Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"How Good Do You Want to Be?"

About ten years ago, just a year after we moved to Texas, we were in the Frisco First Ward and we had made a fairly good amount of friends.  Some of our dearest friends were our home and visiting teachers - they loved us and we loved them.  But there were many others in the ward too, but this family especially attached to our family.  They LOVED our kids.
Del was working the first two years we moved here and then he lost his job.  He was without work for almost two years and during that time, we struggled.  I mean, really struggled.  We ate from our food storage, we did without most everything EXTRA, both as parents and our children.  I worked at the schools substituting and Del tried to find work here and there.  During that time, we lived off our savings and then eventually even went about $80,000 into debt.  It was hard, and very humbling.
Of course, our home teacher knew, but hardly anyone else except maybe, some family.  I don't remember the day, month or even year now, but I remember the story.
We had talked many times with our children about not being able to do this or that because there were just not the funds to do so.  They did without a lot.  But it was not as if we ever gave them everything they ever wanted or even ever needed at times.  They were used to doing without.  And they seldom complained.
One night, after we had had Family Home Evening, a knock came to our door.  None of us had jumped up quickly to get the door, so by the time we opened the door, no-one was there.  But on the front porch, lay an envelope that was quickly brought inside and handed to Del, as it said 'The Lott Family' on the outside.
The kids went about their playing and I had gone into the kitchen to do dishes or some other chore.  While in there, I heard Del call for me and so I followed his voice into his office, where he sat with 5 neatly piled stacks of money on his desk.  I gasped with a 'Holy Crap', I'm sure as Del informed me each pile had 10/$100 dollar bills in it...equally $5,000.
There was a note, from someone named 'anonymous', who 'understood our situation and wanted to help' and loved us very much.  Del and I hated to speculate, but we were sure it was our sweet home teaching family as they were about the only one's we knew could afford it.  We cried and felt our hearts fill with such humility and gratitude for such kindness.  We brought the children in and showed them the gift.  Of course, their responses were the same as ours, but they had way more fun with the speculation than we dared allow.
That $5000 allowed us to get on our feet before Del was able to secure a job the very next month.
Over the following ten years, we have been able to finally get out of debt by following a very strict regimented program by Dave Ramsey and just living 'without' until finally, in the past 4 years, Del secured a fantastic job, I have continued to work and we are finally at the point, that we can enjoy returning the favor in smaller ways to many others and enjoy some of the nicer things in life that we have worked years and years to earn and finally have.  Our kids think we are rich now.  We aren't, of course, but we finally have enough to be out of debt, except our home, but also enjoy some things we have done years without.

Tonight, Del calls me into his office and asks me the above question...'How good do you want to be?'  Following that question, he asks, 'How much faith do you have?'.  I know what this is leading up to, so I ask, 'Does someone need our help?'  But this is a little different, because he brings up the kindness extended us ten years before, so I know he's not talking about the occasional $100/$500 or even $1000 that we have giving in the past.  He's talking 'sacrifice'.  I listen...he doesn't give much detail, but rambles a bit about a family in need - doesn't know if we should - do we have enough faith? etc etc.  I feel a little put out by the beating around the bush he's testing me, making me feel like if I don't answer correctly, it's not going to meet his expectations.  But before we have time to go into too much more conversation, he has to leave to go to Young Mens for the evening.
So, I've been left to think while he is gone.
My thoughts...
Why does the level of my faith have to be determined by a dollar amount??  Why does the amount need to be enough to make it a 'sacrifice' instead of just a kindness?  Why does our faith need to be tested in the process to make this effective?  Is it a lack of faith if we give only $1000 versus $10,000??
Every month, Del makes an additional house payment towards our mortgage.  It has been a tremendous blessing to have me working  in order to do this. If I gave up my furniture money of $2000, would he be willing to give up 2 months of his 'extra' payment and not reach his goals??
I don't want this to become a game .  I want this to be a kindness that we do willingly and lovingly because we CAN - not because it is a huge sacrifice or a test of OUR faith.  I want to think about them, but also not lose focus of our goals either, and desires and hopes for OUR future in the process.  But that sounds selfish, doesn't it.  But I'm back to the thought - it doesn't HAVE to be such an amount that it's a SACRIFICE for us.  It can be a kindness.  It just so happens, that the amount given us was $5000.  That doesn't mean our amount has to be the same in order for it to be validated.
So...How good DO I want to be???

