Friday, November 11, 2011

Daddy's New Tractor

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Let Go, Let God

Cliche?  Over used?  No meaning?  Well, let me tell you that this has bigger meaning to me now than it ever has any other time in my life.  It's rather impressive how God can use any and all circumstances to teach us a thing or two.  It doesn't really have to be a tragedy or something dramatic.  God is working in our lives all the time, but do we take the time to notice?  I'm not so sure how much I really noticed before we decided to try to sell our family home in order to relocate to the country.

Moving is a big decision.  It is even bigger a decision the more dramatic the move.  Granted, there are plenty of moves that are more life changing than ours, but it is a major lifestyle change no matter how you slice it.  When we first made the decision to list our home for sale we really didn't think it could be accomplished.  Sell our home in this market?  We were upside down in our mortgage.  How would we ever be able to get out of this with our excellent credit rating and no lingering debt?  With God ALL things are possible.  (Matt. 19:26)

Our first blessing was the referral we received from the law firm that handled our adoption earlier in the year.  My husband was on his feet enough to have thought to ask if they knew anyone that would be good to work with in our situation.  The lawyer referred us to Ben Lang, and so began our journey.  We met with Ben, filled out the paperwork, and waited.  Nothing really happened, so we continued to pray and lowered the price.  Honestly, we were pretty laid back about the whole thing.  Having no real expectations does make waiting much easier.  Patience coupled with faith is an excellent remedy to such situations.

After some time a few offers came in that were so low there was no way we could accept them in the traditional manner, so we decided to pursue a short sale.  It was after all Ben's specialty.  The paperwork involved is very detailed and time consuming.  I was certain there was no way we could qualify not being able to show any sort of financial hardship.  However, we were able to use our quality of life as the basis and move forward with the request.  We explored a couple of other options, but nothing panned out.  The only thing we could remotely attempt would be a short sale.

This process began in April.  I was in no hurry to make anything happen as I wanted to be sure we were being led in our decisions as opposed to forcing something to happen.  It was very important to me that any decisions we made were in accordance with God's will for our family.  That being said, I dragged my feet on every part of the process pushing deadlines and doing everything last minute, sometimes literally.  By some miracle the process just kept moving forward; at a snails pace but forward nonetheless.

God used this time to great advantage.  My husband and I learned some valuable lessons through the experience due mostly to the timing of events.  Had things happened quickly like we usually desire there is no way God could have taught us patience, faith, reliance, guidance, and how to look to Him and His Word for all things.  Even with all the traumatic things I have experienced in my life there is no other time where I felt closer to God.  I literally felt led by the hand.

Our qualifying for the short sale is only the beginning of our list of blessings.  The bank accepted the offer made by a local business man and investor.  We continued to jump through hoops as required by the bank and the government.  By December of 2010 we had sold our family home with no remaining mortgage debt, no promissory note, no real damage to our credit, and the ability to rent our home for as long as we needed until we found a new one at the tune of $500 less per month than we were paying for our mortgage.  The weirdest part of it all was giving a security deposit to a landlord for the home we had remodeled and continuously improved for the past 15+ years.

On the advice of several financial experts we waited three months, ran our credit, and started the procedure of pre-qualifying for a mortgage.  Ben referred us to a great broker, and we got the ball rolling.  Certain aspects of the process leave on feeling a little uncertain as to the outcome.  See, our sole purpose in selling our home was to purchase a new one out of the city and in the country.  Should any part of this process worked out any differently that would have been impossible.  Beginning the mortgage aspect was a little nerve wracking.  Were they going to turn us down due to the short sale?  We had excellent credit, but we needed to prove ourselves to them in a big way.  Could we muster up?  The process of gaining the mortgage and being able to purchase the house was just as involved, intrusive and time consuming as the short sale process, if not more so.  The deadlines are more real in the mortgage process to be sure.

We began actively looking for a home in April.  Our original intention and desire was to stay within Macomb County.  I am a big fan of the library system as well as Macomb County Community College; not to mention we own a business there, and our next to youngest son is finishing his senior year in Fraser at Arts Academy in the Woods.  In my mind these are all great reasons to stay in the county, but God had other plans.  It wasn't too long into the process that we realized finding a home with the amenities we desired and in the price range we wanted was going to be challenging.  There just didn't seem to be much out there, which seemed so contrary to the current statistics supporting a buyer's market.  One thing led to another, and we began to start looking in St. Clair County.  Poor Ben!  That guy was driving all over creation with us.  We ended up being referred to Tanya Nettnay through our brother-in-law.  She specializes in St. Clair County properties, and grew up a country girl.  What more could we ask for?  Due to our love for Ben, and his dedication to us as his clients, we arranged a formal referral.  It was time to move on to uncharted territory.

