Walking into the New Year

Merry Christmas!

We have so much to be thankful for this year. As i look back over the year, I can see so many ways God has provided, blessed, and given us reason to praise Him. Of course, I can start simply with being able to praise Him for who He is and how much He loves us!

Many have questioned things in our lives and those of our children. Isaiah has been working out with the poolies. Those are recruits heading to the Marines. Many have asked us and him, “are you sure?” “We’re in such a volatile political, world, emotional, financial situation. Do you really want him to serve?” “Does he really want to serve under this administration?” The questions go on. All I can say is this, he keeps seeking the Lord’s will and we pray along with him. We want him to be guided by the Lord into the path He has for him, and thankfully he wants that too. And so we trust. And we praise the Lord for his guidance and wisdom along the way.

Samuel got engaged in September and many have said, “they’re so young.” I look at it as a huge blessing that he’s found the one he loves early in life and doesn’t have to carry any baggage into his marriage. I see her as a gift from God for him and for our family. She loves Jesus, loves Samuel, and fits right in. I couldn’t possibly ask for more! And we praise God for blessing us abundantly!

Some exciting news we’ve only shared with close friends is that we’re starting a CSA in the spring! If you don’t know, that stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically you can buy a share of our garden and come weekly to pick up your fresh produce. We’re so thrilled the Lord has led us on this path and also totally frightened it’ll go horribly! I told a friend recently, I vacillate between being super excited and ready to plant to freezing in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store with overwhelm and fear. So, if you need something to pray for, it can be that! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Lord is leading this new charge in our lives and He never starts something without walking along with us and helping us finish strong. And so I keep stepping out in faith, trusting he’ll show us the way. Right now, I’m deep in research so that our garden can be as successful as possible. Of course, we’ve had a few who have questioned this as well. One person even told us we don’t know what we’re doing and probably shouldn’t pursue it! That’s okay though, it just helps us push harder, dig deeper, and hopefully come out more learned on the other side.

I’ve been thinking a lot about people God used in the Bible. Over and over their stories speak of God giving them the ‘what’ first and often not the ‘how’ or ‘when’ until much later. Mary was given the what – you’ll carry a child before you physically should be able to and he’ll be the Savior of the world. She wasn’t given the ‘how’ or ‘when’ right away. She just had to trust that what God said was true and step out in faith. Moses was told the ‘what’. You will save the Israelites. He wasn’t given the ‘how’ or ‘when’ right away either. He had to step out in faith.

I feel like this has been a huge stepping out of faith for us. We were given a vision from God and we’re being obedient to what He’s called us to. We can’t answer all the questions of ‘how’ and ‘when’ because He’s giving us a step at a time. So, we take the next step and then ask God for the next. As a planner myself, this has been an enormous and wonderful stretching of my faith. And I can praise God for always refining me!

Because of God’s faithfulness over the years and in every area of my life, I can walk into 2022 with confidence and joy. So many look down on 2020 and 2021 as horrible years with not much to rejoice in. And I am not discounting that there have been difficulties and grief. But, in reality every year is fraught with those things. Regardless of our situations and circumstances we can choose to focus on the negative and grow more bitter and angry or we can choose to focus on God’s abundant care and blessings and settle in His peace that surpasses all understanding. I choose to look at the good, at the blessings, at how God is always before, beside, and behind me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Schwab family!
Photos by Paul Caron Photography

We wish you a confidence, peace, and joy that is unshakable in the year ahead! May you walk with God, no matter how scary it seems! And, if you happen to be interested in a garden share, let us know!

A Good Book is Hard to Find

The first snow storm of the year always makes me giddy! By March I’m so tired of it I could cry, but today I’m all smiles! I’ve got a warm fire, lots of food, hot cocoa, and best of all…a good book!

It’s coming down! They tell us 12 to 18 inches…
I even brought in extra logs so I don’t have to go out for a couple days!

I’m not a sales person and I don’t often pitch things to people but one thing I love to share is books! There are so many awful books out there these days that is truly a treasure when you find a good one! And I just have to tell you about these, because, well, they are treasures.

