Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reflections on the move

(Wrote this a month ago...)

It's been over a week now since we've moved in and it still feels like we just started.  The house is a mess, the garage is full of boxes, need to sell more things, clean more things, the rain... the list could go on.  

Here are some reflections that I jotted down while knee deep in packing and now unpacking:

- You know you're tired when you reheat the same beans three days in a row for lunch, only to finally throw them away.
- Finding balance in washing the clothes, packing the clothes, and selling your washer and dryer.  It all gets done.
- Little piles everywhere because all the bookcases and end tables are either packed in a pod or sold.
- Just accepting sickness when it comes, even if it messes up your free childcare plans, thus experiencing mommy guilt no matter what.
- Saying goodbye to neighbors never gets easier, especially when one of them is 83 and adores our girls more than anything.
- Packing 5 boxes a night sounded like a good idea...
- Never again!!! (what I kept saying the last day, along with song, "I am overwhelmed...")
- Sometimes it seemed as though our stuff was giving birth.  We'd come upstairs and there would be more than before!

After a few days being in the house, I was experiencing a combination of weariness due to lack of sleep, seasonal depression since it has rained every day since moving in, maybe a little buyers remorse, and just downright discouragement.  So after breakfast the girls and I sat down and gave thanks because when gratitude is present, it's harder to complain.  

Here's just a portion of our list:
- big, fenced in backyard
- a beautiful patio
- new washing machine and dryer
- wood floors downstairs
- fun bedrooms
- 2 stories with the main living area downstairs
- a big kitchen
- quiet and safe neighborhood
- a long driveway
- fireplace
- nice neighbors
- trees in the backyard (and lots of leaves = good upper body workout for mommy)
- close to Porter Farms
- big back and front porches
- storm doors so Samson can look outside 

We are blessed!  So very thankful for God's many provisions!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Gypsy Blood

Moving?  Yes, we are moving again!  We have already received a plethora of questions and statements, so hopefully this post will answer a few of those.

"You just moved!"
- Actually we moved into this home over four years ago.  Even the five of us have a hard time believing that it's been that long.

"You just finished your downstairs!"
- It's been over a year since it's been completed and we have loved it!  My large school room away from the rest of the house has really been a blessing!  Marty did such an amazing job with the help of friends and family (and a good chunk of tax money.)  Honestly, the only reason we could afford to live in this neighborhood was due to the unfinished downstairs.  God blessed us immensely by providing this house at just the right time.

"You live in such a great area!"
- We have loved our neighborhood, especially our neighbors right around us!  Smores & movie nights, special friends for our girls, the pool, the list could go on...  We have loved the proximity to our church, extra curricular school activities, and Target.  Let's be honest.


"Why are you moving back to Willow Spring?"
- We weren't looking in Willow Spring specifically.  We always try to live as close to the church as possible, but ultimately, we desired more land and less house (the opposite of the American dream).  We didn't want to put our current house on the market until we found just the right house.  And we all truly believe that we did!

"How are the girls coping?"
- Amazingly!!  Marty and I have said again and again how resilient they are.  After we had another dream house fall through a month ago, I promised to never take them house hunting again.  But without much choice, they came to see the house we are buying and we all fell in love with it!  They have been faithfully packing, each in their own way.  They have helped clean, do school work in random places, and watched many belongings be given away, sold, or tossed without complaint.  I simply couldn't ask for sweeter children.  

"Why move at all?"
- We have asked ourselves this question many times.  But we have several reasons why we are: 
1) More land and less house, as mentioned earlier. 
2) Gypsy blood.  Not really, but we'll claim it as both of us grew up moving often throughout our childhood.  
3) We want to put down roots.  To be honest, the last 18 months have been stressful.  Without a pastor, my associate pastor husband carried a little extra and we can only claim God's strength and His grace to have gotten us through it.  We had prayed over our future. Would overseas be an option? Should we move to another state for a job with more focus? Will we be able to blend well with our new pastor and his family? God has clearly answered no to the first two questions and has brought such peace to the last.  We are so excited for the ministry to come at Fairview and feel very blessed to have our pastor!  So, with that said, we feel that God has called us to stay in this area and we want to live in a house for the long-haul.    

