Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not Your Ordinary Love Story, Part Two

From: Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace

As the reality of singleness set in, I became acutely aware of how many things I was now responsible for. I needed to earn enough money to keep a roof over my head; I needed to keep that roof, and everything below it, clean, maintained and repaired; and, I needed to keep all the inhabitants under that roof well-fed and healthy. Wow! How could I ever manage all of these responsibilities as a single mom?! As a single homestay mom?! I needed superhuman strength--and wisdom, too.

One day I felt particularly overwhelmed by the enormity of my responsibility and my inability to get everything done. How could I keep up? I was sooo tired. All I could do was pray and wait for the answer. It came soon enough.

Have you ever read something that really resonated with you? That while you were reading, you just knew those words were meant for you? That while you were reading, the words were almost popping off the page at you?

Well, that’s what happened to me one morning as I sat reading my Bible. I had a strong sense that God was telling me to take particular notice of the words:
“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. The shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood will be remembered no more, for your Creator will be your ‘husband. The LORD Almighty is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you back from your grief—a young wife abandoned by her husband.” (Living Bible)

Wow! The message couldn’t have been plainer!

In the past God had repeatedly told me not to worry about anything. Now as I read and re-read those verses in Isaiah, it slowly dawned on me that here was the reason why! It was because HE would fill the role of a ‘husband’ in my life. HE would be my protector, my provider and my comforter. HE would make sure there was help when I needed it. I would not be doing everything alone! Once this realization sank in, I was in awe of how freeing is God's love.

First of all, His love frees me to be the real me that He created me to be. I no longer have to ‘walk on eggshells.’ With God I can just relax and be myself. When I pray to Him, I don’t fear he will reject what I'm feeling and saying. He will be patient with me. If I'm wrong, he will gently correct me.

Secondly, His love frees me to be the new me that He is helping me to become. Less insecure, less self-centered, less worried, more loving, more accepting, more patient, more tactful and definitely a lot calmer. Don't get me wrong. I'm no saint, and never will be this side of Heaven. But, at least I'm heading in the right direction.

From that day until the present, as I have looked for answers through daily Bible reading and prayer, God has never gone back on the promise to be my Creator-'husband.' Numerous times, help came in at just the right time for house cleaning, repairs, painting, etc. When I've needed extra money to pay for unexpected expenses, it has always come in--sometimes from the most unexpected sources. In future chapters I will write in more detail about specific incidences.

God has never left me, nor has he ever given up on me. He has always exercised patience and kindness toward me. He has never quit loving me. What an awesome God! I know this is not your ordinary love story, but, I hope it gives you a glimpse into why I love God with all my heart, my soul and my mind!

Now, sometimes God does allow times of testing. But when bad things happen I know He is allowing it for a reason, although that reason might not be clear for awhile. For example, one Saturday afternoon in February 1994, I was relaxing on the sofa when my eyes suddenly focused on a telltale “brown” ring on the ceiling above me. My heart sank. The roof over my head had sprung a leak!

To be continued.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chapter 6: Not Your Ordinary Love Story, Part One

From: Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace

Before I contine writing about my experiences as a homestay mama, I want to backtrack to June 8, 1985. My marriage was teetering on the brink of collapse. Marriage counseling was not working. I didn’t know what else to do or where to turn. As I crawled into bed that evening in June, I felt helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t sleep and just laid there staring at the ceiling. My feelings were a jumbled mess. My mind refused to think--refused to deal with the problem any longer. I was at the end of my rope.

Then I saw Jesus. His arms were outstretched toward me, palms up--inviting me to come. It wasn't a distinct image, yet it was intense and powerful just the same. I knew it was Him. I could feel His presence in the room--a presence that emanated the most amazing love I have ever felt. Even though this experience was most unusual, I felt no fear. The love I felt from Him was so peaceful, so comforting, so compelling that I wanted to surrender. But, there was a barrier between us!

My sins.

They had to be dealt with once and for all!

Some sins are obvious, but the worst kind lurk just beneath the surface of one’s spiritual heart. One by one as God brought my arrogance, critical spirit, self-righteousness and a host of other sins to the surface, I saw how ugly they were in His eyes. Especially my pride! That seemed to be the major problem in everything He was bringing before me!

