Our Jim Thorpe Getaway

Several weeks ago our family squeezed in a mini vacation. We were looking for something that was just a couple of days, very low key, and not far away. Jim Thorpe was an area we’ve been meaning to explore, so we decided to head there this year. Here are a number of pictures taken while we were there:

DSCN5222

Our first stop was to Hickory Run State Park. One attraction there is this huge boulder field. It’s a great workout to work your way any distance across this jumble of boulders, though I did wonder how many broken ankles and twisted knees it has claimed. Don’t worry, we came through unscathed!

DSCN5223

DSCN5225

Our next stop was a hike to Hawk Falls.

DSCN5239

The last thing we did at Hickory Run was a trail called “Shades of Death.” It was my favorite!

DSCN5235

Despite the name, this trail had lots of beautiful sights to behold. It was slightly challenging, but well worth it.

DSCN5237

It was the perfect way to end our adventures at Hickory Run.

After a fast food supper, we stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn Suite. Actually, we stayed both nights there and had a great experience. The free breakfast was probably one of the best I’ve ever had at a hotel. Lots of hot foods and even a pancake machine, which my gang was kind of fascinated with. For this big family, it was well worth it. The free hot breakfast, along with a packed lunch and snacks meant we just had to buy dinner out.

DSCN5243

The next day brought us to the actual town of Jim Thorpe. We first stopped at the Jim Thorpe Memorial, which is where I took this cool statue pic.

DSCN5244

 

DSCN5247

Next we went to town, which is pretty and has plenty of neat architectural building details. There were a bunch of cute little shops and such, but traveling with a pack of boys was not conducive to my checking out “cute” shops. So…we were in the town for maybe 55 minutes and they were itching to leave. Nice, huh? (This Real Family Vacation moment brought to you by the Craig family! You’re welcome.)

Oh well, our next stop was enjoyed by all.

DSCN5255

Our next destination was the No. 9 Coal Mine.

DSCN5254

I was able to get about zero good pictures within the mine, but I can tell you that we all learned a lot and enjoyed our time there. Our tour guide, Larry, was hilarious and made it even better. My take-away was that I would never, ever want to work in a coal mine.

This next picture was from the museum portion of the tour.

I think the sign says a lot, don’t you?

DSCN5259

After the mine we stopped at Lehigh Gorge State Park, which boasts a gorgeous waterfall trail called Onoko Glen Falls. This sign is what we first saw once approaching the trail. A little disconcerting, especially while hiking with kids, but we pressed on.

DSCN5263

Onoko Glen was SO beautiful, though And we didn’t die. Or fall. Or anything like that.

This is a shot looking down some of the falls.

DSCN5264

My photos do absolutely no justice to this place. In person I found it breathtaking.

We wrapped up our day by stopping at a Butterfly Sanctuary and eating at a fabulous Italian restaurant. The third day we were planning to drive to Ricketts Glen State Park and do some hiking and exploring, then head home in the late afternoon/evening. However, a very ugly forecast (which included extreme thunderstorms/hail/etc.) for the whole area convinced us to pack it in and head home early.

Well, that’s it for this trip. Next year we seriously hope to travel out west, specifically looking at Zion National Park and a few others in that vicinity. I am super excited for this to possibly finally happen!

Dear Kiddos…

Dear Kiddos,
We are only a couple of days away from a brand new school year. Are you excited?!? I kind of am, though a quiet house will take some getting used to again. I enjoy it, but boy am I glad to see that bus roll up in the afternoons! It’s not the same without you here.
I can’t believe you’re all as old and as big as you all are. I am blown away that this will be the last year our family will have kids in elementary school… AND that we have not one, but TWO in high school!! And yes, once again I am writing you a letter to prep you for a new school year. Bear with me please. I’ll keep it short and sweet this time.

