Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goals for 2011

I'm a big believer in goals.  I have always felt that if you set goals for yourself, you will be motivated to try and accomplish them.  Of course, I am also a big believer in Jesus, so I also believe that our plans succeed only in the might and power and will of the Lord.  Proverbs 16:3 says:  "Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed."  So, at the end of each year, I seek the Lord's will as I set goals for the upcoming year.  When I led the women's ministry at church, I would also seek God's will for ministry goals.  Each year, God would give me some word or verse and we would base our ministry vision on that goal.  This year, Brian and I have set some goals for our family, and I have set some personal goals.  All of these are God-honoring, so I am praying that God will enable us to achieve them.

First, we intend to get out of debt.  In a previous post, I mentioned that we had gone through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, and that our savings were getting us through the lean times of Brian's lay-off.  When Brian's former employer cut his salary at the end of 2009, we were in the midst of paying off debt.  In FPU terms, we were in the midst of the "debt snowball".  I don't mind telling you that in the first five weeks of the program that we paid off over $9,000.00.  Really. Granted, Brian was making good money and we got a tax refund in that period of time.  That was in Feb./March of 2009.  We continued to pay off debt and sold an rv, so things were looking good.  Our 'debt snowball' was interrupted, though, so we still have work to do.  We squirreled away money in our savings, and we needed it these last few months.  So for 2011, we are extremely motivated to finish what we started last year.  To that end, when Brian got his severance money from his former employer (finally) a few weeks ago, we paid off a small signature loan.  We did not put it on costly Christmas gifts.  As a matter of fact, we paid cash for our Christmas gifts, and we bought fewer.  Christmas isn't about stuff anyway.  Jesus Himself argues against the accumulation of material things in Matthew 6:19-21:  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also."

Second, we intend to build our savings back up.  In the explanation above, it should be obvious why we need to build our savings up. We used it!  This is where we will have to lean heavily on God.  It will be by His power and generosity that we will do this.

Third, I intend to get a full-time job.  Every time I mention this to my friends, they ask if I dislike subbing.  It's not that I dislike subbing.  Subbing is a part-time job.  I am not always able to take the jobs that are offered.  Sometimes the distance is too far, or the job is something I am not able to do.  There are no benefits for subs, and the pay is not great.  Since Brian is working again--and going in earlier--I am getting the kids to school.  In order to sub in elementary, I have to be there by 7:35, which is tough.  Obviously, I like pre-arranged jobs.  I know where I am going ahead of time, and I can prepare the kids in advance.  However, frequently jobs are offered in the early morning, and I have to be ready to go.  So, for the sake of my sanity and for my family's sake, I need a consistent, full-time job with benefits.  I'll continue to sub, God willing, for the remainder of the school year (while keeping my eyes peeled for long-term sub jobs or full-time aide positions beginning in February).  I am praying that God will give me a permanent position for the upcoming 2011-2012 school year, preferably as a full-time special education teacher.

Fourth, but more immediately, I intend to finish my teacher certification classes.  My classes resume next week, and I will finish (again, God willing) in February.  I will be taking my special education certification test in February.  Hopefully, I'll pass!

Fifth, and maybe hardest of all, I will work toward grace and forgiveness towards those who have disappointed and hurt me.  I don't mean for that to sound exploitative or self-serving.  Honestly, I have some spiritual work to do.  I've got to get some things right in my own heart, and I really, really need the Lord's help with this.  I honestly don't think I bear unforgiveness in my heart towards Brian's former employer.  Brian and I plan to write about some of the stuff that we've endured, only because we've learned that we are not unique.  More and more, companies are struggling and leaving a mess in their wake.  We've learned some things that may be of use to lots of people.  We don't want anyone else to experience the things that we have and that we know others have.  People have shared some of the most heart-breaking stories with us.  We want others to learn from our mistakes and experiences, not repeat them. 

Who or what do I need to forgive?  Well, that's tough.  I haven't really wanted to talk much about this, even though I have been hurting.  The thing is, there are so many other people who are struggling with real dilemmas.  I have a friend in Kenya who is a missionary.  Her landlord is threatening to evict her, and she had to send the orphans that she has been caring for to another children's home.  It broke her heart to do it, and she is still in danger of losing her home.  That's something real and tangible that she is struggling with (You can help Cheryl by visiting her website and donating here  So my petty concerns seem well, petty.  I just want to live peacably with others.  I want to see the Lord made famous in my life, my church, and my community.  There are so many who are suffering and struggling, and I hate to see disunity in the fellowship of believers that I belong to.  If you go to church with me, yes, I am struggling with the work that I did on the Bylaws Team and the fact that the church did not approve our work.  If you don't go to church with me, then I think you can understand how hard it is to be disappointed by people that you love and trust.  The best way that I can explain the circumstances is to use an analogy:  Imagine that you are given a task to perform by the operating board of your employer.  At first you are hesitant, because it seems like an unnecessary task.  The more you explore and research your task; however, the more you see the necessity of it.  So, for two years, you work and work on the task.  Then, as the time draws near to present your findings to the company, you find out that some of your colleagues are meeting in secret to sabotage the work you have been doing.  You try to reason with them, and find that they are determined to work against you and that they are pulling in other members of the company to help them in this task.  Worse still, you find that one of the members of the operating board have been calling employees to tell them that the work you are doing is wrong, and that they should vote against it.  How would you feel?  Betrayed, right?  Hurt, possibly?  Angry?  Check, check, and check.

