Friday, December 1, 2017

the image of homeschool vs. the reality.

The day had been hard. not like lowercase hard, but like uppercase HARD.  Attitudes sank all my best efforts teaching school, long division wrapped it's nasty tentacles around all of us and pulled us under. Long division for one kid, working on verbs for another... present, past and past participle.  The 3rd wants to go play football in the yard and totally ditch all book work. Mix that with a 3 year old who very much wants to test all boundaries... he is pushing hard for his own way and upon sitting down for dinner after a pretty exhausting day declares "That looks nasty, I'm not eating that"  Oh my.  Why the constant battle? Am I alone here? I don't think I am, but I think sometimes we make the wrong assumption that we are the only ones struggling- or that everyone else has it all figured out or can pull it all off in an effortless way. 

If you picture us merrily singing songs around our table doing school work peacefully in a clean organized home, me with a smile on my face, hair that is actually brushed and generally just having it all together...the boys sitting next to me nicely, totally enthralled with everything I'm teaching them, absolutely LOVING learning,   let me just break that little bubble of lies.  My real-life isn't like that.  Homeschooling is pretty grueling, and although I start everyday before even crawling out of bed or having coffee, literally giving my day to God, asking Him to bless our work, our home and our family... it isn't smooth sailing. Before breakfast ends there is usually spilled milk, someone doesn't like the sogginess of frosted flakes, someone is picking on someone else about something minor, that hits a nerve in some major overreacting way.  Someone needs help finding a pencil, a toothbrush or the cat food. Someone wants to wear shorts even though it's chilly in the house, someone wants their favorite shirt but it's currently on day 4 in the washer, technically having gone through the wash cycle but the familiar smell of mildew is overpowering even the strongest scent detergent from a few days prior. Get the real-life picture.  it's not glamorous. 

We plow our way along through chore lists and devotions.  My prayer being that God would be present in this mess and this chaos, because at the heart of things we really are trying to honor Him in what we are doing.  It isn't pretty, it isn't perfect or even close to perfect, but it certainly IS an act of service.  We teach, and study and laugh and honestly sometimes cry.  But when the subjects get marked off one by one, we learn and we grow and we bond more than we probably realize.  I love having all four of them home... Not that everyday I literally love it... somedays I hate it, but when all is said and done I'm grateful for this opportunity, because in the middle of tears and joy we aren't just growing in knowledge that comes from textbooks but I, for real, have a front row seat to watching these little men grow in their knowledge of the Lord and in their relationships with Him.  I have had the privilege to hear the word sounded out after trying and trying and trying to read it.  I have had the privilege to see a heart of true repentance over an attitude, or some other sin struggle.  I have been humbled to ask their forgiveness over my own attitude. I've answered questions through a Biblical worldview during every single subject studied and I know that is laying for them a foundation to continue building on. (that's the big picture goal that honestly fuels my desire to keep at this- it makes my heart soar to think I am give them a Biblical view of science & history?!) This is raw, and ugly and beautiful and glorious all wrapped up and I get to be part of this.  God has asked me to teach my boys, my husband has entrusted this HUGE job to me, and the boys have walked this road with me day after day, year after year.  Looking back it is the hardest, awesomest thing we've ever taken on!  It thrills me!  It overwhelms me and has taught me in such authentic rubber hits the road ways how God truly is our strength for what our days hold.  Not just knowing that in my mind, but knowing it because I've experienced it!

I think I have just a little glimpse of God's love for us, His children, in a better focused way because just like I choose to spend the messy, hard, exhausting days with my kiddos. He wants to be present with us through life's journeys too.  He loves us, and isn't trying to ditch us, pass us off or ignore our temper tantrums over minor things that someone said to us.  He genuinely cares. He cares enough to want to do DAILY with us.  He doesn't just want special occasion events with us, He actually chooses to do the grueling right along side of us. We all know that to do daily life with someone is a whole different level than any other kind of relationship.  What happens between 4 walls and a roof is as real as real-life can be... and He longs for this kind of friendship with each of us. It is something I take forgranted, much like I take forgranted these years schooling all my boys.  

Life is a blink, a vapor... get real. Live real-life, be authentic! 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude is a choice

Holidays can bring chaos, schedules maxed out, different expectations, trying to balance and juggle and prioritize people you love.  Relate?! Pretty sure you can because this is normal!

3 intentional things I've practiced this year have helped me keep a good perspective and be able to enjoy. 

First, be on the same page with your spouse, easier said than done at times, but SO helpful when you aren't taking out stress on eachother. communicate, listen, compromise, appreciate and repeat. 

Second, be present where you are.  I know I can't do it all, be in all places, say yes to everything... so what I do put on the calendar matters to us and I will put my best into it.  Don't over book everyday if you can help it. Say no to some things so your yes to others can be better followed through with. Then be present. If I have a house full of cousins I wanna enjoy them, not be multitasking or sweeping or food prepping. Be present. Engage. Connect. 

Turn Off Your Phone

The third thing is to choose a grateful heart, you know it IS thanksgiving and all... Seems like actually being thankful can be pushed on the back burner this time of year, ironic huh? This afternoon my guys headed out for their annual hunting shack night with my dad, brother and nephews... after their blaze orange drove away I settled in with a writing prompt.  

