Home: A Place to Gather

the view from our backyard
the view from our backyard

Thank you for your kind and supportive words as I share the story of the accident and our loss of Kalkidan. I’ve written the next section, but I want Russ to read it before I publish – while I’m writing only my memories, I need to be sure that I’m telling it as well as I can.

Yesterday Russ and Beza left on a quick trip to Seattle for a medical appointment at Children’s. While there they picked up some great patio furniture a friend is passing to us as they prepare to move to a new home. Funny thing is, we don’t have a patio. We’ve long dreamed of building one, but it hasn’t made it to the top of our list.

Before the accident we wrestled with building an addition or remodeling our garage into bedrooms. We had settled on the remodel, but were torn about the project; it really wasn’t what we wanted for our home. Unless the Lord moves us, we intend to live in this house at least 15 more years and maybe many more; the thought of not having a garage for storage or parking made my heart sink.

We live in north Idaho, where it is cold and snowy in the winter. We also live on top of a hill where the wind can be downright crazy. One day I would like to leave the house without scraping inches of snow and ice off the windshield, or actually drive into a garage to unload groceries. I’ve never parked in our garage (it’s been full of storage for a family of 13), but it’s something I dream of in the future.

Last week Russ and I decided that we aren’t going to make any major changes to our house in 2015. We’ve been encouraged not to make any big decisions at all as we move through this year. Grief is a long, muddling process that pulls on us nearly all the time. We are not ourselves – truly. We’re sustained by the love of God, and the love and kindness lavished on us by our family and friends, including many of you.

While we won’t be remodeling or building an addition this year, we are going to build our patio. The patio will be a little spot where we can gather with the people we love. It will be a place to make memories, to talk, cry, pray, to look out over the yard and pasture, and breathe in the beauty of what God has created. I imagine myself sipping coffee and writing in the early summer mornings. I see us gathered in the dark around a fire, holding hands and talking quietly.

This will be a very therapeutic project for Russ, who loves to work outdoors. We’re also going to begin working on Kalkidan’s garden – our special place for remembering her. I’ll share more about it when I have the heart to tell that story.

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We want the patio to be a special gathering place. It needs to be big enough to hold all of us for Sunday family dinner, and I want space for a fire pit for cool evenings. It’s difficult for me to sustain focus on much of anything right now, but I’m peeking at Pinterest for ideas – all suggestions are welcome.

Spring break is nearly over, and I think we’re going to make it through. I’ve left the house more this week than I have since Christmas. It has stretched me, fatigued me, and been good for me too.

How are you, friends? Leave me a comment and tell me about your spring, your life, your projects. I would love to hear from you.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

42 Comments

  1. donna
    March 20, 2015

    Can't wait to enjoy a cup of tea with you on your patio! Or maybe David and Caleb can give Russ a hand when we come in May for graduation and July for the wedding. Can you believe it has been 5 years since we met in person and Drew started school at WSU. Lots of changes in both our lives in that time. We continue to keep all of you in our prayers

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Graduation and a wedding (how did I miss that?); two visits sound great to me. Can't wait to see you – let me know when you'll be in town. And fill me in on the wedding details.

      Reply
  2. Luann Yarrow Doman
    March 20, 2015

    I love the idea of a patio gathering place; I think it will suit your family and your lifestyle well. I haven't commented on your Kalkidan story yet. It's so real and raw, and it leaves me without words. But I so appreciate you letting us into your sacred grieving grounds.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      It's okay not to have words, Luann; I understand all too well. I'm not grieving at all the way I would have guessed I would – it's the strangest and hardest process. I'll keep you all posted on the patio.

      Reply
  3. barbershoppe
    March 20, 2015

    Lisa,

    Like your other readers, my heart aches for your family. I continue to pray for you and am glad you have something hopeful to think about and work toward. May it please God to bring something beautiful out of these painful ashes. Anna in Birmingham

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Anna, I think about beauty from ashes so often. It's hard to imagine, but in the midst of our sorrow and ashes, we'll praise him and do our best to seek beauty in it all. Thank you for your prayers.

