the empty on Mother’s Day. . .trading joy for loss

I was thirteen years old when I decided to become a nurse.  I spent that summer caring for my Grandma DeNeui along with my cousin in Loveland, Colorado.  Her sweet worn out heart just wasn’t sustaining her anymore.  So, I had the opportunity to stay at the farm and be by her side during those final precious days of her walk on this earth.

I took pride in the smallest of tasks aiding her that week.  Checking her sugar,  fixing her meals, making hot tea, brushing her hair with that soft white bristled brush with the silver handle; and just sitting and listening to her soft breath as it lifted her chest up and down, and up and down.

Grandma DeNeui.  My happy place.  The white farm house with red trim was small, cozy and always smelled like fresh baked bread.  I’d cuddle up to those soft aging arms and take in that Pillsbury fresh smell.  Grandma spoiled me with club crackers and when mom wasn’t looking. . .a few spoonfuls of sugar in my hot tea.

(Grandma and I walking through the flower gardens with her poodle, Sophie)

(Grandma, Mom, Sherri, and I)

Grandma worked until the day she died.  In her jean overalls, she’d tend to the sheep, hatching chickens, fresh farm eggs for sale, and turkeys for Thanksgiving.  Her gardens set my imagination to escape daily living and travel rows and rows of veggies and flowers to a kingdom far far away.

I knew Grandma couldn’t live forever.  Perhaps that’s why I’d sit and soak in every detail of her life, listen to her stories and advice and watch carefully the chapters in the Bible she favored.

Johanna DeNeui. . .known as Hannah to most, was born in Germany.  I won’t give away all of her information, for that’s another upcoming book I’m just dying to get out to you.  She was sweet, spicy, short, and plump in her older days.  Losing her husband early in life, she raised four children working the farm and making a living with only an 8th grade education.  She learned English, but argued in German.

She was my hero.

My dad was visiting that summer when we got the call from the hospital telling us she was fading fast.  One of the only times I can remember my mom and dad together. . .we were speeding with flashers on to make the 1 ½ hr drive.

Grandma was alert, but uncomfortable.  Thrashing her legs back and forth in the bed, she desperately wanted to use the bathroom.
“Just go in the bed, Mom. . .my aunt told her.”  My sister and I stood by mom as she held grandma’s soft wrinkled hand.  Mom and
her sisters were crying and with a smile each one said, “Mom, you can go home now.  Just let go.  We’re ok.”

“We love you mom!  We love you!”

My Aunt Karen, so young when Grandpa died let the tears flow as she said, “tell daddy hello for us.”

“Go on home mom. . .”

And with that, her eyes opened for the last time.  She stopped moving around and smiled from ear to ear.  The most joy I’ve ever
seen.  She closed her eyes and met Jesus face to face.

It was the most precious moment until the day my own child met Jesus face to face.  Letting go of Grandma was one of the hardest things I had to do.  My mom was all alone now.  No husband, no dad, and no mom.  Johanna DeNeui was a servant of God that
forever touched lives.

And now my own mother is that soft grandma for my children.  We travel to Colorado to visit her and the kids play with her knick knacks just as I did when little.

My mom has had four heart attacks.  She is in her 70’s and we know we cannot live forever.  I know mom has one true love in
life and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  She longs to go home one day.  But while she waits. . .she serves those around her and loves on my littles to teach them how to live by visiting old stories from the past.  They sit on the edge of their seats for each and every story.

(Sherri, Me, Mom)

Every year, we all set aside a day in May to remember, honor, and cater to all of those who possess that admirable name, “Mother.”

We often forget that Mother’s Day can wear down certain souls who have suffered loss.  The casual “Happy Mother’s Day,” treasured hand made gifts orchestrated by Sunday School teachers, and the solicited bouquet of flowers often bring tremendous sorrow instead of smiles.

I do not take this day lightly.  I am blessed to have my mother still with me, while my husband must spend yet another mother’s day without his here with him.   It’s a bittersweet day for him wondering just how his mother would enjoy being with our five.

  (Phil’s sister Michelle, Brother Byron, Dad, Mom, Philena, Phil and brother Daniel)

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me.  I do not have all of my children here with me.  We have two precious babies in Heaven and are in the adoption waiting process for our next little one.  I have five beautiful children filling my home with laughter and laundry. . .but there is now and will always be an empty spot in my heart, in the car and at the table.

The word “empty” brings out the psychologist in almost all of us.  Our diagnosis. . .Oh, yes, they feel empty because they don’t have children, a mother, or a spouse.  But one can have all of these things in their life and still be empty.  God created each of us with an empty, constant longing for something we cannot attain on our own.  God himself is the only thing that can fill an empty soul.  But do not confuse the longing for God with the vessel God creates to hold purpose in our lives.

The definition of “empty” as an adjective: containing
nothing; not filled or occupied. 
 

The good Lord creates vessels for His purpose and glory.  And when he is done with them. . .he takes them home.  Mission completed.  That vessel, or life still serves a purpose, even after they’ve gone home. Grandma’s life and death still teach me valuable lessons.  I wonder what kind of crazy she would call me knowing we are now farmers and we are adopting another. 

The peace that comes even with the missing and empty pieces in my life is knowing that God is in control.  Yes, I miss my little boy and girl.  I do not need to fill my “empty” with anything but God.  He fills me with his Joy.  But he also sets desires and longings in our soul.  The empty space at the table reminds me what we once had. . .what I wish would have been.  But it also reminds me that God knew long before I did that he would take home my William on June 6, 1997. 

For many, that empty is from the child that never was to be.  After years of infertility and loss. . .I begged God to take away the desire for children knowing I may never have them. 

The empty for some is in the loss of raising a child to adoption, or loss of custody.  

The empty and sorrow over abortion holds great for mothers who are now mature and live the would have, should have, and could have’s.

The chair that sits empty in my heart comes from a deep God given desire to bring another into our family to know and live for God.  Yes, I love with all my heart a baby that I’ve never met.  A baby that is most likely not even created yet.  I do not spend every waking moment trying to fill an empty with dreams of what could be.  I spend my day filling up. . .feeding, if you may. . .on Jesus, his promises, his sacrifice, his love, his grace, his mercy.  And through drinking his cup. . .I am filled with the love and desire to love on another.  A love that can’t help but overflow to the rescue and ransom of another child.


This mother’s day.  Many cringed as they watched women parade around with arms full of precious
ones.  Many remember their own mother and long for just one more hug.  Husbands watching others with their wives breath deep as their heart tries to mend after loss.  This day brings up the hurt, the
dirty, the empty.

God fills and mends every heart. And today. . .through sorrow, I have joy to know that each memory and dream the Lord has set in place, he knows the outcome.  And his plan. . .his story where I am just a drop in the bucket, all ends the same. With me in His arms.  Sweet, soft, safe and loving arms.  And every baby that has gone on before me will be right there. . .with me. 

Fall into His arms. . .let him take your burden, your sorrow, your shame, your desires, your longing to fill the empty.  This mother’s day. . .rest knowing the story ends one way.  His story is all that matters.  Let His joy fill your soul.

 

Tis the Season. . .

