Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January Days

In years past, January's felt like such a 'blah' month. This year it hasn't, and I am thankful. Even as I notice the drab grey and brown world outside, I'm getting excited about spring bursting forth in a few (okay, so maybe more than a few!) months.

My husband and I were raised in Texas, but have made Kansas City our home for the past 16 years. We love it here: the people, the city, the four distinct seasons. I have come to appreciate the ugly-winter parts of the landscape, simply because they provide such a contrast to the beauty that bursts out in spring. I tell my kids that we don't appreciate good things as much if we always have those good things around. We humans need the contrasts around us to open our eyes to beauty and blessing.  The Lord knows us and made us this way. We need the drab winter to feel pleasure when green comes. We need times of sickness to feel thankful for health. We need to at times experience loneliness and loss to value the loved ones in our lives. We need to see glimpses of darkness in ourselves and the world around us in order for Christ's perfect light to be precious to us.

As I get older, I'm starting to think that these contrasts, and the good they can do for us, are part of what we can "give thanks in all circumstances" for.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thoughts on Cooking

Being a homeschoolin' Mama to eight requires, as my friend Barb says, 'wearing a lot of hats.' Over that past two or three years, I've found myself resenting/dreading/slacking in the area of cooking for my family.  It just seemed like one more task to try to fit in, and often I failed to plan, so after a successful day of homeschooling, at about 4:47, I'd suddenly think, "Oh--DINNER!!"  Cooking felt like an endlessly-undone task.  I was simply trying to stave my begging children off for another 2.3 hours every time I fed them.  My husband has come home some weeks asking innocently, "So, what kind of frozen pizza are we having tonight?"

Plus, I've never been one to really enjoy cooking. My Mom was too kind and gentle on me as a teenager, and I was never required to do much of anything in the kitchen, including cleanup.  I distinctly remember calling her during my newly-wed days, asking her how to make tea.  I kid you not.  My Mom and Mother-in-law were surely snickering behind their hands, but were gracious to give me tips, recipes, and ideas over those first years.  Kevin was blinded by love and endured a lot of sub-par food.  Ask him about the tuna casserole event.  

These days, the world seems full of people who love to cook and create in the kitchen, but maybe there are some of you out there who feel as I have.  Recently The Lord has allowed me some insight that has really helped my attitude and motivation, and maybe it will encourage you, too.  

As a child, I remember having a certain feeling when my Mom was in the kitchen cooking or baking.  There was a sort of anticipation, and a sense of security.  Though unable to articulate it at the time, I felt loved and cared for.  Even when the menu included something I considered gross, I never doubted that dinner would be on the table and perhaps if I ingested the gross stuff, there would be dessert. I liked it when Mom was in the kitchen.  

Even as an adult, food has clearly communicated love to me at times when I've been on the receiving end of a nice meal.  After the birth of each of our children, kind friends have showered us with dinners to give us a helping hand.  Probably near a hundred meals, if I were to figure ten or so for each child's birth.  What a simple but powerful way to put love in action for a tired and sore Mama and her adjusting family!  

So, lately it's helped my motivation and creativity to remember that I'm giving my children that same subtle feeling of security when I'm creating something in the kitchen. There's so much more involved in making a home for your family, but food is a big part of it. I certainly no gourmet cook, but I'm hoping that even my small efforts will communicate love to my clan.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Here are some of the things we've been doing over the past few days.  We got a couple of inches of snow, which isn't quite as much as we'd have liked, but is apparently enough to carry a sled down our steep backyard, with a nice little shove. :) Annesley celebrated her sixth birthday, and unfortunately has been sick since that day, but she seems to be improving, so we're thankful.

Merry Christmas to you all!  Enjoy your day with family and friends, celebrating God's blessings to us, and our Hope in Jesus Christ!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Simplifying Christmas

Like most people, I love Christmas time. It's so much fun to give and receive gifts, wrap presents, listen to Christmas music, bake goodies to enjoy. Last year, I was just plain tired. All the many Christmas traditions we've started and maintained began to feel like a burden. Inwardly I groaned, "Do we really have to decorate Christmas cookies, make gingerbread houses, go look at lights, draw names and shop among the siblings, buy advent calendars, watch the light show on Metcalf, etc, etc, etc..." I was feeling a bit Scroog-y. We did those things and I tried to maintain a good attitude. I do of course want to make special memories for and with my children. I just want to find a balance between laziness (on my part) and frenetic activity that wears me out and makes me a grumpy Mom.

