Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Her name is...

As many of you know, we are pursuing adoption of a little girl from Thailand. As you also may know, the process has been excruciatingly difficult. After 6 months of research, emails, and phone meetings with adoption agencies, we still do not have an agency to work with nor have we been able to file any paperwork (even though we meet ALL the requirements to adopt from Thailand!) It has been frustrating, confusing, and heartbreaking. There have been days I wanted to just quit.

But even in my emotionally exhausted state, I know we have to keep moving forward - and keep fighting until we find an open door. We have to keep speaking TRUTH and LIFE over this process --- wise advice from our mentor Michael.  A few months ago Michael encouraged us to go ahead and name our daughter, so that we could pray for her by name. He told me that God already knows who she is - and she is already ours - so we should pray for confirmation of a name, write it on our mirror, and pray for her everyday.

This really meant something to us, because we felt like God had given us a name from the very beginning. We had planned to wait to announce it until we were matched with her (and knew her Thai name, which we hope to incorporate in some way)... but we decided we weren't waiting anymore!

Her name is...

We have known it since the very beginning... as if God wrote it on both of our hearts. It just seemed perfect - short and sweet... easy for her to say and spell (and easy for other Thais to say because it doesn't have an R in it!)

God literally dropped it into my head one day right after we had decided to adopt. Rusty immediately fell in love with it... but I was initially hesitant. I loved the name but I always thought I'd name my daughter something a little more unique. But then I thought about all the incredible women with the name Kate. Women I admire like Katie Davis (Kisses from Katie) and Princess Kate (who wouldn't want to be named after a princess?!) Beautiful, accomplished women in Hollywood like Kate Winslet and Kate Beckinsale. And of course, the LONG list of exceptional women I am blessed to call friends who are named Kate or Katie! And the more I thought, the more I loved it...

But the REAL confirmation came when I looked up the Christian meaning of the name. This is what I found online...

origin :: Greek
meaning :: pure, clean, chaste

There are not any Kates or Katherines in the Bible, however, the name has a rich Christian historical heritage and likely originated with the Greek word katharos, which was translated as pure or clean in the New Testament.

Here are some examples of it used in the scriptural context;
Matthew 5:8,  John 15:3,  Titus 1:5,  Revelation 19:8,  Revelation 22:1

James 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

When I saw that this was the verse used as the example for "scriptural context", I couldn't believe my eyes! This is the verse that is my email signature. This is the verse that turned my world upside down in 2007, when I became passionate about orphan care and adoption. This is the verse that started The Sound of Hope. In many ways, this is the verse that has led us is leading us to our daughter.

And so, her name will be Kate Jackson. We would love it if you would all join us in praying for her by name. And as we pray, we will rest in the truth that this is God's plan and He will make a way for it. We eagerly wait for the day when our precious Kate is in our arms!

Kate's name on our bathroom mirror - along with Gia Huguley (in Korea), Esther Bice (in Ethiopia),  
Rowen Junkin (in Haiti), and Baby Stoves (in China). Now I just need to add Little Knowles (in the Bahamas) 
and Baby Barnette (in Korea)! Can't wait for the day our little girl can hang out with 
these precious friends from around the world!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Furniture Makeover :: Bringing Back Woodgrain

Today I've got a little bit of a different furniture makeover for you! This time, I didn't paint my piece - I decided to try my hand at bringing back the woodgrain of a badly damaged end table. I figured if I failed - I could always paint over my mess!

I started out with this $10 table I found at the Super Thrift Store in my hometown. My initial idea was to do chevrons on the square top and sell it - but when I brought it home I realized it had similar lines to our coffee table.

Though you can't see them here, it even had tiny metal casters like our coffee table!
{The Aiden from World Market - shown below}

It also filled the space between my 2 black chairs much better than my little purple table - so I decided to refinish it as an addition to our living room. (The purple table was sold to my friend Malerie for her little girl's room!)

I started by flipping it over and pulling the veneer off the bottom. It was in terrible shape - splitting everywhere - and you could see it even when the table was right side up. Luckily it was in bad enough shape that it came off pretty easily. I only had to use a knife on a couple of spots.

