{cardboard signs}

i pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store yesterday,
picking up a few things for dinner.
as i did, i noticed a young girl by the corner holding a sign that said,
“traveling. broke & hungry.”

i see lots of people in our town holding cardboard signs on street corners.
but there was something about this one that just caught me..
maybe because she didn’t look a whole lot older than my kate, i don’t know.

usually, i never have cash on me. like ever.
{robbers reading this.. you never want to rob me! i’ve got notta!!}
but today.. today i happened to have a twenty.
one of those things where the kids had wanted to give me money back for something
and we went round and round and finally, “okay, fine!” i had stuck it in my wallet.
a little extra cash no one knows about is always kinda fun. eh, moms?
i was already thinking of the hanging basket i could buy. or that shirt from H&M.

but i suddenly had this strong urge that i was to give it to this traveling, gypsy girl!
which i instantly told myself could not be right, because, okay..
maybe i didn’t need a new hanging basket or shirt, but ben DID need new shoes!
and what about my trip to Cincy coming up? and of course, i’d need to stop at target.
was it being a good steward to just GIVE your money away to a total stanger?

why is it when anything has to do with giving money
we immediately think we must have heard wrong!
all of our “needs” seem so huge.
and all the excuses just roll, one right after the other…
she’s probably just going to buy drugs.
or drink it away.
maybe she’s part of a ring of frauds that do this for a living!

i parked and went inside.
and the more i put in my cart the more i thought of that girl out there.

when i got to the check-out i saw the 20 in my wallet as i pulled my credit card out.
i looked away…
as if not seeing it wouldn’t remind me what i knew i was supposed to do with it!

after a few minutes of this nonsense i finally let out a sigh.
i whipped the 20 out so abruptly i think i made the clerk jump.

“could i get change, please?”

the lady took the bill.

“two 10’s?” she asked

“um.. no. actually two 5’s and a 10.”

she handed me the money and i gripped it in my hand as i left the store.
i told myself if the girl was gone, my instinct was wrong.
and as i exited the parking lot i admit i felt a little relief
when i didn’t see her where she’d been.
“well.. i was going to give it to her.” i reassured my self-righteous pride.
and just when i thought i was off the hook.
wait. was that..? right there. just down a bit. in a different spot. shoot!

i pulled over slowly towards where she was.
the car in front of me stopped and rolled their window down.
i saw them hand her an apple.

“food! that’s a good idea!!!”

i started looking around the van.
surely the kids had left something lying around.
they’re always eating in here!!
then the car ahead of me moved on and i was up!
i felt nervous.
why is this so awkward?
maybe because i was out of my comfort zone. sad to say.

i rolled my window down.
she was walking away. back to where her sign lay on the ground.
other apples and some oranges there.
and a few bottles of water, i’m sure others had given her.
i noticed the big knife strapped on the back of her belt.

“hey..”

she turned.

“where ya headed?”

“BC.” she said.

“what for?”

“work..”

“what are you going to do?”

“pick fruit in the okanagan valley.”

now most might think, “why not just work here in town?”
but since i know firsthand that my own college kid has put in
applications literally everywhere and hasn’t been able to get a job,
i know it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

so with one last glance around for food.
and thinking maybe i could just give her my diet coke from mcdonald’s
i had just bought a little earlier, i put my hand out the window.

“i’d like to help ya out..”

her face just beamed.

“oh, thank you!”

as she headed towards me i looked at the wad of cash in my hand..
flowers and shirts and shoes for ben and bills all kind of circled in my mind.
surely five was enough. ten? ten is plenty.
but as she came up to the window, thanking me again and again,
it was just one of those moments.
you know the ones?
i knew God was saying, “give it all.”
not that 10 wouldn’t have been enough or 5. or even my diet coke.
but i never have cash.
and somehow. i felt i only did that day, because of her.

i’m sure our paths will never cross again.
and i’m sure i’ll never know what ever happened to my “precious” stash of cash.
if she ever made it to where she was going.
or was even going to where she said she was to begin with.
but that’s okay. i don’t think those things really had anything to do with this.

and i’m not sharing this to get a pat on the back..
it wasn’t some great thing i did!
i’m actually quite embarrassed at how difficult it was for me.
all the assumptions and judgements i jumped too, far too quickly.
but i’m sharing this to simply say, when you feel those promptings…
don’t second guess it.
don’t makes excuses.

we don’t know the journey someone is on.
the story behind that cardboard sign they’re holding.
{remember, we all have cardboard signs..
they’re just not usually on display for all to see!}

it’s not always for us to know what others are going through.
to understand. or agree.
the results aren’t up to us. but the actions are.

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these two shots are from kate’s travels out west and in south africa.
when i told her about the story above she said,
“that’s why we’ve gotta live with open hearts. open hands. and open minds…”

totally agree.
and i feel i learned that a little more in the grocery store parking lot.

 

images

{teens and clean}

i used to be that mom that followed my kids around picking up the toys behind them.
i made them make their beds every day.
every saturday was “clean your room day”.
and about once a month {when they weren’t around}
i’d go in with a big, black trash bag. anyone?
let’s just say i’m a, “recovering perfectionist”.

but, after almost 19 years of parenting.
2 teens.
1 {almost} preteen.
and a whole lot of frustrations later
i’ve learned something about teens and clean rooms..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

close the door, people!!!

some things just aren’t worth the battle.

let it go.
ain’t nobody got time for that fight.

trust me.. they’re not going to be slobs with dried milk on the floor and cock roaches in the sink someday when they have their own place.
unless they live in new york city, and then you have cock roaches no matter how clean you are!
but. when the time is right, they’ll know the proper end of a broom.

my kate is very neat.
everywhere else but her room.
but she’s the creative type.
and says she thinks better when her room is, not messy according to her,
but comfy.

my ben. is mostly neat.
except. well, when he isn’t.
and when there’s school and sports and it’s too early in the morning and too late at night
and he’s tired…
apparently it’s easier to find clothes when they’re all over the floor.

