3.10.2016

on mothering, homemaking, and sadness

I've known for awhile my parents are moving. But now that it's official, I feel like I'm floundering. 7 years is the longest I've lived in one place. I've always felt a sense of displacement, like I don't know where I belong. Now with my parents leaving, where is my home base? My parents have always felt like my anchor. As an only child in a family that moved a lot, I've always been closer to my parents than the average person is. I can barely stomach the fact that I can't see them whenever I want. In a few weeks, my nearest family will be many hundreds of miles away. That's exactly how I grew up, and I hated it. I swore my children would always have at least one set of grandparents nearby. Well! That'll teach me to make promises to myself. This move will be so good for my parents; I really am excited for them, and I know it's killing them to leave us. But I'm grieving for me. I'm grieving the way I thought Gracie would grow up, the weekly lunches with my mom, sleeping on my parent's couch in the middle of the afternoon while my mom rocks a fussy baby because I can no longer cope, and so many other things. I have friends here, but not the kind that feel like family. I guess this is the push I need to put myself out there? Finding mom friends is scary business. A fellow mom tried to strike up a conversation with me at the playground the other day, and I got so flustered and tongue-tied I could barely get any words out. This isn't boding well for me.

The good news in all this is more travel! There are many, many road trips in my future. There's a whole new part of the country to explore. Gracie is going to be one well-traveled kid. I was too, and I loved it.


I've been chewing so much lately on the concept of home. To add to the displacement, we're trying to move somewhere (in our same city) at some point, but that has been its own special ring of hell. Who knows how long that will take? We won't be here forever, my parents are leaving, and I feel homeless! Even Downton Abbey ended! TOO MUCH DEVASTATION.

I'm working on my contentment issues. I have grandiose visions of the future: a sprawling vegetable garden, hydrangea bushes, daffodil and tulip bulbs that bloom every year, a swingset for Gracie, rocking chairs on the front porch, a wall full of bookshelves, etc. I've had actual fantasies of backyard chickens. Maybe a goat? Alpaca? I can spin its wool and knit a sweater! Don't ask me how much I've thought about it, because it's a lot. James laughs when I mention it, but I don't think he understands just how serious I am about it. I am such a dreamer, but I'm trying to stay rooted in reality and not get swept away in my wants. It's all in due time, all in due time. Or maybe never. That's ok, too.

I've been reading Elisabeth Elliot's book Keep a Quiet Heart. I bought it on a whim after Christmas, and it was nothing if not providential because it has been the very balm to my aching soul lately. It's a collection of little essays she's written on living a life of peace, contentment, and acceptance of God's will. Every morning while Gracie naps, I take a shower and then climb back into bed for the remaining time to read my Bible and a few pages of this book. It strikes a chord in me every single morning. I want to hand this book out to every single person I meet.


This particular excerpt smacked me dead in the face the other day: "There is no end to the spending, getting, having. We are insatiable consumers, dead set on competing, upgrading, showing off ("if you've got it, flaunt it"). We simply cannot bear to miss something others deem necessary. So the word ruins the peace and simplicity God would give us. Contentment with what He has chosen for us dissolves, along with godliness, while, instead of giving thanks, we lust and wail, teaching our children to lust and wail too." (page 125-126)

WHAT. HE. HAS. CHOSEN. FOR. US. I read it over and over. I underlined it. I took a picture of it and sent it to James. God chose our lives for us. He chose where we live. He chose this separation from my family, or at least allowed it for reasons still unknown to us mere mortals. How can I get mad about it when I think of it in those terms? I've mostly been at peace over the whole ordeal, but that doesn't mean I like this. Some days I'm cool with everything, and other days I crawl into bed with chocolate. Literally. There is a bar of dark chocolate on my nightstand and I have zero shame about it.

please enjoy the bikes in the dining room. They're very polite dinner guests.

