Monday, September 16, 2013

A Fish Tale

This evening we said good-bye to a strange pet...but one that we've currently had the longest. Not exactly a cute pet, either. In fact, he was downright strange looking!
But through the years, he's caused no problems, never made a commotion, and faithfully helped clean our fish tank.

He was John, the algae eater.

Given to our youngest for her fifth birthday, along with an aquarium, he lived to see countless tropical fish that came and went over the years. Always minding his own business while he suctioned away on the glass, this strange looking guy eventually grew to be about a foot long. 
We're not even sure how old he was when we acquired him, but he lived with us for a whopping six and half years.

If you would have told me years ago that I would have gotten a soft spot for an overgrown algae eater with a face that only his mother- or another algae eater- would love, or that I would actually cry when I noticed for the first time that he seemed he might be dying, I would have said you must be crazy. But nevertheless, given the fact he was with us so long, our whole family is a bit sad.
Tonight, my husband put him a box and our youngest- now eleven- wrote his name on it. Tomorrow we'll bury him, probably nearby the two dwarf hamsters that met their demise earlier this year.
No, he is not like a dog, a cat or the like and we all know that. But he was a friendly fixture, and a memory of a time when our daughter was little.

In memory, here is the link the post on my old blog that I wrote when we got him and of my daughter's birthday. In fact, that whole blog is filled with incredible memories and details of when the girls were little and if I'm not careful, I can get misty reading it over it!
But here it is, written six and half years ago, with some wit and tongue in cheek.
Bye, John...we really will miss you!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Under His Canopy

The early morning world was still covered in darkness yesterday as my husband stepped out the door and headed the short few blocks to where his training would begin.


It's been amazing to think about..after eight months, my husband is back- being trained for a new job this week. This is a true answer to prayer! And although it is not his dream job, and it starts at part time for awhile before turning to full time, it has potential long term. He is grateful to be back in the work force!
But more than this, we are all grateful for God's provision during these eight months. He has faithfully taken care of us in so many ways. From just taking care of our sending neighbors and family around asking if they could hire him for household construction, painting and handyman and auto repair jobs. Some were loving, extended family...but others didn't even know he was unemployed! Throughout all of this, it was as though the Lord was gently saying, "See? I'm taking care of you."
I also had the idea- after praying- of having him teach auto shop one month to home school kids in the area. This proved so successful he may just do this again, just for the pure fun he had! He has loved tinkering with cars since he was a teen, but he was blessed with two girly-girls (three, counting me!) so turned out to be a great outlet for him, as well as a filling a need in the home school community.
Another positive that happened during this time was just some incredible family bonding time. He had previously been working so hard and so long at a stressful job that we never seemed to see him. (And when we did, there wasn't much left of him!) But during these past eight months, although he was busy searching diligently for work and doing odd jobs, he was primarily home and we were able to spend pockets of quality time together, which was a gift to all of us.
Another blessing in disguise was hopefully some life lessons that our girls have been learning through this. Learning to go without all the "wants" being met, learning to work for some of the things that were important to them, and learning how God takes care of us during every situation.
These are just some of the main examples, but I'm sure I could give more. And although there were human times when we felt the effects of a financial uncertainty looming over us, we never stopped believing that God was in control and taking care of us. We were under His canopy! 
It has been a great lesson is trusting Him one day at a time. Because when all is going perfectly and we feel completely self-sufficient, there isn't as much need to exercise our faith! But when we have to rely on Him- truly rely on Him to meet our every need, then the challenge really begins. We have to exercise our faith- which can be hard work at times. But with exercise comes strength. 
We still are having to live by faith, even now that he is employed. There's a long probation period and these first few months will be even tighter financially than before, ironically. But seeing how He has taken care of us this year is helping us know that He always will.

So we'll keep trusting Him, one day at a time!

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:35-33


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Rewards

Last week saw quite a few miles put on the car as I took my eleven year old daughter back and forth to a Christian day camp. Using lots of gas is not something we really want to do right now, especially given my husband's unemployment. But more on that later...

We were given a half-scholarship, meaning we still had to come up with a lot of money, plus gas, in order for her to go. But somehow we did (with a little help from our girl who had lemonade stands.)
She had been terribly disappointed not to go to a horse camp with her best friend, so we wanted to try to make this work as a compromise. 

Lots of getting up early, packing lunches (so that's what not home schooling feels like!) driving almost two hours daily (except when I stayed in town two of the days) and just the coming up with the money which they let us pay in installments were all necessary for her to participate.
Turns out, our sacrifice (mostly mine, in this case) was indeed worth it...she ended up loving it so much and stated when it was over that the counselors and everyone had become like family and she was so sad so say good-bye.

It wasn't all hardship on my part, however...the drive there is so scenic and picturesque. 
And on Tuesday, my fourteen year old came with me to hang out there for the whole day, and we had a great mother-daughter time cruising antique and thrift shops, eating our sandwiches and reading our books in the countryside. She even found some more Narnia books for .50 to add to her collection! It was a sweet time together, even with our limited budget. Yes, seven whole hours! (And as any mom will tell you, just having quality time hanging out with a teen with no drama involved and just good camaraderie is definitely a good thing!)

But after five days of rushing out the door and driving, driving, driving... I was glad the week was over. 

