No white appliances

I have a confession to make…in the evenings while Kerry puts the boys down for bed I sit at my computer to work (I teach online) and have the TV on in the background. My two default channels are HGTV and the Food Network. The more time I’ve spent watching, the more disgusted I get.
Now, I like watching renovations or watching people search for the perfect family home as much as anyone, but they’re starting to make me sick. I see these couples or families (rarely with more than 1 child and certainly not 4+) looking at homes that have 3500+ sq ft. And you know what they say? “It’s too small!” or “We would never be able to fit all of our stuff in here.” My thought tends to be…Maybe you have too much stuff!!
It drives me crazy to hear women say “Well I don’t cook, but I still want a pretty kitchen.” or “I don’t like the white appliances…they look so dated!” It disappoints me to hear them say “But it only had one sink in the bathroom and I don’t want to share a sink with him.” I’m sitting there thinking…well you married him didn’t  you?
And I think, more often than not, one of two things…The first is “please don’t let my boys marry a woman like that” and the second is “please don’t let me raise my boys to think that white appliances and one sink is the worst thing that a house could have…please let me raise them to be content. Please let me be content.”
I think what it comes down to is the materialism of it all that disappoints me. The fact that we fail to see the hurt and the need around us…in our own backyards and we ignore it all. We shut out the need with our triple car garages and gigantic master en-suite bathrooms and our two sinks.
I want so much more for the world around me and my children. I want for them to not care about white appliances and double sinks. I want them to care about people around them…the things that matter. Sure…I like nice things, I enjoy a home with 3 1/2 bathrooms (they all have one sink) and more space than we need (we are blessed to live in the church parsonage). In our current home, each of my boys could have their own room if they wanted, but they don’t. All four, and soon to be five, share a room.  But you know what else? All this space…it doesn’t do much good unless I’m willing to be hospitable to my neighbor and open my home to those around me. As a follower of Christ, I am called to be hospitable. And that doesn’t just mean to people I know…the word actually means to open your home to strangers…complete strangers! Gasp!
I want for myself and my children, to look past the “stuff” and to people. To see needs and meet them, not to be hesitant when reaching out to others. We take for granted that we have clean water on demand, we can buy fresh food, we have flush toilets and in general we don’t have to worry about our safety…we can sleep soundly at night without fear of being attacked, victimized or homeless the next day.
As a mother, I struggle to keep this in perspective for myself and for our children. Kerry and I both work to teach them to keep things in perspective and to look around, to be grateful for the blessings we have. But sometimes we wonder if we’re doing enough.
So how do we do this as parents? How does this goal of breaking down materialism and consumerism culture change our conversations, our actions and our thinking? We’re still learning and refining what goes on in our home, but we are implementing some changes in our family to help our boys (and us) think about more than just ourselves, to think about how we can bless others and to be in a position to be used by God.
Because life and service is about more than white appliances and double sinks.

Five Minute Friday — Beloved

Five Minute Friday
1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in my blog’s footer}.
3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes for the prompt:


Beloved family.
We kiss them and tuck them in. We snuggle with them in the wee hours of the morning and we love them. They are the beauty of us.
When we started this journey 15 1/2 years ago as a couple of high school kids we never would have imagined this spot is where we’d be standing. But we can’t imagine a better place to be. We owe it all to God’s grace and His ever patient leading, teaching, shaping and forgiving.
I watch my oldest straining to be a man. So much wanting to show his strength, his ability and that he is capable of the challenge. It hurts to watch my boy, the one I cradled and learned with…to watch him grow and yet still need the reassurance he is loved, he is capable and there will always be snuggles and hugs here.

My second, my wild card. The curve ball God gave us…to see his heart and how he cares for others. It does my heart good to hear him read to his younger brothers, to hear him voice concern for those around him and to be willing to sacrifice. I see him give his brother his broccoli…not because he doesn’t like it…it’s his favorite…but because he knows little brother likes it too and ate his already. He waits to read the stories rolling around in his head and I see him writing and telling his stories to no one in particular as he walks around the backyard…talking…telling and sharing his heart.

The third I wasn’t sure I’d have. I was so sure two was our number and then we became obedient to what God has asked of us. His big eyes from the day he was born…stunning those around us. His charm and smile. We prayed for months for his speech…for him to speak more than just a few words and now he is so eager to speak and tell others. Our prayers answered. He shows us how to be patient and how to tolerate. Beautiful in spirit.

