Just the Nine of Us

Just the Nine of Us

Monday, April 6, 2015

all the things.

All around, hope is springing up from this old ground;
Out of chaos, life is being found in YOU.
You make beautiful things out of the dust; You make beautiful things out of us.

I heard this song on my run this morning and it was so perfectly timed by the Lord. As things tend to be. :) He speaks to me in themes, and as I’ve told you before, there is such sweet communion with Him during our morning runs together. He speaks to me on those runs, I promise He does! 

Last week I kept going to Him about various “things” in my life right now. Just “things” about various relationships in my life, about decisions of how best to educate our kids, about breastfeeding, about bills, about my husband and his company, about our farm. Some small things, some really big, hairy, tough things. I’m sure you have “things” that concern you, too, because we are human. So you know what I mean. Just “things”.

And His Word to me was to remember the places in the Bible where He says, “all things”. Because I mean, what would NOT be included in “all things”? Nothing. Certainly everything that was concerning me last week would fall under the category of “all things”. 

At first since, while I was running, I didn’t have my Bible in hand, I scanned my memory for where I had learned Scriptures that said “all things”. 

In all these things we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Seek first His kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you.

In Him all things hold together.

He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

So that thing you are concerned about? Whatever it is? It is under this category of all things and you can say with confidence, He is holding this thing together. He is working this thing together for my good. I can be more than a conqueror in this thing with His help. I can do this thing, knowing that He will give me all things that I need for it.

So I had been meditating on this “all things” principle all throughout the week last week, and when I walked into our Easter morning service and our pastor read this passage from Colossians 1:15-23, I was completely blown away by a God who speaks, who makes Himself clear, who continues weaving this theme into all my details, who will not let me forget that He is Lord over all the things:

“He is in the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of (all things). For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the Head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might be preeminent.”

And then the choir sang about crowning Him Lord of all things. And I cried.

And then I remembered that just that morning, I had come to church concerned about some of those “things”, and He had lovingly, sovereignly, graciously gone before me and taken care of those “things”. I had a conversation in the bathroom and He shined a light on an area I had asked Him for help with. You know, just “happened” to bump into that lady that said that thing that helped me with that thing. Just Him. Going before me, taking care of my things. There was another “thing” I was concerned about, and I needed to have some conversations with some people to tell them that I was still waiting on the Lord for an answer to that “thing”, and the people were abundantly gracious and merciful and blessed me with their understanding. Just Him. Going before me, taking care of my things again. He does that.

And then I remembered one of my favorite verses: “The Lord will PERFECT that (thing) which concerns me.” You will hear me quote that verse a lot. Because I love it. :) Because He WILL. He will perfect all of those “things”.

And then our pastor preached the most eloquent presentation of the Gospel; of how good the world was when God created it and how perfectly sinless we were and how we were made to be in perfect communion with Him and each other. Of the devastation of the Fall, and how it changed everything, how in an instant there was death and sadness and sin and brokenness. Of how Jesus came to change our stories; to make all things NEW! Hallelujah! To take our “things” and redeem them, restore them, breathe life into them again. Of how in all things we are being gloriously transformed through a progressive process of renewal until one day when all things will be perfect again. Hallelujah. Amen!

You can hear his message here. It's the one entitled, "What Jesus Accomplished When He Walked out of the Tomb." Please take some time to listen. He lays it all out so clearly. All the things are starting to make sense now. All. Things.

And so I began today with the forefront of my thoughts being how He is redeeming all things in my life. After the “Beautiful Things” song came a new version of the Rich Mullins song I ran to 20 years ago called “Sometimes by Step”. It goes, “Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You! Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You! I will seek You in the morning, and I will learn to walk in Your ways, and step by step You’ll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days.” And I cried out to Him in gratitude as I ran to this song today, at age 36, the same song I ran to at age 15 about following Him all of my days. I have not followed Him faithfully all of my days, and yet I can see His hand woven through those days so clearly now, His leading and guiding and reproving and instructing and wooing and pursuing and bringing me ever back to His perfect path. When I was a young girl, He placed on my heart such a desire to be a wife and mother. Other girls wanted to be doctors or astronauts; I wanted with all my heart to be a wife and mother. That seemed to me the highest and most glorious of callings. A woman at home with a house full of children. But all that was shaken with a divorce at age 24 that left me a broken, wounded, disillusioned single mother, thinking God’s plan for my life must be over. I must have failed at that. But praise God, that was not the end of His story for me. He so powerfully worked in my life, working all those things back into that good plan He placed on my heart early on. And guess what I am today? A woman at home with a house full of children. Praise His Name! He has redeemed that in my life! 

The last song I heard on my run this morning was “You Know Me” by Bethel Music. It goes, “You have been, and You will be; You have seen, and You will see. You know me.”  What truth. He sees the things. All the things. No-thing is hidden from Him. And that God who sees, will see to it. Selah.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Words: Countenance

Countenance is the word that has been on my heart this week. Of course, the countenance is the face. There are so many references from the Bible we could focus on, I mean this word is literally all through the Bible and there is so much significant depth behind each reference. There are tons of references both to the face or countenance of God, and to the face or countenance of man. I'm just going to focus on the references to the countenance of God in this post. The countenance of man could be a completely different post.

I'm not even sure which passage started me on this word study, but one that nearly everyone knows and has so much depth behind it is the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:

"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
and give you peace."

We've discussed this at length in our Friday night fellowship & bible study we do with some friends from the passage in Leviticus 26, where God is describing the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience. He says that He will look on His people favorably in their obedience, but will set His face against them in their disobedience. He warns in Deuteronomy 31:17 that when His people rebel, He will turn His face away. King Hezekiah begs the people in 2 Chronicles 30:9 to "return to the Lord. . . for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him." His face turned toward or away from the people meant so much, as the faces of the kings in those days could grant blessing or curse, death or life. There are  many petitions in the Bible for the blessing of His face upon us: "Make Your face shine upon Your servant!" is an earnest plea from Psalm 31:16 and Psalm 119:135. Equally earnest is the petition for Him not to turn His face away: "Do not hide Your face from me!"- Psalm 27:9 and Psalm 102:2. Old Testament kings of Israel would request God to turn His face toward His people and turn His face away from their enemies. Again we see that His face shining upon His people meant blessing. His face turning away always meant curse.

Interestingly, His countenance is always associated with light. Psalm 4:6 is a beautiful prayer for the light of His countenance to be upon us. His countenance in Matthew 28:3 is described as being "like lightning" and in Revelation 1:16 as "like the sun shining in its strength." The request is always for His face to shine upon us. "Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!" -Psalm 80:7; "God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us!" -Psalm 67:1. When Moses left the presence of God, where he had spoken to Him face to face, his countenance was so bright he had to wear a veil so the people could look at him. Yet the challenge from 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 for us is that we, having a greater ministry of the Spirit, will have a brighter and brighter countenance as we behold Him more and more. We either become darker or brighter depending on what we are beholding. Psalm 34:5 says that as we look at Him we are radiant.

"Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." -Psalm 42:5

"Seek His face forevermore!" is the command of Psalm 105:4 and 1 Chronicles 16:11. Also, "When you said, 'Seek My face", my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek!'" -Psalm 27:8 I was discussing this with the kids this morning, about what "seeking His face" would look like in our lives, and we decided that when we seek someone's face, we want to be with them. It's not enough to correspond via email or text or letters; we really want to spend time with them face to face. Just being with them, talking, being in communion. Seeking His face looks like just wanting to be in His presence, where there is fullness of joy. There is satisfaction in seeing His face. "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face."- 1 Corinthians 13:12. Oh what joy, to see Him fully! So the question comes, do we see His face now, or then? That is the question. I believe that He wouldn't command us to seek His face while on earth if we couldn't see it, at least "through a mirror, dimly". But just like now we see the stars and the heavens pretty well on a clear night, but the Hubble sees things far beyond that we can't even comprehend, I believe His beauty and power and righteousness will completely overwhelm us. But we are still supposed to gaze at the stars for now and behold the level of beauty and power that we can handle in our earthly bodies. Seeking His face now is the only way we can get through this life without falling apart. And then will come the day when we will see Him fully and all will be complete. Oh happy day!

"They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there; they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light." -Revelation 22:4-5

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.


