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When Your Limitations Are Staring You Straight In The Face

February 9, 2017

I saw it coming, though ever so subtly. I would be sitting at a table talking with a friend, and the whole room would shift as if balancing on a delicate axis. I’d sip water and concentrate hard—on anything—until it would pass, only to have it wash over me again like a line of unending waves in the ocean. It quickly accelerated from occasional to everyday. I’d find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a project, and having to brace the table before me to steady myself, although I wasn’t actually falling—yet. And so, on the day when it finally gave way, I was not too surprised to find myself collapsed on the couch for the whole of an afternoon.

It is difficult to remember that this used to be my regular existence.

Over a decade ago when I sat in that sterile room, my parents in those cheap chairs next to the exam table where I sat fidgeting; the doctor spoke it, “Yes, she does have Addison’s Disease”, and I wonder if we knew at all what it meant.

Back on that day, we wondered whether it would mean that I may not be able to have those three babies I kiss goodnight every evening now. Or that I should probably never try anything like running that half marathon I completed a couple of years ago, our third boy nestled safe in my womb as I crossed the finish line. I don’t think we knew back on that day, in that little room, when words of prescriptions and doses and tests were exchanged, really what kind of life I could expect to live. If I could ever chase big dreams like writing books or starting businesses or raising babies. We had no idea what to expect, aside from limitations.

Sometimes, on the hinge of words spoken or a diagnosis given or our own doubts crowding—we become a little afraid to dream. Because who wants to dream a dream that their limitations—be them physical, emotional, or other wise—will never allow them to chase after? 

In that first handful of years following my diagnosis, my parents fought hard to dissect this disease, and learn every little detail of how it might be affecting my body. And they fought even harder to encourage me to never stop dreaming. And then, five years after we sat in that sterile room, they handed over the position of Chief Encouragers to my husband, as we stood on that altar and exchanged vows. And as he took my hand, he eagerly took on that responsibility to never let me give up on my dreams.

And he’s kept that vow.

And so, on weeks like these, when seasonal colds and stressful weeks culminate in my disease reminding me—hey, I’m still around—I’m caught a bit off guard.

We have a way of forgetting about our limitations. Somehow we become comfortable with them. We tame them. We create a system, balance the weights, and set up safe guards. It’s what my husband and I have been fighting for over the past years, as we’ve learned how to live a life abundantly—with a chronic illness. It’s a good thing. But then, when we finally become comfortable and well adjusted—we round a corner to find those inhibitions staring us in the face—the floor falls out from beneath us.

Whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—whatever these limitations be, they have a way of reminding us that we are but clay and dirt and finite. We are limited. And it hurts, to want such big and beautiful and wondrous things for our lives, but to feel terribly hindered by things outside of our control. It hurt this week, in the midst of big dreams and plans and deadlines, to lay on that couch unable to even make dinner for my family.

And yet, I am discovering that my limitations are an invite.

This week, they invited me to lay and read that book I’ve been too busy to pick up. They invited me to watch my boys as they ran circles around the house in boy-made Superhero capes, exclaiming “It’s my pleasure!!” Every time I would ask them to grab my notebook or my blood pressure cuff.

My limits were my invite to not care about the dirty socks and half-completed art projects scattered across the floor, but instead to hold my toddler boy as he waited for me to fix his Lego truck. My limits were my invite to remember that I am, indeed, limited—and that’s ok. In fact, once in a while, I need to remember those limits. Because they have this stunning way of springing up within me a longing for that which is above and beyond and bigger than me and my limits. They make me ache for my Creator, who made me wonderfully, and calls me Very Good. The One who is my strength in weakness, my ever-present help. These physical limitations that drive me to that couch or my bed—they also drive me to my knees in prayer. And call me crazy, but it makes me a little bit fond of these hindrances.

Our limits have a thing or two to teach us about ourselves, our loved ones, and the pace of life. Sometimes they are our invite to rest, when we’ve been to stubborn to give ourselves a break. They invite us to ask for help, to accept grace, to stop. Refocus. Refresh. Restart. and Remember the One who gave us life, calls us to great things, and gives us everything we need—right in the midst of our limitations—to pursue those great things.

Back on that day when the doctor handed me a diagnosis I couldn’t, at fourteen years old, begin to understand the intricacies of, I couldn’t have anticipated the gifts hidden within. Limitations are funny like that, don’t you think? A blessing in disguise, if we choose to see and treat them as such. What is that limitation staring you in the face today? They stand there, intimidating and threatening and discouraging—and inviting. Take the invite today. The one that calls you to your knees, to rest, and to embrace a life that says that we are not enough—and that’s ok.

Faith Family Motherhood

When I Run Out Of Compassion For My Children

February 3, 2017

I felt him climbing ever so precariously across the bed towards me; each small movement pulling me further out of my sleep. He laid down across my stomach, face centimeters from mine, his little boy morning breath warm against my skin. I opened my eyes to just a squint and found them peering into his soft baby blues. “Mom.” He began, ever so matter of factly, “You are not making me breakfast.”

