My Little House on the Prairie

In the summer of 2011, about four months into our homeschooling journey, I declared a thought aloud to my husband. “I think I’m ready for my little house on the prairie.” Yep, the one in your mind’s eye; where the land takes precedence over the understated house. He wasn’t surprised by my comment, but understand, we mostly gravitate to beach destinations. In fact, we had recently returned from Mexico, and were searching for a second home in Tybee Island, GA. But something was stirring inside of me and our internet house hunting search quickly changed to zip codes beginning with eight.

In the Fall of 2003, we set our sights on a storybook-esque, three-bedroom, rolled-log cabin set on 16 rolling acres just outside of Breckenridge, CO.

We envisioned weekends away from our primary residence in south Denver hunting, fishing, boating on the nearby lake, driving ATV’s or snowmobiles, and sitting out on the small deck basking in God’s creation. We thumbed through the novel-sized HOA regulations and all the aforementioned activities were illegal on the property except basking. Ugh. At the time we couldn’t afford more land and less rules, so we closed the storybook cover on the dream.

Shortly afterwards, God planted adoption into our hearts and we soon understood why He steered us away from the cabin in the woods.

Fast forward seven years, our thoughts turning back to that adorable cabin but hoping to find it on more land with no HOA and within driving distance from our primary residence. I’m still a beach girl at heart but, with no plans of buying a private jet, spontaneous weekends a car ride away fit the bill while keeping our home in the city, close to the mall.

After some day-long car trips, due diligence, and prayer, we signed the closing papers on my little house on the prairie. Well, little houses, plural. The previous owners ran a commercial guest ranch, but 16+ years of painstakingly hard work and the depressed economy forced their exit.

We fell in love with the land, 99 rolling acres 25 minutes outside of Steamboat Springs, CO, surrounded by 360 degree mountain peak views. Across the street, we can enjoy summer water sports on Steamboat Lake or ice fishing in the winter.

The main house, a three-bedroom, rough-sewn wood house is a simple abode, however, in addition to my little house, the purchase also included a rolled-log lodge complete with a commercial kitchen, a two-car detached garage, a tack shed and loafing shed for horses, and nine, yes nine, fully furnished cabins along with four apartments to house the ranch hands.

We have no intentions of operating a guest ranch but rather hosting family, friends and community events from time to time.

Freed by our homeschooling schedule, we’ve enjoyed a significant amount of time on the ranch after having just closed on it two months ago. Last weekend, we went for an overnight to check on the fireplace renovations in the main house. Saturday morning was perfect. Blue skies. Forty degrees. Snow covered ground. Perfect for my husband to take the kids on their first snowshoeing expedition. Perfect for me to drink coffee in bed while watching chef’s cook on TV. Perfect for praising God for his provisions, faithfulness, for keeping promises. He has repaid us for the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25)

Often times, I’ve resented the sacrifices we’ve made adopting/raising three kids. I’ve never sugar-coated the truth. It’s been hard. I recently shared coffee with a prospective adoptive mother and my advice to her: it’s the best thing if it’s God’s will for your life and you’re willing to yield yourself to Him daily. Yielding. That’s the hard work and sacrifice. I faced the fact that I’ve called myself a christian for years but didn’t walk my talk. I wanted a savior, not a Lord over my life.

In my selfishness, I considered the past seven years of our adoption journey as the years the locusts have eaten. But no. The years the locusts have eaten were, for me, the christian years spent with one foot in the world; missing out on the true freedom Jesus Christ offers. Since having adopted these kids, I’ve jumped into God’s arms with both feet. The trials, suffering, difficulties, valleys that made me seek Him alone; that’s the repayment, the grace, the mercy. Adoption is the vehicle that God has used to draw me to Him in intimate friendship. The work continues. Thankfully, I’m still making forward progress. He has my whole heart and I praise the name of the LORD my God (Joel 2:26), basking in His creation in my little house on the prairie, without rules or restrictions.

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Great Crepe Caper

This past week, our house was filled with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Diapers, pacifiers, new-fangled bouncy seats, scampering feet beneath the eldest niece and nephews, ages 2, 3, and 5 and the giggles and coos from the youngest niece, four months. These adored and adorable, well-behaved children are happy, content beings teamed together with their cousins, my youngest two children, 11 and 12. Whether they’re hiding and seeking, building architectural LEGO marvels, competing on Wii sports, or scootering down the incline of the circle driveway, they’re happy. Yay, right? What else could mom and dad, aunt and uncle wish for?

