In the May 2018 issue of Real Simple, Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess gave us a peek inside her stunning home renovation. After the big reveal, she shared with us the story behind the amazing makeover, and how it helped her through the waiting game of international adoption. 

By Elsie Larson
Updated April 19, 2018
Alyssa Rosenheck

My husband and I were one year into the international adoption process when we purchased a home in East Nashville and began our renovation. Adoption is a long and difficult process, and international adoption is even more so, since you are taking care of a person's immigration paperwork on top of the adoption itself. We had just finished up a long year of paperwork and processes to be approved to adopt by both the U.S. and China. We had entered into the waiting period, and I all the sudden, I had nothing to do. The most difficult part of this waiting period was the unknown timeline.

It could be a month, it could be a year.

As the months started to pass, I felt myself spiraling and in need of distractions. It was one of the most difficult seasons of my life because I was ready to have a child, yesterday, but with every passing season, holiday, Mother's Day, or birthday party for one of our friend's children, I grew more anxious to hold my own child. Open timelines are so tricky! Knowing it could happen any day felt amazing, but knowing we might celebrate another holiday season still waiting absolutely killed me. I was looking for anything I could find to focus on besides the wait. So while it was a frustrating year in my personal life, it was a crazy productive year for my blog!

I went into a hardcore list-making mode and this renovation was at the top of my list. My goal was to finish it completely before we traveled to China, so that we could come home with a new daughter and an empty to-do list.

This renovation came, as they usually do, with a not-so-fun surprise. Shortly after we dove into it, we discovered a rotten subfloor in the kitchen, with a mold problem in the basement below. The whole kitchen floor had to be taken down to the floor joists. It added expense to our budget and an extra month or so to our timeline.

Once that was taken care of, a few months later we had been matched with our daughter, Nova! As soon as that happened, it set our lives into an expedited schedule. With adoption from China, once you are matched, you have a three to four month wait until you can travel to bring home your child. Once we knew we were in this countdown, it motivated me in a MAJOR way to wrap up my project. It suddenly became so much more exciting!

For me, this home renovation became a symbol of our preparations to adopt. With each room we checked off as completed, we were one step closer! The final months were easier in some ways, but it was tough to see our daughter's face and know she was still a world away from us. Each day that passed was like a paper chain. Each project was a piece of the chain being ripped off.

I ended up completing this renovation, including the furnishings and little details like soap and towels, just a few days before we left for China. It was so therapeutic to me and could not have come at a more perfect season in our lives.

Weeks later, we were home with Nova (just in time for Christmas). It was the happiest, busiest, and craziest year of our lives. Emotions were high. The payoffs at the end were huge. But there were days along the way that felt so slow and uncertain.

For anyone going through a difficult season in your own life, I highly recommend taking on a project. It doesn't have to be a full-on home renovation, of course, but distractions can be pretty priceless during a time of struggle. And when it's something you love and are proud of, it's all the better.