Homeschool Evaluations Completed! Then Why do I Feel Like Such a Failure?

The end of this school year was awful!  It was not what I had wanted it to be, and I felt like a failure.

I was homeschooling two elementary students and my special needs daughter with my preschooler always present.  I also had a son catching the bus early to a private school, plus a middle schooler and a high schooler doing cyber at home, plus two adult children going in and out. 

                I love being home with my children and I enjoy homeschooling. I am thrilled to investigate new wonders or to travel to storybook worlds with my children. My joy is complete when they are thrilled right along with me!

                We started in the early summer, so we took our laid-back time.  We enjoyed field trips, reading books, and doing whatever we wanted. How I adored homeschooling then!

                In the fall we settled into a good routine with the Pledge of Allegiance, prayers, Bible reading, flashcards, workbooks, and reading out loud to each other. The children were excited to have new workbooks, and they worked happily beyond what I assigned each day.

                However, as the year went on, we got a little tired.  I should say that I felt exhausted, and the children felt bored.  We took a break from the normal routine for Christmas and studied Swedish customs, food, and Kristen, an American Girl from Sweden.  In early spring I took a week and a half off, hoping that I would regain my joy and strength.

                The problem was life kept on going with all the same errands and doctors’ appointments to attend to.  I love being at home with the children.  I despise giving up that time to get the necessary things done.  Somehow, I had scheduled more appointments than usual right before our evaluations this year.  Other events popped up and accomplishing days toward our required 180 became like feats of great strength.

                “It will be fine.  It always works out,” I kept telling myself. 

Still, I felt so overwhelmed that some moments I could hardly remember the next thing I should be accomplishing. A wild mob of other tasks were on my calendar and on my mind, taunting me ruthlessly.  Every time I had to leave the children with their workbooks to tackle another pressing concern, I felt like a failure.

                “This is not what homeschooling is about!” I would lament. “It is not about workbooks and crossing off days.  It is about a love for learning, a love for God and each other.”

                The love was growing cold.  I was stressed out and my children were noticing.  My children were not excited about school anymore and I was noticing.  Were they learning anything at all?  What about that travel video I wanted to watch with them that we never got to?  Had they remembered all the states in the US, or had they forgotten them already?  Annalise just flew through her 1 grade math, but why couldn’t she remember her addition facts?   Was school doing any good for Ashlyn as she remains at a preschool level year after year, or should I just graduate her already and admit defeat? 

                These questions were plaguing me one morning, about a week away from our evaluations.  I felt like a horrible teacher and a very un-fun mom.  Courage (who was completing 3rd grade) turned to me and said, “You’re the best mom ever!”

                He had been saying this a lot lately.  He had even taken up the habit of making it a song, “You’re the best mom ever!”  He would sing out raucous notes while bounding through the house.  I hadn’t given it much thought other than, “How am I supposed to think around here?”

                But just then I stopped and let the moment sink into me.  Courage truly thought I was the best mom ever.  He was sitting next to me smiling and hugging me ferociously, and I finally just relaxed and received it.

                I felt the Holy spirit Remind me, “You are not a failure.  Your children love you. And they love me. What could be more important than that?”

                As I began compiling all the homeschool logs and workbooks and writings and field trip pictures, I began to remember the joy again.

The Joy of exploring Virginia for the first time on vacation.

The joy of butterflies and kids’ games in the sunshine at Paulus Orchard.

The joy of listening to Dr. Dolittle on CD for the first time, and then the second, third, fourth….

The joy of learning about the ocean and then taking our very first family beach day.

The joy of celebrating Santa Lucia day with our own Annalise as Santa Lucia.

                I was still feeling nervous about the evaluation.  We really hadn’t accomplished very much in my mind.  No large projects or epic masterpieces.  But as our sweet, wonderful evaluator looked over our logs she said, “My, you have been busy this year, haven’t you?”

                It was a busy year!  But only what was done in love had any value.  As I look back, I can say that MOST was love.  Perhaps next year ALL can be love and joy! 

                I figure I have a month to soak in summer and God’s loving kindness before I need to plan and begin again.  Perhaps I will feel so refreshed that I will finally be able to write that article that was alive and active in me two years, “I was a Homeschool Dropout, what I learned that allowed me to begin again with joy.”

                Blessings to all you homeschool moms!  Your love and faith are never in vain, and you are not a failure!

25th Anniversary and Beach Adventures!

We celebrated 25 years of marriage in August 2021.  Our oldest daughter, Areli, with the help of her siblings, planned a surprise party for us. I was amazed by how they planned, cleaned, decorated, made a superb chocolate raspberry cake, arranged for food, and created a fun diversion to keep us out of the house (shopping at TJ Max).

We were so blessed by our friends, family, and neighbors!

Chris and I had planned for a beach getaway for our 25th ,but decided that October would be the best time to go.  The weekend we had chosen months before became the most beautiful weekend of the entire year!  Perfect sunny weather with a nice breeze, not too hot or too cold. 

                It was the best getaway yet!  We had learned the lessons of past vacations.  In Cape May last year we learned to revel in His goodness and enjoy the good life everyday of our lives as in Ps.128.  In Virginia this year, we learned to be alert and awake, for although the enemy is like a lion looking for someone to devour, we will not live in fear for we have overcome the evil one!

This time we were able to stay alert and awake while enjoying the gifts of God in our lives to the fullest!

                Our first stop was Dewey Beach.  The town was small and quiet and there was no boardwalk.

Dewey was my favorite beach of the trip because of the nice, soft sand and the peaceful atmosphere.

We sat down to enjoy the sun and surf and were immediately thrilled by a show of dolphins jumping among the waves.

