“Our Hope is in heaven…”

I shared here, about Honor, the unborn child we lost through an early miscarriage on March 5th of this year. I wanted to share a little more about her story, about ours, and about Hope. This is personal stuff so if you’d rather pass on this lengthy post, I understand. But I welcome you to come along.

After having Heidi 8.5 years ago, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I was serving as Women’s Director, speaking at retreats, and drafting up the proposal for Sacred Mundane. Dutch, 2, was difficult and mostly baffled me. I loved being a mom, but felt like a failure most of the time. I wasn’t really a “kid person” and both babies came without trying, so I couldn’t imagine having more.  I wanted a preventative method that was permanent.

Appointment made. Procedure done. Close that chapter. Moving on.

Life was full. We sold our dream house. Moved. Planted a church. Moved again. Lived on next to nothing. Had an assortment of housemates. Wrote a book. Moved again.

Then, a couple years ago, I was speaking at a retreat, and casually sat down with a woman holding a baby. We got to know each other, and she shared that she and her husband had had a vasectomy, but then years later felt that they heard clearly from the Lord to have more children. They obeyed, had a reversal, and now had several more children. She was sitting there, beaming, bouncing her darling little bundle. So clearly happy.

I was horrified.

God can DO that?!

I mean, He had told us to do stuff. We had sold our home. Given money away. Planted a church. But those were gospel-y things. Kingdom things.

Could God tell you what to do with your body???

I’m smiling here because of course He can, but it was certainly disconcerting to me to think that God would interrupt someone’s life in this way. Go on a foreign mission? Sure. Give money away? Of course.

Have more kids? Now wait a minute.

I remember going back to my room a bit unsettled. Her story challenged my assumptions of what God would or would not ask of me. Of course I loved my kids. But this was years later. That season was over. I was 35 for crying out loud. Advanced maternal age. Didn’t that have to do special tests for pregnant people my age?

I pushed the thought out of my mind. Too much time has passed. That ship has sailed.

As the next year went by, I thought of that conversation. I also reflected on how very different my life was now that my kids were older. In short, they’re SO FUN. I remember being exhausted during the baby stage, but this … this was fabulous! I loved seeing who my kids were becoming, and I found myself often saying, “If I had known how awesome this would be, we would have had more…”

But we hadn’t. So we didn’t.

I was also amazed that year to hear that a friend of mine, well into her mid-40s, gave birth to her 8th child, with a 10.5-year span between her next youngest and her newborn. My “I’m too old and too much time has passed!” excuse seemed a little lame.

Fast forward to last September. With these thoughts still on my mind, I received an invitation from a friend, asking if we could meet for lunch. She drove 5 hours from her hometown just to meet me, so I was eager to hear what was on her mind. Knowing nothing of my own inner wrestlings, and to my jaw-dropping amazement, she shared her incredible story of how God had revealed that there was an area of her life that wasn’t fully surrendered to God. The area?

Willingness to have more children. They too had had a vasectomy. Closed that chapter. And now, 7 years later, God had led them to get a reversal and be open to having more children. She too was beaming, so filled with the joy of obedience.

I was speechless. I think I muttered something like, “Oh wow, good for you.”

I walked from Cafe Yumm back out to the car and sat in the silence. Just me and the Spirit. I didn’t sense conviction, per se, or some heavy condemnation, as if I had sinned. I just knew that the right answer is always surrender, and I never wanted to have an area of my life where I refused to let God move. Without much passion, I spoke the words into the air,

“Fine. I surrender. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do.”

A month later, the idea of a reversal still stuck with me. I knew I should at least mention the idea to Jeff, since it kind of involved him. 😉 To my amazement, he was all for it: YES! I’d love to have more kids!

You what??! I was shocked, but happy too. Over the course of the next month the idea grew, specifically in the form of two names. Just as both Dutch & Heidi’s names were clear to me before they were born, I kept having two more names come to mind, one of which was the girl’s name Honor. I loved that name for a girl, and it was as if these were children God had thought of for us that we had yet to hold. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like they were already conceived, as in thought of, by Him, before they were conceived by us. I found myself WANTING to hold them.

The true reversal was of my heart, and God did that completely. Now I found myself, more than anything else, longing to hold these children our Father had for us. 

Now, the decision. We knew that if we were to have more kids, we should probably do more than pray for an immaculate conception.

Obedience usually requires action.

And often, cost. While vasectomies are easily covered by most insurance, reversals are most certainly not. We were quoted $8,000 out of pocket at OHSU. Ouch.

