Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in pictures

Click on the pictures to see a larger image

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013, the year of "NEW"

2013 was a year of change, transitions and lots of "new" in our life.

One of the biggest changes was the purchase of our new home at the end of June. We have been blessed beyond our expectations and dreams with this new home. Lawrence and I still recall some of the 40 homes we considered and even put offers on and pinch ourselves that God made a way for us to buy the one we did.

Along with the joys of our new home has come more responsibility and a lot to learn. We are still figuring out how to take care of our property and our home's interior needs. We are super grateful for friends and family who are more knowledgeable and skillful than we are and are willing to offer that to us as we need it.

Purchasing our new home led to new routines, including my exercise regimen. It may sound trivial, but our membership to the Y was crucial for my overall well being for the last 4+ years. Having to drop that membership, I had to figure out how and what to do in order to keep my mind and body in shape.

I have long loved to run, but with my chronic back issues, I gave it up for good, or so I thought, six years ago.  In God's kindness, I have been under the care of a chiropractor for the last three years who has brought significant improvement and relief in my back. I have been pain free for the majority of the time I have been treated by him. So, I thought I would give running a try again.  Lo and behold, in the last six months, I have surprised myself by reaching 5 mile runs with comfort.

Running has opened the door for relationship with one of our neighbors, Kim, and I have enjoyed taking several runs with her in the last several months.  She has three boys: a set of twins who are my boys' age and  her oldest who is 11.  Soon after we moved into our home, Kim and I enjoyed several afternoons talking while our kids played well together.

Once settled a bit, we began to reach out to other neighbors and discovered several, wonderfully friendly families in our neighborhood who appear to want to build community with each other. Lawrence and I are very excited about the potential opportunities for this.

New relationships abounded in 2013 for us. After 13 years at our church, we left for a variety of reasons. Though not an easy decision, it was necessary and has proven to be beneficial for us in many ways. While we have not yet settled into a new church "home", we have been attending a church about 20 minutes from our home that has been a good fit for us in this season.

We have remained a family on the 'fringes' so to speak, but have still been able to get to know a few individuals and families.  We are encouraged and challenged by the lead pastor's messages each Sunday morning and greatly appreciate his heart for God's mission of advancing His Kingdom in the local region and the world.

Leaving our old church initiated conversations afresh between Lawrence and me and among others on how to "do church". While we pray and read God's Word, talk with each other and trusted friends on this topic, we are also asking questions anew on how to do marriage and parenting as well in a way that honors God and reflects His image.

To help us navigate through these conversations, Lawrence and I began marriage counseling this past fall with a most excellent counselor, Eliza Huie. We are grateful for her grace-filled, biblical insights and input into our relationship. Though it be slow and small and so very inconsistent, we have seen change, maturity, and most of all a more loving and gentle handling of one another as we work through conflict and learn how to communicate with one another. Yes, even after 11 years of married life, three babies and two moves, we are still and just (?) learning how to communicate with one another.

New ways, new patterns are needed. This is evident to us both. Leaving the old ways is oh so hard, and we are still blowing it most of the time.  Ask my family who observed such old ways between Lawrence and me over Christmas vacation. Yuck. But, we are committed to growth, to change, to learning how to love like Christ. I think this is going to be the longest and possibly most painful journey of our lives, but one worth taking.

In addition to a new home, new church, new relationships, I took on a new role as 'tutor' at the homeschool co op with which the kids and I participate, Classical Conversations. While the role of a CC tutor is not the same as that of a typical classroom teacher, it has scratched the "itch" I have to instruct a crowd of more than my own three monkeys. It has required sacrifice on my part to plan for and execute each Monday's classroom time, but one I have gladly embraced (most of the time).

The last bit of "new" for our year was by far the most exciting and worthy of celebration. Lawrence's brother, Sam, married a wonderful, godly woman, Carrie, in September, adding another Tia for our kiddos and sister in law for LA and me.  To boot, they announced at Christmas that they are expecting their first baby in July, 2014. We are all thrilled for another Almengor grandchild/cousin/niece or nephew!!

On my side of the family, there will be another set of twins born in March, 2014 to my brother, Garrett, and his wife, Kristin, who have two boys already.  Who would have guessed two sets of twin grandkids for my parents?! And, my youngest brother, Brandon, proposed to his girlfriend, Brooke, and they are planning a wedding for May, 2014.

So much new! So much change to adjust to. Most of it is welcomed though some of it came via the path of grief and loss.  The dust is still settling, but it will settle. We will adjust. We will embrace it all eventually. We will learn and grow through all these transitions.

I trust 2014 will be a year of laying down tracks that we will be able to run in for years to come. As you think of our family, will you pray for us as we adjust to all the new in our lives? Will you pray that we will be thoughtful, purposeful, and most of all, make much of God in the new patterns, relationships, roles and responsibilities He has brought into our life?

We would love to hear from you, too, on how we can pray for you in 2014. Leave a comment here or email us directly and stay in touch!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Craving Connection

This is a cathartic post for me. I have needed to write it for a long time. It is likely to bite me in the proverbial butt making it public, but there's something about being "out there" that feels necessary for me. I am sure I can talk this over with my counselor, Eliza, at our next visit. :)

My heart is breaking today. This season of transition harkens back to one of the first major life transitions I made after my father passed away and my mom re-married, all within a year's time.  And it seems to always evoke a melancholy response rather than an adventurer's spirit. Nevertheless, I consider myself adventurous, relatively speaking.  I actually like change. I like 'new'. I like the idea of adventure. What I do not like is the transition period from old to new. THAT period of time is undefined and challenging for me.

Relationships shift, and this is what becomes so problematic for me. "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other, gold," keeps replaying itself in my head. And, I'm stuck. I love making new friends. I think it comes naturally to me. I love "jumping right in" to friendship, both feet first. And my "old" friends, well they have a permanent place in my heart if not anymore on my calendar. And, this is the rub for me. I don't enjoy being on either side of this real life dynamic.

