Giants in the land

There’s no denying that Facebook is a huge waste of time, but I also find some very cool articles passed along by friends.  Here’s one.

Did you know that over the years people have found hundreds of giant human skeletons buried all over the Midwestern US and the rest of the world?  They are sometimes found singly or in pairs, but often in large groups, with individuals measuring between 7 and 12 feet tall.  Apparently they don’t tend to find their way into museums, but it seems to be fairly well documented.

You can find an incredible amount of stories of giants, from the east coast to the west, from the north to the south. Bones, skulls, six fingered fossils, tombs, mounds, caves. Newspaper articles were written and archaeological research done. But where are the findings now?

more…

You can even read the newspaper clippings for yourself!

many more newspaper clippings here…

I’m one of those crazy people who believe that there really were giants back when the world was young, and – here’s the shocker –  I think the clearest reading of Genesis 6:1-4 indicates that they were the offspring of humans and fallen angels.

 

1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Genesis 6:1-4

I know I am in the minority, so don’t take my views as representative of anyone else, but it really seems to the shortest distance between two points.  “Sons of God” was a very common phrase in the Old Testament and always referred to angels, fallen or otherwise; only in the New Testament do we gain the title of sons and daughters of the Most High.

Want to know something else?  I have my own hypothesis that these offspring had supernatural powers and often rose to positions of religious and/or political power.  The ancient Egyptian pharaohs claimed that they could trace their lineage directly to their gods; what if these “gods” were fallen angels?  The Bible itself bears witness that the magicians in pharaoh’s court could do real magic, although they couldn’t compete with God’s power.  Many of the Greek myths talk of “gods” having children with human women, and the offspring were demi-gods: supermen, mortals with long lives and incredible strength and sometimes magical powers.

I’m sure the list could go on and on, and to the best of my knowledge this idea is nowhere contradicted in the Bible.  The only thing that makes it sound crazy is our own assumption that it can’t be true.

What do you think?

 

Househunting: the move (part 6)

I’m publishing this with my apologies.  It began as Calvin’s birth story, but the back story turned into a story of its own and I had to rename it as part of our househunting saga.  I’ll work on the birth story next, I promise!  I’ll just skip ahead to the part with contractions.  :)

We had initially planned to move to our new home the weekend before Calvin’s duedate, but our highly optimistic closing date was moved a week later, forcing back the date of our move later along with it.  Since we needed a few days to retexture the ceilings in the living areas and paint the interior, there was now no way we could move before the duedate.

But because my brother and sister-in-law had already given notice to their landlord and planned to move into our home soon after we moved out, we also couldn’t wait too long past the duedate.  I knew ahead of time that a crunch like this was a distinct possibility and had loudly proclaimed that I didn’t care where I gave birth so long as I wasn’t pushing while my bedroom was on the moving van.  I was completely flexible about the whole process and just curious to see how God would time it all.

The first few days went beautifully.  We closed on our house on Friday and camped out in it for fun on Friday and Saturday night while the painting and texturing projects were begun.  After church, we went home Sunday night to regroup.  On Monday and Tuesday, Perry and the older girls finished (with lots of help from wonderful friends!) and cleaned up the new house, while I stayed home and packed endless boxes with the help of the younger and middle children.

And then I had what I can only explain as a hormonal episode.  One day I was fine and relaxed.  The next, I was filled with sudden urgency to be in the new house.  What were we thinking?  We couldn’t plan to move the weekend after my duedate!  I nearly always give birth the weekend after my duedate!  I may as well plan to be pushing while my bedroom was on the moving van!

Perry had mentioned that we could rent the moving van a couple of days early and just load as we packed, to keep piles of boxes from accumulating around us while we worked.  I went a step further and convinced him that we were very nearly done packing.  Couldn’t we just load up the truck tonight?

When he pressed for a reason why I suddenly thought it was necessary to move right now, I hesitated, unsure of my own motivation.  Then I explained that I felt as though my body was ready for labor and just waiting for everything to be done.  I felt like I was already in labor, though nothing was happening yet.  I felt on hold.  He thought that imminent labor might be a good reason to postpone the move until after I had the baby, but I was convinced that my body could outwait us.  We could lose a week or more with me slipping into more and more of a hormonal frenzy while everyone’s schedule went to pieces.  I wanted to be done.  I needed to be done.  I wanted to settle into the new house asap, where I could fully relax and be ready for labor.

