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

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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On Writing & Being My Worst Enemy

Christian womanhood, Dreams, Hope, writing

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Write? Wrong. Nope, I want to sit on this very couch and watch an episode of The Middle I’ve seen seventeen times and eat an ice cream bar. In peace. By myself. And yet, here I am writing. Why? I’ve been told that the discipline of writing is key; you can’t be a writer unless you write, and you must give time and tears to such a dream. Obviously, but I’m still growling about it.

I have these moments when I become a snarky, cynical Hulk. Like Bruce Banner, I’m going about my day just minding my own business, feeling mostly happy (and always analytical), when suddenly I think about my writing future: There is no point. Everything has been written; only my friends read this. WHY AM I DOING THIS?! I turn a garish hue and grow some ginormous metaphorical muscles, and the monster emerges. Forget being an Eeyore. I’m not just sad that this field is saturated; I’m MAD. And I’m quick to tear down any progress I’ve made as not enough, as terrible, as meaningless.

If you’re someone who overthinks things like I do, you should know that in certain scenarios, particularly ones involving safety, you can be helpful and use your preventative measures for good. In other scenarios, however, you can be an absolute dream crusher (and not the positive version of “crushin’ it” used by the cool kids).

You become your own worst enemy, and just like the Hulk, you don’t even know it. You rip up your work and then you wonder what the heck happened and why you’re not progressing. This is not hopeful, and it is certainly not helpful. Much of our practice may be thrown away eventually, but we should not disrespect the process of working at it again and again and again.

What’s helped me is to focus on what I can do today, ideal or not. Whether it’s thirty minutes of writing, ten minutes of brainstorming, or a bit of online networking, I focus on what I can accomplish before bedtime. While it is wise to “Begin with the end in mind” (Stephen Covey), it’s also important to do something, even if it’s small, and then continue to organize, plan, and dream along the way. 

We may not be able to fully envision the end result of our dream, let alone how to get there. But if we give our craft a bit of daily love, we’re sure to be a step closer. What’s one thing you can do today? Blessings, friends!

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Small House Big Door

bilingual, Christian womanhood, church, family, Gospel, hosting, lifestyle, traditions, Travel, Travel Home

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My husband and I live in an 810 square foot home. On Guam we lived in a 250 square foot studio apartment. Yes, you read that correctly. We basically did the island thing in a sardine can with a tile floor and windows. It’s a miracle we did not smother to death. Only kidding. As I was thinking about home decor and my notions about what to have and not to have in the home, I thought it would be apropos to start with our philosophy of the home in general. Now, this is what’s currently working for us, with only one child, and we are all about visiting our friends/family with large houses and will one day most likely upsize (bring on some glorious space, a-men).

For now, we love being as debt-free as possible. We believe in living beneath our means and have found that doing so actually opens up life’s possibilities quite a bit, whether that means extra travel, being able to help others, or save for that ever-impending rainy day. Our two biggest challenges have been storage and hosting–well, other than the top challenge which has been to stop apologizing for our home or making fun of it in a way that appears self-deprecating but is really prideful, because we want people to know that we could have a larger house, blah blah blah.

Storage: Eric built some storage units, we utilize our attic, and we don’t buy very much stuff.

Hosting: We have most events during decent weather outdoors (cue giant table in our yard, a campfire, and twinkle lights). OR we comfort ourselves with the notion that most people on the planet have homes smaller than ours, so it’s okay to ask people to get cozy.

We want our home to be a welcoming place of peace–a refuge where guests can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. We want our home to be stimulating with interesting artwork, books, and conversation. We want our home to have tasty treats where our guests won’t feel hungry for anything except the Lord, if they don’t know Him. A few weeks ago I was looking for a hashtag (which I barely use) to describe this concept, and I found #smallhousebigdoor. Apparently it’s some building unit in Korea, but I still like it for our home–it’s a small place, but we hope to bless many.

Here’s to happy homemaking, whatever that looks like for you!

Keep the Faith,

Audrey Ann

Miss

Christian womanhood, family, Gospel, Guam, Travel, Travel Home

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It happens nearly every night as I lay my head on the pillow. Images of our Guam kiddos, images of our sweet boonie dog, and thoughts of what if we never see them again fill my mind. I fight them: No, let me sleep.

Sometimes Eric and I talk of what we miss about Guam. We crank out our accents, and he mocks mine like always. This missing, I see it in the quiet grief in his eyes, in the pained smile when people say (with eyebrows raised), “Guam–for twelve years?!” This and that and most everything we miss about our darling Mariana island. If it is not on our lips, it is a thought lingering. But we must be careful.

In all this missing, may we not miss the beauty around us.

When missing my sweet toddlers, may I not miss the little children at my new church. When missing the Pacific, may I not miss the Atlantic and the lovely homes that make Charleston such a gem. When missing the feeling of home, may I not miss the ever stronger sense that Jesus, that Jesus and Eric are my home.

Missing is only profitable if it encourages me to take in today, to love those I meet today—even if they can’t speak Tagalog, even if they don’t know about Haputo beach or what the word ‘chod’ means.

I am learning new things here—about God, His Word, about the history of Charleston. The culture is rich, full of rustic European beauty, as well as heaviness from the evils of the former slave trade. We talk at church about how to all come together, no matter our amounts of melanin, no matter our backgrounds. Pride and prejudice may have made a good title for a book, but it does not make a good reality.

Wherever you are, do not miss what is going on around you. For if you love Jesus, your purpose is the same, your joy is in Him, and your hope is never-ending. Reminiscing about a former season of your life is good and natural, but still breathe in today. Notice the gifts of today. They may look different, but they are there.