      Reply
  4. RussAnita Olson
    March 20, 2015

    We have a beautiful covered patio, and it is a gathering place. We've got a fire pit, I built a game table, and we eat out there in the summer most days. I've created art to hang, and we have a hammock. It's our outdoor living / dining room. It's the best room of our house.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Anita, I think it will make our house feel much bigger in the summer. I haven't figured out whether we can cover any of it yet, because it might block the view from the house. Just one more detail to sort out – back to Pinterest.

      Reply
  5. blessed
    March 20, 2015

    What a wonderful idea–a patio for celebrating family, and a garden for celebrating Kalkidan. I can't wait to hear about it as the ideas become reality.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      I'll be sure to share.

      Reply
  6. Kim
    March 20, 2015

    Today we went to the courthouse to view the proceedings at the periodic placement review for our adopted-to-be teen daughter. We were able to meet her mentors, tutor, counselors and other special people in her life that took time out of their busy lives to support her and to meet us. Then we packed her little owl bag in the van and brought her home….Just for the weekend this time, but we will be signing papers in a couple weeks of our intentions to make her a permanent part of our family and bring her home for good. It is a gorgeous day outside. She says she loves her room and already has music on. She and our youngest two have done a whirlwind tour of the house and yard, jumped on the trampoline, climbed into the treehouse, and are now playing board games. It is wonderful. It is terrifying. I still wonder what in the world God is up to. Have we misunderstood? Can we handle this, the what-is-to-come? Probably not, but since He has asked us, we know He can. Your willingness to open your home to the hurting and love on them, to risk pain and unimaginable heartache, to prioritize love over your own comfort. You will never know the strength your words and example have imparted. To know that I don't have to be perfect, simply obedient, loving and having at least a seed of faith. Many blessings, and may His comfort continue to wash over you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Kim, what a beautiful, courageous journey you have begun. The Lord bless you. You're right, you won't do it perfectly, just be flexible and open to learning, changing, growing, and following the Lord's leading. Many blessings to you. Thank you for your encouraging words.

      Reply
  7. courtney
    March 20, 2015

    lisa. i've prayed for you so so many times. but haven't written much. i'm sorry for that. i just don't have words…but i know i still need to write and let you know how much you are loved and prayed for. i love that you all are building a patio! enjoy dreaming and planning it. and make it exactly how YOU want it…for YOUR family. even if it's different than others or the "norm." you'll be glad in the long run.

    we have 6 kids, 2 adopted. our kids were 2 to a room for the last 3 years. but we just had to move one of our adopted kids out of the room wtih the other adopted kid because of all his issues. so now there are 3 boys in 1 room (and they are LOVING it and i see our adopted child in that room THRIVING now that he's out of the environment with the other one.) but it makes me sad. just sad. it's not what i pictured. but it's what's best right now. so it's what we will do.

    sending MUCH love!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Courtney, it's so sweet to hear from you. It's that darn flexibility that is tough when our kids' needs are so great. I'm glad you've found a solution for the boys. Sending you love too – you're in my Feedly so I see your sweet kids' faces on my computer often.

      Reply
  8. Julie Simmons
    March 20, 2015

    We are settling in with our newly adopted son, Andrew, who came home on Dec 4. He was the focus of one of your Tuesday posts on support for a non-verbal kid. We spent Spring Break at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital where he received his lower leg prosthesis and took off waking that very day! My oldest is graduating high school in May and pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy, inspired by her new brother. 🙂 my husband and I are attending an ETC Simulcast on April. ETC 2012 was when I heard you speak and began following your blog, which ultimately led to a great deal of insight, education, encouragement, and finally to our son (via owlhaven). 🙂 You and your family remain close in my thoughts and prayers. I'm deeply honored that you're sharing this journey with us.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Julie, we are connected in so many ways. Blessings on your family – such a journey! Thank you for your prayers for us.