We knew that our current home was not our dream house.  Never would be.  But even with all the wishful thinking, this place has seen a lot of dreams come true.  Our littlest learned to walk in this house, cartwheels and handstands were perfected throughout the living room, each of our girls became confident swimmers in our neighborhood pool, and our home was available to family on their way to Japan and Ghana. 

So in less than two weeks, when we pull out of the driveway for the very last time, I'll hold back the tears.  "Tears for all the dreams brought to life here.  Tears for all the dreams waiting ahead.  But mostly, tears for the God that never abandons this fixer upper, no matter what kind of flooring she's living on."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This Year

When I thought homeschooling couldn't get any harder by teaching three grades with three entirely different learners, our family decided to add the joys of moving to the chaos. No lie... first day of school began with cinnamon rolls (thanks to Trader Joe's refrigerated section), followed by crazy cleaning and prepping to get our house staged to put on the market by the end of the week.   

More sugar followed as we packed up the dog and headed to Chick-fil-a for free milkshakes (drive-thru, of course!).  Formal school didn't really happen until afternoon due to the lovely stayed-up-too-late-hangover Mommy got to enjoy.  Thank you, Magic School Bus on Netflix!

These three!  They are some of the greatest joys of my life!  (Yet can drive me crazy at the same time!)  It will be a fun year, to say the least!

Lunch included more Netflix by watching "On the Way to School."  Excellent documentary!  All three of my girls were mesmerized. The stories of several children around the world and their daily or weekly walks to school was quite humbling!

School supplies were simple, but useful as we also like new markers, notebooks, and glue sticks.  It was fun to watch them fill out their 1st Day of School Interviews (found here) and then compare them with last year's.  

Each girl picked out one subject to do before calling it a day and heading to church.  We are excited to try some new curriculum this year.  Chloe's adding Wordly Wise for vocabulary & spelling. Naomi is starting cursive handwriting with Cheerful Cursive, and Sophie is using Horizon Math, which we've never tried before. 

Overall, the day was nothing to boast about.  It was certainly not as exciting as other "first days," but I can promise you that none of us will ever forget it.  At some point during the day, we listened to one of JJ Heller's newer songs called "This Year."  Check it out on YouTube.  As Emily Freeman says, I'm treating September like the new January.  A new home, a new school year, and a new perspective...

Here are some links that I'm gleaning from these days:

- 10 Tips For a Stress-Free Homeschool Day by Ruth Simmons
- Amongst Lovely Things with Sarah Mackenzie (Love it all!  Her blog, her podcast, tips, etc)
- The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast

(This was written last week, but due to technical difficulties, I couldn't post it until today.  Two weeks of homeschooling under the belt...)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What I'm reading, still reading, and want to read...

Some of these books I'm still trying to finish reading (Love & Respect, Own Your Life).  Both really good books, just not something I can pick up, snuggle down and read for extended period of time (without falling asleep).  The Antelope in the Living Room is a friend's copy that I'm trying to save for bedtime reading since I could probably finish it in a day or two, especially after reading Sparkly Green Earrings.

The Fringe Hours and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came via Amazon last week, both books that I've seen sprinkled all over social media and many of my favorite blogs. The Fringe Hours I'm saving till I finish some of the other books I'm currently reading. But I'm excited to dive into a book designed to show women how "to take back the fringe hours - those little pockets of time you already have in your day - in order to make time for your passions and practice self-care." The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up (the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing) is already scaring the living daylights out of me and I'm only in the third chapter.  The thought of gathering every single piece of clothing in my house, placing them on the floor, and sorting through them one by one. My worst nightmare!  No promises yet, but I'm eager to finish reading it.  We'll see...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

What I've Learned This Summer

It is simply hard to believe that it's already August!  I knew this summer would fly by, but now that we're on the count down to school, the reality is hitting me.  I've spent a lot of time reflecting, processing life in general, and looking ahead, seeing a new season with the middle school years approaching.

