[Oh the Places We Go] Erin, Jacksonville

The first time Erin visited me at William and Mary, my friend Abe looked at the two of us interacting and said, in horror,  “Dear Lord, there are TWO of them.” And what these two continue to learn, as a pastor’s wife and military wife, respectively, is “never say never.” I glean daily from Erin’s surrender and resulting freedom – and her uncanny ability, as one who loves her home and family with crazy intensity, to create home and family wherever she goes…

Erin blogs at Well There’s Always Hope and (a new favorite) Generational Moments with Jon Horne.

In the past two years I have lived in five dwellings, four zip codes, three cities, two states, and one country.   The irony here is that I’ve never thought of myself as the moving type.  For what it’s worth, I can say with certainty, that boxes provided by moving companies are far superior to those swiped from behind shopping centers under cloaks of darkness. 

The nature of my husband’s career brings impermanence and lots of moves.  Most recently I have landed in Jacksonville, FL.  And not-so-secretly, I love it!   We’ve been here since December and are assured that until August Jax (as we locals call it) is home.   I’m too new to know much, but I now invite you to join me, as we dive deeper into my ‘hood, beyond greater Jacksonville and zoom into historic Riverside Avondale.  This is where we live and I love it.

We walk to great local restaurants and shops from the house and Boone Park doubles as our backyard (think tall pines trees mixed with live oaks and Spanish moss).  There are killer antique and rummage shops, local craft breweries, and this amazing coffee shop called Bold Bean.  I.mean.wow.  Lining the shore of the St. Johns River, our neighborhood includes countless parks with lots of character, old people, young people, weird people, lots of dog walkers, and cool old homes.  These are all reasons to love it here, but I have found that the real gems of Jacksonville are its residents. 

On weekends when we’re out, Jon and I find ourselves hustling home to hang out with our neighbors.  Christopher and Julie’s porch across the street is a weekend hot spot.  Jeff, Christina and their two kids mosey over for conversation and laughs.  Sometimes Kevin is there, or Roy might pop across the street to hang out.  Those who are old enough and so-inclined partake in scotch and cigars.  Others of us wear yoga pants and prefer a glass of wine. 

Lyle and Jessica live at the other end of the block.  We love them!  They just had a baby and man we had a great time meeting their families, in from out of town for his birth.  We bought Girl Scout cookies from Rob-the-Fire-Fighter’s girls down the street, and I run some Friday mornings with Kerri, who lives next door to Rob-the-fire-fighter.  Amy and Al are perpetually renovating their house and the whole block celebrated with her 3 weeks back when she purchased a van for her young business, The Veggie Bin.  Jon’s favorite neighbor is easily 2nd-grader Lyman, across the street.  They have walkie-talkies and Jon sends Lyman on “missions” to complete in Boone Park.  The two have also begun searching out geocahces together with the geocache app on Jon’s i-phone.   Lyman has taken to entering our house with one-knock to announce his arrival as he opens the door himself.  Hope that doesn’t prove to be a bad thing…  My neighbors make me want to stay here forever.  Truly.  We’ve even joked about offering to buy the house we rent from our landlord when it comes time to buy, IF we get stationed for the next 3 years in Jax.  IF.

Barring the fact that I miss my family back in VA like woah, those things that make me weary here are cannot be pinned on the location.  Come on, 75 degrees and sunny just about every day, are you kidding me?  It’s those things that accompany the nature of impermanence, a lifestyle of uncertain locations and timelines — all wearisome things associated with being a navy wife, right?  Come August it’ll be more moving boxes or a new experience: knowing where I’ll live for the next three years!  Fingers crossed for Jax…

(Jon retrieving Lyman’s (a 2nd grader and our favorite neighbor) glider from neighbor’s roof.)

And February is behind us! I’ve loved this series, perhaps a little too much. A couple of you I had contacted and we didn’t make it happen in time. I’d like to continue running one or two a month so this space doesn’t get too overrun with pineapples and tri-cornered hats. If you want to submit a post on your place, email me – I’d love it!

[Oh the Places We Go] Ashley, Copenhagen

Somehow, while preparing to fly back to the States to take the BAR, Ashley was able to write this marvelous post. When I gave her my (completely soft) deadline I had no idea what real deadlines she was up against! I am thrilled and amazed that she made time to do this. I grew up with Ashley’s husband, Tyler, meaning spent many formative times in high school and college bouncing around on the back of a school bus in Nicaragua discussing  Calvinism, social justice, and whether or not the moon landing really happened. (Isn’t that how everyone grew up?) Ashley and Tyler’s wedding was a beautiful affair in which two elements really stuck out: a fantastic Father of the Bride speech (loved it), and some of my most favorite bridesmaids dresses ever. (They were yellow, not pink and coral…). And currently, from my college town bungalow,  I live vicariously through their adventures abroad…

Ashley blogs at Getting Accustomed Tuite.

