It’s been a year since we left our home of eleven years and moved to the farmhouse.
What seemed like such a long and stressful process to get the old house sold and the new house purchased is just a distant memory now.
We have done a lot to the farmhouse over the last year, including our biggest project of adding a second bathroom upstairs and our most recent addition...the screen door I’ve been dreaming about my whole life.
In some ways, we miss the house on the hill...living on blacktop, having a shop, and having the fence complete so we can have our cows on the property with us.
However, our new shop plans for the farmhouse property are in the works and the fencing supplies have been purchased, so the cows will be back home sooner than later.
I suppose the gravel road is just a trade-off for the four bedrooms and basement we acquired when we purchased the farmhouse.
We have been blessed beyond measure over this last year and look forward to many more years making memories with our girls at the farmhouse.
Just last weekend, we celebrated our first small town Independence Day with family friends at our home.
We grilled out, the kids did the slip & slide, and we watched our town’s fireworks from the farmhouse backyard.
We’re so thankful for the men and women who have sacrificed for us to have freedom in this country.
We’re so thankful to see God’s hand working in all and through all and for the freedom found through Jesus.
Happy 4th of July from the Farmhouse, friends.
2017 was a wonderful year in so many ways.
But if I'm being honest, it was also a hard year.
In 2017, my mom lost both of her parents.
Of course, this would be a difficult situation for anybody...losing both parents in one year.
But it was especially difficult for us.
A strained family relationship can make loss seem so much greater.
Mom wasn't only grieving for the loss of her parents, but for the absence of a normal functioning family.
Grieving the loss of the chance at reconciliation and healing.
Someday I will tell her story in it's entirety.
But not today.
Today, I want to recognize some of the difference-makers in her life.
Mom can remember going to Vacation Bible School at a very young age with her Aunt Peggy's mother, Mrs. McIntire.
Mrs. McIntire always made Mom feel like she was thrilled to have her there. Mom still thinks of her when she smells koolaid...all these years later.
Mrs. McIntire was difference-maker.
When Mom was about five, she remembers starting to go with her grandma to her adult Sunday school group.
They met at each others' houses.
Mom has fond memories of spending time with her grandma's friends...serving punch and cake and just visiting with them.
These women were difference-makers.
Mom went to church every week as a child with her Grandma Hannah (great name, huh?).
When she was in second grade, she remembers wanting a Bible with her name on it for Christmas.
She got this gift and remembers reading it every night, loving every minute.
Grandma Hannah was a difference-maker.
When Mom's family moved to Adrian her seventh grade year, the Johnson family took her to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.
It was during this time that she went on a "Youth for Christ" hayride and committed her life to Christ.
Hal & Fern Johnson were difference-makers.
Throughout Mom's middle school and high school years, her friends' mothers became wonderful mentors to her.
These women helped her get through school.
They taught her about honesty and hard work.
They taught her character traits and Christian principles that continue to serve her well, over thirty years later.
Fern Johnson, Darlene Greenwell, Lila Gunn, Jeanie Brewster, Thelma Six, and countless others were difference-makers.
Mom got married in 1980 to my dear ol' dad.
Dad has supported Mom through many insecurities that came from a difficult past.
Together, they have raised two amazing children, if I do say so myself...ha...just kidding.
Because of the difference-makers in Mom's life, she has an amazing story of grace and generosity and love for others.
She and Dad have adopted another daughter and provided for countless other foster children throughout our lives.
She has a heart for children who have been mistreated.
She has served in the Church for in every way imaginable...for all age groups and many ministries.
She sees a need and meets it.
My mom is a difference-maker.
Despite a painful childhood, filled with neglect and abuse...she is a difference-maker.
Despite anxiety and insecurity that comes from her past...she is a difference-maker.
Despite the odds being seemingly stacked against her...she is a difference-maker.
THAT is the power in kindness and compassion.
THAT is the power in really seeing people.
THAT is the power in serving others.
THAT is the power found in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We CAN make a difference, friends.
Last week, I wrote about my grandmother's time (for the last sixty years) as the organist for Adrian Christian Church.
This got me to reminiscing.
I have so many memories in the church and one of my favorites is visiting with "the quilting ladies".
For the first 25 years of my life (at least), there was a group of ladies who met every Tuesday to quilt in the basement of our old church that used to sit smack-dab in the middle of town.
Before I was in school and in the summertime after I started school, I can remember going to the church with our grandmother and great-grandmother on quilting day.
I can still hear the chatter of the quilting ladies and picture them sitting around working diligently on their masterpieces.
