Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Thanks-living {and a Mt. Everest update}

Trek 4 TEF logo

Last February, I shared about a dream my husband had.

A Mt. Everest-sized dream.


I wrote this post about it, where I explained all the details of the fundraiser he'd begun to raise money for a foundation which offers Christ-centered support for families with children who have special needs. It is a cause close to his heart. But this particular fundraiser is unique in that it includes a trek up to the base camp of Mt. Everest. Nine adventurous folks are on the team. And in that post linked above, there is a very touching video explaining the trip and featuring Eli, a teen with down syndrome, who is also making the trek. If you haven't seen it, go now! I'll wait. It's really short.

Okay, wasn't that amazing? Didn't you sorta tear up at the end? Fast forward one year to now, and my husband leaves FRIDAY for Nepal. I know what you're thinking. Wow, this trip is happening in the midst of our big, cross-country move?? Yes, that's right. God has some crazy ideas. Talk to Him about it.

So last night as I lay awake thinking about it, I felt sad because I will miss him. It is a long trip, and we've never, EVER been apart for that long. But also I am so incredibly proud of him heeding the call to tackle this mountain. The literal mountain, and the mountain of a cause, supporting families who need some extra support, all in the name of Jesus.

This month, I'm focusing my gratitude on my husband and on God for pulling this whole thing off. A few days ago, I heard that a couple of the team members had not met their fundraising goals. It was an issue; the leadership didn't feel right prohibiting their participation, but on the other hand, would letting them participate be fair to those who worked that much harder to raise the funds? About two days later, the Trek4TEF website received a large, anonymous donation that not only made up for the difference, but exceeded the total deficit by $2000.

I was immediately reminded of the loaves and fishes. When Jesus fed the 5000 men on the hillside using only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, He didn't miraculously multiply the resources to provide simply enough for the people to eat. Nope. Why would He be so practical? Of course He took the opportunity to tell us something about Himself. He's not just Circus Jesus who can perform miracles. The Bible records that there were 12 baskets full of leftover food. That's not only a God. That's a generous God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20

It's not even just about the money. I know God will give generously to each of the climbers during the whole trip. He is generous with His presence, His strength, His wisdom. The Lord is our Shepherd, and we (all) shall not want for anything that He decides we need. I'm so thankful for my generous God. And I'm so thankful for my obedient, passionate, and courageous husband. If you think about Him and the team over the next few weeks, please pray for smooth travels, their safety, and that God's purposes for this trip in the lives of all the climbers would be fulfilled.

So goodness, February has been quite a month.
What happened in your life for which you can say thanks?

{link up your Thanks-living post below and if you'd like to use the community button, feel free to copy and paste the text in the box into your post}




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How moving is sort of like childbirth


Let me introduce you to my recently dubbed "moving jeans." They are, or used to be, cute skinny jeans, but are now so thrashed that they are super comfy for working around the house. I have lost track of the number of days I have worn these in a row. I have also fashionably paired them with either my Mumford & Sons concert tee as seen above (because it's comforting to know those guys are helping me pack), or a recent purchase from the men's department in Target, a bright green Guinness tee. I myself can't stand beer, but my husband digs Guinness. I just dig green. This has been my uniform and so I can't exit the car at school during drop off or pick up because someone might spy this ensemble being repeated a socially unacceptable number of times in a row.

Moving is like childbirth because you conveniently forget how horrible it is when it is happening. And because you don't really remember what it's like, you decide to do it again and again.

Well, I guess it's not the forgetting, exactly, that makes you want to move again or have another baby. It's the remembering of all the good reasons you chose it in the first place. The good just far overshadows the horrible process you have to go through to get there. And so our polarized memories tell us, "It wasn't that bad," when, yeah, it totally absolutely was. I remember a few weeks ago telling my husband, "Moving won't be bad at all! We don't have that much stuff." Well guess what. I was very, very wrong. In reality, it's sort of appalling at how much stuff we have. I've never moved with kids before, so unearthing all the stuff that my kids alone have has been dizzying in an of itself.

Moving is not my favorite because chaos is not my favorite. Having every surface strewn with random junk that doesn't fit into any category of box is the definition of chaos, I think. And the thought that every box that gets packed also has to get UNPACKED down the line.....I can't even think about that yet. It has been a blurry, dusty past week.

