Building a House

What I try to do is the art of building, and the art of building is the art of construction; it is not only about forms and shapes and images. – Peter Zumthor, Swiss architect

One of the great joys of building our house is sharing the experience together as a family. During a library visit back in July, the book Building a House was on display in the children’s section, and there was no question about checking it out. Since then, this little classic book with very few words has become dear to us as we continue reading it as as family and watching our house get built.

At this point we are much further into construction since I last wrote a blog, but I wanted to look back and share some of bigger milestones with you from our house’s timeline. Over a week ago I had the pre-drywall walk through with the project manager. We were able to talk through the space and I got a much better understanding of everything that has been done and what’s next on the docket until our next walk through, which will take place right before settlement. We are anticipating a substantial completion date around mid/late October, which is so crazy! Now that it’s September, the dream of this house becoming ours is getting more and more tangible.

June 4, 2017

July 1, 2017

July 21, 2017

July 25, 2017

August 12, 2017

August 19, 2017

September 2, 2017

One of the things I hope to especially remember beyond all of this is that our house will always be a work in progress. Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta, and below is a quote of hers I have been meditating on more recently. For me it serves as an honest reminder of how challenging family life is, and how seemingly impossible situations at times can be overcome with humility and love. In contrast with an actual building, building a house for God in the world will always be under construction. It does not have a completion date. Each person in the family is called to respond in love every single day. Sure it’s easier during the good days. But in the challenging or more frustrating ones, like ones that seem to have a repeat of tantrums, arguments, misunderstandings, shortages of patience? Even still. Even more so are we called to love in those moments. Every day the domestic church is called to bear Christ’s love to another without end.

“Where does love begin? It begins at home. Let us learn to love in our family. In our family, we may have very poor people, and we do not take the time to notice them. We have no time to talk with each other. Let us bring that love, that tenderness into our own homes, and you will see the difference.”

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The Project Goal

It’s hard to believe that it has been over eleven months since I began my job at a construction company. Among the several projects I am juggling, I recently wrapped up and submitted the first project I ever really got my hands on. It was a rather big project (just shy of 300,000 square feet) that has taken almost two years to complete, so big that even the phase I did have the opportunity to contribute to when I arrived on the job seemed like such a little part.

All projects, big and small require the same kind of effort & input from team members. Especially for a project of colossal size, an understanding of the project scope, goals, and collaboration among team members are keys to success. When constructing a building or interior space, there are so many components to it that necessitate mutual understanding and communication. Otherwise you run the risk of making big mistakes & wasting time or worse, creating a space that is not in fact designed or built to the clients’ preferences and needs.  But no matter what, the project still goes on, even if that means taking a few steps back. It goes on.

It also takes numerous coordination meetings, ensuring that each action item is being  met and that each person has their ducks in a row. And during those meetings, I not only got to report sustainability updates to the team as that is the role I play, but I even get to better understand the roles of each person present on the team. They each excel in their craft. While tasks may be separated out per subcontractor and trade, it is all a part of the bigger picture – the project goal, the end result, the final product. Ultimately, that is to have satisfied clients who have the opportunity to produce good work due to the space around them that has catered to their needs and comforts. As I said in a previous post, it’s not about the buildings but those who occupy them. Buildings are lifeless without them.

I have been finding our family’s house-building adventure extra fascinating thanks to work I do throughout the work week. I’m not on the client side when it comes to work, so being the client for our future home project brings about a whole different element of excitement. I get excited when I get to see work projects I’ve been working on nearing completion, and I know that’s just a glimpse of the deep excitement I experience and will continue to experience when it’s something as personal as our house. Yesterday afternoon we received a photo via text from our builders’ sales team, and this is what they sent.

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Building an office space and even a house like our own takes hard work, sweat, sometimes blood and sometimes tears. It takes clear communication, patience, and a whole lot of trusting in the process.

I see the same for building a house for God in the world, raising a family. Building up a house for God in the world means keeping God as the firm foundation and doing our part in actively participating in His plan of salvation. It means creating a space of love, respect, and service. My husband and I are two very different people who do things very differently, but we always do our best to work together as a team. He’s so good at certain things I am not good at and vice versa. Our gifts and skills differ and it’s not a bad thing at all. If anything it’s a gift and we are able to learn from another. And if not learn, then we are given a simple opportunity to just appreciate what each other excels at.

All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family “a school of deeper humanity”: this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.  Pope St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio

Building up the domestic church in this world is no easy feat, and similar to constructing a space, it requires a greater deal of mutual understanding among family members, clear communication & collaboration, openness, exercising humility when wrong, and sacrifice. When mistakes happen, when storms come, when the cross gets heavier to bear, we are called again and again to carry it together as a family. (Thank God for the sacraments and the grace that freely flows from them.) And above all, to bear in mind the project goal…the final picture…the end result. And in this case, Heaven. Each day may our pursuit always be Heaven.

