Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reading and Writing.

I read an article last year that said reading does not necessarily make you a good writer. If this were the case we'd see a closer margin for how many kids per classroom excel in reading vs. writing. This article emphasized that it was being read to out loud and memorization of quality pieces of literature which bring us closer to the title of "excellent writer", not just plain old reading.

I agree, for the most part, but I also see in myself an ability to write with more ease and accuracy when I've simply been reading good books. I imagine the more I read, the better literature I read, and the more I commit certain passages to memory, the more my writing would improve. As I read good literature out loud to my children, I do see more improvement in my own vocabulary and ability to string together a better sentence, but alas, there are only so many hours in the day, and there are also so many dirty dishes and loads of laundry in my day.

Each day as I wade through what needs my attention and what can be set aside, I would almost always choose reading over dishes if I had no regard for my husband's time or his opinion of me. Oh yes, and my commitment to serve my family, let's not forget that. But really, I do spend a lot of time scrolling Instagram, checking for messages on Facebook, and browsing through Pinterest looking at beautiful homes, amazing color-schemes, and blossoming floral arrangements. Why? Why do I trade real work, profitable work, even work that is fun for me and helps me to reach my goals, for mindless scrolling and browsing?

Besides feeling more than frazzled some days, I recognize my desire for beautiful things. It's part of eternity and God's loveliness set on our hearts. There is joy in witnessing something amazing, something so lovely we fail to adequately express it to others. We get distracted looking for that beauty in all kinds of places and often forget to stay focused on the tasks piling up behind us. As I am doing now... I'd much rather talk about beautiful things than tell you about what I am attempting to do right now, which has little to do with beauty and more to do with commitment.

At SheSpeaks, one of my sessions was with a publisher from Zondervan and she said one of the best things we can do is to read every day and write every day. Blogs, news articles, and letters don't count as reading. It needs to be real literature; even self-help doesn't quite make the cut. Emails and text messages, no matter how long, don't really count as writing either. There needs to be a level of commitment to reading great work and releasing what is in your mind.

I actually read or heard this same advice from two other sources within the six days I was out of state. Once from a "real" writing book, and another time was from an autobiography. Funny how God does that.

So here I am, writing today, at 9:15pm PST. Better late than never, yes? While I certainly don't think I'll commit to writing every single day, I am taking baby steps to writing more often, even when my thoughts are not fully formed, when there is no moral, lesson, or specific devotional-type theme in my writing. Madelein L'engle talks about how writing comes from your hands as much as it comes from your brain, so I'm taking her word and practicing putting my thoughts onto my blog, trusting the process, and hoping for progress.

As my life is about to get a little crazy this coming month, I hope to stay on here in an effort to not only keep you all updated, but also to sort through my thoughts a little. It's easy to forget the intensity of God's calling when you get back home and into the seemingly mundane task of keeping a home and rearing children, but I think writing more frequently will help keep my vision and His calling fresh.

What is that calling you ask? Well, I'm not completely ready to reveal everything, and I'm also not completely sure what it will amount to. I will say that despite being a person who wears their emotions on their sleeve, I've been very hesitant to admit the desires of my heart. It's scary to say "I want to pursue X, Y, Z." and see what happens. Plus, I love to over-analyze, so I always need to leave a little room for that. But even after sorting out the differences between selfish ambition and a calling from God, I realize that I have been slow to truly admit what I want.

In Psalm 139, there's a point where David is asking God for revenge, then he switches gears and talks about God knowing his beginnings, his heart, his earnestness. I feel like this now, like I want to ask God for something but I am a little scared, not just about the future, but of pursuing something that is out of a sinful desire. I keep coming back to how David handled it and saying to God "You know me. You know better than I do if this is from a pure heart. You take this desire and grant it or replace this desire with righteous motives."

This is where I am today. Admitting to God what it is I want, putting forth effort to pursue it, and trusting God to steer me and my family as we make decisions. In my role as wife (and certainly not the bread-winner) this gets a bit more tricky. I trust God to move my husband, but I'm a little more ready to leap at new opportunities and plan out all the details right away, so balancing my desires to move forward and figure stuff out with following my husband's lead and trusting him to make decisions, is faith-building to say the least. But, I can write, and I can read, and I can spend time every day doing at least one or the other.

