Grateful for New Home and Wonderful Neighbors

After a long and tiring search, we recently bought a new home.  We moved into our new home two weeks ago. 

While I love being in my new house, I have not enjoyed the moving process.  I am thoroughly convinced that moving is for the young and that those of us who have passed the half-century mark should stay put.  Or, as my husband suggested, we should change addresses without moving any of the stuff–simply leave it all behind and buy new stuff to be delivered to the new house.

As my knees creaked and my back ached from packing boxes and hauling them up and down stairs, I comforted myself with the knowledge that the pleasure of living in the new house would more than compensate for the physical pain I was enduring.  In my new house, I have a kitchen large enough to entertain my ever-growing family.  Steve and I can cook together without being in each others way.  I look forward to preparing holiday meals in the new kitchen with my mom, sisters, and daughters-in-law.  I can’t wait until my grandson and granddaughter are hold enough to sit at the bar and make cookies with grandma. There’s plenty of room for grandchild #3, due to arrive in late October.

The move was made easier by wonderful neighbors, both old and new.  As we moved furniture and boxes into our new house, we were welcomed royally into the neighborhood.  One neighbor brought us marigolds to plant in our yard, another dropped off freshly baked cookies, and a third gave us strawberries and lettuce straight from his garden.    We very much enjoyed and appreciated our neighbors’ generosity.

Some neighbors have gone above and beyond. Twice since we closed the deal on the house, we have pulled into the driveway to find our lawn freshly mowed by our very kind next door neighbor Charlie.  Our former, and also very wonderful, next door neighbor Susan offered to take any “stuff” we didn’t want to donate to her church’s garage sale. I’m sure she didn’t expect us to fill her garage.  We were grateful to be spared the extra work of hauling our unwanted belongings to the Good Will.  Susan even came over and carried much of the donations to her garage for us.

We still have much unpacking to do, and many more items to donate or throw away.  But, all our belongings are in our new house and it’s starting to feel like home.  While we will miss our old neighbors, we are looking foward to forging many new friendships with our wonderful new neighbors.

Happy Valentine’s Day to My Favorite Valentines

Wishing a very special Valentine’s Day to two little people who have captured my heart completely.

Grandson DanielFrom the moment we first learned we were to be grandparents, Steve and I were filled with love for our unborn grandchild.  We were so delighted to meet Daniel and have enjoyed every moment of watching him grow from a baby to a toddler.  He is full of energy and discovering new skills daily.

Granddaughter BrooklynWe were overjoyed to learn last spring that a second grandchild–to be Daniel’s cousin–was expected at Christmas time.  Again our hearts filled with love for this child that we did not yet know but whose birth was greatly anticipated.  Brooklyn arrived 6 weeks ago to everyone’s great delight.  She is a good natured baby who loves to be held and cuddled.

Every moment we spend with Daniel and Brooklyn brings love and joy to our hearts.  As Steve and I celebrate our 35th Valentine’s Day together, we are truly very blessed.  God has given us three amazing sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, and two very precious grandchildren.  Our hearts are filled with love and gratitude to God for His amazing blessings and His love for us.

Reflecting on the Blessings of 2011

As the year draws to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the way our lives changes in 2011 and to thank God for the blessings He bestowed on my family during 2011.

1)     In November my husband was rehired by the employer who had laid him off 2 years and 10 months earlier.  We are grateful that Steve is once again employed and that God sustained us financially during the extended period of unemployment.

2)     In May all three of our sons received a college degree—one earned a Master’s degree, one completed his Bachelor’s degree, and the other received an Associate’s degree.  We are very proud of them for their hard work and perseverance in achieving their goals.

3)     My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a two-week trip to Alaska.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the love we have shared for more than 3 decades.

4)     Our precious grandson turned 1 in July.  It is a joy to watch him grow and learn new skills every day.  He has a wonderful nature and is a delight.

5)     Mother’s Day brought the news that we would have another grandchild.  We were delighted to welcome a baby girl to our family yesterday. It was a special blessing as it has been 118 years since a girl was born into my husband’s family.

6)     All of my sons are employed in jobs.  As an added bonus, they all enjoy their jobs and are doing well at them.

7)     I love my job but I didn’t love the commute.  Althoug only 16 miles, it frequently took me an hour or more to get home.  Two weeks ago our office relocated into town and much closer to home.  The new location is more convenient to shopping and home, plus I have awesome views of our city.

