Just One Story in a Lifetime of Miracles

Our only daughter, The Princess, turned 9 years old two days ago.  "Half way to eighteen," I always think on the 9 year birthday.  Half way to adulthood.  Is it really possible?

I can not imagine my life without this incredible child.  She is passionate, loving, service oriented, intelligent, creative... a joy to be around.  She lives life loud.

In many ways we are very different.  But in our deepest hearts we both value the same thing most highly - Jesus.  It is impossible for me to express how powerful this is.  It defines all of our interactions with each other and with the world.  We have moments when we struggle to understand each other, moments of emotion when our passions get away from us.  But when we bow our heads together to bring our challenges before Him, the sweetness that fills our love for each other is indescribable.

Of the three, The Princess is our middle child.  But she is not our second child.  Between Farmer Boy and The Princess we had another baby.  Our second child lived life only in my womb, and was miscarried when I was 13 weeks pregnant.

Because God is just like this and gives me gifts I didn't even know were available, a few days ago I stumbled upon an email I had written almost ten years ago, on February 17, 2001.  It is very long and detailed, but I felt I just had to share it here.  I have edited it slightly for clarity, but left much of it as I wrote it.  Finding it right before our daughter's birthday was especially meaningful.
From:     Patti
Subject:     God's healing hand
Date:     February 17, 2001 1:46:35 AM CST
I am sending this to you because you are someone who is a part of my life... each of you is part in a very different way.  To some of you this may echo your own experience, for others it may be something brand new.  While it may seem at first that I am just writing about myself, and my experience, the author of this story is God, and His hand is in every detail.  I share it because I am compelled to do so, because God's work is so awesome, and because I love Him and long to serve Him more than anything else in my life.
A few days ago, as I thought of the approaching anniversary of delivering our second child, I wondered how I would mark the day.  I remembered last year, how I hadn't planned anything, but how God moved me to write a testimony of His work in my life... even getting me out of bed to do it!  I thought about this past year, and the many challenges and changes and tremendous growth in faith I have experienced.  I wondered how it would be possible to write about it all, for it is so personal, and so many "little" things have happened that have been momentous.  I thought perhaps I wouldn't do anything at all, just remember.

But today, I have no doubt how to mark this day, again by recording the awesome work God has done in my life.  And of course I can't write about it all, for there have been health challenges, and special areas of increased knowledge and understanding of God's word, and a deeply personal trial that has forced me to turn to God alone in my need.  I have grown greatly in understanding of what forgiveness means, and what true submission looks like.  God has so much work left to do with me yet!

I will, however, write about one of my greatest joys, falling only behind serving God and loving my husband.  I will write about the blessing of being a mother.

Four years and twelve days ago I gave birth to a beautiful little boy.  His birth was quite different from what we had planned.  We had deeply desired a homebirth, had carefully studied, had found a wonderful midwife who taught us more each time we visited her than all the doctor's visits combined. Our baby, however, was breech, and Texas law prevents midwives from delivering breech babies at home.  For weeks we tried every imaginable thing to turn him head-down, including a procedure in the hospital.  It became clear that, for some reason, he needed to be in a upright position.

So we found an excellent physician, who agreed to allow us to birth our baby naturally, in the breech position.  This is extremely unusual these days (although it is generally much better for the baby), and was a step of faith for this doctor.  We were blessed by having a full labor, with all its attending benefits for baby and mother, but our son never managed to fully descend. Our physician performed a successful caesarian-section, and our beautiful, healthy boy was born.  God provided, and blessed us.

On Christmas Eve, 1998, we learned that I was pregnant again.  There was much rejoicing!  This pregnancy was more challenging from the beginning, in no small part due to the fact that I now had a toddler to care for.  Again we prepared for a homebirth.  I entered the 14th week on a Monday, and at 11:00 that morning I started bleeding.  Our midwife arranged for me to have an ultrasound at the office of the physician who had delivered our son, and this kind man was the one who had to tell us that our baby had no heartbeat, and, in fact, had died several weeks earlier.  We were devastated.  We headed home hoping for a natural miscarriage, and were met by my mother who had driven from her home two hours east to help us.

The next morning, I began to have regular, rhythmical contractions.  It was remarkable... a mini-labor. The pain never became as intense as it did with my labor with our first, but it was real, and I was so thankful to have a conscious experience of delivering this child.  At 11:10 on February 16, 1999 our tiny, tiny baby was born, only an inch or so long, too young yet to tell if a boy or a girl.  How hard it was, but I am eternally grateful that I got to see and hold this little gift from God, even though his spirit had already joined our Lord. 

Alas, though the baby was delivered, parts of the placenta would not deliver, and I began to hemorrhage.  Eventually we knew we needed to go to the hospital, so my mother drove me to our physician's hospital 20 minutes away, while my husband followed with our son in our car.  It was a good thing we went, as I continued to lose a lot of blood, and lost consciousness when we got to the hospital.  Our physician met us there, and took the time to sit with me and talk about "why?".  Bless him, for his answer was that we couldn't really know, and then he shared his faith.  I appreciated that so much.  It is a moment that stands clearly in my mind.  Soon after, he performed an emergency d&c to remove the rest of the placenta.  My physical recovery was relatively easy, although the blood loss made me weak.

