He is Risen!

This has been a week of celebration inside our quarantine.  We celebrated Dad’s birthday and Tatum K’s birthday.  We celebrated surviving another week of virtual schooling.  And today we celebrated our Risen Savior, who took the punishment we deserved to give us Life Everlasting.IMG_B591ECE75F57-1IMG_DFF19E6A157C-1 IMG_6430IMG_6450

I found it a different flavor of hard:  balancing the freedom I think I SHOULD feel with the mandated (and hypothetical) slower pace of life, with the ACTUAL pressure I feel with a million times more on my plate than ever before, compounded by a compulsion to make events MORE special to compensate for what the kids might be missing out on, and to make the most of every opportunity.

I know it’s a trap, but it’s just where I’ve been.

This morning our family was awakened by crashing thunder and screaming sirens.  The 11 of us plus 2 dogs took shelter in the laundry room as violent storms triggered a tornado warning in our neighborhood.  I couldn’t help but think of the skies darkening and the earth shaking as so many years ago when the stone was rolled away revealing the empty tomb that couldn’t hold Jesus.  Today’s storm passed as quickly as it had blown in, and gave way to a brilliantly beautiful and sunny day.  It was a different kind of day.  BUT GOD.  I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.  My heart is full.

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At my wonderful husband’s request, I am going to share pictures of our week and get back to soaking up time with my loves.  Because this is time well spent, and time that I’ll never get back.  

Happy Resurrection Day!  He is Risen!  He is Risen INDEED!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”  (Matthew 28:6)

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  (Psalms 126:3)

“He called my name, and I ran out of that grave.  Out of the darkness, into Your Glorious Day!” (“Glorious Day” by Passion)

Clobbered

~ for Josh’s new teeth!  He has had half-done dental work that has left him with 2 missing front teeth for almost 6 months.  Since having his affected teeth removed, he’s had numerous reschedulings, cancellations, and setbacks.  This has been irritating, painful, inconvenient, and humbling.  And with the events of late, we weren’t sure how much longer he was going to have to wait.  THANKFULLY, the dentist agreed completing Josh’s procedure could be classified as an emergency.  And now my handsome husband has his beautiful smile back!  SO THANKFUL!

~ for National Doctor’s Day.  We LOVE our doctors, and are so thankful for the impact they have had on our lives.  I love that this season is causing us to spend more time THANKING these and other Community Helpers, real heroes that are serving us every day.IMG_6159.jpgIMG_6033.JPGIMG_6032.jpgIMG_6224.jpg

~ for more positives with home schooling than negatives.  I am so proud of the kids’ attitudes.  They have obediently and MOSTLY eagerly stayed on track with their work, and it has really not been a battle to keep them engaged.IMG_6225IMG_6150.jpg

~ for second chances.  And third.  And 87th.  I am not a good teacher. Oh, sometimes I am.  I CAN be fun and creative and patient.  But I’m usually not.  Especially when I’m not teaching material that I’m familiar with.  And especially when my student isn’t grasping the concept.  After the 3rd time. Or the 87th time.  So in the middle of a particularly trying lesson…a math lesson, (and believe me when I say that I have NO BUSINESS TEACHING ANYONE MATH), I just laid down with my face on the floor and asked Jesus for help.  We wrestled our way through it, and who knows if any of it actually penetrated the child’s understanding, but at least we got the answer on the assignment solved finally.  And I hugged that sweet one tight and we both cried.  And I made a promise, I said, “We’re gonna get through this.  You’re gonna keep trying and Mama’s gonna keep trying, ok?”  BUT GOD.  Grace upon grace.

~ for steady wifi service.  

~ for groceries in the pantry.  We are stretched and learning to be creative, but we don’t lack for anything we actually NEED.

~ for our morning devotions.  I’m so thankful to start each day with the kids in the Word.  It’s not magic, it doesn’t make everything go great.  But at least I know we are starting in the right place and keeping the first things FIRST.

~ for coffee.  I will forever thank coffee as my official sponsor of 2020.  And I also thank dry shampoo, deodorant, and stretchy pants.

~ for calls from our wonderful GCS family.  They are checking in on us, perhaps a little “mental health triage” and it is so heart-warming to hear those familiar voices of the friends we miss so much.  It’s awesome to KNOW that they are praying for us, as we are praying for them.

~ for the tiny carrot seedlings that have poked their heads from the earth, reminding me that new life is always pushing forth.  Lord, let my heart be fertile ground for the things you want to birth in me.IMG_5985

~ for the jumbo economy bucket of ice cream that we originally bought just because it was cheap, and now we think is the very best-tasting ice cream ever.

