NaNo 2017 Recap and Life Update

Some days, I dream I’ll be able to become the kind of blogger that takes just fifteen minutes or so to slap a post together and get it posted. I often enjoy that type of blog, because I often feel like I get to know the author better that way somehow—but I haven’t tended to be a good blogger over the last while. Sigh.

HOWEVER, now that NaNoWriMo is officially eight days over, I feel like my brain is starting to return! Hurray!

NaNo was so fun to do this year. After I won in 2013, I really wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to participate again, because I anticipated life getting busier (maybe I was planning on getting married at sixteen; who knows? I can’t remember!). Anyway, even though I did no prep whatsoever for NaNo this year (a BIG no-no in my book!), I was thrilled to be able to participate.

Beach Outing

And even better, I somehow finished. Don’t ask me how that happened; but it did, and I’m thankful!

Since winning NaNo, I’ve focused on a bunch of different things, but the most exciting has been working on the website redesign. Due to several Black Friday sales shared by a blogger I follow, I was able to both purchase the themes I needed to start the redesign, as well as buy website hosting! That was thoroughly exciting, after waiting several months for enough funds to become available.

And, of course, it’s always thrilling to be playing with code and website colors, fonts, and designs again. That’s one part of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy, so it makes my little heart happy to be able to work on it again.

NaNo 2017 Winner Badge

However, life isn’t all fun and games—today, for example, I need to get some book reviews uploaded to the LRD website. I stopped uploading through the month of November, partly due to the lack of available reviews, and partly due to my (ahem) writing at the time. Near the beginning of the month, I decided getting into creative writing would trump working on reviews for the time being. But now that we are into December, it’s high time to tackle that project again.

Then, when that’s done, maybe I can start working on the complex problem with category presentation on the redesign, or perhaps get started on a sewing project I’ve been gazing longingly at for the past week or so.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to dream up a way to get blog posts written and posted easier. Because I do love blogging; I just tend to get to feeling a little stifled at times by the things I “must” do before I can get a post up.

What have you been working on lately?

Rose Propagation

Since we found out late last week that we’re definitely going to have to move (the previous week or two saw a few ups and downs in that area, but the final verdict is that we can’t stay here), everyone has been doing a lot of thinking about what they want to keep and move, and what they’re willing to either pass on or dispose of.

The thought of moving again is daunting, but it’s always encouraging to remember that the Lord knew about this way in advance! I’m so thankful! And He will continue to lead. He is so good.

Rose Propagation 01

Anyway, one thing I’ve been thinking about is the fact that I want to get a few starts from some of the beautiful rose bushes around here. The roses have just started flowering, and they’re so gorgeous. I feel quite spoiled to be able to bring some inside, too, for when I can’t be outside to enjoy them! I think they’re one of my most favorite flowers!

A while back, I heard something about rooting a rose in a potato, but I haven’t taken time to look that particular fact up to verify it one way or the other. However, after doing some other research, it sounds like roses aren’t too hard to propagate—apparently, they tend to grow roots fairly easily. So I decided to try it out—we’ll see what happens!

Rose Propagation 02

This particular rosebush produces one of the most beautiful flowers, both scent-wise and color-wise—you can’t see it very well here, but in real life the outside edges are deep red and the inside is a creamy ivory color.

For now, I took starts from six different bushes. I did skip several, as some aren’t flowering yet, and others don’t appeal to me quite as much. I may try to start more if I decide I really like them, but this is enough for now.

I took somewhere between 2–4 stems from each bush, and wrote the bush “number” on a bit of masking tape and attached that to the stem. After trimming off excess from the the lower portions of the stems, I scraped a bit of the outside “skin” off to make a wound. Apparently, in some cases, that encourages the stems to grow roots better. Then I packed them all into a big vase someone gave us a while back, and added water.

Rose Propagation 03

One website said it can take as little as two weeks for roots to appear, although it’s more typical to take four or more weeks. It will be interesting to see what will happen! After all, it’s worth a try—and if it doesn’t work, I’ll either just leave with no rose bushes, or research another method to try.

Have you ever wanted or tried to propagate roses? If you did, how did you do it? What are some of your most favorite flowers?

Springtime Memory-Making

Today is a beautifully sunny spring day, almost untypical for this year’s weather. Usually, Canterbury’s spring consists of some rainy days but mostly sunny ones—this year it almost seems like its the opposite! However, after three years of drought I’m enjoying every moment I hear rain drumming on the roof.

This afternoon, the little guys had a hose running into our front creek, and took great delight in dousing each other and all the land around them with a liberal helping of water.

