Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lawn Wars


Do you ever have lawn wars at your house? By that I mean arguments about how high the lawn mower should be set.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that Brad and I have had more than one “discussion” about that and other trivialities of yard work.

I like the grass a little on the taller side even if it means mowing twice a week. Brad, on the other hand, wants the mower set on 2 inches, nice and short.  Admittedly, over the years, at times it has been a struggle to even get the yard mowed at all.


I’m still humiliated about the time Shandi and Chris, who did our patio and sidewalks, came by for an estimate. We were in the midst of spring planting and many evening activities for me and the boys, and our grass was in desperate need of attention. However, no one had time to sit on our little mower for 4+ hours.  The grass must have been over 6 inches tall. And we were showing it to professional landscapers!

Oh my.


And then there are the battles over dandelions. Poor Brad, who tries to make his wife happy, has often put the little sprayer on the 4 wheeler and waited patiently for a very early morning that wasn’t too windy so he could kill the weeds in the grass, but nothing else, before spending another 13 hours farming.

Sometimes I am very hard to please.  And unreasonable.  I’m going to do better, honey.


We have a bigger John Deere now that allows me to zip around and finish the job in around 2 hours, so when I mow, the grass is higher and gets it more often. One day earlier this spring, I was flying back and forth on the mower, lamenting our yard full of dandelions when God prompted me to change my perspective.

I love flowers, so why couldn’t I learn to love dandelions?  


I got out my camera and snapped a close-up of one of the hundreds in our front yard. Guess what? It was beautiful!

This began one of my great blessings of the last few weeks. I’ve been on a quest to really NOTICE the beauty and variety of flowers of all shapes and sizes, especially their centers.  Each one is a little miracle and a testament to the creativity of the Great Creator.



And all of these little beauties reminded me that for all the beauty of nature, mankind was God’s ultimate creation.


Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness……God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1: 26a, 31a

Isn't that something?

Each one of us is created in God’s image. There is something at the center of each of us that points to the Creator.


Let’s consider this…..

Think of:  

the nicest person you know-
                                                God is nicer.

The funniest person you know-
                                                God is funnier.

The best artist-
                                                God is more artistic.

The best singer-
                                                God’s voice is better.

The friendliest person-
                                                God is friendlier.



The most empathetic-
                                                God understands each person completely.

The most beautiful-
                                                God is more beautiful.

The best mathematician-
                                                God invented math.

The smartest scientist-
                                                God invented scientific principles.

The best doctor-
                                                God is the Great Physician.

The most loving person you know-
                                                God IS love.

The most joyful, grace-filled, self-controlled, peaceful, patient, faithful, gentle person we know,
               
Can’t even come close to the character of God.


And this is just the beginning.


If we could make a composite of the best character traits of all of us, and multiply them by infinity, perhaps we begin to get a glimpse of our Heavenly Father.

When our boot camp here on earth is finished, those of us who are Christ followers will get to spend eternity in relationship with HIM. And we will be transformed into the people we were created to be. 

It is going to be AMAZING!



Let’s change our perspective and take our eyes off the inevitable flaws in those who cross our paths in this fallen world. Instead, let’s look for the beauty in all of God’s creation. 

Including you and me.




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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Coastal Living Design House and Fixer Uppers





Hello, friends!

When we moved back to Hidalgo after our short stint in a medium sized city, my dear husband tried very hard to find a house that I would want to live in. I was excited to move home, but I wasn't happy about any of our housing options.

The homes that Brad thought I would like, and that I should have liked, just didn't do it for me. At one point I know I cried because I was afraid we would end up in a new-ish house that would never be quite right, but too nice to tear down or move away from. I didn't want to feel trapped in an ugly house on the prairie. (I know. I can be a brat.)

Seagrove is a totally unique area at the beach. It is literally a grove of little trees and is very shaded. The houses are close together on sand roads. So cool!


The first room when you come in from the porch. What do you think? I love the denim slipcovers and the curtains and the way the shelves are arranged!

I really wanted to live in an old house that I could totally make ours, knowing that nothing would be permanent. And then build a new one.



We found the perfect fixer upper for me in Hidalgo, right across the street from the community building and ball diamond and down the street from the elevator, Bob's Hardware, and the little grocery store.  I remember those days and that house very fondly. The house was far from perfect, but I thought it was so darn cute with its wrap around porch and gingerbread trim. And I loved it!

