Mission Mondays at our home

We’d waited and prayed for a long while for something new for our beloved brother-in-law to open up.  His and my sisters’ heart for the marginalized and orphaned has only grown these past few years.  So when he was asked to come on board with Children of the Nations, a non-profit that we already knew and loved, we could not have been more thrilled.  And we wanted to be behind them in this faith venture in every way.  As we talked about how to support them, knowing we already had our “give”  dollars going several different directions, I sat down and talked with our kids.  I told them how much an average dinner cost me to cook for our family of eight.

We talked about the Children of the Nations (COTN) meal packing events that we’d attended several times.  Their faces lit up as usual and they bantered about how much fun it is to pack meals packs.  COTN hosts these events to raise awareness and give people here on wealthy American soil an opportunity to do more than simply write a check.  They are high energy and always fun.  They’ve provided a fantastic conversation starter for our family multiple times to talk about how we can do more to share the love of Christ in tangible ways.  I asked our kids, what do you guys think about eating the COTN meal – lentils, spice, chicken and rice – one night a week to free up some grocery funds.    They said a quick and hearty yes.  I perfected my own rendition of the COTN meal pack.  My kids were the testers, telling me to STOP and not make any changes once the ratio was right.

So began Mission Mondays at our house.  For no other reason than it was catchy so we picked Monday.  The kids actually offered to eat the meal twice a week.  I told them we’d start with one so we didn’t tire of it.  But then quickly caught myself.  Because the very real reality of the meal packs is that the recipients of the very simple food are content, dare I say crazy thankful for the food being provided for them.  They would pale at a glimpse inside my organized pantry, well stocked for an emergency and a half dozen constantly hungry kids.  And my kids, truth be told, sometimes don’t “feel like” eating anything in said pantry.  Which is the double blessing of this weekly simple meal.  It is a continual reminder of the bounty we live within.  The basic comforts like grocery stores on every corner full of fresh food and a dizzying amount of culinary options.

Our Monday night table discussion centers around someone we know serving somewhere in the world.  It’s no organized sort of thing.  Just hearts that want to be aware and tuned in to the heart of God that beats for the orphans, widows and the poor.  I always fight the urge to provide side dishes to the lentils and rice and simply serve the dish alone and everyone gets perfectly fed and full eating it.

…fast forward a bit to July this summer….we hosted a creation camp here at the house for a wonderful group of kids, all sorts of kids.  It was one of those hallowed things you get to do and it almost pushes you over the top but when its over you can hardly catch your breath and you know, just know, that it was holy and beautiful and not to be missed.  We have this crazy awesome, so-not-in-the-box pastor who came to play guitar and lead singing (and hang up tarps in the pouring rain!):

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On our last day of creation camp, I talked about how we were created to reflect God to others, that we get to reflect his image and how completely incredible that is.  Part of that is having the responsibility to be generous givers and ones who love others well, especially those in need.  So I shared with them about COTN and the meals they bring and hope that a simple meal is to children who are starving.  We then headed inside to prepare meal packets for everyone to take home with them so they could, maybe, start their own traditions and perhaps set aside some of their extra to share and give in some way.  At one point there were 52 people inside the walls of our house.  It was, literally, the only rainy week the entire summer.  So our outdoor on the lawn activity all had to happen inside and cozy!  It was insane.  And so loud.  And incredible.  I hope and pray that this is one little way we can be mindful of the things that matter.


The gift of time

Just over a month ago I rather impulsively rented a house not too far from here for a weekend’s respite.  I was feeling so pressed in on, so weary and desperate for some room to breathe.  The pull of homeschool and all the rest of life weighs heavy around March or so every year.  We aren’t finished yet but the daily grind has been grinding for quite some time.  So I suppose ground down sums up how I felt quite nicely.

Chris was gracious in the face of my declaration that I needed a break.  He knows how hard I work and he is faithfully, relentlessly and sacrificially giving of himself the minute he walks in the door from work every day.  Truth be told, he probably could use a break too.  But he didn’t say a word, simply “yes”.  If I’d had the sense, I’d have done better planning little bits of time here and there to rest throughout the year thus far, but I didn’t, so that was that.

