Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Life Lately {Goodbye 2014!}

I was talking with a friend the other day about how we go through experiences that are confusing and painful and we don't understand WHY. Time passes and things change and sometimes there's a big OH!! A lightbulb moment of clarity as to why the first things had to happen so you could deal with the now. We decided, as painful as it is at the time to wonder and be confused, it's great to not know some things ahead of time.

Washing windows for Grandma

Ok, that was really wordy and I'm not sure it makes sense.

Let me try again. 2014 was one of those years that I'm glad I didn't know about when it started.

Enjoying Trees & Trains in Salem, MO.

If you had sat me down last January and told me the two biggest things that would happen during the year, I wouldn't have believed you and I wouldn't have liked you very much.

So since I try to see God working in everything in my life, I am glad He doesn't tell us everything up front. Aren't you? We're just asked to trust. One day at a time. And when the days are overwhelming, break it down into hours or tasks. Or breaths.

It's the little things that make me cry. Like Grandpa teaching my son about constellations, chores that used to be his now being done by Grandma, seeing his shoes waiting by the door. Saying goodbye is hard.

I want to run through this year, just to get it all in one place. For me. For posterity.

Last January I expanded my day care to four fairly regular children. Plus my three. It was nuts! Let me just admit that now, and while we needed and appreciated the money, Mommy was crazy. I was lonely, frustrated, unhealthy and zero fun. There were time--I think they're on record here on the blog or at least on Instagram--when I had all seven children at once. At that time, my oldest was 6, so I had seven under 7.

Loving on Grandma

Spring came and a couple clients dropped out and the rest could be outside sometimes, but I was still crazy busy, just feeling like I was fighting all the time. With me, with my kids, with my perspective, with finding balance.

Our last communion with Grandpa.

Meanwhile we were still missionary candidates with no donations. My husband worked for hours on his presentations and we went nowhere. We know we were the slowest grossing missionary team, if you can call it that. We worked hard, called hard, talked hard, presented hard for a year and still had less than 10% of our budget! Most missionary couples are able to raise at least 70% in that amount of time.

The boys made a fort with their older cousins today. Tonight they're trying to sleep in it. Ha!

We really struggled with our decision but we finally withdrew as candidates in July. It made us cry. We felt so discouraged, so let down, so disappointed we wouldn't be going to live in the British Isles! We were so bummed out that we had had to quit! We wondered what we did wrong, what we could have done differently, why did it seem that God opened that door only to shut it a year later?

It's almost embarrassing. I mean, I don't know if that's how people see us, but I'm embarrassed by it. We're the couple who couldn't be missionaries. We're the failed missionaries. We're the people who wanted to go but no one had enough faith in us to back our mission...

I'm embarrassed about our kind supporters. The 9% who gave and now have nothing. They believed in us and we couldn't do it. We failed them.

Story time with Uncle Glenn

But the weight was off our shoulders! The stress was out of our lives. We have been doing much better as a family without that constant pressure of fundraising.

That's a good thing, because July was the month that the other shoe dropped: Gary's dad was diagnosed with cancer.

At my father-in-law's memorial. Sad sad day.

It was sudden and awful and terrible and if you've been around at all you know we said goodbye to him less than three weeks ago.

Cancer. It's so mean! Six months ago, Jon was a healthy, vibrant, active man, a pillar in his church and the patriarch of the family. He battled cancer with everything he had. Five rounds of chemo, plus juicing, essential oils, and other remedies. And lost.

Putting up the tree before unpacking our suitcases. #priorities

We know we'll see him again. But it doesn't make it better.

In the background, our little family has been doing really well, honestly. I feel that right now we're interacting and helping each other thrive better than we have done for years! We're friends, we like to hang out, our kids are fun, Gary and I have a really great relationship.

Our tree is a little bottom heavy!

In August, Gary started school to finish a degree he was working on about 15 years ago. We conveniently live less than half a mile from Union College. He's finished his first semester and should graduated in May with a degree in Theology. He will be able to pastor a church after that, and we're hopeful of getting hired in the next few months.

