It’s Fall!!

fallpic

 

It’s Fall! My absolute favorite season of the year! Technically it has been Fall since the end of September, but the weather got a bit confused and gave us a couple weeks of 90’s weather. But, it has finally figured things out, and we actually woke up to a nice brisk morning. Hurrah. I am unofficially celebrating by cooking soup, making homemade bread, having a tea party with some of my kids, and possibly lighting our cook stove tonight. 

 

Of course, I really don’t like it when I give the impression of a life that’s all bright and cheery without any bad points at all. This day has had its moments. Like this morning, when I got the entire family up and ready to go see the Shriner’s Circus, then just before we left, I checked the tickets one more time and realized that the circus is actually next weekend. Not this weekend. Oops. Unfortunately, if you are in my family, you are used to mom making colossal mistakes like this. I also went to get out my nice LLBean Flannel sheets to put on my bed and discovered that someone had taken scissors to the elastic on the fitted sheet. Thank you children. My husband said it was Entropy. I said it was children. He said children are a part of Entropy.  I also asked my girls to clean their room. They said they did. I asked if it was amazing and would I come upstairs and say Wow? And they said Yes! When I finally got around to checking their work, I did say Wow. They were right. I said, Wow, this is horrible. But, despite all of that, it is a wonderful, bright, Fall day. And I’m happy. 

 

Since I was a child Fall has always been my favorite season. From the age of six to eleven, we lived on my grandparents farm in Eastern Kentucky, back in a holler (Hollow). My grandparents had around thirty acres and all the farms around us were also big properties. We lived in a little trailer tucked up in the woods, my cousins lived down the road in one direction and my best friend lived up the hill from me. If we needed more kids than that, there were several families with kids down the holler we could invite to join us. It was really a children’s paradise. There were hills, fields, a creek, ponies, lots of dogs and cats. We had the freedom to wander all over the place without our parents worrying about us. The basic rule was: be home for meals. Check in every once in a while. 

 

Fall meant crunchy leaves all over the ground. We would make leaf piles and jump in them. Roll around in the dry, crispy carpet that covered the ground. One of my favorite memories about fall leaves was the ravine we happened upon one day while stomping around in the woods. It was a very steep incline, a good long drop down into a dry creek bed that only filled up when it rained. The side of the steep hill was covered in leaves. We discovered that if you sat down on the edge of the hill and just let yourself go, it was kind of like sledding. On leaves. Not sure if the seat of our pants stayed intact, but we had fun.

 

Another big part of fall was the smell of wood smoke. Most people in those parts heated their homes with wood burning stoves. Every fall my dad would get his big red farm truck and load us up in the back then head off down some little trail into the woods where he had scouted out some fallen trees. We would then spend the day playing on the fallen tree while my dad did the heavy cutting with his chainsaw. When he had the wood cut to movable pieces my brother and I would then step in and help load it all into the back of his truck. When the truck was as full as he could make it, we would climb on top of the wood and ride slowly back home. Where we then had to unload all the firewood and stack it up into a woodpile behind our trailer. It was a family project and we all felt content when we knew we had enough firewood stacked for winter. 

 

Fall. It’s bright red cheeks from running outside in the cold. Dark by suppertime. Hot soup and warm bread. Reading books out loud next to a fire. Blue jeans and flannel shirts. Slippers and robes in the early mornings. A time for pumpkins and hay bales and hot apple cider. What’s there to not love? 

 

So, I’m off to enjoy my fall evening. We’ll have some pinterest-worthy moments, and we’ll have some crazy, smack-my-head, roll-my-eyes moments, cause I’ve still got a houseful of kids, but I’m going to choose to be happy, cause it’s Fall! 

 

Thinking About Heaven

Today I was sorting clothes in my room, finishing up the great Seasonal Clothes Exchange, and I was bored, so I decided to listen to something off of Youtube on my phone. I normally don’t do this because I usually have so many interruptions that it’s impossible to really listen to something properly, but the kids had friends over, they were all playing outside, and I decided to chance it. I randomly decided to look for something by Tim Keller. I found an interesting sermon on heaven and settled in to enjoy it. One thing he said really stood out to me. He was saying that heaven is all about God’s presence. That’s the whole thing. Being in God’s presence. He said that people have criticized him for claiming that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, and he pointed out the question, Why would you want to go to heaven if you’re not in love with Jesus? Heaven is all about being with him! 

 

I really had to sit with that thought. If you’re not in love with Jesus, then you’re not going to like heaven. Cause it’s all about him. 

