Honing in to Your Story When it’s Hard

There are times when I know the direction I’m headed is right.  In fact, on occasion, it may have involved a decision  I wasn’t happy to have to make.  In the big scope of things, I am talking about usually small decisions that many acquaintances wouldn’t even be aware of.  There are a few safeguards that boost my confidence as I make decisions, especially when they effect others.  First, I see if the decision squares with my spiritual plumb line that lights my path, I pray about it and take note if I feel God’s leading through scriptures or someone’s counsel, I give it ample time to fade from my thoughts, I evaluate  my motives to detect selfish ambitions or wrong motives, and, as a wife, I make sure I have the blessing of my husband, and not only that, have his best interests at heart.  If it passes those safeguards, then I just keep honing into the voice that is calling me a particular way.

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I will, from time to time, have to put my focus back on Christ, my Good Shepherd.  He has the best tailor made plan for me and my future, and only He can see what’s ahead. There may be some around me who have been friends in the past, or maybe still are, who will not understand, or worse yet, will persist in judging unfairly.  It may be sad to leave the comfort of their approval.  As Holley Gerth says in “You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream”,  “If you have prayed, planned, and sought wise counsel from a small group of people in your life, then go ahead and move forward….Be prepared for the questions – and even opposition.  Then smile, nod, and move ahead anyway.”  I may long for people, especially friends, to understand better, but I won’t let it keep me from following the path I know is for me.

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Thankfully, there are most often life seasons when I am doing what the majority of people around me expect.  Those are fun times and, oh, how I love them.  It is nice to be lifted up by the euphoria of camaraderie, even if just a friend or two nearby.  Thank God I’ve had  more of those times than the lonely path of misunderstandings and misjudgements.   I often seek out a support group, either locally, or online, for some difficult role or season in life.  But there are times when I know I am called to do what I’m doing in this or that decision, be it a big one or small one, with or without the accolades of most of my community and there is just not energy or even desire to seek out support.

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It’s those times, as I forge ahead and resolve to smile and forbear despite the momentary heartache of someone’s disapproval, when I feel wrapped in Christ’s love like a cocoon.  He makes Himself real, often with an added confirmation, a sweet dream, or a personal affirmation from some unexpected source.  Always, I feel His love, leading and comfort.  I keep taking the next step and growing in trust.  He humbles me with the knowledge that I have been in the judging position where I didn’t belong at times, whether consciously or subconsciously.  This is not to throw the towel in with the huge lot out there who think they’re being world peacemakers and diplomats by rarely having a judgment on anything.  The difference is in judging by our own thoughts, standards or experiences rather than by God’s Word (that plumb line I mentioned at the beginning).  Most decisions I make in my life are small ones that don’t make ripples far beyond my own home.  But they add up to a life story.  And with God’s help, guidance and love, the story will be mine and have His blessing.  It won’t look exactly like anyone else’s, nor should it.

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Your story won’t look like that of anyone else either.  Have you ever had to leave a comfort zone of approval because you knew you were following a plan God had nudged you toward?

Emptying Nest

This month marks the beginning of the end of my homeschooling mom/teacher/superintendent role of over 25 years.  Not to discount my husband’s role of buying enough books over the years to make a library, loading school on the computer for countless years, whisking me away from the mad house on occasion, etc.  However, the emotional changes ahead loom most heavily on me.  While I look forward to some changes, I also hold a little tightly onto a few last times of this or that…chatting with my teens, coffee cups in hand, looking at their art, talking about a book, bugging them with computer techy questions.   They may not like me saying so, but they are my last “chicks in the nest”.   Our cozy times together…well, I want them to linger.

It is hard to believe seven kids have grown up and five have made their way out of the nest.  Here’s to memories of our family nest.   Dedicated to……. Anna (who, before we adopted, started out in her own nest with her dad, two brothers and Olga, and then spent two years with half- sister Carrie) & husband, Matt, and kids,  Julia, Joy, Kristina, Rachel, Maddie, Bethany, Jennaleigh, Alaina; Candace & husband, Dan & kids, Kinsley, Sophie, Trux, Gilly; Caleb & fiance, Daisy, and her kids, Cassie, Ethan & Rilee; Jared & wife, Amber;  Zion,  Jacob, Hannah

Just a few more months of Candace being the one and only little “chick”.

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Family nest growing in Columbia

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Good times in the Rolla house, where Jared joined us.

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I will never forget that moment when Anna left the nest for her honeymoon.  First one out!  Bittersweet, indeed.

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                       Mom and Daddy, Anna, Matt & Julia join us to visit Grandma Brand.  Jacob is a few months from birth!

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Fourth son has joined the gang.  St. Louis zoo wanted to keep some of you guys, but we just couldn’t do it.

