An Easy Makeover: Updating Our Living Room with a New Area Rug

While much of my decorating energy has been funneled toward preparing the nursery (more on that soon!!), our living room also got some much-needed attention recently.

For a long time, we’ve had a blue rag rug that sat under our coffee table. It was there in our first apartment and then again in our second. So it’s no surprise that we followed tradition and put it in the same spot in our house.

But as the living room has fallen into place—with my media-cabinet overhaul and the new buffet along the wall, the rug was begging for an update. It was too small for the space and the color was quite a bit darker than anything else in the room. It simply didn’t fit.

Here’s what it looked like before:


So for quite some time, I’d been looking for a replacement, shopping in stores and poking around online. But if you’re looking for something that doesn’t involve dark reds or browns or an oriental pattern, most of what’s out there will leave you pretty disappointed.

I was about to give up when I came across Rugs USA, which has a huge assortment of area rugs that you can browse by category (contemporary, animal print, shag, etc.) or color. I went straight to the contemporary category and fell in love with the variety to choose from:

Plus, they’re almost always running a sale so even a rug that may originally run $250 will sometimes be marked down to $100, particularly around the holidays. (I’d recommend signing up for their email sales alerts to know when their big sales take place—I’ve seen them offer up to 75% off!)

I got the chance to review one of their rugs and ended up picking out the 5x8 size of their Homespun Moroccan Trellis Area Rug in blue:

I thought it would draw together the dusty blue hues of the couch cover and the botanical prints well. And when the rug arrived—days later—the color shown on the site was almost identical to the one I unrolled in my living room. Plus, it’s 100% wool and hand hooked, so there’s no shedding to worry about and still cushy underfoot.

I put it into place in front of my couch and, after giving the coffee table a quick makeover too with a darker stain (so that it wasn't quite as garishly orange), the living room seemed that much more pulled together:


I love it and how it really ties the entire living room together. What do you think?!

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Anticipating the Unknown

I have no idea how it has happened, but somehow, I'm already two-thirds of the way through this pregnancy. Everyone tells you that time flies once you have children, but I am convinced it's in warp-speed already! With three months to go and plenty still on my to-do list, I have to fight from feeling overwhelmed by it all.But things are slowly coming together as we prepare for this baby of ours. For Thanksgiving we went back to Ohio, where we got to see many

I have no idea how it has happened, but somehow, I'm already two-thirds of the way through this pregnancy. Everyone tells you that time flies once you have children, but I am convinced it's in warp-speed already! With three months to go and plenty still on my to-do list, I have to fight from feeling overwhelmed by it all.

But things are slowly coming together as we prepare for this baby of ours.

For Thanksgiving we went back to Ohio, where we got to see many of our family and friends one last time before the baby comes. I still cannot fathom that, even as the gifts and teensy-tiny baby clothes mount up. People say that once you start accumulating all those baby things, it will start to sink in. But I don't really think it will until she's actually here, until we get to actually meet her and hold her and get to know her personality.

It's a funny thing because I can see her squirm beneath my skin, I can feel her kick and move about. And still, she doesn't feel real. Yet.

But I think that's okay, to lay aside the expectations and admit I have no idea what it's going to be like, except that it's going to be greater and more lovely and harder and more demanding than anything else we've experienced yet. At it's essence, that's the gift of life for us all. And the gift of giving life to this child of mine, whose arrival we await.

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What I'm Currently Reading: Jesus, A Theography

For the past month or so, I have been reading Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, which I received to review from BookSneeze. One of the first things that attracted me to this title was how the authors pointed out the importance of it being a “theography”: combining “historical Jesus studies with biblical theology, crafting together one breathtaking saga that tells the Jesus story in both Old and New Testaments. This flagship book demonstrates clearly that every bit of Scripture is part of the same stunning drama, what the authors refer to as the theography of Jesus Christ.”