      Reply
  9. aprillcao
    March 20, 2015

    What a beautiful picture! The patio sounds like an amazing idea-anything birthed from scratch can be so healing.
    We're in the Panhandle of Fl and summer seems to have blown in without much fanfare. Just warm temperatures and humidity along with mosquitos. Oh how I do not like mosquitos.
    One of the many times we've driven cross-country we went through Idaho and I thought it was just a beautiful state-I'd love to go back and vacation!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Idaho is beautiful, April – but I hear the weather in FL is pretty nice 🙂 I think you're right about this being a brand new, fresh project. It's going to be good for us.

      Reply
  10. Rachel
    March 20, 2015

    My grief is different … different issues, different pain … and yet I, too, am not myself. I have take a step for myself to go to a writing conference. It is my God-given calling to write and this small step both terrifies me and gives me hope. Your words, while written in pain, hold healing in them for me and many others. I pray that mine will do the same someday.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Being creative through the grief process seems to help me – not in a crafty way, but in a putting words together way. If only I wanted to clean and organize my house – I do want to, I just can't seem to summon up my strength. So exciting that you are going to a writing conference; good for you.

      Reply
  11. LaVonne Clark
    March 20, 2015

    Lisa I only discovered your blog after your beautiful Kalkidan went to Heaven. I am so deeply touched by your experiences and am praying for you. Your faith in Jesus is a tremendous encouragement to me. Praying for the Holy Spirit to continue to empower you moment by moment with grace upon grace walk out this,painful path. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Lavonne, your words are so sweet – thank you.

      Reply
  12. kellie
    March 20, 2015

    breathtaking view! I dream of a patio someday and have always wanted to find a way have it enclosed in the winter and open/breezy in the summer, so I can enjoy it more than just a few months of the year. I just haven't figured out how to accomplish that yet. May this be a healing project for you and your husband!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Thank you, Kellie. I'll be sure to share pictures as we go.

      Reply
  13. Susan
    March 20, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your story. It has encouraged me as I grieve a loss. One quote I read about losing someone said something like "the worst part about losing someone you love is it happens again every morning". That has been my experience as well, but now that I've past the six month mark it doesn't feel as heavy. My prayers and thoughts are with your family as you grieve.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Susan, that quote is so accurate. Thank you. I'm so sorry for your loss as well. Blessings to you.

      Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Thanks, Mary, I'll take a look. I need all the help I can get!

      Reply
  14. Anne Thompson
    March 20, 2015

    If you want to gather for sit-down dinners, start with the table, to get the best size patio. We already had a big back porch, and wanted a better outdoor eating space. My husband built a table as big as some wood we'd gotten from a friend would allow. But we started a step back, with the chairs! I found them when I wasn't even looking for such, and grabbed them up that day. Once home, they got moved around, we practiced reaching across the air space, and we allowed room to not bump elbows. Also, being above grade level, we took into consideration the perimeter. Not good to have someone fall off the porch when walking around the backs of chairs. Yes, start with the table. Which you already have! Add the chairs. And play with the perimeter, with chairs in and also pulled out. Do that patio as big as you can imagine you might need…or want. Staying 15 years? Think of toddler grandchildren running around. Life keeps happening. Oh, one more idea. Perhaps, in addition to stakes and string, maybe spread out some tarps to better visualize the new space?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Thank you for such practical advice, Anne – I love it. When Russ gets home maybe he'll put the table and chairs on the lawn and we can take a good look at it. I think we're going to want the patio to be pretty big…

      Reply
  15. Angela Crawford
    March 20, 2015

    How incredibly wise to be able to set the remodel on the back burner!! Remodeling is always an ordeal in itself! We have a memory garden for our daughter who passed away, fully equipped with a plaque with her name and dates, as well as a rose of Sharon tree from my aunt that she gave us after she passed and perennial flowers as well as annual flowers we put in each year….. a mostly pink garden. Your picture reminds me of "her flower." It is what was on her casket and our special bush for her, pink rose bush. I also have pink bleeding hearts that bloom every year around her birthday, April 25th. The really special thing is that all of our kids have helped to take care of the garden!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      I love the ideas for the garden; thank you for sharing about your daughter. So far, I'm thinking about bright colors, lots of perennials (since I'm not much of a gardener), a tree, maybe a bench, possibly a sculpture of something really special to remind us of her…I feel like crying just thinking about it. Pink flowers are my favorite and I love bleeding hearts too!

