Hope Deferred Ad Nauseam

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12).

I’ve heard it said many times that the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land should’ve taken the Israelites three days. But they wandered in the desert for 40 years. That’s how I feel about our journey to renovate our little mill house. We bought the place over a year-and-a-half ago, but it seems like no matter how hard we work, we can’t get moved in. Every time I think we’ve got all our ducks in a row, something falls apart or we get some new piece of information we didn’t have before, and I think, “REALLY???? Why are we just now hearing about this???”

Hubby’s been candid on Twitter about the fight to repair his credit after defaulting on his student loans in 2005 during a brief period of unemployment. We got married in 2007 and have been diligently paying down debt ever since. But as some know, that kinda thing stays with you for years. Seven to be exact. 2012 has come and gone, of course, but somewhere along the way we had another late payment because the loan got sold from one company to another, and no one registered the money we sent because the loan was in limbo between the two companies for more than 60 days.

The thing about having good credit is that you have to use credit. Faithfully, diligently, repeatedly. Student loans, car loans, mortgages, credit cards, they all count. And you can’t just open a credit card account and never use it. You need to keep a balance on it below 30% of your limit. Ideally that means charging something and paying it off over and over again. Like you could use it for groceries or gas money. Look at interest as a fee you pay to have good credit. And don’t let the balance get so high that the interest is an issue. You don’t want to live buried under debt.

This is a spiel we thought we knew pretty well. Getting a car loan bumped Joshua’s credit score up big time back in 2011. And our mortgage on the house helped too. We’ve now payed off Joshua’s student loans completely (triumph!!), but sadly that doesn’t seem to have helped his credit score very much. And now that we need a renovation loan to fix the house, we desperately need that number to be higher.

We’ve been talking with our current mortgage company about doing the 203k renovation loan for months. I’ve actually been researching this loan for around three years. When we originally knew Joshua’s credit score needed to be higher, we paid down more debt and got the score past the minimum requirement. Then we found a 203k consultant to make sure all our federal paperwork is just so. Finally we needed an APPROVED contractor (because the 203k isn’t your standard renovation loan), so we interviewed three contractors to find the right team. Bingo! Let’s go!

We called the mortgage lender back, and the guy stopped returning our calls. This went on for a couple of weeks. Mind you, Joshua was calling the main PrimeLending office in Dallas, not our local branch. But up until this point it didn’t seem to matter that it wasn’t the local office. Greg whatshisname was just MIA. Three Mondays ago my Joshua calls AGAIN, and someone else answers the phone. Previous guy has been FIRED. For ostensibly not returning our and other people’s calls, among other things. Justice! I thought. But that’s when we found out all our previous 2-3 month conversations with Greg have basically been recorded on a legal pad somewhere and aren’t in their system. We are basically no further in the process than when we started. Shit.

So two Fridays ago we decide to go to the lender’s Greenville office and speak to an actual human. Amanda whatshername was leaving work early that day. The following Monday she had a daughter’s recital. So Tuesday, last week, we planned to meet with her and re-fill out all the paperwork we did with the guy in Dallas (because it’s not in the big system until your loan is actually approved, ugh). Joshua touched base with her the day before our meeting to make sure we were on for the next day (and, FYI, I decided to come too, with Etta, going for total emotional manipulation to get RESULTS), and she tells us Joshua’s credit score isn’t good enough????? WTF????? He’s confused as all get out. I’m incredulous. This makes no sense. His lowest score with TransUnion or whatever is nine points higher than the minimum requirement. We should be fine. NOOOOOOOOO. After doing some research, Joshua discovered that your credit score isn’t one thing; it’s not even three things (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion); no, it is any number of different things based on what you may or may not want to do at any given moment in time. There’s a mortgage credit score if you want a house. There’s an auto score if you want a car, etc. The MyFico score Joshua has been tracking for the last eight years we’ve been paying relentlessly on debt is good for God-knows-what. His mortgage score is astoundingly 34 points lower than the “vanity” score we’ve been tracking. That’s like barely a person with a pulse.

