Monday, August 27, 2012

House Hunting as a Spaz.

Oh, to be inside my head for a minute. You do not even know!

Some of you do. You are livin' the Spaz Life, too! Add to that living an uprooted Spaz Life trying to maintain some semblance of sanity and normalcy and make major life decisions with WAY too many options! 

Too many options are not good for Spazzies.
Anyway, I digress before I even get started. Bah!

We looked for houses in Houston for about 7 hours on Saturday. With the help of our fab realtor, we covered an obscene amount of miles. We looked at houses and town homes, old and new to the Southwest, West, Northwest and North of town. 

We looked at one older home that had the washer and dryer straight up in the kitchen. 
Sink. Countertop. Washer. Dryer. In a row. On one wall, in a perfectly rectangular kitchen. And, a lot of wood paneling. But, it was fairly close to town, with a 30 minute commute to work.

One had a shower that was so small you had to turn sideways to step in. And the shower head came to the middle of Spouse's chest. Pretty funny sight. More wood paneling, but some of it had been painted, so that wasn't too bad. Reasonable neighborhood & distance to work.

One little townhouse in a cutesy community, had mirrors EVERYWHERE, with a full size (full size, Kids) jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. In a townhouse. With mirrors. Everywhere. Eww. Creeped my junk out. I am too aware of human depravity. I wanted an antibacterial bath after leaving that place.

Another town home was adorable, but the cabinets in the kitchen were so narrow, regular plates could not even fit in them. Super small, even for our standards. And the outside looked like a hotel. 

We looked at a few more that were strong contenders, one was a definite front-runner in the area, but was a little more than I wanted to pay. Figures, right?!

Then, we went to the 'burbs. New homes. Way too big for us. There is only four of us. No one should need this much space. Gorgeous. Would be about the same commute as Spouse makes on I-4 in Tampa. 

Mark said, "Book it." 
Meghan said, "If we get this house, I may never want to go back to Florida." (Boom. Sold to the Dad.)
Maddy said, "This would be a great house to play paintball in." (What!? Who is this kid!?) 
Me? I was dealing with the motion-sickness  from the spin-cycle of Spaz that was going on inside my head! 

Blessed assurance.

Here's a sample:
This is way too big. That backyard is fabulous. This is where Bible Study would happen. This is the room where my people could sleep when they visit. I don't want my kids spoiled. I don't want their parents spoiled. Good grief, this laundry room is dreamy! Our furniture is going to look so redneck in here! Bah! That is awesome! This is not a radical purchase. Way too American Dream-ish. But, not really OUR dream. Our dream is beachy. And, it's only a rental. We aren't buying. This would make an awesome schoolroom/office. That wall would hold a bunch of books! It would be awesome for Mark to have this garage.  This yard is so cutesy. What a sell-out. We are totally selling out. I could definitely see us filling this house with people. Still, we filled our other house and it was WAY smaller than this. This is a lovely bath tub. Whoa. It does feel more home-ish than the others. Ugh. I feel ill.

Here's the other thing: All of these were within a reasonable dollar amount in difference. Seriously. The new one was $150 less than some of the others, because of their proximity to downtown. And, when you consider energy efficiency, it will likely wash. 

So, Spouse took his Spazwife to church yesterday. Ahhhh. Sweet peace. The Lord's house with the Lord's people! I started receiving that peace that Mark and the girls already had. We were invited to lunch with two lovely young girls (Read: 20-somethings) and one of the girls' mom. Oh, we are going to FILL this house, if the Lord wills it! We were makin' plans! Y'all know I love me some Millennials!

Spouse, making fun of me, in true Jerkafornia fashion, said last night, "I am sooo proud of you for keeping it together this weekend. You handled yourself so well." could have been worse. I think?

Now, we are working on the dreamy house. Paperwork. Waiting. All the grown-up stuff that we are so terrible at doing. 

Lord, we just pray Your will is done. Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Might + Should = Might Should

<<My friend, Jen, over at Homeschooling in High Heels asked me for a post to encourage some moms who are making the transition from public school to homeschool.  I can't have everybody over for some chips & salsa and talk homeschool whatnots, so I hope this does the trick.>>

"If you think you might and 
you think you should, 
you might should."