A hot cup of coffee, a spice scented candle and a little of my fav. chocolate helped. Filling this page only took a handful of minutes, but it was really good for my soul. Seeing all these things that I DO have to be thankful for, sitting there staring back at me; Then following with some time of prayer thanking the One from whom all good things come. Now I'm ready for Thanksgiving starting at my heart, real-life and all.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

When God answers our prayers with "No"

When God says "No"

We are praying for something, earnestly. faithfully we ask God for this plan, this healing, this door to open.  We give our best effort to walk by faith, and to trust.  And as worry or anxiety seep in we keep giving it back to God and asking for peace, for direction and wisdom.  He answers those prayers, not in the way we hoped or asked... but in a firm "No".  What then?  

I think this is something we all can relate to in different ways.  Some ways are minor, some more foundational.  What does our faith do when it's shaken like that? When life feels like it's picked right up, turned upside down and shaken to the core? Where is our anchor when life is a little more real than we would like, a little more difficult, a LOT more challenging.  Even more devastating, heartbreaking, disappointing, painful.  Where is God when life is raw.  Where is He when suffering about snuffs the life right out of us?

First we need to keep in mind that the world we live in is broken.  Because we are surrounded by sin and the effects of sin, this world is never going to be the easy ride we would sometimes wish it would be.  We aren't promised a pain free life, in fact, Christians are promised the opposite.  (I know, super encouraging right?)  One of my favorite verses is John 16:33... I love the way it takes real-life and shifts the perspective to where our hope can take root.  

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

God isn't promising peace in this world-  He is promising peace in HIM. Then we are promised trouble.  He isn't trying to blind side us when life gets hard, He is preparing us for the hardship we all will face in a million different forms.  Should we be shocked, surprised or depressed when trouble comes? Not if we are prepared with the right perspective.  We can take courage, because our hope doesn't rest on this side of eternity... it rests IN eternity.  Jesus has overcome the world, and all the sin, brokenness, pain this world brings.  He holds the VICTORY!  

Secondly we need to remind ourselves that prayer doesn't make God our own personal wish granter-  but rather my prayers should be to align myself to HIS will... not the other way around.  I don't see the big picture like He does. and honestly, I don't know what is best the way He knows what is best.  Looking back at my life I am very thankful for some of the closed doors God gave me, although at the time it felt totally awful.  That door shutting sometimes stretched me more than what's comfortable.  And in those really difficult times God was nearby.  I was never abandoned the way my emotions wanted me to believe.  I was never forgotten.  His ways are not my ways, To His Glory! 

How can you use the hard things to light up darkness? How can you glorify Him with your redemption story? How can you learn and grow and root out that bitterness that is constantly tempting you to take root. These are questions worth giving some thought.  We will all face tribulation, we are promised that.  Where does our HOPE rest?  

So today, if the answer is "No"... today, take heart, because He has overcome the world!  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Smoke Alarms and Perspective

We had a pretty normal start to our Friday, we were chipping away at the end of week school subjects. I was working on English with Ledger when I heard the smoke alarms both upstairs and downstairs go off.  My 9 year old's room was hazy and smelled of burnt plastic. I knew something wasn't okay, but I couldn't find the source of the smoke.  The breaker in that section of the house kicked off. I called my husband at work to come home, and the boys and I all exited the house to wait.  

Emergencies do something to our nerves.  I was calm and a wreck all wrapped into one.  I couldn't help but think if it had been the middle of the night, how scary that alarm would be for my boys (& me!)

Josh got home and after looking for the source found our dehumidifier overheating and was actually starting to melt. The inside was charred, and I know could have caught fire.  We are all safe. Our home is fine. No harm done other than we need to replace the appliance. 

But I'm left with all of this. The what if's. The almosts. The could have beens. The images of my boys asleep in that room.  The God who I can trust, through life's close calls, and also life's tragedies.  God isn't more loving today when the outcome was what I would have picked than He would be if the outcome was complete devastation. Because God protected us today doesn't mean we are more in His favor than the family who is suffering total loss, or heartbreaking tragedy.  God doesn't change.  He IS love in both outcomes.  Life on earth holds devastation because it is broken.   

This verse has been meaning a lot to me lately for many reasons, and today I was reminded once again how little this life here on earth guarantees. We are not promised tomorrow.  We only have right now.  

James 4:14New American Standard Bible (NASB)

14 [a]Yet you do not know [b]what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

A life that hardly has a chance to begin and is snatched back to Glory- or the life that reaches the century mark and every single age in-between- ALL life here on earth is so tiny, so brief... Just a vapor compared to Eternity.  What will we do with that perspective? Are we confident in our eternal destination? We can be. The promises in the Bible and the free gift of Salvation through faith in Jesus' work on the cross can be the anchor of hope in a very tragedy, emergency filled life on earth. If today would have ended in my vapor of a life being over, I have complete confidence in where I would be... not one bit because of who I am, anything I've done or not done, it has nothing to do with who I know, how I spend my time or anything I could have possibly ever earned.  My Eternity is secure because Jesus offered to pay my ransom, He loved me so deeply that He wanted to rescue me. He is offering you the same! That gift, that GRACE, that place He took for me is my promise. It can be yours too- take some time to reflect on your vapor of a life... and where your hope is placed. 
It is well with my soul tonight when we are all safe, and my soul would be well if we were enduring heartbreak.  He goes before me and beside me.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fear& Faith