~ for family movie and pizza night.  For living room forts and inside picnics.  For cuddling with my husband, and with the children that still want to.  Everything means more now than ever before.IMG_3385.jpgIMG_6206.jpg IMG_6169.jpg

~ for my brave husband.  He has the courage to step out in faith and do what is RIGHT even if it goes against popular opinion or social standards.   I’m so proud of the way he leads our family.

~ for re-starting our online “Thankful Game.”  It’s definitely a good time to spur one another on to giving thanks.  We’ve shared some much-needed laughs too.

~ for multiple online platforms of encouraging sermons this morning, even Children’s Church.  I get excited thinking about how many people who are tiptoeing into churches for the first time in a long time, now that it is accessible right in their homes.IMG_F4B4D3E4EA87-1.jpeg

~ for my hammock.  I do love a hammock.

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~ that our quarantine could never be classified as LONELY or BORING.  Again, this is something I don’t always count as a blessing, but boy I should!

~ for reminders when I need reminding.  I had a strange encounter earlier this week, on the one occasion that I actually left the house to run an errand.  The grocery courtesy clerk counted the stick people across the back of my van. “Wow, is this everybody?” “Yep,” I said, “we’ve got a houseful.”  I couldn’t believe my ears when he said candidly, “Man, I would HATE to be you.”  I shook off my shock and quickly refuted, “No way!  It’s awesome!  It’s more fun than you can even imagine!”  Moments like that are so eye-opening.  Because I DON’T always love having a huge family.  My heart isn’t always thankful for having huge messes and huge grocery bill and driving a huge vehicle.  Especially when we are all on top of each other for who knows how long.  But when I’m reminded of how blessed I am… Man, I’m thankful. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

I’m sure most of us are having lots of ups and downs.  Days when we are brave and optimistic and ready to learn what God has for us during this time of being “set apart.”  Days when we feel scared and uncertain and small and trapped.  And days when we just feel unmotivated and schlumpy.  (That’s the technical term.)  I was on the trampoline with the kids this afternoon, trying to be “Fun Mom.”  Everyone was having a good time, weather was perfect, lots of laughs.  And I even took a turn to jump.  One of the kids started jumping at the same time, and we collided in the air, landing in a heap of sharp little knees and elbows.  Hard.  The child, unscathed bounced back up giggling.    I did not.  My wrist and my shin were throbbing from the collision.  And out of nowhere, tears started to well in my eyes.  Before I knew it, they were pouring.  The pain from the fall unlocked a deep well that had been filling and filling somewhere inside me, and once I started, there was no stopping the flood.  I just felt CLOBBERED.  Clobbered by an accident on the trampoline when I was trying to be fun.  Clobbered by the relentless workload of homeschooling 6 kids when I don’t know what I’m doing.  Clobbered by teens who (like all the rest of the world) are irritated by their lack of freedoms and feeling sorry for themselves, without the benefit of perspective, empathy,  or maturity.  Clobbered by the sight of all my kids glued to screens for hours every day, which is contrary to everything I have ever taught them.  Clobbered by the fear- and control-shaped holes in my faith that keep creeping in.  Clobbered by a new, worse headline in the news every day.  Clobbered by weeks upon weeks of little sleep.  Clobbered by the guilt that I don’t have the right to complain because so many others have it so much worse.  Clobbered by the weight of looking brave.  

Maybe you feel like that.  Clobbered.  I just submit to you that that’s ok.  God can handle it, if you’ll just turn to Him.  Even though I feel clobbered, I still know the Truth.  I know that even if it all gets a whole lot worse before it gets better, I know God wins in the end.  And we are all in this together.  Don’t believe the lie that you have to do it in your own strength, or that no one else feels like you, or that all the other Christians are keeping it together except you.  I’m gonna be strong some days, and encourage one of you on your hard day.  And when I can’t get my feet under me, someone is going to leave some sunshine on my doorstep, just because.  IMG_6207.jpgIMG_732165A90CC4-1It’s ok if you don’t teach your kid like the teacher does, or if you don’t know how to check their math.  It’s ok if you take a break or don’t get it all done.  It’s ok if you don’t go on nature walks with your kids every night after dinner and read them a book before you tuck them in to bed.  It’s ok if you don’t alphabetize your closets and learn a new language and do a Pinterest craft every Thursday.  (And it’s ok if you do!)  It’s ok if you only shower once a week and don’t change out of your Sunday clothes until Wednesday (purely hypothetical, of course).  This may be a glorious season of growth for most of us, and I genuinely believe God has that in His plan… but in the midst of all that growth, there’s gonna be pain, and wrestling, and some of it we may not understand for a long time to come.

