As I sit at the breakfast table the banging, scraping, and falling of debris above me is a bit unnerving really. We knew 4 1/2 years ago this job would have to be done, that the old roof needed to come off and a new one put on. But oh man, that’s expensive and so we put it off as long as we could. We put it off so long that this winter Jenna came running downstairs and said, “There’s water coming through the roof in my room!” Those are not words you want to hear in a rainy climate in winter. We quickly called a company and they came that day to patch the spot that was leaking. It worked, for a while. A couple months later it was leaking again. The pain of paying for a new roof could not be put off any longer.

The crazy thing is that the hardest part of this job for those poor guys re-roofing our house in the 100 degree temps right now is tearing off the old roof. There were three, yes three, layers of roofing on top of the original shingles of our 1923 bungalow. Why? I’m assuming because it was easier to just keep covering up the old stuff as opposed to getting rid of the old and putting new down. Tearing things off and replacing them takes more energy, time and yes money in this case. So who gets to pay years down the line? We do.

So as I’m standing in my kitchen, praying one of those amazing workers doesn’t fall through my roof next to me (because at times it’s terrifyingly loud), I’m thinking to myself, “How ironic it is that this is how all of life works really? We would rather put off something we know has to be done for years. We would rather not put the time or expense into things that are really important because there are more pressing issues at hand (or so it seems).” To repair things really well it takes getting rid of the old, old layers. We have to get to the root of the problem before putting on the new because if we don’t then it just keeps getting worse and in the case of our roof, the leak comes back.

new roof

I’ve known these truths and seen it play out in my spiritual life. It’s easy to “do” the right things, add another book to read, add another way to serve in ministry so you’re not really doing your own heart work and just focus on others. It looks good on the outside, for a while. But the real work of our spiritual life is done in the quiet, the stillness of just “being” with God. Really being with Him and being satisfied in knowing Him and working on the heart issues at hand. Then the rest will come and the “doing” part of our life will be a healthy overflow and not an obligation or a “should.” I tell the women I work with all the time, “Do not get should on. It’s not good for anyone.”

This also translates to our health and has become a new passion and ministry for me. Our culture loves to live fast, eat fast, and cover any health problems up with a drug or just ignore it until like our roof, the leak cannot be ignored any longer. Especially as women, we ignore the red lights on the dashboard for too long because it takes time, money, energy and what we think as too much of a sacrifice to make our own health a priority. My health journey has been long and interesting but getting to the root issues there have been incredibly worth it for me personally and my family as well.

Why do I share all this? Because the banging above my head, literally, has been a loud reminder of the truth that getting to the root issue is worth it. Sometimes it feels costly but it’s worth it. We have to tear out the old to make things beautiful and restore it to how it’s supposed to be. My heart is to help others get there whether spiritually, emotionally or physically. It indeed is worth it. I am worth it. You are worth it.

Tattooed by life and Ink

April 29, 2016 — 1 Comment

Twenty years ago for my birthday, I got a tattoo. My boyfriend at the time took me, I picked out a small design that I liked, it didn’t have any specific special meaning I just liked. I chose the spot and I was forever inked. Tattoos weren’t even overly popular then, I think I just wanted to do something rebellious (I can’t even really remember, it was 20 years ago after all). It was such a new thing in my small town that when I went home to show my family my grandma announced it at a luncheon with all her friends and made me show them, while in the golf course restaurant. That was memorable. I don’t regret getting that tattoo like many told me I would, and it didn’t stretch out or look crazy when I was pregnant. Thank goodness.

A LOT of time has passed since that last tattoo. My life is radically different than it was when I was 18 and I’m so grateful for that. God has changed me, intervened in my life, and redeemed me in ways that I never knew were possible. God took a broken, young woman and pieced my heart and life back together after I tried to fill it with relationshredeemed tattooips and the world. I was really broken back then (not that I’m not a mess at times now but it was a different, hard, broken). But even after redemption in that area and choosing to make God a part of my life since then, hard things still happened. Over the years I’ve had to walk the journey of infertility, losing a baby, health issues and surgeries to name a few. My heart and my actual body have scars from the pain and reality of life. My body, near the first tattoo continued to be marked in the passing years with physical scars. In the midst of those trials though I have seen God show up, he has healed wounds, and smoothed those scars. God has shown his power and strength when I had none and he has redeemed my infertility and the longing for children in ways that I never would have planned or expected. He really can make beauty from ashes. He really can redeem our brokenness and for that reason, above my old tattoo and below the physical scars of surgeries that mark losing a baby I tattooed the word Redeemed.

