The Days in the Middle

It’s already the second Friday of 2018!

I haven’t written for a while. It seems like I add that to every blog I write lately. Hopefully that’ll change. My goal this year is to write AT LEAST every Monday and Friday.

Last night I was thinking about how quickly this Friday snuck up on me. It seems like it was just Sunday, then I blinked, and Friday is already here! It’s kind of scary how that happens – how the week just goes on without me until Continue reading “The Days in the Middle”

I Took It Apart!

There are lots of things in this world that I really hate, but wasting money is probably in my top ten. I hate spending money that I don’t need to spend. I don’t like paying someone to do something that I could do myself (unless I really don’t want take the time to do it, but who hasn’t been there?). It’s why I taught myself how to sew. It’s why I found copycat recipes of my favorite meals at my favorite restaurants and have nearly perfected them.

And it’s why I took apart my washing machine last week. Continue reading “I Took It Apart!”

Dear Childless Mama

Dear Childless Mama,

You know who you are. Whether you are like me and your child was taken from your arms by that nasty thing called death or miscarriage robbed you of that baby in your arms, or that adoption you so eagerly awaited fell through, or infertility has, it seems, built walls around you, so you can’t conceive, or you are still single and wondering if you’ll ever get to build a family with someone – you know who you are, and when I say, “Dear Childless Mama,” you know I’m talking to you. Even if you’ll only call yourself a mom in the depths of your being because the world might not recognize it in you. You know. So hear my words: Continue reading “Dear Childless Mama”

Oceans

I listened to Oceans for the first time in a while a couple days ago. Every time I hear it I think back to when it first came out towards the end of 2013. I loved it immediately. The bridge goes like this:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The first time I sang along, I had no idea the journey I would soon be taking. It was around that time we found out I was pregnant.

Jamin and I were high school youth leaders at our church, and, because it was so popular, that song was sung almost every week. As my pregnancy progressed and we received the news that our son would likely not survive after birth, we sang that song. At 20 weeks, I was supposed to miscarry, but I didn’t, and we sang that song. Week after week, our baby kept living in my belly and almost week after week, we sang that song.

It became the anthem of my pregnancy. I remember singing that song with a hand on my belly, feeling Leeland kick. If our trust in the Lord had borders to start, they had been blasted through, as we found ourselves in a place we never thought we would go. We couldn’t have been in a place of more uncertainty.

I remember singing, “Let me walk upon the water.”

Jesus, don’t let me sink. Help me keep my eyes on you because these waves around me feel like they could swallow me up any minute. Show me, once again, that you’ll never leave me.

Gosh, He was so faithful during that season, like He has always been.

I still love hearing this song, and remembering that time.

 

For He Know the Plans

Jamin and I have been reading one chapter in the Bible, discussing it, and praying over a list of what started out as eleven items and has turned into something a bit larger every day for almost 3 months. It has been so good for us. For a long time, we weren’t good at consistently praying and reading together, and I think it is so important in keeping God the center of a marriage.

We’ve been in Jeremiah for about a month now, and recently came across a verse that anyone who grew up in the church has probably heard. It’s the go-to verse to write on high school graduation cards.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Isn’t it nice to know that God has a plan? Well, yeah. But after reading the whole chapter, I realized it isn’t just an inspiring verse to share with 18 year olds that have no clue what they want to do with their lives.

Jeremiah 29 is a letter to the Israelite exiles. After years of disobeying God’s commands and worshiping other gods, consequences are catching up to them. There had been several wars, and the Babylonians had taken over Jerusalem and were taking Israelites back to Babylon. God tells them that they will be in exile for 70 years. They are to make the best of it – marry, reproduce, seek peace and prosperity.

THEN He goes on to say, “for I know the plans that I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

He wasn’t just saying, “oh, your future is uncertain? Let me ease the uncertainty. Here is a really inspirational verse you can remember.”

He was saying, “You’re going to be enduring hardship as exiles from your home for the next 70 years. Some of you will die while you are still in exile; you may never see your home again. BUT take heart. I KNOW the plans that I have for you. In the midst of your exile, in the midst of your hardship, will you still trust me? Will you trust that my plan is still good? Will you trust that I am still FOR you?”

I loved reading that when those words were given to Jeremiah, it wasn’t just any old day. God’s people were being taken from their homes. Their futures seemed uncertain because their lives in shambles. They were losing everything.

I imagine hearing those words said to me in the midst of the hardest times in my life knowing the context in which they were originally spoken. Plans to give us hope and a future when we can’t imagine beyond today.

What a good God He is.

 

 

We Paid it Off!

Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”

Yesterday was a huge day for us! After submitting one last payment of $1,200 our student loans are completely paid off, and we have no debt, except our house!

It’s been a year and a half since we decided to aggressively pay off our student loans. Our goal was to have it done in about 10 months, and we adjusted our budget and cut A LOT out of it, but there have been lots of financial bumps in the road, so even though it’s later than we planned and hoped, we made it!

God’s provision through all of this has been amazing. Even as expense after expense arose, we always had enough to cover them! We have learned so much about money and being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. And we have learned a lot about trusting God’s plan when our plans aren’t going as expected.

While I look forward to the day that our house is paid off and we are truly debt free, it feels great to be done with our student loans. I truly believe that having debt makes you a slave to the one you owe. Until the balance you owe is zero, is anything you have really yours?

I believe that God desires freedom for His people in every area of their lives, including finances, and the Bible gives us great advice on how we are to manage our money in ways that honor God.

If I could do it over again, I would have taken longer to get through school and paid cash for all of it. I think education is important, but student loans don’t actually make it affordable – they makes us slaves. I don’t recommend anyone take out student loans.

