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Reclaiming and Restoring My Life and My Home

Post first appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Lola Magazine

Can you pinpoint a precise moment that changed absolutely everything about your life? That literally changed the trajectory of your path?  For me, that moment in history came in the form a conversation with my now ex-husband when he sat me down on Sunday evening, July 5, 2009, and told me he had messed up.

My mind swirled.  In one short sentence, everything I knew to be true became false.  My hopes, dreams and plans shattered.  My future stolen and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the circumstances. I begged God to give me back my life and yelled at him when he didn’t. I spent hours on my face before him questioning his motives.  He is all-knowing and all-powerful yet he allowed this life altering moment in time to proceed.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Fast forward two and half years and lots of water under the bridge, my marriage wasn’t saved and ended in divorce.  This wasn’t supposed to be my life. I was supposed to be married forever, with the white picket fence, two kids, a dog and cat with my happily ever after fully intact.  Yet, here was my reality…my new normal. Divorced.

I had a decision to make. I could wallow in self-pity and anger OR I could pick myself up and begin anew.  I chose the latter.  Was it easy? Absolutely not. It was slow and tedious, but I made purposeful, intentional decisions about my new life that greatly aided in my healing.

At the time of my divorce, I was living in Corpus Christi, Texas.  My parents begged me to move back home to Louisiana.  “Never!” I said.  I was perfectly happy living fifteen minutes from the beach with no intentions of ever moving back home.

And just like I had no intentions of being divorced, a few years later, the Lord unexpectedly laid a burden on my heart to move back to Louisiana.

Five years post the most traumatic moment of my life, I audibly heard the Lord tell me to move home. I argued with him…again.  South Texas was my home and I had found much peace and healing there.  Yet, he wouldn’t allow me to let it go.

I basically challenged him. “Fine.  I’ll move home IF you place me in a safe community with walkable amenities, that’s near my parents AND an airport.  Oh and, I’d really love to have an old house.”  Thinking he’d NEVER be able to meet each of these demands, I resolved to continue living in Texas.

Throughout 2014, the nudging increased. It burdened me greatly so I began to entertain what moving home would look like.  I explored many cities all around the Ark La Tex, none fitting my bill of five requirements…until December 2014, when I was visiting my parents for Christmas and decided to take a drive down to Minden.

Growing up in Webster Parish, I visited Minden often and remembered the quaint southern city, filled with historic homes and loads of hospitality. “I’ll go but I’m sure nothing will come of it.” I thought.

And again, the Lord jolted me with a life altering moment in time.  Driving down East and West Street and into the Minden Historical Residential District, I happened upon a little cottage completely overtaken by Red Tip Photinias. So much so, the front of the house was completely obscured with only a few historic elements peeking through. Yet I knew in that twinkling in time, this was supposed to be my house and Minden was supposed to be my home. With every fiber in my being, I knew that I knew that I knew.

However, securing ownership of the house proved to be extremely difficult. I reached out to the owners and they weren’t interested in selling…at the time.  While they never told me a flat no, they asked me to wait.  They had entertained the idea of selling, but weren’t quite ready. “Oh, I can wait.” I thought.  I still wasn’t completely convinced I even wanted to move home.

Yet, something about the house pulled me in.  Every time I would come home for a visit, I stopped by this cottage. It drew me in like a moth to a flame.  About every four to six weeks for twenty-two VERY long months, I contacted the family. “Not yet.” They would respond.

The burden became stronger with each passing day.  My attitude shifted and suddenly the move home to Louisiana burned in my soul. It was time and I was ready.

July 2016, seven years after the conversation that changed my destiny, I received a text from the family that said, “Let’s proceed.” And just like that we were under contract, and I closed on the broken-down cottage, left in shambles and ruins, much like my life.

By October 2016, I was living in Louisiana and in full on renovation mode.  After planning all fall, demo began in January 2017.  This little cottage was well on her way to returning to her former glory.

While it was no easy task, you might be surprised at how smoothly the entire restoration went. Again, seeing the Lord’s hand even in the process, I had an amazing group of contractors who overdelivered on every single aspect.  There was not even one hiccup.  I never got that “uh oh, we found this” phone call.  The Lord orchestrated the entire renovation.  It was evident his hand was upon it.

The entire floor plan was reconfigured.  Walls ripped out.  Floors refinished.  New plumbing, electrical, insulation, and HVAC were all installed.  I repurposed as many of the original details and architecture as possible. Every interior door in my cottage is original.  All the existing light fixtures were restored and reused. Layers of wallpaper, cheesecloth and paneling were torn out revealing 90+ year old shiplap.  The fireplace mantel was relocated to a more functional location.  I added a big, ole southern backporch. And the attic space was finished out to make a functional living space for guests.

