Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why we did not rent for Masters this year.

If you know nothing about the Masters tournament, allow me to give you a brief (and informal) introduction to it -- 

The Masters tournament is considered one of the most prestigious golf tournaments around the world.  I heard on TV last week that the Masters green jacket awarded to the winner is considered one of the most coveted clothing items in the world of sports.  It takes place every year in Augusta, GA at the golf course located only half a mile from our home.  Needless to say, things get *a bit* crazy around here this time of year.  

And just to give you an idea of the kind of money that flows around here.  Our middle class home (3 bedroom/1.5 bathroom) has been rented out every year to "the patrons" for an average of $3,000 for ONE week.

Our home is one of the lowest paying homes.  Depending on the size and location of the house, many Augusta residents rent out their homes for tens of thousands of dollars for the week (!!!!!).

But this year we did not rent our home.  After four years in a row of renting out our house, we decided to take the year off.


Did we not need the money?  Actually, yes, we did need the money.  We are a one-income family, and the husband changed jobs six months ago, taking a pay cut while at it.  Top that with the fact that we just purchased a new and larger home.

Could we use an extra $3,000?  You betcha! 

So why didn't we?

Well, the easiest answer to this is that we are about to move homes (remember I said we just bought a new house?), and leading up to Masters week, there was a chance that I would have to be in Mexico during that week (which did not end up happening, btw, but still...).

But there is more to the story.  You see, a funny thing happens inside of me every year at around Masters week -- I become very greedy.  I begin to compare myself and how much my house is rented for compared to others.  I become angry and resentful towards people who get more money for their house.  People who rent out for less days, or have a "lesser home" than mine, yet get "a better deal."

Do you see where this is going?

These are not fun emotions to deal with, especially as I realize that I've been given all that I am in need of... 


I'm incredibly ungrateful for it.

I want more, yet this "more" I'm after is not enough.

This hit home last week in a very unique way as I was reading through the account of the healing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5.

The gist of the account is this -- Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram (a foreign country), had leprosy.  His wife's slave girl, an Israelite, told her master's wife about the prophet Elisha in Israel who could cure him.  Naaman asks the king for permission to leave for Israel to be cured, and the king allows it.  Naaman takes with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing (v. 5).  He plans on paying Elisha for his services with this.  In verse 16, after he is cured from his leprosy, we see Elisha refusing this payment.

Why did he refuse the payment?  I'm not sure.  Maybe because Naaman was an enemy of Israel.  But I'm really not sure.

What we do know is that Elisha's servant Gehazi did not think refusing the payment was the best thing to do.  So he hurried after Naaman and asked for a talent of silver and two sets of clothing, a small fraction of what Naaman was offering to pay (v. 22).  Gehazi gets the money and the clothes, but is later cursed by Elisha with Naaman's leprosy instead. 

My guess is that the talent of silver and the two sets of clothing were worth a lot in those times (just like my Masters money... do you see where this is going?)...


He did not need the money.

And I don't need the money either.

The talent of silver and the two sets of clothing would have been a nice boost, but they did not need it.

The extra $3,000 would have been a nice boost for us as well, but we did not need it.

Remember in 1 Kings 17:2-6, how the Lord supplied Elijah with water from the brook and food through the ravens?  Elisha was Elijah's apprentice, and Gehazi was Elisha's servant.  Chances are that Gehazi had heard of Elijah's miraculous provision, and had probably continued to see this provision first hand himself throughout his life.

Point being, neither Elisha nor Gehazi needed the boost.  They had been given all that they were in need of.  

And similarly, though the $3,000 would have been a nice financial boost for us this year, we did not need it.  Even in the mist of being a one-income family and the new house, we have enough!  We'd love more, I'm not going to lie, but we have enough!

There is nothing wrong with renting out our house for Masters every year.  We hope to get to do it next year again and for the rest of our lives.  I'd love to get to do extra things with that money in the future.  But not this year.  This year we took the year off.  We tucked away the greed and resentment that inevitably always rises up this time of year, and watched the Lord continue to provide for us. 

I don't want to be like Gheazi, and forget about God's continuing provision.  I know I have all that I'm in need of, and anything extra is just that... extra :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nap or no nap?

