Family {Time}

We like to take the boys on a mini “getaway” before we start calving because as most ranchers know once calving season starts there’s not a whole lot of opportunities to get away.

And since we also farm, once March and April roll around my husband and father-in-law are racing to get their planting done and by that time we’ll have Mr. #3 here, too!

So last week we took a few days to spoil our sheltered boys with two nights in a hotel along with a movie at the theater and a day filled with lots of fun activities! Most of these activities were overseen by the world’s best daddy; with me being 30 weeks pregnant I wasn’t able to take part in all of the fun. But I did get plenty of pictures taken!

These two boys adore their daddy and I’m so very grateful that he is able to – and makes the effort to – take the time to do these things with them. When we first started discussing us moving back my biggest worry was that he would get caught up in work and wouldn’t make the time to be with his family. That hasn’t been the case and I often need to remind myself of how much more time we get with him than if he was working a “normal” job.

There are days when we don’t see him all day, but then there are the days when the boys get to spend most of their time with him; yes, I do appreciate those days for the quiet house but more than that I appreciate those days because I know they are having the best possible experience “working” with daddy.

And it hit me, while I was sitting watching him swim with them, that it would all be different next year and I originally wondered how we’d handle three boys at a water park and then I remembered…well they’ll all be a year older, silly momma! EJ already almost has the confidence to swim alone (with a floaty) and I’m sure Miles won’t be far behind. Mr. #3 will be nearly 1 year old and I sat there wondering what this photo will look like.

 

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Swimming at Reef Water Park 2017

 

It made me a little sad – as we always say, it goes by too fast! But it also made me so grateful that this wonderful man makes sure he takes time with each of our boys and I know he will continue to do so. Even though there are times when I give him a hard time and I forget how much time he does get to spend with them, I know he will always try his hardest to make sure he makes time to wrestle and play and eventually, to shoot hoops, to teach driving and sharing his knowledge (even the questionable stuff *wink*). And these will be the things they remember – a dad they can look up to and learn from, who is fun and understanding, and who will try his hardest to make time to spend with them.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. ~Proverbs 22:6

 

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One Word

2017 has been…busy.

I feel like each year goes by faster and faster. Is that an adult thing? I mean I know time can’t be lengthened or shortened, but, my goodness, it sure feels like the years go by faster.

Yes, I mean year. There are days that drag by, which doesn’t make much sense, but even with slow days, a month goes by and I can’t seem to believe that we’re onto the next month so quickly.

This year has been much the same as any year on the Volf Ranch. Except for maybe the ridiculously dry summer and constant threat and worry of fires. That is sometimes a concern, but not like this year.

The upheaval and craziness that comes with a move wasn’t a new experience, but the switching of houses at the same time – two sets of everything being moved on the same weekend – was a very interesting adventure. We are very grateful for our extended family that so willing helped; I’ve found that time is a gift that is not easily given, but usually the most appreciated.

The news of baby #3 due in March was probably our most surprising and slightly overwhelming headline of the year. It took me a while to remember and realize the excitement of a new baby. Ever since we found out #3 is another little man, I’ve found myself both looking forward to and cringing at the amount of noise that will be echoing through the house. I am extremely excited to meet our new little one and am so very honored to be a boy mom.

I was asked to head up and lead a new ministry at our church. I have thoroughly enjoyed leading our Wednesday night kid’s church program. It has been so rewarding. I’ve learned to better manage my time, but also that “winging it” is OK. I mean they’re kids, right? They don’t know whether or not we’re right on the script and I love that! I’ve been so grateful for the ladies that help me and am looking forward to only strengthen those new friendships.

Evan has been busy as ever working with his dad and doing projects, both around the ranch and in the house. I’ve appreciated his patience with me when trying to decide where to hang things and move furniture. We are anxiously trying to prepare ourselves for the Volf family reunion in June. While we are excited to have family here visiting, the list of projects seems longer than the time – when subtracted from the usual and necessary ranch/farming jobs – we have to complete them. He has also added basketball referee to his list of jobs this winter. Calving will be starting before we know it and then the sleepless nights that come with an infant shortly after, so if we both seem a bit delirious at times you’ll know why!

I’m sure there are other “major happenings” that have occurred over the last 12 months, but I find my brain is not wanting to remember all of them.

The one thing that I seem to be constantly lacking through all of these events, over this past year is time. Whether I’m feeling rushed getting everyone ready for something or wishing a project could get done or the time that equates to lack of patience with my boys – time always seems to be in short supply. We’re constantly hounded with all of these things we should do and get done and accomplish and always in a certain time frame. I keep thinking of what we might be missing if we didn’t slow down and do a double take on where our time is being spent.

