Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Broken


Often when I am in the kids' rooms I pick up broken bits of toys or papers and throw them away. Broken things are useless. For some reason my kids often still want to keep them so I often cull them when they are not looking.

When I was in 5th grade I broke my right arm. After that point for a while my arm was useless. My piano teacher had to play the right hand of my piece at the year end recital and I had to sit on a bench when all of my friends got to play on the newly built playground for gym and at the end of the day at school. I can't remember what I had to do for school work but it was the end of the year so I imagine we didn't have much of that. My broken arm rendered me useless in ways.

In my eyes broken things are useless. They are not in God's eyes. In God's eyes broken things are some of the most useful. I'm reminded of a quote from Elisabeth Eliot that I once read in my mom's Bible, "If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad."

That lunch would have only fed one young boy. When it was handed to Jesus and He broke it it fed a multitude. My life has been broken many times. I have wondered, "Why?" and "What are You doing?" It hurts. It's not easy. BUT GOD... my 2 favorite words in scripture. My two favorite words in my life. But God makes beauty out of my broken pieces. He helps people because I have been broken.

I can trust Him when He allows me to be broken knowing that He is going to use it for His glory. I praise Him for breaking me because I have learned so much in the process. He is conforming my broken pieces into His image so that He can use my life to glorify Him.


Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday. Join me?
Five Minute Friday

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Belong

It is hard to feel like you belong when you move a lot. It's lonely.

The other day when I was working in the kitchen I was thinking of the theme song from "Cheers." It says something about "Sometimes you  just want to be where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came."

It takes a while to get there. When you move to a new place, a new state no one knows your name. No one cares if you came or not.

I think that is why we ended up at the church that we are going to. We first went there for a marriage conference back in April. Since we were new to the area and didn't know what to do with our kids we got special permission to put them in the child care for church members. When we went there for an actual church service a week later we heard, "The Maases are here!" shouted from across the room by the associate children's minister. It felt so good to hear that, especially for the kids. (OK, you're right, especially for their momma.) We had been in transition and so hadn't really had a place to call home since mid-January (or early November depending on how you figure it). It sure felt good to have someone who knew our name and who was glad that we came so we kept coming back. (Thanks Phillip)

I need to create that sense of belonging in people. I know that there are lonely people all around me who feel like they don't belong, like they don't fit in. I need to look at them and open my heart and my home to them. I need to be Jesus to them. He knows our names. He is always glad we came.


OK... now that you've read my 5 minute post on "Belong" click here to stop over at Lisa Jo's to read Ann's. Now. It is so good!

Linking up for Five Minute Friday. Will you join me?
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Working Wednesday: Cool Wet Sheets

What's Working Wednesday is my weekly post to showcase something that is working for me or my family at the moment. It may not work for us forever and it may or may not work for you.

If you didn't already know: it's hot in Texas. Thankfully this has been a mild summer so far with only (I think) about 10 days over 100. We've been enjoying balmy mid-80s this week which has been such a nice break. God loves me so He's breaking me in to these Texas summers easy. (Not that He doesn't love those of you whose first summer here had over 100 days over 100 in a row. I'm just glad it hasn't been one of those summers this year... at least not yet).

Anyway... When it is hot it is hard to fall asleep. One thing we've done to try to beat the heat in order to sleep when it's been oppressively hot has been to wet our sheets and put them in the fridge or freezer in a plastic bag for a few hours. We don't have a great system on this yet. It's been trial and error. A few times we've gotten them too wet. A few times we haven't gotten them wet enough. One time we left them in the freezer too long and ended up with a frozen ball of sheet and it took a while to get it to melt enough to lay under it (we've decided the fridge is better because there is no risk of having another sheet ball but the freezer does cool the sheets in a hurry if you forgot to wet them earlier in the day). The water evaporating off the sheets helps to cool us off and that's been nice.

The girls are particularly fond of the wet sheet thing and ask that their sheets be "delivered" to them at bed time but the boy is not impressed. He thinks it's too cold and would prefer to just have his fan.

Cooled wet sheets are one thing we've done to help us beat the heat. What do you do to beat the heat?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Remember. Take 2.

Last week I needed to come up a list of all the addresses that we've lived at for the past 7 years for some paperwork for the hospital for Glenn. I discovered that over the last 7 years our mail has gone to 11 addresses (one of which we've slept at a couple of times but never actually lived at). If I had filled out this paperwork last month it would have been 12. Abigail, our baby, is 7 years old. All 6 of us have been there for all 12 of those address changes. A complicating factor in the paperwork process was that we were homeless for 2.5 months at the beginning of medical school and 3.5 months at the end. I just decided to put down the address that our mail went to for those time periods because it is most likely for a background check so that is where the government assumed we lived. I don't think we have even gotten a parking or speeding ticket over the last 7 years so I doubt his background check will turn up anything.

