Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Words

Sometimes words spill rapidly,
Like water tumbling over each other
To cascade down a waterfall 
With thoughts and ideas to stimulate the mind.

Sometimes words flow smoothly,
Their beauty and eloquence an effortless picture,
Painting meaning and life and inspiration for the reader.

Sometimes words march steadily,
Their tidily joined hands
Bringing clarity and order
To a meaningless jumble
 Of confusing thoughts and ideas.

Sometimes words come haltingly,
Their questions looming
 Larger than answers and
Their meanings hesitant and uncertain,
Searching timidly for affirmation.

Sometimes words must be coaxed forth,
Painfully, painstakingly
Encouraged to drop carefully
From hidden to exposed
Revealing what is bottled inside.

Sometimes words remain unspoken,
Their mystery hidden
From generations to come
Their silence leaving questions unanswered, ideas untried, problems unresolved, stories untold.

Sometimes silence is golden;
Least said, soonest mended.
But a word fitly spoken
Is like apples of gold
In pictures of silver.
Proverbs 25:11


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Life In Pictures

I'm feeling wordless these days, so I'll give you a little
 "life in pictures" post...


One birthday at The House On The Hill,
Jasmine turned 13 last week!


A snowy, wintery view


Snuggles with my snuggler


Doing something special for Valentine's sounded so sweet and fun
 but I was so tired...
At the last minute I mixed up hamburgers and scrounged up crackers n cheese and apple slices. I sent the kiddos to the basement (Amazing ability, right there!!) A string of lights for pretty; red plates, napkins, candy and drink brought home by dad; a conversation heart under each plate...
It was so worth it.



Glasses, like mom


A painting party because they have a sweet big sister who shares her birthday presents and gives lessons.


The big sister is definitely
 enjoying her new 'toys'!


Its ugly, old, yellow Tupperware but those labels were so much fun!


This one will make no sense 
unless you know how much I love cottage cheese on saltines.
When you discover
 that you went to the wrong town 
for your eye Dr appointment,
 the day starts heading down hill. 
When you find, at your last stop, that Aldi has only chocolate pudding and you have to have vanilla,
 buying cottage cheese at Walmart
 and eating it in the parking lot
 is sweet revenge on a day that's reducing you to tears.


A wild and wet party that included washing some dishes


This child has been begging...

Chris and the two oldest are off at the two day Ohio Valley Bible Quiz retreat.
The littlest had a stomach bug yesterday so we've been rattling around
 in this house, just the four of us.
 I mentioned the word "library" this morning so I suppose I will need to do something about it.

A happy weekend to you!


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Birth Story

I never knew building a new house and moving into it were so much like birthing a baby. Saturday night, as I laid in bed at The House On The Hill, trying to relax and fall asleep, it came to me suddenly - I feel like I do after a baby is born!

Not the best pic. This was right after
 the lane got concreted.

Months and months ago we got the "positive pregnancy test" - the deed to a little piece of land. We were going to build a house, and oh! Was it ever exciting to dream. We discussed house plans and got someone to draw up a blueprint. We tweaked it and fine tuned it until, there it was in our hand - the plan for our new house. Reminds me of the day, so many years ago, when we had an ultrasound done and found out our firstborn would be a boy. We practically waltzed out of the doctor's office in wonder and excitement!

Snowmen at The Shack By The Road

Pregnancy is very exciting and thrilling but it is also very long and uncomfortable and trying. So is building a house. I wish there were some way to calculate all the hours we spent working on this house. Hours and hours and more hours. There were tines when it felt like that was all we did and then there were stretches where the house sat waiting patiently for long periods of time.

I remember when we felt those first little wiggles - This was actually happening! First there was a hole in the ground, then the block walls went up and you could actually tell the size and shape.

End of May, 2015

When the walls went up, we really thought we were getting somewhere.




Then came the roof and the shingles and then porches and siding. It was looking good from the outside and some of our neighbors thought we were probably about ready to move in.




They say once the sheetrock is done, you're half way. I believe them.

First piece of sheetrock going up!


As exciting as it was to see sheetrock going up and then getting finished, the amount of work to still be done seemed never ending. Kind of like hitting that point in pregnancy when you're big and uncomfortable and just done. And you still have two more months stretching ahead of you like years.



Finishing a house seems to never end. For the past six months it feels like I have been telling people the same thing over and over, "Yeah, it's getting close!" And three months later, "We're getting there!" Since all but one of my babies have been overdue (one of them by three, unbearable weeks), the comparison is very similar - "Maybe it will be this day!" No. "It could be this day!" No. "I think it's going to be this day!" No. Until you don't even allow yourself to get excited anymore because it's better to expect nothing than to have your hopes dashed yet again.

The trim crew at work

Drop ceiling going in.
One of the coolest things about building and doing it yourself is the skills your children learn. When you're standing at the nursing home singing on a Sunday evening and your child points at the drop ceiling and wonders how long that would have taken, that's just kind of neat! 