I made a covered clay bowl to bury our baby in.  The first step when throwing is to center the clay on the wheel.  I struggled to properly center the clay that day.  But instead of getting frustrated and starting over with fresh clay, I felt God speak softly to me to keep working.  I realized that it was an honest offering... I am off-center, I can't make things perfect.  And it's okay.  The bowl turned out beautifully even though off-center, and I saw God's hand in that too.  He takes the terribly off-centered lumpy piece of clay that I am, and makes me beautiful, when I submit to His pushes.  I am still off-centered, but useful, and beautiful, when I let God be my potter.  
We inscribed scripture and messages to our little one inside the bowl.  I did not fire it, for I wanted it to disintegrate into the ground along with our child's body ("for dust you are and to dust you will return" Genesis 3:19).  We buried our child beneath a new white redbud tree that we planted in his honor.  This tree is covered with white blossoms every February.  Indeed, as I write, the buds are forming for another season of glorious flowers. God is good.

Today, two more years have passed.  In the past two years God has changed my life.  The grief of losing our child brought me into much deeper relationship with Him, and He has grown me, truly transforming me into a new creation ("Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17) .  More than anything, I trust Him, I am convinced that He is real and alive, and in my life.  That He is incredibly powerful, and that His son Jesus changed everything about how God and humans may interact.  That without Jesus' sacrifice and the Holy Spirit, I couldn't talk with God as I do; without Jesus, I would still be trying to prove myself worthy, and earn my way into God's good graces... a futile effort; without Jesus, I would be without hope.  The fact that I can breathe itself is evidence of how much I lean on God's grace every moment of my life.  How much more I am aware of my weakness when I can't help myself from doing and thinking all sorts of things that deny Jesus' command "Love your neighbor as yourself"!  Yet God's grace extends over me, His mercy seems limitless, and His forgiveness is real.

How true is the verse "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28)!  God is so much bigger than I could have imagined, so much more loving, so much more RIGHT. God would look very different if I was the one at the drawing board, but He has shown me that truth will not submit to my ideas of what seems "nice."  God is God and that's that, whether I understand or not.

Letting go of my need to understand, and my desire to manipulate my ideas of God into what I think is a "good" God, have been instrumental in helping me to understand the nature of submission.  God has been working on me intensely in many ways for the past two years, to teach me about truly letting go of my worry and desire to control the circumstances in my life.  Jesus said "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?" (Luke 12:25-26).

I know God knows the desires of my heart, I believe He longs to hear me talk with Him, no matter what it is about.  When I bring all my feelings and thoughts to Him, He orders them.  He is very efficient at making me aware of inappropriate attitudes!  And He is faithful and so very tender in comforting me.  He speaks most clearly through trustworthy scripture.  When I was agonizing over our plans to move overseas, for example, He reminded me, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) What peace!

So, I have willingly and regularly lifted to the Lord my desire to have another child, at the same time accepting (most of the time!) that His plan is perfect, no matter what.  About a month ago, out of the blue, a friend mentioned that she had been thinking of lending me the book Supernatural Childbirth.  This is a Christian book for pregnant women, but also has a section which lists scriptures for women who are trying to conceive. They are verses related to fertility, like Deut 7:13-14 and Exodus 23:25-26.  I was quite surprised she mentioned it, because I have not generally shared my desire to have another child.  A few days later I felt led to ask for prayers for healing for my womb during healing prayers at our church service, as I had some concerns due to the two surgeries I had undergone in my two pregnancies.  Two people prayed for me, and one suggested I begin to pray scripture over my uterus, claiming God's promises.  This was confirmation of my friend's suggestion.  Later that week I was able to copy down the verses into my bible, so that I could refer to them at home in my prayer time.

Last Friday, Feb. 9, I was praying several scriptures over my womb during my morning quiet time.  As I prayed for complete healing and restoration, I heard myself praying for "the baby growing within".  I was stunned, and stopped short, then laughed and offered it to God, wondering.  Later that day I was at my church's women's bible study.  After our study we take time to pray for one another.  My prayer request was "guidance for our daily schedule", but as we were praying, I felt led to ask the woman who would be praying for me to pray for healing for my womb.  She did, and she too prayed for the child growing within me!  She was stunned when I later told her I didn't know that I was pregnant and said she just felt led to pray in that way.  My dear friend Sandy then told me that when I sat down next to her earlier that morning she had thought to herself "I'll bet she's pregnant."  I left church that day wondering and wondering.

I didn't mention anything to my husband, but the next day, I did something unusually silly or clumsy and he said "You're probably pregnant."  Later that afternoon I mentioned that I was feeling tired, and he said it again.  Then he told me that he had been thinking about how he hadn't had any inkling that I might be pregnant the first two times, and was thinking about it now.  Of course, I just had to tell him what had happened the day before!  He was amazed too!

We could hardly wait to take a test!  And on Valentine's Day, our suspicions and little hints from God were confirmed... I am pregnant with our third child!  What an incredible blessing!  We didn't tell our son (who has been asking and praying for a sibling for a good year) immediately, because my husband had to go to work before he was awake.  That morning as our boy and I lay snuggling on the bed, I kissed him and called him my baby, and he protested, "No Mama, the baby is growing inside your body."  I couldn't believe my ears!  Later, when we did tell him, he was very happy, although a little frustrated that he couldn't feel it yet.  He does understand he will have to wait a long time to meet the baby.  He told his Grandma it will be "four years, no, longer, six I think."