my emma likes sitting on her bed to read or color.
therefore even when it’s made it never looks it.
and she likes pulling the mattress off too so she can practice her flips.
she could be sitting in front of the television.
i’ll take mattress on the floor instead.

so. exasperated moms of messy roomed kids?
shut the door!

what about responsibility?
what about teaching them to respect what they’ve been given?

totally hear that.
totally agree we need to have those conversations.
there’s still those, “you’re not doing anything else till that room is clean, ” times.
but trust me, even without those times, they’ll get it.
really they will.
character is caught more than taught.
you’ll be amazed someday that they actually were listening to you.
and will apply the things you told them.

but, for now… the battles over clean?
the arguing. the frustration?
not worth it.
give them that space in the home.
that one space.
their space.
to keep how they want.
they know how you feel about it.
and they’ll shock you when they all of a sudden clean it up on their own.
now whether it stays that way consistently? probably not.
but they’ll try. you’ll see the effort.
amazing how sometimes when we just stop talking and nagging about something it will happen all on it’s own.
they’re way more capable than we give them credit for!

and. believe me..
the day is coming, much sooner than you think.
where you’re going to walk past your 18 year old’s room who’s not there.
and you’ll lean against that door frame and look in at the bed that hasn’t been rumpled in months.
the floor that doesn’t have a drop of clothes on it.
no cereal bowls on the desk or cups of day old tea on the night stand.
and guess what? you’re gonna miss the mess and wish it were there again.

because that mess you resent now represents relationship.
life. fun. activity. adventure. presence. meaning.
and that’s far more important than seeing what color the carpet is any day.

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so.
for now.
close the door, mom!
it’ll be able to be wide open all too soon.

 

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{da most beautifulist}

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i walked out on the front porch the other day and stood for a second looking at our yard..
seems while everyone else is growing grass we’re growing dirt and dandelions.

it doesn’t help that the neighbors on either side keep their yards pretty much perfect.
one is basically a mini golf course!
i mean, we try. really we do.
we have the good weed & feed and everything.
you know, the kind from the states that you can’t get here in canada anymore.
we smuggle that stuff in like suburban drug lords!!
even our golf course neighbor requests it now.
thing is though, we never seem to have time to actually get it down.
or atleast the proper way.
which who knew there was a “proper way?”
i thought you just threw it down like grass seed..
but, oh no! you have to buy this special little wagon thing to dispense it.
and apparently, it’s best to do right before it rains.
but who has time to sit around and wait for it to rain?
then grab your weed & feed wagon and run all over your yard?
sheesh!

having a nice lawn, i’ve concluded, is like having another child.
serious. intentional. consistency. work.
and obviously, it has to be fed properly in order for it to grow!

seeing that we barely get our four real children fed properly most days
i doubt a luscious lawn will ever be our reality.

but just as i let out a long sigh over the whole mess
out comes reese from the house and stops next to me at the top of the stairs.
she puts her hand gently up on my arm and whispers in this awed-like voice..

“mom, isn’t our yard da most beautifulist? look at all da flowers!”

then she jumps down the steps and heads to pick another big bouquet of yellow for me.
i watch and smile and can’t help but think..

man! i want to see the world like her!!

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not a mess.
“da most beautifulist!”

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proving to me once again..
life is all about how you choose to look at it.

 

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{talking straight in a transgender world}

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i don’t think there’s ever been an issue i’ve felt more conflicted over.
i’m totally on both sides of this.
i get what you’re saying…
but i get what they’re saying too.

on one hand i’m climbing over the person in front of me to sign that petition.
and on the other hand i’m telling shayne how christians make me crazy!
why do we get so upset when a NON-christian company like Target isn’t acting “christian” in their policies? it’s like my friend jerry always used to say, “why do the heathen rage? because they’re HEATHENS!!”

i’m not sure boycotting and picketing in the streets ever solved anything.
if it did, maybe we would have seen more of that from Jesus.
the only time He went off was on the church goers.
yet with the adulterous and murderous and cheaters and liars and those who were probably transgender before they even knew what to call it He was nothing but compassionate.. it is His LOVE that leads us to repentance. and yet, somehow we forget that with everyone else. we think jumping on our soap boxes and spewing our self-righteousness will somehow change hearts. when in reality, we’re not even changed ourselves.

as christians, we are good at taking stands from afar.
it’s easy to shout, “love thy neighbor” from across a computer screen.
but what about that fellow christian right across the church aisle?
to say we need to reach out to those different from us..
and yet not even be able to shake the hand of someone we’ve had a difference with?

“but you don’t know what they did? how they hurt me? i have to put up boundaries…”
as jen hatmaker says, boundaries can just become a fancy term for choosing who we don’t have to extend love to.

when Jesus commanded us to love there were no conditions placed upon it.
like, love everyone but these, these, and this one.
we don’t get to choose who we love – we.just.to.do.it.

and love has to start in our own circles before it can reach those outside our circles.

if we can’t love our own.. how can we love at all?

but that’s the thing, right? loving those that we probably will never really rub shoulders with is a whole lot easier than loving those up close. that gets messy! a little uncomfortable. way more uncomfortable, at times, than loving someone who is transgender. i have gay friends and know transgender kids at ben’s school that are lovely. and i know many people, myself at times through the years, who would say, give me “that crowd” any day over the christians. i feel a whole lot safer over here than with those who are “supposed” to love and care for me!

but in loving. always. always. there is risk.
it’s not possible we’ll be hurt when we love. it’s probable!

but does that mean we pull back. shut others out. put up our healthy boundaries?
the only thing walls seem good at is keeping prisoners in.
and i don’t want to be a prisoner. especially inside my own heart!
i want to live trusting. open. and free.
living scared and bound up is no way to live!!

