Gratituesday: The Extra Room

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When we moved from Colorado to Nebraska 12 years ago, we were so excited to get a really large house for a really good price.  It’s not a new house – as a matter of fact, it’s over 100 years old.  But there’s plenty of room for our boys to run around, invite all their friends to run around, fill up with company, and do all that we love to do with others in our home.

It’s also really hard to heat, has crazy plumbing issues, and gets cob-webby very easily.  We won’t focus on those disadvantages.  No house is perfect.  But God gave us this home, and we love it (while wearing many layers during the winter months).

One of the biggest blessings of owning our big home is the fact that we’ve been able to house extras from time to time.  It’s been so neat to watch God put people in our lives who need a place to stay.  We have an extra bedroom that is perfect for company – but even better for people who need to stay for an extended time.

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That bedroom is tucked away in the “back” of our home, so our extended guests can have a little bit of their own space.  People have stayed in that room for anywhere from six weeks to seven months at a time.  We figure - if they are brave enough to move in with our (loud, crazy, busy) family - they are more than welcome to stay as long as they need.

From college students, to a widow in transition, to a friend in crisis, to guys needing a place to stay before they get married – it’s been so great to see who God moves in.  We’ve lived here 12 years, and God has moved 8 people into that room for one reason or another.  These guys and gals have blessed us so much!

The young man we have living with us now has become like a beloved son to us.  He gets married in December (yay!) so moves out the end of this month (sniff).  For some reason, he and his bride have decided to get a place of their own after their wedding (ha!).  He is a fabulous role model for our sons.  We are so blessed.

God is so good to fill our lives with people to love and serve.  In His constantly perfect way, He makes our service to others an even bigger blessing to us.  I love how He works.

Now your turn to share!  How is God working in your life?  Leave a comment to share your blessings!

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Gratituesday: Girl Time for Me

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I have had a very fun 2 days full of girl stuff.  Yay me!

My household of men is tremendous, fantastic, and wonderful.  It’s just fun to hang out with girls sometimes, you know?

Yesterday, three college girls came for lunch.  Today, I got to go out to lunch with a dear girlfriend I hardly ever see.  (We sat in the restaurant for 2.5 hours.  Awesomeness.)  Later this afternoon, I grabbed two of my young girl friends and headed to a Jamberry nail party.  We did nails, we oohed and aahed over the catalog – it was all very girly.

I came home to two of the boys playing soccer in the living room.  (Don’t worry, they are allowed to kick a small, soft ball in that room.  I don’t have knick-knacks.  I know better.  Plus I hate dusting them.  The knick-knacks, not the soccer balls.  Not that I would ever dust soccer balls.  Anyway…)

School books hadn’t been put away, a light saber was on the couch, a nerf sword on the rug, a journal opened and smashed onto the tile.  This is home.  They don’t see the mess, and they don’t care about details.  I love my boys.

But shucks was it fun to be a little girly today (and yesterday) and to talk to people who speak that language (the one which frequently says, “oh how cute” and uses more words than, “huh”).

God is good, isn’t He? Having a little girl time was super fun.  He knew I needed it.  It even helped me see my boys in a special way when I got home.

Oh, and the variety of Jamberry nails I ordered for myself?  They have basketballs on them.  I enjoyed my girl time, but my boys are my focus and basketball games start up soon.  I’ll be rockin’ my basketball fingernails to next week’s games.  I think my boys will actually notice and like them.  What do you think?

jamberry

Leave a comment – share what you are thankful for this Gratituesday!

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Gratituesday: School on the Road

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Asa, our 17 year old, was 4.5 years old when we were convicted to choose homeschooling for our family.  (There are so many words I could say about that statement, but the fact that my oldest baby is 6’3″ and a senior in high school is not the point of this post.  Just hand me a Kleenex and keep reading.)

Our reasons for homeschooling were mostly about the blessed additional time it would give us with our kids.  Once Asa’s kindergarten year started, we suddenly realized so many extra benefits of schooling from home.  Flexibility with our schedule has been one of the biggest perks to our homeschooling lifestyle.