My friend, Janice,  said this to another friend, Rachel, who was considering homeschooling. We were standing in the middle of the Florida Parent Educator's Association (FPEA) Convention. I had encouraged Rachel to come check it out to see the many options available to us modern-day homeschoolers. We were bee-boppin' all around and I was showing her all the great tools out there and introducing her to all my people!

There was a slight problem: I'm pretty sure I was dangling on the proverbial edge of my annual Convention-induced meltdown. Seriously. I do this every year. Still!

(I'll get back to the meltdown in a minute.)

I blame this meltdown on our public school experience. I do. I don't mean my personal public school experience, I mean that of my girls. Every teacher we had was wonderful and, I believe, genuinely loved my girls. The school was in a small community with a lot of teachers and students we know personally. Before my oldest daughter's kindergarten teacher was assigned, I was on the PTA board. No joke. I got the position during the summer and I loved it. The sanguine in me was in my element. I volunteered at the school often and spent some time in the classroom with my girls. I could see first hand how great these teachers were. We had the best public school situation anyone could ask for.

Still, it wasn't home.
There had always been a part of me that thought I might should bring my girls home. It was always nagging at me that I could school them and I knew that our school situation wouldn't always be so grand.

So, I pulled them out. Out of the blue. You can read a little more about that here.
When my girls were in 2nd grade and Kindergarten, they came home for Christmas break and never went back. Our family knew it was the right thing for us to do; although, I'm pretty sure our friends thought we were nuts. We were all right!

I quickly mailed my Letter of Intent before I could change my mind. I cried when I talked to the principal and the teachers. They were so encouraging, really. I let them know that I may well be back there in the fall if I flunked as a homeschool parent.  I showed up at one of the teacher's houses to tell her. What? That's not creepy! I cried on her lanai and she asked me to homeschool her boys. I love that woman. She's also the reason I have a meltdown every full moon and Convention. I freak out because I know I don't do at home half of the awesome things she did in that classroom! Guess what?! I don't have to! It doesn't take all that singing and dancing (Kindergarten) to teach my two kids. They do that for the benefit of 20 different learning styles. I have 2. I only have to do what works for them. Praise Jesus!

I tell you all of this so that, hopefully, even without me serving you some chips and salsa, you will allow me to encourage you should you decide to make the transition from public school to homeschool.

You were the first teacher. -- This makes you the best teacher. Oh, how I play the game of "Finishing that education degree would have been the smart thing to do." I had Florida Prepaid College. I blew a great deal of it. My major is/was English Education. I've been a Senior at USF off and on since 1999. Guess what? I only need to be one day smarter than my girls. Sometimes only 5 minutes smarter. You can do this. I didn't have a 'school room' to teach my girls how to walk, sing their ABCs, or their colors. You don't, either. And our reading does NOT happen at a desk. It's in the bed, outside, at the pool, on the couch or in a fort. If I'm super lucky, reading happens at the beach!

Capture their hearts the first year. -- As an educator at heart, this advice made my head hurt. People would say, "You can't count the whole first year." What? The whole first year? I can't blow off a whole year of learning! Not on my watch! Here's the deal: I didn't know how much authority I had given away until I tried to get it back. For real. I had spent so much time building up the teachers as "THE teachers", my oldest daughter didn't think I could teach her. At one low moment, she actually said to me, "Mom, you only know how to teach high schoolers." She was in the 2nd grade!! So, as much as you can, just love on them the first year. Play Yahtzee for math, or UNO. Get Banagrams. Read, read, read. Read aloud. Cook. Listen to their stories! Go to the park.  Do the fun part of learning and just connect your hearts. Memorize passages of Scripture together. This will help minimize those 'low moments'.

Which brings me to...

The highs are high and the lows are low. -- Let's not pretend here. Homeschooling, like it's twin sister, Parenting, is not for sissies. The children are carnal creatures and they know what buttons to push and what buttons to dance around on for dramatic effect. They can smell weakness. They will test you. I don't tell you this to scare you, but to arm you! If you know that there are going to be some hellacious days, you will be less likely to quit when those days come! Only total spaztards like me quit every month.

