Wednesday, December 24, 2014

White Christmas

Apparently I made a "typo" on our little car note.  I'll blame it on sleep deprivation.

A couple of weeks ago the kids and I took a trip to the local post office.  The woman helping us struck up a conversation with Joshua.  They talked about Christmas and all the things he was looking forward to.  He said he wanted snow.

As we left the post office the woman said to him, "I hope you get that snow you're hoping for on Christmas."

It's been a few weeks and we had to drive 2,500 miles, but from the looks of my parents' back yard, I think we will be enjoying a white Christmas after all.


Grampa, Claude, and the kids built this fort in the yard yesterday.  That was before the snow started falling.

Early last week I received a phone call from my mom.  My grandfather had been taken to the hospital and things didn't look very good for him.  By Tuesday he had gotten worse, and on Wednesday he passed away.  It all seemed very sudden.

As we had updates from parents through the week, Claude and I were talking about whether or not we should (or even could) travel to Montana to be with my family during this time.  On Wednesday afternoon we decided that we could do it.

We have talked about taking a road trip this way for quite some time, but it always seemed out of reach.  The driving time is about 36 hours - not a short trip by any stretch of the imagination.  To have the time off work and the money to afford the trip never seemed like a realistic possibility.

But last week we realized that with Claude's days off over Christmas and New Years, we had the time.  But time is not the only resource needed for a long road trip.  After a long distance move and buying a new vehicle, did we have the money for the trip?

Yes, we did, because God's provision abounds even in the midst of major expenses.

On Saturday morning we loaded the kids in the van and started driving.  Joshua and Hannah were so excited about the trip that they got up around 5:30am, dressed themselves, changed Jer and Rachel's diapers, and even got the little ones dressed.  Amazingly, we left on time that morning!

We told the kids how many days we would be driving, but some of them still thought we would be at Grampa and Gramma's house that night. 


We tried to only stop three times each day, including our overnight stop.  Of course, we had some unplanned stops, but the entire Crew only unloaded three times a day.
These photos were from our last day at a rest area in Sheridan, Wyoming.  I think I can understand why people move out there.  It is some of the most amazing scenery I have seen!

After three very long days of driving, we are enjoying time with family.  The kids are enjoying playing with cousins, getting to know the dogs, and playing outside as much as possible.

We do, after all, have a very long return journey.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wasabi Peas

Photo from

Mmmm...wasabi peas.

Great for adults.

Not so good for 2-year-olds.

And how would I know?  Well, today in the midst of the older kids and I working on some projects Abigail, Jeremiah, and Rachel were keeping themselves busy.  When a 4-year-old is in charge, it's never a good thing.

First, they got into the locked bedroom and dumped out the entire, neatly organized container of hair ties.  We use those teeny tiny clear ones.  There were about 500 on the floor.  Ugh...  Oh, yeah...and they also opened Joshua's container of teeth that he has lost.  It's a little weird to be asking your young children where their older brother's teeth are as you desperately search a giant pile of hair accessories.

After the hair tie incident the Three Stooges managed to find my envelopes of neatly organized printed photos.  We have thousands of photos on our computer, but only a few printed out.  Today every hard copy we own was spread out over the longer organized.

And sometime in the middle of these endeavors, someone opened the bag of wasabi peas.  Joshua and Hannah were introduced to them last night and Jer decided he wanted to try them this morning.  I have no idea how many he ate.  What I do know is that he walked into the bedroom chomping on a mouth full.

"Aren't they spicy?" I asked him.

"No.  They just sting my tongue," he replied.

And now I know something else about wasabi peas that I wish I didn't.  I won't go into any detail, but I will say that I changed a lot of diapers this afternoon.

This parenthood thing will either give me a stronger stomach or mold me into an incredibly picky eater.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Life with the Little Crew

The Little Crew is enjoying dinner right now.  In an effort to not have children awake at 10pm, we are attempting earlier dinners for the youngest three with some staggered bed times until all of the kids (Lord willing!) are in bed by 8pm.  It doesn't always work out, but at least we're trying.

