Monday, July 13, 2020

The Story of Us

Recently I found a story I wrote for our kids. It's the story of "DandL" that I wrote long before any little noodle bearing our resemblances was in existence. Realizing that the only copy of this written story could get lost someday, I'm going to share it here. But not just for that reason.

Today marks 17 years (!!) since the day Derek asked me to be his girlfriend, clarifying that he meant to ask me to be his wife when the time was right. When I told him yes, I was saying yes to forever. I had no idea the actual weight of that "yes," although I suspected it had a good amount of it. And I'm glad I didn't know. Because traversing this crazy life together with the Holy Spirit as our ultimate guide is so much sweeter. The things I would've changed had I known ahead of time would have ruined everything. Thank You, Jesus, for Your higher ways!

Without further ado (or any editing)...

The Story of Us

Once upon a time there was a wide-eyed, long-haired girl and a blonde haired, runny-nosed boy. The boy and the girl were neighbors in a place called Indiana. The boy and the girl were friends and spent their days riding big wheels and playing in the sandbox with the rest of the neighborhood boys and girls. Sometimes the boy would chase the girl all around her yard and try to steal a kiss.


One terrible day, the boy's parents packed up a huge truck and took the boy far away to a place called Pennsylvania. The girl was very sad.

While the boy was in the far away place called Pennsylvania, he went to a sports camp. (This boy is very good at sports.) While at this camp he talked to an adult about Jesus Christ. The adult told him that Jesus died to take away the boy's sins and if the boy gave his life to Jesus, he would get to go to Heaven someday. So the boy prayed to Jesus with the help of the adult and from that day on began to live his life for Jesus.

Meanwhile, the girl who still lived in the place called Indiana was also learning about Jesus at church and at school. One day a few years down the road, the girl also went to a camp. (This was not a sports camp. The girl is not very good at sports.) At this camp the girl learned that she was not a very good girl and that she did not deserve to go to Heaven someday. So the girl bowed her head by herself and told Jesus she was sorry and asked Him to forgive her. Jesus did forgive her and so the girl began to live her life for Jesus.

So the boy and the girl, while very far away from each other, grew up learning more and more about Jesus and loving Him more every day. They learned more about Him by reading their Bible and going to church. They talked to Him through prayer. They showed Him they love Him by helping at church and telling their friends about Him.

The boy and the girl only saw each other a couple of times over the next 15 years! But after those fifteen years, the boy was passing through the place called Indiana with his family. He and the girl were all grown up now. They were already out of high school! They talked for a little bit, and because they were old enough, they started to like each other! Sadly, the boy had to leave again for his place called Pennsylvania.

The boy could not stop thinking about the girl so he nervously picked up the phone and called the girl's dad. He asked him if he could take the girl on a date. The girl's dad liked the boy so he said yes. Then the boy picked up the phone again, even more nervous this time, and called the girl. He asked her to go on a date with him and she said yes!

First date at the BBC banquet: 2003

So the girl drove many hours to the far away place called Pennsylvania to go on a date with the boy. She liked the boy very much. They talked about what they had been doing all those years that they were apart and learned all about how they both gave their lives to Jesus and were still living for Him.

A little while later the boy got on a place and flew way up in the sky all the way to the place called Indiana. He took the girl up to the top of a huge mountain made of sand. The boy and the girl sat down on the top of the mountain and the boy asked the girl for forever. The girl prayed and asked God if she should say yes as the boy awaited her answer. Then the girl said yes because she knew Jesus wanted them together!

July 13, 2003: The day on top of the dunes.

So the girl packed up her things and moved all the way to the far away place called Pennsylvania. Together, the boy and the girl learned more about Jesus at school and they showed Jesus that they both loved Him by helping at church together. They grew closer to Jesus and closer to each other.

Baptist Bible College 2003ish

Finally, one cool spring morning, the boy and the girl went to church as usual, but this Sunday was a very special Sunday. The boy got up in front of the whole church and then went down on one knee. He asked the girl for forever, but this time he gave her a diamond ring as a promise! She said yes!

May 1, 2005

Two days before Christmas, your mommy and daddy got married. They told all of their friends and family that they were going to stay together for as long as they lived and they were going to spend their whole lives showing Jesus that they love Him. And they lived, and continue to live, happily ever after.

December 23, 2005

So that boy and that girl want you to know all about Jesus and how He should be your whole life. Through the Bible, He tells you everything you need to know about how to live for Him. And when you give your life to Him, He puts together your love story and so someday when you are much, much older, you can tell your children a story very much like this one.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

For Believers: The Truth Hurts

The Word hurts.

