Day 9: After school snack

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It is always a happy afternoon when your after school snack spells your name.  Counting the days to Christmas Break!

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I love this time of year.  I really do.  The festivities, the traditions, and the reflections.  But I don’t like the busyness.  It is hard to avoid it even if you are intentional about guarding your time.  I am grateful we are all home tonight.  No meetings.  No sports practices.  No church functions.  No parties.  Just enjoying home.

Day 5: Tree Trimming

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Continuing our family tradition of trimming the tree together.  We always get a real tree (you HAVE to if you live in Oregon) and we always put up ornaments as we listen to John Denver and the Muppets Christmas.  This is the same music I listened on a record player when I was a kid trimming the tree with my siblings.  Some traditions you have to keep alive.

Day 2: Kindergarten Trees

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She is my artist.  She is in kindergarten this year–the last of my three kids to be in kindergarten.  I am grateful she gets to be in the same school with the same teacher her brother and sister had.  We can enjoy some of the “kindergarten traditions” like this one.  They have to decorate a tree using any craft materials they can find.  I remember my oldest used a lot of candy, my middle child used actual greens from the yard, and she used lots of glitter and sequins.  Each tree is completely unique and different.  Just like they are.

OK do you trust me?

Blessed.  Beyond Blessed. This exact term was resonating through my head this spring.  I was asking myself, “Do I feel beyond blessed only when everything comes together?”

Because what happens when things fall apart?  Can you still look up to the Lord your God and say you are beyond blessed?

This spring, I was reminded in the tinier plans that if things go according to what I really want or the contrary what I fear, God IS.  God is good.

I realize I did not go through any major crisis moments this spring so my heart is humbled when I look to my friends who did.  But we are reminded in the minor inconveniences as well as the intense struggles that God IS.

We had four trips in two months (three to the Midwest) which seems just plain crazy.  One was unexpected–my sweet grandmother passed away on April 1st.

One thing I feared in all this…I am talking about an anxious reaction…is people getting sick.  Stomach bugs and bad colds always thwart plans. Yet we have no control over them.  It has been a horrible year for sickness.  Our kids have all been sick multiple times.  It started the last week of September and was off and on until the second to the last week of school.  It has not just been us–many of our friends have dealt with it too and some much worse.

We went to St. Louis in mid May for my husband’s graduation ceremony.  He earned his Doctorate of Ministry from Covenant Seminary.  Before we left we had plans to leave our kids with Friend #1’s house (btw–for the sake of this blog post I am referring to friends with numbers but it does not imply their ranking as friends).  Only days before we left, Friends #1 lost a loved one and had to travel to the Midwest for the funeral.  Thankfully Friends #2 offered to take our kids.  The day we were supposed to leave Friend #2 came down with a stomach bug and we had to leave our kids with Friends #3 who graciously offered to take our kids last minute.  I remember through the whole ordeal God saying to me, “OK do you trust me?”

We have no family remotely close to where we live.  We have to rely on our friends in these situations.  I am extremely grateful for “our village” who came through for us last minute and reassured us our kids would be fine.  I cannot imagine how lonely and frustrating life would be if we did not have “a village.”

Our kids eating breakfast with Friends #2 while we were away

Our kids eating breakfast with Friends #2 while we were away

My fear is I would be sick in St. Louis since I was exposed to all this crud.  That became reality as I went to bed the first night in our hotel feeling a little queasy and an hour later sick in the bathroom.  I was frustrated, angry, and anxious.  I felt like God was saying, “OK but do you trust me?”

I recovered quickly.  I did not miss his graduation lunch or the ceremony or the Cardinal games the next day.

Cardinals game with the husband and his brothers...

Cardinals game with the husband and his brothers…

I did miss some things, but overall I made it to all the important things. It was a tremendous honor to see my husband earn his D Min after hours and hours of work on his dissertation, multiple trips to St. Louis, and countless amount of time interviewing and reading.

Graduation Day!

Graduation Day!

