Living Exposed

Yesterday morning I cut the outside of my right hand on a metal box. The pain was instantaneous and I was annoyed with myself for being careless and allowing the cut to happen. I went and found a bandaid and covered it up to stop the bleeding. Throughout the rest of the work day I forgot about my hand because the pain had subsided.

Later, that evening, I went to my new house to sand and mow the lawn. As I started mowing, the bandaid started to fall off so I peeled it all off. Immediately the pain resumed as the air stung my exposed flesh. I didn’t have another bandaid, so I pushed through the sting and continued my work. As I was driving back to my parents house my hand continued to sting. It wasn’t that the pain was overwhelming by any means. It was more just a nuisance – an annoyance. I began to think about how Paul was given a thorn in his side.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.    – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

I started to think about how whenever we are facing something painful or we are going through something hard, our focus shifts to lessening our pain and easing our life. With my cut, I instantly applied a bandaid so as to remove the sting from the air. However, wounds do not heal when they are covered up. In order to heal my cut, the wound needed to be fully exposed to the air – even though it was painful. It’s the same in our lives. Whenever we are facing a difficult time or we are struggling with a certain sin, or there’s something that’s tough, hiding it won’t help. We need to face things head on. We need to go to God and work through our problems. We need accountability partners. We need to be real, authentic and genuine in our faults, our struggles, and our hurts. Authenticity breeds relationship and freedom. It’s only once we are open that we can truly heal and help others to heal.

Refinishing Floors

We’ve started work refinishing the hardwood floors. In my house, every floor is hardwood except the tile, the back door hallway, and the bathroom. When we decided to refinish them, my mom did what she does best and researched how best to refinish floors. We got a quote from a professional and thought about using them, but then in Lehman fashion, we decided to “do it ourselves.” My parents are the best at fixing things, researching things, and just simply working hard. They inspire me!

The floors started out looking like this. (They are skinny oak slats on the main floor and thicker pine slats upstairs.)

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This last picture gives a better view of the scrapes, color splotches and stains.

Let me tell you, refinishing floors is a process and an art form. My dad has been sanding, sanding, and sanding some more. So far, they’ve finished the initial pass on the floors (this was the biggest job).  We initially rented a drum sander for the first pass.

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After the first pass all the dust must be swept up and the floors clean so we could put the sealer/poly on.

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These pictures are after the first coat. Yesterday we sanded again and applied another coat. Tonight we will sand and apply the last coat. Then the floors sit for a 2 week curing period. At that point I’ll post the finished pictures. 🙂

Choosing to refinish has been a big undertaking, but I love how the grain shines through and the different colors and character of the floor is displayed. I can’t wait to see how the end results turn out! Kudos to my mom and dad for being the hardest workers and doing such an amazing job!

House Update

So, I’ve done a terrible job at keeping up, but here’s an update! Three weekends in a row, my awesome grandparents came down to help out with the house! In those three weeks, we accomplished much!

The first set of pictures are the upstairs. We refinished the ceiling with ship lap. We made the ship lap out of 3/4″ plywood that we cut into 6″ wide pieces and painted. My dad and grandpa proceeded to hang them on the ceiling with Kayla and my mom as special guest helpers as well.

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Another project has been the stairs. There is hard wood floors everywhere in the house except the kitchen and the stairs. The stairs had two layers of carpet on them. (I guess whoever lived there before needed the extra cushion??) NOTE: These are not finished yet.

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My sweet Grandma Lehman spent A LOT of time on these stairs. She scrubbed them and sanded them and painted them. Hours were spent in this stairway!

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Throughout this process, my “pet” project has been the fireplace. When I was looking for a house, a fireplace was a top priority for me. I just love fireplaces! They make a house feel like a home. They’re so cozy and inviting. Immediately, after seeing this fireplace I had a vision, and it’s been awesome to watch my vision come to life.

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Here the fireplace is primed ^ and in the next picture the huge mirror has been removed and I’m beginning to remove the tiled hearth. (I’m are replacing the tile.)

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Shout out to Luke for coming over and helping and a special shout out to my Aunt Christy and Uncle Jon for so generously providing me with some incredible wood from their home!

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The finished project!! We are waiting until we refinish the hardwood to put in the new tile hearth, but everything else about the fireplace has been completed!

 

Since these projects, we’ve added ship lap to another area of the house, fixed broken plastered walls, sanded the floors, and worked on a lot of electrical outlets. Updates for those projects coming later! Also special shout out to Carol and Jack Negley (Kayla’s parents). They’ve been transforming my yard!!!