Through a whirlwind of events, my husband Tyler and I wound up being offered an opportunity to spend a year in Copenhagen, Denmark for his job. We knew we would be living anywhere from Western Europe to India and were thrilled for an adventure – but Copenhagen? We felt like we hit the jackpot when we got our placement.

We’re two months in and here are a few brief observations: the Danes are drop-dead gorgeous (all blonde, all blue-eyed, all thin and fit); the city is best described as charming; Danish is a weird language filled with noises I can’t even make – thankfully, everyone speaks perfect English; the royals are quite enchanting and castles are everywhere; people ride bikes far more than they drive; and the ability to travel around Europe at a moment’s notice is an unappreciated treasure (they don’t know how lucky they are!).

But, the very best thing about the Danish culture that we’ve discovered thus far is the way they’ve embraced, almost as a national identity, the concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). The best translation is cozy. Everywhere you go, there is a concerted effort to make the place feel cozy. You can almost equate it to that beloved Christmas-y feel – a warm, inviting atmosphere with a roaring fire close by and hot chocolate in hand.

Tyler was commenting the other day when we were visiting Paris that the same atmosphere is just not there. In Denmark, you walk into a pub or a restaurant or a coffee shop and you can count on a few things: it will be as warm as it can possibly be without being uncomfortable, there will be a lit candle on every table, the lights will be dim, and they will be serving something to warm you up.

It’s not only the atmosphere of “cozy” but it’s an attitude. We have been going to a church that we really love here. One Sunday after the service, we were chatting with the pastor and it took him about two minutes after hearing that we just moved to Copenhagen to invite us over to his house any night the next week for dinner with him and his family. Not only that, but he would love to pick us up right outside of our apartment and drive us home. We had the best dinner with them but mainly enjoyed the conversation and free invitation into their lives.

I know you’re thinking, “But, he’s a pastor. He’s supposed to invite you over for dinner.”

Well, Tyler and I were standing in line at a hip bar that multiple people had recommended to us. A very attractive, young, and way-cooler-than-us couple was standing in front of us in line. We struck up a conversation that started with me awkwardly asking if we were standing in line for the right place. Rather than treating us like annoying tourists, they were extraordinarily kind and engaging. After getting fed up with waiting in line for 10 minutes, they invited us to join them and their friends at another restaurant for a drink! Who does that? Seriously, when was the last time you invited some complete stranger to leave the restaurant you are in to go to another place half way across town?

I’m challenged by it.

So, while the castles and the canals and the outstanding restaurants and the royals are great, the cozy attitude of the Danish people is by far my favorite thing about our temporary home.


 I’m heading out to CW right now in search of some hygge. Happy Monday!

[Oh the Places We Go] Laura, Los Angeles

Happy Friday! This is #3 on a series on Place. You can read the set-up and previous posts here and here.

 I discovered Laura’s blog over a year ago and it’s one of my favorites. I love the rhythm of both  her topics and her writing.  I was thrilled to have her answer my question because of all the years I spent dreaming of moving to Hollywood. Laura made it happen. And here she tells the tale.

Laura blogs at Hollywood Housewife.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I had never been here before.  The first day I wound my way through the city, I held back the lump in my throat because the city wasn’t what I expected. 

What most people know about LA is what they see on the screen, either Beverly Hills or Compton.  But those are both really small areas of the city.  Most of Los Angeles is more normal, with neighborhoods and parks, delis and Target.  Early on, I stumbled onto some good advice about where to live.  It was a fit for me, and I’ve been in the general Hollywood area for over ten years. 

I felt at home almost immediately, not because I fell in love with the city – I didn’t – but because I wanted to run away from Oklahoma and I had.  What felt like home to me was having my own space.  And 1,000 miles away from where I grew up was a lot of space. 

These days, Los Angeles is definitely where I feel the most at home, even if it is so different from my roots.  Whenever I grow tired of it, I travel.  A few things about this vast city of sunshine that make me weary:

The sheer size.  Los Angeles is huge.  It’s not like New York where you could hit all the major hotspots in a day and be home for dinner.  If you tried to see the Hollywood sign, Malibu, and Venice Beach all in one day, you’d have to start at dawn.  This means that if you make a new friend who lives on the westside, you’ll probably never see them.  They might as well live in Vegas as far as convenience is concerned.

