Silence Does Not Equal Love

My friend Rosie D. responded to my recent post, How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater, with this comment:

Great blog post. But one question enters into my mind. How many times did your mom have ‘the talk’ with you? Did she remind you over and over again that you were living in sin? Or did she let you know how she felt, then went on loving you, silent about her objections? I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I see is most of those who don’t believe in marriage equality have to let others know over and over again how wrong they are, instead of accepting the other person. That is truly loving them in my mind. Accepting that they have different beliefs than you do, and loving them anyway. And who knows, as your mom found with you, they may just see the light!

Of course, being the long-winded person that I am, I couldn’t write my response succinctly enough to fit in a comment box, so I decided to turn it into another blog post.

Thus, while I do not want this blog to fall into a single-issue black hole, here is my response:

First, Rosie, thank you for your comment. It is very thoughtful and well-worded, and I see the very good intentions behind it.

In answer to your question, my mom just talked with me the one time. But, while I might have started avoiding her if she brought it up too frequently, I would not have faulted her for further discussing her reasons at a later date, or sharing informative materials with me… though I might not have read them! While I don’t think we need to constantly berate our friends and relatives with the truths of our faith, neither should we remain silent.

Indeed, in a world where we struggle constantly against a culture that seeks to normalize the LGBT lifestyle and generate acceptance for it, it becomes increasingly important that we Christians speak out.  Most television shows these days have at least one gay couple. The mainstream media covers and celebrates gay pride parades and NFL football players kissing their boyfriends and proposing to them at St. Peters IMG_9601.JPGBasilica. Rainbows, once a Jewish and Christian symbol, have been high-jacked by the LGBT cause, superimposed over profile pics and used to illuminate the White House. Even the equal sign is no longer free from socio-political attachments! Few mainstream cultural outlets are covering stories like pastors being brutally beaten during gay pride festivals, churches in the UK being sued for refusing to perform gay weddings, or near naked little boys dancing provocatively at gay pride events (I refuse to share the link to that particular video, as it is seared on my mind and I would not wish that upon anyone. Google it if you must).

Thus, we traditionalists post our opinions, and supporting articles, facts, and videos such as the one below in hopes that we can, in some small way, have our own influence on a culture that’s been taken over by the liberal, feel-good, anything goes left.

A good friend once told me that, if Jesus were alive today, she thinks you’d be as likely to find him in a gay bar as in a church. After all, as he himself said, “It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick.” (Matt 9:12) I think that’s very true. But I don’t think you’d have found Jesus there, turning water into wine for a “wedding” celebration. Instead, I think you’d find him befriending the patrons, leading them by gentle example closer to his Father. I think he might have a parable or two to share. I think he would teach and he would pray and he would love, with the intent of nurturing them into a place where their greatest desire was to know, love, and serve God.

Okay, you’re not going to find me in a gay bar. But, I would love to have coffee with one of my gay friends or cousins today. They know my values, so they know where I stand. I’m not going to bring it up. But, if they wanted to have a conversation about that, I would prayerfully enter in.

For now, I’ll just borrow Lisa Mladinich’s words in response to her nephew when he asked what she wanted for gay people:

“I want them to be drawn by their hearts to a profound love for God, so that they are willing to do anything or sacrifice anything to be close to him and in right relationship with him. If that happens, they will be truly happy.” (source: #GayMarriage, Love, and Lessons from Canada, on www.patheos.com)

 

Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent in 2012 speaks volumes on this subject:

In his message, the Pope then calls on people not to “remain silent in the face of evil,” even though there is a mentality that dominates society today, that reduces life to mere earthly dimensions and therefore “accepts any moral choice in the name of individual freedom.”

Indeed, he warns, for those who believe, “admonishing sinners” is part of the work of “spiritual mercy” and Christians must not, “for human respect or for convenience,”  adapt to “common thought” and stop “warning their brothers against the ways of thinking and acting that contradict the truth and do not follow the path of good.” (source: Vatican Insider, bold in original)

Silence does not equal love. Love equals love. We give that love through our example, through our generosity, through our prayers, and through sharing truths we know.

How I Can Support Traditional Marriage and Not be a Hater

Anyone who follows this blog in any way, shape, or form would probably correctly assume that I am opposed to gay marriage.