“Jake, if you’re alive, wiggle your toes.”  The foot that emerged from my burrito wrapped teenager extended from the thick blue comforter to reveal five wiggly piggies.  “Awesome!” I thought.  He’s alive. . .it’s gonna be a great day!

Yes, some days, this is my standard as a mother.  There once was a time when I would pat myself on the back for simply feeding my children three meals a day.

That moment in my life was busy, stressful and rather than trying to accomplish it all and go insane, I decided to embrace the season and ride it out.

Seasons…we often forget the importance of the changing from one into the other.  How our stages and struggles in life mold us into the beings we were created to be.

But How do we get through the hard season carrying joy inside our hearts instead of enduring
without hope?  How do we relax and enjoy the good seasons without the worry of the impending hard- looming around the
corner?

1. We know that each Season comes from God.

And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth
kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to
them that know understanding: Daniel 2:21
 

When we understand this detail and embrace that God is sovereign; and the complete authority on each season of life.  We can turn to Him; and rather than simply endure, we know there is a purpose to our seasons of suffering.

God blesses us with both the good and the hard.  We all feel the blessing of the good season, but the hard?

Some seasons are short-lived while others seem to be life lasting.  Illness, disability, death.  These seasons don’t always end with healing on this earth.  But understand. . .it is a season.  We live for life eternal.  Our time on this earth is a mere season.  The healing often comes when one enters the kingdom of Heaven.  Some suffering is over as one passes into life eternal with Christ.  For the bereaved family, your season of mourning is new.  And although you may never end your mourning, you can rest assured that your suffering through sorrow and tears can turn into hope and abundant joy as you grab on to God and let him lead you through to the next season. . .the next chapter in your life. 

2.  We have hope as we know Seasons are always changing. They come and go.  Yes. . .they GO!

“This
too shall pass”

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat,
and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22 

When in the middle of a trial, stress, or plain exhaustion, it’s hard to listen to the advice that says, “it will get better.”  We
don’t know God’s timing and therefore riding out bad seasons seems endless.  We tend to even cringe during the good
seasons just waiting for another bad one to come by.

For instance. . .the Texas Summer.  I hate it!  Anything over 80 degrees is hot to me.  So, you can imagine how miserable I am at 116.  The past three years have been almost unbearable here on the Ranch.  We’ve endured serious drought and temperatures higher than normal during the hottest part of the summer.  And each year, it seems to last longer and longer.  Around mid August, as we’re watering cows, watching crops burn and trying to work around the heat of the day. . .it’s hard to imagine it will be over soon.  It seems endless, tiring and for the most part. . .discouraging.  Many cries go out to God during the summer
in Texas
.

Just when I think I cannot endure one more sizzling day. . .we get the first signs of relief.  The evening temperatures begin to drop.  The scalding sunlight is shortened, and then before we know it. . .we’re turning off the air conditioning and searching for sweaters.  Indeed, the changes happen, but it’s not always abrupt.  The Lord leads us from one season to another.  During those days of testing in a Texas summer, I cling to God.  My prayers are urgent, heart felt, honest and pleading.  I see my dependence on God and His mercy and Grace.

3. We know that each Season has a purpose. Both the good and the bad seasons of life.

We also have GREAT seasons of joy.  Seasons are not always suffering, but adjusting.

I remember my first year homeschooling the kids.  I was six months pregnant and was teaching fifth grade, first grade, and kindergarten.  I had Hyperemesis which is severe morning sickness that lasts the entire pregnancy and it’s effects can be quite serious.  This was a “season” in my life that wasn’t entirely suffering, but for me, letting go of my daily control over a life that
was so obviously out of my control.

This season in my life led to discouragement.  I hardly kept a properly cleaned house.  I lived in a fog because our nursing baby
would never sleep.  I found that I didn’t even have time for devotions.  My prayer life seemed more like an SOS.  I was so
very tired and felt like a failure in every aspect of my life.

And then the words I so longed to hear.  “This too shall pass.”  A matured mother of a friend just hugged me
and smiled as she quoted that simple phrase.  If I could just see that moment of my motherhood as a season.  A time when I didn’t need to get all the laundry done. . .a time when I could count on paper plates and accept the messy as momentary.  I was merely in a
season.  A very busy season with littles. . .littles that can wear you down.  No help nearby, it was a time to cling to God.

Cry out to Him for even what seemed to be the simplest of requests.  “Lord, please let me find clean underwear
today.” 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven;

Ecclesiastes 3:1

The joyous season can just as easily be dreaded by those always looking over their shoulder for the bad to come.  Embrace this God given rest in your life.  Thank God for the ease of a season to enjoy Him and his goodness and Grace…always knowing that walking with God also means suffering with Him.  The hard will come.  And you will be just fine because it is God planned and He will guide you.

Right now, I am in a season of waiting on our Adoption.  Instead of concentrating on the actual wait and forcing myself into discouragement. . .I’m chosing to focus on God during this season.  Learn all I can as I know this is God breathed.  When you turn your focus on God, it’s amazing how far you fly from discouragement and are drawn into God’s great season of life.

The season of busy, the season of tired, the season of financially poor, struggling relationships, new beginnings, empty nests, new
adventures, chapter endings.  God designs and cares for each of these seasons.  Our job is to find Him in each one and cling to the Joy that comes from learning more about him and growing closer with each twist and turn.

And let us not be weary in
well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

-Galatians 6:9

Fullness of Joy. . .

Today while eating our Fourth. . .yes, fourth Mexican food meal this week, I overheard a very spirited debate at the table next to us.

“So, if God can do anything, just why did He create this world knowing He would be crucified and why did he create people just to send them to Hell.”

Wow!  Talk about a reason to order another basket of sopapillas and honey!  Trying not to be obvious, all three of us simultaneously slid sideways in the booth to get better audio on the matter.

“Yeah!” I was thinking to myself.  Why would God create us knowing we would turn on Him and then. . .THEN. . .die for us to save us?  What about those other questions that just don’t make any sense to me?  Questions like, “Why does God allow suffering?” “Why does God create life, knowing it may ultimately end up in an eternity of hell?”  My limited human mind cannot understand or explain such a God and what He thinks.

Back to the food.  We found “Rosa’s” in Mansfield, Texas on our way to the doctor.  We have five beautiful children.  All just perfectly created. . .and all suffer from allergies or asthma.  So, this week, we set aside time in our schedule to make the 1 hour drive from our country home to visit our Allergist in the big city. . .times four days.  By the time we’re done with the doctor, we’re starving!  Although this place is fast and has good food. . .I should warn you that four visits in one week will leave you with at least a 3 lb weight gain.  4 lbs if you order a second basket of sopapillas.

Our final visit this week was with our youngest son, Matthew.  What a beautiful gift to our family.  As we’re explaining his medical
history, we had to review his heart murmur and then further review the medical history of our other son, William and his heart defect.

When casually explaining the death of our son to HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome)- my voice no longer waivers, my heart does not skip a beat.  I’m in a robotic mode.  The window to my heart is closed and acting as an observer, I can explain in detail the life the Lord created and then took home. . .called. . .William.