Insecurity is the devil! -- We have to fight this one together! I have never been so insecure about anything as I am about educating my girls! I mean nothing! Not speaking in front of large audiences, not speaking on television, not cellulite. On the flip side, some of my friends are insecure about their choice to have their kids in public school, while their kids are doing just fine and love Jesus. We have to encourage one another! That said, I have to remember the encouraging words I have said to others and apply them to myself! I know that a good deal of my insecurity comes from the fact that I saw with my own eyes how great my girls' teachers were. Had we had a negative experience, I would probably be thinking, "Well, at least I'm doing better than that!"

The Curriculum works for you, you don't work for the curriculum. -- Now, you are NOT freaking out about curriculum right now, because you are just going to stock up on books from the library and games and grease that bicycle chain, but LATER, when you are ready, remember this statement about curriculum: The curriculum works for you, you don't work for the curriculum. And, remind me of it every now and again, would ya? Picture this: It's May 15th and your Language Arts book still has 3 months of work left in it. How did this happen? What a loser mom! It's not the kids' fault, they are just kids! I am so DONE with schooling right now, no way can we skip Summer!? I should have had more of a schedule! I shouldn't have let him do drums AND soccer! How will he be president??? Here's what you do: CLOSE UP SHOP! Ask any of your teacher friends if they do every single lesson in their books. Do it. Ask 'em! They don't! And, you don't have to, either! My hands are on my hips and I am using my best 4th grade voice saying to you, "The curriculum is not the boss of me!" You have been given dominion over the curriculum, not the other way around. Be free!!

I really wish we could munch on some chips and salsa face to face. I would tell you that I love homeschooling... most days. That anything worth doing is hard. I would tell you that I love being the one to read with my girls, and that we do that in our pajamas. I would tell you about the days we couldn't even FIND our math book. I would tell you that I blame myself that my youngest doesn't spell as well as my oldest and the only difference is how long they went to public school. And, I hope you would tell me how ridiculous that is and that there are plenty of PS kids that aren't great spellers. I would tell you that my kids are not at all socially retarded. They can hold their own with peers and adults alike. I would tell you how we love 'rain all day' days, because we just declare them 'Reading Days'. I would tell you that some of our best days have been doing reading and math out on the trampoline. Maddy's best poem was written there, too. I would tell you that many math assignments have been completed on I-4 on the way to Disney where we would practice our mapping skills and multiplication facts while standing in line. This is also a good way to work on lapsed time, i.e., "We got in line at 11:37am, it is now 12:10pm, how long have we been in line?" I would have to mention how flexible homeschooling has allowed us to be, this year in particular. It's been crazy; if you are so inclined, check some of the archives. Suffice it to say, we are following Jesus and our school goes with us!
I would tell you about the time that Meghan and I spent 12 days in a row on one assignment because she REFUSED to follow directions. (She very well understood, but thought it was unnecessary. We were at a critical moment.) I thought I was going to lose my mind and I was certain she was going to lose her head. We were getting ready to take a trip to DC and since we were 'behind' 12 days, I was packing our books to do school on the road. A friend of mine told me this, "Melissa, if there is any way you can leave those books at home, do it. If there is any way you can trust God with this time, do it. He will make up the time for you. Just focus on your girls and the Lord will bless the time. They are going to learn so much while you are gone. God restores time." But, I was mad. Still, I knew the value of just setting the books aside and regrouping. We left the books. We were gone for 10 days. When we came home it was another 3 days before we could get it together to crack a book again. Here's what God did: we finished that math book before Thanksgiving! Even earlier than expected! We had some great days in which my girls were motivated and focused and we got a lot done! There were things we could just skip because the concept was learned. God restores time.

Before we ended our chips and salsa chat, I would ask if I could pray for you. And, you would let me.

