Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Recently my daughter came into the bathroom where I was getting ready and looked into the mirror. She had on a puffy winter coat and with an embarrassed expression asked, “Does this make me look fat?” I cringed. My kids know that weight is not something we focus on in our home but instead we focus on health. I try not to speak that way about myself or anyone else, certainly never saying something negative about my body image in front of her, and never in a million years saying anything about her except how incredibly beautiful she is. Where in the world did that statement come from?! When did she start evaluating herself in the mirror?! When did she start thinking about what others think when they look at her? All of that went flooding through my head.

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I’ve known these moments were coming. John and I tell our children often how beautiful they are to us and how perfectly we believe God made them. We try to only speak positively about how others look and I really try to only speak about our own weight or fitness in front of them if we’re discussing what we could do to make it better. How it relates to our choices. We want them to know that it takes hard work and dedication and sacrifice, but we don’t want it to in any way be the most important thing or a consuming thing. I pray that they know what truly matters to us, and I believe they do.

Answered Prayers

Quite a while ago, Kailey began to notice that her hair was different from other girls’ hair. She talked about it tangling and mentioned the pretty, straight hair of some girls. While I must stifle the desire to tell her it is the craziest thing in the world to even consider looking at someone else’s hair when she has HERS, I do realize that this is something that happens to every person. At the core, it is not about how good your own is, it’s about someone else’s being different. Comparison is straight poison, pure and simple. And if we were to turn around and compare with someone else in different circumstances, we would feel nothing but gratitude for what we have. Silly, but it is how we silly humans operate, unfortunately, unless we make a very conscious decision to do differently and to put our eyes elsewhere. So I began our own little Mommy/Kailey tradition when it was time to do her hair. As I combed through those beautiful, tangled curls, I sang the silliest song I made up on the spot about her hair. It has varied slightly over the hundreds of times I have sung it, but it goes something like:

Beautiful, shiny, beautiful, shiny,

Beautiful, shiny curls.

Your hair is so beautiful,

God made you beautiful,

Beautiful little girl!

The hair works perfectly for soccer domination.

The hair works perfectly for soccer domination.

That way I figured for a few minutes every day, the message I wanted her heart to be hearing was being washed over her. She is beautiful. She is loved. She is exactly the way God wants her and she is exactly the way her mother wants her. I often think of the tape that will play in her head (does it have to be an mp3 now?) because of me. We all have them from our mothers. The things we hear about ourselves because of what they said or did. I take that recording incredibly seriously. I know I will answer to God for what I left on that impressionable heart. And only through His grace and wisdom can I make it the beautiful orchestra of love I want it to be.

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So I’m standing there cringing, feeling a little frustrated that this negative question has entered our happiness as she looked into the mirror. I was putting on my own makeup and shot up my usual communication with God about handling the situation. And it came to me. I told Kailey we were going to begin doing something every time we looked in the mirror or thought about our appearance. We were not going to ask that question, but some others that would truly tell us if we were ready for our day or our outing. So daily we have begun asking ourselves these questions, and I have to admit to you, it is blessing me just as much as it is her. Would you like to join us in our 4 Mirror Questions every morning? It only takes a few seconds! Maybe you have different ones of your own. I would love to know what things you do with your daughter to speak beauty into her life!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

1. “Do I look happy?” There is nothing in the world as attractive as happiness. What needs to happen to my focus if the answer is “no” today?

2. “Do I look like I love Jesus?” Is there anything about my appearance that would cause someone to be shocked when they found out Jesus was the most important thing in my life? Is there something I should change?

3. “Do I look like I’m taking care of myself?” I have one body to use for all the purposes God has for my life. Am I protecting it and taking care of it in a way that makes it the best vessel for me? Do I look rested, healthy, neat? What needs to be addressed?

4. “Does anything about my appearance not match my inside?” Yes, we shouldn’t judge by outward appearance, but we get one chance at a first impression. I have an opportunity with what others see to tell them something about me. Who I am, what I like, what is important to me. It’s a head start in being myself and being real and genuine with those around me. Am I using that opportunity to its full potential?

Today she was quite happy about her outside matching her inside.

Today she was quite happy about her outside matching her inside.

We are bonding over this and the Lord is speaking to my heart as well. We both feel that when we are wearing pink, we can answer a particularly firm “yes” to our outside matching our inside. ūüėČ Any mom of five kids doesn’t look in the mirror every morning and think, “You look so put together! Your outfit, your trim abs, your perfect, styled hair! Where did you get those shoes?!” Yeah, not so much. Anyone who knows me well knows style and fashion aren’t on the top of my list of priorities and that shows when I get ready to leave the house. And that’s fine because, again, it’s a choice. My time, effort, and money are simply somewhere else right now. I make sure I can answer these questions satisfactorily and then I make sure my husband is pleased. Beyond that, there will be a time and a place for shoes that don’t have to carry me a hundred miles a day with a baby on my hip‚Ķfar too soon. But, just like everyone else, I need bolstering and support on occasion and isn’t it only God who can send words in an instant that will meet the heart needs of a six year old girl and her thirty-two year old mom? He is good. Praying He will continue to give wisdom as I prepare to mother this beautiful heart into early womanhood. She is so precious to me and how much more precious she is to Him. And so are you! May we put our eyes on His love for us and know that we always have the choice to refuse the poison apple of comparison and to remember that we were made in the Image of “The Fairest of Them All.”

