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

Bringing Home the World: AKA Being a Pirate

Beautiful, family, home, Travel, Travel Home

I mentioned our home is small, but did I mention that it’s peppered with treasures? As a little girl, I went through this stage where I loved playing pirates with my brothers. Knowing some of the history along with the romance of pirate stories, I assured my dad that I was a “good pirate.” He informed me in his wonderful, black-and-white way that there was no such thing as a “good pirate,” for by definition, pirates were thieves and scoundrels. (People wonder why I am inclined to, in the end, value fact over feeling every single time.) However, traversing the seas and gathering a bit of plunder still appeals to me, as does cherishing truth, and my home is an expression of that little girl make-believe.

Do not read that to mean that we have piles of clunky junk. Our house is not a tiny museum; it’s our home with just a few little treasures here and there–some permanently line the walls and some we pull out on special occasions. I prefer not to have a particular place to display of them together, but to have them scattered naturally about the house. In my mind, they don’t need a designated area, because they are not a fragmented part marked “our travels.” Instead, they are representative threads of the tapestry of our lives.

I shop at Walmart and Goodwill like it’s my job and squirrel away a good percentage of the paycheck, but there are times we will purchase a special piece that reminds us of a sweet (or difficult) time in our life. There can be a strategic element to whimsy: save a lot, splurge a little. Make your home a reflection of your family and the unique life only you have lived.

Prefer to stay at home rather than travel? That is just fine. What is your area like? What kind of things represent it? I was born and raised in Indiana, and on my front porch here in South Carolina sits a bench made by my sweet dad from trees in the woods behind their house. How special is that?! Does your area lack art galleries or even artisan markets (or maybe that’s not currently in the budget)? Press indigenous flowers, gather rocks, or peruse a local antique shop in search of old photos or small art pieces that show off the place you call home. Even things like old tools and aprons can be transformed into lovely conversation pieces. And how fun is it that only you have such a piece?

Oh, and are a few of my treasures contraband from my favorite beaches? Well, you never can tell. Here I go again, trying to be a “good pirate.” Aaaarrrrgggghhhh. Please let me know what treasures you find and create.

Here are some snapshots of just a few of our pieces. More to come!

Left: Sea glass and sea treasures from the Pacific (mainly Guam and then Hawaii) and a basket I wove from a palm branch (with a lot of help from a Chamorro lady)

Right: Pressed flowers from Africa (given by an old friend)

Left: Magnets on the fridge from all our travels with a piece of drift wood in the windowsill

Right: Coasters from Cambodia and Guam

Left: Rug from downtown Charleston (originally from Istanbul). Ironwork piece from a Charleston antique shop–perhaps made by renowned Philip Simmons

Right: Mosaic–a commission piece from a local artist on Guam. Wooden bowl from Haiti

 

Happy treasure-hunting!

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

Savannah, Georgia

Beautiful, family, Travel

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Savannah. Even its name evokes feelings of warmth, ease, and a southern drawl. One of my dearest friends from college lived near Savannah, and with her being one of the most darling people on earth, I always new I had to see this lovely city. Known for being one of the only Southern cities spared from devastating fire during the Civil War, it oozes with brilliant architecture and manicured parks. It is a carefully laid out city, one of the first of its kind.

How do I know this? Well, we saved $70 by reading the history of the city off of my phone in our car, rather than doing a touristy historical excursion. Lame? Maybe, but when it’s hot and you have a baby, you will do what you can to linger a bit longer in the air conditioning.

During our trip, I had a few coffee joints on our list that we needed to try. Foxy Loxy Cafe was our first stop, and while they do offer fabulous coffee, I opted for an iced coconut milk matcha, and it was divine. Took me back to Guam for a red hot minute. Our second morning we tried out Savannah Coffee Roasters and were not disappointed. The big windows, open seating along with a delicious almond milk dirty chai and my two loves was a sweet way to begin the day. We went to The Coffee Fox that afternoon. It was fun, eclectic, in a good location, but was a bit crowded compared to the other two. Between all the coffee was gorgeous architecture (including St. John’s Cathedral), beautiful parks, and charming boutiques.

It was a serendipity to find Chocolat, a stunning little chocolate shop with an Alice in Wonderland vibe and the best chocolate and customer service.  Oh, and if you ever visit Savannah, you must experience the The Paris Market. It is full of beautiful things and even a little coffee shop (which we did not frequent, believe it or not). Random, but it also houses the most beautiful basement you’ve ever seen. I would live down there.

This being our first trip away from home with the baby, I was both nervous and determined (with echoes of “The earlier you travel with them the better” from military wives in my head). While you do have to bring quite a bit extra with a baby, there are a few items that we have found make the trip more feasible and hopefully comfortable for the little one. Chicco Lullago Travel Bassinet is such a great little bassinet, because it sets up and tears down very easily, while providing a comfy and safe bed. I like the idea that when Talitha sleeps in her bed, it still smells like home.

Our trip to Savannah was a time of traipsing up and down a darling old city with our one-month-old. It was our first “family vacation” with the three of us, and it was grand. Enjoy some iPhone snapshots of our time!

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Now go see Savannah for yourself, and tell me what you think!

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.

A Year of Christmas: Whoops, I Broke the Rule

Christmas, Christmas music, family, Jesus, traditions

As we approach the fall season, which is followed by the holidays, I feel that I must share a dark secret, a very dark secret, indeed. I have broken a cardinal rule. This entire year I have been listening to Christmas music. Bless my husband’s heart, it has not even been a wide, Pandora Station variety. Nope, just the fairly small playlist on our iPad. Over and over again, folks. 
As a little girl, my favorite day of the year was the day after Thanksgiving. Waking early, I would run to the living room and turn on our giant, this-is-so-the-nineties stereo and play Christmas music from our favorite CDs and cassette tapes. It was a most glorious moment. Waiting made it special. Waiting makes a lot of things special.
Yet, during this year of transition and missing my family, listening to comforting music about the triumph of Jesus and reminders of “the most wonderful time of the year” was just what I needed. It especially has been my companion for waking and baking.
Although I have tried to play it mostly when Eric is gone, sometimes he has turned it on for me–even the ancient Amy Grant album. Now, that is love. *Insert swoon here*
(It’s legendary, I promise.)
There are moments I wonder if I will regret playing the music with such frequency–will I treasure it less this coming holiday season? And I may or may not have watched White Christmas several times. After my mother reads this, there is a good chance I will be disowned. Your condolences are appreciated.
Not only have I broken the family rule, but I have also broken my own rule. When stores play Christmas music the first of November, it screams of commercialism: “Let’s play Christmas music as early as possible to sucker them all into buying more!” Cue the steam coming out of my ears. And yet, that’s not what Christmas music means to me.
Every day is for celebrating the birth of Jesus, and the rebirth He has given us. I come from charismatic roots, and those roots involved much joyful singing (and loud singing).Why don’t we sing “O Holy Night” or “Joy to the World” throughout the year? Well, perhaps it is because we are creatures of habit, or perhaps it is because throughout the millenniums, God’s people have celebrated certain acts of God at certain times. He is a God of order. The ebb and flow create a rhythm of our culture as people who love Him. And I like that. 
But this year, Christmas music served as a daily reminder: a reminder of His faithfulness, His hope, and His JOY. 
Merry Not-Yet-Christmas, everyone!
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
Photo 1: Google (free) Images/www.cafeselavy.com
Photo 2: Google (free) Images/ex.wikipedia.org