Thankfully ever after

It has not been easy… but nothing in life that’s valuable and precious is easy, our family has endured trials and challenges along the way, facing some of the biggest ones just this past year.

It has been the most incredible and amazing five years I could have ever dreamed or hoped for.

Five years ago we dove into this marriage and family as prepared as we could be. We dated for 11 months and during that time we read book after book about blending Christian families. Read about remarrying after divorce. We tried to be as prepared for anything that we would face as we combined two homes into one.

We did the real life Brady bunch thing. Actually I do believe I recall my father saying he felt like he was watching a TV show when he was here visiting us and a live spectator to the chaos of our daily life!

Looking back not nothing could have really prepared us for the reality of it all. Even though we didn’t know what we were doing we had our trust in the Lord and He was with us each step of the way. Our strength is of the Lord.

Along the way we have learned and grown so much!

We started with five kids, a brother in law, two dogs and two cats.—-> we now have seven kids a mother in law and brother in law living with us. We have three cats, two dogs(almost3), a lizard and a bunny. In the mix of our children, four are now teenagers! Y’all we have four teens in one home!

Oh what an adventure these last five years have been. Looking back and reflecting on all we have done been through and experienced it is so amazing to see how we have grown.

In our love, in our family and most importantly in our spiritual walk with the Lord. We have a long way to go but we have come a long way too.

I am so thankful God has blessed us with this family, even on the hard days.

The next five years of adventure begins. God has big plans and will be with us as we take on the next chapter of our lives. Most of all I am excited to see us continue to glorify God and grow in our relationship with Christ.

‘Be devoted to one another in love, honor one another above yourselves’ Romans 12:10

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Heavy duty stuff

Lessons from Sunday school the few past couple of weeks keeps jumping through my mind. Over and over and over….the words and lessons speaking to my heart mind and soul. Words that are hard to hear but must be absorbed. Things that need to be heard again. And again. And again…..  Reminders to push and direct me. To keep me going forward on the narrow path and not sliding backwards downhill in spiritual cruise control as so well said by our pastor during the sermon this past weekend!

—> ARE YOU TRUSTING THE LORD THE WAY HE CALLS US TO???        I’m not, I am guilty of anxiety and worry….

—> WHEN YOU WAKE IN THE MORNING WHAT IS YOUR FIRST THOUGHT? Is it focused on the Lord?…     mine isn’t its normal grumbling about being tired and not wanting to get up and start another busy day

Beware!

‘Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning’ Luke 12:35. ‘And he said to them “take care and be in your guard against all covetousness for ones life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions’. Luke 12:15

I need to remain in prayer and study of God’s word to be able to beware and prepared for the trials of this world.  The days/weeks I am more obedient with this there is a noticeable difference.  There are so many idols in our lives that it is easy to slip into not making this a habit and a priority in my routine.

Have no fear!

“”I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” Luke‬ 12:4-5

To truly trust the Lord and live fearlessly in Him, I need to be with Him, I cannot do this if I am not studying His word, meditating and learning His word and alive in my prayer life with Him.

Do not worry, do not be anxious!

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:22-26‬

Who am I to question God and His plan with my worry and anxious heart???  But yet I do.  This is truly my greatest struggle and something I am actively working towards.  In the heat of the moment when fear hits the ceiling and physically overpowered by anxiety is when it is most challenging, again I need to continue to improve in my bible study and prayers to move closer to the Lord and farther from living with constant anxiety.

Be ready!

“”Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”” Luke‬ ‭12:35-36, 40‬

I need to be ready with God’s words constantly in my mind and heart.  I need to be on constant and frequent fellowship with Christ to stay ready, if His word is in my heart and mind then that is what will come out.  If sinful and evil is allowed to be entertained in my mind and heart then that is what will come out.  We must stay in God’s word and know it so intimately that we can distinguish false teaching.    Application of scripture in life may change but the truth of it will remain the same.

Christ must come first!

“”And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Luke‬ ‭12:8-10‬

I need to rest in the Holy Spirit, putting Christ above all else, first in and above all things in this world and the Holy spirit will be there leading me, convicting me when needed, and preparing me for His return one day.

