Separated By Water

8,731.

That’s how many miles away my husband is from home as I type these words.

We are oceans apart, separated by water.

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He is at our home-away-from-home in Kenya with a group of donors on a vision trip.

Sunday, this happened:

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12 of the teen mom residents graduated and will begin to transition into the next phase of their lives in 2016.

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Yesterday, his group visited one of the world’s largest slums, to the home of Pauline, one of the sponsored graduates who attends vocational school and leads a Fair Trade Friday group of twenty women who live in a nearby slum.

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And then his group journeyed the tragic and heartbreaking road to Lillian’s home, the youngest resident at the maternity homes.

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Sometimes I just don’t have the words to describe someone else’s daily reality.

But the main reason he’s there is because of water.

Clean water is more precious than gold when it’s limited.

The homes that we began with Maureen in 2010 spend more $1500 a month on water.

The current underground tank  holds 21,000 gallons but it’s never more than one-fourth full. Water is controlled by the local municipality and there aren’t many wells in the area. Water is constantly shut on and off, rationed and it often runs out.

When it does, it’s trucked in at a high cost. And there are times that it’s even collected and distributed in jerry cans.

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With mommas and babies and staff, there are more than 40 depending on water in our homes.

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For more than 5 years, Mercy House has been working in Kenya to come up with a long term sustainable plan that would help support the maternity homes outside of Nairobi.  And after much research and planning, it has been decided that water is the life-giving answer.

Several months ago, when I was in Kenya, our Director’s handed over a geologist’s report that proved one of our properties is sitting on a natural water resource. And that’s why we want to drill a deep bore hole that will provide water–if we had our own water source, not only for these homes in Kenya, but for approximately 100 families in the surrounding community who struggle to provide it for their families.

We dream of providing a consistent, affordable water resource that could change this community.

Water is life.

Unless it’s unclean.

Can you imagine being separated from the opportunity to have clean, consistent water?

Separated by water.

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Learn more about our efforts to raise the remaining $25,000 to bring water to those we love so that we can introduce Living water to those He loves.

Water may separate us.

But it doesn’t have to.

10 Truths to Share With Our Kids As They Go Back to School

She sharpened every pencil and carefully placed them in her new pencil bag. She looked up and smiled.

“I can’t wait!” my brand new third grader said. She was glowing.

About that time, my 8th grade son came down the stairs for his Meet the Teacher in a stained shirt, wrinkled shorts and uncombed hair, and said, “Oh, I can wait.”

My teen daughter got up from the table and held up her hand as if to say, “Don’t even ask.”

I didn’t.

Ah. Back to school.

It’s amazing how quick kids lose that new school shine. And sort of heart breaking. My son became a man over the summer and my teen daughter is talking about SAT tests and pours over a college scholarship book for fun reading. One minute they are excited about all a new year holds and the next they are close to tears with the trauma of Who will I sit by at lunch?

It’s enough to make a momma long for more summer. You know, unless that actually means more summer. Talk about mixed feelings.

This morning, I dropped three nervous kids off at three schools. I felt relief and sorrow all rolled up into what I think is best known as motherhood. Gah, this is hard.

I’m just as excited and nervous to hear about their days–who they ended up sitting by at lunch (this can always go either way), what teacher they love, what class they dread, what friend made their day better.

10 truths for our kids as they go back to school

Good days are coming. So are bad ones. And I plan to remind them this school year of these 10 truths, during both:

1. God sees you

When kids hit their tween and teen years, they usually just want to blend it. They don’t want to stand out. But sometimes when they get what they want, they don’t feel seen at all. Because at the same time, they long to be heard and known. They are a lot like us. I think a core truth we need to reiterate to our kids is that God sees them–all the time, everywhere. Not in a creepy or judgmental way, but in a you matter more than you ever know way. 

2. You’re not alone

I’m in the season of door slamming and room retreating with a couple of my children. But I’ve learned just because they crave solitude sometimes, it doesn’t mean they want to be alone. Our kids need to know that wherever they go, whatever they do, even if we don’t understand, we will walk through their highs and lows with them.