If reading your Bible doesn't hurt once in awhile, you're reading it wrong.

I don't like that statement any more than you do. But if you believe in the God of the Bible, you have to also believe what the Bible says. And it is clear:

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12

Now, I haven't personally experienced a super sharp sword slicing my joints apart from my marrow, but I suspect it is painful. Maybe even the kind of pain that puts childbirth to shame. The kind of pain that could even end life

Does the Bible not say that when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Do we think this is a pain-free process?

Does not my word burn like fire? Says the Lord. Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? Jeremiah 23:29

Scripture wasn't written to make you feel all warm and gooey inside. It is Truth, and as the old adage goes: Truth Hurts. It penetrates to our most sensitive spots. It burns us up and breaks us to pieces. It brings us to the end of ourselves where all we are is a pile of ashes. 

It is only here, at the end of ourselves and in a posture of repentance, that we can truly see the Word for who He is:

Jesus is the Word.

It's super annoying when unbelievers try to tell Christians what Jesus would or would not have done in any given situation. But you know what's waaaay worse? When Christians agree. 

If the narrative bouncing around in your head is eerily similar, if not exactly the same, to the narrative permeating the world, notice the huge red flag in front of your face. God's wisdom is entirely different from the world's (1 Corinthians 1:25; Isaiah 55:8-9). And God's way is narrow. Few tread the way to life. If you find that you're swimming along with the masses, it's time to do some serious evaluating.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14
That said, who do you believe Jesus is? Have you bought into the worldly narrative that Jesus was some kind of super friendly pushover who always left people feeling happy and unoffended? Because he wasn't that kinda guy when he roamed the earth. And he's still not. He stepped on toes everywhere he went. He never "itched ears" with fluffy nonsense. He always spoke truth. And people--just like us--killed him for it. (Check out this post about times Jesus was not nice.)

Revelations tells us that when Jesus returns, out of his mouth will be a two-edged sword and his face will shine bright as the sun (1:16; 2:12). When Jesus speaks, people will die. The Word hurts.   

John tells us that Jesus IS the Word. He IS the truth. ("I am the way, the truth, and the life..." "Sanctify them in the truth. Your Word is truth.") If we call ourselves believers, that means we recognize that we are sinners--ashes--in desperate need of a Savior. It hurts to admit such a thing. It hurts to believe Jesus. 

There is hope in the Word.

I'm a "truther." (Surprised?) And as such, I'm sure I'm coming across a little... in-your-face. So I'm going to interrupt myself here and talk about another very important aspect of the Word (aka Jesus): Hope. 

Yes, the truth hurts. But why? Yes, it cuts deep and burns us up and breaks us to pieces and examines our dark and ugly hearts. But why? 

To change us.

To make us more like Jesus. 

To equip us to reach the world for God.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Refiner's fire hurts. But when the Bible says something that pokes us all uncomfortable like, we can rest in the hope that it is God at work in us, to will and to work for his good pleasure. Oh what beauty He can create when we are moldable clay! 

We hold the Word.

Here's the crux. The climax. The grand finale. The real reason I'm writing this post.

We, as believers, wield the sword that is the Word of God.

We are not commanded in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God so we can be pacifists. We aren't supposed to strap on the belt of truth then cover it in glue and glitter to make it more pleasurable for the eyes. We aren't supposed to plaster our breastplate of righteousness with stickers or exchange our Gospel shoes for fluffy socks. There's flaming darts coming at us! A down-filled pillow isn't gonna cut it. We must put on the helmet of our salvation, not a rainbow colored hat.

Guys, it's time to pull out that sword--the Word of God--and wield it. Not flail it around. Not leave it motionless at our side. Not stuck in the scabbard where it won't poke anyone. Wield it with skill. With precision. With know-how. And if you don't know how, learn! 

When you learn the Word, even when it hurts, then you will see when falsehoods are running amuck whether that be in Christians around you or even within your own heart. You will spot the false teachers that are, by the way, in abundance. Test everything and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21), even especially when it hurts.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming [is already here!] when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:1-4


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Why Hiking with Kids is Worth the Headache

I feel the need to clear the air... hiking can be a headache.

We've always been the hiking kind of family. During the lockdown, we hiked in abundance. My pictures of such adventures were also in abundance. You know what else was in abundance? My annoyance.

Since I'm typically the one behind the iPhone, I don't have picture proof so you'll just have to take my word for it. I get snippy, frustrated, and sometimes loud when we're hiking with the kids.