                We continued to drive and stopped at Delaware Seashore State Park.  We thought we would scout it out for a future camping trip.  This state park was not what we were looking for, being just a large parking lot full of campers.  We didn’t even get out to explore the seashore. Apparently, Delaware charges a day rate to enter their state parks, even though there was no attendant present.

                We drove on to Bethany. 

Bethany was my favorite town: lovely neighborhoods with wooded lots, a beautiful downtown with flowers and shops.

The boardwalk was very short and did not offer a view of the beach.  The beach was lovely. We got into a conversation with a couple who has lived in Bethany for years and they love it!

                We stopped briefly at Fenwick Island State Park.  It was lovely but not that different from the other beaches we had seen that day.  Because Delaware wanted us to pay to be there, we continued on to our destination, Ocean City, MD.

                We had rented a condo on the bay side of North Ocean City.  We were right up to the water, and it was quiet and peaceful.  We enjoyed our supper out on the balcony and watched the sun set.

                We got up early and relished the sunrise on the beach. I really like the beach at Ocean City, MD. It is so wide and so long. In the off season there is plenty of room to spread out. 

                The city is packed full of high rises and every square inch seems to be developed for making money from tourists.  I am sure it is a zoo in the summer with driving and parking being an issue. That would explain why the major stores repeat themselves every few blocks, most visitors wanting to walk from their rental to the beach. In October we had no issues and enjoyed the large city.

We spent many relaxing and rejuvenating hours on the beach. I had been looking forward to basking in the sun while reading a good book for months! Chris did suffer from boredom after a while and wished that the boys had come with us, so he had someone to throw football with.

                We spent many hours shopping for souvenirs, one for each child. I was sad when we exited no-sales-tax Delaware but was pleased to find that Maryland had cheaper prices.  And if we couldn’t find the perfect clearance t-shirt in size 8 and XL, we just had to drive a few blocks to the next shop. 

                We walked most of the boardwalk.  I loved seeing the display put on by a kite club.  I loved the playgrounds and the older buildings with history.  Again, the shops seemed to repeat themselves every few blocks.  All the restaurants were bars or grills, reinforcing the fact that this is NOT a dry town.  It is not a quiet town either.  Many shops would be blaring loud music, competing with music from another shop farther down, competing with live music from the Sun Fest at the end of the boardwalk.  It still was lovely!

                On our way home we stopped at Rehoboth.  It was a very beautiful town with charming rental homes in abundance. It wasn’t as small and quaint as Bethany but had much more of a small-town feel than Ocean City.  The boardwalk looked much classier. The beach was beautiful, and I walked up and down, looking for shells and enjoying the sun. I had to leave Chris sitting in a small, shaded gazebo because his feet and ankles had gotten as red as a lobster.  I couldn’t stay very long without him. 

Just as we were about to leave, I remembered the high socks I had in my suitcase. Chris put them on with his sandals, so he could walk the next beach with me.  Very Sexy! I was excited to check out Broadkill Beach which was highly recommended.  Once we got there it was clear that the only beach access was through renting a home on the beach.  We continued until we reached Beach Plum Island State Park.  It is on a huge Nature Reserve and rather secluded.  As soon as I got out of the car, I got a painful fly bite.  The flies continued to munch on me as we trudged to the beach and sat down to have a picnic lunch.  The beach was littered with trash and debris, the sand hard and grayish. 

Beach Plum Island won the prize for the ugliest beach of the trip! 

It was on the bay so the waves were gentle, but I missed the sound of the ocean waves.  I could look to my left and see Broadkill Beach, perfect for children because of the small waves and privacy.  I wondered if the flies were as bad there and decided that it would not be on my list to visit next time.  Those vicious flies finally drove me to finish my lunch in the car as we made our way back home.

                It had been a wonderful adventure together, and we were in awe of God’s goodness.

                Just two weeks later the forecast was calling for an 80-degree day. Wouldn’t it be fun to take the children to the beach?  My original plan was to just take my homeschoolers.  All the other children wanted to come, so they were able to take an educational trip and miss school. Chris couldn’t be left out so he took off work. 

My three oldest had to work, but the rest of us were really going to do it!  Take a day trip to the beach! 

We had only ever attempted that once in the past, back in 2008 when we were visiting family in Florida.  Much packing, preparation, and driving had led to 20 minutes on the beach. Quickly a thunderstorm blew in with torrents of rain and lighting.  We ended up back in the van, soaked through and covered with sand.

                This time we decided on Ocean City, NJ and listened to Lamplighter Theater all the way to 5th street.  We found free parking in the lot there and were able to enter the boardwalk at 6th street where there were large public restrooms. 

                This beach was very different from the others: narrower and the sand was darker grey and not very fluffy. So many shells!  Most were broken but still fun to look through.  The older children made straight for the waves and enjoyed themselves in the water.  The sand on the bottom was covered with broken shells that hurt their feet.  The younger ones began by building in the sand but ended up in the water as well. 

                The boardwalk was very nice: family friendly without any alcohol at all.  We explored a fudge and taffy shop before we headed back to the parking lot for a long ride home and more audiobooks.  The younger children had sand everywhere, even after spraying off and wiping down.  We gave showers at 10pm and all went to bed happy. 

                God’s goodness was hunting us down again! Chris was able to play football on the beach with his boys, and we all captured a bit of summer in the middle of October!

20 Reasons Why 2020 Has Been My Best Year Yet

We want to say, “Good riddance!” to 2020, toss it in the dumpster and set it ablaze. We would like to turn our backs and walk into the new year of 2021.  If we do that, we will lose all the treasures hidden in darkness, all the lessons learned from challenge, all the wisdom gained in hardship, all the promises fulfilled in ways we didn’t expect.  At the beginning of 2020, God was telling us that it would be a Good and Blessed New Year, and it really has been! All His words and prophecies were true.  In fact, it has been our best year yet.