I can picture so many special women who have gone on to see Jesus before us sitting around those quilts.
When I think about these women, I think of patience...
I think of attention to detail...
I think of friendship.
When I think about these women, I can see in my mind some of my most precious spiritual mentors through my young adult life...
I can hear their laughter as they shared stories of the good ol' days...
I can still smell the food they brought to share a meal together each week.
Looking back, I realize how much I learned just watching these ladies work...week-in and week-out.
The quilting days of Adrian Christian Church have come to an end.
But it just takes a second for me to close my eyes and be transported back to that church basement, back to a simpler time...spending time with some of the most wonderful ladies I was ever privileged to meet.
What a sweet, sweet memory.
December 31, 2017 marked the ending of an era in our little town.
My grandma played her final song as the church organist.
She has played the organ at Adrian Christian Church for my whole life.
In fact, the first wedding she played for was for her cousin Ed & his wife, Darlene. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year.
My parents reminded me that when my brother and I were preschool age, we would sometimes go sit at the funeral home on the couch in the piano room while Grandma played for a service.
We must have been pretty good kids, because I cannot imagine having my sweet three-year-old Mattie-girl sitting in the piano room during a funeral!
I can remember Grandma practicing her hymns on the piano in their dining room and the organ that set in their bedroom.
I can remember sitting on the front row on the organ side while Grandma played for the church service every single Sunday for years and years.
Actually...that's still where we sit.
And from now on...she will sit there too.
Surrounded by her children,
by her grandchildren,
and her great-grandchildren.
Surrounded by some of her dearest friends from Sunday school class for the last five decades, or more.
Surrounded by church family...young and not-so-young, new friends and old friends, meeting every week to worship the One who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
If you have any memories to share of Grandma's organ playing years, we would love to compile them for her.
If she played for your wedding, for a funeral of a dear loved one, for your Sunday school class, to accompany you for some sort of special music...please share these stories so we can share them with her.
Something really big happened on Friday.
You might remember that we have owned the old house and the farmhouse for the last month.
We went ahead and purchased the farmhouse so our sellers could move along with their lives and were still waiting on our sale to go through.
We knew it was happening, just didn't know when.
And then...last Monday, we got a phone call.
It was happening.
It was time to sign papers and officially sell our house!
This process that started last spring was finally coming to a close.
It was a long-awaited phone call.
A huge relief.
A blessing to finally get rid of the feeling that we were holding our breaths until everything came to a close.
We signed Friday after school to finalize the sale.
Earlier that day, on Friday morning, sweet Dylan & Bailey went and signed the papers (how stinking cute are they???) to start making the house we had loved for so long into their own home.
It's a joy to see these "kids" who share so much of our story jumping in and making our old house their home.
We are excited for them to finally be through this process, even if they are having to keep Harlee's LeBron James cutout on the wall for a few more weeks until we can get her wall built and move him to his forever home!
Thanks for sticking with us through this process, faithful readers!
Can't wait to share the future of the farmhouse as we start to transform the upstairs with a few extra walls and a bathroom!
Coming soon! ❤️🏡❤️
I know, I know.
I'm not in control. God is.
I can't change things by worrying about them.
God's plan is better than the one I have planned for myself.
Let go and let God.
I get it.
I say these things to other people.
I say these things to myself.
I use these phrases in my daily prayer time.
But sometimes, when things don't go the way I planned, I forget.
I forget that although things don't always work out the way I had planned, they do work out the way God has foreseen from the beginning.
I forget that when I spend my time fretting on the inside, my family gets the raw end of the deal on the outside.
Because I'm kind of cranky.
Kind of unsettled.
Kind of irritable.
Deep down, that Polly-Hannah that I wrote about a few days ago is still there.
Polly-Hannah knows that God's got this.
She knows that He can keep the world on its axis spinning at just the right speed.
She knows that He already has divine appointments lined up to make specific things work exactly how they need to work out for His glory.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't days that I'm frustrated with the day-to-day moments in life.
When my plan doesn't work out the way I had pictured it all even though I am confident that this is the plan God has for us.
You see, last Friday, we were given the impression that all was good to go with our closing date.
God came through and that one piece of paper that needed to make it to the lender's office made it!
But Tuesday we found out that there was another piece of paper.
And that paper is still sitting on someone's desk at the USDA office, just needed to be sent over to the title company.
So we didn't close yesterday.
And we won't close today.
Hopefully we will close tomorrow.
And even if we don't, I know that we will close eventually.
We will sell our old house.
