This guy…….

This guy is amazing….. 

…. he is the creator of “tuckin’ time” and makes sure the boys are tucked into their blanket ‘burritos’ each night. Tuckin’ time finishes off with prayer time when he patiently listens to the sweet prayers of his boys.

…. he is an encourager. He has not tired of cheering me on as I have worked at losing weight. He pitches in and wraps candy, washes dishes, folds laundry, cook part of dinner…. whatever it takes to help get the job done.

…. he is a teacher. He helps teach young ladies how to care for their cars, because dads aren’t always around and a girl needs to know how to fix the basics.

…. he is pretty much MacGyver. Richard Dean Anderson and his team of writers have NOTHING on this guy. If you can describe it, he can draw and build it. If you need it written, he is a published author. Bubble gum and baling wire fixes are his specialty, and he minors in crisis management…. making sure we all have an exit plan.

….he has been known to resemble Batman. Send out a distress signal? He will answer and meet you at the mall, at the grocery store, or the side of a freeway… and he will get your rig back on the road.

….he is a leader. Not a shouter of orders but a servant leader. He will never ask you to do it, unless he is willing to do it with you. He is a military guy so if you will allow me to elaborate this way: metaphorically speaking, he leads this family into battle, not from his horse…. but with his boots on the ground…. putting in the hard work with us. He has our back in the middle of the fire-fight, and we have his….

I love this guy…

PS…. Happy Birthday, babe.

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The struggle to …. wait: and be of good courage

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.  ~Psalms 27:14

But what if I am tired of waiting? Shouldn’t there be a time limit to this sort of thing? How long do I have to wait???????

Sounds like an adult version of “Are we there yet?”, doesn’t it.

These are the questions that I wrestle with. I feel like Jacob wrestling with God on this issue. I would so love for the Lord to show me WHY we have the struggles we have right now. I often think that if He could just lay it out there…. so I could understand….. then, I would be able to endure it better.  But that isn’t the way God works, is it? It is the not knowing that builds my faith; teaches me to trust

There are days that I hate money. I hate the fact that we need it to survive on this planet. I long for a life long past where gardens flourished, eggs were collected and your meat supply lived in your back yard. Days when you could pay for dental visits with a few chickens and a month’s worth of egg deliveries.

I hate that if you need money, you have to have it for anyone to loan any to you. I hate being so poor you have to chose between putting gas in the tank or paying the garbage, water or electric bill. I hate that people no longer value hard work, they value a piece of paper with some letters on it more.

Yet, God says to wait.

In my heart I ask, why? Wait for what? We are trying, Lord. We are actively looking for work…. We take every opportunity you provide. We serve, we attend church faithfully, we do our best to do the tasks you provide for us to do…. we help the people you have given to us to love….
We have applied for re-training funds…. and been denied… twice.
We have turned in thousands upon thousands of applications over the course of 3 years…. only to be under- or over-qualified for every single position.                                                                                            We have tried to revamp the resume…. twice.

We have been told, “You’re hired. Soon as we get the contract, you are our guy!” Only to never hear from them again.                          
We have tried to apply for pizza delivery jobs….. only to be told our cars are “too old” to be used as delivery vehicles.
We have applied to fast food jobs….. just to be told “I can’t hire you, you will leave here as soon as a job in your field opens up.”

I am trying to wait. Waiting is hard!

Some days I feel like waiting on the Lord takes more courage than I contain. I am not strong enough for this. Which is rather funny to me, because people think that I am pretty strong. Newsflash: I am not. Being the wife of someone who has been “un-employed” is tough. I see the looks from people, the looks that say, “Well, you should just go get a job.”  …. oh how I wish it was that easy. I have a job., I have 4 or 5 of them. I am a wife and mother – first and foremost. That is job one. Job two is editing and writing for other homeschoolers. Job three is helping someone run their local farmers market. Job four  is doing some internet marketing for a local company. Job five is babysitting work. Where do I fit another job?  I would get a job that has me working nights, but then when would I sleep?
All these jobs that I have, have a strange effect on my husband. He never says it out-loud, but in his spirit I see it…. it creates in him a feeling of inadequacy.  He desires to be the bread winner and I believe that desire in his heart is given to him by God, but for some reason, God is saying wait. I have to be strong and not let my worries show…. not let my frustrations escape…. not let my own discouragement flourish.  When I am weak and it surfaces, it sucks the life out of my husband. I see him ache and hurt…. he feels like he is the cause of my pain. He isn’t. It is just my own weakness.
I don’t blame him. I see how hard he tries. I see him sweating under hot cars, driving to far away places to make deals and sell the things we can, sweating in the shop to build the things he needs to build.
It is weird to see people actually resent you asking them to pray for your husband to find a job…. I mean they have been praying for 3 and 1/2 years, they start to wonder what is wrong with someone that they can’t get a job….. any  job.  Then they start to ask…. “well, hasn’t he tried McDonalds?” It takes an amazing amount of restraint not to choke people when they say things like that…..