He had his doubts but quickly relented on the condition that I could find some help to load the truck.  Maybe it’s because we have lots of pretty daughters, or maybe we just have particularly good friends, but I was able to find a good crew of volunteers on short notice, and we were off!

I gave the girls instructions to keep working and took off for town.  On my way I called to reserve a moving van – not a problem in the middle of the week.  Another advantage to getting this done before the weekend!  I just knew all would go well and our move would be done even before we had planned to start.  I was so glad Perry had agreed to let us do this now, so we could be well settled before I went into labor.

Since we were expecting help to arrive soon, I was in a hurry to get home with the moving van.  I wasn’t sure how to read the markings on the gas gauge, but the paperwork had shown 1/4 tank of gas, so I knew it would be enough to get to the house.  I very nearly stopped at the last gas station just so we wouldn’t have to add gas when we turned in the truck, but I didn’t know which side the tank was on and all the pumps were backed up with waiting vehicles.  There was no time or need to do it now.  I was only 10 minutes from home, and our help was probably already there waiting for the truck.

On a steep hill three miles from home, the van lurched and I felt and heard a sickening thud in the rear as the engine lost power.  I gave it more gas and the engine revved but the van gradually lost momentum and slowed to a stop halfway up the hill.  I shut off the engine and called Perry.  “I think the transmission just went out.  It sounds like it’s stuck in low gear, and I’m not getting anywhere.”  He told me to call U-Haul and demand a replacement while I tried to continue the drive home.

I let the engine rest a moment, rolled the truck backward down the hill, and tried again.  With a running start, I made it up the hill and drove the rest of the way without incident – until the last long hill before my driveway.  Halfway up the hill, it happened again.  This time there was no thud, just the same loss of power.  This time I suddenly knew exactly what the problem was.  I called Perry again.

“I’m an idiot.  It’s not the transmission,” I told him.  “That bang I heard was the appliance dolly falling over as I went up the first hill.  I know what’s wrong, and it’s my fault.”  I had seen the gas gauge in our other vehicles vary wildly on these steep hills over the years.  On a slope, the gas sloshes toward the downhill end of the tank.  If the level was low to begin with and the fuel pump happens to be in the front of the tank, as you head up a hill  it will have nothing to pump.  You’re not exactly out of gas, but you might as well be.

Perry was kind and encouraging.  “You’re not an idiot.  Don’t worry about it.  Call Kaitlyn to come pick you up and I’ll bring home some gas in an hour.”  But I was frustrated and still wanted to get things moving.  I was only 500 feet below my driveway so I walked home and learned that our help was running later than planned.  They hadn’t even arrived yet.  Irony, anyone?  I had the kids put 2 empty gas cans in our own van and drove to the gas station, passing our help on the way.  The gas station was now deserted.  More irony.  I brought back 10 gallons and poured them into the tank of the moving van, praying silently the whole time.  It started right up and finished the hill without a hiccup.

I backed the truck up to the house so loading could begin and slowly walked back out to the road to pick up my own van, humbled by my mistake but happy that things could finally progress.  We hadn’t lost too much time, and I knew it wouldn’t take long to load a moving van.

It soon became apparent that I had pulled the trigger too soon.  We were woefully unprepared.  The stacks of full boxes quickly disappeared into the depths of the moving van along with some of our larger furniture items, leaving behind more unpacked possessions that I had ever dreamed would fit into our little house.  The piles of empty boxes disappeared with alarming speed, along with the packing tape.  The hours ticked by as our friends worked on uncomplainingly, packing boxes rather than loading the truck.  I was mortified, and to make it worse I wasn’t even allowed to do penance by working alongside my victims.  I helped as much as I was allowed, but was under constant surveillance and after a couple of hours I wasn’t allowed to work at all.  Of all nights, tonight I must not go into labor.  I had created this mess, and that would be the only way to make it worse at this point.  God graciously withheld that bit of irony from the evening.

At 10 PM, tired, frustrated, and still surrounded by endless piles of stuff, we decided to call it a night. The truck was full and we had everything we needed and much, much more. We would have to finish on another day, with another truck. We thanked our help profusely and sent them home, then made the drive to our own new home.