Together, we will battle the "dark side" of comparison and negative thoughts! :)

Together, we will battle the “dark side” of comparison and negative thoughts! ūüôā

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Baby Hands

Tonight as I was rocking Mitchell and singing to him, he took his tiny, chubby hand and held mine. His idea, his move. Of course, I absolutely melted with the sweetness of that moment. There is nothing like a tiny, trusting child taking the initiative to make contact. Not out of need, sadness, hurt, or any other thing they want from you, just out of the desire to be closer to you. As I sat there and drank in the presence of my precious baby, I thought of how often when I hold a child’s hand it is to protect him or her from harm. “Please hold Mommy’s hand and don’t run out in front of the cars.” Or, “If you get away from Mommy, you might get lost. Hold Mommy’s hand.” My initiation for his or her protection. Still very sweet but not quite the same as this moment. Or they hold my hand out of hurt or fear in a frightening or painful moment. Their initiation and still extremely precious, but there’s something missing from that contact that is present when a child just wants to be with you. Wants to touch Mommy and to feel love expressed physically.

As so often happens when I am still and present in my situation, God quickly moved my mind from these meditations to thoughts of His heart. I thought of this last week. How so many of us in this country and around the world have been moved to more thoughts of Him in our collective hurt, pain, and fear. We want to reach out and have Him navigate us through this parking lot of zipping cars coming in an out and not seeing our little hearts before we’re crushed in the choices of another human being who didn’t care to pay attention to those around them and what would happen to them. How a nation in pain has uttered many, many more prayers than average for these stricken families and this torn city. And that is right and good. I know His heart bleeds with us and while He cries for us and holds onto our often faithless selves whether we had run to Him the day before, or the year before, or a decade ago, or never‚Ķdon’t you know He longs for that other contact too? That little hand curled around His powerful fingers when we don’t need anything except HIM. Why do I wait? Whether my life right now includes months of peace, days of peace, or only moments of peace, there is something I can offer. Some snatch of a breath of time to offer Him my affection. Not my need, my want, my hurt, maybe not even my praise in that second‚Ķjust my adoring affection.

I wonder if some of that faith like a child doesn’t only come from an unawareness of evil or less opportunity to be jaded but also from a choice to not hold my heart aloof in quiet moments. If my moments are not spent building my defenses but in baring my little affectionate heart before a big Father, I feel that my faith would quickly follow. For He would take my affection even more carefully than I take my child’s. He promises my tears in a bottle, yet I don’t have the tears of my adored children. He says He knows the numbers of hairs on my head, yet I can’t give you that count on these little people for whom I would give my life in an instant. How much more does He love? How much does He long for us to go back to that place? And I think of this season and how God Himself became a baby hand curled around that of His Mother, and I feel quite certain that it is entirely possible that the God who can make Omnipotent Power Personified into a Baby Savior can also soften my heart into that place of affection again. That place of being present with Him for moments of belonging, not only moments of need.

I was teasing my boys tonight about being excited about what I got them for Christmas. I asked what they had gotten me and they sputtered and looked at me with a very “average-young-guy-at-Christmas-what-do-you-mean-oh-no-I’m-in-trouble” look on their faces. I laughed and told them I was kidding and not to worry. John V got a grin on his face and said, “Wait, I got you ME!” And then Levi went for the one up with, “Mommy, I got you my heart!” Melt. Sorry to all the jewelry stores trying desperately to convince everyone that a diamond is the only way to go for your lady, but that answer just gave me all I needed. That’s what I want. Precious little boys who trust my heart for them enough to want to pour theirs out to me, knowing it will be accepted wholeheartedly. They knew the reaction they would get. Hugs, kisses, and the assurance that those would be the best gifts ever. He promises that if I know how to give (or receive?) good gifts to/from my children, He knows unfathomably more how to give what we need.

He is beautiful. And that perfect Beauty wants me. My heart can’t hold that. He has sent us Emmanuel, “God with Us” and I think for Christmas I would like to give Him Courtney, “Child with Him.”