More precisely, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Why? Because marriage is an institution created by God to serve a very specific role within his creation – to procreate, and then to provide a stable, loving environment for those little beings who were procreated.

As our pastor pointed out recently, it’s pretty obvious how’s it’s supposed to work. Just look at the anatomy. A man and a woman fit together in a way that no two women or two men can. Man and woman were made for one another.noahs-ark1

When God told Noah to load the ark two by two, would the whole plan have worked if he loaded two male elephants and two female horses? I think not.

Okay. We’ve established where I stand on the subject. And now many of you have made a few judgements about me.

I’m a hater. A bigot. A close-minded, ignorant, bullying jerk.

I can handle that.

And I’ll still love you.

Go ahead. Unfriend me on Facebook. Erase my contact info from your phone if you feel you must.

After you read the rest of what I’ve got to say.

Because here’s the news flash: it is possible to disagree with someone’s actions and still love them.

Case in point:

Most of you know that I wasn’t always the Bible-loving Catholic woman that I strive to be today. In fact, in my earlier years, I “lived in sin” with my boyfriend. Of course, at the time, I joked about that whole living in sin thing. Sin wasn’t something I really took seriously. Cohabitation seemed practical and convenient, not to mention that it was what everyone else was doing, and I was in love and we planned to get married.

But I digress. What I’d actually like to examine here is my parent’s response to my lifestyle choice.

Guess what?

My parents did not approve.

I knew this without them saying a word. But, because she loved me, my mom had a very, very difficult conversation with me. One in which she had to use that three letter “s” word no mom born before the sixties wants to have to use with her daughter.

I’ll give you a hint. It ends with an “x” and has an “e” in the middle.

This had to be an incredibly difficult topic for my mom to broach. But she did it anyways. Why? Because she loved me. And, in her love for me, she did not want to stand back and let me enter into a sinful situation without doing everything she could to prevent me from making a mistake. A mistake that she knew would drive me further from God.

Did you catch that one sentence?

Because she loved me…

Imagine that.

In today’s world, people seem to think that, if we love someone, and they do something we believe to be sinful, we should keep our mouths shut.

No. Scratch that. Keeping our mouths shut is not enough.

We must actually change our value system and accept that the actions of the other are perfectly fine.

Otherwise, we’re haters, bigots, and close-minded jerks.

Thank God I got married to that live-in boyfriend. Otherwise, I’d have to feel offended by my parents, who would not have changed their views and thus, by today’s standards, must surely hate me.  I’d have to call them haters and  bigots and close-minded throwbacks.

But wait. They never did hate me. They stuck to their value structure and shared it with me.

Out of love.

Imagine that.

Let the trash talk begin. Feel free to comment below.

(Be warned that all comments are moderated. While I will attempt to respond to all respectful comments, I reserve the right to edit any inappropriate content. I also reserve the right to take a really long time to respond because it’s hard to focus with five kids running around the house. But I’ll do my best.)

Family Update

I’ve said this repeatedly over the past year, but I really do think that I am finally in a place where I can start blogging regularly again. To kick things off, I thought I’d do a “quick and easy” update on the kids… which ended up taking four days and several hours to write. Here’s hoping that I can shake the writing rust off and pump these things out a little more quickly in the future!

zach June 2015

Dude is loving life on this side of town, since it means frequent access to his beloved cousins and best friends. He had a good year at school, though he’s not a big studier and thus tends to perform worse then I know him to be capable of on his report card. Nothing terrible – I just know that he could be a straight A student if he applied himself and he isn’t because he doesn’t.

He’s playing All Star baseball for the first time and doing very well. His specialty is base stealing. He’s gutsy and fast, and his games are a lot of fun to watch… though the other kids might disagree.

Next week, he’ll attend his first overnight camp. Historically, he’s been our “fearful” kid, who continued to come sleep in our bedroom for way too many years, so his wanting to do this camp is monumental. I’m excited for him but a bit nervous as well. He’ll be with all of his football buddies, though, so I’m confident that he’ll power through and stick it out.