I grew up in St. Clair County, but I lived in the city.  My husband grew up in Macomb County and had no clue about anything out that way.  Who knew God's direction would lead us to a location better than we could imagine?  Honestly, I really didn't even think the house anything too special after we looked at it.  One thing that did strike me, though, was the happiness of the previous owner.  She and her husband raised six children in this home, and their story is so similar to ours that it was uncanny.  The similarities did get my attention.  We looked at the home a second and third time and could find no other homes on the market that even came close to meeting our needs.  In prayerful consideration we made an offer.  There was a counter, and we accepted.  One would think the story ends here, but bureaucracy is never simple.  It was time to jump through more hoops and appease more red tape.

We gathered more information, submitted more paperwork and documentation, hired inspectors, and met the demands of FHA.  Not a simple process.  From acceptance of offer to signing of papers we passed through nearly three months.  We even cancelled our vacation to make ourselves available for the process.  See, the thing about this process being so lengthy and never really knowing if it would all work out until we actually signed the papers was a huge opportunity for us to learn and grow.  This transition is not about us at all.  Rather, it is about God and how we can work to glorify Him.  It has been my constant prayer that He place us exactly where it is he needs us, and I believe with my whole heart that we are where He wants us to be.  I do not claim to know His plans, but I have faith and confidence that I did not put myself here.  God led, opened the doors and the windows, and bid us to come through.  We did just that all the while checking to be  certain that each step was guided and not self-directed.

It is truly amazing the things that can happen if we only stay out of the way.  Is my new home perfect in every way?  No.  Does my new home have all the attributes listed to meet my desires?  No.  Would I have it any other way?  Absolutely not!  I am happy that we "Let Go, and Let God".  I cannot imagine the blessings we would miss, known and unknown, had we not allowed ourselves to be led.

As faith would have it we are now close to family members that we've always lived far from, close to some that moved away, and in a much better position to share our blessings with whomever God sees fit.  Our hearts are open, and it is difficult to imagine things any other way.  Also, the investor that purchased our old home was able to sell it immediately after we moved out.  We prayed in earnest for the new owners that the home would be a blessing to them.  Working with the investor was a privilege and another opportunity to shine for Christ.  He does indeed use all circumstances to His glory.  (Romans 8:28)

Lord willing, we'll never have to do it again!  

Our new home before we started moving in.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


11-15-1997 to 8-25-2011

Sometimes animals touch us in a way no human being ever could. Almost 14 years ago my hubby gave me the greatest gift in the world. We had been together just under a year, and it was my first birthday we'd celebrate as a couple.  He loaded my two children and myself into the car, and we drove to the Macomb County Animal Shelter.  I was set to find a German Shepherd, my favorite breed of dog, and it was to be my first birthday gift from the man I would later marry.

When we pulled into the animal shelter I was so excited to be getting a puppy.  I really had no idea how special an experience it would end up being.  The kids and I looked at all the puppies.  There were no shepherds to be found, but there was a litter of beautiful, velvety, little Lab-Husky pups.  We got them all out and played with them for a time.  Then, it became evident that there was something special to us about one of them.  That one little puppy was Gypsy, and she came home with us that day forever changing the dynamics of our family.

Gypsy has always been a great dog.  We never did master the art of walking her, though.  That dog could pull your arm off if you let her.  She was happiest running along side the bicycle with Pat, or going for a run with Andrew.  Most of all she loved to run free through the snow, flipping it up with her nose.  There were camping trips when she escaped from the pop-up with the kids chasing her down through the campground.  Never a dull moment.  :)  She loved to run along side the mini-bikes, and actually out run them sometimes, when the kids would spend the day riding up at the grandparents' farm.  Then, there were the rides home with the windows down because Gypsy had rolled in something ever so irresistible to her and repulsive to us.  Oh, and who can forget the small log she used to carry around in her mouth.  I still remember laughing hysterically at her flinging around an empty two-liter bottle in the back yard and chasing it playing for hours.  She even chewed a rather large hole in the telephone pole.  What a dog!  Those were the days...