I had grown up in a Christian home. I had been a relatively obedient child. I believed in God. I went to church every Sunday. I didn’t do those obviously ‘bad sins,’ which other people did. I tried to live and work ethically, honestly and in harmony with those around me! I gave to the poor and tried to help the less fortunate. Surely all of that counted for something!

But in God’s eyes my goodness counted for nothing. In front of Him the playing field is level. I was no better than the worst of sinners! Seeing myself as God saw me, reduced me to broken humbleness. All pretense was stripped away. There was no place to go but down on my knees, and so I slipped out from under the covers and knelt down beside the bed.

As God brought first one sin after another to the surface, I asked Him to forgive me and remove it from my heart. I don't know how long I was there on my knees, but it seemed like a very long time. When He was finished, I felt like my heart must surely resemble a block of Swiss cheese—full of holes from all the sins He’d carved out! “Oh, Lord,” I prayed. “Don’t leave me like this! Please fill all those holes with your love!”

And He did!

Oh, what a difference! I felt clean inside! I felt peace and joy. But most of all, I felt love--pure love--for the first time in my life! And, I had renewed hope because I knew I now had God's love and his Spirit living inside me. I desired reading the Bible like I'd never desired it before and so I read, and read, and read some more. I felt like a parched desert after a drenching rain! It was wonderful!

Now fast-forward to 1992. Even though I had fervently prayed for God to heal my marriage, my husband left. At that point I could have become bitter, thrown in the towel and turned my back on God. But, I chose to hang on. And, I’m so glad I did!

Tomorrow: Not Your Ordinary Love Story, Part Two.

Thursday, March 26, 2009



And, I feel like kicking up my heels and celebrating with a contest! (More on that below.)

Some of my local friends (who read my blog) suggested that my temporary 'goodbye post' last week was leaning a bit toward the melodramatic. So, I'm sorry! Okay?

But, I HATE doing taxes! And last year was a real doozy because of losing my job, going back to school to retrain for a new career, breaking my wrist, having surgery to restore that wrist, having to repair the leaking/molding shower in the bathroom downstairs and finally deciding to quit looking for work and signing up for social security, instead! All of these incidents had to be figured into the equation because every single one of them affected my taxes. So, I was dreading taxes 'worser' (yeah, I know! ) than if I were facing a root canal! So, I hope you can forgive me for succumbing to a little melodrama (and bad English) just this once. OK?

BTW, all that 'grief' from last year added up to a refund from the IRS! So, I'll say it again, "HOORAY, HOORAY, HOORAY!"

So now, because all of you were so patient with me while I ventured into that little melodrama last week, and because I'm feeling so happy right now, here are the rules for the contest:

Just leave me a short comment (or a long one if you'd rather) and tell me whether or not you figure your own taxes, or take them to a tax preparer, or any other comment you'd rather leave.

If you do not live in the USA, you can still enter the contest. Just tell me something about the taxes in your country, or any other comment you'd rather leave.

Then on April 15th (that's tax-reckoning day here in the USA), I'll put all your names into a basket and have one of my homestay students draw out a winning name. I'll announce the winner by 10:00 p.m. PDST (Pacific Daylight Savings Time). The winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to Office Depot, or Office Max, or Staples, or Amazon--the choice is theirs.

HOORAY! Let the celebration begin!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Goodbye, My Friends!

I'm sorry to have to break the sad news, but I'm leaving. You have all become such good friends, which makes leaving all the more difficult. I have enjoyed getting to know each and every one of you--to have laughed with you, cried with you, and even e-mailed some of you. But the truth is I just can't stay any longer.

I don't want to worry you, but life is a little tough right now. No, I'm not dying or anything morbid like that. But the fact is I have responsibilities that are not being met! And being the responsibile person that I am, I can't continue slacking off any longer. I cannot continue shirking my duties. I can't allow myself to be addicted to your blogs any longer!

I'm sorry it had to come down to this--to a face off! But, it's either you or them and, unfortunately, I've got to choose them! My parents taught me to be a woman of honor--to do the right thing. And so, that's why I have to leave.

If I don't look my duty square in the face and leave now, then I am in danger of ending up here! Shudder!

So I must choose the path of responsibility. I can't take this path lightly. It is serious business.

I know all of you would do the same thing if you were in my shoes. Heck, maybe some of you have already been there and you understand exactly what I'm facing!

So, goodbye, dear friends. I'm going to miss you, but I have to go now.

But I'll be back....

....after they're finished with me.