I am craving connection today big time. Tears stream down my face even as I write this. I am not entirely sure why. I have talked long with Lawrence about this dynamic of my heart. I have prayed. I have rehearsed the truth that Jesus plus nothing is more than all I need, more than all I could want, my greatest desire satisfied.

We will have been in our new home for six months on Christmas Day. It has been just a little longer since we left our previous church. I have spent that time evaluating, praying, watching, waiting on the Lord, seeking to be faithful to serve, to be a giver and not a taker in friendship and in my family, seeking to once again ignite that passion that once burned so brightly for God's purposes of using me to advance His kingdom.

There have been people we so much wanted to have to our home, with whom we wanted to maintain relationship. It has not happened. I do not know that it will. I have "been around the block". I know how this works. There is only 24 hours in everyone's day, and life is FULL...bursting at the seams for most of us.

And reality is, we can only keep up and intimately pursue very, very few people, especially when in the season of raising a family.

I want to be pursued, truth be told. I crave connection. I know the value of community. I have lived there. It is good for us to be needed. It is good for us to need and receive from others. This is how God designed us to operate at our best, in community. I believe it. I live it. I want to continue to live it.

But, there is a shedding at times that happens in life. Friends move on. You move on, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. Paradigms shift and along with that so go friendships.  It is okay when I am on the end that moves away. It is much harder to be the one away from whom someone else has moved.  It draws out great insecurity for me and far too much introspection.

Did I do something to offend?  Have they finally had enough of me (because I know I am among the high maintenance type of people on this spinning globe)?  Am I just too serious for them? too uptight? not enough fun? not relaxed enough about life? too thoughtful? too much or not enough....and so I am sent down the path of self destructive thinking, self absorption.

Oh my goodness, how I hate this place!

The emotional energy I must expend to think my way out of this pit is exhausting. God is kind. His Word is sufficient. He tells me that in Him, I am enough. I have been creating in HIS image.  He has prepared good works for me to walk in. I have purpose, and He promises to fulfill those purposes in my life. I cannot mess it up! Praise Jesus!

I was bought at a price. I am not my own. I do not live for my own pleasures or to be made much of. I was made for God's pleasure and to make much of HIM. God draws near to the lowly in spirit, the humble in heart.

So, I ask for forgiveness and seek to bow lower, be made lower. I plead, "Jesus, be enough. be enough, truly, not just in my head but in my affections, in the depth of my heart where I FEEL."  And, I confess my addiction to feeling good feelings and I affirm again, "Lord, I will live for you alone. I will live to walk in the good works you have established for me before the beginning of time."

I take a deep breath.
I look over at my three kids playing so well in cardboard boxes. WOW! What blessings I have. I know this. Why do I always want more?

So, hear I am again, Lord-- this really flawed, cracked vessel asking you to fill it and fill it again because your love seems to run out of the cracks, and my cracks are LARGE, more like gaping holes!

And, I have chocolate covered pretzels on my counter waiting to be packaged up to hand out to our new neighbors today.  You put this in my heart to do. Will you somehow bless someone else by our efforts?
Will you fill me with your love afresh so as I interact with my children and new neighbors today, they will feel the love of Christ oozing out of my 'cracks'?

And, these relational shifts that are happening? Will you hold me tight, be enough while the dust settles from all the movement?

Friday, December 06, 2013

First loose tooth

My baby is approaching another milestone, reminding me yet again that children do not stop growing and changing and inching closer to leaving the proverbial nest.  She is about to lose her first tooth, or at least we are all praying to that end. Two of her adult teeth are poking through her gums behind her baby teeth. The baby teeth are plenty loose and ready to come out.

I have an awful childhood memory of a friend of our family abruptly take me by the hand in the middle of a church service, walk me downstairs to the basement bathroom, where no one would hear my wailing I suppose, and yank on a loose tooth until it came out. This may not be exactly how it happened, but that is what my childish mind and emotions made of it and how I remember it to this day.

Given my traumatic experience, I do not pull my children's teeth, but instead let them figure it out in their own way on their own time table.  One result of this method is that I missed T losing his first tooth because it came out at a friend's house.

Last night as I tucked B into bed, she asked me to pray that her tooth would just fall out rather than her having to pull it out. I obliged and joked with her that she would likely lose it at her friend's house the next day. I told her I would be so sad if I missed her losing her first tooth. Her reply was less than sympathetic. She said, "Mom, I won't be sad if you miss it. You shouldn't be sad if you miss it. I'll send you a postcard!"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grammy Clemmer

What do you do when  you have a house full of company, and you receive a text letting you know that your last living grandparent has passed away?

I'll tell you. You inconspicuously walk to your bedroom, quietly shut your door, sit down and cry.  You call her face to mind, the way she looked when you first met her, when your mom and step dad were first married and she welcomed you as her own granddaughter.

She wore a netted bonnet and plain dress, giving outward testimony to an inward reality that she was submitted to another; she was not her own.  Though different from your own expression of faith in appearances, its roots were the same. She loved Jesus, trusted Him as her Redeemer and Savior. She raised four children to love Him, too.  One of those children walked into your life when you were 13, just a year after you lost your dad. He married your mom, took on four children in addition to his own three and like her, loved you as his own. She was the mother behind the man who demonstrated grace to you like few other in your life.

Grammy Clemmer, as known by 21 grandkids and 36 great grandkids, passed away this past Friday, November 8, 2013.  I didn't know her like some of my cousins because I only became a part of the "Clemmer clan" when I was 13. But, my heart is full as are my eyes of tears when I think about her now and the legacy she left behind.  She lived a quiet life by the regard of some, but the themes of love for family, home, and God ring loud through her children, grandchildren and one day, God willing, all of her great grandchildren.

