Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just to explain the bags under my eyes. . .

Had a great evening last night at the movie MONUMENTAL.  It was like hearing from old friends and visiting familiar places.  How blessed we are to KNOW our nation's heritage and be part of a school that is teaching this to the next generation.  So grateful.

But a movie in the "theratre" (as Little man calls it) on a school night is NOT business as usual for the troops.  It was way past bedtime when we got home and to bed and the giggles had already set in.  Well, in the girls' room, at least.  In the boys' room, it's always the munchies (time for granola bars, all around!).  We finally got the troops (minus our two oldest who left on Choir Tour in the afternoon) settled down and after a LONG, busy day.

I've been having trouble going to sleep, lately.  I'm not sure why.  It seems the minute I lie down on my pillow, my mind speeds into over-drive and it's all I can do to focus my thoughts enough to pray.  My mind bounces from the to-do list, to what is on the calendar for tomorrow, to sweet friends who are hurting, to various issues with each of our kids, to what the Lord is teaching me. . .

Sleep finally came about midnight.  I'm still proud of myself for not getting up and working - those late night hours can be SUCH a productive time, but I pay for it in the morning.

At 3AM, a LOUD ringing siren scared us out of sleep.  The house alarm is going off.  Fire?  Intruder?  Then I lifted my head to see Little Man, screaming, crying, running into the girls' room, with arms flailing.

Unbelievably, the Coach actually woke up - he's one SOUND sleeper - or maybe it was my elbow in his ribs. . . he bounded out of bed and ran down the hall, hesitating just long enough to debate whether to get Little Man out of the girls room first, or run across the house to the alarm key pad and disable the ear-splitting siren.

Such a dear, dear man is my Coach.  And if I hadn't been startled half-to-death with my heart beating out of my chest. . .  I probably would have laughed at the sight of  him. . . bounding down the hall . . .

At least it's funny, now.

In a matter of minutes, the whole thing was over.   Alarm silenced, Little Man tucked back in, the Coach and I in bed. . . having checked all of the doors and convinced ourselves that everything was OK.  Except for our racing hearts, anyway.

It's funny how wide awake we were.  And how we couldn't keep from wondering if Little Man HAD opened the door. . . or if something else triggered the alarm. . . our minds aren't very logical in the wee hours of the morning.  It didn't help that the Coach mentioned, as a side note, "I think we have a gas leak, somewhere, the garage smelled funny."  Thanks, Babe. . . that information will put me RIGHT to sleep.

Sleep finally came. . . about an hour and a half later.  Amid dreams of burglaries and fires and . . . yes, I even dreamed of a gas explosion.  Hence the bleary eyes and dark circles, this morning.

Of course, Son #4 came out dressed for school this morning, and said, "Yeah, Little Man opened the garage door last night.  I heard the alarm beeping, then when the siren went off, he started screaming."

Thanks, Buddy.  Thanks for just lying there.  And letting the alarm go off.  I appreciate it.

Let's just hope I can stay awake long enough to make it through this day and not do anything too terribly stupid.

The joys of parenting,  Lesson 101:  Beware of sleep-walkers.

I'm thinking a higher lock (that Little Man can't reach) on the garage door is in order.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Right" doesn't mean "Easy" and "Hard" doesn't mean "Wrong". . .

Sometimes I find myself believing the lie that the only thing standing between the chaos we live in and a perfectly ordered life is . . . the method.

You know. . . if I could just get organized.
. . . if I could get those cabinets cleaned out.
. . . if we had matching dining rooms chairs or new sheets for the kids' beds.
. . . if I had more time.
. . . if I had more money.
. . . if I had more room.
. . . if I could find the perfect chore system.
. . . if I could learn to reward character more consistently.
. . . if I could discipline more effectively.

I could go on.

None of these things are wrong. Some of them need to happen and should be done. But I'm letting myself be deceived if I think "having it all together" will make life EASY.  And the fact that is't HARD does not mean we are doing something wrong.

As the Coach has been known to tell me. . . sometimes multiple times a day. . . We have eight kids.

Eight kids.


No matter how many activities we limit.  No matter how organized I am (there's always room for improvement, of course!).  No matter how far ahead I plan (the plans always change).  No matter how consistent my discipline and well-behaved my kids are.

There's a lot going on at the troops.

