Wednesday, April 26, 2017


She'd done it all.
Her whole life.
Read her Bible.
Memorized Scripture.
Sent money to the missionaries overseas.
Asked God to forgive her for every wrong.
Dressed right.
Never used bad language.

So why the emptiness inside?
Why the feelings of inadequacy, the feeling of never being enough?
-not kind enough
-not smart enough
-not talented enough
-not spiritual enough

She struggled too, with judging people. Except, she didn't call it struggling...or judging.
After all, she knew how a person ought to dress. 
She knew that following Rules #1, 2 and 3 always produced Results #4, 5 and 6.
Most people either got what they deserved, or just didn't know how they ought to live.

Her heart didn't break for the lost.
In fact, she didn't really want to enter into their messy world and contaminate herself. 
She was kind of ashamed to admit it, though.
Jesus himself had sent His disciples into all the world.

Who was this "world" anyway?
Was it her ungodly neighbors whom she'd never met?
Was it the people who spent their weekends making decisions they'd later regret?
Was it the people who didn't hold themselves to the same standard of perfection as she did?

And then one day, God gently entered her perfect world and turned it upside down.

It started innocently enough. 
She'd been praying to go deeper with Jesus.
She also had an encounter which began a real friendship with someone outside her cultural boundaries. 
Someone who was so very different from her.
Someone who was just so full of Jesus that it poured out into their conversations, their messy lifestyle, their everyday, mundane moments.

She began to ask questions.
Questions she'd been trying to ask her entire life, but kept stuffing them down, for they were too dangerous.
How could her friend be so full of Jesus but not follow "the rules"?

She asked God to show her His heart
-His heart for people.
To see people the way He saw them.

And bit by bit, God stripped her of all her beliefs, rules, and guidelines. 
He tore away the security of always knowing the right answer to every question.
 He took her to a place where her only answer was Jesus.

Her reputation took a huge blow, too.
 She had known love, acceptance, and approval everywhere she turned. 
But as God changed who she was on the inside, the outside began to change too.
People turned away.
A few stayed around, but most people didn't know what to do with he new her.

She began to see her nasty, stinking pride for what it really was.
No longer did she live to protect her crazy perfect image.
Now she was living for the approval of Jesus, and Him alone.

Did she get it right all the time?
Certainly not.
She fell and stumbled a lot.
When she was flat on her face, in her old pit of selfishness and arrogance, she would hear Jesus softly say, "I love you, daughter. I always have."
And His grace would gently pick her up, brush off the dirt, and set her back on her feet again.

She loved sitting outside at night and watching the stars.
She'd be so overwhelmed that the Creator of the universe cared about her!
She talked to Him about everything, for now, it wasn't a prayer time to be crossed off a to-do list, but a relationship to experience.
It didn't need a start time or a stop time.
Conversations with Jesus flowed through her day as easily as breathing.

Life didn't necessarily get easy-
it just changed from a production she had to "act" in to a life she could "live" in.

She was now free to love others without judgment,
 without having to be right every time, 
without proving herself.

The love and gratitude she felt towards her Savior flowed out of a heart that had been set free,
not a heart bent on performance.
She knew Jesus wasn't done writing her story.
There would be hard things in the future.
But now she was able to thank Him for the deeply painful parts,
 for truly, those experiences were the springboard for the rest of her life.
She had needed those encounters with people outside her cultural boundaries,
she had also needed the mind-numbing pain when Jesus stripped everything familiar away,
as well as the intense pain of pruning, rejection, and questions. 
Without that, she would never have found the freedom and joy she experienced today.

Today she can walk with a light in her eyes, 
a fire in her soul,
 joy in her steps, 
and purpose and meaning in each day.

Because of Jesus!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hello, 2017

Who is God and what does He want from me?

I know, deep in my heart, that all God really wants is a relationship with me. He longs to be first in my life, to walk with me, talk with me, every day of my existence. And really, that's what I want to, if I'm honest.

But so much of life comes crowding in, screaming at me from all directions. Yes, I'm a wife, a pastor's wife, a mother, I home school my kids, I love people, I'm involved in youth ministry, and on any given day, I have a hundred or more jumbled thoughts pressing deep on me- 

I cry out to God for broken relationships, for young people to truly know Him, for my own precious children to find Him to be their everything, for my husband to have the courage and wisdom to lead well, for my church and it's needs, for the lost and broken around me, for my own self- to allow the love of Jesus to pour out of me, to rid myself of me and my selfish desires. 

But maybe God doesn't just want my requests, my 911 calls. Maybe He wants something greater. Maybe what He really wants is my worship, my heart. In the midst of loving, serving, and caring about people, I don't want to miss the most important thing.