Next I sanded the bottom and wood-puttied a couple of chunks missing below the veneer (there were apparently multiple layers of wood and wood veneer).

Being the professional I am, I forgot to buy a wood putty knife (is that what they're called?) Lesson learned - a silver Christmas cheese knife will totally do the trick!

After that I flipped it over and took to sanding. Now let me say - hating sanding is the #1 reason I use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (no sanding required!) But just this once I thought I'd give it a try. I "roughed up" the whole piece with a medium grit sandpaper - sanding the top the most because it was the area with water rings. Had it not been a wood veneer piece, I probably would've sanded it more - but I was afraid I might sand a hole completely through the veneer. So, once it was pretty well sanded I took a swipe at adding wax.

I decided to restain this piece by using my Annie Sloan Dark Wax. After the first coat on the top I knew I hadn't sanded enough. The finish was really uneven because there were areas where I'd left the stain/sealant behind that turned a different color. I probably could have stopped here and tried to sand off the wax and more of the top - but again, I was afraid of sanding a hole in the veneer. So I continued on - waxing the whole piece and hoping for the best. I ended up doing 3 layers of dark wax (wiping them off with cheesecloth in between) on top - 1 layer of dark wax all over - and 1 layer of clear wax all over. And here's the finished piece!

The finish on the top is still uneven - but you really can't tell when I have my lamp, magazines, etc on it. (I'm thinking of adding a plant to the back right corner too!) Overall I think it looks way better than it did originally, and I love that the dark wax gave it a darker, richer finish all over.

This piece is such a great size, and I think it makes this little nook so much more functional! It's big enough to work as extra seating when we have get togethers  - you could totally fit drinks and plates on this for the 2 people sitting by it. I love the bottom shelf - it would be the perfect place for a basket of blankets! I also think it helps bring the wood tones from the rest of our living room into this space. You can see the other sitting area here... (before it was flooded that is!)

What do you think? Have you ever refinished a wood piece? Any tips for other DIYers of wood furniture? What kind of {easy to keep alive} plant should I buy for my new table?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The rains came down and the floods went up...

Does anyone else remember that song from their Vacation Bible School Days? Unfortunately it was in my head last week, as I was standing in GALOSHES my living room.

Yes, those are pink heart pajama pants tucked into my polka-dot galoshes. 
I didn't have time to change - we had to get our stuff moved quickly!

If you don't live in Alabama, then you may have missed the news of flooding in the Alabaster/Maylene/Helena areas last week. It wasn't anything bad enough to wash out roads (that I know of), but it did do damage to some businesses, churches, schools, and homes. As you can see from these pics, our home was one of those affected...

Our footprints from trying to move the furniture away from the flooding areas... 
everywhere we stepped was squishy! Blech!

Ripping out the soaked carpet the next day...

We're hoping to buy a house sometime next year, and we've been talking about how we might like a place with stained concrete floors on the main level. FYI - this is not what I meant...

As you can see, all the carpet had to be ripped up downstairs and all our belongings (except for the heavy furniture) had to be hauled upstairs. (Which means boxes/random items in almost every room). They also had to cut out areas of wet sheetrock, remove all the baseboards, and now we're waiting for them to dig around the foundation to fix the drainage issues (that caused the leaking/flooding) before they can replace/fix anything inside. Oh yeah - we also have de-humidifiers and fans running nonstop to deal with the additional moisture! Needless to say our home is chaotic right now - which is tough when you live/eat/sleep AND work from home full time!

We are anxious to get everything fixed, but all in all we have a lot to be thankful for. We are thankful that we are just renting this home (which means these repairs are covered by the landlord and are not an expense we have to worry about!)

We are thankful that we were HOME when this happened and not overseas - can you imagine coming home to this mess after it sat like this for a month?! What a nightmare that would've been!