The fact that it is not a business, but a church compounds my hurt and disappointment.  The fact that the folks who met in 'secret' aren't really a secret to me is hard.  The fact that I am commanded to love and forgive is not lost on me.  I know I have to, so from this point forward, I will work towards love and forgiveness.  How will I do it?  I have no idea, but God is good and He will show me how.  I have a few other goals for 2011, but it seems like these five are at the top of my list.  Number five is important to me, and if you are struggling spiritually with unforgiveness, then perhaps you will join me in overcoming it.  At any rate, this year--as in all the years that have come before--my goals are placed before the Lord, for His will to be done.

Many blessings,


Monday, December 27, 2010

Imaginary Friends

My daughter, Lily, has an imaginary friend.  Her name is Jennifer Gamasill.  Today, as I was having my lunch, Lily and Jennifer Gamasill were celebrating Jennifer Gamasill's 5th birthday.  As I am writing, Lily is giving her gifts.  Mysteriously, they are the same gifts that Lily got for Christmas.  Hmmm...

Lily cracks me up when she plays.  She is very imaginative, and we often hear her singing in big, operatic voices when she is playing.  I try not to interfere, as she gets embarrassed if she knows I'm watching.  I love it that she has an imaginary friend, as it reminds me of my own childhood and my own imaginary friends.

I had two imaginary friends that I know of, though I don't remember them.  My parents told me stories of how I played with my husband, Harry, and I carried an imaginary kangaroo in my pocket.  Harry and I got into a lot of trouble, and apparently, it was often loud.  My parents' favorite story about Harry was when I came running down the hallway of our house yelling, "Don't worry, Harry!  I won't let 'em getcha!!"  It sort of makes you wonder why children have imaginary friends, and how they come up with what they are and how they look.  I mean, why a husband named Harry?  Why a kangaroo?  My dad wrote a sweet poem about my kangaroo.  I have a copy of the poem somewhere.  I remember it begins, "I have a little kangaroo, it lives inside my mind..."  That kangaroo was killed by my dad's friend when I was about four.  He asked to hold it, then squashed it in his hands.  It sounds awful, but he didn't have kids so he didn't realize that he had done something that I would take seriously.  He was just kidding around, but apparently my mom was about an inch away from killing him when he did it.  They tell me that I didn't react, but the kangaroo never came back after that.  My dad's friend felt bad about it, so he gave me a toy kangaroo to play with.

My brother didn't have imaginary friends, and we always attributed that to the fact that he had a sibling to play with.  I wondered if my own children would have them.  Jacob never did, much to my disappointment.  Matthew did, though.  He had a friend named Freddy Gomez that would call him on his toy phone.  Freddy didn't actually play at our house all that much, mostly he just called Matthew to talk with him on the phone.  Jesse didn't have imaginary friends, but he didn't need them.  He has always been very grounded in reality and followed his brothers around like a little puppy.  While Lily doesn't seem to be lonely, she is very creative and has a vivid imagination. I think Jennifer Gamasill exists because Lily wants her to.  Frankly, I think she created a playmate that she could boss around!

On another note, we had a wonderful Christmas.  After we opened gifts here at home, we drove over to my parents' place in Perrin.  Brian bought them an old-fashioned looking record player/cd player combo.  I brought over some of the old records that I borrowed stole from them when I got married.  We listened to Cream's album Strange Brew on vinyl.  My dad was so funny.  He said, "I wondered what happened to these old records!"  He knew.  He was just being nice.  Brian had bought the boys Airsoft guns, so they got to shoot them out at my parents' land.  My dad bought the boys knives, which he has done every year since they were born.  Yikes.  You might be a redneck if you give your grandkids knives for Christmas when they're babies.

Many blessings,


Friday, December 24, 2010


Well, Hello!  Merry Christmas to you!  We're so glad you stopped by.  This Christmas Eve, we're having Chicken and Dumplin's.

Brian says that they taste great!

Can I offer you something to drink?  How about a soda?

Maybe a nice glass of sweet iced tea?

After we have supper, we'll have a slice of pecan pie.  I have a special recipe that I've developed. 

Oh, yes I did.  Close your mouth, Baby.  You're drooling all over the keys.  We let the kids open one gift on Christmas Eve.  Don't they look sweet?

Lily opened a gift that Jacob gave her.

You can play the Iron Man 2 video game on Wii with the boys.

Oh, that lovely aroma?  I forgot to mention that Big Daddy is smoking a turkey out back.  It's for Christmas tomorrow.  We'll be enjoying it with my parents.

Oh, yes he did.

Well, we're off to church for the Candlelight Christmas Eve service.  I hope that you'll join us.  We have so much to be thankful for this Christmas.  Brian's new job, our family and friends, our health, and for God's provision throughout the year.  Most of all, we're grateful for the gift of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Merry Christmas, and many blessings to you,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kindness of a stranger and movie love...

I took the four kids to the grocery store to get the necessary supplies for our Christmas meals.  We went to Central Market in Plano, and when we got in line to check out, I discovered that my wallet was gone.  I know that there are worse feelings than realizing you don't have your wallet when you need it, but at the moment of that realization, it's hard to imagine what they are!  Thankfully, the manager let me call Brian and he used Brian's debit card number to ring up the groceries.  Thank you, kind sir, for trusting me. I am very grateful.