Our fourth, our determined child. Determined to make his own way, to hold his own and to do it his way. So hard some days, yet so tender…brokenhearted so easily. Singing his heart out Sunday mornings, not knowing the words but determined to join in the choir of voices and make a joyful noise. Eager to join big brothers, meeting them jump for jump and bruise for bruise.

Then the ones we will meet in eternity. The two surprises that we have waiting…too early to know them much but still grieved and missed. We wonder about the son and daughter that we have there too. We talk of them often and talk about their short lives, their births and deaths, knowing that without them we would have missed some very important lessons about trust, reliance, healing and faith in our God. They perhaps were sent to teach us and show us what we were missing.

And we anticipate the new one…we wait and pray. We pray for his safe arrival and birth, for his health and we wait…all 6 of us with open arms. We can’t wait to hold him and see him. We are ever thankful for his safety thus far and we continue to pray.

Beloved family. Broken, hurting, thankful, healing, learning and loving together. Every day. In our messes. With His grace.

Family Vision — Humble

Teaching humility is tough. It’s tough to learn, even as adults.
In our house the definition of humility is “Remembering God is responsible for our successes and achievements and not being prideful or arrogant in my attitude or behavior.”

Being humble means being willing to serve others, being willing to submit to their will, but also being willing to do things for other people WITHOUT recognition. Most of us like to be told how great we are, how helpful we are and how much we are needed. In reality though, being humble means we still work our hardest for God and those around us without recognition. We do it simply to glorify our God. Not ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

We’re saved by grace through faith and not our works. Our works, the good stuff we do, comes out of a desire to be obedient and show our love for Christ, not because it is what saves us. If what brought us into heaven was the stuff we did here on earth…1. none of us would get there because we can’t ever be “good” enough and 2. God wouldn’t get the glory. So one of the reasons we teach humility in our home is to remember that without God we can never achieve the standard high enough to “earn” our way into heaven.

1 Peter 5:5 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

Humility also involves being subject to those around us. When we are humble, nothing is “beneath” us when it comes to serving others. I often think of this when I’m teaching my nursing students. There are some in the healthcare community that think once they become a nurse, EMT or doctor they don’t have to provide certain care to their patients because it is “beneath” them. I’ve heard more than one nurse say “I didn’t go to nursing school to give baths all day” or doctors say “I didn’t go to medical school to hold a puke bucket”. As a nurse, mother and wife, I never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. It shouldn’t matter what we’re doing when we’re serving, if we’re humble nothing is beneath us. We will willingly serve, without recognition, without disgust and with joy.

The second reason we teach humility in our home is tied closely with the “serving” part of our family vision. In a family, and in society, we need to be willing to humble ourselves and serve others. Nothing is beneath us. We are never too good to serve others. So often today, people want to just throw money or a program at a problem instead of getting their hands dirty. Sometimes we just need to hold a hand, clean a wound, or give a hug. It’s so much more personal and humbling to touch. Jesus didn’t shy away from the “untouchables” in His day. He dined with them. He touched them to heal them. Very few times did Jesus not humble himself enough to touch the person in front of Him. He is to be our example.

Luke 22:27 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

So how do we teach humility? It looks very similar to how we teach our children to serve. We do it. We demonstrate it. Something we do often when we go out to eat is clean up our floor around our table when we’ve finished. Even mom and dad will help pick up food the baby has spilled or napkins that have been dropped. We encourage big brothers to help little brothers put on shoes and socks or jackets. Opening doors (a lost art these days) is one of the first things we teach our sons to do for others. They learn to let others go first even if it means they have to stand in the wind, they learn to be last. They learn humility.
Lest you think we don’t praise them for anything, there is a lot of praise that happens at our house. But I doubt it looks like the praise we see on TV or even in society most of the time. We praise them for being willing to serve, we praise them for character not performance.

Philippians 2: 3-8
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

To touch His garment.