We are so very excited that God has blessed us with another child, and are amazed by the way in which we found out... and so many other people as well (even a friend in Michigan dreamed I was pregnant several days before we knew).  God is so giving, so full of abundant blessings.  I feel as if He is pouring volumes of soothing waters into our parched mouths, surrounding us with ever more hope and goodness.  I know that His hope and peace is not linked to circumstance.  Surely we rejoice in God's gift to us! Yet, as I reflect on the past two years, I know that the most terrific trials have borne the greatest fruit in my life.  Without God, I would be growing into a bitter old woman.  With God I am set free from the ties that bind me here, and released into His infinite care right now.  I can let go, and trust His goodness for me, and accept that I can never see the whole picture; my job is to be obedient and faithful and full of thanksgiving for every single thing.  And oh how the floodgates open!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Much love to each of you precious children of God.  How your Father loves you!!!


That little girl who made her presence known to the world even before a pregnancy test could confirm her existence is the same little girl I wrap in my arms today as we come before our Father in prayer.  My little 9 year old Princess.  Oh how deep is the Father's love for us!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 34 ~ Funny face

Today is The Princess' 9th birthday.  I like to make a big deal about birthdays in our family.  It is a wonderful opportunity to focus on the unique gift that each individual is.

So for the children, on their birthday they can choose to take a vacation day from school, choose the menu for each meal, and help plan their "friend" party (which is generally on a different day).

Breakfast is usually in bed, just for the fun of it.  Today I made a special plate for The Princess for her breakfast.  When she saw it she smiled and said "Oh Mama!  This is your sprinkle today!"

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 33 ~ Loaf of Bread

My parents came home to Texas after being away for several months.  The following day was The Princess' birthday, so they came to visit us.  I was happy to be able to give Mom a loaf of homemade bread to take home since she had not had time to go to the grocery store.  She prefers homemade but often is too busy to do it herself.

A Woman's Beauty

I have never had much of a head for fashion.  I grew up in the 70's, so it's not completely my fault.

Is Jaclyn Smith under arrest? Maybe they all should be.
My mom spent two years in the Peace Corps before marrying my dad, and there's nothing like living in abject poverty to give you an attitude adjustment on the material world.  We grew up well cared for, but constantly aware that there were people with far less than us.  I didn't think about what I wore, unless it was uncomfortable (scratchy wool sweaters, ick!).

Then I entered seventh grade, where my real education began.  I learned that without a Calvin Klein label, my jeans were inferior.  I learned that shirts acceptable for public wear required a tiny Izod alligator.  I found out I was not one of the cool kids.  And I got braces... to complement my glasses.

If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger, right?  Ugh.

I started paying more attention to my appearance.  Ribbon barrettes and french braids in my hair, collars turned up, big hoop earrings, shoulder pads, neon shirts, overalls with one strap undone (what were we thinking?), makeup.  It was the eighties.  Fashion ex-tra-va-ganza.

Square Pegs was my actual life. Glasses, ribbon barrettes and all.

As I headed into early adulthood I settled into a comfortable look.  I suppose you could call it granola.  Birkenstocks, peasant skirts, tie-dye.  Nineties liberal university student.  "Look at me!  I'm intellectual and peaceful."

In the nineties I got married, and a few years later became a mom.  I started losing track.  I no longer had any disposable income or time to go to the clothing store.  The only way I had kept up with fashions had been seeing what the kids in school were wearing and what was in the stores.  When I became a mother, the only fashion trends I was spotting were in sizes 3-24 months.

Then we had another baby.  Moved to a farm.  Had a third baby.  I didn't just lose track, I no longer even thought about the track!

And not to mix metaphors, but isn't contemporary fashion just like a running track?  An endless loop of running in circles, trying to keep up with the changing trends, and trying to keep enough cash on hand to do it?  Finish a loop and discard the last loop's fashion while trying to acquire the new loop's accessories and mocking the loop before last?  I'm sweating and out of breath just thinking about it.

But back to my exciting fashion history - here we are in 2010.  I try not to be a complete slob, but I don't always succeed.  I have farm clothes and "town" clothes, but I am afraid to tally the number of times I have left the house in "town" clothes only to discover a stain, or a missing button, or few too many wrinkles.

I have found over the years that I feel most comfortable in skirts (so much cooler and less restrictive... not that I have a belly or anything.  Ahem).  I also like feeling feminine.  And my husband thinks I look pretty in skirts.  I have a very simple wardrobe now, consisting of skirts and plain shirts (with some sweaters for the two weeks of winter we get in Central Texas).  I really don't think much about what I wear any more, in large part because I have so many other things to think about... parenting, homeschooling, keeping the house and farm running, and a bajillion other little things that insist on careening around in my brain.

But sometimes I look in the mirror and think: who is that old woman staring back at me?  And I wonder, am I wrong for not paying much attention to my appearance?  Do people look at me and think, "Disaster!"  Not really the best way to be approachable.

As a Christian I consider myself an ambassador for Christ.  Am I being a good representative?

For whom do I wish to be beautiful?  For what purpose does God call me to beauty?  And what does beauty look like to Him?

I suppose on some level I still wish to be beautiful simply out of pride.  More importantly, I want to be beautiful for my husband.  I learned early on that my ideas of what look good were not necessarily the same as his. So now I ask him. 

But mostly, I want to be beautiful for my Lord.  To understand what that means, I look in His word.

Certainly there are objective matters that are addressed, such as dressing modestly, wearing a head covering and having long hair, dressing like a woman.  And I think it is possible to legitimately interpret these scriptures in different ways.

But I believe that the Lord cares mostly about our hearts...
"Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:3-4
God's view of beauty?  A gentle and quiet spirit.  He looks at our insides, not our outsides.
"God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
Miraculously, when our insides are submitted to Him, He often transforms our outsides.