Now, we're all back home and the children have been fed and the groceries (mostly) put away.  The little ones are watching Tom & Jerry (one of my favorite cartoons) and the older boys are playing video games.  It's gloomy and cold outside, and I am inside watching one of my all-time favorite movies:  Open Range.  If you've never seen it, you really should.  Such a great story and cast.  It's a western with lots of guns and there's even a bit of romance.  There are a lot of great lines that Brian and I go around quoting to each other.  Love, love, love it.  There's a line that one of the leads, Charlie Waite (Kevin Costner) says to one of the townsfolk that I really like.  The man tells Charlie that their town has become a terrible place.  Charlie says, "You could do something about it."  The man replies that they can't do anything, they're freight carriers.  He tells Charlie that he didn't raise his sons just to see them die.  Charlie says, "Well you may not know this, but there's things that gnaw at a man worse than dying." Isn't that true?  Better to stand and face adversity, than to do nothing. 

Anyway, Merry Christmas!  I hope you get to indulge in a favorite pastime, and that someone does something really nice for you today. 

Many Blessings,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Text messaging 101

In a few days, it will be Christmas.  In a few more days, it will be the start of a new year.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the things that I've learned this past year.  One of the things I've learned with regard to text messaging--and which was reinforced for me last night--is that you should be extremely cautious about texting people that you don't know well.  If you don't know someone well, and by this, I mean you haven't had very many face-to-face conversations, or if the conversations you've had have not given you a sense of how that person feels about life in general or how they react to stress, then maybe you should restrict your text messages to simple comments or phrases.  For example, an appropriate thing to text your new friend might be, "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy New Year!"  Simple questions that can be answered with 'yes' or 'no' might be o.k., as long as the question you are asking is straightforward:  "Can I borrow your vacuum?"  This question would be o.k.  You might even add a bit of explanation:  "Can I borrow your vacuum?  Mine is broken."  On the other hand, something like, "Where are you?" can invite hostility or resentment if the person you are texting is easily provoked, or is in the midst of a stressful situation (or a relaxing one.  Think about it.). 

I've learned this both as the sender of an unfortunate text and as the bystander-to-the-recipient of an unfortunate text.  Learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others.  Don't enter the new year uninformed!  Make this the year that you communicate clearly and avoid conflicts and disputes.  When texting, I make it a point to avoid long conversations.  It's tedious, anyway, to be punching in all those letters.  Just make the effort to call.  If I don't know how someone reacts, or if I suspect that the person on the other cell phone might be given to drama, I don't bother texting.  I sent someone a text this year that led to a serious sit-down meeting--all because my message had been misunderstood. 

Brian and I have been together for twenty years and I have borne him four children, and still our text messages are short and to-the-point.  Here's an example:  "Is the dog ok?"  "Yes" "Great!  C u later."  See how easy that was?  That whole conversation was shorthand for an incident that he and I both knew about, and that we would talk more about later.  Because we don't have that level of intimacy or knowledge with most people, text messaging doesn't work as a clear means of communication. 

Here's a little tip for the young people out there:  Text very little.  Really.  I can't imagine the temptation that you all have with that. I got into enough trouble with the telephone and snail mail.  I'm sure it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway:  If you can't say something to the person's face, don't say it on a text or email. 

With that, there is my lesson for the day.  I hope that you're enjoying Christmas Break--that is, if you're getting one.  Brian is enjoying his new job, and I sincerely thank all of you for your prayers and for asking about how things are going.  He is very happy, and we are grateful for the opportunity.  As for me, I am staying busy subbing.  I enjoy working with children and am learning a LOT.  I am currently on Christmas Break with my four little angels punks.  If I could get my oldest two sons to stop fighting and swearing, well, that would be DELIGHTFUL.  My perspective of my sons' teenage years is very much like my perspective of childbirth:  This will all be over soon.  At some point they will grow up, God willing, and these difficult years will be but a distant memory. 

And then Jesse and Lily will be teens.  Yikes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Checking in...Finally!

I was shocked to see that it has been over a week since I've last written!  My goal is to write twice a week, but I can see that it's going to be challenging to do that.  Unfortunately, because it's been so long, I have quite a lot of news to report.  So as not to write too much, I'll sum up:

  • We found out on Friday, Dec. 3 that my dad does not have Alzheimer's.  I'm sorry, that was rather abrupt.  Let me explain.  I mentioned in a previous post that my dad was having some health issues that were necessitating an eventual move from their beloved homeplace.  Specifically, my dad has been having some pretty significant short-term memory loss.  He has been undergoing tests for the last month, and the neurologist discovered that my dad had been having mini-strokes.  These were the cause of the memory loss.  The doctor has prescribed some medicine to aid with this problem, and is exploring a course of treatment to prevent further strokes.  To my family's way of thinking, this is good news.  Not only is there an answer for my dad's memory loss, but there is treatment.  We were afraid that either there would be no explanation, or that he would be diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  My grandmother's death from this terrible disease in November of 2005 still looms large over our family, and we were afraid of my dad having it, as well.
  • Brian had a great first week of work with the new company (Southwest Construction Services).  He is enjoying the new position and is getting to know the people at the office.  We are truly grateful to God for the new job.  He goes in early and gets off early, also.   The new job has also created new challenges for us, though. Because he goes in so early, I am supervising getting all four kids to school.  Last week, we had a couple of hiccups, but I think that we'll all get into the routine.  Let's just say that I'm grateful that the kids can ride the bus to school.
  • I've been subbing quite a lot.  I had jury duty last Monday, the 6th, and had to turn down three jobs.  I was scheduled to work the rest of the week, and had to miss one of those days because I had to take Matthew to the doctor for a sinus infection.  He's all better after a round of antibiotics.  (Obviously, I was not chosen for jury duty.)
  • I finished up my Effective Teaching Practices class this past weekend.  I turned in my final assignment on Saturday evening, and I received notification this morning that I earned full credit for the class.  The class met on Saturdays, so I missed a lot of fun stuff, like Jacob's wrestling tournaments and the ladies evangelistic brunch on Dec. 4th.  As of right now, I am halfway through my coursework.  I've completed two classes and my Field-Based Experience (class observation).  I start my next classes on January 4th, and these are going to be night classes. 
  • Jesse is  being evaluated for dyslexia.  He's been struggling with reading and spelling for quite some time.  I think that if he is admitted to the dyslexia program at school that it will help him quite a bit.  He's a smart boy, and we don't want him to lose confidence in himself because of the challenges he is facing in reading. 
All in all, it's been a good week.  After the challenges of the last year, I'm grateful for busy, productive days.  OH!  I just remembered!  Maybe the biggest praise of last week was that Brian received a significant portion of the severance/back pay that his former employer owed him!  We were so glad, too, because it came just in time for us to pay our property taxes.  No, really, we were glad to be able to pay those taxes.  We were just about to draw out money from savings when the money came.  We were rejoicing and praising the Lord, I can tell you. 

