Merry 9th Day of Christmas and Happy New Year!

I’ll be back to regular blogging next week. Since I didn’t get a Christmas letter out this year though, I thought I’d post a Christmas “letter” here instead. 

Can you believe it’s 2013 already? It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were welcoming in a new millenium, and now we’re beginning its thirteenth year. The time between Christmases, that seemed to drag by as a child, really does fly now.

We so enjoyed not driving for ten hours to celebrate Christmas this year! (One of the many things we love about having moved “home”.)

Since we have so much family in the area and the days around Christmas are almost overwhelmingly full of fun and parties and presents, we decided to wait to celebrate our own little family Christmas on the Twelfth Day of Christmas this year. (Traditionally known as Epiphany, when we celebrate Christ being given for us, the Gentiles.)

I am loving having more time to savor this season when we celebrate God becoming man “to redeem to the sons of men.” Plus, our house in Alabama was so tiny we had no room for a Christmas tree the last four years. I was as excited as the children to go and pick out a tree this year… and love the excuse to keep it up longer!

Meg’s serious face might camouflage just how much mischief she makes, but we aren’t fooled! (Photo credit– thanks Crystal!)

Looking back on the past twelve months, I’m overwhelmed at the goodness of God.

2012 opened with uncertainty and waiting. With hours of looking and praying and waiting to hear back about a job. As the weeks turned into months, my natural instincts to plan and worry became harder and harder to silence. Joshua turned down job offers in Alabama as we held out hope to be able to move “home.”

As summer approached and his year-long federal clerkship drew to an end, we kept waiting and hoping and praying. I’m afraid I worried “why didn’t we just take a job here?” more than once.

Then, just in time, Joshua was offered a job back “home” (at a firm he has loved.) God is so incredibly faithful. I wish it wasn’t so hard to remember that in the midst of uncertainty.

Life since then has been full. Joshua couldn’t leave work to find a house, so I drove up (with three kids) to go house-hunting without him. Once again, God led so well. From the moment I first walked in the front door, I knew that this house was the one I wanted to call home. After a crazy, exhausting, stretching weekend, we signed a contract on it.

A month later, the children and I “moved” while Joshua finished up his job. Thanks to generous help from our families painting and unpacking, by the time Joshua pulled up to our new home, it had a fresh coat of paint and was mostly settled. (By the way, if you ever have the opportunity to paint your kitchen red, do it! Thanks to each of you who recommended it!)

Before beginning his new job, Joshua and I took a trip we’d dreamed about since we first started courting… to merry England.

That didn’t help with getting the last boxes unpacked, but was entirely worth every moment. Joshua has been very busy since then, and I’m so glad we had the time together before he started his new job.

While he’s been busy working and I’ve been “playing homemaker”, the kids keep growing and changing.

Rose is five and a half  (a fact she stresses whenever she’s asked her age) and loves getting to play with her cousins and six-year-old “Aunt” Kathryn. I was determined to not be one of those homeschool moms who changes curriculum yearly.. but I’ve already changed her phonics program. And am ever so glad I did. We are both loving it now (instead of nearly coming to tears each day) and she regularly asks to keep doing more school.

We’re reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series and she loves it so much that the only thing she asked for for Christmas was her own set, “So I can read it to my children some day.”

For a few fleeting days, I was really worried about Will (3 1/2) because he’s the only boy amidst seven girls in our families. I was afraid he’d like tea parties, pink, and Strawberry Shortcake a  bit too much. I shouldn’t have worried. He still loves to bring me flowers (and won’t turn down the cookies at a tea party) but is irresistibly drawn to mud, sticks and trucks. For Christmas, Grandma gave him a knight costume. He instantly grasped the sword and asked “where are the dragons?”

Last Christmas Meg (now 1 1/2) was barely sitting. Now she’s climbing stairs, saying words, and wants to be part of everything big brother and sister do. If her appetite doesn’t decrease, I’m going to have to start taking the yolk out of her eggs. She’ll gladly eat three or four scrambled eggs in one sitting. She can stare her uncles down in a staring contest, but once she’s warmed up is ever so giggly.

Well, I’m already well over the recommended word limit for a blog post. If you’re still reading, thank you. Hoping you had a very Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year.

A Peek at Our Summer

It’s been over a month since we said good-bye to our little home in Alabama and moved back near family.