We came home from St. Louis exhausted on a Sunday afternoon.  The youngest child was going to a birthday party which Friends #4 who graciously agreed to pick her. The middle child was going to a different party about a half hour away.  I made plans in advance to have him ride with Friends #5 since I knew we would be exhausted from our flight.  We had to get up at 3 AM central time.  As we arrived home Friend #5 texted me and said their daughter got the dreaded stomach bug and they weren’t going.  How do you tell your son you are not going to take him to a birthday party a half hour away because you are functioning off three hours of sleep especially when you have not seen him in four days?  My plan was to take him and set up a sleeping bag in the van.  I would sleep while he was at the party.  I was grumpy about the whole thing but again I felt like God said, “OK do you trust me?”

I texted Friend #6 last minute who was on her way to the party and agreed to pick up my son and take him along.  With our younger two gone all afternoon we could take long naps and get caught up on the sleep we lost.

That was Sunday.  On Friday we got ready for our annual church retreat at a camp about 1 hour away.  We left Saturday morning and had a full day of activities that first day.  Sunday morning the husband woke up and said, “I don’t feel great.  Kind of yucky.  But I don’t think I am sick.”  Anxiety began to run rampant again. I knew he was getting sick.  My kids don’t need to be constantly watched anymore, but I cannot let them run off alone.  Especially when there is a lake, a large woods, and unfamiliar parts of the camp.  My kids were excited to be at camp but a little out of control the first night.  I felt like I NEEDED my husband’s help.  Again I felt like God said, “OK do you trust me?”

The husband got sicker as I feared and had to go home.  However, the kids were amazing.  I don’t think I had to break up a single fight the rest of the weekend.  They always told me where they were going.  They stayed out of trouble. They had a wonderful time!  So did I!

Three kids at our church retreat

Three kids at our church retreat

I had a great hike around the lake with them at the conclusion of the weekend and we saw a bald eagle perched in a tree.  Another reminder of God as we see the handiwork of his creation.

Coming home on Monday, my youngest got the dreaded stomach bug.  The following day my oldest woke up with it. My anxiety escalated because I knew I was running the Minneapolis Marathon the following weekend.  I had invested months of training, bought a plane ticket, motel room & rental car.  Plus it was the first time I would run a marathon with my sister.  I did NOT want to be sick.  I hoped my husband and daughters caught what I already had, but I had no way of knowing.  Our symptoms were all a little different.

Again I felt like God was saying, “OK do you trust me?”  I was so paranoid about getting sick I hardly had time to be nervous about the actual marathon.  The end of this story was I did travel to Minneapolis, I did run in the marathon 100% healthy, my sister ran it too, and it was an amazing weekend.

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Me running in my fourth marathon

I know had I got sick and missed it, that I would STILL be beyond blessed.  Because whatever happens God IS.

It’s a bit harder to wrap my finger around this idea of “beyond blessed” when I think about some old friends God put on my heart recently. During our time in St. Louis old friends of ours lost a child.  On my way to Minneapolis to run a marathon with my sister, an old friend lost her sister unexpectedly.  While I was talking to my mom about her trip recently to visit old friends she mentioned her friend’s son is dying of cancer.  I’ve seen evidence in all three of these situations via Facebook and social networking that all three of these people are clinging to the hope that God IS.  Despite all the feelings of anger, frustration, depression, pain, despair, and loss–God IS.  Because they know if we don’t have the hope of God’s love through Christ, then what we do have?

Will you stand on the hope of God promises?  And will you pray for those in your life today who may not “feel beyond blessed” for whatever reason?

 

My Child Care Journey…

DSC09085If there is anything I have learned in life, it is that you should not say, “I will never do that.”  OK maybe if it is something crazy like bungee jumping off a bridge…but don’t put that one past me.  I am the type who might actually do that.

We make our plans, of course.  God often has a better one that leads us through twists and turns, mountain and valleys, and to places we swore we would never go to.  Child care was one of those for me.

I was a child care sub in a public school district in 2002.  It was a second job and “my real job” was youth director at a local church.  Child care was secondary in my life.  So when I lost control of a group of 20 preschoolers, I knew this was job was temporary.  The following year I took a job as an after school care leader in a small Christian school.  This job was a better fit and I worked it for two years.  However, my passions were with the youth in my church and it was always a “second job” to supplement my part time income.