So, while scarfing down some spaghetti and salad, Jer and Abby are discussing the finer things in life - funny-to-them Bible names.

"Shem and Ham and Potatoes," Jer said.  "I like Shem and Ham and Potatoes!"

"Jer, those are not food names," I replied.  "Those are people."

And then Abby asked the question that must have been on each of their minds, "But why do people have food names?"

Last week Jeremiah looked into my eyes, and in a very serious tone, asked me, "Mommy, why are your eyes black?  Is it so you can see in the dark?"

Often Jeremiah comes to tell me what's on his mind.  His conversations usually go something like this:

"Mommy, I was sitting.  But I wasn't."

"I ate some apple.  But I didn't."

"I'm tired.  But I'm not."

Needless to say, there is usually some detective work to be done in order to figure out with part of his statements reflect the truth.

In other news, Rachel is learning to communicate more and more clearly.  She nods her head to say "yes", she grabs my hand and leads me all over the house to help her find things, and she sometimes says, "Yeah!"

Joshua just came downstairs.  Jer and Abby told him that they are having Dutch Babies (aka-Oven Pancakes or German Pancakes) for dinner.  This is a favorite of all the kids and to miss out would be a trajedy of epic proportions.  A bit distressed and perhaps feeling left out, Joshua came to complain to me about it.

"Mommy, Jer and Abby said they're having Dutch Babies for dinner.  Is that true?"

"Ummm...have you checked their plates, Joshua?"


You better believe the little ones got a good laugh out of that!

And before I go...

Abby: "Rachel has a little tummy."

Jer: "I have a big tummy."

Abby: "But not as big as mine.  Mine is BIG!"

They speak the truth...their tummies have now consumed, between the three of them, 5 helpings of spaghetti and meat sauce and half a plate of salad.  If they were truly eating Dutch Babies for dinner, they probably would have polished off half the tray by now.  Then Joshua would really have something to be upset about.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Melody in My Heart

Each evening, Claude asks the kids what they liked or disliked about the day.  The answers vary depending on the child and their age.  For example, Abby went through a stage a year or two ago when she always said her favorite part of the day was going to the park.  It didn't matter if we went to the park or not that day, it was her favorite.

Now Jeremiah is in that stage of life.  His favorite part of the day is almost always riding the "Kettle Car" - Kettler Kettcar.  There are days when he doesn't even go outside, and yet he insists that's what he did and liked.

Today Hannah said that her favorite part of the day was church because she learned a new song in kids' church.  It goes like this...(Use 2005ChewCrew to view).

Sing a Melody to the King of Kings from Chew Crew on Vimeo.

Watching her sing this song reminded me of another time Hannah was singing (and swaying from side to side).  Makes me smile every time!  :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Problem with Having It All Together

I'll preface this by saying that I am not currently in this specific situation, but I have been and boy is it a Catch-22.

See, to some people I have it all together.  Or at least I think they think I have it all together.  Why do I think this?  Because they talk to me as if I know what I'm doing and I'm somehow rocking this motherhood thing.

A few years ago I was going through a very tough time.  I'm not sure what was up - I could have been depressed, or overwhelmed, or lonely, or discouraged, or all of the above.  Most mornings I woke up much later than I should have, stared across the floor and thought, "How could this be my life?  What am I doing here?  What am I accomplishing?  I can't do this!  Can't someone else be the mom today?"

I struggled with finding purpose - even though I knew in my head the grand purpose of raising little ones.  I struggled with finding strength - even though I knew the One who could sustain me.  And yes, I was praying every moment that He would help me through the day.  I struggled with being joyful - even though I was actually happy being a stay-at-home mom.

I often think of that time as treading water.  I was out in the deep end, the shore was out of sight, and I lacked the strength to swim.  So I treaded water, doing my best, prayer by prayer, day by day, to keep from drowning.

To others it may have looked like I was doing just fine.  What they didn't know was that I was a few strokes away from going under.  And even though I was as honest as I could be about it, not many people believed me.  They believed only what they saw - I was keeping my head above water.

