It’s worth being a little crazy to really live

“Are we crazy?” We look at each other at some ridiculous hour of the night, but the light is still on and the textbook open.

I blinked my heavy eyelids and looked deep into my husband’s tired face, just inches from mine. The four little people were finally in bed, and the house was that delicious silent sound that happens only late at night and in the wee hours of the morning.

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“So if I take those classes, it will mean I am only making the trip to campus four times a week…” I nodded and brushed my hair out of my face. The days of all his classes being online seemed to be dwindling, and more and more of his subjects require classroom time. I’m glad for him, honestly, because it feels so much more structured and prepares him for those last two years when online classes are a distant memory. But it means we need to take a deep breath as we plunge into another semester.

He’s been cramming on some really complicated math lately, and for the first time ever, numbers have been outwitting him. That’s what he does for a living- putting numbers precisely in order, writing checks, reconciling accounts… Lots and lots of numbers. And he’s crazy good.

But at midnight, his blue laptop light reflected frustration on his face. He turned the screen my way, “So this is how a quadratic works, but I just can’t get this next step…” I stared blindly at the lines and numbers and dots. Math was never my forte, and I’m delighted to have finally found a homeschool math curriculum for our children that includes lecturing and auto-grading.

I can see and understand how a backflip works, and how a split in the air with the head tossed back makes the toes brush the back of your scalp. I’ve done that, many long moons ago. But polynomials and quadratics are simply Greek to me. But he plows on, day after day, bogging his way through the sludge of mathematical unknowns.

Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry.

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Are we crazy for hanging up a normal life and jumping in with both feet to daddy being in school? To husband juggling more tests and classes and work than realistically possible, but somehow he does them all, and well. To mom solo parenting a lot of the time, homeschooling and embarking on the never-ending job of food, clothes, and home for all? Are we crazy to do this while raising four energetic children? While living in a fixer-upper home, with lots of “character”?

Again and again, I hear women say, “But I’m just so scared about my husband’s new job. How do we know if it will work out, or pay the bills?” Or, “I’m just not sure. I really think we should stick with what has always worked…” What if the price feels too high?

What about the price of a “normal” life, where the fear of failure keeps us from ever trying something new? How can we teach our children to push through hard school concepts if we aren’t willing to push through our own hard places?

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One of the things that attracted me to Daniel was his love for adventure, for blazing trails, for reaching out to people he had never met. It was wild, it was terrifying, but it was enticing.

But now, the most natural thing in the world is to want to sit tight, on my safe little couch where all is familiar and hold my children close. As women, we are created to nurture and care for our little ones. Significant transitions can look terrifying, and we default to the safe and known over the risky undiscovered territories that draw our men and spark something deep inside.


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But our men are wired to conquer. To forge the unknown waters and find what is on the other side. They need to discover, to climb, to break through the dense woods and find the untouched clearing on the other side.

I heard years ago that men often face a mid-life crisis. My ears perked up- I wanted to be prepared. After hearing the sad saga, I shook my head. If and when Daniel stumbled into his, I would jump on and join the ride. Better that then him feeling lost and disconnected in an old and stale world, where not even his wife cared to understand.

When I got married, my mom mentioned “…and you know, if times get tough, you go down with the ship.” We both laughed because we knew Daniel was as steady and anchored as they come, and that we would not go down. But what she meant was, “You are committed. No abandoning ship or emotionally jumping off when times get rough.”

Obviously, we are committed to each other, and so we have hashed this thing out. I sensed this itch in his feet, the need to stretch to new areas. As a person, he needed something, was created for something bigger than building garages and settling accounts. To be honest, I pushed Daniel when he wasn’t even sure he was ready, ’cause I felt he needed it. We needed it.

After all, what is living really, if we aren’t dreaming? How can we grow if not stretched? How can we experience new mountaintops if never willing to leave our comfort zone?

So here we are, two crazies on a wild ride, with four children adding to the chaos. It is a wild, stretching ride. Full of dreams, and late nights, and lots of medical words.

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Don’t be afraid of your hard.
Don’t steal the opportunities from tomorrow because today you aren’t willing to make the jump. Or support your husband as he contemplates a big change.

The fear of failure is a far bigger reality than failure itself.


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Take the chance.
Listen to the dream.
Rest in the Author of your story.
You were made for greatness, even in the little things, and it takes risk.

