Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I’ve heard people say this countless times, and always thought it sounded patronizing and maybe a little weak.

Until I said it myself, with my voice barely above an audible whisper – a voice rasped through by struggles and tears and seemingly insurmountable odds. A voice gravelly and gritty because its owner is Barely. Hanging. On.

I’ll be honest with you: some days, calling it the “hardest job” seems like a joke. Those are the days when I truly question God’s wisdom in allowing me to procreate. I tell God His plan must have been slightly off base and He shouldn’t have granted my prayers to become a mother. If He had foreseen the tears, frustration, anger, guilt and shame I would face as a mother, He would have protected me from it. But, no, that’s not what a loving Parent does. A loving Parent knows His child will face pain, but He also knows pain is the best polisher for a jagged, splintered heart. A comfortable life does no child any favors.

I know this, I know this. I. Know. This! But when days turn into weeks and into months and into years of doubting myself, the easy way out seems pretty darn fantastic.

I doubt my ability to teach my children anything but sighing and groaning as they pelt me with yet another request for TV! Snacks! Sleepovers! Candy! PleaseOhPleaseMomJustThisOnce?!

I doubt my ability to civilize them and teach them manners and respect instead of backtalk and tantrums. I wonder if they’ll be 30-year-olds who complain to their boss when someone else gets a great job assignment, much like they complain now if the other sibling gets anything remotely positive in his or her life (praise, an extra privilege, or even one more chocolate chip in their cookie).

I doubt my ability to be a safe harbor for my children as life storms around them, since that same storm threatens to overtake me as I stand right beside them. And then, a moment like this happens.IMG_7337

Jackson burst through the door after school, ran straight to me and didn’t even wait for me to bend down so I could hold him with my arms. He needed refuge, and buried himself in my legs even as I squatted down to hold him. His face ended up buried in my lap, and he was frozen. Unspeaking. Unmoving. Undone.

It isn’t the first time this has happened, but it’s the first time I got a photo of it. It wasn’t a particularly horrible day for him. It was a regular kind of hard day, and he recovered and ran off to unpack his bag and resume his after-school procedure.

But this moment sticks to my wounded mommy heart, the one that has a looped recording of “You’re not enough” playing at full volume inside it. This moment muffles the volume, even if only for a little while, and reminds me that I don’t have to be enough. That is God’s job. My job is to simply be safe.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Peace at Sunrise

School mornings at our house are usually pretty hectic, as I’m sure they are for pretty much everyone.

This morning, Katie opened the garage door as she was retrieving her lunch from the garage refrigerator. I heard her exclaim, “Mommy! Come look at this!” Expecting to see something horrible or scary (an opossum in the garage?), I came to the door and saw this:IMG_7303

She was standing at the edge of the garage, looking into the pink light of a beautiful sunrise. She was so awed by the sight that she couldn’t contain it and invited me into the moment with her. I walked to stand beside her, and she remarked on the way God makes beautiful sunrises for us.IMG_7305

Happy! I am so happy that my daughter gets it at such a young age. I am happy that her breath can be taken in a gasp of appreciation of the world around her. I am happy that she sees a sunrise and it immediately points her to the Artist, the Creator of us all.

When I was young, my dad had a sign on his dresser that said: “Peace is seeing a sunset and knowing who to thank.” It took me years to understand what that meant. And even now, I’m still learning. Today, I’d change that quote to read: “Peace is your daughter seeing a sunrise and knowing who to thank.”

Beach Prayer Walk

On this year’s fall break, we took the kids to Disney World for a few days then drove to a friend’s condo at Venice Beach to spend the rest of our vacation. On our last full day in Venice, we started the morning with a walk on the beach.IMGP0459

Dan and Jackson quickly got ahead of me and Katie. I was slow because I was looking for special seashells and praying I would find a piece of sea glass. (I’ve never found one before, and really wanted to find one.) While I searched, Katie was writing in the sand. After a while Katie was behind even me, and the boys were far ahead. The boys eventually slowed, turned around, and met up with me. I joined them and a few steps later, we met up with Katie. We all started walking back towards our condo. Along the way, I got to see the things Katie had been writing in the sand. Each “sign” I passed increasingly filled me with awe. Knowing my girl wrote these things without any prompting from me or Dan, and in her own solitude with the Holy Spirit? The praise volume of my heart was deafening as I read these; even louder than the ocean!

Thank you, Jesus, for reaching my daughter in ways I will never be able to. I am grateful that You have turned her into a teacher; she is teaching me how to seek You in ways I never knew. I love that she is my daughter, a fellow disciple, and my sister in Christ! Amen.







To be your friendIMG_7031

No matter WHATIMG_7030

Trust in GodIMG_7025

He will show you the wayIMG_7023

Don’t look back!IMG_7022

Your word is a lamp onto my feet and a light onto my path. Psalm 119:105IMG_7005 Psalm 119

Don’t hold back; let go!IMG_7004

God loves you!IMG_7002

He is with you!IMG_6998

God created you with his own hand.IMG_6992

And the end of this walk, guess what I found? A perfect piece of brown sea glass!

