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


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.


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!”


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.

Graduate-1_MG_9050_MG_9072_MG_9053-mom & kate

“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}

dad2-bwPicMonkey Collage-2

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.

emma and dad bw

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.

reese and dad2

{of moments slow}


there’s those moments in motherhood where you just kind of stop dead in your tracks and look at your child and go, “when in the world did you grow up?”

surely it was only yesterday they were this little slobbering active toddler.
pulling out all the tupperware.
and throwing the rolls of toilet paper in the toilet faster than you could pull them out.
when all they wanted was to eat hotdogs and cheese dipped in ketchup.
but mainly, just ketchup.
and to read, “den, mommy. den.” the cat in the hat. how that book went on for hours, it seemed…
all it’s silliness and rhymes and your tongue tripping over itself.
and how they would laugh, thinking it all so funny!
and sometimes you would secretly skip pages.

and there’s this hurry around childhood.
even from the moment we first know we’re expecting, we just want baby here.
then, if only baby would sleep through the night.
will they ever wipe their own bum? cut their own food?
will i be tying their shoes on their wedding day?
and without realizing, we can slip into going through the motions..
of doing with our kids, but not really being.
of an underlying rush to simply survive the day. make it to another bedtime.
but hope the book chosen at bedtime isn’t, please, the cat in the hat!
something shorter. quicker.
and all this hurry. hurry.
she walks out of her bedroom navy blue and glorious and you stop mid sentence from talking to her friend’s mom that’s there..
and all those moments. all of them. they flood in.
from one day thinking the days are endless to the other thinking,”how did they end so soon?”


and she’ll walk down an aisle in a few weeks and graduate.
and who knows how many more until another aisle awaits.
and just like that.
those childhood days are over.
and new, exciting ones ahead, yes.
but different. changed.
new chapters and seasons.
and we can all sigh a little lonely at times for days gone.
but still, you don’t wish to go back.
what awaits is lovely too.
and loveliest of all is the new eyes in which you see it with now.


and when she emerges- this woman, happy and bright. and asks you to fasten her dress and hugs you tight. holding. you feel it. her grip. her slow. that pause. she sees it too.

do not rush the moments.

one of my fav pics of the night.. little sister at the table, eating, just taking it all in.

mom’s of littles.
mom’s still wondering if these long days ever end..
if sleep will ever come again and hot coffee.
mom’s still in the middle of endless books and toilet paper rolls unraveled.
and this non-stop one who just, from sun up to sun down, goes.
and you kinda wish for independence and days to come.
it’s normal. we all do.
i have littles ones still too..
you would think i would see it the most glaringly.
still. i forget. i’m selfish. i rush and i hurry.
but. a word to us all – mostly me – DON’T!

let’s hug a bit tighter
read a little slower
swing longer
stop more often
bend over to their level
give eye contact

living the moment. not rushing it to pass.
not distracted by documenting it.
just them. with you. no one noticing. no one seeing.
but they do.

and soon they’ll emerge wonderful and grown.
the days gone by a blur.
and you’ll realize it was more beautiful than you knew.


{for the foggy days}

“The fog of the broken heart.

It’s a dark fog that slyly imprisons the soul and refuses easy escape. It’s a silent mist that eclipses the sun and beckons the darkness. It’s a heavy cloud that honors no hour and respects no person. Depression, discouragement, disappointment, doubt.. all are companions of this dreaded presence.

The fog of the broken heart disorients our life. It makes it hard to see the road. Dim your lights. Wipe off your windshield. Slow down. Do what you wish, nothing helps. When this fog encircles us, our vision is blocked and tomorrow is a forever away. When this billowy blackness envelops us, the most earnest words of help and hope are but vacant phrases.

If you have ever been betrayed by a friend, you know what I mean. If you have ever been dumped by a spouse or abandoned by a parent, you have seen this fog. If you have ever placed a spade of dirt on a loved one’s casket or kept vigil at a dear one’s bedside, you too, recognize this cloud.

If you have been in this fog, or are in it now, you can be sure of one thing – you are not alone.

Even the saltiest of sea captains have lost their bearings because of the appearance of this unwanted cloud..  think back over the last two or three months. How many broken hearts did you encounter? How many wounded spirits did you witness? How many stories of tragedy did you read about? … The list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

Foggy tragedies. How they blind our vision and destroy our dreams. Forget any great hopes of reaching the world. Forget any plans of changing society. Forget any aspirations of moving mountains. Forget all that. Just help me make it through the night!

The suffering of the broken heart.
Seeing God..
does wonders for our own suffering.

God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when He hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden. And as a result, time spent in the fog of pain could be God’s greatest gift.

Time spent in the fog of pain could be God’s greatest gift.

It could be the hour that we finally see our Maker.
Maybe in our suffering we can see God like never before.