Still, if I had to do it over again, I would. My youngest got an incredible experience...swimming in a lake, canoeing, hiking, playing on the zipline and big swing, petting the calves and other barn animals, doing group Devotions, and being entertained by the antics of the crazy counselors. Being in a group setting without her parents for 35 hours in a week is something she doesn't do often as a homeschooler (and frankly, we're glad!) but I think it was good for her to experience it in a safe setting. 
Of course, just being able to spend time in God's creation every day was wonderful for her. When you tack on the lessons of sacrifice and working at earning part of something you want, it gets even better!

I hope to be posting soon about the way God has taken care of us during this year of unemployment. Because He has...and in amazing ways!

But for now I'll just say that I hope (and from talking with her, I think this is true) that my youngest felt even more blessed to be at camp all last week. That perhaps it was even just a bit sweeter knowing it was a sacrifice of sorts...and that she learned the value of working hard by earning a little of the money herself- and that, in turn, made her appreciate the reward all that more. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I don't know about the rest of you, since I'm just getting back to blogging, but sometimes I think the challenge about writing is that so many unrelated things happen in a week that it can be hard to tie them all up with a neat little ribbon!
But I guess this post will just be a little glimpse of the past few days in our family.

This past Friday, our family (along with my 86 year old mom) drove down to Eugene where my nephew and his family were visiting from Chicago.
My nephew (my half-sister's son, my dad's grandson) and I are only three years apart and he spent many a summer with us growing up. He's now a Navy chaplain and a couple years ago, had the honor of praying right before the president's speech. President Obama thanked him by name when he came to the podium and when I saw the video, I wished my dad would have been alive to see it. I could almost see him laughing slightly and shaking his head in disbelief and pride when something amazing would happen.

Friday, our families got together after five years, and though all of our children were a bit shy with one another, everyone seemed to have a nice visit, especially when it meant splashing in the pool!
Randy's wife's gracious parents provided lunch, supper and dessert, while Randy and Melody lavished us with treats at the Scandinavian Festival, as well as little gifts from Melody there for the girls.
Five years is a bit long between visits, but so glad we got to get together now.

In Pet News: My eleven year old and I just finished washing her long-hair guinea pig for the first time ....while hours before, our oldest said good-bye to her dwarf hamster who passed away.

This morning I felt blessed to be at church and hear a phenomenal guest speaker. He had the gift of speaking truth powerfully and yet keep us laughing so much we didn't know what hit us! ;)

Tomorrow, youngest is going to a Christian all-week day camp, complete with canoeing, zip line, swimming and archery. We are grateful to have the half- scholarship and praying she has a wonderful time. (In spite of us having to get up early every morning this week!) ;)

 Now, it's early Sunday evening and my fourteen year old has her best friend over for a sleepover while all of us are munching on barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers. (And as a special treat, I got Trader Joe's healthy cheese dogs!) She has planned a whole "High School Musical" theme...yes, after a period of feeling too old to like it anymore, she has decided to resume liking it- and with gusto! :)

As I write this, I'm listening to the online Hawaiian music station while all the girls are splashing in the pool and our lab is barking incessantly at them. It feels like a beautiful blend of fun chaos and yet peacefulness and a nice way to end the weekend here at our little homestead.

Hope each of you has a week filled with simple pleasures!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Wow, I can't believe how long it's been. 

You see, I use to be a "regular" in Blogland. I was very very into blogging... writing, reading other blogs, entering blog contests, participating in memes... and making some dear, long-distance friends along the way. But after a few years, it became a little all-consuming so I had to finally pull back. Especially since life and things like home schooling my two daughters, navigating pre-teen and teen hormones, and caring a bit for my aging mom who lives alone all came into play.

Oh, and Facebook. ;)

But now, here I am a few years later, tentatively putting my little toes into the water again. I know I can't (and shouldn't) go back as deeply as I once did. Not just because life is busy, but because I want to treasure these precious last years of my two daughters' growing up years. So that even when I have a moment where nothing is calling my name, I want to be able to simply sit on the sofa with my fourteen year old and watch "that movie with her again for the tenth time" just because she asked and wants my company. Or to read the latest story she just wrote. Or to listen (and make eye contact) with my eleven year old when she tells me of the latest Littlest Pet Shop home movie she just directed with a friend. Or stop and really see the details of her latest drawing. I want to be able to jump on my little green bike and ride around the neighborhood with my husband on these last, fleeting evenings of summer.

So, I will be coming back slowly to give outlet to my thoughts and heart. And maybe even visit a few of your blogs, too. But at a more moderate pace.

Perhaps that's partly why the title of this newest blog. 
Well, in part, it describes the blessings of homeschooling...being able to see your child do her math curled up in a hammock on a warm, sunny day. 
And it also shows the kind of summer I've been having...much calmer than some of my previous summers. You know the kind- with too many kids' activities or family excursions packed into three small months. But this year, I've enjoyed some very serene hours in one of our hammocks with a good book, and I hope for a few more!

But it also describes my desire to try to live in the moment in the midst of the busy schedules that we all seem to have, at least in some points of the year.

All that to say, I'm here once again, but hopefully in a more moderate, relaxed way. 

So on this summer evening in early August comes to a close, I'll bid you Good-night for well as a brand new Hello. :)