5 Ways to Make a Short-term Stay Feel like HOME

adventure, children, Christian, Christian womanhood, Christian women, family, home, lifestyle, Motherhood, serendipity, traditions, Travel, Travel Home

While a lot of the world has been in quarantine, our family has been in the process of moving. We’re dragging a little, but we’re grateful. Our house sold, and we have friends who are willing to take on our loud and needy crew in the midst of a pandemic. As Motel sings in Fiddler on the Roof, “Miracle of miracles!”

Allegedly we’re on our way to live in the gorgeous Cotswolds of England for a few years. It feels a little fake, but I know once my feet hit the airport floor, babies and backpacks abounding, I’ll get that rush of excitement and work to own the whole thing. 

But for now it’s setting boundaries for the toddler plopped into a new, not-ours environment while subsequently saying no to the majority of her favorite things: the playground, playdates, play places. Say goodbye to all the play! Just kidding–now we find fallen branches for her to climb, and we enjoy running through the sprinkler. One of the most surprising challenges of the quarantine has been the heaviness of being unable to give my daughter her favorite things. Clearly this is a very small hardship, but a mama’s heart still feels the sting. A few things in particular have helped us adjust, and I thought I’d share.

Temporary Home(y)

1.Essential oil diffuser/candles—Familiar and inviting smells can help a place feel more like home. An essential oil diffuser is safer than candles when you have tiny ones in someone else’s home, ha! We also use a battery-operated flicker candle for nice ambiance without the aforementioned danger. Right now I’m enjoying uplifting citrus scents like lemon, grapefruit, and sweet orange in a clay diffuser that doesn’t need power.

2.Routine—We do not follow a strict schedule, but we generally have a daily pattern that includes naps and quiet times for the littles (and us, when we don’t need to work!), exercise, outdoor play, listening to familiar music, reading time, etc. This helps with a sense of normalcy for all of us. When there are new rules for children to learn in a new location, it’s nice to have a routine that helps them relax, since they know what is coming throughout the day.

3. Enjoy what is different about the new location—for us: sidewalks. Our last house was on a very busy road, so it’s nice to just walk out the door to sidewalks and take the kids for a stroll, waving at our temporary neighbors and looking for puppies, ducks, and birds. Our daughter’s beloved Daniel Tiger says about trips, “Find what’s different and what’s the same.” Here I am taking advice from a toddler show, but this is my life now, and that is a-okay. 

4. Family traditions—Since the dawn of our little family, that has meant DONUTS, sometimes weekly and sometimes monthly. They might be fancy local donuts from a Charleston shop or 50 cent donuts from Walmart, but we eat these delectable carbohydrates with strong americanos and eNjOy!

5. Chill When You Can–Let me be clear, while I love writing about exciting trips and thoughtful things of life, my adventure-loving self is now a mother of two very dependent tiny people, and I’m daily jonesing for some veg time.

The Big Picture

A short-term stay reminds me, a tired woman feeling a bit displaced, that all of my homes here on this earth are indeed temporary. I’m a sojourner, holding on to the hem of the Prince of Peace, like the woman with the issue of blood. I’m holding on to Him. What a relief to know He’s already holding on to me (John 10:28).

Waiting to Fly

adventure, authenticity, Christian, Christian womanhood, family, marriage, Uncategorized

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It’s the tension between living in monotony and living in adventure that really gets to me. As a mother of two little children, routine is life-giving, as are structure and boundaries. But as a (quieter) member of the adrenaline-junkie club, I long to travel, see, taste, smell, jump and run. I long to relax in the arms of a new place, to sit and know and be known by it–wind in my hair and all that jazz.

Technically we’re en route to England (to live there!)–headed to serene village life, so I’m told. My husband, a federal firefighter, accepted a job several months ago. It was an absolute dream come true! However, due to COVID-19, we’re currently living with a (very gracious) couple from our church here in South Carolina. Our sweet home sold a few weeks ago, and we’re essentially “stuck” here until further notice.  The adjustment period has been rough on my toddler and on my pride and emotions as a mama who is mothering in front of others nearly 24/7.

We were supposed to be leaving for England in a few days, but now even a potential leave date is foggy and seems fake. Some days it feels like we’re hopelessly waiting for our adventure to begin, but deep down I know the adventure begins right now, and it’s my perspective and attitude that will make all the difference. Andy Rooney said, “Everyone wants to live on the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” If that ain’t the truth.