Why a fixer upper?

To start, I wanted to shed light on my skillset and explain what inspired me to choose a fixer upper.

There are two reasons that I chose a house that needed some work.  First, with a fixer upper, the owner has the creative freedoms to make the house their own. They are the designer. Second, money. Let’s be real. I’m twenty-three years old and I’m not swimming in cash. I needed an affordable home, but the type of house I wanted I could only afford if it was a fixer upper.

I’m planning to move in by the end of July, and I’m also taking on most of the projects without hiring in anyone. When I say I’m taking on most of the projects, I mean that very loosely. I would be nowhere without my team of people behind me. I would like to introduce you to them.

Luckily for me, my parents have built all three houses we’ve lived in and they are very handy. My dad is an electrical engineer and can handle all of the electrical work. My grandpa has worked for a mobile home company for years and leads/assists my dad in the tile laying, ceiling replacing, etc etc. My grandma has painted her home about 23497 times and can paint anything you give to her. Jourdan is my creative arts person and is working on two special projects, and Taylor for some reason had a huge desire to take care of the backyard ponds. (Jackson helped him). I’ll say, I had my doubts, but he really pulled through. My mom is invaluable with her contracting knowledge and sense of design.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, what are you even doing Nikki? Well, I ask myself this too. I shop for things at Menards (it takes me probably 3x as long as it would take an actual handyman because I have no idea where anything is located.) Recently I’ve been buying things and I bring them back only to find out I bought the wrong thing. Lots of returning has been taking place…  Who knew there were so many different types of light dimmers and light switches etc.

I also have been painting. Most recently, I painted some of the baseboards only to come home and find out I used the wrong paint (my mom had to repaint them…) Who knew there were so many different types of paint (I’m not talking about color. I’m talking about wall paint vs. wood paint vs. ceiling paint vs. concrete paint vs. who knows what else). I also tried to help my dad with the electric work. This mainly consisted of me dropping screws down the stairs and handing him the correct screw driver. Oh and telling him to be careful about 23489 times. I also famously gave the screwdrivers nicknames. When my dad asked which screwdriver the screw needed, I looked, saw there were 4 indentations (??) and said um, a four…a four pronged one. He looked at me and said “Nikki…you mean a Phillips?” (I didn’t know all Phillips were four pronged (what’s the word..I’m sure it’s not prong ha). Then later we needed a straight screw driver and I called that a one..  Hey I’m learning. In all seriousness, the fireplace has been my pet project. I’m super excited to fix it up. I’ve loved being able to design my house. My house. Crazy to say that. I feel too young for this and very overwhelmed at times. We’ve had plenty of money talks and just talks about what really is necessary to be fixed and what we can’t cut corners on. If I had it my way, I would’ve cut corners on way too many things. Shout out to my mom for being the voice of reason. That being said, I’ve created a new design for the house that I love and can’t wait to share with you. The bulk of my money is going into the kitchen, so I’ll share that change at the very end, but I’ll update you on progress over the weeks for everything else.

FYI, the next post will have more pictures and fewer words. Thanks for sticking with me on this long winded post. And, if you’re thinking about renovating, you can do it. Hopefully you feel encouraged after this post because you realize that I have no clue what I’m doing besides picking out pretty things and designing a home that I’ll love. How to make my dream a reality, I don’t know, but I do have an expert team behind me who does know!

Fixer Upper

As many of you know, I recently purchased my first home. I immediately fell in love with the exterior and upon walking through the house was sold after seeing the built-ins, fireplace, and older floors. This home has so much character and it satisfied my desire for an older styled house. That being said, it could definitely use a face lift. So, stay tuned for updates as I delve into the world of power tools, electricity, flooring and more.

Consistently Pursued

I find myself constantly reminiscing about the flexible, easy-going, unplanned lifestyle of Kenya. I have conversations with friends about bringing that life to the US and transforming my hectic schedule into a relaxed, open, usable lifestyle. I am eager for that, and my heart desires a life where I am free to be used more readily by the Lord. I want to declutter, yet while my heart longs for that I am struggling to transition into that. Rather than remove things, I have been adding more things. These “things” are all good, yet they keep me from being usable.