Mark 5:25-34

25 A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, 26 and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse— 27 after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. 28 For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” 29 Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30 Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” 31 And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” 32 And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.33 But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”

We have been studying Mark in church the past few weeks. And in small group this last week we were talking about this passage among others. A young lady in our group posed the question “Would I have enough faith to touch His garment?” And her question has been on my mind all week.
Would I have enough faith to believe that if I could just touch Him I would be made well. Jesus had been healing people all week. He had thousands of people following Him, people pressing in on Him so hard that He had to retreat to a boat to teach. No doubt people touching Him all the time, surrounding Him, wanting to see a miracle. Yet the woman in the story had enough faith to believe that if she just touched Him, the hem of His garment she would be healed. I wonder how long she pushed through the crowds to get close enough, how many times she was shoved out of the way and yet she persisted. And she finally got there…she just reached out and touched Him.
And she was healed. IMMEDIATELY she was healed. And Jesus tells her “Woman, your faith has made you well.”
And then the question came…”Would I have enough faith to reach out and touch His garment?”
I think we’d all like to think that “Of course I would…Of course if I lived when Jesus lived I would believe and I would have enough faith” But I too, wonder…would I…really?
Faith is sometimes so hard. It means that we trust in Him and what He has in store for us even when we don’t see a purpose or reason for the trial we are wading through. It means that we willingly obey without hesitation when what He is asking us to do doesn’t make a bit of sense. Sometimes it means that we are hurt again or that we find indescribable joy on the other side of the valley. And having faith enough to reach out and touch Him means we are willing to lay down our lives, our desires and our mess to follow Him.
It’s so easy to trust, follow and reach out to Him when things make sense, when they’re going our way and when we’re sure of the path. Not so much when we can’t see around the bend ahead of us or when we’re wallowing in hurt, self doubt and fear.
I remember this struggle when Knox and Lily died. Especially after Knox. I remember the daily struggle to trust God with what lay ahead. I would pray one day “Lord, if you are going to call me to lose another baby…please don’t ever let me get pregnant again.” And the next I would pray “Lord, please bless my womb and I will surrender to what You call me to walk through.” When we got pregnant with Lily, and found out she had Turner syndrome and her 1% chance of survival, I fully expected, believed and felt deep down that she would survive. Kerry and I both did. We both totally expected that this past November we would welcome a baby girl to our family. And then she died too. Strangely enough though, it was much easier to surrender to what God was asking us to walk through emotionally. Not easy to do, but we had faith He would walk with us, He was in control and that He would heal us.
Yet there are days when I fall prey to worry for this new baby. When I wonder if He calls me to again, mourn the loss of a child, if I could do it…if I could survive. I am not in control, no matter how much I like to think I am.
In doing HIS will, I surrender mine. I reach out and touch His garment and cling to Him because HE will rescue me. I know He will, because He is a God who loves me. I know that even when it doesn’t make sense, when it hurts so much I think I’ll break into pieces that He knows, He heals and He loves. The woman sought Jesus, she pursued Him and she fought the throngs of people to just get close enough. If I just reach for Him, seek Him, He will answer me. But I also know, that the healing I seek and envision, isn’t always what He has planned for me. It doesn’t look like I want it to and sometimes it hurts more than I think it should.
I have come to realize, it’s not so much about how much faith I have. It’s about whether am I willing to recognize Jesus for who He is. The woman in the story touched Him like so many others, but is it possible that she is the only one of all of them who recognized Jesus as someone more than just healer…that she recognized Him to be the Son of God? That He was the only one who could save her?