DSCN5233
First, I’d like to remind you to be kind and respectful to each one of your teachers. There will be some that you love and some that probably won’t be your favorites. You know this already. Each one is to be treated with the utmost kindness and respect. Teachers have one heck of a tough job these days, so please do your best to brighten their day. Look for ways to help them out in any way you can. You have no idea what a big influence you may have on them!
Try your absolute best, even if you have a subject that doesn’t come easy for you. We are at the point where you older guys are required to take some subjects that may not be such a piece of cake. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! A teacher would rather you ask for help than see you struggle and not admit that you need a bit of help or need something explained in a different way. Dad and I are always here for you, in whatever way we can assist. Yes, we are old and our school days are long past, but we’re not total dummies either. Please don’t forget that we are always on your team and are cheering you on.
Now onto your classmates. Oh boy, what can I say? Pretty much what I always have, and that is to be a little light to everyone around you. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It’s very cliché but oh-so-true. Boys, respect the young ladies around you and be good role models. Act like the godly young gentlemen we have strived to raise you to be. Daughter, continue to be a godly young lady. We are SO glad that you all don’t try super hard to “fit in.” It’s not worth it. Be who you are, but more importantly, remember WHOSE you are. No matter what.
You guys are awesome. We are so stinking proud of each one of you. I pray that you will all have a great school year! Dad and I are here for you.
Love you all SO much.
Mom

****To read the letter I have posted the previous two years, click here.

Taking a Different Path, Part 2

I’m back again, this time with Part 2 of our story. (If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, take a minute to do so. That way you can have a clue what I’m talking about!)

I pick up at the point where my husband went to his first ever interview since deciding to leave his job of many, many years. He had been injured that very morning, but went ahead with the interview, and did NOT get the job. Bummer, but we figured it was not meant to be.

Within the next week there was a big meeting to discuss future plans within his company. Since all of the head honchos were there at the same time, he shocked the lot of them by telling them he meant to leave the company, plus some reasons why. Within the next several weeks he was convinced by them to at least stay on through the holidays, which he finally agreed to do (He is truly my better half—he was so much nicer and more gracious than I think I would have been.)

In August we took a big family vacation to Maine. It was truly a time of refreshment for our family, and also the time we sat our kids down and told them what was up. We had a time of honest sharing and praying over the whole situation. I asked Jeff what HE would really like to pursue as a future job, not taking into account wages, benefits, etc. Topping his list was anything involving wood, a longtime passion of his (when we had free time, which was not very often). Other then that he had no one thing that he was honed in on trying.

DSCN4830

Post-vacation, Jeff went back to work, but with a very clear sense that he no longer belonged there. Before we knew it, the holiday season was again upon us, historically their company’s craziest time of year. In the back of our minds was always the question of “what in the world is going to happen to us after this?” However, working oodles of hours doesn’t allow one to complete a job search very well. I watched my husband working himself to death, trying to do a good job and making sure the company was well prepared for his leaving. He would leave super early in the morning, come home maybe by dinnertime, and be sound asleep by 7 pm every night. He was working like a madman and I was feeling like a single parent.

Well, Christmas soon came and I nervously wrote out our situation in our Christmas card letter, asking folks to lift up our family in prayer. At this point he hadn’t applied or sent a resume anywhere else yet, and I started to get very nervous. On January 2, the kids went back to school, but Jeff had a day off. He had by then compiled a list of possible places to apply and I helped him sharpen his resume. Many of them had no job openings listed, but he took a chance and sent or dropped off a resume anyhow.

For the place at the very top of his list, he physically stopped in to drop off a resume. The owner of the company, who often travels, happened to be there and ended up giving my husband about an hour-long tour of their facilities and talking with him. The owner told him they had no openings, but they were thinking about maybe hiring someone else. He took his resume and Jeff came home wound up, excited about this particular place. About two weeks passed and we had no leads, other than one other place that was maybe interested in him. At this point he had already given his company a final date, even though there was not a new job lined up. I remember one day I was feeling incredibly anxious about the whole thing, having no idea what our future held. I was lifting the whole thing up to God, and had a clear comfort from Him: “My daughter, don’t you fret. Trust me. I’ve got this.” Immediately I had a calm that can only be attributed to coming from Him. I laid my trust in Him and recognized that His plan would be revealed in the right time.

In mid-January, Jeff had an unused week of vacation time from the previous year to use or lose. He used it to keep on the job hunt, still not having much luck. That same week he got a call from the wood place he was most interested in. Could he come in for an interview that week? Sure! He went in for the interview and was offered a position that very same day. (Of course, he said he would consult with his wife first before making a decision.) I really felt like he should go for it, and it was set that he would start in February. He went immediately from one job to the other, without any period of unemployment, so that was a huge praise.

Well, that’s the long-winded back story on how my husband decided to leave his career and start completely fresh somewhere else.

