It’s not everyday that Hollywood happens to visit your church in Washington, DC. So we made sure we had front row seats when Mark Burnett, Award Winning Producer of The Apprentice, The Voice, Shark Tank, and our personal favorite, Survivor, came to National Community Church. He visited for the premier of his new series, A.D. The Bible Continues, which airs on NBC at 9pm eastern on the night of Easter Sunday. The first episode captivated our family from the theater seats where we usually sit on Sunday mornings. We have already set our DVR to record the series so we can be sure to not miss an episode, which will sit side by side with our Wednesday night recordings of Survivor. Pastor Mark Batterson has also shared his insight into the first episode as the new series launches, and you can here what he has to say on You Tube. So please join us and tune in!
Our family with Mark Burnett
This year, from our family to yours, we hope Easter Sunday will deliver something new and fresh in your life, whether it’s your first or fortieth Sunday celebrating the resurrection of our Risen Savior!
Happy Easter from the Shaikh’s
Makenna is celebrating at NCC’s Eggstravaganza with cotton candy in hand!
Janessa is celebrating with a little Easter Bunny face paint at NCC’s Eggstravaganza!
City pretties stood covered in white this winter after stealing our hearts away last fall. Sidewalks once woven with brown bricks lay packed beneath snowy trails shoveled by locals living in tidy row houses. Eager to join them, we put on our puffy-marshmallow-type coats and pants, then secured our hats, gloves and scarves in hopes the cold air couldn’t convince us to go back inside. We ventured out as Floridians disguised as Eskimos in search of something we scribbled on our calendar last summer: sledding!
Thankfully, we got to gather with a group of rebels to ride the snowy slope of the Capitol lawn after the powers that be made it strictly forbidden. Capitol Police patrolled the area that filled with winter festivities as we marched up the hill only to ride our saucers back down again time after time. Winter painted the perfect colorless canvass for us to view as the grey stone carved buildings blended in with the snowy-grey sky. And although circumstances and scenery made this experience memorable, we put more sledding dates on our calendar that were made even more memorable by sledding steeper slopes with faithful friends.
And while the calendar became cluttered with snow days, we found something in the snow that seemed more significant than sledding itself. We found a perspective that not only makes us view this city in a different light, but makes us view life in a different light as well. We might have found that perspective buried in the sand on a beach in Florida, but we certainly would not have found it buried in the snow had we stayed in Florida. Somewhere deep in the silence that only surfaces when a bustling city suddenly gets stilled by snow, we found that change is not only good, but necessary. Not just any kind of change, like vacationing somewhere new or trading in an old car for a new one, but significant change that moves us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or even physically closer to experiencing a deeper relationship with God.
In our case, God moved us in every way this winter, so much so that snow became the new sand. And along with that, faith added even more layers to our family’s foundation while trust took us to new heights, allowing us to see God at work in our lives, drawing us closer to Him. This winter we may not have seen footprints in the sand, but we certainly saw footprints in the snow, and that has been this winter’s best city pretty because it’s a trail we never would have walked had we not said yes to this Holy Spirit-led, significant change.
Makenna and Janessa sitting on the Capitol Lawn
for the sled-in to protest the decision to not allow kids to sled.
Happy New Year
Hello and Happy New Year, just a month late! While February finds us snowless in DC, our neighbors to the north in New York and Boston sing a different song. Meanwhile, I count my blessings each time I walk our dog in the brisk, wintry air.
I can confidently say, however, that the girls built one sizable snowman back in January during an early afternoon snow shower that fell like little pieces of cotton shaken from a white blanket of sky. As soon as we spotted snow from our sixth story apartment window, we quickly put down our pencils, took a break from homeschooling, and raced to the roof top terrace to roll, stack, and build our snowman one giant snowball at a time! I’m thankful we seized the opportunity, considering that might have been our only opportunity. Today’s weather will reach the low 50’s.