I guess that hits all the highlights, and hopefully explains why I haven't posted in a little while.  I'll try to do better.  So many of you are writing to me to encourage me in writing this blog, and I don't want to let you down.  It helps me, also, to get things off of my chest.  I feel better already....

Many blessings,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 Is Winding Up Better Than It Began...

Sometime in mid-May of this year, I was driving the kids to the shoe store after a particularly bad day.  Every person in our family had had a lousy day, and the topper was when I saw my sweet Jesse walking down the hot sidewalk, barefoot, with big tears in his eyes.  He had just gotten off of the bus, and his feet were burning on that hot concrete.  With his voice shaking, and tears flowing, he said, "Someone stole my flip flops at splash day."  They were cool little shoes, and he'd only had them for maybe a week.  They'd had a big splash day celebration at school, and he'd taken off his shoes to go down the big inflatable waterslide.  When he'd gone back, the new shoes were gone.  I'd asked the ladies in the office and his teacher about the shoes, but they had just disappeared.  The older boys got home and both had had rotten days, as well.  At this point with Brian's job, it had been a daily struggle.  At that time, he'd seen the company fleet repossessed, constables come to the office to shut down the place due to non-payment of taxes, and--worst of all--we'd found out that the company had deducted insurance premiums from the employees' paychecks (yes, including ours), but had not paid the insurance company.  Somewhere in the mix, Brian had had to stay away from the office for a day because a former employee was threatening to come and shoot one of the owners. 

So, on this bright, sunny day in May, the children and I drove to the shoe store to get Jesse some more flip flops.  There was no laughter in the back seat and we were all miserable.  Jacob spoke up and said, "This has not been our year."  I kind of agreed, and unfortunately, the year wasn't even halfway over! 

Anyway, fast forward to this week, and Brian told me that our dear dentist, Dr. Kevin Seidler, called him to let us know that he had been praying for our family at Thanksgiving.  Brian shared with him that he had just gotten a new job and that it is a wonderful opportunity.  He thanked Dr. Seidler for his encouragement of us and for his prayers on our behalf.  Dr. Seidler paid us a very nice compliment and told Brian that we have a special family.  Just a short while later, Dr. Seidler called back.  He had a patient come in who happened to be a pastor.  Dr. Seidler shared with this man a little about our family and about how happy he was for us that after seven weeks of being unemployed, God had given Brian a job.  The man looked at Dr. Seidler and handed him a $100 bill to give to us.  We were so touched that a man who does not know us would be so generous and kind towards us. 

I was reflecting on this incident this morning as I was preparing to go to work, and I cannot fathom why God has been so kind to us.  I believe that even though 2010 did not seem like our year in May, it seems like God has done us an extraordinary kindness in bringing us through the challenges that we have faced.  Brian and I were just talking about how much our perspective has changed through the trials and through the blessings.  One hundred dollars would not have seemed like much two years ago. Today, it seems like a very generous gift--particularly because it came from someone unknown to us. 

We are both seeing the blessings that God is showering upon us--they are there in small things if you look for them:  Smiles and laughter from little children; the faithfulness of a good friend; the sun shining on our faces; long, heartfelt conversations; and so many more.  I've been so touched by so many things lately.  It takes almost nothing to bring tears to my eyes these days (both tears of joy and tears of sadness). 

Anyway, maybe 2010 will be our year after all.  I told Brian tonight that we may look back at this year and find out that it was one of our best because it was the year that God changed our perspectives.  I pray that I never, ever take little things for granted again.

Many blessings,


Sunday, November 28, 2010

You Might Be a Redneck If...

You spend quality time with your dad in the woods with guns, OR

You spend quality time with your big brother learning to aim and shoot, OR
You look at the world from the perspective of a deer blind, at least once in a while.

We rounded out our Thanksgiving holiday at my parents' place in Perrin, Tx. this past weekend.  They have about 30 acres that my dad inherited from his mother.  They live on a portion of what had once been his grandparents' home place.  They divided the land four ways between their four children, and my grandmother's portion became my dad's. 

In the not-too-distant future, this land will belong to someone else.  My parents will leave this place and move someplace with less upkeep.  The area has changed due to oil and gas drilling, and my parents just want to live someplace closer to town.  My dad's health is also necessitating the move.  They need to be closer to good doctors.  A few years ago, my dad had a pretty bad accident involving a tractor and had to be Care Flighted to Fort Worth.  Living in the country gets a lot more complicated as you get older.