How has it been? Well, strange for him to start out as the new guy who knows the least, especially coming from somewhere where he had worked there pretty much the longest and knew all the ins and outs of the company. Great in that he now is home for breakfast with his family every morning, has about a 10-15 minute commute, and has great hours. Oh, and a long mandatory lunch break. We’ve been sneaking little lunch dates at least every other week together. Not so great is a huge initial drop in income and navigating new insurances and the like. I had to learn about COBRA and  rollover benefits and fun little things like that. We’ll survive, it’s just a matter of adapting for awhile. With money we had diligently scraped up and saved, we paid off our mortgage 2 years early, so that’s been a big burden lifted. (Another praise item–one of our kids had an injury needing stitches at the ER. It happened the same week we all became insured again! Thank you Lord that my boy wasn’t hurt worse–and for that timing.) But it’s all been worth it to see my husband not completely burnt out and passionate about learning new things. His new company does some very interesting things and has “interesting” customers that he tells us about at dinner. He now has more time for us and is toying with different wood projects. (Let this shock you–he is now on Pinterest! It’s too funny, actually. Never saw that one coming….)

Thank you to those who have prayed for us these many months. I give God the glory for lining things up the way only He could do, and we are completely trusting Him for whatever the future may hold.

Taking a Different Path, Part 1

I have shared approximately zero about this topic on my blog yet, but today’s the day. Those who know us personally know that our family (well, my husband specifically, but it affects us all!) has undergone a big life change in 2017. My dear man, back in mid-February, chose to leave his career of nearly 28 years.

DSCN4830

Here’s the back story….

Jeff has been a butcher all of his adult life, and for the same company too. He had learned and mastered many different roles within the company and enjoyed his work. It was where we had both envisioned him working until retirement. Back in 2015 he lost a finger–ironically, not at work, but at home on a lawnmower belt. At that time the surgeon informed him he was not to work for 6-8 weeks, as the risk of infection was too great to be handling raw meat and other such things. So, very unexpectedly, my husband was off for a good portion of a summer. At the time, though it was a complete bummer that he was now minus a finger and temporarily out of work and a paycheck, it wasn’t the end of the world, could have been much worse, and I had the strong sense that it happened for a reason. Why, we had no idea, but I really felt like when that happened it was a catalyst for a change of some kind.

He went back to work with gusto at summer’s end and things were basically back to normal. At the end of 2015, after a very stressful holiday season with many long hours, one night he was nearly crying and told me “I can’t go through another holiday season there.” We felt a change coming but had no idea what that was yet, so we just prayed about what that may look like in the next year. He trudged through the beginning of 2016 and worked as normal. I felt the call to begin working part-time and got a job as secretary at our home church.

One evening in July, Jeff was feverishly working on something on the computer. I could see the frustration etched on his face and asked what he was working on. “A resume” was all the response I got. Though I knew this was likely coming, I was still a bit in shock.  He had seen an ad for a wood distribution place that he apparently was interested in and planned to send a resume to. We both slept little that night, tossing and turning and praying. He sent it in and got a call for an interview the next week.

The morning of the interview he went to work early, before anyone else was in yet. As he was pulling out a rolling metal cart out of the smokehouse, it tipped over and landed on top of him, about 1,000 pounds between the cart and the meat on it. I was later sickened when I heard that a metal bar or pipe was firmly lodged right on his windpipe. Miraculously he was somehow able to wiggle out with just some burns on his face and neck, bumps and bruises, and a sore back. (I was also a little ticked that he didn’t tell his wife until late that afternoon!) The poor guy went to a job interview with a bandaged face and neck, a missing finger, and limping badly from his ordeal that morning. He didn’t get the job….

Stay tuned for Part 2, Coming soon!

Making Your Home a Refuge

Refuge. That word has been rolling around in my mind for the last several days. It keeps popping up in my thoughts and, though I have not blogged in awhile, I knew I had to write about it.

Here’s what got me started….

St-Pauls-Chapel-250th-Ann3

This building in the picture. St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City, NY.

My daughter and I took a bus trip to NYC this past weekend. We visited a lot of the main tourist spots you would likely think of—Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Central Park, and so on. But this place, St. Paul’s Chapel, was one of my favorites. I have no explanation why, other than it felt like a place of refuge to me. It was used as a refuge for many on the day of 9/11, plus for rescue workers in the many months following that tragic day. It was used as a center for rest, meals, sanitation, etcetera round the clock. Entering it for the first time almost 16 years later, I could see why it felt like a refuge. For myself and my daughter, hustling around NYC all day, it certainly felt like a refuge as well. It was beautiful, fairly quiet, and not completely humming with activity.