The nicest people lived in the village with us and the boys and I liked to take long walks and drop in (uninvited and unexpected, now that I think about it!) for visits with Fred and Lela, Richard and Kathy, Don and Ilene, Miss Flossie and Edna, to mention just a few.

I loved, loved, loved this room! The space. The light. The everything.


If the weather was nice, we spent lots of time outside and we had lots of company, too. As the boys rode their Big Wheels up and down the sidewalk, I shared glasses of tea and our porch swing with many people who would stop for a quick visit as they drove through town.

I missed those drop in guests once we moved to our new house, built on a very quiet road and less convenient for casual dropping in. Now, I needed to extend invitations if I wanted company and I didn't extend nearly enough of them.






I regret that.

Anyhoo.

We lived in that old house in "town" for much longer than we originally intended, so I had a lot of time to dream of the new house we were going to build someday. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. I used to have gobs of back issues of Southern Living and Country Living and a big old notebook filled with inspiration pages torn from other magazines and carefully placed in page protectors.

Eventually, we built our new farmhouse, and I got to implement some of those ideas. But I still like decorating and changing things up, so I'm always on the lookout for pretty ideas. I no longer have my old magazines and I emptied up those page protectors and refilled them with other information that interests me. My decorating inspiration is all stored on my Pinterest boards now.



Tiny, tiny bath

Great floors, don't you think?

One magazine that I still enjoy is Coastal Living and I was so tickled to learn that the design house for this year was just down the road from us in Seagrove, Florida. I couldn't wait to see it, and as the pictures prove, I wasn't disappointed!

It was just beautiful and made me smile from the minute I walked in the front door. I was so inspired and gobsmacked by the designer's creativity. I especially loved the warm and welcoming kitchen/family room combo. I just know the owners of that home will entertain many friends and family there after long days spent at the beach.

Master Bedroom with a map of Seaside, which is very nearby

extra bedroom

studio space

This year has me thinking a lot about hospitality. I've dined (and I mean "dined")  in the fanciest places I could imagine on our trip to Italy, eaten dishes I can't even remember the names of because they were so complicated. And I've eaten simple food in a house with a dirt floor in Mexico.

The food was delicious in both places.

the back porch

wine garden


Here's what I learned.... 

It doesn't matter if you live in a million dollar mansion, a cottage at the beach, a modest typical family home, or a house made from pallets and cardboard.

It doesn't matter if you prepare food from recipes that are pages long and garnish with flowers and elaborate sauces, or the food is served family style in big old unmatched serving dishes, or you bought a bucket at Kentucky Fried chicken and eat it on paper plates with sporks.

If the food is served with love and enjoyed with people you want to know better, it will taste good.

So, throw open your doors and have company. Invite people in. We are all just looking for a place at the table.

You can read about our visit to the Southern Living Design House a few years ago Southern Living Design House, and my visit to Italy Farm Girls Go to Italy, and our mission trip to Mexico Grateful on Mission.

I would love, love, love to hear what you know for certain about hospitality. Please share in the comments!



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Thursday, March 31, 2016

I Love Where I Live

Hello, friends!



You know the old saying "Bloom Where You are Planted?" I'm trying and I hope you are, too.

Like many teenagers, I never intended to live in my hometown when I grew up. I've written about it before, so I won't go over it again, but at one time, I really thought I was born to live in a city and somehow ended up on a farm in the country by mistake.

And I NEVER intended to fall in love with a farmer who worried about the weather and worked 24/7.

But I AM SO GLAD I DID!


Now, I know I was born to live in the country on a farm with my farmer who worries about the weather and indeed does work almost 24/7. I'm very proud to be a farmer's wife and a farmer's daughter and farmers' mother.

It is a good life and I am very, very grateful.

And we go to Florida a lot, so there is that. Yeah!

I am so thankful to live where I live.

I LOVE our little community. It is filled with salt of the earth people who would literally give you the shirt off their back and often do. I've heard that in some parts of our country, it's common for many people to have "big hats and no cattle", living above their means and worried about keeping up with the Joneses. Here, it is much more normal for people to have "many cattle and a small hat."

I like that about them.


But, if there is a need, our people are quick to help. They volunteer. They share. They give. They support great causes. They really care about others. They notice what is happening around them.

They buy raffle tickets. And girl scout cookies. And animals at the 4-H livestock auction. And purses. And cookie dough. And pork loins. And "stuff" they don't really need when their little people ask them to.

