January 27, 2011

My Journey (part 2)

We live in a very affluent area.  Our friends are attorneys, doctors, business owners.  The difference in income had never been an issue for us, though.  We worked hard and enjoyed life.  My husband is one of those guys who can fix anything and his skills have been freely lent to those in need. Because of his line of business, we were able to build a large home (at cost) and we’ve always opened it to others to enjoy.  We thrive on making others feel welcome and feeding the multitudes.

But when our financial burdens became great, along came feelings of jealousy.  I have always been a bargain seeker, but now it was a requirement.   I have never been high maintenance, but the pressure drove a wedge in my heart toward my high maintenance friends.  How could they spend $200 on a purse when I am struggling to buy groceries for the week?  My friends were having a hard time deciding which major sporting event to attend while I was having to decide which of my children's activities to cut from our budget. They had not changed, but my perception had been marred.  Rather than being happy for their gain, I was being eroded by my fear.  How will we be able to pay for college?  Will my children's futures be impaired if they are not involved in extra curricular activities? 

My dear husband would hold me as I cried and say, “We’re going to be okay.  It will work out.”  My response was, “I’m ready for it to be worked out now!”   I felt abandoned by my heavenly father.  How could a God of love allow these things to happen to us?  We were already living within a tight budget.  Why us?  Why did our house get struck?  Why did my husband have an accident?  So many whys. 

And so the pity party began.
I’ve been a good girl.  We take care of our belongings.  We try to share with others.  We don’t take things for granted.  We are not consumed with stuff.  My husband works so hard.

For more than a year I struggled with these thoughts.  I vacillated between feeling rejected by God and wallowing in self-pity.   I watched my husband be broken; and then in typical male-fashion, move on.   His faith was unwavering.  He continued to say, “The Lord is watching over us.” 

We chose to fight this together.  How easily it could have caused a rift in our marriage, but we decided to weather this storm arm in arm.  We became creative in our financial choices.  We looked at our budget and cut everything we could, including car washes and haircuts.  All nonessential household purchases (i.e. candles, fun pillows) were off the list.  It was a big step for this interior design chick.  But after a while it became a little game of how much could I NOT spend.  Grandparents stepped in and helped tremendously with clothes and shoes for the kids.  I took a part time job which turned out to be a wonderful experience.  We stuck with our plan and began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My heart began to mend as well.  It was a long road; I won't deny it.  I missed  some joys because I was obsessing over what was hard.  When I began to take my eyes off myself, His true beauty began to shine through.  
I realized time and time again: It's not about me.  Oh, I wanted it to be about me.  Selfishness is a talented chameleon, isn't she?

To be continued...


January 26, 2011

My Journey (part 1)

The house was full of people; a group brought in from a cookout by the roll of thunder.  As the adults conversed downstairs, children of all ages played above.  The storm grew louder along with the laughter and squeals from inside.
The laughter was severed when a bolt of lightning struck so close we could smell the smoke. 

A large tree in our yard had been struck; enough to kill it, but not enough to bring the mighty poplar down.  At the base of the tree, buried just below the surface, lay the newly installed underground dog fence.  The lightning bolt was fierce enough to travel through the wire conductor right up to our detached garage and blow the wiring off the wall.  Such fury left all of the electrical outlets blown and enough might to leave a dent in the garage door from the electrical box being flung across the room.

Such power.  Such destruction.

But it could have been so much worse.
My home was overflowing with children and parents.  We were immediately grateful for the protection of human lives.  We even laughed about the giant limbs that had narrowly missed our house.

But our laughter turned to frustration as we learned how much it would cost to have the now ravaged trees removed and the wiring replaced.  Grateful for lives spared.  Despaired over the financial burden.

This was not the only storm we had faced within the year.   Eight months earlier we had faced a different kind of storm that had brought us to our knees, literally.  My husband had been involved in a hunting accident.  Reconstructive surgeries and months of rehabilitation had left us worn out, both physically and financially. 

Looking back, I know in my heart of hearts that there are much worse storms that the human race faces on a daily basis.  To the cancer survivor, the parent who longs to hold an unborn child, or the broken hearted, this story may seem trivial.  But this is my journey.  My difficult road.  
My story.

To be continued...

January 25, 2011

Wearing my MOM hat

I had THE TALK with my girls this week.   I know it's a beautiful thing and {blah, blah blah} but I was nervous as all get out.   I even tried bribing my mom into doing it for me.  
Just kidding.  
Sort of. 

