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}

day 19: school

photo credit:

photo credit:

There have been so many in the 20 years of education I’ve had. The concrete block halls of my elementary school, cheerfully bedecked with apples and kids’ drawings and creative bulletin boards. And then the similarly structured high school halls, devoid of artwork and covered with lockers and more graffiti than the administration allowed. That gave way to the much more beautiful (and expensive) buildings of the midwestern Christian college I attended – fall leaves on the front lawn at the foot of the limestone bell tower that chimed regularly and rang a lot in the spring with each engaged couple who ascended its heights to announce their joy.


But which school has been most instructive? Probably not any of these buildings, per se. They were an important launch into a lifetime of learning. I have been schooled about my heart and in the most crucial of lessons (love) in the four walls of home. My own home in which I grew up with my parents and two younger brothers, and now the home I cultivate alongside my husband with our twin daughters.

This gives a new meaning to the term “home school.”


Part of a 31-day October writing challenge. Read the series here.

day 15: South Carolina

greenville 1Blue mountains set the background of the horizon as green hills stretch out into my hometown. Born a Georgia girl, I was raised a (South) Carolina girl. It is home. It will always welcome me as no other place can each time I drive down I-85 into that comfortable not-too-big-nor-too-small city of Greenville, SC. 

South Carolina cradles all my memories of childhood. Playing in the backyard of our Sugar Creek house with my younger brothers; exploring downtown as it gradually became less sketchy during high school years and beyond; discovering the first and best coffeeshop entitled appropriately, “Coffee Underground.” First dates. First job. First friends. First faith. All happened in South Carolina. greenville2

Family still dwells there, and they welcome me back with open arms, a glass of mint sweet-iced tea, and a good ole “y’all” thrown in with a few “Dang it!”‘s for good measure. And I know I’m home. These are my people, this is my land. It doesn’t have to explain itself to me or I to it. I’ve changed in my travels, and so has my fair city. We’ve both grown up. And I couldn’t be more proud to be a Carolina girl.

Liberty Bridge in Falls Park, Downtown Greenville

Liberty Bridge in Falls Park, Downtown Greenville


Part of my October writing challenge/movement: 31 days of five minute free writes. Read more here.

five minute Friday: “visit”

My writing/blogging is feeling as little rusty. No better way to get back in than to jump into Five Minute Friday as a start. So here’s today’s word: “visit.”

Maybe it’s an airplane. Boarding alone, with a few books in tow, trying to avoid telling my seat mate my profession as a counselor (if I want to get to read my books). Leaving one place of familiarity, of home, and arriving in another greeted by ones who are also like home to me.

When you’ve lived in four places during your adult life, and really put down roots in each one, and each has formed a part of my story, there are many “homes” to return to. And I never quite fully feel at home anywhere. There are always ones I love who live elsewhere.

So visiting is a part of my pilgrim life. I visit family in three different states, up and down the Eastern seaboard, and we endure the miles and miles of whines and crumbs and fast food stops to get there. To visit. To stay for awhile, or a few days, or a week if we’re lucky.

And I board the airplane to return to a group of college friends for a reunion/homecoming; and I board a plane to see my Atlanta group of close friends; and then I board that same plane to return to the home and family I’ve missed. Visit is always bittersweet. By definition, it’s temporary. It’s a passing through – a stopping by – a gathering of memories and smiles and photos to savor when the visit comes to an end and home is in sight.

Isn’t this also how I am to be living my life here on earth? While I await Home above? This is a visit – a stopping by – a passing through – and home is in sight. 

Five-minute Friday: “Story”

Story. There’s a popular cliche that’s well known in counseling circles: “Home is where your story begins.” I love that because it is quite true that every story begins at home – a place of nurture, for better or for worse. Yet it’s also true that the place where you’re able to begin telling your story can become home. Hence my calling as a counselor. I consider it a deep privilege to become “home” for someone’s story. Maybe the first time they’ve shared about deep wounds or fragile hope or shattered places in their heart. And story is what shapes you, as well as what you shape each choice of each day of your life.

Story. To live in God’s story for me is another way of saying to live according to God’s will. Am I living a story of God’s glory or of my own comfort/pleasure/fulfillment? Have I remembered that Christ is the HOME for my story? He is where my story begins, and ends. Christ as the place where I am free to share every detail of my story, and Christ as the ultimate Story-teller. His story gives mine meaning, depth, light, darkness. His presence assures me that my story will never be meaningless or hopeless.

Story is captivating. And it is in daring to share our story boldly, honestly, freely, that we will have connection to others. Community is about shared-story-living (and shared-story-shaping). My story is never solitary. It’s part of a whole, and touches your story in similar ways that your story will touch mine.

There is a beginning. A middle. An end. I can tell you its beginning; the middle is what I wade through daily; the end is a mystery kept by God. Maybe in remembering where I am in my story will I be able to better live out the story of who I am; who God’s making me to be; living true to the story he is writing for me.