This is a blessing.  The children are ALWAYS my blessings.  They force me to cut back and simplify and think about what really matters and where I should be investing my time (I'll give you a hint. . . it's not on Facebook!).

But sometimes I find myself dreaming of the ideal. . . instead of living in the moment.

I have to remind myself, again and again, that the house, the stuff, the level of cleanliness (ugh) is NOT what builds relationships with these kids that God has given the Coach and I.

Yes, we have to have systems, chores, plans, calendars. . . we would drown without them.

But they aren't the END.  They are simply the MEANS.  The means of giving us more TIME with each other. 

Time for sleepovers at the farm (even though it takes two van loads of clothes, shoes, and FOOD).
For birthdays (Little Mans' FIFTH!).
For movie nights (Chariots of Fire, this week).
For late night talks with teens (when I can't keep my eyes open).
For date nights with the Coach (even if it means changing out of my stretchy pants).
For big Sunday brunches around our LONG table (with the non-matching chairs and sagging middle).
For afternoons watching basketball (with piles of laundry all around).
For pick-up games on the back-yard court (knowing someone will get hurt).
For pushing kids in the swings on a beautiful Spring afternoon (while not thinking about my to-do list - ha!).
For reading to the littles (while hiding my yawns).
For singing songs and playing games (even when they ask for songs I don't know the words to and want to play "Sequence" ONE MORE TIME).

I want to learn to see all of the work of life as simply what it is.  Necessary.  But never-ending.  Needing to be done.  But never really finished.

In two years, I'll be packing my firstborn off to college.  Will it matter if the house was always perfect, the bathrooms always sparkling, the refrigerator always shining, the laundry always folded, his room always clean?  (If it does, I'm in BIG trouble!)

Or will I wish I'd taken more time just to BE with him.  Talk with him about life.  Laugh with him.  Pray with him.  Enjoy the blessing that he is.

And forget two years from now.  Tomorrow, I'm packing two off for their Choir Tour.  And then in May another off to "Creation Nation" camp.  And in June two off to Africa.  Then there will be volleyball camp and football camp.  Truth is, the leaving has already begun.  Little by little, my time with each of them is running out.

So I'm off the computer for today. . . I think Little Man and I have some "Thomas the Train" books to read.  Right after I finish vacuuming. . .

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break at it's Finest . . .

No, there aren't ski slopes or sandy beaches out my back door.
No, we can't sleep in until 10 (ha!) or go out to eat for every meal.
No, this house doesn't have maid service (unless you count me) or mints on the pillows.
No, we weren't able to make our planned camping trip (because of the rain).

But yesterday morning, our first official day of Spring Break, I was pondering the wonders of what we DO have this week at the troops. . .

Sleeping in a little (the alarm did NOT go off at 6:00AM, at least).
Getting to have the Coach home WITH us.
Yummy breakfast with all of my troops (French toast and sticky syrup all around).
Coffee at the breakfast table with the Coach.
Finding the Coach and four kids reading their books.  All on the same couch.
Cousins coming to play.
Thunderstorms and torrential rain - one of my VERY favorite things!
Early afternoon matinees at the movie theatre with grandparents (and popcorn!).
Visiting at Grandmother's house.
Starting projects around the house.
Tacos for dinner (and grandparents, too!).
Lots of folded laundry.
Tucking the littles in all comfy and cozy with the rain falling outside.
Late bedtime after watching Rocky IV with the bigs.

And today?
Vehicles serviced (and a third driver to help with the shuffling).
Cloudy skies (and a little sunshine).
Errands, errands, and MORE errands
Games of Phase 10, Candyland, Go Fish, and LOTS of basketball.
Lots of "to do's" crossed off the never-ending list.
Leaves starting to appear on the trees in our yard and grass that is brilliantly green!
Successful heart surgery for one of my wonderful nephews - thank you, Jesus!
Dinner OUT with the troops (and the wonderful "ahhhhh" of realizing they CAN behave, CAN order politely, CAN say please and thank you, CAN share in conversation and laughter, CAN eat all of the food they ordered. . . and except for that little bit of "booth scooting" by the two youngest - they are quite a delightful bunch.).
Hospital visit with the recovering nephew.
Littles all tucked in safe and sound, once again.
"White Collar" with the bigs.

