The Warming of the House

flowers

In September (why am I always a month behind?) we baptized the new house. Colorado friends drove out to join us, neighbors we hadn’t met yet dropped by to say hello, kids ran amok, and I got to hold my first baby since moving here.

(biggest disadvantage of moving somewhere new? No one knows you and so no one lets you hold their babies.)

IMG_2797

The front porch still has some railings down for restoration, but it seemed like a bad idea to have a porch full of people without a railing. Solution: garden twine and fabric scraps made a festive and effective boundary. The kids all pitched in to help with the tying.

hangingbunting

The menu was for appetizers, heavy on fresh produce from the garden. All of our Colorado friends pitched in to help in the kitchen. With music and dancing and tasting it was a legit pre-party.

sortingherbs

food

And the spread was beautiful, especially with the flowers–some sent by old friends from Colorado, some brought by new friends from their gardens.

table

An amazing group of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances came to help us celebrate. We even set a box on the sidewalk in front of our house inviting the rest of the community to come join us. Delightfully, a few brave strangers accepted the invitation. One conversation with one such brave stranger went like this:

Her: (looking at the box on the sidewalk)“You mean anyone can come to your party?”
Christopher: “Yes!”
Her: “Can come to your party??”
Christopher: “Yes, please come!”

churchladiesJandJwalkerschatting

And what would a party be without all the kids? We had a few dozen of them on the lawn playing football, badminton, and coloring with chalk. Clearly, Daniel ruled the badminton game.

badminton

chalk

And so we feel ready for autumn and the inevitable winter. Our hearts are full. Our community is rich. Our house is warm.

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July

I know it’s September, closing in on October, but the demands of keeping up with the outdoor tasks has put me woefully behind with the photos. Anyway, a little July sunshine as we contemplate the coming winter surely will do no harm, right?

walking

Our little town puts a good effort into public spaces, and in July we went to check out the fishing pond. It sits on the banks of the local river and is maintained just enough to strike a balance between “public space” and “wildlife area”.

Daniel particularly enjoyed the cattails. (He thinks he’s roasting them over a campfire.)

roasting-cattails

The forests along the river bank surprised me with their carpets of leaf mold, scrubby undergrowth, and sandy soil. It reminded me of the forests I explored as a kid in south Georgia and I hadn’t expected to find that sort of landscape in Idaho. Walking that path to the river bank brought waves of nostalgia and memories of things I want to share with my own kids. I’m eager to get back here next summer with the kids and a picnic.

old-tree

D-and-cattails

How to Know You’re in the Right Place

thistles1

Our property is 2 1/2 acres right in the middle of town. Having such a large parcel in a neighborhood setting means that our little farm shares a boundary with at least a dozen others. Which gives us just as many relationship opportunities in managing the fence lines.

A couple weeks ago when I was out mowing I noticed a patch of thistles that only needed a week of hot weather to go to seed (see upper left corner of photo below).

mowing

They were rooted on the other side of the fence, but–since the neighboring parcel is an empty lot, and they were leaning over the fence, and (I told myself) thistles don’t know or care that there’s a fence there–I knew they were my problem to deal with.

I headed out early one morning, suited for battle: fully covered, heavy boots, thick gloves, and a long pair of loppers. It was darn hot and I was more suitably dressed for shoveling snow than for hard mid-summer labor. My eyes burned from the sweat dripping and my fingers ached from the thorns (which still found their way through two pair of gloves).

A voice in my head protested, “This is miserable!”

But then another quieter voice, gently said, “No it’s not. I’m enjoying this…This is grace.” The second I heard it, I knew it was right. It was counterintuitive, but it was true. I was enjoying it. It was grace.

To be able to work, after so many years of illness? To labor with my hands, after months of lying on my back? To mix my sweat with the dirt of God’s earth, after such a long time of being able to do nothing but rest? This was grace.

thistles2

My body knows rest. I know what it is to sit in bed and not be allowed to do the least bit of housework. I know what it is to lie on the couch and watch someone else make dinner and put the kids to bed. I know what it is to sit in the garden shade while someone else sweats over the digging and planting.

