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According to Us

One Husband, One Wife, Five Children and Everything in Between

I wasn’t going to bother with a review of this year. With Social Media, most friends and family are already given glimpses into our lives with updates and photos shared. But as I was reading through past years on our family blog, I realized that these ground me to life according to us (which is the whole purpose of blogging).

While reflecting on all the things I haven’t done, that were well intended to happen this past year, but also looking ahead to what 2020 has to bring, it did something in me. It pushed me, challenging separate thoughts not really related, but in some strange way bringing focus and unity for what’s to come.

Part of that reflection was the realization that I did do a year in review for 2018. Frankly there were hard things we went through that didn’t feel right to share on such a public format. Big challenges and changes in our family, not secrets because those who know us best knew what the year presented. These were events that had effects even into 2019. That’s when I realized how much all of this life is tied together. Challenges of 2018 were different from the challenges of 2019. The challenges of 2020 will be even different from the ones we’ve faced.

One final thought before I share our year. I am going to share our year in photos I don’t think I’ve shared before on social media, however there may be some overlap. Also I told myself I wasn’t going to have a “word of the year” (for a variety of reasons) but this morning while thinking of all of this I keep coming back to “undone”. I’ll explain more later.


I left on the first to Orlando. Our oldest had spent 7 months as a college intern at Disney World. It had been a big year of growing for her, especially being so fat from home. We spent a day at Epcot eating our way around the World Showcase. After a couple days, we drove back in her car. Nothing like a road trip with your daughter!!

Before I returned, Alan had left with a group from the university to New Orleans for a week long conference. The day he returned I left to visit a friend in Morocco, which was my second trip there.

I had gone with a couple friends and we helped in the private school that our friend works in. On our return trip, we got to spend a day in Madrid, Spain.

If you can believe it, there was still two more weeks in January. I think it’s the longest month ever!


At work, we added a new mother/son event. This is when the realization hit me of how hard it is to be in ministry and be a parent. Titus and I had a lot of fun, but still.

February is a month that things in school start to pick up and hit high gear. Tori had a big project due, Alan’s mom had several appointments in the city, Josiah had a percussion concert, and none of those thing include the regular daily grind.


When March blew in, that’s when everything came to a stand still but also seemed to pass in a flash. That’s the best description I can come up with.

In early March, Alan got a call from a good friend of his brother’s. He was concerned because he talked with Joel, Alan’s brother, everyday, but hadn’t been able to get a a hold of him. Alan had spoken to his brother on Friday. When he went to his brothers house on Monday, it was discovered that Joel had passed away, as best as we could tell, probably Friday night or Saturday morning. Alan was leaving for Turkey that following Friday.

Joel had lived a hard life. Nothing had ever really been easy for him. He married young to a woman that used him to gain US citizenship. About that time his life spiraled ad it was revealed he had been diagnosed with Bi-polar mental illness, among other complications. He had become a Christian in his early 20’s and now finally was healed.

While Alan was in Turkey, his mom and I cleaned out Joel’s apartment with the help of our church family. It is in the moments of life tragedies and hardships that your friend envelope you with love. We felt very loved by this dear to us.

While Alan was in Turkey, a dear friend and I took our kids camping, which was like soup for the soul for me.


We celebrated Joel’s life at the beginning of April. As it goes with life, nothing can stop time. April brings the business of events, school, warmer days, and Easter.


May kicked off with our oldest turning 20 (what!!!), band concerts, day camp, graduations (K and 8th grade), doctor appts, times with friends, and celebration of school ending and summer beginning. Alan’s mom took a short trip to see her sister in Fl, which was a nice break in the middle of one of the busiest months.


Summer is supposed to be a time to slow down but I do t think we know how to do this very well. Appointments, summer camps, and Tori and I went to Panama on a mission trip. This was her first international flight. She was amazing!


We took a quick trip down to see my family in TX on the 4th. Then it was time to get ready for VBS, the biggest event of a Children’s Minister. We had planned a family camping trip for after VBS, but had to cancel because of percussion camp. And just like that, the summer was over. For my birthday we went to the city with the younger 3 for the evening. It weird to spend time with just the 3 young ones. It reminds me of my sister and I spending time with just my parents because we were the younger 2, and my siblings were all busy doing their own teenage things.


Titus started school by himself early August, but the other 3 didn’t start until almost the end. Titus is in an independent school, so their schedules are very different. Band camp continues for Josiah and Tori. This is also the beginning of Josiah’s Senior year of high school.

Alan, Alex and I were able to see Hamilton as our birthday gifts (and Anniversary). This August we celebrated out 24th year together.


It used to be that August was busy because of school starting. This year, September seemed more hectic that August. Marching band is in full swing, Friday home games began, plus retreat, special events, and band contests.


I’m sure Alan would agree, but it seemed like I was gone a lot more this year than in years previous. October began for me with a conference, game days, band contests, etc etc. We took a night to go camping with friends, which is more and more becoming my way to relax. You wouldn’t think that camping, which require a lot of prep before and lots of inconveniences during, would be relaxing. But I love it.


