Monday, April 6, 2015

Crawfish, snakes, and strawberries. Oh, my!

It was finally here!  Spring Break!  And after two long months of cold and rain, we were ever so glad to see it arrive.

The Prince had a conference in Chattanooga, so he left a day ahead of us and that left me to realize how much he helps out when it is time to pack us all up and get us going.

I took a day off, so we would only have to stay one night at home without him, and we jumped in the car Friday morning and headed to the country.

We had a great eight hour trip.  The sky was overcast, and it only sprinkled on us a couple of times. The oldest princess was a wonderful navigator.  She came up with a brilliant plan of an alternate universe, where eighteen wheeled trucks have their own lane, and fires only break out where they place street signs with firetrucks on them.  She even drove and gave me a break for about 45 minutes. In which I got totally hooked on a new Karen Kingsbury book.  The Young Prince entertained us the last few minutes of the trip with his impersonation of a very famous American.  You will have to ask him about it, if you know him that is.

We made it to our destination about mid-afternoon.  And despite my still parking the car, the kids were bailing out of every available door in the car trying to get to Unca and Aunt T as quickly as possible.  We ate, and talked and talked and ate...and that pretty much sums up the whole trip.  Talking and eating.  Eating and talking.  At least that's the way it felt to me.  But seriously, we did do a few other things among the talking and eating.

We were sitting on the back porch catching up, when the UPS truck came down the road.  Unca went to get the package and Aunt T mentioned that she bet he had ordered chocolate covered strawberries.  YUM!  So we anxiously awaited his return with the delicacies we all (except for the young prince) love.  Unca came back and told us that their dog jumped up in the truck and went to the back with the delivery man.  He said he apologized for the dog's intrusion, and the delivery man said it was no big deal, that he had recently had a goat do the same thing...just another day in the country.  Anyway, we all waited with watering mouths, trying not to look to anxious, while Unca opened the package.  It was....a....heater.  Oh, okay. A heater. No problem. Glad Unca got his heater.  Okay, seriously, I was a little disappointed.  But it was not the end of the world.  Later Aunt T confessed that we were hoping the delivery would be chocolate covered strawberries.

We actually got Unca to play a game of Pictionary with us.  It was a pretty friendly game.  Unca enjoyed himself, even if he wanted us to think he was miserable.  Plus, it helped that he was on my team, and we won.  I was helping one of my children who had to draw a dachshund.  The said child asked if that was the dog on the big bus.  Um, no, that would be a greyhound...  Then the other child who was guessing, guessed "weenie pig" instead of weenie dog...but that was about as rowdy as it got.

Then we had to humor the youngest princess and let her ride Unca's fancy new "tricycle" as she called it.  It was actually a cool little three wheeled scooter that could be ridden standing or sitting.  Unca dared the youngest princess to ride it to the end of the road and back by herself, in the dark.  She did it without a second thought.  The older two tried their best to get us to let them scare her, but we would not do it.  Next it was the Oldest Princess' turn.  She did not want to, but could not be outdone by her little sister.  So she rode it wide open and got down there and back as quickly as possible.  The Young Prince went next.  Unca tried to get someone to prove they were REALLY brave by getting them to go by themselves to the cemetery and take a picture of their hand on a tombstone, but he had no takers.  We all worked together and got Unca's new recliner in the house, which was no small accomplishment.  And then we decided to call it a night.

I had a room and a bed all to myself for all of about... half the night, until the Youngest Princess got up and came and got in bed with me.  The Young Prince slept on the bottom bunk and only hit his head once (at least the first night).  And some of you (those who have also slept on that bottom bunk and conked your head) can sympathize with him (right J and J?)

We went and saw a couple of movies on the rainy days..."Be kind and You no say to me no!"  And we all tried crawfish for the first time.  And before you ask...No.  We only ate the tails.  We all liked the most of all.  I was really surprised, because I did not think I would.

We went to church, where we thought we had lost the Oldest Princess, but thankfully we found her before we had to call the police.  We then went on to celebrate the Youngest Princess' 9th Birthday with lunch at Applebee's and a movie.  Then home to some designer, one of a kind cupcakes.  And more games.  We played Gestures, and some of us spent too much time looking for props (cow bell), while some of us did better guessing than we did acting things out.  And yes, since you asked, my team did win.  Aunt T measured the kids against the door frame in the pantry, and it looks like one of them (the Oldest Princess) has grown as much as she is going to grow.  The other two are shooting up like weeds.

We spent a day working, to earn money for our upcoming mission trip.  The older two kids washed a couple of cars, and then did their favorite chore of out the gutters.   Unca and the Youngest Princess picked up limbs.  I never thought that the Youngest Princess was like Unca, until this go round.  Turns out she is MUCH more like him than I ever thought.  He helped her pick up limbs for a few minutes, and then he moved on to something else, so she recruited me to help her.  She wanted to drive the golf cart, find the limbs and direct me to pick them up.  I told her that was not how it was going to be, and that she was to help in the picking up process.  She then wanted to tell me how to load the limbs and where to put them etc.  I was picking up some limbs when she announced, "This bus is leaving in 5 seconds!"  I told her that she was NOT her uncle, and she could not talk to me that way.  To which she laughed and said, "I know, but we are blood-kin."  Yes, indeed.  And that has never been more apparent to me than now.  The Youngest Princess and I did a little crawfish "fishing" with a hot dog as bait.  We found one that would play tug of war with me, until he could steal the bait, but we never actually caught one.  That night we amused ourselves and several others making silly Helium Booth videos.  I definitely think Aunt T had more fun than any of us.  Unca even got in on the fun...Oh, the memories!

