Saturday, May 31, 2014

Where Is Hezekiah?

"...they have put no difference between the holy and profane,
neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean,
Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey,
 to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.

The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, 
and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."
Ezekiel 22:26-27,29-30
(KJV - Emphasis added)

I didn't really plan to write this post today.
I had several other ideas simmering....posts with more fluff and less chance to offend.
After all, no blogger wants to lose subscribers, followers, and/or loyal readers, right?
As I contemplated whether to finish my fluffy post or write what God has laid so heavily upon my heart,
it hit me that to refuse to convey God's message would land me in the same spineless heap
as those of whom I grieve.

When Kevin, Zachary, and I are discussing a deep subject,
and Little Mr. Wisdom is really wanting to get his point across and tell his true feelings and opinions...
even if it means us hearing something we may not necessarily want to hear,
he will get this real serious look in his eyes and ask,  
"Daddy, Mama, do you want me to give it to you straight?"

Both he and we know that giving it to us straight means we will get the truth,
the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth, so help him, God.

Our response is always the same, "Yes, Zach, of course!".

We wouldn't want it any other way.

So, here it is.
Straight...honest.... fluffless and sugar-free.

I have been reading in the Old Testament books of 1st and 2nd Kings.
Time after time after time, an old king dies and passes off the scene,
and a new king is introduced.
Right away, after the introduction, a brief description is given of the new king.
For the most part, there were basically two types of kings.
The ones who were out-and-out evil...
who promoted heathen worship,
who followed after idolatrous, false gods,
and who turned the people's hearts away from the one true God....
and then there were the ones like Azariah, who...
"did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,
save that the high places were not removed."
and Jehoash, who...
"did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days...
but the high places were not taken away:
the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places."

Why did they do everything right except destroy the high places?

The high places mentioned in these verses were areas located on hilltops or elevated land sites,
designated for the worship of idols and pagan gods.

I hate to admit it, but I became downright frustrated through this part of my reading.
Because, each time a new king came on the scene,
I kept hoping to read,
"And ______________ did that which was right in the sight of the Lord,
and he utterly and completely destroyed the high places,
and followed God with ALL his heart."

It seemed like every king mentioned was either downright, openly evil,
or he looked really good on the surface,
only to find that he wasn't all the way good.
That he would do certain things right, but not everything right.
That he seemed to be an upright, Godly person,
but he was swayed by the opinions of the people and wanted to win their approval
by allowing a "choose-your-own-god", "do-what-feels-right" type leadership.

I kept reading...and reading....and reading....hoping and wishing with all my might
to find that finally, at last, one man had stood up and decided he would do what was right...
and do it all the way, 100%, and completely.
I kept searching for a man with a spine...
one who would go in and obliterate idolatry and turn the hearts of the people back to God.
As I read, my frustration grew.

Until finally, I found what...or should I say, who, I was looking for in the 18th chapter of 2 Kings.
Here I scanned the words that my heart SO longed to read!
"Now it came to pass...that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign.
And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did.
He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves...
He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; 
so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, 
but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.
And the LORD was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: 
and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not."
2 Kings 18:1,3-7
(Emphasis added)

At long last...a man sold out to God.
A man with a wholehearted integrity and unflinching determination to mind Him.
A man with genuine conviction and courage.
A man who was unafraid.
A man with a backbone.
A man who went far beyond lip service.
A man who meant what he said and said what he meant.
A man who aggressively attacked satan's agenda with a vengeance,
regardless of personal cost or sacrifice.
Who not only followed and pursued after God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength,
but who had the audacity and shameless bravery to lead others to do the same.
Who did what needed to be done to rid the land of the sin, idolatry, and debauchery
that was continually invoking the wrath of Almighty God.
Who realized that God is a jealous God, and there is a penalty and repercussions for sin.
Who set an example of holiness and who, by that example, turned the hearts of those who followed him.

As I read about Hezekiah and the refreshing, welcome reprieve from the blatantly evil leaders
and half-good, half-bad leaders, I felt a deep yearning rise from the depths of my soul
and a burning question fill my mind.

Where, today, is Hezekiah?
Where could we find such a man now?

Is it just me, or is it hard to find someone who will proclaim and live the whole truth
and refuse to water it down, sugar coat it, or soft-soak it?

This "last days" age of time is filled with a new "brand" of what it means to be a Christian
and what it means to be a "good" leader.
There is a heavily-prevalent permissive, tolerant mindset among the world...
and yes, among the ranks of the "religious".
A cowardly tip-toeing around the truth.
A yellow-bellied squeamishness about standing up for Jesus.
A gutlessness about proclaiming God's Word...the way it was originally inspired and recorded.
We can't say this because it will offend so-and-so.
We can't call that sin because our membership numbers will drop.
We can't enact and enforce that law because we need every vote we can get.
Whatever happened to the equality factor in freedom of speech?
Why is it that just certain sides of certain issues are allowed to speak up?

Where, pray tell, is Hezekiah?

In light of the upcoming mid-term November election,
I find it hard to even bring myself to make the effort to go to the polls and vote.
I know I should.
I have faithfully voted every chance I've had since reaching voting age.
I am very thankful for this wonderful privilege,
and my opinion is, 
if you don't go out and vote, you really have no right or license to complain about the outcome.
I have faithfully, avidly, and fervently supported and encouraged the voting process,
but, to tell you the truth, I am becoming a bit jaded with it all.
Because it is hard to find candidates I can really put my weight behind
and support with all my heart.
Lately, it has been a matter of just voting for the stronger of two weak choices.

