I do not need to tell you, do I, that the two of us prayed all through last week; actually, the four of us prayed because the girls have recently started asking God to give us a home and for wisdom about our home, too. Jeremy spent the week dreaming, describing and slowly dipping his toes back into the pool of reality, and I spent the week treading water in that realistic pool. Intrigued, yes. Wanting this to be Our House, yes. Hoping, no.

Last Saturday, Jeremy and I sat in the van and prayed again for wisdom while we waited for our realtor to unlocked the front doors of the yellow house. Then we walked through them. The pictures online had given me not even an inkling of what to expect. In fact, the pictures online had perpetuated my water-treading in the pool of There Is No Home For Us, but walking through those doors into the entryway and living room changed my perspective. Hope peeked through a tiny crack in the dry dirt floor of my dreams. I turned left and walked through the large archway into the nasty peach kitchen. Hope slipped her head above the crack so that she could get a good look at the kitchen and take note of what paint color might make those cabinets pop beautifully into view. I followed Jeremy through a second arched door into the dining room filled with windows, and hope's entire body jumped through the crack in order to stand firmly in the sunlight with me.

Jeremy and I looked at each other and smiled. We knew. Even if we had to compromise on most of the rest of the house, we knew. This was Home.

Jeremy, Hope and I joined hands and followed our realtor through the rest of the main floor. The laundry room had a mudroom large enough to accommodate a bench and coat/book-bag/shoe-collecting area. This is something that I have been wanting since I began dreaming of a house. The bedrooms told us exactly what role they would like to play in our family as we entered them. The one on the left side of the house would be an office and guest room. The front one on the right would be the girls' room. The back one on the right would be a playroom.

Upstairs, french doors led into the master suite. I actually don't remember much of the master suite except that the room was very large and contained several windows. The bathroom had enough room for a garden tub, but it was missing. The one thing I do remember was the large walk-in shower with double shower heads - another item on our dream list.

Because the home is in the process of foreclosure, it has been gutted by someone in order retrieve some of the value put into it. Many light fixtures are missing, and at least one bathroom sink that I can remember is gone. The flooring throughout most of the home will need to be replaced as we can afford it, but out of our entire dream list, the only two items not already in the home are a fireplace and a garden tub. Definitely things that we can compromise on or add in later.

The two of us did not say much while in the house other than asking questions of our realtor, but we made a lot of eye-contact. Each knew what the other was thinking. Six other homes on our list to-be-viewed that day forced us to keep our appointments, and Jeremy and I did not even discuss The House while driving to our other destinations. Another beautiful home on the list that day checked off most if not all of our dream list items, and Jeremy and I sat down at a local restaurant around two pm to eat lunch and talk.

In order to be fair to all houses involved, we set aside our feelings for the yellow house and created a pro/con list. Our choices were narrowed down to the house we wanted to build which incorporated almost all of our dream items and would eventually need a finished basement, the beautiful house on the cul-de-sac which incorporated a little more of our dream items and came completely ready with no later upgrades or work to be done, and The Yellow House which would require the most work (mainly decorative) to make it ours. Surprisingly enough, even with differing pros and cons for each house, the three were just about equal on our lists. We stopped to pray for the twelve-hundred-and-forty-second time that day, and when we raised our bowed heads and looked up at each other from across the table, we both knew. Together, we pushed the lists aside and said, "We only have passion about the yellow one."

We stared at each other, brains whirling. Slowly, peace and determination took over the thoughts. "Let's do it," I said firmly. "Let's go for it."

Jeremy continued searching my eyes, wanting to be sure I understood the risks involved in putting an offer down on the house. I understood his gaze and nodded. "Yeah, I know."

Because the house is only in the beginning of foreclosure, so many red-tape requirements come first. Additionally, the file for the house has been lost in the United States financial system somewhere, and no one has been able to locate it. If we were to put an offer on the house, that offer would float out in la-la land until someone somewhere saw it and put it together with the missing house file. Once it hit that house file, several mortgage companies would have to agree, come to terms with each other and respond. Our realtor told us the process could take more than a year before we even heard back that our offer had been received, not even accepted or rejected.

