Monday, October 26, 2020

Midlife Menus

Last Monday I took a little bit of time to catch-up with everyone on my extended absence from Menu Monday/Keepers at Home posts. Popping out that article seemed natural... I was ready. However, as I sat down today to re-institute the promised series.... blank.

 Sort of

Perhaps it is dusting the cobwebs off of these tapping fingers. Maybe it is the screeching hault of months of ideas so excited to pour out that they tumbled into one giant blank blob! Mostly, however, it is all the big change in life since I last shared a comprehensive menu plan. I think I forgot how and where to start in this new season of different.

✓ The last of my children are all graduated.

✓ I'm not quite an empty-nester as all but my oldest have chosen to remain at home while they pursue the paths God is laying before them in adult life.

✓ I'm no longer juggling their schedules and homeschooling

✓  In an odd and unexpected course of events hubby is out of work while all kids hold various jobs and shifts. I have switched from just kids during the day to just hubby with a (grown) kid thrown in here-and-there... and what I cook in consideration of these schedules fluctuates.

✓ Hubby hit 50 and as we both pick up speed on this Midlife path, our meal requirements are transforming for health purposes.

✓ My aging mother-in-law moved in with us bringing her own dietary needs and very specific meal-times. (No longer can I just tell everyone to figure out their own breakfast or lunch, a luxury with older "kids"! Instead I am back into early parenting days where all meals and snacks need to be planned, healthy and balanced☺️(It's OK, I like my job!)

In short: no more kids to make cutesy kid things for (boy, I miss that!!) though I do sneak a childhood favorite in here-and-there.... and us olders with a more curious pallet amidst our particular diet needs.

Alas... I think I found my groove! These Midlife moments spark a different kind of liveliness in our midlife menu and, if you follow my Pinterest account, you know how much I LOVE sharing all of our foodie moments. So, here goes...

This Past Week

Each week I try to have a specific project or goal to work towards. Even without kids underfoot and homeschool soaking up time, there is always something requiring attention above and beyond the basic household duties (especially this time of year).

This past week's was Phase 1 of cleaning out a neglected corner in my bedroom and processing/canning pumpkin. Without the buzz of kids I can now usually contain clutter and work inside the daytime hours, which is a welcome change! And on Pumpkin day, I made the mess work for me! While boiling and mashers were out I did mashed potatoes which were paired with some cooked ground beef and gravy I had in the freezer for a shepherd's pie roasted in the oven. While dinner roasted, I tidied and by the time dinner was served, pumpkin jar lids were popping and kitchen messes were cared for. 

Lets have a look (an asterisks indicates a change of plans)...

___________________________________________________

Sunday   

Breakfast:  Leftover Omelet (from Saturday)

Lunch:  Grilled Tomato and Cheese with Chips

Dinner:  Chicken and Broccoli Bake with Quinoa and Clover Rolls

This dinner is a crazy quick and easy one. I used the last of my garden broccoli, cooked up some chunked chicken breast in butter and olive oil with garlic, onion, and parsley. Mixed it all together with a handful of Feta and Cheddar cheeses, poured into buttered 13x9 baking dish and cooked up at 375 for about 20 minutes.

 Monday   

Breakfast:  Fried Eggs and Sausage

Lunch:  Hot Dogs and Mac N Cheese

Dinner:  Oven Pot Roast and Veggies with Leftover Clover Rolls

Tuesday   

Breakfast:  *Pancakes and Sausage (didn't have enough potato leftover from roast to do planned Eggs and Hash-Browns)

Lunch:  * Leftover Roast as Oven Stew (had planned BLT but ran out of lettuce)

Dinner:  *BBQ Chicken Thighs, Baked Potato, Corn and Cheesy Drop Biscuits (Wednesday and Tuesday's dinners were swapped when we forgot to pre-cook and chill the rice for stir-fry)

Tip: make extra baked potatoes and refrigerate for up to a few days to be used as homemade fries or hash-browns.      

Wednesday   

Breakfast:  *Eggs and Hash-Browns with Leftover Biscuits (planned Pumpkin Muffins but didn't get to the processing till Thursday)

Easy hash-browns: cube into small bite-size pieces raw or cooked potatoes (or use leftover cubed potatoes from a dinner), throw into oil heated in bottom of skillet on medium-high (we like to use coconut oil for flavor and health-factor). Stir around periodically till brown, drain and serve with eggs.

