Friday, December 10, 2010

Coupon Confessions

Earlier this year, I posted about my new-found love of couponing. In that post, I explained what worked for me and what I was attempting to do to cut down on grocery bills. Well, I have some confessions to make now that I've been doing this for about a year.

I don't cut out every coupon. Okay, I don't cut out many coupons at all!

I don't try to get every freebie.

My "use yogurt tubs instead of purchasing disposable tupperware" backfired.

And -gasp - I stopped at Walgreens the other day!!

What changed? Nothing, really, except that I've gained a bit of wisdom about what does and doesn't work for me. I had to start somewhere, but over time I've been able to streamline a lot of things to make them work for our family.

For example, our local Safeway grocery store recently unveiled their new couponing program where I just simply upload coupons to the store card. This, combined with other e-coupon sites, has all but eliminated my need for cutting out paper coupons. Also, I don't get to see my parents quite as frequently as I used to, so the stretches between visits are longer and thus a lot of coupons expire before I get them (my mom kindly saves me her inserts so I don't have to spend $$ on a weekend subscription of the newspaper).

I also renewed our Costco membership because it dawned on me that I only have to save $5 a month to pay for the membership fee. I save at least that by shopping there, plus my cheese comes grated! (I love saving time as much as money, so this was a great thing for me.) Costco doesn't accept any coupons but their own, so again, the need for clipped coupons isn't there.

Now that Jon works days and takes the car, I don't have the option of taking a quick trip out to grab a few freebies at CVS, Walgreens, or wherever. I try to take a semi-monthly trip to Target or Walmart to pick up the needed household items, and I use a few coupons if I can. I don't get shampoo for free, but I do get a good deal, and I'm sure I've saved in gas whatever I'd have saved by getting the freebies since it takes so much gas to drop off Jon at work.

My biggest money-saving flop was using yogurt containers in place of buying clear Tupperware or Rubbermaid tubs. Since I couldn't see through the containers, I'd forget what meal was saved in which cup, and I ended up wasting a ton of food. So much for that frugal idea! My mom came to my rescue (again!) with this, though, and gave me a whole stack of clear containers she no longer needed. Hopefully, this way we'll save on the cost of containers as well as avoid throwing out spoiled food.

I know our needs will continue to change, and I'll have to modify my approaches with each season of life. It's rather fun, though, and I enjoy discovering what works and what doesn't. I even stopped in at Walgreens to get my recent prescriptions and to take them up on their free 8x10 collage offers.

Life as a stay-at-home, penny-pinching Mommy can be very exciting even in the seemingly-mundane areas. Life isn't static, and I take joy in finding the new changes, even the minute ones.

I'm sure things will have spun a 360 by the time I even post this. But at the moment of this writing, this is what's working for now. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The "Secret Weapon"

When it comes to action stories, the scripts don't change much: hero and villain fight a mighty battle, and at first it isn't clear who will become victorious. That is, until the hero produces his "secret weapon" and deals his opponent the fatal blow. The hero wins, the enemy dies, and everyone goes home happy.

Whenever I read one of these plots, the first thing that comes to mind is, "Why didn't the hero just bring out the 'secret weapon' in the beginning and save himself some battle wounds?"

As far as I know, there isn't a logical answer to that question.

I've noticed that my own life isn't much different from the scenario above. As a wife, mom, and home educator, I have a "secret weapon" that, instead of tapping into right away, I tend to neglect until things have really run amuck. It isn't as though this secret weapon lies buried, forgotten, in a dark closet. Rather, it is daily before me, though I seem to stare right through it.

No, it isn't God's Word or prayer - though I've been just as guilty about neglecting those necessities as well.

The secret weapon of which I speak?

My husband.

Yes, I have forgotten to let him fulfill the role which God designed for him. I plan, create, develop many good ideas, but only when they fall apart completely do I turn to him and ask for his input. As it turns out, he has some really good insight (imagine that!). And if I would more readily seek his advice, I think I'd save myself hours of worry, frustration, and misery.

What opened my eyes to this was a book called "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" But it wasn't what the book said that sent me a warning signal; it was what WASN'T said.

I always begin reading a book at the beginning - the introduction, the preface, or whatever part comes first. So I did with the above-mentioned book. The author began her acknowledgments by thanking her children, then her friends, editors, publishers, and so on. But she never once thanked her husband (I double-checked). Honestly, he was rarely mentioned at all, even though it was a book on discipline - something I consider to be both parents' department, not just Mom's.

