Sunday, January 20, 2019

Blessings Come in Different Places

Due to some rough life stuff,  I’ve been in kind of a spiritual desert 🌵 lately. Things have just been dry and HARD. Not fit for growing much. Or maybe it has been all for growth and I just didn’t do very well. But I digress.

We left the desert (literal) for a new job. A job that never came through. So, after two months of being in a climate that should have been ripe for much growth, we are back.

And if you just look around you see a lot of dry, brown, dirt, a few sad cactuses, dirt....and sometimes a dust storm comes along to make it really make it pretty. (Ok, I'm exaggerating but you get the point)

(The best picture I had of the ugly landscape around here-even though this picture shows some of my biggest, most obvious blessings 😉)Blessings

And then there are the sunsets. Oh. My. GOODNESS. So, tonight, it hit me. God blesses different places and lives in different ways.

Maybe I was looking down at the ground for my blessings. Maybe I was looking for trees and grass when my blessings, my sign of His goodness are in the sky.

I’m not as well traveled as some people for sure. But I’m not untraveled either. And West Texas has some of the most glorious, beautiful sunsets of any I’ve seen.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

G’bye 2018


So, normally I’m not a “wishing time away” kind of girl. (And clearly I’m borrowing time back if I call myself a “girl”).

But 2018 can just suck it. I’ll show it the door-and I don’t care if it hits it on the way out. 2018 has been a rough year for this family. 
The pendulum has swung from highs to lows. Hubby working so many hours that our family life suffered tremendously (cancelled plans when he was required to work on a weekend he was supposed to have off) for most of the year, followed by 2 months (so far) of unplanned, unpaid “vacation”. 
The only way we could get through the working-so-many-hours-you want-to-die part was reassuring ourselves that we were saving for a house! (Yay! Getting out of the camper!!). But when the next job doesn’t start when you were told it would, and things keep going wrong....the dreams of that house get flushed down the toilet quickly. And it’s ever so hard to pull yourself up out of the pit of hopelessness.  
I’ve always loved New Year’s. I stink at resolutions and I’m not a partier so I’m not really sure why. There’s just something about the fresh calendar and even the fresh bill folder. Empty file folders and a new number to write with the date. (Kinda like the first day of school and new books and supplies-if you’re not a nerd I may not be speaking your language.)

2019 needs to see some surrender I think. I need to surrender to whatever it is that God has for us. His plan certainly doesn’t look anything like mine. And fighting it doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. I’m just tired. It’s kind of like dog paddling. You look really busy and you’re breathing really hard but you’re just going almost nowhere. 

I’m not saying I’ve “arrived”. And that there won’t be some kicking and screaming worthy of a spoiled, rotten three year old. But I’m going to work on this thing. Not as a resolution. We all know those usually hit the toilet around mid-January. 

“God has not promised us skies always blue, flower strewn pathways all our lives through...”

I get it. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Rough Road Ahead

Image result for rough road ahead signWhen you're driving down the highway you get a warning. "Hey, you! Slow down a little and get ready! It's fixin' to get rough!" (This is how the road signs in Texas talk y'all.) Or, "Don't drift out of your lane because there will be a scary drop that feels like you're losing control."

How I wish life was a little bit more like driving. "Things are about to get rough. Brace yourself or exit now." Unfortunately, there is often NO WARNING.

Now, I know that my life isn't the worst. There are so many that have it worse. I get that. I really do. But it's not the easiest either.
Image result for uneven lanes sign
About 5 years ago we had some major shakeups. My husband quit his job of almost 9 years to go work at a better job. One with benefits (finally) and opportunities for overtime (a chance to pay off debt). Only that's not how it worked out. This is where the signs would have been beneficial.

Right there.

"Curves ahead" "Rough Road" "Sharp Curve Ahead"

You know, just basic warnings. And every time we think we are recovering and overcoming, a whole new "rough" comes along and throws us into uneven lanes.  As Christians, we know that we are not in this alone. We know that God has a plan. And we try, we really do, to keep that in mind and hang on. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard the verse said to me "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28 KJV) we wouldn't need to work anymore. But it doesn't make it easier. We also understand that that "good" doesn't always happen here on earth. We know that our lives aren't charmed-shoot, sometimes they're barely bearable. And I don't even pretend to understand why some people seem to float along in the "happily ever after" part of the fairy tale while the rest of us feel like Cinderella looked after the step-sisters ripped all of of her finery off.

