transitions

Photo credit: Country Living

It’s September, and change is in the air. The leaves haven’t yet begun turning, but there is a crisp coolness that invites their transformation in the coming months. School started for my daughters and my newly minted Ph.D. husband who’s now a dean at a seminary. In my counseling practice, summer clients brought their sessions to a close, and there is a new influx of fall clients.

Personally, I find September to be a good time to set new goals for health and spiritual practice. I want to read the Bible daily, journal, eat more healthily, exercise more regularly, and make time to be present with the people I love. There’s something about the pages of a new planner that invite me into a season of new beginnings. (And I love new beginnings. I usually take the opportunity for them a few times a year – January, of course, as well as my birthday, that falls in June, and September, the beginning of the school year.)

And then there are the unexpected transitions. My parents sold their home recently, and, along with my two brothers and their wives, we enjoyed reminiscing over the memories that these four walls held for 27 years of our family history. It’s the only home the grandkids (11!) have ever known for Gigi & Pops. All of us adult kids with our families have spent at least a few months living there when in transition from one home or place to another. There are stories of pranks, heartaches, joy-filled celebrations, family pets, laughter-saturated dinners around the table, tear-drenched heartbreaks, backyard adventures (a mountain biking course that caused more than a few injuries), the infamous front porch swing with Mom’s not-so-subtle interruptions, parties hosted, more than your average number of driveway collisions, and heartfelt prayers through both the joys and sorrows of our family’s life. To say there is an accompanying flood of emotions for each of us would be an understatement. Yet as Ecclesiastes reminds me, there is a time and season for everything. And just as surely as there was a time for making this home our own – when I was just starting high school and my brothers were still in middle and elementary school – this is the time for saying farewell to this home. So there have been many days of boxes (and memories) packed over the last several weeks. There has been the assurance that the memories aren’t sold along with the house – those are always ours to keep – and the happiness in knowing that a new family will get to begin making their own memories in that beloved home.

This fall is also my 20th college reunion, which I find just about impossible to believe. It can seem like only yesterday that I was a recent college graduate. Yet I remember being a senior in college, and some 20th-year-reunion-friends coming by our campus house to walk through and reminisce. We felt like they were so old. Now to think that will be us??

Another milestone recently celebrated is 15 years of marriage. Again, it feels like yesterday that I said “I do” as a 20-something young bride to a 20-something handsome young groom. We knew nothing of the adventure, challenge, and joy that marriage would bring us. We knew God, and that He was faithful, and it is to Him we have clung through the hardest times and the best of this past decade and a half. A quote I love was from a sermon by Reverend John Leonard during our formative few years at Cresheim Valley Church: “When you say ‘I do,’ God says, ‘I will.'” That truth has been an anchor for us through some stormy seasons, both storms without and storms within.

Our beloved twin daughters passed their milestone of 10 last September, and they’re days away from turning 11. Their birthday is always a time of remembering God’s faithfulness and protection, from the anxiety-ridden 10 weeks of bed rest to their premature delivery at 35 weeks and a week-long stay in the Children’s Hospital when they were but days old. To think that they are now strong, healthy, growing girls entering their “tween” years is truly a testament to God’s sustaining faithfulness in their lives and ours. We know we will be clinging to God’s grace in new ways over the next several years! And it is an amazing privilege to be parents of these two creative, smart, funny, strong and tenderhearted girls.

And then I zoom out and think of the transitions our country and world is facing. Covid-19 is spiking again, and we are all weary of fighting this battle. We are all doing our best, the best we know how. Our healthcare system is overwhelmed, and doctors like my brother are overworked and exhausted, yet carrying on in their faithful care of the patients entrusted to them. Troops withdrew from Afghanistan, and before they were fully out, the Taliban took over. It’s heartbreaking, especially considering all of the families who gave beloved sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and parents to this years-long battle. I think we all have the question, “How long, O Lord?”

And so in this season of transitions, both big and small, welcomed and dreaded, hope-filled and grief-laced, I find myself forced to anchor into the One who is Unchanging. The One who knows there is a time and season for “everything under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3)- and whose presence is the only unchanging constant through all of life’s transitions.

Finding Home Wherever You Are {at EnCourage}

Below is the beginning of an article I re-worked from this year to share at (En)Courage. You can find the full article here.

HEATHER NELSON|CONTRIBUTOR

I’ve been thinking about “home” a lot lately. Obsessing over it might be a more accurate description. My family doesn’t have a home of our own right now. And after 11+ years of dwelling in our own home, it’s different. We originally thought it would just be a few weeks, maybe two months tops, while were in transition from Virginia to South Carolina and waiting for our home to sell. But this stopgap arrangement has become nine months of living. It will be a full school year by the time this season comes to a completion.

