Next to Last Projects

I have been wanting to get into art again, and a unique opportunity came my way when a friend called me to join an art project. Seems this church in our town is going through the book The Story all this year during their Sunday sermons. They will read/ hear a message on a chapter a week, 31 chapters in all. This is a program that many churches have done, making it similar to a mega-VBS with posters and interactives that you can buy or make as you go through the book. This particular church decided to commission local artists (not me) and willing wannabes (me) to do a painting for each chapter, a 20 x 20 canvas that would depict a scene from that part of The Story. I was thrilled to be asked. At first I thought the work was to be 20 FEET by 20 FEET, but I still was able to say yes right away; hey, I had never painted a mural, but this sounded like a God thing and He would help me do it. I told a lady at church (real local artist) about this, too, and she did not bat an eyelash when I said 20 by 20, probably because she had painted many murals, between work on our church’s VBS backgrounds and props for our Experience Bethlehem walk through at Christmas time.

Then I realized this Story project would be a series of 20 inch by 20 inch canvas. What a relief, but now I could feel confident enough to sign up for two! The first will represent the ‘Wandering’ chapter, and the second will represent the chapter about Hannah and Samuel, and Saul. I hope to get them both done before I have the baby, my biggest spring project.

The first painting I have had a harder time designing than I thought I would. I first thought of just a sandaled foot, emerging into a sandy, rocky wilderness floor. Or I thought of depicting some Israelites resting on rocks, rubbing their tired feet like Degas’ paintings and drawings of ‘Dancers Resting’. Then someone suggested just the wilderness, with footprints going here and there. I finally asked Luke what he thought I should do, and he came up with something totally different, and very abstract. The top left corner of the canvas would have a solid image of a quail, and that image would repeat diagonally across the canvas but morph until it was just a circle, in the bottom right corner, to represent manna. This sounds cool, but I’m not sure if it will coordinate with the other paintings very well. Obviously, each painting will be individualistic, but a painting like that might be over the top, if everyone else does scenes with people in them.

To add to my thoughts, I googled quail yesterday to find a good picture I could trace for the quail image, and came across a photograph that captured the different colors of this particular quail, it was beyond gorgeous. But I can’t do a 20 by 20 painting of a quail! That would be almost as bad as painting a 20 feet by 20 feet mural of a quail! Too much quail. Seems the Israelites had the same troubles, ha ha.

My Utmost For His Highest was talking today about simplicity. I sure need some of that right now. Email me if you want to weigh in on any of these painting ideas, or help me simplify by suggesting another.

Todo Sobre Mi

One of my goals for 2016 is to become conversationally fluent in Spanish. A website I found gave some really good advice, one tip being to learn phrases and statements that are specific to me. That way, I not only am motivated to talk more in Spanish, but while I am getting better at conversation, I at least have a collection of things memorized that I say all the time in English.

Here are the statements I am learning, in no particular order:

Soy seguidora de JESUS, y disfruto estudiar mi Biblia.

Soy esposa y madre.

Tengo doce hijos.

Enseno a nuestros ninos en casa.

Estoy embarazada de nuestro duodicimo hijo.

Queremos mi suegra a vivir con nosotros antes del invierno.

Soy de un pueblo que esta a una hora al norte de Columbus, Ohio.

Me gusta dibujar, pintar, y leer.

Es divertido para mi cocinar y comer una buena comida.

Me encanta viajar, pero tambien disfruto de quedarme en casa.

Estudie matematicas en la universidad.

Soy ama de casa.

Me gusta escribir en el blog, y estoy en Facebook.

Wasn’t that fun? This was a great little exercise to come up with ways to tell people what my life is like, and also to reveal to me words I didn’t know. ‘Disfruto’ is one word I don’t think I have heard before. It means ‘I enjoy’. Good thing I have plenty of things I can tell others I enjoy.

Keep Trying

It must frustrate her to no end to play through that song on the piano, making bumbles and hitting wrong notes. Keep playing, I silently say to her hunched figure. There is value, possibly the most value, in keeping with a thing, and keeping on, than stopping short and moving away.

The last few months I have been melancholy. Not being the most bubbly personality anyway, this is difficult to take for me, because I feel even my lowest reserves of cheer are no longer available. Blame it on the pregnancy, but that is like saying blame it on the baby, which I do not want to do. Pause with me here and I’ll tell you about her.

