Travel Bucket List

VisitedStatesMap

As you can see from the map above, my family and I have visited quite a few states, but there are so many that we haven’t seen. My husband and I are working on our travel bucket list. We are hoping to start sometime in the next eighteen months and see every state by the time I turn 40 in 2024. Some will require a plane or a boat, obviously, but if we can drive we will. Why? To truly see God’s creation.

My family and I love tent camping. Last year we had a shocking experience when my parent’s camper was struck by lightning and it fried the electronics in our tent. We have learned from that “mistake” and will use what we have learned to keep everyone safe. Or God may provide a pop-up. We’ll see.

I am really looking forward to Maine, Salem, Massachusetts, and Branson, Missouri. We’re discussing flying from Northern California to Anaheim so I can cross Disneyland off my bucket list, but we’ll see. The goal is to spend at least twenty-four hours in each state, so driving through doesn’t count. Except Texas. We can sightsee and visit cool places while we navigate our way across.

As I have said before, we homeschool so we feel this will be a great learning experience for our children and us. There are so many museums in every state along with some great national landmarks. No one should complain about being bored.

Fighting a Spiritual Battle

SpiritualWarfare

For over a month now my family and I have been struggling financially. I have made cuts that were somewhat painful, but I have also prepared to lose things that so far we have arrangements made. We have food, electricity, internet, both homes, and our vehicle. All of this time God has given me verses on not being afraid. I thought this was a physical fight in the sense that we’re struggling to keep things.

Last night God got my attention through a dream. My husband and I had just bought a house that was way more than we needed, but it was an old house. I’m talking two stories with a basement and a full attic. Everything was fine until it got dark. Then things started moving, I heard voices, and I was being attacked with our youngest child beside me. When I went to rebuke the dark spirit I was too weak, it laughed at me.

I ran to where my husband was sleeping with our other two kids and the spirit was after them, too. My husband and I stood there and pondered what to do at three in the morning in the middle of a spiritual battle. I called my dad, who I lost in February. In true Dad fashion, his response was, “You aren’t bringing that $%^& here!” So we loaded up and went to Berry Cottage.

When I woke up I realized that even though this feels like we’re dealing on the physical level, we’re actually dealing on a spiritual level. This fight is about Who we are going to listen to and where our trust lies. Do we trust God? Or are we going to let the devil take away our joy and our faith?

I haven’t been praying for strength, I have been praying for answers. I haven’t felt like reading the Bible so I have neglected it. So I’m not prepared for this spiritual battle at all and I’m not doing anything about it! I’m too focused on myself.

This realization was more terrifying than the nightmare I had woken up from. I stayed up a few hours praying and reading my Bible. God had my undivided attention and I was shaking too bad to fall asleep.

I realized that my husband and I need to come together to face the devil, he’s already fighting us and we’re letting him win. Every time I look at our budget in fear and panic, the enemy is winning because I’m not trusting Jesus. He’s got this. All I have to do is let go and remind the devil that he has no place here. Jesus always wins. Always. He already conquered hell and death, there’s no power in either one.

So, how do you fight a spiritual fight? Start with Ephesians 6 and put on the whole armour of God. Pray, preferably out loud, without ceasing. Get in His word and stay there. Go to church and ask your church family to pray for you and your family, too. The enemy comes to see who he can devour, don’t let it be you. Fight back! Remind him what God’s Word says.

On another note, I think seeing Berry Cottage as our sanctuary and refuge was a pretty clear sign, too. When we’re there you can feel the presence of God. It’s beautiful! Anyone who has been there has felt His peace, even in the yard! We haven’t heard from the mortgage company there yet, but I know that God’s got this. No matter what happens.

 

Organizing for the Unorganized

OrganizingTheUnorganized

Today I want to talk to you about organizing and I feel like I am qualified to tell you about this because I am not organized. I am a long time member of the procrastination support group and I’m supposed to be president, but the meetings are perpetually postponed. So, this is more about how to organize a disorganized person. If you are type-A personality or OCD you can maybe leave some tips for the rest of us in comments.

My biggest struggle is making myself do the things I despise. Especially when I’m in “one of my moods”. I am getting better at this, but when I’m not in a mood I notice the horrible job I did and I fix it. Which takes longer.

I have an iPhone so I am starting to use Reminders quite a bit. I actually had to put my blood pressure medicine in there or else I forget about it. Not very smart. I also list everything I want to do the night before I’m going to get started. It tends to be shorter if I write up the list when I first get up.