3. You can be yourself

My daughter’s words felt like a stone in my heart, “I’m looking forward to school, I just hate that everyone judges you when you don’t conform.” I think there’s a lot of cultural truth in that statement. But I still want my kids to know that it’s okay to be themselves-especially when it’s not the norm. But, hey, we all know that’s a tough truth to embrace when you’re a kid or a, uh, 42 year old mom. God created us uniquely different. We were created to be different and that’s okay.

4. Be bold

I’m raising a houseful of introverts and sometimes it’s plain painful watching my kids navigate life. (Probably because it’s like watching myself). But being quiet or even shy has nothing to do with being bold. I want them to know what they believe and stand up for it when the time comes.

5. Fear is normal but fear not

I don’t think my kids slept a wink last night. They were excited and anxious and maybe a little worried. Anxiety and worry are types of fear and I want them to know they can resist them, even in the scariest situations. God tells us to fear not–not because school, work or that Algebra test isn’t scary, but because He is with us.

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6. You are more than what you wear

While my kids slept last night, I taped encouraging notes and these scriptures in places where they work on their appearance (mirrors, closet doors, etc). The pressure to look and dress a certain way in school is real. And it can be a struggle that isolates and destroys self esteem. I want them to know who they are on the inside is more than what is showing on the outside. I want them to know they are more than a bad hair day or the latest trend.

7. I may not understand, but I will stand with you

The other day my daughter said, “You just don’t understand how I feel!” I thought about her words and my temptation to respond with, “Yes, I do.” But when I stopped and really thought about it, I told her she was right. In her world, in her heart, I didn’t understand everything she was feeling. But that didn’t mean I didn’t want to, that didn’t mean I wouldn’t stand with her while she figured it out. Sometimes that’s all our kids need to know.

8. Normal is overrated

Upstream parenting in a downstream world is hard. And if it’s challenging for us, it might just be brutal for our kids. Normal is easy. Being yourself is hard. But it’s worth it. I want to encourage and inspire my kids to go against-the-flow. Sometimes it’s just a small thing and sometimes it’s big. Every step in the opposite direction matters.

9. One friend is enough

The other day my son and I ran into a childhood friend at the store. It had been a pivotal friendship for my son back in the second grade. You see, his friend had some severe special needs and had been integrated into my son’s class for part of the day. I will never forget when my little guy was given a Citizenship award for including and mentoring this kid. He was confused what all the fuss was about and said, “I shouldn’t get an award for being a friend.” I want my kids to always, always go back for the one, to look for the person by themselves at lunch or on the bus. I want them to know that one good friend is enough. It might just be a friendship they will never forget.

10. This will pass

Everybody has bad days. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that my kids have them–just like I do. And they need a safe place to fall apart. I decided a long time ago, I want that place to be home (and not school, church, or with someone else). I want them to know that their current struggle will pass, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important today. And if it’s a really really bad day, they might just get a free pass to spend it with me.

Happy first day of school, kids! I can’t wait to hear all about it.

How Then Should We Respond (to the Falling of Josh Duggar)?

I never got into the Duggar’s TV show.

Maybe it’s because the thought of tater tot casserole makes me queasy or because I stopped watching most reality shows after Season 2 of Survivor. But mostly, it was because I didn’t identify with the large, homeschooling, “good” family. (They just made the unruly, eye-rolling, sarcastic people in my house look even more unrighteous.) While I’m sure there was some common ground, I could only see the things we didn’t have in common.

But when I read Josh Duggar’s statement yesterday, admitting he not only struggled with a pornography addiction, but was also unfaithful to his young wife and children–all this after he resigned from his faith-based spokesperson job because of his wrong-doing when he was younger, I didn’t rejoice. I felt ill. Knowing what his family is enduring is heartbreaking. And I don’t have to be a “fan” to recognize it.

No, I didn’t gloat. My first urge was to shout, “Man down!”

