My Blog

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When I was growing up, my most cherished memories include sitting around the table with my family after dinner, swapping stories about our day and reminiscing over favorite times. Sometimes we’d sit for an hour or more, not wanting our conversation to end (or to do the dishes!). That’s why I refer to my blog as the Kitchen Table. I’d like for you to pull up a chair and enjoy sharing stories around my virtual kitchen table. I hope you’ll browse through my latest blog posts and connect with me by leaving comments. My prayer for you is to be encouraged and inspired by the words I share here each week, without even having to help with the dishes. 🙂

The Blackberry Mistress

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 in Blog | 10 comments

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… He who loves his wife loves himself. ~ Ephesians 5:25, 28

the blackberry mistress

The Blackberry Mistress

My husband has a mistress. There. I’ve said it.

No, it’s not the kind of mistress you’re probably thinking of. It’s his blackberry patch. I’ve lamented the long days and evenings John spent behind our house wooing those bushes to produce large, purple-black berries. When he decided over a year ago to order his little bushes, I thought he’d plant them and be done with it. I knew they’d have to be watered occasionally and maybe have a little fertilizer thrown on them, but really, how much time could it take?

Plenty.

I had no idea the hours he’d committed himself to when he ordered 300 blackberry bushes. That’s right. 300.

But even before he placed the order, he pored over catalogs and the internet, making sure to choose just the right species. Who knew there could be so many different types of one kind of berry? Obviously, not me.

So began the evenings and weekends of John tying up the little vines-with my curling ribbon, I might add- to the 300 stakes, keeping them watered, weeded and pruned. No wonder they call plant businesses nurseries, you have to baby them constantly!

At least I always knew where he was.

Last week he was more excited than I’ve seen him in a long time. His blackberries were ripe and ready to sell. He spent several hours furiously picking from the vine in the breathtaking heat, filling 75 plastic boxes. His shorts were purple by the time he finished. (FYI- Resolve stain remover works wonders taking out blackberry juice!).

This past Saturday we loaded up the truck and took his precious treasure to our small town’s farmers’ market. Yes, he convinced me

jacob selling blackberries

Jacob selling blackberries at the farmers’ market

to drag myself out of bed on a Saturday at 5:45 am to help. He said he didn’t know the market didn’t open until 8:00. I got there at 7:20. Let’s just say I wasn’t a happy camper.

We didn’t sell anything the first hour. My son, Jacob, and I had almost decided we were wasting our time (John wasn’t there, he

went to pick more blackberries), when a lady stopped and excitedly bought two boxes. That got the ball rolling. Many people stopped and ask if the berries were grown locally. I assured them they were-in my backyard-and they were quite impressed. Even more impressive were the size of the blackberries. I have to admit, I’ve never seen any that big.

The morning started ticking by more quickly as our supply dwindled. By the time we left we’d sold almost 40 boxes. John was thrilled. Jacob and I were pretty excited as well. We celebrated with burgers and fries from the Clock Restaurant down the street.

John had also taken some berries to a café that specialized in local produce to see if they’d be interested in having a weekly order delivered. They were more than happy to commit to 100 boxes a week. Who knew John’s blackberries would be in such demand? Obviously, not me.

This Sunday John and I will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. When I think about the investment of time and nurturing John put into that blackberry patch, it reminds me of the commitment we made to one another when we said our vows. We can’t just haphazardly throw out a little fertilizer or water whenever we feel like it if we want to make our marriage work. We have to be intentional, first realizing we are each responsible to do our part, then working to grow and maintain the relationship that brought us together in the first place.

It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes it’s been downright excruciating. But we persevere, knowing the fruit of our hard work will be sweet and pleasant, just like those blackberries.

Me and John in the blackberry patch

Me and John in the blackberry patch

I know this may sound a little corny to some, but I’m proud of John for his willingness to devote so much time to something he’s passionate about-blackberries as well as our marriage.

Now, if he can just get all the wheat harvested and the soybeans planted so we can enjoy a vacation 🙂

Happy anniversary, John! I’m blessed to have a husband who loves and takes care of me as well as you do. I look forward to at least 29 more years together. Thank you for always being there. I love you!

How has your spouse been an example of commitment in your marriage? I’d love for you to honor them here!

The Winning Recipe

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 in Blog | 12 comments

We don’t remember days, we remember moments. ~ Brook Noel

Me and John at Garden City

Young love

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve made my mother-in-law’s baked spaghetti over the years. It’s become my signature dish and my kids’ favorite. Whenever a friend has a baby, I host a large party or I have to feed a group of hungry teens, I pull out the recipe. It always satisfies–and takes me back to New Year’s Eve 1979.

I was 14 years old that New Year’s Eve, attending my first youth event in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. We’d moved to the town just six weeks earlier. Our new neighbors next door were youth leaders at their church and invited my 13-year-old brother and me to a progressive dinner to meet some of the kids who lived nearby. Even though I was a painfully shy introvert and the thought of going terrified me, I managed to gather up my courage, as well as my little brother, and go–praying we’d be accepted in this new peer group.