During this season, people would compliment me on my mothering abilities.  And it killed me every time.

"You are so patient!"
"No, I'm really not.  In fact, I really struggle with patience."
"And you're humble, too!"

 If they only knew how I was actually feeling.  If they knew the challenges I was facing - perceived and real.  If they knew that I wasn't being humble when I said I wasn't patient.  I was telling the truth.  It was the only way I knew to share the fact that I really wasn't okay.

I didn't have it all together.

But when you look like you have it all together it's hard for others to believe that you don't.

In the end I didn't have the capacity to try and make people believe that I was on the cusp of drowning.  All I could do was call on the Lord to deliver me, moment by moment, day by day.  He knew the reality of my situation.  And He was faithful to get me through.

Being on the other end of that difficult season, I see how God used it to strengthen my arms for the task ahead of me.  Now that I developed all of those water-treading muscles I really do have it all together...NOT!

At least more of the stress is obvious to even the most obtuse observers.  I mean, who would think that a woman who can't remember her own phone number has it all together?

Thursday, November 27, 2014


By the Numbers...
1 bag Chex Mix
1 jar pickles
1 jar olives
1 jar banana peppers
"Prenzels" (aka - pretzels)
29 slice of cheese
2 sleeves of crackers
5 lb. potatoes
1 bag cranberries
Orange juice
3 pkg. cream cheese
1 1/4 cups butter
1 cup half and half
2 lb. green beans
4 slices bacon
Garlic and onions, lots
Grated cheddar cheese
Bread crumbs
5 cups flour
2 cans olives
Yeast, salt, sugar, etc.
1 jar Nutella
1 graham cracker pie crust
2 fancy dresses
Bike races for 5
Postcard writing
A rousing (and nearly catostrophic) game of Farkel
A handful of meltdowns
A couple of fights
1 runny nose
2 bottles of sparkling cider
The Chew Crew minus 1 cuddled under one blanket
1 very tasty roast turkey


Chew Family Thanskgiving 2014
(and a LOT of leftovers!)

Rachel didn't get the memo that we're supposed to smile for the camera...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Leaves, Naps, and the Big Red Bus

 Our rental house is situated on four wooded acres.  As far as I can tell the property contains approximately zero evergreen trees.  Since it is November, the end of the fall season, most of the leaves from the trees now cover the ground.  Four acres covered in a 4-inch blanket of leaves.  Saying that we have a lot of leaves is an understatement.

So, when Jeremiah brought me a leaf this afternoon and said, "Look at my leaf, Mommy.  It's my money."  I panned the front yard and thought, "If every leaf were a dollar, how wealthy with this little guy be?"  My guess is that he would be a billionaire.  And by next year at this time...maybe he could get the United States out of debt.

Speaking of Jeremiah, he has proven to be a champion sleeper.  His move to a big boy bed has been a smooth transition with only a few nights of him getting up to play.  Even nap time has been a breeze.  I give him a stack of board books and instructions to go to sleep when he is finished reading.  And you know what?  He actually follows orders.  Amazing!

Here he is after putting himself down for a nap this afternoon.

I noticed something inside the driver's door of our big red van today.  On the little label that has our VIN, make, year, etc. the vehicle type says this, "Bus (Not a school bus)".  We often call it the Big Red Bus just because Jeremiah calls it that and sometimes will refuse to get in if we call it a van or a car.  I guess he was right afterall.

This morning we went into Charlottesville for an appointment.  While there we had to park in a parking garage.  I think this is the first time we have parked in one since getting the Big Red Bus last month.  Boy was it stressful...and I wasn't even the one driving!

We were instructed to move up to the third level but I don't think the attendant was paying much attention to the great height of our vehicle.  As we passed a row of "Oversized Vehicle" parking spaces, I thought how great it was that they offered these spots and I assumed they were on each level.

I was wrong.

You know those big metal beams that hang from the ceiling of parking garages?  You know how they have a height limit written on them?  And do you know how many times you drive right underneath and never give it a second thought?