This is forefront on my mind this week.  We had an eerie visitor yesterday afternoon.  We live in a very wooded area, to our east we have a swamp and a small creek.  The highway is to our south.  It was early in the afternoon, we had really just came back inside after playing in a beautiful fall day. I was getting our youngest down for a nap when my 9 year old ran into the room saying, "mom, I saw a man" not really thinking too much of it I assumed he saw someone walking on the highway, we often do.  But when he restated what he saw I caught the urgency in his voice and knew this was different. That's when something triggered in me and protection mode kicked in.  I ensured all house doors were locked and secure.  The scene he told me gave me goose bumps.  A man exited the woods onto our east lawn, only about 15 feet from our house, he was taking intentional deliberate steps right towards the patio door that was unlocked, looking straight towards the house when he suddenly turned and ran, Ryder described it as an Olympic runner.  He sprinted out of here.  He had paid attention and was able to give a description that we could give the police when we called it in.  My dad was here in a few minutes, my husband not long after and the police came and spent a handful of hours making sure we were safe, talking with neighbors and patrolling the area.  They found nothing.  

So nothing is found, yet there is this traumatic event we need to deal with the aftermath.  Truths, we are all safe. No one was injured or even necessarily in danger. I do not know the man's intentions, but I do know he was where he did NOT belong, he was walking very intentionally right towards my home, and he was not welcome here.  I will likely never have a followup of this occurrence, I won't have closure. So how do I deal with the fried nerves or feelings of uneasiness? What do I do with the fact that the secure feeling I'm accustom to having is suddenly interrupted.

I can choose to focus on the what-if's? There are many.  What could have happened....  

Or I can choose to focus on the One in charge of our today and all of our tomorrows.  This is where peace reigns.  I do not know God's plan for the days ahead, I am not promised protection from all harm, from all the bad things in this world.  I am not promised a life without tragedy, or events that shake us to the core.  But I DO know the One who has designed my life- He knows every day and every moment. He knows my life plan, and the plan for my boys' lives too, because He ordained it. He goes before me and beside me.  I can TRUST HIM.  I can claim peace even in circumstances that aren't peaceful, because this isn't a peace that circumstances get to determine.  This is a peace that is inward, at soul level.  I can give all that anxiety, all that worry over to God and choose to walk by faith.  I'm choosing this, I'm not letting emotions or fears control. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. 

It is well with my soul.  Even if that's a mindset, and a heart-set, I need to continually choose. SO when standing face to face with the choice of fear or faith, I'm working on choosing faith. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homeschool kick off year 8!

Someone asked me how I can be a supporter of both homeschool and public school... I've been thinking about it this week. A few conclusions: I have confidence in our decision for this season of raising kids, I know we are doing what works for us. Therefore I'm not living for your approval; I'm not doing this to impress or gain status. I've got nothing to prove other than we're choosing this (because it's our choice to make) and aren't worried what other people think whether good or bad.  

BUT I also have confidence and support for your decisions, even and especially if they are different from mine! I support families, and raising kids IS NOT a competition. We can add richness and perspective to eachother's lives by encouraging and supporting, not in comparing. Each path holds its benefits and challenges. What a gift we can bring to relationships if we can learn to be a life giving source of support, encouragement and a different perspective. We can add new possibilities, enhearten through the challenges, and celebrate together the complete joys each path holds! You don't need my approval, but I'm wholeheartedly giving it.


School on families, school on!!! Hope it's a great year no matter how you're doing it!!! And in the spirit at trying this NON COMPETITION raising kids, what's your FAVORITE part of the path you're choosing? Mine right now is having the privilege to teach a new concept and see their minds click as they catch on.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

When the idol of sleep gave me the green light to sin

Motherhood and sleep deprivation go hand in hand. I "knew" this before I became a mom, but I didn't realize what it actually feels like to experience in real time. I looked forward to middle of the night tending to my newborn, and when setting up the nursery I remember sitting in the rocking chair with that deep longing to hold that babe in my arms. Truth is, I didn't mind so much the actual tending to the baby part, but the effects of night after night of very interrupted sleep was more wearing than I realized possible.  

We moms have this thing, we get together and catch up... a very common topic being a badge we wear about being tired. Almost a tone of bragging. We ARE tired so we get together and talk about how tired we are, we listen with our head tilted sympathetically to the side, nodding in agreement, to how tired our mom friends are while sipping coffee and feeling run down. Busy and tired. The top go-to topics in any mom circle. I laugh when writing this because I wonder how many people I have told over the years just how tired I am. "how are you?" 

"So. Tired."

My friend first challenged this pattern of thinking in her own characteristically sweet way one day by just responding to the routine question on "how's the baby sleeping?" with a very uncommon answer... "Oh, you know... well, I stopped expecting sleep" Or something along those lines.

Wait, what?  (gasp!) Sleep is this thing we all work towards, we all look forward to... we all strive for! and you stopped expecting it? What does that even mean?!  

The sleep idol.  This was a biggie (really) in my home.  Partly because it's not like sleep is a need or anything (note sarcasm) we need sleep to live, function, recharge and survive. So how can a real need become a real idol in my life? Well, it crossed the boundary from a need into idol territory when I allowed it to dictate my following day: my mood, my emotions and my behavior. Night before I was interrupted 3 times, cue selfish attitude, green light to be grumpy, my crutch to allowing the following day to be bad, because after all, "I was sooooo tired" 

me. me. me. 

idol. idol. idol.