Her favorite human foods were chocolate, pizza crust, and buttered popcorn.  Lord knows she loved to eat.  With age came a slower pace, smaller appetite, and a more subdued existence.  My once traveling companion now found it difficult to get in and out of the car.  No more car rides.  No more jumping up every time she heard the keys jingle.  No more spelling the word W-A-L-K, and later just saying " a W", so she wouldn't get excited and want to go with us if it wasn't convenient.  Gone were the days of throwing her popcorn, pizza crust, or treats and having her catch them.  Her eyesight began to fail, and it was just too hard to see the snacks to catch them accurately. The trips up the stairs to go to bed became more difficult as her body became ravaged with cancer, unbeknownst to us.  We just thought she was getting old.  Then it was the hearing.  We had to speak louder for her to hear, and it would take a bit for her to notice we were calling out to her.

Oh, Gypsy, we will miss you greatly.  You are loved beyond words, and it is so difficult to imagine our family without you in it.  I thank God for animals and the companionship they give us.  I thank God for you, and I pray you rest in peace.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Internal Turmoil

As I've grown older and more experienced there is one factor in life that I easily recognize as a great contributor to stress, anxiety, and internal turmoil.  It causes one to question natural instincts, beliefs, decisions and even relationships.  What could be so powerful an influence in life?  Why, guilt of course!  The area I notice the effects of guilt on my life the most is church attendance.  You wouldn't believe the guilt trip I lay on myself when I make the agonizing decision to stay home as opposed to attend church on any given Sabbath.

Honestly, I am not really sure the source of the guilt.  What string of events have been tied together to lead me to this seemingly uncontrollable reaction to the simple choice to stay home on Sabbath rather than attend church service at my home church?  Over the years I have experienced seasons in my life where there seemed more gained physically, spiritually, and emotionally by spending a relaxing Sabbath at home reading, watching sermons on television or the computer, spending time with family, or even out in my garden.  Not to mention the occasional events that take you out of town or just conflict with the timing of church service.  It has been my experience that going with these seasons and/or moments is highly beneficial to myself as well as those around me that I love and care about, but I don't ever fully gain the benefit due to the underlying existence of that dreaded emotion, guilt.

Our latest challenge to church attendance has been the addition to new life in our family and the state of extreme exhaustion that follows as well as the change in daily life that is inevitable with a new family member.  I have learned so much having a new little one, and it seems my newest lesson is to learn how to work through guilt and not let it have power in my life.  What a challenge!

Guilt saps joy even in joyful circumstances.  It's like it has a grip strongly wrapped around your innermost being.  How uncomfortable is that?  Through prayer and concerted effort, along with a conscious decision to learn how to eliminate self-inflicted guilt from my life, I praise God that I am learning how to loose myself from guilt's talons.  It is quite possibly the most challenging thing I've tried to do, especially when it comes to the simple choice of staying home from church.  Part of the reason it is so important to me to learn how to be comfortable with who I am and the decisions I make, aside from the fact that guilt is a powerful, negative emotion, is that the underlying motivation of guilt is our innate concern as to what others think of us or our actions.  Isn't that what guilt really is; worrying about what others think of us?  Seems so to me.

So, why is it that I am so concerned about other's judgement when it comes to my attendance of church.  Shouldn't it matter most to me the state of my relationship with Christ?  Shouldn't my walk with God, my prayer life, and my commitment to serving God to the best of my ability be at the forefront?  The bible does say to not forsake our own gathering together (Hebrews 10:25).  Does this strictly refer to church attendance?  Is there more than one way to gather together?  What about family bible study, group study, meetings with friends, email discussion, or phone conversations?  If we are continually striving toward a closer relationship with God and taking the time to connect with others, does that fit the bill? 

It seems to me that the passage in Hebrews is more of a warning.  Holing oneself up, and never communicating with others, is a dangerous place to put ourselves.  Without the fellowship of others how would we truly learn and grow as individuals, let alone Christians?  As humans, interaction with other is key to our health, both emotional and physical.  We need each other.  How else would we learn empathy and service?  How would we be challenged?  Who would lift us up in our darkest times?  I would go so far as to venture to say that our relationships with each other are just as important as our relationship with Christ, as it is by our interactions with each other that we represent and experience the love of Christ in our daily lives. 

I am going to continue to strive toward a guilt free relationship with church.  It will not be easy, as it seems deep rooted, but I want my heart to pull me there through a longing to learn and share not a condemnation of doing something wrong if I'm not there.  To everything there is a season, and time to every purpose under Heaven...(Ecclesasties 3:1-8)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Farmgirls: MIA


It's been so long since I've been on here that Blogger has a lot of new publishing features.  I guess I have a little to learn.  So many post ideas have come and gone through my mind over the past several months.  It is refreshing to have graduated from having "baby brain" to being able to think clearly.  If only I could write posts in my head and have them publish directly to my blog.  Then, I would surely accomplish a lot.