Our first stop that evening was for salad at a home just down the road from us. Their garage- turned-pool room was our designated dining area and a perfect place for teens to hang out. I started to feel a little more comfortable until everyone left to fill up their salad plates. Since I didn’t like salad I found an empty stool and sat there awkwardly, waiting for them to return.

Oh God, I prayed, I don’t know if I can do this.

Just then a guy in a plaid shirt came up and introduced himself. “Hey, I’m John. Where are you from?”

I smiled shyly. “Just up the road in downtown Greenville.”

As we talked, I noticed John’s wavy brown hair. It looked just like the most popular guy’s hair at my old school. I wondered if he permed it like Mr. Popular did. John’s blue eyes smiled at me. He had the manners of a gentleman, even though he was only 16.

We were so engrossed in conversation, we barely noticed when the leaders called out that it was time to load back on the bus. We headed to the next house for the main dish. I managed to snag a seat near John on the bus as we continued to talk. I learned a few important facts about him—he’d been born in our little town and lived on a farm that’s land was an original tract given to his ancestors by a Lord’s Proprietor in England. Wow, this guy’s family roots ran deep.

Walking into the kitchen of our next host home, I asked John where he lived. He gave me a quizzical look, as if I should already know, and said, “Right here!” We were standing in his kitchen while his mom dished out the main course–baked spaghetti. I was so embarrassed.

While standing in line to get our plates, I realized I’d never heard of baked spaghetti. Asking John to describe it, he grinned, promising I’d love it. He said it was served at most youth functions. It was everyone’s favorite. He was right. It was delicious, some of the best spaghetti I’d ever eaten. We continued getting acquainted over heaping plates of his Mom’s special dish.

We ended the evening at another farmhouse, enjoying dessert and finally ringing in the New Year. The night had been magical for me. I hated to go home, having had a guy’s undivided attention all night.
A few days after the dinner, John called. “Hi Carol. I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime.”

I cringed. I knew my father wouldn’t allow it. “I can’t,” I replied reluctantly. “I’m not allowed to date until I’m 16.”

“Oh. Well, do you think it’s going to snow tonight?” was his quick response.

“I dunno. I doubt it.” It was such an awkward moment. I’d never been asked out before.

“Yeah, me too. I guess I’ll talk to you later,” he said as we hung up.

I was disappointed, wishing things could be different. I thought that would be the end of his pursuit. I was wrong.

The next day he caught up to me in the hall at school and asked me out again. I brushed him off once more with the same excuse, but he was not one to give up easily. After the third request I went to my dad, telling him what a nice guy John was and “could I please go”? He made some inquiries about John to our new neighbors, who vouched highly for him and his family. My dad relented, finally.

“Ok, Toots (his nickname for me), you can go, but there’s one stipulation. I want John to come to the house and meet me face to face before I’ll let you go.”

I shuddered. My dad is 6’2”, an intimidating Yankee truck driver who served in the Vietnam War. I was scared of my dad. I was sure John would turn tail and run at the prospect of meeting him.

He didn’t. I told John the requirement for our date. “I’ll be there Saturday afternoon,” he said as he smiled confidently. I couldn’t help but admire him.

Saturday came. To my dismay, Daddy decided to cut down some trees around our house. Poor John, not only did he have to meet my dad, but he had to do it while Daddy wielded a chainsaw. I’m still unsure whether that was a planned strategy.

John got right in there with Daddy, helping him finish pulling one of the trees down after he’d cut it. I nervously sat in the house, not wanting to get in the way, but hoping they would hit it off.

John was pretty clever. While they worked on the trees, he suggested picking me up for church Sunday morning and taking me out to lunch afterward. That sealed the fate of our relationship, and our Sunday afternoons for the next five years.

When John was about to leave, I anxiously ran outside to tell him bye, hoping for good news. It was. Daddy had said I could go.

My dad says he made the right decision 35 years ago. John and I will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary this year and have built our home on his family’s farm. We have a beautiful curly-haired daughter (John didn’t have a perm) and a strong son who helps out on the farm. John has a good bit less hair now, but he’s still just as handsome with those steel blue eyes.

Every time I gather up my ingredients for baked spaghetti, I cherish the memory of that special New Year’s Eve so long ago–the day I was first introduced to John and baked spaghetti.

 

Sunday is Father’s Day and I’d like to say thanks to Daddy for always looking out for me, even now. I’m blessed with three wonderful fathers in my life: My dad, Don Limoges, my father-in-law, Bob Roper, and my husband, John. Thank you for the godly influence you’ve brought to my life and the lives of our children.

Happy Father’s Day!