Be kind to yourself.  When you have a great day, or a great moment – reach out to somebody and share some joy.  And when you blow it: take a deep breath, and give yourself a do-over.  Let’s look for opportunities to love one another well this week, if even from a distance.  It’s Easter Week, the time of year most celebrated by Believers.  We will celebrate that Christ is Risen!  He bravely, willingly, and perfectly endured unbearable suffering and separation from His Father.  And He did it for us.  We DO have so much to be thankful for!  Prepare your heart for the JOY THAT IS COMING!

Thanks for giving thanks with me.

“Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalms 30:4-5)

 

Yes I Will

Some weeks we have to dig a little deeper to find the blessings.  

But they are ALWAYS there. 

Last week, we had an ambiguous “extra week” of Spring Break, we “played” school to stay busy, and learned new words like “pandemic” and “social distancing.”  

This week, Virtual Learning was officially launched by our school.  Effective immediately.  Duration, indefinitely.  At my house, that means I now teach Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 9th grade, ALL subjects ranging from phonics to Algebra, Spanish, Latin, world geography, literature, Bible, and history.  By the end of the week, the mayor issued the “Shelter in Place” order, and we are now pretty much on lockdown.  Carson Grace received word from ETBU that on campus classes will not reconvene this school year. 

Life feels like it is on perpetual pause. Groundhog Day over and over again.  What day is it?  Who knows?  Does it even matter?

People have asked how I am managing with 8 kids, homeschooling, not leaving the house, and my anxiety.   The most honest response I can give is, I’m glad there are no witnesses.  It’s been ok.  We’ve had rough moments.  And sweet ones.  I’ve had kids snuggled in my lap while I read to them, we have played together, we have danced together, and we have worshipped.  On the other hand, I have lost my cool.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve cried.  I’ve laid awake for hours at night.  I’ve eaten more sweets than I will ever admit to. 

But more than ever, I GENUINELY BELIEVE this season is about putting our faith into practice.  Of course it SHOULD always be that way. But let’s get real.  We are finding out if we really believe the things we used to say so casually…. “God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!” 

We have a choice.  

I am thankful:

~ for new mercies every morning.  I need to go back over my Sunday Gratitudes (how can it be that I have been writing every Sunday for almost 6 years now???) and see how many times I have been thankful for new morning mercies.   That is nothing new.  But boy, I am so grateful as I collapse into bed every night that the day is OVER and I get to start fresh the next day.   Every day is a do-over. IMG_5886.jpg

~ for the hard work our teachers and administration has done to transfer all of their curriculum into an online format for us.  I HAVE NEVER APPRECIATED OUR WONDERFUL TEACHERS SO MUCH!  Wow!  The things we realize we have under-appreciated or taken for granted!  They have done a TREMENDOUS JOB of making this switch happen basically overnight.  I am completely in awe of their giftings: their knowledge, their patience, and their love for all our kids that kept them coming back to their jobs day after day.   Oh how I miss my kids’ teachers!  (I bet not HALF as much as my KIDS miss their teachers!  Their new teacher is SO MEAN!  And never goes away!)IMG_5705 2.JPGIMG_5729 2.JPGIMG_5682.JPGIMG_5664 2.JPGIMG_5837.JPG

~ for generous help from loved ones to supplement the groceries we can’t stock up on for our jumbo-sized clan. 

~ for my kids OUTSTANDING attitudes.  They’ve had a few bumps (mostly in response to my own volatile moods), but so far they are still eager to get to their school work, and enjoying the material, and very forgiving of their grumpy teacher.  I’m truly the most blessed mama in all the world. IMG_5782 2.JPG

~ for another successful out-of-my-comfort-zone first.  The physical Laurel & Cotton Spring Sale was obviously cancelled, but the feisty shop owner, Melissa, undeterred, launched a virtual sale via Facebook LIVE.  That meant a crash course in camera-work and social media for each vendor.  It was nerve-wracking and felt completely awkward to talk to my phone (check out my CLASSY, PRO-FESSIONAL tripod!) IMG_2652.JPGand imagine an invisible audience in my living room (while my Littles were banished into hiding upstairs).  Amazingly enough, it went well, I had several kind viewers and comments, and I actually sold a bunch of Giddyup & Whoa signs, including more after the LIVE sale ended!  I was thrilled!  Not only that, but Melissa sold raffle tickets and designed an exclusive Go GOLD t-shirt, and raised $665 for Gold Network of East Texas!  What an awesome blessing!IMG_5960.JPG IMG_6007.jpg

~ for Josh’s job.  There seem to be new developments every day, and we know we cannot take anything for granted anymore.  The actual store is closed, so his interaction with the public is pretty minimal.  He had to lay off some employees this week, which was really hard on him.  He never EVER complains, although I know the gravity of the times and all that he is responsible for weighs heavily on his heart.  And he never fails to check on how I am doing, and to encourage me.  I’m grateful we can be raw and real and honest with one another.  No filter. 