I am so very thankful for God’s truth, for God’s mercy and grace upon me and my life.  I am so thankful to be in this Sunday school class where I am being challenged, spiritually fed and convicted.  I am so thankful for my salvation in Christ. My heart is so happy to be moving forward in my walk, learning and growing along side sisters and brothers in Christ.  I am so VERY THANKFUL for HEAVY DUTY STUFF to be laid on my mind and heart on Sunday mornings ❤

Parenting success for 2017!

Towards the end of 2016 my husband and I spent some time discussing and reviewing the amount of time our children were spending on screen time.

Overall we have maintained boundaries around their screen time that we firmly believe in.  With simples things like these…

-No electronics after 8pm.

-No phones or electronics in their bedrooms they must be used downstairs out in the open.

-No using phones or electronics on the morning on the way to school.

However even with our boundaries in place we were feeling that with all time they were spending with these devices they could be putting a little more into reading. (Ok so they could be putting A LOT more into reading 🤦🏼‍♀️)

Tyler Emily Joshua Richard

None of our older thee children, Joshua 14, Tyler 12 and Emily 12 are super avid readers.  They each have gone through phases when they read for pleasure here and there but overall it is not their favorite leisure activity to do.  They have the same habit their parents have to pick out lots of books and start many but finish few books.  So we explored some ways we could help get them reading more regularly some really great books.

We discussed all the different ways we could come up with and implement an enforced reading plan. This is the simple plan that we came up with for each one of our older three children for 2017.

An ENFORCED READING CHALLEGE each child will be;

-Assigned and required to read one book that was chosen by a parent each month.

-After completing their book they were required to answer some simple questions about the book in writing, I had some worksheets I made for them.

-Required to keep a log of the books they read and how many pages were in each book.

To try and make things fun and a little competitive we put a challenge on it.  We told them they could read above what we assigned with parent approved books and the child who read the most books would win a prize and the child who read the most pages would win a prize.  Of course our reading choices were carefully selected to make sure they were reading good books.  This was done on top of what assigned reading they had in school and reading they wanted to do on their own.

At first they grumbled and complained…but they did it.  We were mean parents but our children were reading some great books!

It seemed after a few months in they were even starting to enjoy some of the books.  Some of the books were faith based, some were nonfiction, some were fiction.  We even through in some of the books we had to read as a child like ‘Where the red fern grows.’  Some of the months they were challenged more than others.  Emily did note on several occasions she felt this reading at home was helping her at school with her reading comprehension.  Hopefully it helped the other two as well!

Of course this meant work on our part as parents, following through with it.  Taking the time to select books each month and keep up with them and make sure they were actually reading.  We did let the month of September go by as a free month as they got back into school routine that month.

We sat down one night last week at dinner and pulled out all their reading logs and the questions they answered on the books they read over 2017.  Talked about their favorite books and least favorite.  Added up totals to find the winners of the most read and the most pages read.  Talked about what a successful year of reading they had and how awesome they felt for accomplishing this challenge.  And then came the reward…my husband and I told them that since they did such a great job we would find a weekend before the end of winter and take just the three of them to Great Wolf Lodge for some play and fun!  This is a huge treat for them and they are super excited and looking forward to this.  Our 6 year old who was not part of 2017 reading sat in on our reading discussion and got to see what all the fuss was about.  He will be jumping into our new and improved 2018 ENFORCED READING CHALLENGE.  Now he is excited too!

And of course the OCD nature in me has neatly filed away all the reading logs and questions so next year we can pull them out and compare and see how they have grown in their reading and writing.

We are super pleased with the way this reading challenge progressed however we have learned along the way and have made some adjustments to our plan as we take on 2018.

—–>First: we are adding a book of the bible to be assigned each month as well as their assigned book.  January they are reading 1Timothy.  We the parents of course will be reading the books of the bible as well.  Last year I did read some of the books before giving them to the kids to make sure they would be appropriate and beneficial.

—->Second:  Richard is joining the reading challenge this year so since he is an early reader as a 1st grader he will have some help especially the first few months as he gets the hang of this and his comprehension questions are scaled down to his level.

—->Last: When the 1st of the month rolls around if their reading from the prior month is not done they will lose all electronics and phones until it is complete.  I think after once or twice this will help encourage them to be more aware of having their reading and questions done on time which was a challenge last year we saw.   Hopefully this year they can be completing each month without being reminded.