Another KEY piece of information we discovered last week: The reason we want to do the 203k Loan is because, while you have more bureaucracy to deal with, you only need a 3.5% downpayment. That’s far and away more affordable than the 20% you need with most construction loans. So we have that in savings. We think we’re fine. NOPE. There’s another 15% contingency we need to have in reserve “just in case.” What the hell. That’s $15,000 NO ONE TOLD US WE NEEDED IN THE BANK. In the three years of legitimate research I’ve done on this loan, I have seen that info on no government or lender’s website.

We are in awe of the stupidity of our whole situation. But at the same time, I have to believe this is happening for a reason. God is still God, and He is still good, to quote our dear friends the Smiths. We’ve disputed errant things on Joshua’s credit report. Asked for and, I think, received grace on the one late mortgage payment we had this year after our baby’s 6-weeks-early emergency delivery and month-long NICU stay. Joshua’s doing freelance projects to save more money. I’m trying to sell quilts. We ask for your prayers. Advice. Spare change. Anything you can think of. And now we wait. Hopefully in 30 days it will have made a difference.

Dreams Fulfilled & Contested

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10 ESV).

Six-and-half years into our marriage, Joshua and I realized one of our greatest dreams: we bought a house. Exactly seven years into our marriage (after 48 months of trying), The Lord answered another deep longing: we got pregnant. For some people, these things come so easily. But it’s never been that way for us. We cried and prayed and budgeted and saw doctors, and after much turmoil and heartache and trusting God to be who He says He is–the ultimate Provider–He gave us our hearts’ desires. And yet, even as we’re ready to grab ahold of the dream, there’s still conflict to overcome.

The house we bought is a fixer-upper. After we closed on the property in October 2013, Joshua and I went right to work tearing down old sheetrock, exposing beadboard, and ripping up carpet and linoleum to reveal beautiful, original hardwoods. The house was built in 1900, before indoor plumbing and electric heat, so the bathroom is awkwardly combined with a circa-1970s laundry room addition off to the side of one bedroom. The original wood-burning stoves were vented into the attic instead of the outdoors and have coated the rafters in a thick layer of 100-year-old soot. We’re never short on vision, and it was exciting to dive into transforming this mill house into our modern haven. Our plan was to do a basic overhaul, move in, figure out how we live in the space, decide on the final plans, move out, and THEN do the final renovation.

Joshua grew up doing construction with his dad–a fact I am daily grateful for–but we had no intention of doing all the renovation work ourselves. Instead we hired a team to put up new sheetrock after we finished demolition. But once the January weather turned bitterly cold, the crew couldn’t work. The old oil heater was completely out of juice, and we weren’t about to spend money on new oil. Cue the HVAC installation. My kitchen dreams often center around a gas stove, so it made financial and practical sense to have a gas heater to go along with the air-conditioning unit. The HVAC crew got pretty far into their work before they discovered we don’t have a gas line on our street. This was a shock since Joshua called Piedmont Natural Gas back in December to make sure our area had their service. The Piedmont rep assured us we were good-to-go. WRONG. The gas line ends on Pendleton Street, 300 feet from our new house. The drywall guys couldn’t finish their work until we had heat, and now it turned out Piedmont wouldn’t put a line on the street just for us. They needed at least 3 customers. And none of our residential neighbors were interested.

Our house is right next to the now defunct Brandon Mill (Shoeless Joe Jackson’s first job and baseball gig), so there’s an interesting conglomeration of commercial buildings nearby. The denture office next door was very excited to switch to natural gas in order to lower their monthly bill, and it turns out the Baptist church across the street wanted to switch too. Bingo! Except the church couldn’t approve the change without the deacons agreeing together first. This is a comically difficult thing to achieve. The Piedmont gas representative assured us he was on the case and would inform us of progress ASAP. That was in March.