Jesus, Thank you for moms who follow your leadership into the unknown and tough places. Lord, please give these women peace in their decision to educate their children. These children are gifts, and I pray that we would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance in what ways to teach our children academically each year. Help us, Lord, to have the courage to change paths when you tell us to. Help us to encourage one another to follow you with complete abandon. Thank you for homeschooling and the freedom to parent the way I see fit. Thank you, Lord, for being the perfect parent. Amen.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our [Current] Temporary Home

Here's a little info about our current temporary living situation. :)

After being in a little (560 sq ft) 2 bedroom hotel room for almost 2 weeks, we were thrilled to get to move to a new apartment. We needed a little more elbow room.
In such a short little time, we had begun to bond with our sweet hotel staff. They were so cutesy with our girls and made cookies for Spouse. Score.

The day we checked out, we had this package left for us, filled with goodies.
Is this presh?
Cookies & Candy: Our Love Language!
They left us a sweet note. Seriously?
Who gets this when  they check out of a hotel?
I really wanted to stick it out at the hotel (for the rewards points) but it was tight living space. We didn't rack up many 'points', but we got a love note! Way better!

We moved to our apartment last week. Whoa. 

King and Queen Quarters.
Maddy is pumped to have an island countertop in the kitchen.

Pool. Yes. Thank you, Jesus.
I fell asleep and dreamt I had this really fab pool, then I woke a really fab pool!!!
So, our first day out to the pool, we get to chatting with some of our new neighbors.  One sweet couple had just taken a huge step of faith in their walk with Jesus, when the wife quit her job to pursue her dream of photography. We met her sister who works for The Seed Company, an affiliate of Wycliffe Bible Translators, which is steps from our apartment complex! The sister's roommate is a high school teacher at a local Christian school, just up and moved to DFW from Ohio to work in this school. We learned that The Seed Company is an accelerated program of Wycliffe and that about 7 of their employees live in our complex because they walk to work. Another sister was visiting with her two home schooled kids. A Christian couple is in charge of all the fun community events at our complex, which they view as part of their personal ministry! This morning they were having a pancake breakfast out at the pool. The whole crew we met that day were headed to the Glen Beck "Restoring Love" event that night! Seriously. Love this place!
Meghan also wanted me to point out that every single person at the pool was appropriately dressed. Ha!

Not a bad temporary home. :)

Friday, August 3, 2012


Passion 2012.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 
so we cared for you. 
Because we loved you so much, 
we were delighted to share with you 
not only the gospel of God but 
our lives as well
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Dear BrookeReuelJessicaBrianEvanTarynJustinMartyJustinCrystalStephen

We know this kind of love. Y'all have shared with us the gospel of Christ, a love for His Word, and day to day living. I love having you in my home. I love UNO and Catchphrase and Madea and Buffalo Chicken Dippin' with you. 
There is no one I'd rather eat Salt & Vinegar chips with than Jessica. No one I'd rather discuss conspiracy theories with than Reuel. I would talk about child rearing with Brooke before I'd talk about it with James Dobson. Nobody loves us like Marty. And, I love the moment when Taryn finally speaks, because it's going to be good. BeeFearnow, too. He's deep. I can't imagine rocking babies with anyone but Krista. Tree & Jonathan are the best to answer my home-improvement questions when I can't get ahold of Spouse. If you wanna know right from wrong, just ask Hannah. I dig that she and I think in absolutes. I love getting Cruzado and Betsy fired up. Ben and Jesse inspire me to work hard. Britney laughs at my jokes and loves my kids. I look forward to Justin's future well-digging businesstry (business/ministry).  I love just being in the same room with Alix and Currie. Gracious. I can't stand it.

We have all come so very far these past few years in our individual walks with the Lord. The way we read Scripture has changed. We see movies and pop culture and arts and music all differently. You are no longer on spiritual milk. We went SOLID. We use words like 'worldview' and 'assumptive language'. We have experienced graduations, engagements, death, and a whole lot of life together.

Do you get it? I dig you. I straight up love Jesus in you. 

This morning (Thursday) I had a meltdown at the thought of leaving you for an extended period of time. I pulled over in a Wal-Mart parking lot and had myself a cry fit for daytime television.

I told Jesus out loud in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Somewhere, Texas, [You are the 'them' and 'they']
"Fill me with more of You so that I don't need them. Still, I want them. I like them. Fill them with so much of You that they don't need me. But, I still want them to want me...but...not so much that they can't want someone else. Lord, send someone quickly that will run in this life with them and lead them to the Truth."