The reality: I don’t like waiting.

Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage…. He will strengthen you.

I know that much of my ramblings here today have seemed pessimistic… please read it as I intend it…. sometimes I need the catharsis of words, I need to let them roll of my fingers and out of my brain. If left swirling there, the discouragement builds, tears become the way of the day, and I start to long for escape. For as much as the thoughts above are the things that I wrestle with God over, I do see his faithfulness. I do see his care. I know that we are provided for.

This month’s testimony of praise…. 
Rent is due, no shock there, it is due every month.  The shocker is usually the WAY it gets paid. About the 15th of every month I start to sweat the rent payment.  I scramble and save every penny to make sure that we are going to be close enough.  This month I had a small wad of cash…. and some of the weirdest checks….  One was from Bank of America…. they sent us 12 dollars that apparently were from some account that we closed over 4 years ago…  Another one was from a bank we had used that paid out dividend rewards for purchases. When that bank closed, they told us that all our earned dividend income was just gone, we would never see it.  Last month a check for 132 dollars came from them. It was our dividends. That cash, those checks…. and the child support payments, we had 28 dollar MORE than we needed to pay rent.
Praise God.
It is these testimonies….. these unexplainable arrival of checks. The ability to have made a rent payment for 3 years without a steady job, these are the things that strengthen my heart.

Sometimes God lays our family on people’s hearts and we get gift cards or other things…. and those things are a great encouragement.  It lets us know that He hears our prayers and the details of our lives are not insignificant to Him, by moving others to help.

So, even though I am very bad at waiting…. we will continue to wait. Even though I don’t feel strong or courageous…. I will wait. I will watch for evidence of His mercy and grace….  and I will praise him for all the things, big and small, that he does for us each day.
 

 

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What, me Worry?

I know that worry isn’t a poplar subject. In fact, in Christian circles, worry is a dirty word, a sin, a thing to be avoided at all cost! So join me if you wish, as I process what God is teaching me about worry.

Yesterday our sermon was on worry. I sat in the pew and said to myself, “Julie, you can half listen to this one….You don’t really worry about much.” I know that never happens to any of you, so you all can probably half read my post. Maybe the realization I had about worry will grip you half way through too.

So what is worry? In church or at a ladies breakfast the very mention of it will earn you some, “Oh girl, you worried? You know worry is a sin, right?” type looks.  Those looks make us feel ashamed of our worries, so we start to call them by more acceptable names. Ever used any of these words to explain your feelings?

“ Oh, I am just so concerned about ….”, “It just made me a little anxious.”, “It was agonizing!”, “Sally just overthinks things….”, “I just get so worked up..”, “I’m just mulling it over.”, “Don’t stew about it, Phil.”, “I am just a little stressed out over…..”, “I am not going to lose sleep over it.”

Everyone of those underlined words are synonyms or words that mean the SAME as worry. They are the safe words we use to describe something, that as Christ-followers, we know we should not do.

Worry is caused by a noisy soul.  A soul that wants things, and they don’t have to be “bad” things that we want.  A soul that likes to know what is going to happen. A soul that doesn’t like to be surprised. A soul that wants to be in control. A soul that is fighting God every step of the way. A soul that is intently focused on the here and the now. Are you starting to see yourself as a worrier?  I was, wait, I am.

Worry, anxiety, fretting, concern, stewing….. comes from these root reasons….

….. It happens when we have thoughts about the possibility of not getting something we want or need here on earth. For me, this looks like: “Will there be enough money to pay rent?” Money is a big deal for our family right now.  With three years of unemployment, funds are tight. If side jobs don’t happen. There is no money. I can share testimony after testimony of God’s provision, and how we have not yet missed a rent payment, but this question is at the back of my mind.  … every. single. month.

