fill a bucket

This last week, Ashley, Jacob and I went blueberry picking at the local blueberry farm. We each had a bucket to fill with the bountiful blueberries. Jacob and Ashley liked to run off down the row and would often get out of sight with all the blueberry branches there were extending out into the rows which limited my view.

After not seeing them for a little bit, I heard Ashley say from around the corner, “Mommy, Jacob is helping me fill my bucket.” As Ashley said this, it reminded me of a book I purchased this last fall called, “Fill a bucket” by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin.

Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for the Young ChildThe book helps young children (great for pre-school age and early elementary children) understand the concept of adding to and taking from other people’s lives. It talks about how each day, we have opportunities to “fill others’ buckets” or to “empty others’ buckets.” It is a simple concept, but it seems to have stuck with Ashley. Ashley was even able to take it and let her teachers share it with her friends in her preschool class. Throughout the year, she has come inside to report good news such as, “Jacob filled my bucket. I was stuck on my bike coming up the hill and he came and pushed me up the hill.” Or something like, “Mommy, mommy, I filled Jacob’s bucket! I shared my yogurt with him.” You get the point.

Anyhow, as we picked our blueberries, we once again were able to talk about the concept presented in this little book and how good it makes us feel to have our bucket filled by another. And this time, we had real buckets in hand to go along with the metaphor.

May your day be a day of filling buckets!

30 days later…

30 days, 6k+ miles, 10 states, 2 countries, 4 American National Parks, 2 Canadian National Parks, one slight fender bender (not our fault), one ding in the windshield, lots of family and friends and innumerable pictures, PBJs and cheetos later, we have returned to Texas.

What an amazing Summer 2011 road trip we had. Our kiddos were great, especially given their young ages (4 and 2) and the number of hours we spent together in a vehicle. We never once even had to make a “potty break” on demand. What a blessing!

Some people asked what we did to stay sane, help our kids stay sane, etc., while spending that much time in a vehicle. We did lots of different things, but I’ll try to post on here some of the things that helped us the most.

For the kiddos, Joe introduced to them the “tractor” game. It evolved to be the “Tractor, Train, Antelope, Moose, Bear, Bison, Elk” game, and it worked well. Joe told the kiddos he’d give them a penny for each tractor they saw, and a nickel for each tractor they saw that was in motion. This game helped keep the kiddos looking out and around and taking in the beauty of God’s Creation. It also gave them something to focus on, rather than sticking feet in one another’s face.

As I mentioned, we ate LOTS of PBJs on the trip to help keep food costs reasonable, as well as to maintain flexibility in our ability to adventure as we drove. We also used my grandmother’s old traveling trick to help with food expense. We purchased a little electric skillet like this one Oster SH12 12-Inch Skillet with Hinged Lid, Black. Available for less than $25, even if you use it in place of eating out for a meal or two, you’ve essentially “paid” for it. This was especially helpful because eating out with tired little kiddos who have been stuck in car seats for way too long can be a really painful experience!

I’ll post some pictures soon, as well as some other good lessons learned and ideas from our trip.

A Tribute to my Grandpa Thomas

Here is a picture of my kiddos and me with my Grandpa Thomas on the 4th of July. He passed away 11 days later on July 15th. What a sweet, loving Grandfather he was to us all. I think we each felt like his favorite grandchild, and there were 38 of us. That’s a lot of love!I remember most his smooches on the lips, even when we were in those years where it was really weird to smooch your grandpa on the lips, him “shucking his teeth” (sliding out his dentures), him telling me he loved me “just a little bit,” starting with his hands close together and then stretching them all the way out as wide as they could go, sitting on his lap and giggling at the anticipation of him tickling me on the knee, and volunteering with him and my dad to drive the Care-A-Van on Fridays where we would pick up elderly and disabled individuals and transport them to doctor’s appointments, etc. And I definitely remember him telling me about how he went to Japan in WWII and they surrendered before he got there because they heard he was coming.  What sweet memories I get to share with my children! 

Red, White and Blueberry Cream Pie

After picking two gallons of blueberries today with our sweet kiddos this morning and with my Texas Mamma Jayne tonight, I was reminded of this favorite recipe of mine from last summer. So, here it is again for you all to enjoy as you pick your blueberries this summer. I hope I have some cream cheese hiding in the fridge so I can make some tonight. 
Red, White and Blueberry Cream Pie
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust (I like the larger one because you can get more slices).
1 8 oz. package Cream Cheese
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 t. vanilla extract
Sliced fresh strawberries (optional)
1. Place 1 cup of blueberries in the bottom of the crust (cover bottom with one layer)
2. Beat cream cheese in a large blowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Spread into crust.
3. Top with remaining blueberries and sliced strawberries in a fun pattern/design.
4. Cover and chill 3 hours, or until set. I also froze one and it tasted great thawed tonight with guests. Refrigerate leftovers.

