It's true! We're getting back to our country roots. We just bought a house and 15 acres about 20 minutes from our current home and are doing a lot of remodeling to get it ready for our family. The house was previously owned by sweet friends of ours from church. We had visited them many times and each time fell more in love with the peacefulness and quiet of the country and the charm of the home.
Before the remodel it had one bedroom downstairs with a bathroom that only had a shower, a small kitchen, stairs in the middle of the open room, and an open loft upstairs with a sort of half bath. Our (planned) changes will include tearing out the stairs and cedar poles, replacing them with a spiral staircase in the corner, adding another bedroom downstairs, adding a full bath with the awesome 1920s pedestal tub pictured below, and turning the existing bathroom into a laundry room. We will completely gut the kitchen and replace it with painted cabinets and a long island. All windows and doors will be replaced, AC will be added, all horizontal walls will be painted, and the floor will be refinished and stained. We will make the loft our master bedroom and add a bathroom with shower and closet. I've already picked out paint colors, countertops, some lighting, tile, backsplash, and appliances and I'm having a lot of fun trying to create a home that will be comfortable for our family to grow in and for family and friends to enjoy. Also pictured below are the chickens we inherited. After we finish the inside, we will eventually get to redoing the outside, replacing the cedar posts, landscaping, fencing in a front yard, and adding a garden. Jeff and I have big plans for this place!
I'm going to add photos as progress is made with demo and remodel. My sweet husband is working so hard to do a lot of the work himself. Stay tuned!
How do I start a post that is meant to describe the unbelievable way God shook my world during my week of serving the homeless, poor, and oppressed in the Tenderloin of San Francisco? Words really do fail me and I'm frustrated that I'm not able to paint with words the kind of picture that will forever be etched into my mind. When our group returned on Saturday night, we knew we would be faced with the question, "How was your trip," and that it wasn't something we were going to be able to answer with one word or sentence. Many of us hadn't really processed all we'd learned and been through and maybe still are. But, I want to share the story of my experience and all that God taught me. I know that there's so much I won't be able to fit into a blog post. But, I'll do my best and start at the beginning...
It all started with the discipleship class Jeff and I took at our church last spring entitled "Experiencing God." This class taught us so much about the work God is doing all around us and that we are all invited to join Him. For a while now, I've felt like I'm kind of in a rut in my walk with Christ because I spend so much of my time as a stay at home mom in my little Christian bubble here in College Station. Don't get me wrong - I love my bubble. I have awesome friends and church family, am blessed to stay home to raise my children, use a Christian homeschool curriculum and group to teach Ansley, take my daughters to a Christian dance studio... The problem is that I became convicted that I was too comfortable. That's not what this life is about. Yes, they are sweet blessings from God, but He said that we are not to become so comfortable that we just blend in. As believers and followers of Christ we are called to go and make disciples, to share the beautiful news of what Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection mean for us. Jeff and I were rocked to the core during this class. He signed up to go on his first ever mission trip to SE Asia and I signed up for San Francisco. Right before the trip I began doubting whether or not God could really use me on this trip and I began reading through Romans to prepare. The verse in all of Romans that spoke to me the most was Romans 10:14-15, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" Through this verse, God encouraged me so much.
God brought together an incredible group of 17 people from two churches (ours and our sister church). We didn't all know each other and spent the car ride to the airport getting to know each other better and telling our testimonies. By the end of the trip we were all so close that they feel like brothers and sisters to me. We left Monday morning, August 23, and arrived in San Fran later that afternoon. We rode the BART (kind of like a subway) a beautiful part of downtown area full of gorgeous architecture, expensive stores, and lots of tourists. We would be working with City Impact (more about that later) and the main building we were staying in was only a few blocks away. As we walked toward the Tenderloin (TL) the scenery immediately changed. The streets and sidewalks were filthy, everything smelled, people littered the sidewalks. Immediately I was out of my comfort zone.
