Farewell, 2015 {And Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out}

It’s been a quiet year here.  This post will make seventeen for the whole year.  There was a time I would post that in a month.  And I miss this space, I miss the writing, I miss my readers.  I miss sharing and growing together.  But the words just haven’t come.  It’s been a year of quiet introspection and working things out with pen and paper and God. And it’s like my public words are locked in some great vault and they are numerous – so many things I want to say and share – but I wait for someone to come and turn the key.

But as I look back on this last day of 2015, on a year that I am more than happy to see go, on a year that has taught me more than I was ever brave enough to ask about myself, my relationships, and my Jesus, I know that I am ending the year with deeper appreciation for all three, a deeper understanding, a deeper peace in Christ than I knew to be possible twelve months ago.

Sometimes God takes us places we would never ask to go, places we think He would never ask us to go, and in those places we learn things about Him and about ourselves that we never would have known otherwise.  And we can choose to become bitter or we can choose to let Him make us better; we can choose to nurse our hurt and shut the world out or we can let Him use those places we would not go to lead us to places we’ve always wanted to be.

This is…what God desires of each of His children. He wants us to be ‘more than conquerors,’ turning storm clouds into chariots of victory. It is obvious when an army becomes ‘more than conquerors,’ for it drives its enemies from the battlefield and confiscates their food and supplies. This is exactly what this Scripture passage means. There are spoils to be taken!

Dear believer, after experiencing the terrible valley of suffering, did you depart with the spoils? When you were struck with an injury and you thought you had lost everything, did you trust in God to the point that you came out richer than you were before? Being ‘more than a conqueror’ means taking the spoils from the enemy and appropriating them for yourself. What you enemy had planned to use for your defeat, you can confiscate for your own use.

~ Streams in the Desert, December 18

Looking back on the past twelve months, fear has wanted to shut the world out but God has reminded me to be brave and so I keep tearing walls down and letting God do what He needs to do in my heart.  And looking back on the past twelve months, I see the spoils I have taken from the enemy.  What Satan had planned to use for my defeat, for my utter destruction, God has confiscated for His own glory and my good.  And He has taken this hard, dark year, and made it a thing of incredible beauty.

As we look forward to 2016 so many things feel unknown, as they should.  And my heart, even after all I’ve learned this year, my panicked, terrified heart wants to guard itself and enforce every measure of control I can imagine in my little world.  Yet, I know that’s not God’s way or God’s best.  So I keep tearing down walls, I keep being brave.  I choose to stay soft, to trust, to follow Him, wherever the next twelve months take us.  Because I know He is good.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review: 2015 {August & September}

Oh, hi there little blog.  I’ve missed you.  But it’s been good to continue to process some things alone and on paper for a while.  I hope to get back to posting soon, but for now, just a quick recap of the past two months plus pictures and some counting of the gifts, because I’m reminded how much my soul still needs that.  Daily.

August started with Grace’s birthday.  I didn’t do a post on her this year and I’m conflicted about that.  The girls don’t love our social media presence, so I tried to respect that by not doing a whole post, but it’s been tradition and a way I try to honor the girls every year, so I feel like I skipped part of the birthday experience.  She’s still one of my favorites, even if I didn’t write about her.  🙂

After that was back-to-school.  I may have had my own little temper tantrum over it all and seriously questioned our decision to keep them home again.  But then I pulled on my big-girl panties and chose to embrace it all, and so far, the year is going very well.

I started school the week after the girls.  I’m having a great time stretching my brain with Human Anatomy and Applied Behavior Analysis.  I’m still so thankful for the opportunity to take classes again.

September came with Matt’s brother getting married and Labor Day and my birthday.  Also, our 4th annual Capitol Craze run and time with friends from out of town.  The rest of the month flew by and now I find myself on October 6th drinking coffee and reflecting on the first 7 weeks of school.

Life is good.  God is good.  Even when life is hard.

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This sweet bird took refuge under Ellie’s chair at dinner after one of the owls in our backyard tried to make it his dinner.

Ellie’s depiction of Heaven based on the book of Revelation.

The throne of the River of Life.

Yep, that’s Hell. #speechless

This book, a gift from a friend.  Books that touch hearts make the very best gifts, in my opinion.

A new planner makes the idea of a new school year more bearable.  And I’m still seriously in love with this planner.

Copy all the things.  Homeschooling isn’t “green”.

Last day of summer break perfection.

And the first day of school.

Love notes to give me courage and make me laugh.

A little bit of studying.

Wondering why my human anatomy class doesn’t include making models of an osteon from food….

Product testing by the 15 year old.

Testing out the race slide.

Relaxing with Ellie while the others rock it out withe LeCrae.

Fall sunrise

This quote stays with me and I find it’s something I’m still learning….

I’d have to learn a different kind of dancing, the kind that stands still.  The kind that leans into the sure arms of a mysterious and unfathomable God and allows Him to lead, even when she doesn’t know where He is leading.  Because sometimes God fights for His girl in ways she never imagined.

Michelle Cushatt, Undone

And the gifts…..

