Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments

Tips for Tuesday

Somehow, this has turned out to be the year for DIY projects here at the Koster homestead, which is interesting since for me it has been a year of health issues as well. It all began innocently enough with my husband Bob wanting to put a fire pit in the back yard. It turned out fabulous, but was one of those 2-week projects that ended up taking 2 months! Then we found out I am allergic to dust, so replacing the carpet with hardwood flooring was in our future. 

If you really want to de-clutter your household, I recommend replacing your flooring because EVERYTHING needs to be moved.  We had talked about fixing up the basement bedroom into a playroom for my grandsons, and it made perfect sense to tackle this project before the floors so we could have a place for the toys that seemed to manifest themselves in every room.

Here are Dude and Bubba in the (almost) finished room. The wall stickers came from a clearance rack and the balls hanging from the ceiling were discoved at a garage sale for just 25 cents total!

A side note: If you are about to become empty-nesters I would highly recommend insisting that ALL possessions be taken out of the nest as well, rather than taking the 10% that is wanted and leaving the 90% for you to clear out.  Just sayin'. We spent A LOT of time just digging out to find the floor!

We had an old piece of carpet just lying on the cement floor, so once we dug down that far the first order of business was to get rid of that.  We cut it in strips about 3 feet wide so it would be easier to manage.  Once the carpet was out of the way, we gave the walls a fresh coat of paint.  I decided to go with white because I'd like to reserve a wall for a growth-chart, not only marking height, but handprints as well.

One of the features we decided to keep was the shelving, so we removed them to paint and then put them back up later.  I even found a fourth shelf in another part of the basement, giving us a nice low shelf that little boys can reach.  Bob put in grids for the ceiling, with the tiles to follow later.  

One of the smaller walls was dedicated to a chalk board.  Since the boys are both less than 3 feet tall, I brought it all the way down to the floor and made it as high as I could comfortably reach since you're never too old for a chalk board!

After making the wall as smooth as possible and applying a base coat of white paint, I purchased chalk board paint at a home improvement store and followed the instructions on the box. It comes in a lot of different colors, but I went with black because I didn't want the boys getting the mistaken idea that they can write on just any wall!  While I love the look of a new black chalk board, unfortunately if you don't "season" it by rubbing chalk all over it and then erasing the board, whatever you write will be there forever.  I used a big stick of sidewalk chalk, which made it go much easier and quicker.

Here is the "corral"!  Bubba is in the foreground riding the pony I bought for his mama on her first birthday.  Dude is astride a horse we'd been given by friends whose children had outgrown it.  

Here's a coat rack that I had for my children when they were little. The boys love to wear hats, so this made a perfect hat rack!  (The kneeling pad is for Grandma, because the peel-and-stick floor we put in doesn't have any cushion for her aging knees!)

I was fortunate to find two road map rugs very inexpensively at garage sales this summer.  It's the perfect throw rug because Dude is just now getting interested in driving cars and trucks, which I saved from when "Uncle" was a little boy. (And according to the boys, if it comes from "Uncle", it must be good stuff!) In the corner is a container for the cars which is always empty because the only thing more fun than playing with cars is dumping them out of the container grandma would like them to be in!

This teepee (peep-peep according to the boys) is a hand-me-down from "Uncle" and one of their favorite places to hang out.

Another hand-me-down is this barn Papa made when our kids were little.  For now it resides in the second bed frame since only one of the boys is even close to big enough for a twin bed.

I adjusted the shelves so I could maximize the space. The top shelf is all Legos, and Papa can't wait until the boys are big enough to start playing with him them! Right now they're training with Duplos which are on the floor below. 

I also have a TV that only plays videos, and a friend who graciously lent me some of her tapes so I don't have to watch the same two Veggie Tales tapes over and over (and over and over...)

Here you can see what the shelves look like when the toys are picked up. Good thing I took a picture because I may never see it like this again!  Which really is the point of this room.  The boys can play and we don't have to pick everything up all the time because it's no longer covering my living room floor.


I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 4 comments

Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, always one foot in front of the other, I've climbed the steps leading to the family room and bedrooms upstairs.  It feels like I've probably done that a million times during the twenty years I've lived here with Bob.  But this particular day, I looked down at my feet as they reached the landing and something caught my eye.  

Or rather, the lack of something.

The patch of carpet beneath my feet was threadbare from thirty years of hard service, for every set of feet - small and large, slow and fast - landed in this very spot before heading right or left towards their final destination.  

