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‘God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt.’ It’s a saying that I’m sure we’ve all heard so many times!  But, my reply every time I hear it said, “Well, God made rattlesnakes. And rattlesnakes WILL hurt!” Nevertheless, it is very true that you shouldn’t be afraid to work hard and get your hands dirty. In my family, mud and dirt has NEVER been a problem. And no, I don’t mean, ‘It’s never been a problem, we stay out of it.’ I mean, ‘We’ve never had a problem playing and working IN the mud and dirt.’ Some of you are probably cringing and crying right now… Sorry.  We’ve always loved being outside and working with our hands.  I walked outside a few weeks ago to see a huge mountain of dirt in the middle of one of our gardens. Turns out, the ‘three little musketeers’ had built a huge castle and dug a moat around it. It was so adorable to see them working so hard on it. I’m so glad that my siblings can always turn everything into a great adventure! They always have so much fun. And they look pretty cute while doing it too! 
This was originally published on "A Sweet N Simple Life" blog on Wordpress. Cynthia is our oldest daughter & has a beautiful as well as inspirational blog of her own!  Check It Out Here! 

When our first child came I was blessed more than I had ever imagined. Through the years there has been one song that comes to mind every time I think of her and my wishes, hopes, and aspirations for her life. Written by the Epley’s, here are the words to the beautiful song “All We Ask.” Cynthia- this is our prayer for you!

The years have flown by much too fast.
The days we have now are our last
Soon you’ll be gone and life won’t be the same.
We’ve tried to do our best for you.
Sometimes we’ve failed; we know it’s true
But still we pray that you’ll live to praise God’s name.

It doesn’t matter if we never see a place you’ve carved in history.
Fame is fleeting and riches soon will burn.
The only wish we have for you,
Please follow Him Who’s always true.
You will find you have so very much to learn.

And if some day you hear His voice
Calling you to make a choice to serve Him in a land that’s far away,
We’ll remember you’re not really ours at all.
You belong to Him; so heed His call.
That’s the reason that He made you anyway.

All we ask is that you live for Jesus!
We’ve tried to give you roots, and soon we’ll give you wings.
Fly toward the Lord!
Honor Him in all you do.
We’ll be so proud of you if you live for Him.
We’ll be so proud of you if you live for Him!

These 15 years have brought the greatest joy of my life- and I am thrilled to look forward to see the next 15 as our oldest daughter continues with a heart towards God! She has become so much more than I could have hoped for. Her servant’s heart and strong spirit have inspired me. God has brought us through so many things, yet He has always shown Himself present and able to much more than we could ever ask or think. And our children have been able to see the hand of God guiding and helping us along the way- which has only made their faith stronger. I am thankful that through my faults, Cynthia has seen that we must keep our eyes on the Lord.

Cynthia is very serious about music, piano in particular. She is now our church pianist and continues to progress even without lessons. She was 11 when she composed "A Waltz for Roy and Dale" and entered it into the York Symphony's competition.

You will be blessed by any of the Epley CD's. I encourage you to raise your family with Christ honoring music! Just click or tap here!!

As I drove through the city a few weeks ago I noticed something that strangely disturbed me. I started to notice this almost everywhere I went. I would bring my children to a nearby park, playground, lake, you-name-it outdoors… and I would find the same thing everywhere.

Something is
taking over our playgrounds. It is all over our state parks. Have you ever driven slowly past a beautiful flowing creek glimmering with sunlight between the trees? It’s there too. The sad part is- we can all do our part to prevent this, yet many times we just don’t.   It is so easy to become caught up in our daily lives that we just brush this aside and hope someone else will deal with the problem. Yet it affects each one of us.

We just have too much to do. I know the feeling… The laundry is never done. Homemade meals take time, effort, and make a mess! Taking care of a house is more than a full time job- not to mention homeschooling the kids, or helping them with homework, being active in your church, focusing on your marriage, plus trying to make a little extra money to help make ends meet!! We can so easily become stretched to our limits just keeping up with daily life.  