This girl is off and on about naps these days.  She will still stay in her room for a good 1.5 - 2 hours to play or "read" by herself.  She'll sleep for about half of those days.  And then on occasions I'll walk in her room to get her out and find this --


Last week was Masters week, which means the entire world comes to Augusta to watch the golf tournament.  After Saturday naps at the end of the week, we decided to pack a picnic dinner and drive over to the private airport to watch all the private airplanes fly in and out.  These pictures do not do this afternoon any justice.  It was a lot of fun, with Little Byron pointing at every. single. plane he saw.

Easter 2015

This was a fun Easter season this year, with Emma really getting excited about it.  

On the Thursday before Easter, a few friends and our kids got together for a playdate and an Easter egg hunt.  We had lunch, and the "older" kids got to build their own "peep" house.

All the children before the Easter egg hunt.

Emma and her absolute best friends -- Ames and Zeke.

After the egg hunt, all the kids looking through their new-found treasures. 

Then on Easter morning, the kids found their Easter baskets at their door.  Emma was sooooooo excited.  I'd say Easter was a greater hit than Christmas.

Byron fell a few days earlier and hit his face with the steps.  Then he fell again and hit his face on the same spot with a chair.  That child is an "accident magnet." 

Picture catchup

Thought I'd play some catchup with this post and just post a number of pictures from the past few weeks.

Emma has always been a TV-girl, and Little Byron has found himself enjoying some sibling TV-time as well.  I was raised thinking that TV was "The Devil," so I almost always feel borderline guilty about the kids watching TV.  But in all honesty, it's quite the life saver, never mind a "cheap babysitter."  And just to set things clear, the kids don't sit around watching TV all day.  Days can go by without any TV, then on most days they'll watch about 30 minutes, and then on others watch about 1.5 hrs - 2 hrs (movie).  All in balance.  The goal here is to not make it a big deal.

Then as the weather has been getting nicer, the kids enjoy playing outside and "water the plants" (aka, the weeds).  It always ends up being on big, wet mess.

This was a fun little thing for me to watch.  When I was a little girl, about 8 years old, I began collecting stationary pages.  More than 20 years later, I never got rid of them, waiting "for the perfect time to use them."  I was quite nostalgic about them, especially because I clearly remember as a little girl looking through them and organizing them.  My prized possession!  Then the other day, as I was going through some papers, I came across them, and decided that "the perfect time" was NOW.  My little girl was going to get to enjoy them and play with them and scribble on them.  She enjoyed them well for a while.  Now they'll be headed to the trash soon.  I'd say I'm glad I held on to this collection of mine for as long as I did :)

Little Byron getting into Daddy's closet.

I got to go see my baby sister get matched in Athens three weeks ago.

The kids and their shenanigans.   Here they are playing the "night-night game."

On a lazy Saturday morning.  This boy still sucks his right index finger.  Never mind that he's been doing it for his entire life now, I'm still not used to seeing him do it.  I've never seen an index-finger-sucking child before.

And how he sleeps!!!!  (And big sister taking a peek)

 There is something about a baby and his bottom in the air when he sleeps that just makes my heart melt.

Another outdoor afternoon playing with water.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why there is more to friendships than just the desire to have them.

In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller says that there needs to be more to a friendship than just the desire to have one.  For a friendship to be born and flourish, there has to be something in common between the two parties.  A love for books, a love for the outdoors, a love for running, etc.

But how do you bridge the gap between talking about the weather (or your child's inability to eat vegetables) to something much more relevant? How do you jump from a simple friendship to a David-Jonathan-like relationship?

I am by no means an expert on friendships, other than what I've recently noticed in the Bible, and how it has been proven to be true in my own life.  But here are three things I noted this past week while reading through 1 Samuel and part of 2 Samuel regarding David and Jonathan's friendship, and how it may be possibly applied to friendships today.  

1.  In 1 Samuel 18:1 it says that "Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself." A key element in a David-Jonathan-like relationship should be that there is a similar spirit between the two.  But I believe there is something more -- you will never experience a friendship's full potential unless the two parties involved have the same spirit in the Lord.

I have found this to be true in my life.  For example, a friend and I have been having an ongoing discussion about Covenant Baptism over the past two weeks.  No matter where we are at, whether we have three minutes or one hour, we have this deep conversation about something incredibly profound.  BAM!  Straight to the meat.  No small talk, no weather talking, no nothing.  Meat, my friends.  And isn't meat all that we are all longing for?