This is a form of pursuing excellence. Even when I cannot make big decisions right away about our living circumstances, I can make decisions about how I invest in myself. It's hard to wait, to sit back, and support my family without pushing them into my plans, but losing myself in a good book and putting my thoughts onto paper (well, a computer really), is a great way to keeping investing in this vision and taking steps into the person I want to become. And really, who ever regretted reading Anne of Green Gables instead of mopping? Definitely not me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Looking for Home.

This post will be a lot less deep, more about our recent search for a physical house and not about our continual search to feel "at home" in this world. We signed papers on an offer on our house June 20th, and we have a fairly flexible move-out date, thanks to our excellent buyer. But, we are coming up on some deadlines due to our financing method, which depends on how expensive of a home we buy. Allow me to fill you in on the crazy adventure God is orchestrating.

One week after our home sold, we spent the weekend going to open houses and other homes our realtor was able to schedule. We were excited to find one we loved - great yard, the house was big enough to have an office for Mark, a guest area for visitors, and was in a fabulous location in Beaverton. We offered a a decent amount over asking and waited to hear back from them... and waited... and waited. Well, they were on a trip, not responding to their realtor, and got a few other offers as well by the time they saw ours. They ended up taking a different offer that was significantly more than ours.

Strike #1.

Later that week we found another home, also in Beaverton, but in a different neighborhood. It had a huge yard, was on a great cul-de-sac, and the home was in immaculate condition, albeit needing eventual bathroom remodels, or at least decent updates. But, totally nice, still definitely worth the price we offered. It had been on the market for a while but they dropped their price significantly, so we offered their new asking price and hoped for the best. They got another offer which was a good $20k higher than ours, so guess what? They took the better offer.

Strike #2.

I should mention, all this time we've really been asking God to guide our decisions, that we would not get a house he did not want us to have. Ha. In a more pessimistic mood, I might be tempted to say that was not a great idea. But alas, we moved on, still trusting God's good plans.

The next week we decided to look in a different area. After viewing a couple more homes, we made an offer on a house in Gladstone. They had been on the market over a week, no offers, no other interest even. We offered above asking, but asked them to pay closing costs and leave their appliances. They basically said "You can pay extra for the house, yes, but you will pay closing and we want our (normal, simple, ugly, white) fridge." Umm, what? Who doesn't take an offer above asking when they have no other offers or interest? And really? That average little fridge is worth countering? But this put the offer above our budget, which we are really trying to be wise about. It was evident God did not want us there.

Strike #3.

Moving on, with some tears on my part, we have been a bit more cautious, carefully considering if God has been calling us elsewhere through our unending desires to do something crazy. Well, Tualatin was not exactly crazy, but we found a great home there with a perfect yard and fabulous location. We were able to schedule the inspection for only two days after they accepted our offer (yay!), but after 20 minutes our realtor called with some crazy news. Evidently they did not have fiber cement siding like the listing said, but rather,  LP siding, which is no longer legal to use and was involved in a class-action law-suit. We decided to continue the inspection, thinking if the rest of the house was pretty decent we'd keep moving forward. Yeah, that didn't happen. Item, after item, after item, after item, after item came up when the inspection was complete. Did I say there were more problematic items on the inspection report? This lovely-looking, 20 year old home was probably just very poorly built, but then the sellers made many modifications that all needed remedied on top of the built-in problems. We offered to pay less for the home (because we would need to replace all the currently failing siding to prevent damage to the actual framing and house structures) and have them make the other repairs, but they decided to go with their back-up offer.

Strike #4.

Well, off I went to SheSpeaks, really feeling like this was all too crazy to be true. The way God worked in me there and spoke through all the different strangers there was a little surreal. 

Mark and I had agreed that he could go look at any house and make whatever offer he felt comfortable with while I was gone, but I told him there was no pressure to do so. He did look at several homes and he found a killer place in Tualatin at the top of our budget. We decided to offer, having full assurance that we cannot mess up God's plans. We knew our offer might not be competitive, but that just increased our faith, knowing if we got this home, it would be God's affirmation. Nope. Didn't get it. This wasn't incredibly surprising, but just another strike on our quickly growing list.

Strike #5.

