Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On the Last Day of Kindergarten

I'm not even completely sure how we got here. Wasn't it just last week that I was kissing her and sending her off to her first day of school? 

Left- first day                                        Right-last day

My Momma-heart is sad because this milestone means she's growing up...and happy because we have made so many amazing memories this year! Of course she learned phonics and how to read. She learned the typical things like addition and subtraction. But I think our family learned so much more than that this year.  We learned that God is so much bigger than we ever knew. We learned that He loves our girl and provides for her better than we can fathom.

God knew what our year would hold when we had no clue. 
God knew exactly what our girl would need this year. 

We were questioned on our decision to send her to public school. We were surrounded by people who homeschool their children and we seriously considered that but never felt at peace about it. While we were nervous to relinquish complete control of our daughter's influences, daily interactions, and education (because, let's be honest, up until this point we controlled basically everything she did, saw and learned) we had to trust that God knew what he was doing. He gave us peace. He told us to send her. He told us to release her into His capable hands. And guys...He blew us away. 

She wasn't supposed to go to the school she ended up going to. When we went to the board office to fill out transfer paper work they told us "that school didn't accept any kindergarten transfers last year". They said we wouldn't know if she was accepted until the first day of school. And we got her acceptance letter in JUNE. And I read it and cried. We went to visit the school during the summer and her awesome principal said, "what's strange is that Eliyah's transfer is the only one that came through as 'accepted'...every other form says 'pending first day of school'." Those two instances solidified in our minds that God was in this. He was leading. He was providing. 

And as we look back over this year we see His hand all over it. 

 


This lady right here has been absolutely amazing! She was made to teach. Her energy and passion for what she does is contagious and as a trained teacher it blesses my soul...but as a momma it brings me to tears. 
You see, she did more than just teach Eliyah to read. She did more than provide a fun environment to learn. She loved those students and she loved my girl.

Most of you know we had a hard Fall/Winter with deaths of loved ones, a child who spent time in the hospital here as well as multiple appointments at Cincinnati Children's, and there were other draining and difficult things. Looking back there were many days as a momma that I was drained. I was tired physically. I was a wreck emotionally. I was desperate for Jesus. In the moment I didn't see all these things....but in hindsight I see all of that and the fact that God filled in the gaps for me. Those days I was drained and couldn't give my babies everything they needed, God showed up and made up for what I lacked. For Eliyah, He did this through her teacher. 

She loved my girl while she was away from me. She protected her fiercely. She poured her heart into her. And for all of that, I am eternally grateful. God knew Eliyah would need a little extra from someone outside of our family this year. And so He gave her some amazing teachers. 

Today I told her that she was a gift to our family this year. And that's an understatement. 

Over the years we have heard a lot of talk about the negatives of the public school system. 
This year we experienced the opposite of everything we've heard. 

We hear about faith being taken out of the public schools, but you know what I saw lived out in real life this year? The gospel. "Love your neighbor as yourself"--Its alive and well within the public school. 

We went in to this year with a vision to love and serve the people we came in contact with. To love like Jesus. Isn't it funny that when you think you are going to be the one "ministering" to someone else, they end up ministering right back to you? Its the upside-down kingdom of Jesus and our family experienced it this year--interestingly enough not in the church but in the school.

Say what you will about public school...say what you will about our education choices. God is in the schools through the hearts and lives of teachers who choose to show up every day and love their students. 
Today as I  watched teachers and students say "see ya next year!" or "good-bye", so many students and teachers had eyes full of tears. These teachers poured their hearts into those students and those are the things that rarely make the news. Those daily moments of commitment and love aren't the things you see on a public platform. But they are things that are changing lives and families. 

Teachers--thank you isn't nearly enough. But thank you for your love and service to our children! You are seen and deeply appreciated! We love you!



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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

He Parted the Sea

"The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." 
Exodus 14:14

This verse has been a constant reminder over the last 18 months that God is the one who fights my battles for me. In the midst of our hard season, He gently and frequently reminded me that my job is not to defend myself, my husband, or my family, but my job is to be still while He fights battles in hearts that only He can fight. 

As anger would grow or fear would rise up in my heart, I would hear Holy Spirit's sweet soft whisper of these words. 

It is calming to know that the God of Heaven is fighting for you.
It is hard to sit in the difficult moments and not try to fight your own battle. 
The struggle is even harder when it doesn't look like He is fighting for you
When untrue words are being thrown around about your character. When those who claim love for you devise and work out plans to clear their name by speaking harsh words about you. When friends choose to believe those untrue words rather than the character of the one they've known for years. 