A Cleansing Story

I mentioned in my No Fear Party post that for a month in October and November we cut out all sugars or sweeteners of any kind. We also cut out all grains except brown rice, all dairy, all nuts, all seeds, all beans, all soy, all vinegars‚Ķyou get the picture. We ate meat, vegetables, and fruit. You would be surprised how well you can eat with those restrictions. I’m not saying you don’t miss the other stuff, but that short list includes some seriously good food. Some people really do not see the point of what we did. They think it’s hypocritical or something. “If you don’t do it all the time, then why do it? Aren’t you pretending to be healthy or something?” I find this logic slightly odd. There are a lot of good things we don’t do all the time, but we still try to do them on occasion or in certain seasons of life. There are also restrictions that are good for your body for a period of time but not long-term. ¬†There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. You address the needs of your body as they arise. It is the discipline of fasting which cultures and religions all over the world have recognized as spiritually, mentally, and physically beneficial for thousands of years.

This “cleansing” choice is something that John and I began making years ago, spending some time yearly or twice yearly doing this. The list of things it accomplishes is quite extensive. The first time I did it was for a much longer period of time. It was a total of sixteen weeks with some of the foods like nuts and beans being added back in starting at eight weeks. I did this to address a particular health struggle I was having. There is absolutely zero substitue for diet change when wanting to address issues in your body. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s our fuel, our batteries, our tools that allow our divinely created systems to do their jobs.

This time, however, was a first for our family. For the first time we did this as an entire group. Mom, Dad, and all four solid-eating children (which means Natalie technically did it too, I guess). No exceptions, even for the kids. By not making any exceptions you allow yourself to really and truly remove allergens and triggers from your system. When people say they’ve tried eliminating gluten, dairy or other things from their diets, I always ask if it has been complete elimination for several weeks. Otherwise there are still lingering intruders working their way through your system that might confuse your diagnosis of the issue. Then, when you add those allergens or irritating substances back in, it’s obvious. It will mess with you. You often realize that something you’ve been living with as “normal” was in fact completely avoidable and is a symptom you no longer choose to accept. Food tastes good, but if it takes away from your quality of life, it just isn’t worth it. I will make no claims to be an expert on any of this, but I have been extremely blessed to be taught by people who are. And it is a topic dear to my heart because I have seen it work. It gave me myself back when I was fighting through a haze of sadness, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, and crazy emotions as the mother of three small children. What we choose to do on a day to day basis is a huge topic for another, or many other, posts, but for now I will just share what this month did for us.

“Depriving” ourselves and our kids for four weeks‚Ķ

  • Reset our taste buds. It is crazy how quickly you begin eating things you didn’t think you liked when you take out your fall-back foods. I expected my kids to do better after a few weeks. No, the FIRST meal they ate plates of things they hadn’t wanted to touch in months.
  • Made us grateful. When you go for a period of time without things, they become more valuable to you. Certain tastes, the ability to eat out at a restaurant and order what you want, the joys and smells of baking all went from things we take for granted to noticed blessings. The ability to buy groceries that heal and nourish our bodies became something we thought more carefully about again. The simple and yet so enormous sensation of being full of anything. How many didn’t experience that today?
  • Allowed us to see if certain things were affecting our digestion, sleep, moods, or behaviors. Watching skin get clearer, sleep get deeper, tummies get calmer, and emotions get under control will make a believer out of anyone.
  • Provided us with at LEAST a year’s worth of health and nutrition training for our kids. How do certain foods affect our bodies? What is that ingredient and why do we avoid it? What are things we consume unintentionally in small amounts that add up to large problems? What are things that can be good for our bodies but can also be good things to fast from in certain situations? How can we consume foods more closely to the way they were designed to be eaten? My eight year old knows how to read a label. He knows that the daily allowances can be skipped while he goes straight to the list of ingredients. He knows that if he can’t pronounce it, it should be questioned. I don’t want them to know Mommy had a list of “yes” and “no” foods. I want him to know that he was created in the image of God. He is the one in charge of his own health. He will be the one who will need to learn to make his own decisions because he will benefit from or pay for his choices.
  • Showed us John V’s strength and maturity. John V has situations where he is in places without us. There is food around him and offered to him. We sat him down at the beginning of the four weeks, explained how this would work, explained why making exceptions would cause all of our hard work to be less effective, and then told him that the choice was up to him. Only he and God would know what he chose when we weren’t there and we weren’t going to question him. It was so sweet to me the bonding that came out of this. He was our little man. He would come back and talk about the cupcakes or pretzels where he was. How it was “Kind of hard not to eat them. You know, Mom. But we’ll have them again.” We were very open with our struggles and allowed them to be open with theirs. And we all grew closer through our “team” effort. He has been my pickiest eater because I didn’t start soon enough with him. This situation challenged him to rise up as a leader. He tried and tried new things and by the end was enjoying several foods he wouldn’t eat before. I am solidly sure he ate 500 apples.
  • Showed us Kailey’s desire for health. Kailey is six but she is better than I am about recognizing something will make her feel crummy and choosing not to eat it. She is far more in tune with herself than I would have believed possible at that young. She was eager to “be more healthy” and has been the most consistent in wanting to stick with better choices once we were finished with the four week period. If there was an¬†avocado¬†shortage around the first of November, Kailey caused it.
  • Showed us Levi’s will power in a truly positive light. Levi can be a hand full. Let’s just say that whenever possible, you really just want to choose to be on his side. Being on the opposing side can be an exhausting place to be. I know there are great things in store for him as that strength gets channelled into his purpose and calling. He took that same determination into this cleanse. Eight capsules? Swallowed in two swigs. Kale? Yes. Carrots? Yes. Chard? Yes. He can’t have that? Okay. It was staggering. I sort of felt embarrassed sometimes. He made me feel like a total wimp. He ate and went on with his life. Truly mind over matter with that kid. I have never, ever seen someone put away that much¬†zucchini.
  • Showed us Mitchell’s flexibility. I thought he would be the hardest but he wasn’t. He ate what everyone else did. Which made me realize how much of two year old pickiness can actually be blamed on my own choices. If the right things are available and the wrong ones aren’t, it’s amazing what gets put away. Bananas and roasted kale, otherwise known as “dinosaur food,” were his favorites.
  • Reminded me again how grateful I am for a husband who can be a real man. He leads in this area just like any other. He doesn’t ask his kids to do what he won’t do. He backs me up. He helps me teach. He is not afraid of beet juice, spirulina, or a world without bread. He is awesome.
  • Showed me how often I make a choice because I “don’t have time” when, with a little preparation, it is actually quite possible to eat much, much better even with a busy schedule or while out and about.
  • Revealed addictions. I think it’s interesting how Americans classify addictions. An addiction to drugs or alcohol is bad. We should stop. But an addiction to food, sugar, coffee, soft drinks, or anything else is fine. They may have differing levels of impact on our health or lives but they all cause us to use a substance to handle heart, health, or life issues. To bandaid choices that need to be made about priorities, time management, and other problems. It’s a tough one for SURE.
  • Took us back to other things instead of food to: 1)Combat exhaustion. We slept instead of eating when we were tired. 2)Combat emotions. Somehow eating a pear does not replace your need to handle emotions. 3)Combat stress. Again, a carrot stick simply won’t perk you up. You have to deal with the stressor and move on. It also highlights how we use it to do everything from celebrate to entertain ourselves to socialize. While there’s nothing wrong with much of that, it is important to see it for what it is. It helps us to make better, more purposeful choices.

