Tuesday, March 8, 2016


We were playing Ninja Turtles, 'cause that's what you do when you have little boys. I was taking advantage of all the mom cred I could since I know that Donatello is the purple one and orange one is called Mikey. There are advantages to growing up with boys. Noah and Zeke were both pretending to be the blue and red turtles (Noah's code names: Fred and Luke, Zeke's code names: Superhero and Superhero). I was purple, and I think my code name was Mom. We decided that baby Simon would be Mikey. He didn't object.
Playing pretend is such a natural state for little kids, and it can be so hard as an adult. But for that night, I was "in." ...Let's be honest, not as in as when I was a kid, but definitely more in than I had been lately. We were fighting off monsters and defending our lodge. (I told them it was called a lair, but they were not interested in that.)
I am a natural follower, even when playing pretend with a couple of little children. I was following their lead on our quest to get the monsters.
We started to attack the bad guys, and in a split second, I went from the follower to the leader. I pretend-fought in ways I hadn't done in 25 years, and in ways my boys hadn't thought of before. As soon as they saw me do a roundhouse kick, they were attempting to kick the air (which apparently is not a natural skill for 3- and 5-year olds--they looked ridiculous). But they kept on copying me. They were mimicking every phrase and fight sound that came out of my mouth. And they did it so quickly--the words had no sooner hit their ears than they were coming out of their mouths. I couldn't believe the power I had in that moment to influence their thoughts and their actions.IMG_2665
I was struck by how eager they were to copy me. I was impressed that they didn't care how silly it looked or sounded--they just did it because I did it.

Obedience ...following... is sometimes like that.
Their imitation struck me this week, because our family has been reading through some Old Testament stories in our Bible storybook. Joshua fighting Jericho, Abraham being willing to sacrifice Issac, Moses leading thousands of people through the Red Sea: none of these make sense. None of these relied on the leader's past experiences. None of these were "normal" actions. And yet God delighted that these individuals followed him, obeyed him, imitated him in these ways.
Usually when God asks us to follow him, we don't really have the skills. We may have never done anything like it before (like a 3-year-old boy trying to do a roundhouse kick). As we grow to be adults, many of us acquire a reservation about doing things that we aren't good at or things that might make us look silly. But I have the feeling that God would much rather have our immediate, all-in imitation of him, rather than our calculated, reserved actions.
Today, I am challenged to imitate in two ways. I am challenged to imitate in the style that the boys do: wholeheartedly, without analyzing, and enjoying every minute of it. I am also challenged to chose to be imitating God in what I do, because I have three pairs of eyes that are looking to imitate me.
And you might find me playing pretend Ninja Turtles a little more often.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

Saturday, February 27, 2016


I woke up from my sleep gradually, but the feeling was still very real. Zeke, my second-born son, was estranged from us. In my dream, my heart hurt, and all I desperately wanted to do was be reunited with my boy. I was helpless, but refusing to give up hope. I held in my body a grief beyond words.

A dream like that is shocking, but when it’s the second one like it in less than a week, it becomes soul-troubling.
Who knows what was behind those dreams? Perhaps they were from God, warning me about days to come. Perhaps they were from the devil, working to plant fear into my heart. Perhaps they were the leftovers of whatever mishmash my brain had been sorting through from the day. 
I woke up to my alarm at 5:30, and climbed out of bed, heart still feeling like an open sore that needed to be handled with a gentle touch. I spent my first waking moments talking to God about what my dreams might mean.
And I didn’t hear a resounding, “Your Zeke will always be safe and will always be close to you.”  Not that I really expected that, but it would have been nice to hear.
I think every mom knows that, at some point, her heart will be broken by the kids she loves so dearly and passionately. 
I did sense that the Lord was using the dreams to remind me, once again, that He alone is my constant. He is the one relationship I have that will not disappoint or leave me brokenhearted.. 
And, once again, He reminded me to hold on to His kids loosely. 
I may have plans for Zeke: what I’d like to see in our future relationship, my excitement at watching how he’ll use his God-given strength as he grows. But God has even greater plans for him. He knows ALL of the ups and the downs of Zeke’s future. He sees all of that, and through them, he has designed a beautiful purpose for this little child’s life. …And it probably does not line up with the scrapbook-perfect timeline I have imagined. 
Zeke is God’s first… mine only secondary. He has been gifted to me for the short amount of time I have with him. This is a humbling and frightening and freeing thought for a momma.

