Isn’t it ironic

FeaturedIsn’t it ironic

So much has happened in the last week that I don’t even know where to begin this post! We have closed on our house, raced Hurricane Irma to get moved in and prepared for the storm, celebrated two birthdays in the family, and spent our first days in our new house without power or school. Sounds like more of that kind of living we call beautiful chaos!

While thinking back on the last week, I had to chuckle to myself when I realized that my last post was about all of the little things we were looking forward to in the new house, and most of those things went away our first week here in the new house. Allow me to remind you of the list:

  • BathroomS! I had written that I was so excited to have more than two toilets and one shower. Well, after the storm we had a toilet backing up bringing us back to, you guessed it, two. And one of those toilets was mine and David’s! Two WORKING toilets was still a major improvement, but I had to chuckle.
  • City Water. Well…we did get it! But it was cold for days. Again, still so much better, but chuckle-worthy.
  • Toilets that flush. One toilet….refused. We had to go out two days after the storm in search of an open store and a plunger! But at least I got to drive through Dunkin. Oh and yes, we found a plunger…at our third stop!
  • A dishwasher! We waited so long. Before we could even use it, we lost power. Chuckled again.
  • Garbage Disposal. See above.
  • Split Plan. The house is indeed split plan, but I spent nights trying to make it feel less like a split plan because of the storm. I had all the bedroom doors open and slept the light mom-sleep so I could hear anything. Yes, if you did not know, moms can will themselves (well sometimes it comes when you don’t will it!) to sleep lightly so they can hear their child’s cry. Why? Five of our seven children are young, and no power means dark, and dark is scary. It was so hot that they were waking up from being uncomfortable and then getting scared because they couldn’t see anything. They couldn’t come to us in the dark and I wanted to hear them so they didn’t sit there scared any longer than necessary. Again-chuckle.
  • Five Bedrooms. This one made the list last week because it meant the kids being able to spread out and have their own space. Instead, younger kids were in bed with older kids to not be alone, we stayed in closer proximity because light was limited, and we prepared ourselves to all sleep in the master bedroom together (though it never came to that).
  • Better Electricity and A/C. Chuckle with me this time-hahahaha.
  • Dat Double Oven.…that I could not use.

We know we fared MUCH better than many around us and many across the state. We sustained practically no damage, we had no flooding, and we only had to go without power for two and a half days. We are oh so grateful and relieved that we are all safe, our new house is ok, we have power, and, umm, we got a new house this week! We are praying for all those still enduring the wrath of Irma!

For those who have been asking and waiting, here are pictures of our new completed home!

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Exciting Things!

FeaturedExciting Things!

Disclaimer: This post is meant in jest. We have been oh so grateful for the roofs that have been over our heads and we know we have more than many. ❤

Almost two years ago to the date, I had to move out of the house that had been my home for 7 years. It was the first house I lived in as an adult and the house I lived in when the four children I had at the time were born.IMG_4107

Me and my four kids moved into my grandmother’s house- a two bedroom, one bathroom, second floor home. When David and the girls moved here to be with us, they stayed with us to save money. David stayed downstairs in the one bedroom in the garage that was separated from the rest of the house (which is why I had been unable to use it when it was just me and my kids) and the girls moved in upstairs with us. We were now all sharing 1 bathroom and the 8 of us upstairs were sharing two bedrooms.

This house ended up selling before we got married and we had to find another place. As it turned out, some members of my extended family had a house we could rent in the same neighborhood, but asbestos had been found in it so we had a 2 week limbo time. Friends lent us a place we affectionately refer to as the farm. That was a fun experience, but also not ideal for our big family.IMG_0300

Since then, we have all been staying in an older three bedroom, two bath (but there is only one shower we all share). We were laughing the other night about the things we are most excited about in the new house. All the amazing things it holds and it is the little things that have us most excited. As I said, we are so grateful for the roofs that have been over our heads, but we have compiled a list of the things we are most looking forward to about our new home that we will finally be moving into in less than two weeks!!

  • BathroomS! We have known what it is like to share one bathroom. We have known what it is like to share two bathrooms and only one shower. We have had enough of that fun. I will say though that we have gotten it down to an art! The youngest 5 get cycled through like a car wash. David is on water and I am on washing. We rotate them through: one gets pre-rinsed and then comes to me to get shampoo and soap while he pre-rinses another. After shampoo and soap they go back to Dad’s side for rinsing. Girls go back to mom’s side for conditioner and then back to Dad for rinsing again. As they finish they get a towel and sent to their room to get dressed. Once all the kids are out, Dad helps the littles finish getting dressed for bed and mom starts the hair brushing. The whole thing moves quite quickly now! The 10 year old is sent to the shower during the dressing and hair brushing and the 13 year old jumps in as soon as the 10 year old is out. Mom and Dad….well they grab showers when they can! If you are wondering why we can’t use the bathtub in the other bathroom, it is because when you fill it, you can see little black specks floating in the water. We assume it is due to the pipes being old, but short time span means: make it work!
  • City Water! If you have ever been on well water then you understand this one without another word. If you do not know the joy, allow me to enlighten you a little.  Well water might not be for you if you do not prefer the color orange. We replaced the shower head when we moved in 5 months ago-it is already orange with hard water stains and the water doesn’t come out right anymore. This stuff works fast.

    My washing machine has turned orange on the inside and clothes sometimes come out with orange stains that look like rust.image2 (10) Let’s not even talk about the inside of the toilet bowls! We tried filtering the water for drinking-ewwie. So instead, we refill 17 gallons of water a week at the grocery store for drinking (so fun with littles in tow!). And oh my hair. I have been on well water since I moved two years ago and it has taken a toll on my hair. Straw just really isn’t the feel I am going for.

  • Toilets that flush. Y’all. Our toilets.image1 (11)

    We are on septic and it’s an old system. I am sure it needs maintenance or replacement, but we were here such a short time we thought we could deal. It has gotten progressively worse. The kids were forbidden from flushing after the third overflowed toilet I had to clean up. After teaching them all to flush after they go, we had to unteach them (Sorry Daniel Tiger). We can no longer flush without simultaneously plunging. (I have included a picture showing the flusher on the left. If you look to the right, you will see the flusher. Use together.) And when everything finally does go down, your success is marked with loud bubbling water coming from the shower drains (which scared the younger kids for a while). I am so excited to flush the toilets in our new house! *Update-Since starting this post, a horrible smell has started coming from the toilet in the hall bathroom. I have cleaned and cleaned and it only gets worse which leads me to believe it is coming from within. I told David we need to just pray it makes it till the 9th!

  • A dishwasher! I grew up without a dishwasher so you’d think I would be used to it, but nope! (PS-sorry, mom, for all the dishes you have done your entire life. I get you.) Two years I have been without a dishwasher. You are probably thinking I am being a baby now, but remember, we are a 9 people strong family. I want you to imagine the number of dishes we go through in a day. Spoiler alert-It’s a lot. We bought paper plates for a while and then realized how much money we were throwing away (20-27 plates a day!) Few will appreciate a dishwasher as much as we will.

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    Our torture chamber
  • Counters that are not white.IMG_4421 We have granite counters in the new kitchen. I have never had granite counters before. As much as I am excited to have them, I am most excited that they are not white! Who came up with white counter tops?? Such a bad idea. They are impossible to keep clean. We have tried every product imaginable (one concerned friend even gifted us a tried and true cleaner!), but the counters have had the victory. No matter how much you clean, it still looks like you need to wipe down the counters-annoying!
  • Garbage Disposal. I know I know-first world probs, but I so look forward to not having to make sure the chunky parts of soups, stews and sauces go in the trash and liquid parts go down the drain. And not having to do the continuous walk back and forth to the trash can because kids left food on their plates and I can’t let it just wash down the drain.
  • Two words: Split Plan! This is our hallway. The door on the right is ours. The two on the left are the two kid bedrooms. We are so easily accessible. And so they access…a lot.IMG_4422 “It’s 2:20am, I just went pee, and look! There is mom and dad’s door. I should just knock and make sure they know I peed.” “It’s 4:43am and I have to pee. Oh look! Mom and Dad’s door is so much closer than the bathroom. I’ll just go in here and use theirs.” “It’s 4:59am and my blankets fell off. Mom and Dad are right across the hall so if I yell loud enough they will hear me and come help. Mom! Mooooom!….” And let’s not even talk about traveling sound.
  • FIVE Bedrooms. Currently we have the twins and the practically twins in one room and the two older girls and Josiah in another. It has worked okay and the kids have been champs about it, but there are complications. The older girls have a hard time getting privacy to change. Grace has a hard time finding a quiet place to do homework. Josiah really needs his own space sometimes (so many sisters!) and he thrives when he gets it, but that is impossible at the moment. And the stuff! The kids have all gone without their stuff since we moved here. There wasn’t room to unpack their bedrooms so the only toys and things are what they have gotten for birthdays since we moved here and a few select things we chose to bring along to the inbetween house. It will be like Christmas when they all get their stuff back and have room to keep it! We get asked all the time what the bedroom situation will look like: Josiah will have the smallest room, but his OWN room. Charlotte (3) and Faith (3) will share a room. Hope (10) and Meredith (6) will share a room. And Grace (13) and Madalyn (6) will share a room (Madalyn asked her last month if she could share with her because she “likes her sleep” and Grace of course said yes. It will probably be temporary but they are excited.).
  • Being fully unpacked.
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    This is me, scaling Mt Karaffa because we needed something that was packed.

