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.


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?


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.

This Just Makes Me Happy

While my teens were at youth camp this weekend, we turned our beige walls gray. And I decided to rehang all my favorite pieces of art and inspiration together to create a gallery wall.

Every time I walk in the living room, I smile.

It tells the story of our lives:


1. The REDEEMED letters are my motto. This is my family’s word. We are a broken mess. But God.

2. The old white window frames are from a building that was being torn down in a town we lived in more than 13 years ago. It was a desperate season in our marriage and we’ve carried these old windows everywhere we’ve gone as a testimony of what God can do with something that seems useless.

3. A picture of the first 12 rescued girls at Mercy House. This picture is a constant reminder to pray.

4.  The word thanks underneath it. Because yes. We have so much to be grateful for.

5. This chalkboard art (that matches the tattoo on my foot) is one of my favorite verses.

6. It sits next to my favorite piece of art “Heart and Globe.” I love this because it shows God’s heart for the world.

7. This framed quote.

8. An eclectic license plate USA map because we love to travel.

9. The first 12 miracle babies of Mercy House. When I doubt and my faith is shaky, this picture reminds me that He can make the impossible possible.

10. This is my favorite picture of my kids.

What inspires you? What’s on your wall?

What Kids Are Really Doing Online (& Why We Can’t Ignore It)

When this email hit my inbox, it made me sick to my stomach:

My second grader spent the night at a friend’s house last week. The girls were innocently playing games on the computer and one things led to another and they typed in the word “boobs” on the Internet to see what would come up. My daughter and her friend were exposed to very graphic porn. She can’t stop crying and she can’t sleep. We are devastated.”

The blog reader who sent me this email asked me to tell parents to do whatever necessary to protect their children from the loss of innocence her daughter is now experiencing.

I hate pornography. I hate how it degrades women and men. I hate how it destroys innocence. I hate how it distorts our culture’s view of sex. I hate how the pornography industry tries to convince our culture that porn is okay.

And I really hate how easy it is to access.

I sent a compassionate response to the mom without judgement because it could happen to any of us. Without safe guards in place, it could happen in any of our houses, to any of our kids.

It takes active, involved, persistent work on our part to protect our kids from this kind of exposure. I asked a group of moms out of curiosity at the playground the last week of school how they handled monitoring and restricting their tweens and teens Internet usage. I’m always trying to reevaluate how we handle it. They looked at me like I was an alien.

What Kids Are Really Doing Online (& Why We Can't Ignore It)

“Aren’t you worried about them seeing things you don’t want them to see?” I asked.

One mom replied, “Oh, I trust my kids. They would never look at anything inappropriate.”

I thought of some of the hard conversations I’ve had with my teens and I knew this mom might be as shocked as I was at this viral article last week that describes in (warning) graphic detail exactly what  kids are seeing and learning on the Internet. “Kids are learning from the 21st century’s version of sex education class, the internet; a more enlightening and forthcoming source than nervous parents and teachers. But these lessons are a dangerous mix of misinformation and distorted images of sexuality…” source

The best way to guarantee our kids are exposed to inappropriate content is to do absolutely nothing to stop it.

1. Don’t restrict or monitor computer, tablet or smartphone time.

2. Don’t filter your internet or ask family and friends home your kids frequent if they do.

3. Don’t talk to them about the dangers online.

4. Don’t talk to them about lust, temptations and the lure of pornography.

Sadly, I believe at some point in time, many kids–not matter what we do– will be exposed to porn and content we’d rather them not see or read. In our Internet-ready culture, I think it’s probably impossible to completely remove it from their world. Research shows that 92% of boys will be exposed to online pornography by age 16. Unless they live in a bubble, they could see it on a friend’s phone at school, church or homeschool group (believe me, it’s happened). They could stumble upon it innocently researching a project or turn to Google out of curiosity.

But if we have already had important conversations about it, they will be prepared and know what to do.

When it comes to Internet safety, don’t be passive. Besides filtering the Internet, talk to your kids and establish some guidelines.

Younger kids:

  • Tell them there are dangerous things on the Internet that aren’t appropriate for them to see.
  • Advise your children not to click off games or movies to other links.
  • Keep the computer or screen in an open place (not in their rooms).
  • Teach them Google isn’t a Dictionary.
  • Disable search engines or install safety browsers like Safe Eyes. Restrict Google images.
  • Teach your kids about healthy/unhealthy relationships between men and women (modeling it is a great way to teach it)
  • Tell them if they ever see anything that seems wrong or that they don’t understand, to get you immediately.