 

Camping with Friends

Two weeks ago Jamin and I had the opportunity to hang out with a couple of our friends we rarely see. Not only did we get to hang out with them, but we camped and spent 3 days together! Jamin lived with Derik for almost 7 years before we got married, and Derik is married, too, so it’s so fun to do couple things with them!

I’m all for tent camping, but I hate being hot and sweaty, so if I’m going to camp in the summer, it needs to be in a camper. It just so happened that Derik’s parents have an RV and wanted us to take it for the weekend.

Once Derik’s mom finished cleaning and organizing it for us, we hit the open road. We were heading to McGregor, Iowa to a place called Spook Cave. Jamin had gone once when he was a kid, but I hadn’t and neither had Derik or Jamie.

When we arrived at the camp ground, the guys got out of the RV to go ask the people in the office where our camping spot was because there was no cell phone signal, and Jamie had saved the information in her email, but didn’t print it. When they came back they told us it was right next to where we parked!

We got the RV in the spot (and I say we very loosely because Derik drove and did pretty much all of the work), and started getting everything hooked up. When he got to the water, Derik realized that his mom must have taken the water hose out of the RV because it was gone. We all double checked all of the outer compartments until one of our neighbors stopped over.

He introduced himself as Tom and said that his wife, Nancy, had overheard us through the window of their camper that we didn’t have a hose, and they had a spare. He offered to let us use it for the weekend! He stayed and chatted for a bit. We talked about how often they camp, where they go, and how Nancy is always prepared because she is so organized.

After everything was hooked up, we explored the camp grounds a little. The map showed that there was a beach, so we walked down to it. Calling it a beach was a bit of an exaggeration. It seemed like someone just dumped a truckload of sand on the edge of a small pond, then roped off an area for swimming. We found a game room, but it was disappointing, too. The ping pong table had no ping pong balls, and only 3 of the arcade games were plugged in. One was a racing game, and Jamin and I decided we would try it at some point.

That evening, the guys were going to grill brats and hot dogs for supper, but they realized no one brought matches or a lighter, so over to Tom and Nancy’s camper I went. They gladly loaned us one. After supper,  we hung out by a camp fire until it was time for bed.

On Saturday, we had a delicious breakfast of monkey bread (which we had eaten way too much of in the last month – I think I made it on 4 occasions!) and fruit and walked around the camp ground again. The entrance to the cave was on a pond near the gift shop/office. As we walked around the pond we saw a bunch of ducks, and I noticed the night before that the gift shop sold bags of duck food for a dollar. Even though I hate birds, I decided I would try my hand at feeding them as soon as the shop opened for the day.

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Me feeding the jerk ducks
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Eventually I just tried to hit the ducks with the food because they didn’t want to eat from my hand

Around 9am we headed over to the shop to buy our tickets for a cave tour. Since the cave entrance is off of the pond, they offer boat tours. I also bought a bag of duck food to give the ducks while we waited. The employees said the ducks would come and eat out of my hand!

But they were wrong. These ducks would only eat food if I threw it in the water. If I tried to lure them onto land by tossing it in the grass, they would just wait until I walked away to come and eat it. They were jerks, so I decided I would try to feed the two ducks we saw down by the “beach.”

When it was time for us to board our boat for the cave tour, I started getting a little nervous. I knew that there would be times when we would have to duck, so we wouldn’t bump our heads, but I didn’t realize it would be for an extended time! The first 50 feet of the cave had a very low ceiling. The boat was powered by a trolling motor, so it moved really slowly.

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The boats are original from when the cave first opened over 60 years ago! Derik, Jamie, Me & Jamin

I’m not claustrophobic, but I did not like being in the tight space. I felt like if the cave collapsed, I would be trapped. The tour took about 35 minutes, but I was ready to be done around the halfway mark. I realized I don’t love caves, but if I am going to explore them, I would rather it be on my own two feet, so I can run out and escape if I have to.

After the cave we hung out at the RV for a bit then got ready to go for a hike to a waterfall that was shown on the campsite map. Somewhere in the process of getting ready to go, the door of the RV got locked. And the keys were inside. At first we thought Derik was playing a trick on us and that he was inside, but then he walked up and asked what we were doing. We decided the best way to get in would be through a window, so Jamin hoisted me up, and I tried to squeeze through a window. It wasn’t going to happen.

Just then, Tom came over with a ladder and asked if we needed help. He said he and Nancy had looked over to see my legs hanging out of the window and had a good laugh. We figured out that a window on the other side was big enough to climb into, so I climbed up and went around to unlock the door. The joke of the weekend was that if we needed anything Tom and Nancy would have it and bring it over because they had already helped us with the water hose and fire and seemed so prepared for anything!

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Our heroes!!

After that excitement we got out lunched made and headed out to hike. We met Nancy on our way to the hiking trail. She said it was a nice hike, so on we went. Nancy said it took her about half an hour to hike to the waterfall, but we got so turned around it took us at least an hour, but when we came to the end of the trail, there was no waterfall. We turned around and headed back to the RV. We couldn’t find our way out of the woods by trail, so we had to cut through some construction on the edge of the campground.

When we finally made it back to civilization, I got to feed the ducks. The ducks by the beach were so much more friendly. They ate out of my hand! It was so cool. When we got back to the RV we relaxed for a while.

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Jamin feeding the good ducks

That night we chatted with Tom and Nancy and their grandson for quite a while before  inviting them over for a campfire and s’mores. It was just a beautiful night of talking and laughing.

Sunday morning came, and I decided to feed the good ducks again. Derik bought a bag, too, because I let him use some of the duck food the day before, and he loved it! They are probably the only birds I like and ever will like.

After breakfast, we packed up the RV and thanked our wonderful neighbors and headed back home.