Thursday, January 5, 2017

Our Trip to L.A. (a late recap)

It's been over six months since Grace and I went to LA.  I had intended to write about our trip when we first arrived back home, but it didn't work out that way.  Truth be told, I'm having a hard time adjusting to big kids and their hectic schedules, but that's a whole 'nuther post.
My love for this red head is the reason I went on this trip
Sometime last spring, Grace decided she needed further training in curly hair cutting/styling.  She had been apprenticing under a curly hair expert for a year, but having a "stamped" certification of some sort would give her a marketing advantage.

She decided to take a course at one of the top curly hair schools in the nation, Devachan.  Since she didn't know anyone else attending the course, Daddy decided she needed an escort, so he signed me up for the trip.  I wasn't very pleased.  I really dislike big cities.  I mean, really dislike.  And I have a terrible sense of direction.  Matt assured me that even though the whole thing was out of my comfort zone, it would be a good, stretching experience for me and he said, "You might even have fun."

Grace paid for the course and our plane tickets two weeks before we were to depart. I panicked.  I was now locked into the trip.  I sent a text to my friend, the one I've had since kindergarten.  "Want to go to LA with me in two weeks?"  It's just me.  Your steady, non-adventurous friend.  I'm having a mid-life crisis. Thought I'd have one in LA.  Wanna go with?

Partners in crime
Within a few minutes, she texted back.  She thought it might work.  She would ask her husband.  I prayed.  Hard.  She texted again, "Yes!"  Relief swept over me.  At least I'd have company in my misery.

So we boarded that plane two weeks later.  It was an adventure, to be sure.  Cab rides, navigating the bus and train systems and even taking our first ever Uber ride.  After we dropped Grace off at the school each morning, Julie and I had the run of the town.  Or something like that.  Really, we were two middle-aged ladies with small town roots trying give the second biggest city in America our best shot.

Grace's first day at Devachan
Our first stop was The Getty Villa.  Admission was free.  Getting there was a bit stressful, but we managed.  The Getty Villa is a loose replica of the Villa dei Papiri in Italy.  Rich Romans would leave Rome during the rainy season and go to large country houses to vacation and hold lavish parties.  The Villa dei Papiri was one of those houses.  Located in Herculaneum, it was buried in the ash of Mt. Vesuvius in 70 AD.

That's quite the fancy head piece
The outside garden areas of the Getty are beautiful and would have been even more so during our visit if the central pool had been filled with water.  It was empty because of the drought that California has experienced the past couple of years.

The central pool of the Getty Villa
Inside, the upstairs housed many Roman antiquities.  I was struck by the shear volume of idols and accoutrements of idol worship. Most of these items were gold and silver.  My mind immediately went to this passage in Acts 19:


21Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Silver idol worship stuff
Nero's mommy--her nose was obviously out of joint
Another day, Julie and I went on a touristy tour of LA.  The guide spent the better part of the day explaining about this actor or that movie.  Julie and I didn't know most of the movies or actors/actresses he mentioned, so that was all lost on us.  We did enjoy driving past the "Happy Days House."  Otherwise, Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, blah, blah, blah.  I can't say we were very impressed. The highlight of the tour was eating at the Farmer's Market.  As we wrapped up that day, I thought about how there's nothing new under the sun.  All is vanity.  Just like at the Villa dei Papiri in ancient Italy.

Diamonds are a girls best friend, I guess
Overall, I would say our trip was a success.  Julie and I had quite the time gadding (and gabbing) about. Grace did well at her curly hair school and has since gotten new clients due to her training in the DevaCurl method of hair cutting and coloring.  I got a stretching experience out of the deal, as well as some time away from the day-to-day.  I would say I even had fun, just as my husband predicted.

Grace with Cal Ellis, Devacurl's technical training manager
And to top it all off, Matt and the kids who stayed home repainted the family room while I was away. The sponge painting left by the previous owners disappeared.  This was a job I've wanted to do for a long time, I just couldn't muster the gumption to get started.  Yeah, I know, I married a pretty terrific guy.
This is why it was a good idea I wasn't home.  Mama gets more organized before she starts painting.  Wall on left freshly painted, old sponge painting on right wall.
Matt also refinished his dad's old drafting table (the one Matt used as a desk all through college) and made it into a lovely stand.  It has found new life as place for the steal-of-a-deal, ginormous t.v. Matt found that very weekend on Craigslist.  Now John Wayne, Steve McQueen and the Lone Ranger are super-sized. Truth be told, I think the t.v. is what motivated the entire project, but I'm not complaining.

