Thursday, September 04, 2008

Faith on Friday - Faith, Family and Finding Home (long)

This Friday, I would like to integrate my Faith on Friday post with not only part of my emotional and spiritual journey but part of my physical journey as well. Before I delve into the depths of my heart and share with you what has been a life long, painful journey that the Father is patiently healing in me, I want to tell you that I have a wonderful Mom. I'm not just saying that because she reads my blog! :o) I am telling you that because it is true. Really, she is pretty incredible and now as adults and co-survivors of some things that we are only now beginning to talk to each other about, we are learning to be friends. When I was growing up, she provided everything for me that she could, but she was not walking with the Lord and my aching heart was hungry for Him. Today she is a woman of God that I am proud to know and so thankful I can share my faith with. My discussion of pain and home here is not meant as a criticism of her parenting. The aching heart, we probably both shared, but this journey is my own.

In my life, I have called many places "home" without ever meaning the more harmonious and warm fuzzy things that most of us conjure up when we hear that word. In fact, I have moved more times than most "military brats" that I know! I lost count around 30-something. This has been due in part to my being a student and single for a long time, but also due to my Dad's alcoholism and the state of relative poverty in which he left my Mother. Mind you, most of my life, I was not aware that we were poor. And honestly, some parts of my life felt very rich. Relatively speaking. My Mom has great "nesting abilities" and we never lived in squalor. And the one house we lived in from 6th grade to early college really was home.

Looking back, the moves were mostly an adventure, albeit one big adventure after another! LOL The homelessness was in my heart. At an early age, I knew that things were not "normal" in my family, but did not have the maturity to understand why. Probably my early experiences of each side of the family making subtle negative comments about the other, made me more sensitive. Be careful little ears what you hear. You may think that children do not understand and perhaps they don't. However, even when they don't understand, they know.

That was my problem as a kid. I knew. I didn't understand.

Those same early experiences that seemed to break me, also strengthened me. I believe it was the workings of Philippians 1:6 (being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus) and Romans 8:28-9 (that He would work all things together for good). It triggered a fierce, surviving spirit within me and instead of crumpling under the blows, I began looking for answers and solutions. In my quest for answers, I would see this same spirit in my ancestors who fled religious persecution in England, Scotland and Ireland and in others who left all behind in Poland, Slovakia and Sweden to see what the future held in a new land.

One of the places I looked for answers, as I alluded, was the family tree. I wanted to find a home; I needed a place to belong. I loved the stories of the "olden days" that both my Grandmothers told me. Sadly, Grandma Johnson was overcome by severe early onset Alzheimer's Disease. But Grandma Hopkins' mind was sharp even toward the end of 95.5 years.

Genealogy can be an exciting adventure. You don't need to be related to royalty or famous people, to find fascinating treasures of your own. The research satisfied a longing for "brain exercise" and the details that I uncovered were incredible. Year by year I uncovered more information even on lines that began dismally. Now in case you are thinking I have wandered off into literary la la land, I do have a point and I'm trying to get there!

"The Swamp House" - one of the houses I called home in Lake Stevens, Washington. Amazingly it is still standing. It was ancient even when I was a child. And guess what? My Daddy lived here as a little boy too! That window on the back right side was mine. I have vague memories of strawberries on the wall paper.

The point I was making, is that God may not send down billboards, but He can speak to us in surprising and often overlooked ways. Sometimes we need to be ready and willing to listen to what He has to say, instead of what we want to hear! Through genealogy, I began to see a pattern. No, I didn't see great wealth, royalty or fame, though I do come from a hardy, brave and pioneering stock. What I saw was a torch being passed from generation to generation. It was the torch of faith.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

One chorus I enjoy singing states that his "faithfulness reaches to the sky." (Mercy Me - How Great is Your Love) In a family torn apart by unfaithfulness, the proof of His faithfulness to me was overwhelming. Little by little, vital statistic by vital statistic, database by database, God was showing me that contrary to my beliefs, I was not alone in the world, in my lineage (which all those negative comments questioned) and though my earthly family was broken, I belonged to a much larger family. It was the beginning of healing.

It isn't easy for me to write about these things. Yes, I write openly on the blog to a point, but I have always been a very private person, an introvert who cautiously shares what won't cause further pain. Somehow God began stripping away layers and transformed me. Though I continued to struggle for equilibrium, I began to see the value in sharing my ideas and feelings with others - others who had fears and pains and scars, just like me.

