The Brain: Why are teens difficult?! My “adolescent brain” findings and how to support them in their awkward stages.

I have been away from the blog for quite some time.  It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been typing…..and thinking…just not in the scope of the “I am Rachel Kathleen” blog. I had to take a graduate course…to jump through … Continue reading

Do Something: Book review: “Kisses from Katie” & “Love Does” and how to see the world through a different lens, not worldly expectations.

I had some time to be in silence last week.  As I was in the quiet, I was reminded from a song, “Do something” by Matthew West, and two books that are all about acting on God’s call to live by faith.  I was reminded how important it is to MOVE, ACT and DO things for the causes of Humanity and also to express gratitude towards Jesus for all He has done for me.  Also, while listening to the song, I thought on two books that show living faith in action:  Kisses from Katie, By Katie Davis, and Love Does, By Bob Goff.

Matthew West Sings these Lyrics in “Do Something”:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God why don’t you do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said “God, why don’t you do something!?”
He said, “I did, … I created you!”

These lyrics speak to a conversation that I have had with God on many occasions.  The conversation when I feel like I just couldn’t possibly help–or the one where things in the world seem so hopeless that I just feel helpless.  I just want to do something, and sometimes it seems like there is too much to be done! (I feel like this with laundry often too!)

But, there is always hope.
And God has a heart for children, the poor, the widowed, the fatherless.

Psalm 10:14,   “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Proverbs 31:8, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis and Love Does, by Bob Goff

Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis and Love Does, by Bob Goff

And into the book review…There are two books that amazingly demonstrate the power of God through one person who decides to listen to His voice and act or “Do Something”.

In the book Kisses from Katie, it is clear that Katie Davis is one person who listened, acted in faith, and has made an impact.  It is not a story about how amazing Katie is…It is a story of what can happen to any of us if we choose to quiet ourselves, listen to God’s voice, and then act on God’s plan (not our own), regardless of what we think or others think.  Katie’s story is so incredibly encouraging because she follows God’s word and God’s plan and shares all of the glory of God and His work.  Her book and story is really God’s story that he offers to each of us–and is so encouraging to those of us who want to follow His lead.  No, I, Rachel, can not pick up, move to Africa and adopt 10, 12, 14 girls.  That is not the story God wrote for me.  But I can do what He asks me to do where I am at.

Also, Katie writes about the pull between her family–who are awesome, amazing and wonderful and Christian.  They are well intentioned, but had plans for her to follow the normal American Dream…graduate from high school, go to college and have a successful career.  She wanted to be a nurse. God still has given her opportunity to mend and tend to sick and poor people, but just not the dreams in the way in which her parents had imagined (or that she had imagined, for that matter).

As a parent of three, I have dreams and hopes for each of my kids.   I would love for them to experience education, success and wonderful things that I have experienced…or that I haven’t had the opportunity to experience!  However, reading Katie’s story, even with her “worldly potential” being valedictorian at her high school, etc…..all of the opportunities she would have to go to an amazing college, chances to be a huge success–she listened to God’s voice of His calling.  Not the world’s.  As a follower of Jesus, it is very important that I let my children follow God’s voice, support them with good questions and prayer, and trust that God knows what He is doing.

The second book that also speaks to the pledge to “do something”, as Matthew West puts it, is Love Does  by Bob Goff.  I have had the privilege of hearing Bob speak, which helped bring to life his voice in the book.  The book is written as series of stories from Bob’s life.  Some stories are extreme and crazy and many are hilarious! Each are examples of him stepping out in faith, or sharing what he has learned from Jesus.  Bob lives boldly and his vivid personality comes through!  I SO enjoyed each chapter (each chapter is a different story), I began to read them aloud to my offspring.  The youngers loved them and were challenged to think outside the box.  I also know for a fact, that Bob Goff WILL respond to your correspondence! One of my dear friends took the challenge to contact Bob.  They ended up going to lunch with him!

Both of these books have challenged me to live more boldly in my faith.  I highly recommend both and will definitely read them again.

I hope you are inspired to put your faith into action!
Here is a YouTube of Matthew West’s Song, “Do Something”:

Valentine Projects – How to create something out of what you already have – Paper Rosette Banners

I have had my creative spark re-lit!  Something about making something pretty, nice or functional out of stuff I have already is wonderful.  It makes me smile and I get a short term feeling of accomplishment in this “always a work in progress” world!

