Minnesota and longing for home


Unless you count the summer I lifeguarded there during college, I have never actually lived in Minnesota. As a result, I sometimes feel silly professing a deep love for it. But I have more strong emotions about that place — a deep heart-tugging, if you will — than any other.

I think it’s because I feel that if I were to belong anywhere, it would be there. My dad’s side moved around a lot. My mom grew up mowing hay and picking rocks out of fields in Hinckley, Minnesota.

Minnesota, where my great-great grandfather, Jan Albert Sikkink, started a farm on a road now known as Sikkink Road. Where my great-grandmother made her screened-in porch and dinner table famous by her hospitality. Where my great-grandfather was the county sheriff. Where he bought the land for Grindstone Lake Bible Camp, which every member of the family thereafter attended and where I and many others first remember wanting to follow Jesus.


I remember teeter-tottering on my grandparents’ swing set, still to this day one of the oldest-looking swing sets I have every seen, rusty and well-used. I remember playing in my great-grandmother’s playhouse, pulling dishes from the little cabinet, and returning to it one day and realizing how tall I’d grown as I could no longer really fit inside. I remember three-legged races in the woods at my great aunt’s Fourth of July party. I remember fireflies. I remember cold swims in a lake cut deep by a glacier ages ago. I remember horses and fields and cows and pine trees. I remember sledding on ice and snow down into the gravel pit, the same pit that saved dozens of lives during the Great Hinckley Fire.

My grandparents have a sign on their house: “Welcome to Poverty Flats.” How’s that for understated, self-deprecating humor? And the Os! The long, beautiful Os in their words.

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I think the attachment I feel to Minnesota is the closest I can come to feeling, in this modern technological age, what the Bible says the Israelites felt about their land. I’ve been reading Jeremiah and Lamentations, and the ache of exile is haunting me. “Weep not for him who is dead, nor grieve for him, but weep bitterly for him who goes away, for he shall return no more to see his native land.”

I often wonder what life would be like if my mother had not felt the pull of ambition (the same pull I feel) and left Minnesota for college. Would I now live on the same road my mother, grandfather, great-grandfather grew up on? Would we get together every week for cookies and Rook? Would I drop in and see how the cows are doing? Wouldn’t it be some sort of beautiful agrarian ideal? I’m sometimes so envious of people who have everyone they’ve ever known and loved in one place. As my sister once said to me, as best I can remember: “What is this dumb system where people have to grow up and move away from their families?”

But I’m not Minnesotan. I would have made the same choice as my mother. I make it now, by living in Washington, D.C., far from my parents, far from any sort of ancestral home. And as I realized recently, were it not for a chances, risks, decisions, happenstances of the past, my family would also not be Minnesotan. I dug into history a little bit on our most recent trip to Hinckley and found that many of my mother’s ancestors who immigrated (mostly from Holland, but also from France, England, Scotland) first settled in New York, Wisconsin, Iowa. Some of them made their way to Minnesota; some of their children did. But they had no special attachment to the state. They were wanderers. Their families became as spread out as mine. They left native homes with far more personal history and heart-tugs to cross an ocean to come here. More than Minnesotans, they were pilgrims.

Christians (and the Bible) talk often about pilgrimage and home. We are meant to be pilgrims in this world, longing for the better home of heaven. Perhaps God gave me a love for Minnesota so that I can know that longing for a homeland.

And certainly I can ask “What if?” all I want, but if my family had not spread out so much, I probably would not have met my husband, the best gift in my life, who himself came to America as a toddler and has his own sets of questions about home and longing and identity. Perhaps it is best to know I am really only a Christian and a pilgrim, and as Betsy ten Boom said: “There are no ‘What ifs’ in the kingdom of God.”

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Love and toilets and such

As you may have read, Homère loves Valentine’s Day. Like really loves it. All the standard V-Day things that some people loathe, he embraces wholeheartedly. And I have decided I am super OK with that.

This year had roses. photo1 (1)

And a fancy, delicious dinner out.photo3

And a gift of Bananagrams.photo1

And even a gift from me!


But mostly this year’s Valentine’s Day was special because it will be forever remembered as the Valentine’s Day of the Troubled Toilet.

You see, because we had been doing this a lot this winter…


…we got to send each other Valentines like this:


To make a long story short, our toilet and bathtub backed up 7 times this winter; our sewer line is full of tree roots; DCWater is currently digging a 16-foot hole in our yard; I have an especially violent dislike for the automated phone menu of a certain home warranty company; and the night before Valentine’s Day, Homère spent scooping gloppy brown water out of our bathtub, lest it overflow and make us even more sad. Please note that I am married to a man, who, on his first solo babysitting gig, decided it would be best to take off his shirt to change the baby’s diaper, as well as use an entire bath towel for protection while burping the kid. He really hates germs.

The plumber finally came a few hours before we left for our Valentine’s date. We had to clean and disinfect everything (no, really, everything. The plumber made a huge mess), but we got it all squeaky clean right before we left for Bistro Bis.


And when we got there, Homère said to me: “This night is about you… and celebrating our bathroom.”


Because he cleaned up our apartment nearly every time this sewer backup thing has happened, and because he just looked like he wanted to die while emptying our bathtub of who-knows-what the night before, my heart was filled with a special love for Homère this Valentine’s Day. I still really don’t get why he likes me and wants to get me roses, but even more, I am completely bewildered that he would do things like bucket out sewer water.

Marriage is fun. Marriage can be really difficult (though, let’s be real, we’re newlyweds — we’ve heard this is true but hey, I still think he smells good all the time).