After the burrito settled this evening, I found myself on Facebook and in front of me the words of another mother pleading for prayer for her daughter who was crashing and dying at that very moment.  “We didn’t have any warning…” Her words smashed that window to my heart and it dropped into the very bottom pit of my stomach.  In an instant, the short sentence on the computer screen had dragged me back to that hospital hallway where I was breathlessly running with that little limp and lifeless body in my arms screaming for help.  I could feel her panic…her world falling out from beneath her.

“Help!” We’ve all been there.  That incredibly hopeless moment when we know life has gotten so ugly and devastating that our soul cries for help.  The illusion of control has turned into the reality of hopeless.  Who is this God that we cry out to for help?  Why has he allowed this?  Why has he created this world to begin with?

God created man and this world for His Glory.  Plain and simple to write and say; but one of the most difficult for me to understand and explain.  God created this world and placed man, in His image, to bring glory to Himself.  If I could, I would explain it this way. . .Glory is not just the beautification of something, but, rather, a reflective honor, majesty, praise, a glorified grace
abounding through our Heavenly Father.   More than dying on the cross, I am mesmerized by the fact that knowing we would betray him…knowing we would choose other gods over Him…He still created us.  His love, is that great.  His grace is that strong.  He created us knowing he would save us.

On this Good Friday, we remember the horror our savior endured and the life he laid down for our very own salvation from eternal
damnation.  I fall to my knees and face before God realizing that without this day…without THIS day. . .I would have no purpose.  No reason to live.  And no reason to die.  We celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection sometimes forgetting just what we were saved from.

For someone going on a journey through the shadow of the valley of death, we become one wearing blinders to the noise and chaos that surrounds.  Our focus is on that of our circumstance.  We see life from our perspective of pain and suffering rather than the journey itself and where the journey leads.  The chaos and noise surrounding are all parts of one big story.   We are but a small, small part in God’s story.  If we could see from His perspective, all would make perfect sense.  But our limited minds, our sinful souls, and our blinders keep us wondering, why?

If for just a moment. . .I’d like to remove those blinders.  A chance to look around at the sovereignty of God and what his son’s suffering for us really means.  It is with this knowledge that one can travel this journey through the valley with hope. ..with a joyful heart…with a grateful soul.

William died.  Simply put.  It’s hard.  I won’t lie about that one.  Time does not heal a thing.  The pain of the loss is always great.  The shutting the casket lid is as vivid as the smell of the funeral home flowers.  But through his death, the Lord has removed my blinders and I can see that I am not alone.  Jesus walks this journey with me.  He guides me, He protects me, He comforts me, HE leads me beside those still waters for my good and His glory. 

My suffering tries and tests my endurance.  It strengthens my hope in God and ultimately. . .brings me unexplainable joy in Him.

“and we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:2b-5

The Lord suffered for us and who better to walk with us than someone who has been through the ultimate suffering.  He knows our pains. . .He created us to be like him and He created each and every soul to long for Him and long for Home.  Without His death. . .we would have no home.  For some, this wondering seems eternal because you do not know Jesus personally.  You have not had that moment in life where you realize you are nothing without him and have not yet accepted Him into your life to rule and reign and obtain eternal joy in Him.

We serve a living and very real God.  One that suffered pain and abandonment to give us life with him.  WITH him.  Knowing Christ is more than a ticket into Heaven.  It is asking God to rule in your life, to open your eyes and remove the blinders so you can live a life of joy that comes from the hope in a God who rescues the hopeless.  Putting your trust and dreams and sorrows in
the hands of your very creator…that is what a walk with Christ looks like.  And in Him. . .you walk with a joyful heart
through any fire or valley or storm, knowing it is worth every step.

How do we get up in the morning, each morning, with tragedy and devastation?  We hold the hand that leads us.  We ask the Holy Spirit to take that pain and to open our eyes to His will and great love.  When your eyes are fixed on God. . .you only see Him.  William did not die without cause.  The Lord has used this little boy throughout my maturing life as a turning point.   A stamp in time where God reached down and pulled me from the pit and placed me on a path knowing Him and joy through him.

William’s death gave me a chance to have a new life.  And Jesus’ death gave us a chance to have our new lives.  His death gave us a way to God.  But it’s up to us to take it. . .to accept it and walk with him.

Life plain and simple, is not about us.  It’s not our story after all.  It’s God’s story, and we are all guided by His hands to bring glory to His name.  And this includes suffering.  Through suffering, we get to know Christ.  And the more you get to know Him, the more
you are willing to suffer for Him.

Yes, God is all powerful and could have saved us all without sending His son to die for us.  Heavy, huh?  But He shows his awesome almighty, everlasting and never ending love by sending a perfect Christ to take on our sin at the cross.  In my darkest hours,
my mind can wonder to question the love of God.  “Does he really love me?”  And then I look to the cross.  Having lost a child myself, I see God’s sending his son as the ultimate gift, showing me just how much He loves me.

“You
make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm
16:11

 

Brother, sister, friend. . .life is a hard journey on your own.  Take His hand. . .let go of the illusion of control.  God loves to
rescue.  In His presence is fullness of joy.  We wait for the ultimate. . .to be home in Glory with our Lord.  But until then, we can have the Holy Spirit with us at all times and in his presence, we find joy through every trial, through every moment of suffering.  Our
endurance pulls us to our God and knowing Him brings the ultimate hope.  A longing to be with our creator. . .who created us to glorify Him.  What a purpose in life, huh?  Each and every one of us has a purpose, to glorify the almighty God.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing upon earth
that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God in the strength of my
heart and my portion for ever.

Psalm 73:25-26

Chasing bunnies. . .

We were new in town, about three months, when my husband’s thoughtful co-worker gifted our 7 year old son two beautiful snow white, velvet soft, red- eyed bunnies.  The sweetest things, and so fun to watch. . .we didn’t know that we would end up spending the first five years of our new lives here in the country chasing bunnies.

Andrew showed us how responsible he was by caring for, cleaning up and looking after his new pets.  We were city folk. . .fresh out of the suburban smog.  How were we to know that. . .well…lurking around every corner of the field, barn, and stream banks were predators seeking a filling meal. 

It was Father’s Day.  Andrew jumped out of the car after returning home from church still wearing his navy blue pants, pin stripped shirt and clip on tie.  Before playing, I told him to feed the bunnies.  It was a scream I’ll never forget.  The kind that you know just took away part of your normal.  My purse released from my grip fell to the ground as I kicked off my heals and ran to the back yard. 

Andrew was walking back from the bunny cage, eyes wet from grief and shock from a reality far to
advanced for his young soul.  A child who had already endured the death of his brother, the loss of our home and now his new hope. . .gone.  All gone.

I ran to the bunny cage to find two crimson soaked, headless bodies.  The cuts were clean with no
evidence of entry to the cage.  The heads completely missing. . .I was devastated for my little boy.  Why did he have to witness this horror?  Why did the foundation of cynicism have to be lain so early.  This loss in life would keep us searching. . .chasing after a new purpose, new life, new hope. . .chasing after new bunnies.