Oh, and if you really want to read Calvin’s birth story, here is part 1.  Like the last one, it was exciting.

Househunting: we make a deal (part 5)

We were torn between two very different choices that appealed to us for very different reasons, but as we thought about it and discussed the options, the answer became clear.  One of our earliest goals (besides a desire for more space and more bathrooms) was to be near work, church and friends, and one house was much closer to all of those.  It was also in an area that we had initially targeted, but had nearly given up finding a big enough home in our price range.  It helped that most of the children agreed and the house just made a better first impression, inside and out.  Access to a community pool may also have been among the influencing factors.  :)

We quickly decided to make an offer on the first house we had seen that day.  It had 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, abundant closet space, a huge wooden playset and a fenced backyard, 2 sheds, and a second story deck off one of the bedrooms!  It had the carpet the kids coveted in the bedrooms, and the hard floors sanity demanded in the living areas.  The stated square footage was about 2,400 but we later learned that the number didn’t include the sun room, bringing the total to about 2,600.  There was also a converted garage that could serve as a media or guest room or even an apartment, since one of the bathrooms was back there.  It wasn’t exactly on a cul-de-sac, but it was on a very quiet edge of a very quiet neighborhood.

The more we thought about it, the more it grew on us.  It just seemed like the right decision, the house we had prayed for.  This wasn’t love at first sight, but we were quickly falling for this house.
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Like most of the houses we had been looking at the asking price was just a little higher than we wanted to pay, but our realtor told us the owner had just closed on a new house and was now very motivated to close a deal.  We put together an offer the next day, and held our breath as we waited for the reply.  Perry instructed our realtor to request the doghouse in our offer.  If you remember we don’t currently have a dog, you’re probably wondering why we needed a doghouse and why we wanted that one so much.  So am I.  I’m pretty sure it was a joke, but Perry insists he was serious.  He never quite keeps a straight face when he says it, and I never quite believe him.

We waited late into the night, breathless with anticipation.  Didn’t the owner know we couldn’t sleep until he answered?  Wasn’t he anxious to make a deal, too?  Didn’t anyone tell him he had an offer on the table?!

Apparently not.  Judging from the correspondence, it seems his own realtor wasn’t able to get hold of him until the following afternoon.  At that point, he responded very quickly.  He didn’t accept our offer, but he did make a counter offer and agreed to leave us the doghouse.  We were in business!

After that, the offers flew.  We made another offer and received another from him, and finally came to an agreement.  He came down nearly halfway to our initial offer when it was all said and done, and we were happy to accept.  He later told us that the seller of his new home had come down substantially and his children encouraged him to pass along some of the savings to us.

The hard part was done, though I was careful not to consider it a done deal.  The house passed the inspection a few days later with no more than a few minor hiccups, easily cured or overlooked.  The appraisal came back with a comfortable margin.  Now it was just a matter of red tape, waiting, and praying all would go well – and it did.  Four weeks later, we closed on our new home and received the keys.
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We haven’t entirely forgotten the ones that got away, but now we can see how much better this house will be for our family.  As a friend pointed out, God used those homes to prepare us for this one.  The rural feel of the first helped some of our reluctant children adjust to the idea of city living.   The second allowed us understand that while we could own a much larger house, choosing the best house wasn’t all about size.  The third was much closer to work and church than the other two, and reminded us of our desire and motivation to be as close to that area as we could.
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And the fourth, it turns out, was exactly the right house for us.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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(now we’re waiting on the baby!)

cont’d here: Househunting: We move (part 6)

Househunting: a difficult choice (part 4)

Part 1

So E** Drive was out of the picture now, too.  At least that decision was easily made.

At this point we had only been hunting for a few weeks, though it seemed much longer.  We decided to calm down, back off and focus on Deanna’s swiftly approaching wedding and the baby’s impending arrival.  But wedding plans went swimmingly, with very little stress, and the baby was still comfortably in the future.  In our free moments, we both still peeked at listings, sent each other promising links and casually drove by the homes we had seen online. After a while, we had another good list of prospective homes and contacted our realtor to schedule a handful of showings.

We took several children with us to get additional opinions, since the last home on our list was a second showing for us.  We had seen it a couple of weeks earlier and were undecided.  It had some outstanding features, but some problems that gave us pause.