A final new event at church, missing the last band contest of the year (by about 15 minutes. I felt terrible), and then closing out November, personally by reflecting on gratitude. November closed for us as we got to spend time with my family in TX for thanksgiving.


I was talking to Tori the other day. It seemed, when the kids were little, that December lasted a long time. The weeks leading up to Christmas were full, but filled with expectation and time as we waited for Christmas to arrive. Now, as the kids are older (and perhaps because I am no longer at home but work) December, like every months is fast, full, and fleeting. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great month filled with fun and memories. But it wasn’t long enough.

And so we bring this year and decade to a close. I mentioned, at the beginning of this post about my word: undone. (If you’ve made it this far in my post, congratulations and thank you)

Sometime, before I had heard of people taking a word for the year, I happened on one that meant a lot to my spiritual walk that year. It was hit and miss for the next few years taking one and keeping it. Like most people, follow through is not my strong suit. In fact, last year I told myself that it was time to clean out closets and shelves. We had been in this house for 7 years and accumulated mass amounts of junk. With the exception of a few drawers and closets, I never did any of it. As I’ve picked up around the house while on break, I have actually found a lot of things undone.

Projects undone, tasks undone, important and unimportant things undone. Some for good reason, others just forgotten. Thinking about these things it made me think about my own life. My purpose and what I live for is Christ, or at least what I hope to be is Christ.

As this year begins, my hope and wish is to become a little more undone. Undone and die to the things I want over the things that bring him glory. To clean out my heart. To be a better wife and mom and friend by placing what I “want” lower than the things that honor the name of Jesus.

So with that, I hope you have s happy new year. May 2020 bring love and joy to your family

Our family just returned from a half-cation camping. We have slowly been taking slightly longer trips camping now that our kids are older. Our most recent trip was to the wonderful Great Sand Dunes National Park. We had visited here once before for a much shorter time earlier in the summer a couple years prior. It was one of those places that we felt the urge to return for longer.

The dunes are a result of run off from the mountains that surround them. With winds that blow off from the plains and down winds from the mountains themselves, the sand moves very little, creating this magical land of huge dunes.

The tallest Dune, as seen in the photo above (just slightly to the left of the center) is known as Star Dune. It is an amazing 699 ft from the base of the Dunes, who are unbelievably at 8,000 feet about sea level.

And this is where I found myself challenged to do a hard thing.

From our camping spot we had the perfect view of Star Dune. We could see people all over the dunes, but very few actually climbed all the way to the top.

The people climbing looked like tiny ants on their own ant mound. I had not really resolved in my heart to climb to the top at first. I admired those that tried, but just kind of figured it wasn’t on my bucket list. But then the husband started talking about climbing, and I realized that I really did want to at least try…

But the first evening we went out, I stayed with the littlest Bandy who wanted to be carried. There was no way I was going to carry him out to the Dunes. It’s at least a half mile walking in sand, just to approach the Dunes. Then to walk up them. So we stayed back and played. Then His asthma started to bother him from the altitude and I walked out to where the others were to get the keys to the car (where his medicine was located) This was when I started to second guess about climbing to the top.

It’s hard to breath at 8,000 ft when you are not in the best physical shape. I mean, I guess round is a shape, but not the kind for hard, strenuous walking.

But, as often happens, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted the challenge. I knew it would be hard, but I wanted to see the Dune field from the top. I wanted to push myself. I had to at least try.

So the next night the three teenagers and I headed out to climb. I knew they would be much faster than I would. Before we even got to the Dunes themselves, they were far ahead of me, but I was okay. Sometimes you do hard things with those you love, but sometimes you have to do them by yourself.

Very early on I decided that pacing myself was the only way I would make it. After the first two big hills (probably 30 ft up), I found the young ones waiting. I confessed I didn’t think i would make it. They assured me that I could, that it was hard for them too, and I shouldn’t give up.

I shared why I wanted to go. My goal was to take pictures from the top and there was not going to be enough daylight for me to make it. It was almost 8 and there was just not enough light left. Finally we agreed, I would keep trying, but they would rush ahead and try to get to the top in time.

I gave them my phone for pictures, which later I regretted just to document my own views. Off they went. They choose to climb up steeper dunes, but I followed the path of other climbers. It was longer, but not as steep inclines.

As I climb I had the internal battle of wills. Part of me screamed to stop. There was no way I would make it. I was not 17, but nearly 43. Then the other side of me said I could make it, even at almost 43. Each time I stopped i gave myself a pep talk. Reminded myself of other hard things I’ve done, other adventures that I challenged myself, both figurative and literal. I told myself to look back to see how far I had come. To make small goals: just take 20 steps, and if it was to hard at least take 10. Or 9. Whatever pushed me to go a little further.

Every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of the kids. They are struggling too. There were many who turned back, but most didn’t have to same goal I did.