As in most parenting moments this has been a learning experience for us this past year as well.  As a result I myself have increased the number of books I read and have been reading a wider variety—->Mom win!!!

I know felt super accomplished that we followed through and stuck this out even through all the grumbling and complaining. Even when it was extra work to keep up with during busier seasons.

I do believe the kids and the parents in our home are pleased with the outcome of this 2017 ENFORCED READING CHALLENGE.

Sometimes the parenting successes feel few and far between but this was a big success for us and I am excited to see how the children and parents in our home grow with our 2018 reading!

PS——>We are open to books suggestions for 2018!

Peace or Panic

We have had another complicated, challenging, demanding week in our busy blended family.  But yet something is different this week, there is different air of and presence of peace.  

Now don’t get me wrong we have not handled every moment perfectly however there has been some very encouraging positive changes.  In moments when we would have previously panicked or overreacted we remained calm and responded rather than reacted.  


We are experiencing inspiring results of working towards a Christ-centered home.  We have a tremendous way to go but for now we are making progress in the right direction.  

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalm‬ ‭62:5‬ ‭


Praising God for this encouragement and sweet calm this week when circumstances would have dictated complete chaos and anxiety.  

A peaceful calm and comfort knowing that God is in control.  

“He must become greater I must become less.” John 3:30


I fully anticipate that we will have storms throughout this continued family transformation.  The enemy is sure to try and attack us and tear us down. God is BIG and Mighty and He will prepare us.  He will strengthen us.  He is in control. With each storm we will strengthen our relationship with Him and each other.  

“For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”  Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:16‬ ‭

 (un) prepared.       (Un) positively. (un) joyful.

It’s seems like just when I think I have things a little figured out, small handle on the chaos of our busy blended adventurous life there’s another bump in the road.

I finally feel like I am going to be able to stop and catch my breath and bam the wind gets knocked out of me again.  Whether it’s one big thing that knocks me down or several small at the same time.  It seems to be the inevitable cycle of life in this fallen world.

This week has knocked me down hard, several small blows have taken a toll.  Challenges of parenting intertwined with complications and emotional hurt caused by ‘the other parent and home’.  Little hearts that are hurting and needing guidance and support.  Exhausted parents after minimal sleep carried into difficult and challenging days at work and busy demanding evenings caring for kids and keeping up with housework.

The circumstances and struggle of our day to day during a more demanding week blow by blow has dictated my moods and reactions and knocked away my joy and stole my smile.

Fighting the moment by moment internal spiritual battle.  Distracted and overwhelmed by the circumstances and  powerful emotions that are threatening to take over.  Not one big trial but many small storms.

The enemy never backs down, he is always trying to steal our joy.

I did not do well this week.  I am weak and tired.  I did not have a good attitude or joyful heart.

I can quote you the verses and tell you the ‘church’ answer of how I should have handled it all.  But in the heat of the moment when I’m tired beyond tired, hungry, pulled in 10 directions and feeling very overwhelmed and out of control I do not act or respond the way in my heart know I should.  My sinful selfish self takes over with a toxic negative attitude and responses.

 

This photo sums up how I felt this week!

And then it happened…..scrolling casually through my Facebook feed and there is this tiny precious fragile baby who has been born much much too early, strapped to all kinds of tubes and life support machines keeping him alive.  A true miracle to still be alive despite all odds at this point and still facing a lifetime of disability when he does grow stronger.  His parents full of fear and questions but yet living positively and with BOLD FAITH!!!  After considering the pain and worry of his mamas heart suddenly my disaster of a day at my office and tired kids just does not seem that bad anymore.

In this moment…..time stops briefly…

My eyes burning to cry.

My heart mourns and prays for this baby and his family.

My spirit is condemned and my heart convicted.  Tornado of emotions shake me to my core, guilt for being so selfish, awe mixed with a huge surge of thankfulness for my husband and our family and our abundant blessings.

Convicted………guilty……ashamed……..a couple of bad (not ideal) days and I open myself up and allow the enemy to come in and steal my joy, this not the first time I have allowed this and this not only effects me it impacts everyone around me.  I allow the circumstances , being tired, having to wait 10 minutes for a treadmill at the gym, awful day at work, cranky kids drive my mood and actions.  SELFISH!!!  This sweet precious baby and his family are holding on in joyful faith as he fights to stay alive and I’m having a bad (not ideal) day and I cannot be obedient to God in how I respond and act!?!?  


