Five Minute Friday: Together

I return today to this weekly writing practice of Five Minute Friday: Five minutes on a weekly prompt, no editing, just free-flowing words and stream-of-consciousness. And a supportive writing community hosted by Kate Motaung – head over to to learn more.

As an extroverted introvert – or an introverted extrovert – this question of whether to get together isn’t simple for me to answer. I vacillate between wanting to be together with “my people” (husband, kids, family, neighbors, friends) and craving the quiet solitude that gives my soul space to breathe.

It wasn’t always such a dilemma. I was the “yes girl” all growing up, all through college, and beyond. Then I got married, and we were together all the time – 24/7/365 – and it was great, and it was challenging for us both. But we navigated around it; found ways to be together and to also enjoy being apart. Then twins came barely four years into marriage, and “together” was no longer an option. Their survival very literally depended on it. We were feeding round-the-clock and sleeping in shifts. We were all very together all the time, and it was beautiful and delightful and difficult. I found when given the option during free time, I didn’t choose “together” automatically anymore. I chose “alone” because it became a rare luxury.

But now – these twins are becoming teens, and I find I’m shifting again. I want to be together … and that’s where we all are this weekend, and I’m hoping “together” will be what they want as well in the years and decades to come.

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.


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}

Davis Design Furniture

I grew up with two younger brothers, and I certainly bossed them around in typical older sister fashion when we were younger – until they grew up to be taller than me. As adults, I not only look up to them physically, but I also respect them for the men they’ve become. Jonathan is a physician serving the under-served in a Christian free medical clinic in Georgia. He and his beautiful wife, Nicole, are parents to three kids and foster-parents as well. Bryan is an entrepreneur and business/marketing guru who works in the Research and Development wing of their city’s health system. He and his beautiful wife, Megan, are parents of two boys and live on a gorgeous property in rural SC. He also has incredible talent as a furniture designer and is the purveyor of the recently launched Davis Design Furniture.

Without further adieu,  I’ll let Bryan introduce himself and his furniture company to you.

Designer. Creator. Builder.

Ever since I was a kid I have visualized, designed and built. By the time I was in middle school, I built my first piece of furniture – I was hooked, and learned I had a passion for it (which thankfully tends to lend itself towards improvement). I’ve come a long way since then, and my passion for design and building continues to grow and mature.

Good. Better. Best.

My philosophy? Build more than simply furniture, create a story people can fall in love with. Craft as though it’s for my own family and build to share for generations to come. Every piece of Davis Design Furniture represents hours of designing, planning and crafting.with hand-picked top-shelf materials to produce unique, one-of-a-kind pieces you’ll want to talk about.

Megan. Issac. Asher.

I’m blessed to have an amazing wife and two studly little boys  to live life with on our property in Moonville, South Carolina.

Because a picture is worth 1000 words, I’ll end this post with a few pictures of the furniture that he’s built. And I’ll ask you to check out his website for more inspiration!


a beautiful side-table from Davis Design


a gorgeous farmhouse table from  Davis Design



scattered chaos – or a story?

A half dozen (or more) children’s books are scattered in piles of two or three around the perimeter of our living room. The one most recently read lays atop our ottoman beside a discarded ballet slipper. Its pink partner sits in front of my husband’s recliner. A pink polka-dotted blanket is on top of the rug, and a paper airline peeks out from underneath the couch. Blue sparkly Cinderella shoes and fuzzy pink slippers grace another corner, and the pink bin of Legos sits opposite. A plastic green cup with a straw sits proudly beside the remote controls. Cushions are all in tact at the end of this day – and that says something.

