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Why a good marriage isn’t our goal

You know when you read a book or hear a teaching, and it’s like everything inside you jumps for joy, “YES! Truth!”

That’s how I felt recently when we (finally) discovered Francis & Lisa Chan’s You and Me Forever marriage book/study, which we’re super excited to have as the materials for the first ever Renew marriage group.  It reminded of me of this, from a few years ago, so I thought I’d share again, and if you’re looking for a resource to strengthen your marriage: Check out Chan’s book!

If we only want our marriages to flourish so that we’ll be happy, or fulfilled, or satisfied, then as soon as our marriage is no longer making us feel happy, fulfilled, and satisfied, we’ll quickly give up and move onto something else. If we’re really going to have the energy, motivation, enthusiasm and perseverance  to tend and cultivate a healthy, thriving, flourishing marriage, we’ve got to have a greater reason why. And I would suggest this is the reason why:

Because your marriage is part of a far greater mission.

I believe that the reason our marriage has flourished (it’s not perfect, of course, but I love it!) is because “good marriage” isn’t the end goal. We didn’t enter into marriage for the purpose of marriage. Here’s what I mean:

Our marriages are less important and more important than we realize. By less important, I simply mean that nowhere in Scripture does it say that your sole purpose in life is to get married and be a “good wife”. We are certainly called to be a helpmeet (ezer) to our husband and to be fruitful and multiply, BUT the greatest purpose of all humankind in scripture is to glorify God, to go and make disciples, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our ultimate purpose—showing the love of Christ to a lost world—is not dependent on whether or not you are married.

 However, IF you are married, then our marriage is part of that mission, and it’s a far more important part than we may even realize. Here’s what I mean:

Our marriage was meant to nourish us and the world around us by its beauty and spiritual fruit.  Fruit that we can enjoy, that our children can enjoy, that the world can enjoy—and that most of all puts on display what God is like. So our marriages are more important than we realize because our marriages are a picture of what God is like. It’s a picture of Jesus Christ and His church (Ephesians 5).

God is for our marriages. God created us to thrive in our marriages. He created marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church, a picture of His extravagant love for us. He wants the world to look at our marriages and say, “Wow! Now that’s love.” Our marriages are actually God’s evangelistic tool. He wants our marriages to be so beautiful, so lovely and strong and enduring, that everyone will want to know the God of our marriage. They will want a love like that.

And personally, I believe that this is the scheme of our enemy who wants to do whatever he can to discredit followers of Jesus and tarnish the beautiful picture of God’s love, by making their marriages are weak, wilted, defeated, discouraged. In other words, the health of your marriage is even more important than you think.

But as long as our goal is merely to “have a good marriage” we’re aiming too low and missing out on the deeper motivation, the God-given drive that will fuel our devotion and inspire us to grow in selflessly loving, respecting, submitting to, and honoring our husbands.

What if your marriage was the only picture of God’s love someone ever saw? What would they think? I pray God would grant us strength and grace to grow such grace-filled and sacrificially-loving marriages that the world can look and see a picture of God’s love. That’s a lofty goal. There’s no way we can achieve that on our own. It would take a miracle, a supernatural work of God to achieve a marriage like that. Which is why it’s the goal we need.  He’ll get all the glory.

Praying God’s grace for a God-glorifying marriage that only His power can achieve. Praying for you! Thanks for reading.

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For all your Pinterest-fails this holiday season…

I can STILL remember my so-called Pinterest-fails from when I was five years old. Long before that red icon resided on my phone-screen, I was trying to create crafts, clothes, and cookies. I can still remember sitting on the carpet, trying to sew some doll clothes by hand. The stitches weren’t straight, the edges frayed, and when I turned the shirt right-side out it was too small for the doll’s head to fit through. Argh!

Just last week, my Heidi was in tears over the exact same thing. She was sewing doll clothes, by hand. The stitches came undone, the dress didn’t fit over Elsa’s head, and bottom edge had frayed. Her frustrated tears totally took me back to my childhood!

Now that we have Pinterest, it might actually be worse. Before, we just had pictures in our heads of what we wanted to create. These mental pictures can be rather forgiving. Not so with Pinterest’s pictures. They’re perfect. They’re often professional. I have a hunch they might be photo-shopped.

