Sunday, January 13, 2019

Happy Anniversary, House!

January 13 of this year was very different from January 13 of last year.

For one thing, it snowed this year--a wonderfully beautiful snow that slowed life and kept us home for the day.  That definitely didn't happen last year!

How do I know?

January 13, 2018, was the day we moved into this house!  And although I LOVE snow and never seem to get enough of it, I am so very thankful we didn't have to deal with that while we moved!
 Although parts of that oh-so-exciting moving day are simply a blur in my mind, other aspects of it are crystal clear; and it's been a pleasure to spend some time during the past few days remembering what was happening in our family one year ago.  It's also been fun to jot down 13 (because we moved on the 13th) things that I am especially grateful for about this house.

The whole process of finding this place and deciding that this was the one was interesting--especially because that's not something that was ever part of my growing-up years.  During the last few months of 2017, Jeff and I looked online at many, many houses--and even drove by and/or visited other ones--but from the time we walked in the door of this one, I knew it was the one I wanted.
 Here, in no particular order, are some of the reasons I was drawn to it...and also some reasons I didn't realize last January 13 but have discovered during the past 12 months of living here!  :)

1. I was immediately drawn to the details in the entryway, living room, and dining room. The crown molding was stunning and really set this house apart from others.  This is just a glimpse of the beauty I desired as soon as I set foot inside.

2. The kitchen is attractive with its dark cabinets and counter tops; I was really drawn to that.  Plus, in comparison to the kitchen of our former house, it's very manageable in size.  Now on the one hand, that could be seen as a drawback, and there are certainly times I miss the immense size of the kitchen I used to have!  :)  But it was a challenge to keep up with all that room and all those cupboards; in fact, every year, I would tell myself that SURELY this would be the year that I would be able to thoroughly clean and organize EVERY SINGLE CUPBOARD...and every year, I fell short of attaining that goal of completion.  By contrast, I am able to keep up better (not perfectly!) with our current kitchen; and when a friend was over last evening and was looking in my kitchen cupboards for something, she commented on how organized everything was...and my heart beamed.  :)

3. The downstairs family room is lovely and large...and filled (still!) with too much of our junk. :( That room was enticing to us, especially as we thought about the groups we like to have over; but we haven't been able to even come close to using it to its full potential because of my inability--so far--to carve out enough time to adequately devote to the task of getting rid of stuff.  Maybe by the end of this year...  ;-)  Regardless, I'm very grateful to have this room!

4. There are beautiful built-in bookshelves in the family room--15 of them.  I'm a huge fan of built-in bookshelves.  :)

5. The house is bright and sunny; and as this year has gone by, I have noticed, at the different seasons and different times of day, precisely where the light is shining in--and where one would have to lie, if one were a cat, to take a snooze in it!  :)  On a sunny day, the main rooms are bathed in light, and it is splendid.

6. The fenced-in backyard was a significant draw, to be sure.  Having a preschooler means that physical boundaries are still a very good thing for our family.  :)

7. It's not on a busy street!  This is one of those attributes that I didn't fully appreciate at the time (although I was aware of it).  I cannot count how many times, during the past year, I have been grateful that we ended up on a little side street where we don't have to deal with much traffic.

8. There are foxes in the neighborhood!  This is a big plus (and a total surprise, since we didn't have any idea, before we moved in, that there were foxes around)!!  :)  Even though we lived in the country before, we RARELY saw foxes (maybe once or twice in my life previously?).  We saw plenty of other wildlife, but not foxes.  Here, I don't think I've seen a single rabbit, skunk, raccoon, opossum, or snake (glory hallelujah about the lack of snakes!).  But we have plenty of squirrels, we have birds, and--delightfully--we have foxes!  It is always a treat to catch sight of one (it doesn't happen very often), and I am fascinated by them.  I wouldn't be so fascinated by them if we were trying to have chickens in our backyard.  ;-)  But since we don't have anything they could hurt, it's just fun to see them.

9. Living here has opened the door for us to meet some really wonderful people: notably, our always-kind and helpful landlord Tuan; Fred & his wife Lynne & their dog Trouble; a couple from Bolivia, Jose & Hilde; our next-door neighbor Sandie; and Carolyn, a woman in her 90s who lives very independently and is amazing.  I'm sure that in years to come, we will remember these friendly souls, and smile when we do.

