God Is Everywhere

January 10, 2018

God is Everywhere

We usually talk about movies after watching them.  The girls were discussing a movie while sitting at the “stone table” (what the little girls call the stone bench and table they get to do school at while waiting for the big girls at college) today.

The exchange from this movie being discussed goes generally like this:

“Don’t rob me of my hate…”

“…God has given us a second chance.  Don’t slap His hand away.”

“God? Can’t I ever get away from Him?”

“No.  God is everywhere, even in a kiss…”

And so this story that, as a novel, is a story of bitter vengeance and betrayal becomes morphed for the big screen into a story of forgiveness and God’s mercy.

Jaquline says, “I like how God is everywhere.  The Bible says He’s in the darkest valley and the tallest mountain.  Is God really in a kiss?”

“I think so,” Kimberly pipes up, “God also gives life and love.”

“So if God is in everything, do squirrels get married?” Jillian asked.  (She loves the Landmark Tribe squirrel stories, and in those, the squirrels are married.)

“God is in everything; He created everything,” Jaquline sighed, “but I don’t know if squirrels get married for real.  Dogs don’t but when we are feeling sad, God uses Prim’s and Sheba’s kisses to make us happier.” (Prim and Sheba are our dogs.)

“So God is even in doggie kisses!” laughed Jillian.

I smiled.  The sun that warms us, the air we breathe, the water, plants, animals; each spark of life is a gift from God.  “God is in everything” isn’t just a movie line; it’s real.  Sometimes we try to make God so distant when in reality He’s inside us, touching everything within and around us.  No, we can never get away from Him.  That’s the beauty and mystery of His love.  Why would the God who spoke the universe into existence want to “chase after” each of us?  God is in everything so that everything we see, feel, and love reflects His love for us.  In this way, all of creation sings God’s glory!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

Trip Planning

December 28, 2017

Trip Planning

We have to be at a distant location at a specific window of time on a specific day.  Easy enough, right?  Wrong!  Everything in our house is a sporadic adventure! 

Mom: It’s only an hour and two minute drive.

Christina: Then we leave at 8am.

(We are not supposed to arrive at said location until after 11am.)

Mom: Oh, no.  If we leave by 10, we go right by Grandma’s, pick her up, get lost, make 5 potty stops, and still have enough time to get you there.

Christina: Ahhhh! *facepalm*

(I think my teenager loves me.)

Seriously, I have learned a few things about planning trips with toddlers, teenagers, and husbands:

  • Plan to leave at least a half hour before you need to go (this allows for shoes tossed into the pond, a preteen sleepwalking back to bed four times, finishing any last-minute chore like making the list, and misplacing your keys which are already in the running vehicle)
  • Always pack like you will be gone for a week (diapers, wipes, four spare shirts, at least as many pants as diapers, spare shirts for anyone who may be carrying said baby, carrots and apples so you don’t get trapped by fast-food hunger, and 2 or 3 cases of bottled water should do it)
  • Whatever you do, plan 10 minutes extra to turn around (you forgot something you can’t leave home without – like baby’s special blanket, your toddler’s choice toy, your preteen’s library card, your sanity, or your husband’s totally non-standard phone charger)
  • Remember your wallet! (and make sure some toddler didn’t remove your license because he loves to play with mommy’s picture – that will be the day you will be pulled over for a faulty brake light or an oddly rocking vehicle)
  • Count heads (the children, toddler in carseat, hubby, take the dogs back inside, catch toddler who turned into carseat Houdini, now missing two! Oh yeah, hubby is unlocking the door for one who forgot to go potty)
  • Enjoy your 5 minute shopping trip! (or your entire day of travel)

Bonus fact: Music calms savage beasts and makes your vehicle a noisy dance-while-in-seatbelts rocking machine. Maybe DC Talk, Skillet, and Capital Kings are a bit rocky, but everyone dances to Deadmau5 and Disney.  As long as you have your license, roll down the windows, crank up the music, put on shades, and enjoy the ride!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Level Up!