First, these books are special because my good friend, Joan, wrote them! I know, I avidly know a real live author! Pinch me! She’s amazing and you’d love her. She’s one of those women who just draws you in and genuinely wants to get to know you. She’s raised five kids, has all sorts of wonderful grandkids and helps run a church. Yet, she finds time for her passion, a passion God laid on her heart long ago. Part of me loves her for that! She’s an inspiration to me!

Second, these books are a treasure because they’re just great books! What have you been reading lately? Does it lift your spirits, makes you smile, and encourage you on your walk with Jesus? If not, throw it out! Seriously! There’s enough garbage in this world! You don’t need to spend time reading about it! These are the books you need to pick up, like now! Tell your hubby to put these in your stocking! Get them for your mom and sister! (Okay, I’ll quit with the exclamation marks, now.)

Here they are!

I purchased Keeping Kyla from Joan shortly after it was published and had it read in a couple days. I couldn’t put it down! If you’ve ever experienced wounds from relationships (who hasn’t?) you need to pick this up! I’m about halfway through Loving Leah and I’ve been staying up WAY too late every night while Andrew snores next to me. It’s so so good!

I just love books! And to find books that bring you into another person’s life and story while encouraging and lifting you up, is truly a gift. So, give yourself a gift this Christmas! Go buy these books!

What if we…?

Things are happening here! Lots of things. I can hardly believe it’s November 6th and we’re still doing projects. I’m learning how much we depend on the weather in the country. If it’s nice, you get outside projects done. And you move fast, knowing the weather could change at any moment.

You may look at this photo and think, what is it? It’s just a field. Well, we took all the fencing down on the south and west side of our pasture to change it. More to be revealed on that later.

The kids are amazing workers out here. They’ve learned to help with lots of different projects and I believe it’s giving them great skill sets for life. We had to rework the fencing for the goats since we removed fencing. I think 80% of hobby farming is taking fencing down and putting fencing back up!

Often when I say, “I’d like to…” Andrew probably thinks, “oh, great. How much is that going to cost?” But, he’s a good sport and goes along with my crazy ideas! I don’t know if you can see it, but he’s grinding out the ancient windows in this shed. We’ve had new windows for a couple years because they were free and, well, this is the beginning of one of my crazy schemes.

This shed has been pretty much unused since we moved in six years ago and it’s time to make good use of it! Sometimes things sit so long we don’t see them anymore. And one day, I was looking around and realized, we have this great little shed. Why am I not using it??

And so begins another project! My new garden shed! Kind of a she shed, except I’m letting Andrew have part of it for tools…which I’ll probably use too! I have lots of old barn wood to be made into signs, you know!

Andrew got us lots of cabinets and countertop on the cheap and I’m excited to transform this space!

I’ll show you updates as we go! Can’t wait!

Indestructible Life

As I sit here on a dark, chilly, fall morning as a gray sky lightens slowly to usher in a new day, I am thankful. My fire crackles and warms a cold farm house. My three little boys are very noisily having a lightsaber battle in the next room (only because I sent them there), the rest of the kids are warm and snuggled in bed still, and I am well fed.

Not that I’ve had breakfast yet, mind you. But I am well fed. I carved out time for God’s Word as I try to each morning. And it is good!

God’s Word is a treasure trove for a weary soul. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the Bible is like a comforting feast. If you are aware at all of anything going on in this world, you probably feel anxious and afraid at times. There are wars and rumors of wars, drought, division, discontentment, and outright hatred. There are natural disasters causing destruction, politicians desiring more and more control over our lives, and unrest everywhere you turn. It’s enough to make me want to crawl under the covers and not get up!

But God! I love that phrase! There’s a great song by Mercy Me that says, “and like a hero who takes the stage when we’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late”. That’s our great God! He is that hero who’s timing is perfect.

For now, we wait. We watch the demise of the world in sadness, but at the same time we hope. We know who is victorious! We know who remains on the throne no matter what!

And guess what? In the meantime, he gives us everything we need! Are you reading His Word? Are you in it daily? I can tell you, it makes such a difference for your day, for your heart, for your mind. I see so many who are discontent, always complaining about what they have. I hear so much negative come from believer’s mouths. I see the discouragement in many faces. We can rise above it all and have hope and joy and fun, but we need help.

