In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

Goodbye, 2016!

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,General,Hailey,Holidays,Home,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Love,Matthew,Me,Owen,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 4:17 pm on Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wow! Time really flies. It’s hard to believe 2016 is already over. It’s been a pretty great year for me and my family. We’ve spent a lot of wonderful times together, accomplished some really big goals, and received some huge answers to prayer.

One of the biggest events of the year happened in March. We bought a new house and moved to Knoxville. It took several months for our house in Harriman to sell, but I know it was all in God’s timing. Everything worked out perfectly for us financially, and we moved into our new home the day after we had Elijah, Abby, and Logan’s birthday party . . . so we had a lot of helping hands. Our new home and neighborhood have been a perfect fit for us. The house is  two-and-a-half stories, five bedrooms, four bathrooms and has a big bonus room for the kids, an office for Matt, and a huge backyard. So, it’s perfect for our family of eight! As a bonus, we have great neighbors on both sides of us, and the neighborhood has a big pool and sidewalks on both sides of the street. There are lots of kids around us, both in our neighborhood and the one behind us. Hailey has friends from school that live in the neighborhood behind us who walk over to play with her. It’s been great. We are so very thankful for the home the Lord provided for us. It reduced Matt’s commute to work by about twenty-five minutes. Now, he drops the little kids off at school on his way to work, and he gets to come home and have lunch with me on most days.

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I mentioned we moved right after three of the kids’ birthdays. Elijah turned 12 on March 25, and Abby and Logan turned 7 on March 26.

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Kyra and Owen’s birthdays were in June, and we celebrated with a big pool party. Kyra turned 14, and Owen turned 10.

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Hailey celebrated her 9th birthday in October. (For some reason, I can’t find a picture of her with her cake.)

We were super blessed to be able to take the family on another beach vacation to Panama City Beach, Florida back at the end of July through the beginning of August. We took our first family vacation to the same place back in 2014 right after we got married. We enjoyed it so much we chose to go back. This time, we took Mammy, Grammy, and Aunt Whitney with us. We all had a wonderful time and returned just in time for the kids to start school the next day.

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Professionally, Matt got a new position with the Army Reserves and transferred from his old unit near Cincinnati, to his new unit in Washington, D.C. He is now working with the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s not any closer to home, but he at least gets to fly now instead of having to make that long drive to Northern Kentucky. I got to go with him back in August. It was my first visit to D.C., and I really enjoyed seeing everything, even if I did most of my sightseeing solo, since Matt was working. We’re hoping to take all the kids to D.C. in the coming year.

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I did well with my writing pursuits in 2016. I published Little River: Vol 2 in August, and I had multiple publications for my short fiction in literary journals. I had five or so book signings over the course of the year, as well as being accepted into the Author’s Guild of Tennessee. There’s other news to share on the writing front, but I’ll save that for a future date. No contracts have been signed yet. (Wink, wink!)

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In September, God answered our biggest prayer and gave us sole custody of Hailey and Logan. I won’t go into any details, but I just want to give God all the glory. He told us in no uncertain terms over and over and over throughout the course of the year that He was fighting that battle for us. It brought great peace to all of us, and the kids are happy, healthy, and thriving. God is so good!

We had a lovely holiday season and got to spend time with our families.

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Halloween

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Thanksgiving

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Christmas

I could have inundated this post with photos, but these few will have to do. If you want to see more photos from our day to day lives and you are a friend of mine (either in real life or online), you should friend me on Facebook. That is where I am most active. I don’t add people I don’t know on Facebook, but I do have a public Twitter account where I occasionally post photos. Please feel free to follow me there.

I hope 2016 was as good to you and your family as it was to me and mine, and I hope 2017 is even better for all of us!

Happy New Year, Friends!

He’s Been Faithful

Filed under: Faith,Me — Rachel at 12:09 am on Saturday, March 12, 2016

~I’ve felt lately like God is calling me to write here again. I know I’ve made a few attempts that didn’t succeed at reviving this blog, but this time it’s more than just wanting to blog again. This time, I feel like God is telling me to write, so, for better or worse, I’m going to write. ~

 

For those of you who’ve followed this blog for a long time, you’ve probably wondered what in the world has happened to me. When I first started blogging, something like eleven years ago, I was a young mom of two babies, a housewife, and married to my first husband. I was deeply entrenched in Fundamentalism. Some of you read for that very reason; we had a common bond in our particular brand of Christianity.

