Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Long overdue...

(Written sometime in early November, but took me forever to post it)

Ok, so I've totally been avoiding writing a blog post for the past two months. Pretty much ever since I promised you all I'd update you on life in Virginia and finding a house, blah blah blah.  To be honest, it's been too difficult to find the right words to describe our experience here.

For the first few weeks, I didn't want to write because I didn't want to spill the beans on buying our new house before we closed on it.  And I also didn't want anyone to think we were crazy.  Because what happened really was a little crazy.  We arrived in Hampton on a Sunday evening, found the house online that night (it had just been posted two days prior), met with our realtor at 10:30 Monday morning and were in a contract with the sellers by 6.  It was the first house we looked at, and after viewing about three more in the neighborhood, we just couldn't keep our minds open to anything else but 4 Margaret.  Even the address felt right.  If that's possible.

So then we waited. And waited. And waited for five weeks to close. Everything went through very smoothly.  We stayed in temporary housing for a week, took a couple nights to visit my sister in northern VA, and camped out at our wonderful friends' Carla and Jeremy's house for almost a month. I also spent a week in CT helping my friend out with her new baby.  You're probably thinking, "Wow, that sounds like a busy life!"  But I promise you... it was so. long.  I shamefully admit I have watched almost 5 seasons of One Tree Hill since arriving here.  That's what a lack of job, friends, and life will do to a person.

But then we bought the house.

This picture was taken the day we closed... those blue skies didn't last for long!

 It was a Monday afternoon and as soon as we got the keys and walked in the door, the skies opened for the next week. We were fortunate enough to have a small break in the clouds long enough to unpack our moving truck, but seriously!

We spent the next couple weeks becoming familiar faces at the local Home Depot, Target, and Lowes, purchasing things to make our house a home.  It's amazing how much money you can spend on trivial things like curtain rods and area rugs.

At the end of October, I took a trip I've been waiting four years to take.  I went to visit my dear friend Viv in Lisbon, Portugal.  It was an amazing experience, from wandering the cobblestone streets, climbing up to castles, and drinking wine in the Douro quintas... I experienced beauty in a new way.  And I even think I learned a lot about myself in this place... traveling will do that to you, so be careful!

It's been a full couple of months, but at the same time, has felt so empty. We are slowly starting to make friends and have even enjoyed attending this one church for the past month. It's completely different from what we experienced in Alaska, but maybe that's a good thing.  Nothing will ever compare to First Cov. or the people there anyways, so completely different can actually be healing.

But my heart is still so broken.  Can I be that vulnerable with you?  I miss the life we had and the friends we made.  While I know there can be new life and new friends, I'm grieving Alaska more than I ever expected.  I want it all back, and it scares me to feel that way because those feelings are preventing me from embracing the new, beautiful things here in Virginia.

But the Lord is calling me to be open.  To pick up my mat and walk. To move on and be healed. Here's to a new journey...

The Laughter Gym

(Written on Nov. 26, 2013)

If you've been praying... THANK YOU! Tonight was the first night in months I have laughed until almost a little pee came out. You all shamefully know what I'm talking about. If you've been covering me in prayer, like I know I've asked of some of you, THANK YOU! Last night, I was able to be. myself. And be real! And even at times, be my alter ego, Francine:)  I laughed so hard my face hurt.  My abs screamed at me ("you haven't been working out enough!").  It's almost like I was out of shape from not letting go like that in so long. TOO long.  When our new friends left,  I felt the Lord say to me, "You prayed for me to be a presence tonight and I was. You have been asking me to supply you with joy, and tonight it came in a river, like the one I promised you in Psalm 46.  I love you, my child. And you are lovely.  Even lovelier when you laugh!" THANK YOU FOR PRAYING!

**Sidenote: Last week, Psalm 46 was brought to my heart twice.  I was taking intentional time last week to listen to the Lord.  To SHUT. UP. I know, I should be doing this all the time, but last week, I made a promise to Jordan and to myself that I would listen.  The first day, "Be still and know that I am God" kept resonating in my heart. I wasn't sure exactly where it came from, so I Googled and saw it was from Ps. 46:10. A couple days later, I hit an ultimate low... I've been having a lot of those lately (maybe more on that on a different day). I opened my Bible back up to Ps. 46 and read the whole thing, slowly, out loud (I always feel awkward doing this), and this time, the Lord spoke LOUD AND CLEAR to me through verses 4-5.