Here’s the winning recipe…baked spaghetti

Baked Spaghetti
16 oz. spaghetti noodles
3 cans tomato soup
3 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 onion, chopped
6 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 soup cans of water
2 lbs. ground hamburger
1-1/2 lbs shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Put water on to boil for noodles. In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onions together until hamburger is cooked through. Drain. In large stock pot, mix soups, Worcestershire, and hamburger meat. Once mixed, add cheese a handful at a time, reserving ½ cup. Stir in water. Simmer on low until cheese melts.
Meanwhile cook noodles until tender. Drain. Add to the rest of the ingredients and simmer 5 minutes. Pour into 2-9×13 baking pans. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Pull foil off and sprinkle remaining cheese over the top of spaghetti. Continue baking, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes. Serves 12.

Is It Too Late?

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 in Blog, Uncategorized | 5 comments

Grandma in England

Grandma in England

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God…
~ Leviticus 19:32

The special Christmas gift was from my sister, Lisa, and her husband. It was a recording of my grandmother made several months before she started having frequent bouts of dementia. Grandma passed away 18 months prior to Christmas, so my sister felt it’d been a safe amount of time to pass on the beautiful gift she’d made for her immediate family, aunts and cousins.

Tears filled each of our eyes as we looked at the familiar old photo of Grandma and Grandpa gracing the cover of the CD. No one said a word at first–afraid we’d give in completely to the emotion bursting in our hearts. As we experienced our second Christmas without Grandma, we were blessed enough to still meet together in her living room, just as we’d done for the last five decades. My aunt, Pat, inherited Grandma’s home, and welcomed us just as her mother had done all the years before.

How fitting that, after the CD’s had been passed out, Pat retrieved Grandma’s memory book off the shelf over the sofa. After trying unsuccessfully to read through her tears, she closed the book and said, “Grandma’s one wish was for us to continue coming here and celebrating each holiday as a family, especially Christmas.” She paused, “And I believe we’ve fulfilled her wish, so far.” Everyone nodded in agreement, grateful for the gift of family and the security in knowing the future of, hopefully, many Christmases to come.

Two weeks after receiving the disc I decided it was time to hear my Grandma’s voice again. Listening to her lilting

Grandma and Grandpa as newlyweds

Grandma and Grandpa as newlyweds

British accent mixed with a little Southern drawl and her ever-present sense of humor made me feel as if she’d never left-and yet-made me miss her all over again.

Why didn’t I take more time listening to Grandma’s stories? Even those who knew very little of her understood she’d

had an adventurous life. A war bride from England marrying a soldier from the mountains of North Carolina and coming to America, living in poverty beyond any she’d seen before while raising four children and working full-time. That’s what you call a lady of strength and character. Through it all, she never lost her wonderful sense of humor.

I guess I’d grown up taking her life story for granted, thinking she’d always be there if I ever needed her to recall a wistful tale or a harrowing occurrence. I didn’t realize I had the plot of a real-life movie sitting right in front of me. Now, it’s too late to ask her any questions, or hear her unique way of calling my name.

Thank goodness Lisa and Aunt Pat recognized how extraordinary her story was and recorded as much as possible. They went through mountains of old photos asking Grandma to identify unfamiliar faces and documenting many of her stories. What. A. Gift.

grandma and grandpa's wedding day

Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding day

It’s a shame we often must lose someone we love before we recognize the value of their story. We get so caught up in our to-do lists and feel there’s no time to stop and pay attention to history. But we learn from history. We discover our roots and see how God worked a beautiful tapestry out of the story of their life- a story which, we sometimes forget, includes us. And, many times, we see the miracle of why we are even here in the first place. The twinkle in a soldier’s eye set toward a young English girl is part of my story, of how I came to be. When I think in those terms I’m amazed how God works out all of the details to create each of our stories.

Toward the end of her life when our family would get together for special occasions, Grandma would walk into a room, surveying the vast amount of people and say, “Can you believe all of this came to be because of me and Joe?” She seemed both proud and astounded seeing the fruit of her and Grandpa’s marriage.

Grandma and Lindsay

Grandma with great-granddaughter Lindsay

This coming Tuesday, June 10, would be Grandma’s 88th birthday. I still miss her greatly, but I’m thankful for the time I had with her and for the things she taught me about life—one of them being you can overcome adversity. Goodness knows she had her share.

I’ve learned since her passing to take the time to slow down and listen more. People, especially older people, are important and deserve to be heard. We can learn so much from their experiences if we’ll stop and pay attention. Just this week we’ve unexpectedly lost three older people in our community. I wonder how many stories have been taken with them, never to be shared.

Grandma with 7 of her 9 grandchildren

Grandma with 7 of her 9 grandchildren

It may not be too late for you to unearth the treasure of a loved one’s story.

Is there someone in your life you need to listen to? Don’t wait any longer. You never know how much time you have left.

Overcoming the Mountain of Great Expectations

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Blog | 5 comments

Last week I was humbled to receive the award for first place in the category of devotions at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Today I’d like to share that devotion with you and hope you’ll be blessed by it as well.

