Sunday, January 18, 2015

Closing the Door

Where to begin...

It has been hard this past week to hold back the tears. And this morning, Sunday morning, it is impossible.
Today is the last day our little church will meet together.  We have closed our doors. And it is painful.

Almost ten years ago, after being on a Foursquare church plant for five years, Kenny and I decided that it was time to find a church that was a better fit for our rapidly growing, home-education-based family.  And we settled in a place that was filling up with beautiful, messy, real families.  Families like ours.  Kids ran around in second-hand clothing, and Moms stayed home and taught them and shopped for bargains and searched for ways to run their homes better. Both parents grew in their knowledge of the Word and in their love for God.  My children, for the most part, didn't have to act or put on a different face on Sunday mornings. They just hung out with their wonderful friends, and soon, we all became family. 

Many seasons have passed since those first days.  Some breathtakingly sweet. Some unbearably painful.  Pastors and friends have come and gone and come again. We have learned so much.  Grown up so much.  Some of our friendships are lost.  Some are still breathing, but barely.  Many are rich and vibrant. The fear-filled parenting and wife-ing is falling by the wayside, and life has come into my home again after so much trial and error. The fantastic joy of teaching my children at home is returning to me, after years of discouragement and confusion. 
And our friends at church...we knew there was change in the air.  One by one we saw our numbers decreasing, and we knew.  But still, we had hoped, perhaps enough will not move on.  Perhaps we will all remember what we have here, in our little congregation. We had hoped.  But this morning, as we sat around, facing each other, or not facing each other, as was my case...  It was hard to look.  We shared our thoughts, and we came to a conclusion.  Really, the conclusion had already been made.  We're closing up shop. This church started by one man named Scott and finished by another, was moving on. And I just can't stop the tears. Because this is my family.  
I know many say that we will always be family, and I know that is true.  And I know many say that we are a part of the world-wide Church of our Lord Jesus, and I know that is also true.  But, still.  This was where our older children grew up and are growing up.  These were the ones who encouraged us, and called us forward in our journeys.  They pitched in, in time of need.  And they graciously received our giving as well. This was where we knew we were not alone, and our family size wasn't weird-it was normal and fun, and our quirky, bumpy ways were fine with everyone else.  And their quirky, bumpy ways were fine with us.

So here I type, sorrowful for us all.  And dreading the changes. Watching my children weep today was the worst. 

And yet...

The sun has now come through the clouds outside, and it is near-blinding me with it's light and it's warmth on this winter day.  And somehow, under all the sorrow and uncertainty, I find hope.  And I find great comfort.  Not in my circumstances. In the goodness of my Lord. My Lord is alive and well and He will not forsake us. He sees us, hears us, and walks with us.  He will answer our prayers, and lead us onward and upward.  He will provide for us.  He will show us the good in this new season that has come our way. He will teach us to comfort others in their time of loss.  And as we walk forward, uncertain and raw, I believe He will also give to us a fresh vision for the days to come.  Perhaps something we had never even thought about before.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." 2 Cor. 1:3

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Day at Four Mile Historic Park



When my mom was here, we took the kiddos up to Denver and visited Four Mile Park.
The day was cool and clear, and we had a lovely time walking around the grounds, and spending too much in the old-fashioned gift shop. My mom wasn't sure how far she would want to walk that day, but you know, those cute little Grandchildren have a way of getting her to do just about anything.  And so she walked.
 It really was a quiet, beautiful day, and we all enjoyed getting out before the temperature dropped.

Another small pleasure this side of Heaven.

The kids took turns teaching in the one-room schoolhouse


The girls loved these old-fashioned desks!


Miss Sarah at the blackboard

This was so neat- the Emancipation Proclamation written to make the face of Abraham Lincoln 
We got to play Indian inside this teepee


Grandma and the wagon train!

I love this picture...

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And what's a trip to Denver without a stop to Bonnie Brae's Ice Cream??!!

If Emma could live on ice cream, she would!

This mini-cone was the cutest thing.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mid-Life Ponderings

