Why I Stopped Eating Pork (once upon a time)

A while back, I sent a survey to my subscribers (that sounds so official) asking what they’d be interested in learning about me. I put in one answer just to take up space, knowing no one would take it seriously or give it a second thought.

Except I think every person who answered the survey checked that answer.

I don’t know why I didn’t think anyone would pick it. Then again I’m not sure why I chose that as my space-saver topic to make the quiz look meatier, as it were… Continue reading “Why I Stopped Eating Pork (once upon a time)”

When I Had Church At The Airport

It was undeniably God-ordained, and it almost didn’t happen.

That’s how I explain an encounter I had on my flight home from Dallas, TX. I spent five days in Dallas for a work event, and while I was gone, Hubs and kiddos moved from #littleapartmentontheprairie to our #bighouseonalittleprairie. I left North Dakota, spent five days in Dallas, and returned home to rural Minnesota – all of which is symbolic in a unique way and I will attempt to unpack later. But for now, back to the trip home.

dallas airport Continue reading “When I Had Church At The Airport”

Hell in the Hallway

Recently, I prayed for a man who lost his job last winter and has been searching for another job since. It isn’t for lack of effort that he hasn’t found work yet. It seems his field is a competitive one and for whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to secure a new position.

My heart ached for him. I could feel the frustration in his voice. This in-between place he’s in is what I heard a man once refer to as the “hell in the hallway.” When God closes one door and while you’re waiting to find the next open door, you experience hell in the hallway.

hallway hell

Continue reading “Hell in the Hallway”

We’re Going Home

Right now, it’s 82 degrees outside with 46% humidity. A little more humidity, and I would call it the perfect day. (Not southern humidity, mind you.)

I’m sitting with our patio door wide open, letting the apartment fill with heat, because I. Love. This. Weather. These are the days that make the long, windy winters worthwhile. These are the days making you forget what it’s like in January. These are the days we spend months longing for.

In a few hours, Hubs will come home and I’ll have long since shut the patio door and turned on the AC so everyone can stay cool and content, but for now, this is my time, and this is how I like it.

A couple of weeks ago, I was not so cool and collected. I was not so grateful or blissful, or even one ounce of happy. Continue reading “We’re Going Home”

Harlynn’s Gift To Mama

I’ve really been struggling.

I’m leaving for a business conference, and it’s a high-energy, intense 3-day event. The last day of the event is April 9th, and I leave a room of 1,000 of my new best friends to fly home on April 10th.

Which should have been our daughter’s 4th birthday.

I’ve been wrestling with this, as probably only other loss-parents might understand. And I’ve been wrestling with the fact that I’m wrestling with it.

It’s a little messy in my head with all this wrestling going on. Continue reading “Harlynn’s Gift To Mama”

Awaiting My Exodus

exodus

I am an Israelite, and I am waiting for my exodus.

In reading through the Bible, you’re eventually going to have to read through the book of Exodus. I say “have to” because it’s not one of my favorite books to read through. The intricate detail of the ephods and the temple construction and the linen threads and the cubits and the rings and the poles and oh my gosh stoppit already, Exodus. It’s painful for me to read.

Until recently. Continue reading “Awaiting My Exodus”

The Straight Paths

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5,6

I was reaching into the cupboard to grab a glass. With my hand around the mason jar (that’s what us country bumpkins use to drink from), my arm stayed stiff-straight, reaching up to the shelf.

“Stop using faith as a foxhole.”

It was a phrase I heard with my whole body. My entire mind. “Stop using faith as a foxhole.” Continue reading “The Straight Paths”

When Living Simply Is Complicated

[ insert giant sigh here ]

Oh, friends.

I’ve shared a few times my love for sleep. How when I was younger, my family was afraid to rouse me from slumber, because it was like waking a bear from hibernation. Someone might die.

Then I had babies and didn’t sleep all that great for a while, but this past summer, Little Man finally started sleeping through the night! So my life was almost perfect again.

Until the wee hours of Monday morning.