      Reply
  16. Becky
    March 20, 2015

    Thank you so much for continuing to share your family's story with us so beautifully… I am constantly inspired. Your family are in my prayers.
    There is a lovely Ethiopian holiday in September each year… The Finding of the True Cross. Following the traditional story of Queen Helen learning the location of a piece of the cross in smoke, great bonfires are lit all over Ethiopia. Our little family celebrates around our fire pit, and it is always one of my favorite Fall memories.. I hope your family finds peace and connection by sitting close together around a smoky, fragrant fire.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      I'm so glad you shared that, Becky. Earlier this week I was looking at some pictures from Ethiopia with Beza. She was trying to remember what the holiday was because it was her favorite. I'll have to learn more about it so we can celebrate too.

      Reply
  17. Laine
    March 20, 2015

    Thank you for sharing. You truly inspire me. We live in AZ. Spring has indeed sprung. I love watching the leaves on the trees growing back. It just makes my heart happy. The peach tree has little peaches already. Looking at the plants growing fills me with hope. I love that you are planning a garden to honor Kalkidan. What a beautiful way to remember her. I hope it will bring your family solace.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      Laine, it is a hopeful feeling to see leaves beginning to appear. My daffodils are coming up, but not yet in bloom. Thanks for taking a moment to say hello.

      Reply
  18. Alyssa
    March 20, 2015

    Beautiful idea! Your children might enjoy making mosaic stepping stones for the garden. I made some for my sister's memory garden for the babies she lost. The concept of mosaic id beauty from broken pieces. Praying for you all.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 20, 2015

      That is a lovely idea, Alyssa. Thank you.

      Reply
  19. Laurel
    March 20, 2015

    I think a patio will truly be a healing place for all of you. We have a patio. We've lived here for 13 years, and we've enjoyed it every spring/summer/fall. We've had a little fire pit. The teens and friends have always loved to hang out there. We just had plastic lawn chairs and folding camping chairs.

    But . . . for 13 years I have wanted to make it a little nicer. We do not live in the country. Our back/side yard is not fenced, and butted up to it is all of the parking spaces for a big medical center. So, during the day, our patio is anything but a private quiet place. Until last summer.

    I put up a 4 foot white picket fence around the patio (which gives plenty of privacy when sitting down). I bought a bigger fire pit. I bought 2 custom-made cedar adirondack chairs with footstools and matching side tables. I pulled out a 50 year old adirondack chair from my Grandpa's cabin. I hung large potted flower baskets all around. And . . . I LOVE it. I could just sit out there all day every day, reading and writing (and hanging out with the family).

    Praying for you all! Thank you for sharing your story. I have a grandbaby due in Spokane next month (our 7th grandson in 3 years), so will be heading over to the east side a lot more in the coming months. Hope we can meet up again one day soon.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 21, 2015

      Laurel, I love that you took the space you had and made it what you wanted. You are blessed with grandbabies! I'm looking forward to continuing to catch up as you post on your new blog.

      Reply
  20. Jeri
    March 21, 2015

    I never think to look on Pinterest for things. I always Google. Here in Virginia, if you live in the country at least, you take your garbage to the dump. Sometimes depending where you are, they might have trash containers and you put your stuff there vs driving to the dump. As the kids unloaded our garbage today, we watched people throw away 2 couches, 2 cat trees, 4 plastic lawn chairs, 2 metal lawn chairs and a myriad of other things. I wonder why people don't think of giving it away? A tv and vcr were also tossed by another truck. By the way, people here drive Ford trucks way more than the other brands…only 1 Dodge and 1 Chevrolet out of about 15. My kids were just aghast at what people were throwing away instead of offering it at the curb. Lawn chairs? My 5 kids were going "but we could sit on those!" So I love your patio idea. In my heart I'll dumpster dive for also go look at Pinterest for ideas. Love and healing to you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 21, 2015

      Jeri, you made me smile – you can dumpster dive in your heart for me. I'm all for finding treasures 🙂

      Reply

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