“but we’re not to be naive. we must be wise. we can’t embrace sin.”
because that’s what we as christians always say right after we talk about loving freely.
and of course we’re not and yes we must be!
God’s Word has got to be the final authority on all areas of life. period.
but i think God gets blamed for a whole lot that has nothing to really do with Him and everything to do with us! no one is better than christians at making something sound so good and righteous when perhaps it’s entirely contrary to what the Bible actually says we as christians are to do.

i’m not saying that from now on i’ll still be sending my ten-year old in the bathroom alone with her little 5 year sister and say, “hey, if you see any weird people in there just tell them you love them!” you better believe this mama bear will claw eyes out first and give hugs later if i suspect anyone is out to harm my kids – i don’t care what the heck you are!

but. i also know i can’t always be with my kids. there are times when maybe they’ll be in situations where they feel unsafe – and can i just insert that people who might want to hurt your kids aren’t just hiding in the Target bathrooms – they are in our churches. in your best friends home. don’t just assume because people are like you that your kids are okay to go off and play without checking in. i speak from experience that sometimes the Target bathroom is safer than your church.

be aware. that’s just smart parenting.

but.. don’t parent from fear!

God knew something about His people when He compared us to sheep. we can be so dumb! so easily following the one in front of us and we’ve no idea what we’re even running from. we need to be educated with these things. really educated. not just taking someone’s word for it on social media that writes something spiritual sounding. we need to research and read and dig into scripture. so many of us hold to beliefs that we don’t even know where that belief is rooted. why do we believe what we say we do? because mom and dad did? because the majority of christians seem to? because it makes sense? we need to know these things not so we can go and argue to the point of exhaustion with all the other views out there. but we need to know so that our kids will know. so that we can educate them!

instead of going round and round with each other.
we need to be having these conversations with our kids.
they are the answer.
they are the ones who will live this.

i believe our world is full of good people. but that doesn’t mean it’s getting better. the light is growing dim. our kids generation is/ and will deal with things that if we had heard of them even 10 years ago we would have shook our heads and said, “no way!”

but, WAY! it’s no longer in the far off future. it’s upon us.
and i don’t want my kids living in fear…
and if i parent from fear.. that’s exactly what will happen because fear breeds fear!
and then what are we but a bunch of scared sheep running from what? we don’t even know!

i want my kids to not be shocked by a dark world.
to not circle the wagons and hide inside.
i want them to be confident in not only what they believe but WHO they believe in.
to be able to go out and stand strong.
but always. to stand in love.

love isn’t a noun. it’s not something that just is –
no. love is useless without action.
it’s a verb! meant to move and be and do.
so we can say all day long, till the cows come home, that we love..
but until we teach that to our kids. and by teach, i mean show!
what that really looks like-
starting in our own circles first.
with those who are like us.
we will never be able to go out and love those who aren’t!

our kids are the ones who will live the realities we fear
and they need to know
perfect love {found only in Jesus Christ}
casts out ALL fear!

images

{the days in between}

winter sky

it’s late on friday night and all is dark.
outside everything is covered in solid sheets of ice.
glistening by day in the sun – like something so magnificent i can’t describe it.
and at night, cracking and popping in the wind like some creepy haunted house.
funny how the same thing holds so much beauty and fear.

seems strange for easter to have ice and cold.
but i’m learning here in the north not every easter is warm and spring- like and that’s okay.

it’s our 5th easter here –
and every single one has been so different.

easter weekend always leaves me a little undone. all of it.
every emotion and little sentence in scripture we so often overlook..
that He was God and fully in control.
yet human and fully feeling every single thing.
the betrayal from friends. the accusations. the ridicule.
at any time..  any time He could have revealed His power, if only just a little.
just enough to silence the lies. just enough to astound the mockers.
just enough to prove Himself to those watching.
and yet, He walked through with so much grace. so much love.
so much restraint and forgiveness. i can’t even.

there could have been other ways.
there were other ways.
He’s God, after all. He could do whatever He wanted.

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but it’s this thought that won’t leave me –
that it was this path.
of grace. of forgiveness..
not just upon the cross but every step to that cross that the Heavenly Father CHOSE for Him.
this was the storyline that would bring Him the most glory!

and this is it for you and i too.
whatever it is we’re going through. where we wish God would step in and save the day..
where we know He is more than capable.
when the pain is great and it makes no sense.
when all is dark and it seems all hope is gone.

this is the storyline He’s chosen for us!

and i always think of the day between the cross and the resurrection.
how must that have felt for those who believed? as night closed in after the cross.
the loss.
He had told them He would rise again but they didn’t really get it, did they?
for all they knew all they had been banking on was now lifeless in a tomb.

think of the “in between days” in your life..
when tragedy has struck. death of a dream. of a loved one.
heartbreak. rejection.
at first there’s so much faith.
others rally. you’ll be okay. you’re going to make it.
God will come through –
but the next day comes and He doesn’t.
or the next and the next and the next.
and you want to believe.
you’re waiting on the resurrection.
that time when God’s going to show up in such an obvious way and yet..
the saturday between friday and sunday seems to stretch on forever.
is God really still there?
when will that burst of light break forth and shatter the darkness?

and you sit. and wait. and wonder.

i don’t know why God doesn’t part more red seas. why He doesn’t just split them wide open.
why He doesn’t change hearts like we pray He will.
bring husbands back home.
children restored.
loved ones healed.

but i’m seeing, and only just, that sometimes, no.. often times..
it’s the in-between days, the waiting and crying out and questioning.
these are the times we draw closer. these are the times His realness is most revealed in us.
it’s in the upper rooms and the gardens and at the foot of the cross.
the process that leads us to the resurrection.
this is the true hope.
when everything is falling apart and we hold on.
when everything seems ruined and we still believe.
when everything seems lost and yet, there is peace.

though the days between may seem endless –
and the resurrection, that it will never come.
that the enemy has won.

oh, baby! he hasn’t!!!