The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you’ll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.”
from, No Wonder They Call Him the Saviour by Max Lucado)

I read this this morning and wanted to share.
I kinda have a feeling it’s not just for me.

Whatever is pressing in.
Sitting heavy on your heart.
you know.
You don’t even have to stop and think very hard.
It’s just there.
So near the surface.
so sensitive. so fragile.
Maybe no one else knows.
but God does.
Not only does He know.
He’s using it.
Though pain is hard and which of us ever would choose it if given the option.
But pain catapults us into Jesus like nothing else.
then. I see it. and get it. if even, just a tiny bit.
give thanks in all things.
The trials. the heartache. the rejection. the questions unanswered.
We give thanks because we see beyond.
As pastor Saeed Abedini, who is in prison in Iran, and looks as if no end is in sight.
in a letter he wrote his little seven-year old daughter said,
I know you don’t understand why daddy is here. why I can’t be with you.
I know you have questions that God doesn’t seem to be answering.
but remember, my sweet Rebekka, the answer to your why is always Who.”

With tears streaming down my face in a huge convention center with a thousand women around me,
listening to naghmeh, his wife, read that.
I will never forget her words.
The spirit of God.

it is always Who.

Whatever it is your facing today.
and i’m thinking of my girlfriend, 7 months pregnant, who’s husband has left her and chosen another.
of my girlfriend who’s been through miscarriage after miscarriage and it’s mother’s day coming up.
and the little girl in my church who’s the same age as my reesey, and just said goodbye to her mommy. 38. cancer.
my friend who’s had 3 grand mal seizures in the past 3 months.
another in a broken friendship and people taking sides.
and hurts and hurls and the pain is all around us.
every direction.
the fog of the broken heart.

but. in the fog we find Him.

Makes me think of springtime here in Canada.
When all the snow is melting..
I remember the first one here.
Driving one afternoon and commenting to Shayne how thick the fog was.
how hard to see and dreary.
And he said, “oh, I’m happy to see the fog.
I remember growing up here and every spring, the fog was a welcome sight!
The fog means the snow is melting. going away. the fog is a good thing.”

a good thing?
yes. because when it lifts, there is new life!

loving this song right now

loving these verses –
“I called on Your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit.
from my sighing, from my cry for help,
You drew me near and said, “do not fear.”
You have redeemed my life!” lam. 3

May your heart be encouraged today.
there is HOPE!

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{kitchen update and the classroom of contentment}


when we were first married we lived in this small, cottage of a house in northern ontario.
i had so much fun decorating, and re-decorating that little place as a young bride.
my favorite spot was the kitchen!
i had all my cobalt blue and yellow fiestaware proudly displayed
on these cheap plywood shelves from wal-mart.
the plates and bowls and all different sized cute pitchers. i loved that stuff!
then, my kim anderson prints..
you remember the ones? the little kids dressed up like adults?
so little rascal-isque.
the actual kitchen itself was nothing to speak of.
a corner of a room basically.
an old green stove. no dishwasher. a small white fridge.
i remember when someone gave us a dishwasher.. a portable one.
the kind you have to wheel over and hook up to the sink!
we thought we were so cool. finally, we owned a dishwasher!!

our next home our kitchen wasn’t much bigger.
but i loved the old wood plank floors and tall, open windows.
i had moved on past the cobalt blue and yellow fiestaware but still
so enjoyed decorating that space.
that’s the kitchen where we discovered a nice little family
of snakes were living in the wall!
there were many dishes washed and dinners cooked standing up on a chair.
you think mice are bad? snakes are way worse!!

then, our home now..
it seemed i was destined to only have a corner space of countertops…
and hunter green marble formica ones at that!
the dark walnut cabinets made it all the more dismal.
the stove that had come with it was old –
the kind you can’t scrub the grease from because it’s embedded into it.
and i once set a can on the glass top too hard and shattered it,
so then it also sported a huge crack.
i learned how to strategically place my tea kettle over that spot to hide it.
and hoped when company came, no one wanted tea! ;)


to say God had worked on my heart in the area of contentment when it came to my home, specifically my kitchen, is an understatement.
i don’t know what it is about our kitchen as women..
maybe because it’s usually the center of the home.
the hub where everyone seems to first go when they come in.
the spot we gather. the place company always ends up standing.
where you spend hours thinking, creating, working, serving.
an extension, it seems, of who we are. how we love and care for our family.~
where memories are made. the cookies and gingerbread houses.
the easter eggs dyed and flour on the noses, as well as every possible inch of the kitchen too.

i thought i had learned about embracing what i had.
{an old busted stove can cook a meal just as well as a fancy one!}
being grateful. content.