Since then the word refuge has stuck with me, and since I am a Mom, specifically the question, “am I making my HOME a refuge?” I sure hope the answer is yes. You see, we don’t exactly live in a war zone or anything like that. It may seem like quite the opposite, as we live amongst rural, beautiful farmland in a relatively conservative area. However, we aren’t locked up in our own little world all the time. I have a husband who dutifully goes to work every day, providing for our family. My kids all attend public school, plus are involved in other activities. I work part-time, plus attend to the myriad of details that come with running a household of 7. We certainly don’t live in a bubble.

Here’s why I hope my home is a refuge. The world out there can be tough–for the grown-ups as well as the kids. They need somewhere, after a long day at work or at school, to feel like they can rest, be refreshed, be loved, and not feel bombarded by the world. As my kids keep getting older (funny how that happens, eh?) I see the need for them to have a refuge more than ever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard one of them say after coming in from school, “Oh, I’m so glad to be home!” Or I’ve heard my husband say, “It’s so good to be home.” This is why I’ve made it a point to be home when my older guys get home. Some of the best and most open dialogues we have had is that first hour after school. This is why I try to have a nice cooked meal (and a hug) awaiting my man when he gets home from work. This is why I try to keep things at least semi-organized and not chaotic feeling. There’s enough chaos out in the world, they don’t need it at home too.

Sure, our house is no showpiece. It won’t be on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens any time soon, and that’s okay with me. My crew is comfortable here and they don’t feel like they live in a museum. My kitchen is not perfect, but it’s well used….like, all the time. I’m not serving up gourmet fare, but no one goes hungry and they all seem to enjoy my meals. We’re not always wearing the trendiest outfits and my kids might wear the same three shirts all season long (their choice), but the laundry is kept after and we’re not in debt paying for superficial things we can’t afford. We’re not perfect parents, or even the perfect husband & wife, but we try our best and try to honor God in what we do.

It’s important to me that each child feels unconditionally loved, secure, and refreshed by coming home. Same goes for my husband. My greatest role is still as a Mom and a wife to these precious ones, even though they aren’t exactly little anymore.

Am I making my home a refuge? I hope so. And I hope yours is too.

 

How We Do Life

I think it’s fascinating how so very different each family is. Their traditions, their way of operating, and just the way they roll. It really got me thinking about how our family does life, how WE roll. Our family is not perfect. No family is. We have numerous flaws, oddities, and times we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and vow to do better. We’re all different….and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

This is how we do life:

God is the center of our home. Everything revolves around that—our marriage, our parenting, everything else.

We say please and thank you. Even Mom and Dad do this, even with something as insignificant as passing the salt. Manners are important and show respect.

Family dinner is a high priority, and we always pray before we eat together. It’s just not the same when we all have to grab something and rush out the door, or when someone is missing. This is where we share about our day, the highs and lows, and just hang out for a time.

We expect good behavior. I am not a yeller–never have been, probably never will be. And no, I wasn’t really into “time outs” when the kids were little. There may have been an occasional swat on the backside when deliberate misbehavior happened. My kids aren’t angels, but they certainly aren’t brats either. I have no explanation for this, other than that they are just expected to behave!

july 2015 037

We love to read. Yes, all 7 of us. There is no secret technique or formula that we used when our kids were little, except that we read to them a lot and they saw us reading for pleasure. It caught on, and it warms my heart to see them all devouring books.

We try not to overschedule ourselves. This is such a balancing act once everyone gets to a certain age, and right now we’re in the thick of it. Each child is in at least one activity. However, we are deliberate about not being too busy and will say “no thanks” to things that will make for an overly hectic week.

october 2015 019

We have a minimum of technology in our house. Seven people, one laptop. No personal Ipads, Ipods, tablets or anything. (Our oldest did get a very basic cell phone for his 15th birthday.) They ask before they use the computer, and if playing games on it, a timer is usually set.

longwood may 2015 031

We try not to be materialistic. We have learned to live on one income, and live well on it. Secondhand clothes are just fine by us, as well as older vehicles and a not-big house. Christmas and birthdays usually are simple. Things aren’t too important, but people are.

