Our Real Problem

Twenty-four hours after I recovered my blog Facebook page from a malicious hacker, I was ironing wrinkles out of my 13 year old’s light blue Oxford dress shirt so he could wear it to the funeral of his beloved archery coach.

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I swallowed down tears as I straightened my son’s necktie, the memory of holding this almost 6 ft sobbing teenaged boy in my lap the day we heard the news, still fresh.

Nothing prepares you for parenting moments like these.

Nothing prepares you for the often sorrowful road you walk with your children.

And nothing makes our light and momentary problems seem more insignificant than this.

Life is hacked by computer problems and health struggles and bills we can’t pay. Kids we can’t tame. Ruined dinners. Bad days. None of us enjoy problems that break into our normal routine and leave us with out-of-control feelings.

But we all have the same problem in this life—and it’s this:

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” -Anne Lamott

Everything that matters most comes into clear focus when we view our life against eternity.

What if we stopped saying I would if . . .

I could if. . .

Maybe I should . . .

I might be. . .

What if we decided to live every moment of the rest of our lives with an urgency like today was our last?

What if we lived our days with purpose?

What if we turned our problems into opportunities to reach the lost?

What if we lived like we were dying?

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On Saturday, I sat near the front row of a crowded church and listened to my brave boy read the letter he wrote his coach before he died. His coach’s family asked him to read the words at the funeral:

Two years, seven months and two days ago, I was a 10 year old boy with a bow and arrows…and I didn’t even know I had found my passion. I didn’t know that my bow would lead me to meet such an amazing, kind and loving coach. The more I got to know you, the more I saw how much Christ’s love was evident in  your life. . .But what got my attention the most was after being diagnosed with cancer … was how much you relied on God and lived your life with purpose.

The longer you lived through this cancer ordeal, the more your life reminded me of Philippians 1:12-18. The passage is about how Paul was imprisoned, normally a bad occurrence, and how good still came from it. Because he was in prison, guards and prisoners came to know about Christ. Even though Paul’s circumstances changed, his purpose hadn’t. It was just a change of mission fields.

You were diagnosed with cancer, but good is still coming from it. Every time I shoot an arrow, I am reminded of Christ’s love that has been shown to me through you. You’ve taught me three lessons:

1. The closer you get to death, the more alive you should become in Christ.

2. Being generous is so much more fulfilling than receiving things.

3. Trials bring you closer to God.

I can’t tell you how much I love you. . . 

I wasn’t the only one crying.

Funerals are a good place to wake up and remember there’s a reason we are still here.

There are people at our jobs, on our streets, in our lives who are lost and need Jesus.

And our real problem is what we are going to do about it.

Stitched Together With Love

When I was a young mom, I went through a season where I tried to understand the challenging road I was traveling. My husband and I lived over a thousand miles from home with a toddler and a new baby, in a town we didn’t love, working a job we didn’t like, in a broken-down house with couldn’t afford.

I was lonely and life wasn’t what I thought it would be.

When I looked at my life, I saw a tangled mess, like the back of a cross stitch project I carried with me from place to place. I never quite got the knack of counting stitches perfectly and the backside was messy.

Sort of like my life.

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But when I would flip that little stitched project over, I could see the beginning of a picture, something beautiful. Life is like a tapestry. It’s messy and it can look tangled and like all the threads don’t fit, but God is always creating a beautiful picture. We might not know what it is or what it will be, but He is working.

Mothers saved me. Literally-connecting with moms, piecing our stories together, like a giant quilt, led me to where I am today. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t be more proud of the community of women who came to me and asked if they could share their hard and beautiful stories (more than 60 of them!) in an ebook, called The Mom Quilt.

Oh, and it gets better: 100% of the proceeds of this project will go to Mercy House to help us drill a deep bore hole on one of the properties in Kenya that has the potential of providing water for 100 families. Currently, water is one of the most expensive monthly payments as it is trucked in several times a week to both homes. We’ve been working on a way for sustainability at the maternity homes for years and we believe water is the answer.

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The project cost $40,000 and will provide water to the women of Mercy House, but also to the surrounding community. And we also know that it will lead to Living Water for so many. . .

Alone, we are a single strand, but woven together by His hand, we are able to accomplish the impossible! That’s the unbelievable story of Mercy House. Please consider purchasing this lovely ebook and support this work.

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4 Ways To Help Kids Bend the Trend This School Year


I took my teenaged daughter for some back-to-school shopping. We had a budget and one hour at the mall. I was afraid I’d created the perfect storm.

