Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Monarch Butterflies

We love to watch the transformation of monarch caterpillars into beautiful butterflies. It is a great way to talk with the kids about concepts such as being "reborn" or "transformed" and also about God's protection and care for us. This year one of our chrysalis accidentally fell on the day that it was supposed to come out. We stared woefully at the chrysalis as it lay silent on the bottom of the cage. It had turned black (normal on the last day) and we could see the orange in the wings showing through the now-transparent outer shell. Had it been hanging, the butterfly would have emerged. Amazing that we felt a sadness for this tiny creature! We talked with the kids about that, and they were sad too. Imagine our joy and surprise when a few hours later Micah yelled and we all came running to see. He said, "There's a butterfly in there!" Sure enough, the butterfly had emerged and was triumphantly climbing to the top of the cage where it could hang and let its wings dry. The kids immediately were praising God that He cared for even this small insect. How great must be His love for us!!

Following are some pictures we got on a previous day of a monarch emerging from its chrysalis.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fond Farewells

Well, a small thought began to creep up. I don't really know when it started. It could have even been there for years. But I wondered what my life would be like without daycare. For months I just rationalized, "there is no way we could make it." Without question, we make a lot of money with daycare. Though we still struggle, and can't seem to get out of debt, we are able to pay the bills.

The first part of the problem is the debt. We are not content. We live in a culture that says we should buy what we want. We don't wait for God to provide what we need, and we buy what we want on credit. I am so glad that He is a merciful God, for there are many times when He could have just left us to suffer! I know that we still have debt because we are unable to "cut back" our spending.

So we work extra jobs, and do what we can to try to increase our income. Here is the second problem. No matter how much (or how little) we make, we still end every month the same: paying the minimums and no cash left over.

Quitting daycare certainly wouldn't seem to improve this situation. So why was I considering it? (Well, if you have ever actually been in my home, you might know)

I gave Mitch a call on Monday, from down in the cities, and asked him if he thought I should quit daycare. I was on a "high" from the events at Showcase. We had just heard testimonies from leaders all day speaking of consultants who had used their businesses to make their dreams come true. And we had also heard stories about the customers that they helped--so this is not just a one-sided business. The company exec's had just announced some valuable motivating incentives for the next 5 months. I saw this as an opportunity to dream again, for the first time in 2 years. Like the ball team emerging from a pep rally, I was welled up, "I can DO this!" Mitch reinforced that question by answering in the affirmative: "Sure, you could quit daycare." Of course, he was in the middle of the "low" which would be filling in at daycare for me. =)

I hung up the phone, and was doing a little thinking...well, it would be really nice because _____, but it would be hard because of the loss of income, and CM wouldn't replace that immediately. I felt led to go stand near my friend Tracy and just listen to her for a while. She was manning the Scrapped booth and talking with other consultants. I wanted to listen to her "sell" the movie and learn from her. As I approached from behind, I saw that she was not talking, but listening. A brilliant woman was standing there with her Bible open, and Tracy pulled me into the conversation and introduced me. The woman was Lynn Johnson, a top leader in the company. I was honored (but didn't realize how much until later). She was reading from Deuteronomy chapter 11:

10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. 13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-- 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Lynn explained, the land in Egypt was flat and easy to irrigate. They had some control over the amount of water in their vegetable gardens, but the promised land had mountains and valleys and they would not be able to irrigate, but would have to depend on God to water for them. She said in a word picture, sometimes we are happy inside our little gardens with the white picket fences, standing there with our hoses, happily watering our gardens. God calls us out of the gardens, to do His work or into some promised land, and so we will step out of the garden and go as far as our hose will reach. :) He wants us to DROP the hose! We need to trust Him to provide for us.

Wow. Now how about that timing, huh? I allowed myself the priviledge of doing a little dreaming. What would my life look like without daycare? I will only have Zeke and Josh home this fall. I could go to Mom's group at church again. I could volunteer at SCCS. I could pick my kids up from school so that Mitch could work in his classroom. Doctor's appointments, grocery shopping, even meeting a friend, would all re-enter my day to day life. And even more I could *gasp* learn to put my trust in God to water my garden.

Now, do I think that those verses are prompting me to choose a lazy solution? NO. When I think about the loss of income, I have to admit that I begin to panic. But I also remind myself that I could use a little hardship in order to learn contentment. Yep it scares the pants off of me. But I know that the best way to seize the promise is to trust God. The thing is, God has blessed my daycare business. He has held it in His hands from day 1, and I believe I was called to do it. But our financial situation has stayed the same. There must be a different answer.

I once read a biography about Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China. What made me so mad about this guy is he was pretty much starving, and needed money to continue his service in China, but he kept refusing money from people back home. He said he was trusting God to provide for him. I wanted to pull out my hair--wasn't this how God was providing?! But God did have another plan for Hudson, and he provided the money through a different avenue. It was amazing to see the miracle of God's provision in Hudson's life. Lynn told us the story of another man, George Muller, who started an orphanage in England. He refused to ask people for money. Instead he prayed and asked God to tell the people to give him money. They did, and the children never went without. George would travel to the neighbors and churches and tell of the wonderful things that God had provided. He was able to feed thousands of children.

