College Students Like Easter Egg Hunts Too

This year might have been my favorite Easter yet. A great day of worship. A houseful of college students. A kitchen full of great food. Sunshine. It was a fabulous day overall.

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So here we are, celebrating Gratituesday on Wednesday – mostly because I don’t even know what day it is. If I was feeling energetic and especially clever, I’d wait and post this on Friday, April 1. You know – April Fool’s Day? Gratituesday on Friday…hahaha. Boy, that would have been a good one. {lamest prank ever}

Bare with me here. March tried to kill me. I don’t know when I’ve last had so many huge and wonderful events to take part in all during the same month. Weddings and tournaments and youth events and banquets and meetings and all of the rest of life trying to stay afloat during it all. It has been incredibly enjoyable – but the running!! The month ended with an Easter celebration. How fitting. How perfect. How necessary.

(Technically, the month is ending with a small getaway for Matt and me. We both need it and plan to rest and not talk to people – except each other – for 36 hours. Every time I think about it, I cry. That is how I show excitement right now. This translates to, “Laura needs to get away.” Bless my husband.)

So, Easter. We were on our way home from Kansas City on Saturday after another whirlwind event for our kids. I texted Asa and told him to invite whatever college friends he wanted to join us for Easter. We stopped at the store on the way into town to buy strawberries (because, of course) and white flour rolls (because have I told you about the month I’ve had?) so we could put an easy feast on the table for Easter. I had everything else I needed in the freezer. Sunday we pulled off a grand buffet with little effort (thank you spiral cut ham and frozen vegetables for being there when we needed you).

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We ended the meal with a Brownie Sundae Bar, of which I failed to get a picture. Here, take a look at the ham and potato bar again:

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Elias had mixed up a Bacon(less) Ranch Hashbrown Casserole before we left for Kansas City. 

Asa didn’t hold back on inviting friends. He filled our living room with several from his soccer team, plus some of our adopt-a-students joined us. There were 16 of us altogether. God made this meal practically effortless, and I just sat back and watched the fun while they ate.

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Then the Easter Egg Hunt began.

Five of the college guys chose to be the “hiders of the eggs.” We have a big yard (with a lot of junk all around) – making for great hiding places. The other students, plus our younger boys were handed fancy Easter baskets (plastic Walmart bags) and headed out to hunt.

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It was ridiculously fun to watch!

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While all of the rest of the day had been my favorite so far, then my favorite favorite happened. The students made their way back to the front of our house where they started to visit.

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They got the loot out of their eggs…

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Then they began kicking a soccer ball around. In the meantime, I sat on the porch in the sunshine watching and taking it all in. My college son. His college friends. My husband and younger sons. In our yard. Hunting/hiding eggs. Talking. Kicking a ball. Laughing. Bliss.

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Because of my exhaustion, I had been hesitant to invite anyone to join us this Easter. God gave me the green light, then He provided everything to fill the day with joy. He always knows what we need. He always provides.

And now, hallelujah, He’s provided a little getaway for my hubby and me. Think of me tomorrow while I’m sitting and not moving for many, many hours. (Elias told us we should Vlog our getaway experience. Matt told him it would be hour after hour of “Sitting,” “Still sitting,” “Sitting some more,” “Laying down now,” “Back to sitting,” “Ready to sleep…”) We sure do know how to party.

What is God providing for you right now? No matter if you’re going through the good stuff or the hard stuff, God is providing. Reflect and share!

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!

Sick Kid, God’s Care, and Last Day for Real Food eCourse Sale

I’ve got some fun posts in the works for you, but I have been running and running and running…

Yes, definitely picture me actually running. Like, in tennis shoes, across miles of terrain, with a pink head band catching my sweat, while I look adorable and perky in a cute athletic outfit. Picture that. That is definitely what I mean by running. I just can’t stop running. I am such a runner.

