Saturday, February 14, 2015

For My Daughter

Dearest Eliana,

Yesterday, you turned THIRTEEN. 

I could go on an on about how fast the years have flown by, or reminisce about all the adorable things you did when you were a baby, but instead, I want to take a minute and share my heart with you. 

I want you to know that I am proud of you. You are a born overcomer. There have been many things that life has thrown your way that have been challenging, and yet, you have overcome each one.

You are a forgiver. Only your family truly knows the things you've faced, but each time, you were given two options: become bitter, or forgive. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness that you chose what God wants---forgiveness.

You are an example. I love that I can tell the little girls to "be like Ellie" and it's a GOOD thing. :) I watch the way you mother them, and I listen to the way you speak to them, and I can hear Jesus in you. Always choose G-R-A-C-E in your dealings with children. They look to you for an example.

You are loved. From Aunt Rhonda (pictured above) to the rest of your extended family, from Johanna down to Titus, and especially from your Daddy and myself---YOU ARE LOVED. Wherever life takes you, never forget that we love you. Right now, at 13, you may take it for granted, but someday you will wake up and find yourself lonely for the chaos that is your f-a-m-i-l-y.

And we will be there for you. (Hopefully that's a reassuring thing. LOL)

You are beautiful. I look at you and stand in awe of your beauty. I love the fact that the inside is as beautiful as the outside.

It won't be long before young men start noticing the lovely young woman you've become. Don't waste your time with those who are more interested in your outer beauty than your true inner beauty. Save your heart for that very special young man who is waiting patiently for YOU.

Remember that there will always be someone "prettier" than you, "thinner" than you, more "popular" than you, and that seems "happier" than you. Don't fall into the female comparison trap. You'll never please everyone anyway.


The one God created in my womb thirteen years ago.

The one who fills our days with such delightful J-O-Y.

You're radiant with the love of Jesus. Remember that serving HIM will bring you true joy in life.

Money, fame, popularity, and plenty of STUFF will try to distract you from serving Jesus. Keep your heart close to HIM so His voice is louder than all of the distractions.

People say the "teen" years are hard. I know it has to be hard to feel stuck between child and adult. :)

Your Daddy and I are there for you as you navigate this path to adulthood. We aren't perfect parents and you won't be the perfect teen---but you will ALWAYS be the perfect teen for US.

I'm not sure I'm ready for you to grow up. I've never walked this journey before. It's exciting and scary all at once.

I know the time will come (sooner than I'd like!) when you will examine all that we have poured into you and determine what YOU truly believe. Your faith and your purpose in life will be brought under deep scrutiny.

If you only come away with one thing, my prayer is that it's a vibrant love relationship with Jesus. None of the rest is important if you don't LOVE HIM.

You could not do or be anything that could make us any more proud of you than we are right this very minute. You are our precious first-born, our miracle child, the child we begged God to allow us to have.

You are a delight to both Daddy and me.

I will love you forever.

Happy 13th birthday.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

This and That

The last two weeks have been relatively uneventful. A couple of good meetings, homeschooling, and other normal things. We have been parked at Eastside Baptist Church in Mebane, NC, for almost 2 weeks and that is a VERY long time for us to be in one place! In a way, it's nice, because I get comfortable finding the local grocery store and library, and we don't spend hours moving our trailer or driving, but usually we're all ready to "hit the road" when it comes time.

Our new trailer is having some humidity/condensation issues. We have tried all the recommendations for eliminating the issue to no avail, so we will be dropping it off tomorrow at the dealership. This is always an adventure as our "home" is unavailable until it's done being serviced, but thankfully this is supposed to be a one-day job. We will have an entire day to "kill" but Brent did mention the word IKEA so one can hope that it will be a fun day. :)

The day before we leave a place is almost always a very busy day. I need to find a good local Laundromat (and get all the laundry clean!), plan and prepare breakfast for the next day, get everyone showered and dressed before bed (so the morning routine can go quickly and smoothly as smoothly as possible), clean the trailer, and prepare the van for traveling (cleaning it out, organizing backpacks, packing extra diapers and wipes, etc).

Yesterday was spent with our dear friends the Deloziers. Loretta and I have been friends since we were teenagers, and her friendship is one of my sweetest treasures in life. She is my true kindred spirit (to quote Anne of Green Gables).  Their family lives near Mebane, so we have spent EVERY possible minute together these past 2 weeks! Loretta has 5 precious little girls ( Moriah, Charity, Naomi, Chloe, and Lydia) who are a mix between delicate ladies and rough and tumble farm girls. :) Our children have SO much fun together. From BB guns and pocket knives to sheep and cows (and lots of M-U-D), they had a blast. And Loretta and I were able to catch up on some talk-as-fast-as-we-can-between-cooking-and-caring-for-13-children fun.

Mariah, with her sweet smile (and her ever ready BB gun, lol).

Gorgeous, toothless, curly-haired Naomi.

All THIRTEEN children, after a long play day!

Love you, friend, more than words can ever say. God knew I needed YOU.

My wonderful sister-in-law Rhonda bought our older children tablets for Christmas and we are just LOVING the new world of digital books! Last night, I downloaded new audio books (from the library) onto Nathaniel and Noah's tablets and this is what they looked like all morning.....

Such cute boys. :)

Okay, well, I'd love to write more but I'm off to have fun at the local Laundromat this afternoon. Hopefully I can dig myself out of the pile of dirty clothes!