I love to learn from other people.  I am a watcher.  A soaker.  A gleaner. I love learning.  I love history, because I learn from people.  I love scripture, because I learn the ways of God and I see the paths we can choose from.  I love people's stories, testimonies, struggles, and triumphs.
And here I am, in mid-life, after 21 years of marriage, and 20+ years of raising children and building friendships and church life and homeschooling. I see where we get the term 'mid-life crisis'.  I think for me it's more of a mid-life assessment.I am looking around at people my age, looking at my own life, too.  Thinking and figuring from the past, and wondering about the future. And through it all I see some wonderfully relieving and life-giving things that I have learned and am learning.
I have learned that hating my weaknesses doesn't make me get past them. I really really wanted to be that lady in the book who just gets it, and tells everybody else how to do it well.  And yet I keep being me. And somehow after all these years I am loved more than ever.
I have learned that I am not that perfect-looking lady in the book, on Pinterest, behind the amazing blog.  And that if I focus on her, I will never become me.  And I won't become her, either.
I have learned that I really do love God.  That although He may have many things to teach me and much dross to purify me of, I do love Him very much, today, as I am.
I have learned that being a good supportive wife isn't about me.  It isn't about trying harder. It isn't about looking the greatest or being the best at something or just getting it right. It is about simply loving and respecting this man today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day.  
I am learning that clutter steals.  Be it junk piles around the house, overly complicated vacations, celebrations, and holidays, or noise from other people's or the internet's way-too-loud opinions, clutter is just that.  Not much of value, just noise and distraction.
I am learning that being simple is wonderful.  Mother Theresa once commented on how insecure Western parents are.  True. Trying to keep up with our own choice of Joneses, making sure we are not knocked off the band-wagon, desiring to keep ahead so we don't fall behind. It's wearying. Simple is awesome.  Reading to my children as the chimes ring happily outside is so very wonderful.  Feeding my young adults piles of home-cooked food - just Mom's cookin'- does so much more than fill their bellies. Slowing down and listening to people and taking more time to read my Bible and pray and smiling at these faces I get to be with for this time. Simple.
I am learning that the fumbly-bumbly two-steps forward one-step back way I do things isn't going to keep my family from succeeding.  That those wonderful people who tell me to follow their ways aren't always right.  They are convincing, and strong, and organized. But not always right.
I am learning to trust the One Who is worthy of my trust. Does He hear me? Yes. Is He holy and righteous? Yes. Does he know how to help me and my family and everything else I bring to Him? Yes. Does He comfort and heal in His time? Yes.
And I am learning, perhaps most importantly, what it means to have my Lord be the 'Author and Finisher' of my faith. It means that He writes my story. And yours. That all those times I was pulling my hair out because things were NOT going right, He was guiding, directing, allowing, molding. That my plan for this family isn't anything compared to His. It's so very hard to let go. So very hard. But I find no other path to Life than to trust my Author.
Loving this learning in mid-life...Sometimes hating it too. 
Looking forward to the next decades, Lord-willing, of watching and figuring and hoping and learning. 
And hopefully, along the way, teaching it too.

When the Weather outside was Frightful...

My Mom came to visit for two and a half weeks this month.  We switched bedrooms around, cleaned bathrooms, planned meals, and scrubbed kids for her arrival.
While she was here, she just really blended in.  She listened some mornings as we learned about missionaries in India, or memorized scripture, or figured out math problems. She shared nice meals with us and funny *creative* meals.  She shopped with us, went on a field trip with us, and enjoyed those very chilly, snowy days inside with us.
During the snow days, we had the whole family here, minus Joey. We made homemade hot chocolate, read books, worked a nice big puzzle with Danny, and painted ornaments and village houses.  The village houses are an ongoing project that I must have started just about a hundred years ago.  We are always buying new houses, finishing un-done ones from years past, and touching up those that we 'can't believe we painted that way'! Sammy and Hannah surprised me this year with a few new ones, and they are now quietly awaiting the rest of their paint for Christmas!
Emma's Masterpiece



The Snowflake Painters!
Still too young for the houses, they dressed up a stack of cardboard flakes for the windows.



Creative minds at work





Sunday, November 2, 2014

Caramel Apple Pops

Easier-To-Eat and Funner-To-Make Caramel Apples

Quartered apples with craft sticks poked in, dunked in melted caramels and cream...
Bowls of toppings and chubby hands to 'woll dee apple in!'

Good Friends with Matching Hair

Pretty Older Sister with Little Brother smiling intensely at his apple pop


Ask, Seek, Knock

 Prayer-life, intercession, seeking the Lord; whatever we call it, it has always been a part of my walk. I suppose that is normal for a believer in Christ. But as I mature, it is becoming as vital to me as the air I breathe.  I know I have much to learn about reaching up to God, staying diligent with my petitions, being willing to wait or perhaps accept an answer I didn't request, giving credit where credit is due when comes that sweet, wonderful reply from this most wonderful God that I cannot see with my eyes, nor hear with my ears, yet I know He is.
I love my Blue Letter Bible App.  So yeah, not all technology is evil, I suppose. This app lets me search for passages, phrases, and words in any translation.  Many sleepless nights I sit holding my little iPhone, searching and soaking, marveling and being filled with hope once again. Because sometime life can get rough, even when it's still good.  And we need answers and comfort and direction.  And He is just so good to give it all to us generously.  I so love typing in a word like 'trust' or 'love' or 'salvation' and just having a host of wonderful scriptures fill my screen.  
Recently, I have been pondering the scriptures with 'prayer' in them.  This can be a tough world to live in sometimes.  And my list of people to pray for just keeps growing.  As I fill my days with meal plans and toilet cleaning and history lessons and science co-ops, I often wish I could do more for those 'out there'.  And I know someday I will do more, as my babies grow up.  But today, and hopefully all days, I can pray.  And I pray to One Who truly hears, Who truly has all wisdom and understanding, love and compassion, judgment and mercy. And there is really nothing in the world more precious to me than that knowledge that God is alive, and Almighty, and working His wonders in me as I look up to Him and ask Him for what we need.