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On the ferry in Canada.  Oh yeah, a new chickie in the nest, and it’s a girl!

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With Mom English and  Grandma DeWitt in Michigan

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 Fun times in Bourbon, MO, with nieces, nephews, Julia, etc.

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With Brittany at Mom and Daddy’s house

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Samson, Caleb and Jared at the  Bourbon place with THE granddaddy Maple in the back ground that no one wanted to leave and the playhouse that Dad built for you all

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With Grandpa Williams and Goldie in Ellington

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Fun in Branson

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Kids, dogs and Snowmen at Pine Valley Farm

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Siblings, Cousins and Friends Cellar Meetup

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More family times at Mom and Daddy’s Keysville house with Julia, Candace, Kelsey

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Caleb leaves for the army from Pine Valley Farm.  Second one to leave the nest.  Still not used to this.

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I said you were part Cherokee, so you took the matter into your own hands!

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My rock stars in Wyoming

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Third “chick” out of the nest.  Not sure if it gets any easier.

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But fun times with Dan and Candace eases the newest transition!

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Caleb is on leave from the army and comes home to Pine Valley

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Dad and four kids all driving madly in go carts!

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A very relaxing train ride from Branson into Arkansas

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Sons – Never a dull moment

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Caleb with friends, Chris and Player

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Zion’s high school passions

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POST SPELUNKING – Back:  Jared & Nathan; Front:  Zion, Gabby, Jacob, Hannah, Kara, Courtney, Jesse

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Seriously, sons? At the time of this photo three out of four boys and a total of five kids have flown the coop!

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Lovely Daughters inside and out

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And daughter-in-laws, too!  (Get to update this pic to 5 gals in a week!)

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Some of you have made beautiful nests of your own!

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We love being grandparents!

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Some have flown far from the nest, but are now closer!  Yay!

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Some of you are still across the world.  Can’t wait to see you again!

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Some of you are making your mark in life and still call this home your nest from afar.

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The last little chicks in the nest, who aren’t so little!  Only one left in school.

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And the baby, who will never escape that title (said and meant with all endearment).

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A Series of Blunders and Grace

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My kids love the book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events“.  I had one of those days recently that just began a series of unfortunate events, amidst some good times, too.   I had an early appointment; i.e. a long coffee chat with a friend at Art and Joe’s, and that was a wonderful time.  Then I got home in time to throw in some laundry, grab lunch, spiff up the house and settle down into a prayer date with another friend who came over.   We spent a couple hours together and after she left,  I was in BAD need of a nap.  Have you ever felt like there is no other option?  I completely empathize with toddlers who can fall asleep with all kinds of activity around them.  That is completely where I was, and exactly what I did.  Our driveway alarm has days of getting overzealous and loudly alarming us every time a car goes down our busy highway.  Then the Bostons start barking.  Today was one of those days.  Did it wake me?  Yes.  Probably a half dozen or more times.  I kept dreaming I should go shut it off, but then kept going back to sleep.  Just…too…tired.

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After waking one more time to the loud alarm and dogs barking, I decided to resume my day like a normal adult, though by now it was 5:00 p.m.   I went to the kitchen to begin dinner preparations with the small package of salmon I had thawed that morning and absentmindedly wondered when the 10th of the month would fall, because I knew I was due to have a meal to a mom in our church with new twin babies on that day.  I had  acquired all the ingredients well in advance to make a chicken enchilada casserole for her.  I glanced at the date on my phone  and  was shocked to realize it was today and the meal was due to her home in exactly one hour!

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Determined, to conquer a day that was quickly seeming out of my control, I did the only thing I could think of to salvage the situation and ordered the Casey’s Pizza special, which happened to be Taco Pizza.   Scratch the salmon.  Hubby will be thrilled with a pizza splurge, anyway.   Meantime, I threw together a  garden salad, and grabbed some of the home made butterfingers my teen daughter had made the other day and froze.   Voilà.   Sides ready and pizza nearly ready for pickup.  Amazingly, I had money in my account, which is usually down to nearly zero, so I could splurge on pizzas with my debit card.

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I would have just enough time to pick up the pizzas, shove a couple pieces down, have my daughter meet me to run the meal out and see the babies, send open pizza box back home with her for my family, while I went on to community choir practice, which was 7-9pm.  Feeling satisfied that I had rescued a spiraling day, my daughter and I made the  meal drop off (well…a few minutes late due to an odd house number situation), enjoyed a short visit with tired parents (who were grateful for pizza), and I headed off to choir, without the work pages done because the printer wouldn’t work today.   But, the songs and fellowship were fun and worship is always like a medicine to me.

