28 July 2008

When the Rain Comes...

When the rain comes we as adults tend to become sad and even depressed, but our children see it as an opportunity to have some different kinds of fun. After almost a week of rainy wet weather I admit that I gave in and learned to have a little fun as well. 

Life's rainstorms are always a little harder to understand than a song.  Tyler and I have been through what seems to be a very large raincloud.  I hesitate to call it a storm because it doesn't seem to be that trivial. There is something to be said about a bit of upset in your life, whether it be your plans not working out, or your car not running or the kids bad attitude. Some of these changes I have learned to embrace because it helps me  to see life from a different angle.  Let me start at the beginning to tell you what I am talking about in regards to Tyler and I and how we are learning to sing and dance in the rain.  

Our lives' are always changed by education. I have even changed the way I write things now that I understand a little bit of grammar (please don't check my doc, I don't edit that well).   From the beginning of our marriage Tyler and I have tried to understand both how to make a budget and how to live on it. This proved to be quite difficult because we didn't know anyone who could mentor us in this pursuit.  I must admit that we have done fairly well on the little bit of education that we had  (no thanks to the public school system).  A couple of years ago we discovered a gentleman by the name of... drum roll please... Dave Ramsey. Now I don't know if you have ever heard of this man, but he is very good at teaching us all what we needed to learn in high school about money and finances.  By this time, Tyler and I had been living on a budget, but we had also acquired a house, a tractor, two cars, and the Sallie Mae pet. We decided that the ridiculousness of life was getting too complicated so we started truncating everything. We dropped one car, paid off the tractor and other various loans, and made a pact to not borrow any more money for anything ever. 

Enough of the background, now let me tell you what has been happening this year...

I am not going into great details here, this is a very long story. I will start in April when we attended our first Financial Peace University class taught by none other than Dave Ramsey. What a great class this was.  We learned how to revamp our budget to work harder for us, but we also learned how to set financial goals for the future.  During the class we struggled with one decision: to sell or not to sell. As it turned out the only debt that we had left (I am anxious to kill this thing), was equivalent in value to this tractor sitting in our driveway.  We prayed about selling this thing, after all, we had already built the house, and although we used it, we didn't use it enough to justify it.  Most christians would say that we put out a fleece to see if selling the tractor was what God wanted us to do. Alas, we didn't have any serious inquiries and the tractor remained in our yard along with the ever detestable Sallie Mae.  Then the dreadful thing happened...

Alas, our Dave Ramsey jalopy beater of a vehicle died. I am talking dead in the water died, engine gone and going to cost more than the car is worth to fix; dead.  Now we had our emergency fund, a dead ugly beater, and a tractor. It didn't take us long to decide to sell everything we could. After almost a month the Lord blessed us with a buyer for the Mazda and the Tractor in one day. Isn't that awesome? It just comes all at once, after a month of waiting.  We sold those and now had cash to buy a dependable reliable vehicle, that holds more than 5 people. Last Saturday we drove down to Portsmouth NH and laid an envelope filled with cash down on this desk and purchased a car at just under the trade in value. A very good buy, especially when you consider that for the first time we didn't finance this dealership purchase. 

This was a bitter sweet moment for me, because as much as I liked our new wheels, I saw the dream of killing our pet this year go away with the tractor money.  But now I know that God didn't want the tractor to sell this Spring because he knew we would need the money for a vehicle.  Anyway, off we set for home Tyler in the new car and I in the old. Actually Tyler had two little boys occupying the rear seat in his car, but they were good and having a grand old time buying cars (even though Josiah was upset that he forgot his money to buy a car; too cute).  

The story does not end here.  On the highway around Biddeford I guess it was, Tyler and the boys were stranded. The new car that was going to be reliable and dependable and get us through this hump, died. The alternator just plumb went dead and Tyler was stuck on the highway with two boys at 9:00 PM. Where was I? I was in the OLD car trying not to worry about the boys and telling myself that they were fine, even though I couldn't locate their headlights. I kept convincing myself they were ahead of me. Anyway, I arrived all the way back to my parents to discover that they had been stuck with a dead car. Praise the Lord! My parents were at OOB and were able to pick Tyler and the boys up to bring them home. In times like this I am reminded of the trivial things in life. I was so upset about my husband and children stuck on the highway at night, and me not being there to help them that I couldn't care less about this new vehicle that we purchased. I didn't care if it was broken; I cared that my children were in a difficult situation and I wasn't there to help. God took care of my boys though, and like everything else, they saw it as an adventure. When I saw Eli that night at 11 he said "Mommy, we had a bit of trouble". Well, I should say so boy! You broke my car!  