They eat a lot, too. Porkburgers and more porkburgers. (Have you ever had one? They are delicious!) Pancakes. Sausage breakfasts. Hog roasts. Strawberry Ice Cream.

They play basket bingo and trivia and dodge ball to raise funds for various projects. They hold special spin classes to contribute money for adoptions for people they will never meet in a state across the country.

They give to missionaries across the world. And to the ministry down the street.

And those are just a few things that quickly pop into my head.

Who wouldn't want to live here?

Not only are these people givers, they are super interesting, too. I love learning about what makes a person "light up"!


I want to learn more about their......

tapping maple trees and making syrup the old fashioned way, for the sheer fun of it

taking farm "junk" and welding it into art

making furniture

creating a home music recording studio and then using it to help promote our very own American Idol contestant, Cheyenne Goss

crocheting like it is a job

beekeeping

meeting on Thursday nights with mandolins, banjos, and guitars to make music that only they will hear

running marathons, half marathons, or just around town, spinning, doing holy yoga, Insanity, Girl Fit, Cize


making museum quality quilts

studying stars and history

books being written

fishing our lakes, hunting our woods and catching the big ones

getting cattle ready for big shows all over the Midwest


growing huge gardens, picking mushrooms, wild blackberries, raspberries and ginseng

book clubs and essential oil clubs and bridge clubs

day lily collectors, daffodil collectors, antique tractor collectors

racing dirtbikes and cars and competing in talent shows and being really good at it, too

camping, glamping, motorcycling. cruising, exotic traveling


bird-watching, arrowhead hunting, eagle sightings

poetry writing and a newsletter published several times a year describing the events that happen in imaginary Happyville

Uninformed people might overlook our small community or wonder what we do for fun. Those of us who call this home, look around at all our wide open spaces, count our blessings and get busy living!



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Monday, March 21, 2016

Grateful on Mission

Hello, Friends!



When you had a chance to go on a mission trip and you knew it was going to be fun and gratifying because no one can out give God, but He pours out his blessings in ways you never dreamed, it takes a few days to process it.

Let alone share it with others. Some things should be treasured up in your own heart, but others you want to shout from the mountaintop so God gets HIS glory.

If you have ever been tempted to go on a mission trip, but you didn't because you thought you were too:
old
young
weak
strong
timid
outgoing
scared
untalented
talented
rich
poor
skilled
unskilled

get out your BIG eraser and get rid of those lies.

Don't miss the good stuff that happens when a team of Christians joins forces and works toward a common goal in the name of the Lord.



Backstory

Our church has long supported Casas Por Christo, whose goal is to share Jesus through building homes in Mexico, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. Many of us have also personally supported our friend, Scott Dewitt, a full time employee for Casas. Scott and Jonna were our youth ministers when our boys were young and we love them.

Several mission teams from our church have gone to Juarez to build homes. Brad and I helped chaperon a group when Brock was in high school. I count that as one of the highlights of my life. God grew all 3 of us during those hot, hardworking days. Because of this experience, I felt like I knew what to expect.

Wrong.

This trip was different and all kinds of goodness in a totally different way. The combination of building for a pastor's family.....a group of adults about whom we didn't have to worry....and 2 people with us who could speak a little Spanish made for a wonderful connection with our Hispanic hosts.

I love a good list so that is how I will share a bit of our trip with you. These are some of the praises I wrote in my gratitude journal during our few days across the border.



Grateful Mexico Moments 

In no particular order, I'm thankful for.....

1. A great group of fellow travelers, including our sister and brother-in-law and some of our dearest friends

2. A commonality despite our differences- JESUS!

3. Cows, cows, and more cows-mainly black angus

4. The beauty of green as we traveled south. Spring had arrived down there!

5. A gorgeous Texas sunset, cows on the horizon, taking photos in my head




6. Traveling new roads, seeing new towns-I especially enjoyed the Texas town with a circle drive around the courthouse.

7. Our spunky waitress at Cracker Barrel-She started out harsh, but we ended up talking about Jesus.

8. The opportunity to go on this trip

9. A great worship service at Grace church in Wichita Falls-To remember:gorgeous facilities, no formal offering taken except in collection boxes placed around the building. They told us they only start a building project when they have all the money to pay for it-and they obviously had many building projects. Word to remember from the sermon: Abide

10. Belle's Chicken Dinner, Abilene-good food and a singing waitress with a beautiful voice


11. Laughing hysterically at Brad's sincere sympathy for dirt that can't raise corn and beans, no matter how hard it tries

12. A lovely evening with Scott and Jonna and children-so nice to reconnect AND enjoy great BBQ

13. A good night's rest before crossing the border-I worried more about not sleeping than anything.

14. Praying together before crossing that we would bring God glory as we blessed and were blessed by the Acuna family

15. The sharp contrast in 5 miles. How can it be? We are so thankful to live in America, truly the land of opportunities!


