Thursday, October 15, 2015

Analogy - Going to the gym once a month

I went to the YMCA the other day with my two oldest children to have the wellness coach teach us to use all of the weight lifting equipment. One of the statements the coach kept saying was, “It doesn't matter how much weight you start with, just make sure you have good form and keep at it.” He impressed upon us the importance of 1) just getting started, and 2) sticking with it.
The wellness coach told us about one lady who goes to the Y very irregularly. She will walk on a treadmill for an hour and a half until she is completely burnt out on it, then she stays away from the Y for 6 weeks or so.

I think we Christians, in this same way, have the tendency to think we need to be lifting the whole spiritual pile of weights (whether real or imaginary) all at once. So many times we fall under conviction to do more of some discipline, but rather than try to build up to a reasonable daily amount, we burn out. Take for example Bible reading. The ideal would be to read some amount of Scripture daily. But, all too often, we make the mistake of saying, “oops, I haven't read my Bible for days, I better read two hours today to make up for it.” Then, like the lady at the YMCA, we get burnt out and leave the Bible untouched on the nightstand for a week.

What if we try to look at spiritual disciplines like we do our physical disciplines? We cannot lift a whole stack of weights on our first day at the gym. We have to build up to that, right?

Here are some of the disciplines that are important to some believers (this is a variety to cover a broad range of denominations): Bible reading, prayer, keeping a spiritual/prayer journal, fasting, telling others about the Lord, reading Christian books, Scripture memorization, learning a catechism, etc.

Not all of those weights will be lifted in one day. But, I think it would be wise over time to build up our strength level. A mature Christian should be more disciplined in their daily devotions that a new believer. But, it is never too late to start now. The important thing is to start small, what you can reasonably carry right now, and stick with it! Reading one Bible verse a day and pondering on it throughout the day is better than reading nothing at all! (And, I submit to you that sometimes reading one verse a day and meditating on it can be the best thing a sleep-deprived mama can do!)

Too often I have felt like a “bad Christian” because I didn't read a long enough portion in my Bible daily. We do not need to be adding guilt to our weary souls by setting someone else's standards as our own. Just because some blog author reads two hours a day, prays an hour a day, and journals daily doesn't mean that God expects this of you. Give yourself grace in these disciplines! You know what you can handle.

If I go to the gym to lift weights and get healthy, but I max out on every machine and come home grumpy – how does this help my family? Likewise, if you try to participate in every spiritual discipline to the point of exhaustion and yelling at your husband or children – you are not helping yourself or your family.

Just get started with something and stay with it. Keep building on slowly.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nature walk

 Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri
Click any photo to bring up the enlargements page

I had the boys all to myself while the girls were in their quilting lesson.
The boys and I had a blast!

Lydia (left), Rebecca (right)

The whole group.
Tallest to shortest (which, for now, is still oldest to youngest):
Rebecca, Nelson, Lydia, Joshua, Josiah, Jeremiah

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Analogy - Take care of Sin

I know that I have a "bad back." I worked at Hardees' fast food chain in my teen years. One day I was running outside to take a bag of food to a waiting customer and I fell on my tailbone. I have never been the same since. But, I have discovered that going to the chiropractor helps to manage my condition... if I go regularly.

At the end of July, I noticed that we had some mice coming into the house. And, since we found a few mice in my room, I wanted to check thoroughly for a nest. I emptied the closets. I removed all the furniture except the bed. Then Paul said that I better check the bed just to be safe. Rebecca was busy and Paul was at work, so Nelson and I attempted to move the king bed . . . alone. Starting the next day my back "went out." Meaning, I could not sit on my tail bone, I could not walk, I could not bend, I could hardly move. The only position that was remotely comfortable was lying flat on my back.

I had re-injured my sacroiliac.

I knew what to do about it. Rest (of, yeah, I did plenty of that!). Ice. And, go to the chiropractor. But, I thought I would be brave and stick it out. My intention was to save Paul money. We pay $40 out of pocket each time I visit my chiropractor. I know that money is well spent, but I thought if I could just wait that I would get better on my own.

I waited three weeks!

