Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Farewell, Summer.

It's a quiet, cloudy day at the troops.  I'm grateful.  We are organizing school supplies, trying on clothes, making lists, and cleaning out the "school lunch" part of the pantry.

I've learned over the years to use the quiet to prepare for the chaos.  Daughter (#2) has been cleaning out her room, going through clothes, making a pile for her dorm room.  We aren't done, yet, but she's getting close.  The younger girls are loving the hand-me-downs from their big sister.

We still have lots to do to be ready for school in three weeks.  Two-a-days and volleyball practice start next week, then two kids to move into college the next week, along with the usual back to school events.  This is our last week before school actives hit full force.

I'm ready and I'm not.

I haven't felt like I've had my act together at all this Summer.  It's been from one thing to another, from one trip to another, the sending off, the coming home, the busyness.  I'm ready for more of a consistent daily routine. It will be different with only six in school.  Only high school football, only Jr. High volleyball (instead of all four last year).  No senior, no 6th grader.

But on the other hand, we've had a sweet, wonderful Summer filled with so many precious moments. We enjoyed Son's (#1) speaking at his Impact 360 commissioning.  A 6th grade graduation and a senior graduation.  Two to Haiti, two to China, one to Honduras, and a wonderful week together (minus Son #1 - but we got to visit him!) in Breckenridge.

Lots of cousin time and sleepovers, July 4th with family and fireworks at the farm, swimming at friends' houses, sitting on the porch swing during rain storms, VBS, volleyball camp, and Falls creek.  And finally, last weekend, The Coach and I went to Atlanta for a College Launch seminar at Impact 360.

It's been a beautiful HUMID - but mild - Summer!  There has been a lot of hammocking, a lot of workouts, a lot of basketball, and many movie nights.

We are living in a crazy season.  Parenting both college age young adults and a 2nd grader, with everything in between. The Coach and I continue to learn how to navigate it more effectively - learning how to get along and work through things together - with a lot of help and input from those who have gone before.  It's a special, unique time in our lives and I'm loving it.

I guess the most amazing thing is watching these kids of ours grow up.  Own their faith.  Move forward in their lives and make decisions for their futures.  It's a beautiful thing to watch.  Especially when they still want our input now and then.  Ha!

Farewell, Summer.  You've been good to us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Day in the Life

At each meal we pray for them.  Son #1 in Colorado working as a wrangler at a ranch.  Daughter #2 and Son #3 in China on a mission trip with school.

It's quiet with only five.  We aren't quite sure what to do.  So many empty seats around the table.

In the Fall, there will only be six kids around the table on week nights.  In two more years, there will only be five here most of the time (not just for three weeks of the Summer).  In four more years, we'll be down to four.  In ....

Well, you get the idea.

I'm not complaining.  It's less food, less laundry, and it's quieter.


Today I got up and headed out for a run while the Coach and Son #4 headed to the dermatologist.  When I got back, I loaded up Daughter #7 and Little Man and we met Granddad and Grandmother for coffee.  Then to get my allergy shots.  Then to wash and clean out the big van, which hadn't been washed since before vacation - and has since been taken on an overnight backpacking trip by the Coach and four of the kids.  Then to the cleaners and to return a movie...

You get the idea.

When we got home I switched kids (for Daughter #5 and Daughter #6) and headed out to another doctor's appointment while Son #4 mowed the yard.  After the appointment we ran more errands (Birthday coupon from Loft?  Why yes, yes I will.) before coming home and switching kids (again).

Daughter #7 had found something to make on Pinterest and she had a Hobby Lobby gift card, so we headed out with list in hand (and a birthday gift to buy).  Little Man found a project (he is the project MAN) to do, as well.

When we got home, it was time to fix dinner and tackle the laundry that had been going all day from our three days at the farmhouse.  Where we headed after dropping our two off to head to China on Saturday.

After an early dinner, the Coach and Son #4 headed to 7 on 7 football.  Finally I'm sitting down, after a visit with Papa (who came by on a walk), to catch my breath.

A typical Summer day around here isn't restful - even with only five kids.  We never lack for plenty to do.  Or someone to talk to.  Or run errands/watch a movie/play a game with.  But it also means there is lots of help when it's time to make dinner or clean the house or fold laundry.

