{the outloving pact}

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21 valentines with this guy!
i am so glad he chose me and that we get to do life together.
but let me be real..
yesterday was my birthday {which was actually monday now, since i wrote this tuesday}
and i had expectations.
which meant i ended up with some hurt feelings.
dumb, i know. how long have we been doing this thing?
haven’t we learned anything by now about our polar opposite
approaches to birthdays and christmas and parties and celebrating
and spending money??
why do we seem to forget this stuff?

and why, in moments of hurt does every loving thing i ever said or felt
about this man just seem to go straight out the window?
why can’t i believe the best? let go easily?
not have to make it all a great, big hairy deal!!

i want to love well.
i used to think i did.
lately, like the past few years lately..
God has been opening my eyes up big time to the hypocrisy in my heart.

sure, i love well. when i am loved well in return.
who doesn’t?
that kind of love is easy.
but love through pain or disappointment?
i can hope and endure all things..
as long as all things are going my way!!!

and right now i’m just talking about some stupid expectations over a birthday.
but we all have marks upon our lives. upon our marriages.
that have come from much bigger things than birthdays.
and whether big or small, when we’re hurt the natural response is to pull away.
to have an attitude of, “i’ll show you.”
but in the end. show you what?
show you how childish i can be? how immature?
that i can go longer than you without talking?
that i can be mean? selfish?
pulling back and shutting down gets us nowhere.
it only hurts us in the end.
but it’s hard when that’s how we FEEL!
and i’m a big feelings girl. i’ve got em all.

but God’s been breaking this down for me in the last few years
and showing me a thing or two about love and feelings and how no,
they’re not exactly the same thing!

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everyone says, “love is a choice.”
this is true.
but as a child of God He goes even further –
it’s a command.
we don’t get to decide if someone is worthy of our love.
we don’t get to decide if, when, how we will show love.
we are simply, to love!

why? because that person deserves it?
because we’re a doormat?
because love means letting people get away with whatever they want?
absolutely not.

shayne and i talked about my birthday and my feelings about it all..
over our valentines lunch the next day.
because what better conversation to have on valentines day than,
“hey babe.. you screwed up!” ha!
not really.
but also, we have the kind of relationship that doesn’t like anything between us.
we do talk things out.
we try to see from the other’s perspective.
we don’t always do a good job of this.
sometimes it gets pretty messy.
kind of animated and dramatic {that’s me, not him}.
we’re still learning to deal with conflict in a healthy non-divisive way with one another.
but through it all… even during the conflict that sometimes,
sometimes can take days before we fully get sorted out.
and then there’s the whole warming back up thing. {am i right?}

.. but even in the yuck parts, i still must love.
not in the habitual, we say it so much it’s lost it’s meaning, “i love you,” kind of way.
but in the, “love is patient. love is kind. is not easily angered. doesn’t seek it’s own,
Bible truth, child of God kind of way!!!!”
i don’t know about you.
maybe that kind of love comes naturally to you.
for me, it doesn’t.
especially when there’s been hurt. and during conflict.
but this is what sets Christ-like love apart from any other..
that when we were most undeserving, He loved us.
not when we had performed well. done our best.
no. at our lowest.

this is His kind of love and if we belong to Him it’s supposed to be our kind of love too.

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it’s what the scriptures say – how the world can tell us apart.
i always find that fascinating that there could be a whole slew
of things listed for people to say,
“yep. christian.”
but instead it says rather simply, “this is how everyone will know you’re mine,
by your love for each other!”

and what better place to practice and see this than in our marriage!

at one point this past summer God seemed to really light up 1 John to me,
where it talks about if you hate someone, you don’t/ can’t belong to Him.
what?
when i’m harboring bitterness?
when i don’t forgive?
when i don’t let go?
when i don’t stop judging what they need to be doing,
and start examining my own heart?
any level of hate towards someone else indicates that the Father is not in me?
crazy, sobering thought!!

because when the love of God is IN us.. it’s what comes OUT of us!

