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June 29, 2011

Feeling Blessed

Do you ever have something happen to you that just makes you feel loved? Loved by God, loved by someone?
This happened to me yesterday.

You see we have this garden.....this really big garden. And then we have this other garden.....this little bit smaller than the really big garden, but still a big garden.

And then we have these weeds. These "getting bigger by the moment" weeds. These weeds that were making the garden look like a jungle rather than the sweet little oasis that it should be.

And then we had this tiller. A fairly new tiller. A tiller that used to work very well. A tiller that used to make the garden look very respectable. But right now, a very broken down tiller.

Then we had me and my daughters who felt totally overwhelmed at having to hoe this entire BIG garden and the other still big, but a little smaller garden, by hand. An especially overwhelming and back breaking task this year due to all the rain making the ground very hard!

Then we have this "fix the tiller" man. A man who said it would be 2 very long weeks before the very broken tiller would be fixed.

Then you have me. Me who was getting a tad anxious about this overgrown garden. Me, who is already having a very frustrating gardening year. Me, who was having a very, very BAD ATTITUDE. Me, sharing complaining to a friend about a very broken down tiller

Then you have a God, Who loves me in spite of my weaknesses. A God Who loves me too much to leave me in my discontent. A God who gently points out to me that the discontent in my heart is not pleasing to Him.

Then you have me. A very humbled me. A very repentant me. A me who has an attitude change....from very BAD....to trying her very best to be CONTENT.

Then you have a very wonderful God. A God Who cares about even the smallest details of my life.

Then you have very sweet friends. Friends who made my day!

Then you have this tiller.....this very, very oldish looking tiller. A tiller that you CAN NOT judge by its looks! A tiller that beats the newish broken down tiller (even when it is functioning at it's best) by a long shot! A tiller that the same very sweet friends dropped off at our place yesterday.

Then you have me. Totally, totally, totally BLESSED! Totally THANKFUL!

Then you have 2 gardens  that no longer look like a jungle. 2 gardens that are looking more and more weed free.

Then you have me who learned a few very big lessons this week.
1) Never underestimate the power of an older looking tiller!
2) As hard as it is sometimes, it pays to be content. Not only does your heart feel good....it feels GREAT!
3) A great lesson from a young couple who chose to be a blessing....even if it meant going out of their way to help someone out.....May I be like that!
4) It's just not worth sweating over the small things. They will not matter in eternity....but my attitude will.

A big thanks to Mike and Jeanette for lending us your tiller. Words cannont express how much it meant to us :)

June 27, 2011

Breakfast Mayhem

The kids made this for Father's Day.
Thought it was too cute not to share :)

June 21, 2011

How We Do Things Series...Toys

Toys, toys, toys!!! Seems like a never ending job to keep on top of that subject around here!

With this many occupants and this many birthdays, we had to find a way to manage toys before they took over our house!!!!

We used to have a play room down the basement and that is where we stored most of the toys, with the exception of “special” toys. Those get stored in the kids rooms. (But there is a limit to how many they can keep in their room). So our kids would spend a lot of their time in the basement playing with “toys”.

But as our kids grew and as God added more of them to our family, we started to realize that a lot of character training happens when children play together. And when our children were downstairs, out of earshot, we were missing out of a lot of training opportunities. It was then that we decided to move a bunch of the toys upstairs. Since then the kids have played upstairs, around us, within hearing range.

This took some adjusting, because I have to admit, I enjoyed the peace and quiet that came when our kids were playing way downstairs and I couldn't really hear them :) But when we moved all the action upstairs, the noise level rose and my tolerance and patience had to rise with it.

But we have never regretted this decision. It has been so valuable to have them play around us.. Not only is it fun to listen to (most times) but there are so many character issues we can deal with, before things get out of hand. Way less, “He said, she said.” “He did, she did!”

We have always tried to keep our kids toys narrowed down to things that will assist them in playing out real life skills. When we built the family room we finally got the toys organized the way I had been dreaming of for a long time. We have one shelf, with containers that are labeled with different toys. eg. Cars, lego, blocks, dishes, play food, people, farm machinery, ect. The children are only allowed to take a couple boxes off the shelf at a time and are to clean those up before they take out any more. The boxes have helped me be more organized in the toys that I buy, and it helps the kids to be more organized in their play and not make huge messes that are too overwhelming to clean up. We also have one box that has misc. type toys plus a toy box with baby toys These toys do not go on the shelf.