Lack of sleep, being really really tired, not feeling my best, is NOT a green light for selfish actions. I don't get to be a grumpy mom just because I didn't get a certain number of perfect, preferred sleep hours. IDOL=SIN

Her gentle way of speaking to this issue (and she probably didn't even realize it at the time) really was used by the Holy Spirit in my life to do some convicting, and launched my "fake it in faith" morning routine. I didn't FEEL top notch, I didn't feel rested or recharged or good to start my days after pulling all night hours with little ones. The sin nature in me wanted to use it as an excuse that I had quite the pattern to green lighting myself grump status. The selfish side in me was TIRED. To take down this idol I had to break some pretty set in place habits (SIN).  I started a catch phrase that I would repeat to myself those mornings... "fake it in faith" what it really boiled down to was I was determined to take those actions captive, those attitudes, emotions and feelings that had overtaken so so many mornings and really truly repent... They weren't going to dictate anymore.  In faith I would smile at the boys, and give them a genuine "good morning, how are you today?" In faith I would meet their needs of snuggles, breakfast, sock finder, fight resolver, milk spill cleaner-upper, and attention giver without being a jerk. In faith I would read the Word for a true source of strength and give my day to God no matter how I felt. The sleep idol was torn the heck down. 

And you know what, looking back at this period of time where I committed to using God's strength and victory the cross offers us, I really saw His hand of faithfulness.  He took my "in faith" choices and started to work on my raw and real underlying feelings.  He took my choice to do what was right even when I seriously didn't feel like it, and He changed me at the heart of things.  He used my "fake it in faith" mornings and honestly reprogrammed my emotions, He helped me submit my green lights to sin, and gave me the strength, grace and ability to do it differently. and to actually BE different.

Do you wear the "tired badge" proudly?  Has this tired mom thing stepped into idol ground? Take notice. Take action. Fake it in faith, and see how God works!  

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Glamour of Wedding Vows


Happily Ever After
Riding off into the sunset

As a young girl the image of what a marriage relationship would look like was formed by our culture- by Hollywood, by marriages I looked up to. It isn't that these dreams of what I would one day experience and live out were 100% wrong, I am married to a great man who I deeply respect. He has been faithful, is an excellent dad to our boys, loved me unconditionally and has weathered ups and downs alongside of me through the years. But I wasn't prepared for how hard marriage is in real-life. Until you are in the thick of it, you really can't grasp the challenges a relationship will face, how life will press in hard on all sides and try to choke the life out of your relationship. Pressures from work, school, taking care of a home, car and yard maintenance, PARENTING, schedules, balancing it all. And the ever present but sometimes far too ignored spiritual battles that go on in a home; there is an enemy who wants to destroy us. It's not easy, and over the years we've had patterns of living more like peaceful roommates than that deeper connection of husband and wife that we dream of. We've had seasons of storms, and deserts. But marriage is GOOD, I know this because God created it. He made for Adam a help-meet, and said Eve was in fact not just good but very good. He created the blessing of intimacy that comes with a marriage relationship, He created us with different needs that when we put the other first can be met. He created marriage to draw us closer to eachother and I truly believe to draw us closer to Him as well. So real-life marriage isn't the same as a Hollywood movie, but it IS such a blessing to live out in real-life.  

To take someone for better or for worse, in sickness and health, richer or poorer, as long as you both shall live seemed almost glamorous when those vows were spoken on our wedding day almost 14 years ago. I'll never forget the actual rawness of our first real "worse" we weathered together- how it almost took the breath out of you how hard those storms can be. The glamour was gone and what was glaring in our face was two selfish people trying to work together as one.  It was about as unnatural as could be! We didn't think the same, we didn't respond or communicate the same, we didn't have the same priorities, or emotions or even expectations.  But we DID have the same foundation- we built our marriage on Jesus, and what has shown itself time and time and time again over the years, is that having that common ground, that solid Rock we are building our life upon IS ENOUGH. And not just enough, but is what really matters. It doesn't make everything easy, but it is what makes it possible. Establishing our marriage, our home, our family on Him has been the best decision we as a couple have ever made and one that we've never regretted.  He is the strength to get us through, He is the wisdom, the balm of forgiveness, the joy that comes. He is the love that is far far greater than any love we could muster up on our own. He is what has made this marriage work. He is our courage, our eternal perspective, our peace in the storm. He gives us Living Water when we are in a desert chapter. As we continue to grow in our faith, we continue to give Him glory in all the ways we can look back over the years and see His faithful hand at work in us. We are thankful! I am humbled and awestruck to see the miracles He has worked! Being married to this man of God is really good!   

So if your marriage is rocky, I encourage you to look at your
I promise to keep
standing firm
foundation and see if it's built on The Rock. If your relationship is feeling a little too suffocating, I challenge you to turn to the one who Breaths in the breath of Life.  If you are feeling restless or discontent, I'm telling you to replace those emotions with thankfulness. Serve a little more, love a little harder, laugh a little longer, pour out more grace, and let the natural mountain tops and valleys be a journey you continue to embark on together. Vows fleshed out aren't nearly as glamorous as when they were spoken on your wedding day, but how incredible it is to get through a time of "worse" and realize you're back in a time of "better" again, having grown through the challenges, and are now stronger. Your foundation never once faltering.  

A wise man builds his house upon a rock and the rains came down and the floods came up but the house on the rock stands firm.