In material possessions, she had just what she needed and not much more. But, she always had enough to give a gift to every grandchild and great grandchild at each "Clemmer Christmas".  Some years, it was a bottle of scented soap or sample size of deodorant along with a money gift of $5 or $10, all 21 of them individually wrapped in PartyLite boxes, tagged with all the names of her grandchildren on them.  Appealing to the the young ages of many of her great grandchildren, she found more age appropriate gifts for them, musical pull toys or puzzles, books for the readers.

Her hands, somewhat gnarled by age and arthritis and I imagine years of cooking and cross stitch, were always willing to serve and to embrace. She loved having her family together, and for as long as her home could hold us, she would host a Thanksgiving meal which always included her oyster filling and fruit salad.  Her four children always made the effort and asked their children to make the effort to come together at least once a year to share a meal, or two, songs, games and prayer together.

Beula Clemmer, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will rise this week and call you "blessed", as you were a woman who feared the Lord and taught all who came after you to fear the Lord, too. There is no more worthwhile mission. You completed your mission, Grammy Clemmer. Know the rest and presence of God forevermore. We will see you again one day 'soon.'

Thursday, November 07, 2013


There's nothing more frustrating than being constantly hungry while trying to shed a few pounds. I cannot seem to satsify my hunger today.  Could it be the 5 miles I ran yesterday kicking my metabolism into high gear?  I really do hope so.  But, the fact remains that in order to shed weight, I have to ouput more calories than I input. And, today all I want to do is input.  I know enough about nutrition to know not to eat chocolate incessantly on days like today. Not only will that NOT satisfy my hunger; it is a calorie dense/nutritionally sparse food. I need to eat calorie sparse, nutritionally dense foods on days like today.

So it is with my spiritual life. There are seasons where the output kicks up a notch or two, and I can find myself starving.  Ministry to my family or friends may increase for one reason or another. Maybe a friend's family has been sick for a prolonged period of time, and she needs encouragement and meals! Maybe one of my children is having a pronounced struggle with grumbling and needs constant encouragement and discipline to kick what may be becoming a habit. Maybe my husband is under pressure at work and needs to put in extra hours requiring me to take up the slack at home with physical chores, and tending to the emotional and the spiritual needs of my children.  And, maybe all of this converges all at the same time.  Can I get a witness?

In these times, I need to remember I cannot skip out on my time with God in prayer and bible reading.  I am in great need all the time, but especially during seasons where more is being asked of me.  In these times, I need God's Word in concentrated form.  I need to eat and eat and eat. I need to open up the Psalms and read one in the morning, listen to worship music while preparing breakfast, read scripture to the kids while eating breakfast. I need to pause in the middle of my school morning for a "snack" from a Spurgeon devotional and then pull out the worship music and/or youversion bible to listen to at lunch again. I need to play a sermon while I prepare for dinner and swallow up "gulps" of biblically rich blogs any time I can sneak away to the bathroom.  (Any momma reading this knows exactly what I'm talking about when I write "sneak" to the bathroom.)

And, even then I may feel empty. But, without the constant feeding on the richness of God's Word, I will most definitely starve.

Monday, October 28, 2013


We’d all agree we need it. We’d all agree it’s something to strive for in life.

I wasn’t born for balance. I am wired for extremes it seems.  Swinging from one end of the pendulum to the next is something very familiar to me no matter the context. But, I am making concerted effort at finding balance in my life. The irony of that statement is not lost on me. Note: “concerted effort” connotes extreme.  Even in my trying to find balance, I operate from my tendency toward extremism. I find this comical at best, frustrating, defeating and hopeless at worst.

Since July, the same month we moved into our new home, I have been experiencing a physical hardship that is perplexing to many.  The skin on my eyelids, lips and a small orbital spot on my inner elbow has all been red, itchy, burning at times, flaky at other times, inflamed, swollen and mildly to wildly painful.

I have seen the dermatologist twice, optometrist once, read online forums, and consulted friends and family. I have tried various creams, facial washes along with washing regimens and leaving it alone. I began taking a probiotic and even have applied a stinky oil, called “Neem Oil”. It smells like garlic! I haven’t made out with my husband in months!  L

Could it be allergies? Maybe.  Could it be autoimmune? I think it might. Could it be something in our home and/or property that I’m responding adversely to? Yes, yes it could. Could it be stress manifesting itself in a rather painful, ugly form, declaring to all who set eyes on me, “This woman is way over her head in life and needs H.E.L.P.?” Probably is.

These are all the things I have heard as I've polled the field. And, here's where my mind goes...
I could see an allergist who would likely set up an appointment to do allergy testing. What if that's not conclusive? He may ask me to try elimination diets. What food would I eliminate first and how many do I eliminate before I conclude it's not a food allergy?

I could see an infectious disease doctor or an immunologist who would prescribe his own battery of tests. More appointments. More wait and see.  And, what if it is autoimmune?  I'm not going to hop on prescription medicine before I try a more natural approach via diet and lifestyle changes. And, what might that entail? How long would that take before I would be willing to try prescriptions?

What if it is something in my home that I'm allergic to?  What then? Air purification? Water treatment? Mold remediation? Sell our dream home and move?

My mind is spinning at this point and balance is NOWHERE to be found.
So, stress then is a very likely candidate. Nullifying all the other possibilities? No, but certainly compounding the problem.

Oh, this vicious cycle I can find myself in whenever dealing with unknown health issues or any unknown really.

God has been kind and persevering with me over the years, though, and I think there's been some movement toward a more godly, balanced response to unknowns. It is probably still not my "knee jerk" response, but I'm moving closer.  I push the "stop" button on the thoughts with which I can barely keep up, take a deep breath, and  pray. I affirm that God is in control and I am not, that He loves me and will not withhold His good from me.  I ask Him to reveal JUST the next step to me and provide what I need to take it.

