Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Two Simple Words

Earlier this week we opened our new mailbox to find a Christmas card from a close family member. With money inside! As soon as I opened it, I thought, "I need to thank her and let her know we received this." But, of course, I didn't. Even after the check was deposited and the card displayed I would see it and be reminded, but never followed through. A few days later, she carefully asked if we had gotten it, and I sheepishly admitted we had. It turns out, she sent FOUR such cards out to various family members, and heard back from...none.

That same day, I was inspired to write encouraging notes to my kids. Sweet thoughts of praise, how I'm praying for them, a Bible verse just for them. As they were waking up I planted them strategically for them to find as they started their day. A few hours went by, and I was pretty sure all SIX of them had found and read their notes, and I heard back from....none.

Thinking on these incidents this morning I was reminded of that time that Jesus encountered a group of diseased men along the road. (Luke 17:11-19). They called out for mercy, and as soon as they obeyed Jesus' instructions they were healed of their embarrassing, debilitating, leprosy. TEN of them were healed, and Jesus heard back from.... ONE. 

Apparently the average for remembering to thank someone is one in ten. I tend to think of myself as a thankful person, but today I've been wondering, how often do I neglect telling Jesus "thank you"? Statistically speaking, I'm much more likely to be one of the nine. 
How many "little notes" do I ungratefully look over during each day? The little moments of encouragement, joy, and blessing that God puts in my life aren't accidents or coincidences. They are thoughtful gifts to me from Him, and I know he deserves to be thanked for them, and I'm pretty sure he'd enjoy hearing from me regarding them!
Not only do we live with the little blessings that can easily be missed if we're feeling entitled or simply aren't paying attention, we are living every day under the tremendous gift of God's forgiveness, mercy, and grace. 
Christmas is such a beautiful reminder of the sacrifices of Jesus. 
Philippians tells us he didn't selfishly hang on to his equality with God in heaven, but instead he emptied himself and became a servant in human form, for our us.  (Philippians 2:6-7)
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9.
And this all leading to the ultimate sacrifice, the giving of his life to pay for our rebellion. 
Because of all He did and has done, I get to live every day under the amazing gift of grace, but how easy it is to get too used to that, and live without thankfulness. 
So today I am reminded to not only BE thankful, but to SAY 'thank you' for the little things..... and the big things God gives in his goodness. There really is no excuse not to!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Quarantine Days 22ish to 26ish. Approximately .

Well, I got off on my daily posts, but it's ok really, because the days all run together, anyway! Of course... that's part of the reason I had started the blog posts, to kind of separate the days! 

But I do know that I went through every day intending to post again. And the good news there is, I took lots of pictures! These are some bits and pieces from around Monday through Friday, April 6-10. 

We did school. We spent time outside. We cooked meals and cleaned them up and did it all over again. We played games. We read Holy Week devotions every night before bed. We stayed home.

We found a toad in our backyard! We finally made the little boys poke it through the gaps in the fence into the neighbor's yard so they couldn't torture the poor thing anymore!
This banner plane circled near our neighborhood every day, but always just a little bit too far to read the sign. Finally, on the last day it was out it flew directly over our house! We waited eagerly to see what it said, and were all sorely diappointed! (It said: "Aid First Responders" with a Missouri phone number. Borrrriiiiiinnng.)
I love when I 'catch' all the kids in the same room like this. It's nice to remember they really do all like each other. :)

Saturday, April 4, 2020

He leads me beside still waters, and sometimes on a drive to see them

Saturday, April 4
Quarantine Day 20

Saturday! The day we sleep in without worrying about if we *should* have been getting up!
Even on Saturdays, I still enjoy being up before the kids. Those are the quietest, stillest hours of the day. Coffee and God's word in the morning are my favorite way to start the day. It doesn't happen every Saturday, but it did today. And I'm glad, because it turned out to be a challenging day otherwise.

I spent a lot of this day on the phone!
I had a video meeting with a doula client at 11, and I spent some time last-minute prepping for that while the kids ate breakfast. (Cereal today. Waffles were planned, but I usually don't cook breakfast on Saturdays. If Dale had been up and wanted to make them, fine. Otherwise - cereal!)