Signs of Summer

Signs of summer are beginning to show themselves around our place.

Bright colors and smiling faces,

sprinklers and snowcones,

and watermelon!

I think it may be official friends. It is summer in Texas!

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The Mid-Mommy Crisis

When I stopped working at the University to begin being a Domestic Engineer, I left that life with much confidence as a woman and conviction to be a mother. Though definitely a transition to identify myself by my character and my strengths, rather than my position and my paycheck, I feel like I made it through and did some digging and grew in a good way.

It seems though now, about three and a half years into the Domestic Engineering experience, I’m just starting to recognized and recover from a mid-mommy crisis. You know, that place where you feel a little enslaved to the mundane and start to just plain feel empty, unappreciated, and perhaps even used. Then it is the story of hurt, then frustration of unmet hopes and expectations, then bitterness and hardness, then the attitude of a self-centered quitter, and through all this we lose track of ourself. We lose track of our vision, our passion, our purpose. And there we sit, broken, hurting, angry…

I’m so thankful for the Lord, the way he turns my mourning into dancing again, he lifts our sorrows.

I am at a place now where my heart has been broken….but thankfully, it is no longer hard (except for a few little pieces here and there that are still in the process of being crushed). I am so thankful for the way the Lord has re-confirmed the purpose statement He so clearly gave me in the Spring of 2002, which btw never changed, even though I was starting to question if it was changing. And, in His funny and gentle way, He has done this. He has orchestrated many different opportunities to re-connect with people who really know me (yes me-that person I even forgot), who know my heart, who see through my whiny days. They know where I’m strong, they know where I am weak. My spirit is softening again. My hope is returning.

Lord, light the fire in my heart again…which takes me back to my days at Saint Martin’s where we sang this song at The Bucket and the Lord so clearly showed me my purpose in the first place.  

Light the fire 
In my soul
Fan the flame
Make me whole
Lord, You know
Where I’ve been
So light the fire in my heart again

Not if, but when…

For years, Joe and I have been seeking the Lord regarding whether/when our side (aka night) business should become our day job. After much, prayer, petition, fasting, tears and acknowledging fears, we have come to the place where we are feeling called to step out in faith.

Now, our “if” has become “when.”

This past week, Joe talked with his boss about an exit plan from working at the University. It appears that the beginning of April will be his last day working there.

While we don’t know exactly what our next step will look like, we pray it will involve more time spent together as a family, the maintenance of a more healthy schedule/lifestyle (aka not working until midnight every night and all day each Saturday), as well as more flexibility in being able to connect with people the Lord has placed along our path.

Please pray for us as we step out in faith in this direction. Join us in praying for unity between the two of us, as it seems this is where the main source of spiritual attack is at this point. We do trust the Lord has much in store for us, and though we don’t have a clear picture of what that looks like, help us to trust and know that God’s yet-to-be-fully-revealed plan is truly better than anything we could conceive for our own selves.