"A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day; God will protect it." Psalm 46:4-5

From my journal entry that day: "He made me see that I am the city of God; the home in which He dwells. He lives in me.  He abides in me when I abide in Him. And he promises me a RIVER OF JOY will be coming.  Joy I can't even imagine.  Joy that's not coming in a trickle or a glass.  No, a whole RIVER.  And He promises me He won't let anything destroy me. He is protecting His dwelling place.  He is my refuge and strength (v. 1), always ready to help in times of trouble.  I couldn't be more ready or willing for help right now.  Lord, bring the river.  Flood over me. Wash over me with Your love and joy.  I am ready."

As I wept over those words last week, I still had an aching, sinking feeling in my heart as I just wasn't sure how much longer I could wait for the river to come. The Lord sent it last night. And I am SO REJUVENATED. So like I said, if you've been praying for me, THANK YOU. And keep it up:)

Friday, September 20, 2013


Hello dear friends and readers,

This entry has been one I've been avoiding writing since we arrived in Hampton nearly three weeks ago.  It's been so difficult to find the words to express how I've been feeling, and so I've just avoided writing altogether.

I guess the word for how I'm feeling doesn't really exist, so I'm going to have to make up a new word. >If you have any ideas, suggestions are welcome.< In this word you get a mix of the sad, lonely feelings that come with being a small fish in a big pond, with no buddies around to back you up.  In this word you get what comes with a cross-country move, leaving a job you love, friends that are family, and coffee shops that are quiet, inviting and actually sell good coffee.  You get a lack of familiarity, a home, a church, a community, and everything else that comes along with those things.    You get tears in a new church bathroom during worship because it's just not what you're used to and what you're used to is exactly what you could use right about now.

But you also get an entire new life waiting to happen. A new community of people to befriend, a new house to make a home, a new job (this one's taking a lot of faith), and new favorite places to hang out. 

I just haven't arrived there... yet.  The past three weeks, and basically until we move in to our new home, have felt like life is just on hold.  Waiting.  Waiting to move in, waiting to find a job, waiting for Sundays to roll around so we can find a new church.  Waiting for paint to dry*, waiting for my new iPhone (got that today!), waiting for replies from potential jobs, waiting for Jordan to get home from work.

And I feel so unsatisfied with everything.  I'm unsatisfied that this is my life right now.  That I'm not working, that I miss my friends and my students in Alaska, that I miss the mountains, and I miss the community, and I miss...everything about my life 6 months ago. I'm unsatisfied that I haven't slept in my own bed in two months.  I'm unsatisfied that we haven't found a church yet... and that finding the "right" one is probably an impossible task and not what God had in mind in the first place! 

And then the Lord speaks into my life... (He has a knack of doing that just when I am about to give up)...

"O God, I beg two favors of you;
let me have them before I die.
First, help me to never tell a lie.
Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs."
  - Prov. 30:7, 8

God does. not. care. about the things of this world.  He is not interested in what kind of couch we buy, or whether or counter-tops are granite or laminate.  He does not blink an eye at fancy new iPhones.  He doesn't care if our church has loud rock music, or sweet hymns. But he does care about me.  He loves me.  So much so that He actually has promises and hopes and a future for me, if only I would obey him!  And He promises to satisfy my needs, and nothing more.  Not my wants, not my "gimmes," not my wishes.  My needs.

This lesson has been a really hard pill to swallow.  After being "displaced" from my own home and things for two months, all I feel like I need are those things and house to feel normal again.  I keep catching myself thinking, "I'll get my life back on track after we move into the new house."  God doesn't want me to sit around and wait for a new house to satisfy my needs.  He wants to be the one to do that!  And right now, He's saying that He is all I need!


