Sitting here at Book & Bean listening to some local boys play some incredible music. Feel like a queen bee.
Yet, the reality is that I still can’t pay the bills. I still am overwhelmed by the fact that I have eight kids to care for and very little time to devote to them.
Read recently about how businesses and products must be constantly evolving to stay alive. How do we embrace our values of family and stay relevant to our culture? And make a living?

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And yet…

How does one follow the last post? Choosing joy in spite of being absolutely miserable inside…I don’t know the answer. You just choose. You put one foot in front of the other.

And yet…

Here it is almost a year later and I am still choosing joy in spite of being so unhappy.

I sometimes feel like a foreigner living in a foreign land. I love my town. I love the people and yet…I feel like an alien.

And yet…I seem to like yets and pauses…I use them a lot. That is kind of what this blog is about pauses, reflection, the yets.

A friend struck a chord with me this morning. She said she was going to buy an RV and put a juicer in it and travel the country heralding the virtues of juicing. Oh, if only life were so simple and blissful. Traveling and juicing.

It seems that all the things we set out to do when we started this blog have been destroyed. Was it the enemy? Were we naive? What happened to family? What happened?

Such lofty dreams of making a difference; of loving each other. But we have made bad choices. Choices I take full responsibility for.

I can’t undo my choices. I don’t even know how to fix them.

I may not seem like it, but I really am trying to choose joy. I really am trying to press on toward the prize. Tomorrow I will go and dance with all my heart for Jesus who loves me…sinner and all.

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Rough night, rough season. If you read my previous post, I am sorry. All of it is true, but who wants to read depressing stuff? Who wants to know the truth? It’s not good for business.

That’s probably my hardest thing…always being “on”. Always ready with a smile, but inside I am screaming, “I am drowning.”

Wallowing in the mud gets us nowhere though. Worry, anger result in nothing. There is no fruit in it.

God says to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”. I am trying my best to do that. I am trying to choose joy, not because I am hiding, but because it doesn’t do anyone any good for me to be angry and upset. I can’t walk away. I can’t quit. That is just the truth of it. So I better make the most of it.

I am choosing to do the best job I can. I am choosing to enjoy the few precious moments I get with my son everyday. I am choosing to take it one moment at a time. I am choosing to rely on God. Is there any other way?

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Moving forward

The death of Blackjack forced our family to ask some hard questions; questions we hadn’t had the time to ask ourselves. We have been so busy investing time and energy at making Book & Bean successful that our family time got pushed to the back burner. 

After talking about it, we decided we wanted a home base. A place of refuge to come home to. A place where we could all be under one roof. A place where we felt safe and at peace.  And at the same time, we wanted to  be in the city…able to bike ride to the store or take walks without cars whizzing by us.

On the practical side, we also knew we needed to find a house with 2 baths, a larger water heater, a central furnace, and within our budget.

As of the beginning of August, we now have moved into such a place.

As many of you may recall, we had to get rid of many of our possessions in Ohio; beds, appliances, dressers, hangers, chairs, lamps, etc.

For the last 15 months, we have been living in either our RV, a small furnished house, or a tiny house and the trailer at the same time. So moving into this 2300 sq foot house made us very aware of some things we were lacking; stove, fridge, beds, chairs, hangers, lamps…

So far we have been EXTREMELY blessed to receive a couch, a stove, a fridge, two sets of bunk beds, a crib, and a vacuum! (Oh, and Josiah got a snake.)

I am still in need of hangers and lamps, and could use a queen size mattress for the RV (I had to take out the mattress for our bed in the house), but I am so grateful that we have such a wonderful and spacious place to live. It seems like it has been a long time waiting for such a day as this. And yet I know, it is only a blink in our Father’s eyes.

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Putting Away My Cup

When I was a teenager, my mom was often very angry and frustrated. She was mostly mad that we treated her like a slave. She was mad that we would leave our cup next to the sink and not take the time to put it in the empty dishwasher. She was mad that we didn’t appreciate her. We would tell her we appreciated her but it didn’t matter.