Zeke woke up at 5:48 that morning. It was just him and me. Me and him. And I never thought for a second to scold him for coming out of his room so early. And you better believe that I soaked up that early morning snuggle and heart-to-heart conversation with my very special second-born son.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


I manage to get three boys, one carseat, two large canvas bags of groceries, one over-stuffed diaper bag, one plastic bag of wet pants, my phone, my wallet, and our snacks from the morning into the house. It’s 1:25 in the afternoon and I’m ready for some lunch and a little down time.

I’m unloading groceries with the baby on my hip because he has a fever, while warming up an oh-so-healthy lunch of taquitos for the older two. A cup of milk for this one. Peel the Cutie for that one. Some snuggles and kisses for the baby. Tell me about school. Please don’t use that tone with your brother.

My head is in the fridge and I hear the doorbell ring. It’s the neighbor girl. “Can Noah come play?” She never takes “not now” for an answer. I explain to her that he’s eating his lunch, and, no, he won’t be eating his lunch outside and, yes, he will come out when he is ready, and, no, it won’t be too long. And then I hear her sassy little voice: “Your house is messy!”
Really, Lord? I really do not need this right now.

Except I keep on hearing from him that I need to embrace this little girl rather than push her away.

How do moms navigate neighbor friends (or any friends that aren’t the best influences on your kids, for that matter)? How much do I lean forward and how much do I stand firmly back in how I want to parent my kids?

I do not have this figured out in the least bit. But this I do know: I will keep on lifting it up in prayer before the Lord. I will keep on letting her know what our family standards are. I will keep being present outside whenever they play together. I will work to love that little girl the way that I would want a neighbor to show love to my little boys.

And I will trust in the midst of it, that the Lord is good and that he has a good plan for this.

neighbor friends
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Philippians 2:3-4

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


A dark cloud has settled in over Northern California this week. I hear the hard drips of water pouring off of our roof. It is 6:30 in the morning, without any real sign of sunrise in sight. It is dark. And wet. And I am very thankful for a good roof over my head, a working furnace, and a little bit of my husband’s morning coffee in my cup.
We here in California have experienced a massive drought over the last few years. The lakes and reservoirs have hit levels that are hard to believe for this Midwest girl. We’ve been taking shorter showers, cutting way back on watering our lawns, and trying to use every drop of water for a purpose before letting it get down the drain.
So this rain is beautiful. This cloud is lovely. It is heaven-sent, and I humbly give thanks and worship our Creator Sustainer for it.

But so often, in daily life, I want the dark clouds to go away. His judgement is clouded... She’s been walking around in a dark cloud for weeks... There’s a cloud hovering over this place. 
My husband and I had just said some of these exact things to each other this week. And we desired for those dark clouds we saw to go away.
And then I opened my Bible, and the Lord opened my eyes.
I was reading in bed, starting to doze off for the night, when these words jumped off the page at me:
“When the priest withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priest could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. 
Then Solomon said, ‘The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud.’” (1 Kings 8:10-12)
The Lord is IN a dark cloud!?! So often I try to limit him to the light, to the joy, to the rejoicing. But he is much greater than these things. He is also in the dark clouds. He is working in the hard. He is active through the difficult. From the very beginning…
“The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
And again…
“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way.” (Exodus 13:21)
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.’ … On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.” (Exodus 19:9, 16-17)
As was the case in Moses’s time, most people were terrified of the dark cloud. They didn’t want to go near to it.
But that’s where God was!
Oh, how often am I terrified of the dark clouds in my life? How often am I captivated by the desire to have happy, sunshiny days every day? But day after day of sunshine brings a terrible drought. 
The dark clouds are good. God is there! The Lord is in the dark clouds of our lives. He is there in the hardest moments of parenting. He is there on days when we cannot seem to connect with our spouse. He is there when we feel as though we have been failing at our job. He is there. And his power is sometimes most evident in the cloud—so much so that it makes us sit back and tremble at his might, and at our frailty.

