Category Archives: Blessings

Losing Everything to Gain Everything

“Pretend your family has to leave your home quickly.  You may take only one suitcase.  What would you pack?”

This was the question on an assignment my boys had to complete and that I am just now grading.  I chuckled when I read their answers:

  1. Cloths (I believe this should be “clothes” 😉
  2. Toby (the family dog)
  3. Toby’s food
  4. Action figure
  5. bible
  6. toys
  7. pants
  8. underwear (yes, I agree….these are VERY important!)
  9. shirts
  10. books
  11. DS
  12. yogurt covered raisins
  13. charger for DS

LOL!  My how priorities remain different for each of us!  What was on your list? 

I was thinking about pictures, important documents, my purse, etc.  yet to young boys, action figures and video games remain as one of the most important things they own.

Recent tornadic events have swept away what alot of people would consider important.  The residents of Diamond Creek in Forney, Texas  are still picking through what is left of their material possessions.  What may have seemed so important at the beginning of the year is probably very different for most right now. 

Realizing that no one died or was seriously injured surely has caused our community to come back to the importance of life.  Having our families, friends, and neighbors well and healthy brings about a new appreciation for the protection, love, and intervention of God.

Now that the clean up is mostly done and the rebuild is going on, what will we do with this memory?  Will we do what we can to go back to life as it was before the tornado?  Will we build our houses, both physically and spiritually, in such a way that we duplicate what was the “norm”?  Just how long will it take for us to forget the blessings of the past weeks, and start to replace all the “stuff” God allowed to vanish?

I’m not just talking about houses, cars, clothes, and video games.  The “stuff” I’m referring to is our need to gather all those things  — the American dream, the desire toward pridefulness and power and position, and our insistence to keep up with “The Joneses”. 

Stuff like the comfortableness in which we live, or perhaps the wastefulness of our time…the hoarding of treasures and memories.  The stuff we take for granted.  Stuff that pales in comparison to life and relationships.  Stuff comes in lots of forms:  money, position, technology, business, paper, plastic, convenience, procrastination, beautiful colors, memoriable events, books, and ideals.  It can permeate our lives before we even stop to realize that most of it is just “stuff”.

A pastor of the local church we have recently visited took time to speak of such stuff and the effects it can have on our lives.  His thought provoking question was “Is it eternal?” 

The absolute answer to most of our “stuff” is “No, it’s not.”

We often, even unknowingly, use our stuff to set an image to others of what our life is like.  These images are usually false and not at all a real representation.

Years ago, I realized that good friends in my life actually thought I was much more than I am.  They were surprised to hear that my house is not always clean, my children do not always behave, and I, even I, made mistakes.  {gasp!}  I guess because of my quest for perfection at work, they believed my personal life was also that way. 

(And now I just feel the need to break here and laugh out loud!!!  Bwa hahahahaha!)

What my friends had no clue about was that I frequently mess up.  I have baggage.  My house is pretty much always a wreck  (at least until I know someone is coming over, lol).  Try as I may, I cannot clean enough around here.  Try as I might, stuff creeps into my time and thoughts and many times prevents me from being what I know I should be.

Right now in my living room there are mounds of toys, video games,  and a tent set up and encompassing the small amount of space still visible on the floor.  There’s dust on the ceiling fan and furniture, something stuck on the floor under the rocking chair, and toe prints from where the boys and grandchild have endlessly walked on the wooden floor.  I have two sinks full of dirty dishes, things scattered across the kitchen counter, and a whole stack of papers to grade on the table.  Outside, within my current view, is a bag of lawn clippings that need to be thrown out.  There is also bits of fuzz scattered all over the back lawn from where the puppy decided to shred our grill cover…..again. 

This is everyday life around here.  If you called and said you were on the way to our house, I would most assuredly rush to put away all this stuff! 

Still, even though rushing to clean up the house for you, I would hope that our lives represent a real-ness from the Lord.  Even if you came unannounced, I would invite you in, longing to make you feel welcome and be attentive to the purpose for your visit.  I would hope that even surrounded in my stuff, you would enjoy being here and look past my failures as a Domestic Engineer.