In my more frustrated moments, I’d say this is scattered chaos. I look around and feel annoyed that I didn’t ask my daughters to pick things up before they went to bed. I’m annoyed with myself for not picking up more before grabbing my laptop to write a long overdue blog post. But then I try to remember how this mess tells a story of a full day well enjoyed by two five-year-old girls. The books are from reading time at the end of the day, me in one chair with one twin and my husband in another chair with her sister. Before this there were dance parties (hence the ballet slippers and Cinderella shoes) and a yoga session (note the blanket on the floor as makeshift mat). One twin adores her slippers and hates cold feet, so she wore them downstairs until the day’s play began. Another girl was thirsty before bedtime and so she brought in her ice water with a straw while being read stories.

In ten years, the mess will look very different.

In twenty years, we’ll miss the days that left behind such a scattered chaos.

I wish – I pray – that I would have the long view as I parent during what feels like a long summer in the midst of a long season of gloriously imaginative play and charming smiles punctuated by sibling conflict and mommy frustration.

My word of 2016 has been “rooted.” I haven’t written about it here before because, well, the book has taken a lot of air time. But it’s because of the book’s publication that I chose this word as a focus and prayer for this year. It can be too easy to get lost “in the clouds” of a book release, becoming a published author, engaging in speaking events I’d only dreamed of before – and forgetting my roots. The lovely, hard, sanctifying thing about motherhood and marriage is that my family roots me and grounds me in reality. There is laundry, and the dishes pile up when neglected, and meals need to be cooked and planned, and these ones I love are always present. Loving me and counting on me for their rootedness.

This task feels too immense. And it is until I remember where I am rooted. Deep in the eternal love of God, secured for me by Jesus Christ, spoken into my heart and soul by the Spirit. To be rooted in him, all I need to do is rest and abide and remember. Reading the Bible and praying and worshiping in our local church community help immensely. roots

The truth is that as I look around my living room this evening, the scattered chaos and the story it tells reminds me where I am rooted. Physically and emotionally – here with my family at a house in Virginia amidst a neighborhood and community of friends. Spiritually – I am rooted in a story that often looks to human eyes like the scattered chaos of this room. But it is telling a bigger story of redemption and hope and joy as the life of God is known through my work and play and parenting and marriage and friendship.


who’s at your bonfire?

Last weekend I attended the 30th birthday party for my youngest brother. I’m the big sister of two younger brothers, although they’ve long since surpassed me in height. So now I look like the little sister. (But my wrinkles prove otherwise. Ha!) I am proud of both of my brothers for the husbands, fathers, and hard-working professionals that they are. I love them dearly, and their wives are like the sisters I never had. Since we live far away from each other, family gatherings are more infrequent than we’d choose, but we try to make the moments count when we’re together.

bonfireSo last weekend I drove the hours necessary to be present at his monumental birthday party. And it was a blast! My favorite part had to be the bonfire in the backyard of the extensive property where he lives. As we huddled around the warm glow, the circle of family and friends who love my brother was enviable (in the best of ways). He’s stayed close to home, and so present at the bonfire-birthday-party was a friend he’s known since they were toddlers – who had his own toddler in tow. There was also another good friend he’s known since high school, and a guy he had mentored as well as his incredible boss/employer who’s mentored him. There were representatives of the family – parents and in-laws and a sibling and nieces and a nephew – and we all enjoyed gathering around the bonfire with one another. We came together to celebrate this friend/family member whose joy for life has always been contagious.

And it made me think as the chill in the air increased, and we all began moseying back inside and into our cars and back to our homes – the bonfire is a great image for a circle of friends and family. Ones who’ve made our history with us, who remember the stories we’d rather forget or the moments so beautiful for having been shared.

To gather all the friends I love around a bonfire would entail literally flying people in from the corners of globe – from Singapore and Nairobi, Kenya – and from coast to coast, North/South/East/West.

And isn’t that the picture of heaven? We will all come around – gather together – around the One we love, whose Joy welcomes us in and warms our hearts with the Spirit’s fire.