We are thankful that none of our belongings were damaged - because we found out that our renter's insurance does NOT cover flooding! (If you're my friend on facebook - then you may have seen my panicked posts about PRAYING for the flooding to stop. Those were written when we realized that our insurance didn't cover damage AND our living room was flooding - on top of the garage and bonus room!) We had furniture for my "furniture makeovers" all over the garage and were able to move everything before it got wet. We had boxes upon boxes of Sound of Hope merch in our bonus room (which is where we store our non-profit supplies) and somehow ALL of it was spared (even the things in a wet cardboard box!) We had 1 box of books for our overseas Children's Libraries that got wet and were prepared to throw half of them away... but when we opened the box the donor had wrapped the books in plastic WalMart bags! Not even one was damaged! And then there was my wicker chest full of wedding memorabilia... my heart stopped when we picked it up and saw this on the carpet...

That's the outline of the wicker chest that had "melted" onto the wet carpet. The bottom of the chest was wet all the way through to the contents and I just knew they were ruined. Inside was my wedding veil, tiara, cards from friends and family, invitations - everything! Somehow, only one cardboard box inside was soaked through - but I knew what was in that box. It was the box my mom had put our ringbearer pillow in... the pillow she made from fabric from her wedding dress. I almost cried when I pulled it out and found it wrapped in a plastic bag too!!! What are the odds of every single box that got wet having the contents wrapped in plastic? Talk about God being in the details!

And so - even in the FLOOD we have seen how He provides. (Pretty biblical, huh?) And even though I hate the chaos we're surrounded by right now, I am pretty excited about getting new carpet (this older rental home desperately needed it!) Now I just need to remember to count my blessings as we wait for the repairs to be finished!

Monday, July 23, 2012

She Said YES!

Want to know what we did over the weekend? It was a pretty exciting Sunday to say the least - and after keeping "The Plan" quiet for over 3 months I am THRILLED that we can finally let the cat out of the bag!

My baby bro and his precious girlfriend fiancé Michelle are ENGAGED!!!

Want to hear how it all went down? Of course you do. Let me tell you - the Bennett boys are pretty great at planning EPIC proposals. My little brother Brent proposed to his wife by hitting a knee on the swinging bridge at Rock City in TN. (Still SO glad he didn't drop the ring! Talk about risky!) And what did my baby brother do? Well, he carved this into a tree on my family's land...

... while he waited for the perfect date (7/22/2012 to be exact, apparently 7 & 22 are two of Michelle's favorite numbers) to propose.  Then he bought the most gorgeous ring, and went to GREAT lengths to keep it a secret from her for months....

He asked for her Daddy's permission 3 weeks ago, and then planned a trip to visit a different church Sunday so he'd be sure she was dressed up the day of. When he picked her up Sunday morning, he told her to grab her boots b/c they needed to get a game camera out of the woods for a friend after church. Considering he does that sort of thing all the time, she didn't get suspicious...

The game camera was strategically positioned to hide the heart in the tree.

Jaron talked to us months ago about videoing and photographing the whole process - so we were READY! Saturday we did a "dry run" to time everything out.... and Sunday morning we got up, got ready, and waited on the phone call that he was out of church and headed to the woods. (He had changed my number in his phone to "Ben" - the name of the friend he was "supposedly" getting the game camera for!) We drove into the woods, hid our car, and hiked into the spot.

Here we are with all our gear...

2 tripods, 4 cameras, a cordless microphone (that was clipped to the tree) a black shirt (to camoflauge my camera), THE RING, rubber boots (in case we stepped on a snake) and a cooler of water (in case he got delayed).

Then we set up the ring behind the tree, clipped the microphone to the bark, did a quick sound check, and crawled into our blinds!

Rusty in his blind....

Now you KNOW if my girly girl self would crawl into a teeny, bug infested blind (where there could be snakes or creepy crawly things waiting) then I must LOVE not only my brother, but the precious girl he's engaged to!

Me in my blind... trying not to wonder if there is anything else in there with me!

Then we set up all of our equipment and waited. When I heard the two of them walking into the woods, adrenaline got the best of me. I was so afraid something might go wrong and we might miss something (either in video or pictures), and nervous and excited for the two of them. My hands were shaking terribly! Then (as you'll see in the video) Michelle got curious about the hunting blinds and tried to look in mine. My heart was pounding.... but Jaron quickly got her attention back by hitting one knee!