I want Jesus to be my enough, my cup filled up, my desires fulfilled, my dreams come true, the air I breathe, the inspiration and encouragement to get me through each day. 

I want to hunger for Him like a starving child hungers for food. Food is the only thing they can focus on and it consumes their entire being. That's what I want. I want to feel the ache in my soul that can never be satisfied any other way, but through Jesus alone.

So Jesus- here's my 2017. I have no control over the events of the year ahead. Whether it be feast or famine, trials or joys, valleys or mountains; I release all of it into Your capable hands and I yield myself to You. You know exactly what You want to do in my heart this year. And truly, that's what I want too.

*all photos from our family trip to Lake Michigan July, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

To My Friend Who Is Starting to Home School

( Summer is winding down, and although I've been digging in my heels and kicking and screaming about it, I have to face reality. School is just around the corner for us. We are squeezing every last drop out of summer. The vacations are over, the garden is pouring forth goodness, and the locusts starting their singing. The school room is starting to look like a school room again, instead of a craft area/dumping station. And yes, this begins my 9th year of home schooling my kids!!! And I can't help but reflect...)

Nine years ago we started the adventure of teaching our children at home. I was due with Baby #4, we felt like this was probably our least stressful option, and we were planning to try it for a year. 

This began a season of our lives that would turn our world upside down. And I am forever grateful. 

It was hard. Man, it was really hard! It felt like I willingly embraced loneliness, hard, and crazy, all in that one decision. 

But looking back, there are a lot of things I wish I had known then. And so this is for you, new home schooling mom, who is terrified of what lies before you. 

Obviously, home school is not the only education option out there. Assuming you already feel pretty certain that God has called you to this, I am here to encourage you. You'll want to remember that calling frequently, when you are in the trenches, so to speak.

You don't have to be super-mom.
Yes, you are the housekeeper, boo-boo kisser, laundry lady, cook, and now the teacher too. You don't have to get it all right every time. Give yourself grace, lots of grace. This is a season of your life, one of the toughest, so cut yourself lots of slack.

You will be very lonely at times.
This one really stinks, because why in the world would I willingly embrace loneliness? It's okay to feel lonely. Sometimes you will feel lonely because you simply cannot add one more thing to your life. Other times you will feel lonely because your friends get together for play dates and coffee, in the morning, and you are at home, doing school. So you're going to feel out of the loop at times. I hope you find at least one friend who gets you, who you can connect with occasionally and be encouraged. But remember, you are making sacrifices now to build and maintain relationships with your children. Someday these sacrifices will feel small. I promise.

What if I'm not capable of teaching my child?
I have to smile over this question now, but it was reality at one time in my life. It's not as hard as you might think to teach your child. Make a plan, and stick to it, but be flexible. Does that make sense? Our plan is school every morning, 5 days a week, from the middle of August to the end of April. Have we ever strayed from the schedule? Yes, of course. We take 2 weeks off every Christmas. We take off if something comes up....but it has to be pretty important. 
Your children will all learn differently. Your main job is to teach them to love learning and show them how to pursue it. 

What if my kids aren't as smart as other kids their age?
Again, the beautiful thing about home school is that your child can learn at their pace and their level. They don't have to be compared to 15 other first graders and be given a label. We make a big deal here at our house about having different gifts and abilities. We have all kinds here in our family of 4. I think God had a real sense of humor when he was handing out personalities to my kids. I remember on the very same day, one of my children weeping and wailing because they got a 98 on a test, while that child's sibling was so happy that they received an 80 and wouldn't have to do it over.

How will I ever get my housework done?
First, you will lower your standards.
Second, the phrase 'spring and fall cleaning' shall be removed from your vocabulary and even your mind.
Third, you will teach your children to help you.
I read somewhere years ago, that if you are feeling overwhelmed with your housework, you need to teach your children to do more to help out. I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed with my dirty house, looking around and saying, "What could my children be doing to help?" 
My boys at ages 6 and 7, would clean the bathroom every Wednesday. It wasn't perfect, but cut some of the dirt until I could do it "right" on Saturday.  We would all help each other clean upstairs on Thursday afternoons after the little ones napped. The main floor got cleaned Friday or Saturday. My children gathered and sorted laundry, dusted and swept their rooms, made their beds, and hung up their pj's. 

