We Are That Crazy Family

 

Yes. We are that crazy family.

Daddy and grandma took off work. We loaded 12 people (including grandparents and Uncle Josh) into my 15 passenger van with no air conditioning in August and drove the 4 hours away to see the eclipse.

Actually, we drove two hours, toured a cool WWII LST in Evansville, IN. Spent the night, got up at 4am and drove another 2 hours to be on site by 7:30am to spend 2 minutes and 40 seconds watching the totality of the eclipse that afternoon. We spent hours with a toddler, a 6 year old, 5 other children, a man in a wheelchair, and the rest of us nut jobs in a grassy lot at a church 4 hours from home so we could see the totality.

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The “diamond ring” caught on “film” by my amateur photographer son.

We then spent 9 hours trying to get home in the craziest traffic of all time with no air conditioning, cranky children and even crankier adults.

 

And we would do it again in a heartbeat.

We would totally do it again.

No regrets.

Some people think we are crazy. And we are. The next one, in 7 years, is coming like directly over my house. I can watch it from my yard. I’ve heard it called a “once in a lifetime experience”. Then other people say, well, not really because after all it is happening again in 7 years.

But for us, for that moment, it was a once in a lifetime experience.

I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom. And this year is the last one, the very last one, where I will have 7 minor children. Next year my oldest turns 18. And while I hold the power of his diploma in my evil little hands (so I know he isn’t going anywhere just yet), I cannot deny the truth. I have a 2 year old and a 17 year old. And my days of making memories with all 7 of them as a “family” are extremely numbered.

In 7 years when the next eclipse comes, I will have only 3 minor children. My fourth child will have just turned 18. My third will be turning 20. My two oldest will be 23 and 24. I may have sons or daughters inlaw. I may have grandchildren.

For my family, this was a once in a lifetime experience.

That moment, when the sun totally disappeared and I heard several of my children, and my father-in-law, say “this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen”, in that moment, I knew we had done the right thing.

My littles may never remember, but they will always hear from the bigs what an amazing experience it was.

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My son has decided to dedicate the next 7 years to preparing with better equipment for better pics. But I think these are pretty great.

 

Some things cannot be explained, they must be experienced. This was one of those moments as a mom that I experienced the deep joy of knowing my kids were moved deeply by the greatness of God and His great creation.

It doesn’t have to be an eclipse. But my dear friends, I urge you. Please. Realize you are experiencing once in a lifetime moments all the time. Mommas. I know you don’t need to be told. I know you don’t WANT to be told. But your moments to make these memories are so short. Take a few snapshots to remind you, then put down the camera and soak in your life. Take your kids to the fair. The park. The drive in. Make memories. But soak in the moment. Breathe it in. Fill your lungs with the moments of life that matter.

Spend less time making things look perfect. Spend less time scrapbooking your life. Spend more time living your life and absorbing your kids.

 

 

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My Testimony and Why VBS is Important

Everyone has a testimony they say. I honestly really didn’t think I did. Not really. I mean I don’t have one of those great “the moment I was saved” stories.

Actually, I don’t know the moment I was saved. And that has caused me a great deal of “christian anxiety” for lack of a better term.

They (you know, those people who say the things) say that you’ll never forget the moment you were saved. So for me, I have really been bothered by not knowing the moment I was saved.

Because as a good Christian, you are supposed to know that.

As a little girl, I attended a Good News Club at the church beside my house. I don’t remember a lot about it, but the sweet older lady, Mary Jane (known still to most of the county I grew up in) had these little classes and it was a multi-week thing and we had fun and learned about Jesus.

I didn’t go to church other than this short term little Good News Club. But I knew. I knew with all that was in me that Jesus was God. I couldn’t explain it, but I remember saying in first grade that the Sun and the Moon were the same just like Jesus and God were the same. I didn’t know how wrong (and right) I was.

I remember sweet Mary Jane telling us about Jesus. I don’t remember the moments, but I remember that it happened. And I remember her telling us that we needed to ask Jesus into our hearts to get into heaven.

So, as a little terrified 7 year old girl, I remember hiding in my mom’s kitchen asking Jesus to come into my heart. Because I was terrified of not going to heaven.