In June, Jeremy's relocation benefits will expire. Building a house takes three to four months, so if we start in February, we can be in the newly built house by June and still take advantage of our relocation package. But if we spend time waiting to hear back on the yellow house, and then find out our offer is rejected or that someone else has made a better offer (and someone else HAS made an offer, we just don't know any details about it), our window of building time will go past our relocation benefits expiration date.

We knew all of this, and yet God gave peace. Not only peace but readiness to take action and steadiness to wait it out. "Make the phone call," Jeremy said in his deep take-charge voice that I love.

I picked up the phone and called our realtor. "We want to make an offer on the yellow house."

"Okay!" she knew already, too. "I'll do some research and get back to you on Monday."

To Be Continued...
Since moving to Indiana, Jeremy and I have spent most of our Saturdays either touring the insides of houses to buy, or driving around aimlessly, searching for land to build a house on. When our original six month lease on our apartment expired we did a LOT of praying. What in the world are we supposed to do, God? We looked for nice houses to rent, but none met our standards. Eventually, we signed another six month lease, not because we wanted to, but because we had no idea what else to do and time to make a decision had run out.

With the immediate rental decision made, we went back to focusing on permanent arrangements for our family. Buy or build? Build or buy? We finally settled on a small plot of land and a floorplan that we both are happy with, but still we hesitated to make the final decision to build. Something held us back. Something that neither of us could define. Just a lack of...something. (I actually tried to put a definite word into that sentence, but nothing I came up with was correct.)

Two Saturdays ago, on our way home from The Place With All The Meat, we took a wrong turn and ended up driving along a country road with beautiful homes dotted here and there. It wasn't unusual for the bright yellow FOR SALE sign by the side of the road to catch my attention, because whenever we drive our eyes remain trained to the front edge of yards searching for those signs that could indicate Home! Your Home Is Here. But what was unusual was my lack of interest. I didn't even point the sign out to Jeremy. The almost-decision to build combined with the lack of believing that Our House could really be out there had caused me to remain silent. We've looked at too many houses that did not like us or that we did not like. Houses and I speak the same language. We bond. Even the most deplorable of homes could sing and dance if given the appropriate love and attention, and I've been disheartened by all the housely rejection we have been going through. I stayed silent.

Jeremy spoke up. "See that sign?"

I nodded and followed the nearby driveway with my eyes, trying to glimpse the advertised house. The gravel extended more than a few hundred feet and divided the yards of two different homes. The brown house sat confidently in full view of the road, but only a corner of the yellow house showed itself from behind the trees.

"I wonder which house is for sale," Jeremy mused, "Wanna drive back and see?"

"Eh," I shrugged, intrigued more by the potential for adventure than by any hopefulness of finding Our House.

Jeremy checked his rear view mirror, then put Wynni in reverse and approached the driveway. All the way up the long drive we scanned the houses for clues that might show us which was on the market. We parked in the driveway of the brown house since it was first in line, and from the safety of our van we examined the yard, windows, front porch. Nothing told us that the home might be for sale, and I recommended that we leave before the owners came out to kick us off their property. As we turned around, Jeremy asked, "You want to check out the other house?"

"No, let's just go," I answered. The brown house had not inspired a feeling of home to me; I didn't expect anything more from the still hidden yellow house. We slowly headed back down the gravel drive, still wondering which home might be for sale.

Jeremy and I noticed the neighbor walking rapidly towards us at the same time. "Let's ask him," I suggested. Jeremy eyed the posture of the young man's advance and hesitated. "He doesn't look so happy to see us. Maybe we shouldn't stop to talk." He hesitated, his curiosity got the better of him, and he said, "Well, only if you do the asking. You're cuter." He winked at me.

Jeremy rolled his driver's side window down, and I leaned toward it and said in my nicest, politest voice, "Do you know which of these two homes is for sale?" at the same time that Mr. Neighbor puffed out his chest and said in a deep voice, "I'm a Marine. How can I help you?"

A tiny pause lingered while our words crossed each other in the air. Then the young Marine smiled and his chest became friendly-looking. "The yellow house is for sale. It's empty. You can go look in the windows if you'd like. I'm sorry for my big tough turkey act. The house you were just looking at is my dad's house, and he's been in the hospital for the past three weeks due to lung cancer. He had his lung removed this morning, so I've just come from the hospital. It startled me to see someone staring at his house." He smiled again.

