Home Sweet Home

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home sweet home | A Virtuous Woman
The Ringstaff Family Home

This photo was taken about a week ago by my daughter, Sarah.

We moved into our house ten years ago this month. I was very pregnant with my daughter Laura. She’ll be 10 years old in June! I never thought I would want to move to Harlan, Kentucky. In fact, when my husband came home and said, “I found a house I think you’ll love.” I replied with, “I’ll go look at it, but there’s no way I’m moving to Harlan.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t like Harlan. It is a beautiful small town. I didn’t want to be that close to my mother-in-law.

At the time, my husband’s son Justin, and his wife Chelli and their two baby boys were living with us. So we all loaded up and drove to Harlan to look at the house. We drove up in the drive. It was winter so nothing was blooming and the yard was overgrown with bushes and weeds. The house had sat empty for over two years.

I loved the stone wall along the drive and I loved the stone path that led to the back door. Chelli and I walked into the mudroom and then into the little yellow (at the time) kitchen and I saw the big picture window over the sink. From there we moved through the butler’s pantry into the dining room and we looked at each with big eyes. There was a gorgeous crystal chandelier and a lovely bay window overlooking the front yard. And then into the foyer where I saw a beautiful staircase and I knew I had already fallen in love.

The house was built in 1950. Needless to say, we’ve spent the last ten years repairing and s-l-o-w-l-y renovating the house. We’ve replaced the roof, all 53 windows, the garage doors, rewired the kitchen, redone the plumbing in half the bathrooms, put in a new floor in the basement… and cut down something like 23 massive 100+ foot oak and poplar trees that were too close to the house or rotting and dangerous.

Next on our list… finish remodeling the kitchen, rewire the rest of the house, finish renovating the other bathrooms, paint the whole interior, replace the kitchen floor, tear out wallpaper and put in new, rip out the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors… Sometimes it feels like a never ending list of things that need to be done.

Shortly after making an offer on the house, the ten of us packed up the house in Rose Hill, Va. (just over the mountain) and moved to Harlan.

Little did I know that just a few weeks later the flowers would start to bloom. I am blessed to have literally hundreds of daffodils, tulips, irises, day lilies, Irish moss, crocuses, trillium, wild roses, azaleas, and peony’s. Not to mention all of the trees that bloom. During March, April, and May there are so many flowers I can have fresh cut flowers in every room of the house and you’d never know I took some from the yard. What a blessing!

I worried for nothing about my mother-in-law. She hasn’t tried to control my life. In fact, she’s been a real blessing to us. My daughter Laura was born in this house, right there in my bedroom in the same bed I sleep in today. We planted trees in honor of our children. We’ve buried a lot of pets in this yard. Our family gathers together very often in this house for birthdays, holidays, and just ordinary days.

Home Sweet Home | A Virtuous Woman
Home Sweet Home

There have been times I wished we could move somewhere else, but I’m glad now that we are still here. This house has given a legacy of love and stability and home to my children. I’ve lived in this house longer than I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life. And the same goes for my husband.

Home is sweet.

Tell me about your home. What does home mean to you?

