Happy "Tin"th Anniversary, Sam!

There are certain milestones in life that make you feel older.  Sometimes that's exciting.  Like turning sixteen and being able to drive.  Or eighteen and being able to vote (maybe that's just because I am a nerd).  Then there was the day I got married.  The day I held my baby for the first time.  The day I got invited to my high school reunion.  Then the days I held my second, third, and fourth babies for the first time.  Today is another such day.  Today, is the day Sam and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.  (You can't see me, but I'm fist-pumping, because that's a big deal.  Even if it does make me feel old.)

Today I reflect on the last ten years because as a nineteen year old sophomore in college if you'd have asked me, "Where would you like to be in 10 years?" my answer would not have been...here on this stool with a baby literally pulling the pants off of my leg, drinking coffee at 4pm to keep me from falling asleep on the job, with my Bible study homework sitting out on the kitchen table scoffing at me for getting so far behind...on the first week.

Just goes to show you, nineteen year old college sophomores don't usually know what they're talking about.

If you asked me today where I'd like to be my answer would be a decided, "I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be."  (Okay, that's kind of a lie.  I'd rather be taking a shower.  Without any kids staring at me through the glass door, but you get the point.)  It's definitely God's craftsmanship that got me to where I need to be.  But this isn't about me.  This is about us.  

Sam and I met in our first class at Mercer University.  It was the 8am Calculus II class they stick the unfortunate freshman in because they get last dibs.  We would have met anyway, even if we hadn't been on the same row in that class.  After all, Mercer is not large, we were both engineering students, and we had mutual friends.  It's just all too fitting that we would meet in that class.  It makes me giggle.  We didn't start dating immediately, but once we did, that's all she wrote.  I knew.  He knew.  We were M.F.E.O.  (Hahaha - Sleepless in Seattle, anyone?)  By the summer break, we were hooked.  There was nothing that could tear us apart.  Except for that little thing called 800 miles between his home and mine.  I'm so glad we had that.  I never knew I'd be an old romantic, but during those few months apart (where we literally had a countdown until we were back to school), we wrote each other letters every single day.  The USPS was in no financial danger that summer.  Believe me.  We both kept those letters, and they are safe in the attic of our home from any little kids' eyes.  They're mostly PG.  It's not that.  It's just that some things of the heart are best kept in confidence.  Maybe someday they can read them.

Yesterday, I was retrieving an old picture frame from the attic to line with pop tabs for our "aluminum/tin anniversary" and I came across those letters.  I read one.  I read another.  I would have gotten sucked in, too, had it not been for the fact that I had given Abby a quarter to watch Leah while I retrieved said picture frame and after more than a minute or two I could hear lil' Leah squealing from the attic.  (She was fine, by the way.)  It filled my love tank.  It was so wonderful to be taken back to that place of "new love" unjaded by the day-to-day.  This year, I want to re-read them all.  I want Sam to re-read them all.  I want him to know that while my love for him may not be as much butterflies in the stomach and a need to fall asleep to the sound of his voice, it is every bit as real and every bit as strong after ten years.

I always knew Sam was exceptional.  I always knew he was amazing with children.  Endlessly patient.  Unsurpassingly brilliant.  Unwavering.  Strong.  Determined.  Ten years has only confirmed those things.  And it has revealed new things too.  He tells the best jokes - and he doesn't stop because he knows he can always count on a laugh from me.  He is confident and fearless.  Did you know he built bunk beds from scratch?  Completely remodeled a bathroom by himself?  Designed and built a dream playground in our backyard?  There is nothing this man can't do.

That includes staying married to this kooky girl for ten years.  And forever.

I'm blessed to have found and held on to this man.  I'm grateful for everything he is to me and this family - a provider, a source of stability in what can only be classified as quintessential chaos, and a leader, spiritual and otherwise. 


You're a good man, Sam.

On that note...here's a little gift for you, a la summer of 2002.