    We have all been moving around with boxes that have been packed up for years. Both families had to downsize when the hard parts of our stories began so we couldn’t bring everything. We at least got it all in one place now, but we have a 10′ by 20′ storage unit filled with boxes that have been packed up for over two years. There are even more boxes in the garage here we never unpacked because it didn’t seem worth it for 5-6 months. I sense a ginormous garage sale in our future!

  • Master Closet. In the house before this, I shared a closet with the girls. In this house, I share with David, and it just doesn’t all fit. But that isn’t even what bothers me. I can deal with a small space. What bothers me is that our closet doesn’t allow the clothes to slide! Gah! So we are already dealing with everything squished in but then I can’t squish it all together to fit the clean clothes back in! I have to find a small space and cram it in. Then to get the clothes off, you have to unwedge the hangers from under the stuff on the shelf above. No. Just no. I can safely say that space will not be an issue in the new house!
  • Electricity and A/C up to current codes. If you vacuum in this house, the lights flicker. And there is no perfect thermostat setting. It is either hot or freezing-there is no inbetween. I can’t stand to be hot, so freezing it is. I think everyone is over mommy freezing them.
  • Normal sink water pressure. Because of the age of the pipes and the pump, the water pressure is crazy in the sinks. Try teaching 3 and 4 year olds to only turn the knob a little. The result is water everywhere!IMG_4423
  • Normal Color Bothrooms. 60s and 70s be gone!
  • One key. I know-little thing to be excited about, but it takes two keys to unlock the front door and they are identical. When it’s raining, and kids are trying to stand in it, and your hands are full, and someone is having a meltdown, you don’t want to be fidgeting with which key unlocks which lock. Hellooooo garage door opener! And one key to rule them all.
  • Dat double oven! Okay, so this one is just plain selfish, but I have never had a double oven before. In fact, there are a lot of things in this house I have never had before. It is the kind of house I have only ever dreamt about and thought I would never have. I am so excited and thankful to be getting such a beautiful home to raise my new, big, beautiful blended family in with my new amazing blessing of a husband!
  • It will be ours. We are so thankful to all the people over the last few years who have helped to make sure that we all always had a roof over our heads. We never spent a day homeless and our kids always had a bed to sleep in. But we are excited to no longer be in anyone’s space, no longer live around someone else’s stuff, no longer have to deliver the bad news of something being broken to a homeowner, no longer feel like a burden on anyone else. We will finally have a space, a home, that is ours.image5 (5)

 

I am saving pictures of the completed house until it is 100% done, but we are in the final stages! We did our initial walk through last week with the building manager and marked all the things we saw that needed attention before the closing. We will have our final walk through this week and we close on September 6! Moving day is set for September 9, which is also David’s birthday! His birthday will be our first night sleeping in our new, perfect for our family, home. God is good. God is faithful. We are so thankful.

 

I Have a Book

FeaturedI Have a Book

I have a book. A book of horrors. I can’t even crack it open without my heart beginning to race. I can’t peek at its pages without feeling the sweat form on my palms. Common sense would tell you to avoid such a book, but I cannot. I keep coming back to it as though it holds me captive in some way. Oh right, it does. This book of horrors is…my planner (insert eerie music, a bolt of lightning, and a menacing laugh).

I used to get joy from my planner. I love to pick a new one every year; one that reflects how I feel about that year. I used to use pretty pens to color code categories of events. I used to enjoy filling it out. Birthdays, outings, new beginnings, even memories were recorded. Gone are the days of color coding, and joyful scheduling. Now it is like a puzzle; the kind where you not only need each piece in the right place, but it must be lined up perfectly to fit into its space. Or maybe it’s a ball and chain; I feel I must carry it with me everywhere. Without fail, if I bring it with me, I will not need it, but if I forget it at home, I will need to check it before committing to something else. This falls under the umbrella of Parental Murphy’s Law. The same law that says that the one time you run to the store with your kids (and yourself) looking affright is the time you will run into someone you know that you, until now, had convinced that you always had it together. It is also the same law that says if you go out without an extra pair of underwear in the car, someone will inevitably have an accident. Hold on, I’m getting a shiver up my spine. Ok, it is gone.

Allow me to show you my planner for this year. It’s so cute.

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Now let me show you inside of it-the week before school started. No pretty colors, no orderly layout. Chaos.

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I loved the cover when I picked it. I bought it in December. I had just gotten engaged. My fiancé and his three girls were moving to my town and we were to be married sometime before the end of the year. It had been a hard couple of years prior to this one so this cover was worth the extra money I didn’t have to replace the one that came with the planner. “It’s Your Year.” Encouragement to look upon every time I took out my planner. A reminder that no matter how full the pages of this planner may get, this is my year. The year everything would (and did!) change. The year God would turn what had been ashes of a former life into a life with beauty I couldn’t even imagine. How quickly busyness causes us to lose sight of the blessings. I never leave my planner open to the current week so that every time I need to reference the planner, I see my reminder. I still swear I feel a chill upon opening it, but I am reminded how welcome all this busyness is and that it is all the blessings this year brought that keep me this busy.

The chaos within-The week before school started was full of appointments, phone calls, repeated visits to schools, school supply shopping and holy open houses batman. It didn’t help that we showed up to one doctor appointment 5 hours early and it was a 20 minute drive there. There was also the fun of having one child accepted into a gifted program (yay! woot! huzzah!), but the school still needing a completed application packet for their records. Gathering everything needed for that was like a time intensive scavenger hunt! I won’t recount for you how interesting drop off and pick ups are at the moment living outside of the school district, having kids in three different schools, and all having different start and end times. Say hello to lunches and entertainment in the bus for the littles and the little red gas light that always seems to be on!IMG_4255

Ok, so obviously I am over exaggerating A BIT by calling it a book of horrors, but I am sure many of you can relate to the sentiment. If you have been a reader long, you know our love of the phrase “Beautiful Chaos.”image2 (9) The schedule, along with our lives is chaotic, but I love being a mom, I love having this big family, and I love being busy for them. Does it always show on my face? Most definitely not. I have written before about my RSF (Resting Stressed Face). David says to me all the time, “Are you sure you’re still happy? Is this really what you wanted?” I remind him time after time that I have experienced two different mom lives before this one. My first mom life was one where I wasn’t alone, but I felt alone. I had infant twins, then three in diapers, then four in diapers/pull-ups at the same time, and did most of the care myself. My second mom life was as a single mom and started with two 3 year olds, a 2 year old, and a 6 month old. I also owned a small business at this time and worked long hours to keep it afloat. For a long season, time and schedules didn’t even exist. What even was a planner? It was put your head down and power through every day. I now consider those two mom lives to be my training-preparing to be a blended mommy. This mom life I live now is busy and challenging and exhausting at times, but trumps either mom life I had before. Being a mom has always been worth it, but I enjoy it so much more with a teammate and a home exploding with love. Yes, this is what I wanted. 

These people that surround me are my family. They were always going to be my family-the whole lot of them! My early years as a mom conditioned me for this family. If you think you hear my horn tooting, I assure you it is not.

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This shocked face is the result of getting all 7 of the kids out the door EARLY for school thus giving me time to get some Dunkin’. Shocked=NOT the norm 

 I do not think I am super mom. In fact, being a mom makes me feel oh so human most of the time. Anyone else?? I lose my temper, I buckle under the weight of the schedule, I forget things, I get grumpy, I forget things, I don’t act with grace, I lose sight of the blessings, I forget things. The very day I first wrote most of this post, I had a bad day. I was sick and the schedule was full. As the day went on, my grumpy grew. Toward the end I texted my husband, “Freaking. Hard. Day.” He texted back, “Same here baby. So very long and involved.” I rarely admit I am struggling because I don’t want him or anyone else to think I don’t “got this.” Did you catch that? I think I need to write that differently for my own sake. I rarely admit I am struggling because PRIDE. I texted him because I was wanting encouragement, support, something. Here are the two problems with that: 1.) I didn’t tell him what I needed (not fair) 2.) It is not his job to fill my empties. The only One who can fulfill me, sustain me, strengthen me, and restore my joy is God and He is who I should be turning to when my soul is in need. Expecting my husband to do that for me is not fair to him. I should have run to God first, and then my husband WITHOUT expecting him to read my mind. I share all of this to show that I am not a perfect mom who juggles all of this with ease, I am just a mom. I am a good mom. A mom who doesn’t always get it right, a mom who doesn’t always remember to be thankful, a mom who forgets. But I am also a mom who keeps a teachable heart, is equipped to live this mom life, is sustained every day, and who doesn’t have to be a prisoner to the planner.

 

I have a book. image4 (5)A book of blessings. I can crack it open and feel my heart begin to fill. I can peek at its pages see evidence of all the people I love. Common sense would tell you to appreciate such a book, but I don’t always. I forget to count it all joy. I’m learning more every day. This book of blessings is my planner (insert a mom that chooses to be happy, 7 wonderful children, and a patient understanding man I am so happy to call my husband).

 

 

Since I briefly referenced the first days of school, I feel I have the right to share pictures of my children like a good mom loves to do!