Springtime Memory-Making 01

Springtime Memory-Making 02

Springtime Memory-Making 03

Reminds me of old days back on the farm when my brothers and I used a small pool for swimming in…or played in the spray from the sprinkler. Great memories!

Springtime Memory-Making 04

You can see our oldest lamb, Daisy, on the far left of this picture.

Springtime Memory-Making 05

And here are the two newest additions to our family: Dusti (left) and Debbie (right), both born yesterday! They’re so cute right now, just learning to take the bottle, and both have good appetites at this point!

Springtime Memory-Making 06

Springtime Memory-Making 07

Springtime Memory-Making 08

Keep looking to Jesus. And, if needed, get out the hose every once in a while. Apparently, it’s great fun!

What are some of your favorite memories of springtime when you were a child?

Website Building and the Vine

Ever since—well, almost before Learning Resource Directory was launched, I’ve been wanting to change to a different name. I knew I wanted something shorter, easier to type, and catchier, but laid that aside to let my subconscious mull over it while I got more important things, like the website launching and more book reviews written, done.

Just a few months ago, I finally came across the perfect name. And although I’m not (quite) ready to share that with you yet, suffice to say I’m thrilled to finally have a name I love!

I bought the domain name several months ago, but didn’t have time to do any more then, as I wanted to research hosting (Gretchen Louise’s tips have been extremely helpful in that area!). I eventually decided to do in-between hosting on Bluehost, where I’m currently hosting this website. I’m not planning to stay here long-term due to a plethora of problems I’ve had, but for now I’ve got another year on the contract I’m on and I may as well use it.

Website Building and the Vine

This past week, I’ve transferred the domain to Bluehost, and am now getting into the exciting phase of deciding on a theme and how to put it together, what I’d like for a logo, how I want the reviews to show up (static, like I have now, or more of a blog layout?), etc., etc.

For someone who’s been through all this designing and tweaking multiple times before, for multiple websites, this is where all the magic (and a lot of the “Oops! I broke it. Now what did I do wrong…?) happens. Next job is to contact someone who designs themes, who has done one particular theme I’ve got my eye on, and ask if she does 30-day money back guarantees in the off chance it doesn’t end up being the right theme for what I need.

And as I sit here, pondering the work I have ahead of copying and pasting, and messing up and trying again and maybe—just maybe—getting it right the first time around for some things, I can’t help but think of that passage in John 15 where Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches. He’s the trunk, the roots, where all the nutrients and plant strength comes from. If that gets cut off, the vines and branches can wither in just a few hours.

Just like a new domain name on a new host—it has potential to do a lot, and if fed the right bits of code and has the correct files that are all interconnected properly, it works well and delivers the information to those who need or want it.

But if just one part of the coding is wrong—even one character off, it’s broken.

Like what mysteriously happened last night when somehow the connection between the two major parts of the website and this blog got disconnected, and they went down. Turned out all I needed was a few bits of text—a database name and a username, and perhaps a password—put in the right places, and we were live again (don’t ask me how they were wrong in the first place, but anyway—it’s obviously fixed now, if you can read this!).

Sometimes, it seems to take daily checking to make sure this website is up and running like it should, no pages showing funny gobbeldy-guck or not showing up at all.

And I have to think how important it is to keep going back to the trunk, the Word, to make sure everything’s still lined up right. No character misplaced, no essential file accidentally deleted. It often takes daily refreshing—both the browser tab kind, and the prayer and reading kind.

But it’s all worth it. Because, in the end, if we are still being fed through the trunk, getting the nutrients we need, we can thrive and grow and through that growth be a blessing to others.

Keep your eyes and heart on Jesus!

What have you been doing lately? Have you ever worked on putting a website together?

Hospitals and a Little Thing Called Thoughtfulness

Hospital waiting rooms are notoriously tiring. And actually, that’s one statement I agree with—because I’ve experienced it! Three hours doesn’t hold a candle to the many, many other people’s experiences in such things. But as for me, while I did find it somewhat tiresome, I did have a book to read and interesting people to talk to, so that made the time pass faster.

For a lot of my time in there, there was another couple waiting as well whose fourteen-year-old son was in for a complex procedure. We got to talking a little, and I enjoyed the glimpse into their lives. Very sweet couple. At one stage, the husband decided he needed his morning coffee, so he made himself one with the service provided in our room (very nice of the hospital, in my opinion!). After downing his first cup, and another hour or so passing, he said something about maybe having another cup.

“Maybe I should join you,” I half-jokingly replied, “this instant stuff isn’t nearly as good as the real, but at least it’s caffeinated.”