I feel that 2014 has a been a good year in some ways. It's taught us to be content with less. We don't need a bunch of money to go out and have fun. We much rather stay home and cook something, though eating out sometimes is nice. Homeschool is working for us, and our cut-back day care schedule make it much more feasible. We eat well, very healthful for the most part.

Peppermint hot chocolate and a Christmas movie!

We like living in Lincoln. Well, winter stinks, but it is what it is. Lincoln is small enough to be friendly and seem safe and big enough to have all the stores you want within an easy drive. We have a Children's Museum and the zoo in Omaha is awesome! We have lots of friends at our church who have kids that are friends with our kids. We love the parks, bike paths, local lake, and our own backyard.

Christmas Eve

So there you go, 2014. You weren't the best year and I'm ready to move on. Thanks for the lessons, thanks for the moments of realization that this normal, messy, boring life is precious and special and beautiful, just the way it is!


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014



Well, I think we pulled off Christmas. We got back to our home after a month away on Sunday night. That left us three days to get ready for Christmas. We had no decorations up, no gifts purchased, and hadn't done many of our favorite Christmas activities.


We did have an inexpensive pre-lit tree, so the boys and I set it up first thing on Monday morning. They were very involved and had lots of fun! The ornaments needed a little redistributing, but that's part of the fun of having kids at Christmas! I'm going to remember next time I set this tree up that it shouldn't go in front of a window. It makes the branches look super thin!

I went Christmas shopping every day--once by myself where I got 90% of the shopping done, once with the boys for groceries and one more gift not available at the first place, then a last quick trip for a couple more stocking stuffers. Husbands are so hard to buy for, aren't they?


We've had time for a couple crafts, I wrapped everything, and the boys enjoyed peppermint hot chocolate while watching a Christmas movie. Our Christmas card will be a New Year's card this year, and grandparent gifts will be late, but we'll have a fun Christmas Day!

Wishing you all the best this Christmas, even if you're in a place of grief or sadness (we just lost Gary's dad less than two weeks ago), or if you're in a less-than-abundant time financially (Gary's going to school part time and working part time so we can relate). We're choosing to focus on our blessings and hope you are able to see how God is taking care of you, even in difficult circumstances.

Merry Christmas friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ellie's Closet {Winter 2}


This outfit looks so cozy and practical! I seriously dress like this a lot and I can vouch that it's super comfortable. I love adding leggings under skirts in the winter. Red is my signature color, so of course I had to make it one of Ellie's favorites too.

Ellie's chambray or denim shirt is new to her, but the rest of the outfit is from her original wardrobe. Like I explained last week, I've switched out a couple items for the same thing only better. Like the gray skirt--there was one in her original closet, but it seemed a little bulky and see-through, so I chose this one this week.


Any winter favorites you love to layer?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Life Lately {November}

As usual, it's several weeks overdue, but here's a little glimpse of our life in November!


FALL. Fall colors and my sweet boys. Each of them gets to add and a half to his age in November. #kindofabigdeal


LIFE. 1. Jared moved out. 2. Look out, world! Jared's reading! 3. Jonathan read a whole book today! 4. Cooler temps mean I can wear my jean jacket which has exploded my wardrobe options! 5. My engineers built this shuttle complete with launch pad. 6. "I just farted in my mouth."



LEARNING. Some days you just need to get out of the house and do something different! Part of the joys of homeschool.


THANKSGIVING. 1. I'm proud of my son's willingness to serve. This is a fellowship meal on Thanksgiving that my in-laws host for the rehab center in town. 2. Officially a big boy now! 3. Getting into the Christmas spirit with Aunt Gloria, kind of. 4. Life is better with this little guy around! 4. Helping Grandma. 5. Jared wants to tell you all about his delivery truck.

We weren't planning to go to Grandma & Grandpa's house at Thanksgiving, but thought we should make the trip to see Gary's dad before Christmas. I'm so glad we did! The boys and I ended up staying after Thanksgiving while Gary went back to Lincoln for work and school. My father-in-law passed away just two weeks later. That's why the "sort of" with the Christmas spirit, and that's why were still in Missouri as of this publishing date. 

