Friday, February 5, 2016

The Difference a Child Can Make

                                              `A glimpse into the life of a homeless man`

For better or for worse children notice things.  They notice and they speak up.  I’m sure all parents have hilarious stories of how their children spoke up in a public place and commented loudly about something that the parent would just as soon happily ignore.  If I started giving examples from my own children we may never move on to what I actually want to share.

On Monday morning, on the way to the bus stop, I noticed something bright orange near the highway exit. As I got closer I realized it was a man sitting on the side of the road.  I could only see the back of him, but his location concerned me.  It looked like he could be easily hit if a driver were to turn the corner without paying much attention.

After I dropped off my girls that attend school Lucy and I headed home.  (Lucy is homeschooling for this semester.) As we drove home together I would have definitely been content to ignore that man sitting on the side of the road, but Lucy expressed concern for him and asked me if I had seen him. We discussed this for a bit and she said that she wanted to help him.  At home she got to work making him a sack lunch. I went to look for a bible that I thought might be homeless person friendly….not too big,  in good shape and a version that someone may be more inclined to read.  I did in fact find one that fit the bill. I also pondered what  to give the man to drink.  It was a cold morning, 52 degrees if I remember right. I thought maybe he would appreciate some hot coffee, but then I wasn’t sure if he would want creamer and sugar to go with it. So, I ended up settling on cold water in a clean water bottle. I wrote a short note of encouragement and stuck it in the bible, Lucy grabbed the sack lunch and we headed back out the door to go pass it all on to the man in the orange beanie.

As we neared the place that we had originally spotted the man we couldn’t see him.  Lucy asked where I thought he might be.  I drove through the gas station that was located across from where he had been sitting and turned around to head home. Lucy did not want to go home without finding the man, but I didn’t know what to do, because I had no idea where he went. He could have hitched a ride and been on his way to Dallas for all I knew.  To appease Lucy I turned around again and began to loop through the gas station once more. Then we spotted him again.  While we had been turning around he had been walking out the gas station door.

We pulled up next to him in the parking lot, said hello and Lucy gave him the lunch she made him.  I began to offer him the bible, but he eyed it with hesitation.  I held back and said he was welcome to it, but he didn’t have to take it if he didn’t want to. He asked me if I wanted him to speak into why he hesitated to take the bible. I said something like, “Sure, if you want to, but you don’t have to. “

And so my long conversation with Ryan began…it covered the kindness of strangers, the church, casinos, living on the streets, Obama phones, 3 hot meals a day (and why Ryan thought that needed to end), how his life used to be, the death of a friend, the signs that homeless people write and more. I also got to pray with Ryan and he did in fact want to take the bible before we parted ways.

Oh, and Ryan expressed such gratitude for Lucy making him lunch.  Also, it turns out that coffee is not his favorite and water was just right. He especially liked the water bottle.

I’m so thankful that Lucy not only noticed Ryan on the side of the road, but she was moved to action.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Word About Valentine's Day

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  My mom asked me yesterday if I had any special plans and I proceeded to tell her about my girls and their classroom parties.  And ALL the cards they have been working on. (Does anyone else have a dining room that looks like a craft bomb has gone off in it?)

After a while of driving in the van with my mom she tried again....."Do you and Shane have any plans for Valentine's day?" My response was like, "Oh, that's what you meant!  Um, no. We have no plans."
 And guess what?  I'm totally fine with that.  I got over Valentine's day about 8 years ago.  It just isn't a big deal to me.  

But, let me tell you, I've come a LONG way from where I was when Shane and I were first dating. 

 This morning I was reminiscing with my friend Sandy, at the bus stop.  She and I were roommates when Shane and I were dating.  She also knew Shane before I ever met him and as a friend appreciated some things about him that I was too blind to see. 

