Tuesday, April 22, 2014


We are coming to a point of closure on our time in Peoria. While there is much to look forward to and be excited about I find my heart lingering here, this place where we grew our family, this place where God laid out so much of his will for me, my children, my marriage and my purpose. I am and have always been a very natural extrovert, I'm energized by people and groups and activity and find that my very soul thrives when I have plenty of this in my calendar. Yet lately, there has been a shift, something I've felt deep within that has been a slow and sure progression, a whisper of a plan for who my family needs me to be as these school age years approach us. I have come to consider it a holy calling.

I read recently about this idea of the "hidden years," a time in which we, as mothers, must sacrifice our play dates, our busyness about town, our frequency of activities for the purpose of investing in the future of our children. A time when our work is most valuable, but most unseen. This is not a martyrdom, is not a dying of self, but it is a true change of perspective where my heart and mind align to a hard truth that I am the most tangibly valuable person my children will encounter in their present stage of life. I have battled God on this, fought the required self sacrifice only to see that even the tiniest efforts on my part to pursue this path of devotion to little lives, produces so much good fruit.

When I slow down, plan less, have a more open calendar, my tendency to yell and rush and fuss slows. My children and my husband see on me a face of joy in being together more so than a face of frustration and exhaustion. Every effort I make to invest in and disciple the lives of my family, turns outward to produce people who in turn want to connect and relate to people in the world around them. I will be the one to teach them compassion, to care for the widow and orphan, to serve as we see need BY MY EXAMPLE. If I am so busy with book clubs and Bible studies and play dates I will miss out on the opportunities to bend low, listen attentively to the world questions my children ask of me, and answer slowly, and make the world right for them. This is my great privilege, to grow in my own wisdom and depth of self as I engage them and allow them the freedom to do the same in the safety of my attention.

To bring this back around, in June we will journey to Houston, where we will live for a year and then, hopefully, transition to our settle down home. But God has spoken to me about this year, this one, single year in Houston, that in it my family is meant to be the focus. That I do not need to panic about "plugging in" or extending outward at all hours of the day (as my extrovert heart feels compelled to do), but that instead it is a time to teach my children that they truly are the best friends they will ever have. Siblings have a special connection and gift that can be lost when too many other relationships are allowed to crowd in. Houston will be our time of connection, of discovering the world together, of reading so many great books and standing in awe of God's creation. We will still practice hospitality, we will absolutely serve the poor, the marginalized together, we will make friends, but the greatest purpose will be to create a special unity among the members of our family that brews a fierce devotion, a love of each other and a willingness to sacrifice self to make a whole.

I have needs that will still need to be met. The very fact that I write this now, at Panera, without the clamoring for my attention that home life demands, is proof that my husband understands this in me, this need to be "me" separate from "mom" at times. I thrive and feel alive when I am able to exercise, be fit, run the trails and push the limits of my abilities. I will figure out how to weave that into our days, because my health is vital to theirs. Oddly, I feel confident in this (confidence is not my strong suit in decision making). I am free from fear of judgment, as I know not everyone will agree with this choice, but I am glad for it. Glad for the chance to stand strong in the conviction laid privately upon my heart, and I look forward with gladness to the fruit of these hidden years.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Sometimes I'm standing at the kitchen sink, rainbow bubbles foaming from an old rag turned wash cloth, water so hot it's almost unbearable; my heart aches. Married life can be fun and fulfilling and joyous. More often it is a struggle, work, a balancing act of keeping quiet when all you want is to yell about your feelings and unmet expectations. It's a journey of learning to be vulnerable and true with another person, while still honoring their beliefs and needs and desires and perceptions. All this, and then figuring out how to still get your needs met while you pour out self to the other. It is growth. It is stretching. It can be pain, strife, bitterness, anguish. It can be connection, joy, loyalty, truth.