A few weeks later, we entered a pet store and picked out three brand new bunnies.  One for each of our boys.  Three little boy bunnies we thought.  Within three months, we were a bunny factory.  Apparently, we had a combination of one boy and two girls.  I became the expert on everything. . .bunny.  The factory was quickly shut down.   But I still I spent more time chasing little hopplings all around our backyard than I did little children inside.  Many mornings, one could easily find the crazy Lamgo woman on the hill running around the yard, barefoot, in my jammies, swearing while running after these bunnies.  As frustrated as I was. . .the new lives made me smile.
Over the course of five years, we had every kind of bunny possible.  Lops, Dwarfs, Angora’s. . .our lawn was beautifully fertilized.
Living on a farm, we see constant death.  It’s a part of life.  But then there is that beauty that brings new hope.  The new life.  The birth of a new day, new hope, a new start.
A New life. . .fresh into this world, is a beautiful thing.  And because of that beauty of birth and newness, we celebrate new creation, new birth, the anniversary of the new birth; and the new love in our lives that brings the new hope that lives in every heart.
As a Christian, one of our most anticipated holiday’s is just around the corner.  The celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and savior, Jesus, the Christ, the son of the living God.  Many know this holiday as Easter.  A word debated over time to mean both the resurrection of Jesus and that big ole giant white bunny that lays eggs and hides them for children to find.
I prefer Resurrection Sunday over the recognized, Easter Sunday, which after researching is actually a name for the pagan goddess Eastre.  As much as we would like to connect the rituals of fertility with our Lord, it is just another way Christians have confused generational sheep herding with actual truth.  I know, it’s harsh.  I’m not condemning anyone who collects baskets full of eggs or gives fluffy bunnies to their kids.  I loved on and chased those bunnies for years.  But this year, we’ll be looking at Jesus. . .His great life, death, resurrection and the meaning of it all.  I already re-visited my life with the bunny. . .now let’s look at the egg.
Why not take a deeper look into the egg?  I’m a farmer’s wife.  So, by association. . .I’m a farmer.  I have chickens that lay eggs and we gather them daily.  Not to color or hide on a grassy hill. . .but to eat!  And sometimes, we save a few chicken or duck eggs for the incubator.  A chance to witness new life. A brand new fresh start.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” -2 Cor 5:17
Life. . .a precious yet broken thing.  I spent so many hours of my life chasing after everything to satisfy the empty, the broken, the beaten.  Searching for the newness we all feel will fill that void.
 Even cute little bunny rabbits couldn’t comfort the sorrow.
Soon we will be remembering how Jesus was tortured, beaten, and died for the sake of saving each and every one of us who desires just what we’ve been seeking.  New life.  A new life, in Him. . .with Him. . .an eternal salvation.  The filling of the void with the love of a Savior.  Eggs and Bunnies may not be the real reason for celebrating His Story.  But the great gift given by our Lord. . .the saving from an eternal death. . .and a life without Him. . .the life He saves. . .newness of life, the life to be is something to celebrate.  It is a gift I pray each of you will one day open, receive and treasure.
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
 
For so many of us, Easter Sunday is a one day celebration.  But without it. . .we have no new life, no hope.  Jesus did not just die for us.  He came back to life.  His Resurrection shows us that with God there is a newness of life.  The old is past away. . .and we are NEW!  Brand spankin new.  No matter what you came from, no matter what you’ve done. . .no matter how many bunnies you’ve chased in your lifetime. . .you can start over.  You can make all new.  And for the child of Christ who already believed, we are reminded that we have the remembrance of the Living God who raised from the dead as well as the Heavenly Father who has given us our inheritance through Him.
“In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
Eph 1:11-12
Every day is a party!  Every day the Lord grants us one more day, we celebrate.  Not only for the life He created in the first place. . .but the New life he gave us when he suffered, died and rose again for us. . .His children.  We have every reason to celebrate!!!
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Rev 21:5

The “HOW TO” of Homeschooling Multiple grade levels. . .

The number one Homeschooling question I get over and over again is “how do you teach five different grades at one time?”  Oh that’s an easy answer. . .I don’t!  I’ve been homeschooling for over seven years now and I must admit that during the first two years, each semester break, I would research local and even not so local schools.

I started my first year of homeschooling mimicking the traditional classroom.  Actual school desks, a blackboard, maps, number lines, and an alphabet serving as a wallpaper boarder of both print and cursive had overtaken my master bedroom. 

It’s very difficult for those of us who grew up in a traditional schooling environment to actually imagine that learning can be accomplished without being institutionalized.  But not only is it possible for a child to learn outside of the classroom it has been
proven that they actually will remember what they’ve learned better than those students in a traditional school.

Quality VS Quantity

The secret to accomplishing all you have on your homeschool schedule with multiple children is scheduling quality time and making use of resources on hand.

Although repetition is key to ingraining lessons on our children’s brains, it is not necessary to complete formal curricula lessons each and every day to drive in that repetitive ideal.

Curriculum: I use a modge podge approach in teaching.  I use My Father’s World as the umbrella of our curriculum.  This is a wonderful Charlotte Mason, one room schoolhouse approach that allows one mother to teach many children of different ages at one time without running back and forth between different historical periods, science experiments and geographical
maps.  There is one common core; and each child has a lesson book that helps them learn on their own level.  This next semester we will be returning to “Creation to the Greeks” for the second time.  And I love it!  My children study Greek and Latin and have learned to play Chess while traveling through the Bible and Apologetics.  Sounds hard?  Once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t.  It’s fun because they are interested in what they are reading and not just studying to take a test.  The other thing I love about My Father’s World is that I rarely have to purchase materials now since I bought them all during the first four years.  They are re-usable!!!

Math U See is our primary Math program.  Once you purchase the teachers manuals and DVD’s, you will only have the need to
purchase new lesson books with the next child that comes along.  Math U See uses a tactile approach and teaches math- building the next objective once each step is mastered.

Spelling U See
is a new Spelling program through the same creators of Math U See.  In the past I have used Spelling Power for our older children.

Handwriting without Tears has been excellent for our left handed children and those who hae naturally messy handwriting.

Using Your Resources:

Homeschoolers today have a wonderful resource in the Tablet and laptop.  For Christmas and Birthdays, we purchased IPad Mini’s that were already opened for a discount.  Downloading Applications to keep that repetition using fun games is a must for our family.  While at the doctor or riding in the car, our kids can use their devices to keep their lessons fresh in their minds.  This is a perfect tool for our Right-brained children.

Don’t have a tablet? You can still supplement through Netflix which offers a number of supporting videos for Science, History and Math.  By “supporting” I mean once you’ve introduced a topic. . .check out what movies/videos they have about that topic.  Watching it makes it come alive and things that are alive are remembered!

Not wanting to come up with your own lesson plans?  That’s ok, online help such as Easy Peasy is a great way to start without breaking the bank.

1. For the computer, IXL Math and Language Arts is a wonderful and not very expensive online tool that all of the children can use
on their days when I’m not one on one with them or on a day off.  They can also use the Application on their devices for practice tests. Each child has their individual tab that tracks their progress.

2. I also like using Geography, Grammar, History, and Science apps to drill concepts learned.

3. Check out Bestappsforkids.com for additional support such as “this is my body,” “slice fractions,” and “splash math.” I particularly like using the Ipad’s for Geography.  These 3-D maps are fun as well as informative.  If you own anything Microsoft, you can use the same app on 5 different devices.

Scheduling your week:

I have five children, grades 11, 7, 6, 3, and Kindergarten.  I also run a home based business here on the farm all along while maintaining my writing.   Add the usual household duties and you can see why there is a realistic need for a workable schedule.