If you’ve ever seen the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit or read any home renovation article in Domino Magazine or Dwell you might be having visions of hubby falling through the roof or shady-looking contractors. But none of our home problems were standard issue. After numerous inspections by Joshua, his general-contractor father, and a hired inspector, we knew exactly what we were getting into when we bought this little mill house structure. No, our difficulties were caused by things completely out of our control: the weather, poor utility services common to low-income neighborhoods, and Baptist church politics.

By this time the weather was warm again, so the drywall crew came back to finish their work after the HVAC guys completed their install without hooking the heat up to any source (we’d only need air-conditioning in the summer anyways). We confidently hoped that by autumn 2014 Piedmont would have won the battle with the neighborhood church and gotten the deacons to sign a contract.

In April I was excited to plant the vegetable and herb garden I’d been dreaming of for a few years. So I pulled out all my seeds, tilled the soil, added compost, and got to work. In the months of waiting on drywall, HVAC, etc. Joshua and I thought we’d make ourselves useful and clean up the severely overgrown yard. We spent the time trimming trees, training wisteria, moving cactus, and now it was finally time to add something to the landscape. After an afternoon hunched over seed packets and my meticulously companion planted schematic, I reached for the hose and turned on the faucet. Nothing. No water. I called hubby to relay the situation, and he informed me that the winter freeze had given us a huge leak under the kitchen. He kept the water turned off at the street unless we needed to use the bathroom on a work day. Damn.

Joshua called a plumber to get a thorough diagnosis, and sure enough, the leak under the house wasn’t our only issue. All the pipes from the house to the street are old cast iron and are rotting from the inside and out. Everything needed to be replaced. Something we definitely hadn’t budgeted for. We needed a new plan.

But first, we needed a vacation. At the end of May, we headed off to Palm Springs for our seventh anniversary. It was lovely and relaxing and exactly what the doctor ordered. After we got home to Greenville, we decided to contact an architect friend to help us go a more “traditional” route with this renovation: instead of our renovate-move in-move out-renovate again plan, we’d have the architect give us scale drawings first, then get contractor bids, and finally go to the bank for a loan. Renovate, move in, never move out. Maybe what we should’ve done from the beginning.

Here’s where we got another surprise, a happy one. After four years of trying to start a family, we were finally pregnant! As if we didn’t want to be in our house enough already, the prospect of adding a new human to the mix upped the ante even more.

In July we announced the pregnancy and started meeting with the midwife. In the first few weeks everything seemed to be going beautifully. Then I had some spotting. I went in for a sonogram at 6 weeks, and it showed a strong heartbeat! The midwife assured us this was a great sign; that something would have to go seriously wrong for this pregnancy to end in miscarriage. The spotting seemed to stop, so we had nothing to worry about. Then at 9 weeks, I felt a gush of blood while standing in the kitchen. I was really nervous, but prayed and talked to myself and the baby, saying over and over, “It’s ok. It’s ok. We’re ok.” I made another appointment with the midwife for the next day.

At 9 weeks and 5 days Joshua and I went to the doctor to have an ultrasound. Greenville Midwifery partners with some obstetricians across the street at the hospital, so the second sonogram was in their office. We saw our sweet little niño/a with a strong heartbeat, squirming around in black and white on the screen. The appointment seemed to be going well when the nurse casually said she saw some space between the baby’s spine and skin. We didn’t know what that meant, except she suggested I get some blood work done before we left the office.

An OBGYN met us in the next room and talked us through the benefits of getting a chromosome test for the baby. I knew a bit about chromosome tests and had decided I didn’t want one. Legally doctors and midwives have to offer these tests, which highlight genetic abnormalities that would indicate Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, and other issues. If anything strange shows up in the results, it gives mothers the option to have a first trimester abortion. We wanted this baby no matter what, so I wasn’t interested in having lab work done that would cost us out of pocket and ostensibly just make me worry. But here we were, almost 10 weeks into our first pregnancy, and the doctor is telling us it won’t cost us anything since the sonogram showed we need it. So Joshua and I thought, ok why not? More information is better, right? Not to mention we could find out the sex of our baby early! It seemed like the right decision.