Tweens and Teens:

  • Talk openly about the dangers of pornography online. It’s as important as having a sex talk with our kids.
  • Keep an on-going open conversation about lust and sex and the lure of porn.
  • Teach them God’s standard of sex and His design for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to put restrictions on their devices, including smartphones.
  • Extend grace. Our kids are sinful just like we are. They are going to mess up and give into temptation. If we freak out, they will be hesitant to confide in us. Remind them we are on their side and while we want them to live purely, we also know they are human.
  • Privacy is a privilege in our house. We reserve the right to check your phone, computer, etc if we feel like there’s a reason to
  • Remind them that everything they put on the Internet or send in a text is never really private.
  • Don’t expect your tween/teen to bring this subject up or share a lot of their feelings on it.

It’s hard for everyone to talk about these things, but that’s exactly why we need to.


Helpful Resources:

Preparing Your Son For Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity by Steve Arterburn

Preparing Your Daughter For Every Woman’s Battle: Creative Conversations about Sexual and Emotional Integrity by Shannon Ethridge

Passport to Purity-a life-changing getaway with your preteen.

(Click for a more extensive list of recommended resources dealing with pornography)

31 Ideas to Encourage Your Kids On A Bad Day

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with a new friend and talk about life, purpose, parenting and Africa (she currently lives in Uganda with her family). Janel is one of those people who inspires. She worked at Family Life Today for years, served on the team at NavPress that wrote the Message Bible and  has important stuff to say. My kids have had their fair share of bad days around here and I’m taking notes on her guest post that she is sharing here today.  

by Janel of A Generous Grace

We’ve all had them, and have certainly been the object of them: one of those days. Ugh. Could be a grade on a test (ouch), flushing the family goldfish, a snub by that boy (you know the one), no nap, or good old-fashioned waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Some are legit, some…not-so-legit.

Of course, I have my own days like this (although admittedly, the goldfish thing might feel like one less responsibility. Is that terrible?). On my more legit days—and a handful of the not-so-legit ones— my subtly fantastic husband may occasionally have brought home a skinny decaf Caramel Frappuccino with whip (in my pre-Africa days). Some days, he’s my rearview mirror, alerting me to the wake I’m leaving. On most days, he pecks me on the forehead and wraps me in a hug—despite that the reason for my general malaise might just be that string of bad days at a particular time of the month.

Because what we, or our kids, experience is still a call to grace, even when the reasons are poor.

So how do we deal?

Interacting with our kids on their bad days is a tutorial to them on how God deals with our bad days. So maybe that’s a good place to start: How do you think God responds?

Well. We know He’s faithful. Gracious. Compassionate. And still holy—i.e., He still loves enough not to say, Shoot. Go ahead and give into temptation. By all means, trample your family. (Translation: Your kid’s anger or weepiness doesn’t run the house. Self-control on bad days is a pretty core lesson.)

In using these ideas, consider

  • The depth and nature of what’s going on. Do we shake it off, or process this? Don’t add unnecessary drama, prevent your child from learning perseverance, or slap an emotional Band-Aid on a gouge that should be disinfected. But sometimes we just need a reboot, folks.
  • The heart issues at hand (make sure to check out #7).
  • What’s grace look like here? Does grace mean creating some allowances for a day that just went terrible—or the “kindness that leads to repentance” by dealing head-on with some sin? Pray through it, remembering that “mercy triumphs over judgment”.
  • The long-term. I remember my mom, in dealing with one of my sisters’ teenage slumps, being careful to address her character, but not crush her spirit. I think the Bible backs this up: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4). On the whole, are you the “no” voice in your child’s life, or the one in their corner?

The goal’s not to coddle our kids. It’s to create a remarkable environment of grace, and an atmosphere that helps kids process their emotion honestly, prayerfully, and thoughtfully—or move on, whichever is appropriate. Either way, it’s an opportunity for everyone in the house to love each other a little more.