We took a trip to Avery Island, LA, home of the Tabasco factory.  We paid our $1.00 fee to get on the island, by pulling up to the little gatehouse, where the man promptly held out a stick with a rectangle piece of wood attached to the end of it.  A clothespin was nailed to the wood. Clipped to the clothespin was our pass.  We took the pass and replaced it with our $1.00 bill.  I've never paid a fee that way before...doubt I ever will again.

Much to our consternation...I mean, er, um, delight...there were two school bus loads of children at already there.  Exactly what a teacher on spring break wants to see (or maybe not).  And even more to our delight, two more busses rolled in.  There were kids everywhere!  And while in the gift shop, Aunt T happened to get in line behind one of those children.  He had picked up one of almost everything in the shop.  And of course he did not have enough money to pay for it the very sweet, patient girl behind the counter worked with him, taking things off, putting things back on...until he was satisfied with the items/money spent ratio.  The teacher in me wanted to come unglued!  Where was the adult with this child!!!!  Obviously not supervising his little shopping spree.
Then it was time for us to take the "factory tour"...a fancy way of saying we got to watch a video (with about 50 of our new 3rd grade friends) about the making of Tabasco and take a short walk by a glass window that gave us a peek into the capping and labeling of the bottles.  What we saw was really neat, but it left us wanting more.  We wanted to see more of the behind the scenes factory stuff, but alas, it was not to be.

We left there and headed over to the Jungle Garden side of the island to experience some Lousianna bayou flowers and wildlife.  And boy, did we experience some wildlife...Starting with two more school busses and about 25 parents in their personal cars clogging the one way trail (Unca only honked about 15 times to let them know how he felt about them being in the way and then called to tell the office that we were stuck behind the unmoving masses), and in the middle there were alligators, turtles and snakes, Oh, my!  And ending with tons of birds at Bird City.  We got some pretty good pictures of the kids as well.  We stopped and ate some more crawfish, only fried this time.  I can also say that I tried a crawfish enchilada, and crawfish etouffĂ©e...and now being a fine connoisseur of crawfish...I can say that boiled is my favorite.  While we were eating, my Prince was able to log on to the restaurant web cam and see us.  He didn't watch long though, he said it made him feel like a creeper.  But we felt like he got to be a little part of our day.

When we got home, there were not one, not two, but three boxes of chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us on the front porch.  Unca is THE man!  We promptly and happily indulged.  Then we played some more games.  We were having fun, until the Oldest Princess announced that she was not feeling well.  I will spare you all the details, but the rest of the evening was more clorox wipes, trash cans and yuck than fun and games.  And again, I missed my Prince and realized just what a wonderful help he is to me.  Especially when I am cleaning up yuck.  But things finally settled down, and we all got some sleep.  And the Oldest Princess felt much better the next morning.  But for some reason, she turned down the offer of a chocolate covered strawberry.  My guess is it will be a while before she wants one again.

Cuz came over and brought Little Miss P.  We built Pinterest worthy (well, maybe one of those "Nailed It" Pinterest pins) Easter gingerbread houses.  We also played hide and seek, and even hid some Easter eggs.  After they had to leave, we hung out by the pool, before cleaning up lots and lots and lots of pollen (AHHH-CHOO!).  Unca cooked ribs on the big green egg.  B came over to clean the pool, and see us of course.  We asked her to join us for dinner.  Aunt T used some concentrate shrimp boil that had us all choked up, literally, but at least it did not set off the fire alarm.  It was some strong stuff!  But the shrimp turned out delicious, and I know that B would wholeheartedly agree with me on that.

We then went to visit one of my aunts, because we had not seen her and we had to head home the next morning.  We enjoyed our visit with her as always.

We played a couple more games when we got home and then headed to bed.  The next morning was full of packing up, and getting ready to head home.  I hate this part of the trip!  I was the official photographer for the  1st Annual Gummy Octopus Eating Tradition.  I had already eaten Crawfish about every way possible.  Gummy Octopuses are where I draw the line.

Aunt Y and Uncle H came down to see us off, and after a few minutes of teasing the Young Prince about chickens and mailboxes, we hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and headed back home.  The only disappointing thing about the trip was that Unca barely squeaked by without having to eat his words and a $500 plant...that would have been interesting to see...

Thankfully we had an event free trip back home (with the exception of some pretty heavy rain the last hour and a half).    Aunt T's PB&J sandwiches hit the spot, and it was a good thing, because the bag of 7 plus crumbs of Munchos would never have been enough to tide us over.  We made it home to my Prince, and we were all glad to be reunited and back home again.