I wasn’t always this way.  I used to put only my best foot forward trying to impress and amaze.  During that time, only the best of my stuff was on display.  Nice dishes, perfectly folded towels, trophies, perfectly dressed children pre-scolded about their behavior lined up at the door to greet all who enter… these were part of the stuff I wanted people to see.

What hides behind a perfectly displayed life?  How many times do we greet others masking the events of our personal life with a smile and a nod?  Do we really expect our stuff to effectively shield true lives? 

Our life is messy.  I am definately not perfect.  We have too much non-eternal stuff around here, and what I have figured out is that I don’t have time to lead a non-eternal, stuff-filled life anymore.

Learning to look past stuff, taking moments to address stuff, and talking about how less important alot of stuff is in our lives has led us to alot of decisions.  We have purposefully tried to let go of stuff and look toward only what God would set before us.  These past few years have led us to leave alot behind.  Whether purposefully removed by us or by God, we have found that our lives are becoming more of what they should be. 

This is still transforming even now as we seek our next residence and ministry, but all I can say is “Wow, God really is better than our stuff!”  His stuff is lasting.  His provision is real.  He really does know what it is we should be doing and how we should be doing it.  We just have to lose our stuff to gain His.

There’s still alot of unanswered questions about our immediate future but I honestly believe that wherever He takes us, it will be the right place.  His allowing us to lose stuff in our lives is leading us to a better place.  Although a bit painful at times, the journey is proving more eye-opening every day. 

Sometimes we have to lose everything as we know it, or aspire it to be in order to gain just what He wants, and it is then that the eternal stuff starts to matter a great deal more.

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Filed under Attitude, Blessings, Children, Church, Faith, Family, God, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Humor, Life, money, Obedience, Parenting, Power, Priorities, Sin, Weather

Tornado Clean Up, Day #2

Today, we went back to the Diamond Creek Subdivision.  What was a gorgeous neighborhood filled with nice brick homes, a new elementary school, and beautiful lake now has parts that are trash-laden and literally covered with debris.

Our newest friends, also homeschoolers, joined us for some hours of work.  It was amazing to see just how much had been done in one day.  The community of Forney should be extremely proud of its’ people, volunteers, firemen, policemen, church congregations, businesses, etc.  I am amazed to see how many came from outside of the city.  They pick up trash, rake fields, deliver water and food, encourage each other, and all the while fighting the scorching sun, fire ants, nails, glass, and weeds.

Amidst burning skin, cuts, and sore legs the people still come and work.  And work.  And work.

It’s no easy chore.  Even picking up trash is exponentially difficult due to the small size and type of each item.  It is seriously like a war zone in places.  Fields are littered with debris — roof shingles and plywood that have been reduced to sizes averaging around three or four inches in diameter.

We worked with one crew to fill trash bags for a while, but when the bags were gone, we began scouring the field for larger items to place in one big pile.  Our thinking was that the crews would be able to more easily scoop up the debris if it were in a pile.

There has been so much work done, but there is SO much more to do!  Help is still seriously needed.

Even with clean up being done, I made the comment today that it would be a while before any children could play in the beautiful fields surrounding this neighborhood.  There is so much glass and nails it would be extremely risky.

The elementary school sustained roof, window, and air conditioning damage, but I hear it will be reopened next week.  Still, the children will surely have limited play time as there is no playground equipment anymore.  Even most all the fences that surround the schoolyard have been destroyed.  Again, I can only imagine what may still be in the grass next to the school.

Our little group of six worked until our bodies wouldn’t keep up with our will.  We passed out bottled waters, filled three or four bags of trash, and then made what we thought was a pretty big pile of materials in the field.

Unfortunately, the pile is in a big messy field.  It’s hard to see in these pictures because the grass is tall, but from a distance, the field looks relatively clean.  However, when you begin walking through it, there are huge boards, car pieces, metal pieces, housing materials, fence posts,….more than you can imagine just laying everywhere within that tall grass.  Add to that the millions of smaller roof shingles, insulation, paper, etc and it will be a while before it is all picked up.

All this mess from a very powerful EF-3 tornado, and yet I am still absolutely humbled by the fact that there was not one loss of life.

