Home is Wherever I’m with You

This move has really given me a bit of a cattywampus view of the term “home.”  In the last few months, I haven’t really known what or where home really is… and in some ways, I’ve felt rather home-less.

I’ve found myself referring to “back home” (i.e., San Diego) and “come home” or “at home” (i.e., the house we are living at in Minnesota) in the same sentence.  I know foreigners often claim that the English language is a confusing one, and in this instance, I am going to have to agree.  Seriously, how can the same word, uttered breaths apart, mean two completely different things/places?

Miriam Webster’s Dictionary has six different definitions of the word “home:”

1

          a :  one’s place of residence :  domicile

          b :  house

2

          :  the social unit formed by a family living together

3

          a :  a familiar or usual setting :  congenial environment; also:  the focus of one’s domestic attention <home is where the heart is>

          b :  habitat

4

          a :  a place of origin <salmon returning to their home to spawn>; also :  one’s own country <having troubles at home and abroad>

          b :  headquarters 2 <home of the dance company>

5

          :  an establishment providing residence and care for people with special needs <homes for the elderly>

6

          :  the objective in various games; especially :  home plate

Since moving to Minnesota, none of these definitions quite seem to fit the exact life situation I currently find myself in…

It’s gotten me thinking about what “home” really means – both on a broad philosophical scale, as well as a more emotional one.

Home is associated with so many different things.  It is so many different things.

The location of your home can define who you associate with, what kinds of foods you eat, the language you speak, and even your religion.

The physical nature of your home and home dynamic can define socio-economic status, your perception of others, and even arguably who you become.

But… is all that really “home”?  Or simply where you are dwelling?  Or the location where you grew up?  Are they all one in the same?

I don’t even want to think about asking a foster child or a military kid what “home” means to them!

It hurts my head.

In a lot of ways, I kind of feel like I don’t have a home right now.  For a long time, my home (definitions one, two, three, and four of Miriam’s list) was in San Diego.  I associated myself with San Diego and found my identity as well as my residence there.  Now I’ve moved and I’m no longer “at home” in every sense of the word that I’ve known for almost the past 30 years.  But Minnesota doesn’t quite feel like home yet either.  I can’t fit it into one of those definitions listed above.  In some ways, sometimes it still feels like I’m on a reeeeally long vacation and will be returning to San Diego shortly.  Then, in reality, when I think of home from a physical stand point, I technically don’t have one of those either.  I’m currently staying in my brother-in-law’s basement.  It’s not really my home (however grateful for the roof over my head I may be, and however fun it is living with my sister-in-law).

Those of you that know us might be thinking I’m forgetting something.  Our 2.5 acres in Andover!  Okay, we have property, yes, but there is no residence on it.  That can hardly be called a home.  And, in all reality, the property is not even ours!  We’re making payments to the current land owner.  And when there is a residence on the property, that technically won’t be ours either!  We’ll be making payments to the bank to pay off the loan we took out to pay for the cost of building the house.

But even still, I can’t help but think about the fact that, even when we have the house and land paid off (please Lord let it be before we’re 60!), it technically won’t be our home then either.  As a Christian, I believe this is not my final dwelling place.  This earth itself is not really our home and we are but sojourners in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11-12, John 18:36).  Heaven is my ultimate home someday (Mat. 6:19-20, John 14:1-3).

Did I mention my head hurts…?

I’ve had all these thoughts about home and what it means to me, etc. rolling around in my head for weeks – months really – and I even find it hard to clearly articulate my thoughts and feelings here and now (sorry if my rabbit trails are confusing).  But a few weeks back, while perusing Etsy, I came across some home décor items that said, “Home is wherever I’m with you.”  Initially, the phrasing of this sentence kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I at first didn’t like it.  It kind of seemed awkward to say.  Plus, hello?!  Talk about your cheese-ball sayings!  Come on.  But really, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this kitschy little saying was pretty much the definition of what “home” is for me right now.  (and… who am I kidding? I’m a super sucker for “cheese-ball” stuff!)