But even better than building a snowman, the girls got to spend quality time with a special man in their lives, their Papa. We are blessed to have such great grandparents who are able to take off from work to stay with the girls. My mom took care of them when Asif and I went to the London Olympics as Chaplains, so this time my dad came so Asif and I could attend a conference for the Association of Related Churches (www.arcchurches.com) in Birmingham, Alabama. While my dad, or Papa, was here, he helped the girls pen a new entry in our latest adventures to add to our DC Diaries. They spent a whole day sight-seeing, but their first stop was for breakfast at Ebenezer’s.
Then they took a cab over to The Bureau of Engraving and Printing at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where they took a tour to learn fun facts about our national paper currency. From there, they walked a short distance over to the Washington Monument where they got their tickets and rode an elevator to the top! This was quite a suitable adventure, considering that we have been studying the presidents this year. Visiting the memorial that honors our very first president, George Washington, was one thing that still remained on our list of things to do.
Papa then took the girls on another first time adventure! They saw their very first IMAX movie, The Hidden Universe in 3D at the National Air and Space Museum. Their adventure was so exciting that Janessa took that opportunity to take a nap, but Makenna thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie with Papa.
They concluded their trip with a couple other stops before walking home. And I can say that this surely was one visit with Papa they will never forget! It will be Nana’s turn for our next trip, when Asif and I serve together as Chaplains at the Pan Am Games in Toronto this July.
Since our arrival to Washington DC, I appreciate just how much this city is steeped in cultural diversity, especially after having moved from a coastal community like Tampa Bay. The richness of this melting pot enhances our experience as a family, giving us memories to last a lifetime. And now that Christmas comes upon us, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, realizing there are little details of diversity here and there that grab our attention even more. For instance, instead of getting wished a Merry Christmas, you might be more likely to hear Season’s Greetings.
There is no better place in Washington DC to hear these two words than at the U.S. Botanic Garden‘s Seasons Greetings Exhibit, running now through January 4, 2015. We kicked off our Christmas vacation by taking a little field trip to see both the exhibit as well the train display just this morning. Our senses exploded with the sweet smell of flowers as soon as we walked through the doors. Little replicas like the one you see here of the Capitol captured our attention, along with other iconic replicas of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and more. Then we toured the train exhibit featuring a series of railroads with trains weaving in and out of little replicas of famous lighthouses, establishments, and ships from different parts of our nation. It is not only a sight to see, but also something to add to your must-do list if you are in DC for this special time of Season’s Greetings.
Then, on the other hand, if you make your way over to the White House after having scheduled a tour in advance, you might be more likely to hear someone wish you a Happy Holiday. We were recently blessed with an opportunity to take a scheduled tour of the White House thanks to a friend we have made through National Community Church. That tour far exceeded anything we have done since moving here, and we feel so privileged to have had the honor to explore this key piece of property from our nation’s history. Given that we toured the White House during the Holiday season, we were also encouraged to take pictures, unlike any other time of the year, and post them to social media along with #WHHolidays (See Janessa and Makenna pictured here from the White House). I highly recommend scheduling a visit, as nearly 65,000 people will tour the White House during this holiday season alone.
And while the sights of Christmas are beautiful, the history is rich, and the cultural diversity abounds, there is still one more important element of diversity our family appreciates about the DC area. It’s not a place we can tour, and it does not come with its own special hashtag or holiday greeting, but it does come with its own special flavor. Our family has enjoyed embracing the food so important to Asif’s cultural heritage, which can be best experienced at Ravi Kabob House. If you have the opportunity to visit, I recommend ordering the Samosa Special, or if you visit on the weekend, ask for Haleem, then be sure to say shukriya, which means thank you.
So whether you are in DC to see the extravagant seasonal exhibits, to tour the White House, or to taste some amazing food, soak in the cultural diversity this city has to offer. But if you visit with our family, you will still be sure to get wished a Merry Christmas!
Another City Pretty
Some weeks have passed since my last post. In the little span of time, our household has seen both the down-side and the up-side of living in a northern climate. Beginning with sickness manifesting as a nasty virus, Janessa endured a high fever for an entire week before time began brightening with a snowy Wednesday morning when Makenna and Janessa marveled at large fluffy flakes falling outside our sixth floor apartment windows. It was a sight they might get sick of by the end of winter, but these two Clearwater-born-babies loved seeing snow over sand….for a few moments anyway. And although the snow was short-lived, it sparked within them an enthusiasm for all things winter. We kicked off our Thanksgiving holiday by making homemade Christmas tree ornaments in preparation for our own little private Christmas tree lighting ceremony held not at the Capitol, but in our living room with the Capitol in sight, surrounded by family after we finished our turkey dinner.