There are times, like this weekend, when I think that I will really miss the open skies of the old land.  It saddens me that a place that my family has had ties to for over 75 years will belong to someone else.  My dad and I had a nice talk on the way back from shooting out in the woods.  I think that their move to a new place is the beginning of a new adventure for them, and for all of us.  Things change, and we oftentimes have to change with them. 

Speaking of new adventures, I have great news to report:  Brian was offered a job last week!  I didn't want to announce it on my blog until Brian started telling people himself.  He announced it at church this morning, so I figure I can now spread the word.  He begins working this week.  We look forward to this new opportunity, as he will be working for men he has known professionally for over 17 years.  And as for me, well, I turned in my last assignment for my first class this evening.  That means one class down, just four more to go!

I sense that things are looking up, even as challenges remain.  It really does seem that when one door closes, another one opens...

Many blessings,


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

How's your Thanksgiving been?  Ours has been pretty nice!  Brian's parents are here for the holiday, and we have been enjoying a nice visit with them. Brian and his dad smoked the turkey last night, and I have to say that it is the best turkey I've ever had.  I baked the traditional pumpkin and pecan pies yesterday, so my mother-in-law and I just had to make the sides today for our lunch.  Everything was delicious! 

Today, when we gave thanks before we sat down to eat, Brian thanked God for our family and for God's provision.  He has surely carried us through this year, and for that we are truly grateful. 

I certainly hope that your Thanksgiving has been full of love, joy, and rest.  I also hope that it will be more than an opportunity to catch some good sales...being thankful has been overshadowed by 'getting stuff'.  If you are one of the people serving in retail who is pressed into working at midnight or 3 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, my prayer is that people will be kind to you, and that you will have the strength you need to do your job.  If you are one of the people going out to shop for Christmas tomorrow, please be kind.  Remember that Christmas gifts are given to show people that you love them and appreciate them.  Gift-giving is never meant to come at the expense of another person's dignity.  That doesn't honor our Savior.

Many blessings,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Since you've asked...

We've got a lot of kind friends.  We are so grateful for the words of encouragement and the prayers that so many of you have been offering for us.  I know that it is because of your concern for us that many of you have been asking if we are ok financially.  The short answer is yes.

Though I may have been keeping quiet about the demise of the company that Brian worked for over this past year, it may help to know that we really have been expecting this lay-off.  We have been economizing over the last year, because it became very necessary last November.  That was when he and several other people in the company took pay decreases.  Lay-offs began shortly after. The company was hemorrhaging, and it became clear that drastic steps would need to be taken to try and save the company.  At first, the owners told the employees that investors were coming in to put cash into the business.   Rather than attempt to make excuses as to why the company failed, all I can really say for sure is that Brian stuck in there as long as he did because they asked him to help finish up the work that the company had in queue.  He was assisting in shutting down the company's operations right up until he was told that the company could no longer cover payroll.  By that point, we had been living on less for a long time.

Another thing that helped a lot was going through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University in January 2009.  We paid off a lot of debt last year.  I wish I could say that we were debt free, but I can't.  However, we were socking away money and were attempting to make sure that in the event that Brian did not have a job to go to when the company finally closed its doors, that we would be able to get by for a while.

My going back to work has helped.  I got my first paycheck from subbing this week (Yay!). Unemployment has helped.  It would have been nice if the company had honored the severance agreement and had paid Brian the wages it owed him during his tenure.  It would have been tremendous if the company had repaid Brian what he was owed.  Alas, that has not happened.  At any rate, we are utilizing our savings right now.

It's nice to know that we have friends who are concerned for us, and I genuinely appreciate it.  Some of you have mentioned Christmas.  Thank you.  Truly, we appreciate it.  Psalm 11:5 says that God provides food for those who fear Him, and we continue to be amazed at how God has sustained us.  I know that His Word promises that God will take care of us and I am continuing to trust in that.

Many blessings,


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweet moments...

Brian and I were sitting here in the living room, talking about forgiveness.  I really appreciated Pastor Mark's sermon today from Ephesians 4.  The particular topic was exactly what I needed to hear.  I intend to get rid of bitterness.  I confess that I have been angry with some people that have hurt me recently, and I've decided that I am going to work towards forgiving them.  I just want to let all of it go.  I can't pretend to be happy to see these folks yet--I'm just being honest.  I can't pretend to be happy to see someone who I feel has been dishonest and deceitful, but I am going to work hard on forgiving them. 

At any rate, we were talking and Lily came in, freshly bathed and teeth brushed.  She asked for Daddy to read to her before she went to bed.  This is the sweet picture that I captured.  Now, I ask you--do I have any right to be bitter?  I have so much love in my life.  This picture reveals just one of the many things I have to be thankful for.  I don't want to waste any effort on being bitter.  I just want to soak up all the sweetness and light that life has to offer.  I hope that you do, too.

Many blessings,


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Goes Up...

Relative to how things were for my family say, two years ago, things have been a bit stressful lately.  I had thought that I was handling the stress pretty well.  It seems that I was wrong.  The day of Pam Leyerle's funeral, my blood pressure shot up.  It was something like 150/96.  I seriously thought that Brian was going to have to take me to the emergency room.  I decided to lay down for a while and see if it would go back down, and it did.  It was still a little high, though, even after resting.