And God’s Word is exactly the help we need. Today I read Hebrews 7:11-28 and I encourage you to go read it and really sit with it. Realize what a great gift God has given us in Jesus, our perfect high priest. Something that stuck out to me and I want to encourage you with is this: verse 16. “One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.”

Think on that for a moment. An indestructible life! Do you realize the power there? Jesus is indestructible. And if you love him and have his Holy Spirit, you have that very indestructible life! What a comfort and joy! Nothing on earth can take your life! Nothing! It’s indestructible. I don’t know about you, but that helps me rise above all that’s happening and have peace. It gives me a deep joy in my soul and gives me the motivation to keep on running the race God has set before me.

I hope and pray you have the Lord’s peace and comfort today. I hope and pray you are in God’s Word today and every day. It does make a difference. It’s the one thing that will make a good difference in your life! It helps us be thankful in the midst of trouble and gives us a better perspective than what the world gives. It is indestructible.

Grief and Hope

It’s the epitome of a blustery fall day today. The rain was falling along with the leaves earlier and both were being whipped around by the wind. All too quickly the trees are becoming bare. Twenty years ago today was much the same. A blustery fall day that blew in grief and hardship and so many unknowns.

Twenty years ago today my mom came home from a week’s stay in the hospital with a cancer diagnosis. Three months later she was gone.

I remember that day so vividly. We were living with my parents at the time with our twin baby boys. They were just 2 months old. The front door opened right into the living room and I was seated on the couch with the babies. She came in, smiled and said Hello. I asked if she was feeling better. Then she told me. I just remember crying and crying.

The next three months were a blur. Well the next year was really. Taking care of two babies while grieving isn’t what I’d call easy.

Now I’m crying over my boys turning twenty and getting ready to leave the nest. I choke up when one tries on his new suit for his wedding. I choke up when I think of my boy entering the military in this volatile world.

But, today, for some reason the grief of my mom hit me hard. Something about two decades having gone by, maybe. What I wouldn’t give to hear her say “Hello” again. To hear the phone ring and it be her on the other end. To talk into the wee hours of the night about everything and anything. To have her hug all these grandbabies. It never ceases to amaze me how and when the grief hits. You can’t really anticipate it and you can’t predict it. And after twenty years, it doesn’t happen often. But it has been twenty years! Twenty. Where did that go?

My mom loved Neil Diamond. I can vividly picture her dancing and singing to his records in our living room growing up. I knew all the lyrics and sang along. “Hello Again” seems fitting for today. Someday I’ll get to say, “Hello” again.

I am certain of that, you know. She is in heaven, not because I wish it so or because she was a good woman. She’s there because of the power and blood of Jesus, who she accepted as her Savior when I was young. And because He’s my Savior too, I’ll get to be there with her and say Hello.

So, while I grieve, I don’t grieve as one without hope. I believe Jesus died and rose again and so I believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. Check out 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.

Do you know him? Truly know him? Can you grieve with hope? Can you look at this world and say, it’s not my home, there’s a better place waiting for me?

While twenty years is a long time and I’m thankful for all of them, we don’t know how long we have on this earth. My mom wasn’t quite 44 years old when she died. Too young, we say. But who are we to know? I’m thankful she knew Jesus in this life so that she could spend eternity with him in the next. I’m thankful He has given us that option, that free gift, if we’ll just take it.

Here’s another great Neil Diamond song I remember singing with my mom.

Another project!

We’ve begun another project. It’s one of those “I guess this has to be done NOW” kind of projects. For the last couple years, our porch railing has been rotting. We’ve put bandaids on it and told people not to lean on it. At one point I almost fell through one section.

But it has been on the back burner because, well, we live in an old house and things are always breaking. Plus we drive really old cars and those are always breaking. We spend most of our days repairing something. It always reminds me, this is not my home. Someday in heaven I will have a mansion that never wears out or needs repairs!

But, now, it’s past time. It’s all falling apart. And the Lord blessed us abundantly with aluminum railing for the price of wood! We had always wanted to replace it with aluminum but the cost was way too high. We were going to settle for wood but then the Lord surprised us with some free parts. We just had to buy a few things! He is good!

So begins the project! Tear down is always fun and the kids got involved. Having a large family at times like this really pays off! Many hands make light work!