Walking on my generous friend’s beach with no To Do List. Feeling sunshine on my shoulders and ocean waves on my toes. Smelling salty seas and tasting the morning coffee in my hand. Hearing birds and ocean waves gently lapping the shore. Seeing my husband and son explore the world, and my daughter write letters in the sand. Above all, knowing my Savior creates precious gifts and waits in anticipation for me to discover them. All these things combine to remind me I am blessed!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gluten Free Artichoke Dip

This is seriously easy and seriously tasty. All you need are three ingredients: Vegenaise, goat’s milk cheddar cheese, and marinated artichoke hearts.IMG_5438

Mix them together. Notice I didn’t list how much of each? I’d go with about a cup of Veganaise (or maybe two, depending on how much you want to make), a half cup of cheese (or one whole cup, depending…), and as many artichoke hearts as you desire.

Mix in a Pyrex or some other sort of oven-safe dish. Bake at 350 until it’s bubbly. Take it out and enjoy with Van’s multigrain crackers (which are gluten, corn and dairy free – the trifecta of awesomeness!). Yum!IMG_5439

And I promise this blog will NOT become a recipe blog. I simply happen to be posting a few recipes because I think about food a lot these days!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Surprise Gifts

IMG_6116We have a big trip planned for our family. We are taking the kids to Disney World! Dan and I have been talking about this trip for a few years. We picked the right time to take it (when both kids are still little enough to enjoy the magic, but big enough to go without naps), researched, and started planning. The trip is SO very close that I can almost touch it, but the kids have no idea that it’s coming. Dan and I decided to keep it a surprise for a few reasons.

If we tell the kids ahead of time, we will spend the days preceding the trip fending off the repetitious questions: “When are we going? Is it today? What will we do there? When are we going? Are you packing my favorite blankie/animal/shirt/toy? How many days until we go? How are we getting there? When are we going?” and on and on. Personally, I’d rather not suck the joy out of our family vacation getting grilled by little interrogators for weeks on end.

I’ve been spending the days secretly planning special things for the trip. I have ordered trading pins online, gotten deliveries from Disney, asked the kids seemingly random questions (“If you could only watch 5 movies for the rest of your life, what would you pick?” – I asked this one so I would know which DVDs to pack on our carry-on bags.), and I’ve even been playing a little Disney music when we are driving in the car. (I’ve gotten the “It’s a small world after all…” hook firmly embedded in their brains.)

As I plan the trip and we are on the cusp of departure, I find myself wishing I could tell the kids about it. I debate telling them, and always end up keeping it quiet because I know the joy they will have once they are told. The joy I feel, knowing I am planning this amazing gift for them, is almost as good as actually giving them the gift. And isn’t that the truth about gift-giving? When you are giving something wonderful to someone you love, when you’ve picked out THE perfect gift for them or painted them THE perfect canvas, the anticipation you feel in waiting to unveil the gift is so much a part of the giving.

I wonder if God feels this way. He has planned a great adventure for me, and knows how much longer it will be until I depart. He knows how I’m going to get there. He knows what to pack to equip me for the journey. I sense a hint of this adventure every now and then, and wonder what He has up His sleeve. There will come a day when the adventure starts, and I’ll realize how long and how lovingly God has planned every single detail of my trip. I’ll hear a snippet of “It’s a small world after all…” and know – without a doubt – that God placed that song in my heart long ago so I could one day sing it with Him. [You know that’s a sort of metaphor, right? I am not really sure I’ll be singing “It’s a small world after all…” with God. But I will be singing, that’s for sure!]

I haven’t told my kids because I know the knowledge they would gain would likely ruin things a bit.  They would spoil the fun because they’d want to know more more MORE! So, for now, I research and plan and lovingly choose experiences for them that I already know will blow their minds. That’s what makes giving as good as receiving!IMG_6122

Edit: We have gone and returned from Disney now. Man, you should’ve seen my kids’ faces when we got into the boat and turned the corner and they heard the first strains of, “It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears. It’s a world of hope and a world of fears…” Katie said, “Hey! We know that song! It’s a small world after all!” Aaaaah, bliss!IMG_6135

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Under Shelter

It was a Monday morning, almost the last day of September. I was rushing through the morning and had just gotten the kids on the bus. I was loading the car with my laptop to head to work, when something caused me to glance out the garage door.

The sunlight was streaming through my neighbor’s trees in such a beautiful way. It looked golden and almost tangible. When I stopped and stared, I spotted something curious: I noticed I could see tiny bits of something floating in the air. I walked out of the garage and into the light, and the bits vanished. I couldn’t see them anymore. When I went back into the garage, I could see them again. I had no idea what these mysterious bits were, and I was already late for my day anyway. I had to release the mystery and move on with my morning.