So much has happened since then. So many changes. So many amazing memories.

Want to take a little peak?

We spent the last weeks in July packing our home and then the munchkins and I made the trip up to Missouri alone. Again. (Thankfully this time we didn’t meet any police men or have to take an hour long detour on forsaken dirt roads.)

Joshua had to stay and finish his work contract. I love moving and Joshua, well, let’s just say it’s one of his worst things, so it worked out well (except the missing him part.)

Right after closing on our new home, my family had a little weekend at the lake to celebrate my mom’s birthday. Despite dying to get into our new house to start painting, I had an awesome time! And the kids loved it.

Rose and Will loved their first intertube ride with Abba (Grandpa) and “Aunt” Kathryn

After a weekend of play we dived into painting.

Two things made this more involved than I’d planned. First, the trim was not white, like I originally thought, so we painted all the trim in the house. Or rather, my mom painted all the trim in the house with some help from the rest of us. Second, the seller had touched up the holes throughout the house with the wrong shade of paint. Which meant three times more painting.

But, thanks to lots of help from our families, the house was transformed within a week.

I absolutely love our red kitchen–and having more than 2 feet of counter space!

Then our stuff arrived (I wasn’t quite up to towing a van on the back of a moving truck. Especially not with three little ones. Joshua’s new employer graciously had it shipped for us.)

One of the nice things about having lived in a 650-square-foot home for four years, was that we were forced to constantly purge. It’s much easier to unpack when you don’t have that much stuff.

Two weeks after closing, Joshua was finally able to come see us… and his new home. Thankfully, he liked it.

Then we enjoyed a few relaxed days as a family before Joshua took me to England…

Of Phone Calls and Contracts

Two weeks ago, the munchkins and I made a ten hour trip back “home” to find a house to buy . After only two days of searching, we found the house I wanted to call “home”. 

We had just  gotten back to my family’s house to have dinner when the telephone rang.

It was the loan officer.

Despite getting the all-clear sign two weeks ago, something had come up. Even though Joshua had a written job offer, it just may not be possible to get a house before Joshua actually started his new job in September.

Uh oh.

photo credit

The rest of the evening I spent on the phone with Joshua, then the realtor, then Joshua, then the loan officer. The moment I took a break to eat a bite, the phone would ring again.

For three hours Joshua and I made phone calls and prayed. We talked to our parents again. Looked at numbers again. Made sure we weren’t just rushing into this because the thought of buying a home seemed exciting. Prayed some more.

Finally around 9:30, we had a good plan (and two back-up plans) and were ready to put an offer on the house. Only of course it was too late now for my father-in-law to inspect it. We’d have to wait until Saturday evening.

Saturday morning dragged by. The realtor and my father-in-law, Boyd, were both busy. Finally, right after dinner both were free. Boyd had over an hour drive, so while we waited we decided to look at one more home. Just to be sure, you know.

My brother and his wife are also looking for a home, so I asked if they wanted to join my mom and me. Then I asked a sister, then another sister and brother. Then one more sister.

I thought this one last house would simply confirm our decision, but it was surprisingly cute and well-kept. Now I was upset with myself for having looked in the first place. It made the decision much harder.

Boyd arrived and looked over the house. From a construction stand-point it looked sound.

Then we headed over to the other house. The whole way over I switched between stressing over the need for a decision and praying for God’s wisdom.

We arrived and all twelve of us piled out. We walked around the house again looking for any signs of damage but didn’t find any.

With my heart pounding we walked inside. Once again, an overwhelming sense of peace and home flooded me. Any thoughts of the last house we’d seen vanished. This was most definitely where I wanted to live.

Some of our house-hunting crew at 10:00 p.m.

Thankfully, it “passed” inspection. The rest of the family seconded my love for the home, my brother joked that he would try to outbid us, and my little sister even promised free babysitting if we bought this house. That definitely sealed the deal!

It was 10:00 p.m., but we decided to put an offer in right away (since Sunday is often the busiest day for showing houses.)

My sis Heidi and I headed over the realtor’s office, I signed an offer around 11:00, and Heidi and I finally got back to my parents’ home around midnight. Talk about a crazy night!

That wasn’t the end of our adventures, but I think I’ve dragged this story out long enough. The seller accepted our offer, we (finally) finalized loan details, spent a couple days relaxing with family and the kids and I headed home.