Off to school!


16. Tears and hugs from Marta when we arrived. I have tried to imagine the emotional roller coaster her family had been on. It isn't easy to accept help and I pray that we didn't come across as people swooping in to solve their problems. It was obvious their family had the most important things- Jesus, love, and each other.

17. Meeting their beautiful children-Luis, Elsie, Anahy, and Naphtali and his wife, Christian

18. Hard work but wonderful camaraderie among all of us-a Holy Spirit thing. Not a harsh word was spoken the entire week. And I didn't see any eye-rolling either! Or meaningful stares.

19. Hospitality shown in a 2 room home with dirt floors-BIG LESSON for me. Have company. Feed people. Love others. Stop thinking everything must be perfect.

20. Great Mexican food prepared for us by Marta and the Casas cooking team. Who knew there was such a thing as fried tacos?


Marta covered our tortillas with this beautifully embroidered cloth. Isn't it pretty? 

21. Reminders to "look up and see" what is happening around me. I tend to focus right in front of me and I miss the big picture sometimes.

22. Serious conversations in God's timing.

23. Playing games in the evening. Have you played "Spot It"? I'm terrible at it, but I loved it!

24. Special worship time when I stepped into the church while the 2 girls were singing worship songs. Reminder of how blessed I was to be able to go on this trip. Is that what happens when you aren't distracted by TV or computers-you sing worship songs for fun? Hmmmm.

25. Hard Work + Fresh Air = Good Tired + Good Sleep

26. Amazement at the construction skills of Rosemary, Geri, and Tami! No offense, Theresa and Debbie and me!

27. Walls covered in scripture written in English and Spanish before the dry wall went in place








This is the quilt we made during the Super Bowl game for our Casas family.  

28. Brad's patience letting me drive nails that would have been simpler to hit once himself and be done. Okay. Maybe twice. (Wink)

29. A touching worship service including loud praise in English and Spanish, prayers, tambourines, and another very loud Mexican noisemaker, dancing, foot washing, hugs, and God's word. Heaven is going to be amazing!

30. Rosario, the pastor and father, reminding us before worship...."Let's enjoy the Lord." Yes. Let's. I bet God gets tired of being presented by the enemy as mean and harsh and judgmental. God is LOVE. Why would we resist that?



31. Presenting this wonderful family with the keys to their new home

32. A "Pepper" party after the house dedication with 3 kinds of empanadas made with love by Marta. My favorites were either the meat or pineapple ones. Yum!

33. By our last day, we visited with Marta like old friends and sisters in Christ.


34. Knowing we will meet again in glory if not before

35. A high school boy in tears as he said good bye to Luis, also in tears. These boys bonded over soccer and guy-ness.



36. Flavored liquid creamer, gas station hot dogs (not me!), french fries

37. Our clean, little, friendly community. HOME.

38. Our praying and loving church family who made our trip possible. Their generosity paid for the home we built and their prayers lifted us and got us there and back safely. We are blessed.




Sidebar: I took lots and lots of pictures and enjoyed looking through them and editing the ones I liked best. I was presented with a dilemma when selecting the ones to include in this blog post. I had a choice of how to present the community-as a poverty stricken sad place or a place of hope.

Someone with a camera and an agenda could come to our home town and focus on the sad and ugly or try to capture the spirit of our county and see the beautiful.

It seemed so disrespectful to Rosario and Marta to focus on what they did not have. Instead, I chose to look at what they had. They had all the things that really matter. And lots of it.

There is beauty everywhere. I chose to look for that.

People are people no matter where they live, the size of their bank accounts, or the language they speak. We all need Jesus, and without HIM we are poor, indeed.

Our group went to Mexico, but what we did is no more important than helping the person who lives across the street from you. So gather your people and your tools-no matter what they may be- and let's share Jesus.

I'd love to hear what Jesus is teaching you. Please encourage all of us and share in the comments!



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