Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016: The Year of Action

As the year is coming to a close an abundance of conversations that I have had in 2016 are flooding my mind.  I have been surrounded by a group of incredible people who are actively walking through a year of movement.  For many of us, we heard the Lord speak in 2014 or 2015 about plans that He has for our lives and for some reason 2016 has been the moment that He decided to say, "Go. My time is now,"  and we are listening.

2015 could be defined as a year of waiting and patience for me and my family.  The Lord spoke and gave me indications that things would be changing in the future but 2015 was our calm before the storm.  While we waited the Lord moved in big ways with our surprise second pregnancy and that time was spent taking care of me, our developing baby, and our household.  We saved money, we paid down debt, and we prayed.  Both Jake and I felt the Lord stirring in our hearts with regards to our jobs but the Lord kept us in a holding pattern.  Then 2016 arrived. 

Right before Grady arrived we decided to forego running our own business in exchange for a consistent schedule and paycheck for Jake.  Grady arrived in April and then in September the Lord abruptly called me to act.  It was time.  It was time for me to follow His leading and the stirring that had so strongly taken hold.  He was calling me to something new so we jumped.  We jumped into the unknown in a big way and you know the rest of that story at this point. 

Even more interestingly, in the past 12 weeks I have been surrounded by a community of women who have also been called to action.  For some of them this has been a long time coming, for others, it was a shock to the system and the Lord is calling them to simply trust.  I have gotten the opportunity to witness behind the scenes movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of so many that I can comfortably say that 2016 has been a challenging year.  I can only imagine that this means that big and holy things are in store for 2017! 

God's people are on the move.  They are moving on behalf of their family, they are moving on behalf of their children, they are moving on behalf of their health, they are moving on behalf of their community, they are moving on behalf of God.  These are people walking through times of uncertainty, times where the only guarantee they have is that the Lord is for them.  For many of us, the only thing that we can count on is our faith.  And can I tell you something?  These people are bold and confident in our God.  We know that because God is for us, no one can be against us.  No one. 

I am inspired every single day by these people.  They challenge me to be bolder, stronger and more passionate about what the Lord is doing in my life.  God's people are under pursuit.  He created us, He has chosen us, He has equipped us and now He wants to use us.  His time is now and it is our time to show up. 

Today I write because I feel that someone needs to hear this.  Someone needs to know that they are not alone in being called to big, important, holy things.  2016 has been a year of action but more importantly, it has been a year of obedience.  Blind obedience.   

Is the Lord calling you to something?  Can you feel him doing the heavy heart work within you?  If so, trust him.  Trust that he has your very best in store.  Trust that he has HIS very best in store for you. 

I know in my heart there are others like us who have heard and know that God has called us to bigger things.  He has planted the seeds over the past couple of days, weeks, months or years, and now he wants to see them grow. 

Today I challenge you to be bold.  Know that God is for you.  Know that He has walked your upcoming path and He is defeating the opposition.  He gave his life, are you ready to give yours? 

Our time is now.  For God's sake, move. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016


As part of my new job, I was asked to give my testimony to a group of women.  Some of the women know me well and others are basically strangers.  To think through your own personal testimony in order to present it to such a dynamic group of people takes a lot of consideration, humility and oppenness to the Holy Spirit leading you.

As I prayed through it over a few weeks, one word continued to flash in my mind.  Enough. 

In each of the large moments of my faith walk God has used that word in one way or another to challenge me, prompt me, converse with me, or convict me. 

My first big trust move was trusting God when He told me to take a break in my relationship with Jake.  He simply said, "Release him to me.  I love you enough."  We went on a break and here we are now.

The next move was taking a job in central Illinois just minutes away from Jake's hometown when we were on above mentioned "break" and God said, "do you trust my plan enough?"  Here I am living in central Illinois and raising my sons in the same county Jake grew up in.  To top it off, my parents now have a home less than a mile down the road from us.

After marriage we walked through infertility and God simply said, "am I enough? Am just I, enough?"  Time and time again we told the Lord he was enough.  Infertility became a cross to bear and a way to minister and reach out to others.  As a result, we have our beautiful son, Camden, and in the future this walk is going to provide an opportunity for generosity that right now we can barely wrap our heads around.

After infertility we became unexpectedly, naturally pregnant, and God asked, "is my healing enough?"  I had to actively release infertility as my main cross to bear in order to fully walk in the grace and miracle of our second pregnancy with Grady.  God moved in my heart and told me that I would love this son just as much as Camden, even though their pregnancy journeys were entirely different and taught different lessons.

When it came time to leave my job just recently God asked me, "do you trust me enough?"  He called me to step out in full faith and without a safety net.  Within the weeks after leaving my job He revealed to me, and the Holy Spirit moved in awesome and powerful ways to bring me to what I am doing now. 

It has taken walking by faith on a daily basis to trust that God will provide for our needs but as I have written before, I didn't realize what an incredible root money and materials had within me until now. 

For a SHORT time, I have struggled with what it means to live paycheck to paycheck, to not be able to buy my kids the things that they need right away, and to figure out any and every way possible we can cut monthly costs and reduce debt. 

Yesterday, I woke up in my warm bed, fed my kids breakfast from a small array of OPTIONS of food they had for breakfast, changed into a clean pair of clothes, and sat in my living room while my kids played with their numerous toys and had the audacity to sit, mope, and feel sorry for us.

Since walking away from my career I have had the spectrum of emotions from pure joy to doubt to uncertainty to guilt. 

In talking with Jake last night I admitted that my stress doesn't come from money being tight or a lack of usual finances, my stress comes as a result of my guilt.  I feel guilty that I made the conscientious choice to make my family walk through this hard time because I chose God's will.  It felt like there was a level of unfairness in it all. 