there’s no stopping it.
when we truly realize what He’s done for us.
we want to take that same grace, that same mercy, and love and give it out to others.
and if we truly grasp this truth –
it doesn’t just apply to those we think are worthy.
but especially those we think are not!
the ones less “worthy” in my eyes, for whatever reason.
that i feel i have the right to stand back from. love everyone but them.
say it’s not “healthy” for me.

oh, don’t get me wrong. there’s people we need to keep distance from –
though probably not the ones we tend to think.
{look at Jesus’ social crowd.. i’m sure it wouldn’t pass most church goers approval list.}
but, yes. i have friends that have had to get out of their marriage because it wasn’t safe.
friends that have been abused by spouses. parents. pastors.
those you should be able to trust most.
and in no way, shape, or form does forgiving your offender and showing love to them
mean you have to go take them to lunch.
with some people it is best to love from afar. we all get that.

but i’m talking about the epidemic in christian circles that excuses hateful,
nothing-to-do-with-Christ-at-all behavior, all in the name of “healthy boundaries.”
do you know what i’m talking about?
beth moore, when i saw her in toronto last year, said,
“we as Chrisitans have “healthy boundardried” our way right into
direct opposition as Jesus teaches us to live.” {roof off. walls down}

and since love is empowered by our actions,
how we love will look different to different people.
that’s okay. that’s a good thing.
how boring if we all loved in the same way, as my husband and i keep rediscovering! ha.
but there IS a universal list that is written out for us in God’s Word.
{first corinthians 13}
and reading through that shuts up any spiritual sounding mumbo jumbo in a hurry.
all excuses fall flat and finger pointing turns around fast.
it always comes back to us.
what’s in our heart is revealed by how we treat those around us!! {ouch!}
am i keeping no record of wrong? am i rejoicing in truth?

more often than not, i don’t love that way.
and if i’ve been hurt, i don’t WANT to love that way!
my love is so conditional.
it depends on the other person.
how they’re treating me.

i remember once when shayne and i had a fight and i was so upset.
i felt so right in my cause. so justified.
and then God said, “what if he never changes in this area?”

what?
huh?
come again, God?

and i’ll never forget His response to my heart,
“amber, what i require for you doesn’t change, even if the other person never does!”

i really had nothing to that.
except a whiney, childish, “man, that’s so unfair!”

but whether to my spouse. my kids. my community of friends.
those in my church. those different from me in society.
those who’ve hurt me. and yes, most especially those..
if the love of God is not the filter for my behavior to them,
then as His Word says, i’m nothing but a lot of noise!

and if i’m going to be heard.
let it be for what promotes His kingdom.
and if you’re unsure at times what exactly that is,
He set it up Himself when He said,
“these are greatest of all the commandments –
love God. love others.
not suggestions. commands.

love.

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there’s already a group throwing their hands up, like, hold on a minute..
we can’t excuse sin.
nope. we sure can’t.
but first, let’s flip the microscope inward. to our own hearts.
and if we’re going to err – wouldn’t you rather err on the side of love vs. judgment.
i know i sure would!

i don’t think i’ve said anything different today that you haven’t already heard before..
and i feel like a broken record here on my blog most of the time anyway.
the subject of love is the most popular one to talk about these days, it seems.
and if you disagree with anyone, you’re not loving.
or try to have discernment, you’re judging. blah blah blah..
and it goes round and round until it gets so exhausting!!! anyone?
seriously. we’re going to sit around discussing for hours whether
or not we should welcome refugees when we could just go find some
and love them in Jesus name!!! {amen!}
we waste so much time TALKING about what Christians should do
and so little time actually DOING!

and here i’m veering away from marriage a bit,
but it all intersects!
because this is where it really comes home for me..

see, i can easily want to love on the refugee family who’s lost everything.
or want to join the crusade against strip clubs because i feel such
compassion for the women inside.
my heart feels stirred for the lgbt community, and i think alot about what
it looks like 
to hold true to my beliefs and yet still communicate acceptance
and value to my friends there.
and if i even hear a story, or think about all the girls being victimized through
sex trafficking i’m completely undone and ready to 
find every single one and just
make her soup, and hug her, and love on her for weeks!