Our lives may not be "glamorous", but they are certainly blessed.  Tonight I'm praising the Lord for HIS goodness, HIS protection, HIS faithfulness.  He's giving our troops the blessing of precious memories, together.  The gift of RELATIONSHIPS with one another.

So maybe I was discouraged thinking how little "rest" this week would give us.  But maybe what we needed even more was TIME together. 

Yes, the food still needs to be cooked, the dishes done, the house cleaned, and the laundry washed.

But I'm so grateful we are all here together to enjoy it.  It's becoming more and more real to me that these days (of all eight at home, together) are numbered.  Have I mentioned that someone is turning FIVE this weekend?

And tomorrow?  The farm.  "Only one more sleep," Little Man reminded me as I tucked him in and kissed his head, tonight.  As if I needed to be reminded of the packing, groceries, the cleaning. . .

Ahhhhhh.  Never mind.  It's a blessed life, indeed!

Happy Spring Break!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Come to Jesus Meetings". . . all around!

Around here when little people get out of order, when Mom and Dad let the little disobediences go for way too long, when attitudes struggle, and unkindness starts being way too common. . .

It's time for a "Come To Jesus Meeting".

Some of this, of course, has to do with disciplining, correcting, and consequences.  Some of it has to do with Holy Spirit conviction from the carefully applied Word of God.  And there's also just the stopping long enough to DO something about things we have been "too busy" to deal with.

Most of our older kids have made their own profession of faith.  They don't need MY conviction when something isn't "right" in their attitude, behavior, or relationships with others.  But they do need my help in recognizing and resolving things, sometimes.

Then there is the occasional disagreement between the Coach and I.  Both of us (OK.  Usually just me, but "both" sounds better) being stubborn and not admitting our fault.  Refusing to do the hard work of talking it out, asking forgiveness, and agreeing on a solution.  Marriage is hard work and sometimes I am too tired to want to make the effort.

That's when it's time for a "Come to Jesus Meeting" in our marriage.

Any house with 10 people living in close quarters (don't let my kids food you, our house isn't "small" - it just feels that way with all of us on two couches - talking, laughing, and doing homework at night), there are going to be issues.  Big one.  Small ones.  Ongoing ones (don't get me started. . .).  Funny ones.  Serious ones.  Issues.

But sometimes, everyone else is functioning pretty well. . . kids getting along. . . Coach being his usual grace-filled husband and daddy. . . house running as smoothly as is realistically possible. . .

And MOM is the problem.


Sometimes I just get in a "funk".  Doesn't feel like anything is right.  The kids annoy me, the Coach is gone too much, sleep is elusive. . .

So begins the downward spiral into discouragement and feelings of overall failure.

It happens.

And THAT is when it's time for a "Come to Jesus Meeting" of my very own.

Because when my focus is on my SELF my TIME my SLEEP my WANTS my NEEDS my eversobusy life.

Instead of the blessings of the Lord and HIS goodness to us.  Instead of finding joy in serving others.

It's easy to get off track.

The truth is. . . even when nothing else IS right (and not just in my head - ha!), I still have my Lord and Savior's love.  He still found me, saved me, continues to draw me to Himself.  In spite of it all.

So if you're feeling out of sorts, today?  Finding it hard to be grateful?  Wishing you were somewhere else doing something else with someone else?  Having a difficult time seeing anything GOOD in those around you?

Maybe it's time for "Come to Jesus Meeting" of your own.

Here is a good place to start. . .

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Every now and then (and more often as I get older), I have one of those weeks when my heart is burdened and heavy for all of the pain, hurt, sickness, loss, broken relationships, and heartache around me.  Although I have certainly been on the side of the one needing intercessory prayer (and still am!), it seems that more and more I am called on to pray for others.

I consider it a privilege.  And a responsibility.

And you know what?  It's changing me.  

Having desperate need pushes us to the throne of grace and KEEP US THERE.

Right where I need to be.

We aren't in that season of life, anymore, when everyone is a happy newlywed or welcoming sweet babies all of the time (well, WE welcomed them all of the time, anyway!).  Not that those seasons aren't FULL of prayer and desperate need.  They are.  But now those around me are dealing with much harder things.  Aging parents, wayward children, marriages that have become unbearable.

It could easily fill me with heaviness and discouragement.

And sometimes it does.

