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A Week in the Life of My Dining Table:

This is our dining room table.

My weekly planner shares space with Titus’s dump truck. Crumbs grace the floor even though one perk of owning a dog should be no crumbs on the floor.

Real life happens here all the time, despite my efforts for ideal meals and clean floors.

Here is what a week around this hunk of wood looks like:

Monday: My hands intertwine with my husbands on top of this table. We pray for the week ahead, our calendars and weekly budget face-up on the table to give us perspective. What is God up to that we can be a part of?

Tuesday: Our table sits untouched today. Kids and I join friends for a physically and emotionally filling feast. Their graciousness to open their home to us was incredibly timely, as a busy day (with less intentionality than I would have liked) left us without thawed meat for dinner. Shane is munching on pizza as he leads Bible study on campus.

Wednesday: A round of Candy Land takes over the Table. We suck on candy canes left over from Christmas as we play. The table gets quite sticky. And I am not even sorry. I extend my writing hour past the twins’ naptime. I kick myself for putting a movie on when they wake up so I can finish a chapter… and scroll through facebook, let’s be honest. So much grace is offered to me here as Evi grabs her own notebook and pink play phone to “work with mommy.” I add on more item to my to-do list: invest affection into the kids. C’mon stay-present mama!

Thursday: On the Table rest mugs of comforting hot cocoa. I sit with a terrified college student, silent prayers constantly rising. An unplanned pregnancy threatens to unravel her, but HOPE in Jesus intervenes. I share the Good News. She accepts Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She cannot stop smiling as she walks out of my home. Beaming with peace and understanding that she is loved and adopted by the Most high God, she begins to see the life growing inside her is a blessing.

That night, we host 3 couples who will soon be embarking on the adventure of marriage. They choose to prep for the journey with pre-marital counseling. We kick off the season with a creamy chicken Parmesan dish and fun proposal stories. Young couples’ love proves contagious to Shane and I. We flirt a little more liberally as we clear the dirty dishes.

Friday: Our Table hosts our favorite meal of the week: Friday Feast! It is Shane’s day off, so we all sleep in and have a big brunch at 10 AM. We break open steamy muffins and lick our lips as we salt our egg-hash-brown mashup. Evi tells us a story about princesses and heroes. Titus interrupts with a tale of Spider-Man. Both use great transition words and vocal inflection. I start to see how much fun it is to impart a love for story-telling into our kids. Daddy kicks off a round of chase around the stairwell, and I push chairs closer to the table so nobody trips.

Saturday: The Table is a mess. It became the catch-all for this end to the busy week. I am annoyed our home isn’t magazine-tidy, but then again, when is that the life I want anyway? Only the moments I am perusing through Instagram or Better Homes and Gardens. When I really look at my table, the sticky edges and mug rings are exactly what makes this gathering place sacred… and beautiful. I ask God to change my perspective and my heart from bitter to blessed.

Sunday: A round of Spoons threatens to scratch the veneer of this lovely table top. But we don’t mind. Our Sunday Night Dinners have made their way into our weekly rhythm, and the cost is well worth the return. We host college students for a home-away-from-home gathering, and this specific night called for extra celebration. Another one of our students declared Jesus as her Lord and Savior earlier that day at a Bible study. Having been raised in a home that did not acknowledge Jesus, she came to our student ministry with an open mind, hoping to find a supportive community. What she received was an invitation into the royal family of God. We celebrated her enthusiastic RSVP with popcorn and card games. Two salvation stories in 1 week humbles me greatly.

This is our dining room table.

Spilled milk left under the paw-patrol placemat has warped the table top on the left side. Crumbs that fall daily have gathered for a perpetual conference under the beam near the floor (clearly a footrest right?).

All this, and yet how can one mama be so moved by one messy mesa?

Emotional mommy-tears are often poured out at this table. Uncontrollable laughter cascades regularly over its beams. Lots of mistakes are made as I push away kids to focus on my to-do list. Chairs get rocked back an inch too far from this table, toppling over to the sound of a wailing 3 year old.

