Within the past five days we have signed a lease, chosen colors and painted close to five rooms. Our daughter has been loved on and held by more hands than I can count and seems to enjoy the social butterfly lifestyle we are creating for her at such a young age. It makes me want to take a nap just thinking about it all.
I don’t have the energy to type out all of the details but a few things I will say. Number one is that I REALLY like the way the new house is coming together. It feels calm and open, a reflection how I am hoping this new season will feel for me. Number two is that without our overly willing and generous friends, I would be in the corner with a paint brush listening to Pandora and convincing myself that the painting will do itself.
I have vacillated between anxious and calm, tired and excited all week long. One more week to go and I am trying to remember to focus on each day at hand. I started to get really overwhelmed at all that lies between here and there. Giving myself grace along the way and counting my blessings.
Top on that list today: Hannah laughed for the first time and I can’t wait to hear it again. Off to pack a few more boxes and play with the little giggle box in between.Read More
Here I sit after a long day of painting, surrounded by boxes and Hannah laying on the floor in the middle of them. It is all coming together and I can’t believe that in less than two weeks, we will begin life somewhere new. All I have known is this little white house and I am so incredibly thankful for the time we have spent here. It has been the perfect place for us for the past six years and has served us well. I love this house.
That being said, I really feel like our new home is a gift, something orchestrated so perfectly and far beyond my control. And if there is something to be controlled, I’m all about it. But the way this all came together is indisputably larger than me, for which I am very thankful. Here is the reader’s digest version of the past few weeks:
The day after we received an offer on our house I sold some items on Craigslist. Just being friendly, I chatted it up with the lady who bought my things and come to find out, she knew some friends in GR with homes near Calvin. She asked if I would be ok with her passing my number on to them and of course, I loved the idea. The very next day, I received a call from a landlord who had a home to rent two miles from campus and would be available July 15th.
Ryan & I did a drive by of the house the night we went out for our anniversary and really liked the location & appearance so we couldn’t wait to walk through it. I continued to talk with the landlord, who we quickly learned is a longtime family friend of Brad, our close friend who led the trip we went on to Israel last May. What are the chances? I was pretty sold on the house by this point, even though we hadn’t even seen the inside yet. I just had a feeling. Whimsy? Perhaps. There were a few things standing in the way but at the same time, it really began to look like a possibility. Especially since out of all fifteen places I tried to set up walk-throughs with, only one realtor called me back. I confess, I started to put all my eggs into this one basket.
At the same time, our friend Katie, who loves Hannah and Toby, was looking for a place to move beginning in August. We began dreaming about the possibility of having Katie live with us after Susie (the landlord) explained the layout of the house and how students had rented the basement in the past. Katie loved the idea as well and all that was left was to see the house. Minor detail, right? Last Monday we walked through the house for the first time and a week later, we got the keys. That was yesterday.
Today that leaves me thankful for:
Friends who will help us paint paint paint. Part of the deal we negotiated is that we would do some updates for a free month of rent so we pick the colors but we also do the labor.
Six students who gave us their afternoon to slave away with whatever chores we asked of them.
An exciting journey as a family with new coffee shops, routes to walk and rooms to decorate.
The friendship we have with Katie and the home create in her space within our space (makes me think of those Russian nesting dolls that all stack within one another…)
Friends and family who will be taking care of Hannah for the next three days while we work away.
I admit, this week has been pretty overwhelming for me but writing this all out reminded me just how many things God is always working together for us behind the scenes. And for that I am thankful.Read More
The Q conference is something I now look forward to each year. Some of the greatest thinkers from around the world gather together to discuss how to live well for Jesus Christ. While I don’t have the finances to venture to these conferences, I do have an online account that gives me access to all of their videos. The other day I sat down and spent the day watching videos from the conference, some good and thought provoking, others forgettable. One presentation that I shockingly enjoyed was by a man named Bob Goff.
Bob discussed the importance of whimsy while dressed in jeans and a flannel-type button down. Something he sort of defined as the ability to, “show up, make it exciting, and ask people to join in to do stuff.” He told various stories about his adventures as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda and as the Founder of Restore International which is a non-profit organization that works for justice among poor children. In light of his job, you may think a guy like this would be rather serious and closed off to the idea of whimsy (and he’s a lawyer to boot!), but I got excited just listening to him about the way in which he goes about his work. There is a sense of excitement in his voice about the work that he is doing. If I had to sum up his concept of carrying out whimsy, I’d say for him it means to be “living in a state of wonder at what God might do at any second.” When one lives like this, they are open to the possibility of God creatively and spontaneously moving us how He may please. A way of living that many of us may find uncontrollable, and therefore,undesirable.