City Impact is a ministry that serves the poor and homeless in the TL. The TL is one square mile in downtown San Francisco where 37,000 people live. There are many homeless and also some who live in SRO (single room occupancy) buildings that are government run. There is crime, drugs, gang activity, violence, prostitution. A lot of in your face sin. City Impact (CI) has several buildings in the TL, including the main building we stayed in that also has classrooms, the Rescue Mission, the Thrift Store, a school, and a new building on Taylor Street (I don't think I'll ever forget that particular street). God is working to do some pretty amazing stuff through CI and their service to the community. They are able to meet needs, be a light in the very dark area, and most importantly share hope with the people of the TL by telling them about Jesus.
In order to not make this post too long, I'll just give some highlights of the trip and I'd love to talk more one on one with anyone who has questions. After arriving on Monday, we went on a prayer walk around the TL, stopping at the sex club just right next door to pray, and then the other CI buildings. Our leader, Ashley, took us just a few blocks up the street and we stepped into Union Square, a beautiful, expensive, and very touristy area. We could not believe that this was all just outside the TL. On Tuesday, I worked in the Rescue Mission serving coffee and pastries to the homeless in the morning. The Rescue Mission was my favorite place to serve because I loved showing the people there respect and kindness in serving them and getting to have some really neat conversations. That afternoon I went on meal deliveries, where we were given boxed salads and sandwiches, split into boy/girl couples, and sent to an SRO to knock on doors and offer free food, prayer, and the gospel. I was very eye opening to see how the people lived in these buildings and I became very thankful of the luxuries I have very quickly. There were some pretty great conversations and prayers during this time and it was something I really enjoyed. After dinner, our team went to do street evangelism and were given small bags of chips to offer people we saw on the street. We then tried to engage them in conversations, pray with them, and talk to them about Jesus. Wednesday I served in the Thrift Store and met some great people, one of which I learned was a new believer of only two months and I was able to give her my Bible. That was a huge blessing to me.
Thursday. This day will forever stick out in my mind because our group witnessed spiritual warfare like I never have before and probably never will again. That night we went to do street evangelism as we had Tuesday night. Because Tuesday night went so well and wasn't as terrifying as I'd imagined it would be, and because by this point in the trip I was feeling a lot more comfortable with approaching people on the street, I wasn't nearly as nervous as I was on Tuesday. I joked with the team that TL Mallory was so much different than the stay at home mom I left behind in College Station. As soon as we stepped foot onto the sidewalk, we were met with anger. One man in particular ripped the box of chips out of my friend's arms, threw it in the street, and started running around and yelling. A group on the corner yelled obscenities at us, called us names, screamed that we were going to hell in our faces. We finally made it through the crowd and decided to go around the block and back into the building to pray. Our leader decided we were going back out, but this time to the police station since it was safer and we would let people come to us. While standing on the corner at the police station and talking to two detectives, we were told to get across the street and away from the station because a group protesting the Ferguson, Missouri happenings was marching toward us. We were able to get across and stand near our building to watch the march go by. It was heart breaking watching the police escort this angry group that was yelling at them and looked to be on the verge of violence. Just after they passed, a friend and I had the opportunity to speak to a Muslim man that was crossing the street. We spoke for about 10 minutes about who Jesus was and what the Bible says about him. It was a respectful conversation, but definitely the first time I've ever been able to share the Truth with a Muslim. All of this happened within the span of a couple of hours. Needless to say, by the time we all met inside our building to debrief and pray, we were exhausted and overwhelmed, but so thankful for the opportunities the Lord had given us to share with people and that He kept us safe.
On Friday morning we each served CI for the last time. I got to spend the morning vacuuming and cleaning the carpet of a classroom, which was actually a restful and easy time after the hard work of the days prior. In the afternoon we all took a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf, where we saw the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Bay Bridge. After the time spent in the TL, I think our appreciation of the beauty of it all was heightened. We had so much fun exploring the pier and sightseeing.
My life was totally changed in the week that I spend in the TL serving the homeless. I learned not to judge and stereotype because I saw the stronghold the devil and addiction have on so many of those people. I learned to love despite the blatant and ugly sin that surrounded us. I learned about showing respect and giving dignity to the people who live much different lives than mine. I learned that no matter the exterior, these are all people with a soul. Jesus died for them, too. I saw so much heartache, despair, and hopelessness, but was given a tremendous gift in being able to share the love and hope of Christ. Even though darkness is present there, God has placed City Impact right in the middle to be a bright light. I know souls are being saved and God will continue to do mighty work in the TL. And, I've brought what I learned home with me, so I pray that the fire God ignited in my heart for those who don't know Him will not die, but push me to do His work here.