3261.  restful weekends

3262. a fifteen year old

3263.  a school year almost ready to go

3264. messes and projects and practice seeing past them

3265. sweet middle of the night texts that encourage

3266.  taking a step back and giving thanks

3267. citronella oil and bug spray

3268. poolside date and a bottle of wine

3269. the slow winding down of summer

3270. early classes and the easing back into routine

3271. sunshine, ice cream, and pool time – end of summer break perfection

3272. beautiful Fridays

3273. a school year under way

3274. the glory that surrounds the everyday

3275. Sundays

3276. and Mondays

3277. songs that speak love and life

3278. school

3279. brisk mornings; a sweet taste of fall before summer really ends

3280. errands and good talks with #2

3281. almost-perfect weather

3282. good, normal days

3283. time to walk at the lake

3284. long weekends

3285. taking a deep breath

3286. perfect weddings

3287. birthday blessings

3288. perfect weather

3289. soft sunsets

3290. Capitol Craze #4

3291. tests to study from

3292. hard marriage weeks

3293. surgery and a recovery that doesn’t go as planned

3294. excellent care from doctor and family

3295. soup deliveries

3296. happy scores on tests

3297. slow healing

3298. disappointment and a God with a plan

As I look back on that list, I see a choosing to give thanks in the every day for the every day.  Life is not always glorious or glamorous, but it is always good.  And God is always good.  Even when life is hard.*

Happy October, friends.

For His Glory ~

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 *yes, I intentionally wrote that twice in one post 😉 Because I need the reminder every day.

2015: Week in Review {June & July}

Does anyone else find it funny that I’m still calling these “Week in Review”?

The past two months have been a wonderful level of slow and uncommitted, interrupted by brief pockets of hold-onto-your-hats busy.  There have been a lot of pool days and no schedule and figuring out meals as they happen.  It’s the disconnect my soul needed.

June and July, in pictures and captions….

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It was the gift of this Bible study this summer.  So thankful for the She Reads Truth community.

It was these two baking up something in kitchen.

It was a loooong day of clothes shopping and some very worn out girls.

It was a pair of adorable, naughty bunnies taking refuge in the bathroom.

It was a little (or a lot) too much time on screens.

It was these beauties and endless rain and flowers that are still alive on August 7th.

It was time with girls and God-glory shining everywhere.

It was a lot of this view.

It was Matt on the go-kart that wouldn’t go and the “family fun night” that was exactly what I needed that week.


It was celebrating the life and legacy of fifty years of marriage.

It was the installation of my new favorite outdoor space.

I

It was this girl turning 12.

It was the #BurritoLife #FundraiserLife #SendGraceToHaitiLife.

It was a power outage and making the best of things.

It was strolling the pet store and these puppies living the life.

It was lunch with #2 at my favorite coffee shop.

It was coping with the discovery of two dead mice in the storage closet. (Sidenote: I didn’t actually drink the whole bottle of wine….)

It was Camp Enosh for these two.

It was dinner at our favorite local burger joint.

It was burning through this book and being left really mad at the author.  I can’t take these novels with the bad endings.  😐

It was an evening in the ER with this guy.  We never really defined what happened, but all signs point to heat stroke.

It was celebrating 16 years of marriage.

It was my foodie-photographer-in-training.

And it was never getting enough of this.

And never stopping giving thanks and listing the gifts…

3225.  Summer Sizzle – year 4

3226.  getting words on paper

3227.  sunshine and humidity

3228.  flowers, birds, green trees

3229.  blue water and an open pool

3230.  words to ponder and pray over

3231. patio weather and long date nights

3232. long weeks, time by the pool, and the things that did get done

3233.  shopping days with five girls

3234.  space to clear my head

3235.  beautiful skies and time outside

3236.  two solid miles with a friend

3237.  God-glimpses into a bigger story

3238.  surviving the crazy and savoring the slow

3239.  deep words that speak truth about God – His faithfulness, HIs trustworthiness, His goodness

3240.  thunderstorm and candlelight

3241.  timely, specific, God-gift answers to prayer

3242.  time with my oldest

3243.  long date nights

3244. friendship

3245. journaling and words

3246.  summer heat waves

3247. high school missions trips

3248. my people

3249. the promise of sleep

3250. rain and thunder

3251. a chlorine reading on the pool 🙂

3252. daily notes from my beloved

3253. unconventional anniversaries

3254. Camp Enosh

3255. school ordered

3256. friendship

3257. sunshine & deck chairs

3258. cool weather, screen porch, and the oldest on her way home from Haiti

3259. a husband on the mend

3260. baby steps toward a new (school) year

May your weekend be filled with just enough sunshine, just enough shade, just enough work, just enough fun, and a whole lot of God’s goodness.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review: 2015 {May}

I just dropped the oldest girl off at the church for a week at camp.  I wish these camps had been available when the girls were five.  Or even eight.  Because that’s when I needed them to go somewhere else for a week in the summer.  Now I’m just sad when they leave.  It’s the cruel irony of parenting.

Meanwhile, the other four are here, building Minecraft villages and swimming and I’m successfully procrastinating every responsible thing I should be doing (like laundry, or selling old school books, or planning my parents’ fiftieth anniversary party) by sitting on the deck and blogging because I have zero ambition this summer and fall is going to hit me like a ton of bricks when reality returns and I realize I accomplished absolutely nothing.  haha

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^ Me…..this summer

So, looking back and catching up, May opened up with a few days on the beach with Matt, who has now been dubbed “The Rainmaker” because everywhere he goes, it rains.  Needless to say, our hope for sunshiney beach days turned into cloudy, windy beach days, while everyone back home enjoyed one of the warmest weeks we’d seen yet this year.  And then we came home.  And the rains followed.  We’re thinking of having Matt go out to California to test our theory, because we’ve all had plenty of rain here.  :-/

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Rain notwithstanding, we ended up having a good time away.  We connected on some things and got to enjoy a little bit of sun.  And, of course, that water.  One bonus of minimal sun was no sunburns.  Haha.

