Category Archives: Living Well

Alaska and My Very Best Friend

In 1997 my little church’s youth group went to an event by the group Teen Mania that did youth mission trips all over the world. I wanted to go to Alaska. My little church helped me raise money for the trip,  they gave me money, they helped me do a car wash, we sold food.  My grandparents, the same ones who took me to the little church, gave me a loan and I was on my way in the summer of 1998.

Going to Alaska for almost a month changed my life. I got focused.  On that trip I ate peanut butter and jelly almost every day for lunch.  I talked to Jesus and read my Bible every single day. I was surrounded by God’s beauty and traveling with a group that loved God.  Some of the friends I made on that trip are still part of my life even today. In Alaska I was awestruck by how much God loves everyone.

So many things happened during that trip that made it clear to me that God is real. A friend was healed of major back pain for the entire trip.  We prayed with runaways. We prayed with strangers on the beach. We saw a baby humpback whale and it rocked our boat.  We saw a glacier up close and saw blocks of ice fall into a lake. We climbed a mountain. We saw God working. We walked around praying for cities and people and sharing God’s love.

In those days Jesus became my very best friend.

 

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A Little City and a Little Church

The year was 1985 and I was 6 years old. My dad got out of the Marine Corps and moved our family back to his hometown in Indiana. My grandparents went to a little church on 10th Street, and in that that little church I learned that God loves me. I learned that God loves everyone. I learned God had plans for me. In a little city in a little church I learned to recognize God in everything.

 

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Love Is the Greatest

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
 
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
 
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
 
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
 
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
These words about love, from 1 Corinthians 13, have been heavy on my heart the past few weeks. Several friends have lost loved ones. Several friends are struggling with relationship problems. This is the TRUTH about love from the source of love. Choose love.

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My Important Stuff

There is a little shelf beside my bed that has my important stuff on it. My family recently moved to a new house so I have been thinking about what things are most important to me. A stuffed animal moose and a camping nightlight moose remind me of Alaska where I went on a mission trip that brought me closer to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

A little heart that reads, Always My Mother, Forever my FRIEND. My mom read different ones to my 5-year-old daughter at the store and picked this one out for me. It truly is my prayer that my kids will grow up and see me as someone who is their friend.

The footprint painting is a surprise find that was lost in our old house but my super awesome landlords/friends found and returned to me. On it are the footprints of our five oldest kids and it reminds me of my JOB and my kids. My mom job is the biggest, scariest, most awesome and most important job ever.

One book on my shelf is “14,000 things to be happy about.” It is just a quirky book that I bought a long long time ago that so me! Also on my shelf are the books, A Christian Mother Goose Rock-A-Bye Bible, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Many Ways to Say I Love You by Fred Rogers. My little prayer jounal with Bible verses, prayers, and quotes that I have been hiding in my heart is sitting on my Bible.

Another lost and found treasure is a plastic license plate that reads “Smile God Loves You!” My family got it for my grandparents who had displayed it in their kitchen years and years ago. I kept it after my Grandma went to the nursing home and now that both of them have gone to eternity in heaven it is a little thing that remind me of the BIG TRUTH that they helped me learn: God Loves Me and everyone else too!

I keep a little album of photos of my grandparents by my bed. The other day was 16 years since my Grandpa has been gone and though I miss my grandparents so much I celebrate that they are with Jesus! Photos are priceless memories!

My stuffed animal purple turtle that my husband let the kids pick out me because they know my favorite color and my favorite animal! James was pretty surprised to find it because they knew what they wanted to get me! a purple turtle! It reminds me that they do love me (even if it sometimes seems like they are just trying to make me crazy)! An Ewok from my sister who knows I love Star Wars. A Precious Moments white porcelain cross that was our wedding cake topper, and a plaque with part of the Footprints poem are on the bottom shelf. They are symbols of my two best friends my James, and my Jesus.

The shelf itself was made by my husband’s late great-grandfather. He loved his family and he loved to make useful things for his family.

It is hard work to unpack and organize after a move. It has made think about what is most important to me and why it is important!