It’s a funny thing though, even though I am redeemed and I know this to be true I can struggle to choose joy. I can get caught up in the things daily that are hard and forget to see where God is at work. I can miss out on the small mercies when I choose not to look for them. I get happiness and joy mixed up.

A few years ago when I read Kay Warren’s book Choose Joy Because Happiness isn’t Enough, and I was struck by her definition of joy,

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.

Over the years I have learned that the reality of joy is knowing and choosing Christ even when it doesn’t feel good. Joy is knowing and choosing to believe that I am never alone or forsaken. Joy is knowing and choosing to continue to walk the journey of faith and Jesus’ ways when I don’t understand them. Choose Joy was a message God has spoken to me, and over me, daily for years now. I still don’t succeed most the time if I’m honest and I knew that I wanted it to be tattooed on my arm as a daily, visual reminder. Choose Joy. Choose Jesus.

choose joy tattoo

I could think of no better way to spend my 38th birthday, 20 years after my first tattoo, than to tattoo significant words on my body that remind me of God’s faithfulness and love to me. He did after all tattoo his love on his hands and feet, not with ink but with nails and his own blood, because he chose to sacrifice for me, for us. He brought redemption to a broken world and for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.

May God be glorified and a greater story be told through my life and even through my tattoos.

Last Mother’s Day my sweet daughter made me a gift and she was so giddy for me to open it. It was beautifully painted with words that she picked out to describe me. My heart filled with joy that she saw those things in me, but another thing that filled my heart was doubt. Did she really see those things in me? nightstand art

I can often face doubt that I am enough, that my identity doesn’t rest in the things that I do or the outcomes of the day. As a Jesus follower I am adamant that others not believe the lies that the world can throw at you, but I can easily fall into the trap of doubt myself. Our identity comes from our relationship with God himself, what He says is true of us. No matter how the day goes, circumstances, or how well I’m performing, these things are what’s true, I am beautiful, I am worthy, I am loved, I am enough. You don’t need to be a mom to need to hear that truth. Do you believe those things?

Some of the sweetest reminders from the Lord come through our children. To read the rest of the blog post head on over to the Portland Moms Blog.

I read the headline while scrolling through Facebook, State Finds Alarmingly High Arsenic, Cadmium Levels Near Two SE Portland Schools. I clicked on the link and panic set in, my heart was racing. The school listed was our school, the business emitting toxic levels of cadmium and arsenic is in our neighborhood. I finish the article feeling rage, fear, and uncertainty. Our world is already a giant mess and now in my own back yard I’m worrying about my kids health as well as ours. We live in a country that I expect to protect us from harms such as this but even that is too high of an expectation these days.

All I could picture was my kids playing in the dirt in our yard, eating out of our “organic” garden that now is probably laced with these chemicals, all of us being outdoors breathing in this terrible air. So being the rational, calm human that I am I exclaimed to my husband, “We’re moving! We can’t live in this mess of a city anymore!” Being the level headed one he assured me that we didn’t need to move, quite yet.

garden

As I drove to pick up Isaac from school my heart and mind were racing with the “what if’s.” In the midst of all of the swirling mass of crazy happening in my brain it came to me very clearly, “What will you choose? Faith or fear?”  My mind stopped and I had to ask myself that question over and over. What will I choose? I actually have a choice here. Even though there are things happening around us and possibly to us thanks to the negligence of our legislature and harmful business, I have a choice to choose faith and not fear. God is still there in the midst of the mess. He didn’t cause it. He doesn’t approve of it. But He is there and He is trustworthy. I can choose to put my faith in Him.

I was reminded of a talk by Tim Keller (I think) where he said that worrying is a choice. It’s a way that we think we can control situations even if it’s just in our minds. We can conjure up situations, possible solutions and outcomes with our worry. When I choose to set that down, let God take it and do with it what He will then I release the power that it has over me.

We took our kids to be tested to see if they have elevated levels of cadmium and arsenic in their systems. I had to have the piece of mind and want it on record that we tested them in case somewhere in the future something does come up with health issues. At one point my kids left the room and the doctor stayed to give me information. Before she could even talk her eyes welled with tears and she apologized that she was having a hard time not crying about the situation that we were in. She continued to tell me the increased risk of cancer that these toxins cause. The mention of cancer causes my heart to sink. I’ve often told my husband, watching my children go through cancer is one of my biggest fears.

We left the clinic with me in tears because of the fear I felt. It came to me again, “What will you choose? Faith or fear?”

faith or fear

 

Just because I choose to have faith doesn’t mean that we can’t take action as parents, as neighbors, and as advocates for change. You better believe that we’ll attend meetings about our air quality, we’ll sign petitions and write letters to our legislators to change the laws that don’t protect us. We’ll speak out for our children who don’t have a voice yet. We’ll seek change. I don’t have to sit back and be idle while still choosing faith. 

