Loving Grandma Penny

Subconsciously I must been thinking about my Grandma a lot this past week or so because pictures and things keep coming up. Another day when it’s not so late I’ll sit down and write down tons of wonderful memories about her but for now I’m just going to leave a few quick things.

She was amazing and I loved her immensely. I was very fortunate to have spent lots of time with her growing up as we lived with my grandparents for two years when we moved back to Saginaw and then after we got our own house I’d bike over there to visit. We’d sing worship songs in her kitchen while doing dishes or cleaning; usually something from the Gaithers. She prayed for all of us and she never stopped loving us and believing in us. Her faith carried me through some tough times. She was constant and strong and yet tender and so kind. She was a witty ‘card shark’ and you never quite knew whether she was just that good or just lucky.

Her given name was Mary, but she picked up the nickname Penny after graduating high school and it stuck. In the last few years she moved down with my penniesforgrandmaaunt and they sold the house and it got harder for her to talk on the phone and so I called less and less. I got the honor of coming to stay with her when my aunt and uncle went on vacation a couple years ago.

Last fall she had a series of strokes (possibly seizures) and was put on hospice. I flew in and got to spend an incredible 4 days with both my aunts and my cousin I hadn’t seen in 8 years. It was some of the most treasured time I’ll ever experience. We talked to her, sang to her, encouraged her and joked with her, believing she could hear us. I miss her. She was so special and there’s a list of things I wish I would have asked her or talked to her about. Such wisdom and grace. God, thank you that you gave her to us, that she was my Grandma. That you gave us such an incredible lady that loved us so much. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories I get to hold on to. Thank you for showing what unconditional love is in such a tangible way in my life. I truly don’t know where I’d be without the life of this faithful woman.

20151103_111214-2.jpgMy aunt on the left is sitting on Grandma’s bed talking to her. My other aunt is in the middle, and my beautiful goofy cousin is on the right. God, it was such a precious, incredible time. I am forever grateful. 

3 Ways to Finding Suzy…

I have the utmost admiration for you folks (superhumans) out there that work full-time, raise your family, and have clean clothes and a clean house. It’s absolutely incredible. We have a lot of responsibilities and only so many hours in a day to get everything accomplished. In college I couldn’t sit down and focus on my homework until I had my room completely picked up and put away. Now 10 years later I’ve got three beautiful little people that I’m training and managing. They don’t seem too bothered by the piles of laundry, food on the floor, and shoes and coats thrown all down the landing.

All the years that I worked full-time outside of the home I either caught up on things all on the weekend, or I’d try to maintain things throughout the week. Like if I did nothing else on Tuesday but clean the bathrooms after the kids were in bed, great! It took me less than a half an hour and it’d save me from doing it on Saturday. Sometimes I’d pay the sitter a little extra on date night and give her a list of a few things she could clean after putting the kids to bed. It was so worth it and gave them a chance to earn extra.

Now it’s very different. I’ve been a full-time mama at home for a year now. It’s been wonderful and I’ve woken up many days just thinking of how insanely blessed I am to be able to stay home and hang out with my kids. I get to schedule what I want to schedule. I get to say no to things and just enjoy being home together. It’s awesome and it took us many years to get to this point. I also seem to say yes to just about everything… yes to grabbing coffee, yes to helping with watching my friends kids, yes to another meal train, yes to helping with that event next week, yes to helping with music… and I love it all. But I’m left in somewhat of the same predicament as before… When do I make time for those pesky chores?

Proverbs 31; 25-27 (ESV)
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Okay, if you have never read Proverbs 31 you should read the entire thing. It’s not very long but this chic is legit. She’s made me feel like a bum on countless occasions and I don’t know about you but I wake up often feeling idle. However, note that in verse 15 it references her maidens. Listen… from the sounds of it her and her hubby were fairly prosperous and had an entire household that worked together. She doesn’t do every single task within the household on her own, but she does manage it with wisdom. So be encouraged, it’s rough and crazy when you have littles in the house but as they get older suzyhomemakerit’s your job to train and manage your children to be a part of the team, not waiting on mom for their clean and folded clothes to magically appear in their drawers. I’ve even read lots of advice on hiring or having extra help from family with cleaning or errands during those young years so you can better invest your energies into your family emotionally and spiritually.

Now my girls are old enough to help out a ton. It’s not child abuse. They can clean their room, put away their own laundry, pick up toys and clean up after dinner… and whatever else I need help with at the moment. They’re learning to work together. To jump in and offer support and help. My soon to be 10-year-old does her own laundry and is starting to help prep dinner. It’s time I spend pouring in to them, teaching them, and showing them that work is a gift from God and a gift unto the Lord. It’s a commandment, it’s also a blessing. It’s doing the normal day to day stuff and making the mundane special because we did it together.