When that part of me insisted that I was enjoying wrestling with a patch of thistles, I realized that I had spent so long in forced rest that to work, to move, to sweat, to dig, to pull, to struggle felt like a gift. To be healthy and strong enough to be out in that field, to have the opportunity to create some beauty, that was a gift.

I continued to hack and haul away thistles, sweating and sucking the needles out of my fingers. I contemplated how strange it was to find joy in a task that was so miserable and realized that this. This. Is how I know I am in the right place. This is grace.

Gardens: New and Old

The past two weeks at Butterfield has been spent getting things sorted out in the garden. We arrived just as spring transitioned to summer and there was a lot to catch up on–weeding, mulching, planting, weeding, harvesting, watering, weeding, mowing, weeding….

We got the last of the main season crops planted last week, just in time for the summer weather. And while I find a lot of satisfaction in having gotten the job done, it’s never very satisfying to photograph (or to look at photographs) of a newly planted garden.

So this week I’m sharing photos of a neighbor’s garden. We took a field trip last week to visit their goldfish pond and see the waterlilies.

lilies-and-toes

After a long day of pulling weeds and planting starts in a bare vegetable plot, it was refreshing to spend an hour in a peaceful garden that has been lovingly tended for decades.

Ruby-and-Pearl

As I looked around at the blooming lilies, the rustic urns, the bubbling fountain, the well-planned potager, the trellised wisteria, I felt as if I’d stepped onto the grounds of Beverley Nichols’ post-war English garden at Merry Hall (someone else out there loves these books as much as I do, right??).

Pearl-and-Daniel

Jonathan

There’s a comfortable feeling that comes with working a piece of land over many years, of knowing a plot of dirt so well that you know exactly which corner stays wet the longest, which bed has the most shade, and which wall gives the best wind protection. I knew every corner of our tiny plot at Meadowlawn. It’s this familiarity that I miss the most–in the garden and in life in general. Relocating a family is full of newness, which is equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion.

As much as I long to have those deep roots and abiding knowledge of place, I’m reminded that in life, like in the garden, these things don’t happen overnight, or in a week, or even in one growing season. They take time. Gardeners have a saying when referring to newly transplanted plants: “Sleep, creep, leap”. They mean that the first season a plant will appear to “sleep” and not really put on much growth at all as it deals with the stress of being transplanted and gets comfortable in its new surroundings. The second season it will begin to “creep” and put down some tentative roots and a little bit of growth. The third season, “leap” is when it really takes off and begins to settle in and bloom and grow.

lilies

Perhaps this same philosophy applies when transplanting people? There is so much about the process of putting down roots and growing shoots that informs the actual relationship between a person and a place. Whether it’s tomatoes or oak trees or children there’s no way around it…these things just take time.

I’m so thankful that we have neighbors who invite us over to share in their bounty, while we spend the season investing in the future of our own.

kiddos

Lilacs and Rhubarb

I had a really hard time figuring out where to begin documenting this new chapter at Butterfield. I spent the afternoon uploading all the photos off of my cameras from the past few months. I decided I’d start at the beginning.

Lilac4

These photos are from our last trip here, at the end of April. Butterfield was all lilacs and rhubarb. We bought the property in winter time, so were curious to see what spring would look like. What would we find coming to life on this land we owned?

Turns out this venerable tree–which in winter was nothing more than a gnarly, twisted, clump of sticks–is an ancient lilac.

Lilac3

Lilac2

It’s worthy of naming, don’t you think?

Lilac1

The vegetable garden that the previous owner had cleared was gone to weeds. The kids helped me (okay, I bribed them to help me) clear out the worst of them to make space for sowing a few seeds.

VegPatch

Unfortunately, I didn’t have long enough with the irrigation system to figure out the best way to use it, so while the seeds may have sprouted at one point, they were all dead by the time we came back. No worries. I’ve got it all worked out now. I think.