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Say yes.
It’s worth being a little crazy to really live.

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These photos were taken at Lake Peyto in Banff, Canada.

Top picture taken by Micah Troyer, (who is exactly the kind of person you want to go trailing along behind on one of his great adventures).

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When salsa and emotions and mistakes collide

I turned my heaping cart into the check out line at Aldi, and took a deep breath.
Meat, cheese and produce for freezer meals- check.
Milk and cereal- check.
All four of my children within eyesight: one, two, three, four- check.

I surveyed the cart with a feeling of accomplishment- for once, I had menu planned and even prepared recipes for freezing. I wasn’t on top of the world, but I was certainly clambering closer to the top of the rugged path, instead of sitting at the bottom, under a pile of loose rocks dismally marked “Failure.”
I knew the bill would be fearsome, but considering I hadn’t officially shopped in nearly a month, supplies had to be restored. People must eat, and consequently, I must shop.

A grandmotherly woman behind me in line crooned over Lakelyn, “What a sweet smile!” I always appreciate it when people look past the blurred hurricane that happens when I shop and notice little people in a positive tone.

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Little hands grabbed cereal boxes and shoved them onto the conveyor belt. It becomes a madhouse, this thing of unloading the cart. In the past, I’ve asked the kids to just let me do it, but today, their energy needed to be channeled, to be welcomed.
Ten pounds of ground beef.
Four boxes of cereal.
A bag of onions, which dropped little bits of paper on the clean tile floor. Items piled up at the cashier’s fingertips.

I was bending over the cart, reaching for the sausage when I heard it. That telltale sounds of glass hitting the floor. I whirled around, and my daughter looked up with horror in her eyes.

A jar of salsa, or the remains actually, lay at her feet. Glass shards were five feet away, and chunks of tomatoes and peppers clung to her toes, and oozed between the straps of her sandal.

I knelt and gathered up the largest pieces of glass. The cashier abandoned her post at the register and headed for the cleaning supplies. Silently the line behind me disappeared as another lane opened up for all the horrified customers stuck behind the sudden entertainment at checkout #4.

“How would YOU feel?” I heard the little question in my heart. I looked up at my daughter’s face, a mixture of shame and embarrassment.
“Don’t worry,” I told her, “You were just trying to help.”
She nodded, but tears threatened to spill over. This child IS my right hand, and honestly, she helps keep the house going. I don’t know what I would do without her.

We got the chunky mess all cleaned away, and I finished up paying for groceries.
“Your day can only get better from here!” I looked up to see the kind elderly lady smiling and nodding at the freshly mopped floor. I nodded gratefully.
But mostly, I felt very, very tired.

As the van of exhausted children and trunk bulging with groceries turned homeward, I kept thinking about that question. “How would YOU feel?” As a mom, it is so easy to feel stretched to the max and overwhelmed. Childhood is meant to be a safe place. To be free to learn and play. To live with arms held wide, to squeal on the swing and croon over baby dolls. As a mom, I want to preserve this safe place for my children, to let them live free and happy.

But that means I have to hold myself in check. To choose to control my own stress, and not dump it on them. Because their little hearts are so soft.
And childhood is such a short season.

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(A photo my dear friend Rosalyn took as she braved the store with her littles)

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Today was a big day. My sister gets married next weekend, and there are a million and two things I need to do, and make, and mend. I’ve spent some time texting with a friend who is walking through some very deep, difficult things.

Someone asked a favor of me, and I did it, not checking with anyone else. In retrospect, I see so clearly how it would have been wise to pause from my absolutely crazy day, but I was feeling stretched beyond capability… And it was a big mistake.

All afternoon I’ve been kicking myself for lack of discernment. For being so impulsive. Yes, it was done from a desire to help. But I dropped the ball or the jar of salsa, and I’m still cleaning up shards and sticky bits of tomato off my feet. Or heart.

Just this morning I text my friend,
“Oddly enough, God isn’t asking for perfection, he’s asking for a heart that is genuinely willing to follow him and do what’s right. We are human, and we make mistakes.
I make big ones. But the amazing thing is that Jesus loves me in my mistakes, and loves me enough to help me grow out of them. To learn from them. To become a new person because he is going to help me on this journey.”