I think I understand now why.

Actions speak louder than words.

When my daughter comes in after being home most of the afternoon with nothing to do, and I have just spent the last 30 minutes washing dishes just so I could start making dinner, and she asks so sweetly, “Is there anything I can do to help?”, I want to scream and say, “Yeah, you could have done the dishes.”

I spend a good portion of my day maintaining stuff…mostly other people’s stuff. For the most part, I don’t mind. I enjoy taking care of my family, just as my mom did. But what I don’t enjoy is having to turn a sock that is so stiff and dirty from over wear right side out just so that it can be washed properly. I have told my kids time and time again, “Turn your clothes right side out before you put them in the laundry”, but my words fall on deaf ears. Instead I get, “Thank you for the yummy dinner.” Not, “Can I do the dishes?”

And then there is the stuff. Clothes, toys, papers …stuff. It seems that my days are consumed with sorting, organizing, cleaning stuff. I don’t have the authority to toss it, but apparently only the authority to sort, organize and clean.

I asked my daughter once if there was anything that she thought I was obsessed with. She responded with, “Yeah, cleaning.”

She’s right. I am obsessed with hoping to find a place of solitude, a place that isn’t overwhelmed with junk, clutter, crap. Obsessed with finding a clean place. Yet, I can’t seem to find that place. You have no idea how much this bothers me. I just want to be able to relax, to be in a peaceful, clean place. Does such a place exists? I thought the RV would be such a place. Boy, was I wrong. I thought getting rid of so much stuff would help, but the cycle continues on.

My mom’s place is like that. Always clean. Always free from the junk, clutter, crap. Thank you, Mom, for taking care of us all those years and cleaning up our stuff and putting our cups in the dishwasher. I know that means nothing now. But thank you anyway.

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Back on May 1st, the day we moved to Prineville, we also got a goat. He was a gift for our 10-year-old son, Elijah, whose birthday was the week before. Blackjack was extremely loved and cared for. In many ways, he was like a dog. We would lead him around the yard on a leash. At first we kept him in a kennel in the house, but after a while made a nice place for him in the barn.

This last Saturday, July 2nd, as I was getting ready to close up the Book & Bean, I got a call from Papa Joe that Blackjack had been shot with a BB gun and I needed to get home and take him to the vet. Joe was out enjoying his first afternoon off since we bought the store. Josiah was home with the boys. The girls and I were at the store.

Since it was a holiday day weekend, it took several hours for us to figure out what to do with Blackjack. All the vets I called were gone for the weekend or they didn’t see goats. During that time we were able to discover many things. One, the bleeding was coming from a half inch gash in his back. Also, we found at least 5 wounds from a BB gun. And, a seven-year-old neighbor boy had taken a loaded gun and used Blackjack as his target. His aunt, who was not there when it happened, was a vet tech.

The aunt was great. She got us into a vet, attended to Blackjack’s care, and paid for all expenses. Blackjack had an x-ray and we found two BBs were still in him. Also, the gash needed several stitches. We were sent home with pain meds and instructions on how to give his antibiotics.

Over the next few days, Blackjack was lively. Other than his shaved areas, he looked great and healthy.

On July 5th, I noticed that Blackjack just didn’t seem right. He was peeing excessively and not eating. He also was rather lethargic. I had the aunt come and check him out. We forced him to swallow some water, and decided to check on him in the morning.

This morning, Blackjack was up, but he had vomited. I called Joe and had him get an appointment with the vet. It wasn’t till 3:30 that afternoon. It was 8:30 am. I decided to put him in a cool spot in the shade with some fresh water and come back and check on him later.

At 9:45 am, I went and checked on Blackjack, and he was dead.

I don’t know why he died. Maybe it was an adverse reaction to the antibiotics. Maybe it was something he ate. But it is my very uneducated belief that he died of lead poisoning from the BBs.

