Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hillybilly Garden: The Final Update

Sadly, our hillbilly garden has come to an end. Morning temperatures are below freezing now, and Winter is just around the corner. If you have no idea what I am talking about, or would just like a refresher, you can read about it here and here.

If we had planted this garden on purpose, it never would have worked. I am happy to report, however, that we got 5 pumpkins! I kept waiting to take pictures when all four girls were here, but that has been kind of hard to accomplish lately, so yesterday Jeff and I were doing yard work with the little ones, and I got my camera out and starting shooting away ( beat raking. (-:).

This was our very first pumpkin. This one was taken back in August.

 I think these are some pretty-perfect little pumpkins!

 This was Daddy's pose...our little punkin' heads. :-)

Aside from the pumpkin patch doing nothing to dispel rumors here that if you are a southerner, you must also be a hillbilly, we really got so much enjoyment from this little garden. It was really a miracle to watch it grow, knowing that we did NOTHING but accidentally leave some pumpkins in the yard last winter to make it happen. God's creation never ceases to amaze me!

Knowing us, I am sure there will be more adventures to come, though. Life around here never gets boring!

Much Love,

Friday, October 28, 2011

If You Love Something...

"If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it was yours. If it doesn't, it was never meant to be."

That has become more than a cliche' at our house.

We have had a year full of letting go. Over and over, we are learning that the 'right' decision is not always the 'easy' decision. That is a concept I have known for a very long time....I was raised that way....but never have we, as a family, had to make so many right, hard decisions in such a short amount of time.

In a year full of highs and lows, one of our greatest highs came this past Valentine's Day. The girls, especially Alyssa, have been asking for a dog for as long as I can remember. For the last three years we were in Georgia, the house was on the market and I had, not only the two older girls, but two babies/toddlers, as well. We just didn't think that timing was right.

When we moved to Michigan, in an effort to ease some the girls' pain of moving, we started throwing around the idea of getting a dog. We had criteria: must be great with children, must be housebroken, must be medium sized (or smaller), and must be cheap/free. I began looking around different websites, but on Craig's List one night, I came across the cutest little black dog I had ever seen. She had beautiful eyes, the cutest little turned-down ears, and in her description it said, "Must have a family with children." That sounded perfect, especially since most of the descriptions I had come across said, "Needs a home with no children.

To make a long story short, I contacted the family who listed her and found out that she had been abandoned by the road in very poor condition, and this family had been rehabilitating her for the past six months. They had no children at home and worked outside of the home a lot, and felt she would be happier with a family that had children. After talking for a while, we went to visit her. We asked if we could have a week to think it over, and after much prayer, Jeff and I decided to go for it! On Valentine's Day, we handed the girls baggies with four alphabet cookies and told them that if they put them in the right order, they would spell what their gift was. You guessed it....they spelled:


We picked her up a few days later and really thought we had just picked up "our dog". We were in it for the long haul, and were absolutely smitten with Lucy. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog we had ever met.

This was taken the day we got Lucy. I took this picture in the van as we pulled out the driveway of their house.

 It was very obvious that Lucy was a free spirit, but we really believed that in time, she would come to love us and feel like part of our family. We loved on her, played with her, and did obedience training with her. We did everything we thought a good dog owner should do.

I learned many lessons from Lucy. There were times, when I was training her in our back yard, that I could sense the Lord speaking to me as I worked on Lucy's behaviors. When I was trying to teach her to walk beside me and not pull in front of me, I felt the Lord say, "Jeannie, how often do you try to pull take my plan into your own hand and plow forward?" When I was trying to teach her to stay focused and not go berserk when the dogs next door were barking at her, I would lean down to her when I sensed her getting antsy and tell her to "look into my eyes; focus on me". Once she was focused, we would moved forward a little until we had to stop again. It was then that I sensed God saying, "Jeannie, stay focused on Me. Don't put so much time and energy into these distractions around you....they will lead you astray. Focus on Me." Those were sweet times, both with Lucy and the Lord. I never cease to be amazed at God's creativity....He will use whatever it takes to speak to us.


