Ghost stories at midnight

By Erika Rizkallah

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by very loud teenage boys. We started telling ghost stories a half an hour ago and now everyone’s afraid to go to bed.


Except me. I’d love to go to bed, but I can’t until I know everyone’s safely “tucked in” for the night.

Things have changed a lot for me over the past couple of years. When my oldest daughter was that age I came to the realization that our best conversations happen at night.

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe they’re a little more open and vulnerable – or I’m more approachable somehow. Maybe it’s because their circadian rhythm is the exact opposite of mine. At any rate, I learned that if I made myself available and sat quietly doing my own thing, they’d mosey on over and start telling me stories.


I bet Jesus was that kind of guy. We know people were drawn to him. Great crowds would follow him and he would sit down on some mountainside or take a walk at the water’s edge. We know that he taught, preached and spoke in parables.

But I bet he was a great listener and a compassionate friend.

As a parent I strive to be like him. I wish I knew what was in my children’s hearts (most of the time). I wish I could get my message across in a way they’d be more open to hearing – in the daytime as well as the night.

If you’re a parent of teens and young adults, never underestimate how important your availability is to them. Always remember that they need you now just as much as they did in the early years. Make it a point to stay up late with them, tell them ghost stories and God stories and occasionally have cookies and milk at midnight.


The payoff is well worth the next day’s tiredness.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.                                      Galatians 6:9



Home Sweet Home

I started packing up our house for renovation in late October and now – six months later – it’s almost finished. I moved back in two weeks ago and have been buried under boxes ever since.

Sometimes we’re placed in situations that make normal rhythms of life grind to a halt. Everything gets tossed into a box and packed away until the time is right for bringing it out again. And when we do, it feels like Christmas. Or a little like the Christmases my brother and I used to enjoy.

When we learned that Santa’s gifts really came from our parents, we’d search for their (really lame) hiding places. When we found them we’d slowly peel back the tape and take a quick peek under the wrapping paper to see if we got what we wanted. Later, of course we’d have to act surprised.


Gifting myself with some HomeGoods goodies

This is what unboxing a home is like. Although I’d labeled the boxes well, I’m sometimes surprised to find what’s in them. And after months of cooking in a microwave and washing my dishes in the basement bathtub, I find I don’t need (or want) as many things as I have. So now . . . more sorting and donating. Pure drudgery.

But it’s worth it.

Our house was almost completely updated and I feel like a bride setting up her new home after the wedding. So exciting! Through this process God brought us some unexpected gifts – treasures hidden in the heavens: our family grew closer, our patience and resolve got stronger and our gratitude is overflowing.

On the other hand, sacrificing my writing time to create a homelike environment in the midst of chaos is something I hope I never have to do again. For me, writing is like coming home. It’s comforting, nourishes my soul and gives me a chance to sit down.

So glad to be back. So glad to be home!


Every day is a blessing from God

By Erika Rizkallah

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” Prince

2015 was a hard year for me – filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I can’t remember how it began but it’s fresh enough to remember how it ended.

November and December was like a slow moving hurricane whirling off the coast toward a direct hit on my home.


Last year my husband and I decided it was time to renovate our highly outdated home. We’ve been wanting to remodel certain areas; get rid of the mirrored backsplash in the kitchen, replace broken appliances and get rid of the gold fixtures in the guest bathroom.

But you know how those things go. Once you decide to change certain  areas, you may as well go big and do it right. So what started out as a simple kitchen/bathroom remodel turned into a full scale renovation of our middle and upper levels.

There were many disagreements between us along the way. Multiple meetings with the contractor and interior designer that came with the job. And packing up EVERYTHING. This was no easy feat for a homebody homeschooling mom like me, but I did it (for the most part). In order to give the contractor a good start we decided to take a trip so we left the country for two weeks and spent time visiting family in Dubai.

And we came back from this life-changing vacation to this . . .

Reno pic 2

Goodbye kitchen

Reno pic 3

My favorite room in the house – our heritage room

Reno pic 1

Just like a man …the tv still remains

So that’s where I’ve “been” – metaphorically and physically speaking – and I have so many new things to share with you in 2016.

I’ve resolved that this year will be different – I’m saying goodbye to the physical, mental and emotional challenges of last year. And even though I’m living in a literal mess, I agree with Prince’s assessment that each day is a blessing from God and yeah, everything is beautiful.

Taming clutter one day at a time

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary the word clutter means “things lying in heaps or confusion.”

To my mind everything about that definition is well, definitive.

Clutter not only makes a great mess, it also causes confusion in our homes and minds. Since I’ve opened my shop, the clutter creature has once again surfaced . . . all over my home. It sucks. I killed that thing once and here it is again.

I learned long ago that clutter in the home of people with ADHD is a real no-no. It creates a sense of chaos in every area of life and hinders the well-being of my family. I used to be very well organized and stuck to the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

It creeps in slowly like a turtle hiding its head when you notice it. I’ll just plop down right here on the edge of the coffee table for a while. Or on the stairs. Or on (my favorite place) an unused easy chair.


Before we know it, we’ve got heaps.


But I think I’ve captured it in time – before my husband freaks out and I get overwhelmed. Last month I figured out a manageable solution to the problem. Inspired by the tiny house movement and my secret desire to live in one of those adorable mini homes, I tackled the trouble by picking out five things a day to either donate or throw away.

It’s kind of like “nesting” before a new baby comes . . . without the sweaty panic.

By picking just five things each day, I’m ridding myself of 35 items a week. Breaking it out like this makes it manageable and is actually super fun! I’m freeing up space in closets, bookshelves and dresser drawers. Space that will not shelter the clutter creature again! If I happen to miss a day, I pick ten things which is double the fun.

More importantly, I’m also ridding myself of the confusion that comes with clutter.

Your Turn: Do you have a way of keeping the clutter creature at bay?