Just Show Up


Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" - Mark 1:35

I think devotions are extremely important, and yet I think many of us are scared of them.  I know I used to be.  I thought every devotion needed to have this earth shattering moment where God spoke directly to me and my world would be changed.  That my heart would be full and I would walk away renewed and in touch with my soul.   But then there is the question of "what to do for devotions?"  Pray? Journal? Read?  But read what? The Bible? A book? What book?  Of Poetry .short stories with meaning...a chapter in the Bible, but then where do I start with that?  Good grief, it's just easier to ignore it all together.

I think Satan speaks these things into our Spirit to keep us from even trying.  We come to a devotion/quiet/ meditation time with expectations.  We hear people speak of how God is changing them, speaking to them, revealing things to them.  We show up once, it doesn't happen, and it becomes harder the next time to be as open, be as vulnerable.  We show up again and we read text but it doesn't really get down into our soul. (and then there is the issue of being terrified of what God might reveal to us, or what we might see in our own souls that we don't want to see and will have to confront.)

I can't believe I am actually going to say this, but because I hear Tony Horton's voice every day in this house, (God bless my husband for his dedication to his health and workouts), I am going to repeat what he tells his clients,


You don't always feel like it.  You may suck at it some days.  You may feel nothing some days, but you have to show up.


I had a friend who decided to just show up to silence every morning for 30 minutes.  She wasn't sure what she was doing.  She wasn't sure if she was going to think on a passage, or say something, or wait.  She didn't know, but what she knew is she needed to show up.  If she kept showing up then something was going to happen.

There is no right way to do devotions.  Over our last Sabbath, I read all of C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" I never opened my Bible or prayed.  But I read a book on spiritual matters.  My soul was stirred and my heart was full of new thoughts regarding God and his love for me.  That was my devotion time.  It was refreshing because there are so many days where I read the proverbs or the Psalms or Hebrews and...there's just nothing.  I don't know what I am supposed to be hearing or learning.  Nothing jumps off the page at me and grabs me.  I read.  I close the book, and then I'm done.  It was nice to feel something after doing a devotion.

We have to acknowledge that there is a lie here that says that devotions have to be hard, complicated, intimidating, long, life changing.  Most devotions/quiet times/meditations are just showing up.  Because something beautiful happens in the showing up.  When we consistently show up, we change our habits to include a greater force than ourselves.  We train our brains to remember that we are not alone and are under a higher authority.  It forces us to remember that God is there.  We are not alone.  God is there.  When we show up it creates space for God to be God.  When we show up we will slowly chip away at our independence and fear and control issues and slowly and gently God will take them from us and replace them with his compassion, forgiveness and love.


Doesn't matter what you start with.  Doesn't matter how terrible your prayer is.  (I love to pray. I like to pray more than I like to read the Bible.  I like to pray more than I like to listen to God's answer.  Some would say they like listening to me pray.  But in devotion time, my prayers are horrible.  They are scattered, they are confusing, they are distracted.  They are jumpy, meaning they go from something very real and deep to something like, "please God help me not to forget that my son needs a special treat today."  A lot of times, my prayers are begging God to help me stay focused.  I struggle with saying the things I think I am supposed to say and what I really want to say.  They usually end up being both, just in case.)

Devotions can be short to get started.  Devotions can be listening to a song with a strong spiritual meaning.  It could be reading a book that teaches you or encourages you in spiritual matters.  It could be a Bible Study.  It could be a Portals of Prayer, which I've actually never read before.  huh.  It could be prayer.  It could be journaling.  Doesn't matter, just show up.  God still shows up, so you won't be alone.

Start where you need to start to have success.  If that means 15 min. three days a week, then start there.  Start in a realistic place where you will have success and be encouraged to get to the place you want to be.  Remember, there is no right or wrong in this.

But let's be honest here.  If we aren't spending time re plugging into our spiritual source, how can we expect our faith to flourish?  How can we be strong and courageous if we aren't doing anything to strengthen it?  Our Christian faith is like any other living thing.  It needs to be fed and strengthened, otherwise, it withers and dies.

I wish I was better at devotions on a daily basis.  A lot of times I am so exhausted from staying up late trying to do too many things.  This last Sabbath was a big reminder to me how important taking time out, making it a priority is.  Taking time to learn from the one who made me.  Feeling my soul shine a little brighter, feel a little more alive, a little more real and full.  And to learn a little bit more about the one who loves me.  To challenge my preconceived ideas and stretch my understanding.

I need to remember...Just show up.

It's not about how to do devotions.

It's about why we do devotions.

Inner dialog: The cycle of dysfunction

I wasn't going to continue on my last post, but my post about raising my daughter led to a wonderful long conversation with my grandmother.  A conversation that shed some more light into the things I was trying to communicate in the previous post.

I sounded pretty terrified and insecure in my previous post, and all those things I said were true, sometimes are still true.  But what I realized is how much God has healed me from so much of that fear.  It used to be, if anyone ever paid me a compliment, I quickly pass it off to having pulled off a fun outfit.  All my confidence and beauty rested in how thin I was and how great my outfit was; my superficial appearance.  My acceptance never went any deeper than how I appeared to others.  I say with confidence now, how God has used the last couple years to slowly reveal my inner self to me in a way that I see and love because it is the me he has transformed.  I now believe that I am lovable even on my bad days, (sometimes believing that is still really hard), but that I still deserve love because God has claimed me and has transformed me.  My worth doesn't come from how much I get done, how great my kids behave, or my fantastic closet, though that is my favorite part.  I am the same me on good and bad days.  I am normal.  I am loved.  I am a creation designed by the creator.  I won't ever be anybody else, and I am more OK with that than ever before.  I like me now.  I'm still not proud of my behavior most days, but I understand that mistakes are a part of life, and God is still working in me.  I still don't shower for days, yell at my kids when I am tired and immediately regret it.  I waste days on TV sometimes and get down on myself for not being more than I want to be.  I am proud, and selfish, and angry still, but I am also forgiven, redeemed, selfless, and giving too.  I am a strong combination of good and broken.  I am human.  But I am me, and I kind of like me, because God has placed good in me, he has placed his Spirit in me.

I would like to pass that Spirit filled confidence onto my daughter.  I would like her to see in me a woman who seeks God in all she does.  A woman who tries to love others as best she can.  A mom who did her best and rejoiced over her children.  I would like her to see a REAL woman who accepts who she is and lives her life to God's glory.  I want to give her that.

What I don't want to give her is a negative inner dialog.  I don't want the bad things I say about myself to be her guidelines for what a woman should be.  If she hears me always angrily calling myself fat, than she will understand that 1. her mom doesn't like herself, and 2. that the measurement for fat, is the weight her mother is at and apparently that is a bad thing.  Now I'm not overweight, but if she hears me saying I'm fat, than she must remain thinner than me to NOT be fat And if I don't like myself, what does that say to the child who looks up to me?  This is very confusing to a child who thinks the world of her mom, the person who outweighs everyone else on the planet.  No one is better than mom, at least for awhile. And what does that say, when your favorite person doesn't like herself?  Cuts herself down, and disregards the child's compliments that they are beautiful?

If someone pays me a compliment, and my immediate response is, "Oh no, I don't have any make up on, my hair is a mess and I'm in sweats.  I look terrible."  This inadvertently communicates to her that in order to be beautiful, I need to be put together.  I need make up, I need my hair done and I need to dressed in a fun get up.

Why are so many of us women are always cutting ourselves down so easily?  We are so incredibly harsh on ourselves.  Why is it so impossible to see the beauty in ourselves?  Because the thing is, we are the measuring stick by which our children will understanding beauty and confidence and self acceptance.  In the way we talk about ourselves, we are giving them their inner dialog.