And so my day began.

As do many of them, right here in the beautiful mayhem of raising three small children. It seems as though most mornings, the boys roll out of bed right along with their constant stream of requests, ready to meet me before the dawn of the day, or any chance at that first cup of coffee.

Motherhood, at its very core, is a demanding call. It requires that we serve and serve and serve some more, and then wake to do it all over again tomorrow. It is sweet and humbling and wonderful—and depleting. And sometimes, if I am honest, I just don’t feel like giving any more. Or, I feel as though there is nothing left to give even if I tried. I’m guessing you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are right now.

It was in one of those extra demanding seasons, when I was feeling suffocated under projects and deadlines and baskets of dirty laundry and endless requests for more snacks or another episode of Thomas The Train that I glimpsed something within myself. And when I did, it stopped me in my tracks.

It was a recent morning while studying a passage with a room full of other mothers that I saw it. Or rather Him. Jesus— and His disciples, anchoring their boat along the shore, exhausted and hungry and anticipating rest and dinner. It came after a long shift of serving and healing and performing miracles and teaching. They were weary, and ready for a break. Much like I feel every single afternoon.

“And He (Jesus) said to them, Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while. (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) And they went away in a boat to a lonely place by themselves.)” Mark 6: 30-32

In all of the serving, they didn’t even find time to eat. Sound familiar? The anticipation of a break was palpable. But then…

“The people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.”

Their break— hijacked. I know the feeling; the disappointment, the frustration. When you lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes, and then you hear that little voice calling your name from the other room. When you manage to wake earlier than the kids for a few moments and a cup of coffee to yourself, and they choose that morning to wake extra early, stealing that time away. Or when you lay them down for a nap, retreat to your desk, open the laptop to catch up on work, and he comes out asking if nap time is over yet. Your whole body aches for that little bit of rest. So much so that you can hardly even enjoy it when it comes, unsure of how long it will last. You’re afraid to drift into that sleepful state, lest a tiny voice yank you out of it, asking for another drink before bed.

And when those interruptions come, it becomes all too easy to overact; to voice my rights—what I feel I deserve after all of my serving. But then I look to that shore where Jesus and His disciples had just landed their boat, licking their lips at the thought of grilled fish and breathing deep at the anticipation of a good night sleep. And I see Jesus’ reaction.

“And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

I have serious doubts that those “many things” Jesus began to teach the people were of His need for rest and their selfish actions to interrupt said rest. No, He showed compassion; without beating an eye or groaning under His breath. He laid aside His rights, and what He very much deserved, and He chose love.

Of course, He is Jesus. I, on the other hand, am a flawed Mom. Weary, tired, and often times selfish. But then, the Word says that He took on flesh. And, standing there on that shore teaching the multitudes—He certainly had. Flesh and blood and heavy eyes. Just as He would soon know the very real sensation of whips ripping apart His flesh before His crucifixion, I am willing to bet that He felt the very real sensation of fatigue after a very long week of serving.

He has been there, and He meets us there today, too, in our very desperate places. When we want to give up. When we don’t know how to keep giving. When we feel a little lost in this calling of motherhood. And He shows compassion to us, too. He meets us in our weakest places.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The same compassion poured out over the multitude who chased them down and hijacked their rest—poured out over us in our most weary moments. It is a beautiful thing, to embrace His strength within us. To believe in it, live in it, claim it as true, and see it produce a new sort of compassion within us—one born of His grace, unfazed by the circumstances surrounding us.

And in those times when we do just need rest or a few moments of quiet, and the interruptions come—may our voices be laced in compassion when we explain to our children, “Mama just needs a few moments.” Or to our husband, “I really could use a couple hours by myself this weekend.” May compassion wind its way around our hearts, and through our actions and words.

Let’s embrace that kind of compassion today; the compassion Christ offers to each one of us, the kind that lifts us out of our tired, emptied state, and up to new heights. This compassion that overflows in us, out to our children, and can change the entire culture of our homes, and the legacy of our family. That kind of compassion that only Christ can create within us, when we run to Him on that shore, hungry for truth.

“but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Devotional Faith Writing

Six Important Questions About That Dream On Your Heart

January 19, 2017

I placed the lens close to the dark, dry, rutted skin. Focus, shutter, snap. I came in near from another angle, focus, shutter, snap. Repeat. I set the camera down, and gently rearranged the avocados; placed the onion in a new position; picked the camera back up. I had no idea what I was doing.

Slipping the camera card into the card reader, I downloaded the photos, and acquainted my fingers with the laptop keyboard. It felt foreign, despite its daily use. This was new territory, and it felt strange. I was uncertain at that point what I would do with this. And I had no idea that day when I sat down at the computer that I was chasing a dream.