So, I highly recommend an app that allows you to input tasks and has check marks so you can see how much (or little) you have accomplished. I like setting time restraints so that I know how much free time I can enjoy once I’m done. I don’t allow myself breaks before or while I’m cleaning because I will shrug off the rest of my list. It can be done tomorrow. Until you do this perpetually and your house is still a disaster six months later.

What do I list in Reminders?

  • Take medications
  • Eat/Feed kids breakfast (Not that forget, but I like lots of checkmarks)
  • Morning with God – this is not His time slot. I talk and sing to Him while I’m doing my chores. This is when I do my Bible study and devotional time.
  • Help 4 year old clean her room
  • Clean bathroom
  • Remind 12 year old to clean his bedroom and bathroom
  • Eat/feed kids lunch
  • Put away clothes or wash clothes
  • Clean kitchen/dining room
  • Clean living room
  • Work on blog (Monday – Friday)
  • Meal plan (Every Friday)
  • Budget (End of month)
  • Pay bills (First of every month)
  • Free time!

Of course I may have to add or remove things as time goes on. That’s fine as long as it’s not doing the laundry. Right now I have, what I think is, a valid excuse. Two of our dressers are at the former Berry Cottage and I really need them because my kid’s dressers are in disrepair. Well, they could be repaired, but I don’t want to when there are two good ones we can bring home. I also feel like we don’t have a good place to store towels. Our bathrooms have zero storage except under the sinks and I hate storing stuff there in case of a leak. I guess I need to realize that if there is a leak that’s where my towels are going anyway.

I’m going to try my ideas out over the next week and next Friday I will let y’all know how it’s going. If it goes really well I may even share pictures of the inside of my home.

Remodeling on a Budget

RemodelOnABudget

Recently my husband and I were talking about what our trailer needs. It’s twenty years old so the list is pretty expansive (and expensive!). We still have a long time left until it’s paid off (which is a long story), but it’s not worth much. So we agreed that while we want to make it comfortable, we don’t want to invest a fortune.

The above picture is our home a year ago. It hasn’t changed much, but we are hoping to fix that with shutters and some paint. Along with a few other ideas we’re tossing around.

A big thing is the outdated and undersized HVAC system. Add that to the aluminum siding and lack of insulation and you understand why it’s hot inside and our electric bill is high. In case you don’t, I’ll add the missing piece, we live in Alabama.

We could replace the furnace, exterior unit, and the broken ducts for around $5,000. That we don’t have. Instead, we are going to use window units on the back and portable units on the front since they’re not as unsightly. We discussed propane for heat, but our floorplan isn’t set up where it will work well. Basically, our TV and Xbox will melt while our bedrooms and bathrooms freeze. We are looking into infrared heaters and an infrared fireplace for the living room.

fireplace.png

We’re also looking into window awnings and shade cloth until we can put on vinyl siding and a good metal roof. Our current roof requires cool sealing which is what you typically do with an RV. We are hoping to eventually put on a real metal roof.

Another problem is the furring strips on the walls that they do in manufactured homes to save money instead of spackling and putty. We’re going to take them off, spackle, and putty then repaint. It will feel like a house and a home then.

If you live in a manufactured home and you’re in need of inspiration I highly recommend going to Pinterest and putting in your dimensions along with “manufactured home”. In my case I put in, “16×80 manufactured home”. I found a similar floor plan that with minimal effort would give me a full laundry room and a pantry. So we are going to take down one wall and build two plus add two doors to our home. I’m ecstatic! This will give us two things that we have wanted for about $1,000 or less once we’re done. This also makes our space more usable.

What I am looking forward to most is my children’s bedrooms. We decided to put our 12 and two year old boys together in the large 15×9 bedroom and give our daughter the 8×9 bedroom. To maximize her space we’re going to build her a loft bed with a desk and a swing where she can sit and draw or do her school work. She’s four so she pretty much designed it herself and I think it’s going to be an amazing space. Our oldest is getting my 90 year old mahogany bed and the little guy wants a John Deere tractor bed. I’m going to try to build it for him.

I will write posts as we accomplish goals and let you know how things are going and how things are working. I’m hoping to put a lot of pictures on Pinterest, too, in case anyone wants to copy our ideas. We’re hoping to get started soon, but it may be November with everything going on. Which is fine since it gives us time to make sure that we’re doing what God wants and not just what we want.

 

What Makes a House a Home?