At one point I took a short cut around a Dune that I regretted. It was a 30 ft drop down the side or take this super narrow trail across. It was getting dark and i really didn’t want to slip and have to climb out of that drop. (It was into sand so it wouldn’t have hurt anything but my will and pride). Once I crossed it I had just a couple more hills. In the picture above I was just lower than the person in the middle of the picture. I hadn’t seen my kids in a while and it was almost dark. I started to worry a little and that was the last push I needed to make it. I had serious thoughts of giving up, but fear for my kids pushed me.

As I climbed to the ridge where that black dot is on the right, I was overwhelmed. The view of the very last night was breathtaking. It was too dark to really see the Dune field, but the view of the light was supernatural. As I sat there, I flashed my red light to the only people at the top. Hoping it was my kids, I heard them say “No way!! She made it!”

The truth was I hadn’t quite made it, but I surprised us all. I only had two more hills to climb, but it was dark. I couldn’t see the path anymore and I only had a red flashlight with me. They quickly made their way to me so I could see where to go. I was exhausted. But also at the top was really windy and narrow. I crawled the last few steps because I kept getting dizzy.

So we sat at the top for a little a a took it all in.

They sat and played cards and the very last bit of light faded in the dark. (Top left of picture). We didn’t stay long, because it was now about 9:30 at night. They had made it to the top in about an hour. It took me just under 2. The youngest was the one that made it there the fastest.

As we climbed down, the real challenge was finding our way. There were no light to guide us, and although we had one regular flashlight, in the vast darkness it wasn’t much.

I’m sure we took the steepest way down, but it still took almost an hour. It was dark, we were tired, and not certain of how to find the parking lot in the dark. We finally made it. Once again I learned some great lessons, reminders of how to do the hard things. Alan met us in the parking lot. Although we couldn’t really see the way that we were going, he could see us in the dark the whole time because of the lights we were carrying.

Of course, as one final note, I think it’s important to remember that something that is hard for me isn’t hard for others. When you struggle, whatever that struggle is, know that you may be the only one, or maybe there are others going through the same thing. The next night my oldest son went and climbed it again, but all by himself.

Honestly, I have contemplated wether or not to even post this. It would be my only post of the year. I no longer have many pictures on my phone because I recently loaded them to the computer for storage. Finally, it’s all a blur. Every year it becomes a blur because it is no longer the long and slow days or early childhood/mothering. We are now in the light speed years and I can’t make it stop.

And then I looked through my calendar this afternoon. That, and previous years posted came up and I decided to write a reminder of the year.

Sorry in advance about using pictures previously posted in social media. I have a love/hate relationship with posting so much for the world to see, but honestly it’s just a good place to store memories.

So without further ado, this is 2017, according to us::

January: Alan left for Brazil with a group of students the first couple weeks. We finished up the break and quickly fell into the fast paced routine. I had intended to try to write a verse a day on my calendar, and as you can see, like most goals I set each year, I didn’t even make it past 2 weeks.

It was full of events for work and school, doctors appointments and the usual mundane. This was the beginning of the end of the school year, even though it was only January. It was the beginning of “lasts” for Alex and Angel as they finished up their senior year of High School

February: I realized that I no longer had the free time I once did to make our home it’s seasonal self. I didn’t decorate for Valentines Day, as normal. Instead I was busy helping the Seniors prepare for their last Dinner Theater at school. Alex was the White Rabbit in Alice. I helped to make table decorations. At the same time I was working on the side for their Senior Showcase. Mackenzie competed in her first Archery contest, which she really enjoyed.


As I mentioned above, in March, Alex and Angel produced their Senior Showcase called Once Upon a Time. They wrote, directed, and produced the entire show. I helped by making costumes. It was a great experience, but it was full of frustration, stress and all the things that challenge you to push and work harder. Victoria also participated in a Band Festival where she was awarded two Superiors. As always, we visited the zoo a couple times, but only the younger 3 were interested.


Began with Prom night, college visits, final musical, Bye Bye Birdie, Easter, and like a flash April was over. I’ve always felt that the spring time was just as busy as Christmas, minus all the parties, cookies, and presents.


And with May came end of year craziness. There were band concerts, birthdays, and graduation. Josiah participated in a special Percussion Recital, which honestly will forever be my favorite! We also enjoyed a Christmas present watching The Lion King Live as a family, minus one boy who had a Band Concert that night. Alan also left at the end of the school year with a touring team that went to Israel, his first trip. Before we knew it the year was half over.


My parents hosted a family reunion at their home, so we went down and enjoyed a fast visit. I was able to see my bookend siblings, oldest brother and youngest sister, and their families. We left Mackenzie to visit with my parents, since she had never done that. There were also camps for Josiah and Tori. Towards the end of June the younger girls and I went to Nebraska to help a church. They still talk about that trip and wanting to go back.


