Wednesday, May 23, 2018

When Great Men Fall

In our family devotional, we recently came to the uncomfortable account of David and Bathsheba. No problem, I thought, we can handle this. My littles will tell you without missing a beat that God’s ideal for marriage is, “one man and one woman for life.” Teaching them that David broke this ideal would be fairly straightforward. So I thought.

It turns out that I underestimated how difficult this passage would be to explain to our children. Not because it involves teaching preschoolers about adultery, but because it opened their eyes to a terrible truth.

You see, David is Monkey2’s Bible hero. He gets his middle name from three great Davids – David Richardson (Joshua’s father), David Motl (who is like a second father to me), and King David. For several weeks now, JD has listened intently as we read through accounts of David’s faith and victories. What little boy isn’t inspired by the young shepherd who conquered a giant with just a sling and the strength of his God? My second monkey has been awestruck and deeply impressed, proudly proclaiming each night, “His name is David, just like ME!”

When we came to the passage where David takes another man’s wife, our young children listened with rapt attention. It wasn’t difficult to explain what happened. They understood that a covenant had just been broken. Well, that was easy, I thought to myself. I wasn’t prepared for the question that followed.

“Is that the same David who killed Goliath?”

JD’s face fell.

It couldn’t be. Not David. Not his hero.

I watched as it dawned on my little boy that even great men fall. I wanted to weep. In that moment, King David’s sin with Bathsheba broke my heart because I saw the effect it had on my son. It baffled and confused him. It distressed him that David – his great hero of faith – could make such a sinful choice.

Do you know what that’s like? Have you ever watched a spiritual hero fall from their pedestal? I have. I’m sure you have, too. You’ve seen great preachers fall into error, giants of faith fall away. You’ve heard reports of men and women you regarded as blameless who have fallen into sexual sin.

“No, surely not so-and-so. Please don’t let it be true.”

It hurts. It’s discouraging. It’s infuriating. When someone you’ve held up as an example of righteous living makes a sinful decision, it can make you question your own faith and commitment to Jesus. In times like these we need to remember that we’re not the only ones watching. Our kids are listening, waiting to hear our reaction.

There are two things I was reminded of during our discussion with JD. One: Sin has consequences beyond our imagination. Scandals (especially in the Church) reach further than we can possibly see. Even centuries later, David’s sin is still painful. It still affects the hearts and minds of thousands of people. In light of that, we need to understand the seriousness of our own choices. Every one of us is setting an example for someone else in our lives. We may not be in a public role like David, but people are still looking to us. Our actions are either leading them toward God or away from Him. The ripple effect can last for years.

Second: Jesus. Precious Jesus. I think for the first time it really hit JD that Jesus is the only one without sin. Isn’t that exactly what we want our children to understand? That’s the hope on which to focus. What an opportunity to remind our children that, although no one is perfect, Jesus offers cleansing for all. When David was repentant, God was able to restore a beautiful relationship with him. He offers the same to each of us.

When someone sins, do you obsess about it for days? “I can’t BELIEVE he did that!” “What’s wrong with them, anyway?” “I’m never going to trust her again!” Or do you display grace and pray for repentance? Christ is able to redeem! Drive that point home, every time.

With sorrow I watched JD realize David’s imperfection. But, oh, the joy of pointing him to God’s forgiveness! That is truly the best part of parenting; getting to share the love, grace, and mercy of God with my children. Watching JD slowly transfer his greatest admiration from men to Christ is unspeakably sweet.

Just as Joshua spent the rest of devotional teaching our children, we know that everyone sins and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is no one who is righteous on their own (Romans 3:10). And sometimes, great men fall.

I want my kids to admire the characters of the Bible as well as modern day leaders of faith, but I want them to realize that they are just human – just like us. I want them to think of Paul and Peter, Daniel and Ruth (and Jody and Evelyn Apple) as people to imitate, but I want them to know that they were (are) real people in real need of a Savior, and that our greatest hero is Jesus.

When great men fall, Jesus stands. He is ready to forgive and receive even the lowest among us. He is willing to be the strength that you lack, if only you’ll let Him.

Will you let Christ be your Hero?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Get Out of Debt: Pray. Buy Smart. Pay the Difference.

You may have heard the motto, “Buy used and save the difference.” It’s simple advice. Whenever possible, avoid buying brand new items and instead put the difference between the used and the retail price into the bank.