I long for there to rise...out of obscurity...out of the ashes of smoldering compromise...
a man who will stand firm for the one, true God.
Who will obliterate the "high places" of idol worship.
Who will be genuine.
Who doesn't care a drop what other people think
or worry an ounce over who gets offended.
Who will live in private, as he does in public.
Who will be who he appears to be.
Who is the same, no matter who he is speaking to or rubbing shoulders with at the moment.
Who doesn't lie...or cheat...or steal...or fraud.
Who loves Jesus with all his heart, and who isn't one smidgen ashamed to proclaim it.
Whose spine doesn't bend in the face of opposition or persecution.
Who will call sin what it is and realize that God is sovereign
and His law is supreme and trumps all others.
Who doesn't weasel out of his God-given responsibilities
within the realm over which he has been appointed steward.
A man like Hezekiah.

I love reading his story.
It inspires and encourages me every time.
Remember what happened later in his life?
He found that it pays off to stand firm for God and what is right.

He became very ill and sent for Isaiah, the prophet.
Upon reaching his bedside, Isaiah told Hezekiah to set his house in order,
for he was going to die.
After receiving this crushing news,
Hezekiah's heart was broken.
He turned to the wall and cried out to God,
reminding God of the righteous, upright life he had lived.
"Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,
I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. 
And Hezekiah wept sore."
2 Kings 20:2-3

Listen to what happened.

"And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, 
that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, 
Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father,
I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: 
behold, I will heal thee: 
on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
And I will add unto thy days fifteen years..."
2 Kings 20:4-6

Remember...the verdict had already been reached.
Hezekiah was going to die.
Isaiah had already delivered God's message.

Hezekiah's prayer changed God's mind.

Imagine if he had been evil or just half-heartedly good, like those other kings.
What if he had no perfect track record to present to God in his moment of despair?
What if he had only halfway, not utterly, destroyed those high places of heathen worship?
Would God have granted his request for a prolonged life?

Hezekiah was a man who followed God...
regardless of what other kings, leaders, and the common people were doing,
in spite of popular opinion,
and no matter what his ancestors or predecessors did.

In a long succession of political leaders who refused to wholeheartedly mind God,
he broke the cycle.
He changed course.
He had a stiff backbone and an unapologetic determination to do the right thing.

I long for a modern-day, Hezekiah-like leader.
I yearn to hear of one, particular man who is endued with Hezekiah's attributes.
Whose entrance into the arena is marked and noticed
because of his unbending, unrelenting will and resolve
 to do good in the sight of the Lord God of Heaven.

Does anyone else cry out in prayer for this man to rise to the surface?

I am sick....of the moral decline and lawlessness in our world...
especially the country in which I live...
because The United States of America was is a Christian country.
Our very legal system stands upon the foundation of the Ten Commandments.
Our founding fathers were unashamedly and courageously God-fearing men.

I long for boundaries to be restored and implemented.
I miss the ancient landmarks our fathers put in place.
I cry over these things....and pray with all my might.
Do you?

God is searching...needing someone to stand up and stand firm.

(If video doesn't load, click here.)

(If video doesn't load, click here.)

Where are you, Hezekiah?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Eleven Ways To Reduce Cleaning Stress

"Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalm 37:5

Last night, I cleaned and dusted the things sitting on our kitchen floor.
Though I am trying hard to convert over to using the swiffer more (it is still quite the struggle),
there are things the swiffer simply cannot do or reach.
And I like to be there...closer to the dirt,
to make sure I don't miss anything.
Where does all this dust come from?

We have a small collection of crocks that are situated under the counter 
that separates our kitchen from our dining area.
One of the crocks holds several plastic apples we have collected over the years.

As I took them out and washed them, one by one, in my basin of water & Mr. Clean,
I noticed that the ones nearest the top of the crock were covered in dust,
but the ones farther down were pretty clean.
The thought crossed my mind, that it really wasn't necessary for me to clean those apples near the bottom.
I knew I still had a lot to do before the night was over,
and I needed to redeem what time I had left before bed.

I sat I cleaned the top layer of apples and made them shine.

In spite of the knowledge that it wasn't necessary,
the perfectionist, obsessive, compulsive part of me kept reaching for apples....
even though the deeper I dug, the less dust I was finding.
I finally stopped, as it hit me that I was completely overdoing.
I was using energy...and time...unnecessarily...and unwisely.
Those apples simply did not need to be cleaned.
End of discussion.

Can I just tell you how difficult it was for me to let it go?
To move on to the next crock, without fully and entirely cleaning every apple in that crock?
Is there anyone anywhere who can relate to this type of disorder?
This was just plain ridiculous, and it was an eye-opener for me of how seriously I need to lighten up.

There are just certain things that are not necessary.
Life and death did not depend on me taking out every one of those apples and shining it to perfection.

What matters, is that the clean apples on top give the illusion that the whole crock of apples was the same.

It is not my point to imply that we shouldn't keep our homes clean.
My point is that we sometimes over-obsess and overdo,
and in the process, we add way more effort to our workload than is required or expected.