It was already lit, but a friend, some time, and teaching a high school art class for two weeks has inspired me 🙂

Supply List: 
Scrapbook paper, scissors, hot glue gun, cardboard/chipboard, string/ribbon/twine, Glitter, Letters (chipboard, cardstock, sticker)
For the Vertical Banner:  Twill Tape and a belt ring, or re-use a twill belt/strap like I did (found at Goodwill)
Go, create something…even if it is small!!!!!

Time: the value of time & friend time is better than the best birthday or Christmas present


The youngest just experienced Christmas and two weeks after, his birthday!  He got some amazing gifts.  I mean some pretty cool things that were impressive and were on the ‘wish list’.   But what I witnessed just the other day, was beyond things, and beyond the gifts.  He got the cutest, most excited, exuberant giggle, giddy-ness and smile I have seen in a long time.  All because he was going to have a friend over.

He has been asking…pestering…..reminding me and bothering for a ‘play date’ with a schoolmate for quite a bit of time.  I always encourage my kids to take a little ownership when it comes to arranging these playdates.  “Please get me the phone number and you can make a phone call.”

He came home on Friday with a little scrap of paper and a phone number scribbled on it.  When he pulled it out to show me, one might have thought it was actually pure gold.  “G and I talked…we arranged we could play today and tomorrow…Can I call??!!! Can I!? Please!!!!!!” was the gist of what transpired between youngest and I on Friday immediately after he got off the bus.

Of course I complied.  Then the someone awkward, lots of dead silence in between innocent questions, very innocent conversation…which was between the two boys. Both parents were really communicating with each other in the background and helping with ‘grade-school talk’ translation.

“YOU CAN!!!???”

And then, the cutest, rarest of giggles and laughs….the one that is so full of joy it just can not be contained.  The elated squeal.

I hadn’t witnessed that squeal over any single Christmas present or birthday present…

It was over a simple play date with a grade school buddy.  It was a squeal to have TIME with a friend.

I just sat there…huge grin on my face.  I was not conspiring to spend zero dollars $ next Christmas and just arrange rare play dates instead (though I should!).  I just enjoyed watching the complete surprised joy on the face of my youngest over the simple request to have a play date.  But the reality is, time is not as simple of a commodity as it may seem.  We are busy.  So very busy.  Too busy probably.  And the stars don’t always align for the simple play date to happen when child 1, 2 or 3 desire.  Time is precious.  And it was clear that the youngest knew it.  He valued the opportunity to spend time with a friend outside of school.  He cherished the idea of having this buddy to his house, and showing him the life outside of what they share at school.  Unstructured time….to just to do whatever they want.  (Well, within reason, of course). Time to just be and get to know each other better.

I think there is a real connection here.  Success in this world is measured often by how busy we are.  “How are you?” we ask each other, and more often than not, your reply will be summed up in the one word, “Busy,” as if that is the rite of passage that explains to all people what we are doing.  But is the busy what we desire…is it fulfilling?  Is it enough?

So, time is of value beyond all commodities.  There is a lovely quote that says:

Time is actually very valuable….

We can not add to it.

We can not bank it and grow its worth with interest….

We can only spend it…and how we spend it is a choice…our choice.

I have been experiencing this commodity of “Time” and its importance in a new way recently.  I have been away from the family more and spending time working for 3 weeks straight.  It is such a good job and I am loving it…and I think we can spend time doing good things (this job is not bad and I hope I add value to each day with students)….but it definitely takes away from the time I get with the most cherished ones…the husband and three young children living under my roof.  I can’t add to time, so I am working out the value of time…and where to put the highest priority….I am a work in progress…this involves more patience, faith, practice.

And then, among the balance of it all, we read and hear this:  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). Jesus tells us “first”……before everything.