I tear up over these words now, that although they were spoken for someone else’s situation, they now directly apply to mine.
God loves me, not because of what I am, but because I am His.

My mistake stings like salt in an open wound. I want so much to exemplify a life of integrity for my children. But perhaps, they learn better as they see me pick myself up from the splattered store floor, and get to my feet again.

He knows the plans He has for us. Plans to prosper us, and not to harm us. Plans to give us hope and a future. Everything we face today is part of the lesson and preparation for that plan.

Next time you see a mom in the grocery store with a bunch of small ones, smile encouragingly.
Next time your child creates a huge mess, be kinder than you feel.
And next time you mess up big, face it honestly and learn from your mistake.
Most of all, remember to take a deep breath and accept Jesus’ forgiveness. Remember that God isn’t asking for perfection, He’s asking for a heart that genuinely is willing to follow Him.

He is the one that takes my hand and helps me up. The shards of glass and splatters of salsa are not forgotten. My daughter will handle glass jars with much more care, and I will slow down and listen more carefully to the wisdom of others.

God is the author of peace. He is the wiper of tears.
He is the granter of forgiveness and second chances.

The day I accidentally spoke “Boy”

Morning light feebly streamed through my nearly closed drapes. After being on the road for 13 days, covering 5,800 miles and 100 hours driving, my own bed felt heavenly. I pried my eyes open and made them focus on the figure standing beside my bed.

“He ate half of it!” My ten year old’s face betrayed the anger he felt.

My barely operating brain sluggishly ran a few channels till I managed to ask.
“Who? What?”

“The groundhog ate the WATERMELON!” The war was on.

This ground hog that’s been feeding gluttonously on our garden while we were away. I had a friend picking whatever she wanted, but the tell tale scratches and gnawed at food told a darker, sinister story. Weston had been observing daily the growth of a promising watermelon before we left and couldn’t wait to eat it.

All morning the fat crook munched away at the edge of the garden, eyeing the house warily and Weston hopped up and down inside in frustrated anticipation.

If his daddy were here, he’d get out the gun and shoot. My only attempt of shooting trespassing wildlife was a comical dance through the yard, me frantically trying to load and reload the gun as I followed a zig zagging skunk.
The skunk survived.
My confidence over figuring out a gun did not.

So today I kept shrugging off the idea of shooting the ground hog. Weston didn’t even ask. He just mourned that his top shot dad was gone. I pushed laundry through and unpacked toiletries. But it nagged me, saucily nibbling and glaring from my garden. Varmint.

Finally I’d had it. I could at least try. After all, Aunt Mary has shot deer from the bedroom window and filled the freezer with meat. I’ve always dreamed of going deer hunting. But this scoundrel ground hog was a poor prize compared to a deer. And I wasn’t born into a hunting family, and neither did I marry into one. My prospects are slim.

Weston carefully brought me the gun and talked me though loading it. Then he followed my strict orders to go inside and make SURE all the girls stayed inside as well. I crept around the house and sidled up against the garage corner. I raised the gun, but man alive, the scope felt a mile away, so I slipped the butt into my armpit and squinted directly into the scope. No coaching whispered in my head, I’m a greenie all the way. But the Texan deep down knew the crosshairs have to be steady over the target. The crosshairs jiggled a bit, and I studied the fat brown ball 50 yards away.

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The second I pulled the trigger, the pow of the bullet and the slam of the scope colliding into my eyebrow left me stunned. But that creature whirled around a couple times and turned and ran under the wood pile.

I guessed I hit it.

Weston came boiling out of the house, “You GOT it!” I think he slapped my shoulder and I knew I’d just spoken a language I had no idea how to speak.

After we dug him out from under the shed, we saw that the lone bullet had found its mark, right at the shoulder. I was thankful it didn’t run or need a second bullet for I was certain I’d have missed a moving mark.

“Good shot, Mom!” Gone was any frustration of the chores of today. I’d just spoken man language to my boy. He patted my back again, not in an “I love you, Mom” tone but “Great job, pal!”

I rubbed my eyebrow. It felt like it might turn black. But I think I’ll wear it with pride. Not for the ground hog, blasted thing. But for the look of pride in my son’s eyes.

7 Tips for Traveling Internationally with Children

Our plane touched down last night close to ten. We gathered the four children, and three carry ons and collected our one check in, and hopped in our van. After six days of driving nearly 1,000 miles in Honduras’ rough roads, the United States’ interstate felt like pure luxury.