10. During the past 365 days, we have made incredible memories.  Life has been rich and full, and we have added abundantly to the treasure bank of our family times.  This house has sheltered us, it has seen wonderful celebrations, it has heard some noisy voices ;-).  We have played games in it, homeschooled in it, gathered around the dinner table with many friends.  Moving in last year gave us a blank slate in a house that was full of promise.  Looking back shows me how much joy--and some sorrow, too--has been written on that slate.

11. This house has stretched me and helped to shape my character--hopefully in a God-ward direction!  :)  There have been a few frustrations that have cropped up (most notably, some plumbing issues), and I have been given the opportunity to deal with that in a manner that is characterized by patience and good humor, rather than anger and complaining.  Sometimes I have succeeded.  ;-)

12. This year here has given me additional encouragement to pursue simplicity and minimalism--two areas that I love, but too often, fall short in.  As a matter of fact, if you looked around my house, you might think that I've never even heard of minimalism, much less read books and blogs about it and pursued it!  ;-)  Oh, I still have so far to go.  But the fact that eight people get to share 2,500 square feet, and each of the bedrooms houses two people, means that we can't let our accumulation of stuff get too crazy.  I am not as far along in the process of letting go of STUFF as I had hoped to be (and that fact helps to increase my humility--another way this house shapes my character!), but I am inspired to make hopefully bigger strides in that department during the coming year.

13. One of the very special things that this house has done for me is redefine HOME.  This topic is so important that it probably deserves its own essay, but suffice it to say that the process of selling our former house (my childhood home) and moving here uprooted all my preconceived notions about what home was and challenged my at-times overly-sentimental nature.  Early on, I would find myself often thinking as I returned to this house, especially when I had gone somewhere by myself and my family members were waiting at home, "Wow, it is so strange to think that this place is now our HOME.  Of all the places we could have landed, this is the one.  There's nothing too unique about this house...except the fact that my family is there, and our possessions are inside, and we chose this space, and now these walls bind us together.  This is home--not because it's the place my parents brought me to when I was born, the place I lived in so many years, but because this is the place we have chosen.  Wherever Jeff is, wherever our children are, that is home.  We CHOOSE to make it thus."

As night fell on January 13 of last year, I stayed up late and tried to absorb what had just happened.  I got the dining room in perfect order (a relatively easy task) and found satisfaction in making one room of the house look good.  It was a fulfilling feeling.

Tonight I've stayed up late, peeking out every so often at the gorgeous snow covering the ground, and remembering what life was like a year ago.

How immensely grateful I am for our first year in this home!  What anticipation I carry within me as we begin the second!

Year Two, here we come!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Moriah & the Lilacs {A New Twist}

Earlier today, when someone gently nudged me to consider blogging again, I pushed the idea aside.  I don't have time to blog!

But tonight, as I sit here in a quieted-down house, a thought pushes its way into my mind and refuses to be ignored...

Maybe I could.

Maybe I could blog again.  Maybe, just once in a while, I could make time for this.  Maybe, every so often, I could find enough mental energy at the end of the day to jot down a few thoughts, rather than  reading or mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or collapsing in sleep.  Maybe I could set aside the tasks that surround me and scream "URGENT," and instead remember the value of recording life in this way.  Maybe...

So tonight, I will...with no firm promise about when this feat shall be repeated!  :)


Ever since the spring of 2012, when Moriah was born, bringing the spectacular beauty of daughterhood into our home, lilacs have held special meaning for me, far beyond their loveliness and fragrance.  Here is the beginning of that tale.

The spring of 2018 was different.  For the first time since Moriah's birth (and many years before that), we didn't live in the house with the lilac bushes behind it.  True, we were great friends with our former neighbors, the current owners of the house; but we no longer lived there, and I didn't want to intrude in any way on the owners or the new renters that had moved into my childhood home.  But my heart ached a little at the abrupt ending of the cherished tradition of going with Moriah to cut bouquets of lilacs every spring (an example is here).  "Should I ask them if I could still take pictures of Moriah beside the lilac bushes?" I wondered, but never inquired, convincing myself that perhaps it was best to let the tradition slip away.  Since so much in life had changed because of our move to northern Virginia, was it necessary to hang onto that bit of sameness?  But I felt a tinge of sadness, even as my pragmatic side called out, "Let it go!"

