Home Sweet Home

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

photo by Jenny Stein

It is a miracle that we have a house at all. The circumstances that converged to allow us to leap into the echelon of homeowners in our forties still shocks me. 

Twenty one years ago John came to Pennsylvania and heard from his boss that we would be leaving California to live here. My mother took him to the station to catch a plane home to tell me about this, and as he boarded the train my cousin stepped off. Mom, eager to help us find a place, asked her nephew if he knew of a house for sale in our tiny town.

“Actually the man across the street from me is getting ready to put his on the market.” 

As providence would have it, I was coming to stay with my mother the next week, so we drove by the property and dreamed of living there. My sister went with me to knock on the door of these total strangers and we asked for a look. They were caught off guard but let us tour the first floor. Then, under my sister’s instructions, I offered them $1000 to retain it while I figured out if we could buy it. Surprised, they took the check and agreed.

I called John to say I had given people I had just met $1000 in earnest money for a house he knew nothing about.

“You did what?”

“My sister said I should.”

“Oh. Ok.”

For the next two months we worked with a mortgage company by phone and fax to buy a home that John had still never laid eyes on and could not google. Assuming as we were that I would find a job, not having yet figured out that I would be having twins instead, it looked like we qualified for the loan.

Then our firstborn totaled his beloved car. He was crushed. (So was the car.) We switched focus and spent the next few days on the phone with insurance agents, and were relieved when they decided to pay the remaining debt on the vehicle. 

We returned to the task of the mortgage. John was pacing with the phone, still attached to the wall with a long curly cord as they were back then, when the person broke the sad news that we almost made the cut, except for the outstanding loan in our name. 

“The car? Oh, that was totaled on Friday. Insurance paid it off.”  

The next weeks were a blur of packing, me not understanding that my diminishing energy had more to do with a pregnancy of multiples than the strain of smashing our worldly belongings into a 24 foot truck. Then our last day in California arrived. We had turned off the landline and John conducted his final church service. We were about to start the ignitions of the van and U-Haul when the church phone rang. 

My mother’s apartment had flooded and everything she owned was gone. I collapsed on the church floor and sobbed (being pregnant and emotional).

Then I realized. We had a new house… well almost. She could live with us. Never mind that she was manic, she was with me when I first dreamed of owning it. Mom would live there too. 

We drove across the country unable to talk to sisters and mothers and brothers, not yet belonging to the family plan of five cell phones for eight people, and I wondered what the future would look like. 

My sister, the financially competent one, had of course purchased insurance when our mother was flooded two years earlier. So there was a handy sum waiting for us when we moved in with which to build her a grandmother’s addition. 

My mother enjoyed her last years in that apartment and has found a way to support our family even after she died. The renters who have inhabited it since have been a blessing. 

That is the interesting part about change. Looking ahead can seem foggy. But gazing back, I have the clear sense of being cared for.


Where have I come from?

The beginning of a new year is often a time for reflection and pondering. This week, prompted in part by the sermon last Sunday, I’ve taken time to sit and process. The last few months have held many changes for me and for my family. There is a lot for me to ponder, and a lot of it can pull me down and leave me feeling sort of stuck and foggy and confused. I’m grateful though that I’ve been able to prioritize using a variety of tools to find anchors for my values, stories that help me make sense of the world, and some reassuring ideas that progress will happen and there will be good things as I keep working through life one step at a time.

A few years ago I was feeling trapped in failure and feeling so useless. I couldn’t make sense of why I was so bad at reaching out and creating connections. But in what began as a defensive moment, I sat down and made a long list of the last 10 years or so, noting the significant things that had happened each year. And suddenly I could see where my “failure” made a lot of sense. For example, I have twin boys. But when I looked back in my timeline I remembered the work that was involved with having twins. There was only one birth day, but before that there were weeks of thinking about and discussing if we were ready for more kids. Then there were 9 months of many appointments, and stress, and watching. Then came the demanding weeks around their birth. Then came approximately 2 years of literally constant demands to keep two infants and a toddler alive and unharmed. That adds up to around 3 years of unexpected strain and effort – all of which has actually been successful.

