Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

To our family- we love and miss you very much!
My Josh

Happy Baby

Scott with the boys in Jamestown

Ferry ride from Hattaras Island to Ocracoke

Mom and the kids at the Ocracoke Lighthouse

The boys with some lego creations

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today is Scott's day off, so we are going to spend the day resting, playing and finishing our shopping for our Thanksgiving feast.  I've got Christmas music playing and all four kids are here with me in the playroom, singing along and playing.  It's nice.  And rare.

Over the past couple of months, we've experienced a few traumas that have left me a bit speechless... hence the long absence from the blog.  My words have been directed up to the Lord who sees and knows, my sweet husband, and a few close friends.  

I don't have a sense of quickly coming out of this period of difficulty, but I do have a clear sense of being carried by arms stronger than my own.  The fact that God has sovereignly, perfectly planned all my days, both good and bad, for His glory and for my joy, gives me peace and even a sense of anticipation for may lie ahead.

This is not to say that I don't wish I could snap my fingers and make everything in my world ok.  I do.  But at the same time, I am grateful that Someone wiser than me planned all this.  And He loves me.  This is good news.

I told Scott last night this is such a strange mixture of feelings.  Deep pain and deep peace, and even joy.  Wanting it all to go away with all my heart and yet knowing it won't go away and that it will be okay.  I'm going to guess that this is a little of what Paul was saying when he said he had learned to be content in all circumstances.  I'm not there yet, but I am starting to see glimmers of that seemingly impossible possibility.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trip to Raleigh

We recently made a trip to Raleigh.  Scott was attending class in Wake Forest, so the rest of us rode with him and stayed with my brother Tommy and his wife Melannie.  Here's a few photos:

Check out Tommy and Jared.  Jared and Caroline are the same age.  We visited Pullen Park and rode the train.  
We also went to the North Caroline Museum of Natural Sciences (or something like that).  This is one of our kid's favorites.  Here is me with our kids and Jared.  I got more than one comment about the size of our family.  Check out Josh.  He just can't handle taking a normal picture.  

Uncle Scott shows Jared the fishies in the tank.

We had a great time with Tommy and Melannie!  I am thankful for where we are, but trips like this make me sad to live so far away from family, especially since Tommy and Melannie are not only family, but our good friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hi everyone

Outside it is turning cooler. This time of year is lovely, but it does hearken at even cooler days to come, which I would love to speed right through into Spring. My kids are outside for hours every afternoon, and I almost hate to call them in for quiet time or reading time. Some days I don't, and just let them revel in being little kids on a crisp fall day. Right now they (my boys) are playing Indiana Jones, complete with whips and ropes and hats and brown clothes. My girls are taking a nap in their room recharging for the afternoon and the evening when Dad will be home and we can enjoy our evening meal together.

This has been a precious time in my spiritual life... as days pass, trials come, seasons change, the Lord has been gracious to draw me close, teach me to trust Him, shown me his love and mercy once again. How great is our God.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

WFMW: Homeschool help!

So as my previous post explained, we just started back to school this week.  I have four children, ages 7 (2nd grade), 5 (K), 3, (pre-K), and 1.  

I know homeschooling moms are supposed to have it all together- breastfeeding babies while simultaneously teaching trig to high schoolers, growing a garden and canning the surplus produce for the days ahead, keeping tidy houses with cheerful front porches complete with clean white rocking chairs and freshly planted seasonal flowers, baking fresh bread, drilling spelling bee champs and math wizards all the while sewing pretty dresses with matching hair ribbons for the daughters they are training to one day do all this themselves in their own homes.  But not this momma.

Here's my dilemma:  How do I manage homeschooling two children, doing preschool with one more and occupying an almost toddler?  My school-age children still need me to do most of the instructing one-on-one.  (We haven't reached the, 'here's your grammar work book- go at it' stage.)  Today we got through math, and most of language arts before lunch.  My oldest still has some reading and writing to do this afternoon during quiet time.  

Sounds good, right?  But I didn't do any science, and can't even dream about how to fit in any preschool stuff for my three year old.  She sat at the table and colored for a few minutes and sorted counting pigs for fun, but no shapes, colors, letters, or instruction of that sort going on.

And then there's basic things like vacuuming the floors and keeping the bathrooms mold-free.  Our family understandably appreciates semi-clean toilets and sinks.   

I'm not overwhelmed- the  grace of God and constant cheering from my husband have sustained my joy and I'm so thankful for that!  I'm just wondering if there is some wise counsel from other moms who have been here or who are here.

So, please help!  In my previous post, I asked for other moms to share their schedules, and  I'll still do a separate post on that.  But for now, please, please, would you share any suggestions and practical advice on how to juggle all this and effectively teach my kids everything they need to know?  Thanks!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Time for school

Today was our first day of school here at the Ellison house, and I'm excited about the upcoming school year.  This year will be a transitional year for me- I have a baby (who won't be a baby for much longer!) and will be formally homeschooling two children- Josh in Kindergarten and Carter is 2nd grade.  And of course, Sophie will be here doing preschool.

Needless to say, we will be busy and I do not feel fully equipped to juggle all of this... so I'm asking for a little help from my friends.   I would love for some of you to write about your daily schedule and how you manage your homes from day to day.  I know not all of my friends homeschool and not all of them are stay at home moms, but I think we could each really learn from each other and be encouraged at the same time.

Now, this is not supposed to be a venue to impress each other- I'm not looking for perfected, rigid schedules.  Actually, it would be especially helpful if we could share some things that don't work in our schedules.   

Just like with the quiet time post, I'm hoping there will be a good bit of variety.  So how about it?  Who wants to go first?  Post a comment or email me (if the comment section would be inadequate- my email address is in my profile) and let me know how things work around your house!

Here' s what I'm looking for:
How many children?  Ages?
School aged?
If no, how do you manage your day with preschoolers? (this was an enormous challenge for me!)
Do you homeschool?
If no, give me how your morning routine flows in getting everyone dressed/fed/out the door, and evening routine for dinner/homework/baths/bedtime
If yes, grade levels of children and how you multi-task/teach multiple grade levels?  And what about those preschoolers???

State of confusion

I'm a bit confused about what to think about Sarah Palin's nomination for VP.  I think her position on key issues is right on.  I admire her courage to stand up for what is right, even when her own political party becomes her foe in a particular situation.  I think her character, by all outward signs, is strong and virtuous.  Politically speaking, I think her candidacy is right on.  I'm sure our family will be casting our vote for the McCain/Palin ticket.

So here's my dilemna:  What about her kids?  Sarah Palin is strongly pro-life, which for me is a deal-breaker (if a candidate is not pro-life I cannot vote for them... this belief is a cornerstone belief of our culture and society).  In order to faithfully fulfill the commitment involved in being a Vice-President (or possibly the President, although very unlikely), she will have to essentially give up raising her children.  This seems a bit contradictory.  Yes, her husband can step in.  So can other supportive family members.  But those children only have one mother.  Will they be grateful to give up their mother to 'the cause'?  

