A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Storing Up - January Reflections

This year has started out rather unusual for me, I think. One, it started out with a fantastic trip away with Eli ... that ended with us coming home to three sick children and a crisis to handle that I've already mentioned before. Started off with a bang, to be sure!

But although the challenges were in those situations - I have been challenged even more deeply within myself. A friend at the gym gave me a Christmas present mid-December. A book that she had mentioned to me once when we were both sharing different studies that our Bible studies had done (I don't even know what church she attends! Ha!). Her small group had read this book, and she thought I would enjoy reading it. Seven, by Jen Hatmaker. Apparently, Jen has written several other books and other women have had heard of her, but this was the first time her name had crossed my path. The basic premise of the book is dealing with the issue of excess in life ... through seven areas. Written more like a journal as the author spends a month to work through each area. Seeking to see what needs to go to simplify life, put aside clutter (both physical and mental) in order to really be an effective, life-giving, woman of Christ.

I read the chapter on food and enjoyed it.

And then I got to the chapter on clothing ... AND THEN I read the chapter on possessions.

Convicted. Stirred. Humbled.

What on earth am I doing? Though we have all heard or know the verse: Don't store up treasures on earth ... store up treasures in heaven ... the fact of the matter is I am. I am storing up treasures on earth. I buy myself more clothes when I don't need them. I buy my children more toys when they REALLY don't need them. I often use the power of the dollar on myself or my family, rather than on those who might have a real need. And when I don't want/need something anymore, I often take it to Goodwill, rather than even working to find someone else that could really use it!

It sickens me. I feel like a mirror was held up in front of myself. Truly, I did not realize how sucked in to the "more is better" culture I was. I wouldn't have thought I was. I care about the poor and needy - I am a social worker! But, do I give in such a way that I look different?

Eli and I have really been processing this together. Deep in our core, this isn't the way we want our boys to be raised. We want them to see us truly truly living out the principle that it is better to give than to receive. We want them to see that we hold material possessions loosely ... they have no eternal value.

What if my boys were to see that everyday? Grasp the power of not being bound by comparison and achieving the American Dream? What if Eli and I were to really have that deep within our own hearts? We want the Brooks to be known for generosity, compassion, kindness, courage.

I don't have the answer on how to get there. But we're working to take one little step at a time. This doesn't mean we still don't want to sell our home and move. Doesn't mean I'm going to wear the same pair of jeans for the next five years. But it means that I'm considering purchases more carefully. And as we've once again been going through our house, we've given extra tools and kitchen stuff to a young couple that needed them - not dropped off at Goodwill to a huge pile. I've gone through all my clothes, weeding out what I don't wear much. No more keeping every pair of pants because I "might need that size later on". The boys helped go through their toys, and we bagged up two big bags to pass on to a toddler with parents going through a tough financial time. What if we didn't acquire "stuff" in such a way that twice a year I wouldn't have a WE NEED TO DECLUTTER OR I WILL GO CRAZY kind of moment?

I don't journal this to pat myself on the back. No, I'm challenged even more to not let this go. It can creep back quite easily. It's easy to compare oneself and one's possessions to others. Yet, it only leaves me feeling lesser than before. It's a trap. I have nothing against "things" in and of themselves ... it's when they become more. They become desired. They look like they'll give some type of fulfillment. And my attitude shifts to "I need that".

I am personally, and as a couple we are at a place in which we feel ready to be challenged. Ready to be formed by the Potter's hands. Even desiring to lay things down. I don't really care if that looks radical or different. I don't want to look back with regret on what kinds of treasures my heart was truly after ...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dad is the best

I love this short conversation I had with Jonah this morning ... demonstrates exactly what he thinks about Eli!

Pulling into church:

Jonah: I wish that we could park by Daddy.
Reuben: Yeah, there is never a spot left by him.
Me: Do you know why there isn't ever a spot by his car when we get here on Sunday mornings?

And then I start to say: It's because there are other people who get here early like him, and they park in those closer spots ..

But I'm interrupted by a confident 6 year old: Nope, it's because everyone thinks that Pastor Eli is the coolest guy around.

Yup, these little boys adore their dad = )

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Several weeks ago, Eli's mom pulled her Junior Monopoly game to teach Jonah how to play. We're frequently realizing that this boy is g.r.o.w.i.n.g. up right before our eyes. Candy Land is still fun at times, but he is ready for bigger boy games. Battleship. Monopoly. Cribbage. Crazy Eights. And I know there are many more ... we're still figuring it all out! He caught on quick, and it was right before Christmas, so we didn't let him borrow it just yet. No more "extras" in the house right before big family celebrations! But, he often asked about playing it over there, and commented MANY times on how he wished he had one at our house.