The first home on our list was just 6 miles from work and church, in a very nice neighborhood.  Nobody’s jaw dropped when we walked in, but there were smiles all around.  This was a nice home.  It was not huge, but big enough.  It seemed well maintained, though it had a few rough edges here and there.  It had nearly all the features were looking for – plus a few we hadn’t thought of.  The price seemed very good for the area, and while it didn’t have vaulted ceilings or a big feel to it, it seemed very sufficient for our needs and our hospitality goals.  This one had scored very well on the spreadsheet, and didn’t disappoint in real life.  It was a comfortable home, one that we could easily see as our family’s home.  The yard was a little smaller than most we had looked at, but it was shady and flat, with a huge wooden playset that no seller in his right mind would move.

We weren’t exactly excited, but we felt it definitely had promise.  It was the first house we both liked right away since we loved and lost the one on A. Lane.  It was the first one we didn’t automatically mark off the list after seeing the inside.

The next home was gorgeous.  It had cedar beams and slate tile everywhere.  The kitchen with its almost-Tuscan flavor could have come straight from a magazine.  The den was cozy and fashionably decorated in a rustic lodge style. The entire upstairs was one huge, open, airy room with an amazing bathroom off to the side.  This house had taste and style.  It also had a higher price tag  than any we had looked at yet, and it didn’t have the square footage or multiple living areas that we were hoping to find.  Reluctantly, we moved on.

We saw another home that was just too small, and then moved on to the second showing of the one on PG Street.  The first time I saw this house, I was unsure about the neighborhood – it seemed safe enough, but not as solid and quiet as many we had looked at.  The yard was small and cramped, almost entirely taken up with multiple layers of decks and patios.  Good for entertaining, but not so good for children to run and play. The inside smelled funny because the house had stood empty for a long time, and it had more than its share of wood panelling, old linoleum, and a combination of worn beige and deep blue carpet.

But this time, I could see why Perry wanted to view the house once more.  It was over 3,000 square feet, and it felt the way I expected a house that size to feel.  Besides the formal dining room, living room, and sunken den, this house had a simply enormous additional room.  It was huge, with a vaulted ceiling to make it feel even bigger.  The floorplan was very open, allowing potential guests to move freely from one room to the next. Without the badly dated flooring, paneling and light fixtures, I could begin to see the potential here.  It would take a lot of work to make it appealing, but this house could easily host a hundred guests.  This house could host an indoor dance if we wanted.  The more we thought about it the more we liked it, but it raised some big questions:

  • Did we want a project of this magnitude?
  • Were we truly comfortable with the neighborhood?  Was “safe enough” really safe enough if we had better choices?
  • Where would our guests park?  It wasn’t really suitable for large scale hospitality if there was nowhere for guests to park.
  • Were we in danger of buying the biggest/most expensive house in the neighborhood? (bad for resale!)
  • Would a house with wide open space on the inside make up for a yard where the kids really couldn’t play outside?

The kids who were with us were very unsure about this house.  They really liked the first one we had seen that day, and loved the look of the second though they realized it was too small.  This one?  They just weren’t feeling the love.  I reminded them that I hadn’t liked it so much the first time and encouraged them to see beyond the carpet and the musty odor, but they were dubious. Perry and I thought both the first and last had a lot of promise, but in very different ways.

We were torn – and cautious about waiting too long to decide.  Now we had a new sort of problem: choosing between two very different, very good options.  I jokingly told him we should sleep on it, and see which one was under contract in the morning.

cont’d here: Househunting: we make a deal (part 5)

Househunting: Perry considers changing his name (part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

We held out hope that this was just a test of patience.  We kept looking at other houses, all the while hoping and even expecting that the house we really wanted would eventually come back on the market if only we were patient and our attitude was good enough.

We looked at so many houses they all started to blend together in my mind.  I could no longer keep them straight or remember which ones had potential and which ones had already been ruled out.  I couldn’t sort the favorites in my head, or remember which living room went with the big backyard and covered deck.

I suspected Perry and a few other people would laugh at me, but I knew what I had to do.  I created a spreadsheet.  Each house was ranked and scored according to 10 different factors, with a total score on the far right.  Now I might not remember the features of each individual house, but I could see at a glance which ones presented the strongest possibilities for us.