We came home and powered through the end of the school year.  The girls finished up **around** May 8 (some a little earlier, some a little later).  I wrapped up my first semester back in school as well.  We finished up the soccer season with a weekend of tournaments for four of the five girls.  We also had Ellie’s ballet recital and graduations and parties to attend.  The girls and I spent the end of May deep cleaning the house and Matt put them to work outside.

I started journaling again in May, like with paper and pen.  I’ve gone through many seasons of journaling and for a long time this blog replaced that, but I’m realizing now it shouldn’t have.  There are so many little details of life that it would be good to write down, but get missed when you only blog once a month or every few weeks.  I know why I stopped – it takes time to write every day.  And when I go several days without writing I start to feel like a failure (I clearly have too high of expectations for myself).  But it’s been somewhat cathartic and healing.  And because not everything belongs on the World Wide Webs, it’s given me a place to put those things again.

spelled right and with multiple smilies….Happy Coffee

And listing the Endless Gifts + Photos (in no particular order again)….

3185.  warm air and open windows

3186.  a text, reaching out

because I didn’t realize I was going to need a blanket for two days on the beach, so a towel had to suffice

3187.  potentially painful meetings that go well

our first to get braces

3188.  redemption being written

3189.  a marriage worth fighting for

3190.  nutrition class aced

3191.  slower pace settling in for a while

3192.  pan-fried tacos and Cafe Holliday

Ellie and her sweet ballet instructor, Miss Linda

3193.  watching Amania delight in playing soccer and even score a goal

3194.  enjoying exercise and running again

3195.  imperfect Mother’s Day and perfect grace

3196.  last class and the end of the semester

3197.  the opportunity to go back to school

3198.  an unexpected friendship beginning?

3199.  cheerful, productive children

3200.  a clean kitchen

3201.  time to write and gather thoughts

the flight we never should have made it on

3202. laughter and groceries with my Emma

green roses from Kansas City City Market

3203.  enchilada dinner prepared by Grace

3204.  a “long” run

what happens when you’re eating lunch while your flight is taking off

3205. life-giving words from my husband

3206. a God big enough to handle my doubt

3207.  sunshiney days

3208.  pink sunsets

3209.  hard, but needed words

3210.  time to write and remember

3211.  a sweet new ride and getting home safely

3212.  a sweet police officer who let me off with grace and a warning

3213.  sweet girls who work hard while I’m gone to bless me with a clean house

3214.  sunshine & garage sales

swamp pool

3215.  Ellie’s ballet recital – seeing grace, beauty, confidence

3216.  sharing my story & a post that goes wild

Coco enjoying the warmer weather

3217.  feeling raw and exposed and putting up walls again

3218.  sitting in the dark

3219.  sunshine and warmth

one of two does on my morning run

3220.  open windows and fans blowing

3221.  flowers in pots

3222.  dinners on the deck

3223.  family-friendly feel-good movies

3224.  quiet happy Sundays

That’s it for our May.  Wishing you a wonderful week friends.  One that’s as productive (or un-productive) as you need it to be.

For His Glory ~

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Weeks in Review: 2015 {March & April}

**In the interest of getting this published before June, the photos in this post are in completely random order.  They may or may not have anything to do with the content that surrounds them.  This may cause some anxiety for my OCD friends.  

Oh, hey there, mid-May!  How’d you get here so fast?

March and April were busy, hard, beautiful months.  I’ll try to catch us up to the beginning of May and then do a May-recap at the end of this month.

March was in like a lion, out like a lamb with more than just the weather.  God and I hit rock bottom that first week of March and I nearly thought that the demons that haunted me all winter were in one final push to kill me.  I think I was right.  But we did (I think…I hope!) hit bottom and things are slowly looking up and it’s two steps forward, one and half steps back, or sometimes three.  But more forward than back these days.  That season changed how I view God, though, and we continue to wrestle, though I’m so tired of wrestling and want simply to rest in Him, but that’s another post for another day.

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Amania’s 8th birthday (March)

March was also MAACS competitions for the girls.  They all worked hard; Emma and Ellie earned some medals, they all earned more of my admiration.  These girls have so many gifts.  Between weekends of MAACS, there was testing week and pushing through all of that.  Normally a bit of a break for us, we kept going on school with the promise of a vacation at the end of the month keeping us going.

March also began a journey of pursuing other educational options for the girls.  Matt and I both felt very much on the same page that we needed to do something different next year, so we scheduled tours and asked questions and kept on praying.  We visited the local private schools and our public school options and we kept on praying, but chose not to discuss it until we finished the tours.  But in the meantime God gave me the gift of others speaking life and hope and truth into my leadership of our school and He began to work healing in my heart in that area and opening my mind and heart to trying again.  And by the time we finished touring, I knew that we needed to keep everyone at home again, with some staffing changes for next year, but with the reassurance that we are doing a good thing and everything will be okay.

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Sunny bunnies (March)

At the end of March we took a family trip to Lost Valley Ranch, our favorite family vacation spot.  It was definitely a different trip.  Our marriage remained in a very raw, fragile place from the winter.  And Influenza A made a valiant run through the girls the week up to leaving, leaving Amania to get sick last, right before we left.  She was “off” the whole trip and we’re still sorting out the why (aside from being sick).  But that’s also another post for another day.