I said more than once, almost apologetically, “I just need to think in full sentences for more than five minutes, to truly R-E-S-T.”  Honestly I wanted more than anything to have dedicated time set apart for my cup to be refilled so that I could continue giving at this capacity.  The level of output motherhood requires is far beyond anything I could have imagined.  And I’m in this for the long, very long, lifelong, haul.  The only way I can do that with any measure of grace and sanity is listening to my heart when it feels this way.

Up until the week before I wasn’t sure if any friends would join me while I was away, but three did, and it was such a gift.  We ventured around quaint Coupeville on Whidbey Island and conversed and rested.  I’ve been holding out on posting because I have some really fun photos too but the computer isn’t working right now on the photo-front.

My takeaway from the weekend is tough to hone down into one thing.  But learning to listen to my heart/body/mind and knowing when I’m over the top and absolutely need to step back a bit from life so that I can keep going, it’s worth doing.  The payoff for everyone in my life but especially my family is so great.  In leaving and listening, I was actually loving them well.  Strange, but true.

In my dreams I came home, rested, refreshed mama who tossed her head at the shenanigans of her children and magically got the house in tip top shape.  But alas, when I woke up today, people still complained about breakfast options, someone spilled milk (and cried loudly about it!) before I’d even had my coffee, Finn still woke up WAY too early, there is stuff from the trip stuffed in the back of the van and the floor is in terrible need of a mopping.  Since it’s spring break I thought I’d give a try at the old “stay in my pajamas till after lunchtime”.  But sadly, that only left me wanting to live under a fuzzy green blanket on the couch and not talk to anyone.  Which really works poorly when there are five people who look to me for direction on a minute to minute basis!

*I finally got some of my friend Shauna’s pictures to load at least!*
Quaint really is the right word, don’t you think?



Sometime early this year I came to a humbling and painful realization about the way I spent my time.  It followed my major epiphany that no one was going to help me lose weight and make healthier choices but…ME.  It took months of trying to replace my daily sugar junking with better options to make a change.  I still cave but sugar doesn’t have the same hold.  Though I didn’t lose all the baby( x4) weight I was toting around, at least half of it is gone – better than nothing I figure.

The much harder conclusion was that no one else was responsible for the way I chose to use my time.  I would read Proverbs 31 and just dismiss the whole chapter, too long a list, too lofty.  Get up before the sun so my house could be in order?  Craziness.  Instead I woke up with my kids, gave generously of my time to the computer, read too many blogs/articles and continuously remained utterly behind on laundry, daily cleaning and a general sense of focus.  I told myself those were just part of the season (which truly, honestly they are sometimes).  In a few years maybe I could aim for change in that department.

Nevermind that my lack of time management was hard on everyone.  I would snap and ask Chris to do the dishes and list off the “100 things I did today” to explain why breakfast/lunch/dinner dishes all lined the sink and entire counter.  I would complain about the workload and refuse to put one more single piece of clothing away (this was less than smart, just landed me more work in the long run).  Sure, it might have been true, but the attitude behind it wasn’t winning any points.  It seemed reasonable to me that my kids wake up to me on the computer sipping coffee in my pajamas every morning.  It certainly isn’t something inherently bad.

There were two problems at hand for me though.  The first was that I was generally behind on all things ‘home’ partly because of all the people who live here and partly because I could not see that it was my job as the manager of this home to find a system that worked.  The second was that my time spent reflected my values.  Are my values shopping on Amazon and reading 10 blogs in a day?  Or are they pursuing a living, breathing relationship with my Creator?  I realize it’s not an either or type of thing.  But if my time was broken down into a pie chart – Amazon would win over Jesus.  And that was more than a bummer.  It just wouldn’t do.

How can I reflect something or someone I’m not giving (literally) the time of day to?  How can I read book after book but ignore THE Book and the richness of wisdom for all of life that is in it?  I recently told my mom, I feel a little sheepish about how much I’m learning actually reading the Bible.  There are so many answers and so much hope, I am continually amazed.

And I’ve known about God all my life.  But the shift from knowing about to just knowing is completely transformational.