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Ever since our oldest was born in Honduras, we like to go back to visit friends and familiar places every couple years or so. Dental work is also a fraction of the price down there, and good clinics with skilled dentists and up to date equipment aren’t as hard to find as some may think. We knew we had a fair amount of work to be done, and when credit card points covered our fare down, we jumped at the opportunity to head down again.

32950821_10213572794546217_7513657070848049152_n.jpgThere were several things that made this trip so much more pleasant for me as a mom of four, and I thought I would share them in case you have an itch in your feet but dread about traveling internationally with children.

1) Start early
I started packing two days before our departure, wanting to insure that clothes we were taking wouldn’t be dirty or lost when I needed to pack them. I was blown away at how relaxed this made the day before our trip feel, especially since I needed to leave our house company ready while we were gone. Generally we pack very light, but since I didn’t think we would have time to do laundry anywhere, I packed an outfit a day. I was still able to get everything in our check in and two carry on suitcases plus my diaper bag. Folding Mari Kondo style made everything very visible and accessible.

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2) Be flexible
Our life has been entirely crazy this last season, with Daniel working full time and studying full time at night. We were so very ready for some time together to rest, reconnect and make memories. Our first flight was delayed three times due to mechanical issues, causing us to miss our connecting flight in Miami by a long shot. The only option was for us to wait 24+ plus hours for the next flight, and while that could have been a massive stress point, we rolled with it.

33106489_10213572829427089_8808614359409360896_nThe airlines provided us with ample vouchers for supper, hotel, breakfast and lunch. Our hotel was amazing: a beautiful suite, lovely pool and hot tub, and breakfast. We ate like kings at the airport and had a huge spread of sushi that we would never have purchased otherwise. While missing our first day and a speaking engagement in Honduras was an inconvenience, we were able to see this delay as a paid for mini vacation straight from God. Perspective makes a huge difference, not just for ourselves, but also for our children. They watch us in a million little moments, and when we show them that being flexible and calm when things go far from our plans pays off big time.

3) Pack smart
While I am a sucker for my leather Urban Southern mini market tote, I left it behind and grabbed my trusty canvas diaper bag with a zippered top and lots of pockets. Zippers are a life saver when needing to haul around a lot of things internationally, but not wanting to risk things falling out.

I had all the girl clothes in one carry on, and Weston’s and mine in the other. I had a bag for dirty laundry, and stowing dirty stuff in there right away made it very easy to know what was still available. I also took a zippered plastic bag to put wet swimming clothes into.
33021172_10213572760105356_392091872304037888_n.jpgHaving four heads of girl hair to do daily, I used my handy little 31 hair bag to store and organize our hair stuff and small things like vitamins. I picked up teeny tiny ziplock bags to have my daily vitamins and hair pins clearly organized and handy at a seconds notice.

In my diaper bag I kept several diapers, baby wipes, a few thin children’s books, two polly pockets, Lake’s tiny doll, perfume and cosmetics, phone charger and ear buds for flight, and snacks.

When traveling with small children, remember that diapers are expensive internationally, and I always prefer to take too many than not enough and be stuck with poor quality or overpriced diapers. Traveler’s stomach can create the need for lots of diapers (charcoal and papaya enzymes can help).

Baby wipes are a life saver, from sticky hands to dirty faces to countless other wiping needs, or moments when you just need to clean up a bit from a dusty walk but a shower isn’t an option. I opted for a ziplock instead of the plastic case so it would slide easily into any small space. I kept these in the outside pocket of my bag, ever handy, ever close. I also kept a small bag of cosmetics and lotion handy, so I could freshen up quickly.

33081642_10213572760425364_6296625195004198912_n.jpgFor flight times, we did a lot of people watching, but I was ever so grateful I had tucked in our two Polly Pockets as the tiny houses and itsy people kept Lakelyn captivated for hours. The books went almost entirely unused until the last day, but I was grateful for them when we had a long wait in the car.

I also stuck a fair amount of snacks in, and was quite grateful I did. I hate paying the inflated prices of airport food, and especially in our long wait to get our missed flight reconnected for the next day, the children were hungry. I pulled out granola bars, goldfish crackers, beef jerky, trail mix and pumpkin seeds at varying parts of our journey. It helped to give them only two options at a time, and save some snacks for later parts of the journey. Trail mix and goldfish crackers do crumble and make a mess, so next time I’d leave them out.