And yet, David said, “I will not offer to the LORD that which costs me nothing.” Sometimes undoing a decision is costly, so we needed to be willing to pay that cost.

But we’re still frugal! We wanted to be wise stewards of God’s money, so we prayed, researched, and while Jeff shared our journey with the church Elders, I was home researching and I stumbled upon a chat thread that mentioned Dr. David Wilson, a Christian urologist in Oklahoma who had a ministry of offering at-cost reversals. He loves the Lord and has performed more than 6,450 reversals at cost, as a generous ministry. Instead of $8,000 it was $1,900. And he loved Jesus.

Yes, please. We bought cheap airfare for a few months out, and kept our secret over the holidays.

Although, it seemed the Spirit was speaking to someone else as well.

Although we had never said anything to our kids, they both began talking about siblings. Dutch wanted a little brother and Heidi a little sister. That seemed surprising, since they’d never brought it up before, in the past 8 years! Then, one December morning, Heidi came downstairs and said,

“Mommy, last night I had a dream that I prayed for you to get pregnant and you did.”

I about choked on my coffee but tried to stay cool. “Hm. That’s interesting,” I responded, and dropped it. But that night she pressed the issue,

Mommy, what about the dream? What do you think about it??”

I smiled. “Why don’t you just pray about it.”

And so she did. I heard from her Sunday school teachers that each week for her prayer request she’d pray for a sibling. I was amazed and silently hoped God would hear her prayers.

And then, in January, without telling anyone what we were doing (not even my parents, who were watching the kids, ha!) we flew to OK and had the procedure done. When we arrived in Tulsa, the car rental place explained that even though there were only 2 of us, they needed to upgrade us to a minivan. Ha! We winked at each other (“It’s a sign!”) and hurried on our way.

It was a great trip. We enjoyed the time away, loved Dr. Wilson who prayed with us, played worship music in the surgery room, and encouraged us along our journey. However, we knew the chances were still slim, since so much time had gone by since the original procedure was done.

We didn’t know if I’d ever get pregnant.

But 3 weeks later I did.

We were stunned. Thrilled. Over the moon excited. It worked! This was happening!

The few friends who knew our journey were celebrating with us. God is faithful! Hallelujah.We told the kids.

“Heidi! God answered your prayers!” She was thrilled. We rejoiced.

And then I miscarried.

Now I was stunned, in a different way. I knew that this was not uncommon, but Dutch & Heidi’s pregnancies were so easy, uneventful, uncomplicated. I’d never had a moment of doubt or worry with them.

And now, just like that, this child was gone.

The swell of momentum and joy and hope and excitement … was over.

Now it was just pain, and recovery, and explaining to the kids and all the shocked people who didn’t understand how on earth we could have even been in a situation to have a miscarriage.

So much explaining.

Not at all how I pictured “the blessing of obedience” would be.

But there was Hope.

As I was going through the miscarriage, I sensed God saying that this child, this tiny barely-formed child, was Honor. I was losing Honor.

But I still knew that God had put on our hearts to have two children we would hold, so I cried out to Him, in tears,

“Then God, please, give me another name. If I’m losing Honor, speak to me, who do you have for me instead?”

As clear as an audible voice, into the darkness:

“Hope.”

Yes. Hope. Of course. I knew Romans 5 — suffering produces … hope. And hope does not disappoint. This suffering would produce Hope and I would hold onto her. Hope would be the child who would remind me always of God’s good work through suffering.

I looked forward to Hope.

The months ahead brought up more stuff. Disappointments do that, they bring things to the surface that should have been dealt with long ago, but the pain or discouragement drags it up, so then you get to deal.  It was a hard few months. I was surprised by how long the recovery took, the ups and downs and hormones and swings.

But I held onto Hope.

And around May 5th, I felt like myself again. The winter was over. Spring! Hallelujah, spring.

A month later, during one of our church prayer meetings, a good friend felt led to pray specifically that I would get pregnant immediately.

I did.

YES!

This is Hope.

Yes! What redemption! God’s promises are sure! We can count on Him! Hope does not disappoint! We waited longer to share the news, but each passing week seemed to solidify the surety of this child. My first appointment was scheduled for 11 weeks, and we couldn’t wait. Morning sickness was in full swing, I gained 6 pounds right off the bat, and was already rounding out quite nicely.

I just couldn’t wait to hear Hope’s heartbeat.

And then.

A couple days before the appointment, the pain began.

No. Fear threatened. No.