31 Ideas  to Encourage Your Kids On a Bad Day

  1. Stop by on the way home from school for her favorite beverage.
  2. No matter how he’s treated you—look him in the eyes and gently say, “I’m sorry you had a rough day.”
  3. Bake some cookies together (or just for her!).
  4. Make an impromptu outing: mini-golfing, bowling, to the park to feed the ducks.
  5. Cuddle on the sofa for awhile. Talking optional.
  6. Read some books together.
  7. Use the opportunity to understand your child better. What’s at the core of their frustration or hurt? What’s the loss that they feel? Are they simply fatigued, in pain, hungry, or dealing with other physical causes? Did they lose face, approval, acceptance? Have they fallen short of their own standards? Consider the heart of your child’s bad day so you can love them even better and pray more intentionally. (See here for more insight on understanding your child’s “holes”).
  8. Go for a walk together.
  9. Give him space.
  10. Commit to yourself to only completely gracious responses. Read: You’re not a doormat, but you’re not going to take the bait of her anger. Remember: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
  11. Keep a copy of a hilarious/feel-good movie in your mental back pocket. Pop some popcorn, grab some chocolate, and veg out.
  12. Ask wise, compassionate questions—and listen.
  13. Before attempting to “fix”, ask permission.
  14. Rub her back, or paint her toes.
  15. Take him on a casual date: to get milkshakes, see a movie, grab an appetizer.
  16. Create a fun family night, maybe with a little distracting competition like a game night tournament.
  17. Allow an evening without chores, dish duty, etc.
  18. Brief your spouse before he or she comes home, to prepare your spouse to be understanding—and to unite on your approach.
  19. Ask gently to pray with them (i.e. this is not an opportunity to sermonize).
  20. Pray for them on your own—and for a godly response.
  21. When appropriate—and not in front of the frustrated child—explain to siblings that she’s having a rough day, and ask for extra kindness, space, and patience for their brother or sister.
  22. Hold your ground. This may or may not be the time to lay down the law—but it’s also not the time to lay down in front of your kid’s wrecking ball of a temper. Calmly say, “I know you’re having a day. But you can’t talk to me [or my son, or my daughter, or my spouse] like that. I respect your frustration, but you need to see this as a warning to have self-control.”
  23. Time to channel your inner [insert name of kid]: What does he need when he’s fried? Think about what energizes your kid. Pray for wisdom to love him well.
  24. Make sure you address heart issues, and not just gloss over junk. Is today the day they need to be dealt with? Ask God for discernment and generous wisdom (see James 1:5-6).
  25. Add one of her favorite dishes or desserts to dinner.
  26. Suggest a warm bubble bath.
  27. Use Scripture well (using it as a club doesn’t count…). Encourage your kid with God’s truth on a day when the world’s lies can feel overwhelming.
  28. If this is a consistently recurring event, consider preemptive measures. Is your child getting enough sleep, or having enough down time? Do they have sufficient coping mechanisms for stress? Is this a character issue, or even a health issue (low iron, poor nutrition, hormones, depression, etc.)? Is it time to speak with a professional?
  29. Play some jazzy tunes on the way home.
  30. If it won’t seem inappropriate (i.e. if you’re just trying to shift moods), relay a hilarious anecdote.
  31. Push a note under the door, or send a text: Sorry you’re having a tough one. Praying for you—and love you no matter what.

9 Ways Families Can Impact The World Right Where They Are

It only takes a couple of minutes of watching the nightly news to recognize our world is a scary place.

I was on my way home from Ethiopia with my daughter when 20 Ethiopian men lost their lives on a beach in Libya. Their crime? The same as mine. They were Christians.

I have to point out the elephant in the room and ask: Do we really care?

I loved walking the streets of Ethiopia and visiting groups of women we are partnering with through Fair Trade Friday. It feels safer than Kenya. It’s not as heavy or oppressive, I whispered to my daughter as we stood in a dump as tall as a mountain and held hands with children who were digging for food.


Now, I’m sitting in my home safe and sound and one country I visited is in mourning and the other one is burying hundreds of college students massacred by terrorists.

And honestly, I don’t ever want to leave home again.

I’m finding my rhythm, catching up on hot baths, laundry and sweet tea. It’s easy to slip back into the comfort of easy living.

I know God is not safe. He asks us to go further than we think we can go and do things we think we cannot and believe in the impossible.

Sometimes following Jesus is scary as hell, even when God asks us to stay right where we are.

I find staying is as hard as going some days. I’m lulled into thinking I’m safe. I’m sucked into the culture of more stuff, bigger and better and I find it’s actually easy to forget how the rest of the world is living.


Or dying.