Others have written about Palin being equated with Deborah of the Old Testament.  This seems quite out of context.  I've also read warm thoughts about the Kennedy children playing under their Daddy's desk in the Oval Office.  But he was a dad, not a mother, and the roles are very different.  

Am I holding Sarah Palin up to my own convictions instead of allowing her to live out her own life under God?  
Am I wrong to see the contradiction in being pro-life and then leaving your children for a high-profile job that will require your heart and soul to accomplish?
Am I being a bit melodramatic to equate her taking this position with 'giving up raising her children'?

What do you think?  Set me straight.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The best chicken enchiladas ever, I promise

So here is one of our favorite recipes here at our house.  I got the original from Tyler (family food network favorite!), but I've adapted it for our family.  Try it, you'll like it.  I have a few more insider tips at the bottom of the recipe.

Please don't let the long list of ingredients keep you from trying this. They can all be found at most grocery stores and they are very inexpensive.  This recipe is:
  • Economical
  • Low in fat
  • Freezable
What more could you want?

(None of these amounts are precise)
3 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs bonless, skinless chicken breast I sometimes use more
salt and pepper
3-4 T Adobo or other mexican seasoning with cumin (measurement not necessary, you'll just be sprinkling chicken with this as it cooks)
1 onion, chopped can use red or white or whatever you have
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can chopped green chiles you can also use whole canned chiles and just chop them
1/4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and minced careful here- canned chipotles vary in their heat.  I've had some be very hot, others not as much.  Add them slowly and taste as you go.  You can also save the adobo sauce for adding a little to the sauce- so good!
1 28 can tomatoes- can use any canned tomatoes.  These will be part of the sauce that goes in the food processor, so it doesn't really matter if they are chopped, whole, have onion in them or are just plain.
a little flour
lots of corn tortillas- at least 16, but I just buy a large package at the store so I have plenty
1-2 large cans of enchilada sauce, or 1 large can.  Buy a couple extra just to have on hand
2 C shredded cheese- cheddar or jack or both

OK, now the fun part.  I love cooking this recipe.
Coat large saute pan with oil.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and mexican seasoning.  Brown until no longer pink inside.  Remove chicken from pan and let it cool.

Saute onion and garlic in chicken drippings until tender.  Add the onion first and let it go for a few minutes on medium low before adding garlic, as garlic will cook much faster.
Now add both green and chipotle chiles.  Stir.  Then add tomatoes and let the sauce all come together for a few minutes.  

After combined, I put my sauce in the food processor so it is not chunky.  It's not smooth like a puree, but I don't want chunks of onion and tomato in there.  After I've let it go for a few seconds in the food processor, I just put it right back in the pan on low.

While the sauce becomes so yummy you won't believe it, shred the cooked chicken breasts apart.  Take a taste, then add shredded chicken to saute pan and combine with sauce.  Dust with a little flour to keep it from being runny in your enchiladas.  We don't want runny enchiladas.

Microwave the tortillas for 30 seconds.  This takes the stiffness away and makes them soft like butter in your hands.  I microwave mine about 8 at a time so they don't have a chance to get stiff while I roll the enchiladas.  

Spray two 9x13 pans with Pam, then ladle enchilada sauce into the bottom of each pan.  Kind of like when you make lasagne- not too much sauce, though. Don't think puddles, just a light coating.  

Now I make a little assembly line- my plate of warm tortillas, a shallow dish of enchilada sauce, and a large amount of the chicken mixture in another bowl.  Prepare to get a little messy.  Dip each tortillas in enchilada sauce.  Then spoon some of the chicken mixture- not too much or you won't be able to roll the enchilada- in each tortilla and roll them up. You'll have to pause and heat the tortillas in batches. Place the enchiladas seam side down in the pans.  It may take a few to get the hang of it, but you are going to cover all this with cheese, so don't worry about perfection.  Cheese covers a multitude of cooking sins.

Once the pans are full of yummy enchiladas (my pans hold at least 10 enchiladas each- really more like 12-14), all you have to do is cover them with cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese melts.  I freeze one pan, and the other pan feeds our family of six with plenty of leftovers.  

This reheats very well, so you could make it a day ahead with no problem- just leave off the cheese the first time you bake it and add the cheese when you reheat the dish in the oven.

I usually serve this with black beans and yellow rice.  A green salad would be good, too.  Sour cream is a must.  

A few suggestions:
If you have extra chicken (in the sauce), it is great in quesadillas for lunch.

If at all possible, get your corn tortillas from a Mexican/Hispanic grocery.  These are becoming more and more common.  You can also find the chiles and enchilada sauce there as well.  I am not one to make a special stop for specialty groceries, but the Mexican grocery is in the same shopping center as our main grocery, so this works for me with very little hassle.  I would be willing to drive to a Mexican/Hispanic grocery, though.  You just won't believe the difference in the tortillas. 

But you can get all these ingredients at regular grocery stores as well, and these enchilada will still be really good with Pepito tortillas.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A day at the park

Sisters share a laugh (gotta love Caroline's hair!)

The boys take a walk with Daddy down to the lighthouse.
Brothers catch a few winks in a hammock.  All that playing was hard work.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Have some photos

Some of you only visit this blog for photos of my kids.  You know who you are.  Here you go:

Caroline shows some love to her cousin Jared.  They are only six weeks apart.  It's been so much fun to be pregnant and then a mom of a baby alongside my sister-in-law.  Isn't my nephew cute?

Josh coaches Sophie on the finer points of bike riding.  He lent her his old bike and even his helmet.  I'm seeing a pink bike with tassles and a Barbie helmet being necessary in the near future.
Brothers in motion at the beach 
More brother time at the Wright Brother's museum in Kitty Hawk.  Dad took them on an apparently very serious field trip.  Check out Josh's signature shirt tuck technique.
Uncle Bobby came for a short Fourth of July visit.  

Stay tuned- there are more where these came from.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Motherhood and quiet times

It seems like most mommies struggle with how and when to spend time alone with the Lord.  From your responses to this post, some of you find this time indispensable, some incorporate their own time with God with their children and there are those of us who struggle along for a long time before we find our groove.

Before I got married, it was my habit to spend an hour each morning reading my Bible and praying.  I used a vigorous Bible reading plan which led you through ten chapters a day from different books of the Bible.  

I loved doing this and I learned a lot, but I have to admit that I came to depend on this time to gauge my spiritual fitness.  You know, my day was 'good' if I had my quiet time and 'bad' if I didn't.  I was on good terms with God if I'd read my chapters and prayed, but if I hadn't started my day off this way, I didn't feel comfortable addressing the Lord for the rest of the day.

This 'make it or break it' attitude was based on my pride.  I was trusting in my accomplishments to earn God's favor or at least to earn my prayers being heard.  My husband helped me with this tremendously.  He reminds me of the truth that my quiet times didn't make God happy with me.  God is happy and satisfied in Christ Jesus and Jesus' perfect, Law-keeping sinless life and Jesus' death on my behalf.