2.  Secondly, a David-Jonathan-like relationship must be one that helps you find strength in the Lord.  In 1 Samuel 23:16 it says:  "And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."

This passage makes me want to weep.  Partly because I see the truth and wisdom in it, and partly because I have once again found it to be true in my life.

Last week at around 7 AM one morning, after I had wrapped up my Bible-reading for the day, I glanced at my phone and saw a text from a dear friend with this caption:  "thank you for being a Jonathan to me!" with this picture (she is also reading through the Bible with me) --

I was moved by her message, partly because I felt honored and privileged, but also because it's true -- those who point you to Christ and help you find strength in Him are by definition David-Jonathan-like friends. 

3.  And lastly, a David-Jonathan-like relationship is unique and different than the relationship you may have with your spouse.  In 2 Samuel 1:26, after David learns of Jonathan's death, he says:  "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me.  Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women."

I must confess that this verse werids me out a little.  But if I put myself in David's shoes, it makes sense.  David had two wives at that time.  My guess would be that he didn't do much relating to any of his wives other than relating with them sexually.  Instead, Jonathan was a friend to him when his wives were not.

I may be stretching this verse a little, but when I read this verse I read comfort for my soul.  I hear the Lord telling me that it is OK for my same-sex friends to meet the needs my husband is not able to meet.  That it is OK for my husband NOT to be my "everything" socially.  And that it is OK to not feel guilty about it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why you should aggressively read the Bible.

I had the opportunity to give a brief talk at a MOPS meeting last week.  I am slightly editing this talk and publishing it for this morning's WHY-Wednesday post.

Early May of last year I wrote about why I waked up before my kids, and later that same month I wrote about why I read through the Bible in a year, every year.  I am humbled to see how powerfully the Lord has used those two "tools" in my life.


Today I am going to share with you the story of how the Lord captured my heart, satisfied my soul, and gave me the rest I deeply longed for.  The story of how the Lord broke me after the birth of our son, and how through the aggressive reading of the Scriptures, He wooed me back to Himself. 

Soon after our son Byron was born, I found myself angry and resentful with life.  Just to clarify, I wasn’t depressed.  No, my problem was an issue of the heart.  I began thinking to myself: 

 “If only I had a few hours to myself each week,” 

“if only I was no longer nursing,” 

“if only I could fit into my jeans,” 

“if only my husband came home from work earlier.”

When I was at my whit’s end, with a broken and weary heart, I began reading through the Bible.   In January of 2014, when my son was only three months old, I began waking up at 6 AM to read my Bible and spend time in the presence of the Lord.  I was doubtful it would even make a difference, but I was desperate, and it turns out desperation was all I needed.  I needed to be desperate for Christ.

And the Lord met me.  He used my time in His presence and in His Word to woe me to Himself.  He said:  “I am all you need, I am the only one who satisfies.”  Six AM became the highlight of my day, with the Lord reminding me day after day after day that He was enough.

Since then I’ve put my children in a Mother’s Day Out program to give myself a few hours each week.  My son has been weaned, I’ve lost my baby weight, and the husband is now coming home from work earlier.  But it’s been reassuring to see that none of it was enough.  None of these things delivered the way I had hoped they would.

I learned that to put my hopes on anything other than Jesus was like chasing after the wind.  It’s useless, and only ever leaves me frustrated and empty-handed.  I learned that the day will come when all the good things I’ve been longing for -- the big house, the perfect husband, the good health, and the successful children – will all come true, and it will not be enough.  

To put my hopes on anything other than Jesus is like chasing after the wind.  Only Jesus satisfies, and only Jesus is enough.

So, what does the highlight of my day look like?  What is my time in the presence of the Lord like every morning?

1.  First off, my time in the presence of the Lord gives me rest.  In Genesis 4, after Cain murders his brother Abel, the Lord drives him out of the land, and this is what Cain tells the Lord in response:  “I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

An immediate result of being in the presence of the Lord is that it brings us rest, regardless of the storms we are facing.  It seems contradictory to say that to add something to our lives will calm things down, but it’s true!  I have experienced it for myself.