And then some days, I’m haunted by the suffering of people around the globe. They aren’t really different from my family. There are moms wondering what’s for dinner. And dads who travel to look for work to take care of their families.  But what can my family really do to help the poor and oppressed, to remember the persecuted church suffering when my own government mostly ignores it?

And how in the world can I raise kids who are grateful for what they have when they don’t even realize the freedom they enjoy?

It’s a question we have to ask ourselves in our entitled culture.

Because while Christians are losing their heads in Libya, it’s too easy to turn off the news and pretend the most important thing on our list is shopping for summer clothes or deciding which Vacation Bible School to attend.

This week, Glen Beck (like him or not), said this and I agree, “So often we cry out for justice. We raise our hands on Sunday. We call for the enemy to be crushed, but then we retreat into our humble abodes, castles by global standards, and go about our daily lives. And we get busy, honestly busy, wrapped up in our own day and our own chaos, honestly busy, and we forget that the second part of justice is mercy and compassion. That’s our job, to show mercy, to have compassion, to kindle it in our heart and the hearts of others…. [Why do we do nothing?] We feel helpless and we don’t know what to do, so we do nothing.”

9 Ways Families Can Impact The World Right Where They Are

Some believers are called to go. Some are called to stay. But we are all called to do something. Nothing is not an option for my family or yours.  And there are many things we can do with our families to actively become a part of this story God is writing in our tumultuous world.

1. We Can Pray For The World :: Prayer is generally first on our list, but last on our lips. When we get up in the morning or lay down at night, when we eat or worship, walk or workout, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. For years, off and on, this book has educated our family on how to pray for the world.

2. We Can Hang a World Map :: It may sound simplistic, but when my son was a baby, we wallpapered his room with an enormous world map. What started out as decor, turned into a resource. For years, we congregated in his room and searched the life-size map for countries we learned or talked about. And before I traveled across the ocean the first time in 2010, we all put our fingers on the word Kenya and prayed together. I have a globe collection and maps hang all over my house now. Hang a map in a high traffic spot in your house and refer to it. Pick a country and pray for it. You never know where it will lead you (without even leaving your home).

3. We Can Host a Global Party In Our Home :: One of the reasons I love Fair Trade Friday so much is because it is empowering and employing around 1000 women in 16 countries–all in the name of Jesus through on-the-ground faith-based non-profits. And now, Mercy House is expanding our home party line and taking applications to host a free global Fair Trade Friday party in your home, so you can see and touch and buy products made by women all around the world. I hugged and loved on women in two of those countries this week and with tears in their eyes, they thanked me for a job that is providing food and rent. This is a beautiful way to see the world and change it. Learn more about hosting a party today.

4. We Can Talk About World Events :: Our first inclination is to protect our kids from the bad in the world, but this doesn’t always mean we should shield them from current world events, especially if they are old enough to read, overhear the news or attend school. Silence can breed fear and ignorance. Educating them is different than scaring them. When we prayed for Ethiopia last night at dinner, we talked about recent events and cleared up misconceptions. I’d rather my kids hear the truth from me than be afraid of what they overhear from someone else.

5. We Can Eat a Meal to Remember :: Whether it’s rice or beans on Mondays, a visit to a global food market in your town or an attempt at a new recipe for something you can’t pronounce, we can remember the world (and experience it), through food. Last week, my daughter and I sat in homes of women and ate our fill of injera and shiro. Yesterday, we attempted our first coffee ceremony and just the smell of the coffee I brought home, took me back to the small home where I was served with great love. I dare you to expose your kids to the world through their dinner plate.


6. We Can Complete a Family Service Project :: Last year, Mercy House mailed out 20,000 prayer bracelets as a reminder to pray for the most oppressed people group in the world: women. Your family can do something to support them! Order a kit for $10 today and share the bracelets with your family and friends. 100% of the proceeds go to help us reach women all around the globe.

7. We Can Redeem Consumerism :: Shopping is as much a part of our culture as tea is a part of Kenya. A couple of years ago, I would cringe when people referred to our consumerism.  Just look at the empty Lilly Pulitzer racks at Target. I can’t stop people from buying. I won’t even try. Instead, I want to challenge people to buy something that changes a life. Give a gift twice. Support a woman with a purchase. Teach your children that cheap things aren’t always free.

8. We Can Practice Compassion and Mercy :: When our family prayed for Ethiopian Christians this week, my husband reminded us we should also pray for the Islamic persecutors. We are tempted to ignore or be prejudiced against what we don’t understand. But we can show compassion and mercy to everyone. Especially those who are different than we are. Is there a better way for our family to shine Jesus than this? Child sponsorship is a beautiful place to start.