 

A couple weeks ago I was driving to another city in the car, solo road trip. I had a lot of time to just think. I was listening to the Christian radio and the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercyme came on. I love that song. It is essentially just imagining what it will be like when we get to heaven and see Jesus.  I was singing along and wondering myself, what will I do when the time comes? And then I thought about my children. And it was almost a fierce thought. My children must go to heaven too. I don’t know if it could be heaven if my children weren’t there. And I had this realization that if God had created some kind of system where we could barter our way into heaven, I would have unhesitatingly bartered my own soul to make sure my children made it into heaven. I love them that much. And I was thinking these fierce thoughts, and it was like Jesus just whispered, That’s how I feel about you. I wanted you in heaven so much that I came and died on the cross. And it suddenly occurred to me, That’s how Jesus wants us to feel about everybody. He wants us to love everybody with that fierceness that says, They’ve got to be there too!

 

That kind of rocked me back on my heels. I do not feel that way about everyone. Who do I fiercely desire to see in heaven? My husband. My children. Parents, siblings. Some extended family. A couple close friends. But, as far as exchanging my life for theirs if that were possible? Probably just my own children, if I’m honest. And yet, that fierce desire to see other people saved, in relationship with Jesus so that they too will go to heaven, that is what we are called to as Christians. We are called to that kind of deep love. 

 

And all I can do is say, Lord! Change my heart! Give me your heart for these people who surround me, my neighbors that I pass every day. The people of my community, my city, my state, my country. The world. May my heart be changed so that I long for the day when I can be in Jesus’ presence, but at the same time, I can say fiercely, I need these other people to be there with me! 

 

Here’s a link to “I can only Imagine” if you’d like to listen:

I Can Only Imagine by Mercyme

 

Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me

After posting earlier this week about what a bad day I had, it seems appropriate to write about today. 

 

I woke up in a good mood. 

 

Let’s say that again.

 

I woke up in a good mood.

 

Wow! 

 

This does not happen often! That’s not to say that I wake up in a bad mood every day. It’s more like I wake up with a mood of determination. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. And I keep saying this as I stagger around early in the morning and get dressed and fix breakfast and wake up kids and drive them to school and then feed the younger ones and get them settled. And then I finally sit down for a little while and I relax a bit and just try to get comfortable with being awake and up and moving. 

 

But today, I woke up in a good mood!! 

 

It was pretty crazy. I was cheerful with my children. Efficient. We quickly got all our chores done without me yelling and then made plans to go out shopping with the family for various seasonal things we needed: shoes, socks, underwear…Fun stuff. Though, my husband surprised me and got me a little three gallon aquarium in which to keep my baby guppy that I rescued a while back. (Baby guppy has been living in a large glass kitchen bowl). 

 

The day went smoothly. We got home from shopping, grilled hot dogs, then the kids played with their neighbor friends. Andy and I were able to just hang out together, talk, catch up after a crazy week. 

 

It makes me think of Psalm 23. The kids have been memorizing that psalm on the car ride to school every day. We just finished up the last verse this week. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 

 

It’s been a tough week. It’s been a tough season. Sometimes I think it’s more like, It’s been a tough life. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” It seems like a lot of times it feels like we’re walking through dark valleys. But then the rest of the verse happens, “…I will fear no evil for you are with me…”

 

I feel like God has definitely proved himself over and over that He is with me. I do not have to be afraid. But, you know, even when you’re sure of God’s presence and his working in your life, it still doesn’t mean you feel cheerful. Determined. Yes. Encouraged. Definitely. But cheerful? That one seems to be a lot harder. 

 

Today I felt like God’s goodness and mercy were poured out on me.

Here. Here’s a glimpse of joy. Here’s a glimpse of heaven. Waking up in a good mood. Spending a good, relaxed day with your family. For a moment in time, simply narrowing my vision to my immediate surroundings, forgetting all the turmoil that is waiting out in the world, just consuming the goodness that has been laid before me: a bright Fall day, beautiful family, wonderful husband, God’s bountiful provision for all our needs…”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

 

I shared my bad mood with you this week, so now I will share my joy with you. God is good. 

Fat Fridays: Hope Renewed

Happy Friday everyone. I think this has been one of the longest weeks of my life. I am so glad that it is Friday! Earlier this week I wrote a short essay (not posted) on how hopeless I felt about weightloss. I talked about how Diet Programs, Weightloss systems, they all know about this hopelessness and they purposefully sell hope. Sure, you have never succeeded in the past, but that’s because you never knew about OUR BRAND NEW SYSTEM!! Just give us some money and we will give you a big dose of HOPE that You Too can conquer your weight problems! And you know, I’ve tried that too many times. I no longer fall for it. So, I was lamenting that our Hope is supposed to come from the Lord, but he didn’t seem to be dishing any out either. 