I think for most of the morning and into the afternoon the kids were on the Wii.

My meeting went great! I used to feel really weird and awkward meeting by video, but I'm so thankful now to have it!

Immediately after the doula meeting Greg and I had some ministry stuff to sort out. It ended up taking a lot of time and emotional energy out of this day. I think I've already mentioned in the few days I've blogged that my emotions seem to be nearer the surface with all this pandemic stuff going on anyway. I think the uncertainty and stress are hard on everyone, and magnify the rest of life's usual troubles. Strange days we are living in, and I'm glad to remember that God hasn't changed. The same Jesus that calmed the storm and calmed the disciples holds us all in his hand.

After making calls and returning calls I found Greg and Alan. It wasn't hard. :)

When the jam session was done, we all got on shoes and pottied and hit the road to see what we could see. Levi, Daniel, Brooklyn, Tyler and I had not been anywhere since church on March 15. Alan has only been to labs, once. Greg and Dale had a couple of days of work after the 15th, and Greg has gone out for groceries a couple of times.

So, cold and dreary as it was, we still enjoyed the green grass, the newly leafed trees, and the colorful redbuds, dogwoods, and tulip trees everywhere. We saw steep hills, deep valleys, winding creeks, the running river, and a meandering lake. We sang to the radio, and searched youtube for songs the street names made us think of. And returned home over an hour later feeling like we'd been somewhere, even though we never left our van seats!

Upon our return, I quickly threw a lentil soup on to simmer and left Dale with a pinterest recipe for a quick crusty bread and Greg and I went for our daily walk/run. After supper we gathered everyone around to watch Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph. It was free on Youtube for 48 hours this weekend. That is one of our favorites, because Greg played bass guitar in a community theater production of it before Alan was born. A high note (you might say, haha!) to end this day. :)

Freebies and leftovers

Friday, April 3
Quarantine Day 19

Never in my life has the movie "Groundhog Day" seemed more relevant.

We woke up. We ate breakfast (oatmeal. with raisins!). We read and discussed our devotion reading. Said prayers. Dismissed from the table to clean up breakfast, make beds and start math.
And then the day filled up and it was bedtim
e again. The end.

Not exactly like that. But pretty close. Every day.

Because it was cold and rainy, everyone stayed with their schoolwork better. I think when I sit down to make next week's assignment sheets I will find everything mostly done. 

Lunch was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Yay for planning ahead and saving that one for a rainy day - literally! I always check the weather when I menu plan. Cozy foods for dreary days, avoid the oven on the hottest days, etc. This weekend I need to take inventory of our stocked fridge and pantry and plan for another week. Usually I plan a menu and then make my grocery list and go shopping. But lately it's been "fill the online cart with whatever you can find and hope you get it when you pick up your order." 

In other stocking up news.... we are thankful to have ample space to store a few weeks' worth of food for 8 people. When we lived in Texas we had a second refrigerator (the 'garage fridge'), but sold it when we moved because it was around 30 years old and even thought it was working perfectly we had doubts about it surviving the move. And we were going to be storing all our worldly goods and were trying to make the most of the space we had. Anyway.... a month or two ago, Greg was offered a FREE refrigerator from a church near here. It had been their office fridge and they had been given a new-to-them one. We said, 'uhhh...sure!' but we didn't have a way or the time to go and get it, so it looked like that was going to fall through. Well, apparently they really wanted that fridge out of their way, because after a couple of days they said, "We'll bring it to you." And so they did. And so, now when we have 6 gallons of milk and extra produce and meat to store.... we have the place to put it. Greg says it was like God said...."You're going to need a second fridge." :)

So. Back to Friday. The kids spent the afternoon finding stuff to do. At one point at least 5 out of the 6 were huddled around the computer watching the online game one of them was playing. I love it when they all get together like that, even if it is around a screen. Alan especially keeps himself busy, and although he does get on screens, he probably uses them less than Dale and Tyler. Brooklyn has been asking for a couple of weeks to make slime from the pink glitter glue we bought just for that purpose. 

I had it planned as an activity at her birthday SEPTEMBER. We didn't need it for the party, and it's just been sitting around since. 

