For the past week, I have been spending tons of time creating my homeschool planner. This is the first year I’ve done this, and I’m excited to be organized and have better expectations laid out for myself and the kiddos! I’m not exactly sure how to share my pages with you, but created a short video explaining what’s inside. I hope you are inspired!
A word which has shaped and defined this year is freedom. I’m seeing it played out in so many ways throughout my every day. For instance. Today my skirt fell off. Under many circumstances, this would have been categorized as one of my most embarrassing moments. Thankfully, I was *only* outside in the front yard, having just walked out to our van to grab something and bring it inside. The mailman wasn’t there. No one was walking by. The neighbors weren’t mowing their lawn. I speedily pulled it together and ran inside. This can be categorized as freedom, though not exactly what I had in mind on January 1st. My box of wrap skirts have taken center stage in my wardrobe. And I will not let a small setback, such as one falling off of me, deter me from wearing them. My twenty-week-belly loves the wrap skirt idea. This week the kids have been able to feel baby Chip move so much. Their faces are priceless! Jack sat there with his hand on my tummy for a couple of minutes when all of a sudden his hand shot back and he looked at me with his eyes and mouth about the same width. It was great! As I sit on the front porch this evening after a busy day of mommy-ing, attacking the weeds in my garden, and doing the regular mounds of laundry, I feel some kicking. Baby Chip most certainly had a growth spurt this week, because all of a sudden I make a funny noise when I bend over, forgetting my front has expanded into my ribcage when in that position. That, and I keep stubbing my toes when I walk upstairs. I think it’s because I don’t lift my legs as high right before I take a step. Pretty much on the dot, every night around 11pm the gymnastics starts, and I sit with my hand on my belly, in wonderment at another life bursting with joy inside of me. Freedom.
For the past six weeks, Elsie has had a cast on her right arm. After about a day of figuring out how to do stuff with a perpetually bent arm, she quickly resumed life with a cast, almost as if she had none. She literally lets nothing hold her back. Even without the use of her thumb, she figured out how to tie her shoes, do monkey bars, climb, ride a bike and even play baseball!
Monday was a big day for her, when she was liberated from its confines. Freedom. They say a picture is worth a thousand words:
This week I had to say goodbye to a dear, sweet friend. Our husbands met at a spin class about 8 years ago, which was definitely a God-ordained meeting, since I don’t think either of them have been to a spin class ever since. Our kids are the same age, and we’ve watched and prayed eachother through some mutually serious health issues. She is the friend who introduced Plexus to me, and after watching her journey to health and freedom, jumped in to join her. She has been an incredible source of joy and encouragement and wisdom to me the past few years. I love how in Heaven others will truly find out how much impact they’ve had on your life. Thankfully Tennessee isn’t too far, but knowing I can’t just pop over makes me get a little teary. Letting loved ones go and be and do what they’ve been called to is one of the hardest things on earth, I believe. Yet, letting them go gives you more freedom to love stronger and deeper and further than before.
Once a week Nadine has been getting back into the saddle. It’s the highlight of her week. She gets to ride with one of her best friends as well, which adds all sorts of amazingness to her week. To me, it’s scary. To her, it’s freedom. She continues to be a huge source of help to me around the house and is growing in her babysitting abilities.
Today our not-so-bitty-Betty lost her first tooth! She is growing up, embracing her big sister role already, and is somwhat of an old soul. Sometimes I look at her and wonder on what wavelength she communicates to God. He must tell her things I can’t quite fathom. If you’ve ever had a conversation with her, you might understand what I’m having a hard time putting in to words. Growing up requires a little bit of pain, which usually results in more freedom.
Speaking of growing up. There are these two characters who live in the attic, who often sound like a small herd of elephants when they come down the stairs. But they are in actuality, boy-men. Boys trapped in bodies which are swiftly becoming men. Boys who dream of motorcycles and ammunition and muscles and big stuff like jobs. Jobs that pay money so Elijah can get his pilot’s license and fly his friends wherever they want to go. It’s fun to listen to their dreams and know that many of them will come true if we never plant seeds of doubt into their fertile minds. Freedom.