A visitor decided to call on his friend around 2:30 in the morning. This visitor was carrying on lengthy conversations, and from all I could hear, it sounded like he was conversing with himself.

In the entrance of our apartment building.

If you’re wondering how I would even know someone was talking to themselves in the entrance of our building at 2:30 in the morning, I’ll let you in on a little secret: our bedroom wall is adjacent to the entrance. Because, #apartmentlife.

This visitor was out there for a long time, dropping many an f-bomb, and Mama Val was growing more and more irate. I pounded on the wall. No change. Brent went out to advise him to quiet down. It helped only barely.

The situation (allegedly) was he was supposed to be getting into someone’s apartment on 3rd floor, but the intercom was dialing straight to the person’s voicemail. Mr. Visitor was then leaving lengthy, profanity-laced threats on the voicemail message through the intercom.

Because that’s how you talk to your “Buddy” as he kept referring to him.

Folks.

If you’re trying to get into someone else’s home at 3 in the morning, and the intercom isn’t allowing their phone to ring to let you in, leave.

For nearly 90 minutes this guy left message after message on his “buddy”‘s voicemail. Let me just say, if that’s how he talks to his friends, I don’t want to know how he talks to people he doesn’t like. We called the cops; we have no idea if they ever arrived. The issue appeared to have resolved itself before any enforcement came. I was kind of looking forward to hearing a handcuffing scuffle, but no such luck.

I was preparing to go out and confront Mr. Buddy myself, but Hubs wouldn’t allow it. In my sleep-deprived state, it was most likely in the best interest of the safety of the visiting stranger.

After the great visitor debacle of 2017, I was wide awake, and so was hubs. Our day started before 3:00 a.m.

God forgive me, please, for what I’m about to say: I hate this apartment.

Our desire is, and has been, to live a simpler life. Get a home away from city limits, get our chickens and a rooster, grow our own food in the biggest garden we could manage, put my aprons to work while I can all the foods in between baking loaves of bread… The simpler life.

But it’s complicated.

It’s complicated because until we find the place that suits our needs and our budget, we’re stuck here. Stuck hearing everyone’s footsteps, conversations, f-bombs, no matter the time of day or night.

Stuck where our kids can’t just run outside and hop on their bikes, because people drive through the parking lot like it’s a Daytona track.

Stuck where I can only see to the east, and only the sliver of sky above the garage rooftops.

Stuck in a herd of people who forget they’re living with an entire herd of other people.

I adopted the #littleapartmentontheprairie tag last year in an effort to embrace our situation and make the best of it. Now… I’m so over it.

I don’t know what’s next for us. I don’t know if we’re staying local or uprooting and replanting hundreds of miles away. I’d love for there to be mountains in my near future.

All we want is the simple life.

But it’s complicated.

Yes, I’m complaining. Yes, I’m discontent. Tagging on to a conversation we had with friends this past weekend – discontent does not mean ungrateful! I’m thankful we have this place, and it has filled our needs from the time we moved in. We’re warm, we’re more organized than we were (as far as stuff and possessions go, because we’ve downsized so much), we’re on the first floor so at least the kids can run inside and not drive anyone beneath us crazy – – – we’re very grateful!

I’m not content to stay here, though. I don’t believe we were intended to rent forever, let alone in an apartment building. I don’t believe this is where God intends us to stay long-term. I believe my discontent is healthy, and motivating us to take those steps in faith to get out of here and move to where God DOES intend for us.

I only wish I knew right where that was, and it could have happened four days ago.

Deep breath. I have the aftermath of making fresh applesauce to clean up from, so I’d best get to it. I’m praying for the complicated to become clear, and for the simple to be achieved. May the #littleapartmentontheprairie tag rest in peace in our very near future.

Why I Didn’t Make Resolutions (And What I’m Doing Instead)

It’s been an annual tradition of mine for as long as I can remember. When the new year arrives, I bring a list of new aspirations along with me. Things I want to achieve. To change. Do differently. Do better.