Fortunately, the rhubarb grows whether it gets watered or not. We found two giant plants back in the berry patch all ready to be harvested.

rhubarb

Most of it went into the freezer to wait for the strawberry harvest, but there was more than enough to make a simple rhubarb crisp. Actually, I made three. Thanks, Martha Stewart.

recipe

Christopher spent his entire week, 12 hours a day, installing wiring and outlets. His studio-office will be on the third floor (I can’t even believe that we have a house with three floors. I was at IKEA buying supplies for the house and purchased 5 toilet brushes for our 5 bathrooms. I think it was then that I realized we have a large house. I digress.) The electrical that was there was inadequate for use as a graphic design studio, and what was there wasn’t working anyway.

The previous owner returned for the week to assist Christopher, which was an amazing act of generosity. He’s spent years working on the house and knew which walls were best for running wires from the basement, exactly where to punch holes, and where to look for junction boxes in the attic.

CStudio2

And Christopher got to work right away, setting up a photo shoot for a client. This is the biggest studio space he’s ever had, and there’s actually room to leave photography equipment set up. It’s like me having a place to leave my loom set up (which there’s also room for, but that’s another post).

CStudio

Faithful to Fill

The kids and I recently read the story in Chronicles about Elisha filling the widow’s jars of oil. It struck me this time that God filled each of the jars she brought to Him; no more, and no less. Elisha told her to borrow jars from her neighbors, but he didn’t tell her how many. That was up to her. Would she gather as many as possible? More than she could carry? Even though she might look ridiculous to her neighbors who knew she had nothing to put into them? Or would she be discreet and only borrow a few?

The fact is that God filled every jar she brought to Him. Scripture doesn’t say what would have happened if she’d brought more or less (have you noticed God always stubbornly sticks to what IS?) But I like to think that if she had brought more jars, God would have gone on filling them. Certainly this is consistent with the God I know.

When I started this blog (5 years ago? Really?!) I wrote about how God delights in filling empty things. At the time, I had an empty heart and an empty spirit, and, as I’ve brought each of them to Him over the years, He has faithfully filled them to the brink.

Now, He is setting our feet on a new path. One with lots of space to fill. 2 1/2 acres and 6,000 square feet to be exact. I’m the widow who has gathered more jars than she can carry and is bringing them to Him with simple trust. I mean…would you look at this place?!

landscape

In all honesty, our family outgrew our current house a long time ago. We organized and purged our way to eking out a (mostly) comfortable existence in our tiny bungalow on a small downtown lot. We never felt called to do anything different. It worked for us.

But recently we began to feel tugged in a different direction. God put in our hearts a curiosity about a new state, a new people, and a new longing for adventure that could only be described as a Pioneer Spirit. We made ourselves open to this calling, curious to see where it would lead us, and found ourselves buying a gorgeous property in a sweet little town almost before we knew what was happening.

After so many years in such a small jar that has already been filled, the thought of this giant Edwardian home on acreage makes us giddy. I feel a little like Sarah, laughing (from joy? disbelief? wonder?) when she finds out her womb is filled.

We’ve named the house Butterfield, which has historic significance to the neighborhood, but appealed to us immediately for other reasons. It brings to mind milk and honey. Richness and growth. Joy and Life.

new-house

So as we start this process all over again–gathering our jars, bringing them to God, peering curiously into what he chooses to fill them with–I hope to resurrect this little blog space into something that others can share in. Even as we move towards something new and exciting, we move away from the unique and very special family that God has raised up for us in our old space. We move away from the fullness, and into the emptiness. And sometimes the emptiness gets pretty lonely. God is faithful to fill, but always in His own timing.

It’s a blessing to us to have a means of staying connected, a source through which to channel some of the old fullness into our new lives as we wait for the new jars to be filled. I think of a strawberry plant (I can never get away from garden metaphors) that grows on a runner attached to a parent plant, drawing sustenance from the mother until its roots are deep enough to feed itself. That’s what we need. And I’m thankful for those of you who provide it.

 

On Motherhood

bathtub

“I can understand how [motherhood] might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about arithmetic, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?

“No; a woman’s function is laborious because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

G.K. Chesterton