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It’s what I screamed ten years ago when I lived my own personal hell after my husband confessed his on-going struggle with pornography. (The sin was different by comparison, but earth shattering is earth shattering). I knew the other side of my husband-the one who tenderly loved his family and worked his tail off to provide for us, the one who had just left his youth pastoring career. I knew he deeply loved God and wanted to make a difference in the world. It was hard to reconcile this dark side of him–the one that was trapped in a secret sin and was willing to lose everything in order to know true freedom.

My marriage and home became a gut-wrenching private hell. (If you read Rhinestone Jesus, you know the whole story). But we found Jesus together and for the first time, I knew and loved all the layers of my husband. I also learned that my greatest act wasn’t righteousness; it was forgiveness. Was my husband a hypocrite? Maybe. But sin has a way of deceiving and convincing us there is no way out. It made all the difference to me that he confessed his sin instead of being caught or outed.

It’s hard to know if Josh’s Duggar contrition this week came because he got caught or because he was truly repentant or because he has nothing left to lose. We might never know. While I think it matters privately to his wife and family, it’s really none of our business. This is ground zero and hopefully redemption and help will follow.

Should the TV show be off the air? Absolutely. (Maybe the real question is should it have ever been on TV?) Should this family be taken off a pedestal? Definitely. (All families are messy, even the “good” ones). Should we pick up a rock and join the mob? Only if we’re perfect. Should we worry about our own hypocrisy? Probably. Should we get on our knees and pray for our world? You bet. Should we avoid tater tot casserole at all costs? You know it.

The world may never understand that Christians are a mess of sinful humanity trying to follow Jesus, but they will see that we eat our own and wound our wounded.

It’s easy to use “love” as an action word for our lost world–those we don’t agree with in alternative lifestyles and in abortion clinics, but it’s harder to show it to people who are more like us than we care to admit.

How then should we respond to the falling of Josh Duggar or anyone else? Our heart should cry, “Man down! Family shattered! God help them! God help us!”

Because someone probably shouted it for us.

The Six Words That Can Change Everything At Home

I didn’t mean to pick a fight.

But it turns out I’m super talented at turning little things into a big deal.

We argued for 15 minutes in the kitchen about buying a new printer for Mercy House (that we needed, but I thought was too expensive).

Yeah. That should make you feel better about your last marriage squabble.

When I had a chance to step back and peel away the layers of my anger, I didn’t see anger at all; I saw fear.

Because the argument wasn’t really about if we could afford to buy another printer for our non-profit. And it wasn’t really about taking a step of faith to hire a second full time person that same week …

It was the fear that came with it.

But sometimes I take the long route to get to the point.

6 words that can change everything

 

And the argument with my daughter the day before wasn’t really about her not having anything to wear, it was about the way she felt about herself in the her clothes that day.

The misunderstanding between my son and I wasn’t really about him not wanting to practice archery, it was about him losing his coach and the grief that is now wrapped up in the sport for him.

There are 6 words that shortcut us to the point of pain within our family. I learned them on a therapist’s couch (yep, I highly recommend counseling for couples and families during seasons of transition, difficulty or just because you want to be the healthiest version of your family that you can be) and they can not only diffuse a situation, they can help us help each other.

And they are (said tenderly, in love, maybe with a hand on an arm or a step towards our loved one):

What do you need from me?

When our teen is angry masking hurt, the question can help them open up.

When our spouse is upset, but really hiding fear, the question can cut to the root.

When our child is having a hard time expressing themselves…

Isn’t that what we all want? To be understood and heard…

“This isn’t about a printer. I just need you to tell me that God’s got this, that He will keep providing the money we need. . .”

When my husband heard what I needed, he gave it to me.

So, the next time you don’t know what to say, try these six words:

What do you need from me?

The answer might surprise you.

To The Mom Who Wants To Give Her Children The World

I spent nearly 5 long years trying to become a momma.

When the miracle of life finally bloomed in my womb, I had one desire: I wanted to give my baby girl the world. I wanted her to have everything.