When we first moved to our farm, we spent some time visiting other churches.  One Sunday we visited a Beachy-Amish Mennonite church.  We did not know what to expect, and found ourselves in a church where the men and women sat on opposite sides, singing was a cappella, and the women wore plain dress and head coverings.  After the service, we were invited back to the home of one of the families for a meal.  I spent my time in the kitchen with two sweet, gracious, women.

I am quite sure that neither woman had ever had a bit of makeup touch her skin.  They were both beautiful.  Gentle, peaceful, cheerful, and completely oblivious to current trends in fashion.

On our way home that day, we stopped by the store.  As I walked through WalMart I felt as though I had gone from the holy to the profane.  The short shorts and garish makeup on the shoppers jarred me after the gentle voices and simple, feminine appearance of the Mennonite women.

We become so used to what is presented as beauty in our culture that it is easy to become confused about God's design for beauty in women.  I once read a Christian author who believed that a reasonable amount of time to spend on her appearance was a tithe amount - 10% of her day.  That would be at least an hour and a half each day.  It seems to me that God has an awful lot of work for us to do in the world that could be done with an extra ten and a half hours per week.

Keeping the faces of those gentle, simple Mennonite women before me is a soft reminder that God has already made me beautiful.  I must care for this mortal body of mine, but too much attention to it would be a distraction.  I pray that my adornment will be that of a gentle and quiet spirit... I pray that He will grow that spirit in me.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 32 ~ Dinner Break

We have some friends whose children attend the same homeschooling sports program our children attend.  They meet for three hours, on Monday afternoons.

On Monday evenings, our church holds its music practice.  Both of our families also attend this practice.  So I invited the other mom to take the night off from cooking dinner, come to the church early, and let me prepare a meal for all of us.  She accepted!

It was just a simple dinner... spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and bread, with fruit and graham grackers for dessert.  But it was a great opportunity to visit and get to know our friends better.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 31 ~ Extra Chapter

We did the extra chapter sprinkle again tonight.  It was a happy wiggly girl who snuggled into me tonight on the couch!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 30 ~ Delivery Service

The Princess decided to keep things very small for her birthday sleepover.  She invited just three friends, two of whom live an hour or more away.  On Thursday night we found out that one the the girls was sick and would not be able to come.  Because we live so far away, the two families had been sharing girl-delivery duties.  Now one family was going to have drive a total of six hours just so their daughter could come to the party.

This didn't seem fun, especially since they have younger children as well.  Six hours in the car for a 2 year old is not a nice way to spend the weekend.  So I offered to drive into the city and meet the dad who was going to be there doing errands on Saturday morning.  It worked out perfectly, and The Princess was thrilled to have an extra hour with one of her friends.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 29 ~ Special Cake

The Princess is turning 9 next week.  For her party with her friends she decided to have a small sleepover.  Trying to be thoughtful to the cook, she proposed a very simple menu, including brownie sundaes for dessert.

I got to thinking that maybe I could sprinkle her with a surprise special dessert.  So I asked her a few questions and determined that she was not particularly attached to the brownie sundae.  After a few more questions, I was ready to create.

I thought it would be fun to try an ice cream cake since she had been thinking abut ice cream, and she had never had an ice cream cake.  My children enjoy theme-type cakes, so I tried to think of something she likes.  I looked for cat cakes and found some, but nothing really spoke to me.

Then I found a slumber party cake.  I knew I was on to something!

The original slumber party cake was a regular cake with twinkies on top.  Call me a snob, but I was not willing to use twinkies.  I determined to convert the cake to ice cream, and replace the twinkies.

I found an easy ice cream cake recipe that is based on ice cream sandwiches.  I bought an extra box of miniature ice cream sandwiches to make the girls' bodies (and as it turned out, to increase the size of the base cake).

I learned a few things about working with ice cream.  The first, and most important, is that it melts.  And in Texas, even in October, it melts quickly.  I also learned that regular icing on ice cream that is vertical slides right off.  So my brilliant idea to make faces from marshmallow circles painted with flesh toned ice cream (just a mix of vanilla and strawberry) turned into a slippery mess of dripping flesh tone and sliding black features.  The girls ended up with pasty-white-just-marshmallow heads, though I tried to brighten them up a bit by crushing some red sugar and dabbing it on the cheeks.

The gasps and squeals were well worth the effort.   :-)

The Princess and her friends

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 28 ~ A Birthday Call

This was a day in which I wanted to do something particular but couldn't.  Today is an old friend's birthday.  I haven't talked with her in several years.  So my plan for today was to surprise her with a phone call.  Due to some frustrating problems with our phone, I had to wait until 9:00pm to call her, but then ended up not being able to do it due to family needs.

So I have to wait until Saturday to actually make the call.  But that call will "count" for today's sprinkle, as I will be also doing another one.  Lesson - sometimes I just have to be flexible and roll with it. 

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 27 ~ Handmade Mittens

Last winter Little Warrior begged me to make him some mittens.  I was in the middle of several knitting projects, and just couldn't start another one.  But we discussed the design and the colors, and when there was a sale, I bought the yarn.  In early spring I started them, but the craziness of spring on a farm took over and my knitting was set aside for the season.

I took up the mittens again recently, and have been knitting in stolen moments.  I finally finished them today.  Because Little Warrior's primary love language is gifts (that boy would wrap up and give away the shirt on his back), I wrapped them and put them at his place before breakfast.

