Gratituesday on Friday

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I’ve been completely exhausted this week after our Youth Rally weekend followed by our week of crazy. I’m not sure what I could have done differently to keep myself from becoming over-tired. There was just a lot going on. My body thanked me this week by coming down with a cold. Boo.

I’ve spent the past couple of days resting, taking baths with Epsom salt and essential oils, and binge watching Netflix. Rest is good.

Then yesterday I heard the sad news that one of my friends died suddenly. She had just recently gotten her life back on track and I loved watching God at work in her. She was sweet and kind and she had my back. I’m going to miss her.

Funny (not funny) how losing someone can put life in perspective. Just a few hours before my friend died, she was chatting with others in her normal, cheerful way. A few moments later, she was gone. Life is delicate. Most of what we think matters – doesn’t really matter. All that really matters is Jesus, love, and relationships. That’s it.

Why Gratituesday on Friday? I guess because I’m a little weary and sad and reflective. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful for life and friendship. I’m grateful that God promises so much more than all we experience in this fleeting life. I’m grateful for rest. I’m grateful for reminders to keep the important pieces of life important. I’m grateful for tears. I’m grateful for people coming together as we mourn our loss.

It might be quiet around here the next few days. We’ve got a weekend full of basketball, a wedding shower, and then a funeral. <— That sentence right there is a great picture of life on earth, isn’t it? Fun, joy, and sorrow. All of the above, with Jesus in every place.

I love that through everything, there are reasons to be grateful. Hang on to that as you enjoy a blessed weekend!

Gratituesday: The Decision

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I tell you what ~ it has been one wild ride having a senior in high school. I had no idea all that went into this year, not to mention the emotions that would smack me over the head without warning.

God has been so good to love me so gently this school year. As I talk to other moms who have graduated or are graduating their kids, I’m learning that I am quite normal. This is good to know. Home school mom, public school mom, private school mom – it matters not. We are Mom. We are loving our kids through making giant decisions all while preparing to launch them into all that God has planned for them. We cry a lot, not necessarily because we are sad. We cry because we’re happy. Because we’re excited. Because we’re a little bit weary. And because we couldn’t be more proud of our graduates.

Well anyway. That’s been my year in a nutshell. That, along with helping my senior through some very difficult online college courses all while trying in vain to keep up with other aspects of life like dust and laundry.

You know how some kids just know what they are going to do after high school? Our kid wasn’t one of them. He’s been searching for God’s answers all year long, not feeling confident in making a final decision for his immediate future.

The wrestling. That’s been tough to watch. And yet, it’s also been beautiful. For the first time, our 17 (almost 18) year old found himself faced with many great options and four thousand questions about what would be best. Had the answers just fallen into his lap back in September, I don’t believe the he would have experienced God’s work in his life in such a life-changing way. He had to learn to block out all the other voices and only listen to God. Then and only then did the right answers come.

As of last week, the decision has been made. Asa sees it as the one God has laid out for him in a very exciting way. And would you believe, after all the wrestling, everything came around to Asa choosing to go five minutes down the road to our very own York College? (Matt and I met and graduated from this Christian school in the 90’s.)

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Indeed. He is YC bound. While doors were closing on the other options, God kept paving the way to YC. The soccer coach recruited him and offered him a scholarship. The choir director recruited him and offered him a scholarship. The admissions director saw his grades and granted him an academic scholarship. In those ways and many more, God just kept making it more clear that this is the school for him.

He plans to pursue a degree in Business Communication. This is a great fit for him as he continues to develop his skills in videography to perhaps run his own video business someday.

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He has decided to be on the soccer team and in the concert choir. He will live in the dorm – and hopefully sometimes he will sleep. While Matt and I loved our YC experience, we were very open to other options God might have for Asa. Now that he’s chosen York College, we’re rather excited that we can be a fly on the wall during some of the events he participates in on campus. We’ll get to meet more of his friends. He can come home to do laundry and raid the fridge.

Yes, we’re all very excited. Most of all, we’re so grateful to see how God worked to pave out the path for Asa and to make it so clear to him that this is the way he should go.

And now, we carry on with the final few weeks of the school year. It’ll be a bittersweet ending this year, full of gorgeous new beginnings. God is faithful through every season of life. How exciting it is to see all He has in store for us all in the tomorrows.

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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?

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

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:

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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!

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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!

Gratituesday: I Don’t Know Where I’m Going!