It’s a different kind of biography of Jesus, looking at how he ties into every inch of the Bible, from the creation story (and how it reflects different aspects of Jesus’ divine purpose) through Revelation. And one of my favorite things about it is how rich it is, digging into each aspect so that I’m practically underlining every passage or my eyes are being opened to some new insight on every page. Plus, it is highly researched so that everything is footnoted (thousands of footnotes!) so that you can dig even deeper if you like.

Because it’s so deep, it’s one of those books you have to linger over, so that even though I’ve been reading it for the past month or so as a guide during my quiet time (and then reading through the Scriptures referenced for myself), I’m not even 50 pages in. There’s simply so much to savor and take in!

It’s truly a captivating read and has been incredible at showing me how certain themes are repeated throughout the Bible (such as how the parting of water—from the creation story to the Red Sea to baptism—is used as a symbol of bringing new life from death or void). So that I walk away—to do the dishes or something else mundane—and all I can do is shake my head in awe and say, “God, you are so smart!” It literally baffles me how intertwined this story is and I love that this book helps bring all those delicate mysteries and intricacies to light—making it one I highly recommend and can't wait to continue reading and savoring!

Find Jesus: A Theography on Amazon. (You can also read more about this book on the author's website, where you can also download the introduction and listen to interviews with the authors.)

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My Sixth Month of Pregnancy (and the End of My Second Trimester)

We’re rounding the corner on this pregnancy, with only days left in my second trimester. Had it not been for all the time I spent in the hospital, then I would have agreed with all the sources who say that the second trimester is the best so far. The nausea and exhaustion of my first trimester was gratefully absent, and (when I wasn’t recovering from my kidney episode) I felt pretty normal and able to do much of everything I’d done before.

(By the way, the end of my fifth month of pregnancy fell while I was in the hospital so I skipped posting an update that month.)

Here’s a quick run-down of how the last few weeks or so have fared:

THE BABY. She is now currently about the size of (evidently) “a large zucchini,” weighing around 1.5 to 2 pounds and measuring 14 inches long. She is moving around as much as ever, and I’ve gotten quite used to all her nudges. I think that’ll be something I might miss, though I also imagine if they start getting more forceful then I’ll probably be glad to have my insides back to myself again once she’s born!

I’ve now got a noticeable bump and have officially graduated to maternity pants. I held off for a long time, until about 24 weeks before I finally gave in, and I haven’t looked back since! (If you want to see a review of my favorite maternity jeans, click here.) I also purchased a maternity support belt because I’ve started having some lower back pains and have heard that can help relieve it. And, for fun, I bought some new winter boots using a bunch of Amazon gift codes I’d saved up from using the search engine Swagbucks, which awards you points for online searches you do that you can then cash in for gift cards and prizes. (If you’re not familiar with Swagbucks, you can find out more about it here.) I figure they’ll probably be my last fun splurge for a little while at least, with most of our resources funneling toward the baby, but thanks to all those gift codes, the boots were a steal and I’ve been loving wearing them!

We have started collecting things for the baby, starting with her nursery (which I’ll be sharing an update and sneak peek of soon!). We’ve got the walls painted, crib and dresser assembled, curtains ordered. It’s slowly coming together and getting ready for her arrival in a couple of months! I’ve also started picking up things for her when I’m able to find a good deal, like really cheap used books on Amazon (also purchased with my Swagbucks!) and this cute, gender-neutral onesie.

BODY CHANGES. My body continues to grow; I'm now at the point where if I stand up straight, I can no longer see my toes! That visual has really reinforced how far we've come—and how close we're getting toward the end! My skin has also become extra dry, so I've had to take to using more moisturizer than usual to combat it. And finally, my belly button is officially losing shape, stretching out and on the verge (I imagine) of flipping out.

PHYSICALLY. Pretty good. I ended up picking up a cold from my husband which left me down-and-out for a few days last week (runny nose, sneeze, cough) but now I'm feeling better. Other than that, I've been feeling pretty good, with a pretty healthy energy level that's allowed me to feel normal again, although I've still been clocking a lot of early bedtimes and afternoon naps!