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Soon to be a fourth-grader, Bonita is our socialite. She has settled into the new school incredibly well and has made tons of friends. In fact, there have been times when she’s had four playdate invitations in one day!

She is also our star student. Take a kid who’s extremely smart to begin with, and add in a near-hero-worship of her teachers and a strong desire to please, and you’ve got a girl who consistently brings home report cards worth taping on the fridge. Dude likes to make fun of her because she got straight A’s all year, except one B in… gym.

Theater’s more her thing, but she did play kickball in the spring and looks forward to playing again in the fall. Quite frankly, she surprised me with her athleticism. If only there were scholarships available for kickball!

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Bear will be entering second grade in the fall and I’d have to say he’s our kid that has yet to find his “niche.” He’s not into sports, or at least not the sports the rest of the family enjoys. He says he wants to do soccer, so we’ll try that out in the fall. And this summer he is going to attend a golf camp… if I ever get him registered. He continues to love trains and marble tracks, so maybe he has a future in engineering.

Bear has always been a great kid. He might occasionally make a mistake, but he’s generally the first to own up to it, earning a great deal of trust from Ray and I. Unfortunately, he has really put this trust to the test in the first half of summer. He must be going through a phase, but he’s made one choice after another that have left him grounded for three of these last six weeks. I’m sure we’ll laugh about it someday, but for the moment, I am finding it nothing but disheartening and exhausting. Underneath the bad choices, though, he’s still sweet, wonderful Bear, and we love him no matter what. (And we’ve had a few good days in a row where I haven’t had to do so much as put him in time out! Maybe we’re on the upswing!!)

Mary June 2015

Having just turned five, Boo’s so tiny, she still looks like she’s three. She can actually be a pretty decent eater, but that really only happens when we’re eating pizza, steak, or McDonald’s. Hence, her diminutive size.

She’s incredibly loving. When she’s tired, she comes to me and says, “Mommy, I want to cuddle witchoo.” She often pipes in randomly with, “Because I love evewybody in da whole world!” sometimes adding, “Even God, and Jesus, and da Bess-ed Muddah!”

She definitely loves to be around children her own age, and constantly begs for playdates. When the answer is “no,” she says, “But I haven’t had a pway date in a year!” even though she just had one that morning.

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Little Man turned four months old yesterday. He is all smiles and happiness, and generally the most amazing baby imaginable. Though nothing has broken through yet, he is teething up a storm and putting out enough slobber to water the house plants. We think he’ll be rolling over soon, but his general contentment may slow him down a bit since the only time he starts to roll over is when he’s upset – and he just isn’t upset very often!

The older kids are a tremendous help, making the transition to five remarkably easy – though there still isn’t enough time in the day. With so much love coming from so many people, this little guy’s got a good life.

But, then, don’t we all?

 

Announcing Baby!

Well, the little guy is over two months old now, so I figure it’s high time I get back on the blogging wagon and announce his birth. It may not be with quite this much fanfare…

But, regardless of the fanfare or total lack thereof, let it be known to all who read this that we are pretty thrilled with Little Man. He was born on March 3 at 6:07 am. This was notably twelve days after his due date, and 36 hours after they began my induction. But that’s a story for another time. He was 21 ¾ inches long, and weighed in at 7 lbs, 13 oz – making him our biggest baby.

Evan newborn

Look at those dimples!

 

As the kids like to say, Little Man had been swimming in his own poop (AKA meconium) for quite some time. But, the doctors and nurses sucked out his lungs and cleaned him up and he doesn’t even stink! J He’s blessed with lots of light brown hair and early observations lead us to believe his eyes will stay blue. Which means that, out of five children, I will have shared my green eyes (I confess to having a “thing” for green eyes) with exactly none of my children. And that makes me want to try for another. But then again… maybe not.

He also has a killer personality. He’s been smiling at us for weeks, and he giggled for

the first time two and a half weeks ago, though I confess that I have not been able to Evan and kidsduplicate it since. He’s a cooing machine, helped along by his *slightly* adoring fans (read, “siblings”), who have been told by Mommy that responding to his sounds with similar sounds will help him learn to talk. If Little Man coos when all the kids are home, he often hears three or four people cooing right back at him.