Stand firm.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Floods in life and The Living Water

This week we had some major storms move through our area- a tornado demolished an entire section of homes not far West of us, extremely large hail (baseball size reported) caused damage to buildings and vehicles, and the rain just kept coming.  Strong wind knocked down trees and took out powerlines in widespread areas. We weren't effected as badly as some, but our power was out. The duel combination of no power and heavy heavy rain, we were at risk for flooding.  My husband was out of town for work, so I was trying my best to handle the situation on my own-  Lugging out 5 gallon buckets of water from my basement couldn't keep up with how rapidly both of the sump pump tanks were filling. I was unable to handle the situation so I called for help.  My dad, who lives not far from us, hauled over his generator and got it started. Once connected to its source of power, the sump pump could function to do it's job, it started pumping out the water from the basement. We caught it in time, we acted quickly and with urgency and prevented it from becoming a much much worse situation with much more damage to our home.  

The rain has stopped, puddles are slowly going down, the concrete is drying out. As I reflect over the past few days, I can't help but feel relieved it's over and grateful for the help that I was able to get. I also can't help but look to the bigger picture- it's always there, but I don't always make the connection. Taking the time to make this connection really helps my perspective with the real-life situations we all face.  It helps me process it all, cope in a healthier way and also fixes my eyes on Eternity, where my hope is anchored securely.

In the basement of my home we were fighting the flood waters, we were pulling a late night, battling the storm and getting the damaging water out of my home.  We worked hard. My back and shoulders feel the strain of the 5 gallon buckets I hauled. Upstairs in my home we didn't have power, so that meant no running water, no flushing toilets, no washing hands, doing dishes, or having fresh water to drink.  The same storm - 2 different problems on both ends of the spectrum.  Water that we needed to get out absolutely as soon as possible, and water we needed to live; water to sustain us.  

I know there are areas of my life, looking back through the years and also presently that flood waters came rushing in, flood waters that in reality were and are sin. I need to get that damaging water out. It came in the form of bad decisions and continual bad choices, unforgiveness, a bad attitude, how I react in moments of stress (this one is really something I keep dealing with)... the list could literally never end. If left alone, if ignored or justified or even just "hidden", the flood would keep rising. The damage would take place. Even the smallest amount of flood water has the potential if left undealt with to cause problems. I called my earthly dad in for reinforcement in my emergency during the storm, but we also have a Heavenly Father who alone is capable of bringing in the necessary tools, the machinery, the knowledge far greater than our own to enable us to deal with sin in our life. He alone has the "Power Source" that can offer forgiveness of that sin. Complete and total forgiveness that not only can get the flood waters out, but can restore us and make us new.  Those floods of sin left un-taken-care-of will destroy us. They rob us of the present, and effect the future. They will crush our joy, wreck our relationships, wipe out our purpose. Wash away the reason we're here. Water left to rise in a basement would eventually destroy the entire building, mold would grow and it would become a contaminated place to live. Sin is much the same, even if we think "it's not really effecting anything" even if we believe that lie or justify the situation, or think it's hidden, the damage IS taking place.  We need to treat sin with urgency and in order to do that we need to connect to the life giving power source of Jesus, who alone is able. But not just able, He is available & willing.

During this storm I also needed the life giving water to drink, to cook and wash and clean.  Just like we need water to live here on earth, even more desperately we need The Living Water.  In John 4:14 Jesus is speaking and says,
"whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"

How our life literally depends on this Living Water- on the work Jesus did on the cross that was, is and will forever be, the only sacrifice offered that can forgive sin. Our eternal destination is hinged on our response to the free gift He is offering us. Just like most would consider it foolish if I would have denied my Dad's offer to come help, his offer to rescue, to bring over his power source that could get the job done. Foolish! How much more foolish is it if we deny the gift Jesus is offering each and every one of us. But how incredible that it doesn't end there, He isn't just out to save us for eternity (as if that wouldn't be enough to offer!) He loves us so completely, so thoroughly and FULLY, that He even wants to come along shoulder to shoulder with us through each and every storm we face in life, and help us with those too.  The small ones like we face everyday, and the HUGE ones that threaten to wipe us out. We are't facing any of it alone when we make the decision to do life with the Life Giver, the only TRUE power source that exists! My heart is completely overjoyed!

Thank you for taking the time to read, 
                Blessings, Stef

Monday, May 15, 2017

From Broken to NEW!

Brunch had ended, we were putting leftovers into smaller containers to save for later- washing the table, sweeping up the crumbs on the floor. Visiting and catching up while we worked alongside each other- The sweet melody of conversation filling the air. A new friendship beginning to take root as our paths were merging and we were now part of each others lives.  "Oh, be so careful, there's a broken glass in the sink"  Not entirely sure how it happened, but in the hustle and busyness of the morning a glass had broken. Carefully and thoroughly all pieces were gathered, double checking to make sure none were left, and wanting no one to get cut on the sharp edges, and the glass was thrown away. Because in our culture, broken things are often just tossed aside, thrown away, and replaced. That glass was no longer functional.  

A broken glass couldn't be used for its original purpose any longer because the water would't hold; Any liquid put inside would just spill out because of the break.  We don't think of brokenness being the first step to fullness. The message of the cross is entirely different though. He willingly became broken to offer us restoration, and newness of life.  We are shattered without Him,and when we accept His free gift of salvation through the work on the cross He makes us new. Now able to live victoriously and with a purpose we were created to fulfill. When we can begin to see ourselves the way He created us to be, there is a deeper meaning than we could ever experience outside of this relationship.  Through His gift of complete brokenness, suffering, sacrifice, ransom & redemption, we are offered NEW! We start out broken, in every sense of the word- and are transformed. What an incredible gift! 

