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 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.