Our Western Adventure: Bryce Canyon National Park

Howdy all. Today I am following up on my series about our trip out west this summer. This time I am focusing in on our day at Bryce Canyon National Park, which was almost a 2 hour drive from where we stayed.

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It definitely deserves its own post, don’t you think? I’ve said this many a time over and over, but pictures really do it no justice. Bryce was absolutely stunning!

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One of the things that makes it so unique are the hoodoos, these crazy cool rock formations that are literally everywhere at Bryce.

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You can use your imagination as to what each looks like. The day we went, we were also gifted with a gorgeously blue, clear sky, which contrasted perfectly with the reddish orange color of the rocks.

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We began our travels at the Visitor Center, then drove over to Sunset Point. From there we hiked down Navajo Loop, which is a steep descent down into the canyon. I was SO glad we used that trail for going down, not up! It was basically a series of tight switchbacks that go on and on. From there we went across the bottom of the canyon, hiking the Queen’s Garden Trail. After going across a ways, we made our way up to Sunrise Point. One great thing about Bryce is that due to a much higher elevation, it is cooler in temperature than Zion. A bad thing is that unless you are used to the elevation, you can start to feel it when you hike. Thankfully we didn’t notice it as much until near the end of our longer hike, when heading back up the canyon.

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It is worth it though! Everywhere you turn is an amazing view! For several of my kids, along with my husband, Bryce was their favorite park.

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After our hike, we chose yet another amazing place to have a picnic lunch, then drove around to several of the viewpoints. Each one was spectacular!

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You can easily see at least the highlights of Bryce in a day trip, though I’m sure we would’ve discovered much more had we spent another day there. If you ever get a chance to visit, I’d highly recommend Bryce Canyon. It is truly a one-of-a-kind park that is unforgettable.

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Dear Kids…Fall 2018

Dear Dan, Andrew, Heidi, Joey, and Josh,

Here we are again, ready to launch into a brand new school year. Summer went by in a flash…actually, the last year went by in a flash, didn’t it? Eleventh, tenth, eighth, and sixth grades. WOW is all I can really say. Y’all are growing up way, way , WAY too fast for me.

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So, what do I want to tell you all before you head off on that exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking first day? First and foremost is that I love you like crazy and am so proud of each of you. Don’t you ever forget that. I’m not sure how this flawed, ordinary lady got blessed with such great kids, but hey, I’ll take it. No, I don’t think any of you are perfect (none of us are), but you do make me proud in so many ways that you probably don’t even realize. Keep on being great kids, whether that be with the big things in life or just the little everyday stuff.

Try your very best, whether it be in playing an instrument, learning new math skills, working in shop class, or writing an essay. I realize that not every subject will thrill you, but you are still to give it your best effort. No, I don’t expect anyone here to be perfect, but I do expect diligent work and not slacking off. Keep on reading and never be ashamed of your love for books.

I know I also say this every year, but be kind and respectful to each of your teachers, whether they are your favorite or not. Same goes for each of the staff members at your schools. And your classmates?? Yup, you are to show kindness to everyone, even the kids that get on your nerves (hint—they may be the ones who could use it the most).

Continue to be little lights for Jesus. We are now in the throes of middle and high school and though we try to protect you, I would be naïve to think you are not being exposed to at least some of the temptations and ugliness of this world. Please be extra strong in your faith and stand up for what you believe in. It just isn’t worth it to follow the crowd on so many things. I may be “old,” but I do know some things by this point, and that one I know for sure. You know what is worth it though? Having a firm foundation in the Lord and living for Him, not for the world. Believe me, people will notice and wonder what it is that makes you different. Hopefully you can tell them that it is Christ in you that makes a difference.

Well, that’s it for now. Know that I pray for each of you daily as you venture out and will continue to do so all of my days. Remember that Dad and I are rooting for you. We’re always here to listen, to help, and to love on you, no matter what. Good luck tomorrow. You’ll be just fine, even though you may be a little nervous. I’ll miss you, but am excited for a new year together!