He was baffled by a gift at his seat, and asked "Is it my birthday?"  The finished mittens were met with a squeal of delight, and he put them right on.  He wore them off and on throughout the day, even though it is still getting to the mid-80's here in Texas.  He won't get nearly as much wear out of mittens as he would if he lived in a place that actually has seasons, but there will be a few months when he will be able to put them to real use.

Most of all, his cuddly warm hands tell him Mama loves him.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 26 ~ Indian food

Tonight I had the joy of spending time with two old friends.  We live a long way from each other (over an hour drive) so it was a rare treat indeed.

In my little Texas town, there is not much that is exciting food-wise.  A lot of bland chains.  A bunch of Mexican and BBQ joints.  I wanted something different, something you can't get in Podunk, Texas.

We met in the big city, and what we got was Indian food.  Oh, the smells.  Oh the taste.  Oh the happiness!

I sprinkled one of my friends, a hard working mama, by picking up her check tonight.  It was a pleasure to do!  Once again, I am quite sure that I am sponging up way more sprinkles than I am flinging about!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 25 ~ Bakery date!

Wow, am I really a quarter of the way through this challenge?   I sure am having fun!

Today I took Little Warrior on a little date.  He loves our small town bakery, and often asks for "special time" with Mama at the bakery.  We have not been since the spring, but he has not stopped asking.

So today, while the older children were in their homeschool PE class with their friends, my little man and I had a treat.  He was so excited when I told him where we were going, he actually screamed, right there on Main Street.  :-)

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 24 ~ A book of prayers

I am in awe of the power of prayer.   For mysterious reasons, God desires us to join in His work on earth by praying for His children.  One thing I know... praying changes me.  How can time in God's presence not?

But incredibly, it also does affect others.  Our heartfelt prayers for those we love, and even for those we don't know, are heard and responded to.  Lives change as the result of prayer.

In no area is prayer more important than in our marriages.  The marriage is the heart of a family.  The family is the heart of society.  Break a marriage and you break a family.  Break a family and you have a mess of tangled and destroyed relationships that not only hurt those directly involved, but have a negative ripple effect out into the world.

Over the past few years I have felt more and more convicted that I not only have the privilege of praying for my husband, I have the responsibility.  On my knees, I grow in compassion and love for him even more.  When I pray for The Bard, it helps me to see him as God sees him... a beloved son.  And incredibly, when I pray for him, things happen.  I do not make these things happen, God does.  But what a powerful sign to me of His listening ear, and His call to me as a wife to pray without ceasing for the man with whom I have been joined.

Wives, I encourage you, I strongly urge you, to make the commitment to pray daily for your husbands.  It makes a difference.  You both will be blessed.

One of my favorite books about praying for husbands is by Stormie O'Martian: The Power of the Praying Wife.  Stormie takes the reader through her personal story, then 30 chapters of discussion, scripture and prayer on 30 different topics relating to our husbands.  At one time I went through the book praying a topic a day.  Now I use it as a reference, particularly for scriptures to pray when a certain need has arisen.

My little sprinkling today was to give a copy of this book to a sweet friend of mine.  I pray that her marriage will be blessed by her prayers for her husband!

You can't do it all

I have been blessed with a full life.  We have a little homestead, and we educate our children at home.  We eat mostly from scratch and try to involve ourselves in ministry when possible.  I like to write, knit, sing, entertain visitors, read, and more.

I am periodically asked by non-homeschoolers, or people who don't live out in the country, "How do you do it all?" 

The answer is simple.   I don't!

For one thing, I often don't do it all at once.  There are times when I am intensely focused on homestead-related projects (especially in the spring), and times when the garden is woefully neglected or even non-existent because my focus is on school.  I rarely pick up my knitting between March and September.  We have begun to understand the rhythm of the year and don't try to do everything all the time.

For another, my house is less than pristine.  I am schedule-challenged... I am not one of those women who has the house running like clockwork, meals at a specific time (and punctual), no-compromise bedtimes.  I often fantasize of a perfect life with a perfect schedule.  A nicely paced schedule, a little done on each task each day.  Repeatedly I've tried to translate my fantasies into reality by implementing The New Perfect Schedule and repeatedly I have forgotten to watch the clock, or even look at the list.

Most importantly, people come first.  There have been times when I have had to take a deep breath and make a conscious decision to set my agenda aside, and seize the moment to have a heart to heart with a questioning child.  Or to spend hours addressing a character issue.  Or to listen to and pray for a burdened friend.  Many tasks are left undone when you make people the priority.

I have a friend who is amazingly successful at keeping her large homeschooled family on schedule.  Her house is always tidy, her schedule always intact.  In addition to this, she cooks from scratch and enjoys crafting.  I try to glean ideas from her when I can.  I am in awe of this mom.  Yet recently, I learned that she feels like she spends more time cleaning the house than enjoying her children. This is something she wants to change.

I have another friend who has a lovely tidy home, very well behaved children, and has designed a rigorous and amazing educational program for her children.  Another inspirational mother.  Yet she is yearning for a heart connection with her children that she feels is missing.

These two women, both of whom I love and admire greatly, may be different from me, yet, like me, they want more.  They see that something in their life is not as they want it to be, even though to me, looking in from outside, it looks perfect.

Two things come to mind.

The first is obvious... you just can't judge a book by its cover.   You can't truly know what is in a person's heart by looking at how she orders her life.  And you shouldn't even try (have a look at Matthew 7:1-2).

The second is more subtle.  None of us can do it all.  But each of us has God-given strengths that are blessings.