I’m participating today in Lisa-Jo’s “Five Minute Friday” where you write for five minutes on a topic, unedited. Fun way to get a quick blog post and stir the creative writing process.

A project to make my math teachers proud


Mark this down: I found a use for all of the math classes I endured through elementary, middle, and high school. (Thankfully I was finished with math and didn’t need anything besides an aptly named “Math for Elementary Education” for my college major which was fun and about as easy as it sounds like it should be.) And I took a page out of the book of my mathematically/engineering-minded husband, Seth. When he hangs pictures, he actually measures. Like with a real measuring tape and uses a level to make sure it’s straight. I use the “artistic method.” Meaning that I eyeball it, nail up the picture and then usually have to do this 2-3 times before getting it right. The patching needed after a few of my picture-hanging sessions is no small thing.

And so this morning, while I was hanging up the beautiful prints, I took the time to measure the wall; figure out how to evenly space the five small prints; determine the height of each frame; mark it with a pencil before I made a nail hole in the wall.

The result? These pictures are beautifully spaced and aesthetically pleasing to even the most OCD of my family members (guess who). I think I might have enough energy and motivation now to tackle the piles on my desk so that I can actually use my office.

An added bonus is that I have a renewed thankfulness for my husband’s gifts and talents and I am newly appreciative of my full liberal arts education that included my least favorite subject, math. On to those piles now …


all things pink (and brown)

I think that the reason that “nesting” is so much fun when you’re pregnant (whether you’re doing the nesting yourself or just asking others to do the work for you … !) is that the nursery is the most tangible symbol of the baby (or babies) that are on their way. [Besides the pregnant belly, of course, but you can’t really spend time decorating and organizing it …] Once these babies arrive, their nursery will fade into the background because THEY will be here – the ones we’ve been preparing it for. An analogy comes to mind – God our Father’s promise that HE is “preparing a place” for us, His children, in His heavenly kingdom. Our arrival there is more certain than our daughters’ arrival to the nursery we’re decorating. This certainty comes not because I’m good enough or ever will be, but precisely because I’m not good enough and I rest entirely on the goodness of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is certain, and I can trust Him to bring me safely Home one day.

In the meantime, as I await for God to bring forth these babies on their birth day known only to Him … I’m having fun with watching the nursery come together. Here’s a few pictures:

Mom's gorgeous curtains she made for the nursery!

A close-up of the curtains

the crib (Babi Italia from Babies R Us) & bedding set (

Dad & Seth - proud painters of the nursery

These last two pictures are of a diaper clutch a friend made for me and brought over as a gift today – isn’t it adorable?!  Check out the rest of her high-quality and high-fashion bags/etc. at Barefoot Bags

living in expectancy

You might be getting tired of posts on the topic of waiting and expectancy, and at moments I find myself getting tired of waiting and being pregnant, too. Yet this is my season of life right now. And I want to embrace it for all that it is, knowing that as the Ecclesiastical wisdom goes, a time for waiting and resting will inevitably transition to a time for birth and parenting that we’ve been waiting for – which will be a season of busyness and activity. Knowing that the end [of pregnancy] is near loads each new day with meaning and anticipation. Knowing that the end date is unknown gives a sense of urgency and purpose to each moment (or at least a heightened desire to be purposeful). I often find myself asking the question, “If I go into labor tonight, what will be most important for me to accomplish today?” At the beginning of bed rest, that question was answered rather simply: finish well with those I had been counseling by referring them to other counselors and complete the grading for the distance ed course I had been proctoring (great course, by the way: CCEF’s “Counseling and Physiology” taught by Dr. Mike Emlet). Gradually my priorities shifted to finding a childbirth preparation DVD since Seth & I couldn’t take the class we were hoping for,  packing a hospital bag (umm … yes, this probably should have been my first priority but I think it was part of living in denial the first few weeks), and making sure the preemie-size clothes were washed and ready.

The point of this post isn’t to give a checklist for “preparing for labor and delivery,” as there are MANY out there which are helpful, but rather to draw the analogy to how I want to be living in this same sense of expectancy every day of my life as a Christian. By definition,  being a Christian means that I am one who is a member of God’s family because of the grace of Jesus Christ for me and therefore I belong not to my own kingdom and this physical home, but to God’s Kingdom where I will be at Home only when I am face-to-face with Christ (and “away” from this earthly body – after death or Christ’s return). Two sermons I’ve heard during this season of bed rest have caused me to meditate further on this reality – and to long to live all of my life in expectancy.