And I started thinking, "Maybe it's time to replace the carpet."  I had lots of reasons to:

- It was old, as old as the house itself.  Older than most of our children.  30 years old.

- It was worn.  30 years of traffic has taken its toll.

- It was well beyond the industry recommendation of replacing it every 5-10 years.  (Of course, those recommending this are those wanting to sell me the new...)

- It was (and is) ugly.  I didn't choose it; the house and the carpet came with the husband. I love him, but the carpet? Uh, not so much. 20 years is a long time to live with ugly.

It made perfect sense to replace the carpet, but for some reason God seemed to be saying "No."  Funny, it never occurred to me to ask God (though thankfully I've been improving in this area, thanks to some very painful lessons), yet His message came through loud and clear - "NO NEW CARPET."

Well, all right then.

I wasn't sure why we shouldn't replace the carpeting, but God was very clear that we shouldn't.

He reminded me of a dear neighbor.  (Out in the country, anyone within a 5-mile radius can be claimed as a neighbor, and she was only a mile away - so she was a close neighbor.) She was well into her 80's, the grandmother of a friend of mine and a great example of a woman of faith.  Back when I was struggling physically and very isolated because of my condition, she had time for me.  I remember taking advantage of every opportunity to soak in her wisdom.  During one visit, the subject of her threadbare carpet came up and I remembered her saying, "I just can't see spending money on carpet when there are children starving in Russia."

Then I read the story of Matilda Cobb (1840-1910).  "Matilda had saved her household money, planning to replace their worn out, shabby carpet, which was an embarrassment.  Just as Matilda had decided to purchase a new carpet" appeals came from the mission board "and there was a mental struggle.  Matilda sent her carpet funds to the board, thinking she had made a great sacrifice.  "Not so!" she discovered, for her old, worn carpet had become bright with beautiful lessons. The shabby carpet reminded Matilda that her "little self-denial" was blessing others around the globe. Her carpet had been magically transformed.  In each step Matilda took on her old carpet, she heard the voices of her far away sisters.  Mingling with them, she said, I hear a silvery voice which, like a theme in music, now louder, now soft and low, but ever sustained, ever sings: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me." ~ Matthew 25:40
(Excerpt from "Hands, Hearts, and Voices - Women who Followed God's Call.)

I thought, "He must have plans to use the funds elsewhere."  After all, there is such a tremendous need in our village in Kenya, and in so many other places in the world. So I deposited the small inheritance I had received and waited for further direction.

I knew looking at that worn spot every day would drive me crazy if I didn't change my focus, but I've been learning to do just that.  And it worked!  Fast forward a few years, and I barely notice the ugly, shabby carpet anymore.  

Then God did something amazing!

"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs...and will strengthen your frame." ~ Isaiah 58:11

You see, I've been dealing with a new batch of health issues since the first of the year; a "perfect storm" of sorts. Here it is almost Thanksgiving and things are just now getting sorted out. One of the first discoveries was that my breathing problems were rooted in my being allergic to dust.  Hmmm, how much dust do you think is in 30-year-old carpet...

So here's the amazing part.  I realized that if I had ignored God earlier and replaced my carpet anyway, I would be just sick about ripping it out when it was only 2 years old, and to be honest I probably wouldn't have. But because I listened to God and waited, now we can tear out the old and replace it with hardwood, which doesn't collect dust.  Approximately half of our home had hard floors anyway, so we had only three rooms on the main floor with carpet to replace.  We're just finishing the third room and my breathing has become noticeably easier! 

So, not only did God allow me to get new flooring, but He also improved my health with one fell swoop!  

Father, I thank you for teaching me to trust you and follow your instructions, even when I don't understand.  Thank you for providing for needs I didn't even know I had and allowing me to reap the benefits of obedience!


I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Friendship Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 16 comments

I've officially had it!  I am sick and tired of being politically correct and tip-toeing around so no one gets offended! While I could go off in many directions with this statement (and who knows, maybe one of these days I will), today I want to discuss the poor.

What prompted this rant?  A series of conversations and events, both past and present, topped off by several email messages today from Elisha, the pastor we work with in Kenya. I'd like to begin by clarifying  that it was never my plan to go to Kenya in the first place; God sent me, so I went. This at a time when, because of physical issues, I could barely make it to the mall. Nor did I choose to have a school in Kenya.  Somehow we just came home with one after God sent us to Kenya for the third time.  