Song of Solomon is one of my favorite books. In 5:15, the Beloved (Jesus) is described as having a "countenance like Lebanon". The bride is described in 4:11 as having the "fragrance of Lebanon." Only from having been in His presence, beholding His face and being near, would our garments have the fragrance of Lebanon.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

More on Psalm 37:3

Our pastor started a new study on the book of Jude on Sunday. He started out by describing two ways of studying the Bible: like taking a train ride through the mountains, or like taking a picnic in the middle of the mountains. Both very good and needful, but very different perspectives. Over the last three years I've taken train rides through the Bible, trying to read it through chronologically each year and get the whole Bible read, which is more like the train ride. It's been really great for me to not skip over parts I don't love, to have to read it all, to not just keep to my favorite books. But this year I'm feeling drawn to some picnics. Some feasting for awhile. The Lord has had me feasting on Psalm 37 for weeks. It's been so rich! There's still so much to verse 3 that I would like to share. :)

The first part of the verse says "Trust in the Lord and do good." I think we all know what it means to trust in the Lord, to lean on and rely on Him. "And" is a linking word, so while we are trusting and waiting, there's stuff to do. It's not a passive trusting. When I read "Do good", I immediately thought of Ephesians 2:10, which says that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works". I looked up "good" in the Greek since that's the common word, and it's the word agathos, which means profitable, useful, beneficial to others; in contrast to kalos, which is constitutionally good but not necessarily benefitting others. Agathos is active goodness. It is not just a being good, but a doing good. Hebrews 13 reminds us "not to forget to do good and share" (verse 16), and to work what is well-pleasing in His sight (verse 21). 1 Thessalonians 1:3 says that there is a work of faith, a labor of love. James 2 says that faith without works is dead. 1 John 3 tells us to love in deed and action, not just in word. There is stuff He wants us to DO in the trusting and waiting and dwelling. The famous hall of faith in Hebrews 11 has a pattern that goes, "By faith ___ did ______". By faith Noah built. By faith Abram went. And there is a wonderful promise in Galatians 6:9-10: "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." The essence of trusting while doing: not growing weary, knowing we will reap if we do not lose heart. Trust in the Lord and do good.

The second part of the verse says, "Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness/feed on His faithfulness." :) Your land is wherever God has you at the moment. And even if it is a place of captivity, or not the place you want to be, He still has instructions for that land too. Check out Jeremiah 29:4-9. We all love Jeremiah 29:11, but there are some great verses leading up to it. God's people had been taken into captivity in Babylon. They were not in the place of blessing and prosperity and promise where they wanted to be. Yet God's instructions were to keep on keepin' on. He told them to be increased there and not diminished. He told them to seek the peace of the city where they were. . . "for in its peace you will have peace." Read those verses; that's another study entirely. :) But what we can take from it to apply to Psalm 37:3 is that while we are dwelling in any land, in any circumstance, we are to keep pressing on. Not wishing for another land or another set of circumstances, but increasing in that land. And the seeking of the peace of the city is an active doing good, an agathos of active goodness for the benefit of the very place and people you are dwelling around. Cultivate faithfulness in that place. When God told Abram in Genesis 15 that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, He also told him that those descendants would live in captivity for 400 years before they are set free. 400 years! Remembering that gave me hope. There are things I am praying for my children that I haven't seen come to fruition yet. I'm pretty sure my parents prayed for me to love God's Word, but they only saw bits and pieces of fruit from that prayer until the last 5-6 years. I'm so glad they didn't stop praying for it. I'm going to keep praying for my children to love God's Word, knowing that they may be in their 20's before I see it. All the while we will be feeding on His faithfulness. Have you ever heard the song "Never Once" by Matt Redman? He's looking back on a difficult time and saying, "Never once did we ever walk alone, never once did you leave us on our own, You are faithful, God you are faithful." No matter what my life is going to hold from here on out, I know today that at the end of it I can sing that song. No matter what the trials are going to be, there WILL be a day when I can look back and say, "Never once did I ever walk alone. You are faithful, God, you are faithful!!" Check out Psalm 92:1-2. We have that on the walls of our home. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness every night." The Psalmist declares that every night, we will be able to declare His faithfulness in the previous day. What a promise!

"Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness." Psalm 37:3

Monday, January 26, 2015

Words: Faithfulness

Faithfulness (noun): from the Latin fidelis, as in the Marine motto, Semper Fidelis: Always faithful. It means constancy in the performance of duties; not wavering; steady; constant; reliable.

The reason this word has been on my mind a lot lately is because Psalm 37 has been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, Psalm 37:3- "Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness." Some translations say "Feed on HIS faithfulness" while others say to "Dwell in the land and CULTIVATE faithfulness." I've been pondering both and wondering, well, which is it? Do we feed on His faithfulness or are we to cultivate faithfulness in our own lives?

The first time I read it in the translation where the instruction was to "cultivate faithfulness." Or, as God's Word translation says, "Practice being faithful." As I was going about my daily round I would hear this voice, "Cultivate faithfulness. Practice being faithful." I talked to the kids about it as we went about our days. We talked about what it looks like. It's freezing outside. Do I have to feed and water the chickens? Cultivate faithfulness. I don't want to put my laundry away today! Cultivate faithfulness. We talked about how sometimes we are doing fun stuff that we love, and other times we are cultivating faithfulness by doing the difficult or mundane, necessary things. I felt like His Word was this little cheerleader in my head, reminding me that when I was meeting the constant demands of lots of little nurslings and hungry children and doing that one more load of laundry and getting up for the fourth time of the night to nurse again, I wasn't "just" doing any of those things. I was doing the very important work of cultivating faithfulness. It spurred me on to carry on. I used it to spur the carrying on of everyone I came in contact with. Since I was meditating on it, the words just flowed from my mouth: "You are cultivating faithfulness. Keep on keeping on. Cultivate faithfulness." I looked up cultivate to understand it more, and it's essentially a gardening term for tilling up the land, preparing it for crops. In the 1828 dictionary I found such words to describe it as "to labor on", "to labor to improve or advance". It has this idea of laboring to complete the duties assigned to you with excellence. It's one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. "The fruit of the Spirit is. . . . faithfulness." So as we walk with the Spirit, we become more and more faithful.

Next I looked up where the word "faithfulness" was found in the Bible, and guess what? I was pretty surprised to see that it is used far more often to describe HIM than to describe us. Lamentations 3:23 says that His faithfulness is great. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 says that He who calls you is faithful and will sanctify you completely. 2 Timothy 2:13 promises that even when we are not faithful, He is still faithful. We see His faithfulness every day in the rising of the sun once more, in the tides continuing to rise and fall, in the moon continuing to wax and wane. He is still being faithful to keep us. So I started meditating on the version that reads, "Feed on His faithfulness." The Amplified Bible says, "Feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed." I like that. It reminds me of the Israelites who were given manna each morning, exactly enough for each day. They literally fed on His faithfulness. We may not realize it, but we literally feed on His faithfulness daily too. It may sound depressing or weird, but sometimes I like to imagine the very worst things happening and how God would be faithful in it. I told a friend just this weekend that I have an urge to write a story about a momma of seven, living out in the country, and losing her husband in a tragic death, but living through it victoriously by feeding on His faithfulness and seeing Him be good in the midst. Because I know He would! I have confidence that if any of my "what ifs" happened, He would feed me on His faithfulness and I would be sustained. We all would. That's a good feeling.

So, which is it? Do we cultivate faithfulness or do we feed on His faithfulness?

I say yes. Both. :) As we feed on His faithfulness, we are empowered to cultivate faithfulness too. And on the days when we fail to be faithful, He still remains faithful. What solid foundations to stand on. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why I Am a Runner

I am a runner. I absolutely LOVE to run.

It started in high school as a way simply to stay in shape. I had tried softball and volleyball, both endeavors only revealed that I had two left feet. Or something like that. Something that meant I was not a softball or volleyball player. :) Running was something I could do that would keep me in shape. I ran on the track team and later the cross country team at my Alma Mater, Hartselle High School. Never won a race or even came close, but I ran to stay in shape. My goal wasn't to win. I would have just gone to the daily practice runs and not run a race on the weekends if I could have. (A lack of competitiveness may be linked to the "Mary" personality. Some might call it Type B. I've always said I was Type Z. The farthest from Type A that you can get. HA!)

As an adult though, running has become so much more to me. Running for me is the ultimate worship experience, a high of communion with God. It engages all of my senses. I breathe in the perfect, pure, untarnished God-air, the perfect mix of oxygen created by an Almighty God for us, His image bearers. People spend tons of money to purify their air, to make their air smell good. I do it too with my oil diffuser. But God created the perfect air, and when I'm outside and breathing it in, I am reminded of the perfect purification of His air moving into my lungs. My body is moving to the rhythm of the music in my ears and I rejoice that He made my body with the amazing ability to run, to move my legs, to get my heart pumping and my blood circulating. My whole body feels as if God is energizing and empowering it to move. The music becomes worship, even if it isn't "worship music". This morning I was listening to "Yellow" by Coldplay and the sliver of a moon was still visible, the sunrise was showing, as I heard the words, "Look how they shine for you!" The Creator illumines and illustrates and I am called to worship Him as I relish it. There is no crayon that can capture the green of the leaves, or the silvery white of the frost on the grass, or the pink on the horizon signaling the rising of the sun. He is other-than, greater-than, anything we can recreate. Even when I try to take a picture of the beauty, it falls short. All I find myself saying over and over on my run is, "Thank You! Wow! Thank You! Amazing! Thank You!" As I approached my house again at the end of the 3.3 miles, I looked at the huge trees beside our driveway and was overwhelmed at the thought that, many years ago, someone planted that tree, God breathed life into the seed and blessed it, knowing that many years later the Rodgers family would live there and enjoy that tree. I just stood there for a moment and thanked Him for those trees He planted and allowed us to enjoy.

I came back inside and tried to explain this passion to my family over breakfast. I'm not sure that they "got it", so let me say what I need to say about it here and maybe one day when they are older they will read it.

