Moving Day, the Surprise Party, and the Power of Good Neighbors

Surprise Welcome Home Party at Kristy’s house. There were 23 neighbors in attendance.

On Friday night, I snuck into my home town. My parents were expecting me at 8:45pm, but truthfully I arrived at 7:30 or so, but I didn’t want them to know that. They were still staying at the rental house, but I did not go straight to the rental house. I went by my childhood friend, Kristy’s, house. We were on a mission, you see.

I grew up playing with Kristy and the other neighborhood kids. Kristy’s grandparents lived next door to us, and she spent a lot of time over there. As kids, we climbed trees, rode bikes, swung, swam in her granny’s pool, and played a good deal of make-believe and front yard baseball.

Then six or seven years ago, grown-up Kristy bought the house across the street from my parents! Pretty cool, huh? That tiny street is full of people who have been living there for most of my life.

They’ve been watching the destruction and re-building of my parents’ house up close and personal. They dealt with the smells, oh, you don’t want to know about the smells, the rubble looters on the day of the bulldozer, the construction crews, and the watching and waiting. They never complained.

Kristy said, “I’m telling you, they could’ve built it faster.”

Mrs. Sara (Kristy’s granny) lamented, “Well, the only problem is they built it closer to the road than it used to be, and the way it’s shaped I can’t see Terry on his front porch, and I can’t see Terry on his back porch. How am I supposed to know he’s okay???? How am I supposed to know it if he falls?”

She’s right, that’s a problem when you have good neighbors. Kirsty reassured her it’d be okay because she can still see him from her front porch.

Neighbors that look out for each other. Such a beautiful thing!

A month or so ago, Kristy hatched a plan for a surprise party. We had no idea what day they’d finally move in, so she planned it for December 10th, and lo and behold, what day do you think they finally moved in? Well, December 10th, of course, so it was pretty easy to get my parents over to the right place at the right time.

Chris, Kristy, and me

We decided the best story to tell to make sure my parents were at the new house unloading at party time was to say that pizza was arriving at the new house at 11am. This was pretty easy. I just used Alan’s obsession with pizza coupons as my cover story.

“You know how Alan is about his pizza coupons. Well, he’s already got the pizza scheduled to be delivered at 11am tomorrow at the new house. It’s a little early, but he wanted to make sure he had plenty of food, and that way when my brother gets off of work, they will be able to get straight to work with the heavy moving then.”

No one doubted that story for a second.

By 11am, every one of us was in place at my parents’ new house, but there was one part I hadn’t thought through. Now how do I get them over to Kristy’s house? Everyone was focused on the mission of moving… Hmmmm

“Hey, um, y’all, I talked to Kristy out in the yard, and she said when Dad gets here to have y’all stop by her house real quick. I think she has a Christmas gift for ya.”

And to my surprise, it was that simple!

They just said, “Oh. Okay,” and started off across the street.

“I think I’ll come too,” I said, motioning the boys to come on. John David was of course shoeless. Alan got his little shoes on JD as quickly as possible, and we all six followed Mom and Dad across the street.

Mom said she did think it was weird that we were ALL coming.

Kirsty opened the doors and motioned for us to all come in. I’m not sure how long it took Mom and Dad to figure out this was their surprise party or that we weren’t actually having pizza. Pretty funny! This was so fun to be a part of.

We all ate together. Mr. Byrd, a neighbor I remember as the one who would buy whatever I was selling from my school fund-raiser every year, said a beautiful blessing before the meal.

We laughed over the surprise, and caught up with everybody.

Then we walked everyone over and gave them a tour of the new house, for those who hadn’t seen inside of it yet.

I know. I know you’re dying to get a peek inside too, and I would show it to you, but Mom’s not as big on posting the minute details of her life on the internet as I am, so I’m going to literally just show you one peek. I’m going to give you Kristy’s porch view of the new place:

Mr. Byrd, Dad, and Chris and Kristy’s porch view of the new house.

It’s not a re-built house. It’s a completely new house. The old one had to be bulldozed and carried away, down to the last scrap of concrete. Nothing could be left. What wasn’t burned was all damaged by smoke, water, and asbestos.

Everything is gone. The trampoline burned too. When they were clearing the house away, there was a huge storm that came through, and lightning stuck the last of the tall pine trees that still stood from my childhood. And as they took away the dumpster last week, they killed the mailbox too.

It was as though God decided that he couldn’t just partially fix it. It had to be completely made new.

We may not understand the ways of God, but his ways are best, and I know that this house is going to be a great blessing to my parents.

Isn’t it funny how God even arranged it for Alan and me to move back down here for two years, so that we were here for all of this? I got to see construction of the new house in all of its phases. I got to pore over paint and tile samples with Mom on my coffee table.

And I got to be there for move-in day, even when we didn’t know until 3 days prior that it would be moving day!

God moves in mysterious ways.