So, my children will never hear me call myself fat.  EVER.  Even if I feel it, I have never said these words in front of them.  One time Big heard me say, "oh man these jeans are getting tight, I have put on some weight."  His immediate response was, "Mom you are NOT FAT!"  I said without hesitation, "You are right, I am not fat, however, I probably shouldn't be eating two desserts a day and sneaking one as a snack.  It's not healthy, and not fitting in my jeans is a good indicator that I should stop."

My children won't ever hear me criticize myself in a photo.  Doesn't matter if the camera added 10lbs, or if it was a bad angle, the photo was there to capture a memory. I don't want them hearing me care more about my looks and cutting myself down, than I do about the fun moment that photo captured.

When I get dressed up to go out, I have decided to use the word fun when asking how an outfit works.  "Is this outfit fun?  Does it match?  Would different shoes be better?"  This may sound really silly, but the last thing I want to hear or have them understand is that the outfit makes me beautiful.  The outfit may be beautiful, I may be beautiful in it, but what I am wearing, in the end does not make or break me.  The beauty is in my confidence.  The beauty is in how I treat people.  The beauty is in how love lives in my life.

I try to take captive every negative thought about my looks before they leave my mouth.  This way, in every way possible, they don't have a mother who cares most about the way she doesn't like they way she looks.  However, in my behavior, my children always hear my repentance and prayer for God's strength to do better, so that there is more love in our house than anger or frustration.  I want the comments they hear me say about myself always to reflect my character, not my looks.  I hope they understand in this, that character and spirit are far more important to work on than the way we look.  (with all obvious health issues aside, this is purely cosmetic talk here.)

You may think all of this is a bit over the top, but I don't care.  For as long as I can remember, I only had negative inner dialog.  Do you know how hard it is to change your entire mindset?  It's taken me awhile, and I would like to save my daughter as much of that pain as possible.  Your inner dialog about yourself COMPLETELY effects the way you interact with other people.  Your partner.  Your family.  Your co-workers.  Your friends.  Your neighbors.  And the way we see ourselves, talk about ourselves, becomes our children inner dialog, their frame work of how to understand who they are.

Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with some of these things.  It's hard to live one way your entire life, and then try to think completely different.  It takes time, but God is faithful, and he has worked miracles in my heart already in this.

God is bigger than all of this, and heals every kind of pain and issue, but can't we participate in ending the cycle?  Helping give them a healthy self awareness?  A love for themselves because they are created by God?  This is what I want to give my daughter.  I used be very afraid that I couldn't overcome my own demons and create a healthy inner dialog for myself to ensure that I could give her one too.  But God is good, and he has done wonders in the dark places of my head.

And in the end, when I read this, its not even at all about the way we look.  It's about who we are.  .

Preparing for Dedication

The fall and winter is usually when Paul and I travel the most for work.  He is a graphic designer by day, but plays guitar in a band at night.  That really is a side project and he isn't gone all the time doing it, but he travels and practices and takes time to write so it still takes up his time and energy.  I travel when I speak at conferences and retreats and have been writing a lot more these days.   He will be gone 1-2 weekends per month and I will be gone 1-2 per month.  We always make sure we are home as a whole family at least one weekend a month together for these winter months of crazy.

People always say that it sounds incredibly hard and busy.  We understand it is a bit busier than usual, but really, how we approach it makes all the difference.  We try very hard to look at our priorities and make room only for the things we won't compromise on, faith, family, fun and structure.  We withdraw from everything else during those times to protect our family.  We don't schedule dinners, parties, classes, or kickball or extra circular activities.  We take the things we usually do and replace then with travel.  So during the week, we don't do anything else.  Whenever we are home, spending time together as a married couple and family is our top priority.  That's probably why people think we are so busy, because we are either traveling or hiding for months, and then in the spring, we come out to play.

Paul and I both feel called to our family, our marriage and to our ministries.  We in no way want one of these aspects of our life to allow the other to suffer.  And we deeply believe that if God has called to us these aspects of our life, then if we seek him continuously and ask for his guidance he will provide a way.  So we pray and talk and schedule and find a way for each of these aspects of our heart and lives to empower the other, not destroy it.  We want healthy rhythms and routine for the kids.  We want and need time together to keep our marriage strong.  We see how our whole family flourishes in our regular life schedule of slower paced living.

I have learned how to prepare for this season of our lives each year. On New Year's we open our schedule and we look over the next six months.  We discuss priorities, time as a family, what we will cut out of the schedule and what we need to keep to stay healthy.  We discuss sitters, schedules, merchandise, food, family chores, the whole bit.  So I have learned how to prepare the house.  Get things in order.  I have learned to love friends through emails and phone calls while being in the airport since I don't see much of them.  I have learned to make lists of financial items that need to be taken care of during the week when I am home.  I have not mastered the birthday thing and remembering and sending cards.  I am horrible at that, and not sure its in my DNA to be that girl that will send you a card to arrive on your actual birthday.  That just seems way too hard.  I have though learned how to organize multiple sitters and a network of people to take care of the kids.  (And this is just all the house/family stuff, I didn't list all the business arrangements that need to take place, writing and preparing speeches, and ordering and organizing merchandise to sell.  Preparation in of itself is a part time job.)

The last two years I have needed to include food preparation into this list which is an enormous task.  I can't leave money for the sitter to buy pizza or McDonald's   I can't let Paul make the kids PB&J for lunch.  I need lists of the "DO NOT EAT" foods.  Lists of the "APPROPRIATE SNACKS".  Most of the time, I need all  the food prepared so that our friends and family watching the kids feel comfortable and confident in their ability to love them and take care of them.  I want to bless them as much of a stress free weekend as I can.  So that now includes lists and lists of food, days of cooking and freezing food, and organizing the menu and vitamins that each kid takes.  Then I think about myself.  What am I going to eat?  I usually take some hard boiled eggs, Larabars, apples and almonds and scones.  I am happy to eat salad for the weekend and know that usually in the green room are veggies and fruit.

But on Thursday what I wasn't expecting and totally forgot was that Paul was now on our diet.  It was Thursday morning and Little and I came home from dropping the boys off at school.  We were going to paint nails, read books and play a game while we waited for the new stove to arrive. (which it didn't and we are hoping comes Monday!)  But then my mind drifted to the fact that Paul was going to be leaving for his Chicago weekend gig at 5am the next morning.  He would be gone all weekend.  Then it hit me, what's he going to eat?  Oh shoot!  So I looked at Little and we struck a deal.  Cook one thing for Daddy and do one thing for her.  What was tricky about this is that Paul may be on our all natural diet, but me and the kids can be fine eating snacks and bird like food for a few days.  We are happy being granola, seed, nut and fruit and veggie people.  Paul needs meat.  Paul need substance.  How the heck am I supposed to do that?  So I did the only thing that made sense to me. I prepared food that he could take, but if he gave me the look of, "am I really supposed to eat that?" then I had it already prepared for the kids.  To me it felt like a win/win.

So this is what I sent with Paul to help fill in his gaps of meals, and hopefully when in a pinch, make a  meal in and of itself.  My goal was that he wouldn't hate the diet so much that he wouldn't want to do it anymore.  The challenge was great, but I have already heard from him that he is doing well, and every time he eats the food I prepared for him, he knows how much I love and support him.  And that's the goal right?  Take care of our loved ones.  Support them in their dreams and dedication to being the best they can be?  He wants to eat healthy, take care of  himself for me and the kids, rid himself of some chronic issues.  How can I not do everything in my power to help him in that. I can either be apart of his downfall, or his success.  I am his wife.  I want him to succeed.