Love and blessings!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Life on the Road, Part 2 (New Trailer Tour)

Here's a virtual "tour" of our new trailer. Even though it's small (and we would all love to be in a real house again!), this is our HOME. It's where memories are made, where children are loved on and educated, where meals are eaten, and where we all feel "comfortable". Is it always easy? No way. But we are SO SO thankful that the Lord has orchestrated events in a way that we can stay together as a family while we raise support.
The front door opens to the "living" space:

I took out the two tables that came with the trailer and replaced them with one long "craft" table. It can be folded down when we travel, moved at night for bed arrangements, AND it's large enough that we can all scrunch around it for meals and school! :) All day, every day, you will find a child (or 2 or 3) playing around this table.

Above the couch/table is storage for toys, backpacks, craft supplies, puzzles, and games.

To the right of the kitchen is the "master bedroom".  My things are on the left and Brent's things are on the right. There is some nice under-bed storage that holds things like extra blankets, important family paperwork, Brent's shoes, etc.

Titus' diapers/wipes/blankets/toys are to the left of the bed. His diaper bag fits nicely there, too.

Being transparent here for sure....this is my closet. Yes, this is ALL of my hanging up clothes. LOL. It's amazing what you can learn to live without! Every single item that comes into our home must have a place and a purpose---and it must get USED frequently or this Mama will find it a new home in the trashcan or local donation spot. :)

To the left of the kitchen is the "kids bedroom". Johanna, Eliana, Nathaniel, and Noah share this room. They call it the "big kids room" and enjoy staying up later than the little ones, talking, playing, and giggling way too much.
That's reading/sticker/coloring books on the top shelf, and school books on the bottom two shelves. Library books are on the floor. We can't usually utilize the local library, but a friend graciously shared her card last week with us. We LOVE books!

More toy totes, couch and dinette by day and Johanna and Noah's beds by night. :) I'll need to do a nighttime post to show you how everyone sleeps.

Much of the children's bedding gets stored on Eliana's bed during the day and brought out at night. Believe it or not, they got rid of most of their stuffed animals!

Nathaniel's bed fold up during the day and folds down at night. This table is SO useful, not only for school but also for Rook tournaments.


Gabbey and Lyssie have a doll tote shown here. The green tote is for tablets/headphones/Leap games, etc.

All 7 older children have their "hanging up" clothing in this closet. They each have a drawer or cabinet for all of their folded clothing as well.  Boys socks are held in that large laundry bag. (Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with boys socks??)

And there you have it! Life in our trailer. I did forget to take pictures of the bathroom (although it's quite unexciting!) but I will try to get to that when I answer any questions from the previous post.

Blessings on you and your day---This is the day the LORD hath made, so REJOICE in whatever circumstances HE brings your way....even if that means living in a 35 ft travel trailer. :) He is always, always, good!

Life on the Road, Part 1

I cleared all the pictures off my memory card today and came across never before seen footage a bunch of pictures of life in our trailer. Since I frequently get asked about HOW we have managed to live on the road for 19 months now, I thought it would be fun to share them below. :)

Also, I'm opening this post up to questions from you, my sweet friends. If you're curious about how life works during this stage of our lives and ministry, please drop me a quick note. I will do my best to photograph and blog about the answers to your questions!

(Side note: Two weeks ago, we traded in our first trailer for a different model. We had been having serious manufacturing problems, and although the company claimed responsibility and covered the too frequent repairs, we felt safer working with a new company. So these pictures are from this past fall and our "old" trailer. I've already taken a "photo tour" of our new trailer, which I'll post soon.)

**Early morning, showing sleeping arrangements for all the children except Johanna, who was gone at the time these were taken.

Noah on the couch and Ethan on the couch/dinette. Our laundry is normally stored in the bathtub, so anytime someone needs a shower, we have to move it to the living room. Hence the turquoise laundry baskets seen below!

Nathaniel on the top bunk and Gabbey and Lyssie on the bottom.

 Nursing Titus, while attempting to wake up sleeping children. This was a Sunday morning and it was EARLY. :)

Titus, playing on my bed. He wasn't rolling over or scooting yet. :)

Eating breakfast. The box fan was for white noise at night---but we've upgraded to 2 noise makers now and they work SO well!

Sorting socks with Lyssie. The top bunk folded up during the day and was part of our morning routine. Making beds and cleaning up blankets and pillows always takes a good amount of time, and I've had to adjust to the fact that nothing happens "quickly" in the trailer. I find myself repeating, "Take it slow and don't panic" throughout the day. LOL.

Working on the little girl's Sunday hair. There's not enough room in the bathroom to do this (and someone else is always needing it anyway!)

We rotate morning chores---this day, Gabbey organized the shoe shelf, Lyssie vacuumed the floors and couches, and Nathaniel worked on dishes.

(Notice the TINY kitchen space! This presented quite a challenge for me at times. Our new trailer has a much more functional kitchen space and I'm SO grateful!)

Ethan and Noah reading and playing quietly before church. Once the little ones are in their church clothes, they can't go outside and play, so we assign quiet play until we leave for church. :)

All dressed and ready, trailer cleaned up--time to leave for church!

Sunday afternoon nap time.

Outside play is a large part of our life! Because we are always parked somewhere "new", the children get to constantly explore their surroundings. Sometimes we are at a church, and sometimes (like these pictures), we are at a campground.

I keep totes of various toys and rotate them in and out of the trailer for variety. We have a storage unit in our hometown so I can keep these things organized and available as needed.

I never thought I would bring a newborn "home" to a travel trailer, with no nursery, no crib, no swing, no bouncy seat, etc----but Titus hasn't lacked for a single thing! He has been the sweetest, easiest little guy and I stressed about all of that "stuff" for nothing---he couldn't be happier!

Coming up next: Trailer Tour! I'll walk you through each room and space in our home and show you how it works for us.

(Remember to post your questions on this post!)