Blogger and writer Emily Freeman, from Chatting at the Sky, blogs at the end of each month different and often random things she's learned.  Since I fell off the "goal" bandwagon for a while and didn't even get our summer desires blogged, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned over the summer.

1.  Charleston is an amazing city!  We've loved visiting it for over ten years now, but this was the first time I've stayed there alone with my girls (since Marty was in North Charleston at camp). I literally drove past the church affected by the shooting rampage only thirty minutes before the shots were fired.  Fear, questions, apprehension immediately filled my mind after hearing about it. But to watch the city continue to move with such grace and love was a testimony to the many churches and the people within that city.  I learned a lot in those few days.

2.  Blueberries always taste better straight from the bush.  While Chloe and I continued to pick that hot Saturday morning, my younger two literally sat under the bushes and ate to their hearts content.

3.  My baby is growing up!  I know I didn't learn this over the summer, but it's becoming even more real as she's learning to swim and ride a bike without training wheels.  Shhh!  Don't remind me that she's almost ready for kindergarten.  Thank goodness I finally finished her baby book!

4.  Even though it's easier now that our girls are older, I learned that I still really miss my hubbie when he's gone on mission trips.  I just really like having him around! 

5.  Having a dog can really cramp my traveling style!  This was our first summer having Samson (whom we love very much!), but it's tough when you want to travel and you have to make pet arrangements.  Oh well!  First world problems!

6.  Focus on the blessings, rather than succumbing to the loneliness. This is an area that God is still teaching me.  There will always be a measure of loneliness in ministry, but I felt it more than ever when Marty left on July 4th.  Family being so far away and memories flooding back from the previous summer with my sisters and their families brought me to tears more than once.  But my girls can make any day interesting and we embraced the sprinkler and the sparklers, making the day memorable in our own way.

7.  Family is important and worth the effort.  Since Samson cramped my traveling style, we enjoyed #campcousins week instead!  My sister graciously took my girls for a few days.  Then, we enjoyed a day at the zoo, and a few more days with them at our house.  It was a fun full week!

8.  I "need" inspiration!  I love a good pen, a comfortable notebook, the perfect lighting, clean surroundings.  I think it's why I love Instagram so much!  The pictures, colors, inspiring words fill me up.

9.  The show, When Calls the Heart, on Netflix took me back to my teenage years.  That same, "I've just got to read one more chapter..." feeling consumed me, but in the form of Netflix.  I watched show after show while exercising on the elliptical, folding laundry, cooking supper... until the last show, and I didn't know it was the last show!  So I have now learned that when watching a series on Netflix or Amazon Prime, look and see how many episodes there are before diving in headlong, fully engrossed in the flowing plot, only to discover you just watched the last one!

10.  It is important to label homemade sprays.  Otherwise your daughters may mistaken your cellulite spray for bug repellent.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

When being a mama hurts...

You never realize till you're in the middle of it all how amazing and yet painful, being a mother can be.  When you hear another child tell yours she's stupid, that her reading is terrible, your heart hurts so badly and you just want to take it all away and reassure her how special she is.  

You read of other mothers on the other side of the world whose daughters, the ages of my girls, are being taken from them and made into slaves, forced to do horrifying things.  It hurts...  

A mama is told her sweet baby, born from another mother, will be taken back to his family.  Months of sleepless nights and precious smiles...  It hurts.  

Month after month the answer is no. You know you should be thankful, and you are, for those beautiful children God has already blessed you with.  But when there still seems to be one missing and you long for just one more baby to hold in your arms, it hurts...

"Even if we dreamed of having babies of our own, there is nothing that prepares us for the way that moment cracks open our hearts and pours in the type of pure love we never knew existed.  A love that isn't about us but is just about wanting to love and protect this little, helpless person who will emit all manner of bodily fluids on us if given half the chance.  You can't fathom it until you experience it." - Melanie Shankle from Sparkly Green Earrings

I've prayed this over my high school girls Sunday School class in the past, over my sister leaving for Africa, and constantly over my own girls...