Suddenly “deprived” doesn’t seem like the right word anymore, does it? We removed something from our lives that we thought it would “hurt” to give up in exchange for growth, change, and blessing. If that doesn’t sound like a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. I think that the God who recommended regular fasting for His people must have known what He was doing. Showing us more of Himself. I am extremely grateful for the ways that God has taught me how to care for my family over the past several years. It has been an interesting journey and is certainly one that is still in progress. I make lots and lots of mistakes. I get weary. We will continue to grow. I will change my mind. The teachers will change their teachings. Our needs will change. But I love knowing that just as He always has, He will put the right wisdom in my life at the right time to show me what we need and how to strengthen us. Because it’s really not ever foremost about what we’re putting into our bodies but about how we are feeding our souls and equipping ourselves for the real work. And what we’re putting into our hearts and into our bodies do often travel hand in hand.

Levi during our cleanse: “Dear God, thanks for Mom making this good food. And that it’s not lots of sugary stuff. And that we don’t talk about gross things. Amen”

Eating his "dinosaur food"

Eating his “dinosaur food”

Turn Your Eyes

There aren’t sufficient words for anyone to express their feelings over what happened yesterday. The interesting thing is that we always feel it’s necessary to talk anyway. It’s like we’re processing out loud, trying to make sense, trying to get answers for our questions. And yet I always find myself with slightly different questions than I see and hear in most places. Why does yesterday horrify us so when daily there are children living through nightmares as bad and worse? Why do we only get so upset when it gets a little closer to home and it’s “our” kids? “Our” kids who “should” be safe. Shouldn’t they all? Just like you, I wrestle with all of these. With pain and sin and suffering everywhere. Oh God, we are so broken.

Although I grieve with everyone else and am aware of general information about the situation, I have not once turned on my TV or radio. I refuse to be a part of what the media does in these situations. I will not watch one microphone shoved in the face of a grieving family, of a traumatized child, of a broken teacher. Hey reporter, I don’t need to know how they feel. I can take a wild guess. I don’t need details. DEAR GOD, why do we need details?! What is wrong with us?! If I lost someone I loved, I would be allowed to grieve in quiet, in dignity, in respectful mourning. But no, we can’t give them that. We deserve to know and they need to tell us. We’re like parasites feeding on their tragedy.

I’m sure you will have figured out by now that my kids have not been told what happened. A Facebook friend, Sam Jeffrey, posted a story Corrie Ten Boom told about her father. It describes perfectly my feelings about exposing kids to details about events like yesterday’s.