In the last week I’ve actually attempted not one, not two, but FIVE new Pinterest-informed endeavors.  I’m not sure what is wrong with me, it must be the holiday season. I get ridiculously optimistic and seem to forget all the past Pinterest-fails that trail behind me, creative wreckage. I forget all this because it’s Christmas-time! Everything’s possible at Christmas, right?! Of course I can sew myself a floor-length plaid tartan circle skirt even though it calls for 5 yards of fabric and I only have 1.5. AND I can stain and antique my kitchen cabinets AND whip up three new recipes. Anything’s possible at Christmas! Right?!

My fatal flaw is that I often “wing it”. I often don’t follow recipes, I never use patterns, I eyeball rather than measure, and I like to move quickly, so there’s not a lot of time for prep. This doesn’t bode well for beautiful outcomes, but I will say that the experiments of this past week have reminded me of some timeless truths:

People are more important than things

I noticed that when I was staining my cabinets (and really cared about the outcome) I was quick to grow impatient with Heidi, who wanted to help. God actually had to deal with my heart on this issue, because I easily get more absorbed in my project than in giving my full attention to the kids. I let it sit unfinished for several days, until the Father gave me the green light to continue, after I’d surrendered my silly project and made my kids the priority.

Ugly food often tastes best.

No explanation needed.

No one notices your frayed hem.

So, I did sew a plaid skirt to wear to a speaking event, and I was hoping they’d have the lights low so no one could see what a terrible job I’d done. I figured no one would look low enough to see my imperfect hem. Wouldn’t you know it, the stage had FULL LIGHT (ha!) and I was up high enough that the audience eye-level was exactly at my hemline. Ha! But you know what? No one cares. Be free!

The imperfect version is the most fun.

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Last night we made THESE. And we laughed so hard we we were snorting and crying and I haven’t laughed that hard in years. And it was all because they turned out so gloriously imperfect.

Controlling kills the fun every time. 

I won’t lie, when we started making these cookies, Heidi wanted to do it all on her own. I admit: I cringed. The gingerbread men began looking like victims of some horrible accident, and I was so tempted to reach right over and do it myself. But that would have been the worst. And when she frosted them and sprinkled all five colors right on top of one another, and put the red hots there as eyes and they started looking like horror-movie characters, I thought about telling her to do it differently. But I stopped. And I’m so glad because she LOVED this whole adventure, and asked if we could do it every year and woke up the next day and asked to finish decorating the rest. Seems like success to me.

And so I share my #pinterestfails as a friendly reminder that an imperfect Christmas might just be best, and maybe we can lighten up a little and love each other more than our ideals. I’m sure you know this already, but it never hurts to have a little reminder. Happy holidays! Thanks for reading.

PS For the record, some of my projects turned out ok! I like the cabinet-stain, and THIS sugarless flourless chocolate cake is incredible!!

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How imperfections perfect.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:4

I had worked so hard to have everything perfect. I’d planned ahead, cooked ahead, packed and laundered and cleaned and … then I got sick. Noooo! We were leaving on our 19-day road trip and the day before I came down with a terrible cold and was so miserable I could barely get out of bed. Our first stop was in the Redwoods, where the forecast predicted 45-55 degree weather. And nonstop rain. Did I mention a tent-trailer? 

As soon as church was out, the kids and I hurried home to finish the last minute preparations. Of course, everything took longer than I thought. Of course, by the time we got everything ready and pulled out the driveway I was already so exhausted I just wanted to turn right around and go back to bed.

Our ETA was 8pm. But then again, we were pulling a trailer, and it was pouring rain and dark by the time we wove our way through the curvy Redwood highway. By now I was already a little irked that we’d made three bathroom stops (I won’t name names) and I knew we were behind schedule and I was just so tired. I just wanted a warm bed. 

By the time we wound through the final stretch of highway, I was beyond irritated. Jeff was driving so slow. I kept staring a hole in the speedometer. Sure, he was being safe. Sure, it was pouring rain, pitch black, and we were on one of the most dangerous stretches of highway. But really?! 


Finally, we arrive. It’s almost 10pm. My head is pounding, I’m sneezing,  my nose is raw and running, my throat’s burning. Now it’s time to set up camp, which takes us until 10:30pm. All I can think about is warmth. If I could just get warm. I knew we had a heater in the tent trailer, so I figured once we got curled up into bed, it’d be ok. 

We crawl in under the cold covers. “The heat’s on, right Babe?” I check with Jeff. He assures me it is. It sure feels like cold air. I huddle under the blankets, and wait, hoping it will get warm soon. I can’t breathe through my nose. Maybe it will get warm soon.

It never did. It was just cold. Super wet and cold all night. I wake in the morning, more miserable than ever. Jeff goes out to check something, and when he returns he says, “Oh, I never turned on the propane last night. So the heat never turned on, it was just a fan.”

