Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Skiing ~ 2012

 The boys and I had such a blast skiing this year! We all 3 got to go for free since James broke his leg at this resort last year.  It was such a blessing! Pops and Margaret also came the same nights we did so it was fun to spend time with them as well. Hard to get pictures while skiing so I didn't get many but here are a few!
The boys and I during our ski lesson
My sweet boys,  Isaac forgot his sunglasses. Can you tell?  :-)
In front of the lodge
This was the best group photo we could manage! Taken by a little girl:-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Raw Milk Debate at Harvard Law School

I found this debate very interesting! The boys will be watching it this week for school. Daniel and I decided almost a year ago now to give our children only raw milk that we get each week from a local organic farm. I can say that we have been far less sick! I drink 2 cups a day of it myself and this is the first winter in many years that I have managed to escape getting a cold. Our children don't even like store bought pasteurized milk anymore. Once you've had real fresh milk, it's hard to go back! 

Also checkout this website!  http://www.realmilk.com/

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Daddy is on the road to become a P.E.!

We found out a couple of weeks ago that Daniel was approved to sit for the P.E. exam (licensed professional engineer). I am so proud of him! This has not been an easy time for us since hearing this news because he has had to study ALOT. This weekend is the first of 4 weekends that he is spending in Richmond to take a class that will help him prepare for the exam. I decided that on all of these weekends, we will focus on the good and make memories together instead of being sad or overwhelmed because he is gone! Today was super cold so we all decided on soup and homemade muffins for dinner followed by a game night!  

Yes, I actually do sit my crock pot on the table sometimes:-) 
Aren't James and Grace looking so much older? I love having a boy and
girl 19 months apart:-) 
James's favorite wheat banana chocolate muffins:-) my flash made them
look really light colored but they weren't. 

We are super informal! With this many young kids I am just thankful to get
dinner on the table every night for now! 

Beefy zuchini soup, the kids actually like it! Even Mercy
ate all of hers tonight which surprised me. 

I kept hearing Mercy sing but couldn't see her,
a hiding singer!

This is what we did after dinner.

I love playing games now that the kids are old
enough to really appreciate it. We had so much fun! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How do you know if Mr. Right is right for you?

Through the years, I have been asked... How did you know that Daniel was the guy you were suppose to marry? Did you ever have doubts that he was the one for you? I will start by saying this... Choosing a mate is NOT easy! You will need to put forth extra effort, it is a HUGE life changing decision. Divorce is everywhere but it should not be an option for us as Christians. I believed from a very young age that God had a man out there for me and that I would settle for nothing less than HIS best. I did not plan to meet my husband at age 14, nor did I want to. It wasn't part of my plan. Looking back though, I see how God brought all the pieces together in His perfect timing! Daniel and I had a very strong friendship and deep love for each other during our relationship. Rarely did we have an argument about anything. We had so much in common and agreed on so much that it was almost comical. Then, I got close to turning 18 and things started changing. I started looking older and realized that other guys were noticing me. Daniel started asking me while I was in Brazil about getting married at 19 and I realized at that point that marriage could be very near for me and that Daniel had to be more than just my best friend or a good boyfriend if we were going to be married. We got engaged and I began to analyze him and the whole situation in a totally different light. Being that we lived hundreds of miles from each other and had to rely on phone talks to even have a relationship, lots of things came out during this time and we began to argue. Sometimes I hung up the phone in tears and temporarily wondered if I was making the right decision. I had to face the fact that he wasn't perfect. He did things in private that let me down.  I had to face the fact that I would be moving hundreds of miles away from people who loved me. I had to accept the fact that his parents didn't like me as much I wanted them to. The decision and weight on my shoulders was huge and I ended up in tears a lot!  I hated the fact that I had to live apart from him right up until our wedding day and that he couldn't be part of wedding plans and we couldn't get marriage counseling or go on dates together on a regular basis. It was hard to always be working things out from such a long distance. Sometimes the cons of marrying Daniel seemed to outweigh the pro's. However, I prayed a lot and asked myself the following questions...

1. Can I live in another state for the rest of my life? Can I accept the fact that my immediate family will not be a big part of my life because of this? That I won't have them around to help me when I start a family? 

2. Do I believe that Daniel is the one God chose for me to marry before my life even began?

3. Can I follow him and the decisions he will make for me and our children?

4. Can I make the best of a relationship with his parents that isn't starting out the way I wanted?

5. Does he have a selfish view of children? Is he going to make a great father? Does he want to father lots of children? 

6. Will he love me as Christ loved the church?

7. Is he willing to be the sole provider for our family so I can be a stay at home wife and mom?

8. Can I work on becoming and perfecting the woman that HE needs as a wife? 

9. What are ALL of his dreams and goals and how will those work with my dreams and goals? 

10.  Does he love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength? Is he trying to better himself in all of his weaknesses?