8)     My second novel was published in the fall.  The first novel did not sell many copies, but my publisher believed in the second one enough to redesign the cover of the first novel.  So far, the second one is not selling at all.  However, I have faith that God will bless my writing and that my novels will touch and enrich lives.

9)     We moved my mother-in-law to live in our community.  She is in a nursing home where she gets the round-the-clock care she needs and where she can regularly be visited by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

10) We were able to sell a piece of property that we had been trying to get rid of for the past two years.  We were then able to help our son and daughter-in-law to purchase their first home.

2011 was not all emotional highs and good times; there were some disappointments and sad times as well.  A much beloved aunt passed away with no notice, we endured many months of job searching and wondering if my husband would ever be employed again, and we dealt with my mother-in-law’s declining health.  But through it all, we could see God’s hand of blessing.  He has seen of through many challenging times and we know that He will be with us in whatever situations arise in our lives in 2012.

In what ways did God bless you and your family in 2011?  Please take a moment to reflect and share the ways God blessed you.

May your 2012 be filled with God’s blessings and the love of family and friends.

Knitting a Lavender Christmas Stocking

I’ve knitted dozens of Christmas stockings over the past 37 years since my grandmother turned the duty over to me.  Most of them have featured traditional Christmas figures, such as Santa Claus, snowmen, and gingerbread men, on a red or green background.  I’ve even made a few on blue backgrounds.  Until now, however, I have never knitted a lavender Christmas stocking.

The occasion for this non-traditional stocking is the impending birth of our first granddaughter.  Two years ago, I made a pair of stocking for our son Matt and his wife Kristin for their first Christmas as a married couple.  They both chose a puppy pattern and, rather than having identical stockings, ask me to adapt the colors to look like their two dogs, Jasper and Allie.  With the expected arrival of their first child, a daughter to be named Brooklyn Elise, they wanted me to knit another puppy stocking.  The puppy on Brooklyn’s stocking has dark gray ears and a tan face on a lavender background.

It is coming along nicely, except that Brooklyn is a rather long name to fit on one side of the stocking.  I didn’t consider that when I stitched the name on it.  As it currently is, “KLYN” would show when the stocking is hanging.  Fortunately, I didn’t knit the name into the stocking but embroidered it on in duplicate stitch, so I can easily removed the stitched and rework it with “BROOK” on the front and “LYN” on the back.  My alternative plan is to try to free -hand the name using a back stitch.  I’m going to let the partents-to-be make that decision.

Last Christmas, I knit a stocking for our first grandson, Daniel.  It was a wonderful delight to carry on the family tradition begun by my grandmother and make a stocking for the first member of our family’s next generation. Daniel is too young to understand the family tradition yet, but I believe he will also treasure his special Christmas stocking.  Brooklyn is due January 7th, so unless she makes an early entry into the world, she will not be here to celebrate Christmas with us this year.  We will hang her stocking, however, and thank God for this precious new life and the wonderful blessings He bestows on our family.

Favorite Children’s Books I Plan to Share with My Grandson

My grandson Daniel celebrated his first birthday a few weeks ago.  He is a delightful, energetic child.  Steve and I savor each minute we spend with him. 

Daniel enjoying his first birthday cake.
He enjoys playing with his toys and he learns new skills as he presses buttons, twists knobs, and pushes his riding toys around his living room.  His parents “read” picture books to him, but Daniel isn’t ready yet for story books.  In anticipation of the day when he is old enough to sit and listen to a story,  I am compiling a list of my favorite  books from my childhood that I plan to share with Daniel.  Using the Internet, I was able to find photos of the book covers I remember from my childhood.

1)  Frog and Toad Books by Arnold Lobel.  This four-book series teaches young readers the true meaning of friendship through the daily interactions of these two different but steadfast friends. My mother discovered theses books when I was in college. I enjoyed reading the stories to my much younger siblings and later to my own children.  “The Surprise” from Frog and Toad All Year is one of my favorite depictions of true friendship.

2) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  I received this book soon after moving to Virginia when I was 6.  I was experiencing snow for the first time that I could remember.  Like Peter, I was thrilled to wake up and see snow and couldn’t wait to get outside to build snowmen and make snow angels.

3) The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.  Amazon lists this as the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club Edition from 1965.  I can still remember the excitement of receiving my monthly package from the book club and eagerly opening it to see what book had arrived.  This one became a family favorite.  As a teenager, I read it to my younger siblings whenever they were sick.  This copy is still in the family and read often.

