Wednesday, October 4, 2017

September Lookback

I laugh because it's funny.
I cry because it's true.

May is nuts for teachers. I didn't really understand it until Paul became one. And I didn't really understand how crazy September is either. But I have noticed a pattern  in these last 4 years. September gets the crazy month award. Yes, it beats December. Whew. The wind down in May and the ramp up in September is unlike the whole rest of the year.

But I managed to get a few pictures in there.  Unfortunately, my 11 year old Canon camera is giving me an error 99 code so I had to rely on my less-than-stellar phone camera to capture the moments.

The kids are learning chicken chores, and how having pets isn't always fun. And, here's the bummer, one was killed by a racoon, so we are not down to 4.....

The Columbus Marathon and 1/2 Marathon is in a week and a half. Training really ramped up. Still needing donations to reach our goal. Every little bit helps!

More figs are coming. Loved getting creative with these tasty treats

Finding more uses for 1000 library cards - chore charts and grocery lists!

We had quite a few hot, humid days in September. This was my exact reaction when I walked out and got in my car after being in the office all day. Good grief.

We have a baker in our family! Muffins and cookies have been made so far with absolutely NO help from me. She even cleaned up after herself without being prompted. Score.

Fort building with friends

A quiet moment on the porch with iced coffee and sunflowers.

Helping with traffic control for the Gateway Woods Hog and Jog. I had 3 great cheerleaders along with me.

I generally do not say yes to expensive coffee. But I had a gift card and it was super hot and I kinda wanted to say yes for a change. Frozen Pumpkin Spice all around.

Family Motto. My words from a Facebook post earlier in the month: What started out as a cute little thing that 6-year-old Owen said, has blossomed into a family motto. Do more GOOD moves.
Because we're all going to mess up today. Sheesh, some of us have already messed up this morning 😳 but don't let that stop you. Do more good moves than bad ones. Make today a good one.

Hosting potluck after a full weekend was a bit overwhelming, but once we were in it, so glad we did.

When you are all dressed for work and realize that the chickens need water before you head out and you are the only one home.... #dresswithrainboots

Loved seeing this random rainbow against the clouds as I was walking out of Meijer one morning.

Got to go on a field trip with Hannah's class to Sauder's Village. Loved hanging with this group of girls, too.

We ended the month with the 5th Annual Suvar Campout. We call it a campout though none of us slept outdoors. But we did have a campfire!! We worked hard, played hard, and enjoyed just being together.

Because of various injuries and a certain lady's pregnancy (NOT mine) the 6 of us opted to all walk the 4 mile 'race' this year.  It was great walking the city as a group...and getting donuts and coffee afterwards.

Cannot believe this boy is going to be 11 in just a few days.....

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Crafts, and Paper, and String, oh my!

First off, an apology for the poor picture quality. My 11 year old Canon is giving me an error message that I can't fix so I've resorted to my phone camera which leaves something to be desired....

Nothing gets your rear end into gear for cleaning and purging than having company stay overnight at your house.  Well, family is coming to stay this weekend, the girls' room was WAY overdue, and they were even asking for it to happen, so we tackled it.

A couple weeks ago Hannah and I whittled her wardrobe down to 40 items and it made it a lot easier to fit everything in the dresser and closet and I've found she gets dressed in the morning a whole lot quicker!  So, while cleaning up this disaster, we did the same with Madeline's as well.

If I had my way I'd eliminate all the clutter on the dresser tops but I got to let the girls express themselves somehow and homemade trinkets and crafts are their language right now.

Top three tips (or, at least the ones I implemented this time around!) to helping kids purge their things:
1) Have them be a part of the process. This can be tedious at first, especially if they want to keep everything, but eventually we get into a groove and they started to get pretty excited about seeing how much they really could part with. 

2) If they have a hard time choosing, I hold up two items: 1 item I know they love and 1 item they rarely, if ever, touch. They have to choose 1. This helps make the decision a whole lot easier!

3) Eliminate furniture and boxes. I am still in the process of this. The more furniture you have to hold things, the more likely you are to fill it up. The girls currently have a dresser (3 drawers a piece) to hold their clothes. As we pare down their wardrobe to the most manageable, I hope to get it to the point that items are either hung up in the closet or stacked on the shelves in there, too. I have done that with my own clothes. No dresser, just hangers and a few cloth boxes for the unmentionables. You only have a set amount of hangers and when those are filled, you have enough.

I would love to get their room a whole lot more minimalistic, but I feel like we are on the right track. One thing I wouldn't eliminate, though, at the two collage groupings I put together. I just, well, I just really like them.

 Now, I will venture into something that will most likely have some varying opinions. Above was the Declutter Part and below is the Counter Jones part.