Did you think I would leave you all forever?
Not in a heartbeat!

Hoping you won't forget me while I'm gone.


Homestay Mama

...if only it were that simple!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Love Your Blog Award!

It's been more than a month, and I'm ashamed of myself for taking so long to follow up on an award that my dear bloggy friend, Robynn, at Robynn's Ravings gave to me. She said such sweet things about me that I blushed like a school girl! She called me wise and caring and added a bunch of other thoughtful compliments. She also said, "I want a mama like her only she's too young to be my mama." (If only I really were 'too young!' But, alas, my son turned 40 this year and I was no child bride!)

I hate to spoil Robynn's image of me, but you've got to know the ugly truth! I am no angel! My blog is not witty, or clever or even *noteworthy like hers, but, thank you Robynn for thinking otherwise and for giving me this wonderful award. *Noteworthy as in having The Pioneer Woman read and make a comment on her post!

And, now I'm passing this award on to other blogs that are much more deserving:

1. To Tatersmama at Tatersmama's Take on Things. This lady keeps me bursting with health from her daily posts that evoke deep belly laughter, the best medicine in the whole world! It takes real talent to write about simple topics and turn them into a ROFL post! But, Tatersmama does it all the time! I'm glad I got in on the ground floor--so to speak--before she becomes famous. Because I've come to know how sweet, helpful, kind and encouraging she really is! Once she has the huge following that is bound to come, she'll have no time left to read and leave her witty comments on other people's posts.

2. To Christine at Smiles And Trials who truly inspires me with her posts about her life with 11 children--soon to be 12. Some of their children were born right in their home, while others (some with special needs) have come from as far away as Russia and Ukraine, and have joined them through the miracle of adoption. My hat is off to Christine for sharing her family's smiles and trials with the rest of us! Reading her past posts have brought both laughter and tears to my eyes and I'm in awe of this remarkable family.

3. To Mandy at The Old Dairy for her gardening and sewing skills and her pictures that have inspired me to try gardening again. I actually bought vegetable seeds the other day and am waiting for the weather to warm up! She also inspires me with her ability to get so much done in a day plus take care of seven children, a handful of international exchange students and a husband who is battling cancer. And, still squeeze in time to write interesting posts with neat pictures. How does she do it?!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day,


Homestay Mama

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Come Join the Celebration!

My dear friend, Gramma2Many, is celebrating her 200th post by having a giveaway. She's giving away a pair of socks she has knit with her own two hands. If that's not special enough for you, there's more! They are made with Panda Silk by Crystal Palace Yarns. 52% Bamboo, 43% Superwash Merino Wool and 5% combed Silk. Who wouldn't want to slip their feet into the softest pair of socks this side of Heaven! So head on over , see a picture of these designer socks and leave her a comment. You just might be the lucky winner!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Mountains are Out! Day 2

When the mountains are out, they don't stay out for long. So I spent most of today chasing them with camera in hand, because, the rain clouds are already forming out in the Pacific Ocean and will be rolling in tomorrow, obscuring all this beauty again, for awhile.

So, here are a few more pictures to entice you to come visit our Evergreen State.

The following pic was taken from a residential area facing the Olympics and Puget Sound to the west.

The neat thing however, is that I don't have to drive down to the water to get awesome views of the mountains. They are visible right in my hometown when I'm out running errands. For example, here is a view of the Olympics from one of our main streets.

This next picture is taken in the city where I do most of my shopping. From this overpass, I can see the Olympics to the west towering over the main street in town.

Now by simply pivoting in the opposite direction, this is the road to the mall and the Cascades to the east. Believe me, it's nearly impossible to keep your eyes on the road when the mountains are out!

And finally, I drove to a city farther north to get a sweeping vista of the Cascades. It took 6 photos end to end to capture the range as far as the naked eye could see. But the total range stretches even farther in both directions. Here are just 3 photos out of the 6.

Feeling certain that I'm living in God's Country!


Homestay Mama

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Mountains Are Out!

OK, so if the mountains are out today, where were they yesterday? In? In where?

Well, anyone living in Western Washington knows that the mountains--the Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west--are always out there! But being 'out there' is not the same as being 'out.'

Confused? Let me explain.

Seattle is named the Emerald City--because of the abundance of green trees, green grass, and yes, green moss growing everywhere--growing from the abundance of rain! Lots of rain equals lots of clouds.

Clouds. Aha!