4) The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum.  The  first time I read the book was to my own children when Chris was 6 and the twins were 5.  In the movie, the wicked witch uses poppies to put Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion to sleep; Glenda causes it to snow and awakens them.  In the book, they are rescued by mice who build rafts and float the sleeping pair down the river.  Much cooler! When we read this scene, Chris announced that “books are better than movies”.  That’s my boy!

5)  Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.  I read this book over and over when I was about 6.  I guess I thought maybe one time, Mike and the Steam Shovel would get out of the basement.  I am delighted to say that Daniel already owns a  chunky toddler-friendly version of it.

6) Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater.  One of our all time favorites.  My sisters and I loved for mom read this book to us.  Now that Jim Cary has made it into a movie, I’m sure more children will be exposed to this delightful tale.  I can’t wait until Daniel is old enough to watch the movie with his grandma and grandpa.

7) Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.  When Mr. Willowby’s christmas tree arrives, it is much to large to fit into his house.  He cuts off a portion which is rescued and become someone else’s tree.  But, alas, it is too large and the top is lobbed off again.  The cycle repeats itself several times.

 8) The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.  I loved reading this imaginative poem about two creatures madly in love sailing off in a “beautiful pea green boat” with “some honey and plenty of money.”

After 118 years of boys, it’s a girl!

The last girl in my husband’s direct lineage, Mary Ann Ball, was born in 1893.  She was the fourth child and third daughter born to Samson and Mary Elizabeth Ball.  Eight more sons were added to the family over the next 14 years.  Samson and Mary Elizabeth were blessed with 45 grandchildren.  Twenty-nine of those offspring were boys, including all four children born to my husband’s grandparents Giles and Lena Ball.

Three sons were born to my in-laws, Bob and Katherine Ball.  After growing up with three brothers and raising three sons, Bob was anxious to have a granddaughter.  Steve and I provided the only grandchildren–three boys.

Now it’s our turn to be the grandparents.  We were blessed with a grandson a year ago. At Easter we learned that another grandchild was on the way.  Given the Ball family history of producing male offspring, we planned for another grandson. Yesterday we were thrilled (and surprised) to learn that our grandchild is a girl!  


First picture of my granddaughter--due January 2012

We were delighted to share the news with Steve’s mother and wish that Steve’s father were still alive to share in the joy.  Of course, a grandson would have been just as loved as this little girl already is.  Our prayers have always been for healthy children and grandchildren, and we are happy to have boys or girls, as the Lord sees fit to send our way. 

Historically, the odds were in favor of a girl.  Going back 12 genereations to 1655, there have been 78 births in Steve’s direct lineage.  Of those 20 have been girls.  That’s about one girl for every three boys. After 19 boys in a row, the Balls were long overdue for a girl! We can hardly wait to meet her.

Unemployment, Cancer, Grandchildren, and Trusting God Through It All

Cancer and unemployment are the difficult things in my life right now, and grandchildren are the phenomenal blessings.  Through these ups and downs, I am learning to trust God and am reminded that he is with me through all the circumstances of life.

A year and a half ago, Steve and I were blessed with the news that our first grandchild was expected.  That joyful announcement came at a time when we really needed some good news.  We were approaching the first anniversary of Steve being laid off, and his parents’ health was of great concern.  The expected baby was a reminder of God’s great love for us. 

The intervening months were stressful as Steve’s unemployment stretched into a second year and his father passed away.  Whenever I felt like life was just too difficult, my spirits would be lifted be the mere thought that a baby was on the way.  Daniel’s arrival ten months ago brought great joy to our lives.  We love that little boy with all of our hearts.  We thank God daily that he is a healthy, happy child.

About six weeks ago, we learned that my sister has breast cancer. Although they caught it early and the tumor was rather small, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and has been diagnosed as an aggressive form. Fortunately, the cancer has not spread to her organs. She is facing months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  It will be a difficult time. I will do all that I can to support her, and I pray that she will experience God’s presence in a new and powerful way as she deals with her illness.

My sister’s cancer diagnosis, along with Steve’s continued unemployment—now well into its third year—can be a heavy burden to bear.  The past few weeks, these burdens have felt overwhelming at times. I know I have to trust God for my sister’s health and my husband’s job situation.  He is faithful to send bits of encouragement to remind me of his faithfulness.  For example, one day last week the number of page views of my blog was unexpected much higher than normal.  I was delighted.  The next day was even better, setting a record for my highest number of views in one day.  It wasn’t a big thing, and it didn’t change any of the circumstances of my life.  However, God used this small thing to remind me of his love for me and to help me feel relevant.