I was married under an ancient tree, friends and family looking on, crimson sunset forming in the west, white dress. My best friend watched as I walked down a grassy aisle to him, his face was stoic, serious, fighting tears and joy all at once. We kissed for the first time after profession of vows. I honestly don't remember everything we said to one another, but I know that when we proclaimed this rite, we proclaimed it forever. And we meant it. The sincerity between us and in front of God and fellows has brought me peace in these nine years, knowing there will never be an option in either of our eyes to not work, to not give it our all and fight for connection. I am deeply thankful for that as a woman who comes from a family wrought with divorce and brokenness. We will start a new story, a new path and example.

When we first got married, I remember saying that I thought it was silly for husbands to buy flowers for their wives. A waste of money on something that would quickly erode. So desperate was I to be a desirable wife. I see now how deep in my core is the need to be seen as beautiful, to be surrounded by beauty, to create it in my own space and to be showered with simple affections. I love flowers.

I think there are some truths that have taken me a long time to learn, and some prior thought truths that I now need to unlearn. As a Christ follower I created an ideal of constant pouring out, unceasing selflessness with an expectation that it would be returned naturally, that I wouldn't have to communicate my needs. I feared being a nag. I thought my desires for thoughtfulness, for giving and concern were obvious and would be met out of a natural response to my own giving. These years have taught me that unmet expectations that were never voiced are unfair weapons. The daggers of my tears over feeling unseen are only valid if I have communicated a desire to be noticed, and, specifically, what that best looks like for me. If I want my husband to act or serve, I should tell him that it is a need, of great value.

Today, if some one were to ask me what I think the number one most important thing in a marriage might be, I would answer with "communication." Any two people who are willing to bend and flex for one another can succeed in marriage, but they must work diligently to learn how to best communicate their wants and needs and hopes and dreams to the other. I am just this year really learning this, and wish I had known so long ago that being a "good" wife doesn't mean creating the appearance of not needing anything. All the years of living that way didn't create a bond, it created distance and sometimes, bitterness. All of which was brooding under the surface, hidden from the heart of the one who wants me to be happy, and who wants to share in that happiness.

Each day now is a challenge to be fully seen by the one my heart loves. To not be a false picture of contentment, but to be a connector of hearts, even if that means conflict or hard times have to be fought through. Those difficult times are worth it, they wash away the scabs of the fallen and heal with the balm of new a beginning.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

IF: then what?

"In your life, is Jesus useful...

...or is he beautiful?"

"Learn the unforced rhythms of grace."

These two phrases have echoed in my heart and mind since February 7th and I've loved what they have spoken in me. There is a renewal and a refreshing in learning to let go the hand that grasps so tightly at habit, at normalcy. A quenching of long suffering thirst when one is able to let loose the strict bound chains of worry and anxiety of doing it all right, in favor of just living.

These past few weeks I've set a goal of not having goals. Track with me, the goals here are really expectations for to-do list checking, clear counter tops and folded laundry baskets and Martha Stewart home making and I have dropped them in favor of the unforced rhythms of grace. Grace over myself, my children, my husband, my world. Expectations are some times these cell blocks that cage in our joy.

Husband doesn't say, do, help enough.

A bar goes up, joy with no parole.

Kids fight, argue, disobey, make messes.

The lock turned tight.

Friends ignore, say wrong somethings, say wrong nothings

Joy serving its death sentence.

What if...what if...we just lived? Lived with grace enough for people we share our lives with that we could enjoy daily living with out that constant let down of "not enough?" We fill our head space with those not enough thoughts. Of ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our friends. The endless list of not enough, making steal cages bar by bar so we can't feel full. What if all that grace we get from heaven, for all the mistakes and not so mistakes and full out poor choices...what if that was what we gave out? It takes time to LEARN those rhythms.

But I think we could.

I've started simply, with strangers. I realized how often my face of joy is hiding silent cuts at the other. My jealousy of ladies more fit than I at the gym, spouting into judgment that "they must _____ too much, not enough", blah blah. Or you know those thoughts about a friend who is dear to you, yet your mind cuts them for this or that choice? I've been making a conscious effort to TURN OFF THE STREAM OF JUDGMENT.

I realize that there are probably some of you who don't have this, who are naturally sweet, gentle, the criticism not surfacing so ugly. What a gift you have, truly. But for those of us who struggle with steel bars, we know it is mostly because we judge ourselves so harshly that we judge others as such. We have a choice, though strange and unnatural, to hear those thoughts rising, and crush them with the good.