I never improved on my own. I started crying more from the pain and from exasperation. Finally, we made an appointment. The doctor adjusted my spine, hips, and tailbone and I walked out of the office on air. I felt like I could have walked home.

But, in the van, the pain came back. In the next week my pain became more severe, yet not as bad as it originally was. I made another appointment. The doctor adjusted those same areas again. I felt amazing. Then, in the van the pain returned. (I have since ordered tailbone and lumbar support pillows for my van, by the way.)

I ended up going back four days later. This time I asked him, "Is this an issue of muscle memory, or something like that?" His reply was, "Exactly, if you had come in as soon as you were injured, it may have taken only one visit to correct the problem. But, since you waited nearly a month, your muscles had time to get comfortable in the wrong position. Now your other muscles are spasming as they all try to remember how to work together."

It has been about 3 months now. And, I am still not completely healed to where I was before the incident in July. I have been to the chiropractor more times that I can remember, each time is spaced out a little farther than the one before. I am still stubborn about going as often as I need to because I am trying to save money. And, perhaps that is why after 3 months I am still not healed...

Here is where the analogy comes in - When we sin, our spirits get out of alignment. We, as Christians, are to walk by the spirit and not walk according to the flesh. When we sin, our flesh "muscles" and our spirit "muscles" are spasming against each other as both try to regain control. The longer we go without confessing that sin to the Lord and repenting of it, the more those same sin habits take hold. It would be best to repent and confess right away, so that The Great Physician can realign our hearts, minds, and spirits. A sin problem will not go away if we wait and try to get better on our own. The longer we wait the more the flesh begins to corrupt the health of our spirit.

If we confess our sins, 
He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins 
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I hope this story and analogy resonates in your heart today as it does in mine.

Monday, October 5, 2015

My Girls

My "little" girls are both storytellers and writers. I am quite happy with their desire to sit and write for amusement. In fact, with Rebecca, writing seems to be a compulsion (like it is with me).

Right now, Rebecca (age 13) is writing an imaginative short story about walking the dog in Arrow Rock. And it is fun-ny! I opened her composition notebook last night to read her story (which she has been willingly sharing with us), and I found a great surprise! There were a handful of other short stories in her notebook! And, they are all good! She said she started writing down stories when she was 11. I was surprised by this and a little alarmed. Why didn't she tell me?! She said that she "just never thought to tell me." And, that she didn't think the stories were any good. (That sounds like me too.)

Lydia (age 10) wrote a cute little story Saturday about a black widow spider who was a spy. Such a creative little girl! I had to spell a lot of words for her, but it was worth the effort. I would spell words all afternoon (and I did) just to help kindle my little girl's desire to write!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New photos

I haven't posted too many pictures of the family lately. It's time to amend that.

On September 24, Rebecca and I worked at the Arrow Rock Children's Craft Festival. I was in the parlor of one of the town's historic homes teaching children about parlors in the 1800's. Rebecca was out behind the house demonstrating how to wash and dry laundry "the old fashioned way." She even had the opportunity to dump the wash tubs at the end of the day! We both enjoyed dressing in costume for this event! (Click on any photo to bring up the enlargement.)

Rebecca, age 13
 Now, you are no doubt thinking, "Wow, Becca sure has grown! What do the other children look like now?" So, here you go -
Nelson, age 11

Josiah -age 5, Nelson - age 11

Nelson, age 11

Paul and myself with our whole tribe, along with my parents at the Arrow Rock J. Huston Tavern

In Arrow Rock - Rebecca (13), Lydia (10), Joshua (8), Josiah (5), Jeremiah (3), Nelson (11)

Joshua - age 8

Summer fun!

Paul (just before he turned 40!) and Jeremiah (3)

Lydia (10)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Did you see . . .

Did you see that I have posted two analogies and a short story on my other blog? Stop by and take a look.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Family Update

Time is marching on in the Woods family. I thought it was high time for an update.

Paul is still working for the prison. I would be lying if I implied that he likes the work. But, he is grateful to have had this job for over a year now. The work is not strenuous to his back. If anything, the job is too sedentary for his liking. But, at least he is not straining his back injuries. He always has his eyes open for other employment, but so far it seems that God must want Paul to remain in the prison. We trust that He has a plan.