That isn't to say the book wasn't good; I found it very helpful in understanding discipline from a Biblical perspective. But I feel it could have been so much more profound if the author had enlisted the help of her husband.

I think that often we Mommies get lost in this battle of child rearing and teaching. We're with the kids day in and day out, often without respite. We feed them. We love them. We educate them. We train them. We chauffeur them. Caring for the kids becomes so ingrained in us that we forget that God has designed parenting to be a joint effort, and this can be very dangerous.

Of course, there are always special situations - I know of single moms who home school, of families where Dad does the schooling while mom works - but for the majority of homes, Mom does the child care and education while Dad wins the bread.

Please don't follow in my footsteps and neglect this wonderful helper whom God has graciously given you. Ask your husband for help and guidance. Get his perspective on your kids' education (and other areas of life, too). Use your secret weapon from the beginning and avoid some battle scars.

Chances are, not only will your home school life improve, but your marriage just might, too! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Education from A Kidney

Not long ago, a friend biblically pointed out the error with the statement, "Never pray for patience!" So, I took her up on it...and got a kidney infection. Was God tormenting me? Was He punishing me? Was He simply giving me the opportunity to grow in patience?

Honestly, I think I would have gotten that infection whether or not I had prayed for patience. But yes, I do think He was giving me a way to develop further patience (not that I had much to start with). That said, He didn't leave me high and dry to figure out this whole patience thing on my own. Instead, He lovingly provided the patience I needed to get through something so yucky. I really think He was answering my request for longsuffering, though in a way that took me by complete surprise.

When I woke Friday morning feeling as though I'd been steam-rolled by the million-pound Cab-Forward train from the Sacramento Train Museum, I knew the weekend wasn't going to go as planned. The fever, nausea, back pain, and every other unpleasant side effect were enough to do in anyone, and I was absolutely miserable. For some weird reason, I Thessalonians 5:18 popped into my head: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Really, Lord? I gotta give thanks for all of this? I whined as I shivered in pain. But then the most amazing thing happened. I started thinking of all the blessings that had transpired during the first few hours of my infirmity.

*First, this could have happened ON Thanksgiving instead of the day after.

*It could have happened on a day when Jon wasn't home to come to my rescue.

*It also could have been worse...honestly. I only had a low-grade fever and moderate back pain.

*It gave me a completely new appreciation for the man I married.

*It made me much more sympathetic to others who were ill around the same time (if patience isn't my strong point, I'm even worse when it comes to sympathy).

*It forced me to rest after being on my feet for two straight days.

*It caused me to greatly appreciate the previous 28 years that my kidneys have never once complained in such a fashion.

*It helped me to see how God was supplying the patience I needed to endure; it wasn't something I was doing of my own.

And there were other things to be thankful for, as well:

*An EMT friend happened to be online that evening and insisted I go to Urgent Care (otherwise, I probably would have suffered another night before realizing I had something more than just a stomach flu).

*I made it to Urgent Care within 30 minutes of its closing, after which I would have had to go to the ER.

*Urgent Care took me in right away, even before others who were there before me.

*The doctor was sweet, thorough, and efficient and took great care of me.

I don't think I'm necessarily thankful for the infection itself, but I have learned a lot through experiencing it. And for that, I truly can be thankful.

And in addition to praying for patience, I'll also pray that I never, ever get a kidney infection again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reflections on Revolutions

What??? A post about resolutions before Thanksgiving? I know, I'm crazy!

Or, maybe not.

Last year about this time, I started thinking about New Year's Resolutions and how the majority of them never become habits. While I did want to instill a few resolutions in January 2010, I didn't want my resolutions to follow the fate of most well-intended New Year's decisions. So, I decided to try something new.

First, I tried to avoid setting impossible goals - ones that were too hard for me to attain (such as running 10 marathons in 2010) or ones that I did not have enough desire to keep (such as cutting out any and all refined sugar - I love my sweets!). In addition, I limited myself to just 2 or 3 attainable goals.

Next, I tried implementing them as soon as I'd outlined them. I didn't wait until New Year's to give them a try. This way, by the time January First rolled around, I was already familiar with them and was comfortable with their partial implementation.

Last, I gave myself the entire year of 2010 to form them into habits. It takes time to permanently fix something into one's lifestyle, so why on earth do we suppose that instilling a New Year's Resolution into our routine will be a piece of cake?