When people learn I have a school in Kenya, it is not unusual to hear someone say, "There are poor here too; why don't you help them?" There are two answers to that question.  First, I do help them and second, being poor here is NOTHING like being poor in other parts of the world. Poor people in the U.S. are wealthy compared to the rest of the world.  There, I said it, and I'm not taking it back! 

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all those who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. ~ Proverbs 31:8-9

Have you ever seen anyone living in a house like this here in the U.S.?  I haven't, but I can tell you I've seen far too many of them in Kenya and I know Kenya is not alone. Having been to Kenya as many times as I have, I can tell you quite a few things just by looking at this photo:

 - It does not have the proper roof, probably because the family couldn't afford it.  The uneven distribution of water contributed to the house shifting.

- It's probably infested with insects, which also would have contributed to the instability of the house.

- Because the house has not been properly sealed, the family is in danger of being attacked by poisonous snakes.

In his message, Pastor Elisha said, "The rains are here. Things are pretty good. They are heavy downpour daily." After a long drought the village is finally being blessed by heavy rains, but it probably doesn't feel like a blessing for this family.  It won't be long before the house looks like thisBobo's house leaks; has huge gaping holes on the wall. Two [of their three] kids admitted with pneumonia today. 

A crumbling house, gaping holes, pouring rains, and two children with pneumonia. Can you imagine yourself in this position?  And yet this is only the tip of the iceberg.  
Here is "The lady and her daughter. The husband Bobo was rushed to hospital this morning...He is a cancer victim with an amputated leg. The cancer has devastated him so much he would pass out substance through urinal track. He is poor, illiterate with 3 children. He recently became a Christian with his family [through the ministry of OpeN Christian Center]Bobo is currently part of the OpeN family [congregation]. He got help in this year's medical camp [OpeN hosted the first-ever medical camp in 2012.  Before that, many of the villagers had never had access to medical treatment.] A friend gave him good crutches; light and comfortable.

I have supported him medically and with food. We gave the wife a prepared garden to plant and get food. She has tried.  The last 4 weeks he has been in hospital, bedridden and in poor shape. Trying to see if we could have him access medication. Jesus will provide. Am seeing him today for prayer and encouragement. Visiting them is painful for me, but I will provide the Word needed. Pray with me for a miracle.  Please pray. This lady is losing hope on ever having her husband back alive. Just shared with her and she is sad.

It pains to see a man's life waste because he cannot afford food and medicines...they have had to sell most of their land to buy medicines and see a doctor. If Jesus can put $720 usd in our hands, we would help rescue Bobo and his family. Our forest [planted by OpeN for future income and construction] is going to provide wood free of charge for this man. Tomorrow I will initiate the process by felling down trees from the forest and clearing construction site. 

We, by the grace of God, will wipe away their tears....just for Jesus.

Yes, we always do not have enough, but the little we have, we can share and save a life.

Thank you, very much, friends. Through you, many people here have found a voice to thank God.

God bless you and the army behind you. It makes a difference.

I will say it again: Being poor in the U.S. is nothing compared to being poor in other parts of the world.  And it's not because people don't work hard.  Did you know there are very few lazy people in Kenya? Do you know why? They're dead. People cannot afford to be lazy because there are no government programs to rely on.  

If you don't work, you don't eat - period.  

If you don't have money, you don't get medical treatment - period.

If you are poor you are poor.  The only hope is to educate children so life can be different for them.  And that is why OpeN Christian Center operates a school.  Public education in Kenya is not free, and many children did not attend school simply because their families couldn't afford the fees.  OpeN educates the children who would otherwise be unable to attend school.  We currently have students from 3 years old to third grade, and add a grade every year as the students advance.  

Our little, middle-of-nowhere school currently has 250 students.  To be honest, I have no idea where they all come from. Nor do I have any idea how this school has existed and been able to grow for the last 5 years.  Our only sources of income are individual gifts and the generous people who support a student. All twenty of them.  

You read that right.  We have 250 students and 20 of them are sponsored for $35 a month.  I have no idea how we feed them all, except that it must be like the loaves and the fishes every day. If I had started this school, I would be totally stressed out trying to provide for it.  But I didn't start this school; God did, and He will provide.  He knew the two people He was entrusting this village to were totally unqualified, but He chose us anyway. Why? I have no idea, but now we are the voice for these people and we will do what we can.