Last week, while subbing at a middle school--which I enjoyed, by the way--I wasn't feeling quite right.  Though I was having a bit of congestion, I just felt odd.  I stopped off at CVS on the way home to check out my bp.  Guess what?  High again--150/94.  My blood pressure is usually in the neighborhood of normal, so I knew something wasn't right.  I have a family history of high blood pressure, so I called the doctor to set up an appointment.  He confirmed my suspicion, and said that yes, my blood pressure is high.  I started taking blood pressure medication yesterday.  Simple enough, right?

Not exactly.  I am one of those medicine sensitive people who can't take the regular dose of anything, so one pill knocked my blood pressure down into below normal. I've been battling lightheadedness and lethargy all day.  The doctor recommends half a pill, so I'll try that tomorrow. It's hard to say, because my blood pressure has been low to normal all day, despite not taking any medication today.  I'm watching my bp carefully, so we'll see.

Anyhoo...subbing the rest of the week. Tomorrow, I'll be a PPCD (Public Preschool for Children with Disabilities) teacher.  Thursday and Friday, I'll be a Special Ed. Aide.  I'm looking forward to it!

Many blessings,


Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Did My Best

Today was a significant day, not just for me, but in the life of our church.  If you go to church with me, or read my ministry blog, you may know that I have served for the last two years on a Constitution and Bylaws Team at my church.  If you did not know that, well, the long and short of it is that I was elected in August of 2008 to serve on this team with three godly men of the church.  We were to review our existing governing documents--our Constitution and Bylaws--and suggest changes that needed to be made.  Churches have governing documents, just like corporations and other non-profit organizations.  The Constitution is a basic document that tells what the organization is called, what its purpose is, who its officers are, and how often it will meet.  The Bylaws tells how that organization will accomplish its purpose.  It's really very simple.  For our team, we determined that we would have a set of documents that were based on God's Word, the Bible.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Not really.  Churches, just like any other organization, are prone to conflict.  People are people, no matter what they believe in.  Christians should not have self-interests, but the sad fact of the matter is that we too often do.  I should not be materialistic, but I am sometimes.  I should not say curse words, but sometimes I do.  I take responsibility for my bad behavior, turn from it, and try to do better.  My dad has always told my brother and I to do our best.  You can never be ashamed if you do your very best.

So, I did my best during my tenure on the Bylaws Team.  We determined to have Bible study together.  We met weekly for two years.  Sometimes we met more often than that.  We always prayed.  We kept going.  It was not always easy.  For about six months, I didn't want to go.  Think about that:  For six months, I really didn't want to be there. But, I went anyway. I had been elected by my church, and I had committed to serve my church.  So, I went.  And I did my best. 

Forty days ago, the church was asked to review the documents we had drafted:  A new Constitution and Bylaws.  These documents proposed a new style of church governance; an elder led model.  We based our recommendation on Bible study.  Today, the church was asked to make a decision on our proposed documents.  We did not want a divided church, so we asked that it be a super-majority decision:  2/3 of the members would need to affirm the new documents. The church had been asked to fast and pray for the forty days leading up to the vote.

The closer it got to the vote, the more anxious that I became.  I know, I know.  We are not given a spirit of fear, you say.  But guess what?  I have feet of clay.  (Hmm.  I kind of have a little rap going there.)  I may seem audacious, but I do not like to see my brothers and sisters in the church behave badly.  It makes me ill.  Really ill.  So, this morning before church, I was ill.  And I was ill during the meeting.  My stomach didn't really settle until after the vote.  In all seriousness, I packed two plastic grocery bags in my purse because I did not want to soil the church carpet with my nervous stomach contents.  (I hope that's not too graphic for you.)

I'm ashamed of my frail self.  I don't like that I was so torqued up today.  And for those of you who go to church with me:  I'm so sorry that I worried you.  I had so many people hugging me, comforting me, rubbing my back.  Again, I'm sorry I worried you.  I'm writing tonight to reassure you.  I'm ok.

If you've hung in this long, I'll go ahead and finish my story.  We had the vote, and the new Constitution and Bylaws we proposed did not pass.  A lot of folks were stunned.  A small group whooped and hollered.  There were quite a few people who sought to comfort me.  I received calls, texts, and emails today from you.  Thank you to all of you who wanted to console me and to love on me.  I want you all to know that I am fine.  I love my church.  I did my best for you.  Mostly, I did my best for God.  Our church still belongs to Jesus.  That hasn't changed.  God did not abdicate His Throne today.  He wasn't surprised.  I was a little--ok, a lot.  But, God is good.  Are we?  No.  But that's ok.  God still loves us. 

Keep praying.  Keep studying God's Word.  No matter what our Constitution and Bylaws say, our church belongs to Jesus.  We are His Bride.  Love one another.  Forgive one another.  And when you do these things, do them to the best of your ability.  Don't make a half-hearted effort. 

I did my best.  The results were not my responsibility.  That was up to God.  Again, I thank you for your support and encouragement--you know who you are.

Many blessings,


Friday, October 29, 2010


Man, am I tired!  It's been a whirlwind of a week.  The last two days I've substitute taught in a local elementary school.  Yesterday, I was a Kindergarten teacher, and today I was a first grade teacher.  I admit it was a secret thrill to be standing before eager learners and teaching them how to write letters and to do addition using a ten frame.  I enjoyed reading stories to the kids in silly voices, and I liked hearing them giggle when I did.  It was fun, but it was a lot of work!

I admire the folks who are educators.  I especially appreciate the educators who work with children who need a little extra help--whether that means in reading, or with sitting still, with paying attention, or with everything.  Thank God for teachers.  Thank God for the teachers who were patient with me as I attempted to make my way in the hallways of a school I had never entered before yesterday, and with children I did not know.  Thank God for little children who like to help, and told me where things were and which direction to go.