October 2, 2017

Leveling Up

On this nice warm day Jillian, Lucas, and I sat playing a video game on the couch.

We like to play this game together because Lucas can push the buttons (he thinks this is super) and Jillian narrates (this is Mommy getting creative about reading practice).   Some monkey bandits approach and Lucas tosses the controller to my lap. (I get to fight the battles.)

Afterward, Jillian reads “Alena has increased!”  She adds, “I like it when they level up.”

“Why?” I ask.  Lucas is walking the character around again.

“Because they learn new stuff.”

“I’m about to level up,” laughs Christina from the kitchen table.  (How is she following our conversation when she’s nose deep in chemistry?)

“In your game?” Jillian asks.  (Everyone has a saved game for this game; it’s a family competition.)

“No,” Christina laughs, “in real life.  I’m about to enter level 14.”

“Oh,” Jillian says thoughtfully.  She grins like Davy Crockett and starts bouncing (she does this when she figures something out), “you mean your birthday!  I love birthdays!  So I really love leveling up in real life.”

This made me smile.

It also made me think:

Our lives are quite like a game.  We go through “stages” in life that change as we grow.  Sometimes entering a new “level” is challenging, and we need help to get through this trying time (aka handing the controller off to mom).  Sometimes we are perfectly happy with the level we are at and don’t want it to change (Why can’t we stay in this land?).  Just like our goal in games is to “level up” by moving into new territory with new challenges, our goal in life is to “level up” by continuously learning, growing, and moving beyond complacency.

This also means we enjoy the journey as we go.  (Who would play a video game they didn’t enjoy?)  We find something fun in any situation and depend on God for direction, strength, and the wisdom to meet all challenges.  There’s even a guidebook!

The goal of our game is to make good choices and collect enough skills to win at the end.  In life, since being with Jesus in heaven forever is our end (we already know we will win!), our life choices should be made with this goal in mind.   (Being careful that what we do and say reflects Jesus is a good start!)

I never thought video games could be such good parodies of real life!  Oops, I’ve got to go get a “level up” cake ready for tomorrow!

 

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

She’s On a Mission

July 21, 2017

She’s On a Mission

Sometimes God leads people into your life to bless you and everyone around you.  Sometimes you don’t get to see them all the time (Actually, you see them very rarely!), but you feel such a strong connection.  Sometimes those people are in your life to encourage you and to be positive influences in your children’s lives.

One such blessing in our lives is an awesome friend, Stacy.  (My girls all call her “Aunt Stacy.”)  She has been a friend of our family for over eight years.  She was at our house (and the only one with a camera) when Jillian was born, so she is the reason we have birth pictures of Jillian!  (She’s a photographer so not only did we have pictures, but they were awesome pictures.) Stacy is a missionary.  She has a blog where she writes a lot of interesting single-woman-missionary-related thoughts.  These are so insightful and spot on.  Christina started following her Aunt Stacy’s blog when she was about 10.  Every day Stacy was in Zambia in 2014, Christina would ask, “Has Aunt Stacy written some more?”  She updated everyone on her mission travels daily. (Or as she got internet connectivity) We’d read and Christina would journal about the verses Stacy referenced.

Stacy is a beautiful young woman.  I’ve watched her confidence and strength grow as now she’s inspiring and mentoring my teen and preteens.  Stacy has mentored other girls in person; she’s open, fun, and connects with them in a special way.  (Rebeccah says “it’s because she’s real, her love shines.”) Recently, Christina said “look!  Her quote is one of my favorites!”  In the last blog, “Jesus is not my Boyfriend,” Stacy quoted C.S. Lewis saying “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her.”  (This is one I’ve repeated many times in raising my young women – it’s also a favorite of mine.)

Even though we don’t get to visit in person as often as we’d like to, this wonderful young woman, a strong warrior of God, a vibrant passionate lover of Jesus, my sister-in-Christ, is such a blessing to our family.  She is leading, encouraging, and sharing from her heart.