9. We Can’t Pretend For Another Minute That Our Freedom is Free :: Without a doubt, I believe perspective is the greatest gift we can give our children. If their only view is an entitled world where they get everything they want, we will most likely end up with entitled children. But if we are going to compare ourselves to those around us who have what we want, we also have to balance our view by comparing ourselves to those with less than us. This shift is eye-opening for our families. It’s where gratitude is born.

Do we really care? Can we really do something?

The answer is yes.

The Beauty of Unwrapping Christmas Every Day (Even the Ugly Ones)

I had grand plans for the first night of Advent.

Just imagine the setting with me: Holy Christmas music in the background, my family breaking bread together over a lovely home cooked meal, while we politely asked about each other’s day and write down a long list of our blessings. We would listen intently to the daily reading, reflect quietly as we pondered the truth and then gather around our Jesse tree to place the first ornament on it together.

But somehow on the first night of Advent, we ended up eating overpriced sandwiches at Schlotzsky’s across from our church because our kids were running late for youth group. We had a lovely family fight (complete with teen eye rolls, tween grumbling and whining from the whole lot) for good measure.  By the time I remembered the new Advent book I tucked into my purse at the last minute, I felt like a failure.

I’m pretty sure everyone sighed loudly when they saw it, too. Because failure is good at convincing us it’s too late, even before we even start.

Terrell pushed through and read Ann’s words aloud in that sandwich shop: “There was this family-Jesse’s family. A family that was like yours…a family that loved each other and hurt each other and forgave each other and failed each other. A family that failed God….They failed and fell and were like a fallen tree.”

I smiled at him as he read on about the miraculous shoot springing up from that hopeless family stump…”out of the stump came one tender branch that would grow right into a crown of thorns, right into a rugged cross, right into a ladder back to God….”

I swallowed down my frustration and in the first few sentences of this book, I didn’t remember my failure.

I remembered what God can do with it.

When we got home, I asked my baby to place the first Jesse tree ornament on the tree. There was no music and it was far from holy. And she reminded me twice she wasn’t a baby.

But even without the perfect setting, it was still important.

We can’t quit, even on the ugly days.

FullSizeRender 5

Because it’s not the gifts under the tree our children will remember–the must-have electronics, the hottest toys–it’s the traditions.

This week, she wanted the stockings hung in order, just so. She asked for loud Christmas music while we decorated the tree and she arranged and rearranged  Baby Jesus as the Star of Season- just like last year and the one before.


Traditions are more than hot chocolate while looking at Christmas lights or opening new matching pajamas on Christmas Eve while listening to Dad read The Night Before Christmas.

And that’s why we push through our failed plans and our own failures. Because traditions are the act of passing down what we believe to our children.

It’s not just a great idea; it’s a gift we give our kids. We practice and retell truth and it works it’s way into their hearts.



And there is no better opportunity to teach these important truths this time of year.

Because the Gift has come.

FullSizeRender 4

Christmas is for The Unwrapping.

More than anything, I long to slow down the rush of the Season, to linger, to focus on the meaning behind the traditions. I want to remember why we remember and I want to pass the Truth to my children.

FullSizeRender 3

Counting down the days to Christmas isn’t just a fun family activity. It’s not just another thing to add to our list. Celebrating Advent makes us reflect on the meaning behind the grand tree and gifts we give to each other. It makes us pause in the craziness of the season and remember the reason for it.

FullSizeRender 2

Advent is the best tradition to unwrap Christmas with our family because it’s the best way to pass down Truth.


It’s the retelling of the Greatest Story. And it’s not just for the first 24 days of December.

It’s the intentional, meaningful, day-by-day unwrapping of the Greatest Gift ever given.

Even on the ugly days.

Especially then.


The book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
The ornaments pictured above. Or download ornaments.

[This post is sponsored by Tyndale Publishers. All opinions and ideas are mine.]