And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sex sin?”¬†He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering¬†a question, but, to my surprise, he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.¬†“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he asked.¬†I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.¬†“It’s too heavy,” I said.¬†“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

God forgive us that we ask children to carry loads before they are able to bear them. Those children yesterday didn’t have a choice. They had to face something unthinkable because an adult made that choice for them. Carefully chosen words can be one thing according to the wisdom God gives us as a parent, but media images, their young minds can’t turn those off. Can’t choose to undo that. Can’t choose to unsee what we as adults set before them. Let’s not make sure hundreds of thousands more children experience pieces of the same horror. If I were to choose to tell my children anything, it would be stories of how there were some super hero teachers yesterday who went from being normal Mrs. X in the classroom to being warriors and rescuers. Do I need details to know that? Nope. I know lots of teachers and know exactly what they would do in those situations. They would be fierce and courageous. They have to do that every day. Anyone who respectfully and wholeheartedly takes the well-being of children on as a daily task is a hero. And way too often it goes unnoticed what a massive responsibility it is.

God forgive us that in the name of information we exploit hurting families and children in their grief. Somehow help us to stop. Deliver us from this insatiable need to view tragedy firsthand and help us instead to turn our eyes on the hurting before they hit the mainstream news.

God forgive us that we didn’t give that individual a bigger purpose to be a part of. A way that he could have impact. That he could feel like one of the warriors bringing about change as a created and designed individual. Maybe then he wouldn’t have needed to create a space for himself through destruction. Forgive us that he has seen our responses in similar situations and knew that yesterday we would be glued to the news saying his name over and over as he finally made a little space for himself in the cacophony of life that had drowned out his suffering.

God forgive us that it takes an event like yesterday to teach us respect for other human beings, for fellow students, for our teachers. Whether giving a giant piece of their lives yesterday or giving smaller pieces of it every day, the people investing in us deserve our love, gratitude and respect. They deserve for us to teach our children to honor them in their words and attitudes by modeling it with our own mouths and actions.

God forgive us that we need such horrible reminders to hold on to moments as precious. Why is it so hard to keep our priorities straight? Why is it so easy for me to become distracted, overwhelmed, tired, weary. Because my eyes are in the wrong place. More and more lately my heart has been turned to one plea. Because I know if I can do this one thing, all else will fall into place. I will see the needs of the hurting before they are unreachable. I will see the value of others before they are gone. I will see the daily as miraculous, the eternal as the important, and the unthinkable as temporary.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion‚ÄĒ
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you‚ÄĒHe promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

A Ready Heart

My heart’s a little rambly tonight. I don’t know just how much of this will make sense to anyone but me. Do you ever feel like settling into your own life is elusive? That after that next thing happens, when you cross that next hill, come up from that next dip into the valley‚Ķthen you can do all those things you’re planning to do? You just have to arrive first, right? Right?

We didn’t move a lot when I was young. A few times in my early childhood and then we moved into the house where I lived from age 8 until age 21 when I left to move into my first “married house.” John and I are both relationship people. We like traditions and security. We tend to plan a bit. We pictured ourselves as “pick a house and live there to raise our family” people. John did an excellent job of saving and preparing for marriage, even as young as he was. When we were engaged at 20 and 21, he had saved enough money to buy my ring and make a down payment on our first house. I was extremely proud of him. We loved that little house. It was our first experience with building a house even though it was a little cookie cutter starter home without a lot of options. We made our first Home Depot runs where “a few things” added up quickly, bought our first Christmas tree that was way too big and barely fit in our living room or in our car to drive home, bought a puppy for our first Christmas gift to each other, bought toilet paper from Sam’s that lasted us months and months, and painted rooms whatever color we wanted. We spent hours and hours decorating our firstborn’s nursery, stayed up all night playing Empire Earth on two computers side by side, and I made I don’t know how many cookies to feed all John’s buddies who came over to play Halo or watch 24. We lived on the same street with a couple from church who became some of our best friends, hosted small groups, played games with siblings, and had family and friends spend the night. It was greatness.