After doing my research to come up with our old address list (and saving it to google drive for next time) I came across this post that I had written a couple days after a FMF on Remember back at the end of March (hence the title). It is a trip down memory lane of places we've lived. I have several posts in my drafts list that I've written or started over the last several months of transition that I'll be posting here over the next month or so, Lord willing. Here is the first:

Now that we know what city we are going to be living in for the next 3-4 years the next hurdle that we need to overcome is housing. We've been living out of our van sleeping in the homes of friends, relatives, and occassionally people who are practically strangers to us for the last almost 10 weeks. Oh, we also slept for almost 4 weeks on a docked ship in the middle of those 10 weeks and for this past week we've been sleeping in an old schoolhouse that's been renovated to be a nice vacation rental (if you're looking for a nice vacation spot near the Adirondacks check it out!!). It's been an adventure and we've been able to help people at several of our stops but I'm growing weary.

As we've been weighing the rent vs buy question and scouring the internet for homes it has made me think back and thank God for our previous homes.

Our first home was a two bedroom apartment that was part of a 4 apartment house that we rented from TTU for only $150 a month. I think it was originally supposed to be more than that but that is how our lease came to us. It was ridiculous how cheap it was but it was God's provision because that was about what we could afford at the time with both of us still being full time students and newly married. Young and foolish, yes, but God took care of us.

A year later we moved from our first apartment to our first little two bedroom house. We wanted to move to a nicer neighborhood since we were new parents of little Caleb. Our rent doubled at that point but God continued to provide since we were making a bit more more money with both of us working at least part time.

Late the next spring we were thinking about moving again just south of the border into Georgia because Glenn was looking at going to the Medical College of Georgia and to go there at the time you needed to be a GA resident. God had other plans though and, after mom's heart attacks and subsequent problems, we went up to New York to be there to help out. It was decided we should move up there so Glenn drove down and, with the help of our Sunday School class, packed up our little house in a day and moved our stuff up. We stored our stuff and moved in with my dad for a while to help him out. (I'm wondering if this was technically the first time we were homeless).

We lived with my dad until about Christmas when we moved into a 3 bedroom apartment that we rented from my grandparents. While there we continued to help my dad and visit my mom. Glenn had various jobs including substitute teaching, working as a tech at a hospital and working in a factory making portable bandsawmills. We welcomed Hannah home in that place.

After mom passed away we decided that we needed to get Glenn back in school so he could finish his education. Through a series of events it was decided that we were going to go to Houghton. It was only about 2 hours from Waterloo and we made several drives down there to try to find a place to live. We finally found the apartment over the mini-mart in mid-July and made the move in early August.

In late November I was getting a bit nervous looking at our bank account and wondering how we were going to be able to pay rent on our apartment for the rest of the school year with the whole no jobs available in the area thing I mentioned on Friday. A few days later I was approached by a friend of my parents who lived in town. He asked me if we would be willing to house sit for them for the spring semester. They always spent the winters down south and had often had people house sit for them. They told us that we could stay in their home and they would just have us pay half of the utilities (since they would have had to keep the heat and freezer running even if they weren't there and would have to pay at least that much anyway they reasoned). We saw it as a gift from God so we said "yes, thank you!" and put most of our stuff in a storage unit and moved into their home before leaving to go to Georgia to visit Glenn's sister for Christmas. That beautiful home was the place we welcomed Lydia home to.

The thing with house sitting for a semester for snow birds is that semesters end and snow birds come north for the summer. I really can't remember exactly what we did after we moved out during finals week. I'm with Dory... "I'm a little vague in the details." Hmm. Anyway, that summer we lived various places... between dad's house, our friend's one bedroom apartment, our Burb, our tents in various locations while Glenn worked for STEP. They fought over who actually claimed us in our Christmas letter that year. I was really grateful to move into a 4 bedroom house that we rented from some missionaries for the next 23 months. Abigail joined us there.

After Glenn's job for the year was done and he didn't get into medical school the first time we found out that my grandparents had tenants move out on them in the middle of the night. We decided that we should move to Waterloo and rent from them again while we tried to decide what to do. Glenn substitute taught and retook his MCATs while I homeschooled Caleb and worked a day a week as a secretary. After a few months we moved across the parking lot to a cheaper, smaller apartment also owned by my grandparents.

Glenn was able to get a job working at a hospital in Rochester the next year and we spent a bit of time and many a day driving around looking at apartments there. God provided us with an apartment less than a block from the hospital at a decent price and we moved in with a 11 month lease assuming that we'd be starting medical school at the end of the next summer. It was a great apartment and we loved living so close to Highland Park.