I am feeling all right. My lower back (sacroliliac) has been bothering me for three months now. I have not been able to help with hay all summer. What's worse, I was not able to even walk, sit, or move comfortably for the first six weeks. I am working with the chiropractor and I am now about 90% better. I have re-gained most of my range of motion. I can sit on a chair without pain. I can walk enough to do my mothering duties. I cannot bend, lift, or twist. I cannot work out. But, I know I am on the right path to full recovery.

Rebecca turned 13 in March! I am pleased with her level of maturity. She has great discipline for schoolwork, even though her dyscalculia frustrates her progress. I have truly never known a young lady like Rebecca. She is still doing most of the cooking and cleaning around the house (even though my back is more compliant these days). She doesn't want me to "overdo it" and have a set back. Rebecca is quite interested in quilting, but time and money prevent her from enjoying the hobby as she would like. She also still loves horses, reading, writing, and playing with the other children. The new change in Rebecaa's life was that she learned to swim this summer and now she is training to be on the YMCA swim team. She has progressed rapidly and thoroughly enjoys swimming. I would have to say that swim team is her favorite hobby at present.

Nelson has also learned to swim. He is training for the swim team as well, but he does not love the disciplined swimming like Becca does. He just likes to play and swim for leisure. Nelson is overcoming his dyslexia. It seems that someone (God) "flipped the switch" and suddenly Nelson is reading! I couldn't be more happy! His favorite book to read me is the Bible. Not only does he read it, but he comprehends it! He is asking me such thoughtful questions about the passages we read. I am very happy with his progress. Nelson's favorite hobby is anything to do with art (photography, drawing, computer design, etc).

Lydia is ten now! She is making great strides in school as well. Her dyselxia was not as severe as Nelson's, but she has had much to overcome. Lydia's favorite hobby is enjoying nature. She calls all bugs "cute" or "adorable." She gets frustrated when someone kills a spider - which is her favorite type of bug. Lydia has learned to swim as well. But, like her mama, she gets cold and tired quickly and requires a lot of sleep to recover.

Joshua is another little overcomer! I shudder when I think of the challenges that this little guy has faced in the past years. First, his ears were blocked and he was nearly deaf. He did not speak. Then, we discovered he was nearly blind. Once he was able to see and hear we started school with him. At first he progressed rapidly, then he suddenly "lost" everything. I do not know the cause (I assume it was mold exposure). But, we had to start again with the basics. I am greatly pleased with his hard work and determination! This is his year!

Josiah is five. He is learning his letters and numbers. He likes to hear chidlren's books read to him. He loves playing in the YMCA pool. I am certain he is part fish and will be swimming in no time. Joey's favorite hobby is snuggling.

Jeremiah is three. He is still a happy little guy. He is definitely the baby of the family. He has been babied for quite a while. But, he is also growing into little boyhood. He enjoys playing at the park, throwing balls, and listening to books being read.

Our new home is working out well for us. So far as we can tell the house is free of mold! It is the biggest house we have ever lived in.  Rebecca even has her own sewing room (though it doubles as  the library). The children are split into pairs and we still have a guest room. The only complaint we have is that the yard is not as big as we would like. But, we think we will be content to stay here until we can buy our "forever home."

I think that hits the main points. I will try to write more often now that I have a phone that doubles as a hot spot. I hope you are all doing well! I will try to visit your blogs soon!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring - An April Update

(whoops, I forgot to publish this one)

It is Spring and my body is still waking from hibernation. I did not have much pain this past winter, but my energy levels were quite low. Even though I felt better I think my health was still subpar.

I recently read Stepping Heavenward again. Always a pleasure. I love the writing style. I love the primary characters. Reading the book again challenged me. Along with my physical hibernation I have also been struggling spiritually. Doubt. Bitterness. Anxiety. All the chief players were taking shots at me and I didn't fight back... I guess I was too tired to do so. But, reading the book seemed to have jerked my spiritual heart out of cardiac arrest.

I see now more than ever how Christian fiction truly can touch lives. I want to write books that encourage people to look up from whatever is dragging them down. I want to write books that improve people's lives. This is no short order. I need to keep praying.