What I want to think about is the good that will eventually overshadow this tedious packing ordeal. I know in my mind that the fruit of this labor will be so sweet that one day, the labor will seem as nothing at all. Totally insignificant. That's what fixing our eyes on Jesus means, I believe. The places He brings us are sometimes at the end of harrowing, difficult roads. But the rewards at the end are so satisfying that the road and it's troubles are quickly forgotten.

But for now, I'm treating myself to make it through. Girl Scout cookies. Lots and lots of iced tea. And today, an amazing new album by Penny and Sparrow on repeat.

And before I head to bed, I wanted to thank you for all your kind words on my last post regarding our move. I am so grateful for your prayers, and your words of encouragement mean so much. Seriously, every single word. Thank you friends. My struggles through this time of transition are being eased by your generous kindness. I'd give you each a big hug if I could.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

California to Cowgirl {some very big news}


Jesus was known for a lot of things.

But one of them was not predictability.

He usually said the thing least expected, chose the least worthy, and made his biggest moves when, according to the religious leaders, it seemed the most scandalous.

One thing I've learned over the years is that if you are walking with Jesus and putting Him first in your life, never, for a minute, can you think you may be exempt from being called into a wild, unexpected adventure. In fact, I think the unexpected ones are possibly His favorite types of callings. Just look at all the best Bible stories; the more outlandish the story, the more all signs point to Him and His glory.

How many times have you heard a believer say something like,

"Ya know, I never would have thought I'd become a pastor..."

"I never in all my life expected I'd be ministering to women who have gone through what I have..."

"Who would have guessed that we'd be pursuing adoption..."

Well you can add my latest sentiment to the list:

In a million years, I'd never have guessed we'd be moving to Montana.

But we are. Yep, you heard right. This born-and-raised California girl and my born-and-raised surfer guy are going on a grand adventure led by the Lord Himself. To Montana. Where we don't know a single person, there is no ocean, and there IS lots and lots and lots of snow. (My initial reaction was something like, 'Wait, but that's at the very top!" Meaning top of the U.S. Meaning really, really cold. Mind you, I start to freeze somewhere around 65 degrees.)

It is a long story. But the short version is that in obedience to God's crazy promptings, last fall, my husband took a leap of faith to resign from his job, unsure of what exactly would come next, but very sure that God was doing a new thing in our family.

As we prayed and prayed for clarity and direction, God closed every door but one. And after He left the Montana door wide open, He began to bring confirmations - one after another - that this is what He'd planned for us. Looking back, it was a miracle in and of itself that God was speaking the same things to both my husband and I about His will, blanketing us with peace and reassurance and grace enough to walk us through.

I suspect this is how He rolls, now, when He places on His children such radical callings: that He paves the road in peace. Not that the calling is easy to fulfill and the process is smooth. But it is peaceful, which does not mean the absence of conflict. Peace means being able to maintain the Lord's vision and trust Him - a peace of the soul - when the circumstances are not easy.

Romans 12:2 says:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This verse doesn't say that God's will is easy. It says that it is good and acceptable and perfect. That's exactly how I feel about His calling us to Montana and the way in which He has prepared us for this time. It is fully acceptable because His character is always good, and He knows what we need. And we could not have discerned His will without distancing ourselves from wordly thinking and priorities - in other words, we had to lay aside our own agendas and trust that He knows best.   

Incidentally, my husband and I visited Montana a couple of weeks ago, and I found out one thing we need is one of these. I don't even know what it's called. Some sort of ice removal tool. And we need a manual on how to use it. We know nothing about icy windshields! And apparently, there is a way to WALK on ice. Yeah, I don't know how to do that either.

So there's the big news! At my house right now, we are an electric mixture of nervous excitement, intermittent panic, blissful ignorance, and hopeful expectation of what the Lord will do with our four lives as we travel halfway across the country, come April.

The packing is a total nightmare. My least favorite part. Everything is disheveled, and I don't have time to blog or craft or sew or read to my kids or cook a decent meal or ANYTHING that I like to do. Notice I haven't blogged hardly at all lately.

But I do have peace in my heart, the kind that comes from knowing I am in the center of God's will. The kind that comes from feeling Him smile at me and whisper, "You have no idea what good things I have in store for you."

I'm hoping that what He has in store maybe includes one of these cute wagons.

I mean, why not? It's Montana. M-O-N-T-A-N-A. Wow. I'm still wrapping my mind around this adventure.

I can't wait to share with you the ways in which God shows up there. Because I bet we don't know the half of what He plans to do in and with our lives.