Have you ever found yourself completely booked/busy? I think we pride ourselves in how much we can accomplish/fit in/conquer, but is that really what my goal in life should be? Gosh it’s so difficult to not live in that manner in America. All of this to say, I haven’t written in nearly two months because I have since taken on too many things and find my free time very minimal.

I’ve spent less time in the Word. I just can’t seem to find time or motivate myself. I know I need to be in the Word. I’m literally being starved of the nutrition that breeds joy and life. I find that most of my time/communication with God comes through listening to worship music. I have come to a place in my life where 90% of the music I listen to is Christian. I truly think this has changed my mindset and tuned my ears to Him. However, I still have minimal communication with God, and I can feel myself being complacent. Yet, the thing that I find so amazing about God?

During this time where I’ve been more distant, I’ve seen God bless me in more ways than I can count. To some these may be trivial coincidences, but I know it’s God. As I prepare to venture into this new journey of home ownership, God has continually provided. Time and time I’ve found myself anxious and worried and stressed and yet, whatever I am losing sleep over, God provides. He has given me countless different people at just the right time with just what I’m worrying over. At times, I’ve felt like the woman with a jar of oil that never ran out.

Going into this adventure, I prayed that the Lord would lead me to the perfect home and that my house would be a place of ministry and refuge. I desire for it to be used for God’s glory, and I believe that the moment I dedicated my home to the Lord, He began working to fulfill all the necessary upgrades/fixes/changes to my home. I mean God literally gave me a free shower head, chair, and discounted faucets just from someone I met through facebook marketplace. I’ve had plenty more divine interventions like this, and I’ve been humbled by his providence, to say the least.

I’m so grateful that we serve a God who constantly pursues us and works on our behalf even when we are stagnant or running in the opposite direction. Such love, such devotion is unfathomable and cannot be realized on this earth. I’m grateful that in my messy, busy, stressful life, in my days where I “don’t have time.” God always has time for me, and He is always working for my good.

The Journey to the Promise

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my life right now looks nothing like I thought it would look at 23. In all honesty, I pictured myself engaged or married, working but not in the computer field at a desk all day, and everything going just perfectly in my family. I realize this was a naive, childish way of thinking, and as I aged I knew life wouldn’t look just how I pictured, but somehow everything appears to be so much harder/different than I could have ever imagined.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured or thought that our best family friends would pass away in a plane crash. Never did I envision the slander our family would undergo, and never would I have thought my sister could endure so much grief at such a young age. It’s hard to remember joy. It’s hard to remember when life was easier and happier.

Never did I think I would spend 2 years praying and seeking and following the Lord’s direction with a guy for it to end in the same way that it had started in confusion, uncertainty, and unanswered thoughts/wishes/hopes.

Where is God leading? What is this time right now? I don’t understand. I feel as though He has promised so many good things yet I’m experiencing the opposite.  But, this morning as I was wrestling with these thoughts, I was reminded of David. King David, a man after God’s own heart – one of the heroes of the Bible. He was promised the kingdom. Yet, it would take years before that promise was fulfilled. In those years leading to his Kingship, he would experience family members ridicule, his best friend’s dad longing to kill him, thoughts of doubt and many fears.

Often the things God promises to us take time. Often God is molding and shaping us through the trials and difficulties of life. Often we are taken by roads that we don’t want to go down, and we don’t understand why we are traveling on them.We live in a world that is filled with instant gratification and quick turn arounds. Waiting produces endurance, and it also generates a greater appreciation.

Our strength can produce competition, but our weakness can produce community. These stories and this journey God will use and is using to relate to other people. Already I have been able to make certain connections or understand others from a deeper/more raw area because I’ve experienced pain, frustration, confusion, waiting, prayers answered in ways I did not expect, etc. God loves weak people. God wants to use weak/broken people. It’s these people who recognize their undoubtable need for Him. We are needy. We need God every day, every second. It is only upon recognition and realization that God can strengthen us and use us in His way.

I think lately I’ve been asking God to bless my plans rather than use me as a blessing in His plans. I’m not sure what exactly God has in store for me and my family, but I know that He redeems and that He is preparing us for something great. I’m not sure who God has for my future husband, but I’m willing to wait and to allow God to work in His timing. This place is tough, but it’s good, because He is here with us.