Ten Things I Hate About You
I hate the way you face each trial
with patience and such poise.
I hate the way you sleep through
anything, four kids = noise!
I hate the way you don't say much
because then, when you do,
I know those words will pack a punch
and reveal a profound you.
I hate the way you listen
while I complain and whine and cry.
I hate the way you solve every problem
without even seeming to try.
I hate the way you turn my lemons
into lemonade every time.
I hate the way you forgive me for things
others would consider a crime.
I hate the way you find a way to
love us all each day,
Whether that means cooking dinner,
fixing things, or simply making time to play.
I hate the way you love me,
even when we've seem to hit a wall.
In all honesty, I don't hate these things.
Truth is, I love you - with my all.


The Devil Read my Blog

Just one week ago, I posted about the reasons I shouldn't be homeschooling.  It was tongue-in-cheek, of course, because that's what I do.  I know that God called me home.  That is without question.  And because of that, I believe that this week, Satan has been working overtime here at the Sheppard residence.

There have been tantrums, fits of rage, screaming matches, tears, and bad attitudes abounding.  And the kids haven't been perfect either.  *snicker*  Sad but true.

What's interesting is that I can't put my finger on any one event and say, "Man, when [unspecified event] happened, that really made the rest of the week go downhill."  It wasn't like that.  It's just been one of those weeks where we simply didn't have a single perfect day.  Each day, there was someone or a few someones who simply dug their heels in and said, "No."  Each day, there was someone who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and stayed there until they crawled back in the wrong side of the bed that evening.  Each day, there was a defeatist attitude.  There was sloth.  There were feelings of entitlement.

It's almost as if the children collaborated after Sam and I were asleep one night.  Maybe Sarah was at the head of the table organizing the thing.  "Alright, Ben.  Tomorrow, it's your turn to get angry because you don't feel like doing math.  Abby, you scream that you hate reading on Tuesday.  I'll keep up my daily refusal to nap.  And let's see if we can get Leah to cry at random all day long for at least one day.  Also up for grabs are complaining that "it's too hard" and "I can't do it", whining about the food, being lazy, and leaving random deposits of toys and/or shoes all over the house." 

It's not like anyone hit me over the head with a 2x4, but my spirit feels like it.  Oh wait, actually, we did experience that this week - only it was Sarah.  She got hit in the head with a 2x6 wooden swing on the playground last weekend.  Five days later and she's healing up nicely...even though with head knocks of that caliber it means she actually starts to look worse as it gets better.

Interestingly, that was a non-issue compared to the attitudes we had going on.  She was back to her normal shenanigans within a couple of hours.  Here's hoping she at least learned not to walk in front of swings again.


Satan will use what he can, whether subtle or blatantly obvious, to cause division, dissension, and strife.  This might be on a small scale between a mother and her kids or between young siblings.  It might be on a national level between gun control lobbyists and second amendment activists.  No matter where the conflict is, one thing is certain, it's caused by the enemy of God.  And he is utterly delighted in his work today.

As I've tended to my kids this week, I have cried many tears over their poor attitudes, anguished over the lack of wisdom in their choices, and grieved their deliberate disobedience.  I've wondered, "Why oh why won't they just do the right thing and follow my instructions?!"

Then it hit me - not unlike that 2x6 - this is how God feels about meThese kids definitely learned their behaviors from someone.  Boom.  And what I really need to do is listen to the wisdom and counsel of my Father.

I've said it before and I'm grateful for it all of my days, thank God his mercies are new every morning

My prayer for tomorrow and going into next week -

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. ~Psalms 51:10

Because I don't want to be a complete downer - here are some of the highlights from our past few days.  There is joy and love and there are blessings all around us!  All I have to do is get over myself and, yup, there they are!

While cleaning out the kids rooms this weekend we stumbled upon no less than 3 magnifying glasses.  They proved to be great fun...
(Whoa, that one is especially scary.)

I watched as my girls thought outside the box, again, and turned their Geoboards into a "laptop computer."

We took advantage of the unseasonably warm January temperatures and played outside like whoa.