And so I climb this mountain–the mountain of messes, laundry, and tantrums–in someone else’s beautiful home. I climb the mountain of low days and not liking how my body looks and figuring out how to stay close to my husband when all it feels like I do is ask him to please toss me the baby wipes.

Many, if not most, of us are concerned and dealing with disappointments right now. It’s been so much to process.  I’m learning to hold it all with care, with contentment, loosely. Saying goodbye to our beloved little home and moving in with friends during a pandemic was both more and less than what I wanted (which was to hop on a plane to the UK looking cool as is earthly possible with a toddler and baby in tow). But I am here–in lovely and wonky South Carolina. It sort of feels like we’re just awaiting our fate, but what it really is looks more like me leaning into my faith and learning to trust God more.

I won’t be hopping on that plane today, but today still matters, today can still be an adventure, and wherever I go His Spirit is with me. As the psalmist says,

If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:9-10

Our Rota de Las Flores Adventure

adventure, Beautiful, El Salvador, Travel

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I’m a big fan of understated beauty. Sure, loud and glossy can be fun, but quiet and natural beauty holds the most magic for me, especially when it has a few pops of colorful surprise. The Rota de Las Flores was the perfect adventure full of such magic. Our guide, a local college student referred to us by our Airbnb host, met my husband and me early in the morning at Casa Bonita in El Tunco where we’d spent the night. She hopped in our car, and we began the long drive toward the Rota de Las Flores. We packed lots of water and snacks, because that’s how we roll, and a road trip it was!

Our first stop was Nahuizalco, where flowers and colorful murals greeted us. Locals were setting up their market stands for the day amidst a background of bright walls and the still rising glow of the sun. Each pueblo along the Rota de Las Flores has a cute little town square park, and Nahuizalco was no exception with its large, open, and clean outdoor venue. Furnished with fountains and benches, locals sat and sold items or just conversed. We could smell the puposas cooking, and I couldn’t wait to try one!

To begin the tour, our guide directed us to a small museum where we learned about the history of the Spanish colonizing El Salvador through violence. Formerly living on the island of Guam where the stories were all too similar, learning such history was sad, and yet it encouraged to us appreciate the beautiful and strong people of El Salvador. After that we shopped the tourist shops, where we bought a few adorable dresses for our daughter and finally tried puposas from an outdoor stand. They were amazing, melt-in-your-mouth amazing. Our guide treated us to a favorite local drink, horchata, which has ground peanuts in it and offers a unique flavor and texture.

It was a bit cloudy that day, and the lighting cast a dramatic hue against the curving roads as we made it toward our next stop, Juayúa (our guide told us to drive through Salcoatitán). This town was full of fun backdrops for photos, so we took some! Admiring the church there, we asked permission and quietly took a few pictures inside and outside of the building. Moseying on over to a fruit stand, we tried a local fruit called jocotes, which sort of taste like mangos and are best when they’re closer to being red, rather than green.

In Apaneca we admired another beautiful Catholic church (there is one in every pueblo), and the cooler weather at the higher altitude was so pleasant. We particularly enjoyed the floral vines hanging over the walls in this quiet pueblo. You can see the coffee plantations in the distance, and they’re beautiful.

In Coceptión de Ataco we walked slowly and enjoyed the many mosaics on the streets. We also shopped at a well-known shop, Axul. I loved this place! It’s full of local arts and crafts, everything from jewelry to clothing, wall art, pottery, and skincare. You can even see the loom where they make the brightly colored fabric. We purchased several gifts for family members.

For lunch we went to El Jardin de Celeste, a childhood favorite of our guide. It was a beautiful open-air restaurant in the midst of gardens. There were so many thoughtful and fun details. The food was delicious, and the servers were very kind. We enjoyed walking in the flower gardens after we ate.

The highly-anticipated coffee “plantation” was actually a coffee bean processing plant, but we got to see the procedure for drying and roasting different types of beans. It’s a long process! We learned about the machinery (which, amazingly, was installed in the 1930s) as well as the quality control, which is eventually done by hand. They made us a pour-over with the coffee from the area.

The day ended with wild traffic on our trek back to our new hotel. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time due to evening traffic, especially if you’re staying in San Salvador like we were. It was crazy!