but ask me to love that one who’s hurt me?
that friend. or husband. or parent?
oh, no! that’s asking too much!
my pride immediately takes over and tells me every reason
i’m excused from loving them.
they don’t deserve it.
that i have to protect myself from further hurt.
and yet, this is the real test. right here.
this closest circle right around me.
it’s easy to live Christ to those far away.
being a “good Christian” is always easier from a distance.
it’s prettier. more sparkly.
but to get up close?
to those who’ve hurt me?
to those who’ll probably hurt me again?
that’s where love gets messy.
but that’s where love is needed most.
not where others always see.
where i get recognition and dozens of “likes.”
but just those quiet obediences that God is asking of me?

and if you’re like me. back in the summer when i first started really
seeing this stuff i was like, “man.. no way i can love like that!
i just don’t have it in me.”
true.
but it’s not about WHAT’S in us, but WHO!
and when we feel we can’t.
or the hurt has been too much.
we say, “God, help me!” and do it anyway!!

after our tiff the other day shayne and i made a pact with each other.
what if we were to try to out love one another for, oh, let’s say the next 30 days?
i kind of rolled my eyes at it, at first. it’s a bit corny.
out love each other? okay, then.

but… seriously though. what if?

what if we all purposed that?
to out love one another in our marriages. in our homes..
in our churches and neighborhoods and on social media?
how would things change?
how would our world look different?

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{what do you have to prove?}

a week ago my friend Allie said, “remember that blog you wrote on words..?”
it took me a minute.
then a few days later it came up on my Facebook memory thing.
so I clicked over and read.
I first wrote this in 2012!
but the same lesson is still being learned
and the truths just as needed.

grateful for a God that never gives up on me!

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whoever said,

“sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

obviously must have lived life as a monk. a silent one. surrounded by other silent monks.
because if you live. if you participate in community. engage in relationship..
step foot outside your door –
you’re going to, at some time or another, be hurt by words.

words that cut deeper than any stick. hit harder than any stone.

words that wound, and leave scars far longer than physical ones.
scars that scab. but never fully disappear.

funny, how the smallest bump against them can instantly reopen.
and though perhaps the sting not as potent now, still..
you feel your eyes wince, your heart quicken.

and always the whispering doubt, “maybe.. maybe, after all, they were right?”

do you notice how we remember the negative words spoken to us
far more than the positive?


I know, without question, more good and kind words have been spoken to me in my life –
ask me some, and I might be able to paraphrase.
but the mean, unkind words? I can probably quote verbatim.

they stick to you like a spider’s web.
that sense of not always knowing exactly where they are, but feeling them cling.
so you swat, and tug, and pull, because you just.want.them.off!!!


some words stick longer than others. are harder to peel away.

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I know forgiveness is the antidote.

but I’m not going to pretend I always even know what forgiveness is.
I mean, truly is.

I’ve heard it said, it’s a choice. thing is, I don’t always choose it. or want to.

when Scripture says we’re to “do good” to those who’ve hurt us.
what is that? bake a plate of cookies, compliment their hair?
Or is doing good just not doing the bad we might want to?

like, pull up their prized petunias in the middle of the night.
or, the more difficult one that’s way more of a temptation..
slam and hurt them the way they have me.

sometimes the whole “doing good to your enemies” thing can seem so phony to me.
maybe because I’ve been on the receiving end of that at times..
that sense where someone really can’t stand you,
but they’re just going to love you to Jesus anyway!

please. keep your good and just pull my prized petunias.

but for me, I feel before I can even get to “doing good” from a genuine heart,
I first have to grasp what real forgiveness looks like – what it honestly is.
I think I do. but I don’t want it to be just what I was taught. how I was raised.
what I know the right answer is.
I don’t want a life filled with the right answers –
I want a heart that BELIEVES those answers!

that I have been forgiven much, and therefore, need to give it freely.
but pride clouds my vision of self.  

and though forgiven much, yes.
undeserving, yes.
there’s that part inside that still wants to stand up and declare
the other person less deserving.


and having lived in the pit of bitterness, why ever go there again?
the climb out way more difficult than sermons and books make it sound.
but. there’s that part that “wants” to be there. to not want out.
to not let the other person off so easily.
that somehow by climbing out of that pit, the other person wins.

silly thought that by holding on to our anger we can punish someone!!
truth is. they often have no idea.
and we only hurt ourselves more.

they don’t “win.” satan does.

he’s the true destroyer and he’ll do anything he can to do just that to our lives.
I think through the words of others is one of his favorite tactics! 