Home In-Between

So how do we make “home” for a family of four while sharing my parents’ home? How do they expand their “home” to fit the demands, noise, delights, etc, of a family-of-four-with-two-7-year-olds? I could write a how-to article, co-authored with my parents, on all the ways to make it work or things to avoid. But that would miss the more important way God’s been teaching me about “home” while living in this unique season — like what it means in this time of home-of-our-own absence to know the Lord as my true dwelling place.

I am learning that “home” is many places and that I can choose to make whatever current living space my “home” (even if it’s not entirely or even partially mine). This current transitional season began last fall when our family moved from Norfolk, Virginia, to Greenville, South Carolina, for my husband to pursue full-time doctoral work. Greenville is my hometown — it’s where I was raised from the time I was two-years-old and it’s where I returned to live my first few years out of college. Yet returning to my hometown with my own family in tow hasn’t been as much like returning to “true home” as it once was.

My husband and I have made “home” in two places at this point in our 11+ years of marriage—Philadelphia and Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk’s the only home our 7-year-old twin daughters have ever known. So coming back to South Carolina— while certainly familiar for me and wonderful in the aspect of being close to my family again— is not yet our home as a family. That’s because the process of a place becoming home takes time. We can’t speed it up, no matter how much we try or how many people we start off knowing or how familiar a geographical location is.  …

{read the rest of the article here}

finding “home” wherever you are

It’s been awhile since I took up pen and ink to write. (And still, you might say, I’m taking a shortcut by returning to screen and keyboard.) But – anyway – what I mean to say is that I am starting (again) to write. And you have to start somewhere when you’ve neglected a space and a place for a season. 

I’ve been thinking about “home” a lot lately. Obsessing over it might be a more accurate description. Because my family doesn’t have a home of our own right now. And after 11+ years of dwelling-in-our-own-home, it’s different. We originally thought it would just be a few weeks, maybe two months, tops while were in transition from Virginia to South Carolina and waiting for our home to sell. But this stopgap arrangement is now approaching half-a-year total – and we are still waiting.

homeSo how do you make “home” for a family of four while sharing your parents’ home? How do they expand their “home” to fit the demands, noise, delights, etc, of a family-of-four-with-two-7-year-olds?

I could do a few how-to blogs for sure, co-authored with my parents, on all the ways to make it work or things to avoid. But y’all know I’d rather not get too detailed in this space. I like to reflect on the ideas (or ideals?) and parallels and lessons and meaning found behind – above – around – among the details. And what strikes me are two things: (1) “home” is many places and (2) you can always make your space your “home” (even if it’s not entirely-or even partially-yours).

Returning to my hometown hasn’t been as much like coming to “true home” as it once was. Like when I visited home that first Christmas break during college, or when I moved back after college graduation, or even when I came back to get married. My husband and I have made “home” in two places at this point in our 11+ years of marriage – Philadelphia and Norfolk, Virginia. We were in Philadelphia for 5 years total (two of them married); and Norfolk for 8 years. Norfolk’s the only home our twin daughters have ever known. So coming back to South Carolina – while certainly familiar for me and wonderful in the aspect of being close to my family again – is not our home as a family. It will become that.

But that’s the key – the process of a place becoming home takes time. You can’t speed it up, no matter how much you try or how many people you start off knowing or how familiar a geographical location is.

So what do you do in the meantime? You have a lot of “first conversations.” You know what I mean – the basic get-to-know-you-and-your-story-and-your-job-and-your-family kind of conversations. And you have many similar conversations with many different people. Co-workers, friends at church, neighbors, parents at the soccer field, moms in the classroom, etc. It’s essentially the same conversations over and over again. And of course it gets old after awhile. But there are no shortcuts to relationships or community. You keep remembering that all of your tried-and-true friendships (the people you miss in the other homes you’ve had) started the same way. And over time, similarities emerged. And/or difficulties brought you together. And there will be shared tears and laughter that births true community. 

While you’re doing this, you’re also trying to establish a physical “home” that resembles the one you left. Which is extra-challenging when, for example, you don’t actually have your own place yet. But we do have two bedrooms and bathrooms and a hallway-turned-office, and a few weeks ago I hung up twine and paper-clipped our Christmas cards to the hall bannister and pretended it was like our fireplace mantle. And something small like that made this space we’re sharing feel a little more like our own. I try to focus on cultivating gratefulness, which isn’t hard to do most days because of my parents’ generosity and love, and the fact that I have a God in Heaven who arranges even details of my address in order to help me seek and worship him. But there are those days when I obsessively view homes on Zillow that I’d like to live in. And days I just wish I could look at our pictures and eat on our dishes and have a whole roof to call our own. For those days, I’ve written these words so that I can return and remember and gain perspective.

For all of you who are in those in-between-home days, too, I hope these words help you know you’re not alone in the ups and downs of the process. And I’d love to hear from you. What has helped you when you’ve been in a similar place? How do you find home wherever you are?