And you know what else?  Thank God.

Many blessings,


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Memoriam...

Today we celebrated the life of Pam Leyerle.  Pam was the wife of Wally Leyerle, our Associate Pastor of Education.  Pam was a sweet friend, and a lovely women whose gentle spirit was a model of the Proverbs 31 woman.  I was blessed to know Pam, and deeply saddened by the news of her sudden death on the evening of Sunday, October 24.

There is an expression that says that when we meet someone, we take a part of that person with us.  It is unfortunate that in Pam's death, I fully realized her effect on my life.  I believe the greatest lesson she taught me, I did not comprehend until after she was gone:  Encourage those who encourage you.  Pam was a gentle soul who delighted in encouraging others.  She was not at all insincere; she genuinely wanted to know how you were doing.  Occasionally, she would send me an email with some advice or wisdom and would say, "The Lord laid you on my heart today.  I thought you might like to have this."  I'm thankful that I've saved many of them.  I always thanked her, but I wish I had done the same for her.  I can't help but wonder, if the situation were reversed, if she would have said of me, "Jennifer encouraged me." 

I will miss Pam.  Because she was always steadfast in her support of so many of us at church, it does not seem real to me that she is gone.  The ladies at church all seemed to feel the same way that I do.  I hope that her legacy of encouragement and sweetness of spirit will live on in me.  I want to be a woman that others call kind when I am at the end of my days. 

Well, at the very least, I hope that I encourage others.  Maybe it would be a stretch to call me sweet....

Many blessings, and may God bless the Leyerle family,


P.S.  I have my first substitute teaching job tomorrow.  I teach a Kindergarten class. I'm very excited!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busy day...

Lily had a tough day today.  She had two crowns placed this morning.  We have a wonderful dentist, Dr. Kevin Seidler, who takes great care of her.  Her love of sweets led to a couple of bad cavities.  Poor baby, she has horrible anxiety about going to the doctor and dentist.  She was born with a type of urinary reflux that required lots of invasive and unpleasant tests and medicines, so she is no fan of the medical profession in general. Nevertheless, we have great doctors who are very patient and understanding.  We also have a great, big God who gives her strength.  It also helped that Dr. Seidler prescribed little medication to help with her anxiety. : )

Jesse and I stayed home while Lily and Brian went to the dentist.  He woke up at 6:30 this morning and vomited.  I took him to the doctor, where we discovered that he has strep throat.  He's faring pretty well, though.  I made him chocolate pudding earlier, and he's enjoying an orange popsicle while I write.  Amoxicillin works wonders.

Dad had a tough day, too.  He had been worried about Lily's appointment all week.  He told me that he watched her carefully the entire visit.  I know he was emotionally spent when he got back from the appointment.  He was very proud of her.  I think he deserves a nap, don't you?

And what have I been doing while Brian and Lily sleep, and Jesse convalesces on the couch?  I'll show you:

I've been addressing invitations for Emily's milk-and-cookies-pajama-party-baby shower!  I also watched a wonderful period drama on Netflix called The Young Victoria.  I love British period films.  Later, I'm going to cook a big pot of beef stew to take up to the church for Third Thursday.  And tomorrow, I go to substitute teacher orientation!  After that, hopefully, I'll begin substitute teaching!

Many blessings,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Perspective of Maps and of Lives

After the Rangers' win over the Yankees last night (Way to go, Rangers!!), Brian and I had a discussion of how we'll remember the year 2010.  We talked about the challenges we've faced this year and the milestones that were hit thus far.  It's been a tough year, to be honest.  Though Brian was just laid off on Oct. 8th, we have been living under the threat of lay-off for about 11 months now.  And not a 'maybe the company will close today' once a month, or after a few months of lay-offs.  No, an every-single-day concern for months.  Brian would call on Friday and let me know if payroll had come through.  He'd relax on the weekends and be miserable Sunday nights, knowing he had to endure the stress of the work environment.  We talked about the lay-offs, the migraines, the repossession of company property, all of it; what had made this year an extraordinary one for our family.

However, this morning, I was thinking of perspective.  I was thinking of how I learned at some point in my education that maps were drawn from the perspective of the cartographer and the country in which he was from.  I remember being shocked out of my own limited worldview to learn that other countries' maps are drawn with their country as the central landform on the map.  I don't want to be the center of my own worldview.  I don't want my limited perspective on life and my experience of it to be central to how I view things around me. 

What got me to thinking of all this was the realization that others around us--very near to us, in fact--are experiencing their own extraordinary 2010.  Close friends have experienced birth, graduation, marriage, and death.  We have shared our experiences this year with others, and have been shocked to hear the challenges that our friends are going through.  To be fair, they have been equally shocked to hear that we were having a tough time.  I've learned from others that have experienced the failure of companies how difficult it is.  I've learned that we aren't the only ones who have been in this situation. Brian said yesterday that we haven't lost anything that is really meaningful.  He's right.  We still have each other.  We still have bright, healthy children.  We have a roof over our heads and food on the table.  We have a wonderful group of supportive friends and family.  God is not done with us yet.  I want to have His perspective.  I want to view the events of 2010 from a godly perspective:  How did our challenges move us forward?  How did the events of our lives grow us closer to others?  How did God use 2010 for His glory? And not just in our lives, but in the lives of others.  I get a lot of comfort in hearing the testimonies of others.  I see how God has brought people through things for His purpose.

At the end of my days, if the map of my life were drawn, I would want the Lord drawn at the center of my life.  I would want to see all the events in my life drawn around Him, pointing directly to Him.