When I became pregnant the year after John V was born, we decided that it was time to think about getting more space. Then I lost the baby. When I quickly became pregnant again, we continued on with our looking and planning. Then I lost that baby too. We felt clearly that even though things weren’t moving forward with our family in the way we had pictured, it was still time. We both knew that we were supposed to step out in faith and build that house for the babies we believed God would send us. For the hospitality we felt was our calling and ministry. So we did. And as the months passed and we built that house, we were surprised that we had to continue all the way through move-in on faith that we needed that extra room because it was still Critz party of three. John’s job changed around that time and it turned out that he would be working ten minutes from where we were building our house. What a blessing! That was a wonderful season of a very short commute and a great work environment. What a blessing. We began settling into that home and creating new memories there. Within a month of living there we had hosted a family holiday, a baby shower, and small groups. We decorated and my mom and I made drapes, bedding, and covered chairs. We again loved the building process as this time we built something much more custom to our tastes and to raising our family in our “forever home.” I guess forever is a stretch to use in describing 4 years, huh? It’s easy to laugh at myself a bit now thinking back to how figured out we had things at that point. One thing we still didn’t know was where the small people were to fill our new home. Then came God’s promise to us after fasting and praying through the due date of that third miscarried baby. He spoke to us and promised us more treasure than we could carry away if we would praise Him first and allow Him to fight our battle. And true to His promise came a little pink person to help fill one more bedroom in that house. And after a year and a half and a scary start to the pregnancy, we experienced our first two consecutive pregnancies without loss in between. Such joy. Such victory. And complete unawareness that the next two years would hold two more losses, another son, and a move completely away from the place we had planned to “settle.”

I will never forget that “punched in the gut” feeling I had the night John came home and told me there was a strong possibility we would need to move to Austin if he wanted to keep working at his current job. It seemed like just too much. After my third baby I had been sick, struggling with health issues. I had worked with every ounce of energy I could muster to get out of that hole. I had spent hours and invested myself in learning about nourishing my family and taking us down a better path. I had gathered resources and figured out a plan. And now I was going to take my three young children, my physical struggles, and my plans and start over in a new place. A place where my husband would relocate with everyone he worked with and I would start over. But the first thing the Lord reminded me of in that moment were the vows I made on our wedding day. I said the words of Ruth when she promised Naomi to stay with her, “Wherever you go, I will go.” And I knew in my spirit that this was my opportunity to fail in my marriage or to make it stronger than ever. And I did everything in my power and in the power I begged God to pour out on me to go with a cheerful heart, with courage, and as a support. And, as God always does when we just walk off the cliff with Him, I found myself standing on much more solid ground than I could have ever created with all my safety nets in place. I wouldn’t trade the next two years for anything. We said goodbye to that house we thought was ours to keep and found ourselves building again. At this stage of life we found ourselves thinking about what would be hardy and strong against little munchkins, what would give me space and usability for homeschooling and for spending many hours at home with my kids in a new area. Again, our goal was hospitality as we invited others to spend time with us there. We knew we would also have many visitors and we treasure the memories we made with friends and family who stayed with us during that season. ¬†That move we expected to be more temporary – probably around three to five years. Mitchell came and blessed us beyond what we could have dreamed. We built precious friendships with co-workers and their families, ball team friends, and neighbors. We grew as a family into people who desired adventure with God over security. We were no longer content to calmly exist, we wanted to wildly go out there and be really crazy. We crossed the line of normality and never looked back. Our thinking changed and God took our minds out of boxed compartments and opened it up to see a tiny bit more of His perspective. I received the beginning of a calling to serve moms as a ministry and began seeing slivers of how God was going to open the doors to make that happen.

We had lived there two years when we very suddenly saw our next move in front of us. We were supposed to go home. And that quickly I found myself having made a full circle back to the house where that eight year old girl rode her bike in the driveway. We moved, my grandmother had a serious car accident that drastically changed our extended family, I had a baby, my sister graduated, my other sister got married, John started a new job, he left that job, he started another job, he worked on a side project that will eventually be his job, I started another year of homeschooling a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a pre-K son. Now I go to Home Depot with five kids and can’t remember what I need while my child climbs on everything, I go to Costco to buy things that might last a week, and I stay up all night folding laundry and feeding babies on growth spurts. ūüėČ The other day I asked God, “Where should I put down my roots? Do they need to go here in this house? Do I invest myself here? Do we go somewhere else? Should I keep myself in reserve knowing that You never intended for us to be stayers but goers?” I wrestled through my planner questions that have swirled in my head for a year now. And I heard Him tell me again that my investment is not in where I am but with whom. If you come to my house you will find it a long way from “settled.” There are drawers and closets that need more organizing, there are wall hangings under my piano instead of on my walls. There is a nursery for one of the most wanted and beloved babies ever born that still awaits personalization, and a sweet six year old wanting a move up from the bedding we made her for her first big girl move out of a crib. You will find my Pinterest worthy fall decor missing and the school system of my dreams is just there‚Ķin my dreams. You will find that I spend many hours doing things to invest in the health and well-being of my family and still don’t do all the things I would like to do. But you know what you will find there? And anywhere that I ever live? You will find my whole, entire heart there. Outwardly I may be far from settled and some of those things I would like to give to my family are elusive. But I will never choose to let those be a measurement of what lies beneath. I will get there on many of those things. Eventually. But if all of this moving has taught me anything at all, it is to invest the most in what will go with me.¬†I will decorate, organize, and settle into what lasts – my family. And with what is left over, I will do the same with my home. Wherever He takes us next will be part of a great story, and we will be ready. For now, I think boxes are the enemy and the “M” word is one of the four letter ones that isn’t allowed. ūüôā Until He says it. Then suddenly what I didn’t think I wanted becomes the best thing that ever happened to me. That is the miracle of God’s hand at work. He didn’t come in and make my closets look better and He didn’t paint the nursery, but He settled my heart and that is the greater miracle.