When I chose to marry my husband, I made a commitment to “leave and cleave.”  I left my former family and claimed my husband as my new family.  Josh is now where home is for me and what home means to me (Genesis 2:24).  Josh is my home, whether we are in California, Minnesota, Alaska, Montana, or the Arctic Circle.  That’s what our marriage means.  And I’m okay with that.

Ultimately, I want “Home is wherever I’m with you” to be more than a cute little phrase stitched on a pillow or etched on a plaque and sold on Etsy.  I want it to be my definition of home.  Always.  Even when Minnesota feels like “home” and we have a residence built on those 2.5 acres.  “Home is wherever I’m with Josh,”  because then, all the other confusing stuff like, where we’re currently living, our future home, our ultimate heavenly home… it all doesn’t matter right now.  Wherever Josh is, I’m at home.

Wonder what I’ll have to do to get Miriam Webster to recognize my new definition…

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You, Me, and Freddie Makes Three!

With the amount of pictures of Fred that I have flooded Facebook and Instagram with, I feel a little redundant in saying it, but: WE GOT A PUPPY!

Josh grew up with three yellow labs, and I grew up with three cats.  For some women, in marriage, they anxiously await their first child.  I have been anxiously awaiting our first pet!

Josh and I have always wanted to get a dog.  Even when we were in our tiny apartment in San Diego, we really wanted one, but knowing it wouldn’t be fair to the pup, we refrained.  I should probably say Josh made us refrain.  There were definitely times I was weak and, if he had not been strong, I would have given in!

As we were preparing to move to Minnesota, we began to talk a little more seriously about the timing of getting a dog.  We would have to wait on a cat (a serious bummer for me), but a dog would be a possibility sooner rather than later.  My father-in-law, Lyle, was planning on getting a new puppy in the spring and Josh thought it would be fun to get litter-mates.  I agreed.

Lyle had been doing some research on breeders, so when he went to visit them, we decided to tag along.  After visiting a few, we quickly realized: with the timing of breeding, gestation, birth, weaning, and the addition of waiting lists, if we wanted a puppy this spring, we had to pick a breeder and make a deposit now!  Some breeders we met with already had waiting lists for puppies that were so long it would push us to bringing one home in the summer instead of the spring.  Though it seemed far off, we kind of needed to make our decision now!

In total I think we met with about five different breeders.  They were all great and they all had beautiful dogs.  But there was one breeder that ended up standing out from the rest.  When we went to Whispering Pines Family Kennel, both Josh and I knew this was where we wanted to get our dog.  Dan and Mary Jo were very knowledgeable and had been breeding dogs for about 30 years.  The thing that impressed us most about them was that they did personality testing on their puppies and bred their litters specifically to achieve certain personalities from the litter.  Their claim to success wasn’t so much that they just had great dogs, but that they matched those great dogs to what it was that you, the family, were looking for in a dog.

Though we were planning on purchasing a puppy that was yet to be born, we still wanted to see the current litters.  I mean, come on!  Who can pass up playing with and seeing cute little puppies?!  When we were taking a look at the current litters (which, to our knowledge, were all spoken for), Josh ended up picking up and holding this cute little thing:

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Amidst all the crazy puppy barking and noise, she was content to let Josh hold her for a long time (NOT typical of most puppies).  After that, I held her for another good ten minutes or so.  For a bit, she even nestled her face into my coat and closed her eyes, content to be held and loved by me.  Talk about stealing your heart!

Later, before we left, we found out that the cutie we had been holding was reserved for another family, but that they might not take her.  They had been waiting for a chocolate Lab, not a yellow (we preferred a yellow).  AND, to top it off, the personality of the puppy we had been holding matched the personality of the kind of dog we were looking for.  That little puppy that had captured our hearts might be available.  NOW!  Oh, snap!!!

I’ll be honest, at that point, I was already gone.  I had already decided I wanted that puppy.  Reason said, “It’s hard to housebreak a puppy in the winter because of the cold and snow.  Wait till Spring.”  “Puppies are a lot of work.”  “You don’t have a job, should you really be taking on this added expense?”