April was soccer for three and school for all of us and my continued renewed enjoyment of running.  April was also endlessly cloudy and cool, which got old fast, but it brought us daily closer to the end of the semester and the school year.

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Pike’s Peak (March)

April was also Easter and the most sickeningly sugary (but cute!) cake I’ve ever made. We also enjoyed the second annual art show for our local home school organization. Such a fun event!

It occurred to me recently that I haven’t counted gifts here all year.  So, settle in or prepare to skim….

Chandler + Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods (March)

3113.  a quiet New Year with those I love most

3114. a blank page, a fresh start

Amania, Garden of the Gods (March)

3115.  a bunny for Emma

3116.  Monday – back to school, back to reality, praying for the joy to come

Ellie + Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods (March)

3117.  days in the dark, overwhelming sadness, trusting that faith grows here

3118.  time alone, away, to think, rest, reflect, renew

My people, Lost Valley Ranch (March)

3119.  sun shining outside, the Son shining in my heart and mind today

3120.  dinner, transparency, prayer – the body of Christ at work

Matt + Ellie, Garden of the Gods (March)

3121.  enrolled!

3122.  laughing with my girls at the dinner table

Heading out to ride, Lost Valley (March)

3123.  sleep, real sleep

3124.  time in the Word

Lost Valley (March)

3125.  warmer days, stunning sunsets

3126.  68* and a walk to the park in January

Morning Run, Lost Valley (March)

3127.  back to school – first day nerves, confidence found

3128.  the oldest one – driving my car, trying on my clothes – this hard, beautiful age – wanting to freeze time with this one, knowing it rushes on

Emma’s Monochromatic, MAACS (March)

3129.  candles and early morning quiet – the start of a new week

3130.  warm winter days

Chandler + Ellie, MAACS (March)

3131.  laughter with my people

3132.  trusting the Lord to provide all I need

Three blondes, MAACS (March)

3133.  weekend, snow, the Super Bowl with friends

3134.  permission to chase a dream; freedom from guilt for the cost

A cupcake of compassion (March)

3135.  snow skiing & knee injuries & educated friends who give free advice

3136.  a husband who hears and helps

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(March)

3137.  sunshine and February beauty

3138.  IF: Gathering and leaving strong and filled and known

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My kids think they’re funny (March)

3139.  hitting bottom (or so I thought)

3140.  seeking help

Sunset (March)

3141.  flowers that remind of new life and new hope

3142.  snow fall and birdsong

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(March)

3143.  lunch, laughter, and connection

3144.  time with my second-born

(March)

3145.  quiet evenings

3146.  a full schedule

(March)

3147.  dirty counters and floors – signs of a full, messy life

3148.  slow weekends, long date nights

(March)

3149.  snow

3150.  morning skies

(March)

3151.  girls – all five – who voluntarily play together on a Sunday night

3152.  friends who stop and pray right now

“You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.  You must anchor yourself steadfastly upon the Lord.” (April)

3153.  Winter Jam with my three bigs

3154.  sitting at the bottom of the pit

(April)

3155.  hard conversations and moving forward

3156.  tears, so many tears – all in His bottle

(April)

3157.  trepidatious hope

3158.  good days

Lunchtime for bunnies (April)

3159.  hitting bottom again

3160.  breakthrough and relief

Coffee love (April)

3161.  waking with a happy heart

3162.  testing week and tired kiddos

Art Show (April)

3163.  MAACS wins and losses – girls made stronger through it all

3164.  our last 8 year old

Dinner with dear friends (April)

3165.  vacation and time away

3166.  Colorado Rockies, Garden of the Gods, Lost Valley

Chandler’s Easter hair and Easter hare (haha) (April)

3167.  rich food and deep laughter at the table

3168.  horses and mountain trails and deck reading

Cake win! (April)

3169. spoken words that give strength, hope, life

3170.  good date nights

Cousins (April)

3171.  good work days and fun family nights

3172.  Easter and resurrection hope

PinFail vs PinWin – the first one still makes me laugh (April)

3173.  laughter with friends from far away

3174.  conferences and words that strengthen heart, mind, and soul

A drawing by Emma, given as a gift to our youth pastor and his wife when they moved away (April)

3175.  long weeks, tearful nights, and wilderness seasons that seem unending

3176.  prayers that echo and hearts that feel broken

Gracelaced art – I just love her stuff

3177.  hard decisions made and being on the same page

3178.  new roads for sweet friends; a tearful farewell

Christine Caine’s words (these and others) have ministered to me repeatedly the past few months (April)

3179.  weeks of searching that bring us closer

3180.  unexpected words that bring life

Another Gracelaced piece.  I don’t own this one, but I love it (April)

3181.  the sea, sun, and sand

3182.  deep conversations, tearful nights, hope restored again

(April)

3183.  the daily wrestling

3184.  a missed flight and a near-miraculous journey home

Cease endlessly striving for what you want to do, and learn to love what must be done.  Hanging where I can see it all day every day from my “desk” in the dining room.  (April)

That’s it, friends.  Not gonna lie, that “gifts” list was painful to walk back through.  It was a hard winter.  I’m daily learning to lean into and trust God again.  It’s a strange place to be, this wrestling, not trusting.  I’m not used to it.  It’s a growth season following the darkness of winter.  Perhaps beauty will burst forth soon.