Now, if you’re realistically thinking, “Yeah right, Laura” then you can instead picture a more accurate description of my running which involves barely being home during the past few days and if I was home, I had guests. I have posts in my head that have not yet come out of my fingers and onto this screen. Now that I’m finally sitting here at my keyboard, I’m too tired to write actual words. Therefore, I’m going to take a couple of days off to rest and find some complete sentences. I know they’re in there somewhere.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a little Gratituesday with you, and also offer you a “last day of sale” reminder.

First, Gratituesday.

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Part of my running recently has been in the form of caring for a very sick boy. Most of us had a stomach bug a couple of weeks ago, which is no fun at all, of course. But one of our sons got a seemingly weird version that has been hanging on for way too long. When a teenage boy doesn’t feel like eating day after day after day, you know something is wrong.

It was beginning to get scary for us and for him. I am grateful to share, though, that today we got some answers. I was able to get him into our natural doctor in Lincoln who discovered the root of the problem and provided treatment solutions. He’ll likely still be weak for a few days, but I’m confident now that nothing is seriously wrong with him and that he is on his way to recovery. I don’t think any of us knew how worried we were until we got home from Lincoln and his brothers met us anxiously at the door asking for answers about what we learned from the doctor. (This is significant because these are boys who would normally say, “Oh were you gone? I didn’t realize. What’s for lunch?”)

I am so thankful for God’s provision in this. It is extremely difficult to get an appointment with this doctor right now as she just had a baby and is only back for very limited hours. In fact, I’ve had my next appointment scheduled months in advance. The fact that I called at 8:01 and got in because “there was a last minute cancellation” is amazing to me. Praise God for opening a slot that worked perfectly for us on the very day we needed it, and for providing answers that will put our son back on the road to good health.

Soooo after I got my sickie settled back at home in the recliner with food and drink and remedies, I got into the van again and headed south to a ranch with Malachi for a horse class he’s taking right now with some fellow homeschoolers. This class has been so fun and fascinating!

As you can see, I’m very gifted at photography with my phone camera. Also, you can see that as much as Malachi enjoys horses, he likes dogs even more.

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Praise God for Make-Ahead Meals. Wearily, I slid a prepared casserole into the oven when I got home from the ranch (which we will eat with a salad consisting of whatever greens and veggies we pull out of the fridge). Then I plopped onto my computer chair to try to find some words (which I obviously found, thank you).

Thanks for letting me share. It’s great to reflect on God and His work and to be able to share it with people I care about (you!).

More fun posts coming back after I take a short Sabbath rest. :)

Gratituesday: How Much You Mean to Me

I decided it’s high time I wrote another Gratituesday post. Please join me today as I celebrate God’s goodness in my friend Edith.

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She first emailed me in 2009 to say, “I want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog newsletters. I have shared many of them with our two daughters.”

That email came when my blog was a baby. She was one of my first blog followers. Her name was Edith. She was from Ohio.

Edith and I continued to email from time to time during the next few months. Then something I said in one of my posts sparked an interest, and would you believe? Her husband was born in the very same town where I grew up. Wonderful thing, this internet – connecting people who otherwise would not have met.

The email she sent in June, 2010 took our relationship to a new level. I had just written a blog post about our oldest son becoming a teenager. She wrote to tell me how wonderful teenagers are. Then she went on to say:

“Count your blessings every day – treasure every moment. And I know it’s trite, but do live each moment as though it truly were the last moment you have with your loved ones. We recently unexpectedly lost our elder daughter at age 36 in a matter of just a few hours.”

This began a friendship that was absolutely God given and beautifully selected. You see, the daughter Edith had lost was just my age. And my mom. Well, my mom had been gone already for a few years.

No one takes the place of a lost loved one. But Edith and I – well, I suppose we needed each other. She continued to send me emails of encouragement every few weeks, often to let me know she was praying for me. She sent me beautiful eCards for every holiday, which she personalized.

Edith loved me. Her love blessed me in ways I cannot describe. She was on my team. She was my prayer warrior. She was my friend. I loved her so.

Edith died unexpectedly last week. When I received the email from her younger daughter, who was so kind to think of me and share the news, I fell tearfully onto Matt’s chest. Not my Edith. I need my Edith.

