Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Ruin Your Marriage in Five Easy Steps

I'm going to assume you clicked on this not because you want to find a way to ruin your marriage, but because you're wondering why anyone would write about how to ruin a marriage. First, let me just clarify that I do not endorse the destruction of matrimony. This is a post that is telling you how to ruin your marriage in order for you not to do so. It's satirical or something. I'm just trying to be a proper blogger and write my first "How To" post, okay? 

To preface, I have only been married for three and a half years (Blake and I have been together for five years). I wouldn't call myself a seasoned wife by any means; however, many people have come to me for relationship advice. Now, five years isn't very long, but going from dating to having a baby and raising teenagers is a lot of life to live in a short time. This is the only credibility I have to offer on this subject. 

So, here's our story, in super short:

When Blake and I started becoming close friends, it took me about zero seconds to determine that whoever married him was going to be the luckiest and smartest woman on the planet. I wouldn't say I had a crush on him right away; I just happened to have eyes and a fully functional brain. At this point in my life I had met only almost-men at best, but Blake was far ahead of the curve. After dramas and life challenges and all sorts of things God did to get my attention, by some miracle Blake realized he was impressed with me, too. When that happened, I was not about to ruin my chances, or anyone else's. I prayed that God wouldn't put us together unless I was the one Blake was supposed to marry. That was scary for me, because selfishly I hoped that I could just manipulate the situation so that I could make sure we ended up together; but I knew I was tired of being in relationships where God wasn't the one in charge. I thank God every day for answering that prayer, because I can't imagine even for a moment being married to anyone else. 

So, considering that God put the most awesome man on the planet in my path, it's not surprising that Blake and I were the friends among our friends who did most of the "firsts." First to get together, first to get engaged, first to get married, and first to have a baby. We also managed to do all four of these things before most of our friends did the first two. It wasn't a race or a contest, that's just how life happened for us. 

When Blake and I were engaged, we were still serving at Faith Baptist Church in Harrah, where Blake was the youth pastor. Along with our marriage counseling with Blake's dad, we were also being discipled by the pastor, Dan, and his wife, Gayle. During this time, Gayle and I would meet on Wednesdays before church and she would prepare me for the best and hardest job around: being a godly wife. Basically, any brilliant relationship advice I give originated from Gayle. I think there's a Rolodex in my brain filled with Gayle quotes that I can immediately reference when I am trying to make a wise decision. Anything not from this Rolodex was picked up from marriage counseling, or a lesson I lived through (or learned the hard way). In this post, I am trying to narrow it down to advice that works both ways. Maybe someday I will write a post just of quotes that help me choose to be a better wife on any given day, but for now, this is for husbands and wives.

So, that was the introduction. Without further ado, here is my post. 

How to Ruin Your Marriage
in Five Easy Steps

1. Keep a Detailed Mental Checklist of Your Spouse's Successes and Failures.
They finally did those dishes you begged them to do because after you cleaned a lot of the house you just wanted them to do that one thing: check. They finally did those dishes after you asked them sixteen times: check x 16. They changed two of the baby's diapers today: check x 2. You changed five diapers today: check x 5. They asked you to do the thing, and you did the thing, but they didn't say thank you: check. You told them (or at least implied it by the silent treatment you gave them later) if they mention this one thing that it really hurts your feelings and they mentioned it: check x another silent treatment. 

A checklist is the perfect way to ruin a marriage. If your spouse fails to make the numbers add up in their favor (spoiler alert: they will), you will both be so frustrated that your marriage will soon become a somewhat convenient living arrangement. 

2. Always Be Passive Aggressive
Communicating clearly with your spouse about how you are feeling will only bring you two to a better understanding of one another's feelings, and will no doubt result in a better marriage. No, if you want to watch your marriage slowly decay, never directly inform your spouse of what you are thinking or feeling. Communicate only through cold shoulders, eye rolling, sighing through your nose and shaking your head, and speak only these phrases, in whatever order you like: "it's nothing," "I'm fine," "it doesn't matter," or, to communicate all three with no words, simply shrug until your spouse walks away in frustration. If you do all of these things and your spouse still hasn't figured out what they have done wrong, then you have reached an expert level of passive aggressiveness, and you may move on to the next step:

3. Assume They Did It on Purpose
Clearly your spouse isn't so clueless that they truly have no idea how they upset you, so they must have done it on purpose. The fact that they are now completely uncomfortable around you probably doesn't mean that they now feel like they need to walk on eggshells around you; it's because they know they have upset you and now they are purposely upsetting you. I mean, it's highly unlikely that your spouse wants you to be happy. At this point, you may feel free to replace your passive aggressiveness with actual aggressiveness.  If you do finally share your feelings, however, make sure you communicate only in a way that will hurt them: shouting at them, blaming them, and reminding them how much they have victimized you. Whether you become aggressive or remain passive aggressive, you will then be able to proceed to the next step:

4. Use Sex as a Reward and Punishment System
They told you how wonderful they think you are and you went on a date together tonight, so they have earned some hanky panky after the kids go to bed. They haven't said they're sorry yet so they're not getting lucky tonight. Your husband came home from work and even though the kids were driving you nuts and you were trying to finish cooking dinner after you had a long day of your own he sat down in front of the TV, his computer screen, or his phone--or, better yet, decided that was the best time to use the bathroom. Obviously, just asking him to help you is out of the question, so instead you can revert back to step two, sit through a tense dinner, and say you're "not really in the mood tonight" when he tries spooning you in bed later. Your wife didn't put out when you came home from an awful day at work last week, so even though she clearly wants to make love tonight you're going to use the same lame excuse of having period cramps (or, a lame excuse that actually makes sense). Pretty soon you will both keep each other from intimacy for so long that there will be no more intimacy.

5. Ask Yourself Often, "What if I Had Married Someone Else?"
It doesn't really matter whether or not it was someone you actually dated or even knew. Sometimes a made up person that you may have ended up meeting in a coffee shop if you hadn't been married to your spouse is enough to get your imagination running freely. Who knows? Maybe someone else you might have married would have appreciated you more and always understood your feelings without you ever having to utter a word. Maybe someone else would have done everything you wanted or felt like you needed so you could be satisfied with your marriage. After all, your marriage is about you, right?

So there's my list, at least the top five ways I would pick. For more seasoned spouses, what are some things you would think of that would ruin a marriage?

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Sorry for that cliche title, but also not sorry because it is so true.

I hope all of you had a wonderful time with your families for Thanksgiving. Our three boys are fortunate enough that they all have a place to go home and spend the week off for Thanksgiving with their families, and they got back to the ranch on Sunday. They had a great time with their families, but they all seemed really excited to see each other.

The Saturday before the boys left, we had a Liddell family Thanksgiving together. This was particularly exciting for me, because I got to experience the joy of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and making it really special for the guys. Blake took care of the turkey, I was cooking everything else from 8:30am to 2pm, and the boys got to have the kind of Thanksgiving that I remember so well from my childhood. We all sit down for dinner together every night, but the Thanksgiving meal definitely stood out. What a blessing it was to celebrate all that God has provided for us as a family. Boys that come to Willow Springs all have a story, often with a recurring theme of loss; however, it was so great to hear them talk about what they were thankful for this year. All three of our boys said they were extremely thankful for the food (I think every teenage boy spends at least 75% of their day thinking about food), and for their Willow Springs family. The Willow Springs family isn't just our boys, Blake, Adeline, and me, but all of us who invest day in and day out in the six boys who live here. I am so glad that the boys are thankful for Willow Springs, and I hope they realize more and more how thankful Willow Springs is for them.