Unguarded

“We will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we’re willing to show our true selves to the people around us.” – Donald Miller

I wish I had heard of the book “Scary Close” a long time ago, because it would have saved me a lot of effort, frustration, and pain. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I entered 8th grade I suddenly became aware of our performance driven society and my need to conform or become insignificant. I became a performer. Next to all of my Hollister, Abercrombie, and North Face clothing I housed all of my masks. I wanted to be liked by my peers. In all honesty, I was lost and I didn’t know myself. I was wired to trust only after it was earned and to perform for large groups of people. There were only a select few who knew the me behind the mask. Living in this manner was exhausting. I constantly felt pressure and a need to prove myself and my value.

My sophomore year of high school, I found who I thought would be my best friend for life. Around her I never wore a mask, and I never had to prove myself. She actually helped me box up some of the masks that I had sitting in a pile in my closet waiting to be worn. Becoming friends with her, I learned that, “the more we hide, the harder it is to be known. And we have to be known to connect” – Donald Miller. However, later in high school, we had a falling out. I was left broken, vulnerable, and hurt. Over the next few years I would experience more broken friendships and a broken relationship. I left all of these feeling wounded, damaged, and longing to be loved. I put up a wall that was impenetrable, and I brought back those masks I’d once packed up.

During this time, I began to realize more of who I was and what made me tick, but it wasn’t until college that I would truly become comfortable with the person behind the mask. Once I finally realized that relationships can only be built by embracing imperfections, raw honesty, vulnerability, and trust, I began to let that wall I’d built crumble. I’ve realized that relationships are fragile and unpredictable. I’m a person who likes being in control, and relationships cannot be controlled or manipulated.

48fad6eee5cb9691861ada1d70755518By the end of college, I had become fully comfortable in my own skin. I was no longer putting on a performance to impress people. Realizing that not everybody is going to like me is terrifying but freeing. It’s okay to be the real you, in fact it’s the only way to have real authentic friendships and relationships.

I share this because I think today we have a real problem when it comes to loving others well. This problem exists in romantic relationships, friendships, and also simple acquaintances. So many of us are trying to display the best version of ourselves. So many of us have an idea of how we want our friends to act/be or we’ve dreamed up the future and how it will be with our significant other.  We try to manipulate and control all for selfish gain, and sadly, we often don’t realize what we are doing. We are innately wired in such a way that we desire to be fully known. Unfortunately, the majority of us are not willing to put in the effort to become fully known.

As a culture, we have foregone intimacy for the cheaper version that ends up being superficial, shallow, and slothful. Donald Miller writes, “The stuff it takes to be intimate is authenticity, vulnerability, and a belief that other people are about as good or as bad as we are.” He says, “vulnerability and openness act as the soil that fosters security.” None of that is easy. All of that takes a lot of work and practice and trust. Some people will walk away from you, but being authentic to who you are is far better than any mask you can conjure up. Don’t waste your life trying to fit into a mold from which God did not create you. Embrace yourself, flaws and all. In the same way, don’t expect other people in your life to fit into a mold you’ve created for them.

Recently, I heard that you can wear a mask so as to receive people’s accolades, but you never receive the love, only the mask is loved. Real relationship, real authenticity, real intimacy is hard to achieve, but it’s oh so worth it. Now go out and pick up a copy of the book scary love and begin implementing his thoughts into your life, and remember that you aren’t an accident. You were designed with a purpose. You are a miracle. Live freely and boldly in that.

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Just. Show. Up. (but leave the mask at home)..

Speak Life

So the other day I was walking down one of the hallways in my office building, and a guy walked past me and as he moved past a flood of cologne passed by as well, and it got me thinking…  in the same way that our “scent” leaves a lasting affect, our words leave a lasting affect. They speak to who we are and to what we believe. (By the way, I’ve always struggled with when to use “effect” and “affect” so feel free to comment and let me know that I used it wrong there ^).

Whenever I’m around upbeat, positive people I leave filled up and fresh. Those who are positive create a sweet and lasting aroma, and people desire to be around them. Yet, I’ve realized that after hanging out with somebody who is negative or filled with complaint, I leave feeling drained and exhausted. They have a repugnant aroma that lingers long after they have gone.  Just as important, if not more important, are the words we don’t say. “If you see something beautiful in someone, speak up.” I love that. There are times when someone says something encouraging or nice to me out of the blue. Those simple words can change my whole day. If just one encouraging word can lift up a person’s day or week, why would we hold back from speaking positivity?

We also need to speak truth over our own lives. I believe the devil’s number one target is our minds. The devil fills our minds with lies. You don’t matter. You are dispensable. You are not enough. You have failed too many times. You aren’t worthy of love. He fills our mind with doubts. This valley you are in is going to last forever. You are not making a difference. You didn’t actually hear from God. You have nothing to share.

