Things We Gained in the Recession

There is a movie that runs the HBO circuit occasionally, entitled “Things We Lost in the Fire.”    Though I’ve never watched the movie, my take from the previews is that the plot details the intangibles that people lose when tragedy occurs.   Sometimes it’s not the material things that matter so much as those items that money can’t buy.   In any case, as I was thinking through this blog post, the movie’s author should consider his/her title revamped and stolen.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately praying for friends to gain employment, to come into finances that help keep cars from being repossessed, and for supernatural turn-arounds that keep water and lights turned on.    Those in power call this extended downturn a recession, but I think that depends upon who you talk to.   I know that, for the few months in 2009 that my husband was laid off, I don’t care what anyone says–it was a depression around here.   Truth be told, until a couple of months ago, we still felt the stress of current events even though we’ve both been gainfully employed minus that brief stint.   When you work in a sales job and drive ~100 miles a day, with gas at almost $4, the nearby gas station owners know you by your first name.   The salt in the open wound of the whole gas increase predicament is that it’s not just your personal gas; every utility company has trucks that need your help, too.   

The other factor that has nearly killed us locally is the extended drought.    The weatherman says that, with the exception of 1-2 days, we have now been almost 200 days with less than 1/2 inch of rain.   Translation: we’re trying to keep our plants somewhere close to green with no help whatsoever from the Lord.    The grass is on its own.   The ground has been too hard to try our luck at another vegetable garden.   I just throw up my hands and think, oh well, next year.     

As my mind often travels to books, I reflect upon the double whammy of the Great Depression and the plight of the mid-western farmers during the Dust Bowl years.  Stories like Dust for Dinner and Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp come to mind.    The Lord was doing something back then, and trying to get peoples’ attention.   I believe He is also doing something now, and calling us back.   Back to what?   I believe, in part, back to our mother wit and the ingenuity of our ancestors, and away from the materialistic, wasteful lives that many of us in this generation have engaged in for far too long.   Our parents and grandparents knew how to take a little and make a lot of it.    Somehow, in all of our education and corporate jobs and suburban lifestyles, we’ve lost that same resourcefulness.    This season under God is teaching us to go after it and get it back.     I know personally I’ve had to make adjustments, and as hard as the transitions have been for those around me, I can’t help but believe that we will come out better for them if we hang in there and faint not, as Paul says in Galatians 6:9.

One of the adjustments I’ve made is to begin sewing again.    Unfortunately, I have no pictures immediately available, but that’s a post for another time.    My task right now is to finish a shirt for our son before he grows out of it!   

Though it wasn’t a necessary adjustment, homemade laundry detergent has been a tremendous savings.

 

I love to do things like this, and I’d seen several homeschooling moms brag about the increased effectiveness, and the ridiculous savings, of making their own detergent.   But I had no idea where to buy products, and terms like “fels naptha” intimidated me, so I originally blew it off.   Yet, when I ran across a site that gave a recipe and told where to buy the products, I decided to give it a go, and I even got a bit of help.  

This recipe is popular across the Internet and among a few of my homeschooling friends, so with some encouragement and inspiration, I’ve finally begun to like my egg drop soup-like laundry detergent, and I LOVE the fact that I’ve been able to take that ~$10 Tide off my grocery list for a couple of months now.

Another of the adjustments I’ve had to make is in food preparation, and learning to think more about foods that give more bank-for-the-buck, so to speak.   Pastas stretch.   Potatoes stretch.   Beans are also quite versatile.