Over a decade later, I feel like a completely different person than the girl who started this blog. In a way, I am. I’ve been on quite a journey, and I feel like God is pressing me to share some of that journey with you.

During the near silence on my blog, I’ve struggled with a lot of things. The biggest struggle has been my faith. I nearly lost it all together. I touched on that here , here and here before I mostly stopped blogging. During that silence, I continued to go to church because I felt like I needed to take my kids. That was about the extent of my faith life. I didn’t pray. I didn’t read Scripture. I didn’t believe it mattered. At certain points, I wasn’t sure I even believed in God anymore.

And, to be honest, it was a relief.

It was a relief to let go of the desperation I felt when I wrote the above-linked posts. I was making myself crazy with my intense need to understand. I wanted answers to my questions, and I had none. So, I gave up. There was always a deep-seated desire to have faith again. When I filled out my Match profile, I even said that I was looking for a man with a strong faith. Faith was important to me on a very deep level, but, on the surface, it had ceased to matter.

Here’s the part that gets me. Here’s the part that won’t let me go. Here’s the reason I’m writing this tonight.

I was unfaithful to Him, but He was faithful to me.

I didn’t pray. I didn’t consult God on what I did. I stopped caring. I didn’t read my Bible. I didn’t even know where it was for a while. I didn’t do anything that a Christian should do, other than continue to go to church for my kids. I expected bad things to start happening to me to “lead me to repentance.” I looked for them, but they never came. Let me tell you what happened instead.

  • I got into nursing school, and I finished my first year at the top of my class.
  • I met Matthew, fell madly in love, and married the man of my dreams.
  • I got to quit nursing school, which I didn’t like, and pursue my dream of writing.
  • I finished my first novel.
  • I got published five different times.
  • My serial got picked up by two different papers.

My life was going better than ever, after I lost my faith. I wasn’t doing anything I knew I was supposed to do as a Christian, and life was fantastic. I wanted to have faith, but I didn’t. Matt and I would have long conversations about how I wanted my faith back, but I just couldn’t pretend to believe something I didn’t. It upset me if I thought about it too much, so I just didn’t.

And then, right around the beginning of this year, God came and got me. I don’t know how else to say it. I wasn’t looking for him. I wasn’t praying. I wasn’t trying to “get right with God.” There was nothing on my part, and suddenly He was there. Without any intention to do anything differently, I found myself in a place where I just wanted to be with God. Our church was doing a 30 day devotional together that our pastor wrote. The church gave the books to everyone for free. I took one home, and started going through it. My mother-in-law gave me and Matt a “Jesus Calling” devotional for Christmas. I started doing those two devotionals every morning and reading my Bible. The same Bible that caused me to abandon my faith out of pure frustration was feeding my soul. Every day, I got a little closer.

Honestly, I thought it would take me a long time to feel like I was “back” to where I was before, but after a couple weeks I felt like I had never left Him. The only difference was I didn’t care anymore about the things that tore me apart a few years ago. They somehow didn’t matter anymore. I didn’t get any answers to any of my questions, but God was more real to me than he had ever been. When I read my Bible, the Holy Spirit gives me something I need. My faith has increased in ways I never imagined would ever be possible for me and my skeptical, questioning mind.

I don’t know why He waited patiently on me for years only to pick me up out of the blue and tell me I’m His. That’s how it felt. It felt like I was his teenage daughter going through a phase, and he just let me dye my hair pink and listen to edgy music and grow out of it. When I was finally able to see past my angst, He was still there. Not angry. Not waiting to punish me. Just there. Loving me. Finally, I had what I needed more than anything . . . peace. 

I have no motivation with this blog post other than to be obedient to what I feel like God has been pushing me to do. I just want to testify. I’ve been through some really low and lonely times, and He never left me. Not even when I thought He was gone. Not even when I thought maybe He never existed in the first place. Even then, he was taking care of me. He sent me Matthew. He gave me the life I wanted to have. Every day that passes, I get a little closer to my dream of being a writer. He is a good, good Father.

 

He has been faithful to me, even when I was unfaithful to Him.

I’m so grateful.

 

When It Rains, It Pours!

Filed under: Me — Rachel at 5:11 pm on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Blessings, that is!

Every time I turn around, something good is happening for me and my family. I am so grateful for the unmerited favor of God. I’m going to tell you about some stuff sometime soon. I just have to figure out exactly how to say it. It’s all good things, though . . . all good things!