Fast forward a few years. I never went to church. No more Good News Clubs. But I met and fell in love with my high school sweetheart. We married, knowing that when we had kids, we would take them to church. He had been raised in church. We thought that was a good thing. We didn’t really know why, just that it was the thing to do.

So we had a kid. And started thinking about finding a church. Then we discovered we were having another kid and decided it was time to stop playing house and get busy finding a church.

I’ve often said God can find you anywhere, even in church. And that is where he found me.

We fell in love with our church on the second trip there, 16 and a half years ago. The sweet little old couple that greeted us, remembering we had been there the week before with a friend, are long gone but greatly impacted our desire to return. When we decided to join, the issue of my baptism came up. The associate pastor asked if I had been baptized. I said no. He asked if I believed that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the grave. I said yes. He offered to baptize me so we could join the church.

That was pretty well my story. And it seemed pretty weak. Was I saved that day as a little girl when I so earnestly asked yet never even tried to live like Jesus? Was I saved that day in Ric’s office? Was I saved some time after that when teaching countless children about Jesus? Was it the night I laid in bed, chatting with God asking him again about how do I know I’m saved when I don’t know when I was saved? Was it that moment on the staircase at church as I listened to the worship leader sing “Amazing Love how can it be, that you my King would die for me” overwhelmed by the staggering truth of this one line?

Then finally, God, in the way only He can, told me that this was not worthy of my fret. Because the truth here is that my testimony is one of God’s great faithfulness to a little girl. When I prayed that day when I was 7, God knew. He knew where I would end up. Was I saved that day? I don’t know. I know it doesn’t matter. I believe I was sealed. I know if you had asked me when I was 16 or 17 years old I would have said I was not saved. I was not a Christian. And between those years and that moment in the pastor’s office, I never stopped and “prayed again”. But I know in that moment, I believed it all. Though I had almost no bible education, I knew the one simple important truth. It was deeply ingrained in my heart from a faithful servant twenty years before.

Jesus died for my sins. He paid for my sins with his blood. He bought me from the master of this earth and gave me a home in heaven.

When was I saved? Yeah, I don’t know. But I have been saved.

And this, my friends, is why VBS matters. VBS. Good News Clubs. Booths at the fair. Because God is faithful. He plants, waters and grows through His faithful servants. My life was touched and changed by a faithful servant who planted seeds at a Good News Club, in his office meeting new members, from her living room sharing her love of children, from the platform singing the praises of the King. My life was indelibly changed by a faithful God and faithful servants.

And this is why VBS matters so much to me.

girls vbs blog

 

Why Is It So Hard To Trust God?

Why is it so hard to trust God? That is my question. Oh, I know. Not for you. You would never doubt the creator of the universe, Who has proven, again and again, that He has only the greatest love and gifts for you.

I know you wouldn’t doubt, but I do. More often than I’d like to admit.

I don’t doubt God in His Goodness. I don’t doubt His wisdom and control. But oh how often I speak words of encouragement and absolute confidence to a friend and feel such a hypocrite knowing that though I fully believe each of those words to be true for my friend, I doubt those same words hold validity in my life.

I had a beautiful plan for my life. And God interrupted it with his even more beautiful plan. And I sit here today knowing without even a shred of doubt that this plan is far superior to the plan I had in mind. I know, without question, that I am happier in this plan than I would have been in mine. Yet, alas, I grieve what never was. Why grieve when you trust? Can you grieve and trust? Can you say, “God I know this is infinitely better and I am daily grateful and I want nothing else, yet I wish I had known the fulfillment of my heart’s desires before you took over?”

I honestly don’t know. It feels ungrateful. I fear I have a wicked, ungrateful heart. Oh how grateful I am for Jesus who cleanses our hearts… But I digress.

There are many times I can look to in my life where I desperately wanted or hoped for a certain outcome, and God chose differently. And, often I have been able to see the blessing of God’s choice. Sometimes I am just trusting, knowing He knows better, though I cannot yet see.

But my heart grieves. I want my way, frankly. Even when I see the wisdom of His ways, I pout.