when we bought this home last summer i was thrilled.
not only because it was the first home we’d ever owned,
but because i’d really given up that we ever would!
so, in the fall when shayne said we could start doing some reno’s,
starting with the kitchen, well.. i just couldn’t even!!
i mean, seriously.
i’ve always wanted to walk into home depot, stroll up and down the faucet aisle and say,
“i’ll take that one!”
i’d seen others do it. ;)
most of our times in there were always to only look. and dream.
and the day we bought our dishwasher. y’all!!
i STILL look at that thing and get butterflies!!

the whole process of deciding and planning and picking out has been so fun!
i’m so, so grateful for how God has provided.
and quickly, let me insert, to those of you struggling financially – –
that are living in that rental.
that tiny corner kitchen with the ugly cabinets and hideous countertops.
those overwhelming bills coming in faster than it seems you can make money.
we’ve been there.
i thought we always would be.
we might be there again in the future. who knows?
but, this i do.. that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. truly.
you might not see it yet. feel it. believe there could be. but there is.
there will be a way through. you’ll make it!
maybe money will always be a stress, but in coming “through” i guarantee
you’ll come out seeing how rich you really are.
that there are far more important things than owning homes and renovating kitchens.
you probably already know that now.
but on those days you forget.
for those of you still in that very real, very hard struggle of finances.
i totally understand.~

which is why you would THINK as i look at my kitchen progress..
the fact that i’ve never had anything this nice in my life i wouldn’t be able to be
anything but completely grateful.
and i am. but..
and isn’t that the way it is.
that small, nagging grumble inside. where the discontentment festers.
because it’s never about what we have, is it? but what we don’t.
and what we don’t have always, or seems to on those days we’re focused there, outweigh what we do.


a few weeks ago i found myself in that old familiar battle..
kinda shaking my head in surprise! how could i?
i mean, from snakes in the wall to washing dishes by hand,
to now the opera song of dishwashers and quartz countertops!
how could i grumble about any of it.

but, i’m afraid. far too easy.

i was looking at all that still needed to be done. that feels it never will.
perhaps we’ll be living with hockey tape pulls as handles {thanks for thinking of that, ben!}
and no baseboard or finished window seat forever.~
or the floor! it’s one of my favorite things. i adore that floor!
but can we just have a moment of silence for how it shows every.little.thing!!!
and we have four kids and one big, hairy dog.
so when i say, every.little.thing!!! i mean, every.little.thing!!!
and every day i’m sweeping and thinking, “is this my life now?”
to never do anything ever again except SWEEP THIS FLOOR!!!!!

and the stove! hold the phone!!
i have to tell you about the stove. it’s absolutely gorgeous!
i still walk into the kitchen and stop and look at that shiny thing
and can’t believe it’s mine.
it was given to us by shayne’s parents.
his mom thought something was wrong with it..
the temperature didn’t seem to hold well when you’re baking, or something.
she asked if we wanted it, even if it might not work great.
i looked at our old, smash topped stove with the tea kettle hiding the crack –
“uh, hello! YES, we’ll take it.”

coolest thing. the company they bought it from was replacing theirs with another.
and since we’ve got this one, not a single thing has been wrong with it!
works perfectly.
so, new stove for them. new for us! win all around. {thank you, Jesus}
and it’s way fancier than anything we would have been able to afford.
but you know what?
that thing shows grease, and dirt, and the occasional dog hair that floats in, like crazy.
again. full time job i’m thinking just to keep it clean!

and so, there i was, grumbling around.
finding myself easily frustrated with everything.
and it struck me that after years of fighting for contentment with what i had. making do.
now that i had nicer. better. the things i had wished for back then..
discontentment was still an issue!


just as floors still get dirty. stoves, no matter how fancy, still need cleaned.
yes, hearts have to be renewed. swept out. the junk removed.
ever learning again and again where my joy is found.
never in what i don’t have. in what i think i need or want.
but always, in what i already have.~
and more than that. not in what i HAVE, who i AM!
my things do not define me.
my home. my kitchen. no matter how nice or state of the art or shiny or fancy or all
natural maple whatever can make me kind and gracious and pleasant to those i’m called
to serve within these four walls.
they can’t give me more patience or humility or love.~

that only comes from a heart tender, surrendered, seeing the bigger picture.
only in remembering it is so not about me. about any of this..
and only about a life that brings glory to God! that is the only place of rest.
because when we recognize that. accept that. we realize that whether we’re living in a small, cottage of a house in northern ontario, with a dishwasher you have to drag over to the sink! or 250-year-old farmhouse with snakes in the walls and drafty windows. or a rental home, through a miracle, you were able to buy and begin to fix up!

no matter what.
no matter where.
it’s about a greater purpose.
all these {{things}} are only the tools to accomplish that.
whether brand spanking new, or old, cracked, and barely working.
that’s when we discover true contentment.
when we’re happiest.
living with a focus on something beyond ourselves.


but now if you’ll excuse me.. the sun is starting to peek in through the windows and
i’m looking at that lovely wood floor.

where’s my broom!!!! ;))


happy thursday, friends.