Me, celeste and cathy

Celeste, Me and Cathy with our awards 🙂

I’d also like to congratulate Cathy Baker for her award winning blog, Fragrant Ink, which can be found at www.cathybaker.org, and Celeste Vaughan for winning in the non-fiction book category. You can find out more of Celeste’s story at www.celestialprescriptions.com.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. ~ William Shakespeare

Me with Elise and her new Cabbage Patch doll

Me with Elise and her new Cabbage Patch doll

We excitedly headed toward the mountains, anticipating the delight our three year old daughter, Elise, would experience when we finally arrived at our destination; the Cabbage Patch Doll Hospital.

For weeks we’d been telling her about our upcoming trip. She couldn’t wait to go to the doll hospital, but was more thrilled about seeing those big mountains. Peering ahead through the car window, she anticipated the big reveal. When we finally started entering the base of the mountain and winding our way around the curvy roads, we announced we were now in the mountains.

Elise looked confused as she surveyed the high, sloping hills around us. After a moment of taking it all in, she declared with as much disappointment as she could muster, “Those aren’t mountains! Those are trees!”

Explaining to her that the trees were planted on top of the mountain didn’t console her. She believed we’d lied to her and was mad for a large portion of the trip.

Every time I think about this story I have to laugh. Then I realize I can be a lot like Elise. Many times my expectations don’t line up with God’s plan and I pout with disappointment. Instead of focusing on the better thing He has for me, I only see what could have been and miss the blessing.

Just because the mountains weren’t what Elise expected didn’t make them any less mountains. And when our plans end up not being what we expect, it doesn’t mean God’s fingerprints aren’t all over it. Sometimes He works in ways we’d never imagine. So next time you face disappointment rather than victory, remember, God’s got something better. There really are mountains under those trees.

mountain view

P.S. Eventually Elise ended up going to college on that very same mountain and she loves it!

When have your expectations brought disappointment?

 

The Family Masterpiece

Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Blog | 4 comments

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. ~ Proverbs 24:3-4

Library of congress great hall

Library of Congress Great Hall
Photo by Ralph D. Jones

As we walked through the back door down a nondescript hallway, I had no idea the visual feast I was about to partake. The hallway opened into one of the most beautiful rooms I have, and most likely ever will, see. It caught me so off-guard I literally gasped. How could I not have known about this amazing work of art right here in the heart of Washington, DC?

My daughter and I were on a field trip with her fifth grade class to our nation’s capitol: a rite of passage before they embarked on their middle school careers. Having never been to Washington, I jumped at the chance when asked to chaperone. I couldn’t wait to see all the famous monuments and buildings I had only gazed at on television or in photos. Everything we saw was pretty much what I expected, until the day our plans changed.

We were scheduled to tour the Supreme Court that particular morning. But upon arriving at the appointed time, we were told there must have been some confusion and weren’t allowed in. Much to our disappointment we were sent away. Someone pointed out The Library of Congress was just across the street and suggested we take that tour instead. Oh, brother, I moaned to myself, how exciting could that be? But it was cold outside so we decided to take the lesser of two evils.

library of congress visitors gallery

Library of Congress Visitors Gallery
Photo by Michael Dersin

Don’t get me wrong. I love books and reading much more than most people do. I even love going to our local library and bookstore to peruse the shelves for sometimes hours. If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. But this was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime and we were going to a dusty old library.

As we filed in line to enter the building, all I could think of was getting inside, away from the frigid wind. I wasn’t the

least bit curious about what lay behind those walls–until I walked in.

We were greeted by a grand hall much more elaborate than any library I’d ever seen. The only thing I could remotely compare it to are pictures I’ve viewed of the castles in Europe. But it wasn’t stuffy or cold. It was awe inspiring. There were paintings, sculptures and architecture unlike any I had ever been exposed to. Inspiring quotes set next to scripture were written on the walls in all directions. I couldn’t begin to take it all in. I wanted to sit and gaze for hours, wishing I could memorize every detail. My heart almost burst by the vision of beauty surrounding me.

As we delved deeper into this elaborate building, all of my senses were awakened. We stayed in each room as long as possible, but the anticipation of what lay ahead kept us moving. We dared not miss anything.

Library of congress reading room

Library of Congress Main Reading Room
Photo by Michael Dersin

The climax of our tour was peering into the Main Reading Room. Finally, there were the books. That wasn’t what grabbed me, though. As I stared across eye level with the life size bronze figures standing on the balcony, I recognized some of the names. Most notably were Moses and St. Paul. There, in the heart of this library, were two of the most influential men in the Old and New Testament. The testimony of both influenced the building of our nation. Our founding fathers knew where to look for instruction and duty; the Holy Bible. It filled me with hope and pride knowing our government was not derived from the musings of man, but on the unquestionable Word of God.

As we turned to exit, I was inspired by the faithful artists, architects and builders who brought this magnificent building to fruition. Their work has become a great legacy for their families–and our nation’s children.

As we left the building I turned and looked at it with a fresh perspective. From the outside it looked statuesque and somewhat elegant, not unlike many other buildings in Washington. But now that I knew the hidden beauty behind those thick stone walls I could never again think of it as a dusty old library.