So, what is my point? I’m not sure I know. But I do know that, God never fails me. And I don’t think it is that I doubt that He knows what is going on. I don’t doubt that He wants the best for me.

I believe Jeremiah 29:11 that God knows the plans he has for me. I believe He has plans. I believe they are good plans. And every single time I council a friend that God has a plan, I mean it. With all my heart. And when the really bad things happen in my life, I know God has a plan. When the hard things come, I do trust. I have peace.

But because I cannot see hope for my dreams, I cannot see that God has yet actually fulfilled many of them, but has rather changed them to fit His better plan, I despair of ever having my way. Maybe that is it really. Like a spoiled child, I know my Father is wise and right, but I want my own way. I don’t want the consequences of going my own way. So I do endeavor to follow His plan. And pray that He helps me bend my will to His.

I guess I despair of having my own way AND it being God’s will.

Maybe I can be less abstract. Here is an example (and yes, they are all this petty – I actually am pretty good about trusting him on the big stuff like my kids’ salvation): I have decided that there are perhaps 2 things I would really like to have in my home. Central air and a master bedroom with a master bath. Ah, to walk from my bed to my potty without encountering a child… Such a dream.
I shall never, in the span of the next decade, have either. Both will require building a new house. A plan that I dream of but will not happen until most of my children are grown when there will be little reason to actually desire a master bathroom.

Yet I know God has many good plans for me. Better than a master bathroom. But I don’t trust Him to send me a master bathroom. I trust Him to send me better things. And I pout that I have to share a bathroom with my herd of children.

So, why is it hard to trust God? I guess the answer is, it isn’t hard to trust Him. It is hard to get out of His way and let Him do his thing. And to stop pouting. Not pouting is hard. Not pouting is really hard.

 

How To Have a Beautiful Marriage – The Prequel – Marry Well

My previous post was the beginning of a series I’m writing on marriage. After chatting recently with my husband, I realized that I should address the first bit, marrying well.

There is a point in many young girls’ lives when they really, desperately want to get married. This emotion is stronger than you can imagine if you’ve never experienced it.

I recently chatted with a friend, now happily married for 40+ years, who recalled how it felt to be 21 and unmarried. She had expected to be married by then. I can’t tell you how many women have expressed to me over the years their frustration with not being married by the time they had “thought” they would be married.

I know that God has a plan for each of these women. I believe God knows if and when you will marry your Prince Charming. But, as with many other areas of our lives, this waiting period can cause us to doubt and try to expedite matters.

This desire to be married can drive a young woman to get married to someone they, under other circumstances, would never consider. I’ve seen  young girls talk about marrying a certain guy. And while I listen I just know he’s not the one. He might be amazing. But he doesn’t make her sparkle. (Credit here to my husband who pointed out the sparkle he sees in girls, and guys, who are truly suited for one another.)

Ladies, my daughter isn’t marrying age. I’m not giving mom advice here. And I have NO qualifications to give ANY advice. I’m NOT an expert on dating. But I do know love. Deep, soul filling love. Love that pours out your eyes and your very being.

So, girls, I am not telling you what your momma would. That is her job. Mommas, I hope you can forgive what I’m about to say here.

Marry a man who makes you sparkle. Don’t marry for money. Don’t marry for prestige. Don’t even marry because he’s a great guy who is a super catch, a good church boy, the guy your mom always called “a good boy” or a guy who you respect, admire and care deeply about — if he doesn’t make you sparkle.

NOTE: DO NOT MARRY A CREEP REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU THINK HE MAKES YOU SPARKLE.  CREEPS ARE CREEPS. RUN. HIDE.

Marry a good man. Marry a man you are proud of. Marry a man that you see great things in. Marry a man that, if he never changed an ounce, you would still be proud to

wedding pic

He still makes me sparkle.

introduce to your mom, dad, best friend and me. Marry that kind of man. But only marry him if he makes you sparkle.

 

Unsure if you sparkle? Ask your bestie. But you probably don’t. Again, I’m not an expert, but I really believe, when you sparkle you feel it and the whole world sees it. And marry a guy who is simply mad about you.