I will hold onto Hope. I prayed, prayed, all day, under my breath, in my mind. Through that night. Through the next day. Sunday morning I came to church still in pain, but holding onto Hope. As I walked into worship practice, my sweet friend Christine was singing the worship lyrics,

“Your Name is Hope inside me, Hope inside me…”

Tears welled up as I sang out with all my heart, praying through each twinge of pain, singing for Hope, holding onto Hope.

That afternoon it began in full force.

It was horrific, to me, so I don’t need to share details. I didn’t realize how different a later miscarriage was than the one I’d experienced earlier. I passed out three times from loss of blood. Jeff was a hero, carrying me, holding me, through six hours of horrendous labor-like loss.

I prayed constantly for hours, holding onto Hope, and then, in a crystal clear moment, in the darkness I heard in my heart,

“Our Hope is in heaven.”

Through my blurred eyes I pulled up the verse on my phone–did it really say that? Yes. Colossians 1:5,

… the hope laid up for us in heaven.

Hope was laid up for us in heaven. 

You’ve probably been there before. When the waves of grief just wash over you, like the relentless waves of labor contractions, and the physical pain seems endless and it all feels overwhelming, but there’s peace too.

The physical process continued in all its mercilessness, but Jeff carried me, and somehow heaven seemed so real and suddenly there was so much there.

I was just so grateful. All I could think about was how grateful I was.

To be alive. To have a husband who stayed up all night holding me. For two beautiful children, alive and asleep in the other room. For our home, for this land that is green and lush and gorgeous. For grace, for life, for Jesus and for all He’s done and is doing and for our friends and amazing family, and for HEAVEN.

The hope of heaven. Whatever the worst is this world can do to us … it’s got nothing on heaven.

Heaven wins.

And so my Hope passed from this world to the next, just like that.

Sure, I know my God works miracles here too. Jesus clearly shows us that. He heals bodies. He parts seas. He feeds thousands. He opens eyes.

But that isn’t all He does. Ultimately, our Hope is in heaven.

And I know God’s good will isn’t miscarriage. He’s shown us that too (Exodus 23). But no matter what this busted, messed up, broken world can beat us down with, heaven wins. 

And then, afterwards, the gratitude couldn’t help but grow because God’s people are amazing and who can grumble and gripe when there’s gorgeous flowers filling my countertop and the kindest words poured out on cards and gifts and love that leave me speechless? When friends show up with my favorite treats, and Clear Mind kombucha flows like water 😉 and when I don’t know what on earth to do for dinner the housemate comes up with steaming hot spaghetti and then the husband walks in with brownies dropped off by a friend, and, and, and …

How can I complain of pain when there’s still so much beauty in this world??? 

There is still so much beauty in this world.

Of course there is still grief. And I know two miscarriages is nothing compared to some of your pain. You who are battling cancer or fighting for little one’s lives or grieving loss that’s beyond my comprehension. But I know this:

He wins.

The worst this world can do is death.

Oh death, where is your sting? It has been swallowed up. You know by what?

By victory.

And so, that was this Monday. 🙂 And now I’m unplugging for a bit, laying low with my feet up and I hope you have a great week. Just wanted to share a bit of our journey with you.

It’s not over.

{Thanks for reading.}

46-years faithful: What love looks like

When I walked in the room and saw this, I had to take a picture, because to me, this is what love looks like.

No, it’s not what you’d seen on the cover of a marriage book, or a clip from a romantic movie. Nothing about this immediately makes your heart go flutter.

But it says so much to me.

Because this is the picture of a man who has faithfully loved his wife for 46 years today. This is the man, who at 75-years-old, is sleeping on a cot in a hospital room so that his wife never has to be alone.

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This is the man who has heroically stood beside her through fourteen years of Parkinson’s, through countless surgeries and broken bones, through doctors visits, and thousands of meals cooked, through changing her and dressing her and showering her and loading her in and out of the chair, the car, the bed. This is the man who makes it his daily goal to make her smile before breakfast.

This is the man who wept beside her bed, saying goodbye before she went in for her last surgery. This is the man who gives up sleep, comfort, pleasures, and pursuits, in order to take care of his wife.

This is love.

And she has loved him well too. This is the woman who has given her life to love and serve him. This is the woman who traveled to endless sporting events to watch him play, coach, ref. This is the girl who fixed up old campers and worked on cars. This is the girl who made his favorite meals for almost 4 decades, before she was forced to hand over the kitchen to him.