So I sent him with:

I made our coffee cake which I get from thespunkycoconut.com.  Its really delicious and sent Paul with three HUGE pieces, one for each morning he was gone.

Paul has eaten Larabars before and I believe his response was, "It tastes like chalk.  I can't believe you eat this."  Welcome to the diet!  So I splurged and bought a bunch of different kinds of bars for him to try.  His homework was if he didn't like it, put the rest of the bar in a baggie and bring it home so the kids could eat for a snack, they are too expensive to throw away, seriously.  And if he liked it, he needed to keep the wrapper so I knew which ones to get him next time he traveled out of town.  And yes you will see Enjoy Life candy bars in there.  I figured, he would be watching everyone else eating oreo's in the green room, if he felt like something sweet, then he had something on hand.

Hard boiled eggs are a great snack in this house.  One splurge item we use is smoked salt.  It it just to die for and we can't eggs any other way.  We are adding it to pop corn and roasted veggies, its just too good not to.  We get ours from here.  It takes our usually every day very plain food, to a whole new wonderful place of goodness.

I found this box of a cookie mix, so I decided to cook them up and had Paul try them.  He loved them, which is a huge test in this house.  So I sent him with some, ate quite a few myself and then each kid got two in their lunch the next day.  Yes, cause I ate that many if you must know.  The cookie mix was Pure Elizabeth.  Don't remember where it came from, but I will keep my eye out for it now.

I was a little surprised that Paul wanted to take the Quinoa and bean salad with walnuts in it.  I thought this was pushing his limits, but he actually really likes it, and its ALL protein   So I am hoping this big batch will help with the hunger over the weekend.

These scones are really very British and not sweet at all.  But they work great dipped in coffee or slathered with a nut butter or jam.  So that is what I sent with Paul, scones for a lunch with a can of our homemade strawberry/apple jam made this past fall.

Here is the jam and the cashew ranch dressing that I sent with him.  I figured, most of the time salad is your only option, so I wanted him to have dressing that he enjoys.

I am not gonna lie, I never thought I would see the day that meat and potato man would take a suitcase of granola, hippy, authentic real  food with him.  He had bamboo silverware and everything.  He was so happy to have food to eat, and I was so happy that was willing to pack a whole other suitcase of food.

Weekend one is a success!  Now in two weeks we will both be gone, so I guess its back to the kitchen to start preparing food for five people, two who will be gone and three that will have sitters.  I should start now so I will be done in time.

But in true confession, every minute in the kitchen is worth it.  It is worth it that my husband is happier with himself and his body and his attitude.  It is worth it for my sons ability to have friends, and interact in a healthy way with others.  That he has stayed of meds because of the food he eats.  The absence of my depression makes every moment in the kitchen worth it.  To pursue our dreams.  To use our God given gifts to bless others.  To have joy in our home.  You will probably find my body dead in the kitchen when I go, but yes it is worth. every. single. second. for the life we have.  The good things are absolutely worth the work.

To be a blessing

I have 15 blogs started and unfinished.  Wow.  Maybe my next project should be to go through and finish them all.  Leave nothing unsaid.

Even with that many unfinished thoughts, and some of them are really great, I couldn't come back to my blog without starting with this one.

It was just Thanksgiving, a time where many people, including us, focused on all that we have to be thankful for.  For us as Christians, it goes deeper.  It's not just being thankful to the universe or the powers that be that blessings have poured down on us.  It's not just saying "I am thankful for.... fill in the blank", but instead saying, "Father God, thank you for..... fill in the blank."  Giving him credit for the blessings that  pour down.  All the gifts that surround us.  Even when some days the blessings feel small in comparison to the struggles and pain that try and try to distract us.

Paul and I have so much, SO MUCH, to be thankful for.  It's amazing what happens to your heart when you turn it towards seeing the blessings instead of the stress and pain.  Through the course of the last year, we have endured over $7000 in car repair costs.  Each and every time, God has seen us through and somehow from somewhere, he has had his hand in helping us stay out of credit card debt to fix cars.  Our diet has put a significant strain on our budget, and yet God continues to provide information through friends and blogs of ministries that are out there providing organic, natural food at rock bottom costs.

(You have to understand that our way of living is not by some hipster/bohemian choice.  Our son's body doesn't rid itself of toxins on its own, so the more non organic food he eats, the more he poisons his body.  We either take the cost up front in natural/organic food, or at the back end detoxing him with natural methods.  Either way, for my son to have a chance of staying off meds, our diet needs to be what it is.)

We have had a year since the tornado soaking in all the blessings of that hard and devastating day.  The blessings just keep revealing themselves and we are overwhelmed by the way God moves through pain and suffering.

This month has changed the way I live.  Changed the way I talk to my kids, to my husband, in my prayers, and to others.  Living in a place of thankfulness changes the way you do life.  It's funny, when you read scripture, from beginning to end, God starts most of his passages to us with, "Remember, I the Lord your God, the one who brought you up out of slavery, saved you and redeemed you, heard your cry and answered your prayer."  Before he even begins what he wants to say, he takes a moment to remind us of who he is.  Remind us of his life giving power.  Remind us of patience with us.  Remind us of his sovereignty   Remind us of his compassion and mercy.  Remind us of his love that surpasses all other powers in this place and beyond.  He reminds us to be thankful because when we live in a place of thankfulness, we live different.  We have more compassion for others.  We judge less, we forgive more.  We stress less, and laugh more.

Mmmm...to live in thankfulness.

I spent a lot of time this month focusing on that.  I existed most of my days feeling overwhelmed by the amazing people in my life, my husband, my children, my home, my family and friends who live far away.  I am so incredibly blessed by the people I have the privileged to call my friends and family.  I am so thankful and feel so blessed by you all.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, I received three letters in the mail.  Two were from people I know.  My first thought was, "Man already!  Who are these people that they already have their Christmas cards out!  Man they are on the ball."  But as I opened them, I was humbled by the kindness in their words saying that they were thankful for me. Thanksgiving cards.  I was speechless.  I was so taken aback by the fact that someone would be thankful for me.  This is not in a self deprecating way, but just a truly unexpected gift.  There was one letter though that came from an anonymous person.  The words and gift in that card still have the power to bring tears to my eyes and take words from my mouth.   It is so humbling to have someone thank you for sharing your life with them.  It reawakened me to continue to write my blog.

I have said before that I struggle with what to write most times in my blog because it isn't a specific place for recipes or crafts or devotions   It's just my life.  Life as someone who lives in a city with a family that loves Jesus and strives to live in place of passion and purpose.  But I realize that it is in sharing our lives together that we see Christ, we share in his gift of the "Church" and his body.  It is where we find encouragement and can give support.  It is where ideas are sparked and life becomes richer because we share it together.  I can't have you all over for supper, but I can walk through life with you in this weird way that the internet allows.

Paul and I kept trying to figure out who the letter might be from.  Then we both realized, we didn't want to know.  We understood that it was the Lord giving us that encouragement we need.  Reminding us it is him who makes us great.  It is His inspiration and spirit that people are drawn to in our lives.  We are just your normal, every day folk.  He is what makes us great.  And so we press on.  We are reminded that we invite people into our lives so that we can all grow, all be inspired, all see the face of Christ on each other.

So, thank you.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for walking with us.  Thank you for praying for us.  Thank you for being in our lives.  You all have changed me and I am so thankful for you.

To be a blessing

So every year we have a Thanksgiving tree.  Its our way of having a visual aid to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for.  It's also a really great art project for the kids and I to do together.  We work on our tree for about an hour and they get to draw, dream of ideas, cut and tape it all together.