I knew this was an important milestone of mothering. There is so much resting on that one conversation.  I hadn't planned on talking to them about it together, but the boys were out of town, and I just felt like it was time.  My younger daughter's friends had spilled the beans (not to her, but to some other girls) so I wanted to make sure I was the one who was able to explain it.  Even though it wasn't my plan, I was all for the 2-for-1 package deal. :)

If you haven't had the conversation yet, here's a tip:  GET CHICKENS
Seriously.  Having an animal totally helps.  My kids had been asking questions like, "what if we crack an egg and there's a chick in there?"  I found a series of books that approaches the whole subject from a Biblical, yet naturalistic approach.  The first book is about butterflies and bees and pollination.  The second is about birds and eggs.  I read the first two books to all three of my kids.  The third takes it further and is written for the preteen.  

I highly recommend this series.  I didn't want a book that had drawings or pictures to fill their minds with unnecessary images.  This series was beautiful, protected their innocence, and answered (most) of their questions.  It was a great way to open up dialogue without going too far.

What did I learn?
1.No two children will respond to this information the same.  One burst into hysterical giggles and the other scrunched her nose in disgust and said, "really??"
2.The anticipation of having this talk is much worse than the actual event
3.Plan for plenty of time.  I thought it would be a thirty minute conversation, max.  Um.  No.
4. Surprisingly, your children do not look at you like you have two heads for the following week.  
5. Being the one to have this conversation with your daughter is a gift, contrary to what I previously thought.  This was a moment we won't forget.  As they get older, they will remember that I loved them enough to step past my uneasiness and talk.  When they are adults, we will look back on this day with giggles of our own, bonded by the strong chord of womanhood.

January 21, 2011

The Road

I've been on a journey.
I didn't pack my suntan lotion or fill up the gas tank, but I came back with some souvenirs.
I love spontaneous trips, but this one would have been smoother if I had planned.
I ventured into wild and untamed territory and often found myself saying, "I just want to go home."  There were bumpy roads, detours and unfavorable conditions, but the view was worth it.

This was a journey of the heart.

Before the journey started my bags were filled with expectations, "standards" and plans.  I returned much lighter for the load.  It was difficult leaving them along the wayside.  Letting go can be so hard, even when it makes the burden lighter.

Have you been there?  Are you on a road that doesn't seem to end?  The roads of life can take so many turns.  I know your journey looks very different from mine.  Sometimes I may have even been a little jealous of your venture.  But that's not the map designed for me.

Join me next week as I share my journey.
Have a beautiful weekend, wherever it may take you!

January 19, 2011

A Peek

Into our day...

...with a little time for mom:

Are you reading anything good right now?

Hope your day is full of blessings!

January 17, 2011

How to Hang a Grouping

What You Need:
Ugly wrapping paper or butcher paper
Scissors and Tape
Hammer and Nails

Arrange your pictures/plates/artwork on the floor.  Play around with it for an hour until you've found the layout you like best.

Leaving the rest of the pieces on the floor, choose one photo.  Place it on the paper and trace the outside of the shape.  Cut out the shape and then lay it on the back of your photo.  Use a nail or the sharp end of the pencil to mark/poke a hole where the nail(s) will be.
Be sure to label the paper and the back of the corresponding photo.  Because if you're like me, you will forget which piece of paper goes with which frame before it's all said and done.

Using the layout on the floor as your guide, tape the pieces of paper onto the wall:

Once they are spaced to your liking, use the level {now} before you put any holes in the wall.

Hammer the nail directly into the hole you have already marked on the paper.  This is especially handy when you have a shelf or something that requires those ~pesky~ evenly spaced nails.

Pull the paper off of the nail and hang the  frame with the matching letter on the back.
Voila!  A perfectly evenly spaced grouping, with no extra nail holes in your wall!

Keeping it real:  See the photo in the top right?  I have no idea whose house that is.  I bought the four matching frames at a yard sale and I am waiting to find the perfect photo to put in there.  Does anyone else do this??

January 14, 2011

A New Day

Yesterday was not one of my finer moments as a mom.  I kinda wanted to stand on the counter, stomp my foot, and yell "everyone be kind, have a good attitude, and NO complaining!!!!"  I maintained self-control, but I was boiling on the inside.  It was the kind of day that I looked at the clock at 3:06pm and started counting down the minutes until bedtime.  For an ever so brief moment the power suit and smart phone looked appealing.

But only for a moment.
Sometimes the pettiness of life can get in the way of seeing the treasure right before me.  

The gift of life.  The gift of being.  Of thriving.  Of enduring together.

Many of you have heard her story, but 3 days before Christmas Edie lost her entire home to a fire.  Everything.  Gone.  Edie has been a cyber mentor to me (whether she knew it or not).  Her gift of words, her knowledge of literature, her joy as a mom: these have not been taken. But all of her things are gone.  As a lover of art and literature, there was a great and mighty loss when her house fell.  But she rejoices in the gift of life.  Is she struggling?  Sure.  Is she devastated?  Yes.  Does she appreciate her family more than ever before?  I can only imagine the welling up of love in her heart.