At 12 weeks I got a call from the OBGYN with the test results. Sitting in the kitchen, I listened as the she explained our baby has a strong risk for something called Monosomy X. Every person gets 23 chromosomes from each parent, and the 23rd pair decides a person’s sex. XX is a girl, and XY is a boy. The test indicated our baby has only one X, meaning it’s a girl who might have Turner syndrome. Girls with Turner syndrome can have some physical deformities, heart trouble, difficulty with math, and are likely to be infertile. We scheduled a diagnostic sonogram for the next day.

At 12 weeks and 3 days we saw our baby again, in black and white, squirming and cute. The doctor looked for specifics in the structure of baby’s heart, but it was still too early to see any problems there. We were thrilled to hear they DIDN’T see evidence of a cystic hygroma this time (the space between the spine and skin that indicated a possible chromosomal abnormality). I asked if the test results I’d gotten were 100% positive the baby is a girl, or just likely it’s a girl. The nurse explained it was likely, but not 100% certain. Finally Joshua and I met with a genetic counselor. She wrote down our ethnicities, any genetic issues with us or our parents, heart trouble, blood pressure, etc. The counselor told us our next step, should we want further testing, was an amniocentesis or CVS test, both of which are very invasive. We didn’t want either. We want this baby to have every chance of developing normally in this pregnancy, and taking amniotic fluid or tissue samples compromises that chance too much. We decided that after the baby is born, we’ll have some blood drawn from the umbilical cord to confirm whether or not our child has Monosomy X and Turner Syndrome.

I am no stranger to supernatural medical intervention from the Lord. In 1995 I was in a massive car accident, hit by an SUV on a highway, thrown over and 8-foot median, underwent numerous surgeries, and left in a coma for 5 days. At the end of which I awoke knowing who I was, and after months of rehab, I could think, talk, walk, and run like any normal 15-year-old. My mother has had more surgeries than I have, including a spinal fusion and gallbladder removal, not to mention repeated ovarian cysts that always miraculously disappeared. Joshua’s mother, it turns out, has an abnormality with chromosome 13 that indicates she’d never be able to have children. She and my father-in-law were given this diagnosis a few years ago, after both their children were in their 30s and happily married. Our God is a God of miracles, loving and faithful no matter the circumstance, always working to accomplish greater than we can ask or imagine.

Now it is late-September 2014. Almost a year after Joshua and I bought our home. 17 weeks into our pregnancy and 3 weeks from finding out the sex of our baby. We finally have drawings of the house from the architect, and we’ve met with two contractors to get bids on the job. Soon we’ll visit with lenders to see if anyone is willing to give us money to do the renovation. Joshua and I are praying some big prayers, and we’d be so grateful if you’d pray with us. God healed me and made me new after the accident, and He can give our baby another sex chromosome. We’re praying for another X, or a Y if the Lord wants this little one to be a boy. We’re praying for a completely healthy child, with no issues or deformities, a person who will grow in grace and beauty, in favor with God and man. And we’re praying for a home to raise our family in, the home we bought at 15 Calder Street. For amazing contractors to give an estimate within our hopeful budget, and for a bank or lender who will be excited to give us the money to do it. We’ve been paying for two places to live for 10 months, and we’re still trying to get out of debt with student loans and credit cards. We need a miracle. And that’s what our God does.

Waiting for the Dream

Sermon by Lee McDerment / Title + application by me.*

It’s been 45 months since Joshua and I started trying to make a family of our own. That’s almost four years. Much longer than I thought it would take to get pregnant. I graduated high school 15 years ago, and college almost ten years ago. By far the majority of my married friends the same age have at least one child, if not more. I am bombarded every day with images of their delightful-looking babies and toddlers on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes I rejoice at the pictures and videos regaling an inaugural crawl across the living room floor, a grumpy first taste of solid food, innumerable swaddled-up nap times, and a raucous bath. But other times I’m heartsick that it’s not us sharing these milestones.