25 Intentional Ways to Enjoy Fall With Your Family

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love everything about the changing colors, the cooler weather, the comfort food, and any excuse to wear boots. Oh, and I enjoy being outdoors with my family. The days are long, but the years are short. Let’s make them count. Here are 25 meaningful ways to enjoy them (some affiliate links included):

25 Intentional ways to enjoy fall with your family

  1. Our number one favorite fall activity for one-on-one time? We lay in this together. Oh my goodness. Every family needs a giant hammock. But an old blanket in the yard will work too. It’s the perfect place to whisper and read books and be together.
  2. Go on a walk, hunt for leaves, acorns and fall flare
  3. Get outside-toss a football or chase each other. We gave this very fun outdoor game to my husband for his birthday. It’s a favorite for all ages!
  4. Create this [framed leaf art] or make a nature garland with your finds.
  5. Have each family member write down what they are thankful for every night of November and put the secret notes in a jar on your table. Read them on Thanksgiving.
  6. Make applesauce or something apple-y. Apple crisp, bob for apples, This little toolmakes it easy.
  7. Read outside. (I love catching my kids doing this!) IMG_7322
  8. This activity is a huge Thanksgiving memory-maker.
  9. Visit a local farmer’s market. Eat fresh and choose a new veggie (our latest: Spaghetti squash. This healthy recipe.)
  10. Invite friends over for s’mores. I love this s’mores in a jar idea!
  11. Have your family devotion outside. (I love these printable family gratitude devotions for November) Anytime we can read a few scriptures or an inspiring story away from our normal routine, we engage so much more with our kids. Some days we lay on the trampoline or just take a long walk and talk.
  12. Rake the leaves just to jump in them.
  13. Go camping. I’m not much of a “happy camper.” I love my bed too much. But we try and go at least once a year and I’m never sorry when we do.
  14. Bake bread. Make bread bowl soup (kids love it!)
  15. Create a family tree (get messy) fall hand tree art.
  16. Go on a family bike ride.
  17. Make and play the Gratitude Game
  18. Collect acorns, put them in a simple jar and call it a centerpiece. Lovely.
  19. Create a thankful tree.
  20. Write in your Gratitude: A Journal
  21. Pick something from this list to do this season.
  22. Visit an orchard and pick apples.
  23. Bake a pie from scratch.
  24. Take a family picture (I just told my husband I want to keep the tripod in the trunk for impromptu photos on some of our fall hikes)
  25. Don’t feel pressure or guilt to DO anything on this list. Just be together and be grateful.

edited post from the archives

I’m Still Not Brave

I have lists for my lists, a stocked pantry, a few meals in the freezer and a detailed schedule to help my hubby juggle the kids, home and school in-between working, while I’m in Kenya working at Mercy House.

I’ve had a lump in my throat for days.

This morning before I head to the airport, I’m hiding love notes for my family.


We just added 3 new pregnant girls in the house, so that makes 11 girls, 8 babies and 3 on the way (one of the girls is 38 weeks pregnant!) It’s rainy season and traffic is at an all-time high and there hasn’t been power at the maternity home in 3 days. I have a layover in Turkey (the country) and will be missing 2 nights of sleep.

This is the 4th time I’ve traveled across the ocean to Africa and I still don’t feel brave.

[I’m about to get vulnerable. I hope that’s okay.]

As I went over a list with my husband yesterday morning, I stopped and I gave a voice to the struggle, “Will this ever get easier? In 5 years, will it still be this hard to go there, to stay here and do this work? Will my heart always be half-as-willing to follow God?”

Because y’all. I’m still just that little mom who said yes to a big dream.

Then he said something I didn’t expect, “Last night, I felt the same way.” He’s in the middle of gathering tax info for our accountant, being stretched paper thin, frustrated with computer issues, overwhelmed. “I want to help rescue girls, I want babies to be born, I want that good part, but the rest…”

His words, although raw, were comforting, because I want that part, too. But we both know as we’ve counted the cost these past 3 years, the good part doesn’t happen without the hard.

I carry anxiety pills in my pocket for traveling and I feel unqualified and overwhelmed at the task. I miss my family with every breath and sometimes I’m so scared I can’t stop shaking inside.

I’m good at organizing my family, carline pickup, making dinner (well, sort of). I’m good at mothering and helping moms, but running Mercy House continually stretches me further than I’ve ever been. As my husband held me, I whispered, “I just wish I was more brave.”

He said, “Maybe that’s why God called you, us. Because we’re not. But he is everything we’re not and everything we need.”

If I have learned anything in this journey, it’s this: the good  makes the hard worth it.

Meet our three newest girls at Mercy House:

Primary school and new girls 2013 139

I’m thankful I’m not alone. Neither are you.

“What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Gen. 28:15

I’m taking you with me. I pray you’re brave enough to go.