I hesitated to write this article, because I didn’t want to make any of my readers feel bad if they didn’t have a year as wonderful as mine.  But it is simply a matter of perspective.  I think that God would like all of us to concentrate on His blessings rather than the trials. If I made a list of all my heartaches, fears, doubts, and hard times in 2020, you would most certainly pity me and be glad you didn’t have my life.  Yet in every life, the blessings and the trials dwell side by side. And the trials actually turn into blessings if we let God have His way.

I used to live in a state of perpetual self-pity.  I spent a lot of time feeling sick and tired and grumpy, and every new hardship was confirmation that I was a victim.  I didn’t realize that I had taken on an orphan identity that was in opposition to God and the Bible.  It just felt like normal life, and normal life was incredibly hard!

It took years for God to renew my mind, peel back the layers, and reveal my victim perspective.  A victim mindset produces victim thoughts and victim thoughts produce victim decisions.  Victim decisions would lead me away from God’s goodness and into deeper darkness.  I didn’t need a change of circumstance, I needed a change in perspective.  I was an eagle living in the dirt, but God has taught me how to fly.

I do sometimes forget to fly.  So I proclaim over myself, “I pursued my enemies, and I did not turn back until they were destroyed (Ps 18:37)!  Fear, you have no hold on me!  Victim spirit, orphan spirit, you have no place in me!  I am wonderfully well and blessed and highly favored of the Lord.  I am his favorite daughter!  He has put a crown on my head…” and on and on until I have confessed every good scripture that I can think of.

If you are beholding the LORD, then you will go from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18).  Each year will be better than the last because you are drawing nearer to Him and He is drawing nearer to you!

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp really helped me change my thought patterns and grow the joy center of my brain. I started keeping a journal of all that I was thankful for, writing a few things each day.  At first it took some thought, but pretty soon the blessings would come to my mind faster than I could write or keep track of.  I got to one thousand and beyond with no trouble.  Now I am in the habit of falling asleep thanking God and waking up thanking God.  Some days I must force myself to do it just to push out the discouraging thoughts, but most days it flows naturally.

I decided to write down all the amazing things God had done for us in 2020.  Then Chris reminded me of additional blessings that I had forgotten about.  We talked about it as a family, and the children remembered even more.  It really was the best year yet!

You don’t even have to read my list.  The main point is for you to compile your own.  It may take days or weeks, talking to family and friends, and reviewing journals and photos, but it is worth the effort. It may just take you from the valley to the clouds and beyond.

Why 2020 has been My Best Year Yet

  1. I have been singing truth over myself every morning. I have been filled with more confidence and boldness and spent less time in discouragement and lies.
  2. I have been waiting on the Lord almost every morning and there is nothing better than hearing His voice.
  3. I have renewed strength and energy – not as tired or overwhelmed.
  4. I have taken a walk almost every morning and I have never been so immersed in the beauty of my own neighborhood in every season.
  5. I found renewed joy in homeschooling. The children got better nutrition and better spiritual discipleship since their schools closed.
  6. Two of my adult children have been home for most of the year.  They helped me without being asked and I loved their company.
  7. We spent a week in the best vacation rental we have ever had.
  8. Chris and I fulfilled our 24 year desire to return to Cape May.
  9. We were able to save money in many different ways.
  10. My daughter Ashlyn had a better-than-expected experience during and after spinal fusion surgery.
  11. No sickness in our home except colds.
  12. My boys have wanted to go to church.
  13. I was able to start making kefir and taking supplements again.
  14. After living many years with a leaky roof, we were able to get a new roof with no debt.
  15. I hiked Hawk Rock with the family.  I hadn’t done it in 27 years. It was definitely challenging but it felt easier than when I was in my teens!
  16. We finally got a membership to the State museum and used it many times.  My dad used to work at the museum, and it was there that I spent many happy childhood days.
  17. On our porch we had yellow mums for autumn and festive lights for Christmas for the first time.
  18. We grew closer to a wonderful group of friends and have never felt more thankful to be able to spend time with them.
  19.  I have never been more excited to attend church! I have watched many church leaders rise up in a new boldness. I have witnessed the Ekklesia work together like never before.
  20. I have lived through an amazing year that history will look back on as the beginning of the Second Revolutionary/Civil War, a precursor to the Third Great Awakening when America turned back to God!

The PA Grand Canyon, Family History, and Bald Eagles: 2019 Family Vacation

It was that time of year again. Family vacation time!  This year I had rented a place for an entire week plus a day.  We hadn’t been able to do that since 2011.  I spent months searching for the perfect house, making lists and comparing pros and cons.  I interviewed each child and found that they didn’t care as much about the house as they did about the land. 

They wanted to be far enough away from other people that they could shoot BB guns and have camp fires.

                We finally settled on a farmhouse in Liberty, PA.  It had 6 bedrooms and 130 acres.  I was hoping it would provide the perfect peaceful retreat.

                The week preceding our vacation, Chris had transferred to a new building at work.  He is a UPS driver, and they had moved a lot of the routes to this new building.  His 10 minute commute became 30.  Not too bad especially since he had gotten his own regular route for the first time since he started 4 years ago.  However, the days proved to be much longer, threatening to overtake his 14 hour limit.

                “Did I tell you I saw an eagle at work the other day?” he asked me at the end of the very long week. “It was right there, flying over the Target parking lot.”

                I marveled at that!  Chris had gotten a very busy route in the heart of retail businesses.  Not a place you would expect to see an eagle.  Eagle sightings had become a sign of God encounters to me.  I have written about it in many articles starting with A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle and continuing with Part 2, This is a New Season, and A Surprise Visit from my Marine.  Wow! I really have seen a lot of eagles! I took this fresh eagle sighting as a sign that this new position for Chris was part of God’s plan. 

Though it seemed that it would require endurance and long hours, God would meet him there.