So now I value my time with the Lord.  Jesus set an example for us when he met with the Father early in the morning.  God ministers the Word to me, reminding me of the gospel and I find strength and grace and hope before the Lord.  When I pray and read the Bible, I grow in my faith.  In no way do I want to take away from the importance of time with God.  

But we must understand that our quiet times don't make or break our relationship with God.  There are times, like when we have infants and toddlers, when we may need to take what we can get, and what we can get is seldom time alone to even visit the bathroom.  During times like this, take heart that God knows your needs.  He knows just where you are, and he looks at our hearts, not our schedules. 

If laziness is a problem in your life, by the grace of God ask for his help and your husband's accountability.  If you stay up too late to get up early, then seek change in this area.  But if you are exhausted because you have three children under three or your children are sick or you have a nursing baby who needs you through the night- take heart and trust God during this time.  

The Lord continues to keep me humble in this area- my kids will inevitably get up before me.  Or we'll have a really bad night right when I have scheduled to get up extra early.  Or I'll get a migraine.  You catch the drift.

So let's encourage each other to trust in Christ, use the time we have wisely and draw near to God any time of day or night.  Grab a minute to meditate on the Word while you are nursing the baby.  Give thanks to God for his provision while you cook dinner.  Pray with your kids as you put them to bed.  Put on a praise CD while you run errands.  Take the moments that you have and ask God for the strength and wisdom to find more time to meet with Him.  He delights in answering those prayers and you will be delighted when he does.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thanks, everyone...

for all your responses to my quiet time question. I promise more discussion on that- the post has already been written- but I have a sick husband and I'm a little distracted.  Scott has some kind of crazy infection or some mystery ailment and is on a heavy antibiotic that is making him pretty sick.

I'm taking care of him by sitting next to him on the couch and watching tv and reading good books.  It's been hard, but I'm just glad to serve him.  Really, though, thanks for responding and we'll have a good talk about that soon!

Of course, we hope that this sickness is nothing serious and will pass quickly, but please pray for Scott's doctors that they will have wisdom to figure out what is going on with him.  Pray for us that we will treasure Christ more and we will put our hope in God.  Thanks, my friends!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Burdens and blogging and the gospel

Not a lot of posting going on this week, and I started to get really burdened by the empty 'new post' page in my mind.  I don't want my blog to become my burden, but an encouraging outlet to stay in touch with my friends and family and to share what God is doing here at our house.  

My sinful heart loves to take a good gift from God (like homeschooling, raising my children, keeping my home, making good food, blogging, and the list goes on) and turn it into a burden.  I am naturally drawn to laws and rules, and that is a problem because I can't keep laws and rules very well for very long.  That is why I needed a Savior.

What does that have to do with blogging?  Well, it goes something like this:  Blogging is good and fun and one of God's good gifts.  I have no commitment to blog. But now that I've started, I feel burdened if I don't post three times a week with thoughtful, funny or wise posts.  I can be having a good week busily serving my family with mopped floors, cared-for children, carefully planned meals- but the blog is neglected, so I'll worry about that!  

And if it wasn't the blog, it would be something else- you know, so you vacuumed the floors, but you didn't move the couch to vacuum underneath.  The laundry is caught up, but you didn't organize the closet.  Dinner is ready, but you only made one vegetable instead of two.  The kids are all bathed and well dressed, but Sophie's hair needs to be trimmed.

The heart and core of all of this is that I trust in my accomplishments and good works for peace with myself and (much more disastrously) peace with God.  But only Jesus lived a perfect life, always accomplishing the will of the Father.  When I dwell on the guilt of the undone task or the unwritten blog post, I am full of pride of the 'just maybe I could do all this and then all would be well.'  

And that is prideful.  And God opposes the proud.  But God gives grace to the humble. 

So my hope and prayer is that, by the grace of God alone, I would put to death this manifestation of pride in my life and start to cultivate humility.  That when the guilt comes and the voice of sin starts in, I would remember the gospel again- Jesus, God the Son, lived the perfect life that I could not live, kept the law that I have broken by my very nature. He died a cruel death, receiving the full wrath of God that should be directed at my sin so that instead God directs his grace and love toward me the sinner.  The Son took the place of the sinner so that the sinner could be received as a son.  (in my case, as a daughter)

Take a minute to soak in this truth, found in Romans 3: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith... It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

There's not a lot I can add to Paul's words.  Let's be encouraged to remind ourselves of the gospel, talk to ourselves about the gospel, and preach the gospel to ourselves.  In this way we will protect our minds and hearts from being carried away into untruth, despair and sin.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's late Sunday night,

and I can't sleep.  This is kind of funny because I've been exhausted since after lunch and now that I have the chance I can't sleep.  I thought I'd write out a few of the thoughts that are floating in my head and keeping me up.

We had a great VBS this past week.  We had over 50 kids which is great considering we have a small church and we live on a small island.  The gospel was clearly presented to these children, and we are praying that God will grow these gospel seeds in his time and draw these children to himself.

Once again, Lifeway did a fantastic job of offering a dynamic curriculum with all the bells and whistles.  

And, once again, Lifeway completely disappointed with a feel good gospel (I know what you are thinking- isn't the gospel supposed to make us feel good? well, yes, no, kind of- it's late) and lack of correct doctrine.  I hope to write more about that soon, but don't want to come across as super critical or cranky.  But I tend to be super critical and cranky about these things, especially stuff like the song that said something about Jesus saving us so that we could 'be a winner.'

On a much lighter and more pleasant note, my oldest son will turn 7 this week!  This is a great time for our family to celebrate God's goodness to us in giving us Carter.  Being the oldest son to two intense, semi-controlling-but-trying-not-to-be-by-God's-grace parents has its challenges, but Carter is an incredible blessing to our family in spite of his parent's (especially his mom's) shortcomings.  We are really looking forward to celebrating his birthday.

And, before I again get too tired to type, I just have to take a minute and tell you about the incredible man I am married to.  I was reminded again this week that I am a woman who has been given a amazing gift of a husband.  This man leads me in God's Word, reminds me of the gospel when I'm wallering in my sin, reads chapter books to our children before bed and then poetry to them after the lights are out.  He makes up incredible stories that take our kid's imaginations to faraway places.  

When he has the day off, he asks us what would make the day fun for us, leading us in a self-sacrificing attitude.  This kind of man showing this kind of love makes submission a light burden and being a wife a joy.

This morning he took the time to lovingly, biblically discipline our boys, even though it was Sunday morning and he was preparing to baptize, preach, and lead in the Lord's Supper.  He came home before evening services just to say hi and tell us that he missed us while he was at the church preparing.  And then, after we got the kids to bed tonight, when I came out to the family room to sit and relax with him, he had HGTV on and waiting.  What more could I ask for?  