I’ll leave you with a verse that gives words to this vision from Isaiah 60

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
    and your daughters are carried on the hip.
Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy;..”



the value of the hidden work of love

“How do you do it all?” It’s a question I often hear in response to the oh-so-complex question of, “What do you do?” When I reply that I’m a mom to 4-year-old twins, pastor’s wife, part-time counselor at our church, and writing a book – it does sound quite “impressive” (or overwhelming). I often reply tongue-in-cheek – “Not very well!” – to the aforesaid question. Most people don’t believe me. Except for those closest to me.

Seth, my husband, sees the dishes and laundry piling up alongside my frustration to try to do it all. My daughters experience the always-weary mama who too often opts for screen time so that I can finish a writing project or just get a nap. (They’ve almost completely dropped their afternoon nap.) My parents and in-laws and siblings and siblings-in-law and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and cousins don’t get as much “Heather time” as I wish I could give them. Life right now feels like a delicate balancing act that I can’t do too well.

loving lifeAnd, true, I need to learn to prioritize (and identify “posteriorities” as DeYoung describes in Crazy Busy). Yet I also need to learn to embrace the hidden work of love that is my life with a family of young kids. To see this as a grounding point of my life rather than a distraction from work/writing/etc. Enter the so-good and so-convicting words of Paul Miller in A Loving Life

We usually recoil from the cost of love, thinking it is an alien substance, but it is the essence of love. … True glory is almost always hidden – when you are enduring quietly with no cheering crowd. … We experience a strange and powerful presence of God during those moments of hidden love. When you hang in there on the journey of love, when you endure and don’t take the exits of distance and cynicism, God shows up.

The parts of my life that are public are quite frankly, the easiest parts of life right now. Sure, it takes time and thought and work to prepare a talk for women, or to write the next chapter of my book, or to teach Sunday school, but I always get affirmation in these public areas of service. Motherhood and marriage? Not so. If I am loving my daughters and husband well, there is not an adoring crowd to let me know. If I’m not loving them well, I can hide this from others or gloss over my failures as “hard days/weeks/stages.” For me, it is this hidden work of loving family that shows me where I most desperately need the grace of a Savior and the endurance of the Spirit. 

Miller talks about this in his own life, capturing it in this sentence that aptly describes the past few weeks after a great deal of public ministry:  “God was giving me a hidden work of love to balance out the public ministry of teaching.” He talks about this in the life of Ruth, saying that in relation to Naomi, she “cheerfully pursued the bondage of love.”

It is so counter-cultural and counter-self-actualization to love like this. Which is why I cannot love like this without Jesus’ life at work in me. As Jesus’ love takes deeper root in my heart, there will be more joy in the hidden work of love – which will have the happy effect of enriching the public ministries of love, too. I end with this description:

…if I love only when I feel like it, then I’ve really not understood love. … Love like this strips us of self-will and purifies our motivations. It is surprisingly liberating because we’re not trapped by either our feelings or the other person’s response. When neither preserving the relationship nor our feelings is central, we’re free to offer the other person a rich tapestry of love.

Five Minute Friday: “together”

As kids, my two younger brothers and I would laugh at mom’s desire for “family together time.” We made fun of her for how much she wanted us to be together, even if that together time wasn’t filled with anything “special.” Now I admire her desire (shared and fostered by my dad, too) to be sure that we did share this most precious of commodity together as a family: time. Dinners every night; one weekend night that was devoted to “family fun,” even when I was in high school and rolled my eyes and copped a bad attitude. They were committed to us being together. Whatever that included.

[photo credit: image from]

Now we live up and down the East Coast – literally from the coast of Maine down to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Carolinas. “Together” for the extended Davis family is a rare commodity. One we last shared in our annual May beach week; the next one yet to be scheduled since there are two December babies due (my sisters-in-law’s, not mine!); and we Nelsons will be celebrating what’s likely to be the last New Jersey Nelson Christmas since plans are in motion for my in-laws to move closer to us next summer.

Together is precious, as precious as ever, even more so because it is so infrequent. Together isn’t about what you do; it’s about who you are with and what we share: time, faith, emotions, joys, sorrows. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching me the value of “together.”