                I was also fully expecting God to encounter us on our vacation, and I was not disappointed!

Saturday

                It sure took a long time to get 10 people packed up and ready to go.  We filled a rental trailer with all of our essentials.  Half of it was food!  By the time we were ready for the long drive, the rain had cleared away.  The journey toward northern Pennsylvania was beautiful, the golden sun playing on the autumn leaves, weaving in and out of the rolling hills.  We listened to the CDs I had checked out of the library, The Penderwicks in Spring. It was the fourth book in the series that we had come to adore, and it seemed just perfect for our family right now.  The oldest girl was away at college (just as our oldest daughter is away at missionary school), the neighbor boy was away in the army (as our oldest boy is away in the Marines) and the other Penderwicks were of many different ages, just as our children are.

                We finally arrived!  It was quite remote and the land was beautiful.  The house was very interesting with an old, quirky charm.  Everyone got unpacked in their new rooms.  Then we cooked hotdogs and s’mores over the fire outside. Such a lovely evening.

Sunday

                Chris drove most of the children to the PA Lumber Museum and they enjoyed the antique vendors, the demonstrations, and the exhibits. 

Chris purchased a book published in 1901 titled The Life of William McKinely.  Many times in the next week I would see Cadin enjoying the solitude of his own room and reading this book. 

Since the Lumber Museum wasn’t handicap accessible, I stayed home with Ashlyn and Aria.  They were so sweet and we spent a happy morning outside in the sunshine.

                That evening Chris grilled hamburgers and we all ate outside.  It was cold!  Chris decided to zip Aria into his jacket.  He still was able pass the football with his boys.

I wanted to hold these family moments forever in my memory!

Monday

                We drove to the Lenard Harrison State Park.  They had a beautiful overlook to view the PA Grand Canyon. 

Soon however, we encountered stairs and Ashlyn could go no further.  We found an employee who showed us on a map the two Handicap Accessible trails.  We stopped for lunch first at the playground.

                Then we drove to the Pine Creek Trail which was at the bottom of the canyon.  The path was wide and flat, good for bikers and horses.  It was gorgeous!  We saw a covered wagon tour pass by.

                We continued the adventure by driving to the other side of the gorge to access the Barbour Rock Trail.  Most of the children were tired of walking and just wanted to stay in the van. 

                “We came this far, I am going to walk to the vista!” I announced.

                Chris came with me along with three of the children.  Chai stayed with the rest in the van.  It was only .7 miles to the Vista and what a lovely walk.  All of a sudden we came upon the vista and it was breath taking. 

I wanted to linger there just a little longer than the boys would have liked.  My patience was rewarded as Chris and I got to see a large bird circling over the gorge.  When the sunlight flashed on the white tail feathers, I knew we had seen a bald eagle! 

Oh to be an eagle and to soar over such a sight!

                The entire day felt like a gift from a loving Father.

Tuesday

                We took the morning and drove to Mansfield, my father’s hometown.  First we visited the house where he had grown up.

The last time I had been there was for my father’s internment in 2013.  The home had looked small and barren, stripped of the magic it had possessed when I was a child.  The current owners must have poured a lot of love into the property, because it looked so charming again.  What relief that brought me!

                Right down the street was Oakwood Cemetery.  I couldn’t remember where the family grave-site was, so we just got out and started looking.  After a few minutes I caught sight of two stones decorated with flowers and birds, the prettiest in the cemetery.  They belonged to my Grandmother and Grandfather! 

And right behind them was my Dad’s and a stone for my mom, ready for her but not yet needed (thank goodness!)  As a child, I had always been very bored when my relatives took me to pay respects in a cemetery.  Now it was a very meaningful part of my family history.

                We drove to the History Center on Main St. and were greeted by the woman who runs it.  She talked to us and showed us around. 

She showed me a picture of my Dad in her Mansfield High School display.  She remembered him!  She said that if I donated something of his, she would put it in her display.  I loved seeing the history of the small town and felt honored that my Dad had been a part of it.  The children mostly just loved the little dog Amos who considered the museum his home away from home.

                We ate lunch at a park that had a swing just perfect for Ashlyn.  It sat in the shadow of Mansfield University where my grandfather had been a professor.  Grandmother and Grandfather had passed away when I was still in elementary school.  Before they died, we would travel to Mansfield only once or twice a year.  We always came for Thanksgiving, and it was always cold, wet, and dreary. 

But on this sunny fall day as I watched my children play at the park, my view of Mansfield was being redeemed.  It was a gorgeous little town!  I felt the sunshine make its way into my memories and brighten up my view of my father’s side of the family.

Wednesday

                Being the first rainy day, we decided to stay at the farmhouse.  There were so many books and games in the library and a large collection of toys and coloring materials in the loft room. 

As Chris was reading about the nearby Penn Wells hotel, he decided that he should take me there on a date that night.  I was actually hoping to return, since it had been the place that my grandparents would take us for Thanksgiving once Grandmother decided that she was too old to cook.

                We drove through the hills and low lying clouds to get to the charming town of Wellsboro.  I recognized so much about the Penn Wells, and I enjoyed being there again.  Memories of my grandparents warmed my heart; Grandmother asking me to sit by her at the meal because she wanted to get to know me better, Grandfather insisting that I turn in the $2.75 in quarters that I had found in one of the payphones in the lobby. 

                After we finished the meal, we walked up and down the main street and took in the display windows of all the little shops.  Dark had fallen and nothing was open, but it was still fun!

Thursday

                The children were so anxious to get out of the house and use some of their spending money, that Chris took most of them to Wellsboro that morning.  I stayed home again with the girls and enjoyed the relative quiet of the house.

                That evening we took a walk and gathered wild flowers for the table.  We listened to Frank Sinatra on the CD player while we made supper.