As Thanksgiving festivities have wound down, we have begun all of the Christmas festivities at our house. I wanted to make Christmas at Willow Springs something that lasts longer than just one day together and is filled with nothing but stuff. I wanted to start new traditions as a family, something that the boys can look back on and specifically remember to inspire them to want to give to others and appreciate being together. It also had to be something that would involve our relief parents when we are on our days off in December. So, I figured the boys would enjoy an advent calendar. I am going to post what our advent countdown includes, on the condition that NO ONE TELLS THE BOYS ANYTHING ON THIS LIST! It's all a surprise :) Also, if it inspires you to make a list for your family, by all means, please copy me. It's going to be fun :)

Each day of the advent calendar will start with one of the boys reading a Bible excerpt that describes Christ's birth. At the end of every day, before bed, Blake and I will read Jotham's Journey to the boys.
Day 1: Stringing popcorn and cranberries and decorating the tree
Day 2: Taking a family picture by the tree (for the Christmas card)
Day 3: Making gifts for teachers at school
Day 4: Watch a Christmas movie together and make hot chocolate.
Day 5: Make a list of people (family and friends) that they want to buy or make presents for this year
Day 6: Our relief parents will take the boys to the City Rescue Mission in OKC to take donations to the homeless, such as socks, gloves, etc.
Day 7: Watch the Polar Express together and eat popcorn
Day 8: Make a bunch of homemade Christmas cards.
Day 9: Take the homemade Christmas cards to the Chandler nursing home
Day 10: Drink homemade apple cider
Day 11: Make paper snowflakes and decorate their doors with them.
Day 12: Wrapping presents for kids at a local homeless program in Shawnee, or helping with a refugee program in OKC (this is one we are still working out at the moment) 
Day 13: Take the boys Christmas shopping in Shawnee.
Day 14: Going to the Christmas musical at First Baptist Chandler
Day 15: Wrap Christmas presents, made or bought.
Day 16: Make and decorate Christmas cookies.
Day 17: Listen to Christmas music, play a game together, and eat popcorn.
Day 18: Make Christmas candy for the Christmas party for the ranch tonight.
Day 19: Drive around and see Christmas lights
Day 20: Our family Christmas and Christmas dinner! :)
Day 21: Our boys go home to spend Christmas with their families, but will take the remaining days of the advent calendar home with them. 
Day 22: Boys read a letter encouraging them to thank their family and say one kind thing to every single family member they are with for Christmas.
Day 23: Boys read another letter encouraging them to do one selfless thing for each of their family members or a family member they disagree with the most.
Day 24: Boys will open a present of Christmas pajamas.
Day 25: Boys will receive a Christmas ornament they can keep at home, so that whenever they leave WSBR some day, they will have the ornament as a keepsake. :)

I have had a few people ask me what they can give to the boys for Christmas. Any general donation for any amount you feel led to give during the Christmas season would be greatly appreciated. Other ideas could be Walmart gift cards to help pay for some of the extra grocery expenses that come around during Christmas, such as some of the things mentioned in our advent list above. Thank you in advance for whatever you and your family commit to give!

Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog, follow us on Facebook, text us, call us, and everything else you do to be a part of what God is doing at Willow Springs Boys Ranch. Your love, support, and prayers make a difference in our lives and in the lives of each boy that comes here. I truly believe that God is doing miraculous, redemptive works through the legacy of Willow Springs. What a blessing it is to be a part of this story, and what a blessing it is to have you be a part of it, too!

I leave you with pictures of the Christmas decorating that I am entirely too excited to have all over our home.

The outside view of our lights. :)


We don't have stockings for the boys yet :(

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We'll (Still) Love You Wherever You Live

One great thing about WSBR is that, though we ideally want boys to have a place to grow up and graduate high school and feel a part of a family, some boys really just need a temporary safe place, and the ranch can do that. MC left the ranch this morning, and seeing a boy leave after about three weeks is not fun for us; however, we trust that God is going with him where we can't. Please pray that the seeds planted while MC was here would miraculously take root and grow and produce fruit in the future, no matter where he goes in life. I firmly believe that the decades of fervent prayer that still cover the land of WSBR were just as much for the boys who were only here for a short time as they are for the boys that are and will be here for years--please join me in continuing the legacy of faith in God's hand in their lives by praying for all of the boys whose lives have been affected by their time at Willow Springs.

On a brighter (and slightly ironic) note, we actually have another boy moving in on Monday morning. LC is fourteen years old, and is in 8th grade. He likes to play basketball and he likes art. We met him on Tuesday, and he and his parents are awesome. We are so looking forward to him coming to the ranch; we think he will fit in perfectly around here!

Here are some things you can be praying for this week:

  • LC as he moves in and begins to adjust to life on the ranch starting Monday
  • For us to find effective (and possibly pretty creative) solutions for grades to stay where they need to be
  • When LC moves in on Monday, we will once again have three boys in each house. We still have room for five more boys per house, so please pray for any future boys that God brings to us!
  • For God to lead generous donors to give in order to keep up financially as our ranch families grow
Here are some things you may consider donating:
  • You may have seen me post on Facebook about a Christmas tree. Upon further examination of our budget, we really can't afford to buy a Christmas tree. However, if your family is buying a new tree and you need to get rid of your old one, please consider donating it to the ranch! I would be okay with cutting down and bringing in a real tree, but the carpet in the Liddell house is really new, and I'm afraid the sap of a tree would ruin it. Blake and I have a 7ft tree, but I am hoping to secure a larger tree that will stay with the Liddell house long after Blake and I are gone.
  • I don't have enough information at this point to know exactly what LC will be bringing with him on Monday, but once we figure out what he does need, we will let you know. 
Thank you for reading; we covet your prayers!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Grocery Shopping: Not for the Faint of Heart

I am often caught telling stories of my weekly grocery shopping experiences. Especially when Adeline comes with me, it is an hour(s) long ordeal. Partially because I get stopped in every aisle at WalMart so that someone can gawk over my daughter (and she loves it way too much), and partially because, oddly enough, people are very curious and confused as to why a young mom with a young daughter needs a cart stacked so full of food. When my first answer is, "I am also feeding three teenage boys and my husband," the looks only become more puzzled. Depending on the amount of interest each questioning passerby shows, I don't mind sharing the WSBR story. I once (or twice...or more) had to cut a conversation short because I was afraid the chicken in my cart would go bad before the 10 minute check-out process and the 30(ish) minute drive back to Chandler from Edmond.