I confess to being a little spoiled after the delivery. Ray took two weeks of paternity leave – one of which I spent in the hospital, but the second during which he handled all the running and heavy lifting. Then, it was back to work for one VERY LONG week before we left for spring break. Yes, we went on spring break with a two week old baby. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.But, I’ll have to write more on that later.

Family on beachFrom about week two until week five, we had a bit of a rough patch. Little Man slept well at night (he pulled a few seven hour stints after just a few weeks) but getting him there was next to impossible. He spent the evening, from about six to eleven thirty or midnight, fussing and acting generally uncomfortable. A perceptive friend suggested that he might be allergic to dairy. When I eliminated it from my diet, the fussy nights ended and he’s been quite lovely (for the most part, at least!) since.

Evan in carseat about 2 mos

This Little Man, with his coos and his smiles and his blue-not-green eyes, has already brought so much joy to our home. Though his impending arrival initially came as a bit of a shock, heralded with fear and trepidation, his presence in our lives proves that…

God doesn’t make mistakes

and

Every child is a blessing.

Little Man at Nine Weeks

Little Man at Nine Weeks

 

It’s On… The Gargoyle Code Lenten Book Club

In my post a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the possibility of doing a virtual Lenten book study of the book, The Gargoyle Code, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Having received numerous interested responses, I’m excited to say that… It’s on!

gargoyle codeI have read a good portion of the book and love it. If you’ve read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, this is very much in the same vein, but modernized to speak to the temptations that we experience in today’s world. The book is designed to be read during Lent, beginning on Shrove Tuesday, and consists of one letter between “a Master Tempter and his diabolical trainee” each day – very do-able, even for the busiest of moms.

I’ve created a Facebook group where we can share daily thoughts, insights, and “Aha!” moments. The group is closed, not to exclude anyone, but to give us all a sense of security and comfort that what we share will be kept among the group. I know many people give up Facebook during Lent, but it was simply the best avenue I could identify for the “club,” so I hope that those who are giving FB up will consider creating a new Facebook user ID that will enable them to participate! I also hope to post weekly reflections to the blog, and welcome anyone who would like to guest post, especially since baby will definitely be coming along sometime in the next two weeks!

If you’re interested, please comment here, or send me a Facebook message. I’ve never managed a Facebook group before, and it does appear as though we have to be “friends” in order for me to invite you to the group. But I’m guessing that anyone who wants to participate in the group is someone I’d be happy to call “friend!” :)

It’s available for Kindle or in paperback. I know I’m cutting this a bit short, but Amazon’s so fast these days, I had it the day after I placed my order. Regardless, if you don’t get your book in time you can always catch up. It really is an easy read!

Here’s the link to the Kindle version:

And to the good ol’ paperback version:

I’m looking forward to reading the book and interacting with lots of wonderful Christians throughout Lent!

(The links above are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)

Seven Quick Takes – Busy Business, Fake Cheek Bones, and Paternity Leave Penance

seven-quick-takes-friday-2So, let me start by acknowledging that I’ve gotten spectacularly awful about posting regularly. Tonight I’m totally cheating by doing a seven quick takes post, which I confess is the quickest and easiest to write. But it just feels good to be writing, so here goes…

— 1 —

There’s good news behind my lack of personal writing. My little freelance writing business is doing quite well and keeping me very busy. So busy, that I find myself with ideas for blog posts but no time to write them. The reality of the matter is that the stuff that pays has to take priority.

Although I miss my personal blogging and writing activity – and hope to get back on track soon – I do really enjoy the writing I’m doing for my clients. I write blog posts, newsletters, and marketing materials for various individuals and businesses, with topics ranging from health and wellness, to insurance, to mundane governmental mandates (I confess to not enjoying those so much), to the oil industry, entrepreneurship, and more. In many cases, I get to pick the topics – an added bonus!

— 2 —

I’m thrilled to share that, just this week, I’ve brought another writer onto my little “team” – another Catholic mom who loves to write and is very talented. She’ll help relieve some of the stress of deadlines when the baby comes, as well as beef up what I’m able to do for my blog clients. I’m pretty excited to see my little business growing, and to be able to work with another writer-mama at the same time.