Here are some sweet scriptures on prayer that have fed my soul in this season.
*Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;* Col. 4:2
*The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much* James 5:16
*When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.* Jonah 2:7
*Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer* Romans 12:12
*The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.* Prov. 15:8
*Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!* Ps. 66:20

And after the Lord's Prayer, Jesus talks of a man needing bread for a traveler.  He goes to his friend's home in the night and asks for the bread.  The friend is already in bed with his family and does not want to be troubled.  But he will give the bread because of his friend's persistence.  Then Jesus speaks the well-known words, "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
The highlighted words have got me thinking.  I remember going to the mall with my friends as a teenager.  In front of one store, there was a short wooden statue of Buddha, and you could rub his belly as you made a wish.  Do I also pray to God like that?  Quickly, as I am passing from one thing to the next? Hoping He answers me, but being okay if He doesn't, because I really just don't want to take the time to ask?
I know I am still green-ish in my understanding of God and prayer.  But these past few weeks, I have witnessed answer after answer as I have called out to Him, hoping in His goodness,  Sometimes it feels like labor, because I love the people I pray for so much! 
I do know this - He is alive and He will help us if we ask.  
Is there something in your life that is unresolved, troubling, painful?  Then ask, and seek, and knock.  And don't stop, because He never runs out of anything.  He is not offended at our need.  Like the woman at the well, He knows it all anyhow. He never tires of our asking.  Hard for an introverted mother of many to imagine not being tired of people asking!  I am always rationing things around here, and I might even lock my door for some quiet every once in a while...But hallelujah He does not tire! His door is always open!  He is ever-ready to receive His people and their requests.

*Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.* 1 Peter 5:7




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Child's Play

When our older kiddos were in grade school, I used to take them on all kinds of field trips.  You know, that is a real plus to homeschooling.  You choose the place, the day, the lunch, the time frame.  You choose if you go alone or with other families.  You see what you want, and then you all go home and nap.  It's really a sweet deal. 
One of our favorite places back then was the Denver Nature and Science Museum.  This place is huge. And despite the overbearing evolutionary junk, it was a nice place to spend the day.

 But as the boys got older, I started finding myself sandwiched between the ever-changing needs of adolescents and the fatigue of being pregnant and caring for newborns late into my thirties.  You know, teenagers up at night, wanting to eat and talk...Babies up early in the morning, wanting to eat and talk...So naturally, the field trips got put on the shelf.  Not intentionally, mind you, just sort of, out of necessity.  So I could breathe. And sleep. And manage my ever-growing family without loosing my mind.  Which didn't really happen.  But at least I tried.

Well, I am mid-forties now.  I most likely will not be having any more babies.  And I have graduated two young men from high school.  Kenny has taken over much of Sammy and Tommy's schooling. And I find myself itching for something more enjoyable than hauling older kids to speech and debate tournaments and co-ops and jobs all over the state, you know so they can work and make their own money...With my gas. 

I digress...

So, at the beginning of this school year, I started putting together a wish list of sorts.  For fun things to do. Outdoor walks, learning days, company tours. And the Denver Museum once again made it's way back onto that list.  Because it had been too long.  And...it was a free day.

"Wow, Mom, that dino-sword is WAY taller than me!', says a very excited two year-old.

Green girls at the Space Odyssey

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Pretty cool deep-sea divers

Lunch Time!  As we ate, we found ourselves talking about and drooling over the idea of BBQ ribs and such...Perhaps because our lunch consisted mainly of fruit and nuts!

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Digging for Fossils

The BEST water table I have ever seen.  I wanted to take it home with me!

Michael loved building these critters, until another little person wanted to 'share' the pieces.  Michael looked at the boy, dropped his toy, and walked off disgusted, muttering to himself.

At lunch, I kept seeing Sarah put her hand down toward the ground, ever-so-sneakily.  So eventually I took a peek under her chair and found these poor unwanted pecans lying on the floor. 

This water vortex really kept Sarah's attention.  She just kept saying, "Mom, we have got to get a family pass to this museum!"

Engineer in the making.

Michael didn't get the point of these over-sized Tinker Toys.  Then he walked over to a video demonstration, and came back, victoriously putting them together!