So, the creator of time, the author of life asks me to give him time first…and “all these things shall be added unto you”  The perfector of all, omniscient Father in heaven, says He will add all “these things” unto me.  Me!?? So do I spend time trusting that He means what he says…oh! Give time to him first? Ouch….not often enough.  Its just like my youngest excited over the time spent with a friend–See God, the one who created us, He wants to know us.  He has offered this invitation for us to have a ‘play date’ with Him.  I think He would love for us to come into His house and get to know it, look around and spend time.  He wants to know us outside work, or school, or the busy-ness of life.  He probably has that contagious, elated squeal each and every time we say “Yes, I can come over and hang with you today!”  So call Jesus back and tell him, “Yes!”

So how shall you spend your time?  Each day is new….I am expectant He can help me with my use of time.

Vulnerability: Exposed uncomfortably, how we try to “keep it together” and why showing vulnerability makes others comfortable.

We always try to hold it all together!  We mean well.  It just seems like when we are being parents or  coaches, volunteers, friends, wives or husbands, and all things to all people, that something in us tells us we have to look or act or be perfect.  Or at least “show well” for others.  The problem is, we can’t hold it all together…and I don’t think we are meant to!

I know that I have experienced my ‘fair-share’ of vulnerable moments, when my best side wasn’t showing and I didn’t “hold it together”, or a vulnerability was exposed.  A few examples :

**Generally losing it in a public place with my own offspring…this includes grocery stores, children’s museums, and even–yes–at church.  When my voice is raised at a volume that is above a “happy tone” and my face is wrinkled in that angry state of “argh!”

**There was a time when we took the oldest (3), the middle (1),  and by proxy the youngest, who was in womb on a short term mission trip to Honduras.  Upon arriving home, I found out that a couple good friends got a hold of my mother and wanted to help clean my house.  First…THAT is vulnerability! Our house was messier than usual when we left!  We had spent days packing our family, other students and packing donated supplies – all in our home.  My friends told me about their surprise upon my return (definitely a thoughtful gesture).  Then they told me about their attempt or thoughts about cleaning and organizing my pantry.  The house, yes, but my pantry?  Well, I LOVE organized, perfectly straightened pantries.  I strived to have all the nutrition facts facing the same way, pasta and crackers and cereals all in perfect harmony.  But, husband isn’t as passionate about the beauty of a pantry as I, so I decided that perhaps this was a battle I would let go of.  I was embarrassed that they viewed my pantry, with it’s door usually closed, as one crying desperately for help.

**There is also the experience of the phase that the middle one was a biter.  That is vulnerability. When your innocent preschooler, who is the best cuddler of all, can leave a primal mark on another human…usually, a sweet pigtailed girl, and once, the preschool teacher! And the mark is one that can be seen, and someone needs to talk to you about it.  That’s showing my vulnerable or ‘icky’ places.

**And the vulnerability we face when our child doesn’t make the “A” team, or isn’t placed in the “highest math grouping” or isn’t a part of the “popular” group of friends.

I remember these moments.  I am long past some of them, and I still experience other moments of life exposing my vulnerability, my imperfection, or the imperfection of the ones I love.  These were some moments that were struggles.  In my pride, I would suffer if I thought about them as a reflection of me…in my pride I suffer if I care so much about what others think of me.

C.S. Lewis once wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love is to be vulnerable.”  -Four Loves

Powerful to think that love makes us vulnerable.  It is true.  Love my kids-I am vulnerable.  Love my friends enough to let them tell me what they really think: Vulnerable.


Self love and when I care so much about the material world and value of success and those other things…- again I am vulnerable.

And so these thoughts lead me to one of the most influential experiences in my years as a full-time at home parent.
I got invited to lunch by a friend.

Yep…that was the event that left a mark on my heart.

I wasn’t just invited to lunch.  I was invited to lunch spontaneously.  And when I walked into my dear friends house…not having to make lunch for my own little brood (and they were little at the time)….I looked around and this is what I saw:  I observed a piling of dishes in the sink from the morning’s breakfast, and perhaps from the dinner the evening before.  I saw laundry piled on a couch in the living room when I walked in.  There were papers and bills on the table.  And we were going to eat left over taco soup.

And I felt……..


See, my friends spontaneous offer, her love for me more than the perception of herself…it welcomed me.  It said “the person is more important than appearances”.  She offered me friendship and she offered me her time!  She could have come home first and cleaned up.  But she didn’t, she just let me come into her space…her unfinished places…whatever that might be.  If that was dirty toilets that day, I don’t remember.  If it was an un-vacuumed carpet, I was unaware.  I just felt at home.  And she offered me and the young ones taco soup from the night before….and in her left overs she offered me a new favorite food and meal idea for my family.