Lunch:  *everyone did their own thing unexpectedly, I had planned egg salad sandwiches.

Dinner:  *hubby tried his hand at authentic Chicken Fried Rice and Mini Spring Rolls (freezer brand) (swapped night which ended up helping buy me more time on my project work!)

Thursday   

Breakfast:  *Scrambled Egg Bowls with Sausage, Cheese and Avocado (planned Egg Cups)

Lunch:  Leftover Chicken Fried Rice for some, Egg Salad Sandwiches and Chips for the rest of us

Dinner:  Shepherd's Pie with dessert of Pumpkin Muffins and Cream Cheese Frosting 

As I was separating out the pumpkin puree for canning, I reserved 3 cups to make a triple-batch of pumpkin bread mix. Managed 18 muffins, 1 mini loaf and 2 large loaves. The 2 large went into the freezer once they cooled, we will break them out for snacks and breakfast... as well as add to their ranks for holiday sharing!

Friday   

Breakfast:  *Pumpkin Muffins and Sausage (already cooked the planned pancakes earlier in the week and had plenty of muffins leftover from night before)

Lunch:  Leftover Shepherd's Pie

Dinner:  Chicken Quesadilla/Salad with homemade guacamole

Saturday   

Breakfast:  This is my only 'sleep-in' day all week so I typically leave everyone to their own devices, however, made a Mango Breakfast Protein Shake for MIL and myself

Lunch:  Leftovers for some *Homemade Chicken Soup for others (we had a cold snap accompanied by mounds of snow which was making some throats feel kind of scratchy... soup to the rescue!)

Dinner:  Burgers and Chips

___________________________________________________

*** Why the asterisks? ***

Planning ahead with menus is always a good idea. It helps to stay on budget and balanced in diet... but lets be real, not every day goes as beautifully planned. I know, when I was a young wife, I found menus fascinating but was also often quickly discouraged by how hard it was to stay-on task. As I collected kids and schedules and all those unexpected demands on my time, I learned how to juggle. I like to alternate meats, spice levels and the nutritional balance from meal-to-meal and day-to-day. I also like to try 1-2 new recipes each week, though some weeks are all old favorites! I hope, seeing not just what we ate, but also how it changed, encourages you to menu plan and give yourself grace and flexibility to change it up a bit when needed! 

So that was my week in the kitchen... what does yours look like?

Happy cooking!






 
For an old article on one way I've done menu planning (free printables included) you can visit:

Menu Monday: Menu-Making Edition!






 
*********************************************************


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each month with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Memories and Moments

Tonight I decided to comb through old posts which had been started but not finished. Of all nights, and as I push back into a regular blogging cycle, it is interesting that this post on this night is what would stand out.
 
Written one year ago to-the-day, I was still working through some deep emotions which seemed to just flow through my fingertips as the keyboard called. A tribute which I feel must still be published. Perhaps it was too hard in the midst of the many trials and much hurt of autumn 2019. A year later, however, it is a beautiful story which, I believe, is also a testimony the world must hear.....
 

Evening, October 23, 2019
Memories.  They make us who we are.  Both good and bad and all the in-between.  They filter through a sepia past into a vibrant present.  They even build hope for the shrouded future.

My earliest memories are rooted in a modest split entry single family home nestled in a cozy suburb about 45 minutes west of Chicago.  Short black curly hair and firm patience guide me through the learning tasks all toddlers itch to model: a tiny broom, folding hand towels and standing on step-stools to help stir macaroni.  Soft warm hugs cuddled me close while cartoons played across the counsel and the silly antics which might exhaust a young mother only fed her hearty laughs and gentle rebukes if silly got out of hand. 

She was my grandmother.

I still remember attempting to form the word "g-r-a-n-d-m-a".  It was a word which confused me because, to my young intellect, she was 'ma'.  I still remember my young rational in claiming she was ME-ma, my ma... a mom, though grand she was, she became Mema.