Jake's response and the reason he has my heart was, "honey, we don't have it hard. We have so much compared to so many people in the world. This is not hard. We are fine." 

Yesterday afternoon God also put in my path a documentary on Hillsong UNITED called the I Heart Revolution, which showed what REAL hardship looks like. 

By the end of my woe is me day God said one word, "Enough." 

This time it was said in a parental tone with the underlying message of, I am tired of your complaining.  I am tired of your doubt.  I know you see what I am doing almost every day.  You are not suffering.  I will give you enough.

I can't help but take this into the Christmas season and keep saying it to myself over and over again.  All of it.

I love you enough.
His plan is enough.
He is enough.
His healing is enough.
I trust Him enough.
We have enough.

May these words speak to you in the way they need to this Christmas season and may you know and trust that Jesus is enough.  Always and forever.  Enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Let Your Heart Break

Broken heart
despair; disillusionment; devastating sorrow, especially from disappointment

In my personal experience, a broken heart has never been something I chose.  The pain that has to be endured and walked through during heart break can feel so burdensome, so heavy, so uncomfortable and so unexpected that it makes you want to run away, hide, cower, and even deny it exists.

Right now, my heart is breaking on a daily basis.  The Lord has my family actively walking through a time in our lives that is stretching me and pulling my soul and heart in such extreme directions that at moments, I want to run away from it all.

I didn't realize what I was getting myself into once I said, "Here I am, Lord." God is walking me through a season of dependence on Him that I've never been through before.  He is waking up the deepest part of my soul.  Some of you may wonder why I've chosen this.  Why would I choose to submit and release all of my comforts, desires and aspirations to God?  Why would I make my family walk through this?

My eyes are being opened to things I never saw, felt or acknowledged before.  My heart is breaking.  It is breaking into a million little pieces for a million different reasons.  It is breaking for the well off, the comfortable, the lacking, the poor, the sinful, the prideful, the moms, the dads, the children, the Christians, the lost, the educated, the uneducated, the abused, the healed, strangers, friends and family members.   My soul is developing so much strength that I can almost feel it crawling out of my skin because I am getting so filled with love and compassion for all of God's children.  My heart is pounding fiercely in my chest on a daily basis and I am barely scratching the tip of the iceberg of what it means to really need God and trust in His plan.  But you guys, can I just tell you that if my heart break is any indication of what God feels when He looks at his lost children, oh man! Oh how He loves us, oh how He longs for us to seek Him and know Him.  His heart is hurting for you.  His heart is bursting at the seams for each of us. 

All of this is absolutely WRECKING me.  I am literally being emptied of myself and filling up on the well of Jesus Christ.  His heart is breaking my heart for his children.  He is breaking my heart for this city, this state, this country.

In a week where so many people are feeling heart broken and lost, I am praying for you.  I am praying that you begin to find direction not in man but in the hope of our one true Savior, Jesus.  Come to his altar that is filled with hope and love and direction and purpose.  Come to a place where your eyes are opened to the needs of the people around you.  So many people have said that they are willing to be the changes that need to be made in the coming days, months and years and it is inspiring but can I challenge you to do something?  Let your heart continue to break.  Walk in that despair, the disillusionment, the devastating sorrow and your disappointment but don't push it away.  Use it.  Use it to empathize and brainstorm.  Let your eyes be opened to the needs around you.  Let your heart break for those who need it.

As we approach the holiday season, hold onto that heart break and let it strengthen you from the inside out.  Let it challenge you to stretch yourself and your openness.  In the rawness of recent heart break it is easy to say things and make commitments to be better but sometimes in our vulnerability we pull it back together and shy away from doing the hard and heavy stuff because we don't want to continue to hurt or feel discomfort.  Don't shy away from it.  Again I say, walk through it and work through it.

In the very best way, my heart is breaking for you, friend and stranger.  I pray that you get a sense of what it means to hurt and use it to heal.  Do good.  Love your fellow man but don't try to do it on your own.  Seek help, seek Him.  

"Difficulties and mistakes will either devastate our faith or they will stimulate growth and maturity.  The positive differences come when we humbly seek God's help, whatever the situation.  Trials that tempt us to turn away from God should, instead, spur us to turn toward God."  Chronological Life Application Study Bible, page 788.


Thursday, November 3, 2016


Monday was the first payday in 10 years on which I did not receive a paycheck.  To say that it is a humbling experience is an understatement. 

In the past few weeks I have been battling intense spiritual warfare on all fronts both directly and indirectly.  Foundational aspects of my life are being shaken in large and rippling ways yet The Lord remains constant.

Indirect spiritual warfare aside, the Lord is digging deep within me to see how much I trust in 
Him to provide our daily bread.  Here’s the thing, I know that I am walking SMACK DAB in the middle of God’s calling on my life.  He has not only worked so obviously in my life but The Lord has literally placed me on the hearts of others and spoken to them about my life.  They in turn have spoken into my life.  Can you grasp the depth of that?  There are times that I can hardly believe the power of the Holy Spirit.  I would say it is like magic but it is far better than that.  It is almost unfathomable that the God who created heaven and earth cares so much about me that he literally stirs within the hearts of others to bless my life and provide encouragement, direction and wisdom. 