Always take a water bottle or child’s cup along, which you can fill once you are past security. Remember to empty it every time before you go through security or they will make you leave it behind. But having water available for children can be a really big help.

Understanding the emotional toll of traveling with little ones means giving them extra grace. I took Alannah and Lakelyn’s special blankets and was so very grateful I did, even though they did add bulk to our luggage. In each place we stayed as well as on long waits at the airport, they had this familiar cozy blanket to cuddle with and help them calm down. I also stuck in three bath towels, which were very needed our last two nights as we stayed on the beach and had minimal/no hotel towels.

4) Cultural appreciation
Our first full day there was spent doing dental work, and the next connecting with dear friends. After that, we covered a LOT of ground in our amazing rental car, and ended up visiting with more old friends or acquaintances at the clinic and where Daniel grew up. A big part of Central American culture is community based, and that means TIME.

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Several times when I felt pressured by the long drive ahead, Daniel wisely sat back and relaxed and visited. Once, the hosts literally went out and killed the rooster in the yard, and then prepared chicken soup, rice and tortillas. It took SO long, and I felt impatient, but bit my tongue and just tried to embrace it. They were poor, but ever so hospitable, and shared what little they had. In retrospect, when I felt like hurrying, I would have missed important moments and lessons I needed. Being culturally sensitive and stepping back and looking at the moment from a more eternal perspective constantly reminded me to slow down and enjoy the gift of the moment.
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We dove head first into some of the foods we had been wishing for- baleadas, roasted corn, fresh fruit, tortillas and the list goes on and on. Our typical American fare goes on hold when we are down there and we make the most of the delightful things this country offers.

Sometimes accommodations may not be up to your specs. One night, our beds had sheets that were sandy when we got on them. The shower was a bare pipe running out of the wall and we wore shoes into the bathroom. But it had AC and was feet away from the waves and was hands down a far better beach experience than the massively overpriced American approved hotels down the beach. If I wanted a perfect hotel, I can get one in the States. But we wanted relaxed beach memories for the kids, so we sacrificed comfort and a bit of personal expectations. And the moments we experienced here in this little village were epic. I wouldn’t trade them for a four star hotel any day.

5) Smart Transportation
On our previous trips, we have always used public buss transportation. Last trip we bussed with three children and backpacks, and my camera was stolen at some point during our travels. It was extremely stressful and chaotic- smashing children and baggage onto worn out bus seats and trying to make all the right connections and keep everyone together.

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Daniel did a bit of math before we left this time and discovered that a rental car was really quite efficient and so we booked our first reservation with an international rental car. We rode in a comfortable, air conditioned and very economic but powerful SUV. We had a safe place to keep luggage at each stop, there was even third row seating which allowed plenty of space for the children. While driving in another country would not be a good option for everyone, Honduras is Daniel’s second home, and driving there was entirely normal and fun for him. We will definitely be renting a vehicle on our next trip. But, as you may know, always keep tabs on your credit card billings after that, as credit card fraud is not uncommon in places like this. My in laws had someone use their card after a vehicle rental to purchase airline tickets.

6) Embrace the season
On our way home yesterday, we flew over Roatan Honduras where Daniel and I honeymooned 12 years ago. This trip was about as different as possible from that one, with looking after children and making quick potty stops and teaching the children how to greet people in Spanish.

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At the airport we heard the flight for Roatan announced and we sighed and pretended for a second we were going there. But Daniel smiled and said, “Someday, just you and me…” I nodded, remembering leisurely sauntering down the sandy roads of the island, snorkeling over the coral reef, swinging in the hammock looking over the sunset, all hand in hand.

But right now, we are in another season, and we could easily miss the joys of this one if we were pining for the last. This is the amazing man I married, now an incredible daddy to our children. Seasons come and go, we are gonna stick together through them all.

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7) Learn for next time
I remembered the phone and camera chargers and the sunblock but forgot the bug repellent. We are all bearing the marks of that one.