What season are you living in right now? Maybe it is one of brokenness and you need to be reminded of His deep love.  Maybe you are trying to piece the brokenness of life back together on your own, and instead you need to bring all that mess, all that brokenness, your shattered edges, sharp shards of glass and burdens you are trying to shoulder on your own to the foot of the cross. He takes brokenness and makes it new.  He takes our messiness, our ugliness and our sin and washes it clean! He takes our lives and breathes in the breath of life. 

Maybe you just need that reminder- and to allow that joy to sink deep into your weary soul. 

2 Corinthians 5:1Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Or the Message translation puts it this way: anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

What is God doing with brokenness in your life right now? Where is He during a broken season or chapter? Who is He asking you to share this message of Newness with? To share this HOPE!  

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:1

My prayer is that we can all live life in the fullness of life that He offers!  

Friday, May 12, 2017

From behind a couch to living in His strength.

Let me describe for you a day that was a turning point for me... it was back 6 1/2 years ago, when I had 3 boys, ages 4, almost 2 and a few months. When I had 2 kids I really felt like I had this figured out, or it was at least manageable. I didn't feel overwhelmed, transition from 1-2 had been smooth... then came surprise number 3! I wouldn't trade him for the world now, but getting used to caring for 3 was a bumpy ride. The day had been unraveling before it even had a chance to begin.  I was woken up to a fight between brothers, and then a fussy little one.  The house was turned upside down and shaken hard. Dishes were piled. Laundry was a mountain. my nerves were fried. I felt like I was failing, no, that's not quite how I felt,  I actually felt like I WAS a failure.  There's a big difference between the two,  we can fail at a task, or a job... but it is still just a task or a job. When we start to take on the persona of Failure... Like we're identifying with that as a term to describe ourselves, that's a whole world of difference.  My strength was gone.  I was overwhelmed, spent, stressed to the max.  I wasn't functioning well at all. I would have complete anxiety take over at the mere thought of going anywhere with three kiddos in tote, so typically I just stayed home.  Isolation was at least comforting. No one had to KNOW how much I was in desperation mode.  I could just be in these 4 walls... and survive. When I would muster up enough courage or energy to venture out, it wouldn't match my expectations, and it was completely exhausting anyways, so it only pushed me further into the feeling of being completely trapped.  I felt like a prisoner in my own home and it was so claustrophobic.  I really was trying to manage it all. I really was putting in my best effort, but it wasn't cutting it!  I wasn't able to keep up with chores. I wasn't able to multitask on the small blips of sleep I was fitting in. I wasn't juggling the daily stuff well at all.  As this day wore on, I remember just feeling so exhausted: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I was running literally on empty.  I couldn't get the baby to take a nap, my 4 year old was tantruming it up and fighting me on every turn. My almost 2 year old was getting into trouble any time by back was turned.  I wanted to escape. I wanted to hide from it all. I wanted to run away.  I put the baby in his crib hoping he would give into the sleep he was so fiercely fighting and I quietly snuck behind our couch and hid. I hid from the mess. I hid from my kids. I hid from the pressures of the day and my life that honestly felt like it had fallen apart all around me.  I sobbed. like soul wrenching cries. Then my sobs of overwhelmeness, exhaustion, frustration and failure turned into a plea for help.  As I sobbed my heart out, my heart made a shift. Not one of defeat, although at the time that's how I would have described it.  But one of surrender.  I had been trying and trying and trying to get through each day (and night) on my own strength... and a quick inventory would reveal that it wasn't enough.  My strength had depleted about 2 months prior when the sleep deprivation really took root.  In that cry of defeat and surrender a few things happened that will be a bit of a challenge to put into words, but I'm gonna give it a shot because maybe, someone needs to hear this chapter of my life, this chapter of my testimony to get a dose of some encouragement, a friend coming shoulder to shoulder along side of you and saying "girl, I get it.  I was sooo there a handful of years too"  Maybe someone needs to hear this washing of grace that filled my spirit with renewed hope.  As I cried and cried and cried, hidden from life's pressures, life's blessings, life's responsibilities and challenges, my Savior met me right there in the disaster.  And wrapped His love around me, in a way I can't really describe, and poured His strength into me.  See, my strength wasn't enough, that's why I was feeling the way I was. I wasn't created to do this on my own, in fact I couldn't.  I needed Him to fuel me. 