Coming up this week: some thoughts on Mommy quiet time (thanks, everybody for your input!).  Now I'm off to try that sleeping thing again...

Monday, August 04, 2008

A bit of a crazy week

So we have VBS this week at church so I won't be posting much.  But please stop by and comment on the quiet time post.  Post coming about that soon!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

And the hair bow winner is...

Melanie at Whimsical Creations.

Congratulations!  Wasn't that fun?

Check out Melanie's etsy shop.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hair bow giveaway

There is a really fun giveaway carnival going on at Bloggy Giveaways.

I make hair bows for my girl's hair, and I would love to give away two hair bows (styled like the bows pictured above) to a reader.

All you need to do is leave a comment with contact information.  Please let me know what ribbons you would like. (See below for three more choices.)  The hair bows are on alligator clips.  I will draw numbers to choose the winner. (U.S. only, please!)  

Have fun checking out the other great giveaways!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

OK, mommy friends, help me out!

I'd like to ask for a little feedback:

How do you as a mom handle your time with the Lord?  Do you count devotion time with the kids as your personal devotion time?  Do you get up earlier than everybody else so you can read your Bible and pray?  When everybody goes to bed at night?  Or maybe during afternoon quiet time?

Have your Bible study/quiet time habits changed since you had children?  If so, how?

I've been giving this topic a bit of thought lately and I'd love to hear what works for my friends.  Thanks!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Come with me to a place called Fort Green

I am from the South, Florida to be exact.  When most people think of Florida, they think of beaches and Mickey Mouse.  My family lived on the west coast, and our town boasts some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.  But about an hour from our house, in central Florida is a whole nother Florida that doesn't make it onto the tourist brochures.  Here there are miles of orange groves, cattle ranches and folks as country as anywhere else south of the Mason Dixon line.

This isn't the south as in Junior League and pedicured toenails. This is the south as in collard greens, homemade lye soap and galvanized bath tubs.  Although those two worlds sometimes collide, this is not the case in Fort Green.  

This is where my grandfather was born and raised.  He left and made a successful living in the 'big city' (St. Petersburg, FL), but the rest of his family stayed right in Fort Green, as the community is called.  If you have driven straight across Florida south of Orlando, there is a good chance you have gone right through Fort Green, but you would never  know it.  There are no traffic lights, no post office, and one gas station.

Even though my grandfather left the place of his birth, he stayed very close to his family, visiting every Sunday afternoon.  My mother tells stories of visiting Granny and Grandaddy's house before there was indoor plumbing, being terrified of late night 'bathroom' visits.  She also tells of so many incredible memories, including seeing her dad with her aunts and uncles gathered around the piano singing gospel songs, her aunts and uncles spending backbreaking hours planting miles of orange trees, and country drives with her cousins.

I would have a hard time sufficiently explaining the impact my Fort Green family had on me.  Even though I grew up in the city, on the beach, I spent several weeks in Fort Green every summer and even some Christmas vacations.  I loved my time there.  Fort Green was where I learned how to shell peas, recognize four-part harmony (Aunt Zula sang the baritone part, and I still can't hear the old gospel songs without hearing her voice), and to eat fried cornbread.  

It was in Fort Green that I learned what 'yonder' meant, how to properly fry okra (don't stir it unless you have to), and the secret to the perfect glass of sweet tea (stir in about twice as much sugar as you think is reasonable).  I also learned the value of the front porch visit.  I would sit outside with my great aunt and uncle, my aunt usually had some type of vegetable in an enamel bowl (you know, the white bowl with the red rim), shelling or husking or seeding it, and truck after truck would stop by as the the hours passed.  If they didn't stop, there was at least a horn honk and a wave over the steering wheel.  Of course, back on the porch there would be plenty of discussion as to where the passing-by person was headed and why.

The conversation would sound something like this:  "There goes Jimmy Rawls carrying (in the south, you don't drive someone somewhere, you carry them) his mother up to Frostproof to see the doctor."  "Yeah,  I heard she has the shingles."  "Yes, bless her heart, this is the third bout she's had."  "Mercy, that's bad."

If the passer-by stopped, they would usually acknowledge me with, "Patti Jo's daughter here visiting?"  Then the adults would commence talking about anything and everything- who had died, who bought a new bass boat for fishing at the lake, and what they were fixing for dinner (which was lunch- the evening meal was supper).

Nothing special was planned on my behalf- no trips to an amusement park, or even a city park.  It was just assumed that I would join in with whatever my aunts were already doing, including washing dishes, hanging clothes out to dry or attending revival services at church.

I remember during one two-week visit declaring to my Aunt Mildred that I was bored.  She said in her high pitched exclamation-voice, "Bored?!  Well, I declare," and promptly set me up with scissors and an old Sears catalogue so I could cut out homemade paper dolls.  She also tried to teach me some basic handwork, but unfortunately her efforts on that front were in vain.

I feel tremendously blessed to have had a place like Fort Green to help form me into who I am today.  I understand an entirely different group of people due to my time there, and I am a different person because of my time there.  God's good providence placed me just where I needed to be, and gave me the experiences he wanted me to have.   

I look back with gratefulness to God for the rich experience a simple place like Fort Green gave me.  My aunts Zula, Mildred, Mae, Betty and uncles Tom, Clarence, Merle and Junior and so many cousins (Little John, Rufus, Bud, I could go on) all played an invaluable role in God's plan for my life.   They never knew it at the time, but today I reap the benefits from my time spent in that special place.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Let's try that again

So we turned our internet back on.  I thought I'd write a few thoughts about life with and without the internet:

It was really nice to be rid of the distraction of the computer.  I think the "I'll just check my email" thing was the best effect, because that email check often turns into a quick click on Safari and then before I know it, 20 minutes is gone and I'm asking the kids to wait just a minute more.

It's funny, though, because even though the internet was no longer a time-wasting temptation, I still found plenty to be distracted with.  I checked more books out from the library, and could get lost in a book instead of on a website.  

This is why, when it comes to specifics not mentioned in Scripture, it is important to follow the leading of the Lord and not only the specific ways he is leading other people.  That pesky heart of mine and the sin that still dwells there- those things were not turned off with our internet connection.  Internet, cable, books, crafting (and I could go on) are not the problem with our time management.  Just like with money, our hearts and motives are at play, so that is where we need to start if we see a change is in order.  Otherwise we'll just be trading one bad habit in for another one.  

Ok, so back to the effects of our time sans internet:  We also got to know our coffee shop employees.  Our little town just opened up a great coffee shop and that is where we would use the internet.  We really enjoyed our time there.  My mom was here for a visit, so Scott and I got to go together a couple of times, which was fun.  

So why did we turn the internet back on?  Scott needs the internet for work a good bit and was soon driving to the coffee shop every day, sometimes twice a day.  We looked at what we were spending on coffee (even though we just get plain coffee or iced coffee), called our internet provider and got some quotes, and saw that we could save money by getting a slower internet connection here at home.  (We haven't noticed any difference with the speed change, so that was an easy money saver.)