I walked down the aisle 20 years ago this week. Twenty years!!!! I’m not sure where the last two decades have gone, but 4 kids and many other life changes later – here we are.

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We’re not much into gift-giving, and typically, we only quietly slip away for a lunch or dinner out together to celebrate our special day. But this year is different. Since it’s our 20th anniversary, Matt decided to plan something special.

What has he planned? Well, I have no idea. I was given a specific list of items to pack and a departure time for a get-away. Other than that, I don’t know a thing about our plans. How fun is that?

We’ll be leaving a long list of school assignments and household chores for our boys. They’ll be all set up with easy-to-make foods. We have a recent college graduate living at our house for several months, so we’re leaving him in charge of overseeing our kids and making sure they get their school work and chores done both days that we’re gone.

Everyone is sure to have a great time! I’m excited for a little get-away with Matt…and as soon as I find out where we’re going, you’ll be the first to know. (AFTER we get back.)  :)

What are you thankful for this week? Leave a comment to share how God is working in your life!

Gratituesday: World Cup 2014

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With the exception of the fact that watching soccer games was a perfect Father’s Day gift for Matt, clearly, this week is not a good time for our family to enjoy the World Cup.  After all, we’re leaving on a long trip tomorrow.  As it turns out, we’ll miss several games while we’re on the road, plus we have a million things to do before we leave. We have to finish packaging up container after container of vanilla to ship out…

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The older boys were at Soul Quest last week, which means there are several loads of laundry to finish up so we can pack. Indeed, we have a huge, long to-do list. World Cup soccer games???

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Yeah. We’re making time.  It’s ridiculous really, how much our family loves soccer. :)  We don’t have cable, so we’re having to go elsewhere to catch games. (The college apartment lobby has been working quite well for us.)  It’s been a fun break in between all the work. When possible, I’ve been throwing together quick meals like fruit and tuna salad to take with us and eat while we watch.

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Ah, family and futbol. It’s too much fun. Laundry, packing, cleaning, vanilla packaging, mowing, gardening, and all the rest? Eh, we’ll get it done. ;)

What would you like to share about this Gratituesday? What are you thankful for?

Gratituesday: Another Soccer Season Ends

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March, April, and May are the spring months we eat, drink, breathe, and sleep soccer. Matt coaches (2 teams this season); Justus, Elias, and Malachi play on teams – both city league and traveling teams; Asa, Justus, and Elias referee loads of games. Most of our games are right here in town, but a few are an hour or two away.

We love this time of year, but it is full and busy!  Game schedules and referee commitment lists cover one entire side of our refrigerator. I don’t even try to keep up – I just look at the fridge each morning to see what the plan is for the day. Then I check the weather.  Which will I need: tank top or winter coat? Ah….spring.

I’m grateful to share that we have once again survived another soccer season. It’s been great (except for the freezing cold and windy games, the games Matt had to coach while on crutches, and the amount of phone calls we’ve had to make because of re-schedules due to bad weather). Indeed, there’s always a lot of crazy going on for us this time of year. But we love our boys and we all love soccer. So bring it on! (Sunshiny game days are preferred though…what can I say?)

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Here’s Elias’ traveling team after their final game this weekend. Great kids!

This year, I’m particularly grateful for the relationships I’ve formed with other parents on the side-lines. We’ve traveled, sweated, frozen, screamed, cheered, and encouraged our sons together for weeks. We’ve shared stories, popcorn, recipes, and life experiences. Through bloody noses, twisted knees, disappointing losses, and exciting victories – it’s been a great season to build relationships with parents of these players.

I look forward to doing this all over again in the fall. I look forward to the break in the meantime. I’m pretty sure our family will celebrate the end of this season with a pick-up game of soccer. Or basketball. We just can’t help it. :)

By the way, I’m happy to share that Matt’s foot is much, much better. His injury is healing very nicely and I’m pretty sure it won’t be long until he can join back in our family soccer games. :)

So what are you thankful for? It’s Gratituesday….please share what God is doing in your life!

Gratituesday: Stepping it Up

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We try to keep our kids busy helping with our businesses, with their own projects, with extra chores and home improvement needs, and of course, with regular jobs that need to be done around the house. In fact, I’m realizing now that I wrote about this very thing, just last Gratituesday. Funny that I would write about that, then need to rely on the boys triple time beginning that very night.

Yep, that’s the night Matt put nails through his foot. With Matt laid up, the boys had to step it up even more than usual.