Still, when you grow up emotionally chaotic, pieces of that past can show up anywhere unexpected and I find the healing is a continual "project" that the Lord is working on. Today I walk in a new life in so many ways, both metaphorically and physically. Spiritually and emotionally I try to keep a "clean house" - cleaner than my physical home. I want to avoid the construction debris from harming my marriage and my children's lives. The torch I want to pass on to them is not of dysfunction, but of faith in a Trustworthy God.

The thread that winds through all of my life has continued to be that search for home. I do not always think about it, but it pops up here and there. When Hubby and I were first married, we had no choice but to live in this old mobile home as his mother died and we were unable to sell it. It was always a "temporary" place to be and we hoped that "in a couple years" we would be in Washington again. 9.5 years later, we are still here. Off and on through this time I have struggled but tried to follow Paul's advice to "be content in all things" and Mary Engelbreit's to "bloom where you are planted." Intermittent success has been mine, but I still long to be elsewhere.

It's like Cinderella thinking. If only this or that. Would I finally feel whole and happy if I was married? Wouldn't I be happier if I had children? What if we had a little more money coming in? One by one those milestones were attained and the question still nagged - wouldn't we be happier in our own home? Oh, I know that I need to not be materialistic. (If you've seen my house - it would be difficult to call me that! lol) I want my heart to be in the right place without treasures that rust and fall away! But wouldn't it be nice if we were living where we *wanted* to live? What if we could have our own home? What if we could be where I could visit my family on a regular basis? What is so wrong with all these things? Surely God would not mind if we had them. Is it a sin to want a kitchen that I can cook in with my children? Or is it wrong to want to be able to breathe clean air?

No, nothing wrong. Nothing wrong, unless I withhold my joy and peace in life until I receive these things. Each step along the way there is a little letting going. Have you noticed this on your spiritual path too? There is a little letting go and then He gives you Ephesians 3:20 (more than you could imagine!). He is so patient! I know I must try Him so.

Only God can fully satisfy the hungry heart of man. Hugh Black

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Anyone can build an altar; it requires God to provide the flame. Anybody can build a house; we need the Lord for the creation of a home. John Henry Jowett

The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. John Burroughs

Back to the present - or the near past. Recently I spent 5 weeks in Washington. For some time now it has felt strange to go back to Bellingham, which I called home for nearly ten years and the Everett area which was home more than 20 and feel like a stranger. Yet when I return to California and feel misplaced, the sadness and the desires to leave deepen. Two years ago we explored Spokane for relocation possibilities. This year we explored the Olympic Peninsula. At first I felt displaced. My emotions were shut down. I did not want to have hope, only to be denied. I expectantly seek parole, but so far it has not been granted. I do not dare to hope. I am afraid to see what I think and feel because I do not want to influence my Husband falsely as he weighs over possibilities. I am afraid of not having a HOME. Do not tell me that God will not leave me homeless. Many of his children bear that title.

Ever so patiently though, God gave me an object lesson on this trip. I wanted to share the pictures earlier, but had to ruminate on my feelings first.

Spiritually I am learning to call God HOME.

To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; To seek him, the greatest adventure; To find him, the greatest human achievement. Raphael Simon

All that we have seen should teach us to trust the Creator for what we have not seen. Unknown

Emotionally, at least on the surface, I call my Hubby HOME. I have told him that I do not care if we were in a cardboard box (though I prefer otherwise), as long as we were together, I would be HOME. And I do mean that.

Percolating under the surface though, there is still a fear. Those who know God, know that fear does NOT come from Him! The fear is bound inextricably with grief. Years of grief tied in knots. Years of disappointment strangling out hope. Years of putting on a "happy face" and keeping a "positive attitude" could not strangle out the poison of this fear. The fear is that I will never have a HOME where I am fully safe and fully loved in spite of all that makes me, me.

Love is not blind - it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less. Julius Gordon

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

He loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us. St. Augustine

Today, I give that fear to Him. I choose to acknowledge it's existence. I choose to release it. I choose to walk onward in the path He has planned for me.