This next chapter in the story of my faith is already quite the page turner.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winners and some t-shirt theology

I know, it's super weird. I'm posting twice in a week. But I have things to say. First, I wanted to share the WINNERS of the Valentine's week Chrissie Grace Art giveaway.

According to the number generator, Comments #11 and #13 were the winners! That means Leila and Sonia. Guys, please email me (see button on my sidebar) and I'll send your info on to Chrissie so she can get the prints out to you both. Congrats!!

So how did your Valentine's week go? Mine had its pits and peaks, as we like to say around here. But hey. The twenty stem bunch of tulips from the grocery store really made my kitchen a lovely place to be. The peanut MnM's didn't hurt either.


My husband got me this super cute card for V-day. Not that I am into smoking. It's a play on words, folks. He knows how much I love pretty much all members of the animal kingdom, and he thinks I'm sorta cute. Double prizes.

Speaking of double prizes, look at these two. I snapped this after they climbed this tree in the front of school while I chatted with another mom. Sometimes their childhood is so moving and beautiful. Those moments flicker by so quickly, the ones when they are wild but not reckless, free but not foolish. Something about children is so pure - not pure like sinless, but pure like natural and unaffected - like we were all supposed to be this way, before everything got messed up.  It's easier to find the holy in kids, I find.

And then there's this shirt. I saw it in a store and stopped. I read it and thought, "Not really." Well, yeah, in heaven it will be. Everything will work out in the VERY end. But I don't think the designer of this shirt was having an eternal perspective. I think he or she was most likely leaning on the positive thinking philosophy. Have you heard that one? "Oh, just think positive and everything will work out." Well, I don't exactly agree with that. Sometimes things don't work out. People don't get well. Stuff breaks. Sometimes my life is NOT amazing, and I can't simply will it into that category. I should not be caught by surprise every time life isn't perfect. The shirt made me ask myself, "Do I have faith enough to stand strong when everything is not amazing?" I hope so. I think so. Do you?

One thing I know for sure is that you need more than positivity to make it through this life. Positivity can't save you anymore than a tee shirt can. If only it were that simple. I posted this photo on Instagram and Meg replied with a cool story. She owns the shirt and had a stranger approach her and ask her if she believed what it said (a skeptic, I presume, like I am). Meg had an awesome opportunity to share her faith with this woman, turning a shirt on positive thinking into a tool for introducing truth and a counter-culture perspective to others. I like that. A lot.

We have promises in the Lord that are just for believers. Romans 8:28 promises that God will cause all things to work out for our good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Through eyes of faith, that is what this shirt says. The Old Navy translation of Romans 8:28 is just that: Everything will be amazing. Now that I can stand behind.

Especially if I am wearing those green flip flops.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The shaking and shaking

I was home from college the weekend of the earthquake. It was my boyfriend's (now husband's) birthday, and I drove the two hours home to celebrate with him. We spent the day and evening together, and he brought me home around midnight. About four hours later, the shaking started.

I had learned in Physics that there are two common types of earthquakes, ones made of "S" waves, and ones made of "P" waves. S waves rolled and undulated, slowly building and then fading away like a wave of water rolls through your feet at the beach. Born and raised in Southern California, I'd felt countless quakes such as these during my childhood. They were unsettling, not terrifying. But that January, it was not an S type earthquake. It was the less common P type, made up of shocking, violent, side to side jolts that start suddenly, mercilessly.

It was the middle of the night. And though the violent jolting lasted several minutes, I believe it was God's grace that I didn't wake until I heard my dad trying to work a path through my furniture to reach me. All of it had overturned against my bed. The next thing I remember is being left alone in the car; someone escorted me to the passenger side and placed the dog on my lap, both of us shivering in the January night. Everything was dim and glowing orange from the streetlights. The rubber tires of my car were excellent communicators of the way the earth continued to shiver with me without relenting.

It seemed an eternity until dawn. I went back inside to find my dad slowly pacing the house with a video camera, somberly documenting. I remember his monotone sound as he digested the damage, gravely pacing through each room, listing and describing and digesting. Everything was wrong and out of place.

The china hutch that had been bolted to the wall for this exact reason - in case of an earthquake - was ripped out and flung across the room. A large piece of a wall hung lifeless and separate from the rest. And the kitchen left us speechless. I could see over the half wall and sink area that every single cabinet door was thrown open and every single shelf was empty. I stared, so confused at the blank wood. It was empty like when you first move in to a place, except when I rounded the corner, I saw a sea of broken glass instead of a floor. And the sea had a strange and horrible stench because the fridge had been thrown open as well, and every bottle and dish inside had exploded onto the floor too. The scent of vinegar dominated and soured our senses to match our hearts.