Here is our tree!

Notice the bike lane on the road.  Clearly Middle has grown up in Mpls where bike lanes are everywhere!  Ha!  It made me laugh out loud.

Our twist this year as we, like so many others, are trying to be thankful, is that we have two different colored leaves.

The green leaves are for what we want to thank God for that day.  Notice I didn't just say, what we are thankful for, but what are going to Thank God For.  Small word change, but huge implications.  I believe scripture when it says, that every good and perfect gift comes from God.  So, if all blessings come from heaven, then its important to give credit where credit is due.  I don't just want thankful children, I want children who praise God for every good thing in their life.

The red leaves are for how we can be a blessing to others. I was thinking about how great it is to be thankful, but what if we focused on how we could be what others were thankful for?  So that is our challenge each morning.  My kids need to think about a blessing they received that day that they want to thank God for, but then I ask them how they can be a blessing to someone else.  This can seem like a pretty big concept for little people.  So each day I have the kids pick one person they would like to try to be a blessing for.  Then we brain storm some ideas of how they can be a blessing to their teacher, their friends, their sister, a stranger, etc.

I think this is a wonderful way to help encourage children to be outward focused.  To think about how we can be a vessel for joy, for thanksgiving, for love, for hope to those around us.

Anyway, I hope this post doesn't make you feel frustrated if you don't do one, or maybe you think its overkill.  You don't need a tree to talk about this, you don't need to do it everyday.  Talking about it once a week still is an opportunity to focus on how to be a blessing for someone else.  This can be done with children, roommates, friends, spouses and co-workers.

So, don't just be thankful, but thank the one who blesses you.  And if you have a little time in the next few days, find a way to bless someone else.  Be the vessel that brings a little bit more of love into the brokenness.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Middle's right of passage

One of my favorite things that Paul and I have learned over the years is the importance of rights of passage.  It is a time to take pause.  To realize that a moment in your life is changing.  That things won't be the same and you need to take a moment to stop, to reflect, to pray, and find tools or wisdom to carry you through this new stage.  Our American culture doesn't do a really great job at this, and Paul and I are far from experts, but we love the idea of arming our kids for the next stage of life, and taking pause with them.

Our first right of passage happens when one of our kids starts school.  This is a big moment to talk about expectations, how important school is and what an honor it is to go to school.  We talk about  the responsibilities of being a school age kid, and most important how God can use them to bring his light and love to friends and teachers that might not know him.  They are now entering a very special mission field and Mom's and Dad's role in their life is a little different now.  There is a lot to talk about, and a lot to pray over for our children in this moment.

We did this for Big last year, and had all these great ideas and hopes and expectations and then he ate candy the day before and we witnessed first hand what sugar does to that kid.  Could hardly keep his eyes on us for two seconds, and that is not an exaggeration.  He couldn't sit still, he couldn't focus, he couldn't listen.  With all that said, we still had a great time, but we were really hoping that this year with Middle would be the way we dreamed this moment would  be.

Then Middle threw up till 1am the night before our special right of passage afternoon.  We decided to do it  anyway and just keep it low key.

The first thing we do on our afternoon is get the kid a backpack.  Since they wear a uniform to school, this is pretty special, and it's just us and one kid doing this together.  Middle LOVED his new backpack.

This may sound like a perfect and wonderful day, but it wasn't without its reality.  We carried Middle most of the time because he was so tired.  He was missing a bit of his spark, and his treat included an OJ and banana.  Poor little kid.  I'll be honest though, out of all three kids, he's the best sick kid.  If you have kids, you know each family has one, and he's ours.

Love the extra snuggles though.

After getting the backpack, we go and pick out a treat and then head to a special park where we can sit, eat, talk and pray over our child.  Here is a wonderful photo of two of my guys.  Ahh...I just took a moment to sit and stare at them.  I love them so much.

If dad gets a photo, mom gets a photo.

Since he was doing so great, we let Middle have a couple bites of coconut milk ice cream.  Chocolate is Middle's favorite, and he was SO excited.

We even lured a chipmunk to share with us.  That was pretty fun to watch.  What can I say? We're givers.

This was a special time with Middle set apart from the other kids and set apart to mark the beginning of school.  I loved listening to wisdom that Paul passed on to him.  I loved the questions Middle had and hearing about the things he was excited for.  Praying over our kids is probably one of my favorite things.  I love hearing Paul's heart for them and what he dreams for them and what is nervous for.  I love that kids hear our hearts and us trying to surrender our will to God's for their life.

Middle's first right of passage.  I probably won't be included in the next one since it will deal with boy things, if you know what I mean, but I look forward to planning it with Paul.  And it will probably include a weekend away.  Lots to talk about as a boy growing into a young man.

The last thing we do for the kids on their first day of school, is give them a necklace to wear.  Their name is written on the guitar pick to remind them who they are.  They are a Tietjen, and Tietjen's are believers in God.  They struggle, they love, they forgive, they laugh, they try hard, they live in God's grace and live a life of serving others.  Also on the necklace is a cross which is there to remind them they are not alone.  Christ goes with them wherever they go.  They belong to him and are not alone.

Enjoy the photos and our little tradition.

Mentoriship in the kitchen

I have realized that I am a terrible teacher or mentor in the kitchen.  Coming home to MI, I told my sister that I would help her learn her way around the kitchen.  She has moved onto a very restrictive diet but doesn't know how to cook.  Well, that just doesn't work for me.  You can't have success or still enjoy food or even begin to think that you will stick to your new outline for eating if you can't enjoy food.  And how can you afford to enjoy food if you can't cook, and how can you cook if no one teaches you?

No one really taught me, I just had to figure it out and I watched a ton of Food Network.  No, I mean pre kids I would wake up on Saturday morning, snuggle on the couch with a bowl of cereal and watch for hours until Paul woke up.  I loved it.  Then I just started to figure it out.

I am not even close to a high quality cook.  I rarely create my own recipes, and most of the time I am just adapting or tweaking recipes I have found.  But I can cook.  I do know my way around a kitchen pretty well.

What I realized in the last three days is that I totally function in the kitchen without a plan.  This does not work well when trying to teach someone how to cook.  I also realize I cook a lot with whatever is in my house.  I kept throwing out suggestions to my sister about other ways she could make the meal and I am pretty sure I overwhelmed her.

We start heating a pan and she asks, "how much oil do I put in?"  I pour some in and say, "about that much".  Or she wants to know how much salt, pepper, cinnamon, seasoning to put in, and I look at her and say, "start with a little then add more if its too plain."  I double recipes or I adapt because I don't have a certain ingredient.  I also realized that makes writing out recipes for her really difficult.  I sat down and wrote out our recipe for Mexican Lasagna and couldn't believe how much I adapt that recipe.  It was very difficult to write out, but glad I did once it was over.

As much as it was about helping my sister learn how to cook, I have learned a ton about myself in the kitchen, how I function and where I can grow so I am able to teach my kids better.

All in all, in the past three days I have taught her how to cook:

Sweet Potato Burgers
Fruit Popsicles
Veggie/bean Quino salad
Butternut squash risotto
Eggplant/squash Lasagna
Mulligatawny Soup

It has a been a very big few days here.  Between cooking and visiting with friends, I am exhausted.  I mean I cook a lot, but I don't cook this much.  But my what is really exciting is my sister not only knows how to make these meals, she has them all divided and put in the freezer for the whole month!  She has her freezer full of personal sized portioned frozen dinners.  It's great!

Since I am writing out the recipes for my sister, I will be sure to post them later this week if you are interested, including the original link where I found it.