Right. It was just A FAN BLOWING COLD AIR ON US ALL NIGHT. That’s exactly what it felt like as I lay in bed blowing my nose and NOT SLEEPING.

I don’t even need to get into the rest of the morning, right? Ha! You mamas know that when camping, the normal routines of cooking and cleaning take ten times as much effort. Finding the food. The clothes. It’s pouring rain and the floor’s already covered in mud, my head is pounding, eyes are burning, nose running … ARE WE HAVING FUN YET??!!!

Eventually, of course, we find our food and groove. Jeff goes for his run. The kids get started on their school lessons, and I get curled up with a blanket and hot coffee.

Of course, the day gets better. We get out. We look up. Nothing like thousands of 300-foot-tall trees to remind you of your smallness, God’s bigness, and the proper perspective on our problems.

Although I still felt terrible physically, my eyes turned up and I knew this was good. Why? Because imperfection perfects. It is these mundane “sufferings” — the irritations and inconveniences that shape and mold us, that mature us, that perfect us. Just like God’s Word says. We seek spectacular, thrilling experiences but it’s these experiences that most often make us more like Jesus. 

When I get home, Jeff takes the kids for some adventuring, and I get a quiet hour to curl up and prayerfully write—the process that always sharpens my focus and settles me back into peace.

And that night, between 7-8pm, I’m struck by how I begin to feel dramatically better. My headache goes away, my nose clears, my throat no longer hurts. And joy rises. I sleep like a baby (with the heat on!) and wake feeling completely better.

I’m so struck by the dramatic improvement, I consider what could have happened. Then I realize:

It was Monday night. It was 7-8pm.

The time of our church’s prayer meeting.

Yes. I knew it. They were praying for us.

Wow. Gratitude wells up in my heart, I send out texts, giving thanks. He allowed the imperfections to perfect me, bit by bit, making me more like His Son. And then, by His grace, He led His people to gather in a little humble group and bring about complete healing through their faithful intercession.

God is good. All the time.

{How are imperfections perfecting you today? Thanks for reading.}

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With. {A simple parenting approach}

We started back to school last week so my days are full of homeschooling and lots of time WITH my kids. I’ll keep blogging as I’m able, but if you ever wonder where I am, now you know. 🙂 I was reminded of this so I thought I’d share again. Enjoy…

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…and lo, I am with you always…

Matthew 28:18

“Mommy, will you be with me?”

Next to, “Can I have something to eat?” this is the most common request I hear, on a daily basis. Besides food, really all my children want is me.

They don’t care what we do, they just want me.

There are so many parenting philosophies and educational models, and my heart and hope is always to share simple guiding principles without offering a certain prescribed method to follow. In fact, what most powerfully influences my schooling and parenting decisions is one simple word:

With.

Looking back at my own childhood, I see this powerful force at work as well. Sure, my parents weren’t perfect, but what marks my childhood and makes me recall it with pure joy and fondness, what makes it continue to be a source of strength and confidence for my adult-self, is that my parents had an unwavering dedication to be with us.

We did everything together. Yes, my mom homeschooled us, we spent every day together, we cooked together and cleaned together, we played and read and learned and ran errands — with her. But we weren’t isolated from the world. We took trips and did science fairs and field trips, we served people and explored.

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My dad was an NCAA referee for 20 years. We all loaded in the car and traveled to countless college basketball games, sometimes up late and sometimes eating *ahem* fast food for dinner. My mom didn’t stress about bedtimes or burgers — we were together.

Wherever he went, we went with

As we grew older Dad stepped away from college games so he could ref and coach us instead. My brother and I played 7 sports between us through our high school years and my parents never missed a game.

They were with us.

My aim here is not to guilt y’all who can’t be with your kids every second. I get it. The last thing we need, as mamas, is a guilt trip about not being everywhere at all times.

But sometimes what we need isn’t to do more, it’s to do less, but with them. This can apply to every educational method and model, to every country and culture2015-06-21 08.54.57

I see it this way: I get these kids for about 5 minutes, in the grand scheme of things. I’m going to blink and be 50 and they’ll be gone, flying on their own around this world. My time with them is so short. There are a thousand other things I could be doing, but this is one thing no one else can do.

No one else can Mama my kids.

No one else has the fierce love for them like me. No one else can know their hearts like me, can see that look in their eyes and know exactly what it means. No one else can show them the heart of God, can identify their love language, their motives and fears.