2.  Secondly, when I’m in the presence of the Lord, I use that time to read through the Bible, cover to cover, and treat it like one book.  Did you know that the Bible is one Story of the Lord rescuing His people back to Himself?  Once I started treating the Bible as one book instead of a study tool, or a collection of good inspiring and challenging stories, my understanding and love for the Lord grew exponentially.

My time in the presence of the Lord is just me, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and very little of anything else.  Hebrews 4:12 says:  “For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword.”  It was in fact the Word of God and His Spirit that broke me and brought me back to Himself.

3.  And lastly, my time in the presence of the Lord happens first thing in the morning.  I have found that this is the most consistent and reliable time in my day to do it.  My kids get up at 7 AM, so I wake up at 6 AM, Monday through Sunday, and I never ever regret it.  It is the highlight of my day.  I know this may be hard to fathom, but give it a try.  You may be surprised.

The truth is that when we spend time with the Lord, and immerse ourselves in His Word daily, it will never leave us empty, and we will never regret it.  We will be satisfied, and given all that we’re in need of.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Welcome Spring

The kids inherited their big cousins' playhouse a couple of weeks ago, and this afternoon, with Spring weather welcoming itself back into the Augusta area, we decided to do a little family scrubbing party.  The kids really enjoyed getting wet and "helping" Mommy out.

One of the things we kept shouting out while we cleaned was:
"Casa limpia, ninos sucios!!!!!!!!!"
("Clean house, dirty children!!!!!)

Emma's first purchase

I feel like the "cool" parenting thing to do these days is teach your children to do chores around the house from before the time they can walk.

I understand the sentiment.  You want to teach them that you expect them to pull their own weight around the house.

So I tried it all.  From folding our napkins, to sorting silverware, and I've got to make a confession -- it's exhausting.  

So I've changed directions a bit--  There is a vending machine at the Kroc Center that Emma is always wanting to get a treat from.  So I've decided that instead of teaching my child to do chores around the house just for the sake of it, I would instead focus on trying to teach her the relationship between work and money.

So every day, Emma has the chance to earn 20 cents -- a dime for letting Mommy put her clothes on quickly and without being fussy, and a second dime for helping Mommy make her bed and pick up her room quickly and without being fussy.

This normally allows her to earn and save up enough money for a vending machine treat once a week.  Two weeks ago was her first purchase.

She was so proud of herself!  

She is also a sweet big sister in that she generously shares of her hard-worked reward with her baby brother.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Friday nights

We've started somewhat of a new tradition of going out for doughnuts with the kids on Friday nights.  It's a little bit chaotic right now with a toddler that doesn't want to sit still for more than 2 minutes, so we are reevaluating the location.  Either way, it's been fun knowing that a family outing is the way we get to wrap up the workweek in our household.

Emma's new piggy bank

Soon after BB broke Emma's piggy bank (a pink bear), Emma was set on getting a blue pig next.  I wanted to make sure not to get her hopes up, since I wasn't sure we would be able to find one.  

But our luck is such, that on a trip to the Dollar Tree, we found one.  She spotted it half an aisle away and dashed towards it.  She was so excited about it, it merited a picture (check out her purse, btw).

Santa in February

Even though we don't do Santa, it was fun running into him at Costco the other day.  He was wearing Christmas colors, and very much playing "the part."  As we were walking by him, he saw the kids and said:  "ya'll be a good boy and girl."  He was so kind, and for whatever reason, I found myself being so thankful for him.  Something about him embracing his role all year long, and giving Christmas just that extra touch of specialness :)

Everything is getting broken

Within the past 4 - 6 weeks, just about everything that can be broken in our house has been broken.  Byron the Third has seen to that.

It all started with our lasted-through-Emma reading lamp in our TV room.  The Third pushed it and it fell to the ground.  Another day a plant pot was dropped and broken.  Then Emma's piggy bank was dropped and broken as well (like I said, everything is getting broken around here).

We replaced our reading lamp within a week or so of it being dropped, and guess what happened in just a few days?

Yup, dropped and broken.  I was so frustrated, I refused to buy another one.  Luckily, right around the time this was all happening, I was reading through the awesome book The Nesting Place ("it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful" -- anyone???  A must read!).  