So here we are.  I saw such good fruit from my time without the internet that I am going to try and stay off until after the kids are in bed or having their rest time.  But we are both so glad to have it turned back on!  

Friday, July 18, 2008

Money and our hearts

Wouldn't it be great if we could just talk about money objectively with our husbands, if making spending changes was as easy as crossing through the numbers with our red pens, if the balance in our checkbooks and savings accounts (and credit cards) didn't carry any more weight in our lives than the weight of the paper envelope the mail man brings us that tells us the good or bad news about our financial state of being?

But it is not so.  Because these matters are not only money matters, they are heart issues.  The proof that this is true is not hard to find.  I quickly get discouraged and even depressed when there is something I want to do or buy and then I find out whatever it is would not be a wise use of our money.  What I also find out is that my hopes are easily in the wrong place.  

I place my emotional well being in what I can do or buy.  You know, taking the kids bowling, buying them new summer clothes, preparing a certain meal, or stopping for ice cream on the way home from the beach.  All great things, but when I can't do them, my heart rears it's ugly head!  

This is why we find ourselves in debt while our savings accounts barely linger around- we need what we see now, it has to be ours or we feel depressed or sad.  In contrast, our spirits our lifted when we can dress our little girl in the cute dress at Gap Kids or take the kids to Disney World.  Our delight is in the things of the world, and not in God.

Let's strive to be more like the Psalmist who said, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God... Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!  Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God." (Psalm 42 &43)

Let's pray that God will expose the sin in our hearts that leads us to put our hope in our plans, in our way, and in that new pair of shoes.  For his grace knows no limit, and his love is more satisfying than anything offered in the nearby antique store or car lot.  Instead of drinking from those fountains, let's beg for the grace to again echo the Psalmist, who prayed, "As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." 

This is why unless you have redecorating in your budget it might be helpful to throw your Pottery Barn catalogue away.  You don't need inspiration when you are seeking to cultivate contentment for what you currently have.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Baby steps- saving money

I'm no financial genius, and I don't spend money as well as I would like to, but we have lived on one income for seven years, and along the way I've learned a few small things that have saved us a lot of money over the years.  

Have the stuff to make a few easy meals on hand.  Cheese and tortillas for quesadillas, noodles and jarred spaghetti sauce, frozen pancakes or waffles (when I make these, I put the extras in the freezer)- you get the idea.  Sandwich meat and cheese are also great.
Easy, kid-friendly is the key .  Scott and I can make do with whatever, but if we don't have anything to throw together for the kids, it's out to the fast food line for us.  I find this especially helpful on nights when we have other things going on, like Wednesday or Sunday nights, or t-ball nights.

Cut the extra cable and cell phone minutes.  This can be done with minimal pain. Before you change your cell phone plan make sure you won't be penalized with a longer evil contract. 

Stick to the sales at the grocery store.  Plan your menu around what is on sale.  Be more loyal to saving money that you are to your favorite cookie, the Pepperidge Farm Chesapeake.  

Stay home.  We went to one car after our first child was born, and have only had one car for most of the past seven years.  This was a big adjustment for me at first.  I could no longer go whenever an idea popped in my head.  But I immediately noticed that this put spending to a halt.  I only went out when Scott was with me, and we just didn't have time to shop a lot.  

Now we only go out for the basics like grocery shopping, church and to see friends.  The library, beach, and park are also frequently on our list of destinations.  What is missing is window shopping, long drives just to pass time (although I miss those), and walking the mall just to get out.

Staying home is not the same as being trapped at home.  Our home is our favorite place to be.  If you find this is not the case for you, take the time to figure out what makes other places better than home.  We get restless sometimes, and we used to automatically jump in the car and go out.  That didn't always cure the restlessness (I remember pulling back into the driveway after one of those trips out thinking, 'what now?'), so it really is a worthy use of time to think about what is at the root of your wandering spirit.

Stop looking at Pottery Barn catalogues if you need to.  (I'm using Pottery Barn just as an example, but you could fill in the blank- Gap Kids, Williams Sonoma, Restoration Hardware) I know, you pick them up 'just to look', and maybe you have never purchased anything from one of those pricey merchants.  But that's not the point.  

Pottery Barn is not just selling the world's cutest $500.00 fire truck and butterfly bedding.  They are also selling a lifestyle.  You know what I mean- "Her house looks like Pottery Barn..."  And you are thinking, "I want mine to, as well!"

I for one am a big Pottery Barn fan.  But I do not at this time have a Pottery Barn budget.  Like my grandma used to say, "Tami has champagne taste and a beer pocketbook."   Of course, we can find create the Pottery Barn look for a lot less (like at Target), and shop their clearance section and find good deals.  But don't even do that if you are not prepared financially to do so.  So guard your heart!

These are just a few simple things that have helped us. What has helped you to save money?  

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ode to Publix

I just want to take a few minutes and write a few words about my love for Publix. Yes, Publix the grocery store.  As the main food-finder and preparer for a family of six, my grocery store is a very important place to me. 

Here's some things I seriously love and miss about Publix.  I thought I would list them in the order they were found in the Publix closer to my house in Florida.  Let's go on an imaginary trip through the world's best grocery store.

1. Fresh flowers. Cheap, beautiful. Scott would stop by Publix on his way home from work and buy me a dozen beautiful roses for under $10.00. They would come in lots of colors. Publix also carries lots of other fresh flowers at great prices.

Now we are moving onto the bakery, but before we get there, we'll stop by:

2. the organic foods section. The prices and variety here are impressive. Let's grab a bag of blue corn chips. Yum.

3. The bakery. Oh my- fresh baguettes for $1.20. If you stop by around 5:00 in the afternoon, they were still hot. And for your breakfast needs, grab some Breakfast Bread (only if it's buy one get one free, though, which it will be at least once a month), full of raisens, dates, nuts and other goodies. And don't forget the carrot muffins and zuccini muffins. One of each, please. Get your free cookie for the kids and if you have a birthday coming up order the best birthday cake in the South.

4. Now we are about to hit the deli. Yes, ma'am. You'll find roast pork, salami, and turkey for cubans (go run back to the bakery for some fresh cuban bread. We'll wait). Now check out whatever the sale meat and cheese are- you're going to like them. Publix sells Boar's Head brand, which is pricey but is so worth it because BH doesn't contain nitrates and other nasties found in other deli meat. Just stick with whatever is on sale and you'll be fine. And don't forget to ask for a sample or two- the kids are done with their cookies and are ready for their second course.

If this shopping trip is going to run into dinner, you can order a freshly made sub sandwich for $5.99 or less (get the special, I'm telling you!) and the deli will have it waiting for you when you are done with your shopping. My third child was fed these subs at an alarming rate during my pregnancy.

