Monday, April 28, 2014

Matters of the Heart


My Grandpa was a tall, gentle, quiet man with a great sense of humor and a deep love for God. I didn't realize the effect he had on me spiritually, until after he was gone. After he passed away and I was preparing to sing for his memorial service, I was thinking about all he meant to me personally and how much his life exemplified Christ.

You see, my Grandpa's actions spoke much louder than words. He was a man of few words, but his actions have impacted my life in numerous ways. When we stayed at Grandpa and Grandma's house, right after breakfast each morning, he would pull out his Bible and begin to read to us. It was a sacred time and one I have cherished memories of. After he read the Bible to us, he would pray. He prayed for the neighbors, the relatives in our lives, friends, and acquaintances. He thanked God for His provision and He thanked God for us, his grandchildren and prayed that we would stay close to Jesus. At some point during each visit my Grandpa would find a moment to ask me how I was "really" doing and if I shared a struggle or concern with him, his gentle eyes showed that he cared and he would then remind me to apply Proverbs 3:5,6. He would shake the hands of each one of us grandkids at the end of each visit, look us in the eye, ask us how we were doing and then say "well, just remember Proverbs 3:5,6 " Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." When he let go of my hand, I would find a crisp dollar bill in it every time. I don't know about the rest of the grandkids, but as much as I loved those dollar bills, I think I treasured knowing my Grandpa cared and prayed for me even more and because of his consistent reminder to trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5,6 has been hidden deep in my heart and has been something I have applied throughout the many confusing challenges I have faced along the way.

This has been by far, the best advice ever given to me. It has stuck with me through each decision in life and throughout each day. It has been the best navigational tool and has aided in keeping things in perspective during troubled waters.

Grandpa and Grandma always took us to church when we visited. Grandma loved to be in the nursery taking care of the babies and children and I remember her sweet, soprano voice singing the hymns during the service. I also remember Grandpa planting himself at the front door of the church as the unofficial greeter. He made sure that he met and greeted every new face and welcomed them warmly. My grandparents practiced the art of hospitality and I'm pretty sure every single person that ever visited their church received an invitation into their home for a meal.....and boy could my Grandma cook!

Some of my earliest memories are of helping my Grandma in the kitchen. I have treasured memories of learning how to make a perfect pie crust from scratch, setting the table, rolling out biscuit dough, baking cookies, stuffing a turkey, and the list goes on. We laughed and talked and sang while we worked and Grandma was always patient and kind and loving as she taught us. This developed a love for the culinary arts and the desire to practice hospitality in my young heart.

My grandparents have been gone for over twenty years now and there isn't a day that goes by, that I don't miss them. I am grateful for the godly heritage they passed down to the future generations and I'm blessed to have such warm, loving memories of time spent with them in their home as well as all the times they visited us in ours. I still remember the excitement in our home when we knew they were coming up for a visit. Four little kids would be lined up on our knees with our elbows planted on the back of the couch, looking out the big picture window in our living room where we would watch for their car to pull into the driveway. As soon as we saw their car, we jumped off the couch and ran outside to greet them as fast as our legs could carry us. Mom and Dad pretty much had to pull us off of them and shoo us away for a while so they could get a word in edgewise. Their trunk was always full of pies, cookies, dinner rolls....whatever Grandma could fit in there alongside their suitcases and pillows and we kids couldn't wait to sample some of Grandma's good baking!

I wrote a song for my Grandpa's memorial service and I sang it that day. I can't believe my voice didn't crack and I made it through. As I was writing the words and the memories were flowing, I started thinking about my own life. What kind of memories will my kids and grandkids have of me? What do I want my life to exemplify? At that moment, I realized that I needed to be intentional about my choices and how I treat people. I realized that the only memories worth leaving behind for my family and friends are the memories of someone who really loved God and that is enough.  If I really love God it will be evident in the way I love others and this is the prayer of my heart....that others will feel loved and cared about when they are with me. That I will seek to understand them more than I seek to be understood. That I will love them sacrificially and unconditionally as God loves. My grandparents weren't perfect people, but one thing I know....their faith was real and strong and deep and it showed.

When Grandpa and Grandma said good bye to us after we visited their home, Grandma always came running out with the camera for a picture of us all standing out in the front yard together. When we hugged them good-bye, Grandpa always looked us in the eye and said "Stay close to Jesus" and then they stood in the doorway waving at us until our car was out of sight.

Grandpa's Song

He always said stay close to Jesus. He always stayed close to the Lord. Well now he's with Jesus forever and pain he will suffer no more.

Chorus: My Grandpa I'll miss you always, but my sadness is only for me. I thank my heavenly Father that someday with you I will be in eternity.