 

Last year when we had our garden, I quickly saw the value of raw foods, both in our pocketbooks and in our health.   This year, as I stated earlier, we couldn’t get the garden going, but I’ve stuck  with my passion for raw foods, learning new ways to prepare familiar vegetables, and trying some varieties with which I’m not as familiar.   As a purposeful digression, I was reading a devotional in the last couple of days from Sheila Gregoire on marriage, and being made for each other.  You can find it here.     By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Sheila’s blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, she is well worth a “follow,” or at least a frequent visit.   She blogs candidly, yet graciously, about marital issues that most won’t touch: the impact of porn addictions, what happens when there is unresolved conflict, and of course, keeping the romance in relationships.    Anyhow, as I read this devotional, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own marriage, and how my life has changed–for the better–in our almost 20 years of marriage.   One of those changes has been in my eating habits.   As a southern girl, I came to the marriage not knowing much about cooking anything that wasn’t fried, buttered, or dipped in gravy.   My husband was health-conscious long before it was stylish; his family simply thought of him as picky and strange.   Though I’d never be called petite, I know for sure that without him role modeling a healthier diet, I would probably be twice the size that I am and tumbling down a vegetable oil slick to an early grave.   I should also mention that somehow we managed to produce a vegetarian in our son; between the two of them, I now have a repertoire of dishes that take me from tilapia to tofu,  and from honeydews to jicama (pronounced HIC-uh-muh, so that you don’t miss the alliteration–smile).

I see God honoring my faithfulness in small things, and it makes me smile.    Last night, I was preparing dinner and thinking about my husband’s impact on our diet (and admittedly thinking about this blog post).   I was preparing oven-fried chicken and sweet potatoes, and I didn’t want my usual sweet potato casserole, made southern-girl style.   I decided upon a low-fat, orange-juice based glaze that I once used years ago.   All of that role-modeling sounded really good until I realized that I didn’t have enough flour to coat the chicken, nor enough orange juice to spread across all of my sweet potato slices.  (Had plenty of butter, though–tee hee!)  Rather than make an unplanned dash to the store while everyone’s stomachs were rumbling,  I prayed for the Lord to stretch what I had, and I witnessed a widow of Zarapheth-like blessing with the flour and orange juice.   Plenty to cook dinner, with some to spare.    I even found an avocado to add to our dinner salads.   It was a great meal, made tastier by the fact that I knew of its humble beginnings.

  

If we will not grow bitter or weary, there is such a testimony awaiting each of us on the other side of this recession.   I invite you to embrace your hardships for what they are–love from up above, and lessons from way back.   God bless you, friends.

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Exactly what my Family Needs

 

O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.  I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.

 

Psalms 34:3-4

 

I am so excited this morning to tell you that Angela, formally of Fruitfulfamily, now (hopefully soon) blogging at 7PeasinaPod  is celebrating her new home!  

YYYEEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!

 

After over a year of homelessness (her mother’s 1 bedroom was a blessing for their family of 9, but for a husband and wife, there is nothing like your own home), she inherited a home specifically remodeled with her in mind (Her deceased aunt added three bedrooms, a bathroom, and bought a new washing machine and refrigerator before going home to be with the Lord)!!  It only cost her $5 (to change the deed)!!   I was already excited enough as we have lifted her family up to the Lord over the past year or more, but when she walked me through her entire testimony, all I kept saying was “amazing.”    There simply were no words to fully express the privilege of watching God be God.

As our son said, if you only heard the end of the story, you’d be jealous, and I would never be so presumptuous as to tell her testimony, but the story’s so wonderful that I just have to, have to, share some highlights.   Let me be very upfront in saying that words will fail me miserably in trying to capture eloquently what I heard on yesterday.   Again, sometimes life events just cause you to stare at God, mouth agape, totally dumbfounded.

1)    She endured Egyptian-like plagues in her original home

2)    A neighbor with a bi-polar disorder once threatened her husband with a gun, then caused a neighborhood scare that triggered a SWAT response and the temporary commandeering of her home

3)    They (finally) sold the home out from under themselves, forcing them to move to a hotel, and then into the rental property of a slumlord

4)    Because the slumlord never properly replaced a broken refrigerator, they received two that were filled with maggots, then went without refrigeration for a number of months

5)    Even though they paid their rent in a timely manner, they were evicted while Angela was pregnant with their 7th child (and the oldest was only 9 or 10 years old at the time)

6)    While Angela’s family moved in with her mother, Angela’s aunt, whose health was failing, offered her the home when she went to be with Jesus (no one knew at the time that the journey would take place in one year)

Oh, and did I mention that the Lord gave her a dream 9 years ago about the house, including her neighbors Teresa and Angel?    The Lord also showed her the school room, but since her oldest was only 2 then, she thought that it was a sign of an in-home daycare business.