I just talked to Aunt T and Unca, and it looks like they may be making a trip our direction in just a few weeks to see the kids in the school play, so hopefully that will work out, and we will get to see them again very soon.  It was a great time as always.  We love our time with our family, it is more precious to us than anything in the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Tiny Tarantula

Once upon a time, in a far away ocean, on a small island, a baby tarantula hatched.  He yawned, and stretched out his little soon to be hairy legs.  He blinked his 8 eyes and adjusted them to the light.  He climbed over 73 of his brothers and sisters.  As he started to leave the protection of the group, his mom and dad noticed.  They called out to him and tried to get him to come back.  They knew their tiny tarantula was not ready for the big wide world, as interesting and inviting as it may have seemed. But the tiny tarantula ignored their pleas, and continued to crawl away as he surveyed his surroundings.  He decided to check out something shiny in the corner.  It took him about 10 minutes to get all the way there.  He, being just a newly hatched baby spider was tired after that, and decided to hide in the shadow of the shiny thing for a while.  He got comfortable and took a little nap.  This wasn't so bad...

Shortly, a noise woke him.  It was two people who apparently wanted to share his space with him.  They came in and were talking and walking around.  One almost stepped on him, but thankfully he was able to scurry out of the way before they did.  He saw the lady pull a soft jacket out of the shiny thing.  So he thought that he would climb the side of the shiny thing, and check out what else might be inside.

He very carefully climbed until he was able to peek over the edge.  Everything inside looked soft, comfy and very inviting.  His little spider brain was pondering what to do, when he leaned too far over the edge and fell inside.  The next thing he knew, all the lights went out, and his world was upended.  Then it began to move and swing.  It seemed to him like his world didn't stop moving for several days.  Little did he know, but he was leaving his small island and taking a long trip.  Little did he know, but he would never see his family again.

When his world did finally stop moving, and the lights were turned back on, the tiny tarantula decided to slowly, carefully crawl out from his warm comfortable surroundings.  When he did, he heard a loud shriek and then heavy footsteps coming his way...

And let's just say that things did not end so well for our tiny tarantula who was so many, many, miles from home.  And I guess we could also say that curiosity doesn't just kill the cat.

Our little tarantula was away from the protection of his parents.  He took a trip he had no business taking.  He should have stayed on his small island living off of insects, lizards and such.  Instead, his curiosity got the best of him, and his little life ended way too soon.

The moral of the story: We know what is right, and we know what is wrong.  The world tries to tell us that there is no right or wrong.  That we should stretch our little legs and blink our eyes and try things out.  That we should do whatever we want, and whatever makes us feel good.  That we shouldn't listen to our parents or stay close to home, because our parents are nerdy, and home is boring...but the world...Well, now...the world is exciting, and we definitely should try it out.  But unfortunately, that philosophy often only ends in sadness and heartache. God has given us a plan book for the best life that we can possibly live. Doing it our own way only muddies up the water and messes up God's perfect plan for us.

It is so much better to follow God's plan.  As we yield to His will, and do things His way, we see that it gets easier and easier to continue to do so.  It may be hard in the beginning, but as we begin to experience life as God has planned for it to be, then all we want is more of life as God has planned for it to be.

It is so much better to listen to those who have been there and are wiser than us.  It is so much better to stick close to those who love us and have our best interests at heart; to listen to those who want to see us succeed and live long healthy lives.  The Bible even promises that if we will honor and obey our parents, that we will live long, and that things will be well with us.

I don't know about you all, but I want to live a long, full life.  I don't want to be like the tiny tarantula, who never experienced life as it was meant to be for him.  But the choice is ours...I have made my choice.  Which way will you choose?

*Inspired by a true tiny tarantula adventure as told to me by my wonderful mother-in-love*

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Small Part of a Big Story

It all started with a young boy and a fifth grade research paper.

Well, actually it started way before that...with a young girl who learned about five missionaries who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  She then began to read about their story, very inspired by men who would choose to lay down their lives in order to keep from sending unsaved men to eternity without a chance to have a personal relationship with God.

And really if you want to get technical, it all started way before that, with the five missionaries themselves.  Five men who had a burden to take the Gospel to an unreached tribe in the jungles of Ecuador.  It is a story that took place in the 1950's, of five men who loved God and loved others more than they loved themselves, and it is beautifully recorded in the book Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the five massacred missionaries.

I remember first hearing the story as a young lady in high school, and then reading everything I could about these men who were willing to give all for other men to come to know Christ, and about the wife and sister who returned to the very people who murdered their loved ones.  I was fascinated that the men would put themselves in such danger in the first place, and then challenged and amazed that the wife of one and the sister of another would go back to the very people who killed their husband and brother to try to reach them for Christ.  The great news, is that the women actually were able to finish what the men had started, and many of the people of the Auca tribe actually accepted Christ as their personal Savior.

One of the first known Christian converts of the Auca tribe was Dayuma.  She escaped from her jungle tribe when she was in her mid-teens, after a family dispute.  She helped the missionaries learn much about the Aucas, their language and their way of life.