5. Now that we've gotten the deli taken care of, we are headed to the World's Freshest Produce Department. Again, I always stuck with whatever was on sale. Crimini mushrooms, 2/$3?, thank you very much. Salad, 2/$4? I'll take 4. You can also choose from fresh chesnuts at holiday time, pineapple in the summer, and squash of every size and shape in the fall.

6. Here we come up to the cheese/dairy case. What you'll notice first is the prices. Much less than you expected at such a great, clean store. Yes, that is a wedge of fresh parmesan cheese for less than $3.00.  Get one, then head on over to the

7. fresh fish counter. Buy some salmon for $4.99/lb. This is how our family had fresh fish once a week. There was always something on sale, cut to order by the friendly fish guy. He'll even tell you how to cook it. I love this place.

Don't even get me started on the meat department (ok, just a few things: the prices are great, the butcher will cut and package whatever you need and make recommendations, and once again you'll be thrilled with how clean this store is)  because after your cart is loaded and you've made your way to the check out, a very friendly bag boy-person will bag your groceries, bet your children a balloon, and walk you out to load your car.  He'll also insist on not accepting a tip- this is a courtesy provided free of charge.  (My husband's very first job was as a Publix bag boy.  A Florida tradition for many fifteen-year-old youths anxious to start earning a pay check.)

So when I think of things I miss about Florida, I think in this order:  my family, the Gulf beaches, and Publix.  

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How it's going...

Ok, this 'no internet' thing is harder than I thought it would be!  I didn't realize how much I depend on being connected with the 'outside' world, but this past week, I have walked over to the desk to check the weather, of course my email, and just to pass a few minutes.  Last night I almost panicked when I realized halfway through dinner preparations my recipe was stored away on an internet file.  

Thankfully, dinner turned out just fine.  And so has everything else.  I find myself wanting to connect more with 'real people', reading real books on paper pages, and enjoying pleasures like reading a magazine on the front porch.

We have had guests more than once since we went crazy and disconnected our home from the internet, so I haven't had as much time to run out and check my inbox.  But I still think about it all the time.

I feel a little bit silly writing this, but the adjustment has been harder than I expected.  That old internet is great, and I really love using it to keep in touch with my friends.  We are new to where we live, so most of my deep relationships are long distance.  Email helps my keep in touch with my friends and family.  Maybe I'll have to really change my ways and write letters on paper and use stamps.  Now that would be drastic.

So, I guess I would have to say the best benefit so far has been that I have been forced to look at where my time goes, what my priorities are, and to realize that I don't have to have everything right at my fingertips right now.  It's ok to wait, ok to say no to myself, ok to let some things that are important to me go.  It's not only ok, but it can be a good thing.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Painting, panelling, and patience

Before we moved into our house, I thought I would redo and repaint the main living areas, the kitchen, mud/laundry room, and girl's room.  I thought I would buy new curtains for our bedroom, the boy's room, the kitchen, mud/laundry room, play room, and extra bathroom.  Big plans for new comforters, area rugs and wall decor filled my mind.

As of right now, the living room and girl's room have new curtains.  That's about it.  I still desire all the rest, but am learning to make do with the way things are.  This is a big departure for me.  We have moved a lot and this is the first time we have not gone full force into our (very scaled back) version of Extreme Home Makeover (with the exception of our farmhouse, which was redone right before we moved in).

There are a couple of reasons we have delayed our sprucing.  We are tired!  Scott started preaching at our church before we had moved, so the transition did not include settling in time.  We went full force into ministry.  We don't regret that at all, but our busyness has definitely caused us to slow down a bit.

Also, we homeschool and moved in the middle of the school year.  So school trumped decorating and painting. 

Our house has panelling in the main living area, dining area, and hallway.  Painting the panelling has been on the top of our list of what we would like to work on.  In fact, I didn't think I would even want to move in until we had painted it.  But when we had unpacked our stuff, the panelling became strangely pleasant.  I still think we will paint it the moment we have the time and energy, but for now it keeps growing on me.  Good thing, because extra time and energy are pretty elusive.

I firmly believe in making your house a home, and in making it a beautiful place to be.  I think we reflect the glory and character of God when we use our creativity and energy to make our surroundings beautiful and functional.  But I also believe that the Lord wants us to be content with and thankful for what He has given us if we are hindered from making changes.  This is the attitude I am praying He will graciously cultivate in my heart as I wait for the right circumstances to make the changes I would like.  Because a home is more than new comforters and the right paint color.   

Monday, June 30, 2008

A whole new world at our house

In an effort to build our savings account, Scott and I are taking a good hard look at our budget, seeing where we can make cuts.  We have also seen some areas where we need to alot more money.  

But today I wanted to write about one of the more drastic spending changes we have made.  We are discontinuing our internet.  Completely.  Tomorrow.

I am still getting very nervous about that change.  We have a great alternative that I am very excited about.  We have a new coffee shop in our town that has internet access.  Scott has been encouraging me to get away regularly for a little quiet time.  But of course I never do it.  Now he's saying, "You are doing it and here's some extra motivation."  So I'll get to play on the internet, have some time to be quiet and alone, and save over $60.00 a month at the same time (minus the cost of the coffee, of course).

Now, every time I think about not having internet access at my fingertips, my heart pounds.  I'm not saying this is good, I'm just saying this is what happens.  Right now, I keep my laptop open on the desk in full view of the kitchen and within listening distance to most of the house, and I can just pop over and get online whenever I want to check out a recipe, check the weather forecast, or whatever else springs in my mind.  I can also hear the comforting bing from Outlook, telling me someone loves me, um, I mean, that I have an email.

But I can already think of some great reasons why this is a good idea.  Scott and I will no longer walk over the computer to check our inbox before we great our children or each other.  Gone will be the ability to hide behind the keyboard while countless minutes pass and this dishes don't get done.  My internet time will have to count.  This will be a good thing.  

I think this new plan will not only save us money, it will save us time.  And cause us to think about our internet time and also our time here at home.  We want to have more face to face conversations with people like our children. 

I'll still be writing on my blog, and using autopost as my friend.  I'll still be looking forward to reading your comments and writing back and forth.  I am hoping that  my posts will be better and more focused, but that may be setting my hopes too high.

So even though I am very unsure how this will work, I am so thankful Scott came up with this idea.  I am looking forward to the discipline it will bring.  It is our prayer that God will use this change to conform us more into his image and to bring himself glory as the sustaining joy of our lives.  

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Here's some meme fun from Totally Scrappy at Mudpies to Dragonflies.  I have a lot to do at home tonight, so I won't be able to finish the whole thing, but let's see how far I can get!  Check out Totally Scrappy's blog for more participants.

1. LAST MOVIE YOU SAW IN A THEATER.  The Veggie Tales movie with the pirates.  Totally disappointing.  We spent a lot of money on the movie, took the whole family, and it wasn't very good!  But the kids loved it, loved being in the movie theater, and we went to Red Robin afterward for dinner, and that went a long way towards taking the sting out of the disappointment for me.