My mother loved me, oh-so-much.  But a turbulent childhood and troubled broken marriage at the young age of 19 left her scrambling to pull herself together.  Mema stepped in and took the reins while my parents, separately, worked to figure it all out.

Mema was tough.  Her medium height and broad shoulders coupled with her no-nonsense attitude made her an invaluable hard worker in the factory industry and a force to be reckoned with in any setting.  Having survived a marriage to an abusive alcoholic who ultimately left for the west, she never lost her faith and commitment to Biblical womanhood.  Six rambunctious kids only added to her zeal.  If she could rustle all those bodies (including a set of twins) and juggle the life she found herself living, well, nothing was going to make her back down!

One thing about Mema which out-shined all task and antic was her faith.  Saved in a south-central Tennessee church at a young age and baptized in the adjoining creek at 16, I can hardly remember a day where she didn't share Jesus with someone.  Vivid memories of tiny me being taught to clasp my hands just so and say the sweet youthful prayers to Jesus were the same memories which kept me from wandering too far when time and disillusionment threatened to snatch me from His hand.

As time passed and my parents regained control of my rearing, grandma became a more occasional fixture.  She was always ready to whisk me a way for a week in the summer or on spring break where we would spend hours learning new crafts, how to cut paper dolls out of catalog models, eating KFC by the rolling Fox River and traveling to Tennessee to visit her childhood home and my great-granny.  VBS, Summer Bible Camps, and adventures of so many shapes and sizes.  I was "co-pilot" on expeditions and learned to love gospel music and big band music in turn.

As teen years hit, Mema was the only one who could tame the beast.  I wandered and doubted but she pushed and persisted.  She attended every play, encouraged all the good endeavors and was quick to recite the folly in the bad.  She celebrated with me when I accepted Christ at 16 and, no doubt, she cried when she learned I ran from the same faith at 19.  Most of all, she prayed without ceasing.

When 20s dawned and my marriage vows broke and her heart likely broke as more folly littered my path, she never gave up.  She never stopped praying.  She never stopped calling.  She never stopped persisting, "Jesus is the only way".  I suppose it was no surprise, then, when 26 year old me, remarried, re-settled and toting baby #3 on my hip, had wandered into a small town church, repeatedly, and all of a sudden was struck by God's mighty grace.  Like a lighting bolt straight to my heart, I surrendered all.  
 
Her prayers, her persistence, her calls... it all paid off.  And, like childhood all over again, Me-ma and I began to traipse through life together.  We hugged tight when my mother passed away unexpectedly at 48.  Living miles apart, we telephoned often to encourage and strive through the hard times.  We laughed and talked to celebrate the good.  Me in the far northwest corner of Montana, her, now retired, settled back in her hometown in south-central Tennessee.

Our relationship wasn't perfect... whose is.  But it was ours and one thing I always knew: she was there.  NOTHING I could do would change that.  We prayed together and dreamed together and she delighted as our little family grew.  She shared news of cousins and celebrated them in wonderful ways I don't think they ever knew.

But time and memories have a funny way of running out.  I started to notice the skipped record.  The repeat questions.  The confusion at certain statements.  Being in her 80s, it was natural to write it off as 'old age'.  But it wasn't old age.  Dementia had set in and, as she began to outlive her own children, the progression of loosing each of her 3 oldest before all but one had turned 50, seemed to drive her deeper.  Before we knew and understood the full effects of the disease, misunderstandings mounted and her irritability over these dark gaps drove us apart for a short season. The worst part, even though our divide lasted only a few months, by the time our relationship worked back around.... Mema was simply gone.  Her body remained but the laughter and tears and long afternoon talks... those were no more.  The record was broken, "How's the weather up there, how are the kids, how is your step-dad..... How's the weather up there, how'....."  I knew, in my heart, that nothing would ever be the same. 

There were rare glimpses, moments of recognition to current events.  But mostly she knew I was 'Mandy' and the recognition ended there. On occasion she cried from her heart when she heard my "hello" on the other end, a mixture of joy and longing sadness, forgetting our most resent conversations, her drifting mind felt it had been forever.  I tried to call monthly, but it grew harder and harder.  Family pressure of all I could and couldn't say, lectures and my (unfortunately) timid digression.  But I still called, as often as I could, even though I knew each conversation would be the same.