Prior to these weeks filled with sickness, snow and celebration, we visited a local park in Virginia per my request on my actual birthday. I would like to add this park to the top of my list of city pretties.
Bon Air Park in Arlington, Virginia boasts a beautiful rose garden that makes anyone who has a green thumb green with envy. For me, it in some ways rivals my memory of the beauty of Hyde Park in London, England in a cozy, quaint sort of way. It’s the perfect park to visit when celebrating a birthday, when proposing an engagement, or when engaging in a photo shoot. Plus, a trail runs alongside the park for bikers, runners, walkers or strollers, along with playgrounds and picnic areas for families or large groups.
Both Asif and I have memories of Bon Air Park, although Asif has more memories than I do given that both the park and Asif can claim Arlington, Virginia as home. From church picnics to flag football games, Asif’s memories far exceed mine. I simply remember visiting Bon Air Park with my sister in law, Asif, and our nieces an nephews nearly fifteen years ago. Just this week I felt privileged to have one of those nieces spend Thanksgiving with us in Washington, DC. It felt like coming full circle to see her play with my children while trimming the tree the same way I once played with her while traipsing through Bon Air’s rose bushes.
So whether you live in the DC area, or you’re planning a trip to the DC area, go ahead and add Bon Air Park to your agenda once the snow subsides and spring blossoms once again.
And in the meantime, I hope this winter finds you on the up-side of brighter days filled with snow, rather than on the down-side of darker days filled with sickness.
Nearly two weeks ago we slept, nestled in the cozy comfort of a log cabin at Skyland Resort, high in the Shenandoah Mountains. Instead of familiar city sirens ringing up and down H Street at all hours of the night, the only sound we could hear was the wind whipping past our cabin outside. I have to admit, it was a welcomed change. The mountain stood serenely in the moonlight, making the midnight hour somewhat magical. The higher elevation and quieter darkness just seemed other-worldly compared to the city life or even Florida beaches I have known. Part of me pictured little woodland creatures appearing from the edges of the pine tree line, gathering for a choral concert. Then another part of me realized I have been watching too many Disney princess movies! But no matter how noisy or silent the night, I just felt happy sleeping near my very own little princesses and beside Prince Charming himself.
After all, Asif and the girls surprised me by taking me on this little birthday retreat. And as we dined over a delicious meal of local Dickey Ridge roasted chicken at Skyland Resort’s dining hall, we calculated that this was our sixteenth year of celebrating birthdays together.
And even though we might have grown cold with temperatures bottoming out in the 20’s that night, we can confirm that love shared in the hot pursuit of a loving God does not grow cold.
In the morning we feasted on a hearty breakfast in the dining hall while admiring the hazy blue ridges of the Shenandoah Mountains before heading out on a little hike. It was just a birthday celebration to remember!
We love because He first loved us. -1 John 4:19
If you’re interested in visiting Skyland Resort, you’ll need to purchase a park pass for Shenandoah National Park at the park entrance before making your way up the mountain to the resort. Spend the night in a rustic 1930’s cabin or simply stay and gaze at the view over a meal in their dining hall. It certainly is a trip worth taking, especially if you are in the mood to take a break from urban or even coastal life. But if you’re thinking about going this year, you’ll need to act quickly as the Resort closes on November 29 for the winter and reopens in March 2015.
Running into Rudolph in Washington, DC
The festive fanfare that flooded the hearts of children fifty years ago when Rudolph first made his television debut must have rivaled the fanfare at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum on Thursday morning. After all, kicking off the Christmas season with the First-Day-of-Issue Stamp Dedication for Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Limited Edition Forever Stamps seemed to be just what Santa ordered. But that’s not all that Santa ordered! E-commerce has changed the way we shop, pushing the post office to peak at delivering 650 million packages and letters a day this holiday season. Not to mention, mail will be delivered seven days a week in some cities, including Christmas Day. Yikes! We the people are putting the Postal System, Rudolph, Santa, and all his many Elves to work this year. And although most of the statistics shared that morning seemed to make my head swim, I still had a great time.