While the coffee processing plant was very interesting, the best local coffee we had in El Salvador was at the Cinco Hotel restaurant in San Salvador, where we collapsed after our adventure. If you visit, be sure to taste their chocolate as well. It’s natural and so unique. Try the kind they keep in the refrigerator, our favorite by far. Hey, there’s nothing like a little treat after an adventure, right? The Rota de Las Flores was a great excursion, allowing us to experience a slower pace, natural beauty, and some fun surprises in El Salvador.

*We opted out of journeying to see the Mayan ruins and waterfalls, but if you have more time than we did, check them out for us!

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Visiting Our Sponsor Child in El Salvador

adventure, Beautiful, Christian, Christian womanhood, El Salvador, marriage, Travel

 

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For seven years we’ve sponsored a (now) young woman named Briseida in El Salvador through Compassion International. If you’re not familiar with Compassion, it’s an organization that partners with local churches and families in communities all over the world, fighting poverty and equipping children with an education, skills, and savings accounts (to name a few things!), as well as giving them access to doctors and dentists. Most importantly, the mission is to offer the hope of a brighter future in the name of Jesus.

All these years Briseida has been writing us long letters and sending us drawings. A few years ago she asked us to come visit. I was pregnant at the time and the Zika virus was a threat, so we couldn’t go, but a few weeks ago, we did it! We went to see “our” sweet girl. Mountains of paperwork, along with much thought and financial resources went into this trip–from setting up our will to travel release forms for my parents to the U.S. Embassy website advising us to change our plans due to the general violence in the country. Yikes! We belabored, asked advice, prayed, and went.

Leaving Talitha was so hard, but the time Eric and I spent together (even the stressful and chaotic) was so beautiful and growth-filled for our marriage. I’ll save the touristy days for another post, but I’m so excited to share about our final day in the country, the day we met Brieseida, her mom, her brother, and all the lovely people at her “project” (the Compassion center).

For those wondering, the project is not an orphanage, it’s a huge facility where children come to learn the Bible, music, English, and various other skills like using the computer, cosmetology, chocolate-making, shoe-making, etc. From what I understood, there is a public education system in El Salvador, but it’s half-day, and the project allows the children to receive extra coaching, teaching, and preparation to succeed (along with medical aid).

We both had butterflies as we rode the bumpy and wild ride to get to the project. Such anticipation! Upon our arrival, we were met with children holding signs and waving flags, a few little girls dressed in traditional dresses. They cheered and I tried to take in this moment while somehow not wanting so much focus on us. Simultaneously looking for Briseida and trying to enjoy each of the children was a sweet little challenge. The host told us to follow her up a flight of stairs. Then we heard someone call out and turned around to see Briseida standing in front of us.

There she was, a good four inches taller than me, long dark hair and a bit shy. She grabbed my hand as I said, “Mucho gusto” and she repeated the sentiment then began whispering to me in Spanish. In that moment I so regretted how years ago I’d stopped practicing. I had to tell her (irony of ironies) in Spanish that I didn’t speak much Spanish. After a little welcome program and tour of her amazing project (which also employs Briseida’s mom!), we went to her home.

Walking into her home, we saw our framed picture, and my hands flew to my mouth. What a precious sight to see–so humbling and sweet. Sitting with the translator we talked and shared beautiful moments that will stay deep in my heart for as long as I live.

We later went out for pizza and Facetimed with Talitha (Briseida was sad she wasn’t there, since she considers Talitha her little sister). After lunch Briseida’s tutor showed us her file–so impressive the amount of detailed records they keep. Our girl is a star performer! After lunch it was back to the project for prayer and final hugs. Also tears–so many tears.

I think Eric would agree that besides days like our wedding day or Talitha’s birth, this day was one of the best days ever. Praise God for this good gift. We are just one small part of Briseida’s success. So many love her and we are humbled to parter alongside them. If you’re interested in sponsoring a child yourself, go here. Do you already sponsor one or a few? Be sure to write them! According to the tutors, it means a lot. Enjoy a few snapshots from this special day.