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no matter where you’re at. or what you’re going through.
no matter the pain.
that thing that seems so much bigger and more powerful than you.

there is One greater still.

and though we might not always understand His ways we can trust His heart towards us.
He’s walked this path ahead of us.
He is acquainted with ALL our grief. all.of.it.
He doesn’t just know. He gets it.

He knows what it’s like to pray and plead for a different outcome.
He knows what it feels like to be abandoned. misunderstood. misrepresented. rejected. totally alone.

every part of you that hurts – He feels.

every part of you that is broken – He heals.

every part of you that is afraid – He transforms.

it’s what He came to do – the whole point of it all.. to SAVE.

and oh, how we need saving!

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were it not for these in-between days would we ever truly know the full joy of resurrection?
without the broken heart would we know His nearness?
without the questions would we press in as close?
without the silence would we have to believe in something beyond our feelings?
even beyond our faith at times because our faith is so often weak.
would we really come to know Him in that way that only comes in being still?
when we just let go and collapse at His side.
when we stop trying to figure it out. conjure up faith. be strong. and just be still.
and though nothing changes externally, everything changes internally.
and this. this is what those in-between days are all about.

because it is in the darkest times we see light like never before.
the hard that brings out what our hearts are made of.
there is purpose in it all.
like the ice outside. the beauty all intertwined with cruel.

and i’m convinced more and more that He is far more interested in what
my circumstances are revealing in me than rescuing me from those circumstances.

it is in being redeemed that we best show His resurrection glory to others.
that His power prevails over even the deepest pain.

who else could do that?
who else offers that kind of hope? that kind of a future?
only the kind of God that came back from the dead to show us..
no matter what it SEEMS.
no matter what it FEELS.
no matter what it LOOKS like.
HE WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!!!

He has won.

He stands triumphant over it all.

your life. your marriage. your children. your home. your church. your cancer. your divorce. your abuse. your confusion. your loneliness. your financial problems. your fear. your future.

He’s not up in heaven wringing His hands over you. trying to figure it all out.
He’s already figured it out.
He’s got this.
He’s got you.
and He went to the cross to show you just how much.

so in those times you’re not so sure.
when you don’t really see how any of it is making sense..
when the in-between days stretch on and on and you wonder where He is.
oh, He’s there. He’s working. He’s aware.
the story doesn’t change. ever!
sunday is coming!

HE’S ALIVE!!!

and He loves you.

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We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

happy easter, friends. xo

{letter from kate}

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it’s been a little over a month that she left for south africa.
since then she’s spent time on the streets of germany on the way there.
hugged a few lions.
hung out with penguins.
listened to lectures by two close friends of nelson mandela.
met desmond tutu.
and spent time teaching a classroom full of little swazi kindergarteners for a whole week..
which she said has been her favorite thing so far.

i talk to her on the phone and catch myself smiling.
i hear everything she says. hang on every word. every detail.
i picture it all in my mind.
but more than that. i find myself really listening to her voice.
i can’t describe it..
except, i listen, and i hear it.
the change. the maturity. it’s like she’s growing up even as she’s speaking to me.

her voice is sounding different.
and i love hearing it.

i think of her almost constantly.
like there’s never a time she’s not somewhere in my thoughts.
i wonder where she is at the moment. what she’s doing. how she’s feeling.
but i think a lot too about years past with her.
when she was little. when she was home last.
conversations. memories.
they all just spin and collide in one big mash-up in our hearts.
this beautiful medley only us mama’s hear..
of our babies becoming the people they were meant to be.
every part of everything that’s happened to them is so important. so necessary.
i’ve said to kate a dozen times – “no part of your story doesn’t have purpose.”

there’s a reason.

a reason that happened in grade nine. why you walked through that in grade eleven.
why we moved here when you were thirteen. why you felt your life was over.
why you hurt. why you questioned.
there’s purpose in it all.

and i think that’s one of the greatest joys as a parent –
seeing your kids take what once caused pain or confusion or insecurity
and using it to let others know they’re not alone.
communicating compassion and understanding that you only learn by walking that way yourself.

i miss her.
it makes me sigh even now.
to close my eyes and picture her face. her smile.
she’s not just my girl. she’s a best friend.

i love her company.

a few days after she left i was sitting in the mall parking lot in shayne’s big white truck
about to go in, digging around in my bottomless purse looking for something..
and out falls this two page letter.
i picked it up off the floor and seriously! i kid you not –
instantly miranda lambert’s song, “the house that built me,” starts playing over the radio
which is kinda like “our song.”
and i sat there. with that song. and her letter. and tears streaming as i read.

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anyone who knows kate knows she’s a note writer.
she’s an encourager and likes using notes to do that.
i’ve gotten so many from her through the years, but this one felt different.
like her voice i hear changing. this wasn’t just from my daughter..
this was from a woman. my equal. my friend.
she exhorted and inspired and spoke comfort to wounds i didn’t even know she knew i had!
iron sharpening iron. her words gave LIFE!
and there’s this beautiful shift you experience as your kids get older
where suddenly, they are pouring back into you!
it’s so precious.
the friendship between a parent and adult child.

but the thing is, it’s not always been “precious” between us.
there was a time. a set of about six months at the beginning of grade ten where..
man! i just didn’t know!!
didn’t know if the darkness that had closed over her would lift.
didn’t know if the things i wanted and desired for her would ever be reality.
if our relationship would move past that sense of strain and disconnect.
of walking out of counseling and feeling.. just hopeless.

that time seems so very distant now. just a bleep compared to everything else.
that spot of dark so dim compared to all the amazing light God has brought.

and i wanted to share that here because i feel there might be a mama reading this who’s struggling.
who’s feeling that dark heaviness. the worry and wonder over one of your kids.
a bit hopeless.

even you young mama’s – i know it’s hard to think that this little one you’re with 24/7 will ever do anything but take EVERY SINGLE OUNCE OF ENERGY you have!!
but can i just reassure you. remind you. there are better times ahead!!!
not just better – – but times you can’t even imagine right now they’re going to be THAT good!
with as much as you love your kids and your heart feels it’ll burst wide open..
just wait.
it’s going to burst even more!!

hang in there. and most importantly. hang on to your Heavenly Father.
keep giving them to Him again and again.
love unconditionally.
go in the other room to scream if you have to. but never let them feel your love has conditions.
and never {ever ever} underestimate the power of prayer. cry out when you feel at a loss.
He promises to give wisdom to those who ask. and He’ll do it.
He’ll guide your steps as you maneuver this holy ground of raising these kids.
You can trust Him.
He’s working.
even when it seems He’s not. He is!

someday you’ll have your parking lot experience too of just weeping your eyes out at missing your grown up kid somewhere far away, but mainly just weeping from God’s work of mercy in your home. in your hearts.