Until it just isn’t worth it for me anymore to put forth the effort. And I wait until the next year to start fresh.

Last year, I didn’t make resolutions – I set goals. Date specific and all kinds of stuff. I went through Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever program and it shed some light on some things and got me really excited to go out there and make 2016 different from all the years before it. And it was!

But not because I stuck to my guns, necessarily.

As 2016 drew to a close, a lot had changed. A lot I thought I was going to do, I ended up shutting down completely. The areas of life I thought I was going to grow, I felt a strong sense I needed to let them rest instead.

It didn’t go as I planned. But it wasn’t because I failed, or because I didn’t follow through on anything. It didn’t go as planned because I took a lot of steps in obedience, versus in my usual stubborn-heel-dragging.

The revelations of last year showed an entirely different path to take this year. In (super short) summary, I’m running two businesses now. One being my own independent contracting as a virtual assistant, and another I’ll be launching shortly, still very much involved in the virtual assistant world. I never thought I’d be my own boss – in TWO businesses! This is exciting!

In October, when Little Miss was home from school an entire week with a fever, I felt a nudge to pursue something I swore I would never pursue. (Sound familiar? Remember when I swore I would never live in North Dakota? January 1st marked 11 years since we moved here…) I wrestled and fought and argued, but now I’m all gung-ho for the upcoming year… Gah, do I even share it? Gulp. I think I’m going to homeschool Little Miss.

I winced a little just then. It’s a thing I never thought I’d do! Or be! Or whatever! And here we are, making plans for just that.

A third thing. Last year when we started going through the Little House On The Prairie books, I became obsessed inspired by simpler living. I taught myself to can, I started knitting like …, I don’t know, like what? What knits like crazy that isn’t a reference to a grandmother? Anyway – simpler living.

Also, I was made for the mountains. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the geography of North Dakota, specifically the Fargo area… but there are no mountains. None. Nada.

I adopted the #littleapartmentontheprairie to attempt to keep my sanity for having my family in an apartment that only sees east, and only whatever is above the garages. I almost forgot what a sunset was, I haven’t been able to see to the west for so long.

A recent tale for you. We made one of the quickest trips yet as a family home to Wyoming for Christmas. We basically were there for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, then headed back home. As we pulled away from my parents’ town, Little Miss was sobbing in her seat for how she would miss her cousins, auntie, uncle, and grandparents. I was choking back tears myself, but not because of our family. I was choking up because the mountains were getting further and further away. Again.

So the third thing. A move. A big one. We want to move. We feel like we’re supposed to move. We have an idea of where we’d like to move to. Now comes the big question: “But is it what we’re supposed to do?” And I’m reminded of sitting in Pastor Montey’s office, 12 years ago now, and him saying, “Trust God to lead you in the NEXT step, even if it isn’t the FINAL step.”

I’m trusting. And I’m stepping. Light-footed yet, but stepping all the same.

So I didn’t make resolutions this year. I’m not going to go on a diet or go to the gym or stop watching documentaries. I’m simply going to keep following the nudges.

Also (and this post is already longer than I imagined it would be), I’m going to move toward some super-radical, crazy, what-on-earth-is-she-thinking? type of lifestyle changes. Are you even ready for this?

  1. I want us to stop using/buying/depending on paper towels. No more. All cloth from now on. (As soon as we use up what we’ve got left, because one time at Costco, we bought paper towels and it took us ten years to go through them all…)
  2. I want us to stop using/depending on our microwave. (Right now I’m guessing my Mom just read that, rolled her eyes, and called my Dad in the room to tell him I’ve lost my mind.)
  3. I want to make whatever I can and buy less and less. Soaps. Detergents. Food (obviously). Clothes (one day. I know nothing about sewing.) Entertainment, even!
    1. This leads to another fun story. Today, hubs and I had a day-date. I, unbeknownst to him, declared Friday our date day until the end of time. Since we won’t always get a sitter for the night, we will have day-dates whenever possible. So long as the two of us can spend time together, it counts. Today we went to lunch (and the food was good but our waitress was amazing). In between bites, Hubs and I played a game where I named a band and he named the first song of theirs that came to mind. This is a game I stink at, but it was still a lot of fun. I even was able to name some songs (correctly) by singer/band when he turned the tables on me. We paid for lunch, but the game was totally free, and a lot of fun!

