Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lost.

Yesterday was a full day. I had errands to do, my kids went fishing with their grandpa, we had dinner at my parents, and we ended the day helping a friend at her sheep farm. On my way into town we heard a story on the radio about a woman who accidentally threw her wedding ring away in New York City and the city sanitation workers miraculously found it. The kids and I were amazed as I glanced down at my hand and thought about what I would do if that were me.

Late that night, as I was about to settle into bed, I grabbed my left hand and felt a bare ring finger. Cue immediate panic. I summoned the kids and we started a mass search. My rings have been loose lately as I’ve lost a little weight, but not any more weight than I’d lost before (I had to get my rings sized up after having kids, so that tells you I’ve not yet reached a pre-pregnancy weight!). I went to all the places I’d been since being home for the night…feeding sheep, feeding chicks, the car, exercise downstairs, the bathroom. I called Fred Meyer because I’d been to the fitting room and thought maybe it fell off then. I was scouring my brain trying to think of when I last noticed it on. I wasn’t sure, but I had a strong feeling it was at my friend’s farm.

I prayed, asked my husband to pray, asked my parents to pray, asked Facebook to pray. I was sure that God would lead me to it somehow. I truly was sure. God led me to a lost ring one time when I was young, and that was one of my first memories of God answering a prayer that I had prayed. However, even though I knew that God could take care of this, the peace wouldn’t come. Then, a gift! God brought me a memory of sitting at my mom’s kitchen table playing with my rings before dinner. Phew! Thank you, Jesus! It was then that I knew it was either at my house or at the farm, and not at one of the public places I visited earlier in the day. It was enough peace to help me drift off to sleep.

This morning I woke to a text from Jackie (she’s my friend with the farm). She was headed over to the barn to start looking and suggested I hunt down a metal detector. Thanks to facebook, I was able to find one and after some calling and coordinating both the metal detector (my parents were bringing it from the other end of town) and I headed towards the farm an hour later.

My other friend, Beth, and her son were already there helping with farm chores. Within minutes, Beth found my rings!!! The metal detector hadn’t arrived with my parents yet, so I called them and they returned it to its owner. I was crying tears of joy…I was so overwhelmed. God had kept my rings safe and led us right to them!

I wish that was where the story ended.

Because we were there, we went ahead and started helping Jackie with more farm chores. I was constantly aware of my rings. I didn’t want to put them in my pocket for fear of losing them, so I put them back on my finger and tried my best to be constantly conscious of them. I didn’t really do much work while I was there. I mostly talked with Beth, watched the kids work, and responded to countless messages on my phone (so many wonderful people concerned about my rings!). I stayed in one general area and was constantly checking my hand to make sure my rings were still there. Then, I put my phone in my front pocket, pulled out my hand and realized my engagement ring was GONE! Seriously!?!?

I wasn’t too panicked because I hadn’t really gone anywhere. I figured I’d find it right away. We all started looking, and looking, and looking, and looking….and looking! I was dumbfounded and so embarrassed. I had just told Facebookland that my rings were found. We looked for at least 30 minutes before I finally text my parents to bring the metal detector. My mom came and we searched everywhere…MULTIPLE times. I was on my hands and knees in sheep poo! After everyone left, my mom and I and the kids all went to the giant poop pile in the field to search there as well. There was only a very slight chance it could have been in the poop pile that had just been shoveled out of the area I was standing in…but we couldn’t leave without searching. In total, we searched for at least 3 hours.

It didn’t make sense. I had never left that small (enclosed) area of the barn. In the time that I had it on my finger to the time that I realized it was missing was probably less than 5 minutes…but maybe I’m mistaken? I'd venture to say that it literally vanished.

I left the farm feeling quite defeated and sad, but strangely at peace.

I know where my ring is. It’s at a farm where my friend Jackie raises sheep. Jackie needs help because she very recently lost her husband to brain cancer and the farm chores during lambing season are too overwhelming for one person. Jackie lost her husband. I only lost my ring. And in the time that I was there, Jackie never ceased to encourage me and remind me of God’s power and His blessings. She is a blessing.