BUT that incredible amount of work DID detract from energy left for other efforts, resulting in my sense of failure in reaching out to other people. In that low time as I evaluated where I was it was immensely helpful to look back at where I was coming from.  It made my sense of failure shift and I could see the positive results of my years of work, even if it wasn’t what I had expected. And I could see that I didn’t have to hold on to these feelings of defeat, or my defensive responses to my lack of growth in other areas.

I was reminded powerfully of that exercise this week because of a suggested activity offered at church. The sermon (you can find it here) was about Hagar and her times in the desert when the angel of the Lord asks her “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” and “What ails you?” We were given a worksheet to go along with the story giving space to reflect for ourselves on these questions. This was useful for me but the second part was the most striking – a space to add in what the Lord says in the Word about my answers. I was surprised at the stories and quotes that quickly flowed in as responses.

For example, when thinking about where I have come from I noted long times of feeling drained. And as I moved to the question of what the Lords says, immediately the story of the woman healed from a constant flow of blood came into mind. When we seek the Lord there is healing even from the things that have drained us for nearly a lifetime. Such a peaceful and hopeful answer I didn’t even know I needed before I sat down with this simple piece of paper.

In this busy time with work and school and plans all starting up again, I found it profound to take a few minutes to sit and ponder. I invite you to see if you can fit it in too. You can find the worksheet here, and the video, audio, and text for the sermon at the link above.

Timeless Words

The below letter was sent in to me by Gray Glenn in December 2015 (our very first Christmas). Unfortunately we did not have an open space to publish it at that time. I recently re-discovered it in my archives and am struck by the timelessness of her words. And so, it is with much pleasure, that I share it now.

These past few weeks I’ve had the blessing and privilege to be catapulted back into the daily afternoon care of the other children in the family while our 12 year old granddaughter has been critically ill in the hospital. However, Gramma on the other side did mornings while I caught up on sleep. She did all the laundry and housework; the Mom and her dear friend held the Big Picture and handled all the logistics; AND meals magically appeared, every single night (made by madly busy women in the 3 weeks leading up to Christmas! Having that much help makes taking care of children pretty much heaven. The luxury of so much help is in big contrast to what I know it is to run a household and raise children without it. Instead of the pressure to include all the above, everyday, in a sleep deprived state, I had the leisure to read stories to the kids; I had attention available to read naughty behavior a bit more deeply and respond a bit more constructively. It is not lost on me that these gifts to the extra-stressed family are all thanks to women without leisure.

As an incidental beneficiary of the great out-pouring toward that extra-stressed family, I feel the need to acknowledge the women who take care of their children every day AND do the laundry AND hold the Big Picture plus manage the logistics AND keep the food coming and the dishes moving from the cupboard to the table to the sink and back to the cupboard –everyday for years and years, no matter what sleep needs were not met. Thank you, dear Mama.

Of course in acknowledging mothers, the idea is not to in any way minimize fathers’ essential contribution making a home; it’s just that the emotional emphasis that happen to arise now has to do with what women uniquely bring. May you all find concepts to inspire you in this most meaningful endeavor to create a family and raise another generation. May you find friends with whom you can cry and who make you laugh.

With profound appreciation,


Christmas 2015

Making A List

Editor’s note: This week’s post was originally published as a Marriage Moat. Lori writes these messages and sends them as weekday emails as well as posting them on social media. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing a few of our favorites.

Every week day I make a list for Benjamin. It helps focus him with the piles of laundry threatening to evict him from his own room.

Today’s list was varied.
Walk to the post office and get the mail
Empty the dishwasher
Fold clothes and put them away
Write two Christmas cards

I feel confident that the items will get crossed off. No debates about the relevance of the tasks. Apparently he trusts me. No back talk.

Santa has a reputation for making lists. He even double checks for accuracy. The elves follow up on Christmas Eve when they pack his sleigh. No insubordination at the North Pole.

God made me a list. It’s called the Ten Commandments. It includes a “Do this” as well as a “Don’t do this” category.

The one about “Don’t kill” came to mind yesterday when a clever but snarky comment sat perched on my tongue ready to lob at John. While no blood would have been spilled in its delivery the label killjoy would have fit. I closed my mouth soundlessly. No back talk. Because the fact is, I trust Him.

Love, Lori