I don't even remember how it came up, but I must have mentioned it offhand during a training session at the gym. And a client who is turning into a friend offered to let us borrow hers. Her son is around 10 years of age, and she has so generously been giving me hand-me-down clothing the last couple months. She has no idea how much we appreciate this! Garage sale-ing for bigger boy clothing is almost pointless. Most of what I find is worn out, just how my boys wear out their clothes! And that's only if I find some ... garage sales are great for infant and toddler clothes! Before the knees get worn through and stains completely take over = ) So, she brought it a few weeks later, and that game is getting used!

At first, Reuben just wanted to sit and be the "banker" for whoever was playing. But, then we realized he was smart enough to play as well. The kid possess a math brain like his brother (thank you, Mom, for good genes!), and picked up on it, no problem.

And now? That means that two brothers have probably played at least two games a day together, straight for the last week. I'm not assuming this trend will continue, but it is so fun to watch and hear them play. And miraculously, there haven't been any meltdowns over winner vs. loser.

There are a couple other boardgames that specifically focus on math skills that I have been eyeing, but haven't bought yet. Perhaps for a birthday gift or a special homeschool achievement we could get it. Yes, my kids do get some time to play video games or watch a show each day, but I would much MUCH rather they just sit down and play a board or card game together. Or spend time with Legos, like they did for an hour this morning before we got down to the business of school.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Power Energy Balls

I got to celebrate my birthday this week ... which was fun. It was a lucky year in that my birthday fell on Eli's day off, which meant we got lots of family time at home (and I got a nap!!!!), and then had dinner out with two wonderful friends, sans kiddos. And sushi at that!

That was Monday, and on Wednesday I went over to Amy's house to make laundry soap. We make homemade laundry soap, and since the recipe makes 5 gallons, we usually make it together at her house, and then split it between the two of us. Seriously, 5 gallons, and probably the cost for the ingredients is less than $3. And, my clothes are always clean. Stains come out, and I have not had any problems since switching over to it from Tide. Yay!

But, Amy had a some homemade granola and energy balls for me that she had made - as a birthday gift! Which was so sweet ... and shows how well that girl knows me = ) Both were delicious, but I loved these power balls, and got the recipe from her ASAP.

I am fairly addicted to trying new protein/power ball recipes. One, they are simple to make. Two, no baking required. Three, when I'm starving after a workout, or need a little something before teaching a class, these hit the spot. Four, there are other people in this house that like them too! And, I like that there are no preservatives in them: not necessarily low in calories, but we're talking good for you whole grains and healthy fats. All things that the body needs.

So, I still love my quinoa balls, my peanut butter protein balls, and now I just have another one to throw in the roundup!

Amy's Energy Balls

1 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. ground flaxseed
2/3 c. shredded coconut
3/4 c. peanut butter (or other nut butter)
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1-2 tsp. instant coffee (decaf or regular)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/6 c. honey
*Mix all together and shape into balls - probably about one inch in diameter. Store in the fridge to have on hand!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I need to journal a little about Matthias so that I can keep this stuff straight! = )

21 months old
Playing Hide and Seek in the coat closet

Stinker in every sense of the word: this little boy is learning to challenge Mommy and Daddy at every turn - but always with a little mischievous grin on his face. Will they really follow through on their discipline??? What can I get away with?

He runs like crazy to keep up with his older brothers. And I often hear "Mommy! Help!" being shouted down the hallway. Always means the same thing: I find him sitting on Jonah's top bunk, grinning down at me. Proud to be able to get up there, but no idea how to get down safely yet. He is my biggest boy, tall and sturdy. Not chubby, just solid.

He is finally starting to hit that vocabulary explosion, and it seems like the past two weeks we're hearing new words all the time. Some we love to hear: "More peanut butter" (although it's more like "mo pee-bu", but HEY! progress), and some we now hear maybe too often: "Mommy poo-poo, Daddy poo-poo, Matthias poo-poo".

Snow. Cold. Peanut Butter. Juice. Bed. Teddy. Blankie. Coat. Shoes. Hot. Pancake. Pop Tart (this is unfortunate). Socks. Potty. Teeth. Yes Mom. Shirt. Dog. Ball. Toe. Mine (of course). Jonah. Reuben. Adi. Opa. Oma. Grandma. Yes Dad. No. Tirzah. Baby. Mommy. Daddy. Me Too. Help. and I know that there are more. So much fun to feel more like we are communicating! When he can't say the words he's trying to tell us, he acts it out. Just like charades! I love it.

She found me!
He is a busy busy boy, and keeping him occupied is my challenge, but he wants to just a part of whatever I'm doing: whether that is throwing toys into my shower, or pulling out one of the boys' school books and sitting down with a pencil and looking at me expectantly. He has just discovered how to play hide and seek around the house with the boys, and thinks it is hilarious.

His manners are fantastic - probably his favorite thing to say is "Thank You", which he says multiple times when you give him something he has asked for. He loves hugs - especially squeeze hugs and sandwich hugs between Mommy and Daddy.