Well, apparently our red van is nearly seven feet tall because we couldn't quite make it under the metal beam.  Instead we had to wait for clearance to turn around (have you tried to make a tight U-Turn in a giant vehicle?) and head back to the oversized vehicle spots.  Praise the Lord for those!

Obviously we made it in and out without real incident.  However, even in the oversized space our bumber was hanging past the end of the line.  Ugh...

Next up: Parallel parking.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Big Boy Bed

Here's a good way to get your exercise in for the day.  Put your 2-year-old into a big boy bed for the first time.  Make sure his bedroom is on the second floor and that you are writing a blog post about the experience busy on the first.  Run up the stairs each time you hear his feet pitter pattering, lift his 25 pound body into your arms, walk briskly to his bed, and administer discipline of your choice.


And repeat.

And repeat.

Listen to the funny things that your adorable and defiant little son has to say about his first night in a big boy bed.

"I'm just going to sleep now, Mommy."
"Mommy, I was walking and then running."

"I need a derrink!"

"Mommy, I'm not in my bed.  I'm on my bed."

"Daddy, I'm going to get up!"

And then have a good laugh at Big Brother's speech regarding the importance of obeying Dad and Mom and staying on your bed.

Big Brother:  "Jer, if you don't want to have spankings you should just stay in your bed.  Then you can go to sleep and forget about all of the spankings you just got."

Little Brother:  "Okay."

Remember to snap a photo once he finally dozes off to sleep.

Oh, yeah...have some ice cream or chocolate ready to celebrate your success.  And to replenish your energy reserves.  ;)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Settling In

The boys are upstairs in the toy room playing with trucks.  The girls are outside riding bikes up and down the driveway.  Rachel is napping in the downstairs bedroom.  And I finally find myself without a long list of things that need to be done yesterday.

For a month now we have been moving at approximately 100 miles per hour.  Claude and I have kept very late nights trying to get through all that needed to be packed, cleaned, tied up, set up, unloaded, or put away.  In between the packing and unpacking stages we managed to drive our little family from Texas to Virginia without any major issues - not even a bout of motion sickness to report.  Praise the Lord!  :)

It has certainly been an exciting month.  And stressful.  Let's not leave that out!  I don't think I have ever felt more stress than I have during this move.

Now that the house is pretty much set up and our relocation is essentially complete, I have time to think and pray about re-establishing our routines and schedules.  Usually I love working on things like this, but today I'm not wanting to tackle the issue.  Hence the blog post.  ;)

While many things can remain the same, there is much that must change in order to fit our new normal.  The problem with making the changes is that I don't yet know what the new normal looks like.  I'm still figuring it out.  And the adjustments necessary to make a long-distance move work seem to never end.

For one thing, we find ourselves living in a semi-rural setting.  I say "semi" because we can see neighbors on both sides of us and across the street.  We are not truly isolated, but neither are we close to amenities like shopping, doctors, libraries, and the like.

We will have a lot of practice riding in the car since pretty much everything is 45 minutes from home.  I can't really complain about the driving, though, since most of it looks like this:

And once we get near to our house, it looks a little more like this:

We can drive 45 minutes and find ourselves at Walmart, Sam's Club, or church.  But we can also visit places like the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park where, just about 150 years ago, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U.S. Grant and the Civil War came to an end.  And it's "just down the road".

Other adjustments have mainly to do with how our household runs.  Laundry is changing some because we now have two different baskets for dirty laundry - one on the main floor and one upstairs.  Chores will change since we have a different setup than our previous home.  Even sleeping arrangements, and therefore bed times, have changed.  Our upstairs bedrooms are gigantic (a good "problem" to have) so we decided to have a bedroom for all five kids and a toy room.  And with that come more and more adjustments.

The funny thing about all of these changes is that I feel like we have never lived anywhere else than here.  It's surreal to think that just a few weeks ago we were Claude was dragging a very heavy washing machine up the front steps, into a house that was cold, dusty, and full of unpacked boxes.

