A House is a House is a Home

I meant to post this on the one year anniversary of us moving into our new house. But, that was December 20th. And, we all know how that story goes. It’s a magical and wonderful and exhausting time of the year. I love the Christmas season. I do. But, it can be A LOT. And, so, I love a fresh New Year too. But, that fresh, first week into the new year brought a two hour school delay for my littles, followed by a two hour early release, followed by two snow days, followed by a nasty sinus infection, followed by more snow days. So, yeah, that all sounds about right … And, here we are … on a random day toward the end of January that holds no significance. But. That’s okay. Because that’s usually just exactly when you catch yourself flooded for some strange reason, by memories, that slam into you like a heavy weight. If you’re like me, they leave you teary and uncertain about how on earth time slipped away so quickly … just before you really had the chance to be as fully present as you meant to be …
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When we moved out of our first home, I needed to give it a proper goodbye. My way. Now, if you know me really well OR if you’ve ever been an ex-boyfriend of mine (which none of you have … Bless) then you already know … a “proper goodbye” means a good old-fashioned letter. I’m probably the only one snickering over this. Okkaay. Moving on …
My Proper Goodbye —
It’s hard, sometimes, to say goodbye to a house. Especially one that grew close to your heart in ways you never knew a house could …
This little house – it felt so big to us when we first moved in. We were fresh out of an apartment in Nashville. Married only 7 months. Just the two of us. So excited and proud of ourselves. Whole entire rooms sat empty for months (years). I can hardly imagine it now. But, we didn’t come with a lot of stuff. It hadn’t accumulated at that point. And, we certainly didn’t have the money to actually buy new furniture. But, I don’t remember that even being a thing. We were just so happy that we bought our first house! We made it feel like home. Though, I, for real life, cannot, no matter how hard I try, figure out what on earth we did with our time. Can’t. Remember.
A year-ish or so later, we brought a Harper Jane puppy home. And, a year-ish or so after that, we brought our baby boy N home. And, three years after that, our sweet girl A. And, the stuff accumulated rapidly. The space shrunk in the same way that our hearts grew … all full … in the best ways.
The carpet in the nursery has my footprints embedded in it from hours upon hours of pacing with a sleepless baby N. I’d bop and sway him around that room in agony – desperate for him to sleep. Now that matted carpet just reminds me of my precious baby. Desperate nights led to sweet memories.
A few years later, I’d tuck a sleepy A in that very same crib, in that very same room and wish that she actually would LET me rock her …  just for a little while.
The back yard – where puppy Harper kept tearing up Ryan’s newly planted grass. I still laugh when I picture her pulling up a corner of a specific square of sod and making him chase her to get it back! Where I (at 7 months pregnant), broke my toe kicking a ball for Harper. Where our babies played for hours and hours and hours. Baby pools, water tables, sand boxes, bubbles, s’mores. Where we created our own little haven. A refuge. A place that was all ours. Where N and I watched clouds and had picnics. Where 2 year old N road his red tricycle round and round the patio for hours on end and pushed his plastic lawnmower around the yard. Where Ryan and I would sit by the fire pit and talk and dream and plan and hope and pray. Where, whenever things were getting hard – when we started to feel like zombie ships passing babies back and forth in the wee hours of the night – we would meet and share and reconnect.
Where 3 year old N climbed and jumped over our 6 foot fence leaving his momma (who thought he’d been kidnapped, naturally, because what 3 year old does that) a panicked mess. Where 2 year old A spent hours sliding, “tumble-saulting”, dancing and playing “mommy” in her play house. My heart actually aches picturing those babes, covered in chalk, running around in their underwear in that lovely yard where we watched the seasons change…
The dining room – where Ryan and I learned how to have a date night IN … especially on Valentines and certain anniversaries when we didn’t want to pay for a sitter … or leave our babies. Where we blew out countless candles, held kids birthday parties, celebrated holidays, and “Friends-givings”.
The Kitchen – oh that kitchen! There’s a reason that people love their kitchens and spend hours designing and decorating them in their minds. It’s because it’s true what they say – the kitchen IS the heart of the home. In our kitchen, in that house … it was where the first spoonfuls of baby food were lovingly, exhaustingly prepared and airplaned in to little mouths. Where first bites of first birthday cakes were tasted. Where the best dance parties took place. Where real life happened.  The breakfast, lunch and dinner … the cleaning up after the breakfast, lunch and dinner. The witching hour … when the crying felt like it would never stop … always in time for dinner. Those weren’t my best “dinner years”. Oh, but they were the years when N and I discovered our love for baking  cookies together. We let A in on it too, after a while . And, they were the years when all the crafts happened. Where N would say, “let’s do a project, Mommy” and so we would … create, draw, make, build.
The Living Room – If we “lived” in the kitchen, then we lounged in the living room. Where N and I watched all the episodes of Curious George there ever were. And, Rio and Despicable Me on repeat. Where Ryan scratched up the ceiling the year he went all Griswold and brought in a tree too big for our yard … “It’s not going in our yard, Russ…” All the lovely Christmases.
Where we built lots of Legos and lots of blanket forts. Where we’d snuggle and nap and rest.
The hallways and bedroom floors in that home were for drying off and lotioning up babies after bath. They were for jammie time and singing nursery rhymes … and running wild …right before getting ones jammies on, naturally.
The kid’s bedrooms – where all the bedtime routines took place. Where the books were read. The stories were told, the songs were sung, the prayers were prayed, the butterfly/Eskimo kisses were passed out. Where we snuggle-buggled and talked about all the things … especially about how we’d love each other to the moon.
Even the landing on stairs of that house has its own special memories. That’s where all the best “fun joes” happened. If you don’t what at “fun joe” is, ask N. He’s the inventor and the only one who truly understands just what a “fun joe” is. Hint: it involves ALL (and I mean ALL) the stuffed animals. “Fun joes” were also allowed in the master closet with flashlights for extra fun-joe-fun. Though, I must admit, while pregnant with A, those “fun joes” became “naptime” for a tired momma. Sleep when you can – new mommas – and where you can.
The landing was also for Christmas morning. All the “first” Christmas mornings – right there in that house.
The Garage – Where N learned to love building with his daddy and painting with me. And, where A learned to love to run out and dance in the rain.
That house meant a lot to me. We became a family there. We grew and prayed and learned and struggled and trusted and hoped and prayed more. We grew stronger in our relationships with our Lord. We taught our children that same love and faith.
Now, it’s been well over a year since we packed up and moved out. We said our goodbyes. It was sad. But, it was a good sad. And, now, if I drive by, I’m okay. All those memories. They were ours to bring with us. Maybe the house kept some of it’s own (I like to think that it did), but we packed ours and brought them along with us. They were never meant to be left behind.
With that house and with our new house, I had a big faith that our prayers were heard and answered. I know they were. We prayed our way through that whole selling, moving and building process. We prayed through each step, holding hands and doing it together. And, so, when it was time to walk away from that sweet, special first home of ours – we did so with a confidence that the Lord had us. He HAD us. He has us.
We were moving forward with His blessing.
We were ready for our new house. Our new HOME.  We knew we’d fill it with beautiful memories as well … and oh, how we are! They aren’t the same. They won’t be. They can’t be. These new walls won’t echo with the cries and giggles of our babies, but they’ll hold the laughter of our children as they grow. I am full of hope and happiness moving forward … We’ll keep holding hands and praying our way …
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Gone, Never Forgotten