We had decided not to take a vacation this summer. Everyone was so busy, it’s hard to leave Alan’s mom for long periods, and I wanted to save my vacation time for now, so we took the little kids on a mini vacay. We went up to Tulsa for a couple days. I’m obsessed with Rt 66, so we checked out a couple places, and added some fun things for the kids. VBS was the following week, which is always a huge event. Alan and Josiah also started a Summer project to build a musical instrument with PVC pipe. We took it easy the last couple weeks knowing the Summer was coming to a fast close.


With August comes new routines again. Tori and Kiki were in Middle School, Josiah was the only high schooler (and Marching band had started in July), Alex and Angel had their big move to college, and even sweet Titus started all day school in PreK. I was the only one to not be in school. It was definitely a year of transitions!!


I don’t know what happened in September. It was hard for Kiki to adjust to Middle school. There was more work, less guidance and frustrations. September brought Friday Night Light for the Band an preparations a for Marching Contest for Siah.


More Marching contests, in fact back to back weekends. I also took a trip with a small group to Peru. I entertained kids while the parents had various classes and was that laughter and love are universal languages. (I came with a bag of fun, not sure what to expect. To my surprise, I was the only one who didn’t have a translator, but it was really a great time). The month closed with Fall festivals and Trick or Treating. Titus was done after 5 houses so we enjoyed just passing candy out at home.


I have no idea. Oh November! There were mundane things like appointments, school, etc. I, personally, challenged myself to reflect on a month of gratitude. We enjoyed Thanksgiving with two of my brothers and my parents. Like a flash it was over.


And then there was December. More band concerts, parties, and events. For our church, we planned a new event that I’m so excited to repeat coming years. I am so glad I’ve had the free time the last couple weeks. For Christmas my parents came for a visit. Unfortunately two of the kids got sick, and we had to cancel plans to see my brothers in Tx. The last couple days I’ve spent reflecting on this past year and goal setting for the next.

I want to be more intentional, with everything. I want to stretch Myself and not be satisfied with enough. I want to challenge my kids to seek Christ, love others, and take care of themselves.

I’ve thought a lot over the last couple days. There are unseen days ahead. Most likely very challenging, sad days ahead. I’ve thought and prayed through my word for the year. How would I like to be challenged by the Word and truth? I’ve thought about perseverance- pushing through. I’ve also considered the word embrace, like appreciate the time I have or even embrace a challenge, but there one word I keep coming back to. I think it encompasses both the previous words, and that is surrender. With one hand I choose to push on and the other I grasp to cling to what is truly important, but more than anything I want to surrender to God’s will, in everything, and let go of everything else.

Happy New Year

I’m sure I probably say this every year, but I can’t believe that we are on the eve of the new year. There were months that seemed regular speed, and then there were months like October, November, and December, who altogether, seemed shorter than any one month  Especially November. Wow!

 In case you’re interested, I have written one of these for every year since 2010 with the exception of 2011. I guess at that time I didn’t know that this would become an annual thing for me. Silly me!
This one is my favorite. I was so reflective and honest. The year had ended hard and fast. 2015

January: like I just said, 2015 came to a hard close. We were in every way a family in transition. What I didn’t mention in the 2015 post was that, during that summer, we invited one of Alex’s friends to move in with us. All during the month of January, our bonus room was being renovated to prepare for Alan’s mom to move in with us. At the end of the month, the room was complete, and so we became a family of 9. Alex got her drivers lisence, which now seems like forever ago, and I started working full time. This was a HUGE transition year for us. No wonder it went so fast!

I must add, thank goodness for Instagram!

February: a busy but not exciting month. I must confess that my phone took a swim in July when I dived into a pool to save Titus and I lost my photos because I never back them up. 😟 There wasn’t a lot going on for us. Alex had her 2 year check-up from her scoliosis surgery, but other than that, not a whole lot happened. 

March: Spring was in the air, and Easter. I decided a couple years ago that Easter is busy like Christmas but without presents, parties, and 15 extra pounds from cookies and other treats. Alex and Angel both got jobs in March, which I strongly encourage all teenagers to work!  It’s a great discipline for them to know the responsibility of employment. 

This picture is of Titus, who after watching me slice a ham, took to practice using the beloved Sam. 

April: for the kids, this is testing month at school. The school year unofficially begins to unwind. Josiah had drum line tryouts for high school marching band and made it. He and Alan also went to see Blueman Group for a second time. 

May: oh, May! Because of budget issues, the schools closed a week early. (Well, and they used NO snow days). Josiah “graduated” from 8th grade, 2 birthdays, and the beginning of a major family road trip. Family time is my favorite. This picture below is from Mother’s Day. 

June: as I mentioned above, we took a two  plus week road trip west to CA and back. With Alex graduating this year, we wanted to take the chance to see amazing sights none of us have  experienced. We saw the Rt. 66 attractions, Grand Canyon, meteor crater, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Hollywood, Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, Seqoyah National Park, Pacific Coast Highway, San Francisco, Yosemite, Salt Lake City, Moab, my 2 sisters, and Sand Dune Natioanl Park. It was an amazing trip!  It was also a trip that will be unforgettable, but not all for great feelings. 