I am not sure if she knows how much this spontaneous lunch meant to me.  I have spoken of it many times since.  It formed my opinion of how I should be more vulnerable and offer love.  Because it is in her vulnerability, her messy places, that I felt COMFORT.  I felt LOVED because the other stuff…it just didn’t matter (And I think she was quite secure on just having company and not caring)

And love and fear do not intermix.  Fear is directed inward, focused on what will happen to me if I fail the test, or am rejected, etc.  Love is directed outward, towards caring for another person more than we care for ourselves.  The more you look outward (love) the less you look inward (fear).  And, that day, she was looking more at LOVE (of me, her friend) than FEAR (“What if Rachel judges me?”)

So, from that moment on, I made a more conscious effort to love people right from where I am.  I try to just offer love as simple, broken, in-progress, me.  And sometimes–actually quite often, that kind of love involves sharing those vulnerable moments I shared with you above.  I share with others the struggles I have faced, or the weaknesses I battle with.  I try to invite them into my real world of messiness.   I admit, I occasionally ‘tidy up’, either the house, or sometimes my ‘image’.  It just isn’t our natural bent to just be open and vulnerable.   But I do love people.  God has put this fantastic fascination of people, and a love of His for each and every person on my heart.  So, I follow Jesus’s lead and try. Try.

I will never forget my friend’s love and vulnerability being so comfortable for me.  And this is the love the Christ offers us.  He finds us as we are….He doesn’t put on a fancier robe, and cleaner sandals before he meets us, or before He performs that miracle – physical or within our hearts.  He just met people along the way, and offered all He was, at that moment.

Is there a time when someone was vulnerable to you and it made an impression of love?  I would love to hear in the comments.

Can you invite someone into your messy home for a meal or cup of coffee this week? Or in your messy places to share what you are struggling with? (Share if you do, in comments, or an email)

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Corinthians 12v9 (NLT)

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear.  It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that state, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear.”   – C.S. Lewis

 There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [a]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!     1 John 4v18 (Amplified Bible)

Significance. Identity: Two jobs and the difference between…Why do things look better when you are looking back.

Recently, I got a job. Well, back up more than a decade when I was blessed with ‘the most important job’. Post a BS in Exercise and Movement Science, the will to work and not create more college debt, I … Continue reading

Control: A ‘real life’ example, how I feel when I don’t have it &thoughts on giving up more control

Do you ever struggle with letting go of control? What is your response to not having control?

Our impromptu mini ski vacation over Christmas presented me with some reminders about the word and practice of “control”.

We were invited to join another family to go skiing for a few days.  We had less than a week to plan, and we left the day after Christmas.

Both Husband and I skied a bit when we were younger.  After leaving “home” we each, separately took a few trips in college, and a couple more after being married, but the last decade and a half have been mostly void of skiing.  For us, I suppose it is like “riding a bike”–we were able to pick up where we left off, with a few conservative corrections on my part, testing out my newer ACL and such.  But all was great.

The kids on the other hand…had no previous experiences to rely on……

Watching our kids learn to ski had moments that- for this mom- were utterly painful.

First, we made mistake one.  After taking too long to get settled, we missed the first morning lesson and had to go for the 1pm.  “Well, we paid for these expensive lift tickets”…we weren’t going to waste time, or money…not our style…so we decided– instead of taking the time to hike up an incline with  12, 10 and 8 year old beginning skiers– we would just take them up the chair lift on the ‘bunny slope.’  It wouldn’t be too hard….right??

We all dismounted the chair and got to the right side of the lift.  And that is where we all stopped, for about…. well, 30 minutes, at least!

First, husband took our middle son.  He had the one-to-one ratio, which seemed a good idea.  I watched the struggle a little bit, but didn’t have much time to focus on those two, as my own ‘projects’ were stuck with me.  I had the oldest and the youngest.  Oldest is brave and a go-getter.  She is exceptionally balanced and takes risks as part of her nature.  She has done things at ages I still can’t believe (like zip line thousands of feet high, through the Costa Rican Rain Forest Canopy for more than a mile stretch at age 7), and her resilience led me to believe that this wouldn’t be bad.