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  1. Melissa, Your home is beautiful! I'm living in a house for the first time in my 20+ yrs of married life. Living in NYC, we always lived in apartments. 8/11 we moved out of the city and settled in a little village in the Hudson Valley. We rent, so I can't "make it mine", but having the space and beauty of a yard is wonderful! And stairs!!...we have stairs!! Sometimes I wonder if we made the right choice moving here. Living in a town of 2800, people can be stand-offish. We are s-l-o-w-l-y making friends. (saw a bluebird yesterday! woohoo)
    1. Leigh, thank you! I am very blessed. I lived in a lot of apartments and rentals - this is the second home we've owned. We owned the house in Rose Hill, Va. - lived there for about 18 months. Before that I spent 10 years in rentals. But renting a house is so much nicer than living in an apartment, IMO. I like my privacy! Harlan is a little town, too. And we are in the heart of poverty stricken Appalachia and mountain people are friendly but at the same time clanish and so over the last ten years we've slowly made some friends, but I don't have any close friends. Sad, I know. Part of that may be mu fault though since I've always had a hard time making friends... and I have a fear of rejection (I was terribly picked on as a child - ha, ha). But I'm not shy any more and can talk to pretty much anyone... :)
  2. Hi Melissa! You have a beautiful home. I love to hear about your life in Harlen, the beautiful flowers and your family. My life to me is so different now. I am 44 now and 3 years ago I had a massive stroke. My husband said I was like a newborn.He had to do everything for me. I have two beautiful children who are teenagers now. I am slowly getting better. Before the stroke a was a Women's leader and I did a Teenage Girls ministry among other things. God did amazing things for me to become all of that because I was very shy,very insecure, very quit.God taught me so many lessons . Now after the stroke it's like I had a plague. I lost all my friends people don't come to me for advice anymore my phone never rings. I haven't driven in 3 years and I'm so isolated. I could go on but Our Father has me all to Himself. I have learned so many lessons from Him. When I wasn't emotional I asked Him why a stroke He said When you are week I AM STRONG.My dream is to preach to the multitude. You know the story about the Loafs and the fish how Jesus had the people sat down in groups and Jesus gave thanks and broke the loafs and satisfied the people. I feel like I'm being broken to satisfy the people. Before the stroke we lived at a horse facility.We boarded horses, my husband trained horses we had a pond my children fished in and swam in. We had a golf cart. Our home had to be foreclosed on because of my stroke and because my husband had to take care of me. My kids had to watch their horses leave. We had a garage sale and sold everything. Every morning before school my kids would say Momma I don't want to move And I would say God has a plan for us and a reason or He wouldn't move us. We live in a small compact rental now. Some days I'm strong and faith filled other days I just cry. I have depression anger all the things a Christin is not suppose to have. We are in a process of building our on house that we own in a fabulous neighborhood. It a huge step for me. I a women with a stroke went to a design center. We bought a lot, me who had a stroke. I see my home that I know The Lord gave me as a new beginning. A new chapter for my Family. I know all the right way to think and act but I don't do it sometimes. I feel guilty because I'm so unstable. I can't do my daughters hair or put on her makeup and I feel like she sees me as week and unpredictable.I didn't bond with my Mom and I didn't have Women friends and I want to make sure my daughter and I have an awesome relationship. My children are so special to me and before the stroke I did everything for them. Now I can't some days I fall apart I feel like my husband is their parent and I don't fit into my on family. I know this is long. I don't know why I'm telling you all this . It's healing to me to tell someone. I very excited about this new house but scared at the same time. The unknown, letting go of the old is harder then I thought, pressure of perfection, what if it's not at all what I thought.Ready or not here it comes!!
    1. Tammy, thank you for sharing your story. My heart was broken hearing your struggles. I am so sorry that you've had to endure such a difficult thing. Of course, I've never been through exactly what you have gone through, but I struggle with a chronic illness and a weak immune system and when I get sick, I get REALLY sick. Sometimes for weeks or months at a time. I've felt bad that often my daughters take care of me when I am sick, cook and clean, bring me food in bed, etc. But they are such sweet children and so loving and such a blessing to me. Thankfully, I am not sick all of the time. There have been times when I've had to care for my Mother-in-law and it was hard, but that's what families do - THEY TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER. I'm sure your family loves you very much. I'm sure also that they are very thankful that you didn't die from the stroke. What a blessing to be able to build your own home! New beginnings are good. Have you read the book Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst? I'm reading the devotional to that book and it is wonderful. Maybe you would enjoy it, too. I don't know if you have thought about it in the past, but sometimes it is easier to write a letter to your loved ones... your children to let them know how you feel. I do that sometimes. And no one is perfect. Only Jesus. Don't let expectation - yours or others - control your life. Embrace joy. Live each day the best you can. Slow progress is okay. And you can only do what you can do. I've had to learn this the hard way. I pray that God blesses your family's new beginning, new home, new walk with HIM.