Thankfully, we didn’t meet any more police officers, but there was a major road block. A semi-truck full of hay caught fire on a bridge in the middle of nowhere (no one was hurt, thankfully!) and we had to make an hour-long detour on bumpy dirt roads.

We finally made it home: safe, sound and absolutely delighted to be back with Joshua.

House Hunting Adventure, Part 1

After an adventurous trip, the munchkins and I made it safely to my parents home to start our house hunt. Let the real fun begin!

When Joshua and I first started talking about buying a home instead of renting (since rental properties are so expensive back home!) we made a list of requirements. Our new home had to have

  • room for four chairs around a kitchen table
  • more than three feet of counter space
  • a hook-up for a dryer inside, preferably not in the kitchen
  • a shower without a window in it

Surprisingly enough, 99% of homes listed online met every single one of those requirements. So, we started to be more picky and tacked things like move-in-ready and space for an office onto our list. We spent hours looking at pictures, maps and descriptions of houses for sale. I left home armed with a list of houses to look at.

We arrived Wednesday evening and I was ready to start looking first thing Thursday morning. The morning dragged by as we waited for our appointment with the realtor. Finally it was time. My mom, sister and sister-in-law came with me to help look (and make it much more fun.)

We pulled up at the first home only to discover a “Sold” sign in the front yard.

The next home was on the corner of a very busy street. I quickly added not-on-a-busy-street-corner to our list of requirements. Based on that, our realtor was able to eliminate two or three more houses from our list.

I was really excited about the next home. The pictures looked so promising. We pulled onto the street and my heart sank. The driveway was perfect for a sledding hill, but we didn’t even dare pull the car into it. Another strike.

What about the next house? It wasn’t built yet. Not exactly sure where they came up with the pretty pictures posted online.

I was beginning to get nervous. We were plowing through our list of possibilities at an alarming rate. So far none of the homes we’d looked at were even remote possibilities. “God, please guide our steps!” I pleaded.

Then we decided to go look at a home we’d driven past. The pictures online were not very flattering, but it couldn’t get much worse than the houses we’d already looked at!

I stepped through the front door. It just felt like home.

A beautiful hardwood floor entryway led into a pefectly laid out home. The kitchen, dining area and living room opened into each other nicely without feeling like just one big room. Off to the side was a small carpeted “formal dining” room that would serve as the perfect schoolroom. (Not a requirement, but certainly a dream!) The bedrooms weren’t huge but, unlike many homes we’d looked at, all on the same floor. (Traipsing up a flight of stairs at 3 a.m. just doesn’t sound fun to me.)

I was ready to put an offer in right then.

However, since this was the only house that even would work, I thought maybe I was just jumping at the chance to sign papers and get back home. So, we decided to look at a few more homes on Friday before rushing to a decision.

We eliminated the home with the dead bird, the cheaply remodeled flipped home, and a way over-priced cookie-cutter home. That left two decent possibilites, but I kept comparing everything to the home we’d looked at the day before.

Joshua and I talked it over and were pretty confident that “that was it.” After dinner, my father-in-law was going to come do an informal inspection and (assuming all looked good) we’d make an offer.

Thrilled to my toes, I got back to my parent’s home happy, but exhausted.

Then the phone rang.

(to be continued) 

We’re Moving Home!

I have news I’ve just been bursting to share with you….

WE ARE MOVING!

Wait. You knew that already. We knew that already.

We just didn’t know where… until now. We are moving HOME!

photo credit

Joshua was offered a job in our hometown! After months and months of waiting, it is amazing to know the next step in our life’s journey.

Though I could jump for joy, my joy is tinged with sadness. I never thought moving home would be bittersweet. But in our four years here we have made wonderful, encouraging friends, joined an amazing church and put down way more roots than I expected.

We are going to miss our little piece of the South.

A lot.

But family, lifelong friends, and another wonderful church community await us. That thought is absolutely thrilling! The kids even had cornflakes to celebrate. (Aren’t I an exciting mom?!)

Thanks so much for your prayers for our family. We are so grateful for them… and for you!

Our Sisters Came South: Visit Recap

It’s hard to believe it’s Tuesday already! Sorry I’ve been so absent around here lately! Life offline has been keeping me busy.

Last week, two of my sisters and two of Joshua’s sisters came down to visit. Our house is already on the small side for a family of five, so four extra made it nice and cozy. It kinda felt like camping inside!