We enjoyed Mexican food for supper: an enchilada casserole that geniusly used up leftover beans and rice, and chips and salsa. Then it was Friday night movie night! The boys, Dale especially, were interested in seeing Onward. I think it's pretty awesome that Disney pushed forward some of their releases since the whole country is at home. We thought Onward was coming April 6, but when I saw it was out yesterday, I knew our Friday night was set! And yes, it's super cute. I cried. Which isn't saying a lot. My emotions are all right up at the surface these days and I find myself tearing up at the silliest things. So a good movie like that and I was ready for an ugly cry! I held it together though. I din't want to freak the kids out. Ha!
Isn't that pretty much what we're all doing right now? Holding it together the best we can. Thankfully we don't have to hold it together alone. Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (John 16:33 and Matthew 28:20)

Friday, April 3, 2020

Time flies when you're... doing....stuff?

Thursday, April 2, 2020
Quarantine Day 18

Today began "early" with Greg heading out to get our Walmart grocery order that was ready by 8:00. We already knew via email that a dozen items were simply not available, including the sweet potatoes that were to go with our Easter dinner. :( Boooo. Hopefully all of this, plus last week's Aldi haul will last us until the 3rd week of April. 

Breakfast was pancakes and sausage, and then began that phenomenon of "what happened to our day!?" Greg actually did some pastoral work, researching various counseling centers for a church member. Lots of phone calling, texting, internet searching. Plus a lengthy phone call with a church member in the afternoon. He also managed to sanitize every single item from our grocery order before it was put away. At least somebody had a productive day!

I think maybe the kids did some math? I called and checked in with my mama ("to see if she alright!" - lol.... from one of my favorite viral news interview videos ever). 

And then it was lunch time. Seriously?? See what I mean? I have no idea.

In the afternoon I spent some time working more on my Easter week lessons. I think I would like to share those here.... just not sure how I'll do that. Maybe a post later today. I finished them in the evening.

I got a deep clean done in the kitchen, while my sister was doing some cleaning at her house. We do that a lot - clean "together". It's just nice to know you aren't working alone. Getting the kitchen done that well felt soooo good. Hopefully that will inspire me to do the same in other parts of the house.

Alan worked more on the garden boxes. I need to share pics of those - they look great! I just have no idea what to plan there. I want tomatoes but I don't want to go into a store to buy plants and it's too late for seeds. Ideas?
Then he used some leftover boards to border off an area in the backyard that I've been eyeing for several weeks for a butterfly/hummingbird flower garden. That I do have seeds for, and I plan on unceremoniously scattering some there in a few days!

Greg and I went for our usual walk/run. I was lamenting how school was suffering again this week, but I have to admit to myself that this happens every year when the weather gets warm. I have such a hard time pulling the kids inside to sit down in orderly places and do math and handwriting and all.the.things. when they are outside riding bikes, playing in the grass, and building garden boxes under blue skies and warm breezes. And we always manage to finish the year, so .... it's ok. It really is. This is one of the reasons we have always started our school year in July or August when it's 100 degrees outside!

Pintos and a double batch of cornbread for supper, so there was plenty of cornbread to cover a piece in syrup for dessert. Then another round of worship songs and we all made our way to bed.

Levi showed up in our room not long at all after we tucked them in. "I feel sad," he said. I asked him what he was sad about, but he didn't know. This mama was more than happy to snuggle him up close until he fell asleep. I think the whole world feels sad some these days. I hope you are snuggling up some, too. God is with us, holding our hand!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Of Snakes and Cakes

Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
Quarantine Day 17

We slept in this morning because we stayed up late last night. First, everyone except Levi played a game of Mexican train dominoes that definitely went past bedtime. Then Greg and I stayed up until midnight to grab a Walmart grocery order slot. So, morning came early. It's ok though.... today was a cereal day. ;)

We have been slowly reading through Purpose Driven Life as a family. We didn't get much reading done this morning, but had a great, fairly extensive, discussion about today's topic, so that's good.

It's strange how these days seem to really get away from us. Time keeps marching on. I'm not sure what all I did with the rest of my morning. The older kids were all working on school. I think there was some laundry started. Who knows.