Shane and I celebrated our first Valentine's day as an "official couple" about 20 years ago. It went something like this:
I had dreamy expectations of what he would do for me.  I thought he would take me to some *special* restaurant.  Not that I had any idea of what restaurant that would just needed to be *special* and he needed to be the one to make it happen.  He would give me flowers.  Lots of them.  Not that I even knew what kind of flowers were my favorite.  Lastly, he would give me chocolates.  *Special* chocolates.  Probably chocolates that came in a ginormous box shaped like a heart. Do you see a pattern here?  He need to do all kinds of special things for me and they needed to be extravagant.   Meanwhile I just needed to get ready.  
And get ready I did.  I wore a little red dress, did my make up and put my hair up as beautifully as a I could.  (Or something close to that.)  Then, I waited for him to swoop me off my feet.  

Poor guy.

He came to pick me up with a gift of a giant Kit Kat.  He maybe gave me flowers.  He took me to a restaurant that we regularly went to on Saturdays if we were able to. 

I was disappointed.  He didn't do anything SPECIAL!  

After I came back from my date, some of the girls at the dorm that I lived in questioned me about where we went.  I told them the restaurant and one of the girls looked me over....all dressed up, and said, " I went there the other day *in my jeans*." 

Later, as I was lamenting the whole thing in our room to Sandy, she gave me a different perspective: She said, "Shane took you to your favorite restaurant.  He got you a giant size of your favorite candy bar."  And that was all it took for me to become a little less selfish about the matter. Oh, it's so much better to listen to an older and wiser friend than to a group of 18 year olds, and my own self for that matter.  (No offense, 18 year olds!  Love you!  You're just not as wise about these things yet.)

Fast forward a few years:

Shane and I were married with 4 children and living overseas.  We had some (once again) older and wiser friends that we loved to spend time with by the names of Jay and Teri Randall. The Randalls are such amazing people and their home was so welcoming that when Shane and I would go out on a date we would call them up, after we had had dinner together, and ask them if we could go to their house for a visit. 

So, once again it was Valentine's day and I also happened to have a special visitor in town.  My sister had come to see us! That was really cool of her!  Jay and Teri found out that she had come and asked us if we all wanted to go over to their house for dinner.  I was a little surprised, because it was Valentine's day. Shouldn't Jay and Teri be going out on a date or something?

Later, at their house, Teri filled me in.   Her husband Jay didn't like Valentine's day.  He didn't want someone else dictating when to do something special for his wife...when to give flowers, chocolate, jewelry, etc.  As wonderful as I thought Jay was at the time it still seemed like Teri was in a very sad predicament.  Poor Teri, I thought.  

Teri was fine though!  She decorated the dining area and made a beautiful dinner for all  of us.  We had a great evening together.  I appreciated (and was awed) that she didn't sulk that her (super awesome) husband didn't do something particular on this one day....because the fact is that he loved her well the whole entire year.  

You would have thought that I had latched on to that lesson right then and there, but truly, it wasn't for a few more years that I have came to the decision that if I want Valentine's day to be special then I need to think about what I can do for my husband or for my family.  (and that is a post for another time.....or just might not be appropriate.)

The truth is that I am so blessed to be loved well all year long.  Shane does so much for me, my children (and for countless others) every day.  He does stuff that I can do for myself (hello...have you seen all my FB posts about Shane and him making me coffee and/or breakfast?) He does things that I can't or won't do.  (He changes the oil in my van, changes the air filters in the house, fixes random things around the house, etc.) My point is that he does so much all year long...why on earth would I need to get all worked up about him NOT doing something *special* on one day of the year?  That would just be silly and possibly destructive. 

So, dearest Shane, Thanks for putting up with my 18 year old self, my 20 year old self, my 30 year old self...heck, thanks for just putting up with me.  You are wonderful. I appreciate all your efforts to take care of me (and the kids) and to do things that bring me joy. You give me a different perspective on so many things and you help me to be less black and white over issues that aren't that important.  You make me laugh every day and for that I am forever thankful. 

And now for your viewing pleasure:

Shane and me a few years ago.  Photo by: A Little Bit of Joy Photography

The picture on the top right is us when we were engaged... April 1994. Bottom right is when we were married about 6 months 1996. To the left is us about 10-15 years ago.