I have to admit that the above incident happened last night,
and I am still feeling a twinge of guilt every now and then...
when I think of those apples near the bottom that didn't get cleaned!
Isn't that silly?

I am a work in progress.
These Titus 2 lists of eleven posts do not in any way mean that I have it all right.
If you only knew.
But, I am trying...I have not yet apprehended, but I am pressing toward the mark.
I have this deeply-embedded, vehement, driving desire to be a virtuous woman.
To give my total best in service to my God and my family.

Here's my list of eleven tips to take the stress out of cleaning house.

1.  Enlist Heaven's assistance.
I know it may sound strange to pray over your cleaning efforts,
 but I can tell you from experience that it absolutely works and makes a difference.
I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing."
I take that verse as literally as it was written.
I believe prayer should be inserted into every endeavor,
every decision,
every effort, 
every moment...of this life.
I often pray while cleaning toilets, floors, doing dishes or laundry,
and, for some reason, I always have the urge to sing....loudly....while running the vacuum.
Why is it that I want to break out in song when a loud noise is going on?
Does anyone else do this?

2.  Lighten up.
Stop being so hard on yourself.
Yeah, I know...look who's talking.
I need to hear this, too.
Evaluate your household cleaning workload and see if there are things you insist on doing
that are not really necessary.
If there are, lighten up, learn to let go, and say no.
Focus on what has to be done in order to keep your home healthily clean.
Don't sweat the small stuff....or the apples in the bottom of the crock that never see the light of day.

3.  Separate deep cleaning from interim cleaning.
I think this one is important.
For example, there are times the entire bathroom needs to be scrubbed from top to bottom.
I'm talking the full-blown process...
floor, bathtub, shower, walls, sink, mirrors, and toilet.
This is deep, thorough cleaning.
Cleaning so intense that you could eat off the floor.
Then, there is interim cleaning.
Maintenance cleaning, the purpose for which is to keep the bathroom appearing clean,
until the next deep cleaning.
My personal recommendation is that most household bathrooms need to be deep-cleaned once a week,
(at least...depending on daily usage and traffic),
and in between deep-cleanings, interim cleanings need to happen every day or two.
I learned a valuable lesson years ago when Kevin and I took on an after-work cleaning job
that has lightened my interim cleaning considerably.
The owner of the cleaning company told us that instead of scouring and scrubbing everything every, single night, to spray the bathrooms with a window spray cleanser instead...
the sink, mirrors, countertop, and yes, even the toilet, except for the bowl,
and then wipe it down with a paper towel, afterwards..
Of course, the bowl had to be deep-cleaned every day with bowl cleaner and a brush.
But, instead of deep cleaning the sinks and surface areas every day,
we did the spray and wipe routine, and it worked.
This works equally at home, during interim cleaning or when you need to clean quickly.
Just grab a bottle of window cleaner, spray everything, wipe it dry with paper towels,
and voila!
Everything looks shiny in minutes.
Shh!  It will be your secret, and your spur-of-the-moment, uninvited guests will never know.
Keeping up with interim cleaning makes deep cleaning 
much easier and less intimidating.

4.  Set a doable, realistic routine.
After you have separated deep cleaning projects from interim cleaning touch-up jobs,
create your own routine.
Come up with a process you can manage and realistically implement.
Don't get me wrong.
I love
I truly do.
(Click here to be re-directed to this wonderful site,
chock full of cleaning and household management tips.)
While following Marla Cilley has helped me in countless ways and has influenced my cleaning outlook and regimen, and she definitely has some fabulous ideas and routine suggestions,
they just don't all work for me.
I tried, believe me.
I ended up frustrated and feeling like a failure,
because someone else doesn't live here and have my personal schedule and responsibilities....I do.
So, I have to put routines in to place that I can live with...
that I can abide by....that I can control.
Perhaps you are like me and need that individualization,
or maybe you prefer a set-by-someone-else routine that you can adapt as your own.
What works for you?
Do that.

5.  Don't measure yourself by the standards of others.
Just because Aunt Sadie washes her windows every other week doesn't mean you have to...
or even need to.
Maybe your grandmother wouldn't tolerate everyone's shoes lined up by the front door,
but maybe that is what works best in your household.
Who lives there anyway?
Do what is best for you and your family,
do what makes your home comfortable and livable,
and don't apologize for it.
It isn't necessary.

6.  Stop procrastinating.
If there is a job you dread to do, don't put it off, just because it is unpleasant.
If it has to be done, procrastinating is not going to make it go away.
I am not talking about being physically unable to do something.
You should always listen to your body, lean into needed rest, and take care of yourself.
But, if the reason your oven is crusted over is because you just don't like cleaning your oven,
grab a can of oven cleaner, and get to work.
Even self-cleaning ovens don't clean themselves...entirely.  ;)

7.  Swallow your pride.
There have been times that I have refrained from inviting someone over
because I didn't feel our house was clean enough.
Even though I had the desire to be hospitable,
I allowed my perfectionist nature to overpower the opportunity to show love.
The bottom line was, our house was fine,
and our potential guests wouldn't have cared anyway.
They wouldn't have been here to scrutinize my cleaning talents,
but to visit and spend time with us.
And if someone offers to help, accept it.
There are times we all need a helping hand,
and to refuse help from the ones that are extended to us is just foolish pride.