I only know of two, maybe three couples in this season who are having difficulty getting pregnant, but I’m sure there’s more. It can be downright depressing discussing the finer points of hysterosalpingograms, Clomid, in vitro fertilization, or other medical tests and intervention. I’ve been tracking my cycle religiously for a solid year. Joshua has been tested and is perfectly healthy. Biologically, nothing should prevent us from getting pregnant. But here we are, 33 and 34-years-old, waiting.

The last time I walked through a really long season of waiting was when I was single. Joshua was my first boyfriend, and I met him when I was 25. Now that seems so young, but back then, I felt like an old lady–in my mid-20s, never having dated, never having been kissed. But I KNEW getting married was something the Lord had spoken to me about. In my quiet-times over the years, He repeatedly told to me about the man He was going to bring me. I prayed a million prayers about my future husband–that he’d like his job, that he’d be generous, that he’d be sweet–all of which the Lord fulfilled in my Joshua Blankenship. And like back then, the Lord has spoken to me about our babies, three of them. I know their names; I know bits about their character; I know that one of them will be adopted. And beyond speaking to me, God has spoken to my mom and sister about them too. It’s not a matter of IF we’ll have children, but WHEN.

But that doesn’t always make the waiting easier. Each month that goes by is a new test of faith and patience. Sometimes I bawl my eyes out and question the promise, and other times I’m ambivalent, which feels worse than crying. On good days I remember that my parents tried for seven years before they had my older sister, Jenny, and Joshua’s parents tried for five years before they had his older sister, Jessica. We’re only at the four year mark, and remembering God’s faithfulness to my family increases my faith.

Last week, our friend, Lee, preached a sermon to the single adults at church. It was so encouraging and challenging, not only for the singles, but also to me in this season. I feel like so much of my life has been marked by waiting, and really, when you learn to wait well in one season, it should apply to every season. So I’ve rewritten my sermon notes here, in light of waiting and believing to have a family of our own. I hope it will encourage you.


“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:3-5).

Lies we believe about the waiting season:

1) God has forgotten me.
Do no want “motherhood” MORE than you want the person whom you will mother. Mothering/parenting is STEWARDSHIP, taking care of another human. Your baby is not your cute accessory. He/she is a whole person from the beginning, with a mind, will, and emotions, and destiny from God.

“There is therefore NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, emphasis added). It is always now. Your past, present, and future is always covered in the blood of Jesus.

2) God will do it all for you.
Are you a good gift for God to give your children yet? Is your character ready to be a parent? Have you been faithful with little before He gives you the opportunity to be faithful with a person? “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). You have the desire to be a parent? That’s an answered prayer! But maybe you don’t have the object of that desire yet (children).

Next steps to prepare for parenthood:

A) Get in the word!
Be disciplined. Have unhurried time with Jesus in the morning. Relationship & vision from the Lord prepare us for every season in our lives. God’s word has all the wisdom for you.

B) Get in shape!
Physical discipline is more about persevering through pain than having a great body. Taking a concrete step of faith PROVES you believe the Word of God. Make physical strength the pursuit of something greater than a beauty ideal.

C) Get out of debt!
Debt = spent future money.
It’s really disrespectful to spend someone else’s money without their permission. We can model the way God provides for His children by doing the same for ours. “After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Corinthians 12:14b).

3) The One (the idealized child)
You cannot predict the personality of your child. Your idealized list of character traits** isn’t as good as God’s “more than you can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). If YOU can list the traits of this person, it stands to reason your list is wrong. Don’t blame your relationship/parenting issues (later) on The Lord or your child. Take responsibility for your actions.

FURTHER THOUGHTS

Fight for contentment now, for freedom & purity of heart
It builds confidence, gives you a clear conscience, makes you creative, etc. You need these things as a parent.

