Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trunks and Treats

 What a treat to have these precious ones as my own!!

A pirate, Charlie Brown, ana and Elsa (from Frozen), Darth Vader, and Rapunzle (from Tangled).

We took these little sweeties to our church's annual Trunk or Treat festival. This is one of our annual fall traditions, since we do not do the "trick or treating" venture. They are provided a safe, friendly environment in which they can receive lots of sweet goodies from trusted friends that we know love them. This year we also did our own trunk....Daniel and the Lion's Den was our theme.

Monday, October 27, 2014




With all of the new trees I find myself surrounded by here in Nell, I cannot help but be aware of the changing seasons. The colors are changing, the temperature is changing and the overall mood in the air is changing. The air is cooler, interrupting the immense heat of the summer. The wind picks up just enough to perfectly fly a kite. Leaves fall, covering the ground. There is a break in the monotony; things are different. Season mimic life. During any season, there are days filled with blue skies where joy comes easily. The warmth from the sun above beats down on our faces as if a shout from the Creator above, flooding blessings on all of us. Life is inviting and seemingly carefree. The air may even be frigid and cold in the depths of winter, but when we can still visibly set eyes on the sun, we can still find brightness. These days are the glue that holds lives together, because days come where gray stretches as far as the eyes can see; where it takes strength to find joy. Autumn can bring an increase in storms as well, almost like spring. Warm and cool temperatures clash, causing commotion in the air. Too much commotion or stress is never good. These storms can be scattered here and there, and we bounce back, faith unwavering. Then there are times the storms stretch on for days, with gray skies are as far as the eye can see. We can long for just a glimpse of blue sky from above or even a silver lining that gives us assurance of what is hidden....what we long for....but it remains unseen. Will the rain ever end? Or will the strong winds tear us down completely? Too many of these days threaten to break us down. Here we begin to doubt goodness. Here our faith is tested. I am here at the the midst of a storm...several storms.

Storms can look different for all of us. Hurricane, tornado, cyclone, tsunami or a simple afternoon rain shower, they can devastate the weak. Our broken world creates broken people, broken relationships, broken marriages and broken homes. There is so much brokenness. In recent years, I prayed my best friend through the breakdown of her marriage. Her husband decided he did not want to be married any longer, leaving her a single mother of two precious girls. She could not change his mind. She was broken. Another friend is living the same fate. Husband left, instant single mom. Never saw it coming. She is confused, desperate, and devastated. She has a son. They are broken. There is one who is dear to me, very dear. He is a mere shell of the man I once knew...a man I looked up to. He has let addiction break him. He has let it break his family. I could not and still cannot make him change. Part of me is broken. Wives are lonely. Husbands are not respected. People are sick. Selfish ambition, materialism, drugs, alcohol and illusion (those beautiful masks that we handcraft to make it all look just fine, and even finer than fine) try to fill the voids. Just when we think it is working, we find ourselves even more empty than before.

Why do I write all of this today? I grieve for these seasons and for those of us going through these seasons. I write this because I want you to know...I get it. You are not alone. You do not struggle alone. You should not feel you have to walk through the valley alone. Where evil wants us to believe we are the exception and his lies are so easy to believe, God says He will never leave us. There is only One who fills that void. There is only One who satisfies....beyond the temporal. And He will! He meets us where we are. It does not matter whether our own sin or the sin of another, has brought the storm that has caused or is causing all of the brokenness. He will mend it. He brings life. When you pour Jesus into the gashes and crevices in our hearts, you will find that He fits perfectly. In moments of desperation, if we seek Him, He will bring hope and light and truth. We need only believe. The truth is...we HAVE to believe that. We have a choice and I have never loved that fact because it illuminates my willingness to be deceived when I am vulnerable...but WE DO HAVE A CHOICE. We can choose to believe we are alone, useless, and unloved. We can choose to listen when evil says we do not matter and that it will always be this way. "You might as well leave. You might as well use. You might as well just do (insert your own safety mechanism)." Sound familiar? I hear that voice too. Words that are all too easy to believe. Lies always are. That is the beauty of deception. But we do not have to believe it! We can choose truth. We can choose to believe that we are loved. We can choose to believe that we are chosen. We can choose to believe we have value. We can choose to believe we have purpose. We can choose to believe this storm will pass. That person may not love you. That condition may worsen. You may have to continue to wait on the answer to that prayer. We do not get to choose the season or the storm. And friend, they are guaranteed in this life. They will come. They may pop up like an afternoon thunderstorm and move on quickly. They may come like a tornado on a February evening, severe and unexpected. They may last for days and hit like a tidal wave. But, we do not have to be defined by these moments in our lives. Believer, we are defined by who we are in Christ. And rest assured, He will bring the days when the sun shines through the clouds...when what is real peeks through the murkiness of what is only temporary. That promise...the sun or shall I say the where our hope lies. Cling to that hope with everything you have! Seek it! Sometimes it is a stretch, but remember it is there. When we cannot see it. It is still there. When it seems He is silent. He is there. He will make something beautiful from your storm. He will bring redemption. How do I know this? His word says it and I have seen it. My bestie? I just stood beside her as she married a godly man who God brought into her life when she was not looking. He loves her and he loves her girls. God has made something beautiful from their brokeness. My other friend? In the throws of her situation, God made a way for reconciliation between us. That is just the beginning of her beautiful story being written. She is still weathering her storm. Please pray for her. My dear one? He is trying to get and stay clean. He is trying to grasp what is left of life and live it with meaning and dignity. Alas, he is without Jesus. Please pray! Salvation is coming. That my friends, is faith...belief in what is unseen. This is the faith that assures that we are not defined by the brokenness that surrounds. And me? I stand firm, trusting a Savior that will bring me from this valley where He allows me to remain.