I, selfishly sometimes, say I need more “me time.” I do know that this is an important time, but I’ve also realized that there’s going to come a time where that may be the only time I have. I regularly hear “enjoy this stage” “enjoy it while they’re little” and so on. As I listen to my oldest talk about wanting to go to school, it’s starting to sink in that I really need to be enjoying my TIME with him now. And even though our soon-to-be middle child can drive me mad with his….energy…I have come to cherish the moments that he will “sit you” and cuddle up in the spot between me and the arm of the couch. While I don’t always appreciate the amazing aspects of growing a baby I have loved watching my boys (mostly EJ) loving on our baby. Seeing through his eyes the feel of baby brother moving and kicking I find myself savoring the activeness of our new little man.

time

What to do with these new revelations?

Instead of setting a New Year’s Resolution – which I haven’t actually set one of those in quite a few years – I’m choosing one word to focus on. Any guesses?

Yep…TIME.

And all aspects of that. Not just MAKING time, but ENJOYING time with my kids, GIVING my time without expectations, ACCEPTING time when given. Not hoarding my time for myself, not using time as an excuse.

Maybe this is a little broad. I mean time is a big thing, right? There’s a lot that can be put into these categories. My hope is that I can focus on this one word and how it applies to my life. How I can properly manage my time, but also remembering who needs my time and how they need it.

This may not be quite as simple as some resolutions and I know there will be times that I feel like I’ve made no progress; I’ll want to be selfish with my time and keep it for myself. I hope I’ll learn how to see when I’ve kept too much time for me and not given more to those who need it most.

I want to thank those that are taking the time to read this (*wink*wink*) and maybe you can think of a word that you can focus on this new year instead of making a list of resolutions that have a 50/50 chance of getting accomplished.

Blessings to you in 2018!

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. ~Ephesians 5:15-17

 

Small Towns, Big Community!

When we first moved back to Central Montana, I was a little unsure of whether or not I was ready to “live in the middle of nowhere,” but after being here for 4 years and having the opportunity to get involved in some different areas has reminded me why it’s a blessing to live in the Central Montana community.

I think something really special about our community, is how all these small towns come together for different reasons year round. Also, how even though we may “compete” against each other with sports and 4-H and other club activities, when someone needs our help we all unite to help out.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink, Relay For Life, Festival of Trees, Bright Country Nights, Chokecherry Jam, Lewistown Downtown Assoc., and countless others that hold numerous benefits and fundraisers for different ways to support all of the communities in the area.

I have been able to work with the people who organize and put on the Bright Country Nights light show. This “show” – filled with handmade light displays by families and businesses in the Central Montana area – raises money that will help with maintenance and improvements around the fairgrounds. The Central Montana Fairgrounds hosts many events throughout the year and this is one way we can give back a little!

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photo credit Jennifer Saunders, Old Horse Barn, Central Montana Fairgrounds.

I have enjoyed helping with this cause. Not only in the weeks before the show by updating Facebook and submitting informational articles to the local newspaper, but by also “manning” the gate for one night during the weekend long show. Although it was a cold experience, we (thanks hubby for “volunteering!”) had fun hearing how everyone enjoyed each display and what the favorites were! While this event is free we take any free will offerings, which will then go towards the maintenance and improvements of the fairgrounds.

This year we are very excited to announce that we will be offering hayrides on the last evening of the light show with hot chocolate and s’mores available before and after the ride! Just a little extra fun for making memories while out and about with your family!

Remember, all of this is free and our community members are willingly donating their time, efforts, equipment and handiwork for the benefit of raising funds for our local “events center.” Isn’t that what community is all about? Helping each other out and using our resources and talents to aid those that need it knowing that if we ever need their help in the future they will gladly do the same for us? And how amazing is it that we have one large community that includes all of these small towns who may “compete” as all small towns do, but when it matters most they will unite to help each other out.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. ~1 Peter 3:8

Trust Test

So I am the Kids church leader on Wednesday nights; 10-20 kids, Pre-K – 6th grade. It’s definitely “controlled chaos,” but we have a good time (I think!) and I have two awesome ladies helping me out, so it’s a good experience.

The memory verse for this month is Luke 16:10a:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”

After having a couple of crazy weeks and plenty of needless worry, about a week ago this verse took on a new meaning for me.

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Technically, it means that same thing, but when I applied it to myself instead of trying to help the kids understand it, I realized that all that’s been going on is not new to God and – NEWS FLASH – He knows I can already do it! I am the only one who thinks I can’t do it.

Now, please don’t take this as arrogance either tho. I have TONS of help. A great family who supports me and helps with the boys when I need and, like I said, an amazing Kids’ Ministry team who helps me keep the chaos somewhat controlled.

What I’ve realized is I need to be grateful for these opportunities I have: helping kids grow in their relationships with Christ; showing my gratitude to those who lovingly help out; loving on two little boys that win me over after every “fight.”