{the house that made me}

we went home last week during the kids spring break.
we weren’t going to.
just so much going on.
the idea of packing and the extra cost and 10 hours in the car just didn’t sound that inviting.
i was craving rest. the kind that goes beyond just needing a good night’s rest.
which is spring break. only here, in canada, it’s known as march break.
go figure.
it gets so confusing at a times keeping all the american/ canadian things straight..
grade 4 vs. 4th grade
bbq vs. grill.
toque vs. hat
pro {long o} cess vs. pro {short o} cess
so many funny, just slightly different differences.
i like to throw in y’all every now and then too, just to confuse everyone.
here, people think i have an accent.
when i go home, people there say i sound canadian.
who knows, anymore. ha!

but we stayed an extra day when we were home.
i needed to.
shayne understands that. i’m glad he does.
i don’t know what it is.
sometimes when we’re set to leave, i just don’t feel ready.
well, part of me never really does.
but there are times. no, i mean it. i’m not ready.
it’s not out of my system yet. i haven’t felt my full time.
and if i leave before i feel that i struggle for days coming back with this huge void inside.
craziest thing.
home and family and our attachment to familiar places and yet without the people would they mean anything.

on our last night we went back by our old house.
it’s empty now.
a chain across the driveway.
it seemed so strange.
so distant. like another lifetime we’d lived there.
then again. walking up the drive, it felt strangely the same and like no time had passed at all.
that we should just walk right up, go in the backdoor, and sit at our kitchen table.
the place is all torn up inside actually.
like, someone has started renovating it, but stopped for whatever reason.
we looked in windows. and walked all around the property.
the woods have been cleared and a small pond dug out.

kate and ben were with us, not the little girls.
i stood back from the rest and just watched them most of the time.
the way they ran right to the spots they used to play.
their treehouse. and where their dog was buried.
i would hear them laugh about a funny memory.
then swallow back a tear as i saw their face grow sober.
they kept saying, “i miss this place!”

and ben said, “man! it seems smaller!”
i smiled.
he doesn’t realize, i don’t think, he’s actually bigger.

later i heard him say, “this is the house that made me..”

and i could feel it too.
the summer’s spent digging in my flower bed in front of the shed, now torn down.
the hours of tag and romping through the woods. the walks down to the river.
the nights sitting on the patio looking up at the stars.
the dreams of someday making that house ours. the way we were going to build on. fix up.
the photo shoots all around the property. kate’s 10th birthday.
christmas parties.
shayne’s work crew {the shayne gang as they were called}
the sweet tea drank as we all sat around when they got back from work each day.
the dogs and stray cats that showed up.
the dogs and stray cats we kept!

the tears shed there. the laughter. the fights. the falling apart.
the finding out we were pregnant with emma. and the feeling sad that reese would never know that house.
the landlords that were so kind to us.
10 kids of their own and they called us, “just one of them.”
the snakes in the basement. the bat in the bathroom. the bird in the living room.
the fears that were faced. the dreams that were made. the late nights writing.
the walls filled with so much. our lives! our making, as ben said.

and then this weird, nostalgia that swept behind us as we walked back down the long, windy drive to the road.
i saw my kids walking over in the woods. one last look at something.
a grape vine they used to swing on, i think. though no longer there.
i smiled.
i felt the wind. the coolness of the evening setting in.
all the evenings we had spent there.
those pieces of us left behind.
that we only find again by going back.

the old place had changed. just like we had.
more worn now. tired. older. quieter.
but we knew what it held.
what it was. what it had helped us become..
and something in me will always miss that place.

{looking back}

lighter bw -October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_53-2-2October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_666October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_709

usually every year i write a, ‘merry christmas from the hutch house,’
and share our family pictures and what God’s taught me the past year.
i meant to do it this year but time got away and when there was the time
i didn’t want to spend it writing all about it in a blog post.

so you say, “someday…” and tuck it away.
and yet. sometimes, you don’t even know yourself what you want to say.
how to process. sort through.
sometimes it all just needs to sit.
the ugly stuff settling to the bottom.
the fog of others thoughts lifting to reveal your own.
and over and over, when i wanted to write i was met instead with, “wait. be still.”
something i don’t do well. but something i’m learning.
no. i don’t always need to share. to explain. to prove. to be understood.
there is this tremendous peace when you stop trying so hard.

so january passed. february. is it really already march?
and i dyed my hair red cause it’s something i’ve always wanted to do.
and so liberating in this, “i didn’t realize how liberating it would be!” kind of way.
and turned a year older. and feel as if i’m only, finally now, growing up.