Someday, as I frequently tell the kids, the Coach and I will spend Summers taking an RV around the country to visit all of them and their families.  

For now, I'm happy to be home base, keep up with the comings and goings, make airport runs, cook meals (and try to adjust recipes for varying numbers of kids), and now and then?  Sit down to write so I don't forget what it's like RIGHT NOW, this moment, today.

Happy Tuesday!

Prayers appreciated for our team in China for the next two weeks.  We miss them, already.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

It's a lose, lose situation...

Parenting is a rough job.  I can honestly say I am continually challenged, defeated, rejoicing, discouraged, laughing and crying.

Often all at the same time.

When your kids fail?  You take responsibility.  (I'm not saying you SHOULD, I'm saying I DO.)  I should have... I wish I'd... if only we'd...

The Coach and I take our God-given responsibility very seriously.  I know it's my job to teach and train, to love and discipline, to make wise decisions.

It's my job.

It's also impossible.  They are each completely different and we are imperfect.  Some days it feels like we fail more often then we get it right.

And when they succeed?  Make wise decisions, work hard, love others, serve without complaining?  We can't take credit for that.  Because it's truly God's work in their hearts.  Not our doing.

So in some ways, it's a lose lose.  You take the responsibility for their mistakes.  You can't take credit for their successes.

The other night, the Coach and I were talking about how having adult kids is a humbling experience.  There is a WHOLE lot of "keeping your mouth shut". You are sometimes holding your breath waiting to see if they'll do what's right.  Or even just what you'd like them to do.

After discussing this, each kid and their various challenges and decisions ahead, we both started laughing.  "Why does anyone even HAVE kids to begin with??"

We were kidding, of course.

Sort of.

Because in spite of the lose lose guarantee, we would do it all over again.

Parenting has taught US so much.  We are different people than we would be without each of them in our family.  I know we've missed the mark as parents at times.  But I'm rather fond of the eight people they are becoming.

I know there are still rough days, ahead.  I can count on it.  Thankfully God's grace will be there, just like it has been in the past.

But today?  

This lose lose situation feels very much like a WIN.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Missing Mr. Postive

The Coach gets home tomorrow night from a week in Haiti with a group of teens from our school.  Our #4 went along, too.  Without my better half I am not even a responsible adult.  We've eaten out most nights, stayed up too late, and spent more money than we should have (although, in my defense, the to do list is looking amazing!).  It's a good thing he'll be home soon.

Last night we started "Confessions of a Shopaholic" at 10 PM.  Yikes.

I figure A) I don't sleep well when he's gone, anyway.  And B) Between camps and parties and jobs and swim lessons I've only had two or three kids here for dinner every night.  Does anyone even bother to cook for two kids? Apparently, I don't.

There are a zillion things I miss about the Coach when he's gone.  But one thing does stand out.

In this house?  He's the one with the positive attitude.

I'm the doom despair and agony on me, overwhelmed, I'll never make it, it won't work (OK, maybe a bit of a drama queen?)...

He just gives me a smile and says, "It'll get done."  "It'll be OK."  "We'll make it."  "We'll do better next time."

Of course he can't guarantee these things.  (See how I'm so positive?)  But somehow hearing it allows me to take a deep breath, quit stressing out (as much) and keep on going.

His football guys gave him this at the end of the season.  On each coach's photo they put what the guys agreed the coach was known for saying.  My Coach didn't so much want his picture for his own desk (ha!), so I stole it for mine.  I looked at it many times before it hit me what exactly it says about him.

He's always sure that the best is yet to come.

I know that sounds silly, but I certainly don't live that way most of the time.  I'm sad the kids are growing up and leaving.  I'm discouraged that my body is aging.  I miss the kids that are gone all of the time.  I struggle to find hope that my family will be restored.  I feel like so much suffering is in vain.

He knows it's not.

Because whatever else the future holds, we can trust our Heavenly Father who holds it all.  No, our kids will not always do what we would like for them to do.  No, our siblings may not follow the Lord.  No, our parents health won't always be restored.  No, we probably won't ever NOT be tired.

But the coach looks forward to what IS to come.  Today?  We have each other.  He tells me over and over again - YES we will miss these goofy kids - but Lord willing we'll have some time to ourselves one day (Woohoo!).  And yes, life will continue to hold sorrow and illness and broken relationships.  But no matter what?  We have secure salvation in the righteous of Christ.