— 3 —

Ah, baby. Or, as the kids say it, “Babe-E”. See the difference? Not just a baby, an Engelman baby, hence that “E” emphasis.

There seems to be some doubt as to whether we know the gender and just aren’t telling anyone, so I’ll lay it out. We don’t know the gender. Really. We’re not just saying that. That’s why I have a pile of boy clothes and a pile of girl clothes under the changing table. It’s also the reason why I have two names lists on my iPhone note pad – one for boys, one for girls. This is not some elaborate scheme to be “in the know” while everyone else is “in the dark.” I’ve never understood that. Plus, I hate to lie so much that it’s turned me into a person who is just downright incapable of lying. This is inconvenient at times, I’ll admit, but it does save time in the confessional.

Babe-E will be here in about four weeks, and I’ll do my best to get the word out as to the gender… just as soon as I know.

— 4 —

As for me, I’m feeling every bit of my forty years. By evening, I’m hobbling around on pain-ridden feet, favoring my left hip because my right frequently seems to go slightly out of joint. It’s a lovely sight. Oh, and I’ve gained enough weight that I’m having to use makeup to add cheekbones. Beautiful.

— 5 —

Makeup tip! You know those crazy fan-shaped makeup brushes that you never know how to use? Welllll… use that brush to add a line of bronzer just below your cheek bones. They’re there, even if you can’t see them. :) Blend with your powder brush and – voila! – you’ve got visible (if fake) cheek bones!

— 6 —

On a more practical note, we received the most awesome news today! Ray’s company has increased their paternity leave from one week to six. Six. Seriously. SIX WEEKS!!!! With the previous four babies, he didn’t have any paternity leaveHe took a vacation day or two to get through the delivery, and then it was right back to work. I’m still slightly speechless at the idea of having him home for six weeks.

And maybe a little afraid that I might be ready to kill him by the end.

Interestingly, the baby’s due on the second day of Lent. Which means Ray could be home for all of Lent. I love my husband, but the thought has occurred: This could be a whole new form of Lenten penance…

— 7 —

With the baby’s Lenten due date, I’m having to reconcile myself to the idea of not participating in a Lenten Bible or book study group this year. I’ve thought about doing a study via this blog, or via a Facebook group. Something that folks could participate in on their own schedules, as time allows. No baby sitters, or, for that matter, showering, doing your hair, or adding fake cheekbones to impress your fellow book study participants.

One possible book for discussion is The Gargoyle Code, by Dwight Longenecker. Similar to C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, the book is a compilation of the letters between a master tempter and his student, showing the many pitfalls we humans succumb to, with the added benefit of being specifically designed for Lent, with one letter for each day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Sunday.

Anyone out there interested? Leave a comment on this post, comment on Facebook, or send an email to stephanie at afewbeadsshort dot com. I’d love to connect with other women and share in a faith journey this Lenten season, even while being somewhat home-bound due to the new baby.

Oh, and I’m open to other book suggestions, too! (And “Thank you!” to Dana for turning me onto The Gargoyle Code!) Just let me know if you know of another book that would be good!

(The links above are affiliate links… thanks for your support!) :)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

The Year of Change: 2014

Wow. Looking back at 2014 is, quite frankly, mind boggling. It was a year filled with changes and events that I never would have foreseen.

By the end of January, Ray and I could only look forward and pray that the rest of 2014 wouldn’t bring more of the same. I wrecked my car on New Year’s Day, we were snowed in for a third of the month, and we lost Ray’s dearest friend.

first day of school

First day of school

Fortunately, the worst of it was over. We didn’t know it, but we had lots to look forward to. Heading into the new year, Ray and I were considering a move. However, we thought we’d be moving a few miles. No big deal. By February, however, I was beginning to feel that the move needed to be a bigger one, and within a few weeks we had made the decision to move across town, change parishes, and enroll the children in a different school. By November, we were moved into our new home. Talk about change!

In preparation for the move, I purged like crazy. I finally accepted the idea that our IMG_8188.JPGfamily was complete, and I would not be having any more children. I gave away the bassinet, the pack-n-play, the stroller… not knowing that, even as I was giving stuff away, a child was growing within me. God certainly does have a sense of humor, and a way of reminding you just who’s in control!