….. It happens when you have distressing thoughts about the possibility of losing something that you want or need here on earth. For me this looks like: “Will we lose the house?” I am not going to lie, I wonder often if families can be called to a life of homelessness. You see, the need we have for a roof over our head, is not a bad thing. It is not a sin to desire a house to sleep in. Each month I wonder, ponder, mull over, for some length of time, what I will need to sell, how we will all sleep in the suburban. I do not want to lose my house. About here in the sermon, I was starting to get real uncomfortable in my seat…..

…..It happens when you have disquieting and perhaps preoccupying thoughts about something you DO NOT want or need to happen in your day-to-day life. No one wants to be robbed.  No one wants to lose a child. No one wants to lose a parent. No one wants to be unemployed. No one wants to be homeless. There are so many things that happen in this world that are not good, and we do not want to have a single one of them happen to us or our families.  I didn’t want my dad to die.  I don’t want my kids to live far away. If we let them these thoughts can become paralyzing and keep us from doing the work we need to each day.

I leave you with a few statistics. 

    • 40% of the things we worry about, are never going to happen.
    • 30% of the things we worry about are things from our past.
    • 20% of the things we worry about come from other people, places or things.
    • 10% of our worries are about health issues.
    • 8% of our worries are things that are based in reality.

Worry. It is real.  We all do it. We may call it by different names… but we all do it. Maybe by the time I am in heaven I will have figured out how to do it less, how to trust more… And maybe, just maybe, the next time I hear a sermon on worry, I won’t think I can half-listen…. I will know I need to be all ears!

More on the topic of worry…. coming soon.

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Just because…..

I am gonna brag on someone for a bit.  Why?  Well, because this is my blog, and I can…. and every once in a while I just feel like bragging up on people who are important to me. Sisters in the faith need to build each other up…. so, here I go.

This lady here is one of a kind. She is a dreamer, encourager, and lover of Jesus. She also happens to be my boss.  ( And no, this is not an attempt to butter her up for a raise…lol) Today is her birthday and this is just my version of a card.

Before she was ever my boss I thought she was pretty cool.  She published this magazine that I had stumbled onto… the articles encouraged me.  They recharged my passion to homeschool, especially on those day where you are ready to flag down the public school bus and hand them a few more kids.

She dreams up stuff to bless homeschoolers with, gathers a team of people, gets them excited about her vision and leads the charge as everyone pulls together to make it happen. No one shares the same office.  Most of us have never seen our coworkers, yet we function as a great big family. She keeps her finger on the pulse of 4 + different divisions….  homeschools…. travels with toddlers…. and manages to keep a really good sized family fed and watered. If you look up multi-tasking in the dictionary, I am quite sure her picture is there.

She is a lover of Jesus. This is the quality that I admire in her most. Her family stuff, and work stuff, and life stuff….. have been a wee bit crazy at times…. and no matter what the circumstance…. she displays grace and lifts praise to God for who He is. Her faith is deep.  Her heart full of worship. Her words full of encouragement.

She is real.  Just so you guys don’t start to think that she is a glowing tower of perfection…..  she will be the first to admit…. that snuggles come before dishes and dust bunnies probably breed in the quiet spaces under the couch….  but sometimes that is just the way life is. Love counts for way more than a swept floor, perfectly folded laundry and sparkly plates.

So dear boss-of-mine, my prayer for you today, on your birthday is that you continue to grow in God’s grace, to seek his wisdom for your life…. and that you have many, many more years as the chief snuggler of all your babies and one day grandbabies. I praise God for the woman He has created in you.

Happy Birthday.

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Sandcastle Sweets

I have decided to start the business that everyone keeps telling me I should start.

I am now officially in the candy business.

What started as a fun (and rather delicious) experiment over ten years ago, is now a business.

If you enjoy hand-dipped chocolates and caramels you need to visit Sandcastle Sweets.

Stop by and see our selections and all Valentine orders receive 10% off! (good until February 14, 2014)

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welcome 2014

I have missed this little corner of cyberspace. A place of my own creation, where I can say what is on my mind and in my heart. I come today in a reflective mood, looking to find a way to adequately communicate with words what the year 2013 has been about.