Love, Mom

 

Our Western Adventure: Zion National Park

Happy Monday! If you caught my last post on the Hoover Dam, you will know that we just came back from a trip out west. I am doing a little recap of the different destinations we visited, along with pictures and my take on each one. Today I am delving into Zion National Park, which we visited 3 different days.

First things first–Zion is stunningly beautiful. You may have read that via other sources or have heard people talk about it. It’s definitely not overrated, and though my pictures are okay, they do it no justice.

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On our first day in Zion, we got there later in the morning, so we had to park in town and shuttle in. We kind of got the lay of the land that day and didn’t go too crazy with hikes. That day we did the Lower Emerald Pools trail (the Middle & Upper were closed due to storm damage), the Grotto, and the Court of the Patriarchs. We had our picnic lunch at the Grotto trail. We pretty much had an incredible picnic spot for lunch every single day on our travels. It was fabulous!

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On our second day at Zion, we met up with some friends who were also out there and did a portion of The Narrows together.

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The Narrows is a hike literally through the Virgin River, which runs through a slot canyon for many miles. We met up early in the morning and shuttled out to the Riverside Walk trail, which goes down to the entry point for the river. You then enter and hike upriver basically as far as you want, then turn back around until you get back to the entry point. I’m not sure how far we went upriver, but it took several hours going up, then not quite as long coming downstream.

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Every turn of the river gives you a new view. You always want to keep going to see what’s around the next bend! I told my friend that it was like a little slice of Paradise down there. It was also a much more comfortable temperature there in the morning, as well as pretty shaded.

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In the picture above, you can see how you are sometimes pretty hemmed in by the canyon walls. Since we went in the  summer, we did not rent any special gear, just wore closed toe hiking sandals, and we were all fine. You do have to be careful and take your time picking around and over a lot of the rocks in the water, that’s for sure. Fortunately the water was not high when we went and there were more sandy areas than I expected.

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I would highly recommend the Narrows for anyone visiting Zion. It is a really neat experience and a great bucket list hike!

We did a bunch of other day trips to other places in between, but then came back to Zion on our last day in Utah. This time we did one morning hike to Hidden Canyon, the trail I was most looking forward to. I had really wanted to do Angel’s Landing, but it was also closed due to storm damage the entire time we were out there, so that was a no go. Hidden Canyon is maybe not as well known, but it could be challenging too.

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One may think that to get to a hidden canyon, you are down low, but not in this case. It is a hanging slot canyon, so you actually walk up about a mile or so (and gain close to 1,000 feet in elevation during that mile) to get somewhat near the entrance to Hidden Canyon. It is a bunch of long switchbacks that take you up, up, up, so it’s no joke. Even super fit looking people were huffing and puffing on their way up, so that made me feel better as we took several quick breaks on the way up. At the top there is kind of a landing area where you can rest and keep going or turn back. Just beyond that is the start of the chains, the part I most wanted to do. My daughter was having no part of the chains and Jeff doesn’t love heights, so the boys volunteered to do this next part with me.

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Several parts had a slightly larger ledge, but you’re mostly holding on and watching your step, because it is a loooong drop off to the side. If there are people coming back the opposite way, you have to get to a wider section and maneuver around one another. The boys did great! Below is a picture that my husband took of us coming back on the one section.

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I would have loved to explore the actual canyon, which you can see the mouth of in the above picture. However, we had two family members waiting on us, so we didn’t tarry too much. It looked really cool in there though.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. As it was our last full day out there, we headed back to our rental and chilled before a long travel day.

A couple of things for people who may want to visit there…

Since we visited in early August, it was mega hot there every single day (as in 104-105 degrees F every afternoon). If you go in summer, take lots of water and make sure to drink it. There are water bottle filling stations at a lot of the stops, so top your water off whenever you have a chance. Plan hikes for the morning hours if possible. It is also extremely crowded that time of year and the main visitor lot fills up very quickly. We had to be there by @7:30 am if we wanted a spot, otherwise you end up parking in Springdale and shuttling in. If I ever go back (which I would LOVE to do) I would try to shoot for the fall when maybe it’s not so hot and crowded. Never the less, Zion is still gorgeous and I absolutely loved it. A beautiful piece of God’s creation, that’s for sure, and I’m so thankful to have experienced it.