It’s shallow.  This is cliche, and this is true.  Although it might not mean what you think.  I don’t personally hang in an area that is full of Barbie-lookalikes, although of course there is a lot of that here.  But in the entertainment industry, if you’re not in a position to scratch someone’s back, they rarely scratch yours.  So it’s hard to make friends or even business contacts when you’re unaware – or painfully aware – of other motivations.

It’s expensive.  This seems self-explanatory, but this is about more than just rent.  It takes a sizable chunk of money here to live well.  Everything from groceries to thrift stores is priced more than in the middle of the country.  Education is outrageous. 

It’s left-leaning.  There is no question that Los Angeles is heavily liberal, and at many a dinner my face has flushed with anger when someone has assumed I believe and vote in the same way they do.  When I first moved here, I felt like a lonely island in my belief system.    
Without fail, I get homesick for Los Angeles before I’m barely out of my own zip code.  A few of the things that will keep me here forever:
The hopeful mentality.  I’m not the first or the millionth person to flee to Los Angeles from somewhere else.  There are a lot of people here who wanted a fresh start, who are living a life deliberately chosen.  In the air hangs all the possibilities: the waitress who just needs one more audition, the screenwriter pouring all his ideas into a single script. 

The weather.  Again with the cliches, but once you’ve lived in Southern California it’s hard to settle for any other climate.  It’s warm during the day and chilly in the evening.  The sun shines brightly here.  Even the rainy days are beautiful. 

It’s left-leaning.  Yes, the same thing I loathe about it is something I also love about it.  Surviving in a location where the majority of opinions are so different from my own has opened my heart and my mind.  I’ve had to defend my position, and a few times I’ve even had to change it, once I better understood myself.  It’s possible that my political and religious path would have widened with age and maturity not matter where I lived, but since I’ll never know, I’ll credit the west coast with softening my spirit. 

The city of Angels is large, finicky, and mysterious place.  But I’m just as drawn to it now as I was looking at the glossy magazine pages as a girl.  Maybe even more so now that I understand all the layers behind the pretty pictures.


image credit

Headed to Love and Respect conference tonight, hope to see some of you there! Travis and I will be in the Student Ministries Worship Room. Have a great weekend, regardless of where it takes you…

Coming along for Lent? I posted here and here and am updating on the FB page.

[Oh the Places We Go] Mariah, Cape Town

 Thank you for your responses and shared interest about Lent, I will update on the topic soon…and in what seems like a gear switch (but to me feels obviously natural)…today I’m starting a little series on Place. Because, at the end of February, if I’m not thinking about Lent, I’m thinking about going. Anywhere. Does anyone else get wanderlust this time of year?

I gave some of my favorite people and bloggers this  prompt:

What about [your place], on a daily basis makes you want to stay forever and what makes you want to run for your life?

I will scatter their posts between now and the last day (29th!) of February. Perhaps they will give us some perspective on our own place, (or send us hurrying to renew our passports).

First up: Mariah. I just deleted a wordy, emotional intro to say this: She is one of my oldest, and my bestest. And when we were 16 and I reversed my brother’s jeep really fast outside the Thorup Cottage, hitting a tree hard, and most likely giving her whip lash, she downplayed it. That’s friendship.

Mariah blogs at Size Too Small.

My husband and I moved to  (South Africa) five months after we were married. Now, two years later we have just had a baby, are both very involved in our community and our work and have carved out a niche for ourselves in this foreign country.

Things that I love about South Africa include the fact that all gas stations are full service and I never have to get out of my car to pump gas, the natural beauty (it’s a stunning country), my friends, and the opportunity to do what I love on a daily basis.

Things that I don’t love about South Africa include the crowded grocery stores, people’s lack of understanding of what personal space means, the crime (we’ve had our car battery and hub caps stolen multiple times- how much more ghetto can you get?), and stores close at 4 or 5 and aren’t even open on Sunday (what!). But mostly, the distance is the hardest part. It takes 3 plane rides and anywhere from 21-25 hours to get home to the East Coast of the States to see our family and friends.

There have been highs and lows and more than once I’ve been ready to pack it all in and head home but I’ve learned about being content in all circumstances. I don’t want my happiness to be dependent upon my place. This is hard. Sorry I don’t have anything more to say about it than that. But I do know God is faithful and able to meet all my needs no matter where I may find myself.