We will buy the farmhouse.
It will all work out the way God intended it to.
I know this.
But for now, "I like things to work out the way I had pictured in my head-Hannah" is trying to find "Polly-Hannah".
I'm trying to put on that smile and enjoy the journey.
To remember that someday, I will look back at this time in life and say "that was a long eight weeks, but we grew during that time...we learned to trust God and enjoy the little things in life."
For now though, I will just breathe deeply and pray that our closing date comes sooner than later. ❤️🏡❤️
In our school, we use the School-Side Positive Behavior Support model.
We have a behavior matrix with all of the expectations we have for our kiddos in each setting in our building.
The matrix includes positive behaviors that we expect to see.
All behaviors on the matrix fall under the umbrella of our school-wide expectations: be respectful, be responsible, and be safe.
Because our elementary school uses the same language from kindergarten to sixth grade when it comes to behavior, we have a head-start on coming up with classroom expectations.
Beyond the SW-PBS matrix, I also use the five classroom rules found in the Whole Brain Teaching curriculum to help my classroom run smoothly.
I teach these the first day of school and we work hard to practice them several times throughout the first few weeks.
I display them on the walls, we recite them out loud, and we come up with examples and non-examples of each expected behavior.
It takes a lot of time in the first days of school, but it is worth it to have a classroom in which students know what is expected at certain times.
My room often has "controlled chaos" going on, where kids are visiting with each other about their books or working together on a collaborative project. Because of my guidance and practice with the classroom rules at the beginning of the year, they know that "Rule Number 2" doesn't apply during a group project. It all comes back to clear explanations, practice, practice, and more practice.
Whatever you do, define & model your expectations, let them practice, and follow-through with whatever needs to happen should they not follow the expectations appropriately.
They will rise to what you expect. I promise.
5. Think about Parent Communication.
Parent Communication is kind of intimidating for a new teacher...at least it was for me.
The biggest thing that I can suggest is to OVER-communicate.
The parents of your students know them better than anyone else.
They are (usually) your student's biggest advocate and should be your most helpful teammate.
I stress at the beginning of the year to parents that I want us to work together to give their kids the best year possible.
And guess what? It works.
There are sometimes hard conversations that have to take place.
Going to a parent about a difficult situation is much easier when you have been keeping them up-to-date in their students' day-to-day classroom life before making that phone call.
A few things that I like to do to share information with parents are:
6. Think about your Classroom Library.
After all of that, I usually start putting together my classroom library.
I have had it organized in so many different ways through the years.
Last year, I think I figured out the way that works best for my room.
I have large plastic tubs for nonfiction picture books. They are labeled by subject area or by author, depending on what types of text they are.
My fiction picture books are housed on an awesome Hallmark card shelf that I bought for $30 several years ago when a store in our town went out of business (teacher score!).
My chapter books are all on a spinning shelf that I bought at the same sale for $45 (again, score!), except for my series chapter books, which are in tubs labeled by series or author.
I do have the reading level and/or lexile level written in the back of each book. I don't limit students to that number all the time, because I know that students can push themselves to read books higher than their expected reading level. I also know that some kids want to have a "fun read" that is way lower than their reading level. And I am GREAT with that! I want to create good readers who love to read!
So for the most part, I let them choose their own books.
I have leveled the books because some students need some assistance in choosing a book that is reasonable for them. These are good conversation pieces for us during reading conferences. Some students use them as a guide and some don't...I am okay with either.
If a student is reading something that is far too hard for them or far too easy, I will find out during our reading conferences and I can help to get them into a book that is a better "fit".
7. Finally...think about your Classroom Layout.
Last, but not least...I think about my classroom layout.
Like I said at the beginning of my first post about school year prep, I used to do this first.
I would get my room how I thought I wanted it and then when I started to think about curriculum, grading, data, parents, and my classroom library, I would change it all around!
Now I'm trying hard to begin with the end in mind and make my classroom vision a reality by saving this step until last.
There will always be changes and adjustments that take place after we meet our students...and then again after we spend a week with them, and a quarter, and I even make changes over Christmas break!
But at least when I focus on these seven things, I can feel like I've got a pretty good handle on how I want my classroom to run and what I want to accomplish with my new sweet darlings.
Three weeks and counting, teacher friends. Three weeks and counting.
P.S. Turns out we're not closing on the farmhouse today. I know it's all in God's timing, but if you could pray with us that it happens tomorrow, that would be great. ❤️🏡❤️
"I have no idea how you have stayed positive through this whole situation. You are almost six weeks past your closing date with a smile on your face."