One of my favorite stories from grocery shopping was a recent trip where Blake went with Adeline and me. I told him this would most likely be a perfect opportunity for him to see just how often I was stopped and why it takes me so long to get out of WalMart. After I was already stopped a few short times during the actual grocery shopping, Blake and I finally got into a checkout line. Between the two of us we managed to empty the cart pretty quickly, but the cashier noticed the name "Willow Springs Boys Ranch" on the tax exempt card and was immediately curious. After she had already spent five minutes trying to convince us to let her babysit Addie (flattering yet unsettling), she began to ask where the money for all of this food comes from--do we pay for it, and are compensated later? Do the boys actually live in our house and do we actually cook everything for them? Is this an alternative to foster care? How big is this whole operation? After a while, the cashiers in both checkout lanes next to us as well as their customers were in on this interview. How many boys do you have? What's the most boys you could have? How old can they be? Do you really trust them around your baby (how old is she? Oh, she is just so pretty!)? By the time we actually got all of our groceries back in the cart and everything paid for, we had spent close to half an hour in the line. It may have been shorter, but I'm pretty sure it was half an hour.

Now, to be fair, that wasn't a totally typical shopping day. What I want to help you all to picture is my weekly ritual, and what it takes to make it happen.

When I go grocery shopping each week, I am thoroughly prepared. I have my list of what is for dinner each night and what ingredients I need, plus exactly what snacks and how much I'm going to buy (as of now our snacks each week are apples, bananas, or clementines. When these are out, we have popcorn for special family nights, like a game night or movie night). I also buy those giant super-value bags of cereal and milk, which the boys have for breakfast every morning, and we do a special breakfast on Saturday mornings if we can budget for it that week. We have our family meals, and meals planned for Stephanie to cook when our relief parents are on call for us. Now, to give you an idea of how many people that is, on a typical weeknight dinner we are feeding two adults, three boys (which is really more than an adult appetite), and baby (who basically has an adult appetite). That's six people. When our relief parents are over, dinner feeds seven people. And, obviously, I include breakfast and lunch options for the whole week, which is usually sandwiches or ramen (guys, ramen is really awesome).

If you're a busy mom with a big family like me, you know how much work this is. Every Sunday afternoon I sit down for about an hour and a half and plan the meals, make the list, and also check the house for anything we're out of (trash bags, laundry detergent, dish detergent, paper towels, freezer bags, etc). After staff meeting on Monday, Blake, Adeline and I eat a quick lunch (usually whatever leftovers are left in the fridge, as Blake will typically clean them out of the fridge while I'm gone so we can have an empty fridge for when I get back), I get on a comfortable pair of shoes, and off I (or we) go.

Now, this was my shopping cart today. I had gotten most of what I needed, but it was actually a little more full by the time I got to the checkout. This is with three boys in the house. *taps the mic twice* Three. Our two houses have room for eight boys each to live here. I know what you're thinking--I'm going to have to move to two carts soon and Blake will HAVE to come with me. Wait, maybe that's what I'm thinking.

Maybe you are thinking any number or combination of these things:

  • That is a really full cart.
  • Doesn't that get really hard to push around WalMart? Answer: definitely. How do you think I've developed any resemblance of arm muscle for the first time in my life? 
  • My family's cart is usually fuller than this for just one week. 
  • The cart is a nice visual, but I'm also thinking of other expenses that go along with living life.
  • Who pays for all of this?
  • How can I help?

Willow Springs Boys Ranch is an organization run entirely on donor support. All of the things provided for our family--groceries, living expenses, school supplies, etc.--all comes from however much money is given to us. Also raised by donor support is the house parents' pay checks and health insurance. Now, before you think I'm holding out a beggar's cup here, I need you to know that I do not want anyone to feel obligated to donate money to the ranch. As I have said before and wholeheartedly believe, we need your prayers. We completely trust God to provide everything we need. I am merely responding to the one question that I hear from all who are invested in the WSBR ministry: "How can I help?" Make a commitment to pray for Willow Springs daily, weekly, monthly--whatever you can. If you feel like the Spirit is leading you to do something in addition to praying, please prayerfully consider giving a monthly donation. This can be small. For example, if ten families committed to give $25 a month, that would pay for a week of groceries for one of the houses.

If you're reading this, know that you are appreciated. Even just caring enough to read through this shows me that you care about what God is doing at Willow Springs, and I thank you.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ravings of a House Mom Who Can't Sleep Yet

Here are some of the things that are on my mind while I wait for the laundry to finish drying so I can take a well-earned bath, grab my favorite pajamas (otherwise known as the comfiest looking clothes in Blake's closet), and fall asleep.

Blake and I have been at Willow Springs for nine months. A year ago, I was spending every day doing laundry, dishes, watching daytime television, breastfeeding, and trying desperately to get Adeline to laugh so that I could distract myself from the fact that I was just...waiting. All the time. Waiting for Blake to get home from work; waiting for a phone call that said we could move in to the Liddell house or that we had a boy who was for sure coming; waiting for Adeline's next milestone so I could stop worrying when everyone mentioned how small she was (spoiler alert: she actually wasn't that small, and she is extremely healthy--wearing 18-24mo clothes, and seems like she will be closing in on 3 feet tall in no time); or, waiting to see whether or not I could afford to buy groceries soon. You see, nine months before we moved to Chandler, we were just starting this waiting game. In March we were candidates to become worship leaders at a church near Tulsa, and before that fell through, we waited for three months to hear anything after we were told they "wanted" to hire us. Obviously, in March, we were also waiting for baby Adeline to be born, as she was born May 31.

From March to January, those nine months honestly felt much longer than nine months of pregnancy. Sometimes, it really felt longer than four years of earning my degree in voice. It felt especially longer on the nights when Adeline had nothing to sleep in but her porta-crib, and on the really cold nights I would bring the only two space heaters we owned into her room, put her in her warmest pajamas, cover her with two blankets, and try to encourage myself that she still had far more than the majority of children in this world. Most of all, I repeated to myself over and over that this would pass, and that God is faithful.

This did pass, and, yes, God is more than faithful.

Tonight I am sitting in a house that is more than capable of standing through the thunderstorm that's on its way. My daughter is sleeping soundly in a crib with a mattress and everything in a room that is perfectly warm. I have three boys who, even at their worst, are the physical manifestation of months of prayers and hopes and dreams. Also, the difference in how long nine months has lasted is staggering--the nine months from January until now have gone by in the blink of an eye.

On days when being a house mom gets pretty hectic, and I feel like I am firing on all cylinders, I remember all that waiting. I remember that I much prefer feeling spent from pouring out everything in me than feeling restless.

If you feel you have been waiting for entirely too long, my heart breaks for you. I understand this feeling. My hope and prayer is that you could feel the Holy Spirit's nearness to you in this time, and that you would be strengthened by the assurance that this too shall pass, and God is faithful. Also, whatever you are waiting for, whatever vision or promise God has given you, is worth the wait. Future self, who will undoubtedly find herself waiting for something again, do you hear me? God did it, and He will do it again.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Growing Liddell House

This morning, our newest boy, MC, moved into the Liddell house. We are so excited to have him here! He will be fifteen years old in November, and he is a freshman. He plays football and basketball, but seems to prefer basketball. He starts school here in Chandler on Monday.

So far, MC has been pretty quiet. Considering how talkative our other two boys are, I don't foresee him getting many words in, anyway. I can't give a lot of details about MC, for his protection, but I can tell you that the parts of his story that I do know break my heart. When I came out of our apartment to meet him this morning, all I saw were two plastic sacks of clothes on the table. When Blake asked if there was anything else he needed to help get out of their car, those who were dropping him off said that was all he had.