The end results were well worth the time I spent considering and purposing the matter. I've been exercising 3-5 times a week since July; I've improved slightly on my nasty temper; I've had a little more patience with my kids; and I've read many of the books I'd hoped to finish by year's end. Am I completely perfect in each of these areas? Certainly not. But I believe that I've made further strides in each than I would have otherwise.

I'll test my theories again in 2011 and update my findings.

Happy New Year, everyone! (Okay, maybe that was a little preemptive, I admit.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

But I Don't Wanna Grow Up!

Earlier this evening, Lauren brought me a pair of shoes she'd outgrown. Try as she might, there was no physical way her 18-month-old tootsies were going to fit into size-2 shoes. She fussed and fumed over the situation, and I tried to tell her that those shoes were for babies and that she was now a big girl. No go. Whether she could not understand me or simply refused to accept the facts, I don't know, but she never truly figured out what the problem was.

The funny thing is that this situation reminded me, a bit painfully, of my spiritual walk. The Lord reveals areas in which I need to mature, but I don't feel quite ready to grow up just yet. I'm content wallowing around in my old sin nature. He provides the means for me to repent of and remove these stumbling blocks, but just like Lauren, I'm determined to either ignore them, overlook them, or just plain refuse to admit to them. I want those baby shoes! I don't want big girl shoes. I was comfortable with the little ones.

In reality, I really do need to grow up. Baby shoes are designed for prewalkers. They weren't meant to give the support that a toddler requires, and often after being on a baby, they've grown worn and bear scuff marks and an occasional tooth bite (for whatever reason, my kids always chewed on their shoes). Early on in my Christian walk, I worked on growing my faith, telling the truth, and not getting cross with my siblings (baby shoes), but now I need to work on other besetting sins such as controlling my temper, setting my mind on things of God, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (big girl shoes). Even if I don't want to do these things, they're the next step in becoming more Christlike - in growing up spiritually.

Big shes will seem awkward at first, and they probably won't be very comfortable. But if I continue walking in them, before long, they'll start to break in.

And then it will be time for the next size up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday's Mountains

Nearly every Monday, I see seemingly hundreds of Face Book statuses bemoaning the beginning of the work week. People seem to need an extra cup of coffee, wake up with a migraine, or feel depressed for no reason.

Personally, I think Monday has an undeservedly-severe reputation for being cruel. For me, Monday used to mean the end of Jon's work week. It now represents the weekly start of our regular routine. After our comparatively-chaotic weekends, I'm rather ready for our steady schedule.

And really, if it weren't for Monday's mountains, would the weekend's down-hill stroll be nearly as wonderful? I rather think not. Mondays and weekends go hand in hand: the first makes the second all the sweeter.

Monday means new beginnings. It means a fresh start. It means we've just enjoyed two days off of work. It means we've just enjoyed our church fellowship. And it can be refreshing.

So, thank you, Monday, for bringing a new start to our school week, for helping us to regain the symmetry lost through the weekend. I greatly appreciate you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Signs of the Times

The signs are everywhere: stains in our rather-new carpet; dents in the faux wood paneling that covers the interior of our home; the pile of little shoes at every exterior door. The fact is that children leave their unmistakable marks on their little worlds. As frustrated as I get when I trip over left-out toys when I walk across the living room in the dark, I've actually grown to love (most) of these adorable reminders that my kids leave strewn in their wake.

Of all the things my kids have done to remind me of their presence, my favorite has to be the whistling hippos Lauren left in my back shower. Why? Well, that shower is tucked into the back bathroom at the back of my bedroom at the back of my house. If there were any place that should be untouched by my little spark plugs, the Master shower should be it. But, even there, the whistling hippos (which are adorably cute, by the way) lay there on the bottom of the shower, reminding me of my precious little ones. I suppose for safety's sake I really should collect them and put them back where they belong, but that little reminder every time I walk by the shower is something that truly brings me joy.

All too soon, the whistling hippos, the alphabet-shaped tub blocks, and even the grimy fingerprints will give way to driver's licenses, college text books, and - eventually - daughters- and son-in-laws. I'm eagerly awaiting the future, but right now, I'll cherish the current moment of toddlerhood.

And I'll pray that I don't break my neck after tripping over a hippo in the shower. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Someday I'll Write...Really!

I love to write. I enjoy the thrill of hunting for that perfectly-exquisite word, that delightfully-eloquent phrase, that engaging opening line. English essays were some of my favorite assignments in high school and college - really!