Still Always For His Glory ~

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2015: Weeks in Review {January and February}

And just like that it’s the end of February.  Things have been quiet here because life has been full and my heart and mind continue to linger long in the dark.

This year that started off ambiguous and unknown has started to take shape.  New things are finding where they fit in the schedule and we’re learning again what we are capable of.  Many things still seem formless and uncertain, but we know God is already there.

January started with my mental health retreat that I shared about here.  We have continued to struggle and wrestle through the shadows, and I find myself often still feeling emotionally fragile, but God is good and Matt has been faithful to walk with me and even help carry me through those times.

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our favorite little used bookstore in Lawrence.  the girls and I could live here.

january gave us some amazing sunsets

and beautiful blue skies

and days mercifully warm enough for sandals

On January 20th I went back to school for the first time in over eleven years.  I’m taking a Basic Digital Imaging class simply because it sounded fun.  I have a fairly nice DSLR that has sat in a cabinet for most of the past two or three years, untouched, because my phone camera became my go to and I basically forgot how to use Photoshop Elements.  So I’m breaking my camera back out and facing one of  my fears – Photoshop CS6.  😉  So far the class has been a lot of fun but more stressful than I expected, simply because the work takes me out of my normal “box”.  It’s a good thing.

I’m also taking a nutrition class, which allows me to get my feet wet in the nursing department.  I’m in this weird place…..I’m basically twelve to fifteen hours from completing a social work degree, but science and medicine have always been my first love (I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was five).  As I was going through school the first time, I knew medical school wasn’t where God wanted me and I switched to social work – a field where I could still help people, but in a different way.  A wedding, three years, and three babies later, I had to press pause on my academic goals.  And while I fully intend to finish my social work degree (because 12 hours?!?!), an advisor recently suggested Nurse Practitioner and a light went on in my head.  So we’re praying and talking to advisors and others and waiting to see how things go this semester, and we’ll see what God has planned.

January rounded out with our local fine arts competition to see what would go on to Kansas City.  The girls have many pieces going, but one that didn’t make it, that I’m still so proud of (and the girl that painted it), was Grace’s acrylic.  I’d hang it in our entry if she would let me.

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We also celebrated Emma’s 13th birthday with friends.  No pictures to share, because I have strange, camera-averse teens.  She and some friends enjoyed pizza, junk food, movies, and staying up late.

On February 2nd, we went over to Kansas City with the older three girls and went skiing at Snow Creek.  It was the girls’ first time and only our third or so.  It was fun, (as fun as cold and snow can be), and the girls had a great time.  Matt, however, trashed his knee on his last run.  😦  He saw an orthopedist this past week and, thankfully, it was only severely sprained and will heal on its own in time.

snow creek:  also known as ice hill

having an athletic trainer in the family can be pretty handy

A couple of weekends ago I was able to attend IF: Gathering.  I loved it last year, have anxiously been awaiting this year, and was not disappointed.  I love it when God uses the same message to speak directly to women (and men) in many different places. For me, the theme of facing fear, having faith, being confident….it spoke to me deeply and reminded me that I am not alone in this strange place of depression and anxiety.

Last weekend was a retreat with most of the married couples from Matt’s family.  It was an enjoyable time of learning more about leadership both in and out of the home and connecting with these people we love in a setting away from normal life and noisy kids.

meanwhile, one of the girls thought the bunny needed a ride in my hoodie

hope of new life and new starts

more bunny adoreableness

sometimes you have to laugh at yourself and your own brand of crazy

this book – read it; it’s quick and easy and full of hope, and you will smile and laugh and be inspired to live a fuller life

That’s pretty much it for us right now.  January flew by and February was some sort of weird, slow motion crawl .  At least five times the past two weeks I’ve thought it was March, because it feels like it should be (until I walk outside….brrrr).  Snow is forecasted this weekend and then March springs with all her hope for warmth and beauty and the last nine weeks of school.

today….taking time to breathe and nurture my soul

Have a great weekend, friends, and may you find joy and hope and life where God has planted you.

For His Glory ~

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Weeks in Review: 2014 {Weeks 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, & 52}

Here we are. December 29.  The year is almost over.  The past few weeks have been….interesting.  They’ve been crazy fast and unbelievably long.  It never really felt like Christmas and yet Christmas is over.  We celebrated three birthdays, and also enjoyed several Christmas celebrations since I last reviewed.  Time flies.  Except when it doesn’t.

Early November brought the return of Matt and Emma from Haiti and led straight in to planning and preparations for birthdays and Christmas celebrations.

We celebrated Ellie’s birthday first with the Pinterest fail of the year.  I was attempting to make a rainbow cake.  It didn’t work out so well.  (hahahahaha)

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Next up was Thanksgiving and some wonderful celebrations with family (and a few exciting games of Nerts here at home).

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Grace adopted a bunny.  His name is Timothy.  And he’s quite possibly the cutest thing ever.

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We celebrated Emma’s 13th birthday.  She opted to make her own cake.  I have no idea why?!?!?!

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We wrapped up the kitchen project, 98% of the way anyway.  Which, if you do many DIY projects like this, you know that’s as far as they ever get until it’s time to move.  The transformation is unbelievable.  We’re even a little shocked when we go back and look at pictures of what it was just three months ago.