Y'all, glean from Barry. Soak up whatever you can learn from him. He and Courtney have accomplished so much already in their lives. They have many experiences for y'all to learn from. Love them. Let them love on you. Love on their babies. Teach Courtney to play Nervous Uno, but watch out, I bet she's a hitter. Don't stay at their house too late, cause their kids are little. Make them dinner. They are the real deal. Text them encouragement.
Laura and her girls need you. She loves you and has poured into you in ways you don't even know. If you've ever gotten a birthday card or gift card, it is because Laura Storter sent it. She doesn't do the stuff that you see like I do--she has been doing the stuff you don't see for years! She has been where you are (young, in college, wondering what to do next...). Laura Storter is an excellent source of counsel.
Every time the Dickersons invite you into their home, go. You will be better for it.
Let Julie teach you how to really pray. Introduce Ray and Julie to Madea. Warn them first and give them my Madea speech about redemption, but introduce them. Get their phone numbers and text them invites to the Barbecue with you. They will likely struggle with the LIE about not being able to relate to y'all, but don't let them believe it. Help 'em out a little bit. Encourage 'em.
Love on, Coach, too.  Consider all the ways you can spur him on toward 'love and good deeds', Hebrews 10:24 style. He thinks so highly of y'all.

I don't know if your next leaders will make you play ice-breaker games or stand on the chair or talk about chlamydia. I don't know if your next leaders will know what Buffalo Chicken Dip is or say 'straight up' and 'bless'. They may not even like the beach. Gasp! Maybe they will actually know how to work the electronic devices or play an instrument!? Maybe they won't hit you with flip-flops!? Maybe they will take you deeper in the Word than we ever could and you are SO READY!

I do know that they will love you. And they will love you good.

But, not like I do.

A Pool to Pee In??

My first blog post ever was written on I-75 telling about our little 'bootcamp' to Houston. It was a happy little post. So full of hope for the adventure ahead. And it was clueless.

My second blog post ever was The Paradox of Going & Leaving. Man, is it ever a paradox. I just read those words again and I can't believe I wrote 'em. 

Praying, "Here am I, Lord, send me!" is not the same as praying, "Here am I, Lord, I'll leave!" Who would say that? That is crazy talk. And, that is exactly what you are saying when you say to the Lord, "I'll go!"

We did that. We said we'd go. Wherever. Blank check, Lord.


North Carolina for school? Let's check it out. Loved it, but it didn't seem right. Better stick with 'home schooling' for Spouse, too. It keeps us mobile.
Houston for a few months? Sure. Why not!? That will be fun to visit, but not to live.
Manila? Yes, Lord! Sign us up! Um, nope. Wrong again.
Couple more months in Houston? We liked it. It fits us. We like it there. Let's go!
Dallas area? Us? Dallas? Ok, I guess. But, man, I like Houston.

Now what? We look like a bunch of fickle yay-hoos, that's what!  I hear is Lucy van Pelt saying, "It's your own fault, 'cause you're so wishy-washy."

Then, I hear a better voice. 
" thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways..." Isaiah 55:8
"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it's the LORD's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21
"Go and make disciples of all nations..." Matthew 28:19
"Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22

My ways. The Lord's purpose prevails. Go. Do what it says. 

In our case, for a season, we are to go to Houston. We are going to do what we said we would not do: Move to Houston. We don't get the last word. He does.

Bottom line: Spouse took a two-year assignment in Houston. 
"Go and make disciples of all nations...." Do you know how many nations are represented in Houston? Do you?? I don't either, but it's a bunch.  I told y'all before, Houston is international missions! 

Why are we going? I heard Dr. Danny Akin say, in one of Spouse's lectures for school, "You don't need a reason to go! You need a reason to stay!" (You should write that down.) We are going because Houston is the 4th largest city in the nation. There are forty (40!) colleges and universities within Houston city limits. Imagine the reach!

How are the girls? do I say this gently? They went ballistic. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. At first. They are doing better now. Not great, but better. Pray, friends. Pray that these children don't kill us in our sleep. Our very lives are in question, here.

When are you going? I am guessing beginning of October-ish. Mark is finishing up his assignment here in DFW. So, we get to be here during the hottest months of the year. Awesome.