He’s a Good, Good Father!

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{hutch baby and heaven}

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she’s my kid that’s made me take back all those times i looked at those toddlers pitching fits in the middle of the wal-mart aisle and wondered what was up with the mom..

well, now i know. ;)

she’s full on. this little one of mine.
super sweet and loving.
or super stubborn and not so loving!

a few weeks ago out of the blue she started asking me questions about heaven.
with the other kids it seemed that shayne and i initiated these conversations more..
with her, i don’t know, things seem to slip more with the youngest. or you just forget!
let’s face it.. your forty something brain isn’t nearly as “on it” as your twenty something brain was.
and so, she would just ask these things when we’d be going somewhere in the car, like, “where is heaven at?” or when i was combing her hair, “do you have to get dead to go to heaven?” and, “what does Jesus look like?”

one day here recently while i was making dinner, trying to cut up a butternut squash, she came into the kitchen and was standing beside me a minute before saying, “well, i prayed to Jesus but He didn’t say anything..” it was one of those times where you just kinda absent mindedly nod a, “uh-huh,” to your kid but really, i wasn’t fully listening and more concerned with chopping my finger off over that butternut squash, which are like the hardest things in the world to cut, for crying out loud!!!!!

she left the kitchen and returned a bit later. “well.. He still not say anything..”

now i’m scooping out the slimy mess from inside the squash and trying to keep it over the trash can. it took me a second for her words to sink in, “what, baby? what are you talking about? who didn’t say anything?”

“Jesus.” she said flatly, as she played with the barbie in her hand.

“what do you mean, sweetie? what do you mean He didn’t say anything?”

“well, i prayed to Jesus but He not saying anything back to me..”

i’m still concerned with this squash, but..

“well, what did you say to Him?”

i turned back to the counter and caught her face looking up at me.
eyes wide.
“i said to Him, i’m sorry.”

i stopped. “why did you tell Jesus you’re sorry?”

she took a big, long gulp. “because i want to go to heaven..”

and then i’m full attention now!!
i put down the squash and wiped my hands off and knelt to her level.
i suddenly realized all those questions all these weeks..
and they had led to this, and on her own she was wanting to talk to God.

“do you want mommy to help you pray?”

she nodded.
we walked into the living room and sat on the couch.

and so, that sweet moment most of you parents know what i’m talking about.
i heard her little voice telling Jesus she loved Him. that she wanted Him to come into her heart.

and when we said, “amen.” and with tears brimming, i hugged her tight.
“now you’re a christian, baby!”

she beamed. “i am?”

and i laughed and hugged her again.

i love how all through the rest of the night she couldn’t stop talking about being a “tristian,” and heaven, and, “is ben going to be there? and kate? and emma? papaw too?”
and when i told her, “yep. papaw’s gonna be there too!” she broke into this happy song/ dance that went something like, “papaw’s gonna be in heaven, papaw’s gonna be in heaven. yeah. yeah. yeah!!” {she might have a future career in the music business!} and when she still seemed troubled that was she praying to Jesus and not hearing His voice, i tried explaining, best i could, that He “talks” to us in many different ways. and when she seemed content with that and skipped away, i watched her go and thought to myself how it will take a lifetime of her learning to hear that still small voice of her Saviour.

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and i still just smile thinking back over it all. those precious conversations. her genuine searching. her little forehead furrowed, thinking, as she processed it all. her excitement to tell everyone, “i’m a tristian now!”

i’m far from a theologian. i know there’s a lot of debate on the “age of salvation” and kids being too young to really understand. i don’t know what she grasps with it all and what she doesn’t – if someday when she’s older she wants to pray again or feels she didn’t fully get it, that’s fine. but the thing for me with it all was this.. i’ve often worried, “what if my kids grow up and don’t live for the Lord?” i’ve wondered at times throughout this parenting thing if we haven’t messed them up for life. that we’ve totally screwed up and there’s no salvaging it. that we’ve not been faithful enough with family devotions and pointing them to God like we should have. that i haven’t prayed enough or been the best example – – and then, then this youngest one of mine reminded me that HE is the one who works in their hearts. HE is the one who has begun something in them. and HE is the one that will complete it. sure. we are responsible as parents to teach and train and instruct and do what we can, but it is GOD that ultimately stirs in them that hunger for something more. it is God who reveals Himself to them.. that begins, probably much younger than we even know, to whisper to their hearts, even when they still think, “i prayed to Him but He not say anything..” He is there. He is working. He is faithful.

as a parent that gives me such comfort. such hope. such a new found desire to WANT to pray for my kids.. to cry out for God to do in them what He needs to do to make them the people He wants them to be. and being confident that, He will do it!

it’s funny how when we see issues in our kids our first instinct is to try to fix them. to stress and freak and get all controlling, which often only leads to surface performance from kids who know how to follow rules – but when i see things in my kids life, if my first response is to go to GOD for wisdom and direction and for Him to work.. His results in their lives are always so much better than mine.

and they are eternal.

so whether she fully gets it or not. one thing i feel certain of –
our little hutch baby has begun her own journey with the Heavenly Father..
and i can’t wait to watch it unfold.

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19 things for 19 years.