7.  Delegate.
Enlist the help of well-bodied, eager-to-help little...or not-so-little...people.
Even if you think they could never do it as well...or as thoroughly...or nearly-so-perfectly...
as you can.
Okay, so I have major issues with this one.
Recently, while preparing to leave for a trip,
I was exhausted and stressed out.
I have this thing about refusing to leave home until our house is so clean you could actually drink toilet water.
There is just something about returning from a trip to a clean house...
and, of course, there is always the idea of someone needing
to come in while we are gone and finding a mess.
That alone is enough to spur me onward in my quest for domestic spotlessness.
Kevin took a short break from work in his home office
 to walk in to the kitchen to where I stood in front of the sink.
In one sweeping glance,
he knew exactly what was going on.
He knows me so well.
After all these years together, words are often unnecessary.

"Honey, why don't you let Zach do something?
Tell him to sweep the kitchen for you."

My usual defense rose to the surface.

"But, I need to make sure it is really clean, you know?"

"Well, then teach him how to do it.
You look so tired, and there's no reason he can't help you."

I knew he was right.
And, in reality, Zach does a great job.
Truly, he does.
He is a good boy and always willing to do whatever he is asked.
It is just me and my nagging perfectionist, needing-to-do-it-all-myself,
nobody-can-sweep-the-floor-like-I-can hang-up.
That, and the fact that I hated to interrupt his allotted time to play his latest favorite computer game.
So, instead of that, I pushed myself to the point of near-collapse.
Can I get an amen?

8.  Remember what...and most important.
So, your set routine says that today is the day to sweep under the beds.
But, your husband says, "Let's go to the park and spend some quality time as a family."
Or your sweet boy walks up and asks you to play with trains.
Or your best friend calls and asks you to lunch.
Your first impulse is to say all three.
It just goes against the grain to not have that check-off list completely checked off by 3:00 pm.
It is somehow unsettling to you.
A reality check would probably be a great idea right here.
Little ones grow up, no longer fit on the teeter-totter at the park, and lose their fascination with trains.
Husbands grow weary of competing with dust bunnies.
Friends lose heart after being repeatedly postponed for the sake of dirty dishes.
The dust bunnies under your bed are not going to suddenly spring to life
and attack you in the middle of the night should you leave them there until tomorrow.
They'll still be lying there...unmoving....tomorrow or next week or next month.
As the Dolly Parton song, "Silver and Gold", says,
"Time can't be bought back..."
It can't.
Prioritize, be flexible, and do what matters most.

9.  Keep a cheerful attitude.
It is amazing how much easier a task becomes when it is approached with a joyful and thankful heart.
The longer we keep grumbling about what needs to be done, the more we will foster dread,
and the less likely we will be to do it.
Keeping a house clean is a part of life.
The sooner we accept it and embrace it cheerfully, the better off we, and everyone else around us, will be.
 Our children learn what they live.
They mirror our behavior, our state of mind, and our work ethic.
When they see us eager to delve in and keep things clean,
it brings about automatic motivation....which is never a bad thing.

10.  Search out the best way to do chores.
Use common sense.
Wipe the dining room table before you sweep the floor.
Clean ceiling fan blades before you vacuum.
Sweep the floor before you do dishes, so the floor won't be wet in areas.
Mop at the very end of kitchen clean-up.
I know these are elementary examples,
but I am amazed sometimes at how I take the long way around a job
and do little things that make it harder than it has to be.
I add extra, unnecessary work to my day by not thinking ahead and considering the order in which things should be done to optimize efficiency.  
Sometimes, I get into a certain routine,
and I find it hard to think outside my well-constructed, stubborn, little box.
It is just easy to keep doing things the same way because it is familiar.
But, familiar doesn't always mean better,
many times, there is an easier way than we have thought of,
and it pays to keep an open mind.

11.  Accept your own limitations.
There are many of us who suffer consistently and deal with chronic health issues.
It is not an easy thing for a woman to admit that she can no longer
keep up with certain areas of housekeeping.
It was painful to witness this process take place in Mom's life.
One of the main reasons Mom had such a struggle,
is that she never wanted to be a burden to anyone,
and she was fiercely independent.
Growing up, Mom was the most thorough housekeeper I have ever known.
She was the total opposite of a hoarder, collector, or clutter-bug.
In fact, if we didn't need something, it was headed out the door...
usually with the trash.
Our living area was clean, tidy, and void of unnecessary litter.
She liked what-nots, but she never allowed them to overtake our living space,
and she kept them neat and orderly.
As Mom grew older and her body became ridden with severely painful fibromyalgia,
diverticulitis, arthritis, and other health issues,
the smallest tasks became most difficult for her.
She suffered most of the time, in one way or another.
It was SO hard for Mom to accept her limitations,
and she would cry, at times, as she sat and looked at things that needed to be done,
but realized she was powerless to do anything about it.
There finally came a point where she was able to find a place of acceptance,
and it became a matter of fact that she must have help.
Of course, inability doesn't always come strictly from old age.
Debilitating circumstances can strike at any given age or moment,
plunging the independent into a state of partial or complete dependency.
This is never easy...
especially for those who have always preferred doing things on their own without bothering other people.
When these things happen, the only way to really gain victory and find inner peace
is to lean into the situation, accept our own limitations as something we cannot change,
release the hurt, disappointment, and sometimes even embarrassment, to God,
and gratefully...and gracefully accept the kind help
offered by others He has placed in our lives to see us through.