  The more I prayed and the more I opened up and discussed these issue's with Daniel, I knew the answers to all of these questions and I knew without a shadow of doubt that he WAS the man God had chosen for me! So that is my advice, Pray hard and discuss your concerns with your future mate. Have grace for his weaknesses (he will also need grace for yours) and work on perfecting your own weaknesses to become the best wife you can be! This takes a lot of time and effort but is so worth it! Funny thing is, now that we are married, we still don't think in the almost 9 years of our marriage that we have argued as much as we did during our engagement! I will say that I wish we had talked more openly about finances and taken an FPU course before getting married, that is about the only thing in our marriage that we have found to argue about! I can totally see now what God was doing in bringing my husband into my life so young. I tend to overanalyze every possible situation and scenario to avoid making a mistake to  the point of being overskeptical. God blessed me with a very decisive man who knows how to lead and gave me a long time to get to know him and build trust in him. I probably would have gotten more picky the older I got in choosing a mate! I think it's important that every girl or single lady remember that falling in love is not a fairy tale. Relationships = Work. I will say that for me, being married has been much easier than being engaged. I am the type of person who likes clearly defined goals and instructions. The bible doesn't really give us instructions about how an engagement should look but it has plenty to say about being a wife! It is well worth the extra effort to marry Mr. Right, as in... right for you! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Beautiful Snow Day ~ Winter 2012

 After waiting all winter for a nice snow to play in, we finally got one! The snow measured 7-8 inches and was just perfect for playing in. Rich Academy shut down on Monday so we could spend the morning enjoying it! It has always been a tradition for me to make the kids hot chocolate when they come in from the snow but this time there was no electricity! It really didn't matter since we stayed outside so much. When we arrived back home after skiing about 11:40pm. The power was back on. Thank You Lord for a beautiful snow before Spring comes next month!
The kids and I worked hard to build this big leaning snowman! James
wanted it to have a bench in front so we added that too!
Our deck at 9:00am

I love this pic of my 4 snow babies! 

Is there anything cuter than a 2 year old bundled up for the snow? 

Our close in age trio:-) Love these guys!
James made this snowman all by himself. He said it was a baby snowman:-)

Grace, almost 5

Fun with my Isaac

Mercy was not sure what to think! She certainly isn't a get dirty
wallow in the snow kind of girl! 

Isaac practicing his photography skills on Grace and I:-)

James age 6
Isaac age 7
Not much could be more fun that playing in the snow with my 4 kids! 
Isaiah 6:3
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mercy gets a big girl bed!

Mercy has reached another milestone in her life.
She went to Nana and Pop's house this weekend with her siblings so Daniel and I jumped on the opportunity to break down the crib! Yes, this means that for the first time in 8 years, there is not a crib set up in the Rich home, very strange for us! Mercy will eventually sleep in the full-size antique bed with Grace in the girl's bedroom but we decided for now to put her in a toddler bed in the girls playroom. She took her nap in it today and went to bed tonight with no problems! We are so proud of her!

Do I need to say just how much we love this tiny little 2 year old girl? She absolutely melts our hearts! What a privilege it is to be her Mommy and Daddy!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:7

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Staying Strong! ~ Dave Ramsey Part 5

Update: Thanks to an insurance settlement and that I am now able to earn an income from home doing childcare. We have now paid off ALL of our business credit cards and are slowly working on our current debt snowball target... Daniel's student loan. Our next target will be to catch up on all  our business debts and then onto baby step 3, which is to save up a fully funded emergency fund (3-6 months of income) and put it into a money market account.  We also just found out yesterday that Daniel has been approved to sit for the PE (professional engineer) exam and if he passes, his income should increase roughly by about 5%. We are so grateful for this opportunity!  So, we are making progress SLOW and STEADY, one dollar at a time...