Learning that our family would soon be expanding led me to one certain knowledge… I could not ask Ray to shoulder the financial burden of a family of seven alone. But what does a pregnant mother of four do to earn money? I was stumped, but my sister had the answer, and I started a freelance writing business. My sister’s husband’s business was my first client, and my client base has grown, thanks largely to their networking and support. I have found myself writing on topics ranging from health and wellness, to insurance, industrial painting, entrepreneurship and the oil business. I feel incredibly blessed to have found a way to make money doing what I love to do.

To top that off, against all odds, my first novel was actually picked up by the very publisher who, in a roundabout way, sparked the idea for the book in the first place. The editing process has been a bit slow – I’m still waiting to receive the editing requests from the publisher – yet, I’m hopeful that we’re still on target for a January, 2016 release date.

My “One Word” for 2014 was Surrender. Looking back, it is easy for me to see how that word served me throughout the year. I stopped trying to have control over everything, OneWord2014SURRENDERand let God take the reigns of my life, instead. It could have been scary at times, (okay, it was scary at times) but as I learned surrender, I also learned trust. As I look back at 2014, I can see how God’s hand guided us through changes and difficult decisions. I can see unanswered prayers that, had they been answered, might have ended disastrously, and I can see how God blessed us in completely unexpected ways.

I’ve tried to analyze the changes, with various degrees of success. The bottom line is this: Even though we miss our friends and neighbors from our old community, our children are, for whatever reason, happier at their new school. Our family is, for whatever reason, more peaceful at our new house. A year that started with tragedy ends with new beginnings.

Looking into 2015, my experiences in 2014 leave me with one certainty: Only God knows what the next year will bring. Two scripture verses have been my mantra throughout this past year, and they have served me well: “Not my will, Lord, but yours,” (Luke 22:42) and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Prov 3:5). Whatever 2015 may bring, I pray that God will provide the grace to continue to live according to these verses, not just in the big decisions and changes, but in the ordinary moments of every day.

I’ll end with a few pictures highlighting other events of 2014:

Bonita celebrated her First Communion…

20140613-083440-30880036.jpgBear busted his head open while riding bikes at Nana’s house, but look at what a trooper that kid is!

busted headDude and his teammates achieved not one, but TWO championships – one in baseball, the other in football. Here he is sporting his baseball trophy.

ChampionBoo started preschool. You can see how sad she was to leave Momma…

Mary Lise first day of preschoolThe dog nearly died. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. First, it was something he ate, the second… well, I’m not really sure. The third appears to have been pneumonia, from which he is still recuperating. Here he is on the day of our move into the new house, hoping to drive me home after a stop at the grocery.

Keyser drivingWe celebrated a wonderful Christmas…

kids Christmas 2014And the very next day, Ray and I celebrated my fortieth birthday with a romantic evening out…

ray and steph on stephs fortieth

How would you summarize your 2014? What are your hopes for 2015? I’d love to hear about it… just leave a note in the comments section, below!

Thanks for being a part of our 2014. I pray that you will have a wonderful 2015! Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Part II: Eww

I left my previous post with the final thought that we had one week to pack up our 3700 square foot house and move it into an 1800 square foot house. An interesting enterprise, to be sure, made all the more difficult by the fact that our new home was absolutely disgusting. There were cobwebs hanging from the ceilings, between the blinds, and in between the panes of the windows. There was even an empty bird’s nest inside one of the windows! The blinds had years’ worth of build up on them. Dust bunnies littered the floors. Bathroom drawers sported stray hairs and long-forgotten fingernail clippings. The place literally smelled like something had died and been left to rot.

I stood in the middle of my new home, fighting the urge to flee, or at least to vomit, and thought, What have we done?

You see, when we took our little tour, the electricity was turned off, so we weren’t able to see the dirt and grime that had built up. And the smell wasn’t there. I swear. The smell. was. not. there.

Regardless,we just assumed that any cleaning that needed to be done would be taken care of before we moved in. That’s what landlords do, right?

Apparently, not.

So, here I stood in my new home, afraid to touch anything, not sure where to start, fearing that anything we moved into the house would be contaminated by God-only-knew-what.