Colossians 3:23 “23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Genesis 2:3 “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So over time we need to switch from doing the tasks ourselves to being a manager. Yes, that means you’ll spend extra time checking their work, having them redo or go back over directions again. We’ve spent countless times dumping out their laundry baskets and putting clean clothes away that they thought they could hide in the basket instead of folding and putting away. It’s a bonus that we have natural house cleaners so my 5 year old can spray away on those bathroom counters! Part of getting ready for bed is picking up their room. Before they can go outside to play with friends their stuff needs to be picked up. It’s helping them associate that their responsibilities need to be taken care of first before they can go do the extra stuff. Yes, this all is going to take time. Be patient. Be consistent. Keep a healthy balance. We’re training future heroes, leaders, and kingdom warriors.

All the while I still have a week here where I feel like I have it all together, and then another week where I swear I’m going to bag up everything we own and throw it out to the curb! I’ve learned over time now being home that I’m very project oriented. So doing a little house work every day bothers me and it makes me feel as though I’m just continually putting out fires and never finishing anything. So here’s 3 basic ways I’ve helped the Suzy Homemaker in me put on her big girl panties and get things done and feel more accomplished and organized;

1. Schedule the work and rest. I now have a day each week where nothing is planned. Absolutely no appointments, no coffee dates, no business appointments or agendas. We hang out and run any personal errands possibly and do school. That’s it. We rest from the busyness. On other days I actually write down in my day planner what part of the day I want to make calls, take care of bills, or finish up the laundry. If I see how those tasks will affect how the day goes I’m more apt to get up and get started so that I don’t get myself behind, overwhelmed and swamped later in the day. I also incorporate my kids into as much of it as possible. Partly for my sanity because I just can’t do it all on my own anymore and partly because it’s right for them to help now as they’re getting bigger.

2. Invest in 2-3 trusty babysitters. These folks are sweet, trusted people that I know my kids enjoy but I can count on. I use them for date nights, business appointments, or during the day for a couple hours here or there so I can crank away at my To-Do and get a lot accomplished in a couple hours. Focusing my time and energy enables me to be even more efficient and effective. I’m then able to come back and give my intentional, undivided attention back to my beautiful kiddos. And let’s be honest, I’m not the only one who’s found my almost 2-year-old elbows deep playing in the toilet water because I was so focused on the budget/bills spreadsheet. No? Just me?

3. Get rid of the extra. Have you heard of that cute Japanese lady, Marie Kondo? It’s been one of the most emotionally freeing things to finally rid myself of all of the extra stuff we store and save for that infamous, “maybe someday I’ll need this” situation. I like the rule that if you haven’t used it in over a year (gone through all 4 seasons) and didn’t need it, or forgot you had it, then donate to Goodwill, give it to someone else, or trash it. Every time the kids have gotten to a point where they have a hard time keeping up their room – we do a purge. They’re learning to give away things they don’t need or use anymore. I love seeing that generous and giving spirit growing in them.

Last of all, I really do like organizing and getting things done. I just hate being interrupted or starting a million things this week and never completely finishing any of them. It comes with the territory of having a young busy family. So hang in there, Ash. Find what works best for you. Ask for help. Trade some babysitting for help around the house. Ask your friend’s teenager to donate some time for maybe free piano lessons or something. I dunno, be creative depending on how frugal you want to be. And just remember, God will give you direction, help, and wisdom. Just ask.

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Learning to Sail This Ship

It’s been a weird month here in my world. It started out with a book I was reading titled, Your Life… Well Spent. I intentionally read a chapter a day, wanting to slowly process and digest, as it discussed the balance of family, money, and legacy. From there I spent two weeks trying to internally process and felt like my brain was on a buffering mode that wouldn’t finish.

Let me back up and explain. Up until 2010 I had been in the workforce for over 10 years now full-time and raising our kids. My husband and I spent years fighting for the right balance, trying to make the best of money and time, but at the end of the week still left feeling like things weren’t quite settled in our hearts. We had moved a couple times, tried to keep a good budget, and were always on the lookout for a better job op. Frustrated that we weren’t anywhere we thought we’d be at this point, we slowly were resolving ourselves to the fact that we were just going to keep this sad little train going until maybe one day we got a lucky break.