The board games are on the top shelf for the simple reason that everyone cannot reach them. I love to encourage our kids to play games, but I don't like all the lost pieces that happen when they have free reign of them. So this way I can somewhat moniter them.

We are very careful with the toys we let our kids play with. Like I said before we like to buy toys that assist in acting out life skills. In the same way, we don't buy toys that would encourage attitudes or behaviour that is contrary to our morals and beliefs as a family.

An example of a couple of things we have chosen to avoid would be guns for boys and barbies for girls. We have talked about guns and came to the conclusion that they only imply one thing and that is death. And we would rather encourage life. In watching little boys play with guns, rarely have we seen them simply shoot at targets, rather they shoot at living things. When they are younger, we would rather cultivate an attitude of kindness and caring for life. Now we understand the whole thing about boys hunting and all that, but we think that is something that they will learn easily enough when they are old enough and responsible enough to handle a real gun. So we choose to keep toy guns out of our toy box.

Barbies are something we have never had in our home. We teach our children to be modest and that beauty comes from the inside. We feel that barbies teach the opposite virtues. Instead we provide our little girls with baby dolls. We have been amazed at how baby dolls seems to bring out the nurturing side of little girls. This is something we want to encourage, as we hope that one day our girls will be able to experience the joy of motherhood.

When we buy toys for our children we ask ourselves if this is a toy that would encourage our children in the values that we have taught them. If we feel a certain toy encourages feelings, desires or emotions contrary to God's Word, we don't encouraging our kids to practice it in their play. If it's a cartoon character we would not let them watch on video, it is not something we allow in our toy collection.

We want to glorify God in every area of our family's lives. And the toys we allow our kids to play with is no exception. It is never worth lowering our standards just for the sake of entertainment.

And so here is my top 10 list of toys:
Building Blocks
Play Tools
Dolls, Doll House and Little People
Play Do
Play Kitchen, Dishes and Food
Farm Machinery
Plastic Animals
Board Games

How about you? What are some of your families favorite toys?

June 20, 2011

Good Excuse?

We were on our way to church on Sunday enjoying the drive when all of a sudden Mark put on the brakes and started to back up the van. He said he thought he saw a turtle on the side of the road. And he did....a big one!!!! So we stopped the van, let the kids take off their seat belts and admire this amazing creature!!! He stared at us all gauking at him as if to say,

" What's all the fuss about!"

This extra stop made us late for church but over the years we have learned that sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the little things in life :)

June 14, 2011

The More I Seek You

This morning when I went for a walk I was listening to the song "The More I Seek You". 
Do you ever have those moments that you are just overwhelmed with the majesty and beauty of God?
As I looked around at the beauty of our Creator, I was just in awe of Him.
I felt so humbled that He loves me and wants a relationship with me. 
I am such a tiny speck on this earth, yet He cares about me.
I was so honoured that He chose to give me another day to worship Him.
I felt unworthy of the blood that He shed for me.
I was just in awe of Him!

June 7, 2011

Teaching Our Children to Pray

Over the years of having children I have been often blown away by their childlike faith.
We have taught our children to pray from and early age. And I have never grown tired of hearing them pray.

Yesterday, the tractor we were seeding with, broke down. We were eating lunch when we heard Mark tell Josh on the 2 way radio that he was driving along and the tractor just stopped.

This year has been a real struggle getting the seed into the ground. We have had lots and lots of rain with few sunny days in between. The ground is saturated making it very hard to seed.

But yesterday we were seeing the end. If everything went well we knew we could get done. This was HUGE because they were calling for a bunch of rain again today (and it's raining as I type :) So the push was on!

When I heard Mark tell Josh about the tractor my immediate reaction was to pray...silently. But then I looked around at all of our children sitting there and decided to ask them to agree with me in prayer. I explained the situation to them, told them Daddy didn't know what was wrong with the tractor and that we needed to pray that he would have the wisdom and strength to deal with this situation. That the tractor would get fixed quickly. But most of all we needed to pray that God's will would be done. We knew He had a purpose for this.We went around the circle and each child prayed. Most of them prayed a simple prayer like, "Lord please help the tractor to start again so we can get seeding done."

