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}

A year ago today …

… I was trying to fall asleep in a hospital bed on the labor and delivery floor while being monitored for contractions and my babies’ heart rates. An IV line administered medication seeking to slow and stabilize contractions as well as antibiotics in case the babies had to be delivered. Various monitors beeped and nurses came in and out while I *tried* to drift off. Seth and I had planned to spend that night in our newly purchased home – our first home to own – but instead our house sat vacant except for unpacked boxes and furniture. I had not left the hospital bed since being admitted that morning after a normal OB appointment revealed indications of possible preterm labor.

I remember feeling both great anxiety and inexplicable peace. Anxiety that our daughters would be born at only 25 weeks along (and, no, I was not ready for that in any aspect of it) and anxiety at how my life had been altered in the course of a day (no traveling to my brother’s wedding, no more working through August as I’d hoped, no helping with unpacking and settling into our new home). But mixed with this, and in fact overriding it, was a sense of peace as I knew my Shepherd was with me there. He was caring for me and He was caring for our yet unborn daughters. And so eventually (in between nurse checks), I was able to drift off to sleep. If only for a few hours.

To think back on that day a year ago brings a wave of gratitude for God’s faithfulness to us, not only for the healthy daughters who now are exploring every inch of our house as they crawl and who miraculously waited 10 more weeks before birth, but also for so many of you who cared so well for us in this past year. Which prompted the letter of gratitude below – please receive it as a small token of our appreciation:

Dear friends and family,

A year ago today was quite a momentous day for us – the day we moved into our first home and the day I began what would be 10 weeks of bed rest before the birth of Lucia and Alethia on September 8th, 2010.  So much happened in such a short period of time: Seth had to find others to supervise our move in his place so that he could join me at the hospital while the doctors tried to discern how imminent my pre-term labor would be and how to stop or slow it down. I felt perfectly fine although my body was trying to go into labor to deliver our 25-week-old twin daughters. We were terrified many moments throughout that day as we awaited more information. A few days later, we were relieved that I could be discharged from the hospital but unsure how long before I would deliver and how we would make it day-to-day as I endured strict bathroom-privileges-only bed rest.

You stepped into our lives at this point and helped us. You were the hands and feet of Jesus to us as you unpacked boxes, painted walls, completed tiling projects, did laundry, cleaned our house, brought us meals, visited me on the “long days of the recliner,” went grocery shopping and ran errands for us,  including picking up our baby furniture for us. Not to mention your constant support through your prayers and words of encouragement to us. And you didn’t stop after the babies were born, but continued to bring meals and provide help as needed. As we tried to remember all of you who had provided assistance for us, there were well over 100 people (and I’m sure we’re missing a few).

“Thank you” feels so flat, but we wanted to again tell you how much we appreciate your ministry to us during this difficulty. Our healthy daughters are themselves a testimony of your help to us and your many, many prayers on our behalf. So – thank you again, and know that you will always have a special place in our hearts for the way you met us at our time of need.

In humble gratitude,

Heather & Seth

Trusting God When You’re Expecting, part 3: a new chapter called “bed rest”

Twenty-five weeks along, the beginning of the third trimester, a move into the first home Seth and I own and the first home our daughters will know, and then the unexpected: the initiation into the “bed rest” stage of pregnancy. I’m getting a thorough orientation through a three to five stay (total length yet TBD, going on day 3 now) in the ante-partum hall of the maternity ward (a.k.a. a hall of pregnant women trying to stay that way for awhile longer for their babies’ safety).

How to survive hospitalized bed rest? I’m compiling a list:

  1. Entertainment through reading [lots of it and a variety (magazines, books, newspapers)] and movies/DVD/tv shows – but be careful not to become a total tv junkie as being on bed rest certainly predisposes you to becoming a couch potato anyway
  2. Visitors – not too many to be exhausting, not too few to leave you with long stretches of alone time in which you begin inventing ways to pull a stint (and maybe make local headlines?) by becoming an escape artist from the hospital
  3. Music!
  4. A laptop – they have free internet here, but be aware that most of the sites you’ll want to visit (at least here at Norfolk General Hospital) will be blocked – and I’m not talking about the obviously obscene ones, but Facebook, all and and other obvious blog sites of your friends – the places you desperately want to visit to be reminded that there is an outside world, and to feel as if you are somehow connected to it (even virtually)
  5. Frequent stretches – your only hope for exercising any now-latent muscles
  6. Constant pleas to be allowed bathroom privileges (mine were finally reinstated this morning – hallelujah – no more bed pans!)
  7. The expectation that even though you are here to rest, you won’t be allowed to sleep more than 4-5 hours without the interruption of medications/monitoring
  8. Food from the “outside.” Hospital food and airline food are very similar – the only difference being that the former is “free” (included in the price of admission) and the latter is virtually now non-existent unless you’re willing to pay restaurant prices in-flight
  9. Your own hygiene/pampering products – nothing like your favorite scented lotion and putting on make-up to make you feel just a bit like yourself and not so “institutionalized”
  10. Jesus. For real. He is the only Person who will be constantly attentive to you (thus freeing you from the already “natural” self-pitying feelings of pregnancy, which are only amplified by bed rest) and He is the only resting place for your soul (which tends to get quite restless in proportion to the amount of bed rest you’re forced to get, ironically enough).