 

 

Lord, I Need You!

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Within the last 24 hours James has been teetering between the temperature of 102 and 99 degrees. For any parent, it’s a tough sight to see your child in discomfort and exhaustion – all you want is for them to feel better and normal again – full of life, energy, and joy. My little guy has been extra clingy since we discovered that he was feeling under the weather. He doesn’t want me to leave his side. When we wants to be carried, he’ll put his arms around my neck and embrace me, not wanting to let go. Even when I step away he’ll recognize it and cry for me to come near again. My presence can simply provide him with the comfort he knows he can receive from me.

I didn’t experience much of a person needing me wholly until I was married and furthermore until I had become a parent. My husband needs me to walk alongside him on our earthly pilgrimage and vice versa. And with my children, they are just about dependent on us in every aspect. That being said, there is some kind of ironic satisfaction I find in wanting to be needed and I think that is because it ultimately reminds me of my greatest need for God.

Whenever I am in discomfort, uncertainty or sorrow, there is a great consolation I experience when I am able to come to the great Sacraments of Love – Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Coming face to face with Christ in those sacraments heal me and accompany me in becoming once more the person that God is calling me to be. Just like James needing me when he’s not feeling well and finding ways to mend his physical sickness, I, too need God to heal me from my own spiritual sickness. I need God to give me the comfort only He can give.  I need His presence, His nearness that can reassure me that all will be well, and if not now then in His time.

Life-giving water flows so abundantly from those two Sacraments, and it is from that well of life that I need to continue drawing water from. It is from that well of life where I am healed and comforted from my personal ailments and it also where I may better fulfill my vocation as wife and mother to my husband and children, who will continue to need me. I imagine it is a tough sight for our Heavenly Father to see us in physical/spiritual/emotional/mental pain just as it is to see my children sick. But the consoling part in all of this is He loves us so much to leave it at that: He gives of Himself so freely and generously because He desires for us to experience the fullness of life again, and that can only be found in our need for Him.

Home Is Where You Make It

 

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When we moved into this apartment, James was five months. He was born into our first apartment, a two-bedroom garden apartment that was built in the 50’s, right outside of Del Ray Alexandria. It had great character and space, but it lacked in a number of ways. However, it was very special as it was the home where we began our family.

A year ago around this exact week, we were packing up and getting ready to leave that home to move into a new one – this one. And it was here that James learned how to sit up, eat solids, crawl, swim (not really, but he “swam” with his daddy a handful of times!), and eventually walk. It was in this humble one-bedroom high rise apartment that our family continued to grow in. It was the home we took Lucy home to just three months ago. What the last place lacked, this one made up for in just about everything, except that we lost a room (and till this day I still think it was a worth it). But even with a family of four we made it work these last three months. It was a challenge we joyfully took on, and now even both babies are sleeping through the night in the same room! It’s possible! ;)

Moving and the whole packing part of it is such a big undertaking. It’s exhausting. As a family we have moved time and again because there was always something lacking, whether it was simple luxuries such as a laundry/dryer in the unit, a dishwasher, central A/C. We had some very humble beginnings. Exhaustion aside, these last few weeks of preparation for this move have been filled with so much reminiscing and reflection. In a way I’m sad that we are already leaving; we’ve come to really enjoy making this place our home. It wasn’t in our initial plan that we would leave this soon, but it wasn’t in our initial plan that we would get pregnant again either. In life, you can plan all you want and picture your life to look a certain way. But when your whole life is a total surrender to what God has planned, you adjust accordingly, and eventually you come to discover how much better life is because of that freeing surrender to God and His perfect plan.

Each place gave us what we needed at the time.  Our first home was perfect for us starting out, and this place was much better in providing for our growing needs as a growing family. Thursday I’ll be moving back into my parents’ house, the house I was born into and grew up in until I got married, with my own family as we wait our house to get built. That house will always be home to me, and I feel very fortunate that later this year I, alongside my husband, will be able to raise our own family in a house of our own too.

Home for us might have looked different these past two years, but each placed lived in was always home because we made it home. As someone whose very occupation is helping in a small way build [sustainable] buildings, home has very little to do with the building; it’s about those who occupy it.

So here’s to “home,” wherever we were, we are and will be. Celebrate it. Be grateful for it. I know I am.

 

 

This House You’re Building, an introduction

Processed with VSCO with s2 presetA week from today we are moving out of our apartment. While I should have probably packed tonight, the inspiration to write hit me and it hasn’t left since. I’m thankful for that because for many years now I have always found writing to be a great creative outlet, most especially when I find moments in my life worth sharing as a way to paint how God has been unveiling Himself to me.