Today I’m participating in Lisa-Jo’s “Five Minute Friday,” a chance to write unedited for five minutes on a word given by Lisa-Jo each Friday. Come join us!

what’s not to love about Maine?

We are back home. I’ve missed blogging and routine, and after 28 hours of travel by car, I agree with Dorothy that “there’s no place like home.” But what a beautiful trip we had to Maine and then to grandparents in New Jersey. There will be more on all of that later … for now, a post that is an ode of sorts to Maine. It was lovely. In case you don’t believe me, some pictures to prove that. 

We trekked up the East coast to visit my brother, sister-in-law, and two bright and handsome nephews who live in Portland, Maine – their home since my doctor-brother started residency there. It was a brave and bold choice to make three years ago as a couple with a one-year-old who had basically lived their entire lives in South Carolina or Georgia. But they love it there, except for wishing the winter to be shorter and family to live closer.

After our second visit to Maine in the summer (and this time with older twins and a string of gloriously sunny days), we have caught the passion shared by all who love “Down East” (as Maine is known to true Mainers). A few highlights from our trip, under the category of what we love about Maine

  1. There are bike paths through woods even in a relatively metropolitan area. And they take you to beautiful destinations, like this lighthouse below.20130819-233807.jpg
  2. People fly gigantic (the biggest I’ve ever seen) kites at the field by this lighthouse. In fact, they have a kite club that meets every Saturday morning, which we gleefully happened upon.20130819-233839.jpg
  3. Downtown Portland, Maine, feels like Europe. Diverse people, cobblestone paving, street musicians who are actually quite talented, dozens of foodie restaurants and cafes beckoning me to come in with a book and my journal. Strange though it may sound, being there reminded me of my summer in Ireland.
  4. The weather. Cloudless blue skies, long days with early sunrises and late sunsets, allowed us to explore the beautiful outdoors to our heart’s content (well – almost – at least as much as we could within our four preschoolers’ limits, of course).
  5. The people! I’m sorry, South, but you ain’t got nothing on a Mainers’ neighborliness. Kids gather on the streets to play after dinner while their parents sip drinks and bring out tikki torches and music. One evening my sister-in-law and I were sitting on the front stoop, and a neighbor brought over a plate of homemade salmon cakes and aioli for us to enjoy as an appetizer. Their neighbors met us and greeted us each time we were coming or going. They have mowed my brother’s yard for him and offered A/C units on a (rare) hot summer day. They lent us bikes so that we could have a two-family-with-four-kids bike ride to the lighthouse (see #1). Community? Um, yes, please!
  6. Water, water, water. Everywhere we went there was a harbor or a port or a lake or a coast. It is Portland, after all. A highlight was the ferry ride we took to Peaks’ Island. Perfect delight for the 4-and-under crowd particularly! Especially since I’m pretty sure my daughters were thinking “fairy” ride v. “ferry” – added a magical element to the experience for them.
  7. Holy Donuts. You have not tried donuts until you’ve tasted a homemade HOLY DONUT from this local shop. Flavors included chocolate sea-salt, bacon, pomegranate, lemon, maple, and blueberry (of course).
  8. Farm-style dining. We sat outside on picnic tables in the midst of a field of wildflowers and herbs to eat gourmet fresh-from-the-farm food that was perfectly portioned and so delicious I don’t have words to describe it.20130819-233924.jpg20130819-233938.jpg
  9. A picnic of pizza at a park overlooking the port. Look at that alliteration. As wonderful as it sounds.
  10. My family. I know that without them living in Maine, it wouldn’t have the same appeal. We had days filled with lingering conversations over meals; fun cousin play; stories read by Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Nicole; faith and life sharing; and much laughter. I am deeply thankful for such friends who are also family. My heart is full in that joy mixed with grief kind of way. Joy for the time spent together; grief that we are so far away from them. Until next summer, then … ?!

