Friday, January 16, 2015

Anchors for the Home

I can't believe how long it's been since I've sat down to write a blog post.  I guess since before Ezra was born.  And now he's 20 months old and I have a new baby...Haven Ruth, who is already 2 1/2 months.  I've had many things to say and share but I guess the time to write is never as easy to find.  But, even for my own sake, as a way to record the lessons learned, the blessings God gives, and the beautiful moments that are a part of this journey, I want to resolve once again to try.

So, at the outset of a new year, which I have every confidence will be full of growth, beauty, new challenges, and fun, I am sitting down to write.  It's been a good start to this new year.  I'm truly amazed at the way God is moving and graciously giving us new motivation and desire to make this year a year of MORE...more of Jesus, more of His word, more faith, more courage, more love, more prayer, more sacrifice.

It's amazing how easily things can go awry.  Over the Christmas break we love to take time off school and enjoy Christmas.  We stay up late and play games, make gifts, watch Christmas movies, and eat goodies.  It's so much fun! But 2 weeks of this kind of "freedom" with 9 kids and no real schedule quickly moves towards chaos and just a feeling of ugh.  So, I'm always ready for the new year, with new goals and a new start.

One thing I've noticed that pulls the chaos back into order is what I call "anchors for the home" - A few things that bring the family together in a united oneness and also give structure to our day.  These are a few things that (are supposed to) always remain, even if the rest of the day is "off."  For us these things are family Bible reading in the evening, morning Bible time with Mom (including scripture memory & prayer), afternoon laundry folding (usually with Mom reading aloud), and late afternoon clean up (each child has their own jurisdiction, or area of the house to clean).  {I have specific times designated for each of these things to try to keep us on track, and I set my phone alarm to remind me, though it doesn't always happen at that time.} Of course morning chores and meal chores are an absolute must all the time.  Putting these things in place seems to bring order and structure to even the craziest days.  When I let these things go, whether it be for a holiday break, vacation or just getting lazy, life seems to fall apart...and so does Mom!

Maybe I'll share some other habits that Steven and I have found to be hugely beneficial in our lives next time....

But for now, if you find yourself floundering or feeling like life is just chaos and you don't know how to pull it back together (trust me, I REALLY know what that feels like!), throw down an anchor and see how it helps.  I have to remind myself of these things often since my free spirit personality tends to let go of the anchors way too easily!  I'd love to hear what your experience is, so feel free to leave a comment!

Happy sailing...:-)

This is our family gathered in the evening for singing, bible reading & prayer. The two youngest are missing- Haven (2 mo) is sleeping & Ezra (20 mo) is on my lap learning to sit quietly :-) And just so there are no misconceptions, it doesn't usually go as smoothly as it looks in this picture. With this many kids there is never a lack of movement and interruptions! It's a learning process. :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Look Back on 2014 - 10 Ways God Has Blessed Us

Happy New Year!

As we come to the close of another year, I am just in awe at God's continual goodness to our family.  There is so much to be thankful for and more than ever, God is teaching me to continually look for His good gifts, which are all around me.  Even when times get difficult, if you look, you will see His grace...His many graces.  So, with a heart of thanks, let me recount just a few of them from this past year, and in doing so declare the goodness of our great God.

1.  In February our oldest, Jake, turned 13.  Yes, we've hit a milestone as we enter the teenage years! Over Christmas we pulled out the old home videos and saw Jake as just a little guy.  It seems like just yesterday!  Now he is taller than Mom and looking more like a man every day.  He's full of creativity and ingenuity; this year his interest has turned to learning to make knives and writing a book (to name just a few)!

2.  In March we had what is becoming an annual visit from my brother's family, which we affectionately call "Cousin Camp."  The number of kids grows each year! This year there were 12, with my brother's 4 and our 8.  It is a highlight of our year, with lots of fun, laughter, and great fellowship.

This year the kids made tie dye shirts that say "Cousin Camp 2014."  I think we've started a new tradition!
Ezra & Grizzly (born just days apart)
We couldn't even fit all the kids around the table!

3.  In May, our youngest (at the time), Ezra- our sweet, loving, melt-your-heart adorable, happy little guy- turned 1...and Steven's parents got to be here for it!  They come every year and this year was as fun as ever.  It's always such a joy to have them with us.

One of the highlights of their visit is their arrival, when they drive up and barely get out of the car before the kids attack them!

4.  Slowly but surely, our family business- Dad's Disappearing Salsa Co.- continues to grow, expanding into 12 stores, and keeping us busy with farmer's markets, street fairs, flea markets, holiday shows and internet sales.  We've even been recognized when we are out and about..."Hey! You're the salsa people!"

5.  God blessed us with another big garden this year, and a new flock of laying hens, giving us 18 chickens. Our "farm" is simpler these days, with no goats or pigs, but more manageable for this season of life.

6.  Through the years God has been faithful to provide for all our needs, and this year was no exception.  Through a loving surprise gift, our friends and family pitched in to surprise us with a new double oven and refrigerator!  It never ceases to amaze us the ways God takes care of not only our needs, but many of our wants as well.  The amazing thing was that it came at a very difficult time for us financially.  It was like God was saying, "Look at what I can do.  If I can give you what you want, then you can trust me to take care of your basic needs as well." (we consider it a want, but our friends and family may disagree...our oven door did have duct tape holding the door shut for years and didn't work well (to name just a few of the problems).  And it's a DOUBLE oven and a much bigger refrigerator...which helps so much with a big family. We are so thankful!

7.  The "little boys" Jed & Abel moved out of their big sister's room and into their own room.  Yes, it was finally time for us to turn the "office/guest room/homeschool book room" into a little boys room, to make room for the new baby to go into Hailey's room.  The boys LOVE it!

8. On October 28th, God blessed us with baby #9....and can you believe it was a GIRL?!?!?!  Hailey finally has a sister. And since Haven was born at home, Hailey got to be in the room  when her little sister was born.  What a special bond! Our little Haven is such a sweet, peaceful, chubby, beautiful baby girl and we are all just crazy about her.  And her nickname has become "Squishy," because she's just so...well, you guessed it...squishy!!!

Our traditional bed picture that we take after each of our babies are born.  I think we need a bigger bed!

9.  My wonderful mom came out to help me when Haven was born, as she always does whenever I have a baby.  She is such a blessing to me, staying for 2 weeks to help with the kids and the house. After Haven was born my step-dad Ray flew out to join us! The kids had so much fun with them...even spending a couple nights camping in the backyard with Grampy!

My mom and I got to have a "girly day", just the two of us, before Haven was born.  It was so much fun!
Now that Steven made us this awesome 9ft table, we can all fit around it!

10. And best of all....My sweetheart and I are more in love than ever....and our children are happy and healthy.  God has made us a family and we are so very thankful.

We hope and pray that God blesses you this new year and that together we will look for the many good gifts that He gives us, even the little things, and give Him thanks.  The Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes from our Father above (James 1:17).  And may the gifts direct our hearts to the Giver, who gave the greatest gift of all, His son Jesus Christ, so that we might have life in Him.

God bless you all,

The Mena Family
Steven & Jenny, Jake, Zack, Ben, Sam, Hailey, Jed, Abel, Ezra & Haven