 

Goals Met and Set

Filed under: Me,Reading,Writing — Rachel at 4:45 pm on Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hey, guys! Long time, no blog. I’ve been blogging, just not here. I post regularly on my writing blog, but have sorely neglected Nothing Gold. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but this particular post is going to be about my New Year’s Resolutions . . . or,  as I prefer to call them, goals . . . from last year and for this upcoming year.

My goals for 2015 were mostly writing related. You can read my post about them here.

They were:

  1. Get Published
  2. Write every day.
  3. Read 100 books in 2015.
  4. Blog frequently.
  5. Network.
  6. Establish a daily writing routine.

 

I had varying degrees of success in completing my 2015 goals. My biggest goal for last year was to get published, and I’m really happy to say I completed that one. I had poems published in five different literary journals, and my serial, Little River, was picked up by two different local papers. You can read more about that at my writing blog.

Goals 2 and 6 weren’t completed, but I did do a lot of writing. I finished my first novel, as well as writing the first volume of my serial and starting on the second volume.

Goal 2 wasn’t completed either, but I’m satisfied with what I did do. I wanted to read 100 books, because that would be a cool accomplishment. I ended up reading 70 books, which I’m quite happy with. I read a lot of really great books, and that amount of reading did a lot to improve my writing.

Goal 4 was an overwhelming failure at Nothing Gold, but I blogged either once or twice a week at my writing blog from it’s inception.

Goal 5 was a success. I did a lot of networking in 2015. I’ve amassed a decent Twitter following, and a less impressive Facebook following (on my FB author page). I made connections with fellow authors through a Twitter pitch contest for writers, and I met several people in real life who have connections in the writing world.

So, all in all, I am pretty pleased with myself for 2015.

 

But . . . now it’s 2016, and time to set my sights on bigger and better things!

My goals for 2016 are:

  1. Sign with a literary agent.
  2. Network.
  3. Complete my second novel.
  4. Continue to promote and grow my serial.
  5. Establish a daily writing routine.
  6. Read 75 books this year.
  7. Establish a daily workout regimen and go to the gym at least four times a week.
  8. Grow in my faith.

Most of them are still writing related as I continue to pursue a career in writing, however the last two are just as important to me. I hope to be able to say at the end of 2016 that I completed most of my goals.

Feel free to share your own goals for 2016 in the comments section!

Our Honeymoon

Filed under: Family,Love,Marriage,Matthew,Me,Our Love Story,Photos,Trips — Rachel at 9:47 am on Sunday, August 2, 2015

Matthew and I got married on May 24 of last year, but didn’t go on a honeymoon then for several reasons. The biggest reason was Matt was gone for a month of our summer for the Army. The second biggest reason was financial. After paying for a wedding, we didn’t want to go into debt to take a honeymoon. So, we waited a year, saved some money, and, in July, we went on a belated honeymoon/one year anniversary trip. It was incredible!

We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico where we boarded the Carnival Liberty and set sail for the islands of the Caribbean.

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Our first Port of Call was in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands! We had a really good time in St Thomas. We took an ocean kayaking and snorkeling tour. We kayaked through the mangroves, hiked around a protected island, and went snorkeling. On our hike, we got to see some really interesting things. I held a small sea urchin in my hand, and we raced hermit crabs. When we snorkeled, we saw several types of fish, including a barracuda.

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Our second day was an At Sea day. We spent most of our time lounging on the Serenity Deck, which is the 21 and over area. We had a hammock that we ended up on nearly ever day, and the best hot tubs were on that deck. We loved lying together on the hammock, reading our books and sipping our drinks.
It was also our first elegant night, and I enjoyed dressing up with my man!

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After our elegant dinner, we went to change before the comedy show and found this Towel Bat hanging in our room!

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Our second Port of Call on our third day was Barbados. We loved Barbados! We didn’t book an excursion, but had a beach day instead. Barbados has beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. It was so clear, in fact, I was standing neck deep in the water and noticed a huge starfish lying on the bottom about four feet away from me. We had a lot of fun snorkeling. We found two starfish, and took lots of pictures with Matt’s new GoPro camera he bought for the trip.

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Our fourth day brought us to our third Port of Call…St Lucia. I had been looking forward to St Lucia more than the other islands, because Matt told me he had a surprise planned for my birthday at St Lucia. I had no idea whatsoever about what we were doing. When we got off the boat, we took an hour and a half taxi ride to our destination. The ride itself was great, because it was like a tour of a large part of the island. We saw everything from banana plantations to fishing villages to the peaks of the Pitons on our ride.