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

FHE at the Bishop's House

Del works with some really great men in the Bishopric.  His counselors and executive secretary give him endless hours and sacrifice a lot to be the best men they can be.
And, they have great wives and families.
So Del and I thought it would be fun to have them all over for a FHE and party at our house.  Each of them has at least three kids, and they're all young, so we figured we would put out a slip n' slide,, little pool and then have hot dogs, samores and barbecue beef sandwiches with all the trimmings and fruit they could eat.  And we all had a blast.  The dad's cooked all the hot dogs, the mom's got all the plates of food ready and then the kids just had a blast eating and playing.
We had shooting of rifles, bb guns and a shotgun for the men, bow and arrows for the men and women and then water, trampoline, hammock. and swing set for all the kids.  They played for hours.
It really was such a good time for the kids.  They were exhausted with fun.
Then, when it started to get dark, we had them all wrap themselves up in their towels, come in the living room, and gather around the floor where Del and I taught them a FHE lesson from the Book of Mormon.  Del taught them the story about the Anti Nephi Lehi's, who in a covenant made with the Lord, chose to lay down their swords and weapons, bury them in the ground so as not to kill or hurt anyone ever again.  Of course, he told a little more of the covenant and details, but then I applied it to today and now for the kids.
I asked each of them to tell me some things that they might do or say, that are hurtful or unkind to their family members.  And that even though it's not like a sword, or knife, or spear or bow and arrow, it is still something that hurts and kills the heart - it's painful.  Then I gave each family member a piece of paper and pencil and asked person to think of a word or action that they currently do/say that is hurtful like a knife, write the word down and then we all walked out to our backyard.  Del had gone to the back yard and dug a deep hole in the garden and as he stood there with the shovel, each family member went up and placed their paper into the hole.  Then, they all promised to never say those hurtful words or do those hurtful things again...and then the Bishop buried them.
It was great.  Special comments were heard from some of the kids - they understood the concept.  Even some of the adults love the simplicity of the lesson and the way their children caught on to the comparison of the story from the Book of Mormon.  I was pleased.
We then cooked up samores and finally, by 9:30, everyone went home EXHAUSTED!!!
Del and I slept well too.
Good families.  Good opportunities for us to work together to help raise these children to be servants of our Heavenly Father.  I'm hoping they remember this night for a long time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Del Has a New 'Happy Place'

It took awhile for everyone to get used to it, but once they did, this new hammock Del purchased yesterday has become the relaxation spot in the backyard.
Of course, watching Del and Jordan put it together and getting it hooked up to the tree, was, in itself, quite enjoyable to watch.  As in all projects they do together, they push each other to the limits in patience, opinions, and ways to accomplish the task.  Del ended up on the ground a few times, as did Jordan before they finally agreed as to where the hammock needed to be...then is when each of them was finally able to try the hammock out and enjoy it's purpose.  I sat in it once, but don't find it to be quite as relaxing as everyone else does, mainly because I don't have very good balance or control of my center of balance.  I ended up on the ground once and decided I had had beyond enough fun.
Del cam home from church today, we had a great dinner and dessert, and then before doing some more Bishop work, we went out to the hammock where he layed for over an hour and I sat in a nice chair next to him.  The weather was gorgeous, a cool breeze, and of course, the scenery was heaven.  Del was the most relaxed and happy I have seen him in years.  A phone call came and he even stayed in the hammock while handling church business.  He stayed another 30 minutes talking to his mother on the phone while I came in the house.  I think he has found his happy place.  We agreed that the only thing that would make it better would have been to have his three grand children in the hammock with him while he told them stories...
I think we might arrange that.