Then last week.

As I heard tired excitement in her voice upon my name through the receiver, I lamented in my heart how I miss our deep conversations, I miss her comfort and encouragement, and just now I needed it so much. I braced for our usual broken-record-repeat. Nothing deep, just basic... weather, kids, yes we all still love Jesus. Weather, kids, yes.... But I so desperately wanted more. I wanted to rewind the clock to those days of deep conversation and sage advice which dementia had already stolen years before. Right now, life had taken an unexpected turn and I just did not know what to do.  Big decisions, big changes and big heartbreak were all colliding.  
 
But I kept it to myself and, with an inward sigh, I listened as the record skipped and skipped and then, in one moment of sheer clarity, the record spun into a new tune. The very tone of her voice seemed to change as she broke the rote and began, as if knowing all the pains in my heart though I had not spoken of any of them... "I know you have decisions to make and I know you will keep your eyes on God," she paused and seemed to muster, "I know you will make the right decisions. I know you will do what is right.  Let's pray."  We use to always pray together, especially in hard times, I didn't realize how much I would miss it until dementia took it away from us.  Just above a whisper I eagerly agreed, "That would be nice" as a lump caught in my throat.  She pressed in.

"... God, guide Mandy and help her in the decision she needs to make, help all of them with the decisions they need to make and the things they need to do.  Help everyone with their jobs.  I know how much Mandy wants to do what's right, guide her and help her to do it."

Suspended in amazement, I was speechless.  I whispered again, "Thank you" and, just as quickly as the record stopped skipping, it started again... repeat.  I hadn't mentioned anything about jobs, but she knew. I hadn't even hinted and tough decisions pressing in, but she understood. Her words did not provide the needed answers to the problems at hand but that single moment of clarity after years of fog was like a message from God that HE saw me, He heard the desperate need in my heart and, for one beautiful moment on a cool autumn day, He answered my cry. Our final goodbyes were filled with the usual "I love you"s and her heart-felt, "I am so proud of you."  It is a wonderful thing when someone you love and admire issues those words.

As the call ended I made a mental note to not wait so long for our next check-in while also pondering the gravity of her moment of clarity and if this may have been our last call... the last time I hear her sage voice.

It was.

She was 89.  Almost 3 months from 90. 

Me-Ma is gone.

It is hard and it hurts, especially in a climate where family in the region is no longer close.  Truthfully, though, Dementia took her almost 7 years ago but God gave me that one, brief, wonderful moment two Wednesdays ago and I am so grateful He did.

Every conversation's repeat included the emphatic statement, "I'm ready to go Home.  I've lived a long life.  Mother was 96 when she died.  If God takes me home, that is OK." She lived completely but with one foot always ready to step into Heaven.

No more produce isle Witnessing.
No more good-bye prayers.
No more hearty chuckles at childhood antics.

But.  She is worshiping at the feet of Jesus with a whole host of angels, I'll see her again and then we can pray and worship together in fields of Grace ❤️

Treasure those God gives you.  Make memories while you can.  Speak Jesus.  Love deeply.  It will sustain you when "good-byes" end all "hellos".

***
 
 Blessings,

 




In Loving Memory of Mema, 

Dorothy Robertson

January 1, 1930 - October 20, 2019



Monday, October 19, 2020

Keepers and Menus: Back in Business


Scrolling through for Menu Monday images I was amazed to realize it has been roughly 2 years since my last MM post! I knew time these past few years would go fast... but, wow! 

As my youngest entered her Junior year of (homeschool) High School two autumns ago, her first after the last of her 3 older siblings graduated, I felt I needed to open up more time in order to invest in her, encourage her in days of learning alone, and savor each last moment I would have in our schooling journey. Many trusty old posts here on the blog were lovingly placed on the shelf until that season was complete, including the more time-consuming threads like Menu Monday.

As graduation commenced this past May, I began contemplating more seriously what the future would hold... not just for my daughter but also for me as a housewife and newly 'retired' educator. I had always kept a sort-of 'bucket list' for the day my nest appeared to be emptying. However, in all the years I had compiled tidbits of to-dos with hopes these directives would help me not lament too deeply over the child-raising years coming to an end, I couldn't have anticipated the struggles hubby and I would face in the home-stretch. For most of my youngest's senior year our marriage was shaky at best and when Covid hit, it added sparks to more than a few touchy moments between us, especially where work outside of the home was concerned after he found himself among the many without jobs.