 

 

 

Kidnapped!

As it is my 19th wedding anniversary this week, I thought I’d re-share a story I wrote 5 years ago. It’s a fun one and still makes me laugh!

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This is a true story. A true story about me–ON my wedding day.
I’m writing this, not as a serious piece or wannabe public service announcement, but to make you have a little chuckle at my expense.
You see, today is my 14th wedding anniversary.
Ah, the memories…

Here’s the things that stick out most in my mind when I think back on my wedding day:
It was hot. REALLY hot (just like today!). And humid.

The church we were married in was small and not air conditioned. Plus we were brainiacs and chose to get married at 2 in the afternoon on a mid-July day. Why not, right?

While I was waiting for my “big moment” after getting my wedding dress on, I waited in a basement room of the church, parked in front of a box fan with my dress hiked up over my knees. I was such a classy bride. Somehow a photo of this did not make it into our wedding album.

When my handsome groom was repeating his vows, I focused on a droplet of sweat that was making its way down his nose and hung on the end of it. Oh, and a fly buzzing around his head. Not because I’m shallow or flippant about my marriage, but because I was nervous about being in front of the crowd watching us. Something to focus on, you know?

Apparently he was just as nervous because when ring time rolled around, he was trying to put his ring on me. Um, it was way too big. Finally we figured it out and put the correct ones on each other. See, I told you we were brainiacs.

Since our reception was outside under a big rented tent, my wonderful parents had arranged for buckets of water ice to be available as a snack while we had our pictures done. People LOVED this idea. You know, in that awkward time span after a wedding while you’re waiting for the real food to start.

During cake time we were so NOT nice and sweet. Somehow I ended up with wedding cake up in my eye. A picture of this is in our wedding album. We kissed afterwards, so it’s all good.

After the cake and all that stuff, we were just about getting ready to go in, get changed into real clothes, and finally leave for our honeymoon. Just at that moment, my Aunt Beverly called us over to tell us something. That’s when the kidnapping occurred.

Yep, it’s really true. I was actually kidnapped on my wedding day.
Now, before I tell anymore, I have to explain a little more about who kidnapped me. To fully appreciate the story, you have to get a word picture of my uncles.
My Dad comes from a long line of farmers. So, pretty much 95% of his family is involved with farming somehow. And, at 6’6″, my Dad is the “little” one of his brothers. They’re both just about that tall, but much bigger than him. Not fat, just big and burly and farm-boy strong. They also have always had the mountain man beards going on, sorta like these guys.

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Anyway, are you getting a picture in your head?

Good, because here’s what happened next….

My Aunt Beverly calls us over. At that moment, a friend of ours (also extremely big and burly) grabs my new husband from behind. I was all like “What the…?” when I feel myself being lifted up by my elbows and see my Uncle Wayne on one side and my Uncle Frog (his real name’s Bob, by the way but I’ve always known him as Frog) on the either side of me, both with an iron grip on my arms. They half toss me (only because they’re super strong;)) into my Uncle Frog’s farm pickup. “Well Raquel Welch, (that’s been Frog’s nickname for me since I was little. I have no idea why, other than the fact that my name’s Rachel. Rachel, Raquel. He also calls my Dad Jesse James and my brother Honky Baloney. Everyone gets a cool nickname in this family.) we’re going to go for a ride.” Before I know it, we’re pulling out the parking lot of the church, and I still have no earthly clue what’s going on.

If you had a good picture of what Uncle Frog looks like, I’m sure you can imagine his pickup. Yes, my friends, I spent a small part of my wedding day sitting crunched (in my wedding dress on a 98 degree day, no less) between my mountain man uncles, gear shift in between my knees, and old Mountain Dew and green Skoal cans rolling around my feet. Oh, and baler twine and straw flapping around the back.

See, I told you I was a classy bride.