Youngest, well he likes to “hit the ground running.”  I think when he was just under one year old, he literally did start life running, instead of walking.  He is also the youngest, so he likes to look at someone doing something (like ice skating recently) and just GO!  This usually proves in a fail, and a fall, but he gets up and goes again.

Despite these strengths, our first run of skiing was either comical, or terrifying.

First, the steepest part of the bunny hill was the top.

Second, none of our children understood our “wedge” conversation. None of them could stop.

Third,  the top of the slope was the most crowded, as everyone is getting off the chair, AND it is the most unpredictable slope since most everyone on that ski run are beginners.

Skip ahead 20 minutes.  My plans have failed.  Oldest daughter is forming tears.  Youngest son is on the ground and his tears, anger and  frustration surfaced 10 minutes ago.  I had candy bribes in my pocket and my supply is already exhausted.  I am out of ideas.  Husband and middle son are making their way down, unlike my troop.  I have stopped and actually prayed for new direction or language, or something…anything… several times.  I am now praying for no broken bones.  I am fully at a loss and have no control.

I have no control.

And let’s say, I didn’t become a better ski instructor under these circumstances.  I will confess: I became worse.

Oldest, she decides she is just going to have a go with it.  She starts slowly, in a tense, hunched stance, working her way across the hill.  Some of my instructions on “traversing the hill” are helping slightly.  She is actually moving.  She has been patiently waiting upon my word for quite some time and it is time for her to just go for it.  She is making progress.

Youngest and I are still stuck on the side of the mountain.  Every time we decide we will try to move, some beginning screeches to a stop right near us, or youngest gets his skis crossed again.  Honestly, my lack of control over his actions frightens me.  I think my tension is making him increasingly tense.  This, of course, is making things worse.

Then husband arrives at the top of the slope.  Angelic music chimes in my mind…and I think he may have a halo over his head.  I am so grateful.  I tell husband, “It is time for a new voice.”  My plans and words and ideas are not good ones, and I failed.  Youngest agrees. Mom failed.  I have to laugh, because it is true and I tell him so.  Trust dad.  He will get you down the hill.  And I have to turn my gaze down the mountain….ski toward the oldest who is still working her way down, and not watch the youngest.  I don’t want to see.  I don’t want to cringe…I just want to let go of control, pass it over to dad, and celebrate the success at the bottom of the slope.

Let go of control.

And honestly, after that first run, the kids were champs.  All three of them.  We decided that ski lessons with professional instructors were worth the money (and it wasn’t cheap, haha) and worth the few ski runs we could enjoy God’s beautiful creation together. And the kids amazed us. After three days they loved skiing.  After our first ski run, this felt like nothing short of a miracle. It was definitely an answer to prayer.

As they got progressively better, they took more risks.  They each increased their speed.  For this woman, turned mother, it is both wonderful and difficult to watch.  Something changed when I bore children into this world.  I feel like I have become a somewhat cautious wimp.  I want to let go of control and let them soar.  But I so want to make sure they are safe, unharmed, and warm and happy, too.  And every muscle in my body just tenses at times, and I just have to close my eyes.  In fact, even after riding chairlift after chairlift, I insist that they bar is brought down for safety every lift ride, and I just can’t help but put my hand over their lap, or hold their jackets.

Letting go of control over life, over others….giving up control is such a difficult process.

And I realize that much of what I struggle with is in an effort to hold onto control of my own life.  My own plans.

I am nervous with my husband driving…because I am not in control.

I’m frustrated when plans change…because I have lost control.

I cringe when my kids ride their bikes fast down a winding hill…because their decisions on when to turn or brake are out of my control.

There is something in the loss of control or the holding on so tightly to my own plans and my expectations, that reminds me of how much I still hold on to my own way and how uncomfortable it is to let go.  And it reminds me of how grateful I am for a heavenly father who LET’s me…URGES me… ASKS me to let go.  A Heavenly Father that says ‘Trust Me all who are weary and burdened’,  ‘lay down your burdens and give them to me’, ‘take my yoke upon you, for my burden is light’.  (Matthew 11v28-30)

You see….it is never easy to let go of control.  But control equals my own plans, and my own plans mean my own way, and my own way equals independence.  We consider Independence as a wonderful quality, particularly in this country, but independence means on our own.  And that includes on our own away from God.