However, I have noticed that I have become ever-so-clumsy in the past couple of weeks. I’ve chipped dishes, accidentally squirted ketchup onto myself instead of my plate, missed the table when I set my glass down (resulting in water spilled all over the floor), walking into walls. It really has been ridiculous. Fortunately, nothing disastrous has occurred so we’ve just been laughing over the episodes which sound straight out of a bad sitcom or something.

I also was able to do some follow-up tests to check on how well my kidney was healing and the doctor was pleased to announce that it appears that my kidney function is completely restored! Hallelujah! I’d been feeling well for quite some time, but it’s nice to have the tests back that up, too. So hopefully we won’t have any more medical issues until it’s time to have the baby!

PREPARING FOR BABY. There's still a lot on my list of things to do (like research hiring a doula, schedule a birthing class, finish the nursery, etc.) but I feel pretty good about everything that's to come. Someone asked me the other day if I felt ready yet. The truth is that I don't, but only because I have no idea what it will be like. However I'm looking forward to learning—even the hard and long and frustrating parts that will come with it. For now, I have a pretty good peace about everything that awaits us!

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Behind the Blog: Three Years Down

I'm pleased to introduce you to one online friend of mine, Brittany, who blogs at Three Years Down.  She was one of the first advertisers to sign up on Life Blessons, so I wanted to take some time to spotlight her story and what you can expect to find her writing about, especially now as she's just starting a new chapter in her life in Seattle!

(By the way, here is one of my favorite recent posts of hers, where she shares about how she was willing to be vulnerable in front of a room full of 200 people to confess one of her greatest fears and the grace God showed her there as they rallied around her in His love. Read it.)

Also, if you are interested in advertising on Life Blessons, I am currently accepting sponsors for December. You can find out details, rates as well as my blog statistics here. Plus if you book three months at once, you'll get a discount. Email me if you're interested!

Please tell us a little about yourself and why you started your blog.
My name is Brittany. I am a recently single lawyer, who God just uprooted from Nevada and placed in Seattle. {It's all a crazy blur right now!} I started my blog in law school as a way to procrastinate. These days it's a way to relax after working all day, and connect with my "online friends."

What kinds of things will people find you writing about on your blog? 
I write a lot about faith and life. You will find posts about my faith journey, singleness, and I predict, what it's like to take the bar exam a second time.&

What are your favorite posts to write about?
My favorite posts right now a brief recaps of the Influence Conference, which is a blogging/faith conference I attended in October. It was a great experience for both the strategy of blogging and the real life impact Jesus has.

What about blogging do you most enjoy?
I LOVE the relationships that blogging builds. I have "met" so many incredible and inspiring women through this little hobby of mine. Everyone has been super encouraging about my recent move and the crazy adventures I've been on in the last two months. 

Do you have any advice for anyone who is interested in starting a blog or is still new to blogging?
Read Carmen's series on Better Blogging! Seriously! I reference it all the time.

What are your goals for the future of your blog?
I am actually considering a new blog, but praying about it. We'll see where that takes me! Something I'd definitely like to work on is monetizing. I currently accept sponsors and do some affiliate links, but it isn't anything too fruitful. I would like to be more intentional about making money out of my blog, while still remaining true to my voice and purpose.

Click here to visit Brittany's blog, Three Years Down. And find out more about advertising on Life Blessons here.

I Took A Walk This Afternoon...

There are days that sometimes seem to start off with an overwhelming sense of urgency, all for no apparent reason. I wake up and as I walk from room to room, I find myself presented at a to-do list that grows with every step, turning into a wild-haired beast skulking in the corner by the time I’ve made it to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water.

I look around me and The Things That Must Be Done snarl back: Do dishes. Make salsa. Respond to emails. Remember to call so-and-so back. Mail letter. Update this month’s budget. Water plants. Prep tonight’s dinner. Start writing my next freelance article. Read Bible. Make bed. Finish painting bathroom. Watch Netflix DVD so I can mail it back tomorrow.

