The Dovecote

It was popular in the nineteenth century to name your house, no matter if it were a cottage or an estate. I have embraced this tradition with my homes.

Our old house was aptly named The Burning Pinecone, after the fabulous firepit my husband built (many a nights were spent drinking and roasting marshmallows with friends) and the giant pinecones that fell from the towering long leaf pines. Most of our fires were fueled by the massive amount of pinecones on the half acre of land we owned. The new house is nothing like our old house. It is much smaller and less grand: it is the epitome of average. It faces the south, so less sunlight comes through our windows, but it keeps it cooler in the summer. Our yard is so tiny, in fact, the listing had the lot in square feet instead of acres. Because of all the other expenses, a firepit has not been built yet, but we have picked out its site. There will be more nights of roasting marshmallows soon.

Our new home needed a name. I didn’t want another firepit inspired moniker and so I considered what other people have named their houses for inspiration. From one of my favorite books, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, John and Meg Brooke’s house was named The Dovecote. Having no idea what a dovecote was, I looked up the meaning of it on Google and promptly went into silent laugh mode:

dovecotehaha

I thought this was a perfect description of our new property, especially after my husband and I failed to get the loveseat through the door (he and his co-worker managed to shove it through the other door with a millimeter of clearance, but not without damaging the walls in the process).

I then read the description of The Dovecote Alcott gave in the book:

And speaking of sentiment brings us very naturally to the ‘Dovecote’.

That was the name of the little brown house Mr. Brooke had prepared for Meg’s first home. Laurie had christened it, saying it was highly appropriate to the gentle lovers who ‘went on together like a pair of turtledoves, with first a bill and then a coo’. It was a tiny house, with a little garden behind and a lawn about as big as a pocket handkerchief in the front. Here Meg meant to have a fountain, shrubbery, and a profusion of lovely flowers, though just at present the fountain was represented by a weather–beaten urn, very like a dilapidated slopbowl, the shrubbery consisted of several young larches, undecided whether to live or die, and the profusion of flowers was merely hinted by regiments of sticks to show where seeds were planted. But inside, it was altogether charming, and the happy bride saw no fault from garret to cellar. To be sure, the hall was so narrow it was fortunate that they had no piano, for one never could have been got in whole, the dining room was so small that six people were a tight fit, and the kitchen stairs seemed built for the express purpose of precipitating both servants and china pell–mell into the coalbin. But once get used to these slight blemishes and nothing could be more complete, for good sense and good taste had presided over the furnishing, and the result was highly satisfactory. There were no marble–topped tables, long mirrors, or lace curtains in the little parlor, but simple furniture, plenty of books, a fine picture or two, a stand of flowers in the bay window, and, scattered all about, the pretty gifts which came from friendly hands and were the fairer for the loving messages they brought.

My hear swelled. As a writer, this was perfect! My new home reflected all the nuances of the Brooke’s home, save for the coalbin. It’s coziness (read: small quarters) and less than stellar landscaping (read: years of outright neglect) will be knit into the fabric of my life. Our front yard, which is about the size of a handkerchief, will hopefully be blooming with flowers and evergreen foundation plants this time next year. We have a wonky staircase as well, I’m sure I’ll go down it pell mell at some point.

And so, my new home is affectionately known as The Dovecote. I’m looking forward to entertaining friends and strangers over tea. When our house was blessed, the pastor likened it to the moon, reflecting the light of the Son. I hope everyone who comes through the doors of The Dovecote senses the love of the Lord in this space.

I also plan to frame this passage and display it in my new home.

Moving to the Castle in the Sky

Through this moving process, like everything else this year, I have to adjust and reestablish norms. The kitchen in the new house, while an eyesore, is set up as best it can be for the moment. The closet is filled with my clothes, but not quite organized to my liking. My sitting room is still a catch all room, that will take some time to sort through. I’m excited to start a new writing routine and not spend my days painting – although a few doors still need paint. And demolition day in the guest bath is just around the corner.

All this newness, this hobby house I’ve had for the past few weeks is on the verge of being my home for the foreseeable future. Perhaps for the rest of my born days on this earth. I’m still learning to love it and embrace all its quirks, like the hall of doors (Is it a closet, mudroom, or bedroom?!). Despite all this, it will be my home.

As I was driving the other day, I mused to God on what Heaven would be like. I marvelled at the thought of when I get to Heaven, I won’t have to adjust to anything. I would be Home – and more than that – it will be perfect. No more autoimmune or anxiety issues to deal with: my neighbors won’t be pesky, nothing to pack/unpack, or problems I need to pay for/solve/fix myself.

Rest. Worship. Jesus. Constant light. People I knew on earth. It sounds glorious. I have every intention of seeing my 108th birthday here on earth, so I’m in no rush.