Dear Children,
Thank you for the many times you gave your Momma the time to run. It was invaluable to me. I hope that you too will find joy in running, but if you don't find the same passion for running that I do, I pray that you find something similar. I pray that you find something that makes you come alive the way running makes me come alive. Something that engages your senses and draws you into worship of your Creator God. Something that energizes you, that uplifts you, that causes you to say, "Wow" deep within your soul. I want that experience for you. I want you to know the joy of completing a difficult task, running up that hill or finishing that mile well, and giving God the glory in it. I want you to experience wonder and beauty and the seeing of your Creator in the details of His creation. I want you to sense His presence, His smile, His countenance on you as you engage in something for which you must draw from the deep recesses of your abilities. I pray that you will find your "run".
I needed those times like I needed air to breathe. Thank you.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I've always been a "words person". I LOVE learning new words, their roots, their history, the depth of meaning behind them. I love reading and hearing beautiful words. My love language is most definitely words of affirmation. My dear husband, being an acts of service man, has learned to do those acts of service while saying, "you are wonderful, my dear." :) He probably looks at me blankly while I'm gushing about how great he is, as he wonders why supper is not on the table yet. :) Ahhhh, marriage. :)
Being a words person has also made me much more of a Mary than a Martha. Even when people come to my house, I find myself getting involved in a deep discussion and forgetting there are thirsty people who need to be offered a glass of water. :)

Reading through the Bible, I think we are all "words people". It's one way we were created in the image of God, who spoke the world into existence, who spoke healing over the sick, who Himself was the Word. There are so many scriptures about the power of our words, especially in the Proverbs. "The mouth of the righteous is a well of life" (10:11); "The lips of the righteous feed many" (10:21); "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom (10:31); "The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable" are just a few from chapter 10! One of my favorites is, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit"(18:21). How powerful! Death and life! Words speak death or life. You choose.

I've also become very aware of the power of my words over my children. I still remember words that were spoken to me as a child from various sources; some good, some bad. All of it is still a part of me, all of it has a voice in my head that either helps or hurts. Being with my children all day every day certainly presents a challenge to making sure the words that go into their heads and hearts are good words.

God recently gave me an idea for one small way to incorporate good words into our day. Specifically, words of TRUTH. At breakfast, before the day really even begins, we say three things: 1) Something true about God, 2) Something true about ourselves, 3) Something true about today. For instance: 1) Something true about God: "The day is Yours, the night also is Yours; You have prepared the light and the sun. You have set all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter." (Psalm 74: 16-17). This day, this season, belongs to HIM and is in His hand! 2) Something true about ourselves: "Everyone who is called by My Name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him." We are called by His Name, created for His glory, formed by Him! 3) Something true about today: The Lord made it (Psalm 118:24), The Lord is commanding His lovingkindness in it (Psalm 42:8), His mercies are new today (Lamentations). When we begin the day just stating truth from His Word aloud and declaring it over the day, I have found that our days have more meaning and we see Him in it more. Words. Just choosing words of life at the start of the day.

I've made a personal goal to blog about various WORDS once a week. I hesitate to say that because, well, life happens and I know how many goals I have set that I haven't achieved. But that is the goal because I was reading in Matthew 10 recently where Jesus told His disciples, "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; whatever you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops." I felt He was reminding me to spread the ideas and words He is giving me and not just keep them to myself. So that is the goal!

Have a great day and remember: He is good; He goes before me; This day has been prepared in advance. Those three things.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adventures in Tandem Nursing

I never thought I would have the privilege of nursing two babies at once. I would see those women at La Leche League who were nursing all their babies through toddlerhood, sometimes several babies at once, and I thought they were superhuman. They were the untouchable heroes, and I was over there struggling to maintain enough supply for just one little newborn. I thought, maybe nursing is just always going to be a struggle for me. I was convinced it was best for my babies, but I was over there just barely eking out an ounce of milk after half an hour of excruciating pumping, while these amazon women were filling up buckets by the second. I never thought it was possible to have a good supply like that, especially not for two babies. I figured if I ever had twins, breastfeeding would not be an option.

Things began to be different with my sixth baby, Bethany. Having had endured nearly all the possible roadblocks in nursing, from thrush to improper latch to insufficient weight gain, I had learned a few things. More Milk Plus by Motherlove was an essential herbal supplement. Nursing Blend Breastfeeding Supplement by Fairhaven Health was another I had begun to swear by. And this time, for the first time, I saved my placenta and had it encapsulated for consumption in the postpartum weeks. All of these things, combined with eating enough healthy calories and staying hydrated, gave me a good supply of milk for the full first year. She was the first baby I nursed for one year, and, proud of us for enduring, coupled with being 12 weeks pregnant with number seven, I decided to wean. We might have been a little eager. My husband and I left for our first overnight without the baby on her first birthday. :) I remember what I thought was her "last" nursing session. That day I had taken the kids to the planetarium with a homeschool group. When the lights dimmed, another baby there Bethany's age started screaming. But Bethany latched on and found comfort, nursing herself to sleep. Just a few drops of milk and she was out. It was satisfying for both of us. I dropped everyone off with my parents and went off for the night with my husband. I felt a little weird at night, not nursing her to sleep, but I didn't get engorged or have a letdown. And from what I hear, she didn't miss me either. I figured we were done. That was April, and I wasn't due with the new baby until October. So I didn't consider that tandem nursing might still be a possibility.

A week or so after her first birthday, Bethany fell or was disturbed by something and I couldn't calm her down. She reached in my shirt and said, "Nurse." So we "nursed"until she calmed down, although there wasn't any milk. Over the next few months, she "nursed" like that to take a nap or calm down from any upset. It wasn't for nourishment in these months, but for nurturing. And she didn't necessarily do it every day. I noticed there were times when it was more frequent. She wanted to nurse a lot during our RV road trip, probably reaching for the familiar in all the unfamiliar environments, and I was glad I was able to minister to her in that way. Then she might go several days without needing it. I had heard at one of the LLL meetings something like during the toddler years, when you might be wanting to wean, have a "don't offer but don't deny" kind of strategy, and that's what I did. I just allowed her to nurse whenever she reached for it. Sometimes it was inconvenient, but usually it was awesome for me because it allowed me to rest too and put my feet up in those last few months of pregnancy. I remember nursing her during the duck tour of San Fransisco, and around the campfire in Utah. They were precious memories.

Then Silas was born. For several days after we came home from the hospital, my husband took care of the older kids while I recovered and took care of Silas. Then one day, I had just gotten Silas to sleep and decided to take a nap myself, when he brought Bethany to me. "I can't calm her down," he said. "She just wants you." I sighed, a little nervous about her latching on because my nipples were so sore and I didn't want her to take what little bit I had for Silas. I took a deep breath when she latched on, then I realized it didn't hurt at all. She had a mouth full of teeth, but she had a great latch so it was just fluid. She seemed pleasantly surprised when milk filled her mouth again, and off she went to sleep. A little while later, Silas woke up, which woke Bethany up, and they both wanted to nurse. I got Silas situated and let Bethany on the other side. Within minutes, they were both gulping. :) It was the best feeling! Two babies satisfied at Momma's breasts! It just made perfect sense to me. I knew it was the best nutrition for both of them, and since both breasts let down at the same time, it made sense to have a baby on each side. Less waste!

The next couple of weeks were bliss like that. I was still in recovery mode, so I was okay with just hanging out in my pajamas and nursing two babies all day long. I even noticed a great increase in my supply, now that both kids were nursing full-time! I seem to just be overflowing with milk and they are both gaining weight! Then came the day when I had to get out in public. :) It's all well and good to put on a cover and latch one baby on. But when the older one comes over and says, "Nurse!", pulls down the cover and pushes her way into your shirt, it gets a little awkward. That's still the place we are in right now. I'm trying to figure out the balance and how to be available to both babies. Bethany goes to the nursery at church, so I can just nurse Silas during the service and all is well. But for some events she is with us, and when she sees me nurse him, she wants to nurse too. So far I've just had to excuse myself and find a quiet, empty room. Usually they hold hands and fall asleep and I just sit there until my husband comes to get me. :) I'm reminding myself that it's a season, that right now this is more important than being at the center of every social event. This is motherhood. I am reading The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson right now, and in the very beginning she asks the question, "What do you think God had in mind when He designed the role of motherhood?" That was a great thing for me to reflect on, because the words that came to mind were nourishing and nurturing, among others. To remember that I am a mother and it is the ministry He has for me right now, helps me not to disdain it or think of it as inconvenient. I'm not really missing anything that I can't catch up to later. Right now I am building a solid foundation for my children's health.

Another thing that has helped is being a part of a great pediatric practice that firmly believes in breastfeeding. We drive to Tennessee to a practice called Cool Springs Family Medicine and see Dr. Kla, but all the doctors there are great. In the last week or so, both Bethany and Silas have developed sinus infections that had me concerned. I took them to the practice yesterday and hesitatingly admitted that I was nursing both of them, so possibly one gave the sickness to the other. The doctor said that was the best thing ever, because both were receiving antibodies from me to fight the infection, both were thriving, neither one was really "sick" with ear infections or chest congestion or anything other than minor sinusitis. I was encouraged to keep breastfeeding, even squirting breastmilk in their nose and eyes and ears, since "breastmilk is the best medicine!"