I’m sure everyone’s criteria would be different, but ours were: house size in square feet (1 point for every 100 sq. ft. beginning at 2,000), lot size (1 point for every 2,000 sq. ft.), price (based on where it fell relative to our target price range),  proximity to work/church and other places we frequent (1-10), neighborhood safety  (1-10), curb/photo appeal  (1-10), open floorplan  (1-10), cul-de-sac (an extra 5 points), fix factor (how much paint/work did it need, if any? 1-10), and storage (5 points for a garage, 3 for lots of built-ins, 2 for each shed).  We also learned along the way that we were very partial to vaulted ceilings and hard floors in living/wet areas.  A neighborhood with a community pool was a definite plus.

Yes, I could have made it simpler, but I like math and I had fun with this.  I also found it very useful in sorting the possibilities.  It saved us a lot of time in driving by homes for sale if we could look at the overall score and decide that while a home might have one or two very appealing factors it just wasn’t what we were looking for.

Perry admitted that it was somewhat helpful, but that didn’t stop him from laughing at my expense.  “Well, now I know what it takes to get you to listen.  I’m going to change my name to Spreadsheet,” he told me.  “I think it will change our marriage.”

We continued to check home listings.  We were both quietly checking daily for our first love, but we went on with the search.  Maybe God was only testing us.  Maybe it would come back once we turned our attention away from it.
Eventually we narrowed the search to one enormous house.  Again, it wasn’t perfect, but it had the “wow!” factor, if you know what I mean.  It was just a couple of blocks from the first home we had fallen in love with, and it well was over 4,000 square feet!  This time the price was definitely higher than we had hoped for, but it was still technically within our range and the owners were very eager to sell. We knew they would negotiate.  I had some reservations about the utilities for a house this size, the kitchen was very small, and the roof would need to be replaced soon, but it had plenty of amazing features to offset the downsides.  Perry was in love.  The kids had seen it and were in love.  I was outnumbered and within a few days my resolve had weakened; I was willing to be carried along.  If God wanted me in a 4,000 square foot house, who was I to argue?

We decided to make an offer the following day after another round of showings.

Like a bad dream repeating itself, the realtor met us at our first stop with the same news as before: the house we now wanted, which had been on the market for  18 months, was under contract.

I went back to my spreadsheet and added the very first home we had looked at, the one that I thought felt small and choppy.  It scored surprisingly well, and I told Perry I was ready to reconsider it.  Part of my initial reaction against it was just that I had nothing to compare it to, and didn’t want to be hasty.  Another part was that 2,400 square feet just wasn’t as big as I thought.  Our vaulted ceiling and open floor plan really does make our small home feel spacious in a way that I never appreciated until I looked closely at other homes.  The house on E** Drive wasn’t so bad, and the price and location were right.  I was wrong to rule it out so quickly.

We asked for another showing and learned that E** Drive was under contract.

cont’d here: Househunting: a difficult choice (part 4)

Househunting: disappointment (part 2)

start here with Part 1

Perry had been casually looking at homes for sale over the past several years, but once we decided to seriously consider the idea we very quickly started searching for possibilities on the internet.  I knew a larger house would be nice and we really wanted 4 bedrooms, but I really didn’t want a huge house.  Just a little more living area so we could entertain large groups indoors when necessary, another bathroom, and another bedroom, right?  I told Perry that I thought 2,000-2,400 square feet would be ideal.  It would be double the size we had now, and I just couldn’t imagine we needed more than that. Anyway, who wants to pay to heat, cool, and maintain a monster of a house?  Perry thought more would be nice, but was willing to look at houses in that range too.

Together we prayed that God would guide us and make His will clear to us, either opening doors wide in front of us or slamming them shut.

We very quickly scheduled 2 showings.  We were unsure about the first.  With 2,400 square feet, it sounded big and the photos looked spacious, but in real life it didn’t look and feel nearly as big as I expected.  The price was right and it was in a very good neighborhood, very close to work and church.  But the layout seemed tight and choppy, and 3 of the 4 bedrooms were tiny.  There was one huge bedroom – the converted garage – but the rest of the house just didn’t feel like a big family home.  Perry thought we should consider it, but I just couldn’t make myself like it.  We moved on to the second showing.
This one was not so pretty and polished.  It was a grand sort of house on a half acre lot, but it smelled a bit musty.  The carpets were old.  The countertops were dated.  The kitchen had just one small wall oven and no good place to install a full sized range.  But as we wandered around, each sure that the other would hate the place, we both fell in love with the split level layout and the multiple living areas, the rural feel of the neighborhood, the 4 bathrooms and the 2,700 square feet.  We realized it would have its challenges, but we were ready to take them on.  It immediately felt perfect to both of us.