Yet here I am once again, working on unearthing my idols that I didn’t realize were in my heart.  I am sitting in a position that I never would have imagined before.  I am getting a taste of what it means to consolidate errands, prioritize items on a grocery list from necessary to “luxury” and literally passing on eating certain items that I know my kids enjoy more than I do, namely bananas J, in an effort to save money.  What makes this so humbling is that I chose this.  I chose to walk away from a lucrative career in order to walk in God’s will.  And honestly, a lot of days I deeply wrestle with it.  I question God’s plan for my life and family when I feel like my family’s care and provision are at risk (even though I know in my heart they are not).
Hear my heart and trust me when I say this, my God can provide far beyond my wildest dreams and show up in ways that I least expect – I know He is for me.  My intention for writing during this is not pity but as always, I want to be transparent.  I will tell you that walking through this has enlarged my heart and deepened my compassion and sympathy for people who have to walk through this day after day, month after month.  I share this part of our journey because ironically the biggest thing I’m learning now is what it really means to sacrificially give, what it means to provide for my children, what it means to bless them and others, and what it means to fully trust in God’s provision.  I don’t think that it is coincidence that we are walking through this and being refined right before the holiday season, a time when presents are often held above presence.  This will not be a Christmas of excess in our household.  It will be a Christmas of minimalism and focus on the reason and the true gift that we have received, God’s son. 
I know that I would not have had this personal awakening had this not been my choice.  Even still, even during my wrestling, there have been more than a handful of moments when God showed up to provide encouragement.  Just in the past two days the Lord has lead people to reach out to me and tell me that I am on their hearts.  I know that I have an army of prayer warriors who are supporting me and seeking the Lord’s will on my behalf.  They are intercessing spiritually when I am weak and show such genuine excitement to see what the Lord is going to work out that it reignites my passion and excitement for walking in the Lord’s will.  God’s word is living and active and speaks into me on a daily basis and continues to provide the words I need to step forward in faith. 
As stated earlier, I don’t write this for pity or sympathy but I write to say just wait and see what the Lord is capable of!  This lesson in humility that the Lord is calling me to walk through is humbling to the deepest part of my core.  It is my mission to humbly show that God is real, He is always present and He always shows up and He is always enough.  We will not walk through this season in vain; His praise will ever be on my lips. 
2 Kings 7:19 New International Version
The king’s officer had replied, “That couldn’t happen even if the Lord opened the windows of heaven!” And the man of God had said, “You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!”
Commentary taken from Chronological Life Application Study Bible, 2nd ed., 2004
2 Kgs 7:19-20
God, not worthless idols, provides our daily food.  Although our faith may be weak or very small, we must avoid becoming skeptical of God’s provision.  When our resources are low and our doubts are the strongest, remember that God can open the floodgates of heaven.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Here we sit: On the Precipice

There are moments when God calls you to act.  Sometimes it is to step out of your comfort zone and pray for someone out loud.  Sometimes it is to give more generously at a time when the purse strings are tight.  Sometimes it is to simply sit and be still and allow the Lord to work behind the scenes.  Sometimes it means sending a text message or a note saying you are thinking of someone or praying for them.  And then there are times like right now.  This time, the Lord has called me to act in a way that defies all human forms of logic.  He has called me to act in a way that to the outsider likely appears irresponsible.  He has called me to move toward, and step into, a high level of discomfort and uncertainty when what I had before was security, steadiness and stability.  The Lord has called me to jump and instead of showing me where I will land has simply said, "Trust me, I will catch you."  

In a rather abrupt way, the Lord indicated to me that now was the time.  It was time for me to walk away from the security of my job, my benefits and my paycheck into a deep sea of unknown.  On the day that He very clearly spoke I had a sleepless night.  Not a sleepless night that involves a fussy or hungry baby but a sleepless night in which I was actually wrestling with the will of God.  When I say wrestling, it was more like God had me pinned, the ref was doing the final count, and I was debating whether or not I was going to try to fight back this round or swallow my pride and fully submit.  

As a usual practice, when I can't sleep in the middle of the night, instead of counting sheep I say the Lord's prayer over and over.  On this night, while I was reminding the Lord of all of my responsibilities, namely feeding my children and paying my bills, I decided to stop and say his prayer.  When I got to the line, "give us this day our daily bread," the Lord stopped me.  He simply said, "all you need is your daily bread.  I will give you your daily bread."  

For the past couple of years the Lord has been calling us to be good stewards with our finances and we have done our very best to listen.  I admit, however, that I was creating an idol out of being debt free.  Not only have I been obsessive about this goal, I had literally convinced myself that the Lord's plans for our lives would basically recommence once we achieved this goal.  Everything I did was to further accomplish a safe financial position for our family while at the same time I seemed to be pressing the hold button on the rest of life.

And now here we are.  We are carrying debt but called into the unknown.  Still, as Angie Smith said in her Seamless study, "God is more powerful than the circumstance I am setting myself in."  

I have now realized that my fear of walking in disobedience to God's will for my life is much stronger than my fear of discomfort.  I am no longer willing to miss out on the good things that I know the Lord has in store for me and my family, whatever they may be, because I am afraid.  

So here I am. Tomorrow is my last day at work. The end of a chapter.  I am writing through this journey in order to honor God.  I write now without knowing what is in store but I trust that it is good.  I know that I serve a big God who has big plans but he was unwilling to show them to me until Jake and I said, "We are in. We trust you. We serve you above all else."  

Yet again, the Lord has asked, "Am I enough? Am just I enough?"  For those of you who know our testimony, sound familiar?    

Yet again our answer is yes.  Yes, Lord, just you are enough.  