How can I make our home an atmosphere conducive for learning?
Books, books, books. We invested in Uncle Arthur's Bible story books and a set of the World Book Encyclopedias. I have a secret addiction to buying books off of Amazon or at garage sales or thrift stores. We have books bursting out the seams of our house. My husband has moved more bookshelves in this house than any other piece of furniture. (Bless his heart!) Sometimes Leon gets the atlas out, and shows the children where he dreams of taking us on our next family vacation. Put up maps and talk about foreign lands. Read, read, read to your children, even after they can read themselves. 

And here I am, nine years later, and I am so very grateful to God for leading us to home school our kids. Every sacrifice was so worth it. We have pursued relationships with our children and watched it pay off. There were times of intense struggle that I won't go into, times of wanting to quit and send them to the very closest school that would take them, times of being misunderstood by family or friends.

Remember, God gives strength for each day. He's got your back. And He loves your children even more than you do. You got this, girl. Put your chin up and carry on.

I'm here, cheering you on. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Little Girls and Big Ideas

Leon and I were blessed with some interesting little girls. I'm sure every parent feels that way, but ours are well, extra-special.

Last summer, our boys and their friend went on an overnight survival expedition. Our girls were green with envy. (Never mind that the boys had to butcher a chicken, and cook it, and ended up eating it nearly raw!)

So the scheming began...

Tuesday afternoon I observed whispering, and list-making, and secrets flying around. At one point, I heard oldest brother say, "Mom and Dad will NEVER let you do that!" Hmm. I thought maybe I should check into this.

The big ideas spilled out....

And I thought, "Why not?!" If parents were always sensible, children would have very few adventures.

By 9 PM that evening, all their stuff was hauled out to the 'old garage' (a little old building that they fixed up for their playhouse), with plans to not come back inside except for potty breaks, until supper time the next day.

Food was to be very minimal, but after seeing near starvation in their future, I suggested us 'hiding' food for them to find and eat. 

Bedtime was their own decision. We saw them go out to the hydrant and brush their teeth, (boys would skip this step!) and then we heard them playing on the patio with their rip stick and scooter until they headed off to bed.

At 3:30 AM, Leon and I were jerked awake by a crack of thunder. Oh no! The girls! They don't particularly like thunderstorms, and sleeping in a building outside makes it even more scary. So we leaped out of bed to go haul them in. By now, it's pouring rain, so they wouldn't come in on their own.

We tucked them into their own bed and went back to our bed to try to sleep. But alas! This 40 year old Mom doesn't jump out of bed in the middle of the night and then quickly fall back to sleep again. Several hours later I heard my little girls sneak back outside, and then I fell asleep. They woke up and wanted to watch the sunrise and the storm was long over, so it was a great plan.

For breakfast, they ate a little tiny loaf of bread they were saving for this occasion. I hung bananas in a tree the night before. All they had to do was find them. I offered them yogurt too, and they didn't refuse. 

By 10:30 they were bored. And a little hungry. (If you eat at 5:30, you get hungry before 12, they said.) Leon hid a 'nest' of eggs and they had a terrible time finding them. We discovered they were looking for a carton of eggs. 

Their kind Daddy fired up the little charcoal grill and helped them scramble their eggs. They also grilled a couple of hot dogs.

By 1:30, they declared the day was over. Everything got hauled back into the house and put away.....and then they found The Bird.

The storm the night before had blown bird's nests out of trees along with baby birds. This is my opportunity to explain how Jesus cares about the birds and how much more He must care for us. 

But my girls found a bird that was still alive and my oldest daughter's nurturing spirit kicked in high gear. There's nothing left to do at that point but help wherever you can and be prepared to wipe the tears when the creature dies. 

Leon had some experience with baby birds. He tried to keep about 30 of them alive over various times of his childhood, and says about 1 actually lived. So with a 30 to 1 success rate in mind, he helped the girls chop up lunch meat into tiny pieces and showed them how to feed the bird. It was quite a sight to see. The little baby robin would open it's mouth and you dropped the food in after dipping it in water, and gulp! the food disappeared.

They named the bird Robin. They fed it faithfully....and I even took a couple of turns when Annika was at a birthday party. (If you know me at all, you know this was a stretch for me.)

48 hours later, Leon and I commented on the fact that this bird is STILL alive. But that night Robin hardly ate at all. 

Saturday morning the girls slept in, then came down cheerfully for breakfast. Over their bowls of cereal, they told us how they checked Robin before they came downstairs, and she is sleeping so peacefully. After breakfast, they will feed her, they said. Leon and I looked at each other, then he quietly headed upstairs to check on the status of the bird. He came down and said softly, "Girls, your bird isn't sleeping, it's dead." (How do you break that kind of news to your kids?!)

We wiped tears and comforted them and they recovered surprisingly well. And now Robin is just a memory, another story to tell their children someday.