Yet so many are struggling to find a balance between productivity and peace. Keeping busy does not automatically mean we are making the most of each moment. In fact, many times it does the opposite. We can convince ourselves that we are so busy that we just don’t have time for anything else- when the best thing we could do for ourselves, our family, and our walk with the Lord is to just STOP. Believe me- the dishes, the laundry, the emails… they will wait for you.
Are you seeing what I am seeing? Emptiness. Empty park benches. Empty trails. Empty streams. Empty swing sets. Empty slides. You name it… it’s empty.   As for playgrounds- I cannot tell you how many times I’ve brought my children and we are the only ones there. As for the hiking trails… it seems there is some understanding that they are for two groups of people: the dog walkers, and the fitness gurus. I’ve got nothing against dog walkers and have a great respect for people who take good care of their bodies- but where are the rest of us?

We are cowering behind a massive wall of fear and excuses. -I’ve got too much to do! -It’s too cold outside! -It might rain! -Just one more load of laundry! -Maybe we’ll go on Saturday or Sunday!  And on and on the list goes…. The internet is overflowing with websites and blogs about saving money, fighting depression, cheap activities to do as a family, date nights, quiet time with God, etc., yet the beautiful outdoors is just on the other side of our front door. Look through your car window see the beauty of the quiet stream just blocks from your house. Can’t walk much? Find a park bench. Got kids? Hit the playground! Need some time alone? Sit by the lake.

I could cite several studies I have read on the positive effects the outdoors has on our minds and bodies, but I will challenge you to make the choice to add a daily routine to your own life and find out for yourself! I know from having a dog that taking a few minutes a day to play fetch will cut behavioral problems to a minimum… yet do we think of applying that to children? Take a group of kids on a hiking trail or to a stream and see how much it affects their behavior. You might be amazed! Walk away from all the white noise generating in our technology filled houses and listen to the water rushing through the rocks from just the tiniest stream of water!

And I know we could go to our own backyards- many times that is just what we need to do. But I have found for myself that I just have
too much to do in my own home to stay home without getting those things done- so for me sometimes I need to hop in the car and get a few blocks away. Leave the cell phone in the van and walk away for a while.  Don’t worry, when I get back home… everything is still there!! Have I wasted my time? Not in the least. The moments, the memories, the time enjoying the beauty God has given us and the people God has placed in our lives and all around us are worth every moment we spend soaking it all in.

How about you? Do you see an empty place that you can fill? Have you listened intently to a stream or watched a chipmunk scurry among the leaves? Have you left behind your phone and focused on those around you? Don’t let emptiness invade our parks, our trails, our beautiful places that God has provided for our rest and refreshment. Take it all in. Little pieces at a time if you have to. But
don’t be part of the emptiness.
Earlier this year I learned about a Math curriculum called Life of Fred. I read through their webpage, checked out a few reviews, and decided to try out a book on my younger ones. Turns out- it is a LOT of fun! I didn’t switch any of our schoolbooks, but just added in a lesson of Fred each day.

Basically, it is a VERY silly story of a 5 yr old who happens to be a college professor. Throughout his day lots of crazy things happen… and somehow the children are taught about everything from how Archimedes died to how to say “lightning” in German.  I have enjoyed the books so much- and especially enjoyed seeing my children learn so many facts is such a fun and interesting way, that we ended up ordering more elementary, the beginning readers, and also Algebra for the older ones.

I have been amazed the nights that we get home late, pile out of the minivan, and the children point up to the sky and excitedly say, “There’s Orion’s Belt!!” I can definitely say that I never knew who Orion was, or how to find his belt!!

Night after night they have pointed up to his belt, and then one night Joanna (6) says, “Mommy, you could write about this. Three stars make one belt- just like God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost make One God.” Now- I must say I was quite leery of mixing Astronomy with Theology. So, I just gave her a hug and said, “Now that’s a good idea!” (with no intention of writing about it.) Yet night after night as she looked up at the sky she was reminded of what a Great God we serve. The God Who made the stars and placed them all in the heaven. Three in One.