This photo was taken about 1 1/2 year ago by Sara Helen Photography.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I was looking over some pictures from the past few months and started to notice some of the things that we have made by hand: for fun, for gifts or out of hunger. :)

                           Me with an Infinity Scarf I made for my older sister, for Christmas.

                                                  Aubrey making an infinity scarf.

 Sole-less sandels made by Lucy.  Anna got her started on it.  I personally never heard of such a thing!  Anna was making all kinds of things out of the bands and the looms, but I only have this picture.

Sushi by Isabel.  As with many meals in our house, Shane was the first to branch out and make sushi and then we learned how to make them from him (Pioneer Woman taught Shane.)
I'd also like to add that Isabel cooks often and is super helpful in the kitchen!

                                                         Fall sign by Anna.

 Apple Pies!  I believe these were made by Shane and the girls.  One Sunday after church Shane said, "I want to go home and make pies for all our neighbors. Who wants to help?!"  The type A girl in me...was like, *Um, I already have plans!  I have to get out Christmas cards to at least a few people. Do you know how LONG it takes to make our homemade pies?* (I think I refrained from freaking out on the outside.) Go home and make pies they did!  About a dozen or more of them!

                                                            Rag rug made by me.

                  Rainbow cake for Ellie's 5th birthday. Made by me and Ellie. Good memories.

I wish I had taken a picture of the Green Bay Packers sign that Christian made for Shane for Christmas.  (It's now in Shane's office.) It turned out perfect!  Christian is learning to weld this year and seems to really have a knack for it.

There's a whole lot more creating that goes on around here in our household of 8, but we just don't take enough pictures, I guess.

So, what have you been creating?  I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Year Rolled By

My littlest girl, Ellie is turning 5 soon. She's the baby of the family. Does she really get to grow up, too? 

Time goes by too swiftly. 

Ellie certainly is a ray of sunshine! And, as most people that are youngest in the family often are, Ellie is a little comedian. One can tell that she actually makes an effort to be funny. Sometimes it just comes naturally, but other times I can see that she's trying something out to see if it makes a person laugh. Which, in itself is funny. Ellie's "love language" is physical touch. She is very huggy, affectionate and she likes to sit really close to people at times. Kite flying, making bows and arrows out of sticks and yarn, bike riding and just playing outside have been Ellie's favorite pass times lately. I do believe her best friend at this point in time is her sister, Lucy. I don't think she or Lucy would admit this, though. It seems that they think a "best friend" has to be someone outside of their family. (A side note about best friends: I encourage my kids to have more than one.) Ellie is learning how to read and really enjoys books. Her favorite cartoon is Curious George.  A few months ago she told Christian that when she grows up she wants to marry him.  (I think she has realized since then that brothers and sisters don't get married.) Of course, this simply means that she thinks that he is really great and she loves to spend time with him. Before everyone left for school this morning  Ellie made sure to give Shane and each of her sisters a hug good bye...Yep, there is that affection thing again. 

Ellie and I made pumpkin bread a few days ago while all her siblings were at school. It turned out super delicious. Pumpkin bread and pumpkin spice latte always reminds me of Ellie's birth. A few hours after she was born, Shane went to the Starbucks that is actually located in the hospital and got me a Pumpkin Spice Latte. (It was actually somewhat of a bribe, which is another story.) After Ellie and I returned home from the hospital, a friend of mine brought over a meal of chicken enchiladas. She also brought pumpkin bread for dessert. I had never eaten it before and thought is was so wonderful! 

It seems like a blink of an eye passed between me having an infant and enjoying the gift of a meal brought by a sweet friend to me having a young girl standing on a stool next to me in the kitchen in her little apron helping me make a special after school surprise for her siblings. 

Time. it stands still for no mom. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grandma's 60th and Ellie's 4th Bday

Our family is part of a pretty cool community of people.  We get the chance to meet lots of people from all over the place that really love God.  Some of these people end up becoming good friends...and as time flies by we, we've known there people for years!