Family Vision — Holiness

We desire for our family and our children to pursue holiness and purity. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says
15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.””
How do we teach holy behavior in our families? First we have to define the word holy and what it means for us as believers. One definition of holy is to be “dedicated or devoted to the service of God” we are “set apart” for God when we are holy.
As believers we are to be different from the world around us. Often times the question  asked by those in the world and even in the church is “What can I still get away with and be a Christian?” rather than “How holy can I be?”
Romans 12: 1-2 says “1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
It’s not only about our behavior though, it’s about what is in our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that we are to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”. If our hearts are either pure or corrupt, so will the rest of our lives be as well.
We try to teach our sons to guard their eyes and their hearts at all times. We work to contrast the Biblical standard with the worlds standard for living. What God says vs what the world says. An example would be for dress. Even though we haven’t been blessed with daughters, we teach our boys what is acceptable dress for both men and women. We have a code word in our family that anyone can say when there is something inappropriate in the line of sight. Someone can call out “Nike” (which means victory in Greek) and we will all look at our shoes or avert our eyes. When the coast is clear someone will say “all clear”.
I can’t tell you how often as a mother I have been thankful we’ve taught our young boys this practice. Whether it be a magazine cover (I wish they had isles in the store without magazines in them) or a girl walking down the street with immodest clothing on, I have been thankful that we are able to teach our boys to guard their eyes and their hearts. We don’t use it to judge those around us, but to set ourselves apart from the world. What the world sees as acceptable and right is not in line with God’s standard.
We carefully screen the videos, games and other media that comes into our home. I have been disappointed at how much is snuck into games or TV programs that doesn’t align with God’s word while still being seemingly “innocent”. An example would be a popular TV show on public television. It depicts a young girl as a super hero. It’s educational, it’s engaging, but she lies to her parents. Or a movie that doesn’t have profanity or nudity, but a character uses God’s name in vain. A movie our family recently watched was based on a popular children’s book. In the opening minutes it depicts a sister and brother fighting, a mother engaging in an extramarital affair and a young boy being disobedient and disrespectful to his mother. Out the movie went and into the trash. We talked with our boys about how, while we enjoy the children’s book, the movie contradicts the biblical standard God has for our family.
Philippians 4:8 is a verse we have memorized and have hanging in our kitchen to remind us “8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Being holy and pure before God isn’t about comparing ourselves and elevating ourselves above those around us with our pious behavior. It’s about living in such a way that we are different in thought, in word, and in deed from the world that contradicts biblical teaching. Being holy and pure is about being striving to be more like the God to whom we belong.
Read my other family vision posts here

A letter to a Children's ministry worker

You may not remember me. You may not know what my home life was like and the family I came from. Or you might know everything about me. But I want to thank you. I want to thank you for investing your time, your energy and your life into mine.
Thank you.
It was so long ago, 27 years or so, that I hopped down the brown tile stairs to the basement of the Nazarene church. I can still remember the smell of homemade playdough, glue and construction paper. I remember standing there saying my memory verses to you, putting the sticker on the chart and watching the story unfold on the flannel-graph.
Thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to prepare the lesson, to be patient with me while my little fingers and hands figured out the scissors and to sing “I’m in the Lord’s Army” every Sunday because the 3 year olds love yelling “Yes sir!”
I remember, I think I was 5 or 6, working on a skit and song for a talent contest. I am surprised sometimes that my mom let me go on a trip to the little church in Lyons. I think of that trip every time we drive by. I remember praying the night before we all slept there. And I remember the prayer of one young lady…she prayed for you not to be afraid because you had just lost your baby. I don’t remember anything else that was said and I’m not even sure I understood at that moment what it meant, but I remember you. I remember you sitting there surrounded by the youth, with tears in your eyes…grieving your loss and being with us. As a mother who has lost 4 children, the fact that you were even there is more profound to me…more meaningful and significant. Thank you for being there in your time of loss to be there for us, the youth who so admired you and were blessed by you.
Thank you.
I still have the Christmas ornament you made for us one year. I hang it on my tree every year and I tell my children about the children’s ministry worker who invested in me. Who helped build the foundation of my faith, in the middle of the turmoil of my life, but who invested in me…who believed I was worth it. And I send up a prayer of thanks for you and the impact you had, whether you knew it or not.
Thank you.
I think of you every time I tell my faith story. Because of the time you invested in me (and the prayers I believe of my grandparents and great grandparents), the teaching, the prayers you offered on my behalf, I knew God’s word was true when I was very young. I trusted in Him early on.
Thank you.
I moved when I was 8. I came less often and eventually stopped all together. But you had a lasting impact on my life. We would occasionally see each other in passing. I always remembered you and how you made me feel. I think seriously, that if you had not been willing to spend the time you did teaching me and investing in my life I would have a very different faith life. In those 8 years you had more impact on me and my life than any other youth worker I had after.
Thank you.
I couldn’t appreciate it then like I can now, both as a mother and a children’s ministry worker myself. There are days when I am exhausted and the thought of voluntarily caring for a room full of preschoolers seems just more than I can handle. And I think of you. I don’t remember the lessons necessarily, but I think of you, how you made me feel and I can recognize it now…how you lived your faith in front of my eyes every time I saw you. You put your belief into action. You believed children, that we, were blessings. You believed in investing in the next generation, in helping us grow up in faith, and you were obedient to God’s call. You showed it every time you came. Every time you gave a hug or high five and every time you bowed your head and prayed with us…thanking God for each one. You lived it and that’s what I remember. You were one of the first people I saw who showed me what it meant to serve Christ.
I’m sure it wasn’t always glorious, it wasn’t appreciated like it should have been and that there were times when you were just plain exhausted and wanted to stay home. But you came, you taught and you cared.  For that, I am ever thankful. And I wanted you to know that you made a difference to me.
Thank you.