It’s not often that I give into instant gratification, but maybe it was the move and all the newness and uncertainty around me… Rational or not, I wanted that adorable little face to be mine!

We called Dan and Mary Jo the next day and told them we wanted to be on the waiting list for a puppy – either the one that was potentially available now, or one for the future.  But, as unwise as it may have been, I had my hopes set on the one we had been holding.

To make the short story (that I’ve turned into a long story) a little shorter, we got a call later that week that the puppy we had been holding was ours.  It was a moment of pure excitement and joy mixed with an overwhelming, “Oh crap… what did we get ourselves into?!”

We went up to get Fred on January 1st 2014, the first day of the New Year.  Seems fitting that our little family of two should grow to three at the start of a New Year.

We again met the cute little puppy we had been holding, this time one on one in Dan and Mary Jo’s kitchen.  She was perfect.  Though, to be honest, I think I was already so smitten that, if she had pooped in my lap I still would have wanted to take her home.

She fell asleep in my arms pretty much instantly on the way home, thereby forever stealing my heart.

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Josh, being the unique man that I married, has always wanted to name his female dog “Fred.”  So, though it was odd, it was not objectionable, and she was named Fred… or Freddie… or Fredrika… or Fredwin.  Depends on our mood.  I did put my foot down, though, and demanded a pink collar and dog-tag.  With a name like Fred, we had to give her some femininity!

All in all, Fred has proven to be a fantastic puppy and an excellent choice.  There have been some ups and downs, and I’ll admit, there were brief moments within the first few days that I wondered what the return policy might be like… but at the end of the day, I am so glad we got her – and very glad we got her when we did.

First, I think she is one of the reasons I am handling this big move and transition so well.  She gives me some purpose and brings joy and laughter to my days – especially needed when Josh leaves for days at a time to work up North.  She is my little buddy and likes to cuddle with me (she is currently snuggled up next to me as I type this).

Second, I think pets are a good revelation to the love you are capable of.  I had heard people say that, if you were thinking about having kids, get a dog first.  In a lot of ways, I now think that is a pretty good recommendation.  Puppies and babies have a lot in common.  You get less sleep, you have to puppy/baby proof everything, they are emotionally and physically demanding, you lose some independence, and they aren’t cheap.  Now, I’m sure if there is a mother reading this with a three week old at home, she would like to reach through the computer and bang my head against the wall and inform me of the differences between an infant and a puppy.  Yes, there are similarities, but I also know the analogy is not perfect.  I can’t put my six month old in a kennel and leave for two hours to go grocery shopping.

But I really do think puppies are a good baby stepping stone.  Not everyone needs said stepping stone, but for me I think Fred is a good one.  Since being married, I pretty much thought my heart was full.  I love my family, friends, and husband – I thought my love meter was a max capacity.  But Fred has shown me that there is always room in your heart for more love.  The love meter is never really full.  I’m sure this will sound pretty nutty to some, but adding Fred to our family has made my little heart burst with more love than I thought possible.  Looking at Fred and loving her makes me want to know what the love will feel like when I look down and see a squirming blond haired blue eyed little baby in my lap instead of a furry one.  I’m pretty sure my heart won’t be able to handle it.

But, for now, my heart is doing all it can to keep up with the love demanded for our little family of three.

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CHANGE is a four letter word…

I know, you’re wondering how I made it through the second grade if I think the word “change” has four letters…

But in all seriousness, for a long time, “change” really was a four letter word for me.  You know, one of those words that if you said it, your mom would wash your mouth out with soap, dad would go get the belt, or at the very least, you were well on your way to being grounded for a month.  You see, this girl (up until recently) has had very little change in her life.