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we having not stopped praying for you. and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way:  bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light."  
Colossians 1:9-12

Being a mother is the hardest job I've ever had and I don't see it getting any easier, but I'm so glad that I'm not walking this journey alone.  God has blessed me with the most amazing husband, who encourages and comforts me.  God has given me a mother who has not only been the perfect example to follow, but also a friend to walk alongside me, even if she's on the other side of the world. God has given me three precious girls who show continual grace and forgiveness for their mama who lets them down again and again. But most of all, God has given me and continues to pour out Himself.  When I am weak, He is strong.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Our Trip to Japan - Part 3

It's been a month since our trip and the memories still cause me to smile.  After spending a week on mainland Japan, we traveled again from Tokyo to Okinawa with the expectations of exploring Papa's sea glass beach, eating at all their favorite restaurants, and seeing a little of the way that Nana and Papa live.

Needless to say, our expectations were exceeded above and beyond!  The first day was spent traveling to a little Baptist Camp on the island and exploring every sea creature possible on the beach just down the path from our cabin.

Someone attempted making a sand angel...

The beaches of Okinawa (when there is not a storm) are so peaceful.  Water shoes are a must as much of the shores consist primarily of coral.  But where there is coral, there are sea creatures...  my Naomi's paradise.

Our "cabins" were connected, allowing separate sleeping areas as well as bathrooms and kitchenettes.  We really enjoyed the outdoor eating area which expanded our living space and provided shelter from the occasional rain.

Rainy day activities included making shell creatures with Nana, jump roping indoors, watching movies and eating popcorn (thanks to Papa's laptop).


Our excursions were plentiful and amazing!  Visiting the pineapple park, seeing all those baby pineapples, the pineapple factory, and then tasting everything pineapple-infused was almost more than my pineapple-loving taste buds could take!  (I think I still have some pineapple chocolate somewhere...) 

If you ask Chloe what her favorite part of the trip was, she'll say, "sea glass beach!"  She and Papa, with their eagle eyes, combed the beach and found a record amount of sea glass marbles.  


Our younger two made it their ambition to collect as many hermit crabs as possible.  You could just squat and look across the shells scattered along the beach and see dozens crawling on top of each other and a gamma of shells and sea glass.

Our day on Sea Glass beach could not have been better. Hours walking along the shore, a picnic on the beach, discoveries gallore, snorkeling in still clear blue waters, and sitting... taking literal and mental pictures so as not to forget our time in Okinawa.


One of our rainy days provided the perfect opportunity to visit one of the largest aquarium tanks in the world.  We had seen pictures and episodes from Netflix describing this incredible place, but nothing could prepare us for the magnitude of the fish and that tank!

Mura Saki Mura, a hidden gem on the island...  What once was a TV set for a six month Japanese show is now filled with crafts and exhibits centered around the culture and art of Okinawa.  Since Marty and I stayed in the hotel on the premises, we were able to tour the grounds for free and each of our girls chose one craft to try their hand at.

Marty trying out the shamisan.

Naomi drying the paint on her bengata.

Sophie's process of Ryukyu dyeing.

Chloe's marble wrapping with Papa & Daddy.


Eating at a Sushi go-around was a highlight for me!  No, I did not use all of those plates.  I was so impressed with my family for trying sushi (not the raw fish kind) and soba noodles.  

A very special kind of sake.  (No thank you!)

When my mom told us about a park with a really cool slide, we had no idea how amazing this slide would be!  After retrieving some cardboard at a local store, we spent the afternoon walking up and sliding down the rolling slide that looked over the city.

One of favorite pictures... two peas in a pod.

One of Dad & Mom's favorite places to eat (and ours too!)

We knew it would be a once in a lifetime kind of trip and it was... Our girls did amazingly well.  They were at perfect ages to take care of themselves for the most part, yet find joy in even the littlest of things.  Japan will always have a piece of my heart and now I think it has piece of theirs too.