That is how we teach people.  They say the best sermons you ever preach are the ones that are seen.  We show people who we are, what we are passionate about, and who we love, by the actions they see.  Online, you can’t really “see” people, but you can see the actions of what they are doing through the pictures and stories they show.  (It helps if they are “real” to you; someone you’ve actually met, but that’s not necessary.)  My children watch what I do.  I can talk patience all day, but if I get irritated because the line at the grocery store is too long, all that talk just disappeared because obviously, I don’t “walk the talk.”  When they see someone who has a huge heart for helping others and spreading God’s word and get to “follow” what she’s actually doing and read what she’s saying, it shows them that this person does “walk her talk” too.

I pray constantly to be the kind of person who “walks” my “talk.”  I want to be someone others can look up to and be inspired by.  This is why I write: writing is my passion, my love, my art.  God gives us talents and gifts.  He wants us to use them to encourage, inspire, teach, and love others.  This is my goal.

I am so grateful for those in my family’s life who provide positive inspiration for us – some may not even know how deep of an impact they have on our lives – but if I can, I want to tell them!  Stacy is such a blessing for us – it’s an honor to say she’s my friend.

Stacy writes about singleness, being “on a mission,” loving God, and everyday-Christian-woman challenges in her blog: www.thelivingone.blog.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

“But”

July 20, 2017

“But”

A lot can be carried in that small word.  It changes the tone of an entire speech, reading, paragraph, or statement.  I find a lot of “but” clauses.  

For instance:  ”Mom, everything is great, BUT…”

“We don’t need anything from the store, BUT…”

“It was such a horrible day, BUT…”

“I will protect you and your people as I did for your father, David.  BUT…”

The last was snipped from I Kings.  Solomon has built the temple, asked for wisdom from God, honored the friends of his father, promised to serve God just like David, built a giant palace for himself (Which was not built to be greater than God’s temple; where the temple has gold, the palace has brass; where the temple has olive wood, the palace had cedar.  He gave the best to God.), and spent two chapters praising God, promising the people he would be true to God, sacrificing to God, dedicating the temple, and feasting with the people in honor of God’s mercy and provision.  God replies with (paraphrased) “Thank you for your praises and true heart, I will protect you and your people if you keep your heart toward me as your father did.” 

The very next chapter starts with “BUT…” 

Because of what is after that one word – the fact that Solomon loved women of lands God warned the Israelites not to take wives from lest they turn the peoples’ hearts from God (they worshipped idols) begins his decline from favor.  

Because Solomon allowed a negative “but” (literally about 300) into his life, he opened a door for idolatry to his people (he built temples for his wives’ idols) and ended up leading his people away from God.

That is a great lesson for all of us.  Despite all the good he did, when he allowed negative “buts” into his life, he lost what he had earned.  God didn’t instantly smite him down – I think God was waiting and hoping he would come back.  God wants all his children to love him, but He won’t make them; He wants relationships, not robots.

We need to insert positive “buts” in our lives.  

Like these:  

”This day is not going well, but I can change that!”  

”I’m really irritated at so-and-so, but I can forgive them.”  

”I’m not the person I want to be, but I can change that!”  

I’m not really noticed here, but I can do my job well.

Putting positive “buts” in our negative statements helps us to change our normal, hard-on-ourselves thinking and give us a tool to change our perception.  Sure, this is life and not everything is always going to go our way, but we can analyze the problem and find a way to fix it!  

Try it; the next time a negative thought starts to come in your head or across your lips, add a “but” and think of something positive that can offset or fix the negative.  

It helps!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Butterfly Dryer

June 22, 2017

Butterfly Dryer

My Dad calls them “butterflies.”

Little coincidences that God orchestrates just so.

It’s almost like God says “I know you need this, here you go.”  It can be something simple like a kind word or a child’s smile, something amazing like trust, belief, or healing, or something material like as awesome book, a home, a bonus, or a ride.

The latest for me was a dryer.

I do love to hang-dry clothes.  I love being outside, I love the fresh smell the clothes have, and I love having time to meditate (because hanging clothes is something I could do blindfolded).  The only thing I don’t like about it is the time it takes from other things.