I watched a head-wounded Sarah return to the scene of her first head-wound and sit unsuspectingly as Abby prepared to dump a wheelbarrowful of mud and weeds on her head.  

I watched as these crazy, dress-wearing girls jumped without inhibition off the playground.

I spotted two longish hairs on Leah's head in the sunlight.  Make the picture bigger.  I promise they're there somewhere.

We blew dandelion seeds all over the backyard.

We had a picnic...and took a walk...all together.  As a family.

The girls stole picked Camellias and put them in their hair then insisted we call them "The Rose Girls."

We relished in barefoot time in January.  (Really, it was 75 degrees.)

 Abby made a real-life pictograph out of our shoes, categorized by color.  But we had to do it fast because goat-girl Leah wanted to eat the shoes. (What about that one undeniably black shoe next to the two glittery pink ones, you ask?  Abby called it pink because the interior was pinkish.  I couldn't argue with that.)

Tonight, at Bible time, my sweet, hesitant, somewhat-reluctant reader independently read four verses to us.  And the beaming pride on her face made this weeks worth of stress melt away as if it never existed. 

And that too is a glimpse into what it's like to be God and see his childrens' sins washed white as snow.

Goodnight, everyone.  God Bless!


All the reasons I should NOT be homeschooling

It's January again.  I say it like that because last January was kind of revolutionary for me.  It began with a simple statement from Sam.  "I think you should consider homeschooling."  I chortled.  Scoffed, even.  "Never."  And, yet, here I am - five months in and asking myself, "Why didn't I start this sooner?"

It's actually really easy to answer that question.  There are a lot of good answers.  All of them are still true. 

Why didn't I start this sooner?  What was stopping me from homeschooling long ago?   What are the reasons that I should not be homeschooling?  I'm so glad you asked!

I have the patience of a three year old...at 10pm...who didn't nap that day...every day of my life.
If you don't know how impatient one of these is, you can borrow mine.  Or...you can borrow me, apparently.  Patience is not a prerequisite to homeschooling.  If I were a betting woman, I'd say this is one of the number one fears of pre-homeschooling parents.  You don't have to be patient to start out, but, by golly, God will teach you patience.  Homeschooling is not easy, but it's worth it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4
I'm a people pleaser.  That means, I care wayyyyyy too much what other people think.  Namely, I don't want to homeschool because people will think I'm weird.
People do think I'm weird.  Maybe I am.  Only now, I don't care so much.  It's very freeing to finally let that go.

We moved here for the schools...which are top-notch. 
This is the hardest one to explain - why we pulled our kids out of perfectly desirable schools where we really hadn't experienced any major problems.  The truth is, I felt a conviction that I tried with every fiber of my being to deny and in the end, the conviction won out.  I felt an undeniable call from God to bring my kids home.  And for once in my life, I tried out that whole obedience thing.

I'm wasting my college education.
At least, that's what I hear.  Yes, I have a "fancy" engineering degree worth four year's tuition at a  private university.  Yes, I have a professional license which says I'm now legally allowed to design and approve projects of my own volition.  Those four years in college taught me how to learn independently (a whole lot more than the 12 years in school prior).  Studying for that licensing exam taught me that hard work pays off.  These are life skills that I pray I can impart to my children, and that I might not have otherwise, were it not for my unique experiences.  The neat thing is that I feel qualified in areas that other parents might not.  I'm not concerned about teaching my kids high school math and science.  This is probably a not-so-humble brag, but of all the things working against me, at least I have that

I'm kind of anti-social.  
Not in the scary, agoraphobic kind of way, but at least in the introverted kind of way.  This weighed heavily on my heart as I pondered the pros and cons of homeschooling.  I feared that if it's up to me to provide that buzzword "socialization," my kids are totally up the creek.  Thank God for a cul de sac full of playmates and a church family full of kids.  Turns out, my kids don't need 8-hours a day sitting next to people of their same age group to feel like they have friends.  Who knew?  Not me.