Our house was given a "red tag," noting the highest degree of damage and warning us to enter thenceforth at our own risk. That was the last night we slept there. So much more was ruined and exploded and reduced to rubble. And not just the material things. But my family members and I were all safe. Disasters have a way of boiling down what matters most. And we all plainly saw that what mattered still remained.   

That was almost 20 years ago. But I've felt some violent quaking lately, and not in the earth. I keep hearing this verse:

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Hebrews 12:26-28

What that means to me right now is that sometimes God issues some shaking for a two-fold reason: so that the shakable can end up in a rubble heap, and so we get a long hard look at that which is unshakable.

Typically, we go about our business living the Christian life, praying and whatnot. We may feel convicted now and again, perhaps on Sundays. But on occasion, there are seasons when God allows a shaking in our hearts, followed by more shaking. And then more. He says, "It's time, my child," and He sets new expectations, reveals new garbage that all the while He's graciously tolerated. It's exposing and somehow lovingly unrelenting.

The shaking season is rough. I more clearly understand now the term "refiner's fire" that I learned in church at a young age. And clearly, I'm in that season. He's set out to clean house a little in my heart, and in my marriage, and in my parenting, and in my family. And maybe tomorrow somewhere else. In the last month alone, He's revealed so many new things to me that need attention and spiritual work. Do you know those times? It's like my heart's in-box is stacked with folders of things to pray over and surrender and process. One more time:

And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Hebrews 12:26-28

God lets the shakable things fall away just so you and I can see what remains: that which is unshakable. It is hearty food for my soul to be reminded lately of what is unshakable.

First of all, God's love for me is unshakable. It is deeper than I could ever know.

His good plans for me are unshakable. He plans to give me a hope and a future.

His provision, His ability and willingness to meet ALL of my needs are unshakable. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

His loyalty and companionship are unshakable. He will never, ever leave me.

His desire to be in an intimate relationship with me is unshakable. I can't do anything to make Him stop wanting me.

And His promise of heaven is unshakable. One day, I'll be with Him in perfect peace.

So when I look at that list, a list which could go on and on, I'm okay with the shaking. I see a purpose in it, even when it hurts. God knows what He's doing, my friends. If you're in a season of being shaken, I'd encourage you to stop being afraid, stop trying to just make it stop. Look at what you might let go of, a habit, an attitude, a right, a desire, even a relationship if necessary. If it's something shakable, let it fall.

The unshakable stuff is what you really want anyway.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our take on Valentine's Day

I am not going to lie. I do like Valentine's Day. We celebrate love as a family.
We give little gifts.
We dress up for a fancy dinner at our kitchen table.
We use the good china and champagne glasses.
I want my kids to know, particularly for their teenage years, that Valentine's Day is not just a day when boyfriends and girlfriends make awkward commitments to one another on awkward dates, and if you don't have one of those, you should feel lonely and sad.
Love doesn't have to be sought out and pined for. Love is not elusive and conditional.
NO. Love lives here. At our house, around our table. It is available, accepting, and on Valentine's Day, it is fun.   
When our kids are teens, I want them to know they don't need to desperately seek love elsewhere or feel unwanted when they don't get asked out. And if they do have dates in the later years of being in our home, great. Maybe they'll invite those dates to join in with our family's celebration. Unrealistic? Maybe. But maybe not.
This world is love-starved. We want to offer our kids something different.  
Because love lives here. And real love is worth celebrating.
Wishing you a day full of love today, particularly from the creator of Love Himself.
God was the first to whisper "Be mine," you know.
He even created the tummy butterflies to go with it.
{do you feel them?}

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Valentine Giveaway with Chrissie Grace

God is so cool.

He gives each of us special talents to reflect things about His character, to bring Himself glory. And it's clear one gift He's given Chrissie Grace is art. She is an amazing artist. She's even published books on her art. And whether it's a pillow, canvas, or banner, her work reflects truth so beautifully.

She shared a new piece on Instagram the other day, and I was in love. Not just in love with her art. But in line with the true purpose of our God-given giftings, I fell in love again with God. Her art pointed me to Him and I was reminded of His loving character. His heart swells with love when I turn my eyes to Him.