by the fence-shayne and amberOctober 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_690October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_148-2

i remember standing on the precipice of 40..
a girlfriend just ahead of me saying,
“something about 40 that makes you want to be done with all the bull crap of life.”
though crap wasn’t the word she used and yeah, it might not quite cut it.
but my dad reads my blog and so crap it is. ;)

but i felt that. the need for cleaning out. letting go. growing up.
i’ll never forget praying on my 40th birthday that this would be the year
i found freedom from the chains long captive to.
thing is, when you pray something, be prepared –
how God answers prayer is seldom how we think.
it’s no sprinkling of fairy dust and wa-la, chains fall free.
it’s often through pain and tears and crying out, “never mind, God! i take it back..
i changed my mind. freedom cost too much. i didn’t know it would hurt like this!”
and we exchange a heart of peace for captivity? why?
because.. because in the releasing, in the ripping away of all that needs ripping away
from our heart the pain is too great.

bondage feels easier in those moments.

so we trade in our birthright for satan’s lies.
our security for striving.
true relationship for smoke screen fears.
and we have no idea (not really) that it is for FREEDOM Christ has set us free!!
we walk as slaves. we choose to be slaves to those things that bind us because, yes..
freedom is never free and the cost can be too high.
like the children of Israel we wander in a desert wasteland.
we murmur and question and wonder where God is,
when the promised land lies inches away.

head of truth – what we know we’re to do.
heart of doubt – what we can’t bring ourselves to obey.

and the giants of our lives taunt and sneer and convince us.. slaves is all we’ll ever be!
and sometimes in the fight. in the midst of those prayers cried, “God, set me free!”
all you can do is stand, doubled over, one foot slightly stepping forward.
it barely feels like anything and you think you’re getting nowhere. the enemy has won.
but that’s the thing.. victory is in the small steps.

and then that day.. or was it that moment? or who knows when exactly?
you look up and realize you’re where you were trying to get!
maybe not very far in, but IN nonetheless.
you realize it most by the lightness you feel.
and looking back, there it is.. you see it now.
chains lay, not in a great heap at the start where you wished they had fallen.
but every step.
every hard, tear filled step you thought was too painful..
another link broken.

October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_739October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_716-2christmasedit6

the biggest lesson of 2014? two parts.
freedom in your heart is worth the fight.
and seldom comes about the way you think it will.
and in the fight for that freedom -no matter what ..
even if it’s that thing that had you thought of it on the other side
you would have seen no recovery from. no way to get past. get over.
but when that fear is realized, and then, (and because it always does),
the other side comes –
you look back and see God brought you THROUGH!
through the wilderness. through the red sea.
through what seemed overwhelming. impossible.
and though it’s not a loud, roaring, chest thumping cry of victory.
(because any soldier knows there will always be more battles)
but simply that deep, quiet confidence within, that fear is no longer present?
no. that fear no longer controls my life.

knowing as i move forward that no matter what may ever come..
“sweet Jesus, we’ve been here together before.”

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_104-2-2October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_3October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_208-2

seems so easy to write it now. almost flippant.
only God knows the intensity of doubt.
the times i wanted to utterly and completely give up.
the times of clenched fist in anger that it seemed He was nowhere.
and yet, and only if you’ve been there do you know what i mean..
still feeling the tenderness of His mercy never stopping it’s embrace.

eventually, stiff arms softened. and my hands opened in trust
free falling into His unconditional (and aren’t you glad it is) love.

part of the process of getting through something is coming to a place of surrender.
when it stops being about everyone else and it’s just, and only, about you.
when you stop holding others offenses higher than your own, and it’s simply about what
He wants to do in you.
nothing can harm us (not that it won’t hurt), when our hearts are yielded to His will.
only then can we see all things working together for good.
because it is? no, because He is!

familyedit-finalforcardOctober 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_17October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_264-2

i’m thankful for the battles won in my heart over this past year
i’m thankful for the battles lost too.
both remind me how very much i need a Savior.

praise God, we’ve got one.

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_91-2-3October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_576October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_753October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_29-2-2shayneandamber-field4October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_661


“earth holds no sorrow, heaven cannot heal.”