Now onto my post.....
       We went to our 3rd Dave Ramsey class tonight. It was great! Dave stressed the importance of tracking every cent and spending all your money on paper before before the month even starts. He also explained how he and his wife still use an envelope system today in spite of their vast wealth. Even people with great wealth need to be frugal and track every penny and many millionaires do just that. It takes an average of 17 years to become a millionaire and the average millionaire can tell you down to the cent how much is in their checking account at any given time. This greatly sparked my interest. I have always tried to never spend over a certain amount at the grocery store and on other items but I have never used his suggested envelope system for these things before. No more! I will not be going to the grocery store or to a restraunt without my food envelope. I will not be buying gas without my gas envelope or Christmas/Birthday gifts without my gift envelope. You also need an envelope for clothes and shoes. If you take vacations, you also need a vacation envelope to save up for it.  When you sign up for Financial Peace University, you get a nice envelope system, not much bigger than a checkbook that will fit into your purse.
  I must admit,  although I have always been frugal and saved a lot of money; I felt very convicted last night that I didn't know the exact amount in my checking account nor have I taken the time to track down every penny each month. As I looked to see what money I may have wasted in the last month. Some of it was wasted on pure stress. I splurged on cold boxed cereal at the grocery store because I was too stressed to make breakfast or worse yet, I am an avid reader and like to de-stress by reading and would order books I wanted for myself or the kids off amazon.com. I justified spending $25-$30 per month on amazon.com by telling myself that I needed a break and deserved the books or the convenience of having cold cereal for breakfast even though I have a 5-gallon bucket of old fashioned oats sitting in my garage.
 So for the month of March, my goals are to track every penny down! To give my stress to God and not resort to laziness in an effort to de-stress. I will admit, I was really struggling earlier this week and asking God why? Why does my life have to be so hard?  So and so has help! Why do I have to homeschool with 5 children under 7 here all day long with no help? Wouldn't it make so much sense just to put them in school for a short time until we could pay off all our debts and afford some help? Why do I have to live in a house that is always dirty because I simply can't do it all? Why does my husband have to work all the time? Don't you know how much a dirty house and heaps of dirty laundry in the basement upset a woman? So the complaining in my heart went on ... yeah I know, yuck! Thankfully, Daniel was able to work out of the house Monday afternoon and I got to leave our messy house and half our kids behind to take the boys skiing. I was so excited about going that I felt like one of the boys! We had a great time and the boys went to sleep on the way home giving me time to think and pray. What does it mean to be strong? Can I be happy for someone who has an easier life than I do? Can I be happy for someone who gets to go on  vacation? Can I be happy for someone who has land for their children to play on? Can I be happy for someone who can afford to let their children pursue all their interests? If not, then maybe I need to evaluate my heart and participate in a children's character study because that is not being an adult and it certainly isn't being strong. I do not want to have a negative/complaining outlook... ever!  I want to be a woman of character and I want to be strong... not just sometimes, but ALL the time. I know that I will never attain perfection but I want to spend my life being a woman that God can completely entrust with HIS resources, HIS wealth and HIS time!  I don't know what all God has for me to do here on this earth but it must be something big. When I reflect back on my life...everything I have ever wanted has been very HARD for me to get. As a teenager, All I wanted was a best friend and I got one only to lose him a year later. I had to earn the money for everything I ever got including clothes and shoes from a very young age! As I got older,  I wanted to go on mission trips and I did but only after having to work to earn every penny I needed to go. I wanted to get married and I did after enduring 5 years of living 600 miles from the one I loved the entire time. I wanted to have babies and I did after enduring months of unbearable nausea/vomiting all 4 times. What is God trying to prepare me to do? I don't know but I want to be strong, trustworthy and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish HIS plans and HIS purposes for my life! Isaac made me a bracelet the other day and I love it! He spelled out the word STRENGTH on it without even knowing my thought process lately. How great is my God to send Isaac to give me that gift?! Isaac himself is a picture of His faithfulness and His greatest reward to me after Daniels and I's long and difficult relationship! I used to walk into Isaac's room as a young bride and just stare at him sleeping in his crib, praising my Father for His unfailing love in giving me, HIS daughter the desires of my heart!

“Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy 36th Anniversary...

To these two special people!!! We love you both so much. Daniel and I are so thankful that God has blessed us with such Godly parents and grandparents who love and support us in all that we do!

Phil and Jan Bradfield 4 wheeling on their land. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Real Life Love Stories

           With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I have decided to feature a category titled "Real Life Love Stories" on this blog featuring the love stories of my siblings and I. You will find all 3 of our love stories in this new category to the right of the blog. I know there are several young single girls that read this blog who are still waiting on their "Real Life Love Story" to unfold. I have been able to personally share my love story with some of them and I commend them for choosing not to follow the world's way of "casual dating and dumping" with no commitment involved! I hope this new feature on the blog will be a great encouragement to you! The Lord blessed my two siblings and I with amazing, Godly spouses even though we were all homeschooled and had no idea where we would meet someone:-). That said, no love story is perfect and we all experienced challenges along the way, but the 3 of us will tell you that there is nothing like being married to the spouses that God chose for us! We did not have perfect parents (who does?!), but we were blessed to have Godly parents who were always willing to listen to us and pray for us through our many tears and triumphs. They also gave us the priceless gift of accepting and loving our choices for mates unconditionally long before we married them and we all love them for that!
        All of our love stories are very different and unique,  For example, God brought my husband into my life much younger than I expected...14 to be exact! On the contrary, my older brother Josh had to remain pure, faithful and single until he was 26 before God brought his beautiful bride into his life...much older than he expected to be! My younger sister Lauren struggled with doubts about whether her relationship was of God. I hope you are blessed through reading our Real Life Love Stories!
 (oldest to youngest) Josh & Paola, Daniel & Lindsay, Michael & Lauren