Enter my Mother-in-Law. I spent part of last fall staying with her, a 7 hour drive away, in order to help as she underwent major surgery and recovery. As the months since have progressed, so has the worsening of her condition and, come my youngest's graduation party in June, it was firmly decided she should sell and move in with us.

Summer was filled with planning and remodeling. I also spent time researching how to best care for my MIL since she not only has mobility issues but also diabetes and high blood pressure. On her own she had all but given up on cooking and was not eating very healthfully. Her blood sugar levels were all over the place, some mornings we feared she might not wake up at all. Hubby and I have prioritized a low-carb, low-sugar diet for the past 10 years as both of us are PRE-diabetic, so transitioning MIL into a similar routine wasn't going to be too hard. Time and activities to keep her mentally stimulated and feeling "at Home" were/are critical to her transition as well. Boning up on my old psyche and counseling studies to remain sensitive to her needs has been helpful as well.

By the beginning of August she was settling into a cozy studio apartment we arranged for her in our old art studio. Unpacking and finding routine consumed most of our days. As September drifted in hubby even began to recognize not only how necessary her care was, but also how much I was contributing in the process of looking after home and family...that it really was a big job, one which he himself did not really want to do! This was a very bright corner in this whole Covid lay-off situation!

Hubby's realizations were a breath of much needed fresh air after the struggles we had faced seemed to atrophied my ability to make substantive homemaking posts on the blog of any kind. My future felt so uncertain and I felt as though I would be writing in falsehood to even try. Now, however, I do feel the sweet release to speak more openly and post candidly regarding the Art of Housewifery in all its stages. I can't say we have worked out all of our worries, but I can confess that I feel we have scaled the biggest hurdles, learned to talk better and listen more and, most of all, I have recognized the desperate need to bathe our marriage in prayer preemptively, daily... but that is a separate post!

I share all this not just to set the stage for slipping back into regular themed posts, but also to testify to the rocky road I am certain many of us share. The life of a housewife is often a thankless job. One where the tiny details often go unrecognized. The family knows the floors seem cleaner or the shelves lack dust... they appreciate clean clothes in their dressers and warm food to fill their bellies each evening... but, understandably, they often don't comprehend the energy each of these loving acts of service require from planning through to implementation.

As many of our troubles and challenges work their way out (or at least managed) and now that we have (mostly) found our new groove I just knew restarting Menu Mondays alongside periodic Keepers at Home posts needed to become an essential part of my weekly routine. I believe posts like these are a platform of unified encouragement and inspiration, especially for those of us choosing to walk out this often invisible but vital role in the face of adversity... and the blog parties I link-up with to get these thoughts out are a great community to be part of (click link in text above to learn more about blog parties).

 

Next week I will begin using Monday posts to share our menu from the previous week AND, to keep it super real, I will make note of anywhere it did NOT go as planned! I think of menus in a similar way as the homeschool routine schedules we use to have: they are a great target for the week but one must remain flexible and ready for adjustment! 

While I am 110% for flexibility in any schedule, I also believe having them is vital to staying on track and, where meal planning is concerned, to keeping within budget. I know, the days I lack planning (or plan unrealistically) we often end up eating less healthy, feeling less productive and spending more than planned. It is like that old adage: if you fail to plan your plans will fail. 

In regards to Menus, my game has stepped up quite a bit with MIL here now. With diabetes, especially insulin dependent as she is, it is extremely important to keep a regular eating schedule. With balanced diet, variety and scheduling at the height of importance now (and various picky eaters in my crew) I have used my Menu Worksheet to-the-max detailing all three mains: breakfast, lunch and dinner. (While MIL still has the capacity to remember, she is in charge of her own snacks which she keeps in her "apartment" with her.)