And then, one Monday evening, during a visit to the Shanks, the wonderful family we had lived beside for over a dozen years, they offered to give us a bouquet of those lilacs.  My heart leaped!  This could be a way to preserve the tradition!

We brought those glorious blooms back to Annandale, and the next day, Moriah wore a purple dress and stood in our front yard, holding the bouquet in the vase we always used for lilacs.  No, she wasn't standing on the soil where the lilacs grew, but it's okay for flowers to be carried to new places.

It's okay for that to happen to people, too.

Sometimes when we're carried along like that, we get to bring with us pieces of the old days.

At times like this, that is a gift that gladdens the soul and brightens the heart--a sweet reminder of the tender love of God, who knows all and sees all.

Even the longings of our heart.

Even when we haven't even whispered them to anyone else.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow Day! In the Spring!

Blogging has fallen so far down on the priority list that I hardly know how to resurrect it!  And yet, I can't convince myself to let it go entirely.  I feel as if I ought to do some kind of a catch-up post; but lacking the time to do justice to that, I'm going to simply dive back in with a simple, picture-heavy post.

This winter was sorely lacking in snow, but today--much to the delight of all of the residents of my household--we finally got a sizable amount!  

Yes, it's officially spring.  :)  

No matter.  We'll take snow anytime, in any season it decides to arrive!  :)

We don't have any kind of sledding hill at our new home, but the snow today was perfect for packing, so snowmen were made and snowballs were thrown at each other, and all that lovely white stuff was heartily enjoyed before the temperatures warm in the next day or two and the snow disappears.

This was the first time that Benjamin had really been out in snow, and he had a ball traipsing around in it.  Now there are eight of us in the snow-lover category!  :)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

"My Dear Mother's Face"

In the process of emptying not only my own house because of our move to northern Virginia, but also my parents' house because of my dad's move into a retirement community, we have found quite a few treasures, to say the least!  :)  The most precious to me by far are the paper treasures: old family pictures, letters, journals, etc.  I simply cannot bear to throw them out without taking the time to look through them and capture them in some way for this electronic age!  What that really means is that both my dad and I have, in our new homes, some storage boxes completely stuffed with pictures and papers, awaiting the time "when life settles down" and I have time to deal with them.  :)  

In the latest load I brought back with me to our new house were two photo albums that contain images that are, to me, priceless--like this photo of my mother, sitting in her parents' kitchen, probably in the 1970s.  I love her dear face.  And that reminds me of a poem I read in a little book my parents had on their shelves, written by a local man that is, I suspect, either somehow related to my family or else known by my family for years and years.
My Dear Mother's Face
~ John Michael Roller ~

While looking upon the pictures of life
When the day was past with its toil and strife,
I sought for a scene in memory's hall
The most beautiful there that I could recall.

I viewed with awe a mountain scene;
Another of ocean with sunset sheen;
But of all that hung in the gallery's space,
The fairest indeed was my dear mother's face.

The time I remember as yesterday
When we stood on the porch near the close of the day,
The evening glow where the vines interlace
Revealed the lines in her lovely face.

She spoke of those in her life who were dear,
In tones which always would cast out fear;
Through all life's burdens she was able to bear,
In all our sorrows she was ready to share.

And then came the news to a distant state
That I hasten home, lest I be too late
To see upon earth that familiar face
Which helped me to God and saving grace.

Her body now lies on a nearby slope;
Her spirit within gives courage and hope;
Neither time nor change will ever efface
The memory I hold of my dear mother's face.

Monday, January 1, 2018

In the Fall, We Change

It's early in the morning on the first day of a brand new year--the perfect time to write about the changes that are happening in my family.

Months ago, when I mentioned to my next-door neighbor that the winds of change were blowing, she immediately--and probably completely unconsciously--looked down at my front to see if a baby bump was visible there.  Maybe that was your first thought, too.  ;-)  But no, that's not the change that is in the wind this time.  ;-)

Twelve years ago, in the fall of 2005, we arrived in Virginia, freshly returned from spending several years in Israel.  It was a beautiful September day when we got here; and, probably because we had spent the previous eight years in climates without four distinct seasons, I had a heightened appreciation for fall and all the beautiful transformations that happen here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia during that time.