Friday

                The children had taken every opportunity this week to play outside and explore the woods, the fields, and the 5 tree stands.  They had conducted target practice with BB guns. They had honed their skill with the bow and arrows.  They waged laser tag battles.  This day they decided to craft a tepee/ wigwam!

Saturday

                The week had come to an end.  We had to get packed up and set all things back in their proper places; no small feat with many small hands constantly grabbing and relocating!  We pulled away at 11 am and told the children that we had two surprises for them.  The first came after an hour of driving.  We stopped at the Country Cupboard to partake of their lunch buffet. This was a special place because we had spent two Thanksgivings there.  I groaned inwardly when I saw that most of my children’s idea of enjoying an all-you-can-eat-buffet meant getting a plate of rolls and mac and cheese followed by two plates of dessert.  Finally we issued the proclamation: a meat and a vegetable must be eaten before dessert is consumed.

                After the meal we had fun walking around their large greenhouse and gift shop. The second surprise was just 20 minutes away. We drove along the river to find our way to the Joseph Priestley House.  I looked up and saw two large birds circling directly above the street. 

A pair of bald eagles!   

                We arrived at the lovely house built in the 1700s.  A tour guide was just starting the tour, and we learned all about Joseph Priestley.  He is famous now for discovering oxygen.  He also discovered many other gases and created carbonated water.  First and foremost he was a man of faith and believed that science both confirmed and validated his faith.

                After we departed the historic site, all that was left to do was drive home.  Such a stunning drive!  I pondered why God had allowed me to see three eagles on this trip. What was His message to me?  I think I simply saw them because I was always watching for them.  I expected to see them.  Most of the rest of the family hadn’t spotted them because they just weren’t looking. 

I think that God encounters are around us all the time, we just need the eyes to recognize them! 

And of course, God is just so very, very GOOD!

The Glorious Now

It was a lovely Sunday in August.  A perfect day!  It felt like the kind of day that would be wasted if not spent out of doors.  We decided to be spontaneous and head out for a picnic at Gifford Pinchot State Park rather than go to church. 

It is so hard to be spontaneous with 8 children!  We had to think about clothes and swim suits and towels, diaper bags and nursing pillows and bibs, strollers and chairs and food.  The children were all excited to help, so the preparations went quickly.  Probably the biggest hurdle was myself.  My very non-spontaneous self.  I fretted about this and that, what I would wear that I wouldn’t feel ugly in at the “beach”, what I would feed the baby, how much of the day we had already wasted by sleeping in and taking our time. 

Chris took me and looked me in the eyes, “You don’t need to stress.  Just enjoy this day.”

I was determined to put all worries out of my mind and sincerely try.

The drive felt incredibly long because of closed roads, a crying baby, and a screaming teenage girl (who acts more like a three year old with her special needs).  Chris and I decided to laugh through it, hoping it wasn’t an indication of what to expect on this outing.

The park was beautiful!  We found a half circle of picnic tables under a tree and staked our claim.  Then we went down to the lake to watch the children swim in the murky water.  They had a wonderful time!  I stuck my feet in but didn’t relish the slimy feeling of the bottom.  We took a break and ate our lunch.  Everyone was still happy, so we went back to the water. This time we took camping chairs and sat under the shade of a tree.

I looked out on the lake, full of joyful children. The sounds of laughter and splashing floated through the air. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. The trees surrounding the lake were beautiful. 

A cool breeze kissed my face, and I felt the presence of God.

“He is right here, right now,” I thought to myself. “He is filling me, surrounding me.”

Then it struck me – THIS IS IT! 

This is what I had been longing for all spring and summer.  I had hoped for a getaway to the ocean.  True, this was no ocean with pounding waves and sandy beaches. There was only a small cement embankment to separate the grass from the water. But it was perfect! 

THIS WAS IT!

This was the rest.

This was the vacation I had been envisioning, praying for, hoping would come.  I didn’t have to wait for a perfect moment in the future.  I had my heart’s desire RIGHT NOW! I wanted to just sit in the peace, to enjoy it as long as I could. I sent up a quick prayer that none of my children would get hurt and come running to me with shrieks and bloody appendages.  A few more minutes passed and the peace remained.  The park was crowded with people on such a lovely day, but everyone was friendly and having fun.

Then a new group arrived and set up a very large speaker which began blasting hip-hop music.  “No big deal, it is still a perfect day,” I tried to tell myself even as my annoyance grew.

“Why do these people think that everyone here wants to listen to their music,” I thought to myself. “I would be so embarrassed to intrude on everyone’s gorgeous day like that!”

Just then a new sound came through the speaker. A ukulele.  The sweet and soothing ukulele version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” which had always been a favorite of mine.  It brings the joy of dreaming and the contentment of dreams come true.  In a season of broken dreams, I had avoided the song, as it had become very melancholy to me. 

But today it was the finishing touch on this “dream come true moment” that God had orchestrated for me.

No, I wasn’t at the beach.  I didn’t have all my goals accomplished or all of my concerns taken care of.  It was simply…

THE GLORIOUS NOW!

I was present.

I was content.

I was deeply blessed.

He Will Satisfy My Desires with Good Things

I looked up from cooking in the kitchen and caught a glimpse of something that made my heart swell with an unfamiliar joy.  What was I feeling?  A thrill? A wave of delight?  It happened a few more times that day as I gazed across my home to see the view past the dining room, past the sitting room, and through the large front window to the porch. This strange sensation reminded me of Is 60:5 (NIV), “Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy…”

                What was causing this unexpected joy?  I could see four hanging baskets overflowing with pink and yellow flowers on my porch.  MY PORCH!! I had dreamed of having hanging baskets for as long as we had had a porch.  Every spring I thought, “This might just be the year!”  Then every spring reality hit.  Food was more important that hanging baskets, which at their cheapest were $20 a pop.  Yet now I was beholding them in all their horticultural glory, and they made me so happy!