I don’t teach one on one with all children every day.  That would be insane!  Instead, I like to have 2 quality days a week with all of our children introducing new lessons, concepts and answering questions and then schedule 2 days where they can study and review on their own using work book pages, reading stories, or using their electronic devices to make what we just learned interesting and come alive!

Here is how we tackle our weekly schedule.

The boys get one on one instruction on Monday’s and Fridays while the girls get one on one instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  They tackle seat work and drills on alternate days.  Wednesdays are OFF!

The boys schedule
(grades 11, 7, and 6)

Mondays and Fridays
are dedicated to one on one teaching time with our boys.  This includes subjects such as: Language arts, Geography/History, Science, Math and for the oldest. . .an elective. During this time with the boys-The girls work on a few pages from workbooks
such as handwriting/spelling and then use applications on their Mini’s for other lessons.

Balance Seat work and actual teaching:

-I start off the week with History for the younger boys while the oldest is doing Science on the computer.  This gives me a chance to introduce a lesson to the younger ones while the oldest is reading.  History lessons include lots of reading, question/answer pages, and internet searches to gather detailed information.  In My Father’s World, Geography and History are all covered under the same set of papers.

-Then while the younger ones are answering History questions, I’ll explain the Science lesson or experiment to the oldest.  We use Apologetics for Science which includes a lot of reading.  For some of our children, they simply get lost in the mounds of papers.  So we have found the audio reading cd that comes with the Apologetic curriculum serves them better.

While Monday’s are dedicated to all History and Science; we take Fridays for all of our Language Arts.  I introduce a new lesson
to the younger ones while the oldest is engaged in his Literature reading.  It’s important that as they grow, the children learn how to comprehend what they’re reading and learn to do seat work on their own.  But on Monday and Fridays, I am right there to introduce and explain each lesson as well as answer questions on hand.  Our Language Arts consists of Spelling, Vocabulary, Writing, Reading/book reports, and Grammar.  We also use Thursday’s as Math drill days.  Each one uses the Math U See website’s drilling tab to constantly review math facts.

Tuesday and Thursday:

-These days are dedicated to one on one instruction time with the girls.  The girls’ curriculum from My Father’s World is independent from the boys.  Because they are in the stages of learning to read, write, and study, I spend more time with them on their days.  I’ll start the oldest girl on her lesson and then while she’s completing her assignment, I’ll switch over to the youngest.  We balance reading, writing, Math, spelling, and Science.  History will come later.  Right now, our History is the Bible.

So what are the children doing on their OFF days?

Good question.  No matter what the day, we start off each day in the living room. . .usually in jammies, doing a Bible study and prayer time.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are Math days for the boys.  They do their Math assignment and then complete whatever reading/writing assignment I have given them the day prior.  Then on Thursday’s they add Math drills.

Many of you may be concerned that the children only seem to study subjects once or twice a week.  Subjects such as Science and History.   Whatever concept they are learning on Monday, they will review all week long using applications on their devices.
This drills in the lesson and they retain much more than someone who has spent all week answering questions and reading lessons.

For our children with ADD tendencies- we have learned to keep lessons short and break often.  Our actual schooling hours are from 9am till 2pm.  That is five hours of studying with a few small breaks in between.  Lunch is usually taken during an elective course or while I’m reading aloud the book of the week.

We take off on Wednesdays!!!

We only school four days a week.  We do not have to waste time:

-getting all dressed up for school, pack a lunch, eat a fast breakfast, and commute to school.

-home room time and time wasted getting everyone to settle down in the classroom.

-standing, waiting, walking in lines.

-Wait on others to get the concept before moving on

-studying for standardized tests

-taking standardized tests!

We do more in our
four days than most do in an entire week!
 Wednesday’s off means the children can sleep in while I have my weekly quiet time.  I
can catch up on any lesson plans needed to get me through to the next Wednesday without sacrificing my weekend with the family.
Having a break in the middle of the week also means I can schedule any errands or doctor’s appointments without breaking into our study time.

We love this schedule of learning and it has faired better than our usual conquer every subject every day.  Having supporting applications, websites, video’s and online drills allows our children to be constantly learning even if I am not available for one on one instruction.  They know what to expect and they know what I expect from them.  The consistency keeps us on track and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed that we did not cover a particular subject each and every day.

Happy Learning!

“When you smell smoke. . .look for chicken”

“What do you do when you smell smoke?”  This was just one of many routine questions our Pediatrician asked our children during their annual check up appointment.  He just wanted our children to understand basic safety as part of his care.  So, along with questions like “what do you do if your clothes catch on fire?” and “what do you do first when you get in the car?” he asked about what do you do when you smell smoke in the house?

Our 13 yr old son in his sarcastic state answered, “Look for chicken!”  Sarcastic but true.  It’s not a secret in our home that I tend to
put things in the oven and walk away in effort to multi task- leaving many frozen dinners, bacon, open-faced sandwiches and. . .oh yeah. . .chicken subject to be burned.  I do believe my children have never had pizza from the freezer without it being slightly burnt.  “Maybe they’ll think that’s just the way freezer food tastes?”  I use to think to myself.  But, clearly at this doctor’s visit. . .I was
made aware that my children were very aware that food should not be burned.  They were missin’ out.

I just smiled and internally rolled my eyes at our son’s response.  He’s sarcastic and painfully honest.  That’s Jacob.  That’s how the good Lord made this sweet child of mine.  And after waiting for him for almost four years. . .I’m thankful for every little sarcastic breath.  Well, almost.  There are times I’ll say, “not now, Jake.”  He knows when to back off.  He is unlike our other four children.  I
think people. . .most importantly, parents, forget this key feature in God’s creations.
  God created you individually. . .YOU!  In families we tend resemble each other in both actions and looks, however, there is only one you.  And there is no one like you.

There is only one Jacob Lamgo. . .and he is not like my husband or myself or even my other children.   And that is what puts me in awe of our Heavenly Father.  He places each of these little people in my life and although I did not expect what I got, I admit I got much more than I could have ever dreamed.

I am raising five children with five very different purposes in life.  All uniquely designed by God to further His Kingdom.  This purpose differs greatly from one child to the other.  I think this design and purpose sometimes gets detoured in our minds when a child turns out different than the picture we created in our minds well before their birth.

That moment for me started early on in my parenting.  About 10 seconds to be exact.  It was a warm July evening in Colorado- in the hallway of a hospital during a tornado when God let me know that my life and the lives of my children were His and my plans didn’t always match up with His plans.  Our oldest was born that night premature, blue and not breathing.  His little face was lifted up to mine just before they rushed him off to the NICU.  He looked like a tiny little bird that had fallen from the nest.  Skinny, blue, and barely alive he differed greatly from the expected chubby, pink cheeked bundle I had envisioned.  He was Andrew. . .and there is none like him.

I tried to mold that little man into what I desired him to be.  He became more than I could have possibly imagined and for that, I am truly grateful the Lord had His way and my vision faded.  I think we try so hard to create the children we want and not the children they were born to be. . .so much in fact that we are faced with labels, depression, and even suicide because society and even parents state that they are not what we expected or envisioned.