Our destination was the Rainforest Spa, where Matt had booked a couples massage, lunch and a private plunge pool. It was incredible! The massage itself happened in a private hut in the rainforest. When our massages were finished, the masseuses opened up the back wall of our hut to reveal the private waterfall plunge pool. It was incredible. Our lunch was rice, vegetables and fish wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in a bamboo bowl. The whole experience was amazing. Matt really outdid himself in the gifts and romance departments!

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Our fifth day’s Port of Call was St Kitts. We were excited about our excursion that day. We went ziplining in the forest above an old sugar plantation. It was lots of fun! I enjoyed going down a couple of the ziplines upside down! When we finished, a boy put a monkey on me. Later that day, we went to a little beach bar to get wifi and I sent the kids a picture of me and the monkey. I told them we had adopted a baby brother for them because it looked so much like Owen. The little ones thought I was funny, at least.

 

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This was also our second elegant night on the boat. I was so proud to walk around with my handsome husband!

 

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Our sixth day took us to our final Port of Call…St Maarten. We went on a powerboat and snorkeling tour. The powerboat was fun, but not much different than riding a jet ski through the water. The real fun was snorkeling. We snorkeled off of a European style (aka nude) beach. That was an experience–seeing people standing on the decks of their boats as naked as the day they were born! The snorkeling was really great. We saw huge sea urchins, a starfish, clown fish, and a host of other fish. The most exciting thing we saw was a huge eagle ray!

Unfortunately, our St Maarten day proved to be a day of bad luck. Matt slipped getting into the powerboat, and, when he grabbed the steering wheel to catch himself, it went between his fingers and hurt his hand really bad. Once we got home and had it x-rayed, it proved to be a bad spiral fracture of the second metacarpal. So, he’s in a cast for the next four weeks. On the same day, his wedding band slipped off his finger without him noticing. We retraced our steps on the ship, but couldn’t find it. We have no idea if he lost it on the ship or while we were on the island. A third less devastating thing that occurred on our bad luck day was his GoPro battery died shortly after we left the ship, even though it had been fully charged. So we don’t have any photos from our time on the island.

After all our adventures, I decided I was too tired to dress up for a fancy dinner. Instead, we spent the evening lounging on the Serenity Deck, sipping fruity frozen drinks, reading, and napping. It was wonderful! We ate dinner on the Lido deck, and then saw a couple comedy shows.

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The next morning, we arrived back in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were sad to see our adventure come to an end, but we had six little people at home we were missing a lot. Grammy Alice picked us up at the airport, and Hailey and Logan nearly knocked us over with hugs. We got the other four kids back the next morning. This mama was very glad to have all six of her babies under the same roof again!

We may have had to wait a year for our honeymoon, but it was definitely worth the wait!


This Year So Far – The Highlights

Filed under: Abby Jo,Army,Birthdays,Elijah,Family,Hailey,Home,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Matthew,Me,Owen,Photos,School,Trips — Rachel at 11:46 am on Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I don’t think I’ve ever let myself go so long without blogging here, and I’ve got a lot of ground to make up for. This post will be photo heavy, and just hit the highlights.

 

Celebrating the new year. January 1, 2015, 12:00 a.m.

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Our three little guys played basketball this year. It was the first time playing basketball for all three of them, and they really enjoyed it.

 

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Kyra played basketball on two different teams this year. This was after the game where she made her first ever 3 pointer!

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We had a tremendous snow in February, and we were iced in for several days. Our road was impassable. At one point, Matthew and I had to walk out to the highway with rucksacks to meet my dad so he could take us to the grocery store to restock. These children ate us out of house and home!

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They enjoyed the snow, though!

 

 

 

 

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Elijah turned 11 on March 25, and Logan and Abby turned 6 the next day, on March 26. We had a birthday party for them at our house.

 

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Owen, Abby, and Logan all played baseball this Spring, and they were on the same team. (It was a really wide age range.) It was Owen and Abby’s first time playing baseball. Owen played catcher, and he loved it. Abby wasn’t a huge fan. I’m not sure if she will play again next year.

 

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Enjoying the newly warm weather, I took the three boys out for ice cream one day after getting their hair cut.