We were sold.  We wanted that house.  It was just a hair higher than our target price range, but not much of a stretch – and there seemed a good chance that the seller might negotiate a little.

That afternoon we talked to a lender and learned that to qualify for a loan we needed to wait at least 3 years from the date of our short sale.  We weren’t sure, but thought it had been about 3 years.  A little checking revealed that we were just 5 days shy.  The lender told us in no uncertain terms that we should wait to make an offer until we were outside that 3 year window.  The house had been on the market for 5 months so we weren’t terribly concerned about the brief wait.  Actually, the timing seemed perfect: it would be wise to wait just a bit anyway before jumping into a decision like this.  Was God opening a door?

While we waited, we did some calculations and decided that although we could make both payments if necessary, we really hoped to rent our current home.  There are some very sticky issues with the property line and the neighbor’s title that would make it difficult to sell, but we’re not too far from paying it off.  We knew it was a longshot, but we wondered if my brother and his wife might be interested in renting it.  He was living 90 minutes away from us, very close to his employer, but he had expressed interest in the past in living in our neck of the woods, near our other brother and the old family homestead.  Was there any chance he would want to live 90 minutes from work?  Probably not, but we decided to ask him.  I laughingly told Perry we were setting out a fleece to see if God really wanted us to have The House.  We didn’t need my brother to rent our house, but it would certainly put our minds at ease.

To our complete and utter surprise, they didn’t just want to consider renting a home 90 minutes from work; they were delighted at the prospect of living out here and wanted to buy it.  He told us he had been wracking his brain for a way to move to the area, and this was his idea of perfect.  We agreed to give him a heckuva deal and he agreed to work out the problems himself in return.  It seemed clear that God was opening a door before us!

Over the next 5 days, we did due diligence: we researched crime rates for the neighborhood (lower than the average for San Antonio) and checked for registered sex offenders in the neighborhood; knocked on the neighbors’ doors to assess neighborhood friendliness; scheduled a second showing to take a closer look and took some of the kids to get their opinion (they absolutely loved it); called the local utility companies to find out what we could expect to pay for water, trash and electricity/natural gas; continued to peruse other listings and drove by dozens of prospective homes with and without our children to see if anything else grabbed us; and even scheduled more showings for those that couldn’t be ruled out by driving by.

Day 5 arrived, and we were still sure we wanted The House.  Nonetheless, I spent Day 6 doing more drive-bys.  Day 7 was going to be the big day: we scheduled the last round of showings for the homes that still looked like good possibilities, and agreed that we would make an offer on The House when we were done that afternoon.

The realtor greeted us at our first stop with sobering news.  The House – the home we had already mentally moved into – had gone under contract just one day ago.  My heart hit the floor.  Thoroughly deflated, we looked at the houses we had scheduled, but the rest of the day was equally disappointing.  Every house felt small and crowded, or the neighborhoods were just wrong.  None seemed right for us and our extended family and our Tuesday potluck crowd.

cont’d here: Househunting: Perry considers changing his name (part 3)

Househunting: the decision (part 1)

I’ve mentioned several times recently that we were looking at houses, seriously considering a move into town.  This wasn’t an abrupt decision; it’s one we’ve toyed with for a long time.  Due to increased traffic, Perry’s 52 mile daily commute (that’s 52 miles each way) has crept from 50 minutes to 75 minutes or more.  Over the course of the last nine years, that’s a lot of lost time.

So this time when Perry asked what I thought about moving to town, I tried to restrain my knee jerk reaction.  I like living in the country, and adjusting to having nearby neighbors will take time, but country living comes at a high cost.  Instead of cringing at the loss of privacy and the house we built together and the amazing view and the deer in the front yard, I told him that I would be happy where God put us.  If he thought he’d be happier in town, I knew I could be happy there too.