We felt the need to reduce our cabin fever and their happiness and loaded everyone into two cars and four car seats to experience our local county fair. I don’t recall attending many county fairs even though my high school sweetheart was in FFA and raised a pork product named, Bosephus, the nickname of famous country singer, Hank Williams, Jr. Nonetheless, we strapped the underlings into the limo-sized jogging stroller and were assigned the ‘Great Crepe Caper’ at the fair entrance. Each child’s keeper was given a plastic zipped baggie in which we were to gather contents for making crepes. The map designated the barns where each ingredient could be found in hopes of teaching the children that food doesn’t originate shrink-wrapped at the grocery store.

We scampered about, six children and baggies, from barn to barn gathering our ingredients, petting the barn animals, and sneezing along the way. My brother-in-love, former Ag student and rabbit breeder, took a teaching opportunity in the lamb barn while the FFA students busily prepared their lambs for the upcoming show ring. He asked one of the students to demonstrate how they make the lamb’s neck ‘press into’ the student’s upper thigh to flex the lamb’s muscles making its health more apparent to the judges. Most of these lambs were less than six months old and yet fully trusted their young trainer. Such a small gesture, pressing into, created a flex of the will to trust.

We exited our final stop, the cow barn, with our butter, the last ingredient for our crepes. As murphy would have it, thunderstorms broke overhead forcing us to head home before we could receive our delicious french reward for completing the caper. Instead, we opted to make pancakes, a thicker version of crepes, for dinner and collapsed afterward from fair exhaustion while the cousins returned to a state of bliss.

After the young cousins waved goodbye making their way back to the Dallas heat wave, I found some quiet time with God and began praying for the upcoming school year. I was reflecting on the previous week and our time in the lamb barn. “God, my shepherd, I want to press into you daily so as to flex my will to trust you in all circumstances. Not just in the show ring, judged. I want to be empty of self so I can be full of your spirit, fully flexed.” Finding God as I pass through the barns of life gathering together all ingredients necessary to fulfill His purpose. Now that’s a great caper.

This is the plan

three ring binder

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“So, what’s the plan?” Most summer mornings begin with one of my children posing this question to me. I’ve trained them to think in terms of a plan. What is a plan? My definition: waking hours of the day broken down into increments of time spent fueling our body, mind, soul, and spirit to attain feelings of wholeness, fullness, satisfaction, and contentment in life’s journey.

Yes, I’m a planner. I have goals for my life: I want to intimately know Christ. I want to serve. I want to teach, coach, mentor. I want to have energy to accomplish these things. To reach these goals, I need a strategy. A plan. I plan to pray. I plan to read and study the Bible. I plan to shower and get dressed. I plan to take a walk each evening. I plan to blog. I plan to make dinner. I think about my days. I make a plan and, yes, I enter the plan into my Outlook calendar, complete with reminders.

I’m intentional about the way I spend my time even if my plan includes: watching a movie with my high school senior, reading a book alone, hanging out at the pool with the younger kids and their posse of peeps, enjoying coffee with a friend. Sometimes, on a Saturday morning, amidst the Golf Channel blaring on the television, Lego wars taking place in the hallway, and paper plates holding freshly baked blueberry muffins slathered with butter, I answer my kids’ question, “This is the plan.” Doesn’t seem to meet a goal or have any intention but it’s still a plan.

As a child of God, I pose this same question to Him, “So, what’s the plan?” I ask in the form of conversational prayer. I pose the question and then I wait as He speaks to me through His word, my family, friends, nature, the checker at the grocery store, His spirit that lives within me.

Lately, I’ve asked this question aloud, louder, almost screaming. My 14-year-old son was just found incompetent by our county’s juvenile court to stand trial for his criminal charges against his younger siblings. Due to a restraining order, and our family’s safety and protection, he cannot return home. At his social worker’s request, he will stay in the treatment program, status quo, even though his negative behavior reports outnumber his steps toward positive treatment progress. He needs help beyond our capabilities. His mind is that of an 8-year old and his mental health fails him. “God, what’s the plan?”

Amidst enough legal documents to fill a three-ring binder, therapy sessions to aid in the healing process, and frequent sleepless nights, God responded, “This is the plan.” Not exactly the answer I was hoping for. Doesn’t seem to meet a goal or have any intention. What I realized is that even if I don’t agree with the plan, it’s a plan all the same. It may not seem intentional. It may not fit one of my goals. It might not make me feel whole, full, content or satisfied but God has a sovereign plan.

God’s definition: to take me on the path that fosters a deeper relationship with Him. To strip from me any pride and create oneness with the Father. He wants me to desire Him more than heaven. God’s not as interested in mapping out the most convenient route for me as He is in cementing and growing our relationship. Peace. “This is the plan.”