Fear, faith and ‘fresh water in the desert’

Earlier this year, I got fed up with just talking about flipping a house. So I did a ton of homework and started house hunting. After a few months, I found my little white house and I closed on it Nov. 6.

Long before I took the plunge and bought this piece of investment real estate, I was well aware there would be anxious moments along the way. (This is probably why it took me so many years to go through with it.)

Now I am officially “in the thick of things” with the renovations. Because there is such a wee profit margin on this home, I’ve committed to doing most of the work myself, an undertaking that has inevitably required Herculean effort.

Bathroom-demo

Bathroom gut job

If I was honest, I’d have to admit there are many sleepless nights when I wonder:

  1. Will I ever actually finish this house?
  2. Will I live to tell about it, or will I need to be buried out back next to the new septic tank?
  3. Will I lose all my savings and have to work in fast food to pay the bills?

So perhaps you’re wondering what keeps me going during these frequent moments of doubt and fear?

  1. Sheer grit.
  2. A deep faith in God and a belief that He has led me to this place for a divine purpose.
  3. An amazing support system of family and friends who have helped me in so many ways, from sharing business contacts to physically helping at the house when I get stuck on a project.
  4. Determination to create a lifestyle where I do work that I love, make money at it, and teach my children what it looks like to work hard, be generous and live abundantly.

Of course, now that a typical day consists of me choking on drywall dust, wading through building debris, and spending far too many hours within two feet of either a toilet or some other sewage pipe, I’ve clung to the 23rd Psalm more than ever before.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
    He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely Your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Regardless of each day’s challenges, I’m reminded that the most profound growth we experience in life often comes in our most uncomfortable moments. And I think of the wise advice fellow entrepreneur Amy Howard gave me at Haven this year. “There is fresh water, even in the desert.”

AMaker'sGuide

What have you done lately to venture out of your comfort zone?

A wardrobe malfunction, a confession and a Stitch Fix review

Today, I thought I’d share the following (completely true) personal story in case, for some crazy reason, you think I’ve got it all together. 😉

One evening, during a week-long business trip to the Washington, D.C. area, I was excitedly getting ready in my hotel room to attend a Broadway show at the Kennedy Center. The designated attire for the evening was formal, which meant I could wear the gorgeous, mermaid-style gown I’d picked up on final clearance at one of my favorite discount stores, Gabriel Brothers. The dress was $15. (Yes, you read that right. It was $15, people!)

Here’s a photo of said dress:

Wardrobe-malfunction

So far, so good, right? Well, little did I know that things were about to take a nasty turn …

This dress was right on the verge of being too tight. (You know what I’m talking about, right ladies?) So I was alone in my hotel room, trying to figure out how to get the dress on my body and also zip it all the way up in the back by myself. Hmmm.

“I’ll just zip it first, then slip it over my head …” This was my not-so-brilliant plan.

I began executing the plan, only to discover – with my arms pinned over my head and the dress only halfway on – that I was stuck.

I was so trapped, in fact, that after five minutes of desperate struggling and sweating, I began stumbling around my hotel room, blindly searching for something to now cut myself out of the dress. Fingernail clippers? The sharp edge of a drawer? A disposable razor? No luck.

After another five minutes of struggling (holding back tears at this point), I arrive at the final, humiliating conclusion that I will need to stumble out into the (very public) hotel hallway, cry out for help, and wait for the next unfortunate guest to walk by and rescue me from my plight.

Thank God, as I stepped outside my room, I heard the familiar voice of a friend who was traveling with our group.

“Oh my!” She exclaimed, as she ran down the hall toward me to help fix the situation. To this day, I have no idea how she kept from bursting into laughter at that sad, sad scene. Stacy, you are a gracious woman to whom I am forever indebted. 😉

Needless to say, I learned a few key lessons that day about fashion – and humility.

Speaking of fashion, I have another Stitch Fix review for you today! (If you’re like, what in the world is Stitch Fix? I explain it here.) So let’s take a peek, shall we?

Striped-shirt-elbow-patches

The first piece is this Layla Striped Elbow Patch Detail Cardigan. I absolutely adore this cardigan! I had specifically asked my Stitch Fix stylist for something with a longer length and elbow patches. I also pinned something very similar on my Pinterest board. The Stitch Fix stylists rely heavily on your Pinterest board to help pick out your items. This piece hit the mark dead on! It was $48. Keep!

Stitch-Fix-gray-chevron-dress

The second piece was this gray, chevron dress. I apologize, I don’t remember the price. #bloggerfail I think it was around $60. I actually liked it, especially the fit and the fact that it was super comfy. But I didn’t love it. And neither did my husband, so I returned it.

Next up were the Queensland Dolman Jersey Top and the Emer Printed Straight Leg Pant.

Stitch-Fix-shirt-and-pants

I loved everything about these two pieces except the price of the pants. The shirt was $48 and the pants were $98. I have never in my life spent that much on a pair of pants. Ultimately, I decided to keep both of these pieces because I had not bought a pair of dress pants in, like, five years. Plus I shopped and shopped and could not find any pants that even came close to fitting as well as these!