This was the first time in my life where the saying we all quickly say "rely on God to get you through" Really became authentic to me. Like I learned how to flesh out this relying on God thing.  I NEEDED Him. Desperately. and man, was I at a desperate place.  He met me there behind my couch, with all the cheerios, dust, toys and probably a lost remote... and He didn't disappoint. He hadn't abandoned me before that, but I had turned blindly from Him. As the days started to compile into a longer amount of time, I started reading the Word while my coffee was brewing first thing in the morning. I'd get at least a verse into my soul... and I started giving Him my challenges, my areas that seriously felt suffocating to me, and He breathed in me new life. New breath. The breath of Life.  Real-life didn't go away.  It's not like I got to come back out from behind that couch and my house was magically clean, and my boys were suddenly angelic well mannered little cherubs.  Nah, that's not how it works.  But my soul was less weary, and I KNEW... like not in my brain knew, but in my heart KNEW, I wasn't in this alone.  I didn't have to try to juggle this all on my own and on my own strength.  His grace sunk deep into my spirit, and that identity of failure was no longer one I claimed. I am in no way what so ever a perfect mom. and in no way what so ever do I feel like I've got this figured out... but my prayer is that I won't forget the lesson learned through hidden tears that day that I'm not in this alone. I don't have to do this on my own strength... because His strength is infinitely greater. His wisdom is infinitely deeper. His patience, His love, His joy exists right there in sleepless nights, and brother fights, and sass.  In the raw, ugly, realness of life, He can add so much hope, and perspective and courage. He can replace our anxiety with trust.  He can give us courage to invest in friendships that bring life!  He can fuel our days and calm our souls at night to rest.  He wants to do real-life with us.. and until that day, hiding from my real-life, I didn't really get what that meant.  He offers us Salvation for eternity and Salvation and grace for Today! We have the privilege to walk through life (real-life) with Him! So if you are on your face, in the dust and cheerios today... trying to hide from it all.  Girl, I get it.  You are NOT alone, and you aren't meant to do this alone.  That defeat you are feeling can actually be a moment of great strength. 

Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.   

Happy Mother's Day to all the real-life moms!  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recognizing false sources of joy

Have you guys ever tried to squeeze your joy out of your relationships, or home, or work or kids? What I mean is, I've noticed a little tempting pattern that pops up now and again in my life during different seasons. I've noticed that Satan hits me where it hurts and whispers this lie to me that my joy is somehow linked to how close I'm feeling to my hubby, how clean and organized or decorated my house currently is, how fulfilled I am feeling from the work I put into homeschooling or how well my kids are behaving. 

Like seriously, his lie to me says that these things are the sources of tremendous joy... And that when these things are performing above a line that I invent for myself, then my joy can be full and I can just kick back and really truly and even finally enjoy a "perfect life, perfect marriage, perfect clean home, perfect school days and perfect kids" woah...... When I buy into that sneaky lie a few things happen, all according to Satan's plan.

The Bible tells us that​ the thief comes to ruin us, I love the way the verse says it 

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

If I'm putting it all on Josh and relying on my marriage to supply my joy, when the feeling of close, or expectation of perfect fails.... It actually robs my joy, according to Satan's plan. He's the joy thief so he tricks us to put our trust in other things for joy, and then makes us feel so incredibly miserable when that source doesn't follow thru. 

Same with house stuff, if I'm holding off on joy until I get my checklist complete, or find the best New "10 tips to juggle it all", finally decluttering, or a little decorating shopping spree that I "owe myself"... Woah, Satan isn't an amateur at this, he knows how to link our vaulnerablities in and is so vicious! He is a pro. Joy doesn't come from these things! Any of them. So we're left feeling jealous, or empty or like we just can't get this figured out, not just joyless but actually like failures.

This one differs for all of us, but I know how great a smooth school day feels, where the kids are actually dillegent at work, excited with what I'm teaching and not complaining. A few things in this area are a struggle for me; if I am relying on that kind of day to give me joy I'm seriously asking a lot of my kids.... they aren't responsible for fulfilling me. I can't ask that of them! And I can't blame them for "failing to give me that joy" when honestly guys, that's not their job.

Here's where we need a good heaping dose of wisdom, now don't get me wrong, those things would be amazing, those things would be incredible to enjoy, it would be wonderful to feel like I've got things all figured out, that I'm "above line" performing at life... but the lie here is that seeking those things as an idol, as if they are the source of my joy. Guys, we need to get this distinction down, we need to know with all our hearts how to recognize this lie so we can start soaking up true joy, not counterfeit joy, or fleeting happiness. Or investing everyday in search of "the perfect day"... It doesn't exist. And even if you have seasons where marriage is wildly awesome, you've got this cleaning stuff down pat, work is rocking and rolling and your kids are a-m-a-z-i-n-g.... These things don't compare to the joy that comes from Jesus. The verse talks about the true, only, authentic lasting joy, He comes that we can have LIFE and have it ABUNDANTLY! 

When we set our focus on a relationship with Him as our source of joy, all the things He blesses us with are just that, blessings we can enjoy! We are free to enjoy marriage, kids, work... All of it... Because we aren't depending on people, or things or performance to fill us. And we also will be anchored in truth and ready to face the challenges in imperfect relationships, and imperfect lives because our joy is already full!! To be able to abide in joy, while living real-life!! That means when I have a bad day like yesterday, I can sing "victory in Jesus" and have my heart mean it, because a good day or a bad day isn't the definition of joy to me anymore. Real-life, all of it's crazy, ugly, hard and amazing can be considered joy when I'm living it with my Savior! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our identity layers, and Who is at our very core

My Identity

When asked who I am when first meeting someone, there are a few go-to answers you would hear from me.  "I'm a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 4 boys" Is my typical ice breaker answer.  I stay home. I teach. I have 4 boys.  Your answer would likely be different from mine-  (Shout out to any other sahms, who homeschool 4 boys- message me... girl we are soul sisters)  lol. Maybe you work and you'd tell me about your career. Maybe you are a student and I'd hear about your education you're pursuing. Maybe you're a grandmother and you'd show me pictures of your grands. You might share something you're passionate about- art, animals, fitness.  If you are trusting and I'm making you feel especially invited, after introductions you might share a challenge you're facing, a fear or even an especially hard circumstance you're going through.  We share these different layers, to different people, at different times. Our roles. Our responsibilities, commitments, schedules. Hopefully we share struggles and prayer requests, ways we're being convicted, and growing as well.  It's this layer of vulnerability that I'm really passionate about this year.  As a New Year unfolded, I made it my intentional focus to find joy in the daily- the mundane real-life.  And to be transparent about ways I need prayer- ways I'm struggling to grow in my faith. Things God has really broken my heart over, and areas I'm experiencing HIS victory in.  