You need a lawn mower. Mid-range retail price is $300 for a push mower. You pick up a good used mower at a yard sale for $80. You have a difference of $220 in your pocket. Yay! Now, the hard part. Instead of using that extra money to splurge on 15 pounds of dark chocolate (What? Don’t judge me), you stick that chunk of change into your savings account.

Since we have a specific goal of paying off our loan early, we’ve tweaked this motto slightly to fit our situation: “Pray. Buy smart. Pay the difference.” As much as possible, everything we save by buying used or discounted will go toward our loan.

Our first opportunity to live by this motto came by mistake. When we did our final walk-through (the night before we were supposed to close on the house), we noticed one glaring problem: The washer and dryer were gone! The seller had agreed to include all appliances with the purchase of the house, and I was super excited about the high capacity washer in the laundry room. We’d been using a compact set in our rental and I was always behind on laundry (especially during puking marathons… *shudder*). So the prospect of a giant machine that could actually wash a whole laundry hamper’s worth of clothes was thrilling.

Alas, no one knew where the promised set had disappeared to, so the seller agreed to give us money to buy another. Our realtor and the seller did some quick research and found that the cost of a brand new, comparable set would cost roughly $1600. At closing the next morning, the seller cut us a check for that amount.

As we gazed over a sea of shiny washing machines in the middle of Menards it was oh, so tempting to fork over that entire sum for the benefit of having a brand new set.

“The seller is paying for it,” we reasoned.

“We’ll probably never have a chance to buy a brand new, matching set again.”

“Plus, we’re supposed to be moving in next week. We don’t have time to scour Craigslist for a used machine. We need one right away.”

“These are guaranteed to last for years.”

And the justifying went on and on until we looked at each other and burst out laughing. Who were we kidding?! There was no way we were spending $1600 on a washer and dryer set! Not when there were other options. It was nice to dream for two seconds, though.

The sellers had made it clear that they didn’t care whether we spent the whole thing on a set from Menards, or used only part of it to buy a used set. They just wanted to give us enough to cover a washer and dryer comparable to the ones that had been in the purchase agreement. Very nice of them.

We decided to buy used and put the difference back into the loan.

In the midst of the craziness of trying to move in the middle of a blizzard (welcome to April in Wisconsin), Joshua working extra hours with the bus, and settling a family of 7 into a new home, we began our search… on Craigslist. I didn’t find a whole lot. Discouraged, overwhelmed, and more than a tad stressed, we began to pray that God would give us wisdom and what He knew to be best.

Finally I came across an ad for a used appliance store advertising refurbished high capacity washers. We headed over there and found a gorgeous Samsung Smart Care 4.5 cu ft washer. From my research, it was exactly the machine I had been hoping to buy. Unfortunately, it had “SOLD” plastered on it. The sales lady offered to call a sister store in Minneapolis to see if they happened to have another one. When she got off the phone she said, “Great news! This one was actually being held for a woman who never picked it up. The lady never paid and it’s been here over the “holding time,” so it is available if you want it. In fact, it’s been here so long, I’ll give you 20% off.” The listed price was $400. With the discount she was offering, the sale price came down to $320. Oh, yeah!!

Even better, they had the matching dryer and she offered it for the same price. So, after taxes, we ended up paying a total of $686 for my dream washer and dryer set! Yes, they are used, but only barely. It was one of those things where the original buyer decided they didn’t like the set for whatever reason, so they returned it to the store. It was an outdated model, so the store sold it to this appliance place to clear it out of their showroom. The only thing wrong with the set is that the washer has a few small dings on the side.

What a blessing God gave us!

The Numbers:

Out of curiosity I looked up our machines to find the retail value. If we’d bought these slightly outdated models brand new the cost would have been….

Washer: $550

Dryer: $700

Difference between retail and used (before tax): $610

If we were just spending our own money and were going to “buy smart and pay the difference” we would pay $610 extra on our loan this month. Since we were given a check to buy a new set, we actually got to save more than that.

What we could have spent: $1600

What we actually spent: $686

Difference to add to first payment: $914

Fun Fact: I plugged the numbers into Payoff Track. If the only extra money we ever paid on our loan was that $914, we could pay off our mortgage five months early and reduce our total interest by whopping $2,690.57!

Brand new washer and dryer set for $1600? Or slightly used set for $686, knocking almost $2700 off our loan?
Now I can wash this whole pile of laundry at one time.

The only downside is that I no longer have a kid tall enough to move it all to the dryer.