Part Two...EMDR and a bright beautiful party

Because I promised...

Because of a dear friend, this weekend Big was able to participate in EMDR therapy.  This friend has noticed what we knew to be true, that since the tornado, Big hasn't been the same in regards to storms, wind, rain, and if we were being honest, even white puffy clouds.  He is constantly aware of the weather.  He gets incredibly anxious when the sky turns grey, even just for rain.  I can hear him chanting to himself, "It's just rain.  It's just rain.  It's just rain."

My heart breaks for him knowing how scared he is.  Knowing that we don't go anywhere for the day when there is the threat of rain.  I try to balance it out and push him out of the house when I know there isn't rain, but just clouds that day, though I can tell it is hard for him.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours, Kyle Hood, was watching the kids, and while at the park, it started to rain.  Big had a huge panic attack and cried like it was the day of the tornado.  Our friend Kyle, who is a counselor, offered to do EMDR therapy with Big after watching his reaction.  Of course being so close to our family, she can't do regular counseling for him, but she could do this.  So on Saturday, Paul and I went with Big and did  our first session of EMDR.

In its basic form, EMDR therapy is taking the person back to the day and moment of the trauma and having them retell the story.  The idea is that because a certain event is so traumatic, the brain has stopped connecting from right brain to left brain in regards to that experience, so it is not functioning fully.  Therefore, every time something similar to that traumatic event happens, that person is thrown back to that day, that moment in time.  Their emotional response is just as heavy and intense.  If I understand all this correctly, the EMDR therapy is sound and vibration that bounces between right and left ears and hands so that when the person retells the story, their brain is making connections, new paths, between the right and left brain.  This will help in moving them forward from the trauma and helping them heal.

Big was timid when we started, and after him retelling the story, then Paul and I both retelling the story and then Big retelling it again, by the end, he was remember new details and could talk about it without crying.  It was pretty cool to see.  I even think just talking about this helps a ton.  What really took me back, was asking Big to retell the story, because I have told it so many times, I forget to ask my kids their opinion about what they remember seeing and hearing and feeling that day.  It was fun to hear his side of the story again.

So we leave for camp on Friday and are going to visit Kyle one more time on Thursday morning to do it again.  We were a little nervous for Big being away from home, his safe place, but at camp if there was a storm, and just want to do everything we can to help him.  Its been bright and sunny here for the last few days so no way to know if the therapy worked or not.  This isn't a cure all, and I don't think the first storm he sees  he's gonna want to throw a party or watch from the porch, but I am hoping he can think things through a bit more, and his anxiety will be less.  We still plan on going to therapy, but just haven't figured it out with insurance yet.

After therapy while in the car, the kids had lots of questions about death what happens to them when Paul and I die.  In a weird way it was such a great way to express to our kids that even in our death we still love them.  That we made a plan to have them taken care of and loved.  Middle had all sorts of questions about when we die, who tells Nana and Papa so they can come for them, are they going to be alone, can we go to the police and hospital and give them Nana and Papa's phone numbers so they can call them when we die.  It was a little weird for me hearing my son figure things out so fast and make a plan for himself when we bite the dust.

That night, after a wonderful day of fun and healing, we went to our neighbors party where they  were celebrating two of their children's birthday and a baptism.  Our neighbors, whom we play with all the time outside are Mexican and this party was in full tradition, the cream of the crop.  Big white tent out back, a bounce house, Spanish music blaring, over 100 guests with all the woman in their finest, and little girls running around in dresses.  In the garage were pots filled with enough rice and chicken and beans to feed a village.  Drinks overflowing and dozens of kids running around.  It was a scene out of a movie or a book.  It was so wonderful getting to experience a completely different world just three houses down.  We enjoyed playing basketball with the kids, playing catch with Big, and getting time to visit with our neighbors.  I'm not gonna lie, one of the best parts was that the food served was food my family could eat.  They had boiled chicken with garlic and onion and delicious rice.  My kids were able to eat a feast and I didn't have to cook it.  Do you know how rare that is?

After all the fun and excitement, we came home, enjoyed bath time, stories and then sang to our kids and prayed over them till they fell asleep.  It was a beautiful day.

I think a lot of times we look at the 10 commandments or law or guidelines that God sets before us for living.and look at it as a chore.  Something else we have to do or can't do.  We feel guilt when we don't do it and God's judgement if we ignore it.  I believe that if we approach his word and will for our life that way, than we won't ever want to participate in the gifts that he has for us.  Making and creating a Sabbath is hard to do.  It's hard to not work.  It's hard to break habits and create new ones.  However, the gift of the Sabbath and all that it gives and offers is irreplaceable.  It changes your mindset to focus on relationships instead of "to do" lists.  It makes it about people and not about work.  It allows time to focus on God and what he is and what he has for you.

We were abundantly blessed on Saturday.  The ground work of spending time with our kids and prayer over them has blessed the rest of our week.  We see the fruits of that for days on end.

The other bonus is that our work has been more productive because we started from a place of rest.

Thanks for letting me share my day.  Look at the link above to know more about EMDR.  And take time in prayer to see how you might be able to incorporate a little bit of  Sabbath into your life.  You won't regret it.

What a Sabbath brings...part one

Today has about four posts in one.  So many great things learned, observed, and enjoyed ye.  Tonight as I write this, my husband is catching up on the phone with his brother, the kitchen is an absolute disaster, and my list of things to do is still just as long today as it was yesterday, but I am so wonderfully happy.

In full disclosure, it is hard to break into the habit of Sabbath.  It is easy to continue doing chores, running errands, checking email and whatnot on the weekend.  Especially yard work.  And for me it is work.  Some people putz in the yard because it relaxes them.  I enjoy it, but don't get me wrong, it is work, so I avoid it on Sabbath.  So, we as a family haven't been the best at carving out this time each week.  We believe in its importance.  God says it is critical to your health as a human, as a family, as a community.  But we have come up short in living in this command.  So Friday we agreed that Saturday we would make sure that Sabbath happened.  We felt this was even more important since we have so much to prepare for our trip, we needed to make sure our priorities we in order.

So yesterday morning started with each kid coming in to have snuggle time.  Once their snuggle quota was met, they went to build a train track in the living room and Paul and I got our snuggle time where we get to casually wake up and talk about the day.

Once up and out of bed, my first thought was to start getting stuff done.  I had to remind myself that today chores weren't allowed, so I sat down at the table to color with my kids. But they had to show me what they had been up to.  They made a new bed for Little out of our empty tupperware bin.  It was too cute not to share.

Then my children proceeded to draw me coloring pages.  It was awesome,  Here is a picture that Big drew me and we colored together.  Nana her hair is read in your honor.

Middle decided, at five mind you, to draw out a paint by number to help me along.  I wasn't sure if I should be impressed or insulted.  I choose to be impressed.  Here are those pictures.  I love how many numbers he gave me to make sure I understood what color I needed. Ha.

After coloring for a bit, the kids decided to come into the kitchen and help me make scones.  There is something wonderful about joining together in the kitchen and cooking together.  We made tasty cinnamon pecan scones with coconut milk.  Once the scones were in the oven, Middle was the creator of our smoothies.  He decided everything that went in them.  So we feasted on scones and strawberry/blueberry/kiwi/coconut milk smoothies.

It was yummy.

During breakfast, we started our "feed your body, feed your soul" devotion.  This basically means that we passages from my Bible during breakfast so that we remember as we feed our body food, our soul needs it too.  It is also a great way to get the kids into "real" word of God.