The finished room.  After searching Craigslist for a leather couch at my price point for nearly a year, I finally found one a few months ago.  Yes, it came with some cat scratches, but leather conditioner makes them less noticeable.  My boys aren't  exactly kind to furniture anyway.
Lately, Grace has been bouncing around the idea of attending a different curly hair school in the Big Apple.  I'm calling it now.  I'll never be in a New York state of mind and I'm happy to keep my little town blues.  Maybe it's time for Daddy to have a stretching experience.    


And because this was one of the highlights of the trip for me. . . .

This man put his dog in this bag so that he could ride the Metrolink (train).  The rule is, "pets must be in a small pet carrier."  This dog was big.  I watched the guy fold his dog up, put him in the bag, ride the train and then get off.  The dog seemed perfectly at ease,  I asked the man about his dog.  He said that he had read that people in NY who ride the subway recommend this way of carrying large dogs.



Friday, November 4, 2016

Reformation 2016

Once again, the Lord proved Himself to be faithful to our family in the hosting of this year's Reformation party, just as He has the previous twelve years.  I only experienced a slightly elevated stress level a couple of times this year, as compared to the full-on panic attacks I've experienced in years past.  The Lord is growing my faith--in Himself and in my husband.

We have used Doorpost's A Night of Reformation  resource for many years for our parties. The point of these parties is to celebrate God's work in the Church and to teach the kids (and even the adults) about that work. We've done all the parties suggested in the Doorposts book (John Calvin, Martin Luther, the Scottish Covenanters, etc).
Polycarp and King Charles I
**you can click on any picture to enlarge it**
We've also done what I've termed, "off-grid" parties.  These are the ones that give me the most angst. Matt chooses a theme that's not in the book.  That means starting from scratch on everything--the worship, the games and the activities.  Past years' "off-grid" party themes have included, "The Five Solas" (Moses, Isaiah, King Josiah, Tyndale, Wycliffe, Luther) "The Creeds" (The First Creed, The Apostle's Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed) and "The Saints" (Dorcas, Knox, Maxwell and Alfred the Great)

All Glory, Laud and Honor (ca 820)



This year, Matt chose another theme that's not in the book--"The Pre-Reformation Church."  He chose to focus on this time in history because he wanted  the kids to learn about the events that lead up to the Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg.

Since the kids that attend our party are all getting older, Matt decided that this year, instead of having the kids play games that illustrated the Biblical truths and historical facts he wanted them to learn, he would try a different approach.  He decided to write a play, or rather, have our kids write it, and have all the kids perform it the night of the party.

Matt assigned Paul the task of researching the years from the time of the Early Church to the time just before the Reformation.  Then Paul and Grace collaborated to write a play. Reformation Sunday found Grace and Matt putting the final polishes on the script. Reformation Day was a flurry of activity in the readying of costumes, sets and final details.  We were down to the wire, as usual.

Grace was coaching Joel on his lines about one that afternoon.  Joel asked, "Why didn't we start on this before now?"  I turned on my heels and went back to my house cleaning, which is my coping mechanism.

When the guests arrived, all decked out in Medieval garb, we gathered everyone in the kitchen and Grandpa Bob said a pre-meal prayer.  We then ate.  While the adults finished their meals and talked, Matt, Grace, Paul and Elizabeth took all the kids to the basement to run through the play one time before the actual performance. Since it's rude to clean while one has guests, I refrained. I'm so happy all our little guests were game for impromptu costume changes and improv acting.

Jude as Polycarp before the proconsul
Isaac as King Charles I receives a visiting envoy.
Once the kids had finished their practice, everyone gathered in the living room for a time of hymn singing and Bible reading.  Then, down to the basement for the big performance.  From the discussion in the early Church about how to assimilate Gentile believers, to the martyr Polycarp, to Augustine, Charlemagne, the division of the Roman and Greek Orthodox churches, to Wycliffe and finally Hus, a great span of years was covered in about thirty minutes.

Bishops demand a defense from Wycliffe
All the adults agreed the kids did a great job.  We sang another hymn, (Lord Jesus, Think on Me (ca430)) and then headed back upstairs to eat a snow covered chocolate castle cake (sorry, forgot to get a picture) and caramel corn to end the evening.