I’m going to miss these cozy memories when we move, so I’m trying to enjoy each day now, so I don’t have regrets later.

Four years after moving here, I finally toured one of the local landmarks. It’s funny how sometimes it takes out-of-state guests to get you to visit the attraction right down the street!

We toured a beautiful mansion that was built during the Civil War. There’s something sobering about hearing the story of a home that has housed many generations summed up in 15 minutes. It maks you realize just how fleeting life is!

During the Depression, this mansion was turned into an apartment complex. 13 families split the home and shared the one bathroom and one kitchen communally. (That made our sleeping arrangements for the week seemed rather roomy!)

The massive mirror behind us survived Sherman’s troops and was shipped all the way across the South. It must have taken a mini army just to move! 

 We also went on picnics, rode horses, toured some more, played games, went thrift store shopping, stayed up late watching movies/talking, and visited a local fountain park multiple times. The last time, I decided to be adventurous and join the others who were sliding down a tall kid’s slide. But my swim shorts were so slippery I flew down, lost my balance, and landed with a thud on the rock-hard dirt.

When I recovered from the shock, I couldn’t stop laughing, despite the fact that laughing made it hurt even worse. Maybe I’m getting too old… but at least it was a funny memory.

Ride horses or play in the dirt? Can you guess which one Will preferred? 

Will couldn’t stop crying when they left and we’re counting down the weeks until we see them again…and will probably still be eating leftovers til then. Apparently I way overestimated the amount of food four young ladies can eat.

Just Checking In

Hello, dear friends. Just wanted to check in and explain my absence the past few days. We had a full and wonderful weekend but arrived home Sunday to find a hot house with no power.

The power company turned it off due to old and unsafe wiring and we weren’t able to get it turned back on again until yesterday evening.

You don’t realize just how dependent you are on electricity until it is taken away! The house was hot and incredibly humid and the kids and I were lethargic. Even the things we could do took much longer without power.

It’s back on now and I’m catching up on laundry, ironing and cleaning and all the other online things I  couldn’t do. Hopefully I’ll be back to blogging tomorrow.

Have a wonderful afternoon!

 

 

Tornadoes, Trains and Trust

While the kids and I sat huddled in the closet, eating snacks and telling stories, the minutes ticked by.

Loud bursts of wind and a deep rumbling shook our house. Then all was quiet. Internet was down, I couldn’t reach Joshua, and didn’t know what was happening in the outside world.

An hour passed.

The kids were growing restless. Will had completely soaked through his outfit. was getting restless.

With an earnest prayer we pushed over the mattress and crawled out of our mock shelter. I was not prepared for what I saw: the wind had thrown power lines across the yard like a cat playing with yarn. Trees lay toppled.

We must have been hit! 

A neighbor’s house

The devastation was unreal: You could see the carpet in one neighbor’s house. He was home and we thought for sure he was hurt, or killed.

On all sides, trees smashed through homes and crushed cars. Shards of wood and glass were driven into the ground in a dozen directions.

But in the sweet innocence of childhood, Rose and Will gazed around in joyful wonder. Branches formed green playhouses all around them. A huge fallen tree blocked the road so even non-crushed cars posed no threat to little people. As the weight of the tragedy sank in, their complete lack of fear helped lighten the mood.

Though the April 27th tornados claimed dozens of lives and rank as one of the costliest natural disasters in American history, so many “mini-miracles” help make up the story:

  • Our neighbor’s son ran out to the car to get something. His mom called him back. As he stepped away from the car, a massive tree toppled, completely crushed the car and smashed through another neighbor’s porch, but didn’t scratch him.
  • None of our neighbor’s were killed or even hurt. The neighbor whose house was smashed was safe in the tub and climbed out the broken bathroom window.
  • A law school friend down the street was looking out the window when she saw the tornado rip off her neighbor’s roof. She had just enough time to race to the cellar before half of her house was carried away. She too survived unscathed.
  • And that massive tree I prayed so earnestly about? It hardly lost a leaf!

It wasn’t until later that day (at the ripe old age of 25) that I learned what a tornado really sounds like… and realized that I had heard the rumbling, loud and clear. The “choo, choo” I listened so intently for is not the tornado sound! How I’d missed that all those years baffles me, but I think it was another way God showed me His grace.