 

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Because I’m mean, I sent the above picture to the girls who were at home, and they sent me the picture below in response.

 

 

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Because I’m not really a mean mama, when I took the girls for haircuts a few days later, they got ice cream, too. (We took a frappachino home to Kyra, who didn’t get her hair cut that day. No worries. I’m pretty fair.)

 

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I had a really lovely Mother’s Day, and was so glad that I got to spend it with all six of my kids. They made me feel very loved and special.

 

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Matt and I got to accompany the Wonder Twins on their Kindergarten field trip to the zoo. We had a blast! They loved the River Otters.

 

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I also got to go with Owen on his Farm Day field trip.

 

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Abby and Logan graduated from Kindergarten, both with special awards. We were so very proud of them. (The other kids all got special awards, too, but I’m sparing you pictures of all of them. This post is already getting so long!)

 

 

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Matt and I celebrated our 1st Anniversary on May 24th with several different (kid-free) activities, including my first ever game of golf…which I loved!

 

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Kyra had a piano recital in May, and she did a really great job playing “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter movies.IMG_3632  IMG_3633

 

We went on a weekend camping trip in June that we really enjoyed. It was big on fun and short on pictures. We can’t wait to go again very soon!

 

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Matt spent nearly three weeks away from us in June. He had to go to a three day drill followed by two weeks at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin to finish ILE (a school for the Army…the equivalent of a Master’s degree). We really missed him while he was gone, but we are all very proud of him.

 

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Kyra turned 13 on June 20th, and Owen turned 9 on June 26th. We had a party for them after Matt got home from Wisconsin. I thought it was sweet that they wanted to postpone their party until their stepdad could be there.

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Kyra had a Dr Who cake, and Owen had a Jurassic World cake. Unfortunately, I somehow missed getting a photo of Owen with his cake.

 

 

 

 

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The picture below is from my birthday, which was July 4th. I turned 27 again!

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I hope you enjoyed this jam packed highlight post. We did so many, many more cool things over the last seven months, and I could have shared hundreds of more photos. This post would have been a mile long, though. We are a very blessed family!

 

 

 

Books, Books, Books

Filed under: 100 Books,Me,Reading — Rachel at 2:38 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I have been reading tons of books lately, and I thought I would share what I’ve read. I like keeping track of what I’ve read, and this blog is a great place to do that. I set the goal to read 100 books this year, and, right now, my goal is 14% complete.

I have read:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Gold by Chris Cleave

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Glimmer Train Stories #90

I’ll Take  You There by Joyce Carol Oates

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott

Tin House: Tribes

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Several people have said to me that they don’t know how I read so many books. First of all, I love to read. Love, love, love it. Secondly, I’m a very fast reader. Having a Kindle app on my phone, though, is probably the real reason I read so many books. I always have my phone on me, so I can tap up my book anytime I have a few minutes to read. Whether I’m sitting in the car line, waiting at a kid’s ball practice, or just have free time, it’s easy to spend the time reading instead of doing nothing. I don’t watch a lot of t.v., so I read instead. I also tend to read on my phone in bed at night after Matt goes to sleep.  When I’m doing chores or straightening my hair, I listen to an audio version of a book on my phone. This takes about five times as long to get through a book than if I was reading it myself, but it makes chores a lot more enjoyable. When people say they don’t have time to read, I just don’t believe them.

The book that I enjoyed most of the fourteen I’ve read so far this year is “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved everything about this book, and I was genuinely sad when it ended. It was a long book, but not nearly long enough. I wanted to know so much more. Since then, I read “The Bean Trees”, also by Kingsolver, and I am currently reading “Pigs in Heaven”, also written by her. I’m on a Barbara Kingsolver binge, and I will happily read everything she has ever written if they are all as enjoyable as what I’ve read so far. I have a copy of “The Poisonwood Bible”, but I’ve been waiting for it to be available in Kindle edition from my library because it’s so much easier for me to read a Kindle book lately, because of the aforementioned reasons.

I also really enjoyed “Gold” by Chris Cleave (author of “Little Bee”) and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman.

One of the things I love about reading fiction is the way I can absorb new information about subjects I never would have thought to be interested in before. The discussion of ecology and predators and insects in “Prodigal Summer” was captivating, and I learned so much about the history of the Dominican Republic in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz. I’m most likely not going to read a book dedicated to any of those topics (well, maybe I would read a book about ecology), but, if you wrap it up in fiction, I will swallow it whole.