After becoming a mom twice, it was no surprise to me that I would not be able to do some of the stuff I had done before as often as I’d like to. Tonight I was revisiting older posts and updating sub-pages, reading through some of the things I had previously written that were more prevalent in my life then. Some of those things included spending hours in bookstores reading, churches, or museums, going on trips and so on. While I am still able to do those things it just doesn’t quite look the same. Now it looks more like reading board books to the babies or getting started on reading a book of mine only to stop a few minutes later because of a crying baby, or missing/not being able to hear the readings or homilies at Sunday Mass because poopy diapers or meltdowns. ;) For those reasons and more are probably why I enjoy reading what my life was like then and reflecting on how it is now — with the intent of taking a step back to see in panoramic view how God’s plans were made manifest throughout all these years. (I’ll admit, I’m not the proudest of my earliest Xanga posts dating back to my high school years, and archived under “The Glory Road”, but hey, that was a part of the journey, too…)

Now that we are midway through 2017, which is hard for me to believe, one particular goal I would like to add is to write more often. Hopefully by sharing that here it will keep me accountable! Entering deeply into my life’s vocation as wife and mother these past two years have given me the heaviest crosses to bear, but also the greatest joys. Because of this, I desire to write more and share more because any work the Master Artist paints, though it might not look so clear or even pretty initially, is an imminent masterpiece I believe is worth sharing.

For those who are were already readers of my blog, I changed the site title from “Oblatio Sui” to “This House You’re Building.” (For those who are new, welcome!) I don’t know that it’s a permanent thing, but for now at least, I know that in those very words God has been making His presence so especially known to us this year – through the building up of our family, the domestic church, and the literal building of our future house which is set to be completed in the Fall.

On that note, thanks for coming [back] to my little space in the world where I share a piece of my heart and mind. You can expect to read posts on my family, marriage, and perhaps some design ideas, drawings and floor plans of our future home. :)

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Sacred Motherhood

While putting James to sleep today, he kept saying “mom” over and over again. It wasn’t in a nagging way, nor did it become irritating. His voice calling out to me was such a sweet sound. In a simple way it reminded me of his dependence on me, not in just putting him to sleep but in just about everything. It was music to my ears and it only made me want to draw even closer to him, embrace him even tighter.

After he had fallen asleep, the simple thought of calling on the Blessed Mother naturally came to mind. First, I thought, is this how Mama Mary feels when we call to her in prayer, specifically when we pray the “Hail Mary” over and over again when reciting the Holy Rosary? She is our mother, too, so I can only imagine that calling her name also brings about tender feelings for her towards us since we are her children. Second, it brought me to thinking of my consecration to Mary. I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary eight years ago, and since then I promised to become dependent on her in all things—offering my prayers and sacrifices to God through her, confident in her maternal care especially in times of suffering or difficulty. This reminds me of when I was a child myself when I had the confidence that my own mom would always take care of me. Similarly, that’s how it is with our Blessed Mother—it also requires a childlike confidence, even as adults now, to know that she will also take care of our needs and lead us by the hand.

Ever since becoming a mom, I have experienced a different level of closeness to the Blessed Mother. She is the epitome of all mothers and I pray especially throughout this month dedicated to Our Lady, that I, and all mothers everywhere (biological mother, adoptive mothers, godmothers, spiritual mothers), may become more like her and turn to her for inspiration on sacred motherhood.

The Mystery of Parenthood

I’m currently stuck on the couch, literally, because both J + L wanted to continue nap time on mommy.  ❤ Almost four weeks in of this life with two babies under two, and I finally feel like I’m starting to get some kind of method down.

Today is my first full day alone with the babes. And my goal upon waking and Jon leaving for work was to remember to think a step ahead, so for me that meant preparation—prepping for bottle feeding times that ended up taking place simultaneously, prepping lunch so that it could be easily cooked/baked (I ate!! 🙌🏽), prepping all the diaper changing necessities so one change can easily happen after another or so.

However, sometimes crap hits the fan — inconvenience sets in and unforeseen circumstances occur, like for instance: the fire alarm going off this morning after breakfast and you’re alone with both babies on the 13th floor and have to take the stairs down, oh, and you’re four weeks postpartum. Thank God for kind neighbors, and for no serious accidents.)

There were moments today when preparation proved a difference. And then there were moments when I had to stop and think on the spot of what the heck to do, then do it (with so little energy and a whole lot of grace and mental power). And then there are sweet moments (like the one I’m experiencing right now) when you’re reminded of the privilege it is to have tiny souls entrusted to your care.

Parenthood is a mystery. It’s filled with joy, laughter, anxiety, frustration, anger, victory, defeat, impatience, peace, suffering, and joy & peace again. Sometimes you feel empowered and sometimes you feel powerless. It’s such an interestingly phenomenal thing. I’m amazed by my babies and what they’re capable of now and what they will be capable of, and I’m amazed at the strength, patience and willpower I have to keep going, which are things I usually second guess, too. God is so good and finds ways in which I can’t see that renew me and keep me going, determined to do my best and give all I’ve got. Shout out to all the parents out there reading this. You are amazing, whether you know/feel it or not.