Friday, February 10, 2012

A Real Life Love Story ~ Daniel and Lindsay Rich

5th wedding anniversary, May 2008

The year was 1998.  Lindsay, a blonde haired, blue-eyed farm girl was excitedly packing the green suitcase that she had received a few months ago for her 14th birthday. Just weeks  earlier, mama had announced that they would be going to a homeschool conference at Bob Jones University. The young girl, who was home schooled since 2nd grade and rarely went out of town was beyond excited! A few days spent with other teens who were also home schooled sounded too good to be true for a girl who lived out in the country and dreamed of having friends her own age. Public school was not an option for her parents, who felt the Lord was clearly leading them to home school despite the unpopularity of their decision (Homeschooling was not so popular in the 90's), and despite not knowing any other homeschooled girls the same age as their 14 year old daughter, Lindsay. This decision was sometimes very hard for her to understand. She loved her older brother and younger sister and also the adults in her life, but that was not enough. She desperately wanted some Godly friends her own age, she wanted to be invited to birthday parties and other teen events. She began praying ernestly for a best friend, a friend who loved the Lord and wouldn't look down on her for being somewhat sheltered, country and homeschooled. Though she never prayed that the friend would be a girl, a girl was what she was expecting! While she had just recently begun to secretly notice the opposite sex, there was never really a boy that stood out to her at the small country church her family attended and there didn't seem to be any boys interested in her anyway. She could have cared less, She was busily planning out her life, trying to graduate highschool a year early, working on the family poultry farm, thinking up ways to make money and selling labrador retriever puppies to save for a car and to fund her goal of going on several mission trips when she got old enough. Though her ultimate goal was to become a wife and stay at home mom to many children. If God did not have a husband ready for her after going on all the mission trips , finding a way to pay for college was her next step. She knew that her family often struggled financially and that if her dreams were going to happen, it would be up to her to find a way to pay for them! Trusting God with her life could be a real struggle, she already had it all planned out...so she thought!  Little did she know that God was getting ready to rattle ALL of her big plans.
       In early June, Mama and the 3 kids piled into the old station wagon for the 3 hr drive to Greeneville, SC to attend the homeschool conference. Lindsay opted to stay in the dorms with all the other teen girls in hopes of making as many friends as possible during the few days that she had there. She got settled into her room and immediately went out into the dorm lobby to start making friends. That afternoon, she walked down the sidewalk to the orientation with a girl her age on each arm and a big smile on her face. As the 3 girls entered the building and began running around to see what there was to do and where to sit ect. Lindsay noticed 2 brown eye's starring at her very intently. She turned to look and it was a dark haired boy, probably around 16 or 17 she thought. He didn't seem as skinny and lanky as most boys her own age. He was more mature looking. This was the first time  she had ever noticed a boy openly starring at her. It made her nervous and suddenly very shy. Butterfies began to flutter fiercey in her stomach. She had never felt this way before. It seemed the best thing to do was to hurry and sit down. As she sat there, waiting on the orientation to begin, she began to rationalize the whole thing.. "Well, he is cute. I like his dark hair and brown eye's but surely he's at least 16 or 17. I don't know why he would even be starring at me, I'm sure he will stop once he finds out that I am only 14". The boy sat down 2-3 rows in front of the girls and he kept starring  back at her. She always looked away and pretended not to see him out of the corner of her eye. She thought, thank God for good peripheral vision and the other girls to talk to! She began to worry about the clothing she had brought to wear for most of the week. Big t-shirts and wind pants, she hadn't even given thought to liking a boy at the camp...why didn't she bring more flattering clothes? The camp went on, she played lots of games, attended bible studies and did lots and lots of socializing. The dark haired boy continued to stare at every opportunity. At times, she thought he would stare a hole through her, one time she even noticed him sitting next to her brother and talking to him and then starring some more. She still pretended not to notice. Finally, toward the end of the week, The cute dark haired boy seemed to get that the starring wasn't helping and started doing it less and less. Lindsay worried a little that maybe she had avoided him too much. She figured out from friends that the boy's name was Daniel but told no one that she secretly liked him!  