"Today you roast a goose [Hus], but there will come a swan you cannot cook."
Kudos go to Matt and the big kids.  Paul was instrumental in not only the research, but also in the set building, which included a stake at which to burn John Hus.  Grace wrote most of the play and directed it.  She also figured out all the costumes, sets and props.    Lydia was able to fashion beards and crowns to add to the costumes on the day of the party.  Every single thing the kids used for the performance was found in our house, which displayed their creativity and resourcefulness, in my own humble mama opinion.  I was also very proud of my little guys for getting over their embarrassment and acting their hearts out (and our little guests, too).

None of this would have been possible without the Lord's help.  That may sound trite, but seriously, these parties are so much work, it's just a miracle they come together the way they do.  Yay, God!

"For nothing will be impossible with God."  Luke 1:37



Monday, October 17, 2016

Two Tickets

When you've been married a number of years, you realize that you have certain conversations over and over again.

One of ours goes like this:

I sigh my overwhelmed sigh and Matt says, "Melissa, I've got two tickets."

Yesterday we had that conversation again and I said, "So you always say, but you never produce the tickets."

Without missing a beat, he said, "You never pack your bags."  Alright.  You got me there, Matt.



Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Little Makeover that Snowballed


I had a friend ask me recently if I'd ever finished painting my laundry room.  I finished painting the day I started, but the rest of the laundry room makeover took longer.  Nothing in the home improvement department takes place very quickly around here.   Part of my hesitation in starting the project in the first place was knowing that most of the stuff in the room would need to be relocated.  Thus, the snowball effect.  Or as my sister once so aptly put it, "It's like pulling the thread on a sweater, it just keeps unraveling."
The before.  I forgot to take a picture before I cleared out all the stuff.

Once Elizabeth returned from Uganda, she sewed some little curtains to hide the junk behind the laundry counter.  The curtains were made out of a Martha Stewart bed sheet that I picked up at the thrift store for $2.  I had to buy the tension rod, but I had the little clip hangers already.  They were a 25-cent yard sale find from a couple of years ago.


I had in my mind that I wanted vintage looking hooks to hang our aprons and a few other odds and ends.  I finally found what I wanted at Hobby Lobby for 50% off.  I commissioned Lydia to paint some water color pictures with a couple of my favorite Bible verses on them.  I already had the frames.  I also hung up a couple of thrift store plates that I've had for years.

The paint I used for the walls was a mixture of leftover bathroom paint and a bunch of free samples I had on my basement shelf.  So overall, this was a fairly cheap project, coming in at around $30.  I love the finished room.  It's a cheery corner in which to tackle a not-so-fun job.

 As I mentioned on Instagram, my laundry room is basically a closet in my kitchen.  I adore the convenience of having my washer and dryer so close to the hub of the house.  However, I've often been embarrassed when guests see the sorry state of that room.  No matter how many times I told the kids to keep the doors closed when we had people over, it just didn't happen.  I don't have to worry so much about that anymore.  That said, the laundry room counter is one of the few sacred places in our house. It's about the only place that's safe to put anything you don't want little kids to get into.  So sometimes it does get kind of cluttery, but that's life with littles.

Here's where the snowball comes in.  All of the junk in the laundry room, which mostly consisted of cleaning supplies, had to find another home in order to make this makeover successful.  I wanted to put all of the cleaning tools (mops, vacuums, brooms, etc.) in the family room closet, which is where the former homeowners stored such things.  So that meant that the stuff in the family room closet needed to move to the office closet.

Which meant that not only the office closet, but also the office itself needed to be cleaned and decluttered (so that I could actually get to the closet). Which in turn, lead to a whole house decluttering and even a back yard decluttering.

Our house is in no way minimalist, but too much stuff makes me nervous.  I stop by Goodwill about once a month to get rid of unneeded items, but a good overall purge was still in order.  After 20 years, I'm finally getting a full night's sleep most nights, which made it possible for me to even think of tackling such a big job.

However, ten people live in this house.  We are here most of the time.  Each day, three meals plus snacks are prepared,  2-3 loads of laundry are done,  2-4 dishwasher loads of dishes are run, plus schoolwork and all manner of creative projects are undertaken.  In other words, there's a lot of mess making going on.