 A stop at the local ice cream parlor rejuvenated us.  There’s nothing like ice cream to keep a group of silly boys going!

(And going, and going, and going….lol!)

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Filed under Blessings, Children, Church, Family, Friends, God, Grace, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Life, Missions, Parenting, Thankful Thursday, Thanks, Trials, Weather

Not Quite 14

“We can only use those 14 years and up.”

This is what we were told when we showed up at the local church where tornado clean up efforts were being coordinated.

I understand why they made that rule…….sort of.

Yes, I know there are dangers of glass, nails, debris and other safety issues that kids aren’t necessarily ready to face, however, we decided to head out to the field on our own and 5 hours later, this is what we learned.

8 and 10 year olds know how to…

pray,

pick up trash,

pick up someone’s garage door,

 

pick up insulation,

work hard,

and care.

 They may not be fourteen yet, but they now understand more about the force of an EF3 tornado.

They see why it’s a big deal to stay informed and have a safety plan during bad weather.  They now know better why we don’t stay in cars during a tornado.
They understand how trash and debris can affect our waters and wildlife.

They can especially appreciate God’s protection knowing there were no fatalities and very few injuries.

Hopefully the next time we hear sirens and enter our “safe room”, they will remember that God is bigger than any bad thing that could possibly come our way.

 They have a better understanding of how people can help one another…

by passing out bottled water,

receiving free food from community businesses,

and the discovery, saving, and return of somebody’s cherished friends.

No, they aren’t yet fourteen.  They aren’t adults.  They are eight and ten, and they were very valuable volunteers today.  They worked just as hard as any of the 500+ volunteers on site today and I believe they will teach their future children how important it is to help when help is needed.

8 and 10 going on 14, going on 41, going on 81“, as I see it.  One generation teaching another generation to care about people.  Learning to be kind, compassionate, and caring toward one another.

This is Christian Homeschooling 101, and we don’t even care that we didn’t get our book work done today!

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Filed under Blessings, Children, Church, Family, Friends, Gifts, God, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Life, Missions, Parenting, Trials, Weather

Boys will be Boys

…even when there’s a dollhouse in the room!

I love that they will play house with the grandbaby!  They are such proud uncles and have already proven their love through numerous toe nail paintings, tea parties and even an occasional “rock the baby” moment.

What especially warms my heart today, though, is seeing them play with the dollhouse even though the grandbaby is not here!  At their ages, it kind of feels like the last time I saw my daughters playing Barbies.  Knowing they are growing up so fast makes me want to just duct tape all their favorite toys to their bodies and pray it stops time just for a while longer.

Boys play so “boy-like”, regardless of the toy.  From infancy it seems they learn car sounds and the “put-put-puts” of a motorcycle engine like it were a natural first part of speech.  (Which I believe it is!)

Though still maintaining a nice level of masculinity, they have spent the last 30 minutes moving cars and dogs throughout the dollhouse’s corridors.  They like to press the button that flushes the little dollhouse commode.

If you were here, you would experience the sounds of a “tornado” as it nears the dollhouse and the safety preparations of its’ inhabitants.  You would fear that at any moment the imaginary tree is going to come crashing down across the roof, killing the people, and splashing their blood all over the place.  (kind of morbid, I know…..sorry 😉

The little kitchen adequately provides make-believe snacks…every 5 seconds…just like my boys really demand.

The doll swing goes round and round just like what all little boys believe they experience on the playground, regardless of what limb or body part may be broken in the failed landing.

My boys still play “house”.  Yay!

And now I have this picture to use for blackmail during their teenage years!  (In my most sinister voice…)  Bwa ha ha haaaaaa!

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Filed under Blessings, Children, Family, God, Grandchildren, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Humor, Joy, Life, Love, Parenting, Time

Homeschoolers R Us

We have spent most of the school year studying insects in Science. Oh how little boys love looking for the grossest, most disgusting six-legged creature they can find!  Being spring now especially affords the opportunity to see newly hatched species and add them to our ever growing bug collection.

To top off the unit, we recently took some time to visit the butterfly house at Texas Discovery Gardens.