I am going to miss this precious lady. Edith – the lady I never met face-to-face. The lady I could count on hearing from every few weeks as she cheered me on in my parenting, my writing, and my Christian walk.

My dear readers, I share this to let you know how much you mean to me. You’re not just “some people out there who read my blog.” You are a part of my life – a God given part that I do not take for granted. I treasure you and I am thankful for you.

When her oldest daughter died in 2010, this is what Edith said to me in her email:

“We are truly at peace even in our sadness. We know she’s having the time of her life in the presence of her beloved Lord and Savior. As her sister said, ‘She beat us home.’ And in that we rejoice.”

Now I say goodbye to my dear friend Edith, using her very words.

Thank you for loving me, Edith. Thank you for allowing God to work through you to be such a blessing in my life. I miss you already. But you’re having the time of your life in the presence of your beloved Lord and Savior. You beat us home. In that, I rejoice.

How About That? God Really Does Work Everything Out.

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Remember this post? You know, that one post I wrote last September? The one where I shared this:

I hate to spoil the ending...

The one where I talked about how we had no idea how everything would work out for our oldest son at the end of the school year? How we didn’t have any idea what would be best for him? How if he chose college, which one would it be and how would we work that out financially? How there were so many unknowns and what ifs and major decisions to make?

And more importantly, the one where I shared that God was teaching me to trust – like for real.

Last school year was wonderful and exhausting in countless ways. In the midst of it, we knew God had a plan and would roll it out for us in His timing. But when I wrote this post, we had no idea how the story would end. I just knew that it would…end. And that the ending would be good because God was writing the story.

In the midst of the waiting (we all know what that’s like, right? no matter what it is we’re waiting for) – our minds can turn toward all kinds of doubt and worry. We can invent scenarios that may or may not happen and then create all sorts of responses to the made up scenarios.

Unless any of those thoughts are Spirit led, they are absolutely pointless and completely exhausting. When I look back on our school year and how we watched our son learn to listen to God as he made his decisions, I am…

1) Really glad it’s behind us because it was just hard. Good, but hard.
2) So excited to realize God’s absolute promises and His guidance in everything. Everything. All of it. Every single bit.

We should never doubt. Never, ever, ever.

Not sure about an employment situation looming in your future? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure about a decision you’re making about parenting? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure how you can possibly afford whatever that need is that there is no money for?  God knows. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

Not sure what to do about forty different questions floating in your head about everything from little to big? God does. Wait for Him to show you. Listen to Him and trust.

God never asked us to get it all figured out. He only asked for our faith. If you don’t believe me, go read all the words of Jesus in the gospels. All of them. They will change your life.

And oh yeah – about this post. The one where I wrote about how we had no idea how the story would end, about what would be best, about how we would survive such a major change in our lives (yeah, I know, all the parents do it, but it’s hard and that’s just the truth). Go back and read this.

Then. Then read this one. Seven months after I wrote the “we have no idea” post – I was blessed to be able to write the “well look at that. now we know” post.

There is always an ending to the story. If we’re seeking God, the ending is beautiful. If we’re not, well, God can still work and God is always lovingly waiting for us to turn to Him.

I write this as a reminder. To you – to me. Trust God. Where there are question marks, trust God. There will always be question marks. But there will always be answers because God is God and He is faithful. And because of that, there can always be peace.

Weekend Gratituesday ~ And Why Is There a Margarine Container on My Countertop??

It’s a weekend Gratituesday. Why not?

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Tuesdays have been passing right along without a moment for me to post something especially Gratituesday-ish. Therefore, I decided to take the time this weekend to share some highlights from our week that I am grateful for.

(I’m pretty sure the grammatically correct way for me to say that would have been, “highlights for which I am grateful.” But really. Who talks like that? And anyway, at least I didn’t say ain’t or say something like I am more grateful then you know. It’s than. More grateful THAN you know. That one really gets me. Not that any of this matters when we are focused on that for which we are grateful.)

So where shall we begin?

One of the biggest highlights of our week was that we received a surprise visit from my cousin and his family. Their kids are similar in age to our older kids and we rarely get to see them. While traveling, they drove an extra few hours out of their way to see us on Wednesday/Thursday. We grilled chicken and had a feast, followed by Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits.