So what now? Who has a good down-payment, good income, and great credit and gets out-offered, denied purchase, or lands a money-pit, with five different houses, in three different cities, within four weeks? Only people who God has other plans for I guess! We are not discouraged, but we also are not incredibly sure what the next step is. I mean, I totally have things I could plan out, Mark less than me, but we are trying to keep an open mind, wait on God's timing, and start exploring other ideas. 

As we wait, and as I struggle to grow in faith, I am reminded of how Abraham grew in faith from Romans 4:20 (emphasis mine).

"No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God."

Think about these words: as, while, during. Abraham's faith was not a by-product of God's evidence of His promise, but was a by-product of his own decision, his own commitment and obedience to praising God. Abraham trusted God more when he praised God despite being unsure, while traveling somewhere new,  known only to the God who called Him out of nowhere. I usually wait to praise God until I've seen what He has done, but now, I am choosing to praise God for who He is, the way He works (even when it baffles me), and for the unknown that lies ahead. Because He has promised it is good, that it is best for me, and that even after things fall apart, eternity in His presence is still enough of a reason to praise Him now. 

So here we are. Crazy, right? It's getting to be pretty comical, and I actually find myself smiling about it, excited about it. But please pray for us. We are wild at heart, ready to jump into things most people would warn us against, so pray that God would continue to open and close doors as He sees fit, and that we can praise Him in the midst of it all.

Monday, July 25, 2016

On Writing Honestly.

To write, or not to write. That is the question.

This is always the question for me it seems. Struck with an idea, thinking about something powerful, listening to a song that gives me goosebumps... do I try to explain it? Do I attempt to transform my intense emotions into words? I feel a desperate pull to make you understand.

But for what? Why do you need to understand? The first reason that comes to my head is because it has changed me. Whatever thought, emotion, or inspirational idea I just had gave me hope, helped me endure, caused me to move into action, pointed me to God's truth, or blessed me with peace.

This is important to me lately because I am seeing how what I believe about myself does not line up with what others believe about me or what God says about me. I live with the lie that who I am, what I have to offer, might not matter. I fear no one wants it.

It's hard to even write that. Part of me feels almost arrogant to say it. Silly, yes? What is arrogant in admitting you believe something dreadful about yourself? Maybe I still question if it is true or not. Maybe admitting it frightens me because I am finally willing to admit I cannot keep living that way. Maybe it's scary to start believing the truth more than just occasionally.

This all comes out now from a number of experiences. One being my friend Astrid's 30 day writing challenge. Her willingness to write every day, whatever she feels like writing, without editing, encouraged me to attempt the same, at least today. Another reason I sat to write this is from the lessons Lysa Terkeurst taught this past weekend on rejection and how to get your very best idea out of your soul. She says that we often believe a story about ourselves that isn't true and that our best idea is often born out of our struggles.

The last reason I am putting this out there is actually about 50 reasons, 50 people to be exact. Well, not exact, as I have lost count of the women to spoke into my life this weekend. But all of them seemed to see something in me I cannot. The way they listened with enthusiasm, the way they asked me questions about my life, the way they all said they were excited to see what God will make out of this very unsure month or two of my life recently... it's got me questioning how and why I question myself.

So, I sat down to write. Ever so briefly, but honestly. To try and really put my mind into these little keys and see what happened. To practice stating my honest thoughts and perhaps come up with reasons, inspiration, and encouragement to keep trying it over and over again. I won't lie, I hope it moves you the way it's changing me. And I do hope something beautiful comes from all of it.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What a Weekend!


I miss all my new friends so much already. It’s unbelievable what a bond I feel with those women. 

Usually after very social events I get a little weird. I actually thought a lot about it before I came here, expecting that I would need to figure out how to cope. I also pre-decided (a Lysa T. term) that I would write about exactly what I felt and try to put it into words as it was happening. But you know what? God’s peace is so heavy upon me. I could cry just sitting right here in the Charlotte Airport. 

Maybe I’ll feel weird tomorrow, but today I feel more alive that I have in quite some time. No uncertainty about what the other women thought of me. No fear that I said the wrong things or did something offensive. No worry over how I am going to implement all the truth I soaked up this weekend. This is how I should live all the time. 