Not fighting is hard. 
But that was the command He gave me continually.
And let's be honest, my words have no power to change hearts or minds...only He can change hearts and minds.

Throughout those hard months I never once was lead anywhere beyond Exodus 14:14. If you'd have asked me for the context of the verse I wouldn't have been able to give it to. It was simply the promise that I clung to through it all. And honestly, I believe that was His plan in that moment. 

It wasn't until February when I attended IF:Gathering in Austin that He peeled back another layer for me to see. 
Ellie Holcomb was singing her song  "Red Sea Road" and prior to it she gave a small introduction as to how the song came to be. She quoted Exodus 14:14 and my ears perked up...that was my verse. Then she said "Do you know what happens after that?" 
Umm...no. I had no idea. 

Here's context--

The Israelites are up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army closing in on them. They literally have no where to go. They were afraid. That is when Moses reminded them that God was fighting for them. As the Egyptians moved closer, "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind...and the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground" 

As Ellie Holcomb unpacked this scene with her words, my eyes filled with tears. I realized in that moment that I had been like the Israelites--staring an ocean in the face while being pursued by men who were not seeking my good. Where was I to go? Oh, how many times I (we) felt stuck. How many times we begged God for direction, a way out! And only then in a room filled with a couple thousand women worshiping Jesus did I see that God did that for me
It wasn't easy...waiting on Him to fight for me. But He made a way out of a spiritually abusive situation by providing another ministry opportunity with leaders who stood by us in the face of accusation. 

Then the lyrics of the song began to flow through the speakers of the auditorium and I felt as though Ellie Holcomb was singing the story of my life. Tears flowed. But not sad tears. Tears of joy and thankfulness that I got to see Holy Spirit prepare a way for me through what seemed like impossible circumstances. He made a road through the ocean for me...and He's still doing that. 

Even from those first words "We've buried dreams", the song spoke to me. 
Because that's what my husband and I have done these last couple years. We've watched our dreams of being sent to church plant die. Yet God's promises of redemption are true...and He has given us new dreams. Different dreams. Dreams that could have only come from Him. And He is giving life to them! 

Ellie Holcomb's other song "Find You Here" has been a deep encouragement through these days as well. I'd encourage you to find it and take a listen.


"We've buried dreams
laid them deep into the earth behind us.
Said our good-bye's at the grave
but everything reminds us.
God knows we ache, when he asks us to go on
How can we go on? 

We will sing to our souls
we won't bury our hope.
Where He leads us to go
there's a red sea road. 
When we can't see the way, 
He will part the waves
And we'll never walk alone 
down the red sea road.

How can we trust
when you say you will deliver us 
from all of this pain
that threatens to take over us
well, this desert's dry
but the ocean may consume
and we're scared to follow you

We will sing to our souls
we won't bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
there's a red sea road.
When we can't see the way
He will part the waves
and we'll never walk alone 
down the red sea road." 










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Monday, March 6, 2017

Celebrating 6

This past weekend, we were blessed to be able to celebrate our firstborn turning 6 years old! 

As Michael and I discussed over the course of the weekend, people told us many times when I was pregnant and when she was tiny that it would "fly by". We heard the adage "The days are long but the years are short". We were not not to "blink" because we "would miss it" if we closed our eyes for even a second. We really didn't think we blinked, but I'm pretty sure we must have! 

How can this precious girl be 6 already?!? 

This day, the day she was born, feels like it was only a year or two ago. I can still recall almost every detail. I guess that's how it is when you're a mom...taking snapshots in your mind of the details that make life important. 

While my mind can hardly wrap around the fact that this beautiful girl is 6 years old, we spent the entire weekend celebrating her life with friends and family. 







Happy Birthday Miss Eliyah! 
You are on precious girl! We are so thankful that we have the privilege of parenting you through this life on earth. We thank God for the blessing your life is to our family and many others! 
Momma and Papa love you more deeply than you can comprehend! 








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Friday, March 3, 2017

Beauty in the Tiniest Space

I've mentioned a few times here how much I enjoy creating beauty and a welcoming place both in my home and in other arenas. A place where people can feel at ease...where they can "let their hair down" and take their shoes off...where they can feel the peace that Holy Spirit brings. 