His death is more than the loss of a goat though. We have already had problems with a different neighbor kid and now this. We are already not liking being in the house we are in. And now this.

The store, while we love it, consumes us. We love ministering and being a part of the community. But we also would really like to relax at home, spend time in our yard, have time as a family just chilling.

After Blackjack’s death, we closed the store for the day and went up to the mountains to bury him and Josiah’s snake, Lucy, that died earlier this year. It was quite lovely and peaceful.

We have two places that we are looking at moving to. Neither are ideal, but is there such a thing?

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Speaking without Fear

I am struggling. Struggling with the desire to vent, to complain, to get some sympathy, and struggling with the fact that I don’t want everyone to know my business. I write because I find it soothing to get my thoughts down in writing. It clears my head. So maybe what I need is a journal.

Yet, I want to share my thoughts with others. I find it comforting to know that others may find inspiration or a kindred spirit in me. There is a narcissistic reason too. I like thinking that someone or maybe many someones are listening.

Yet, there are some who I don’t want to know my thoughts. Some who twist them. Some who really don’t listen. They only hear what they want to hear. They put themselves into my life when I never asked for them to be there. They don’t care what I want. It is always about them.

So I find myself with words circling around in my head with no outlet, no place to rest. Fear overwhelms my words so that they can not escape. I hate this turmoil, but I don’t know what to do. I just want to be able to speak without fear.

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Do You Have It?

Since the moment of our little girls’ births, my husband and I have been actively trying to protect their innocence and purity. We have dressed them in modest clothes opting not to dress them in fashions that would be seen on a grown woman instead of a child. We don’t put them in mini skirts, skorts, high heels, bikinis, midriffs. We don’t want to have to change the rules at a later date. We set the rules from the start. We want them to respect modesty, appreciate modesty. We want them to know that their bodies are beautiful; that they’re jewels waiting to be revealed at the right time.

We have also set up guidelines to protect the integrity of all our kids and ourselves. Some of my male friends who have worked on music with me know that I won’t practice alone with them. This has made things difficult at times, but everyone I have ever worked with has respected this completely. I appreciate their integrity.

Once my brother asked to take one of my girls to the movies. I had to tell him that we didn’t do that…having our girls be alone with a guy…any guy…fearing he would be offended. He wasn’t in the slightest. He completely respected our decision. He has integrity.

I read once that Billy Graham doesn’t do one on one counseling with women. He always has someone else with him. I think this is so wise. You might think this is foolish. I know better though.

I once trusted a guy…a friend. He told me that in order to really trust me he needed to see and feel every inch of my body. I was naive. I trusted him. An homeschooling author I really admired had her family of ten shattered apart when she discovered her husband had been molesting her oldest daughter. A brother, who was supposed to be protecting his siblings, decided instead to introduce porn to his sister. A police officer, the person who you tell your kids you can trust, rapes a woman. A man, who says she is just like a sister, sleeps with her and destroys forever the complete trust he had.

It happens every day. Men and women find themselves in situations they didn’t intend to be in. Take that politician. It started out as a simple exchange of e-mail addresses and private conversations. They never meant for it to turn into what it did.

But what if he had the integrity to say, “Sorry, for accountability purposes I don’t have private, intimate conversations with women. I am not going alone with you to lunch. Let’s keep it all in the open. Let’s have someone else there.”

Recently, a kind young man offered for us to come and live in his home with him. I politely told him later that I didn’t feel comfortable with that. There would be times when he might be alone with myself or one of my older daughters in his home. I respected his purity as much as my own daughters. I didn’t want it to be awkward for anyone including his future bride. I believe he is a trustworthy man. I have no doubt of that. But it is about integrity and accountability.

If you are offended that someone would have the “rules” of not being alone with you, then you need to ask yourself if you have integrity. Are you afraid of accountability? Any man worth his integrity would honor and welcome accountability.