2.  WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING?  I am reading a three right now, but the best one is a devotional by Susannah Spurgeon.  The best part of the book is the biography of Mrs. Spurgeon at the back of the book.  I have learned so much from her example as a pastor's wife.  I'll probably be writing a review of the book when I'm finished.

3.  WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOARD GAME?  Scrabble.  Scott is not a fan, but I know he's showing me the love when he suggests we play.

4.  FAVORITE MAGAZINE?  Southern Living

5.  FAVORITE SMELLS?  Italian food cooking, yeast bread dough, my baby Caroline's hair after her bath.

6.  FAVORITE SOUNDS?  My husband sleeping next to me, my kids laughing really hard, the car pulling in the driveway when Scott has been out of town.

7.WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD? Feeling like something might be wrong with one of my children. 

8.  WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?  Does the day have to start already?  I wish it wasn't so, but there it is.


10.  FUTURE CHILD'S NAME  don't know

11.IF I HAD A LOT OF MONEY I'D:  That question has a lot of weight.  In my better moments, I'd say I would support missions,  help those less fortunate than me, and live simply.  I know I would be tempted to indulge myself and spoil my children, though.  Of course, I have such a generous husband, I'm know he would help me direct our money towards godly pursuits like he does now.  
I do think if we (people in general) had a lot of money, we would probably do what we do with our money now, but on a larger scale.  If we are faithful with little, we would be faithful with much, and if we are selfish with little, we would be selfish with much.  Having a lot of money is not a prerequisite for being generous.  We wouldn't become giving, generous, debt-free people just because we had more money, because those are heart issues, not income issues.

12.  DO YOU DRIVE FAST?  Not anymore


14.  STORMS- COOL OR SCARY?  scary

15.  WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?  1980 Cutlass Olds.  The joke of my late high-school life, and continues with my friends who knew me then.  It was the bane of my existence, and I was so prideful I would stay late after school just so no one would see me drive away in it.

16.  FAVORITE DRINK? coffee in the mornings 
17.  FINISH THIS STATEMENT, "IF I HAD TIME, I'D:  do some crafts



20.  NAME ALL THE DIFFERENT CITIES AND TOWNS YOU HAVE LIVED IN? ok, here goes:  St. Pete, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Bradenton, Florida (3 separate times); Graceville, Florida; Louisville, KY; Bloomfield, KY; Jacksonville, FL; Wake Forest, NC; Edenton, NC; now somewhere else, NC.

21.  FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?  my boys play t-ball.  Hilarious.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cloth napkin solution

I have been working on switching to cloth napkins for a while.  I have two main reasons:  to cut down on waste (we go through a lot of napkins) and to save a little money (we go through a lot of napkins).  I had a few mismatched cloth napkins, but after a while they just didn't cut if for our family of six, especially when we had friends over.

I priced cloth napkins in the store, but found them to be pretty pricey ($1.99-3.99, for cheap napkins at Walmart), especially when I added up how many we would need for me to avoid washing the same napkins every day (we go through a lot of napkins).  

So I got on ebay and found a restaurant supplier who sold in huge lots- 50 to 100 at a time.  The great thing about the napkins is that they were large and white.  White is good- it looks great with lots of different kinds of dishes, can be casual or formal, and can be washed with bleach and hot water, which is pretty important considering the kinds of messes we can make when we eat.

I bought 50 napkins for $29.99, about .60/each.  I love them!  I washed them all, and put about half away in the linen closet to stay extra fresh and nice.  The rest I put in a kitchen drawer and we use them at every meal.  In between meals, we put them in our chairs so each person can reuse their own napkin at the next meal, and I wash them when they start looking like they need it.  I just throw them in a white load and they come out looking great.  Definitely works for me!

Panic attacks, mine and Sophie's

Like mother, like daughter.  Or so the saying goes.  

This morning as I was preparing for our day, I had a mild panic attack, complete with shortness of breath, chest pains, brought on by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  I was anxious about a number of things, but I had been entertaining thoughts about not being to get everything done every day for the next 18 years or so.

As we were leaving for the library, Sophie couldn't find one of her shoes.  She was sitting in the mudroom, looking for it by the shoe rack, and the rest of us filed out the door one by one to load up into the car.  I took Caroline out the buckle her in the car seat, and when I got outside, I heard a blood curdling scream (that girl can really scream), "Don't leave me!!!"

Now I have never left Sophie anywhere.  She is always very close by except when she sneaks in the boy's bedroom to watch a princess movie.  I usually take Caroline outside, get her settled in the car seat, and then head back in to finish Sophie up.  And almost every time in the midst of this process she calls out for us not to leave her.  "Sophie, we are not going to leave you.  Mommy would never leave without you..." are words familiar to our household.

Today the emotion was much higher than usual and so was the pitch and volume of her exclamation, but this is not something new for her. Just like my panic attack was nothing new for me, although today's was worse than normal.  I don't usually have such clear physical symptoms, but anxiety is never too far away, and loves to come right on in and make itself known if I just open the door.  Sometimes I don't even have to open the door, I just have to stop paying attention and anxiety barges right on in before I know what is happening.

Is there a cure for this anxiety problem?  I see commercials every day for one drug or another and the commercials play a lot, so I'm guessing that this is a major problem for lots of people everywhere.  And there is a lot to be anxious about- the economy, the presidential election, that pesky war our country is in right now, gas and energy prices and if the laundry will ever get caught up.

Well, the Bible is clear about anxiety.  Jesus himself told us, "Do not worry about anything," calling on our trust in God and his goodness and faithfulness to his people (Matthew 6).  Our trust in God is grounded in who he is, in his abilities, and in his character.  This great God, who can do nothing wrong, and who sovereignly orchestrates everything that comes to pass, works all things for his glory and for the good of those who love him.  This great God has told us, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)  That is a powerful promise.

Paul also said, "Be anxious for nothing," telling us instead to, "in everything in prayer and supplication make your requests known to God."  That command comes with a pretty powerful promise, "and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6-7) 

It sounds like the anxiety problem is nothing new.  People have always had lots of problems, at least since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden.  We have always been worried about feeding our families, keeping them clothed, and if our 401ks will be there or not when we retire. 

 And God is good.  He cares for his children, and provides help and comfort.  We are told in 1 Peter 5:7 to "cast all your anxiety upon him for he cares for you," and that includes our cares about whether our kids will turn out right, global warming, tornadoes, and the never ending pile of laundry. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer is here

and so starts the fun.
(it's a little bright out here)
Sophie tried out the boogie board (when she says 'boogie' rhymes with 'doggie').
My three oldest join Daddy in the waves
Caroline hangs out with Mom and watches from a distance.

 We made our family list tonight of our goals this summer and eating ice cream, going to the beach at least once a week, and family movie nights ranked high.  Library time made it on there too, so all will not be lost on the academic front.