Jeremy and I asked a few intelligent questions about the history of the yellow house and about the neighborhood. Our Marine eagerly gave us a lot of helpful information, and told us the Story of the House, and believe me, it is a Story. Just the way I like it with love and tragedy, heroes and villains and a bitter-sweet ending. Without even seeing the house, my heart began leaning towards it.

After a long conversation, our Marine returned to his own home near to his father's, and Jeremy and I turned Wynni around, pointing her towards the corner of the yellow house. We proceeded along the gravel way, passed the corner of the house and entered the circle driveway in front. Triple archways on the front porch drew our eyes upward and highlighted the dome-shaped window above the double front doors. A chandelier inside the house sparkled in the light. Jeremy gasped. "This is our house. Look, Missy! Look! It's our house!"

I understood his enthusiasm because in all of our dreaming, he had described this entryway right down to the visible chandelier many times in the past. I understood his enthusiasm, but I didn't share it, not completely anyway. His grand entryway is not necessarily my ideal. But, I noticed, with a few tweaks here and there... Yes, the entryway was acceptable, even desirable, or could be easily. After the tweaks, I could readily see the two of us sitting on the front porch, watching our girls playing in the yard. And speaking of the yard, I shifted my gaze to the surrounding land. Mature trees of various kinds pushed their way skyward here and there around the yard. A double-line of possibly fifteen-to-twenty-year-old trees marched along the northern edge of the property, the same trees that had blocked our view from the road. While Jeremy was tall enough to peek into all the windows, I was not, so I contented myself with walking around the perimeter and admiring the view in all directions. The yard felt like home. What a wonderful feeling!

Since our two girls had stayed buckled in the van, I returned quickly from my sojourn around the house. Jeremy took longer, peering into every window on the main level and into the basement. He came back energized. "Missy!" he practically shouted, "This is It. This is Our House!" His boyish, happy grin that I have missed for almost a year exploded from his face. "This is it!"

All the way home, and late into the night, he described what he had seen from the windows. He tried to get me to comprehend the layout, the wall colors, the kitchen cabinets. I loved his happiness; I loved his excitement; I loved the switch in our roles. Normally, I am the happy, dreaming, excited one, and he is the cautious, wisdom-filled, (dare I say it) GRUMPY one. (He would call it realistic.)

For some reason, I could not get my heart to hope. Yes, the yard caused me yearning, but I kept a purposeful clamp on it. The inside of the house would probably not tell me it was my home. We made an appointment to see it the following weekend.

(To Be Continued...)
We seem to be making headway in the belonging aspect of living in Indiana. I mentioned a few posts ago that we met up with three different people we knew in Walmart. That felt good. Coming from such a small town in Iowa where we knew just about everyone, the lack of stopping to talk during a Walmart trip has been a drastic change – a lonely change. Another drastic change was the fact that we used to get our meat from a local butcher shop. The missing butcher shop here did not affect me so much, but a small part of Jeremy’s manliness was taken when he found he did not have a place to get Manly Meat. At a recent Mom’s Get Together, I was told of a butcher shop nearby that sounded amazing. I knew immediately that if I could get Jeremy to that shop, he would feel instantly better about Indiana as a whole.

We drove there this past weekend and spent a couple HOURS examining all that was available in the specialty store. I bought some honey that had been collected just down the road, and Jeremy filled our freezer with Meat. On our way home, Jeremy couldn't express how wonderful it felt to have a Place Of Meat to rely on. What wonders Meat can do for a man’s outlook! It’s funny to me.