What is the best book you have read recently?

 

How Is Married Life Treating Us?

Filed under: Family,Love,Marriage,Matthew,Me — Rachel at 11:27 am on Thursday, February 5, 2015

I love being married! I really do. I was made to be a wife and a mother. It’s what makes me happiest in life. Every time I see someone I haven’t seen in a while, I get asked, “How’s married life treating you?”

Well, the answer is that it’s treating me wonderfully. Matt and I just had a long conversation the other day about how much better our lives are since we got married. I firmly believe that sitting and counting your blessings…intentionally speaking aloud all the things you have to be thankful for…is the one needful step toward contentment.

Our lives are so much better on all fronts since Matt and I got married. Of course, the big one is relational. We adored each other when we were dating and when we were engaged, but something just changes when you make the commitment to be married to someone. Going to bed together every night and waking up with each other every morning is such a comfort to me. Sending him off to work and being home, cooking dinner, when he gets back every evening is comforting. All the time spent cuddling on the couch watching football games or snuggled in bed watching “The Walking Dead” (very romantic, I know) are comforting. It’s just the “being there”…every day…together. I am just thrilled with the prospect of all the ordinary, nothing exciting days we have to share for the rest of our lives.

Another benefit to being married is that we were single parents, but now we are a family. I’m going to brag on my husband here. He is such an incredible man and an extraordinary father. When his ex left him, she walked out on him and the kids. He had to balance his full time civilian job and his Army Reserve career with being both a dad and a mom to Hailey and Logan. It was all on him. Before he moved to Tennessee, his mother moved to Lexington to help him out for a while, but after he transferred here for his job, he was completely on his own for raising his kids. I have mad respect for him. He loves his kids more than life itself, and it was very evident when I met him. He was getting up every morning, getting ready for work, getting the kids up, dressed for school, fixing Hailey’s hair, feeding them breakfast, dropping them off, going to work all day, picking them up from daycare, grocery shopping, taking them home and cooking them dinner, doing dishes, laundry, playing with the kids, doing homework with Hailey, bathing them, reading to them, lying down with them till they went to sleep, and about nine thirty every night, he had the only time in his day to take a breath. He didn’t just do everything, he did everything well. He didn’t just wake them up in the morning, he sang them awake. He didn’t just keep them alive and going, he played with them and engaged with them. He coached their soccer and baseball teams. He was completely incredible, but he was exhausted.

I was a single mom, but I had a lot more help. My children’s father is just as involved in their lives as I am. He had them half the time. When I went to work and school, Amy watched Abby for me and took the other kids to school and picked them up.After she moved out, if I was in a bind, I called Chris and we worked it out for him to take the kids when I needed him to. I was only really on my own with the kids for a couple months before we got married. I’m not saying it was easy, but I had help. I missed my kids terribly when I was working or at school on the days I had my kids. I had been a stay at home mom for ten years before my divorce, and it was painful to not be the one at home with them.

Getting married changed those things for us. Matt no longer had to do everything himself, and I got to be at home with my kids again. Matt could be the dad and I could be the mom, and no one had to pull double duty anymore. He is still exhausted a lot of the time because he works full time, has the Army obligations, and is in school right now. He doesn’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking dinner or getting kids to and from school anymore. He doesn’t have to worry about homework or doing laundry. I’m here to do those things. I get the kids up and dressed in the morning. I fix Hailey’s hair. I take them for haircuts and to the doctor and dentist. That’s not to say Matt doesn’t ever help with those things, because he does. He’s an incredibly kind and generous husband, and he does things just to be helpful and nice all the time. But he doesn’t have to anymore, and that makes all the difference. When he has to go away for the Army or travel overnight for work, he doesn’t have to worry about coordinating childcare for the kids. They just stay home with me. While I hold down the fort at home, he works incredibly hard to provide for us, and I don’t have to worry about money or surviving anymore. Marriage has obviously made our domestic lives much, much easier and more enjoyable.

Financially, there’s no question that we’re better off now. Matt was bearing the full weight of supporting his kids, and that was incredibly expensive when he was paying for daycare. I take care of the kids now, and that took a huge financial burden off of him. That’s just one example of how being married is financially better for us than being single. There are many, many more, on both sides. I was pretty much destitute right before we got married, so there’s no question that I am better off.