(To read #1 in this series, entitled "Eleven Ways To Bless Your Husband", click here.
To read #2 in this series, entitled, "Eleven De-Cluttering & Organizing Tips", click here.
To read #3 in this series, entitled "Eleven Steps To A Stronger, Happier Marriage", click here.
To read #4 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Things To Remember During Infertility", click here.
To read #5 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Ways To Make Your Home More Peaceful", click here.
To read #6 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Ways To Be More Frugal, click here.
To read #7 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Steps To Inner Peace", click here.
To read #8 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Times To Be Quiet", click here.
To read #9 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Reasons I Am A Stay-At-Home Homeschooling Mom", click here.) 

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Sweet Nomination - The Liebster Award

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
Psalm 133:1

I came in to check email one day, to find a sweet and most unexpected blessing.
A precious, online friend and fellow blogger, Deborah Bolton,
who blogs at Living Better With Chronic Illness and Learning To Balance Life Changes,
 kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award!!!
Click here to read the blog post with her sweet nomination and a full explanation of what this means.
I'll admit, I'm still somewhat new to a lot of this,
and I had never heard of the Liebster Award before I received her nomination.
I'm not the best at accepting awards and accolades...
and her kindness has deeply touched my heart.
Thank you ever so much, Debby.
I am truly honored.

One of the things about receiving the award,
is that I am to write 11 random facts about myself.
I don't think there is anything all that interesting here,
it makes me a bit squirmy to do this,
and I really don't know where to start, but here are some random facts.....
in no particular order.

I am a Christian.  I think that defines me more than any other one word.
The utmost, most sincere passion of my heart is to Be and Live and Breathe
the breath of Jesus Christ in every, single thing I do and say....every, single day.
I fall so often...but I try my best, just the same.

I am a Kevin, the truly sweetest guy I have ever known.
I could write about him all day long....really.
He is interesting, extremely private, and the wisest man I know.
He is the love of my life...the mate of my soul....the partner of my every dream.
Last year, God blessed us to see and celebrate our 25th anniversary.
I would do it all again....millions of times over.
That's just how much I love him.

I am a homeschool mama to Zachary,
who each and every day fills my heart with more love than it can hold.
I deeply cherish the whole motherhood and homeschooling experience.
Every second I have with him is one I treasure...more than I could ever communicate.
We waited 12 1/2 years for this little guy, and it was worth every second....
just to have the privilege to hold his hand growing up.
Carrying him for 9 months, delivering him into this world, and being the one he calls "Mama",
is truly the crowning achievement of my life.
Living with Kevin and Zachary day by day is the ultimate fruition...and fulfillment....
of the deepest, most cherished dreams of my heart.

I love bluegrass music....I do believe it is in my genes....
my human composition.
Hearing a five-string banjo ring or the lonesome sound of a fiddle or
"You Are My Flower" played flat-pick style on a guitar....
takes me to a place that feels a whole lot like home.

I've had a long-time, nagging dream that just won't go away
to sing tenor/harmony in a bluegrass or southern gospel band.
I am known to sing tenor to the top of my lungs every chance I get.
Any bluegrass groups out there looking for a female harmony singer, by the way????  :)

 Blue Mountain, Warner Press, Gallant Greetings,
and a few other greeting card companies have published some of my work.

I had the sweet God-sent blessing of recording two of my original songs in Nashville,
backed up by some of the industry's finest.
I know that sounds like me, it really isn't.
It was totally God,
the whole experience was very humbling,
 and it still doesn't feel like it was me in that studio.
I dream of making a full-length CD,
but next time, doing it true-to-my-heart-and-roots, bluegrass-style.
If you would like a FREE copy of this CD, just contact me via the online contact form,
and I will get one in the mail to you right away.  :)

Saying good-bye to Dad, and then Mom was the two hardest things I have ever done.
Even though I know they both now rest at Jesus' feet,
I miss them so much it hurts.

I love photography...just taking pictures, especially of family, friends,
 nature shots, old fences, gates, and all things country
I enjoy adding them to this blog.
You never know what you may find here!

We moved over 40 times while I was growing up,
and I lost count of the times I changed schools....
hence, being secure is not my strongest point.

Kevin and I got to meet and talk to Ricky Skaggs
while we were in Nashville on our honeymoon.
Ricky, by the way, is my favorite male singer of all time.  :)

Okay, so there.....11 random the order they came to my mind.

The next thing I am to do, concerning the award, is to answer seven questions
Deborah came up with for me.

