Tuesday, June 20, 2017

About Those Bags

There are so many hard seasons of motherhood.  The times they don't sleep at night, potty-training, bad attitudes and baffling phases, plus all the outside stressors.  There are family commitments, volunteer commitments and children's extra-curricular activities. 

Motherhood can just be hard.  Add in the fact that your sleep patterns are so different than the pre-children era.  I've thought sometimes that I'd be a much nicer mama, if I wasn't so stinkin' tired!

I'm not an excuses type of person, so I don't actually think that fatigue is a legit excuse for being cranky with the Blossoms or responding in anything less than a Godly manner. 

With all the hard seasons behind and ahead, I felt like maybe I dreaded the especially busy, stressful times. 

That's the thing though.  There will be hard seasons. 

I love what Bonnie Greiner said. 

"Unpack your bags." 


Yes, "unpack your bags" and get happy here. 

It isn't really living to yearn for your one week vacation all year long, instead of savoring the other fifty-one weeks of your real, every day life.

This is life.  Hard seasons, busy seasons, sweet seasons, fun seasons, gorgeous seasons, baffling seasons, easier seasons, just-take-another-breath seasons.  All of it.  It's all of the daily-daily that the Lord has called me to. 

This is what I've wanted ever since I can remember.  Instead of wishing for an easier tomorrow, 
I'm choosing to embrace the hard today... with joy. 


We discovered these butterflies on a jaunt by the creek during a recent over-nighter to our beloved cabin. Maybe God knew I wanted to go to a butterfly exhibit really bad. Blossom4 was mesmerized by their fluttering, feathery wings.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cry Out For It

I was standing in the yard barely two weeks ago.  I paused there, looking around at the good, good life the Lord has given me, when I realized it. 

"I need more joy." 

I'm going through the motions, the good motions, but the motions nonetheless.  I know the right thing and I try my hardest to do it.  I spend time every morning with the Lord.  What I do, I do unto the Lord.  

I'm just a little tired.  Actually, I've been tired for the last eleven years and I feel like maybe it has caught up with me. 

I told the Lord, "I need you to show me what to do, to show me how to get more joy." 

One week later I was at the convention, standing in front of a table with stacks of books.  I stopped at her stand because her sign graphics were pretty.  I like pretty graphics, they inspire me.  Then, this title caught my eye. 

by Bonnie Greiner

Being naturally skeptical of most fix it type books, I began leafing through it while nonchalantly eavesdropping on the conversations around me.  After noting at least five things in the book that applied to me and spoke to my need, I handed her the five bucks and started to cry. 

I've cried at the convention before.  It's a place of inspiration, a place where God reinforces the vision of parenting and discipleship in my heart.  I've come to enjoy this annual working retreat.

I need answers.  I need Truth.  I want to grow, always, always grow. 

I devoured my new book in two days and then, I soaked in it for the next week and a half, letting God assimilate the changes into my life.  I spent one more day reveling in God's great care for me, one small woman on this big Earth.  He took the time to make sure I stumbled on this book.  One woman's testimony of finding joy in serving her family members and choosing joy every day blessed me exponentially. 

In my time of need, He sent me a word. 

Our God is not partial; He has no favorites.  Cry out to Him in your time of need.  He will answer the pleas of a humble heart.

And, mamas, if you're just plain tired, cry out for joy.

All photos snapped on our recent date night jaunt out on the lake.  It was divine!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Blossom3, Bark and Beautiful Prayers

Summer has been golden this week.  Not in a Pinterest perfect summer kind of way, just in a joyful, unifying, God is working kind of way.  

Blossom3 has been in a bit of a rough spot over the past year-plus, like a diamond in the rough spot. 

 I've fought discouragement, panic and a complete lack of any idea what to do.  

I'm thankful for all the times my husband has comforted me and helped me to stay the course, to cling to the vision.  I'm grateful for the wisdom and encouragement shared by a friend at a park playground to keep Jesus at the heart of the matter, to keep pointing her to the Cross as the Hope of life.  