Pray. Buy smart. Pay the difference.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Our Top 3 Reasons to Get Out of Debt

In my last post I talked about our goal of paying off our house in 7 years. That seems like a crazy, unrealistic idea to some people. To us it sounds hard, but not impossible. But why? Why do we so badly want to get out from under our loan? Here are our top 3 reasons for wanting to pay off our house as quickly as possible.

1.      Debt is serious

The Bible doesn’t say it’s a sin to borrow money. It also doesn’t say that it’s a wonderfully awesome thing, either. Scripture does, however, give some pretty heavy warnings about where debt can lead and how to properly handle money owed. Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is slave to the lender. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of making myself a slave to anyone but God. Debt, in a very real way, enslaves you as you are bound to repay that money with compounding interest. This ties you up and has brought many people to more than just financial ruin. Psalm 37:21 says that the wicked borrow and do not repay, so we know that once we get into debt we are obligated to repay our loan. Along that note, Ecclesiastes 5:4 tells us that it is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it (such as getting into debt and then having to foreclose). God never says you cannot get into debt, but He does warn that it is a heavy burden and that, as Christians, we are obligated to repay our debts honestly. When we get in over our heads with debts too large to repay, we bring ourselves financial ruin and a poor name to the Body of Christ.

2.      Good stewardship means not wasting money

We should all be good stewards of our money. To us, that means not spending more than necessary so that we can put our finances to the best possible use. Instead of supporting a corporation with interest dollars, we’d rather put that extra money toward helping others adopt, supporting missionaries, and assisting people in crisis.

With interest, our $126,300 loan would explode into paying the bank $233,768.96 over the course of a 30 year term. That’s $98,768.96 more than we “bought” the house for. In other words, if we pay on schedule we will pay 73.16% more than what the house is currently worth. That’s quite a markup.

To put things in perspective I downloaded a free app called “Payoff Track” which allows you to customize the numbers and see how much you can save by making extra payments on your loan. You can even track multiple loans at once if you want.  

I inserted the data: A loan of $126,300 at an interest rate of 4.625% on a 30 year term, with the first payment being due June 1, 2018. Our monthly payment, as you can see from the screen shot below, is $649.36 (insurance and taxes brings our monthly house bill to $974.51).

Did you know that just by making double payments you can pay off your 30 year loan in about 10 years? That doesn’t quite meet our dream of a 7 year payoff, though, so we had to create some bigger goals. If I click on “Payments” in the blue box I can adjust each month’s payment by what we expect to actually pay on the loan. We are aiming to pay an extra $708.71 each month, which is simply what we worked into our budget to be able to afford. That’s our goal, of course, based on a “good month” and barring any national emergencies.

The app makes it easy to calculate extra payments. I clicked on “Batch” in the upper right hand corner and set it up to automatically add that extra money into the monthly payment. This brings our monthly batch payment on the principle and interest to $1358.07.

If I remember correctly, that brought our payoff date to somewhere around 9 years from now. Great! But still not good enough to meet our goal. We went in and added an extra $5,000 to every April payment. Where is that extra $5,000 coming from? Hopefully a chunk of it will come from our tax return and we’ll be able to make up the rest of it with savings along the way. Hopes and dreams. Not necessarily reality, but this is our Grownup Dream, remember? These are pretend numbers we’re playing with.

If I go back to the home screen and click on “Summary” in the blue box, I can get a quick rundown of how we’re doing, and our scheduled payoff date. We are hoping to put an extra $2,926.58 toward our first payment due in June (in the next post I’ll tell you how part of that money came about). In addition to that large first payment of $4,225.30, by making an extra payment of $708.71 each month, and theoretically being able to pay an extra $5,000 on top of that every April for the next 7 years, we can have our house paid off by April 1, 2025. Woohooo!!! See, that dream is not so unrealistic after all, right??! Yeah, yeah, I hear your eyes rolling. It’s a stretch, and we know we won’t be able to meet that goal every single month. But it doesn’t seem so very far out of reach after all.

Let’s take a closer look at that “Summary” page. If we really can reach our monthly and yearly goals, then we will have shortened our payoff date by 23 years. Right. Duh. Okay, but let’s look at the financial numbers. Under “Current Status” it tells me that we will have made $94,159.19 worth of extra payments. This means we will have made only 82 payments, shortening our loan by 278 payments. And here’s the kicker. We will have paid only $21,106.57 in interest, rather than the $107,468.96 we are scheduled to pay. That means, in the long run, our loan will cost a total of $147,406.57 instead of $233,768.96. That’s a savings of $86,362.39. What can YOU do with an extra eighty-six-thousand-three-hundred-sixty-two-dollars-and-thirty-nine-cents?