And God who gives beginnings gives the end; a place for broken things too broken to mend. John Masefield

There is no pit so deep that God's love isn't deeper still. Corrie ten Boom

Contentment is a byproduct of giving everything you have, are and ever will be to God and then allowing Him to give back everything except that which will enslave us, and then trusting His decision. Jay Carty

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

There is victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Well, I've written much on Grandma Hopkins here. And that is where He chose to speak to me. At her house. The loss of her house from our family was another grief for me. We would have liked to have bought it but the finances weren't there and it needed a lot of work. My Mother was born there. I have lived there, played there, learned there, grown there. I realize that in my heart of hearts it is the only physical place on earth that has ever truly been HOME to me. No wonder I grieved.

The kids and I were HOT and tired. We had just been to see my step Mom in a Snohomish nursing home, which is not easy with three little ones. We had stayed a different place each night, the last several days and we were having a hard time with the humidity. We were only two miles away and no amount of exhaustion or whining would have convinced the ache in my heart that I should not stop to see this place my heart called HOME.

I parked at the neighbor's, a family that had been there almost as long as ours, and walked down the road armed with my camera. I knew someone had purchased the house and land (almost 4 acres) and I have dreaded the idea of it being developed. Renters live there now and the extensive landscaping, some of which does not fit the period of the house, was overgrown and taking over. You can see, it is difficult to see the house.

This house was begun about 1930. I'm not sure how long Grandpa Alden Hopkins had the land before he married his high school sweetheart, Holly Tisdale on June 2, 1930, but I'm sure he'd eyed it for awhile. It was situated kitty corner across from where he grew up. There was a little "shack" on the property that they lived in when they were first married. When you are first married you will live anywhere, with little money, on love! lol

Disappointed, I walked as close as I could without being intrusive. As you can see it was difficult to see much. The rock in the foreground was dug up when Grandpa developed the land for building. It's a childhood landmark for many of us in the family. I have pictures of my Mom when she was about two - a blond haired waif - standing on the rock just looking smug and cute! It was a childhood milestone to be big enough to climb up on it. Originally it was situated a little differently, but some time during the 1980s somebody hit it in their car, which moved it. I'm not how they survived that one, although I think alcohol was involved.

As I began to leave, my disappointment growing, a young man followed me over to the van. I had seen him on a cell phone in the yard. Uh oh! I thought he was going to be mad, but instead he asked me if I was from the historical society! I explained who I was and he invited us over! You could have knocked me over with a feather. He told me to walk around and take pictures of anything I wanted.

Here is A, D and J in front of the old cedar stump that has been there "forever", probably from the original clearing of the land. To the right of it stood an ANCIENT maple tree, which the new owners cut down. I was sad to see the broad leaf maple, the source of hours of entertainment in climbing and jumping in leaves as big as dinner plates, go, but it was well over 100 years old and was diseased.

This looks small but is actually taller than I am.

Grandpa Alden was a building contractor/carpenter/chiropractor and a man of God. He studied at the University of Washington and made plans for this English style cottage himself. Grandma said they had always intended to build a bigger home on the hill.

That porch has been the scene of many family photo shoots through the years, including this one with my great Grandma, Winnifred Kirkland Tisdale and my Mom Ruth. The shingles were all cut by hand from old growth cedar on the property. Originally the roof was also cedar shaked, but I see the new owners have chosen a more modern and likely, safer, material. Here you can see the trim was originally white. During my lifetime, all the trim has been pink! Grandma loved anything PINK! Now it has a lovely creamy trim that coordinates well with the modern shingles which are of a warmer hue.

One of the things I was sad to see gone, was the large moss covered rock that would have been to the left here on the walk. Only a few of Grandma's original plantings are still there and the sidwalk has been redone. Deceptively this still looks like I am walking up to Grandma's porch. The old walk was broken and disrupted from years of settling, providing nice cracks and niches in which garter snakes hid. My Mom and Auntie M are both deathly afraid of snakes. So, you know what the cousins and I had to do? Go ahead of our mothers STOMPING hard on the walk to scare the snakes away! LOL They were big too!

This corner was the place that pink and blue forget-me-nots grew. This is the place I remember picking them with my brother Danny, who I will never forget! Continuing on, the path ran to the garden where raspberries and green beans and comfrey grew. To the left was the clothesline and the pond.

Grandma came home from school one day to find Grandpa digging this pond - it was heart shaped! Such a shame it has been left to overgrow like this.