I’ve never seen such selfless love. And so today, on their 46th anniversary, I just wanted to say: Thank you, Dad & Mom, for being faithful for 46 years, through the highs and lows, thick and thin. Thank you for showing us what love looks like. I love you so much.

{No matter where we are in life, or how we’ve failed in the past, may we all love like this now. Thanks for reading.}

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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The way I see it.

Of all the shocked Americans, I may be the most.

There are a slew of status updates out there, a combination of horror, disgust, excitement, praise, lament. It’s fascinating that we can all watch the same event unfold, and yet see it in drastically different ways. So I share with you here, quite simply, the way I see it. It is my own perspective, so I share it with you not to campaign my convictions but simple to tell you my story.

I’ve shared some already here. In the midst of my Trump-disgust, we embarked on a corporate 40-day fast, and to my everlasting surprise, in the middle of the fast, I felt clearly a conviction to the core of my being, that I was to vote for Donald Trump. Not because he was a saint, but because God had a plan through this man, to “access” him somehow, for God’s glory.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the battle in my heart these four months has been the most fierce I’ve ever felt. God convicted me of my cowardice and called me to share my conviction publicly, first with my most cherished family and friends, and then here. The challenge was real. I have never in my life felt a conviction that my husband didn’t share. I wept in prayer, in angst, asking God to help me reconcile honoring my husband and honoring His word to me. With all my heart I wanted to be obedient, without causing division in relationships I greatly valued. Thankfully, as I prayed and surrendered, God paved the way for peace. Every word I’ve spoken or written has been with my husband’s blessing.

Quite frankly, I never in a million years actually expected Trump to win. In fact, in some ways it felt “safe” to share my conviction with people, because I was equally convinced that DT would never win! Plus, I live in the bluest of the blue states. My vote basically didn’t even matter.

But amazingly, my prayers did. As the election neared, we began to sense more and more urgency to pray. A small group of us who shared this conviction, in response to Lou Engle’s call, agreed to fast lunch for 11 days, to pray and ask God for His mercy on our nation. Each day as we fasted, I admit it seemed a little futile. Skipping lunch for a guy who basically had no chance to win? But we prayed. And I know millions of others did too.

Over the days, my prayers changed. I saw things. Realized things. Scripture leapt off the page. More and more it didn’t matter that this man DT was the “lesser of two evils.” Of course he was! Jesus Christ has never run for president so even the best candidate is the lesser of two evils. Plus, I began to see Trump’s past, his shortcomings, as potential for God to move and work, to glorify Himself.

We continued to pray. On Monday we experienced the darkest day I have possibly ever felt. It was bizarre. Hopelessness, discouragement, weird thoughts, everything going wrong. Jeff and I both felt strangely despondent. Another dear friend who was also fasting, had a severe health attack that rendered her incapable of getting out of bed. But that night, we had our weekly prayer meeting at our house, on the eve of the election, at the same time I know millions of others were too. And the heaviness lifted. We didn’t pray for DT or a certain outcome, we just prayed for God’s mercy. We prayed Joel 2:12-14,

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love … Who knows whether He will turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him?”

Yesterday morning, I woke with unquenchable joy, even though I figured the election was a done deal, in Hillary’s favor. The polls were clear. I figured we were done. But that morning in prayer, the Holy Spirit rebuked me—We’re not done! Keep praying. This isn’t a done deal. I texted my friend, “Let’s keep praying!” So we did, even though I honestly didn’t expect much.

That night, we went to my parents’ house. At 5pm, I joked with Jeff that we should splurge and drink a Coke that night as a consolation prize. I was 100% expecting a Hillary win. I just wanted to be there to pray and watch this whole thing unfold.

And then, before my very eyes, a miracle unfolded. Within hours, the entire election flipped upside down. Before my very eyes I saw the same vision I had seen in prayer, of states literally morphing from blue to red. Before my very eyes I saw history change. I wept. I got on my face. We prayed. We worshipped. We repented and confessed and asked for mercy. We asked for states, then watched with jaw-dropped amazement as those states gradually crept toward Trump, over and over and over.

I have never seen anything like it in my entire life.

PLEASE hear my heart. I am NOT equating Republican=good, Democrat=bad. I am not gloating, boasting, bragging. I am just as shocked as anyone else, probably more so. I do not put my hope in ANY human president. But I believe that God has a plan that is greater and more glorious than we ever imagined, even if it also includes a lot of pain and difficulty, confusion and complexity. All I know is that I witnessed a miracle last night, and I spent most of the evening on my face, worshipping our amazing God who hears our prayers.