Tomorrow we are going to Shawnee to get him some clothes and things he needs for school, and he needs a lot. If you want to donate anything for him, please go to the WSBR website or contact me via Facebook, and I can further direct you on how you can help. In addition to clothes and school supplies, some ideas for things you could make or give that might make him feel even more welcome at the ranch would be some things I have asked for the other boys in the past: monogrammed towels, a quilt or blanket, etc.

One thing we would ask for MC, as well as our other two boys, would be a Bible of their own. I think it would be really great if they could have a leatherbound NIV with their names, or even a really great teen boy study bible--anything that would be easy for them to read. I think they all have a Bible, but not one they find easy to read. If this is something you would like to give, please contact me via Facebook, or if you have my phone number, you can call or text me, and I will respond as quickly as possible.

More than all of these things, we covet your prayers for MC as he adjusts to life at the ranch. Pray for him to find peace and comfort here, and a growing relationship with Christ. We thank God for your prayers and support of our ministry at Willow Springs!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

All About Florida, and Then Some

Since my last post in August, so much has happened; which is, honestly, the reason I haven't written a post about Florida and everything until now. So, brace yourselves for what may be a pretty long post!

Not too long after my last post, the situation at TJ's home changed, and he was able to go home. We were definitely sad to see him leave, but we count it as a success that he could have a home here at the ranch when he needed it, and now he can be back with his family. He ended up going home just a few days before we left for Florida; so for those of you who have seen us around church with two boys instead of three, this is why.

Our WSBR family vacation to Florida was just awesome! Even the drives there and back weren't too bad; the boys basically slept, listened to music, or watched movies through the whole drive. Blake and Jon were both awesome drivers--they drove the whole 14-17 hours (it varied on the way there and back, depending on the number of stops we made) without asking either Whitney or me for a break. Personally, I don't mind that one bit. The drive was also made easier for us considering Adeline stayed with my parents while we were gone. As much as we missed her, we were all thinking about how much she would have hated being in the car for that long. Also, this was a great time for Blake and I to devote 100% attention to CS and IG, and they never had to worry about being quiet because Adeline was sleeping or anything.

When we got to the condo in Destin around 10pm, the boys were pretty delirious from being in the car. I think they were doing Forest Gump impersonations for the last twenty minutes of the drive--however, I'm not sure it was on purpose. They excitedly explored the condo for about fifteen minutes, helped unload the car quickly, and crashed in their bed. I don't blame them, the adults did basically the same thing, we just had to unpack the food first. The condo was absolutely incredible! Jon and Whitney's three boys shared one room, and our boys shared another. Each set of house parents had one of the master bedrooms, and our relief parents and their three kids had the guest house (an addition to the condo on the other side of the deck). We had a huge deck that the boys usually sat at to eat for lunch so that they could go right back to swimming in the pool after they were done eating.

All five boys at the beach. This may have been the first day, but I don't remember.

There was a beach just two blocks down the street from us, and another beach two blocks over from that one. Both were just gorgeous, and SO fun. We would alternate which ones we went to every day. The boys spent their time swimming with goggles and following fish around, looking for sand dollars and sea shells (not to mention they found at least four pairs of sunglasses floating around in the ocean), boogie boarding, "body surfing," and one day they all got to take a turn on a paddle board that Blake rented for half a day. The first few days at the beach had pretty big waves, which was fun for body surfing and boogie boarding, but could also be painful if they knocked you over hard enough. This didn't seem to phase the boys, however--I think they spent at least two hours riding wave after wave after wave. The last few days the waves were calmer, and the boys would use the boogie boards to lay on and float around, or would keep looking for fish. One of Jon and Whitney's boys got stung by a jellyfish during one of these calmer days, and it turned into one of those "check out this scar" kind of stories (except the mark was only there for a day or so). We also rented a moped for the week that the boys could take turns riding with Blake and Jon on frequently. Each set of houseparents also got a chance to go on a date night, and took the moped to get there. It was really, really fun!

The boys also loved going to the beach at night with flashlights looking for crabs. They were tiny, white little things that were so fast and hard to catch, but I'm sure each boy wiped out several times diving to grab one. The ranch boys are quite tenacious when it comes to chasing and catching critters (can we motivate them to be as determined to finish math homework?).

Our family at Dewey's. 

CS and IG at dinner at Dewey's. This is actually a pretty good illustration of what it's like in our house most of the time.

One of my favorite days in Florida was when each family went out on their own family night. Our family went shopping, played a few games of laser tag (even when we all teamed up against him, Blake still dominated), and went out to eat at a local seafood restaurant called Dewey's. Dewey's was a little Mom and Pops' looking place that sat right on the harbor. The seafood was caught fresh and cooked up that day. It was oh-my-gosh-why-do-I-ever-eat-at-Red-Lobster good. We all shared this amazing cheesy crab dip stuff, the boys each ate a fish and chips type basket, Blake got bacon stuffed fried shrimp, and I got the most incredible tuna "steak" ever. It kind of made me sad that the same amazingly delicious tuna I was eating is often fated to becoming that tuna in a can. I'm sure they dreamed of so much more.

IG and CS at the lookout point of the deck at Dewey's.

Blake and I on the deck at Dewey's.

After dinner, we noticed a little drop off by the deck that was covered with really cool shells, and the boys asked if they could get one. As they climbed down to grab a few shells, they noticed they were starting to move. There were at least forty big hermit crabs crawling around on the rocks! We limited them to choose about five each, and they were all really cool and way more interesting then any of the hermit crabs they would charge you for in a store. Most of these made the trip home, but after about a week or so most of them died. There was one--the biggest one--that made it the longest, and we would frequently come home to see had somehow managed to crawl out of the big bucket and end up somewhere in a corner of the garage. This, and the fact that hermit crabs resemble spiders to me, totally gave me the jibblies; but, the boys enjoyed them while they lasted.

This is the moped that Blake and Jon rented for the week. The boys each had several opportunities to go for a ride, and it saved a TON of gas money. CS looks like he's pouting because he can't drive it. 

Our family taking a quick picture with the paddle board before we had to return it. 

All this to say, friends of the ranch who donated and made this trip possible, thank you so much. It was an incredible experience for the WSBR boys, and I think they will cherish this memory for the rest of their lives. Not only was the trip memorable because, hello, it's an amazing beach in amazing Destin, Florida, but because many of these boys, if they have been on a family vacation, they have been few and far between; this was a chance for them to be a part of this WSBR family that loves each other and enjoys spending time with each other and going on adventures together. We learned more about working together as a family and being respectful, responsible, and fun to be with. We had an amazing time! Thank you, thank you, thank you for blessing us!

In order to catch everyone up to speed for some things that are happening in our lives lately, here's a few things to let you know:

  • If you're wondering why in the world it seems like Blake, the boys, Adeline and I have barely been at FBC Chandler lately, that's because we have been filling in to lead worship frequently at two different churches, one near Harrah and one in Edmond. We're still around on Wednesdays, though. We promise we aren't ditching you!

  • Our boys pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe football right now. If you ever want to come to a Chandler Junior High Football home game, we will totally save you a seat. You can hold my hand while I pray that neither of them get hit hard enough to do permanent damage. I'm not sure when the next home game is, but you will probably see me post on Facebook about it.

  • Please be praying for any future boys that may be coming to the ranch. We definitely have room!
Thank you, friends of Willow Springs, for your prayers and everything else you do to support us. We thank God for you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer's Gone?