Puts in all in perspective, doesn't it?

So even though I miss his handsome face and his voice saying I love you (he can only text from Haiti) and his telling me to go to bed already and his reminding me I've already used the dining out budget for the next three calendar years and how he jumps in to help with dinner chores and laundry folding and bedtime reading...

Most of all, I miss him telling me that I'm gonna make it.

I spend a lot of time when the Coach travels praying for my sweet friends who are walking through this season of life without their husbands or wives (lots of prayer time when I can't sleep).  I know I can't imagine for a second what that's like.  But I appreciate the reminder to lift them up to the Lord and ask Him to meet their every need in Christ.

Watching them walk through so much heartache, they've taught me something.

Those of us who are in Christ?  We're gonna make it.

And maybe I'm starting to make that my own, even without the Coach here to tell me.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Happy Tuesday/almost Wednesday Dear Ones.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Because Mother's Day...

Not my favorite.

Don't get me wrong.  I love my mother.  I'm extremely grateful for her.  For her unconditional love.  For her love for the Lord.  For her commitment to truth.  For her meticulous record keeping.  (Ha!)  She's truly a fabulous grandmother - who not only loves her grand kids but pours her prayers and life out for them.

But when I read all of the sweet mother's day sentiments, something in me cringes.  Maybe I'm just uncomfortable with the attention it brings to me as a mom?  Maybe I just see myself more realistically?

Either way, I thought a list was in order.

I've been a list maker all of my life.  I have my calendar, to-do list, and grocery list on my phone.  But when I get really overwhelmed? I grab paper and pen and write it all out.  I make lists for the day, the week, my kids (some of them aren't too fond of lists - go figure!), the house.

On the other hand, I really HATE those lists you see on Facebook all of the time.  10 things not to say to someone who. . . 12 things never to do. . . 8 things never to eat. . .


As if life isn't stressful enough, I'm supposed to remember all of that?  How about giving me some grace?  I may say or do the wrong thing.  OK.  I probably will.  But it's not malicious.  I'm just tired.  And if you say the "wrong" thing to me?  I'll give you grace, as well.  Deal?

But this list is different.  No guilt here.  Just (hopefully) a laugh and a deep exhale if you're anything like me and feeling the pressure of being that perfect mom.

11 Things My Kids Will Never Say About Their Mother

1.  She is so patient.
(They probably won't remember that I have grown in my ability to be patient.  I guess they can discuss that with Son #1, poor guy.)

2.  She doesn't lose her temper with me.
(See #1.)

3.  She responds so graciously when I make stupid mistakes.
(I'm learning.  Beginning to understand that they need to be able to tell me anything and know that I won't lose it.  But I'm still losing it inside, just FYI.)

4.  I see her read her Bible every day.
(Oh wow.  Just wow.  I read these stories about moms who do this.  I'm not sure how?  I love my Daily Audio Bible, but the consistency in quiet times award goes to my Coach.  I'm OK with that.)

5.  She makes Sunday lunch for us every week.
(They WANT me to.  But I probably get this done once a month.  The other Sundays get leftovers or the Coach makes pancakes.  It is what it is.)

6.  She and my dad don't ever disagree in front of us.
(I hope I'm always respectful, but we LIVE life here.  Our kids see it.  I LOVE my Coach, but we have the freedom to disagree, which I appreciate so much.)

7.  She never says bad words.
(You know this is a problem when your 8 year old hurts himself and says, "Oh Crap!"  I'm not proud of this, just being honest.)

8.  She is disciplined in every area of her life.
(I do some things very consistently.  Workout.  Run.  But those cookies get me every time.  Sigh.)

9.  She keeps our house perfectly clean.
(You know. . . on second thought. . . they might actually say this.  But their definition of "perfectly clean"?  Lacking.)

10.  She doesn't mind when our rooms are messy.
(See #9.  Yikes.  Even though I've let a LOT go over the last 20 years, this one still stumps me.  HOW HARD IS IT?? See #2.)

11.  She is always cheerful and encouraging.
(Some days there just isn't enough coffee.  And I'm sorry, but if you are upset that you got a 98 instead of a 100 on your English test, you don't need to be encouraged, you're just goofy.)