Apparently there is a “look back and compare an old picture of you and your spouse to now” thing going on over on facebook. So, for fun I decided to do just that. I practically died when I pulled out this doozy of a photo from nine years ago! Matthew had been sick for about a year and a half, was on high doses of toxic meds, and I was barely surviving as a mom of three. How incredibly blessed and grateful I am for the road we have traveled, and for the way the Lord has helped us navigate the stormy path. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
We don’t even know how many prayers have gone up for us on Matthew’s behalf. So many. There were times we literally felt like there was no way to go on. We praise the Lord for the gift of health. We know we are never guaranteed another breath. But for every breath we are given, we praise Him! Matthew is out running right now, his reflective vest on, heart pumping, lungs breathing, windpipe open. Not something we would have thought about before. It is the storm which has made our love so strong. It is being in the pit which has made the air above so clean and worth savoring.
We pray for open hands to receive both the sickness and the health. The richer and the poorer. Til death do us part. In doing this, there is great freedom.
The other day Betty said to me, “I want to do something I’ve NEVER done before!” I literally blinked my eyes and stared at her in wonder. Not for the first time, either. This girl seems to say things which I feel like have come from somewhere deep inside my own heart. Unspoken. Then they find words and come out of her mouth. “Really?” I answered, playing with her hair. She’s been on big rollercoasters and flown inside a cessna airplane. I could tell in her eyes she had a hunger to experience the thrill of something new. Just like her mama. So, even though she’s done it before, it had been a long, long time. We decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and she asked to bring her bike. It’s been about a year since she rode it, and she was nervous about falling down. My favorite thing about our time together, wasn’t the fact that she did in fact ride the bike without me holding on. No, my favorite thing was how she talked to herself while she rode. “I can do this! I can do this! I can do this!” she breathed over and over while I slowly let go and ran beside her. Cheering her on. Watching her fly alone. In her hounds-tooth dress and polka dot rain boots. Her fear lay in a pothole somewhere between our house and 8th Ave.There’s something incredible about what we say to ourselves. I dare you to listen to yourself when you’re thinking. It’s incredibly enlightening. Do you say things to yourself that you would never allow someone to say to your child? Or to you? Changing negative thinking has totally transformed my life and is transforming the lives of our children.
Interestingly, Paul didn’t say, “I think I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Nope. We should never say we will try to do this or that. Every time we try, we make a small exception for ourselves to fail. And you know what? You might mess up and fail. But that should never keep us from picking ourselves back up and getting stronger. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I am so proud of these kiddos. We completed our school year a couple weeks ago. They have all grown and accomplished so much!
Being out of school has been just what we all needed. There has been a lot of imagination and rearranging and purging that comes when Mommy’s brain is free from thinking of school for a couple of weeks. We started our vacation out right with a broken arm. Broken in three places, no less. That girl is incredibly tough. This is the second time this has happened in her short little life. She doesn’t complain, and she really hasn’t let it stop her from doing anything. When I told her to be careful on the playground, Betty piped up: “At least I can jump! Because I have two arms and two thumbs and two elbows!”
New neighbors just moved in next door, and the boys had no qualms about asking them if they could have a bunch of their huge furniture boxes to make a small town with them. The rest of the day was spent cutting and creating tiny houses.
Earlier this week, Elsie let out a big sigh in front of me and said,”I just want to run a business or something!” She kept persisting, and finally her dream became a reality. Older sister and a friend all chipped in to squeeze lemons and taste test the perfect lemonade. We had some very enthusiastic salesmen and women, who were not afraid to ask the UPS man, the neighbors, and any passersby’s to buy a cup of refreshing lemonade. Why? Elsie, broken arm and all, determined it was to raise money for gymnastics. This has been a huge dream of hers, and I’m so proud of her for looking ahead, past the “impossible” and seeing her arm healed enough to take gymnastics.
Many days are spent gardening and cutting fresh flowers, enjoying delicious berries, and being amazed at how my belly has popped out with pride and joy. At 17 weeks, baby Chip is kicking and loving the berries I’m eating. Most recently, Matthew put up a new fence on the one side of our yard. It was an exhausting day. But one of my favorite kinds of tired.
So very thankful and daily more in love with this guy. He takes good care of us. He feels great, which is something we never ever take for granted. Once your health has been on the edge of survival wondering at the surety of your next breath, you never go a day without praising God for one more day to enjoy this thing called life. Every day my passion grows to help others who are hurting and sick and tired of being sick and tired.
For the next coupe of days I need to get my game on and face my least favorite past-time: packing. The motivation of having five whole days with Matthew by my side, along with some of the most motivating, loving, encouraging people… I’m not going to TRY. I will take a lesson from my sweet Betty and whisper: “I can do this. I can do this.” I can confidently face my suitcase and smile.