So when I find myself saying, "Self! Why are there ALWAYS baskets of laundry unfolded?!? Why can't you JUST GET IT DONE?!" Or when I'm tempted to question some one's purchase, or clothing choice or tone of voice, or my husband for not doing what I had hoped, or my kids for JUST BEING KIDS...I turn it off, and turn it to good. I am starting to see this whole new world where people aren't just bodies, they are PEOPLE. They have hurts, and awkward moments and a back story that makes them exactly who they are and they are on their own journey and I am just. on. mine. I do the other no good with my negative inside dialogue, so I've been writing their stories instead. I try to see why that lady in line in front of me might be yelling at her kids, see her hurt making them hurt and then compassion wells up.

So here's this, this making Jesus BEAUTIFUL by seeing the beauty in those he loves. What would it take for me to TRULY love my neighbor, a stranger; to see the hurt they hide in their "flaws?" How could we, as women, choose to not compare, to not question motives, but to love fully and let the Spirit guide the rest?

Do we dare try? Could we change our very world?

What do you think? How do we start?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

IF: unpacking

I have a husband, four children, a dog. I say "I have" as if there was any truth to the concept that they belong to me. These are blessings, gifts, facets of my life in which I have great privilege and responsibility. I want, have always wanted, so badly, to do well by these pieces of the divine that I share my days with.

So I flew to Texas, ran to a gathering of women though I knew not how to explain to others what it was that I was seeking, what I would be given were I to attend. I just knew in my bones that I was supposed to go. So after mishaps with tickets, miracles with tickets, miraculously affordable air fare and perfect in-law baby sitters, I came. My Rachel and I, we came. Arms and hearts and minds open to whatever it was God was leading us toward. As I sat in the Austin Music Hall, at a farm table expertly decorated, my friend by my side, I prayed and wrote the first thing that came to mind in my journal.


I felt empty, I felt tired and weary from a life that I didn't feel I was living particularly well. This isn't self deprecation, it's an honest assessment of my feeling that my days were meant for more. I home school my oldest, I nurture my youngest, I serve and honor my husband in every way I can, I keep a relatively clean house, I cook from scratch, but it all has felt so empty and mundane, and at IF, God showed me why.

One of the speakers alluded to IF as to the manna in the desert, the "what is it" that was exactly what each person needed each day while wandering in the wilderness. And it WAS. Every one who attended or watched received something so different, but for me, God showed me that all the things I want to see in myself, my family, my home, my writing, my LIFE, can only be achieved with one thing.


So simple is this truth that it feels absurd. Truly "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." I have wanted to lead a powerful life, but have not, perhaps in my entire journey as a disciple of Jesus, ever loved Jesus. It feels uncomfortable and odd and foolish to even say that. I know that some who read this will not agree that there is power in it, but I truly believe, in my mind, that "God made foolish the wisdom of the world." I desperately desire for my heart to catch up.

Many facets of the many speakers spoke so loudly to me, but the one that keeps resonating and reverberating in my heart was from Shelly Giglio. She spoke from Psalm 84, verses 3 and 4 say this:

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you

A term from my science studies of past was used, describing the sparrow as having a "cosmopolitan distribution," you can find them thriving on every continent. The only other animal with the same global representation? It's us. People. And much like the sparrow, many of us are plain, nothing flashy or attention getting in our very nature, yet God made a place for this bird not outside of his house, but near the altar. How much more does he have a place for US in his house? And I have sat in this emptiness thinking that I just can't "build my nest AND be near to alter of God" because of the daily busyness of life with littles. I think I need to do grand things, that I have to lead devotionals and pray arduously and fill every second of the day with God's goodness, but what I really need? To fill my own heart with a love of Jesus, a depth with God, and allow that to organically flow out in my home.