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And then there was the #TeamNovember party for the Haiti team.  Ugly Christmas sweaters abounded.  As did food and laughter and friends new and old.

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Then we hit the final week of school, and crunch time for Christmas prep and shopping.  Up to this point we had been in kitchen and party mode 110%, so ten days out from Christmas I had done next to nothing in that department.  So, a day at the coffee shop to think and browse and organize uninterrupted, plus the magic of Amazon Prime and Christmas went off almost seamlessly.  (One child’s gift to me didn’t make it until the day after Christmas, but such is life.)  The girls and I celebrated the end of shopping and the end of the semester with cupcakes at a local shop.  Hurray!

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Last, but not least, we celebrated Matt’s birthday over the weekend.  He and I snuck away to Kansas City overnight where we talked about the past several weeks and looked ahead to next year.  We met some dear friends for late night refreshments and came away from the weekend feeling more connected to each other than we have in weeks.  He ended his birthday with an exciting case of the stomach flu (along with two of our girls; another one had had it two days before Christmas).  Fortunately it was fast moving and everyone was well again by the next day. I am beyond blessed to be married to the man that I am, and the past several weeks have reminded me of that.

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The beauty of the last seven or eight weeks have been heavily clouded by the return of a very dark season for me personally.  The sun, I’m pretty sure, didn’t shine at all for several weeks, and that never helps.  But some personal struggles in our home opened my heart and mind up to a season of confusion and doubt that I haven’t experienced in a very long time.  The Lord used my time away with Matt and some of our conversations, along with the prayers of a few dear friends, to lift that veil and peace and joy have returned to my heart and mind, and for that I am endlessly thankful.

I will close with the gifts I have listed over the past several weeks, along with another picture of Timothy, just because he’s so darn cute.

3081.  75* —> 35*; goodbye fall, hello winter

3082.  strange, long weeks; wrestling with attitudes and self-doubt; my God who is greater than all of it

3083.  soul baring talks on date night

3084.  raking leaves in the snow

3085.  bread and wine, laughter, prayer, and friends

3086.  blankets, heating pads, hot coffee – warmth on bitterly cold days

3087.  Timothy the bunny

3088.  a heart that longs for more

3089.  my big, big God

3090.  hard weekends, long talks, relationships restored

3091.  my Ellie turning 9

3092.  kitchen mess that means kitchen progress

3093.  nights to lie awake praying

3094.  Thanksgiving celebrations – food, family, laughter

3095.  words of grace, hope, and courage on a Monday morning

3096.  feeling tired and empty, running to Jesus

3097.  reconnecting with old friends

3098.  “Friendsgiving” and laughing til our sides hurt

3099.  a God who knows how my heart aches and is worn and weary and who folds me in His love

3100.  Emma turning 13 – the gift of her

3101.  a tree, lit and decorated

3102.  our 12th annual company Christmas party

3103.  continuing to wrestle

3104.  finally laying it all at God’s feet

3105.  peace

3106.  a good week

3107.  the end of the semester

3108.  the start of something new

3109.  celebrating the birth of Christ

3110.  answers to prayer and conversations that finally bring peace, restore trust

3111.  celebrating my beloved

3112.  the grace of God and essential oils that held off the stomach flu (for some of us at least)

That’s it for us right now.  I pray that your New Year is wonderful and filled with joy and hope.  But even if it’s not, we know that God is faithful and He is good.

For His Glory ~

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Week in Review: 2014 {Week 45}

Woah!  I’m back in less than seven days (let alone seven weeks)!

This week was:

    • thoughts of Haiti

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    • a pinched nerve in my back
    • five movies with the girls (for a non-move / non-tv watcher, that’s downright amazing.  I’m not even sure how we made that happen.)
    • yard work

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    • the start of a plank challenge with my older girls
    • lots of puzzles by the little girls

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  • some “in-service” work for school
  • and sorting / deleting / organizing / backing up nearly three years of photos on the computer.  This was my **big** goal for our week off.  Other than random shots for Instagram and obligatory special occasion photos, I have lost my love for photography and all but stopped taking pictures.  All because the mess on my two computers had become downright overwhelming and I didn’t want to add to it.  I am super excited that this job is now current; I nearly threw a party on Thursday night when I finished!  Next step – getting photo books current (also two to three years behind), but that job is much less daunting and depressing.  That will actually be fun!

Counting the gifts from this week….

3072.  Sunday quiet

3073.  a working furnace

3074.  election day and freedom

3075.  older brother’s birthday

3076.  giggles with the oldest before bed

3077.  long overdue project nearing completion

3078.  long talk with a good friend

3079.  bright November moon

3080.  project completed, house clean, my people headed home

Tonight it’s pizza and (another) movie with the girls and eagerly awaiting Matt and Emma’s return home.  What a good week!  And what a great feeling to be catching up on seven days rather than seven weeks!

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend, friends!

For His Glory ~

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2014: Weeks in Review {Weeks 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, annnnd 44} (Holy cow.)

It’s November 2nd, and I find myself with a couple of quiet hours in the house.  Alone.  For those of us that need times of quiet, this is truly a Sabbath rest.  Wind blows outside and leaves fall like ticker tape.  The calendar page has changed, Halloween is past, and the holiday season is officially upon us. Christmas music is playing at the mall and I finally turn it on at home because I can’t have Simon Management beat me to my favorite time of year.