It goes on and on, and with every step, I feel I’m gasping for air.

Some days, that’s where I find myself and I honestly have no idea how I ended up here.

But I know what I must do next, even when it seems the last possible option, when everything is screaming at me, Do this now! You must tackle this! Don’t wait before you do this!

I stop.

I breathe.

I put on my shoes and I go for a walk around the neighborhood. I marvel at all the leaves swirling in the yards around ours. I venture down the road and chuckle as a little mutt of a dog scampers toward me with a friendly bark to say, “Hello!”

I keep walking, past the house that reminds of a castle with the turret in the front yard, and smile when I make my way to the end of our street and watch the horses grazing in the yard (seriously), with a picturesque pond in the distance. (Maybe someday I'll befriend the family so I can use these moments to drink in the vista from the bench on the edge of the water.)

I walk back and make my way up our driveway, corralling sticks and branches that have littered the yard. I stack them in a pile and I unlock the front door, coming back into this house of mine, which is now a completely different place.

It’s funny how not doing that which you feel you must do is the thing that you need to do most. How the right move doesn’t always make sense, how what sets you free might be that which feels most foolish. And yet, that could not be more from the truth.

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My First Pair of Maternity Pants

I’d put off getting any maternity clothes as long as possible. Mostly because whenever I did peruse the maternity sections at different shops, everything felt too frumpy or boring for my tastes. So, I pulled out all my tunic-style or empire-wasted shirts, added long tank tops for extra coverage, and wore my regular jeans with the zipper unzipped.

It worked for the first few months, but once I rounded the corner on my fifth month of pregnancy and gained an undeniable pooch, I knew it was time to upgrade to some real maternity pants.

I’d mentioned before that I really wanted to find some cute skinny jeans, which have always been a wardrobe staple of mine and seemed especially suited to off-setting the boxy and flowy tops of pregnancy. But that is easier said than done; I soon discovered that it can be awfully hard to track down clothes that don’t scream “maternity!”

Fortunately, though, I came across Séraphine, an apparel company that specializes in trendy maternity clothes that are hip enough that plenty of pregnant celebrities keep their garments in heavy rotation. They carry a ton of options to get you through your entire pregnancy in style—from bright, candy-colored maternity skinnies to elegant, nursing-friendly tops. Their maternity-friendly options take you from pajamas to work clothes even to fancy evening-wear. Basically whatever you’re looking for, they’ve got something to offer.

And, much to my pleasure, they carry the perfect skinny jean for pregnant women! I was able to receive a pair of their Indigo Slim Fit Maternity Skinny Jeans to review, and as soon as I pulled the dark-wash denim on, my husband was even impressed: “You wouldn’t know those were maternity pants at all!”

See for yourself:

Here are some of my favorite aspects about these jeans:

They are made of a stretchy (but not spandex-y) lighter-weight jean material, in a nice, midnight-y blue hue. The material means they hug my legs in the right spots (without making them look like they’re encased sausages) while the color makes them incredibly versatile—a great everyday pair that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. And because the fabric isn’t too heavy, they tuck easily into boots for the winter (as you can see in the photo to the right).

The sizing is right-on. I am always a little weary of buying clothes of any sort online without trying them on first, since I can wear any number of sizes, depending on the brand. But I used the sizing guide on Séraphine’s website, measured my hips, and crossed my fingers that they’d be an okay fit. They were perfect! Plus, I love the length of the leg: not too long (like most designer jeans tend to be) but just long enough that they bunch up ever-so-slightly at the cuff.

They hold up well to daily wear. I typically try to get a few days’ wear out of any given pair of jeans (and sometimes more!). So I was pleased that these jeans didn’t lose their shape or stretch-out after being worn a few days in a row. Plus, when I washed them, they didn’t bleed, despite their dark hue. I air-dried them and there was no awkward “break-in” period afterward; I pulled them on and they fit as good as new!