I’m sure he’d love to see us persecuted more by the world –
but he knows he doesn’t even have to step foot outside most christian circles.
forget persecution from without.
we’re doing a fine job all by ourselves of destroying one another from within! 


I’m always amazed at the number of people I’ve encountered that want
nothing to do with God.. and more often than not, because of something hurtful
that happened to them by another christian.


sad to think that we as christians are so often a TOOL in the hands of the enemy.

and I can just imagine his menacing grin..
how very easy we as christians have made his job of stealing our focus.

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I don’t want him to win.

that motivates me out of the pit.
that motivates me to genuine forgiveness.

I don’t want him to win in my heart. in my family. 

this past week as I battled some old wounds,
I saw how slippery the ground around the pits of our life can be.
the lies that somehow the pit is “safer.”
the anger that wells.
the phantom conversations with the critics in our minds..

maybe only one or two, but with them, creating a mass of faces echoing,
“and I’m not the only one that feels this way. there are others.”
and the “others” of that accusation haunt you like shadows in the night.
never quite sure where or who.
but once those words spoken.. yes, they stick to you hard.


I don’t know about anyone else reading this..
but for me, with hurt has often come the need to prove myself.

to prove the critics wrong.
to show that person who thought they were so right about me, they’re not.


but. that’s a heavy way to live. with something to prove.

I can remember times in my life of even feeling I had to prove how
spiritual I was by how loving I could be..
acting as if I was forgiving.

anyone else get that with me?

of “doing good” as I was saying above, but with the motive of “proving myself.”

I guess bottom line, I’m done proving. {or, so want to be}

the irony is that we can spend so much of our lives striving for that person
or particular group’s approval when, if they’ve already judged us, cut us off,
determined we’re not worthy of grace..
all the proving we could do won’t change that!

it all leaves me exhausted.
feeling I must prove myself to those who choose to believe the worst of me.
and I’m tired of living exhausted.

Shayne said to me yesterday, you need to live for {invest, pour yourself into}
those who are going to cry at your funeral.
that narrows the field quite a bit. 

I was recently on my old blog, hutch5, and saw what my last entry said..

“I don’t live here anymore. I live here – grace.to.be.”

and I stared at those words for several seconds thinking. yes, exactly.

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That’s where I want to live. to really live.
that grace to be right where I am..

in all my mess and figuring things out, and wanting to get it right,
but not always doing so.

recognizing where I’m at is okay. because I’m not staying here.
this is a process. every step necessary to proceed to the next –
you cannot manufacture the heart of genuine forgiveness and love.
God builds it.

I truly believe that. over time. a long time. a lifetime really.
of coming back to Him again and again and again..

and there with our scabs peeled and bleeding, and tears streaming,
and maybe confusion and questions –

He, every time, does what He always does –
tenderly soothes and draws us in closer.

is it the pain. the reminders of the pain that are
part of the process of Him drawing us?
I think so. though I don’t like it.  but I see why.


I see that He loves me just the way I am.
but too much to let me stay that way.
and so, He brings change.

He allows circumstances that bring my focus back to Him.
that reveal my true heart condition –
and He is far more interested in what He’s doing IN me,
than what is going on around me!!

He digs up the hard ground of my heart.
tilling newness..
breaking away the old, planting tenderness.
and pain tills the deepest. 

I feel this urge to say that if pain produces that, then I’m glad for it.
but I can’t really say it loud. not yet. just a whisper still.
but it’s there. the belief. though small. it’s there.


right now. I just want to be moldable to His change.
to not, in the process of getting free from bitterness grow bitter at Him…
to question His Sovereignty.
to wonder why He doesn’t change circumstances
or why He doesn’t change the one that hurt me.

trust is hard in places like this.
but all I can do is pick up my own mess and take it to Him.