A couple years ago, I asked God to give me wisdom to help guide my Sacred Mundane with my kids. The word with came to my heart. Because I’m nerdy and like mnemonic devices, I turned it into an acrostic, to remind me every single day of how to be WITH my kids in intentional ways:

W: Work. How can I work with my kids, giving them skills and training them as we go?

I: Inspire. How can I inspire faith in my children today, teaching them to trust God more?

T: Teach. How can I teach my children the knowledge and wisdom they need to thrive in life?

H: Help. Where are my kids struggling? How can I help them to overcome an area of weakness today?

Isn’t this what Jesus does for us? His name is ImmanuelGod with us. Jesus comes and lives among us, rubs shoulders with us, then promises that even after He leaves, He will be with us as we carry out His great commission (Matt. 28:18). He’ll never leave us or forsake us, He’ll be with us forever, even to the end of the age.

WITH is at the heart of the gospel, and I believe it’s at the heart of parenting too. This can look so different for every family–that’s the beauty of it! No one-size-fits-all. No template! No cookie-cutters!

You with your children and God with you.

{Bless you, faithful mamas and daddies, as you do life with your kids today. Thanks for reading.}

 *Originally from last fall.

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When He’s taking FOREVER to show up…

I shifted positions on the sand, looking over my shoulder again. Where was he?

The tops of my thighs were definitely red--that sad white space above the shorts-line exposed in early summer when we bravely (and a bit reluctantly) don bathing suits. I tried to hold my small paperback strategically to block the sun, glancing back again. Where WAS he? 

We were having a fabulous anniversary weekend. The book Touching Godliness had deeply stirred my heart, and I knew the word submit was to be my banner for the next season of life. But, I’d asked God, Submit to what? 

In a half-second He spoke to my heart:

  • Submit to embracing the role of wife and homeschooling mama.
  • Submit to serving the people right in front of you.
  • Submit to obedience in the small, silent stuff, where no one sees but God.
  • Submit to joyfully serve, honor, and respect Jeff, believing the best about him above all other human relationships.

Oh, that’s all? (ha!) Ok, ok, I get it. I’m taking notes.

And of course, every lecture needs a lab. God’s sanctification school is no different. So I figured this weekend was a good place to start practicing.

So, we were lounging on the sandy beach beside the Deschutes River. It was hot. Really, really hot. Dozens of people were walking by with inner-tubes, putting in to float down the river to the Old Mill district. We thought it’d be fun to do the same, and Jeff knew his mom (in whose house we were staying) had tubes. So he, seeking to bless and serve me, said that he would take all our stuff to the car, leave me to relax on my towel, and he’d drive to her house, grab the tubes, then come back so we could float down river.

Perfect.  Even though he’d already run a half-marathon that morning he was still willing to run the errand so I could relax. Good man. So I handed him everything, including my phone.

It was 12:30pm, and she just lived a few miles away so it would be a quick trip.

“If I’m not back in an hour then I’m in wreck somewhere,” he jokingly added as he walked away.

I settled in on my towel, happy to relax. I wasn’t sure how much time went by but it seemed he was gone quite a while. I swam in the river to cool off. Then sat back down, glancing back periodically to see when he’d arrive.

People came. People went. No Jeff. I heard someone say it was 1:30pm as they packed their kids up to go home.

People came. People went. No Jeff. I heard someone hollar, “Hey, it’s 2pm, let’s get home!”

That’s when my thighs started getting red.  I shifted on my towel. Adjusted my book to shade different body parts on rotation, pulling corners of the small towel up and around my legs. The family next to me called to their kids, “It’s 2:30, we better get going.”

No Jeff.

I laid down and closed my eyes. Where WAS he? 

All of us wives are prone to react in different ways:

::Some assume catastophe: “He must be dead!”

::Some assume irresponsibility: “What is that idiot doing now?” 

::But some believe the best: “I bet whatever has happened, he must be doing something awesome on my behalf.”

By the grace of God, on this particular day, I believed the best. Though I couldn’t figure out what on earth would take him so long (and didn’t hear any sirens so I wasn’t concerned about safety), I figured something worthwhile was happening, and asked God to protect me from skin cancer.

So I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. And kept glancing back over my shoulder, looking for a glimpse of inner tubes.

And then, to my everlasting surprise, as I sat gazing out at the river, my eye caught something strange:

What? There’s a man kayaking UPstream, towing a paddleboard behind him!  I squinted and looked longer …

It was JEFF!

I stood up, and I must say, it was kind of “scene-from-a-movie-ish.” He was dripping sweat towing this paddle board upstream and I jumped off the beach and ran into the water.