Despite all the Fa-la-la-la-la that flooded my senses, I felt the anticipation of a very commercial yet meaningful Christmas season, thanks to the caroling elementary children and the life size Rudolph. Before leaving, we even purchased a book of our own Rudolph Forever Stamps to add some Christmas cheer to the top right corner of our envelopes this holiday season.
So as Christmas draws near, keep an eye out for Rudolph. But keep in mind you’re probably more likely to spot him stamped on the Christmas cards that make it into your mailbox, rather than pulling Santa’s sleigh.
Janessa and Makenna eagerly received their programs complete with a Rudolph Forever Stamp.
A Cure for a Common Condition
A dose of natural remedies like herbs or honey can soothe my sore throat, quiet my cough, even relieve my sour stomach. And with October hot on the heels of cold and flu season, I may end up scouring my medicine cabinet sooner than later. But just as I find myself fumbling through fall with handfuls of vitamin c in my pocket, I wonder how often I also fumble through life with handfuls of remedies for less-than-obvious ailments? After all, feeling plagued by symptoms such as loneliness, worry, complacency, or discouragement could cripple my health just as quickly as the cold and flu season can.
So how do I seek to cure these sometimes all-too-common conditions in order to bring about a change of heart?
- By seeking scripture. Just this week I felt inspired by Hannah’s prayer for a son in 1 Samuel.
- After seeking scripture, I feel inspired to pray. Some of my favorite prayer times take place when I’m outside walking my dog several times a day (that will probably change when winter rolls around).
- By grounding myself and investing in healthy relationships. Some of the best friendships I have are those that are mutual in nature.
- By giving of myself sacrificially every single day, in some way or another (serving as a homeschooling mom of two and being a homemaker tends to facilitate those opportunities).
- By exploring my God given talents and fanning my gifts into flame so I can live the way He created me to live.
- By seeing others thrive in their gifts and talents.
Just this past weekend, we as a family had the opportunity to hear Jamey Turner play the Glass Harp in Old Town, Alexandria. And even though Asif has been hearing him play for over twenty years, this weekend was the first time we heard the testimony of how Mr. Turner started playing the Glass Harp. He shared with us his beautifully inspiring story of how he began experimenting with the Glass Harp as a child after seeing his father do so at the dinner table while entertaining guests in their home. But it was not until much later, after years of practice, that the Holy Spirit inspired Mr. Turner with a vision of how he should play. Now Mr. Turner tours the world, playing the Glass Harp at spectacular venues because he yielded to the vision and talent God gave him.
So this fall, instead of reaching into my pocket for something I can come up with to cure my complacency, I want to reach up to God in surrender, knowing he not only changes my heart, but also sets me on the road to recovery where I’ll thrive. And I hope that, like Mr. Turner, my testimony will inspire others to do the same.
Our Family with Mr. Turner and his Glass Harp
“As [Hannah] was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. ‘Must you come here drunk?’ he demanded. ‘Throw away your wine!’
‘Oh no, sir!’ she replied. ‘I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.’
‘In that case,’ Eli said, ‘go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.’
‘Oh, thank you, sir!’ she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.”
-1 Samuel 1:12-18
Last Sunday we uprooted an overgrown cluster of vines and leaves encircling the tombstone bearing our family name. On the 18th anniversary of my father-in-law’s death, the least we could do was clear his gravesite at Columbia Gardens in Arlington, Virginia. The thirteen years we spent in Florida forced his memorial to fall into disrepair, but his memory still remains alive in the hearts of his family members today.
My mother-in-law often relives the night they first saw each other, as she tells the story of how they repeatedly glanced at one another from across the room at American University’s international student dance. They epitomized the American dream as together they started a new way of life in 1950’s America, far away from their distant homelands and different cultures.