I called my sister today to share with her some unexpected good news Steve and I received yesterday.  She shared with me that the original diagnosis of Stage 1 cancer had been overly optimistic; after her lumpectomy, the cancer was reclassified as Stage 3.  God knew that I would receive this discouraging news today, so yesterday he sent us the good news another grandchild is on the way. 

Little Daniel will be getting a cousin in December.  The new little one is due on December 27th.  A Christmas baby to look forward to!  It doesn’t improve my sister’s health or increase my husband’s opportunities for gaining employment.  It does, however, remind us that we are blessed and have a great future ahead of us.  We will continue to trust God for the strength to face each day with grace, knowing that his love for us is immeasurable.

The Delight of Children

Steve and I are in the stage of life where our children have left home and are starting families of their own.  We became grandparents nine months ago.  Most of our friends are grandparents or about to become grandparents.  It is a wonderful time of life.

Yesterday, I attended a baby shower in celebration of the impending arrival of a friend’s first grandchild.  The mother-to-be, Jessica, is a former student of mine.  She and her husband glow when they speak of their son, growing in his mother’s protective womb. Although the child won’t be born for a couple more months, he is very much loved–not only by his parents, but also by his grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. From the first announcement that a child was expected, all who know this family have rejoiced with them and celebrate that a new life has been conceived.

We experienced this same joy and anticipation during the months leading up to Daniel’s birth.  We loved our yet-to-be-born grandchild from the first moment we learned that wonderful news that our beautiful daughter-in-law was pregnant. We waited in eager anticipation for the arrival of the “expected” baby.  Every moment we spend with him is one of joy and pleasure.  We are thankful for this wonderful gift God has given our family.

We spent this afternoon with our grandson and some extended family members.  One of them gave Daniel a beach ball to play with.  Daniel squealed with delight as he held the ball.  When it rolled from him, his father would pick up the ball and bounce it off Daniel’s head, eliciting howls of laughter.  We delighted in watching the pleasure Daniel derived from the ball.  His pleasure was contagious and brought smiles and laughter to everyone.

As parents and grandparents delight in their offspring, so God delights in and loves his children.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!” (1 John 3:1) As much as we love our children and our grandson, our love does not compare in magnitude to the love God has for us. 

God loved us so much that he sent his son to take the punishment for our sins, allowing us access to God and a future with him in Heaven.  “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16) God offers his salvation to all.  God created each person that has every lived to be his child and to enter into fellowship with him. He desires each of us to accept Christ’s free gift of salvation and to become a child of God. 

If you would like to experience the delight that comes from being a child of God, you only have to admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation, believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, and confess Jesus as Lord of your life.  It’s the best decision you will ever make.  Won’t you become a child of God today?

Christmas Eve Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on Friday.  They were married on Christmas Eve and celebrated Christmas with their families the next morning before leaving for their honeymoon. 

Getting married on Christmas Eve makes it easy to remember the date, but it makes a romantic celebration nearly impossible.  The last time I remember my parents going out to dinner on their anniversary is the year I was eleven.  They were home early and declared they would never attempt it again.  Few restaurants are open on Christmas Eve, and even fewer have employees who are happy about having to work that night.

My parents had nine children born over a 21-year period.  Consequently, their Christmas Eve activities for the first thirty years or so typically involved wrapping Christmas presents, assembling bikes and other toys, and baking pies for Christmas dinner.  Their anniversary was almost an afterthought in all the chaos of Christmas, but they always took a few moments to exchange gifts and express their love for each other.

Christmas Eves are a bit calmer for them these days. More restaurants are open, but they still don’t go out on their anniversary.  They prefer instead to have a quiet celebration surrounded by their children and grandchildren.  They celebrated their anniversary this year with four of their children and three of their grandchildren present.  My sister and I brought the food, so Mom was spared the chore of cooking dinner on their anniversary.

I am grateful that my parents’ marriage has withstood the many challenges life has brought their way, including the death of one child and my father’s 26-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps.  I am thankful that my parents are both active and healthy and can look forward to many more anniversaries.  But most of all, I am eternally grateful that many years ago my parent’s committed their lives to Jesus Christ and made Him the center of their marriage.

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