I yelled, “What are you DOING?!” (But I was smiling when I said it.) He told me the story. He thought he’d surprise me with an awesome adventure–bringing a kayak and a paddleboard so we could each paddle our way up and down the river together. He loaded both huge items by himself, but when he arrived back at the beach, there were no parking spaces, and he couldn’t get close enough to leave the car and alert me. So he had to drive all the way to the end of the river run, downstream, haul both the kayak and the paddleboard himself, tie them together, and paddle all the way upstream hauling the paddleboard, in order to rescue me from the beach.

He finished his story, breathless, and handed me a water bottle, “And I made you a limeade slushy to drink.”

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I slurped the icy goodness and shook my head, smiling. “You’re amazing. Thank you so much.”

We pushed off from the shore, and paddled up and down the river in the slanting afternoon sun. In the quiet float downstream, I leaned back, reflecting:

When God is taking a long time to “show up” in my life, how do I respond?

::Do I assume catastrophe? God must not here! He must not be real! He must not love me! Everything must be falling apart!

::Do I assume irresponsibility? God must not know what He’s doing. I better take care of things. How dare He treat me like this? Poor me, having to wait all this time while God goofs off.

::Or do I believe best? I have no idea what’s taking so long, but I know the character of my God. I know His Word. And I know that whatever is going on, He must doing something awesome on my behalf.

With tears welling up in my eyes, I looked up into the blue sky, “Lord, when You’re taking forever to show up, help me to believe the best.”

{God loves you and is working up a crazy sweat doing awesome things on your behalf. Thank you for reading!}

*Originally published July 2013

Why a good marriage isn’t our goal

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I’m thumbing out this post on my phone while watching my littles splash in the river, screaming as they run from a vicious dinosaur in the form of their daddy. I’m happy for the chance to bask in the sun, and as I watch, my heart is so full of gratitude for this man I married.

Yesterday we celebrated 13 years of marriage. I know we’re still youngsters compared to some of you, but 13 years is at least long enough to make a few humble observations, not as those who have arrived, but at least who have had some scrapes & cuts & bruises along this bumpy road of matrimony. Of course every relationship is different, but I’d venture to say we all want a healthy, thriving, flourishing marriage.

The key question, then, is:

Why?

If we only want our marriages to flourish so that we’ll be happy, or fulfilled, or satisfied, then as soon as our marriage is no longer making us feel happy, fulfilled, and satisfied, we’ll quickly give up and move onto something else. If we’re really going to have the energy, motivation, enthusiasm and perseverance  to tend and cultivate a healthy, thriving, flourishing marriage, we’ve got to have a greater reason why. And I would suggest this is the reason why:

Because your marriage is part of a far greater mission.

I believe that the reason our marriage has flourished (it’s not perfect, of course, but I love it!) is because “good marriage” isn’t the end goal. We didn’t enter into marriage for the purpose of marriage. Here’s what I mean:

Our marriages are less important and more important than we realize. By less important, I simply mean that nowhere in Scripture does it say that your sole purpose in life is to get married and be a “good wife”. We are certainly called to be a helpmeet (ezer) to our husband and to be fruitful and multiply, BUT the greatest purpose of all humankind in scripture is to glorify God, to go and make disciples, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our ultimate purpose—showing the love of Christ to a lost world—is not dependent on whether or not you are married.

 However, IF you are married, then our marriage is part of that mission, and it’s a far more important part than we may even realize. Here’s what I mean:

Our marriage was meant to nourish us and the world around us by its beauty and spiritual fruit.  Fruit that we can enjoy, that our children can enjoy, that the world can enjoy—and that most of all puts on display what God is like. So our marriages are more important than we realize because our marriages are a picture of what God is like. It’s a picture of Jesus Christ and His church (Ephesians 5).

God is for our marriages. God created us to thrive in our marriages. He created marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church, a picture of His extravagant love for us. He wants the world to look at our marriages and say, “Wow! Now that’s love.” Our marriages are actually God’s evangelistic tool. He wants our marriages to be so beautiful, so lovely and strong and enduring, that everyone will want to know the God of our marriage. They will want a love like that.

And personally, I believe that this is the scheme of our enemy who wants to do whatever he can to discredit followers of Jesus and tarnish the beautiful picture of God’s love, by making their marriages are weak, wilted, defeated, discouraged. In other words, the health of your marriage is even more important than you think.

But as long as our goal is merely to “have a good marriage” we’re aiming too low and missing out on the deeper motivation, the God-given drive that will fuel our devotion and inspire us to grow in selflessly loving, respecting, submitting to, and honoring our husbands.