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Back to Reality

FeaturedBack to Reality

We are married!!

Our wedding day was perfect. Well, as perfect as a wedding day can be. There was some crazy (including Josiah throwing up in the middle of the dance floor during the reception!), but everything came together beautifully and was a lovely representation of both of us and our family. I will share more about the wedding at a later time when we have pictures and video to share.

Our Honeymoon was also perfect. It was short and it was simple, but it was just the time we needed to focus on just each other, celebrate our love and how far we have come, laugh, dream, connect, and of course….talk about the kids. We tried not to, but I think it is just impossible! I will also share more about that in the days to come.

Today, I share about our oh so short journey back to reality.

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Look, this is us re-entering reality. Turn back!  

 We knew some of the kids had gotten sick while we were gone. It was inevitable-I had had it and Josiah had it the day of the wedding. I checked in with my mom during our drive back to reality and found out that she had just finished cleaning up two cases of throw up and that four were currently sick. We had planned to come home after all the kids were in bed Tuesday night so we could ease back in and have one more evening of just the two of us. Little did we know, our two oldest were waiting up by the window in their room for us to drive up and they came running out as soon as we arrived. They were excited, and bouncing and they had decorated the house with signs hung with electrical tape. They wanted to show us everything they had done while we were gone so it was a while before we sent them back to bed. My poor momma was spent and coming down with what the kids had so they left about the same time.

 

 

Through the night we were up quite a few times with sickos and our first morning waking up together in the same room in our home….we were accompanied by three other little bodies. Hellooooooo reality! David had to go to work that Wednesday morning and I had to take M, M, J and C to their other dad’s so we were up and out and in different directions. When I got home, I began the process of snapping the rest of the kids and the house back to reality. They were also in vacation mode and that just wouldn’t work to keep this big family moving forward efficiently. Our day was filled with chores and unpacking and laundry. Don’t worry, I let them have fun too!

Friday was the first day of all 7 kids home with me while David went to work and then an evening to spend together as a family. We had a full morning of celebrating national donut day! I had secretly planned to take them all for donuts, but M, M, J and C were dropped off with a box of donut holes for their breakfast. Everyone had a few pre-donuts to prepare the palette and we jumped in the van for the surprise. First stop-Dunkin! Dunkin was offering a free donut with every beverage so I got two coffees and two donuts and headed to David’s workplace! We surprised him image11and spent a little time with him. There was an outdoor eating area that the building surrounded and windows were everywhere. As people above walked the glass lined corridors they looked down on us and stopped walking. Some of them waved for others to join them and pointed out the huge family below. I asked David if they were his coworkers as we smiled and waved and he said “Nope!” Felt a little like being in a fish bowl, but it was cool to see the smiles we brought to faces just by existing. David informed me later that word had spread to his office and there was a buzz about his big family visiting. The next stop was Little Blessings Bakery because we can’t be near it and not pop in! It is a part of our story too, and we love the current owner! Then it was on to Love Bugs because they were offering a free donut for every person! I failed in my attempt to not eat another donut just because it was free. I don’t regret it. We almost made it through our outing before the gremlin sides of my darling children began to try to come out. That means it was time to load up and get out of there! image8 (2)

That evening we fulfilled a promise we had made Saturday as the reception was wrapping up: we had a dance party to the playlist from the wedding! By the time it was over, half the house hold was coughing up a lung and not many of us slept well as a result. It was fun but we decided no more dance parties until everyone is well of this ick!

 

Saturday. One week. We had been married one week and that deserved a celebration! Fun! Festivities! Yes, we knew just the thing-we spent the entire day in the garage going through the rest of the boxes, clearing a path to the things we need access to, filling a dumpster bag with things that had just accumulated over the years when my aunt and uncle lived here, and putting the final nail in the storage unit coffin (if that is not as funny as I think it is and gets lost in translation, I mean we filled that sucker to the brim!).

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That goes back 20 feet my friends

By the end of the day we were exhausted, sore, and ready to just sit down; but we promptly realized we were missing a few things we needed to make dinner happen. I was off to the store and David was on “distract the kids so they don’t realize they are hungry” duty until I returned! As we sat around the table later we reflected on the fact that we were finally all moved in! Whether we are here 2 more months or 6 more months, we will be as comfortable as we can be and thankful every day for an in-between place to stay.

 

Sunday we kept the bedroom door locked as long as possible and then dragged ourselves out of bed. I am proud to say that our first Sunday walking into church as a blended family of 9, we were on time! We even had a homemade French toast breakfast, looked presentable, and were mostly smiling. Church was… eventful. There was an epic hunt through the building for David’s missing laptop cord. We are unable to work on the video caught of the wedding without it. It was found! But the herd forgot acceptable church behavior before we did. And many are still sending me props for catching Charlotte’s puke in my hands in the sanctuary and saving the church floor. I made another save in the foyer and tried for a third time in the kitchen, but I was bested that time. My knight in shining armor found us about that time and he took over the kitchen cleanup while I tackled the kid clean up (complete with some amazing church family members who came to our aid). David called all the kids to assemble and announced that we had thoroughly defiled the church for this week and it was time to go. After church we finally got over to the new house to check the progress. Trusses had been delivered! Wood for load bearing walls had been delivered! It looked like it was going to be a big week! Hoping to see big changes despite the rainy, dreary week we are having. After seeing the house we went to pick up our first ever online grocery order…y’all…we got a week’s work of groceries in less than 10 minutes and never got out of the van! Heck, two of our kids slept through it! Cue “A whole new world” music.

So we are married! And life has resumed. We are elated and we are tired. It is crazy to me how what we have can feel so fresh and new while simultaneously feeling like we have been a family forever and this was meant to be. We are a family-we are blended and in some ways, still becoming blended. Part of that will be a lifelong process. One thing is for sure: Life here is still most definitely best described as beautiful chaos!

4 Houses and a Storage Unit

Featured4 Houses and a Storage Unit

May not have the same ring as similar sitcom and movie titles, but it is an accurate representation of our lives right now. My absence from the blog (and my business and my social life) is completely related to this reality. While we have known about our move for some time, it was hard to find the desire or motivation (or TIME) to begin packing. There were many factors that could have led to the sale falling through and we didn’t want to live out of boxes if not necessary. I also remind you-we are trying to plan a wedding! It was moved….due to the move, which means a shortened window, for a long task, that also hadn’t been started. While waiting for the closing on the house which would signal our acceptance of a definite move, we tried to knock some planning out.

In my last post, I updated you that with the move on the horizon just a week ahead of us, possible asbestos was found in the house we were moving in to. It was tested and confirmed asbestos. We now had to move out of one house, but with no house to go to. Friends began offering to give us a place to stay, but we are NINE people! That’s enough space as it is, but we also have stuff; so much stuff. While we knew our friends knew what they were offering and meant it, there was no way we weren’t going to throw a wrench in their lives with our presence. We can’t get away with “You won’t even know we are there.” Oh you will most definitely know we are there.

We have friends that were married a year ago and the husband of the duo is still trying to sell the home he owned as a bachelor. They offered us the empty house as a place to stay and we jumped on the offer! They are pretty much amazing and we are so grateful. Packing started Tuesday, they offered us the house on Thursday, and we had help offered to help us move big things on Saturday. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday consisted of the type of packing where you take the time to look at things and pack based off of what things were and where they needed to go. The type of packing that consists of packing the things you don’t really use that much. The type of packing where, when you get overwhelmed you stop and think and breathe. The type of packing that, while productive, doesn’t really get you far. There was also never a moment with less than three kids present, so that affects productivity. Come Friday, panic sets in. David and I spent the morning at a pre-marriage counseling session (that was an amazing time by the way). After the session, David needed to do some work from home and I needed to go to the grocery store. I had made a plan for easy meals that wouldn’t take a lot of ingredients or dishes to prepare as transitions happened. When I got home, it was planning time. We needed to pack and plan what could go to the storage unit since we didn’t have much room to work with. We needed to pack and plan what could go to the little one car garage of the in-between house to wait for us but still be protected from the asbestos abatement process. We needed to pack and plan what needed to go with us to the farm (It’s just a mini farm with no animals anymore, but it needed a name to be able to keep our lives straight!). This means we needed to think about what we would need to live for possibly two weeks since we had no timeline, but also think about what we could live without because this was temporary and would all have to be moved again soon! I said 4 houses though-what is house number 4? Through all of this we keep dreaming of and building gratefulness for our home that is being built. We drive by often just to check progress; so far-zip!

While planning, we decided that packing suitcases was priority so that when everything else left tomorrow for various destinations, we would have clothes. After dinner, we set the kids up with a movie night in a basket that their Mawmaw had put together for them for Easter, and we got to work! We picked clothes for two weeks, with one laundry day accounted for, for the 7 kids and ourselves. After we were done in the bedrooms, we got the kids in bed and continued on projects we each felt were important to have done before help came the next day. For David, that was things for the storage unit since it would be the first stop in the morning. For me, it was the areas that would be harder to explain to people what I needed to be packed and what I needed to stay (like the bathroom). We worked till we dropped and had much still to do the next day.