Many of our homes look similar on the outside, but do ours stand out as uncommon against the rest when others enter in? Not from outward décor, but from the inward beauty that comes from the sweet spirit of Jesus Christ being the centerpiece. Our homes become masterpieces when we decorate them with the love of Christ, hiding His Word in our hearts and teaching our kids the importance of godly wisdom. Just as our founding fathers built our nation on the virtues of God, our homes will have a firm foundation when we do the same.

In front of Washington Monument

In front of Washington Monument

Carol and Elise in Washington DC

Me and Elise in Washington DC

Have you ever experienced beauty that brought you straight to the throne of God?
I’d love to hear your story.

The Sweetest Memories

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Blog | 6 comments

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. ~Proverbs 31:27-28

Lisa, me and Ricky with Mom and Dad

Lisa, Me and Ricky with Mom and Dad

Some of the sweetest memories I have growing up are of my family sitting around the dinner table after we’d eaten, swapping stories about our day and commiserating with one another about what hardships we may have endured. I have to give credit to my mom for those special times. She was always a stickler for sitting together around the dinner table, making sure the TV was turned off and always using real plates. Mom never allowed pots on the table. All the food had to be put into serving bowls. It may seem simple and unnecessary, but these small things made a big difference. We had to focus on each other, not the TV, and we knew this time was special.

Sometimes we’d sit for over an hour, not wanting this sacred time to end. It was the time of day when we had Mom’s attention. She listened and we loved talking to her. I’m sure many nights she was tired and just wanted to sit for a while before bed, but she didn’t. Rarely did we have to jump up and hurry off somewhere. So we talked and laughed and sometimes even cried. Occasionally we’d get in fights and scream and march off to our rooms, but that’s what families sometimes do.

Studies show one of the strongest indicators that children won’t get into trouble is the family dinner table, eating together at least three times a week. Mom may not have realized it then, but what she was establishing was very important. It definitely worked in our home and I’ve always tried to emulate it with my own family. Our kids need our undivided attention.

Occasionally, though, Mom would let us break out the TV trays and heat up Libby Land frozen dinners for supper. We thought this was the greatest thing ever. I’m sure Mom did too, since she didn’t have to cook 

When we only break out of routine intermittently, like she did, they become special events for our kids. It allows us to take a break as well.

I’m sure raising three kids wasn’t easy for my mom. My dad was a truck driver who was gone most of the week, and when he was home was usually sleeping. So it was up to Mom to take care of everything, including us, while he was away.

Mother's Day

My sister Lisa, Mom and me with our daughters

I remember one evening when my dad was on the road and the weather was pretty bad. Tornado warnings had been issued and we were scared. She piled the three of us into her king-sized bed where we slept peacefully all night long. I’m not sure if she got any sleep that night, though. The next morning when we looked out the bedroom window, the barn beside our house was completely gone, taken out by a tornado. We’d slept through it all, trusting Mom to take care of us.

We must have worn Mom out, though. It’s a running joke in our family that she can fall asleep anywhere, anytime (except the dinner table!). You’ll be in a deep conversation with her and look over to find her head cocked over, eyes closed, in a deep sleep. I have pictures to prove it. 

It even goes back to when we were little. Sometimes we’d have to take Daddy to work at night. On the long, dark road back home, we’d yell and sing to make sure mom didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. Thank goodness she never did. God was looking out for us.

Mom and great-granddaughter Blakely

Mom and great-granddaughter Blakely

As we’ve grown up, Mom has always been there to help. When I married and moved into a mobile home in the middle of a cow pasture, she helped plant bushes and flowers around our humble abode to make it feel like more like home.

When I had my babies, Mom was there to help take care of them. She still does, sometimes, even though their almost all grown—giving advice, hugs and prayers. Now she even has great-grandchildren added to the mix and is still ready and willing to lend a hand.

Every time I’ve moved she’s helped me set up house, cleaning and organizing, wallpapering and painting. She taught me how to make a house a home.

The list could go on and on, but you get the picture. I know lots of moms do all of these things day in and day out, without much thanks or acknowledgement. I know my mom has. So today, as we’re approaching Mother’s Day, I want to take this opportunity to rise up and call her blessed. You are precious to me, MaMa, and I love you for all that you’ve poured into me. Thank you for always taking us to church, even when it was hard, for being a godly example for us to follow and for showing us the importance of family. Outside of our faith, it truly is the most valuable gift we receive in life.

       Happy Mother’s Day, MaMa!!

Limoges family 2013

The Limoges Family 2013

Do you have a story you’d like to share about your mom? I’d love to hear it!

Is There a Roller Coaster in Your Living Room?

Posted by on Apr 30, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

 

roller coasterUnless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.   ~ Psalm 127:1

 

A roller coaster in the middle of a house? I’d seen some interesting house plans before, but this was the craziest. Another plan was designed with a Wal-Mart attached to the house. That way the owner could go shopping whenever the mood struck.