We do not need to be afraid. Sure, we don’t know what the days ahead of us hold. WE NEVER DO. If we have EVER hoped in a person or certain government as our security, it is high time we trusted in the perfect plan and provision of God instead. Let’s stop lamenting and begin PRAYING. Let’s recognize that although we may not be in the ideal situation, God’s MERCY on us is great.

Friends, please hear me: I’m not asking you to like Donald Trump. I’m asking you to PRAY. I was so convicted by the fact that I was PRAYING over our nation, and over states, and over people, like nobody’s business last night. I am challenged to KEEP PRAYING WITH THAT SAME FERVENCY. This isn’t the end. This is only the beginning. It is time for the church in America to wake up, repent, love, serve, submit to the Scriptures, uphold the holiness of God, and birth true HONOR and JUSTICE. It’s time for America to be a blessing to the world God loves.

Let’s unite under the great and mighty name of the Lord our God, who alone is in control of this crazy world we live in. Let’s pray like never before, love like never before, and live for God like never before. Thank you for reading.

My one and only political post

I type these words with trepidation, feeling hopelessly ill-equipped and under-qualified to speak on political matters. For my 18-years of voting, I have never muttered much of an opinion. I basically avoided the topic, maybe mentioning I was voting for Jesus, or something like that. I also of course believe that Jesus is the answer to our issues, not some new political leader, so I honestly wasn’t tuned in much to current affairs.

But something happened during our 40-day fast, and I’m convinced I’m supposed to share about it here. My intent is not to persuade you to vote a certain way, necessarily, but to simply vocalize what I believe to God’s heart in the matter, at least for me.

During the 40-day fast, we prayed for our country, and about the election. I don’t want to say I labored in prayer, I didn’t, but it was one of the things on my spiritual radar, to be sure.

During this time, I was sick of Donald Trump. He was such an idiot, I never dreamed he’d make it past the primaries. I was shocked when Ben Carson endorsed him, and I was a bit disgusted when I heard that some highly respected people I know were supporting him as well. Not me! I found myself feeling happy every time the media discovered more “dirt” on him from his past. Serves him right, slime-ball!

So, imagine my surprise when, during our fast, I was cleaning my kitchen and out of the blue I felt very clearly that I *heard* in my heart, “I want you to vote for Trump.”

It literally stopped me in my tracks. I stood still. Wait, what?! Lord, WHAT DID YOU SAY? Um, do you even known him? He’s kind of a jerk. Like, you DO know about those nasty things he’s done, right??? 

Nothing. All I was impressed by was the story of Nebuchadnezzar. Somehow, I sensed that Trump was likened to Nebuchadnezzar who God used to judge the nation of Israel AND who was publicly humbled in a extraordinary way (going insane, eating grass like an animal for 7 years), in order to bring about a supernatural transformation that brought glory to God in front of an entire nation.

Now, I wasn’t sure what to do with this, but I definitely didn’t want to tell anyone, not even Jeff. I figured I’d just sort of see how things played out, and I sort of forgot about the whole encounter.

But then, it was time to vote in the primaries. I let Jeff fill out my ballet, as a way of sort of skirting around the whole ordeal. Let’s just say he didn’t check the Trump box. I stayed quiet. But, as I was signing my ballot and sealing up the envelope, I heard so clearly in my heart, “I told you how to vote.” 

Oh. Yes. So apparently that really was a thing. I’m ashamed to say I still didn’t speak up, I just sent in the ballot as it was, and still never said anything to Jeff.

Fast forward. Months go by, the election gets uglier, we’re left with Hillary and Trump.

And then, two weeks ago, in prayer during my morning quiet time, while sitting in a lawn chair in Arizona, the Holy Spirit convicts me big time that He had told me what to do and I’d ignored it, not even telling my own husband about the conviction. I was ashamed to say to anyone, “God told me to vote for Trump.” It sounded preposterous.

But I knew I couldn’t ignore Him any longer. As I sat there I just happened to be reading Luke 9 and verse 26 leapt off the page:

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Yikes. I had never before considered this verse applying to anything other than Scripture. I’m not ashamed of the Bible! But, was I ashamed of the word that the Holy Spirit had clearly spoken to me during our 40-day fast?! Was I ashamed to admit that I thought I’d heard from God? Was I willing to endure the ridicule of looking like an crazy lady who thinks prophecy should inform our politics? Besides, I’m not exactly a wealth of political knowledge. Who was I to weigh in on such a matter?