My husband hash tagged it #santivaction.  When we stopped in Hollywood, our car was broken into. It was a huge bummer because my dslr camera was taken as well as two iPads and my husbands laptop with all his work, lectures, and personal writing research. Then, a couple days later we were camping. Long story short, we left our tent, still packed, on our campground we reserved. While we were gone, someone took it. Just as we were recovering from the loss, while we were in SAN Francisco, we left nothing valuable in our van, but in the morning we got up to go the Alcatraz. We half joked about getting broken into, but as I turned the corner to the van, sure enough someone had broke two windows on the rental. Despite all of that, we had a great vacation. We were able to teach our kids about endurance, and even though there are bad people, there is still good. I told myself that I should blog about this trip; I  have more to share about it. 

Once we returned, kids had camp, work, and summer was overall in full gear. 

July: For me, July means VBS. For the rest of my family, it means hotness and long days. Josiah started marching band and went to Peurto Rico with the church. There were trips to the pool and other outings. For the first time, our garden was decent. 

August: School began and in a blink I had two in high school, plus our bonus Bandy, who began their Senior year. This is also the last school year before Titus will start school. Alan was granted sabbatical for this fall semester, so for the first time in 23 years he wasn’t a student or a professor. He had been working on a couple writing projects. 

September: With Josiah in band, we attended several football games to cheer him on. Alex took a break from theater, which was really good for her. Kiki began to learn the flute, and Tori continues to perfect the sax. Never would I have thought so many of our kids would play instruments. 

October: This is where the year moved into warp speed. I was gone on a retreat for work a couple days. There were more games and marching competitions, fall break and a fall festival. Three kids dressed up for Halloween, and we hosted a Halloween party for the high school drama group. For Fall break, the girls didn’t want to camp “since we camped during vacation”, so we hiked for the day. Then Alan and Josiah camped the night while we slept well in our own beds. 

November: I went, for the first time since I was pregnant with Titus, on a trip to visit a friend in North Africa. My parents came up to help Alan and the kids. After I returned home, 5 days later, Alan left for a conference. Then there was Thanksgiving, and in a flash the year was almost over.  Also at the end of Marching Band, was the beginning of concert band for Josiah. There are two bands, upper and lower. Josiah made 4th chair in the upper band, which is super great especially for a freshman. Also Alex tried for Alice in Wonderland, and got the white rabbit part. She was super excited!!

December: 6 Christmas parties, two band concerts, Christmas Choir performance, 2 birthdays, and a debate competition. I wouldn’t do it any other way, because each of these things means spending time with friends and family. Christmas for me is a time to reflect on what I have been givien and celebrate all that we have overcome. I love my family and who each of them are growing to become. As I reflect on all the transitions we have gone through, I know there will be more changes. We have college on the horizon. And the last Bandy will be starting school. And we will have another driver soon. And who knows what other changes are coming, but I know many friends who have also had a very difficult year. They have gone through nightmares and are left to walk through the ashes forever changed. Never take today for granted. Here is to a hopefully happy 2017 

I remember as a child, whenever we were sitting somewhere and waiting, I often didn’t have anything to do. Unlike my own kids who can play with a smart devise while we wait, or often will have entertainment provided in the form of a toy or gadget, I rarely had such a thing. I remember I would play with my parents’ hands, whoever it was that was near. My mom’s hands were always very soft and tender. Sometimes I would play with the ends of her fingernails or her thin fingers, but I can clearly remember how silky and soft they were. They were always very clean and pristine. My dad’s hands were quite the opposite. His hands were thick and calloused from the hard manual labor of construction. His nails were always trimmed very short, the skin thick and dry. His hands were strong. It’s not that they were dirty, but they felt rough and edgy. My mom and dad’s hands were reflected the work they did, but also of who they were. Mom was the nurturer and caregiver. Her hands were hard-working, but in the most tender ways possible. My dad was the main provider, his hands did the hard and difficult work. He was the disciplinary, but was always the first to be a rock of steadiness and encouragement as well.

Our hands reflect who we are and what we do. Perhaps one of my most favorite accounts about hands comes from the story of this famous art piece known as “The Praying Hands.”

Taken from: Taken from:

Two Durer brothers, of eighteen children, shared the same dream to pursue their talent and love of art. Being from a poor and large family, neither of them could afford to pay for university. They decided to flip a coin, the winner would attend art school while the other worked in the mines to pay. When the winner had completed his schooling, then the other brother would support the latter to attend as well.

Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to attend school. Albert worked in the mines in hard manual labor to support his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht showed great talent in various art forms and was beginning to make great money for various commissioned works.