What if your marriage was the only picture of God’s love someone ever saw? What would they think? I pray God would grant us strength and grace to grow such grace-filled and sacrificially-loving marriages that the world can look and see a picture of God’s love. That’s a lofty goal. There’s no way we can achieve that on our own. It would take a miracle, a supernatural work of God to achieve a marriage like that. Which is why it’s the goal we need.  He’ll get all the glory.

Praying God’s grace for a God-glorifying marriage that only His power can achieve. Praying for you! Thanks for reading.

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Polish the Silver {How to get it right}

I woke up early that morning (it was my birthday) and sneaked downstairs.

I was turning six and so excited for my tea party that day. Mom was still sleeping; she had been working hard to prepare for my party, and I wanted to do something special to help her. I looked up onto the high counter and saw the antique sterling silver tea set. That was it! I knew that one of the things she needed to do that morning was polish the silver–I could surprise her and do it for her! Yes, that was the perfect idea.

Now, Where’s the polish

I vaguely remembered there being polish in the laundry room, so I dug around a little until I found it. It was thick and white, and oozed out of a special spongy tip on one end.

I set to work with all my heart. Rubbing carefully, I covered every surface of the sterling silver set. It was very white and very pasty. Hmm… It definitely looked different from what I’d imagined, but I was glad that I’d finished the job completely before mom woke up.

Just then she came in.

“Oh my!” she said. Her eyes were so big. (She was so surprised!) She smiled wide, really really wide, as she looked at the silver and at me.

“I polished the silver for you Mommy!” She looked at me with so much love in her eyes and this huge smile, I could tell she was so incredibly blessed by my hard work for her.

Thank you,” she said, and meant it. “Thank you so much. Can I take a picture of you there with the silver?”

I beamed, and sat beside the white chalky silver for a photo.

Then she came next to me: “Now, shall we make it a little less white? We can work on it together.” Together we did a little more work, rinsing off all the white stuff, and wiping the silver clean. Then, still smiling, she pulled out another container from a tall shelf in the kitchen.

“This is the silver polish. Let’s use this one on the silver; ok?  We can do it together.” I beamed, still so happy because she was so happy. I knew she was pleased.

It wasn’t until much later that I understood what all took place, when I looked back at the photo in an album and saw the caption:

“Kari loves to help. She polished the silver for me with shoe polish. :)”

Shoe polish.

Here’s what I love: When I think back on that memory, there is only joy. Sure, in a very real sense I did it wrong. I polished silver with shoe polish. But I don’t remember any shame. No anger, or irritation, or annoyance. I wasn’t belittled.

My mom saw my heart, and in my heart: I got it right. 

Last week was a busy one for me, and one morning I came downstairs and discovered that Heidi had wanted to bless me. So she was unloading the dishwasher. She was doing the utensils, but since the counters are so high she was sorting out all the clean silverware … on the floor.

“Mommy!  I’m helping you!” She beamed.

“Oh!” I smiled, a wide, wide smile.  “Thank you. Thank you so much,” I said, and meant it. And while she wasn’t looking (she’s a photo-phobe), I snapped a pic because someday I want her to know that even when she got it wrong, her mama knew she got it right

Oh friend, how often I have feared stepping out in faith to serve my God, because I was so afraid I wouldn’t get it right? How often I have feared the failure, or the looking foolish. But there is so much grace and freedom in the Kingdom. Our Father sees our hearts, when we earnestly and honestly work to love and serve Him from a heart of humble childlike faith.

Even when we get it wrong, He sees we got it right

{May this freedom rule your hearts this week. No fear! Polish the silver! With love…thanks for reading.}

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The Ark (Part 3)

… Okay let’s finish this story!

So, in January, we were generously given a raise by the elders of our church. At first was uncomfortable with receiving this increase. This was God’s money! Plus, we were fine. We weren’t starving, and we literally had no needs. We are clothed, we have cars, we have plenty. But again, as I went to the Lord in prayer, I kept sensing Him saying to receive because this was part of the journey. We had become comfortable with being conduits of His love and resources in teeny tiny amounts, and He wanted us to be willing to be conduits of His love and resources in larger ways now.

Plus, to my amazement, because we had whittled down our monthly budget to such a small amount, this “extra” now put us in a completely different position to look for the Ark. I still didn’t have a $ amount, but I began to see that this was all part of God making the impossible possible.

Then I accidentally sold our house.