 

And then, after I wrote down all my angst, God flooded me with hope. 🙂 I suddenly felt like, Yes, I can do this. And I got a plan. I’m going to just tackle 10 pounds at a time. Anyone can lose 10 pounds right? And when I lose 10 pounds I’m going to reward myself with a Non-Food Reward. I started yesterday. I’m feeling excited. Cool weather is fast approaching and I need to get some new clothes. And I’m going to wait till I’ve lost this 10 pounds before I go shopping. And that sounds good to me and encouraging. I’ve made a deal with God. I realize that my weight problems stem from wrong ideas about food, it’s a heart issue. I am, unfortunately, unable to change my heart. So, I’m asking God to work on the heart side of it, and I will try to work on the physical -eat less, exercise more- side of it. Maybe I’ll fail again, but my little bit of hope is saying, yeah, but maybe you won’t fail this time. 

 

I’m kind of doing a relaxed version of Trim Healthy Mama which is all about low carb, high protein, and don’t mix your fats and carbs. Another words, if you eat fat then make sure you don’t eat any carbs at the same time. 

 

I started on October 3rd. So I’ll let you know how long it takes me to lose 10 pounds. And then we can all celebrate! And then I’ll move on to the next little goal. 

 

For anyone else feeling hopeless, may your hope be renewed! I’ll see you all later. 

 

 

Bad Moods Happen

Today is one of those days where I should have just stayed in bed. Nope. This day is not working for me, I’ll try again tomorrow. This happens to me on occasion. I have a million theories as to why. But as far as making the bad moods stop, I haven’t figured that one out yet. 

 

I have reached an age where I have finally figured out that another person can’t solve all my problems. So, while I was longing to call up my husband during his very busy day of work and complain about life to him, I knew that nothing he said would change my mood or make me feel better. In fact, in the mood I’ve been in, I probably would have picked a fight with him instead. So, I didn’t call my husband. 

 

I tossed around the idea of daydreaming about selling my house and moving to some far off location. But, that dream has lost its appeal. I like my house, run down as it is, and I really don’t want to move anywhere else. So, I gave up trying to do that. 

 

Every task I had to do today felt like a herculean task. Which flea medicine should I buy for my cats? Let’s research online. Whoa. Way too much information here…Let’s try and do some preschool with the four year old. Ok. This requires way too much patience. Better not do this anymore. 

 

I finally put some praise music on. That helped some. Took the boys grocery shopping, got some shopping therapy. Bought a yummy snack, medicating with food. Played the piano a bit, sooth my brain with music. It all helped a bit. Not a great deal. But some. 

 

I’m still in a bad mood. 

 

So, I’m going to put a positive spin on this. I can at least recognize when these moods hit. I hope I am at least learning how to contain that mood to myself instead of trying to spread it around to my family. I had a face off with the four year old over picking up toys, and instead of letting it escalate to a place where I might lose control, I decided to fight this battle later when I was in a better place to deal with it calmly. 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time just talking to God. He hasn’t given me any amazing insights, but it’s comforting to know he’s listening. 

 

This is the yucky side of life. Bad moods happen. It’s not all sunshine and princess tiaras. And, I guess it’s ok. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be better. I plan to spend some time this evening just focusing on things to be thankful for. That’s always good. Maybe preach the gospel to myself again. That’s always helpful. And I’ll pray that tomorrow will be a better day. 

 

How do I Parent?

Recently I had my parenting questioned. It’s kind of hard when you feel like you have been judged and found lacking.  It always sends me reeling a bit. I have to really think about what was said. Is there merit? Is there truth? Am I wrong? Should I change things? 

And then, I have to just stop. 

 

The truth of the matter is I am merely human. I am not perfect, nor will I be any time soon. In fact, not on this side of eternity. I am a flawed human being trying to raise ten other flawed human beings. It’s a recipe for messiness. 

 

Then you have to consider all the different goals parents set for themselves. Am I trying to raise a child prodigy? Am I trying to raise an athlete? Am I trying to raise an activist? Every parent you talk to is going to have a different set of goals in their parenting. And that’s because each of us are different with different strengths and talents that we hope to pass down to our children. 

 

Even when we have what seems like the same goal, “I want to raise Godly children”, the way we envision that is very different. The way we hope to implement that is very different. 

 

For some people, raising Godly children means that they are going to keep their children from being exposed to ungodly things. For some it means that they are going to immerse their child in the scriptures until they can almost recite the entire Bible. For some it means getting their children very involved in a church community where they live, eat, and breathe church. For some it means awakening a heart for the lost, encouraging their children to pray for the nations and look for opportunities to reach out to the lost whenever possible. 