There are different seasons of life. And, I know that (after God) family comes first. I will not add anything to my life that will harm my family. My husband is great about helping me to see a big picture. But, this I know, I love writing. And when I am not writing, I am not happy. I don't mean that I have to write public blogs or books. But, I am compelled to write something. I need to keep praying about what that "something" should be.

Monday, February 16, 2015


I have been meditating on John 13:34-35 this week.

I've had these verses memorized for many years, but it hit me again...

Jesus does not say that Christians will be known by their: apparel, Bible translation, denomination, worship practices or any other thing that we Christians can be tempted to quarrel over. No. Jesus says the world will know we are Christians by our love.

I have a lot of work to do.

Friday, February 13, 2015


I mentioned in my post yesterday that I read through my first blog (what is left of it). The posts I enjoyed most were not deep and theological. I liked reading about my family - how the children were growing, what we did in school, etc. I think I will write more of that everyday, ordinary stuff and leave the deep thinking and writing to people who are better equipped for it.

Health update: This has been, by comparison, my best winter in years. I still have more fatigue that I wish to have, but I am not in any pain. I am able to function fairly well. Compared to this time last year I am doing amazingly well! When I ponder the comparison between this winter and last winter I just shake my head. I thank God that I can walk, move, and clothe myself this year. I can even use my hands enough to write short notes and play piano. I will admit that sometimes I am unhappy with my present state. I wish I had more energy and less exhaustion. But, I am working to be continually grateful for the health I have! 

Kid update:
Rebecca (almost age 13) is greatly interested in quilting right now. She is currently working on a baby quilt for a cousin. She enjoys hard work and sits down only to read. She loves reading great novels like Pride and Prejudice. 

Nelson (11) is quite gifted with engineering. His mind makes quick work of anything mechanical. He doesn't care for math paper work, but the gears in his brain are clearly designed for mathematics.

Lydia (9) does not really seem to have any grand interests. She likes to play with all the children and she helps some with chores too. She is probably not the child that would most stand out when you meet my family, but she is a jewel nonetheless. I expect that in the coming years her interests and tastes will blossom and she will become more of an individual and less just one of the family. But, for now, I am completely okay with her being a part of all of us!

Joshua (7) is having some trouble with reading and writing, but he is a bright boy. He likes to build towers and play with the other children. Like Lydia, he doesn't really stand apart from the family right now. He seems to be happy just to belong with the rest of us.

Josiah (5) is smart... and that makes him trouble. I think he has always had a little bit of spark that set him apart from all the other children. From the time he became mobile he has kept me on my toes! He likes to play with the other children, but can also be very independent. 

Jeremiah (3) is still my baby, but he is quite a big little man. He is a sweet and sensitive little guy. 

We are still homeschooling. Most days I expect more of myself and the children. And, Paul tells me that my expectations are unrealistic. But, I sure wish I could pat myself on the back at the end of the day and really feel like I completed a task well. But, home educating is not really an instant gratification activity. Some days I wish I could go out and mow the yard (too bad it's winter) just to feel like I started and ended a project. Home educating can be both maddening and rewarding. I am in a season of great fatigue and fault-finding, so I won't discuss this topic any more this evening.

We went gluten free on January 1st of this year (...again!). This is yet another experiment for my chronic illness. Some days I think going gluten free is a great help yet other days I am not sure it is worth the time and expense. But, in the end, our lab work and food diaries show sensitivities to grains. In short, we are trying to eat more veggies.

That's all for now. I need to go to bed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Time Marches On

Today I re-visited my first blog, Grace in Bloom, that I wrote from 2008-2010. What a blast from the past. Our family sure has been on quite a journey these past several years. I thought I would end the night by adding a few more recent photos... it's been a while!

Me and my flute... and the neighbor's kitty.

Below: Rebecca (age 12) with her first completed quilting project - a sampler.
Below: Lydia (age 9) with her first quilting block.
Joshua (age 7).

Below: Jeremiah (age 3) drying the dishes.
Below: Nelson (age 11).

Above left: Josiah (just before turning 5) and Jeremiah (just before turning 3).
Above right: The blue hand is mine. I have Raynaud's Syndrome. That was certainly not the bluest I have seen it... but it is still yucky.

Below: Paul and I, August 2014.