And I spent the first 5 years of her life (and her baby brother’s, born at her heels) doing just that. We had good intentions that resulted in a child-centered home.

It was a naive desire born of love, but I quickly found out that giving my kids everything they wanted (including my focus and attention), created an atmosphere of entitlement for them and misery for me. The more they had, the more they wanted, the worse I felt.

I sat across from my dear friend at Taco Bell the other day, while our kids sat behind us, and devoured massive quantities of tacos and we talked about our busy lives.

We had spent the morning together and the entire time my phone buzzed and pinged and emails piled up. I shoved my phone (which is like a mobile office for a work-at-home mom) into my purse and said, “I think I might have been a better mother before I started Mercy House. Now, I’m just so busy and my kids don’t get my full attention.”

I thought back to those earlier years where my entire focus had been my kids. I was intentional with them, but something was missing. Our lives were focused on ourselves. In an effort to give them everything (basically what other friends gave their kids and made me feel less guilty) I was really filling their lives with a lot of nothing.

My wise friend raised her eyebrows and said, “You mean before you starting serving others, you only served your family? Don’t you mean you had a child-centered home and now you don’t?”

It was exactly what I needed to hear to shake off the momentary guilt.

Because we are trying to give our kids exactly what they need and it isn’t more stuff- it’s perspective.

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If I give them anything, this is it: The understanding that serving is the tool that teaches us that life isn’t about us.

When we lower ourselves to serve others, we are giving our kids something priceless that money can’t buy.

Last week, I read a disturbing article about another mother who wanted to give her daughter the world, too. It’s universal to want to provide for our children. But instead of better brands and the latest technology, it was provision like food and protection against terrorists. She couldn’t do either and helplessly watched as her 11 year old was kidnapped and forced into the life of a sexual slave to an evil man who called the rape of her daughter an act of worship to his god.

I haven’t been able to get that mom’s face out of my mind. We live in a world where our worst nightmare here has become a part of every day life there. We live in a world where the systematic rape of countless girls is called theology. And I have to wonder if I’m as committed to my own acts of worship. Maybe my sacrifice of praise should be remembering and responding to the throngs of helpless mothers who just want to protect and provide for their daughters.

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My kids aren’t the only ones who need perspective sometimes.

We are far from a perfect family. Last week, I sent a letter of apology to someone I hurt. I grounded one of my teens and scolded my youngest all the way to church. I stayed up too late binging on Netflix three days in a row and didn’t open my Bible once.  We mess up daily, and we keep finding God in the messes.

But we have seen the face of God–not in affluence or getting what we want, no. We have seen Him in lowering ourselves to serve those who cannot help themselves.

And if we can give our kids this view-knees on the ground, lives poured out, we really can give them the world.

Because that is giving them everything.

Here are 9 ways to respond as a family, right where you are.

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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.

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!

Camp Mom

Summer 5

1. My 5 Rules of Summer for My Kids:

  •  Read to earn screen time
  •  If you can’t get along with your siblings, you can’t have friends over
  •  You get the Wifi/Netflix password when you do what I’ve asked you to do
  •  Get outside everyday
  •  Serve someone other than yourself at least one day a week

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2. The 5 Things We Always Have on Hand to Stir Up the Imagination:

  • Balloons
  • Copy paper
  • Blankets and sheets to build the perfect reading hideout
  • Water
  • Puzzles (our dining room table has a 2000 piece challenge right now)

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3. 5 Easy Snacks to Keep on Hand:

  • Trail Mix
  • Popcorn
  • Fresh fruit
  • Nuts
  • Boiled eggs

4. 5 Summer Recipes (That don’t include turning on the oven):

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5. My 5 Rules of Summer for Mom:

  • Stay home at least one day a week with no agenda
  • Accept help (from kids, husband, friends)
  • Do something I enjoy once a week
  • Teach my kids something new (like driving, Lord, help me)
  • Remember occasional boredom is good for my kids