Consider Counseling
This could be one of the best gifts you give your children.

Don’t be afraid to have sex
Sex in marriage isn’t just about making babies, but becoming one with your spouse. If you make sex be about getting pregnant, you’ll stress, strive, take the joy out of it, and have a much more difficult time getting pregnant. Be romantic with your spouse. Encourage and support one another in all the seasons, especially the waiting ones. You need each other.

Make the most of the time
Travel. Make memories. Make a life. Let your life be marked by joy. Be an interesting person for the good of your children. Children can’t BE your whole life because they will leave someday to start lives of their own. It’s your responsibility to raise up children who will be capable people, fulfilling their God-given calling and contributing to society. Model for them how to live like this.

Your priorities are:

    1. Jesus
    2. Spouse
    3. Children
    4. Work

When these get out of order, things get super messy.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid of terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). (This is what God spoke to Joshua, Himself and through Moses.)

*This blog post was edited and re-published as an article on the NewSpring Church Blog.

**The “bits about their character” I believe to be true about our future children are things the Lord has revealed to me in times of prayer, not an idealized list I made up on my own. And of course, I won’t really know until we meet these humans and grow in relationship with them. But for now, I trust and believe.

NewSpring Church Devotional: “You Are Not The Answer”

Putting my college degree to work in the local church

I am privileged to be a part of the writing team at our church here in South Carolina, NewSpring. We write blogs, devotionals, and ministry literature (what do you call flyers about subjects like death, cutting, or pornagraphy as seen from a biblical perspective?), many of which live on the church’s website, but some that are printed and available in the Care & Prayer Room. While I’ve volunteered in different capacities at various churches in numerous cities throughout the years, serving on NewSpring’s writing team is the most unique opportunity I’ve had to put my giftings to practical use.

Here’s a devotional I wrote recently about having freedom in the midst of difficult circumstances. I hope it encourages you.


If you are overwhelmed by life, take comfort in this:
You are not the source to the solution. You can’t face these difficulties alone, and you’re not meant to. You will not win the battle on your own, so stop trying. It’s okay to let go.

Colossians 1:6-8 says our hope is in Heaven. The Gospel, the word of truth, bears fruit in our lives, and it won’t stop. The grace of God is real and active. Christ ministers to us and through us. The Holy Spirit fills us with his love.

God is the solution we need. He is the source. Consider the way plants grow: we may choose a sunny spot for our garden, place the plants in good soil and even water them. But who is the one who made the sun? Who gives earth the right nutrients plants need? Who decided two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom are essential for living things to survive? God is the origin of photosynthesis. He makes science work. He is the source of all wisdom and growth and beauty and life. We just move dirt and water around.

The same is true in our lives. God has placed you where and when you are for a purpose. The house you live in, the people you know – none of it is a coincidence. He knows you. He formed you. You are not an accident. He knows what brings you joy and life and what brings you hurt and sorrow. Stay connected with Him through prayer, scripture, and community with other believers, and He’ll show you how to overcome.

Reflect:

Shop-Keep, The End of a Season

Circumstances lined up perfectly, but not at all the way we assumed they would.

Once upon a time hubby and I opened a store called Shop-Keep in the Village of West Greenville here in Upstate South Carolina. Adventure ensued! We started out selling our handmade wares with a healthy mix of vintage goods–furniture, clothing, jewelry, and other exciting trinkets. West Greenville is on the rise, but as of yet, businesses and residents are still working hard to get the word out that the area isn’t the classic “bad” neighborhood.

Joshua and I embarked on our journey in the Village as both residents (house-renters) and shop-keepers (commercial building-leasers). Full of hope and vision, we followed one logical step after the next, observing people’s shopping habits, learning from neighboring entrepreneurs, and getting involved in the local business association, bit by bit amending our trajectory as needs arose and momentum shifted. That’s the challenge for all new business owners, I think, and I’d say we’ve done pretty well–not getting so bogged down in our dream of what’s SUPPOSED to happen that we can’t grow into what IS happening, bringing a healthy dose of realism to our grand ideas.