I am very proud that my husband has this integrity and demands it of himself and others. He has taught me so much over  the years. And one thing he has taught me is that it is not about trust, but accountability and integrity.

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Holding on…Barely

I have always been the sort of person that likes to hear numbers. For example, if someone says, “so-and-so, had a really big baby”, then I want to know how big. If someone says they made a lot of money on something, I want to know how much.

Yet, it seems like I am a loner in this mentality. I want specifics. I want details. I don’t want generalities. I want the whole story. So this is generally how I write…with specifics, details, numbers. I have actually tried editing that stuff out, but it seems so not me! So for today’s blog, I am going to give numbers. Sorry to those of you who like generalities.

Our current rent is $600 a month, which after looking at other 2 bedroom/1 bath homes is a lot, but we also have one acre. Most rentals don’t have acreage. Also, our landlord has said we can paint, fix up the place, have goats, whatever. Most rentals don’t allow that.

There have been two other possible rentals available to us. One is 3 bed/1 bath (I think) and $845. The other is 4 bed/2 bath for $875. While the 4 bedroom has almost everything we are looking for, there is no way we could possibly swing that much money (and we wouldn’t be able to keep our goat). Right now we take no salary from the store. When we have a bill, we figure out a way to pay it. There is no extra. None.

Through my tips, I am usually able to scrounge enough together to pay for Zumba classes (which means a lot to my personal well-being). But I don’t have enough for hair cuts, shoes, clothes, or dog grooming.

So it is looking like even though we would like to move, the expense is just too much. Actually, it is too much to stay and too much to move. The electric bill and repair costs are a lot, but moving would be more.

I am feeling quite discouraged with the whole thing. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Will all this hard work ever pay off? Will our children just grow to resent us for having this store and this small run down house?

I am trying my best. I am pressing on. I holding on to hope.

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Alaskan Man

Several months ago, a man walked into our store for a cup of coffee. There were no other customers in at the time, and I struck up a conversation with him. He was visiting from Alaska. Now we get a lot of visitors from all over the world in our store and have had many from Alaska, but this guy was different.

At about 5’3″ and about 100 pounds, what he lacks in stature he makes up for in personality. He is dressed rather like an Indiana Jones with khaki cargo pants, Eskimo boots, and trusty hat. He also wears two leather straps across his chest loaded with knives, phone, stop watch, and who knows what else.

I give him his coffee in his mug and he pulls out this big knife to squeeze honey onto and stir his coffee. But his arsenal doesn’t scare me. No, he has a quiet way about him and a ready smile.

I saw him a couple of times that week and then not again until recently. Then I got to see him a lot!

Alaskan Man came in almost every day. We would chit-chat, and I got to know a lot about him and him about us. Soon he was in a predicament. He needed a place to stay. We didn’t help him, but I often wondered “what would Jesus do?”

He still came back. His friendship was not based on our ability to help him. Over the next month, Alaskan Man came several times a week if not every day. Towards the end of his visit, he even came with us to church a couple of times. Once he even scrubbed our bathroom to help us get ready for an event. He brought me morel mushrooms that he had hunted in the woods. He gave the kids little tokens of his gratitude.

You might start thinking that maybe this man was a con man. Well, I thought he might be too. So I decided to do a little research on him. Every thing he told us was true. I even asked him questions that I could research out. All legit. He even offered once for me to talk to his wife in Alaska, but by then I knew he was the real deal.

At one point,  I thought to myself, what if this was Jesus? What if it is like the scripture says?

“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

It isn’t very often that you meet someone as genuine and true as Alaskan Man. One Sunday, my pastor was preaching about the people God brings into your life. People that have a great impact. People that you would never have thought could influence you. I am honored and humbled to have known Alaskan Man, and I look forward to his return to the lower 48 some day.

May we all be so blessed to meet someone like Alaskan Man. And may we have the courage to trust and share our lives with them. Would you have?

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