Just like with anything, my mind can turn a blessing from the Lord into a terrible inconvenience. I try to remind myself of those early days of breastfeeding, sitting across from those women at La Leche League, wishing I could have that experience, and seeing how God has so graciously granted it. For today I'm going to see it for the blessing that it is and embrace it. For today I'm going to send fist pumps to the women I see breastfeeding and remind them that what they are doing is amazing. This too shall pass and we will be so glad we slowed down and did it.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The World's Best People

We are surrounded by The World's Best People. Truly we are.

Our family started a tradition a few years ago of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Our little Pearson family did it years ago when I was young, and I so enjoyed it I wanted to carry it on with our Rodgers tribe.

The idea is that you do something for someone else every day from Dec 13 to Dec 25. It can be the same person or family each night, or someone different each day. It can remain anonymous or not. We have done it each way, differently each year depending on who was in our lives and what they were going through.

This year when we got out the big notebook to start planning our 12 days, we realized we didn't have one particular family, but lots and lots of special people who had been blessings to us this year that we wanted to bless in return. So we started planning all the things we were going to do for others, and, as has been true each year, we were the ones who received the greatest blessings.

One night we took a gift to a single widowed mother who works hard every day to provide for her sweet girl. She's a hero. Another night we had another single mother and her children over for dinner. Single mothers have a special place in my heart. :) And speaking of single mothers, another night we took a gift to a single mother of 5 who not only works hard every day, but her work is a gift to the community. She provides a rest stop/restaurant/local artists shop and every time a customer leaves her store, I know they feel the same warm and fuzzy feeling I do when I have been to Graves Grocery. :)

We caroled to neighbors for a few of the nights. One night we finally met some neighbors we had been wanting to meet for at least a year, because every time we have driven by their house we have seen the cutest little garden, pigs, chickens, and sunflowers. I kept thinking, they must be really cool people. And when we finally met them, they really were. We have new friends, Matt and Jen. One night we caroled at a home that is always lit up with literally HUNDREDS of inflatables, lights, moving parts, etc. It lights up the whole street! When the people answered the door we made more friends. A couple in their 80s who aren't in the best health and find it difficult to put up the decor each year, but do it as a gift to the community. We hope to help them next year. Another neighbor we caroled to is a beekeeper. Harold has kept bees for over fifty years, since he was a teenager. What started out as a hobby has turned into a business that blesses people (including us!) with the most delicious local honey you've ever tasted. Harold joined in our chorus of "Joy to the World" and then preached to us a little about how Jesus says in the book of Matthew that you can speak to the mountains, so he speaks to his bees. And that is why they make delicious honey. :) It was such a treat to listen to his wisdom. Recently we had been driving by and seen Harold (again, he is in his 80s) outside mowing the grass in his ditch. Brian stopped the car and offered to mow the ditch for him. Harold responded, "No, I'm going to keep mowing. If I ever stop moving, I'll die. I'm going to keep moving." What an inspiration.

We took goodies to a local friend who had a double mastectomy this year. Also she has ELEVEN children- some foster, some adopted. Once her children were grown and out of the house, she and her husband started adopting and fostering. At times they have had up to fifteen children, if I remember right. Not only is she still recovering from chemo, but has had back surgery and knee surgery recently. Yet she laughed, held Silas, hugged my babies and touched my heart with her can-do attitude. Her home is so happy and full. We went to the home of some sweet friends with five precious kids that we met at a local VBS a few years ago. She is another hero of mine, because she home schools her kids while her husband is frequently in another country fighting the war on terrorism. She is lovely. We visited our friend Beth, whom we met last year when she owned a local business called Missouri Jane's. Oh, how I loved Missouri Jane's. She made the best guacamole and chicken burritos! She became my friend over the times that our family went there for lunch or dinner and she served us so well. Beth had to close Missouri Jane's this year because her mother became very ill and she was the only one to care for her. Not to mention that Beth is the only caretaker for her two children, one who is autistic and one who she home schools. Another hero, right here in my community. We sang to her bedridden mother and I hope it was a blessing. It sure was a blessing for us.

One night we hosted a Dessert and Cider fellowship for our neighbors. Allie found two really complicated recipes in Southern Living that she decided to try: Spiced Gingerbread Cake with Buttercream Frosting, and Mocha Balls. The kids baked and cleaned and prepared all last Saturday. And on Saturday evening, we were blessed with a houseful of neighbors greeting, laughing, sharing stories of their year. It was lovely.

I cannot express in words what a joy it was to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas this year. We were reminded that our little Rodgers family was placed here by a very gracious God, in the midst of the The World's Best People. And we were challenged in the new year to find ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas all year long.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Journey of Christmas

It was during our first Christmas together that Brian and I realized just how differently we viewed the holiday.

"You're not going to lie to our children about Santa Claus," he said. What?? Lie?? Santa is awesome!!
That year I reluctantly told Allie the truth about Santa Claus. On Christmas morning, the gifts were from us, not from Santa.

"They don't need this much stuff. Christmas is over commercialized," was the statement the next year. Huh?? Gifts and cards and stockings are fun! That year we gave fewer gifts and donated more to the needy.

"You know, there's a verse in Jeremiah against putting up a Christmas tree. I'm not sure we should have a Christmas tree in our house." Okay dude, now you've gone too far. I gotta have my tree. We still put up a tree that year. But in the back of my mind I wondered if we were doing the right thing. We celebrated Hannukah with some Torah observant friends, and I loved the depth of meaning in that celebration. It was beautiful and meaningful. I felt a little tug in my spirit and decided that before the next year, I would investigate this whole Christmas thing. The Lord had put some wonderful people in our life who didn't celebrate Christmas "for religious reasons". I asked each of those friends to share Biblical reasons for their choice. I wanted to get to the bottom of this Christmas thing and see for myself what we should be doing.

So I spent the next year searching the Scriptures, asking God for direction, reading blogs, listening to teachings, talking with friends I respect. I learned that there are indeed very pagan rituals behind all of our celebrations at Christmas and Easter. Very disturbing pagan rituals. Particularly at Easter. I was so sad to see how the god of this world has taken the good and beautiful and lovely and made it so very ugly and dark and evil. But as I took each of these things to the Lord in my quiet time and asked Him for direction, I personally came to a few conclusions: 1) it is a wonderful thing to set aside a time each year to celebrate and rejoice in the birth of our Savior, and the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior. No, we don't know for sure when Jesus was born and we probably aren't celebrating it on the right day. But I'm pretty sure He would rather us celebrate His coming to earth on the wrong day than to not celebrate it at all. If we celebrate our own births, how much more should we celebrate His?? 2) He is the ultimate Giver. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights." -James 1:17. While gift giving is not what the season is about- it is about the ultimate Gift- we are being like Him in our giving of gifts. 3) it is a wonderful thing to set aside a time each year to see family, to show our love, to celebrate life and light and all things beautiful. Lights remind us of the ultimate Light of the World- Jesus- so to turn off the lights and close our doors to all things Christmas, to pretend it isn't there, to me would be completely joy-less. And pointless. As followers of the Light of the World, we should have the brightest lights, the merriest hearts, the most joyous celebrations. What a testimony to our Greatest Joy, Jesus. 4) you can't deny the truth that Christmas trees have a pagan implication and can be idols, and that many of our Christmas traditions have no biblical basis at all. But I can assure you that I am not worshipping my tree, nor am I thinking about any other god when I sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" or "O Holy Night".  5) Brian was right- Santa is no longer a part of our celebration, and Christmas is over-commercialized. We still put up a tree, but our celebration has become less and less about the tree or the decor. In some senses we do less and less "Christmas" each year. And in other senses, we do more and more.

This year we have celebrated Advent, and I must tell you, I am more excited about Christmas this year than maybe I have been in my entire life. I've always heard, "Jesus is the reason for the season", but for me this year, He really is. I am seeing and savoring Jesus more this year than ever. I see Him in the lights, in the hugs, in the music, in the gifts, in the sights and smells and warmth of the season. I saw Him the night of Somerville's Drive Thru Christmas, when a sweet lady on the hayride offered me and my nursing infant a warm blanket. That warm blanket felt like Jesus. I saw Him at church when our preacher talked about the fight for Christmas and how Jesus and the dragon have been at odds since Genesis 1 and are still at odds in Revelation 12. I see Him everywhere this year. And I am convinced more after wrestling with it this year, that Christmas is essential to the believer. I'm reading a daily Advent devotional book by Ann Voskamp called The Greatest Gift. She says:

Our God who breathes stars in the dark- He breathes Bethlehem's star, then takes on lungs and breathes in stable air. We are saved from hopelessness because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the iron-sharp edge of our sins. Our God who forms and delivers the black of the heavens- He waits patient like an embryo in a womb and delivers Himself to free you. We are saved from forever pain, because God pierced the dark and came to the pinpoint of us in the universe and took the nails. Our God who cradles whole inkling galaxies in the palm of His hand, whom highest heavens cannot contain- He folds Himself into our skin, and He uncurls His newborn fingers in the cradle of a barn feeding trough- and we are saved from ourselves.
We are saved from our loneliness because God is love and He can't stand to leave us by ourselves, to ourselves.
That is the message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace. Or that we can make love, make light, make gifts, or make this world save itself.
The message of Christmas is that the world's a mess and we can never save ourselves from ourselves and we need a Messiah.
For unto us a Child is born. 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Grace and Peace

I've been thinking about the way that Paul starts and ends every letter to believers in the Bible with some form of "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." These words have been on my heart and mind for months now. Because if you think about it, these words are so, so vitally significant in my life and yours. Grace and peace to you.