They have a really sturdy, stretchy elastic waistband, which means you don’t have to worry about tugging them up at all—they stay put and don’t show under your clothes. The band sits under-the-bump, as opposed to most maternity jeans that stretch up over your belly (you can see a photo of it in the slideshow here). The great thing about that is that it makes it so that these pants don’t have to just be relegated solely to pregnancy—I fully expect that they’ll make for a super comfy (and fashionable) fit even after our little one has arrived!

Needless to say, my foray into maternity wear couldn’t have been better. And if you’re looking for clothes to get you through your pregnancy (or beyond), make sure to check out Séraphine’s line of maternity and nursing clothing—especially my new favorite skinny jeans!

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Do You Really Need a Baby Monitor?

As most of you know, I’m currently pregnant with my first baby (just a couple weeks shy of my third trimester!). I know there’s still plenty of time to get my ducks in a row before the baby comes (I’m not due until late February), but of course I’m buzzing with questions now and, as a first-time mom, have been doing a fair amount of research to get ready. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out what things I want to make sure to get in preparation for the baby.
As most of you know, I’m currently pregnant with my first baby (just a couple weeks shy of my third trimester!). I know there’s still plenty of time to get my ducks in a row before the baby comes (I’m not due until late February), but of course I’m buzzing with questions now and, as a first-time mom, have been doing a fair amount of research to get ready.

But of course, I know that you all are a treasure-trove of information, whether you either have kids of your own, have helped raise siblings or are master babysitters, so I wanted to start posing some of my questions (from big to small) for you to chime in on. (If you missed it, a previous question I posed to readers was whether you really need a diaper bag or not. Click here to read what everyone had to say!)

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out what things I want to make sure to get in preparation for the baby. As a minimalist, I've been trying to streamline these things and not fall into that total consumerist trap of "I have to buy everything for the baby!" However, on the flip side, I realize that there are some things that can really make your life easier.

So today I'm wondering about...

Do you really need a baby monitor? Our house is pretty small, about 1,500 square feet, and a ranch level. The baby’s room will be catty-corner from our bedroom. Thanks to no television, our house stays pretty quiet. So I just wonder whether a baby monitor is necessary and will keeping the door cracked do the job, or is the peace of mind worth the expense?

If you have any insights to share, please let me know in the comments. And thanks in advance!

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Letters to My Baby

My husband and I tried for a year before we were able to get pregnant. As the months wore on, we prayed more and more for a baby—for this baby that we now are awaiting.

While the process involved a lot of wrestling and challenges, one of the first things I realized, once the pregnancy stick showed positive, was how loved and wanted this child was, long before she was even conceived. We had spent months praying for this miracle. Folks in our church had been praying for us, week after week. This baby was bathed in prayer and longing expectation.

Now that I was with child, though, I didn’t want to stop there. I never want this baby to ever question that she was loved or wanted. So, I picked up pen and paper and started writing.

I started writing a letter to this baby of mine, at the time, only a handful of weeks old. I told her some of the story about how much and how long we had wanted her and waited for her and how thrilled we were for her to come into being:

Dear Child of Mine,
For more than a year, your father and I have been waiting for you. We just found out a few days ago that you were alive and being made inside my tummy. We were thrilled! Truly you are a gift from God and so we are so excited for the next few months while you grow and we get prepared to meet you.

As the weeks passed, I continued to write to her and told her about getting to hear her heartbeat and then eventually to feel her kicks. I told him how sweet those milestones were for me because they let me know that she was still there, that she was still alive and well:

I don’t want to lose you. I want you to stay with me, to grow in my womb and then be born so that I can watch you grow up, so that I can love you for the rest of your life. The thing is, I already love you. I don’t know you at all really, except that you’re alive and inside me, but I love you.