I don't have a plan for how this will happen, because no genuine relationship was ever built on a process or a plan. Instead I'm taking every day to remember Jesus, finding his love in the word, often just a small passage while my littles eat cereal and I stand at the counter over coffee. I'm choosing the Bible over Facebook, inspiring blogs over Instagram. I'm using different language to bring peace to sibling rivalry, expressing to them that they are each precious and made perfect in Jesus, how then can we choose not to forgive, not to love another? We've had some great talks already about what it means to be precious, and I'm finding that what comes out of my mouth about God, is formulating what I and what my family thinks about Him.

I have so much to unpack. Layers of baggage built up in my heart, layers of truth God spoke over me and my life and the power in this new Esther generation of women that we are. I will unravel it here, slowly, but mostly I will focus on Jesus. I will look at my children with mercy and grace, with less restriction and hard lines and more gentle guiding.

Speak God.
Your servant is listening.

Friday, January 24, 2014

a new quest

I write about being a parent. It's what I do. It's my life and I eat, sleep, drink and breathe it in every moment of every day and I want to. I want to soak up this life and these little souls while they are little and fill up my day with them. I have grown to know that right now, in this life, in my life, raising these souls well is enough, it is a great high purpose to which the extent of it's reaches will likely never be fully known to me. I have power.

I'm learning to use it wisely.

My last post was about my issue with anger. It hasn't subsided, it's always there under the surface, brimming, waiting for its chance to strike. I won't let it. I have, I have let out that ugly monster on occasion but feel my children are beginning to grow up in a place where it is no longer the norm and I can only thank and praise the supernatural power of the Spirit that is within me. It could not have come from me alone.

In this time of learning to deal with issues of respect and obedience and far more importantly, the attitudes of the heart, a great revelation has come to me.

My children are PEOPLE.

It's a simple truth but in all my efforts to tame, teach, control and coerce them into doing my bidding, I lost sight of that fact. That children aren't some other category of life form until they leave the home, they are people from the very moment they are born. I would never treat another adult the way I have them. Boss them around all day, give them no room for error, expect them to do things all day long that they hate with a "happy heart." I had to step back. Look at MY heart and figure out why their obedience was so important to me. What I realized was really ugly. Though a large factor in my desiring them to be respectful and obedient came from a heart to teach them unquestioning obedience to the Father I put my faith in, there was a huge motivation to preserve an image. An image of me as a model parent, of having answers, of being "good" at what I am doing. But I'm not. Any good that results in my parenting is the fruit of the spirit I pledge these children to, the stuff I do out of my own character? Not good fruit.

So I've taken a stand and am seeing the most beautiful of (slow) transformations in the hearts of my oldest two children. Asher, who often got the heaviest load of my expectations, now gets grace. He gets a hug when he makes a mistake, even when he intentionally does something wrong, I'm learning to stop. Get at his level, give him space to figure out why he is acting as such, tell him why it bothers me to see him act this way, speak LIFE INTO HIS BONES by telling him I know how good he CAN be, and that THAT is the boy he is. He is not the sum of his poor decisions. I'm putting away the distractions to look into the eyes of my children more. We are staying home on purpose, not going to so many play dates and outings so that we can learn to love each other fully, so they can grow to see the joy of having siblings to go on great sofa cushion adventures with. So home can be the place they love to be.

As these six years of motherhood have passed, I've begun to see how much power a mother has to control the voice a person hears in their head for the rest of their life. What I say to these souls will repeat and resonant with them for decades. Will their internal voice be kind? Mine isn't. I nag myself, I tell myself I don't do enough and that what I do is never done as well as it should be. I don't want my kids to grow up with my inner voice. In a perfect world their voice would speak with grace and mercy but also be set with high expectations for achieving and doing good. I don't know exactly how to mold and create that but I'm doing my best.

So our home still has clear boundaries and high expectations for attitudes and behavior, but we're changing the way we get there. I'm trying to see how gentle and patient Jesus was in his conviction of hearts, giving all of us room to be people. People falter, make mistakes, do great and amazing and big things. I want to give my little people enough space to do all of that. And more.

Reading that has inspired these heart changes:
The words of Jesus in the gospels
The works of Charlotte Mason, specifically "For the Children's Sake"
"Love and Logic"
"Loving Our Kids on Purpose"
"How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, And Listen So Kids Will Talk"