After the men were killed, Dayuma joined Rachel Saint and Elizabeth Elliot in returning to the Auca tribe to tell them about Christ.  One of the Aucas who received Christ was Mincayane (not completely positive about the spelling of his name), one of the men who actually, participated in the massacre of the missionaries.

Fast forward quite a few years.  I was grown and married and teaching fifth grade.  I had a boy in my class who had a tender heart and a hunger to do something great for the Lord.  That boy happened to be my son (the Young Prince).  So when it came time to do our research paper, I encouraged him to do his paper on Jim Elliot, one of the five missionaries.  He did.  And like me many years before, he became fascinated by the story.  Not too long after that, one of the martyred missionary's sons, Steve Saint came out with a movie about the story, titled, The End of the Spear.  We, of course went to see the movie.  It helped us to learn more about the story and Dayuma and the man named Mincayane.

Recently, my father in law, was able to visit and work with some missionaries in Ecuador.  He was talking of a return trip, and said how neat it would be if the Young Prince could go with him.  God totally worked it out for the Young Prince to be able to go last month.  As part of his 16th birthday present, his Poppy arranged for them to charter a small plane and fly over the area where the missionaries were trying to minister.  They actually landed and were able to have two young men act as guides and take them to "Palm Beach" the very spot where there missionaries were killed.

 Palm Beach

While on the beach, their talk naturally turned to the five missionaries, and in talking to the two young men who were their guides, they realized that one was a Christian, and one was not.  William, the one who was not a Christian explained that Dayuma, the first Christian convert from the Auca tribe, the one who helped the missionaries learn about the Aucas, was his grandmother.  Sadly, she had passed away a few months earlier.  The men all took turns praying (except for William), and then they left the beach.

Left to right: Tepenia, one of the guides, the Young Prince, William, and Miguel, a Dominican Christian
Oh, and Flat Stanley in the center.  
The Young Prince was being a great big brother and helped his little sister out with a coming forth grade project by taking Flat Stanley on his trip to Ecuador.

As they were walking back to the village and Poppy asked William what was keeping him from being a Christian.  He explained that he was worried about what his friends would think, and afraid of ridicule or persecution by his friends.  Poppy then asked William if he wanted to be a Christian.  He said yes, that he did want to be a Christian.  Poppy called over Miguel, a Dominican Christian on the trip with them, and Miguel explained in Spanish to William how to become a Christian.  There on the trail, William bowed his head and prayed in his native Auca tongue and asked Christ to be his personal Savior.  Praise the Lord!

The group then continued on to the village.  One of the men asked if they could see the grave of Rachel Saint (the sister who spent the rest of her life with the Auca tribe teaching them of Jesus). William said yes, and took them to her grave.  And just a few feet from her grave, was another grave. William explained that it was his grandmother's (Dayuma's) grave.

It was then time for them to go.  The Young Prince said he hugged William and told him, "Adios." Then they got back on the plane and headed back to Shell Mera.  When they got to a place where they had internet service the Young Prince messaged us to tell us what had happened.  After explaining it, he said, "I'm a part of the story now!"  As a high school girl reading the story, I never would have dreamed that one day, my father-in-law, and my son would visit the very place where the story happened, and actually get to continue the story by having a part in leading Dayuma's grandson to the Lord!

I have no doubt that it was all orchestrated by God.  The trip probably never would have happened if the Young Prince had not been so interested in the story and seeing where it all took place.  They were supposed to take the flight the day before, but arrived at Shell Mera too late to get a flight out, so they had to wait until the next day.  I truly believe that it was all orchestrated by God, so that William would be with their group, so that he would be able to hear the Gospel one more time and have another chance to accept Christ.  I also believe it is just like God, to allow the Young Prince to be a small part of a big story that he has admired for years.  And it is just like God to let the Young Prince's mother  get the exciting news all the way from Ecuador, that a story she loves continues still, and God continues to move and work through the sacrifice of five men.  Five men who loved God and loved others more than they loved themselves.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thankful Thursday

*For God's hand of protection on an accident that could have been much worse

*For God's leading to not only one great book, but two great books

*For an impromptu dinner with my man

*For a beautiful sunset that brought back to mind the beautiful sunsets I loved from my college dorm room window

*For getting everything done on time in the middle of a very busy schedule

*For roasted peanuts shared with friends

*For getting to hold a precious little one

*For a win for some of my favorite young men

*For home and a soft bed when I don't feel well

*For a lazy Saturday morning with my kids

*For time to make a dent in my mountain of laundry

*For a fun time with both of my princesses at a friend's birthday party

*For a delicious dinner grilled by my man

*For snuggling with the youngest princess until she falls asleep

*For a good night's rest

*For a church family to encourage, share struggles, and just do life with

*For prayers of friends

*For kids who want to do right, in a world where most kids want to do wrong

*For ladies who are faithful to see something through to the end

*For a verse that made me realize just how many people have loved, cared and poured their life into mine over the years.  How blessed am I!