We are called to do our absolute best and that will look different for each of us.  There is great danger in comparing our lives to others'.  I would go so far as to say we can fall into the sin of coveting (one of the Ten Commandments!) if we don't guard our minds in this area.

It's not that we should be complacent, or wallow in our failings.  It is not okay for me to say "I am just a messy person."  I have a responsibility to try to figure out a better way to manage the details, not only to bring greater peace into our home, but also because my children need to know how to develop habits that will bring peace to their own lives now, and as adults.

However, we need to keep our flaws in perspective.  I have a tendency to look at my life as if through a telescope, bringing certain issues into great focus (and magnification) and leaving the rest to be obscured by that black perimeter.  For me this can become self-defeating... if I focus intensely on, and become discouraged by, my weaknesses, I become less able to function well in the areas which come naturally to me.  If I panic about a messy room and start fussing at my children, I put pressure on the heart connections that we have already built.  When my children look back on their childhoods, a grouchy mother will be more memorable than a cluttered school room.  And I'd prefer to not be storing grouchy-mama-memories up in my children.

We just can't do it all, mamas, but we can trust that God knew what He was doing when He gave each of us our children.  We can also be grateful that because of our imperfections, our children will have one more reason to know that they need a Savior.  We will make mistakes.  We will hurt their feelings. 

Hear it again.

You can't do it all.  

Do what you do best, with all your heart.  Don't compare yourself to the other mothers around you.  They are struggling too.  And join me in offering your failings to God to be redeemed.  When He does, you and I and everyone who loves us will know that it was God's miraculous hand.  And He will be glorified!

Little Warrior spreads joy...

... and I am swimming in its sweetness...

"Mama, when you kiss me, my cheeks and your kisses dance together."

"And when you say something nice to me, I'm so happy and my brain actually has a party!"

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 23 ~ Another Surprise!

Can't tell you about this one either, yet.  :-)  Shhhhhhhhhhhhh......


I love books.  Really, really, really love books.  My love might, maybe, possibly, have the teeniest-weeniest hint of an obsession to it.

But I also have to live in my house.  And walk around, occasionally.  So, despite the fact that I can not do it at the pace which would preclude buying yet more bookshelves {insert husband's rolling eyes}, I do try to weed out books I no longer need, and use them to fund the purchase of more books homeschooling resources.

One day I was looking at, and sorting, the mess that is my gotta-get-this-on-ebay-or-homeschool-classifieds-or-something-for-Pete's-sake-and-reclaim-this-corner pile.   There were homeschool books, there were baby books.  Being 41, I am suspecting that my baby days are done, and it was time to say goodbye (hard though it was).

I am on an email list with some other Texan moms who seem to be forever giving birth, and had the brilliant idea to post my baby books there before I tried to sell them elsewhere.

Sure enough, one young mom wanted to buy two of the books.

This sweet young woman and her husband fostered a little boy, then adopted him.  In the meantime she gave birth to another little boy.  And in October they added two more little foster boys to the family.  I believe their boys are 1, 2, 3 and 4 now.  Can I get a collective "Wow!"?

What a gift she and her husband are giving these little men!  I knew just what I wanted to do.  I asked her for her address, and packaged the books up, including a note telling her not to send any money, and what an amazing work I think she is doing for God.  Just a word of encouragement.  Isn't she awesome?

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 22 ~ A Surprise

Can't tell you about this one yet!  I'll update when I can.  ;-)


This one was sooo fun.  I put together a care package for my sweet friend and prayer partner who now, tragically, lives in a different country!  Wah!

The good news is that homemade jam CAN get through Canadian customs!  I sent her some blueberry lemon jam, some tea and a note.  Whenever we are together (which is terribly rare now) we sit and drink tea and knit.  And laugh and laugh.  I miss her so!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 21 ~ Dinner for Sweet Moms

This summer I felt led to start a monthly gathering for mothers; a time to share a meal and spend some time talking about important issues in our lives, while looking in God's word.

Tonight there were eight of us around the table.  We ate a simple meal of home-grown chicken, brown and wild rice, and a salad.  For dessert we had fruit, and gluten-free brownies.  Several of the women can't eat wheat so the meal was gluten-free.  One of the gluten-free moms even brought some delicious home-made gluten-free bread.

We talked about talking.  We looked in the bible to see why words matter to God, how we should speak, and what we should (and shouldn't) speak about.  We prayed.  We laughed.  We grew to love each other more.

And once again, in response to my feeble attempts to sprinkle joy,  God poured a waterfall of life-filled joy and love all over me this evening.  God is good all the time!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 20 ~ Pumpkin Cookies

I like to cook.  I love to bake.  I especially like to bake from scratch.

Sometimes it's fun to try something a little different.

Today at the grocery store I saw pumpkin cut-out sugar cookies.  The kind you bake at home.  I had never bought cut-out cookies before, and thought it would be fun to surprise the kids.

I learned a few things...
  • Some cut-out cookies are surprising colors.  Pumpkin cut-out sugar cookies are orange.  It is not surprising that pumpkin cookies are orange.  It is surprising that sugar cookies are orange.
  • Cut-out cookies come as part of a sheet of dough.  As in one big rectangle with pumpkin imprints.  This means there are lots of scraps after you put the pumpkins on the cookie sheet.  The wrapper generously alerts you to the do's and don'ts of cookie scraps: DO make them into balls and cook them.  DON'T eat them raw.  Because that orange dough just looks sooo delectable.
  • Put the dough in the fridge between batches.  Trust me on this one. 
  • The Princess did not, I mean did not, want any of the faces to be sad, mean, scary or otherwise unpleasant.  She stated this emphatically before we opened the package.  We then spent a good bit of time creating stories that turned scared pumpkins into surprised pumpkins and wily pumpkins into laughing-with-silly-little-squinty-eyes pumpkins.
  • Using chocolate chips as facial features not only makes them a more autumnal orange/brown combo, it also makes them more chocolatey.  :-)
We had fun with this one, then settled down on the couch for a chapter from the Last Battle.   Only one chapter to go! 