                It seemed rather silly to get so excited about plants. I had just seen them at Sharp Shopper, a little past their prime and disheveled.  I got the lot of them for $24.  Once we hung them up outside, they had bloomed all over again.  It almost felt like a miracle. 

Then I remembered something I had written in my journal last year.  I looked it up and found an entry from 2/2/18.  I had been feeling horrible for about a month and a half with my pregnancy.  It had been just long enough to convince me that I would always feel this way and would never enjoy life again.  I would sit on the sofa trying to be still, taking peaceful cleansing breaths to keep the nausea away.  I found that it helped to close my eyes and picture things that made me happy.  I pictured Chris and me on a Baby-moon to Cape May, sun on our faces, and sand in our toes. 

I also pictured our front yard, landscaped and beautiful.  There would be a raised bed in front of the porch where I could plant veggies and herbs.  There would be planters overflowing with flowers on the concrete blocks next to the steps up to the porch. More planters would grace either side of our lovely front door.  Most importantly there would be hanging baskets all around the porch.  Just thinking of springtime and the beauty and aroma of flowers made me feel better. In fact, I drew a picture of it in my journal and wrote, “Flowers are a sign of prosperity to me, to have the extra time and money to have flowers.” I didn’t expect to see this dream realized for a few years yet.  But it helped me to imagine.

                That is why I felt my heart thrill and rejoice when I saw those flowers hanging outside.  It was a desired fulfilled, a dream realized, a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring prosperity into my life before I thought that He would.

After coming out of a season of disappointment, over and over again disappointment, the thrill that went through my heart felt foreign. I almost wanted to dismiss it as unimportant.  No need to get crazy and all bent out of shape over flowers!  I didn’t want to rush in and think that all my desires would be fulfilled.  I didn’t want to really start to dream very much again.

                Thankfully God showed me scriptures that allowed me to savor this joy, rather than toss it aside. One had been up on my mirror for months.

Ps 103:5 “…who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Others He gave me in the next week.

Pr. 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desired fulfilled is a tree of life.

Pr. 13:19 A desire realized is sweet to the soul…

                I sat down and wrote down all my desires that had been fulfilled lately. I came up with 14 of them.  Things I had been thinking about, researching, longing for, and praying for. 

                FOURTEEN OF MY DESIRES HAD BEEN FULFILLED!

Just to look at them all in a list lifted my spirit and caused me to praise God.  I was no longer in a season of disappointment. 

I was in a season of desires and promises being fulfilled.

                Yet I almost MISSED IT!  I was so used to being disappointed that it was easy to continue to be.  If I thought of all the challenges that lay ahead, all the prayers that had not yet been answered, I would feel like a victim.  If I thought of my dream journal sitting up in my closet for over 4 years, untouched because I didn’t want to open old wounds, I felt tired and washed out.  Dreaming like that was for the young who have extra time and energy to invest in their dreams. I need to just be happy with my lot and make it through the day.

                NO WAIT! God said that He is satisfying my desires so that my youth is being renewed!

                I am not a victim!

                I am not in a season of disappointment!

                I can look at my world with eyes wide open.  When I see the flowers overflowing – I can let my heart thrill!

                When I see the butterflies and the hummingbirds flock to the beauty – I can be radiant!

I know that God cares about what we care about.  I know that He loves beauty. I know He delights to see His children rejoice because they have received their heart’s desire. I love it when I can give my children a gift that awakens wonder and excitement in them. How much more does God feel that way?

                If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He WILL give us the desires of our hearts.  He is doing it right now, every day.  Let’s open our eyes and notice it.  Let’s make a big fuss over it! Let’s put a smile on our Father’s face when we realize how very good He is!

A Master Bedroom Makeover

This picture was taken in December of 2016.

That is when I thought that a master bedroom makeover was imminent. We had moved into our lovely older home in October of 2007. We had 6 children, the youngest being 6 weeks old. We just put together our master bedroom with whatever we had. It definitely wasn’t the decor that I would have chosen. It really wasn’t even a master bedroom. It was one of the smaller rooms in the house, but we chose it because it had a balcony. We didn’t want any of the children to accidentally get out onto the balcony…EVER!

I would day dream about how we would make our room a peaceful oasis. It wouldn’t cost very much money, and it would be so much fun. Month after month, year after year, other things would take up our time, money, and creative energy. We had two more baby boys, both born in this bedroom. We shared the small space with a collection of bassinets and cribs.

In 2015 we had a baby girl. Eventually she moved out of our room and into a room with her brothers. Our master bedroom was cribless! I began to dream of redecorating again. By December of 2016, we thought we were ready! The light blue paint had almost faded to grey, and it was peeling off the walls. Upon closer inspection, Chris noticed that there was quite a bit of water damage on one of the walls. The wall had an outside wall on the other side. It turns out the the chimney was leaking water into our house and we needed to get a chimney liner.

A Chimney liner: the most unsatisfying home improvement expense ever!!!

I had to wait a bit longer for my master bedroom makeover. Slowly over the next two years we found other items to put into our room like a beautiful dresser from Craigslist. My daughter made me gorgeous canvases from photos taken on her trip to Australia.

I was able to get some new bedspreads. A lighter one for the summer months and a duvet cover for our down comforter. Chris likes our room as frigid as possible, but I don’t mind in the winter, as long as I am snuggled under the down comforter.

I also brought a small love seat into our room. Friends of ours gave it to us when they were moving our of state. (Thank you Wander family!) It had been in the boys room, in the loft and then finally in the basement. I thought it was a goner when the furnace pipes started spurting water everywhere and it got completely soaked. Yet it dried out and still had the pleasant smell of dill emanating from it. I think it is a miracle love seat, perfect for quiet times with Jesus and nursing times with babies. All it needed was a blue slip cover!