So I got creative, and started glue gunning (actually, it was more like "I attempted to glue gun") some parchment paper (did you know parchment paper cannot be pasted with anything???  So annoying!).  So after lots of fiddling around, I ended up with this product:

I proudly texted the picture to the Husband, and he was like:  "mmmmm, I think that's a fire hazard."  

So what's a girl to do?  I load the kids in the van and head over to Goodwill.  Find a $3 lamp shade, cut the bottom, glue gun it to the lid of a Diablo's to-go bowl, and attach it to the top.

Quite lovely.  Never mind that it's crooked, and gotty, and if you looked close enough, you can tell it's cheaply made.  But hey, it's childproof, and cheaper than spooning out another $60 bucks for something that's more than likely going to break in the next 48 hours.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

WHY-Wednesday: Why I despise myself for hating my laundry so much.

Oh how I hate dealing with laundry.  No matter how hard I try to figure out a system that helps me make laundry more manageable, it always seems to have the upper hand on me.  I honestly feel like the system I have going on right now is the best I've ever had, but still... as I type this, there are two loads that are partly folded, partly waiting to be folded, and a load of diapers that is yet to be put away.

It's actually not that bad, a lot of it is folded (remember I said that my current system seems to be the best so far) except notice that it is still in the laundry room, NOT where clean laundry belongs.  Never mind that the diaper load was done three days ago.  It's still there.

I hate doing laundry.  Yet I'm being ridiculous. 

How dare I despise the privilege of washing my own clothes at home?

Let's evaluate my circumstances for a little-- 

Most middle-class American homes like ours don't even have a separate "laundry room."  We do.
Strike ONE.

If I were still leaving in Mexico, regardless of my social class, chances are I would NOT even own a dryer.
Strike TWO.

As a matter of fact, during the two years we lived in Mexico after getting married, we didn't even own a washer and dryer.  I would take my dirty laundry to a laundromat and spend an entire afternoon doing my entire week's worth of laundry outside my home.
Strike THREE.

 Most people around the world will at best get to wash their clothes by hand (yes, I like to insert this little guilt trip in my blog every once in a while :p).
Strike FOUR.

Yet, despite it all, I still have the audacity to complain about my laundry.  Oooohhh, how it piles up.  Oooohhh, how I never seem to get it finished.  Oooohhhh, how I hate folding it.  Ooooohhhh, how I hate putting it away.  Oooohhhh... (fill in the blank).

Really???? Shame. On. Me.
Thank you Jesus, that though laundry can seem like such an unbeatable "giant," I still get to do it at home.  In a washer.  And a dryer.  In my own laundry room.  Thank you.

So what have I done to make laundry more manageable in our home?

I feel like I've tried it all.  From having a "laundry day" where I tackle all of the week's laundry in one day (majorly disliked that method), to having two "laundry days" where I split the week's laundry in two days, to doing a load of laundry every day (yes, I was doing small loads every day except Sundays... also no fun).

But all three of those methods just about did me in.  Whether I was washing clothes once a week, or washing clothes every day, with dirty diapers thrown in there twice a week, I was thinking about laundry ALL THE TIME

About two months ago I decided to try something new.  New for me, at least.  It may be common sense for the majority.

I used to just have one dirty laundry basket for the entire house, which no matter how hard I worked on staying on-top of, was always overflowing with clothes.  So I decided to add three additional baskets to the laundry room to help tame the monster:

Nothing fancy.  Just some $7 Target hampers.  

About every two days, I empty the "main" dirty laundry basket located in our room and separate the clothes into three categories in our laundry room:  whites, colors, and larges (jeans, towels, jackets, sweaters, etc).  Whenever one is full, I just stick it into the washing machine, then dryer, then out of dryer.

I don't think about it.  Don't obsess about it.  Don't revolve my week around "laundry day" anymore.  It just gets done when it gets done (except on Sundays, that's my day off.  But that's another post entirely).

And when there are about two or three clean loads sitting in the laundry room, I finish folding, and put it away all in one day.  Not too bad.

How do you tackle your laundry?  Do you find yourself complaining about this first-world problem as much as I do?

(PS -- I've just started making my own laundry detergent.  I'm excited to see how well it works and how cost efficient it becomes).