Nothing is impossible with God. But when you struggle for so long you start getting discouraged. Why am I failing? Am I going the wrong way? Maybe I should stop trying.  We started really fighting for a budget and paying off debt and within 4 months our Jetta broke down twice ($1,200 + $900), the water softener died ($1,500) and then the Jetta pooped for the 3rd time and we put $1,000 down on a new vehicle and financed the rest. We had nothing to our name in the bank. I remember yelling to a friend over the phone in tears, “This isn’t FAIR! We’re TRYING to do things right!” But it was never about me performing and earning a good life. It was about trusting my heavenly Father and his plans for me. We were living and making decisions based on what we thought were good Christian ideals, but we weren’t being true to the callings God had laid on our hearts for us.

I ran into a good friend at a coffee night who had his own business doing financial coaching. A couple weeks later my husband and I sat down with him and spent hours going over basic personal finance principles, our pent up frustrations, and then these goals and dreams we were giving up on. God is so good guys. The timing of everything has been incredible as I look back. That fall of 2010 God started fueling his hope in us, giving us new dreams. We felt God speaking to us;

Isaiah 43:19; “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

I started understanding that God was more concerned about my heart than my bank account. If he could grow me, then all of the rest of these things would sort themselves out over time. My husband and I started being honest with where we felt God was leading us. We realized that if it wasn’t about the money then I would stay home with my kids, so we started working on a budget that would make that happen. We listed our house for sale. I decided to do the financial coaching thing and quite my job. All things based on what we felt God tugging at our hearts for. So we prayed some prayers, crossed our fingers, and pulled the trigger on these decisions.

Joshua 1:9; “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

It wasn’t easy, and there were nights we would lay in bed talking about how we were hoping we were doing everything right. But we encountered a sense of peace we had never experienced before. Folks would look at all of the changes we were making, and the decisions we were making, and think we were crazy, but I could sense God changing us. Incredible things were starting to happen in US. This must be what it feels like to walk in God’s will! Even amidst the chaos outside of us, there was a steadiness forming within.

Good friends let us live in their finished basement for a couple of months while we looked for a place to rent. During that time I put in my notice at work and the night before my last day was when I got the call that my brother had gotten into a car accident and died. We put in an application for a house to rent on our way to his funeral. We got the house and moved in in April and thus began this new reality of trying to live out joy and blessing while processing grief and finding Jesus in my sorrow. Right when I stepped out to live out my dreams – I was hit with such a blow. For the first time in my life I experienced such a sense of grief, depression, and hopelessness so deep that I found myself wanting to let go and push away from everything and everyone.

God was so patient and faithful with me during that time. He didn’t rush me, but consistently pursued me, tugging at my heart to let him comfort me. The reality was that a nice Christian value system wasn’t going to be enough to get me out of this. I needed a real God, a real Savior, that could truly bring my heart back to life. Breath new life in me.

Ezekiel 36:26; “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

What was crazy was that while God was building a new foundation of hope in me, I was building my business and speaking hope and encouragement into others. It had to be legit and it forced me to testify to the goodness of God, to never give up. To keep fighting for those dreams even when it seems all hope is gone.

So now here I was, all these months later, learning to balance joy and sorrow and realizing how God equips both together. God has given me big dreams that includes you out there reading this. God is restoring his beloved back to himself. That’s you. That’s me. But before the work, the ministry, the social media… I have three beautiful little faces upstairs sleeping. They come first. God has called me to be their mother, and by design they’re pretty needy. They need their mama to hold them, teach them, feed them, be silly with them. I desperately want to be everything they need their mama to be. So if I build a huge business or ministry and only meet their physical needs… this is all going to be for naught. And thus the endless internal processing a month ago. How is this all going to work together?

Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I do know the dreams that God has promised me. I do know what he’s equipped me with and what he’s doinglearningtosail in me. I do know what my priorities are. It’s been a process and it will continue to be. So with my day planner as my BFF, I’ll be intentionally scheduling these things out, being strategic on time, money, and projects. I can be the cute little tortoise and do one thing (day) at a time, intentionally and with excellence, raise these beautiful children to know who’s they are and what they’re capable of. I can continue reaching out to you guys out there and  my community to spur you on towards greatness and giving you inspiration on how to do that. I can teach and guide my team and business to grow and impact Michigan. It’s all going to happen guys and I am so incredibly excited for it all. But it’s going to be a process and I’m going to take my time to do it right and not forsake my family.

So be brave with me please. Please pray for me. I’m praying for you. Be bold. Hide God’s word in your heart. Memorize that scripture. It’s your armor and sword against the garbage the devil throws at you. We are sons and daughters. Princes and princesses of the Most High God. He’s got this. He’s got you.