If we don’t have to pay that much more, isn’t it a waste to do so? For us, good stewardship means *if possible* putting that $86,362.39 into something far more meaningful than financially supporting a bank. Which brings us to our third and most exciting point.

3.      The sooner we get out of debt, the more we can help others

If we can get out of debt, we will have more resources to help more people. We are all responsible for helping others no matter what our personal finances look like, but if we do not owe a huge amount to the bank every month, we will have that much more to offer others in need. After receiving so much help from others, we’re pretty excited about paying it forward!

Secondly, we can get off support and thereby support more preachers. Don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly grateful to our supporters who make it possible to minister in Wisconsin. It’s thanks to them that Joshua only has to work a part-time secular job and is able to focus so much of his attention on preaching and evangelism. But we don’t feel like we should plan to rely on this support forever.

If we didn’t have to make a monthly house payment of $649.26 we would have an extra $7,792.32 a year. With the financial support we receive from the congregation Joshua preaches for, plus his job as a bus driver, we would not have to rely on outside support to continue preaching here.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with living on support from Christians in other areas. There are biblical examples of doing so (see such passages as Philippians 4:10-20). However, if we can work toward getting off support, the finances we currently receive will be freed up for our supporters to help other Christians. Missionaries and preachers in other areas can receive help from the Christians who currently support us, and the Gospel can be spread further. And that is a motivating reason to get out of debt.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Death of a Dream: Getting Into Debt

On April 6, 2018, a childhood dream died.

We took out our first loan. 

Ever since I was a preteen girl sitting in on my parents’ Dave Ramsey class, I had this wild dream of paying cash for a house and never. Ever. going into debt.

....I'll pause here for you to laugh....

As we all know, life happens and saving that kind of money takes gazelle intensity, and probably fewer kids with fewer major medical emergencies. 

I hate debt. I really, really do. It can quickly drown you and gets out of your hands faster than a terrified lizard drenched in oil. (Is that a saying? It should be.) However, I also recognize that going into debt is not necessarily a sin, and it is sometimes necessary.

With the end of our lease looming and the cost of rentals rising, we simply couldn’t afford to keep renting in this area. We have five monkeys, and no one would rent us less than a 4 bedroom house, at about $1800 a month. Yikes.

By the grace of God and the generosity of our brothers and sisters, we’ve been able to avoid debt up till now, but we’ve built up very little savings. So, we came to terms with the fact that buying a house with cash was out of the question. Sigh. Good-bye, Childhood Dream! You kept me out of a lot of trouble, but you’re just no longer practical.

I then entered that bargaining stage of grieving my broken dreams. Like, what if we bought a really, really cheap house and paid it off really, really fast? That would still kinda-sorta be the same, right? Um, no, not really. Nonetheless, our hopes high, we began our house hunting search only looking at properties under $50,000. It didn’t take long to tour all two of those dilapidated, uninhabitable homes.

Mmmk. We bumped it up to $100k. While we found more properties that were technically livable, we didn’t find any that didn't require pretty immediate repairs costing at least $25k. And most of those had mold problems. I’m allergic to mold. So, yeah. No.

With spring fast approaching (a.k.a. the end of our lease) we bit the bullet and got preapproved with our bank in order to find out just how much we would be allowed to borrow. You know, just out of curiosity.

Do you know something? Banks are crazy! I’m not one of those people who is all hush-hush about finances. I don’t care if you know how much we make, so I’m going to go ahead and tell you that with Joshua’s preaching salary and his part-time job driving a school bus, we make about $48,000 a year. He hasn’t been with his part-time job for 2 years yet, so the bank doesn’t count that income. And they STILL would let us borrow $135,000. 

Let’s just think about that for a second. They are willing to let a family of 7 (who, for their purposes, makes less than $30,000 a year) borrow one hundred and thirty-five THOUSAND dollars; which, over the course of 30 years, is going to actually cost $240,992.39. And we’re supposed to actually be able to pay that off. On $30k a year. With 5 kids. Does this strike anyone else as COMPLETELY INSANE? Or is it just me? No wonder people are foreclosing right and left. Who can seriously, actually, raise a family and keep up a mortgage on $30k these days??? 