God showed us this blessing just two months into our homeschool journey when my mom was diagnosed with ALS.  Knowing we had limited time with her on earth, and knowing Dad would need help with her care, we started making frequent four hour trips south to Kansas.  Had Asa been in a public or private school, this would have been so much harder.  But with homeschooling, we could just pack up the school books and travel any day of the week we needed to.  He could do his school work at Grammy and Papa’s table just as easily as he could do it at our table.

Fastforward through 12 years (because seriously, it seems that life moved at that pace) – and here we are with a 12th, 9th, 7th, and 4th grader.  Flexibility has become more and more precious as our boys get older.  Specifically last week, we made a very last minute decision to head to Oklahoma on a college visit for Asa.  Often, if we know we’ll be traveling or having company come to visit, we’ll just cram in extra school work before we leave so we can have a break on the road.  That didn’t work last week since we hadn’t planned ahead.

No problem.  We packed the books and laptops.  English, math, you name it – the boys just worked as we drove.  Matt also picked up some history videos at the library for a fun change of pace, which the boys watched once it got too dark to read.

The boys may tell you differently, but I think this variation from our normal routine can make regular school work more fun.  The spur of the minute road trip with a backpack full of books reminded me once again how grateful I am for our flexibility.  Now that we’re back home, I’m also thankful for routine.  Schooling on the road works and is fun, but it’s also very nice to be back home where our pencils can’t roll under the seat of the van.  :)

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share so that we can celebrate God’s blessings together!

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Gratituesday: One Thing at a Time

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I woke up this morning with a huge to-do list.  What’s new, right?  Right.  Today was a little different though.  On Saturday, we made a decision to use a tiny window of time we have this week to go on a college visit for Asa, our high school senior.  Seeing as we ended soccer season yesterday and basketball season begins next week – this week is pretty much our only option.  :)

So, we’re squeezing in the trip and making lots of last minute plans.  If only it was as simple as packing a bag and gassing up the van.  Nope.  Our Azure Standard food co-op order will be coming in while we’re gone, so I needed to make arrangements for someone else to pick it up.  What about our Tuesday farm-fresh milk pick-up?  Justus desperately needed a hair cut.  I had to update Asa’s high school transcript to take with us.  I have an article due for our local newspaper.  We needed to follow up with family members for sleeping arrangements while we’re traveling.  What about making/packing food for the road?  Writing and scheduling posts to go up while I’m away from the computer?  Switching piano lesson day and time for Malachi?  The list went on forever, and it needed to be completed by tonight.

My brain kicked into high gear the moment my feet hit the floor this morning.  This means that I could have gone from peaceful sleep to freak-out mode in a matter of two minutes, especially when I walked into the kitchen and saw the undone dishes from yesterday (blech).  Thankfully, after years of going about life the hard way, God is teaching me to do better.  Never, ever does it work for me to fly into becoming a crazy mom/wife/blogger/friend/organizer/homemaker.  That’s when I say hurtful words to my husband and kids, leaving God completely out of my day.  So I did what I know to do now: I told my brain to hush.

My brain put up a bit of a fight, but prayer, my Bible, and a cup (okay fine, 2 cups) of coffee (with cream) won the battle.  We got the boys started on their school work and kitchen clean-up, then started tackling all the phone calls and work that needed to be done.  One thing at a time, tasks were checked off the to-do list.

By lunchtime, I was amazed at how much had come together even if (don’t tell) I still hadn’t made it back upstairs to get out of my pajamas yet.  My work-from-home, school-from-home life is glamorous, no doubt.

I decided to make One-Hour Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls for travel sandwiches (easiest rolls ever!).  Didn’t they turn out pretty?

one hour rolls for trip

I’m grateful for how details of our week came together.  We’ll now be one more step closer to helping Asa find out God’s plan for him next year.  And I didn’t even have to freak out to make it happen.  God’s way is best – every single time.

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share!