Here they are:
  1. What is one work  (book, painting, film, poem, play, etc.) that has had an impact on your life?  Without a doubt, it is the Bible.  It is truly the foundation upon which I have built my life.
  2. What do you enjoy most about writing?  The inspiration & communion I feel with the Holy Spirit while writing.
  3. If you could choose any place in the world to get away from your regular routine, where would you go?  (I am talking about a long trip.)  With Kevin and Zachary, my guitar, & writing materials, all of us healthy & well, to a log cabin secluded in the mountains, surrounded by lots of trees & foliage, with a walking trail and a flowing stream just enjoy the two of them and sing and write to my heart's content.
  4. What is one goal you have accomplished in the past two years?  God renewed my passion for writing, and I actually started writing on a regular basis.  
  5. If you were to write in another genre, what genre would you choose and why?  It is hard for me to imagine writing in any other genre other than the exploration of God and His character and how it applies to everyday life, but I have dabbled in writing Christian romance fiction and have a book ready should I ever have the opportunity of being published.
  6. Name something you like to do to treat yourself or get away from your normal routine. Make it something close to home:  ie.  a walk in the park, working in the garden, having a cool glass of lemonade in the back yard and reading a book, going to a coffee shop, lunch out  with the girls, etc.  I love going with Kevin and Zach to primitive stores, thrift stores, Goodwill stores, & antique stores...any place I can look for old things and bargains!  I also love decaf iced coffee.
  7. What is your favorite quote?  People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
The next thing I am to do is to choose 5 bloggers with under 200 followers
to nominate for the Liebster Award!
I apologize if I broke any rules by choosing any that have over the specified amount of followers.
(If I could determine that, I did, but I had no way of determining that, on some blogs.)

  Nannette Elkins at Hope In The Healing.
Nannette's blog posts are edifying, insightful, and deep.
She has been more of a blessing to me than she will ever know,
and I am so thankful to have her in my life.

Sandra Bartram at Keeping It Simple
Sandra's heart for her home and love for her family shines through in every blog post.
Her soap-making tutorial is the best and easiest to understand I have ever seen!
I thank God that He orchestrated a connection and brought Sandra into my world.

JES at Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth.
This blog is chock full of wonderful, Godly suggestions and wisdom about homemaking,
 homeschooling, and homesteading.
I love all of the wonderful quotes, tips, pictures, and the sweet spirit I find here.

Hazel Moon at Let Me Tell U A Story
Every week, I look forward to linking up with Hazel.
The stories you will find on her blog are always interesting,
and she is one of the best encouragers I know, often stopping to leave a comment when I need it most.

Kendra Graber at Living In The Shoe
Kendra is a Mennonite mother of six who writes about the daily adventures of her family.
She often includes the most darling pictures with her blog posts...
especially ones of her squishy (her description!) baby, Dallas.

I hope you will take the time to drop by and visit each one of these sweet blogs.
I promise you will not be disappointed, and when you leave, your spirit will be refreshed!

And lastly, I was to choose 7 questions for my 5 nominees to answer.
So, Nannette, Sandra, JES, Hazel, and Kendra...these questions are for you!

1.  Why did you choose to start blogging?
2.  What motivates you to keep writing?
3.  Name the unfulfilled dream that you hold closest to your heart.
4.  What is on your bucket list of things to do before you die?
5.  If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?
6.  What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start a blog?
7.  Who has influenced your life the most?

(If you click here, it will direct you to Deborah's blog,
where you will find very explicit directions in what you are to do now that you have been nominated.
I hope it is not an inconvenience to you to complete this process, and please feel free to take your time.
It has taken me one year exactly - since May 25, 2013 - to finish this post!)

Again, I love and appreciate Deborah Bolton and this sweet nomination.
Your friendship and support is a treasure.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Eleven Reasons I Am A Stay-At-Home-Homeschool-Mom

"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, 
and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, 
and when thou walkest by the way, 
and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Before I say a word on this subject, I want to make one thing clear.:)
I mean no judgment, criticism, condemnation, or lack of understanding towards any woman
who makes a different or even opposing decision to any life choice I personally make.
Every one of our lives are different.
The choices I make may be worlds apart from the ones you make.
That doesn't mean my choices are better or wiser or more lofty than yours, by any stretch,
nor does it mean that mine are right and yours are wrong
or that my choices would even fit into the mold of your individual, unique life.
We all have reasons for doing what we do,
 and, also, many times, circumstances compel us to take certain paths...
sometimes paths that we would not necessarily choose...if given the choice.

So, with all of that being said, I just wanted to share with you my list of eleven reasons
for why I choose to be and love being a stay-at-home-mom.

#1.  Children grow up way too fast.
I only get a few, short years to get this right.
 There will be only a certain amount of time in which to build a strong foundation.
Childhood and youth pass like a blur.
Zachary is the most precious gift Kevin and I have ever been entrusted with, next to our salvation.
We want to do everything within our power to guard, shelter, direct, protect, and shield this child.
 To give him the proper foundation for life requires diligence, perseverance,
self-sacrifice, time, and selfless energy, and it is worth every drop of whatever it takes to make this happen. 
No sacrifice is too great.
No effort required is more than we are willing to give.
We want to be the two people who influence him most,
who shape and mold his worldview,
who are there for him and who filter the things he sees, hears, and is exposed to...
at least, as much as lies within our power.
He is just too dear and precious to us to hand that power over to someone else
or to leave it to chance.
I pray every day that God will allow both of us to live and have health to fully raise him.
It is the constant cry of my heart...
and I believe the answer to that constant cry is more than likely the reason
God gave me the choice of whether to live or die this winter.
I chose life...for his sake and Kevin's.

