Hi there! I’m Kristin, and Grace, Coffee, & Mascara is a meeting place for women to share about building a home that is Christ-centered, loving, and beautiful. We’ll talk about cooking, cleaning, organizing, homeschooling, decorating, DIY projects, and lots more. As wives and mothers, our to-do lists can have a tendency to become crippling, carrying the potential to crush us before we’ve even finished brushing our teeth in the morning. I’ve found that I can’t do it on my own. Fueled first and foremost by grace and (much more secondarily) coffee and mascara, I strive daily to glorify God through my role as a wife and mother. Am I perfect in these roles? No way, not even close! That’s why my desire for this blog it to not only serve as an encouragement to other women who share my goal to glorify God through homemaking, but to be fortified by you as well.
Who am I? First and foremost, I am a child of God. Second, I am the very blessed wife to Dan, a wonderful husband and devoted daddy, who works hard as a Structural Engineer to provide for our family, allows himself to be a human jungle-gym for our boys, makes me laugh every day, and makes the fluffiest pancakes. Third, I am a homeschooling mother to three (soon to be four!) little boys, the oldest of which is eight.
I have loved Jesus ever since I was a little girl. When I was growing up, my church didn’t offer Sunday School, but my parents sent me to Christian schools, and I read the Bible on my own. I also prayed the rosary nightly with my grandmother, who lived with us for a few years.
In middle school, I found that I wasn’t like a lot of the kids in my class. My strong faith was part of what made me “weird,” but there were a lot of other traits about me that sure didn’t help my social status: I was shy, got really good grades, and had waist-length hair topped by outdated poufy eighties-style bangs. I also had a hard time finding pants that were long enough and wore braces. I was bullied, along with the other girls in my small circle of friends. In seventh grade, the harassment actually rose to a level that caused me to be physically sick. There was a point in which I was so physically weak, my mom had to assist me in walking a lap around our dining room. Secretly, it was a relief to be “sick.” My mom picked up my homework from school, and I taught myself from the comfort of my bed. I actually found that I did best in Math (my most difficult subject) when I taught myself. When I finished my schoolwork, I read big fat books by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. Mostly, though, it was just nice to be away from the tormentors. Home was a safe place, where no one judged me.
Unfortunately, the time came when I had to go back. When I did go back, I had had enough and decided that this “devout Christian” thing just didn’t work for me. It’s not like I ever dropped my faith or stopped loving Jesus, but I decided to take some baby steps to become more like the popular kids around me. I started listening to mainstream music—something other than Amy Grant. I bought and attached a Friends keychain to my backpack, even though I had never watched the show. (Am I aging myself much here? Haha!) Mostly, I coached myself through magazines like Teen and Seventeen to dress more stylishly, pluck my eyebrows, apply makeup, and (gasp!) flirt. Over time, the magazines evolved to those that were inappropriate for my age, such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan.
Although I would never consider myself one of the popular kids, by high school I had morphed into someone “the world” might consider cool. I still got excellent grades, was elected to a leadership role in the National Honor Society, won the “English” award for our graduating class, and was involved in lots of extracurricular activities. However, I also peeled into our school parking lot blasting rock music. I would grin and chirp, “Okay!” when the school principal told me I needed to wear a longer skirt tomorrow. (I didn’t.) I obsessed way too much about boys (and not the kind that were good for me). I made a whole host of bad decisions that led me to spiral downward into an even greater distance from God. And after I hit rock bottom, I decided that He wouldn’t, couldn’t forgive me for what I had done, so why should I even bother anymore? Looking back at my high school self, I probably looked like I really had it together. However, I had prioritized so many things (chiefly perfection) in front of my relationship with Jesus, that I was spiritually parched. One blessing from that time was that I met my future husband, Dan. We started dating our senior year and have been together ever since.
Dan’s and my relationship began after we had chosen our colleges, so we were fortunate to only be separated by a one-and-a-half-hour drive. When I started my postgraduate studies, I was in full-on achievement/perfection mode. I had always adored children and learning, so a major in Middle Childhood through Early Adolescent Education with a minor in Language Arts seemed like an easy fit for me. I was also accepted into the University Honors Program in which I needed to take additional classes that, for the most part, did not contribute to the completion of my degree, but were interesting and challenging (I got to take an entire course on Jane Eyre!); it was similar to taking on a second minor. As a sophomore, I also worked to launch a Mock Trial team at the university, which ultimately flopped due to lack of student interest and commitment, but my efforts earned me a Student Leadership Award “for “[demonstrating] distinguished service to campus and community, creative programming, and involvement in the university.” In addition, I was elected to a leadership position in Student WEA, a pre-professional association for those pursuing the field of education. I think it’s pretty easy to see what had become my idol during this season of life: achievement. The frequent weekend drives to visit Dan at his campus, earning an A in nearly every class (darn Physics!), and my participation in various extracurricular activities filled my life with an overwhelming sense of busyness. I was, I thought, too busy to worship during this season of my life, and Dan and I attended an on-campus service once. The hustle, in combination with the liberal education I easily swallowed, caused an even greater distance between me and the Lord.
Shortly before graduation, I was awarded the Eleanor Eddis Fultz Memorial Scholarship for “significant academic quality and significant promise for the teaching profession” for my class. I received special permission to student teach in my hometown where Dan and I (now married) had decided to settle. I graduated Suma Cum Laude with additional University Honors. However, in spite of all my achievements, I just couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that the form of teaching for which I was being prepared, teaching in a public classroom, was not what I was meant to do. I tried to ignore that feeling, telling myself it was just fear of the unknown, fear of something new. Every time it would raise its small voice, I would just swallow it back down.