If I lose sight of vision in parenting, I tend to forget that I'm teaching them the Gospel in action; that we, in and of ourselves, are powerless to be "good."  We are not enough and never will be enough.  Only a Savior, willing to lay down His own life, can redeem our lives and use them for His glory.  Through His power and strength, we can walk in the way He would have us to walk.  

Fast forward to the current struggle this week, we've been working on the Great Heat the Hollow 2017 venture, which translates to a whole lotta stacking wood.  The Littles are designated bark and wood chip gatherers.  While the Big Blossoms help stack wood, the Littles gather handfuls of bark, fill their plastic sled, drag it to the back of the compost pile and dump it.  

Based on their reaction to this, you'd think they had to pour concrete in 105 degree weather for 5 days straight.  Kids sure don't work naturally.  If you think so, I'm fairly certain your child is 20 months old.  Please laugh; it's a delightful phase, but it doesn't last long enough.  This week, my whole strategy changed from let's-just-get-this-wood-stacked to I'll-oversee-every-handful-of-bark.  This goes against my grain.  I just want to get the wood done, but this isn't about me.

In the big picture though, I want four blond, smiling women with work ethic.  So, the Big Blossoms keep stacking while I coach the Littles on how to stand, how to most efficiently grab bark with their little gloved hands, how to work constantly instead of sporadically, and how to work together to pull the sled.  

"I'm serious, girls, leave the worms alone.  You can catch them on your own time!  

I'm telling you, I'm serious about them working.  

It's been a long week that way.  

Ironically, this week we've been focusing on being a cheerful worker and yesterday I very briefly touched on working unto the Lord and not for people.  Imagine my delight when yesterday afternoon, Blossom3 demonstrated night and day difference in her work ethic during that wood and bark session.  

I praised her quickly and many times over the course of the day, as she did other things without being told.  She was focused and she obeyed without whining.  People, I'm not bragging.  I'm just so humbly grateful; humble enough to realize that this didn't have anything to do with me. 


Later that night, Blossom3 shared that she'd worked differently because she'd been working for the Lord.  

We can parent and parent and parent, but in the end, it's the Lord that must work on the heart.  

Additionally, over the past year and a half, our entire family has experienced effects on our daily life on account of a person's over-attentiveness to a facet of our way of living.  It has added stress to every moment of our waking hours, but I have purposed to keep my attitude right by doing what the Bible says we ought to do ~ pray for that person.  

I've been working with the girls on this as well.  I certainly don't want bitterness or offense creeping in to their hearts either.  

Listening to their prayers has been quite enlightening.  To my surprise, Blossom3's prayers have been the most heartfelt, thoughtful and creative.

"Please don't let their truck break down."

"Please don't let their well run dry."

"Please help their fruit trees to have lots of fruit."  

"Please don't let their roof leak." 

I was humbled by these prayers.  Her prayers showed thoughts of good toward this person, in a way that has challenged the rest of us to get past our "please diffuse their fixation" prayers.

I'm calling out now to every mama who is despairing over her diamond in the rough that is especially rough.  

Let us persevere!  Let us not despair!  

God is working.  

Humbly, we must continue to work and parent and teach and train and love and praise and smile and hug.  God truly is working.  


More pics from our trip to the Arboretum, where we enjoyed camaraderie, peonies, snapdragons, dame's rockets, fountains, cairns, catbird sightings and more kaleidoscope fun.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Life with the Lovelies Lately

It seems like life around here is anything but normal, but as my dad used to say, "Normal is just a setting on your dryer."  How bout a peek into life around here lately?

I gave my dog, Jake, a vinegar bath today to help with some minor fungal skin irritations.  I guess I'm "crunchy" like that.  While I wait for his Alaskan-worthy fur coat to dry, I can't stand the smell of him.  I've dubbed him "Win-e-gar," in honor of the Pennsylvania Dutch pronunciation of vinegar and now I'm whispering my usual doggie-sweet-nothings to him from afar.  #poorjake  #youllthankmeintheend  Vinegar dries odor-less, in case you didn't know.