Bouquet from Little Brother

He set to work making himself another one, and soon a steaming hot beverage came my way as well. I was surprised; strangers, even ones you’ve talked to some, don’t normally do things like that for you! And while, yes, that coffee was not nearly as good as what I’m used to, his act of kindness really blessed me while I waited. Which totally made up for it!

Last evening, I walked into my room, tired and ready to finish up for the night—and discovered a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a mixture of daffodils and plum blossoms, sitting on the table under my window! One of my youngest brothers gathered it for me as a surprise, found a container to put it in, and even found something to set under it so it wouldn’t mark the table. What a beautiful, cheery gift to give! In my opinion, that’s one of the best bouquets I’ve ever received—I know the heart behind it is pure gold. Or close to it, anyway.

All that to say that on two different occasions just recently, I was very blessed by little things people did for me. So next time you see an opportunity (and this goes for me as well!), do something for someone else. Be that blessing to them. You never know how even a little thoughtfulness might brighten someone’s day considerably!

What was one time you remember someone did something special for you, even if it was small?

Rest in Jesus…Despite the Rapids

It was a gorgeously sunny day as my cousin and I drifted down the creek in our canoe. I was the lookout in front, and despite the fact that this was only my second-ever canoe trip, I was enjoying the blue sky powdered with puffs of clouds, birds trilling along the banks, and the lush green of the leafed-out summer trees. Compared to the last time I had sat in the front of a canoe, on my first-ever canoe trip, water rushing beneath me, this was blissfully relaxing. The last time?—not so much, as, unbeknownst to us before we started, the river was in flood stage.

This time, though, as I breathed in the clean scents and reveled in the day, I really enjoyed it—and tried to push away the fear that this time would end up like last time, with several of us clinging to a drowned log for dear life. The creek we were on had been in flood two days before, following a violent storm that dumped sheets of rain on the land. But today, with the creek down to manageable proportions and actually more perfect conditions than normal since the water level was still on the higher side, we glided through with ease. There were a few rapids to pass through—short stretches of tumbling, sometimes white-capped water—but thankfully even the one semi-trouble spot wasn’t too bad.

Rest in Jesus 01

First canoe trip. Notice our relaxed positions, as this was before we were tipped into the river!

“You know,” I mused to Beth as I shipped paddle for a bit on a particularly straight, gentle stretch in order to enjoy the experience more, “it’s interesting that these flat, smooth spots come right before some more rapids.”

We were silent for a little, as we glided past small cliffs for banks with tree roots embedded in them. “That’s true,” she said at last. “It’s a little like life, isn’t it? Things seem to be going along so well when—bam!—something happens, and we’re in the midst of trials again.”

We laughed, as we realized our thoughts had both been following the same direction. But as we paddled on—and yes, did have another short piece of rapids to go through—I was thankful for the time to spend with her, for the gorgeous day, and even more for the beautiful memories we were making together.

No matter what happens in the intervening time between when we said goodbye not long after that canoe trip, and when we say hello again, we know the One in control of the creeks of our lives…of our flimsy canoes, of our paddles, and, ultimately, of how we will respond to the rapids. And despite the uncertainty of the terrain, of what might be around the next bend, we can rest assured that in knowing Him, we know all we need to know for today. Isn’t that precious?

Have you gone on a canoe trip before? Did you enjoy it?

State Park Visit

One Sunday afternoon when we were up north a ways, one of our aunts took us five oldest out to a local state park. There’s a lovely trail through some woods around different water courses, and we really enjoyed our time walking and talking. It was a good way for us to get some quality time with her.

Just after we started off, a kind woman offered to take our picture for us. I was thankful! It’s not often that we get to get a picture with our aunt!

State Park 01

The irises there were gorgeous!

State Park 02

State Park 03

State Park 04

At one point along the trail, it opened out into a small sand dune. The boys loved running down to the water and climbing back up!

State Park 05

State Park 06

State Park 07

State Park 08

Flowers and Family Time

We’ve been in Michigan for nearly three wonderful weeks now. The main goal of our family trip was to attend my grandma’s 70th birthday celebration, and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins were here for a few short days last week. Despite the hand, foot, and mouth disease that almost all the younger children caught, we had a wonderful catch-up time and made memories that I’m sure will last for many years.

Flower 01

Grandma had some beautiful flowers in her garden!

Flower 02

Flower 03

Last Friday, a lot of us headed to a local beach to cool off. It was a warm day, and most of us hadn’t seen much of Lake Michigan yet (at least not enough to have time to spend in it!), so we really enjoyed the chance to play in the beautiful golden sand and wade. I don’t normally swim, but I did get in a short water-fight with one of my brothers, so I ended up soaked too. It was a gorgeous, fun day!

