Maybe it comes from being married to a bugman, but then again, maybe it comes from my dad who passed his love for animals down to me as a little girl. Whatever the reason, I always seem to notice the animals no matter where I am: the dying bat on the road near our mailbox, which I gently set on the side of the road so she could die in peace, poor thing; the loud squawking of the robins out back as the neighborhood hawks seek to find their next meal; the family of Canadian geese crossing the road near Joe's mom's house (Make Way for Ducklings!); and the bird sitting on the meat package at the store, the very same meat I intended to buy! Granted, it was covered with a tight plastic seal, but it still grossed me out. On one hand, the little sparrow was cute as he looked in the mirror behind the meat case and did a little dance for the other bird he saw in front of him, but when he began scooping up the water droplets off the top of the meat package with his little beak, my stomach lurched a bit. I never liked buying this particular store's meat before, but in an emergency it was okay. Not now. Not ever! There was no way anyone could even pay me to buy any of their fresh meat that evening. Just the sight made me dislike this store even more!
That bird was not the only animal I had seen in the store: there was that little gray mousie that went scurrying down the freezer aisle and almost did a complete spin around on the slippery floor just to get into the hole under the shelving, and then there was that gigantic rat that went racing across the aisle in the garden center. Yuck! I told JJ, who was with me during the bird incident that all stores have some animal problems, and his answer was, "Well, this store must be overrun with them for us to acutally see them everywhere!"
I am thinking of calling and complaining to the store manager and highly recommending a good pest control person for the job. Sound like a good idea to you?
Speaking of a good person for the job, I must give a shout out to my hubby who once again showed his awesomeness in fixing a problem here at the house. First though, I give all the glory to the Lord for His amazing grace and mercy in how the situation began here early that morning. We had been having problems with our water pressure, but we were not sure what was going on until the other day. Joe was in the living room and suddenly he heard the sound of water downstairs. He went racing down to find a few gallons of water in the downstairs bathroom, coming from the water tank. I had no idea what was going on and went in to take my usual shower. I found it odd that no water came out at all, but waited for it to catch up. It never did. I went in search of Joe and found him in the middle of a mess downstairs. He told me the water pressure valve had given way and he had turned off the water in order not to flood the house. I quickly got dressed and went to his mom's house down the road and stocked up on drinking water and buckets for flushing toilets. To make a long story short, he ended up fixing the issue that very day and now we have much better water pressure than we have had for a long time. It could have happened while he was gone, or when the kids were home alone, but God allowed it to all come about while Joe was there and could deal with it. Even during the trials of life He is standing by our side watching over us. Isn't that a comforting thought? The words to a song I have recently heard keep ringing through my head:
What if blessings come through raindrops,
What if healing comes through tears,
And what if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know You're near,
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
The way I see it, that trial was His amazing mercy in disguise. It could have been huge: it could have flooded the entire downstairs of our home and ruined everything...there are so many could haves, but God showed His mercy and took care of us, and though it seemed like an inconvenience at first, it was a blessing in the end.
The last couple of weeks I had the priviledge to sub for a teacher at Heritage, in the K4/K5 class. It was amazing at how everything came back to me after being away for a year, but it must be like riding a bike. It all comes back when you climb on and start pedaling. My girls were very excited to be able to attend the school with me and had fun with their old teacher and group of friends. Benny had fun being with me and hanging out with his buddies. It brought back the longing of being a part of the Heritage family once again, and we are praying about what God would have us do for the next school year. We are almost finished our work for the current school year and I am glad we stuck it out. I must admit that after the Newtown shootings, which was too close for comfort if you ask me, I was quite content in the fact that all the children were safe at home with me. I did have some fear to pray about when I entered the school kindergarden classroom to teach, but God is faithful to give us peace when we ask Him.
One other blessing that has occurred in the past week is the fact that the lady, from the Mass Hope convention, has been asking for more and more books, which she seems to be selling like hotcakes at other homeschool conventions. It is a confirmation to me that I did what the Lord asked, and even though it did not seem to go well at the time, He was working behind the scenes to accomplish a greater answer to prayer. I am overwhelmed at His love toward me, even when I do not deserve it. My dear reader, may you experience this awesome love toward you today, for He loves His children dearly. If you are not His child, than may this be the day that you ask Him to become your Heavenly Father. Have a Godfilled, fun weekend!
P.S. As a final thing, I am posting an audio clip of a song I played at church with one of my flute students, and a young man (who happens to be good friends with my boys) who played the violin, and a lady who plays piano at church. Hope it comes through! Click on the link to go to the Fun Stuff page to hear the clip.
We took one of the most amazing journeys through Amish country this past weekend. I did not mean to book our hotel so far from the area where we were to spend our day, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. One of my missions to accomplish while in Pennsylvania was to find a store that sold wheat berries so I could take them home and grind my own flour. The 50lb bags can get quite pricey to ship so I needed to find a lot so we could stock up for a long, long time. I entered the address to a store I had found online and we set out to find the bags of gold.