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I desire to live above the noise of past voices.
to grab hold of His joy again that bitterness seeks to steal.
and to feel the light..
the light in places where darkness once filled.

that’s the light of FREEDOM!
and in that light there is no need to prove myself to anyone.

but if something needs to be proved it is this…
and only this.
that no matter how flawed.
how scarred. the pain. the mess of me.

God is bigger!

and because of that,
there is no pit too deep that His grace doesn’t go deeper still.


and THAT is the life I’m holding onto today!!!

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*all photos {but two} credit to Ben!

world changers.


on the way to church yesterday i was scrolling through my Facebook.
after a highly charged political weekend it was FULL of emotions.
i have quite a diverse group of friends so there were opinions from every side.
i was reading some of them out loud to shayne and by the time i got to church
i just couldn’t turn my brain off.
our pastor was preaching a message titled, “living in babylon,”
which felt very fitting.
i dug in my purse for a pen and paper and couldn’t find anything except the babies-r-us registry
i had printed the day before for a friend’s shower.
so between the medela harmony breast pump line and bamboo muslin swaddle blanket,
i started scribbling thoughts as my mind swirled…

i was thinking of the unrest i feel coming from my country.
this sense of something so much bigger than me, and what am i to do about it?
what’s my part? how do i contribute?

i’m not sure i’ll ever be able to do much to actually change policies in washington.
but i do know i have influence with the lives within my own home.

i can teach my son to respect women. to be honorable and polite.
and if you haven’t had a blunt, lay it out conversation with your boys of what
exactly “objectifying women” looks like, you need to.
from loose locker talk after the game to every version of porn {which is the real issue we should be raging war against!} at their fingertips at every turn.

i try to tell ben, “don’t participate in any way when the guys are talking rude about a girl..”
don’t laugh. don’t listen. walk away.
it might be the “norm.” but it doesn’t have to be you!
be known for treating women well.
and how you treat women is how you view women.
and how you view women is based on the condition of your heart!

being a guy who strives for purity is not an easy thing in our society.
i totally believe moral responsibility is individual.
you cannot blame anyone for your lack of self-control.

but, i also want to teach my girls that beautiful does not equate sexual.
you can be attractive, love your body, embrace your sexuality without
having to have it on display.
your confidence comes from so much more than what you look like
and true worth is found in what cannot change.
no one can take the power you possess as a woman unless you give it!
we were created equal, but we can choose to serve.

men and women ARE different.
{and thank God we are!}
different is good!
we are not limited by our differences but strengthened
because there are certain things each brings to the table.
there are different roles to play, and that’s okay. that’s cool. that’s to be celebrated.

how society wants to define us is not the sum of who we are.
men are not sexual beasts any more than women are sexual objects.
we are so much MORE!

and this – God’s design is not bondage or anything to make excuses for.
God’s design done God’s way is freedom – Ultimate Freedom.
recognizing who i am. who i was created to be. and what i have to offer.

it’s easy to look around at the unrest or animosity in our country
and wonder if we can truly do anything to have an impact or bring change.
some feel they are to storm the castle of washington.
to rally and march and lift their voices with thousands of others.
those things have their place, and every one is entitled to their opinions.

but there is another arena. a quieter arena.
one with less pomp and pizzazz.
with no banners or signs or special t-shirts.
there’s no news report to broadcast and most will never know exactly all you do.
but you better believe a castle is being stormed nonetheless and voices lifted.
a battle is being raged and the trenches are deep.
we might not march shoulder to shoulder but we are in this together.

you might not see it now.
and you probably don’t feel it most days..
maybe you’re tired. a little overwhelmed.
but listen to me, women. moms. you ARE world changers!!
and in the most important place we need change
right in our own homes!
in the hearts and lives of the next generation.

don’t ever think for one second that because your voice isn’t as loud,
it is any less powerful.
or your work so mundane that it isn’t significant.
that wiping bums and chopping veggies and folding laundry and
kissing owies isn’t kingdom work.
it matters.
it’s important.
and you hold so much power {more than you know} to truly make a difference.