As time passed, our love for her grew deeper, and she really came to love us, as well. When the girls weren't here, she would whimper for them. At night, when the girls were in bed, she would snuggle with me and Jeff on the couch. (I're not supposed to let a dog on the couch. That was the rule we mutually agreed to break.) But while I knew she loved us, I always felt she was discontent, like her heart was somewhere else. She spent a lot of time staring out of windows, like she was missing something on the 'outside'. She would often dart out the door the minute it opened, sending us on a wild chase to get her back. Once, when the wind blew the back door open and we didn't know it, she got out for an extended period of time. That time we had to bail her out of 'doggie jail'. It just seemed like we were chasing her one or two times a week, no matter what precautions we took to keep it from happening. We always made her "sit and stay" at the door to make sure we went out before her. She stayed in a kennel if we were all gone or asleep. We tried to train the girls to always know where she was before they opened the door.

No matter what we did or how much we loved on her to help her feel a part of our family, we knew she was not completely happy. When she would escape from the house, we would find her farther and farther away. We live smack-dab in the middle of the city, and this was of great concern to us. We became more and more fearful that we would find her laying in the road after being hit by a car, or even worse, that the girls would not pay attention and would chase her into the road.

I cringe to think about it.

We had a few months where things were a little better, but we never felt totally "out of the woods". We had a month or two where she didn't try to escape, but there were other behaviors, as well. If she ever found our bedroom door open (even though we kept it closed, but when you live with little ones....well, you know), she would pee in our floor or directly on our bed (always on my side). She had a love for the taste of shoes and chewed one of three different pairs of Megan's shoes and one of two different pairs of my shoes. Thankfully, this problem had an easy, albeit unattractive, solution:

You don't put your shoes on your mantle?

 While these behaviors were frustrating, they were behaviors that we knew were just part of having a dog and taking the time to train the dog not to do those behaviors. They were not dangerous behaviors, like her escape act.

In the past few weeks, though, things have taken a sharp turn for the worst. I am not sure why, but her escapes became much more frequent, and were not even always escapes from the house. Since we are renting, we are not going to put a fence around the yard, but as a substitute, to provide her with some outdoor time occasionally, we had one of those chains that comes with the spiral stake that goes deep into the ground. This past Monday, she dug the entire thing out of the ground and went running; chain, stake, and all. Thankfully she got tangled around the neighbors mailbox, but not before I had called the police to report our dog stolen.

Isn't that nice?

Today, Alyssa was taking her for a nice long walk when Lucy bolted suddenly and Alyssa lost her grip on the leash. I drove around looking for her and Jeff even came home from work to help us look. After an hour of driving around we finally found her, but it was crystal clear that we were no longer doing what was best for Lucy. We were holding onto her for our own selfish reasons. When I walked in the door with her, Alyssa, through tears, said, "Mom, I don't think she's happy here. Can you please call Mr. ______ (the previous owner) to ask if they will take her back?" It is a decision that Jeff and I had been contemplating for a few weeks, but it was nice to hear it from Alyssa's mouth....she knew it was the right thing without us having to tell her. I know how hard that was for her to say, and while I was very proud of her maturity in that moment, I was heart-broken. She was right.

We have contacted her previous owners and they will happily take her back. They are really wonderful people and love animals. We would never just "dump" her, but knowing she is going to a loving home with LOTS of land to roam and many other dogs to play with makes us all feel a little better. I am not saying it will be will be anything BUT easy... but we have a peace, knowing we are doing the right thing for Lucy. I think she is just a free-spirited country girl and longs for the freedom she once had.

Please pray for our family these next few days. Lucy goes back on Tuesday and it is going to be very difficult for us. I am praying that God will help me comfort my girls through my own tears, and that this will not be a source of anger or contention for them. We can honestly say that we did everything we could have done...even Alyssa and Emilie acknowledge that.

Enjoy some our favorite pictures of our "Lucy-Girl":

Lucy spends a lot of time looking out the window.