Many blessings,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Battling Discouragement

I knew that Brian would be struggling with discouragement during his job search, even before I saw signs of it.  It is common for those who are experiencing some type of challenge to struggle with discouragement, so I determined to stay focused on ways to keep Brian encouraged.  The first inkling of discouragement showed up Monday morning, just as he woke up:  "Well, today is the first day in over 20 years that I have not earned a wage."  Uh-oh.  I knew I'd better start praying, and that I'd better stay focused on God's Word.

Monday and Tuesday were not so bad, and Brian worked diligently on job searching.  He's very organized and thorough, so I knew that he would have a plan for networking and making contacts within the construction industry.  His recruiter already had an interview set up for Wednesday, and we found out today that it went very well.  Somehow, in the midst of all of this activity, though, Tuesday night he was hit with a terrible wave of discouragement. I could tell you why, but I would rather tell you how we dealt with it, because this is more useful

When dealing with discouragement, your most powerful weapon is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), the Word of God.  Our greatest challenge to overcome is our own self-talk.  In order to battle the negative things that we are tempted to tell ourselves, we must stay rooted in what God's Word really says.  For example, when we are tempted to think that the future is hopeless, God's Word says in Jeremiah 29:11 that God's has plans to give you a hope and a future.  If we tell ourselves negative things, we will believe negative things--both about ourselves and about God.  I encouraged Brian to read the Psalms, and to focus on the positive aspects of grace, forgiveness, and victory that are found throughout the New Testament.  Hebrews 11 is about the people of God who, in faith, believed God, and saw amazing things happen in their lifetime. 

Another way to battle discouragement is to have fellowship with other godly people.  Be choosy about who you spend time with and what you participate in. Brian's discouragement stemmed from an experience in a negative setting.  How we spend our time, and who we spend our time with, is crucial.  To that end, Brian is talking with contacts on the phone, but is spending time in fellowship with other godly men in his industry.  He has made it a point to encourage other believers who are out of work, as well.

Spend time in the sunshine!  Go outside and enjoy the beauty around you.  If the weather is not fine, find an activity that uplifts you, like an art museum or a worship service.  For me, sewing is something that I love.  I also like to draw and to garden.  I have places that I go to in my area where I will be inspired by beauty.  My favorite garden store always perks me up, even if I don't buy a thing.

Bless others.  Be a blessing, and be open to receive a blessing.  Don't hold back when it comes to encouraging others. When we feel down, it is tempting to focus on ourselves.  This is dangerous to us, both spiritually and in our fellowship with others.  If we focus on our difficulties, we run the risk of alienating ourselves from others.

Many blessings,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From Everlasting to Everlasting

I've been memorizing Psalm 103.  I've gotten up to verse 12, and I am enjoying learning this particular passage of Psalms.  Psalm 103 is a hymn to God's love and compassion.  I have often reminded myself of the first 2 verses of this Psalm, specifically because it says to "forget not all his benefits." When I get discouraged, I try to remember the good things God has done for me. 

Little did I know when Pastor Mark called for the church to fast and pray for 40 days and to memorize scripture, that our family would face so many challenges.  Last Thursday--the day before the women's retreat--Brian received word that he was being laid off.  The company he works for has been struggling for over a year, and Brian had been retained to help finish up work and to close down some of the jobs that they had.  There just wasn't anything left for him to do, and the company was having trouble making payroll.  We knew it was coming, but this kind of thing is never fun.

Today, as I was reading Psalm 103, I was struck by verses 13-18:  "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts."   If there was ever an incentive to obey God and to honor the covenant that we have with Him, here it is!  My days on this earth are like grass.  I am frail and made of dust, and when I am gone, the ground beneath me and the bed I've slept in will not remember me.  But, God's love for me is forever--from everlasting to everlasting--as long as I revere God.  His faithfulness (which is what God's righteousness refers to in the Psalms) will be with my children, and their children, if I keep his covenant and obey his precepts.  I definitely want my grandchildren to have God's faithfulness.  I definitely want God's love forever.  The temptation to be discouraged, or to worry, is great right now.  Even though God has always been good to us, and has carried us through lots of tough times, it is still tempting to want to control this situation, rather than wait on God.

Brian is making calls, and has two recruiters on the look-out for jobs.  I begin classes this week, and will attend substitute teacher training on the 22nd.  I am grateful that we've got money saved, and that the company gave Brian a severance.  I know that God's timing is perfect, and that he will send new opportunities both of our ways.  I suppose that if I were writing a screenplay or book I would set up just this sort of dilemma for my heroine to have to overcome.  The author and perfector of my faith has certainly given us the setting for what may prove to be an exciting story of faith.

Many blessings,


Sunday, October 10, 2010


When I was a little girl, my grandmother gave me a wonderful book called Jennifer's Walk.  It was the story of a little girl named Jennifer who takes a long walk and makes new discoveries and sees interesting things.  Along the way, she shares the things that her mother has packed for her in her backpack with new friends that she makes on her journey.  In the recent weeks, as I have been preparing for a new phase of my life (stepping down from the leadership of a growing women's ministry and the return to professional work), some of the women that have been reading my ministry blog ( have been telling me how much that my words have meant to them.  One of the ladies that I minister to told me, "Keep those stories coming, Girl!"  So, I have decided to keep my followers and friends posted on my journey.  God has opened the doors to new possibilities and adventures, and I am looking forward to sharing those with all of you, in the hopes that my own risk-taking and leap of faith will inspire you to trust God and to get going.

And so it begins....