Heavenly Father, I sit at your feet today on the precipice of a journey that I haven't even dreamt about.  I sit here with a fully devoted and supportive husband who is literally living out our vows with me.  I sit here with two boys who I hope will see a mom and dad who actively live out what it means to trust God fully.  Lord, today I choose to live the words I trust you.  I choose to daily ask for your provision and I am excited to see what you have in store.  Whatever it may be, I pray that you are honored and glorified through it.  Thank you for your calling on my life.  Thank you for your faithfulness.  I know that you are about to begin an amazing adventure in our lives and I'm humbled that you've chosen us to serve you in it.  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Politics and Faith: Where I stand

As part of my job I am required to follow politics.  I am not claiming that I am an expert, I just have to pay attention.  Since I have to pay attention, sometimes people will ask what my current position is on the election or specific candidates.  Most often, these people already know where I fall on the liberal/conservative scale and on certain social issues.  This year, however, I am struggling to find my place within the political spectrum because I don't agree with either candidates position on a handful of matters so a lot of my conversations with people have gone deeper than just asking who my candidate is.  
For background and the sake of being thorough, at the end of the day, I believe life is conceived at conception.  Why?  Because I went through in vitro fertlization and you will not be able to convince me that my frozen embryos are anything less than babies.  Don't try.  This dictates my personal position on when life begins.  If you've terminated a pregnancy, I don't judge you or condemn you.  That was your choice.  There are circumstances that are out of your control and a number of other reasons why people have experienced that.  I don't write my position to shame anyone, I write it for transparency.  If you disagree with me, I still respect you and believe you are entitled to your position. 
I also believe that the Bible clearly states that marriage is supposed to be shared between a man and a woman, however, I am not going to argue or picket or judge when my gay friends or family members choose to marry someone they love.  I am no more or less of a Christian or more or less of a sinner because of my position on marriage.  I just believe in what the Bible says.  The good news is, God is not going to ask for my input on anyone else's judgment day so I love and I will support love.  Again, if you disagree with me, I still respect you and believe you are entitled to do so.  
It is with great reserve that I even write those things out and share them with the world because I know that it is inviting in judgment and criticism from either side of the spectrum.  I also realize that it could be hurtful to people very important and close to me to read that.  My intention is not to hurt, judge or condemn.  It is with my whole heart that I say I love any and all of my family members, regardless of their race, religion, sexuality, or history and I will continue to support, encourage and be there for any and all of them just as I hope I already am.  
I humbly admit that I had to come far to get to this place of love and acceptance.  I struggled intensely and had to have a severe personal reset when it came to my "position" on these issues.  I have stories of judgment, resentment, and anger in my past when it comes to both of these very sensitive and personal life choices that I am not proud of and where I needed to ask for other's forgiveness.  
That being said, you could say that the past eight years for me should be a disappointment or frustrating due to the country's shift in legal social policies but they have not. 
Just like I personally needed to fall hard and have my eyes opened to my hard heart and judgmental position on these issues, I feel that the church needed/needs the same reset.  We still have far to go but if you look at what the past eight years have called the church to do it has been, in my opinion, a welcome awakening.  Since the country has decided to stray further from the Biblical standards on life and marriage, the church has had to dig in and re-examine the Biblical standards on LOVE.  I feel that more churches and leaders have called out and challenged Christians in what it means to love like Jesus loved.  To live like Jesus lived.  He surrounded himself with those that were not like him.  He was drawn to and drew in the downtrodden, the sinful and the different.  
The church is at a point of re-awakening that is so very necessary and while we may not agree or the Bible doesn't support the positions that our country has taken, God knew these things were going to happen. He is not surprised by this.  In fact, I think that he is using this as an opportunity to command us to live out the commandment to love thy neighbor.  He is calling us to do it better.  We are all created in His image.  We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  It's time that we stop throwing stones.  It is time that we drop our stones and walk away from condemnation and judgment.  Just like it took a pivotal moment for Jesus to draw the line in the sand, I feel that our country has drawn that line and we now have to choose whether or not we reach across to welcome others in or stomp our feet, throw a temper tantrum and dig into our unloving old ways. 
So where do I stand on this election and the issues?  Here is where I stand.  I stand on the authority of Romans 13:1
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (emphasis added)
I hold confidence in the plan that God has for this country.  He will not be surprised by who wins the election in November and He has already laid out those steps.  He knew what would happen these past eight years and I have seen it as an amazing opportunity for the Church to step up and love better. 
For those in the church who may have been discouraged by the past eight years, please evaluate how much it has challenged us.  Look at what it called us to do.  In my opinion, I think that when the hard lines were drawn, we actually became better for it.  
Things may not go the way you want them to in November, but keep in mind, God knows what we are about to walk through and hopefully, again, the church will come out better for it. 


Friday, July 15, 2016

Be better.

I consider myself lucky.  Lucky that my children are both under the age of 2 and they have no idea what is happening to the world around us.  I consider myself lucky that I don't need to have the tough conversations with them or answer the hard questions that really don't have answers.  I consider myself lucky that right now the world is a place of wonder and excitement, not fear and judgment. 

The tough conversations that I have with my almost two year old right include talking about "nice hands."  That is how his daycare teachers remind him not to push, pinch, or pull on other kids.  We have only had one warning about this from his teacher and it hasn't been too much of an issue with how Camden treats Grady at home.  Yesterday, however, I walked into daycare to pick up the boys and I witnessed Camden push a young classmate away from him.  She was doing nothing more than trying to sit on the same bench, which is more than big enough for the two of them.  Immediately, I picked him up, walked over to a quiet area in the room, and had a "talk" with him about his behavior.  I reminded him that we are supposed to treat others with kindness.  We are supposed to "be sweet" and "use our manners" and "show respect" to our classmates, our teachers and our family members. 

As I am in the thick of teaching these life lessons, my heart breaks because I wonder, when did we stop teaching these things?!  At what point did parents and people start teaching such hatred, violence, bigotry, racism, entitlement and exclusion?  I am watching the world around us fill up with more and more sadness and hurt and I'm sitting here thinking that I'm off the hook for the tough stuff just because my kids are little. 

