Thrifty Thursday--Mudroom Makeover

Do you have the same never-ending battle with coats, shoes and backpacks that we have in our house? We have a nice, big closet just beyond the front door, but the rod is too high for the boys (and they just can't be bothered to take a hanger down and put their coat on it), and there's no good place for backpacks.

I put a bench inside the closet in the laundry "room" (it's really a wide hallway between the house and the garage), and planned to put hooks on the wall for their coats and backpacks, thinking they could sit there to put on/take off shoes, and easily hang up their coats. But, the bench usually has laundry on it, and the shoes go on a rack by the front door, so that little plan didn't work either.

And then there's the collection of hooks I bought. But there was no configuration that would hold all of the coats, backpacks, lunch boxes, hats, gloves, and other paraphernalia (times two) they need.

Finally, inspired by organizational systems I spotted on, it occurred to me that putting pegboard on the long, otherwise useless laundry room wall would be a perfect solution. The laundry room is dingy; I wanted the board to be a fun color that would brighten the room, as well as appeal to the boys (hoping they'd actually use it)!

This was one case where I didn't want to just order online. I didn't want to pay the price of the pretty colored boards, and I didn't want to be limited by the few color choices available. I found galvanized pegboard (Alligator board) at my local Ace Hardware store.

I'd already seen a pretty apple-green primer/spray paint (Krylon Dual Ivy Leaf) that I thought would be the perfect color in the windowless, drab space (with a turquoise countertop). I have commitment issues, so I decided to test the color and the paint on a smaller pegboard (3 x 32) that would be the perfect way to stash brooms, mops, dusters and the ironing board in the unused space behind the door.

The hardware people warned me against trying to paint galvanized, and I saw similar warnings online, but I found a suggestion to take off the sealant coating by using vinegar. I put some on a big sponge, rubbed it over the surface and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I rinsed it off and let it dry. Then I painted the pegboard according to the instructions. The paint has a great nozzle that lets you turn it so the spray flows either vertically or horizontally. Great feature. Two coats covered thoroughly; three coats gave a really nice enamel-type finish.

I mounted the pegboard using self-anchoring screws and then added "tool grip" coated hooks to hold everything. The tool dip adds a fun color to the hooks as well as making them non-slip and non-scratching. (I'll do another post on the dipping process later.)  I loved the end result, so I moved on to the larger board.

It measures 32 x 16, and really is a great solution for kid stuff. It's a lot easier to get them to put their things on pegs than on hangers. The hooks come with plastic "locks" that help them stay in place when you're removing the items--it's really helpful to use them with the kids' coats and backpacks, otherwise the hook comes out every time they take their coat down.  The hooks are at a height they can reach, and they can easily see everything they need. I like that it's flexible and we can rearrange the hooks as needed. They don't use it perfectly, but it is a big improvement over everything landing inside the front door.

The final cost breaks down about like this:
Pegboards,            $60 (for both)
extra hooks,           $12
Plastidip                 $8.99
Krylon Dual paint   $5.99

For under $100 I got a colorful, custom, flexible storage system that fits into otherwise unusable space.
How do you organize your kids' outerwear and school paraphernalia? Do you use pegboard in your organizing?

Why Grown Ups Need Rock Collections

"Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he ad appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: "Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?' Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever." (from Joshua 3:10-4:24)

I think God is very aware of our human tendency toward forgetfulness. I think that's why He established so many traditions for the Israelites to follow. The Bible is full of feasts and festivals that the Lord established for Israel so they would remember his works.

It's probably also why He directed them to take stones from the bottom of the Jordan river as they passed through it. Yes, it was for future generations to have a tangible memento of this miracle, but it was also a reminder to the people who were there at the time. Even after the waters of a river at flood stage stacked up to create a dry passing, time passes and memories fade, and the miracle could begin to seem like a dream, even to eyewitnesses.

We're still like that today. We pray, maybe for a miracle; maybe just for an answer. But no sooner does the prayer escape from "our lips to God's ears" before we've forgotten that we prayed at all. That might indicate a great faith--we trust that our prayers will be answered so we don't need to keep checking on it. The problem is, it often means that we don't recognize answered prayer when it occurs. We need a way to commemorate those answers.