I wish you could see what all Kristy has done with her house too! She bought it after the housing market crashed, and completely re-modeled the place, knocking down walls, moving the kitchen, painting, and putting in new floors. It’s inspirational to look at what she’s accomplished without even hiring a builder, a little at a time!

It makes me smile to see Alan getting to talk to these sweet neighbors, these pillars from my childhood. When I see Mrs. Sara I always smile and think of how she used to call out to us from her front door, “Y’all play purdy now!!” Maybe I should start calling that out my door to the boys and their friends.

Our neighbors didn’t just feed us and visit with us, even though that would have been more than enough. They also SHOWERED my parents with gifts, AGAIN. I say again because they’d already helped after the fire, but they just kept on giving!

opening gifts

Kristy, our lovely coordinator and hostess

They were given a big, beautiful set of Rachel Ray cookware, which I could tell Mom was excited about, as well as all sorts of other useful blessings!

Mom and I have always admired what Kristy can do with her vinyl cricket (cricuit?) machine!

The most emotional gift was this large framed floorboard from the original house, which Kristy wrote their name and anniversary date on. I cried when I saw it, even though I knew she was planning it. Mom cried. I don’t know if Dad cried.

The day of the bulldozing, Kristy had looked for some wood from the house, but there was none available that wasn’t too damaged, so she found a whole plank from the Pergo floors. This made it even more special because Mom and Dad had put those floors down themselves around 10 years ago, and we’d all just loved those floors.

Kirsty laughed about almost getting caught salvaging that board from the rubble. She said she left the kids with Gail and ran over to dig around for something she could save for Mom and Dad. She had just discovered a good board, and all of a sudden there was my dad! He was there to try to save some china, and she quickly dropped the board off to the side, and said, “Oh, here, let me help you with that!” She said she felt like she was almost busted. So funny, because Dad would have had no idea what she was doing anyway.

 

 

We laughed, we ate, we cried, and then we hugged people and got back to work!

This was such a blessing, what the neighbors did for my parents, and I just wanted to share it, the fact that things like this still happen. There are people who are still kind, giving, unselfish, who want to help other people, and we make each others’ lives better in the process.

Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into this, Kristy, and to all the neighbors for blessing us in such a big way. We are so thankful! Our cup runneth over.

 

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  –Hebrews 13:16

May we all strive to be this kind of neighbor. Merry Christmas, y’all!

 


 

A Letter of Hope from 2003

 

a letter to war of hope from 2003

Alan and me the night he left for Iraq, 2003

This week is Veteran’s Day, and as the wife of a veteran it’s a holiday full of meaning for me. In honor of Veteran’s Day, I thought I’d share this letter that I wrote to Alan on New Year’s Eve, 2003. Alan was in Iraq, and I was living in Texas. What started out as this nightmarish, depressing event (sending my husband to war–I was all of 22 years old) had gradually turned into a year of growth and new friendships.

Did you know that we military wives have our own “battle buddies”? We do, and they were a life-saver that year. That was the year I learned that I do not enjoy teaching. I experienced the first major failure of my life when I quit that job before the year was over because it was so hard and miserable I couldn’t handle it.

I found many things I didn’t want to be. I thought I would never figure out what I DO want to be, so I headed back to graduate school, but the answers weren’t there either.

But I was never fully defeated because the Lord sustained me. He sustained me with mentors and friendships and love, and when 2003 closed, I was still full of hope. This is what I wrote to Alan:

**************************

9 months down!!!!!                             I love you!!!!!!!!

Wed.,  Dec. 31, 2003

Day 275

Wow! This is the final day of 2003. But like I read in one of your letters, it was indeed a rotten year. Good riddance, 2003! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. One thing’s for sure. It’s a year we won’t soon forget.

 But I’m so glad it’s over. For me, 2004 brings so much hope! Much like 2002! I remember New Year’s 2002 so well, and so fondly. I KNEW big things were in store for me that year. I knew you were becoming an important part of my life. And I had a feeling my life would be forever changed. I had a feeling you were “the one.” I remember sitting on my porch, holding my little Sylvester and crying. They weren’t tears of sadness or even tears of extreme joy. I guess it was just a moment in which I was preparing myself for the future. And I was letting go of the little girl inside of me, the innocent girl about to be rescued by her prince, about to grow up.

 I didn’t know I would be getting married that year, or moving far away, or even that I’d be graduating. I knew nothing of what was in store. Yet I can CLEARLY remember that the Lord was preparing my heart.

He was preparing my heart for you. And all the wonderful things you brought into my life. No one changed my life more than you. But it was a wonderful change.

 On the flip side, 2003 was not so wonderful. It was equally eventful. Only the events of 2003 often brought grief and hard lessons to be learned. I know we have grown this year though. We do grow from trials.

 But 2004 means something much different to me than either 2002 or 2003. To me, it is a year of hope, love, and laughter. That’s because when I think about 2004, all I see is you coming home to me, and spending a year together with you. Wow! How amazing it will be! Me and you together at last!