I look forward to sharing these details each week along with some links to new recipes we are trying and even a few recipe notes of my own! Most of all, I hope you will be encouraged to plan and try new things as well! I do try to share meal snapshots regularly on Instagram, if you would like to hop over and follow me there

So, here we are, back in business! I would love to hear from you! Where do you stand on the whole planning business? Do you have a set weekly schedule? Do you menu plan? How have you been navigating Covid? Is there anywhere I can encourage you today?

Blessings, sweet friends, I look forward to reading from all of you and getting to share again!






 
For an old article on one way I've done menu planning (free printables included) you can visit

Menu Monday: Menu-Making Edition!






 
*********************************************************


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each month with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Not-so 5-Minute Friday: Hold


 It has been 7 months since life entered a sort-of holding pattern.  Things have fallen apart... and come back together... for many of us. The challenges this year have felt like an old, warn hat after 2019 and the constant problems our family faced then. Last year, from beginning to end, there was one disaster after another around our home, interpersonal challenges and even marriage problems. As we prayed to welcome in 2020 at the stroke of midnight, December slipping into January and a whole new year, I broke into tears. I was overwhelmed with emotion but excited to behold new hope, new possibility... and to say good-bye to the hard challenges we had endured through the 12 months prior.

2020 looked bright. Brenden was to become engaged to a wonderful girl, my youngest was graduating high school and her and I were looking forward to a maiden voyage to Florida. Best of all, hubby was starting a new and lucrative position at work. For the first time in our lives we were going to have the relief of not living paycheck-to-paycheck and finally having the financial freedom to go places and do things normally off-limits in our tight financial sphere. Add to this, while I was really going to miss homeschooling, I was looking forward to new opportunities for my time opening up.

By February, though, whispers suggested we were in for another rough haul. Come spring, the stress and strain broke Brenden's engagement as lock-downs began to roll across the country and panic gripped his sweet young girl's mind, making her unable to cope or hear reason. Brooke experienced stress and anxiety as every.single.one of her milestone senior year moments were canceled: prom, church lock-ins and retreats, final youth group activities and so on. I spent countless days and nights seeking to comfort her broken spirit. She felt hopeless as her present, and possibilities for the future, were stripped away. 

Just when we thought we had take the brunt of the strain, hubby's new position was tossed into the can as the company cut ALL possible employees. That brief glimmer of finally finding financial security was snuffed out. My own stress and anxiety mounted amidst protestors calling our kind "privileged" and insinuating how "easy" we had it. I've never been privileged, I grew up poorer, with less opportunity and continued challenges, than many who were shouting. I've always had an uphill battle, life has been anything but easy, and the one time we finally felt like we were on level ground... it was ripped away, leaving us to grapple with the fact that hubby is only 15 years from retirement and his position was providing security for our fast-approaching "golden years".

 It took time to process.  Time to really make amends with all the hurt and frustration and not be angry with the chaos of society around us and the leaders whose decisions were (and still are) progressively destroying lives. Yet, in the midst of the din, there was always that One Voice, pulling me back to reason and hope. 

I can't imagine this journey without Christ's arms firmly around me, God reminding me how he has always and would always hold my life and our future in the palm of His mighty hands. Jobs are nice for security, but the greatest security we can know is that He has nothing but good plans for those who believe and trust in Him. 

He showed me peace in how, even if the young girl Brenden found seemed perfect for Him, God vetted her according to His plans. My son will heal, is healing, wiser and stronger in his faith than ever. And Brooke? She has endured the hard lessons of learning how to lean not on her own understanding and relationships with others and instead lean solidly on God's and her relationship with Him. She found she was stronger than she thought she was and I watched as she discovered how to listen more closely to His perfect Voice.

Unemployment comp has helped.  Stimulus has provided adventure and opportunity. After my daughter's graduation party it was firmly decided that my mother-in-law was long overdue to sell her home and move in with us. Living in Northwestern Montana where we had drawn her in 21 years ago, her health has been declining and it was no longer wise for her to continue on alone. My brother-in-law moved away a few years ago and we have been in South-central for 7 years... this too God had worked out.

Our home was purchased with someday having her here in mind. The upside of all this year's chaos was a super quick sell of MIL's mobile home for 2x its value and a substantial investment in squaring away her living quarters here.... my art studio converted to a studio apartment! Hubby's time off allowed him to do much of the work and take multiple trips with me across state to pack and move... something which wouldn't have been possible had he been working.