It was a dream that would take seven years to take seed, root down, unearth many parts of me, sprout, and flourish. Seven years comes next spring, when a book I never could have anticipated on that day that I created a tiny little food blog, will sit on bookstore shelves.

Dreams are funny like that, they seem to take on a whole new life apart from us; melding and twisting and transforming and becoming their fullest nature, but only when we show up. Everyday. Often unaware of what we are doing, or what we will become.

Maybe you feel a little bit of that today. There is this thing on your heart that you just cannot let go. It’s constantly on your mind, and when it resurfaces, your heart beats a little bit faster. It brings with it a vision; perhaps of people being helped, of words moving others toward good, of products thoughtfully composed and sent out into the world marked with your name.

And maybe you are wondering, at the dawn of this new year, if now is the time to chase that dream.

Mine took two and a half years for me to realize what was taking place; that this dream was much bigger than I am; much larger than what I could have ever known back when it was in its seedling stage. But when I saw it, I knew. And that, right there, changed everything. There was no hemming and hawing. There was just clear evidence, set up in advance, waiting for me to arrive at its threshold and see that it was time.

Maybe you are looking for that kind of evidence today, that “Go ahead, it’s time”. Maybe you have been waiting a long while for it. And it feels like a desert land, dry and endless and wanting. The waiting can be excruciating, when you have such a dream on your hands.

Perhaps with the days passing by at merciless speed, and half of January gone, one twenty-fourth of our year, you hear that familiar taunting. This is not the time. This is not the year to chase that dream.

But maybe it is.

And maybe you need some clear-cut guidelines for figuring out if that “Go ahead” is now. Perhaps you have prayed and kept silent and ran numbers and dreamed your dream at a low volume where no one can hear or see or poke fun or question. And now is the time to measure it up to some real conditions. Perhaps now is the time to sit down with a pen and paper, and ask the hard questions, the ones that sift out dreams and sort them into “Ready” or “Wait” categories. Questions like these:

  • Have you been in God’s Word lately, exposing yourself to His truth, which sheds light on the way we should go? Does your dream contradict anything you see in God’s Word? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
  • If you are married, have you sat down and discussed all of the details of this dream with your spouse? Have you chased it down to its end, talked of its worst-case-scenarios, and shared with them your passion behind it? Are they on board? Your dreams are part of their story too. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8)
  • Have you talked of this dream with someone you admire, who shares the same beliefs as you? A mentor or sister or dear friend, who you know will tell you as it is, and help you discern the validity of this dream? “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
  • If this dream is one that will produce an income, have you decided how much, and to what cause, you will give a portion of that income to? “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
  • If you have a family, have you thought through the impact it will have on them? How much time will it take, and where will that time come from? Our time is one of our most limited, valuable resources. Is this dream a good investment of it? “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
  • Are there 3 Red Flags? Each of the above questions can raise red flags that need to be heeded and addressed before moving forward. However, smaller red flags, that often go unseen or overlooked if we are not paying attention, can also serve as a compass when we are deciding whether to pursue a certain dream. My husband has a “3 Red Flag” rule. If three smaller red flags arise during the decision process, that is enough for us to step back and put the idea on hold until we can gain more clarity on it with a spirit of discernment. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Answering these questions might take you a couple of hours at the coffee shop, or months of revising your answers as you dig deeper into your own heart. Give them the time they are due. The thing that I have learned about dream chasing is that these dreams take time to develop. Even when we do not realize it, these ideas and aspirations and passions are rooting themselves down, and preparing to bloom—when the time and conditions are right. There have been several times that, when my husband and I have decided it was time to pursue a dream, we could look back and see how God had been preparing us for that decision; equipping us with certain skills and knowledge and friendships that we would need.

Trust that the Lord is working in the details of your life, behind the scenes, even now. Trust that He has great plans for you. And trust that He will lead you in those plans and purposes, when you are attuning your heart to His. And then, when the time is right, walk forward confidently in this command and promise: “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Faith

“I’m Writing In My Journey”

October 15, 2016

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I didn’t see it until late that evening; long after his little head had hit the pillow. “What is this?” I fingered the cover, adorned in truck stickers. “You didn’t see that? He made it at camp.” My husband smiled. I read the crooked letters that he’d just learned to put together the week before. “Zeke”. I opened it to the first page to find a heart and a note. “I love you Mom. I made this heart for you.” I could picture his teacher, bending on a knee next to my boy to help him with the letters.

The next morning when he woke, he went straight to the notebook. “Oh Mom, I need to write in my journey.”

I smiled and turned my head slightly. “Your what?”

“My journey.”