Our last evening in Honduras was spent at the edge of the waves. The local soccer team did a bit of practice on the shore, the goalie diving again and again for the ball- sometimes catching and sometimes missing. More than once he had to wade out into the waves to retrieve the ball. Behind him the sky streaked pinks and oranges. He seemed entirely oblivious to the epic beauty around him, involving him.

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But I looked on, and everything was quiet except the lapping of the waves and the kicking of the ball. He was unaware, but I saw it. I saw these moments of beauty may not always seem beautiful to us. Traveling with children is nitty gritty at times and takes intentionality. But we feel like the life experiences and memories we provide as well as the world perspective of experiencing other cultures is priceless for these little people.

So take the plunge. Choose to invest in your little ones. Step out of your comfort zone and experience the world and diverse cultures with your children. It isn’t cheap and it isn’t easy.

I was reminded again that the stress isn’t worth losing the beauty of the moment. That the pivotal childhood memories are being made here and now. Sometimes we catch the great moments. Sometimes we miss them. But what matters is that we are willing to try. To create opportunities. And always remember that God sees beauty in it all.

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What are your tried and true favorite hacks to making travel easier with little ones?

Pushing Past the Breakers

“It really is a lot harder than it looks,” she tells me, this world traveler sister of mine. The call between Australia and North Carolina was exceptionally clear. She was telling me about her experiences of learning to surf, in small intervals between heavy study loads and school requirements… Fantastic beaches with promising waves are in abundance over there, as are the sharks and such. But she assures me, “Oh they have shark nets and coast guards on jet skis and helicopters.” What is intended to reassure me rather convinces me there is a genuine cause for concern.
But she laughs me off.

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“You spend a lot of time on your board, paddling and watching…”
She told me how you paddle out the canal, which sometimes has a strong undercurrent, and then you peel off to the side and try to catch a wave. Lots of paddling, waiting, seeing the beginning of the right wave and digging your arms deep into the water. Eyes glued on the wave as it rises higher and higher and you try to reach it before it breaks. “Paddle harder!” her friend would yell, coaching her as she dove towards the rising swell.

Sometimes it catches you too soon and you are pounded by the waves, shoved under the swirling water and battered by the surf. “It was easier when I learned to let go and stop fighting the waves. I’m actually quite calm now when I get shoved under. Eventually it will pass and I know I’ll surface again.”

When I think of surfing, I think of those snapshots of guys balanced in the emerald blue water, crouched on their board as the wave curls just above their sun bleached hair. That moment in time looks epic, timeless, exhilarating.

But now I know the back story. The sweat and sunburn. The big bruise on her calf left by the fin on her board when a wave caught her off guard.
“I’m kinda proud of it, actually,” she laughed. She has always been determined. But now she is stronger, tanned and muscled in a new way. While she won’t ever compete in a surfing competition, she has forged the deep waters of her own fear and caught the waves.

Don’t underestimate the courage it takes to face the deep when you have lost your brother to drowning. But she has, and faced it squarely. And then she pushed past in and met the waves.

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I close my eyes, and even though I’ve never ridden a wave atop a surf board, I feel it. My current season of life is a lot like surfing. Lots of paddling, digging in deep and reaching forward. Sometimes instead of sliding into the crest of a wave and getting to my feet, I spend the day getting clobbered by wave after wave. Some days I feel like I got stranded in a tide pool, going in circles on my board in stagnant water surrounded by broken coral. The sun is hot and my skin is burning. The Scotch Irish freckles pop but even that is not enough to keep my pale skin from blistering red.

I’m surrounded by four amazing and hilarious kiddos that keep me laughing and thrown to my knees in deep need. I feel guilty admitting it, but sometimes I look in the bathroom mirror and just pause. I stare deep into the eyes in the reflection and I see exhaustion. There is discouragement and fear. The shame of my failure today, of losing my patience, the devastation in seeing in my child’s eyes that I failed, again.

Mothering is hard. While the moments of snuggling with newborns are timeless, the reality of attitudes and growing pains as they near my height catches my breath. I envisioned motherhood as delightful – picnics in the yard and hours of reading books aloud on the couch with sweet smelling children clustered all around. I forgot about multiplication tables and dirty laundry and closets jammed with hidden messes.

But I reach for my Bible and my unspoken prayer, “Something practical, Lord. A clue, a tip, a step by step for tomorrow when Monday hits full force.” And I find it in sacrifice. Not where I was expecting it.