Then I was offered a long-term substitute position (with the promise of it likely turning into something permanent) for seventh grade Language Arts, my favorite subject. Even better, this position would be in my hometown, where my husband and I were settling. I couldn’t have been more thrilled, and I excitedly called my closest family and friends to tell them about the position and how I was going to formally accept it the next day. Then nighttime came, and that small nagging voice I had ignored for so long turned into a full-out roar. I tossed and turned the whole night. I felt like a pair of hands had found its way inside me and was wringing out my stomach. By the end of the night, I couldn’t tell you why (at the time), but I knew with 100% certainty I could not accept that long-term sub position. I turned it down with some lame excuse, and there I was. I had my long list of achievements, a brilliant resume (I thought), and I had managed to blacklist myself from the most coveted school district in the area.
Not one to be idle, I spent the next couple of years working in the Accounting and Human Resources departments of a local electrical contractor. Even though I didn’t find either of these positions to be particularly fulfilling, when I became pregnant with Dan’s and my first child in 2007, I had a difficult time deciding whether to keep my position as a Human Resources Generalist or to become a stay-at-home-mom. Up until I began bowing down to the thrones of Perfection and Achievement, I had always wanted to stay home with my children, like my mom had done for me. Eventually, though, I had bought into the societal lie that the position of homemaker is an antiquated situation for women who didn’t have the desire or skills to manage a career. I wasn’t sure that being a stay-at-home-mom would challenge me, make me feel purposeful, or be fulfilling in any way. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In 2008, our first son, Shane, was born, and I found my fulfillment and purpose again in being a stay-at-home-mom. Now that Dan and I were settled and had begun to grow our family, we attended church again pretty regularly. I have to admit, though, that we looked at worship as a task to check off a list. You see, we had both been raised with an emphasis on salvation coming from works, not by faith in Jesus Christ and the act of the great sacrifice He made for us. We believed that if we went to church fairly often, gave regular monetary offerings, lived a good life (according to American standards), and had more on the “good” side of the moral scale than on the “bad,” we could earn our salvation. Personally, I still believed that my scale had tipped permanently in the “bad” direction a long time ago, way past the possibility of forgiveness. However, I thought that church attendance would at least help out my husband and new baby son.
When Shane was just over a year old, we entered a very difficult and dark season of our lives. It was a time of many tribulations. Accusations, some legitimate, some baseless. Aggression, both passive and in-your-face. Venomous words. Self-righteousness. Absent and insincere apologies. Withheld forgiveness. The situation was so severe that the poison even seeped into Dan’s and my relationship, and there were times I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive. It. Was. Awful.
This dragged on for much too long. One day, after our second child, Conner, was born, I was struck with the realization that I would never get what I wanted or needed to be able to get out of that pit. I could not do it on my own. I needed supernatural strength to do it and, for the first time since middle school, I was suddenly hit with the realization of just how much I needed a relationship with Jesus. Not the kind where we visit our beautiful church once a week (or so), pay our offering, give Him a figurative nod and a high-five, and then forget about Him as soon as we pull out of the parking lot. I needed the kind of relationship in which my heart was so infused with Him that He shaped my thoughts and affected every decision I made. Dan and I agreed that we needed a change.
We started attending a new church and eventually converted. Gradually our family came to know Jesus again. We were encouraged and equipped to read the Bible for ourselves. One of the biggest things we needed to wrap our heads around (and something we still need to remind ourselves of) is the basis of our salvation, which is not our own doings as we had believed for so long:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
The Lord used Beth Moore’s Bible study Breaking Free to break my hardened heart into a million pieces. I remember, on several occasions, driving home from Bible study sobbing so hard I had to pull over into a parking lot. For the first time, I realized that God had truly forgiven me. (Throughout the years, I had confessed and asked His forgiveness over and over again, but I never really believed that I had been forgiven.) In fact, I learned that it was actually a sin not to believe that I had been pardoned. He scooped up the shattered pieces of my heart and created a new heart for me that was composed of pure gratitude. And through that deep, deep gratitude, He gave me the strength I needed to do my part in pulling myself and, eventually, our family, out of that dark pit we had been in for far too long. I’ve still got a long way to go. The wounds are healing, but they remain raw in some places. In addition, I still allow the chains of achievement, perfectionism, and materialism to wind themselves around me from time to time. But the difference is that now I know that I am walking with Him. Living in his love and grace gives me the courage to face each day and to enjoy the journey, even when I stumble.
One of the things that fascinates me most about God is how He uses our brokenness, our messes, and redeems them to become something beautiful. When the Holy Spirit led me to turn down the middle school teaching position (for a reason I couldn’t explain at the time), I was crushed. However, if I had accepted that position, I’m quite sure I would have stayed on that path, and my life—and the lives of everyone in my family—would be completely different. I believe that God was saving me for my created purpose of nurturing the hearts and souls of my three (soon to be four) children.
I despised that dark and difficult season of my life that commenced shortly after Shane’s first birthday. I told anyone who asked that I was fine, but the truth is that I was anything but. However, if Dan and I had not been forced to endure those trials, we would very likely still be phoning it in at our old church, sitting on those hard pews with our equally hard hearts. We’d be biding our time through Mass, not letting any of it penetrate, and going on with our achievement-driven lives before the last organ notes had faded from the final hymn. I’d still believe that I was counted out from His glory. He used that mess, our time in that murky pit, to bring us back to Him. To teach me that I had been forgiven, and I wasn’t counted out. And I will be thankful until my last breath.
It’s so exciting to know that God isn’t done working on me. He will continue to strip away the selfish layers of my heart and continue to build a new one that desires, even more, to serve Him. I can’t wait to see where He will take me and the rest of our family on this journey, now that we’re walking with Him.