You know what, that is a bunch of garbage.  Its time to call myself out on it.  If anything, now is the time, now is the moment, these kids are the generation for which I am called to step up and do my part to make this world better.  Fellow parents, its time for us to call ourselves out, stop giving ourselves a "pass" and teach our kids to be better, and do better than we are.  It doesn't matter where we live, how sheltered our kids are, or our proximity to the bad.  We have no excuses.  Clearly, the world is dropping the ball in some way.  It's time to raise up an entire generation of children to know that this world can be better and its our responsibility to teach them how. 

But first, my kids will need to know our God.  They need to know our Jesus.  They need to know that they are loved and sought after by a God who created and values EVERY HUMAN life.  EVERY one of his children.  That He died on a cross, not just for them but for every single human walking this earth.  They will need to know that being a Christian is not something to be seen or heard just in word or deed but it stems directly from the heart. They will learn that as long as they invite God to rule over their heart, they will know how to love.  They will know that there is never a question of who deserves to be loved but rather a calling to love even when they feel someone doesn't deserve it.  That love isn't something that is earned but it is something that should be so graciously and abundantly given at all times, in all moments, during all circumstances.  

Its time for a revival.  Its time for all of us to open our eyes and see that something is wrong.  What the world is doing is not working.  When my kids are finally old enough to have an idea what is going on, I will explain to them that the problem started in the heart.  The problem isn't because this person was this religion, that race, or that sexuality.  The problem was in the heart.  I will admit to them that even mommy struggles with problems in her heart.  I will admit that I am also sinful and that I don't always want to treat people the way I am supposed to but because Jesus rules over my heart, I am called to something better.  He makes me better. 

Please parents, its time to reveal the problems in the heart in ourselves, in our own children, and call ourselves to something better.  To teach something better, to show something better, to be better.  I beg of you.  It's not about these lives mattering or those lives mattering more.  Everyone needs to matter.  EVERYONE.  Every movement needs to let go of their divisions, reach across the street, the picket line, the railroad tracks, and collectively agree that LIFE matters.  Plain and simple. 

Dear Jesus,
I am here.  I am here with my very own problems in my heart.  I sit here angry at the world around me.  I am frustrated that my children are growing up in a time where there is so much hurt and so much darkness.  Still, I remember that you created the light and light is more powerful than darkness.  Help me be part of that light.  Help me guide others to your light.  Most importantly, help me guide my children to your light so that they can also show your love.  Your love is so much better than ours.  So much more complete.  I pray for their hearts.  I pray they are tender and strong.  I pray that they are compassionate and gentle.  Father, I lift up this world to you and ask that you work in the hearts of those who are so filled with anger and hatred.  Do things that only you can do.  Reach people that only you can reach.  Be near to us, dear Jesus.  I am so sorry that we keep messing things up.  Help us be better.  Come into our hearts and stay.  Call us to something higher.  Call us to love.  Period.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Sacrifice of Financial Gain

Anyone who knows me well and knows my parents knows that their marriage hasn't been daisies and roses.  Growing up, they had their number of fights, cold shoulders, separations and silent treatments but the one issue that was brought up most between them was always finances.  I witnessed the havoc that mismanagement of finances can have on a marriage first hand.  Then one day, my mom took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and it changed her outlook forward.  While they haven't gotten to do their "We're debt free" scream on the radio at this point, my parents goal is to get out of debt.  To this day, they will tell you that finances have always been one of their top hot button issues and "if you can figure this out now, it will save you a lot of pain and heartache in the future."

Two years before I graduated college, my parents went through another separation and again, finances were a huge part of the problem.  While they reconciled, my graduation gift from college was, you guessed it, Financial Peace University or as other Dave fans would call it "FPU."  While I rolled my eyes at this gesture from my parents, I have to say that I am so very grateful for it.

As of right now, Jake and I are down to five categories of debt: mortgage, car payment, credit card, medical bills, and one last student loan.  I have been working our "debt snowball" ever since we got married.  Some days it feels super rewarding, like a year ago when I paid of my last student loan.  Other days, it feels like a big huge bummer to try and maintain "gazelle" intensity, i.e. passing on a 30th girls trip with my best friends, or spending a work bonus on paying off bills instead of a shopping spree.  Nonetheless, there are seasons in life when I can hear God very clearly and this is one of them.  For the past year God has been saying to me, "Be a good steward with your finances."

The Bible has a lot to say about money but here are a couple verses that I looked up and speak to me. 

Romans 13:8

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Hebrews 13:5

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
On the not so fun days, it is awesome to me that God takes time out to remind me that he is faithful and will reward my diligence.  For example, recently I called to see what the balance was on my hospital bill and it was more than I had in my HSA at the time.  The operator heard me state that I didn't have enough in my HSA at the time but I told him the maximum I could pay.   When he realized that I was trying to pay as much of the balance as possible, he waived the remaining 10% owed.  While this may have been a simple gesture on his part, I know it was a seed of encouragement from the Lord.

My drive to pay off our debt doesn't come because I want to gain more money, it stems from wanting a peaceful marriage, a household that can give to missionaries, local families in need, and future generations.  Often times though, it can be such an uphill battle.  So I guess that is why I am writing today.  I know that there are a lot of other people, husbands and wives trying to be on the same financial page, moms and dads working to provide for their kids, families trying to make a better life overall and single people being responsible and living within their means.  There are people of all walks trying to get out from underneath the rule of debt for any number of reasons.  I know that Jake and I are not alone in this so here is my battle cry for us and everyone else, let's keep going!  Let's continue to do this! Instead of looking at how far we have to go - let's look at how far we have come.  Make sure you don't just sit and tally what you have left but tally how much you've paid off.  Keep your momentum.  Keep your eyes on the prize and remember your motives for starting on the road to financial freedom in the first place.
God will honor your effort in ways you can't even imagine. 