You can see it all unfold in the video here! I was manning Camera #1 (wide front shot) while taking photos, and Rusty had Camera #2 (tight on Michelle's face).

After she said YES (or, rather, shook her head yes through tears) and Jaron revealed our locations, we crawled out to hug them and take some posed pictures. The lighting was terrible (super bright in spots because it was midday - super dark in others because of the woods) but I think we managed some pretty good shots. Maybe I have a future in engagement photography?! I LOVE the way this first photo turned out!

After the posed pictures we headed back home to share the news. When they walked in the front door there was a CONGRATS sign waiting for them!

I'm pretty proud of this little sign that I made from black textured paper, stencils, white paint, gold glitter paint, and rhinestones! I think the "O" made into a diamond ring really added a cute detail!

Mom & I also set up this little area for them with pictures, flowers, cupcakes (with engagement rings on top), wedding magazines, and a SHE SAID YES! sign! (I made the sign as a "dry erase board" by framing silver glitter paper and writing on the glass in front of it!)

Think my mom is excited?!?!

(Please ignore how terrible my hair looks - I had just climbed out of a 100 degree hunting blind 
in the middle of the woods and only had time to change my clothes! Ha!)

All in all, I think it turned out to be a pretty perfect proposal. Jaron did such a great job thinking of all the details, and we told him that he made the smartest decision of his life when he picked Michelle! We are so excited for them and I am THRILLED to be getting another SIL!

*For those of you who know Michelle & Jaron - feel free to post your own Congratulations in the comment section!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Furniture Makeovers :: A Chest or Two

I have been a busy bee with my paintbrush (it's been nice to have a hobby to take my mind of this) and today I've got 2 new furniture makeovers to show you (one of which is for sale! Get excited!!!) We'll start with the piece I re-did for my mom when we went home for the 4th of July!

Mom found this cedar chest at the thrift store, and decided it was the perfect thing for the foot of her bed. She'd been talking about getting a bench so she and my dad had a place to sit and put their shoes on, and this one was perfect (because it's a bench + storage!) It was real cedar and in good shape - except for the finish.

I know you can't tell from that top pic, but there were lots of nicks and scratches in it from use, dribbles of black stain down one side, and red and blue paint in several places. On top of those issues - my mom hated the color of the wood and stain. My aunt warned her not to paint it, and my dad swore he would refinish it and stain it darker... but my parent's basement is full of Dad's project (he is Mr. Fixit and always has too much to do!) and we knew it would be a while before this one would get done. So Mom & I took matters into our own hands! (Sorry Dad & Aunt Tammy!)

[For the record - I adore real wood pieces! But if the finish really needs work and the piece doesn't have any sentimental value, then I say paint it! What's the use of throwing another terrible piece of wood furniture "in need of work" in your basement, when a coat of paint will make it beautiful (and useable) again?]

It only took an hour or two to give this chest a couple of coats of paint. Mom was shocked at how well the paint covered (and how quickly it dried!). It got dark pretty soon after that, so we waited to wax it until the next day so we could use the natural lighting to get the color just right. I got up and distressed the piece first (just the edges), followed by a coat of clear wax and dark wax on top. And now Mom has a beautiful bench for the master bedroom!

The 2nd makeover I have is a different kind of chest - a chest-of-drawers to be exact! This piece was once my great-grandmother's, and it has been everywhere with me. College, living with my roomies in Georgia, our first home in Michigan, and now back to Sweet Home Alabama! I was a little sad to see it go, so I went ahead and gave it a makeover so I could choose between keeping it and this piece for our bedroom.

As you can see, it turned out BEAUTIFULLY! I painted it Coco and Old White, and it's been aged with dark wax to give it an antique look. It took several days of thinking and comparing before we could choose between the 2 chests - but in the end the lighter one just worked better in our room. 

And so, this beauty is now FOR SALE! If you're in the Birmingham area (or willing to drive here) then this could be yours! She would make a great statement piece for a master bedroom, guestroom, or nursery. You can check out the Craigslist ad for more pictures and info! And if you tell me you saw this blog post, I'll even give you a $10 discount! :)