“I appeal to you mothers, by God’s mercy, that you view your bodies as a gift of sacrifice in the little moments. In the daily living, that you choose to give. To trust God. That you embrace the hardness, knowing that God sees the offering and the pain, and sees value. Live these moments in holiness, knowing that you are accepted. When you live like this, you are living out worship to your Maker.”

All the giving and doing and washing and folding becomes transformed into moments of deep and eternal meaning. The choosing a smile and calm voice in the face of an angry child or tantrum throwing toddler isn’t just the right thing, it becomes the active way I say, “Yes, God, I honor you, here in my battle. Here where I want to be angry, I choose Your attitude. I choose peace. I choose joy.”

He says, “Paddle hard! Dig deep, press in. Not for the immediate reward, and gratification of now, but knowing that your offering is a gift of worship. And whether you catch that next wave and ride it high, or get clobbered and knocked off your board, I love you. I see your sacrifice. I notice your exhaustion, and I accept you. In your failures, in your successes. Your muscles are growing. You are gaining valuable experience. Your character is exploding out there on the breakers…”

The ebb and flow of the waves are like the emotion of the moment, always moving, never the same. But God is always on the board beside me, coaching me, cheering me on. This is about my journey with Him. Your board and mine may hit different waves, we make get pommeled at different times, but we are all in this together. Today you might catch your first break, I may have to paddle a few more waves to finally get a good one. Judgement and comparison melt out here in the waves. We are all in the water together.

The Scotch Irish burn slowly gives way to a subtle tan. And I learn to paddle, not because I know I will be successful on the next one, but because my life is an offering. Each moment is an invitation to worship through my life.  Offerings and worship involve gifts that are given, not held onto. Release, and transferring ownership. This is my life, but I’m giving it away.

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Some days it is just about claiming a promise when the feelings are lost at sea. When the dishes pile high and the children’s needs even higher. “Paddle harder,” whispers in my ear. Not because he demands it, but he lures me out of my exhaustion into deeper strength and character, into His realm and out from mine.

It is out of my comfort zone that growth happens, that praise rises from the deep.

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Photo credits entirely due to the amazing Gretta at grettagraphy.com

Raising Children to Risk

I’m neck deep in 4th grade math when a small hand pats me.

“Mom, cute!” I look down and notice her vibrant and varied shoe selection.
A sleek leather mary jane on one foot and a splashy pink glittered flip flop on the other.

“Yes!” I said, “cute!” -meaning her, not necessarily the shoe selection.

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I’m learning that raising children means embracing them and their uniqueness.
My goal as their mother is not to make them fit my expectations, but to help them reach their fullest potential as the person God created them to be.
Sometimes that means choking down a fat piece of humble pie.
Sometimes that means not meeting other parents expectations when I know the back story on my child’s situation.
Sometimes it means letting my children make mistakes and face the consequences instead of hovering over their every decision to “protect” them from failure.
I’m raising them in my own needs and flaws, and attempting to extend the grace to them that I find myself needing so deeply.

I’m not raising my children to be perfect, to never fail, to always get perfect grades.
Yes, we reach for excellence in every area possible.

We’ve all seen the mom who cannot ever really let go. The one who forbids her boys to climb trees lest they fall and break an arm. The one who never lets her 3 year old use scissors cause she might cut herself.
But the reality is, experiences teach much better than rules and words.
Warn them, yes, but don’t coddle and bubblewrap them.
They need room to grow and run, and tumble at times.

My mom had to gulp so many times as my brother struggled through becoming a man, without a dad and surrounded by women.
It ended in a salty way, with his death at a very young age.
Could she have prevented him from going on that campout? Yes.
Would it have been right? No.
She did what every good mother would do, she let go and prayed her heart out.
And although his story ended so much sooner than we expected, he tasted God in those months of deep searching. His journey was a hard one, but he found God.
And even though it is hard, it is good.
Stories written by God rarely are penned the way we expect.
He sees the big picture, while we are zoomed into the here and now.

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It’s a real world out there, and our children will face hardship and failure if they live in authenticity. I want to show them that getting up when they fall demonstrates much more strength than never falling at all.

Risk is worth the risk. Failure means reaching for growth, and finding what didn’t work. Experience is a rich and valuable teacher, even when it is a salty one.