Grace and peace to you.

Grace. And peace. To YOU.

Those words are important because a few weeks ago I came face to face with the monster of sin inside of me. I woke up the same way I wake up many mornings in the last several years: sleep-deprived. In desperate need of coffee. And feeling like I need about 24 more hours of sleep. :) Difficult, yes, but no excuse for the thoughts that came thundering into my mind and heart that morning. For goodness' sake, why can't the baby just sleep?? And who is that I hear coughing upstairs? Of course, they are going to need me. Everyone needs me. I do everything for everybody. Who does things for me? Nobody started the coffee last night, and now of course I can't do it because I'm holding a screaming baby and trying to quiet him down so the rest of the house doesn't wake up but OH HOW DESPERATELY I NEED COFFEE. My throat hurts, but nobody cares. I'm just here to meet everyone else's needs. Nobody thinks about little old me.

Grace and peace, My dear precious Julie. Grace and peace. 

Yeah, yeah. Did you hear that woman last night and the rude things she said? Did you know how hurtful that was, Father? That was awful! Doesn't she know I'm doing the best I can?

Grace and peace, My lovely bride Julie. Grace and peace. Come to Me. You are weary. Heavy burdened. Full of anger and selfishness this morning. Come to Me. I, too, came not to be served, but to serve. To give my life as a ransom for many ungrateful people who gave nothing back. I get it. Come to Me.

Okay Father, I give you my selfishness. I give you my anger. . . . but my hurt, that I just don't know what to do with. I am hurt because my daughter Allie is going away again next week. I am going to be spending another Thanksgiving without her. You know I hate spending special days and holidays without her. (Insert the Accuser of the Brethren's voice here: That's what you get for being a total failure in your first marriage. You've lost her and it's all your fault. Shame on you. You will spend so many holidays without her.) He's right, Father. I shouldn't bring that sadness to You. It's because of sin that I'm in that place anyway. If only I hadn't sinned and gotten a divorce, I would be spending every holiday with her. I am so ashamed.

Grace and peace. Grace and peace. 

You do not have answers, but you have My grace and it is sufficient. You are abounding in grace because of My Son Jesus. Shalom, My child. Shalom begins with "Shhhhh. . . " Quiet your soul. Be still. Grace. And peace.

That particular morning I just sat in His presence confessing my sin. It hit me that on my own, I begin each day thinking about me. What I need. What I want. What will make my day a happy one, an easy one, a good one. How if only I had more sleep, or if only I had this or that, life would be great. I start with discontent and selfishness and a "me first" mentality. Unless I begin the day acknowledging that before God and slaying the beast of self, I will continue the day that way. And the day will get ugly, quick.

I can even have my "quiet time" and spend time reading His Word for an hour, but come away with self still on the throne. Still searching for grace and peace by hoping to mark things off my to-do list, or hoping the kids will get along and not complain that day, or that someone will come along and give me a nap and some chocolate. :) Basically that someone will serve ME. But that grace and peace will not come. Even if those things happen, grace and peace come only ". . . from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

These words are important because Satan uses the holiday season to change my focus from the Messiah in a manger to (surprise, surprise!). . . myself. How quickly I revert back to the Christmas of 1993, when I was in the deepest throes of an eating disorder that was threatening to take my very life. I remember feeling overwhelming guilt after every bite. An irrational fear gripped me that a bite of pecan pie would make me fat and therefore unlovable. I was in such a prison. Unless I remember that there is grace and peace in the presence of Christ, I find myself in that place again as I sit next to my size 0 sister in law during our holiday gathering, who is asking me if I still work out. Telling me in detail about her amazing workouts. How quickly I go back there. Unless I remember that there is grace and peace in the presence of Christ, I look at my decoration-less Thanksgiving table, such a far cry from anything Pinterest-y or Instagram-worthy, and I feel so insufficient. Yes, you are insufficient. But My grace is all-sufficient. My grace is what matters. Not your table. Not your decor. Not your size. My grace. 

My very favorite way Paul makes his greeting is at the beginning of 1 Thessalonians and the end of 2 Thessalonians, like bookends reminding the church at Thessalonica, and reminding me today: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. . . may the God of peace give you peace always and in every way."

Grace and peace to you, my friends. From the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Grace and peace.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

17 Days to Silas: Countdown Continued

12) Today I am really really, deep down in my heart thankful for FREEDOM. Freedom to be at home with my kids every day, building relationships with them, teaching them, living life together on Turney Ridge Rd. Freedom to plant a garden and eat from it. Freedom to have goats and milk them and nourish my family with its raw, enzyme-rich goodness. Freedom to leave our toys on the front porch. . . and backyard. . . because this is our space and we make it work for us, instead of having to follow a neighborhood code or make it look like anything on Pinterest. It fits US. I'm thankful that our days are ours. We have exactly two commitments each week that require being somewhere at a certain time on a certain day. Other than that, we decide when we will get up and when we will have lunch and for how long we will read books and for how long we will play on the porch or watch the sunset and at what time we will have dinner. I wouldn't trade that freedom for any program or club or sports team. It's so nice to live unconstricted by someone else's schedule of practice times, meetings, games, events. And it's nice to live where we can recreate and eat and put up knife-throwing targets and merry go rounds and RVs and barns and fences wherever we choose to. I love where we live and how we live, because both allow for FREEDOM. "'Tis a gift to be simple; 'Tis a gift to be free; 'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. . . "

13) Today I am also thankful for FRIENDSHIPS. God has surrounded me with some of the finest people in the world. There's Wendy, a friend I consider a mentor who is ten years older and a zillion years wiser. There's Becky, a friend I learn something new from every time I am around and who prays for me daily. Amy, who I don't see often enough but we love each other deeply and are in the same boat of homeschooling large families while making unpopular decisions and we support each other deeply. Jennifer, who shows me how to save seeds and inspires me to keep working the garden. Linda, who shows me what love and real and genuine and the open-door policy looks like in a home. And a HOST of other friends beyond number. I could go on for days. I am blessed to be surrounded with such amazing people.

14) Today I am thankful for Silas's FATHER. :) He loves me so well. It is in these last few weeks of pregnancy that he always steps up to the plate- not that he doesn't the rest of the time, but especially in these weeks- and does whatever he possibly can to make life easier for me. Whether it's bringing home dinner, or taking the kids outside and letting me breathe for awhile inside, or picking up Clover Coffee because I just need it :), or taking over Math because I just can't teach it right now :), he does it. I could not imagine a more wonderful partner to live life with.

15) I have a big issue with this whole idea in the church that we have to be "relevant". What that looks like for most is that we have to wear hip clothes and have coffee bars and social events galore so that we "make God appealing". Does He really need help with that? Is our dressing all hipster like everybody else helping God out somehow? I just don't get it. It seems to me that if we believed He was awesome, worthy of our worship, worthy of sharing, we would realize He's big enough to draw people to Himself without our making sure our music is cool, our clothes are hip, and we make everybody feel good. He is so much bigger than that. And life is about so much more than that. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah that He wasn't impressed with our fanfare, and Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that life was more than food and clothing. Church isn't a show and we aren't performers. "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" -Micah 6:8

16) My parents offered their babysitting services last week and I got a date with my man. :) This weekend we have another date. I absolutely LOVE having dates with my man. We don't even have to go anywhere fancy. In fact, one of my favorite dates in our history of dates was one where we simply drove around the country roads, watching the cows and the sunset and talking about life. This weekend I get a "fancy date" with our friends Rich and Linda because Linda and I have October birthdays and we have decided our men should take us out :), but it's just nice to be together.

17) I had a neat conversation with my mentor friend Wendy this morning. She said that even when her kids are young, she encourages them to LISTEN to God in their prayers. To ask Him about details of their everyday life and really wait on Him and listen attentively for His answer. She was recounting several stories of even the littlest ones hearing amazing things from God when they are intent on listening. She said, "If God can speak to a donkey, He can speak to my child."That thought process really makes a shift from reading about God and learning about God, to experiencing God. Interacting with Him as a real, concerned, ever-present Help who cares about the details of their lives and wants a relationship with them. I liked that.

18) I've been reading through the Chronological One Year Bible this year for the third year in a row. I have come to love the Old Testament in these years and have learned so much from it, but this year I was SO EXCITED to finally hit the Gospels on September 23. (Did you realize there was that much OT??) I think we have to pay attention to every word, in both the old and the new, but my heart was overjoyed this year to get to the sweet, sweet stories of Jesus. The Messiah. Flipping that page and reading, "This is the Good News of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God" in Mark 1:1 and then "The Word gave life to everything and His life brought light to everyone" in John 1:4 was like opening up a long-anticipated gift on Christmas morning. I made a page in my journal about Jesus and it says that He is BREAD and WINE (everyday sustenance + ultimate joy and delicious celebration- check it out! He calls Himself the bread of life and He is wine in Song of Solomon); He is ABUNDANCE; He is HEALING.