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It’s a Good God Thing

When James and I were going to get married, I bought the first wedding dress that I tried on. I tried on another just to make sure that first dress was the dress for me!

When James and I needed to find a bigger house to live in we only had two little boys. God led us to the first and only house that we would look at and we’ve lived here for over 8 years.

When James and I felt led to find a different church to attend, God led us to the first and only church that we visited and we’ve gone there for over three years.

James and I need to move to a new house. Our landlords are selling the house because they need to move out-of-state to be closer to family. I did a lot of searching for houses and very few people even responded to my messages or phone calls.  Most rentals in our college town are August to August leases and we need to move by July 1. God led us to the perfect house for us and it was the first and only house that we looked at, from friends, in a neighborhood that we like where most of people on our block are related to our friends who are also our neighbors!

Our dryer recently died and that same day loaded all the kids up and went to pick out a new dryer. The first one we picked out had a door that could be reversed. That one was not in stock so we picked out a second dryer. When the guy helping us went back to look for the only one in stock he couldn’t find it, so we ended up picking a third one. Each dryer was more expensive than the first but we only were charged the price of the first dryer!

Remember how the first dryer’s door could be reversed?  I thought it was a real bummer when James realized that the door cannot be reversed on the dryer we got!  BUT . . . At the new house the dryer will be on the opposite side of the laundry room AND the dryer door will be on the right side! How about that for God being in the details.

God is in the big things and in the small things and in absolutely everything . . . keep looking up!

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Looking Up

Maple Tree LeavesWhile walking through the woods I often pause to look up at how the sunlight streams through the leaves above. I can’t remember when I started doing this, but it’s a long-loved habit of mine. The TRUTH for life is this . . . If you stop to literally and figuratively “look up,” you will see that God’s light shines on everything.

I connected with another homeschooling mom who is from Indiana and has 10 children because she authors some homeschool books that I use with my kids. Amazingly, she makes enough money from her book sales that her husband is able to be home full-time and they do missionary work in the Ukraine. I secretly thought it would be wonderful if there was some way that my husband could be home full-time too, but I didn’t tell a soul about it. I thought it was impossible, but nothing is impossible for God!

My husband’s new job as a historian/archeologist allows him just that . . . He works from home! Not only that but he got a significant pay increase, he’s salary, and he has unlimited paid time off and vacation days. The other benefits he has are too many to list.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:21

God is so good and I cannot thank Him enough for how he has provided for me and for my family!

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Life With Six Kids – My Messy Beautiful

Every day is a crazy roller coaster raising six kids from eight years old to six months old. My boys are eight and six. My girls are five, three, two, and 6 months old.

There is food under the kitchen table after every meal. There is almost always some kind of argument going on among the group. There are mountains of laundry to move here, there, and everywhere. Someone always seems to be drawing on the walls or the table with crayons. In my room there is a large collection of kid clothes that don’t fit. It needs to be sorted and taken down to the basement and I have no idea how long it has been there or how long it will continue to be there! My bathroom always seems to have lotion, soap, or toothpaste the walls, the sink, and the mirrors. There are toys absolutely every where! It’s a mess, but it means that I have a full house.

fbDSC_5800Each of my kids is absolutely amazing. Their sweet smiles are wonderful. The sound of their infectious laughter and giggles are music to my soul. When they are not trying to conquer and destroy each other, it is so much fun to watch and to listen to them playing. They are the most imaginative kids ever! The words that come out of their mouths are sometimes frightening, sometimes surprising, and often times just plain awesome.

Every day I GET hugs and kisses. Every day I GET to laugh and smile and laugh some more! Every day I GET to watch six little people grow into amazing human beings! I have learned that sharing our moments of crisis with family and friends really helps me to laugh about them! Laughing so you don’t cry still counts as laughing, right?

It is not our messiness that matters. The laughter, the smiles, the hugs, and the kisses matter! The LOVE is definitely what matters. I am a messy, beautiful warrior on a mission to be a better child of God, a better Mommy, a better wife, and a better photographer. I try to do my best to show my little people about life and loving with God’s love. It’s a messy job but somebody’s got to do it!

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!  And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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