To properly reflect and recap I suppose that one should start at the beginning…..

January of 2013 found us in a state of near homelessness. Our home of nearly six and a half years was being sold. The owners had stopped paying, and as the renters we were powerless to purchase the home or change the eminent loss of a roof over our head.  We needed to be out by February 1, but we had no where to land. In the middle of the month, we signed a lease on a new house that we first saw in October 2012.  The house was $300 more a month than what we had been paying.  We had been unemployed for a year, at this point, and we just had to trust God that the house He had provided; He would pay for.

 

February 2013 was spent unpacking and settling in.  Our new home had a new furnace and we were blessed to have a warm place to rest our heads. Excitement and hopefulness had returned.  Evan was on the verge of turning 19 and he was heading to Memphis to set about finding his fortune.

 

March, April, and May of 2013 were spent in preparation for Tayler graduating from High School, and setting her sights on which college she would attend in the fall.There were scholarship weekends to attend, FASFA’s to file…… No one really tells you how much paperwork is required to get a kid into college!  Yikes!  That was a learning curve!

Through it all, God provided.  He made a way for Tayler to fly to Iowa to her college scholarship weekend. He answered prayers like “Lord, we have enough money to fill the car with gas or go to the store for food, but not to do both.  Help us to know which one to choose.”  His answer was in the form of a check so that we could do both.

We spent these months caring for Jody’s mom as her health declined….. she would eventually go home to be with the Lord in May.  Our hearts were heavy as we moved on into the summer.

Summer 2013. Was a typical summer for us in the high desert. We enjoyed our first summer with air conditioning in about 5 years….. it was heavenly to have a cool house to hide from the 110° weather in.  We spent the summer at our local farmers market working and enjoying our community.

September arrived with crisp air and the beginning of our new school year.  We began our second year of Abeka and had lots of fun learning about our new teachers. Using this curriculum has been a financial change for us…..  It is expensive!  But it has given me a level of freedom in the day to day preparation that has let me work from home and still get the dishes and laundry done.

October 2013 was a month when I felt discouraged. Our finances were at rock bottom. The kids needed shoes, pants, socks…. everything was wearing out, including my optimism. We had planned a vacation, and saved up for it….. and then we had to spend all the savings on rent.  The endless unemployment was wearing on my good humor it was hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

God responded to my discouragement by bringing people to encourage me.  I had friends from elementary school contact us and send encouraging notes and gifts. God replaced all of our savings and then some with gifts from the most unusual sources. He used some friends to bless us with two full months of rent to carry us through the end of year. The boys got new shoes, I did too…..  God turned our despair to praise.

November and December were again full of blessings. Many unexpected ones that allowed us to travel to California and spend Christmas with my side of the family.

This year we have learned how faithful God is.  Despite our discouragement, our failings and our finances, He has made a way and provided for us. His gifts were tangible expressions of His love for our family.

As we move into 2014, I know not what the year holds. I know only that I need to continue to trust in a God that has shown himself faithful beyond measure.

 

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green food

I have been looking for a way to eat a bit healthier, and maybe lose a bit of weight in the process.  So, I have been researching and I stumbled across eating raw. 

I am not sure how this will all work out for me.  I do not think I am ready to embrace this whole raw food culture that is out there.  I am willing to try something new.  I joined in with Young and Raw on their 30 day cleanse challenge for the month of April and so far I have had two of their green smoothies.

Yesterday was day one. 

My smoothie was kale, parsley, ginger, and coconut water. 

It tasted like I ate a handful of lawn clippings.  Really, it did.  I think I was still chewing on the kale and parsley hours later.

Not to be deterred by one recipe, I bravely made the drink for day two.

It was blueberries, parsley, spinach, and coconut water.

It still tasted vaguely of fresh cut grass, apparently parsley will do that to a beverage, but the blueberries made it much more tolerable.

I have no idea if this smoothie thing will work.  I have noticed that I have had a bit more energy through the afternoon when I drink these in the morning. 

…. I will let you know how the next few days go….  maybe I will even find a recipe that doesn’t taste like grass…. 

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Thoughts from a veteran’s wife

Today on that little social media website that we call Facebook, a picture was posted and a tidbit of an article was shared. 