Saturday came, and one person appeared early and two more later in the day. Friends reading-this isn’t written with any resentment! We know how crazy and needed and filled Saturdays are and this Saturday just so happened to be an eventful one. We know you love us. But little help means we had to kick our high gear into higher gear! David and his help loaded things for the storage unit and made a run out there while I stayed and packed like crazy. Somehow, there was still most of the house left to pack! When the men (and Grace, also known as “muscles” that day) returned, they went to work taking bunk beds and dressers apart and loading the trunk for the run to the garage of the in between house. I continued packing like crazy. By now my mom had joined me and for a few hours we had another friend stop by. Unfortunately for them, I had reached frazzled and unable to think point by then so I kind of just kept moving without giving much direction and they would jump in where they saw need.

When it came time to load boxes, my control started to activate. We had of course now accumulated more for the storage unit so as I was watching things fly out the door, I was so worried something would end up at the wrong place of the three and cause a problem when it was needed (or take up space when it was not needed). I was telling myself not to stress it but I don’t think my self was listening. We worked till the two men we had had to leave and looked around to find that even though so much went out, it seemed there was still so much left to do.

We were still staying in our current house until Tuesday so thus started suitcase life. One thing we have learned is how little fun a vacation for all of us at this point in our lives would be! All my nope. On Sunday after church, we needed to visit the friends lending us the farm to move a fridge from their house to the farm because (of course) the farm fridge was on the fritz. As we drove the fridge out there, we got our first sense of the distance. It got prettier as we drove, but oh so far. As we rounded the last corner, we looked out over a field of cows. This was so different from where we had been that we decided to call this house the vacation house. This would be fun! We arrived, opened the gate, and pulled into our first views of the farm. The property was beautiful and the little house was adorable from the outside.

Allow me to reiterate that we are so grateful to our friends lending us this place and we are so grateful that an empty place existed so all nine of us could fit without being a bother! That being said, the place is not exactly what we expected. We walked from room to room checking out the situation. We had planned for the kids to stay up in the loft room, but after two kids cried on the steep stairs, and the older kids said they were a little scared up there (it is unfinished so it looks like an attic to them), we knew that plan had to change. When we came outside to tell the kids to load up, we found them all in the van already. We asked why and they said that, at 2pm, they were getting eaten by mosquitoes and didn’t want to be out there. We both decided that if we were marrying young and without kids, buying a place like that would be a grand adventure! The house is super cool and full of potential and the property as I said is so pretty, but with 7 kids, it was going to be interesting! We dropped off the fridge, ran Grace to youth group, and then went back to the current house to prepare a load for the farm (we had already changed our minds on the title “vacation house”.

Now, in all the wedding planning, I have accumulated a small….ish collection of things (including a box of dresses that don’t fit the girls but don’t get me started on that!) and David has the arbor he is in the middle of building. Neither of us want to be far from our projects or let them too far out of our sight for fear they will get lost. This means we packed up all the decorations, the clothes, the arbor and wood, and all the tools to take with us to the farm. We also packed the trailer with all the boxes of food we wouldn’t need for the next few day or even weeks, but that we couldn’t take to the in-between house to wait for us because of the asbestos abatement that would be happening. With all of this we got back in the vans to pick up Grace and go drop the load.

On Monday evening, we all got cleaned up and went to see Madalyn and Meredith perform in the Spring Concert at their school (I’ll skip the part about when we realized we had be at this and how to fit it in.) After it, we got the kids asleep and let Grace stay up and read. We do not leave Grace with all 6 of her siblings when they are awake, but since everyone was asleep and we were only going two streets away, we figured she could handle the tough job of reading on the couch. See, we had to move the remaining things for the house that we didn’t get to on Saturday: a deep freezer, the washer and dryer, and a second fridge that was in the garage that my grandmother said we could have. Thank you, Shaun T, for preparing me for this task. We loaded up and headed to the garage of the in-between house. Now, while the guys had left a path through the center of the garage that held so much of our stuff, it was not quite wide enough for the appliances we were adding. So we pulled things out of the garage, maneuvered the appliances to the back by the plugs, then refilled what we had taken out. It was about this time that we decided that this whole experience would do more in preparing us for marriage than any preparatory class ever could!

Tuesday came and it was the day. Today we would leave this house and move on to the next thing. I spent the day finishing our packing process between all the usual duties life brings. We decided to go out for a quick fast food dinner before yet another awesome friend came to help move the last of the heavy items downstairs. We had hoped to be able to move everything in one trip, but because we had to bring so many big items with us, space filled up quickly. We had to bring the futon so the kids didn’t have to sit on the tile floor. We had to bring the tv because…well, we were scared not to have the option! So many things keep happening that weren’t expected and we didn’t want to be without entertainment if it would be needed. We had to bring the table and benches so the kids would have somewhere to sit and eat. We had to bring many mattresses so everyone would have a place to sleep. We had to bring dishes, and all the food we owned, and a big cooler and bathroom things, and bedding, and suitcases, and backpacks, and boxes of pull-ups, and boxes of shoes….all for one week. We packed and loaded vans and the trailer for almost an hour. We made the first trip to the farm and it took well over an hour due to the distance. We loaded again and did the final walk throughs to make sure we had everything. We took our final moments, looking back and remembering our times in this house. My grandparents built this house before I was born. My mom was a single mom who raised my siblings and I three houses down from this house. I spent so much of my life here as my mom worked so hard to provide for us. It was my second home. My life went full circle when I moved into this house two years ago as a single mom, working hard to provide for my kids, with my own mother just down the road. It was hard and beautiful at the same time. I did not want to move in here. I fought it. I called it going backwards, but I didn’t see how forward it was going to be. The time I spent here in the middle of my journey was a time of change. God did so much in me and for us. My faith grew as I grew and became a different woman than I had been: loved, accepted, strong, cherished. As God moved my story along, this house then became the first place me and my future family shared together. So much has happened here-I grew up here, I grew here, my family grew here. I am so thankful for all this house held, and now it is time to move forward again.

We began our final trek out to the farm after 9:30. I was so worried about the kids and getting them in bed. When we arrived my first priority was getting the kids in bed. We brought some light bulbs and put them in the bedrooms and did just what was necessary to get the kids laid down. We came back out and put light bulbs in the main living areas….but still no light. We spent half an hour messing with the breaker box, with outlets, with switches and pull cords. It finally became clear that the problem was wiring based. We could twist the bulb just enough that the light would come on, but then it would go back out 20 seconds later. We finally continued our work to the glow of some of those little electric candles with the fake flame and every now and then twisting the bulb to have light for a small quick task. We did just enough to be able to call it a night and both be able to have a place to lay. I think we both went to sleep unexcited and unsure.

Wednesday we were up and out super early and didn’t return until evening. The tv stayed off last night, lamp light pierced the darkness that had been and hours of conversation filled the living room. We went to bed last night agreeing that no matter how long we are here, God is already using this place to do big things for us and our relationship. Things we could have never anticipated. It is now Thursday. I have things a little more put away and we got the furniture laid out in a way that makes sense and almost fits. I am sitting on the steps of the front porch typing away at this while the three youngest play with brooms across the wrap around porch. There is a breeze blowing and sunlight is flooding the house behind me. Surprising to me, I love it here right now in this moment. I am thankful to be in this place. I am thankful to be on the farm. I am thankful for the role God has planned for this place in our story. Forward.

 

I leave you with a list of things I will NOT miss about our house of 2 years:

Stairs!

Carrying laundry up and down the stairs.

Forgetting about the laundry (sometimes intentionally) because it was so far away.

Uncovered, outdoor stairs to access the home itself (fun in the rain!)

Watching children have to learn to navigate the stairs without you.

~I think you get the stairs thing~

The smoke alarm going off every time I blow dry my hair.

Going downstairs to do laundry, telling the kids to behave while you are gone, and hearing the opposite of behaving happen above you.

Sharing one bathroom.

Sharing ONE bathroom!

The bathroom heater that one child insisted on constantly turning so you walked in to the bathroom to a flood of heat.

A huge loud house fan that often scared the children when accidently flipped on.

Peeling wall paper/unapproved child activity.

No dishwasher (though we still won’t have one until the new house gets built).

Hard Water (though we will still have that until the new house gets built).

Doors that I couldn’t unlock from the outside without removing the doorknobs.

Closet doors that constantly fell off.

A sliding glass door that constantly came off the track.

To these things I say: Bye Felicia!

 

A day in the Life

FeaturedA day in the Life

When I started this blog, I had aspirations to post every other day. As reality started to set in, I bumped that down to twice a week…and then eventually settled on once a week. It has currently been two weeks since my last blog entry.

I know what you are probably thinking: “No duh, Ash!” But there are things taking my time that I didn’t even account for. For example: You have no idea the amount of time I have dedicated to trying to find a dress for our oldest to wear in the wedding. She is 13 and MY size! All I want is a formal dress in my size that keeps our 13 year old looking like a just 13 year old. I still have yet to find it. And do you have any idea how many varieties of gold spray paint there are?? Many much-the answer is many much. It was cute how I was like, “I’ll just go to Lowe’s and pick one easy peasy.”

All this has led to the decision to walk you through a day in the life! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: My Monday.

6:20 First Alarm…..ignore.

6:45 Second Alarm….ignore….no wait! Can’t ignore. Drag myself out of bed. Go into the bathroom to get as presentable as one can get before 7am and with only 5 minutes. While I am in there I hear David come in and start waking children. Love that man.