But I do look forward to that final move and the rest that follows.

Releasing the House

I don’t remember where the idea came from; I may have read about it or it came to me on its own.

Way back when we sold our first house, once we were under contract, I decided to “release the house” through prayer. Alone in the house, I walked into each room, placed a hand on each wall in the room and prayed a short prayer over each wall.

I did the same for this house. I prayed for the incoming family: for their safety, comfort, the new memories they would make there. I prayed for all of those who would walk through the doors would know the spirit of the Lord was here. I don’t know if they are Christians or not; I prayed they would find Christ if they have not and grow more deeply in Him if they were. I also thanked the Lord for the opportunity to live in and use this big house for His benefit, recounting all the people we served here. I touched on memories and prayed the house into its new owners.

I am beyond ready for this experience to be done.

May in Review

The salty air caught me off guard. Had I been away so long from my ocean that I had forgotten? It’d been over a month since I trod on these sands.

I breathed in the the sweet ocean scent as much as I could. While the cool breeze kept me from sweating, the sun’s warmth comforted my aching soul. This month’s focus was letting go of anxiety, which has proved to be quite the task. I needed a time out from my worries, and the Atlantic coast was my drug of choice.

I skimmed through an old magazine, pausing every few pages to take in the scenery around me and to let my mind wander over the small breaking waves.

I tried to absorb as much sun as I could. It was as if I was solar powered, with my lights dimming from the lack of beach in my life. For a few moments, I was content. My worries were on the mainland while I was on the island.

I wish I could have bottled up that moment to relive it every so often.
Burdened with an anxiety disorder and selling a house with my husband, who is ill equipped to do so in my eyes, letting go of anxiety was difficult.

Long story short, we sold the house. My worrying did nothing to help this along, surprisingly enough. Our new house has 2 issues: a bum window and some flooring that is warping at the seams. I’m doing my best not to freak out. And then my parents, high strung perfectionists from the Midwest, have made our house a stop on their east coast road trip a few weeks after we move. What could possibly go wrong?

My rescue passage, Psalm 130, is written in German next to my computer at work. I’m slowly memorizing it. I whisper it to myself during the day. Some days, that was the only thing keeping me together. My feverent prayers for a buyer were replaced with a groaning spirit of prayer. I didn’t know what or how to pray for my situation. The Holy Spirit knew. My walks turned into a jumble of prayers and thoughts that went off on tangents. My prayer life reflects the current state of my old house: stuff everywhere, staged for packing, with no real order. And my bathrooms are disgusting. I’m not cleaning until the terminal clean for the new owners. I don’t have the time. Nor the patience. With my routine and way of life interrupted, rest has been scant.

I also started a part time job on top of it all. Because, yeah. Money.

My awesome non-medicated brain can not let go of the anxiety. Even the counselor said I can only contain it: I have tools to stuff it back into its box so its tentacles don’t invade other areas of life and rob me of the joy of living. Psalm 130 is one of them. I did my very best to beat the monster of anxiety into submission this past month – sometimes I was successful, other times I was not.

I leaned hard on the Lord this month, sobbing incoherently into His robes. I am ready to move on from this season of life.

Unless

“Show me how it ends
It’s alright.”
(So Cold by Breaking Benjamin)

In 2005 when I finally decided to get my personal life together and focus on the Lord, I was listening to a lot of alternative rock, like Breaking Benjamin. That spring, the line from that song resonated with me; I heard the line as, “Show me how it ends, it’s alright?” Who was I going to be in December? My fear was nothing will have changed and I’d be fighting the same battles. It wouldn’t be alright. Everything would be for naught.

That December I was a changed woman, and set sail for the east coast.

I find myself in the same situation this spring: we bought another house. We need to unload our current house, as now we are carrying 2 mortgages. The house has been on the market for nearly a week, with mild interest. We’ve already discussed lowering the price. We have to have allowances for carpet, probably windows.

I am freaking out. I’m having trouble eating with the anxiety attacks.

Friends who know the house assure me it will sell fast. A good friend of mine said the most comforting thing: I will be provided for. I am a faithful servant of the Lord and that will not be forgotten.

Oh, Lord, help us!

My Dad, who is an expert at doomsday scenarios, hit me with line of questioning as to why we didn’t have a contingency clause. Ever since that conversation, that large rock has returned to my stomach.

I find myself praying for less. It is such a weird concept in this world of constant needs and consumption. Lord, please take this portion, as I want to live with less stuff and more You!