So there you go.  A guilt-free Mother's Day courtesy of Mrs. Troop.  Pretty sure no matter what your short-comings, you are doing better than I am.  And I'm OK with that.

I'm learning that being authentic and living out my faith WITH my Coach and my kids. . . being honest about my failures, being quick to ask forgiveness, loving the amazing people that my troops are, and trusting that God is faithful in spite of it all. . .

Well.  That's what I really hope they'll say about me.


Today?  I just want them to clean their rooms.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the dear Mommas in my life.  Each of you bless me.  I learn from you, laugh with you, and share life with so many of you and my life is richer because of it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Little Indulgence

Last night I really wanted to write about our weekend, but one kid needed a hair cut, one needed their pioneer costume ironed so it could go back to school, two needed checks written for the senior Boston trip and the Sophomore retreat next week, Little Man had to read, and honestly I was just so tired.

Son #1 came home for a visit this weekend.  It was kind of a last minute decision on our part.  He will miss Daughter #2's graduation later this month so we wanted him to be here for some part of this celebration.  Baccalaureate was yesterday.  I'm so glad he could be here.  We've missed him horribly.  He will finish up at Impact 360, have his commissioning service next week, and head to Colorado to be a wrangler this Summer.

So indulge me for just a few minutes this morning.  The laundry needs folded, the house needs to be gotten order, and after this morning's bootcamp, I need a shower!  Ha!  But I'll get to that in a bit.  Sometimes I worry that these days are passing - so full and so busy - that we are missing out in really enjoying them.

But the truth is. . . we ARE enjoying these days.  Loving every bit of them.  Having all eight kids here this weekend was DIVINE.  My heart feels all settled and peaceful with them here.  Even if I'm exhausted.

On Thursday, Daughter (#6) and I got back from 9 days in Williamsburg, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.  Such an amazing, learning, fun, non-stop trip.  It was my third time to go with our girls and Grandmother got to go with us.  We had a wonderful time.  The troops missed me, but they did just great.  It's always good to know that my kids CAN take care of themselves, even though I still really enjoy spoiling them.

I've thought a lot, lately, about some of the most impactful, helpful lessons I've been taught over the years.  Things like:

You have either just come through a trial, you are in a trial, or a trial is coming.  It's part of the Christian life. (BSF leader, Jodi)

That in spite of my failures, God did NOT make a mistake in giving me these kids OR in giving them ME for their mom.  (sister-in-law)

And lately the most helpful has been:

That the fact that we are busy, tired, and constantly stretched beyond what we think we can bear does NOT mean we are doing something wrong.

We are struggling against our own weaknesses, our extremely varying personalities, the constant change and growth that occurs not only in kids, but in us as well, and honestly just the exhaustion of life.

I suppose we could just all stay home and not be involved in activities, sports, friends' lives, church, jobs, and school.  But the truth is, my job is to raise these kids up so I can send them out.  I want them to be fully equipped - as much as possible - for whatever the Lord calls them to do in their lives.  To value learning to work HARD, serve others, and love God.  Which means not just keeping them home with us all of the time.  Especially as they get older.

Maybe, by God's grace, we are having some success.  But we are also failing.  Every day.  And it's God's grace that sustains us.  Our kids are learning to depend on the Lord for themselves.  To trust Him.  To seek Him.

Lessons I'm still learning, myself.

So if you woke up today, facing trials that seem insurmountable...  be reminded today that God's grace in your life not only covers your own weakness, but His glory is actually magnified in your weakness.  How amazing is that??

Join me in resting in that truth.  Trusting.  Breathing it in.  And pouring it out to my people.  How I love them.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

White Subway Tile

Spring Break is wrapping up here at the troops, today.  Along with a newly tiled shower in the girls bathroom.  I'll post some before and afters this week.  It's looking great.  And it gives me a good excuse for all of the dust.

But along with those 70's era tiles that are now in the dumpster (a lovely shade of green), there are lots of other things changing here at the troops.  I'm not keeping up well, but life keeps marching on and the kids keep growing and changing while the Coach and I are just more and more tired.

I jest.

Sort of.

One big adjustment is that my grandma passed away a week ago.  We miss her.  She hadn't recognized us in a couple of years, but she still loved watching the kids and was the most content, grateful, happy person I've ever known.  She didn't complain and was so thankful.  It will be hard to not have her with us.  She was our last living grandparent.  Hard to imagine we had 5 grandparents at our wedding 20 years ago.  So many changes.