“if you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” -Mother Teresa

so, carry on warrior mama’s.
our country needs the work you’re doing.

{the most WONDER-FULL time of the year}

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i love christmas!
absolutely love LOVE it!
like buddy the elf, it’s my favorite.
from all the decorations and lights
to the messy live tree {that we never remember to water}
to all the greenery draped everywhere greenery can be draped.

the busy shopping malls
and everyone bustling about.
love those!
buying gifts and finding the prettiest paper
then sitting up late wrapping them all
and the look on the kids faces when they come down and see them.

the salvation army bell jinglers
who ring those bells like a boss!
volunteering at christmas cheer.
helping a needy family
and paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive through.
this time of year has me just wanting to throw 20 dollar bills out my window!
{to which i’m sure my husband would say, “isn’t that what you do?”} wink.

the colder weather and bundling up.
and parties and bonfires.
candy canes and hot chocolate {2 things i never like any other time}.
and wishing people a “merry christmas!”
that seems to strike this sweet connection when they say it back.

and the christmas music.
i never tire of it.
i play it at home. in my car.
i crank it extra loud.
nothing else is allowed to play in december.
i hum along to it in the store.
i see other people humming and smile.
it’s the best when you’re standing next to a stranger
and realize you’ve both been singing along to the music.

and the movies. love those too.
all of them.
and the traditions
and the advents
and the ugly sweaters
and the christmas books.
and the pageants
and programs
and candlelight services
and the carolers that come round.

i love the long line to see santa.
all the kids dressed in their cutest.
and buying {another} balsam fir candle from bath and body works.
cards in the mail and pretty family pictures
making cookies and eating all the good stuff.
of fires burning warm and going home to be with family

yes.
i love every.single.thing. about this time of year.

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but the one thing i love above it all.
and as i said to the kids tonight..
what will never stop amazing me and filling me with WONDER.
beyond all the sparkle and shine and what we see on the surface at christmas time-
the heart beneath it all.
the reason for celebration and HOPE and joY {all year through}.

we have a SAVIOUR!

because we were so flawed.. He had to come.
but because we were so loved.. He wanted to come.

the truth of that blows my mind every time.

WE HAVE A GOD THAT *LOVES* US!!!!

and that’s what Christmas is all about.

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“for unto you is born this day a Saviour
which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor.
The Mighty God.
The Everlasting Father.
The Prince of Peace.” Isa. 9:6

that’s Who came for us.
that’s Who loves us!

 

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{from the school parking lot to crossfit}

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i just wanted to jump on quick and share something that happened yesterday.

it had been an awful parenting day on tuesday.
navigating young adults isn’t the easiest.
and sometimes, when my fears and worries get the better of me,
i parent from my emotions. and that’s never a pretty thing!
so yesterday i just felt super defeated.
it’s amazing when one thing trips us up we feel like we’re losing on all fronts.
and i was battling the lies hard.

when i picked the little girls up from school we were walking back across
the parking lot when my friend, Mima, called to me.
Mima is from the Ukraine.
she has bright, white-blonde hair.
wears animal print everything.
had on a fluffy, brown fur hat.
and always, the biggest smile.

“Amber, my sweets, how are you?” she says in her broken english.
i love her accent!
and without missing a beat, and what she always does, looks at each of the girls..
“and Emma and Reese, how are you?”
then bending over, closer to reese..
“aw, my little Reese. how are you?”
she never usually gives you the chance to really answer.
just carries right on in her sing-songy way..
“reese, you are de BEST girl at school! my Freia tells me so.
she say, “mommy, Reese is de best girl at school..”

Reese smiled big. “thank you!”

Mima stopped talking and put her hand over her mouth, and stepped back.
looking at me with wide eyes. then raising her hands to the sky.
“oh! Bravo, Mama. Bravo! she know to say ‘Thank you.’ Bravo!! Bravo!!”

and i laughed because she’s so dramatic and funny!
and at first, inside i was kind of like, “she only said, “thank you!”
but then i stopped and suddenly felt sobered and touched as i realized,
“hey. maybe i’ve done a few things right in parenting..”
and though a small thing. it was a big deal to me to hear that. i needed that.
and i didn’t have time to stand and tell her exactly what that meant..
so i just let out a little sigh and said, “aw, Mima. i love you!”

and i can stil hear that Ukrainian voice cheering,
“Bravo, Mama. Bravo!!”