The writer of the article, a Bill McClellan from the St. Louis Dispatch, proposed that the government cut costs by ending the policy of funerals with honors for Veterans.

McClellan agrees there are large areas to cut governmental spending, he feels that the small cost saving areas should be addressed as well.

His article quotes possible cost figures for what the government might pay to the veterans organizations who help staff the funerals for our veterans.  In doing the math, I can see where his point takes on a certain level of validity.  From a purely mathematical perspective I could agree with him; and had his article remained devoid of his personal opinion, I may have backed his cause.

His suggestion that “most veterans didn’t do anything heroic anyway…..”, is where my opinion of his argument began to wane, if not screech to an abrupt halt.  I find the day in and day out donning of a uniform to put yourself in the path of harm, very heroic. He finishes his article by giving all veterans a call to action.  He asks them to set aside their entitlement to a funeral with honors as a sacrifice for the country they loved enough to serve.

I do not like these last two statements from the author. Our government entered into a contract with each of the men and women who have served our country. In exchange for their service, our government has promised to help them attend college, provide for their medical needs, and when they die, their family can request a funeral with honors.  Out of the three contractual promises, or entitlements, that I listed above; the only one that I know the government consistently meets its obligation on is funerals.  To do as Mr. McClellan suggests would not be a grand gesture of sacrifice for a veteran, it would be a slap in the face, and yet another entitlement denied.

While I am the first person to look for a way to save a dollar, please do not suggest cutting costs by taking the last exhibition of thanks away from our veterans. They gave their sweat, tears, time, and in some cases their blood, for this country. A flag, a few shots fired, and a bugle, don’t seem to cost too much when weighed against a life.

To read McClellan’s original article: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/bill-mcclellan/mcclellan-one-last-call-to-service-end-military-funeral-honors/article_8495bfa5-33b5-5fd0-bfd9-9415fde97e13.html

To read an article about McClellan’s article:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/mar/28/columnist-wants-end-military-funeral-honors-vets-w/

What do you think?  Is cutting funeral honors for a veteran a wise cost cutting choice? 

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vinegar, schminegar

I will admit, I was skeptic.

I have just converted to the “clean your house with vinegar” bandwagon.

Not because I have kids with allergies.  Not because I am overly chemical conscious.

……but because I am a cheap-skate , I mean frugal, and it really worked!

The new house contains a bathtub large enough to lose a child in.  They jokingly refer to it as the swimming pool. 

This tub, while ultimately enjoyable to soak in (and yes, you can be jealous of me…),  takes a month of Sundays to clean and about a can of scrubbing bubbles at a time. 

I had read somewhere on facebook that vinegar was tough on soap scum.  Having nothing to lose except more money on Scrubbing Bubbles, I tossed some vinegar into a quart jar with some of the discarded orange peels which resulted from Jeremiah’s afternoon snack.

I just, moments ago, sprayed the tub with my vinegar and let it set for about 5 minutes.  I came back with my sponge and did a quick swipe with the scrubby side…. and all that soap scum was GONE!!!!  I mean gone, gone.

So, this cheap-skate, I mean frugal mom has been converted.

For more information on how to make this yourself….  visit: http://ybertaud9.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/diy-citrus-cleaner/

Try it.  If it works for you, I will save you a seat on the bandwagon :)

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…..after the aisle

One of my favorite people did something amazing today.  She went and got married.

 

The young girl I met six and a half years ago, became a bride and is now a wife.

My dearest Sara,

Even though you are married, I promise to still be here to talk via text or phone or in-person.  I will pray for you that God will grow you into the wife that is the perfect help-meet for Garhett.  Remember, marriages are much more than the wedding day.  They take work and many compromises but the sweat and tears will be worth it.  Pray for your husband everyday.  Ask God to guard his heart and his mind.  Speak highly of him to your friends and your parents.  Follow his lead. Be his biggest fan.

Garhett,

You have a Proverbs 18:22 woman on your hands.  If you want to look it up, I will wait. …….   Cherish her.  Always think of her as your bride.  Treat her reverently.  Learn her.  Pray with her each day, and then pray for her; that God would guide her and keep her safe from harm.  Speak highly of her to your friends and your parents. Be the servant leader of your home. 

Love God more than you love each other.

Much love,

Mama Coney

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