And then the day finally, actually, almost unbelievably, comes.

Carpet!!

                     
Four and a half years without closets 
will make this picture really special

We "went into labor" about a month ago when Chris looked at the calendar and said, "We are going to move into the house for your birthday on February 4th." I confess that I quietly timed contractions and didn't get my hopes up.

Cleaning the kitchen

But then it got serious, and there was no looking back. We worked ourselves ragged these last couple of weeks! I shouldn't even say we, because Chris and Isaac put in far more hours than any of the rest of us. When I picked the children up from school Monday, I told them, "Guess what? WE DON'T HAVE TO GO WORK ON THE HOUSE THIS EVENING!!!" They all cheered.

How many, many times did we clean up?? Before...

The past two weeks were excruciating. You know those last hours/minutes of labor? Yeah, like that.

...After

We spent every spare minute finishing the house. Home was just a landing place to dump off our stuff and fall into bed. I'd throw laundry in the washer in the evening and set it to come on at 5:30 in the morning. Then we'd rush everyone off to school and repeat the cycle. Not a very good way to live but it didn't kill any of us, quite.

Packing up the kitchen

Saturday was the crowning moment of all that hard work. What a chaotic, crazy day. In all of my busyness, I nearly forgot that we had to actually - you know - move all this stuff! I was horribly unorganized but we made it. By Saturday night everyone had a bed to sleep in and things were getting reasonably in order.


Laying in bed that night I couldn't go to sleep for the longest time. I'm the same way after a baby. The euphoria and the glow and the overwhelming thankfulness just washed over me in waves and I wanted to sob loudly but my hardworking husband was already snoring and I tried to lay still and not disturb him, so the tears just trickled quietly down my cheeks.


The story wouldn't be complete without adding that the days after moving are also comparable to a birth. The euphoria gives way quickly to reality and adjustments. The overwhelming thankfulness snaps into irritation and tears when you discover you don't have several ingredients you needed for your special, first supper because not everything is moved and you just spoiled the potatoes by using the water that isn't fit to drink yet... I think maybe you should give yourself some time to rest with your feet up even if you don't have a baby to hold as a good excuse. There is still a lot to be moved and even more to get situated and put away. But we are here and it is lovely and I am oh, so very thankful and happy!

My "tree house view" from my dining room

And now I should quit and go take care of my new baby....err....house.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

31 Days: The End

I've reached the end, friends! As usual, writing a series has been such a good thing for me. On the flip side (also as usual), I am so ready to be done.

Perhaps some of you wonder, "How does she find time to write all of this"?? Part of the answer is that we really do find the time to do the things we love. The other part of the answer is that I've been working on this series off and on for about four months and actually had nearly all of my posts written before January 1. Most days this month I've been able to just pull up the next post and edit it, rather than writing a full post every day. Just a little peek behind the scenes there ☺

This month has been busy in more ways than one. As I wrap up this series, we are also trying to wrap up another project -- The House On The Hill! Plans are to have the essentials moved in and be spending our first night there this coming Saturday night. We'll gradually work on moving the rest in the next weeks. Maybe we'll decide we don't need half of it? ☺

Like always, I have so enjoyed your input throughout the month of January. Sometimes I seriously question why I write. I'm just an ordinary woman, with more than my share of flaws, why do I put myself out there and say all these things? My own husband has been using my writing to remind me when I fail, what if I'm making people think I am someone that I'm not? Then I will get one of your encouraging comments or emails and I will be assured that God can use even a cracked, clay vessel.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me this month. This series has been for me, most of all, but I hope all of us have had our thinking stirred enough to put storing up treasure in Heaven into practice in our daily lives. I'd love to hear something that resonated with you this month, if you care to share!

Monday, January 30, 2017

31 Days: Some Practical Questions

Well, it is January 30 and my month of writing about Treasure in Heaven is pretty much done. I love the way God took my focus off of not storing up treasure on earth, to making sure I am storing up treasure in Heaven. Still, the fact remains that money is a master and sometimes it is just plain hard to know how it should be spent.

We're all going to have different areas of weakness when it comes to money and I suppose that is just normal. Last weekend at the ladies retreat I attended, Dorcas Smucker was talking about Christian women and modesty and I jotted down this quote: "You are beautiful and creative, but you are not your own." I think that applies to the way I spend my money, as well. Buying the pair of shoes I don't need or new bedding for a new house may not be wrong, necessarily. The important thing to remember is, I am not my own and how I spend my money reflects who I belong to.

John Piper shares some very practical advice on questions to consider when deciding what nonessentials/luxuries in my life are sinful. You can read/listen to the full commentary here but I will give you the main idea of his five questions to consider.

#1. Is it good for my soul and/or the souls of people around me? Thinking here of the fact that God created us to see and enjoy beauty. Artwork, flowers, etc are, in a sense, nonessential to life but can be good for our souls.

#2. Is it good for efficiency in life ministry? So, for example, maybe you could do without another vehicle but having one would help you better fulfill the ministry God has called you to.