But leaves aren't the only thing that change in the fall.

For quite some time, Jeff and I had felt a stirring in our souls, a hunger and thirst for something more, a desire to live more radically than the comfortable existence we had settled into.  We LOVED that comfortable existence, make no mistake about it!  But there was a whisper in the wind of something more, and that voice grew stronger as the summer of 2017 went by and autumn approached.

The voice summoned us with an ancient call: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  (Matthew 4:19)

Many of you know that Jeff and I had, earlier in life, served in the full-time ministry, both in the US and internationally.  When we moved back to my home place in 2005, it wasn't necessarily with the intention to stay here forever!  We wanted to remain open to God's guidance as to our future plans; but as time went on and our roots in this soil grew deeper, the chances of us again serving God in that way seemed to grow dim.

Our wonderful fourth son reminds us of an important spiritual principle.  You see, Shav's name comes from a Hebrew word that means "return, restore," and that's exactly what we needed to do: to shav to our first love!  :)  And in early September, we did just that--reconnecting with a congregation in Washington DC that felt very much like home to us, a place of sacrificial love and incredible zeal to reach out to others, to LIVE the teachings of Jesus, not just talk about them.  Being around the brothers and sisters there reminded us of how much we had changed in the preceding dozen years.  It was time to return.

We thought and prayed and pondered and sought advice and talked with each other and poured our hearts out to God and waited for His response.  And when Jeff gave me the YES that I was hoping to hear, my heart rejoiced with exceeding joy!  But early on, I became aware of the enormity of the decision we had just made; and as I carried jars of homemade grape juice down to our cellar late one night in early September, I paused there and bowed my head.  "God, if You can help me dig up the roots I've put down in this place, I will follow You anywhere," I prayed.  "I will go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything for You.  But You're going to have to help me, because these roots go down so far, I'm not sure I can ever get them up by myself!"

And that, dear friends and readers, is what we've been doing this past fall: digging up roots and preparing to soar again.

We knew immediately that our desire for deeper involvement with the DC church meant that being there for a two-hour slot on Sundays just wasn't going to cut it, so we sought a buyer for our home, Jeff looked for new employment in the DC area, and we prepared to move (not an easy feat for a family of eight!).

God gave us a buyer for our home (our next-door neighbors, which is amazingly ideal for so many reasons), God gave Jeff a new job right outside DC (in an upscale barber shop near the Pentagon), and God is helping us move.

We haven't quite gotten that last part finished yet.  ;-)

But we're making significant progress--not the least of which was meeting with the realtor and the homeowners yesterday, on the last day of the old year, to finish the paperwork and get the keys to our new home!!
Oh, we're not buying--simply renting--trying to get and stay as mobile as we can, so that if and when God calls us to go here or there or yonder, we'll be ready. We don't know if and when that invitation will come; but for now, we're tremendously excited about this first step in our new journey!

Being in the northern Virginia area means we'll be close enough to the Harrisonburg area to make regular visits here; and with the friends and family we have in this area, we will always have a strong attachment here.  The kids will still participate in the Shenandoah Valley Children's Choir, Jeff will still work one day a week at his barbershop here, we will visit my parents every week, and we'll likely do quite a bit of our food shopping here and take advantage of the lower prices away from the metropolitan area!  ;-)  But the rest of the time, we'll be in and around DC, being used--we pray--to effectively advance the kingdom of God!

There is so much more I could say about all of this, but for now, it is a beginning--the first part, here on the year's first day, of the story of this next chapter of our lives.  More than anything, we desire for God to be the author of all that is coming!  He writes the BEST adventures, after all!!  :)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Red Dress Sunday: A Christmas Tradition

Every December, on one of the Sundays close to Christmas, Moriah wears a red dress, I wear my red boiled wool jacket and a black skirt or pants, and we commemorate the occasion with some photos.  It's become such a strong tradition that I really feel like breaking out in song with Tevye as he sings, "Tradition, tradition, tradition!"    :) 

To see our version of this Christmas tradition through the years, here are the links from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.  And now, it's 2017's turn.  :)

I'm so very grateful for another year of joy with my precious daughter!