This morning I was wide awake at 4:30am. It’s not the time difference, since it was actually only 1:30am in Portland, but I was really anxious again. My stomach hurt and I tried desperately to sleep it off. To no avail, I twisted and turned while my stomach twisted and churned until about 5:30am when I finally decided to get on with my day. After hearing my new friend Lee Anne give her devotional yesterday, I decided to take her advice about how to fight worry. 

1- Praise God.

I won’t tell you all of her steps yet, as it is her story, her insight. But this first step was perfect. Actively telling God how grateful I was, how He is good no matter what I am worried about, that He knows where I will be in 30 days, that He is in total control, and that He loves me. 

Then, I downloaded the First 5 app from Proverbs 31 ministries and watched the video for today. 

Holy freaking moly. 

I met those ladies the last two days! Whitney and Leah… I got to listen to their wisdom in person! When I got a chance each day, I tracked them down and told them thank you. They were so sweet, so gracious, and almost shocked to see that God’s working through them was working in me. I feel like they are my friends already and I was so glad to glean even more of their biblical wisdom and insight again this morning. 

I may still feel weird later today, but I’m not worried about if that happens. I’m SO looking forward to seeing my sister soon & exploring Boston for the first time. I am so undeserving of these good gifts, of this incredible peace. God has blown me away once again, more that ever and I am going to revel in it for as long as I can.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


It's almost here!

On Thursday I'm flying solo across the country to attend a Speaking & Writing conference! Ummm, that's a little crazy, considering how much of an amateur I am, or at least feel like I am. I haven't really been nervous yet, but over the weekend my mom was asking me more questions about it and the gravity of this expedition is sinking in. Lately I've actually been more nervous thinking about all the clothes I need to pack and figuring out if all my outfits (highly planned and coordinated) will actually fit in a carry-on. But overall, I feel really calm compared to my usual self.

I can't tell if I am just incredibly relaxed and happily content, or if I am totally deceiving myself and will be a basket-case in a couple days. I am definitely excited, a tiny bit nervous, and trying to figure out what books and notebooks I should bring. I'm also preparing a five-minute devotional I will give with a small group of women I've already met via email. God totally provided an interesting topic through so many different avenues there was no possible way for me to ignore it. Don't worry, I'll write it all up to post on the blog soon, possibly mid-flight.

I've been blessed by how many of my friends and family have expressed their excitement for me. Some of them seem more excited than I am! I've spent a lot of my time bouncing between two drastically different hypothetical situations. I keep feeling scared that the women there might be shallow, speaking only in cliches and vague ideas about being a "good Christian" or fearing that all of them will be light-years beyond me in knowledge, experience and ability, causing me to feel like this was a giant waste of time and money. I'm sure it will be somewhere between those two different imaginary happenings and I look forward to all the thinking, observing, and then attempting to put everything in my head into real, comprehendible language.

I have no idea what I will come away with, but I am especially excited for the session about presenting yourself as a professional speaker, and for the special lunch session for Compel members with Lysa Terkeurst. There are also some other homeschool moms I am hoping to meet up with the first morning - I'm praying at least a couple of them will be women I can connect with more long-term.

Overall, I'm most nervous about who I will sit with and the possibility of people not talking to me. I definitely feel more extroverted when I am without my children, so I am guessing neither of those things will be a major problem. Even if I sit alone a good portion of the time, I'm sure I will still be gleaning so much from all the speakers that I won't have time to dwell on it. And really, maybe it's silly to be nervous about such a minor thing, but it's a deep insecurity I have, and something I am trying to overcome by trusting in God's goodness and love for me.

How can you pray for me? Oh, thanks for asking ;) Pray for my husband home alone with the kids! Then, pray I feel God's presence there. I truly want to know Him more and get better at sharing His love and power to those around me. If that means pursuing writing and speaking more purposefully, then I want to go for it! But if I need to keep working diligently at becoming a better writer here on my blog and only pursuing the speaking stuff here-and-there as opportunities arrive, then I want to be content with that too. Either way, I want to get better at being purposeful with my time and intentional with my words, whether they are spoken or written, here on my blog, or in my text conversations, or in person with loved ones day-to-day.

Thanks for all your encouragement and excitement for this week of my life! I will write again soon and fill you in on all our house stuff too. Praying you see God's love and care in your life today.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pondering Home.