Asif will often begin a statement with My Dad used to say… followed by a classic Indian accent to retell the ways his Pakistani father would express himself. But I’ve discovered that my favorite stories of my father in law’s memory are the jokes he used to tell. Asif can barely get through one of them without bursting into laughter.
So the week had both a somber and celebratory start at the same time, as we not only grieved his death, but also remembered his life.
Of course, facing the memory of a life puts the brevity our lives into perspective. This week in homeschooling we focused on the lives of two very famous men: William Shakespeare and George Washington. Reading the details of how their lives began made me realize just how ordinary and humble their stories started. They weren’t necessarily born wealthy, and they certainly weren’t born famous. But over the course of their lifetime, they lived their lives in such a way that moved them forward as men of greatness.
We also stopped by Mount Vernon to briefly show Makenna and Janessa where George Washington is buried. But whether the tombstone reads Shaikh or Shakespeare or Washington, every life one day comes to an end. I don’t strive for wealth or fame, and I don’t teach my daughters to do so either. But I do strive for greatness, and that is a legacy I hope my children will inherit. So one day when they relive my memory and clear the roots that grow around my grave, they will smile at the stories they have to share.
How are you living your life each day? What is it that you are striving for?
Whatever you do, do well.
For when you go to the grave,
there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.
When the the author of Ecclesiastes penned There is a time for everything, followed by a lovely list of adages, I doubt he ever dreamed of adding, ‘a time when Facebook defines a friendship status’ to ‘a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’
Friendship today sometimes seems too virtual for its own good.
Social media aside, our family recently took a trip to Homestead Farm to go apple picking with some new friends we’ve made since living in DC. Leaving behind the city streets we’ve quickly grown accustomed to, we walked along the orchard’s grassy path resembling orange groves and blueberry farms familiar to us in Florida. The girls ran ahead along a gravel road following a sign marked apples with an arrow pointed at rows and rows of trees labeled Fuji, Enterprise, and Pink Ladies. Disappearing among the trees’ leafy limbs, the girls slipped between tall trees in search of our friends.
Once inside the orchard, we set our basket on the ground to start our apple picking. We plucked, pulled, tasted, and took every apple deemed worthy of bringing home. The girls and their friends even found an apple they named friendship, as each one took a bite from a different side of the apple before bringing it to us like a treasure.
To not only hold friendship in your hands, but also in your heart, and to taste its sweetness, is a gift.
Recently, we went out of our way in search of a harvest. And while we started our adventure at the farm empty-handed, we returned home with both our hands and hearts filled with an abundance of both food and friendship. Then as we settled in at home later that same day, Asif made plans to hang out with a long time friend, while I spent the evening with that friend’s wife, son, and our daughters around our dining room table. And late in the evening, before we said goodnight, I sent some apples home with my long time friend, feeling both overwhelmed and thankful to partake in the harvest of friendship’s sweetness.
Sometimes we have to go out of our way, even beyond social media, to make new friends, while other times friends may show up at our door. Whatever kind of friendships you have today, whether virtual or tangible, I hope you get to treasure those friendships as a gift.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
The view from our sixth floor apartment window makes each colonial style row house appear as little doll houses a child chose to place in neat little lines along the city streets. And every once in a while a row of rooftops gets replaced by a cluster of treetops, creating a haphazard collection of roofs and trees.
Over the past month, this birds eye view of the Hill has appeared every time I open the blinds, without fail. Until yesterday.
I suddenly noticed something different when the usual landscape of rooftop, treetop seemed to have changed overnight. In the panoramic scene from our window, all the treetops grew tall and green. But yesterday, three trees boasted a brownish-orange! Fall seems to already be making its less-than-subtle appearance! So I glanced at my calendar to count the days since our arrival, and sure enough, we’ve been living on the Hill for one full month.
Now with summer starting to lose its grip on all things green, I thought I would post the links to a few pretties I have found, both in and out of the city, hoping you’ll find it helpful if you’re looking for something specific in the DC area that can only be discovered when walking away from the places where only tourists travel.