She made made sure not to get herslef in a situation where she would have to talk to him for fear that she might say something awkward or silly. On the last day of the camp, The teens rode on buses out to the woods to participate in a obstacle course. Lindsay noticed that Daniel got onto the same bus as she as they were leaving the obstacle course. She was already sitting next to someone near the middle of the bus and there were no empty seats anywhere near her. 'She was very surprised when Daniel stepped onto the bus, took a quick look around and began to confidently order everyone to change seats and told them where to sit.  Once he had the bus arranged the way he wanted, there was an empty seat directly in front of Lindsay and he sat down in it. That was a little obvious she thought, what a drill sergeant! Ordering everyone around like that! She decided that she liked it, It showed that he was driven and would do whatever it took to sit where he wanted. On the bus, the windows were open and it was raining. Lindsay didn't like the rain in her face so she rode most of the way back with her head in her lap, It also helped avoid the awkwardness of Daniel sitting in front of her. Daniel was not to give up so easily. He propped his back against the side of the bus and put his arm on the back of the seat so he could easily stare over the back of it.  She continued to be thankful for the rain and kept her head down. Daniel made a few comments about the rain and wanted to know why she was ducking her head. He also asked her where she was from and she replied, Georgia. He said oh, well I'm from Virginia, a little town you've probably never heard of called Bluefield. Finally, the awkward bus ride was over.
           Everyone headed back to their dorm rooms to get cleaned up for dinner and the last night of chapel. Lindsay began to feel sad about the thought of leaving all of her newfound friends and yes...Daniel. She knew that he liked her, but he didn't know that she cared a thing about him. She began to regret brushing him off all week. The chapel time ended and all the teens began to exchange addresses. Lindsay thought, "well maybe if she could get up the nerve to go ask Daniel if he wanted her address and he will get the hint that she did indeed have some interest afterall. She finally got up the nerve to walk up to him and asked quietly "do you want my address?" He looked a little surprised and said yes he did so she gave it to him. This did not work at all, He very obviously did not get the hint. Everyone was exchanging addresses and he also got the addresses of many other girls and other boys were also asking for her address, which she kindly gave them. It seemed to just be the friendly thing to do that night. The night wore on and some of the boys headed to the gym to play basketball. Finally, Lindsay and the girls were talking and some of them mentioned how they thought it was so obvious that Daniel Rich was crazy about her, Finally Christina looked her in the eye and asked point blank if she liked Daniel back. She admitted that she did and before she could say anything else. Christina decided to run off and ask Daniel officially if he liked her. She saw Christina talking to him and turned bright red. She rushed out of the building and headed toward her dorm room. She wasn't fast enough, she glanced back and saw Daniel running after her in his faded burgundy t-shirt and jeans. He caught up to her but did she was nervous that she couldn't  slow her pace any. He kept up with her and asked "Do you like me?"  Her heart felt like it was going to pound out of her chest and she couldn't speak so she just kept on walking. By this time he turned to Christina who had also caught up to them said " She still hasn't answered my question." Lindsay continued looking straight ahead and asked casually "what question?" she then to turned to him and by this time his face was really red and he cocked his head to the side and asked yet again, "Do you like me?".
She replied, "I guess so" and continued on to her dorm room. Nothing else was said that night and she went on to bed but couldn't sleep. She had never felt this way, she was soooo excited! She liked Daniel and he liked her back! It was official! Would she see him again the next day before they headed back to separate states? She certainly hoped so! The date was June 11, 1998. Little did she know that her life would never be the same after that night...   This was the beginning of an incredible and sometimes heartbreaking 5 year journey.