No matter what the situation, a new job opportunity, a health scare, a hard relationship, the unknown in life, we all have the choice, faith or fear. What will it be?

I’m choosing to remind myself daily that I don’t have to fear bad news but can confidently trust the Lords care for me (and my children) (Psalm 112:7) and that He goes before and behind me (Psalm 139:5). It’s a daily battle to choose faith over fear but with God’s help I can do it, one fear at a time.

Lately, I’ve read many rants (that’s what it feels like to me) about how tired people are of seeing Facebook posts about whatever product someone is selling (skin care, cosmetics, oils, books, heath products, etc). They don’t want to be invited to online parties, get random messages from “friends” about how their products or company can change their life, and so on. I get it. It can be over the top sometimes, mildly annoying, and no one wants to feel like they are being used for the gain of someone else or their profit.

Responding to Direct Sales MLMHowever, on the flip side of the coin, when I see another person–especially a mom–who is making time to share about a product or company that she loves, and through which she is trying to help her family with a paycheck among all the other responsibilities she has, I want to stand up and cheer her on. I want to high five her. I want to give her a hug and say “Way to go! Keep going!” I may not want to buy her products at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t encourage her along the way. It’s hard enough to be a mom today in the digital world without feeling like we’re not doing enough, being enough, and doing all the right things along the way. We don’t need to be torn down for our choices to better ourselves or our families based on our business opportunity choices as well.

As a mom of two kids and as a friend to other moms, here’s what I would want to teach my kids and say to my mom friends when it comes to being a lover or a “hater” of MLM companies and responding to direct sales:

Continue reading over at the Portland Moms Blog……

When Pain Pierces the Peace

January 21, 2016 — 4 Comments

Profanity pierced our peaceful night. It was shocking really and sent me quickly to my feet from bed. Not shocking that I was hearing those words, but shocked by the pain that was behind them, and it was Christmas night. There she stood, only feet from our front door, yelling so loudly at someone on the phone and staggering around, clearly disoriented by the pain she was feeling and the substances in her body. She wandered into the street moaning with a low guttural cry “Why, Why, Someone Help Me.” I wanted to help her but was afraid to open the door because she was clearly intoxicated. We called the police instead, afraid she may hurt herself.

alone in the street

She staggered across the street where she fell to her knees and continued to wail loudly and call two different people on her phone that she yelled threats and profanity at. It was obvious that she had been betrayed. Her world was now so full of anguish she was incapable of moving from the ground.

Our Christmas day had been a wonderful, peaceful day at home with our kids and a lovely lunch with friends. Our hearts were full of thanks for the gift of Jesus and the day to celebrate Him and be with each other. It was almost the perfect day, until the pain, her pain, pierced the night. Her bellowing cries still ring in my ears and I’m still thinking about it even a month later.

We watched that night as eventually the police had a detox unit take her away. She kept yelling, “I’m not okay with what they’ve done!” over and over. We stood in the dark of our living room, tears streaming down my cheeks, and prayed for her, for her brokenness, for God to somehow enter in. We prayed she would know that she was loved despite the betrayal she was experiencing. I continue to pray when I think of her, that she would know that God isn’t okay with what was done to her either. He’s not okay with the despair of this world and that’s why He sent Jesus. Jesus entered in, to the mess, to the wailing, to the brokenness. He enters in.

No matter how your last year ended or how your new year is beginning, I hope that you remember that God wants to enter in. He is the peace in the pain. He is the calm to the storm. He is present when others have abandoned.

I don’t know why God had that woman on our street, in front of our house on Christmas night. We felt helpless to come to her aid in a practical way. But I do know that because of it, she has been prayed for. When I think of her, I still pray. I may never see her again but I continue to ask God to enter into her world. Maybe it was just a reminder to me that whether we seem to have a life of peace and plenty at the moment, or pain and strife, He wants to, and can, enter into it. Will I let Him? Will you?

open window

Igniting the Spark

 

I want to be able to draw out the potential in my children so they flourish in life. Here is what my experience has taught me…… (Continue reading over at The Portland Moms Blog)