Thanks everyone for your kind comments regarding our loss. It's an especially difficult time of year to lose a member of our family. Grandpa will always be missed. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jon's Story

My Father-in-law lost his battle with cancer on Saturday, December 13, 2014.

Grandpa with Jonathan in 2008

There is a giant hole in each of our hearts. We will always miss Grandpa and are so thankful for the memories we have of him.

Jon believed in God and his one regret, if you can call it that, is that he didn't tell more people that Jesus is coming soon. In the three weeks I was with my in-laws before Jon died, he was able to share this story with many of his friends and family, either on the phone or during visits to the house.

*****

Jon was in quite a bit of pain which bothered him a lot, especially at night. One night he was struggling to get out of bed and make the few steps to the bathroom. He was tired of being in pain and worried about his wife, Helen. Jon felt a hand on his shoulder and knew immediately that it was Jesus by the long, flowing sleeve he felt on his back. 

"I've got you covered," Jesus said. 

"What about Helen? What will she do when I'm gone?" Jon asked.

"Don't worry, I'm taking care of her," Jesus told him.

Jon felt comforted and returned to bed. Later he woke up and again felt Jesus' hand on him. This time he heard, "The days ahead will be difficult, but I've got you covered. I am coming soon!"

*****

Soon Jesus will come! Soon we'll be together with Jon again, and this time he won't have cancer! We're looking forward to that!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ellie's Closet {Winter 1}

I really have fun putting outfits together on Polyvore. It's like virtual shopping without spending any money! Of course that means I'm sometimes disappointed with my real closet, but it also gives me inspiration for a few items I feel I would really use and like when I get a chance to look for them.

This week's crush? A beautiful plaid skirt.


I really avoided skirts for a long time. First I felt that they were just too feminine and girly and not very practical. Then I felt that they were hard to wear with little boys/babies, so I stuck to pants even for church. I also felt that long skirts make us shorties seem even shorter!

Lately I've swung clear around on most of those points. My boys are a little older and I don't hang out with them on the floor so much. A beautiful skirt like this one I would probably reserve for church or kind of dress-up times anyway. I learned first from The Modest Mom that layering leggings under a skirt makes you warm and cozy all winter! Recently I've been wearing my summer skirts that way, and I feel warmer than when I wear jeans. Try it!


Ellie's winter wardrobe will be very similar to her fall one. Because duh! I don't get a new wardrobe every season, do you? The one above has been tweaked a little and I can't seem to find how to switch out one or two things without having to build a whole new collection on Polyvore. Oh well!

What items in your closet do you find yourself reaching for over and over? What is something new that you wished you had?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

About Dying

I mentioned yesterday that I had stayed with my in-laws after Thanksgiving. It's true! The boys stayed with me but Gary had to go home to finish up the semester and go to work.

I'm pretty sure I mentioned it a few months ago, but my father-in-law has cancer. At this point he is on hospice and is only expected to live another day or two.


Jon is 75, but still young--or was 6 months ago. As late as last spring there was very little he couldn't do. We all expected another 10-15 good years out of him and are so disappointed to lose him so soon and so quickly.

Our real heartache though, is for Helen. She is losing her husband, her rock, her best friend, her partner. She is the one who has to keep on living. I know she will be ok eventually, but my heart hurts for her in the next few weeks and months.


I also have to admit, the timing is awful! The holidays can be hard after a loss, but to have the loss occur right between Thanksgiving and Christmas... I'm sure the next few years will be difficult.

We have hope though, in the resurrection and second coming. We know we will see Grandpa again. Jon has seen Jesus a time or two in the last couple of weeks. He has been comforted, has been told that Jesus will take care of Helen and is looking forward to the pain and disease being over.

My mom said something that has helped my perspective a lot. She said, "There are worse ways to die than at home surrounded by family, made as comfortable as possible, and regularly affirmed by those around you that you are loved and will be missed." 

Jon and Helen have been a wonderful witness of leaning on Jesus even when terrible things happen. This is not God's plan. He does not cause pain or suffering or early death due to disease. An enemy has done this.

Thank you for your prayers as our family goes through this difficult time.

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