So before we begin, Middle says "What does soul mean?"  Again I wasn't sure whether to be impressed that he is paying attention, or offended that we have been doing this for months and he is now just asking me.  I again choose to be impressed that he asked.

Then I realized, how the heck do I answer this to a five year old.  So all you theologians out there can tell me how I did.  I thought for a quick moment and then said,

"Think of an egg.  You have the outside shell and then the inside "egg" part.  The white and yellow yoke is the egg right?  The essence of the egg is what's inside.  You crack the shell to get to the inside, the egg.  Well each person has a soul.  Our soul is like the egg and our skin, our body, is like the shell.  The shell holds the egg, the insides."

Then he made the observation that when we die we don't take our body, but we get a new body when Christ comes again, just like we crack and throw away the shell of the egg.

OK, yup, we'll go with that.

So we sat there eating and drinking and talking about eggs and death and our soul.  It felt right not to have to hurry off anywhere, but to focus on my kids and where their hearts and heads are at right now.

Since chores aren't allowed, I asked if the boys wanted to go outside and toss the football around.  I'm not gonna lie, it was weird for me to be outside playing.  If I'm outside I am usually doing chores around the yard.  Our yard has been neglected for two summers due to the tornado.  Even my son noticed that every afternoon I work in the yard.  He asked me two days ago not to work in the yard and just do sidewalk chalk with him.  As a manager of the home it is hard to put aside all the chores and mess staring you in the face and remember to get down on your hands and knees and play.

So since the house  next door got tore down, we have this big beautiful open field.  The boysand I played catch with the football for about 45 min.  We laughed, we fell down, we had silly throws and we worked on good throwing skills.  I caught myself a few times looking around and wanting to call quits to the game to pull a few weeks, put toys away, work on my fence, etc.  But I stayed present with my children and I was rewarded with a wonderful morning.  I made memories with my kids.  I built trust and deepened my relationship with them.  I was a mom who was present and played with my kids.

This truly happened because of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath forces you to stop what you are doing and be present for what is important.  It creates space for you to deepen and build relationship with yourself, the Lord, and your family.  I had to physically remind myself not to work.  To be present and attentive to the relationships around me.  God has a high opinion about the Sabbath.  It is important to him because he knows how deeply we need it.

Fun time, fun mom, playful mom was present on Saturday because I wasn't bogged down by chores.  But the other cool thing that happened on Saturday morning was the conversations I had with my kids.  When you aren't rushing off somewhere and you aren't looking at your to do list, you are able to hear your kids.  To listen.  To talk.  To figure out life together.  The Sabbath provides time for those conversations to happen.

So that was the first half of our day. The rest of the day included EMDR therapy with Big and a fabulous Mexican birthday party in the evening.

Beautiful things tend to happen when you have the time to allow them to happen.  Lately I have been too busy for life to happen.  Saturday, life happened.

a fun idea for the future

All these thoughts are running through my head:

1. A conversation I had with my friend Pastor Graf about the idea of modeling behavior and disciplines.  I don't have a lot of people in my life who walk alongside me that model behaviors that I want.  I don't have a mentor in my spiritual life, in my family life, as my role as a woman/wife, as a speaker, or as a cook.  Jesus was a model in behavior, yes I understand, but what does it mean to have someone who's life looks like mine to model behaviors that I desire?  To learn from?  To ask questions from?  To gain wisdom from?

2. Sitting in my kitchen with my friend and wishing we had more time together than we normally do.  She was asking questions about what I was cooking and I thought, man wouldn't it be great if she moved in here for a couple weeks and I could teach her how to cook?  I could show her my meal plan, where I shop for diet restrictions, things I have learned in the past year and how to cook allergen free on a budget.

3. My sister has been sick for a long time and I wanted to bring her here so that she could be seen by Dawn at New Dawn Health, and we could explore a different approach to looking at her health.  For 10 days, we detoxed her, I cooked for her, we shared recipes, we went to the grocery store and looked and talked about food.  I am sure it sucked for her, and was way more than she bargained for and felt very overwhelmed.  She is on a new diet of gluten/dairy/sugar/soy/pork free.  But for me, I LOVED it!  I loved having her here while she sat in my kitchen and we just talked.  We talked about faith, life and friends, and while we talked, I was slowly teaching her how to cook.  She doesn't cook at all, so I got to walk her a long in small ways learning the way around the kitchen.

This became a dream of mine.  Someday in the future I want to run a modeling house.  A place that thrives on health for the physical and spiritual soul. I want to bring people in for a period of time and sit with them, listen to them, talk with them, cook with them, pray with them.  I want to teach them what I know and have learned about healthy living. I want to help walk them into a place where they can cook and enjoy food without gluten/dairy/sugar.  I want to set them up for success in wanting to live this way.  I do NOT know everything there is to know.  I am NOT an expert.  I am NOT a doctor.  I am a mom who transitioned her family into a healthier way of eating and living and I have taken LOTS of notes.  I have journaled our progress a ton.  I feel like I could help others transition out of a heavy starch/meat diet and set them up for success and freedom from unhealthy food .

The idea of modeling life.  Christ lived with a few to model life to them.  I get that I have that with my children and I love that.  But I think, when they are grown a bit more, why stop with just them?  There are so many who suffer physically and long for a better, healthier life.  We have knowledge to share.  Health and life to share.  I want to do that for others in a cool camp like, sit in my kitchen and lets drink wine and gab and cook kind of way..  How does that not sound like the best idea ever!?

I got a taste of it with my sister and I love this idea.  It is only a dream and an idea right now, but I made tons of lists with notes of how to do it better and set my time up for better success next time.  It was wonderful.

I have a dream.

Intentional Spiritual Time

This past summer at a musical festive in WI, my friend and speaking partner Pastor Henry Graf and I led a session on Dirty Parenting. Yea, you read that right. Dirty, as in the screw ups, the loss of control, the freakouts all teach us, mold us and help us get to our knees in prayer and invite God into the mess. It is a reminder that real life doesn’t look spiritual. Most of the time it just looks like a mess.

At least it does for me.

After one of the sessions, a woman came up to me and asked how I found time for spiritual fulfillment. I thought that was funny considering most of the time I am wondering that myself. I told her in the last few months I had found a good balance of accepting my reality with adjusting my expectations.

I told her this is what I wanted: Every morning wake up at least half an hour before the kids. Open my Bible, pray, journal, read, pray, cry, let go, be filled, be ready for the chaos.

Then I told her this happens maybe once every two weeks.

Then I told her this is what I strive for every week now.

Once a week I pray over my children after I put them to bed. We have read stories, teeth are brushed, our devotions and prayers and thankfulness to God are done. Then when our ritual is complete and everyone is tucked in, I pray. I pray out loud with my hand on the child I am praying for and I pour out my fears, my weakness, my dreams, my hopes, and my control. I lay down my expectations for my child and pray that God gives me eyes to see them for who they are. I pray for wisdom, for me and for them. I pray for their friends, their future spouse, and their relationship with their siblings and father. I pray for truth, for the men/woman of God they will become. I lay it all out there for them to hear. I let my children hear my heart for them and lay them back down before God almighty.

If nothing else, when they are in counseling when they are older confessing all the ways I screwed them up, they may hopefully remember that I tried. That I loved them enough to give them back to God every day. I tried.

Once a week my husband and I do our Managers meeting. This is spiritually fulfilling because it is prayer time with my partner. It is coming before God Almighty together, confessing together, gaining strength together, supporting each other, loving each other at the feet of God. This is hands down one of the most centering, balancing discipline I have.