It doesn't really feel accurate to say it was a short summer; but, it doesn't feel accurate to say it was a long summer, either. Gone are the days of the boys doing work all day one day, fishing all day the next; of hours spent at the lake; of Watermelon Wednesdays with our relief parents; and of constantly losing and ruining socks (actually, that part will probably definitely never end). School has been in session for four days now, and we are re-learning our rhythm, but I think it has been good for everyone. Each of our boys seem to be enjoying school so far (of course, it is really early); however, they are counting the days until our trip to Florida. CS and IG have literally every single class and two-a-days in football together, and on top of being roommates I was sure this would mean they would get sick of each other. So far, it only gives them a million more things to talk about (including talking about girls way too much. Pray for us). We have been really impressed with and proud of how TJ is handling things at school already. We think it is really going to be a great year!

We are now eleven days away from our Ranch Family vacation to Florida. The fact that we are going on this vacation when summer is technically over makes it sort of feel like we are caught in a summer-time-warp; I am dying to start making pumpkin everything, but it feels like I need to wait for the vacation to be over. I think it'll help the boys feel like summer isn't really gone just yet, and maybe that's good for them. Having the boys in school has helped us plan for the vacation, but it also feels a bit like, "only eleven days to make sure we have everything ready to take fifteen people to Florida?!"

If you are counting and realizing we are not including two in that head count, it's because Adeline and Henry are going to stay with grandparents while we are gone. I know Addie will have so much more fun with her grandparents--and she and everyone else would have hated her being stuck in the car for fourteen hours--but this will be the longest Addie and I have ever been apart: ten days. TEN DAYS. I will probably spend the entire night we are packing and the first half of the drive in tears. I'll definitely spend most of the drive sleeping considering we are leaving at 4:30 am.

When it comes to money for the trip, we are so thankful for God's provision--we have everything we need for the trip. This includes rent for the condo, money for groceries, and gas money. If you are still considering sending in money, we would gratefully accept it! Just know that it would be used for fun family stuff--going out to eat one night, buying some snorkeling gear for the boys, or maybe using it to get the boys some souveniers to bring home, like a t-shirt or a hat or one of those big conch shells with glued-on googly eyes.

As we have had time to take a breath now that the boys are settling into school, and we are on the big push toward vacation, I wanted to be sure to let all of you friends of WSBR know some things you could be praying for us about:

  • You know how sometimes when you are really, really busy you don't realize how worn out you are until you sit down? That is how we feel. Big time. Please pray for God to use this time to help not just Blake and I, but for all WSBR staff to have some time to "fill up." 
  • There are significant changes going on back home for one of our boys that are definitely heavy on his heart. Please pray for him to learn to really lean on Jesus in this time, and that Blake and I would be able to remind him of this. 
  • WSBR has caught wind of a young boy who may be able to find a home at the ranch, and he would be in Blake and I's house. Please be in prayer for this boy, his family, and for us, that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we navigate the process from here. This is in very early stages, so this is the only information I can share.
  • Please be in prayer for us when we travel to Florida in just eleven days--for safety, for no issues with the vans, for good attitudes, etc.  
  • When you are living life and living in discipleship, relationships can become strained. Please pray that the enemy would gain no foothold in our staff-staff relationships and our staff-boy relationships. 
  • Most of all, please just pray for the constant peace of our God whose presence so obviously rests on WSBR. When life moves fast and we are working so hard to do our jobs well, it is really easy to look right past what He has already done perfectly. 
Thank you all for your faithfulness to us here at WSBR. We covet your prayers and encouragement. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WSBR Is Going to Florida!

It's happening, it's really happening!

Now, things do look a little different than we had planned as you read in my last blog post; but trust me, it's much better than we had been hoping for.

  • First of all, we had originally been planning to take the boys before school for just four or five days. Now, we will let their teachers know so we can get homework made up and all that jazz, but we are going for A WHOLE WEEK at the end of August/beginning of September.
  • Originally, we were going to just take Jon and Whitney and their boys, plus Blake and I and our boys. Now, thanks to generous donors, we have enough money to also be able to take our relief parents and their three kids with us, too! 
  • We originally asked for help raising about $1200 for gas and some "fun expenses" (going out to eat, snorkeling gear or something, etc). We had enough petty cash to cover the rest that we needed. Well, WSBR wants to give the biggest "thank you" ever to those who gave so generously, because we have enough money that we don't have to use ANY of the petty cash for housing or anything--donors paid for all of it! We can now use the petty cash for a family outing or getting school stuff for the boys, or even things we need for the Florida trip for the boys. What a huge blessing!

So, in case you are wondering what you have paid for, this is the place we are all (as in, all 17 of us) are staying! There are two master bedrooms for Jon, Whitey, and baby Henry, and Blake, Adeline, and I; there is a room with four bunk beds for our boys; a room with two beds for two of J&W's boys, and another room with a bed for J&W's third boy. Attached to the big house is a guest house for our relief parents and their three kids. It comes equipped with an amazing kitchen and dining room, and (as pictured above) a balcony from which you have an awesome view, and even our own private pool! The person who owns the house even gave us a $700 discount!

All this to say, we are absolutely blown away by God's provision, so beautifully and timely given through all who have donated. If you still wish to donate to the trip, you can use paypal via the website or send a check; we can always use your gifts for groceries or buying things the boys may need for the trip. 

From all of us here at Willow Springs, thank you so much! We are so grateful!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Adventure Awaits!

First of all, before I tell you the exciting news I have, I just want to shout out a HUGE thank you to the reader responses I received in just mere hours after mentioning things that could be donated to the ranch. We have three bikes awaiting some TLC by my awesome can-fix-anything husband, we have an abundance of embroidered towels in the works, AND we are waiting at this very moment for a queen bed AND a bonus futon to be delivered to us for the guestroom for our superhero relief parents. God is good, and He has shown that through the generous hearts of those who took the time to read about life on the ranch and do what they could to be involved. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generosity! You are a blessing to us!

So, our exciting news is....*drumroll please*

WSBR is going to Florida!!!!!!!
(P.S. TJ has no idea why we took this picture. Because the boys don't officially know yet.)

So, here's the story. We have a thing called "petty cash" that we receive from generous donors so we can do fun things together as a family that our budget wouldn't normally cover--go out to eat, go see a movie, etc. Recently, both houses received enough petty cash that we thought, "Hey, why don't we save this and all go on a vacation together before school starts?" Jon and Whitney brought up that their boys have never seen the ocean, and we think only one of ours has ever seen it, and we don't even know if he has. Blake and Jon began looking for a place we could afford to go where the boys could get to have the adventure of seeing the ocean. 

We have managed to find a place that we can afford to all stay, and Whitney and I are working on a grocery budget that can feasibly feed all of us without breaking the bank. We are so excited about this opportunity! Taking six boys, two babies, and four adults to Florida is going to be one (crazy?) fun adventure! But we are missing one little thing.