Books I Read in 2015

January 1, 2016 — 1 Comment

I was sitting with a friend and she asked me, “What were the greatest books you read this year?” I could only recall a few of them, not because I hadn’t read great books but because my memory fails me so often. That is one of the reasons that I keep a list and short review of the books that I read each year now. Even as I was getting this post ready and re-reading my list I was reminded of all that I learned from these authors. There were some themes that shaped my year and my life as a result of the wonderful words and stories shared in the pages I consumed. I’m ever grateful for books and the opportunity to learn and grow through others wisdom and creativity in the craft of the written word.

book store

Books I Read in 2015

A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers — This book is a compilation of five stories of Tamar, Rahab, Basheba, Ruth and Mary. They start with the Biblical story and she ads things that may have happened. They are incredible stories, sometimes scandalous, yet true, about the women God chose to use for a particular time in history and in His story. There are also lots of questions to use in a Bible study setting after each story so you can dig into the scripture and apply it to your own life. I love Francine Rivers!

The Spark by Kristine Barnett– Kristine tells the story of one of her children, Jacob, who is a brilliant child on the autism spectrum. He has a higher IQ than Einstein, went to college by the time he was 10 and will change the world with his gifts. When he was two however, doctors told her that he would never speak. Kristine took her child’s well being and development into her own hands, discovering the spark within him and as a result watched him blossom and grow. She believes incredible possibilities can occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us. This is an incredibly inspiring story and helped me look at my own children, their gifts and talents, and challenged me to think how I can encourage them and help them grow.

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas — The premise of this book asks the question, What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? This book looks at how you can use the challenges, joys, struggles, and celebrations of marriage to draw closer to God and to grow in Christian character. This was a great book and I had some useful and challenging take a ways.

Going Public by David and Kelli Pritchard — This talks about how your child can thrive in public school but it also offers so much more. They offer wise, biblical and practical parenting stories throughout this book that are so valuable. I’ve read this before but needed to re-read it as we are continually evaluating what is best for our kids. This may change from year to year and child to child. We value being in the public school setting and want to be a part of making it better but always keep an open hand to the Lord’s leading with schooling.

The Healing Path-How the hurts in your past can lead you to a more abundant life by Dan B. Allender — I am a big fan or Dan Allender. I’ve heard him speak many times and loved this book. I resonated with many of the themes and wrestled through his explanation of ambivalence. It’s hard to describe all the great stuff in this book, here’s a word from his preface: “This life has great suffering and sorrow woven into its fabric, but it also has an incandescent beauty and compelling call. For now, the beauty serves as a window through which we can glimpse the face of God, which we will one day see in its glorious fullness. The Healing Path is about how God redeems our doubt and betrayal, our despair and powerlessness, and disappointment and ambivalence. It call us to more toward the great destination of this life: becoming a man or woman of faith, hope, and love.” It’s a practical and helpful book for working through your own story and healing path as well as entering into the lives and stories of others.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem  by Kevin DeYoung — I LOVED the chapter on parenting and how our busyness affects the lives of our children. We live in a culture of do more, child focused families, and be the “perfect parent” and it’s sucking the life out of parents and the joy out of us and our kids. Less often equals more.

Surprised by Motherhood – Everything I never expected about being a mom by Lisa-Jo Baker — This is a great, easy and fun read as a mom. It tells her story of growing up in South Africa, losing her mom, meeting her husband and their journey as a married couple into parenthood. I could so relate to parts of her story, especially how she didn’t imagine having kids and then how God changed her heart. She says she discovered three things about motherhood: that it’s hard, it’s glorious and it’s very hard. It’s a real story with honesty and humor I could relate to as a Christ follower and a mom.

Learning to Walk in the Dark  by Barbara Brown Taylor — This was a fascinating read. She talks a lot about actual darkness. She spent time in caves to experience physical darkness and with those who are blind. Our world has such an aversion to the physical dark as well as the spiritual darkness. She believes that “for it is in the dark, that one can truly see.” It exposed many things that I may be afraid of and how we avoid the things that are dark to us instead of leaning into them.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — I just have to say this was recommended by a guy friend, my husband read it first and it was a teary, wonderful, moving, heartbreaking story. Enough said.

The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson — Peterson looks at Jesus’s way of life in scripture, examples of others in scripture and compared it to how the contemporary church lives today. Very challenging and insightful and this explanation just seems so simplistic for an incredibly deep and complex book.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott — I love Lamott’s honesty and ability to connect with those who have suffered, are in hard places and in need of some new perspective.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning — I loved this book. I struggle with grace in my own life. I believe it in theory but to really grasp it and live it out so that I can walk freely in it is a challenging task and concept to grasp. I love this main thought in the book, “The Father beckons us to Himself with a furious love that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the ragamuffins.”

A Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore — The story of how God brings together a homeless man from the South and and a rich man from Texas in unexpected ways. It’s a powerful story of God changing lives through engaging with those who seem unlikely to have anything at all in common.

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning – I loved this book so much that I bought it half way through reading it. There are foundational truths in this book that he had a way of explaining in ways that helped them seem new again. If we really did believe this, “Our identity rests in God’s relentless tenderness for us revealed in Jesus Christ.” we would all live differently and in more freedom. I will definitely be re-reading this book!

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff — I just really like Jon Acuff and wanted to see what he had to say so read this one. He has lots of wisdom in being successful in work and I think most people can relate to the fact that we don’t want to “get stuck” and sometimes we need a “do over” even if it’s just in our perspective of our work.

Calico Joe by John Grisham — This was an enjoyable and easy read about a boy, his father, their complicated relationship, Calico Joe and the game of baseball. It has themes of forgiveness and how things can find some form of redemption in the end.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller – I love all things related to Psalm 23. This book gave incredible insight from someone who was an actual shepherd of sheep and what that entails. It gives new meaning to the biblical meaning in Psalm 23. I’ll definitely be reading this many times throughout life.

For the Right Reasons by Sean Lowe — Now don’t judge me here. I watch the Bachelor and therefore I had to read “America’s favorite” bachelor’s book. And for the record, I had to wait in a long wait list at the library to read this so I know I’m not alone. I sped my way through this book. I love reading a good story about someones life and they did a great job telling Sean’s story of life, his faith and love. It really is pretty amazing that God can use even reality tv shows like the Bachelor to bring others together and make himself known. Yep, I loved it.

Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell – This was a heartbreaking story of a boy who was left in an orphanage at the age of three, denied by other family members, and lived there until he graduated high school. It walks through his trials, how he managed to become more than his past and how God intervened to help him do just that. A great story of redemption of brokenness and how forgiveness really can set you free. I was totally challenged by the theme of forgiving those who really don’t deserve to be forgiven.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans – I read this because Rachel is influential with the millennials and I wanted to know more of her story. Although I don’t agree with all of her theology it was an interesting read and I appreciate many of her thoughts. I love this one, “We think church is for good people, not resurrected people.” I agree that we need to stop pretending we have it all together. We are broken people in need of a God who restores. The church should be a safe place, but not necessarily a comfortable place like she says in the book.

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashim – This was a timely read given the level of refugee crisis in our world. It’s an incredible novel that takes you through one women’s journey of life in Afghanistan, the take over of the Taliban that forces her family to flee their country and all of the heart wrenching loss that they experience along the way.

For the Love-Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker – I LOVE Jen’s humor, wit and ability to speak into issues of the heart of women and the church so poignantly. Easy read, encouraging and challenging as well. The chapter about turning 40 hit so close to home, even thought I’m not quite 40, that I was literally crying. Good stuff.

Scary Close dropping the act and finding true intimacy by Donal Miller – Don invites you into his life of working through isolation and how he’s finding true intimacy. He has a lot of wisdom in building healthy relationships that everyone can benefit from. Loved this book.

The Sky Lantern by Matt Mikalatos – Written by our friend and co-worker. This is an incredible story of how a sky lantern ended up in Matt’s driveway which led to the eventual meeting of the woman who sent it. It’s inspiring to think about what can happen when we take the small things in life that may look like a distraction or piece of trash but don’t pass it by. When we stop to engage in picking up that trash, simply writing a letter, or offering an act of kindness it could lead to changing the trajectory of our day, someone else’s day or even our lives.

 

I’m still in the middle of about 5 other books that I didn’t finish and the perfectionist in me is really annoyed that this list only has 24 books on it. My goal was 25. Here’s to embracing some grace and letting it go.

What did you read this year? What should be on my Must Read list for 2016? Please share.

I wrote about our major home renovation project that we just completed, just in time for the holidays. Head on over to the Portland Moms Blog to read the rest. 

“We are currently in the process of finishing our basement into an apartment. It’s been a LONG process of blood, sweat and tears and many curse words along the way. We live in a 1923 bungalow, so just getting permits was a hassle. We hired a contractor, but once again are doing a lot of the work to save money. We figured it’s only 600 square feet, how hard can it be? But here’s the deal, we are no longer as young and energetic as we once were; we have two kids now who are on the go, and life is full. So what were we thinking to take on this large project?!”

I wrote about some of the things that we try to do as a family to make holidays a little more frantic free.

Whether you are bounding with joy and have sugar plum fairies dancing in your head about the holidays or the thought of the upcoming season makes you want to take a nap, let these tips help you and your family over the next seven weeks.

Thanks for reading!