How do you (Melissa) feel about it? Which hour? The highs are high and the lows are low. I think it is the right and very difficult thing to do. I like Houston. We love the little church we've been visiting. People are so nice to us. I could love it immediately with my whole being if it were a coastal community. That is the only thing wrong with it. No good beach. 
Die to self, Melissa. Die to self. Fine, but I'm insisting on having pool access. My skin must still look Floridian. I found a possible rental house with a saltwater pool. Please!!?? I will invite the unsaved neighbors and let their kids pee in the pool, Lord! I will! In Jesus' Name, I will!

In other news, I'm gonna lose my lunch over fretting about my College mean, God's College Ministry. You know what I mean. I think they should all choose from one of the 40 colleges in Houston, have Spouse find them jobs at the bank, or get jobs and go with us. I will feed them fajitas when they are well and soup when they are sick. I heart them more than I heart this Nutella & pretzels that I am soothing myself with this very second.
Paul knew this sort of bond many times, but with Thessalonica, he told them, "Just as a nursing mother cares for her children,  so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." (Thessalonians 2:7-8)  More on this in another post. 

I don't expect this to make sense to a lot of people. I get it. But, rather than question our intelligence or motives and say to someone else, "Why don't they just...." or "I thought they were going to..." or "I'm surprised they just....", don't. And don't let anyone else.  Just pray for us

Pray for my girls' hearts to align with ours and pray that our hearts are aligned with God's will. 
Pray that we are focused and steady and consistent. 
Pray that all of this points people to Jesus.
Pray that we don't mess this up.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chicken Controversy and my 11 year-old

My girls are participating in a little sports camp this week. They are doing horsemanship, gymnastics, rock climbing, swimming, archery, flag football...a whole bunch of good, active fun stuff.

At one point during the day on Monday, they were on a nature walk and this conversation happened:

Camp leader to no one in particular: What did y'all eat for breakfast today?
Meghan: I had Chick-Fil-A.
Leader: Oh, I don't eat Chick-Fil-A. I hate Chick-Fil-A!
Meghan: What? It's so good! It's the Christian Chicken!
Leader: That's why I don't eat it! Cause it's Christian.
Meghan: Are you not a Christian? You don't believe in God? Can I tell you how to be a Christian?
Leader: No. I don't need some 10 year old telling me what I have to do.
Meghan: I'm 11 and I don't mean to tell you what you have to do, I just want to tell you what you COULD do.
Another Leader: I am a Christian, and this conversation is over.

Blessed assurance.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

First, let me say "Praise King Jesus, she is her mother's child!!" What a champ my kid is!? Rock on, in Jesus's name, I say!

After I say that, I say: Really, Camp Counselor? Meghan is 11. She had no idea about any sort of controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A. She just likes Chicken Minis. A question was asked and she answered. Beautifully.

So, Meghan told me about this little episode just after we left. I immediately made a U-Turn right on back to the gym. I had a very pleasant conversation with the director, who agreed that my child did not need commentary about her choice of breakfast. The director was very complimentary of my girls and their manners. She was impressed with Meghan's boldness. Me, too.

Now. What if I told you that the counselor is a 19 year-old female that is nearly physically unrecognizable as a female by her own choosing. Short hair, cap on backwards, basketball shorts, oversized shirt, big, honkin' basketball shoes. You get the picture. Cute as she can be, but obviously very confused.

I noticed her the day we went to check out the camp and she made an impression on me; I got a little 'check' in my spirit about her. I thought, "Ya know. This is good. It will be good for my girls to be exposed to a little bit of darkness so they can truly be a light." I am not saying the counselor is dark, I am just implying that this is not a Christian camp. I knew it was secular and I made a decision that, in this instance, this would be a good experience for them. Our prayer every morning has been that they would be a light to the counselors and the other campers. I reminded the girls that there has to be some darkness for the light to be necessary.

Meghan had to work through that awkwardness and whatnot with the counselor. This is teaching her how to deal with people and gave us some great conversation at home.

Also, Meghan got Camper of the Day on Tuesday.

I am so proud of my kid.

Let me ask you, "Who was doing the hatin'?"