Meanwhile in the field, Mark had called the mechanic, who said he would be there in 20 minutes. A little while later we heard Mark tell Josh that the tractor was running again!!!! We were excited and praising God for answered prayer!

A little while later I had to go out to the field to bring Mark seed and he told me what the problem had been. He said that guy looked at the wiring and was trying to figure out why there was no power coming. And then as he was looking through the wiring diagrams "it came to him" what the problem was.  And he happened to have the part we needed in the truck. So within a few minutes the tractor was fixed and Mark was seeding again!

Now I believe that God helped the mechanic "remember" and I don't believe it was coincidental that he had the right part in the truck. I believe God used this situation to teach our kids (and me :) the importance of prayer in our every day life.

When I came back home I found the kids and one by one (some two by two) told them how God had answered our prayers.

Our kid's faith was strengthened yesterday. They were assured that God does hear and answer prayer. They know that God doesn't always answer our prayers right away....sometimes He asks us to wait patiently. But yesterday He chose to answer right away.

At supper we all thanked God for His mercy and for answered prayer.

We need to teach our children to pray. We need to teach them that God is interested in every area of our life. That He is always there to hear us. And when He answers prayer we need to teach them how important it is to thank God for answered prayer. We also need to teach Him that God doesn't always answer prayer in the timing or way that we might want or expect. But He does always answer prayer.

Because we live in a society where we can usually fix things on our own it's too easy to turn to man instead of God. Years ago, God worked on my heart. He taught me that my first response should be prayer when I had a need. If one of the kids were sick, instead of reaching for the tylenol bottle, or taking them to the Dr. I was to first pray for them. If we had a need, that my first response would be to pray instead of go out and try to buy it.

In the last little while I have gotten lazy. Too many times I have turned to man's way of fixing things instead of God's. But Sunday, in church, I got a "refresher course" as God once again was calling me back to Him, to His way of doing things! He is my Healer, He is my Provider, He is my God!!!

I want to encourage you today, if you have an ailment, problem or a need, take it to the Lord. Seek Him first. And if you have children, ask them to pray with you. A child's faith is so real and refreshing.

Let's teach our children to pray.

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4

But Jesus called them [unto him], and said,
Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:
for of such is the kingdom of God. Luke 18:16

For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

June 3, 2011

Muck and Mire

We figured before the cows disappeared in the mud in the corrals, that it would be about time to move them to the pasture :)

Truthfully we move them to pasture around this time every year!!! But I thought that was a more exciting way to start a post!!!!

We are very, very muddy here though. Ever since spring began it is a rare treat to see the sun shining for more than a couple of days in a row and the rain just keeps coming!!!! Mark and I purposed years ago to never complain about rain. When it rain as least some things grow, if there is a drought...things don't grow. But we are praying that the land will dry so that we, and many, many other farmers, can get back into the fields. A kind of silly phrase has been running through my head every time I see rain in the forecast, "Some may trust in the forecast, some may trust in the weather man, But we will trust in the name of our God" :) So thankful that God is in control!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand....cows. This is what has been happening around here lately. Early in the morning, the first thing I hear is one cow or another bellaring and bellaring and bellaring....you get the picture. Either her calf is on the outside of the fence where it's drier and she wants her udder emptied, or her calf is on the other side of a mud puddle that she simply doesn't want to walk through. Now when I say mud puddle, you have to understand that I don't simply mean just a little puddle, I mean more like a swamp up to their bellies! So I get woken up way to early and have to try to go back to sleep being serenaded by a cow relentlessly calling to her calf!

All that to say, I am happy for them  for me that on Wednesday they got to go to the pasture! Because this means the yard will be quiet again...quiet from bellaring cows I mean!!!

(It was so muddy that you just had to concentrate at putting one foot in front of the other.....plus chase cows! It was amazing that not one of us lost our boots :)

(We haul the cows to two pastures, so we have to be sure to match up the mama's with their babies, or one of the ain't gonna be too happy!!!

( We took a grand total of 7 trips to the pastures)

(imagine here a bunch of hoop'in and hollar'in)

(My husband is the best trailer backer upper there is out there....just say'in :)

(Insert excited mooing of cows. It's amazing how they remember the pasture from other years!)

(insert the very loud sniff of a bull :)

(pretty much the first thing they do after you let them out of the trailer is look for the herd. It took these a few seconds to spot them. After a couple bites of grass they were off to join the rest)

(his "job" this summer is to breed the 16 cows in this pasture. 
We have another bull with the 13 other cows in the other pasture...same job!!!)