October 24, 2014_Ignite Barrie_641

{when we think we’ve missed the miracle}

i sat with a friend last night in her living room.
the warm fireplace flickering to the side, glowing orange.
i stared into her face. warm, flush from the fire.
but something more –
this glowing that i would say i’ve only ever seen in few people.
it’s the glow of intimacy with God and you recognize it.

i had went with gift in hand to try to offer some sort of solace
a slight encouragement, maybe.
it was the anniversary of her daughter passing.
seven years ago now. and jennie would be seventeen.
same as kate.
i didn’t know her. we only met their family recently.
but i wished i had.
i love what i’ve heard of her.
i think she and kate would have been grand friends.

i sit. coat still on. not wanting to stay long.
not wanting to intrude. this ground of grief so sacred. so precious.
and i just listen..
listen as this mother talks.
talks of what it’s like to lose a child.
talks of loss. of pain unthinkable.
of things that can’t even be put into words.
and how i wished i had a pen and paper to write all the wisdom.
those who have weathered these kind of storms and not turned back-
they’re the ones i want to learn from.
i feel a lump rise in my throat and chills go up my arms as she looks
me in the eyes and leans forward slightly, saying,
with her british accent faint except on the word, “God,” and then i hear it clear.

“God is a good God. He really is.
i believe that with all my heart.”

and she talks on. of having to come to this place of believing.
that there comes a time in all our lives where we must choose. is it true?
more than the sunday school answers. the spiritual jargon we’ve heard our whole life.
when things shake us to our core we’re faced with the gut wrenching battle of,
“God is either who He says He is, or He is not.”

“but where is hope if not for him.” my friend says with a smile.

“it is not the life i would have chosen. nor ever imagined in a thousand years.
but i believe that God {that strong british accent again} knows what He’s doing.”

and i was gripped and challenged and my own problems seemed so miniscule.
this courage she had seemed contagious –
i felt it filling me.
we can trust His sovereignty.
the answer to our why is always Who!

“so many people said to us, ‘we prayed for a miracle, and it didn’t happen..’ ”

and i see a softness in her.

“but this is the miracle – He sustains.”

and i swallow and blink hard.

“and keeps doing so…
when i didn’t have any idea in the world how i was going to survive.
how i was going to get through a single day. go on.
i look back now and all i can say, He sustains.”

and i nod. this understanding. this hope. i get it.

we pray for healing. for help.
for bills to be met. for relationships to be mended.
we want rescued. relieved. ease. comfort. evidence.

we think God hasn’t given the miracles we’ve sought.
but that He has carried us through it all.
that we have been SUSTAINED.

THIS is the miracle.


“And the radical wonder of it stuns me happy, hushes me still:
it’s all Christ. Every moment, every event, every happening.
It’s all Christ and in Christ we are always safe…

When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ’s safe arms,
true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust!

We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect
in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust!

We can give thanks in everything because there’s a good God leading,
working all things into good. It is safe to trust!

The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye,
but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust!

Each bridge I need cross, from one moment to moment to next, is wholly safe,
each leading me deeper into Him and closer Home.

And I hear that hurting voice again.. those aching voices I have known and still cry:
There are moments that as sure as I bruise don’t feel like good things
have been given. What of all the memories where Christ seems absent?
When the bridge shakes and heaves..

Trauma’s storm can mask the Christ and feelings can lie.

I draw all the hurting voices close and I touch their scars with a whisper:
sometimes we don’t fully see that in Christ, because of Christ, through Christ,
He does give us all things good – until we have the perspective of years.

In time, years, dust settles.
In memory, ages, God emerges.

Then when we look back, we see God…”     -one thousand gifts


{the next day}

you know how it is, moms, when your kids are in school.
the PAPERWORK!!! {can we just take a moment?}
there’s just so much. every day. all the time. i can never keep up with it all.
new ones come before the old ones are read.
and i try, really i do, at first, in the beginning..
when there’s 50 million forms to sign and safe arrival? do we want that?
consent to play sports, go to the library, drink milk, use the class kleenex box…?
i’m pretty sure somewhere in there i’ve signed my kids first two years out of high
school away to serve in the royal Canadian Mounties.

but, seriously!

the agendas. and calendars. and lunch programs. and fundraisers. and special events. the side of my fridge is like a filing cabinet with all the kids constantly shuffling their
papers, making sure theirs is at the front of the stack. and always the, “hey.. who moved my football schedule?” or, “hey.. where’s my class list?” and things get buried. and
forgotten. even lost! {the fridge must be a relative of the dryer-things magically
disappear} and the paper about the kindergarten christmas program i’m pretty sure is still in a pile on top of the paint can sitting in the middle of my kitchen floor, covered in about six inches of drywall dust. good thing reese’s teacher emails too and when i got that one, way back the first of december, i immediately tore out a sheet of paper from the notebook in front of me and wrote the date and time and all the details in big letters across the whole page and stuck it front and center on the fridge!!

as the weeks passed and the time got closer i would often ask Reese, “are you excited about your christmas program? daddy and i can’t wait to see it!” and she’d grin all shy and proud and tell me she might forget some of the words. so we’d work on them. when sunday night rolled around i did my mental list of each kid for the week and what was happening and where and when they needed to be places. i knew reese had to have a red or green shirt for the program and i made sure to take care of that first thing. and there was basketball and volleyball and emma had some make up classes for dance.

by wednesday i was glad for a little break of the crazy two days and finally got my
christmas cards ordered and a bit caught up on some editing. i strolled over to the school early to get the girls and thought is was odd no other parents were waiting
outside the kindergarten class like they usually are. when the teacher saw me and opened the door reese was the only one left. i’m usually one of the first ones to pick up so i thought everyone else must have just been really on the ball and extra early to my
earliness. i thanked the teacher, like always, and told her we’d see her tomorrow. she smiled and waved and reese and i walked over to where we meet up with emma.