She is beautiful, with two arms and two legs and a sweet face. The first ultrasound I had, the tech was in a hurry and the pictures I was able to take home were lacking her arms, just had her head, abdomen and legs. Even though this is number twelve, even though I could ably explain to my children that the picture was like a cross section of her body, I still battled some real fear that she was not all there. But, I would tell myself at low points, that is ok. Even if she is not all there physically, it doesn’t have to mean she can’t be excellent and surpassing spiritually, with an amazing potential for God. But still, I had a tough first trimester because of this, and other little things that threatened to rob the joy from this wonder. If there is another pregnancy, I am not going to see a doctor until I’m 20 weeks. So there.

Back on track. So, I know the solution to feeling down is not to check out a self-help book from the library, but I just happened upon a great one by Jon Acuff called Do-Over in the midst of my life burnout. What a shot in the arm! I’m considering buying the book, it is that good. Acuff is really speaking to people who are in careers and find themselves encountering (or needing) some kind of dramatic change. As I was reading about jobs and ceilings and markets and skills, however, I saw countless ties to my life as a wife/mother/homeschool teacher. It was such a needed inspiration to keep trying to make of my life what I can, keep reaching, keep smiling, keep hoping, keep persevering.

All that to say, here are my goals for 2016:

1. Paint/ draw/ do art more. I already have some fun stuff planned to help me meet these goals that I will blog about later.

2. Become conversationally fluent in Spanish. On the surface, this is a strange goal for a person like me to have. But I have always regretted not getting any further with learning Spanish than an almost-minor in college. When I encounter a Spanish speaker in town, I wish I was comfortable enough to connect with them in that moment, and often walk away sad. My hope is to meet and secure a conversation partner in the next few months. Meanwhile, I am learning some phrases that I would use frequently in describing myself and life; I will post those on the blog next time for my friends in Bolivia to critique, as I used Google translate for the Spanish. Ha! Addicted to Google!

3. Piano. I sit down to a piano and it is like painting, or hearing Spanish. I belong there, but, again, I have not made it on to fluency. I hope to get back to practicing and making a better effort at enjoying this beautiful instrument.

In all three of these pursuits, there is talent required, but the skill comes from consistent practice. Were I to devote time and energy to these things, I would not only improve in them, but also in my moods and attitudes. Who knows? Julia may be welcomed with a new painting, a Spanish lecture, an aria on the piano, or all three.

Here’s to a new year of trying again. Who is with me?

Something to Blog About

My fitness class (Mommy and Me) was canceled today because of the holiday, so I went for a run in the late morning. I wanted to go some distance today, because the last two times I have run I have brought Aliyah, or Sarah, with me and they don’t go too far. They are giving running a shot, though, and I appreciate that. So I was about three-fifths into this long run, when I started needing to go to the bathroom. What to do? Running home, or even walking there didn’t even enter my mind, but my first thought was of the nursing home at the end of my road that was actually much closer. As I continued running in that direction, I tried to think of what I would say if someone stopped me in the hall and asked what I was doing there, all sweaty in my wife beater and basketball shorts. Maybe it would be like the looks I get at McDonald’s when I just come in for a water, or to use their WiFi. Hey, I think, I have spent a lot of money here. Maybe no money has changed hands at the nursing home, but I have been there a lot in recent months for more legitimate visits. Still, what to say? I looked around me. One way I might avoid that confrontation was to squat between rows of corn in the field nearby, as they would be just tall enough to hide my hunched over body. But visions of deer loping along at just the right moment, taking me out, and my extreme need, kept me going and actually served to motivate me that extra half mile I needed to cover. I would have to be honest if asked, plain and simple.

When I got there, I was able to walk all the way back to the nurses’ station before passing anyone who wasn’t a resident confined to a wheelchair. This has been the way it is each time we have come there recently to sing- very open door, without anyone really noticing who is coming and going. I guess that works for a small facility like this nursing home, out in the country. Who is really going to come in to do any harm there? This definitely worked in my favor, until the restroom I found didn’t have a lock on it and an elderly man walked in on me right before I would have gotten down to business! I realized I  would have to ask someone, and didn’t relish having to bring attention to my being there. There was a lady in scrubs at the nurses’ station, and I asked her where the public restroom was. She smiled and motioned for me to follow her back down the main hall, explaining as we walked that they kept the bathrooms locked to keep “wanderers” out. “But I’ll show you where we keep the key,” she whispered conspiratorially. Does anyone else see the humor in this? Who wandered in off the street just now, heh heh.

