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The Day I Almost Sold It

Her stomach had knots in it as she strode down the street of Philadelphia.  She was alone, without her four children, and her husband was at work.  He worked so hard and so long without complaint.  Maybe what she was about to do would ease the burden just a little bit.  Her thumb impulsively twirled the diamond ring on her left hand, like it had done for the past ten years, and she remembered the day he proposed.  After a silly argument the previous night, they were standing on their special rock in the middle of a stream.  He had the ring in his pocket.  His plan of proposing on the rock was thwarted when it began to rain.  So they ran over slippery rocks to some shelter, where he popped the question.  The argument from the night before faded into forgetfulness.  Never had she seen anything so gorgeous.  So much hard work and saving had gone into it, and she wore it with an incredible sense of awe.  It was square, just like she had hoped it would be. The way it sparkled made her think of the brilliant stars in the African sky of her childhood.

She stepped into the doorway of the first shop on Jewelers Row.  It was where her ring was first bought.  She nervously took it off her finger and asked the jeweler if he would buy it back.  A feeling of relief swept over her when he said he wouldn’t.  Then just as quickly, the knot formed again when he pointed her to another shop that might.

She gulped past the lump which was forming in her throat now and walked back onto the city streets.  What would he say when she told him?  The man of her dreams, who worked so hard for their family.  She had already sold her favorite camera he had given her their first year of marriage.  And almost anything else she could get her hands on to help contribute to their ever growing family.  He wouldn’t yell at her, she knew.  He loved her far more than any material possession they owned.  Yet, what would be his reaction?  She had been thinking about this for a long time, and hated to think about how he might feel.  So she didn’t think.  She walked straight into the second shop and held up her ring.

How much is it worth? She asked, knowing the answer they gave her wouldn’t match what was her heart was screaming back in answer.  Three-hundred dollars, he was telling her, while her mind kept saying: Priceless.

Three hundred-dollar bills.  They would buy groceries for the next month.  They would take a small load from her husband’s shoulders.  But they would swiftly disappear, and she would stare at her naked finger for years to come.  She thanked the man and walked out onto the street.  Her heart was pounding.  She didn’t know how God would provide for them that week, but she knew she had made the right decision.  Tears streamed down her cheeks, as the glorious reminder of sacrificial love sparkled back at her from her left hand.

That young bride?  She still wears the ring with much gratefulness.  That young bride is me.

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A Permanent Paint Job in My Hair

“Is that paint in your hair?”  He grinned.  I think I glared.  He knows perfectly well that even though I am the one to get paint in my hair while painting, that none of this has been going on for a few months. He kept grinning and then said, “I LOVE your grey hairs.”  He actually gets kind of giddy about them.  I guess they are factual of our journey from teenagers to pushing forty.  It is a beautiful thing to grow old with someone and know your grey hair makes them excited.  He’s actually getting a tiny swath of grey himself, which I find very attractive.
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I could name a handful of reasons for a few extras which may have popped up this month.

Earlier in July, Nadine came downstairs one morning with an incredibly stiff neck.  We had done massage, chiropractor, essential oils, and more, but she steadily got worse.  More sore, feverish, and absolutely exhausted.  A few doctor’s visits later and bloodwork drawn, I noticed a nice red circle on her leg.  And her shoulder.  And her arm, and torso and so on.  The number hit 17 bullseye rashes.  Her body felt and looked like it was shutting down.  We had spent so much time in prayer over her and Lymes kept running through my head.  As horrible as those bullseyes were, at least they showed up to confirm my thinking and get us on a path of treatment for her.  Just 24 hours later of being on strong antibiotics, she was sitting, standing up, and walking without having to collapse into bed.  She even swept the floor!  If people think I am anti-medicine because I’m a crunchy-granola-Plexus-mama, then they’re misinformed.  There is a time and there is a place, and I thank God for the ability to research and choose and make informed decisions.  I do not take antibiotics lightly.  So thankful too to have a quality probiotic to counter the nasty effects it will have on her good gut flora!