"Hurry up!"
"We are not going that way."
"You're fine."
"Don't touch that!"
"Slow down!"
"I'm not finding you another walking stick."
"Stop hitting your sibling with your walking stick."
"No more walking sticks!"
"It's just a bee."
"Please don't grab the snake!"
"Stop fighting!"
"Keep moving!"
"No, we're not done yet. We're going to hike forever."

In spite of all this, we really do love hiking! And have found it more than worth the headache that sometimes ensues. I feel the need to share this because I don't want all my nature-y pics to lead you to thinking that hiking is all kicks and giggles. It's important, in my opinion, to be prepared for the potential reality of hiking with kids. Personally, I have a much easier time enjoying life with my littles when I leave my rose-colored glasses at home.

Now that we have that established, let's get on to why on earth hiking is still worth the effort. I believe everyone should be hiking, especially while the kids are young. Here's why:

Hiking gleans a love of nature.
No, this does not happen immediately. And there will be some hikes that leave you feeling like nature has been ruined for everyone. Don't give up! Because each walk through the woods really is making a difference. Point out interesting things. Listen to the sounds. Let them venture and climb and touch. 

I've noticed that not only do we as a family have a stronger appreciation for nature as we hike more, we also are less fearful. The kids were literally chasing a snake the other day. Without fail, they all come home a dirty mess. Venturing off the path or following a faint deer path is their favorite. This stuff used to add to my headache, but even mama is learning and growing. It actually fills me up now to see them explore the scary and unknown... usually.

Hiking is healthy.
Nature is so stinkin' good for your health! If you are still quarantining and you're not getting outside, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Hiking is an amazing way to take advantage of the healthy benefits of getting outside. You're breathing in the miraculous properties of fresh air, soaking up all-natural vitamin D, and getting exercise that is essential for both physical and mental health. 

Let your kids take their shoes off once in awhile. Even join them! Grounding is a thing that we should all be doing. Remember! You're not hiking to be done hiking. You're hiking for the experience and all the benefits. This means take your time and let your kids linger. It's good for everyone's health!

Hiking now means easier hiking later.
Hiking with littles is hard. Straight fact. But hiking with teenagers could be just as headache-inducing, if not more so! If you put off hiking while the kids are young, all you're doing is putting off the inevitable frustration. Teenagers whine more, complain more, mope more than 5 year olds (typically). And are much harder to distract with pretty flowers and toads. If you make hiking a priority now, when your littles think climbing a tree or wading in a creek is the greatest thing ever, your future self will thank you.

Hiking doesn't involve screens.
As wonderful as technology is, I get super frustrated with how obsessive my kids can get! It's exhausting. In fact, I get super frustrated with how obsessive I can get! Hiking is an opportunity to completely leave screens at home. If you're in the habit of handing your phone over to a complaining child, first of all, STOP. Second, leave your own phone in an inside zipped pocket of your backpack where you'd have a really annoying and inconvenient time getting to it. Emergencies only! Make screens a non-option while hiking and you'll be surprised how much fun you all have! (You could go my route and not have anything on your phone your kids care about so they never ask for it. Then you can get some great pics!)

Hiking is a family affair.

We all glean the benefits. We all enjoy ourselves! (Outside of those moments...) You can't have a kid too little or too grown up for a hike (despite what they may think). And did you know that kids are much more likely to open up to you when they don't have to sit and look you in the eye? The random conversations about theology and corona and poison ivy and remember-whens we've had on our hikes are alone enough to make hiking worth all the effort.

Sure, there's headaches. But we keep going, gleaning, growing. It's worth it. I promise.

Happy Hiking!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Benefits of Homeschooling... for Mamas!

By far the most common reasoning I personally hear for not homeschooling is something along the lines of:

I don't have enough patience to teach my kids.

This is God's sense of humor. Why? Because I am one of the most impatient people you know.

Sure sure sure. I've grown A TON over the years (and homeschooling is a major reason! More on that in a sec) but among those closest to me (husband, kids, parents, siblings) I am actually known for my lack of patience. Seriously, ask Erik.

And yet I have people tell me on a regular basis that they couldn't do what I do because they don't have the kind of patience I supposedly have.

See the irony? God chuckles every time, I just know it.

I've been realizing lately how beneficial homeschooling has been for me personally. I homeschool for my kids and for our family and ultimately in obedience to God. But, true to the way God works, I experience beautiful benefits as the mama. Bonus benefits of homeschooling, if you will. And I am going to share them miscellaneously here:

Benefit for Mama #1

I am a more patient person.

I did not become patient and then start homeschooling. Oh no. I started out as impatient as ever. Trust me there have been some u-u-u-ugly moments... er... days. But I can truly and honestly look back at those early days of pushing academics on my poor 3 year old and see how far God has brought me over the last 8 years. 