Matt and I are both the kind of people who are happiest in this kind of life. We are tough, determined people and we could have survived without each other, but we have found incredible happiness with each other. Getting married deepened that happiness immensely. There is such comfort in a loving and mutually respectful marriage. We are each other’s best friend and biggest fan. No matter what, we’ve got each other’s back. We fight each other’s fights and we celebrate each other’s victories. We have accepted each other’s children as our own, and we are committed to our family and to each other. We will take the exciting days filled with adventure along with the comfortable, nothing-special days at home and appreciate them together for what they are. Our life together.

So, how is married life treating us? Exceptionally well!

A Wonderful Year

Filed under: Family,Holidays,Kids,Love,Matthew,Me,Videos — Rachel at 3:39 pm on Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Today is the last day of the best year I’ve ever had. There have been years I’ve been so glad to see the old year go and the new year come because it was so difficult, and years that I’ve anticipated the new year because something I wanted was waiting there. This year, though, I’m simply ending the year with great contentment and satisfaction. It was a thoroughly good year. I’m happy to see a new year come, because I anticipate it to be just as wonderful as this one has been.

The obvious highlight of 2014 was my wedding. I am so very thankful that I got to marry my best friend. I have never in my life met a man like Matthew Holbrook. I didn’t even think men like him existed. He’s the perfect combination of tough and manly, sweet and romantic, funny, intelligent, successful, generous, and overwhelmingly kind. I don’t care if people get tired of me bragging on my husband. I’ll brag on him until the day I die. He is a gift, and I am so thankful that 2014 made me his wife.

Here is a link to the post about how our love story began.

Our marriage brought together two families, and I am so thankful for how well that transition went. We haven’t really had any major issues with the kids. They all like each other, and they get along just like brothers and sisters normally do. They play, fight, tattle, tease, get in trouble together, and have a good time. They’ve all went through their parents’ divorces and remarriages in the last couple years, and I’m incredibly thankful that they’ve adjusted as well as they have. Kyra, Elijah, Owen, and Abby spend equal time with us and their dad and stepmom. I think that has made it all much easier on them. They know all their parents love them and put them first, and that they will always get to spend time with all of us. They all like both of their new step-parents that this year gave them, and I’m so very thankful for that.  Logan and Hailey have had extra challenges, but they’re doing amazingly well. We have them with us one hundred percent of the time, so the three of us spend a lot of time together when my kids are with their dad. This has been good for us, because it’s allowed us extra time to bond with each other. Hailey took to me right away, and we’ve never had any issues. Logan has taken longer to get close to me, but things have gotten much better in that department. He sat in my lap and snuggled with me for the last two movies we watched together. Anyone who knows us knows what a huge deal that is. I’m very happy with the way things are going, and I’m very thankful for the family that was born of our marriage this year.

Here is a link to a series of posts about our wedding for those of you who are new to my blog and might be interested.

Another highlight of 2014 was our family vacation to Panama City Beach, Florida. This trip was a wedding gift from Matt’s Uncle David and Aunt Jennifer, and it was just the most perfect trip. My mother went along with us and helped us with the kids. Having her along allowed Matt and I to have a date night while we were there, which was an added bonus. We swam in the ocean, snorkeled, para-sailed, picnicked on the beach, fished, collected shells, laid in the sun, rented a pontoon, built sandcastles, and enjoyed some really good quality time together. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a vacation more than that one. It was just perfect.

Here is a link to my post about our first family vacation.

The rest of the year was packed with lots of firsts and lots of good times. From holidays to birthdays to our every days, we have been incredibly blessed. We’ve got to do a lot of fun things. We’ve been surrounded by friends and family. I’ve been so thankful for the family I inherited when I married Matt. The Holbrooks are beautiful people, and they have accepted me and my children with open arms. I’ve even gotten to know a lot of Hailey and Logan’s maternal grandparents and relatives, since we often take the kids to visit them, and that’s been a blessing as well.

Another wonderful addition to my life has been my involvement with the Roane Writer’s Group. This group of fellow writers has encouraged me so much, and I’ve really loved participating in the weekly meetings.

Our church small group has been another family to us this past year. Through all of the difficult moments of this year, they’ve had our backs. They text us and let us know that they’re thinking of us and praying for us. Whether it’s been court dates, sick children, discouragement, or any other thing, our small group has let us know that we are not alone. I’m very, very grateful that they are a part of our lives.

