Brave Trust: Stay Soft {One Word for 2016}

2015 gave the word brave and it had its own anthem:

I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

Bethel Music – You Make Me Brave

And that theme carried me through the year as God called me out into the water and the unknown again and again and again.  And in November I began to get a feeling for what His word for me would be for 2016.  It was trust but it wasn’t.  So I kept asking, seeking, praying.  And God showed me how my fear, my lack of trust, causes me now to throw up walls, to push people away, to become hardened, almost in an instant.  And then I knew, my word embodying the idea of trustand taking a cue from a friend: soft.  A softness that signifies being open, being vulnerable, being free from chains and walls and fear.

And already, only nine days into the year, it feels He’s asking too much and fear wants to wrap its ugly arms around my heart, and truth fights to keep the walls down, to keep my heart set free, and soft.  And 2016 is given an anthem as well.  A song to carry me through the unknown days and uncharted waters that lie ahead….

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Lauren Daigle, I Will Trust in You

“There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood”  – Whatever this year holds, He’s already been there.  Whatever tomorrow brings, He is good.

Here’s to 2016: a year of brave trust and staying soft.

For His Glory ~

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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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Keeping Vows

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Sixteen years ago, just babies ourselves, we took a vow and said “I do” and we promised all our tomorrows with barely any yesterdays behind us.

And we made a love and made a home and we birthed babies and birthed a business. And somewhere along the way our lives got busy. Yours with your work and your ministry. Mine with our house and our home school. And we had one of the strongest marriages I knew, yet somehow we lost ourselves and we lost us.

Then one day we both woke up and realized we were in bed with a stranger. A stranger we had been married to for a decade and a half. And we looked in the mirror and a stranger met us there too. And we searched, to find ourselves and to find each other again.

And this sixteenth anniversary feels a bit like that first year. Two people committed to life together, learning to know one another again. Two people trying to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world and in each other’s life. Two people trying to make a way together. To make a love and a life that will last.

And as we look ahead, I won’t lie, I look ahead with a little bit of fear. Because this year was a road I never expected for us and it was a year I thought “us” as we knew it might be over. And I know there is no iron-clad guarantee we won’t go there again, except grace.

But I also look forward even more with hope. Because God is a God of abundant mercy and He delivered us from that dark pit and He is doing a new thing in our marriage. And because He has called us to Himself and to each other and He will make a way. And because He has brought gifts out of that dark season, gifts we may not have received any other way.

And so I see beauty and grace rising from ashes. I see Him making a valley of suffering into a door of hope. And I see Him making two an even stronger one, all entwined in His love.

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For His Glory ~

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Celebrating the Middle

She turned twelve a little over two weeks ago.  I’ve been slow to post because life has been moving fast everywhere else.

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The past year has been a bit dicey as tween-sized hormones brought tensions and mood swings and battles that are becoming old hat in this household of girls, but they’re battles just the same.  Yet underneath those battles over food and clothes and hair, that same gentle soul still lives.  She still loves all the animals and all the people.  She is still the generous servant who would give you the shirt off her back and help you put it on.  She has dreams of going to nursing or medical school and becoming a medical missionary.  She loves to run mostly, I think, because she can encourage the other runners as she goes.  She got braces this year and the long-coveted Miley Cyrus hair cut (not pictured 😉 ).  She handles life with grace and selflessness and she’s a blessing to anyone that knows her.  Miss Chandler.  My favorite middle child.

Gold

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Fifty years ago their story began in a Catholic church in northeast Kansas.  And while there are parts of their story I know they would probably rewrite or change if they could, every part of their story wrote our story. And their story has written a legacy of serving others, giving generously.  Their story has written a legacy of two children happily married, families serving Christ.  Their story is leaving a legacy of faithfulness and perseverance and hope.  Their story isn’t a fairy tale, but no true story is.  Their story is written in Christ.  And their story is redemption.

Happy 50th Anniversary to my parents.  Thank you for giving us a legacy of love.

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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That Duggar Post: A Follow Up

Holy cow.  You all are awesome. Your love for my post on Friday regarding the Josh Duggar situation and my personal take on it caused it to take off.  The feedback I received was filled with grace and encouragement (eh, for the most part), and I thank you all for that.  That said, I feel like I need to clarify a few things.

