Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One Word -- 2016-- Contentment (at Home)

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

 Hebrews 3: 13

 a state of happiness and satisfaction.
Synonyms:   satisfaction, gratification, fulfillment, happiness, pleasure, cheerfulness

One week into this new year and I am already thinking of changing my word for the year or at least thinking of making it three words--  Contentment (at Home.)

To adequately explain why I chose contentment, I must go back to 2014, 2013.  My husband and I decided to purchase a rental property in Knoxville's inner city in the neighborhood where our family had participated in a ministry for the last few years.  We were taking a class at our church about the hardships the impoverished face while trying to work their way out of poverty; slumlords are real; good, safe, well-maintained housing in the inner city is very difficult to come by.  We had other rental properties and had taken a seminar at the beginning of 2013 to learn more about growing our rental business.   

In April, 2014, we successfully sold a small family business we had owned and operated for twenty years.  I also began babysitting an adorable two year old boy in the late afternoons between the time his daycare closed and the time his mommy got off work.   His mommy and him had attended a "Mommy and Me" class I had facilitated during my first year as a volunteer in the inner city ministry.  We had lost touch after the class ended but reconnected in 2013.  

In August, 2014, we closed on a ninety-nine year old duplex just six blocks from the ministry in which we work. 

I am also a stay at home, homeschooling mom--at that time, I still had two students. 

August, 2014-  We own a ninety-nine year old duplex.  Oh dear, where do we start?  This house had been abused by landlords and tenants alike; seriously, we were not quite sure where to start.  Getting rid of the massive roach and flea population seemed like the best plan!

September- December, 2014-  The after school program began again at the inner city ministry.  For the prior three school years, my sons and I had volunteered one afternoon per week.  But I had made the decision that since this adorable little two year old was part of my afternoons, I might as well share my time with other preschool children at the ministry site.  The executive director was agreeable to the proposal and gave me a room in the small house to use during the after school program; I had children between the ages of three and five (my little man turned three that September) in my class.  We sang songs, had Bible time,  worked on learning our ABCs, 123s, colors, and shapes; we enjoyed time outside learning to play nicely together or separately; we admired nature and the world God gave to us; and we were fed dinner by the other volunteers three days per week.  By the end of October, I was fried!  A friend who also volunteered on our church home's volunteer day saw my weariness and offered to partner with me; she gave me November off to work at the duplex with my husband and boys. I came back to the preschool class in December with cut up hands from trying house rehab but with a renewed spirit for ministering to children.  That December, my friend and I had just two weeks or so with our class before the winter break; we often joined the elementary age children for their activities-- Christmas crafts, decorating, taking small gifts to neighbors.  It was a joyful season.

January and February, 2015-  Our city had more snow in these two months than we had had in the last few years combined (my guesstimate.)  The children were out of school a lot; the ministry center was closed on snow days.  We worried about the families we serve but the director kept an eye on their needs.  

My little man's daycare was closed a lot or did short days; his mommy's job did not stop so I had him in my home a lot (all day) those two months while continuing daily school with two teenage boys.  We also were continuing house rehab on the duplex and beginning to think about renting out the first completed side.  While major repairs-- new roof, HVAC installation, insulation, walls torn down to be rebuilt in order to enlarge the smallest bedroom on either side were done at the same time, we concentrated the finishing work of trim, paint, floors on one side in order to get some income started.  On one side, we also had the task of completely removing a non-original room which we had discovered was falling off the back of the dwelling. 

March and April, 2015-  My friend and I had both decided that three days per week, even job sharing, was just too much.  We both had family commitments that were suffering and knew that our own families always had to be our first priority, no matter how much our hearts longed to love on other people's children.  So March was our last month of three days per week preschool at the ministry site.  

I still had my little man; but he learned to go to work with me at the duplex during our afternoons together.  We helped facilitate his mommy's buying her first car and learning to drive this spring into summer.  She had gone to part-time work during the early spring because the bus schedule was wearing her out and she was commuting many more hours than before her transfer to her current work location.  Buying the car enabled her to work full time again, not having to depend on bus schedules between home, daycare, and work.  The car also ended my five to six days per week caring for my precious little man. 

May, 2015-  The afterschool ministry shutdown for summer break the first or second week of this month.  The finish work at the duplex is wrapping up on the first side and we began advertising the unit for rent.  Every one assured us that Section 8 properties were in such demand that we would have it rented in mere weeks.  

Now I must digress a bit; for whatever the reasons, we had never gotten to know most of our neighbors in the suburb where we reside; we had a new family move in two years ago and they are our closest friends on the block.  But the other neighbors and us just never became neighbors who visit each other or get to know one another well.  We have lived here for eighteen years.  But on the block where our duplex is located, we met our neighbors and their friends.  The neighbor across the street kept a good eye on the property and was always friendly; his next door neighbor sits on her porch daily and we talked with her as often as we spared time. We have a lovely, mission-minded young woman and her roommates just a couple of doors down who is superbly living out "intentional neighboring."  At Halloween the year we bought the property, we handed out candy there because children, many children, love to trick-or-treat in that neighborhood!   We had been without trick-or-treaters in the suburb for several years.  We slowly began to feel almost as much at home in the inner city as we did at home, well sorta!  

I have loved old houses and antiques since I was a  girl (many years ago.)   The house began to speak to me.  I fell in love and was charmed by my house and the neighborhood.  There is diversity in race and educational and  socioeconomic  levels on the street where our property is.  There are poor people and middle class people; as far as I know, there are no true "wealthy" people living on our block; but I don't truly know.  I began to long to move into the finished side and complete the other side to use for guest rooms and ministry outreach.  I began to name all the reasons we should do just that.  