We will not miss the beauty, even in the missing.

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.

Brave[ry]

Bravery, Christian womanhood, Christianity, Work

Bravery.  It can look different every time. The word brings images of everything from a soldier jumping out of a plane, a little girl singing her first solo at church, or a man confessing his affair to his wife. 
“He who is brave is free” said Seneca. To be brave is not to be without fear, but to allow that which is more important to break the chains of fear. You may still fall flat on your face, but the point is that you are not bound by those chains.

I remember a similar sentiment mentioned in Disney’s Princess Diaries, based on Meg Cabot’s novel. How I resonated with the awkward, opinionated Mia. In a letter from her deceased father, he inspired her to take courage, not because her fears were not a reality, but because her courage was a better one. 

We have all had a lot of fears, haven’t we? Thoughts of what people think of us, looking like a fool, being a “failure” wrap those chains of fear around us. Goodness, I have been scared of bringing a birthday cake to Eric’s work, because I didn’t know if they would like it and then think I was a bad baker. Ridiculous. I have been scared of taking dancing lessons, of submitting articles for publication, of opening up my heart to others.

It is always a question of importance. Is my fear more important then trying? Rarely. Have I looked silly in my dance classes? You better believe it. Ha! But I would have been even sillier not to try. Once you get past that fear of failure, you can truly be as ol’ Seneca said, free

Jesus is all about us being free, being free in Him to go and do in His Name and with a passion always for Him. We can be brave, because we know that if we are seeking to honor Him, He’ll be right there. It’s the reason for the risk that matters. And that will keep us going, even when the thrill has worn off. Are we jumping for an adrenaline rush, or for a purpose? Yes, sometimes the mountain just needs to be climbed, but you had better have a fairly concrete reason why on day 278, when it is getting so difficult and monotonous. 
The first step is about bravery. The next steps are always about discipline. So in this new year, let’s attempt to grow in both. It can be a beautiful thing. 
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

Image credit: google images/goodmenproject.com

New Year’s…Remembrances

Christian womanhood, Christian women, Christianity, church, God, Gospel, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, New Year, Remember, writing

It is a tradition among some to write New Year’s resolutions, which involves writing your goals and hopes for the next year. Maybe this helps some people–I’m sure it does. However, I have not been one of those people.  Perhaps my goals were too broad, too big, or just plain dumb. Other than the good exercise of writing down goals, New Year’s resolutions sort of depressed me. I liked the idea of them, but it seemed like they were just paper, pencil, and lofty goals…lofty goals I was likely not to achieve. They were time capsules of disappointment.

Several years ago, someone challenged me to, instead of merely writing resolutions, write a list of all the things I had accomplished that year and some of the things God had helped me learn. It was one of the most encouraging things I have ever done.
Now, I am not a drunk-on-self-love type. I find all of that rather annoying and unbiblical. However, it is clear that God wants us to remember what He has done in us, and when we only focus on what we want to do or who we want to be in the future, we may miss what He has already done, and who He is already helping us to be right now.
In Joshua 4 God told his people to build a memorial to remind them what He had done and to be a remembrance for their children.
“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24)
So try it. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Find a piece of paper, a piece of quiet, and remember. Write things you’ve accomplished, learned, and experienced. I bet you’ll be surprised. Chat with your family about the Lord’s grace and provision for the great and the small this year of 2014. 
And a Happy New Year to you!
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
image credit: 1. google images/answerhub.com
 2. google images/mobilemarketingwatch.com

Multicultural Manners: The Art of Kindness on Guam

Christian, Christian womanhood, etiquette, Guam, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, island, kindness, manners

When I was a teenager, I came across a 1st edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette. Being a lover of old books, I glanced through it and was overwhelmed with all the details and rules about how to conduct oneself in society, how to set a table, how to do nearly everything, it seemed. 


Several years later my interest in the subject grew, and I was encouraged by a dear friend who is a certified Protocol and Etiquette consultant (you should visit her fabulous blog). I bought books and did research on all things “Protocol and Etiquette.” To my delight, I learned that etiquette is not merely about how to set a gorgeous table, but how to respect others and offer them kindness with everyday interactions.


On Guam there are many cultural differences, but kindness is universal. We all desire it, and we all have the potential to give it, if we make some effort. When I first came to Guam (about four years ago), I was excited to learn about new people and customs, but I was also afraid. 


It seemed so easy to offend others, if I did not know their traditions. However, since I was a teacher, I was reminded through the interaction with my students that we all desire the same thing, no matter our culture or ethnicity: we all desire kindness.

Friends need not share the same culture, as long as they share a similar kindness.



Sometimes we read the news and feel baffled by all the negative events that are taking place in the world right now. But we should not forget that we, too, influence this world. Let’s influence it for good. Whether it’s holding the door, putting down your cellphone for a conversation, or smiling at a passing stranger, we can all help our island (and our world) be a kinder, well-mannered place.


However, how can you do this is in a multicultural setting? How do you have “good manners” when different social norms dictate different practices? While it would take many years to grasp all the nuances of the various cultures on Guam, there are certain manners than can transcend cultural boundaries, and help our island be an even lovelier place than it already is. It’s a fun challenge! The love of God extends throughout culture and color. Therefore, so should our kindness and awareness.


Manners matter because people matter. Although I have made (and will continue to make) mistakes with regard to manners, the goal is to keep learning and spreading kindness along the way. Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness to the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

image credit: retroette.com