****

later that night i went to crossfit.
i always say i’m going earlier in the day, but i never do.
so usually 7/ 8 o’clock i’m finally getter there.
and some nights, like last night, i’m feeling tired and not a lot of motivation
the wod was air squats and sit ups which seem easy enough..
until your third or fourth rep when your legs go shaky and your stomach is burning.
it was a smaller class. a younger class. ;)
and everyone was done minutes before me.

i felt self conscious at first but tried to just dig in and focus.
i was doing my last round of sit ups and couldn’t even pull myself up anymore.
i laid on my back and wanted to quit.
one of the other girls that i’d never even met, came and stood over me.
“you got this! don’t give up!!”
she went and sat right in front of me. counting out loud.
and on the last 15. when i JUST.COULD.NOT.
she got up. came over. put her feet on mine to help hold my shaky legs down.
“let’s finish this, girl! you can do it!!”
and i felt a new surge of energy and flew through to the finish.
Avalon, as i later learned was her name, gave me a high five. then causally walked away.

that scene still makes me smile.

it’s like one of her jobs that night was just to help get me through.
and she did it. then moved on. no need to gush or grab coffee after.
just, here is a need. i’ll meet it. done.

and i can’t stop thinking of it all.
of those two women. unexpected sources of encouragement.
of how much they blessed my heart! and didn’t even know.
because it’s never really about what we think it’s about, right?
there’s so much more to the story.{there’s always so much more to the story}
we’ve no idea what’s going on inside someone.

we only see the surface.

we don’t know the pain. the burdens. what they’re facing. what they’re feeling.
or just the tough day{s} they’re having.

and it was a good reminder – be nice to people.

less judgement. more niceness.
{i’m getting t-shirts made} :)

there’s a lot of nasty people in the world.
but there’s a whole lot more good ones.
i really believe that.
be one of the good ones!

and if you’re reading this and maybe feeling like i did yesterday
let me stand on your feet a minute here tonight to help your shaky legs.
and with hands raised, and not as cute an accent as Mima, but still, i want to say to you..

Bravo, mama! You’re doing good.
{probably way better than you think you are}
Now don’t forget to breathe. {breathing is important!}
You’ve got this!! {don’t quit}

Sit up and finish strong!!! {one grace paved step at a time}

amen.

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{a celebration for 20 years}

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back in the summer we had talked about what to do for our 20th.
go on a trip.
buy each other new rings.
get matching tattoos {guess whose idea that was?}

but as it got closer i told shayne i really just wanted to have a big party with friends.
a time of celebrating and “re-commitment.”
and after all our marriage has been through in recent years,
now seemed the perfect timing for that.

and we wanted this to not just be a celebration of our marriage
but ALL marriage!

i was talking to girlfriend just this morning over coffee and we were
saying how more than ever marriages are under such attack! it’s crazy.
whether your relationship is healthy or shaky – i think we all feel it.
from every angle the tide is knocking hard against one of God’s most precious designs.

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so we asked three different couples from three different seasons of life to share.
newlyweds.
middle age.
and a couple that just celebrated their 50th.

i loved it!
it was such a highlight of the night hearing and learning from other couples.
and neat to see how they all, without talking beforehand
or knowing what the others were going to say, seemed to carry the same theme –
“God must be center in your relationship!”

it sounds so cliché or even superficial…
like it’s the expected thing a christian should say.
but bottom line, love cannot thrive in selfishness.
and i don’t know about you, but dying to myself..
putting another’s needs ahead of my own is not something that comes naturally to me.
i NEED supernatural help. a strength beyond myself.
“when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to The Rock that is higher..”

and yes. in the overwhelming times of my life, my marriage,
it has been clinging to The Rock that is Jesus Christ that has sustained me.