Our loan officer texted me to let me know how surprised he is that I have kept a good attitude through the ups and downs of our home sale and purchase.
Of course, he doesn't know about the late-night stressed-out texts to my dear friends, the tears that I've held back more than a few times, and the numerous conversations Mr. Farmhouse and I have had about whether or not we were making the right decision with this whole situation.
However, in the end, I've never really worried that it wasn't going to work out.
I just knew that eventually, the right thing would happen.
I wasn't worried about being homeless. After all, we could always take our three kids and our three dogs and move in with my parents. 😳
No matter what, we would figure something out. We always do.
My friends often refer to me as "Polly-Hannah" because I just don't get worked up about too much.
In fact, the time that I feel the most "worked up" is when one of my friends is going through something difficult that I can't fix for them.
I can usually talk them down, even when I'm really struggling to keep it together myself.
My mom always used to tell us, "Happiness is a choice. Every morning when you wake up, you have a choice to have a good day or a bad day. It's up to you."
And I really think she's right.
It doesn't matter what happens in the day-to-day events of life...we can choose how we react.
We can't control one thing that happens around us, but we can control how we choose to deal with whatever is thrown our way.
This whole house sale and purchase has seemed like one tough situation after another.
Documents not where they needed to be when they needed to be there.
Inspections, inspections, and more inspections.
Appraisals and repairs and...did I mention inspections?
There were hiccups and hurdles and bumps in the road.
We were supposed to close on June 16th and then June 30th and then July 5th...yet here we are.
With a final closing date of July 26th.
However, I have tried to keep a good attitude.
To trust that God is in control.
To know that no matter what...I have a choice in my reaction to our circumstances.
Life isn't always rainbows and butterflies, I know.
There are really, really rough situations.
There are really, really hard days.
But no matter what someone is going through, a positive attitude sure can do a lot for a one's outlook on life.
I choose happiness.
I choose patience.
I choose joy.
I choose Polly-Hannah. ❤️
We have now been on summer break for almost a month.
The whole summer I've been working on the moving process.
Pack a whole trailer full of items into tubs.
Schedule inspections at the farmhouse.
Paint the ceilings of the current house for the appraisal.
Purge & organize.
Measure spaces at the farmhouse.
Order some furniture & order some appliances.
Purge some more & organize some more.
Make some decorative purchases for the farmhouse.
Prepare for a SECOND appraisal on the current house (long story...).
And wait some more.
To be honest, I woke up this morning feeling differently about the whole situation.
I'm trying to be patient, but I'm tired of waiting.
I don't want the kids to remember this summer as the summer we held our breaths for two months, waiting to get settled in at the farmhouse.
Last night, the girls got home from the softball game and played catch in the backyard until it got dark.
Then they ran around and caught lightning bugs.
It was heavenly.
No worries about when the second appraisal will happen...
When the closing date will happen...
When we will actually move to the farmhouse...
Just three little girls catching lightning in a jar while their parents and Gramps tried to coax a baby kitten out from under the feed truck (also a long story...).
So I decided that today, while the kids are off at science camp, I'm going to get this house put back together and ready for an appraisal.
And then, we're going to stop waiting.
We're going to breathe and enjoy and stop stewing over what could be coming around the corner.
We're going to catch lightning bugs and have movie nights and soak up the last few weeks in the home we've known for almost eleven years.
We're going to enjoy the waiting game.
"Have patience, have patience,
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient, too.
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you."
These aren't the exact lyrics that I remember from the childhood video we used to watch about Herbert the Snail.
However, they do evoke the same feeling inside of me as the somewhat inaccurate words that I sing to my three girls.
We were originally supposed to close on the farmhouse on June 16th.
Then June 30th.
Then July 5th.
Now, it's looking like it won't even happen by then.
Something is going on with the appraisal of our current house and I am waiting for a phone call, as we speak, to see what needs to happen to make that appraisal come through sooner than later.
It has something to do with the hailstorm and our insurance claim.
As I sit here just waiting for that phone to ring, I have a hard time with patience.
I know that in the whole scheme of things, a three to four week delay on closing on a house isn't a huge deal.
In all of life, three to four weeks is gone in the blink of an eye.
However, it makes me start to wonder how things will all work out.
I start to worry, although I know I shouldn't.
I know that God is in control of this situation and that He's got this.
We have a roof over our heads,
three beautiful, healthy daughters,
a wonderful marriage,
and more than we could ever need.
We are loved.
We are blessed.
We are (trying to be) patient.