It's certainly been through growing in the Lord on a daily basis that I've grown over the years. But God has also used homeschooling in a huge way to mold me more into what He desires me to be. More into the Mom my babes need, the wife my husband deserves, the sister and daughter and friend He created me to be. Homeschooling played a key role.

So next time you want to say to me, "I'm not patient enough to teach my kids," don't be surprised when my answer is, "well, then, that's exactly what you should be doing!"

Benefit for Mama #2

I enjoy my kids.

They can certainly annoy me. I'm an impatient person, remember? It is not entirely uncommon for me to hide. But when I come out of my hiding place, usually after some serious conversations with God, I can see my kids for the joy that they are.

Their hilarity. Their uniqueness. Their constant growing and changing and becoming. Homeschooling gives me abundant opportunity to truly know my babies. What tickles their funny bone. What motivates them. Where their passions lie and what stokes those passions. I get the zoomed in view of God working in their hearts. It is the most beautiful view and I can't get enough of it.

Benefit for Mama #3

I'm a less selfish person.

Derek and I got a weekend away for my birthday. We hiked for hours and miles and miles and hours. We watched too many movies and ate whatever we wanted. We were unhindered by all things small child. It was glorious! In my mind, I was going to return home refreshed and with a heart full of patient compassion for my brood of littles.

Wow was I wrong.

The first day back from our little vaca was reminiscent of a nightmare, and my very own selfishness fueled the disaster. Being with my kids day in and day out has been exactly what I've needed to keep that selfishness in check. Now, I'm not saying don't get away! Absolutely do!! But learn from my foolishness and remember that life almost never goes exactly how you imagined it. I thought we'd come home to kids who were thrilled to have us home and at the ready to serve in any way I desired out of pure love for me. At the time I wouldn't have realized that was my expectation, but after our nightmare day, that became disgustingly clear. I can't even imagine what kind of self-absorbed human I would be if I didn't have a handful of miniatures reminding me on the daily that life isn't all about me.

Benefit for Mama #4

I'm constantly learning.

Who knew I loved learning?! Certainly not me! Sometimes I am convinced that education is wasted on the young. I spent my entire growing up years in school and yet I'm certain I've learned more homeschooling my own kids than I ever did in school and college. Seriously, I look forward to reading our history curriculum every single day. And long division... is actually fun!

I'm also always learning more about how to teach my kids. I've become a little obsessive about reading about reading. The more I learn, the more I crave to learn. Would I have so much opportunity to learn if I didn't have the motivation of teaching my kids? Would I have the desire? Maybe you would but I wouldn't. I know myself and I know that I would be caught up in all the other things that go along with mom life. Learning would take a back seat to doing every time in my world. I'm grateful that learning is a major part of my life, and I thoroughly enjoy doing it right alongside my babes.

Benefit for Mama #5

I'm a more disciplined person.

I'm resisting the urge to laugh out loud at this. I'm entirely too undisciplined. But I am more disciplined than I would be if we weren't living the homeschool life. Having to set the schedule myself for our family is quite the disciplined way of life. I'm the type who would like someone else to tell me what to do and when to do it so I can fight against the system and do my own thing. When I'm the one having to tell myself what to do and when to do it, I'm fighting myself. This is hard. Frustrating. Stretching. And beneficial for this undisciplined human.

With days almost always wide open before us, I'm faced with the constant decision to tackle it with vigor or throw it out the window. And then there's all the options in between. I fail. A lot. And then I learn and grow and become a more disciplined person.

Benefit for Mama #6

The homeschooling community!

I love love love talking curriculum with fellow homeschool mamas. Gleaning tricks and tips for teaching my various littles from women far wiser than me is a favorite. In just about any path of life you can find community. I'm just partial to the homeschool one. We aren't better than the next community. We're just us. And I love us. Spending time with God-fearing, like-minded mamas fills me up to overflowing every single time. Humans were made for community. For fellowship. For connection. If you don't have that, my little homeschooling community always has open arms!

Sometimes the idea of homeschooling feels a little like dying to self for the sake of the children. And, well, it is. But God, in His infinite awesomeness, pours out abundant blessings when we die to self in obedience to Him. And then the dying feels a whole lot more like living than living ever felt before.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I didn't even mention the part about kids doing the chores around the house! But, if you are an impatient, selfish, undisciplined mama like me who is experiencing the tug of the Holy Spirit to pursue this homeschooling thing, I'm here for you! I'm cheering you on toward these benefits and many, many more. And I can't wait to welcome you into the homeschool life with open arms!