Already 4 Months Old

He's growing like a weed and is so adorable I almost can't stand it....
Talking up a storm - happy - loves daddy and mommy...
Just all around the best little grandson ever.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Our Final Picking

We had a total of 6 bean picking sessions - It took me just over two hours each time to pick, and then another two hours to snap them, except the Friday Date Night we made out of our final picking.  I was glad to have Del's help,because honestly, I was exhausted.
This first year of a successful garden, I had decided I wanted to share our blessings with some of our dear friends and neighbors that hadn't been as lucky/blessed as we were.  So, I gave a lot of our potatoes and green beans away.  They were sooo appreciated by those with whom we shared, so I didn't begrudge the final result of our harvest with beans and potatoes.  We will have enough to be happy.  Next year though, I promised Del I would be a little more considerate of our own needs...HUH?  Yeah, that really came out of his mouth.  But I understand what he meant.  I didn't have to give to the same families over and over.
Our tomatoes should be next and we still have onions coming and corn should be next.  Squash and zucchini will be the last of the harvest.  It has been so nice to have what we have grown for almost every meal we eat.  It never grows old, eating from our own garden.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Visitor in the Chicken Coop

No - it was NOT an egg....
Jordan went out to collect the eggs and when he opened up the chicken coop door, he was face to face with this 5 foot SNAKE!!!  Even HE admits that he was shaken at first - ran in the house and while getting his gun, yelled at Del to come out and help him.  Between the two of them, they got the snake out, and then Jordan shot it with the shotgun.  Del held it up to show how big it was but otherwise, they threw it out into the creek.
I freaked.  Jordan sent me the picture in a text and I decided right then and there that I would no longer be going out to check the chicken coop by myself.  Freak out!!!  I hate snakes - probably more than anything.
I don't do snakes...ever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A New Friend

This is Alana.  A single mother of three wonderful children - a widow - young, vibrant and beautiful.  And my friend.  I've been in the ward almost two years now - and we have been acquaintances in the ward and at times, even a little more friendly.  But we've never really 'connected' until now.
I am the first counselor in the Relief Society presidency.  Alana is the 2nd counselor.  And over the past 6 months, since being called, we have started developing a very comfortable friendship.
I admire Alana and the person she has become and and continues to become since the passing of her husband, Jack, over three years ago.  This has been a very difficult trial for Alana - one that has left her very lonely, heart broken and overwhelmed with the raising of three very heart broken children as well. She's trying to understand what the Lord wants her to do, while mourning what she had known as 'safe', 'a family', 'home' and 'eternity'.  To her, most of that is now changed, if not 'gone' all together.
My role in our friendship?
I think it's to help her move on.  She's been stuck - for three years, in the 'moving on' process.  It's not that she wallows in her situation, she just hasn't known how, or been able, to grasp the fact that things are different now.  She doesn't feel that she 'fits in' to the Mormon family image anymore.  I want her to know and understand she does, more than ever...
And I love her children.  They are good, although they have their struggles; especially the oldest, Andrew.  He was his father's sidekick - shadow- best friend.  It's been a terrible blow to each of the children, but especially Andrew.  And he's taking it out on his mother.  Andrew always felt it was 'him and his dad against the rest of the family'.  The perceptions of a child.  But he clashes with Alana, and she knows it.  So there is a drama there that both Del and I are trying to help with - both with Alana AND Andrew.  Del is now their home teacher, which we are both very pleased about.  It gives me an even BIGGER excuse, (although not needed), to spend time with someone I already want to develop a better friendship with.
But it's not just a one way friendship.  Alana has many wonderful qualities and attributes that I admire and would like to develop more fully in my own life.  She makes me feel young and energetic.  She is one of the hardest working, independent and self reliant women I know.  And she's a down to earth, fun loving, country girl...and I love that too.
Well, I could go on and on...but I'll post more about this later and as things continue to grow and progress in our relationship.  I'm hoping we will become fast and durable BFF's...

And Our Chickens Are Laying!!

How do I know they're from OUR chickens??
First of all, the brown ones are a different color than the brown ones we have been getting from our neighbors chickens....AND...there's a white one.  Their chickens don't lay white eggs...ours do.
And even though it's super TINY, I appreciate the effort our sweet hen made to lay the first white egg.
She should be proud.
Hope this is the beginning of a long a very productive relationship.

Emerson Enjoying Some Summer Fun

Dad gets Emerson ready to go out swimming in the back yard little pool.

Baby pool with dad.

Three generations of Lott Men at the Ward Party the other night.

Emerson has a BFF in Addison Burton.

Addison likes Emerson's bracelet toy.

Enjoying more sun with dad.
Nana got a turn to hold Emerson at the ward party too.