He is proud to immediately start squatting and doing pushups if he hears someone start talking about work-outs, which happen pretty often in this house! And he is a great trooper to tag along when Mommy has to work ... and loves to go upstairs and do FitKids at the gym.

I love love love this kid. I love snuggling him for moments before bedtime. And as I realize he is growing up fast ... it is hard. He is still our baby, even though he is not really a baby at all anymore. Those big brown eyes can make Mommy melt.

Matthias has been such a gift to our family, and even through his onery-ness can aggravate his brothers to no end, they still cry "Matthias!" when he wakes from bedtime and naptime and smother him with so many hugs he finally pushes them away. I can't wait to see how he has grown even by his 2nd birthday this spring.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Re-Learning to Unload

This week has been a heavy hitter. Reuben finally recovered from all his fevers, so that Jonah could suffer after him for a few days. We ended up with an ear infection with little Matthias - making it for nearly two weeks straight with somebody having a fever. OH MY. I feel like dunking my entire house in Lysol.

Eli and I have expressed over and over to each how thankful we are that we have had nothing. nothing. Completely healthy - which is only a miracle, considering that the boys passed that virus between the three of them. We tag-teamed it like crazy, so that I could still teach my classes, and he could still work like normal. Thinking of last weekend when we had hours together - just the two of us - seems like a dream, almost.

And then we have been dealing with a crisis of a serious nature. Not us personally, but people connected to us. Leaving us with a nearly two hour meeting with police officers yesterday. By the end of Thursday and Friday, I told Eli that I felt like I had been giving giving giving out. I had nothing left. Holding a sad 1 year old, trying to keep the two older busy, working on text and phone calls about this situation. I fell into bed last night by 8:45 ... spent.

And I realized that throughout this week, I had been loading myself up. Taking on other people's burdens. Just packing it on top of everything else I carry each day.

Not meant to be.

I can care for them. I can even help all that I can help. But I cannot take their burdens upon myself. Or else I will falter under them. I remember back when I decided to go into social work, and those around me asked if I really could do it! I was the person who cried about animals being hit by a car, who mourned over news of orphans ... would working with abuse and foster children crush me?

And yet, I wanted to do it. I felt called to go there. And it didn't. I learned how to help, but not become overcome with the problems of this world. To give them to One whose shoulders are much bigger than mine. But, I think, I am having to re-learn this. Or learn it in a deeper way this week.

How I wish I could save those I love and care about! My heart breaks as we wrestle to do what is right, but realize we cannot save. We can only do so much and I cannot, cannot, as much as I would like, convince other people to do the right thing. They have to do it themselves.

I am working to re-learn my job description = ) To be a wife, a mother, a teacher to my children, an excellent employee, and help to who needs it ... but to try and release myself from the pressure to try and save. To find peace in being led by my Shepherd. To find rest today and let Him restore my soul.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Another one Bites the Dust

I wanted to post some pictures from mine and Eli's amazing three days away for out 10th anniversary ... but I'm having technical difficulties: which means somehow I can't get my computer to get the pictures off my phone. And I'm not just a techie. Argh! Why won't it?

I'll have Eli help me tomorrow.

Anyway ... another one goes down. Reuben came down with a fever last Monday ... a fever that reappears each day, usually in the late afternoon. But he wakes up fine. Poor guy, his appetite is low, although he still eats some. Add to that he accidentally jumped onto a plug - plug side up. A nice metal puncture right into the bottom of his foot. So, he isn't walking as well. Thankfully, it is healing great. We just have to convince him that he can start to work on walking, which he is scared to do. But the 8th day of a fever???

Matthias ran a fever Saturday afternoon.

Jonah woke up last night with a fever.


Thankfully, Matthias' fever is already gone and doesn't seem to be coming back at all. But, Reuben's flared back up again today, so I had two lethargic boys laying on the couch, and a 1 year old who decided to take every opportunity to be as ornery as possible.

I feel the deep desire to clean and disinfect like crazy, but also feel like I got NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED at all today. Save trying to keep some form of sanity. No matter what I put away, I turn around and five more things are thrown around the floor. Eli has no idea how much it meant to me when I found out he cleaned the bathroom for me while I had to work for an hour and a half this morning!

And so, while I'm trying to get "something" done, I'm also working on a Kansas History project for our homeschool coop for tomorrow. That none of my sick kids can actually go to - but I will go anyway (thank goodness for a helpful grandma!).

Ahhhhhh, I remember a past post about finding grace. Extending grace. And in the midst of seeing what feels like loose ends unraveling before my face - may I just let them go when I need to. Take a deep breath. Refocus. I have much to breathe thanks for as I scrub some stickiness off the kitchen floor, while little hands try to help and others lay tired and watching. I still do have much to smile about. And even as I lay their little heads to sleep tonight, may I find rest in my soul.

And may my phone with fun pictures cooperate with me tomorrow ...