It was a crazy summer with the construction work, big move, and settling in... but it was a good crazy. God used it to help me transition from feeling under a cloud of ongoing oppression to possibility and a new season of life welcoming this opportunity to care for someone we love as she struggles in aging.

I've wrestled with schedules, tried to figure out writing, attempted to understand what all is expected of me right now in life, in home and in family. Yet, somehow, it is no longer dark or daunting. I'm no longer upset or hurt. I still don't have all the answers... we still are working out the kinks in job and marriage and a "new" family member in our household.... but I feel like we are right where we should be.

I've been trying to see and shimmy time into place to begin regular blogging again. Like swimming, the hardest part is getting in... sometimes you just have to JUMP. No rhyme or reason or process... just get wet, head-to-toe and once you float back up to the top, you begin to stroke along! HOLD and Five-Minute-Friday seemed the big jump time!

Not for a minute, have I thought it was time to quit writing. I imagine I am a bit rusty and my words here don't flow quite how I might like (and I know for certain I am way over the 5 minutes!!). Yet, as much as I hate the latest saying, it is so true: we are all in this together. My 2019 is everyone's 2020 and, while I don't wish this on anyone, I do believe we can more candidly and wholeheartedly be there for each other. Trudging through this messy thing called "life" and reminding each other: we are Held by the steadiest most secure hands in the universe, His plans will prevail. 

So, as I still try to shimmy new-season-new-life schedules into place and juggling the complexities of changing relationships, I do hope to start kicking regular content back up. Thanks for reading to the end. Drop a note below if you find you have been struggling almost to capacity this year and share if you have witnessed God's mighty arms holding you close through it all!

Love and blessings,

 

 

 

*Posting today with the Five Minute Friday crew, go check out other great posts (likely shorter and written within the time allotted!!!) Also, check out my "Link-ups" tab for other great sharing parties!

Marvelous Moments since I've been away:

The youngest 3 finally got their licenses! Well, "finally" for Ashley who is now 22 and Brenden who turned 20... but Brooke is spot-on at 17.... long story as to why all at once and why it took so long!
Brooke and Brenden quickly found their first cars.... thank you Lord for stimulus + "essential worker" job savings.
***

Stimulus and mad-rushes on grocery supplies turned this "accidental" gardener into a full-on backyard farmer!


 
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What's a girl to do when Senior year ends up in quarantine?

One blessing... people began to come out of the woodwork by May to try and give the seniors something more memorable than toilet paper shortages and mask mandates! 

Krispy Kreme did a FREE dozen donuts if you came in wearing grad gear (she opted for her grad mouse ears from our Disney trip in February)... 

...her youth group leaders made house-calls on graduation weekend with balloons and gourmet cookies...


...the church offered a professional photographer who donated her time and free digital photos of the grads, their families and their senior youth group friends the same Sunday they opened the stage for grads to "walk" and receive a special gift from their youth pastor. It wasn't prom or lock-ins or retreats or hang-outs... but it was special and memorable. 
 
Grad party was postponed a month due to lock-downs and even then, only a few showed up but we still made the best of it, especially since my oldest got the time off and made the treck from Arizona.
Shenanegans insued!!
 
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The studio transformation....
...before her furnature was moved in. Complete with cat walks for her FIVE cats!! 
 
We traveled back-and-forth across Montana multiple times this summer managing MIL's big move. Above we got in on selfie mode at Flathead Lake which he hadn't seen since we left 7 years ago (yes, I'm taller than my husband!!) and on one of our return trips we had our first ever night away with NO kids in well over 20 years when we stayed in Dillon, MT and visited and old ghost town in Bannack - Montana's first state capital!

***

Hubby turned the big 5-0 in September so we packed my visiting nephew, mother-in-law and the youngest two "kids" in the car and celebrated at Mount Rushmore...

...a total bucket-list moment for my husband (my 3rd visit)
Brooke took a second job as a Teacher's Assistant at a Christian preschool in order to determine if this may become a degree pursuit for her next fall. She also took up bigger and more detailed projects in painting.

I guess you could say, the "sky" is the limit!!




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