We observed that shoppers weren’t really buying our vintage finds. They added to the atmosphere of the shop, but beyond being decor, they weren’t money-makers. So we stopped advertising them. I got bored with making pillows and bags, realizing I’m not a one-girl factory, churning out tens and fifties of the same items endlessly. So I shifted my focus to quilts, something I do not get bored with, and it turns out, that there’s a real audience for (as our experience with the Martha Stewart American Made contest, Art Prize, and being featured in various news articles and blogs have taught us).

And then somewhere along the way Joshua and I both realized I’ve always approached making things as more of a fine-art than a commodity. We enjoyed meeting new people in our publicly available brick-and-mortar space, but it was at odds with focusing on generating new content for said space. I needed a quieter atmosphere to focus in, a place to make things uninterrupted. Like an artist’s studio.

Around the same time we arrived at this conclusion, our shop landlord decided he wanted to put a restaurant in our building. AND WE BOUGHT A HOUSE. In the Village. Around the corner from our shop. Circumstances were lining up perfectly, and not at all the way we assumed they would. So we shifted again, gracefully I think.

Our one-year Shop-Keep experiment has been a total success. I am so pleased with the momentum we have enjoyed, the relationships we have built, the support we’ve had from friends and strangers, and the neighborhood we live and work in. I CANNOT WAIT to live in our new house! But we’ve got to renovate a few things first (cue HVAC installation). Now we’re not just house and commercial building-renters anymore, but we’re property OWNERS. We are more deeply invested in the Village of West Greenville than ever before. Joshua and I are looking forward to the future, as usual, but we’re also incredibly grateful for the moment we’re in.

So I want to say thank you, from Shop-Keep, for a wonderful experience in the Village and Greenville at large. We’ve closed the doors to this chapter with full hearts. I’m continuing down the path of quilting, trading under my own name, and couldn’t be happier to make my living doing what I love.

Please stay connected with our crafty ventures by following Joshua and me on our blogs, and @blankenship and @mrsblankenship on Twitter (his and hers) and Instagram (his and hers.)

We’re just getting started :)

Inconspicuous Production

Money may make things easier, but it doesn't make people better.

I first learned about Conspicuous Consumption in a college history class, America From 1877 to the Present. It was a pivotal time on our country’s growth, with the onslaught of the Industrial Age and increasing influence of media (radio, film, television, the INTERNET, etc). Coined by sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen, Conspicuous Consumption is the “spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power” and status.

Certainly the practice has existed for as long as wealth and poverty have separated people groups, but it seems to have found a strong foothold in the American middle class, those seeking to emulate the American Dream like the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Gates, Jobs, and [insert wealthy friends’ names].

Yet consuming more isn’t the answer. Money may make things easier sometimes, but it doesn’t make people happy or better. So what’s the alternative? If having money and gaining wealth isn’t the goal, what is? The opposite of Conspicuous Consumption, then, could be Inconspicuous Production. Rather than collecting more in order to feel significant, one could contribute more, making goods and providing services. Add value. Not in order to gain importance or a feeling of worth, but for the joy of it. Inconspicuous-like, not looking for the notice of others.

This is my challenge in the new year. Make things. Do it well. Do it for the fun of it. Learn and grow and do what I love. Be who I am created to be. Rejoice.

Kickstart The Ascenders

My family is crafting music I'm proud to listen to. Want to help?

Sister Jenny and her hubs, Anthony Ayers, are working to make their musical dreams come true with a debut album, No More Night.

Support their campaign, enjoy awesome prizes, and get ready to be a part of musical history. I’m not even kidding. Jenny cut her teeth on Sandi Patty and Twila Paris tunes as a 6-year-old, and now she and Ant are crafting music I’m really proud to listen to. Tell your friends!