Gazing out the kitchen window, Grandma and I would bake and look up to see that it was raining - by the disturbance of the water on the pond. Or sometimes we counted ducklings and watched red winged blackbirds. Occasionally we were delighted by great blue herons!

From the pond, looking back to the south side of the house. The window above the porch was Aunt Grace's room and also the room I lived in when I was there. It was the only finished room upstairs and afforded a lovely view of the pond and what used to be a country road, but now is a BUSY yuppy thoroughfare!

Much to my delight, I discovered the whereabouts of the old sidewalks! The concrete had breen broken and charmingly placed to make a path down to the pond. Likely some of the side rocks are some of the ones that Grandma had placed around her front flower bed. Many of them were found on trips with Uncle Paul Wolcott Hopkins in the logging truck.

The kitchen window where Grandma made bread and ground flour and observed her world.

This back door leads up the stairs and was never, in my life time, used on a regular basis. Humorously, I discovered that one of the pains I had broken when I moved in 1989 (stumbling down stairs backwards with heavy furniture) was still there on the inside.

This little corner always had a large bracken fern. Perhaps it is still there crowded out by the hostas and that stump. I'm not sure where the stump is from. Also, this paving is new. The driveway was always graveled and there was no sidewlk to the back. The open window goes to the "study" as Grandma called it. This room had the sofa bed where we all slept when visiting and lots of books. It has originally been part of the living room, but after Grandpa died when Mom was 16, it was made into a bedroom for her. Likely Uncle Philip Sedgewick Hopkins did the building.

In the foreground, before my times, there had been a gas pump here. The concrete is from the garage floor. It looked MUCH smaller than I remembered, so either not all of the garage had a floor or they removed some of it. Behind the garage and up the hill was a small barn where previously the cow had been kept and a chicken coop.

These fuchsia are remnants of Grandma's planting. They have been there in all of my memory. Tiny dancers - that's what they remind me of. They are not as showy as their "look at me" cousins with large, billowy blooms, but are quietly graceful and beautiful in the shade.

Grandma's little, round, white head sitting on the sofa in front of the window was a Lake Stevens landmark. There she sat for hours enjoying reading her Bible by "God's light". She also enjoyed looking at all the "shiny, new rigs" going by her home in the ever increasing traffic.

The white mulberry tree that Aunt Grace bought for her Daddy is still standing.

It was an amazing experience to drink it all in. Just when I thought my heart had drunk its fill, he invited us in! Oh my! This is where God pulled and tugged and prodded at my vulnerable heart. Just then I was two weeks away from my Hubby and missing him so and I felt that I could just not bear anything painful alone. And yet curiosity drew me in.

This photo is taken from Grandma's kitchenette/dining area. It was a closed wall before. My guess is that they wanted to take that wall out to open it up but it's a load bearing wall, so they put a "window" in it. These walls had been pink, so it seemed a little strange to see them creamy white!

As you enter the above area from the living room, this is on the right. I LOVE homes from this era and the way they used their space. The owner left Grandma's original aqua paint. Her second favorite color was aqua. Grandma had white and pink paper lace trim that was on the edge of her these shelves. All the placemats and table linens were kept in the drawers beneath and a small table sat just underneath those pictures, laden with a wooden nut bowl that was free for us to graze from.

I was so overwhelmed that I did not photograph the things I really wanted to and am kicking myself now! I forgot the rest of the kitchen! I can't believe it! It was so central to my memories of Grandma, how could I forget? It was all I could do not to cry as I stood in the kitchen and he poured the kids kool aid (their first). I was swimming in emotions, good, bad and indifferent all swirling around me.

Where the dishwasher is, Grandma's washing machine was. Prior to that, the wood cook stove had been there! And I was shocked to see the Philodendron. Grandma always had philodendrons and prayer plants. The top of her washing machine was filled with plants and starts of of babies from her maternity fern. If you wanted to use the washer, everything had to be removed. As you move through the arch, on the right, was a set of floor to ceiling shelves about 4" wide where Grandma put dried herbs, jars and miscellaneous things she used in the kitchen. Not a square inch was wasted in the planning. To the right of the pantry doors you see there in the distance, hung a chalk board where my cousin W and I would leave messages for Grandma when we visited. There Grandma made lists and notes for herself as she came and went from her garden. That door there is the same one that was seen looking back from the pond.