And if we are humble to open our eyes to his work, his dark cloud is refreshing as pouring rain to a drought-ridden land.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Glimpses: siblings

The afternoon sun is making its way into the door that leads from my bedroom to the outside. The house is at rest--my brother and his wife and their son all sleeping off some jet lag; my non-stop three-year-old tough boy dozing without moving a muscle in his toddler bed. And my five-year-old catching the eye of my seven-month-old. In an instant, baby Simon is grinning ear to ear. This is his brother in front of him: the one that has a special smile that's reserved only for him. I put Simon down on the floor so that he and Noah can play, giving in to the fact that only one of my children will nap this afternoon.

My mourning over lost nap time is truncated in an instant. Before my eyes are two handsome little boys, separated by five years minus six days. Their eyes are alive with delight in each other. Simon crawls over Noah's leg, nuzzling his face into Noah's pants and making Noah giggle. Noah gets on the floor next to Simon and lifts his body up and down, almost like a push-up, getting squeals of surprised joy from Simon.

first day at home together

playing around

I read somewhere about the gift of a sibling. When we as parents feel stretched, and feel as though there is no way we could ever divide ourselves enough to meet the needs of each child that calls us mom or dad, into that tough space is inserted the beautiful blessing of a sibling.

No grown-up (or very few) would have thought to entertain Simon the way that Noah had. Five year olds are gloriously creative! It was not planned or purposeful--it was accidental and hilarious, at least according to the baby, and that warranted repetition. Likewise, no baby responds to Noah the way that Simon does. In their short seven months of being brothers, they have developed a shared consciousness of joyful interaction. So it doesn't take them much to get going. And on this sunny December afternoon, Noah is soon in tears and Simon wears himself out from giggles.

I sit and watch and am amazed.

Simon on the left. A picture of Noah on the right.

Thank you, Lord, for making siblings. And for teaching me, bit by bit, of the importance of allowing other people into my children's lives to interact with them and bring joy to them in creative ways that I would never do.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Reminder

Oh, I have my moments when I feel like I can handle this three kid thing.
And then there are days like today when I wonder if this house and these boys wont just up and run off without me, leaving me in the dust, stunned and numb.
...When they are rowdy and loud up and down the hall while I'm trying to nurse the youngest one to sleep, and I've told them five times to be quiet and to stay out of the room, but it seems they are too loud and too busy to hear. ...When they take out everything that was put away and leave it on the floor in the kitchen, on the floor in the living room, on the floor in my bedroom, in the baby’s high chair, on top of the trash can lid, in my seat, on the couch, on the toilet. ...When they are frustrated that we can't follow through on spontaneous ideas, due to lack of energy or lack of margin. ...When the baby is not happy unless he’s being held, and I start to feel his 22-pound body put a strain on my back and my shoulders and my wrists. 
And I wonder how I can keep up.
I wonder about those words that I heard clearly a few days ago: that a big part of my job as mom is to be a blessing to my sons. That's my job. 
I confess: I was not focused on blessing them today.
Perhaps it is the lack of sleep from a gassy baby. Perhaps it is the stress of the season. Perhaps it is not being able to go outside much due to the shorter days. Perhaps it is just how it's going to be. 
Or perhaps it is God at work to give me a message--
--the same message I shared with an acquaintance this morning, when she asked how I was balancing the three.
“Balance?” I replied. “There’s no balance. When I am doing well in one area, I’m terrible at another. But,” I continued, “I knew I would be in over my head when I found out I was going to have another kid. So it makes me trust in God much more than before. And that’s a good thing.”
Perhaps he was just checking this evening to see if I still think it’s a good thing to need to trust in him more, to lean on him more, to depend on him for everything. Perhaps he saw it fit to remind me that instead of pushing harder, talking louder, working smarter, or feeling deeper, I need only to trust and obey. Perhaps he desired to give me a little reminder in this season of beauty and perfectly perfect-ness, that I am not perfect. That there is no way for me to raise these little children of his on my own. That these little royalty will be a picture of his glory shown through my weakness.
Just like it was his glory shining out of a small, weak town of Bethlehem, just like he gives answers in many unexpected places and ways, he can use an insignificant, hard night to remind me of my need for him. 
And that's a good thing.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times."
He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.
Micah 5:2, 4