When Albrecht returned home as his schooling was complete, the family celebrated with a great feast. Towards the end of the great celebration, Albrecht raised a toast to his brother Albert, who worked so hard in the mines to make it possible for him to gain his success. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All eyes turned to Albert who sat weeping and shaking his head as he quietly said, “no…no…no…No brother, I cannot go on to school. It’s too late for me. Look at my hands. Four years in the mines have destroyed them. Each of my fingers have been crushed, they are thick with calluses, I can’t even lift this glass in your toast because of arthritis. It’s to late for me to learn the fine motor skills that it takes to create fine details in art.”

Albrecht went on to create many great works of art during his lifetime. His most famous work is the one seen here, known as “The Praying Hands.” This sketch he created to honor the sacrifice that Albert gave to him. This drawing of rough strong hands show not only sacrifice, but love, honor, and faithfulness.

Strong hands are not always rough hands, and likewise, soft hands are not always a sign of weakness.

Today I was reading about David in 1 Samuel 23. Most people are familiar with David of the Bible. His most famous account, both in art and literary interpretation, is the story of when he defeated the giant, Goliath. He was a young, attractive and fearless fellow. He was anointed to become the next king of Israel. People quickly adored and followed him, even King Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. It didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous of David and set his face towards killing him. Everywhere David went, people helped him. He narrowly escaped death by spear many times. He learned to run to save his life.

His favorite place to hide from Saul was in the barren desert region of Judea. This was home to David. He knew the best places to hide. No doubt, he knew this place so well from his time as a shepherd. This dry and arid place was merely a place to pass through. The wilderness attracted those on the fringes—outcasts, shepherds, fugitives, hermits, and even fearful rulers. These were the people who became David’s most trusted men. (1 Samuel 22:2)

The desert served as a refiner’s fire for David. Early on, when it would be easy for him to become arrogant and puffed up, David learned to depend instead, fully on the care of God. He was pressed on every side. The enemies that lived in the land threatened him, and his own people of Israel had turned their back to him in order to serve King Saul. David met great success all around him, and yet he no doubt felt the frailness of his own life as Saul continually pursued him.

The “dry and weary land” served as a backdrop for David’s own weariness. And the lack of water around him illustrated an even deeper thirst he felt: “My soul thirsts for You” (Psalm 63:1).

At the height of his emotional and physical distress, David sought refuge in his spiritual life.

He yearned for God. source

The biggest difference in David and Saul’s characters is seen at those most pressing moments. Saul easily gives in to the moment. He allows his desperation to control the outcome. David was driven by the understanding that God is greater and able to determine his reactions based on that. David defeats Goliath because God is greater and stronger. He doesn’t take Saul’s life because God is the giver of life. He bravely faces battle because he knows the battle belongs to the Lord.

But we all know there are times that the head and the heart don’t match up. The head knows the truth, but the heart believes the lie. The head knows God will provide, but the heart worries. The head knows God can heal, but the heart grows weak with illness. No matter the reality we know, the heart makes us weary in doubt and fear. The heart becomes dehydrated before our mind even thinks about thirst. From the inside out, we begin to die a little to our faith, especially the longer we endure in the unforgiving sun.

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I love to read these stories of David. they are full of excitement and encouragement. Normally, when I have read over 1 Samuel in the past, I quickly read through 1 Samuel 23 trying to get to the part where David chooses to not kill Saul. The anticipation of David hiding in the very cave that Saul is in. I giggle a little to myself picturing Saul towards the mouth of the cave. The Bible gives the detail that he was “relieving himself,” which we will just leave at that. Little known to him, he has David trapped in this cave. He’s so preoccupied with reading the Readers Digest I guess, that he doesn’t even feel David sneak up and cut a part of his cloak off. Here is David’s chance to kill Saul, but instead he protects him from his own men.

David didn’t always know what to do. He wasn’t always the mighty warrior that he is most often memorialized as. He was indeed human. Like us all, in a dry land, he needed to be filled with living water.

Jonathan was one of Saul’s sons. He was in line to be the next king, however because Saul did not obey God (see 1 Samuel 15), he was rejected as king and God choose David to be the next king. Jonathan was not like his father, however. He trusted God to mightily fight for him in battle. Jonathan and David become extremely close. Jonathan is drawn to David’s faith in God, his courage in battle, and they form a unique friendship. Jonathan is not intimated by David’s greatness. They even promise to each other that they will protect and serve each other. Jonathan personally saves David many times, and  his own father even tries to kill him because of his friendship to David. Jonathan knew that David would be the next king, and he didn’t allow his pride to destroy their friendship.

It’s during this time in the desert, as David is fleeing from Saul, that Jonathan, for one final time, will risk going to David. Jonathan plays in important role in the character of David, a self-love of a true friend. Although David is the star in the story that is unfolding, in the background we catch a glimpse of Jonathan’s friendship to David.