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Gratituesday: God is Stronger Than a Hail Storm

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In early June, our garden looked like this:

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Full of plants protected by buckets looked like this:

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A few days later, a hail storm came through, and our garden looked like this:

hail garden 1

It seemed as if we had lost everything.  Our rows and rows of green bean plants had no leaves left.  Our pepper and tomato plants were completely broken down.  It looked like nothing had survived.  We decided to replant a few green bean seeds, and consider the rest of the garden to be a loss.  It would be a small garden this year, and we would just make do.

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But guess what?  God is bigger than any of our gardening efforts, and He is most certainly bigger than a hail storm!!   We left our broken, leafless plants alone.  Within a few weeks, they had turned back into thriving plants again.  Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

Not only that, we had a lot of rain this summer and fall – so much so that our garden and all the fruit trees around this area have been kicking out the produce like I’ve never seen before.  So now, our garden looks like this:

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So many beautiful peppers!

Our green bean plants have provided bucket after bucket of green beans.  We’ve eaten them to our heart’s content – 4 months of fresh-from-the-garden green beans!!!  And we’ve frozen many gallon-sized bags of beans too.  We’ll be enjoying them all winter!

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Our tomato plants are still giving us many tomatoes every day.  Plus we’re picking spaghetti squash and honey dew melon.

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An orchard nearby has had the best “apple year” I’ve ever seen.  These bags keep making their way into my kitchen (and the kitchens of my friends).  We’re eating all we can hold, and making jar after jar of Homemade Applesauce.

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All this to say - we thought we’d be done enjoying garden produce by June after the hail storm was so destructive.   The joke’s on us.  We started canning and freezing produce in July.  Here it is the end of October and we are still going strong.  I usually have my canning supplies packed away by now.  Not this year.  There’s still applesauce to make and green beans to pick.  I am amazed!  I shouldn’t be though.  Isn’t it just like God to show us in such mighty ways of His love and care for us?

Here’s a fun peek into our pantry and freezers.  We have over 50 jars of applesauce, and I’ll be making more this week and next.  This batch turned out so pink, it looks like I added food coloring!  Nope, just straight empire apples.  So pretty!

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Some friends gave us cucumbers, so I made about 40 jars of dill pickles.  It was a fun experiment and they turned out great!

dill pickles

We bought sweet corn at a road-side stand in August, and froze about a dozen quart-sized bags.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to defrost my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

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I’ve stuffed bags of green beans in our freezers as I’ve found room.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to re-organize my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

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Our peach tree did pretty well this year, so we canned about a dozen quarts, and froze several bags of sliced peaches for smoothies.

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Next you see a mixture of Sweet Pickle Relish (from the cucumbers our friends shared with us), Homemade Salsa, and more Applesauce.

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As you can see from the above picture, I’m no longer organizing the jars as I fit them into my pantry.  I’m at a point of simply trying to find room for it all.  Dozens and dozens of full jars of produce!  It is so exciting!!

I’m so grateful for the bounty and for God’s sense of humor.  There may have been a hail storm, but that didn’t stop God from giving us one of our best garden years ever!  Go God!

What are you celebrating this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share what you’re grateful for!

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Gratituesday: Summer to Winter Clothes (Plus our Lilla Rose Winner)

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It used to be one of my most dreaded projects.  We have several tubs of clothes up in our attic.  Every fall and every spring we lug them down, finding what fits which boy each year.  While I’ve been ridiculously thankful for the amount of clothes we’ve had for our boys – most of them hand me downs – the chore of switching out clothes for the season was always long and exhausting.

This year though?  I am reminded how nice it is to have children old enough to be such a huge help.   We had the entire job done – from lugging down containers, to switching out clothes, to lugging them all back up – in one hour.  One hour.  Hallelujah!

summer to winter 1

This job used to take me two entire days.  That was back when the kids “helped” by resorting my piles thirty times, throwing shirts at each other, trying on clothes that were way too big or too small…you know the drill.  I loved that everyone just got right to it, got it done, and moved on with the day.

Best news of all:  I did not have to be the one to go into the attic.  I’m not a fan of the attic.  It has a little something to do with a bird attack I experienced a few years back.  I now put on my pitiful face and beg one of my boys to do the dirty work.  Love these boys!