How delightful that they left the handmilled pine that Grandpa placed in the living room. The decorating was awkward and modern and out of place. My delight at this wonderful opportunity was interspersed with panicked pains of discomfort. This is where God began to work. The cubby on the right is a built in desk with book shelves on both sides. It's inaccesible with furniture placement and a screen. The mirror is still there though. Grandma used the mirror there and across from there on the wall where the window was cut through to the dining room, to lighten up the room but also to enlighten her world. She was always a keen observer and noticed things others neglected. On the left of the fire place are more built in shelves, cupboards and drawers. These are built into the space that would normally be lost by the eaves of the roof coming down... again the planning of these marvelous cottages amazes me.

And then I went into Grandma's bedroom. A room. And my heart went thud to my feet. A room. A house. Walls. Paint. Furniture. A building. This was not HOME. What made this HOME was Grandma. Grandma is now in the only true HOME we all will ever know - HEAVEN! This fact may seem so obvious to others, because certainly bricks and mortar do not make a home, only a heart can.

This is one of the lights in Grandma's room. I don't know how long it had been there. But it bears the green paint that was on the wall before Grandpa died and the pink that Grandma had during my life time!

In the hallway to Grandma's bedroom and the bathroom, this built in closet was opposite the china cupboard I showed you in an earlier picture. These are also the same fixtures that I knew in my life time. I don't know if they are the original or not.

The bathroom got a coat of cream paint and the pink toilet was removed but the other fixtures and formica remain. I think Uncle Philip did a nice job on the cabinetry too! Those were put in during the early 60s.

Can you see why I stumbled backwards breaking a pain with my elbow? These stairs were open to the eaves when I was little. They terrified me. I was scared that Grandpa's "ghost" (I didn't know better at the time) would get me or worse the head of his moose "Jasper" would lunge out at me! Secretly I both dreaded and adored being asked to go upstairs on errands for Grandma. There were fascinating things up there!

At the head of the stairs a bathroom was put in. I didn't see it, but they did a nice job on the other things, so I am sure it was nice. I was delighted by this scripture framed. I'm not sure if they were Christian or not. I saw some Christian art but also Asian idols. This Psalm was the theme of the family camp Grandma took me to in 1977 where I was saved! He wasn't going to take me upstairs, but decided to at the last minute. I'm glad he did, because I felt this was a gift from God to me - a connection, a reminder.

Coming into the living room from the other direction.

Thanksgiving 1992 in front of the same window.

The leaded glass which has always been there and I was delighted to see remained! Mom, do you know the story behind that? It must have been a big splurge during the depression era to buy that!

Looking into the kitchen from the living room. This is where there was a mirror on the wall. Grandma would sit in her chair and see us come up the walk in her mirror.

Back to the car. His wife came home and headed out of sight. I felt we overstayed and so we retreated. But, not without a few parting shots.

Moss on the big rock by the driveway.

I don't know where HOME will be this side of Heaven. I know it is with my Husband, whom I adore. This is the kitchen in a Karsten manufactured home that we found in Port Angeles. We didn't like the flooring, but loved the layout. I dreamed of all the bread and goodies we could bake here.

On the far side of the kitchen is room for a table for home education and a slider going outside - a window to dream out! It was fun to dream and plan and hope. But I do not know what the future holds. Now we are actively pursuing Washington teacher credentialing for Hubby. We would love to be in Port Angeles or Sequim. But we will continue to pray and ask God for direction. Sometimes the obvious path is not the appropriate one. It's cliche, but fitting:
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by -
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
D, Theresa, J, Ruth, A
3 Generations of Holly's Legacy
Whatever the future holds, however, He finishes my story, I hope my life will glorify Him in the process. I long for Him to draw me ever nearer, for Him to continue to cleanse me and heal me and use me. And most of all, I know that Grandma Hokins has passed that torch down to me. It's my turn to run. It's my turn to teach and create a home and be satisfied with Him in the midst of both great pain and tremendous joy! I choose to create HOME for my Husband and my children. And I choose Christ as the center of my home, so that the next generation, will have a foundation, a center, an adventure and courage to carry the torch onward! Thank you Jesus for placing me in the perfect family just right for me!
Tradition plays a very important role in giving family an identity. We know who we are because we know what we've done together, what we believe, and what we care about. Dr. James Dobson
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

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