The only way to combat this is through truth and life. One thing I’ve decided to start holding myself to is memorizing scripture – specifically scripture that directly combats lies satan is feeding me. Isaiah 26:3, “He keeps him in perfect peace whose mine is stayed on Him because He trusts in Him.” That’s the latest verse I committed to memory. Actually verbalize life giving, positive words over your life. Speak your prayers out loud. Write down the truths and promises God shares with you so you can go back and speak them over your life and remind yourself. Lastly, surround yourself with people who enhance you, challenge you, make you better, and speak life over you. So, I guess my question is, “What aroma follows you as you leave the room?”

One last thought. In order to surround yourself with people who challenge, inspire, and better you, you have to be vulnerable and open. A book I’m reading right now has really been challenging me when it comes to my friendships and future relationships. I think sometimes we think we have to say the perfect thing to get people to like us or love us. We have to be funny and charming and perfect. We build up this disguise and hide behind who we think others want or expect to see. I know I have been guilty of this. I spent all of high school and some of college trying on different masks for different people – boys, friends, family members, strangers.. This was exhausting, and in doing so, I lost the very person I was made to be. If someone were to ask me what I’m most passionate about, this would be at the top of the list. God didn’t put time and thought into creating you in His own image and likeness with specific and unique qualities in order for you to behind a disguise. Like a painter shows off his/her painting, God longs to show you off to His world. When we live behind a disguise we cannot build community and we cannot fulfill our purpose. Sorry, random tangent, I’ll have a post on this later.. but for now, be who you were created to be and develop deep life giving relationships and be known for speaking life over others and yourself.

When Life Gives You Fleas

So let me just preface this by saying that I’m not nor will I ever be the girl who loves making New Years resolutions. However, this January, I decided to challenge myself to finish at least one book a month. I love to read, so finishing 12 books this year will be a breeze, but my problem comes with finishing 1 a month. I’m that person who starts in on 4 different books at the same time because they all sound so good, therefore it takes me awhile to finish a book. This month I read the book “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. Wow. If you want to learn about radical love and be challenged to live like Christ, then read this book.

Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom looked at life through spiritual lenses. Incredibly, with each hardship and discouragement, and tragedy, their testimony and faith grew even stronger. In what most everyone would see as a travesty, they would see an opportunity.

What things in life does God give us that look at the time like a disappointment, discouragement, annoyance, tragedy, but in all actuality are a cover for God’s good works?

When Corrie Ten Boom and Betsie Ten Boom arrived at Ravensbrook Concentration Camp, it looked as though things were as bad as they could be. They were stuck outside in the rain, standing/laying on lice infested grounds for 3 days before they even saw the inside of a building.  Then they were taking to a claustrophobic holding barrack that slept 5 to a bed with one blanket. Sometime later, they were sent to their assigned, official barracks. These barracks were barbaric. Prisoners slept on moldy hay with 9 to a bed. The beds were on shelving units and sometimes the bed on top would break and the women would fall to the bed below. There were only 8 toilets for 400 women and the worst part? The barrack was infested with fleas. Upon arrival, Betsie said they must thank God in all circumstances. As they were thanking God, Betsie thanked God for the fleas. At this, Corrie protested! For this God couldn’t be asking them to be thankful. What good could there be from flea infestation? Months later, Corrie found out that the reason guards never patrolled their barracks, and the reason they were able to lead worship services was because of the fleas.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of situations in my life where I’ve been disappointed or frustrated and I thought this could not be a part of the Lord’s plan. Even God would not ask me to be thankful in this situation, yet I never know what is going on behind the scenes. For that very reason, I must be thankful in all circumstances. Corrie and Betsie grew into the incredible faith they possessed. Upon being arrested, the Bible became their lifeline. They read it daily to the point of having books memorized. The Word truly was in their heart, and praying was their language and loving others was their service. They didn’t go throughout their day and think oh I have to make time for Jesus. He was in their thoughts 24/7 365. This was evident in their faith and their actions. The only way to attain a faith like that is to walk through the fire and be refined. I wonder what a faith like that would look like in my life? What would it look like to be so in tune with the father that I love others radically, I forgive and pray for my perpetrators, I am unashamed of sharing the gospel? Do I have the guts to pray for refinement? Do I have the stamina? What am I seeing as a nuisance that God is using for his greatness?