So much has happened while I've been MIA from here.  I really miss writing and am making baby steps in the effort to regain some order in my day.  It's kind of funny.  It had been on my To Do List for several weeks to make a daily plan in an attempt to start accomplishing something more substantial from day to day.  Well, I finally created the plan, and there it sits having not been implemented since its creation.  That will give you an idea of how things have been over the past few months.

Where do I even begin to catch you up to speed?  God blessed us with the sale of our house in December.  We actually signed the papers on December 23rd.  Quite a gift in my book!  We were able to sell on a short sale with no promissory note, free and clear, and remain in our home as renters while we look for another home.  It's amazing the way everything played out.  I still can't believe it.  Also, we didn't really take a hit on our credit.  Truly a miracle the way everything went through.  I thank God every day for the opportunity He has give us.  It just feels so freeing!

Currently, we are finally searching for our country home.  I am SO excited!  I do have to say that I have a real understanding of the term "house hunting" as you actually do feel like you are hunting.  We have been looking at literally hundreds of homes online and have walked through a few.  There are two more that we plan to view next week.  This is such an adventure.  I am constantly amazed at how something like this can so powerfully change your perspective in so many ways.

For one, I am ever amazed at the power of God to lead when you are willing to step back and allow Him room to work.  Totally powerful!  Even at home, it was super weird at first to remain living in our home of nearly 20 years knowing that we no longer owned it.  Totally bazaar.  Now, we're pretty used to the arrangement.  The way I look at everything has changed; the blooms on the lilac bush at the start of spring, the tree that died on the boulevard, the broken awning on the back deck, the creaking in the upstairs floor, the ants that have taken up residence in my kitchen.  Everything, somehow, has taken on a new pallor.   It's nice to step back and allow myself to soak in my surroundings and relish the final moments in the home where we raised five our our children to adulthood, raised two to near adulthood, and welcomed a new child into the fold.  Not to mention the countless family gatherings, birthday parties, and other celebrations, the family nights, pizza parties, and game nights, the tears, the victories, conquered fears, and family dinners.  Our world is indeed changing.

Although it may have appeared that my life stopped as I remained MIA from The Zoo Crew reality is a whole different story.  Life has been changing at warp speed.  I have been experiencing a metamorphosis of sorts.  Let's just say that God finally got my attention on a very key component of my life.  For many years I have held dreams in my heart of working with teens, traveling within the U.S. to work with under privileged youth and families, visiting India and Bolivia where I sponsor children through Compassion and doing mission work there, volunteering in my community, and holding positions at church working with the youth.  These are all worthy aspirations, and I have done a few, but God keeps pointing me home, even after years and years of my inattention to His leading He persisted.  Now, I listened, and you just cannot imagine the freedom and peace that have followed.  My mind is clear and uncluttered, and there is so much more of me available for those I love.  My calling is my family, and I am finally listening.  All of my "hats" have officially been hung to rest.  Now, my only titles are Mom, Nana, Wife, and Child of God.  It feels amazing!

All of this, I believe, is preparing me for the next phase of life.  There will be so many new things to learn.  I have been a city girl with a heart for the country my entire life.  I have finally gotten out of the way, and God is leading me home.  It is SO exciting!  I find myself pondering the differences and what might lie in store.  The most obvious one for me aside from the slower pace of life will be the amount of grass that needs cutting during the summer months.  It's almost comical.  Our lawn is so small that it takes maybe 10 minutes to cut, and I am 100% certain that will not be the case in our new home.  Plus, there will be room and time for gardening and preserving food.  This will involve plenty of trial and error to be sure.  Then, there will be the totally different experience of raising a boy in the country as opposed to the seven other children that were fully raised in the city.  Talk about different worlds!  There is also the possibility of raising some type of farm animal along the way and involvement in 4-H, which totally intrigues me.  Then there's the different sounds, energy levels, and a more silent home as the final two of our "second batch" of children spread their wings and enter adulthood.  So much change is afoot!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Avery's First Year

Our little man has been with us for one year today. Hard to believe that much time has gone by already. I thought you might enjoy a peek at Avery's first year in photos:

 In the nursery at birth.  He was there three days due to the chord being wrapped around his neck.

 Two Months

With Amie, our daughter and his bio-mom, at his dedication.

 Three Months

 Four Months

Pat and I with him at the adoption.

 Five Months 

Six Months 

 Seven Months

The first mess!

 Eight Months

Nine Months 
10 Months, and the second mess! 

11 Months and loving music! 

One Year Old


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