But JCPenney’s never disappoints. We had a blast! She loved the huge selection of clothes and trendy items. Every time I shop with my girl, I learn a lot about what’s in style. I learned kimonos are a thing now. And of course, my daughter can rock one. She has a great sense of style and clues me in on what’s hot and what’s not (She explained jogger pants to me and told me Sophisti-Casual is one of her favorite trends (see kimono).

And every time we spend time together, I learn more about who she is becoming. In-between looking for cute tops under the JCPenney’s “Bend the Trend” signs, we talked about doing just that: Looking for ways to stay true to ourselves. Kids face a lot of pressure to fit in at school (church and homeschool co-ops, too) and they need to know who they are and who they belong to. Bend the Trend is another way of saying be yourself in your own unique way.

We looked at some of the hottest trends: the printed backpacks, layered necklaces, long pendants and statement earrings and talked about what fit her personality. When we encourage our kids to bend the trend with what they wear (and not over-worry about looking like everyone else), we give them more than just stuff. We give them:

1. Confidence In Who They Are On The Inside, Not Just What They Look Like On the Outside | Most kids care a lot about what’s on the outside-it’s part of growing up and well, fitting in. But when they can be comfortable in their own skin, they become confidant on the inside and out.

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2. A Positive Attitude Even on The Bad (Hair) Days | If you have a teenage girl or you’re a woman, you know this is a real thing. A positive attitude will remind our kids there’s always tomorrow.

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3. A “New Kid” Outlook |My kids had the experience of being the new kid in school and they know how hard it can be trying to figure out where you belong. Bending the trend, means they can put themselves in other people’s shoes and reach out.

4. A Belief That Comparison Kills Contentment | One thing my daughter loved about shopping at JCPenney’s was the ease of making every item uniquely her by pairing up items like this trendy Arizona top with a sheer kimono. When our kids can be confidant in their choices, without comparing themselves to others, they can find contentment.

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Connect with JCPenney’s on social media. Visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Google+.

And give a Back to School #ShoutOutDay on August 12th!

What top trends are on your Back-to-School list this fall? Tell me in the comments and you could win a $100 JCPenney gift card!

Entry Instructions:

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You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

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3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 8/10/2015 – 9/10/2015

Be sure to visit JCPenney’s brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Why We Need Rest & Solitude {And What That Looks Like For Me}

“Solitude and stillness create space for the spirit of God to speak.”

As soon as my pastor said the words, I started squirming.

I’m terrible at resting, being still and seeking solitude. I like to go and do, rather than stay and be.

I’m an expert multi-tasker and I tend to overload my plate. Most days I rock my To Do List but it’s totally the boss of me. I tend to run on less than half a tank and I feel weary often.

Yeah, so resting makes me restless.

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Yet something about his words made me long for quiet and solitude. And I kept feeling pulled toward the small inner voice saying, “Come to me, you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Because doers can only do so much.

He went on to talk about Jesus’ need for solitude, so much so that he separated himself and spent time alone with His Father. And if the Son of Man needed to create this space, how much more do we?

I took a good long look at my life and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d rested well, completely unplugged from the noise and got alone for hours–days–just me and Jesus. It’s time most of us can’t afford, but if I’m honest with myself, I know this is mostly an excuse. If I can squeeze in a girl’s weekend once a year, I can surely make time to be alone a couple of days with God.

By that point during the sermon, I was begging for a quiet corner to confess. Why is it that we think we can give to others without first receiving what is freely given to us?

se, I have to be still and quiet.

Before I made it to the car that Sunday afternoon, I answered that email and said, “Please, let me come and rest.” Honestly, three days alone on a solitude retreat intimidates me. But it also excites me. I can’t wait to create the space for God to renew and speak to my soul.

How are you resting? Do you carve out times of solitude to be alone with God?

Continue reading over at (in)courage. . .

Longing For Paris

December 2013: Our family was on the way home from working in Kenya and we had a short layover in Paris. I will never forget walking up the steps from the underground train, icy winter wind hitting our jet-lagged faces and getting that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. My entire family gasped. It was magical. 

And it was as romantic as it could be–with three kids arguing over who got to hold the mini Eiffel Tower replica we’d bought off a street vendor. Sometimes we don’t realize the real thing is right in front of us. Life is a lot like this…we dream about something we don’t have when something better is right in front of us. I think that’s why I love Sarah’s Mae’s new book, Longing for Paris so much. I know you will, too.

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Guest Post By Sarah Mae

We all know that Paris holds the title for most romantic city in the world.

But, for me, in the fall of 2002, State College, Pennsylvania, had the chance to take the title when a very romantic almost-first kiss happened with my now husband.

