I grew up with a mom who was THE BEST at making cakes. I had no idea those skills would be so awesome to have one day as a mom. My mom also always threw us a fun party for our birthday, made us feel loved and celebrated and so I carry on the tradition in our household. Birthdays and holidays are really important to me.

Over the years I’ve taken it down a notch in the party department because life is full and Pinterest parties are not what it’s all about. However, I’ll always do my best to have a fabulous and delicious cake to feed the crowd. I’m a total cake snob (thanks to my mom always making the best cakes) and there is a BIG secret to getting a moist cake. And please know, I hate that word and it should never be used for anything besides describing a cake. Can I get an Amen to that?! Whew, okay, I just had to say that before I could move on.

If you want to know what the secret is to making the perfect cake with some tips on how to decorate it as well then head on over to the Portland Moms Blog to read my post find out how.

And just for fun, here are some of the cakes that I’ve done in the past.

Books I Read in 2016

January 26, 2017 — Leave a comment

Another year has come and gone. I love looking back at what I’ve read in the past year. It reminds me of what God was up to, themes that ran through my year and the wise words of others that He used to shape me.

I was disappointed that my list wasn’t longer but God was up to something different in the last year of my life. He took me on the unexpected adventure of starting a business, so my time for extra/leisurely reading (and writing as well) has been limited. My business has been a huge surprise and an immense blessing. Through that I ventured to read books that I usually wouldn’t have picked up, like all the ones on Network Marketing. I’ve read more about leadership in the last year than I have in a long time and it’s shaped and sharpened me in really good ways. There’s actually quite a variety in here and I love that.

So here’s my list from the last year:

All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Brennan Manning — This is a heartbreaking and yet inspirational story of a man who has influenced millions of lives and yet had dark, dark days. It is the tale of God’s scandalous grace for all of us, notorious sinners. “God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Graenstein — Jenna was begging me to read this book so we could talk about it. It was a fun read about a famous game maker who then builds a library that is full of surprises. It’s no ordinary library. Only a handful of kids are invited to come for the overnight grand opening, which then turns into a game of how to get out of the library. It was a fun read and I get why Jenna loved it so much because it talks about history, the love of books and strategy. Right up her ally, not so much mine, but I love her so it was worth it.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley — I also got this from the young people section in the library and both Jenna and I read it. I love stories that are fiction but are still set in a real time in history. It was a fabulous story of a girl, her brother, their unexpected new life with a woman named Susan and how the war saved their lives.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling — I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to most people because Mindy can be crude and not everyone’s cup of tea so to speak in her humor. I wanted to read what it was like for her as a woman and a minority to be in the world of tv and Hollywood. I think that she’s brilliant, gifted and has amazing grit and I can appreciate and champion that.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield –– I need to go back and read this again already. I love that he encourages you to live up to your God given potential no matter what you’re dong. He talks about Resistance and how that plays out and keeps us from moving forward, accomplishing our goals and overcoming our fears. To reach our goals we must overcome resistance. Here’s a great quote, “There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell-This was a great book that talks about major things that need to be true or present in our lives to be great leaders. It was challenging, practical and helped me see my strengths and weaknesses in a new way.

Failing Forward by John Maxwell-Oh man, this is a good book for anyone like me who hates to fail and a recovering perfectionist. There are so many awesome truths in this book. It’s not the failures in our lives that can define us but what we do with them.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell- If you’re in a profession that is people oriented at all you should read this book. I think it’s great for anyone because we all communicate daily with others. It was insightful, gave practical steps to help you think through how you communicate with others and if you’re actually doing it in a way that they hear you and can respond. If we don’t communicate with others in ways that they can filter it then we aren’t going to be heard.

Go Pro by Erric Worre – This is a great book for those in Network Marketing.

Quarter Life Crisis by Paul Sohn– I LOVED this book and although it’s aimed at 20 somethings you don’t have to be in your 20’s to glean amazing things from this book. He balances biblical truth, leadership, and practical help to figuring out what your sweet spot in life, work and ministry are.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson – I love getting lost in a good novel and this was fabulous. It was the story of a young woman with hopes and dreams, pursuing teaching and writing in a time when that was not smiled upon. There is small town drama in a Downton Abbey sort of fashion, the War breaks out and of course love and sorrow intermixed. All the great qualities of an enjoyable read.

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch– I have loved Kristen’s blog We are THAT Family for such a long time. They love the Lord, are honest about their lives and desire to serve (they are the founders of Mercy House) and parent in ways that go against the grain of our culture. This was an encouraging and helpful book as we continue to figure out what it is that we value as a family, how we’ll live that out in our family and how to persevere through the times when the kids don’t like or get our decisions.

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequest – I love Shauna and this book was a refreshing read that I think most women (and men) can relate to right now. Many of these truths that she shared in her book the Lord has been teaching me over the past couple years but it’s always nice to read someone else articulate them and remind you that yes, you are on the right path. Be who you are called to be, be present and let the rest go so you can thrive.

The Four Color Personalities for MLM: The Secret Language of Multilevel Marketing by Tom “Big Al” Schreiter — I have done a lot of “personality” tests in my day. This was also really helpful in understanding how people think and are wired. I think it applies to not only network marketing but all professions and I’m glad that I read it. It gave me more insight into myself and others and that’s always helpful if you put it to good use.

Welfare Faith for the Least of Us by Kyle Raney — My friend Kyle wrote this and I loved it. It’s a vulnerable, real and also funny at times tale of their own lives and how they found themselves in need of welfare. As Christians and those in ministry it can be terrifying to tell others about a struggle like that and face others judgment of being one of “those.” I love how God showed up for them, what they learned along the way and incredible truth about the gospel that is found in welfare faith.  It might just challenge some of your prejudices and beliefs, but in all the best ways.

The Cure & Parents by Thrall, Lynch & McNicol —  I loved this book so much. It didn’t focus on how to change our kids but on the heart of the parents themselves. One of the hardest truths in this book was the thought that if I’m having a hard time with one of my kids it’s because I may not be mature enough to handle it. As parents we have to continue to mature and grow so that we don’t stunt our children’s growth as well as our own. We are not in the line of behavior or sin management but shaping hearts and that means that ours is shaped along the way as well. I will definitely be reading this one again.

I not only read these books but have about 5 others I’m still in the middle of and haven’t finished.  I listened to dozens of podcasts, read hundreds of articles and blog posts, watched many documentaries and have filled my heart and mind with things that have challenged and changed me. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned in the last year and look forward to another year of reading, listening and learning. What’s on your must read list this year? Do share! I’m always adding to my list.

There’s no secret around here; I’m opinionated and passionate about some issues our world is facing right now and many of them have been brought into light as a result of this crazy and disheartening election period. I’ll be so glad when today is over. No matter the outcome, I do not fear because I know that God is still God and He is in control.

I have had to think hard about what I’m passing on to my children through this election. They are watching and listening and these things that I’m passing on go much further than the election season. These things will translate into their lives on the playground, the classroom and in their relationships for years to come. As I wrote them out I was challenged to really think if I was doing a good job with this. I know I mess it up but I’m doing my best to raise them in a way that loves, honors and values ALL people.

Head over the the Portland Mom’s Blog to read what I hope to pass on to my children and that others would also pass on as they raise the future leaders of our world.

 

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)