As 2014 comes to an end, I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude for the way my life has worked out to this point. There have been times in recent years when I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world, and I would never be happy again. I never could have imagined that the Lord would bring me to this happiness. I don’t deserve it, but I am forever grateful.

Here’s to 2015 being as kind to us as 2014!

I already posted this slideshow as a standalone post, but I’m going to include it here, too. Enjoy!

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The Mommy Life

Filed under: Abby Jo,Elijah,Family,Hailey,Home,Kids,Kyra,Logan,Love,Matthew,Me,Owen — Rachel at 11:21 am on Thursday, September 11, 2014

I can’t possibly express how happy I have been since making the decision to stay home with my kids. I am happy every day. I am so very thankful that Matthew is willing to let me stay home and be a mom.

My days are very busy, but I have to say it’s easier than when I had four little ones. There was a time when “staying at home with the kids” meant constantly feeding and cleaning and changing and never having a moment to rest. At one point, I was homeschooling two kids, had a toddler and an infant, was taking care of the house, AND was leading a Bible study for teen girls. I had two in diapers for a very long time. Plus, I’ve been in school for the majority of the time I’ve been a mom. I have been in school for the last eight years…almost all of Owen’s life and all of Abby’s.  So, I know what it’s like to be a very busy, very tired mom of several little kids.

However, that is not where I am now. Our youngest kids are five years old. Kindergarteners. They go to school every day. I am definitely in a new season of motherhood. I go through phases of thinking I want another baby. I miss it a lot. I absolutely adored my children’s babyhood. Then I see one of my friend Monica’s posts about the crazy messes her toddler makes or watch my Aunt Debbie chase her little grandbaby around, and I think that maybe six is plenty. There are definite pluses to this stage of motherhood. Instead of potty training, I’m helping Kyra raise money for homecoming. Instead of watching mind-numbing hours of Dora, I enjoy watching The Fosters with Kyra or a football game with Elijah. Instead of never, ever being able to get a handle on the housework, I have several capable helpers to keep the house going. Instead of never going anywhere without having to tote a diaper bag around, I can leave the house with my drivers license, my debit card, and my keys. Instead of having to sit out the fun activities because I’m pregnant or nursing or holding a little one, I get to go parasailing with my two eldest. Logistically, this stage of motherhood is much easier.

Easier logistics mean that I get to enjoy life more. And, oh, am I enjoying my life!

I enjoy it because I am doing exactly what I want to do. I don’t want to miss anymore of the day to day stuff with my kids. Being divorced, I automatically miss out on half of my kids’ childhoods. They are with their dad half of the time. Now, because I get to stay home, at least I get to spend all of my half of their time with them. When they are gone, I get to spend a lot of focused time with Hailey and Logan. I think this is good for all three of us. They are doing so well. Especially since school has started, they are just thriving. They really miss the other kids when they go to their dad’s, but we get to spend a lot of good time together. There are certain things that only I do with them, since Matt is still at work for a couple hours after they get home from school, and I think those things are bringing us closer together.

I know I’m gushing, but that is honestly how I feel. We did an icebreaker question at small group last night where we had to say what we wanted to be when we were 5, when we were 12, and then what did we end up being. When I was 5, I wanted to be a mom. When I was 12, I wanted to be a writer. I ended up being a mom, and I’m still working on being a writer. That icebreaker made me feel very blessed…to grow up and get exactly what I have wanted my whole life. Granted, I never thought I would be mom to six. My mom likes to remind me how I told her she was crazy for having six kids and I would never have that many kids. The joke is on me, I guess, but I couldn’t be happier with the six kids that God has blessed me with.

Every night, at bedtime, we have the same routine. Me, Matt, and the four youngest kids pile up in Hailey and Abby’s beds. Usually, Abby is in my lap, Hailey is sitting between me and Matt with her head on my shoulder, Owen is on the other side of me, and Logan is usually on his daddy. We read a chapter out of a book to them every night. We’ve already read two Pippi Longstocking books, and we just finished Robinson Crusoe. If the book is interesting to him, like Robinson Crusoe, Elijah will sometimes join us. We read our chapter, and then tuck them all in. I put my hand on their little heads, say a prayer over them, kiss them and tell them I love them. This bedtime routine is the absolute best time of my day. It is so sweet and they are so precious.

It’s a gift to feel like you are doing exactly what you were made to do.

bedtime

 

We were missing Matthew in this bedtime photo, because he was away for the Army, but we had the bonus that night of Kyra and Elijah listening to the story with us, too!

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