With math, everything is concrete. Two plus two always equals four (and only four!), so if you put down 5 or 3, you're 100% incorrect. Not so with writing. I realized early on that, for many teachers, as long as I used proper grammar, attempted correct spelling, and tried to stay on topic, I could achieve, oh, say, 86% or more of a grade, even if I missed the mark a little bit. I loved that.

Now, years after English assignment deadlines have ceased to induce panic attacks, I find that I don't really have the opportunity to write as much as I did once-upon-a-time. (Somehow, I've never found time for writing an essay or research paper just for my own pleasure. I wonder if having three little spark plugs could have anything to do with it?)

I would really like to do more with writing, but I don't know what. I wrote a children's story, but since I can no longer finish the illustrations I began, I've not found too much motivation to attempt getting it published. I've heard of blogging for profit, which would definitely help our income, but there's this tiny little problem of having a consistent subject matter. I think I'd also have to blog more than once a month, too...not to mention gaining a reader audience. Somehow, I can't see that one happening, either.

So, for now, I'm content to bore my few followers with my random updates and topics that I post on my little Blogger site. I really do take pleasure in it (whenever I don't go back and reread them only to discover my mis-spellings, poor word choices, or controversial subject matter). It gives me snippets of opportunity and a tiny outlet for my love of words, and it gives my readers the ability to graciously overlook my many faux pas.

Perhaps someday in the future, around the age of 90, I'll reconsider trying to publish that children's book. :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Highest Calling

Recently, I read Carolyn Mahaney's book, "Feminine Appeal." I loved nearly all of it and found it to be incredibly helpful as I struggle through the high callings of being both a housewife and a mother. In the final pages, Mrs. Mahaney wrote a beautiful and loving tribute to her mother Margaret. The author depicted Margaret as a hard-working, selfless, and loving woman who truly gave herself completely to others. In other words, this dear Margaret lady sounded as though she embodied the person I hope to someday be.

That is, until I read these lines: " soon as Margaret had sent her 5 children off to school, she spent the next six hours of her day tirelessly cleaning, cooking, and..."

That line caught me off guard. Why? Well, I don't make a lot of public noise over this, but Jon and I feel that it is in the best interest of our children to educate them at home. I certainly don't mind telling people when they directly ask about our educational choices (I'm posting it on my public blog, aren't I?), but I'm not one to announce to a stranger that, "Hey, did you know that we're going to home school our kids?" It's just not in my nature.

So, when I read of these beautiful, Godly women who sacrifice their entire lives for others, it encourages me that, maybe, I can do the same - that is, until I find out that they have 6 hours each day that are free from grimy little fingers and the constant care that little ones demand. I will, in all likelihood, never have this luxury. How, then, am I to do what they have done, while in addition teaching my little spark plugs?

Honestly, I haven't the faintest idea.

I know that I am not alone in this. When my parents first decided to undertake my education 23 years ago, "home schooling" was an unknown term. Today, nearly everyone has at least heard of home schooling if not even considered doing it themselves. Somehow, during the home schooling explosion of the previous generation, families - especially mothers - struggled, pushed, and fought their way through the awesome task of maintaining a home, demonstrating hospitality, and educating their kids. And if they can do it, I can, too.

It won't be easy. At times, it won't be fun. But, unlike my parents and other previous-generation home schoolers, I have a lot in my favor. I was home schooled, so I at least have a vague understanding of what this involves. I have been graciously given more curriculum than I know what to do with. I only have three kids (I've heard of families with 12 or more kids trying to do this). Most of all, I have my husband's complete, steady, and unyielding support, which is far more than many other women have. If anyone is prepared for home education, it's me.

With all of that said, I'll go back to my question: How does one do it all? I am certainly not the expert here (my oldest is only starting kindergarten this fall!!), but I have found a few things to be helpful:

First of all, I pray. A LOT. Especially before I get out of bed in the morning. If I don't, the whole day goes south before I can speak three words.

Secondly, I am a stay-at-home "stay-at-home mom." If that leaves you confused, let me clarify. I don't really go anywhere during the day. Now that Jon works days and needs the car, I find it really annoying to fight traffic in order to take him to and from work just so I have a set of wheels during the day. Staying home is my answer. I tend to stress out when I have a bunch of errands and appointments, so becoming a homebody really appeals to me. Thus, I have a lot more time than someone who has to take kids to soccer, T-ball, ballet, PTA meetings, Back-to-School nights, etc.

Next, I skip as many things as I can. For example, I don't mop, dust, scrub baseboards (it helps that I actually don't have any baseboards), or wash windows. Ever. Really. If something spills on the floor, I take a washrag and clean up the gooey area and go on my way. And with kids ages 5 and under, I really can't see the point of cleaning off fingerprints when they're just going to miraculously reappear moments later. When the kids are grown, I'll have time to wash the windows (I think).