You know what?  Once I had resolved to have a good attitude, my entire outlook changed.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

Perry wasn’t the only one losing hours in his day.  As the kids get older, we find ourselves with more and more activities in town.  And as our family grows and appetites increase, it’s becoming necessary to go to town just for groceries more and more often.

Country living is a grand thing, but the cost in gas, time and auto maintenance had become pretty grand, too, and over time we began to question whether it was the best stewardship of the resources God has given us.

Living so far out also puts a big damper on fellowship.  It’s hard to get people to make the drive, and I have to admit to a twinge of guilt every time I ask them.  In the same spirit, I can’t help but see dollar signs whenever we receive an invitation.  It’s terrible, but it’s true.  You want us to come for dinner?  That’s very generous of you to feed 12 guests, but it’s also going to cost us $30-40 in gas.  I hate thinking that way, but somebody has to fill the gas tank.

And inextricably tied into the fellowship issue is our church.  Our church is in town, along with nearly all of our church friends and church activities.  It’s hard to be deeply involved in a church that is an hour away, or with a church family that is an hour away.  We wanted – needed – to be geographically closer.

And so we started looking at houses.  It wasn’t the first time we’ve taken a look at what was available in the San Antonio area, but it may have been the first time we were serious about it.

cont’d here: Househunting: disappointment (part 2)

Providential sausage

Today I was picking a up a few items at the grocery store and noticed that the national brand sausage we normally buy was – gasp – $3.50/lb.  I was horrified.  Sausage is one of the few meats we still buy because it’s necessary for pizza, which is necessary for Friday nights.   We can give up red meat and cut back on chicken, but the sausage is non-negotiable.

So in the face of $3.50 sausage, I searched my brain and remembered that I had seen pork loin in another store’s sale flyer for $1.99/lb.  We bought a ton of pork loin last year for $.99/lb and used it to make our own sausage.  I thought $1.99 was a good buy until I saw the price of sausage.  Then I realized it was a great buy, so I decided to make an extra stop and stock up.

Alas, when I reached HEB, the pork loin was nowhere to be seen.  It turned out I had seen last week’s flyer.  The sale had come and gone.  We bought our first watermelon of the season and wandered the store, enjoying the air conditioning and free samples but disappointed at missing the deal.

Then my eye lit upon an unadvertised special: the same national brand of sausage I usually buy for $3, which had recently risen to $3.50, was on sale 5 lbs/$5!  Not only was this about 70% off the regular price, it was half the price of the pork loin we had missed.  An added bonus: unlike the pork loin, it was already ground and seasoned.  This is noteworthy because while homemade sausage from pork loin is lean and delicious, it’s also a lot of work.  Don’t tell my kids, but I make it a practice to avoid unnecessary work whenever possible.  I find there is generally enough necessary work to go around.

If you’re wondering whether there is a point to all this, here it is.  

My first impulse was to complain that we had made an extra stop for no reason.  Then I realized that we did find a good deal on a watermelon, and enjoyed some delicious free samples.  The store was on my way home, so I had lost nothing but time.   Good enough.  I quit complaining.

Then I found the sausage, and realized that God had used an outdated sale flyer and my own faulty memory to lead us to a blessing.  Of course He could have done it without my help, but sometimes it’s amusing to see the tools He uses.  If I had simply happened into the store, I might not have thought at all about how I came to be there.

For tired young mothers of many

Back when we had a lot of Littles and no Bigs, daily life looked very different.  Sometimes it felt a little dark and hopeless.  How could I do everything that I need to do?  How could I be a good wife, a good mother, a good Christian, while battling morning sickness and creeping chaos of a house with so many little ones?

I struggled to do all the things that I thought I needed to do, often failing.  On a good day, I got everyone’s hair done before the mats moved in.  Laundry was always a struggle, but somehow I kept up.  Children and bedding got washed as needed because I refused to add another thing to The Schedule.

I often stayed up too late, either because the kids needed me or because I was savoring those few quiet hours of the day in which they didn’t need me.  Many nights, I was wakened once by a nursing baby, again by a crying 2yo and/or a wet 3yo and/or a sleepwalking 4yo and/or a 5yo who just threw up on the 3yo’s hair.  If the days seemed too short, the nights stretched on forever.  Neither afforded much time for sleep or rest.