*For beautiful weather

*For health that we often take for granted

*For a home that is a sanctuary from the storms of life

*For students who really grasp what I am teaching

*For children with discernment, who are strong enough to stand firm, and be in this world, but not of it

*For a great guitar teacher for the young prince, and for a chance for the young prince to learn and develop his talents to use in serving and worshipping God.

*For answered prayers for several friends

*For  the best husband that a girl could ever ask for

For all these things, and many, many more I am thankful to the Lord, because ALL good things some from Him alone.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mr. R.G. is Back in Town!

It has been almost nine months since the cold night that he came into our lives.  If you missed that story, you can read about it here: Praying He Has a Warm Place to Sleep   We have wondered about him and prayed for him many times over those nine months.  So we were excited when we found out he was back in town.  My Prince and the Young Prince were out and saw him traveling down the road.  They stopped and told him he was welcomed to stay at our church again.  He took us up on the offer.  We were able to spend a little more time with him and get to know him a little better.  He is definitely unique.  And I have no doubt that he crossed paths with us a second time for a reason.  I think we all learned many things from our encounter, and I pray that he went away as blessed by us, as we were blessed by him.  We had some food cards that we wanted to give him, and we looked for him for two days after he left, but we were never able to find him.It was as if he left and just disappeared.  We are praying that maybe someone picked him up and gave him a ride and helped him get closer to his destination at a faster pace.  At any rate, here are some things we learned from our second encounter with Mr. R. G.

He told us a story about when he was young, and working at a gas station in the Nashville, TN area.  He said that from time to time, Elvis Presley would come in, and go to the back room.  While in the back, Elvis would change into a gas station attendant uniform, and then go out front and pump gas.  He said that people would ask Elvis if anyone ever told him that he looked like Elvis Presley.  Elvis would reply, "Yes, I get that from time to time." and continue working.  So, if you ever stopped at a gas station near Nashville back when Elvis was alive, and someone who looked like Elvis pumped your gas...

I don't know if that story is true or not, but here are a few things I do know about my friend Mr. R. G.

* He made it to Florida, and could not get in to stay at (or was not accepted by?) the Veteran's home where he wanted to stay.

* He is now traveling back to Nashville, where he has at least one brother.

* He is kind to cats, because even though some people don't like them, everything has its purpose.  I agree Mr. R. G.,  I agree.

* He prefers to wear dark pants (they show less dirt) with lots of pockets.  Pockets are good.

He is from the Nashville area.

He is a Titans fan.

He does not like to leave his stuff.  It is a bicycle (that he pushes), with a train of three wagons behind it.  Probably absolutely nothing of any value. But to him, it is everything, because it is everything he owns.

He is self admittedly addicted to caffeine, and nicotine. 

He wishes that he had never stopped taking guitar lessons, so that he would know how to play the guitar.

* He will not ask for anything, but if he needs something that is offered to him, he won't turn it down.

* He is self conscious.  He was worried about his appearance and if it was okay for him to come in and worship with us.  He cleaned up the best he could so that he was presentable.

 * His observation to my husband after worshipping with us: "People in your church are afraid to go forward.  They are afraid of what other people will say about them.  All it takes is one person to go forward.  You could even pay someone to be that first person."  then he laughed.  Lord, help us to get to the point where we are so concerned and broken over our own sin, that being right with You is the most important thing.  Nothing else matters.  Especially not the opinions of other equally sinful people.

* He has nothing good to say about people who steal, and people who lie.  He also thinks that if someone will do one, they will do both.

* He is Stubborn - with a capital S!

* He likes to make people laugh

* While we sleep in our comfortable beds, in our comfortable homes, he refuses our offer of an air conditioned room, and and air mattress, and chooses instead to sleep outside in a folding chair.

* He would not accept our offer for a place to get out of the rain.

*  Did I mention he is stubborn?

* His presence, and his friendship make us ask and answer questions that we don't necessarily want to face, but we grow from the asking and answering.

* He has nothing, and yet he is generous.  Someone had just given him a Gatorade and a bag of ice when my Prince, and the Young Prince saw him and pulled over.  He insisted they take the bag of ice, because he could not use it.

* He told me about a lady who gave him a handful of change.  He said he realized that in among the coins was a ring.  He told her thank you for the change, but he doubted that she had meant to give him the ring, and he gave it back to her.  He said she thanked him, and cried.

* He has worn out 7 pairs of shoes.

* His last advice to my children was to be kind, curious, and cautious.

* He reminds us to be thankful, and humble.

* He has made a huge impact on our family - making us examine ourselves, stretching our comfort zones, and helping us to know that it is impossible to judge the true character of someone by only looking at their physical appearance.

* We hope and pray for him to find a place to settle down and be safe, but we also hope that one day we will have the privilege of crossing paths with him again.

* May we be observant enough to learn from all who cross our paths, because everyone has something of  value to teach us.  Just as we have something of value to share with others.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pea Patch Wisdom

We don't look ahead, we don't look across, and we don't look back."

This is what my cousin replied to the person picking peas next to her, who lamented about looking back and seeing some that they had missed.

Later, when I was writing a fun blog on our time in the country, I had planned on including that quote.  But as I typed it, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, and I knew I had to save it for a Pea Patch Wisdom blog.  Because, as good as that advice is for picking peas, it is also great advice for living  life.