Once a week I wake up early to journal, to read scripture and to pray. This is my truest form of honestly I can strive for. My journal has horrible confessions and crazy thoughts and emotions. It has questions that good Christians don’t ask anymore. It is my time to gain wisdom from scripture, lay down my sense of control and seek God’s counsel for the way I live my life.

I used to strive for five days a week waking up early, and when I couldn’t accomplish that and was struck by feelings of failure, I would eventually stop. Once a week is very doable if you are smart about the morning you choose to wake up early.

There are people out there who can accomplish devotional time every morning, and I congratulate you on your success. However, for those of you who can’t because your current life circumstances don’t allow it, I want to encourage you to find what works for you. Be creative, and find your vibe.

Once a week we do a family devotional and snuggle time. We read from Paul’s Bible and we just ask the kids questions about what we read. There aren’t any great activities and no the questions are planned, we are kind of fly by the seat of your pants people. Then after the Bible reading is done, we just hang out on bed, snuggle, giggle, tickle, laugh, snuggle, and hang out. It is a time to reconnect and push the pause button on life. It is full of love and therefore a deeply spiritual act.

This year, our family motto is to be intentional. When we discuss our priorities, humbling ourselves and subjecting ourselves to God’s authority needs to be intentional. If you aren’t intentional about your spiritual life, be aware that regular daily duties of life have a tendency to steal your spiritual life.

Creating these weekly ways of connecting your soul with its creator is our way of being intentional.

Four days a week I try to plug my soul back into my creator in an intentional way. The way I figure, four out of seven ain’t bad. I’m over half covered. The reason I have found success with this method is that each of my four days fills me in a different way and it looks different so it keeps my interested and forces different habits from me. Healthy habits with my kids, with my partner, and for myself.

Family meeting

We don't always succeed, but we try. We have gone weeks without a family meeting and have suffered the consequences. Life is so much better for us with a family meeting.

If you are anything like me I have a list of things I need to tell my husband after he comes home from work. Things that happened, things I'm thinking about, plans we need to make, schedules we need to coordinate. If your partner is anything like mine, he isn't thinking about those things. He isn't ready to hear all the things going on in my head. He needs some time to prepare for what's coming.

We had spent years trying to communicate in this way. Me trying to bring Paul up to speed as soon as he walks in the door, and him, trying his very hardest to balance work, the kids, projects, my wishes and desires, and his own plans. These weren't our finest moments. Sometimes work got accomplished, but mostly we were both just left feeling hurt, unheard, and disrespected.

That's why over a year ago we instituted our family meeting. Since the kids are a little older, we include them once a week in our schedule meeting, and Paul and I actually created the managers meeting.

Once a week, at a designated time we sit down and hash out all of our family business. Now it isn't necessarily the same day each week, sometimes it doesn't work that way. However, the week before we would have looked at our upcoming schedule and so we would have set our date for the next managers meeting.

In our managers meeting we start with prayer. This is hands down my favorite moment in our meeting. This prayer time allows us to refocus. To center ourselves, our plans, and our agenda. It forces us to put things in perspective. This time also allows me to hear what is on my husbands heart. Things that maybe he is struggling with that I didn't know about. I get a chance to hear his heart, his desires, his insecurities, his concerns, all the things he wants to lay on God's shoulders. It gives me insight into what is going on in his heart that maybe we didn't get a change to talk about because life got in the way. And the very opposite is true. He gets the chance to hear all these things from me.

Once we've prayed, we pull out our schedule and go through our week. We start with the most important items first, when can Paul and I get time and when do we spend time together as a family. Once those items are decided we look at what else is in our schedule for the week, the month ahead and on the cusp of each busy quarter, we look a few months ahead.

Then we bring out our notepad.

The notepad is where we have put the items to discuss for the entire week. This has saved so many disagreements, frustrations, and arguments. Instead of dumping my ideas on Paul right when he gets home or sporadically during the week, I have already put them on the notepad to discuss during our meeting. I can't tell you how helpful this is. When Paul and I come to the family meeting, both our minds are ready and prepared to discuss the family, the house, issues, whatever, it doesn't matter, we are both mentally present. Before, Paul wasn't ready to hear all the things I needed to discuss with him, or I wouldn't communicate it properly because I had already put so much thought into my ideas and I would only bring him into the discussion after I had already decided on a course of action. Waiting for the meeting forces me to think things through and how to communicate effectively to Paul and it allows Paul time to think about it and process whatever it is. (Please realize that we do talk during the week. Sometimes things on the notepad get talked about before the meeting, and often we talk about how we are feeling during our days, but the notepad frees us to leave it if we need, or force us to talk about issues when we haven't had time before hand. We aren't weirdos that won't talk to each other until meeting time. That's just strange.)

We can both put items on the notepad, it’s not a secret. Things that come up on the notepad have ranged from school for the kids, when are we going to clean out the garage, are we going to investigate new car insurance, what do we do about chores for the kids, Lu seems ready to potty train, how will we approach that, etc. Everything is up for grabs in these meetings. The best part is it makes us a team to discuss them together. We each can have an opinion and then we will together decide on the best course of action.

At the end of discussing the items on the notepad, we divide up the responsibilities and walk away with homework, or projects to be completed and reported back on the following week. This may seem ridiculous to you, but what is the point of discussing things that need to get done if no one is going to accomplish them. Someone has to re caulk the tub. Someone needs to get the oil changed, and so forth.

We end our meeting asking how we are doing individually and as a couple. It is a time to share with your partner what you are struggling with, excited about, or need from them.

Some may think that having a managers meeting once a week is extreme or just a recipe for a control crazed mom. But Paul and I do a lot of different things. We are land lords, home owners, he does freelance design work on top of his job, plus his band. I run the household, plus have my speaking career, so it is a lot to keep straight. We discovered that the weekly meeting respected our partner and our time. It created healthy conversation and turned us into a team that works together instead of tag teaming separately. Paul and I have noticed that by intentionally taking some of our time and setting it aside we grow closer together and more towards our goals.

Last year it was hard to be consistent with our family meeting. We were very successful at the beginning, and then a new diet hit, I was cooking all the time and then a tornado hit and we felt lost for the next couple months. We were barely holding on. Over New's years, we both said the one thing we need to make happen this year consistently is our managers meeting. We both knew we felt better about our lives, our marriage and our parenting if we did it together as a team.

So a couple months ago I told you that this was our year of being intentional and I would tell you what that looks like for us. This is step one, and the most important to us. Now we are human, so we will most likely miss a few weeks, we already have in complete honesty. But we try. We don’t want to wake up years down the road and say, “What happened? Where did the time go? Why didn’t we pay attention more? Why didn’t we try saving more? Why didn’t we talk more?” By being intentional, we want to make the most of our lives now.

Daily strength

This may sound very basic to you, but for me, I was recently convicted about modeling daily devotion time to our kids.

Now I get it, I really do. We are all really busy, there are always things to do, blah, blah, blah. In my book that excuse is only getting me so far these days. I have realized more and more than we are in control of what we say yes to and how we design the lives that we are given. We have a choice to slow down. We have a choice to choose TV or reading or cleaning or painting or shopping or whatever. Outside of work, which we still have some choice in, we choose how to spend our free time. We have to say yes or no to commitments, activities, get together, etc. So in my book, there is time, if you make it, to read a few verses in scripture everyday.

We all agree that food fuels our bodies. We can't survive without the daily, or more specifically hourly input to keep us going, to keep us healthy and functioning.

As believers we understand that same truth to be said for our soul. We understand that without nourishment, we drown. Without refuel, our soul becomes weak. We need the constant reconnection, the constant reminder of God's unfailing love and kindness towards mankind. I would dare say that our own life demands this rekindling if it is to survive.