    2. Hi Tammy and Melissa. I found your story Tammy to be so moving and Melissa I understand your immune condition. Chronic Leukaemia has wrecked havoc on my body for 20 years, and the chemo has done so much damage that I not only have chemo for life over 18 hours in hospital every couple of weeks, I have to have two bottles each time of intragram to build my immune system up, plus blood etc. As well. I also have MS, which you probably know leaves lesions in the brain and affects balance, eyesight, ability to mobilise and toileting also seizures (not easy for an RN to accept) I had to have my bowel removed and an ileostomy, plus a urostomy as I could no longer control my bodily functions. Plus a hysterectomy including ovaries, breast and lymph nodes (multiple) and my husband and yes at times my children have had to care for me to my embarrassment. I say this not for pity but because of the strength and the walk I have been blessed to have with God. He is my refuge and my watchtower. He is my breath and my life and I have been privileged to be able to help people take that walk because of my problems. Through help groups on line, waiting in doctors offices, sitting on a bench while my husband shops the list is endless. You are not invisible, your Heavenly Father knows every hair on your head and the number of them. He is your rock and your refuge and Revelation 21 3-4 tells us of his promise to wipe away the tears from our eyes, no more pain, no more suffering, no more sickness. What a promise! You must claim that, it's yours Jesus paid the price so that we could have that privilege. Lastly remember that God says His peace he gives us, not as the world gives (temporarily and with strings) but enduring, constant peace. Take time to grieve your old life but ask God what your purpose is now and be still and be patient. Rest in The Lord. Your sister in Christ Lorraine
  3. I lived in Harlan for many years, my husband was born and raised there, and my in-laws still live there. Glad to have discovered your blog.
  4. Hello Melissa, I spent some time rediscovering your website tonight and after reading this post I just wanted to share something with you. My home was recently destroyed in a tornado. My family was safe but we were all devastated by this loss. The house originally belonged to my husband's grandparents. It is where my mother in law and her brothers were born and raised. My husband spent nights there with his cousins every summer for years. Every year the family gathered there on Christmas to celebrate the Savior. Every year in May we visited the graves of our loved ones and then gathered on the front porch of that home to celebrate those who lived before us and helped shape us into the people we are today. There was so much personal history in that house. My husband and I had lived in this same place for almost 14 years, more than half of our marriage, and it was the only home our children even remembered with the exception of our oldest. My home was my heart and that terrible day it felt like my heart had been ripped out. Today, 3 months later, we are renting a house in the next town, while we are making decisions about our future. In the mean time I am trying really hard to make this temporary place (which comes with so many new rules and restrictions!) into a haven for my family. Although we have strong emotional ties to the house that was destroyed we are beginning to realize the truth to the statement that "home is where your family is". We miss the house (which was 80 years old by the way) and all of it's imperfections that we called character. It was cozy and comfortable and just felt right. But the heart of the matter is, we still have each other and we still have our memories. The things that make home "home" are not really things at all...sitting down together to share a meal made with love, piling up on the couch to watch a favorite movie, playing board games around the dining room table. Home, I realize, is not so much about the building itself, but rather the things that go on inside that structure that make us feel loved, valued and part of something bigger than ourselves. I can now say that no matter where I go, as long as I have the people that I love with me, I am home.
    1. Christy, Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. How terrible sad to lose your home... but how much sadder it would have been to lose your family! You are so right - home really is where ever our family is!
  5. Melissa, I love your house. Just looking at it speaks to me of family and home. I often get restless to move, and we HAVE moved many times, but it just never feels settled or home. I think it must be an attitude thing that I need to work on. I'm enjoying your site, and love your writings. I've also started becoming organized thanks to your print outs!! I've got the binder and everything!!! Thank you so much!