"We don't look ahead."  We don't look ahead in the pea patch, because we might see that we have a lot farther to go before our row ends.  Like my husband, who was picking with us that morning.  We all grabbed our buckets and then started on the first empty row we came across.  As our rows came to an end, he looked up and saw for the first time that his row was longer than the rest of ours.  This of course was discouraging to him.  We had finished our rows, dumped our peas into the bucket and made good progress down our new rows before he finished his first row.

It reminds me of the verse Matthew 6:34 that says, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."  God gives us exactly what we need for each day.  Just like when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness and He supplied them with manna for each new day.  He gives us what we need in order to complete today's tasks.  When we look ahead, we often become discouraged, or anxious, or fearful.  When we wake up each morning we should have enough faith to know that God will get us through that day.  He was there for us yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.  We know that tomorrow will bring its own set of troubles, but we also know that when they come, God will be there to provide what we need.  So don't focus on what's ahead.  Focus on doing your best to live for God today.  "We don't look ahead."

"We don't look across."  We don't look across in the pea patch, because then we might be tempted to reach across and pick the peas on our friend's row.  Those peas are not our business.  We are to tend to our own peas.  If we start trying to pick everyone's peas, we quickly become exhausted.

Lysa TerKeurst writes "I'm not equipped to handle what she has, both good and bad, and what she has is always a package deal of both.  In other words, I've been assigned a load I can handle."  Meaning, that sometimes we look across the rows of life and think that maybe someone else has a better deal.  But what we don't see is their whole package.  We see the beautiful wrapping, and the sparkly bow, and we think we would rather have their lot in life.  And we become discouraged with what we have, because we know our package deal inside and out.  The good, the bad, and the unlovely.  What we don't realize when we look across, is that every package contains plenty of both good and bad.  And although someone else's package may look great, their bad may be way worse than our own bad, and we just can't see it.  God has given me, and you,  and everyone else exactly what is best for us. We should not concern ourselves with the packages (peas) of others.  We just need to do our best to take care of the package that God has given to us.  Trying to keep up with everyone else, and compare our own package with the packages of those around us is just plain exhausting.

Or maybe what we see when we look across is someone making what we perceive as a mess of things, and we think that we could do a better job. When in reality, we would be biting off way more than we could chew.  We need to busy ourselves with the tasks God has assigned to us.  We need to do our best in those areas with our God given talents, and allow others to do the same.  We answer for what God has given us to do.  Not what we wish He has given us to do, or what we think we could do better than someone else.  "We don't look across."

"We don't look back."  In the pea patch, we don't look back, because inevitably we will see some peas that we missed.  And we will go back to pick them and we will find more we missed and then we will be that much farther from getting to our finish line.  If we press on and get the job done, by dinner that night we can be enjoying a delicious "mess" of peas, as my momma used to say.  Chances are, those peas that were left behind will still be there tomorrow when we come to pick again, or maybe someone else will be picking, and those missed peas will be a blessing to that person.

Philippians 3:13-14 says, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  If we are constantly looking back and wondering and worrying about what "might have been" or what "should have been," then we are not making progress.  We are spending time and energy on things that we can not change.  We can change today, though.  We can pour our time and energy into living for God, and serving others. Today.  We can make a difference.  Today.  But, if we are constantly looking back at chances and opportunities that we missed, then guess what?  We are missing out on even more opportunities today!  "We don't look back."

When we are anxious, worried or fearful, we need to stop looking ahead.

When we are dissatisfied with our life, or we judge and think we could do a better job than someone else, we need to stop looking across.

When we are not making progress, because of past failures or mistakes, then we need to stop looking back.

I am praying that this sticks with some of you who needed it as much as it has stuck with me the past week.  Praying that we take this advice to heart and live for God and do our best for Him today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day...

Now, go forth, whether in the pea patch or life...and remember, "We don't look ahead, we don't look across, and we don't look back." Charge!

Friday, July 11, 2014

4th of July in the Country Part 2

Okay, so I'm a little mixed up on the order of things...when we are out there, the days sometime seem to run together.  Before we went to bed Saturday night, we spent some time playing games.  We played several hands of "out of date" UNO first.  It was a Christmas edition deck, with Christmas trees, snowflakes, bells and such on them, and J kept saying that he could not play with them because they were "out of date".  Then we picked up the pace with a family favorite - Taboo.  I love playing Taboo.  The Youngest Princess and Unka just helped everyone in the guessing.  I love how people get in a hurry and make funny mistakes...Like how at one point in the game I used to own a puddle when I was little (the word was puddle - the player was thinking poodle), someone else had us going to the Hickey Chip for dinner (the word was hickey - the player thought it was hickory) , and someone else wanted us to "just quiet!" (the word was quiet - the player thought it was quit).  After the games - what?  Who won you ask?  That's not really important.  But I do usually say, if you want to win, you need to be on my team (wink, wink).  After the games, Aunt T passed out tickets and drew for prizes.  The Oldest Princess won a makeup bag.  The Youngest Princess won a jar with a chalkboard label.  The Young Prince won an Army pocket knife.  My prince and I won nothing, so we both got a $5 bill.  That works for me!  The Youngest Princess traded with me, so I could have the jar to use in my classroom, and she could have the $5.  That works for me as well.  Then we went to bed.