The verse that has been playing over and over in my head today…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’m praying for the good. Maybe my ring has been hidden from me until God’s decides the time is right? You see, my God likes all the glory…and when my ring has been found, I’m gonna gladly give Him what He wants.


To be continued…

Monday, August 8, 2016

Church is Family

Family. Nobody should be without it.

Yesterday I was one of the teachers for children's church. The Bible application was a bit of a stretch for young kids, but the basis was about how the Lord blesses our families through us. We started out by putting the kids into two groups and asking them to make a list of things they had in common with each other. This was the absolute best. I loved watching them discover one another...smile, laugh, and even share in disgust. The other teacher and I wanted to let this activity linger. We decided that THIS was exactly what we needed to be doing in kid's church every single sunday (in some way). We ended up greatly modifying the lesson, and even changed the memory verse for the week. To be honest, the original Bible application was virtually lost. But hearts were blessed through this little family...the little children's church family.

There's an old chorus we used to sing at church all the time when I was a kid and it started out: "I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God..." Inherently, we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We want relationships. We need them, actually. Instead, so many of us are stuck in our own self-pity ("the church didn't reach out to me" or "the church offended me"), or our own self-righteousness ("I don't need the church"). The Family of God (church) is not immune to drama, scandal, cliques, deceit, failure, gossip, etc. And what's sad to me is that people leave the church because of these very things. As a result, issues are never dealt with and the spiritual growth of the church is stunted. But what the church needs is for those people to stay, share what they have in common, as well as their hurts, fears, joys, wisdom, etc. We need to help carry each other's burdens and love unconditionally. Sometimes, all that requires of us is that we just be there.

I had a lot more written on this topic, but I decided to erase it all. I don't know if it was because of fear (lack of faith), or wisdom. Or maybe I'm just a coward for not pointing out the truth. My imperfections and insecurities certainly don't help me to be bold for Christ. Whatever the reason, I just don't think the easily offended world wants to hear what I have to say.  However, I will ask this one question: If you call yourself a Christian, and you've excluded yourself from the Church (Family of God), what's your reasoning?

"The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance." (1 Corinthians 12:25-26 The Message)

We need to stick together through all the "yuck" and all the "yay."

And that's that.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Good Word

Ever feel like you've been sucked into the vortex of article/blog overload? Everyone has an opinion. It doesn't matter what the topic is, somehow the writer manages to sway you one way or another. You may think you have kept your preconceived thoughts, and you are completely unconscious of the stronghold those written words have had on you. Influence. It's everywhere.

Today, as I was perusing my Facebook feed, I clicked on several "good reads." Some were local articles or news, others anecdotal, and a couple were of the religious/Christian genre. It's the latter that often sparks my attention the most. "What does this person have to say? And do I agree with it? I respect the person that 'shared' it...does that mean that this is what that person thinks? Should I share this post?" And so on. It was today, though, that I had stopped the dialogue going on in my head and said, "Enough."

The pause occurred while I was reading a fantastic blog. I had read it before, and I was going over the eloquent musings all over again. The author was sharing her thoughts on the importance of going to and bringing our kids up in church even when modern Christian-ish culture gives us countless excuses of why we shouldn't have to. My mind began racing. I was thinking of all the "good" sharing this blog could do. I thought, "It might make people question their priorities and make better choices." Then, the dreaded happened. A list of people started forming in my head. And it was then that I stopped myself. I didn't share it...I didn't even "like" it. Instead, I asked God's forgiveness.

I prayed, "Who am I, Lord?"

And then I thought of that blog writer..."Who is she, Lord?"

Thankfully, I knew that the answers were, "You are Mine, and she is Mine."

And that's just it!

Everyone that needed to hear that blog..."They are Yours, Lord...not mine."

Convicted.

