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}

Five Minute Friday: Surrender

Five Minute Friday is a writing community I link up with most Fridays. It’s a five-minute free write on a given topic. Learn more about it here.

white flag

When I think of surrender, what first comes to mind is “raising the white flag.” Like surrender as a last resort in a battle when you realize it’s over and you can’t win. You declare that you give in and give up. So it’s no wonder that “surrender” isn’t something high on my list of favorite topics. I don’t want to give up anything to anyone. Not control, not time, not money … surrender seems to imply I’m giving over what I’d rather keep. But I know that in the Christian life, one of the central themes is surrender. The gospel hymn “I Surrender All” comes to mind. We sing about it sweetly in church, yet I think it’s more like the last act of a battle in reality. I would rather not have to surrender to God. But I do. And what changes this action from grit-your-teeth-and-open-your-hands to willing is when I look at God’s surrender for me. In a word, His love. I don’t surrender first. God surrendered all – His one and only perfect Son – in the battle for my soul and yours against an evil to the core Enemy. Jesus opened wide his arms in surrender at the cross. It was bloody and messy and awful, I imagine. But He did that so that I could be welcomed into God’s love. Surrendering to love is sweet and drives out fear. This surrender is less white flag and more like a lover’s embrace after a long time apart. Finally, you’re here, and I’m here, and we’re together at last. I think that’s true Christian surrender.

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?

 

 

Five Minute Friday: visit

I’m joining in with Five Minute Friday – a five-minute free write weekly exercise. Find out more here.

Maybe there are fresh flowers on the dresser. A tray of goodies to welcome us. But it can be simpler than that – a warm embrace; plans made for our stay; a place for us to sleep; meals prepared. When we visit another friend or family member, it’s a treat to be with them. It’s about the company. Not the accommodations, per se. It’s a chance to have a break from our routine and join in another’s day-to-day life.

There are limits to phone calls, FaceTime, that make a face-to-face visit necessary. Precious. And harder to fit in now that we have to work around a school schedule.

A visit is an opportunity to be on the receiving end of hospitality. We leave with our spirits refreshed and our hearts full. Ready to return the favor sometime soon.

Five Minute Friday: truth

After many months of hiatus, I’m returning to the blog – joining up with Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung. Five minutes of free-writing on a given prompt. No editing or overthinking. So here goes … 

It’s so important that I named my daughter after it. Alethia, meaning truth in Greek. It’s easy to lose; hard to find sometimes. Other times it’s staring at you in the face, and then maybe you don’t want to admit what it is.

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” in the face of Truth Incarnate, Jesus led like a lamb to die on the cross.

We ask, “What is truth?” out of confusion. Desperation to know. Refusal to admit it because then it has claims on your life.

streams

Truth should be sweet. Refreshing like purified water. There are so many half-truths and deceptions floating around our world. To discover truth in any form is beautiful. Or at least it should be.

But for me, truth too often seems dry. Unconnected to my life. Which is the furthest thing from the truth. It roots me, anchors me in storms. Telling it leads to freedom and connection and community. Even when it’s hard. Always when it’s coated in love. It’s how I grow. Receiving and telling the truth in love.

Truth isn’t dry when we remember it’s always to be joined to love. Many more will argue with truth who cannot argue with love. So let’s wed the two together, as they’re meant to be. And then truth is attractive – winsome – sought for – and secure.

a present-over-perfect practice

words and reflections from 12.31.16:

***

It’s a quiet New Year’s Eve in our home. We are tired from long travels back from SC, and the inevitable letdown that comes post-Christmas. In the quiet of reflection tonight, I am choosing to believe that as 2016 closes and 2017 dawns, God will be faithful, kind, and loving, even to me – who can be ungrateful, unkind, ungenerous, way too stubborn for my own good, and fearful. I’ve chased a lot of perfection and dreams in 2016, and from the outside looking in (or what you’d see and what I posted on social media), it looked pretty good. But part of what I’ve missed in that pursuit is real connection with friends and family. So for 2017 … I’m praying for God’s grace to show up through less trying-to-act-perfect and more real-life-community. Through less idealizing and more getting into the nitty-gritty work of forgiveness, love, kindness, courage, and faith. Amen?

***

 

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!

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a beautiful side-table from Davis Design

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a gorgeous farmhouse table from  Davis Design

 

 

An honest prayer for Thanksgiving

As we move into the season in which we seek to pause and give thanks, to celebrate God’s provision with a bountiful feast, I want to offer a meditation and a prayer. {While I also seek to acknowledge how this season can become an occasion for #thanks-shaming. I.e. Why don’t I feel more grateful for all that I’ve been given? I wish I was as grateful as ___ seems to be, etc. If this feeling of thanks-shaming resonates with you, read more in my series about shame here.}

May I lift my gaze to what is good in my life, for even the darkest of nights can be illuminated by a tiny pinprick of light, like a star bursting through the black canvas of of a night sky.

May I have eyes to see the beauty around me, hidden though it may be.

May I use Thanksgiving as a time of focused practice in noticing what I’ve been given.

And in giving thanks, may I see those with whom I am asked to share my abundance. May I see the poor, the marginalized, the orphaned, the widowed, and the ones at my own table who are lonely and carrying sorrows in isolation. May I be generous and open-handed with all I’ve been given, as God has so generously been towards me. 

because we need hope, peace, & comfort

I have been writing and thinking and praying a lot about hope this fall. There are many reasons I crave hope this season. Like the headlines flashing across our screens and calling to us from the morning paper, and the usual stress of trying to balance home, church, and family life. (And our family’s life now includes our twin daughters going to kindergarten full-day. Despite the great school they attend, it’s been an adjustment for all of us!)

We have also experienced waves of greater-than-usual overwhelming circumstances in our lives and in the lives of our family and friends. Like a hurricane that “breezed” through (pun intended) and left a ton of chaos in its wake;  friends who’ve had miscarriages; a friend battling leukemia; extended family health issues requiring more care from my husband and me; the death just last week of my great-aunt Julie; and a bit more travel than usual for me this fall.

As I’ve tried to take stolen moments along the way to pause, be still, and know that God is God (Psalm 46), I feel how much I need comfort for my own heart. Not only does chaos swirl without, it also rises up from within. I need a peace that’s bigger than the messages I feel bombarded with and *wish* worked, but just haven’t – like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “look for the rainbow after the storm.” While I’m all about the rainbow and the strength needed to keep moving, I need something that lasts as long as the storm.

And the only thing I’ve found that can outlast the storm is the hope of a God who is there. A Jesus who meets us in the storm, and then rides it out with us. As I spoke to a group of beautiful women, including many family and friends, at my aunt and uncle’s church in Columbia, South Carolina, last week, I was praying hope over their hearts, and I spoke the words I myself need to hear – a few of which I’ll share below. May your heart be encouraged as well … in all the places where you find yourself in need of hope, peace, and comfort today. 

john-16-33-quote

 

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