Sorry. I’m probably overreacting. But, guys, debt! It’s CRAZY! In reality, we make more than $30k, so yes, we can afford that kind of mortgage. But the fact that they are willing to let us borrow over 4 times our countable income… It’s a conspiracy. They don’t WANT you to pay off your debt…

Anyway. End rant.

So, what did we do? We bought a house for $135,000 of course…

I know. You’re never supposed to buy as much as you qualify for. But… We did. And we truly believe that this house is a blessing from God. It’s already completely handicap accessible, and in an area with mostly two-level homes, that is a huge deal. Little Miss is loving how easily she can get around in her wheelchair!

But, I can’t completely forget Dave Ramsey. He’s still influencing my financial dreams.

Enter, More-Practical-But-Still-Kinda-Sketchy Grownup Dream: Pay off our mortgage in less than 7 years. 

Why 7? Because 7 years is the length of indentured servanthood. And I don’t want to be a servant of the bank for longer than that (see Proverbs 22:7).

Can we do that on an income of less than $50,000? Who knows. Want to find out? I’m inviting you along as a spectator. To hold ourselves accountable and stay motivated, we’re going to keep track of how much extra we’re able to put toward the mortgage. I plan on posting updates here so that you can follow the journey.

A couple things before we begin, though. I always hesitate to post financial articles. People are weird about money. They just are. It’s one of those taboo topics that you’re not supposed to talk about in polite society. It’s never made me uncomfortable to talk finances, but I know it can make some people a little uneasy, and I hate to do that. I don’t want you to feel like I’m being judgy about how you spend your money, or like I’m bragging about how we spend ours. That’s totally not why I am doing this. I just think it’s fun, interesting, and a good way for me to stay focused. That’s all. If it inspires you to slash some of your own debt, cool. If it makes you uncomfortable, I will NOT be offended if you choose to skip these posts.

Secondly, putting all this out there makes me a little uncomfortable. I know, I know, I know. I just said I don’t mind talking personal finances. And that’s mostly true. But, there is a part of me that says, Don’t do it. Somehow, someway, someone will use this against you. Maybe that fear comes from the fact that we’re on support. A preacher’s family on support has to be very careful about revealing personal details. (Or, so I’m told.) Maybe it’s because I don’t like failing and I recognize that paying off that much money in 7 years is doomed to failure really hard. At any rate, I was very hesitant to do this. After some prayer, consideration, and discussion with my husband, I came to the conclusion that those are partly valid and partly unnecessary concerns, and that ultimately the benefits outweigh the risks.

So. If you’ll agree not to maniacally use this information against my family and promise not to make too much fun of me when we don’t pay off our loan in 7 years ecstatically celebrate with us when we succeed, you’re welcome to follow our progress!

Purchase Price: $135,000
Interest Rate: 4.625%
Down Payment: $8,700 (this included a $6,000 grant)
Loan Amount: $126,300
Monthly Payment (including insurance and taxes): $974.51

 Expected Payoff Date: April 6, 2025

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Series of [Un]Fortunate Events

March 27th marked one year since we picked up Little Miss. One whole year. I can hardly believe it’s been so long, and yet I can hardly remember what our life was like before her. Whose hair did I play with before Little Miss came home? Who told me “I love you bigger!” a thousand and two times a day? Who did I comfort when a scary balloon came into view? I can’t remember my life ever not consisting of those things. Did I even realize just how much was missing?

For three years we fought to bring Little Miss home. We finally landed on American soil on April 5, 2017 as a whole family. I’m so thankful that one year ago, we scooped up a nervous little girl who bravely opened her heart to us. Our year of adjusting to one another hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been the best of times.

In a strange way, picking up Little Miss started a chain reaction of life-altering episodes. Like a funny-not-funny comedy, the last 12 months have been a long Series of UnFortunate Events.

It was the best of times…

Six weeks after arriving home from Bulgaria, our van mysteriously vanished. But would you believe that in its place appeared a suburban, given to us by a friend of a friend we had never met? Brand new car seats, a stroller, a GPS, and a new stash of tools also appeared at our doorstep that very week. We ended up with a vehicle more suited to our needs and other items in better condition than those we lost. Seeing God provide those things out of nowhere made those days some of the best of times.

A couple days after the Vanishing Van episode, Joshua was unexpectedly blessed with a whole month off work! Which was wonderful because, three days later, our fifth baby was born. Monkey5 had a dramatic entry into the world, made much easier by the free time Joshua had to help us all recover. Now all expected family members had arrived, safe and sound. That first night with us all gathered on the bed in awe over the tiniest blessing in our family, thankful that he had learned the fine art of breathing… It was the best of times.