#3. Is it affordable without saying to the world that you love things and are into the pride of possessions? I think this is a big one. Just because I can afford something doesn't mean it's okay. What will it say to those around me?

#4. Is it affordable without replacing or hindering good deeds? This could be taken to extremes because, obviously, every icecream cone I buy is money that could have gone to orphans. But would it have? Am I listening to the Spirit's prompting to give or am I taking care of me first and there's never any leftover?

#5. Is it an occasional, expensive nonessential that would say an extraordinary 'I love you'? Is it good for making special memories? I think things like our family's trip to visit the Little Houses and our Anniversary Trip last year might fall into the first category. They are not things we expect to do every year but they can be special, meaningful occasions. The second one is more in the category of giving the children each a dollar to spend at the Dollar Store or buying everyone icecream cones. Nonessentials, but they make good memories.

These questions resonated with me as some practical things to think about in regard to day to day decisions about spending money. Maybe they will be helpful to some of you as well.

Friday, January 27, 2017

31 Days: And Love Your Neighbor

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27 ESV

I grew up in a community where it was common for people to interact with their neighbors. We attended each other's baby showers and birthday parties and I played with neighborhood children. Looking back, I wonder if some of the camaraderie between us was because, back in the day, we needed each other.

In 1967, when my parents moved from Indiana to a little mission church in Arkansas, the house they lived in didn't have a telephone. If they wanted to make a phone call or if someone needed to reach them with a message, it all went through a neighbor's telephone. They didn't have family close by or a large church family to depend on (nor lots of money to take care of all their needs), so they depended on their neighbors for friendship and help.

I have to confess I have not carried that on very well with my own little family.

I admire people who are involved in their communities. I believe investing in people's lives includes all people. It stirs something deep inside me when I hear about families involved in ministry to their neighbors. Families who move, in order to reach out to inter-city families and children, have my highest respect. We have not felt any specific call in this area at this point but it is something I've been bringing before the Lord and want to have an open hand to.

We probably won't all be called to some big, specific ministry to our neighbors but according to Luke 10, we are called to love them. As Mennonites, I think we often leave our neighbors with the impression that we are somehow better than all of them. I certainly do want my neighbors to see that there is something different about my life but I want that difference to be Jesus, not 'I am on a higher level and better than you'. I think sometimes something as simple as borrowing a cup of sugar or needing to use their telephone might do more for our relationships than we realize. A friendly word to the cashier, a smile or encouraging comment to the mother with the crying baby at Aldi, asking the fellow shopper at Walmart where on earth you would find matches, are all simple ways that reach out and show the people around me I am human, just like them.

There are so many more ways to reach out to our neighbors, I'm sure you could teach me! It's something I want to grow in; something I want to pass along to my children.

One last, interesting thought from John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Actions speak louder than words. Perhaps one of the most important things those of us who are Jesus' disciples can do, is to first of all love each other well.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

31 Days: Ears Pressed To The Spirit

Some people seem to come by this giving/investing thing naturally. Serving others is their delight and noticing needs and ways to fill them seems to just happen without even trying. Maybe things are not always as they seem, but I am not one of those people. I am quite content to stay in my little world, in my little house and do my own little thing.

Have you ever noticed how good God is at giving you chances to practice what you're learning? Let me give you an example.

I have many weeks where I spend every day at home. Last week I had one day out of the whole week that I was just at home. First of all, I had invited two ladies over for tea before I knew that the next day there was a book study starting that I wanted to join. I planned to do both of those activities before I knew my husband was taking off work three days to work on the house and that I would be invited to a quilting the same day as the book study. Then, I was invited to go along to visit a friend and her baby who is recovering from surgery - an all day excursion that I have been wanting to do. Long before any of this came up, I had registered to attend an out of state ladies retreat which meant I would be leaving Friday morning and returning late Saturday evening. And, oh yeah, one of the things I had to get done was working on a writing project about investing in the lives of the household of faith.....

Do I sit down and laugh or cry?!

I have been good at living safe. I'll even admit to taking some pride in my ability to say 'no' and not be so busy, like a lot of women. I can easily convince myself that I am doing this for my family and my sanity. Last week I said 'yes' to all but the quilting invitation. Seriously, how could I do otherwise and write with any conviction?

I am reminded of the story of the widow and her two mites (Mark 12:41-44). The rich people who gave large sums were just doing what came easily. There was no sacrifice involved, they gave a large amount and never even missed it; congratulations. That's a little like me staying home and not being busy, it's what comes natural to me; congratulations. It has less to do with listening to the Spirit and a whole lot more to do with me doing what's easiest.

Obviously, none of us can do it all and just because it's hard doesn't mean it's automatically the thing I probably need to do. But there is something revolutionary about living with my ear pressed to the Spirit and beginning to view life through the lens of Treasure in Heaven. For some, that might mean saying no more often. For me, it might mean saying yes.