One night last week, I was lamenting that all of my hard work to get this house ship shape seemed to be for naught.  The house spirals so quickly into disarray.   Matt said, "Look around you, Melissa. There's a lot going on here. Industry, hospitality, creativity, mission.  That's all messy, but useful work."  So even though the guy at the Goodwill donation site recognizes my car, things are still not as clean as I'd like them to be around here, but life is being lived to the full.  Lord, help me to remember it.



  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Thoughts on Our Daughter's Trip to Uganda

Elizabeth has given me permission to share this post.  Elizabeth took the photos featured in this post.




Elizabeth is back from her mission trip to Uganda.  A year ago, she stood in our kitchen as she contemplated the decision about whether or not to go to Africa.  She had just learned the trip would be three weeks, not two, as she had originally been told.  She was very concerned about leaving her family for that long.

I said, "Elizabeth.  I believe the Lord has called you to go on this mission trip.  Do I want you to go? No.  But I think we both know the Lord wants you to go."  She cried and nodded her head in agreement.  We both just knew.  This was God's errand, not ours.

As a mother, granting Elizabeth permission to go on this trip was difficult.  That's not to say it wasn't a hard decision for Matt as well, he just didn't have nearly as many emotions to work through as I did. You see, life hasn't always been easy for Elizabeth.  Things that other children seem to learn quickly, almost effortlessly, have not been effortless for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth has dyslexia.  Folks get upset when I say this about Elizabeth.  "You shouldn't label her," they say.  Dyslexia is not a label.  It's just a fact.  And the fact is that her father and I have signed Elizabeth up for programs, private tutoring, therapies and prayed countless prayers on her behalf for many years.  (And so have her grandparents and others).  And the truth is this:  dyslexia cannot be cured.  But, the person with dyslexia can learn coping mechanisms, which Elizabeth has done.

All that to say, this mama's heart was torn to pieces over her daughter going to Uganda.  Elizabeth's brain filters information differently.  She struggles with things that are ho-hum normal to most people.  I was petrified to send her to the other side of the globe where I wouldn't be able to help her process what was happening around her.  Where I wouldn't be present to remind her to take her malaria medication, to brush her teeth with only bottled water and to put a protein bar in her backpack everyday so that if the food out in the bush was unsafe, she would have a back up plan.

During Lent, Elizabeth had to get up one Sunday in front of the church and describe her upcoming mission trip to the congregation.  That week's Lenten soup supper's donations would be applied toward her expenses and she needed to let people know the details.  Elizabeth wrote the talk she gave. I edited it for her, but the words were hers.  Elizabeth got up, delivered that talk, made eye contact with people in the congregation and basically knocked it out of the park.  I sat in the pew and cried over the Lord's goodness.  I never thought that my girl would be able to get up in front of a group and deliver a talk that she had written and do it with such grace and poise.

In May, I attended my last Bible Study Fellowship class of the year.  I asked the women in my group to pray for my daughter this summer, as she was going on a mission trip.  I also briefly mentioned my fears regarding her going.  After class, one of the women pulled me aside.  She said, "Melissa, I have dyslexia, just like your daughter."  She told me that when she was about Liz's age, she had learned to put her ultimate trust in God, not in her family.  She knew God would help Elizabeth do the same. God spoke to my anxious heart that day through my BSF classmate.

Also in May, Elizabeth had her end-of-year homeschool testing.  The same Christian woman (who also has a PhD and who specializes in reading difficulties) has been testing Elizabeth for the past 8 years.  She was pleased with Elizabeth's progress.  She was tickled with her obvious growth in confidence and maturity.  She told Matt and me that we had without a doubt made the best possible decision in homeschooling Elizabeth and staying the course, even when we wanted to give up.  And when Elizabeth told this woman that she would be going on a mission trip this summer, she teared up.

In the weeks leading up to Elizabeth's departure date, God continued to confirm His plan for her. Last minute donations, texted prayers from friends, and suitcases that weighed 49.5 lbs each. (There is a 50 lb. weight limit.) Two days before Liz's departure, in my daily Bible reading, the Lord reassured me once more.  By God's providence, the passage of the day was in Joshua--the exact same verses the Lord gave me before we began this homeschooling journey.  This whole raising kids thing is the Lord's work.  It always has been.  He was reminding me of that fact again.