I want to learn to live the kind of life where I am trusting God to meet my needs. I want Him to be the Lord of my life, so that I can experience the deep joy and lasting fulfillment that it brings. I do not want the empty "stuff" that our culture screams we need. I know I'm not always going to get it right. And we might get down right desperate. But I have to try. There is a better life out there, one that includes a deeper walk with Christ. Something that I have been longing for, for years. The answer to the challenges that I have faced and been unable to pass.

Daycare was not the problem, nor is quitting daycare the solution. The only relation is the surrendering of the income. Why would giving up income help me get out of debt? Because if I "drop my hose" and do not have that water source, I just might seek out the living water that Christ offers a little more often. And that can't be a bad thing. It IS the answer to my lack of contentment. John 4 says:

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

August 25th marks the last day of daycare. If for some reason I have made a mistake, I can always go back. A wise friend counselled me not to say that I feel "burned out," because if I need to go back to daycare in a month or two, how is it that I'm all of a sudden not burned out? And it is true. I'm not burned out, I just want to focus on other things for a while. I want to give my other two businesses a fair shot, since that is where my passion lies currently. And most importantly, I want to be willing to drop the water hose and get some good water!

I beg you to pray for us.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Well, I have certainly been busy! We did well at the fair. We brought home many ribbons, and premium checks that totaled up more than $20! My carrot cake did not get a ribbon. :( But my photos got many second place ribbons, and the blanket that wasn't supposed to win anything also got a second place ribbon. The kids all got ribbons on their drawings, just by nature of how they do the judging. Micah's "I Love You" cookies won third place. It was a lot of fun. I think Micah was mildly disappointed, but the fact is he competed in the category that goes up to 16 years old, so we encouraged him that he did really well!

I spent 4 days down in the cities (but only stayed over 1 night) for scrapbooking related events. Three of the days were for the Creative Memories Showcase--the national convention. It was sooooooo awesome! I am jazzed about the new direction of the company and the new products that they are offering to help people tell their stories, without scrapbooking in the traditional sense.

Now that I am back home, I am back to the delicate balance of my hectic life. Mitch and I are making some changes on the home front, too, and I'm not just talking about how great my basement is looking. I am excited to embrace all that the future holds, in spite of how hard it looks right now I am certain that there are many blessings ahead.

Pictures of the basement are soon to come!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lots of stuff, and my carrot cake too...yum!

Fair Entry Day

I should count up how many years I have been doing this. I remember that my Father-in-law, Paul, took me to the Benton County Fair for the first time ever back in 2000. Up until that point, I thought fairs were all about tractor pulls and midway rides. In fact, I didn't even know that they had a name for the midway. I thought that was just what the fair was to me.

Enter into thinking "open class exhibits." I was astounded as I walked through the open class barns. It was neat to see everyone's works on display. I knew that the next year I wanted to enter something. Fast forward to at least 2001, maybe 2002? I entered my first ever crocheted blanket in the fair. It was a granny square, and I did it in a style to make it look like a blue gingham print. It was Micah's blanket and I had just finished it, and I had to bribe him (he was only like 5 years old) to give it up for the week. I told him that if I won a ribbon, he could have the premium. Turkey. Wouldn't you know it, I won the blue ribbon and I had to hand over my $5 winnings to a 5-year-old. Needless to say, I was hooked. I have entered something in the fair every year since then, including a crocheted baby blanket every year. Last year our entries grew to include me, Mitch, Karen, Micah, Eden, and Caleb. We took our $17 earnings and enjoyed a night out at Cold Stone Creamery (in case you don't know, this is much better than Dairy Queen).

This year I didn't think I was going to make it. Or my blanket, rather. I had put off starting it, and I selected a pattern that I thought would be fast and easy and then it wasn't. :( So I was on row 56 with 18 to go, not including the border, and it was looking like my guage was way off, indicating I should have switched needles and started over back at, like, row 1. My blanket would either require more than 74 rows to be longer than it is wide, or I would have to turn it sideways. There was no way I could go any farther and get it done in time for today. So I turned it sideways, made a quick border, attached ribbon, and voila! it is done. Sort of. It is definitely not a ribbon winner, but I guess having a blanket in that is not a winner is better than no blanket at all--in my heart, anyways. Besides, after all the blankets that I've entered, and some of them were fantastic, I have only ever gotten one other ribbon. It was on Josh's baby blanket, another granny square...imagine that. And it was a second place ribbon.

Our entries grew this year to include baked items as well. Micah and I were in the kitchen yesterday. He learned how to make no-bake cookies. I made a carrot cake from scratch, which turned out perfect up until the point where I had to frost it...I sure hope the judge more on tastes than on looks, lol.

Wish us luck at the fair! Judging is tomorrow morning. We will try to go down there on Thursday to see how we did. :) The real reward is seeing our stuff on display among all the other great stuff there. I tell myself every year that I'm going to take pictures of the other blanket winners, but I never do. I guess it's because I'm not that competitive...

Blogger doesn't seem to like the pictures of our stuff that I want to upload. So maybe I will add those in later!