All that to say, I didn’t make resolutions this year. All I did was commit to following His ways instead of my own. And I can already tell this year is going to be way better than anything I could have set out to do myself.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Happy New Everything

Another year is fresh before us, full of excitement, anticipation, hope, and motivation. For what, though?

Yesterday I had to be at church early to sing. A late night in combination with a head cold and an early morning had me sounding a little like Jack Nicholson after a long drag of a cigarette. I didn’t think I could pull off a morning of singing.

I drove to church, continuously trying to clear my throat, and watching the peaceful frozen, frosty flakes of morning falling to the ground. I had arrived early, so admired the morning flurry and the strange beauty it gave the bare trees. I started praying an earnest, overflowing prayer.

I sense it, y’all. This is the year. This is the year I didn’t even know I’ve been waiting for. I have no idea what it holds, but I know I’m ready. I have to be. Happy new everything.

After rehearsal and some coffee, my voice started to turn around and I sounded like myself again. I made it through church and as Hubs took the kids home to get them fed, I detoured to the cemetery.

I wasn’t going to go. It’s a hard line to walk sometimes, wondering if I’m doing the right thing by going. If I go too long between visits, I’m pained with guilt. If I go too often, I feel like I’m a bit needy. So I try to balance my time there, to where I won’t feel anything other than like a loving mother.

I wasn’t going to start my year with the mental battle of what a visit after church would make me feel like, though. So I wasn’t going to go. But I felt this urgent need that could only be met by a cemetery visit. I made the drive down the snow-covered street, turning in through the looming iron gate, and down the path to her spot.

I sat there, silently wishing her a happy new year. “Get out of the car.” I felt my spirit nudging me. But I was wearing church shoes, and nothing at all appropriate for snow-traipsing.

“Get out of the car.”

I hesitated. Eventually, I got out of the car and walked gingerly over the snow to her spot. Her angel solar light and purple metal flower were marking her headstone beneath the snow. I stood there, unsure of why I felt such a need to go visit, then to get out of the car.

“It’s your year, Mama.”

My stomach fluttered. I know, I feel it, too. But Harlynn… We might move. Far away, even. It’s a possibility.

Tears stung my face as the wind hit them rolling down my cheeks. This was why I was supposed to come. I had to reconcile the possibilities of our future with the events of our past, and the reality of our present.

I can’t take it all with me. And that has to be okay.

I wrestled with that, standing there at her gravesite. It’s become a comfortable spot – a place where I know I’m allowed to let any overflow grief work itself out. No one can judge me if I cry while standing at her headstone.

But it’s a new season. It’s a new year. It’s a new everything.

I have to find a new way.

“Happy new year, baby girl.” I blew her a kiss before carefully making my way back to the car. I drove through the cemetery, feeling less weighty. I wished the deer a happy new year, as they bedded in the trees. I wished the turkeys a happy new year as they strutted across the lanes. I wished the squirrels a happy new year as they scampered around.

Back through the iron gates, I drove away in a state of wonder.

What does it mean? When will it happen? How will we know?

I don’t know what this year holds. I know what I want to happen. I know what could happen. I know what might not happen, or what we might have to do instead.

I don’t have a single answer, and I don’t have even the slightest semblance of a plan.

But I know the start of this year means the start of a new everything.

Whether we move away, or stay nearby… whether we pursue big dreams or baby steps… whether my business succeeds a lot or only a little… nothing this year will stay the same as it always was.

The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10


See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. ~ Isaiah 43:19

I’m trusting the Lord in a way I haven’t before, and in a way I can’t rightly put words to explain. He’s going to make all things new. This year especially. I feel it.

Happy new year. Happy new everything.