The first one was preached by my husband on faithful endurance on July 18th, and a key phrase of the Hebrews passage he preached on stood out to me in particular:

“…you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34)

He preached on the fact that so many times we are so focused on building on our earthly possessions that we forget about this better possession (all the riches of heaven and knowing Christ) that is to come. And we fail to endure faithfully when we suffer on earth because we think that this is all there is – that THIS is life. This is life, to be sure, but it is only a shadow of the Life to come. And that should make me not less engaged in each day, but more engaged. More purposeful, more desirous to live according to priorities that reflect the Life that is to come. Just as our priorities are being rearranged by the two lives that will soon be coming …

The second sermon that also struck me was by our pastor, Rev. Jack Howell, the following Sunday (July 25th) on Hebrews 11. Here are a few verses that stood out:

“These all [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. … But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

I am waiting for a Home that is to come. I am living in expectancy of it – so then why am I so frustrated when life doesn’t seem to work out the way I was planning? (i.e. – going on bed rest the same day we moved into our new house) This is not the season to be totally settled and completely at “home.” Similarly to bed rest. If I thought this was how my life would be indefinitely, each day would be much harder (and I do have great compassion for those who are bedridden without an end in sight – my heart goes out to you!). But I know that eventually, these babies will be delivered and I will be “delivered” from bed rest. I am not completely settled with my life right now that mainly consists of sleeping, reading, blogging and emailing, eating, hosting visitors, with frequent bathroom breaks. I want to be out of this recliner and active. Especially on such a beautiful beach-worthy Saturday as today. Yet I digress …

The point is that viewing this particular season as temporary and without knowing when it will end (but being assured that it WILL) gives meaning and purpose and urgency to each day. How much more so if I viewed all of my life as that – temporary, with a definite end yet unknown to me, and true Home ahead of me? How much more purposefully would I live? I hope to keep this lesson from this season of expectancy with me all of my life … thus preparing me better for the Life that is to come.

home for Christmas

As I write this post, the fire is crackling in the fireplace at my parents’ home in SC, I’ve got my comfortable LLBean img_3111slippers on (thanks, Mom & Dad Nelson!), and I am finally relaxed. Our “Christmas break” is well underway, which began wiimg_31181th a wonderful three days spent with the Nelsons in New Jersey. We went to NYC to see the “Rockettes” at Radio City Music Hall, ate at Seth’s favorite Italian family-style restaurant, Carmine’s, and then had “Christmas” on Friday. Snow came down all day — it truly felt like we were in a winter wonderland. We ate, opened presents, ate, slept, and ate some more … truly a relaxing and celebratory day!

There is really nothing quite like home for Christmas — whether it’s Millington, NJ (for Seth) or Greenville, SC, for me. It was great last night to be greeted by the “Davis family elves” last night at the airport (a.k.a. my brothers and sister-in-law); to attend church at the place that’s nurtured my faith in Christ since I was a child; and to be surrounded by the family I love so much and who lives so far away. There’s just something so comforting about knowing you belong and that you’re known. I loved that when Seth, Bryan, and I walked in just before Sunday evening’s church service, the usher at the back immediately directed us to the pew where the Davis family was sitting. I didn’t have to ask or explain — he just knew us. As much as I love new places and exploration, I equally love the comfort of the familiar. Of the rest that comes from this … like an inward sigh of relief.img_3140

And the complication of our journey to get here last night only makes us appreciate it all the more. Bear with me as a I recount another of my traveling adventures (I’ve had more than my share — in my opinion — but the others will be for another post). We were scheduled to fly out with Northwest Airlines through Memphis, TN, to arrive into Greenville (GSP from this point forward) at 9:30 p.m. However, they oversold our flight from Philly to Memphis, and they asked us if we would volunteer to move to a different flight for travel vouchers. Perhaps we’re mercenaries, but we figured it would be worth it and wouldn’t be that inconvenient. It even promised to be better than the original one since the flight they re-booked us for was a direct flight into GSP arriving around the same time. However, it was with USAirways (and my litany of bad travel has been with them historically). And each time we checked the board over the next few hours, the flight was delayed more and more …. until it was canceled at 7:00 pm. So we stood in line and waited … and waited … and waited … and were able to be rebooked … for a flight going into Charlotte, NC (1.5 hours away from GSP). We were thrilled to be arriving last night. And my family was willing to make the trek in their “sleigh” to pick us up. So a very happy and very tired Seth and Heather were greeted by “elves” around 11:00 pm last night — and finally made our way to home sweet home by 1:00 a.m.! (of course, our luggage wasn’t so fortunate to make the trip with us — but it did follow only a day later and we now have it in our possession — again, not unusual since my bags have not made it with me over the past several flights to GSP I’ve taken over the past few years)

Isn’t Christmas and being home better because of the journey? And isn’t it much better because of the journey that img_31222God made, coming to earth as a baby to be born in a manger, to be called Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer? The journey that God took which would guarantee that one day all of those who believe in Christ would be able to journey Home to the place where we are fully known … that is worth dreaming of, hoping in, and celebrating this Christmas. A home that makes the best earthly homes pale in comparison and which gives hope to those who have had homes which were a far cry from any place lovely or familiar or comfortable. May the One whose birth we celebrate be the One whose Home we long for and anticipate this Christmas!