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This pile of clothes is heading to our bi-annual clothing exchange this weekend.

I’m so thankful God continues to provide plenty of clothing for my family – especially as their legs keep getting LONGER.  Wow.  I’m thrilled to have this task behind us for the year, and as much as I love summer, I will admit that it’s fun to pull out warm sweaters for this fall season!

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While I’ve got you, I wanted to announce our Lilla Rose Giveaway Winner:  Jill: ferryfam5@ – email me and I’ll put you in touch with Paula at Lilla Rose!

Hues set giveaway

Don’t forget:  Special offer for Heavenly Homemakers readers only!  Get a FREE SURPRISE FLEXI when you place a $40 order between now and Oct.18!!!*

*Place an order of $40 or more (excluding tax and shipping) through Paula’s website, then message her to redeem your free surprise flexi! Offer valid for U.S. customers only and expires Oct. 18, 2014. This is for both new and returning customers, but if you already have another Lilla Rose consultant, please stay with her; I’m sure she’ll appreciate it! Thank you!

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Please leave a comment to share what you’re grateful for this Gratituesday!!!

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Gratituesday: Women of Faith

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No thanks.  That’s what I told my friend Emily who, last October, was signing up ladies in our area for the Women of Faith conference that was to be in Lincoln, October of 2014.

Fall is our busiest season, I have no idea what is going on an entire year from now, I’m not really big on conferences like this…

I was full of reasons I couldn’t and shouldn’t go, and even though my reasons were legit, Emily still pushed me.  “I think you need to go to this.”  Okay, fine.  Sign me up.

women of faith

A few days before we headed out last Friday, I told another friend who was leery about going, “This better not be some fru-fru chick thing.  I want meat, and I want it to be rich.”  I hadn’t even looked at who the speakers were going to be, what was on the agenda, and I really had not had time to even think about it.  I just planned to show up with an open heart, hoping maybe I could gain a nugget or two from what was shared.

Well.  There we were, in an arena filled with 8,000 women.  I laughed, I cried, I was pricked to the heart, I was fed, I was convicted, I worshipped, I found refreshment, and I’m not sure how many ways I can say this:  It was incredible.

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Some of my favorite Christian sisters are in this selfie. :)

Nichole Nordeman was there, Matthew West was there (one of the only men, bless him), and the five speakers were amazing.  Nothing about the weekend was fru-fru chick stuff.  All of it was scripture-filled, hard core Truth.  Did I gain a nugget or two?  Oh my.  I don’t think I can even measure how much I gained from sitting in that arena for the weekend.

I praise God for always putting me exactly where I need to be, teaching me exactly what I need to learn, and helping me hear exactly what I need to know.  We serve an amazing God.

Have you been to a Women of Faith conference before?  What are you celebrating this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: Practicing Our Spanish With Gladis

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Our older boys have been learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone software for three, going on four years.  It has been fantastic!  Asa was really able to use what he’s learning when he went to Ecuador this summer.  We love it when these great skills can be applied to real life.

Last week, Matt took advantage of a perfect teachable moment.  We received a letter from Gladis, the little girl we sponsor from Honduras through One Child Matters.  It is written first in Spanish with help from Gladis’ teacher.  Then it is translated to English for us to enjoy.

I typically pull out the letter and start reading it to my family (in English, obviously).  But Matt started reading it, one sentence at a time, in Spanish.  The boys then got to have fun working together to translate it as he read.  They did really well!  It was a fun activity with our lunch, and hearing the phrases in Spanish made it seem as though we were getting to know Gladis more fully.

“The girl Gladis is very happy for your present, and is very happy for your prayers.”

gladis head shot

I find it amazing that I can feel so connected and love someone so dearly even though we’ve never met face to face.  Praying for someone will certainly do that for you!

I’m very thankful for One Child Matters.  Because of them, children’s needs are being met.  Most importantly, these children are learning about Jesus and finding hope.  While our family has the opportunity to bless this little girl, we are finding more and more that she is the one blessing us.  I love how God works!