Ha! Yes, that’s right. This is the part of the story where I say, “Wives, don’t do this.” Jeff laughed so hard saying,

“You sold our house out from under me!” Haha.

Actually all I did was click that teeny tiny button on Zillow that says “Make Me Move.”  I was praying and fasting, and the idea came to mind so I did it.

Yeah, like, I did it without asking Jeff. (Cringe face.)

Thankfully, he laughed later and said it was fine, but we received a FLOOD (ha!) of calls with interested buyers. We agreed to just show the house to two people who seemed most eager. The second one came and cried when she saw the house she loved it so much, and offered full price. Jeff agreed, we accepted.

So, um … now what?

The same day we received the offer, a house popped up on the market. I had no filters on my search at all, but it caught my eye because it was 4.5 acres and it looked like …

…  an ARK. 

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The front angled out like the bow of a boat and there were decks all the around. I looked closer. 4.5 acres. Two full living spaces. Huge shop. Wood stove. On a well.

With a pond and creek.

Oh good grief!

My eyes widened. Was this for real? And, with the more-than-expected equity from our house-sale, it would be the exact amount we’d already been approved for, with our new income.

We went to see it and it rang so clearly in my heart, “This is it.” The kids, of course, were ecstatic. We’d seen some absolute hovels of houses, and after seeing all those dives they couldn’t believe we were actually considering a house that they LIKED! Haha, and that’s how I felt. I was like, “Wait what?! This house is actually pretty! I didn’t expect pretty to be part of the process.” I thought it would be like an old school, or a warehouse, or some weird thing like that, I didn’t expect it to be clean and lovely! Of course I would never have picked green countertops or some of the other stylistic parts of the house, but I didn’t give a rip about those things.

This was THE ARK!

Of course I was thrilled at seeing this God-thing come to pass. It was so remarkable I could barely believe it, but then would come the uprooting of more heart-issues. God doesn’t waste anything, and He used this blessing to show me lingering sin in my heart …

Bet you can’t wait for that! Haha. 😉 More soon! 

 

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The Ark (Part 2)

{Continuing the story from yesterday! So sorry to keep you waiting!}

… So we prayed and asked God to show us what to look for. Altogether we sensed 7 things, but they came one at a time. I think if He’d showed us everything all at once, we’d have laughed in disbelief and abandoned the whole adventure altogether.

First, He had to help me abandon an incomplete view of what it means to be faithful financial stewards.

See, I’m the Faithfully Frugal girl. I wrote the book, people! And I wholeheartedly agree with every word in there, but I hadn’t realized how much I’d equated frugality with godliness.

With good reason. Nine times out of ten, erring on the side of frugality is going be a safe bet. We’re a nation of over-spenders, often over-indulging ourselves while refusing to help our brothers and sisters with real needs. God had done such a dramatic work in my heart regarding finances and frugality, that I was zealous for frugality.

But in October, God began revealing to me, that although my passion for frugality was well-intended, He wanted to take me deeper. He wanted to teach me to the way of the Kingdom, living as a child of God.

In October I distinctly heard, “I no longer want you to make decisions based on money.”

Say what?! Then how on earth would I make them? Yes, we gave generously overseas and to our local church, but in my day-to-day decision-making, I almost always made decisions simply based on what was cheaper. At restaurants, gifts, groceries, choices of all kinds. My go-to, default, decision-making process was almost always What’s cheaper? or What’s the better deal?  

That’s fine for some things, but it’s terribly incomplete. It often isn’t motivated by love, faith, or the gospel. It’s motivated by a passionate commitment to spending as little as possible.

Again, that might be a good place to begin, but I sensed the Father saying from now on He wanted me to confer with Him about every single financial decision, and trust His leading (with my husband, of course) and buy or not buy what He wanted, regardless of price.

Ok, this might seem like no big deal to you, but this was a HUGE SCARY DEAL to me. I kept thinking, “This is fine and dandy for those people with plenty of money, but what about for us?! We can’t afford to be willy nilly with our finances!”

I could almost hear Him laughing. Of course this wasn’t “willy nilly” … this was learning to live more fully in relationship with the Father, not with a commitment to a certain financial principle. I felt so scared to step outside my comfort zone in this way. But you know what? I did it and …

It was awesome! I found myself being so much more generous, buying gifts for people because I genuinely thought it would be their very favorite, not just because it was on sale. I had so much fun dreaming up ways to bless others. I found myself feeling so FREE!

And to my everlasting amazement, of course, we never lacked. 😉

In the midst of this, when I asked God to show me what price range to search for as we looked for the Ark, I kept sensing,

“No. I don’t want you to have a house in a certain price range, I want you to have the house I have for you.”