And just this week I learned of another dear bloggy sister.  Joanne's daughter found her.  Life changes in an instant.  She is my age.  My age.  It could have been me.

Today is a new day.  I'm not going to reach the boiling point.  I am going to love fully, live richly, give thanks deeply.

Please keep these women and their families in your prayers.  Go hug your kids.  Go kiss your husband.  Relish in the life you live.  It is a treasure.

January 11, 2011

Out of the Blue

Our "girls" have been very busy.  Even though it is colder than usual here in NC, they don't seem to mind.  
 We collect at least one egg each day.  On Sunday my daughter (who happens to be the animal whisperer of the family) came in VERY excited from her egg collecting.  Remember our "Easter Eggers"?  They finally got the hang of things:

We have collected two blue eggs in addition to the regular brown ones.  See the color and shape difference?  The white one is from the grocery store.
I love the softness of the colors together.  Painted by the Artist of life.

*I'm linking up with Sweet Shot Tuesday.  Slip on over to see some amazing photograpy!

January 10, 2011

No Winter Blues

 I know you might think I am crazy (I'm pretty sure you already do), but I LOVE winter.  There's just something wonderful about the coziness and togetherness that this season brings.  My blog posts have been a little scanty lately but we just finished our winter track-out and I enjoyed it to the fullest.  I have found with homeschooling, I need the break as much, if not more than the kids.  I like slipping back into "just the mom" role for a while.
I like being the teacher, but sometimes the teacher has to crack the book learnin' whip and keep the wheels a turnin.  That's a figure of speech, so please no emails about me using a real whip on my children.  Seriously.  Don't. 

As I was saying, we've enjoyed our break doing lots of fun stuff and doing nothing at all.  Both bring me such happiness...
 Sipping hot chocolate by the fire after some outdoor winter fun.

 Playing Wii and other fun games with the family.  That's my fun-loving mom bustin' a move with the "Just Dance for Kids."  Notice the dog trying to take a nap right in the middle of the dance floor; my husband dancing in soccer flip flops; two bowls of chocolate for when we've just exercised too much; and the kid with the light saber trying to pull a fast one on his unsuspecting sister.

Remember my word for the year?   New running shoes have helped me be more purposeful in my exercise commitment.  For some reason the "holiday cheer" decided to camp out on my thighs.  Grrr....

We have had record amounts of snow so far for our region.  This makes for a lot of fun...
 and great photo moments.

So now that we are back to our "regular programming" my blog will not suffer as much.  I love, love, love vacation; but there is something to be said for a regular routine.  Some people call it a schedule, but that word scares me.

How about you?  Do you prefer a routine or a true schedule?

January 8, 2011

Sunday Rest

Do not add to what I command you
and to not subtract from it, 
but keep the commands 
of the Lord your God...
Deuteronomy 4:2

January 3, 2011

Change is Good

For the last 15 years we have hosted some sort of New Years Eve party.  This year we took a deep breath and said, "Let's do a Christmas party instead!"  Thinking that our friends would have an abundance of things to do, we thought we should over-invite.  Right?
Wrong.  The day before our party we looked at our list and realized almost everyone was coming.  While on a quick run to the store to pick up more food, my 7 year old said, "Mom, how are we going to fit all of those people in our house?"  I was kinda thinking the same thing.

But you know what?  It was a blast!
36 adults and 40 kids sounds a little crazy, but it was great!  So great, that I think we started a new tradition.  So what if we didn't have a place for everyone to sit!  My home was filled with laughter, friendship, and holiday cheer.  Yes, change is good.  A little crazy, but GOOD.

Three days before New Years Eve we were starting to wonder if we were going to have to ring in the new year alone, though.  For my social butterfly husband, that was going to be very sad.  Some long-time friends called us (and saved the day!) and we were able to ring in the new year with them.  We didn't really know the other two families that were going to be there, but I found out how fun it is to make new friends.  Change is good.  Taking a step out of my comfort zone is good.

If you know me at all, this next picture will come as no surprise.  I do love a good change of scenery, especially when it involves my mantel.  Out with the Christmas, in with the winter.
 See, change is good!

My husband was off for a couple of days so we took advantage and had a fun family day.
I overcame my fear of bears as we visited  some in the snow (see over my right shoulder).  It was beautiful.  So was the fence that separated us.

Obviously other members of my family need to work on their fears:

Have you made any changes lately?

*I'm linking up with the winter mantel party over at Stories of A to Z.  Come join the fun!

January 2, 2011

Sunday Rest

What a God we have! 
And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! 
Because Jesus was raised from the dead, 
we've been given a brand-new life
 and have everything to live for, 
including a future in heaven
—and the future starts now! 
God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. 
The Day is coming when you'll have it all
—life healed and whole.
1 Peter 1:3
the Message