I still don't know what that word is to describe how I'm feeling, but I do know this God I serve is a Mighty God, and there are not other words necessary than that.

*We are currently staying with my friend from college and her fiance, in their 1920s home they are renovating, inch by inch.  We are sooooooo incredibly grateful for their hospitality (especially with our dog who has been less than a polite guest), and we fully believe God gave us them to satisfy our current needs of a place to stay for awhile.  So during the days when everyone goes to work, I have been working on painting parts and pieces of the house.  It feels good to accomplish something each day, and especially to help them out as they are super busy people!  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Final Destination

I’m writing this from the comforts of the passenger seat in our FJ.  Jordan’s merrily driving along, Layla’s snoozing in the back, the gas tank just got filled for the 200th time, and my “Alaskan Springtime” air freshener is just about used up.  To be honest, not a whole lot could help the “month long we’ve been living in our car” smell go away except a thorough scrub down.  I can’t wait!

This vehicle has taken us all across the North American continent this summer.  From Anchorage, AK, we have traveled 7, 860 miles through wilderness, cities, national parks, cornfields, mountain roads ((shudder)), and interstate after interstate. My seat will forever have a permanent imprint of my butt.  You’re welcome for that image.

We are just a couple hundred miles out from our final destination: Hampton, VA.  I just can’t believe we did it.  We talked about this trip for months.  I spent hours planning this trip.  We set up our camper and took it down over 20 times on this trip.  We visited many friends, and even spent a weekend with Jordan’s brother.  I feel like we put the next 20 years worth of vacations into an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid (thanks USAF) month of a lifetime. 

It’s really hard to put into words the gratitude we both feel at this moment. For the 24 hour prayer team that has covered us in prayer every step of the way, we can’t thank you enough!  There were several conversations had with people, missed accidents, and what can only be described as a perfect trip all covered in prayer, and we no doubt felt the Holy Spirit with us this entire time. 

I’ll sum up the past couple of days for you before I conclude this chapter of my blog.

We spent two days in Memphis, TN catching up with Jordan’s friends as mentioned in my last post.  This was such a sweet time, seeing people Jordan hadn’t seen in eight years and feeling like no time had passed at all.  We are so excited for chances to see them in the future and promised another eight years wouldn’t go by before that happened again! 

We drove to Boone, NC in the Blue Ridge Mountains on Friday to meet up with Jordan’s brother, Christopher.  He just moved to Hot Springs, NC, only a couple hours away.  We camped in Boone, enjoying catching up with each other.  One of the things Jordan and I have enjoyed in our down time on this trip is playing Monopoly on our iPad.  Christopher agreed to play with us (he had no idea what he was getting in to).  I am proud and not humble at all to say I kicked both of their butts the first night!  Woot woot!  But Christopher got us back last night.  Poor Jordan is left hanging for a chance to beat us, so I’m sure that will happen the next time the three of us are together.

Saturday morning we went to a really beautiful place off the Blue Ridge Mountains and hiked down to Bass Lake with Layla.  There were lots of people horse-back riding on the trail, so we were a little nervous as to how Layla would handle being so close to these friendly beasts.  She’s become accustomed to barking at anything breathing outside of our FJ when we’re on the road, including the wild horses we saw in Canada.  Turns out she wasn’t even phased by them, but did have to stop and sniff every “present” they left for her on the trail.  Sigh.

We got back to our camper just in time to set up the canopy over our table as a storm rolled in pretty quickly.  Oh yes, I remember these. East coast storms come in like a vengeance, pour rain, and leave before you even have a chance to say, “hello.”  We spent the afternoon walking around downtown Boone.  It reminded me very much of Keene, NH as it’s an old college-town in the mountains.  Probably the best part of the day was when we, yup you guessed it, ATE. 

Christopher suggested we eat at this pizza place called the Mellow Mushroom.  Thankfully it had vegan pizza options for Chris, so we all indulged in hands-down the best pizza on earth.  Move over Moose’s Tooth.  My “Holy Shiitake” mushroom pizza was amazing.  And that’s saying something as I’m married to Mr. Pizzahead himself who will drive across North America in search for the best pizza in the country.  I’m happy to say we found it!