It never occurred to me that God TRUSTS me with these “things.” While I don’t always say the right things or I lose my temper or get frustrated too easily or let myself get stressed out before asking for help, He still trusts me to be a good wife, mother, and leader.

WOW!

So if God, the creator of everything, trusts me, why can’t I trust myself?

Trust, n: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

All Things Fall

I love fall. And I am so very ready for it to be here. After weird, not-very-spring-like weather and then out of nowhere 90+ degree weather; fires and more fires and no rain, I am so very ready for fall. Brisk mornings, warm afternoons and cool evenings make for wonderful days. Along with that is the fun of having a bountiful garden and finding new recipes to use our wonderful veggies!

Fall baking is kind of my therapy sometimes. With it’s warm spices and cozy aromas, for some reason it helps me to refocus and remember to soak up all I have to be grateful for; a wonderful home filled with laughter (and yes, sometime screaming) and always full of love. Family close by to share and make memories with. Amazing friends that keep me sane! Above all, a God that doesn’t and will never give up on me!

So, in honor of fall and all it means to me, I want to share a few of my most favorite recipes with you all!

First up….

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread – this bread is literally ALL THINGS FALL! Yummy spices, with two perfect fall veggies; this bread is what I thing fall would taste like!

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

YUM! Seriously, super moist and perfect, served warm with butter! Breakfast, snack, dessert – it’s great all day long!

With our new addition coming in the spring, I have a feeling I will be doing some major fall/holiday baking and I’m hoping to join the “be prepared with frozen meals stocked up” club; I will share what I find along the way!

Stay tuned for more yummy fall recipes this month!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

 

Mayday {no, it’s not a typo}

May Day has arrived and I have called out a Mayday; I have some serious winter blues.

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May 1, 2017

Yes we’ve had a few nice days scattered in every once in a while, but come on, it’s gonna be summer before we get any spring!

As I’m sitting in my kitchen, watching it snow….again….on May 1st….I’ve decided I’ve gone beyond cabin fever. I have never been a winter/snow person, but I can handle snow…in the winter: A) it’s SUPPOSE to snow in the winter, B) it’s nice snow, you can play in not wet, sink-into-your-bones and freeze-you-while-the wind-plasters-it-on-your-skin snow. Yes winters can be nasty here, but you expect in then, right? But in May?

And when I have to sit inside and listen to cartoons with two ridiculously rambunctious boys who really just want to go outside and if I didn’t feel so guilty over the nasty weather I’d probably just throw them out and watch them freeze (only for a few minutes) just to stop listening to the fighting…then laughing…then screaming…then whining; what would be the next step beyond cabin fever?

My “tuning out” skills have really been fine tuned lately and I’ve decided that if they want to jump off of the couch for sport, so be it; “play” the piano for a bit? Sure, wait…just don’t pound on it! More cartoons? Whatever gets us thru this day that should be spent outside, but we’re not….because it’s snowing.

And to top it off, my farmer husband is talking about how crazy busy – even more than usual – they’ll be once it actually get’s nice and dry enough for them to start farming! Which really means (but he hates saying it out loud for fear of my reaction) is he will be gone super early and home super late. BUT, when I consider this (and work to refrain my groan) I remind myself that when that happens it will be nice enough to spend all day outside and the fighting-laughing-screaming-whining chorus won’t be on repeat; I realize I need to get over my pity-party and figure out how to be supportive during the out-of-his-control-crazy-busy season.

Because while the weather is out of our control, my emotions and reactions and attitude are in MY control. So, even though I do feel a bit unhinged, I know that if I fix my attitude and focus on how awesome this moisture will be for crops (aka our way of living), I will enjoy that nice weather so much more when it gets here.

And when I remember all I have to be grateful for – a supportive family that I can “pawn” my kids off on to have time alone; a loving husband who is also a wonderful role model for our boys; a warm home with food and a “play ground” that goes on for miles; most of all, a loving, merciful Heavenly Father who uses my own words (sometimes) to remind me where my heart should be instead of letting me dwell on my “winter blues.”

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Yes, it says ALL CIRCUMSTANCES…there is always something to be thankful for.

Grateful {Books}

I have always enjoyed reading and in here I am going to share something that I have never shared with anyone; please be kind with my vulnerabilities.

Reading was my way to escape, to feel a part of something, to find friends. Now before anyone gets upset with me, I want you to know that I have had (and still have) some wonderful friends growing up, but I still never really felt like I fit in. I didn’t think or do the same things that my friends did. Not that any of this is bad – all people are different, have different talents, abilities and desires. While I liked spending time with my friends and having those relationships, I also desired time to myself and quiet. And I’m pretty sure that is what made me so different. Also, I really wasn’t very rebellious (I think that “stage” came a little later for me, in college). I knew what my parents expected from me and having their approval and not disappointing them was very important to me. I don’t resent that, I am very grateful for growing up with that desire and from it I learned not being like everyone else is ok and so I turned to books for companionship.