Deuteronomy 28:12 ESV

The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The world is a mess but what can I do to make an impact? Let's be real.

In a time when the nation is calling for peace and encouragement, when we are calling on those with authority to make big moves and drastic changes, I sit here and ask myself what can I do?  How can I contribute?

I live in a small town in the smack dab middle of Illinois with (let's face it) very little diversity.  I grew up in a larger town with a little more diversity but still not nearly the level I would have had if I grew up in say, downtown Chicago.  Still, in the time that I lived in suburbia, my family was exposed to a lot.  My parents always called our house, and still do, heart break hotel.  My parents, and indirectly my siblings and I, were hosts to single moms, Mexicans, Germans, Icelandics, black people, ex-convicts, drug users, alcoholics, and the list goes on.

My sons will more than likely not have the same level of exposure to that same list of people and some of my closest friends have never had exposure to people on that list.  Not having exposure to those things though, does not give anyone the excuse to be indifferent toward what is happening.  But again, in this little town, in my little life, how do I contribute?

Something I learned from my parents, and the one thing always rang true at heartbreak hotel, is that Jesus loves every one of us.  Not because of our past, not because of our future but simply, because.  He died for each one of us.  My parents were never going to turn someone away because of their perceived inadequacies or struggles.  Every single person on this earth has won the Lord's heart and He yearns for you to know and feel the depth of his love. So, obviously, that is what my parents do.  They love.  They love anyone and everyone that walks through their doors.  They serve.  They serve those who can't afford.  They invite homeless people to our Thanksgiving dinners.  They provide housing for people who can't afford it.  They love.  In this way, we have always seen God's love lived out through them.

Today I commit to those same things.  My family will love.  My family will serve.  It may not be a diverse group of people but we will love and serve when we are given the opportunity and when there is a need of anyone in our path.  We will get on our knees and pray for those that are hurting.

To my friends and loved ones of any race, sexual orientation, and age: I love you.  I don't love you on the surface but I love you in the midst of your deepest hurts, insecurities and tough moments.  I pray that you know that when I ask, "How are you doing?" I want to know your struggles.  I want to know what burdens you.  I want to know what you need prayer for.  I want to carry your burdens with you and walk deep within the valley with you.  I want to know these things so that when you reach a peak in your life, we can celebrate together because we know just how far the Lord has brought you.  I want to be able to say, "do you remember when it was so hard? Do you remember when you wanted to give up? Look! Look where we are!  Look what God has done!  Praise Jesus that we are no longer in that dark place!"  And then, when you have to walk through the valley again, I choose to go right back to those hard places with you.

Today, in my little town, in my little life, I choose to bear your burdens.  I choose to link arms with everyone in my inner circle, outside of it, and on the fringe of it.  May anyone who reads these words take me at my word and reach out if you need to.  I'm in.  I'm in because Jesus has always been in.  I'm in because as I always say, we are not meant to do this alone.  I'm in because it is time to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the most real and tangible way possible.

I may not be able to drastically change the whole world or this whole country but I will commit to making my part of this world, my legacy in this life, my children, lovers of others. Doers. Seekers. Burden carriers. Hard and heavy lifters.  

The world is a mess but I vow to do what I am able.  Let's be real with each other and better for it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

To the Female Breadwinner and Mom

You have my heart.  I respect you.  I admire you.  I want you to know that you matter and I know this is hard. 

I know your day does not begin at 9:00 a.m. or when you clock in.  I know that your day begins the night before when you set your alarm and think, how much do I need to get accomplished before my kids even wake up?  I know you wake up in the wee small hours just so you can get something done, i.e. shower and get ready, before you start the morning circus of waking, dressing, feeding and hauling the kids.  I know that daycare drop off is a crapshoot and provides new stories and "entertainment" every morning.  I know that the first 60 seconds that you are in the car after drop off are spent thinking, did I forget anything?  If so, will my child survive without it?  Would we be better off if I could just stay home? NO - Don't go there, not possible, don't even enter that crazytown of thinking! 

I know that the hours spent at the office or on shift require focus and a conscious effort to shake the feeling of, I really think I forgot something or is child A surviving without forgotten item?  What is on the family schedule tonight? What is for dinner? I should have pulled something out to defrost.  Maybe I need to jump on the crock pot bandwagon. Dang, we are out of milk! Seriously, I have to stop at the grocery store just for milk, again?!  I hate having to stop at the store with all the kids just for one item!  Can we go without it? 

I also know that feeling you get when your boss gives you an atta' girl or you rock that task, presentation or business trip.  I know what an amazing feeling it is to be recognized by a group of your peers for good work or win an award.  I also know that slight feeling of guilt that can creep in when you think, now THIS is what I'm meant to do.  Boo ya!  Yet, the feeling of slight guilt when you think, shoot, being a mom is supposed to be what I consider my best but yet, you know that you are meant to be a working mom, breadwinner or not.      

I know that your day does not end when the clock strikes 5:00 p.m. or at the end of your shift.   I know that sometimes you feel like going to the office is a vacation compared to staying at home with your children.  I know that each one of us realizes what a tough job it is to be a stay at home mom but that we know that us staying home is not necessarily in the best interest of our family.  I also know that for a lot of us we realize that staying home is not a reality for our family at this point in time or maybe ever.

I know what it is like to come back from maternity leave and wonder if breastfeeding is still the best option even though it takes such commitment at all times and cuts into our precious sleeping hours and can cause friction when pumping in the workplace.  I know what it is like to wonder whether or not my workplace policies or standards on breastfeeding should trump my child's best interests and our bonding.  I know that emotional roller coaster.  I know what it is like to think, if I let them dictate my position on this family issue, am I letting my job dictate the best interests of my family?  Where do I draw the line?  Is this a domino effect?