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we’ll celebrate our 19th anniversary on sunday and really, all i can think is, “next year we’ll have been married 20 years!” TWENTY!!! that’s crazy.

it seems like you’re newlyweds forever and then, you start wondering when you no longer are.. like around 7 years? or maybe 10? and definitely by 12, but i don’t know,
because that’s when you feel you’re finally getting the whole newlywed thing down. and 13, 14, 15.. that’s the weird middle part where you realize maybe you’re actually grown ups now. and by the time you adjust to that, 16, 17, 18 are gone and bam! here you are at 19, and nearly 20!!!

oh, sweet grace.

part of me feels everything all runs together in one big blur of deep-rooted contentment. like that broken in pair of jeans that fit just right and are comfortable and familiar. the other part feels it’s all still so fresh and new.. like i’m discovering things every day that i didn’t realize. that i love about my husband. my marriage. that i need to learn. that i need to work on.

i was thinking this morning of some of those lessons learned.
19 things for 19 years.

here goes.. :))

1. you’re responsible just as much.
i grew up with the teaching {not from my parents but alot of the christian circles we were associated with} that the man is the head of the home- it’s all on him! everything that
happens and especially went wrong, he was mainly responsible for. and i still believe the man is the natural head.. but the woman is the heart. and without the heart the head can’t really function! my role is just as significant, if not even more so, as the one who sets the mood. the tone. the emotions of my home. as the heart of it – when my marriage is struggling i can’t lay blame at his door. i tried that for years, doesn’t work. it doesn’t work because he’s not the only one responsible, i am too.

own your part, wives!

2. go to bed at the same time.
i’m still learning – emphasis on the ing part of learn. it’s still in progress. but i don’t think i need to expound on all the benefits of this.

3. pray together.
see #2 – perfect time for it.

4. serve in little ways.
when shayne and i were first married we started this thing where every night, whoever was the first in the bathroom, would put toothpaste on the other’s toothbrush. then, years later in our marriage when we hit some rocky times.. one night sitting in the wal-mart parking lot talking through some things, i said in tears, “you never put toothpaste on my toothbrush anymore!!” and it’s always been our thing. seeing that every night, or sometimes not ;) reminds me it’s the little things that break a marriage, and it’s the little things that make a marriage.

toothpaste on the toothbrush, baby!!

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5. don’t let the cell phone come between you!
shayne was telling me recently how when sitting at a red light he looked over at the bus stop that was pretty jammed with people and every single person was on their phone! every.single.one. no one talks anymore. no one interact. no one even looks around. and sad thing is, it’s happening in homes too. we’re just as guilty. we find ourselves watching a movie as a family and look up to see everyone on their phone or tablet and not even paying attention. or out in a restaurant.. the kids want to play games. sometimes it’s easier. they’re quieter. but then i think, no! give me the noise and conversation any day over a bunch of dead beat, hallow eyed kids from too much screen time. even when i’m home alone – i pick up the phone for a quick text or to check something and before i know it, i’ve stood, leaning on the kitchen counter for 20 minutes scrolling mindlessly through news feeds. i love my friends and love keeping up, but, we’ve had cell phone limits in our home. a certain amount of time each night and i’m thinking it’s time we get back to that. that little thing does a lot of good.. and a lot of bad, all at the same time.

which, leads to..

6. don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.
pornography does so much damage in a marriage. it’s only been in more recent years and maybe with a son becoming a young man that i’ve realized the urgency we need to treat this with. not just assume everything’s okay. lust. temptation. we’ll always have it. it’s part of this world. and now, more than ever because the cell phone has allowed pornography to be right in the palm of our hands! and whether or not it’s a habit, it IS a battle for every man alive! and the good ones want you to help them walk in victory. no one likes going there. i get it! as wives we can ask, but then stick our fingers in our ears while we sing, jesus loves me, at the top of lungs. we don’t always want to hear. want to know. but knowing is good. just having that conversation is good. it’s time it stopped being such a taboo subject in our churches. in our homes. it’s real. it’s how a man is wired {not addiction, but temptation}. fight the battle together as a couple.

7. sex is important.
ah! i wasn’t intending my 19 things to feel so heavy. i promise i’ll lighten up after this. :) but 19 years teach you some heavy stuff. and this one! i can’t emphasis it enough and wish i could sit and talk over coffee with some of you girls about all God’s taught me in this area, and continues to. i used to have so many fears, insecurities, even questions with all this and God has freed me up in a way only He can do. we’ve got to see sex as a good thing. a God thing. He created it. and it’s such a key to closeness – and way more than physically close, but spirit’s connected. sure, sex doesn’t solve all the problems, but it certainly helps.

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8. praise your husband to your kids. big time!
sometimes when i’m mad and selfish i can be all like, “but there’s nothing to praise.”
oh.yes.there.is.
always!

9. communicate.
you can’t hold things in.
and something someone told us once early on in marriage that’s been so helpful is when something has hurt you, when you go to your spouse, don’t go in an accusing way. “you did this!” but rather, “i felt like you did this..” it takes it from fact to feeling and totally changes the tone of conversation and opens up a good talk instead of putting someone on the defensive right away. it’s kinda of a joke with us now. “i FEEEEEEEL like…” a lot of emphasis on feel around here.

10. have family dinners.
working on this. can you say.. crock pot? life is crazy and i’m a taxi driver from 5-8 every night. hard to make dinner when you’re not there. but i know it’s so needed! not just for our kids but us too. to have this time to sit across the table from one another, sharing, talking. and important for our kids to see us interacting and communicating. i’m learning in this season of life to make this work!

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11. listen to your man.
another one i’m working on. we usually tell the men they need to be better listeners. and maybe they don’t like talking as much as us women, which is why it’s even more important when they’re sharing that we sit up and listen. undistracted. we think we can multi-task, ladies. and for the most part we’re masters of it. but not when it comes to hearing what your man has to say.

12. don’t nag.
even if it HAS been a year since the kitchen reno started and there’s still 50 million things to finish. well, not quite 50 million. maybe only 40.