Soon after Monkey5’s birth Joshua’s parents arrived for a month long stay, which was amazingly well timed. We were thankful to have them here when, at 3 weeks old, Monkey5 quite adamantly let us know that he wanted some time away from home. Children’s Hospital was his vacation spot of choice. What a three day vacation that was! While nurses and doctors waited on us hand and foot, I got to spend some quality bonding time with Monkey5. Joshua was still enjoying his time off work, so he was able to stay at the hospital with us while the older children were being well taken care of by their grandparents at home.

Monkey5’s desire to visit the hospital turned out to be due to pyloric stenosis; a serious, but easily repaired condition. What a blessing to live in a day and age where this lifesaving surgery is so readily available. My prayer life grew and my mama heart was tested during those three days. But our time in the hospital was short, and we were soon back home with all of our monkeys. We live in the best of times.

The Monday after we got home from the hospital, Joshua started back to work. His new job provided for us to be able to continue ministering in this area. Our housing situation was uncertain at the time, but just when we thought we would have to move on, God opened doors for us to stay. And just when Joshua’s job with that company looked like it might end up destroying us, God provided another job that has been a huge blessing to our family. One that gives him plenty of time for preaching and teaching, allows him to have his children with him while he works, and still provides enough for us to live on while remaining in the area. This job has provided for some of the best of times.

Mid-Summer of last year, Monkey4 developed a strange rash. I sure am thankful for social media! Within hours of posting a picture of it on Facebook and asking for input, I was connected with several Lyme disease specialists and people suffering from the disease. If it hadn’t been for the blessing of Facebook, we would not have known to worry about the rash. But with urgent messages and phone calls pouring in from people identifying the red splotches, we quickly got Monkey4 the help he needed.

Days later, Monkey1 contracted bartonella, also identified by people on the internet who recommended seeing a specialist. It was quickly and easily treated. I am thankful to God for the internet and the advice of people I don’t even know. It came at the best of times.

Not long after this Monkey4 took a fall off a chair and broke his collar bone. What was originally diagnosed as a break that would take a good six weeks to heal turned out to be a small fracture that only required a sling for three weeks. God is good!

A couple weeks later Monkey2 was diagnosed with Candida. It’s been a battle we’ll continue to fight for a long time. But what a time we live in, when so much is known about this condition and so much research is available to help us understand how our bodies work! Isn’t this the best of times?

For several months last summer, boxes and envelopes full of blessings arrived. Everything from toilet paper, to diapers, to pantry items, to gift cards, to games for the kids. We were showered with more than we could possibly use! Joshua’s family, headed up by one of his sweet cousins, put together a game night to raise money for our unexpected expenses. We were humbled by the outpouring of love from them. At the same time, friends from all over the country surrounded us with love, including our Church family at Maplewood who embraced us and made sure we never had a need that went unmet. When our souls were weary, that group of God’s people washed our wounds and pulled us back up on our feet. They made it possible to start again, and we are forever grateful for their encouragement and support. Learning love from them… It was the best of times.

Speaking of the love of the Church, the police finally located our van. On the side of the highway in another state. On fire. The firefighters kindly put out the fire, and then handed us the bill. When a friend heard about this bill, he immediately offered to pay the entirety of the balance. Knowing the love of brothers like that… It makes for the best of times.

On February 26, I got a call from my husband about five minutes after he and our oldest two boys left for work. “Everyone is okay,” he said, “but we’ve been in a wreck.” He didn’t have much time to fill in the details. He hurriedly explained that he had slipped on a patch of ice and the vehicle had spun, flipped to its side, and then slammed deep down into a snow bank. He assured me that they were all alive and okay, but he needed to get off the phone so he could get everyone into a safer position.

Have you ever wondered about that little word ‘okay’? What exactly does ‘okay’ mean, anyway? ‘Okay’ as in every one is completely uninjured? Or ‘okay’ as in no one is going to die, but it’s going to be a seriously long road to recovery? I called his mom and she kept me calm while I waited for Joshua to call back and explain what kind of ‘okay’ he meant. Amazingly, ‘okay’ meant that they all walked away with only minor whiplash and a scratch or two. And somehow the suburban drove away only missing a side mirror and a running board. That deep snow we’d gotten just a day or two before kept them from rolling all the way over. God’s hand of protection was over my guys at what could have been the worst of times.