#2.  This is my mission field.
When I was little, I had the sweetest teacher in the world.
Her name was Sis. Rose.
You can read about her and what she has meant to me here.
Sis. Rose had enjoyed grand adventures as a missionary on foreign fields.
She was, when I met her, home on furlough.
But, you could sense in her a longing to be back out there...seeking to save the lost.
How grateful I am that God brought her home during that turbulent season of my life!  
Otherwise, I would never have known her or benefited from her comfort and understanding.
I looked up to her...she was one of my most respected role models.
So, for a period of time, I took a fancy to the thought of growing up 
to be just like single and unattached,
and taking some grand, faraway, missional adventures of my own.
I also longed to be a Sis. Rose.
It sounded good, but in the back of my mind, I dreamed of another mission field...
though I didn't consider it as being such at the time.
Being a completely hopeless romantic, I longed to meet the man of my dreams,
marry him, settle into making a life with him, become a mother,
and stay at home full-time.
Homeschooling wasn't even on the radar screen,
so I never dreamed I would one day get to fulfill my teaching dream, too...right in the comforts of home.
My longing to be a wife and mother overpowered every other dream of my young life.
Time went by, I changed schools and lost touch with Sis. Rose,
we moved many more times, and ended up several hundreds of miles away from where I grew up.
God's providential care eventually led me to that precious man of my dreams,
we did settle down and marry, and after a long period of infertility struggles,
(you can read our infertility testimony here),
God sent us one, sweet boy, and He called me to homeschool him from day one.
This...right here....where I do what I do every day of my my mission field.
I minister here....with all of the passion and zeal in my heart and soul...through every duty I perform,
however mundane, insignificant, unimportant-in-the-eyes-of-the world....and small it may be.
When I teach Zachary, I pour my heart and soul into every, single lesson and project.
When I clean toilets, I scrub with all my might.
When I put in a load of clothes, hang them on the line, put them away,
cook a meal, assist Kevin and Zachary, or mop the floor,
I serve God, my Maker, the wonderful One Who makes this girlhood, lifelong dream of mine, 
a treasure-more-precious-than-gold reality.

#3.  My husband prefers this path.
I respect Kevin more than any human being I know.
I have learned to rely upon his wisdom and instincts.
He is a man who is determined to follow Biblical principles in our home.
Can I tell you how much that means to me,
how much I appreciate his integrity,
and how grateful to God I am for him and his Godly leadership?
A place for everyone, and everyone in their place...
a great philosophy and one my husband supports.

#4.  I don't want to miss a thing.
From day one, it's been this way with me.
I haven't wanted to miss one diaper change, one nose wipe, one feeding time, one rocking chair moment, one spit-up, one teething cry, one colicky whimper, one first word, one accomplishment, one school lesson,
one spiritual awakening, one reached goal, one "thank you, Mama", one chance to...
wipe a tear, read a story, hear him read, see him grow and develop and mature...
all of it.
Every part of this wonderful journey called motherhood.
I remember when I walked into my very career-driven boss's office 
the day Kevin and I made the decision to make our pregnancy known.
She was, without a doubt, one of the most corporate-devoted, 
perfection-demanding career women I have ever known.
We had a very good, mutually-respectful relationship,
even though we didn't see eye to eye on every issue.
She, herself, had struggled with infertility, and after 8 years had been blessed with a son of her own,
opting to come back to work a few weeks after his birth.
I was as nervous as I could be that day...ready for the "don't let this interfere with your career" speech.
What I was met with surprised me.
I'll never forget her very wise, albeit unexpected, response when I told her I was expecting.
"Cheryl, if there is any way at all you can stay home with this baby, do it.
You never get those first five years back!
There was deep regret in her eyes.
Her own son was then 8 years old.
After waiting as long as we did for a baby of our own,
we would never have considered any other option than for me to stay home full-time,
no matter how much sacrifice was involved or who did or did not approve of our decision.
It has always been just that important to me...and thankfully, to my wise, understanding husband.

#5.  I am only one person.
I can only do so much.
If I spread myself too thin, something...more importantly someone....will suffer.
With everything that lies within me, I am unwilling to let that something be our home,
and, more importantly, that my husband and/or child.
We may not be the wealthiest family in the world,
we may not wear new clothes and shoes, dine often in gourmet restaurants,
 or own the latest, greatest gadgets & must-haves,
but, thankfully, our house is clean, our meals are home-cooked,
and our hearts are full of peace.

#6.  It saves money.
When I had a career outside the home,
 there were many expenses that we no longer have since I stay home full-time.
Much of my career attire had to be dry-cleaned, which is not cheap.
Being home full-time, I seldom have to buy clothes at all.
When I do have to buy something, I don't feel the pressure to be as particular.
(Not saying we should ever slouch, be sloppy, or not present our best to our husband.
That is important, for he deserves our best far more than any stranger ever will.)
Even though I had the best of intentions to eat the lunch I only occasionally brought from home,
there was always someone offering a lunch date, it seemed,
and my love for friends and socializing, and the difficulty I had in telling them no,
usually caused my well-meaning intentions to fall by the wayside.
We had to have two vehicles, since we usually worked in locations that were far apart.
Having the second car doubled gas, car payments, tags, maintenance, and insurance expenses.
We ate out more at night, because by the time we both got home, we were exhausted,
and it was just easier to run out and grab something.
I never seemed to be able to find time or energy to hang clothes on the line.
It was just so much easier to throw them in the dryer instead.
I could go on and get the picture.