He is the one who keeps everything moving. He knows how a cow thinks and has trained us over the years the proper way to chase cows. It's not as easy as you think :) 

(Jennifer did almost all of the calving herself this year. She knows all of the cows by name and which calves belong to which cow. 
She did an excellent job this year of helping all these mamas have healthy babies.
Midwife Jen takes her job very seriously and it shows!!
Oh, BTW, the look on her face is sheer exhaustion and the spots...well lets just say it's not makeup!!!)

(Joshua has never really liked to work with cattle. But he works hard all winter long feeding and bedding them. We appreciate all the work he does on the family farm. 
Oh, BTW, the look on his face is "Yes!!! No more cattle chores until fall!" 

Having the cows out in the pasture is a lot less work. We still have to check on them throughout the summer, make sure they are healthy and that they haven't broken out of the fence. 
Still, a lot less work!

Oh, and since it's a cow day...here's a joke for you!


June 2, 2011

Just Keepin It Real

This has been a phrase that I have read a lot on blogs or facebook over the past few years.
Basically this is how it goes....."COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN......I'm just keepin it real!!!"
I have thought this whole phrase through and figured out why it kind of bugs me.

I'm all for keepin it real. One of the things people assume about me being a mom of many is that I am this kind of "super mom"! Well the fact of the matter is I am just a regular person.....I just happen to be a mom of many. I am real, I am human, I have struggles, I have heartaches, I have pain.....I am real! Sometimes people make the comment after I do a post about my shortcomings that it was nice for them to hear I have struggles too...that I am real. Really, pinch me, I am real!!!!

But I am not for being a complainer in the name of "keepin it real". I think that is just an excuse to get pity from others.

Let me explain. A mom complains about her children misbehaving all day and that she is totally wasted, plus she has a bunch of cleaning left to do.....etc. I want to ask you....what good did that do her, or her readers? Personally I know that if I start to focus on my less than perfect circumstances rather than focus on the ONE who helps me to rise above my circumstances....I start to wallow in self-pity.

Self-pity is an ugly beast that will rob me of my joy. Let's take yesterday for example. Something happened that really ticked me off!!! And for a few minutes I let the beast of self-pity overtake me. And for those few minutes I was miserable, and miserable to be around. And it was then I knew that I had a choice to make. "let it go" or "fume my way through my day." I chose to let it go, and do you know what happened? The self-pity left and I had joy again. My cirucumstance had not changed, but my attitude toward it had! Now what if I had come to write on the blog, say how miserable I was, explain the whole situation....complain a little...or a lot!!!! Would I have experienced the joy that I felt when I chose to let it go? I know for a fact that I would not have.

Now some of you may be saying...."Well how do I get the body of Christ to pray for me if I don't let them know I am having trouble?" I believe that you can ask someone to pray for you without complaining. For my situation yesterday I could have said something like, "I am struggling with a bad attitude. Could you please pray for me?" No victim mentality there, no pleas for pity, no putting other people down....just "keepin it real!"

I have real troubles with people who bash their husbands, wives, parents, children, jobs, friends.....even themselves all in the name of "keepin it real". To me this is not keeping it real....this is asking others to feel sorry for you.

Nowhere in scripture do I see that God gives us the go ahead to complain. In fact I see quite the opposite. "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Do everything without complaining and arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God." Ephesians 4:29
I don't want to be a fake on my blog. I want to be real in the way that people can see I have struggles and hardships too. But it doesn't do me or anyone else good if I sit here and whine and complain about my circumstances, my relationship, or my life in general. All that really does is make me feel more miserable and maybe get a little pity from others. I choose not to go there. So for the record....no, my life is not perfect. Yes, I have struggles...every day actually!!! Who can live in a house with 12 other people and not have struggles? But if I don't have anything that will lift you up and encourage you in your walk with God...I won't be saying it. It doesn't do me or anyone else any good to complain. It's like I tell my kids....it's just spreading the poison.

