Thursday, December 27, 2012

Home is Wherever I'm With You - Fifteen Years

Today Curt and I celebrate our fifteen year wedding anniversary.  Neither of us are sure how that much time has passed since we exchanged our vows in a church filled with Christmas trees, poinsettias, and our family and friends.  It has been an incredible journey and there is no one I'd rather share life with.  I was shopping for an anniversary gift, stumbled upon this piece of art, and knew I had to get it.
Home is wherever I'm with you

"Home is wherever I'm with you." In the past fifteen years we have called more than a handful of places "home."

We started our marriage by moving into an old duplex in Maplewood, Minnesota.  It was dark and dank with wall-to-wall paneling and green linoleum floors, appliances, and countertops.  The only furniture we owned was the bed we purchased right before we got married.  The rest of our home was sparsely furnished with mismatched hand-me-downs.  But we didn't care.  We were thrilled to finally set up a life together.  In that home, we learned (sometimes the hard way) that marriage requires sacrifice.  Effort.  A sense of humor.  And an overabundance of love.  We bickered over where to squeeze the toothpaste and who takes out the garbage.  We bought our first car together, practiced swing dance in our living room, and hosted Friday night game nights with our college friends.  In Maplewood, our home was our haven where we learned how to be married.

Two years later, we moved to an apartment in Lake Bluff, Illinois.  Our home was 795 tiny and cozy square feet.  Curt immersed himself in graduate school while I learned how to be a commuter, taking the train into Chicago every day.  We were completely alone with no friends or family.  All we had was each other. In Lake Bluff, we learned the importance of friendship.  We found a church we loved, started serving, and slowly began to build friendships.  We learned how to support and encourage each other through challenging times.  We got better at resolving conflict and grew closer each day.

little apartment
We never thought we'd stay in Illinois, but God had other plans.  The only door that opened for a post-Graduate School job for Curt was with an orthopedic group in Chicago.  We said goodbye to our tiny apartment and bought our first house in Hainesville, Illinois.  Three weeks after we moved in, we came through the garage door carrying an infant car seat and one adorably premature son named Grant.  History repeated itself the next two years, but this time the infant in the car seat was Katie.  Then Alli.  We made every newbie parenting mistake as we raised our babies in that sweet little home.  We bought new and matching furniture from a furniture store, used a workbench as a kitchen table, and painted our dining room lavender because we wanted to.  Our home in Hainesville is where we learned how to be homeowners.  We also learned to embrace the joys and sacrifices that parenting added to our marriage.

nothing like bringing home a healthy baby
Our quickly growing family and a booming housing market facilitated selling our Hainesville home and moving to a bigger home in Wauconda, Illinois.  But a three month overlap between homes led us to become "The Smilp Family."  We divided up our belongings between the homes of three different sets of our friends then moved ourselves in with our incredibly generous friends, Rick and Ann Smith.  They had four kids (ages seven to five months) and we brought a 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 6-week-old to the mix.  Seven kids under the age of seven.  People told us we were all crazy and that our friendship would never last.  But God writes creative and incredible stories.  The Smith's opened their home to us and made it ours. They are still some our dearest friends.  Our time as the Smilp's taught us that generosity is one of the sweetest fragrances in a home.
the Smilp Kids

Wauconda, Illinois, was the next place we called home.  Certain we would never move again, we built our dream home on our dream lot.   We were the first family to move in on our street and we watched our neighborhood take shape as our kids grew. We decided we needed one more baby to fill the fourth bedroom and the next year an "It's a Girl" sign hung in our front window when Paige joined our family.  The years in Wauconda were a blur of poopy diapers, trips to the park next door, library classes, and more coughs, colds and flus than you could imagine.  Those days "in the trenches" were exhausting and exhilarating.  Curt and I fell in love all over again as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder, raising kids and scraping by on discount grocery shopping and rare coffee dates.

Our babies transformed before our eyes.  They morphed from innocent infants to opinionated toddlers to preppy little pre-schoolers and toothless elementary schoolers.  Our marriage put down roots in our home in Wauconda, grounding itself in our relationship with Jesus and with each other.   Our future seemed so certain and predictable.  And then God changed the story line.

Curt got a job in Portland, Oregon, and we watched as a professional moving crew loaded an entire semi-truck with our possessions that at one time were so meager they fit in the back of a trailer.  Fittingly, we spent our last night in Illinois as the Smilp Family before loading our mini-van for a road trip to our new home.  Five days later, we pulled into the driveway of our rental home in Newberg, Oregon.  We rented it sight-unseen and were thrilled when our temporary home on Oxford Street turned out to be spacious and in a great neighborhood.

On Oxford Street we brought home our puppy Dusty and adjusted to a new life where absolutely everything was different.  I got good at introducing myself to any Mom who dared to make eye contact with me.  Eventually we made our first friends.  Kelly, Alden and Oliver lived on the other end of Oxford Street and ended up being our best friends to date.  Our time on Oxford Street taught us to cling to each other and to God when life is lonely and everything is new and different.

Eventually we ended up moving across town to our current home in Newberg, Oregon.  We moved the week before Thanksgiving and in one week Curt transformed the sterile white walls into a colorful palette of warmth and homeyness.  We ate Thanksgiving dinner in our new home, surrounded by unpacked boxes but fully satisfied and content with the love of each other.  In this home we have watched our children move out of toddlerhood and into full blown elementary school age and even middle school tweens.

Growth can be painful.  This home has been a haven to shelter us from the pains of starting over again, learning new careers, a new church, new friends, a new climate, and even a new culture.  Our marriage has gone through a period of refining - skimming off the impurities that rise to the surface and leaving behind the beauty of a relationship tested by time.

Fifteen years.  Multiple homes.  But Babe - home is wherever I'm with you.

I can hardly wait to read the story God writes with the next fifteen.  Happy Anniversary.


  1. What a great history of your life together. Beautiful and crazy all at once. Happy anniversary!

    1. Thanks Raina. It was a really great day!

  2. Happy Anniversary! I LOVED reading this Jodi! You still have a way with words that is touching and inspiring! We love your family! Any time you want to consider a Smilp African adventure you are all welcome here! Ann Smith

    1. Oh Ann. We've talked about it. It would be so incredible. Don't rule us out just yet. Katie talks ALL THE TIME about how much she misses Julia. Does Julia have email? Maybe they can start writing to each other. My how our lives have changed, eh? Love you!