To my sweet son,
Oh, how my life has changed since becoming the mom of three and the mother of a boy. I could have never imagined I would fall so deeply in love with a son since I just felt like a mom of girls. Girly things are what I'm good at...coordinating outfits, bows, princesses, pink. But there's something about the way my baby boy grins at me, lays his head on my shoulder, and pats my back that just melts my heart. I could hold and cuddle you all day long. And the funny thing is that I know it won't be long before you're much bigger than I am and I'm watching you help your daddy outside and I'll miss being able to pick you up and smell your sweet baby smell that hasn't yet turned to that of a wet puppy. I sincerely hope that you turn out to be just like your daddy. He's got so much to teach you about being a man and there's no one better for you to learn from.
Here's more about you at one:
-You are just shy of 20 lbs.
-Every time we're in public you get compliments on your big, beautiful blue eyes.
-You eat ALL the time and are constantly hungry. You out eat Heidi easily.
-You love to eat anything off the floor or ground. I'm not even going to list here the things I have found in your mouth...
-You crawl so fast, stand on your own until you realize it, and walk behind your push toy. You're so close to walking on your own!
-We had a small birthday party for you with your friend, Ewan, to celebrate both of you turning one. You enjoyed your cake and made a huge mess. I can't wait to see the messes you both get into as you grow.
-You are still pretty independent and will roam all around the house on your own.
-You've recently started giggling and playing games with me. You think you're so funny.
-Weaning and sleeping through the night has been most difficult with you. We're not there yet, but soon!
I love you, Graham Cracker! You're such a sweet blessing to us.
Sweet, spunky little Heidi Reese:
What a funny, delightful, entertaining little thing you are! You fill my days with laughter and are just so sweet...most of the time. Here's a little more about you now:
-You're still petite. You are true to your age with clothing size and can even wear some size 2. You've got a cute little pixie look to you with short blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. You've kept the dimple in your cheek and also have a couple more near your nose when you smile.
-Your favorite thing to do is whatever Ansley is doing. You love to agitate her and are really good at ignoring her commands when you're playing together.
-You love to cuddle with Mommy and are very loving to everyone around you, telling us you love us an endless number of times throughout the day. You're especially fond of your baby brother and I'm constantly having to tell you to get off of him and to give him space.
-This year you started ballet and I loved seeing you dressed up in your pink tights and leotard. You were pretty funny to watch too. Most of the time you fluttered around the room in your own world and sometimes ran up to kiss the mirror.
-You're so loud!
-One of my favorite things about you is the funny way you say different words. Ansley, Daddy, and I get a big kick out of the way you say "maked" for naked, "stunk" for skunk, "toison" for poison, and "wallermellon" for watermelon. nd your little voice is just so cute.
-You've gotten pretty clingy to me lately and I guess it's a middle child thing. Funny thing is that you get most of my attention.
I love you, sweet Heidi Reese! What a fun adventure these past three years have been.
**These birthday posts are about two months late, but better late than never. Right?
Where have the last five years gone? You have grown from a baby into a beautiful little girl before my eyes. Here's a little bit about you at this age:
-You're still super tall and in the 95th percentile for height. You've kept your beautiful blonde hair so far and just got your first haircut a few days ago. There wasn't much to cut and it didn't change your look much, but you enjoyed every minute of it. You're also starting to get little freckles on your nose and cheeks and I'm going to claim those as coming from me.
-We just finished your first official year of homeschooling (prekindergarten) with Classical Conversations. We had such a great school year and you really enjoyed our time at home and going to "school" one day a week to learn, do science experiments and fine arts, and play with your friends. You also started a reading curriculum and have started reading short vowel words on your own. We're keeping it up this summer and you will learn long vowels in a few days.
-You were also involved in Awanas at church and began dance. Dancing is definitely something you love to do.