So now you see we are in a rain cloud, but Tyler and I are learning to dance and sing in the rain just like those boys did last week. I don't know when it will end. I don't know if God is trying to prepare us for something bigger ahead, whether good or bad. I just know that we are learning to trust Him with our finances, cars, time, and give Him control. I share with you the scripture that I keep quoting to myself...

"Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage, Yes, wait for the Lord" Ps. 27:14

I am waiting for the Lord, I don't know what He will do, but I am sure that it will be glorious. In the meantime I am learning to trust Him with every aspect of my life and keep my mind focused on what really matters. 

* I am sorry that this story was so very long, I have so much more that I could say too, but maybe I will share more about what I am learning some other time.

23 July 2008

The Boy's Weekend Camping

Tyler is a great photographer! Just look at that Eagle, and he was in a rocking boat to boot!

Camping always means something different for everyone. For me growing up camping was something that you did as a cheaper alternative to hotels. You were camping because there was something nearby that you were doing, like hiking a mountain, or biking Acadia. Camping was just the means that you used so that you could be closer to your destination. We always camped in campgrounds, usually out of Maine, and regularly joked that we went camping to be in the city. Remember we lived in a field. An empty field at that. 

Camping for Tyler meant going to specific lakes, or mountains in Maine and Maine only. His family would pack up and spend a good long weekend on one of our beautiful lakes that no one has ever heard of. I never knew there were so many pretty places in Maine.  They weren't those rustic campers that wore the same underwear the whole weekend either. Their camping kitchen, in fact, contained more gadgets than my home kitchen. Cooking was a big camping event, in complete contrast, my family lived off of PBJ's and cereal while camping. 

As you can imagine when we got married and started camping together we needed to somehow blend these two different upbringings. My family's "KISS and campground" method did not seem to mesh well with the gourmet three hours to prepare camping meals in the wilderness method he was used to, and his family's "camping for the sake of camping" method was not my idea of fun.  I think that after 7 years we have come to a happy medium in these methods: I have learned to pack eggs for breakfast, plan slightly more sophisticated dinners, and enjoy the wild. Tyler has learned to embrace the idea of camping in a campground to get closer to Acadia or some "out of Maine" location.  Actually, I have found that I prefer the in the middle of nowhere camping spots way better, and cooking over a campfire can be fun.  

I was reminded of Tyler's prior camping methods this month when he and Eli went up to the Camp on Second Chain Lake with Randy (If you don't know where that is, don't worry, no one else does either).  Upon inspection of their wonderful pictures I saw one of the kitchen, and I couldn't help but laugh.  I wish that I had a picture to show you the elaborate setup.  Randy sees sophistication, and all I see is more stuff to pack, clean, setup and take down; no thank you. Not that it really matters this was the boy's weekend camping trip and they can have as elaborate of a kitchen as they want, as for me and the ones at home I think that we lived that weekend off of pizza, macaroni and cheese, and PBJ's.  

Elijah caught a 10 inch pickeral! What a great little fisherman!

I like this idea of a boy's weekend camping trip every year: Elijah got to go this year, and when Josiah is 4 he can start going and so on. I have got it all worked out, by the time our fourth boy is 4 we can rename this wonderful weekend to Mommy's time alone weekend!  YAY! You gotta look for the good in every situation. 

18 July 2008

Trees, Trees, and more Trees

We live in the woods. In case you have managed to miss that small fact about our Maine family. We are completely surrounded by trees, and are always mindful of a brisk wind that may knock one of them over onto our house.  This is a new fear to me, as I grew up in a field. Literally, just like the cows. Because of these trees that are everywhere around us we are continually trying to cut back some to let that wonderful creation called the Sun light our little lawn and garden.  You would never guess that we actually would want to camp in the woods, or go for a walk in the forest. I mean come on, we can do all of that at home. I consider it a blessing that in the evenings our yard sounds like some camping spots that I have been to.  

But even less likely than just spending time in amongst the trees is a visit to something like a tree sanctuary. These are places where people have actually planted tons of trees, labeled them, and expect you to consider them rare. I mean how many oaks can you see on any given day anyway? Didn't you know they were going extinct? Well, actually we have to watch our heads when the acorns start falling out of the trees, but that is a different story. So call us freaks, if you will, we actually took our children to the Augusta Arboretum to (you guessed it) enjoy the trees! 

It WAS a change in scenery; we saw some nice white birch (which are rare at our house), and I have never seen so many different types of hostas.  Whether you live in the woods, a field, or a lake (well, by one anyway), you should check out our very own tribute to the trees in Augusta. A nice place to walk, look at a ton of trees, and hear the birds.