It was a rainy day. We were at Penn State University’s Movin’ On festival on the HUB lawn. Mud was everywhere. Jesse, my “we’re-not-dating-we’re-just-friends-but-we-like- each-other” guy was visiting, and we just “so happened” to run into each other. We also happened to spend the whole afternoon together, listening to the different bands, sumo wrestling in inflatable costumes, jousting on a balance beam, and running around in the mud, as college students do. At one point during our running and flirting, I slipped and fell down, and he fell right on top of me.

My back was in the mud, and we were face-to-face. Our eyes were locked on each other, until he broke the stare and looked at my lips.

Here it comes; he’s going to kiss me.

Suddenly, he got up. He chickened out! Can you believe it? It would have been a perfect first kiss. Instead he helped me up, awkwardness ensued, and we said our good-byes. I had to be somewhere that evening, but we promised we would try to catch up after. You know, as just-friends do.

To this day my husband and I still laugh about that moment and our almost-first kiss. But he says he didn’t make the move because we weren’t dating, and we were supposed to be praying about whether or not to date. We decided to wait on dating.

A year later we were married.

And then we almost got divorced.

I kid. Mostly.
We made the mistake of driving from Pennsylvania to

Florida for our honeymoon. (I was afraid to fly because of 9/11 so I insisted that we drive.) My advice now? NEVER EVER attempt this when you’re newly married.

Our first year in one word? Rough. So rough that on our first wedding anniversary, I wanted to do something special to make up for our hard times. Jesse was due home from work at five o’clock, so I prepared a candlelit dinner. I also donned my wedding dress as an added surprise. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t zip it up.) Jesse was delayed at work for hours, so when he finally walked in the door, the candles had burned down to nubs. But when he saw me in my dress (I was facing him in order to hide the zipper problem), he fell to his knees and began to cry.

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“You really love me?” he asked.
“Of course I do!”

He didn’t know.

He thought that because I was such a wretch much of that first year that I didn’t love him.
 Oh, but I did. It was a tough road in the years ahead, because marriage is this constant working out of two people coming together and figuring out how to stretch into this thing called love that isn’t always romantic or happy or good. After three babies and the stuff of life, I felt like it was just too much.

Seven years in, I was done. I actually cried on the floor of my mother-in-law’s laundry room telling her I couldn’t do it anymore. She just listened and was so kind to me, saying she understood.

Bottom line? Marriage is hard. I mean, it’s two sinners trying to walk through life together while occupying a shared space, where you have to see the other person every day. Even when you don’t want to.

I always tell my kids, “Listen. You guys have to learn how to love each other because when you get married, at some point, your husband or wife is going to annoy you just like your brothers and sisters do now. And you’re going to have to learn how to love and be kind and be friends with that person. Even though you didn’t choose your siblings and you probably will choose your husband or wife, it doesn’t matter. Everybody has quirks. Everybody has sin issues. Living with another human is hard. Period.”

Sibling relationships, if stewarded toward love and friendship and grace, are such good preparation for marriage.

I’ve learned over the years that if hearts are tender, there’s a settling in. My settling in with Jesse came at ten years. It came with an understanding of who we were, loads of grace in the midst of struggle so that shame and darkness didn’t own us, letting go of outside pressure about what our marriage should look like, super honest discussions about hard things, and late nights with barbecued wings and a good movie. These are the keys that have helped Jesse and me get to where we are now—heading into our twelfth year together.

And I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

The other night my husband came home late from work. I was tired and the kids were sick, but I thought, It’s a moment. I played a love song, and I walked over to him and snuck into his chest. He took my hand in his, put his arm around my waist, and we danced.

The kids giggled and tried to break in, but we just stead- ied ourselves together.

Later that night we argued about something, and life moved past the romance, but for that moment we brought Paris into our living room. And it was tender and lovely.

Paris is in the details. Taking my husband’s hand when I could easily just be content without touching him. Choosing to kiss him a little longer than usual. Playing footsie with him at the movie theater or at dinner. Savoring the food when we’re out, and laughing just a little too loud at his jokes. Letting him know that even though life and marriage can be frustrating as anything, it is still ours, and that matters.

Paris is taking the time to let imperfect love still matter. And when every walk, every dance, every hand-hold, every kiss, every footsie, and every bite of delectable food, just as we do at home. Yeah, it’s ugly sometimes in my house, and I’m selfish, and stretching into love with a sinner you have to sleep next to is such a crazy, ridiculous thing. But that crazy thing is God’s idea, and so it matters.
 So we celebrate.
We dance.
 And once in a while, we even let the kids break in.