Today is our son, Matthew’s 12th birthday.  He is precious and I cannot wait to see the journey God has for him.  It took our own journey to understand just how precious these little ones would be and how loving them means leading them back to God and letting them go.  Letting go of the future we had in mind, the personality we envisioned, and embracing their natural talents and gifts from God instead of trying to live or relive our own childhoods in a matter we wished but never lived.

Not every child must be a ballerina, soccer player, or straight A student.  Why does this bother so many parents?  I think it’s their own set of ideals they battle within that makes them force the life they deem ideal for their children.

For me, as I stood at the casket of our second child, William, my eyes were forced open into a new reality of “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.”  Words from my Heavenly father reminding me that the children given to me while on this earth are His. . .not mine. . .and He does whatever He pleases.  Who am I to stand in His way?  Who am I to argue with His design?

Embrace the individuality in your littles.  Embrace their talents, gifts and even those things we translate as a challenge but God created as His perfect design.  When the fork in the road changes your course, your dreams, your desires…your way…you get to release your grip, open your eyes and thank God that you have been given this job for a little while and let His will direct you.  It is the best parenting tool I have been handed over the years.  It is the only tool you’ll need.

I don’t measure our children’s success against other children or even my own ideals.  Because there is none like them.  They are five separate individual lives walking a path laid by God and on a journey to their eternal Home.

So when one child answer’s the question, “what do you do when you smell smoke in the house?”  You understand that there is not just one correct answer, but perspective.  For us. . .we look for the burnt chicken.

The Colors of a memory. . .

It’s a late Friday night and I’m found nestled in between two piles of photo albums.  I have a picture in my mind so familiar that it must be true.

I see. . .Purple and white petunias. 

So, I sift and search through pages of the past to help me find the meaning of my memory.  Memory. . .it’s something precious.  For me, I lost quite a bit of it long ago.  Daily writing has come in handy with a constant telling of stories, taking pictures, and re-telling over and over again; I can rebuild what once was.

My 6 yr old, Jessica peeks her inquisitive cheeks around the corner, “whatcha doin’ mom?”  At her feet she catches a glimpse of a photo taken of me at age 7.  “Oh, look! A Memory!”  Watching me over the past years studying picture after picture she has learned that these books of photographs are actually memories.  Memories for me, locked behind a clear plastic protective cover.

 

We call them memories. . .the pictures that link my past to my present.  At 4 yrs old, the anger and rage of another sought out destruction on my brain.  A brain that just wasn’t healthy enough then to withstand the additional strike of a car accident at 16 yrs old.  The migraines started shortly after and then like a missing dash in a sequence. . .the puzzle pieces began to fall out of place.  

I LOVE taking pictures.  Capturing each moment in time that I refuse to lose.  Something simple. . .the drawing of a whale on the tile floor by a toddler who knows no limits to discovery; the beauty of each sunset and sunrise; blades of grain waving to me in the wind; the artistry in a bank of clouds; a Lego village; smiles and smiles from those I hold dear.  They are my memory.

Why does God give us a memory bank in the brain?  Is it so we can live a story over and over again?  So we can learn from the past and improve?  So we can better predict what happens next?  What about the memory lost?  I once believed memories were both a blessing and a curse.  And for me, one morning when I actually could no longer remember my childhood; I felt utterly cursed.  And then we started diving into that blank past and discovered what a blessing it was to have a clean slate.  Bad memories, misused and undefined serve as an invisible fence, holding us in. . .keeping us back from moving on.  Removing those memories served me well most of the time.  

But if I look at our sovereign God, the one who creates, gives and takes, and directs all by design, then I must consider even the remembered horrors of the past. . .a blessing.  A memory given to serve a purpose.  A map directing me on my journey.  An answer key.

          

Why does God want us to remember?

The Bible tells us over and over again to “remember.”  Every word in the Bible is of value.  However, there are some words that perpetually appear.  Could it be that the Lord does indeed want us to remember?  He’s driving in that fact. 

It tells us in Deuteronomy- “ You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” 

Remember what once was. . .the hard.  And remember the rescue! 

To have true thankfulness of our present is to constantly bring to memory the pictures of the past and embrace the glorious joy of a promised future.

                                    

God knows our faulty human minds and that a memory fades.  It is this reason He states to “remember.”  It isn’t always a mental recall, but an act.  The Old Testament Hebrew word for remember is Zakar.  It’s meaning: remember, recall or call to mind.  Thinking back is just one way to remember.  We also remember by our acts of worship.  Our traditions, our purposeful acts that bring to mind what the Lord has done and what His promises yet to come.  Our sifting over and over again through both our and other’s “memories.”  The pictures they paint in His words. . .the stories they tell.

                               

The Lord tells us to “remember the Sabbath.”  I love this way of Zakar.  Yes, we actually have a day each week in which we can recall to mind the wonder of God through His six day creation and his day to rest.  How vast is His creation and how great is this God that brought it all into existence.  God is not just asking us to sit around and say, “Oh, hey. . .remember the Sabbath?”  Remembering in this context is an act.  Following a command in obedience to Sabbath IN remembrance.  These acts of choosing to remember through reading His words over and over and over again and call to mind in the moment. . .the hour we need them. . .are the reason we should aim to always remember. 

Paul in written word so that we may recall the past,  shows us in I Cor. 11:1-2 “But ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.  Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”

We remember what God has done for us.  His ev
erlasting Grace, His unbelievable mercy, His redemption and rescue from the enslavement of the past so we can appreciate, be thankful and feel joy for both the present and hope for the future.


We remember His promises.  Genesis 9:14-15a

“It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant.”  God calls to our memory with a bow of beauty to remind us that He has always kept his promises and has given us the hope and promise of a rescue from this broken world.  He is coming back!  He has promised. . .He has remembered. . .and we read His words to remind us that our labor is not in vain.  We read His words as a picture to the brain. . .burned now into a memory.  

And just as quickly. . .we forget.  I forget.  I forget His Grace, Mercy, Rescue and promises.  My Exodus from my enslavement to sin. . .even this. . .I have forgotten.  So, I grab that big book and read His words to link His past to my present. . .and then to my future.


I close the last book and give up on the memory locked behind.  We drive to the store. . .the spring sun warms the air and Phil opens the windows to smell the fresh cut grass along the roadside.  I close my eyes and I smell it. . .I see it. . .it’s right there in front of me. . .a memory.  Bare feet walking a path of freshly cut green grass.  Slightly wet, the Colorado velvet soft cools my feet.  I see my mom’s red shoes in front of me.  With one foot in front of the other, she pushes the green lawn mower making paths in the grass to form a pattern.  I hear the muffled sounds of the engine.  I see our split rail fence sheltering the purple and white petunias below.  I can feel the sticky of their leaves and smell their sweet perfume.  I see my mother’s face and there I have it. . .my moment forgotten.  My memory.  God’s great grace.  He remembers me. . .and I remember Him.

 

 

 

The crazy woman who lives on the hill…


We moved to the little town of Venus,Texas almost 11 years ago.  A country ranch house, high vaulted ceilings, sky lights, lots of windows, no window coverings, hundreds of acres

and neighboring homes only viewable at the end of the long graveled driveway. It would appear to some that this was Heaven.  But to city slickers, it was an adjustment.  Both for us and those great citizens of Venus.  