Hannah Hurnard illustrated this concept beautifully in her classic allegory, HINDS FEET ON HIGH PLACES. The main character, Much Afraid, is on a journey to the "High Places" where "perfect love casteth out fear." Along the way she learns many lessons about surrendering to the Chief Shepherd, and she commemorates each one by taking a special stone from the site and keeping it in a bag. At times the stones seem like useless baggage. Yet she remembers the promises that each one signifies, and they give her strength and the encouragement she needs to continue on her journey.

We have a couple of "rock collections." What looks like a pile of useless gravel to Hubs and me, can be explained in great detail by the boys. They remember where each one came from and why it's special to them.

I think we need to bring this childhood custom into our spiritual lives--create a collection of "stones" to help us through those hard times when the Shepherd seems out of sight and our own thoughts and fears seek to keep us from continuing along the path He's leading us on.As we move into a new year, it seems a fitting time to determine to commemorate God's blessings, gifts and lessons in the year to come. It could be a scrapbook, a memory box or a journal. Post-it notes with answered prayers in a mason jar.

You can even make a ceremony of adding to your collection. Bake a batch of these "Rock Cakes," explain to your family or Bible study group what the Lord has done and then add a memento to your collection. (You might be surprised how children will look for opportunities to add to the collection themselves.)

And later, when the road ahead seems to lead down to places of desolation rather than to the High Places, you can take out your mementos and see how far the Lord has led you and trust that He still knows the best path for your future.

How do you commemorate what God has done in/for you?

These cookies got their name because they look like rocks (not because they taste like them--the flavor is actually reminiscent of scones). Share them as a reminder not to forget the path the Lord has taken you down or the things He's taught you along the way.

Rock Cakes
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup currants (or chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Mix flour, baking powder, and sugar together. With fingers, rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Mix in currants or chocolate chips, add beaten eggs and milk, and mix to form a stiff batter.

Spoon mixture onto greased cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until tops are golden. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

What's a RefreshMoment anyway?

One of my blogging struggles has been, "What's my blog about?" I've changed a few times and fallen off the wagon every time. Here I am starting new again. Well, some new, and some not-so-new.

RefreshMoments™ is a term I coined years ago to summarize my unique devotional approach that combines some kind of treat with scripture as the foundation for a unique, refreshing devotional time. So, I'll be going back to my roots in producing and publishing more of the style of devotional I've been writing for 20(!) years. If you're looking for a way to refresh your devotional time, stop by for RefreshMoments Mondays.

The other feature is something that will be new to this blog. I've mentioned that I'm a bargain hunter, but have seldom incorporated that into my blog. Moving forward I'll be hosting a "Thrifty Thursdays" feature. Each week I'll write about inexpensive home-improvement projects, recipes, how/where to find bargains, and some other fun features--like Upcycle Cuisine™.  (I'm excited to share my Mudroom Makeover with you. Pegboard is not just for the garage!)  I'll have a link-up that you can join in and connect to your own thrifty posts each week.

I'm excited to get back to the heart of where I started while also bringing a new feature that's very much how I live. Onward!

2014--Onward, but not Forward

Onward:  to or toward what is ahead in space or time

Due to technical difficulties (the loss of the domain I created in 2006), and a loooong season of limbo and transition, RefreshMoments has been offline for far too long. But then, that's kind of parallel with the rest of my life.

So this is where my word of the year comes in. Onward. Moving on. 

We spent three years not knowing where the Lord was leading next. I learned to settle in and truly take things a day at a time. We saw God provide in ways we couldn't have predicted and wouldn't have asked. I watched for the joys in small moments and learned to invest in friendships knowing that they might very well be short term.

And then, exactly a year ago, everything we'd packed into storage two months prior was loaded into a huge moving truck and transported 1000 miles away to a state I'd only visited once--as part of my husband's interview process. We moved from a state with no winter at all, to one with 6 months (or more) of snow! From a suburban town that's part of a multi-million person region, to a rural community in a state with twice the mass and 10% the population of our previous home. In short, everything is different.

While 2013 was a new start, the process of "settling in" was just a different kind of limbo for me. Helping the boys get adjusted to new schools, finding new activities, making new friends and learning to appreciate what's special about this new place took all of my time and energy. 