Besides all that, if you say you’re voting for Trump many people automatically think you’re a racist bigot who doesn’t care about the poor. I’m not that! I would gladly welcome refugees into our home, just like we have welcomed the homeless, a drug-user & a prostitute. We welcome them not because they’re refugees or druggies but because they are PEOPLE, created in the image of God. (Just like the unborn are.) Our entire life has been drastically altered by choosing to give to the poor, especially those in foreign countries.

So, I was afraid of being misunderstood, but I prayed for a little further information on why this was God’s choice (for me), and I heard: “I have access to him.” I don’t think it’s that Trump is a godly man (he’s not), but I believe somehow God has access to him in a way he doesn’t to other candidates. Similar to Nebuchadnezzar, who God accessed through a dream and the prophetic gifts of the prophet Daniel, I believe somehow God will have access to Trump and use something (humiliation?) to exalt Himself publicly.

So, I told Jeff. I told our elders’ wives. I told my family.

And now I’m telling you. 😉

So there. I’m not ashamed. There’s much more I could say, but I am PRAYING with far more fervor than lobbying or rallying, I am not saying I agree with all Trump’s choices or lifestyle. I’m not saying you need to agree with me, or vote this way. I believe there are wise, godly followers of Jesus on both sides of this election. I just knew that I needed to share my experience with you, as crazy as it sounds.

The one thing I would say is this: PRAY AND VOTE. Do not pass up on the incredible privilege we have to influence our world through prayer and voting, for the glory of God. Please.

God, give us wisdom not only as we vote, but as we LIVE. May our lives be one giant ballot cast in favor of King Jesus, our only hope, the Lord and Savior of our country and of the world. Make Your Kingdom great again! 

{Thanks for reading.}

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.}

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.}

The Ark (last part!)

… of course I was thrilled about the Ark. I was jumping up and down inside, so amazed at God’s grace and power.

But I didn’t want to tell anyone. Why?

Because then they would say, “Oh fun! Show me the link to the house!”

And then I would cringe. Because I didn’t want to show anyone that the house was … big. I didn’t want anyone to see the price.

I was afraid of being judged.

There you have it. My pride. I took pride in being the frugal girl. In living simply. In having my small, 110-year-old house. Living in a little old house looks godly. Living in an enormous house looks worldly. What would people think when the Frugal-living girl buys a (to me) super expensive house?!!

Yes, we could afford it without reducing our giving-amount at all. Yes, this was clearly the house God was leading us to. But I couldn’t give those disclaimers to everyone. Some people would just look, and think I’d sold out and quit being a Jesus-follower and think this was just about me wanting to live in a big house.

I would avoid giving any details about the house. I didn’t want anybody to look it up and draw conclusions about us. There wasn’t time to tell the whole story to every random person, so I just figured I’d keep the whole thing quiet. But as I prayed, I kept sensing the Father saying,

“Don’t fear people. Don’t be ashamed of what I’m doing.”

I know it sounds silly, but this was the hardest part. I’d been so open about our journey of leaving our dream-home, I was afraid people would see this as “going back” to our old life. And it was anything but! This was a new level of trust, of surrender, of living with hands wide open. I honestly believe this house and property will be a blessing to uncounted many. It will be A Refuge In The Storm. God has already kept me back from taking claim to this house as if it’s my own. It’s His. In every way. Every square inch is His and I’m to be His steward of it for as long as He wills.

So there it is.

Through this process, God has brought the story of Noah to life in a whole new way. I have never identified so much! I keep thinking how he must have worried what other people thought, how it probably seemed like a “waste of money” to build that enormous boat, how he must have felt crazy some (most?) of the time. But he followed through, it came to pass, and the Ark was indeed A Refuge In the Storm.

I have no idea what the whole story will be. I don’t know what the storm is, or exactly how this house will be used. It might not even be clear in my lifetime. I’m content not having all the details, I’m just grateful for the peace of knowing this next step. We move in April 11th. I’m keeping the specific location private, not because I’m afraid you’ll judge me 😉 but because it needs to be private. Thanks for respecting that.

For now, I just want to say: Whatever God is calling you to do: believe Him! Don’t fear others’ opinions, their judgement, or your own lack of resources. Whole-hearted surrender brings incredible blessing and opens the path for His dreams to be brought to fruition in our lives. Praying for the grace to trust Him in the days ahead, each step of the way.

{Thanks so much for reading.}

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. 

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 9.06.09 AM

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! 

 

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.