 

I can guarantee that whatever area you as parents decide to focus on, that is probably an area that is close to your heart and an area where God has done a lot of work in your life. We naturally want to pass on to our kids the things that we know and are learning. 

 

So, here is what God has been working on in my life. Grace. No Fear. Love your neighbor. 

 

Grace. It is imperative to me that my children know that God loves them, he has forgiven them, and he is the only one who can enable them to walk the Christian life. Their own will power will never be enough to keep them from turning in the wrong direction. Only God can save us and then change our hearts. 

 

No Fear. It is imperative that my children not be afraid. Not be afraid of losing God’s love. Not be afraid of losing my love. Not be afraid of being rejected. Not be afraid of people who don’t believe the same as them. Not be afraid of going out into the world and sharing love with whomever they meet. Not be afraid of making mistakes and not being perfect. Fear not. I believe that phrase is repeated a ridiculous number of times in the Bible. 

 

Love your neighbor. It is imperative to me that my children learn how to love their neighbor. Though this is an action that we need God’s grace for, I need them to keep asking God for grace and keep pressing in to this. Keep trying to understand the people around them. Keep seeing each person in their life as a highly valuable treasure that God loves. Keep on learning how to love. It’s the second greatest commandment. First, Love God, second, love your neighbor. 

 

How do you teach your children these things? Beats me. I’m not the parenting expert. Each day is me fumbling around in the darkness, trying to do my best on my good days, on my bad days, just trying to keep everyone alive. I have no idea how to raise Godly children. But, thank you Lord, God does know. He gives me just enough grace for one day at a time. And one day at a time I try to model a complete dependence on God. I try to model Grace. I try to model No Fear. I try to model loving my neighbor. That’s about all I can do. The rest is in God’s hands. 

 

May we have grace for each other as parents. Instead of getting caught up in the comparison game, let’s just encourage each other. 

 

When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect

Making plans seems to be part in parcel of being human. We have this life laid out in front of us and we feel an urgency to do Something with that life. Everyone around us tells us that we need to be doing Something. We ask little children, What do you want to be when you grow up? We pester our teenagers as soon as they enter high school…What do you think you want to do after high school? College? Which one? What do you want to study? How about the armed forces? Does that sound interesting? Or tech school? You can make good money being an electrician! Have you ever considered going into teaching? 

 

People just can’t leave us alone about our “futures”. And so, naturally, we make plans. We have this life in front of us, we must plan. 

 

Some people make a plan very early in their life and then they follow it, step by faithful step, until they have reached their end goal and entered into the life they always wanted. And we all shake our heads in amazement and say, Yep, I knew they could do it, they’re just that kind of person. 

 

Then there are the people who just can’t settle on any plan. These are the ones that go to college and change their majors five times. Or maybe it’s the ones who pursue job after job, but can never stay in one place for too long. And we shake our heads at them. You just need to get a plan and stick to it!

 

I think for most of the rest of us it goes more like this. We make a plan and pursue it. Then something happens, we discover while student teaching that we really don’t like being around kids. Or maybe an unexpected financial burden arises that keeps us from going to that flight school we always wanted to attend. Or a personal tragedy, a death in our family, awakens a previously unknown desire to enter the medical field or become a hospice nurse. 

 

We all waver and bend as life shoves us this way and that, following whatever road seems to be the right one at the moment. Always making plans. Not always accomplishing those plans. 

 

I am familiar with plans not turning out the way I thought. At the age of 17 I thought I would study piano, become a piano teacher, get married in my mid-twenties and have 2 children. 

 

Yeah. That didn’t happen. (For those of you new to the blog, I dropped out of college after 2 years, married at the age of 20 and have 10 children.) 

 

Some people say that God has an exact plan written out for our lives and that it’s our job to sit still and listen and wait for him to reveal this plan to us. Other people say, God gave you gifts and talents for a reason, pursue those gifts and talents and God will use you wherever you go. I, of course, love to walk the middle road. I’m sure that God has a plan for me, but I don’t think it’s his habit of sharing the details of that plan. Instead he uses our gifts and talents to direct us. He uses earth-shattering events to redirect us. He uses simple self-awareness (hmm, I actually really hate this career) to direct us. He uses people in our lives who build us up or tear us down to send us in search of new paths. He uses whatever he wants to get us where he wants us. And there is a lot of peace in that. I saw an awesome meme the other day:

stupiditymeme

Plans come and go but God is constant and nothing surprises him. I’m going to keep making plans, keep pursuing them…But perhaps it’s not the destination, the fulfilling of the plan, that is so important, but rather the journey along the way.