From the time we first huddled into the closet, a deep peace filled my heart. As my dear friend Bekah (who lived through the terrible Joplin tornadoes) said, “God often doesn’t give peace about things that ‘could’ happen but when we are in the midst of ‘the real storm,’ His peace fills our hearts.”

Though tornado warnings now send a sudden thrill of panic through me, looking back on the storm calms my heart.

As Betsie ten-Boom said, “There are no ifs in God’s world.”

No matter what happens, “our times are in God’s hands.” His power can calm any storm…. or give us calmness through the storm.

Has God given you an “uncanny” peace through a storm? 

Linked up at Beautiful Thursdays

Reflections on Last Year’s Tornado

On April 27th, 2011, epic tornadoes ripped through the South and across the country. Like many others, our town was hit. Hard.

A year later, the devastation is still ever-present. Our old walking path is filled with crumbled homes, empty lots, bare foundations, stripped trees and a debris-filled pond. My heart goes up for those whose lives were forever changed by the storm.

Tornado warnings are no longer taken lightly. Instead, sheer panic threatens my heart when the sirens go off. My mind is filled with all the “what ifs.”

But as I look back on last year’s tornado, the many mini-miracles that litter the story remind me that God is in control. He holds our future in His hands. Whatever happens, I don’t need to panic.

(What sound does a train make? Okay, keep that in mind.)

A tiny closet and how God uses our ignorance

The night before the tornado, thunderstorms rattled our home. I woke up and immediately my hormone-charged pregnant brain started racing.

A huge, ancient tree stands in our front yard. As the thunder boomed and the lightning flashed all around us, waking nightmares ripped through my mind. I pictured the tree crashing through the roof and pinning us in bed, unable to help our little ones.

I cried and prayed and begged God not to let the tree fall on us.

The next morning dawned beautiful and calm. The tree stood strong. The fears of the night before seemed like silly reactions of a pregnant mama.

The weather channel warned of impending tornadoes of epic proportion, but all seemed beautiful outside.

We live in tornado alley and tornado warnings are a dime a dozen. Joshua left for school and I went about my day, and just kept an eye on the weather.

As the afternoon progressed, the warnings became more and more urgent.

Since even our bathroom has a window, I closed the hallway doors, cleared out the hall closet, and propped crib mattresses over it. There was no telling how long the warning might last, so I gathered water and fun snacks and the kids and I hunkered down.

Just as the weather reporter assured us the tornado should miss our town (but to stay in shelter anyway, “just in case”) the power went out. The interent and cell towers were down too.

The kids snuggled deeper into the closet and I squeezed my pregnant self as near to them as I could. We ate snacks, told stories and watched a movie on the ipod.

Through the muffling pile of mattresses and blankets I listened. Listened and prayed (mostly about that tree!)

A crashing, rumbling sound passed by our house and it sounded like it took the kitchen with it. Wow! That wind sounds strong. Maybe the tornado will hit our town after all. I thought. After the panic and prayers of the night before, a strange peace had filled my heart.

But I kept listening for a train sound. I never heard it.

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Holding the Future in Open Hands

“Mama, I have an idea,” Rose told me the other day. “Why don’t we pack tomorrow, not tell anyone and we can surprise Grandma and Nonnie and move? Isn’t that a good idea?”

If only she knew all that was involved with making a cross-country move!

We moved down South almost four years ago for Joshua to attend law school. The years here have been wonderful for our little family, but the time to decide the next step has arrived.

When we moved Rose was barely walking. Now her little sis pulls herself up…and gets into all sorts of mischief! 

We’re looking at the possibility of moving back “home.” Dear friends, a wonderful church, and the beauty of the South (especially in the spring) make the thought of leaving bittersweet.

On the other hand, being near all our family, longtime friends and old church again would be absolutely wonderful!

The more I think about one possibility (moving to the Midwest or staying in the South), the more excited I get about it. I’m excited about being settled, about putting permanent roots down, about a kitchen with enough room for the kids to sit on chairs around the table.

Will and Rose on an “airplane” ride

But as the anticipation has grown and the waiting game continues, I’ve been reminded again and again to hold dreams of the future in open hands.

God holds the future in His wise hands. Don’t hold dreams of the future in clenched fists. Instead rejoice in today and trust in God’s wise leading tomorrow.

 Linked up at Hearts 4 Home ThursdaysProverbs 31 Thursday & Finer Things Friday