But the difference between seeing all of the need around me and letting it steal my joy - and being able to live with joy IN the midst of it?


And Thankfulness.

I have almost forgotten how to pray for long periods of time in QUIET.  Because life isn't quiet (at the troops) and prayer can't wait.  

I pray in the car, at meals, in the living room after a phone call, in bed at night, in the shower, while talking on the phone, while washing the dishes or folding the laundry.  Because I've learned at least one thing about prayer - or maybe about myself - when the Holy Spirit says THIS IS IMPORTANT, I stop right then and give it to Jesus.

Some needs might be forgotten, otherwise.  Some needs would be worried over if not given to the Lord right away.  And some needs. . . are lifted up over and over again all day long every day for. . . as long as it takes.

Prayer has been a hard thing for me in the past.  Not the praying, itself, but the resolution of why I should pray to a Sovereign God who is in control, anyway.  He doesn't need ME.  Or my prayers.

But He uses them.  

He uses them to change ME.  To smack me upside the head (so-to-speak) and remind me to BE THANKFUL.  He uses them to show me HOW to love others and serve others and intercede FOR others.  Prayer moves me beyond myself and helps me focus on my Sovereign Loving GOD.

I Thessalonians 5:17.  "Pray without ceasing."

I've never really thought about how that verse comes right after, "Rejoice evermore," and right before, "In everything give thanks."

Turns out, it's MUCH easier to "give thanks" when we are "praying without ceasing."  

And speaking of giving thanks. . . 

A short list since I've already been much too wordy this morning.

1.  RAIN (not so much the hail, but it's been tiny so far at our house) - an answer to many many prayers for our dry state.

2.  Fellowship with sweet friends over tacos on a Wednesday night.

3.  A repaired microwave that is scheduled to return this morning.  

4.  Clothes to wash and iron, today.  And children to wear them.

5.  Food to cook and bake.  It's a chocolate chip cookie kind of day, don't you think?

6.  Little Man to keep me company at home while it's cold and rainy outside.

7.  The treadmill.  I need to spend some time on it, today.

8.  The blessing of being a stay at home mom.  No more whining!

And now, it's time to get this day started.  Praying without ceasing, giving thanks in everything.

Oh.  And the rejoicing?  Answered prayer makes it easy to rejoice!  But even when He doesn't answer?  Or doesn't answer in the way we would have chosen?  We can rejoice in our salvation.  The best is yet to come!

And THAT is something to be thankful for!

Happy Thursday!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sixty Acres and a Bride

About a year and half ago, my friend and fellow blogger, Lori, invited me, another good friend, and her cousin, to come down to Dallas and go to the Michael Buble' concert together on a Sunday night.

So.  Much.  Fun.

One of the perks, though, was meeting the "cousin" who was, in fact, Regina Jennings, who homeschools her kids in nearby Mustang, Oklahoma.  She was delightful.  The three of us (traveling down to meet Lori) hit it off immediately.  It was a great, memorable weekend.  I think all four of us (with 20 kids between - that we wisely left at home) were encouraged, strengthened (mostly because of the quantity of laughter!), and just had a generally fun time together.  Not to mention the handsome MB and the amazing concert.

Fast forward a year or so, and it turns out this very SAME Regina, has published her first historical fiction book, Sixty Acres and a Bride.  And I knew her before she was famous!  Ha!

I was thrilled to get a pre-release copy and quickly devoured it.  And I'm sure my family didn't suffer a BIT while I spend every spare moment reading it.  It was so good!

Now the reason I GOT this aforementioned pre-release copy, was so that I could write a review here on the ole blog.

Ahem. . .

It may take me awhile to get to things, but. . . here I finally am!

However, you know why this matters TODAY and TODAY especially?  Because you can download Regina's lovely book for FREE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, AND  Pretty sure it doesn't get any better than a GREAT book for FREE!  Right?

If you enjoy Christian Fiction, you will LOVE this book.  It's a "Ruth and Boaz" type plot, set in the late 1800's, incorporating Texas history, wonderful character development, and Biblical themes throughout.

I will be honest with you.  I read a lot.  Maybe that should be in all caps - A LOT.  But most of what I read is not "fun".  All reading is enjoyable for me, but I rarely take the time to read something just because it's a lovely story.  You know. . . fiction.  But this book?  It will not waste your time.  While it's definitely fiction, it's also about forgiveness, redemption, relationships. . . it will challenge and encourage you WHILE being a good read.