13. try to look nice when he comes home from work.
deodorant does a lot!

14. thank him for working hard to provide for you and the kids.

15. pray for him. and let him know.

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16. it doesn’t matter how you start. it’s how you finish.
i can remember every detail of the night my dad told me that, over breakfast that morning, shayne had asked to “court me.” i know, i know. “court?” we called it that then. not because i came from laura ingalls time but because of the homeschool program we were in that had a certain standard for dating and liked to call it courtship. kinda silly labeling things as if it makes it better or fool-proof. basically, we dated, with a lot of unneccessary rules. but, it was and is part of who we are. our story. and i’m grateful for it. i mean, how many people can say they courted? besides your grandparents! ;) and it does give us a good laugh at some of the things we were so uptight about back then – and hopefully a good balance of perspectives as we’ve waded into this whole dating realm with our older two this year.

but courtship. dating. call it whatever you want.. one thing is certain. it doesn’t matter how you get to the altar, it’s what happens on the other side. i’m not sure any method of dating, no matter how neatly packaged, insures a struggle-free marriage.

but no matter your past. crazy legalism and all. move forward!! you don’t live there anymore.

17. if there’s money struggles – they’ll pass.
if they don’t as soon you had hoped, let it pull you together not a part. you’re on the same side. you’re not enemies. there’s another one trying to destroy you. it’s not your spouse.

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18. laugh. and often.
if you see, hear something funny, tell him.
have inside jokes.
laughter bonds.
play games together {which often leads to laughter for us. HONG KONG!!!} :))

19. some things aren’t worth the energy it takes to fight about.
just.let.it.go.
{still learning}

and there are more and so many that mesh in between these.
so much more to say and yet, so many that are felt rather than really expressed.
those deep, deep emotions from doing life all these years together that your hearts have grown right around each other. one not really distinguishable from the other.

19 grace soaked years.

it always circles back to that.
grace.
and i’m squeezing out it’s goodness today.
feeling so grateful.

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all the pictures are from our trip to the bahamas this summer where we spent our
honeymoon… so cool and surreal to go back after all these years with our 4 kiddos.

best second honeymoon ever!!!

{about south africa and that time kate graduated high school}

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it’s been just about a month ago now..
i sat in an over crowded, hot gym on a thursday night straining and standing on tip toes,
along with all the other parents, trying to catch a glimpse of our kids coming down the aisle.

a very slow and slightly off-key version of pomp and circumstance was being played by the band. and tassels flung back and forth as the black robed graduates filed in.

i was to the side, on the bleachers, towards the front.
i couldn’t see -so i climbed up and stood on my seat.
then, i spotted her. smiling brightly, with that bit of nervousness at the corners of her mouth, only a mom would know.
my eyes went misty as she walked and found her place and faded in the crown.
i stood on my seat a few seconds longer before realizing i was the only one still standing.
i got down quickly, looking to the left and right of the packed row of heads in front of me
trying to find her again.

someone came to the mic and began talking and i turned my attention to listen.
but my mind raced back..
back to that afternoon i found out i was pregnant with her.
because as moms, isn’t that what we do in moments like this? almost by default..
flip through the index of memories inside?
it was three months into marriage. dead of winter. northern canada.
i remember being nervous.

life felt so weird. i felt so out of sorts. still finding my way in my new home. new life.
a new country. and new family – that was all like, “who the heck is this crazy american chick?” ;) wife and pastor’s wife on top of that! which, being raised in a pastor’s home i swore i’d never marry one. i have so much respect for pastor’s wives, i just wasn’t a good one.

that afternoon, i remember wondering if we should have been more strict with birth control -should we have waited? planned better? traveled more? saved more?
i’m not sure you can ever be “ready” for kids but i’m glad kate came when she did!
i wouldn’t change a thing about having kids within the first few years of our marriage.

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whenever young wives ask me about the pros and cons of waiting i tell them only what i’ve discovered to be true – the time you have being a mom really pales in comparison to all the time you’ll have for other things. seriously, “me time” compared to “mom time” throughout your life always tips heavier.

it doesn’t feel that way when you’re all up in it day after day – the diapers and nursing every hour and up in the night and messes and long days and dark circles under the eyes. but it’s true! as older women told me, and now i’m telling you :) your kids DO eventually grow up! and graduate. and leave…

and that last part. as i glance over into the kitchen, i see it on the counter.
the letter from CMU and her acceptance into their one year discipleship/missions
program. and i heard shayne on the phone, confirming her spot on the team for south africa. south africa? really?
she only just learned to parallel park, for crying out loud, and not very good!!!!

oh, my heart catches and those emotions rise in a hurry.

but i want to be so careful what i express to her. i’ve seen it, felt it. that temptation as parents of older kids to cling a bit tighter when you should be loosening your grip. to even, unintentionally, make them feel guilty for wanting to go. or play into their
emotions with it all. or worse, let the fears of unknowns cause us to control. manipulate. it’s hard when you just kinda like having your kids around. no ulterior motive at all other than you enjoy them. enjoy their friendship. their company. their humor. their
personality. what they bring to the family. add to the home. ben has been gone to camp for four weeks now, almost five, and goodness, i’ve missed him! we’ve talked about it so much, all of us, how much it’s changed even the very feeling around here. ~ and i’m not really sure how to “handle” my kids leaving. when i hugged ben goodbye at camp the first of july, i kept my glasses on ;) because i was surprised how tough it really was. to think of not seeing him day after day. i told shayne on the way home, “i’ve never been separated from my kids for longer than like two weeks max!!”

it’s strange. it’s new. these ones so part of you. so used to having around. suddenly, not! so it’s new territory for me. i’m sure i’ll be writing more as i process and learn. or, maybe i’ll just be sitting all quiet because there aren’t any words. haha. but a few weeks ago when kate had driven herself somewhere a couple hours south of here, and ended up lost, in toronto, in rush hour traffic and called and i could hear the panic in her voice.. shayne and i sat all crouched around my cell phone, with her on speaker phone, as shayne tried to talk her through where she needed to be and helping her find her way back to the highway, though we didn’t have a clue where she was. and when we were all through and she was safe on her way again, we hung up and i looked at him all wide eyed and a bit breathless.