Today. January 6. It’s been 3 years since R’s dad (my quiet, sweet, father-in-law, Tim) passed away. His loss hit hard. It wasn’t easy on our family. Yet, as each year passes, it’s become amazingly apparent to me that one’s spirit can grow long after they’re gone. I feel his presence in our lives, sense his soul in our home. He’s there. This year, on this day, we celebrate him, as we do each year (with Reuben sandwiches for dinner and lots of stories told.) Yet, it feels a little different somehow. There is now more happiness mixed with the sadness. It’s becoming easier for R to share his memories with us. Though he’s gone, N, A, and I are growing to know him better somehow. We are still getting to know him. He lives on.

photo (10)R made N a very special work bench for Christmas this year. It’s easy to see how much the memory of his father inspired it. Tim’s spirit is all over that thing! N will carry on the Blair name … and quite a few of Tim Blair’s tools too. Passed down to a new generation. N even wanted to trace his tools so that they’d always be placed back where they go, “just like PopPop Tim did.” So, N and R spent time together tracing old and new tools on N’s pegboard. The finishing touches made us all smile … and remember. There is so much meaning in it and so much love. It surrounds us. HE surrounds us. His love lasts. His memory lasts. We miss him. He’s gone and we wish that he weren’t. We wish that A could meet her PopPop. He would ADORE her. Yet, so much of his spirit is very much present. We know you are watching. We know you are with us. Have a Happy Day, PopPop Tim! Xoxo

A Fresh, New Year. Hello, 2015!