Hanging flower baskets has to come down. Then the railing. Some of the sections were so rotted Andrew literally just pushed and over they went! Others needs a saw and grinder.

Unfortunately it sat long enough where the posts had started to rot where the railings were attached. So, we had to grind out the rot and do more repair. Huh, funny, more repair! We spread rot stop on and then we’ll have to fill in those places and and and paint before railing can go on.

Demolition never takes much time…but all the little steps sure do. It’ll be a couple weeks without railing before the new stuff can go up. Don’t lean!

Samuel came home as we were tearing down and said, “hmm, something looks different. I just can’t quite put finger on it!” Hopefully soon it’ll look different again… and last a long time. One less repair for the future, prayerfully!

Does It Ever Go As Planned?

Yesterday was my 42nd birthday. I spent it scrambling around like a mad hen all day to get ready for camping. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, packing, running to Walmart…again!

It wasn’t exactly what I’d have chosen for a birthday celebration but I knew it would be like that having planned to leave the next day.

List, lists, and more lists!

On top of camping prep, one of our cars broke down in the middle of the night on our son. The brakes went out and, Praise Jesus, he wasn’t driving. He had gotten in to come home and found the brakes were bad. I’m so thankful he wasn’t on the road! But, because that had happened, Andrew had extra work to do. Go tow the car home, try to find parts, try to fix it. He ended up working on it until 11 pm!

This morning we got up bright and early to pack up the camper and hit the road.

Things never seem to go as we plan. About halfway to our camping destination the camper started hopping and we saw smoke in the side mirrors. Blown tire.

Of course we were on a busy four lane highway with cars whizzing by at 65. And, of course, it had to be on the driver side. I’ve honestly never been more afraid for Andrew’s life. He’s been sky diving and that made me nervous, but this? I see how many people drive looking down at their phone. I’ve seen the videos of people getting hit on the side of the road because of distracted drivers.

Our friends and I started praying. And, no kidding, a few seconds later we looked up and there just happens to be a tow truck coming up to us.

What a coincidence. Ha! (I don’t believe in coincidences.) I do, however, believe in the power of prayer.

Terry the tow truck driver just happened to be heading home from work. He jokingly said, “I saw you having a picnic on the side of the road and thought I’d see what you were having for lunch.” He was all smiles the entire time he helped, pulling out every tool you’d possibly need to change a tire. I told him I was just praying for protection and he came along.

“Well, praying works!” He smilingly replied.

Of course the spare was shot so we ended up putting our friend’s spare on to get to the next town. We ended up at a Walmart. I’m telling you, there’s some sort of time warp in Wal-Mart. I met a really nice employee though and had some good laughs with her while I was waiting for Andrew to change out the two tires. She said (and I agree with the sentiment), “Why can’t anything be easy?” 2 hours and $300 later we had two new tires and were ready to actually camp.

While it didn’t go as planned, we finally made it. We joked that we might have to set up in the Walmart parking lot for a bit there!

Now we’re sitting around the campfire, enjoying each other’s company, thankful to be alive, well, and safe. Our son was blessed to have the brakes go out in a parking lot. We were blessed by Terry aiding us. We were even blessed by kind employees at Walmart. And now we’re blessed by a beautiful night with great friends.

God loves each and every one of us. He knows when we’re afraid and He hears our cries. He is faithful in every moment of our days.

Our day didn’t go remotely as planned. We could look at it and grumble and complain about all the things that went wrong. Instead I choose to focus on how God intervened and showed us He is present and cares deeply about us.

Summer Away!

Oh goodness! It’s been awhile since I’ve been here writing. I don’t like it when things get so busy that writing gets set aside, but sometimes that’s life!

So, what have the Schwabs been up to?

I think we could answer the question, “what haven’t the Schwabs been up to?”easier!

We have realized we took on easy too many projects this spring at one time. I think I make the mistake of thinking they will take less time than they really do and that Andrew is home more hours than he really is.

We added two raised beds to the garden. (I still don’t have enough room!) We used limestone block that’s been on our property for probably 100 years as a foundation to an old grain shed. The shed was sold last fall. It ended up being a lot of work, and all work I couldn’t really do. Those blocks are heavy! It turned out beautifully though.