Too often, I think, Christians rely on the thoughts of others to guide them through life. We buy the latest book from our favorite inspirational author at take notes in our journal. We attend the church Bible study and eat all the delicious desserts with some lovely people. We watch Christian movies and feel good about making good media choices. We scour YouTube for encouraging tidbits from our favorite pastors/speakers and think, "Ooo, that was a good word!" And I suppose these are all good things. I suppose we should do these things. Don't stop doing these things. But if these are the only things we're doing, then we've got it all wrong. We shouldn't be relying on the thoughts and studies of others, but rather the thoughts of God Himself and what he wants to say to us alone.

Convicted again.

I've got to read my Bible. Our church has been doing a series the past several weeks on spiritual disciplines. And after every Sunday I could honestly say, "Ooo, that was a good word!" Meditation, prayer, fasting, and Bible reading. I'm not doing enough of any of these things...and even if I was doing "enough"it still wouldn't be enough. I confess, I've struggled with reading my Bible my entire life. I've never stopped trying, but it's almost like I don't really know how to do it, how to start...it's overwhelming. I've stuck to the passages I know: the encouraging sections, the Psalms and Proverbs, the Gospels, and I've dipped my toes into the prophetic books. I know there's so much more. I also know God has a plan for me, and if I seek his Word, he'll help me find my way. I just have to start.

For the month of February I'm setting aside the pile of books that sits next to my bed. And for every night this month I'm planning to copy Bible verses in my journal from a list a friend shared. Seems so simple...a bit juvenile maybe...but I'm really looking forward to it. I'm excited to hear what God has to say to me through His "good Word."

Here's the list if you want to try it out too!



PS...
For Christmas I purchased the "Action Bible" for my kids to read. It is a book that has most all (if not all) of the stories of the Bible written in comic form. My kids know that it isn't a full Bible, but a fun way to read and understand God's story. It's a big book...and last night my son (he's 9) announced he'd finished the entire thing. The amazing thing is that he's now my walking Bible dictionary! He helps me figure Bible story details, corrects me when I'm wrong, and knows stories I've never read. Inspiring :) 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Painting Passion

Painting is one of my most favorite hobbies. No, it's my most favorite hobby. There was a time long ago that I attempted to enjoy tole painting, but I found it too technical and frustrating. I would spend hours fixing minor flaws and would end up being unhappy with the outcome. Then one day I decided I wanted to repaint my old gray hand-me-down desk. I can't really remember, but I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time? It was a long process that I didn't know much about. We had a little storage shed behind our house and I laid down newspapers in cramped quarters and started stripping using paint thinner. Oy..the task was stinky, messy, and never-ending. I remember thinking, "what have I gotten myself into?" But, there was no going back, I had to finish what I had started. Once I sanded it, I was ready to paint. It was more difficult than I had anticipated. Painting a chair with rounded legs was a headache...and once I reached the desktop I was struggling with brush marks and paint that was drying too fast. Then there was the realization that one coat of paint wasn't going to be enough. "What?! I have to paint it again?" The entire process took several days; maybe even weeks. Once it was finished I decided that there was no way I was going to reinstall the old bent and beat-up hardware, so I begged my mom to take me to Rite Aid to pick out new hardware. And, I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I had to buy it myself. Yes, there was a time long ago in which Rite Aid sold a decent selection of hardware...among other things. I didn't fall in love with any of the options, but I was so anxious to see my desk completely finished, that I settled for 5 shiny new knobs. Those knobs were installed within minutes of my arrival home. And it was then that I felt it...overwhelming satisfaction. A few years later I carefully lined all the drawers with elegant wallpaper that matched my room. Later, after I went to college, my mom dressed it up with tole painting (she was always better at that than I was) that matched the wallpaper. The ugly gray desk had become a treasure. A couple of years ago I replaced the second-rate Rite Aid knobs with glass ones and gave the desk to Synnove for Christmas.

Since finishing that first project, my love of painting has only increased. Becoming a homeowner was like wining the painting lottery! I had a whole house to fill with furniture on an extremely tight budget. I shopped Goodwill and my mother-in-law. In the short 2.5 years that we lived in our first home I painted a few walls, 3 dressers, a hutch, a crib, a bed, and a table. If I hadn't have birthed two babies in that time period, I probably would have painted more! 