I also want our child to know that he is being created for a purpose and that living for that purpose is the most important thing for my husband and I as we parent her and raise her—that it might be for a glory much larger than any of our own:

I honestly believe that God has incredible things in store for you. I really think that you can grow up and change the world–not to be a hero or a famous person or even president, but so that you can change the world for the sake of God’s kingdom. That through these humble years of your youth, we can teach you about God so that when you grow up, you will accomplish much for his sake, to bring his love to people everywhere, to teach others by example, to pray boldly and to love extravagantly. I truly think that is why God is giving you life and so we will try to do our best to prepare you for that job–for that joy. There is such joy in serving the Lord, I can promise you that. And I trust that you will discover it for yourself someday, too.

I’ve been writing and telling the baby what we’ve been doing as we await her arrival, from learning sign language so that we can communicate with her to all the different animals we’ve witnessed and “introduced” him to since she’s been alive in the womb:

So far, since you’ve been in my belly, we’ve seen some deer, a rooster, some wild turkeys. I point them out to you now, but you can’t see them yet. I can’t wait until you really can and when I get to see the excitement on your face as you meet all these little creatures God has made! I look forward to all the adventures we’re going to have together!

It’s been so sweet to write to this baby of ours and talk to her, to begin sharing our hopes and dreams for her life even now, before we know a single thing about her, except that she’s alive inside of me. We know nothing else about her, and yet we love her deeply. We pray for her daily. We hope for her earnestly. We wait for her expectantly!

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My Prayers for Healing: The Beauty of It All

This post is continued from my post earlier this week, "My Prayers for Healing: Things Start to Happen…" Click here to catch up and read that post if you missed it.

The rest of that day was encouragement after encouragement. I spent much of it catching up on the sleep I’d lost over the previous week, when I’d only been able to sock away three or four hours of sleep each night. That day, I was probably only awake that amount of time.

When I woke up for lunch, I looked down at my feet, which for the past week had been swollen so much that I could only force my feet into one pair of unlaced sneakers. Now, as I peered down, I saw my old feet again, the dainty curves of my arches and ankles looking once again like a woman’s instead of a goblin’s feet.

It was one answered prayer after another, that day.

My husband and his mom, who'd come to help look after me, both said I looked restored. My mom said she could hear the old me back in my voice. I had a glow. I had enthusiasm. I had peace. I had my collection of answered prayers staring at me as if to say, “See? I heard your prayers all along. I never forgot you.”

It’s funny because in the days leading up to all of this—before the pain even appeared—I had an old Madonna song stuck in my head. I have no idea where I even heard it but the refrain would not go away, try as hard as I might to push it out: “Put your love to the test. You know you’ve got to make him express how he feels, and, baby, then you’ll know your love is real.”

The song was stuck in my head for so long that I really began to think that maybe it meant something. Then all of this happened—and I came to trust that it really did mean something. I trusted that even in the pain, it was a way of God expressing his love to me—proving to me that his love was real. And the fact that he’d planted that idea in my head before it all started, well it gave me more faith to trust him with the rest. Spurred on by that thought, a favorite verse came to mind: “Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways,” and became another chant that got me through some of the hardest pangs of pain.

And that he did; he showed me his love in such wonderful ways that I—and nearly everyone else around me who knew what was going on—were left in awe at his work. At the—yes—miraculous turn-around I experienced.

I looked back at all that had transgressed and began to see his hand working in it. Even the fact that most of the doctors had pushed my situation aside in the hospital, I realized that maybe that too was a gift because it gave my body time to do more healing on its own and avoid any unnecessary treatments (like a stent, which they originally thought would be necessarily to relieve the fluid that had built up in my system, likely a kidney stone that passed before any tests were done). I saw how he had worked it all out—even the most dismal and disheartening moments—to make something altogether beautiful.

That all happened about a week and a half ago. It took another week for me to gain my energy and for all the pain (especially in my back, from a week of sitting up straight around the clock) to dissipate. But I finally feel renewed, restored and back to normal. Thanks to all my answered prayers.

And someday I'll get to recount this whole story and saga to and teach her that God is with us and hears us and loves us, working all things out to be beautiful in the end.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 
“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? 
Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” 
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. 
“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
John 9:1-3

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