6:52 Go to the kitchen, turn on coffee maker, and start making lunches. Five lunches and two snack bags (because the twins are required to bring separate lunch boxes for lunch and snack). Say Good Morning to children and fiance’ and they trickle into the kitchen one or two at a time. Direct able children to go get dressed while I finish lunches.

7:08 First sip of coffee….ahhhh

7:09 Head to the bathroom to do school hair and inspect clothes picked. I don’t know when the ability to match clothing kicks in, but I’ll let you know when I find out. And have some younger kids somehow exited the house without underwear before? Perhaps. Shoes on the wrong feet? Perhaps. Inspection time is key.

7:18 David leaves to drive Hope to the bus stop.

7:21 David returns. He tackles diapers on the littles and I tackle 5 bowls of cereal. Love that man. Once cereal is poured I realize we didn’t read the four books that the twins needed to read as homework over the weekend. I stand and read books to all 5 youngest while they eat breakfast. Two books in, David takes over so I can go get out of my PJs and put real clothes on. Love that man.

7:40 Mad dash to fill in reading log, get shoes on, pour coffee into travel mug, get lunches and homework into back packs and get out the door. (With the help of one awesome fiance’. Love that man.)

7:46 Get five kids buckled in car seats, kiss fiance’ goodbye, get on the way just a few minutes behind schedule.

7:52-8:22 Drive to the school to drop the twins off and then drive back home all the while breaking up fights about not liking the noises someone is making, whether or not it is a “sunny day”, who loves everybody more, etc. There are cute moments mixed in too of kids telling each other, “I love you” and singing songs.

8:23 Pull up to the house as David is leaving. Get to say goodbye again and hear about how he woke up the oldest by playing loud British Fife and Drum music, marching into her bedroom carrying a toy broom like a musket, and poking her with said musket till she got up. Effective parenting. Head upstairs to help Grace get pulled together and out the door on time. I also start a to do list for the day and answer a few messages received overnight.

8:50 As Grace leaves for the bus stop, I take a load of laundry downstairs to the laundry room to get started.

8:54 Return upstairs and draw all over my face with a pink sharpie. Yes that’s right. I then record a video for my little make up business, but get interrupted right in the middle. This was a video I wanted to be able to reuse so I head to the bathroom to remove all makeup and sharpie from my face, redraw the cat face, and rerecord the video.

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Ya, I wasn’t kidding.

9:30 Edit video. Post video. Do not remove makeup and sharpie from face.

9:40 Get the starving children a snack, put in work out DVD, try to get in the mood to work out. Does that even exist? I don’t think it does. See, as if my life isn’t crazy enough, the human in me can’t help but want to make a few changes before the wedding day that is quickly approaching so I am trying to work out every day. In all my free time.

9:47 Push play.

9:47 Push pause. The children are thirsty. Of course. Fill three water bottles. Tell children I won’t stop again until the end of the DVD. Josiah decided to do it with me.

9:50 Push play.

9:59. Push pause. Sigh. Place child in time out who drug a comb hard across the tv and then argued with me when I asked them not to do it again. Push play.

10:06 Push pause. A fight has broken out over one child’s unquenchable need to knock over another child’s tower every time it is built. Push play.

10:08-10:25 Work out, refusing to stop again, while yelling out things like “stop!” “Be nice!” “Don’t look at her if you don’t like it.” “Just ignore it!” Josiah did do most of the DVD with me. My favorite moment was when he asked, “Mommy, am I going to wear a wedding dress?” “No baby, but you are going to get a suit.” “A wedding suit?!” “Yes.” “Then I better work out harder!” They are always listening, my friends, and picking up on more than you realize!

10:28 DVD ends and NOW they are all playing nicely.

10:28-10:35 Lay on the floor. Find my life again. Sweat. Wonder why I do this.

10:35 Go downstairs with shaky legs to move the laundry to the dryer. Tell Josiah he is in charge just because he thinks its fun to be the oldest for a moment.

10:38 Hear crying and run upstairs. Find Jo putting a band aid on Charlotte because she got a boo boo. I see no boo boo but assist since he was trying so hard to be a good big brother. Faith sees there is no real boo boo so fakes her own injury to get a band aid. Josiah of course now needs a band aid for his old boo boo. I looked entirely too long for a blue band aid among all the princess and Dora band aids. Finally found a minion one.

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10:45 Answer a few messages that have come in through the morning.

10:47 Stop that to put a child in time out for hitting. Hit child cries as though she has been mortally wounded. Finish message responses anyway.

10:50 Snack time. Almost immediately regret giving the 2. 3, and 4 year olds open containers of applesauce.
Fact: Saying “Don’t step in it!” pretty much guarantees someone will step in it while looking for what you were saying not to step in.

10:58 Head to the bathroom to shower and find the boy stinking up the bathroom.
….timing…..

11:01 After getting in shower, get back out of shower to remove cat face I forgot was there (dat coverage).

11:08 Get out of shower to hear 4 year old calling 2 year old by both her first and middle name. He takes his job of being in charge seriously. Proceed to get dressed while simultaneously looking for a Superman suit, answering texts from fiance’ about things that need to go in the savings account, and helping everyone get their selected dress up clothes on. Obviously I went with comfy Lula leggings today!

11:22 Find the cup of coffee I made at 6:55  this morning and never finished. Place it in the microwave.

11:25 Start setting up to do a live video for the little make up business because it’s been forever since I have.

11:37 Start live video. Ramble for 13 minutes and try to keep my train of thought with children playing behind me. Clean up my make shift studio while listening to the video just to make sure I didn’t say anything too foolish while I was half distracted.

12:02 Start making lunches

12:13 Call children to the table to eat the lunches. Smell poo. Times 2. Change two poopies while telling myself I really need to start pushing the potty training. Tell that first voice to shut up and allow second voice to remind me it’s okay that they are not potty trained yet. Finally change the 2 and 3 year old out of the pajamas and into play clothes.

12:19 Call kids to the table for lunch take 2.

12:24 Find coffee in the microwave. Restart microwave to heat it again.

12:28 All kids have left the table. I look at plates and wonder why I try. Call children back to the table.

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12:29 Find the reason why I always say food stays at the table.

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12:32 While trying to convince the children to eat I realize that the 4 year old is starting an asthma episode. I give him his inhaler and help him focus on relaxing.

12:37 Tuck littles into their beds for nap time. This is after finding an impressive mess and deciding to clean it up rather than have them do it and delay nap time. Get Josiah (who has insisted on wearing his Superman muscles to bed because they make him “feel better”) tucked in for quiet time with a movie in his room.

12:42 Find coffee in the micro again. Give up and dump what is remaining.

12:45 Customer stops by to exchange a product.

12:48 Clean up lunch. Start to tidy living room. Realize I am pretty much just moving the mess around because the kids are in their rooms where the toys actually go. Abort mission.

12:52 Go downstairs to to get clean laundry from the dryer. Add basket to the two already upstairs from last night and tell myself I will fold all three baskets….soon. I do see one of David’s shirts sticking out though and he likes those hung right away so they don’t wrinkle so I go back downstairs to hang it up in his closet. While in his room I see a basket of clean laundry on his bed that needs to be folded. I decide to take care of it for him. I bring it upstairs and place it with the other baskets to make four total…..for later.
Remember-wrinkles are a fashion statement.

1:01 Sit down to work on this blog entry. See all the open tabs on my lap top of things I am in the middle of. Sigh. It can wait.

1:33 Another customer stops by to pick up an order. While chatting with her she sees the for sale sign and asks if we are moving. I tell her yes to which she replies, “You are moving, planing a wedding, taking care of all the kids and running this make-up business? You should consider adding something else to that-how about a pet?” I laugh and tell her about the blog and tell her she should read this entry because she pretty much just summed up exactly what this entry is about!

1:41 Back to work!

2:14 Superman comes out of his bedroom in need of a nebulizer treatment. I sit with him while he uses his machine (as he calls it).

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2:28 The littles come out from nap time just as I am finishing up getting to this point of the blog. It’s time to start putting on shoes and going potty before going to the school to pick up the twins!

2:40 Out the door! Fun 40 minute ride full of more chaos than you can imagine. What is it about being in the car that brings out the sport of “pester” in children?? And they are all pros!

3:20 Walk back in the door as Hope is arriving home from school too. Have, the now 6 kids home, sit at the table for snack time. About this time I start to admit to myself what I tried to ignore in the car: I have somehow tweaked my back again. It is slowly getting worse. Boo! Ibuprofen in as well as a mental note not to pick up the kids. I’ll admit: I struggle with this. From the 5 year olds down I still like to pick them up and cuddle them. They will always be my babies.

3:30 Take a moment to message a new member on my Y-team while Hope is making it rain animal crackers and goldfish for everyone at the table.

3:35 Check back backs, put lunchboxes away, check homework, check mail.

3:40 Set the youngest three up with an activity. Set the older three that are home up at the table for homework time. Hope works mostly on her own while I work with the twins on theirs. Stop a dozen times to help the child that still hasn’t figured out how the kid tablets work. “Mommy it not work again.” *I swipe up with my finger* ” Oh!”

4:14 Twins’ homework is done and there is still no dinner plan. Despite the fact that I have so many things I’d like to get done at this moment, I plan the meals for the week so I know I have something for tonight.