Sometimes God speaks in metaphors…

So, if you’ve been reading my posts as of late, you’d know we’re looking into (or if you’re from Texas, “we’re fixin’ to be”) making some adjustments in the lives of the Shipmans as we know it.
My last post was about Joe crossing the iced-over pond successfully. Yesterday we had yet another opportunity to “hear” from God regarding our question at hand.
After church, I mentioned to Joe that it might be a good opportunity to do a little wood-cutting to gather some firewood for the predicted cold weather coming. At first, he dismissed the idea, mentioning that the field is just so mucky from all the snow melting, etc. No problem, I thought. Thankfully we have central heat and air in our house. We’ll just run that (and yes, in my mind I’m hearing the “ching, ching, ching” of the electric bill, but I actually did keep my big mouth shut).
After we ate lunch and got the kids down for naps, Joe announced that he thought that this would actually be his only chance to get some firewood before the next storms, and with the nice weather, he would go ahead and gather some.
He went out wood-cutting and got quite a bit gathered up. Then, when he went to drive the truck to another part of the field, he made a few quick decisions right before a little ridge, and ended up getting the truck stuck in the muck.
He called the house phone, and when I saw it was his number, my first thought was that perhaps he had injured himself with the chainsaw (specifically the image of his left leg cut partially off  and gushing blood was what came to mind). Thankfully, he just let me know he was stuck in the muck and needed me to come down and help get the truck out.
I went down to help, and after the first unsuccessful attempt at getting out with me driving and Joe pushing, I asked him if we should just go ahead and call AAA to come get us out. He looked at me as if I were crazy. Calling AAA to come get us out of our OWN field??? I’m just thinking, let’s just save our time and energy, go make some snacks for the Super Bowl game while we wait for AAA to arrive, and yes, get us unstuck from our OWN field.
We tried again….and again…and again…and again (you get the point), each time digging and finding more rocks, bricks, sticks, etc. to put under the tires to help them get some traction. As the unsuccessful attempts increased, I found myself questioning Joe’s judgement to get into a predicament like this (hadn’t he already articulated his concern that the field was too wet to be driving on, was it not obvious to him that this was the swampiest part possible, etc.)? Then I let those thoughts fester and started to question his ability to make sound decisions if we actually do take this leap of faith.
Finally, we got closer and closer to getting out…though honestly, I wasn’t sure if we really would get out any time that day. And can you guess what the Lord turned my attention to? He turned my attention to two things.
First of all, He pointed my attention to what an incredible and determined husband I have. One who is hard working, creative, and committed to making things work or correcting not-so-ideal situations. One who isn’t quick to throw in the towel, one who isn’t quick to blame. One who is a man, a real MAN, accepting responsibility for his actions and patient enough to problem-solve his way out of a predicament.
I know my husband is a treasure, but what a reassurance this was to me from the Lord. It was a metaphor for me. For if we “go” in this direction, most likely we will get “stuck in the muck” here and there. And thankfully, my husband has proven over and over, in small and large things, his collectedness and determination to see us through to “safety” or “unstuckness” (c’mon, pretend with me that is a word).
Do you know what else the Lord showed me in this situation? He showed me that I am the one who is lacking the patience, determination and confidence to see us through when things get rough. He gently showed me that right now, I’m quick to point a finger, get frustrated with what has already occurred and throw in the towel, rather than quick to jump in and problem solve, or at least be very supportive of the person doing so. And He said, “let’s work together on this.”
So, as I look at the muddy truck today (and believe me, this picture doesn’t do it justice), I am humbled by a husband who can be counted on, even when times get tough, and a God who is patient with me as we work together to shake out more of the ugly Emily muck from my heart and let more of Him fill me to overflowing.

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God’s plan doesn’t always make "good" sense

So, here is a photo from this morning when Joe decided to test his theory that he could cross our (hopefully) frozen-enough pond on his stomach, you know, so as to disperse the weight and minimize the pressure at any one place.

He told me about this idea he had yesterday when we walked down to the pond, but it was covered in snow and not fully frozen over at the time. I kind-of laughed it off, was thankful the pond was not in a condition in which to try his theory and thought nothing more of it. This morning when we walked to the pond, however, I realized that this “dream” was still with him. What an adventurous spirit he has..and most days I’m thankful for it!

After Joe crossed the pond successfully, I mentioned to him that it is kind-of a metaphor for the questions facing us as a couple right now. If we “go,” it is definitely what I would consider “dangerous” and probably not very “wise.” At the same time, there is that same spirit of adventure and conquer in my husband that just cannot be bottled up and placed aside much longer. There is much risk and the potential that the “pond” may crack and he/we will fall into some seriously icy water. At the same time, what if it all goes right? What if he gets to successfully test his theories and pursue his dreams? What if we’re able to live more all-out for the Lord as a result of such boldness and spirit of adventure?

So, just before Joe got down on that icy pond today to slide across it, we discussed how much good sense the plan lacked. If you think about it, though, not many of the big things God does through people’s lives “make sense” in the way we’ve come to understand things. “For the wisdom of man is the foolishness of God.” (1 Cor. 3:19).

Thank you Lord, for your words in Deuteronomy 31:6:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Lord, help our boldness and courage to be fueled by your Spirit.
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What would you do if you were brave?

What would you do if you were brave?

I ran across an article this afternoon that asked this same question. 

And then I ran across these words, “Things may not go our way. But they will go God’s way, that we can be sure of.”

So, I sit here today, thinking to myself, “What would I do if I were brave?” What courageous steps might I take if I weren’t disabled by my fears of falling/failing/running into some pretty tough obstacles? 

Lord, I pray for a wise and courageous spirit. Lord, be the breath that fills our sails. Be the gentle hand that guides us. Be the voice that comforts us. Be the Light that shines through us. Help me to overcome the fears that lead me to cower in the corner. 

Proverbs 16:3 tells me, “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts (plans) shall be established.” 

Father, we submit our efforts to you and pray that you would establish our plans as we step out in faith.

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