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All the kids and the dads spent hours in our yard playing soccer. It was awesome. We moms cheered and swatted mosquitoes on the side line. I love this picture:

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After we sent them off the next day, Asa and I drove three hours to watch his girl compete in the Miss Nebraska pageant. Here she is singing for the talent competition. I teared up as she sang The Revelation Song – proclaiming her faith right there on stage, “Holy, holy, holy…is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

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Tonight (Saturday) is the final competition. I’ll update as soon as I hear the results.
UPDATE: She didn’t win Miss Nebraska. We are so proud of her for her hard work and commitment to staying true to her values and faith during this. Now she can breathe and enjoy her summer counseling at church camps!

Asa and I drove all the way home that night, doing whatever we had to do to keep ourselves awake and safe until we got back at 1:30 am. It was so worth the drive. When we walked into the house, what would be the first thing I saw? This. On my countertop.

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A margarine tub? Who would dare bring such a thing into my home?! Funny that at first I didn’t even notice the Dr. Pepper and Doritos, etc – just the margarine. Turns out, the tub was full of popcorn. That, along with everything else, was the result of Matt having guys over to play games while we were gone. They left their snacks behind. The next day, I had a few Doritos. As opposed as I am to margarine, I choose to ignore the label on the bag of cheesy nacho chips. It makes no sense. 

But back to our week and the real food and blessings that came with it. I attempted to make a healthy version of the Chocolate Lasagna recipe I’ve seen floating around. I thought it would be a perfect Low Sugar Treat to add to our collection here. Yeah. Tasty though it was, my version turned out anything but picture worthy. And yet, here I am, showing you a picture anyway. I don’t know why.

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My grocery store run this week looked like the following. As you can see, we cannot get enough fresh strawberries. Our family has gone through almost all 10 pounds I bought this week. Bet you’re wondering what that Feta cheese is for, right? Right. That’s for my other addiction: BLT Factory Chopped Salad.

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It was a Bountiful Basket week too, so we are set on groceries for a while – especially since our older boys are headed to camp Sunday. (Also, much of what is pictured above and below has been eaten already.)

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Hey, what does a person do with Endive, pray tell? That’s a new one to me.

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This week it’ll be just three of us at home with all the teenage boys at Soul Quest (on the York College campus). Matt, Malachi, and I will head to campus each evening to worship – a huge perk to living right here where this awesome camp takes place. It is a highlight of our year, for sure!

So now – your turn! What are you thankful for? It’s Gratituesday over the weekend, after all.

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: Basketball, New Toilet, and McFarland USA

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What should I talk about first – our basketball tournament or our new toilet?  Both are so very exciting.  We’ll go with basketball since that involves my boys and as much as I love my new toilet, I do love my boys more.

I always enjoy our big end-of-year homeschool basketball tournament in Kansas.  This year there were 7 states represented and 74 teams.  It is so great to be a part of this!  This year was just a little bit more special as it is Asa’s final year to play.  I might have been teary-eyed all weekend.  Shoot.  I’ll probably be teary-eyed from now until we drop him off at the dorm in August.  It’s a mom thing.  I’m just trying to avoid doing the ugly cry in public.  This was not easy when he came off the court for the last time on Saturday.

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No doubt, Asa was feeling it too.  He has loved being on this team.  What a gift from God this has been – in so many ways.  A friend of mine captured this after our last game:

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 This man I used to read Curious George to is an entire head taller than me.

Since we got home, Matt has been finishing our (grueling) tax paper work, working on the FAFSA (gag me), and continuing work on our bathroom.  Ladies, I have a new toilet.  It flushes.  It is white.  It makes me smile.  (I also have a sink, but I do not have a faucet.  No matter.  That makes me smile too.)