And, then I do all that over again. and again. and again.

**I began pecking out this post a week ago, at a “breaking point” with my eyes. I was hurting so much physically and really having a difficult time persevering with it in my soul. I needed to get typing. It’s a catharsis for me.  I did see my general practitioner this week who thinks what I have going on with my skin is not a systemic issue because it’s so localized and specific. So, he suggested I try one of the creams that had worked temporarily for me before, along with taking fish oil by capsule and using vitamin E oil topically.  After 5 days of this regimen, my skin is feeling and looking much, much better. I’m grateful.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Open House at Montford

We had a delightful open house this past Saturday. The kids, LA's dad and LA all pitched in to help pull things together in our yard and home. My friend, De, shared of her wealth, both in resources and experience to help me bring order and beauty to our day. She gave me the idea for chalk board painting some moving boxes and arranging them around the house for our guests to do self guided tours.  We scoured her barn and garage to come up with our food table, recycle/trash bins, and adirondak chairs scattered throughout our yard.
The morning of our open house, De came with flowers and brownies even though she herself wasn't able to attend! I want to be like De when I "grow up."  She walked my yard, cut some fresh hydrangeas and roses and purposefully placed them around our home. I've learned a lot from her over the years, and I've still got a lot to learn. I was grateful for another opportunity to glean from all her years of extending exemplary hospitality.

LA and I were so grateful to have many friends join us on Saturday, and we're looking forward to many years to come of extending hospitality from this home! Here are a few snapshots from our day: 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Snapshot memories of 224 Ferring Court

It's the last night we'll spend as a family sleeping at 224 Ferring Court. It's 10:30 pm and I have this house entirely ready to go for the movers tomorrow. I'm pretty darn thrilled about that fact.

Though I am a self professing, over the top emotional woman, I am not by nature sentimental. Figure that one out. So I haven't cried about leaving the first house I bought as a married woman or that I brought my babies home to.  And, I'm likely not going to cry as I type out these snapshots of memories I have of this home.

But, I do LOVE recounting God's goodness and faithfulness to me and my family, and I don't want to miss the opportunity I have now to do that by recalling some of the ways God has shown Himself merciful and strong in and through this home!

Soon after moving into 224 in March, 2003, we hosted a costume party with a number of other couples from our local church. We didn't have window treatments up or furniture in all the rooms. We didn't care. We just wanted to provide a gathering place for fun and fellowship. And, lo and behold, people came! It didn't seem to matter to them either that we didn't have a fully decorated, newly painted home.

Having the boys was a major game changer in life for Lawrence and me. For 3 months, I had meals provided by various families from our church. Additionally, for almost two months, I had women come to my home from 9-3 to help me with the transition of caring for my twins.

I can still see the lovely fruit basket Therese Griffin brought for me to keep by my bed, and the chicken tetrazzini Rebekah Stryker made for us that was so good. I remember Carole Eberwein holding both my boys and feeding them at the same time! Ironically, she was helping her daughter in law with her brand spankin' new twin boys this past week.

I remember my dear, dear friend, Heather Griger rushing up from the bottom of the court (when she and Ed) lived at the bottom of the court) into my room to help me deal with a nursing "issue". I think that moment forever solidified our friendship. She saw too much that day. There was no going back. :)

I sat on my bedroom floor, on that horrid pink carpet and nursed and watched my baby boys play on their Baby Einstein play mat for the entire month of August, 2004.  I can't remember seeing the light of day that month except for trips to the hospital with Judah.

My mom and dad's trips to 224 almost always involved my dad fixing something in our home.

We were blessed to have LA's family eat Sunday lunch with us once a month for the last several years. And, Sam  and LA would give each other hair cuts after our meal.

Hosting caregroup here was a blessing and a challenge. Thankfully when we did, our group was fairly small so the living room accommodated. Mark Hurtch brought his guitar, and my boys would run down the stairs once they heard him strumming.

I had beautiful rose bushes on the side of the house for many years, but one year decided I didn't want them anymore. I think I thought I would plant the entire side of the house with vegetables. So, one cool evening, I dug them all up and gave them to our friends, Joel and Cindy Rishel, who now have them at their new place.

Living next to a virtual horticulturalist, my attempt at gardening always fell a bit flat. I loved watching Cheryl so diligently water her flowers, each year buy new ferns to hang all around her front porch. Cheryl and Ed love to go all out with adorning their home, so whether it is Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween or Christmas, they will have it decked out!

The kitchen has been the "hub" of my home. I recall a time Jo Powell brought a vase of fresh flowers to me because I was having a hard time about my hubby's work hours. She set them down in the middle of my island, looked me in the eye and boldly but lovingly said, "You can be miserable and make everyone else miserable about your hubby's work or you can make the best of it."  I'm so grateful for those hard words from a loving friend. The flowers were a nice touch, too. :)

I also remember standing at my kitchen sink with De Neumann who had some equally hard but loving words for me regarding LA's work hours and my stinky attitude.  Noticing a theme?

Donna and Mike Bishop sat with us on couches that my parents gave to us that are now gone and shared memories with us of when their boys were young. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry about the potential that lay ahead of us with our own boys. :)  But, I so enjoyed our time together. And, I still remember Donna's chicken and stuffing in the crockpot she made for us when the boys were born.

Food is a big deal here, and we've shared lots of meals with lots of friends over the years. Foodies group with the Benge's, Jones' and Rishels, and more recently the Smiths, Powells and Jones' have been some of the best eats.

I've made countless batches of pancakes, bowls of oatmeal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my kids at 224. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting kiddos to eat veggies they wouldn't normally eat at home, like Nadia and Alyssia who gobble up cucumbers while Alana and I chat over our glass of wine...red and sweet.