“oh, babe! this is just the beginning!”

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but i remember the start of her life. how i felt so much the same.
and all the phases between. those moments of,
“oh, man! i don’t have a clue what i’m doing!”
and still. seventeen, almost eighteen years later, not much has changed there.
yet.. i know we’ll cross over into this next chapter with her as we’ve done every other –
with some fear? sure. a little nervousness at the unknowns and “what if’s?”.. of course.
but mostly with joy. a whole lot of joy. that we get to do this!
that we get to learn together what it means to trust and rest and believe in a God that’s so got this!

and as i look over again at that inevitable letter on the kitchen counter..
i’m reminded, it’s really, the only way to live.

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“You, who have been upheld by Me from birth.
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He.
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.” {isa.46:3,4}

{parenting mistakes and it’s never too late}

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i loved scrolling through facebook and instagram and seeing all the posts on father’s day.
i find myself smiling all silly at those things –
the old and new pictures and sweet sentiments of why their dad is the best.
it makes me realize that if you have a dad you can write those things about –
you really do have the best!
not everyone can say those things.
and those of us who can should never take it for granted.
it’s one of the greatest gifts to have that. truly.

and when i got out my notebook in church yesterday morning to take notes..
i ended up writing this instead. ;)

….

as the only girl among four brothers i’ve had a special relationship with my dad~
he’s always just had my heart. i love him. respect him.
he’s so kind. if you know him, you know what i mean.
when he listens, he really is. and because he wants to.
he cares. he’s interested in others, how they’re really doing.
dad is compassionate. tender-hearted. consistent. funny.
when dad laughs, we all laugh.
we’ll laugh until tears are rolling and we won’t even know why,
expcept, dad was laughing, so we did too!

but out of all i admire in him, his humility stands out most.
i can think of so many times throughout my life when he came to me to make things right.
hearing, “i was wrong, will you please forgive me?” were not forgeign words in our home.

but the time this was the most significant to me was the time he asked to talk to me and
my older brother, scott. i was trying to remember the exact time frame, but can’t really.
we were both married, with kids. i think emma was a newborn. we met in scott’s office at church, and dad said he wanted to ask our forgiveness for raising us with so many
legalistic rules. for focusing more on what other’s thought and outward performance, and this was long before anyone who had been raised or involved in the ultra
conservative home school circles like we were even talked about this stuff or brought it up. i never struggled with resentment over how we were raised, but i know there were a lot of issues and wrong mindsets in my life and views of God as a result. things i didn’t even realize fully or able to put my finger on it until my dad came to us that day. i
remember telling him it wasn’t really necessary for him to apologize. we were a team. all in it together. and as adults, scott and i knew the change God had done in his heart. but looking back, i see how deeply it impacted me to actually hear him say it out loud. to
validate the struggles he knew we both had growing up, of trying to live up to this
“standard.” seeing my dad’s sincerity and transparency that day.. i will say it was the
single thing that was the changing point in my life of beginning to build a relationship with Christ based only on that – Christ.

but it started because of my dad’s willingness to just be real with us as kids.

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i think sometimes as parents we know we’ve made mistakes, i mean, which of us wouldn’t actually agree on that..
but sometimes we think things are too far gone. too much water under the bridge. it was so long ago. they’re all grown up now. too removed. independent. at college. or living away from home. even married and kids of their own – what good would asking
forgiveness do?

but it’s never too late.

it might not remove the hurt completely. the damage.
there still might be need for repair. rebuilding. some work to do.
but it will be the beginning to real relationship with our kids.
and maybe even their relationship with God.

i’ve known so many kids, and i’m sure you have too, or were one yourself, that was raised in what seemed to be a, “solid christian home,” and yet experienced so much hypocrisy. pain. judgement. rules. expectations they never felt “spiritual enough” to meet. that stand back and see it all and conclude, “no, thanks! if this is christianity, i want no part!”

parenting is the most fun, crazy adventure. and yet the scariest too.
such a serious responsibility having these impressionable souls that are so effected by what we do. who we are. what they see in us~ i was talking with a friend not long ago about the huge impact our parents have in our lives, for better or for worse. and if you’re like me, just reading that, makes me catch my breath a little. it’s sobering. and leaves us all feeling we want to make sure we get it right – but we know we won’t. not always. even things we’re doing now that we think are best, we might look back on a few years from now and see the error of it.

that’s why grace is my favorite.
it’s not about if we make mistakes, but when we do.
when we mess up and screw up and get it all wrong..
there is hope and healing when we’re willing to humble ourselves and admit it.
whether every day stuff like getting too snappy with our words.
or those huge life changing moments of realizing the convictions or lifestyle we’d
adopted turned out to not be the right way after all.

i’ll forever remember the power of that afternoon with my dad –
how it caused me to know more of my Heavenly Father as a result.
the comfort it’s given me as i parent my own kids..
that mistakes do not have to dictate our lives.

there are new beginnings and fresh mercies and the opportunity to move forward every single day. because God is big that way. so much bigger than what it is that feels
overwhelming and unfixable. He can work in lives and change stories – stories that once held sadness and so much dark can take on new meaning and offer help to others.
relationships can be mended and hearts hardened, tender again.

there is joy to be had regardless of the pain endured.

we can see glimpses of God’s heart through the hearts of those He’s put in our life, in our family. accepting that we need each other. we’re all works in process – all of us – kids. parents.
grandparents. no matter what stage or season or mistake or past or crazy idea or
ministry or man followed.. there’s such a beauty and freedom when we realize every last one of us is on this journey of learning, and in essence, still just growing up.

and He Father’s us all with such understanding, wise love.

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