HouseOrHome

This is a pretty simple question that could have millions of answers because home can mean something different to each person. It could be something as simple as where your family lives, your address, where your belongings are located, and any combination of these things.

For me, it is where I worship and talk to God the most (I’m only at church four hours a week), where my family lives, and our piece of land. The past few days I have realized that in spite of the problems our current home has, I love it. It may be an old tin can, but it’s where I brought my last baby home, where my kids have pretty much grown up, and where I have grown in Christ the most. To me, that’s worth far more than I’ve paid for the house.

If God chooses to allow us to stay here, I will be grateful for the rest of my life. If He doesn’t, we own the land and we can figure something out. My husband loves alternative, preferably off-grid, housing.

Tent

My point is, home is what you make it. It can be an apartment, an old house, a manufactured home, or even a tent. If you’re glorifying God that’s all that really matters. Yes, your home is a way of glorifying Him because that’s where you spend most of your time with Him. Or it may be your car if you travel a lot.

Of all the things that we as a society take for granted, I think the home is the biggest one. When was the last time you thanked God for the space you live in? Or do you think the size isn’t right, it’s not perfect, or you don’t like your neighbors? I have said those things about almost every place we have lived and we have moved as a result. I can’t remember the last time, before now, that I just thanked God for the blessing that is my home.

As a final note, if your house has problems, you will feel better if you fix them. Organizing does wonders, too. I’m horribly disorganized and our home was a mess! It’s still not perfect, but I love it anyway and I’m fixing it.

About Prayer

Prayer

Today I want to talk to you about prayer. I know this can be a pretty broad topic, but I’m going to try and simplify it. For the record, I am a Christian so I’m talking about praying to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As always, I will be using the ESV because I feel it is the easiest to read and understand. Feel free to use your favorite translation.

When should we pray? In Luke 18:1, Jesus was speaking to His disciples. “And He them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” We are to pray constantly, without ceasing. Praying is not just bringing our needs to Jesus, but it’s a conversation with Him. How would you feel if a close friend only spoke to you when they needed something? Pretty bad, right?

How should we pray? I encourage you to read Matthew 6:5-15, but I’m going to focus on verses 9-13. “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

That’s all that is required because He already knows our needs and the desires of our hearts. He also knows how we have sinned better than we do. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

I also like the ACTS format.

Adoration worship God for who He is, not what He has done.

Confession confess your sins to God

Thanksgiving thank God for all of your blessings

Supplication bring any needs or desires to Him

Psalm 77:11-15 goes along with adoring God and it says, “I will remember the deeds of the LORDyes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.”

You can always come to Jesus and talk with Him, especially when you are hurting and feel broken. Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. Never feel like you can’t talk to God, He loves you.

I highly recommend keeping a prayer journal listing prayer requests with the dates when you first started praying and when God answered them. I have had to wait years for God to answer many of my prayers, but when He did I was more grateful to Him. It is always in His time and not our own, but seeing His faithfulness on paper is incredible!

 

 

How Small is Too Small?

BerryCottage.blog

I talk a lot about the Berry Cottage because it is the namesake of this blog, but if it is no longer an option, then what? Do we continue swimming/drowning in this enormous 1,200 square foot tin can? Or do we still downsize, but in a different way?

My husband and I have discussed this and I realized that I don’t need a set amount of square footage. We have half an acre of land in the middle of nowhere that I would much rather see my children enjoying instead of just sitting indoors all day. My children and I set up the pool today so I probably won’t see my kids indoors until October (we live in the deep south).

This opened up a new conversation. What do I need in a house? Sure, I would love an Italianate or French Country kitchen, but do I need it? No. Do my kids need their own bedrooms? Nope! All I need is a home that is cool in summer and warm in winter, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. A covered outdoor kitchen has always been a dream of mine with a small indoor kitchen for winter. Which lasts about two months in Alabama.

I’m not making any announcements now because we are still giving God the reigns to lead us where He wants us. I know that’s the season we’re in and I’m learning obedience. Slowly and painfully at times.

He may still want us to stay in our tin can, it certainly seems that way since the mortgage company has been super helpful thus far. If He does we will be grateful and work on making it feel like home. If He doesn’t, then we will do what He wants. Even if it may be painful at times. I know He has a better plan for us than we could ever come up with ourselves.