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I went to correct him, to teach him the meaning of “Journal”, then I stopped; thinking his title to be more fitting. He pulled a marker out and began stringing together a sequence of letters. In the following days, he would repeat this practice every morning when he woke, and every night before he went to bed. I would offer to help him with words. “No, I can just write whatever letters.” He’d kindly reply, not taking his eyes off the page. “Ok, that’s enough for today.” He would declare before setting the book carefully on his desk, and running off to play with his brother.

I think of this now, each time I open my own leather-bound collection of thoughts, or come to this tiny corner of the internet where we’ve recorded and shared a small smattering of our stories. These are the places I come to write our journey. I look back over the span of our parenthood and I see the big moves, even bigger fears, great triumphs, and magnificent failures that make up our journey. And I am so thankful to have it written down.

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This week I read of another journey. One of 2 million sojourners dragging their feet through a dry land. “The people became impatient with the journey.” Impatient. I read the it and dig deeper to its roots. In its truest form—curtailed. Cut short. Cheated.

They felt ripped-off.

When have I felt ripped-off along my own journey? When have I come with pencil to that paper, and written of great discouragement and letdown? “And the people spoke against God and Moses.” Tummies grumbling, lips parched, hearts hardened, they threw up their arms and tossed in the towel. Why have you even brought us here? Clearly the hopelessness of their recent slavery had slipped their minds, or any thought of the Promised Land that laid ahead. They could only see what was in front of them, dust and discontent.

“There is no food or water, and we loathe this miserable food.” I have to read it twice to make sure this is what they actually said. There is no food….we hate this food. I picture a child complaining of nothing to eat, while standing in a kitchen full of food. I wonder how many times I have stood in the midst of God’s provision, and complained against Him because His gifts do not look like what I had asked for.

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A few days later I read of another sojourner. He sits on the edge of a well, wearied. Who wouldn’t be, after stepping into a new job, and facing immediate accusations and allegations? He’s come for water. A woman approaches, empty bucket in hand. She nears the well, and He startles her with His words. “Give Me a drink.” She looks at Him perplexed. People of her kind and people of His kind, they didn’t associate. I can see Him looking deep into her eyes, making certain that she catches this next part. “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

He came wearied. She came empty. Both came for water. But only Living Water would quench. And I wonder, how many times do I come with my empty bucket, looking to fill it with something that will never quench—something that will never satisfy?

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I see these fellow sojourners. A group of grumpy travelers rebelling in their discontent. And the Son of God who took on flesh and suffered the marks of humanity—tired and weary. Much like me on my own journey.

And this is when I pray. I pray that every time I sit to write in my journey, that it will tell the story of girl sojourning with a heart of gratitude, always seeking Living Water. I pray that mine will be a story of giving thanks, even when the provisions are not exactly what I had pictured. And I pray that when my journey grows wearisome and I come to the well, that I will fill up only on that which satisfies for the long haul.

What about you? Your journey is taking on new words today. Everyday our stories go on creating new plots; taking us through dry lands and to wells of water. And how our stories look in the end, when all is said and done, depends so very much on our responses in the desert and at the well.

So let’s write our journeys well today.

Faith

When Did You Last Feel Small As A Child?

September 6, 2016

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He ran up ahead of me, the sound of gravel crunching under sandals joining in chorus with the water cascading down rocks beside us. “A waterfall! Mom! A waterfall!”

His little brother followed close behind. “Oh!! A waterfall!” his little voice squealed. The baby fidgeted in the hiking pack strapped to my back. I could feel his eagerness to explore as I unstrapped the pack and set him down to his adventures.

I could see it reflected in their eyes within the shapes of mountain peaks and aspen—wonder. I’ve witnessed it more and more since our move to the Rockies. The boys have these certain looks, smiles, a depth in their eyes, reserved for those holy moments when their spirit is overwhelmed by wonder. And as I’ve witnessed these moments of awe pouring forth like a flower at the height of its bloom, I have felt small. Magnificently small.

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“Mom! This is our playground!” Our oldest yells back to me when he spots a meadow of trees rich with just-the-right-climbing-height branches. As I watch them balance across the dark, twisted trunk of a felled pine tree, or observe them scaling boulders six times taller than their tiny frames, I see them beholding something larger than I could ever offer. This is beauty I could never create for them. This is peace I could never devise of my own ideas. This is imagination I could never inspire. This is play I could never coordinate. This is awe I could never script.

I can only bring them to where these things are found, and set them down straight into the midst of God’s glory.

And the more their tiny hearts grasp of this magnificence, the more they want. Mystery, artistry, intrigue, delight– it draws them. The encounter with glory and beauty transcending anything they’ve ever known or seen—these experiences tug at their hearts; tell them this is right. This is good. This is the work of their Creator.

It’s not lost on me that since our recent move, my words have been infused with talk of the mountains. They are kind of my thing. And I’m curious—what is your thing? What is that one piece of creation that, when you encounter it, it steals the breath right out of your lungs?

What is that one thing that makes everything insignificant fade from your thoughts?