The new year opens before us like a fresh, crisp notebook – waiting to be filled, written in, inspired. Welcome. I’ve always liked the beginning of a new year. A chance to start fresh. A chance to move forward. December is a time for me to step away, to look back, to reflect, and to surround myself with love and memories. This year I was able to fully embrace all of it. I took advantage of all of it. I actually, really, stepped away. I didn’t write, at all, in December, and I hope you’ve missed me. I hate to take long blog breaks, but during this season of my life, my littles are my very top priority. I gladly let everything else slide, as we truly enjoyed every day of December – of this Christmas season. It was such a special year. N is 4. A is 16 months. It was magical. We baked, we played, we created, we read, we crafted, we put together a special Jesse Tree, we decorated, we explored, we looked at lights, we visited Santa, we shopped, we played more, we baked more. It was easily one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. We were together. We enjoyed!

Now, January is here and it’s time for a new beginning. Fresh air. New hopes. Possibility. Let’s all just take a deep breath together. Ahh. And, onward march. For me, there are no resolutions. I make goals, plans, lists, etc. But, I don’t make resolutions. I just don’t. I don’t make A New Years Resolution. I find them discouraging somehow. Disappointing. Stifling. Rather, I make a list if things I’d like to happen. The key word is “like.” I’d like these things to happen. If they don’t, it’s okay. They give me something to work toward. Goals. Projects I’d like to tackle. Dreams for the future. Plans (if they be God’s will) for the year. Generally they follow the same sort of tune and this year is no different. Organize and Simplify. But, this year I want to take it a step further. Organize. Simplify. Deepen. Not just our home, our routine and our lives – but, also our hearts, our spirits and our bodies. There are lots of things, words and ideas that fall under these categories. Lots. But this is the gist … of my list (insert snort/chuckle). To organize, simplify and deepen. And, the big word for the year, I believe, is TRUST. We made great strides, spiritually, in 2014. Huge strides. Huge changes. We joined a church. We actually GO. We are becoming more involved. R was baptized. Like I said, big strides. This year, we will attempt to go further. To trust more completely. Stress less. Worry less. “Read, Pray, Trust, Obey.” These words will be our guide as we tackle our lists, goals, plans and dreams.

Let’s take one more deep breath. Ahh. Hello, 2015!! Let’s make it a joyful year!

The Jesse Tree – A New Tradition

First, with a thankful heart, I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving. I hope you are spending the holiday loving on your sweet family. But, if you aren’t, if your day will be spent working, or if the holiday feels bittersweet to you … my prayers are with you …

Honestly, though, today my heart is focused on the upcoming Christmas holiday. I’ve tried to plan a little more this year … though to be perfectly honest, we all know what happens when we plan … life laughs in the face of our plans, right? But, by plan, I don’t mean decorate or prepare my home. I haven’t even touched any of that yet. My decorations are still in the attic. Maybe next year I’ll “plan” to decorate earlier. This year, I’ve been attempting to prepare my heart for the holiday. I truly want to focus our family’s thoughts and hearts on The Lord this year, as He is The Reason For The Season after all. There will still be plenty of Santa, our Elf-On-The-Shelf, Christmas cookies, Christmas movies and reindeer in our house. We do love those things too! But, I want to raise my children with a clear focus toward God. What better time to start then now?

Have you heard of the Jesse Tree? Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve been doing it for years. If so, good for you! I’d love to hear from you about how your family incorporates this tradition. Feel free to comment below and share with the rest of us. If you are like me, and you are just discovering this amazing tradition, maybe you can start with me …

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I was initially inspired by an article on Missional Motherhood (which is a fantastic resource for women, by the way) titled Teaching Your Children His Story With The Jesse Tree. So, what is the Jesse Tree? To put it simply, it is an advent re-telling of the lineage of Christ. It’s told in a chronological way (from Creation to the birth of Jesus) that makes more sense to our children … and, honestly, to us too. Each day, starting either after Thanksgiving or on December 1st, a new ornament (one that you can create, download, buy, etc.) is put on your Jesse Tree, representing the story for that day. My plan is to keep this tradition as simple as possible this year as my children are only 4 and 1. Then, I’ll grow it as they grow. I don’t want this to feel like a hassle, something else that we have to do. I want it to be enjoyable, easy, fun and meaningful. This year, we will read the Bible verses and story for each day together, then we will create the ornament for the day with foam paper, crayons, markers and yarn. The ornaments will be messy, childlike and … wonderful! I’m going to place a small tree in the dining room that will act as our Jesse Tree. The Littles can add their handmade ornament each day and decorate this tree as they choose. I’m not looking for pretty or perfect here. I’m looking for meaning and memories.

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The goal, with the Jesse Tree, is to have a more intentional Christmas. To approach the holiday with faith and the desire for our children (and ourselves) to grow spiritually. To create meaningful traditions and memories, while allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate their precious hearts to be drawn to Him.

Let’s do it. Let’s create meaning.

A list of helpful resources for you:

Missional Motherhood

Ann Voskamp

Blessed Beyond a Doubt