Is it telling that the first thing that made this house feel like home was having that washing machine and dryer hooked up and running?  You know you do a lot of laundry when...  :)

Yesterday as the kids and I drove home from taking Gramma to the airport, I felt a sense of relief as I saw the sign with the name of our little town.  It may be new.  There may be dozens of adjustments to be made, but this is home and it feels great to be settling in.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Snapshots: Visit with Gramma

I'm sure she's ready to be back in her quiet house, but we sure have enjoyed having her here!

Thanks for coming, Mom!


Snapshots: Sunday S'Mores

I know, I really owe you an actual post with more than two paragraphs of text excuses.  Sorry...this post will not be it.  But rest assured, I have been blogging in my head for about three weeks.  Eventually some of that will translate into some real writing.

For now, please enjoy some pictures from our backyard "camp out".  I'm not sure why we called it that because we weren't camping out at all.  But we did have a nice fire going and we enjoyed plenty of hot dogs and s'mores.  Yum!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Snapshots: The Big Move

There is much that I would love to write.  The past two weeks have been incredibly stressful, exciting, exhausting, and also bittersweet.  I feel like I am recovering from some major life-altering experience...wait a minute.  I am recovering from a major life-altering experience!  ;)

Anyway...I don't have the time at the moment to write all about how we packed a 20-foot truck, a minivan, and Big Red to drive 1,300 miles across the country with five children in tow.  There are things that we did that really worked.  And things that didn't.  There are thoughts about the endurance required in a move of this type and thoughts about leaving behind a group of loving friends.  And, as can be expected, the crazy stories of life with a handful of littles abound.

In place of writing I'll include some photos and (Lord willing) sometime in the near future before I die or Christ returns, there will be opportunity to write more.

Our first day driving.

Logging in driving hours while everyone was asleep.

Final day - driving through Central Virginia.

First family hike.  This trail is only 15 minutes from our house.  Amazing!

And for those who are particularly brave, here is a video from the last hour of the drive.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Rachel!

Wow, I can't believe it's already been one year since this little girl made a very dramatic and very quick entrance into the world!

A few things about Rachel:
She won't go to sleep at night unless one of her sisters is in the room with her.
She wakes up with gusto - wriggling, kicking her legs, and talking up a storm.
She is incredibly independent.
She loves to be in the middle of the action, and there is plenty of that around our house!

Happy Birthday, Rachel!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Blessings Abound: Big Red

It's huge.  It's red.  And it's amazing that it is sitting on our driveway.

We, the Chew Crew, are pleased to present to you the newest member of the family.

Big Red.

After accepting a job offer at University of Virginia, Claude's and my thoughts turned toward the lack of heat in our van.  One day, as I drove past a large car dealership in our area, I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if God just bought us a new van for our trip?"  I laughed about it then.  But I'm laughing even more now!

As some may remember, last week we came to a crisis(ish) point with our Chrysler van.  I left that post with an addendum saying that the car was going to the mechanic because the repair might be about half of the original quoted cost.  It turns out that the mechanic was hopeful but not accurate.  Once he had a good look at the van, he gave us the news we knew to expect.

Everything.  Absolutely everything, from the dashboard would have to be removed.  The HVAC needed to be taken out, and one or two small, inexpensive parts would need to be replaced.  It would take 10 hours of labor to get it all done.  The mechanic even asked Claude if he really wanted to pay for this work since the van was barely worth the price of the repair.  But we didn't have another vehicle, so what else could we consider?

The question still remained, though.  How were we going to pay for such a pricey repair?

In the midst of all of this, Claude had emailed our church community and asked them to pray.  The problem needed some big intervention from God and we needed a lot of wisdom to make appropriate decisions.  So, our church prayed and we prayed and after a couple of days we thought we came to a solution.

We would get some heated blankets for the kids, rig up a space heater to warm the inside of the car in the mornings, and wait until some funds that we hadn't considered using before would be available to purchase a different vehicle.  This seemed like a reasonable solution that would work within our means.