“how was your day?” i asked reese as we walked.

“dood.” she stopped and kicked at a pile of snow, then jumped over it. “our prodram was today.”

“what program?”

“da one for da moms and dads.”

by this time emma was with us and emma piped in, “your program wasn’t today, reesey..
that was the primary classes in the gym.”

“NO! IT WAS TODAY!!” reese insisted.

“i don’t think it was, mom.” emma went on, “the primary classes put on two programs and i was at both of them and i didn’t see reese on stage..”

“i was in da ober stage.”

“reesey, i think you must have just been practicing.” i told her. “your program is
TOMORROW. on thursday. mommy has it all written down and everything. your teacher emailed me. daddy and i are coming tomorrow, THURSDAY, to watch your show!”

by now we were to the van and the talk of school and programs kind of dies off. the rest of the night was spent picking up older kids, watching basketball games, a trip to the grocery, and not another thought about the program that was, for sure, TOMORROW.

this morning, i got up in enough time to give reese a bath and wash her hair. her little red and white shirt laid out all ready for her to wear. as i dressed her and asked if she was nervous and did she think she’d remember the words for her songs she looked at me confused,

“i did. i did it yesterday..”

suddenly. it was one of those mom moments where you’re looking into your kids eyes and you know! you just know!! and i went to my laptop and opened my email, searching quickly and finding the one with the subject line, “Kindergarten Christmas Program.” i clicked on it and my heart immediately fell as i saw in bold, black letter
“Parents are invited to join us in celebrating the Christmas season on WEDNESDAY…”
i didn’t even get past that part. i just sat there. staring at the word, WEDNESDAY.


“no, wait? is today wednesday? i think it is? the 17th right?”

and i went and dug my pocket organizer out of my purse {a lot of good that thing does me!} to see what today’s date actually was. “the 18th? that can’t be right! did we skip the 17th? is this like those months that only have 30 days and i can never remember which ones they are? every 10 years we skip the 17th day of december or something? why did i think thursday? and WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THAT PIECE OF NOTEBOOK PAPER I PUT ON THE FRIDGE???”

as the harsh reality set in that there wasn’t actually some kind of cosmic lapse of dates i felt sick to my stomach. literally! s i c k. who does that? this wasn’t, “oh, i forgot it was ‘wear your reindeer antlers to school’!” no. this was, “it’s my baby’s first ever christmas program at school!!” and i was sitting, not even FIVE minutes away at home, editing
pictures!! clueless.

i went to reese and got down on my knees at her eye level.
“reesey, ” i gulped. “your program was YESTERDAY!!!!!”
she just looked at me blankly. “i know!”
“i’m so, so sorry daddy and i missed it..” launching into this whole, long explanation that i’m not sure her four-year brain really got, or even cared.

“vell.. i didn’t know where you duys were and i ask-ed my teacher and she said i tood sit wif her tause you weren’t there. but tristian’s mom wasn’t there eiber but he didn’t sit wif da teacher..”

and my heart just sank as i listened.

EVERYONE was there! {well, except christian’s mom but still.. that’s practically
EVERYONE!} and i hated thinking of her looking for us. anticipating us being there.
and not. and then. bless her! she had gotten herself dressed that morning – a little brown shirt and black leggings with a hole at the knee that i didn’t see until we were walking out the door, and then it was too late to change and i had thrown her hair up into a couple lopsided pigtails after we pulled into the school parking lot. i cringed a bit
inside picturing the scene.. like in a movie, as every other child stands festive and coordinated and hair combed, and my sweet little bright-haired, sad-faced raggamuffin with her brown shirt and holey leggings and lopsided pigtails looking like an orphan child!

when we got to school this morning i went in and explained to the teacher.
she was kind and, “oh, there were a few others that forgot too..”