The girls and I on the other hand have been focusing on making relationships with other moms and kids. On Monday, we went to my friend Calle’s house where Liberty and Mercy played with Calle’s daughters – girls their own ages – while Calle and I hung out together chatting and laughing and having a grand time. On Tuesday, we three stayed home from Mercy’s Storytime at the library because Liberty’s milk allergy was causing her problems. On Wednesday, we attended Liberty’s Storytime (this is a new time slot for us), and I was able to introduce myself and have a nice conversation with another mom. That was very encouraging for me. In the afternoon, Calle and her girls came over for some fun, and that evening, I attended my Ladies’ Bible Study and sat next to a lady who I’ve spoken to slightly before. We got to know each other a little better, and she invited our family to her family’s house next Saturday for supper! She and her husband LOVE to play GAMES!!!! Another huge missing ingredient in our belonging feeling has been that we haven’t met many people who love to play games. I cannot wait for this evening! On Thursday (today), the girls and I went to the YMCA for an exercise class. This is the second class we’ve attended, and this time I felt more familiar. I introduced myself to a mom who I had seen at the library before, and we ended up going to McDonald’s Playland with our girls after the class. (You know what kind of restaurant would make a KILLING? A cozy cafĂ© that serves healthy, hearty food and has an indoor playground. I ought to start one.) We also both signed up for something called the Mom Squad (the name just attracts me) which is a bunch of moms and kids who meet once or twice a week to play and talk. There’s no schedule or activities planned, although some days they meet at a park or a pool. Their next meeting is on Monday, and Ellie and I (my new friend from the Y) and her daughter and my daughter are going to attend for the first time together. Tomorrow (Friday), another friend I’ve made from church is coming over to our house with her little son to play with us, and Saturday evening Jeremy and I and our girls are going to the house of someone in our Sunday School class for a Mexican-themed class party.

Which reminds me, Calle was going to give me her recipe for White Chicken Chili. I’ll have to call her.

See? Belonging!
My pastor has started a series called "One Month To Live," and I've been doing a lot of soul-searching about that topic. If I knew I had one month left to live, what would I do differently? What would my priorities become? What actions and reactions would I monitor closely?

I started by examining my daily routine filled with diaper changing, nose wiping, silly giggling, book reading, house cleaning, potty training, no-no repeating, meal preparing, toy-share monitoring, husband feeding, friendly phone and email conversing, nap-time enforcing, and Jeremy conversing and cuddling. I assumed I would need to drastically change my way of life if I knew I was about to die, but after listing my daily activities, I realized not much could be changed without someone in my immediate family suffering because of it. The minute details of my day are IMPORTANT. Bottom wiping? That's serious business. No-no repeating? At least two future contributors to the world are becoming slightly more responsible and worth-while (hopefully) because of the training they are currently receiving.

Realizing that my activities could not be changed, I decided to focus on my attitude. Admittedly, there are times (especially early in the morning, or in the middle of the night) when my attitude does not point others to God. Most of the time, no one around me realizes it because I keep it to myself, but even that internal "I'd rather be sleeping" attitude is not the way I want to exit this world and stand before my amazing Lord. Something to work on.

I moved on to the various relationships in my life. There are people who refuse to speak to me, and there are other people who speak to me, but the relationship is gone or broken. I considered those situations, thinking, this definitely is an area that I should work on. Ephesians 4:3 says "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Hebrews 12:14a says "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy..." I thought about it: what could I do to build or repair relationships with those people? And I discovered a concept that I did not expect to find. Freedom.

I have tried to rebuild or repair those relationships over a period of time, and my efforts have either been rebuffed or the bridges attempted have been set on fire from the other side through lies and manipulation when my back was turned. That sounds dramatic and finger-pointing, and I did not mean it that way, but the truth is, I have tried to live at peace, and even more -- to live together in love and joy. With my final month on earth, I do not need to work and work at a relationship that is not happening. That would be a foolish waste of time, but I should continue loving and extending grace in my heart.

I mentioned in a previous post that I am currently reading through the book of Jeremiah. Here was a guy who tried! And tried and tried and tried. He spoke the truth. He loved. He reached out. He cried over his people. But they would have none of it. When he stood before God, God did not berate him for the failed relationship. The parties responsible for that failure would be the parties who refused the Truth. Refused the Love.

Surprise entered my soul. Windows opened. Freedom walked in.

So far, I have learned two things:

1. My daily, sometimes boring, sometimes mundane, lots of times fun and just-plain-silly routine has vastly far-reaching results. Not a single action, attitude or facial expression is unimportant. I am fulfilling a mission!