Image result for cinderella in rags

So, here we sit. Spending our house money while we wait for the job to start that was already supposed to be in full swing. Discouraging for sure.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

It Is Well...


Prologue: This blog post has been sitting-half finished- as a draft for MONTHS. Partly because, as we travel to different areas, my internet connection isn't good enough to do much on the computer, I'm busy, I constantly drive long distances....but I think if I'm honest it's partly because it's just so dang hard. Most of the time I choose not to think about the fact that my grandma isn't sitting in the chair near my grandpa's chair anymore...

With My Soul
This summer my grandma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that had metastasized. No treatment. Just make her as comfortable as possible.

I was extremely close to my grandma. She was like a second mom to me. My mom is great, I just got the best of both! She came to help me with 3 of my 4 newborn babies. I'm very grateful for all the time I had with her as I know most people don't have their grandma at age 41. But man I miss her! I haven't lived close to my grandparents for a long while but we were always close where it mattered. In our hearts.

In so many instances, grandparents have so much to give. When they were the parents, when their own children were young, they had all the stresses of that life. Earning enough money to keep things going, working full time (I know my grandpa worked 2 and 3 jobs at times!), keeping the house clean, making the kids mind their manners. Being a parent is stressful. It's the best and hardest job in the world I believe. If you're doing it well.

When grandkids come along you have one job really. To love them. It's not your responsibility to make sure they eat their broccoli. You get to give them ice cream. You don't have to make the hard decisions and discipline nearly like you do as a parent (sure, grandparents should come alongside parents and support them in their responsibilities, but it's just that. Support. Not your full-time responsibility.)

Anywho, my grandparents embraced this role. I'm quite sure the grandma I remember is not the same as the mom my mom remembers. Does that make sense? My mom was the baby of 3 kids. All born within about 5 years. Three kids in five years. My mom likely remembers an exhausted mom. One who didn't have much time to be silly or just sit and talk. While we didn't do that often, it did sometimes happen.

I remember taking a walk with her one time and she taught me how to "skip a stick" (you make it skip as you kind of push it along).

I remember her driving me to church once. My grandpa always drove. Always. She had a license but she didn't drive. And she drove in the grass. I apparently reported this to my grandpa. We laughed about it til...the end.

I remember that she knew when I asked for crushed ice, I likely had strep throat.

I remember that my friends and I would build tents out of her chairs and sheets in the living room on Saturday. Her one day to clean (she worked full time)

I remember that when we went out to eat, I would sit reeeeal close to her when her salad came and say "we share, right Grandma?" Funny, I don't ever remember her asking for my food?

I remember when we moved a thousand miles away when I was 13, it was the hardest thing ever. I'd spent every weekend with my grandparents since I was an infant. (That is, during the times we didn't live with them-which we did for many of the years.)

I remember her standing at the kitchen counter always cutting a piece of fruit and offering it to me.

I remember that if I hated what was for dinner, she would make me macaroni and cheese.

I remember when I had my first baby, she came the day before. When we came home from the hospital and the baby wouldn't stop crying (I think she was broke!?) my grandma and grandpa sent me and my exhausted husband to bed. I was protesting that I would need to feed the baby. She won. Best sleep I had for another year.

I remember when the screaming baby was screaming (get the theme here?) and she was trying to help me and give guidance without bossing me around, she said "She's your baby, Cara." (I had asked if I could give her mylicon to try to make her stop crying.)

I remember when she pulled out of our driveway when Lindsay (my first) was a week old. I was terrified and emotional and...terrified!

(for the record, my mom would have loved to have been there for the baby's birth but my brothers were in school and, see? She was the mom! She had to do what HAD to be done.)

This past summer was the hardest thing ever. Harder than when we moved away. Harder than when she would visit and then have to leave. Harder than when they pulled out of my driveway and left me with this baby that I didn't know if I could take care of all by myself (Harold had to work).

Because this time, she needed me. This time it was me taking care of her. This time it was me saying goodbye to my grandma. My grandma. Ovarian cancer (any cancer) sucks. It made her waste away right in front of our eyes. It tried to take away her dignity. It didn't win, but it sure gave a heck of a fight. Watching her lay there in the hospital bed at home, with oxygen constantly motoring into her frail body (where did that frail come from? She was never frail before?). Watching her heart beat like mad through her do you reconcile that? I was blessed to be able to spend several days helping to care for her right at the end. I've beat myself up many times and wished I could go back to redo my leaving. I left a few days before she passed away. We didn't know how long it would be. Hospice seemed to think it would take longer. I couldn't stay forever. But I wish I'd have stayed a little longer.