It wasn't too tough to go through the girls room because, in reality, they don't have a lot of toys. They do have a lot of stuff (those crafts I mentioned?!) but most of those things are homemade and free.  One thing we have been from the beginning of having kids has been low-toy-inventory. I could probably count on one hand the number of toys we have actually bought for each of our kids.  The grandparents, aunts, and uncles do their part and are appreciated for their gift giving. But if our kids really want something, they have to save up for it.  This can be a bit Counter-Jones, as I know we there is the desire to make sure our children never have a want or need.

The needs. Those are covered. The wants. Well, they are learning some delayed gratification on that one.  I was encouraged when I came across this article the other day that my friend posted on social media. It echos a lot of where Paul and I are coming from in living on less and giving away more:

 Counterintuitive Joy
Contrary to our intuition, Jesus calls us to lose our lives to find them (Matt. 10:39). And as we lay down our lives for his sake, we find he satisfies us with good things (Ps. 103:5).
And the same is true for our kids. We must exchange what the world says is best for them with what God says is best for all of us—himself, his calling, and the works he created in advance for us to do. Only in his presence can we—and our kids—can find fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11).
Here’s the real kicker—the counterintuitive truth that will revolutionize both our families and our kids’ futures: When we forego what our culture deems best and instead chase God’s best, it is in fact our kids’ best. When we serve God and not our children, our children actually benefit.
It’s good for our children to be dethroned and for God to be enthroned. It’s good for a child to miss out on piano lessons because her family has chosen to save up for an adoption. It’s good for a child to forego the best school because a family has chosen to settle into a neighborhood where they might shine a bright light. It’s good for kids to miss summer camp to go on a mission trip. It’s good for children to miss out on all kinds of “bests” in order for families to participate in kingdom-minded activities that glorify God and not our kids.
Fellow parents, let’s live for a bigger kingdom than the one inside our own homes. In the end, it’s what’s best for our kids.

For the full article click HERE.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Being led into the trial

So, many of you may be familiar with the story of how God parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross on dry land and escape the Egyptians who were coming after them?

If you are familiar with it, bear with me as a paint the scene:
1 million-plus Israelites are pretty much shoved out of Egypt after God delivers His final blow to the stubborn Pharaoh. They start on their walk through the dessert, being led by a large cloud by day and pillar of fire at night, God's presence ever before them. Where ever He went....they followed.

They followed Him right up to the shores of the Red Sea. There they camped for a few nights and then hear the reports that the Egyptians changed their mind, they want their slaves back, and they are coming for them.

The Israelites panic, questioning why God would lead them to the shore of a sea, only to get captured.

Answer: to show them His power.

God had a plan, a way to rescue His people.

He uses Moses, who lifts his staff, and the sea parts. The Israelites cross on the sea bottom, on dry land, to the other side. Safe.

So, I haven't always been great with geography, really knowing where things were located in Biblical times, but as I was doing this lesson with my 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School class recently, we were looking at the map of the course that the Israelites took out of Egypt. I always pictured that the Israelites had no choice but to cross the Red Sea, that the only way to get through the dessert was to get on the other side of water.

But then I looked at the map.

They could have avoided the whole debacle if they had just walked a tad bit more to the North.

But they followed God, and God led them to a place where all hope seemed lost. Why didn't he lead them around the sea in the first place? Why did He bring them to this point?

Answer: to show them His power.

I love how often the Old Testament reflects what is happening in our own lives today.

Have you followed God right where He led you? Has He brought you to a point where it feels like there really is no way out? Nearly certain failure? Why? Isn't it supposed to be all green grass and roses when we follow where He leads?

Nope. Not biblical. Look it up.

He promised to be with us, to see up through, but you will have trouble.

But that's OK. Because THIS life is not the end.

Your plan of what you thought God was leading you into didn't work out how you thought?  The Israelites thought they were in the clear, headed for the Promise Land, too.

But God wasn't done refining them. And He's not done with you yet either.

And be ready. He may be just about to show you His power.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Seasonal Switch

In my last blog post I mentioned my new venture, The Counter-Jones: permission to let go of the have-have-life.  Well, I figured the best place to start was in my own closet.

Plus, I said I was going to do another one of these posts in the fall, and here we are.  For the first post click HERE.

It was hardly a good day, temperature-wise, to switch out my summer clothes for my winter ones.  I think the thermometer topped out somewhere in the 90 range (in the sun). But I know that cooler weather has GOT to be close, and since I had a little bit of time on a lazy Saturday, I went for it.

Before the switch

As I stated in my post from the Spring, I am working on paring my wardrobe down. I find that I can get dressed more efficiently, and even feel more satisfied with what I have, when there is less to choose from.