The Rich Family  ~  December 2011

Sunday, February 05, 2012

A Real Life Love Story ~ Michael and Lauren Bailey

Michael and Lauren on their wedding day. December 9,  2006

Written by my sister, Lauren Bailey:

         The Lord brought my husband Michael into my life when I was eighteen years old. I remember wondering before we met, how in the world am I going to meet Mr. Right? I was extremely shy, home-schooled, we attended a very small church and I had very little interaction with guys my age. In spite of all the odds against me, I did believe that God would bring the right man along. I knew that if I trusted Him with the desire of my heart to get married one day, He would be  faithful to see it through!
      It was Spring 2004, I was in my senior year of homeschool, my sister had gotten married a year earlier and my brother felt a  call from the Lord to go to the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry. I knew I was about to graduate high school and I had no idea what my future was going to hold. I thought to myself, that's great that my siblings have this wonderful direction from the Lord for their lives but.. what about me? I have no idea what my future holds! Little did I know, the Lord already had everything planned out in advance and my love story was just about to unfold...
        My brother Josh left home for ministry school in Pensacola Florida in January 2004, with his bed and chest in the back of his truck not even having a place to live yet. He was believing that God would open a door for him once he got there. My parents traveled along with Josh to help him move and get settled once they found a place for him to stay. My mom called the school where Josh was to attend and found out that  there were a couple of brothers that were interviewing for a room mate. They called and sat up the interview for the day they arrived in Pensacola .     The brothers interviewed Josh along with their 3rd room mate living in the house at the time. The brothers were a little unsure about Josh being their new roommate because they thought he was kind of  quiet and already had one roommate that did not work out so well, but the third room mate really liked Josh a lot and convinced the guys that they should give him a chance. The 3 guys decided that they would let Josh move in, so my parents proceeded to help Josh move his things in the house and noticed that the third room mate was especially kind, generous and helpful to them as they were moving. He even offered to buy them pizza and show them around the city! I remember calling my parents that day  to see how things were going and they told me about the move and how they had met this really nice young man named Michael. My parents stressed how nice Michael had been to buy the pizza and show them around.
         Fast forward to a few weeks later.  I received an invitation to my senior home-school prom. I called Josh and chatted a bit and  told him about the prom and his comment was " well let me see, who could I pay to take you to the prom?" In true brotherly form, he proceeded "well Michael would take you for free!" I laughed knowing Josh's sense of humor and thought that since I had heard such positive things about Michael from Josh and my parents, it sounded like a good idea if he really wanted to make the drive up with Josh from Florida to go with me. 
         A few days later, I received an email from Michael stating that he would be honored to take me to this prom. I was glad to hear that he really wanted to do it and looked forward to meeting him in person. I didn't respond to Michael's e-mail right away because my dad had said he wanted to talk with Michael first and give him the permission to take me. I listened nervously as dad's voice on the phone sounded a little deeper and straight forward than normal. At the end of the conversation, he told Michael that he would allow him to take me to the prom, then he asked "do you want to speak to Lauren?". This was our  first conversation. I was  normally very shy and awkward in conversations with guys that I barely knew, but Michael and I hit it off really well. From that very first conversation, we quickly became good friends and looked forward to meeting in person. 
          The day for Michael to arrive at my house came and I waited anxiously to hear something from him. I received  news that his car had broken down off the interstate and that it was going to be at least the next day before he would arrive because his car was in need of a  new transmission... my heart sank.  I was so excited about seeing Michael in person, but I would wait one more day. 
         I had a ballet recital that weekend so I ended up having to go to dress rehearsal on the day Michael was to arrive at our house. I came home from rehearsal and went directly where Josh and Michael were to meet Michael for the first time. I would be lying if I said that our first visit was not awkward or that it was love at first sight. In fact, it wasn't just awkward, it was VERY awkward! We went to the prom the next day and had a  good time, but we were still unsure of one another's feelings. Talking on the phone had been so much easier than talking in person. We said our goodbye's the following Sunday and resumed talking on the phone to one another pretty much daily. A few weeks later, I invited Michael to come to my graduation party and family reunion, he said yes he would come. This visit we opened up a little more to one another about our feelings. By this time  we knew that we really liked each other beyond just a normal friendship. At my graduation party, Michael presented me with his very first gift, a heart bracelet. The next day, he came along with me and my family to our family reunion in Cave Springs, Ga. I will never forget our short little walk in Cave Springs park that day, it was so special to have a little time to talk and laugh together in person! That evening, Michael packed his car for the long trip home to Pensacola. We said our goodbyes and he got in the car and left. I was so sad to see him go. I was very surprised a few minutes later when the phone rang. Michael had talked to his mom and they decided that it was too late for him to make such a long drive at night and that he was coming back to spend one more night with my family! I was so excited that I did a little joy dance in the kitchen before he walked in the door. He came back into the house and I ran and to greet him with a hug out of sheer excitement to have just a little more time with him. We walked into the living room together and sat down with the family to watch a movie. I can honestly say that neither one of us to this day can recall what that movie was about that night other than the fact that it was a hockey movie. As we sat there, all we could think about was each other and for the first time we held hands. From that moment on, it was all history. We were in love and there was no turning back! I had never felt such deep wonderful feelings for someone and I was pretty sure this was the man God had for me to marry. Throughout our courtship, we had our ups and downs and even moments of doubt, wondering if this relationship was really meant to be. I will never forget a time that I was struggling with doubt, sharing with my mom about it and her telling me that what matters most in a man is how he treats you. Michael treated me and my whole family so amazing, he was and still is my very best friend!  I would say I found a treasure in Michael but I know that the Lord found this treasure for me and HE did it without my help!  
        "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on your own understandings, in ALL your ways acknowledge him and he WILL direct your path. Prov. 3:5,6.
       God is so faithful if we trust him with every area of our lives. He will bring about his planS for us in his perfect timing whether it's relationships, finances, or whatever... He is ALWAYS faithful!!

The Bailey Family, December 2011.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Real Life Love Story ~ Josh and Paola Bradfield

Josh and Paola on their wedding day, May 10, 2009
Written by my brother, Josh Bradfield:
          Josh here. In my opinion I have the most wonderful woman in the world (Paola Bradfield) who I am so blessed to have. I Thank God for her everyday! Our love story is anything but normal and that’s kind of the way I like it. I’m not the kind of guy who just wants to settle for an ordinary life in the same small town where I was born, not that there’s anything wrong with living in Rome GA, but I have a heart for other nations including Brazil, where the fire of God burns hot. My first visit to Brazil was in November of 2003 with evangelist Vincent Skinner. I also had the privilege of spending a lot of quality time with a good friend of mine, James Padley and his awesome family and friends. The passion that these Brazilian churches exhibited left a mark on me that I couldn’t erase. Their zeal for God was made apparent by their vibrant worship, love for the word, and evangelism. Also, I was told that Brazilian girls make better wives (no offense American women) and I noticed they were very sweet. I just wanted to marry someone who places little value on “things” and much value on serving God, regardless of where they were from.