 So from January to March. Those 3 months are the joy of anticipation. And then You. You here in my life again. I can’t wait!

 I don’t have a New Year’s resolution. But I have a New Year’s hope. It’s like the final hump in this long deployment. The halfway mark was hump 1. And the end of 2003 was hump 2 to me. 3/4 of this journey is over!

 Yes!

************

welcomehome

3 months later, I hung this sign at our very first home together. I lived by the airfield, so I got to see Alan’s ginormous cargo plane fly right over my house as it landed. I’ll never forget the elation of that day.

It was a 4 page letter, and that was the first 3 pages, and I actually did write “Yes!” that BIG at the bottom of page 3. I meant it that large. In fact, it’s actually a little bit larger. I wonder whatever happened to the fourth page.

Happy Veteran’s Day, y’all!! I’m so thankful for my veteran.

Beauty, Joy, and JD Sings in Latin

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“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”  –Lady Bird Johnson

Spring is one of those things you can’t help but notice. That’s the way it is with beauty. It is inspirational. When beauty surrounds you, you can’t help but feel better.

beauty

I took this photo on my walk the other day.

It’s funny how on my sick days I often feel too miserable to want to do chores, but I’m rarely feeling bad enough to not want to go out for a walk in the sunshine. It’s positively healing, isn’t it?

beauty

Even paths that lead to nowhere look best in spring.

I think that when you are surrounded by small, needy preschool darlings, (And they are darling. They can’t help that they are needy), you need to frequently step away for at least 20 minutes to regain perspective. It’s a battery re-charge that is REQUIRED to go on providing love to others. My favorite place to re-charge is a walk.

Nature is so obvious with its beauty. The Lord’s handiwork surpasses anything man can make. I’ve never been as inspired by concrete as I am by a good cliff or a stately tree. And yet, also, I love what man does with a green space. I’m always inspired by gardens of order and symmetry. Wild nature or well tended gardens, I love it all.

Do you know what else is obviously beautiful? Small children.  I’ve been mommy-ing for 10 years. I’ve rarely been truly depressed in that time because these little devils keep me so busy and challenged and yet so darn happy!

I can remember only one phase of feeling depressed, and it was during my second pregnancy. But we had just moved. Alan had to work long hours, and it was just a bad combination of hormones + circumstances. Plus, I was pregnant, so even though my depression was caused by hormones, I couldn’t take anything for it because I was pregnant.

Thankfully, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and with the pregnancy hormones gone, I was actually happier postpartum than I had felt in years. (I do realize it’s usually the opposite that’s true. I am grateful it didn’t hang on.)

These children bring us so much joy.

 

beauty

Dan, exercising his brain, also beautiful.

beauty

learning to blow bubbles under water

beauty

Little minds at work. Work, minds, work.

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JD and his locked up latch board. He was quite proud of his accomplishments on this board. Don’t you love it when they are excited to accomplish things?

 

beauty

I passed this cat on my walk. I’ve always thought cats were prettier than dogs. Sorry, dog people. I will always be #teamcat.

 

beauty

Confession: When feeling sick, I sometimes unashamedly let them watch too much t.v. Also, I love Peppa Pig.

 

beauty

The day I took this photo I thought my living room was so messy. Now I’m looking at it and thinking we were doing pretty good for four kids. Don’t you think?? I should chill.

P.S. How cute are my new Clarks loafers? And they are oh-so-cozy!!

beauty

JD, the ultimate Classical Conversations toddler, playing his tin whistle

I feel like JD is the quintessential Classical Conversations little bro toddler. We have to keep up our CC memory work next year because we’ve come too far to let it go. Next year, the big boys will be going to a Christian school. Daniel will be going to a neighborhood kindergarten, and JD will be home with me, but I still hope to keep up the CC memory work.

Let me tell you what JD walks around the house singing lately:

“us, us, ui, um, uuuuuu”

Yep, those are Latin noun endings, I forget which declension that is, but still, I think it’s hilarious that my two-year-old is walking around singing Latin.

beauty

I’m taken with these trees. Lovely in the day time, haunting in the evening.

 

beauty

my little ball player, tracing his w’s

I hope you are all having a great week. Alan and Caleb just got home from baseball practice. It’s Alan’s final stretch in completing his thesis, but you know Alan, that didn’t stop him from signing up to coach both Daniel and Caleb’s baseball teams. He’s also still teaching TNT boys at AWANA on Wednesday nights at church. He could probably use prayers even more than I can!

But we aren’t fooling ourselves. We know that we’re living a beautiful life here in California. And today we are counting our blessings, and thanking you all for always being so supportive.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King.”     Psalm 98:4-6

 

bestever

because this old picture just never gets old to me *hehehe*

Okay, one more quote, because this one is just too good to not leave you with:

“Imagine a world without beauty and dare to say that the beauty is vanity.”  –positivethesaurus.com

Beauty isn’t vanity, is it? It serves a purpose, and beauty is no less of a gift than any other.

 

 

 

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