That's something I enjoy and seek to bring to my home not just for outsiders who come in (although I love to do that!) , but for my family in particular. We all need a place to land after a hard day or even an easy day! A place where we are comfortable and feel loved. A place where we can taste and see that the Lord is good! God created such a beautiful world and my desire is to create spaces of beauty for my family (and others) to see reflections of God's love in the beauty, love, and peace flowing from our home. 

I recognized recently that while I enjoy creating beautiful spaces, I haven't shared much of our space here on the blog. That's about to change (for more than one reason). Today I'm taking a few moments to show you EvieGrace's nursery. I know some people don't really do a nursery or space for baby, but I feel strongly that each of my children have a space that is theirs even from birth. My older two share a space currently, but they each have their "sacred space" that the other isn't permitted to be in without permission. There's something special about a space of their own. 

Its the smallest room in our house. Absolutely tiny. Some people have walk-in closest bigger than her room. But its one of my favorite spaces in this house. I didn't have a huge budget to work with (my husband lost his job just 3 months before she was born, remember?) but I worked with what I had and used a few Etsy gift cards from her baby shower to add some finishing touches! 



I love that the two windows take up almost all the wall space! They let in SO much light and I absolutely love to see the sun pop through the windows every day!



I decided I really loved the coral/mint/gold color scheme, so that's what we went with. I'm not a huge fan of "matchy-matchy" or even themed rooms. I tend to lean more toward eclectic which is probably good since I usually have to piece-meal things together using what I already have to make it work for a tight budget. 

The crib is the one we have used for all three babies. The little coral table I picked up at Salvation Army thrift store months ago for the master bedroom. I spray painted it coral and then decided it would fit perfectly in this room. It gives us some table space without taking up too much room. 

The lamp was a Target special (around $10) I think. In the evenings as the sun goes down, I love the soft glow of the lamp as opposed to overhead lighting. 

Polka dot decals on the wall add just the right touch! The best part? I already had them! They came in a package I used for our Master bedroom in our previous apartment. I pulled them out of storage and popped them on the wall! 

I made the mobile with an inexpensive embroidery hoop, strips of fabric/ribbon/lace, and hot glue gun. I love it! 
(I even made one for Eliyah's room too).



Since the room is so tiny, we only had space for the changing table (G-ma has the chest of drawers from this set). The basket on the table was one we had laying around that I spray painted white and the shelf above was a wedding gift from years ago that I repurposed for this space. 

On the shelf I put her little gold shoes (because they are adorable), a succulent (artificial) from the Target Dollar Spot, and the canvas that I created using leftover fabric from the mobile and Modge Podge. 

The changing pad cover came from Etsy and its probably one of my favorite pieces in the room along with the canvas print I picked up at Gabriel Brothers for $8!  

You see the rocking chair? 
It used to be ugly. I mean, I loved it! I did...just not the way it looked.
My  mother-in-law gave it to use when Eliyah was born...it had been hers. This time around, I decided to paint it and I just adore how it turned out! The cushions have been waiting to be recovered or replaced entirely for about a year, but that's optional at this point. They aren't my favorite but they work for now! 



This tiny space isn't anything fancy or expensive, but it makes me happy. It brings a bit of happiness and welcome to our home. Rocking EvieGrace in that room or just having my coffee in there while I nurse her in the mornings brings joy to me. It isn't perfect, but isn't that the beauty of it? We can enjoy beauty even when it isn't perfect. Like The Nester says, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." 







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Monday, January 30, 2017

On Addiction...


Addiction isn't simply a physical phenomenon. Its rooted deep in our souls. 

Our souls are designed to crave...we are designed to crave Jesus.

Yet we seek to fulfill that craving with many other things and in many other ways. 
Anything that provides us with satisfaction (albeit temporary) other than Jesus will become our drug. 

For the physical addict it is obvious. It shows itself in physical manifestations by depleting their physical appearance and affecting their mental capacity. Yet for the soul addict it can be deceptively masqueraded as normal...even applauded.

Those addicted to physical substances crave that substance to feel satisfied. Those addicted to something deeper in their soul crave that to be okay, secure, and self-approved of. 

So often we say things like "Well, that's what alcohol will do to you" or "Drugs will rob you of your life." And yes. So true. Substances like alcohol and heroin can rob you of your life and bring death at an early age. But soul addictions will rob you of your life even while you live. 

Addiction to approval. Addiction to self-promotion. Addiction to self-sufficiency. Addiction to performance. Addiction to applause of men.
All these will rob you of your life while you still live on this earth. 

