• This week all of us Shums around the world (we are in three different continents) are reflecting on that beloved place in St. Louis where we all grew up--no matter how old we happened to be at the time.  Our home of 19 years will have the legal closing tomorrow.  In the children's book, Sarah, Plain, and Tall by Patricia McLaughlin, Sarah, a mail order bride, is trying to reconcile her homesickness with her Maine seaside home and the new Nebraska frontier.  She thoughtfully says, "There is always something to miss, no matter where you are."  As she begins to understand the new chapters of her life, she perceives that a part of her will always be in a myriad of places and residing in multitudes of people.  I suppose that all of us--even if we have permanently resided in the same location our entire lives--are a collected mosaic that comprises our personal story. The process of closing chapters of "our story" shows us how we can widen our scope even larger; we can learn to make room for the past, but yet embrace the future. 
We loved its every season.

 Undoubtedly, we will sometimes long for the cherished smells and sights that float in our memories of our past homes and refuges. But as I have thought about this new sudden chapter of coming to Qatar, I believe that part of "opening new skies" is to be willing to pull and stretch the comfortable boundaries that we customarily position ourselves. Navigating new paths gives us confidence and joy to accomplish things we did not know we could ever do.  

Today there are tugs, and even an ache, as I learn to cross unknown bridges (learning to speak Arabic, driving with five hundred cars going around a three-lane roundabout, etc.)--letting go of the well known and familiar territory. However, I know God, in His ultimate knowledge of our capabilities and potential, nudges and pushes us forward--sometimes to places we never sought or would have dared ventured on our own. He creates "serendibs" of meeting certain people when we need them. I am seeing the beauty in the beige, horizontal landscape, and appreciating every precious tree here in this land.  Flowers are more fragrant and colorful because there are not very many of them. But I am also viewing a more expansive sky; the fog (or sand) is increasingly lifting, and it is getting clearer...

Below is the post I wrote a few months ago, but decided to share it here. ykids wanted me to share a

  • Halloween with Hyrum in Grandpa's WWII army uniform.

     When we decided to move to the Middle East, I only thought about the people I would leave. I neglected to remember the farewell with the physical space, the home that we have lived and raised our six children for the last 18 years. No one apparently wanted this house, built in 1931, when we first saw it. It had been on the market for one year, with no air conditioning in St Louis!  We thought it had the bones for something spectacular, and we naively thought we could do the necessary remodeling in a year or two. Wrong!!! It has been through several paintings, stripping of wallpaper, new windows in every room, remodels of all the bathrooms and a new kitchen. We have planted almost every tree, bush, flower, and bulb on this little property ourselves, and always marvel each year that spring could return all the vibrancy and color that we forgot could even exist.


    Our home where we all were raised.

    Sometimes we look around, and think, we made this place, this home. With all the cracks and leaks, we have maintained the faith that someday it would be beautiful and worth all the trouble. And it is, and we have loved it--in every stage and phase. Thomas Jefferson said, "The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family."
    In our home (we named it Bridge Haven--trying to make it a bridge and a haven) many of my best memories of my life were lived--new babies, grandparents and cousin reunions--even Grandpa Shumway living with us for almost seven years in this space. There were the struggles and tears, of course, but a rainbow came out after any storm. The birds even fluttered out to sing. We have been a happy crew who loved each other and laughed long and hearty at so very many stories and jokes.

    In its quiet moments, as I am in now, with no one near to call out my name, I look around to remember the music (violin, piano, ukulele, guitar, recorder, cello, harmonica, and all the singing) filling the space,game nights (lots of intense rook, chess, risk, boggle), plays (at one time Sarah fancied herself as a playwright), wrestling, mattress surfing down the front stairs, sword fighting, lego building, and conversations that sometimes altered our opinions and expanded our views. Reading, discussing, working, creating were the rhythms of our lives. But most of all, we loved here; we learned to forgive, serve, and be resilient in any storms. We protected and supported each other.
    The kitchen we remodeled a few years ago because the other one was a cave, and the appliances were from the 60's.  It took many more years to get a new kitchen than we would have ever realized.  Living here was always a "work in progress."  Ha!  

    Joseph always felt that a roundtable enhanced livelier, longer discussions so he cut two semi-circles, and then put them together.  A friend and I painted the genealogy tree that adorned the room.  It wasn't a masterpiece, but it always generated a lot of conversation. 

    Quotes are written with permanent marker on the walls down to the basement 

    that show our family aspirations and beliefs, and a family tree that I painted with a friend adorns the dining room, showing all of our genealogy. It is easy to know us if you are a stranger here in this house because we display what we cherish and love in this space. You could hear conversations, books on tape, and music throughout its space. Bridge Haven seemed to want to be a part of the commotion or the dialogues, to feel the pulse of its occupants.

    There were celebrations of every kind (graduation, birthday, Halloween, Olympics, World Series, and sometimes many in each season). Lepracan footprints (as in green painted thumbprints) could be found on the doorways and floor every March 17.   Jonathan even slept in the mud room one St. Patrick's Day to catch the ever elusive leprechaun. There were St. Lucia celebrations because Joseph's grandmother was Swedish. We wore cracker crowns because we are English, and made Icelandic pastries because we are Icelandic.

    Sometimes it seemed like anything we could celebrate, remember, or memorialize, we did. I remember at Hannakuh sometimes we would even make potato latkes. Perhaps Christmas was #91's finest hour, at least I think that would be my children's vote. I remember the New Year's Eves with hundreds of candles everywhere. Mark Twain noted his Hartford, CT house "was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction." This home graced our efforts and intentions; it made us better than we would have been without trying to create it.

    I am struck that just like a house, we too are constantly being shaped, remodeled, recreated--maybe even fixed. A house requires much maintenance, creativity, time, and love to make it into a cozy, warm, inviting place that makes you "homesick." Thanks for being our haven, our shelter from the storm. We will always love you, #91.

    One of the great blessings of this house was having Grandpa live with us for almost seven years in our basement.  The last time Jonathan saw him, he said, "You were not only my grandpa, but you also were my brother, and my best friend."  Grandpa was a hero to all, and especially our children.  He was blinded at 22 after landing on D-Day, but yet lived life with immense cheer, humor, and could "out pun" anyone on the planet.  
    All of the four older kids graduated from CHS.  Here is the Pete last June, as the Junior Class President.  He got to be in the graduation ceremony with his class president duties anyways.  So proud of him for his example of being willing to "open his sky" in Qatar as a high school senior this year.

    • A snow day, a day off from school.
      • This is a picture of my grandma's house in Springville, Utah--one of the great havens of my childhood.  This house was the reason that I ever wanted to fix an old house up in the first place.  I wanted to be the "creator" of memories in an old, creeky house, just like she did.