September and October were wonderful, crazy, beautiful months that flew by, filled with sports, sports, and more sports.  Having avoided the sports circuit for so long with our girls, this was a wild and fun (and sometimes overwhelming and exhausting) season for our family.  We learned that having five kids in four different activities during the same eight week period with only two drivers in the home made for some interesting challenges and a lot of calling on gracious friends with extra room in their cars and on Grandpa and Grandma to help with the shuttling.  We are crazy thankful for everyone that helped us make that schedule work!

 

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So September was a little nuts.

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Soccer season and road trips always make me wish we had a Suburban.

The beginning of September brought us the third annual Capitol Craze 5K Mud and Obstacle Run.  This event benefitting Haiti Lifeline Ministries has been a highlight of our fall since its birth.  It was a beautiful day for a race (although the poor kiddos had some chilly, chilly temps to run in) and it was a very successful fundraiser for the ministry.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside our kids as well as many wonderful friends and family members while benefitting some of our favorite Haitian cuties.

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Behind the scenes work on registration and social media for the race meant some late nights, which means I consumed a lot of coffee the first two weeks of September.

The 300 foot water slide was a huge hit.

Race day started off foggy and cool, but it turned out to be an amazing day.

September also took us to Branson, Missouri, where we celebrated the marriage of the girls’ youth pastor (and our friend) to his beautiful bride.  The weekend was a wonderfully refreshing time for all of us girls.  We rented a condo, did absolutely nothing on Saturday (until it was time to go to the wedding), and just generally enjoyed being together without being busy in the midst of a very busy season.  The wedding was one of my all-time favorites.  It was a beautiful, peaceful ceremony that showed the couple’s spiritual maturity and love for the Lord and each other.  It was a beautiful thing to see with my daughters all watching as well.

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Ready for the wedding!


I had to introduce the girls to hot, fresh Krispy Kreme before we left town!

While the girls and I were in Branson that weekend, Matt stayed home and started our kitchen renovation.  I would have loved to have him join us at the ceremony, but I also love that my kitchen no longer looks like a doctor’s office waiting room.  It’s still a work in progress (the joys of a DIY), but so much better.  I even scored a gigantic hole in the wall between the kitchen and dining room (a much needed change).

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Before: 1970’s Jenn Aire cooktop that was top-of-the-line back in the day, but not equipped to serve the small army that is my family, and the beautiful backsplash tile. (#sarcasm)

Before: Sink, counters, backsplash.

Before: wallpaper and countertop matching – Level: Expert.

When you order a cooktop and have it shipped you take the very real chance that it will arrive looking like this.

After: Cooktop, take two.  And a glimpse of the countertops.

Before and After: the old doorway and new opening between the kitchen and dining room.  Also paint colors.

Late September and all of October were marked by extensive fundraising by Emma as she prepared to leave for Haiti.  She baked and baked and baked to raise the funds she needed and the Lord provided most abundantly.  As her mother, I was so blessed to watch the Lord provide through her hard work and watch her faith grow with each donation, large and small.  She has experienced first-hand now the lavish love of the Owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and has witnessed His extravagant provision for her.  And for the next several days she is enjoying the fruit of her labors as she plays with and ministers to the children at Lifeline.  I can’t wait to hear how God uses this time to work in her life.

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Fundraising: cookie dough and Oreo truffles were among some of the goodies Emma made and sold to fund her way to Haiti.

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I’m so thankful that both of our girls have had the opportunity to travel with Matt to Haiti.

October also brought the Kansas City Royals to the playoffs and eventually the World Series.  Matt has always loved baseball and has faithfully cheered on the Royals every summer, but even the girls and I got swept up in the excitement that was the Hunt for Blue October.  Their games brought a lot of baseball instruction as well as late nights and great memories as a family.  And I think it probably earned the Royals at least five more lifelong fans (Minion #4 never really got into it all and often read a book during the games 🙂 ).

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Early in October I had told our Chef-in-Training that **if** the Royals made it to the World Series she could make bacon bowls the night of one of the games.  Well, Game 6 brought us bacon bowls, scrambled eggs, and chocolate chip pancakes, courtesy of Minion #2.

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Game 7 brought us a ballpark themed dinner with hot dogs, nachos, and soft pretzels.

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Late in October, Matt’s grandmother Marcye went home to be with the Lord.  She lived 95 years and left behind a legacy of love, forgiveness, mercy, generosity, and prayer.  She was a wonderful, godly woman that I am thankful to have known and that our girls knew and will always remember her.  We are thankful that she is whole and strong and dancing with Jesus now and that we will see her again one day.

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Chandler shared a birthday with Grammy and also a certain fondness for her.  This is the last picture of them together, from their birthday last June.  Grammy was turning 95 and Chandler 11.

And it wouldn’t be a complete Week (Months) in Review if I didn’t also count the gifts, because they have been many and because I never want to forget.