What is that one thing that makes you feel small?

I see it as my boy kicks at pebbles next to the stream, towering summits meeting together as his backdrop. He looks tiny. And right there, small in the midst of grand, he is most happy. And I find the same is true of myself.

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In a world that touts largeness and praises grandeur and acclaims loud—I find that true peace is found where I feel smallest. This is where perspective shifts, and anything without lasting value loses its allure.

This is where glory overshadows the distractions that pull me every which way, and shines light on the path to true significance.

This is where we find joy in servanthood, peace in letting go of our expectations, and purpose in making His name known….not ours.

This is where we discover that we don’t have to do it all. He has, and He will.

This is where we find comfort and refuge, knowing the One who commands the wind and waves. The One who feeds the sparrow and clothes the flower. The One who knit us together, and said of us, very good.

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When did you last feel as small as that child lost among the lilies of a vast meadow? When did you last come face to face with your own smallness, and God’s largeness? Perhaps that is where peace awaits, where God’s glory shines light on our own smallness, and we discover relief. Relief from the pressure and push and strive and fear. Maybe this is where we find room to breathe and trust in the only One with power greater than our impossibilities, and love deeper than all of our wanderings.

I suppose, “He must increase but I must decrease” was meant not only as instruction, but also as gift. That as we let go of any boasting or striving of our own accord—when we let go of having big influence, making big money, chasing big dreams, or building a big name—then we discover His big blessing.

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And perhaps we will only begin to discover these things when we find ourselves standing next to a fourteen-thousand foot mountain, or dipping our toes into an ocean with depths beyond our comprehension. Or maybe we’ll sense it as we stare into the eyes of our newborn child, or lay on a bed of pine needles and stare up into the Redwoods, or sit in a graveyard surrounded by headstones telling of unthinkable stories authored by a skilled and gracious Creator.

This place of smallness; this thing that brings you to your knees and in a moment jolts everything back into perspective—chase after it with great abandon. Don’t let it out of your sight. Set your eyes on where you encounter God’s glory, and run straight ahead. Chase this feeling of small. Pursue what makes His name big. And wherever you find it, sit down, settle in, be renewed, and return often.

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Faith

When Chasing Our Dream Is A Whole Lot Harder Than We Anticipated

August 22, 2016

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It was one of those moments when you are completely overwhelmed by the finality of your decision. Every last thing that we owned was out, stuffed into an overflowing, homemade travel trailer that my husband had masterfully fashioned in the prior weeks. The doors to the house were locked with the keys inside. It was no longer ours. We anticipated all that lay ahead, knowing nothing of what it might look like.

That was six months ago.

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I could have never known  it then. I could not have imagined just what chasing your dreams actually looks like. For years I had thought about those mountains the man had introduced me to on a vacation. For months I had longed for them, knowing we would be there soon. The idea was dreamy, romantic, and exhilarating.

And then it came true. The evening we pulled into the house we would rent for a few months, while looking for one to call our own, it was late. The sky was dark. But as we pulled onto our street, I looked up to catch a shooting star confirming in my heart—our dream was here. We were here. It was happening, finally, this dream in my heart taking form in front of my weary eyes.

Little did I know just how arduous and painful dream chasing can be.

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You see, the thing is that chasing our dreams, as romantic as it is, is difficult. Very, very difficult. And sometimes even in the brilliance of those dreams becoming realty, there is a whole lot of pain.

That night as we unpacked our belongings into an empty and unfamiliar house, I could not have known all that laid ahead of us in the next six months.

I only know now, looking back. Dreams are funny like that. They have to be, because perhaps if we had any idea how hard dream chasing can be, we would never try. And we need to try, because they are our dreams. And when those dreams are the very things that God has placed in our hearts; what He has created our souls to yearn for—then they must be chased after.

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These past six months were marked by the richest of rewards and the deepest of sorrows. The early days were lonely. Very lonely. In a new and unfamiliar place I felt vulnerable and raw. Yes, I sensed the opportunity and excitement of starting fresh, but there was so much uncertainty. And my boys—I watched them mourn what we’d left, wishing to see old friends and visit old places. I saw them struggle with the loneliness that I myself was suffocating under.

Sometimes pursuing our dreams takes us through achy, lonely places.

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With time running out at our rental, we hunted vigorously for a house to call our own. We were all feeling unsettled under the temporal, transient state of our life; boxes half unpacked in the garage. Time and again we placed offers and hope, only to be let down. We eventually stopped taking the boys, it was too much for their little hearts to fall in love with a house, a bedroom, a backyard, only to never to step foot there again. They were longing for home.

We spent sunday mornings trying churches, hoping to find one to call ours. We spent every spare moment exploring the mountains we had come all this way for. And there we found peace, respite, wonder, and confirmation. We were right where we needed to be. We sat at the foot of waterfalls and atop the peaks of mountains. We missed friends, and we made friends. Our hearts began to feel at home.