~ for technology.  To accomplish virtual learning, we use a desktop computer, wireless printer, 2 laptops, 2 iPads, and a phone.  Thus far our router has held up to the massive usage, and I’ve been shocked and thoroughly impressed at how minimal the technical issues have been.  And we also had the opportunity to FaceTime with friends we hardly ever get to see.  This forced slower pace and social distancing is causing us to be more intentional. 

~ for coffee.  3 to 4 pots a day.

~ for our safe and comfortable home, and having everything we need.  We have kind, loving neighbors, a beautiful, quiet street.  Cooper has been organizing baseball tournaments and lizard hunts with the Littles.  We are not suffering in our quarantine. IMG_5759.JPGIMG_5966.JPGIMG_5995.JPGIMG_5996.JPG 

~ for laughs.  We’ve had some good late nights with our bigger kids, watching tv and funny videos together.  Carson Grace even badgered mom and dad and the whole Tribe into filming a TikTok video with her for a contest for school.  She choreographed a routine with us, and we provided live entertainment for our neighborhood from our front yard.  It was pretty hysterical how we all got into it.IMG_5975 2IMG_5981

~ for virtual church service from our living room.  It brought such comfort to see our pastors’ faces and to worship together with THE CHURCH.  We all even put on REAL CLOTHES for the occasion, and took the Lord’s Supper together.  It was simple, intimate, and very special.  I love that my kids are learning firsthand that the CHURCH has nothing to do with a building. IMG_5991.JPG

Hamburger bun and solo cups have never been so sanctified

~ for thoughtful care packages filled with love. 

~ for glorious sunshine.  Perfect for walks, PE, picnic lunches, and art class. IMG_A2A1A0208098-1.jpegIMG_5860.JPG

~ for “Live Meets” for each kiddo with their teacher and classmates.  It was so good for their hearts to get to see and hear from their friends.  And we got calls from several of our teachers, just checking in on us.  I’m so blessed and thankful for our GCS community. IMG_5838.JPG

~ for the people “out in the world” that continue to go to work to keep the world running.  First responders, healthcare workers, supermarket personnel, banks, truck drivers, sanitation workers…we will be grateful forever.  

One of the things I’m going to treasure the most from this season is my time with the kids right after breakfast each morning before we start school.  We snuggle up on the couch and each read verse by verse the Psalm and Proverb of the day, and then I’m reading to them from Hind’s Feet on High Places.  What a perfect book for the season.  The conversations with the children have been priceless.  We have walked with Much Afraid as she faced Pride, Resentment, and Self-Pity, along the Sea of Loneliness and now into the Forests of Danger and Tribulation.   How I want to respond as Acceptance With Joy, “He (the Shepherd) has brought me here when I did not want to come, for His own purpose.  I, too, will look up into His face and say, ‘Behold me! I am your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.’”  

I’m not going to lie and say that’s where I’m at.  But it is my prayer.  I know that this is an opportunity for us to be refined and sifted by our LOVING FATHER.  I know that my hope is IN HIM, and that this world is not my home.  And I don’t want to miss the hidden blessings.  God WILL REDEEM FOR GOOD what the enemy intends for evil.  The immediate blessing of having extra quality time with my kids is just the beginning.  I pray for a deep and lasting heart change and genuine appreciation to be birthed around the world.  

So friends, let’s love one another well this week.  We may not be able to gather together physically, but we can call and check in one one another.  Write a letter.  Send a text.  Film a video. Get creative. I’m not sure how much energy I’ll have left to be creative after my packed days of homeschooling, but I’m going to do my best.  It’s ok to be honest about how we feel. Everything is different, and oftentimes “different” = hard and scary. But we can’t be RULED by how we FEEL. Let’s give each other lots of grace and remember that kindness is contagious.  It’s also ok to stay in stretchy pants. (But I personally AM making a commitment to shower more regularly this week.)

This song has really ministered to me this week, and the lyrics are especially appropriate for the season we are in. I hope it encourages you.

https://youtu.be/NrTv39-lG4M

Thanks for giving thanks with me. 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” (Psalms 46:1-7)