Anyhow, they start driving around the back roads near the church that I was married in, discussing crops and the weather like they hadn’t just snatched a newly married bride a mere 5 minutes before. I still had no idea what the heck was happening, but since I’m usually an easy going person, I was rolling with it. After a few miles, they looped back around to the church parking lot. They slow down and drive by the reception tent, where I see the guy who had held down my groom with a microphone in his hand.

“Did they get enough money yet?” one of my uncles hollers out the rolled-down window. “Nope, keep driving!” the other guy yells back. I also see my husband with a hat in his hand and a miffed expression on his face. Okay, so I’m starting to get a clue now. Apparently I’m being held for ransom. Why, I have no idea. But all of our wedding guests look like they’re enjoying themselves (as much as you can on such a hot day), so I guess it’s all some kind of big joke.

After more riding around and discussing farming, we pulled back around to the church and they were informed that I could be released now. I hop out of the truck in my wedding dress and see what’s up.

So, I guess my man had to go around and ask the guests for money to buy back his bride, then they planned to give us the money to spend on our honeymoon. My poor husband, who is very proud, especially when it comes to money, was mortified. Every time my uncles see him, they still love to tease him about it.

Right after this happened, and even for months afterward when the subject of our wedding comes up, people thought we were somehow in on their plan. A couple of people were like, “Rachel, you must be a good actress, because you looked really surprised.” Um, that’s because I WAS. Definitely no acting going on here.

So, there you have it folks. How I was kidnapped on my wedding day. It’s a pretty funny memory, and our kids just recently heard the story.

A day that will live in infamy. Ha ha, not really.

This picture was snapped a little while after, when we really WERE leaving for our honeymoon. This is one of my absolute favorite wedding day pictures. I’m sure we were like “Finally!”

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Thanks for tuning in!
Rachel

My Thoughts on Turning 40

I’m not 40 yet, but soon and very soon I will be! Oh yes, that milestone birthday has crept up and will be here in a few short weeks. How do I feel about it? Well, I’m really not quite sure. I don’t feel almost-40, whatever that is supposed to feel like. No mid-life crisis here yet or anything, but it does make me think about life and what I’ve learned in these almost 4 decades.

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So buckle up, here are my random streams of consciousness and things I’d tell those in their 20’s-30’s about life at 40:

Family is precious. They might drive you crazy at times, but they are such a wonderful gift. Don’t take a single one of them for granted because they might not always be around. That goes for your parents, spouse, kiddos, and so on.

You know who you are…for the most part at least. All the pretty sides of you and the not-so-pretty ones that surface sometimes (or often). By 40 you have a decent handle on what you’re good at, what you’re terrible at, what you will forever need to work on, spiritual gifts you have, sins that trip you up, etc. Things have come to my attention in my 30’s that I probably wouldn’t have been able to totally pinpoint 10 or 20 years ago.

You can’t eat just anything you want. Well, you can, but in your later 30’s there begin to be repercussions for eating whatever the heck you want, whether it be heartburn or digestive issues or jeans that suddenly seem smaller. I’m not sure about men, but for women (or at least ones I’ve talked to), the metabolism starts to not be quite so hot in the mid to later 30’s. (Unless you have a seriously active job or are a workout fiend.) Sad but true, my friends! Sad but true…

I value real, genuine people. I have developed a low tolerance for flakiness and fakey-ness. Instead I definitely take a shine to those who are just flat-out real and genuine with me and aren’t putting on a false front. I love down-to-earth folks and hope to heavens that I am that way. Feel free to slap me if I’m not! While I’m on the subject of personal pet peeves, I also can’t stand the whole entitlement mentality that seems rampant these days.

Experiences totally trump stuff. By this point I would much, much rather travel to somewhere new or experience something cool than buy a new wardrobe or drive a fancy car. I’d also rather my kids get experience gifts than junk. Things that we get to experience as a family are the very best of all.

Keep on learning new things. Just because you’re out of college or have a houseful of kids vying for your attention doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning. Check out things that interest you and go for it. I had a hankering to learn how to sew and bought myself a sewing machine for my 30th birthday. Since then I’ve learned how to use it, but I’ve also taught myself lots of other skills just in the past decade. I don’t plan on stopping either!