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And then a shocking burst of hope. There was a baby! And then there wasn’t. I felt numb, unable to move; paralyzed by the throbbing, empty ache in my womb, and the even emptier ache in my heart. We went back to looking for three bedrooms, not four.

Sometimes our dreams look very different than how we imagined them. And yet, sometimes they are even more stunning than we ever could have pictured. Because God’s grace is the same in the good and the bad, in the simple and the hard, in the lonely and the abundant, in the mourning and the rejoicing. If we never take that chance on our dreams, we’ll never go anywhere. And God calls us to great places, so we focus on the one step ahead of us, and we move forward, trusting Him to make sense of the path before us. And we wait with bated breath to see Him create something beautiful of this life we have. And He does.

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My heart stopped within my chest at the sight of the subject line. It was incomplete, but I knew before I ever opened the email. “Hurray! and Hip Hip Hurray!” my agent wrote.

We had done it.

God had done it!

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Within weeks we had a hard copy of the contract. “THIS BOOK PUBLISHING AGREEMENT….” I signed my name. And with that, another dream materialized; one assembled of nearly two years of hard work and even harder prayers.

I had pictured that moment in my mind so many times, wondering if it would ever come. And when it did, the tears fell down my face just as I had imagined. The shock, the joy, the gratitude, the disbelief. And then—the fear. After all, the hard work was just beginning. And where would God take us in this?

The thing about dreams—both the chasing and the arrival— is that they contain such an intense array of emotions. They hold our greatest desires and our deepest fears. And often, their beauty is found in their hardship.
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In the past six months we witnessed dreams come true. And with it came the birth of new dreams. When we find on the path to our dreams many obstacles, hurts, surprises, and fears, our faith comes out stronger on the other side. When we make plans, and in faith move forward all the while acknowledging that God is the establisher of our steps, and He is the One paving the way before us, we find renewed confidence to pursue the dreams He lays on our hearts.

What is that dream for you today? The one thing that just. won’t. let. you. go. The one you’ve prayed about, asked others’ their opinions on, and believe God to be saying, “Go ahead” on?

What is your next step towards that dream?

Can I venture to tell you that it will be hard? That perhaps it will look nothing at all like how you are envisioning it now? But that’s ok. Because God’s dreams are a whole lot grander than ours.

It’s been six months. Six months of beauty and hope and wonder and thrill. Six months of ache and lonely and grief and uncertainty. It’s been six months of seeing God clearly at work. And so yes—chasing our dream has been a beautiful, worthwhile pursuit. Because God never lays a dream on our hearts without reason.

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Faith Family Living With Intention

The Day We Shared Our Son’s Birthday Cake With a Homeless Man

April 25, 2016

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I pushed the knife gently down into the cake, which bounced back up around the blade; soft, moist, chocolate perfection. A first birthday cake for our youngest, who turned one year old today. Only this first slice was not for our birthday boy.

I set the oversized piece down gently onto a paper plate next to a ham sandwich. I scooted the sandwich over on the plate, making room for a pile of tortilla chips and some guacamole. I carried a second plate of sandwiches over to the picnic table, and then handed the first plate to my husband. “Do me a favor?” I asked him. He waiting for my request. “Take this to the homeless man lying over there?” I looked over to the edge of the parking lot; to a man lying on the pavement, his head resting on his meager belongings. He was high as a kite; his arms outstretched to the sky, waving back and forth as if chasing imaginary birds. My husband nodded, and walked in the man’s direction.

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I watched from afar as my husband set down the plate of food. The man continued to sway his head, hardly aware of my husband’s presence. My husband returned to our table, and we sat down to our own sandwiches as our boys leapt from rock to rock by our picnic spot.

A few minutes later I stood to get something from our car, and noticed the man, still laying on the pavement, but this time holding a sandwich to his mouth.

Here is where I must make an admission. Ever since moving to a new city a couple of months ago, and noticing right away the large population of homeless individuals, I have felt a pull to help. But I have not acted on that conviction. Until today.

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A few days ago, out of the blue, my husband had told me, “I’ve been thinking lately about how to help the homeless population here.” I found myself surprised by his comment, because it was the very thing I had been pondering for weeks. I find that when something has been on both of our hearts and minds, it’s usually best to give that thought some strong consideration. My conviction grew. But I was unsure of how to help. After all, there are so many  in need.

The picnic spot we chose today, we had driven past it a few weeks back. On that day there had been at least a dozen homeless men and women on the edge of that parking lot. Today, there had been only one. That man. And as I stood at the back of our SUV, staring at our loaf of bread, cooler of sandwich makings, and a birthday cake, I knew that we could help one. If there had been many more, like the other day we had driven by, I would not have been able to help. But today I could. 

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And here is where I make another confession. In the past, I have been one to silently question why a person ends up in homelessness, or similar situations. I have questioned their work ethic. Their priorities. Their addictions.

