, I should have just fed them frozen pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets for goodness sakes! For the little girl who was with us for a month, I shouldn't have made her finish the bowl of chili--a peanut butter & jelly sandwich would have been just fine. If they end up staying with you long term, learning to eat a varied & healthy diet will come, but don't pressure them or yourself to get there right away. Similarly, don't use anything too precious. Put $10 Walmart sheets on the beds (with full coverage plastic mattress covers!). Use paper plates and plastic cups. Clear away all breakable or precious knickknacks--this way you can just let the kids be kids and lessen your own nagging and worry.

6. Make an acronym cheat sheet. Until you become immersed in the foster world lingo (don't worry--it will come!) make a reference sheet for yourself. FCM, CASA, DCS, CHINS, SNAP, CANS, CCDF . . . so many to learn! This document may be a good starting place.

7. Ask lots of questions and make connections. Dive in on behalf of your foster children. In the beginning, I reminded myself often that my job was to be the child's advocate--they needed me to be "annoying," to make demands on their behalf, to protect them. I also did my best to stay in good contact with all of the caseworkers via text and e-mail. Build rapport and connection whenever/however you can with all of the people involved in your child's life. Show them your appreciation, especially the case workers. They have a hard and thankless job most of the time (random gifts and thank you notes go a long way). Related: choose not to die on every hill! Carefully pick and choose your battles with all of the service providers. For instance, if they bring a child home early from every visit, and it is a problem for you, then let them know. But if it isn't a big deal since you're there anyway, then let it go.

8. Take care of yourself. Mental health/sanity days are essential! Go on dates with your husband! Let family and friends help you. If they offer to help, give them something specific to do--don't be embarrassed or feel guilty. When our family went from five to seven overnight, we were blessed with meals for three months, dinner and bedtime assistance when my husband was working, laundry-folding help, etc.--all so essential to our survival in those first few months. Also, find a support group of women on a similar journey. It truly is so encouraging and important to have friends who speak the language of foster care and who can provide guidance and friendship. Finally, don't forget about respite care, even if just for a couple of hours during the day or a weekend. This is a valuable resource--let yourself use it, especially if you have foster children with medical needs and you aren't able to ask friends and family for help.

Just a few more . . .

9. Utilize Kingdom's Kloset. So many times we had children come to us with little or no clothing. Please use the ministry of Kingdom's Kloset! At least to hold you over until you get a few per diem checks and can build an actual wardrobe. They will provide a sack of gently-used children's clothing (specific to the gender, size and season), usually dropped off at your doorstep within 24 hours. Such a wonderful gift! More information HERE.

10. Hair cuts are a no-no. Believe it or not, foster children's hair cannot be cut without biological parents' permission. A bit silly and ridiculous? Agreed. But it's the rule nonetheless. I've fought for this approval many times, but just be aware that it may take awhile. Remind yourself this decision may be the only bit of control a biological parent has in the life of their child and they often do not want to relinquish it--try to remember this with grace and patience.

11. Say YES! as much as you can. Another story at bedtime? Yes! More chips for lunch? Yes! Five more minutes outside? Yes! Even more important is to follow-through on that Yes. Be generous and willing to please, especially in those first few months of transition.

Mostly, I want to tell you that you can do it--Jesus will help you and you will need Him! Please reach out if you have questions or need someone to talk to. I love to share about our foster journey and provide encouragement if I can.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


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I am Barabbas

Today is the day of Preparation for Passover and usually there is joyful commotion on the streets of Jerusalem in anticipation for the festivities. But this morning is different. This morning the pulse outside my cell is restless, anxious, pent-up evil. Why are the Jews riled up so early this morning? I hear them shouting, chanting perhaps, but can’t quite recognize their strong words.

Suddenly, my door is thrown open and in the early morning light I am grabbed roughly. Is today the day of death? My punishment? How odd for this to happen right before Passover—usually the Romans want to avoid upsetting the Jews around their feasts. I thought I was ready for this moment—but how can one be ready. Renewed hatred for these Romans stirs within my soul. If only I could throw off controlling hands and make my revenge, my victory.

I am dragged to a palace and pushed before a crowd of angry men. Ah, this was the evil hum I heard earlier; this crowd is pulsing with intent. Their chants grow louder as another man is brought to stand beside me. Except I hardly can believe he is still standing—his flesh is torn, dripping blood, long thorns digging deep into his scull.

Around us discussion swirls between Roman Pilate and Jewish chief priests. “I see no basis for a charge.” . . . “Crucify him!” I can’t keep my eyes off of this man. Despite the flogging, he still seems calm, regal, even in control. I realize I am holding my breath, waiting to hear his name: Who is he? Why was I brought here to stand beside him?

Familiar charges pierce through the noise: insurrection, subversion, claiming to be the leader of the Jews—this man’s crimes sound similar to mine. Are we to be crucified together? It seems Pilate is confused about the truth of the accusations. Do I see fear in Pilate’s eyes, deep uncertainty in a man hardened by war? A battle of wills (and worlds) continues—the crowd is determined to hate this man. Pilate asks: “Why? What crime has he committed? He has done nothing to deserve death.” With one voice they respond: “Crucify him! Away with this man!”

I am steeling myself against feelings of fear and dread of the coming torture, when I hear Pilate say: “But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” Men shout back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” This is why I am here! His life or mine. Today one of us will be killed; the other set free. I am guilty; is he? His face is set like stone—determined, yet still a soft hint of compassion around the eyes. As the crowd chants louder and louder, “Crucify him!” he turns to look at me and I see love?

Events move in a haze: Pilate washes his hands at the judge’s seat. Soldiers mock and spit. Someone adjusts the ropes on my wrists . . . no, wait, they are loosening them. Releasing me. After all these years, my chains are gone. But that man. Where is he? The mob is pulsing and pushing. I am shoved aside as they surge forward. Cross beams jut above the crowd as the prisoners move toward the Hill, the place where traitors are crucified. By an inner force of curiosity and self-loathing, I follow the man.

There at Golgotha, I watch them crucify him. Hammering spikes into flesh—nails that should have been in my wrists and feet. A cross raised up in humiliating torture—the very cross meant for me. As he is lifted up, I see posted on the sign above his head, the place where crimes are listed: “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” I want to run in shame, but my feet are stuck here in the dirt in gratitude, watching him groan in agony. Jesus, the King, dying the death deserved by me.

And so I see myself in him—the guilty set free; the Innocent sacrificed.
I am Barabbas. Barabbas is me.