Leaving the nursing home feeling much better, I decided to try to run all the way home. I made it! Luke told me it was about 3 miles. I liked the added distance to the nursing home, how the road is flat and one can just coast along there. I will try to run that far from now on. And I now know where the key to the bathroom is should I need to wander on inside again. It’s becoming a home away from home.

Ask Me

There was a challenge made to me a few months ago to pray for people to be reached in North Africa. So, I dutifully put it on my prayer list, wanting to be faithful in believing that God desires these kinds of requests from us. Words from the song “You Said” come to mind:

 

You said, “Ask and I’ll give the nations to you”

Oh, Lord, that’s the cry of my heart

Distant shores and the islands will see

Your light, as it rises on us

 

But, “distant shores” aren’t the only places God desires men to be saved, as I was soon to realize. One morning as I was looking at the request for North Africa, a new thought came to me. It was as if the LORD was saying to me, “Why don’t you ask for those who live on your road like you ask for those in North Africa?”

I was taken aback. And, I have to admit, a little afraid. If I was to be praying about someone in my own backyard, I would then have to get involved. This was like praying for ladies to encourage Maxine. Okay, I prayed, what can I do to reach my road for You?

Our church is doing VBS next week. Here was a great reason to go door to door. The only problem with this, I thought, was that there aren’t many children on our road. But I had Sarah bake up some cookies to share and I set out with her last night to knock on doors.

Boy, was I surprised! I didn’t hit all of the homes on our road, but I did come across six homes with children.

Everyone we shared flyers with was very friendly, and I was thinking this morning to myself, that was great going door to door doing that- though I didn’t really do anything big like share the gospel with anyone -I really felt alive. Then it was like the LORD was saying to me, “Pray for all of the children to come to VBS.” Oh. So You want me to actually expect the children I invited to VBS to come to VBS? Okay. So I did pray for that, and will continue to pray for that until I see how He answers.

Today’s Ramble

Our calendar for the summer is already quite full, with VBS, summer camp, and campouts for the boys. I was asked to bring my older kids to a Mommy and Me fitness class to help watch the children that are too old for strollers, and while it added something else to the calendar, Luke and I both thought it would be good for me to get involved. I have been running on my own, and felt really good about my weight loss and strength…until today’s Mommy and Me class! Ouch! The exercises seemed to target every muscle that I do not currently use. I had to keep silencing the voice in my head that said, “You’re almost forty! Give it up!” with the reminder that the first time, times and half a time doing an exercise really are hard, but if I keep with it, I will see good results. That tribulation pun was intentional, by the way. The fact that all of the ladies are at least ten years younger than me shouldn’t keep me from participating; I need to put myself in situations where I can encourage and mentor other moms. I can think right now of women who spoke things into my life when all mine were little, who helped me so much. One lady was Kathy. She had cancer a few years back, and survived, but when I first received the news of her illness, it was like her life passed before my eyes, the many ways she built me up, big and small, to help me stay afloat. She and the other MOPS moms threw me a baby shower for Sam, even though he was our third baby. He was scheduled for surgery the next week, and it was such a sweet thing to do to share that time with us as we anxiously awaited our eight-week old’s spinal surgery. (He survived, too- another day of the year to celebrate- June 16). Kathy also was the one to invite me out to Bible Study Fellowship, a Bible study that has been an anchor for me through all my ups and downs of marriage and parenting and growing in Christ. I would love to have the opportunity to influence another mom in their relationship with Christ like Kathy did. It will be fun to make new friends at this class, as soon as I can move again.

20 Questions

Luke and I got out for a date last Saturday night, and I had conveniently bookmarked this article to provide us with enriching conversation. In it twenty questions were listed, to hopefully jumpstart discussion over things other than our children, or our schedules, or, sadly, sometimes just the weather. As we sat in Starbucks and began our descent down the list, it did not take me long to realize that I didn’t have answers to many of the questions. What do I daydream about? Um, I don’t daydream. Is that because I am too busy or is it just not in my nature? Other questions revealed that I was happy to answer the same thing as Luke did- was that because we are truly becoming single minded in our second decade together or because I am too tired to come up with original answers? I came home from our date feeling dejected, with the phrase, “I have no life” going through my mind.

The LORD was there for me, though, as I read in His word the very next day:

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:8-10

Still, I think there are areas of my personal life that need fed and cultivated that I have left fallow for too long! Part of godliness is becoming the fullness of what I was created to be in His image, and I have come across some great reading in books and articles to encourage that kind of growth and development. Stay tuned!