After looking over my list, visit my blog again soon, and I’m sure I’ll be posting about how it looks when fall shows off in an elaborate display of orange and yellow and red to paint a pretty picture that I get to simply call a window.
My very first list of City Pretties:
- For great coffee, a cozy atmosphere, and much more, check out Ebenezers Coffeehouse.
- Visit Capitol Hill Books, not only for its wide variety of books, but also for its quaint charm.
- Spring Mill Bread Company has the most delicious and amazing Apple Streusel Bread.
- The Postal Museum contains a complete collection of stamps and more.
- Ravi Kabob is our long time family favorite for Pakistani food.
- Roosevelt Island promises a family friendly walk through both nature and history.
- If you are at Lake Anna, stop by Anna Point Marina where you can feed their pet catfish.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Since living on Capitol Hill, I feel as though nostalgia knocks on our door nearly everyday, inviting us to take a walk. And as we stroll along the bumpy brick sidewalks made uneven by rows of trees and their roots, the sights and sounds remind me that DC is the city where we first fell in love.
We don’t even have to leave our sixth floor apartment to remember the place where Asif proposed. We can see from our window the Capitol Dome and its Statue of Freedom towering atop the buildings and trees like a beacon, reminding us of the night I said yes while sitting on the Capitol steps.
Nostalgia also took us for a walk through Old Town Alexandria last weekend when we took the girls out for ice cream one evening after dinner. It felt so familiar, but it also felt so far away as we walked around the quaint, historic city with so much history of our own. We stopped by Ben and Jerry’s for old time’s sake, but we hope to take the girls to try some new places, such as Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Company on our next visit.
The nostalgia of this place certainly is teaching me that it’s good to rekindle the romance in our relationship by going out on dates or attending marriage conferences, but I cannot help but wonder if the best way to rekindle the romance is by revisiting the city where you first fell in love. There is something about the memory of first falling in love that sparks a longing to fall in love all over again.
So when nostalgia knocks on our door again tomorrow, you can be sure I’ll accept the invitation to take a walk once again.
Driving north on 95 three weeks ago felt so familiar as I held tightly to the steering wheel with one hand while sipping from a cup called deja vu with the other. After all, I made the same exact trip just weeks before to go apartment hunting with Asif. Part of me felt so present (I drove the Honda, carefully watching the road and keeping a close distance behind Asif as he drove the Suburban). But another part of me felt so distant, always checking my rear view mirror along the stretch of highway leading us from one home to the next.
Tall southern pines graced our travel with branches offering the brief benediction, Ya’ll Come Back Soon before heartier, green, leafy trees welcomed us further north. And as I counted the cost of this move, not only in my head, but also in my heart, I did not count our car among the others making their way home from a sunny, sandy beach vacation. Instead, I counted our family as a pack of trailblazers who might have blazed a trail in Tampa Bay, but who also might have simply set the existing trail ablaze.
Now, three weeks later, boxes no longer lounge in our apartment like unwanted guests. Everything is unpacked and put away. Hopefully my silence has not led you to believe that we were swallowed up by the city. Instead, we’ve been guided by God’s sovereign hand. Aside from settling in, we’ve been busy getting connected to our new church home. We’ve been exploring the city. We’ve been walking our dog who has not weathered the move nearly as well as the kids have. We’ve been to the lake. We’ve been homeschooling. We’ve been visiting with family and long time friends. We’ve been doing well.
The Lord has even given us ministry opportunities. I have met a young mother who speaks only Spanish, and no English. So I am currently teaching her to say, I hope you have a good day, and she’s catching on quickly. We also made friends with a family that’s hurting. God clearly put us in their path to walk beside them through a difficult time.
So I hope that moving forward, you’ll join us on our adventures through these DC Diaries. And now that we feel more settled from this big move, I hope to write more regularly. This weekend we’ll be attending our first resident social that our apartment hosts monthly before dodging the H Street NE Festival to head to Lake Anna. And Sunday we plan to attend a church picnic. Somewhere in between 2 and 6pm on Saturday or Sunday (or maybe both) you’ll find us at Starbucks for their BOGO PSL event!