A few days after she started feeling nasty, I was grabbing some groceries and meeting my mother-in-law to pick up the youngest two who had been having a week at grandma’s.  We were waving goodbye as we backed out of our parking spot when all of a sudden the gear shift popped out of place and the whole gear shaft just started spinning around.  Thankfully, Linda hadn’t driven away yet, so we pushed the van into a safe spot and we all piled into her car where she drove us home!  Thankfully, it was not a huge fix!  Yesterday something else happened and we had to tow it again, but it’s fixed already.  We’re getting to know our local tow-truck drivers!
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I spent a lot of time sitting still and being quiet that first week of July.  Not my strong point.  Our front porch is my summer haven, and it gets a lot of love.  Between a broken arm, a broken vehicle, and a broken down body… I was pretty broken myself.  But God.  He’s in the business of fixing and providing and healing.
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One of the biggest blessings of this trial was seeing the rest of the kiddos rise to the challenge of taking over Nadine’s chores and jobs and serving her in many different ways.  From getting her icewater, to cleaning the kitchen, to hanging out with her while she couldn’t do anything but lay there.  It was refining for us all!  We also saw her faith grow in Jesus by leaps and bounds, as she audibly thanked Him for the sickness, and acknowledged He knows what’s best for her.  Do you know how hard that is to do?2016-07-13 14.19.53
As her body started to heal, God did another amazing thing for our family.  Because of the many broken things which needed money to fix them, we had to tell the kids they weren’t going to be able to go to soccer camp this year.  It was super difficult to tell them that, but we reminded them how God had the power and ability and means to provide for them if He wanted them to go.  So we laid it before the Lord without telling anyone else about the need.  On Saturday, one week before the camp would be starting, Elijah said to me, “Mom, camp starts in 7 days.”  I told him to keep praying and trusting God would provide if they were to go.  The next day, we recieved a phone call from someone who wanted to pay for our kids to go to camp if that was something they were wanting to do.  Seeing their faith grow when we told them the news was incredible.  At that point we weren’t even sure if Nadine could go!  We didn’t shop for her, until two days before they had to leave, when she was showing signs of having enough strength to handle a week at camp.  God provided in more ways than we could imagine!
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Now camp is over, and we are on our second day of school!

We are still celebrating summer, with later nights and a bit of sleeping in, but I always need a week or two of slowly easing into what our year will be looking like for the next ten months.  This gentle beginning also gives me room to purge from last year.  The last couple of days have seen six trash bags exit our house, lockers cleaned out, shelves re-organized, new books introduced, and a general feeling of newness and anticipation for the year ahead.
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I’m incredibly thankful for these amazing blessings entrusted to us for a time.  For the five independent ones downstairs eating icecream, and the one who is sending me love kicks from my womb.  We actually decided to find out whether “Baby Chip” is a boy or girl.  Here is the video of the kids’ reaction to the news:

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There is so much more I could write, but I have a few things left to do with my quiet evening, which my greying husband gifted to me tonight.  Thank you, love!


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The Gift of Need

I’m not sure how many people know, but Nadine & I are planning on going to Haiti in February for a short mission’s trip.  We have seen God providing for us through many incredible ways.  We were able to send away for our passports two weeks ago, and are eagerly waiting for them to arrive.  As I pray for God to prepare my heart, I am finding that He’s not doing it in ways I was expecting.

The past few months have been an incredible ride of faith.  By incredible, I don’t mean that it’s been smooth-sailing, bump-free, or fear-less.  It’s been more like a wild stomach-losing ride that’s left me breathless and wondering how I’ll make the next turn, or the next day.  It’s been a constant leaning on the Man in the boat.  I have, at many times, panicked instead of trusted.  I’ve cried out, We’re perishing!  When in reality we are just being rocked a bit.

As part of my preparation, I’ve been feeling very needy.  Not exactly what I had in mind, God, I think.  Especially three weeks before Christmas.  Yet He’s been telling me this: needy is a good place to be.  It allows room for God to meet us and others to bless. Yet it’s hard to admit need, isn’t it?  Hard to let God take me where I feel uncomfortably dependent on Him alone.  Hard to be in a spot where I’m accepting other’s help instead of offering my own.  A lot of times, people have no idea they’re even doing it.  I can’t express it enough: we need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.  They might just be the echo of someone’s prayer in need.  Twenty dollars tucked in an envelope… no one knew the gas tank was empty and there were places to go.  A gift card for some coffee… no one knew how badly this mama needed that break.  A meal… no one knew the fridge was empty.  A letter, a comment, an encouraging word… no one knew how many doubts have risen up to try to break down this heart with discouragement.  Generosity trumps need.