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This is an excerpt from Sarah Mae’s new book, Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Beauty, Joy, and Adventure…Right Where She is.

 

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Mud Cookies Shouldn’t Exist. Fair Trade Friday Exists Because They Do.

I should have never watched the video before bed.

But I did.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about the countless hungry children in Haiti who dine on the flat brown cookies baked in the sun, made of mud and a bit of flour.

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But mostly, I couldn’t get the image of these desperate bakers out of my head–women, mostly mothers, who make their job selling cookies made of dirt to kids who have nothing else to eat.

It’s part of the terrible cycle of poverty, selling things that weren’t meant to be bought (like dirt and sex) because it helps people continue to live–in that same cycle.

I think that’s why God spoke the words to me in the middle of the night so clearly a couple of years ago.

I told Him, I want to help women and He said, Provide them with jobs.

Jobs that will feed their hungry families.

Jobs that will open the door to the Gospel.

Jobs that will provide sustainability and hope.

And that’s why Fair Trade Friday was created. It was intentionally started through Mercy House because we believe in empowering women in Jesus’ name. No one is making money off this endeavor, except the women who need it most.

In my exhausting yes to God, I have discovered the passion of my life. This is it.

Friday we celebrate the one year anniversary of Fair Trade Friday.

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In the past year, we’ve provided more than 1000 jobs in 18 countries and sent out more than 6000 fair trade boxes to thousands of people. All in the name of Jesus.

And thankfully, I’m far from alone in reminding women they aren’t forgotten. There are a host of local volunteers and nearly 2000 club members who are helping us do just that.

If that isn’t enough, we’ve had an amazing online tour happening this summer, where bloggers and Facebookers and instagrammers have been sharing about this life-changing club. I’ve asked these precious women to link up their posts today for you to enjoy (and get a wonderful glimpse of what comes in a one time box).

Visit their fun posts and come back here and leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win one of TEN Fair Trade Friday One Time Boxes (Value $50 each) that we are giving away to celebrate this momentous day!

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(items will vary from what is pictured)

And although we have a beautiful waiting list for our monthly club (join the 2-3 month wait list here), we still have room for late summer/ fall home parties for you to host your own girl’s night out!

We also have an unlimited supply of one time boxes (in various styles) for you to enjoy until a spot comes open for you. Use code 4hope to save $5

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winners have been notified

5 Ways To Change America From The Dinner Table

We were on the 3rd hour of the trip and somehow the youngest convinced the other two to watch a scratched version of Shrek the Third on the DVD player in the backseat.

As we drove, my husband looked over at me and said, “Why do we own this movie?”

I shrugged and pointed to the old album of discs we keep in the car for moments of travel desperation.

At one point, I guess we were both tuning in because we heard our soon-to-be third grader ask why one of the princesses was a man dressed like a woman with heavy stubble.

“Because someone thought it would be funny,” a sibling answered.

Subtle, Hollywood.

Terrell and I talked about the way kids movies, TV shows and teen books are filled with innuendoes, edgy subject matter and an obvious effort to normalize alternative lifestyles to the next generation.

“It’s easy to ignore, laugh or shrug it off, but we need to point this desensitizing out to our kids when we see or hear it. And turn it off,” he said.

It’s part of teaching our kids what we believe is right and wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I cringe at the world I’m raising my kids in.  My online feed is a battleground of opinion and the daily news is like a horror show.

It’s not just that our culture vies for an anthing-goes-lifestyle, it’s that we don’t understand the value of life. We live in a world where a lion’s death trumps a human’s life. We live in a world where the senseless death of an animal causes more outcry than the brutal dismembering and selling of unborn babies.

Yes, both are wrong, but one we abhor, and the other we make possible through legislation.

Recently, I ran across an old quote from my favorite President and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head:

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I’m not political. I don’t jump on every bandwagon or issue.  I don’t engage on Facebook when someone says something I don’t agree with and I honestly try not to jump into controversy (although occasionally I stumble into it here). I’m a wife and mom and writer and most days between those big jobs and saying yes to God, there’s not much left when I fall into bed.

But I can see that America is changing. And I can see that American needs to change.

And I have to agree with The Gipper-great change for our country starts in the center of our home at the table.

It’s the place we communicate with one another, care about each other, celebrate and challenge each other. The table is the place we teach our children right from wrong, it’s our lectern. It brings us together, so together we can change the world.

When we intentionally tackle tough issues, cultural shifts and trends, and communicate truth to our kids over a meal, we are giving them something secure to come home to in a world that is balancing precariously on a sandy foundation.