The mountains are usually 'under cover,' so to speak--a cloud cover! So, when we say the mountains are out, we mean the clouds are gone and we can actually see our beautiful mountains.

When the mountains are 'out,' it seems to cast a spell over us and it's not uncomman to find us gravitating toward those places where views of the mountains regale the senses. Today was one of those days, and I just happened to have my camera with me! I only had time to grab a couple of photos because I had to rush off to work. If the mountains are still 'out' tomorrow, I'll take more pics to share with you.

So here are the Cascades to the east... (Click pictures for larger detail)
...and the Olympics to the west.These are just simple pics from my point and shoot digital camera. Nothing fancy like The Pioneer Woman's Nikon. Nothing enhanced with Photoshop.

However, nothing compares to standing there in person, whether gazing at the Cascades or the Olympics, and seeing mountains from as far north and as far south as the eye can see. I tell you, the beauty can take your breath away!

Especially when the mountains are out!


Homestay Mama

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Just a Spring Teaser

Today our weather is back to normal--unable to decide whether to rain, hail or snow--so it did all three. At the same time. (Click on the photo for greater clarity.)

Remember how my crocuses lifted their little faces to the sun yesterday, soaking up the warmth of its rays?

Well, here are the poor little dears today--just a mere 24 hours later--pulling in their little petals and shivering all the way down to their little round bottoms--um, bulbs.

But fickle weather is to be expected during the last hurrahs of winter here in Western Washington. That's because we live in the convergence zone. The cold fronts coming down from Alaska/Canada and the warm winds coming up from California tend to get into a 'tug-o-war' right over Oregon and Washington during the month of March. It's hard to predict the outcome, and it's not uncomman to have snow, wind, chill, fog or just rain. Or rain with hail and thunderstorms. Or rain with sunbreaks. Or one whole day of sunshine like yesterday. Really? Nah! Yesterday was just a spring teaser!

And that's our weather report for today.


Homestay Mama!

P.S. Don't forget daylight savings time starts tonight-so if your area makes the switch, don't forget to set your clocks one hour forward before you go to bed.

Friday, March 6, 2009

On the Path to Healthier Living!

Several posts ago, I mentioned that if I hoped to continue being a 'mom' to international homestay students, I was going to have to take better care of myself. I knew I had to 'take the bull by the horns' (Can you tell I was raised on a farm?) and get my priorities back in their proper order. So finally, two weeks ago I put my foot down, gave myself a lecture and made myself map out a healthier routine to follow.

First I started cutting back on the amount of sugar and fat in my diet (gotta lose 50 pounds this year!). Then I started blogging less (that was the hardest part!) and going to bed at 11:00 p.m. instead of 3:00 a.m. so I could get up earlier and have time to go walking again--like I did six years ago when I was healthier.

Yesterday was rainy and windy, but I walked anyway! (We Pacific Northwesterners can't let a little rain stop us! If we did, we'd get nothing done!) However, this morning we had sunshine, glorious sunshine (!) and I grabbed my camera as I headed out on my walk...

...down to the nearby park...

...and followed the jogging trail that winds through the woods for about a mile. The air was a little crisp, but the sun felt good on my back.

Even though they aren't visible in this picture, the leaf buds on the trees and underbrush are pregnant with anticipation. With just a few more sunny days like today, they will soon be sporting their new, spring green outfits!

It's not hard to guess which side of the tree faces north in this picture!

This is an Oregon-grape bush which is native to the Pacific Northwest. Pretty soon that little cluster of buds barely visible in the middle of the picture will grow into a showy mass of yellow, round-shaped flowers. Then by late summer they will turn to dusty-blue berries. The berries are edible, but are very tart with large seeds, so no one eats them except the birds. However, the roots contain berberine which is used for medicinal purposes (anti-inflammatory/anti-bacterial).

Back home I noticed my crocuses were happily soaking up the sunshine. I could identify. I had walked for an hour in the sun's warmth and had loved every minute of it. (Hmmm, I see the weeds are getting a head start on me. Well, they'll just have to wait, because April 15th is coming and the tax man gets my attention first!)

Feeling healthier already!


Homestay Mama
Thanks to Bz over at The Mosquitoes Buzz, I learned how to add pictures so they will enlarge when you click on them. You can see so much more detail when they're full size.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Busy Beaver

I'm just a little swamped right now, but I'll be back soon.
Homestay Mama