Manners are being learned, bellies are being filled, and hearts are being healed here. The quiet hours of my morning routine here are vastly contrasted by the squealing coloring festival the twins create in the hours before nap time.

Many prayers have launched their way to Gods attentive ear from this table. Much forgiveness and grace is offered here.

Perhaps this is the most sacred spot of our home. So today, I am grateful for our dining table and the crumbs and memories made here.

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Why Did Jesus Come?

“Why did Jesus come?” I asked our kids on the drive to church yesterday. Our son took a long time to arrive at his answer.

Eventually he responded, “because he wasn’t there.”

His simple, straight-forward conclusion has profoundly impacted me and left me pondering all day.

Jesus. Wasn’t. There.

There was no access to grace, to love, to friendship with God… because Jesus wasn’t there.

Humanity was groping through the spiritual darkness… because Jesus wasn’t there.

God allowed his creation to feel the weight of his silence, the longing in His absence, the sting of their own consequences… because Jesus wasn’t there.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” Galatians 4:4-5

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2

This also leaves me with questions:

I cannot imagine a world where Jesus was not there, arms open, invitation extended, knocking at the door. But how often to I live my life unaware of His presence? His nearness?

God is With Us!

Immanuel.

But what seems to be more present, more pressing, more there is busyness. To-do lists. Schedules full to the brim. Time and stuff and people to manage. All our attempts at flourishing fall short when Jesus isn’t there.

  • Lord, make my heart attentive to Immanuel all year long. Because Jesus IS here!

Second question: How many of my friends and family still live in a world where Jesus isn’t there?

Clinging to darkness when a gift of light and hope rests under the cross-tree on which Jesus hung in our place. Unaware of the Christ-child who became King, worthy of worship and allegiance and gratitude.

Something keeps this gift at a distance, arms length maybe, or perhaps twenty-nine and a half foot pole distance. My heart aches with a grief that pounds loud sometimes for these, my loved ones without True hope. Because Jesus isn’t there.

  • How long, oh Lord, till they accept You?

On this Christmas morning, my contemplating, grieving, celebrating, joy-filled heart is still blessed. Because Jesus is here, carrying burdens, caring deeper than I ever could, and championing hearts even still as King and Savior.

Oh come let us adore Him. Immanuel.

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3 Executive Decisions This Momma Made for the Holidays This Year

In a century where holidays are hijacked by outrageous spending and overpriced tradition expectations…. I just want to love my family. I began to notice where my Christmas to-do list no longer lined up with love. Time to change things up!

For Thanksgiving, that meant I learned to mosey. For this first week of December, it means I am making a few executive decisions about our expectations for the rest of this month. I hope this turning of tables leads to better awareness of Jesus in our midst as I learn to love sacrificially like He does.

Perhaps you need to take back your expectations for the holidays too! I often remind my kids that the parents are the boss of the kids and Jesus is the boss of Mommy and Daddy. Sometimes, we parents need to exercise a little executive power to reorient our homes in line with our King. Here are the ones that made a difference for us this first week of advent:

1. Bless with a Dress. I do a lot of outfit control for my 3 year old twins. Many a favorite tutu gets nixed in favor of practical pants. However, this week I decided to hand over the fashion reigns, for both my daughters outfit and mine. A mother-daughter tea party play-date is the perfect opportunity to let my daughter explore her taste in style, and affirm it by strutting through the day dressed by my preschooler. With no small amount of glee, Evi dug through my closet and unearthed the only “twirly” dress I own, much like the one she was wearing.

Soon we were a pair of twirly girls ready for the day. She loved it, I only felt marginally awkward. But I held my head high nonetheless. Interestingly, when my husband saw my out-of-the-box outfit, he was enamored. Thanks to a brave moment of saying yes to my daughter, the twirly dress will now be featured more often in the outfit shuffle. It isn’t so bad taking turns in the fashion department after all.