Additionally, I try to include the kids in certain things. Baking is great; we count cup measures and talk about fractions while cooking. I can count it as school; they stay occupied and aren't busy getting other things out; and I get my food prep done all in one fell swoop.

Even better will be starting official chores this fall. I probably won't call them chores since my kids do better when I simply ask if they can help me, but I will start routinely asking for "help" in vacuuming, bathroom cleaning...oh, and dusting. We already ask the kids to help with picking up, clearing the table, folding clothes, and turning off unneeded lights. The older they get, the more they can help relieve me of some of my current obligations and duties. This isn't torture or child abuse; it's called maturity. (It can also probably be called "saving Mom's sanity, but that's for another discussion.)

Of course, this lifestyle isn't for everyone. I know many women who would go stir-crazy if they couldn't get out of the house every day. I also know moms who feel that cleanliness is next to Godliness and couldn't handle a little dust or some fingerprints. For me, though, this method gets me by. I may not be doing all things well (or somethings even at all), but by skimming over some things and enlisting my kids' help, I think we've got a shot at making all of this work.

And if we fail, I'm sure you'll be able to find me in the nearest mental hospital. But at least I tried.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Not All About A Clean House

After my last post, my cousin reminded me of the fact that children grow up way too quickly. Before I can blink, they'll be gone; they'll be leaving for college, getting married, and caring for households of their own. As much as I love having a clean house, I can't let cleanliness rob me of the short time I have to spend with these dear ones before they sprout wings and fly the coup.

I kept this in mind the other day when I suddenly heard peals of laughter - a sure sign that destruction is under way - coming from the direction of the living room. Sure enough, I found my three little spark plugs bouncing all over my couch. Cushions and throw pillows (who keeps throw pillows on a couch when kids reside there, anyway?) had been cast aside so that these items would not impede the happy bouncers.

My first instinct was to roar like an angry mother bear, but I checked myself. Their excitement and laughter (they were oblivious to me) was rather contagious. I thought about that too-soon time when they would not even want to bounce on a dismantled couch, and, in all honesty, I realized that a few bounces probably wouldn't damage the couch least, not too much.

So, choosing to ignore the 17 Varner House rules that were being broken, I quietly walked away and let them continue in their glee. It really was fun to hear them giggle, and I reasoned that this way they'd be good and tired when nap time approached. On top of that, they weren't fighting. Since throwing punches seems to have become one of the boys' favorite past times of late despite repeated "incentives" for them to stop, seeing them play together was rather a relief for me.

And when we next visit my mother-in-law and my children mortify me by repeating their couch-destroying bounce session, I'll have no one to blame but myself.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All By Myself

A dear friend of mine sent me a note in the mail last week. One line of it particularly caught my attention. She wrote, "Sometimes, we as mothers feel that we must do it all." I have not read a truer statement in a very long time, and it hit me that this is exactly how I usually live my life. I get caught up in frustration over the dishes that didn't get washed (again), the laundry that (still) isn't folded, or the toys that are (continually) scattered across the floor. I want to be that Superwoman mother who has a spotless house, a home-cooked meal in the oven just in case unexpected company arrives, and beautifully-behaved children who never fight and always lend a compliment at the most needed moments.


In frustration, I often grumble to myself, "I just can't do it all by myself!"

And I think it is at precisely that moment that I realize what it is that the Lord has been trying to teach me all along: I'm not SUPPOSED to be doing this all by myself.


God has most graciously given us Mommies some very wonderful helpers if we would but utilize them. He has given us His word to lead, guide, and teach us as we train up our dear little spark plugs for His glory. He has given us His Spirit to govern our less-than-perfect attitudes. He has given us our dear husbands who labor hours on end to provide not only for our physical needs but also give us support, love, and encouragement. He has given us our friends who pray daily for us and who can relate to our situations. There really is no shortage of help, but how often do we overlook, either accidentally or purposefully, these support systems that He has put in place?