        Well, I was on myspace one day doing one of those “friends of friends searches” when I noticed a picture of a beautiful young lady from Sao Luis Brazil that I had never seen before. The moment I read her profile, I knew she was sold out and in love with Jesus, so I sent her a short message to introduce myself and see if she would respond. She did respond and we began corresponding regularly. Given the fact that she was in another country, and she didn’t even live close to any of my friends in Brazil, I didn’t expect anything more than just a Godly female pen pal. How would I ever really meet her in person? Well, for a long time I had been planning to revisit my good old friends in Brazil while taking another missions trip with Vincent. One of our dates was canceled, so I had to wait a few more months to go. During that time, the devil was really attacking my finances and this was causing me to reconsider my decision to go to Brazil. But God in His faithfulness provided the means for the money and I did go. However, there was one problem.
             We were only going to be in the Southern part of Brazil, but Paola was in the North. The first trip, the one that was canceled, was going to be in Belem, a city not too far from Sao Luis. There, I was going to meet Paola and her friend Marcella at the conference. Since this trip was canceled, I thought I would never meet her. But I did pray that God would make a way for me to meet her if it was His will. By this time, I already had an idea that she was the woman of my dreams. But she didn’t see me that way yet. Nevertheless, when I told her I would be traveling to the Southern part of Brazil, she insisted that before I come home I must fly up North to visit her, and do some missions work in the tribes with her church group. This sounded like a great idea to me! The only problem would be finding a way to break this news to my friends and family without them thinking that I had lost my mind. But thankfully I never had to fight anyone over my decision, so guess what? I got to meet the woman of my dreams!!! 
              I remember being so excited when I was on the plane heading to Sao Luis. Every time the flight attendant mentioned “Sao Luis” I felt a rush of excitement about meeting Paola. When I finally arrived, I waited a few minutes before she found me. My first glimpse of her was when she was looking for me in the wrong place and I stayed with my luggage until she saw me. That was a happy moment.
          At her house, we didn’t have much time to do anything before our missions trip to the tribes with her church group. I remember the long hot ride in the van and all the bumpy roads leading to our destination. The people in our group were great and very helpful to an American who didn’t know what he was doing. After a few hot days of work in the tribes, we came back to Paola’s house and had plenty of time to watch movies, eat ice cream, and go to the beach. The history center and the mall was also very cool. I also really liked her church in Brazil. They were so passionate and godly. The first week with Paola was a little frustrating because I was trying so hard to be Mr. perfect and she didn’t seem to like me as anything more than a friend. Being the smart girl that she is, she knew that I liked her. At some point during my visit we had this kind of awkward conversation in which she told me that everyone seemed to support the idea of us as a couple, and I explained to her what I had been telling God. “That she was His daughter and if He wanted to give her to me, then I would love her with all my heart and try to be the best husband that I could be to her.” My memory is a little vague, but I’m sure I also prayed that if it was His will for us to marry, that He would cause her to like me as more than a friend, and if it was not His will for us to be together, that I would quickly loose interest and not be disappointed again. I couldn’t help but love her after seeing how sweet she was and how she could lead people to Christ with such a gentle spirit. It seemed that she had no agenda of her own, she just lived to please God and love people. Add this to her beautiful appearance and you have one amazing woman that any man would be lucky to have. She is more than I deserve! 
             Eventually she did start to show more and more interest in me and our relationship grew, however we were still “just friends” in her book. We enjoyed many activities including a trip to Lencois Marenesis, (bad spelling I’m sure) a tropical paradise with many miles of sand hills and crystal clear water to swim in! I met several of her best friends on this trip including Aline, Kellen, Danielle, and Marcella who wasn’t with us at LM. I also met some of her disciples including Ester who was very sweet to me. She was one of my biggest supporters of Paola and I getting married someday. The day I went home was sad because I knew it would be a long time before I saw her again, and I couldn’t wait to get home and send her a message. So we went back to talking on the internet a lot and it was about 2 weeks after I came home that she finally said “I love you” to me in a text message. What a joy it was to receive this. I had told her in Brazil that I loved her, but she was reluctant to respond because she understood the seriousness of those words. So to hear her say this was a monumental moment in our relationship.
I thank the Lord for such a wonderful woman of God!

The Bradfield Family. December  2011

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Isaac's 7th Birthday

  I am so behind on blogging that I am occasionally going to do a little backtracking. Hence the following post that I should have written in May!