I have attempted in the past to do a Capsule Wardrobe but I just could not bring myself to eliminate my closet down to 30 items.  Once I switched out my clothes from summer to winter, I thought I would just go ahead and at least count how many items I have.

Full disclosure: I did not count my leggings, undershirts, pajamas, or running clothes. Those are sort of essentials that I felt shouldn't be counted in my number. Leggings are just about an everyday must for a work dress code that calls for skirts and dresses. Undershirts are needed for those V-necks that are just a little too "V," and running stuff....well I'm not quitting that.

I ended up counting 80 items: shirts, cardigans, sweaters, jeans, dresses, and skirts.

I figured I could at least pare it down by half. So I shot for 40.

A few things were easily to pull out. Others, not so much.  I'm going to give it a shot but I think for this thing to really work is that I am going to have to do one main thing:

Avoid Target.

Nothing makes me want get the style of the season quite like a stroll through the women's section of Target.  I usually end up at the discount racks, but still, it isn't really anything that I am needing.

Keeping up with the style, keeping up with the Joneses. However you look at it, I'm trying to work against it.

For me, it's having items that I absolutely love and that I feel comfortable in.  Items that are classic, things that don't necessarily go out of style. If it's a fad...I don't own it.

So, I am going on a spending freeze. No thrift stores, no Target, no online shopping. No clothing purchases for myself for this season (so, let's say, 6 months).  This sounds really good in theory, but when it comes down to it, I think it will be a bit difficult to implement. Stay tuned, I'll let you know how this goes!

A sweet upside to doing this exercise, Hannah wanted to do the same thing to her closet!

I figured I better jump on that train before it left the station and we started right in on hers when I finished with mine. We pared hers down to 30 winter items (with 10 additional summer items since I don't know when this heat will break) and she was thrilled with it. Let's hope with fewer items it helps with this disaster.....

Yeah, we're going to address the rest of it very soon. And this is how Madeline feels about it....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Keeping up....or choosing not to.

I've had this friend, well, I don't really want to call him a friend because he's never really been nice to me.  He makes me feel inferior, discontent, and just well, yucky.

I'm guessing you have this friend, too. It likes to hang onto my back, whisper in my ear and sometimes shows up at just the worst time.

Comparison. You know him? Yeah, sorry to meet his acquaintance.

But, sadly, I have not been able to shake him lately. It seems silly, really. Because when it comes to my life, well, I really like it.

I'm thankful for my Jesus, my husband, my children, my job, my house. And the list goes on. And in reality, I wouldn't change a thing. But comparison keeps showing up and telling me what someone else has and how my measly one just doesn't foot the bill.

I was mulling this around in my head today as I was coming back from a run.  And as I walked by our landscaping (or lack thereof) I had the thought, "Boy, the Joneses don't have to worry about us competing." But then it was quickly followed by, "Who cares what the Joneses think, and really, do the Joneses even know someone is trying to compete?!"

And thus, I came to conclusion of a blog series I am starting. I don't know the whole gist of it yet, but it will consist of pictures and stories about how my life is not going to keep up with the Joneses, and how your life doesn't need to either.

It's "The Counter-Jones: permission to let go of the have-to-have life"

I don't really dislike the Joneses, I'm sure their nice people, so I'm not anti-Jones. But I am going to go in the opposite direction of them, so Counter-Jones is where it's at.

And you know what? When I told myself that there wasn't anybody out there that I needed to be like except myself, that I didn't need anything else other than what I have right now, I felt release. And relief. It surprised me. I didn't realize how much angst I was holding onto just because I thought I needed to.

Why do we do that to ourselves?!

So when I post on the Counter-Jones life, it will correlate with frugality, purging of junk, non-consumerism, and debt free living. If any of those things interest you, I invite you along.

It won't always be pretty, and there will probably be more chaos, real life pictures than pretty, staged ones. But I like to be authentic so there it is.

And just so you don't think I'm dropping my cluttering challenge of 2017. It's still there! In fact, now that school is in full swing and our Zambia trip is in the rear window (sniff.) I'm ready to tackle it again. Looking over the list I think it's feasible to get it done in this year as planned. Some of the things I could scratch out since they didn't apply to us at all so that eliminated a few weeks right there! If you are wanting to find the list I'm following click here. I'm actually going off a list from 2015 so it may look different from her website. And I found there was a bit much on there to sift through, hence, my pared down version here.

And also so you know I do NOT have my act together. Sorry if I ever came across like I did! Here is my laundry room in all it's glory earlier today....4 months after I organized it (face palm).

 Just keeping it real.