Monday, November 9, 2015


For the last nine months, my husband and I have had the week of "Nov. 2-6" reserved for an amazing conference hosted by the Pastoral Leadership Institute.  We had reserved time off from work, babysitters lined up, hotel and airlines booked--all for this conference. This conference has made a substantial difference in our relationships, our marriage, my view of self, my weekly schedule, and my relationship with my Lord.
This is a conference that loves, that teaches, that challenges and supports. And I am always a renewed spirit at the completion of the final session.
So you might be able to imagine how it felt when our 3-year-old was sick as a dog to his little tummy 12 hours before we were supposed to leave our home to fly halfway across the country for this conference--like the floor dropped out from under me. He was sick for seven straight hours on Nov. 1. His usual boundless energy was zapped for the lack of food in his system, so we put him to sleep early (surrounded by lots of towels) and prayed for mercy from the Lord.
What is a mom to do? Our dear friends had assured us that they would take the best care of him, and I knew they would. But what message would I send to his tender heart if I would choose attending a conference over attending to him in his sickness? On the flip side, what message would I send to my husband if I would choose to stay home with a sick boy rather than spend that precious week growing with him? 

God is doing a work in my heart, no doubt. There were many years before this one when I would have chosen fear or discouragement or self-pity when such a situation threatening to cause ruin to my beautiful plans. But that day, in those down-to-the-wire hours, I had peace knowing that if we stayed or went, that He would have a beautiful plan for either. I was strangely content in the midst of the struggle (after my brief worst-case-scenario freak out moment, of course).
Going to bed that night, I was mentally prepared to be up every hour, with a hungry babe on one knee and a sick little boy on the other. And I was worried about running out of lap space for the kindergartener, who I was certain would catch whatever bug had gone through the rest of our ranks.
And then it didn’t happen. 
I woke up once to feed the smallest one, and as I checked on my sick boy, he was sleeping peacefully in the same spot we had left him. The towels around him were still clean and dry. I said a quiet prayer of thanksgiving.
And at 5:15 the next morning, that sick little boy was climging on top of his dadda and over the couches, begging for “beckfrest.”
We were still holding our breath in anticipation of seeing those breakfast cheerios come up again, but they stayed down. And then some toast stayed down. And some milk. 
And we put our bags in the car. The kindergartener ready for the week ahead. The baby showing no signs of sickness. And my husband and I began to let ourselves get giddy with excitement. He was well! We were going to be able to go on our trip! We would not be separated for the week! We would not be spending hundreds of dollars on change-flight fees! 
God had heard our prayers, and in his mercy had given us just enough.

We had an amazing week. The conference revived my soul, my marriage, my long-distance friendships, my love for my Lord and my desire to work for Him.

As I return from “retreat” and enter into this season of “holiday,” this is a good word for my heart: that God gives us enough, that He is enough, that his gift of grace to us is enough. As I might get fretful about my to-do list and what will or will not go the way I expect, the Prince of Peace is present and has a Beautiful Plan that he wishes to introduce to me. No amount of worry on my part will do. The best thing I can do is confidently wait for him to show up. And he does. And he did. And he will.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.             Romans 15:13