At that time in our life, we had no family within 1,000 miles.  The church Perry had attended since he was 15 had dissolved in a mess ugly beyond belief.  He was unhappy at his primary job, and working 2 more jobs on the side.  We had personal problems and marriage problems.  In spite of a few local friends, we felt very alone in our world.

That was the bad side.  Sometimes, that’s what I remember about those early days.  When people told me to enjoy them because they would pass too quickly, I just hoped they were right.

But I also remember walking to the library on a crisp day with a double stroller packed full of shining faces.  I remember the friendly librarians who smiled when we walked in and knew us all by name.  We spent a lot of time there!

I remember our friends at the cheese factory who always greeted us with bright smiles, free tours, and sample bags for each child packed full of all the best kinds of cheese in the world.  Every visit turned into a picnic.

I remember building the Great Wall of China in the living room with wooden blocks, and a 4 foot Eiffel Tower made entirely of marshmallows.

I remember using Five in a Row for school.  We read endless picture books, and every single one was a favorite.

I remember snow forts and hide-and-seek and a giant wooden playset given to us for free by an acquaintance I barely knew.  Her husband worked at a local lumber store and was able to borrow a big flatbed truck to deliver it for us, fully assembled and ready for use.

I remember grocery trips that began and ended with laughter, packed full of smiles and compliments from every passer-by.

I remember the hot air balloon festival at the county fairgrounds, just a few blocks away.

I remember long family bike rides all over our little town with 2 little ones in a bike trailer behind each of us, and a fifth child on a baby seat, 8yo Deanna trailing behind on a bike of her own.  She seemed so big to us back then, and now she’s nearly 18.

I remember trips to the zoo, to used book stores, to Chuck E. Cheese, to our friends in the country with the huge country house, to Texas and Tennessee and Oregon.  We may not have gone to Disneyland every year, but we made memories – good memories!

Why do I sometimes think of those days as dark and full of chaos?  They were also some of our happiest, most carefree times.

I think attitude plays a huge part in what we remember, how we remember it, and which memories we call to mind.

You can’t change your attitude in the past, but you can pray for a good attitude today and in the future.  You can choose which memories to review and relive, and which to let go.  You can look back with a good attitude and call to mind the good times, forgetting the bad ones – or seeing how God used those bad times to bless you in ways you didn’t understand at the time.

Now I’m the mom with older children, speaking to the tired young mother.  Now I’m telling you to enjoy those days, because they will pass quickly.  It’s true.  I nodded and smiled when they said it to me, but I didn’t really believe their words.

Now I see the end of my baby days coming soon, the end of a season approaching.  Yesterday, I was you.  Today, I am my mom.  Tomorrow, I’ll be my grandmother.  They were right.  It does happen quickly.  I’m sorry I ever doubted them.

Yes, your days are long and busy, and you never seem to get enough sleep.  You don’t think you spend enough one-on-one time with your children, and you feel guilty or stressed or worried.  I’m not discounting that.  This a busy season in life, and a hard one.

But still enjoy it.  Remind yourself to remember the good times, and let the bad times fade out of time and mind.  Ask God to help you do better tomorrow, and let the day’s failures disappear when you crawl into bed.

Tuesday Poetry: Something of my own.

Posted by: Deanna

Great. Late again. But hey, I’m getting closer right?

Today I’m showing y’all poem that I wrote about my notebook. Sometimes it almost seems as if my notebook is a person, and a friend more than anything else. It’s like I read about teddy bears once; they don’t talk much, but they’re great listeners. My notebooks are like people that know everything I think, and keep every secret I tell them, unconditionally. So sometimes I feel bad for not writing, because it feels like I’m neglecting someone real that has stood by me with great loyalty.

My Notebook

Sometimes dear friend
you may feel abandoned.
you may think that I’ve forgotten
your unwavering loyalty.

I wish it were not so.
you hold my secrets
you know me as no one else ever will.
but some times there aren’t any secrets to confide.

I may for a while record poem after poem
and then for interminable stretches
write nothing at all.

I cannot force the muse.
I only write when my heart is overflowing.
so dear friend and companion,
do not feel neglected when I cease to write for a while.

Because you know that at the first sign of trouble,
I will come running back to the solace of your pages.
With a whole new host of feelings to inscribe.