And then the worst of times came.

That same day, relief over the safety of my boys and husband collided with the realization that we were losing our unborn baby. We had intended to announce later that week that Monkey6 was on the way. But early in the morning, even before the guys had left for work, signs of a miscarriage began. An ultrasound the following day confirmed our worst fears. “The Layaway” was gone.

That was a month ago today.

In moments like that, finding the best of the situation is a heart-wrenching effort.

Why did God choose to preserve three lives, while at the same time allowing one to die? Where was His hand of protection over the life in my womb? Why, on the same day when I rejoiced so greatly over three, was I required to grieve so deeply over our youngest child? Before I ever heard a heartbeat? Before I ever felt a kick?

I don’t know.

But one thing I know for sure. God is a God of comfort. In the best of times. In the worst of times. When joy and sorrow meet. He is present. A very real help in times of trouble.

Perhaps it is so that we can more unwaveringly say with the apostle Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

I hope that, because of the difficulties of this year, the life of Christ is more visible in me today. I know that the love we have received from our brethren and the blessings that God has abundantly bestowed have far outweighed every hardship we’ve faced. If our van hadn’t been stolen, we would never know the kindness of that stranger. If I hadn’t spent a week sick with worry over my newborn’s health, I wouldn’t understand even a tenth of what other parents go through when they have a child in the hospital. If we hadn’t experienced the strain of a bad work situation which required Joshua to be away from home over 60 hours a week, I wouldn’t sympathize with other families who struggle with demanding jobs.

If we hadn’t experienced the disappointment of hope lost, we would never have known the beauty of faith renewed.

The last 12 months have been the worst of times the best of times, because the Lord was on our side. Had it not been the Lord Who was on our side when men rose up against us, they would have swallowed us alive. Had it not been the Lord Who was on our side when we were between jobs, the flames of desolation would have consumed us. Had it not been the Lord Who was on our side when we lost Noah, the waters of despair would have engulfed.

But the Lord, our Mighty God, was on our side. And He wants to be on your side, too.
"Blessed be the Lord Who would not give us up.
Blessed be the Lord for His unfailing love.
He broke the snare, and we escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Lord."

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Comment from a Husband's Perspective

We've been down for three weeks with some nasty virus, which is why I've been taking a break from blogging. But I do want to share this comment someone made on the post I Make Broth from Scratch But I Feed My Kids Frozen Pizza for Lunch. I was going to just add it to the end of the original article, but I think it's so beautifully stated that it deserves a post of its own. 

Ladies, you are appreciated, you are loved, and your work is not in vain in the Lord! (1 Corinthians 15:58). 


"Let me comment from a husband's perspective. These Christian ladies as well as my wife often feel like they don't get enough done. They think they don't get the laundry finished or have dinner made or even planned.

But do you know what we see?

We see a woman who teaches our children, better than anyone else could. We see a woman who will go without because her husband needs a new pair of pants for work. We see a woman who does things around the house so her husband won't have to spend his only off day doing chores. We see love, that's what we see. And a woman whom we married and is our best friend and the one we can't wait to get home to every night no matter the house cleaning or what's for dinner. We see our help meet and she is exactly who she's supposed to be.

We love you all and thank God everday that we found our true better half." - David Day

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Message of Your Home: The Living Room

“Home is a shelter from storms – all sorts of storms.” William J. Bennet

Our living room is a safe haven. It is where our family gathers to escape the chaos of life and to just be. We read, we play music, we cuddle, we worship. We recharge. When we’re gathered as a family in the living room, we focus on enjoying time with one another and growing our family spiritually.
When you’re in my living room, I hope that the noise of the world is shut out and that the restful peace of a Christian home is evident to you. I hope the comfort of cushy chairs and the attractiveness of a pretty room pales in comparison to the beauty and solace of a home without strife. I hope you feel loved like family and refreshed like an honored guest.
I want my living room to be pretty, but more importantly I want it to be inviting; a place where you automatically know that you are welcome to kick your shoes off and put your feet on the couch. Not a sterile museum where you should be afraid to touch anything. A museum isn’t a practical place to live with five kids anyway.
The living room was the room I was most excited about decorating in Michigan.  I spent a lot of time in there (nursing, playing on the floor with toddlers… I even birthed a baby in there). I was determined to make it a room that I loved because I am very… shall we say… impressionable. Meaning, my environment has a huge effect on my emotional state. I need at least one room in my house where I can find beauty, relaxation, and calm. Life is just better that way. My goal was to make my living room a place where my guests could find the same.

