Monday, February 6, 2017

The Magnolia Story

This week I read The Magnolia Storyfrom cover to cover in less than 24 hours. I already said it once on Instagram but I'll rave about it again here because I don't think I can possibly recommend it enough - it was so, so good! Reading it was such a worthwhile use of my time.

A few days earlier, I had hosted our monthly gathering of some of the wonderful ladies of my generation on the Crozier side. We are sisters and cousins-in-law and we have been meeting regularly to share our lives, to pray together and challenge each other. Two of them mentioned the book, raved about it actually. They told me how fun and uplifting it was to read, how they were reading it together as a family. It was helping pave the way for conversations with their kids about morals and values and loving and trusting the Lord. When I saw the book available and on display at my library, I took it as a sign and snatched it up to check out for myself. Little did I know that within mere hours, I would find myself bed-ridden with the stomach flu, presented with ample opportunity to read. A blessing in disguise?

Though it seems highly unlikely, I realize there may be a few readers who know nothing of The Magnolia Story, who have yet to hear about Chip and Joanna (Jojo) Gaines, the recently-made-famous hosts on the HGTV show, Fixer Upper. If you have not yet been enlightened, allow me to bring you up to speed in a sentence or two: they are an amazing couple who have an incredible gift for helping couples buy "the worse house on the block" and transform it to the home of their dreams. My descriptions will never do it justice so just do yourself the favor and stream the show. And then read the book.
The story of how they came to be is inspirational. And the way they interact with each other is so real and their banter is down-right hilarious. They love Jesus and they care about people and they work really hard and make a great team. They are endearing to me, partly because their stories and personalities feel so very relatable to me. I resonated with all the miscommunications that they chronicle, the projects and undertakings that didn't quite happen as smooth as butter. It felt very reminiscent of Graham and I and the way most of our remodeling projects have gone down. Chip is ever the dreamer, the visionary, always the "yes" man. She is the voice of reason and practicality. In brevity: he acts and she cries. And then later she comes around and jumps aboard.

I couldn't sum up our process more perfectly: choppy, emotional, and at times impulsive and extremely frustrating. But the end results are always amazing, almost without exception. The book opens with Chip buying a houseboat (!?!!) without first consulting his wife (no, I'm not endorsing this). This very much seems to be his mode of operation throughout their story: first do and then tell. She gets raging mad and then hears him out. She is pushed to flex outside of her comfort zone and then she gets excited and lets the creative juices flow as she designs a plan for each ambitious venture. In turn, she gains confidence as she allows herself to think outside the box and dream a little too. It sounds absolutely aggravating but growth opportunities usually are.

Soon she begins realizing dreams of her own and finally says them aloud. He is behind her 1000% and encourages her to not just step toward them but lunge after them. He's perfect for her because he builds her confidence. He's the "yes" man.

He was never what she was looking for in a mate. And yet he was everything she was looking for. And vice versa. And it's so beautiful. And it's so very us.

After reading the final page of the book, I called Graham at work and told him to hold our current house loosely. I caught him of guard but he listened patiently, as he always does. I'd had a wonderful afternoon with my kids, the very best in a long time. The winter sun was shining and so we passed the hours in our neglected backyard, raking leaves, tearing out the old and dead. The girls played wildly, their imaginations running at top speed. They created their own special world in the corner of the yard, behind the bushes and under the cover of the bare tree branches overhead. They found some old bricks, remnants of our "surprise" fireplace remodel, actually (speaking of remodeling miscommunications...) They built a table, outfitted it with "stools" made from converted flower pots and buckets turned upside down. They entertained themselves for hours and each of us felt so alive at the end of it.

Maybe it was the sunshine or the fresh air. Likely I was riding the high of a truly inspirational book (much like how we all suddenly think we can become amazing gymnasts after watching a couple hours of the Olympics). Whatever it was, I felt loose and relaxed and like suddenly I could be a "yes" girl too. I opened up and allowed myself to dream a little.

We've been working hard on this home that we are in, sometimes running with the bones it came with, other times, replacing them completely. It's come a long way but it definitely isn't everything. Lately we have been hashing and re-hashing plans for our long and narrow kitchen, the main reason we *almost* didn't go through with the purchase of our home. It could be really cool with a lot of work and money, but it will never be exactly what we want. And maybe it doesn't need to be.

But there are parts of me, particularly when I'm out in our yard, that long for something different entirely. I want land, I want space to roam. I want loads and loads of bright sunshine where I can build a garden as large as I want and absolutely no one will care. I want to plant fruit trees of all kinds - apples, pears, peaches, fig, nectarine and plum. I'll call it my "orchard" even if it is only 10 trees. I want a berry patch. I want loads of flowers everywhere. I want a compost bin to keep my little operation self-fertile. I long for a life that aligns with the seasons - berry-picking in the summer months, canning and preserving in the fall. I want an abundance of crops for my little entrepreneurs to sell at a roadside stand.

On the weekends, I dream of white twinkly lights and a big fire pit and a house with a wrap around porch and a place where people can gather. I envision hosting "field" dinners as dusk settles on rustic wood tables arranged across the lawn. I see Graham sitting on the front porch, handing out cold beers and glasses of wine and then sitting down to serenade all who gather. I picture kids playing nearby, running freely, barefoot, a puppy at their heels.

During the weekdays, while the kids are in school, I would pass my days writing and drinking far to much coffee and working out in the yard until my fingernails are stained brown. This is what I dream about when I let my imagination run wild. All of this, all these words, make me flat-out giddy.

That day, the day I called Graham and told him to hold the house loosely, he arrived home from work informing me he'd performed a quick search and found some property (remember he's my "yes" man). It was 40 acres and sunny and beautiful with a lazy river running through it. The price was right and we started getting excited; the kids were already coming up with names for the dog. We would go in on it with friends, split the parcel and each build houses. It would be perfect! And then we found out it was pending.

We were a bit bummed (OK the kids were REALLY bummed) but there would have been zoning issues with this particular piece of land anyway. This land idea may be a whim that will die down by the end of next week. Or it may be the spark the ignites movement and change in our lives. One never knows what God might have in store! But the wheels are turning and I'm feeling inspired.

If you've put some big dreams of yours on hold because of the season of life you are in, I'd encourage you to dust them off for a while. Read this book, even if just for fun, and allow yourself to get inspired. Maybe they will come to fruition and maybe they won't, but it's good for our souls to think outside the box.

And y'all, I think I want a farm!!

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1 comment:

  1. Kelsie! I love this and I love how you openly admit that this idea may be on a whim that dies down by the end of the week. We are so similar (oh you know, listing my house for sale on a whim, pulling it off the market 5 days later....). :D It's good to be a dreamer, and it's even more fun to be a doer. I've been researching the expat life all morning (and have done so for 5 years or so!). That's my dream. Pete's not a yes man, he's the practical one who says, "what about my job?" when I talk about selling our house and moving somewhere for a year. I always are employable, why are you worried about a job when you could be living in the sunshine somewhere having the time of your life with your family? :D I'm going to have to read this book...


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