2. Trade Trendy for Timeless. On a last minute whim, I bought bright silver tinsel garland. For weeks, I’ve had my eye on a red buffalo plaid ribbon to wrap around our tree, but the kids are little, tinsel is shiny, and who cares. We bought tinsel.

I also bought batman Christmas wrapping paper. And Disney princess wrapping paper. I kissed goodbye my dreams of brown paper packages tied up with string…with a sprig of eucalyptus tucked in the bow, and calligraphy monographs hand painted on top (thank you Pinterest).

Instead, I will put a pin in these dreams and revisit them maybe when the kids turn 17. It’s going to be one well-pined for Scandinavian-style, minimalism Christmas. Of course by then, it will no longer be trendy. I guess love is the trend I should be setting in our home instead. Let the kids be kids, and enjoy it while it lasts, right? After all, those memories are the truly timeless decorations at Christmas.

3. Stymie Unnecessary Stress. Also a last minute executive decision, I postponed the introduction of our “Shepherd’s Treasure.” We received this adorable Elf on the Shelf alternative as a gift last Christmas from my lovely older sister. She has charming documentation of their shepherd’s enchanting antics in years past, making me really excited to jump in.

The book’s instructions say to start the 1st day of December, however I decided not to. For some reason, the last 3 days of November had me panicked in preparation for the calm time of advent. It seemed counter intuitive that I was getting stressed in preparation for rest. The word oxymoron kept coming to mind.

So I made the executive mama decision: a late start date for our Shepherd was not going to deprive our kids. In fact, this delay was a sacrificial love act. When I release myself from forced Christmas creativity for too many days in a row, I can give my family the greater gift of having a peaceful, present mama.

In the days the twins were still babies, a wise soul implored me to seriously rethink traditions while my kids are little. “Simplify them to start,” she said ,”because it is less stressful on everyone to add a new expectation down the road than to fail a tradition later because you were over-ambitious in the early years.”

I deeply appreciate the freedom I have discovered in practicing this stay-present principle. So we might bring our shepherd out 10 days before Christmas, or maybe 7. Whenever it happens, it will be just as whimsical and enchanting.

There you have it, a few ways I said yes to twirly dresses and sparkly trees and batman wrapping paper (and no to being stressed-out mommy) in order to love my kids BIG this holiday season.

These are all decisions that boss me right out of my comfort zone. Not surprisingly, embracing them has brought more freedom and joy for this season.

What executive decisions have you made to stay-present this holiday season?

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A Blanket Fort of Grace: Stay Present Momma

Today was the worst. Add up unrealistic expectations, a messy house, unfinished projects, coat sleeves turned inside-out, tired kids and an even more tired mom, and we got a group of crying, screaming half-dressed small people in the garage by 11am.

The worst part was, I knew it was all my fault. I had over used my tv-as-distraction tool to get some things done. It was time to head to the gym as we always do. However, I had a project 97% finished and wanted that extra 15 minutes before we HAD to leave to finish it. For me to get that 15 minutes, the kids were going to have to get their own shoes on.

And coats.

And backpacks.

And use the potty.

All of these tasks have been formerly completed in record time by both 3 year olds with no issue… when it is their idea. However, this moment it was apparently beyond reasonable expectation. (It was my idea, after all.)

So there we were, a big mess of unmet expectations. The kids were crying, I was crying, the dog was whining, the wind was howling; we had a choir going. I chucked my jacket into the car with the proclamation my kids have heard too often: “you are driving my crazy!”

I know they hear it too much because I hear Evi repeating it often to her brother… with the same aggravation grating her voice that I hear in mine.

So as I bent to hook a carseat buckle, I stopped short and just said, “you are driving!” As if a preschooler behind the wheel is going to steer this chaotic mess back to sanity-station.

No, the kids should not be in the driver seat. And neither should I, in fact.