In the meantime, I feel like I have been on "pause." It was an intentional pause, but even so, just like a DVD player will shut off if left on "pause" too long, a life can't stay paused either.

So when I began to consider what word might encapsulate my life for the coming year, the word "onward" is the one that sticks. 

Onward is different from "forward." Forward is a directional word. It implies movement toward a specific location. I couldn't claim "forward" for this year as I'm really not sure which direction God will be moving me. I do have a (children's) book contract to fulfill, so I know writing will be part of my year, but I'm not sure if it will be the focus. I don't know if I'll be putting more energy into my HR/recruiting work, or if God has something new for me. I don't yet have a specific place in ministry locally; I'm waiting to see where God will use me.

I like the definition of "onward." I know I am moving ahead from this point. No more treading water, no more limbo, no more 'stuck.' I look forward to seeing what "onward" will take me toward. 

Is this an "onward" year for you, or a "forward" year? Where do you see yourself headed in 2014?

25 Stories of Advent--December 25--The Rest of the Story

The book I'm sharing today is precious to me beyond words. I think it was my first Christmas book acquisition, many years before I had children.

This is certainly a case of saving the best for last. It's a book that starts with the Christmas story, but then follows through with the rest of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Which is ultimately the reason His birth is cause for celebration today.

The Life of our Lord, by Charles Dickens is the last of his books to be published. In fact, it was never meant to be published. It was written for his children because, as he said,

"My dear children, I am very very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle and so sorry for all the people who did wrong, or were in anyway ill or miserable, as he was. And as He is now in Heaven, where we hope to go, and all to meet each other after we are dead, and there be happy always together, you never can think what a good place Heaven is, without knowing who he was and what he did."

I found this volume at a Parable store after Christmas one year. I picked it up as a gift for my beloved grandfather. Though not educated (you'd never know it to speak with him), he was the smartest man I knew. And he made me feel smart too.

He was born in England, so of course he grew up reading Dickens (and everything else he could get his hands on; I never knew a more voracious reader). Since this book wasn't published until after Dickens' last child died, I was fairly certain my non-religious grandfather had never read it.

Grandpa and I didn't discuss spiritual things; an informal agreement to disagree I suppose. But I knew he'd read what I gave him, so I gave him this book for Christmas the next year hoping he'd read it from interest regarding what Dickens might have to say on the topic. We never talked about it.

 Two years later, after he died, I found this book on his bedside table along with his copy of my first book, which I'd dedicated to him. Last year, as I pulled this volume out to add to my basket of Christmas books, I thumbed through it--apparently for the first time since then--and found that he marked his place in the book with my kindergarten photo! I had never seen any photos of us outside the few albums they had.

God knows my prayer that between the devotions in my book that explain the plan of salvation, and Dickens beautiful summary of the life of Christ, that my grandfather's heart would be open to Him in a way it never had been before.

This book may be hard to find; I'm sure you'll have to visit one of the sources for used books to get a volume of your own. But it's worth the quest to find. Reading the life of Jesus, told as only Charles Dickens can, is a blessing in itself.

May you have a blessed day celebrating with loved ones. And may the conclusion of our "Christmas holidays" be just the beginning of another year spent seeking to know Him more.


25 Stories of Advent--December 12

Today's books both look at the animals in the stable making room for the baby Jesus to join them. Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell (Jason Cockcroft, Ill. McElderry Books, 2004) is a warm, beautifully illustrated book that tells of each animal (Kind Ox, Old Dog, Stray Cat, et al) welcoming the next in out of the cold with the encouragement, "There's always room for a little one here."

It's a simple, gentle telling of Mary and Joseph arriving at the stable and baby Jesus being born surrounded by the animals. Room for a Little One is a good choice if you want to give a book of the real story of Christmas without it seeming overly preachy. The soft, almost dreamy illustrations make this a perfect bedtime story.

The classic Who is Coming to Our House? was one of our first Christmas books. In this sweet board book Little Mouse comes to the stable to announce the pending arrival of a special guest. In turn, the animals each do something to prepare. "We must clean, " says Lamb. "Dust the beams," says Ram. 

There is something precious in the telling of each of these stories. While my (allergic-to-everything-with-fur) logical mind knows that Jesus didn't come for the animals, the expectation that these tales build does give a glimpse of the what the state of our own hearts should be.
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