1381944_10202386306808760_688442640_n

We serve others as best as we can. My husband is the prime example for this and is literally one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known. My parents are also great examples of this. I have become better at this as an adult (I think), but there’s always room for improvement. It is a joy to serve together, especially when it’s something the whole family can do.

Vacation and time away together is important to us. No, they are usually not fancy affairs, but that’s okay. We shoot for one week in the summer, just us, away from all of our usual stresses and things that pull for our attention. We’re not into overly crowded, “touristy” places. Give us a cabin in the middle of the woods somewhere and we are usually happy campers.

october 2015 020

We try to foster curiosity and a love for learning. I would label my husband and I as self-starters, or perhaps “self-motivated” people. We enjoy learning new things and encourage that in our kids. There is currently a continual pile of books on the couch, homemade contraptions or inventions in nearly every room, a plant cart in my living room, and a cricket farm and “lab” in my basement. No, our house is never picture perfect, but that’s okay with me. There’s a lot of love here and I’ll not squelch their innate curiosity. (Though too much clutter and mess does make me crazy.)

We are foodies. Kind of. My husband and I entered marriage in a unique situation—that is, we both knew how to cook. I do the majority of cooking during the week as I am the “at home” parent, and he does some meals on the weekends. We don’t eat out a whole lot as it gets wicked expensive for 7 people! Plus homemade is healthier. We have taught each kid various cooking skills, so hopefully they know how to fend for themselves once they grow up. As I’ve said before, to their future spouses: You’re Welcome.

photo (15)

We try to be real. It’s interesting that my oldest, now in high school, is so very perceptive of “fake” people. I can’t stand it either, and hopefully I never come across that way. (You have permission to call me out on it if I do! Or slap me.) Like I said earlier, we are real. We are flawed. We are human.

Well folks, that’s how we do life around here. Each family has their own ways, and that’s cool. So now if you suspected that we were weird before, you got your confirmation by reading this!

Our Maine Adventure

This summer I fell in love.

Not with a person, but with a place.

Our family was finally able to visit Maine, and specifically Acadia National Park. It was something that had been on our bucket list for some time, but we decided to just go for it this year. I’m so glad we did!

Here are some of my photos taken while there:

DSCN4720

First up is the little property we rented. I have had tremendous luck with the VRBO website and found an absolute beauty of a cottage for us. We walked in, looked around, and declared it perfect for our family.  This is the pond in back of the cottage, where we could sit and read or just relax. I have to say that the location of this place was wonderful—well away from Bar Harbor and crowds, on the very quiet side of the island.

DSCN4727

Our first full day there we set out to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. To get a great view of it, you need to climb down some steps and make your way over on giant boulders that sit along the shore everywhere.

DSCN4721

This is a view looking out the other direction. This trip was my first experience with this type of coastline, and I loved it.

DSCN4800

Our favorite place to visit was a place called Wonderland. There is an easy trail that leads out to this coastal area that has lots of tide pools. We ended up visiting there a couple of times during our week at Maine.

DSCN4795

DSCN4791

DSCN4802

Lots of cool little discoveries at this place and we spent hours there. Truly it was a “Wonderland” for my kids.

DSCN4746

The next day we did a tour of the main part of Acadia. We drove the Park Loop road, which I highly recommend. There are many places to pull over and park along the way. We parked at the Otter Point area and hiked the Ocean Path a couple miles up to Thunder Hole.

DSCN4750

Along the way were the Otter Cliffs, as well as many other scenic views. At many points you could go out to the edge, whether it be high up or down along the water.

DSCN4760

DSCN4762

We also drove up Cadillac Mountain, where you could see out far in all directions.

DSCN4771

That evening we attended a lumberjack show, which was both educational and entertaining!

DSCN4775

Our family usually enjoys the lesser-known spots and trails. Fortunately for us, we were on the side of the island away from the main crowded areas. It was still full of beautiful things to see and do! Above is a picture from serene Pretty Marsh Harbor.

DSCN4786

I regret that I have no decent pictures from our whale watching excursion.(Those whales are just too darn fast for me!) This was an incredible experience! We saw many different whales and were VERY fortunate to see them in various stages of feeding. Lots of tail flukes, some full rolls, and one that did about a full breach for its rapt audience! Upon pulling back into the harbor, our guide was wowed and said that was the best trip they had all summer! An unforgettable experience for all.