It was extremely beautiful farmland, with farm after farm of cows, horses, and large fields just waiting to be tilled or seeded. The further we drove into the countryside, the more excited I became as we passed small schoolhouses with Amish children, girls in their black dresses, caps, or two braids, and boys in their black outfits and hats, milling around on the swingsets for their lunch break. There were farmers plowing their fields behind teams of four mules pulling metal tills across large acreages of land. We passed a few community gatherings with loads of people in black sitting around, eating, and enjoying each other's company. Children in bare feet rode scooters (which had two wheels like a bike, but no seat, and a flat bottom where they stood while pushing themselves along with the other foot) up and down the road, while teenage girls mowed the lawns with hand push mowers. There were even a couple of them weedwacking the grass, if they were from the Mennonite groups, and could use electricity. We had fun trying to identify which groups the families were from by the colors of the clothing that hung on the lines outside the farmhouses, by the color of the wagons they drove (Amish drive a gray carriage and Old Order Mennonite drive the black....or is it the other way around?) or by the type of covering they wore on their head. Were they Amish, Old Order Mennonite, Mennonite (the ones who use electricity and cars), or were they from the Charity groups? It was amazing to see them all in action, almost as if the books I had read were coming to life in front of me.
We finally found the country store after driving around the mazes of roads and dodging horse and buggies that trotted down all the back streets. It was a small store, but it had exactly what I needed and we happily left with four 50lb bags of wheat berries that we stowed in the back of the car. Praise the Lord for helping us get what we needed without any trouble!
If you are ever in the Lancaster area, I highly recommend going to the Good and Plenty restaurant for dinner. The name speaks for itself, and my children's eyes bugged out at the amounts of food the waitress brought to our table. We ordered the family style dining, something we had done years ago while visiting my friend in Indianna, and something I really wanted to do again while in the Amish area. They seat you at a large table already set with bowls of food, such as applesauce, chicken salad, bean salad, and condiments such as butter, cottage cheese, and apple butter. Three large pitchers are already set, one with ice tea, one with water, and the other with lemonade. There are other options for drinks, but this was plenty for our family, unless your name is Joe and you need your coffee. :)
The waitress then brings out a huge plate of sliced homemade bread, which is the softest, and tastiest bread you'll ever eat. Next comes platters of fried chicken, ham loaf, and the most tenderest roast, with mashed potatoes, noodles, peas, and corn. The food keeps coming and you can eat all you want and the waitress will continue filling up the platters until you push it away and say, "Enough!" I never saw Benny eat so many mashed potatoes before, but he finished up the entire bowl! We were quite full after all that, but soon found it was not over yet. Next came dessert....shoo fly pie, cheesecakes, blueberry pie, and homemade ice cream were all on the menu that night. The thing is they do not just bring out simply one piece that you request, but they bring it ALL out and set everything before you. Needless to say, we left that place very satisfied and full. We really, really need to bring one of those places to Connecticut!
The highlight of our day though was going to Sight and Sound that evening. I had no idea how the children were going to react, especially my oldest, since he is a teen and it is hard to surprise him. Yet, when we walked into the theater and they looked around, I had to smile at the looks on their faces. Mission accomplished! Even JJ was awestruck by the huge room and curtains in front of us. The entire show was simply amazing, and kept their attention the whole time. They did not want it to end, and they decided that we need to make it a family tradition to go every year and see the latest production. I must agree it is an excellent idea.
My favorite parts of the show, without giving away too much of it for those who have not seen it and want to, was the loading of the animals, the revealing of the ark when the curtain rose after intermission (I heard gasps of awe as it took our breath away!), and then at the end where they compared the ark to the cross and the door (Jesus Christ) that is open once again for all to enter. One day that door is going to be slammed shut and there will be no more chances to enter into the kingdom of God.
I found it interesting how much we could compare the Amish way of life, simple and different then the world, to the life of Noah. People did not understand him. They laughed at him, mocked him, even tried to persaude him to change his ways, but he lived what he believed, and it did not stop him from doing right. Though we may not agree with the entire beliefs of the Amish, I admire them for doing what they believe and sticking to it. They live what they believe. They do not let the ways of the people around them sway them in any way, nor do they compromise half way in order to please both sides. I want to be like that!
Another thing that made me think was how the people helped Noah build the ark, yet they did not believe him or even believe in the God Who had commanded the work to be done. It made me wonder just how many people today are doing the work of the Lord, in His house, or place where He is, but do not really believe in Him? How many go through the motions to get the rewards and applause from those around, but in reality, the truth of why they are doing it has not hit their heart. And, if we lived back then, could God have looked at my family and chosen us to do the same thing He commanded Noah to do, or would we have been counted as all the rest of the world around Noah? I sure pray that we would be counted for righteousness. May the Lord continue to work on my family's heart and draw us closer to Him, knit our hearts as one to His, so we can live a life different and separate from the world.