Good news, we sold our house!

This has been both a celebration and a source of stress. As I’m doing my best to trust God’s plans and stay a little distracted, I’ve found myself dissecting my thoughts. I keep wondering why this feels so hard. Is it just because it’s change? Or because we are unsure what city we’ll actually be moving to? I think there’s an eternal current under all of this, which can be a powerful reminder of hope and stability if I can keep it in mind. 

As I stood in my kitchen one morning, looking at my lovely countertops, I felt sad that I would no longer be standing right there, fixing coffee or cereal or smoothies in the mornings. Someone else will be there, with their decor, their stuff, their routines. I’m not typically very sentimental about physical objects or places, so I just kept on thinking, trying to figure out where these intense feelings of loss were coming from.

While looking at 20+ houses over the last few weeks, while in homes that we liked (or even loved) I envisioned myself there, saw what my kids would be doing, or planned out what kinds of parties and events we would be having there. It was easy, and I didn’t think twice about not being in our current home. The sadness was dissipated, replaced by my excitement, adding a little anxiety about my to-do list, and awakening a hope for new memories and adventures.

You see, when there is some sort of “next”, we can at least guess about what will happen, and when we can rely on at least parts of it being good, we can leave despair behind and move forward with less fear. Without a “next”, we can only look on what was, leaving too much room for a giant hole of nothingness, impossible to fill with any real situation. Some of us are better at daydreaming that others, but sooner or later that daydream is shattered and we will be left looking for a place to rest where there is only a question mark.

In case you haven't tried it, resting in a question mark is impossible. Apart from trusting in God, you either cannot do it or you fool yourself and are actually trusting in something else. It’s like standing. You either stand somewhere or you don’t. If you are not standing, you are sitting, lying down, or moving in some sort of direction. So when your house sells, and you have not one single idea where you will be in 45 days, it’s like standing, but with no floor. The same feeling of falling will sometimes flutter in my chest as I think about how unknown all of this is, but that’s where God’s promises have kept me from despair, from questioning more than I should, or worrying when I should be sleeping.

I may not know what happens next, but I know what happens last. Someday, I will never have to worry about where I will live. Actually, I don’t even have to worry now, but it’s hard to stop thinking about everything that is going on in my life today. When I really consider the promise of having my eternity taken care of, my sin not holding me back, and my circumstances never being insurmountable or frightening, my breathing becomes slow, deep, and full of peace. My cares about the size of the kitchen, the state of the bathroom sink, or how much painting I will be doing seem more like exciting gifts and less like reasons to be crabby.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where I will be in 45 days or 45 years. Many people look only to what they will gain during their life on earth, but ignoring impending death does not ensure life. It scares me to see how many friends of mine think life just ends, or if they don’t really believe that, they don’t think or talk about what will happen the day they die.

Just like I’m not disappearing from my house into nothing, your soul does not just disappear into nothing. I am going somewhere else. Your soul is going somewhere else. Do you know where? Do you care? Do you want to be sure?

It’s difficult for me not to obsess and cry and despair over these thoughts, about the loss of life that will occur at the end of your flesh, at the end of so many people’s time on earth. It is the promise of my soul going somewhere more delightful than my favorite daydream, more perfect than my best day, that enables me to function in all the unknown. I can sell my house and know that even in the worst-case-scenario, I’ll still be fine. Not because of my resilience, or my circumstance, or any kind of special blessing, but because Jesus has taken care of everything for me. He did it before I knew I would need it, before I was willing to admit I needed it. And He gives me glimpses every day of the fulfilling joy I will obtain when every earthly fear is shattered forever.

So there you have it, part of my brain on paper, I mean, computer ;) And now you know my struggle these days. Looking, hoping, being tempted to despair and being reminded again of God’s promise for me: a place with Him in eternity. If that is not glorious to us, the problem lies in our hearts, not in the value of Him. And if you don’t know what will happen when you die, I beg you to start thinking. Please don’t despair, but don’t be fooled into thinking a good life on earth is all there is to hope for. I may seem busy and in the midst of moving, but I am not too busy to talk about eternity… I could do that forever. So think away, ask away, and start searching for eternal peace instead of temporary happiness.