When I wrote that post, I knew that it would get **some** additional traffic, due to the timeliness of the material and the incredibly personal nature of it.  But I wrote it for my usual audience, most of whom know me personally and know my heart and my mind on many of these topics.  However, I had no idea how much additional traffic it would get.  Had I known that, I may have been clearer about a few more things.  And because of that, I want to be clear: in absolutely no way am I condoning Josh Duggar’s behavior or (entirely) how his parents handled the situation.  As I stated in my original post, I have not read the police report for very specific reasons, but what I have read leads me to believe that the family dealt with the situation in a way that seemed best to them at the time. Does this mean that it truly was the “best way” or that everything was done that needed to be done?  Not necessarily.  Does that mean that airing the Duggars dirty laundry on Facebook, Twitter, and all the media outlets is the best way to promote healing for a family that is deeply troubled and hurting?  Absolutely not.

And that was the point of my post.  Not that Josh didn’t do anything wrong.  He did!  And not that his parents shouldn’t have handled it differently.  Maybe they should have.  (and their health and healing today.  And my point was that we are broken, scarred people – all of us – in desperate need of grace and love from one another and in desperate need of a Savior.  Even those of us that claim the cross daily live with the consequences of our choices, big and small.  And we all make terrible, sinful choices that affect others. And others around us make choices that affect us.  Hope and healing come when we speak honestly about those things rather than masquerading perfection.  When we live real, others can find their own hope and healing too.

I know this post won’t get the traffic the other one did.  But at least it’s out there.  And maybe it clears some of the questions up, maybe it doesn’t.  But I again call for us to show grace upon grace upon grace.  To each other.  It is up to the Duggar girls whether or not they will forgive Josh and / or their parents.  It is not our sin to forgive or judge.  But we win the most when we show love.

Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.

Tim Keller

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For His Glory ~

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Grace We Don’t Deserve

I have words today, lots of them.  But I have even more emotions that I can’t seem to sort through.  The news of Josh Duggar and his crimes against young girls have my heart breaking and my head in a dark place today and I’m struggling to make sense of it all.

You see, I was molested by a teenage boy when I was a young girl.  This is a part of my story I’ve never told here.  It’s never seemed appropriate or relevant or something I could put words to anyway, so I didn’t share.  I’ve shared openly in other forums, just never here.

And so this story strikes close to home for me and my family and I feel ill, physically ill, and my heart absolutely breaks for the whole Duggar family.

I’ll admit, I’ve not read the police report, and I’ve only read a couple of the news reports.  I really don’t want or need to know details and I’m protecting my own mind from going places it doesn’t need to go in light of my own background.  But, from what I’ve read, it seems that Josh confessed what he did, repented, it was dealt with with the proper authorities, and the family has tried to heal and move on from unspeakable tragedy and shame happening under their own roof.  Even before this all went public, the Duggar family was sentenced to carrying this shame forever, secretly or publicly.  They could never forget.  JimBob and Michelle cannot and will not ever probably forgive themselves for what happened under their own roof, under their watch.  Josh will forever live with the guilt and shame of what he did to those girls.  And those girls, they are forever scarred and will carry the shame of a sin they did not commit for the rest of their lives.

But now it’s all public.  Very public. The whole world knew them already but now the world knows more than it ever should have.  Not only were these girls robbed of their dignity by someone they should have been able to trust to protect them, now they’ve lost the veil of secrecy that they had from the world.  This was their story to tell and that has been stolen from them too.

And when we hash this out on social media and berate Josh Duggar and/or his parents or the faith they grew up in, we abuse these girls all over again, but publicly now.  Their dignity, their shame, is the price of admission for the world to express their hatred for the Duggar family.  And it needs to stop.  Those girls, Josh’s family, JimBob and Michelle, they all need time and space and grace to heal.

Sometimes I love social media, but it’s times like this I hate it.  We do not sit in the judgment seat – either temporally or eternally.  So let’s choose grace upon grace and even more grace.  Because we are all broken, we are all sinners, and though your sin may not seem as big as someone else’s, we’re all filled with darkness and desperately in need of light and grace and hope.  Let’s show some today.

For His Glory ~

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