Three little boys, stacks and stacks of boxes, accustomed to morning sickness, I spent my first day in my short nightgown, Madusa hair style, and bare feet.  Yes, that bare foot and pregnant was not lost on me either.  Without a fence around the yard to keep out the country wildlife, the boys and I were captive in our summertime home.  I however, felt a new freedom to being able to live without curtains, run around both inside and outside the house in p.j.’s without glaring eyes.  And if we ran short on bathrooms. . .well. . .you know.

 At least, that’s what I thought.  

Putting away boxes of books in our glass sun room,  the doorbell rang.  Another delivery or installation guy I guessed.  And I was right.  Only, I couldn’t open the door to get out of the sun room.  Our 7 year old, Andrew had used his beautiful
knot tying technique to entrap me. . .short night gown, crazy hair and all. I was so proud and angry all at the same time.  Without the phones in service, I envisioned
the boys tying me up in the middle of the living room and setting the house on fire. 

And then, in slow motion, Andrew about to release me from my prison, heard the door bell and slowly began to back away. “No, no, no Andrew!”  “NO-Don’t answer the door!”  He moved at a swift pace running away from me and opened the
door to the natural gas delivery guy, who just kind of stood there looking at this crazy- haired half naked pregnant woman Pounding on the door.  Like an exhibit in the zoo, he squinted his eyes moving side to side matching my squinting eyes moving side to side as I yelled, “Um, so sorry, but I’m locked in here!  Give me a just a moment.”  

Now, he could have come to my rescue. But we were city folk, new to town, a new species.  It was hopeless.  This guy was never going to rescue me nor leave.  If he had a bag of popcorn, he would have just sat and enjoyed the show.  I left the sun room through the outside door that led to the back yard.
Bare foot and pregnant, I walked all the way around the house, crunching
the sun dried grass mixed with dirt between my toes, around the garage via lava
hot concrete and up the front walk to my own front door, past the delivery man,
and into the house to sign his paperwork.  He stared… I didn’t care. “Welcome to Venus, Mrs. Lamgo.”  Yeah, yeah. 

Deliveries, telephone repair men, Dish Network, Plumbers, glass repair men, and electricians made the voyage.  The word was out. . .Mrs. Lamgo does’t wear
clothes.  

I think it was then that “the crazy woman on the hill” became Mrs. Lamgo and Mrs. Lamgo became the “crazy woman on the hill.”  My life spent so carefully
molding the image I wanted people to see was over.  It was freeing to some extent.  I no longer had to fake my way through life, keep a pristine home, kids and image.  I
could be. . .me!  Image was so very important in our Colorado lives.  The big house,
the cars, the wardrobe.  I had moved into a society that preferred “real” people and I was anxious to fit in.

Fast forward. . .11 yrs…

Yesterday I celebrated my 41st birthday!  Yes, exciting.  I did nothing.  It was AWESOME!!!  But I think where people often suffer from a “mid life” crises actually comes from the great realization that you have wasted a great deal of your life on pleasing self, falsifying an image of “perfect” to others, and chasing dreams that in the end never matter.  I have spent the first 40 years of my life going in the wrong direction.  And now, at 40 something, I have had a big wake up call to just where I am and what I want to be doing with my life.

My children, my business, my marriage
are not my own.  They belong to God
and in my 41st year, I am begging Him to take the lead and praying to fully trust His every move.  Even if it means I’m locked in a glass room in my jammies.

That’s not easy for a control freak like me.  It’s not easy to have lost and lost over and over again and then just hand over the keys and trust that loss could come again. . .but it’s ok.  The truth. . .my life is messy!  Your life is messy!  We all create an image we want to project that speaks “we have life by the horns.”  We’re perfect little families with perfect parents and perfect children.  But it’s fake.  It’s an image filtered and fixed to fit in with what we think we want in life. 


I’m thankful that although different, we made our life here in the country.  I’m thankful that the Lord has kept my children who really could care less what others think of them.  I’m learning.  Often slowly, but I’m learning to be real.  Be myself and be only who God wants me to be.  The crazy woman on the hill is just another mom here in Venus.  Just like you. . .my life gets messy. . .but it’s real.

 

 

Fly With Me. . .cherishing life’s simple peaceful moments

The morning in it’s usual rush, I pack two crates of puppies and one overloaded purse into the car.  Heading down the pot-holed graveled driveway, I balance tuning the radio and holding my chocolate breakfast shake level.  God is singing His best tunes as I navigate the back country roads.  Mastering the pitted gravel, a cloud of dust trails behind.  In spite of the Lord in my ear, the distance to travel gives way to thoughts uninterrupted.
My life, like this road. . .more often than not. . .winding, sometimes heading off in a different direct, bumpy, dirty, broken.  How often my busy blinds me from the bumpy youth.  At the end of the dirt road is the highway.  I sip on a straw, left blinker on and sift through the traffic for my moment.  It’s the morning rush, and I barely sneak through to get my spot on what is now a newly paved lane.  Bumper to bumper we slow down to pass the workers laying the lane next to us.  The smell, the sight, the smooth feel behind the wheel, my mind forgets the traffic, the speed limit, and I’m 6 yrs old.
 I remember that visit to Dad’s in Round Rock, Texas.  He rented bikes for us that summer.  An all time high since I didn’t have one back home at moms.  Nervous at first, I gained momentum and was soon traveling the newly paved neighborhood road.  There’s just something about a newly paved road that gives pleasure to travel.  Nothing to knock me down or trip me up.  There I was, 6 yrs old. . .a broken home and tumultuous daily life melted into that hot ground beneath me.  Nothing mattered.  For a moment in time the wind in my hair, the smell of the pavement, the sticky glue sound when the tire worked the road- all was fine.  All was forgotten.  Like eagles wings, my Lord carried me far away from my sorrows, my hurt, my pain.  His radiance warmed my face and I was at peace.
These moments, these little brief moments He has given throughout my entire life.  If even for just one small, simple moment, he grants peace, happiness, joy.  He is leading, I am following. . .falling into His arms.  I rest.  A smooth road to travel.  And I take them.  Moment by moment, like stepping stones throughout my life.  When all seems broken.  When the sin of this world rears it’s ugly head and knocks me down.. . .tries to swallow my joy.  He lifts my head. . .I open my eyes. . .raise my arms. . .cry out to my God who created this world and fall back into His loving arms.  And He fills me with his joy.  My stepping stone. . .in the form of His peaceful moments found in the most simplest of things.  The belly laugh of a child; the glow of a sun setting beyond the pasture; the sound of a snoring husband returning from a long trip; a garden grown over; a still soft voice calling to me from pages in the Bible.
Traffic now cleared, my straw hits the last drops of shake at the bottom of the cup.  I slurp to the end, and roll down my window.  The fresh black, the sticky against the tires. . .I smile through tears as my Lord lifts me on His wings, I close my window and foot to peddle, I fly.