It's been 7 months since the horrible day my cousin's wife texted me to let me know exactly when she passed into the arms of Jesus. In that time, I have never once grieved for my grandma. She's fine. It's us. My grandpa in particular. The thought of him sitting there alone. It was months before I could talk to him without crying-and trying to hide it so as not to make him feel worse. In those 7 months there has been a Thanksgiving, her birthday, Christmas, and their 68th anniversary. And we are coming up on a wedding. I know I'm blessed to have had so much time, but...

On a happy note, my grandpa, while going through a stack of papers looking for an address or something, found a little jotted note "It will all be worth it when we see Jesus". I think that's the legacy I'd most like to remember her by. Faith. Life wasn't always easy for her and I'm sure I didn't know the HALF of it. She never complained! Seriously, I wonder how long she had been in serious pain before anyone knew? Marriage wasn't always easy. Whose is? Motherhood? That's some hard stuff. But, she kept her faith and finished her race. Love you grandma!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Oh The Places We've Gone!

Ten years ago we bought a new van! (Well, almost new. I prefer not to buy brand new because I don't like losing $10k plus in the amount of time it takes to drive off of the car lot...but that's a whole other story!) We bought a 2007 Toyota Sienna. Dark red with gray interior. It's been our friend. It's even more than that, it's become part of our family! (this is not our actual van because *if* I took a picture of it when we bought it, it's long gone like 8 phones ago!)Image result for 2007 toyota sienna images red

I even made a "states I've been to" map for JUST the van!

Oops! I missed Nebraska! LOL, I know we didn't jump over it. The van is great, but not THAT great!

Yellowstone, Disney World, family visits, visits to friends. We've slept in it (on purpose!). We drove the last baby home from the hospital in it. So many memories.

Do you see those babies?? The ones in the top two pictures are now both taller than me. Lindsay will likely never go on another family vacation with us again.

And my van needs to be replaced. Does that seem significant at all? To anyone else? The van that we ALL went on vacations in will be gone. Replaced by a new one that we haven't all been in.

And I'm dragging my heels because it holds so many memories. I know, I know, I have the memories in me blah blah blah. But 10 years of our family life has happened in that van!

We've decided on another Sienna because it's been such an amazing vehicle (1 trip to the shop in all that time! And that was just recently at 200,000miles.) We probably don't need a van that seats 8 anymore, but it drives like a car. I can park it almost anywhere (unlike the huge SUVs) and tires are much less expensive, as are gas and oil.

It doesn't look quite as shiny as that first picture. Missing a hub cap from a blow out experience, the paint has seen better days. But for some reason, I don't look forward to the shiny new van like I *should*.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

So Many Changes!

My dear, humble, little blog. Oh how I have missed you! The last year or so has been such a whirlwind. So much craziness and so many emotions. Momentous occasions and not so momentous ones.

First, I'll start with this.

For years I've been intrigued by tiny living, tiny houses, schoolies, camper name it! I was just so interested in the how! How do you fit all you need in that space? (let me clue you in: with a family, you don't) How do you make a living "on the road"? (well, for us that's the reason we are doing it!) My family insists that I thought I should have one and live in one (a tiny home), but that's not true! I said I would have wanted to if I didn't have a large family! That's different. I just was curious. And they're cute!

Well, now I have one. Not exactly a "tiny house" but really it is. And you don't fit all your needed stuff in it. My poor van drags its behind because of the amount of "stuff" we keep packed in that sucker! I can't wait to share our solution as soon as we get it and get it "done"! My hope is that our "home" won't always look like this:
We have also had a son "graduate" from Boy Scouts to earn his Eagle Rank! And he was only 14!
Our oldest daughter graduated High School!!! (I made it! My first student successfully completed high school and is ROCKING college!!!!)
We sold the home we lived in for almost 12 years.

Which allowed us to pay off a mountain of credit card debt and start fresh! I do not miss that millstone hanging around our necks.