To combat my brain going into overload, I’ve decided to pray the offices. It’s Catholic (sigh), but I do think it will help me reroute my thoughts/anxiety/energy. I divided the clock into quarters (0000-0300, 0300-0600, 0600-0900, 0900-1200, etc.) During these blocks of time, if I am awake, I will stop and pray. It will be for my house to sell at a reasonable price, and quickly. For my friends who are struggling with loss of a spouse, loss of dreams with spouse. Praise for a blog friend who’s years of prayer came to fruition this past weekend via a diamond solitare. Praise that I will keep going and serving where the Lord leads regardless of my real estate portfolio, debt to income ratio, and earthly needs/wants. In the meantime, I am on a spending freeze.

I need to have faith that He will provide. I just wish He could show me how it ends, I hate not knowing.

Is it going to be alright?

April: Live with Confidence

One of the perks of living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that you second guess EVERYTHING. Whether I am buying a house, a pair of socks, treating a patient, or making a life altering decision, my brain whispers, “Are you sure? What if you’re wrong? What if the exact opposite is true/better? How will you know? You need to think/pray/freak out more about this.” I am paralyzed by indecision and worry that my choice is wrong, either fundamentally or factually.

This month is going to require some confidence.

Heck, my entire life could use some confidence.

I’m closing on my 3rd house this month.  Yup – for those of you keeping score at home – I have owned more houses than cars (3:1). I have decisions to make about paint, decor, and where the silverware drawer is going to be in the kitchen. I have cleaning projects, landscape projects, and painting projects all lined up; most of them will be put on hold until I can unload my current property to conserve money. This is my new home, I have to own it and the decisions that come with it.

The loved one with an alcohol addiction combined with a new house that I’m 85% sure I like has been a bit more than I expected to be dealing with at this point. Nonetheless, the Lord shall provide.

I found this book about making decisions with a Christian-centric mindset, and it was like a breath of fresh air for me.  The basic principle was, “What does God think about non-moral decisions? How do I know God’s will for my life?” Mr. DeYoung proposes just to do something, much akin to throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it will stick – the fleeces we depend on are more out of our culture than the Bible. The Bible has much to say about living, but does not specifically address major life decisions such as, should I marry this person?  Should I buy this car? Obviously, seeking the Lord in all things, but sometimes He doesn’t give a clear answer. And so we act. The Lord will provide.

What does living with confidence look like? I’m not sure yet.

I need to pray about that some more.

March in Review

“Do it with prayer.”

This was my focus this month, and whoa baby, did this month ever need prayer.

Our house search started. Before we found the house we made an offer on, I prayed with my husband that we would find the right one.  We only saw a handful of properties and the one I hated, my husband loved.  We went back and forth about it and I agreed – begrudgingly – to tour it again.  We spend an hour at the property, walking all over, inside and outside.  I didn’t like it because of the “line of sight” on some of the angles.  The house did not speak to me.

But this time it did.

Was it perfect?  No.  It lacks the large garden tub bathroom suite that was on our “must have” list – another thing we left off the last time we looked for houses.  It was built when I was in high school, so it’s been there awhile.  With some minor customization, it could really sing.  My husband made a good point: it was the perfect size for us and outside of the garden tub, it had everything we needed.  That’s what hit me.  Needed.  Our giant house was a want, not a need.  And with our mindset of minimalism, using what we have for the glory of the Gospel, consuming less and the promise of cheaper bills/taxes/upkeep/more travel: I agreed.  It’s also a mile away from my ocean and a kayaker’s paradise.

I had a panic attack, rather severely, as we negotiated the price and did the inspection: the inspection revealed nothing major.  And so we move forward.  I’m still a bit unsettled about this whole process, especially since we’re under contract on that house and ours hasn’t hit the market yet.  We can float the 2 mortgages for a few months….but nothing long term.  The market is red hot here, so I’m hoping for a quick sell.  More prayer there too.

My loved one who has struggled with alcoholism, fell off the wagon rather unceremoniously, as expected.  It was terrible, the words they threw at me while on a high.  I officially stopped trusting anything they said and threw my anger back at them.  That hit home.  Things have been strange between us ever since.  This person sought the advice and friendship of another Christian who has had a successful recovery and I hope that “sponsorship” holds water and keeps them on the straight and narrow.  It’s sickening to watch from my perspective, but hardships can build strength and character – the Lord can turn this tragedy into a praise.

Prayer for this person has been on my lips all month.

And for my wayward niece.  And the girl I’m sponsoring for confirmation.  The friend with the troubled marriage.  The friend who was on the receiving end of spiritual abuse.  My family.  A stick built structure.  And for someone who thinks drinking a liter of wine in under an hour is totally okay.

They haven’t been long prayers.  Or even all that consistent.  But it made me stop and remember: do it with prayer.