Today I chose not to. Today, I did not care what brought this man to that spot at the edge of the parking lot. I didn’t care that he was under the influence of drugs. I didn’t care how he had spent his time the evening before. All I cared about was that when he returned to a clear state of mind, that he would discover a meal waiting for him, and a slice of birthday cake. That he would know that someone saw him, and for more than a nuisance. I cared that he would feel cared for. Thought of. Considered.

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After all, when Jesus cared for the sick, the lonely, the destitute, the ignored, the disdained—He did not stop to question how they had ended up in their circumstances. He simply loved on them and served them. He did not stop to qualify them for His care, He just chose to notice a need and meet it.

I think that so many times we hold back from caring for the poor and needy because the need seems so big, so overwhelming, and so hopeless. But I wonder how different this world would look if we all began believing that we could help just one person. That we could toss our preconceptions aside, bringing love and kindness to one person’s day. That we could show one person that they are not forgotten.

It begins with each one of us. It begins with noticing. It begins with not walking on by when we know for certain that we can do one thing to help. It begins with something as simple as a ham sandwich and a slice of birthday cake.

Faith Family Living With Intention

The One List That Completely Redirected My Family’s Life

February 26, 2016

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“One, two, three, four, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven…..eighteen…sixteen…twelve……………I don’t know. Ready or not, here I come!” He popped his head up from behind the large fake rock in front of the house. He looked back and forth, watching for movement, considering where to begin his search. I kept silent as I watched him search high and low throughout the cul de sac for his two new buddies.

Inside my husband and our two youngest boys napped, weary from a whirlwind three days. A half hour before, Zeke, our four-year-old had been munching on granola when I heard the boys playing outside. “Do you want to go meet some new friends?” I asked him. He had thought for a moment before replying, “Uuuuuuummm, yes.” He abandoned his snack and grabbed his shoes.
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His hand clung to mine as we made our way across the street; the boys greeted us with an eager hello. After the older one, age eight, told us of his love for shrimp, and the youngest, age 6, described every detail of the bicycle he received for Christmas, all three boys were quick to challenge each other to foot races between houses.

The sun cast a bright orange glow across the horizon as it made its descent behind the mountains. I set out a folding chair in the front lawn and took a seat. There I sat for nearly an hour, doing nothing but listening to the boys’ laughter as they raced across front lawns. It was a perfect end to our first full day home in the mountains.

A friend asked me a question recently, one that has left me thinking about my answer this past week as we packed up our life and relocated our family. As we drove West with all of our earthly belongings packed into a homemade trailer, her inquiry stuck with me. She asked me how our move to Colorado had come about.

After all, not many families who are settled into their first home with secure jobs, friendships, and a church home decide to uproot their family and start fresh in another state.

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Her question was the same one that I have been asked over and over again throughout in the recent months. Whenever it came up that we were moving from Kansas City to Colorado, the first question people asked was always, “Why?”, or, “Is it for a job?

Each time I would smile before explaining, “No. We just need the mountains.”

A year ago, I don’t think that I could have given that answer. I think I would have felt like I would have to justify such an “extreme” decision with more solid reasoning. But over the past year, God has been revealing to me a piece of His heart that I hadn’t quite understood before. He has been opening my eyes to the pleasure that He takes in His children, and His simple desire to bless them and see them thrive in His presence. This life altering lesson all began with a simple list.

I blogged about it a while back, when we first announced our intentions to move to the mountains. I shared of this simple list we wrote out almost one year ago, a list of family values—of everything we want out of life.

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It is not a bucket list. It is not a goal list. It is not a to-do list.

It is a list of all that God has set a fire in our souls for. It is a list of passions. It is a list of where we want to go in life. It is a list of what we want to mark our days with—and what we want our boys to grow up knowing intimately. It is the forces that we want them to be shaped by. It is the values we want to govern our life and family with.

The values penned on this list each act as a gear, setting into motion the life we most desire. They are strategically composed together to create a rhythm to our years, one that will make up the melody of our family’s legacy.

Our list is made up of exploration, financial stewardship, generosity, physical activity, a deep understanding of Jesus’ commands, respect for nature through travel and exploration, wonder, journaling, and a love for life-long learning. The list is rough, and still unfinished. Yet it created a framework for how we want to do life; acting as a compass pointing us towards the life God uniquely created us to live.

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The past few months have been full of arduous work and heart-wrenching goodbyes. Yet, sitting now on the other side of our decision—on the fulfilled side—I am discovering that taking big chances and making “extreme” choices is not so risky after all. Perhaps the big risk is found in not making these kinds of choices. Because never taking the risk or making the choice is a surefire way to never get to where your spirit longs to be.