It was a given that any small child would love to walk about with what seemed like a hundred butterflies of every species floating above. However it was equally interesting to my boys, the oldest children present, since we had spent so much time studying insects.

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The presentation was made and I am so proud to report that most of the tough questions were answered by my boys!  I thought to myself, “Wow!  They WERE listening when we read about insect types, defenses, metamorphosis, habitats and behavior!”

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It was an opportunity to also take the granddaughter along!  She loved the pretty butterflies…

…but they weren’t as pretty as these two  🙂

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A white butterfly decided to land on the grandbaby’s white flower hair bow!  No nectar there, but there is aLOT of sweetness 🙂

This is why I homeschool. We are able to take the book knowledge and apply it out in the real world.  We have captured bugs in jars and on display on boards on my kitchen counter.  We’ve hatched at least 7 different butterflies and moths. We’ve observed ants in a plastic bag over weeks and weeks, feeding them, naming their ranks and positions within the colony, and discovering things that weren’t necessarily written in the science textbook.

In this “brick and mortar” world, we have instead seen and taken advantage of many real world examples that make the head knowledge become heart knowledge.

Our boys love homeschooling. It is hard work but so worth it!

(…and of course with every good blog post, there must be a picture of my grandson too!

Isn’t he just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?!!! 🙂

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Filed under Blessings, Children, Family, Garden, God, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling

What Was My Day Off

Today was supposed to be my day off.  Yes, I actually had plans to get out of this house, head to town and do a little shopping….for myself. {gasp!}

How often do I shop for myself?  Oh, probably about once in every 4 or 5 years, it seems.

My closet is at its’ lowest point ever in my life.  Not that that’s such a bad thing, I’ve never really been a “fashionista”, but right now, I’m afraid, my family may nominate me for “What Not to Wear” at any given moment.

So…I actually got up today thinking I will take a shower and get ready then head into town to do something about it.

Then, I start to wonder what I can buy that won’t make me feel guilty.  This is part of my closet problem.  When I do shop, I have no problem finding what my kids need, however when it comes to things for me, well, I end up talking myself out of spending the money.  I’m such a penny pincher!  This is good AND bad.

So….back to my day….

I paid the bills, carefully planning my little shopping trip today and looking forward to guilt-free purchases.  Then we woke up this morning.

What was supposed to be our school-free day was already not.  The boys did not complete their assignments yesterday, so they were expected to do so today.  I had some hope that they would simply sit down at the table, check the list, and independently work while I prepared to leave.

That hope soon vanished as they snuck out to the trampoline, played with the grandbaby, turned on the Wii, and pretty much found any excuse they could to keep from doing their work.

So, “to the table”, I demanded, and now my shopping time must be spent watching them, pencils in hand, staying on task.

This is what happens in homeschooling.  It is a blessing and a curse, lol.  I love the lights in their eyes as they learn something new and interesting, but also I realize that it is a commitment by the whole family to stay on task.

We can either excuse the day and head to town, or we can be disciplined and obedient to the call.

This is the way it is.  Homeschooling is a job.  It takes work…and time.

There have been days where we have set the schedule aside for fun.  This day, however, is not one of them.

So I sit here, at the table, conversing and talking with my students as they complete their work.  Hopefully someday they will do it faster and I will be able to do something about my closet.

For now, however, my day off is still a day on.

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Filed under Attitude, Blessings, Children, Commitment, Family, Home School, Homeschool, homeschooling, Job, Life, Obedience, Parenting, Priorities

Sunshine and Sunflowers

Oh how bright the sun shines when there’s a pretty little girl and a chocolate cake!  I just couldn’t resist making this cake for our little “Boo”!  It’s the first thing she and I have made together.  I made the cake layers.  She “helped” me with the icing, tested the “Peeps”, and continued to “fix” the icing as I added the chocolate chips.

2000 calories and probably 5000 grams of sugar later, the cake was done!

Notice the little finger at the bottom of this photo 🙂

Whoops!?  How did that happen?

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Filed under Blessings, Cakes, Children, Family, God, Grandchildren, Joy, Love, Recipes