Sunday morning we all woke up and got ready and out of the door in great time, with none of the usual mishaps that usually accompany a Sunday morning.  The Prince and I and the Young Prince and Oldest Princess rode in our car, and everyone else rode in Unka and Aunt T's car.  We were following them, and the Oldest Princess made the statement that between us and them, we were owning the road.

When we got to the church, the Young Prince and I were the only two to get out on the right side of the car.  Everyone else came out from between our two cars.  The little man driving the golf cart tram pulled up to ask if any of us needed a ride.  I told him we were all okay, and as everyone else poured out from between the two cars, he had the funniest look on his face and said, "That looks like one of those clown cars!  People just keep pouring out!"  To be fair, he may not have seen the first car pull in, and there were 10 of us...

We amazingly were able to find seats for all 10 of us together.  As we were sitting there, L asked the Oldest Princess to look at a man and tell her who he reminded her of.  She was thinking of George Younce of The Cathedrals group, but all she could remember was George.  So she was saying, George...George...trying to think of his last name, and the Youngest Princess piped up with...Washington!

When church started, they had a tribute to the military, and they had a man from each branch of the military in his dress uniform come forward and salute while the song for that branch was being played. At about the fifth note of the first song, I became emotional, and cried the rest of the way through.  As each man came down the aisle and turned to face the congregation with his salute, the men in the congregation who were also in that branch would stand and salute him back.  It was very moving.  I thought I was the only one crying, until we left and started talking and it turns out it touched us all. Made me miss my Daddy as well.

When we got home, we had a wonderful brunch, complements of the Smoke Alarm Cafe.  M and J had to pack up to go home, and Sadie was still not feeling well, so we had to say goodbye to them that afternoon. So happy to get to see them, so sad to see them have to go.  You would think that J's boss would let him have an extra day off, but I hear the man is drill sergeant.  Not that I would know or anything.  After they left, we played a few games of washers, and some of us took a Sunday afternoon nap.

The Youngest Princess wanted to pick wildflowers and take them to put on my grandmother's grave. Aunt T had noticed some the day before, so she went with us and we picked some on our way to the cemetery.  It was very sweet, and I was glad that she had it on her heart to do it.

Back at the house, Aunt T knocked down some dirt dauber's nests, and folks, just let me tell you, nasty stuff comes out of a dirt dauber's nest.  I was utterly. and. completely. grossed. out. ICK!

We were at the pool again when my cousin called to say that they had gone back to the house to see if there were any trails in the powder.  Sure enough there were trails everywhere, and her daddy had the snake cornered in the hall but needed backup so to be sure it would not get away.  So my Prince, the Young Prince, and Unka all go over there.  L decided she would go as well, and after even more begging, I decided to let the Youngest Princess go with L.  This round went to the hunters, and the snake will not get in the house anymore.  They cleaned up the powder and put fresh powder out.  And I am happy to report that to this point there has been no more activity.  I stayed at the house with Aunt T for the third round and helped to clean up the kitchen.  I had finished washing dishes and grabbed the sink sprayer to rinse out the sink, when I sprayed water all over myself.  Their sprayer has the button on the front and every time I go, at least once, I grab it and give myself an unexpected shower.   Ugh! Then everyone wants to know why my shoulder is all humiliating!

The kids did a little night swimming, and a lot of fighting swarms of flying ants.  They were everywhere.  They were even in our hair when we got back into the house.  We were picking ants out of each other's hair like monkeys.  Only we didn't eat the ants.  Some of the folks, including the Youngest Princess who was VERY excited, went armadillo hunting.  That lasted all of about 10 minutes.  When they saw no armadillos, they came back to the house. Then we decided to play some more games. We played Catch Phrase this time, and we all found out that T believes that my Prince has no...sense.  We laughed and cut up and had fun.  My prince invented a new snack combining peanut butter flavored Captain Crunch and Hershey's Kisses.  I do not recommend you try it yourself.  We laughed at the habits people have when they are under the pressure of a timer.  The Young Prince lets you know you are not on the right track by saying no seven times in a row, really fast.  L gets louder the more excited she gets.  T uses her hands - a lot.  The Youngest Princess and I get right down to business.  This is serious.  No playing around on our turns.  It wastes time and loses games.  And we are not about losing!  My prince has to slow down and think things through, which can really be bad if you are after him in Catch Phrase.  Chances are the buzzer will go off on you, because he takes so much time.  And for some reason rigor mortis was a theme that kept coming back time and time again.

We found out Uncle H did not bush hog the last of the peas, and one of my cousins wanted to come and pick the last of them.  So we called it a night, and headed to bed in order to be able to get up early the next morning.

