top 13 posts on the blog in ’13

Number 1, by a landslide .. An Open Letter to Grief

2nd place: Defining Home, the opening post of the series I wrote on Defining Home in 31 Days

And Number 3 for 2013 was … Compared to Her – An Interview with Author Sophie DeWitt

With the exception of #8 and #11, the remainder of the 13 most-viewed posts for 2013 come from the Defining Home series:

4. My Personal Definition








5. Heading Home









6. In Which I Deviate from the Plan


Opening Day









7. When you wish you had what they have


Rocking horse









8. South Africa – A Photographic Tribute (in honor of Nelson Mandela)











9. Ten Moves in Ten Years













10. When you Want to Go Home (aka ‘That time I cried through sixth grade camp’)


Bunk Beds








11. The Story Behind the Wheelchair Ramp (in honor of my mom)


Wheelchair Alida saved











12. Why I Hate Airports











13. Moving Day











To each of you, I wish a very blessed 2014 … To God be the glory.





highlights reel

So we made it to the end of The Nester’s 31 Days Challenge.


I hope at least one of these posts was a blessing and an encouragement to you.

If cased you missed some, here is my personal highlights reel:

That time I tripped over a simple question

That time my sisters walked 60 miles in three days

That time my son thought we were moving again

That time I was a compulsive mover

That time I wished I had a Pottery Barn nursery

That time I was singing alone in the car

That time I almost threw up in an airport

That time I cried through sixth grade camp

That time my friend and I swapped blogs

That time I sounded like a foreigner in my hometown

For the full contents page for this series, click here.

let her stay

Stepping HeavenwardOne of the books that has challenged me most in my faith, my ever-present battle against selfishness and my attitude toward death is a book called ‘Stepping Heavenward,’ a journal written by Elizabeth Prentiss (1818-1878).

I have read it twice, and both times, I hoped that I would remember a certain excerpt when the time came to release my mom from this binding world into eternity. Thankfully, the Lord did in fact bring it to my mind, and I originally wrote this post two weeks after she died (now two years ago).

I hope the following excerpt will be a blessing and a challenge to you as well.

Reflecting back upon her mother’s illness, Elizabeth writes:

I saw that she was failing but flattered myself that her own serenity and our care would prolong her life still for many years. I longed to have my children become old enough to fully appreciate her sanctified character; and I thought she would gradually fade away and be set free,

As light winds wandering through groves of bloom,
Detach the delicate blossoms from the tree.

But God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways as our ways. Her feeble body began to suffer the rudest assaults of pain; day and night, night and day, she lived through a martyrdom in which what might have been a lifetime of suffering was concentrated into a few months. To witness these sufferings was like the sundering of joints and marrow; and once, only once, thank God! my faith in Him staggered and reeled to and fro. “How can He look down on such agonies!” I cried in my secret soul. “Is this work of a God of love, of mercy?” Mother seemed to suspect my thoughts, for she took my hand tenderly in hers and said with great difficulty:

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15). He is just as good as ever.” And she smiled. I ran away to Ernest crying, “Oh, is there nothing you can do for her?”

“What should a poor mortal do where Christ has done so much, my darling?” he said, taking me in his arms. “Let us stand aside and see the glory of God with our shoes from off our feet.” But he went to her with one more desperate effort to relieve her, yet in vain.

Mrs. Embury came in just then; and after looking on a moment in tears, she said to me:

“God knows whom He can trust! He would not lay His hand thus on all His children.”

Those few words quieted me. Yes, God knows. And now it is all over. My precious, precious mother has been a saint in heaven more than two years and has forgotten all the battles she fought on earth and all her sorrows and all her sufferings in the presence of her Redeemer….

… My steadfast aim now is to follow in my mother’s footsteps; to imitate her cheerfulness, her benevolence, her bright, inspiring ways; and never to rest till in place of my selfish nature I become as full of Christ’s love as she became. I am glad she is at last relieved from the knowledge of all my cares; and though I often and often yearn to throw myself into her arms and pour out my cares and trials into her sympathizing ears, I would not have her back for all the world. She has got away from all the turmoil and suffering of life; let her stay!

This is Day 27 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Click here for a full list of posts in this series.

when home hurts

It’s the child who lingers as long as possible on the school grounds after the building as been locked, for fear of what he might find at home.

It’s the husband who stays late at the office every night, then heads to the bar for drinks to decrease the number of hours his wife is able to nag him when he eventually drags himself home.

It’s the widow who cries silent tears into the screaming void of an empty house.

As I mentioned in the preface to this series, nobody has the same concept or definition of home … not even two children raised in the same house.

For far too many,

home hurts.

Almost every visit I made to the States during the ten years I lived in South Africa was motivated by my mom’s terminal illness.

While I was always grateful for the opportunity, there remained a nagging fear gnawing at the pit of my stomach, as I never knew what I would find on the other side of the ocean.

Often, it hurt.

It was wonderful and sometimes unbearably painful all at once.

If you are in a situation where home hurts, take heart.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

There will be a day when He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

And best of all, He is preparing a place for us.

A place where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4).

If you are a believer in Christ and home hurts for you, rest in the hope that the best home is yet to come … in the presence of God, for all eternity.

This is Day 25 of Defining Home in 31 Days.  Click here for a full list of posts in this series.


the greatest compliment

Yesterday I asked the question, “What defines your home when it comes to hospitality?”

Do you have an open door policy?

Do you panic when visitors arrive and your house is in a shambles?

I was so encouraged recently when I heard a respected mother in our church say, “The greatest compliment anyone can give me is if they feel free to take a nap on my couch.”

Think about that.

Nap couch

The greatest compliment, to her, is not when people praise the tidiness of her home.  It is not when they verbally admire the decor or her cooking abilities.

It is when they show that they feel comfortable.  Warmly welcomed.  Part of the family.

It’s when they catch her silent message that “my home is your home.”

May this be an encouragement to all of us to care less about appearance and more about the warmth of the welcome.

This is Day 24 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Click here to see the contents page for this series.

Photo credit: Miranda Rush

the open door policy


You know the feeling.

That moment when your doorbell rings, and you weren’t expecting guests.  Maybe it’s noon and you’re still in your pajamas.

Your frantic eyes sweep the floor of the living room and return with a mental dustpan filled with remnants of the kids’ pajamas, a used, crumpled up tissue, a marker without a cap, an unmarried flip flop that longs to be wed, a handful of runaway Cheerios …

You cringe, and turn your attention to the unannounced visitor waiting on the other (cleaner) side of the door.

It has happened to me.  It happened to Lisa-Jo Baker, too.  In that moment, we’re faced with a choice, aren’t we?

“Panic or delight.

Fear of appearances or fully opening my arms to one of my favorite friends.

Picking up the backyard or inviting her boys to join the well-loved chaos.

Stressing the stains or surrounding ourselves with toys, kids, and enough time to catch up.

Frantically planning something to cook or ordering pizza and slicing a watermelon.” ~ Lisa-Jo Baker

When it happens to you, what do you choose?

Panic or delight?

What defines your home?

This is Day 23 of ‘Defining Home in 31 Days.’  Click here for a complete list of posts in this series. 

Photo credit: BazzaDaRambler