So next time you want to say, "Just keepin it real" stop and think about your motives :)

June 1, 2011

How We Do Things Series: Clothing

There are not many tasks that I procrastinate in but this one I do....every year!!!!!  Yesterday we finally got our winter clothes put away and have all the summer clothes on the shelves. Except for the toque and mitts of course. If you life in Manitoba, you know you never really put those away :)

Years ago we got rid of all dressers and drawers. I got so frustrated with broken drawers and clothes stuffed in that I asked my hubby to make shelves in all the closets for the kids clothes. He also made me a free standing cupboard with shelves for the baby room. The 3 older girls have shelves in their room. The 4 older boys have their shelves in their rooms.  The 2 little girls have their shelves in the laundry room. And the 2 little boys clothes are in the baby room shelves. The boys have a small rod in their closet for dress clothes, the girls have  a couple of rods under the stairs and a there is a rod in the baby room for the rest. 

We also have a storage closet in the basement that we store all the kids off season clothes (except the oldest 3 girls) in rubbermaids. We have baby girl and boy clothes in separate categories newborn, 3 mths, 3-6 mths, 6-9 mths...and so on up to 2 yrs of age. These clothes spend some time in storage, but all the other clothes are pretty busy getting rotated through from one person to another. Our biggest space is the one between Kerri and Brooke. I don't keep much of anything from Kerri, just some sentimental items. The only other break is from Nathan to Josiah (which I only keep favorite clothes, the rest I give to friends or donate). And now this year I decided to get rid of most of Mikaya's clothes as well....since the next two are boys. Other than that we can pretty much pass the clothes from one child to the next.

In the baby room I have hanging shelves (the kind you put on a rod), and that is where I put all the clothes that the babes outgrow...cause we all know they don't grow according to seasons. Then when we pull out the boxes the next season, we put all those away as well.

I am a thrift shop and garage sale junkie! So I am always buying clothes ahead of time for our kids. When I buy them I put them in the storage closet in a rubbermaid and when the season rolls around we go through those as well as their boxes. The main thing I buy is jeans because our boys wear out their jeans so fast. We rarely make it through a season where I am not pulling out more jeans from their storage boxes!!! Oh and pajamas are another thing that I buy. For some reason it is hard to find jammies when I need them, so if I see nice ones I usually get them!

I also like to keep an eye out for the end of season clothes sales in our local Superstore and Walmart.  I am pretty stingy though....it has to be less than $5.00 for me to get it. Usually I wait until they are 1 or 2 dollars. Sometimes I am able to get lots of deals....other times not so much. I will buy up lots of mitts at the end of winter sales because this is always something we need. On the farm our mitts wear out fast.

And then throughout the year we also get hand me downs from people that we know. We go through those as soon as  we get them, keep what we want, give away what we don't and then put what we keep  in the storage room. 

I used to have all the shoes in rubbermaids in the storage closet as well, but I found this was way too chaotic when I needed shoes for somebody, to go digging through the boxes. So I used those drawers that I detested for the kids clothes and labeled them with different sizes, sandals or running shoes. Now when I need a pair of shoes real quick I can just go to the right drawer and pick what I need. It works really slick for me. Plus it limits me to the amount of shoes I can buy. I have this thing for little kids shoes, not sure why, but I do. So now my space is limited....no more crazy excess of shoes!!!!

This year it took Megan and I two pretty full days to go through everyone's clothes. We also went through all the baby clothes which took a bit more time. But getting everyone to try on the clothes just takes time....that's all there is to it! By the time we are done with the clothes, I don't want to see clothes again for awhile. I am usually quite exhausted when we are done. Not sure why, not like it's that physically taxing!!!  But I breathe a big sigh of relief!!!!

We always start with the oldest boy, Caleb, because he usually has stuff in his box that he passes down. Then we go through the other 3 older boys. Next is the little girls because by now they are absolutely beside themselves with excitement to get their "new" clothes out! Then is the little guys. We only try the clothes on our 2 year old, Josiah....and that is enough. For Jaden, we just put what we think will fit him, on his shelves :)

Each boy puts all his clothes that are currently on his shelves and brings them upstairs where we turn our kitchen table into a clothing parlour! Then as we finish each boys clothes, we give them the new ones to put on their shelves. From Zachary down, we mark the clothes with the age of the child and an H for the clothes being for home and a G for the ones for good.

And that's pretty much our clothing journey! And when we were done getting the seasons clothes out we jump for joy!!!!

Another big task done :) Now we are just praying for some sunshine and warmer weather so we can actually wear these clothes :)

How about you. What tips do you have for storing and organizing kids clothing? I'd love to hear how you do things :)