When we turn our table into a tool, our home becomes a classroom, and our children world changers.

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5 Ways to Change America From the Dinner Table:

1. The Table Creates a Healthier Family  | It might sound too simple, but simply having dinner together makes an impact on the family and eventually the world. It’s far too easy to let the busyness of schedules, sports, school and society interrupt dinner. Research shows the long term emotional and educational benefits to families is monumental. It’s the best time to connect and communicate, to check-in with each other. There are countless health benefits of eating dinner together, but the “parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent bad choices and addictions later,” research says. So, basically, we are better when we eat dinner together.

2. The Table is Where We Break Open Both Kinds of Bread | Food is a great opportunity to introduce culture and new countries to our family. What better way to learn about oppressed people groups or impoverished areas or intriguing cultures than by getting a small taste of how other people eat and maybe live? Food opens the door to the rest of the world and makes room for perspective, one of the best gifts we can offer our family. Our dinner table can become a pulpit where we open God’s Word and compare and contrast and consider truth with a verse here and Bible story there. It’s not about quantity (and with kids, it’s often not about quality), it’s about consistency. Breaking Holy Bread at the table is a significant way to say to our children–this matters as much as eating. It’s imperfect and messy, and it’s important. It’s life.

3. The Table is Where We Talk About Current Issues (or the latest kid’s movie) | Gathering around the table affords us the chance to talk. Sometimes it’s goofy and silly and seemingly insignificant. (Don’t believe that.) But some nights, it’s family communion where we connect with each other and God on a deep level. When we make this time a priority, we make room for this to happen. Talking about our day at school and work one day leads into praying about the bully on the playground and the stress of a tough boss on another.  When we linger at the table and lay our thoughts and opinions on it, it becomes the perfect place to talk about what’s going on in our world.

4. The Table is Where We Teach Absolute Truth | Truth has become a bad word in our culture where nothing is absolute and standards are doubled and everything is subjective.  Murder is okay inside the womb, but not out. We have freedom to live however we want, unless our religious convictions make someone uncomfortable.  “God’s word is truth.” (John 17:17) If we explain to our children what the Bible says about right from wrong, we are teaching them truth that doesn’t change.

5. The Table is Where We Learn to Love | The table is where we model manners to our children. It’s where we teach babies basic communication and toddlers courtesy. The table is a place of comfort with favorite foods that remind us of home and fond memories we carry with us as adults. It’s the place we learn to take care of and love other people.  When absolute truth is taught and love isn’t, judgmental and pious Christians are fostered. But when we teach and exemplify love of God and others (especially to those we don’t agree with), over our own opinions and desires, we raise kids who change the world.

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Our Top 15 Family Movie Night Picks


I let my kids have pajama and movie days regularly. Because summer. But with two teens and a third grader, sometimes it’s challenging to find a suitable movie that everyone can enjoy. I can only do so many cartoons. That’s why I love a good family movie night at our house. Even though it often involves compromise, it’s a good excuse to spend time together. My kids love piling in my bed with extra blankets and plenty of popcorn.
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And if there’s popcorn involved, I’m there. I don’t know about you, but I’m always filtering, double-checking and monitoring what my kids are watching. We have kids zone brought to you by XFINITY, available with all X1 systems, is a great option that gives kids control of the remote and parents peace of mind. kids zone on the X1 operating system by XFINITY is a safe and secure destination for kids (2-12) to independently browse and watch their favorite movies and shows. They are branded age appropriate by Common Sense Media. Plus it’s completely customizable. It’s the safe way to let kids watch TV these days.

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The other day my three children were trying to decide (also called “arguing”) which movie to watch when I suggested the first movies that popped into my head: “What about Flubber? Sound of Music? or Hook?” They looked at me like I was an alien. “Mom, what is Flubber?”my son asked. You guys. It’s moments like these that I feel like a failure. I, mean, Flubber is a classic, right? “Is ‘Sound of Music Hook’ good? I’ve never heard of that one,” my second grader asked. Crickets. I quickly jotted down some of the older movies we have loved:

  1. Wizard of Oz
  2. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  3. Inspector Gadget
  4. Sound of Music
  5. Lassie Come Home
  6. Tangled
  7. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  8. Flipper
  9. Mary Poppins
  10. Hook
  11. Narnia
  12. Flubber
  13. Freaky Friday
  14. Finding Nemo
  15. Up

I think our movie days and family nights are planned for quite some time now. And I love that every one of these can be found on kids zone brought to you by XFINITY–plus another 6500 choices. Trust what your kids are watching. Sit back, relax, eat some popcorn and watch them fall in love with the movies you already love!