19) I've also been meditating on Psalm 121 this week. If you get a chance, read it! It's the one that starts out, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Reflecting on that Psalm this week, I noticed that the Psalmist first realized he had need (we ALL do), and instead of looking around at the circumstances down where he was, he looked UP. His vision was turned UPWARD (Colossians 3:2) and He saw the LORD, Adonai, Supreme Lord over all creation, leaping victoriously over the hills (Song of Solomon 2:8). The rest of the Psalm says at least 5 times that the Lord "keeps" you. I looked that up in the 1828 dictionary. It means "to retain in one's power or possession; to hold; to have custody of; to preserve; to protect or guard; to tend or care for; to feed or pasture, as in keeping sheep", among other things. I am constantly under the loving care and supervision of the One who is never asleep, or off duty, or looking away, or unconcerned. He "keeps" my life and my comings and goings- every detail! What a marvelous truth. See also Psalm 46 and Psalm 62. They are similar.

To be continued. . .

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

26 Days, 26 Things (Part 1)

Sweet baby #7 is due to arrive in 26 days. I know that is not an exact time, could be more, could be less, but I love countdowns so I'm doing one. :) Actually I've been counting down the days since we reached 100. If you've ever wondered if the mother of a large family loses excitement by the seventh baby or so, the answer is a resounding NO! Every chance to see baby on ultrasound, every kick, squirm and hiccup, is still exciting when you've had this many. And you never feel like you are a "pro" or that this is something you've experienced before. It's like new every time. I've had so many people during this pregnancy comment that I must be a "pro at it by now" or something like that, and really nothing could be further from the truth. Each pregnancy, each birth, each child is so unique. I really feel like a first time mom, each time. So yes, there is tremendous excitement in my heart over meeting sweet Silas Keith in around 26 days. :) Without further ado, 26 things to share. . .

1) Why the name? I'm glad you asked. :) I like boy names that are strong. Other considerations were Titus, Jesse, and Ephraim. All from the Bible, all strong sounding, all good meanings and connotations. But Silas won my heart for a few reasons. It means "asked for", and we asked the Father to bless us with another boy if He was going to bless us again. So when I found out I was pregnant, although it was unexpected, I knew it was a boy and I knew he was the one I had asked God for. Sam and Silas are good brother names. Also our girls' children will have an Uncle Sam and an Uncle Si, which we think is pretty cool. :) We chose Keith for the middle name because Brian's dad's name was Keith, and Brian's middle name is Keith. So he will be the third Keith Rodgers in the Rodgers Tribe.

2) How do I have time to write today? Once again, glad you asked. :) During the last trimester I've been super abundantly blessed to have a sweet, godly young friend of our family coming over two days a week to help with the kids and the house while I get extra rest. I wanted to be proactive in having a healthy, blood clot-free, bed rest-free pregnancy, and I knew I would need extra help accomplishing that. I've been on bed rest at this point in pregnancy with the last four. And with the last one, Bethany, I had a DVT that is still not completely healed. I knew that if I didn't take action and get more rest, I would be headed that way again. Thankfully, Gabriella has been an answer to prayer, and I have made it to 36 weeks without complications. The only annoying thing is that about a week ago I started having lots of contractions, probably Braxton-Hicks, but they keep me up at night and if I'm not careful, bring a lot of anxiety. Today I have my feet up, staying hydrated, and writing about all the things that whirl around in this mother's mind while my hands are too busy to write. Thank the Lord for Gabriella and time to rest and write.

3) Speaking of hands, I'm so glad I discovered this gem from Copywork for Little Girls by Sandi Queen. If you homeschool girls grades 1-3, please consider getting a copy of this. Here's one of the lessons my Maggie is copying to practice cursive:
"To my mind, Jennie Higgins has the most beautiful hands of any girl in school," she said quietly.
"Jennie Higgins!" exclaimed Nettie in amazement, "why, her hands are rough and red and look as if she took no care of them. I never thought of them as beautiful."
"I have seen those hands carrying dainty food to the sick, and soothing the brow of the aged. She is her widowed mother's main help and she it is who does the milking and carries the wood and water, yes, and washes dishes night and morning, that her mother may be saved the hard work. I have never known her to be too tired to speak kindly to her little sister and help her in her play. I have found those busy hands helping her brother with his kite. I tell you I think they are the most beautiful hands I have ever seen, for they are always busy helping somewhere." -taken from Beautiful Girlhood by Mabel Hale

4) We have happened upon similar gems in McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader and The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett. Maggie was reading about the one-room schoolhouses in the 1800s and it mentioned how great an education the students of all ages got from reading the McGuffey readers. Then I remembered I had picked one up for like $2 at a yard sale/farmer's market in Lacey's Spring so I opened it out of curiosity. I couldn't put it down for the rest of the day! Such beautiful words kids used to read in school! The stories and Scriptures and poems and hymns in them are a great challenge for language studies, and elevate the mind to higher, nobler things at the same time. If you can get your hands on a McGuffey reader, you will have a treasure. There's an excerpt from "An Old Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott, written in 1870, and an older lady advises young Polly: "Well, dear, I'll tell you. In my day, children of fourteen and fifteen didn't dress in the height of the fashion; go to parties as nearly like those of grown people as it's possible to make them; lead idle, giddy, unhealthy lives; and get blase at twenty. We were little folks til eighteen or so; worked and studied, dressed and played, like children; honored our parents; and our days were much longer in the land than now, it seems to me."

5) Another habit I've gotten into lately to be proactive in keeping my mind on the right things (because truly. I need help thinking on things that are true and pure and lovely every day, don't we all?) is reading and singing through an old hymn book. We picked up some old hymnals when we started having church here, and I'm so glad. It's rare to find a church that sings the hymns anymore that I was fortunate enough to grow up singing every Sunday. I don't want them to be dead or foreign to my kids. I mean you just can't beat "Praise to the Lord, who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth!" and "Just to rest upon His promise, and to know, 'Thus saith the Lord.'" If you ever need a quick pick-me-up, break out an old hymnal and start singing your way through it. You may be thinking, why go to all this trouble to read an old one-room schoolhouse reader and sing the old hymns? And I know. It sounds pious, sanctimonious, a little holier-than-thou. Again, I wouldn't know these things are so great if I didn't need stuff like this in my daily life. To keep myself from going insane some days. Just try it. As one of the texts in the McGuffey reader says, "When we aim at a high standard, even if we do not attain it, we still shall secure a high degree of excellence."

6) Two weeks ago, I had a really rough day. The kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes on both sides, so after unloading the dishwasher I needed to rinse the dirty ones off and then put them in to wash. I turned on the water to rinse, but instead of going down the drain, it started to rise. So I turned on the garbage disposal, which only made it worse. The disposal was throwing up instead of swallowing in. :) Before I knew it the dirty dishwater was spilling out both sides onto the kitchen floor. I left it to tend to a vomiting 5 year old and a poopy 1 year old, only to come back and find that my phone, which I had placed in the window over the kitchen sink, had apparently fallen in. Had probably been in the sink for 15 minutes or more. Obviously, it died. We tried to dry it out and revive it, but after a few days of attempts, we gave up and sent it in for a replacement. Luckily it was still under warranty. Anyway, for about two weeks I didn't have a phone, really, except for the extra one we have around for emergencies that makes and receives calls. For the first few days I was bummed out, as my smart phone is virtually my only access to the "outside world". It's also my camera and my radio, which I missed tremendously. But after a few days I began to enjoy the hands-free experience and was really challenged by it. I took a walk one morning, and usually on my walks I listen to Pandora, but this day I talked to God as if He were walking right beside me. One of my favorite sights along my walk is an old barn. It's probably 100 years old or more. It's out in the middle of a pasture, and on this particular morning the sun was just coming up over it. I wanted so bad to capture it with my camera. :) Immediately God brought to mind why I love that barn in that pasture so much. To me it is a picture of something so pure and so lovely. Which reminded me of the Scripture, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue or if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things." -Philippians 4:8 I thought that when I get my phone back, and have a camera again for taking pictures, I want to start a gallery of Things that are Pure, Things that are Lovely. Maybe someone else will see them and be reminded of beautiful things as they go through their everyday. Life can be so difficult, I love to think that I could share something with others that would lift their spirits. I follow a mama on Instagram who describes herself as a "beauty finder" and "joy chooser". Why not? Aren't those the best things to aspire to be? The alternatives would just be sad.