I've never had a "knack" for teaching.  I know one way to explain things...the way I understand it.  That's all she wrote.
Here's a little homeschooling secret - A LOT of curriculum is scripted.  And, lucky for me, the scripts present things in a way that I wouldn't have.  So, my "way" of explaining is there for a backup.  I do not think this is coincidental, but an answer to earnest prayers. 

I get lawyered by my nine year old on a daily basis.
This is just something I'm going to have to live with.  The kid is smart.  End of story.

I have never been much of a domestician. 
That is, my house is always a mess.  And we eat Totino's - America's favorite frozen pizza - way more often than I dare to admit.  It's okay.  We live in this house, so this house looks lived in.  We've incorporated  chores as part of the daily school day.  My kids are earning their keep by pitching in on things I've had to learn to delegate - like folding towels and unloading the dishwasher.  I knew that things would go [even more] downhill once homeschooling started, what with the mountains of books and schoolwork and limited time once that's through to dedicate to cleaning.  That may or may not be true, but we're working on it.  Some day before I die, I'll have a tidy house that operates like a well-oiled machine.  (Or maybe not.  Some things in life just really aren't that important.)

I'm a procrastinator.
I've always been one, and it's always had a way of working out.  The trick is to stay one day ahead of the kids.  That's it.  One lesson ahead, really, and you can peruse an elementary subject lesson before breakfast if need be.  (And believe me, sometimes, it need be.)

So - to reiterate - Why didn't I start this sooner?  What was stopping me from homeschooling long ago?   What are the reasons that I should not be homeschooling?

Turns out - A bunch of phooey.  Not one of those has even surfaced as an issue.  Funny how they seemed like such good reasons just one year ago.

One more thing - that expensive diploma - it's totally not a waste.  It's been making sure our umbrellas don't touch the garage floor directly since I moved out of my office two years ago.  Funny, too, how things that once seemed so important seem less so as our priorities change.


Put on Love

New Year, New Resolutions, right?  I was thinking the other day about what things I could commit to doing  this year.

Floss every day.
Jog with the kids.
Rely less on processed foods.
Learn a foreign language.
Start journaling with an actual pen and paper.
Turn off the tv.
Drive the speed limit every once in a while.
Stop yelling.
Spend less time on the computer.
For goodness sake, stop eating so dang many cookies.

Those are great goals, don't you think? 

My dad is capable of making a list like that and following through with it by what appears to be sheer force of will (a trait he seemingly inherited from his father), I'm not quite so disciplined.  But, then again, they might have a little Counseling on their side.  These are two godly men, who have, without a doubt, exemplified Philippians 3:14 in my life - that is, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  It's a nice reminder that the burden doesn't rest solely on my shoulders to follow through.  I've got the best cheerleader, encourager, and Counselor I can think of.

This is how my resolutions usually go - I make a list.  I start out with great momentum.  The lists consume me.  I get discouraged by how little I'm accomplishing.  I fizzle.  I get sad.  I rewrite the list.  And, instead of making newer, more attainable goals, I end up with a bigger, not-necessarily-better list.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

This year, I'm doing something different.  I'm not making a list.  I have some goals I'd like to reach, things I'd like to do, places I'd like to see, but I've determined to do something even greater than anything I can write on a list.

I've decided to put on love.

I've spent the better part of my life preoccupied with rights and wrongs.  I'm not going to apologize for that.  I do still wholeheartedly believe in absolutes.  What I will apologize for is caring more about the acts of right and wrong than the act of love.

This is the year.

I resolve to love.  Regardless.

Because that's what Jesus is.

I say this with conviction, yet knowing that I will fail.  Daily.  I'm not determining to fail, but this is an unattainable goal.  I want it to be.  I want to constantly strive to love more and love better - to be more like Jesus, every single day.

It feels great to start out the new year this way.  And it feels even better knowing that when (not if) I fail, God's mercies are new each morning.  I don't have to wait until 2014 for a fresh start.  Phew.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  Colossians 3:12-17
I'll start at home...loving on my husband and my babies.  They're easy.

Wishing each and every one of you a blessed 2013!

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