Plane tickets are totally out of the question. However, we think if we can raise the money for gas, that this trip will definitely be doable. We are in contact with some friends of WSBR to see if they can cover gas, but after seeing the loving generosity of you all with the bed, bikes, and towels, I thought I would reach out to see if anyone is willing/wanting to give. To give you an idea of numbers, we need about $900. Ideally, we still need about $1200 total for gas PLUS entertainment stuff (i.e. renting a wakeboard or surfboard, if we all wanted to go out for dinner together one night, etc.). If you are interested in giving toward our trip financially, you can go to the website link I put in the last blog post (but, PayPal will charge you a fee). You can also write a check for whatever amount you like (which we will gratefully and happily accept!) payable to Willow Springs Boys Ranch, and mail it to 880876 S. 3390 Rd., Chandler, OK 74804. 

Thank you all so much for the prayers you offer so faithfully, and the gifts you give so abundantly. We trust that God will provide to give these boys who have been given too many bitter memories one really great memory together as a ranch family. We look forward to seeing how He makes it happen!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Full(er) House

On Monday, July 7 (exactly one month since IG moved in), the Liddell house will be getting our third boy! KS will be here, and we are so excited! He will be sharing a room with IG, as they are almost the same age and will be going into the same grade when school starts next month. Please be in prayer for KS (I am not sure if his name starts with a C or a K, as I haven't seen the official form for him yet; bear in mind his initials may change :P) as he moves in and begins adjusting to life on the ranch. He has never lived at the ranch before, but has visited several times and is already somewhat familiar with it; I think this could help him adjust. Also, please pray that he and IG will hit it off well; they could potentially be really great influences on each other, or end up being really competitive because they are so close in age.

Something I said in the above paragraph has just really occurred to me--that the boys will be back in school next month! Where has the summer gone? There have been a few extra long days here and there, but the weeks have been short. We work hard and we play hard. The summer has been a great time of learning to work together as a family to get things done, and learning to have fun together when the work is finished.

I have been asked frequently what it is like to have rambunctious older boys and a toddler all in one house. Our one-year-old daughter, Adeline, has played a very special role in our ministry at WSBR. What a blessing it is that even at her young age, I already see how God can use her to minister to others (obviously she isn't aware of this--but her mother is). The way her eyes light up and she smiles or laughs when she sees TJ or IG seems to fill them instantly with joy. They will just chase her in the living room or try to coax her to walk or do everything they can to get giggles out of her for hours! It seems like she is good medicine for the wounds they have endured in their lives before moving to WSBR. As for how the boys are for her, I was worried for quite a while before we moved to the ranch that I would have to constantly run damage control, but I knew that God would protect Adeline more than I ever feasibly could. The boys are absolutely wonderful with her--we seldom need to remind them to be gentle with her. They are extremely protective of her, and always hate when it's her naptime or bedtime because they want to keep playing. However, neither of them ever seem to be around if she needs a new diaper. ;) I am confident that, even if it doesn't happen as quickly as it has with TJ or IG, that KS will also adore Addie, and that she will love him just as much. :)

Here is a list of prayer requests and needs you can be aware of if you wish to be a part of what God is doing here at WSBR:

  • As stated in the first paragraph, please especially be in prayer for KS this week as he moves into our house.
  • Prayer for TJ and IG to remain open and welcoming as they adjust to KS becoming a part of the family. 
  • It isn't really a ranch thing, but we are weaning Adeline off of her pacifiers. She may still need to take one to the nursery at church, though, or I have a feeling she will borrow one from another baby. :/
  • For good attitudes about the balance of work and play and being a family to continue, and on some days improve ;)
  • For whatever future boys God will bring to either the Mac house or the Liddell house. When KS moves in, there will be three boys in each house--so there is definitely room for more. :)
Some needs which you may consider donating:
  • As always, if you would like to give financially to WSBR, you can go here
  • We had one bicycle for a while that was quite old that our boys used to all share, but it was already on its last leg and quickly became unrideable. There is lots of room for riding bikes at the ranch, and I know the boys would just love if a bicycle (or bicycles, plural) were donated. If you have a bike sitting in your garage that is taking up space, we would love if you considered giving it to WSBR. 
  • Our relief house parents just had a baby girl a few months ago, and have two young boys as well. All of them share our guest room when they come to do relief for our days off once a week. The bed in our guest room is fairly old, and is only a full size bed. If you or someone you know has a queen sized bed in good condition they could donate, it would certainly be well received! 
  • This isn't really a need, but if you're one of those women I envy who have a talent for embroidery, Blake and I thought it would be really neat if the boys had two or three towels with their initials, name, or a monogram of their initials embroidered on it so that they could always see whose was whose. Just an idea :)
If you are reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you for investing your time in these boys and in the ministry of WSBR to catch up and be aware of what God is doing, and of needs that need to be met. Yours prayers are coveted and appreciated! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ebb & Flow

For those of you who have been praying for the possibility of a new boy coming, thank you! IG moved in this morning! He is too busy playing with TJ (I realized going by just first initials could be potentially confusing as our house grows) to have unpacked any of his suitcases yet, which is fine. He is almost fourteen; but, so far, the age gap between he and 10 year old TJ doesn't seem to matter. I'm sure this could change soon, but I digress.

Since my last blog post, I am sad to say that A decided he still did not want to be at the ranch. We have a saying here at WSBR, though: "We'll love you wherever you live." I think TJ is sad about this off and on; he misses his brother and wishes he would have stayed, but TJ is sold out to the ranch. Even if his brother couldn't buy in, he has determined that he's not going anywhere.

Please continue to pray for IG as he starts to adjust to life at the ranch. He is excited to be here, but it is still going to take getting used to :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

A is Back!

And, no, I'm not talking about Pretty Little Liars (but I did finally watch the entire fourth season and I swear at this point I'm only watching it for closure. It drives me--and my husband, because he hates that I watch it--crazy).

If you keep up with us on Facebook, you are probably aware that our latest pictures have included two boys instead of one. T's brother, A, is finally back at the ranch! Things are going pretty well so far, and we are hoping that when summer starts he will still be doing well. :) I do not want to disclose too much personal information about our boys through the blogisphere, but I will ask that you pray for A's continued healing and well-being.

Recently Blake and I arranged a space in the back of the utility closet to serve as a prayer closet, that anyone in our house can use. I left a journal from India and one of our Bibles in there, and both boys have utilized the space a few times. Something about being behind a closed door, in a small space, where it's really quiet, somehow seems to help them feel more like God is really listening. Perhaps it feels like being in God's secret clubhouse or something. It seems like it has been a good thing for them when they have used it, like they can come out a different person, or at least feeling closer to this God that I think neither of them would say they understand at all. I would go into deeper detail about where I feel they are at with God personally, but please understand that I am trying to really guard these boys. You'd be surprised (or maybe not) by what kind of personal questions people ask them, and they are already pretty guarded--so I try not to give others more information to freak them out with ;)

Okay, so back to where I was going when I started talking about the prayer closet. I think one of the biggest things that boys coming to the ranch need to understand is what grace is, and why it is so important. Obviously at the ranch there are rules and expectations that need to be followed--but grace is the cement that holds this place together. And let me tell you, as a house mom, I need a lot of grace. Blake needs a lot of grace. Our bosses and our fellow house parents and relief houseparents and our counselor need a lot of grace. The boys need so much grace, and it's really difficult for them to understand (and hey, we all have trouble understanding it, right?). So, please, pray for an abundance of God's grace around us, in us, through us.