The following year we moved to Indiana and I had a brief stint of working in an actual day care center located in a business park.  I felt claustrophobic in the small classrooms with twenty four year olds.  The playground was a quarter of the size of the school playground where I worked previously.  When I lost control of a group of four year olds, I knew I could go longer work there.

I was a little too preachy about child care after that year, yet I was also confused about my calling.  I took on some traditional values even though I am not your typical stay-at-home mom.  I was never one of these college girls who wanted a “Mrs. Degree” and be a stay at home mom.  I wanted a career of some type and wanted to work outside of the home.  My desires and my values were all conflicted with one another and it is something I struggled with for years.

I stayed home for several years after having children.  I felt like it never came naturally to me, but I found my style eventually.  Two years ago a friend of mine wanted to send her daughter to our little Christian school we send our kids to.  Kindergarten dismissed an hour and a half before the time she finished work.  With no after care program at the time, I offered to watch her daughter until she finished work.  I only did child care about six hours a week, but I learned quickly that 1)  I loved having extra children in the house.  2)  I grew up on a neighborhood where there were always children to play with.  My kids do not.  This would be a way for them to develop friendships.  3)  God does not call everyone to be a  full time stay-at-home mom.  My friend was doing amazing work in God’s kingdom.  God was using me to help her do her work.

So come that spring I had a few families ask if I wanted to watch their kids the following school year.  I knew it was from the Lord.  Last year I had four regular child care kids.  This year I doubled that to eight.

Yes, now I am your typical stay-at-home mom.  I hang up my laundry on the clothesline outside.  I do crafts with my kids.  I bake muffins.  I sweep the floor at least four times a day.  I am OK with it.  Because I am supporting some amazing moms out there doing kingdom work.

I don’t think in terms of “real job,” “real career,” etc.  anymore.  And by the way I still do lots of youth ministry…mostly volunteer.

But this is me right now.  I love owning my own business.  I love having a loud chaotic house full of kids.  I love having a baby in the house.  I love watching my three kids love on these babies and toddlers.  So it’s a win win for everyone.

So my friends, never say “never.”  Your “never” might be your next adventure.

Week #5: Water and Lemonade Stands

Can I just say how much I love summer?  I love swimming with my kids.

IMG_1144Last week Monday my friend invited us over to swim in their lake.  Because we all love the water, we cannot turn that kind of invitation down.  This is the same lake I trained for my triathlon on.

IMG_1150The water and warm temperatures were perfect.  We had hot dogs over the fire afterwards and smores.

On Tuesday my husband had to do a visit in Silverton so we came along.  We swam at the Silverton Reservoir where I also did a few training swims for my triathlon.

IMG_1154Because it is mostly a fishing area, we had to be very careful about fish hooks and glass.  The kids had to swim in their shoes.

IMG_1160There was a little place to jump off the bank into the water.

??????????????????????????????? I even got a training swim in.

I get a little more concerned with swimming with my kids in the open water.  Even thought my oldest is an excellent swimmer for an eight year old, I still have her wear a life jacket.  We’ve had a large number of drownings in the area the past couple weeks.  Many of our lakes and rivers have not warmed up yet and people don’t expect the cold temperatures.  Our swim areas tend to be more rustic and not as user friendly as the Midwest beaches I grew up going to.  You have to be cautious about drop-offs, rocks, and currents.

On Wednesday we met friends at a local park and on Thursday we relaxed at home.  I did not take any pictures those two days.

On Friday the kids had their annual lemonade stand for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

IMG_1181They had it from 4 PM to just after 5 and got lots of customers.  Everyone was coming home from work.  We also made M & M cookies.

IMG_1179I race for Prostate Cancer awareness because my grandpa passed away from it in 1989 when I was in junior high.  My dad is a survivor.

IMG_1183 Friday night we saw the most beautiful sunset.

Saturday was my triathlon. Sunday we had thunderstorms all day.  For us thunderstorms are somewhat of a treat because we rarely get them.  We have had abnormal humidity this summer and high temperatures.  Some complain about the heat, but I kind of like it.  It makes it feel more like summer.