I remind myself of how much I WANT to let go and give my plans–well intentioned or not…my way, and my burdens ALL to God.  That I actually have God in my life calling me to give it all over.  Live each day for Him, with Him and by His plan.   Let Him mold me, and make me into who HE wants me to be.  That is actually so very, VERY freeing!

I was driving in to work this morning, after having drafted this blog post and was thinking and praying on giving up control and I heard Tenth Avenue North’s song “Let it go…”  Another personal reminder of the reality of grasping for control (so much that our “knuckles have gone white”), and the beauty of letting it go and giving it to God (“life is waiting for the ones who lose control”).

Take a listen and join me in letting go….


Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? Romans 9:21

Surrender yourself to the LORD, and wait patiently for him. Do not be preoccupied with [an evildoer] who succeeds in his way when he carries out his schemes. Let go of anger, and leave rage behind. Do not be preoccupied. It only leads to evil. Evildoers will be cut off [from their inheritance], but those who wait with hope for the LORD will inherit the land.  Psalm 37v7-9

Christmas Cards: Going Extinct? Why I still love getting them & how I didn’t quite get there…yet

This year I piled all of my Christmas cards up and decided I really wanted to open them all at once.

See the creativity of friends and family in their photo collages, poems, newsletters and top tens.

Reflect on a year gone by.
Reflect on how I met or know the friends who took the time to send a card.
Appreciate each card as a token of friendship.

In the era of less mail, less notes and letters written and  more phone and email and texting (I am a culprit of all three), I enjoy each and every photo card, letter, and Christmas greeting we get.  I do care about the people who have left an imprint on my life, on our family’s life…and I truly enjoy hearing about each of them.

Thank you.  Thank you to those who take the time and spend the money.  Thank you to those of you who purchase stamps and address the envelopes.  I appreciate your updates, your greetings, your love sent.  I even appreciate hearing about who graduated from preschool, or high school or college.  Thank you for your vacation run downs, even if I am a tad jealous of your bronzed family pic.  I truly love hearing from each of you, even if I don’t see you for a year or two or a decade, I love hearing about your slice of life, your 2013.

I have considered ending our Christmas cards.  Save money and save time.  It is an effort.  And in the effort, I usually like to hand address, write a personal note to say “Hi” and it takes time.  But, I am not giving up.  I SO enjoyed the cards I received–I have to reciprocate.  So I am hoping “Happy New Years” cards will go out. I am hoping to get there sometime this month. Christmas is just the time of year that we do it, but I hope my little update and photos will be worth it to someone else 🙂  Okay, maybe it will be Valentine’s Day…


Stuff: Comments on material “stuff” we have, sacrifice, and how I messed up

images-3Sunday found us at church. In December, our church home highlights some of the “Hear the Cry” ministries we support, and talks about the gift catalog (gifts for foster kids, buying livestock for villages in poverty, etc).  Specifically, the church highlighted some children in Uganda that “aren’t just numbers.”  Then we had a guest pastor speak from a local church about fatherlessness and God as our amazing father.

It was yet another service where I felt both personally convicted to act on God’s pull and tug at my own decisions and my own heart. I also felt filled and encouraged for the week.

Afterwards, I went to pick up the youngest.
First, I stood in the wrong line and waited for him (the oldest son’s line, but he already left with Dad…habit!). Oops. Then, I redirected and found him in the correct room.

He walked out with a big, shiny, new nerf play gun. A shiny new toy.

This is where I … well … the scene was less than pretty.  Similar to scenes I may have witnessed between an angry parent and child in a grocery store parking lot….

“Um, you are donating that, right?”
“No, it’s mine! (excited, proud and happy!) “I used my tickets.”
“Oh, buddy…you can’t keep that. We need to give that away. We have Christmas AND your birthday is two weeks after!”