DSCN4788

One morning we visited the Oceanarium, which boasts a lobster hatchery and museum, among other things. At first glance it appears a little run down and ramshackle, but we had a good experience there and learned so much. The guides really took a lot of time to explain things to the kids.

DSCN4810

DSCN4804

Another morning we took the gang and hiked up a mountain. Parkman Mountain was one of the neatest hikes I’ve ever done. Though it’s not as well known as Precipice or the Beehive, it was really cool and worth the climb. (And yes, now I can say that I’ve done one with rungs built into the rocks to actually help climb up…it was just in one spot, but whatever. Bragging rights, y’all.) My husband was taken with all of the old cairns that marked some of the original trails. We saw cairns just about everywhere.

DSCN4811

It was a great experience to conquer a mountain as a family. We had a picnic lunch at the summit to celebrate.

DSCN4830

On our very last full day in Maine we hiked around Jordan Pond (which to me was more like a lake…). Part of it was on little boardwalks, as seen above.

DSCN4837

The water that day was a gorgeous blue–my pictures do it no justice.

Some other places we visited were Echo Lake Beach, and my oldest and his Dad hiked Beech Mountain and the Beech Cliffs and said they were awesome.

Honestly, I think we could have stayed a couple of weeks there and still not have been able to do everything we wanted. That just means we have to go back one day…

Seriously, I very much fell in love with Maine and Acadia. It suited us so well and was one of our best vacations ever. If I didn’t love our little piece of Lancaster County so much, I would be very tempted to move!!

Hope you enjoyed my photos.

 

Dear Kids…

Today I am re-posting something that I wrote around this time last summer. My kids start school in just a week and I got to thinking about this little letter again. Reading it a year later, I echo every word of it once more.

***********************************************************************

Dear Daniel, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Tomorrow you all will be heading off once again for a brand new school year!  I know you are ready to start back up, but may have some butterflies about it too. I know that I always did when I was your age.

As your dear old Mom, here are some things I’d like to tell you before I send you off to start your new grade. I know I’ve said lately that I’m excited for you all to get on that bus so I can have a little time by myself, and that is true. I do like a little time alone here at our house when it’s nice and quiet and everyone is at school. However, know that I do miss you all and am praying for you every time that bus picks you up. It’s like 5 pieces of my heart leave me and then return in the afternoon.

fort, longwood 8-15 037

Guys, I encourage you to do your absolute best while you’re at school. Each of you has been very blessed with the ability to learn things pretty easily and to usually do well on tests. Not every kid has that advantage, so don’t take it for granted. Help other kids as you are able and while it’s okay to be proud of a good grade (and you should be!), no one likes a bragger. Also, just because learning may come easier for you than some other kids, it is not an excuse to slack off. You are still called to do your best at whatever job you’ve been given, and right now that job is schoolwork.

Now, this is what I want you to know about your teachers. They are there to help you learn and be the best person you can be. Teaching is NOT an easy job, and you are to be kind and respectful to each teacher you have, even if they are not your favorite. From what I’ve seen, they really do want what’s best for their students and love all of the kids in their care. All teachers have tough days sometimes and I want you to help make their days a little brighter by being in their class.

With that being said, let’s talk about the other kids in your classes. Every kid is different, and I think you all already know that. Some kids are ones that are easy to be friends with. I used to gravitate towards those types of kids and stick with them. Other kids are not so easy to be friends with, or maybe they are difficult for the teachers and other grown-ups in the school.  Perhaps they are mean or rude or maybe even cry over silly things. Maybe it’s a kid that is dirty a lot or smells, or has other issues. Here’s the thing, guys—you just never know what that kid is dealing with at home. You all come from a pretty good household (I think!) and have two parents that dearly love you, take care of you, discipline you, and teach you about Jesus. Maybe you think every kid comes from a house like that, but they don’t.  Anymore a house like ours is a little rare. I just think that it’s important to remember that when a kid is maybe acting out or different in some way.  Please, please, be kind and show love to everyone, even if they are not especially likeable. Remember how much Jesus loves each of us, and maybe YOU are the person he is using to show that love to another kid.