Another thing you can begin to pray for is a boy that may be coming to the ranch some time after labor day. He is thirteen, and he will come look at the ranch next week. We are hoping and praying that he will find a home here at the ranch; please join us in doing so!

Thank you once again for your continued intercession for us. We love and appreciate you!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Long (But Ultimately Awesome) Weekend

To explain everything that went on this weekend, let me give you a brief prologue.

Please be in prayer for Blake's grandpa, Paul. He has been diagnosed with liver cancer. This patriarch of our family means so much to us, and has been battling various health issues for almost two years now. For me, personally, all my grandfathers and great-grandfathers have passed away or just simply aren't in the picture. Paul is my grandpa; and anyone who has been close to a grandparent or parent knows how difficult these situations are. Blake's parents, Odus and Paula Kaye, are back in Texas tonight and will find out more about Paul's diagnosis and treatment options tomorrow. We are optimistic that God will do a mighty work in our family through this situation, and that everyone--especially Papa--will come out stronger on the other side. On Sunday, two of Blake's brothers came to stay with us here at the Ranch for a week while Blake's mom and all of his sisters went to stay with his grandparents in Texas to help take care of Paul.

With Blake's two brother's here for a whole week, T got to play with boys closer to his age, and also have a tiny idea of what a bigger family dynamic might look like when we have more boys here. It was neat to watch T get more involved in helping things run smoothly and have more of a "part" to play in the family. He volunteered to help with dishes--twice! In a row!

On Friday, Blake, his two brothers, T, and all the boys and Jon from next door went to the mens retreat at Falls Creek. Blake said it was a lot of fun, but he wasn't so sure how much T got from anything because he was a lot younger than most of the men that went; but, when we were driving to Shawnee on Saturday night, Blake asked T what his favorite part of the retreat was, and T said his favorite part was the worship/tabernacle time. Blake's response was, "You're not just saying that cause you think that's what I want to hear, are you?" and T said, "No, there was lots of cool stuff, but that really was my favorite." You just never know with boys that come through the ranch how guarded they will be, depending on where they are coming from--T is so open to learning, and asks so many questions (some days too many).

On Saturday night, we all stayed in Shawnee with Blake's family to discuss Paul's health. T sat in on our family meeting, and even though his face definitely communicated "I have no idea what's going on here," you could see him trying really hard to understand and be a part of what was going on, and trying to understand the complex combination of the pain that comes with dealing with the reality of sickness in a loved one, and the hope we have that Christ is stronger than that pain. I think that by the end of this weekend, he was starting to feel like he was really part of this family--not just Blake and Adeline and me, but also our extended families.

Today we ALL went to church together, where Blake, two of his sisters, our friend Luke, and I all led worship and his dad preached. At one point today, after it was said several times in church "We are just so glad the Comptons are with us today" and the like, T leans over and whispers to me, "I'm a Compton, too, aren't I?" There's no denying when you get thrown in with all the Comptons, you're going to feel the love; and T really felt the love this weekend, and really saw how being a family is being a team. Even with the undertone of sadness in discovering Papa's cancer, this weekend was such a blessing.

So, after this long story, here's some praise and prayer points for T and for our house:

  • Praise: T is doing A LOT better in school. He brought one of his grades up TWO LETTER GRADES from the last nine weeks to this nine weeks. 
  • Prayer Point: Adjusting to Chandler schools still has its challenges. We are hoping that after the summer he will be adjusted enough to be excited to go back to school. 
  • Praise: As far as I know right now, we are up to four possible new boys to come to our house. These are still in early, early stages, and would wait until after school to come (because why change school's when we have only a few weeks left to go?). 
  • Prayer Point: for these four boys, please pray that God would bring their parents/guardians wisdom, that God would help these boys to find a home here at the ranch, and that He would prepare our hearts and our home for whoever He brings.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for interceding on behalf of our family and on behalf of WSBR. We so covet your prayers. For more information about our part at WSBR, you can sign up for our monthly email newsletter here. For more information about the ranch as a whole, you can like our Facebook page and check out the link on my blog. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Long Story, Short (Well, Actually, Not That Short).

It occurred to me this morning that many people don't exactly understand how Blake and I ended up at Willow Springs Boys' Ranch, or what exactly we were doing between graduation, Adeline being born, and when we started here in January. And boy, is it a long story. One that is way too long to say in a simple response to the question, "What were you doing before you went to the Ranch?"

So, let me start at graduation.

It was May 17th. We walked (or, in my case, waddled) across the stage and proudly held our fake diplomas in lieu of our actual diplomas that would be mailed shortly. We were happy and excited for the future God had for us at a church where we thought we would be leading worship sometime that summer. Until then, we were still serving at Faith Baptist in Harrah.

Two weeks later, Adeline arrived 17 days earlier than expected on May 31, 2013. As excited as we were, we also knew this put a little pressure on our job timeline. Did this mean we would leave Harrah sooner? Later? We had no idea. At this point we were hearing nothing but radio silence as the other church was still working out details about hiring us.

When Adeline was two weeks old, we came to visit our friends Jon and Whitney, who had just become houseparents at Willow Springs. Hearing their excitement and nervousness as they began this new journey and ministry together was awesome. After talking for a long time that day, it was said at some point (I think by Jon), "Hey there's an empty house here. Wouldn't it be crazy if God called you guys to be houseparents out here?" *nudge nudge* *chuckles* *eyebrows* "Crazy."

We had a two week old infant in our arms. We thought God might be calling us to this church. But when Blake and I got into our car to head home that night, we both knew. A brand new daughter, and an undeniable urge to disciple others and live a missional life. From that night on, our house in Shawnee didn't feel like home any more.


We talked to our now bosses, and they were pretty much like, "Are you crazy?" Yeah, we basically are. We knew it may be a little while before we got to the ranch, because the house we would be in needed some TLC. Blake started a full time job at Lowe's, we left Harrah thinking we would all be at the Ranch within a month or two, and we began to wait.

And wait. And wait.

The house renovations moved slower than expected, even with Blake spending so many hours when he was off work to paint, and hook up sinks, and replace lighting fixtures and fans, and do tiling, and everything else he worked so hard doing to try and make the wait shorter for his family. The boy that we thought would be moving in to our house at the ranch with us suddenly fell through after months of investment. For six months we prayed earnestly to get to come home, we prayed God would magically make the numbers add up for us to have the money for the groceries we needed. We prayed for whatever boys we would have. We prayed for God to make time move faster. We prayed for anything God would give.

"You guys are still in Shawnee?"
"You still aren't at the Ranch?"
"So, what other options are you looking into?"

The enemy loves to take whatever you're called to and make you question it. He throws obstacles in our way and makes us think, "Well, this is kind of hard. Maybe God wouldn't make it this hard if I was really supposed to go." I am so glad that when Jesus was on the cross he wasn't like, "Well, this is hard. If God really wanted me to bring redemption to the nations, he wouldn't have made it this hard."

Man, going through the hard stuff is no fun at all. You definitely don't feel like God is making you stronger when you're in the middle of it. In fact, you feel like you're doing something wrong. And people like to tell you you're probably doing something wrong. Sounds familiar, right, Job?

One day, after things with the boy that we thought was coming fell through, Blake and I prayed earnestly. What now? We know You will provide for us, God. We know we are supposed to be at WSBR. What now?