“God, would you take over here!?” I prayed.

“Build a fort, mama.” He whispered back.

My heart found hope in that simple prerogative. I abandoned the mission to get out of the house, embracing the stay-in-the-moment resolve instead.

I scooped the kids out of the car, gathered blankets, unrolled a few strands of Christmas lights, and hijacked our living room to stage our fort. I found a treasure chest in storage and filled it with up with books. The children were so excited about their new treasures. We cuddled in the close quarters of our blanket fort and breathed in the rhythmic words of children’s stories.

Tears turned to tickles. Sobs surrendered to warm snuggles. Frustration stepped aside when fun came in the room.

There in our fort, we all found shelter. The lights twinkled under the blankets, and their eyes twinkled under the covering of my affection. And my own heart rejoiced for the undeserved banner of love I receive from my own good, good Father. In that moment, I realized He makes a blanket fort of grace over me every day.

The tears I have now are drops of awe and gratitude.

Perhaps tomorrow I will prioritize a moment of intimacy with my kids earlier in the day. And in doing so, we might end up leaving the house a satisfied and whole group of people on our way to accomplishing something lovely or productive for the day.

That was not how this day began, but I continue to embrace the art of stay-present mothering. In fact, I think our living room full of floating blankets was the kind of lovely and productive we needed.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

On the worst days, dear mama, let’s build a blanket forts for our kids, and snuggle them close under the blanket of grace God has built over us.

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”

‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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Let Go Of FoMo: How to Really Enjoy Your Vacation

“Let’s mosey,” my husband said.

I tried to decipher whether it was a pleading question or a gentle statement.

It took us about 2 years of marriage to discover the importance of communicating expectations for family activities… especially during the holidays. Now after 8 years, this is still imperative  for our relationship.

Vacation expectations are difficult to manage. My mother was the queen of “quick! quick! quick!” during our family travels. Sleeping in was a cardinal offense. If we were going to get as much out of our family time as possible, we better get going. Granted, without her go-getter mentality, we would have squandered many a trip to Disney world and the Texas gulf coast with excessive napping. The quick quick quick queen gets all the credit for the fantastic memories we all have of the experience. (Thanks mom!)

I think I inherited her crown about the time my twins started walking. I see every vacation as a buffet of opportunities. Things to do, people to see, restaurants to taste, places to explore. I am an adventurer, after all. When we venture off from our small town, my heart and mind are ready to ingest all the possibilities.

Contrast my penchant for doing with my husband’s preference for just being. He has no fear-of-missing-out (FOMO). He is not petrified at the thought of losing someone’s approval. He truly just wants to vacate on vacation (imagine that?). Leave the rushed pace of the regular work-week mentality and simply… mosey.

In order to play along with this mosey-mentality, I had to wrap my head around it first. Whereas I assumed it meant laziness or carelessness, the word mosey literally means “to walk or move in a leisurely manner.” That is actually something I would like more of in my life. The luxury of margin in the schedule, in the budget, in my expectations is often out of reach because I have been busy filling that white space.

So for one week, instead of scraping by and grasping at last minutes and last dollars, I plan to mosey. To open up my heart and hands. To loosen my grip on expectations and fear of missing out. To be bendy.

Here is my vacation agenda. More flexibility to enjoy, less expectations to fit it all in. And with every to-do list I write, I include a to-don’t list. These are the things I give myself permission to say no to.

I hope you can join me for a few days of just being.

“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord — now and always.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭131

PS. What are you adding or taking away from your vacation list?

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We have a Newsletter Folks!

I cannot wait to share with you all these exciting things:

  • Official Launch of Joyfully Ever After, my new Bible study curriculum for young women

  • Kickstarter Campain for Joyfully Ever After Bible Study (and how you can be the first to view it!)

  • More encouraging blog posts to equip your faith hope and sweet s’mores-with-Jesus walk!

You know you want to hear that sweet chime alerting you to the awesomeness in your inbox. Subscribe to my mailing list below!