2. "Make every effort..." means just that. God doesn't command the end result. He only commands the effort. There comes a time when the effort has been made. Keep an open heart, and drop the burden.

Did I say two?

3. If I had only one month to live, I would go to bed at the exact same time that Jeremy did every night. I would watch Star Wars with him whenever he wanted me to watch (unless I was feeding the kids or something equally important like reading a good book to myself or soaking in the tub.)

Hmm, maybe I should just stick with two!

I was going to end the post there, but another thought just presented itself: God doesn't tell us how much time we have left because He doesn't want us to burn ourselves out. If I knew I had one month left to live, I would spend every second possible with Jeremy, or on the phone with my relatives and friends saying goodbye and hopefully uttering amazing final words that could be quoted and passed down for generations to come! I would cut out my own needs like exercising or time alone to read or soak. I would do this because with only a month left, the need to be of sound mind would be less and less important. But God calls us to balance. Rejuvenation is an important part of an on-going life, and reading and bathtub soaking are an important part of my duty to remain balanced.

See? I should have been a salesman.
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Our internet connection is down indefinitely. Oh the tragedy! In the meantime, if you are trying to contact me, please call. I will not receive emails for a while.

Oh, and you can pray some intercessory prayers on my behalf so that I survive this barren internetless wasteland in which I am living.

Jeremy just read this over my shoulder, and he suggested that I might enjoy my life in the real world where my two kids and husband live. :-) And I do...

It gives me something to blog about!
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My Dad, the Dryer Whisperer, came to fix our broken dryer! Liberty helped.

Then Grandma and Grandpa played!

Apparently, Grandpa made a big impression on Liberty. After my parents returned to their home, Daddy decided to check out the dryer, and Liberty informed him, "It's okay, Daddy. Let's wait for Grandpa. He can fix it." When Daddy informed her that he, too, was able to fix things, she shook her head. "No, it's okay, Daddy. We should wait for Grandpa. He can fix it."

In order to raise Liberty's estimation of her father, today I brought him a lamp with a burned out light bulb and made a big deal out of the fact that Daddy would fix it. Liberty followed me to Daddy with wonder in her eyes. Could Daddy really fix it?

Hooray! It's fixed! And Daddy is back to being her main hero...but Grandpa sure isn't far behind.
Liberty begs to go outside, but she never manages to stick with that thought all the way through the task of putting on her socks and boots and coat and hat and gloves. She gets halfway ready and then decides she wants to do something else.

So we ran races today. We started at the front door, and I yelled, "On your mark, get set, GO!" The girls took off down the hallway, rounded the corner into their bedroom, jumped onto and off of Liberty's bed, then raced back down the hall to tag my hand at the front door. Liberty won every time, of course, until Mercy realized the flawed pattern. Then she began stopping short at the bedroom door and turning around to scuttle gleefully back down the hall, giggling for all she was worth while Liberty continued on into the bedroom and over the bed. Amazingly, Liberty still beat her most of the time in spite of the shortcut. Usually, because Mercy giggled so much that she couldn't keep her balance and she would nosedive into the carpet, thus enabling Liberty to leap over her and finish the race while Mercy attempted to get back up.

During clean-up time, I collected a few of Liberty's Sunday School papers and held an impromptu Bible class. We learned all about the wise men following a star to find Jesus, and we discussed what Christmas is all about. Liberty regurgitated the lesson to Daddy later in the day, and she even made up a part about what sound camels make.

After the Bible class, we took the couch cushions and tossed them into a random pattern on the floor. The three of us then jumped from cushion to cushion yelling "Call Max" at every landing. I'm not sure who "Max" is or why he needed to be called, but it was meaningful and entertaining to the two youngest members of our band, so... CHEERS!

It reminded me of how my brothers and sisters and I would run in crazy circles outside whenever it rained and yell, "Call the fire! Call the fire!" I think that originally was "Call the fire department!" (because lightning had struck our house and it was on fire) but somewhere in there, one of the littlest kids couldn't say department, and we all ended up saying what the littlest one was saying.

There's a rabbit trail for you.

So this has turned into a somewhat random post, and that's okay with me. I'm feeling rather random today.