On Sunday evening we were about to make an online order for electric blankets for the car when we received an email.

The Lord had provided a very generous gift to us to be used for the repair or to go toward a car that would fit our needs.  We were stunned.

As we prayed to thank God for giving so abundantly through His people, we started asking how we should use the funds.  I'm not sure what happened, but something switched in both of our thinking.  We sat down, ran some quick calculations, and realized that we could probably get a new van before we left Texas.

Claude hit the ground running on Monday morning, calling a dealer where we had found a van within our price range.  By the end of the day we had put a deposit on it and were getting our Toyota Corolla ready to be traded in.

Come Monday night, I was feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing.  What if we weren't supposed to be going through with this?  What if the cost ended up being too high?  What if the wheel covers for the Corolla didn't arrive in time for the trade in?  What if...what if...what if???

We even realized that we had a gap in our moving budget.  A gap that we couldn't close on our own.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't stressed out about this!

So, we just kept praying, knowing that God would do something.

About 11:00am on Tuesday morning I got an email from Claude.  His department at work had won some award or recognition and everyone in the department could expect a bonus in their next pay check.  The amount was for nearly the exact amount of the gap in our moving budget.  I couldn't believe it!

Five minutes later the doorbell rang.  On our doorstep were the wheel covers Claude had ordered just two days prior - wheel covers we needed to put on our Corolla to help out its trade in appraisal.  Again, I was blown away by God's timing.

Then came Tuesday night.  Claude came home to tell me that more had been added to the monetary gift we received word about over the weekend.  He put down two checks and an envelope of cash.  We were amazed!

Before the week was over, God provided again and again.  Envelopes from people at church, an email saying that someone was giving toward our move/car needs, and support from family and friends.

Needless to say, it is incredible that just one week from writing a post about coming to the end of our resources, there is a monstrous red van on our driveway.  For a few years Claude and I have been talking about our next "move" with a car.  We would love to have more children, and if the Lord gave us more then we would need more seats in our vehicle to accommodate them.  But we never imagined that it would happen like this or at this time.

This process has reminded me of how God gave me a violin back in college.  He could have been conservative in His provision, but He wasn't.  His gift, through a very generous believer, was extravagant.  With our heater situation He could have also been conservative.  We could have been driving to VA with electric blankets and a space heater.  We would have been warm and we would have been content.  But God didn't stop at just providing a working heater.  He blessed us above and beyond our needs and our expectations.

We praise the Lord for His abundant blessings!  And we are incredibly grateful to each person who played a part in the pouring out of His provision to us.  We don't even know who most of you are, but we want to thank you for being a part of God showering His love on us.  It has been overwhelming and so amazing!

The kids are calling the new van "The Big Red Van".  Jeremiah has deemed it "The Big Red Bus".  But I have been thinking of it as "The Blessing Mobile" to remind us of this time, when receiving the Lord's blessing has been like standing at the foot of a breaking dam.

And who knows.  Maybe one day the seats will be filled with blessings.  And no, that's not an announcement of more additions to the Crew.  ;)


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blessings Abound: The Story of My Violin

There are times in life when God steps in and does something unexpected.  Usually these divine interventions coincide with a situation in which we can do absolutely nothing for ourselves.  We have reached the end of our resources, strength, or wisdom and God is the only one who can do anything in the situation.

I usually think that these situations will only be dire needs, and Claude and I have certainly been on the receiving end of God's gracious provision for many of our needs.  What strikes me, though, is that sometimes God doesn't stop at providing for the need alone.  He goes above and blesses us abundantly beyond what we ever dreamed or imagined.

Why does He do this?  Why in some situations does He leave it at meeting the need and other times heaps on blessings for no apparent reason?

I don't really have answers to those questions, except that I know God is omniscient.  And, surprising as it may seem, my knowledge is very limited.  I don't understand, but I can tell the stories and pray that God will be glorified and that His people will be encouraged.