4:25 While making the menu in the kitchen I realize the sink is full of dishes from breakfast and lunch, and dinner time is coming. I better empty it so it doesn’t get out of hand. PS- We don’t have a dishwasher. Hand washing dishes gives you the opportunity to think about all the things you will need to do later because you had to spend time standing at the sink. Then there is just enough time left to scold yourself for complaining about washing the dishes, that hold the food we eat, under the clean water that runs in our home. Refocused!

4:43 That laundry pile is calling my name. It sounds a little eerie and ominous. And then it laughs and I shudder. I cannot even see my bed under all of it. Waiting another day will only result in it growing. May the folding begin…
As I fold I start making a list of the things I have to do tomorrow that I didn’t get to today. It gets bigger as the laundry pile gets smaller. Or is it getting smaller? How have I folded this much and the pile still looks the same??

How you ask am I able to wash dishes and fold laundry? I may have distracted the children with electronic entertainment. I try not to do it often, but sometimes it’s just necessary. Today is one of those days. Plus it keeps Josiah from getting worked up when he is having an episode. But alas, 5:10 and there is the screaming that has been missing.

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5:10 I head back to break up an all out brawl while Grace walks in from school. She tells me about her day as I start dinner (and she makes sure the cauliflower that she sees being prepared is not something she has to eat. Nothing like pre-dinner complaining.)

5:20 David comes in from work, greets me with a kiss (yay) and tells me about his day while I finish preparing the part of dinner I am working on. He too had to confirm the the cauliflower was not for him.

5:30 I get it in the oven and he heads to his room to change. On his way out the door I hear, “Is that the laundry from my bed??” Little blessing 🙂 While he is gone, its time to clean up the mess before dinner. I will not include a picture. It’s not pretty. Seven can do some damage! Rally the troops! Hand out the orders! Supervise the execution of said orders!

5:46 Sixteen minutes and much hollering (nicer word than yelling) later and the toys are put away. David asks “Do you have a surviving cup of coffee lying around or should I  make you one?” He calls coffee my second love language. And he speaks it well. As he brews, I set Josiah up for another treatment with his nebulizer.

5:48 Continue making dinner while listening to the sounds of the other room. I love listening to David talk to the kids.

To Josiah he says: I hear you watched your little sisters and helped mom today.
Josiah bashfully: Ya, I know.

Charlotte: that one! that one!
David: we are not watching the trailer park boys
(not sure what this was referring to but something on Netflix)

David to the room: And that, I believe, is snot on my pants. Eww.

David to Charlotte and Faith: It sounds like you two need some separate time. Let’s have some separate time. You there and you there.

6:00 brings the need for us to work together to work out a disagreement. After double teaming it, Meredith and David double team setting the table while I go back to preparing dinner.

6:13 We sit for dinner. And I bring my coffee because…..I forgot about it. I sit and put my head on David’s shoulder and he says, “Don’t worry dear, you’ll get your 47th wind.”

It is now 6:44 and David has banished me to the living room to sit for a few. Gosh, I love that man. The oldest four will work together to clean up the kitchen they are assigned jobs to get it done. I will sit for a few and edit the blog to this point.,,,aaaand Grace just brought me my coffee…again.

7:00 That was fun. Up I go. There is a crier and a beggar currently and its time for PJs!

7:30 Youngest 5 kids are tucked in. Josiah has been given medicine and we prayed over him when we tucked him in because he is still having trouble breathing. My mom has stopped by. She is flying tomorrow (which she is terrified of), for the first time, on her her birthday, and has a million questions. Before she leaves, she gives me a copy of her flights so I can check them if any planes go down tomorrow. Oh brother. David is sure to make a few jokes to lighten her spirits.

8:00 Mom leaves. The count of going in the tell kids to get back in bed is up to 5 (the last one was preceded by a parental fist bump). I sit on my heating pad to finish this blog entry.

8:30 Blog complete and now is the time of evening that David and I try to dedicate some time to each other. No working, no facebook, no folding laundry (even though it is still calling my name and jeering me). Tonight we are looking forward to watching the last of the Horatio Hornblower movies from A&E. Don’t judge. (Perhaps now the fife and drum music from earlier makes a little more sense. Perhaps not.)

*8:35 Josiah is awake and needing another treatment. A mother’s job is never done ❤

Before bed I will make a to do list for tomorrow with hopes of actually making some wedding or business progress tomorrow. I think I hear the laundry piles laughing again.

I just can’t imagine why I am not able to get more blog entries done….

Beauty From Ashes

FeaturedBeauty From Ashes

Where should I even begin? How about with a greeting?

Hi. Hello. My name is Ashley. I am 30 years old. I am divorced. I have four children, 5 years old and younger. I was a teacher turned stay at home mom, turned baker, turned small business owner, turned stay at home mom. And in all that turning, my life turned out nothing like I thought it would.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I had many plans. I was not the type that had 5 year plans, and 10 year plans, and knew every step I wanted to take. I made plans and changed plans and changed plans again. But I did have an idea of what I wanted out of life. I held on to things that I thought mattered and, without realizing it, made them the standards I would use to determine my success as a woman. Graduate college, get a job in my selected field, get married, have babies, stay home with my babies, be a good wife, be a good mom—> Success. I checked all of these things off of my subconscious list, but when all of my plans fell apart right in my hands as I held on so tight to them, I felt like a failure. The overall plan was simple really. How could I have failed? What went wrong? What would people think? Would they see me as a fraud?

Before I knew it, I was a single mom, and a working mom, and a scared mom. I didn’t know how I was supposed to be a good mom in this new reality. There were 4 of them and one of me, and that one me was over-worked, stretched thin, exhausted, and anxious. I was overly concerned with making sure I looked like I had it together, and still had faith and joy and hope, and was successful. My entire world had flipped upside down and I was still trying with all my might to form this mess of ashes from the enemy’s schemes into something beautiful with my own two hands.

At one point I was finally able to let go. I don’t think I could pinpoint one occurrence, one moment, in which everything just changed. It was more a gradual change as a result of encounters with God and the people He sent to speak truth into my life. I do remember a friend handing me a piece of paper one day as she said “look for your beauty from ashes.” On the piece of paper was a paragraph from a book written by Elizabeth Elliot. She stated that God never ends a story in ashes. Beauty always comes from the ashes. It may not always feel the way we think it should, or look the way we want it to, but it comes. I stopped looking behind me and trying to mold the ashes of my former life into some picture it once was. I faced the reality that the picture was just an illusion anyway. Instead I started looking ahead, with hope. I didn’t start making new plans of what this “redemption story” should look like, but I surrounded myself with truth and began to get excited about plans far greater than mine. I let go of the expectations I had made of what a good, successful woman, mom, wife, looks like, and prepared myself for the possibility that it would look completely different. I stopped treating myself like a failure, discarded and lacking, and started seeing myself the way my Father sees me-chosen, loved, wanted, accepted, and beautiful.

For a season, I lived a life that looked very different from the plans I had made so long before. I worked (more than) full time. I handled all the household things. I made decisions. I was single and okay with it. I took my small, out of my home business, and turned it into a storefront bakery with my best friend. I gained confidence, found my voice, and became a stronger woman than I was in the past. There were many moments when I thought I had found my “beauty from ashes,” but it was all the beauty. Surviving was the beauty. Thriving was the beauty. Who I became and what I learned was the beauty. Seeing God be faithful to us over and over was the beauty. Life was beautiful.

Life is once again changing. Once again it looks very different in a short amount of time. And it is Beautiful. I hope to share with you some of that beautiful: some of the fun, some of the hard, some of the crazy, some of lessons, some of the hilarious, and some of the hopeful.

Waves

Waves

David and I share this in common: We are both not the biggest fans of the beach. We live in Florida, but rarely drive the 15 minutes to the beach. I was born and raised 15 minutes from the beach and never became a beach girl.

We also share this in common: This feeling about the beach, for both of us, stems from an experience. For me, I was about 12 years old. I had gone to the beach with a friend and her family and we were enjoying a sunshiny, Florida day. My friend and I were in the water, near where the waves were breaking, attempting to body surf to the shore. I was never very good at it, but it was fun just to be splashing around in the water. Near the end of the day, a wave took me by surprise. I was distracted by all the things going on around me and I never saw it coming. It was big and it was strong and it overpowered me. The wave crashed over me and took me under. It was probably only a few seconds, but I didn’t know which way was up. More waves came and I tried to swim to the surface but I had no idea where that was and the waves kept tossing me to face different directions anyway. After some turns under the water, I found the shore. The wave was nice enough to throw me onto it, bare back first, with much force. I knew as soon as the wave started to recede, that I hadn’t escaped unscathed. I tried not to cry, but failed. My friend’s mom could probably tell I was embarrassed because she walked me out to the car to check it out. When I made contact with the ground, I had managed to scratch up my entire back. There were so many rocks and shells lining the shore that day so a soft sand landing was not what I was met with. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t know how bad it hurt in the days following. I don’t know how long it took to heal. All of that has faded away, but I have never forgotten the fear I felt from being out of control. David shares a similar experience that left a lingering uneasiness about being in the ocean.