3 Simple Tips to keep your House full of Kids CLEAN

With five kids, a dog business, and one always dirt-covered Cowboy Husband. . .it’s hard to keep a clean house.  We have a saying in our house, “One MOMMY!”  I taught it long ago back when we had just three kiddos.  It means, there is just one mommy and I can’t do everything, be everything, or be everywhere at one time.  Our children have learned to take turns, pitch in and most importantly. . .to have patience!  They have also learned that team work is the best way to clear up our schedule so we can have more mommy time, more play time, and more down time.  

With a large family comes a large mess!  If we all pitch in. . .it gets done faster!  I’ve learned many tips by trial and error, and other momma’s who have been there and done just that. . .raised a house full of kids.  My disclaimer. . .we have had many periods in our busy life that have left us with a messy home for the record books.  During those last months of pregnancy, illness, busy schedule or simply feeling down, I have let my house go.  The only way to feel successful during those stages was to watch an episode of Hoarders.  Remember, we all go through seasons.  Do NOT let the stress of needing to maintain a perfect home wear you down.  Everyone. . .I repeat. . .Everyone has had these moments and everyone has had that moment in life when you just pray someone doesn’t visit unexpectedly.
These are my top 3 tips on how to keep things picked up on a daily basis to ultimately avoid the pile up mess.
1.  Grab a Condiment and Go!
  This one is from my neighbor who raised 5 boys on her own.  We homeschool, which means we have three mealtime opportunities to mess up our kitchen.  The rule stands. . .everyone is responsible for cleaning up their area at the table!  You made the mess. . .you clean it up.  After each mealtime, before we excuse ourselves from the table, everyone is required to grab just one condiment or extra item from the table and put it away along with their own plate, cup and silverware.  Each person takes their plate, scrapes it off and places it in the dishwasher.  For our family, we use paper plates most of the time.  So our kids just throw their plate in the trash.  We also keep our Clorox wipes on the kitchen table lazy susan.  Each child is required to grab a wipe and clean their area before leaving the table.  When mealtime is over the table is spotless and everything is put away.  After dinner, I put away the leftovers, place the cookware in the dishwasher and turn it on.  Then I’m off to the living room to cuddle with the family on the sofa.  I do not stay in the kitchen and work after mealtimes.  I just don’t!
 
2. Every Man- For- Himself Laundry
  Let me emphasize that we have 7, that’s S-E-V-E-N people in our family.  And with daily farm chores, you can only imagine the laundry we pile up.  I hate laundry!  There, I said it!  Now before everyone tells me how to better organize my laundry room, laundry sorting and folding techniques. . .let me remind you that we have S-E-V-E-N. . . that’s “7” people in the family and over the past 18 yrs of being a parent, I’ve tried everything.  What works for one family may not work for the other.  I have no problem sorting, loading the washer, transferring to the dryer and back into a basket.  It’s the folding and putting away that prompts me to re-start the dryer 2 and 3 times before emptying into that basket.  Yes?  Sound familiar?  See, I’m not alone am I?
So we have 7 days in the week and 7 people in the family.  Hmmmm. . .how do we work this out. . .A few important SUB points . . .
 
Each person has a color coded laundry basket in their room.  A tall circular basket is for dirty laundry.  A coordinating rectangular basket is for clean laundry.  Mom-white, Dad-black, Andrew-red, Jacob-Blue, Matthew-Green, Melissa and Jessica-Purple.  Bathroom laundry is in a wicker basket.  You dirty your clothes and put them in the tall basket!  check!
Next, we assigned everyone a day for THEIR laundry.  Monday is ME plus any towels, sheets, and misc.  Tuesday is Matthew, Wednesday is Melissa and Jessica, Thursday is Andrew, Friday is Jacob and Saturday is Daddy!  Sunday is usually my day off or reserved for emergency washing!  Yep, we get emergency laundry.
TEACH everyone how to do laundry!!!  I grew up doing laundry every Saturday.  From the time I could walk, I was gathering, sorting, or folding laundry.  If they can walk. . .they can do laundry.  (Just remember to keep laundry soaps, dryer sheets, etc up and out of reach of the little ones.)  Each person learns what can be washed, dried and what needs to be separated.  We do this by giving everyone a “special” small basket in the closet for “specially washed” items.  If it can’t be washed together, dried, or must be dry cleaned. . .they learn and put it in this basket.  Mom helps with this basket.  Everything else gets washed together!  YES, together!
Wash, Rinse, Repeat!  Well, almost.  On your laundry day- you load the contents from the basket in the washer. . .add soap. . .press the buttons.  Simple!  Then you transfer to the dryer. . .even more simple. . .then. . .wait for it. . .wait for it. . .you remove the contents from the dryer and transfer those clothes to your basket!!!  Yay!!!!  Almost done.  Next, the chore for that day (yes, the kiddos have chores too) is to fold the contents of the basket and put them away.  Then the next week you do it all over again!
Lower your standards!  This is a huge one. . .my kids fold their own clothes.  Which means, we have nice piles and sloppy piles.  It gets better with time and instruction.  But I will take a sloppily folded pile of clean clothes over a laundry room piled high with baskets of clean laundry that ultimately ends up back on the dirty floor ready to wash all over again.
                  
3. Divide the house into ZONES and Conquer!
I actually started this one back when I had three boys and one little girl on the way.  There were periods after her arrival when we had help. . .but ultimately, this zone-style cleaning has kept me sane!
My house is divided into 4 zones.  The layout of our home when you enter the front door is the main living room/dining room/ patio room all in one view.  This is zone 1.  Zone 2 is the wing with the children’s rooms and Bathroom.  Zone 3 is our Kitchen, hallway that splits off into the laundry room and pantry. &
nbsp;Because the kitchen has most of the tile in the home, we choose this day to mop all the tile.  Then the 4th zone is our Master bedroom, game room and guest bathroom.
– We tackle weekly chores by spending 4 days of 15 minute clean ups of these areas.  With 7 people, we can get it done in 15 minutes.  With a smaller family, you may need to divide into more zones.  Just keep it to 15 minutes or you’ll lose the consistency and soon burn out.
-Each Zone has a basket of cleaning essentials specific for that zone.  Let’s take Zone 1.  The kids are assigned areas in that zone and know what cleaning tools we use for that zone.  We have a cleaning basket with Pledge, duster for high items, dusting rag, glass cleaner, scentsy refills, trash bags and replacement light bulbs.  We also bring an empty basket for misplaced items not belonging to that particular zone.
 **Our order is the same no matter where the zone: pick up trash first,  then any dishes or kitchen items, next gather any laundry/blankets/pillows, put toys and games where they belong.  That is the “pick up” stage.  Then we dust, shine, vacuum, replace any light bulbs, scentsy refills, or trash bags and we’re done!  Yes, it takes just 15 minutes when each person is assigned a chore and they have learned to do it well.  We set a timer and quit when it rings.
**We clean zone 1 on Monday’s.  Zone 2 on Tuesdays.  Wednesdays are off.  Thursday’s we tackle zone 3 and Fridays we tackle zone 4.  Saturday and Sunday’s we do NOT clean unless we are doing a project or have had to bump a day for a schedule conflict on the calendar.
Our Home is well lived in. . .and we like it that way!  But we also need to make sure our guests can differentiate between the house and the barn.  So, we’ve adopted a few of these daily techniques and have found them useful for our particular family!  Find what works for you and stick to it!  Make it yours and embrace the “mess” that comes with family.