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fields of Salt Water and Oceans of Corn

adventure, Christian, Christian womanhood, Culture, family, Heritage, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Island life

An ocean of prairie grass billows and the wagon sways like a ship, heavy with hope. Those brave pioneers crossed miles and miles to claim a new land as their own, as their home. Ever since I was a little girl, their stories have drawn me in, but little did I know how they would define me. 
It is going on five years since I boarded that United plane bound for the Pacific island of Guam. I was a little girl, really, en route to my destiny, an adventure I could not resist. I did some teaching and some falling in love. Now I am married and this is my home. 
It hit me the day I got my driver’s license, the day my husband first teased me about my local accent, and the day I felt more comfortable chatting with local firefighter’s wives than military wives who were pining for Starbucks and Target. This, this quirky place infused with island, Asian, and military culture was home.
If you search for “Guam Scenery” on Pinterest, your eyes will feast on striking beaches, the bluest waves, and breathtaking cliff lines. And they are real! However, those, lovely as they are, do not make this place my home. I would bet that Pinterest will not show you my humble studio apt in the jungle. Yes, the jungle. It will not show you the crazy roosters and my neighbor shouting at the other neighbors who have an all-out rock concert at 1am.

 On vacation. Did I cry when I saw the cornfields? Yes. Yes, I did.

I have struggled with how to make this place my home. A lot of my prized possessions are in the States–in plastic totes my parents are gracious enough to keep. I have thrown away a lot of things along the way, just like my pioneers who braved the west. They threw over heavy chests and other heirlooms that carried too much weight. So have I. But they clutched the lighter items, the quilts, the china, and stored them in their homes of sod and timber. A semblance of their past married the reality of their future. And it was home.
The days I have compared Guam to the Mainland and all that I miss and what I want at my disposal, those have been miserable days. And the days I have pretended to not miss Indiana and just embrace island life with no looking back, those have been dishonest days.
Truth is, I have made this place my home because this place has changed me. The people changed me. I let them change me. In order for a place to be home, you must embrace both your past, your present, and the juxtaposition that it brings. Yes, I now have a twinge of an accent, I kiss those I meet (save military) on the cheek, and I love red rice. But I also still love my blue and white china I brought in my carry on, and anything else antique and English. Every Christmas I make my aunt’s cinnamon rolls. My bookshelf boasts some old Shakespeare books from my great grandpa. 
It is possible to have the ocean and miss cornfields. I know. But it is also possible to be thankful for both. I am a heartland girl turned island girl. And because I am choosing to embrace my past and my now, I can always be at home. For in the end, Jesus is with me, and He is my home.

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann


All photo credits (besides #1 already noted) belong to Eric and Audrey Ann Masur. Please do not copy unless given permission.

The Unadventure: Everyday Tasks with Eternal Perspective

adventure, encouragement, eternal perspective, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, island, Jesus, The Valley of Vision
“Teach me the happy art of attending to things 
temporal with mind intent on things eternal.”

The Valley of Vision

There are many wonders about island life. There are also many lies. There’s this one about how I lie on the beach all day sipping smoothies to a live reggae band, breeze in my hair and enticing novel in my hand. But I don’t. 


Perhaps once a month there will be a magical day like that, but most days are ordinary days, days much like anywhere else. I stand in grocery store lines and swerve to avoid hitting people in traffic. I feel too far from certain people I love.


I do laundry, make dinner for my husband, and sweep the floor. I yell at Sue (the dog) to stop barking at the poor cat who broke her leg and subsequently took Sue’s favorite shaded spot. And I open my arms wide, hoping to get some breeze. It can be so very hot. Shirts do not last me very long here. Just sayin’.

The island is great for adventure, from hiking, to snorkeling, to interacting with so many diverse cultures. I love it. However, it is not those activities that define my time here. It’s playing with my dog. It’s kissing my husband goodnight at the fire station and driving home alone. It’s laughing at the hilarious toddlers we teach in Sunday school who always think Eric is my dad.


There are days I have looked down into the sink and thought, what am I doing with my life?! And then God reminds me that living for Him involves the everyday things, the mundane things, the boring things.Sometimes those are the greatest mountains we can know.  



All these “little tasks” are ways to take care of my family and can be ways of showing Christ’s love and commitment.

Am I doing these things with joy, with love for Him and trust in Him? Sure, wild adventures are great, but it seems to me that what defines a person’s character is not what they do when the epic music is playing in the background, but what they do when it’s not. 

Those dishes matter. That laundry matters. They matter because the people using them matter. And while Jesus performed miracles for a few years, it seems that He spent most of His time on earth in His dad’s shop. Just remember that. 

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Photo Credit: Google (free) Images/allkyhoops.com