I’m an only child, so it started early.  I didn’t have to encounter the change of adding a sibling to my steady and consistent little world.  Until I got married a few years ago, I lived in the same house – the same pink bedroom – my entire life.  No moving or having to make new friends or adjust to a new culture.  Same neighborhood, same neighbors, same house for 20 plus years.  I didn’t go away to college.  I attended the same little church every Sunday since the age of two.  Consistency was the name of the game.  And I LIKED it that way!  Um, in case you didn’t know, change is uncomfortable.  Change is HARD.  Change is challenging.  Who wants that?!?!  Certainly.  Not.  ME.

I distinctly remember, back in 2003, I was so unfamiliar with change that I was actually struggling with the idea of graduating from high school.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  High school was no cake walk for me.  I was not “little miss popular” and I had my fair share of challenges, but when graduation rolls around, things tend to get a little more rosy when looking at your current situation.  Things were going pretty well for me at the time.  It was a small school, so I was more or less a big fish in a little pond.  I had made a decent group of friends, I had a boyfriend, I was on the school worship team, and I was cast as the lead in the high school musical (I still like to brag about that last one).  Not bad.  Not bad at all!

But it was all ending.  My friends were all moving on to other schools.  I was leaving my safe and happy little Christian High School bubble where everyone knew my name and my teachers liked me.  I didn’t want it to end.  I didn’t know what the next step would be like.  Things were changing.  And it was scary.

I remember being in the kitchen one afternoon emptying the dishwasher and thinking about my current phase of life, the change that was coming, and the frightening future.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit now, but I actually asked God to freeze my life.  Right there.  Freeze right where I was at.  Keep my friends, life, everything the same.  I knew he wouldn’t do it and (thankfully) he didn’t.   But it’s what I wanted.  It’s really truly what my scared little heart wanted in that moment.  I didn’t want anything to change.

Anyways, big surprise, things didn’t stay the same.  I graduated high school, life changed, and college (especially the first few weeks) was rough.  But, I met new people and made new friends.  In fact, I made some of the best friends I think I will ever be blessed with.  College was a good experience.  I had a good time.

And then, four years later, I found myself in the same spot (I can’t remember if I was in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher this time or not… but it was the same mental spot).  I remember one afternoon whining to God about the change that was coming – yes, I’ll be honest, I was definitely whining.  I was looking at the change ahead of me: my college friends going off and getting married, moving away, starting new careers, etc.  And I started to ask God to please freeze my life right where it was – keep it all the same.

But I couldn’t even finish the thought.  Mid request, God reminded me that I had asked the same thing of him only four short years earlier.  And I realized… so many good things had happened in the last four years.  The last four years were exponentially better than the years I had in high school: deeper friendships, more meaningful (and crazy fun) moments with family and friends, and a stronger relationship with The Lord.  If God had granted my wish and kept me frozen in that moment of time back when I asked the first time, I would have missed out on so much good stuff!  I thought that moment in high school was as good as it would get, but college was SO MUCH BETTER.  God knew what he was doing when he denied my request for sameness back in 2003.  Yet, here I was again, having so little faith in his plan and goodness for my life that I just wanted to stay stuck where I was at.  Because I was afraid of change.

Just as I am grateful God did not keep me in my little 17 year old high school life forever, I am so thankful he did not freeze me in my college years either.  In that moment, I learned a valuable lesson.  Though change is hard, difficult, uncomfortable, and scary, it is also good.  God brings good things through change.

Those long winded stories (sorry) were to share with you how I now try to approach change.  My two foolish requests and my revelation after the second request serve to me as reminders whenever I start to fear change.

What would have happened if God had granted my first request and kept me stuck in my senior year of high school forever?  I would have never met my three best college girlfriends, Christy, Allison, and Naomi.  And what would have happened if God had granted my second request and kept us girls all frozen in college and single?  I never would have met two more best friends, Seth and Verna who eventually introduced me to my ultimate best friend, Josh.  What would have happened if God had granted my wish for Josh and me to stay frozen in our little apartment in San Diego forever? (okay, I’ll admit – I may have had a weak moment or two fairly recently and asked to stay frozen in time once more…)  I don’t know the whole answer to that last question yet… but I am sure that, years from now, I will be able to look back on the blessings God gave us through this move; I’ll be able to see all the good things he brought to us through this really big change.