I should know. I have experienced it. 
I have lived seeking approval from man and come up empty. I have pushed aside my dreams and pursuit of my gifts because they weren't approved of by others. I'll be the first to tell you, it sucks the life out of you...slowly...so slowly that you almost don't notice it until everything you knew to be true shatters into a thousand pieces and you wake up from the stupor of living a life that isn't the one God created you for. The life you've been living is the one someone else wants to you live (a masquerade) so that it makes them feel good, look good, have the ability to pursue their vision even at the cost of your life. 

We are only free when our hearts are completely filled with Jesus. 

That's the bottom line, ladies and gentlemen. 

Anything that draws our hearts away from the simplicity of the gospel call
Loving God and loving others
will destroy your life. Will kill you. 
Maybe not physically. 
Maybe not so that anyone can see.

But it will. 

Our souls were made to crave. 
We were designed to be addicted to Jesus. 
To crave seeing His glory spread.
To get our high from watching Him at work in the world and standing in awe of His might. 

We (the Christian church) look down on addicts. 

We look at them as their "condition". We define them by their sin. 

We tell them they need Jesus. 
We tell them they need to "get clean" or "stay sober" to be a father, mother, employee... 

The truth is, they are already father, mother, sister, brother, cousin, employee, friend, co-worker...

And further
They are no different than us.
It looks different. Oh, it looks very different.

See we are "responsible." We are holding it together (at least on the outside). We look "normal". We can hold down a job. We can provide for our families. We don't abandon our children. The list of why we are different (and in our eyes, better) goes on and on. 

But take a look at your heart. 

You (I) are no better. 
Without Jesus as the only satisfier of our souls, we die. 

Our addiction is different, but it is present in our hearts. 

My heart breaks over my own condemnation of others when my heart has been in the same condition as their physical body.

Lord, help me to find my satisfaction only in YOU. 
Let me high come from Christ and His untamable love for me.
Enable me to love other addicts--especially the soul-addicts that think they are alight, because they're the hardest ones to love-- the way you love. 

My family has stared death in the face twice in the last six week. 
Both times the root has been addiction to physical substance. 
These words are simply what God is doing within me as I process these deaths. 
These words welled up within my soul and basically spilled out onto the screen as I typed. 
Thank you for taking the time to read my heart and how God is changing and shaping it. 
Our family appreciates all your prayers and kind thoughts during these difficult days. 


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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Doing the Dishes-- A Book Review

I wouldn't completely consider myself a slob, but with the demands of caring for three littles and a husband my house tends to get the short end of the stick. 

You'd think by now (3 kiddos in and almost 9 years of marriage) I'd have this whole house keeping thing down....cue Real Life. 

I've heard Dana K. White on several different podcasts and read her blog a few times. When her book came out it was on the top of my list for this year. We've been in this house for a little over a year, but getting into a routine of keeping things tidy hasn't come to fruition. Maybe because of all the change we have gone through in the last 18 months...I just couldn't get a handle on things. 

Remember my word for this year? THRIVE? 

Yep...it included house keeping too. 
Because really, don't we all do better when our space is neat? I do.

So Dana White from A Slob Comes Clean released a book recently and I picked it up with a gift card I got as a Christmas gift.


This isn't my typical read, but I'm here to tell you that I loved it! 
She shares her struggle with house keeping and how she finally challenged herself (by writing a blog) and overcame much of her angst with house keeping.

It isn't rocket science or anything earth shattering that she shares, but it works! 

Her basic premise-- Do The Dishes. 

Sounds too good to be true, right? 

Well...the hard part is actually doing the dishes. Making yourself.

I started putting her habits into practice as I was finishing up the book. My kitchen is tiny and its honestly my least favorite space in our house because it's tiny counters are typically full of dishes and the like. It always seems cluttered, unkept, and generally difficult to work in. When it comes time to make dinner I struggle to work effectively because things are dirty or not where they are supposed to be. I get easily frustrated. 

When I started doing my dishes every day and sweeping the floor (the first two habits she suggests) things changed. Now, I actually had to do the work, but it became easier each day...just like she said it would. 

Girls, there was one day that I walked by the kitchen and actually did a double-take because it was clean....in the middle of the day. 

I'm not claiming to have this thing licked (you should see the kitchen after last week's travel and the busyness of this last weekend) but it really is helping me and transforming our home...slowly...but transformation takes time.

If you're looking for a little lot of help with your home, pick up a copy of this book. 
Dana's down-to-earth advice and humor (combined with short, easy-to-read chapters) will have you inspired and encouraged that you can keep a tidy home! 