Change & What Follows

My new gig is nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced in my field before. It’s embarrassingly easy.

The first couple of weeks were nothing but solid stress. There was a large stone in my stomach, even while I wasn’t at work; that seems to be subsiding now. My two employees under me had the task to train me. One of them was so Type A it was nearly suffocating. The other was so Type B it was comical. I learned a lot from both of them, though. Luckily, I do not work with them on a regular basis; they only cover me when I am out.

I work alone in a glorified closet.

In between seeing a fraction of the patients I saw at my old job, there is a lot of free time. As a contract employee, I do not have to conform to the rest of my office mates. I exist for one job and I’m the only one in the building who can perform it. Everyone has been nice, but distant. I can’t figure out if it’s office dynamics, me being introverted, or if I’m disliked. I’ve been advised to keep a low profile as the office can be a bit of a shark tank. Nonetheless, I am left to my own devices.

At first, the free time seemed nonexistent, as I was trying to get my feet underneath me. Now I’ve settled in to a comfortable routine, with the things I was fretting over are now on autopilot. Or at least I think they are.

I’m taking this time to read news stories, watch my Twitter feed, write, and read. It’s an introvert’s dream. As soon as I get the funds, I’m purchasing a 20lb kettleball weight to work on my flabby arms. I started doing push-ups on the countertop and walking on a trail at lunch. I’m going to use this time to get myself in better shape and work on my writing. And I’m very excited about that!

In other exciting news, my husband and I got a buyer’s agent: we’re officially house hunting to downsize. I have a sense of peace about this. I’m only a little sad to lose my dream house. It’s so much to maintain, inside and out: as we get older, it will only become more of a burden.

And so everything is changing again. As the leaves are in the bud stage, with pollen everywhere, spring is here. And like the trees, I believe I am coming into season as well.

Bring on the summer.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

March: Do it with Prayer

I’m not much of a prayer warrior.  Truth is, I often get distracted by my own random thoughts or shiny objects.  It’s part of the reason I have embraced the contemplative prayer movement: extremely focused prayer for a short amount of time.  While looking through my list of objectives for 2017, “Do it with Prayer” fit well with March.

We have decided to sell our house.  It was at the tippy-top of our price range when we bought it in 2010, as the market had bottomed out.  We are comfortable here.  The house sits on a nearly an acre of woods and meets of all our needs.  Financially, we are doing just fine; heating and cooling this place takes a toll on those extreme weather days and I’m often freezing, but other than that, we’re not selling because it’s a burden.

We’re selling to downsize.  We want more money in the bank, less time with the upkeep, and cheaper utilities/taxes.  We have dabbled with the minimalist movement and our priorities are not what they were 7 years ago.  As life moves, we change.  And so because of this change, we’re moving.

Our current neighborhood can best be described as “variations on a theme.”  Our neighbors are nearly 90 and they just installed a chair lift, with the 2 staircases that lead to the living areas of our house.  My husband turns 50 in the next couple of years, and while he’s more active than a few twentysomethings we know, eventually, that will catch up with him.

We haven’t found a house to move into, although I found the perfect house a few blocks away – it’s significantly cheaper than our house, but still more than I was willing to pay.  But, it looks perfect from the real estate website.

And so, do it with prayer.

Praying for a house.  Not only a house, a home.  A home that I will more than likely die in or at least age significantly in.  We don’t want to move again.  The Lord will fulfill all my needs; I just need a smallish/cheapish house.  Where will that be?  And when?  And do we try to purchase it before we sell our mansion?

Also, I find myself still suffering from anxiety attacks at my new job.  The job has basically put me out to pasture in my profession: I do a fraction of what I went to college for and often find myself with loads of free time, which I plan to use for writing.  Nonetheless, I am freaking out about a temperature of a refrigerator.  I’m in charge of making sure the refrigerator stays at a certain temperature, and it was acting wonky the past couple of days.  I adjusted it, but I’m not there to monitor that adjustment.  If the temperature falls out of range, it could compromise the expensive contents of the refrigerator; contents that are essential to my job performance.

And so, do it with prayer.

Today I am praying for a new place to live that is far below our means.  I’m also praying for a refrigerator to maintain it’s temperature.  I gave my troubled niece a Bible for her birthday.  She started attending a church.  She has a scripture in her bio on Twitter.  I am praying for her salvation and for her to journey with the Lord.

So many heavy things.  So many trivial things.  C’est la vie.

Through this journey, I wonder how my prayer life will evolve through this lens.  Will we find a house?  Is my refrigerator happy?  Will my niece turn her life around with the love of the Lord?  Will my anxiety die down to a smoldering ash instead of this inferno in my chest?

And so, I do it with prayer.