There have been a few times in which some people have point blank asked me, What are your thoughts about moving to Captiol Hill, to which I have replied very simply, I’m excited! But if I could give a deeper response, you know, the kind that requires a coffee-date-kind-of-answer then I would say…
The Lord has given me a little picture to express what I am feeling. After all, I am a visual-kind-of-person. I like word pictures. So I had this vision I believe the Lord gave me regarding the past ten years of my life. Here it goes.
I was sent out on a journey, alone, to a mission field. Only, not just a figurative field, but also to a literal field. I could see myself working the land. Running the soil through my fingers, massaging the dirt, preparing to plant. The field seemed so large, the sun felt so hot, and at times, the rain poured down so hard that I could not see my hands as they disappeared into an overly saturated soil. I worked, day in and day out, tending the field to which I had been assigned. Some days I was completely alone, while other days, a helper would appear, eager to dig beside me. Then, as time passed by, lush, green leaves began to sprout and grow until eventually a crop appeared. So I harvested. I reaped what I had so diligently sown until one day not so long ago, I came to a place in the field where the soil stopped and a forrest began. And I realized my work was done. I stood at the top of a hill, on the edge of a forrest, looking down at the field I had been tending for ten years. My back felt broken. My body ached. But greater than the two of these combined was the sense of satisfaction of a job well done, a mission completed. Then someone called to me, a farmer perhaps, telling me supper was ready, and it was time. Time to come back to the farm house and dine with the other farmers who have been working their own fields. It was time to let the calluses heal and let my pains feel soothed. It was time to come off the mission field and back to the church.
So, here I am. I have labored in the mission field God called me to, working diligently for a decade. Now I am ready to come in to dine and celebrate that the harvest has come and my work is finished, to sit long and listen to the stories of others like me who have labored, and to love.
If you ask me what my thoughts are about moving to Captiol Hill, I may just say I’m excited. But if you invite me to coffee, I may tell you another story…
Life is a Revision Process
Life is a revision process. We write our stories with a strong voice and a steady hand, sharing plot summaries portraying solid plans and lofty goals. We invite friends to examine our characters and setting, our rising action and falling action, our climax and our resolution. And they usually respond with an invitation for us to view theirs in return. Once we challenge each other to dot every i and cross every t, we take yet another glance, only to cross out some places before starting over in others.
That’s pretty much where we find our family today. Our life takes on a new chapter of a new story and already we are making revisions.
I thought we had a successful house hunt in DC last weekend. We felt pretty pleased with the apartment choice we had made, thinking the more-than-comfortable (ah hem) luxury accommodations would help us ease into the transition of starting our new life in the city. Like chameleons we can certainly see ourselves blending in with the background, quickly changing from Floridians to Washingtonians this fall. Still, it’s hard to believe that I could just flip back a few mere pages in our story to this past spring when we booked a modeling job meanwhile admiring the colorful row houses in Key West, and how this summer we’re making plans on the next few pages to admire the colonial row houses on Capitol Hill. It is definitely more than I could ask or imagine, but isn’t that just the kind of story God wants to write for each of our lives?
I know I’m living out God’s story for my life when my life story reads more like fiction than just a mere biography.
The setting I enjoyed the most in the story we started writing on the streets of Washington DC last weekend was the walk along the sidewalks hedging in the colonial style row houses on Capitol Hill, on our way to Eastern Market. Browsing through booth after booth of farm fresh food, colorful flowers, seafood, meats, and cheeses, I knew I would have no trouble calling this area home…
But after spending our married life living one year in the DC area, six years living in the Clearwater/St. Pete area, and seven years in Tampa, we in no way feel as though our life story is backtracking just because we’re returning home. Instead, we see the beginning of our marriage as a foreshadowing of a turn of events that would eventually bring our story full circle.
Life is a revision process.
In the time that we’ve returned to Tampa to continue moving forward with the sale of our house, we learned that the apartment we chose as our first pick has now fallen through the cracks. It’s been crossed out. It’s been erased. Now enters a new setting with a different apartment location to call home, a different move-in date, a whole different feel, and probably different characters. But that’s okay, we’ll just keep on writing!