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Knowing that the toilet will never again be this clean, I might have lingered a bit, just staring at the clean.  Stay clean, toilet.  Stay clean.  (If you look real close, you might notice that there is a ladder inside the shower.  This came as a surprise to me when I tried to slide open the shower door and the door fell over.  Shucks, I forgot that it’s not attached.  Matt’s been pulling it back and forth as he works on tile and as he needs to get it out of the hallway.  Do I really need to explain this?  Just whatever.  My toilet flushes!!

One more item of note.  Our family pretty much never goes to the movie theater.  Cha-ching, right?  BUT, all six of us went to the theater tonight to watch McFarland USA.  We were happy to pay the fee.  Why?  Because this movie was made about a man who is a friend of Matt’s family.  In fact, for one week during the summer of 1990 Matt was privileged to train with coach Jim White’s cross country team.  Seriously.  We highly recommend this movie and love that Disney made a movie about a Christian man like this.  (Christianity wasn’t brought into the movie, but the goodness of this man was.)

So basketball, toilets, and a movie.  We’re celebrating it all this week!  How about you?  What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

Gratituesday: Lasts and Firsts

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So here we are.  There are eleven weeks before graduation weekend.

Our senior in high school continues to recognize more and more “last events” before graduating and moving on.  Last youth rally, last year to be a camper at church camp, last few months to be a part of the church youth group.  Tuesday is his very last basketball practice.  This weekend is his last basketball tournament, thus his very last games.

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I get teary-eyed when I think about it.  I am so excited for whatever is to come for Asa!  But tears come anyway – a mixture of “I am so proud of that kid,” “I am so gonna miss having that kid around,” and “Wow, it’s going to be fun to see what God is going to do with this him!”

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It occurred to Asa recently when he and his brothers were divvying up chore responsibilities for the week: “I’m not going to have to scrub these toilets many more times!”  So true.  Oh, but the toilets that are to come…  Son, there will always be toilets.  <— surely the wisest words I’ve ever spoken.

So many lasts.  And now the start of many more firsts.  A dear friend just wrote in an email to me, “I know it’s hard to believe, but parenting a young adult gets even better.”  Mmm, I believe it.  There is so much to look forward to.

For today, I am treasuring each moment.  I’ve cut out many outside commitments this year – partly because life with so many teenagers is very busy and it’s important that I devote most of my time to keeping up with life.  But mostly – I just don’t want to miss a moment.  We’re just about to close a chapter and begin a new one.  The last few pages of this chapter are sweet and joy-filled.  I don’t want to miss any of it.

So here’s to the lasts.  And here’s to the firsts.  And praise God for being who He is yesterday, today, and forever.

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

Gratituesday: 15 on the 15th, 2015

Sunday was a pretty big day for our second son, Justus.  He turned 15 on Feb. 15, 2015.

Even more fun?  One of his very good friends from church camp shares his birthday – as in – they were born just hours apart, 15 years ago.  Since we live over two hours away from this friend, the two of them have been plotting for months about how they could spend their golden birthday together.  Amazingly, plans all fell into place, thanks in part to willing parent drivers from both locations.  The two boys met half-way and spent the afternoon and evening hanging out.

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On the home front, we celebrated by making 15 birthday cakes (just kidding) and giving him 15 gifts (just kidding).  He was given a present and a cake, and his choice for meals – just like all birthdays around here.  Later this week, he’ll go get his driver’s permit.  Here we go again with driver training!

Have I mentioned lately how fantastic teenagers are?  The older my kids get, the more I understand the verses about Mary watching Jesus grow and “treasuring these things up in her heart.”  Watching my boys grow into godly manhood, surrounding themselves with godly friends, and being open to God’s leading in their lives – well, there is much to be treasured.  I’m also obviously relying on many other scriptures for mama encouragement as without a doubt, raising kids in this world is very hard work.  I have to daily surrender the worries and fears that threaten to take over my heart.

God is big.  God knows what our kids need.  God loves our kids unconditionally.  God has plans for our kids that He has worked out in advance.  My job is to simply trust the Father to protect my kids and to be their loving mama.  Like I said, daily surrender.

I’m praising God today for the privilege of being Mom to my four incredible boys and for His constant guidance.  And how about you?  What are you thankful God for this Gratituesday?