I have been - very slowly - reading an amazing book by Priscilla Shirer called One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land. In this book, she talks about how the Israelites wandered around in the wilderness after being rescued from slavery in Egypt and compares it to how your or I handle difficult times in our own lives. My one-sentence summary hardly does the book justice. It's wonderful.
Anyway, I have been MIA from blogging lately for several reasons. Where do I start? A little over a year ago, we moved to this house in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. We still live on base, but we're so far removed from everything, that when John is away, it feels very isolated. All of our neighbors have been students, so they've been pretty transient. In the coming year, I have lots of John-less days to "look forward" to. When we returned here after Christmas, I very nearly had a breakdown. All that consumed my thoughts was how alone I would be this year, and all around me were New Year's resolutions and people's optimistic outlooks on the coming year. I couldn't find one thing to look forward to. Not even one. And I know that sounds horrible, but there it is.
During a whirlwind, one-night stay, John's grandmother picked up this book that I'd started reading before we did all our holiday traveling, One in a Million, and marked a page, saying it was very good and to read it. I have no idea if she'd read the book before or if she just stumbled across this passage. Two days later, I read it.
"...the wilderness increases the opportunities to see God work miracles, not just in some faraway place or for more deserving people. The wilderness opens the door for God to show his supernatural power right here, in my life - in your life.
In our experience. In our emotions. In our emptiness."
Wowza. That was some timing, Granny, because empty is just how I was feeling. And the pity party I was throwing myself? It wasn't much fun, either.
After lots of tears and an evening of discussing solutions, we decided to look for a new place to live - one that would be more convenient to friends, civilization, church, and while we're at it, that would send Aidan to a better school when fall and kindergarten arrive. (Kindergarten! Am I this old???)
We did lots of hunting on our own and didn't turn up much. Rental homes in areas that we liked were either far too expensive or far too small, or already taken by the time we called. Our final act of desperation was to contact a local real estate company that also handles rentals.
After seeing their list of rental homes and finding it wanting, the realtor I was in contact with asked me why we didn't consider buying a home. Why, indeed? Because we've lived here for five years. Because Murphy's Law is that as soon as we buy a house, we'll get orders to move. Because it's SCARY. But we started talking about it, and talking about it, and talking about it.
This is the third time we have considered buying a house here in Louisiana. My thoughts? When God throws something in your path more than once, maybe you should give it more than a passing glance.
We decided that we would at least look. We could buy a house that would be appealing to a renter, with the intent of renting it if and when we have to move again. I talked to the realtor. I talked to a mortgage broker. I had a list of houses that the realtor would show me. I browsed the MLS listings obsessively, trying to determine from pictures if any of these could be "our house."
On Thursday night, I went to bed with a particular house on my mind. It was strange, because the photos I'd seen of it were fairly unimpressive. Well, maybe not unimpressive, but there wasn't anything about it that was really different or stood out from any of the others. But I fell asleep dreaming of it, all the same.
On Friday, the realtor took me to see nine houses. Nine! I was very intimidated going into it, because they were all new construction. I was terrified that they would all run together and I wouldn't be able to remember which I liked and which I didn't. I prayed for discernment. I prayed to know, without a shadow of a doubt, when (or if) I saw the right house. The house I'd dreamed of the night before was the fourth house I saw. It was wonderful. The best features of the house weren't in the MLS photos. I looked at five more houses after it, and none compared. It's not that it was nicer or larger; it just made more sense to me.
We deliberated all weekend. John loves the neighborhood, so he was willing to let me put in an offer for the house without having seen it, except in my photos. It's smaller than our current house, but we ultimately decided that this is not a bad thing.
Anyway, through all of this, the deciding, the looking, the debating, I was anxious. I have never felt so anxious in my life. There was an open house on Sunday. I just knew that the house would sell quickly after other people had seen it. I have also never prayed so hard - for wisdom, for discernment, for the house to sell if we weren't supposed to have it, for it not to sell if we were, etc. And there was also uncertainty. Should we keep looking? Should we try to find something bigger? Should we spend more money?
On Monday, John and I decided that we would put in an offer for the house. By this time, my knees were worn out from praying, but as soon as the decision was made, I felt almost instant calm. I finally got a good night's sleep, free from worrying.
The next morning, back to the book, I began to read about emotional healing. One line I underlined says this, "Only God can quiet the screeching fears of one whose worries are keeping her up all night."
No kidding! There is no other explanation for it. I'd thought I'd be a nervous wreck as we wrote up our first offer and waited for a counter-offer. No nerves. I felt completely peaceful. I have been a basket case the two times we've bought cars, so this is nothing short of a miracle to me.
So....to conclude this story, we are now in contract for a lovely house. I'll have to share some pictures once it's ours.
Blah! I really didn't intend to write quite so much. I really wanted to share how much I've been learning from Priscilla Shirer's book and how it has helped me, and I'm afraid I've come out sounding like I've just done some major retail therapy.
Anyway, read One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land, ladies. I think it's wonderful, and I'm only halfway through.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
It's official. I have found my new favorite online shop. It's called House 8810. It's whimsical and fun and has lots of retro reproduction-type goodies. Take these flour sack dish towels, for instance. They're adorable! And the bonus is that they've never actually been used. Win-win, if you ask me.All Out Of" pad. What an easy way to make a grocery list! I'm all about simplifying.
I also found these sweet melamine cup and plate sets. They have designs perfect for both of my children. Can you guess who is who?
Here are a couple more out-there things they sell. I laughed out loud over both. I remember sliding off many a phone book in my kids' table days.