I can already feel the difference around our home.  The kids are playing more, I am cooking more and just for fun, and my short daily to-do list is not a burden.  To top it all off, Grandma will be here in less than two weeks.  

Scott and I have our nine-year anniversary to celebrate, summer reading to enjoy, and our family has a lot of sand to grind into the carpet of our van.  Sounds like it's going to be a great couple of months.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to survive while your husband is out of town

My love, co-parent, and closest friend has been out of town three times in three months.  We've been apart for the gospel, separated by IX, and been left solitary for the purpose of education.

My husband reminds me that there are military wives who have it much worse and traveling business men gone much more than he is.  I know that is all true, and I know God gives grace for whatever circumstances he places us in.  I also think that God has something special to show me in my situation and I don't want to waste this opportunity to grow just because other people have it harder than I do.

So how do I, as a very needy, "please help me", dependent mom make it while my husband is out of town?  Here are a few tips:

1.  Ask God for help.  As with all things mother-related, I can do nothing alone but "all things through Christ who strengthens me".  This is not a cliche, or an overused catch phrase.  This is the truth and heart of any attempt at anything difficult.  There is no 'just do it' mentality here.  No bootstraps strong enough to pull myself up by.  God and God alone.

2.  Plan easy meals.  We are not big on prepackaged stuff.  I like to cook, need to save money, and we prefer simple. homecooked food.  However, when Mom is flying solo, the kids eat most of their meals at the counter, and it is mostly super easy homemade stuff like quesadillas, peanut butter sandwiches, and even frozen pizza, pizza rolls and other fun, out of the ordinary treats.

3.  Make your daily goals very simple.  As in clothing, food, clothing and food.  School time is light- just the basics.  Focus and feeding and clothing.

4.  Plan some extra fun.  Try making a list of some fun things to do while Dad is gone.  Last time we went to the beach, checked out a park we don't visit often, and had some new friends over.  Because you are focusing on the basics (food and clothes, remember?), and not deep cleaning anything or relandscaping the yard, you'll have more time and energy to have fun.  But please keep it simple.  

5.  Don't forget quiet time.  Every day.  Quiet time is when your kids each go to their own area and you go to your own area and everyone is quiet.  And alone.  It's wonderful.

However, if you don't already do quiet time in your house, this is not the time to start.  Quiet time takes some training.  Switch to afternoon movie time instead and work on developing the quiet time habit when your husband is back home and your sanity has returned.  (This may take a few days.)

Ok, enough with the list.  Remind yourself you will make it, go over Step 1 several times a day, and don't give up, sister.  He'll be home soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WFMW: Story Bible for Children

We have tried a lot of Bible picture books.  Some have been good and some not so good.  Instead of critiquing the not so good, I though I'd tell you about how much we like this one and why it's been so helpful to us.

The Big Picture Story Bible uses very simple language to tell the great stories of the Bible.  God's redemptive work throughout the Bible is highlighted.  God is the subject of the stories.

One of the best things about this story Bible is given in its name: It presents the Bible as one complete book, with the main story of God's redemptive work woven throughout many books over many centuries.  I didn't 'get' that until I was an adult.  I never connected Abraham to Moses to David to the prophets to Jesus to the apostles.  I didn't see the Bible as one book with one main point, instead it was a disconnected set of stories.

This good book is helping me to teach my children the major themes of the Bible in a simple, understandable way.  And that works for me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I loved this post

Simple Mom wrote a great post about the best company to work for.  I was really encouraged.  You will be, too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I think the verdict is in

Thanks for your help in identifying this:

Which grows on this:

Apparently it is this.
The yellow King Humbert Canna.  

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to the love of my life.  You are an incredible father.  God's grace is evident in you as you serve and love our family.  You teach our children to love God, love His Word, and love each other.  You teach them to honor me as their mother. 

 You show our boys how to love their future wives by the way you love me and our girls the qualities they should look for in their future husbands by displaying those qualities in our home every day.  You have taught the boys how to ride their bikes, catch a baseball, and gel their hair.  You are Sophie's Prince Charming and Tarzan.  And you are Caroline's Dadadadada.

You cast vision for how our home should be, and you graciously lead me accomplishing that vision.  You do not claim to be a perfect parent, but you model humility before us when you humbly seek God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of your children when you make mistakes.

Thank you for how you love us.  Thank you for how you lay your own life down for us.  Thank you for choosing us over golf, fishing, and hunting.  Thank you for buying t-ball cleats instead of songs for your I-Pod and for buying Happy Meals instead of Starbucks coffee.  Thank you for driving a silver minivan when you would prefer a four-wheel drive pick up.  Thank you for working two jobs when the bills outweighed the paycheck.  

Thank you for praying for us every morning before we get out of bed.  You are a visible sign of God's grace in our lives.  We love you!


If I do this
then I can do this
and then I can do this- Victory!
Now if I could just figure out how to get back down.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How does your garden grow?

When we moved in our house (the pastorium at our church), I knew I loved the spaciousness of the yard.  I had no idea the surprises that awaited me, though, because we moved during the winter.  As Spring and now Summer have come, I have been so excited to watch new things sprouting up all the time.  First we had daffodils and tulips, a first for me since I am from Florida and there's not a lot of success so far down South with bulbs that need cold winters.  

We are total novices to all this plant care.  I don't know if I'd call it gardening yet.  So far we are just waiting and watching.  It seems like every week something new pops up or something we thought was dead and gone starts sprouting green branches and flower buds emerge.  We've almost destroyed a few jems, but so far so good.  We have a few mysteries, like this: 

This amazing flower blooms on these:

We still don't know what they are called.  When we first moved here, these plants were all dried up and Scott cut them down.  We thought they were old corn stalks. As you can see, they quickly made a full come back, but in the meantime we made the mistake of telling some church members about that, and now we get teased, "Hey Preacher, I have some corn in my yard that needs cutting down..."

When I was a little girl, I spent a great deal of time with my great aunt.  She had the most amazing hydrangeas.  They have been my favorite flower ever since.  Imagine my delight when these started blooming:

Up close:

We also planted our first vegetable garden this year.  Here's some squash:

We also have green peppers, jalepenos, sugar snap peas, green beans, watermelon, corn, cucumber, chives, basil, and cilantro.  I took pictures of a lot of the other vegetables, but they are not cooperating with me.  The squash is the prettiest, though.

Here is a grape vine.  We are not sure what type of grapes these are, maybe muscadine.  It's full of tiny clusters.

Here are some Zinnias about to bloom.  The bed around the lamp post in our front yard is full of them.  This is my first time planting zinnias, and I check them at least twice a day in anticipation of the first bloom.

Here is a random view of our side yard.  You can see our dog's pen in the corner.  We love this yard.  All the pine trees remind me of Florida.  There are always pine cones for the kids to pick up when they are extra bored and need something to do. 
One more hydrangea just because I can't resist.

Check out more gardens at The Preacher's Wife, where Lisa is hosting a garden party.