Don’t get excited– these weren’t real houses. They were dream home plans sketched out by third graders.

Little did I know when I signed up to read each week to my daughter, Elise, and her classmates what wild imaginations many eight-year-olds have. I enjoyed reading fun books and discussing them with the kids, but sometimes the activity I’d have them do afterwards that related to the book brought unexpected results.

The book I’d read that week tied in perfectly with having the kids draw a house plan. As an architect, I brought in a large set of my drawings for the kids to use as an example and taped them to the board. After passing out over sized sheets of papers, I gave them their assignment.

elevation
“Okay, kids, I want you to draw a house plan–your perfect dream house. Think of everything you’d love to have in your future home. The sky is the limit. Go!”

As I waited for the children to finish, I walked around the room and observed their creative works. Making the rounds to each student’s desk, I frequently had to ask for an explanation. In my practical Type A mind, it had never occurred to me to integrate into a client’s plan a roller coaster, McDonalds, or a slide coming from the master bedroom into a centrally located pool. Of course, I’m sure I’d have stared at them in disbelief if they’d asked.

As kids, they had little concept of practicality or financial means. I’d told them to draw their dream home and that’s what they did. They’d most likely look back and laugh if they saw their elaborate drawings today.

Elise's third grade class

Elise’s third grade class

When we start designing our spiritual version of a dream home, it may not look like the plan the Master Architect has for us. Sometimes we can come up with wild themes that leave God completely out of the picture or rarely consult Him about the details. Making wrong choices may leave our dream homes, and families, in shambles.

As parents, sometimes we feel our kids need to be involved in every sport and extracurricular activity offered. Or we may expect outstanding grades from our children at each report card.

Maybe we’re trying to relentlessly perform for our family or peers. We try to make every day like a fun trip to McDonalds, juggling all of the balls in the air and then wonder why the foundation of our home is crumbling.

Are we or our kids doing stunts as outrageous as having a roller coaster in the living room?

When I used to do that, I noticed my family wasn’t excited about all of the fun anymore. They’d come to resent everything that was taking me away from them. I realized I was chronically exhausted. I took it out on my family. I put them last and blamed them for the outcome.

front porch
This wasn’t how I’d envisioned the dream home for my family. Instead of being a place of unconditional love and refuge, it had become a head-spinning circus of activity, with me as the ring-leader. Finally, I cried out to God to restore order and peace in my home. And He did, once I learned how to say no.

If you’re struggling to keep all of the balls in the air, please stop to take a serious look at what it’s doing to your family. Sit quietly before God to ask Him what crazy parts of your dream need to be removed in order to experience His plan for you and your family. If there’s something they resent, that’s your first clue. Recognizing the things that suck the life out of your spouse and kids is of utmost importance to keeping your family strong. Discern the boundaries God has for your family, not everyone else’s. Learn to say no to the roller coaster in the living room and discover the peace God intended for your home.

If you’ve dealt with a season of too much activity, I’d love to hear what God taught you through it.

Married? You May Need to Learn How to Duck

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Blog | 7 comments

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more then rubies.

~ Proverbs 31:10

our wedding day

Our wedding day

I hurled the large remote at my husband, landing it squarely on the side of his head. I didn’t really intend for it to hit him (I don’t think), I was just trying to make a point; I hate the movie Red Dawn and I didn’t want to watch it.

When John and I married, I didn’t realize how much I needed to learn about being a good wife. We’d dated for five and a half years before our wedding day and I thought we’d pretty much figured out the whole relationship thing. I guess you could say I was a delusional 20 year-old.

John and I were polar opposites when it came to solving disagreements. John believed you calmly discussed a matter and then made the decision as to how to respond. I, on the other hand, believed you screamed (or threw things) at the disagreeing person until you got your way (or at least made your point).

Needless to say, we had a few grudge matches in the beginning.

The day I threw that brick of a remote at John, I’d begged him not to watch Red Dawn. The movie had given me nightmares in the past and I didn’t want to relive any unpleasant scenarios. I couldn’t believe he was being so callous to my request.

Being that we lived in a 900 square foot mobile home in the middle of a cow pasture, and only had one TV, there

Our dating days

Our dating days

weren’t many options of places to go to get away from the movie, unless I locked myself in the bathroom or joined the cows outside. Neither sounded appealing. So, in my frustration, I loudly accused him of being insensitive and threw the remote at him.

After it landed, his steel blue eyes stared at me, stunned. Neither of us could believe I’d actually done it. Immediately, I regretted my temper tantrum and apologized profusely, but it was too late. John had already shut down into ignore mode. He has this uncanny gift for pretending I’m invisible and mute for days at a time.  Not the best way to bring a quick reconciliation. That fight took quite a while to get over and I don’t even remember if we ended up watching the movie or not!