And it’s still true for me today – when I’m feeling overwhelmed or bogged down, reading helps me to escape or I saw somewhere someone called it “Mommy’s in time out!” I still need that quiet time to almost recoup from the day-to-day chaos.

I’d say in around junior high I discovered Christian fiction. It started with romance, what girls doesn’t love a good romance? And then I read a series by Frank Peretti that was different. It was a thriller/mystery that had my heart pumping and I would stay up way to late because I just couldn’t put it down. And from there I found Ted Dekker. He has become one of my favorite authors; he delves into the supernatural “realm” so to speak – making my faith stretch and question. He wrote about spirits and demons and a whole other world. Some of that is scary, but the way he wrote it made so much sense to me. While I loved to read romantic stories of characters finding their faith through hardships and falling in love after having to let the loved one go and how families miraculously came together against all odds, albeit through tragedy and sometimes chaos, I found myself wanting to find something a bit….deeper? Ted Dekker and now his daughter Rachelle Dekker and another Christian thriller author, Mark Andrew Olsen all write books that make me think about who I am in Christ and helped me to understand that light always overcomes darkness.

(Going a tad off subject here, but bear with me!)

That is the “theme” behind Rachelle Dekker’s first series, The Seers. (My most recent reading adventure.) Light always overcomes darkness and remembering that light in myself – in all of us – is what makes us whole. Sometimes that light has to work hard to overcome, but that hard work is what builds our faith.

“It took me a long time to learn that faith’s purpose is not to release you from life’s trials. Faith gives you the strength to see the trial fully and to know this too shall pass. To hold nothing against the world or the trial before you. To practice true forgiveness.” The Returning, Rachelle Dekker.

(No worries, this will come full circle!)

reading
credit: Patsy Clairmont Facebook page

I didn’t see it when I was growing up. I just thought I was different because I didn’t like or enjoy the same things as those around me. This made me an outcast, made me “miss out,” made me wonder (more times than I can count) “Who am I?”

And I still do. “Who am I, to be responsible for these two, sweet little boys?” “Who am I, to have this wonderful family?” “Who am I, to be offered the unconditional love of a man who I’m pretty sure I drive crazy?”

But what if my being different wasn’t just because that’s who I was? And since I didn’t have the same interests I was missing out? But being different meant I had something I needed to share and all of the quiet, reading time was the Father’s way of showing me what I have to offer – His light. What if even then, when I wasn’t sure of who I was, that He knew I would come to this realization and I would feel like I’ve been struck by lightning at how clear it is to me now?!

I have read many non-fiction books (most recent Bible study Finding I Am, by Lysa TerKeurst is wonderful!) about how to connect with God on that personal level and how to delve deeper into the Bible to build that relationship; they have been helpful to me, by guiding me on the process. But the fictional stories have seemed to help me to apply it to myself. They write HOW their character find their light; remembering what the Father says about them and for whatever reason it resonates with me a bit more. And I really love that these specific authors don’t shy away from the evil. We all know that it exists, but sometimes we feel like if we don’t acknowledge it maybe it won’t hurt us, but that’s exactly what it wants. Ignoring the problem only gives it more room to grow; shining light on the problem, while most likely painful, is the only way to find the solution. (One lesson learned from Finding I Am study!)

(Full circle coming!)

My love of reading, in the long run (close to 20 years!) has helped me to find who I am in Christ. It’s helped me to remember how to find my light; it’s brought me back to faith when I doubted myself; it’s made me dig deeper and want to become a better person, not just myself but for those around me.

I want you to know that this is a HUGE work in progress for me, as I’m coming to find out that it is in everyone. This quote from Rachelle’s book really hit home for me:

“If I’m being honest, which I feel like I can be here with you in this safe place we share, I am living in a constant state of judgement. I judge myself for losing sight of my true nature. I judge myself for needing to remember. I judge myself for aging, for feeling weak and tired. I judge myself for the blame I carry. And I judge myself that I can’t let it go. I know I shouldn’t, and then I judge myself because I do. Maybe that’s all this life is, really. Waking up each morning and forgiving yourself. Forgiving the world around you. Seeing things with clear eyes and letting go of the grievances we hold on to for dear life. Maybe that is the only way to really find peace. It’s hard to do when the darkness creeps in. When thoughts of you flood my mind or when I’m overcome with worry for your sister. But I am trying to see myself as I hope that you see yourself: blameless, whole, lacking nothing, perfect. For the love given to us call this forth.” The Returning

And now I’ve found a new habit to work on stacking – stop judging myself and remember who I am: the daughter of my Father, who chose me and gives me His light (and a love for reading!)

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.'” ~ John 8:12