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 19 ~ Love Note

My incredible husband is the reason I am able to sit at this computer and write.  He works unbelievably hard to provide for our family... we have abundant healthful food, we have a lovely home and farm, I am able to stay home and educate our chiuldren, we have this very computer on which I am typing.  And so much more.

It awes me that my man takes responsibility for his family in this way.  The Bard knows that our lives literally depend upon him.  I do not earn any income... he is our sole provider.  It is a tremendous privilege to be cared for by him.  This gift also comes with freedom for the children and me... freedom to learn as homeschoolers.

Today I wrote a little note and tucked it in a secret place where I knew he would find it.  And I suppose this post is an extension of that note.  A public version. 

Thank you, my love. 

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 18 ~ A Donation

I have been trying to bring more peace into our home by going through our belongings and moving things out.

A few weeks ago, I pulled my electric breast pump out of the back closet and put it in my pile of things to sell.  As much as I would like to have more children, I expect that my next baby will be a grand-baby.  It is time to let go.

As I was cleaning it up, it occurred to me that while it sure would be nice to have some extra cash to buy school books, there might be a better option for the pump.  So I contacted our local Pregnancy Resource Center, and they were thrilled!

Today I brought the freshened up and sparkling breast pump to the office and donated it.  It felt great knowing that it might help someone be able to breastfeed her child for longer.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 17 ~ A Homemade Thank You

Just felt inspired this morning to throw together a note and some goodies for one of the women at our church.  She has been faithfully singing in the music ministry for 13 years and decided to take a break.  Her gifts have blessed so many, and I wanted to let her know how she has blessed me. 

A note, a loaf of bread and a jar of lemon blueberry jam. 

I had no idea homemade bread is her favorite thing to eat.  That made me so happy!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 16 ~ A Message of Love

Today I decided to call an old friend.

I didn't reach her, but left her a message telling her I missed her and was thinking of her.  And that I love her.

So simple.

Too often left unsaid.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 15 ~ Writing to Kamila

We have sponsored a little girl in Ethiopia through Compassion International since before Farmer Boy was born. She is no longer a little girl, now a young woman on the cusp of adulthood.

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have been an abysmal correspondent with this precious child.  I used to send her pictures with my letters, but the advent of digital photography, combined with my inability to ever mail anything in a timely fashion (my children's Christmas thank you's regularly get mailed in March) have turned me into a wretched sponsor indeed.

Recently Kamila sent us a letter and said plainly "Why don't you ever send a picture?"  Shortly thereafter I read Lisa-Jo's post "Lame Sponsors of the World Unite!".  Can you say conviction?

So we drew pictures and wrote letters, and after three attempts (oh memory stick, why do you insist on leaping out of my purse before I leave the house?), I finally managed to have printed pictures in hand!  Yay!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 14 ~ Time to Listen

Tonight my oldest mentioned in an offhand way that he had created a new character for the endless series of stories and games that he is inventing.  I decided that it was time to sit down and give him my ear.

After the younger children were in bed, we sat on the couch, and we went through the aspects of his creature one by one, in great detail.  Oh, can this boy be detailed!  Honestly, it is hard for me to understand a lot of what he says because he devises complex point systems that I don't grasp.  But I tried!

The older he gets, the more our interests diverge, and I have to be very intentional about listening to him talk about things like this.  I don't do it often enough.  It is important to me to keep our relationship strong, and if I am disinterested in the things about which he cares, I fear it will wither our bond.  It is worth every effort I can make to try to grasp his creations.  It is a window into his mind.

And a sweet excuse to snuggle up on the couch with my lanky boy.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 13 ~ ARRGH!

No, not arrgh as in "I am so frustrated!"   

Arrgh as in "I am Pirate Sarah!"

A spontaneous sprinkle today for Little Warrior (two in a row!).  He asked me to play Pirates ("Don't worry, Mama, we're good pirates") and resisting my first inclination to beg off because of my to do list, I thought rubber meet road and said "Sure!"

Turns out the life of a "good" pirate is pretty easy, at least for good girl pirates.  I mostly sat on the playscape while he steered and looked through telescopes.  There were no battles or danger of any kind.  I was even allowed to bring my camera and take numerous pictures of Pirate Jack (his name of choice, amusing given that none of my kids has even heard of Pirates of the Caribbean), and of the view as I lay on the playscape.

Once we disembarked, we explored the new world we had discovered (our house) which was filled with strange rocks of all shapes and sizes.  They bore strange resemblance to doors, chairs, tables, etc.

Undoubtedly thanks to the fact that his only reference to pirates is the Veggie Tales' brilliant Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, it was an extremely pleasant way to spend time with a four year old.

Thoughts on the Joy Sprinkling Challenge

A few weeks back I wrote about the difference between joy and happiness, and how happiness depends on external circumstances, while joy grows out of love... our love for God, His love for us, and how that is reflected in our lives with others.

So you may be wondering why I would call my little challenge "joy sprinkling" instead of "happiness sprinkling."  After all, neither a game with Mama nor a cinnamon roll are going to bring abiding joy.