There is yet another similarity we share about the ocean: we were both drawn to it through our hard days. Where David lived in Palm Coast, there were two ways to drive to work. One of the ways was a bit quicker and the other was more scenic and took a bit longer. This scenic route rode right along the ocean and the waves and water were visible for pretty much the whole drive. Even though it took longer, David often chose this route to work because seeing the ocean soothed him. For me, I escaped to the ocean. I wasn’t often able to manage any alone time, but when I did, I would go and sit on the beach. I would journal, I would pray, I would sit in silence and just take it all in. I felt calm out there, but I was keeping my distance from the part that brought me fear.

Last week, I took three of the kids and went to the beach to meet some friends. School was starting later that week, so we were just having one last day to relax a bit. IMG_3809When we found our friends, I started applying sunscreen on children and laying out the ground rules. Ground rules were necessary because Mommy doesn’t go in the ocean. When our friends learned I never go in the water, they decided that needed to change. They and the kids started encouraging me to go out and telling me all the things they loved about being in the ocean. There may have also been a little teasing! I finally agreed to give it a try.

We waded out into the water and I saw in front of me the part of the water where the waves crashed. They weren’t very big on this particular day, but I still flashed back in my mind to the experience of being pulled under by them. Turning back now would mean I missed spending time with my kids and friends that were going out. Moving forward slowly would leave me in the break zone even longer. I decided my best option was to move quickly through the water to the other side of the break zone. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and ran forward through the waves until I got to the other side. You know what I found on the other side? Beauty. On the other side, the water was calmer. The sun shone down, the breeze blew, and I was refreshed.

Because I am me, I started to think about the picture this painted. Suddenly, the ocean was my life. There was a time when I was carefree about life. We all start out this way. I enjoyed it and I had fun and I even played where I could get hurt without fear because I hadn’t been hurt before. Then I got taken down by a big, strong wave. I lost control and the waves that followed jostled me more and more because I was already down. By the end of it, I was left scarred and in pain. I stayed away for some time; developed a fear of what I used to enjoy. I stuck to the sand where I felt safe and secure. The sand was my rock. The sand was where I healed. The sand represented being in His presence. The thing about that sand-it is there under every bit of that ocean. There is no place you can go in that ocean that you aren’t still over the sand. There is nowhere life will take you that you aren’t still in His presence.

A time came where it didn’t make sense to continue avoiding the things that scared me. I didn’t know what waited for me out there, but staying on the shore wasn’t right anymore. Learning to trust again, putting my heart out there again, looked like a long series of waves crashing one after another in front of me. Entering into that again would take the conquering of fear; one step after another on the sand underneath. I didn’t go under again. I kept my eyes open and navigated the waves. It was exhilarating to travel through the waves that scared me, even fun to bounce above them. Having experienced the power of the ocean, I knew better how to traverse the waters then I had before. And then, on the other side, I looked around and saw it: BEAUTY! So much beauty. It was beautiful to set fear aside and enjoy life again. It was beautiful to know the sand wasn’t far below me. It was beautiful to see what waited for me on the other side of my fear: God’s handiwork in my own life. A stunning horizon that is all you can see of the vast ocean that stretches beyond it-a reminder to me of God’s continuing promise to do more than I can think or imagine. The waves are still there; trials will still come. Waves that will require me to trust, to jump and dive at the right time, to stay vigilant in the water. But I won’t live in fear of the waves that will come. That was never the plan.

He reached down from Heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters. Psalm 18:16

I didn’t write this post with this song in mind, but there is a line in this song that says “Your grace abounds in deepest waters” I have seen that line prove oh so true in my life. I couldn’t say it better. If you haven’t heard it, have a listen. If you have, listen anyway and enjoy an impromptu worship moment! Oceans by Hillsong United

Karaffa Party of 9

Karaffa Party of 9

33 days. That is how long three of our children were away. That is how long our family felt incomplete. That is how long we counted down to their return.

They are home!

Yesterday morning, David and I, with Madalyn, Meredith, Josiah and Charlotte, jumped IMG_3752in the Enterprise (the family van) and drove to Orlando to pick up Grace, Hope and Faith at the airport. We were so excited that we booked it and ended up arriving at the airport early. This means we were in OIA with two 6 year olds, a 4 year old and a 3 year old who had just ridden in a car for an hour. We had the brilliant idea to take the kids through some of the gift shops to entertain them while we waited. After the Kennedy Space Center, SeaWorld and Universal Parks gift shops, we decided just waiting with them wouldn’t be so bad. David had started to walk to a fourth store and I shook my head with begging eyes. All the touching-my clenched jaw couldn’t take anymore. He was happy to oblige. The wait wasn’t much longer before we saw the girls come around the corner. As soon as we all had each other in sight, we picked up the pace in approaching each other. When we met there was pretty much a hug fest right there in the middle of the airport. After we had all had the chance to greet each other, we left Grace, Hope and Faith alone with their other mom and walked just around the corner. We wanted them to have the chance to say goodbye without all of our chaos around. One by one they ran over to us after they said their goodbye. I was holding Faith as we began to walk away. I turned her around to wave goodbye one more time and felt something I never thought I would feel: compassion for their mom. It will be five months before she sees them again. She made choices, but I know being separated from a child is never easy. My heart broke a little for her as we headed to the van, but my joy over having them back was greater.

We had an hour drive back to where we live and we spent it hearing all about the trip from Grace’s mouth. After she had recounted a good bit, attention turned toward the house. The last time they saw it, it was just a foundation and wood frame. We had decided to have them wait and see it rather than tell them about it and we greatly enjoyed teasing them. IMG_3763When we got back to town, we drove past home and right to a place we have decided is our family spot. It’s a little pizza place called NY Pizza Spot.IMG_3759 We have been quite a few times and always sit at the same table. This would be because it is the only table in there big enough to seat us all! When we walked in this time, they knew exactly who we were. We were directed to our table and laughed when we found out that they pretty much have our order memorized now too (including which is kid cut)! We had a wonderful lunch together talking and laughing and catching up.

After lunch, it was off to see the house! As we drove down the street, I turned in my seat so I could watch the jaws drop. The girls were so surprised to see how far the house had come. There were men there working on the tile so David went up to ask if we could go in and show them the progress. They said we could and we saw more dropping jaws as we all marched in there. After showing the girls around (and seeing a few new exciting things ourselves) we headed back toward the front door. One of the workers asked about our family so David gave the short hers, mine and all ours story. He asked if we wanted any more and David told him we would probably have one more together at some point. He laughed and said, “You gonna build a bigger house??” We all laughed and assured him that would be a no. We thanked them and headed back out to the van.

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We decided since we were out there to get an idea of what life will look like for me this year. You see, we will have kids at three different schools and they are all in three different directions with the house just about in the middle. We drove from the house to the public elementary school where the twins and Hope will have to be at 8am every day. From there, we drove to the private school where Josiah will have to be every day at 8:15am. From there we drove to Dunkin. Why? Because until we move into the new house, I won’t be able to go home between drop offs so Dunkin is where Grace, Charlotte, Faith and I will hang out for an hour in the mornings. Still why? Because coffee. We then drove to the public middle school where Grace will have to be at 9:30 every morning. As we headed back to the main road after that stop, David looked at me and told me he didn’t envy me and all this driving. I told him that wasn’t the half of it-Josiah would have to be picked up at 11:30am every day (and then driven to speech at the girls’ elementary school one or two times a week), the girls would have to be picked up at 2:30 most days (1:15 on Wednesdays), and Grace would need to be picked up at 4:15 most days (3:00 on Wednesdays)! And until we move to the new house, these schools aren’t around the corner. We decided that the Enterprise will need to temporarily just be called The Bus.

After this fun reality check, we headed to our current homebase. We spent the afternoon checking out new toys and new clothes on both sides, watching a movie, and trying to enjoy the time. Seven hours after finally feeling like a complete family again, Madalyn, Meredith, Josiah and Charlotte headed to their Dad’s for two days. I closed the door after they left and turned to David saying, “Well that was nice while it lasted.”

Our pastor spoke about divorce a couple Sundays back. One of the things he said was that the pain from a divorce never goes away completely. Divorce should never be looked at as a way to be free from something because it is replaced by different hard things. While David and I didn’t choose our divorces, that is something we see to be true in so many ways. This is just one of those ways. People look at us and see the love story, the beautiful family that came together, the redemption. Those things are real, but we still feel the ache oh so often of our family being separated, disjointed, missing pieces. The kids feel it too, and not just when they leave us, and some more than others. It hurts watching them hurt. We choose to see the positive as often as we can: alone time every now and then is good for us, focused time with smaller groups of the children can be used for good things. However, will never be free from the torture of saying goodbye to our children over and over.

Painful as it may be, it is something we have accepted. The joy of them coming home outweighs the pain of them leaving. Our girls are home after a month away and we are overjoyed. On Thursday, our other four will return home and we will continue on as our big, beautiful, blended family-making memories and savoring each second we have all together. Spending time apart just means we are even better at that. We stuff as many “I love you”s and hugs and family time as we can into the days we have all together. And often, we thank God that those times make up the majority of our lives, not the times apart.

 

With Grace

With Grace

Grace: Undeserved, Unearned, Unmerited Favor 

This post is not about divorce. Stay with me until the end. Three years ago, the man I was married to decided he did not love me anymore. It hurt-more than any pain I had felt before, but he did not become any less my husband in the moment he told me. He was still the man I had vowed to love no matter what and I still wanted to remain faithful to that covenant for as long as he was my husband. Those who were close to me through the year that followed could probably tell you of my pursuit to display grace. It was an imperfect pursuit, but a genuine desire. 