Beach 01

Afterward, a good part of our group climbed the Little Sable Point lighthouse there. I’d climbed it years ago, before we moved, so I decided to stay behind with little sister. The rest of the family seemed to enjoy it, though!

Beach 02

Last Saturday, the last day we had with most of the family before they headed home, we went out to a local pond created by a dam. This is one of Grandma’s favorite nature spots; a lovely walk through good ‘ole Michigan woods, with great views of the pond and sometimes the wildlife that lives on it. We used to go there fairly often before we moved, so it was fun to see it again.

Pond 01

Pond 02

Then Mom spotted a fully grown Monarch caterpillar! We got to looking closer at the milkweed on the edge of the road, and I think in total we found about eleven or twelve caterpillars. That was pretty exciting! They ranged from a few mm long (just hatched out) to just over an inch long (basically ready to turn into chrysalises). We got five that were almost ready to turn, which are all chrysalises now, and are hoping we will get to see them hatch out as butterflies sometime when we’re in Ohio. Very fun!

Caterpillars 01

Caterpillars 02

What the chrysalises look like now (above), and what our baby worm that was just a couple mms long when we found him looks like now (below). He’s still not very big!

Caterpillars 03

I’ll end with an answered prayer for my brothers—they had wanted to see a snake while we’re here in America, since we don’t have any in New Zealand. It just so happened that there were about five garter (nonvenomous) snakes hanging around the dam that day, so we enjoyed seeing them slithering around for a while!

Pond 03

I’m so thankful for the time we’ve been able to spend together! Thank You, Lord!

Jandal Weather

We’ve been in Michigan for a week and a half now, and yesterday the rest of Mom’s family arrived for the reunion. All eight siblings, the inlaws, and all 22 grandchildren are here. It’s been a blast. It’s so good to catch up again!

Today, a lot of the younger generation went swimming. It’s been a lovely warm day (hence the title!), and now it’s time to get ready for supper. I count myself really blessed!

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When You Can Sing Again

Last Wednesday, nearly a week ago, we were invited to the home of a local friend for an impromptu singing. If you happen to know our family in real life, you’ve probably found out that we love to sing—so it wasn’t likely that we would be missing this chance! It was a lovely evening of praise to our Lord and Maker, and I think we all came away feeling refreshed. One song we sang that night, though, touched the deep chords of my heart.

It is the last song I remember singing with Seth.

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We had been at a concert put on by all the families of our homeschool group, and as our family has done for the past 5-7 concerts we’ve attended, we sang a couple songs together and shared a short poem. The songs and poem all spoke of loss, but beyond that—of hope after loss. I had invited a dear friend of ours, a recent widow, to the concert, hoping that our words—however trite they might come across—would be encouraging and helpful to her in her grief.

I had no idea then that the very words which I was hoping would be an encouragement to her would become a lifeline of a memory, a grounding pillar to me, exactly a week and a half later.

It’s bittersweet to look back on now, knowing that my last memories of singing with him were singing together about the Lord’s healing and help in the middle of struggles we don’t understand. It was—is—powerful to think on.

After the funeral, when life is supposed to return to normal, I remember noticing my singing had stopped. Dried up. Daily chores that had often found me humming favorite melodies were now unusually silent. My heart was just too heavy—overwhelmed—to attempt to even consider finding something.

During those days, I could only cling to the Lord and my family. Together, we discussed our fears, shared our pain, and prayed…a lot. All we had then were God’s promises to cling to, and they became enough. Every time whys surfaced, every time the grief got too hard to bear, He was there to bear it. He took it. And I could sleep each night in peace, knowing that the Lord was there with us in the mess.

Then, one day a week or two later, I caught myself singing again. It’s then I knew I could hope. If that part of me could come back, a new normal could follow.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, what trials are burdening your heart and bringing pain-filled tears to your eyes. But dear friend, may I encourage you to look up? Even if your heart and throat cannot express yourself the way you’ve always known, do know that the Comforter is right there for you. He loves you. You! You might not feel able to grasp that right now, but that’s okay. Cling onto one more day, one more moment. The One who created the universe knows what you’re going through, and He does care.

That song that we sang last Wednesday, the one we sang as a family? I’m thankful I can still sing it today. And it’s become even more precious than it was back then. Here’s our family’s version of it—admittedly not that great, but that’s okay too.

Blessings on your day, friend!

Have you ever been in a place where you just couldn’t sing? How did the Lord help you out of that?