  6. Hi, I enjoyed reading about your life and your wonderful spirit filled home. I was born in London, England in to a family of poverty. We didn't know we were poor because I had a lovely dress and shoes for church and I know now my mother missed meals and caring for herself for us. It was post war, we lived in a heavily bomb damaged area that was marked for slum clearance. I was the eldest of 5, being the only girl had its benefits. My nanna lived a few doors away, indeed my whole very large extended family lived within 2 roads from each other. By 7 I could manage a home, cook and feed the family, do housework, washing by hand and a mangle and washboard! And although we had a daily wash down with a pitcher and bowl (always cold) we would go to the town hall before church Sundays for our weekly bath! Hard to imagine now. I never felt neglected, unloved, over burdened or abandoned. We were a close happy family with one exception, my father. He was an alcoholic, gambler, violent and in prison on occasions. Mum even left a key for the police to come in when they needed to and she would make them tea. Quickly I will say my mother was tough but honest and fair. She found my brother eating chocolate one day and to her horror he said he stole it. She took him to the police station and asked that he be held in the lock up to put the fear of God in to him. Boy did it work. Moving on in 1979 i married my childhood sweetheart Paul and we have just celebrated another anniversary. We emigrated to,Australia, raised two sons who have lived good virtuous lives with their lovely wives and our beautiful granddaughters. Life was a complete contrast to my earlier life. I worked because we needed the income with no back up nearby and became an RN and my husband had his own very successful business. Our sons went to Christian Colleges and have both become successful, balanced and good Christian men who adore their families. My husband has been my rock as for the last 15 years I have fought cancer, MS, diabetes and visual impairment. We lived a Godly life but we had a huge home on the waterfront of Moreton Bay in a private community. I never felt at home even though I tried and it was spectacular with floor to ceiling windows and decks over the water on three floors. Every room had an ensuite. We had three lounge rooms plus an apartment for guests, a genuine home theatre complete with leather recliners and a home gym. Etc. Etc. But in the end I couldn't get upstairs. So with no hesitation with prayer and meditation, we took the plunge to sell in a bad market. My husband retired, I was already retired and we said Lord if this is right it will happen, if it's not your wish so be it. It sold very quickly, they even wanted the furniture, drapes everything. So we negotiated sold with no encumbrances and built a darling little house on one level that I can access with my chair when necessary. I have never felt so happy and relieved. I didn't fit the other lifestyle and it has been a joy to start from scratch and build, decorate and furnish modestly to the wonderful home we now have. The only furniture I kept was my dining table, sideboard, coffee tables and rocking chair. My children have even said how well it suits us. I will finish with something very important to me/us. I,was asked once whether I was angry that I kept getting tumours meaning more and more surgery, chemo, etc. I answered honestly no. I would not be the person I am today without the sum total of my life, good and bad. God doesn't test us nor inflict us, that is sin that entered the world through Satan. I just take it a step at a time and I believe we have a choice to make. To be happy and content where we are, in the situation we are in, conversely we can choose to be miserable and blame others. I thank God every day I open my eyes, to be blessed with another day, Amen. I was also asked if i ask what me? My reply was why not me? Why would someone else deserve it more. I have been privileged to have a ministry talking to people who in normal circumstances wouldn't hear the word. I carry a wallet. It has different verses on different topics and i ask could I give them a card and pray with them. I cannot remember ever being told no. So thank you for reading my story and peace be with you.
  7. Hey neighbor! I had to write and tell you how excited I was to find this site first of all, but then to see that you are just a stone throw away doubled that excitement! I live in Middlesboro, KY and it's always neat to stumble across others from this area. I came across your site after googling self discipline (major problem that I have been allowing to make my life very difficult) and Proverbs 31 and I feel as though I have found so much more than I was looking for!! I have always been drawn to the Proverbs 31 ideal woman, always wished I had someone more like her to have shown me the way growing up, but I had the opposite kind of training. My mother wasn't disciplined when it came to homemaking therefor I was never taught to be, and it has became very clear that I have trained my ten year old daughter to be exactly the same way and this breaks my heart. I have so many longings in my heart to be a great homemaker, to be wise and skilled in all ways like the amazing Proverbs woman, but I am 33 and sooooo very far behind. I know it's never too late to start over and you can't imagine the relief and joy I felt when I read your words of how like the woman at the well you were able to start over! I needed that confirmation in my spirit to kick me into gear! I am so excited (and very nervous lol) to start this journey, but it must be done, I HAVE to start living on purpose, I have to teach my daughter how very important it is that she does the same! I will also be adding a very rambunctious 5yr old son and a pretty cool husband to the family plan when I get married in a few short months (yay!) and they are both just as undisciplined and messy as us so this is definitely going to be the challenge of all challenges lol!!! Thankful that you allowed the Holy Spirit to guide you down the path that led you to become such a great teacher.
    1. Hi Tai! It's so neat to meet you too! I don't see many on here from this area. I do hope you'll visit often and chat with me so we can get to know each other. I am so thankful that God is all about giving us a FRESH start! He can and will do it for you, too! God bless you and your sweet family to be!