We appreciate and love our childrens' daycare teachers.  We feel guilty passing our kids off when we realize they have woken up on the wrong side of the bed but we are also thrilled at the thought that we don't have to handle kid crazy all day.  We love to hear the end of the day reports of our child thriving and that our baby laughed today.  It also breaks our heart to think we didn't hear their giggle for the first time first.  We admit that they have the knowledge and education it takes to help our child thrive and develop at the rate they are supposed to.  We love them for this! 

We watch the bank account, work the budget, choose the insurance coverage, schedule doctor's appointments, keep daycare records up to date, know the soundtrack of Frozen, Thomas, Chuggington, and also what's trending in our industry.  We take mental notes when we are at home of all the items that need to be on the grocery list and think, I've got to remember to write that down and at the same time we keep lists of to-do items for work. I know we love our Amazon Prime subscriptions and free two day shipping.

 We keep our long term goals in mind when we show up for work everyday or deal with difficult co-workers, bosses or jobs.  We focus. Its about the end game, not immediate gratification.  We plan family vacations and business trips.  We look forward to bringing our family to some of the places we have traveled on business and check off places that are absolutely not family friendly.  We enjoy the quiet hotel room on a business trip yet can't sleep because we are away from our babies and warmth of our husband.

We have the utmost respect for our husbands and all that they contribute to our households and families.  We don't place a dollar value on their support but still appreciate their contribution to the bank accounts because every penny counts.  We know how often we have sex and how often we wish we had sex or even the energy for it.  We long for and strive for spontaneous intimacy yet we know sometimes it just needs to be scheduled in order to actually happen. 

I appreciate that my husband cooks, helps with bath-time and also has a vested interest in seeing how much breast-milk I was able to pump today - then commends me for it!  I know that nothing is more encouraging than an "I'm proud of you" or "you look nice today" from your husband especially when in a male dominated industry.  I know there is no greater feeling of protection or support than that of your husband and you are in this together.  You are a team.  His goals are your goals, your goals are his, and you both are doing the best you can for your family. 

I know that being a female breadwinner doesn't undercut my husband being the head of our household.  I know that I don't want it to do that.  I understand the balance of humility and pride involved in those aspects of marriage.  I know there can be times when it is a struggle to be the breadwinner and you get why men were in this role historically but we are women, hear us roar!  I know what its like not to publicly acknowledge your role because somehow it still feels taboo to be honest about it and you recognize that some social norms are outdated or quite frankly, just not practical.  We are able to be employees, bosses, moms and wives! 

I feel you.  I am you.  I know I need to see people shout from the rooftops how much they respect the passion, drive, dedication and sacrifice of the mom breadwinner.  We all do this for the betterment of our families, marriages, lives and let's admit it, sometimes sanity. 

Here's to the long term goals, the indefinite timelines, the paycheck to paycheck or the debt snowball.  Here's to the end game.  Here's to the sleepless nights with kids and the coffee and report filled days.  Here's to being the bag lady, at daycare, at work, at the gym, etc. Here's to soaking up every evening minute with your littles and keeping them up just a little past their bedtime so you can spend some more time snuggling. Here's to putting them to bed early so you can have some time alone or with your honey.  Here's to us on the tough days when we just want to pass the baton but we can't.  Here's to us because tomorrow we start all over. 

Note: This post is not meant to draw lines or pit stay at home moms against working moms or breadwinners against their spouses.  It is simply a battle cry for one segment of mom's, which I am a part of. 

PS - Here's to the spouses who do life with us. We know that we have a lot going on and can be a bit scatter brained.  You are the bread to our butter and carry the ball when it just gets too heavy for us.  Thank you for knowing that we try our best to hold it all together and just handle it but without you, we wouldn't be who we are today.  We need you, we love you and we appreciate you.  You rock! 


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Post partum post infertility: do I even have the right?

Post partum post infertility: do I even have the right?

I write today to share that after this pregnancy I have been struggling with post partum depression.  I have written short Facebook posts on some of my struggles but haven't gone too far in depth because I've been ashamed to do so because of my history with pregnancy.  

I've sat here so many days under attack and allowing the devil to say things to me such as:

All you did was pray for babies for years and now you aren't even happy after having this one?

People are going to judge you and resent you for going through this.  You have no right to be anything but happy.  Don't be so ungrateful. 

God doesn't care about you.  Why would he let you get pregnant just to struggle with depression after the baby?

I'm lucky that I'm not severely depressed at this point but I admit that I have been having extreme difficulty transitioning into our new normal.  I get overwhelmed when I am with the boys.  I get overwhelmed when I am not with the boys.  I get stressed out at the thought of going back to work and sending the boys to daycare full time.  I feel relieved at the thought of going back to work and sending the boys to daycare full time.  I need someone to help me out just so I can get some things done.  I don't want anyone to come help me out, I should be able to 'do it all'.  

You see, being depressed can be tricky because there is no answer.  There is no right way to fix things and there is no logic.  There is no solution to this problem.  I realized this back in high school when I went through severe depression and struggled with suicidal thoughts.  At that time seeing a Christian counselor who led me back to the foundation of my faith, Jesus Christ, saved me.  Thankfully, because of my personal history I know my slipping signs and I am speaking out before I get too deep in this.  

As I write, my mother-in-law is downstairs entertaining the boys so I can just have some me time.  Instead of addressing the piles of laundry sitting on my couch, I decided to make my bed and then the Lord called to me and said, "Dana, I'm waiting for you.  Let's sit and visit.  Pick up your bible.  I see there is some dust on the top..."  