And our oldest daughter is now engaged to be married! To one of her best friends for years! The actual courtship/engagement has been a whirlwind but they've known each other for so many years that a long engagement is just not necessary.

I'm rushing through so many things here in this post that I hope to go back and visit them again. (Like why I'm a fan of young marriage-for some!) I hope to keep up a little better now that we have a new adventure to share about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It was the worst of days...

Then the news came down...

The Union had refused several offers from the company. The company would not be allowing them (and the rest of the "bargaining unit") to work until an agreement was reached. At first we were nervous but thought it couldn't go on too long, right? I mean, these guys needed a paycheck too, right? They couldn't live on their "principle" of what they were owed. (In case you haven't yet figured it out, I'm not a huge fan of the union.)
These men have families. Christmas was coming (it was October 11, 2014 when the lockout began). Bellies would get empty, bills would come due. What the company was offering was not unreasonable in today's market. At all. These guys had just been living in their protected little world for so many years (getting away with sleeping on the job and almost anything else because...union).
We would get little tidbits of information that would give us hope but it was all rumor and speculation. The company (understandably) could not talk to my husband at this point. Thankfully we had opportunities to earn money, some grocery store gift cards were given to us at church and we kept scraping by.
Eventually, we began to see this may not end the way we thought it would. My hubby started looking in earnest for another job (thinking if, by chance, his job became available again he would have the choice of which one to keep) but we believe that when perspective employers would see the name of the company he was employed by on his resume they would draw back. It was frustrating to say the least.
It is so hard to go through something like this where you see no point to it. No real reason. It's hard to lead your children in bedtime prayers every night for "daddy to get his job back" and have them eventually say "why do we keep praying for that? it's not going to happen." So hard.
And other people try to understand. They really do. They try to say the "right" thing. The thing is, there is no "right" thing. There is no magic words to make someone feel better.
I know some of the "wrong" things:
 :: it could be worse (you know, some people don't have a home or a family or food or they have cancer)
 :: just pray harder. if you name it you can claim it.
 :: God answers prayers of the righteous.
 :: I know just how you feel. 
 :: [fill in the blank] isn't that important.

Yes, I know it could be worse. It makes me feel awful enough to be complaining when I know there are people who are homeless or have horrible illness. And the second two? Just don't ever say those to a Christian struggling through something. Seriously. What they hear is "God doesn't favor me" "Why are my prayers not good enough?"  No, you don't know how we feel. We feel like we've been left flapping in the wind. We feel desperate to make ends meet. We feel at a loss of what to do next and where to go. And yes, vacations with your family and occasionally buying a fun thing or going somewhere fun are important. No, they're not essential but they are important. And watching your kids grow up without those things is HARD. I have 2 kids that are nearing adulthood. I did not want their last memories of our home life to be so poor that we had to weigh out if we needed toilet paper bad enough to spend on it. A little fun is a much better end note.

I lost friends during this time. Or maybe I just wasn't willing to put up with what I normally would. I love "being there" for my friends. I love when someone trusts me to listen to what is going on in her life. But when the same person is only willing to talk about her problems-even when you are in the midst of a just realize how one sided it is. And because you are so "empty" and have little patience, you just don't put up with it anymore.

But you learn what is valuable. (Don't get me wrong, I don't want any more lessons for a while!)
You learn who cares-and who doesn't. You learn to depend on God-not just in word but in your every day life. (Give us THIS day our daily bread...)

One friend in particular was priceless. This friend had not been my friend for long and I often thought "how can she stand me? this is all she knows of me! and it's not pleasant!" She is much younger than me but taught me some valuable lessons in friendship. She did not try to tell me how to feel or how much worse it could be. She would just agree that it sucked. Even if I tried to say, "I know, I shouldn't complain....yada yada yada" She would say, "no, this sucks". Then, if I was wallowing too much she would give me a practical "assignment". One day she told me to go to the local nature trail area and just sit. I didn't have to pray (she knew that wasn't possible for me right then and didn't judge me for it). I didn't have to do anything. Just sit. In the sunshine. And ya know, it helped!? There were little things like that occasionally that were just important to my survival and staying somewhat sane for my family. She prayed for me, but didn't preach at me. She didn't expect much from me. And when I came to a place where I was ready to pray and reach out to God again, she rejoiced with me. And encouraged me. (Don't get me wrong, we had silliness and jokes and fun too!)

To be continued....

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