You hopefully have gained more wisdom by this point. By 40 most of us have had a whole host of ups and downs in every aspect of our lives–and hopefully we’ve learned a thing or two from those ups and downs that we can apply to future stuff! By the way, this is not to say that 20 or 30 year olds can’t be wise–I know plenty that are, I just believe it can increase with age and experiences.

Be content. Easy to say, sometimes hard to truly do.

You’re never going to please everyone. Trust me. I know this one well. Just do your absolute best and focus on pleasing the Lord, not so-and-so.

It’s okay to not check everything off your to-do list. I am an avid list person and make myself one of these pretty much every day. I have given myself permission to not complete the whole thing and leave one or two things undone. They usually get carried over until the next day.

Every day is a gift. Don’t squander it. It’s easy to take our health for granted when we’re young, but you never know when that could be taken away from you. My husband was a vibrant 37 year old when he had a stroke. I could have easily died from a rare and severe pregnancy complication when I was barely 23, fresh out of college, and delivering my firstborn child 6 weeks early. Praise God we are all healthy and fine, but it might have gone the other way. Those experiences definitely put things in perspective for me.

And the most important one I saved for last:

God is always faithful. Always. Don’t ever forget it, no matter what may be happening in your life. Trust Him. He loves you more than you could ever imagine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

Happy New Year everyone!

I pray that you have experienced a joy-filled holiday season and are eagerly looking forward to a brand new year. I’m sure I’m not alone in that this time of year makes me pause and reflect on happenings within the past year, plus look forward to some new things as well.

Here are some highlights from our year as a family:

*Our oldest two boys were able to go to Sea Base, a high adventure base in the FL Keys. They had a wonderful experience there, including paddling across the ocean in a canoe, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, and kayaking. They loved it. Oh yeah, it was the first time they’ve ever flown as well. My highlight was watching a video someone took of my boys’ faces that first time the plane really took off. I was dying!!

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*My husband left his job of many years and began afresh in a completely new career. This time last year we had no idea what the future held in this regard. God is SO good and brought about a new place of work that has been a refreshing change for him, and for us as a family. (Plus now he brings home really cool wood and makes things out of it.)

*My oldest turned 16! And got his learner’s permit! Want to feel completely powerless? Be a passenger in a vehicle where your oldest child is driving YOU for the first time. We’ve been cursed at, almost rear ended, had a line of traffic behind us multiple times, and passed in dangerous ways about every time we venture out. Fun times.

*We are experiencing our very last year in elementary school. We have loved it there, but I’m certain my littler guys are ready to move on. Me too.

*My daughter and I took a day trip to New York City. It was the first time her and I did something like that. Though it rained a good part of the day, we still had fun and got to see many neat things.

*We had a couple day excursion to the Jim Thorpe area. It was a good way to wrap up the summer all together.

Some things we are looking forward to:

*A vacation out west. Yup, this is my main one. This has been on our family bucket list for years and we decided that this is the year to just do it! The plan is to fly (instead of driving many days cross country), rent a vehicle, and spend most of our time near Zion National Park. We also plan to visit the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks, plus maybe a couple of other things. I’m super excited!!

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*Turning 40. This happens in May. Pray for me. My 20’s were terrific, my 30’s have been great, what will the 40’s bring? Who knows?? I don’t really feel “almost 40″…time flies.

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*Having another driver in the house. It terrifies me a little, yet I am ready for someone else to be able to take on chauffer duties a bit. Even if the oldest just drives himself to work and his own activities, that will help.

*Having kids all on the same bus/school schedule. I’ve had approximately one school year where everyone was in the same building, and that year the twins were in half-day kindergarten, so I still had 3 different bus times to worry about. Since then it’s been 4 different bus times. When they hit middle school this fall, everyone will have the same bus time. I may feel like I’ve gained another hour each day! Woo-hoo!

Well, those are the main things, but really, it’s a lot of little everyday things sometimes, isn’t it? I pray that you will have a blessed 2018, full of lots of those moments that bring joy. May you look forward to what the Lord has in store for you this coming year.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.