There have been plenty of hard times had in this home, too...nights when marital conflict was so thick I wanted to run away, but my hubby never let me. One time, in the midst of a particularly difficult season of our marriage, Jason Reyes came over and sat in our living room to try to "talk me off the ledge" of raging emotions. He and Laurie have been kind, kind friends to LA and me. Laurie and I have spent time chatting on our deck while watching the kids swing or sitting in my living room drinking iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts.

Family pizza/movie nights became a tradition for us on Friday nights, and sometimes we'd include friends, too. Having a small sofa in our basement, Shawn and Jennifer Lyttle sat on the floor with LA and me during the movie. But, it didn't matter. We just wanted to build memories and be together.

Birthday parties were a rather big deal in the kids' earlier years. Bella was able to celebrate her 5th with a dress up/tea party. Crystal, Jazmine, Emma, Lucy, Jess, Tessa, and the girls' mommas all crowded around our dining table to enjoy flower shaped pb & j sandwiches, fruit and tea.

For a season, a friend and I would make dinner for one another. I would make dinner for my family and Diana's two  nights a week, and she would make dinner for us two nights a week. Nights that Sam would drop off dinner often allowed for quick chats by the front door before he would run home to eat dinner with his own family.

The pine tree on the side of our house has become a favorite for climbing. The kids have loved playing with the neighborhood kids, and they are going to miss them. Julia, a little older than most of the littles playing outside most of the time, is an unexpected and free 'sitter' and blessing to me as she often will play with Bella. I always felt more at ease when Julia was outside with her while I made dinner.

Having out of town guests, while challenging because of space, was always fun to look forward to. Some of my BFF's from college have come to stay. Amanda helped me for several days after I had the boys. Beth and Tommy have stopped with their girls, Emma and Norah, on their way home from the beach. Toby and Beth have come. One of my favorite visits that I will forever cherish deeply is when my friend, Emily, came with her mom, Gretchen, and her little girl, Alivia, who is now in Heaven. Being able to hold that memory of Alivia in my living room here at 224 is precious and forever treasured.

It took one very long day and several bottles of beer, but LA was able to install the wood laminate floors in our living room with one of his favorite buds, Jeff Cole. And, I have since greatly enjoyed those floors!

I've had a number of "home/sales" parties here, Pampered Chef and Norwex among my favorite. I remember one PC party I held to raise awareness and funds for the Sturge Weber Foundation. Terri Reardon did a great job as my consultant at the time, and we were able to raise $500. Again, my tiny living room didn't have lots of space, but it didn't matter. We squeezed in and enjoyed the closeness.

One fabulous memory I have is when I decided to surprise LA while he was gone on a week long work trip. I updated/restored a round picnic table and benches that we received from our "old"  neighbors, Jim and Judy Wilmot for free  with the help of a few of my friends. Sam, the Grigers, Chambers and Brittons all pitched in with the most excellent of work being done by Heather Holston who artistically drew MD Terrapins on the benches. We loved that picnic table, and initiated it with a birthday party for LA that summer.

So many other memories have been had here at 224, but what is most meaningful to me is not the sticks and bricks that make this a house but the people who have lived here with me and crossed our threshold as friends and guests who have made it a home.

I'm so excited about all the potential that awaits us to make the house of Montford a home, too.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


The adrenaline I've been running on for the last two weeks, anticipating the closing on our new home which happened today just. ran. out.

A wave of exhaustion has come over me just in time to clean our new place, pack our old place and set up a new home at "Montford".

But, I could not put head to pillow tonight without trying to peck out a few words about how we arrived to this day and this home.

LA and I began a discussion with our realtors more than 5 years ago about moving out of our townhome into a home that could accommodate an in law apartment.  Many possible solutions were discussed, but the time came this past January to shift into high gear and start renovations on our town home with the purpose to sell come early spring.

Our realtors persuaded us to do what we thought was a crazy, crazy thing and that was to put our house on the market before looking for our next home to buy!  What at the time was a crazy philosophy to us proved to be wise advice in the end.

We would now recommend this strategy to anyone wishing to sell one home in order to buy another, especially if you're looking for that "dream" home or one you'd like to live out your days in.

Following our realtors' recommendations for improvements on our town home before placing it on the market brought about immediate interest, many showings and a contract within 10 days of being on the market.  We were thrilled to say the least!

As soon as we hit the market with our town home, we began looking for our "forever" home. Day after day, night after night, I scoured the listings for potential homes to view.  Weekend after weekend and some week days, too, we went out with one of our three (amazing) realtors to see what amounted to 40 homes total!!

About 2/3rds of the way through this process we came upon a home we thought was "it" on "Canterbury Lane."  Doesn't "Canterbury Lane" just sound like a street one would want to live on, almost enchanted?  Well, we were enchanted. Smitten. And, for LA and I both to be in love with the same home is nothing short of a miracle.

One of our realtors, Julie, laughed on more than one occasion as LA and I would walk through homes making exact opposite comments about it. She couldn't get over how opposing our perspectives would be at times.  After 11 years of marriage, I can say we're not surprised by our opposing points of view anymore, but don't find it any easier to deal with now than we did at first.

But, one promise LA and I made to each other at the outset of our home hunt was that we would not settle. We knew that was going to be a tall order, but our hearts were faith filled that God was up for the task.

He did not disappoint.

So back to Canterbury Lane.  This was the first home LA and I both adored and became confident that we wanted to put an offer on it even though it was what I called a bit "wonky."

It met so many of our "non-negotiables." It was at the end of the lane and cul-de-sak. It was a beautiful lot, semi-wooded, flat yard with an over-sized garage with ample room to convert to an in law apartment. BUT, it only had two bedrooms and one full bathroom on the main floor. There were two more bedrooms and another full bathroomin the basement, but because our kids are still young, we wanted all three bedrooms to be on the main level.