I impulsively decided today would be a good time to use my Valentine's day gift and have a fire and roast hot dogs. We haven't used it as much as I thought we would, mostly because 1-it's been winter, and 2-it's always so ding-dang windy here! That was something we did NOT anticipate when we moved. Brooklyn has decided NWA stands for north WINDY Arkansas, not North West. I think she may be right.

I'll tell you one thing, those breezes always get our fire going nicely. No blowing or fanning required! We're pretty pleased with our success of only using 1 match for every fire we've started. We got a nice blaze going fairly quickly, and had those hot dogs going in no time. Tyler brought out everything we needed, all on his own. It's so nice to have kids that know how to do stuff - and do it!

 After lunch we weren't in a hurry to get back inside. We played around on YouTube, listening to snippets of all the songs we could think of with a color word in the title. 
(Green Onions, Green Eyed Lady, Brown Eyed Girl, Purple Rain, Love Ran Red, plus others)

Alan and Brooklyn got started weeding the raised garden boxes on the side of the house. I had started to reach in and work on it a few days ago, when it occurred to me there could very likely be snakes in it, so I told the kids right then that if they decided to weed it (because you never know what kids will decide to do), that they be sure and use a tool because of said potential snakes.
Well it's a good thing. Greg and I were still in the back yard, on the other side of the fence, and Brooklyn came breezing through the house back to us to tell us Alan found a snake! However.... it being April Fool's Day, and me not wanting to be made a fool of.... I didn't believe her at first. 

She finally convinced me she was serious, and things really got interesting! In the end, Alan had to scoop it up with the hoe and carry it to the sidewalk to kill it. I'm very thankful he was wearing boots for all of this!

I spent quite a while working on getting kids Bible lessons ready for our church to send out via email and facebook, since we won't be meeting. The last two weeks I sent a Sunday lesson, but since next week is Easter week we're going to provide a lesson per day. 

The kids continued on with the weeding/rebuilding project, and Alan even began working to replace some of the corner posts that were rotting. Greg got out his circle saw and helped with that. At some point Alan discovered a second snake. This one was also beheaded at the sidewalk, but instead of being left for the birds, it was dissected. Alan did the work, Daniel and Levi watched the whole thing, Brooklyn was thoroughly disgusted, and Dale and Tyler were inside on the computer and willingly missed the whole thing.

Later I broke up a fight over saltine crackers between the youngest two. Quarantine rationing gettin' serious y'all.

Greg and I went for our daily walk/run. And see, this is what I'm talking about when I say these days get away from us: we didn't set out until 6:00! What the heck?!  We usually stay in our neighborhood, but every once in a while we cross the highway into the neighborhood across the way. As we got ready to cross, I commented that people really must be staying home more, because the traffic wasn't bad at all for 5:00! Except.... it was 6:00. Yeah. I'm ok.

Meanwhile, Dale was at home making tater tot casserole and cleaning the kitchen as he went. I told him he was my favorite child, for sure, and he told me that was why he was doing it, haha!

We ended the day with hooking up the computer to the tv to see our power point slides of song lyrics we have used for our church services. Greg played guitar and Alan his little drum box and we spent just a little while worshiping together.  We aren't always so spiritual.... remember the dominoes, right? And we've seen a lot of movies lately. But singing to Jesus was definitely what we all needed, and I have a feeling we'll be doing it again soon!

Actually, that didn't end the day, because then we gathered around the table for fresh-from-the-oven chocolate cake. The recipe is called "crazy cake" or "depression cake". I thought it was called depression cake because it's from the Great Depression and doesn't use any milk or eggs, but it may be because you mix the dry ingredients and make three holes, or 'depressions' and then add the liquids to each one. I don't know. I do know if you searched Pinterest for "depression cake" they ask if you are ok and put a suicide prevention hotline at the top of the page. I'm just making cake, Pinterest. Calm down.

Love to all! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Tale of Two Services

The last few weeks have not been kind to our family health-wise. We've passed around one little bug or another for so long that we've almost forgotten what it's like to all be well!

Because we are pretty adamant that sick kids (and adults) should be kept home to prevent spreading sickness, and because we don't want to risk catching something new when we're hardly over the previous illness, it's been quite a challenge getting the whole family to church!