When we moved into our current house, I had my work cut out for me. The house still had much of it's 1970's flair; wallpaper, white and pastel walls, dirty brick fireplace, and an entire basement adorned with raw tongue and groove cedar. I've since painted 90% of the ENTIRE house inside AND out. I've also painted the ins and outs of many of my friends' houses, my mom's house, my grandma's house, and my sister's house. Of course, this doesn't include all of the furniture pieces I've painted as well. The best part is I've enjoyed (almost) every minute of it.

It isn't very often that I paint something "just because." I usually have a purpose and vision in mind for each and every piece. A few weeks ago I was sitting down to sew a shower curtain at my old drop-leaf table that I painted for my kitchen in my first house. It was a red and yellow table placed in a room filled with beachy grays and turquoises. The only reason the table wasn't a complete out-of-place eyesore was because our downstairs still wears it's 1970's brick red/orange carpet. Originally the table was in storage until I started homeschooling and needed a table for our extra computer. It's placement was meant to be temporary (were intending to get a laptop), so I didn't care what it looked like. We've now been homeschooling for 3 years, and the table has not moved. The doldrums of Christmas break were starting to set in, and I was itching for a new project. This table was screaming to be re-done...so as soon as I finished that shower curtain, I carried that table out to the garage and started right away.

Remember how I stripped the paint on that first desk that I did? Well the experience was so unpleasant that I decided to avoid it whenever I could. I avoided it until my mother-in-law gave me this table for our first house. It had several layers of old paint and stripping it was a nightmare. I wasn't able to get two of the layers off, so I just sanded, primed and painted. Because I knew what was under my paint job from 11 years ago, I decided that avoiding stripping it AGAIN wasn't an option. Ugh. Stripping paint in your open-air garage in the middle of winter is not recommended. I'd say I spent around 20-25 hours over the course of several days stripping, scraping, and sanding. Like before, I quit before getting all the layers off. I primed and painted it a very bold teal color. And honestly, I was just gonna leave it at that...


But then I decided it might look cool with some words painted on it. I thought I'd find a Bible verse or a saying that might fit well with a sewing/crafting/project table. I had some different ideas on how I might do that, but nothing I was finding was exciting me much. I started looking into doing French typography...but creating a French typography stencil was going to be insanely difficult, and I wanted to finish the table within a reasonable amount of time.

I searched vintage graphics on thegraphicsfairy.com and found one of a vintage clothing stamp. I thought it quite fitting for a sewing table and decided to upload the graphic on blockposters.com. Blockposters is a free service that takes your picture or graphic and makes it big and prints it in pieces that fit on standard printer-size paper. To achieve the size I wanted, I needed it printed on EIGHT pieces of cardstock. I then proceeded to subject myself to 8 continuous hours of xacto-knife torture. I take that back...I took one break to make dinner and give my hand a much needed massage.


It took a couple of hours to stencil and touch-up. I also added some touches to the drawers, back cabinet (not shown in pics), and table-ends. Then I shabbied up the entire piece with sandpaper so that some of the white primer would show on the edges, etc. making sure I also gave the stenciled graphic a good sanding as well. It was then that I just left it for an hour or so. I looked at it, and looked at it again. I debated back and forth on if I should add the "dirty" antique glaze. In the end, I resolved to add it.



All that was left to do was to apply a couple of coats of Minwax satin Wipe-On-Poly, and get some new hardware.




I've spent more time and effort on this table than any other piece of furniture that I've refinished. My body ached at the end of every hour of work, but it was all worth it. There's nothing better than the satisfaction at the end of a job well done.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My Home

My home is where I most want to be. To me, living in the country is almost like being on vacation every day the sun shines. When our school day is finally finished, I can't wait to greet the afternoon on my deck. I close my eyes and take it all in...and then when I open them again I can't help but be refreshed by the beauty before me. Sometimes, if I really ponder it, it takes my breath away and can even bring me to tears. I say out loud, "I can't believe this is where I live," and I thank God.