In 2018 we had another baby girl. There was another bassinet in our room, but it was a joy! Chris and I needed a new mattress badly. We found ourselves rolling into the center of the bed and waking up terribly sore. Finally by February of 2019 we were able to trade in our 22 year mattress for a new king-sized one.

A new King-Sized Mattress: one of the most satisfying home improvement expenses ever!

Chris decided that he couldn’t put a new bed into our room with the awful paint. So he asked me to pick a paint color and soon, “Sunny Veranda” was gracing our walls.

A few months later Chris took an original door from our garage and crafted a headboard for me.

I love it more than any headboard I have ever seen!

I feel like I have an official bedroom now!

I wanted to decorate our room in a beach theme because God had spoken to me so clearly about the Sky and the Ocean before, during, and after our 21st honeymoon at the beach. The beach is where I am reminded to surrender to the God of the wind and waves so He can carry me.

There are pictures from Areli’s trip to Australia,

Areli’s trip to Cyprus,

and our trip to Ocean City Maryland.

I love each little detail because it means something to me. This old box came with our house and is a perfect place for my books. Now I just need to find one for Chris’ side of the bed.

The shells belong to Areli, which I gave to her, which my Grammy gave to me, which Grammy got when her mom and step-dad lived in Florida.

Whenever I lay in this bed and look up at the lovely white ceiling fan, I feel like I am on vacation. I am surrounded by sunny weather and beaches.

What could be more relaxing than that!

And God is telling me to dream again.

To look into my future with His vision and see the endless possibilities.

To tell disappointment that “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD!”

To hold my dreams dearly but not tightly.

To dream but not make dreams my master.

To dream while praising the Author of my dreams.

What better place to do all of those things than in my new Master Bedroom?!

Thank you Chris for making my oasis possible! I am looking forward to relaxing at the beach with you!

Her Room Looks Empty

Her room looks empty.  Her dresser is bare.  Her bags are packed.

This is happening.  My firstborn is leaving home.  It isn’t her first adventure, but it is her longest so far.  Seeking God and helping others is her mission, taking photos along the way.

                How can I say goodbye to my right arm, the joy of my heart, and my best girlfriend?  I fear I will be overcome with testosterone and daily tasks without her.

  But I know that it is her time to fly. 

God’s timing is perfect, and His grace is sufficient for me.  She graduated two years ago, an amazing student.  She stayed to save money and help me through my hardest pregnancy and recovery yet. 

                She is a second mother to the others.  She diapered them, fed them, washed them, dressed them, educated them, had fun with them, and loved them.  They are the children they are today because of her.  I am a sane and happy mother of 10 because of her. She had a job and was a leader at youth group.  Many have been blessed by her! 

                “What will we ever do without her?”  my heart keeps asking.  “How will I bare the emptiness?”

                The truth is, we are not becoming smaller as a family, we are expanding.

We are not losing Areli, we are going to be seeing a whole new world through her eyes.  Her room won’t be empty!  Two little girls will being filling the space with feminine joy and enthusiasm soon.  And what a good change it will be.  Four year old Annalise is still in a crib in her brother’s room.  10 month old Aria will be a wonderful roommate now that she sleeps like an angel.

All the children will take a step up and grow in maturity. They will learn new skills and take on new jobs.

                Areli will be going to the same missionary school that I attended just a brief 25 years ago.

  25 means double grace, and there is double grace on her life.

To live…to love…to learn…to grow…to embrace each moment!  Our hearts are going with her, and our prayers are surrounding her. 

 One of her walls looked awfully bare. So I pinned up some photos of Areli and the family. Aria will be able to lay on her new changing table and see that beautiful smile everyday. 

We are so proud of you Areli!  It won’t be long until we are all together again.

Ashlyn Update: One Year after Surgery

Last year Ashlyn had a Posterior Medial Release done on her left foot and a Triple Arthrodesis on her right foot at Hershey Medical Center.  This was to correct a progressive club foot deformity that wasn’t present when she was a baby but by age 13 had taken her ability to walk.  I wrote about all the details in, “Prayer Warriors Needed”.  Thank you to everyone who prayed for her!!!  Dr. Sorenson was happy with the results.

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He had originally said she would be in the hospital for 3 days post-op.  I was prepared to stay with her and somehow position my very pregnant self on a reclining chair for three torturous nights.

Ashlyn was doing so well after the surgery that they allowed her to go home the SAME DAY!  What a relief!  With some strong pain meds, she slept fairly well.  The biggest hassle was that she was supposed to sleep on her back with her feet elevated.  She had never slept on her back in her life, and she was very grumpy about it.  Finally after several days, I called the doctor, and he said it would be fine for her to sleep on her stomach with her knees bent and feet up on pillows.

AHHHH!!  Peaceful nights once again.  She did wonderful during the day resting on the love seat.

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It was a little difficult for her to crawl around the house and use the toilet, but she did it with help from older siblings.  She healed quickly and her pain was not too bad.  We stopped using the medication before the prescription ran out.  The surgery and recovery were much easier than I had anticipated.  Her teachers at school gladly worked around her casts.

Right before school let out she graduated to big black boots.  She still wasn’t weight bearing, but was healing nicely.

Finally in August she was fitted for new orthotic braces that would allow her to walk.  Slowly but surely she began to stand and walk again!  Now she walks at school with a walker all the time, and walks at home on her walking track.

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She grew a lot in the year that she couldn’t walk.  Her scoliosis has increased to a 70% curvature which is very significant.  She is no longer able to totally straighten up, which makes walking hard.  Also her knees buckle inward.

She has also been riding her bike with a little help.  When she first received the bike some 4 or 5 years ago, she was terrified of it and would scream through most of her ride.  Now she loves it and asks to ride often!