 

As a caveat, I believe our God is a great redeemer and any marriage CAN be redeemed, even if you make poor choices. If both parties turn their will toward God, anything is possible. If you are married and feel you made a poor choice, turn it over to God. I know He wants to prosper your marriage, He can turn anything to good. But if you are not yet married, marry well.

 

 

Is It Raining Again?

So I got my feelings hurt. Again. It seems that it gets easier and easier to get hurt feelings. And I’m not alone.

How do I know? Well, for starters, I wrote this post a while back and the feedback I got really helped me to see how many of us walk around with hurt dripping from us, as if we were caught in a sudden rain. And each time we begin to dry and heal and recover from that rain, another wave of the storm blows in and we begin to drip from the hurt the pours over us. Again. And again. And Again.

So I started a conversation on Facebook, asking others about how they get hurt. And it is always interesting to me to see the insecurities, the fear, the hurt and the isolation of others. And it angers me.

When will I stop taking the bait? When will I stop letting satan steal my joy and lie to me? When will I stop being hurt and isolated? Because I am certain, dead certain, that the people who hurt me don’t even know. They don’t even realize that my feelings got hurt. It wasn’t intentional. They didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, we could really hurt her feelings if we did this! Let’s go!”

The truth is, most of the time when I’ve been offended or gotten my feelings hurt, the other party never intended it to be viewed as a slight.

Knowing I wanted to address this, I asked my Facebook friends which is worse:
Being thought poorly of
or
Not being thought of

There was no consensus. But what I was able to see was how satan once again uses our insecurities to trip us. The people who commented on the question had differing answers and reasons why. Some seriously cannot stand to be thought poorly of (I mean none of us like it, right?) and others feel like at least that can be dealt with and talked through but being not thought of at all is impossible to change. Several admitted it was based oh their own insecurities.

One of my big insecurities is that I am invisible. I’m a pretty unremarkable person. I tend to think I’m forgettable, and it tends to be proven to be true. I’m also an introvert who doesn’t really like much attention. At the same time, I have a terrible weakness (I know, supposedly it isn’t a weakness, just a personality trait) in needing to be affirmed. Apparently Words of Affirmation are a big part of my love languages. So the quickest and easiest way satan has found to upset me is to make me feel unseen, unnoticed and unappreciated.

So, to all of you, my friends who are reading this, I want to encourage you.

We are all  walking around, one rain cloud of offense from dripping our hurt feelings all over the place. And I don’t really know how to help my friends not get hurt. But I hope to encourage you that you are not alone. That person that hurt you is probably also hurting. They might not even realize that you are hurt. That anger and frustration you feel are probably focused at the wrong enemy.  Because I have come to recognize, even in the midst of the hurt, that it truly is just an epic battle to steal our joy!

Someday I will stop taking the bait.

And if you find that you cannot seem to shake the clouds above you that threaten to pour out more hurt, just remember, the only thing that scatters these clouds is the Son.

 

 

How to Have a Beautiful Marriage – Part One — The Strong Arm Effect

*** NOTE***
Original post has been updated with a note of clarification at the bottom.

This is the first post in a series on marriage. I call it the Strong Arm Effect. I didn’t make it up. I merely adapted the theory from a really great lecture I heard at a conference one time. The guest speaker was a man speaking to a room full of only women. He said, “Hang on his arm and tell him he is strong.” I have remembered this advice for years.

And here is how I adapt this advice.

Hang on his arm and tell him he is strong. Literally.

But that is not all.

I’ve heard the phrase “speak what you hope as though it already is”.

So my advice to you young married ladies, or you older married ladies, is a combination of these ideas.

Your man needs to be needed. Wanted. Admired. A hero.

But if you are a younger woman getting married to a younger man, there is a secret you need to know. He’s young. He (and you, frankly) have so much to learn and so much time ahead of you to learn it. He isn’t a failure because at 22 he doesn’t know how to plumb a sink. But if you are marrying him (have married him) I’m guessing you see something in him. A promise of greatness.

Your job is to help him fulfil it. And this is how, my dear friends, you go from nagging to helping your husband fulfil his greatness.