UPDATE: They actually discharged me the afternoon I wrote this, so I am now resting at home. Much better. Yet still a bit different because it’s a home that we’re still settling into – “we” meaning Seth and my parents and brother Bryan who came up to help. Our internet was finally connected tonight, so I’m sure I will be posting MUCH more frequently now!

Hello to Norfolk, VA

IMG_3286I realize this post has been several weeks in coming. All I have to say is that moving is quite disruptive. Although we had physically unpacked our boxes in less than a week, the “emotional” unpacking and settling in can’t be managed that quickly. And especially since we journeyed back to Philadelphia after our first week here for an unexpected and permanent farewell to a dear friend (Beverlee Kirkland) who has gone Home to Jesus. I hope to be able to blog about her life in a future post. The emotions are a bit too fresh now. She had lived a very full life – 61 years – and she was physically tired from complications of diabetes for 25 years. But she is very dearly missed, as she and her husband, Collier, were mentors for us during our time at Cresheim Valley Church.

Now about Norfolk … in short, we love it. It’s been a very smooth move, with a warm welcome from the church where Seth is an assistant pastor (Trinity Presbyterian). Here are my top 10 favorite things about it so far (but not necessarily in order):

(1) our BEAUTIFUL spacious apartment!! where we even have a guest room … and the luxuries of a dishwasher and washer/dryer

(2) being walking distance from a river walk area and the church and the grocery store and friends


(3) the Chrysler Art Museum, which we’ve visited twice already, is a 5 min walk from us and actually an impressive collection of art

(4) 30 minutes to the beach! (and you don’t have to buy beach tags once you’re there)

IMG_3282(5)  the people at Trinity Pres. Church – they’ve showered us with dinner invitations and beach invitations .. we feel very welcomed already

(6) the sound of Southern summer crickets every night

(7) people are friendly, for the most part – like you say “hi” to strangers you pass on the street

(8) the  local “Naro” theater in Ghent, where we walked to see “Up” (a good movie – I recommend it!) and paid only $6/ticket

(9) water, water everywhere … we’re a peninsula surrounded by water: the Chesapeake Bay, the Elizabeth River, and the Atlantic Ocean

(10) I’m back in the South again. Enough said y’all …

Farewell to Philadelphia


I woke up  last night at 2:00 a.m. with two prominent feelings. One being excitement because we finally move today! I am looking forward to embarking on the journey we’ve been discussing for months. It is time to set sail. All is in order (or seems to be); farewells have been exchanged; welcomes are forthcoming and the adventure awaits us.

And the second feeling was that of muscle aches and pains that remind me that I’m 30. My body now feels the effects of scrubbing down our apartment yesterday. And it was sore and didn’t want me to sleep.

So after 45 minutes of tossing and turning, I saw this as an opportunity for my final entry from Philadelphia. What a five years it’s been! As we’ve said good-bye, I’ve been reminded of just how rich it has been … and just how many chapters have been written in these 5 years since September 2004. I am not the same person who arrived with my brother Jonathan and Uncle Billy and Mom to 308 Bethlehem Pike and the basement apartment I would call home for my first semester at Westminster Seminary.

I came as Heather Elizabeth Davis; I leave as Heather Davis Nelson. I arrived very much alone; I leave surrounded by layers of community – seminary, CCEF, New Life Dresher, Cresheim Valley Church, World Harvest Mission, The Counseling Center at Chelten, and Chestnut Hill. From single and alone to married and in love with Seth. From an elementary school Spanish teacher to a pastoral counselor. From a PC user to a lover of Mac/Apple. (Thanks largely to my husband’s influence.)

I will miss this place and these people very very much.  There will be future reflections I’m sure. Countless ones. In the rearview mirror, it will become clearest what Philadelphia has meant to me and the way this season and these communities have shaped me.

For now, I bid you farewell, City of Brotherly Love and those we love who dwell within it.

a ship in harbor

helsingor-dk165The analogy came to me tonight while talking to my friend Ellen: that this season of transition feels like being in a ship in harbor, waiting to set sail for distant lands. We are loading up the cargo, one box at a time. And we are untying the ropes that bind us to Philadelphia one strand at a time. Each good-bye is a letting go. Tearful at the leaving, joyful at the reflection of what the friendship has meant. We will soon be standing on the ship’s deck, waving good-bye to our friends on the other side. And there will be tears on both sides.

And we will “set sail” to a “new land” of Norfolk, Virginia, where a new life awaits us – yet to be discovered. There will be new friends greeting us at the dock, helping us unload our cargo and initiate ties of relationship that will bind us to our future home. There will be a season of many “hello’s”.

But now is the season of saying “good-bye.” And so I pray that I will be fully present for each one. Soaking up the memories – the celebration of what has been enjoyed in these five years in Philadelphia.