“but.. i DIDN’T forget!” i wanted to say. “i just wrote down the WRONG date!! and that’s SO not the same thing as forgetting!!” but i smiled weakly and thanked her and said, yes, i would like a picture of all the kids from the program {yesterday} when she offered to email one. and all day i just.could.not.get.over.it. i felt so awful!!

worst mom of the year award?
{*raises hand* pass it down?}

because as moms THIS is what we do!! this is it.
our lives. pouring into theirs.
every day. all day. trying not to miss a thing. trying to get it right.

and we’re constantly thinking of who is where and where is who and when is this and what is that. are they too hot? are they too cold? did they eat enough veggies? did they eat TOO many veggies? are we being too strict? are we being too lenient? did we take enough time? did we make them feel loved? accepted? cared for? important? this is our JOB! our priority. and though crazy chaotic most days. we.love.it. because we love them. that’s why we organize and pack and prepare and keep track and remind and read and stay on top of it all and get up and make up and most days no make up because there isn’t any time and we get everyone where and when and how they’re supposed to be somewhere. and always, always we SHOW UP!

so this? this of all things. of not being there when she needed me.
this feeling i had let her down. it crushed and defeated me a good part of the day –
but then driving back from home depot this afternoon i had to smile remembering as i put reese’s boots on her this morning. emma, ever my little encourager, saying brightly, “it’s okay that you missed the program, mom. you’re still the best mom in the world!.” and then a little prodding to her sister, “isn’t she reese?”

and reese looked up, hesitating a minute, and i cupped her face in my hands and put my nose to hers, “what do you think, baby?” and she broke out into this huge smile and threw her arms around my neck, squeezing hard, “you’re my favorite!”

and i held that little girl and thanked God for the resilience and tenderness of young hearts and how old hearts have much to learn from them!

yes. there’s going to be days we get it right.
and days we get it oh, so wrong.

but there is something called the next day
and it waits with fresh mercies and new opportunities.

so we let it go, and move on.

October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_181 October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_184 October 29, 2014_Hutchins Family_187

*photo credit to the beautiful alyssa fleming of joline photography :)

{shop.the.house.-a little bedroom facelift}


it all started on wednesday with me deciding to make my bed at four in the afternoon..

which led to me noticing all the dust that had piled up on the carpet around the bed posts. which led to me lifting the bed skirt in an attempt to get to it. which led to me realizing someone had obviously been LIVING UNDER OUR BED!!!!

oh, the STUFF!

and the only way to get it out was to move the bed.
which resulted in needing to rearrange the whole room. {of course}.

since the boys were gone to basketball practice i called the girls in to help.
and with christmas music piping out in the background we all pushed and pulled and LAUGHED at our efforts and finally decided taking mattresses off beds and drawers out of dressers make things WAAAY lighter and easier to move!

we eventually got things where we were trying to go.
and after “shopping the house” to pull in some new additions including my garage sale chandelier that used to hang in the kitchen, i’m pleased with the open, brighter feel.

not to mention completely EMPTY space under our bed!!
with the downstairs still in disarray from the kitchen renovations it’s nice to have a spot that’s clean and together.

_MG_8325 _MG_8389


i’ve been wanting to do a gallery wall somewhere in the house for a while and realized the other night one of the big long walls in our rooms would be perfect –
so after gathering up all the frames i could find and laying them out on the floor first to kinda have an idea of where to hang them, i started nailing away. i always cringe and chuckle at the same time thinking whoever would buy this house after us.. once all my things are off the walls it’ll look like someone was having target practice in here.
my husband tells me there’s such a thing as a tape measure and level, but.. ain’t nobody got time for that!!! ;)

i don’t have any before & after pictures since i wasn’t exactly planning to tackle this room, but i do have a couple of shots from last year that show the “gallery wall” before.

here it is before:


and after:


our bedroom furniture is what we’ve had since we were first married.
18 years old now.
it was dark cherry and i ordered it from j.c. penny catalog.
i remember how thrilled i was at the idea of our very own first pieces of furniture!

when i got tired of the dark color a few years ago and wanted different i broke out the white spray paint.

the little bookshelf that sits behind the door was actually mine when i was a teenager.
it’s been nearly every color in the world – including my attempt at a rose vine down the sides when i was in my “artist phase.” ;)

{there’s nothing a little white spray paint can’t fix!}

i’d paint that confederate blue carpet too if i could.
but for now, it’ll do.
besides, if you squint just right it kind of, sort of, could be grey, no? haha.


i mentioned in my last post about contentment
and our homes feel like such a center of that often for us as women.

i know the budget isn’t always there for us to do the things we want or even need to do at times but i think with a little creativity and determination there is so much we CAN do. with what we already have.

my mom was so great at this when i was growing up.
i would watch how she would rearrange the living furniture every few months –
angle a chair just so. throw a cozy looking blanket over the footstool.
all small touches that made big differences without having to spend a dime.

amazing how the right perspective effects even our decorating.
i love it. i think it’s cool watching it all unfold and grow..
not only with our style changes but heart changes too.


happy week-ending, friends. xo