Friday, January 24, 2020

How We Survived Washington D.C. with Kids

We have officially reached a new chapter in our lives. Our babiest is 3 and she gets to remain the babiest forever. This means that the actual baby stage of raising kids is behind us. And that Amber will forever be treated like the perfect little princess that she is.

 And this also means that we have just a tiny bit more freedom to travel!

This past Christmas we went out to PA to spend time with family. And since we were already going to be all the way out East, we couldn't resist a trip into Washington DC, which served as the kids' Christmas present.

This was not our first traveling experience with all five babes so we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting ourselves into. But Derek and I both walked away having gleaned wisdom on what to expect on such adventures in the future. It only seems like the friendly things to do to pass along some of that wisdom:

Plan, plan, plan

I am not a planner. In a perfect world of my own making, we would fly by the seat of our pants all day every day. Thankfully, my other half is significantly wiser and is a thorough planner. While my pants may work just fine as a guide if we had all the time in the world and no weary, little feet, a plan is truly your survival guide with kids.

So Derek planned out our time, where we would visit, where we would park, and how to get to each of these places. He scheduled a tour of the Capitol building (the White House is "closed" over Christmas and New Years, FYI) and knew ahead of time what to expect while there (no food or drink!). He had all the places we wanted to hit the most mapped out, with bonus things ready in case we were up for it.

Here's the thing about planning: it has to be flexible! More on that in a sec.

AirBnB will save you

Here's why: 
You'll actually get sleep because you won't all be shoved into the same tiny room.
You'll pay way less for way more.

We really hate sleeping in a hotel. As nice as a pool is (and sometimes we are willing to suffer the hotel thing just for that), sleeping 7 in one room is a nightmare. And to pay for a suite... well an AirBnB is much more economical. 

Ours was fantastic! We had an entire house to ourselves and plenty of space for all! Kitchen. Laundry. Disney+. And it cost the same as a hotel room. So you're welcome for that advice.

So will Uber

We hadn't intended to use Uber but have you ever been to DC? So.Much.Walking! By the end of the day, the littles (and the grownups) just didn't have it in them to walk all the way back to the van. We spent roughly the amount on Uber that we would have on the metro. But we got picked up where ever we wanted and brought directly to our van in record time. 

We ended up calling an Uber 3 times and every time they were super nice and professional. So much safer and less stressful than dragging the kids through the metro system in the dark of night! Which, by the way, begins around 4 in the middle of the winter.

A stroller is a MUST

You probably are aware that DC involves a lot of walking. But let me just tell you, it's more than a lot. It's more than you think. It's always more. Praise the Lord, my MIL had a double stroller that we could plop our littlest two into. And our coats and snacks and water bottles. And bags for throw-up because we happened to need those...

Throw out your expectations

We have learned this over and over since becoming parents. Things will never go as planned with kids. So we went into our trip to DC having already thrown out most of our expectations. Derek had his plan but we knew it was simply a guideline to keep our sanity. Otherwise, it was completely throw-out-able. Flexible enough to be totally different when all was said and done.

Our trip actually went mostly as planned, except...

Get rid of the rest of your expectations

We did a fraction of what we had hoped to do. In spite of PERFECT weather the entire time, there simply wasn't any way to fit everything in. And by everything, I mean the very few things we were determined to get to. 

DC cannot be done in two days. 5 kids or no kids. Can't be done.

So we were very selective about where we went, and still didn't manage all the places. I realized that I had been viewing this as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but when I let go of that, I could let go of the rest of my expectations. Even if it was the only time we'll ever go as a whole family, I had to recognize that we weren't missing out. Quite the contrary. The entire adventure was purely gift, unmet expectations and all. And that's the perfect segue into...

Treasure your people more than the places

It would have been so easy to lose it on my kids on multiple occasions while we walked (and walked) around DC. I could have ruined the fun for us all by dwelling on the handful of things I had really wanted to do but we simply couldn't make happen. If Derek or I had started grouching about sore feet or gave in to any sort of complaining, the whole trip could have been an utter disaster. But, by the grace of God and the help of each other, we were able to (for the most part!) savor the moments with our littles. Invest in their hearts and souls more than their academic knowledge of all things DC. 

Our kids won't likely remember all the things we saw, did, and learned (I already forget half of it!), but we believe they'll be able to look back on this trip with better memories than the statues and paintings in the Capitol or the pretty First Ladies dresses or the details of the flag of Fort Henry. They'll remember being loved and treasured while learning what it means to honor and respect our great country and those who made it worthy of those things.

That was our ultimate goal, anyway, and I pray it was accomplished!

Go ahead and use this wisdom for your next trip to Washington D.C. or anywhere for that matter. Where have you traveled with kids lately?


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