7) I'm into essential oils. But even if you are not, please at least consider getting some Tea Tree and Lavender oils for your home. Especially if you have kids! This time of year my kids can just think about going outside and they get ten mosquito bites. On a few of mine, these bites become welps and look and feel just awful. When they come in from playing outside, we have a routine of washing them off with a cool wet rag that has Dr Bronner's Lavender soap in it, then putting tea tree oil all over the affected areas and finally, my homemade Mama Salve. :) More about the salve later. :) But I think the tea tree is ESSENTIAL in getting those bites to go down. Within an hour of that treatment, you can hardly even tell there was a bite at all. And the itching is gone. Last weekend, we went camping, and Penelope got into some poison oak. I knew because it was everywhere and she is my explorer. I looked at her once and saw that her face was getting red and swelling up. When I asked her, she said she had touched "that stuff" that was poison oak, and then had been wiping her hands on her face. Minutes later it was redder and more swollen. I washed her hands and face with Dr. Bronner's, then put tea tree oil wherever there was any redness. Within an hour it was gone, never to return again. I always wish I had a before and after when stuff like this happens, because it's remarkable. But I never think to stop and get a picture when it's bad. Not something I generally want to share. :) Get you some tea tree and keep it for mosquito bites, poison ivy, cuts and scrapes that need help healing. Lavender oil can be used to treat burns and inflammation from the same types of things. It really does reduce anxiety in children and adults, too. I bathe the kids in epsom salts and lavender oil, then put lavender oil on the bottoms of their feet. It really does calm them down! It's my favorite. I made a lavender spray out of lavender EO and witch hazel. I use it now and plan to take it to the hospital for during labor. I noticed that Ruth's Nutrition now has a small oil diffuser for a small office space, like a cubicle, that plugs right into your computer. So if you need to stay calm at work, go get one! :)

8) Ruth's Nutrition also has a delicious, refreshing drink recipe that boosts immunity. You can get all the ingredients at Ruth's: Lemon Ginger Echinacea juice, Elderberry syrup, and lime seltzer water. It's delicious as it is, but I sometimes add Vitamin C powder and/or Daycare Defense, something else you can get at Ruth's that has probiotics, vitamin D3, and colostrum powder.

9) Yes, speaking of colostrum, a man approached me at Costco last week asking the usual questions: are they all yours? do you also homeschool? y'all don't have a farm do you? I guess we must look the part. Anyway, when I told him we milked goats, he asked if I ever had extra goat colostrum because "it's so good for you!" He swears that he started drinking goat colostrum when he developed thyroid cancer a year ago, and he is cancer-free now. Who knew? (by the way, we don't have colostrum right now because Stella, our one doe that is giving milk right now, was just weaned off her baby. And if she gives birth again in the spring, I plan to let her baby get that liquid gold. Sorry! :))

10) Many days, we have PBJs for lunch. And something simple (from a can :)) at dinner. But every once in awhile, I get a little overachieving and make something like Chicken and Dumplins. It literally takes two days to make, but it is SO WORTH THE EFFORT. Day 1: Take a whole organic chicken. Stuff it with garlic and onions. Put it in the crock pot with a little water and herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley in the bottom. Let it cook all day long. In the evening, take all the meat off the bones. Put the meat in a big Ziplock in the fridge overnight. Put all the bones and skin in the bottom of a big pot (or two big pots, if you have a big enough chicken. I made two big pots this time and ended up with 2 extra GALLONS of stock!) On top of the skin and bones, put whole carrots, celery, onions, garlic, more herbs, and cover it all with water to the top of the pot. Let it simmer on the stove all night long. Day 2: Use a heavy-duty strainer or cheesecloth to strain out all the chicken stock you made! Rinse out the crock pot to use again all morning. Put in a whole stick of butter :), 2 cans of cream of chicken soup, some cumin and parsley, diced onion or onion powder, and all the chicken and chicken stock you can fit into the pot. Slow cook until lunchtime! About an hour before you are going to eat, take 2-3 cans of refrigerator biscuit dough and break it up into pieces for your dumplins. This part isn't very homemade, but it tastes delicious. :) Enjoy! Perfect comfort food for fall.

11) Why are we doing Classical Conversations this year? Glad you asked. :) There are a zillion reasons why I like the classical model, but I always thought it didn't really fit our family's personality. Generally we trend more toward unschooling and a very relaxed, learning through daily life kind of atmosphere, with a more relaxed schedule. I always thought of CC as way too structured for our style, too much emphasis on academia and strict memorization. But I visited a few different CC campuses and educated myself a little more on the type of things they were learning. Honestly it's the CONTENT that I like most about CC. We will spend our days learning, whether we mean to or not. We emphasize the outdoors, farming, Bible, and character education a lot without the addition of CC. But the rest of the time they are learning either beautiful things in a God-centered context, or basic colorless facts without meaning or with man at the center of it all. I LOVE the fact that in every subject we're learning about God- His divine order in numbers and Math; His genius in Grammar and Latin; His attention to detail in creating the human body in Science; His hand in History and how the events of the Bible coincide with other events in history. My oldest daughter Allie is reading classics I never read and writing persuasive essays about each one. She's doing research papers and learning Latin and Geography at an amazing rate. I'm loving it. If it's possible, we are a Classical Unschooling Family. We are learning lovely things, at our own pace, in our own way. How? There are weekly things they learn in each subject: Timeline, History Sentence, U.S. Geography, English Grammar, Latin Grammar, Math, and Science. My three Maggie, Penelope and Rosemary learn those same things each week and review them together with their class on Mondays. At home, I can do as little or as much with it as I want. We could just memorize the facts each week, or we could go to the library and check out books to learn more, or do experiments and projects at home. It's completely up to us and how much time we want to spend on it. And once a week we get to join with other families who are doing the same thing. It's working for us this year. I'm excited to sit back and watch it.

Stay tuned for the next 15 things soon. . .

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pep Talk to Myself

Your Heavenly Father, Who created you and knows you more intimately than anyone, determined before the foundation of the world that YOU would be a mother. A mother to these particular children. In all of creation, these children were hand-picked for YOU to mother. God in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty made the decision to make you all a family, and to put you in this exact location at this particular time in history. He has plans for your family that are far-reaching. Plans beyond what you could ask or imagine. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. He is working all things together for your good today. His mercies are new today. His faithfulness is great today. Of His fullness you will be receiving grace upon grace as you walk through this day- whatever it holds. You have the mighty Spirit of God within you today, providing you with immeasurable love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. You have been given all that you need for life and godliness. So, go forth to meet this day without fear, as more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. Present your body as a living sacrifice and be transformed by the renewing of your mind to know that He has empowered you for this task. He has called you to be the Shepherdess of this particular little flock. Lead with diligence today. Show mercy with cheerfulness today. Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good today. Be not lacking in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer today. Sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh today. And when you feel like your efforts are futile and you fail to see fruit, walk by faith and not by sight. His Word promises that in due season you will reap if you do not lose heart. And His Word cannot lie. He is sustaining you with his righteous right hand and leading you beside still waters, restoring your soul, even as you go through this day. Lean upon your Beloved in the Wilderness and let it be said of you, "Who is she who looks forth as the morning, Fair as the moon, Clear as the sun, Awesome as an army with banners?"-Song of Solomon 6:10

Friday, August 22, 2014

Great American Road Trip, Part 4: Reflections of the Heart

If you are still reading these posts, I applaud you. :) Thank you for reading my ramblings and reports. I really prefer to write about issues of the heart rather than particulars and logistics and information, so forgive me if the last few posts were boring. If you are planning a road trip of your own to any of the places we visited, I would love to talk with you more about our experiences.

This trip came at an interesting time in life for me. The beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy with my seventh child; that point in pregnancy where I feel the most vulnerable and prone to worry, the least desirable or attractive, and the most overwhelmed. The middle of dealing with circulation issues that began years ago and get awful during pregnancy, often causing dizziness and exhaustion, the only way to deal with them being, giving myself daily injections in my stomach. The middle of learning how to parent a teenager: a first for me and something for which I feel so inadequate most of the time. I mean, how do you say, I love you completely just the way you are, but your attitude stinks and it will not be tolerated? How do you say, I'm scared to watch what your heart is choosing to be drawn to these days, please don't be drawn to that, but hey, here's some grace and I will embrace you no matter what? It's a hard place. A really hard place. As a good friend of mine framed this time of life: an opportunity to improve my prayer life. :) SO aptly spoken.

In the midst of all of this, as I was preparing for our trip, I asked God for direction. He said to me, "Put on a servant's towel. Just as my Son did as an example for you to follow in John 13:1-17. Just as Paul commanded the believers in Philippians 2:3-11. Wash your family's feet. Serve them. Show them what love looks like on this trip. Your 'vacation' will come at another time. Yes, there will be moments of joy and moments of rest on this trip, because I desire for you to smile and laugh and enjoy My creation; but above all this is an opportunity to serve. Make this trip about capturing and embracing your children's hearts, not about serving yourself."I guess He was warning me to have this on the forefront of my mind and make it my goal because He knows that this is hard. This is not how my selfish, sinful heart would naturally flow.

So I thought, okay, I'll serve them by having tons of homemade food fresh from the garden prepared for the trip, by having the house and laundry and sheets all clean and fresh for them when we return home, by having everything in the RV in impeccable order when they set foot in it on Saturday. In other words, I will serve them by being perfectly awesome. Then, right in the middle of my week of preparation, I was reaching to put dishes away in the kitchen, and suddenly, MY BACK WENT OUT. Okay, if you're like me and you've heard of someone's back "going out" but always been critical because it's never happened to you and you thought they were being a big crybaby, uh, IT HURTS. A LOT. As in, I couldn't move. As in, I wished someone would just shoot me and put me out of my misery. As in, I thought about calling an ambulance or 911 or something but my blasted phone was all the way across the room and I. COULDN'T. MOVE. It literally took me half an hour to stand up. And every second of that half hour was excruciatingly painful. Minutes after it happened, I asked God, "WHY??? You know how much I have to accomplish this week! I have to pack the kids and wash their sheets and clean and do and organize and be awesome! WHY???" And He gently, lovingly said, "Julie, you can serve your family without being awesome. Without having everything in impeccable order for them. You are to serve them with your heart. Your attitudes. Your words. Your choice to be gracious and forgiving. You can do all of that with a bad back. In fact, I need you to do it with a bad back so you can just focus on your heart, not on what all you can check off your list of awesome."