SO what are you waiting for?  This is only FREE today - so get to it!

Happy Monday!

OH!  And if you want to keep up with Regina and her writing projects, you can find her on Facebook or on her blog:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thankful Thursday. Almost there.

It's late, but it's still Thursday.  And before the day ends, I HAVE to pause and be thankful.  In spite of the fact that typing really hurts because the tips of three fingers are split from all of the cleaning and hand washing. . . but even so. . .

1.  Only ONE case of the stomach virus.  So far.  Thank you, Jesus!

2.  That the one case of the stomach virus happened in the DAY TIME.  Do you realize the significance of this?  Sleep, I tell you.  It matters.

3. In slightly over 24 hours the Coach will be home.  Praise the Lord.

4.  Starbucks this morning from my Daddy.  Lovely.

5.  After a four mile *almost* run.  Not almost four miles, but almost all of it running.  Yay!  So grateful that the "formerly-stress-fractured" leg feels good.

6.  Huge HUGE amount of help from my sweet mother, today.  There aren't words for how much she blesses me.  And not just with her mad laundry folding skills.  

7.  Clean laundry all folded and put away - see #6.

8.  Kitchen clean, dishes washed - see #6.

9.  Clean house, clean towels, clean sheets. . . you get the idea.  My hands have had it.

10.  Aveeno Baby Lotion - see #9.  Best stuff ever.

11.  God's faithfulness in giving grace and strength all week.  Faithfulness, I tell you.

12.  Sleep.  I can't believe it - see #11.

13.  A loaner microwave from kind friends while ours is . . . still not fixed.  In spite of TWO service calls.

14. Birthday of my Sweet BFF this week.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Lori!  Go on over there and tell her to POST something, already.  (grin)  Love you, Friend!

15.  Son (#1) driving the kids to school all week!  Woo hoo!

16.  Blessed evenings with the kids while the Coach has been gone.  One of my greatest joys ever that all of us love to sit and read in the evening when we are home.

17. 99 cent movies from Blockbuster for a sick girl.

18.  Clorox Green Works.

19.  Clorox Cleaning Wipes.

20.  Candles.

21.  Febreeze.

22.  BEAUTIFUL weather this week.  Warm sunshine, cool breezes, open windows.  Love.

23.  That Little Man is old enough to HELP with puzzles on the big table in the sunroom.  Not only does he NOT mess them up and get the pieces everywhere, the kid can WORK puzzles.  Real, big, jigsaw puzzles.  Can you tell I'm impressed?

24.  Ginger Ale.

25.  Cinnamon toast.

26.  The kind of marriage that makes having my husband gone feel like half of me is missing.   Because it's really wonderful.  Mostly when he's here, but even when he's not.

27.  Facebook.  I know it's basically a waste of time, but I love keeping up with sweet friends and can I just say?  Last night I laughed SO hard at a "conversation".  It felt good to laugh.

28.  Seeing and getting a hug from a good friend, today.  And a bit of a visit.  So nice.

29.  A soft comfy bed (love that memory foam mattress topper!) that is calling my name.

30.  Good books.  Did I mention that the Coach heard Eric Metaxas speak on Sunday night?  Wow.  Just wow.  THAT is a good book!

31.  That whether the Coach is here or not, I have a loving Heavenly Father who is ALWAYS with me. Always.  This song?  Love it.  He's always there.  I know it for real.

32.  Peace.  I've felt it.  Stomach viruses and a traveling husband?  Peace.  How I love my Jesus!

33.  Answered prayer.  Have you ever FELT the prayers of others?  I have yesterday and today.  I've had a calmness and a patience and a  LOVE for my troops. . . even though all common sense said I should be going insane.  When I wanted to quit and then. . . it was OK.  Somehow OK.  Praise the Lord.

I keep thinking of more!  Ha!

34. Science Fair over with for another year.

35.  That Son (#4) and Daughter (#5) have completed all of the work they missed while sick week before last.  They have worked so hard!

36.  Parts in the school play for Daughter (#2) and Son (#3).  So fun!

37.  No more broken bones in the house!  Woo hoo!

Really. . . my fingers can't take anymore.  Ha!

Happy Thursday!