Okay, are you dancing before the Lord, too?

 

Why is her story on my blog, and what does any of this have to do with me?   Well, first, the Lord tells us to rejoice with others who rejoice.   Second, it’s wonderful to see God answer prayer, and I love seeing Him be God, wherever He is blessing.   And even though Angela is a person that I met through blogging, I consider her a friend.   On an even more personal note, I am often reminded of the trial of Job, and how he began to see his own breakthrough when he took the focus off of himself and began to pray for his friends.   The “MommIdentity” devotional, the conversations I’ve had in the last week or so (certainly this testimony being one of those), and even the comments of dear blog readers and customers like AJ, have really resonated with me over the last few days.  It is almost like a special word from the Lord in the midst of all my preparation.   As I told our son on yesterday, I’m not physically ready to begin school next week—our relaxing summer just began!   Although I know why I chose that start, and by the time we finish early next spring, I’ll be glad I did.  What I didn’t say to him was that I don’t feel totally prepared as a teacher, either.   There are a couple of places where I still don’t have the “right” resources, and I still need each child to go through last year’s notebooks and see where we need to buy folders, new notebooks, print notebooking pages, etc.    My mock syllabi aren’t fully fleshed out.  Math plans need to go into the planners, but I intentionally waited to see what work would be completed this week.   Overall I just feel rushed.   So, in reading the line in the devotional that I am exactly the Mom that this family needs, I felt peace wash over me like a refreshing spring.

If I’m totally honest, I, too, struggle at times with comparisons.   I didn’t post the thoughts about fitting into your homeschooling skin by accident—it’s been the abundance of my heart lately.   As I listened to Angela, I couldn’t help but think, how could you continue to homeschool through all of that?    I thought the same of Phyllis during her encounter with homelessness.    We’ve been through a tough time as well, though nowhere near to that extent.   In fact, relative to the goings and comings of others around us, our woes have been few.    Still, we began reading the book of Psalms in the midst of our trial because I wanted the kids to read the words of David as he encouraged himself at the peak of his persecution.   Maybe I was the one who needed to read it.   However it worked out, when I later wanted to abandon the reading, thinking that the kids weren’t benefitting, they asked to keep going.   Perhaps we all learned a lesson in how to handle life’s adversities.

I applaud Karen for hesitating on putting the kids back in school while she braces for continued chemotherapy; I don’t know that I’d be that strong.   Yet, her family needs a mom with tremendous courage.

I wish that I were as creative as Dawn, as bold and determined as Amy, or as “together” as KeriMae, but I know that God gave them a special grace to give some special kids a wonderful life and school experience.

If only I was the student of home education that Kysha is.   If only my Charlotte-Mason inspired homeschool looked like Linda Fay’s.  If only my older two spent their summer reading like Solid Rocks’.   If only, if only…

Then I bear in mind that it is totally impossible for any of our blogs to reflect our total experience; we blog about the parts of life that we deem worth sharing, that are not too embarrassing to share, and places that we can (sometimes feebly) get words and pictures around.   Also, like professional teachers, we all tend to teach toward our strengths.   The fact that I choose to bore the children with tackle Homer and Dante’ doesn’t make me any less of an effective homeschooling parent than someone else who can craft each of the Seven Wonders of the World with paper Mache and popsicle sticks.    Finally, our kids live near a large metropolitan area, with many distractions and disruptions available to them at any point in the year.   Though I complain that we all are too plugged in, I’ll admit that, for the most part, their choices of what to watch are sound with our family’s values.   Comparing them, therefore, to children who live in rural places with fewer recreational outlets and/or no television is highly unfair to them.

Each of us, whatever is our state of being, is exactly what our families need.   I am exactly what my family needs.  May the Lord get glory in the midst of my feeling unprepared.  He is prepared, and He is sufficient for all my needs.    May He bless you today.

P.S.  Did I mention that the house is completely paid for?   Okay, you can get back to shouting now.    🙂