This is my favorite time of year. I love to watch the dull, brown ground come alive with color, and the trees burst into bloom. It is as if they are saying, "We have had enough of being cooped up! I want out!" Which, by the way, is something we all were saying at the end of this long winter. I enjoyed watching the Snowdrops and Crocuses pop up through the snow, completely blanketing the entire left side of my yard. They were the first flowers of the year that my children presented to me, with huge smiles on their faces. I have also been enjoying the white petals that cover the trees downtown, which my youngest thought was snow.
I love smelling the outdoors on the children whenever they come in from playing outside. It is a clean, fresh smell that permeates the air around them. (That is one thing I have always been able to do. When I moved to Connecticut, people often gave me strange looks when I told them I could smell the outdoors, but it is true!!!)
I love how the songs of the birds tickle my ears with delight every morning, as well as the chirps of the peepers in the trees at night. Yet, one of the final signs of spring, at least for me, is the return of our chimney tenants, the Myotis Lucifugous. Before I tell you what the name means, let me tell you how we discovered our visitors eight years ago.
It was a beautiful summer day and my four children were playing in the living room while I cleaned up from breakfast. When I was done, I put baby Susanna into the stroller and we all went outside to play in the warm sunshine. I sat down on the concrete steps in the front of our house and watched the children ride their bikes in the driveway. It was as I was sitting there that the little brown clump under the railing caught my eye.
"Ewww!" I thought. "There is a dead mouse on our step!"
I went to take a closer look and noticed the little sides of the creature were moving, as it took rapid breaths. Upon closer investigation, I realized it was not a mouse at all, but a little baby bat. I quickly called my children over to take a look at it and we all ooohed and aaaahed at the funny looking animal. I knew the baby was a mammal so he needed his mother or else he would die. Of course my motherly insticts kicked in and I had to find out how to save him. Where had he come from? Where was his family? I knew nothing else would get done until I solved the mystery of the baby bat and helped him somehow.
I found a box and some gloves and carefully picked up the bat, setting him into the box where he would be safe. He liked the feeling of the glove and moved enough so he could hang upside down on the side. I tried feeding him a little water, but he was not interested. I took out a phone book and began searching for CT wildlife numbers. I needed someone to tell me how to care for him. After a few calls, I was directed to the right people who told me exactly what I needed to do in order to help the little guy. Did I have a chimney? Yes, I did! Were there black droppings on the side and on the ground anywhere near the chimney? Yes, there were! Was there a crack in the side of the chimney anywhere? Yes, there was! That was his home, they informed me. His family lived behind our chimney and that was where he needed to go. From what the lady told me, baby bats cling to their mothers as they fly around at night and somehow this one had fallen off. He still needed his mother to nurse and sustain his life.
With hope in my heart, I went back outside to study the crack behind the chimney, which seemed extremely high up. How in the world was I going to put baby Myotis back into that hole? I tried standing on a chair but it did not give me enough height. I decided I would have to wait for my husband to get home. He had a nice long ladder on the top of his truck that would work beautifully in getting the baby back home.
It seemed like forever until Joe came home from work, but finally he pulled in and took the ladder off. I had already explained to him about our situation over the phone, and with that look in his eye, (I guess I have put myself into these heroic attempts quite often in our marriage) he set the ladder up and I brought the bat outside to him. It was then that we noticed strange squeaking sounds coming from the hole, a sound that is very hard to explain. It is a very high pitched sound that is different than any other animal I have heard. They did not like the fact that we were invading their area, which made me nervous that they would come flying out to attack us.
Joe put the glove on, with the bat still hanging off the side, and climbed up the ladder. He went as far as he dared, while still being in reach of the entrance to the side of the chimney. He held his hand up and waited. The squeaking grew louder from inside and the baby perked up. We watched in suspense as the baby inched sideways, attached itself to the rough brick of the chimney, and made his way into this home. The high pitched squeaking increased in excitement as baby bat was welcomed home to his family. I breathed a sigh of relief. Success once again!
I found it very interesting to have bats so close to us. We had often heard the sounds of scratching on our living room walls as night, but did not know what it was. Now we knew. Joe was concerned that they would ruin the chimney so after they left for the winter, he sealed up the hole and attached a bat box to the same spot so they would still have a home. The bats, which were all female, returned the next spring and moved into the box. It is their nusery roost, where they have their babies and raise them all summer long. We had no idea how many were in there until one night we sat on the grass at dusk and watched the bats swoop out, one by one, from the box and go off to eat their nightly meal. We counted over 80 bats, and they were still coming out when we went inside that night. Our bat box can hold 100 bats and it certainly it packed tight when I look up into it.
So, yes, seeing our bats return is definitely my last sign that spring is here to stay. We were outside the other night, sitting around a campfire, when I noticed the bats swooping out of their house and diving low, right above our heads, as they caught those nasty mosquitos I hate so much. I love how God has provided us natural pest control, something that is entertaining to watch, plus it is a witness to the children how God's creation is awesome. Bring on the spring weather!!!!