The question is, what will you do?  

I'm asking you to do two things, right now before you forget.

1. Pray for provision for these people and for those in similar situations wherever they may live.

2. Ask God if you are to play a part in this provision and act on His answer. 

If you feel led to sponsor a child, be a monthly donor or give a one-time gift, please visit the OpeN Christian Center website here. All contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law and 100% of your donation goes directly to Kenya.  We don't get paid for our work on behalf of the needy, nor do any of our board members.  In fact, the board personally covers all overhead so that all contributions can be delivered in their entirety.  

These people rely on Jesus and each other because that's all they have. Shouldn't we be doing the same thing?

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." ~ James 1:27

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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 1 comments

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful weekend away at our church's marriage retreat.  We heard great speakers, had some down time, enjoyed each other's company and that of other couples from our church.

And then we came home...

Photo courtesy of Google images and

Why does reentry into real life have to be so difficult?

The first thing I did after our 2 hour drive home was to head into the bathroom.  I was greeted by a toilet bowl full of brown water.  I flushed, only to have it re-fill with brown water.  Then I went to the kitchen sink to get a drink of water and again it was brown.  At least Bob was home with me this time.  The last time this happened was when I returned home alone after his open-heart surgery last December.  (We never did figure out what the problem was and now - after 11 months, it's back.)

Then I heard the cat, but when I looked she wasn't at any of the exterior doors. This was not a good sign since we were gone all weekend and presumed she was outside.  A bit of searching led to her discovery in the bedroom containing our grandson's crib; a room she is technically not allowed to be in.  Evidently she spent her weekend fasting while locked in the room.  I have to say, she was VERY happy to see me!

I went to open the door to the sunroom where we usually keep her food - forgetting we had placed her food and water in the garage where we thought she was - only to discover the doorknob acted as if it was locked.  The thing is, those interior doors don't have locks. Ugh.

Finally, I went to my study to plug in my laptop but the battery wasn't charging.  I unplugged and replugged and tightened all the connections.  No luck. I'd used the computer over the weekend and it charged with no problems.  Now, however, problems!

I'd been home all of 10 minutes!

Have you ever had days like this?  Or worse?  These are all just little things, but sometimes life heaps on big things. And let me tell you, I am no stranger to the big things.

Why does life have to be so difficult?  I've come up with two answers:

1. We have an enemy. Satan is always busy trying to discourage us from following God's plan for us and is ready to punish us when we follow through. So it's not at all surprising to me that we'd come home to obstacles after spending the weekend focusing on our marriage.  This is nothing compared to the physical hurdles I face when doing ministry, whether it be a pinched nerve on my way to teach in Kansas or malaria, food poisoning (from the plane), a visit to the ER (and more!) in Kenya.

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." ~ 2 Timothy 3:12

2. Its primarily in the difficult times that we grow to be more Christ-like.
Given the choice, most of us would choose the easy way over the hard way every time. I shudder to think what my life would be like if God always let me take the easy way out.  Struggling is what has made me who I am today and is what will continue to shape me into who God has called me to be.  

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us." ~ Romans 5:3-5

Just as gold must be refined in the fire and diamonds are formed under immense pressure, so we are purified through the difficulties we face.  

"I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, "They are my people," and they will say, "The Lord is our God." ~ Zechariah 13:9

It's when I'm in the midst of circumstances beyond my control and my capabilities that I learn to rely on God.  

"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life...But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God." ~ 1 Corinthians 1:8-9

I've learned that God uses these seasons of suffering to strip my life of what's unnecessary and put my focus on Him. Once these extraneous things are gone, I've found it much easier to continue on without them as opposed to trying to eliminate them in my own strength.  The result is a much closer relationship with God.

"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your Teacher will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see Him." ~ Isaiah 30:20

So, why is life hard?  Because it's supposed to be!  

Rather than looking at these things as obstacles in our way of getting things done, we should look at them as a part of life that helps transform us into the image of Jesus.

Lord, I thank you for loving me enough to want the best for me even though it means I will have to struggle and even suffer. I'm so thankful for how far you've brought me and how much closer I am to You.  Forgive me for all the time I've wasted complaining and fighting against you and help me to cooperate with You. Open my eyes to see what it is You're trying to teach me through these events, that I would continue to grow more and more into your likeness.


I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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