Yesterday, I thought I was keeping up on everything; I would clean the house, go out to hang a load of clothes, come back in, and a new tornado had spun through.  We’d clean up again, work on school as the washer did its magic, and I’d gather the younglings and go back out to take off clothes and hang out new ones.  This cycle continued – between answering calls and hanging clothes, it appeared there was time for little else. (Of course, there was cleaning, cooking, and school work also done.)

Lucas bumped his head while I was outside getting the last load (the girls had him inside to escape the mosquitoes) and he spent about 30 minutes screaming “NO ICE!” at the height of his vocal strength while we sang “1, 2, buckle my shoe” to distract him while applying ice; so an hour later, in total frustration over this days’ craziness, I announced I needed a dryer to have more time.  As I was saying this (and running down the hall after Lucas to make sure he didn’t fall in the potty), I missed a call from my Mom.  She wanted to know if we wanted her dryer.  (I hadn’t told anyone else I needed a dryer, but several knew we didn’t have one.)

I laughed as I thought of my silliness.  Call it a coincidence, butterfly, or whatever – actually it felt like a hug from God.  As if He were telling me, “I see your frustration; don’t let a little thing like this bother you, I love you.”

It isn’t really the dryer so much as it was God’s impeccable timing.  He already knew these events would go as they did and knew me well enough to know I would be frustrated at my lack of time management (I sometimes wish for a 30 hour day, but I’d fill that up too).  The perfectly timed phone call was just a reminder that nothing is out of God’s sight.  I need to trust a little more and worry (or be frustrated!) a lot less.  I’m not perfect, but I know who is.  And I get to call him Abba (Daddy, Father).

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Baby Mode

June 20, 2017

Baby Mode

Babies have several levels; there is no-sleep level, walker level, mobile level, and want-to-be independent level.  Then they graduate into toddler level and you’re off to the races.  Really, off to the races begins with baby’s birth.  When you hear Momma yell: “It’s time!” the race is well underway.  There are endless modes baby can choose from as well.

Random strangers say “Oh, your baby is so sweet!” but as soon as they turn the corner “Angelic Mode” shifts into “Cranky Mode with supersize red food dye on top.”

My personal favorite is “Grandma Mode” – this is characterized by sweet, innocent faces and nuzzling into lots of adoring hugs and kisses.  It makes everyone go “Awww how sweet!” then it’s time to go.  “Tell Grandma bye bye,” – cutest little wave and shy away ever!  But as soon as you drive off, “leaving fun mode” comes on and it’s ferociously scream “I want Grandma!” at the top of his lungs.  (This is related to “Auntie Mode,” “Bestest Uncle Mode,” and “Cousin Mode”)

“Snuggle Mode” is nice.  This always turns on when mom, dad, or big sister has something vital to do (like make food, do schoolwork, or remove the insect that is causing the dog to break the sound barrier).  Baby enters snuggle mode and the world stops until he is really asleep.  Don’t ever try to lay him down while in “Half-Sleep Mode” (this is where your stemware shatters with the ear-piercing squeal announcing that he had not received enough snuggle time)

“Goofy Mode” is the most wonderful of baby modes – and this mode continues into teenagerhood.  This is when anything and everything from “Boo” faces to tummy tickles to doggies kissing sister’s feet makes baby laugh.  Not just a little chuckle, but a deep belly laugh that makes everyone else in the house laugh too.

Laughter is Baby’s superpower.

Sometimes even in “Total Demolition Mode” laughter emerges.  Mom can be cleaning up one mess as baby is making two more yet when she sees the marker masked bandit excited to show her his masterpiece of tape and sequins decorating the couch, Mom just can’t help but laugh.  (Maybe a bit of insanity laughter, but still laughter.)  Of course, those stories make everyone at the family reunions laugh (or the lady’s group, church, PTA, etc.)  This is because anyone who has experienced baby knows the memories are what you carry with you.