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: The Library

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Confessions:  I took a few years off from going on regular library visits with my kids.  What kind of homeschool mom am I, anyway?

A busy one.  One who works from home and finds that when she’s not home, it’s very easy to get behind on work.  (Imagine that.)  Something had to give, and committing to go to the library regularly was one of them.

Sad, I know.  But we have full bookshelves in five different rooms in our house.  Trust me - we are not without books.  Purchasing books to have for easy school access became much easier than going to the library once a week to get what we needed for assignments.  Books are a great investment, after all.  I don’t mind spending money on good books that we’ll use over and over again.

So here we are, with our full bookshelves, saving a fair amount of time each week on the chore of finding our resources at the library.  I’m grateful to check that off my list of jobs I need to do.  But what about activities we want to do?  Well now, that’s become a different story.

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The past few months, the younger boys and I have started going to the library more frequently again.  We go because we want to.  We go because the boys are older now and have new and varied interests.  We search the shelves, finding books that seem intriguing, and we go home with a big pile.  I love that these books are used in addition to our school books.  These books are “just for fun.”  (You know, because for some reason, we can’t call school “fun.”  Oh please.)

We’ve learned new recipes, become experts on volcanos, tried our hand at drawing comics, learned new card tricks – and by “we” I really mean “they.”  I love watching the boys take off with a book and come back full of new ideas and knowledge.

Today was a library day for us.  Looking at all the amazing books available to us made me pretty excited.  Yep, today I’m thankful for the library - one of the most basic perks of life there is.

And how about you?  What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: Filling the Pantry

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Gardening.  Canning.  Preserving.  Freezing.  Slicing.  It is so much work.

I really don’t have time for this.  But I also don’t have time not to do it.  So I make time, or somehow, as always, God provides the time.  The family pitches in to help, and eventually we get it all done.

The beauty of working so hard to get garden veggies and orchard fruit preserved in the summer and fall is that this winter it will all be convenience food for our family!  It will be super easy to pull these goodies out of the pantry or freezer and serve them quickly with our meals.  That’s why I make the time – that and because it saves us hundreds of dollars.  That’s pretty nice too.  :)

It’s been a few years since we canned any peaches.  We’ve only had enough to freeze some for smoothies.  This year, we got ourselves set for smoothies, and filled several jars to eat plain or with cottage cheese.  These peaches turned out so pretty!

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We’ve made loads of applesauce.  What you see below is barely a sampling.  Thanks to cucumbers a friend passed along to us, we are all set with dill pickles and sweet pickle relish for the year.  I also made a few jars of salsa (my mom’s recipe).  Sometimes, I just open my pantry to stare at all the pretty jars full of food.  That alone makes the hard work all worth it.  :)

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It was ironic that I was gawking at my jars of home-canned produce and taking pictures to share with you today.  Just as I was doing that, the UPS man showed up on our porch with part of our Amazon Subscribe and Save order.  FUN!!  (See many of the specifics here.)

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I snapped a picture of the packaged food (and household items) too.  I thought it would be good to show you those along with my home-canned produce.  Yep, sometimes I rely on packaged cereal on busy mornings.  Sometimes we like chips for a treat.  It’s all about balance, right?

I just LOVE a full pantry, and thank God that he has provided so much (mostly) free produce to preserve.  I also thank Him for the great deals I find online that are delivered to my door.  How fun that I got to stare at so many household blessings for my family today.  Thank you, God for the bounty!

How about you?  What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Whoa.  One more thing to be thankful for:

SO many people were trying to buy the Healthy Living Bundle yesterday afternoon (the last day) that the site crashed, preventing many from completing their purchase.  Boooo!  Because the site wasn’t working properly for several hours, the team has given you a few more hours today to complete your purchase.  That is so nice of them – the team has worked HARD this week, so for them to extend this is a true blessing.  You have until noon today, September 16.

I say we try to go crash the site again, what do you say?  The package is worth it – take advantage of these bonus hours!

bundle extended

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