The sound never grows old. A faint, steady rhythm. So tiny, yet so strong. We call him “Chip”, because at one point, baby was the size of a chocolate chip. The name stuck. Now Chip is bigger, and his heart is definitely beating. Life. Hidden and mysterious, but unmistakably there. On Monday I had my first midwife appointment and got to meet Chip in a super special way, as the tears pooled in my eyes and his heartbeat met my ears. Every morning for the past couple of weeks I’ve sighed a great hallelujah that my pants still button. But thirteen weeks into this journey, and it’s time to expand my wardrobe for my expanding wasitline! I’m definitely tired of sweat pants and feeling frumpy.
The second highlight of our week was Tuesday. Hearing a solid “well done” from the kids’ evaluator, marked another year in the books for the Weldon Academy of Natural Studies. We now officially have one 1st grader, one 3rd grader, one 5th grader and two 8th graders. Good thing I’m sitting down right now. It’s been a huge year, full of much learning and growing. We celebrated with lunch at the Green Street Grille. What a HUGE accomplishment! They’re growing up so fast. In fact, the other day Jack asked Betty how old she wants to be when she grows up. She thought for a moment and said, “Seventeen.”Last month, I had the incredible privilege of flying out to Portland to visit my dear friend, April. We grew up together for a few years in the middle of Africa. Her house was just a shout away. In fact, we would often stand at the bottom of their hill and yell, “Do you have a roll of toilet paper we could borrow?!” Or “Do you have butter?!” You know, the essential things. This is probably one huge reason I love my neighbor, Jen, so much. I don’t think a week goes by without borrowing something from her… and it is often ONE egg, or TWO INCHES of butter, please. Having someone who loves you and doesn’t think any less of you because you fail to figure out just how many eggs you’ll need each week… on a weekly basis… is pretty grand.
April and I have been friends for almost thirty years. I don’t even FEEL like I’m 30 yet, so this is pretty wild for me to comprehend even still. But we have, because Math doesn’t lie, or something like that. She is one of the most genuine people I know. I love her courage and gusto in life. I love that she doesn’t let fear hold her down from following God’s leading. That leading happens to be into the middle of the jungle of Papua, Indonesia. I am so thankful I got to squeeze her and even run a mini “Amazing Race Portland” with her and a friend before she flew back across a HUGE ocean to her home. As we prayed before she dropped me off at the airport, I was absolutely floored by the goodness and grace of God to weave and keep tight the bond of this friendship which has spanned more time and miles than I can comprehend.
As things grow and change in our family, this guy remains constant and steady. We have had such fun dreaming together. He is such an encouragement to me every day. I don’t often feel what he sees, but I choose to believe him, because he’s never lied to me yet. We are so excited to see how the Lord is going to work out the details of our future. We sense His stirring in our lives and know He has something amazing in store.
Baby Chip is proof of that.
Sometimes when I look around our table, it feels like someone is missing. Then, a few weeks ago my heart skipped a beat. Two blue lines.
It would be an understatement to say the big kids are excited to have another baby in the house.
Despite the look on Matthew’s face here, he is truly excited. I’m thrilled beyond words, which is why it’s taken me precisely two hours to even write the last two sentences. We know this blessing is from our Father above, Who is aware of every detail of our lives. We know He will show His faithfulness and provision in new and exciting ways this year. Elijah is especially thrilled to have another buddy to keep him company in his birthday month of November.
Rejoice with us!
Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
So before another month flies by, I’d really like to share a bit about the time I went flying to Tennessee last month! It was an unexpected gift, yet one I worked hard to earn. As my Plexus business grows, I too have been growing. Stretching my wings a bit, both figuratively and literally. Matthew is an incredible support and is always encouraging me to keep going, keep learning, keep growing. So, I was gifted this trip by one of the leaders on my team, to go to a John Maxwell mindset training event given by Sonya Dudley, who is also someone whom I look up to in life and business. There were four of us total from our team, and we had SUCH a great time together. All mamas, sharing a passion for Jesus and health and freedom. It was one of the most inspiring weekends I’ve had in a really long time. I came home with copious notes.