The hardest part, for me, is remembering and utilizing these fantastic helpers. My dear friend took just a moment to remind me of this, and I am so glad that she did. I hope that I can, in turn, aid others in realizing this as well. God never meant for motherhood to be an "I can do it all" job. It's just too big to do it alone, and, thankfully, we don't have to tackle this mountain "all by myself."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interior Decorating Failure No. 1

Monday morning after Jon left for his first day of work, I took a moment to decide how to spend my day. Ordinarily, I try to tackle the most obvious, most unsightly home management problems (such as overflowing laundry and rampant stacks of dirty dishes) and then move on to the less noticeable areas of concern (i.e., our bedroom, where no wise creature would ever choose to invade). After brief consideration, however, I chose to follow a reverse pattern. Jon is accustomed to stepping over clean laundry that has tumbled onto the dirty laundry room floor, so he probably wouldn't care if he had to do it yet again. On the other hand, our poor bedroom has received such neglect over the past two years - it was our place to dump everything that did not have a permanent home - that I felt it deserved to be ignored no longer.

This decision made, the kids and I dragged out bags of Mommy's crochet yarn, hung up laundry that had been carelessly tossed onto the antique rocker, vacuumed, changed sheets, dusted, rearranged furniture, and vacuumed some more. The end result was amazing and inspiring. I suddenly had a bedroom that looked half appreciated, somewhat decorated (as long as you can tolerate the fact that the bedspread and curtains, both given to us for free, are very different shades of burgundy), and quite refreshing in its now-simplified layout.

So far, so good.

As one good deed deserves another, I decided to tackle the adjacent bathroom next. As mentioned above, I had been given some lovely curtains at no cost. They arrived in mis-matched fashion inside an opaque plastic bag. I had already hung the pair of burgundy curtains for the bedroom, and to my excitement there appeared to be another matching set in the bottom of the bag underneath several sets of tan curtains that are now residing in my living room. I wrestled out my $3 curtain rod from Walmart and, with electric drill in hand, managed to get the rod hung in a somewhat strait line. After I pulled out one of the remaining burgundy curtains and positioned it on the rod, I went back for the last curtain.

Only, there WAS no last curtain.

Instead, there was a nifty little burgundy curtain tie.


I stood back to admire the half-curtain hanging down the right side of the window and started laughing. The best I could do was to use the tie on the single curtain and place some matching candles on the opposite side of the tub to try to balance out the color. It looks ridiculous!!

I've decided to leave it as it is, though, because it does make me laugh, and at least it adds a little color to an otherwise-uninspiring bathroom. Maybe some day I'll find a mate for my lonely curtain, or maybe in all my cleaning I'll eventually find the decorative burgundy grapes that my sister-in-law gave me years ago and hang them on the exposed part of the curtain-less rod.

All that to say, if you ever need a unique decorating style, I'm your (wo)man for the job. Trust me, it takes talent to accomplish such feats!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Great Day Has Arrived

My poor blog!! How have I neglected thee? I hope to make it up to you with the wonderful news I have to share in this post: starting Monday (yes, THIS Monday, as in 3 days from today!), Jon will begin a day-time position with a local company!!

I really haven't a clue about how I should be feeling right now. 5 years is a long time to endure something that, to me, was so unpleasant. 5 years also provides enough time to learn to passively accept that which I despise, to adjust to something to the point of its becoming "normal." So even though I've learned to put up with the grueling necessity of the night shift, I have no qualms of bidding it goodbye (except to be afraid that the new job will somehow fall through and we'll have to go back to it...again).

The greatest emotion I currently feel is thankfulness. I am thankful to God for giving me this wonderful gift. I am thankful to the many, many faithful family and friends who have prayed with us for so long. I am thankful to be released from the drudgery of being a night-time single parent. I am thankful that my husband can finally go to a job that he looks forward to, and one which will hopefully enable him to live a more healthy lifestyle (grave shift doesn't do much for one's immune system, that's for sure!).

I hope I never lose this thankfulness; I hope I never forget what it is that we are leaving behind; and I hope I never forget to pray for those who must continue on with late-night hours or other less-than-ideal employment.

Hopefully this will help me to become a better wife, mother, and homemaker. I have tried my best to improve on these qualities while Jon was still on nights, but now that I won't have to tell the kids to be quiet at every turn, now that I can clean and vacuum without worrying about waking anyone up, and now that our schedule will be closer to what the world calls "normal," I hope to do even better. I am excited about the possibilities!

With that light, I also hope to take a slightly different (and more consistent!) approach with my blog. For those who are interested, I plan to share some of my trials and triumphs as I plunge ahead into improving my teaching, cleaning, and culinary skills. I admit that I anticipate many set-backs, but hopefully I will be able to present them in a humorous fashion that others can relate to.