It’s been said that marriage isn’t a 50/50 relationship, it’s a 100/100 relationship. Over the years I’ve come to understand the meaning of that phrase. When we marry, we have to be all in, willing to go the distance with our spouse. Sometimes we give more to the relationship and sometimes our spouses do. It’s not a meet half-way proposition where we keep score and only give so much. If we want our marriages to work, we have to continually ask God to give us the grace to forgive

The early years

The early years of marriage

and make up. Otherwise, it’s easy to become another sad statistic.

I don’t know about you, but in my own strength I want to hold onto my petty grudges and parade them around like I’m some kind of martyr. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked God to help me get over my selfishness. Sometimes I allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through me, while other times I just can’t seem to let go of the offense. God doesn’t get any glory from my attitude when I refuse to give in.

By the grace of God John and I will celebrate our 29th anniversary this June. Yes, we’ve had many, many more arguments since. Once, I even threw a portable phone at him. Thankfully, he’d learned to move a little quicker and I missed that time.

The point is, we didn’t give up on each other, even in the difficult times.

Marriage is difficult. Most 0f us go into it starstruck with visions of grandeur, only to have reality hit us when we learn our beloved isn’t perfect. But the blessings we receive when we battle the assaults on our marriage are amazing. Don’t let the frustrations and aggravations of married life cause you to raise the white flag of surrender. Stand up and fight, but not against each other.

 

Me and John in Charleston

Me and John in Charleston

Do you have a funny marriage story? I’d love to hear it!

**If you are in an abusive situation, seek help immediately. Never stay with a spouse if you believe you or your child may be in danger.

The Great Adventure

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

joyful sound on wall

Joyful Sound team playing around

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

 

Six college-aged girls warily made their way down the creaky wooden steps leading to the basement of a rustic cabin deep in the woods. Rusted iron beds with bare mattresses, each holding a stack of neatly folded sheets, lined one wall. The concrete block walls were painted a drab gray; fitting décor for such a miserable room.

“Well girls, this is your sleeping quarters for the night,” one of the chaperones said as she motioned toward the beds which stood under a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Visions of mental institutions portrayed in old movies flooded their minds. A couple of the girls started to tear up, lips quivering as they prayed for a way out. Please, God, one of them whispered under her breath, don’t’ make us sleep here.”

No, this isn’t a scene from the next Freddie Krueger movie. It’s a host home my daughter, Elise, and the girls from her group were to stay for the night. When she told me about it later that evening, I was upset, picturing the scene in my own mind and knowing I’d never sleep a wink in a place like that.

Fortunately, the chaperons decided no one should be asked to stay in such a place. They hustled the girls back

cooking

Host of this home invited the girls to do some baking

upstairs to find proper sleeping arrangements. My daughter ended up in one of the lofts, lined with hundreds of baby dolls staring at her all night. Needless to say, she didn’t get a good night’s sleep.

Almost every weekend Elise’s gospel group, Joyful Sound, loads up their North Greenville University bus and head towards a new destination, never knowing exactly what to expect. When they have to stay the night, they must rely on the kindness of strangers to house and feed them while they’re away. Most of these homes are pleasant, with welcoming hosts. But some are the stuff horror movies are made of, or at the very least, comedies.

It’s funny how people can change. We once had to stay in a hotel room that was not of my choosing and Elise refused to sit anywhere other than the top of the dresser. She was afraid she’d get some dreaded disease.

Now she stays in homes with rodent problems and doesn’t say a word– literally. Recently they stayed in a home where one of the girls found mouse dropping under her pillow. After running into Elise’s room to discuss what they should do, they decided to keep quiet and not embarrass the host. I couldn’t believe it! I’d have let out a scream that cleared the house.

Joyful Sound

Joyful Sound

But, thankfully, my daughter has more tact than I do. Ahem.

As I was pondering all of these adventures Elise has endured over the last two years, I had to admire her willingness to give up her weekends to travel and sing in unlikely places. They usually have one or two concerts on Sunday mornings and another at a different church that evening. Sometimes they even have to work with a church’s youth the Saturday night before. The schedule can be exhausting when you add in the already busy life of a college student.

When I asked Elise how she has the stamina to do all of this in a weekend, she said,”Yeah, it’s a lot of hard work. But when I get up there in front of that church each week it’s all worth it. I love it.”

Her words made me stop and reflect. That sounds a whole lot like motherhood. Taking care of a family can be exhausting, and most days we don’t know what to expect. Sometimes we’re confronted with scary situations where we pray for God’s mercy and protection. Even though it may be difficult to endure the hard work and thanklessness, we persevere. Why? Because it’s all worth it.

the joys of motherhood

The joys (and trials) of motherhood

The sleepless nights and messy rooms and screaming fits; no, they’re not fun. But they’re necessary. We can’t grow strong families without wading through the daily chaos of life. It’s hard to consistently discipline our children, make sure they eat their vegetables or read that bedtime story one more time. That takes dedication and willpower. We have little people looking to us for boundaries and we can’t let them down. That can be a scary thought.