Mindset really does matter. “Whether you think you can or you can’t, either way you’re right.” I realized a lot of lies I’ve let myself believe. Things about my past which I’ve allowed to define who I am today. They have played a part in shaping me into who God has made me to be, but they do not define me. Jesus Christ has set me free from fear of man, shame from bad choices I’ve made, and doubt of what He is capable of doing through me. Absolutely no one on this earth can do what you have been placed on this globe at this time to do. No one.
This is my passion: to bring the same hope to others. I never ever thought a pink drink would pave the way to talk to so many people about hope in Christ and hope in health.
It’s rather ironic how flat out on our couches we have been for the past month with coughs and tummy bugs. I would be the last person to claim Plexus as a cure or preventative for anything. Of course we still get sick… but when we are well… we are thriving! I can’t tell you just how much stronger I feel than ten months ago. None of this happened all of a sudden. It’s been a consistent and gradual change. My hair is finally growing thicker. My nails are crazy strong and healthy without ridges and bumps. I have been the exact same weight for at least 6 months, without fluctuating those 5-10 pounds once a month. Mood swings are incredibly rare. I wake up feeling refreshed after sleeping like a log all night. I am a much more calm and collected mom than I have ever been, thanks to the simple fact that my blood sugar is finally balanced. It is so simple yet has made such a profound impact on my life as a wife, mom, teacher, and now businesswoman. This is such a tiny smattering of the blessing Plexus has been in our life. Just one story of thousands.
So everything inside of me went for a little loop last week when I stumbled through a few days clouded with an old and very unwelcome friend: depression. I knew what was true, and the thoughts which were tempting me to despair were nothing short of lies. They shrouded my mind into thinking there is nothing really out there for me. Like a fog which tricks the eye into certainty of no more than nothingness ahead. Yet praise God for His Word which is sharper than any two edged sword, and most certainly is able to penetrate light onto my foggy path. He brought me out to the other side and has shown me some incredible promises. There are some beautiful verses which encourage me that I am not the first one to feel these feelings or think these thoughts. Neither are you. It’s what we do with these thoughts that matter. Only by the power of God’s Word, can you dispel the fiery darts of the enemy. Psalm 27 is one of my favorite passages. The last two verses say:
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Lots of exciting things are in store for us this year. Some huge decisions, and I know that is part of why I felt like shutting down was a good idea. I love what Matthew reminded me of the other day when I was at my lowest. There are so many pivotal moments recorded in the Bible. Important stories and dialogues and days, but the in-between days, weeks, months, years… are not all recorded. Yet always, always, always, God shows up in the mundane. Solomon, searching for some lost donkeys all of a sudden is anointed king. Joseph, doing what was before him to do each day in prison all of a sudden was next in command to Pharaoh. Moses, a shepherd, all of a sudden was chosen to be the deliverer of an entire nation. Jesus, a local carpenter, all of a sudden doing miracles and signs and wonders. It even seems babies are conceived and all of a sudden birthed in one verse, leaving out the long nine months of waiting and the arduous labor and delivery. Every single “all of a sudden” moment in the Bible or in your life and mine, has been preceded by many ordinary and unsung days. Tucked between the ordinary and extraordinary is usually a series of painful and difficult moments, days, months or years.
In the mundane, quitting is not an option. Trust is vital. Each moment is but a small stroke in the entire masterpiece. One day we get to stand back and see how it all fits together.
She had a large metal caribiner tucked between her ear and shoulder. She laughed into the air and walked around the kitchen before disappearing into the laundry room. Then she poked her head back around the corner and tipped her head at me to say, “I’m just on the phone.” I nodded to her then proceeded to overhear her continuing conversation via the caribiner-telephone: “That’s just my mom. She cooks supper.” Then continued laughing her way through the conversation.
Yes. I am mom. And I cook supper. But it is not all I do, though I could let that define me. And to be honest, I don’t even get supper done every night of the week! At least not one that doesn’t start with a “P” and rhyme with “aches”. And those don’t fully count as supper unless there is plenty of bacon to go along with them. Which there usually isn’t, because those “ache” nights often coincide with the need to go grocery shopping… which in turn most often include a run to my sweet neighbor Jen for a couple of eggs. And butter. And milk. Yeah. She’s more than just an amazing friend. She’s my go-to-grocery joint when my day has been so full of everything but… dinner. Love her!