God has entrusted us with His little angels (they are His first) for a short time.  18 years goes by so quickly.  Before you are done cleaning up messes, your baby has toddled off to school and instead of screaming because he’s hungry and can’t express it, he is asking for the car keys.

Enjoy the baby levels, different modes, and ages of life.  Remember that laughter can turn any situation into a happy memory. Who knows?  An artistic mess might be framed and remain part of the wall to show your Grandchildren, “see, this is what your daddy did to my wall when he was your age.”

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

Sand

June 12, 2017

Sand

It was a busy, start-at-3am kind of day.  We’d planned on going to the beach but it was almost 6pm and I was still working.  Unpacked boxes stacked in precarious towers in what would be the music nook – if we ever got the piano, drums, guitar, bass, and other assorted nose-makers from storage.  The front room resembled tornado-aftermath footage; shoes without their organizer spilled from the single tomato box, book boxes sat about, awaiting the arrival of a bookshelf, folded clothes waited delivery on the couch, and the dogs, exhausted from barking at every neighborhood squirrel since noon, were sprawled out like black rugs.

I knew we’d been working all day, but while trying to conquer the nightly result of supper, a quick glance at the chaos that reigned was rather disheartening.  It seemed that mood of disappointment had rubbed off on everyone.  Toddlers and preschoolers generally act out when they are upset and the older ones appeared to feel like they’d worked all day for a vain goal (the beach).

The cool thing about Florida is that even an early April sunset is close to 7:30.  The neat thing about technology is that everything for my business can be done from one phone; even on a busy night.  A super thing about our crew is the ability to grab-and-go and pack the van in minutes.

We went to the beach.  We hadn’t been to this beach since the previous summer, after Matthew (for non-Floridians, that’s “Hurricane Matthew”) when our beach spot was covered in debris.  “Our spot is back!” Yelled Kimberly.  We parked at our little spot (not legally ours, just where we always try to park) and the beach was beautiful.  The beach is always beautiful here.  It felt like my soul was refreshed just by walking in the sand.  The water was Florida cold, but we’ll get in the ocean in mid-winter and love it.  Lucas and I didn’t go deeper than ankles, but that was because I was dispatching and the surf was rough.  (Lucas loves the rough surf when the water is warm, not a huge fan of it when it’s cold)

We spied fishing boats and Lucas showed everyone the stars as the brightest ones greeted the approaching night.  We took several relaxing pictures.  I realized I had been allowing the normal side-effects of moving to control my attitude.  I should be more like sand; it moves, being formed and shaped by outside forces (kid’s hands, animal feet, car tires) but returns to normal easily.  I should let God be the waves and smooth the roughness of my irritation and frustration away so I’m smooth and even again.

Smooth and even feels so much nicer than frustrated and irritated.  I love how God uses His creation to remind me to slow down and enjoy life!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later,

~Nancy Tart

Where the Crib is Clean

May 27, 2017

Where the Crib is Clean

It is 1900 hours.  I’m at war.  I come in armed with every weapon in the arsenal.  I am determined to win this battle.  THIS HOUSE WILL BE CLEAN!

“Mommy!” squeals the toddler, streaking through soaking wet and followed closely by another child, chasing him, in shoes that have obviously been outside.  Battle temporarily paused as main unit boils like a canning pot in frustration.

The most simple and yet most complex of all equations: H2O + DIRT = MUD … and wet couches, footprints… this is the assault that never ends, it goes on and on my friends!  And yes.  It Will NEVER END!  (Especially if you have a child and/or a pet – and in this equation, 2 doesn’t equal double the mess, it equals mess to the tenth power!)

While the sounds of war (okay, laughter and squeals of rapturous joy – but those sounds feel like flaming arrows right now) engulf my brain into retreat and I attempt to bury myself in a book and disappear, I’m able to find my big-vision goggles.

When I’m at a loss for what to read, I grab the Bible and open to Proverbs, look at the calendar (or attempt to remember the date for ten minutes before I give up and check my wall or my phone), and read that date’s chapter.  Well, it was the 14th of I-forgot-the-month.  (Oh yes, January – one birthday just done, another around the corner and year-end business reports due on the 15th! Oh my, that’s tomorrow!)