3029.  late summer storms

3030.  remembering how much I’m needed

3031.  being available

3032.  learning to overflow

3033.  a weekend experiencing and contemplating lavish generosity

3034.  a 300 foot water slide

3035.  turning 37

3036.  birthday wishes and calls

3037.  generous girls and husband and brownies with candles

3038.  fall evening and girls playing hide and seek with walkie talkies

3039.  another Capitol Craze completed – exhausting, hard, wild, fun, and always worth it

3040.  time to reconnect with far-flung friends – glory in how our love for Jesus and our love for Haiti keeps us connected

3041.  time to slow just a bit with the girls

3042.  sleep and lots of it

3043.  a wedding weekend for our favorite youth pastor

3044.  slabs of granite that sing glory to God

3045.  the gift of kitchen progress

3046.  fall showers and grace that rains down

3047.  walking out this faith in front of the girls – teaching them to live out their faith

3048.  long talks about loving difficult people – living out love

3049.  hot tears and tired children

3050.  messy days that make us lean hard on each other, on Jesus

3051.  no sleep, nights of prayer, late starts

3052.  still eating dinner on the deck; these beautiful fall evenings

3053.  weeks that feel disjointed and disconnected

3054.  Saturday soccer and shopping

3055.  Sunday that feels like a Sabbath

3056.  watching baseball history as a family

3057.  hard days

3058.  installed cooktop

3057.  surviving the wild weekend of sports

3058.  lessons in character, grace; inner beauty shown

3059.  Spoken banquet and time with friends

3060.  an empty calendar page

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3061.  rainy days, quiet evenings

3062.  a wonderful, wild, fun, hectic sports season ended

3063.  sermons on prayer and more fall dinners on the deck

3064.  Grammy

3065.  knowing Grammy is with Jesus and whole and healed and home

3066.  a beautiful celebration of the life of an amazing woman

3067.  mourning as those who have hope

3068.  a clean house and a hole in the wall

3069.  date nights and Royals wins

3070.  long weeks and late night baseball

3071.  a girl with her Haiti trip fully funded; praising our Jehovah Jireh

I’ll close with a few more random photos from the past few weeks…

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Last swim of the season

Amania got to have “flat” hair. Finally.  🙂

Chandler wearing nearly a dozen ties destined for kids on Haiti.  Because Chandler.

A welcome sight after nine months in the Old Testament.

The trouble with trees.

My kids make amusing to-do lists.


How you shop for clothes in a large family.  #HandMeDowns

I call this one Costumes for Lazy People – an old Tinkerbell costume and “Starbucks”.

May your coming week be blessed my friends.  May God meet you where you are be real and present in your life and may you glorify and enjoy Him in all you do.

For His Glory ~

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Weeks in Review: 2014 {Weeks 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, & 35}

Sometimes the need, the drive, to put words on paper, characters on screen….sometimes it’s deep and maddening and yet the words won’t come or time won’t stop long enough to let them flow.  And so a list or two and some photos.  Because time goes so fast and I don’t want to forget these moments or how to find my words.

July was:

  • Grace going to Kanakuk
  • a glorious time on the lake with friends for the Fourth
  • Grace going to Haiti
  • Ellie enjoying her first year at Camp Enosh and Chandler enjoying her last
  • celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary
  • a week of nothing but laying by the pool with the girls
  • sorting through nine years of school files and still keeping too much stuff
  • Chandler’s first trip to Schlitterbahn
  • a LeCrae concert
  • back to school preparations and planning

August was:

  • our oldest turning fourteen
  • littlest one losing her two front teeth and learning to ride a bike (not related events 😉 )
  • the start of fall sports with volleyball and soccer practices
  • finally getting all of Amania’s documents updated with her American name
  • a few days away with my beloved soaking up the sun and burning through a stack of books and nourishing heart and soul, mind and body
  • the return of Friday classes for the girls
  • lots of race prep as Capitol Craze draws closer
  • friends in for the weekend to close out the month
  • a tour of our newly renovated Capitol building – architectural beauty

And of course, both were filled with countless good gifts…….

Jesus looked up at said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.’ (John 11:41)

 The sequence of events in this passage seems strange and unusual.  Lazarus was still in the tomb, yet Jesus’ thanksgiving preceeded the miracle of raising him from the dead….Jesus gave thanks for what He was about to receive.  His gratitude sprang up before the blessing had arrived, in an expression of assurance that it was certainly on its way.

Streams in the Desert, August 4

And as I teach my girls that feeling follows action, I’m reminded that the practice of counting the gifts, looking for the gifts, often shows us just how much we have to be thankful for and a grateful heart starts to overflow.  For God is a gracious and generous giver.  We need only to open our eyes to see.

3006.  a God who tramples our iniquities underfoot and casts all our sins into the sea (Micah 7:18-19)

3007.  oldest off to Haiti for a week; this mama heart leaking just a bit

3008.  fifteen years of marriage – lessons of love, sacrifice, friendship, and intimacy

3009.  faith

3010.  fire pit, friends, and s’mores

3011.  girls all home

3012.  mild evenings

3013.  a broken Saturday – tears, struggle

3014.  a Sunday that makes strong – music, sermon, concert

3015.  beautiful Monday and little projects completed

3016.  grocery shopping with Minion #4

3017. a fourteen year old in the house

3018.  summer ending, but not quite over

3019.  August thunderstorm; heavens declaring His glory 

3020.  weekend and school planning and the super moon

3021.  September weather in August

3022.  window shopping with my people and so much race prep finished

3023.  weekends and friends and laughter and new church additions and a day of rest

3024.  a week and the beach and my beloved – resting, reading, reconnecting

3025.  G’s Frozen Custard and last day of summer treats

3026.  the first day of a new school year

3027.  meeting with Jesus in the early morning quiet

3028.  remembering that gentleness toward them is worship of Him


















Time flies, my friends.  Treasure the moments.  List the gifts.  Be all there for this one life you have to live.  

For His Glory ~

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