Liberty begged to "cosser" (color) her abc's, so I printed out a paper full of the alphabet, and she attacked it with her markers. I'm not sure why, but every time we do this, she only colors the letter O. We practiced the alphabet, and Mercy joined in vigorously. Have I mentioned that Mercy talks up a storm, now? Unfortunately, she's rather hard to hear since Liberty's usually around.

About an hour into naptime, I heard a small Liberty voice sing-songing, "Mommy, I made a mess. Mommy, I made a mess. Mommy, I made a mess." Turns out, she found a tube of Desitin and smeared it all over the walls and the doors and the carpet and her clothes and her barbie. When I opened the door, she immediately said, "Mommy, I'm very sorry for making this mess, and I want to clean it up, please. Please may I have a towel, please." I gave her a few diaper wipes, and she cleaned up every bit.

The neighbor kids came over. We played outside in the snow for about an hour before retreating into our apartment to build a fort with blankets and cushions. We popped popcorn because Liberty is convinced that popcorn warms her fingers and hot chocolate warms her toes. (I perpetuated the first myth, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse started the second.)

Oh, speaking of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse -- we watched a lot of it while we were at Grandpa and Grandma's for Christmas -- Liberty has taken to randomly shouting out, "Kick! (quick!) Everybody say, 'Oh, Toodles!'" And then she points to the invisible Toodles who has just arrived, and she says with relief, "I'm so glad you're here!"

And finally when Daddy came home, we sloshed our way to Pizza Hut, where the sound system played bouncy oldies tunes, and our two girls chair-danced throughout the entire meal.

The End.
Did I mention that I've had a terrible cold since we've been home? Well, since before we've been home because I got sick while I was still at my parents' house. Yesterday was plain awful.

"You can say that again."
"Yesterday was plain awful, but that's not now."
"That's then!"

(I couldn't resist.)

(Can anyone name that movie?)

Where was I? Oh yes, yesterday was plain awful. All the fluid in my head decided to expand, and my brain didn't like that idea very much. A migraine grabbed me fairly early in the day, but I still had motherly duties to perform. Somehow, the three of us girls survived, and thankfully when Daddy came home, he put me to bed.

This morning, I ate breakfast for the first time in a while. I was actually hungry! And then I buckled down to business: a load of laundry, a load of dishes, two girls into the bathtub, mop the kitchen floor, vacuum the living room and dining room, organize the bathroom drawers, lunch time, another load of laundry...

Phone call to Dad: "Hey, Dad, I'm standing next to the dryer. Can you tell me what that noise might be?"

"That high-pitched grinding squeal of protesting pain?"

"Yeah, that. And it's not Liberty or Mercy."

"Sounds like your idler's off and the drum belt is out of place." He should be called the Dryer Whisperer. "It will get louder and more incessant as it gets worse."

"Okay, thanks, I guess."

It got worse. A burning rubber smell now fills the air, and the dryer is out of commission.

But like I always say, "Better it than me!"

I do too always say that.
We're back home in Indiana, and you know what? It's starting to feel a little more homey. During our first Back-At-Home-Walmart-Run yesterday, we ran into three different people that we knew. That was happy!

The girls and I have picked up a bad cold, so we missed storytime at the library this morning. That was sad, but maybe Thursday we'll be able to go. That would be happy.

The new Ladies' Bible Study starts tomorrow night!!!! That's happy! I hope I'm not still sick enough that I have to miss it. That would be sad.

It's snowing again. That's happy. It has snowed every day, all day with little to no accumulation and boring gray skies ever since I can remember. That's sad.

I finished reading Isaiah during the Christmas holidays. That's happy! And God did a lot of talking to my heart. That's happy, too!

I started reading Jeremiah. Actually, I've only read the introduction page that comes before Jeremiah starts, and it really encouraged me to faithfully obey. It talked about how Jeremiah would not be considered a success by most standards (he spent most of his life being ignored and hated), but the fact that he faithfully obeyed God by communicating an unwelcome and unpopular message no matter what the results were or what it cost him personally means that God called him a success. That's happy.

Daddy just came home!!!! That's VERY happy!