Identity is very layered, and each layer is unique for each person you cross paths with. We might share a layer of motherhood, but differ in # of kiddos, ages, gender. We might both be married, but differ in hobbies or passions.  We might both have a love for camping, or hiking. However, at our very very very core, as Women of Christ, we get to the deepest sense of "who we are". We are Redeemed. Daughters of The Most High King. We have been ransomed at the ultimate price and given a free gift that would have never been earned, bought or awarded. An undeserved gift of eternal life... forgiveness of sins.  This is what (WHO) truly defines me, and starts effecting all other layers of my identity.  I shouldn't try to find fulfillment in other roles, or responsibilities, but this is a constant internal war. In all honesty, one that I often times lose.  If I'm basing my identity on my kids, they become an idol to me... With good intentions of taking this mom gig seriously, I unintentionally bump their status up a bit too high and pretty soon my whole existence is orbiting around them. Life is good if they are "behaving", if they are obeying or happy. I'm learning that this is a sin struggle for me. My fulfillment comes from a relationship with Christ.  My identity isn't a wife, or a mom, although both are very important relationships that have shaped me and been life changing. My CORE identity and what needs to remain as FIRST place in my life is Jesus Himself. He brings fulfillment to my other roles, to the gifts He has given to me. He pours strength into my weaknesses, courage to keep going through a trial and His faithfulness in my life won't alter or shift. His GRACE is deeper than I can even grasp, and when He convicts me and then follows my repentance with such covering, cleansing grace!  So let me formally introduce myself,  

      "I am Stef, a saved sinner, Daughter of the King"

My prayer for you is that if you are born again, you will truly seek to find your identity in Jesus.  If you don't know what all of this means, or these are some new concepts for you- my prayer is that you will seek and find. The book of John is an excellent starting place, reading the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Himself... meeting Who He is and how it effects you and your eternity.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

a bad day isn't the same as a bad life

guys, this week Tuesday and honestly part of Wednesday were those days where your nerves are fried. Where instead of feeling like you're making any progress in things like laundry, cleaning, parenting, or honestly even feeding your family, you are moving backwards at warp speed.  How can it be possible to move backwards in feeding people?!  We finish a meal no one likes and they ask for snacks-  for real. The kitchen is still a war zone from cooking and they are asking for snacks?  I can't handle this nonsense and it started to really really get to me.  

For those that don't know I'm a homeschooling stay at home mom with 4 boys.  we have a 5th, 3rd, 1st and a 3 year old who is into tantrums and screaming.  Also he likes to find markers and use his hands like paper. I'm doing my absolute best raising this crew- but somedays, like this week, it's just a LOT overwhelming.  Add to that (confession) a certain celebrity giraffe kept me up too late one night, (anyone else feel like this is the longest pregnancy ever- like even longer than my own 4?!) and my coffee wasn't quite making me bright eyed. 

The kids were bickering
I was grumpy
School was both hard to teach and hard for them to learn
the house was a mess
I was on edge
the giraffe was still expecting. (this feels good to admit) lol

It was the perfect recipe for me to give myself the big old green light to feel sorry for myself.  Like full blown pity party style. For me, once that green light is given, chocolate is consumed, dishes sit unwashed, and the woe is me mentality takes root.  I am not proud of this.  This isn't a brag post, this is me being real.  Why does having a bad day make me feel like my whole life is a mess?  I think Satan is such a pro at that... I think there is a spiritual battle waging with such intensity that we don't even recognize. and sometimes giving myself the "green light" is really just as excuse to sin... and I need to recognize that too.  

His lies to me:  
   kids are fighting = I am failing at being a mom
   the house is messy = I can't juggle all of this like other people can
   a giraffe hasn't had a baby on facebook live = it EFFECTS me
   A tantrum = I can't handle this anymore

Once lies are recognized, they can start being replaced with truth... and truth is freeing!  So kids are fighting, I need to deal.  They can go outside and get out some of this energy in a healthy way. they can do chores, they can lose a privilege, they can be assigned to help clean up this mess around here. I need to be ready with a plan.  Then I need to follow thru.  If they still fight, there can be things like early bedtime... and sometimes that's exactly what we all need. 

The house is a mess- I can clean!  and it'll still get messy again. Seriously, this one is just something I need to come to some kind of reality check with.  Our house is in use 24/7.  Because 5 people are HOME living, schooling, eating, projecting, playing, watching giraffes all day everyday it's an ongoing thing to pick-up, sweep-up, laundry-up.  It's just the season we're in.  I need to set my mind on other things and not get depressed with the constant state of mess. 

a giraffe.  ok, this one is hard.  Come on April!!!  You have the whole world on edge!!!

a 3 year olds' tantrum.  Again, I need to have a plan... and it still won't always follow the script... because life is like that.  life is as messy as a 3 year old with markers.

Bottom line, bad days don't equal a bad life. They don't make me a bad mom. I need to step back, get a big picture focus again and remember that God is working on each of these hearts... mine included!

This verse soothes my soul at least as much as chocolate does, Hope you find some hope in it too