        I absolutely love birthdays, always have! I am unfortunate to have a December 20th birthday... yeah, 5 days before Christmas! No matter, I have so much fun trying to make our kid's birthdays memorable for them. I love to throw a birthday bash and invite their friends. However, due to the expense of throwing a  birthday bash, Daniel and I decided a few years ago that we would only throw our children a birthday bash that their friends can come to every other year beginning at age 4.
That way they get a party on every even numbered birthday and no more birthday bash money spent on babies and toddlers who don't appreciate it! So far, this has worked very well for us and the children know exactly what years they can expect to have a birthday bash. On their odd numbered birthdays, we still celebrate with family and just 1 friend of their choice. Isaac turned 7 on May 8,  2011 and his friend choice was Annalia Hash. They have been very good friends since they were 4! I made cupcakes and arranged to meet the Hash's at the Aquatic Center for a morning of playing in the pool. Daniel was able to come on his lunch break and bring pizza so we could have a small celebration on the patio. This was a very special day for Isaac, especially since Rich Academy has a “no school policy” on birthdays:-).  
The Birthday Boy! 
Grace with her beloved friend Charis (Grace pronounces her name Ka-Weese:-)
Us with our beloved birthday boy! 
We had Isaac's favorite pizza, Papa John's! 

We love you so much Isaac and are so proud to have you as our first born! We know that God has great plans for you! You are a joy to not only us but to everyone who knows you! Your bright eyes and joy are contagious! You truly live out the meaning of your name "laughter"... Only God knew! 

Was I crazy to get a smart phone? Dave Ramsey ~ Part 4

I am blessed with awesome friends and they know me as one of the biggest tight wads they have ever seen. So you might be wondering, did I ever do anything crazy with money during our financial crisis? The answer is YES! Two words, Christmas and Droid! I will address Christmas another time but for now... let me tell you a story! Last year my camera died and I started feeling bad that I didn't have a camera or any kind of digital video camera to take videos of the kids. I had to have it for the kids, right? I obviously had no money to buy either so I decided to get a droid instead to take pictures and video and signed a contract to pay $30/mo to Verizon for a data plan. I had that phone for several months and posted lots of pics on facebook, took video's of the kids at their swim meets, downloaded music and yes, I loved it! It was my favorite toy. However, my budget didn't love it because I couldn't afford to pay that extra $30.00 per month when our savings was going absolutely nowhere. A couple of months ago I decided to make it right. I gave Daniel the droid since his company would pay for his data plan and I began using my mother-in-love's cast off "non-smart" phone :-). I then used some of my birthday money to buy a cheap no-frills kodak camera from walmart so I could continue to take pictures in the meantime. Some day, I hope I will have a smart phone again but not until all of our debts are paid, progress is made on saving for our kids,  and we have 3-6 months of living expenses in the bank in case Daniel is laid off again. I understand that in a poor economy, the construction industry is the first to fall.  Do I think everyone who has a smart phone is crazy? NO, but due to our financial circumstances, I certainly was!

"The important thing is this: to be ready at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you could become".
- Charles Dickens

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A Little Progress! Dave Ramsey ~ Part 3

We attended our very first Financial Peace University class tonight. We really enjoyed it! It was held at a church in our area and there were all different ages of couples from many different walks of life. We look forward to developing relationships with the couples there as well as spending time with the Barkers, some good friends from our church whom we convinced to take the class with us:-).
    Okay, now for an update on our progress. Since we decided only to do the minimum repairs to our damaged house with our insurance settlement. We were able to cut up and pay off our smallest business credit card. Yeah! What a tremendous blessing to get that little boost! That is one less debt we have to stress about now! Side note: We do not recommend starting a business if you do not have the cash/capital to do so! I have no doubt that as good as Daniel was at figuring out how to jump through multiple hoops to claim properties dirt cheap and work out deals. He could have been very successful had he had some money to get started with and another reliable income to feed us while the business was in it's first few years of operation. He was unable to invest back into the business because it took every penny he made to support us.  Things eventually got better for us but in the beginnings of our business, we lived a scary life.  I panicked every time I saw a work truck near our home for fear that one of our utilities was being shut off...and there were times that was the case. Time was also a constraint, I could only bear being stuck in the house with 4 kids 5 and under for so long and Daniel often had to forgo working very late nights in order to come home and relieve me. We were both exhausted 24/7 but our 4 kids were worth it and we knew it! Dave Ramsey says to plan your finances around your life, not your life around your finances! We have never regretted having our kids young in spite of our difficulties. Lord willing, when they are adults they will have parents young enough to be a great help to them for many years while they are building their own homes/families! I will leave you with this quote.

 "Always Put forth the effort, even when the odds are against you"  Arnold Palmer