And, if all else fails, I'll just go back to ignoring my blog. :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Gonna Be A Long Night

One of the biggest reasons I hate the night shift is because it leaves me home alone, with three little ones and without a car. My greatest fear is that one of them will come down with something in the middle of the night when I am least able to properly care for them.

The ironic thing is that this has never happened - although the kids wake me up for various reasons, it's never been due to illness. This just goes to show that the Lord will not try us beyond our capabilities! He knows my limitations, and He has not required me (yet) to face this particular fear. And if/when He does, I also know that He will supply the grace I'll need to handle the situation.

Even more ironic is the fact that I'm sitting here at the computer at 12:53 A.M. because I'm coughing so hard I can't sleep. So, instead of being up with a sick little one, I'm up with a sick ME! I have a feeling that it's going to be a long night. While I do hope that I can soon be rid of this most recent virus, it is a good reminder to be thankful for my health when I do have it.

And it also reminded me of a funny incident that occurred a few weeks back. I was sound asleep when, at 3:40A.M., I heard a little voice.

Kyle: Mommy? I can't find my pillow.
Me: Just look for it in the morning.
Kyle: But I really NEED my pillow.
Me (stumbling, half asleep, into his room): Kyle, it's right there, at the top of your bed, where it belongs!
Kyle: Oh, yeah. I forgot.

Oh, the joys of being a night-time parent! :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hesitant Anticipation

Before Jon graduated, I eagerly longed for the day he would no longer have school work. It just could not come quickly enough, in my opinion! Now that we're on the other side of graduation (and let me assure you, it's been every bit as wonderful as I'd imagined!), I am just as eager for the day that he'll no longer work nights. I mean, if no school is this good, what could be better than having him work normal hours where he can be home with me at night and on the weekends?

And yet, as much as I want that new job, I have to admit that I also hesitate, just a little. What if the new job falls through? What if it requires a move? What if, what if, what if? The security guard job he has is working...sort of. It's getting us by for the time being, and it probably isn't going to fall through no matter how poor the economy becomes. In an odd way, I've come to depend on it, even though I loathe it as well.

Does this sound rather silly? It does to me, when I step back and think about it. I guess the insecurity comes from what has happened before: he worked nights years ago but then landed a great, high-paying day job. But when that fell through, he had to go back to nights. I'm afraid of going through that again.

Really, this is how I feel about Heaven and life after death. The Bible has promised that Heaven is for all of us who believe, that it is far better, far richer, far more wonderful than we can ever hope to imagine. And yet, since I've not actually seen it, since I cannot touch it, picture it, or imagine it, I am afraid of it. It's the unknown. Those who are already there are probably shaking their heads at me. It will be better than anything I have ever known, just as having Jon on a day shift will be unfathomably better than his current work situation.

So, I anticipate both Jon's new job (whenever it comes) and Heaven...but with just a hint of hesitation on the side. I'm sure that after the change has taken place, I will laugh at myself for being so silly. Perhaps, though, this is what keeps me human.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mirror Image

Recently, my friend Amy pointed out how our children reflect us - often with painful accuracy. When I see the boys do something wrong or hear them repeat something that causes me to blush, I usually find the root of these things in something I've said or done. It is rather embarrassing to see myself so perfectly replicated in my kids. More accurately, it's convicting.

On the flip side, when I find Tyler cleaning up a mess Lauren has made without my asking him to, when Kyle walks up to me just to tell me he loves me, I smile contentedly inside. It is comforting to know that more than just my errors are rubbing off.

In many ways, the boys' good behavior is just as convicting as their bad judgment. Do I respond with as much enthusiasm to chores as my kids do? Am I as willing to forgive them as they are to forgive me? Can I rest as contentedly in difficult situations as they do?

So, while they do mirror me, I also find myself hoping to reflect them as well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dragging My Dross

My mom has often pointed out correlations between infants and the Christian faith. As a result, I've started noticing these comparisons as well.

One evening not long ago, Lauren stood fussing at the toy box, which was just a few feet from where I was sitting at the computer. I called her to me to see what her complaint was about. After several minutes, she still hadn't arrived, so I looked over to see what was hindering her progress. Slowly, yet surely, she was inching closer to me, dragging along with her an empty, mesh toy bag. Why on earth she wanted the bag to accompany her was beyond me. It served no purpose but to slow her down, making what should have been a very short journey into an encumbered, difficult task. In short, it was preventing her from making her way to me.