Above is a picture of Ellie with our friend, Dennis. They were setting up for a game of Battleship.  Ellie's plan was to be on a team with Dennis, playing against the lone Meghan.  Playing games and eating lunch was Ellie's -day before her birthday- plan.

Meghan made those great looking cupcakes for Ellie's bday.  Very sweet of her!

This morning Ellie went to visit her Grandma Beth because they share a birthday.

Later on in the evening, our family all had dinner and cake together to celebrate my mom and Ellie. One of our birthday traditions is to have each member of the family share what they like or appreciate about the birthday person.  This is always such a sweet and sometime funny time.

Above is a picture of Ellie and my mom blowing out the candles on their cake that Isabel made from scratch. It turned out great!

The gang...our family plus Anna's friend, Kaydee, who came to visit because today is also her mom and dad's anniversary.

I regret that I didn't get pictures of Ellie with her Uncle Jesse and Aunt Cheryl whom she loves to visit any chance she gets.  We went there on Monday and she had a great time eating goldfish and visiting.  She went out on the tire swing and Uncle Jesse pushed her as usual then she got to ride with him on the lawn mower.  I think that hanging out over at Uncle Jesse's house on Monday mornings while all the other kids are in school is about as spoiled as she gets!  She seems to think it's pretty fun to be the center of attention for just a little while!

I wish I would have taken a couple of pictures of Ellie with her dad, Isabel and Lucy as they played outside after dinner.  Playing outside with Daddy is one of the kids' favorite things to do. 
Shane also took Ellie out to McDonald's for lunch today.  She even got a Happy Meal, which is a very big deal!

I want to thank Grandma Jeani for the gifts she sent is Ellie in one of the shirts Jeani sent.  As I type this out Ellie and Lucy are lying in their beds with some light up toys that were also in the box of gifts Jeani sent.

And thank you to Grandpa David for skyping with Ellie and the other girls tonight.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Isabel 10

 Here is Isabel on her 10th bday.  She got to celebrate with 3 of her closest friends: Dora, Sarah and Isabella.  They had an ice cream cake, grabbed candy from a broken pinata, hung out at the house for a bit and then I drove them all to play mini golf in Tyler. (Isabel's gift from Grandma Beth.) I have some great shots and video of the girls playing mini golf but they are all on my iphone. 
 Above is Isabel with her friends that she goes to school with.  (Anna, Isabella and Sarah)  They were gathered for Open House.

The other morning before heading to school I found these two out on the front porch admiring the beautiful early morning fog and sunrise.  It was a sweet moment.

And lastly we have a picture of Isabel just after a soccer game with her two littlest sisters.

Isabel is a very tender hearted girl.  She is also a wonderful student and works very hard to get good grades.  She is simply fun and a joy to be around.  She likes to get a bit crazy sometimes....wrestling or going outside to play in the rain.  She is also a great cook!  One of her specialties is making pancakes from scratch for the family.

Aubrey 12


The first two pictures were taken during Aubrey's 12th bday party. She had a few friends over for a sleepover in her new tent from Grandma Jeani. Here cake of choice (not pictured) was a Swedish dessert called Snooda.  Think chocolate, mocha and coconut.  Think tastey goodness.

The next picture is of Aubrey, Isabel and Aubrey's best CA friend, Adia.  Adia and her family came for a visit shortly before Aubrey's bday. The tent that Aubrey received sure came in handy when Adia and her family were here.  We had the girls sleep outside several times simply because we were all *squished* in our 4 bedroom house! We had 4 adults, 8 girls and one boy under the roof! Ah, but we had so much fun catching up with the Hoyle family!

And lastly another pirate picture just to show Aubrey's fun loving side.

Aubrey is incredibly smart, loves to read and relax, enjoys hanging out with friends & playing games with the family, is a great tree climber, such a detail girl, and very artistic. She also loves to organize things yet continually has a messy room....kind of like me!