Speaking of being impressionable, have you heard of color psychology? Color psychology is the study of hues as a determining factor on behavior. Color influences the way we think, feel, and even taste. It is widely used in marketing to appeal to consumers’ emotions. Companies are interested in this stuff. Ever heard about car insurance companies charging more if your car is red? That’s because a bright red encourages energy and it really does influence drivers to speed, leading to a higher likelihood of accidents. 
When I chose the paint for my living room I did a little research on what color was most likely to promote relaxation and calm. Let’s run through some color theories real quick, keeping in mind your goal for your own living room (or any other room in your house).
Red: Bold, Exciting, Energy, Power, Ambition, Emotionally Intense *Studies show that the color red increases heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. A good color for a race car, but maybe not for your bedroom.
Pink: Love, Respect, Warmth, Sensitive, Nurture *Valentine’s Day, anyone? I want to paint my kitchen pink.
Purple: Deep, Creativity, Dignity, Independence *Studies show that children are extremely attracted to this color and it is often used to market toys.
Green: Growth, Restore, Clarity, Balance *Promotes tranquility and restfulness – a popular color for bedrooms
Blue: Content, Perspective, Calm, Order, Success *Shown to suppress one’s appetite and promote productivity. Maybe not the best choice for a dining room. Unless you’re on a diet?
Orange: Instinct, Optimistic, Freedom, Motivation, Social *Stimulates mental activity. A good color to accent a school room.
Yellow: Joy, Happiness, Intellect *When overused, yellow can have a distressing effect. Studies show that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Who knew?
Black: Authoritative, Mysterious, Formality, Elegance *Known to have a slimming effect.
White: Purity, Cleanliness, Safety *Used to encourage a fresh look, or a “clean slate.”
Obviously, this is not true for everybody all the time. It depends on your own personality, and can vary by age and gender. Personally, I’ve found these to be true to a large extent. For my living room I wanted something calming and refreshing. Based on the color psychology listed above, both Green and Blue would fit my need. Living in Michigan where it is often dark and overcast, I wanted something that would remind me of clear skies, so I went with “Horizon Blue” for the walls.
I had something of a nature theme going on with the sky blue walls, so I played on that by adding several plants, my favorite of which was ivy hanging from the ceiling in the corner. Plants are proven to reduce stress, help you sleep better, purify the air, and improve your overall wellbeing. I love houseplants, but I do have a hard time keeping them alive. My ivy was looking pretty pitiful by the time these pictures were taken.
I mentioned in the last post that it’s a great idea to try to have repeating elements in each room to tie your overall d├ęcor together. One way I tied the living room in with the dining room was by using the same twine from the map display to create a “laundry line” of family pictures, using wood clothespins to hang them. I was going for Shabby Chic/White Picket Fence feel in the room and I liked how this laundry line idea gave it that effect. (It was complete with a burlap bag that I really did use to store socks missing their mates.) 
We had no ceiling light. I would have preferred to have the option of overhead lighting, but the lamps did give it a cozy feel. I also would have liked to have gotten curtains on the windows. I’m just not a fan of blinds. And I wanted to find whitewashed shutters to create some wall art. Alas, we moved before I found any. Instead I hung an ocean and lighthouse painting that a dear friend from church painted for us, which I absolutely love! I miss this room and hope to somewhat replicate it when we get into a new place where I can paint.
{Oh, and I must brag on several pieces of furniture in this room. My dad built the gorgeous hope chest in the corner for my 18th birthday. The digital piano was my husband’s wedding gift to me. The upright piano was my “wooden” anniversary gift from him. I also can’t leave out the wooden box that he built to hold my sheet music :)}
Back to the decorating…
Decorating a room where people feel comfortable largely depends on decorating in a way that makes YOU comfortable. If you’re comfortable, people will sense that and relax. If you decorate your living room in a popular style that everyone else loves but makes you feel “meh,” then you’re not going to feel comfortable in there and neither will your guests.
When we have guests over, the conversations that start at the dining room table usually end in the living room. My goal is to start conversations geared toward the Gospel, so it’s important to me to make the living room a place where friends feel relaxed and welcome to carry on the discussion. When people are relaxed, they are more open o the Word. 
So, what do you think about this whole “Color Psychology” thing? I’m removing clocks to get people to stay longer, painting walls to influence emotions… What kind of mind games am I playing??! But at least they’re well intentioned mind games, right? Right.