The Importance of the Sanctuary

BerryCottage.blog

Yesterday we went to Messiah’s Mansion with a group from our church. Their website is here and I highly recommend that you check it out because I don’t remember all of the scripture references, but they’re on their website. There are Bible studies on the sanctuary there, too. I completed the first one today and I felt that it was very informative. I have never really studied the sanctuary because I, wrongly, thought that it was no longer important. So I learned a lot yesterday.

Messiah’s Mansion assembles a portable sanctuary wherever they go so that you can see the temple that God had Moses build in Exodus 25. The altar was constructed on the north side of the temple, as instructed by God. It is symbolic of Christ when He took our sins upon Himself and died for us. When Jesus was crucified, He was crucified on the north side of the city.

When the sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant, the blood was sprinkled on God’s back (the cherub was symbolic of God). When Jesus was sacrificed for us He became sin, so when His blood was poured out for us, God’s back was turned. The gentleman leading our tour said that this was why in Mark 15:34 Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was the first time that He could not see or speak with His Father and it broke His heart. If you go back and read my post, Unexpected Blessings, you can read another reason that He cried out.

I do wish that there was a bit more interaction because my little ones lost interest after the first two sets, but my husband, my twelve year old, and I really enjoyed it. It ignited in me a desire to really study the sanctuary and learn how it points to Jesus. Jesus is our sanctuary and if He lives in us then we become a temple. We should know and understand why.

 

 

 

When Plans Change

PlansIHaveForYou

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV

Like most people, my husband and I try to plan everything. We have a budget to plan our money, a calendar to plan our days, and a list to plan what we’ll eat. Where we fail is when we don’t give our plans to God and wait for His approval. Sometimes He approves things, but then He shows us that we need to change those plans to follow Him.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if His plan is for us to move into our cottage. We have prayed, we’ve had others pray for us, and we just don’t feel like we have a definitive answer. We’re praying for guidance because we don’t feel that He wants us to stay in this big, metal can anymore either. Or we’re hoping he doesn’t because the utilities are expensive. We have made big cuts (no dishwasher, we turned the hot water heater down, and we hang our clothes on a clothesline) and our electric bill is still the same as someone who lives in a 3,000 square foot house with three HVAC units, a washer/dryer, and two hot water heaters running on high.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow wil bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16 ESV

So, we will pray for guidance and see what Jesus has in store for us. I know that it will be far better than anything we can plan for ourselves. We are also praying for the person who buys Berry Cottage, if that’s what He wants, and we hope that it blesses them abundantly. My husband thinks that maybe God gave it to us and allowed us to make some repairs because the next person may not have the money or ability to do them. Only God knows and that’s okay.

If you are looking for guidance, trust in the Lord and wait. He will lead you in the way that you should go. He knows the plans that He has for you.

“”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”” Jeremiah 29:11

 

Trusting God in the Hard Times

Trusting God in the Hard Times

Everyone goes through hard times, Christians are no exception. Sometimes God uses hard times to shape our character and mold us into who He wants us to be. There are examples of this throughout the Bible.

My husband and I are climbing a mountain right now, knowing that God is with us and that the view from the top will be worth it. It doesn’t make it any easier to pray or read my Bible right now because I’m scared and hurting. That’s why today’s blog post is late, I don’t want to write this now, but God placed it on my heart so here we are.

You see, my husband is disabled and is not able to work at all. Not even part-time. We bought long term disability insurance from his last employer and they paid us faithfully for two years. Then, towards the end of April, they told us that they would not pay us until we jumped through all of their hoops. We hired a lawyer and he said that it may be November before we get paid again and this is going to happen again in two years.

We are taking everything one day at a time and trusting God to meet our needs. He knows our circumstances and He cares about us so we know that He’s got us. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t scared, we have children to clothe and feed as well as bill collectors who don’t like to hear that you may be broke for six months. So far they have been willing to work with us.

This isn’t even our only problem. I just lost my dad in February and I’m still coping with that on top of this. I know if he were here that he’d shake his head and fuss at me for not putting money back and then say he understood that we thought we could count on insurance. Then he would gruffly remind me that you can’t count on anyone. He always said that, but there is One we can count on. That’s God.

Genesis 25:22 – “The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.” My point with this scripture is that there was a struggle within Rebekah and she went to God. No matter what you are struggling with, go to Him. He loves you.

So, when you are going through difficult times, lean into God. Don’t let the devil convince you not to read the Bible and talk to God. You can tell God that you’re mad at Him. David did many times. Pour your heart out to Him and then listen, He’ll take your hand and lead you over the mountains.