Emerson got to go visit his cousins, Preston and Madison, over at his Aunt Kylie's pool.

Beans, Beans, the More You Eat

These are, of course, GREEN beans - our third picking.
The plants are being thrashed and trampled by the chickens, but they are thriving enough to produce this amount like every other day.  Between the chickens and the weather, we have lost like 10-12 bean plants.  But we still have some strong and healthy plants, but our chickens are trampling more and more of them every day.  I just don't know how to keep them out of there.  So, for now, I will keep picking until there are no more to pick.  Hopefully, we'll be able to get another 5-6 pickings that will give us a good amount to can.  Right now, we've given a lot away and the rest, we have mostly put up in the freezer.  The rest, we really need to can for storage.
Wish us luck.

The Rains Came and the Wind Blew...

...and our corn was leveled to the ground.
The storm came Sunday night/early Monday morning.  And this is what we woke up to.  Del spent over an hour last night trying to upright all the corn and fortify it with dirt, only to have it windy again today and once again, level some of them to the ground.
Disheartening?  Of course.  Del says we need to plant them deeper next year.  I'm hoping we can still salvage something THIS year.
I picked beans last night in ankle deep water from the rain.  Now, we need some good warm days.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I'm a Jolly Green Giant

I've been patient - prayerful and very very hopeful that we would find much success in this years garden. Well, the time has come for some harvesting of our hard work - mostly Del's hard work, but I have helped enough that I feel ownership in our efforts and success.
The chickens left most things alone for the first few weeks, but once they figured out there were more than just bugs to eat out in that there garden, they started picking it apart.  They ate the rest of our strawberries, but only after we had picked enough to enjoy and then freeze some.  Then, they found the corn.  Oh boy, did they have a hay day with the corn!!  They ate down the first row almost to stubs - and had started on the second row before we finally convinced them we WOULD shoot them if they continued.  The most interesting of all things is...they will follow me in the garden wherever I seem to go.  If I'm checking out the tomatoes?  Sure enough, they decide to check out the tomatoes also - then on to the potatoes?  They are right on my heels.  And they don't just tip toe through the garden...they seem to have a real plowing motion to them...just barrel right on through whatever might be in their way.  A little frustrating but I try not to complain too much as our garden seems to be almost bug and insect free.  Two edged sword.
Last week, Del did some picking of the beans.  There were a few that were ready but not enough for a FULL picking.  He picked enough and dug up some of our red potatoes for two nights dinners and they were so yummy!!!  I was excited for the green light for this week to do the initial picking on the green beans.
Of course, I've been sick for just about a week now.  Started last week on Thursday - head stuffed up, sinuses, ears hurt, throat...the whole thing.  Right ear infection, left ear bulging, sinus infection and ulcers in my throat from all the drainage.  An antibiotic and other helpful meds and I thought I would be fine.  Dr Henao went out of town this whole week and so I thought I would have time to get better.  I stayed in bed ALL last weekend - I mean - solid BED - slept all the time - ate hardly nothing at all, no church, no leaving my house, no anything.  Then I tried to go to work Monday and felt - BLEH!!!!  So the doctor decided to add MONO to the works...No wonder I was so tired.  But no new medicines as I was already past the contagious stage and I had been on antibiotics for 5 days already.  So, since Dr. H was gone, I decided to go ahead and take this week off also as a vacation week.  I hate wasting vacation days on getting better, but gotta do what ya gotta do.
So, this week, I have slept a lot, been doing a jigsaw puzzle, some Relief Society work, reading and finally today, I got up at 6:00am and for two hours, I picked beans.  It was great!  What an initial harvest we have!! Then for two hours, I snapped the beans, cleaned them, took some over to the neighbors and then put the rest out in the fridge.  Del and I will can them on Saturday - we should get about 16 quarts.  Del says we should get about 10 more pickings just like today's.  I was tired - probably did too much for my first day of energy but I don't regret a minute of it.
The potatoes are coming also - the onions - tomatoes will be a few more weeks and then the corn should be another month or so.  The neighbors chickens continue to lay their eggs in our coop but our girls should be laying by the end of the month, if we're lucky.
So, the Harvest has started.  And I have a very full and grateful heart.