Pea picking take two.  Only this time, everyone else slept in except for Unka, Aunt T, myself, and the Youngest Princess.  She made it down one row, and then headed for the cab of the Gator.  Where she refused an offer by my cousin to take her bucket and promptly slept through the rest of the picking activities.  I was glad to be able to visit with my cousin and my uncle for a little while during the picking and shelling.  My sweet aunt brought me twelve 1/2 pint jars of her delicious mayhaw jelly. YUM!

My uncle told us the story of how he would take fried cornbread for lunch each day.  There was a boy in his class who loved it and offered to buy it from him.  So everyday, my uncle would sell his fried cornbread to the boy, and then buy a Nehi drink with the money he made.  Both boys were very happy with the arrangement.  I wish I had asked him how much money he sold the cornbread for each day, but I didn't. Cousin C if you are reading this and you know, please let me know, or if you read this and don't know, would you ask him for me?  Thank you in advance.  There were no pictures or car washes this go round.

Unka took a morning dip in the pool, and Aunt T made a breakfast biscuit for him.  The Young Prince delivered his drink, and I delivered his meal, and he enjoyed his breakfast while floating in the pool. The rest of us took our swim of the day after lunch.  And a couple of my cousins joined us.  We enjoyed watching little P, who is not yet two, show off her basketball defense stance and how to dribble, dribble, dribble jump and shoot.  She is adorable!  And the Young Prince had her laughing out loud before they left.  So sweet!

We got dressed and went "to town" (yep, that's how far out in the country we were y'all!).  We did some shopping, and the nice young lady checking us out at Old Navy gave us every discount she could think of, which meant that it took her a looooooong time to actually check us out, but we were very thankful for the savings, and only Unka complained.  We then went on to another store, where the Young Prince was so happy with his finds that he came out dancing every time he tried on something new.  And we found out that Aunt T really liked the shorts he had been wearing all day long.

We then enjoyed a wonderful Mexican dinner with "white gravy" on the side.  Unka wanted to give us a special treat, so he declared that we all not eat another bite.  We loaded in the car and headed for a cute little pink and green place with a frog on the sign.  Everyone enjoyed their frozen yogurt immensely.  We were sitting by the window when the Oldest Princess was the victim of a drive by flirting.  Some boys in a red truck drove by waving at her, and my classy girl simply looked the other way.  Then they parked and we thought that they might come in, but maybe the thought of facing 7 of us to get to talk to her was a little intimidating.  So after a few minutes, they decided to move along. We left with our bellies much fuller and two stuffed frogs richer, and some cute pictures to prove we were there.

On the way home the Young Prince made us all laugh by declaring that he "couldn't help it if he could not control his spastic drumming."  Yes.  Indeed.  Speaking of, the next day, he turned Unka into an impromptu drum set, using his belly as the bass, and the brim of his cap as the high hat.  He definitely keeps us all laughing.

At home, the kids put on a fashion show so we could all see their new clothes.  Unka and the Young Prince both came away from that shopping trip more of a "hot dog" than ever before.

The Oldest Princess spent some of her spare time bagging ice for Unka, and he told her he would pay her for each bag if she used the money she earned for a mission project that she had started raising money for this summer while she was in the Dominican Republic.  I think she earned a  little over $100 for her project just bagging ice.

I finally got R to break out the WD-40, and oil some creaky hinges.  I told him that I knew because he is his father's son, that he had a can of it somewhere, as well as a roll of duct tape.  My daddy thought if it couldn't be fixed by WD-40 or duct tape, that it couldn't be/didn't need to be fixed.  The Young Prince would add dental floss to that list as well.

The Oldest Princess received a history lesson on Carpetbaggers from Unka.  But, he had them in the wrong time frame, and my Prince had to set him straight.  The rest of us could not remember, so after a quick Google search, my Prince was right.  As much as he hated to, Unka had to admit he was wrong. That doesn't happen often, so the rest of us reveled in the moment.

Unka passed out hugs and kisses and parting gifts, and loaded up and headed back to H-town, and the rest of us cried for hours because we missed him so much.  "July!" you say again.  And you are right. We were so happy he was taking the grumpy dog with him that none of us cried.  But the kids did send him off in style, and I have a video to prove it.  The rest of our day/evening was pretty uneventful.  We played another couple of rounds of Catch Phrase and the Youngest Princess played "by herself" with a little help from L now and then and surprised us all with her playing abilities.  I told them she gets it from me, and everyone totally agreed.  Okay.  Not everyone.  But I'm telling y'all, the girl is good!  She guessed the word smuggler.  Like a pro!  I made everyone get dressed up so Aunt T could take some family photos of us, and they were totally thrilled.  NOT.  It had just rained, and it was almost unbearably humid, but we got some pictures that I will treasure for life.  L may have some photographer in her, because she recommended some great poses.

As you can tell, we had a blast.  And as always we felt as though time flew while we were there.  We had another uneventful trip home.  I think the kids were absolutely exhausted from all that fun in the sun and country air.  The Oldest Princess was feeling very sick in the car, but got home and got still and felt much better.  We are thankful for a wonderful, safe trip.  And thankful for those here at home who stood in the gap and filled in for us while we were gone.

And now you know...the rest of the story.  Until we visit the country again...