This realization shakes me to my core, my spirit and heart immediately soften and I turn to God.  Not any more, I refuse to let this go on any longer.  This is not who I am or who God created me to be.  

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭

I am truly humbled, call out to God confess my transgressions and beg His undeserved forgiveness.

This week will not need end way it started.  The enemy will not have his way with me or my family.

“With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭108:13‬

I will be prepared, study and memorize God’s word and truth.

“I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11

I will be faithful and remain close to the Lord in prayer.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭4:2‬ ‭

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.” Psalm 61:1

This is not new information or realizations for me like I already said I have known all along what I should be doing, and have actually been doing most of it.  I read God’s word most days, pray daily, I go through the motions.  But the difference is in the heart when I am doing these things.  My heart needs to be God-centered.  If Iam going through the motions but my heart is cold and cut off then my efforts are essentially useless and meaningless, I see the fruit and evidence of this in how I started my week and where my heart was and where my heart is now.


I need to be prepared…. For the ongoing and endless daily battles I will continue to face.  The enemy knows my weaknesses and will continue to use my circumstances and prey on my humanity and try to steal my joy 

 

 

 

“For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:4

 

“For the Lord your God is the one who goes its you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:4

I need to keep a positive heart, mind and spirit in moments and circumstances that are more demanding. I choose God, I choose joy.

” Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.   Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth!” Psalm 66:1

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and the your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19

 

—> NOT ANY LONGER!!! satan you lose, God wins, I have victory in Christ and will not sit back and willing allow you to take my joy or delight, God is my source of great happiness, I am truly blessed and will keep my heart and mind focused on the Lord and take delight in His love.<—-

Practically Perfect

It has recently been brought to my attention that from the outside looking in it just may appear that things always perfect in our home. Someone had asked my husband, “Are things always as perfect as they seem?” HA HA HA! Isn’t social media just grand! We all know that looks can be very deceiving. Well I am going to clear up this very minor misconception. We may have to change things up with some future Facebook posts in the heat of the moment with of our unhappy crying children, exhausted parents or something from our day to day equally NOT perfect lives 😉   See below for some practically perfect ‘non’facebook worthy photos.

  So please allow me take down this facade that our large blended family is ‘practically perfect’.  

  

 Current siutation—Our house consists of

-6 children—1 who has autism and the youngest being only 6 months and still nursing

-2 parents who work full time

-a grandmother

– 2 large dogs, 3 cats, a lizard, a rat

– VERY VERY active coffee machines

Our three older children are active in sports multiple nights a week. They are only allowed one sport per season per child. We are active in our church with youth group and teamkid on Wednesday evenings, Sunday school and community group on Sunday afternoons. Busy is an understatement to our schedule and routine, actually I think chaotic, hectic and impossible at times would be more fitting. And then you top that off with the fact that we have a ‘blended’ family, we have kids leaving every other weekend to spend time with their other parents adding a challenging dynamic to our family structure and home life.

 

Take off the social media filter and take an even closer look what is underneath is a far cry from being ‘perfect’.   Perfect is defined as without fault or mistake….our home and ‘blended’ family is a few football fields away from being perfect. We have cranky spoiled kids with sibling rivalry, step-sibling rivalry, preschool temper tantrums, autism melt downs, grownup disagreements, preteen attitude and hormone mood swings…..in our home on a ‘normal’ day we do have pouting, yelling, screaming and crying… Sometimes on a daily basis, some days are more challenging than others.  

WE ARE NOT PERFECT—->GUILTY and SINFUL

 

WE ARE NOT PERFECT—-> LOVED AND ACCEPTED

 

 

But there is more, ready for the GOOD news? While we do have a family of sinners and each one of us falls from grace every single day we have a PERFECT and AWESOME God. He loves us unconditionally and accepts us in our ‘practically perfect’ packages. He does not expect us to be perfect parents or spouses, He knows we are human and have sin in our hearts; we live in a truly fallen and sinful world.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This is how HE designed it and we are meant to live in ultimate dependence on God. If we were in fact ‘perfect’ then we would not need God and His love mercy and grace. Because we are not perfect we desperately need of His love, encouragement, wisdom, strength and grace.