And somewhere along the way, I began to realize…  The restoration of my house paralleled the restoration and reclamation of my life. My walls of resentment, anger and bitterness were torn down.  A new me and a new life were being carefully crafted and fashioned. While remnants of the old life remained, they were altered and polished, yet the flaws remained, adding in character and wisdom.  New places in my mind and heart were established allowing room for growth and healing.

And here we are in 2019. Ten years after the conversation that changed my life.  In that moment, I felt my life was over.  That I would never have normal again.  But truth be told, my life was just beginning.  The Lord, with his infinite wisdom and grace, had gone before me, preparing me for this season YEARS prior to 2009. I’ve traced his hand back to conversations and opportunities stemming back from my teens and twenties that steered my ship in this new season.

I am constantly asked why I painted my front door a bright yellow. And my response? I have SO much joy after experiencing such great devastation.  My home is my outward display of the amazing work the Lord has completed in my life.  The bright yellow is my banner of victory over evil.  And I want all who see it, to know that victory can also belong to them. He has restored all the locusts have eaten, actually and proverbially, and I claim the victory that is mine.

So I rest in this. Redemption is real. Mercy and grace are alive and well.  And I’m more certain than ever, that what was intended to harm and destroy did not prevail. I reclaimed and restored my little cottage, all the while the Lord was reclaiming and restoring me.

Photo credit: Southern Shutter Photography

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  1. Diane

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:13 am

    Oh how fabulous!!! Your testimony is so amazing. Our God is so wonderful. So glad you were allowed to give Him the glory in this magazine. Your lovely home is not the only thing on display here.
    May God’s blessing continue on you.

  2. Sara McDaniel

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Oh Diane! Thank you so so much for saying this!

  3. Kathy

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:31 am

    Dianne, thank you so much. These were the words that I needed tonight.

  4. Sara McDaniel

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Hang in there Kathy! I promise joy will come again. ❤️

  5. Becky

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:41 am

    Enjoyed reading your article. And your house is beautiful, now sit back and enjoy it.

  6. Sara McDaniel

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Thank you so much Becky!

  7. Sonya

    September 4th, 2019 at 12:55 am

    I never grow tired of reading “your” story. It’s amazing that you get to share your testimony & our amazing God with so many people. Your home is beautiful!

  8. Julie

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:18 am

    Sara, I love this so much, you give God all the glory! Your story lifts up Christ and is a blessing to read!
    I am so happy for you and your home is adorable!
    Thank you for sharing and yes, take time for yourself, we can be patient.
    May God continue to bless you!

  9. Sara McDaniel

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:53 am

    Julie, thank you soooo much for saying this. 🙂

  10. Nancee

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:42 am

    How very inspiring! I am so happy for you. And I LOVE the yellow door….don’t ever change it! Are there pictures of the inside?

  11. Sara McDaniel

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:53 am

    Oh yes! Go to simplysoutherncottage.com, scroll down a bit and you will see lots of pics. 🙂

  12. becky up a hill

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:55 am

    Your story is so affirming to our faith in Jesus Christ. I love your story, and hearing God’s faithfulness. I lost my husband in 2015, after being married for nearly 37 years. My heart is on a slow mend. I know God has plans for me and I am finally ready to make some changes. Hearing your story has encouraged me that God has my best, His best at hand. Merci.

  13. Sara McDaniel

    September 4th, 2019 at 2:01 am

    Oh Becky! My heart hurts for you! I know he has a plan for you too and I promise joy will be yours again. Hold tightly to him. ❤️

  14. Julia G

    September 4th, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    May God continue to bless and restore! Thank you for sharing your story.

  15. mary

    September 5th, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing, what a wonderful Father God we have. God Bless you !

  16. Brenda Botbyl-Velez

    September 5th, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Just a beautiful story. So grateful for the happy ending. Thank you for sharing this.

  17. Pamela Rodgers

    September 5th, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    That is one of the most inspiring, uplifting stories I’ve read in a long time. So glad you listened and waited patiently for HIM to guide you to your new path! The house is beautifully! I hope you and your family enjoy many happy and blessed years in your restored cottage home.

  18. cindy@countyroad407

    September 5th, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    I am sitting here reading and grinning from ear to ear! I love this story and love how you glorify the Lord even in the pains you went through. What a magnificent testimony. Huge hugs to you and your bright yellow door. 🙂

  19. Jeanne

    September 6th, 2019 at 12:48 am

    Your story of restoration and spiritual joy in the Lord is so beautiful. Your home and your life are inspiring! Thank you for sharing both.

  20. Sara McDaniel

    October 17th, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    So sorry for the delay! Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for saying this! You made my day!

  21. Amy Lynne

    October 18th, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Such an amazing story! I have been praying on a house in our new town. Your story gives me hope things will work out just as they are supposed to! Thank you!

  22. Charlotte

    November 4th, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Onwards & upwards beautiful home !

  23. Sara McDaniel

    November 4th, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Yes yes yes 🙌🏻

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