I am reading about Samuel right now but in the annotations so many things spoke directly to my heart.  

"It is difficult to pray in faith when we feel so ineffective.  But, as Hannah discovered, prayer opens the way for God to work." 

I haven't been praying for help because I've been in such a place of emotional indifference and difficulty.  This note called me to pray. 

"Tell God how you really feel and leave your problems with him. Then rely upon the support of good friends and counsellors."  

It is ok for me to need to close my bedroom door and get some quiet time.  It is ok for me to send my older son to daycare so I don't get too overwhelmed.  It is ok for me to open up about this post partum difficulty even though I struggled and prayed and hoped for my babies.  It doesn't make this any less difficult or easy but rather weighs on me that much more and helps me to remember how far God has brought our family.  

Finally, "We should be confident of God's ultimate control over the events in our lives and thankful for the ways he has blessed us.  By praising God for all good gifts, we acknowledge his ultimate control over all the affairs of life."  

God brought this pregnancy and these post partum emotions into my life for a reason.  I need to feel them, work through them and learn from this experience.  I'm so afraid of getting depressed again that I deny when I am having a hard time but now I realize that my deep deep depression over 10 years ago helped me to learn more about my faith and myself than almost any other experience other than our infertility journey.  It is ok for me to embrace this as I walk through it.  

Post partum struggles are real, even for someone who knows exactly what a blessing and joy it is to finally have a baby and experience these miracles after infertility.  I can't allow myself to be ashamed of this even though I feel like I don't have the right.  Everyone has the right.  Everyone faces the risk and everyone should know they are not alone.  

Thank you to everyone who has reached out publicly and privately to share your experiences with me.  For me, solidarity in struggle is so strong and helpful.  I so appreciate you all.  

Here's to transparency and keeping it real.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

patient endurance

Taped onto my desk at work, on the back of an old school "Important Message" paper, I have hand written 2 Peter 1:5-8.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the verse it reads accordingly:

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God's promises.  Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self control, and self control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.  The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I read this verse often to remind myself that I need and want to grow like this but lately the words patient endurance and patient endurance with godliness have really hit home.

I don't typically allow for "distractions" like two little words in a verse to interrupt my daily devotional or reading times but I felt these needed some closer attention.  They need closer attention because they are the hitting closest to home lately.  As I had stated in my last post about resolutions, last year came with surprises and the beginning of this year is spent in waiting.  I don't feel as though I have had a lot of control and it has taken a lot of patience.

Patient is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

Endurance is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. The capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.

The way I see it I have to be able to accept and tolerate delays without giving way (yielding to someone or something) during an unpleasant or difficult process.  Sounds fun, right?  I am also supposed to combine this with godliness, which is defined as the quality of being devoutly religious.

So let's put that all together...I should be devoutly religious, accept and tolerate delays, without yielding to someone or something during an unpleasant and difficult process.  Now we are really talking about some fun!!

This verse is literally life defining and very timely in my current journey.

Has anyone else been in a situation where you feel you should have way more control and action yet God continually says, "stay still." "I'm working for you."

I'm admitting today that I have a hard time with patient endurance with godliness but I take refuge in the fact that "the more I grow like this, the more productive and useful I will be in my knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

If you feel yourself in a similar spot as I am, let's join together in brotherly affection and continue to patiently endure life right where we are at.  Let's be obedient and trust that God is absolutely teaching us how to be more like him with each frustrating step of these difficult and unpleasant processes.

I'll end on this.  It is no coincidence that the verse I have written directly below 2 Peter 1:5-8 is Philippians 4:11b-13, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Hold fast my friends.  God gives us our strength.  We will get through this.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

not a resolution person this year? me neither.

For so many people , the new year brings in the chance for new opportunities, new goals, new bodies, new ambitions, and for some new beginnings.  We are bombarded on social media by mantras encouraging wellness and stability, pictures of athletes or trainers showing you what "you could be" if you just follow their plans, and news articles promising better organization skills, steps to financial freedom and 10 ways to be a better mom and wife this year.

For a lot of people these are encouraging and inspiring but if I'm being completely honest, I sort of hate all of it.  Truthfully, most of these things have the exact opposite effect on my brain, rather than encouraging me I get discouraged, feel left out, like I'm doing something wrong or that there is something wrong with the current way I live my life, eat my food, or raise my family.

What if I don't want to or feel the need to change?  What if I want to learn exactly what I am supposed to learn by living right where I am at?  I'm not saying that I don't like to better myself but that doesn't mean I have to drastically change my mindset, my appearance or my lifestyle?  What if something I'm focusing on this year is simply contentment?  Contentment with exactly where God has me and actively working through my current emotions of just being me.

Honestly, six days into the new year, I haven't felt all that inspired to do anything.  In fact, it is all I can do to just trust God with where I am at.  Last year presented a lot of challenges and unexpected journeys for me and this year, I am doing my best to just be present in what that still means for my family.

Each morning I have woken up and had to actively pursue God in an effort to ask Him to help me just live in this moment.  I hate the pressure of resolutions or goal creating at the beginning of February because I feel like its a fad at this point.

So if you are anything like me and right now you are just working on being you, not changing you, more power to you!  I understand feeling the pressure to do something, change something or be something different because its a new year but how about we just rest in the fact that the Lord has brought us to this very moment and He wants to work in our hearts and loves us JUST AS WE ALREADY ARE.  After all, isn't that the whole reason he died for us on the cross?  To save us, just as we are.

Final Note: If you are all about resolutions this year, more power to you!  This was written in order to encourage those that are in a similar boat as I am.  Sometimes some people just need to resolve to just be where God has placed them.  Other times, God calls us to move in other directions, if that's your current journey with the Lord, rock on, friend!