A strong man he was yet so gentle. He taught me the way of the Lord. He taught me to pray to him daily and to always depend on his word. (Chorus)

He said trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path. (Chorus)


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Breaking the Routine With Friends, Kya Update & Home School Stuff


Yesterday we took a break from school.....well, at least all of the kiddos in our home who are completely on track, took a break. Sadly one of them  missed out on this reward which meant we all missed out on hanging out with him on our day off. It was a bummer for all of us, but hopefully next time he will get to take a break with the rest of the kids.

Our dear friends, Tracy Keen and her boys were able to come out and we all enjoyed a much needed day of fun. Brandi and the grandkiddos joined us and the kids had a great time exploring in the woods, building forts, soaking up the sunshine and eating a delicious lunch consisting of home made gluten free chilli, kosher hot dogs, baked potatoes, tortilla chips, grapes and some tasty home made gluten free, organic cupcakes and donuts for dessert.



We moms chatted, laughed, and generally decompressed. It was so good to get a visit in with Tracy again, outside of the hospital and in a relaxed environment.

We have also had the pleasure of a precious little guest in our home for the past couple of days and all the kids have enjoyed Isaac tremendously. He's the cute little guy in the overalls and Noah was pretty happy that he got to hold him for the pictures. :)

My grandson, Jackson is quite the warrior. Did you know sticks make great arrows?


My granddaughters, Alahna, Hailee and Isaac had a lot of fun together.




After everyone left for the day, Isaac joined Tim, Noah, Levi and me in an hour long, "epic" Nerf Gun War.

Shakeology was on the dinner menu and after dinner, Rich and I did P90X3's Total Synergistics.  What a great way to end all the activities of the day and it was a sure way to guarantee a good night's rest. :)

I'll add in a quick update on Kya to end this post.  She had another heart catheterization on Thursday which you can read about here.  Tracy said the next procedure is set for early Tuesday morning. Please keep Kya, the surgeon, the medical team and the Keen family in your prayers that Kya will have an uneventful week-end, that she will be rested up and able to handle the surgery well, and that it would be very successful with a complete recovery.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keeping Holidays Simple

I don't know about everyone else, but it seems to me that the longer I live, the speed of life increases. Is it just me? Am I just getting old.....and unable to keep up anymore, or have the demands of life increased?

When I was younger, I loved to have every day....and especially week-ends and holidays, filled with as many activities as possible. Now, I tend to live for simplicity. I find a greater need for a healthy balance between commitments/parties/activities and quiet days at home.

Over the past few years, we have slowed way down around the holidays and stepped out from underneath the pressure to host big functions....and it's really nice. Now we focus on the reason for the holiday and celebrate in simplicity.  For Easter this year we went to the Good Friday service at church and it was really special. Remembering Jesus death and resurrection is what it is all about for us and it was such a blessing to celebrate with fellow believers, worship in song and take communion together in remembrance of what our Savior did for us. On the way home we sang Easter hymns and worship songs as a family. On Easter Sunday we attended church in the morning and again, it was wonderful to celebrate the real reason for Easter; Jesus death and resurrection. After church I made a big pot of gluten free, organic spaghetti loaded with veggies and nitrate free Italian sausage. Our daughter made gluten free donuts the day before and that was our Easter dinner.....spaghetti, with donuts and coffee for dessert. It was simple. It was nutritious. It was delicious and it freed me up from all the extra work a more detailed meal would demand. I got to enjoy a little egg hunt with the kids and grandkids because I wasn't busy in the kitchen the whole day. I got to color with my granddaughter and play with my grandson and visit with the grown ups. It was perfect.

And....I got to don my paparazzi hat!

I accidentally added these pictures a little out of the first few were taken after the hunt and the rest were during the hunt. Oh well.... I'm pulling the grandma card. I can do that! There are fifteen reasons, between my kids and grandblessings, as to why I might be just a little confused and backwards. :)

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If you find that you aren't enjoying the holidays or you are losing the focus of what the holiday is all about, I encourage you to consider simplifying things. It's well worth it. :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dealing With School Year Burnout

As a home schooling family, we tend to start out with a bang in August and go hard until the holiday break. From January to June things tend to slow down. We are tired and ready to be done for the summer months.

How do you deal with that feeling of burnout when there are still several months of school left for the season?

Well.....since we went so hard the first several months while the kids were fresh and I was fresh, we have earned a few breaks, so....we take them!

That's the beauty of home schooling. We can be flexible with our schedule. The kids are doing great. For the most part, they are right on track and will be done in June. Now we get to plan and enjoy some field trips and extra time outdoors. Perfect.....since the days are longer and the sun is out more often.

Last week the kids did do school, but they are able to put in fewer hours and take more free time and much of that time, we get to spend with their older sister and their nieces and nephews, making great memories.

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How do you deal with burnout? There are so many ways to plan out the school year. Some people go year round and take breaks more often. Some of the moms I talk to take a day off each week to get their house back in order, catch up on laundry and just relax. Others take a week off every four weeks. We switch it up often because we enjoy change and flexibility. The important thing is to find what works for your family and go for it!