But, I confess, I still feel bad about paying that much for a pair of pants. Granted, I had some referral money in my Stitch Fix account that helped offset the price, so I didn’t actually pay the full $98 out of my own pocket. But still … let that be a warning to you. If you are not comfortable with the price of a Stitch Fix item, don’t try it on, or you might be tempted to keep it. 😉

The final piece was this zippered-sleeve cream sweater.

Stitch-Fix-white-sweater

Again, I forget the exact price. (I believe it was in the $60 range.) It was a little baggy for my taste and was a tad itchy. And I thought the price was a little steep. Didn’t love it, so it got returned.

I also just recently received another Stitch Fix box. Although the items were cute and I could tell my stylist had taken great care to match many of my requests, I returned all five pieces. The main reason was that the shirts were not long enough to flatter my lower half. I am super picky about the length of my shirts. Unless I’m pairing them with shorts or a skirt, I like them to fully cover my hips yet still maintain a fitted, feminine shape.

I am still in love with Stitch Fix and will continue sharing with you my pieces. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s how Stitch Fix works:

  1. Sign up for a Stitch Fix account.
  2. Fill out your style profile. You’ll give very specific details on your budget preference (I chose “the cheaper, the better”), sizes you wear, styles you like, colors you like, types of clothes you like, and what clothing pieces you need/want. It’s encouraged to be very detailed in your descriptions and share a Pinterest board to give the Stitch Fix stylists a good feel for your tastes in clothing. (I did this and it helped them tremendously. They nailed my style!)
  3. Choose when and how often you’d like to receive a Stitch Fix. Then go to checkout and pay a $20 styling fee (this is then applied as a credit toward anything you choose to keep from what they send).
  4. One of the Stitch Fix stylists will look in-depth at your style profile, sizes and preferences and put together a box of five items based upon what they think you’ll like and what they think will work for you.
  5. You’ll receive your Stitch Fix in the mail. You have three business days to go through everything and choose what to keep and what to ship back in the postage-paid shipping bag they include in the box. Stitch Fix does not require a membership fee or a monthly subscription and you can cancel or change how often your fix ships at any time.

If you decide to try Stitch Fix, I hope you’ll use one of the referral links to Stitch Fix that I’ve provided in this post. It will give me a small discount on my next fix. And if you refer your friends, be sure to give them your referral link, so you can get a discount, too. 🙂

Dirty secrets of DIY bloggers

Last week, I had the privilege of attending another Atlanta-based Haven Conference for DIY bloggers.

There’s so much I love about this conference: rubbing elbows with famous DIYers and thought leaders; connecting with my favorite brands; gathering information from other bloggers to help me grow my business; and making new friends in the process of it all.

Kelly-Edwards

Chatting it up with HGTV star Kelly Edwards

Jon-Acuff

Enjoying an inspiring keynote speech from Jon Acuff

LaZBoy

Taking a break with LaZBoy (Yes. They’re wearing upholstery-fabric suits.)

Darla-DeMorrow

Enjoying a balmy Altanta evening with fellow author (and Pa. gal) Darla DeMorrow

But there’s something way more special to me about Haven than all these amazing opportunities. And it wasn’t until this year’s conference that I actually realized what it was …

It’s the dirty-secret sharing.

Let me explain.

We DIY bloggers work very hard – as in blood, sweat and tears hard – to bring our readers the very best we have to offer.

We try to produce clear, concise and professional-looking tutorials like what you might expect to see on TV or in magazines. And we painstakingly stage our photographs the same way.

We do all this because we know you’re looking for attainable inspiration that you want to replicate in your own homes. Plus we know we’re in competition with a lot of other media for your attention. So we’ve got to bring our “A” game, all the time.

But the reality is that, even as hard as we try, the life of a DIYer is fraught with unpredictable insanity. And that’s why I love Haven so much … because I love other DIY bloggers so much! These folks embrace the crazy with me. 

They refresh me and reassure me that I’m not alone. They empathize with me when I’m in my backyard with gnats stuck to my sweaty face, crying as my vision of a spray-painted work of art turns into a dumpster-bound nightmare.

Not only do we DIY bloggers share similar stories of heartbreaking, tragic project fails, but we also find ourselves in synonymous, somewhat scary (yet later hilarious) situations while picking up Craigslist furniture or chasing down deals.

When these other bloggers share their crazy DIY moments with me, I feel connected to them. (Plus I enjoy the fact that they make me laugh so hard I almost pee my pants.)

So my big take away from Haven this year is that I want you to experience this connection, too. In short, I want you to read a post of mine and feel like you might pee your pants. 😉

Historically, in my rush to get a blog post out with its pretty pictures and meticulous how-to details, I’ve often left out the “good stuff.” I’ve been guilty of omitting the crazy moments that weren’t pretty – or may have even been interpreted as downright insane. Next time, I’m going to include those moments.

Why? Because I think it makes us feel good when we realize we’re not the only crazy people out there. 😉

This post is dedicated to my Haven roommate, Shanna, who’s got the juiciest Craiglist stories I’ve ever been told. 

Blogging-buddies

From left to right, Shanna, Christy, me, Ashlynn (Christy’s daughter), and Debbie