Mothering involves all of us. Letting go of reputation, expectation, perfection.
It demands everything.

But it returns ever so much more.

Become their biggest cheerleader. Laugh more, and stress less.
Be the place where they know they are always safe and accepted and loved. Not because of any grade or performance, but because you know and believe in them as a person. And because you just plain LIKE them.
Their heart is always safe with you.

These children are one of the biggest gifts we will ever experience.

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Beauty in Diversity

Tissue paper rustled as the gifts were opened. Eyes looked eagerly at the soft baby blankets and adorable baby clothes. I peered around at this group of beautiful women. Long hair, short hair, heavy make up and none at all. The gal to my left wore stylish booties and I had on my simple leather flip-flops. Skirts and skinny jeans side by side. Across the room sat a beautiful middle eastern woman, shiny gold necklace hanging below her burka and stunning dark eyes.

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We spoke slowly and added a few gestures to make sure she was able to follow the conversation. She is a brave soul to cross the ocean and jump into another world and another culture. To suddenly be the one who doesn’t understand many things.
What is a “garage sale”? What is a “sister in law”?

Back home, she had completed cosmetology school and was able to hold a respected job, here she is attending English classes every day, an outsider. Once that’s tackled, she starts over with cosmetology school, in a foreign language surrounded by pale blond haired women. And yet, we all sat around and watched as a friend opened baby gifts.
We smiled and chatted. Different and yet all the same.

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Recently a small online group started, all of us moms on a quest to live more purposefully and healthfully, to make good choices about our time, food and even tone of voice as we speak to our children. I cannot tell you how healthy this place has become. Each day we check in, and say how our day went and if we met our goals. It is also a place where we ask for prayer if our day is rotten or if we simply need some encouragement.

This morning, one girl bravely spoke up,
“…Most of you do not need to lose the weight like I do, but all coming together to better our health is so encouraging. I’ll be honest, I have about XX lbs to lose. (It’s very humbling to reveal this)… So thank you all for keeping me accountable…
Pray I will continue to be faithful and committed, if you think of it.”

Even though weight is not my issue, I have other very real and difficult issues. I typed back to her,
“While we may not all be fighting the exact same battles,
we are all fighting battles and in this together.”

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God created so much beauty in diversity, and he made all things well.
All shades of skin, widely varying body shapes and personality types.
God obviously is an artist with wide and vibrant tastes, and we all fit into his beautiful plan. But how quickly the beauty fades when we let comparison steal the unique quality God intently created.

It reaches far deeper than how much mascara you wear, or how good you look in skinny jeans. The cold fingers of judgement and comparison reach deep into our lives, and drive icy wedges between people who are intended to be arm in arm in our walk on this world. Fear and isolation takes the place of deep safety and fellowship.

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Grief and trauma often catapults us into a place of dark isolation.
The little girl who was raped by a relative goes into shock and tries to pretend everything is ok.
The newlywed who just miscarried feels like a failure and that no one knows the silent lonely loss she is facing.
The wife whose husband works long hard days with unpredictable hours serves supper cold again, and feels none of her friends know, or care.
The chilling report from the doctor locks the grandfather into a time frame he doesn’t know how to handle.
The refugee left shivering on the rocky coast after an endless night on the waters, holding her infant and all she now owns in a small bag.

This could be you, this could be me.

We ALL face battles. And while we may feel alone, we are not.
Every person you walk past in the grocery store today is a story.
They each carry words unspoken that burn deep,
and have carved the story on their soul.

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If you have walked a deep valley, and come out into the sunshine again, pause.
Look around.
Open your heart to see those still in the shadows.
Stretch out your hand and offer hope.
Courage.
Even just a deep breath and smile of acknowledgment, a word of support- these are the hands of Christ. Maybe he wants you to reach out of your comfort zone, and step into someone else’s journey.
To guide or accompany as they face their battle today.

Jesus left us here on earth to spread his love, in real and physical ways.
He suffered to assure us that we would never be alone in our suffering. In our tears, and in our joys. His promise to always be with us stands forever.

While we may not all be fighting the exact same battles,
we are all fighting battles and in this together.

Let your hand be an expression of hope today.
Let your words give life.
Let your smile assure someone they are not alone.

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Photo credits go again to grettagraphy.com and were taken over her time in the refugee camp.