After Elizabeth boarded the plane to Uganda in June, Matt and I left the airport shaking our heads. Matt asked, "Who would have guessed that we would send our Little Bitty to Uganda?"  Only God would have guessed.

By God's grace, we were able to have regular contact with Elizabeth through Face Time while she was in Uganda.  This was an unexpected blessing, but I believe it was a planned mercy of the Lord's. He allowed me to see how Elizabeth was doing on a day-to-day basis.  And Elizabeth did great.  She remembered all of the things I was concerned she wouldn't remember.  She loved her mission team mates, the people of Uganda and the country itself.  Her ability to see and interpret events on a deep spiritual level blew me away.  She wants to go back to Uganda again!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephes.3:20-21

**I'd like to personally thank Pastor Goodfellow and Martha.  Through God's providence, we got to know you before we ever even knew you'd be taking our daughter with you on this wonderful adventure for God's glory.  I'd also like to thank Mrs. Kim F. and Mrs. Alice W. for your care for Elizabeth's welfare beyond the check boxes and stanine scores.  And of course, Elizabeth's grandparents, who've been in the trenches with Matt and me all these years.  To Uncle Keith, who has always offered Elizabeth opportunities to grow.  And to the Lord Jesus Christ, who saw fit to give us such a beautiful gift in our daughter, Elizabeth Jane, our Little Bit.**







Thursday, June 23, 2016

Elizabeth is in Uganda

For those interested, you may follow her trip through her Instagram account.  Her handle is:  lillittlebitty.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The New Normal

Chaos reigns.  At least that's what it feels like right now.  It's not really true.  It's just I didn't expect life to speed up. I thought it would slow down.  In fact, I was planning on it.  I kept thinking to myself, "If I can just make it to summer, I can catch my breath."

Then I got brave enough to look at the summer calendar.  With all three big kids gone and/or working much of the summer, it looks like life will not be slowing down much.  No big kids means I'll be the mom of mostly littles again.  It feels like I'm starting over.  Yet, I'm not.

I have kids that are getting ready to launch, but I still have one that needs to be potty trained.  I was telling a friend not long ago, "I have a 2 year old and a 20 year old who are crying."  I'm providing both adult and toddler counseling--sometimes within the same hour.  At times I feel like I'm losing my marbles.  I long for the simpler days when the kids and I went to the park, read books and played outside in the backyard.  Funny, back then I thought life was hard.  It was hard, just a different kind of hard.
In the midst of the chaos, I took time out to help Joel
spray paint his older sister's outgrown bike.  It was transformed
from a feminine purple to a decidedly masculine hunter green.

It's not that the kids don't play and read--they do.  I just don't have as much time to do those things along with them.  Gone are the days when I set the schedule and mapped out activities for all of us. My new normal is more like being an air traffic controller.  "You have permission to take off and go there."  "Someone is approaching the runway, but only long enough to snarf down dinner before taking off again."  "You, get him in the bath and wash off all the mud and chicken poop."  "Did somebody feed the dog?"  "Practice piano." "Do your school work." Sometimes I feel like my head might spin off.  

How do I combat the crazies?  I do a lot of praying in the night watches.  I read my Bible every morning (sometimes only getting through 1 chapter).  I listen to hymns--a lot.  When I find myself getting spun up, hymns calm me down.  I concentrate on the basics--food, clean underwear, Bible (personal devotion time for all readers) and math.

I'm also trying a new system of writing down the "have-to-dos," for the day first thing in the morning. These are the items outside of the basics (listed above) that still need to happen.  I write down the "have-to-be" places for the day on this note as well.    I stick the note to the cabinet and check it throughout the day to keep myself on track.  I have Grace write her work schedule for the week on a separate Post-It so that I am more informed of her comings and goings.

I like to know the plan and I like to know it ahead of time, thank you very much.  God, in His grace, continues to teach me that I don't have to know the plan (not even the plan for the next hour).  I have to learn to roll with the punches.  My days no longer follow a predictable pattern.  Monkey wrenches are now the norm, not the exception. Matt will sometimes ask me with a smile on his face, "Can you roll with it, Melissa?"  I'm learning to give a tentative, "Suuurre."  God is teaching me to ever rely on Him and slowly, but surely I am learning.  And I'm pretty sure He is pleased with the new normal.