And I can't help but be grateful for all the life my little girls get to experience. They don't even know how blessed they are. Dead birds and all.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Growing Kids, Turning 40, and Loving My Life

The last number of months have been full of lots of living....ordinary moments sandwiched in between some pretty amazing stuff.

Our kids grow and change and learn new responsibilities, yet in many ways, my days flow from one to the next and can feel rather mundane.

I spent much of my winter taking my boys to basketball practice and watching their games. I absolutely love watching them play and improve and learn real-life lessons from the game of basketball. I am so proud to be their Mother. 

On February 28, Logan turned 14. Soon after his birthday, he got his permit...and took driver's ed....and now has his official paper from his driving instructor waiting in our safe, until time to get his school permit this fall. 
We all went to an Iowa basketball game for Logan's birthday.

He also grew about 4 inches this past year and every now and then, as I look up to him, I wonder just where in the world the time has gone.

Leon and I took our annual weekend away the first part of March. This time we got a hotel close to home. The children stayed at home and the boys did all the chores. Leon's brother and wife spent the nights with our kids. It was a delightful weekend away. We took one, poor-quality picture the whole weekend.

Life has had a lot of ordinary moments, as well. If a cowgirl emptying the dishwasher is ordinary.
 And the 9 year old learns to cook...

 And then I turned 40! What a birthday! My sisters from MO and TX (almost) surprised me for the weekend. Leon got a hotel room for us for a night, and we also spent time with the rest of the family. It was a very, very special weekend and I felt very loved and celebrated.

 And then one night some friends showed up in costume and kidnapped me for the evening. Pedicures, riding the carousel, and a delicious meal....
Turning 40 isn't so bad...

Easter weekend we had plans of going fishing, but the weather wasn't cooperating. Leon suggested making donuts.....and I said, "Only if you help."

 And he did a great job of frying them all....
 Our wonderful taste-tester stopped by to see if they were edible.....he usually smells donuts from miles away.

Easter Sunday traditional photo-

And we planted garden....

Our first campfire for the year-

Our first hike at the reservoir for this year-


The girls and I went to the Tulip Festival in Pella with my Mom and some more family....

Yesterday was Mother's Day.....
I was thoroughly spoiled. Lunch at Red Lobster with the family, a nice, long walk alone, movie and popcorn last evening, and The Pioneer Woman's lovely red dishes from Wal-mart!!

The last several months I've been doing a lot of reflecting on where I am in life right now compared to my life oh, say, 5 years ago. In the area of our children alone, we are in quite a different stage. I find it super exciting, to watch them grow and change and mature, but it also means a shift in parenting, and I'm not always doing so well in that. Leon often (gently) reminds me that they aren't 4 years old anymore, and I need that reminder. Honestly, I love, love this stage but it also has its challenges. 

One of the best things that's happened in the recent months is the healing of my own heart and the way God has led me to walk through some past pain in order to experience freedom. I am seeing his promise of Restoration for the year 2016 come true. 

As for this blog, well, I am praying that God would give me my voice back, so to speak, to be able to write again. So far, it has felt safer to keep a journal of sorts for our family's adventures and day-to-day living. And we'll see where God takes it from there.

Happy, happy spring! It's a delightful time of the year!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jesus Is Enough

I looked into her eyes and asked, "So how are you really doing? Is Jesus enough to see you through?"

With tears in her eyes, she said, "Yes, yes, He is."

I was visiting with one of 'my' girls, from the youth group that Leon and I helped lead for 3 years. After small talk about our lives, I asked this personal question. Her answer made me cry happy tears.

I had to think of a quote I have hanging by my kitchen sink-

"We are women 
who make our lives about the cause of Christ
not the applause of men
Who live to express the Gospel
not to impress the Jones'
Who live not to make our absence felt
but to make Christ's presence known."
                  -Ann Voskamp

It has nearly ripped our hearts out to leave these precious youth. There are many times that we've second guessed our decision. But we keep coming back to the obedience thing- when God asks you to do a thing, you must do it. And so we had to leave.

These youth are left to adjust, wade the waters, and make sense of  the confusion on their own.

I often think back to our mission trip last summer to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with these young people. We experienced a neediness for Jesus that few had experienced before. There were times when it seemed like we were completely out of options, and then Jesus would miraculously come through for us.

Over and over and over again.

As Leon and I continually commit these young people to Jesus, we remind ourselves that Jesus does not need us to do His work in their hearts. And we find rest in that.