We lost a laying hen last week.  Our searches through the woods and under the porch turned up nothing, much to our surprise.  After a day and a half and giving up all hope, I was rummaging through some boxes in the basement, only to be ambushed by movement out of the corner of my eye.  YES, we found the prodigal layer in the basement.  After this, I shall be surprised at nothing.  #realmicrofarmlife

During our park playdate today, Blossom4 got a fat lip (again).  This, after missing the steps on the back porch yesterday and meeting them up close and personal, directly under her nose.  I hope we're not reliving the month of January, when she ended up with the shiner of a lifetime, a smoky kitchen and a smashed lamp, just to name a few.  At least she hasn't been eating ants lately... that I know of.

Blossom3 recently piped up, "We're Mennonite, aren't we?"  Much as I respect the Mennonites, I suspect this comment has more to do with the fact that she's had to rake and load a lot of bark lately, than anything else.  I've already mentioned that child work ethic is a big part of their childhood.  Frankly, I survived my childhood and I'm pretty sure they will too.  #meanmamamakesyouwork  #somuchbark

At our recent jaunt to a legendary book sale, the Blossoms were thrilled with all the books we snagged.  The book that elicited the most ecstatic response - - - a pet name book!!!  Yes, really.  Apparently, people actually publish stuff like that.  For the girlies, I guess the pet name book is highly useful for naming all the 4-H project animals that currently abide here.  Seriously, I've lost count.  And, I told the Blossoms, I think you just need to start praying for a barn and let God take care of the details.

Whilst typing this little ditty, I plopped my computer down on the floor and sprinted, bare-footed to the front porch in response to Blossom4's shriefs of terror.  I know that shriek; it means she's being intimidated or pursued by the rooster, King Crow.  Thankfully, she got away in time.  Frankly, if that rooster didn't demonstrate such selflessness on the flock's behalf, I'd slaughter him myself.  And yes, I know how.

Well, friends, I'm learning to "unpack my bags" and choose joy in every aspect and season of this life.  Reveling in the silly oddities of our life makes me smile in amusement, wonder a little at this life God has given us and get up to do it all over again tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Out with Us

Whenever you're in town, I always think you should make the most of it.  Get all your errands done!  See what there is to see!  So, when we were in town for a stellar book sale, I mentioned to my friend, Sue, how 'bout we hit up the Arboretum?

I'm so glad she was game, as it is one of the girlies favorite thing to do there.  

The pussy willows in this planter left me wondering if I had any "low spots" in my yard, so I could plant pussy willows.  Sue agreed.

I'm a horticulture lover.  I'm pretty sure it's a love, passed down from my grandparents, to my mother and now to me.  I couldn't get enough of the sumptuous blooms there!

Everything about the Children's Garden is entirely hands-on.  As a mama, I so appreciate this.  I get tired of telling them not to touch.

Blossom2, of course, gets a kick out of the cave, as did Sue.  I'm pretty sure this is because she has been spelunking a time or two.  

I can't resist the brilliant hues there, including the orange ones!  

Pansies, right along with daisies are such friendly flowers, so jovial and spunky.

And snapdragons are quintessentially springy, if I do say so myself.

In the water (again),

on the chimes,

on the rocks,

and exploring, this place is always full of surprises.

I was totally thrilled to discover the identity of the "bubble gum bush" from my childhood.  We never knew what it was, so we dubbed it thus because of its sweet and fruity aroma.  Now I'm busy checking online for bushes to add to our little micro farm spread.  I can't wait to smell that childhood fragrance again.

In the conservatory, I was so excited to finally discover what a hummingbird nest looks like.  

I hope to one day see one in the wild.

We adore these tiny fairy gardens, as there is so much scope for the imagination there.

Blossom3 put her scope of imagination to work with the funky building blocks.


The old-time pump and watering trough is always a favorite for the Blossoms.

This led to a later discussion on whether or not we could drill a second well and cap it with a hand pump, so the girlies have to pump all their own animal water.  

I'm all about wholesome upbringings and good old-fashioned hard work never hurt anyone.  

Even Blossom4 got in on the pump action, flexing her four year old pixie muscles to get the water going.  

And, that kaleidoscope.  

Ain't no kaleidoscope as cool as the one that mingles the purpley hues of pansies that only God can make.  Divine.  

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into an outing with us... more pics coming soon!

Until then, keep the faith!