However, as he spoke about work and whimsy, I found myself encouraged and invigorated by his passion. I started to wonder if I’ve lost some of my whimsy along the way. See, I think it’s very easy to get so stuck into patterns of thought and behavior that we close ourselves off to the exciting and creative possibilities that God has set before us. Rebekah seems to understand this truth better than I, and I know she is blessed because of it. There are so many random occurrences and interactions throughout her day that spark her imagination and bless others. I envy the way in which people like this can live. I desire God to teach me more about living a bit more whimsically. How about you, want to show up, make it exciting, and join in?Read More
I don’t know about you, but when I think about the three glorious months of summer I always look forward to the marker of a vacation. Whether it be a three day camping trip or a week long getaway, there is something about vacation that is time set apart from all normal life. Some of my favorite vacations in the past few years have been centered around lazy mornings and good conversations. I think that is just it, that in the long run, it matters a whole lot less where you go than it does who you are with.
We asked our good friend & creative type Brandi to share a little bit about what vacation is like for their fam right now. You see, she and her husband Tim have spent vacations in the past traveling Europe and creating all kinds of memories based on larger than life experiences. But for this season in their lives, vacation looks a whole lot different. Over dinner a few weeks ago, we talked about how important it is to really create memories more than experiences. Here are some of her thoughts on recent adventures & a few awesome pics of her boys!
Two down and two to go. That is the vacation count for Team Van Houten this summer. A more apt description for our series of trips would be rounds in a great tournament of vacations. This is where we gather up our gear, our comrades, our fortitude and head out into the great surreal world of summer family fun and conquer. It’s when we take on the world and end up working together better than we do in real life. Perhaps its survival mode: do or die. Maybe its escapism: leaving all our worries behind. Maybe it’s just the strange pressure for young parents to ensure memories of cliché tourism and outdoor adventure for their little ones. Whatever our motivation, when it comes to vacation, my husband and I are a creative, strategic and adaptable tandem machine.
First Tim starts with the usual, “I need to request my vacation days at work soon.” In that brief declaration is an abundance of task. What is really being said is we need to begin planning our family summer vacations. We need to decide on camping or hoteling. It means deciding on whether the long weekend should steal Friday from the work week or lazily drag its feet into Monday. It infers packing, meal planning, a long drive, predetermining local entertainment options, searching for on line coupons, making reservations, loading, unloading, budgeting, sun lotion, bug spray, proper foot apparel, travel size Play-Doh.
Oh, I’ve yet to mention that our travelling companions are our 5 year old and 2 year old boys. Remember the young parents bit? Well, that is us and it morphs our travel plans into some new beast all together. I can say for myself that one sweatshirt is fine; it’s not even supposed to be chilly. But I know how to handle an ice-cream cone. It is hard to pack for a person that may become bored in an arcade, yet spend a chunk of time throwing sand bombs at ants.
Children are surprisingly resilient. Naps are not possible when sharing pop up campers or hotel rooms with children. And bedtimes are not maintained. Team Van Houten is not deterred.
My toddler completed a mile or so hike without begging to be held and I recognized our blood line. This feisty bit of flesh was of my flesh and Husband’s flesh and was going to see that hike to its epic finale, a panoramic view of sand wind-swept into the high dunes of Holland. My preschooler was a regular connoisseur as he pishawed the American cheese at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus and instead requested a good Bleu. He finally had his fill when he swallowed a chunk of 12 year old cheddar, rubbing his belly and saying, “yummy.” Ah, that’s our little adventurer. Both boys welcomed these new flavors and feats of physical strength on a bare minimum of sleep and without most of the creature comforts to which they’ve grown accustomed with the greatest of ease. And nothing beats carrying your 2 year old on your shoulders through a World War II reenactment camp at 10:30 at night and hearing him sing “The Lord’s Army” and the top of his blessed little lungs.
You can research and plan all you’d like. But you cannot force a memory. You can only ban together and head into summer vacation with the glazed smiles of authentic flexibility; for there dwells the memories worth having.
And you probably won’t even crack open the travel size Play-Doh.Read More
In other news, I’m happy that it is Friday and looking forward to a date night tonight complete with dinner out and
debating discussing paint colors for the new place.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend- what does your picture of summertime look like?