I am grateful for those who have spent time with us in each of these places. For those who will spend time with us in the places to come. For everyone in my life (and they’re in yours too) who doesn’t care a bit about perfection but about being together and being a part of my past, present, and future. I begin to think less about how long I will do something or how to plan it out and more about how much real living I can fit into whatever time I have in this season. Maybe “settled” is elusive because it is never meant to be the goal. Maybe “ready and willing” is.

Our first happy home.

Helping Daddy move into our second house.

Hide and seek with the best moving aunts in the world the day we moved to Austin. That game was hiding some heartaches, but our families were wonderful through all of the changes.

Back to my home on the range 10 years after I moved away.

 

 

 

 

6 Years of Joyous Treasure

6 years ago on November 13, 2006, my Kailey was born. It was a precious day and she is a joy I am incapable of putting into words. From before she was conceived, she has been prayed for, loved, and given to God. You can read a little of the beginning of her story here at my old blog.¬†She was born in 2006 after my family experienced an extremely difficult and stretching year in 2005 that included my two miscarriages and my precious first nephew going to be with Jesus at birth. Kailey and her cousin, Kyndall, will always represent to my family answered prayers and the unparalleled beauty God creates from the brokenness of this world. What Kailey adds to the lives of her brothers and her daddy, and me is similar to a prism. When the light hits it, rainbows reflect the light all over the room. You can see them on the walls and on yourself. The way she loves others spills color and warmth into life and cannot help but affect anyone present. She is often selfless, extremely helpful, loves deeply, desires with everything in her to serve the Lord, and can be the silliest, most hilarious little monkey you’ve ever seen. She is like me in some ways and then in many ways I would like to be like her. She is all things girly and then a beast on the soccer field. She is into drawing and art but can hold her own on the Wii with her brothers. She loves to dress up but can get dirty with the best of them and is the hardest on her clothes of any of my children. She is grateful for all we do for her and all the Lord has given her. She is my Kailey and I adore her.

Since she is a big fan of making and decorating cards for others, we waited until she was in her room last night and then made cards for her. Daddy drew her a castle with a princess, John V wrote a sweet message telling her how much he loved her in all her favorite colors and then tied it up with a ribbon, and Levi drew a ballerina. Mitchell pitched in with his awesome hieroglyphics. I wrote her a little true story to remind her again of who she is.

Once upon a time there was a mommy who had an aching heart. She had a little boy and wanted him to have brothers and sisters. She prayed and prayed. One day God told her to open her Bible to the story of Jehoshaphat. He said for that mommy to praise and love Him and to trust Him to fight her battle. He said that if she would trust Him, there would be riches to carry away just like in the story. She did choose to praise God and a baby girl was given to her. She named that baby “crown” (Kailey) because she is the treasure God gave when He won her battle. And every day of that girl’s life she has also been “joy of the Father” (Abigail) to her family. She is a priceless jewel and no princess in the world is more beautiful or more important to the Kingdom of God. A mighty God fought a battle, a maiden was rescued, and YOU were the reward. I love you, Kailey Abigail, “crown” and “joy of the Father.” You are more precious than diamonds!

Happy birthday! Love, Mommy


A Place to Observe

We loved our time in Austin. We loved where we lived, we loved a lot of people, and it was a great season. But as we draw closer to a year since we moved back to our hometown, I am deeply grateful to be here. There is so much around here that is easy for me to do with my five kids. One of our favorites is the excellent zoo. We go once a week, drink in the sunshine, and spend an hour or two between lessons just seeing a few animals at the time. Not hurrying, or rushing, or trying to take it all in. Just moseying and really noticing the details. I learn about these kids of mine as I watch them observe. It gives me the opportunity to step back as the teacher for a few moments and see how they learn when I am not directing. What most interests them? What sparks thought and creativity? What concerns them or causes distress?

Levi has to be forging the trail. He needs to be in front, to go at his own pace, to not be kept on a short leash doing what seems like the next thing for everyone else. He tends to be quieter and he may at any given moment be there with us or be on the plains of Africa. You never know.¬†John V is beginning to want to drink in all the information and then cement it in his thought process by sharing it with us. “Mom, did you know that‚Ķ” is what I most often hear from him on these visits. Kailey wants to be with John V, she wants to see what is beautiful and know about relationships within animal families. “Are they like us? Do they love their mommies? Are they safe?” Then on our return home she may draw them or write a story about them. Mitchell wants the whole family in a herd. He is distressed if Levi is too far ahead or if John stays back to read a sign. “WEBI, come HERE!” often can be heard through the zoo from my little guy. He wants to eat snacks and see turtles. He wants to walk “all by himself” and, surprisingly enough, he often wants to stand and observe one animal for a long time instead of moving on to another one. And he always wants to check on the elephants and the baby rhino. His vocabulary of animal names is ridiculous for a 26 month old boy. Natalie is simply happy. She can feel the sunshine, she can sense that I’m not trying to do other things, and she is content to ride, see her family, and soak it in.