Here’s another thing that ties in with what I just said: I want you guys to be a “little light” to everyone you meet at school. Dad and I think that you already have been, and we are so proud of you for that! Keep it up. I really do believe that God uses people in certain places and at certain times. For the last years and even now we think that we’ve been called to have our family be a part of the public school here. As I said before, not everyone comes from a family that believes like we do, but I want you to show them love as Jesus has commanded us to do. Maybe that means being a friend to someone who is shy, or holding a door for others, sharing a book, or inviting a kid that’s alone to play with you on the playground. You just never know what impact you’ll have on someone else.

Also, stand up for what you believe in. Our world is a little crazy right now, and sadly, it’s just going to get worse. That makes me worried for you as you grow up. This is part of what I pray about for you all the time. However, you have been taught what is right and what is wrong, and don’t be afraid to say and act on what you believe. I know you can do it!

I love you guys like crazy and will miss you. Have a great first day in your new grade!

Love, Mom

 

The Weight of Words

I should’ve seen the comment coming, but I didn’t.
Usually it happens that way. Sometimes there’s the usual suspects that you can brace yourself for and know something not-uplifting will likely come out of their mouth upon seeing you.
Then there’s the ones that take you by surprise.
Surprise or not a surprise, those words sting. A lot. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 years old or pushing 40, they still hurt. If you’re anything like me, though they may have been forgiven decades ago, those words can still smart at the oddest times many years later.
I’ve been wanting to write about the weight of our words for a long time now, but something happened last night that prompted my heart to write about it in a vulnerable way this morning.

Ephesians-4-29-MYB-e1380484295267
You see, it started like this….
We were up at my parents’ house last evening for a Memorial Day picnic. Things were going fine and we had the surprise of an older gentleman who worked with Jeff and I  years ago showing up to eat dessert and visit with my husband and I and generally catch up with everyone. When he had his visit in, he got up to leave and shook Jeff’s hand, then came over to me for a hug. This older man gave me a long, heartfelt squeeze, then loudly proclaimed, “Boy, I’ve always loved big women.” Everyone laughed. I could feel my cheeks starting to redden, and he went to joke about how my husband must like them too and made a joke about big barns or barn doors or some such nonsense. Everyone seemed amused at his antics. Everyone except me. I think I was a little flabbergasted and most definitely embarrassed. I saved my tears for later on when everyone was in bed and then broke down in front of my poor neighbor at the bus stop this morning.
Why oh why did this affect me so dearly? Especially as a supposedly confident, grown woman now pushing forty? I know I’m not alone. I have tons of sisters out there who have had to deal with similar things throughout their life and I’m sure can testify to how much it hurts.
I’ve never been petite, or svelte and willowy, or lots of the other things our culture reveres as a standard of beauty. Growing up as a tall, big kid, I have always had to field similar comments here and there. I have heard a whole litany of them. I can remember almost every one too. Even if 10 people could tell me they think I’m smart or kind or beautiful, that one comment about my weight or whatever else can easily drag me down in a tailspin and make me stew and generally feel terrible about myself. I could write a whole article (or series) about the topic of weight/size/etc, but I’ll save that for another time.
Here’s what I have to say to everyone—watch your words. Words hurt, even if they weren’t meant in a mean-spirited way. And I’m not just referring to weight, though that is a majorly sensitive one, especially for women. If I’ve gained weight, you really don’t need to tell me. I can assure you that I realize it already and am probably trying to quietly work on it. Though weight is a main one, it can really be anything. Maybe it’s parenting. Or your job status. Or your house. Or name-a-subject. Words are powerful, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with them. Whether spoken or written, let’s use them wisely.
If you’ve used your words in a way that hurt someone, whether intentionally or no, please consider apologizing to that person. I am far, far from perfect, so I’m sure that I’ve said (or written) my share of hurtful words in the past. I know I have. I apologize to anyone that I may have hurt in this way, truly I do.
Parents, we especially need to watch what we say directly to, or in front of, our kids. You never know what they will hold onto, whether it be good or bad. We have a responsibility to build our kids up, not tear them down. I’m amazed at what my kids remember me saying to them or just in earshot of them. Usually it’s a very humbling experience to hear back what they remember me saying. Though I’m generally one to speak love and encouragement to my kids, I’m far from a perfect parent.

Lord help us all, right?
Lastly, I’m going to address those of us who have been hurt by words from someone else. They may sting for a long time, but let’s try to forgive. We live in a fallen world and these things are going to happen. What’s most important for me to remember is how much God loves me and treasures me. He thinks I’m awesome, no matter how imperfect I may be. And he thinks you are too!
Let’s use our words wisely this week.