Summer, 2015-  While being advertised all summer, we have had no luck finding renters; I have named the reasons we should sell our suburban home and move into our 100 year old house.  My sons are reluctant.  My husband is intrigued.  We spent our entire summer debating, praying, discussing, consulting friends, family, advisors, mentors, and realtors about moving. One mentor and friend advised me to quit looking for the signs that God wants us to move there and especially to quit sharing those thoughts with my husband every time I had them.  She suggested that I become quiet and allow the Holy Spirit to do the speaking to my husband and let Him lead us, through my husband, to the inner city if that is where we are meant to be.

August, 2015- I began school with my youngest son, my final student, having had his brother graduate in May with the Smoky Mountain Home Education Association's class of 2015.  We still have not rented the finished side of the duplex; I still long to move there, except for when I don't.  Fear of the unknown, of the problems one may encounter on our inner city streets, at times rules my heart.  I keep countering the fear with faith; but the decision is not mine alone to make.  So I get quieter and I wait. 

The after school program at the inner city ministry began with the first day of school this year.  I am so grateful to be back at it and catching up with the children I haven't seen much during the summer break.  The preschool class is started back on my one day per week that I am there.  We have so many volunteers this year, our largest group since we began, that it's no problem for me to devote my time to the younger children. 
One day while doing school at home, I find we have a need for a chemistry lab set; I thought we had already purchased that!  I text a friend who is done with chemistry to see if she has one I can purchase; she replies for me to come over and pick it up.   She has always been well-grounded in putting first things first.  She had encouraged me off and on through the years to put my family first ahead of the outside ministry opportunities that seem to always present themselves.   When I picked up that kit, I mentioned to her that I'm struggling.  I want to move, then I don't.   I let fear or doubt overcome me.  She again reminds me that my family must be first.  She encouraged me to listen to the hesitation my sons feel about moving.  I asked her to pray for me, for us.  We are reaching the point of being up "against the wall" financially with an empty rental; we need to sell our home and move or find a renter as soon as possible or sooner.  I left her house and was on my way to a store down the road; just a few miles from her house, my phone rang and it was a potential renter who had told my husband the day before that she had already rented another dwelling; she asked me if our house was still for rent explaining that the other place had fallen through.  We met her and her sister the next day and signed the lease.

September-November, 2015-  I have continued to mourn not living in the inner city duplex, even though I wasn't always sure I wanted to live there.  There have been days and many moments when I felt we had totally missed God's calling into our lives to expand our personal ministry.  I have mourned lost opportunities at being there, literally there, for children that I love on those streets.  Our renters are sweet; we've had very few problems; we've had opportunity to "show them Jesus" in their times of hardship.  That was exactly our primary goal when we decided to buy in our inner city--to show our tenants and their friends and neighbors Jesus' love.  

In October, I learn that another woman has began doing a preschool class at the little blue house on Monday mornings; my volunteer day is Monday.  We don't need two preschool classes on the same day of the week.  Hmmm.  I reached the conclusion that since the program is an "after school" program, I would discontinue my preschool class.   The need for that class is being filled by someone else earlier in the day.   

Since my children were born, my passion and desire was for them to become readers.  When I set out on our home school journey, that was my number one goal.  If I could teach them to read, and keep them reading, then they could conquer any field in life which they choose to pursue.  So the first Monday I was without a preschool class, I told the director of the program that I am very interested in reading with the children during our time at the ministry site, and working on their reading skills.  

A few days later, the woman who founded the ministry called me.  She asked me to come to a gathering to organize the on-site library.   She had no idea of the new path my brain was taking in my role with the children.  I was amazed, as was she, at the way God orchestrated events to coincide the timing.

December, 2015-  My nineteen year old has been working full time and is to start school in January.  I am seeing how short my time with my seventeen year old is.  He is a junior in high school.   He won't be leaving home after his graduation but my time for full days with him is short!   Why have I run away from this responsibility so often?!!  We have a pleasant Christmas term, slightly different from our regular school days.  I begin to find joy in being right where I am!

January, 2016-   Here I am thinking of changing my word, needing to be working on my son's school schedule for next week, needing to clean the house, prepping to be at work one day next week in the inner city ministry.   I realize that my Father wants me to live right now

 Live.        Right.         Now.  

I have, for months, been thinking about next year and the year after (when this youngest child has graduated) and planning for that time.   I have always, since I was very young, lived  (inside my head) in the future or in the past; my mind was always wandering to memories or dreaming of the future.   So for today, I am choosing to live right now and to be content at home a bit longer with my youngest child, sharing our days with wonderful literature, great music and art, poetry, history, the wonder of God's creation, searching for His Truth, Beauty, and Goodness at every opportunity. 

So, it is settled:  my word will remain CONTENTMENT with (at home) added just to clarify where my first priorities are and must remain.  And finally, I feel peace with that!

Pressing on in Him,

Lisa Ann


  1. Girl, any comment I could leave you would seem small and insignificant in light of all that you are living out. I am immeasurably humbled at the way you posture your life to glorify Jesus. Thank you for letting us into your story and I am thrilled at your word for 2016. Can't wait to see what God does with your #onethingrightnow

    1. Thank you Lori. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement. You and your family are some of my heroes! Thank you for inspiring me.