And, the house had two front doors. Yes, two front doors. Wonky. No one ever figured that one out. We took a contractor friend out to see the house with us and get his advice on how to configure the main level so as to get a third bedroom out of the space. It appeared doable and feasible for us to do this.

So, we saw the property for a 4th time with our realtor and decided more than confidently that we wanted to put an offer on the house. Long story short, our offer, one of four other offers that all came in on the same weekend after being on the market for a month with no offers previous, was not accepted. We waited two L O N G days to find out that we weren't accepted.

I was sad to say the least. In those two days of waiting, I prayed for my heart's desire. I asked God for the next part of my life to be lived out at Canterbury Lane, and I envisioned specific things for that home.

I mourned a bit, pouted some and took two weeks "off" from looking at homes. One of our realtors, Jess, commented to me later that our little hiatus from house hunting was not typical, and they, our realtor team, were becoming a little nervous that they were going to have to "drag" me back into the search.

But, in that two week time, God provided refreshment and perspective through what some might say the oddest of ways. He was so kind to provide LA and me an opportunity to serve our dear friends, the Neumanns, at the wedding of their daughter, Laura. The wedding was being held on their farm, and God had burdened my hubby's heart long before our house hunt even began to serve them for this momentous occasion in their life.

As the date neared, we wondered if we should have committed an entire Saturday (which actually turned into an entire weekend including the travel to and from my parents in PA where our kiddos stayed so we could serve the day of the wedding) in the midst of trying to find a home.

Well, God goes before us in time as it says in Psalm 139, and we saw His perfect timing for us to have committed to serve this precious family on their important day.

De and Glenn are servants extraordinaire. We have not only been the beneficiaries of their kind, humble and excellent service but have learned so much from watching them serve others. We want "to be like them when we grow up." They are among the hardest workers I know, alongside my own parents, truthfully. And they serve with genuine, exuberant joy. De has made many a hospital trip not just bearable but joy filled for both Judah and me.

When De and Glenn have their hand in any event, one can guarantee it's going to scream of excellence. Their daughter's wedding day was no different than the countless other amazing events they've helped plan and pull off. It was beautiful, stunning, like a fairy tale in many ways. Fresh peony bouquets, candle votives hung on tree limbs, farm tables under a tent, ceremony in the midst of hay field, surprise fireworks and the bride/groom riding off on Glenn's Triumph motorcycle after the sun had well set but sparklers were lighting the way all paled in comparison to one of the most strikingly beautiful parts of the day, and that was the number of De and Glenn's friends and family who came together to make the day happen with such loveliness and flare.

LA and I felt truly honored to play a small, small part in that. It sounds so cliche but it was a heart felt truth for us that day: It truly was better to give than receive. We had a blast. And, through serving our hearts were refreshed.

So, after participating in the loveliness of that day, LA and I shifted into high gear again in search of our home.

At this point, we were about two weeks away from the "deadline" our realtors had given us for finding a home in time so as to not have to move out of our townhome into a rental situation. That deadline was Memorial Day weekend!

So, we put our lists together and went out looking. Nothing the first weekend. We kept scouring the online listings. nothing. or so we thought. On a late Thursday night, likely close to midnight, I was going through the listings again and decided I would look at the pictures of each and every address no matter what.

I came upon "Montford" and looked even though I had passed it up previously, assuming the commute for LA to his office would be too long. When I looked at the pictures, my jaw nearly dropped. It was a beautiful home and property. Motivated, I typed in the address on google maps to see what LA's commute would look like. Without traffic, it would be about what it is now. But, that was without traffic.  Anyone who lives in the Baltimore/DC metro area knows there is no such thing as commuting to and from work "without traffic", not with a 9-5 type job anyway!

Nevertheless, I showed LA the pictures online and the google maps estimation of his potential commute, and he agreed to see it. I quickly shot off the address to my realtor asking her to add it to the list for homes to see over the weekend.

This was Thursday night. The house had just been put on the market the day before, Wednesday. We weren't going to see the home until Saturday. I had a feeling the house was priced to sell, though, and once our realtor, Cindy, saw it, she agreed. She proactively called the seller's agent to let him know that she had clients who were interested in the house and may put an offer on it that weekend.

Thankfully, the sellers were going to wait out the weekend to allow all potential offers to come in. That was Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and apparently there were already three offers on the home!

We didn't get far into the home before our realtor, Cindy, said, "Buy this!" You have to know Cindy to appreciate what I'm going to say about her, especially given the fact that she's a real estate agent. It may be hard to believe, but Cindy just doesn't say that, "Buy this!"  She doesn't. Most of the time. :) She is a gifted real estate agent, very experienced not just in real estate but in life. She is a wise woman who gets to know her clients and advises them individually, according to what she perceives is in line with their needs, wants, skill sets and limitations.

She doesn't tell someone to buy a home unless she really believes the home is a perfect fit for them and is a wise investment overall.  In fact, there were a number of homes I expressed some interest that Cindy "poo poo-ed".  I got over it and forgave her. ;)

Truth be told, Cindy didn't need to tell us to buy the house. We wanted to buy it all on our own with no need of convincing. Whether we COULD buy the house was another story.

You see, with the Canterbury home, we offered what we thought was the top of our price range. And, it was--for that house. I thought it was all we *comfortably* could afford as well, apart from the value of Canterbury. God apparently had something else in mind, however.

We stood in the living room of "Montford", after walking the multitude of pathways throughout the beautifully landscaped and wooded back yard, discussing with Cindy what kind of offer we needed to construct to be chosen among the other 3, possibly more, offers for this home.

Cindy displayed her experience and expertise in constructing our offer. We know that without a doubt and give her kuddos for doing the best job she could do. But, we are also in touch with another reality, one that Cindy subscribes to as well. That reality tells us that while Cindy did an amazing job at putting together a hard to beat offer for us, it was ultimately God who got us this house.