New Recipe Monday — Crockpot refried beans without the refry

We eat a lot of beans at our house. Cheap source of protein and you can eat them a number of ways. I’ve been looking for a recipe to make my own refried beans, and since I have absolutely no Hispanic ancestory…I was kind of at a loss. I found a recipe similar to this one on but I modified the recipe to fit our family’s tastes. Here’s what I came up with and how it’s worked for us so far.
1 onion, peeled and halved
6 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic — I will add more next time
3 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin — definitely adding more next time probably close to 1 tsp.
Water to cover the beans.
1. Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high.
2. Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid (this process is a bit easier if the beans are cool, I just dipped the liquid out with a measuring cup). Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.
This recipe was really pretty easy to make and I didn’t have an old fashioned potato masher, so I ended up using my pastry cutter, which worked fine. I put the refried beans into plastic containers and froze them. We ate our first batch this last week.  A couple of points…they don’t have the fat content that the canned beans do and you kind of miss it at first, but overall our family really liked these. Next time I make a batch, I will be a little more heavy handed on the spices as this batch was a bit bland and needed a little salt when I reheated them, but the reviews for the recipe I read said they were too salty so I hesitated to put the full amount in this time. I think because I froze them they were drier than they would have been otherwise. So when I reheated them, I added a bit of milk and they were much creamier. This is definitely going to be a staple at our house, they were easy to make, tasted good and will be even better with a couple tweaks to the recipe. Below are some pictures of the process…

Just before cooking

These smelled so good cooking all day!

All mashed up and ready to eat or freeze

Five Minute Friday — Afraid

Let’s just write and not worry if it’s just right or not. Here’s how to play along:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in my blog footer}
3. Go leave some comment props for the five minute artist who linked up before you {and if you love us, consider turning off word verification for the day to make it easier for folks to say howdy}
It’s a great way to catch your breath at the end of a long week.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes for the prompt:


I have been afraid. There are so many things that I am afraid of.
I afraid that I’m a failure. Since we’ve moved here, the gravity of being a stay at home mom and being responsible for raising our children has set in. While Kerry is here and supportive, much of the time it falls on my shoulders…the discipline, the teaching and the responsibility. Oh the responsibility. What if I fail? What if someday they grow up, look back at this home they grew up in and despise it. Worse yet despise me?
I’m afraid that in the last 8 weeks of this pregnancy something terrible, unthinkable will happen. That I won’t be able to hold this sweet child and that the grief of losing another baby will yet again spill down around us and that it will destroy me.
I am afraid. It worries me in this new town, new group of people and new church that I will never quite fit right. That I will be like a puzzle piece jammed in the wrong spot. It’s so hard to relocate and find your “spot”. There are times when I agonize over words I’ve said or not said, things I’ve done or not done and over who I am. I worry that I’ve offended, not welcomed enough or hurt feelings without knowing. I’m afraid that I won’t be enough. For anyone.
Satan knows my fears. He knows how to attack and preys on those fears and those insecurities. It is so easy to go down that path of worry and fear…it’s easy to be terrified of all the things I’m not, can’t be, won’t be. But I’m reminded…The Lord is my light and my salvation, why should I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, why should I be afraid?
And again :

Isaiah 41:10

10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

God reminds me again and again He is in control. He calms the waves of the storm, He knows the hairs on my head, He bottles my tears. He cares, He loves and He knows. I am so glad I can go to Him with my fears. He loves me like no one else can. He holds my future and He knows. I pray often about my worries and beg forgiveness for picking them up again instead of leaving them at His feet. He brings me peace.
I may be afraid, but He is not. I am so very thankful for His love and His protection.