While my daily sprinklings are certainly external, they are driven by my care for each of the recipients.  Each sprinkling is a reflection of the circumstances of the other's life, his or her personality, and our relationship. It is my attempt to show my love in a way that is different from the normal serving I do as a mother and wife.

Love is like that, isn't it?  Revealed in action.  As mothers we wash dishes, we wipe bottoms, we teach lessons... outward and visible signs of the love that drives us.  I do these things every day, and they are habit.  They are of great value, and yes, they sprinkle joy too.  A home that is loving and safe is a gift that many do not have... all your efforts to make your home a haven of blessing and peace are worthwhile.  A shelter in the storm, and most importantly, the place to be introduced to Jesus, the source of abiding joy.

I think, though, that sometimes we become weary.  As the years roll into decades of washing, wiping, teaching... sometimes the energy lags.  My heart and mind are convinced that my most important ministry right now is to my family.  Yet sometimes my body (my sin nature!) doesn't want to cooperate.

I challenged myself (admittedly with fear and trembling) to act intentionally to outwardly bless others daily in a new way, partly to get myself out of my own rut.  I have struggled with myself over whether or not being public about this was the best thing to do.  I greatly fear that it will seem as if I am being prideful about this project.  On the contrary, I know in my very center that it is not enough.  Never can be enough.

I am well aware that what I have been doing is in some ways akin to adding icing flowers to an already frosted cake.  We are ridiculously, opulently wealthy in the United States, compared to most of the people in the world.  I know this, but for this moment in my life, I am here, and the people I am called to serve are the people in my right-now world.

Being the selfish creature that I am, being accountable to write about it helps me to do it.  Today is day 13, and I still have 87 to go.  Eighty seven more ways to find to bless someone.  I pray for creativity.  There are people I want to sprinkle, but have no idea how.  There are needs larger than I can wrap my mind around.  But not too big for the vastness of God's mind.

Friends, I hope that today you will choose to find a way to specially bless someone in your life, finding a new way to show them your love.  Because all the love you have to offer is a gift.  None of it is your own.
We love, because He first loved us.  ~ 1 John 4:19
And in His great mercy, as you pour out your life as an offering, you will be filled up to the measure of all the fullness of God!
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  ~ Luke 6:38
Please share with me how you are choosing to act in love and sprinkle joy in your corner of the world.  It's an encouragement to me to persevere, and I just might glean some new ideas... after all... eighty seven days!

cake photo by phaedra wilkinson

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 12 ~ Kitchen Time with Mama aka Treat #2

Little Warrior likes Rice Krispie Treats.  I did not know that he had such an, um, attachment to them.  He was quite surprised yesterday to find out that the pan I made was not scheduled for an appearance on his dinner table.  He managed to keep his emotions in check enough to ask if we could make some more today, just for our family. 

Lucky for Little Warrior that Mama had stocked up on supplies because of the bake sale.  This afternoon we got down to business with this challenging recipe (ahem), and soon had a pan of treats cooling on the counter. 

Proof positive that not much time is necessary to sprinkle joy... just being attuned to what will bring a smile.  My joy was hanging out with my sweet little guy.  I do love that boy.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 11 ~ A Treat

What do you do when you have Rice Krispies, butter and marshmallows in the house?  Why, make Rice Krispie Treats of course!

Today I made a pan of Rice Krispie Treats for The Bard to bring to music practice at church, just for fun.  I left a bit in the pot so that the kids (and I!) could have a little treat too.  So totally devoid of nutrition.  So totally yummy!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 10 ~ Special Game Time

This evening before bedtime I whispered in The Princess' ear, "I want to sprinkle you, today... shall we play a game?"

Her face!  You would have thought I had told her we were going on a grand adventure!  "Yes!" she squealed, and we scurried to the game shelf to choose something she would enjoy.

We played a fierce game of Othello (boy is she a careful strategist), and I was very close to being swept off the board!  But in the end I rallied.

We had an extra surprise, when we discovered that after years of slightly handicapped playing, we finally have all the game pieces back in the box!  My children often use game pieces from store-bought games to create their own games, and the unfortunate side-effect of this creativity is that many of our games are missing pieces.  Our closet cleaning efforts this summer have apparently paid off!

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 9 ~ Bake Sale

This little sprinkle was a family effort.  Our local pregnancy resource center was holding a bake sale fundraiser, and it seemed a perfect way for our family to become involved in supporting their important work.  I baked brownies and bread, stopping only when I ran out of flour.

All three children came with me to the actual sale.  We had no idea what to expect.  I didn't know if I would know anyone; I have not yet even been to the center.  We ended up spending three hours there, selling, visiting with new friends, and thanks to the children, drumming up more business (nothing like pigtails and blond curls to get the attention of passersby!)

To my great surprise (why was I surprised... isn't this happening every day?) joy was sprinkled back on me!  The two women who ended up staying most of the time with me, both knew people from my church.  One of the women was new to the area and our church had prayed for her.  The other woman looked familiar, and I finally figured out I had met her two and a half years ago at a conference several hours away from our area. We had corresponded by email a few times.

It was a beautiful reminder of how we are a family in Christ, all tenderly interwoven, each needing and blessing each other.

Joy Sprinkle ~ Day 8 ~ phone call

Today was a happy sprinkle for me.

Oh, wait, they all are! 

This one was simple and sweet.  A phone call to a dear one.  Words of love and affirmation and encouragement.  Unsolicited and just because.

photo by luisrock62
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