Maybe you are in this place; yearning for something more, but unsure of how to get there. Perhaps you don’t know what it is that you really want in the first place. That is the first step, you have to ask the important questions, ones like, “What do I value most in life?” and, “Which values do I want my family to be governed by?” and, “What makes me feel most alive?”

At the end of your life, what would you regret not making a priority? 

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It’s not about chasing after every whim of our hearts. It’s about sitting down (with your spouse, if you’re married), and digging down deep to the roots of what God has planted in your spirit.

It’s about naming those things that light a fire within your spirit, the things that bring your family together, the things that most inspire you to worship the Creator, and bring you closer to Him—and then chasing after those things with full abandon. We only have one life on this earth. So go ahead—take the first step, begin your list. Believe in something fiercely enough to make it happen. It might just set into motion the most fulfilling life you’ve ever known.

Faith Family Motherhood

Helping Your Child Through Change When You’re A Little Afraid Of It Yourself

February 20, 2016

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I heard him whimpering behind the closed door. Moments before he had been sent crying to his room for bad behavior. This was not my boy. He kept promising to listen and obey, and then failing to deliver on that vow. I knew fatigue played into his non-characteristic behavior—the child hadn’t napped in a week. But there was more; something deeper, something troubling, something he could not tame.

I crept in and placed one foot followed by another into the wooden ladder of the bed his Daddy made for him. I snuggled in beside him and pulled him near. He turned into me and the tears began to flow.

“What’s bothering you?” I asked. He tried to gather his words; to push them through the sobs.  He managed to still his quivering lip for a moment, and choked out the words, “I’m just sad.” I wrapped my arms tighter around his little body.

“Does thinking about moving make you sad?” I asked.

“Yes.” he replies. I whispered silent prayers. Lord give me the words.

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“What makes you sad when you think about moving?” I press on gently. At four years old, his spirit is fragile, this sensitive boy of mine.

“I just want to be with you.” He replies.

“Oh honey,” tears sting my own eyes now, “I will always be here for you. When we move, I will be here with you.”

“I’m just sad.” he says, unable to explain his emotions any further.

“Are you scared when you think about moving?” I ask.

“Yes.” he replies.

This is when I begin to doubt our decision. I wonder if this is right; if he can handle it. Emotions cloud what I know to be certain. I press my face into his hair and take in his scent.

“When you think about moving, what makes you sad?” I ask him.

He thinks, and I can see his mind straining, trying to form his fears, his emotions, his unknowns into words, He mumbles something about a dinosaur. I assure him there will be no dinosaurs.

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I walk him through the process, step by step. Today we’ll clean. Tonight someone will come look at our house, decide whether they want to buy it. If they do, there will be many days of getting ready. Some things we will get rid of, but we will keep his favorite toys. Yes, we will bring your cars and books. Yes, we will bring our dog. His body begins to relax in my embrace.

We’ll find a new house, we’ll make new friends. “Things will change,” I tell him, “but even when that change is sad or scary, we’ll be there for you. And when you feel afraid or sad, you can talk to us.

I pray he always will.

And he does, over the following weeks he brings up his concerns and fears, dotting our everyday conversation with thoughts of what our new home might be like, and asking how we will make new friends. I see the fragility of his spirit through glossy eyes and a quivering lip as we leave his friend’s house, and I explain that we won’t be seeing him for a while. 

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One morning about a week before we move, I can tell that he is struggling. I might be, too. I busy myself with packing lists and projects. I have been shrugging him off, apologizing for my busyness and suggesting he goes and plays.

He lays down on the floor, pulling a blanket around him, and welcomes the heat of the furnace blowing against him. I set my laptop down next to me, and crawl underneath the blanket next to him. For days it has been like walking on eggs shells with him.

I begin with the same question we’ve been revisiting to for weeks. “How are you feeling about moving?”

His face turns from sad to angry. “It just makes me a little bit mad.” he tells me.

“Why does it make you mad?” I ask.

“Because I want to stay here and move to the mountains.” he explains.

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His words are saturated in grief. This four-year-old boy of mine is mourning the loss of what has been his life for the past couple of years. I can feel the pain in his heart, because the same pain resides in my own. He has voiced what I have been afraid to. I picture myself just that morning, standing next to my husband in church, his hand in mine, and the tears I fought back all through the service. Tears of grieving, of leaving behind everyone and everything that has become so woven into who we are. 

It is often these difficult decisions and big changes that make up an intentional life. They are choices that we know will cause our children, and ourselves, some pain, but will ultimately lead us on to the great things that God has in store for us. And as we go through the mourning of losing what was, we find that we have a Heavenly Father whispering into our spirits the same words I spoke to my son as we laid curled up on the floor next to the heating vent.

In the big changes of life, just as I promised my son, our Heavenly Father promises to us, “I’m here, my child. It’s ok to be sad. But take heart, I have great things in store for you. Just trust me, take My hand, and follow My lead. We’re on this adventure together.”

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