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Her feet look much better than they did before.  As you can see, they still do not rest flat on the floor.

BEFORE                                                AFTER

 

 

Now she can stand without braces which she could not do before the surgery.

 

At least now she can fit into braces and normal shoes.  Big sister Areli got Ashlyn a pair of Nike wide Fly Ease sneakers that open with a zipper.  The easiest and nicest shoes she has ever had!

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I noticed after the surgery that Ashlyn’s toe next to her pinky toe on each foot was slightly shorter than it was before.  In fact, the toe on her left foot was drastically shorter.  On her follow up appointment I talked to the doctor about it.  Unfortunately, our beloved Dr. Sorenson had moved to Texas.  Another doctor took over for him.  This doctor had never seen Ashlyn before.  When I told him about her toe, he took a glance at it and said, “Oh yes, that it called ‘such-and-such long technical-term’ and she has had that since birth.”

“It is a lot shorter than it used to be,” I tried to explain.

“Oh no it isn’t, you just didn’t notice it before.” he promptly replied.

Well, my trust in this new doctor just plummeted to zero, and I thanked God that we had done this important surgery before Dr. Sorenson had made his move!

A Tricky, Sticky Kickball Game

My husband, Chris, and I were sitting at the dining room table as night was falling.  We were having dinner with most of our ten children.  The relative calm was interrupted when our middle three boys came bursting into the house with the delicacy of a herd of elephants.  They had been at the park and were returning home late. The chilly November air usually reminded them to return home much sooner than this. 

After much banging, clanging, and slamming of doors, the three of them stood before us.  Chai, age 13, was tall and muscular.  Cooper, 11, and Calvin, 9, were often mistaken for twins because they were so close in height and both wore glasses.  The resemblance ended there, however.  Cooper had dark hair and was very passionate.  Calvin, with his light hair and generous sprinkling of freckles, had a milder personality.

“Did you guys have fun?” Chris asked.

“Not really,” Calvin answered.

“Then why did you stay so long?” I asked.

Cooper, the natural comedian and storyteller began, “Well, we got the kickball stuck up in a tree.”

Cooper went on to recount the story of a very tricky, sticky kickball game.  Chai and Calvin chimed in with extra details now and then.

The boys had walked to the charming neighborhood elementary school just a block from our home. There they met many of the neighborhood children and had decided to play kickball.  All was fine until Isaiah made one powerful kick that landed the kickball in a tree. 

No problem.  Isaiah would simply launch his basketball and dislodge the kickball so they could get back to playing.  Except it turned out to be one sticky kickball that had perfectly wedged itself in between three branches.  After several failed attempts, the basketball got stuck in the tree too!

                No big deal.  Cameron had his basketball.  While Cameron threw his ball again and again, trying to hit one of the wedged balls, Jacob decided to climb the fence to see if he could reach the tree.  He was unable to get close enough, but he did get hit in the back by a wayward basketball. Unfortunately, Cameron fared no better than Isaiah, and his ball found a permanent perch in the tree as well. 

                No worries.  Someone offered their football.  This would surely work.  But alas!  It had the same fate as all the other balls.

                Now things were starting to look grim.  Desperate times called for desperate measures.  Cooper took off both of his shoes.  Maxwell took one of the sacrificial shoes and with strength and accuracy aimed at the kickball.  The shoe missed its intended target and landed right on a branch.  Cameron tried with the other shoe with the same result.  At this point Cooper was reprimanding them with rather high-pitched screams.

                Chai and Maxwell decided that they needed backup.  They walked back to our garage in search of more balls to throw.  All they could find were four deflated basketballs, but that was better than nothing.  While they were gone, Cooper’s feet were getting very cold.  He managed to fit one of his gloves onto one of his feet. 

                Just then Cooper noticed the School Principal, Mr. Stewart, walking to his car after a long day of work.  Cooper ran up to him and asked, “Is Mr. Dan [the janitor] still here?  Can he help us get our balls out of the tree?”

                Mr. Stewart glanced down and noticed Cooper’s feet.

                “What happened?” he asked with a funny look on his face.

                “I got my shoes stuck in the tree.” Cooper replied. 

                I am not sure what thoughts were going through the mind of the kind and wise Principal, but he simply replied, “We will have to get them down tomorrow,” and continued walking to his car.

                To Cooper, this was not an acceptable answer.  So what brilliant solution did Cooper devise with the help of his younger brother?  To throw this brother’s brand new shoes up into the tree, of course! When both of those got absorbed into The Tree, Calvin resorted to running across the street in his stocking feet to enlist the help of a neighbor friend.  This friend was not home, so it was back to square one.

                Janice, our energetic and joyful neighbor, had walked to the park with her young grand-daughter. She had been watching this entire drama unfold and found it quite amusing.  She took out her phone and was documenting the event with photos.  Her grand-daughter took on the role of cheerleader and kept saying in her cute, little girl voice, “You almost got it!  You almost got it down!”

                Chai and Maxwell returned with fresh ammunition and the tree received further battering by the four flat balls.  The tree proved to be a worthy adversary and claimed all but one of those balls. Thankfully, one of Calvin’s shoes was dislodged, so he returned it to one of his very cold feet.

The score was:

Elementary Playground Tree: 10  (1 kickball, 2 basketballs, 1 football, 3 flat balls, 3 shoes)

Seven Determined Boys: 2 (1 flat ball, 1 shoe)

                The boys were not to be defeated, however.  They continued with their strategy until eventually…slowly…one by one… each ball and each shoe had been knocked from its nesting place.

When Cooper finished his narrative, we were all consumed with laughter!  Finally the hilarity died down and Chris asked a question.

“Why didn’t you boys just get the ladder out of our garage?”

Cooper responded as though the answer should be obvious, “A bunch of boys walking to the park with a ladder?  That would just look silly!”