Would You Rather

We got eight inches of snow last night, which meant another day of school canceled for Luke. He is loving his job on days like these. This usually means no school for us, either, which I am always happy to oblige. The longer I homeschool, the worse I like doing it. But, as I read the other day, things that are worth doing are often difficult. And, as I just read today, if I truly think I have a directive from the LORD to homeschool, where is there room for disputing, or complaining? Yeah, none. Especially considering all the days I get to have school canceled.

Luke went over to church to do some work, and called home asking if I could have the boys shovel the driveway. Usually we can labor through a snow by driving back and forth over it until it gets packed down (or we get stuck up or stuck down, or we have auto accidents in deep snows- I have plenty of posts about these scenarios). But Luke’s car is ailing, from the front suspension to the fuel line to the undercarriage being rusted out. One of those times that we wrestle with whether to fix the next boo boo or look for a new used car. He wanted the driveway shoveled in those key areas where his car would be vulnerable.

I told the boys to take fifteen minute intervals, take turns shoveling, and Sam headed out first. I looked out the window after a half hour, and he was still at work, though he was shoveling the entire parking area, not even starting in on the driveway. When I got out there, I offered to start heading down the hill; I was worried Luke would be back before we were done. Sam wanted to keep at it, so I walked some trails, enjoying the sunshine and white beauty all around me. Eventually Sam let me do some shoveling, and I went at the task. I found myself thinking, I definitely would rather be doing this, today, than start my first round of chemo, which is what a friend’s sister was doing today. Then I got to thinking that I would even rather shovel than teach homeschool. I’ve got to be the most reluctant homeschooler, or I really like to shovel. Actually, it is both. I remember feeling this way the time I shoveled Luke out last year. There is something so calming about working in the snow and cold. Definitely not too shabby a way to spend this afternoon. Sam came back out later and took over, shoveling all the way to the road! Luke was taken aback, not expecting a clear driveway. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Counting Blessings

1. I got up this morning at 5, without feeling too super tired.
2. Dinner (spaghetti sauce) was in the crockpot by 8.
3. I came down with a migraine at 9:30, forcing me to shut down for the day.
4. Transportation was provided for the girls to go to Bright Lights.
5. Childcare was provided for my children by their Grandma Carol, allowing me to rest.
6. Delivery of a meal I made for a new mom was provided for me by someone for whom it was not out of the way.
7. Though I didn’t think I should pray for my headache to go away, right after I talked with Him, it did.
8. I got to hear the tail end of the lesson at Bright Lights, a powerful reminder of His presence with me, all the time, everywhere; no burning bush needed.
9. There are two books for me at the library waiting to be picked up- Jan Karon and Andrew Murray are dear friends.
10. I received a letter in the mail from my dearest and only pen pal.
Thank You, LORD, for all these blessings and more.

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them
As they slumber in their beds

If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings

It’s My Party

On my way back from a run this afternoon, still a ways from the house but in view of it, I noticed Bella start whining and wiggling, apparently very excited to see me. Wow, I thought. She has some really good eyesight, to recognize me so far off! As I made my way up the driveway, however, she walked away, sniffing at grass and I think I even saw her yawn. So she got excited about the moving object she saw at a distance, but once she realized it was me, well…Talk about feeling unloved.
That must have subconsciously started the pity party, because by after-dinner clean up I was feeling pretty low. The deadline for Aliyah’s photos and some artwork of Abbie and Noah for the fair is tonight, and all day I knew I needed to make the trip to Walmart and pick up the pictures and then on to Bellville to drop them off, but when the time came to get ready to go, I was dragging. It didn’t help that, as I was changing Elijah before putting him in his carseat, that Luke picked up his glove and sailed out the door with a “I’m going to go play catch with the boys” over his shoulder. Nice. In his defense, he’s been working all day, too- we each have our work. But that was not what I wanted to hear. I really wanted him to go run these errands. He quickly noticed this, as I labored through the grocery list for Walmart, and even swept all eleven kids into the van and took them with him. My prince.
I turned on some Josh Garrels really loud and did some dishes, and now I am sitting outside watching for their return. It is Anna’s 6th birthday, and they should be home soon with frosting for the cake and ice cream. I needed this time to myself, but am hopefully back on track when it comes to remembering whose party it really should be today.