2Theassalonians 3:s The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

While we all have bad days or bad moments, we must not allow these bad moments to define us. God’s grace is there to cover us and teach us and change us. Some days my husband and I truly struggle but God is there with us on those days too. When we stop and beat ourselves up for failing as parents or failing each other we are surrounded by God’s forgiveness and love. The essential part here it to keep God front and center in all areas. Let Him guide you and lead you.

Psalm 103:8-10 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will he harbor his anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

I am not a perfect mom, wife or daughter.

My husband is not a perfect husband, father or son.

Our children are not perfect sons, daughter or brothers and sister.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all lover each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.

We all make mistakes and fall guilty to our sin nature. However our mistakes and our guilt do not define us and make us who we are. We are loved and cherished children of God. We are works in progress and with each mistake and shortcoming we grow closer to God, we need Him just a little more each day. His grace is an unmerited gift for EVERYONE.

 

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

So while our sometimes rambunctious and unique blended family is indeed compiled of very IMPERFECT people we are devoted to Christ and this brings us together in united as one FAMILY. My husband and I will rely on the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and love as parents and with each other. We will strive each day to grow closer to Christ and to live as a witness to our children so that our children will grow and live their lives to glorify God in all they do.

Family verse~

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

  
 

no words for this expression!

 

 

this is my smile… i hate taking pictures!

 
   

can you guess what i am doing???

 
 

you want me to what???


 

tired daddy

  

cheesy smile because someone is making me smile

exhausted 4 year old probably post meltdown

Remembering Queen G

Last week while driving through the peaceful countryside of Mathews County I spotted a beautiful Blue Heron hanging out on the side of the road.  Everytime a bird catches my attention especially one I can identify my mind wanders and reflects treasured memories of my grandmother and grandfather.  It was during very special time with my grandparents that they taught me to identify and appreciate birds.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”  Proverbs‬ ‭31:26‬ ‭

Hazel, mom, grandma, gamla, known by many different names but she was one very remarkable and wonderful woman.  She certainly was Queen of our little family and we all loved and treasured her dearly.  Very sadly my grandmother passed away just over a month ago, I am taking a few moments to reflect, reminisce and honor this very special woman today.  There is nothing that can be said or done to make losing a loved one any easier or less painful but I do take great comfort in knowing my grandmother loved the Lord and has been called Home to be with Him in paradise and has been reunited with our beloved grandfather.  

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31:30‬ ‭

 

I would not be who I am today without my grandmother.   She lived a full, wonderful and long life, she was 91 years old when God called her home. She did experience heartbreak and tragedy in her life that no one should ever have to experience however she never let circumstances dictate or define her.    My grandfather was her highschool sweetheart and they were faithfully and happily married for over 60 years and she had to say goodbye and bury him a few years ago.   My grandmother faced challenges of fulfilling the role of working mother of 4 children, one of the first in her time to brave this the task of being a working mother.  When we lost my Uncle John a few years after we lost my grandfather she had to experience the pain of burying her youngest child.  Yet she always stood strong and was quite determined, some may even go as far as to call her stubborn. (Which my husband would tell you is something I inherited from her 😉

   
I truly am blessed for having such an amazing grandmother.  She helped me become who I am today in so many ways. I have always looked up to her and will always treasure my memories of her.  I will continue to be reminded of her and my grandfather in little parts of everyday life.  I will continue to talk about my grandparents and show and display their photos and keep their memories alive in my children as well.  

 

What an amazing testimony my grandmother left behind, the last words she spoke were to my brother before she went to sleep, she said “God has been good to me”.  She went to sleep and never woke up.  So peaceful and without suffering she left this world and into the arms of Our Heavenly Father, in her last moments she gave glory to God.  Everytime I think about how AWESOME this is I am so humbled and inspired.  

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ 

 

“Thank You Lord for blessing me with such an amazing grandmother.  I am so thankful to have had her as part of my life, blessed by her love and influence in my life.  My family and my heart are hurting as we feel the loss of this incredible woman we loved and cherished so much.  Please cover my family in healing and comfort during this time grieving. Amen.”