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However, I  forgot my pencil that had been supplied in our notebooks.  Still being in the “learn and mark the music” phase, I had to constantly take turns using the pencil of a friend sitting next to me, until she kindly found one for me during the break.  Thankfully, she was  happy to help and was familiar with where to find things since it was her own church hosting us.  I still was feeling hopelessly scatter brained.

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Despite all the setbacks, I headed home satisfied that my husband would have enjoyed his pizza and we would watch one of our favorite shows to unwind and head to bed.  He did not tell me until the next day that he had not eaten any of the pizza because he hates Taco Pizza.  Oh, yeah, I knew that.  Why can’t I remember things that matter to others?

The next day I got an email saying my eagerly anticipated card order from “Heart Connection Club” had been canceled because of a payment problem.  Ergh!   THAT’s why I had money in my account.  Oh well, it went for a better purpose.

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Then I discovered the washing machine had something wrong with it and was leaking all over the floor.  Meantime, my husband and I were on the second or third day of some sort of tension that I didn’t even get (he would probably say the same thing).  Some days are just good to remind us that there are better days.  Ann Voskamp said in her devotional, “Music is made in stress…As the string bends, as the string arches in stress and then releases, it vibrates – and there is the offering…The resonance is in the surrender.”   Sometimes the surrender is in trusting God to give and cause grace to flow down and cover all our mistakes.  There are some things we can’t fix.  We just have to trust God!  And there IS grace.  But I did take the chicken enchilada meal a couple days later.

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And my husband and I enjoyed an evening of flowing grace and starting fresh.

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How has grace covered you lately?

Steelville Harvest Festival Parade

I am not sure when Steelville began having Harvest Festivals and how much the festivities have evolved over the years, but for as long as I can remember (and I grew up here), it’s been a tradition.   Festivities last a week and include:  car shows, sidewalk sales, barbeques, a community gospel sing (which has graduated from outdoors on the court house lawn years ago, to a fine music theater, a queen pageant, a parade and a rodeo.  Some traditions are just too hard to break and who would want to, anyway?  There’s something sweet about a whole town and more milling around Main Street, visiting, eating, and waiting for the parade even in the sweltering heat!

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You are never too old to snag some candy.  The older ones of us wear shorts with cargo pockets to look more discreet, huh, Brandon?

IMG_6731                      IMG_6735Floats, floats…..

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and more colorful floats!   Churches, organizations, businesses….many have worked on more than one float!  Nice looking elephant, Jacob!

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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      The band sure gets off easy these days.  When I was a band member we had to don heavy suits with tall hats that guaranteed to raise the body temperature 10 degrees.  But we were unmistakably the band!  The other band photograph didn’t show up well because they nearly got lost in the crowd in their white t-shirts.

The  football team that was started because of the  dream of a local pastor a few years ago for the benefit of  young men in the community.

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There were queens, and queen contestants, service personnel; i.e. , police cars, firetrucks, ambulances.  There were old cars, spyders….and bringing up the rear, horses and talented equestrians.

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Deco Mesh Wreath

To make a deco mesh wreath, you will need a flat metal wreath base.  This one measures to a 20″ styrofoam base, but you may want larger, if you want space for a center piece.  I didn’t want to wait on a mail order and couldn’t find a base locally, so I made one from wire, which I don’t recommend.  It was a bit tedious.  Anyway, after you get your base you need to cut a pile of pipe cleaners in half or buy “ties”.  Then position them around a couple of inner rings of the circle.  I used a dot of superglue to hold mine in place to make it easier, but you don’t have to.   If you are ambidextrous, bilaterally symmetrically brained and possibly have three hands, or are just a bit more coordinated than me, you will find glue totally unnecessary.     IMG_6686

Next, put more cut pipe cleaners on two outer rings of the circle, placing them at intervals from where the first ties are.    Since my base only had three rings, I reused the middle ring for my second round of ties, along with the outer ring.  After this is done, grab the start of your wide deco mesh (10-21 or so inches) base color, and tie it down starting anywhere on the inner ring.

IMG_6687Then bend about 6-9″ into a poof and tie down at the next inner circle tie.  I started out around 9″, but had to go back and adjust the outer ring poofs smaller, since my roll ran out.  Continue all the way around the circle and without cutting it, continue on into the outer circle in the same way until completed.

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Then take a narrower accent color of deco mesh (or wired ribbon, burlap, etc.), and weave back and forth from inner circle to outer circle tying in place with pipe cleaners as you go.  On this one, I skipped every other tied place on both inner and outer circle, but you can decide what you like best.

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After this you can choose a few embellishments.  If your wreath base is large enough, you may want to hang a family letter or other centerpiece in the middle.  My base was not large enough for this, so I just added a few brown pieces into the sides.  I may pick up a little orange to add to it for fall and then replace with something more wintery later on.

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