Then out of pure rage, I tore the entire raspberry patch apart! I have been fighting the weeds since we moved here and they won. Last year, I got a small bowls of raspberries and spent hours pulling obnoxious weeds. This year I said, “No More!”

So I dug all the good plants out and tilled and tilled. I laid black plastic and heavily mulched and replanted. It all took way longer than I expected so I lost some plants while they were waiting to be replanted. But it looks amazing and I hardly have to weed, so I’ll call it a win! And, raspberries will send new shoots so I’ll get those plants back eventually.

Then we can’t forget there was a garden to plant! That got in very late, but it’s flourishing except for squash bugs. I moved my squash to get away from the bugs last year. It didn’t work. Now I have three kinds of bugs. Makes me really angry. And, let’s face it, they’re gross and I have to pick them off!

And, of course, if that weren’t enough, we decided to remodel our camper. We were going to just replace the roof, which was leaking, but why not just redo EVERYTHING! It’s been a fun project, but, of course, it’s taking way longer than we thought. And we keep finding things to replace or fix. We’re camping in August so I guess we better just keep pressing on so we can enjoy it! I’ll do a separate post with photos of that and show you all we did!

Of course, in the midst of this three cars needed repairs, taking up much of a weekend for each, other things on the farm needed fixing or replacing, there’s animals to take care of, and most importantly, there’s kids to raise!

Thankfully in much of this they’ve been able to participate, but they need down time too, just like us. More than us! We took them bowling and fishing and we’ve been swimming a lot. We’ve been so thankful for the pool this summer! Four of them got to participate in Frozen Jr, the musical, which was so fun!

Oh yeah, the pool took 2 weeks to get clear too! There’s always something! We feel busier than ever but it’s all been good, fruitful busy. We love to work as a family and play a a family. And we’ve been doing that this summer, for sure.

Often, when we pray, I just thank God for the strength he gives us each day to do the work He gives us each day! We definitely need it! And I don’t take it for granted!

I know I’ve forgotten things. All I can say is, wow! I hope the last half of the summer slows down a bit! I feel like I’m trying to grasp at reigns made of water to stop summer. I guess I just need to take one day at a time and be thankful for it. I hope you are too!

The Garden Begins

I’m well behind this year in my garden. I’m not really sure why I’m so behind. I guess part of it is that it’s been an exceptionally busy spring. Andrew has been working more than ever which is a blessing to know there is steady construction going on. But it takes him away from more projects at home too. And, I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson this spring. Don’t start ten projects at once. Sounds like basic knowledge, but I did not moderate!

But, finally, in blazing heat, the garden is going in. To be honest, my heart wasn’t in it this year. My head is still in March. Somehow I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how fast this year is going and that it is June already! Seriously, where is the time going?? Once I got started though, I got excited about my pants and all the yummy produce! Sometimes you just have to push through the “I don’t want to!”

I have to keep reminding myself that God gives each of us the same number of hours in a day and I need to ask him what to do with those hours. None of us can actually manage time, but we can manage ourselves. And so, I ask myself, what’s the best use of my time? Sometimes the answer is to rest on my porch. Sometimes the answer is to do the next right thing. Most of the time it’s to do a little work on any one of the projects on the list!

I’ve been getting outside early in the morning when it’s still cool and planting. It’s an amazingly peaceful time with the birds chirping, the sun coming up, and a light breeze blowing. I turn on some worship music and pray for all the loved ones in my life. If you feel lifted up in the morning, it’s because you are!

My kids helped today to get some plants in. I love that they are willing to get hot and sweaty and work hard with me. Some of our best conversations happen in the garden! Especially now that I have 4 teens that want to talk and ponder life. It’s so good to work along side each other and let those thoughts flow.

Sometimes they let it all out better if they are beside me instead of in front of me.

Who really knows why this garden is getting in so late? But I do know this, God orchestrates my days and my time when I let him and this is how this spring is playing out. I can choose to be overwhelmed and anxious about all the things on my list that are half done. Or I can choose to look at the blessings and goodness in the midst of the chaos!

Even Lukas helped mark the rows. Who knows what’s planted here??

I choose to see the blessings and the goodness. Because, as Jesus said, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Today is a blessing, and what I get done today is a blessing! Enjoy it, whatever you accomplish!