I am happiest when we can just be together so I think I look forward to it more than anyone. I love my kids. I like my kids.

I am grateful for a place to observe the beautiful life God created, the creatures He intricately designed. Including the ones He entrusted to me.

Any time I am with these kids, my heart is happy.

Tomorrow Morning When You Wake Up

Guess what, Church? I have great news. Tomorrow morning there is no need to wonder what to do, how to react, or what comes next. Regardless of your feelings on the outcome of this election, there is one thing we know beyond the shadow of a doubt. THIS is your job. THIS is your calling. If you do not do this, all the government in the world cannot save this nation or any one of the hurting people in it. Those who throughout history have reached out in courage and boldness, following this command, they have been unstoppable. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing more¬†untamable, unmovable, unshakable. Stand up and dust off if you’re red, hold out a hand of goodwill if you’re blue; let’s wash off the paint and get down to business.

“Dear friends, let us love one another,¬†for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God¬†and knows God.¬†Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.¬†This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son¬†into the world that we might live through him.¬†This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us¬†and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.¬†¬†Dear friends,¬†since God so loved us,¬†we also ought to love one another.¬†No one has ever seen God;¬†but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.¬†This is how we know¬†that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.¬†And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.¬†If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,God lives in them and they in God.¬†And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.¬†God is love.¬†Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.¬†This is how love is made complete¬†among us so that we will have confidence¬†on the day of judgment:¬†In this world we are like Jesus.¬†There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,¬†because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:7-18

Planes, Elections, and Bible Translations

John V and I are studying countries and cultures this year in school. We have made our way through North and South America so far. As we’ve done this, we have read the biographies of Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Nate Saint, a missionary who flew for Mission Aviation Fellowship. It is beyond inspiring to read of their dedication to making sure all people of all tribes and tongues are able to read the Bible in their own language. As they fought through different struggles in the nations where they worked, they could always come back to this country to raise support, find new workers, and gain new knowledge. God used businessmen and women in this country to buy planes, pay for translations, and donate training facilities. I choked up every, single time it talked about a group of people holding the Bible in their language for the first time and saying, “God speaks our language!” I think more than ever before, I am grateful for what the people of our country have been able to share with others around the world because of the blessings and abundance others have sacrificed to give us. Whatever decision is made tomorrow, it is overwhelming to look at how few people throughout history have had the opportunity to choose their government peaceably and without force to bring about a change ¬†in leadership. We are not a nation divided between the 99 and the 1%. As an entire nation, WE ARE that small percentage of those with even an opportunity of some kind to get what we need. May we never forget. And tomorrow night, when we find out who we will have at the helm for the next four years, may our fervent prayers begin that God will work mightily through him in any way He sees fit that somehow the Word of God could continue going forth from this country into others around the world until our real work is done and every knee bows before the REAL Man at the wheel. I think the prayer is not that God would be with us. He is whenever we turn to Him. And not that everyone else will line up with what He wills for this nation. Because they won’t and can’t without the saving grace of Jesus. But that each of us aligns ourselves with His calling upon us and then begins to look around us for another to whom we can toss a lifeline. For at the very core, that is how innocent babies are saved AND raised, how precious, hurting women are preserved in wholeness, how marriages and individuals are treasured and cherished, how nations and people are rescued. One at a time. Our votes matter. Our everyday living between elections matters even more.

“Some trust in chariots¬†and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the¬†Lord¬†our God.”

Psalm 20:7

Flying our replicas of Nate Saint’s plane he used to assist missionaries in the rain forest of the Amazon.

Milestones and Growing

Sometimes it can get easy to get caught up in the overwhelming. In the big stuff. In the momentous, the pressing, the large, the “important,” the epic, the challenging, the great‚Ķyou get the picture. ūüôā And then there are the moments of gratitude when you are simply enraptured by the small. The precious, the whispers, the breaths, the squeaks, the fleeting, the tiny, the daily‚Ķthe LIFE. Five times I have watched my little one learn to smile. Then to laugh. To grasp toys. To roll over. And recently I have watched for the fifth time as my little one learned to sit on her own. Making her a little more a part of our world and a little more removed from the newborn. A little more interactive for the siblings and a little tug on the heartstrings of Mom. I can’t wait to continue discovering who she is, this precious fifth miracle of ours. Grateful for days full of growth.

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Apparently she already has a love for biographies from sitting with us while we have read about Cameron Townsend and Nate Saint. Starting them young. ūüėČ