It was a blessing in disguise as suddenly the boys were thrown into learning to do Matt had planned to do. Asa (our 16 year old) got to do some of the more difficult jobs since he is a licensed driver. Matt sent him over to our rental properties with instructions to do some work he’d never experienced before. Asa passed with flying colors, and was then put on a job in our bathroom at home. He rocked it, and how about that, he now knows new skills!

In the meantime, our other boys were kept busy running around the house helping take care of Matt’s foot, and in general, being Matt’s feet.

All that to say, we’re so thankful for how the boys stepped it up last week to make up for Matt’s lack of ability to walk and work. It was especially helpful that Asa is a driver.  I’m not sure what I would have done without him. (Poor Matt. It’s hard to drive with nail holes in your right foot.)

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Malachi was given the job of arranging the fruit in a bowl.
This is actually one of the regular jobs I give him when we get home from shopping.
But this week, he decided to make the fruit bowl look extra special.

God can make good come from anything. Our week was challenging last week, for sure. But what a blessing that our boys learned more about responsibility and hard work. Way to go, Boys! And praise God for His blessings at all times.

Now your turn. Share what you’re thankful for!  Leave a comment on this post letting us know how God is working in your life. If you’ve written a blog post about what you’re thankful for, leave the link in the comments so we can visit your blog to read about it. We love sharing and reading about God’s blessings!

Gratituesday: Baking

I know it sounds silly, but this week I’m very thankful for the gift of baking.

This is such a fun time of year to stir together yummy baked goods and casseroles. I spent hours today in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes to share and I loved every minute of it! I know not everyone enjoys baking as much as I do, but wow is it a fun activity for me.

I’m thankful for my houseful of men who love to eat. I’m thankful for the blessing of a pantry full of delicious ingredients. I’m thankful for cooler weather, cinnamon, comfort, and well…butter. What can I say? :)

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Just wait till I share this Oatmeal Raspberry Bar recipe I tried today!

Share how God is working in your life on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for! Please read through the Gratituesday Guidelines so that you understand what kinds of posts you can link up to share here. Posts that are linked but do not fit our Gratituesday theme will be deleted.

If you are linking up a blog post for Gratituesday, please copy and paste the following sentence into your post! Thanks!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Gratituesday: Sunrise

This week, our church has brought in Jerry and Lynn Jones to present their Relationships Matter seminar. Sunday through Wednesday of this week, we are blessed to go to hear them speak. I love that what they have to say is relevant in so many areas of life.

I loved this statement shared last night regarding walking through trying times in life:

The best way to find the sun is to head east into the darkness so that you can catch the sun coming up.

What I hear in that is exactly what I feel God doing with me on my journey to let go of self. I can avoid doing battle, shrug off my struggles, put up my guard, and carry on as I have been. In many ways, it seems so much easier. Taking the hard path? Doing what is difficult? Seeking a whole heart that is fully God’s, while letting go of the control I so desperately want to hold onto? Why would I willingly go down a road so dark and difficult when I could just take the short-cut and avoid digging into the root of my sin?

If I really want to see the glory of the sunrise, if I want true healing and wholeness that can only come by way of full surrender to our creator – I will walk the harder road. I’ll journey down the path that seems dark because of all the unknowns through new territory. I’ll even walk it confidently because I am guided by the One who sees the way clearly.

The blessed irony of walking the difficult road is that letting go of control and grabbing the hand of the One who holds me while I stumble along is actually much easier than trying to navigate the road on my own cleverly constructed map. My own map has become a series of unsolvable mazes and dead-ends. It may seem well lit, but the roads lead to nowhere. Been there, done that. Now which way should I turn?

I’m choosing to head east. You’re walking me through this, Lord? You know where the potholes and branches are that I need to avoid? You see the dangers ahead and protect me from them? You know exactly where I’m supposed to turn and what I am supposed to do along the way? I give you the control then. Lead me, Lord.

I’ll joyfully keep taking steps toward the east, knowing that what awaits me on the other side is a beauty so radiant it can only been seen after looking through the black.

A glorious sunrise!

Share how God is working in your life on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for! Please read through the Gratituesday Guidelines so that you understand what kinds of posts you can link up to share here. Posts that are linked but do not fit our Gratituesday theme will be deleted.

If you are linking up a blog post for Gratituesday, please copy and paste the following sentence into your post! Thanks!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!