Insert slight explanation:  Husband and I had been cleaning the day prior.  In fact, we cleaned, dropped off at goodwill, consignment, traded games in, traded books in and generally were preparing for Christmas STUFF!  I was already feeling this deep growl of sickness inside from all of our STUFF.  I was already desiring simplification.  I felt like a worn down product of overconsumption.  And then we cleared some, got rid of some.  And then we went Christmas shopping.  We got a couple of gifts and talked of what the grandparents were gifting, and the “UGH!” and the claustrophobic feeling of hoarding “STUFF” was just feeling like it was making its way right back in.  A hostile takeover of STUFF about to hit our home!

And then the children in Uganda, and the talk of foster kids, and the fatherlessness, and the gift of Jesus in humble beginnings….

I kinda lost it.

So, we walked to the book table, and youngest….sweet, sweet youngest boy was proudly holding the new gun in one hand and a bag of Christmas jelly beans he had received in the other hand.  I walked to the book table to buy the book on fatherlessness, and a worship album.  Mommy needed to write a check.  I needed a pen.  The pen dropped on the ground right at the feet of my youngest…..and baby boy kicked it towards me.  His hands were too full of STUFF to bend and help.

Oh boy!  Watch out…here comes the object lesson!

“Your hands are too full of STUFF to help me out!!!””

or something like that….

And then the explanation in the car….the “I am trying to explain to you why I am so frustrated!”

“Honey, you don’t need that…it just doesn’t feel right to Mommy to walk OUT of church with something….I just feel like we should be walking IN to church donating something….”

…and “You see, this is what happens…we people get so bogged down with STUFF that we have to organize STUFF, clean STUFF, pick out the STUFF.  We just get so busy, we don’t have the HANDS, or the time to help out others.  We are too busy with our STUFF!!”

Oh, I was mad. I showed anger. Ugh.

Oldest has heard this.  She understands a bit.  She has 4 years on him and she has donated her toy she had received at church before.  She starts chiming in…supporting these concepts…at least in theory.

Oh my youngest son tries!  He suggests, “How about when we get something new, we give something away?!”

I see good in it…but the lesson isn’t over yet.  I retort, “Well, honey, you see…God wants us to give the stuff we DO want…He wants us to give where it hurts, where it is a bit of a sacrifice.  And He promises that He will bless us…with 100 times the blessing. But does that mean He will give us 100 guns when we give one??”

“No.” There are tears.

“You are right, but He might bless us with 100 times the joy that we had in getting that gift, when we see the look on the face of someone who doesn’t have any, and that kid is ecstatic to have that one thing!”

“And God wants us to give the things that do matter…things that actually kinda hurt to give away…”

Hearts are softening, including mine.

And this is where grace needs to step in.

You see, I am right on. I am surely right on when I look at myself in the mirror, too!  I, too, have so much STUFF.  I buy STUFF and gift STUFF and I actually covet STUFF.  Oh, STUFF has it’s grip on me…I am learning from my own object lesson.

But I am DECADES ahead of this sweet boy.
And I yelled.  And I got mad.  And there are tears. UGH UGH UGH.

So…we come to a point of understanding.

“We will earn things for others at church from now on.  You can keep this gun.  It’s yours.  I won’t guilt you.  You earned it and you didn’t know.  Its okay.  And I am sorry for yelling.  I was just frustrated with feeling like we should walk in with stuff to give, not walk out of church with stuff”

Oh, how I learned a lesson for myself!  I think God is talking to me, too!

Little man…he is good and he is okay.  He is a happy kid.

He still doesn’t know what to do with his gun.  We are now a few days later.

I keep telling him, it’s his to do what he wants with.  He is pulled between his head and his heart.  We have been praying. He brings it up…sweet baby boy.  He doesn’t know what to do.  But he won’t forget this story.  Whether he keeps the toy gun, or gives it away.  He won’t forget.  Youngest is pondering and thinking on what he should do.  I pray he has deep joy.  I pray he learns to give the tough things at an earlier age so it might be easier when he is older. God has his back.  I’m not worried!

So we shall see.  We will keep praying about it.

And I will now pray over and consider what to do with my stuff issue with STUFF.  God has a hold of my heart.

Thank you, Lord, for continuing to work on MY heart.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12v15

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6v19-21

Clouds: light and dark

This gallery contains 18 photos.

For the last several months I have been drawn to staring at clouds….  I was born and raised in Seattle, traveled to Eugene for my undergrad and, after graduating, have been in Portland ever since.  It seems for a girl … Continue reading