Dress-up became one of her favorite activities. :-) 



Much Love,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eleventh Verse, Same As the First...

Life has been a whirlwind lately.

The first week of October, my parents came to visit...FABULOUS!

Two days after they left, we went to Fall Family Camp for a week...SUPER-FUN!

The Saturday we returned from Family Camp, I went to bed sick. Not so fun.

However, for the first time in well over a week, I felt human again today. Honestly, I may have felt better sooner than I did, except that I don't "do sick" very well AT ALL. I am sure my body wonders why I can't just take a hint and rest. It is a rare occasion that I even get sick, but this time was a doozie.

Before I was feeling at my worst, I arranged to go to the gym with a friend to take an early-morning aerobics class. I thought that by the time Friday rolled around, I would feel much better. Well...Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I felt TERRIBLE and pretty much slept most of the time. So what did I do on Friday? I got up and went to the gym. My friend was counting on me! (Actually, if I am being honest, my friend is in really good shape and is more than capable of doing it on her own, but making myself think that she needs me might actually get me into the gym, so I will live with that illusion.)

So guess what? Once again, I embarrassed myself at the gym. I know you find that really hard to believe after all of my past adventures, but yes....I remain humble. First of all, I was SICK; secondly, that room was really hot; and thirdly, I am pretty sure that woman....the instructor...was trying to kill me. At one point during the class (9 agonizing minutes into it), we were doing hamstring curls. Those muscles didn't appreciate being awakened from their ten-year slumber in the first place, and just about the time I thought my hamstrings would go on strike, the instructor said, "I forgot what's next."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Couldn't we have been stuck on a step touch, or a grapevine, or even a march when she forgot what was next?

Well, I made it through that grueling thirty-minute class, and was planning to stay through the following thirty-minute class, which was a "core class". However, it was not to be. I will spare you all the details, but let's just say that an elevated heart rate + congestion + a hot room + excess weight + being out of shape = running to the bathroom to throw up after a few minutes of working my "core".

Yep. And my sweet friend ran all the way with me with her hands held out in case I needed to throw up in them.

That, my friends, is a true friend!

So, the gym wins again. I went home after my, um....episode...and laid down on the couch. I was on the couch or in the bed, pretty much non-stop, until today. I have to wonder if I would have gotten better a little faster had I rested that Friday morning?

We'll never know. Today has been a much better day. I was able to get up, shower, take the girls to two different appointments, go to my own appointment, and come home and crash on the couch. Aside from still getting run down, the only symptom that is left the 80 year-old smoker's cough. I believe I'm gonna live!

But enough of my sickness and humiliating run-ins with the gym! I wanted to share some pictures from my parents' visit!

The first day they were here, we went to the Apple Festival.

Face painting...

A car show...

Of course we had to take them to the South Bend Chocolate Factory that week! (I think we ate enough chocolate to kill a goat...but I can think of worse ways to die.) :-)

Silver little heaven on earth.

And time with Speckles, my baby sister. Actually, not so much a baby anymore. She will be 16 years-old this November!

The two canines in my life were definitely the odd couple. Lucy wanted Speckles to PLAY! Speckles wanted Lucy to LEAVE HER ALONE! (She's a little grumpy in her old age.) Lucy took over Speckles' bed, and Speckles just let her. "Whatever, kid."

It was very hard to say, "good-bye".  The smiles in this pictures didn't last long. About 15 minutes after it was taken, they left, and there were lots of tears flowing.

Thankfully, we have lots of great memories from their visit, and  Christmas is coming.... (which means we will get to see everyone!)

Hopefully, now that I am feeling a little better, I will be able to get my life back together. Megan got a touch of what I had, and Alyssa went to bed feeling lousy tonight, but please pray that it is short-lived and that no one else gets it.....especially Clara. Not because I love her more, but because a 'simple' illness is so much harder on her than it is the rest of us.