On that note, I've been taking the whole "bloom where you're planted" cliche to heart. I may feel borderline homeless, but I don't want Gracie to ever feel that way. I've been channeling my sadness into some good, old-fashioned homemaking. I've been working to make our home cozy and comfortable and happy, a safe haven for all of us. Every time I see my parents lately, they unload boxes upon boxes on us of my childhood things and other gadgets they don't need anymore. I haven't seen so much of this stuff since I was a tween and living in Nevada, including my Lion King diary circa 1996.

We've also been purging a lot of things and filling in the gaps with family heirlooms. I know they're just material goods, but having my family's things surrounding us is a comfort. I've had my grandma's Depression-era dishes and her 1930s and 40s sheet music decorating my walls for awhile now, and I love thinking of her whenever I see them. This place has felt so homey lately. Gracie's bookshelf is filled with my old books, her toy baskets have my old rattles, and the rest of her room is full of handmade things from friends and family. I managed to find a little room in my overflowing bookcases for my old piano music. I may not have my piano here with me, but one day I will. ONE DAY I WILL. Mark my words.


In the pile of stuff my parents hauled over, I found a stack of polaroids from 2001. Right before we moved from Nevada, I grabbed an old polaroid camera and took pictures of every single part of the house. I knew one day my memory would fade and I would want to remember the details of my childhood home. I was so right. It's funny to see the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen picture on my dresser, the life size Nick Carter poster on my closet door, and the Nancy Drew books on my shelf. Also, the front of the fridge and the bathroom sinks? I was desperately sentimental.

I've been wanting to do the same thing here, just to have a record of Gracie's first home. I walked around the house yesterday (and again on this dark, rainy morning, hence the horrible lighting) snapping some quick pictures of my favorite areas. No bathroom sinks this time. And I guess this counts as that house tour I talked about years ago? This is where we spend our days, the place I have to learn to love and appreciate over and over. The pictures on the walls are crooked, and I don't care. This is just their temporary home. I get cranky about living here sometimes, but there's a huge grassy area right out the front door and a killer park a ten minute walk away. In so many ways, I will miss this place. I will miss the maintenance men. But just their existence, not the fact that they only show up when I'm nursing in the living room or juuuuust stepping out of the shower. We're going on 6 times in a row, I think. The same man. Every time. The others only come when I'm clothed.

My dear friend Kelsey sent this for Gracie's room, but I love it so much I hung it in mine. Thanks, Kels! 



Some more Elisabeth Elliot, because her simplistic wisdom is changing my life.

"Wouldn't it make an astonishing difference, not only in the quality of the work we do (in office, schoolroom, factory, kitchen, or backyard), but also in our satisfaction, even our joy, if we recognized  God's gracious gift in every single task, from making a bed or bathing a baby to drawing a blueprint or selling a computer? If our children saw us doing "heartily unto the Lord" all the work we do, they would learn true happiness. Instead of feeling that they must be allowed to do what they like, they would learn to like what they do." (page 101)

Like a punch in the gut, right? But in a good way. This whole upheaval of my vision of life and family has been quite the spiritual pruning process. I have to take myself back to square one over and over and regain perspective. These hard times are so good for us. They are never without a purpose. We can't be happy all the time, but we can be at peace. I've seen such a change in myself these last few weeks. Some days I wake up frustrated that everything feels out of my control, that nothing is turning out the way I want it to. But I dwell on the truths that these times mean God is doing a good work in me. He's reminding me to trust in Him. What I don't yet have, I don't need.

Trust and obey. Just trust and obey.




"He taught us to work and watch but never to worry, to do gladly what we are given to do, and to leave all else with God."

I take the deepest of comfort in that. He has chosen this life for me. Things aren't how I imagined they would be, but I have the sweetest baby to pour myself into. I'm mourning the loss of the physical presence of my mother, but now I'm a mother too. And my baby needs me. It's hard to wallow about life's injustices for long when a ponytailed babe asks to sit in my lap while she flips through her books. So I sit on the floor with my girl and read her favorite kitten book over and over, share my lunch with her, rock her and sing to her, take her to the park, and I praise the heavens we live in the era of FaceTime. I'm going to keep saying prayers of gratitude for the mundane mercies of life: changing diapers, picking out outfits and bows, baking chicken, moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer. I'm going to keep making our home, wherever that is, a comforting haven for us all. I'm going to keep cooking and baking because it's free therapy, and also because a ham and cheese sandwich on homemade bread is what life is about, and I like to lie to myself about the health benefits of lactation cookies.