Are there revisions to your story that God may be asking you to make today?
Some fun photos from Eastern Market
Turtlenecks in July
It’s the end of July and my two little beach babies, both born in Clearwater and raised in sunny Florida, are already talking turtlenecks! I cannot let my mind wander that far into fall just yet, as much as I may wish to. Lots of little logistics lay piled up on my plate. And as tempted as I feel to say, No thanks I’ll pass, I politely smile before digging in. It’s the same kind of feeling you have when you’re so thrilled you’ve been invited to a dinner party, but you can’t wait to get through the less-than-desirable-five-course-meal just so you can taste the dessert! So while your appetite keeps asking for something sweet, your mind insists on going through the motions. And that, my friends, is just what I feel like I have been doing.
Thankfully, I have not been doing it alone. Of course my wonderful husband and children have stepped up and together we have learned a new meaning to working as a team to get the job done. Meanwhile, my sister took off from work to take care of our girls while we house hunt. Emily shared with me about an opportunity to participate in a yard sale someone in her home fellowship was hosting. Jenny pointed us in the right direction for important things such as housing on H Street in DC, as well as ballet studios for Makenna in MD, DC, and VA. Jenny also gave me the contact information for moms who could help me connect with other homeschooling families which I’ve yet had time to do. Donna and Michelle generously donated homeschooling curriculum for this next school year since the girls will no longer attend Florida Virtual. And Kerri pointed me toward an A Beka display so I could order the last little bit of homeschooling curriculum we needed at a discounted price.
Thankfully, things seem to be shaping up. Family and friends are supportive, financial supporters are committed to catapulting us into this new realm of ministry called church planting, and we have a contract on our house. Now, we are preparing to take the trek north via I-95 to continue our quest for settling in to our new community on Capitol Hill. In the meantime, I’m making sure I remember my priorities, not at a dinner party, but at lots of little so called packing parties where the hot topic of conversation is our future winter wardrobe. And as I sift through our stuff so that we can downsize, I am mindful to not only pack what I love and love what I pack, but also to take time to love the people I’m packing with, turtlenecks and all.
Let the Adventure Begin!
Four things from childhood hold a special place in my heart, and yet now remain distant in my daily life. They are, in no particular order, winter, spring, summer, and fall. When we moved to Florida thirteen years ago to start a new life and family, the four seasons were quickly replaced by the four reasons most people move to Florida; beaches, palm trees, balmy winter weather, and an overall laid back, tropical lifestyle. We were by all means no exception, trading our snow shovels in for sand shovels, our dollar bills in for sand dollars. In fact, we quickly made our way to the coast every chance we got. Watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico like a giant copper penny disappearing into an enormous blue bank became a regular past time for us.
But for the next twelve months, instead of watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico on occasion, we will be watching our Nation’s Capitol sleep under a blanket of snow. Yes, we are moving our family to Capitol Hill effective almost immediately! My husband, Asif will serve as the CPR (Church Planter in Residence) at National Community Church under Lead Pastor and long time friend, Mark Batterson. Asif will soak in all-things-church-planting-related while still maintaining his Olympic Chaplaincy, as I soak in the sights and sounds of DC with our two daughters, Makenna and Janessa. My desire is for our family to grow and thrive in this community of old-mixed-with-new. We will surely treasure the friendships from our past, and look forward to making new friendships as a means of truly knowing others and truly being known. I will continue our homeschooling adventure while incorporating the Smithsonian Museums into our daily lessons, in addition to getting connected at NCC.
Our northern exposure will probably not compare to that of my childhood spent in State College, Pennsylvania with fond fall memories of visiting the fruit farm, or winter memories of witnessing snow while sitting on a saddled horse, but it will in fact provide a whole new season of experiences, city style. I’m sure like all major transitions, we will have our share of ups and downs, but as I tell my children, life is an adventure, meant to be lived! Special thanks to the MANY supporters who have helped us to return to some of my fondest childhood memories, the four seasons, as we journey on a new ministry adventure. Through it all, I cannot help but remember how the author of Ecclesiastes writes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
Cheers to a new season!