Proverbs 14:4 reads : “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

What I saw was: “Where no children are in the house, it is clean, but much blessing, love, joy, and strength are gained by the vibrant, amazing, intelligent young people being trained within!”

Big vision goggles on.

“Cleaning the house” is a battle that will never end.  But, just like a productive farm has a dirty “crib” (okay, think motor oil spills and mud tracked in the barn by a tractor today) and a productive kitchen has dirty dishes (yes, my dishes are stacked in a to-the roof model of the leaning tower of Pisa), a productive house is in a constant state of never-really-perfectly-clean.  (Mine is in constant state of tornado-just-went-through.) A productive house, according to the same chapter I was reading means a place where wise parents are building up the next generation(s) and encouraging each other.

A game of Scream-the-Flash-Card-Answers has started.  Lucas is on the drums.  Jillian is watching Christina play the piano.  I glance at the after-dinner kitchen chaos.  Someone has unloaded the dish drain and Rebeccah is working on dismantling the leaning tower of Pisa without creating a demolition zone.  My war on cleaning is secondary to the battle we are winning – the strategic, long-term battle of instilling character and truth in our children.

If I seriously believe that I should “Do everything as if unto God” and know that children follow my example more than my words, training would be to model a joyful attitude in mundane “serving” tasks like cleaning.

So, loud dance music comes on, (God know me so well, “Born for This” – which is perfect, I love this song.) I try to delegate cleaning operations and bedtime preparations.

Oh yes, I’m a perfectionist and “clean” would pass hospital sterility, but if my “crib” is clean, it means my children aren’t there.  I want to enjoy this “untidy crib” with all the vibrant life within it for as long as I can.

Translation: less stress about the house. Stop and play or teach as needed.  Tidy up the last big mess at one set time with teamwork – it’s easier and more fun.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

Please Write More!

May 21, 2017

Please Write More About Ethan! (Brantley Station Saga)

      One of the issues with writing and being a perfectionist is this: I never view anything as complete!  I have hundreds of half-finished manuscripts in various sizes littering my “stories” folder.  Because I proof myself better in print than on a computer, I also literally litter the house with story proofs.  Sometimes the girls pick them up and read them.

“MOM!” I hear Rebeccah shriek.  I’m working on business finances and I know the little ones are asleep.  (PLEASE don’t wake the baby!) But I just answer “what?” and keep working.

There she stands, that eager, excited look with her pixie-look haircut (long in the back, feathered up front, but in a ponytail it looks like she’s got short hair) and big, pleading brown eyes imploring my soul.  She’s clutching my proof clipboard and begs, “Mom, you have to write more about Ethan!”

I sigh.  I’m busy.  I’m working on business.  Writing is just a hobby.  All the excuses I can think up die as she begins chatting away about the story and wants to know the “Pirate Baby Story” in detail.

I love to see her lit up over a book like that!  I LOVE books.  I LOVE reading.  I considered Nancy Drew and Tyce Sanders to be intimate friends!  Christina had that love of books.  She was always lost in books. (Like the house could burn down around her and she’d never know it.)  It is an integral part of self-learning to discover a love of reading.  I wanted to keep this flame burning for Rebeccah.

So, I agreed to work on Brantley Station Saga. (aka Ethan) But my child knows me well.  She wasn’t interested in me working on it later.  She came back after every phone call that interrupted my financial work.  She wanted to watch me write about Ethan.

Because of Rebeccah’s desire to know the backstory in more depth, Ethan’s story starts with Pirate Child and Little Thief instead of at The Protector where I had started it.  Jamie (per Rebeccah, I just had to write more about him too) played a bigger role than I had originally planned and we introduced Mary – a character Rebeccah and Christina created!

I’m so grateful for my children being my biggest encouragers!  Many things I’ve written are just there because they wanted them on paper instead of told from my head.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~ Nancy Tart