One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. 1 Samuel 23:15-16

Saul was in hot pursuit of David. He had nearly caught him just prior to this, change David up a mountain. David escaped only because Saul was called out to protect his own country from the Philistines. Jonathan, perhaps stirred by the Spirit, feels to urgency to go to David to encourage him in his faith. The imagery in verse 16 is just simply awesome. (sorry I don’t have a better adjective for that.) “Encourage him to stay strong in his faith” is literally “strengthened his hand in God.” Before, when I had read this passage, I would have skimmed over that and thought nothing more, but this time it was as if Jonathan was speaking that encouragement to me. It was almost as if the Spirit took me by my hands, holding them out and said, “strengthen your hands.”

About a year ago, we were studying the book of Hebrews in a ladies Bible study. Hebrews is a book full of super encouraging verses, that I affectionately call “Life Verses”. Words to live by; words to encourage one’s faith. We were sharing favorite verses as a group, and my friend that leads the study pointed out this verse:

Hebrews 1212


This was a verse that never jumped out at me, but I immediately tucked it away in my heart to meditate and remember.

Some time had passed, I had been studying the book of Judges to teach the kids at church. I was reading about Gideon. He was an unlikely hero. Those are always my favorites. He was a man, who in his time, was part of a people who were forced to live in a harsh environment. He was preparing food, hiding in a wine-press, when he receives the call of God. He was addressed as “Mighty Warrior.” Someone who has to hide from fear is not usually looked upon as mighty. Gideon prepares an army for battle and is told he has too many men. After some narrowing down, he then is about to lead his tiny army of 300 men against thousands. The sun sets as his men make final preparations, and Gideon is told to sneak down into the enemy’s camp. If he is afraid or discouraged to go down to hear what the enemy is saying and so that “your hands will be strengthened.

There is was a again. There is no doubt that this is a call to arms. It’s a call to prepare the battle line with a strong-arm, but I think for Christians it’s more than just to feel “mighty”. For Jonathan he came to David to encourage him to believe in God. He wasn’t saying, “you are strong and mighty and are able to kill my dad.” It was a message to trust in God’s protection.

Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah, and once again I came across this theme of weak hands. In Isaiah 35, their hands were weak. They had been in that desert time.  A time when the people have been drained of life and hope. There hearts were a wasteland with no strength. In that moment of weakness, like a fresh rain, joy and life returns. Isaiah tells them to BE STRONG. FEAR NOT. God is coming to save them. Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35

Jonathan speaks truth to David. He has come for the purpose of encouraging David. It’s easy to think that people in great positions don’t need encouragement. We see them out there in the spotlight. They seem to have success in all they do, and it’s easy to think they are doing great. But that’s not the case. We need encouragement from others to press on. We need to know that what we are doing is important. We need to hear that even though life is extremely hard, God is there helping us. Working on us. We aren’t dying of thirst in the desert, but instead we are being refined. I’ve learned in my own refining moments this truth. Either the moment will refine me, or I will be refined in the moment. Whatever I am struggling with, I am not left alone to fight my way through. I can be strong; I can have strong hands, not because I am strong, but I serve a God who is stronger and HE is able to do it through me. and despite me.

This desert experience has part of the refining and preparations that David needed to become the greatest King of Israel. It was a time that taught him the importance to thirst. Not for things that only leave us lacking, but to thirst for that which really satisfies- the Living Water.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
They will go down into the depths of the earth.
10 They will die by the sword
and become the food of jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God.
All who swear to tell the truth will praise him,
while liars will be silenced.

click here for other verses about strengthening hands

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Thought it would be fun to make a time lapse video of some chalk board art. Enjoy!  {sorry about the table at the bottom}

This week has been a week of traditions for me. Alan left for a trip with several students on Sunday night, while in the mean time I wrap up the end of Christmas and the year reflecting on all that has come and gone.

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If you are interested, I have included links for our past year reflections. Not sure what happened in 2011. Ha!





Before I begin, I must admit something I noticed about this year. I have hardly used my real camera. It’s not really surprising, because of several reasons. One I started working more, and therefore have less “free” time. Two, the camera on my phone is a lot more convenient. No matter, I have also noticed what I take a lot of pictures of, and have decided to be more purposeful in what I capture in 2016.Also my phone broke in the summer so I lost my photos that I didn’t back up. Thanks to IG I have a few of them saved.

January: To start the new year, we were on our way back from a fantastic trip to Colorado for Christmas. My family met together to celebrate my parents’ 50 Anniversary and first Christmas together in almost 30 years. There are 7 of us kids, so it’s hard to all get together. We made a brief trip to visit my aunt and uncle in the flat top mountains. Although it was extremely cold, we love the gorgeous views and 18 inches of snow on the ground. We spent New Years Eve crammed in a hotel room on our return home. That is after spending 5 hours that morning traveling and then realizing my phone was lost on the flat top mountains where it fell out while I was taking pictures with my real camera. What a way to end 2014!!! As I looked through all my pictures, the only one I have from January is the one below. I had bought a set of 4 view finders and the disks for less than $2 and my kids loved it. For a couple of days. Well worth the 2 bucks.