Um… ok?

But I had no idea what to look for!

So again, we prayed, and slowly but surely, over the next 4 months, seven things kept coming back to our hearts & minds.

  1. Big. (Not real specific.)
  2. 4 acres. (Real specific!)
  3. Two living spaces so that our housemates could come with us.
  4. An outbuilding of some sort.
  5. On a well.
  6. Wood-stove.
  7. With a water source (pond, creek, etc.) on the property.

So…can you see why I was tempted to laugh in unbelief?? Um…have you SEEN house prices in the Portland area? Sky high! Have you SEEN the million-dollar price-tags on anything that would have all 7 of these items? Seriously I felt like Sarah when she was told she’d have a baby at 90-years-old!

But, the Ark impression kept coming back in alarming frequency. I’ll spare you all the specifics, but it seemed everywhere I turned there was a reference to Noah and the ark, specifically Jesus’ references to this in the gospels.

But again, would money rain down from heaven? How on earth would this happen?

More tomorrow! Thanks for reading.

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The Ark

We signed papers on The Ark, so it’s time to share the story. This might take several installations! It’s the next leg of our journey with Jesus. Thank you for indulging me!

Some of you may remember our Downsize Journey from 2010. (There are links to all 5 installments there) Basically, God destroyed our neat-and-tidy lives by opening up our eyes to the world He loves. We read The Hole in Our Gospel, and were completely wrecked. We’d just purchased our “dream home,” and felt like we’d “arrived” at the life we’d always wanted. But sadly, it was just a churchy version of the empty American Dream. (Note: As most of you know, that journey wasn’t about big houses being bad, it was a heart-thing. An idol-thing. More on this to come in the book!)

So: We “lost” $50,000 by selling our dream-home, and were then led by the Wisdom of Buzz Lightyear (remember that?) to move into a dumpy rental where we experienced more JOY than we ever imagined. After taking the leap-of-faith with our church plant in 2012, He allowed us to fall backwards into an old 110-year-old house in the city, with room in the basement for housemates, which just “happened” to be right by where Renew Church would end up being, and where Providence would have us meet “Julie” who would forever change our lives.

“The 1601” has been nothing but blessing. It was such a gift from God.

Then, in March 2015, while Jeff was in Africa, I was praying each day and had a strong impression that perhaps God was going to move us out into the country. On the one hand, we were completely content where we were. We loved the 1601, loved how inexpensive it was, and loved being right downtown, at the hub of everything. On the other hand, we LOVE nature and love being out in the country. We’ve always wished we could raise our kids out in the country but never dreamed it would be financially feasible.

But this impression was distinct, and it wasn’t just about us. Sure, I love rural settings, but I kept having the impression that God was calling us to create a refuge for people. A haven. The word that kept coming to mind, over and over in prayer, was an ARK.

Like, Noah’s ark. I know: So weird. I wrote “ark?” at the top of my journal, and kept praying each day. The impression stayed. When Jeff got home from Africa I shared the strange impression:

“So, I think maybe we’re supposed to build (buy?) an … ark.”

He was appropriately perplexed, but we continued praying about it together.

Over the next 5-6 months, the Ark came up over and over and over. I found an old journal from 2012 where I’d written down a seemingly-random impression when I thought I heard God ask,

“If I told you to build an ark, would you do it?”

Then I started having dreams. No, not “dream-house” kind of dreams, like actual dreams, which I never have. I had two vivid dreams that were alarming and specific, and after waking I remembered every detail. Both had to do with the Ark.

So, we started looking, sort of. 

The strange part was, I didn’t really know what to look for. You can’t just email your realtor and say, “Hey, we’re looking for an ark; you seen any lately?” There is no search-criteria called “Ark-ish” on Redfin. This clearly wasn’t about my taste or personal preferences so I couldn’t just use that as a guide. Plus, I no longer had any house-dreams. We’d been there, done that. It’s not that I don’t care about how things look, it’s just that I don’t have a “dream house” bug left in me. I literally had no idea what to look for because I was no longer driven by these things.

All I knew was that we had a teeny tiny income, so I looked for a teeny tiny (read: run-down, barely-inhabitable) house.

We found a few, even made an offer on two, but didn’t get them. Plus, I kept being faced with the rather obvious observation that the Ark was … well, BIG.

So, I figured that since this was God’s idea, He would need to tell us what to pray for and what to look for. So we asked Him and He showed us seven things …

More to come! Thanks for reading!