In honor of this month of love, I wanted to share this print with you, and Chrissie has offered to give away TWO of these delicious prints to you guys.  But not only that. She had a few things to say about Valentine's Day as well. And it's just too much goodness for one post. I hope you fully enjoy all this awesome girl has to offer here today. Thank you Chrissie for sharing your gifts with us! {Details on the giveaway at the bottom}

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Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays.
The celebration of love, and not just romantic love (although that is pretty sweet too), brings me joy.
Our family loves to celebrate Valentine's Day in different ways. My children and I enjoy making handmade valentines together to pass out to their friends and classmates. We bake sweet treats like cupcakes and enjoy heart-shaped candies. I buy my children a tiny little treat and gift it to them the night before Valentine's Day. There is a lot of cutting, snipping, gluing, writing, painting, and "glittering" in the days leading up to Valentine's Day. It is a sweet time filled with fun memories.

This year as Valentine's Day nears, I have thought about my greatest Love. The love I have for my Father God, who has shown me never-ending grace. My heart is so deeply flawed. So deeply flawed! I can be impatient and unkind. I cast judgement on others. I yearn for more when I already have so much. How can my God still love me unconditionally through all of my flaws? 
This scripture has been with me all month:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
I remind myself that I am a child of God. He casts grace on my flaws...He loves me for every ounce of my being.
Have you ever considered giving God a Valentine? It seems corny, I know, perhaps even silly. But perhaps you can try it.

Imagine a small child giving us a Valentine. It is a delicate heart cut out of construction paper. It is wet and soggy with glue and heavy with too much glitter. The words may be misspelled, the letters still slightly inaccurate. And yet, they look at us with pride and wonder when they gift it to us. It is a sincere and genuine gesture of love, and that feeling is unlike no other. That is how God feels when we give him our hearts. When we give him our time. When we say to him, "Do with me what you will". When we say to him, "I know you are in control". When we simply take the time to say to him, "Thank you".

I'd like to give you a Valentine too :)
Leslie will choose two winners to receive one of my 8 x 10 prints featuring Song of Solomon 4:9.
I'd also like to offer you 25% off this week from any order in my etsy shop. Please use the code VDAY25.
Happy Valentines Day!
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To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below, and then one additional comment for each "extra" below.

Extra entries:
- follow here
- follow Chrissie's blog
- favorite her etsy shop

{Her shop is here.  Her blog is here.}


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Ordinary Love {in 14 vows}

Love feels so big that we are inclined to profess it in grand ways. We make promises hinging on life or death, sickness or health, riches or poverty.

But I don't usually live in those extremes. On the contrary, my life seems to be an endless series of ordinary events. School drop offs. Car registration. Delivery pizza. The debates in my marriage linger most often over paint colors, movie titles, and who is cleaning up dinner. I'm certainly thankful for the luxury of not having to live in an extreme for the time being, anyway. But who has written vows for the ordinary days?

Well, here are mine. Because ordinary love is where we live. And even though I'll promise to stand by my man in the crises of life, I sometimes have a hard time being loving on an average afternoon.

We talk often of random acts of kindness directed at strangers, and yet I can so easily forget to be kind in my own home. The smallest bits of effort add up quickly. And I know all that ordinary love, stacked up over days and weeks and months and years and decades can result in something altogether extraordinary.

Ordinary love {in 14 vows}

1. I will hug and kiss you when you walk in the door.

2. I will not be dramatic every time you open a window or say you're hot when I'm freezing.

3. I will not point out how you used the display-only towel when you cleaned out the drain.

4. I will appreciate how hard it is to live with a talkative, emotional, detail-oriented, analytical woman with a very keen sense of smell.

5. I will take your side when you tell me about work.

6. I will refrain from saying "Don't you remember...?" every time that I could.

7. I will encourage you to take alone time, even if it's at a cost, because I know you need it.

8. At dinner or in church or on the couch, I will hold your hand when we pray.

9. I will compliment your music choice more often than I complain about it.

10. I will give you some of my time and undivided attention every day.

11. I will silently rearrange the top shelf of the dishwasher.

12. I will consider the great pressures you face as a man, father, provider and husband when I see your weariness and frustration.

13. I will say thank you more.

14. I will tell you (not always in words) that you are enough, meaning I will keep in mind that you are not me, you're not a girlfriend, and most importantly, you're not God. 

I could write a hundred more.

What about you? What does ordinary love look like in your house?