We left not knowing if God would choose this home for us.  This home FAR exceeded the Canterbury Lane home in value, space, amenities, beauty and quality structure. But would this be another disappointment like Canterbury?

We had planned to drive up to my parents in PA early Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend to spend the rest of the long weekend with my family. I showed my siblings and parents the online pictures of the home, gushed over the possible life this home might grant us in terms of hospitality and ministry, let alone just straight up enjoyment for ourselves. We prayed together and waited.

Our agent told us the sellers would make a decision by Monday, Memorial Day. I was grateful to know that ahead of time, and I was glad we were surrounded by my family so they could be there to either celebrate with us or mourn with us.

I didn't cry until I told my mom and dad. Being able to deliver the good news to my parents in real life, to exchange hugs and see smiles was a sweet gift from God that He just didn't have to give, but did.

After 40 homes, we had found the one that is now ours.

The sellers were wonderfully kind to walk the property with us a few weeks before our settlement. After walking the border of the 4+ acre property with us, explaining all they've done in landscaping and remodeling the home, the wife shared with me that she wanted to see a family in this home. In the end there were 7 (SEVEN) offers for this home, one being a cash offer. But, the cash offer was from an older woman, and the owners really wanted a family to enjoy what they enjoyed with their own three children as they grew up.

This is just a sample of the details which came together providing assurance to LA and me that God truly directed our steps to "Montford".

We are excited to begin this next chapter of our life there, and are eager to have many friends, family and even people we have yet to meet enjoy the gift of this home and property with us.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Because baking is safe, but writing is not...

Inspired by this post over at one of my favorite blog and book authors, Ann Voskamp, I take the last tray of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven and write straight from my journal, straight from my heart, to you, few readers, these few Spirit-inspired (I trust) words.

What are you thinking?
Through what lens are you interpreting life's circumstances?

Philippians 4:8, 9 tells me to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable.

But life's throwing us some curve balls lately. Life does that, though. We know that by now.

I hit a parked car last Friday at the post office while backing up..a new Dodge Charger. History tells me that parking lots and I don't get along; it also tells me that I need to find the beater cars to park near from now on.

But, Phil 4:8 instructs me to focus on the fact that we have insurance to cover the damages on that lovely red car and give thanks. Yes, Lord...I will do that.

LA's car overheated on his way to work yesterday, and he needed me to drive to the city with a jug of water and coolant mix in order to turn around and drive home with him driving in front of me to ensure he made it home at all. It was raining. Driving in the rain on the highway in the middle of the afternoon=sleepy me. Not my favorite.

But Phil. 4:8,9 instructs me to focus on the fact that I did have the afternoon available to serve my husband this way, and that we have a mechanic who could look at it right away.

LA needed to use my van today to drive to DC leaving me and the kids home bound, something we don't do terribly well.

But, I didn't have any appointments scheduled for today, and it has turned out to be a relaxing day of sleeping in, painting, playing with legos, reading and baking.

The kids are fighting allergies/colds.

But, Bella slept in until 10 a.m. (NEVER happens). Judah felt better after a nebulizer treatment. We have really good vitamins (I know because they taste horrible), and the kids are taking them.

Our offer on a home wasn't accepted.

But, we have a 60, possibly 90 day, rent back to stay in our current home even after this Friday's settlement. And, home inventory is only increasing.

LA and I are having a challenging time working through marriage and church issues.

But God has been faithful, and we continue to draw near to Him and each other---amazing grace!

The insurance company continues to deny coverage of growth hormone for Judah claiming it's medically unnecessary despite the hours of testing he's endured to show clearly that it is indeed medically necessary.

But God has given peace in my heart that He is my son's physician, and I can trust His provision for Judah.  Several people have commented recently that he is looking taller, so maybe his body is continuing to grow even if not optimally.  I will trust you, Father, for the plan you have for Judah, which your Word says is to prosper him and not to harm him.

Friendships feel strained at times.

But Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

You are faithful, Father.
You are true.
You have always been with me.
You always will be with me.

Proverbs 12:20 says, "...those who plan peace have joy."  and verse 25 says, " Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad."

By your grace, I will "plan peace", Father, and I will look for and declare the "good word" in regard to all the curve balls of life. And there I will find joy and my heart will be glad.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Could it be true?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Could it be true?

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day...  I Corinthians 15:3

Could it be true?

The above passages are what Easter is all about for Christians. On Good Friday, we remember the death of Jesus. On Easter Sunday we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, conquering sin and death and accessing eternal life for all who confess their need for a Savior.

Could this all be true? Or is it just some religious mythology helping some of us assuage a guilty conscience?

I've wondered this many times in my life. Belief has not and does not come easy to me.   

A passage in Romans 4 recently helped me in my ongoing battle for belief.
It is a section of scripture that reminds the New Testament reader of Old Testament Abraham.

Abraham was given a promise from God that he would become the father of many nations, but he was old. really old. Romans 4 says that his body was "as good as dead."  Umm, I'm no biblical scholar, but I'm thinking that is hinting at a really old Abraham, past the child bearing stage of life kind of old. 

And, Romans 4 tells us that he wasn't in denial about this. One version says Abraham "faced the facts"; another version tells us that he "considered his own body."

And, it's this phrase that caught me recently, "considered his own body."

When I consider--not the state of my physical body but rather the state of my soul--all I've done to incur God's wrath: the hatred I've had in my heart toward others, the selfishness I've had that has put others in harm's way at times, my pride that has refused to love others like Jesus has loved me, my disrespect toward others, my disregard for God's authority in my life, my disdain of the way God has allowed the circumstances of my life to play out at times, my foul mouth, anger, bitterness, rage, ingratitude...
and then consider that God knows deeper still how black and vile my heart is, it leaves me wonder often, "Could it be true?"