This life isn't about us or what we want; it's about Him. And I just really hope He wants me to have backyard chickens one day.

31 comments:

  1. This! Have our hearts been connected? We may not have the exact same circumstances but I have felt the discontentment, the pruning process, and realizing just how much I need God. I actually started a blog post with the same sentiments last night. Still have more to mull over before I publish it, but I think you will see, we are such kindred souls! Love you and praying for you, dear friend!! Xoxo

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    1. Love you so much, Jo! You always understand me better than most <3

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  2. This is so good, Michelle. All of it.

    All of these little peeks into your home make me miss you, your house, Columbus-- all of it. I know you're going through such a tough time right now with all of these changes- but you're making a better life for yourself, Gracie, and James in the process of dealing with your grief. You could have just sat down and let all of this change happen to do- but you're not doing that. You're a strong, faithful, and smart gal. I'm so lucky to call you my friend!!

    And I won't tell Gracie you stole the print I gave her, promise. :)

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  3. My heart is both breaking and filled with joy over your beautiful writing. I love you forever and wherever we are! Momslice <3

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  4. Today blog-land is such an eye-opening place for me. I love every single word you typed here. And now I know that I need this book. I need it. I tell myself that I'm content but I thirst for more SO often and I don't even realize it.
    Today I read a post that talked about being desperate for love- in a romantic way. The blogger broke my heart when she said she was living for the hope of romance, but perhaps it's time for her to give up that dream. She's traveled and lived in many different places- something I longed/long to do- but she hasn't found her soulmate.
    And I cried because she wants what I have and that's weird to me. Because I want what my friends have. And I want a kid like you have. And we're all wanting for something- essentially telling God that what he's given us just isn't enough. HOW how how are the blessing that I have in my life not enough? They definitely are and I'm just missing the whole point.
    I think your house is beautiful. I love the decorations. Can I AirBNB your place? It's so homey and I know Gracie will love everything she has, had, and will have- mainly because she's got such a wonderful family. And God made it so.
    Thank you for these words. And thank you for the book recommendation. Today has really, honestly been a jolt of what I needed. Thank God for this blog world :)
    (Julian Fellowes is working on a new series- The Gilded Age, I think. Hopefully it's as magical as DA!)

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  5. This speaks to my heart. Especially that last EE quote you shared. I have really been struggling with finding joy lately. I miss my baby girl so much and have been feeling angry and bitter about working. Even Jordan said last night that I seem to be so happy when I'm around her and so different when I'm not... sad, I guess, and just rushing around, worried and discontent. It made me sad, but he's right. I've been praying about it and am trying to find JOY. I love what you said that he chose this for us. I need to remember that more. He has me here for a reason. One verse that has been on my heart a lot has been Psalm 126:3 "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." I believe the first part. I just need to work on the second part.

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  6. This is one of my favorite posts I have ever read from you (however, I will say, I was late to the game!). Your circumstances are specific to you, sure- but, the themes of home and heartache and blind faith are universal. Alissa and I actually had a very similar discussion recently about that kind of trust in your path and your purpose, and while it was rooted in a different type of discontent and mild panic, we all seemed to have reached the same kind of cathartic peace at the end of the day. And in my opinion, that's kind of a small miracle.

    I can only imagine the strain of having your only relatives move away from you, especially when you seem to need them the most. I can't speak to that feeling (I have a six siblings and we all live within 15 minutes of our childhood home), but boy do I get the fear of separation.

    There is a song from Brandi Carlile's newest album called, "Wherever is Your Heart," that ends with the lyric, "I Call Home."

    And I think that says everything. Home is a hard concept to pinpoint, to reconcile, to let go of. But, at the end of the day, home is subjective. A house is just a house, and so on.

    So, in a way, your home doesn't have to be in just one place. Home is where you LIVE- not just WHERE you live. Wherever is your heart, call that home. So, your home is wherever your parents are moving to. And wherever you made the best memories with your truest friends. And on the floor in your living room, and at the foot of your bed, and next to whistling tea kettle on the stove in your kitchen...or wherever the hell else your husband and your baby happen to take you.

    Home is where the heart is. We've heard it a million times. But I like Brandi's take better. "Wherever is your heart, I call home." And your heart, and yours, yours, and even yours. All you people I love most. Your home can be rooted in many terrains. Or, endlessly traveling. Like an Airstream trailer. Like most things in life...it's all about the perspective. And that can make a really hard thing just the slightest bit easier (which can make a really big difference).

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    1. I love when you comment, Kate. I just love hearing your thoughts. You are so wise. Hug your family, ok? I love that you have such a huge family in such a close radius. What an amazing thing.

      I love everything you said. I like to think I have multiple hometowns, just like I left little pieces of my heart all over the country. Now I need to go listen to Brandi Carlile...

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  7. Just know that both times I visited you, your apartment very much felt like a home to me. And the concept of home is something I really struggle with, not because I didn't grow up feeling like I had one (you've met my parents), but because I don't know how to build a home for myself, by myself. And it's scary and unsettling and as Kate said in her comment, subjective.

    I think the most any of us can do is keep reaching toward the life that we want (yes I stole that from Cheryl Strayed). But it's an important reminder, because sometimes it's hard to see beyond what's right in front of you, and it's hard to shake the feeling that you're not moving forward.

    You're always welcome to move onto the compound...there's plenty of space for those chickens :)

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  8. Sorry I don't comment more, I love reading your blog. It really resonates with me. I have finally found bits of good community since moving here 2.5 years ago, but still contentment is hard. A lot of times I feel discontent. Sometimes I comfort myself with remembering this ISN'T my final home, and sometimes I know I need to dig in a little more and keep giving and investing in this community I'm in, because God put me here. Love the Elisabeth Elliot quotes!

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  9. Oh Michelle the timing of reading this post couldn't have been better. I find myself struggling with where God has me. With thoughts of how He must have made a mistake making me a mom, especially 3 times over. Sounds like I need to read that book! I'm a big fanof Elizabeth Elliot.

    You will definitely be in my prayers. I can't imagine my parents moving away, so I know it must be hard. Hopefully it's not too terribly far & you'll get a chance to visit often. And if visiting brings you through Nebraska you could always make a pit stop & have coffee with me.

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  10. Everything about this post is so lovely. Your words and your photos. Thank you.

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  11. First, I think you are doing a fantastic job of making your home cozy, comfortable, and happy. It looks like such a lovely place and Gracie is a lucky girl to have her first home be a placed filled with so much meaning and love. Our house is a complete 1970s time warp with the exception of one remodeled room. I know someday (like 2050) it'll all be remodeled, and sometimes it's hard not to compare our maroon rugs and striped (and textued!) wallpaper to the modern, updated homes on blogs and pinterest. But I'm trying to embrace the quirkiness and just this week I filled the old china cabinet the last owner left with my great-grandmother's china, and put her tablecloth on the dining room table. It might not be pinterest worthy, but it's meaningful and it's us.

    As for your parents moving away, I'm so sorry. I would be totally heartbroken too. I wish I had wise words, but I don't, just lots of hugs and good thoughts!! I hope they're moving into a place with a guest room for you!! :)

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  12. I always seem to be wrestling between the thoughts of where God has put me and my theological belief in free will. I've had a lot of life events that just happened to me- and a lot of time to determine how I would react. (Oh that's teetering dangerously close to a cliche, but there you have it. It's true.) Enjoy a season of contentment if that's where you need to be. Veering into complacent is where I always get into trouble. ;)

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    1. I've wrestled with the same things! I've just realized more and more that God's hand is in every detail, even when it doesn't seem like it.

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  13. this is such a gorgeous post. holy cow, your writing spoke to me today. I can't imagine being so far away from my parents, but you will be able to do this. and having an excuse to travel is never a bad thing!

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    1. <3 <3 Thank you, Erin! Can you tell I'm desperately looking for a bright side, here?

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  14. Can we just fist bump or something? Change is hard but it helps us grow. And contentment? Ugh, one of the hardest. You've got this.

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  15. Sometimes blooming where you're planted feels more like putting everything into not dying, let alone blooming. Not that I would know anything about that.

    If you want a llama for your future home I hear the Columbus police department has them listed on the police reports. Maybe they have some hanging around you can take off their hands. ;)

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  16. "This life isn't about us or what we want; it's about Him." Yep. There's the 'secret' to being content, right there. If we could stop being so obsessed with our own selfishness we could probably stop and be happy.

    I definitely know what you mean about being homeless. At this point, though, I don't really see it as a 'bad thing'--just a thing. And a thing that's taught me to look forward to a kingdom when I won't have to be homeless anymore. Because there will never really, truly be a home for me on this earth. Not when all my favorite people live in all sorts of different countries and I'll never get to see my nephew grow up, and all that other fun stuff about living internationally. Yet, at the same time, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has called us to right where we are, and that living here is the best use of our skills and talents at this point in our lives. Even if sometimes I feel like we were totally crazy for choosing a life this difficult--I can remain content with it because the one thing that doesn't waver is that I know He brought us here.

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  17. Wait, wait, wait. You used to live in Nevada??

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  18. I feel like in so many ways, you keep stepping into my brain and saying what I can't. We are at such a similar place in life right now. I promise, it will get better. All of it. And I'm so sorry your parents are moving to Iowa, but when I used to drive through Iowa going back and forth to college, I actually really liked it! I think you and Gracie will fall in love with its rural charm.

    Also, we got the keys to our house today. It happened. Miracles happen. That is the moral of this story.

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  19. I know how you feel, having moved around a bit as a kid, with a family that is spread apart as much as possible (both parents live in separate states, and me and my three sisters are in four different parts of the country/world). It breaks my heart to not be close, and yet I'm used to it. I hope one day we can live close to someone, anyone.

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  20. This really spoke to me today, especially about being content. We were thinking about moving a few months ago, but found out we can't, so I'm learning to be content with the house I have.

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  21. I'm a sentimental sap too. I love that you took pictures of the bathroom and fridge font. I'm so sorry your parents are moving, but you are so right, maybe it will help you make new connections and teach Gracie to love traveling. We probably won't be in our first home together forever either. I can't imagine how I would sleep train a new baby in the same room where Avalon would still be sleeping, but maybe it will work. No sense worrying about it now (but, of course, I still will). Thank you for sharing the quotes!

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  22. I literally teared up over this!

    I need to do better at making our home to be what I want. I love our little townhouse, but it's pretty bare as far as decor goes. And the most recent pictures of Landon and me are from our engagements. I think all the time how I want to make it cuter and homier because quite frankly it's only a couple steps above a bachelor pad. haha It's hard with my schedule, but I think I could make some time to really put in an effort to make our home a reflection of us.

    Sorry about your parents moving away! I don't know what I'd do without mine an hour away- and even that feels like too far at times. But you're right, now you get to travel with Gracie and you'll make so many great memories! It will all work out. <3

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  23. Some beautiful thoughts about contentment and God's will. I've also gone around all our previous apartments when I knew that we were going to move, even taking pictures of the bathroom (!) because I wanted to remember everything just the way it was. Well, maybe not JUST the way it was. I did clean up first.

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  24. Such a lovely post. It is so very difficult to be away from family, specially with kids. Something that I am also having a hard time with. Thanks for sharing! I feel encouraged. God is in control.

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    1. I'm so glad you found encouragement in this! God is in control. I've forgotten that lately, and He's making a point to remind me.

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