So why is it that we let this fall to the wayside? Why is it that this is the piece that we can't find time for? God had been challenging my heart in regard to this, but then my deeper conviction was clear as day.

How are my children going to know that daily nourishment is critical to their faith survival? I remember being in High School and all of a sudden I was old enough to be taught that this was important.

Well, if brushing your teeth are so important that we learn that from infancy, then why aren't we taught to teach our children this?

When this question hit me, I had no answer for it. I had no excuses for it. I had been praying to God to show me how to raise our kids to love him with their whole heart. I had been praying for wisdom in how to teach his word in a way they won't want to reject. This is one of the things that came to me and I had no reason with which to argue.

So if it is important to feed our soul as much as our body for not just survival but also to thrive, then how do I do that?

Well for us right now, it means we instituted "Feed your body, feed your soul" in the morning over breakfast. I didn't take a lot of time to create this name, it just kind of came to me when I was describing this to the kids.

We as a family discussed what the word of God is, how God gave it to us to read and be encouraged and find instruction in how to live our life. How it brings hope and healing when we are sad and lonely, and it teaches us how to love others. It is necessary to read the Bible to strengthen our faith, our soul.

Thus started, "Feed your body, feed your soul."

We basically pull our Bible during breakfast to read a few verses that can sit in our heart and on our brain for the day. The fact that we are eating and feeding our body is a convenient reminder to feed our soul.

Now you must know that this is NOT a planned Devotion, we have another scheduled time for that as a family. This is not a very deep and spiritual time. We don't have question and answer time, and we don't figure out a way to solve world peace. I have small children. I'm just trying to get them to hear three words I say most of the time. The important thing I am trying to pass along is

1. yes the word of God. I believe it is alive and active and when my children hear it, they are fed.

2. even more than that, we are trying to pass along a habit, a way of life, a discipline in creating a healthy faith life. I am confident they are not listening everyday, but what I also know is that when they are helping set the table, they also bring the Bible. It's already sticking. My prayer is that this will continue for them into the teenage years and long into adulthood. I want them to ask, "Have I fed my body today? Have I fed my soul today?"

We don't really have a plan right now. We started with the sermon on the mount. That seemed like a great place to start. Big suggested we start at the beginning and just read the whole thing, like we did with their kid Bible. I giggled a little cause I thought, I have always wanted to read through the whole Bible, so I guess this is how that could happen, except it will take four years to do a few verses at a time.

This is was one way that Paul and I wanted to practice our intentional living lifestyle as parents.


This is the slogan in our house this year. We want to live under this banner and see how it changes our lives.

On New Years Eve Paul and I like to go through our calendar and review the year. We relive memories and share our hearts and thoughts on the things that happened. Then we look at the new calendar and make plans. We set goals that feel slightly achievable and that won't make us feel like crap if we don't meet them. We see what we did that we want to change and what we want to keep.

Paul and I noticed only one thing from this past year.

It was CRAZY!!!

Last winter at this time we were dealing with a baby and a child whose body was being poisoned and he didn't know how to live with it, all the while trying to homeschool and research schools for the next year. We were having multiple daily meltdowns, me specifically, and calling mom and crying at least twice a day, me again. I try to tell people what a mess I am, but so many don't seem to believe me. Just spend more than three days with me, and you'll discover all my hidden faults and weaknesses.

After months of chaotic crazy yelling, fighting, pushing, timeouts, spankings, stress, guilt, apologies, forgiveness and crying, crying, and more crying along with guilt, we got Big tested and discovered our life changer, Leaky gut and food sensitivities. So we changed our diet, then a tornado hit our house and our lives haven't been the same since. We had Big tested a couple more times since the initial blood test and we have then discovered more food sensitivities, chemical in balance and inability to naturally detox.

With the way life was happening, Paul and I keep talking about being intentional. Call it planning, proactive, big picture living, whatever. We call it intentional. We have made plans and ideas and schedules to help us live intentionally.

When we are intentional our lives thrive and relationships deepen. When Paul and I are intentional about our time together, planning for our family, spiritual preparation and execution, we experience real peace. We experience a richness in our lives that comes from setting time aside to prepare for life.

On New Year’s eve, Paul and I made lots of lists. We made schedules and dreams and plans. Our goal is not to fail, nor to feel guilty when things aren’t accomplished, but instead, we want a road map so we know where we are going. We are exhausted of being exhausted and making it up as we go along and always, always being 10 steps behind. We have been living in survival mode for more than a year and its time to start slowing down and digging in to make the most of our lives.

For instance, Paul and I picked one life project to accomplish each month. January was tax and file organization. It’s Feb. 1 and my files are 40% organized and I haven’t touched my tax stuff. But I did organize the kids toys, which is Feb. project. So, I won’t have guilt, I am on a road to success and I promise to have patience with myself.

I will share some of the other fun intentional things that Paul and I have planned in my next few posts, so stay tuned. But in the mean time, I hope you will have time to be patient with yourself as you find ways to be intentional in the way you do life. Find peace, and joy and happiness and faith in the preparation.

Saying good bye to our tree (and a hard year)

We wanted one more night with our Christmas tree. We love our Christmas tree (OK, I know I do, so I'll speak for myself.) and we especially love our house at Christmas. We knew we would be taking our tree down the next day so we wanted one more special evening.

After we watched football and dinner was all cleaned up, we turned all our lights off and sat by the twinkling of our tree. Our Batman toys were near by and so was the flashlight so we started first by having a hoppin dance party where Little was amazingly impressive with her moves and facial expressions. (Seriously, that girl has some swinging hips and she likes to use them. Just. to. funny.) We sang jingle bells while the kids danced and found their favorite Batman toys. Then we played batman for a little while, just the five of us, the flashlight and twinkling Christmas tree. It was so great, and its the kids favorite thing to do, and I think they liked that both Paul and I were playing with them. That is a bit more rare. Once we all settled down and snuggled on the floor we sang "Silent Night".

We had kind of been disconnected all day. We had friends over, the TV was on, chores were getting done, but then we paused everything and came together. (never underestimate the power of erasing a bad day with intentional time with the kiddos.) We took time to have a moment together. To hold on the last affect of our tree and its magic and its power. We looked at our ornaments, we sat still, we snuggled, we hugged, we giggled, we came together. We put everything else aside and said, for this moment in time, nothing else matters except each other. It was wonderful.

(My husband has to laugh at me and how everything has a bit of tradition into it. He probably thought we were just going to take the tree down, and then I turned into this, "We have to have a moment." I need moments for everything it seems!)

I am sad to see our tree go. Sad to say goodbye to all the magic Christmas brings. But at the same time, I welcome the normal rhythms of life to come back again. This year has been crazy for us. Our oldest was at his worst struggling point this time last year. We had four months of crying, yelling, screaming, struggling, talking, crying, yelling, crying, and then our diet changed. Then a tornado hit. Then we traveled for a month. Then the diet changed again. Then we started a new job and new school. Then we took a breath.

It's been a big year and we need some of our rhythms back. Our weekly meetings. Our Friday night family night. Our Saturday Sabbath. Our prayer time over the kids. A workout routine. A weekly meal plan. So many healthy habits have fallen to the wayside to make room for survival. (Which is funny since these things only enhance and make survival actually possible.) But we welcome them. We need them. We say bring it on.

Welcome 2012. With you we hope to find our discipline for life again. We hope to find fulfillment again. We hope to see the benefits to all of our relationships that intentional planning can bring.

We hope for a fruitful year. And selfishly, a slightly easier year.

This is not our tree, but here is my family on Christmas Eve at my in-laws down in Texas. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!