About six months ago our family was able to expand our property line by an additional twelve acres. It took Adam several years of planning, saving, and negotiating to sign those final contracts. As with anything worth having, the sacrifice stretches our limits. However, I find peace in the simple rewards. Joyous squeals coming from my kids who are playing down by the creek. The hum of our antique Ford tractor at the base of the valley. Freshly cleared four-wheeler trails...made by us, not by our trespassing neighbors. These sounds. These views. These moments. Irreplaceable. 

I credit my dear Adam for this beautiful place we call home. With the help of God, he realized our dreams and continues to do so. Our home is perpetually changing. He fixes, builds, plants, and cuts down. It never ceases. His ambition is one of his best qualities. I support him as best I can and bring him down to reason when his imagination runs wild. As we grow more and more accustomed to being married, we learn to trust in new ways. When he says, "I can create that!" I rarely question. And when I say, "I can beautify that!" he rarely questions. When it comes to our home, we have found our niches and developed our rhythm. Working together, our home flourishes.

Rain or shine, we take advantage of every minute. The land allows our lives to be full, yet simple. We cringe on days we leave the sun shining at home to attend engagements elsewhere. And, for the most part, we look forward to the work that is constantly begging to be done. There is great satisfaction and pride within every completed task. And when the day is done, we retreat to the comfort of our lovely house...or to a crackling backyard fire.

If you would have asked me fifteen years ago what I thought my life would look like now, my answer would have paled in comparison to what it truly is. Life is so much more than people, places, things, and actions. It's also full of colorful adjectives and lively adverbs that give depth and meaning. But words often fail...because there's no way to accurately describe heaven. No, my home may not be perfect, but it's the closest place to heaven that I've been to so far.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blog Reboot and Reminiscing my Pink Nokia

Sometimes I click on my blog to read posts from years ago. The other day I was reading a few and noticed far too many typos and unintentional grammar mistakes caused by auto-correct and brisk typing. It was driving me nuts, but I wasn't sitting at my computer so I couldn't easily click back to edit. I also noticed how boring and meaningless many of the posts were. I was writing 7-10sih posts a month for a while! They were all about the day-to-day happenings of our mundane lives with a sprinkling of my thoughts here and there. Yet, I would constantly get comments from people who loved reading and would complain when I'd take a hiatus. Being a stay-at-home-mom of non-school-age children can be incredibly lonely. At the time, blogging was a catalyst for having presence in a world from which I felt isolated...embarrassing typos included.

It's been almost a year since my last post. What happened? Besides the obvious "my life is too busy" answer, I think that Facebook captured and ultimately satisfied the world's curiosity and need to be heard. Who wants to read a stale mommy blog when you can engross yourself amongst the lives of 500+ "friends?" For me, Facebook spiraled into a craving...an addiction. It was actually starting to cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. Once I recognized it, I reevaluated my priorities and set myself free.

Facebook is an incredible tool. As long as it exists and is used for positive purposes, I will participate. Scheduling events, sharing useful and thought provoking information, catching criminals, and encouraging friends are all excellent reasons for staying connected. However, strong opinions and agenda-pushings have caused separations among friends. The internet has become a smorgasbord of manipulation, misinformation, and misinterpretation. Personally, I carry an ample dose of empathy and a giant pink Himalayan salt crystal with me to every article, status, and blog I read. If I don't, then I might allow myself to exclude some of the people I actually hold very dear to my heart. Maybe more of us should reexamine the reasons why we participate in social media and how it affects us? Once I started thinking about it, I was having a hard time remembering what life was like without it. I now yearn for the days of Nokia phones and incessant email forwards. Ponder that!


So, back to my original thoughts...

I suppose with the distractions of my life today, I had forgotten why I started blogging in the first place. Boring, meaningless, mundane. If that is my life, so be it! It wasn't my intent to please an audience, ruffle feathers, or even boast successes. I think Facebook does a first-rate job of fulfilling those objectives. This writing was meant to document memories for my family and to be an outlet for some of my thoughts. It's a public journal, and you all are welcome to read it. If you are encouraged by it in some way, then I am thankful.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One Year Later

Time has gotten away from me, yet my family has been there at virtually every moment. Haha...blessing? Yes...but there are days I can't think straight, and hours I'd rather be in a quiet room by myself. Sometimes I just want to complain, whine, throw things, or just not say a single word.