-You're personality is so sweet, compassionate, and loving. You're also pretty mature and responsible for your age and I can count on you to obey and be a big help with your sister and brother. You have a great imagination and love to play with your Barbies, dress up, and pretend you're Elsa. You and Heidi spend most of the day playing together, with a little bit of fighting.
-You are still so girly and love to wear dresses and skirts.
-But, you've also started helping your Daddy more and really enjoyed helping him combine the wheat recently. Daddy even said you fell asleep while riding around with him.
You are such a blessing to our family, Ansley. We love you so much!
My sweet Graham,
At 9 months you:
-Finally started officially crawling. All over the place. You're so different from the girls because you will go explore the house all by yourself and you get into everything! It's also different this time around because I'm having to really make sure all the little toys like Barbie accessories are out of your reach.
-You weighed 18 lbs 13 oz at your checkup. You have quite an appetite and love puffs. Little by little I'm giving you real food like bananas, avacados, turkey, bread.
-You started pulling up to your knees.
-You're talking a lot more and say baba, dada, and mama, but I don't think there's any meaning attached to them.
-You're still waking up at 1-2 times at night to nurse. I'm ready to sleep through the night again, but I know that will come all too soon as you continue to grow. So, I'll take this sweet time with my baby boy alone in the quiet of the night.
-You love being outside.
At 10 months you:
-Just started pulling up to standing this weekend! It's your new favorite exercise.
-Had your first really bad virus last week. Your temperature got so high and you were sick and wouldn't sleep for about 5 days. It was so scary, but I secretly cherished the time that I got to rock and sleep with you on my chest.
-Were recently given watermelon and blueberries for the first time and loved them.
-Experienced the first girl slumber party of many to come with your big sisters. You also had your first Chuck E. Cheese experience.
-Love bath time.
-Experienced your first swim at the pool today. I can't wait to see how much fun you have at the beach next month and I can't believe I'll be bringing my third child to that house in Florida!
-Laugh so hard when you think someone is chasing you.
-Have many nicknames: Graham Cracker, Buddy, Little Love, Blue
What a precious blessing you are to this family, Graham. I can't believe you're almost one!
-Sitting on your own!
-Eating like a champ
-Rocking on hands and knees
-Laughing at sisters
-Trying every day to learn to crawl. Have started rocking and lounging forward to reach toys.
-Saying mamamama and it's so cute!
-Eating three meals and day, plus snacks of baby puffs. You still prefer pureed baby food over regular food.
-Transitioning to two naps a day
-You're such a sweet, happy little boy!
Today was your six month appointment with the doctor. Where have the last six months gone? You have brought so much joy to this family already. The way your face lights up when you look at me melts my heart. You are full of sweetness and are happy all the time. It's been fun to watch the dynamic of our family change since we added a little boy to the mix and I'm excited to see your daddy teach you what it means to be a man. Here's more about you at six months old:
-You are 27 inches (50th percentile) and 16 lbs 9 oz (25th percentile).
-You are cutting both bottom teeth and that has really impacted your sleeping. You're waking every 3-4 hours at night.
-You had your first taste of solid food this month. So far you've had cereal, bananas, pears, green beans, carrots, and apples. You're not very interested in food yet, but do a pretty good job of getting most of the food down. You've also had Mum Mums, but aren't really a fan.
-You're taking three naps a day.
-You roll all over the floor and are sometimes getting on your knees. I think that crawling is soon to come. You're also sitting with only a little support.
-You like car rides. I never thought I'd say that about any of my children.
-Your hair. I never thought I'd have a child with as much of it. And it sticks straight up. I love that fuzzy hair!
I also wanted to write about what daily life looks like now that we're a family with three kiddos so that I'll remember these days when I look back. Most seem to fly by because we have a busy routine each day. The week is full of school work, workout at the church, playing with friends, Ansley's school, church and Cubbies, and now dance for both girls. Sometimes I get adventurous and take all three of you to the grocery store or Target. We go to the playground down the street a lot, have recently started going on bike rides, and visit the library. You are always so easy to take anywhere because you love getting out of the house and seeing new things. You've even been to the movies to see Frozen and did great.
Graham, you're just such a delight and blessing. God has blessed our family way more than I could have ever dreamed. We love you!