 When what covers is stripped away, we find something unexpectedly, beautiful underneath.

Signs of new life

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Little pumpkins

We took our annual trip to the Green Acres pumpkin patch in Milan, TN. We take a family trip each fall to gather our pumpkins for fall decorations. It is our family tradition to usher in the each new fall season. We love to take trips, spend time together as a family and have fun all at the same time. Sometimes life does not provide an abundance of occasions such as these. We like to plan them, put them on the calendar. Traditions are vital for our family. Our big family stays busy...sometimes too busy. We love to look forward to the activities that we know are coming each year! And we love the photo opportunities where we can see the growth in our children...and on some years, the growth in our family!

The kids love to express their personalities through art. We just do not have enough opportunities with art! They can sit in quiet concentration, painting for hours. The pumpkins that they choose at the pumpkin patch is one of those sought after moments. They love to paint and create characters with their pumpkins each year! I love that they love it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jude: 2 months

Our little man is 2 months old!! Time has gone by so quickly. It is hard to believe he is two months old already. He grins often. He has found his thumb (but we are still trying to convince him that the binkey is cooler). He weighs somewhere over 16 lbs!!! Still nurses every 2 to 2 and a half hours. Loves to watch his siblings. Sleeps soundly, although I wake him once a night to nurse. Old habits die hard, I guess! He has rolled over a couple times which makes us so proud considering the weight he is moving! He is destined to be a linebacker or lumberjack! He is such a joy and a breath of fresh air just when I need it! 
We love our Jude so much!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Our fireplace has come A. LONG. WAY.
Here is its progression...starting from when we first walked into this house,
 up to today with our cozy fire!

At first sight, our fire place was covered with the same plaster that covers our walls.

There was a gas insert from an era before my birth....and maybe even my mother's!

(After we bought the house) I got curious and asked what was under the plaster. After a little digging, we discovered the brick. We has the plaster tested for asbestos. The test was NEGATIVE!!! . 
So, the hubs tore it all down, and behold the beauty.

That is a lot of rubble from one fireplace.

As the chill of fall came bustling in, we needed the fireplace to function.
We needed warmth.

We did a little more "digging", removing the fire brick. 

There was MUCH more room in there...perhaps for a fire?? Not quite...if we wanted to the heat to dissipate into the room and not escape directly up the chimney, we needed another option. Would you believe that my dear hubby's parents, had a cast iron wood-burning stove that they had never used? That was so God! it just was!! Now we just had to install it and load it down with wood, right? Easier said than done! After getting several, SEVERAL opinions...and I mean, they were plentiful. So plentiful that when we went into Walt Measton (The Fireplace Store), we would walk out totally bumfuzzled. That happened a few times. They grew to know us well. I am sure they had great laughs over us. We finally decided to bite the bullet and do what we felt most safe...not necessarily cost effective. This was a source of great tension for us, between us! But, we prevailed and got her done. We decided that we needed to run a chimney liner all the way up the chimney. We did not know what was inside that chimney...built up creosote, cracked mortar, flammable or combustible materials that could potentially create an unknown fire within the walls of undoubtedly our children's room in the middle of the night and kill someone. Liner it was! Would you believe that our chimney is not straight? Nope, that would be too easy. The top actually curves about 45 degrees in one place! That one little nuance caused us to have to purchase a special (more expensive) stainless steel, flex liner. We also had to purchase a chimney cap, chimney collar, a 90 degree elbow, and an oval to circle transition to go into the back of our stove. BOOM! Heat....or not. We had to take out two rows of bricks so that the stove pipe would fit under the last brick layer and curve up the chimney....or cut into the brick. Marcus and his dad worked on it for two days, tearing out brick, tearing out wire within the brick, re-mortaring and even re-patching an ugly patch job that had been done prior to our moving in! This was all done while i was sick in bed with the stomach virus.  

Removing the ugly patch job.

Removing layer of brick.

Removing old wire.


Then we washed and sanded the whole, stinking thing!
We finally did a combination of whitewashing and painting 
to keep the vintage, aged look....just without the nasty dirt and smell!

 Stove connected to pipe and ready!!!
And this is the life...a warmer life!