You hang on his arm and tell him he is so strong! And you mean it. You tell him that you admire him learning to change your oil so that you don’t have to take it somewhere. You thank him for taking out the dead mouse. You find the good things and you lavish great praise on them. And when you need to suggest something to him, you can. Because he knows you respect him.

Respect is so key to marriage.

When we, as wives, constantly complain, critique and micromanage, we emasculate. We show him that we don’t respect him. You want him to do better? What is his incentive if each time he does something you tell him it is wrong? What if you chose life? What if you chose to approach each thing he did for you with gratitude, acceptance and love rather than disdain? What if you looked at his strengths and spoke those daily into his life? What if you took the time to build up the man you are choosing to spend your life with?

I’ve watched women destroy men with their words. I’ve heard women speak to their husbands in such a way that would never be tolerated in reverse.

No. It is our pride. We think we know more and by golly we are out to prove it. We love him, but if he would just do this one thing he’d be perfect.

He will never be perfect. And neither will you. But if you want a beautiful marriage, you have to start breathing life into him, into your marriage.

So, hang on his arm and tell him he is strong. Thank him for putting away dishes (and for crying out loud, don’t criticize where he put them). If you know he’s afraid to fix things because he never learned how, don’t call your dad, ask him to help you. Tell him how much you appreciate when he unclogged your drain. Give him reasons to be your hero. Call him your hero!

Stop listening to the “you don’t need a man” mentality. You chose to marry him. You chose to have a man. So now, need him. Let him know you need him. And be grateful to and for him.

I challenge you to start using your words to build him up and start looking at him as your hero. Grow together to create a beautiful marriage.

Do you have examples of how this concept has worked in you marriage? We’d love to hear from you.

***NOTE***

It came to my attention after a chat with Mr. Right, that the intent of this “exercise” was not made clear.

I know from experience that sometimes in life we develop a bad habit of how we treat people we love. It can be easily fallen into. Nagging. Criticising. Tearing down.

This exercise that I’ve shared with you is a habit trainer. To help you learn to speak with love and kindness and words of encouragement.

IT IS NOT intended as a way of never speaking what needs to be spoken. Nor of being walked on or having to hide your thoughts and concerns.

When you find you have trained yourself to speak unkindly and naggy, or if your spouse is used to hearing everything as criticism (even from someone else), it is hard to speak your mind and give feedback. When we have retrained ourselves to speak from a place of building up and encouraging, we earn leverage, we earn the right to speak into their lives when it isn’t always positive.

Using the dishwasher example. If he puts dishes away incorrectly, and you usually nag, even a “Thank you but I usually put bowls here” sounds naggy. If you cannot say anything without it being heard as critical (even if it wasn’t intended to be), then don’t. Quietly, and joyfully, fix the dishes later. Once you have earned the ability to be heard as a loving voice, you can say, “Thanks, Sweetie for helping. I usually keep the bowls here,” and it will be heard as you intended.

And in all things, be joyful of the spouse you have chosen.

 

A Beautiful Marriage

I’m beginning a series of posts on How to Have a Beautiful Marriage.
What is a beautiful marriage?

The following definitions of the word beautiful apply here:
Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically
and
Of a very high standard; excellent

A marriage that is pleasing to my senses and of a very high standard. This sounds like a marriage I want. Not just a tolerable marriage. Not just a marriage that leaves me content. Not just a marriage that looks good on the outside.

A Beautiful Marriage, one of high standard and pleasing to my own senses. Yes. This is the marriage I want. A marriage that leaves me with joy, peace and deep pleasure.

And this is the marriage I want for you, too.

As you read these posts, please keep in mind that I am writing from my view as a:
1) Christian
2) Woman

If you are either a man or not a christian, please feel free to continue to read. You may still find many nuggets of truth that speak to your heart and affect your relationships. But be aware that I am writing from that viewpoint. The views expressed here do necessarily represent the views of this author.

I hope you find some ideas and concepts in these posts that speak to your heart. If you do, please let me know. I love hearing from you all. And please share if you know others who might enjoy.

Happy Reading!