*Update--I have actually finished 2 books so far this year! My reading goal for 2017 is moving right along! Look out for another book review coming soon!*


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Friday, January 20, 2017

Year to Thrive


I'd still consider myself a "rookie" when it comes to choosing a word for the year. 
Myriads of others have done it for many years, but this is only my second year. I recently wrote a post on my Year of Rest.

As we approached the end of 2016, I really had no idea what word God was leading me to for the coming year. Yet while reading The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines I became increasingly inspired. The risks they took to pursue their dreams. The ways God had to show up for them because they stepped out in faith to pursue those dreams. The way some of their dreams had to die for a season and then God resurrected them later in life. It was inspiring to me. Then I came across the chapter where Joanna spends several pages discussing a season in which she felt as though she was simply surviving life and what it looked like for her to thrive. 

She was speaking my language. 
Through the ups and downs of the last few years (along with the challenges that come with three littles), I have often felt as though I were hanging on for the ride, letting life live me rather than living life. 

It felt a bit ridiculous to choose the word Thrive because I read it in someone else's book. 
It felt like cheating. 
But Holy Spirit kept bringing me back to that word and that desire deep in my soul to truly thrive this year. 



"THRIVE"
to prosper; flourish; bloom

That's the one little word that is helping direct 2017 for me. 

And for the first time in a few years, I feel that I have the freedom to truly flourish in the ways God is directing me unhindered by man's opinions. There's freedom to bloom in my areas of giftedness rather than feeling as if my gifts are "less-than" because they aren't as outwardly useful to others. 


Now my questions have become, "What does 'Thrive' look like for me?"
Holy Spirit keeps graciously whispering answers to that question in my mind. He keeps guiding me. 

I believe the first thing I'm called to on this journey to thrive is to attend IF:Gathering 2017 in Austin, TX. Girls, that feels daunting! Leaving babies, flying across the country alone, staying with people I only know through social media...

Totally NOT typical Rachel. 
But since when does God do "typical"? 
He's calling me to step into the unknown and follow...and so I must. Anything else would be disobedience and that's simply not a place I'm willing to live. 
Risk is scary. It requires faith. Isn't that what the gospel is all about? 
Its risky. It requires faith. It goes against every logical bone in our being.
But its good. 


Other things Holy Spirit keeps whispering is that "thriving" looks simple. mundane. ordinary. 
Like investing in time with my family. Cooking meals. Running errands. 
Just doing those things with intention and focus and (are you ready for it?) JOY! 

He's impressed upon my heart a few categories or areas of my life where I can easily put a spirit of thriving into practice: 

family
those things I always want to do with my family...my kids...but never do because of time? yeah. do those. make time. Focus on joy in parenting even in the hard. Spend special time with Michael to invest more deeply in our marriage. 
 Its simple things--like feeding kids early, putting them to bed and eating our dinner late...alone...and actually talking! 
Putting phones away, not even charging them in the bedroom, being less distracted.
Reading more to the kids. Playing outside more. 

cooking
recently my menu plan has gotten so "blah!". I like to rotate meals and make easy things that everyone enjoys, but I'm ready for some pep! Adding some new things and being a bit more adventurous. 
So I checked out some cookbooks from the library and despite having food limitations, I'm going to adapt some recipes from Pioneer Woman (and others). 
We picked up some maize flour at Jungle Jim's recently...so I can make my kids a Ugandan meal. 
Taco Tuesdays anyone? We've talked for a while about implementing a simple monthly taco night where the door is open for anyone to join. With littles and our schedule its hard but we want to make it work.  

reading
books. piles and stacks and heaps of them! We love books and enjoy reading yet so often I get halfway through and find something else to read. 
Three specific things this year
finish books I've started
read at least 10 books I already own but never read
read more fiction

spiritual growth
in all my years as a believer, I've never made it through the Bible in a year (check the above section on reading...). I found a plan this year that is only 5 days per week which gives room to miss a day or two and not be completely defeated.
So that's the plan. Read through the Bible with this reading plan. I've done okay so far! We'll check in later in the year!




I'll be honest, so much is not nailed down for us this year. We see many changes on the horizon. Changes that in years past would have scared us. Things we would have said "definitely not" to feel like a peaceful "yes" now. We are even excited about things we said we would "never" do! Isn't God funny? He gives us our desires and changes them as He sees fit (Proverbs 21:1) for His purposes in our lives and for our Joy.

May you bloom into the person God has created YOU to be this year! 



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