This morning we packed up the camper and spent some time showing Chris the houses we’re looking at in Virginia.  He’s going to come up when we move in to help us unpack our truck.  So fun to finally be around family that’s within driving distance and can do that!

And so, as we finish this journey, there are just a few words I’d like to leave you with.

1.     If you’re married to someone in the military who has to shave every day for work, be prepared for what may grow on his face over the span of five weeks.  Don’t get me wrong, the beard has been fun.  But it’s time to go, my friend.  Snip snip.
2.     Wet Ones hand wipes and plastic grocery bags used for garbage and picking up dog poo become like gold on road trips.  Start stocking up now.
3.     If you ever have the opportunity to take a trip like this, do it.  Don’t make excuses and say you’ll do it when you retire, or when you have enough money, or when you have enough vacation time.  I realize those things all contribute to taking such a large trip like we’ve taken.  But I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about taking a trip with your spouse, your family, your closest friends, and exploring this beautiful country we live in together.  You don’t have to go 8,000 miles to see gorgeous places and you don’t have to have “all your ducks in order” to spend time with your loved ones. Out of all the things we’ve seen and done on this trip, I wouldn’t trade five weeks with my husband for anything.  He’s been the best thing about this trip.  That’s why I encourage you all to get out there and take a road trip together!

I’ll be posting more on this blog as we find a house, buy a house, move into that house, and live life in that house.  If you’d like to keep reading along, I encourage you to subscribe to the blog, or just email me back and let me know to keep you on my list for updates!  If I don’t hear back from you, I’ll just assume you don’t want my emails clogging up your inbox any moreJ No hurt feelings, I promise!

Jordan, Pastor Jeff, and Amy Dale in the Baptist Collegiate Ministries building where they all hung out in '05.

I have a picture of us eating here when I came to visit in '05.

Jordan with Amy and Andrew Dale on Beale St.

We came back to our hotel room to find Layla like this. 

The brothers!

Bass Lake, NC

Pops got each of them one of these from the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, NC.

Christopher sleeping in his hammock on our site.

Camping in Boone!

Love this guy with all my heart

Thursday, August 29, 2013

We like to eat.

7,000 miles and still going strong…

Wow, is it really the 29th? That means we’ve been on the road 29 days.  Where did the last month go?! We have experienced SO much, seen so many wonderful friends along the way, ooed and ahhed at so many beautiful places in this country, taken about a bagillion pictures (that’s a pretty accurate guess), filled up an insane amount of tanks of gas, and eaten just one too many sandwiches for my liking.  We will be arriving in Hampton, VA on Sunday, so just three days away!

Let me catch you up on the past few days since my last post.

Clearly, we were having way too much fun hanging out with friends in Omaha for me to find the time to update the blog.  We stayed with our friends, Tim and Susan Snyder (shout out! Woot woot!) in Papillion for the weekend.  The weekend was full of eating (we had burgers three nights in a row), more eating (I went to my favorite cupcake place and indulged in croissant donuts, twice), and more eating (sushi and ice cream!).  Oh yeah, and in between the eating, we thought about where we would eatJ

We got to catch up with Jen and Jerry Teeter and their three girls, Cathy who I used to work with at Our Lady of Lourdes School, and the Whitneys!  So fun to see everyone, and feel like we never even left.  Seeing the Whitneys was surreal… didn’t we just hug you guys goodbye in Canada?  Were those two years together in Alaska a dream? The kids snuggled with us in the restaurant for the entire hour we were together, and we had a great time filling each other in on our adventures.  What a sweet time.

Jordan and I enjoyed walking around the Rosenblatt Stadium memorial park.  We saw the last College World Series game in that park two years ago, before they tore the park down.  It was neat to see what they did to preserve the memories. We also took a stroll through Old Market, a place we used to love to go out to, yup, you guessed it… eat.

Hanging out with the Snyders all weekend was awesome.  Their daughter Ally is about two feet taller than she was when we left, so it took me a good day to get used to the new “her.” J But it felt like we just belonged there, and again, I’m left feeling so thankful for amazing friends.  They’re talking about coming out to visit next summer, and since I’m posting that publicly on the internet, that officially holds them to it!