We finally saw a window of opportunity one Sunday a couple of weeks back and planned our course of action. We would not go to Sunday School, and would take all of the kids except Levi into worship with us. Surely our odds of catching something with only 1 kid in a nursery were lower than 3 or 4, right? 

(Actually, wrong - Levi did get a nasty cold from that 90 minutes, thankyouverymuch.)

Greg was there early for music practice, so he stayed for Sunday School, and I came solo with 6 kids in tow. I armed Brooklyn and Daniel with their own little backpacks full of quiet activities. We got there plenty early and the kiddos filed into our usual pew. I smiled and nodded hello to the couple seated in front of us. After the kids were settled Alan and I left to take Levi to the nursery. This left 4 children, ages 12, 5, 4, and 3 seated and waiting.

When Alan and I returned I noticed immediately the couple in front of us had moved to a different part of the sanctuary.  

"Surely they moved to sit next to someone they know," I thought, wanting badly to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But no....they still sat alone.  

And I knew.

They moved to get away from the children seated behind them. My children.

My children who were all seated, smiling, chatting with each other, behaving themselves.

I very much wanted to take it personally. And yet, at the same time, I felt sad for the couple.

Yes, children can be a distraction. They do wiggle. Try as I might, someone usually kicks the pew in front of us at least once. They do whisper some - and everyone knows a kid's whisper is as loud as an adult's talking. 

But children also sing to their Savior - ever so sweetly.  They also make great sermon observations and ask excellent learning questions about what they see and hear. How else are children able to experience worship without...experiencing it?

Even though I was determined not to be judgmental or bitter towards a couple I have never met, I was just a little bit satisfied when we left that service that my children had what was probably their best run ever sitting through a service. I don't think they would have bothered a soul! I wanted to pass by them as we left and say with a sweet smile, "I hope you enjoyed the service today." There is no way I would have actually said it, but I sure thought it. I know. I'm bad.

We missed some more services, and then today we decided to brave it again, this time keeping Levi with us, too. Ohhhh my. I was a little bit nervous. As much as I believe in having kids in worship, I just as much believe in not being an obvious distraction. It's a fine line to walk! And with a 14 month old? Oh my.

So, we repacked our goody bags and chose a pew a little further to the back. This time we chose to leave Tyler with his children's church group. (I'm more for families worshipping together, but that's another post. Sort of.)

There I sat, surrounded by 5 kids, ages 12, 9, 4, 3, and 14 months. And have I mentioned? Greg plays guitar for the first half of the service, so I do that part solo.

We were a song or two in this morning, and things were going pretty well. There was more wiggling than I would have liked, but no shenanigans and everyone was pretty quiet. 

Then I felt, and saw, the man behind me leaning up towards my ear.  I braced myself. I just knew he was going to let me know about the nurseries that were available for my little ones. What would I say? My mind was racing for a tactful answer.

"Are these all your children?"

"Yes, sir. They are," I answered over my shoulder.

He laughed. "Bless your heart."  And he leaned back in his seat. It wasn't a condescending 'bless your heart', or an annoyed one. I could tell from his laugh, from his tone, he was being complementary.

I smiled. "Thank you," I replied with relief. 

After that I wanted even more for us to be on our best behavior. And they were. It wasn't our best run, but no disasters. I did have to slip out with Brooklyn for a potty stop near the end (and took Levi with us). We missed the end of the service, and therefore missed the complements that gentleman and the couple with him paid to Greg about our beautiful family.

A much more pleasant experience. As easy as it is to drop the little ones off (and I have been very thankful for our wonderful nurseries on many occasions!), I still enjoy being together to worship and learn as a family. It's not too much to expect obedient children to sit quietly through a service. Yes, it takes work, and yes, it is a little distracting to Mama and Daddy. But what is gained by us all is worth it. I doubt we'll keep them all with us all the time from now on, but I have a good feeling it will be happening again.

So next time you see a kid or two or five in your church services, remember that Jesus said to let the little children come unto Him, and try not to get too distracted by their too-loud whispers. They're learning, and their mama is probably trying her very best. And if you offer a kind word on your way out afterword, you just might make their day. :)