Well, it turns out that Glenn was put on two different wait lists but didn't get a seat in a medical school class that year. Since we hadn't signed a new lease our landlord rented our apartment to others and we were not sure what we were doing since we assumed we were starting medical school. A gracious couple from our small group invited us to stay in their home for a couple of months while we tried to figure out our next steps and they spent a good bit of that time on a mission trip.

While looking for a place in Rochester again we really wanted to live near the park again and God provided us a little house (2 bedrooms, about 600sq feet) with Highland Park as our back yard. We lived there when we got the news that Glenn was accepted to medical school and found out that we got to move to Syracuse.

Craigslist and Orange Housing were both helpful in finding a place to live in Syracuse and, since Glenn was taking summer anatomy, we decided to sublet for the summer instead of get a year's lease to try to figure out where in Syracuse we wanted to spend our 4 years there. Our 3 bedroom apartment sublet (with two porches) was great and we loved the neighborhood but before the end of our time in that apartment we found out that we were approved to buy a house. Thus started our painful house hunting/ adventures in homelessness 2009 version. God provided a place for us to sleep every night but it was tiring and stressful moving around, living out of our van and constantly looking at houses, putting in offers, and having things fall through all while Glenn was starting medical school.

That's where I stopped in March, so I'll finish our walk down memory lane now.

Graciously in October, after 2.5 months of being homeless, we were able to move into a 3br 2bath flat just a block from the place we had sublet. We moved our stuff out of the attic of the house we had sublet (where the landlord had graciously let us store our possessions for free) and into the apartment that wasn't really ready for a family to move into yet (There was a sink, toilet and bathtub in the living/ dining area and piles of saw dust and debries everywhere because of a problem that had happened in one of the bathrooms and the reconstruction that needed to be done. Within a week or two it was cleaned up and there was a complete, working bathroom for us.) We thoroughly enjoyed living there. We think that our landlord saw that and decided that, since it was such a great place for a family, he wanted to move back in and told us on Easter that he was going to fix it up and move in himself.

That was, again, not part of our plan but God was gracious and quickly provided another 3br apartment just a few blocks away for us to live in for our last 22 months in Syracuse. After that Glenn started his RMED track in Lowville, about 2 hours from Syracuse. The hospital graciously found and provided a 3br apartment for our 10 months there. We had no idea what it was going to be like, having not seen it before moving all of our belongings there, but it worked out great and we are so thankful for our time there.

Well his rural rotation ended in January, as did our lease, as did most of his medical school requirements. We weren't going to find out where we were moving to until mid-March at the Match so we put our stuff in storage once again and set out for our mystery months adventures, living out of our van visiting programs, friends and family and volunteering a bit along the way.

After finding out we were moving to Fort Worth for residency we did some searching online for housing then packed all of our stuff up in an ABF UPack trailer and headed south so we could see places in person. We arrived in the DFW area in early April and started looking for a place to live while friends in Dallas graciously let us take over 2 of the bedrooms in their home for a while. Our belongings were put into another storage unit down here while we looked for a place to live. We finally found a place (some more details on that process available here) and are now living at address #11 in the past 7 years, address #20 in the past almost 14 years of marriage.

As I was writing I noticed I wrote the word "gracious" a lot. Grace. Getting what we don't deserve. We have moved a lot. It hasn't always been our choice but God has abundantly provided in places to live, in food to eat, in friends to share life with, in churches to serve in and to challenge us to grow and so much more. We don't deserve any of it but I can honestly say God has been faithful and so generous.

One day this past week in my GMG Anything study I read Acts 4:32-27. That passage talks about how in the early days of the church no one really considered anything that they owned as theirs but as belonging to the whole of the body of Christ. If there was a need the followers of Christ would do what they needed to do to meet that need. Reading it made me think of how many times over the past 14 years we have been the recipients of that grace. I'm so humbled to think of the number of people who have opened their homes to us and who have shared with us what they had just like the church did in Acts. It is humbling to be on the receiving end of that grace. I have learned a lot about hospitality and giving by being on the receiving end of it. I look forward to being able to be on the giving end of it more in the days, months and years to come.

At the end of this time of remembering I just want to stop and say thanks to God for how He has always taken care of us. I also want to say thank you to countless dear friends who have been His hands and feet and have offered us beds and couches and places on their floors and at their tables over the years for anything from a night to over a month. How grateful we are for each and every one of you and the example of generosity you have been to us. We are so grateful!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful


I've never really thought of myself as beautiful. Actually, I probably did. When I was a child there used to be a big round mirror above the kitchen sink that I'm sure my mom would use to check how she looked on the way out the door. At some point after I started doing dishes she took it down because I would take too long doing dishes because I was always looking at myself.