Twelve years ago we were blessed with our second little bundle of joy!  Our first surprise with Mary was that her two feet came out kicking!!  It was almost 20 minutes later before her head got loose and she was out and breathing!!  That is one morning that many of us will not forget.  She was a blessing from the very beginning- a very happy baby, loved to smile, and almost slept the first year of her life away!! 
It was just three years later... not quite... when she seemed to come down with pneumonia. She was getting very lethargic and our pastor said we'd better get her into the Emergency Room. Little did we know that night of November 30th, 2006, that we would not be heading home again until July 11th, 2007. Home just in time for Cynthia's 6th birthday the next day. Our baby boy arrived to a home where he had not been since he was just 3 weeks old. We were happy to back with our family together- and with our Mary home. She could not even get herself onto the couch yet... but we were home!

Mary has a rare disease called Langerhans cell Histiocytocis. And though she looked like the happiest and healthiest little girl around- jumping on the trampoline, riding her red tricycle, and singing Jesus Loves Me- silently, the histiocytes were terrorizing many organs in her body, even until her lungs were almost nonexistent. Here is a brief excerpt from her carepage: 

Mary was admitted to Hershey Hospital Dec. 1, 2006. She was diagnosed with Langerhans cell Histiocytosis and immediately started on Chemo. Her lungs were so destroyed from the disease. Soon she was in intensive care. She was put on life support, completely sedated for almost 6 months. During this time she had 24 chest tubes, a couple cardiac arrests, and was on the edge of life and death every minute. Eventually the chemo did stop the Histiocytosis and she woke up, rehabilitated, and came home July 11, 2007. The Chemo continued until October of 2008. October 2009 the Histiocytocis is active again. Please pray with us for our little "Miracle Mary."

Joel 1:3 "Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation."

An interesting point here- is that Joel is a pretty hefty book of prophesying judgement. In just three chapters Joel warns of the invasion by Gentile nations, destruction of a nation, promise of deliverance, deliverance, judgement, and the future of Israel. 

I was reminded of the "fairy tales" that most of us heard growing up... cute little stories about pigs, and grandmothers, and grasshoppers. You get the picture- they pretty much all lived happily ever after. Then one day we find out that we weren't really told the whole story. They all started out and ended quite differently than we had been told. Then when we have children we need to decide... how do I tell the story to them? Or do I tell it at all???

As we were finishing up our supper the other night- our 4-yr-old son said excitedly, “Daddy, can you tell us the story about when Jesus explodes the world with fire and we can play with snakes!!”

Apparently, as our 2 boys rode home from church on Wednesday night in Daddy’s big truck he was explaining a bit of end times prophecy- maybe to answer a few questions they had about the message.

We did get a good laugh out of the innocence of our son’s excitement over a big explosion and playing with snakes!!  Sadly though, the reality is that it will be a very terrifying time as the end draws nearer.

Children are interested, and children are imaginative.  So, where do we draw the line in teaching the Bible or answering hard questions?  

The Bible tells us over and over to tell our children, to “teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”  Some of it they will understand now- and some of it they will understand later. But as parents, grandparents, teachers, and mentors we must speak of these things. They must know these things are true and God will keep His Word. They must know that the Bible is our authority on how we live and what we believe.

I am glad my son knows that Jesus is powerful enough to explode the whole world- yet kind enough to let the children play with snakes and lions safe and unharmed.
My husband is quite the adventurer.  I have to admit... if it weren't for him I would spend most of my life just staying within my comfort zone. Yet he has taught me that without taking the adventure- we miss out on so many wonderful things in this life.
Paul took this photo of our oldest son fishing off an island one night while they were out past sunset. 
 They watched the sun go down, and headed home safely in the dark- with wonderful stories to tell!!

Looking through some old photos I was reminded of how my boys have always loved to work like daddy.  They had a way of always finding the sharpest tool in the toolbox- or carrying around the heaviest hammer they could find!!  I remember when my oldest son built his first “birdhouse” all by himself… okay… so it was 6 pine boards nailed flat together… but to him it was a birdhouse.  And it brought joy.

I will let them bang the hammer into the dirt. And as they grow, let them pound 15 nails into a board and show me what they “built.”  Let them get cuts and bruises from playing with the tools.  Because someday I will look them in the face eye to eye and see that they have grown to be men like daddy.  


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