#7.  I stay more in touch with God.
With all due respect, and no negative reflection intended to anyone I worked with,
there are a lot of influences out there that are not the most conducive to holy living.
From the frequently-flowing profanity and not-so-nice jokes,
to the back-stabbing and schemes of those intent on clawing their way up the corporate ladder,
to the all-too-vivid and explicit accounts and recollections of last-night adventures and rendezvous,
to the sometimes....often....ungodly music pumped into the airwaves through Muzak,
let's just say, I seemed to have a much more difficult time staying on the mountaintop, spiritually-speaking.
Have you ever sat and listened to the lyrics being piped into banks and other professional settings?
I'll never forget the day a well-to-do, distinguished, male customer sat at my desk transacting business
as The Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden" blared loudly through the speakers directly above our heads.
Can I just tell you how awkward and embarrassing that was?
I know I am often perceived as way too old-fashioned,
but things like this just bother me.
Perhaps those who are stronger than me find things of this world far less troubling,
can ward them off much more easily,
and are not so deeply affected or influenced.
I will never be able to praise God enough for the amazing privilege of staying home
and being in control of what enters and infiltrates the surroundings within our walls.

#8.  I am available to those who matter most.
When Dad first began having serious health issues, God made it possible for me to go part-time at work.
Even though I was still expected to perform at full throttle and keep up with my full-time workload,
the bank permitted me to do it in three days a week, instead of five.
What a dear and invaluable blessing!
There are things that are more important than money.
Those extra two days off every week afforded me the precious time I needed
to spend with Mom and Dad during Dad's final season of life.
Doctor appointments, business transactions, and time to visit and talk filled up a big part of those days.
I was expecting Zachary when Dad died, and I later stopped working during my 7th month of pregnancy.
After that, I was able to spend a lot of time with Mom in her loneliness and despair.
I'll admit, there have been moments when a job would have served as a welcome reprieve
and a haven from having to deal with some of the weightier, more unpleasant parts,
but, looking back now, I see those unencumbered-by-a-job years as
one of the most precious gifts God could have bestowed.
I can't believe both Mom and Dad are now gone and no longer a part of my daily life,
and they will never need me again.
This is a new season, and it is so valuable to me now to be unreservedly available
to Kevin, Zachary, Kevin's failing parents, and others who need me.

#9.  Freedom to do God's work.
It is such a blessing to be able to go when I am needed and called upon....
for prayer, visitation, reaching out, or whatever God orchestrates,
without having to clear a work schedule for time off.
Homeschooling is wonderfully flexible, which frees Zachary to accompany Kevin and me on
outreach and ministerial endeavors.
He is learning, firsthand, the many facets of what it means to serve the Lord and others.
I can't think of anything the three of us would rather do than to work for Jesus...together as a family.

#10.  Peace of mind.
Do you know that nagging feeling you get when you know deep inside that you are outside your element?
It is like a cloud that overshadows you everywhere you go.
On the flip side, do you know how restful your spirit is when you are 100% certain
 you are smack dab in the center of God's perfect will for your life?
It is a peace that passes all understanding.
Regardless who does or does not approve,
what others say,
and/or who is making the same life choice...
you know in your heart of hearts that this is what you should be doing.
That's what it is like for me to stay home.
There have been times, since I became a mother,
that, in spite of my efforts to scrimp and save and be frugal,
money was so tight it was scary,
and I have been tempted to pick up my work skills and seek a job outside the home.
Each and every time I even considered it, I felt convicted,
 my peace was destroyed and brought to utter ruin,
and I quickly made the choice to scrap the idea.
This is where I am supposed to be.
This brings me peace.

#11.  The rewards far outweigh the labor.
I never cease to be amused when I hear people make remarks like, 
"Oh, so you are just a stay at home mom?" or
"Oh, so you are just a housewife?" or
"Oh, since you stay home all day and don't work.....".
Tell me, from whence came the pre-conceived notion that those who stay at home do not work?
Where did it originate?
Why do the modern, liberal minded seem to view this noblest of all callings
with such under-appreciation and even disdain?
Honestly, is there anyone anywhere who works harder than a stay-at-home Mom?
Throw in homeschooling between "stay-at-home" and "Mom", 
and you will describe one hard-working gal who seldom stops.
This keeper-at-home, guide-of-the-house, all while teaching-them-diligently lifetime career
is not for the faint of heart, weak of stomach, or lacking of courage.
But, it, by far, hands-down, no contest offers the dearest, most precious rewards
of any "job" or "career" in this world.
Sweet, butterfly kisses,
genuine, sincere hugs,
broad smiles and lit-up eyes upon walking into the room,
the times when only I am enough and no one else will do.
Oh, the list is endless!
I wouldn't trade this for anything the world out there has to offer.
For truly, this is where I am meant to be.

(To read #1 in this series, entitled "Eleven Ways To Bless Your Husband", click here.
To read #2 in this series, entitled, "Eleven De-Cluttering & Organizing Tips", click here.
To read #3 in this series, entitled "Eleven Steps To A Stronger, Happier Marriage", click here.
To read #4 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Things To Remember During Infertility", click here.
To read #5 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Ways To Make Your Home More Peaceful", click here.
To read #6 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Ways To Be More Frugal, click here.
To read #7 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Steps To Inner Peace", click here.
To read #8 in this series, entitled, "Eleven Times To Be Quiet", click here.)