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it was important for shayne and i too
with this whole celebration thing, to do this for our kids.
we’re very open with them.
they won’t read something like this and be shocked, like,
“what? mom and dad have had problems!”
no. they’re well aware.
“i was wrong will you forgive me?” is often on replay round here.
and we’re okay with that.

i don’t care about trying to display some perfect, put together lives for my kids.
but i do care about showing them that when we mess up.. not “if” we mess up, when!
that there is grace and redemption and new mercy to try again!

my wedding day was special.
but this night, 20 years later with my kids watching
held so much more impact for me.
they are the why that motivates so much of what i do
and i want them to see what shayne and i have and say, “i want that too!”

sometimes we assume our kids are just catching on to what we hope to communicate.
but sometimes.. sometimes you have to make sure they’re really getting it.
that they’re hearing it. especially with teens!
that’s what this night was about.
with our kids front and center, and 100 of our closest friends and family
just saying it all out loud.

“we will finish strong!”

that’s the sweetest thing about community.
this safe place we can feel totally flawed
and yet entirely accepted at the same time!

shayne and i laid in bed the morning after and said how much
we were blown away by all the people that came out.
giving up their saturday night to simply come love on us..
it’s so humbling.

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everyone who knows me knows moving to canada was not easy.
the first few.. okay, FIVE! years here were tough.
but now. six years later i can truly say this feels like home!
and it’s because of the people.
i don’t know if it’s all canadians or just mine, ha.
but the ones we’ve been privileged to meet and know
are just some of the kindest, most sincere people anywhere.

to know you have this kind of resource in your life is such a GIFT!

i love what emma said the next day as we talked about the party.
that she liked how everyone was just talking to everyone.
even people that didn’t really know each other or had just met.
yeah. our group is inclusive!
we’re building a bigger table, so COME ON OVER!!

we ended the little ceremony part of the night in a time of prayer.
with the families of our small group gathered round.
these are the ones who have walked step for step and kept pace with us
during some of the hardest trials of our lives.
they are truly family.

and then we ate dessert and danced!

i had to laugh because shayne is so NOT a dancer.
he danced one song with me.
and the rest of the time it was basically me and my girlfriends and kids.
but i love the contentment i felt.
the freedom to be completely me in our marriage.
he talked and visited with everyone. which is what he likes doing.
and i danced and ate cake. which is what i like doing. {smile}

there was no expectations –
which would have been there earlier on in our marriage.
to feel we needed to be doing what the other was doing..
or what we THOUGHT the other thought we should be doing!
expectations ruin everything, don’t they.

but the whole room seemed to hold such a total atmosphere of joy!

which i think is what happens when judgement {and expectation} is set aside
and we love with no conditions in true freedom.~
such a beautiful thing.

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i used to {and i say “used to” lightly because i’m still working on it}
get so hung up on how shayne was loving me instead of first, taking care of my heart..
what i was doing to love him.
amazing the spirit, for good and for bad,
we can cultivate in our relationships and homes by simply switching our focus!

last year for our 19th i wrote a blog post, “19 things for 19 years.”
and i thought of writing 20 things for 20 but really..
i kinda feel it can basically be summed up in 3.

1.forgive forgive forgive forgive.
2.see from the other’s perspective.
3.and be the first to the cross.

that’s it.

when i live by those guidelines i have a much happier marriage.

and sure, our marriage still has {lots of} work to do.
we’re not where we want to be.
but praise God, we’re sure as heck not where we were!

earlier this year when we were in counseling one afternoon.
the counsellor stopped at one point and said,
“look at you. look at how you’re sitting. at how you’re holding hands..
your body language. your chemistry. the spirit between you.
you are a couple so deeply in love.
i can see it.
stop for a minute and look..”

yes. that’s it.
never stop looking.
for the love that is there.
for the love that was.
for how you can strengthen it.
for how you can get back to it.
for what you need to do in your own heart.

keep working on it.
and fighting {together, not against each other}.
and rallying.
and loving.
and CELEBRATING!!!

a good marriage isn’t something you find
it’s something you make.
and you have to keep on making it.
each and every day.

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“Look, {there’s that word again!} I’m doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not see it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isa.43:19

thank you, Father for 20 grace-filled years.

amen.

 

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{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.

 

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{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!

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