February: Is always a busy time with Valentines and other school activities. Alex was in a play at school. Tori got her glasses for the first time. 3 of 5 kids had the flu, one of which had to be taken to the ER because she was dehydrated. Fun times at the Bandy house! About this time our dog had chewed up my Bible I had since I was in college. I cried for 2 days. However, about the same time I had discovered Illustrated Faith and Bible Journaling. Alan had gotten me a journaling Bible (at a great cyber deal) for Christmas and so a new personal adventure began. Alan began to fill in as Interim at a church near by.


March: Usually with warm weather, although it can still snow, we begin to spend time out and about more. Spring Break always falls in March for us. Alex was turning 16 this year, and had been planning a big weekend for her sweet 16. I took her and several of her close friend to Nashville for a long weekend. It was a fast, all girls, shop til you drop and stay up late fun time. I’m sure it’s one she won’t ever forget. A dear friend of mine found out she had cancer, which is never an easy or good time.


April: This month is kind of a blur. I’m not going to lie. Easter is always a  very full weekend for me with the nature of my job. This year we hosted a large event, and made it bigger by creating what we called “A Family Passion Week Journey.” With that out-of-the-way, the end of the school year began to wind down. We had tons of showers & birthday parties, as well as play rehearsals, land runs, and field trips.


May: May began with a bang. The large play at the High school was the first two weekends. We had major rain storms that dropped 8+ inches in an hour. Dance recital. End of school awards. Before I knew it the month was coming to a close as well as the school year. Alan took the older two kids to TX for Comicon, which was a first for all three. They had a great time! I believe somewhere in this time, Alan received Tenure at his job.

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June: During this month, Josiah was only home for one week. He had a couple of camps, plus spent some time with a friend. Tori went to her first camp with the church. My parents’ moved from the state they lived in the longest, after retiring, to a much closer state to us. Honestly, June was a bit of a blur. It was a down time to relax and enjoy the summer. Because Kiki’s birthday was at the end of the school year, we had her birthday party in June. I went for the old school at home, let the kids play with very little planned style. All we had planned was decorating cakes. It was fantastic.  At the same time I had also begun to work more. My dear friend had surgery to remove her cancer, and because we worked together, I began to help fill in while she was in recovery.

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July: Always begins with a bang. Ha-I’m so punny. We celebrated in our tradition by going to Pops. (A little burger joint on Rt 66.) Alex took driver’s ed. VBS was a huge success. Then we went on a late vacation at the end of the month. After having a nice visit with Doc and Hunny for a few days, we headed on down to the beach. I had done a little research and found out that sea turtles began to hatch about the time that we would be on vacation. Our first night there at dinner we were talking about what we would like to do at the beach. I told everyone that I wanted to watch baby sea turtles hatch. That night, Alan took the kids to the beach to catch ghost crabs and I stayed behind with the little one. He called me almost right away, because they came to a nest of hatching turtles. The rest of the week was full of them We were between two nests that hatched every night. It was an amazing time to turn 40.

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August: I don’t like taking a vacation so late in the summer because when we return we hit the ground running. The kids always begin the school year mid-August. During August, we also went down to help my parents move in to their new home.

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September: Looking at the calendar, September was a quiet month for us.  Kiki got her first pair of glasses. The kids were in full swing at school. I was still working more hours at work. Uneventful is always a good thing.


October: This month began with Alex in One Act (which is a competition play) with school. During Fall Break we decided to take the kids camping for one night to unplug and make some memories. Only three of the kids dressed up for Halloween, which as a mom is kind of sad. Alan’s mom ended up being very sick, and so we began to make plans for her to finally move in with us. When we bought this house, it was knowing that one day we would need to help give her more care. It was good to see long-term plans begin to occur, although  seeing your loved ones ill and aging is not always easy.


November: It’s kind of funny for me to look at my calendar for November and see barely anything written on it. I know it was full, because everyday is full. I love all the sweet blessings that our family brings and means. In our fullness there is joy. It doesn’t mean that it is easy or fun, but making everyday count is what life is all about.


December: Perhaps November doesn’t seem very full because December is off the hook crazy. There was one day in particular that pushed and stretched me, but I didn’t crack. I got a glimps to see what I was made of, and what I saw is that I am limited. We all are, but we can always face far more than what life hands to us. To know that I have the Peace of Christ in me, there is more to this life than the moment I am in. Life is not made up in moments, and true greatness in not ever found in things. You can always give more of yourself, and it’s not until you are completely empty that you find how full you can really be.

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As I look ahead to 2016, I honestly have no idea what lies ahead. For us, big changes are coming- our oldest is almost done with High School. What?!?! But there are so many things we don’t know are coming. Both in joy and sorrow.  My hope is that I am humbled by the blessings and challenged to be more by the trials. Never take love for granted. Hug your babies, don’t be afraid to be messy, laugh at life, be challenged to love the unlovely, and be a light for those struggling in the dark.

Happy New Year, from our family to yours.

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