 

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5 Ways to Practice Distraction-Free Worship (For The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Seasons of Life)

We need worship. I am convinced that worship is a gift. God does not rely on our worship to prop up his identity or stroke his ego. His glory is all-sufficient (which is why God is so worthy of our praise)!

In moments of rejoicing or times of anxiety, worship is Gods provisional avenue for us, his kids, to have joy and confidence in these days. The invitation to tell-God-how-good-He-is delivers us from self-centered thinking to freedom and joy. 

Like Peter, we navigate the stormy waves of our souls by keeping our eyes on Jesus. (Matthew 14) 

Worship is the corrective eye-glass that brings His image into focus when our eyes are dimmed and distracted by world-waves: despair, self-entitlement, fear, pride, consumerism, pain, bitterness. 
My family and church are entering a season of great potential for these world-waves to cloud our vision. Knowing these next months will tempt me to lose heart, I must proceed with holy intentionality. 


I have decided to choose worship over worry, to look at the healer instead of the wound, and to bask in his good light that leads rather than wallow in the valley of shadows. Perhaps you’d like to join me? 

Here are some practices to help: 
1. Make It Personal: Sometimes as we worship, we need to re-state a verse, a hymn, a song, or other truth that exposes Gods bigness, faithfulness, or goodness in a relatable way to our own souls. When we allow truth to impact with such intimacy, we respond with worship. 

In the last few years, I have sung the song “Oceans” a hundred times, at least. I have always appreciated the lyrics, however, only recently have I personally unpacked them. To me, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” was always about travel and missions. As I sang it recently, I realized that it’s less about “missions” and more about meekness. In other words, “I will submit to what you are doing even when I don’t understand. I will not put boundaries on your plan.” 

Contrary to my favorite Instagram accounts, the adventure isn’t in traveling beyond national borders, its in the advent of Jesus presence. When I think about his having come into to my mess to save me, I can’t help the shouts of exuberant gratitude. (Psalm 96 says sing to the Lord a new song!)

2. Go With The Crowd: Recently, Rend Collective delivered a foot stomping worship service that unleashed my inner wild-child [of God]. However, an unthinkable kill-joy snuck in during the concert: a couple who couldn’t be pulled away from their smartphones. They sat directly in front of us, completely disengaged from the atmosphere of joy and adoration. Every 45 seconds their screens changed from Facebook, to candy crush, to email. 

Discouraged and distracted, we abandoned our seats to stand closer to the stage where the audience was more engaged. (Ok, it was loud and rowdy and I loved it.) Turns out, expressed enthusiasm to praise Jesus can be contagious. Some of us need to make a move to be near it. (Practice a page from King Davids story in Samuel 6:12-23)

3. Call for Sanctuary: Some of us need the help of spacial and relational quietness to focus in worship. Sometimes, we embrace awkwardness and pour our offering to Jesus in public, like the woman with the perfume in Luke 7. Other times, we take our cue from Jesus himself and “go away to pray.” To be quiet and alone with God can be uncomfortable; however, to be alone with God is sometimes the only way we can truly be available. He can have our undivided attention when we silence the visual and audible noise. This often takes practice, but is so worth it. I am hoping to champion this habit more effectively in my own life this season. (See Luke 5:16 and Mark 1:35)

4. Clean House: Before we can lavish praise and odes of trust to our God, sometimes we need to first convey our doubt. In Christ, we are free, invited even, to express all the hurt, anger, disappointment, anxiety, exhaustion, weariness, confusion, and bitterness. God has proven he is big enough to handle our negativity. Hiding, swallowing, or denying the junky feelings in our souls not only hinders our worship, it inhibits our intimacy with God. 