So a huge reason why I have pretty much stopped writing, is this: my brain keeps telling me I didn’t even write about Christmas this year. It’s been beating me up inside. “No, you can’t write anything about January… or February… or March… you haven’t even written about Christmas!” So tonight I’m ending that negative talk. In fact, I WILL write about Christmas. It was a special and dreadful day all wrapped into one. Betty was so sick we almost went to the hospital, and I spent the entire day watching Star Wars and holding a bowl for her while functioning on two hours of sleep. That is probably why I never wrote about it. But as my mother always promised: “This too shall pass.” And it did.
Until last week. The same thing hit us, but thankfully it was only 8 hours instead of 36. But those things are definitely not worth dwelling on for more than a second.
Two days ago it was my birthday. I’ll stick with how old my mother-in-law thinks I am and enjoy another year of being 32. WHAT a fun day. Delicious chocolate chip crepes and hot tea for breakfast, then a clean house to welcome our first round of company. Julie came and showed some gorgeous jewelry from a company called Trading Hope. Basically, the purchasing of this jewelry provides business, dignity and hope to artisans who would otherwise not have any. I LOVE this kind of thing.
The next round of company was almost my entire family. My brother was able to drive up from North Carolina with his family, and I believe this is the first time since I was a kid he’s been able to celebrate my birthday with me. SO special. Everyone except my one sister and family came over for dinner. This was after we spent the late afternoon cheering on my nephew at his soccer game and watching him score a goal! Time spent with family is never wasted. I am so thankful for mine.
Our five blessings fill our cup to overflowing. Betty, as mentioned, keeps us cracking up and shaking our heads. She is reading small words in school, and piles ALL her books into her arms to eagerly do her work each day with me. She makes teaching a joy. She has all of a sudden become a sweet young lady and is so incredibly independent. She loves to take care of hurt and sick people so much that it didn’t surprise me when she told me she wants to be a doctor one day. Here is a small taste of what I get each day in school with her.
Elsie got a taste of color guard at school, while the boys did wrestling this past season. She pretty much sets her mind to anything and gets it done. She tells us she wants to play basketball, judo, wrestling, soccer, gymnastics and karate. If we were one of those special families blessed with an extra 24 hours in our day we might be able to make all of her gigantic dreams come true. However, for now we will have to narrow it down to one at a time and see how we can encourage her love of MOVEMENT.
Jack finished off his wrestling season so well! At his last team tournament a couple weeks ago, this is what Matthew wrote on his facebook wall: “This guy. Wakes me up at 4:30 this morning feeling sick. Throws up at 6:15. Picks himself up and wrestled out of a 12th seed to finish fourth in the league finals tournament!” That pretty much sums him up in a nutshell.
Today he called me excitedly to come outside and see his back handspring. Yesterday he learned how to do a back walkover all by himself. No spotting. I kind of gulped but watched him as he took the leap backwards and did it. He is tenacious to the core.
Elijah also finished off his wrestling season a much stronger young man than when he began. If you missed Matthew’s post about how he took a giant step towards becoming a man, then you should read it. He is definitely changing. The other day he nonchalantly mentioned how his lip was feeling numb. Matthew and I were both somewhat distracted and I didn’t think too much of it. Quite a while later he started to reference a former conversation we had had not more than an hour before. Something about his upper lip starting to show a shade of ‘stache. I stopped what I was doing, looked at him and laughed. “You shaved! Didn’t you?” He grinned. No wonder his lip was feeling numb. How is it possible? Our three-and-a-half-pound little baby is becoming a man. For the past year, ever since flying with my brother, he has been sure of his future plans: he wants to become a pilot. He asked me yesterday if Geometry is useful for a pilot. “Because I LOVE Geometry,” he said. And he does. He actually is doing Geometry on his own, besides the pre-algebra on tap for this year. He also has a musical beat inside of him which can not be stopped. This is a little taste of what math class looks like around here. I dare you not to watch it more than once.
Nadine is the most genuine girl you could ever know. If she seems sweet, it is because she is. If she seems helpful, it is because she is. If she seems incredibly knowledgeable about animals, it is because she is. She started piano lessons this year and is progressing quickly. She isn’t taking riding lessons right now, but a recent school assignment involving changing contractions to whole words, showed her dream is stronger than ever: “I will be a horse owner one day! I can not gallop yet though. I will not let that stop me from riding! I have what it takes and you have what it takes to ride. All you need is yourself. I would not say this otherwise.”
Maybe tomorrow I will finish with this super long update. Like about the time I went to Tennessee last month. Just in case I never hit “publish”… because there is always something more to say… I am going to do so now. But first, I have to at least include ONE photo of Christmas.