Ultimately, I cried, “uncle,” and called the landlord. I explained the level of awfulness and asked that they have someone come clean. Which they did. Which made the house clean enough that I could at least stand to set foot in it.  But it was still really gross.

I thank God frequently for my wonderful mother-in-law, but this was a time in my life when she came through like never before (well, except maybe when she hopped on a plane and moved into my house for a month, so that she could take care of my kids, my husband, and my home while I was in the hospital on bedrest.) She and my father-in-law drove all the way from southern Alabama to help with the move – unasked – and, when she saw the filth in the house, she got to work. While I wiped down shelves and cleaned out drawers, she mopped and re-mopped the floors, drying them by hand to get up still more dirt. As I put down shelf liners and slowly began to unpack boxes, she packed up the old house or watched four-year-old Boo, or both. After working all day on one of my homes or the other, she made dinner for our family and had it ready and waiting at just the right time.

That woman is amazing.

Between removing the bird’s nest and using copious amounts of Pine Sol, plus burning Scentsy warmers for hours on end, the smell finally dissipated. The rest is a work in progress. Last weekend, I cleaned the kitchen window and had to repeat the process three times before the cloth came back clean. Removing the built-up grime on those blinds took a solid hour of scrubbing. Soon, I’ll tackle the windows and blinds in the family room. With any luck, by the time the baby arrives in February, I’ll feel like any dirt that exists in the house is, at least, our family’s dirt.

Regardless, in those first five days, we turned the grossest-house-ever into the-house-whose-floors-I-still-don’t-want-the-kids-rolling-around-on-but-at-least-I-don’t-feel-like-we-have-to-wear-our-shoes-in-the-house.

And that was one hell of an accomplishment.

But did I mention the yard?

The backyard. I'm in love.

The backyard. I’m in love.

Moving Part I: The Housing Saga

We’re finally moved and I have a moment to write about all that’s happened in the last several weeks. So, let’s just start with the Housing Saga.

I mentioned in a previous post that we had found a renter for our home. Well, while we were happy to have someone to take the house, it left us in a situation where we had to turn around and rent a home ourselves. Let me tell you, finding a rental for a family of six – soon to be seven – is not easy. It had to be affordable – I didn’t want to spend more than we were already spending – but we were moving to a more expensive area. We spent countless hours on Zillow Rents, Craig’s List, and various other sites trying to find the right house. I wanted to settle for less – after all, it was only for a year – but Ray was having a hard time dealing with the idea of moving from a lovely 3700 sq. ft. new construction home and into a creaky old 1800 sq. ft. house that didn’t even have a garage. So, we kept looking.

Finally, we found a gorgeous home on Capital. The home was beautifully maintained, with gorgeous hardwood floors, nice built-ins, and even a little office for me, overlooking the backyard. But, the backyard was small, there was no drive for the kids to ride bikes in, and it was in that block between ghetto and great neighborhood that makes a mom a wee bit uncomfortable. I thought we could deal with it for a year, nonetheless, but prayed about it before going to bed on the eve of the paper-signing. Lo and behold, I awoke at 2 AM with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and the absolute confidence that our family would not be happy in that house. We held off on the signing, and kept looking. That night, we came across an ad with only four pictures – generally not a good sign – for a home that was a “gardener’s dream” on over an acre of land. It was small, with only three bedrooms and one and a half baths, but the location was perfect and the idea of an acre plus was appealing. So we went to check it out.

The house wasn’t much, but it would suit our needs. The yard, on the other hand… we all positively bubbled over with excitement at the prospect of living in such a beautiful setting, with tons of space for the kids to run, a basketball hoop, a climbing tree… for our family, it seemed to be paradise.

Trouble was, the landlord is very picky about his tenants. He lives next door and doesn’t want any “riff-raff” living next door to him. His employees showed us the house, so we didn’t meet him right away. Then, he was out of town on business, followed immediately by a vacation, after which our contact at his company left on vacation. So, we were stuck twiddling our thumbs, wondering when we were going to meet this guy and whether we – and our soon-to-be-five-kids – would pass the “no riff-raff” test.