Luckily that evening I was able to get to a chiropractor and begin the process of healing. It wasn't immediate relief like I had hoped for- in fact, it was worse for the next 24 hours before it got better- but God was gracious, and by the time we left on Saturday, I was feeling well enough to at least function and go on the trip. Something I wasn't sure I would be able to do when it first happened. God is good.

He gave me those instructions because He knew that the coming weeks would be difficult and glorious at the same time, in so many ways. I shared with my children the passage God had given me from John about washing the disciples' feet, and I literally washed their feet as we talked about all the ways we can figuratively wash each other's feet. We talked honestly about how unnatural it is to put others' needs ahead of our own. One morning He woke me up with the song in my head that goes, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be full."We had honest talks about the importance of that command, about how loving one another in the 1 Corinthians 13 way is so hard sometimes and how it's different from the way our culture portrays love. We were given opportunities every moment to love and serve or to be selfish. I think God put that message heavy on my heart because we were in such close quarters, with no breaks from each other, and were constantly faced with the choice to display love or not. Brian and I were challenged to rise up and be the leaders in this area because we knew that the kids would do as we do, not as we say. It was up to us to model it for the kids. I failed often. It was harder to do than I thought. I was given many opportunities to be mad, to get frustrated at myself and others, to be impatient.  But I grew a lot in the process. And I think we grew as a family. We apologized to each other with genuine hearts when we messed up. When we found ourselves being critical of each other we gently brought ourselves back to a place of love. Because at the end of the day, what mattered more than whether we saw the sights or made it to the next destination, was that we loved each other. Really, isn't that the point of any journey?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Great American Road Trip, Part 3: Logistics

Meal Planning on a Budget and Staying Healthy at the Same Time
20 days of travel equals 60 meals for a family of eight, plus snacks. That's a lot of food. :) We had committed ahead of time to preparing most of our meals ourselves. Luckily when traveling in an RV, you have a kitchen and a table. Our kitchen includes plenty of cabinets, a sink, a microwave/convection oven, a refrigerator, a freezer, and a gas stove. The freezer and refrigerator are small, though, so we had to be choosy about what refrigerated items to bring. At home we try not to eat a lot of packaged foods, choosing instead to eat as natural and fresh as possible, but for this trip some packaged foods were just a necessary evil. Here's how we managed:

I used recipes from Effortless Real Food by Wendi Michelle and Superfoods for Healthy Kids to make ahead some items for the first few days, like pumpkin muffins, spinach egg casserole, and chia seed granola. The casserole in freezer bags was the only thing I had to refrigerate.

I brought the juicer and we juiced pineapples a few times. Pineapples are relatively cheap compared to buying juice, and you save on added ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Pineapples in particular have digestive enzymes that help you, well, digest your food. Important when your body is off the normal schedule, eating more processed foods, and generally under more stress. Add a cucumber to the juice and you have additional enzymes plus potassium and antioxidants. Other than pineapple juice, we drank only water- even when dining out- which saves a LOT of money at a typical $2/person per drink.

We brought a lot of fresh fruit to eat with the sandwiches we had for lunch pretty much every day. :) I had just found out from a round of blood tests that I have MTHFR. It basically means that my body doesn't process folic acid. So I have to take a basic, broken down version of folate called methylfolate and it is recommended that I eliminate gluten for 6-9 months, then slowly add it back into my diet. I still have not completely eliminated all gluten, but for our daily sandwiches I wrapped my meat in lettuce instead of bread. It's actually really good! I never thought I would say this, but I might actually like it better that way. :) In the process of eliminating gluten I have made a lot of nice discoveries, like a great recipe for raw chocolate using dates, hazelnuts, cocoa powder and cinnamon. To make this on our trip for a snack, I brought those items plus the food processor and the kids ate the entire Costco-size package of dates. That had to be a good thing. :) Maggie discovered recently that she likes pistachios, so they were another healthy snack in our RV cupboard. And Brian picked up a box of Larabars that are my new favorite. Only 2 ingredients: dates + cashews = deliciousness. Who would have thought.

I also wrapped my all-beef hot dogs in lettuce wraps at night. For breakfast we did a lot of pancakes, with the occasional bacon and eggs. For lunches we did a lot of sandwiches and fruit. For dinner we did a lot of hot dogs, bean burritos, mac n cheese. We ate three whole watermelons, usually once we were settled in at a campsite because it's so messy. And of course, we did Smores several times. All of the above are cheap, easy meals to prepare while on the road.

We ate out a total of 7 times. Of those, only 1 was fast food. We did have to restock on groceries every few days.

We also took daily digestive enzymes and immunity support chewables that I think kept our immune systems up. I can honestly say that nobody got sick. I had stomach troubles the very last night, but I think mine was from stress and pregnancy, not a stomach bug. No one else had tummy troubles or sickness the whole time. Praise the Lord.

Since I'm into essential oils, another thing we did to stay healthy was use the ImmuPower oil blend by Young Living. Several times on the trip I washed the kids' feet with Dr. Bronner's lavender soap and rubbed the bottoms of their feet with ImmuPower. Unfortunately my diffuser broke shortly before the trip, but another good thing would have been to diffuse Thieves or Purification. As it was, I brought a spray bottle of Lavender EO and witch hazel to spray often. And I made a cleaner out of Dr. Bronner's, water, and Oregano EO (another good immune booster and antibacterial).

Keeping Things Clean: our Surroundings, Ourselves, and our Clothes :)
We brought a vacuum cleaner and every 2-3 days when we stopped at a campground, we took an hour to vacuum the floors and furniture, spray everything down with my homemade cleaner, wash sheets and blankets. This made us all feel better since we spent most of our time in this 30-foot space. Each family member had a job to do before we could go play at the playground.

Most KOAs and campgrounds have a laundromat. We brought enough clothes for one week, with the plan to wash clothes around day 7 and again around day 14. Next time I will take more clothes. What I thought would last us a week, didn't always. Kids wear out their clothes when playing in the dirt. :) So we had to wear a lot of clothes twice and we had to use the laundromat more often. We had plenty of cabinets and could have brought more clothes. My biggest tips for laundry would be: 1) Bring a variety of comfortable, wrinkle-free clothes. This is not the time to be a fashionista. Think functionality. Think sitting in an RV for several hours at a time. Think getting out sporadically to hike or play at a playground. Think that way for yourself and all your children. :) 2) Even if you're going to the desert in July, you might run into rain or colder temperatures. Take jackets, long and short sleeves, shorts and jeans. Be prepared for all kinds of weather. And socks for the nighttime when the A/C in the RV is rockin'. :) 3) If it is a day when you are planning to do laundry, get to the campsite several hours before bedtime so you can have time to wash and dry, or wash and hang on a clothesline to dry before going to bed.

We kept "primping" to a minimum. Just as this is not a time to be a fashionista, it's also not the time to plan to take all your supplies for a major makeover. I brought Dr. Bronner's Lavender soap for my shampoo, body wash, and household cleaning. I brought a bar of Freedom Farm's Oats n Honey soap for my face. I did bring my hairdryer and minimal makeup, but rarely used either. Free yourself and take the break from primping! You are here to experience the beauty and wonder of nature, not to look like you just walked out of a magazine. Find out ahead of time which campgrounds have showers (some don't, actually), and plan accordingly. We only planned to take showers every other day.

Planning Ahead
This really depends on the type of person you are. Brian and I like to go with the flow more than some. So we only had reservations at about half the campgrounds we planned to stay in, and it worked out fine for us. Most of the time, we waited until we could see that we would definitely make it to our desired location before we called and reserved a spot. Partly because RV parks rarely give refunds for cancellations. Partly because if we saw something we wanted to stop and see, we didn't want to feel pressured to keep driving to make it to the next reservation. Consider all that when deciding how to plan. One thing I would suggest, is even if you want to keep your plans loose, find out all you can about the parks and campgrounds so that you will know what to expect when you arrive. You can call and ask, or look at the website and find out, even if you don't make a reservation. I assumed all campgrounds had grills. They do not. :) I also assumed all campgrounds allowed clotheslines. They do not. :) If those things are part of your planning, find out ahead of time. You may have to get some extra quarters for the dryer, or warm those hotdogs in the microwave instead of using the grill.

I see everything as happening as it should, even if it's a result of my poor planning. Because of that, we "happened upon" a great park called Cody Park in North Platte, Nebraska. Named after "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the park has a wildlife zoo area, a lake, large playground, and Wild West memorial. You can park your RV there overnight for $5. And there are GRILLS at the RV spots! :) All of the restaurants we ended up visiting were unplanned but very pleasant surprises. Several of the wonderful parks and museums we found were a result of just needing to get out of the car, not because of super planning on our part. And that was okay with me.