God has so much good to give us, and it comes about through change.  Yes, sometimes the change is hard and leads us through trials as well.  I know life isn’t always rosy.  This most recent change is already providing me new challenges (did I mention it was negative nineteen degrees outside a few days ago?!).  But when I start to get uncomfortable and nervous about change, and I start to ask God to just make things easy and keep things just the way they are, I am so glad I am able to look back at his faithfulness to me in the past.  I am able to look back at the good things he brought me, which then encourages me to look forward to the new good things he is going to bring me.

And hey, look at that.  “Change” actually has six letters, not four.  So let’s take it off that naughty four letter word list, shall we?

christmas 2013

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What I thought I’d never do…

If you had asked me a little over five years ago if there was a chance (even the slightest chance) that I’d be moving from my hometown of San Diego to the Midwest, I would have laughed at you.  I typically don’t laugh AT people, as I prefer to laugh WITH people, but I think I seriously would have laughed at you.  In fact, if you had asked me if I’d move from San Diego to ANYWHERE else, I would have given you a very strong “no way!” response.  I’m a San Diego native.  Third generation, to be exact (there aren’t many of us around).  Born and raised with flip-flops, warm sunshine, salty beaches, and palm trees.  Why on EARTH would anyone ever want to live anywhere else?

Enter, a boy.  Isn’t that always the way it goes?  A boy enters the picture and suddenly things change?

I met this guy named Josh in December of 2008.  I’m sure I’ll share our “love story” later…

Josh was from Minnesota, and very early in our dating relationship, I realized that if I kept dating this guy, we could very well fall in love, get married… and move to Minnesota!  I could tell that’s where his heart was.  Though he had recently moved to California, the Midwest was in his blood and that was where he really wanted to be.  I kinda had to decide at that point – fairly early in our relationship – if I was okay with moving someday.  I realized I had two options: keep dating this guy and risk doing something I NEVER thought I would ever want to do and move… or decide I didn’t want to risk it – I didn’t want to take the chance on being faced with the hard decision to move from San Diego someday – and break up with him.

I decided it was worth the risk.  For the record, I’m really glad I did.

We had many talks throughout our first few years of marriage as to when/if/how/why we would move.  I’ll be honest, there were usually tears (on my part) involved.

Then…

This August, two years and nine months into our marriage, we made our largest purchase to date as a couple: 2 ½ acres of beautiful, partially wooded land in Andover, Minnesota.  Josh has always dreamed of building a house, and what girl hasn’t dreamed of a custom built house with massive closets, spa like bathrooms, and an expansive kitchen?  FYI, Josh and I are still discussing the reasonable and realistic nature of “massive,” “spa like,” and “expansive.”  But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  This purchase (obviously) kind of established the fact that we were indeed moving and that it would be sooner, rather than later.  I’m sure I’ll share the story of our land purchase later too.  It’s pretty cool.

Now fast forward to three years and a month into our marriage.  I’ve quit my job, Josh has new work opportunities waiting for him in Minnesota, and we are turning in the keys to our (now) empty tiny one bedroom apartment that’s been home for the first few years of our lives together.  A trailer hitched to Josh’s truck is packed with all our worldly belongings and I am faced with saying goodbye to the city, people, family, and home that I’ve known all my life.  And, cue more tears.

So, while it’s kinda been looming overhead for a while, and I obviously knew it was coming, it seems all too sudden that this California girl is packing up her flip-flops and heading to the Midwest.  I hope to use this blog as a way to share my new, exciting, scary, strange, and definitely fun new experiences with all those smart people that stayed back in Sunny San Diego while I up and moved to Minnesota in the dead of winter, as well as some of the new friends I hope to make along the way.  I suppose I should warn you, I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and am terrible at hiding my feelings.  So I suspect this blog might get a little real at times… but then again, I suppose this blog is also for me… a way to cope with all those new, exciting, scary, strange, and fun things.  And, above all, I hope you’ll laugh WITH me and not AT me.

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