But mostly so far, marriage is beautiful and so, so humbling, as it is filled with daily reminders of God’s grace that I don’t deserve.

Reminders such as roses, delicious dinners, and overflowing toilets.


New Jersey in the summer

Now that we’ve transitioned to the more wintry part of autumn, how about a good healthy flashback to summer?

A few months ago Homère and I visited his parents in New Jersey. We spent a day walking around Ocean Grove, a seaside town that definitely earns the adjective “charming.” I loved it, and Homère rediscovered it.


Old-school shore hotels!



oceangrove_combo2We had the best, the most delicious ice cream ever. Seriously the best I’ve ever had. From Nagle’s, a pharmacy that’s been there since…. forever.




And of course there’s no point in going to the shore if you don’t spend some time at the beach. I love the beach; I’d been begging Homère to take me for months. Since it was windy and a little cold, I got a promise that we’ll go back next year.



oceangrove_combo1On the upper right is the Great Auditorium — the big chapel of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which has held summer concerts and revivals and prayer meetings and whatnot there for years and years, since 1869. Homère also graduated from high school in there.

oceangrove432These are some of the tents the association rents out in the summer. And people live in them. Isn’t that interesting? I would love to live there for a summer.

And now I’m off to enjoy my autumn. Happy November!

The ugliest pie in the world

When we first tied the knot about three months ago, I thought one of the benefits of marriage would be that my attempts at domesticity would now have a high and lofty purpose: To be the most amazing, best wife ever.

Well I have yet to accomplish that, and I realized pretty quickly it was very silly to think that I ever would. Also, it really doesn’t matter. I can burn dinner and descend into tears and be really grumpy and look like a slob, and Homère somehow still says he really likes me and thinks I’m the best wife ever. So now I still try to be domestic, but it’s mostly just for fun — which helps when you create the ugliest pie in the world. And when you have a husband who has otherwise threateningly superior domestic abilities…. Homère cooks and cleans at least as well as I do, and usually better.

Homère, on his first attempt to bake ANYTHING EVER, turned out this beautiful banana bread last night for our small group. It was delicious.

banana bread


Meanwhile, the pie that I was going to make for small group but didn’t have time to finish until later… turned out to be very ugly and lumpy. The very complicated crust recipe I tried just had a lot of issues on top. And don’t be fooled by this picture: It’s more disfigured in real life.

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But it turned out that the ugly crust was flaky and delicious, and the filling was yummy. So Homère said: “At least it’s beautiful on the inside.” It’s not every day you make a pie with self esteem issues.

Anybody have a delicious but more reliably pretty pie crust recipe?

We got married!


We got married! And we are so, so happy. I love not having to say goodbye at night, waking up next to the man I love, cooking together, reading everything from Peter the Great to Paddington Bear together, looking up stupid puns online together, eating way too much kettle corn and ice cream together, growing closer as we learn what it means to cherish and treasure each other. We are huge fans of marriage.

And I’m back to blogging! Coming soon: behind-the-scenes wedding confessions, pictures of our apartment, adventures in cooking, travels to the far-off lands of Jamaica and New Jersey, etc. Probably interspersed with amusing things Homère says. (Why is it that once you get married you think your husband is the funniest person ever??) Sample: “If I had a cat, I’d be telling it: ‘Cat, you better find some birds and some rats. Because I don’t have any money for a cat budget.'”

You can see more of our wedding pictures here. Many, many thanks to our dear friend, TwentyTwenty Studios.

A spring day

March has been a moody month for weather. It snowed this week, and I felt very cold walking home tonight. But on a Saturday earlier this month it seemed like spring, and I got to enjoy it with my friend Elise, visiting from grad school, and Homère. I even pulled out ye ol’ camera for a trip to Eastern Market.

But first… some flowers Homère bought me.



And an instagram for good measure…

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The next day was also warm, so Homère and I spent the afternoon soaking in the sun at the Georgetown waterfront.

napatGeorgetown399 napatGeorgetown400

My main consolation through all the yucky weather we’ve had since is that it may aid me in getting a not-humid, not-super-duper-hot wedding day. Nasty DC summer can start in July, right?

Can’t wait for Monday. It’s supposed to be warm again!

Ah, Valentine’s Day

Undeservedly and unexpectedly, I ended up with a man who l-o-v-e LOVES Valentine’s Day. Not a bad deal, my friends, not a bad deal.

So last Sunday, when a friend of ours mentioned like she knew that Homère was coming into town early on Thursday, and when he tried to cover up quickly by saying, “Nooo, Friday,” I figured he was coming early on Valentine’s Day to surprise me. I liked this idea. It made me happy. But then I started worrying, and asked later, “Homère, how many classes are you allowed to skip?” Bad move. He started thinking, “Oh, she wants me not to skip class.”

… You guessed it. We had our Gift of the Magi moment and on Valentine’s Day he wound up wishing he weren’t in a western Virginia library and I wound up heartsick and eating leftovers. I cried just because I was expecting to see him and didn’t. LOVE IS CRAZY, PEOPLE.

And that was even though he sent me roses at work and silly Valentines texts throughout the day. What a guy.

ImageBeing the Valentine extraordinaire that he is, the next day he picked me up, gave me THREE red rose arrangements (I love him. But I’ve clearly tricked him somehow) and MORE presents (he went on etsy! etsy!!!). By the way I deserve absolutely none of this… you can tell because this is what I got him… heart-shaped brownies.

ImageAnd then he took me to a schmancy, delicious dinner. I need to learn to cook potatoes like that.


So, yeah, he’s crazy. And I L-O-V-E love him.