Our last night together was spent having dinner with some old Life Group friends (I mean, friends from the past Life Group we were in, not old in age!).  The Tyners and Conleys came over to indulge in more food with us, and it was great to catch up!  Again, it felt like two years hadn’t passed at all.

We left Omaha on Tuesday and headed down to Joplin, MO to see the missing Snyder girl who has gone and grown all up and started college.  We enjoyed eating dinner and ice cream with Abby, seeing her beautiful face, and being so encouraged that Jesus is the center of her life!  Miss you already girl…

Now we are hangin’ in Memphis, TN, in a hotel room because we were not too keen on camping in the 90+ degree weather anymore.  Layla is thankful, too.  For those that aren’t aware, Jordan spent a semester studying at the University of Memphis in 2005.  He made some great friends while here, who we still keep in touch with and so that’s what we’re doing here!  Jordan always promised them he’d come back to visit… it just took him 8 years.

We spent last night with them at their condo eating and catching up, reminiscing of the good ol’ ’05 days and laughing at ancient Facebook pictures.  We’ll spend the day with them today as well.  Oh yeah, their names are Amy and Andrew and their daughter’s name is Layla.  Weird, I know.

Here are a few pics of the last few days!

Yay!  A picture with Susan finally! At the Stormchasers game

Hanging out at the Building 429 Concert! 

We didn't get any good pictures of us together, but here's evidence of our time with Life Group friends!

S'mores cupcake from Jones Bros. Cupcakes... SO GOOD.

Layla and Tessa (the Snyder's new dog) were best buddies!

Ally and Layla

I've never seen my puppy so worn out I could lift her up and she still wouldn't wake.

Abby Snyder in Joplin!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Husker Nation

Livin’ the Nebraska life this weekend… where the corn grows for miles, the concrete roads keep your ride less than smooth, and good friends are like family!

We spent a quick night in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver after leaving Utah.  It was really strange having to put on sweatpants and jackets after we had just nearly sweltered to death in the desert.  The campground I picked was on a beautiful lake up Mt. Evans, which just happens to provide the highest road in altitude in North America.  We waited out a thunderstorm (a what?! Haven’t experienced one of those in a couple years!), made dinner, and enjoyed some home-made pie at the lodge.  But instead of sleeping with wet towels on us to keep us cool, we actually had to turn the furnace on to keep us warm.  ‘Merica’s got it all people, and all in a day’s drive.

We left super early to get on the road to Omaha yesterday.  While on the road, we realized we were going to make it to the area a lot earlier than expected, so I started texting our good friend Susan Snyder.  We ended up driving straight to their house in Papillion instead of to our campground about 30 minutes east of them, going out to dinner, and scratching the whole “camping in the muggy heat” plan altogether when they insisted we stay with them for the weekend!  It didn’t take much convincing, and we are very appreciative of the AC, Internet, and queen-size bed.  Ah, the luxuries of life.

Layla also gets luxury treatment again this weekend in another kennel.  She’ll play with other puppies and get her own room to stay in.  I tell myself these things are what she really wants instead of being with us so the cry-ball in my throat will go away.  Yup, I totally teared up again leaving her there. I need therapy.

Jordan drove through Offutt AFB on our way back this morning and our old neighborhood.  We were shocked to see our old neighbors across the street were still there, and my rose bush is still thriving in the front yard. But my overall reaction to our drive through this morning was how small everything seemed after living in Alaska.  Big mountains, a huge base, and living right next to downtown Anchorage made life seem bigger somehow. 

We are going to enjoy spending so much time with the Snyders this weekend and other friends.  What a blessing it is to come back to a familiar place and feel like you never left!

Check out this oversized bike we saw on the road!

Remains of an old car in the woods near our campground in Colorado.

Echo Lake... beautiful!

You might think, "Why would Amy turn around in the car and take this picture?" And I would say, "This is what I saw and made me nearly pee my pants when I looked up from the book I was reading and thought Jordan was going the wrong way!"