I loaded a few more things in the car and got in myself, and pulled out of the garage and onto my street. That’s when I realized fog had moved in. The funny thing about fog is you don’t know you’re in it until you try to look beyond yourself. You can’t see fog three inches in front of you; it’s visible only when you look further away. Fog is more noticeable in the distance, and until this morning I had no idea that fog was little tiny bits floating in the air. I guess I always thought it was more like smoke. But what I noticed when I first entered my garage that morning was the tiny precursor fog drops that were rolling in to my area.IMG_5722_thumb

So… thanks for the science lesson, Elizabeth. Yes? Uh… no. There’s more than a scientific observation going on here. What I realized by seeing the fog that morning is this: sometimes you can’t see the fog at all when you’re in it. You can be in thick air, and not even know it. Things may look “normal,” but then you step into a different position and you can see just how abnormal things really are. So often, we can be in a figurative fog in our lives because we’re so busy being stuck in the Right Now that we don’t look around to check out the rest of the view. We never see the forest because we’re focused on one single tree.

Remember how I couldn’t see the bits in the air unless I was standing inside my garage? Sometimes we have to step out of our surroundings to see the fine mist that is settling in our lives. When we seek refuge in a strong shelter, we get perspective on our standing in life and can more easily see what surrounds us.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September 2013 Review

To celebrate the end of summer (and kind of also Dan’s birthday with his family), we met the in-laws and went to a local minor league baseball game. This is the team we happened upon last year, where they end the night with a major event: everyone toilet-papers the stadium before watching a fireworks show. We did it again this year. I’m not sure if it will become an annual tradition, but it’s fun while it lasts! One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my son during the National Anthem.IMG_4656

I got a new boss at work. My old boss, John, had his last Sunday in our ministry before moving in to a pastoral residency role. That Sunday, all the kids’ ministry volunteers gathered around him and prayed over him. It was such a great thing to witness!IMG_4649

I got a sweet letter from Jackson one morning, in a journal I gave him for us to use in writing back and forth to each other. This is his first entry in the journal.IMG_4720

I saw this idea on Pinterest, and it links to this blog. I had to make one of these for my niece’s 15th birthday, since she loves Nutella so much._MDS8324

I walked Jackson in to school one day, and this is how it looked. Swoon!IMG_5137

I’ve been volunteering in the kids’ classrooms again this year. Am I a huge nerd, or do other people get as excited about school as I do?IMG_4797

One thing I love about being in the kids’ classrooms is the sneak peek I get at their school work. I was wowed at Jackson’s handwriting and communication abilities on this assignment.IMG_4801

For Dan’s birthday, I surprised him with an overnight trip to Mizzou. The plan was to visit the new International Taphouse in Columbia, which we did. But we also scored tickets to the game, which was really awesome for him.IMG_4872

Jackson got in trouble at church one Sunday. He was disruptive and wouldn’t listen to his teachers. Part of his punishment was writing apologies to the teachers, which I mailed later that week. These letters make me so happy.IMG_4947

Driving by a field of soybeans one evening, I noticed the plants looked like they were glowing. I pulled over and took a photo, and realized it’s the tiny hairs on the plant stalks that were being lit by the sunset’s golden light. Noticing little details like this helps me to slow down and be present in the busyness of life.IMG_5097

This photo is nothing out of the ordinary or irregular. But I had to take it because I know the day will come when chalk drawings in the street won’t happen anymore. This was a moment of peace and quiet, and I love watching my kids do regular kid things.IMG_5120

Our nephew had a sleepover at our house. It was part of his gift from Christmas last year, and we finally found a night when he could stay at our house. We went to church first, then home for dinner and ice cream sundaes.IMG_5157

Did you know the movie The Wizard of Oz is 75 years old this year? My kids have never seen it, and it was playing on the big screen for one week only. Dan and I splurged (it was in 3D on the IMAX screen) and took the kids to see it. I forgot how many great quotes are from this movie, and how funny that darn lion is!IMG_5386

Our neighbors held the annual block party. There was good food, lots of good stories, and some not-so-good karaoke too!IMG_5458

My friend Gina and I wore our matching Wonder Woman shirts to church one night. We are huge dorks, and I love it!IMG_5451

After a particularly great message at church that night, we left the building with the windows rolled down and Chris Tomlin’s song Lay Me Down blaring on the radio. This was what I saw in the rearview mirror, and it was good!IMG_5511

When Dan was little, he and his brother used to draw all kinds of characters. Recently, Dan showed his furry dude doodle to Jackson. And then, I found a copy of the dude in Jackson’s notebook. I love that my son is following in his dad’s footsteps.IMG_5455

We ended September with a wedding. It was the first Jewish wedding I’ve ever attended, and I learned a lot about my own Christian roots. I photographed the wedding, and Dan was my second shooter. I am so thankful he was there to cover my back!_MDS8531


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