Throughout my life, and even as a kid, I've always enjoyed quiet moments of pondering.  It wasn't unusual for me to come home from school, toss my bag on the floor, flop myself on my bed, and stare and the ceiling. Thinking. Planning. Hoping. Dreaming. Praying. Lately, as home-school life has found it's groove, I've been struggling to find a balance. Maybe I'm just experiencing some burn-out? I'm not sure, but I've been craving quiet.

On a typical day, I get up later than I should. My alarm goes off at 7:50, and I usually roll out by 8:30. The kids are usually up by around that time and completing their morning routine. I, on the other hand, find myself dragging my feet. It isn't necessarily because I'm tired, or even that I'm dreading the day. Instead of rushing breakfast to get down to school, I do the dishes, gather laundry, or pull out the broom. Little chores to buy me some solitude before getting down to business. It's about that time that my old friend "guilt" pays me another visit. "Why aren't you downstairs already?" "You should have gotten up earlier." "Goodness, Nicole, why can't you get yourself together?!" That only seems to perpetuate the need for solitude and I find another chore.

The kids are at a point in their schooling where they are able to do a good portion of it on their own. It's a great thing. They know what's expected, yet "kids will be kids" and responsibility often goes out the window. That's where I come in...the "accountability." Huh...well, if I'm keeping my kids accountable, shouldn't I be even more responsible than them? Ugh...hello, "guilt"...we meet yet again.

By around 11:00 I could be in a myriad of places...but most-likely, I'm downstairs climbing the mountain of the day's lessons.  By 11:00 we're finally acquiring some momentum. I'm feeling good, not wanting to stop.  However, by 11:00 stomachs start to growl, and the complaints begin. AHH! Why, why WHY must I feed these kids...AGAIN?! Admit it moms...you know you feel the same way! After lunch the day just seems to fly and we don't get nearly enough done. And it isn't unusual for our day to continue even after dinner.  No, we aren't doing lessons that whole time.  That's the thing...we may school at home, but "life" still has to happen in between...and we do a LOT of "living!"

I'm constantly reflecting on what we did or didn't get done, and constantly making resolutions to do better. But so many school days go by with lessons unfinished.  And when the kids continually go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00, I find I'm still longing for my quiet when 11:00 rolls around.  So, I do a few more chores, and leave the rest for the next day because if I don't get any down-time I can't even sleep. And by 1:00AM I'm out. So much for resolving to get to bed earlier!

So, that's it. I get to the end of every single day wishing for one more hour of quiet solitude. But don't we all? Schooling at home is my full-time job, but so is being a mom, a wife and caretaker of this home. And really, I'm no different than anyone else. I am, by NO means, "super." I don't deserve any pats on the back. And if you think I've got it all together, you are sorely mistaken.

We have many good days. Those good days aren't perfect and many are filled with way too much to do. We also have not-so-good days, and it's then that I have to remind myself of so many things. I have to remind myself that last year at this time I was being beat up and screamed at by an 8-year-old. Today I enjoy calm days with that same kid with only occasional frustrations. I have to remind myself that I get to make my own schedule complete with sleeping in, breaking for sunshine, and playing Wii Dance for P.E.! I have to remind myself that my life was almost just as busy before homeschool but way more rushed, stressed, and unhappy. I have to remind myself that my kids have NEVER spent so much time with their daddy as they have in the last year. How blessed we are for Adam to have the job he has. We may only see him half the month, but the other half is pretty fantastic. I also have to remind myself that I am doing a good job, despite the fact that I can do better.

You know, I really didn't want to write another post about homeschooling. But since reaching the 1-year mark in January I can't help but be proud of how far we've come. This whole experience has been extremely challenging. It continues to be challenging. It pushes me to do things I don't want to do...like have patience! LOL! I wish I loved homeschooling. I don't. Frankly, I knew I wouldn't. Part of the challenge is finding joy. The joy doesn't come from loving what I do, it comes from loving who I do it with.