The Coach and I are often like ships passing in the night.  But he's still my favorite.  His constant reminders that busy is ok and to take a deep breath are so needed.  Even if they come via text message.  He's such a good daddy.  I watched him at the farm this week. . . teaching the kids how to shoot handguns, fixing vehicles, working puzzles, playing ping-pong.  I know they don't realize how blessed they are.

Son (#1), is contemplating college choices for Fall, while finishing up his final semester at Impact 360 in Atlanta.  He spent January in Brazil.  We had a great visit with him in TX the first of this month.  Wonderful to see him and catch up a bit, in spite of the cold, icy weather.  He's waiting to hear about a job in Colorado for the Summer.  I'm rooting for him, but also thinking a job here wouldn't be such a bad thing, either.  I can't help it.

While visiting LeTourneau University with Son (#1), we also missed Daughter's (#2) very last high school basketball game. Seasons end and it was a good one.  This week she's off in Haiti holding beautiful children and sharing love with the people at Mission of Hope.  She's planning on college in the Fall and then nursing school.  With a trip to East Asia this Summer.

Sitting here beside me, Son (#3) is filling out paper work for a Leader Treks trip to Honduras this summer, along with a job application.  He's also going with his sister to East Asia.  I'm so grateful that God has given me kids who love the gospel and have such a heart for missions.  He's in the Spring play at school and working out for football next Fall.

March Madness is a favorite time of year for all of our troops, but most of all for Son (#4).  He's checking his bracket non-stop and right now he and the Coach and two of the little girls are at a Thunder game.  He loves all things basketball and football.  Along with sleeping in his hammock in the yard (Son #3, too).  Can't believe he'll be in high school next Fall.

Daughter (#5) is finishing up her first year of Jr. High.  Crazy.  She and Daughter (#6) are playing volleyball together and asking to re-do their room this Summer.  She's started wearing contacts and even though she's smaller than Daughter (#6) she's spunky for sure.  Her sarcastic voice sounds JUST LIKE her regular voice.  She doesn't get that from me (just ask the troops).

Life with five teenagers is a challenge, but also great fun.  Not sure what life will be like with three teen GIRLS in high school all at the same time.  Which is why we are getting the bathroom down NOW.

I'm headed to Washington DC, again this year.  This time with Daughter (#6).  She just turned 12 and is finishing up 6th grade with great enthusiasm.  She's almost as tall as her biggest sister and loves to borrow clothes and shoes from her.  I'm not sure that it's appreciated, but it does keep things exciting around here.  Since our non-driving kids don't have phones, I get texts from their friends all of the time.  Or something like that.

By far, the happiest, most cheerful, and earliest riser at our troops is Daughter (#7).  She's loving 4th grade.  I pretty much can't imagine life without her constant optimism (something I greatly lack).  Her constant desire to play games (and win!) is contagious.  And besides, it's fun to have someone around here who is still young enough to be excited about something.

And what can I say about Little Man?  His birthday is on Tuesday.  He'll be 8.  And in spite of the fact this I'm his mother, he hasn't gotten kicked out of 1st grade (yet!) for not having something signed or done on time.  When three of the big kids had science projects due a few weeks ago?  He wanted to get a poster to do, too.  Because anything that's a project is his favorite.  He's super happy to keep himself entertained and still wants me to sing to him night.  I'm so glad.

Starting next month, we have the DC trip for two of us, Impact 360 commissioning in Atlanta, Senior trip to Boston, 6th grade graduation, and high school graduation.  Followed quickly by two going to Haiti, family vacation, two going to East Asia, and one to Honduras.  Before I can catch my breath we'll be starting school again with only six troops at home and two away at college.

These constant changes and adjustments are where we live right now. We are balancing life somewhere between college kids and 1st graders. But we're unbelievably grateful in sprite of the challenges.

OH!  And we got new couches last month!  Much needed update, for sure.  Sometimes the laundry is even all put away and you can SEE them.  Ha!  But I can pretty much guarantee that if you stop by to see us (which we would love!) there WILL be laundry out.  I do that just to make everyone feel comfortable.  Or something.

Thanks for letting me catch up a bit.  There are always things to write about, but rarely the time to write it.

Happy Sunday!