One story that always sticks out to me as a blessing for the sake of blessing alone happened while I was in college.  Currently, Claude and I are experiencing God's abundant provision on steroids.  Just when we think the huge way He has provided for us is "it", He piles on more...and more...and more!  And each time throughout the days as I am blown away and reduced to tears over His great gifts, I remember a summer day back in 2001 when I was left to try and comprehend God's goodness.

Of course it goes almost without saying that God's greatest gift is the salvation He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.  And I can tell of a spring day back in high school when I received that amazing gift.  But again, the thing that really gets me about God is that He doesn't stop there.  He just keeps going and going on the blessing front.

When I was in high school my parents gave me a wonderful gift - a new violin.  I had been renting one from the school for a few years, and after showing that I was committed to studying violin and had been in private lessons for a while, they decided it was time to own one myself.

Fast forward to my college days and I was "outgrowing" that violin from my parents.  If you are a musician, you have probably come to this stage with your instrument as well.  Every instrument has limitations and some are great for intermediate students, like I was in high school.  But I came to a point where a new violin was in order.

The problem was that I didn't have the money for it.  My parents didn't have the money for it either, and by this time I was becoming more responsible for my financial needs, so the ball was really in my court.  My resources hardly made a dent in the price of a new violin.  So I started praying about it.

The solution was to rent a violin from the university.  That in itself was pretty amazing.  The violin I had in my care was one that I couldn't have dreamed of playing, ever!  The rental, however, was for a limited time and once summer rolled around I was back with my own instrument.

I was planning on attending my all-time favorite music festival that summer, but before the semester came to a close I had the opportunity to play some new instruments for a friend who was in the market to buy.  She wanted to hear the instrument as well as play it herself.  I probably played 3-5 instruments for her but there was one that really stood out.

Even though I had no idea why I said it, I told my friend about this particular instrument, "You can't buy this one.  This one is mine!"  I know, it sounds pretty selfish.  Maybe it was, but I don't think I intended it that way.  Something about that instrument felt perfect under my fingers.

In the end she bought a different one, and that was the end of that.  While I didn't forget about the violin, I didn't think about it much because the price was way out of reach.

So, after attending the music festival, someone I knew fairly well approached me.  She had heard that I was in need of a new instrument.  We chatted about it for a while and then, as the conversation turned toward the cost and my lack of funds, she looked me in the eyes and said, "I'm going to buy you a new violin."

And then, she left the room.

I remember sitting there, wondering how to process this.  One minute I had a need, had no resources to meet that need, and was really just waiting on the Lord to do something.  The next minute I was left to figure out if I was dreaming or if I had in fact just heard someone say that they were going to fill this need.

Within a couple weeks of that conversation I was practicing on the violin I had played for my friend in the spring.  The one I had claimed was "mine" was actually mine!

I do wonder why God did that.  He could have been more conservative with His provision of an instrument.  He is all-knowing, and He knew that 15 years down the road I wouldn't be playing that violin very often.  He knew that my life would take a very different direction and focus than the direction I was headed in my college years.  And yet, He still blessed me with an incredible gift of a beautiful instrument.  Just because He could.  Because He is good.

And that, I guess is the crux.  God gives because of who He is, not because of who we are or what we've done.  I certainly hadn't done anything to deserve such an awesome gift.  While my violin playing had advanced to a certain point it wasn't as if I was some superstar.  I had prayed here and there about a new instrument, but I wasn't fasting or anything like that.  If I thought of it, I just put up a short prayer and moved on.  I hadn't given such a gift to anyone else that I deserved one in return.  And the person who reduced me to silence with an eight word statement had no reason that I could see to choose me to be the recipient of her extreme generosity.

That violin has been a reminder to me of just how much God delights in blessing His children.  It taught me a lot about His character - He doesn't just stop with the basics, He exceeds our needs and expectations because His love knows no bounds.  And what an expression of God's love that instrument has been over the years.  Over a decade later I am still stunned by God's generous gifts and the willingness of His people to be the means through which He provides.

It is humbling, astounding, and simply incredible!