Could it be true that God's perfectly Holy Son would come to earth, take on human flesh, make Himself subject to earthly authorities, and follow His Father's plan which led Him to a bloody cross? For me?

Could it be true that Jesus incurred the full wrath of God that MY sins deserved, not His? He was sinless. He didn't deserve to be abandoned by God. I do, though.

Could it be true that this same Jesus, after being dead for 3 days, conquered death and rose again?

Could it be true that he then appeared as a risen Jesus to more than 500 people before He ascended into Heaven where He is NOW preparing an eternal home for me?

Could it be true that I will one day spend all eternity with Jesus in this eternal home the Bible calls Heaven, where there will be no more tears, no more death, no mourning, no crying, no pain?

Could it all really be true?

Romans 4 encourages me to believe that it could be true. 
You see Abraham was "as good as dead" but GOD told him he'd be the father of many nations. Romans 4 tells us Abraham "believed against all hope", "did not weaken in faith", "did not waver", "grew strong in faith", was "fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised."

And Romans 4 tells me that I am to benefit from Abraham's example.
Romans 4 was written for me and for others who wonder, "Could it really be true?" Romans 4 tells us that Abraham's faith was counted to him as righteousness and that my belief will be counted to me as such, too.

And, I begin to hope, "Oh perhaps this is true. Wouldn't it be amazing if it were true?"

So, with that mustard seed of faith, I confess, "IT IS TRUE!"
I face the facts of who I am and yet without wavering, grow more fully convinced that God is able to do what He has promised.

And, I read beyond Romans 4 to Romans 5 where it tells me that this hope will NOT disappoint.
Psalm 25 confirms this as well, telling me that I, one who puts her hope in these truths, will not be put to shame. 

I will one day die. I will stand face to face with my Creator. I will be called to account for all my sins. I will be able to say, "Jesus has taken the punishment that I deserved for all my sins."  I will hear, "Enter into my rest, good and faithful servant." I will spend eternity in a Heavenly paradise, worshiping the One who saved me. 

I will then know that not only COULD it be true; it IS true!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vulcan Quarry

Our homeschool co-op, Classical Conversations, took a field trip today to a local quarry, Volcan Materials Co. in Havre de Grace, MD.  It proved to be a timely field trip as we are memorizing geological science facts this half of the year.

It was free to all, buses included, which, for homeschoolers, is quite a big deal. I coordinated the trip with Pat Pieton, the assistant plant manager at Vulcan. He was super friendly and a delight with whom to work. He led our tour today which began with a classroom portion, followed by a bus tour of the quarry.

At one point during the bus tour, we were able to exit the bus at the top of the quarry and look out over the vast "hole in the ground". The following are some photos of our time.

What are the three types of rocks? 

Miner Jessie 

Is it a rock or a mineral?

It's petrified dinosaur poop!!!

Preparing for a blast!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year's Day Hike

We participated in something called, "First Day Hikes" this a.m. to kick off 2013 as a family. We love taking hikes and thought it would be a great way to get some fresh air, step away from the cookies and fudge for a bit and enjoy time as a family. We had more fun than we anticipated.

When we arrived, we were the only family with children present. I cringed thinking we might prevent  the rest of the group from advancing down the trail at their desired pace. But, thankfully, another family with three young children showed up, and our kids proved to demonstrate themselves as experienced hikers, keeping up with the crowd with little prodding or help from mom and dad.

The hardest part for them was not being able to stop and explore as much as they're accustomed to when we go by ourselves. Nevertheless, it allowed me to step back and observe how different life experiences are through the eyes of a child. My kids love to observe and explore. And, I love to let them. Hiking is a fantastic way to foster this childlike pleasure.

With the exception of one root-filled, semi-rocky incline, the trail was rather simple to traverse. We wore rain or snow boots anticipating mud and muck, which indeed was plentiful. But, mud means moderate temperatures and therefore a welcomed obstacle.  Truth be told, mud makes hiking all that more fun for kids even though mommy has more laundry to do as a result this afternoon.

Mud to muck in, sticks to turn into staffs, felled trees to climb over and under, and streams to cross all make for an enjoyable, memorable hike. It doesn't get much better than that as far as hiking goes, unless, of course, mommy manages to slip and fall into icy rapids and become soaked from hip to toe.

Our furthest destination on the hike today was a spot called "The Pot Rocks", a conglomeration of large boulders with holes in the tops of them resembling pots. I love bouldering, but not on January 1st and not with my kids in tow.  LA had a different idea. Most of the other hikers were keeping their distance from the water's edge, simply and safely admiring the view. But, not so my husband or children.

They tipped their toes as close to the edge of the rocks without slipping into the rushing water, making me a nervous momma and wife. My concerns were heard and considered, I think, but the other dad in our group must have sent out some sort of "man must conquer" vibe, and there was no turning back for Lawrence. He decided he would cross the rapids to reach the rocks.

My husband and children successfully to the other side, I breathed a brief sigh of relief knowing they would still have to cross back. After a few minutes of exploration, the ranger kindly let me know that we were welcome to hang out at the rocks for a while and head back to the trail head on our own, but that he would be leading the rest of the group back to the cars.

We decided to stick with the group; LA and the kids made their way back to the crossing. Being the conscientious (read nervous) momma, I stood on the other side of the watery gap waiting to grab my kids' hands to ensure their safe and dry return. Tucker was first up.

LA held on to him on one side while I reached for Tucker's hand on the other. The grip on my boots failed me; Tucker's reach sent me off-kilter, and into the icy water I fell.  In trying to avoid getting wet at all, I ended up falling right on my butt soaking myself from hip to toe.  Laughs abounded from everyone but me. I have to say, though, my heart was cheered knowing that though I was cold and wet, that was likely to be the most memorable moment of our hike.

And, on that concluding note, some pictures. Click on the slideshow images to see larger versions: