I came across this poem a couple of weeks ago and have found it lingering in my thoughts ever since.
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1896)
We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.
Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hang about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives
And conquers if we let it.
There's not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past's wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.
Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble.
Farseeing is the soul and wise
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.
We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o'er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.
It's hard to believe we've already been living in our new home for a month.
Time flies when you're unpacking a whole house!
The unpacking actually was finished almost two weeks ago. I've since been trying to recover. And trying to find our new normal.
I've found myself drawn intensely to just being home. Just us. Just doing our normal everyday things.
This is not typical for me.
I tend to prefer busy and going and company.
But for right now my tastes have changed.
After some pondering I think maybe I've sorted out what's at the root of the change.
Since we listed our house last March I feel like our girls and I really lost all sense of "normal" in our days.
The top priority of our time became keeping a clean house. We began the slow and painful detaching from the place we called home for so long. And at any moment in our day we could have to drop everything and disappear so someone could come for a showing.
As I shared quite frequently it was a very taxing season in our lives.
I dealt with it the only way I could figure out: we were home as little as possible.
This was the best solution I could find to cover all of the angles that tension was coming from.
If we weren't home then the house could stay clean.
If we weren't home then we weren't looking around mourning what we would be leaving.
If we weren't home it meant we were somewhere else, usually with someone else, so our minds were occupied and temporarily distracted from the exhausting question of "when?".
I'm so deeply thankful for all of the gracious and hospitable friends God put in our lives during this season.
Not spending much time at home definitely helped get us through the months of waiting for our house to sell.
But now that it's sold, and we're not waiting anymore, I honestly feel like I've got months of time at-home to make up.
I want nothing more than days on the couch reading with our girls. Making big dinners and leaving dishes til morning if we want.
Letting the clean laundry sit on the couch for a day or two because no one is looking at our house but us.
Maybe it's silly.
But it's where I'm at and I'm fully indulging it.
Our new home is wonderful.
More than I could have ever hoped for or imagined possible.
I spent all those months of waiting telling myself to believe that something good could come at the end, but never actually managing to believe it. Most often exhausting myself with worry and fear because I'm not someone who finds the unknown exciting.
I feared that somewhere new couldn't feel like home.
I worried that we would end up having to move to a house that was horrible and depressing.
I worried that our house wouldn't sell half of the time, and worried that it would sell the other half.
I worried we wouldn't have the money we needed to get into a rental if it did sell.
I worried I wouldn't emotionally survive all of the packing and unpacking.
I worried that all of the worry and stress was going to take a serious long term toll on my health.
And round and round I went on that ride for months.
There were moments of optimism. Moments of excitement and anticipation.
There were also moments of breaking down and in exhausted desperation praying to God to help me think about it all differently. Because the way I was thinking felt like it was sucking the life out of me.
Then in the end, all that worry proved to be utter ridiculousness.
Our house sold.
We found a rental that we loved.
The packing and unpacking happened.
The most loving friends and family came to load and unload the moving truck with us.
Even the worries that came up towards the end proved empty.
We approached the closing date dreading the final calculation of things because it wasn't a question of if we would have to pay out, but how much.
A sad and stressful thing, but we were at the point where no amount of money felt worth waiting longer for a higher offer.
Then closing day came…
and we left with a check that covered all the expenses of moving and securing our new home. Didn't pay a penny.
We came home, to our new home, and I cried.
Not out of excited joy and relief like I had thought I would.
But out of a heart aching with remorse.
I'd done it all wrong.
I'd had the chance to trust God and to lay all of my worries and fears in His care, and had failed.
Completely, utterly, horribly failed.
I cried to my husband all of my regret as we came home to this beautiful house with money in our pockets, and all I could think was I don't deserve it.
I don't deserve any of it because I got the whole thing wrong.
His words: just look at God's grace.
Grace that though I did get it all wrong, I am being blessed beyond belief.
Once again I am hit smack in the face with the awe-stricken wonder of a God who loves us because He is that amazing, and that's it.
No merit possible.
I know thankful is a word that's getting thrown around a lot this month, but it's definitely the defining word for where we are at right now.
So, so thankful.
It's crazy how much joy can be found in the humbling reality that all we are and all we have and all we hope in is not ours because we've earned it.
In fact not only have we not earned it, but we've done quite the opposite. Done everything possible to prove that we truly don't deserve it.
Yet God's goodness floods our lives.
We are clearing space for slow days to really stop and savor this new home we've been given.
Embracing the season of thanksgiving and soaking up all things "Fall" before we jump into Christmas-time.
One of the most amusing surprises of all: this house that I'm so in love with.
I had a list of very firm particulars about where it would be acceptable for us to live when the time came to move.
Full sun at all times, a good yard, no complicated driveway, no stairs, nowhere that gets more snow than we're used to, and above all absolutely nowhere in the forest.
Well guess what?
Our charming little house sits with a nice big hill to the east of it and an enormous mountain to the west, so full sun… not happening. We do get direct sun from about 10-2 each day right now, so you can bet we are carefully making sure to time our outside time accordingly.
And speaking of outside time, the yard. ….
This is our yard
Actually it's not a yard at all, but the private drive that we share with three other houses.
You'd be amazed how fun it can be though.
And the private drive? Crazy. Sloped and narrow with an even bigger slope and narrower descent into the single car garage.
How am I dealing with that? Well, if I leave the house during the day I simply park on the street when we come home, and my wonderful husband moves the van into the garage when he gets home from work.
We're both totally content with this arrangement.
What else? Oh yes, the stairs
Aren't they pretty? I feel like they're a great decorative bonus.
AND, I no longer need a treadmill or an exercise bike. I just run up and down these about fifty times a day and I'm good.
I don't have any snow pictures for you yet, but I'm sure they'll be coming. According to my estimation we have relocated from living in the area of our county that gets the least snow to the area that gets the most. The girls are very excited.
Last of course is the forest thing.
This has been a debate between my husband and I for pretty much our whole married lives.
He loves the forest because he grew up there.
I don't enjoy the forest for extended periods of time because I only associate it with car-sickness due to always having to drive up some mountain to get there.
Well in case you haven't figured it out, we didn't end up with an in-betweenish compromise.
This is our back deck
or as it is affectionately becoming known, our tree-house.
One thing after another, our new home has proved to be all that I said I would never want under any circumstances.
Oh the irony.
All of these things I was so against I am completely falling in love with.
Further proof that God knows so much better than I do what is for my good.
For those of you who are still reading, thank you for tolerating all of my rambling through this crazy season of our lives. As with most hard things, I would never want to do it again, but I would never wish it hadn't happened either. Remembering where we started and seeing where we've ended up… it's all a gift.
This song came on yesterday while I was working in the kitchen. Feels fitting for where we've been and where God's brought us.
On a chilly day in January, our girls and I sat in our schoolroom working away when one of them pointed out the window and said "Look!".
Straight across the street we watched our neighbors park and hop out to load a moving truck.
I was bummed.
We'd met them once. On a walk one evening. Introduced ourselves and simply said hello.
My husband and I talked multiple times afterwards about inviting them over for dinner.
But we hadn't gotten around to it, and now they were leaving.
I resigned myself to the disappointment and turned back to the work of our day when a thought popped into my head that I couldn't get out:
You could invite them over now.
My heart started pounding as I knew I totally could… but it would be so awkward! Clearly they were leaving. My husband wasn't even home.
I thought it was crazy. Texted my husband hoping he would confirm the craziness.
But instead I got a text back that said "Do it!".
So this quiet girl who doesn't ever want to bother or impose on anybody, with sweaty hands and a racing heart, walked across the street and asked if they'd like to come have some lunch before they left.
The young woman smiled and said "thankyou" and "maybe".
And I came back to my house and told our girls not to get too excited, that they probably would not come.
I put leftover soup from the night before on the stove to warm just in case, but tried not to care too much.
Until my girls started screaming in a way worthy of Christmas morning, "They're coming!".
I know it's silly but I honestly felt like I was watching a miracle unfold.
This twenty-something girl and guy came and sat at the kitchen table with me and my girls and ate reheated potato soup and talked for over an hour.
When they left I knew that they were only moving fifteen minutes down the road. I had a phone number, and the knowledge that they had both come from many states away, and that outside of work they really didn't know anyone in the area.
Thus was born the burden in my heart to adopt these two young adults without a family nearby into our lives.
We haven't spent all that much time with them since. A few hours here and there.
A couple of dinners and a chance for them to get to know my husband.
Time for our girls to demand their attention and be rewarded with smiles and loving interest.
Somehow they became fixed in my mind in a way I've never quite experienced before.
How can we include them?
Is there anything they need?
How can we make them feel at home?
They were both so kind. Her sweet and soft-spoken. Him a little spunky with a captivating smile.
Always so appreciative of us inviting them over. He always so vocal in his gratitude for the good food.
They shared with us one day the unexpected surprise that there was a baby on the way. We rejoiced for them and encouraged them that a baby is always a precious gift. And I thought to myself if they were sharing things like this, they must think of us as friends. And my heart was so full.
Most of the reason we had never gotten around to inviting them over before was because we were just busy, and caught up in our own busyness.
But the other quiet part was probably that in some ways I feared rejection. I couldn't see how this young, unmarried couple would want anything to do with us. Old and a house full of crazy kids. I thought we were probably doing them a favor not asking them to put up with us.
That's probably why I was taken by surprise, and joy, to find them treating us as friends.
A few weeks ago the post-ultrasound text came: IT'S A GIRL!
And we all did a happy dance and were so, so excited. We don't hide our partiality towards baby girls around here.
They came for dinner again and we listened to the story of seeing their girl for the first time, and how this dad was so enamored with his baby girl that he didn't even hear people speaking to him as he stared at the screen image with a huge smile on his face.
That's the last time we saw him.
We've spent time with her, and kept in touch over the phone. His work was taking him out of and around the state and we wanted to make sure she was okay and would call if she needed anything while he was away.
I texted with her Saturday night to see if they wanted to come to a family bbq, but she was tired and they ended up staying home.
Sunday night we went looking for her in a crowd of people after we heard the news that he wouldn't be coming home.
She kept saying it seemed unreal. Probably as everyone felt.
This guy that sat at our table and complimented my cooking and patiently listened to our girls go on and on about every toy they own and movie they've seen…. he died trapped in a blazing fire.
So we've walked through the last few days with a flood of sorrow threatening to break forth at any moment. Already weary and broken over the loss of one friend, we now find ourselves living with the absence of another.
Too. much. grief.
We've done all that we can to be there for her these last few days. Anything we can think of to help. We are desperate to make it more bearable.
But as we fight off imaginings of his final moments on this earth, and weep at the dinner table because he was just right there with us, we know that nothing can really make it better. Because this is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the most vivid and tangible display that our world is wretchedly broken.
So we cling to hope.
And we pray for peace for too many grieving families.
And I sit here and keep thinking, "What if I hadn't invited them over that day?".
I find myself waiting to think, "I wish I hadn't invited them over that day".
But I can't.
I look at all of this miserable grief and want to wish I had avoided it all by simply minding my own business.
But I can't. And I don't.
And all I can think is that it was no accident I had leftover potato soup in the fridge on that day in January.