Elise gets on that bus most weeks and sings because God has called her to spread His Word through music. We love and nurture our families because we have been called by God to the position of motherhood.

No, we aren’t always successful. But that’s ok as long as we don’t give up. Like Joyful Sound, we’ve got to get on the bus every day, ready for the adventure of motherhood. Our kids are counting on us.

gettin on the bus

Gettin’ on the bus

 

Is motherhood wearing you out? Don’t give up! It’ll be worth it 🙂

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Blog, difficulty, hard decisions, parenting | 8 comments

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. ~ Romans 8:28

 

Jacob's first day of k-5We pulled into the school parking lot, anticipating the teacher my son, Jacob, would be getting for his second year of kindergarten. This wasn’t easy, coming back to the same school to begin K-5 again. As a matter of fact, it was heart-wrenching.

The spring before, my husband, John, and I discovered Jacob had ADD and decided he needed to be held back. We hoped the extra year would allow him to catch up so he wouldn’t be left behind as he continued his education (I shared this story in last week’s blog, It’s Not Fair!). Because of the difficulty of the situation, Jacob’s principal, Mr. Davey, offered to let me choose Jacob’s teacher for his second round of K-5. Coming to check the class assignment that day was merely a formality for us.

However, when we read that teacher’s class roster, his name wasn’t there. Searching through the numerous classes, we finally found his name listed with a teacher I wasn’t very familiar with.

I was upset and hurt as I fought through the crowd to find Mr. Davey. Finally running him down, I struggled to control my emotions as I asked why he hadn’t granted my request. He stood there quietly for a moment. ”I had every intention of putting Jacob in that class,” he answered. ” But when I got to his name, I stopped and prayed over him. I suddenly felt he needed to be moved to Mrs. Myers class.” He continued, “I can’t explain why. I just know this is the right thing to do.”

My eyes welled up as I realized how much this godly man cared about my son’s welfare.

Jacob and Mr. Davey

Jacob and Mr. Davey

How could I argue with a statement like that? I thanked him and we moved on to the new class assignment.

As we approached his new classroom, I debated whether or not to share Jacob’s disorder with the teacher, due to the bad experience we’d had the previous year. I finally decided it would be best to let the teacher and her assistant know so they could better understand him.

As I nervously shared Jacob’s situation, the assistant teacher, Mrs. Henderson, smiled at me. “I have a son who’s ADD. Jacob just needs a teacher with a little patience who cares about him.”

Those words were music to my ears. I knew then he’d be OK.

He was made to feel cared about in this class, and it made a difference.I wish I could tell you his second year of K-5 was perfect and we never had any more problems. It wasn’t. But when I needed to address something, both teachers were more than willing to help out.

jacob's little league

The next year when class assignments rolled around, I was anxious to learn the principal’s choice for Jacob’s firstgrade teacher. Scanning the class rosters, my eyes landed on a name I was completely unfamiliar with, Mrs. Wooten.

I was nervous about this choice of teacher because none of the other parents knew much about her, except this was her second year teaching at our school.

Once again, I debated about whether or not to share Jacob’s situation with his newest teacher. I decided to wait.

After having a few days to think about it, I felt the teacher should know.

 

 

jacob and mrs. wooten

Jacob doing the limbo while Mrs. Wooten looks on

The first day of school, Jacob was excited to start first grade. As I walked him into Mrs. Wooten’s class, I gathered up the nerve to ask if she had a moment to speak to me. She happily came over and I shared the dreaded ADD diagnosis with her. She gave me a great big smile and said, “That’s no problem at all. I’m ADD as well!” I couldn’t believe it. What better teacher could he have than someone who understood the way his mind works?

“We’ll get along just fine,” she said soothingly.” Don’t you worry a bit about Jacob.”

And they did. She was the most innovative teacher either of my kids has ever had. Jacob came home excited to show me what he’d learned each day and I was overjoyed with his progress. I can honestly say he loved Mrs. Wooten and I believe she loved him as well. She even came to one of Jacob’s Little League games, cheering him on from the stands.

When his time as a first grader ended, Jacob was sad to leave Mrs. Wooten, but definitely prepared for second grade.

Wow. When God works something out, He does it in the most amazing ways.

Jacob still remembers what a special teacher Mrs. Wooten was. I believe she made all the difference in building up his self-esteem after enduring the difficult trials of K-5. It’s amazing how God can use a series of people to make such an impact on a child’s life.

I know it may sound trite, but when we struggle with our childrens’ challenges, we must turn it over to God. We have little or no control over many of the situations they face, but God does. He sees the big picture and He gives us the correct perspective, if we’ll let Him.

The most important thing we can do for our children, however, is bathe them in prayer. We may not understand why God allows our children to suffer with certain difficulties, but we can be sure He has a purpose and a plan for designing them this way. God doesn’t make mistakes. He makes masterpieces.

jacob's first grade party

Has God brought someone into you or your child’s life who’s made a wonderful difference?

 I’d love to hear your story!