Being a typical American overweight teen I had a really bad self image in my junior high, high school and college days that hasn't necessarily improved that much in the years since. My husband often tells me how beautiful I am but I usually just tell myself that love is blind because I know better and I've looked in the mirror.

I was convicted of that thought pattern this week when I read a blog post a friend re-posted on facebook. My daughters are told often that they look just like me. If I tell them that I am ugly and fat what does that tell them about themselves? What does it imply how I view them?

I want to have God's perspective on me. He says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and His works are wonderful. (Psalm 139:14) There was an old poster in our hallway growing up that said "God don't make no junk." It's true. He made me the way that He made me on purpose.

I know, with some work, I can do some things to improve how I look on the outside but that isn't what really matters. "But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God." (1Peter3:4 AMP) That's the kind of beauty I want. I long to be beautiful in God's eyes.


Late again but writing for 5 on a Saturday. Join me?
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

What's Working Wednesday: Salvage Grocery Stores

What's Working Wednesday is my weekly post to showcase something that is working for me or my family at the moment. It may not work for us forever and it may or may not work for you.

It's been a long time since I've done a What's Working Wednesday and I want to get back in the habit. I started looking at my life and wondering: "Is anything working in my life right now??" It was a bit depressing coming to the realization that, um, not much is working well in all the transition of our lives right now. I did come up with one thing though: salvage grocery stores!

Salvage Grocery stores are stores that sell close date, damaged, and overstock food items, often at a discount. I've only recently become familiar with the term but I've shopped at them before and they've definitely helped our grocery budget. When I lived in NY I would often shop at Glenwood Foods in Seneca Falls and Buda's in Syracuse and I would consider both of them  salvage grocery stores to an extent. I even vaguely remember shopping at a bent and dent store in Chattanooga occasionally though I couldn't tell you where it was. Ollies and Big Lots have food sections that might qualify as well.

Since moving to the Metroplex I have found a winner. My friend who lived in Dallas did a lot of her grocery shopping at the Grocery Clearance Center. I went once or twice while we were staying out there and, hoping for one closer to home in Fort Worth, a quick google search took me to Town Talk and on first visit I was in love.

Every visit to Town Talk, or any salvage grocery, is like a treasure hunt. You never know what you are going to find. I've never personally shopped for my own groceries overseas but every visit to a salvage grocery reminds me of stories I've heard from friends who have lived overseas and their excitement over finding Hershey bars or brownie mix on the shelves in their local grocery stores. When found they quickly purchase all they can and set something special aside for an upcoming birthday, squirrel some away and share some with expat friends. For example, on one visit to Town Talk we saw CliffBars for $5 a case. There was a man there in a shirt and tie that cleared the shelf of them, filling his cart because they were a flavor that he really liked. I don't think that I've seen Cliffbars there since.

Salvage grocery stores are also a great places to shop if want to buy specialty foods cheap or if you are on a special diet. I have found lots of gluten free and organic groceries for WAY less than at traditional grocery stores. There are also often international foods and mixes available for cheaper than at your normal Asian market.

Here are a couple of pictures of items I picked up on a recent visit to Town Talk:

A case of 12 8oz mango Noosa yogurts for $2 and 1/2 gallons of 2% organic  cream on top milk for 50 cents each (both were delicious and splurges I could not afford at traditional grocery stores where 1 of those yogurts goes for over $2)
Terra Sweet Potato chips 3/$1, Garden of Eaten Blue Chips 99 cents, Popchips 2/$1
New to the concept of salvage grocery stores? Do a google search to see if there is one in your area or check out this site.
 Find one to check out? Here are a few tips for shopping at a salvage grocery store:

1. Check dates
Decide how comfortable you are with pasta a month past it's expiration date or a case of yogurt that will expire tomorrow. In my experience both of them will be used up before they go bad in my house but you may have a different opinion on that. I once found some Pace Salsa Verde for a great price, it expired the next month so I bought a couple of them, then bought a couple more on a later visit. I finally stopped buying them because they got discolored and they were so far out of date but the store still had them on their shelves 3.5 years later when we moved - yuck!

2. Know your prices
Most things are cheaper but I have found that some things are actually priced more expensively at salvage groceries than at traditional grocery stores.  

3. Don't be married to one brand.
Last time we went there we were hoping to get noosa yogurt but, sadly, there was none. What we did find was Stoneyfield Organic and Chobani yogurts for 99 cents each for 32oz. We're big fans of yogurt around here so we were thankful.

4. Try new things
Because of the cheap prices I am not afraid to try things that I would never pay full price for at a grocery store. I may never buy them again but at least we've tried them once.

5. Treat each visit like an adventure or a treasure hunt
Pretend you're grocery shopping in a foreign land. You never know what you are going to find. If you see something you like buy it because it might not be there next time. Don't get super disappointed if something that you were really hoping would be there isn't. It might be the next time.