The money was out, y'all. I had my knitting to help us sometimes (but not much at all). We got a lot of help from our parents--Blake was working for his dad for four months, they fed us often, and my parents often chipped in for things we needed (especially things like diapers). Blake started applying for jobs again, bearing in mind that he would have to find a job that he could leave at a moment's notice if we were finally able to move in at the Ranch. Blake found a job in Edmond at Tack Designs, who had bosses and employees who were missional minded as well, and willing to work with us in our calling. We began looking for apartments in Edmond.

Then, the call. On December 31, 2013, we were finally told that we could move into our home in Chandler. On January 1, 2014, we moved in. We had all of our boxes unpacked by January 5. We got our first two boys on January 6. After months and months of waiting, things were finally set in motion, and fast.

All this to say, if God has laid something on your heart, trust Him. Trust Him. Trust Him. Others will not trust Him for you. When it seems like there is no possible way, trust Him. Follow Him. Give Him everything you have got, and when that runs out, wait for Him to give you more, and then give that to Him, too. Sometimes what you give Him is ugly and it isn't much and it's practically leftovers and scraps, but give it to Him. If it's a tear-stained pillow case and a ton of question marks, give it to Him. He is faithful. I know God is faithful. It will almost never be how you imagined it, but He will do it, whatever "it" is for you.

So that's our story, thus far. We know that God's story is being written over all of space and time, and that we are the tiniest little part of it--but we love the part He has given us. We wait expectantly for all of the adventures that are to come, and go with confidence in the direction He has sent us. We are blessed, and we are so thankful.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Quiet Moment to Catch Up

Even with just one boy, it has been an eventful last however-many-days-since-I-last-blogged. Which, by the way, T is doing great. For those of you who have been interceding for him, know that it is working wonders. God is so good, and in spite of whatever challenges may come with each day, he is doing really, really well. We are so thankful for how God is working in his heart and life, and are very excited to see what God will continue to do.

SPEAKING of intercession, in case you hadn't already heard, we had a prayer walk for WSBR on Saturday. I sent out a brief Facebook status about it, but wow! I was amazed at the amount of people who came to pray--even more so, how many people I met for the first time. What a great reminder that the legacy at the ranch goes far beyond whatever Blake and I may accomplish here, because it is all about what God has already accomplished and is going to accomplish long after we are gone. For those of you following this blog who care about the ranch because you care about Blake, Adeline, and I, thank you. Really. Thank you. However, I would encourage you to continue to pray without ceasing for those serving at Willow Springs long after Blake and I are gone, however far in the future that time may be. Make a spiritual investment in this place. If God leads you to do so, any monetary investment would be so appreciated; but, first and foremost, we covet your prayers.

Please be in prayer for us as we navigate some possible future residents in the near(ish?) future. WSBR is in contact with their people, but it is all in "baby stages" at this point. T gets along great with the boys next door, but he really needs a friend close to his age. Adeline makes a good playmate most of the time, but naps too much for his taste. ;)

Also, please pray for two of our staff members who are each getting ready to have babies very soon! Things will definitely be eventful around here for a while with new little ones around! Oh, and don't get any ideas. Blake and I are planning on waiting a little longer before we contribute to the new baby club ;)

We are blessed, we are thankful, and we are so glad to be on this journey with all of you. Praise be to God!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's in a Name?

Not much, apparently, because I changed the blog name. "Blog of a Feeble House Mom" made me a little sad, as the boy who inspired the name is not at the ranch any more. For our boys' protection I will not overshare, but I will say the place he is staying now will be much better suited for his needs, and we hope he will be able to come back to us soon.

As you can see, we have had a busy and eventful last however-many-days-since-my-last-post.

It is amazing how many things change in so little time. It is amazing how much God can change us in so little time. Some days I look in the mirror like, "Dang, girl. Who do you think you are, Superwoman?" Other days I look in the mirror like, "Yeah, you are definitely not Superwoman." Of course, that's why this blog isn't titled, "Dang, Michelle Must Be Superhousemom." When Blake and I crawl into bed exhausted at the end of the day, I often wonder if an "okayest" mom is what these boys really need.

No, it isn't. What these boys need is a perfect savior. What a relief it is that one way to see a perfect savior is through the okayest mom on her not-so-okay days. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Victory in Jesus.

Believe it or not, I was dreading today a little bit. Due to reasons too numerous to mention, A is currently unable to attend school, and is staying home during the day indefinitely. We are hoping the papers from his last school will be in sometime this week, meaning he would start school sometime next week—but, until Friday, Blake is finishing work at his “old job:” which means it’s just A and the baby and me. Granted, I have a lot of help here at the Ranch should I ever get overwhelmed.

Last night, A had a pretty rough night. Other than the first day he was here, he had pretty much had a rough night every night; also, the last time we were alone together, I spent half an hour sitting on his bedroom floor while he ignored me from the confines of his burrito-blanket. Needless to say, I was definitely bracing myself for what this day would hold.

I decided to keep him as calm as I could for as long as I could. After discovering he really enjoyed reading books he could understand, such as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, I figured it would not be too difficult to get him to read quietly. I have a children’s Bible that I picked out for Adeline after hearing Blake’s mom read it at our Girls’ Retreat for the youth girls last year: The Jesus Storybook Bible. Side note—this kids’ Bible has got to be the best there is out there, people. It’s paraphrased perfectly for a young audience, and it teaches the truth of the Bible so beautifully and simply for a young person. It helps that the illustrations are really neat, too. Anyway, I thought A might be able to read it, and we could do our “quiet time” together.

I got my coffee, my Bible, and my prayer journals all together on the dining room table, and sat The Jesus Storybook Bible and two journals for A to choose from beside me. He looked skeptical, but when I told him he was going to write prayers to God just like he writes letters to Dad and me, he seemed intrigued. I showed him a story to read in the kids’ Bible, then wrote a few things on the side of his journal to help him know what to write about: Thanks!, I’m sorry for…please forgive me, I feel…, help me to…, pray for others.

After he read the first story, he said he liked this Bible because he can understand it, and asked if he could read more. To which I said, “No you can’t read any more Bible stories what a waste of time obey me!” “Of course you can!” So, he read two more stories. His favorite was the Daniel and the lions’ den story. Later, we did some math, and I asked him if he knew how to multiply or divide.  He said, “I know some multiply, but my teachers always give up on me because I’m stupid.” Well, I don’t know about that, but he knows a lot of multiplication if you give him time, and he definitely isn’t stupid.

In spite of how much I had prepared myself for another “incident” or argument or whatever to happen today, it never did. A was, comparatively, extremely well-behaved today. We watched a movie as a family tonight, and he fell asleep. When it was time for bed, he went straight to his room and went back to sleep. I kept staring at him most of the day and thinking, “Is this the same kid that was living here last night?”

All this to say, I’m still learning about God’s grace. There were so many things said today by A that stopped me in my tracks (and not the kinds of things that are followed by Blake or me saying, “we don’t use those words” or something similar). And who knows—maybe half of it or more is fabricated or altered by the world through the eyes of a 10 year old; but either way, it reminded me of the hope the Ranch gives to boys.  The beauty of the Ranch is that it exemplifies the hope of the Gospel in a tangible way—a new start, a chance at success, an opportunity to live again.

It’s still just Day Six, y’all. Welcome.