“How were you able to show grace in the middle of your pain?”

This was asked of me this week. I will not lie to you-at first, I panicked. This is a real question. This is a raw question. There is weight here for someone other than myself. What can I offer? This was when I realized I was traveling a dead end path in my mind maze. I turned and began to walk back to where I made a wrong turn. What can I offer? I can offer Jesus. I am no wise scholar. I am no counselor. I am a girl with a story and a God who brought me through it.

When my former husband made the choice to leave our home, things went from fine (or my perception of fine which had actually not been fine at all) to ugly, fast. I remember sitting in shock in the living room one afternoon after yet another encounter with him, trying to talk to God. I had decided weeks earlier that I would not ask God “why” as I traveled through this season in my life, which left me sitting silent. I finally settled on “how”. How was I supposed to walk this road I never thought I would travel? How I was supposed to respond? How was I supposed to interact with him and treat him? I have never been the confrontational type and fighting back just didn’t seem to be the right choice. As I sat and cried I heard God say, “with grace.” That’s all He said, but He said it loud and clear. I declared grace over the whole thing right then and there. If I had to do this, I would do it with grace simply because that is what God desired of me.

Divorce is ugly and dark. Sin destroys everything it touches and scars were going to be unavoidable. But while everything swirled around me dark and ugly, I didn’t have to let everything in me swirl dark and ugly. When I first decided grace would be the theme for my journey wherever it went and however long it lasted, I didn’t understand exactly why God was calling me to it. Part of me hoped it was because He knew my husband would return. I hoped that by showing him grace, I would help him receive something he needed and heal in the ways he needed to heal. This desire helped fuel my choice for a while, but as it became more clear that he wasn’t changing his mind, I had to ask God over and over if I was still supposed to show the same grace and love. It would have been so much more satisfying to yell back, to tell people things I knew, to hold him accountable for things I decided to let go. The longer I did it, the more I learned that this call to show grace was less about him and more about me. It wasn’t about him changing his mind. It wasn’t about him changing. It wasn’t about the journey being any easier. It wasn’t about me coming out ahead because I chose grace. No, it was about what God wanted to do in me. It was about preserving who I was and growing where I needed to grow. It was about making something beautiful out of ashes-another of the many ways He did this.

I do not profess to be perfect-trust me. There were moments when I lost my cool and reacted. There were moments when my heart’s desire was to see him have a consequence equal to how I felt. At times, those moments turned to hopes and prayers to see some form of retribution. There were times when people in my life would tell me I was being weak and letting him control the situation. I had people urge me to fight back more. They said I needed to stand my ground and be mean to show him I wasn’t a doormat. They did not understand the calling I felt to do this with grace. I argue though that grace is not synonymous with weakness. Conversely, grace is perhaps the greatest act of strength and selflessness.

When it comes to how to show grace, I have no formula or “follow these simple steps” for you. I have no promise for you that everything will work out if you do (at least not the way the world would define things working out). I can’t even promise you that it will be well received or even seen by the one you offer it to or those around you. What I can assure you of is that grace, marvelous grace, was extended to you, and He who extended grace to you will empower you to extend it to others. 

As I read through my journal now, I see prayer after prayer for the ability to show grace.

“Words cut deep again today…I want to do this with grace. I want to speak love and show love. I don’t want to cause him harm. I don’t want to teach him a lesson or take him for all he is worth, but I also don’t want to be taken advantage of or not be taken care of. Guide me to know how to show grace but still take care of us.”

“God, help me continue to show him love and grace in the face of whatever may come.”

“Help me take every step of this with grace. As much as is possible in things like this. Help me show grace no matter how it is received.”

You see, grace gives what you do not deserve. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace abandons what is “fair”. Grace abandons teaching lessons or sticking it to anyone, but rather forgives and loves.  BUT, grace doesn’t mean you have sit quietly and let it happen. Showing grace is not the same as excusing actions or giving someone a free pass. It’s not forgiving them and then just hoping they will change. Grace toward a problematic person is not the choice not to act, but to choose to act in love. Grace is action free of vengeance.

I took actions in line with trying to save my marriage. This was a fight-a war against the enemy-but not a war against my husband. I took an offensive against what was trying to tear us apart. I learned later, that I was also on the offensive against what was trying to tear ME apart. Acting with grace provides a pathway to healing.  Showing others grace is more about setting selfishness aside; setting self aside. It is easy to hold on to anger because we think it makes us feel better, but anger turns into bitterness the longer it takes root in our hearts. 

This post is not about divorce. I am sure after reading all of the above, you beg to differ. No, this post is about grace. This post is about showing grace to others. Are you married? Have grace with your spouse! Grace shouldn’t start at divorce; grace can be part of what keeps you from it! In a relationship? Have grace. Have friends? Have grace. Have family? Have grace. Have kids? Tons of grace. Is there a difficult person in your life? Have grace. Showing grace when you are treated right is easy. Showing grace when it isn’t seen grows you. Showing grace and having it recognized by others gives you a superficial satisfaction, but continuing to act in it when it isn’t seen will bring you a deeper sense of love for that person whom you freely give it to. I would argue that true love doesn’t exist without grace. Love them when they are unloveable. Forgive easily. Speak in love even when you need to say hard things. Choose grace, for Grace chose you. 

And with that, I assure you that my next post will not be quite so heavy!

The D Word

The D Word

Divorce. A word that is almost treated like a curse word in many churches. A word that often feels like an unwanted label on the one who wears it. A word that is avoided in conversation and a cause for shame.

I got divorced.

I still hate saying it, but there it is. I was a divorced woman. I wore the scarlet D on my chest. I felt the weight of it as I went about my daily life. It made me feel ashamed. The world seems to categorize people into three groups: Single (never been married), Divorced, or Widowed. The D word that seems to be in the first few sentences that everyone uses to describe you. It comes with the notion that either something about you is unlovable, you did something wrong or you took marriage lightly.

Raise your hand if you have ever heard, “God hates divorce.” Ok, so I can’t actually see your hands, but my guess would be many of you would have raised them. Now raise your hand if you heard it as just that phrase, by itself, without its surrounding text. Still most of you I am guessing. This is one of those verses that is often spoken out of context. The phrase itself is true-God hates divorce, but the message that is often sent with it is distorted.

Before I go any further, I am going to share something I wrote a few years back. This was taken from a journal I kept through my journey. I wrote it on February 12, 2015, three months after my husband at the time had left.

God, how do I hear from you about something I know you hate? How do you and I make decisions about something I know you hate? I don’t know how to pray, how to hear, how to be still and feel directed in a direction you hate. I need truth that speaks louder than the lies I hear. I need your discernment to know what is truth and what is lies…Help me stop being afraid to seek you in this.

I wrote this as a confused woman. I had grown up believing that divorce was never an option. I had heard over and over how God “hated divorce”. Then I found myself in a season of life that was quite unexpected. I was in a situation in which divorce seemed to be inevitable and the best way to take take care of my children was to move forward through the process willingly. Please hear my heart-I do not take divorce lightly and am not encouraging it to be an easy decision. After months of trying to save my marriage and praying over and over for him to come home, fully believing he would, and enduring the pain of rejection over and over, I heard God tell me to start letting go.  I didn’t talk about my business in detail openly and there were very few people who knew the whole story; that is still true to this day. Because of this, I worried what people would think of me. I felt like I was writing failure across my forehead and quitter on my back. Worst of all, I was scared to pray about it because I was worried what God would think of me for “choosing divorce” even though I didn’t choose this. I look back on this and feel sad for the woman who wrote that entry above; not because of what happened, but because she thought there was anything in the world she couldn’t pray about; thought there was anything in the world that could change the way God saw her.

I held this for far too long. In some ways, I still do. While I did stop feeling so ashamed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed in someway. I couldn’t get it out of my head that this was somehow breaking God’s law. I didn’t understand why this idea that divorce was a sin was such a common theme relayed to people going through what I was experiencing. I felt like an unneeded weight was being added to the burden I was already trying to carry. Divorce is hard enough on the person who has to eventually choose to let go without the heaviness of guilt piled on top. When it is said that God hates divorce in Malachi, it is part of an admonition to young priests who, at the time, were marrying and then tossing their wives aside heartlessly. They were not taking the covenant seriously. “God hates divorce” was not written to convince scared, hurt, and unloved spouses to hold on to a covenant that has already been broken. God hates divorce because it hurts the people He created and loves. He hates it because He loves us. God hates divorce for your sake and for the pain it causes because He loves you and He never desires pain for you. He was with me through my divorce, loving me intensely all the while. He didn’t look at me and see a scarlet D. He looked at me and saw His hurting child and carried me through.

This phrase from Malachi 2 should not be the verse that is most readily tied to the hurt and pain that comes with divorce. To the one going through a divorce they didn’t choose, (or any hard time that leaves you needing TRUTH), let me show you some verses you should let run through your mind rather than a verse taken so far out of context:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

This is his steady message throughout Scripture. He cares. He is with you. He loves you.

My name is Ashley. I once got divorced. I am no less valuable or worthy because of it. If you have been through a storm, YOU are no less valuable or worthy.