So if you are facing loss, or difficult circumstances, remember this-
only Jesus can meet your needs. And truly, He is all you need.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Three or four years ago, we surprised the children on our 100th day of school, by secretly packing their bags and taking them to a hotel with a swimming pool and a slide, and spending the night. They haven't quit talking about it. Every year since, as the 100th day of school rolls around, (somewhere towards the end of January) they throw loud hints around about this year's event to celebrate the 100th day.

Last fall, Leon and I started talking about doing something extra-special for them this time around. As the time approached, we soon saw that the end of January would be a crazy time on the farm. The chickens and pigs are all going out, the barns are getting cleaned, and a new batch gets put in, all in the space of about 2 weeks. Crazy, crazy.

So we made plans for earlier in January, and actually found a weekend with no Friday night basketball games, or any other conflicts. And we began to plan for Chicago...

My favorite part about big events like this is looking forward to them, so I finally persuaded Leon to tell the kids about our plans a week and a half ahead of time. We were not disappointed with their response.

We took off Friday morning after chores. Yes, we know it's winter and you have to walk everywhere you want to go, but we've done crazier things with our family. (Trust me, St.Louis, in January, when Brooklyn was 4 months, Annika 2, and the boys 5 & 6 was way crazier!)

Our first stop was the Shedd Aquarium. We loved that place! We also really enjoyed the aquatic show with dolphins and beluga whales. We even got to see several adorable penguins. 

We finally found our hotel that evening. GPS is great until your road takes you underground and you lose your signal. Then you get to drive around and see lots more city. We finally arrived and parked our van. The wonderful (but expensive!) valet service parked our van somewhere (?) for us. We had a beautiful, 2 room suite that was perfect for our family. 

We walked to the Rainforest Cafe for supper that night. It was such a fun place, especially for the girls. There were fake animals all around and the decor looked like a real guessed it! Rainforest! 

Of course, you can walk around all day, to and from a restaurant in the cold, but when you get back to your hotel, you.must.swim. Now! The girls and Jamie spent hours in the pool while Logan watched football.

After a bath, hunger strikes, and so we eat our leftovers in bed....
The next day we went to the Museum of Science & Industry. Oh my. I cannot say enough good about this place. Aside from having to walk your legs off, it was just fantastic!

Our favorite exhibit was probably the submarine. It was incredibly cool to hear the history behind the real German U-boat that we were standing inside of!
Leon enjoyed the combine with glass sides so you could see the machine doing it's thing.
Here is Brooklyn...she fits perfectly inside the tractor tire.
The girls loved the large replica of an actual castle!

We really enjoyed the weather display, watching how a tornado is formed, as well as a tsunami....

and sometimes we just had to sit and rest and let the cool lights land on our feet.

We got to tour an airplane...
We also went down into a coal mine and enjoyed that tour a lot.

There were trains, and plastic cows to milk, and cool circus stuff, and race cars down through the years, and bikes, and lots of other really cool stuff.

We got back to our hotel that night, rested a bit, then walked to Gino's East, to experience authentic Chicago-style pizza! We were all very hungry, and we waited a very long time for our food.

Surprisingly enough, we didn't really fall in love with the pizza....we are usually pretty adventurous so I'm not sure what the deal was. The restaurant was really cool, and you could write on the walls. Right by our table someone had written Go Iowa State, then someone crossed out State, and wrote Hawks. That made us feel right at home. We had a cold walk back that night. The wind was whipping up in the Windy City and we were nearing zero degrees. 

I love the city lights.
Sunday morning, we headed for the Willis Tower. The lines were pretty long, but we all decided it was worth it! 103 stories! You felt like you were on top of the world.

 They had glass sky decks you could stand on....that was pretty stretching for me and one of my offspring. We took a quick family picture in the midst of the crowds to prove that we faced our fears and actually stood on the glass.
Some of the kids really seemed to enjoy themselves up there on the sky deck. Hmm...

By this time, it was bitterly cold!!! We only walked 2 blocks to the tower but it was almost too much! We rushed into a McDonald's for a quick bite and to warm up. We encountered a homeless man, were able to help him out a little, and pray with him. That was special. It was also pretty eye-opening to the children to see a homeless man sitting outside in the cold!! We bought a hot chocolate for him. City life is just so different from where we live.

by this time, the weather wasn't really conducive to tour the city, so we headed for home. We all decided we'd come back when it's warm, and walk along beautiful Lake Michigan, the Navy Pier, and do lots more window shopping. 

It was such a fun weekend....but it's always so good to come home.

Home- where it smells like pigs and chickens, the dog and cats pile on the front porch, you can see fields for miles, and sunsets and wide open skies....there's just no place like home!