The Gathering

img_3386First hint of dawn
Across marsh plains
Bidding us farewell.
Life scattered into corners
Of the family beach house
Now gathered back into neat tidy bags
Packed in alongside memories of laughter, tears, sharing hearts, dreams
And you blink and it’s the end
Of this annual gathering of all.

Back now to routine
To the trying to connect
To keeping the relationships alive
Through phone lines
Skype dates weekend road trips
Across the many miles and state lines from whence we gathered.

But it’s never quite the same as this week
Of all present, laughing, remembering, teasing together.
Each personality enriched by the other
And by the Spirit whose Life we share
As well as common lineage by blood or marriage.
Cousins reacquainted in play and long beach days
Talks on bike rides, a beach blanket, a walk along the shore, in a rare interlude of quiet amidst the loud happy chaos.
Dinners and desserts and food all the time everywhere
Music as background and soundtrack
To the celebration of family and life
That we gather up into one beautiful week.

memoir writing workshop

Two of my favorite things discovered anew in 2012 are lavender hot chocolate at Stella’s Cafe (I mentioned that in my last post) and the free memoir writing workshop I saw advertised at our local library. It seemed to have my name all over it (pun intended): meeting on Friday (the day Seth can watch the girls for me), once a month, and FREE. For a long time I have wanted to get some sort of additional input/training on writing, but the opportunity never presented itself so clearly. As I showed up at 10:25 on the first meeting in January, I was almost giddy with excitement. And I felt very young. With the exception of our instructor (someone my age who is getting his Masters of Fine Art at a local university), I was the youngest by at least 30 years. Perhaps longer. Sweet, dear old women who have lived life with stories to tell. Like long, memoir-length stories to tell of immigrating from Europe and Russia, having children, grandchildren, careers, and years of retirement (one woman’s been retired 25 years which should make her at least 75 by a conservative estimate). When I floated my idea of writing about my life thus far through the lens of the various places I’ve lived, each of them representing a distinct season of my life, one woman replied, “Honey, you’ve only had two seasons of life.” Well meaning, I’m sure. But I’ll admit my enthusiasm was a bit squelched by her dose of reality.

Nonetheless, I began writing my memoir and returned to our February meeting with my typewritten 5-page draft. It felt good to be back in “school” with an “assignment.” I was eager to share it and get feedback. Alas, our group had doubled in size and so most of the hour was spent reviewing last month’s class – with the instructor repeating every few sentences because much of the group cannot hear very well. Then there was the woman who responded to finding out that I had twin daughters by walking me to the door after class and asking me quietly, “So, were they natural?” Oh, my. I didn’t think we were that close yet.

All jokes aside, I really am enjoying the experience to mix with an entirely different generation than I’m a part of, and I am looking forward to hearing the beginnings of their memoirs, whenever we get to that part. Maybe in March? I can’t set my expectations too high, as this class is free, after all. At least I’m getting good connections with other students of writing, picking up a few helpful tools along the way, and it’s provided outside motivation to write.

During the last five minutes of class, I shared my first paragraph with them – and I’ll do so with you, too. There wasn’t time for the full critique I was hoping for, and half of those at the table probably couldn’t hear me read it. But I will share it with you – my virtual audience – feel free to offer your thoughts. I’m framing this memoir as if I’m writing it as a letter to my daughters about my life.

Nestled into a cozy suburban neighborhood in the South, filled with families just like ours – you’ll find the house. Even its address reflects the idyllic life we lived there: Sweetwater Court. It was the second home where I lived, but it’s the home where my memories began. Both of your uncles were born there (not literally, but taken home there after the hospital). In the summers, our backyard was our center of adventures. We planned a putt-putt course and charged admission – even got featured in the local newspaper! Mom and Dad (Gigi and Pops to you) generously assisted our efforts, taking us to various putt-putt centers in the town to see about donations of the green carpets, helping us install PVC pipe for the “challenge” holes, making copies of the scorecard I designed, and letting our backyard be overrun with neighborhood kids for much of the summer.