Have a Blessed Day!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Family Camp Pt. 2....a quick one. :-)

While at Family Camp last week, I made some very sweet friends. Most of them live hours away, but one of them lives in Mishawaka, IN, just a few minutes away from my house! I didn't get to meet her until the middle of the week, but I so enjoyed the time I did get to spend with her! She has two boys, whom I didn't get to know as well as I would have liked because, like my girls, they had friends to run around and play with, but we did get to know her little girl, Jeuel, very well. She is ten months-old, and despite battling a bladder infection all week and having a traumatic trip to the ER, was just the cutest and sweetest little thing. Clara, in particular, hit it off with her and was able to make her smile and giggle. So cute!

As it turns out, my friend, Christi, is a phenomenal photographer and very well-known in this area. I didn't know that until I got home and looked at her Facebook page! Wow! I knew she had a really nice camera that she wore around her neck, and in asking her questions while getting to know her, she told me she shot a lot of weddings, but what she actually does is art at its finest. As it turns out, she shot a few pictures of some of my girls just doing their "thing", running around and playing, and sweetly shared them with me. In turn, she said I could share them with you! It is absolutely amazing to me that casual shots can turn out this beautiful:

Clara is riding on the back of another one of our new friends from camp.

Here I am doing my worst Sarah Palin imitation. I think I need longer arms. :-)

Thanks, Christi, for the beautiful pictures!!

Have a Blessed Day!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Family Camp

I don't know how or why, but God, in His infinite wisdom and provision, provided an opportunity for our family to attend Fall Family Camp last week at the Life Action Retreat and Conference Center. We got the call on Saturday night and were to report on Monday, so it made for some crazy packing and rescheduling of appointments and commitments, but we made it! And we are so glad we did!

The camp is right up there with Silver beach on my list of favorite places.

There is no place quite like it.

To relax...



and to meet with God.

I met with God in a very special way. I have been a little frustrated and a little dry, but as always, He was right there waiting for me. Early one morning, around 6:00, He and I met on a porch swing by the lake, under a full moon and in the dark. He knew I needed it dark or I would have been trying to read or study or would have been distracted by something else. But in the dark, it was just me and Him. He had things He wanted to say to me....many things I needed to hear. I wanted to take a picture, but without a tripod, there was no way to capture the moment and do it justice. One less distraction, I guess. I walked away from that place that morning with the sun coming up, and with a new perspective on life, myself, and the great God we serve. He is so good.

Besides experiencing times of worship, we also had LOTS OF FUN!!

Target practice with paint balls...

Trap shooting with shot guns....

(Okay...I shot the shotgun. Mr. A.J. was sweet enough to teach the little ones about what a shotgun cartridge is, how it's made, and the damage it can do.)


 Alyssa won this one!

A little sip before bedtime.


She ought to go right to sleep. :-)

Paintball wars (Holy paintball wars, of course)..... I couldn't get great shots of this. They were deep in the woods, I had the little ones, and Megan kept having to go potty. However, take a look at my crew and then the other people. See any difference? There were about 30 people total who played, and there was only one in a yellow jacket. :-)

The only reason Jeff and Emilie have appropriate colors on is because they borrowed them. Thankfully it is Fall, so Alyssa wasn't quite as exposed as I was afraid she would be.



Lumberjack and Jill Party... (Someof these were taken during the party at camp, and some were during the Lumberjack and Jill party that was held for staff families last night.)

I have pictures with three of my four girls. For some reason, Alyssa was embarrassed to be seen with me. :-)

Clara and Megan rode in style...and Jeff got a killer workout!

Can you see their little hands sticking up? So cute!

"Alyssa, can I please take your picture?"

"Alyssa, LOOK at your mother...."

"Smile so I can take your picture!"


"Pretty please?"...

"Thank you. Now, was THAT so hard?"

There was plenty of other fun to be had and friends to be made!


Now the week is over, the preaching is finished (they brought in a fabulous preacher, Steve Hammack.), the worship music is done, and the tons of food have been eaten, my one prayer is that we, as a family, will take it all to heart and, above all, be authentic in our walk with Christ.


Many Blessings!