Moving day was looming close, as our tenant was supposed to move in in a week, and we still didn’t have a place to live. Once again, I was literally sick to my stomach. Then, a phone call. Our tenant – a pro sports figure – had been cut from the team due to injury. We experienced mixed emotions. Of course, we felt remorse for our tenant’s job loss, and hated to see the end of what had appeared to be a mutually beneficial deal for all involved. But, the stress to find a house was over. However, we still really wanted that little house on the big land!

Our relief quickly turned to frustration, however, as our tenant took us along on his roller coaster ride. We offered to let him out of the lease. He said maybe he wanted to move in for three months. Sorry, dude, not a three month lease. But he wouldn’t commit one way or the other, and we had a signed lease that we couldn’t just back out of. So we sat in his indecision for several weeks before he finally agreed to sign the paperwork to cancel the lease.

Fortunately, within days, we were able to sign another tenant who wants to buy the house in just a couple of months. At the same time, we finally met with the owner of the little house/big property place and passed his test. We got the signed lease for our old house on Sunday, signed a lease on the new place on Monday, and started moving that day, and scheduled moving the “big stuff” for the coming Saturday.

Not much time to pack up one house and get all of our junk moved into another. Especially not when we were cutting the size of the house in half. And so, this story will continue…

In the meantime, here’s the pic Ray snapped of our beautiful new front yard. Excuse the finger in the corner… this was an after thought as we were pulling away from that meeting with our picky landlord. And it’s just too darn cold out for me to go outside and take another.

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God’s So Good at Teaching Us Humility

Wednesday afternoon, I got some of the most awesome news of my life.

My publisher of choice – the one that caused the initial spark of an idea for even writing fiction – is going to offer me a contract to publish my book!!!!

To say I was excited would be a major understatement. Jubilant, elated, ecstatic… leaping around the kitchen while screaming my head off… that would begin to describe my reaction.

I called Ray, sent a text to my sisters and parents, and an email to my prayer warrior mom’s group, whose prayers I had requested for the book.  I reveled in the glory while I prepared a quick lunch and got us ready to run a few errands. Published! I am going to be published! My name is going to be on the front of a book cover, my picture on the back. Words that I wrote will be available for sale across the United States… and beyond!

I beamed my way through getting Boo into the car and off we were on our way to the stores. I forgot one thing… in the midst of a huge fit, during which Boo was demanding the Kindle Fire, I had placed the device in question on top of my car. I was taking the dog out, and it was the one handy place I could think of that she wouldn’t attempt to climb to in order to get her desired toy. This happened about five minutes before that wonderful email from the publisher, and I just completely spaced it.

Fast forward an hour and a half, and we’re driving down a country road when I hear “Ker klunk, ker klunk!” from the top of my car. Bewildered, I looked in my side view mirror just in time to see something black fly from my car to the side of the road. The Kindle.

I turned the car around and parked in the driveway of the home whose yard I thought I was passing at the time. I climbed out of the car and began to look . Unfortunately, the area is hopelessly overgrown, and I had no idea whether to look up, or to look down. Did the Kindle have enough lift coming off of the car that it could have caught on a tree branch? Or was it more likely to be in a ditch? Was it lodged under the pile of dead branches, or had it made it further beyond the tree line? I had no idea.

The kind home owner happened to come down the driveway, having already planned to work on cleaning the area up that afternoon, and he helped in the search for a while. After a humbling half hour spent walking up and down the roadside, picking through branches and trash, all while wearing a skirt and sandals, I finally had to give up. I gave the kind man my phone number, just in case (and because I’m in the habit of giving strange men my number), and drove off, now in a rush to complete my shopping before a scheduled meeting.

I’ve long recognized that humility is an area for growth for me, as I’ve mentioned once or twice. As I’ve prayed for the successful publication of this book, I’ve tried to remember to also pray that God would keep me humble through the process, remembering always that they aren’t really my words, but His, that it wasn’t my idea, but the Spirit’s, and that, without God, I can do nothing.

My losing the Kindle, feeling embarrassed as I searched high and low on a rather busy country road, and having to confess the loss to the children… and Ray… that was God’s way of saying, “I’ve got this Steph. One way or another, child, I’ll keep reminding you that you’re not all that. In fact, my beloved daughter, you are nothing… without Me.”

Thanks, God. Got it. For now, at least.