This whole scenario caused me to consider what things in life I tend to drag around with me, things that potentially hinder my faith, that cause undo anxiety, that interrupt my relationship with God. Chances are good that I have many such snags, and I am going to guess that I am still blind to many, if not most, of them. Yesterday, I became aware of just one.

In my finite mind, God must operate along a certain path. For example, I just assumed that God had to provide for our family by presenting Jon with a different job. Instead, He's shown just how mighty and infinite He is by providing in every way BUT a different job!! I also assumed that we needed to go out hunting for a new job if Jon were ever to find a new one. Wrong again.

I woke up yesterday morning in a good mood (amazing what two nights of uninterrupted sleep can do!), praising the Lord for His goodness, faithfulness, and provision. And for a moment (albeit brief), I even felt that I just might, in His power, be able to cope a little longer with this horrible night shift. No, it's not easy, but with God, all things are certainly possible.

While I was enjoying this peace that passes all understanding, Jon was at a work meeting where he discussed with his boss the lack of opportunity for a promotion at his current company. A coworker, who was also in attendance, told another coworker (who missed the meeting) how frustrated Jon was that Jon couldn't progress to a management position despite his best efforts to do so. The coworker who had missed the meeting then called Jon and informed Jon that he had an older brother who worked in the computer industry. Thus, Jon now has a meeting this week with this coworker's brother!

Without our lifting the smallest finger, the Lord opened up this opportunity. It came not from our ambition, but it was singly the Lord's working.

Now, this does not in any way mean that a new job is on the horizon; as far as we know, the computer company doesn't even have a current position available. But what this taught me was that the Lord is capable of anything, and just because I cannot foresee the way He may choose to provide, it doesn't mean that He's incapable of it. I just need to quit dragging along my dross (i.e., my own plans); I need to rest completely in His care; and I need to remember that God is not hindered by my limitations, desires, and sin.

Pretty amazing, isn't it?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Damaged Diamond and A Perfect Promise

I'm not a showy person, so I never really anticipated owning an extravagant ring. A simple, small diamond on a plain gold band was all I ever hoped to have. Imagine my surprise when, after proposing, Jon presented me with a half-carat, brilliant-cut, central diamond with two quarter-carat diamonds on the side set in a two-toned, ornately designed band! It was absolutely stunning, and I felt beyond treasured that he would bestow such a lovely gift upon me.

I never take my ring off, and after a few years of marriage, I inevitably whacked the center diamond against the wall when running after one of the boys. In doing so, I visibly bent one of the setting's prongs. I took it in to be repaired, and the jeweler informed me that not only was the prong bent, but I had actually chipped my very precious diamond. There really wasn't much to be done for the diamond, but once the prong was repaired, it completely covered the diamond's damage and the ring now appears as perfect as it was when I first received it.

After relaying this story to friend, I was casually asked, "Why didn't you have the ring insured? You could have had the diamond replaced." Even if we'd insured the ring and had the option of replacing the damaged diamond, I don't think I would have chosen to do that. While the ring is beautiful, it's the promise behind it that gives it value. Jon gave me the ring with this promise: "I will be committed to you for as long as we both shall live. Nothing will cause me to break that promise." This ring, its imperfections and all, symbolizes that promise for me. I don't really care that its original monetary worth has been significantly reduced; the promise behind it has not.

In a way, my ring also reminds me of the promise of salvation. I am a broken diamond, chipped beyond repair. But God in His mercy covered me with the blood of the Lamb, just as the new prong covers the chip in my ring's diamond. He no longer sees the broken me, but instead, He sees the righteousness of His Son covering my brokenness. My imperfections will never cause Him to remove my salvation, just as my broken ring does not annul Jon's commitment to me.

A new diamond might be worth more money, but my imperfect one is much more dear than any replacement could be, no matter the clarity "worth" of a new one.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Habakkuk 3:16-17: A Hymn of Faith

Though the fig tree fails to flourish,
Though the vine refuses fruit,
Though the olive does not nourish,
Though the fields yield no food;

Even if the flocks should perish,
And though all the cattle flee,
It is Christ alone I cherish
In all this calamity.

I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy
In the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign God is my strength,
Whom I trust
In the day of tribulation;
I will find peace in His rest
In the day of my distress.

Though death's shadow does surround me,
Though my enemies be near,
Though my trouble does confound me
And I lose all I hold dear;

Even if the storm consumes me,
Though alone I can't go on;
I will look to Christ, the Holy,
Who alone can make me strong.

I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy
In the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign God is my strength,
Whom I trust
In the day of tribulation;
I will find peace in His rest
In the day of my distress.