As you can see, I'm having a lazy Saturday afternoon, scouring the internet for things I don't need. :)
Thursday, January 20, 2011
It rained again today. We have only seen sunlight for one day this week - yesterday. Arg! So today, I cleaned. I intended just to do typical housecleaning - dusting, vacuuming, etc. Instead, I cleaned out the pantry and our desk. Well, to be honest, I actually started on the desk last week, worked on it some more last night, and finished it today. It was a bear.
Here's what it looked like last night. I don't think there was a single surface that wasn't covered with mess!
And you know you have too many Apple products when you find this many of their USB cords in your drawer...and I can think of two more that are hanging out in other parts of the house!
This is how it looks now that it's finished. Let's pretend there aren't things still stacked all over the top. I'm just not sure where else to put them yet.
I didn't take a "before" picture of my pantry. This is what it looks like now. Whoever put a pantry this tiny in a four bedroom house is crazy. The only reason it works for us at all is because our last house had no pantry!
And may I say that I adore baskets? I use them everywhere else in the house - the laundry room, under the bathroom sink, in the linen closet - why is it only now occurring to me to use them in the pantry? I love it. Now all the muffin mix and chili seasoning and half-used bags of granola and nuts have a home. I'm wishing I had about ten more to really straighten the thing out.
A few days ago, we moved Aidan's trains to his bedroom. He has a big under-the-bed box for all the tracks and trains, and we got an inexpensive bookcase to hold all the bridges and buildings in his closet. It's working out so much better. Our playroom/office is at the bottom of the stairs, and you have to walk through it to get anywhere in the house. I was constantly hurting my feet or messing up the track when it lived downstairs. Can you imagine maneuvering around this with a full basket of laundry in your arms? Dangerous.
Here, Aidan has set up a truly magnificent track in his bedroom. This is the view from the door.
And this is the view from the opposite corner. It takes up his whole room! You know you have too many Geotrax when... Of course, he's been building this collection for a few years, so I guess it's to be expected.
This is the mess Neely made while I was organizing other parts of the house. She's not quite so tidy a player as her big brother. The dress-up box threw up in her room. At least she was having fun. And actually, this mess is pretty easy to clean up.
And that, my friends, is how we made it through this rainy day. I may have to organize my underwear by color if things don't start looking up. ;)
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I am trying so hard to take better photos and learn how to use my new(ish) camera. I had my old one for five years, and I had that bad boy figured out! The new one is similar, but five years of new technology and tricks is still a lot to learn.
An example? White balance. On my last camera, you did the old point it at something white and push a button deal. Simple. Here, camera. This is white. Go! Call me crazy, but I really liked it that way. And when I forgot to set it myself, auto turned out pretty well.
On the new camera, you choose what kind of light you're shooting in - sunlight, incandescent, fluorescent, etc. That's all well and good, unless you're not in a habit of changing it...which I'm not, see? Exhibit 1: Yellowish photo of clippies. The last time I shot in manual - which I don't always do, because most of the time, the kids are just moving too fast - I left it set to fluorescent light.
Good thing I noticed how yucky that looked before I put everything away and loaded the photos onto the computer. Because look! I switched it over to incandescent, and ta-da! Beautiful. The colors actually look right.
I was also playing around with a new lens that I got for Christmas. It's a 50mm, and it has much better depth of field to work with than the zoom lens that came on the camera. Of course, taking these pictures at night was probably a bad idea. The next time, I'll try to be patient and wait for daylight. I had to have the aperture so far open that I couldn't even get all four clips in focus. Whoops!
Anyway, I know that's all pretty boring, and from reading the title of the post, you probably expected something about my kids playing, not me playing with my camera, but that's all I've got. It's been dreary and rainy for several days, and we haven't been up to much other than watching movies and playing with Play Doh.
Oh, and for anyone interested in buying some of the cute little clippies featured in all my photos, please visit my Etsy shop, Neely Bug Boutique.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Every once in a while, I make something I'm really proud of. Yesterday, I finished making a dress from a flight suit for my niece, Lycie. My sister-in-law sent me a photo to use as inspiration, but I ended up creating a pattern and doing it my own way. I love it. I'm going to have to pull some of Beaver's old flight suits out and make one for Neely now. And the response to it has been so overwhelming, I may have to go ahead and start resizing my pattern so I can keep up with the demand! It's very exciting. Anyway, since I've talked it up so much...here she is!
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Our Christmas gift from my parents this year was a trip to New York City, to see it all decked out for Christmas. It was a short trip - we were barely there 48 hours - but it was a lot of fun!
Here we are, in the white stretch limo that my mother thought it would be SO funny to send to the airport on Long Island to pick us up. Who needs a regular car?
This was just a couple blocks away from our hotel. We passed it as we went on our first mission - walking two miles to a Patagonia store to buy John a coat and gloves. No, he didn't bring one with him. Clever manipulative ploy to get a new coat, huh?
We stopped and took pictures in Central Park along the way.
That evening, we ate dinner in Little Italy. It felt so cozy there. I think I liked the lights there the best.
Giant Christmas ornaments! Everything is better when it's BIG!
Radio City lit up at night. We saw the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes the next night.
The tree! It's ginormous. And I'm in awe of how many lights they're able to get on it.
A decent picture of John and I. Please ignore our Rudolph noses, as we live in Louisiana and are not used to the cold. At all. Thank goodness for Cuddle Duds.
The only photo of all four of us together. We're eating dinner at Mesa Grill. Delicious!
Yes, you've seen this one before, but I love it. It's the view of the city from the Empire State Building observation deck.
Our final sightseeing adventure of the trip - the Brooklyn Bridge. I think it was the only time we had an unobstructed view of the sun, and even though it was still freezing, we actually felt hot!