We each have our own poverty.  It is a difficult thing to embrace.  Yet I think it is something which brings us closer to the power of God.  When we have an empty, impoverished part of our life or soul, God is able to fill it.  If we have need of nothing, then we have no need of God.  This must be why Paul said that he would glory in his weakness.  We often think of poverty as the obvious famine-ravished country in Africa.  Yet there is more to poverty than just a hungry belly.  Sometimes it is financial: five dollars left in the bank, with bills still arriving in the mail.  Sometimes it may be more hidden: a relationship which is torn, a loneliness that is insatiable.  Sometimes it is a poverty of the spirit and soul, a feeling like there is nothing left to give, nothing to offer. God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.  (Matt. 5:3)  We are blessed.  No longer self-sufficient.  God’s blessings are more meaningful because He is able, in our poverty, to meet our need.   When we experience poverty, that is when we experience God’s power to provide.  And when we’ve experienced that power, it is impossible not to give back to God and touch others in need along the way.DSC_7094


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>You’re Moving??

>Yep.  It’s been a bittersweet story for us.  So much blessing, but a lot of mistakes as well.  In November we will have lived here 5 years… the longest place we’ve lived at one time, married!  In short, we really couldn’t afford our house from the beginning and made it work by putting other necessities (and non-necessities) on credit, so we could pay our mortgage.

The day we moved here, Matt bought a really nice truck… with payments attached.  Yes, he needed a truck for work, but as we found out a year later, God can provide with no strings attached!  He was gracious and when we knew we had to sell his truck to get rid of those horrible monthly payments, he was able to sell it for the exact price he bought it for the previous year.  Matthew paid cash for his current Toyota truck, no extended cab, complete with rusty spots and a constant ticking sound and really loud muffler.  It’s been going strong for three years now, almost at 200K miles.  Well, maybe strong isn’t the best word… but last week when it needed to be jumped numerous times in order to start, we were thankful that it only cost about $3 to fix it.  Oh, I could write a few chapters of funny stories about that truck…  let’s just say, it’s been going! =)

Anyway, back to the story.  It was about this time in our financial down-slide that we discovered a small group in our area doing a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class.  We hooked up with them, which led to us going to Gateway Church in Parkesburg.  This alone was worth everything we experienced, as it has been nothing but a blessing for our family: spiritually, emotionally, and financially!

Since taking this class, we have paid off close to $40,000 in consumer debt.  We can almost count on one hand now, how many more thousands to go, and are really really excited to be completely debt free.

One of the ways we kept sinking lower, was to put 50% of our take-home pay towards our mortgage.  This had to stop and we spent the last couple of years tweaking, but not successfully lowering our budget to fit the other 50%.  We worked with our mortgage company to see if we could refinance or do anything to help make it possible to keep the house.  The best they were able to do was make it so it was about 45% of our take-home pay.  This wouldn’t work either and we worked on actually paying our bills with cash and starting to chunk out our debt.  We tried to sell our house but it just didn’t sell.  Eventually, our mortgage went into default and we are now facing foreclosure if our house doesn’t sell.  Are we proud of this?  No.  It’s rather embarrassing, actually.  There’s nothing like making a bad choice which leads to awful consequences that everyone can see.  We’ve all done it.  It wasn’t easy for Matt to trade in his dream truck for something that is about as far from manly as you can get.  It isn’t easy to live like you can afford something until reality comes marching at your door and shows you otherwise.  We’re not proud of the decisions we made which got us to where we are.  But we are thankful for the chance to grow in wisdom and in closer dependence upon God.

The plain and simple reality is, we have so much to be thankful for.  We’ve gone through one of the top five things that cause divorce, and yet our love is even stronger for each other.  We’ve been humbled and forced to learn that contentment matters to God, not possessions.  I could go on and on about the lessons we’ve learned.  I could also go on and on about how God has provided for us.  While we’ve messed up, He’s forgiven and strengthened us for the task ahead.

While praying and seeking God’s will about where He wants us to move, I got really really discouraged.  I searched Craig’s list and came up with horrible dumps that fit our price range, or nice doable houses that fell way out of our price range.  Matthew has a favorite thing that he likes to tell me, “God hasn’t provided it yet, because it’s not needed yet.”  Time and again we are tested on that.  Well, school is starting up again and the Sheriff’s sale is quickly approaching.  Through friends at church we heard of a house in Coatesville for rent, so we checked it out.  After we looked through it I thought how perfect it would be.  I was expecting something out of our price range, and when the landlord told us how much I had a hard time not hugging him.  It was as if God was saying, “Go ahead and take it!  I saved this just for you.”

So, August 28th is our hopeful move-in date if everything gets finished that we need to do.  We are excited to move on to another chapter in our lives.  I will give more details of our move a little closer to the date.  But I’ve written enough and I have boxes to pack!