After the Christmas season last year, I purged a lot of my Christmas decorations. I just had too much stuff. So, I kept the things I really think are beautiful or that the kids really enjoy. This year putting up decorations was so nice and simple. A few things here and there, and of course the tree. I think I'm going to apply my decorating philosophy to our busy Christmas fun "to-do" list. We will keep the things that are really important, and if we need to skip a thing or two, that's okay. My goal won't be doing it all, but making what we *do* get around to special.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Before and After: Kids' Bathroom

We rented this house for a year with no thought of actually purchasing it at first.  It was just a blessing to have a rental at a reasonable price, that would fit all ten of us.  After living in the house, though, it really grew on us, and even though it was in need of a lot of work (major and cosmetic), the Lord allowed us to buy it last May from our friend and landlord at a reasonable price.  Since then, it's been a constant rhythm of projects, big and small. At times not much work has gotten done, and other times it seems like we have worn ourselves out working hard.  The Lord has used the unfinished and 'in process' appearance of our house to humble me: a perfectionist who loves to decorate and have everything look pretty and polished.

Our latest (and longest ongoing) project has been the kids' bathroom (and guest bath). This room was an original 1978 mess: brown tile everywhere, ugly dated wallpaper, carpet (can't stand carpet in a bathroom---especially with little boys!! Ewww). The tile surround in the shower had had water leakage behind it so the room smelled moldy.  Sure enough, when our tile guy demo'd it, he ended up delaying work a day so he could douse everything with bleach to kill all the mold.  

As of the wee hours of this morning (!), Kevin and I have pretty much finished with the room. The only thing left to do is a little bit of paint touch-up, and I will refinish the cabinets with Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations. They'll be a country white, so try to imagine them in the following photos!  Also, imagine I had three light bulbs for the fixture instead of one.  :)  Forgive the fuzzy pictures.  All I have time for this morning is uploading photos from my phone.  


And, After....

I don't know if I would have chosen the same paint color if the countertop had been in when I was trying it out.  I think we can live with the grey and tannish color, though.

I have much to do in the kitchen (as I'm sure most of you do), so I'm off the computer and into the kitchen.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Have a wonderful day of family and food and giving thanks to the One from whom all blessings flow!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bibles and Smartphones

Like just about everyone, I really enjoy my phone.  I like Instagram, and checking email wherever, and reading my favorite blogs and news with such convenience.  I have a few apps that I use a lot, and one of them is a Bible app.  It's beautiful and functional and has lots of neat features such as reminders, different versions, reading plans, etc.  For the past two years I have used it to help me stay on track with  a 'read through the Bible in a year' plan, and that's been helpful.

Despite all the positives, I have decided to lay down my smartphone when it comes to daily Bible reading in the future, and pick up my lovely red leather one instead. There are a couple of reasons why.

When someone is reading on a tablet or phone, there's such privacy to it.  This obviously can be a real problem, but even when the reader is engrossed in something good and wholesome, others can't tell what's on the screen. Usually in the morning I will sit in bed with my coffee and read my Bible (on my phone), check email and news.  The kids wake up and trickle in for a snuggle (or to ask what's for breakfast!), and they see me holding my phone, but don't know that I am reading my Bible. One of my most treasured memories from childhood is finding my Mom in the spare bedroom reading her Bible and praying on her knees.  It bothers me that my children don't see the same example in me. Certainly, we don't read God's Word or obey him mainly for the example we show to others, but that example is a reality.  I want them to see and know that I love God and am meeting with Him each day.  I want them to see my dependence on Him.

I have also found that it is very hard for me to really focus in on what I'm reading for very long when notifications pop up on my screen.  I'm in the middle of a chapter--but let me just quickly respond to this text, or look at that new email.  Arrgg.  It's not exactly giving my focus and attention to what the Lord is saying in His Word.  It's as if I'm saying, "Hold that thought, Lord." The distractions are not helpful to me as I try to study and meditate, and giving in to them is not honoring to God.

I do still think I will keep the app on my phone for times when I need to look something up, and for the convenience of having the Bible always accessible.  And I'm not trying to legalistically say that this is what everyone should and shouldn't do.  I just think it will be helpful for me.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quiet House

I feel a bit awkward blogging after four months off!  But, here I am again; we are all alive and well.  Today the dog and I are alone in the house. The kids are with their grandparents for the whole week so Kevin and I can tackle some of our many house projects and have a little break.

So far I've actually found it hard to relax.  My brain keeps saying, "This is your chance.  You'd better get some projects knocked off your list or it may be MONTHS before you can pick that paintbrush up again!"  I'm hoping to work this morning and then take a break this afternoon to meet a friend for coffee.

This has already been a much-needed time of not only work, but of time with Kevin and time for me to refocus and reflect.  Kevin and I have gotten through the first few chapters of Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage, which is the best book on marriage I have ever read--and I've read quite a few! I highly recommend reading it with your spouse.

Here are some pictures of the family, and I think I can find a 'before' and 'in process' picture of the bathroom.  I love looking at before and after pics!

So, I'm back.  I'm going to try to begin blogging again, with a modest goal of once a week.  I'm off now to find my paint clothes and brush!

***Still working on those before and after photos, but here are some of the kids from last month.