Our Father beckons us to put aside the orphan mentality: the notion that I am acceptable as long as I am presentable. I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself griping before the Lord. I then get annoyed with my tempter tantrum, and assume God feels the same way. But I must remember He is my daddy, and I am his girl. I am safe. My honest feelings are welcome. However, I don’t get stuck here. The emptying of my heart makes room for the filling of His joy. What follows is a natural and organic exaltation of my redeemer. (Psalm 31 displays this practice well)

5. Fake It Till You Make It: Say the words out loud. Raise your hands, or get on your knees. Let your actions convince your feelings, rather than your feelings define your actions. The times I am most likely to raise my hands in worship are often the times I feel most distracted or disengaged. Using nonverbal communication to express adoration, desperation, or surrender to Jesus can help liberate my actual feelings or words to agree. Our posture has power. (See Psalm 95:6-7)

Do you practice focused worship? Share your stories ’round the campfire by commenting below. 

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A Faith-Leap for Team Rosty

Today, I am enjoying the view for a quiet moment while the kids sleep. 
I’ll admit, this view can’t be beat. From my front porch or living room window, I get to drink this in every day. Sometimes the fog rolls in over the mountains, tucking the hills in for a slumberous morning. Sometimes the sun bursts in and wakes up every leaf and blade of grass to sing praises with their colors.
And today, I appreciate the view so much more, even in the dull afternoon shade. I am soaking it up because it won’t be mine much longer. We are embarking on another adventure. 

Four years ago, we put shovels into dirt and began to build our home. Two years later, we filled this home with twice the energy a brand new baby provides. This home has been our sanctuary, our place of ministry, and our place to play. 
Tiny fingers learned to crawl on soft carpet here. Toddlers in footsie pajamas have padded through the hallway and ’round and ’round the kitchen wall here. Handprints on windows might as well be a permanent accessory here. A Christmas tree took up way too much space in the living room here. Our pup has indulged on often spilled Cheerios here. Our marriage has blossomed here, as we fell in love with each other all over again when we became parents. Our hearts have sunk low at times here, and overflowed with joy at others here, as we have walked weary roads with young people into the presence of God.  

Our adventure on this boulevard has been filling, exhausting, sanctifying, and exhilarating. Our home has been ground zero for petitioning prayers and party-zone for many BBQ’s. And now it is the launching pad for a new journey. 

God has once again directed our attention toward adoption. We strive to stay in-step with Jesus in this process, not rushing ahead and not dragging our feet. The first step is to find a little bit more space.  

And in the steady motion of obedience, Jesus keeps providing for the big and small things, like…

  • -Planting peace in my heart as we planted a For-Sale sign in our front yard this morning.
  • -Coffee and perspective-bringing conversation brought by a lovely friend.
  • -Just enough light shed on the next life-steps to keep us grasping tight to the hand of our Guide. 

I don’t know how, but my breath comes easy today, with the reminder that He is good. This view and these memories soothe my heart. Only Jesus can redeem what could be a season of anxiety and grasping for control, transforming it into a epoch of blessing through the nearness of His presence.


Thank you, family and friends for your prayers for clarity and dependence on God as we keep walking, and sometimes leaping, in faith. 

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SUP Lovin’

I ❤️ SUP!

In the last year, I have discoveredthat one of my Life-givers is the water. (Lifegiver=a unique visual, companion, or activity that God uses to simultaneously energize and relax you, make you feel more like yourself, and draw you back to joy). 

Be it a brook or the seaside, water is something that just fills me up deep in my soul. 

This summer, thanks to a friend who has graciously introduced me to the sport, I have found a new favorite way to explore this passion. 

Today, stand up paddle boarding gave me some quiet space for my Jesus-focused yoga practice, a unique perspective of perseverance (post downdog failure), and much needed mindfulness of the vast beauty of God and his creation, of which I am a part of.
 I also got to float around with my two-year old son, searching for driftwood. To him, it’s a pirate ship, but to me, it’s a simple gift… 

So here is your campfire check-in for the day: What is your life-giver? 

Find me on Instagram @campfiregrace for more life-giving updates!

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