Thursday, March 12, 2015

Along Comes Spring

I remember Hannah telling me about one of the Little House on the Prairie books, The Long Winter.  In that particular year for Laura Ingalls and her family, the winter seemed to never end.  The book did an excellent job of depicting what it was like for them and how difficult it was to cope.

Then came spring.  Buds, green, birds, dirt, warmth, people.

And don't you just feel it every year, as that icy snow melts, the fog clears up, the first crocus pokes its way up through the softening ground. You hear the birds again, hopeful in their songs.  You smell...what is it?


God, who is the master mind behind the seasons, wins my affection over and over again each year, as I marvel at His handiwork, His attention to detail, His timing.
Just when we were growing so weary of the dark and icy cold, and have become quite certain that we will be inside this house with our 42 children for the REST OF OUR LIVES...along comes spring.

And so it is, in the seasons of our personal lives.  Those winter seasons, where we cannot seem to see which way is out. Where the struggle drags on.  Where the demands far outweigh the resources.  Where the questions outnumber the answers.

And then, one day...

You feel it.  Something is lighter, warmer, better.
Your husband is fully recovering from his cancer surgery.
The argument with your young adult has turned into a sweet time of tears and forgiveness.
You have the courage to move forward where you once were afraid.
You find someone new to minister to.
Your Lord lifts your head with His sweet hands and you remember how wonderful He is.

I find it amazing how the physical seasons not only allow for growth, harvest, and rest in the natural world, but they demonstrate to us that we are not alone in our own seasons.  The Creator of Heaven and Earth is on the throne.  His view is grand.  His resources endless. His mercies new every morning.

Ask of Him. He will walk with you.

If you are in a good season right now, rejoice!
If things are difficult, hold on.  Let the trials complete their work in you.  Let them bring you to the Wonderful One.

Spring will come.
And it will be sweet!

The One who made it all will bring you spring.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Surprised by Love

Sometimes life takes you by surprise.

In January, the surprise was the closing of our church of ten years.  We were sad and in shock, wondering how things would unfold in the months to come.

This month, my husband was told he had a baseball-sized cancerous tumor on his kidney.  No symptoms, no clue.  Just a very timely CT scan, looking for kidney stones. Surprise.

I tell ya, though, there is something that has surprised me more than these.

That is the love of others. And what is has done for us.

This month the kids and I are memorizing Bible passages on LOVE.  You know, Valentine's Day and all...And I suppose I am learning right along with them.

God has a way of covering so much more than just the immediate need, does He not?

He is softening this independent heart and teaching it His ways.  I didn't see this coming.

The texts and calls and emails that flooded my phone directly following the news from the Doctor.

Our ten beautiful children, who stand ready and willing to help out or to drop their plans for the good of their Dad (and the good of us all).

The meals that just showed up at our door, before Kenny even had his surgery scheduled.

The overwhelming amount of offers to watch our children, help us clean, give us rides, run errands for us.

The filling-up of my children for four to five days, by three dear families, as we farmed them out during our hospital stay.

The dear friends who sat with me for hours in the waiting room, keeping me comforted and encouraged.

The visitors, who drove out to Aurora just to see their friend and pray for us.

That softness in me, that completely took over the minute I saw my husband of 22 years lying face-up on the gurney, white as a ghost.  A softness that has been missing for the last few years, as the demands of raising a family have taken over.

And as more meals pour in, some from people who have more than their share of trials at the moment, I find myself wondering if maybe I haven't missed out these past years, as I insisted on carrying my burdens alone.  Independent people are like that, you know.  I can DO this! Just watch...

It's difficult to receive.  Humbling.  Awkward even.
Especially when you're out of practice. When you really don't mind being the Lone Ranger. When life is constantly busy, noisy, demanding. And you just have to do it.  And do it well.

I told Kenny he reminds of George Bailey in 'It's a Wonderful Life', when all the money he needs, and more, pours in at the end, just as he needs it.

I often overlook the scriptures on love.  Let's read about DOING something!  Funny, but our current scripture is 1 Corinthians 13.  Love DOES. It SHOWS.  It ACTS.

The people in our lives are DOING.  They are SHOWING.  They have ACTED.

And it seems, by this, they are allowing this Mama a lovely view into the world of the love of God.  A view I have not often let myself see.

The scriptures are coming alive to me, as I see them up close and personal.  You can talk about loving one another all you want.  But living that love is where the power is.  Meeting the needs that you see. Working as the hands and feet of Jesus.  His body, caring for itself.

It's a beautiful thing.

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...

Add caption

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