It all comes down to choice.  Just like no one was going to make me choose a bowl of yogurt and fruit instead of half a box of cookies…no one is going to choose to manage my time and my (more than) full time responsibility of  keeping our home running, it is up to me how the pie chart turns out.  While it’s a life long work in progress, the fruit of a new understanding is radically altering the way our days play out around here.

Just ask my husband (grin).


Back in August, we had a date night.  We talked about lots of things.  I spewed words and stress and asked for insight and help making sense of the fall schedule.  He turned my confusion into clarity.  He helped me figure it all out.  It was very good.  I was able to pull out the common themes in all my rambling and wondering about ‘what to do about_____?’.  The important things emerged.

One of the biggest was the desire to not be driven by a crazy and unattainable schedule.  Living where we do and being wired the way I am, this is extremely hard to actually live out.  We had a list of things in the wings, fun activities, all enriching and wonderful.  But they all required something that asks a lot of me…leaving the home with a handful of children.  Maybe this seems simple, but honestly it looks like this:

Get myself clothed and ready to go (this happens long before the sun or children get up).  Get two little people fed, clean(ish), clothed, shoed and ready.  Supervise the older two doing the same things.  One puts on all dirty clothes.  Talk about why we wear, in general, clean clothes.  Little kids take off pieces of shoes or clothing.  I put them back on.  Spills.  Someone fills a diaper.  Anticipate all the needs of where we’re going, how long we’ll be there, what we are doing.  Pack snacks, drinks, perhaps a whole meal for 5 people that travels well.  Make sure there are diapers in the car and extra clothes for guaranteed messy diapers requiring new outfits.  Tie someones shoes-again.  Remember the dog’s not been let out all morning.  Let her out.  Accidentally let the indoor cat out.  Chase the cat and bring her back in.  Step in gum.  Clean my shoe.  Answer a phone call.  A text message.  Realize its pouring and no one has their jackets.  Find everyones’ jackets.  Resolve minor sibling argument. Throw a load of stuff in the car.  Get assaulted by a smell that tells me I left old food and/or a diaper in the car yesterday.  A mass exodus out to the van.  Someone loses a shoe in a puddle.  Wet socks.  Sadness.  Back in.  Someone has to go potty.  Back in, then out.  I contemplate sitting on the front porch for a minute while they are all buckled in waiting for me.

Really, it’s not much of an exaggeration.  It’s a big ordeal leaving.  So when I started to hyperventilate over all the comings and goings of fall and tried to figure out how they would jive with my heart to pursue simpler days and a life that was grounded and stable – it should not have been a surprise that I realized too much was on the docket.

So we cleared the whole docket.  We said no to all of it.  Then we thoughtfully prayerfully talked about what mattered most and honestly looked at our motives for wanting to do each cool thing.  And not much was left.  But there was great peace.  And ten weeks into our homeschool year, I still feel a great sense of relief that we don’t have a daily ‘something’ to get out to.  I haven’t had even a pang of regret.  It might sound crazy to you and like we’re all missing out on so much.

But this has left me free to go to the park on sunny days and play in the leaves.  Free to let our general schoolwork happen throughout the flow of the day, not being in a crazy frenzy to squeeze it in when we’re home.  Free to spend an hour cooking with all hands on deck teaching my 6 year old boy what it means to deglaze the pan with red wine as he pours it into a pot.  Free to play puzzles on the floor for almost two hours like we did one rainy day last week.  Free to have friends over for lunch and not stress about if we’re behind on our schedule.

Yes, some days like last Wednesday felt more like totally crazy than perfectly simple.  I had asked too many times for people to do things and they weren’t getting done.  I felt like steam was literally coming out of my head.  I tossed a perfectly good bowl full of my favorite lunch into the sink and left lunch early I was so frustrated by poor table manners.

However, even with ‘totally crazy’ days, having sat down and taken inventory of what we were doing, the big picture of our year (a baby coming, a vacation, our involvement in our new church starting soon) was one of the best things we could have done.  It took a few years of saying yes to too many things and of doing things out of sheer obligation for me to come to this place.

Living and learning…every single day.

Family culture

While I attended a leadership training weekend in Colorado early August, one of my (many) favorite phrases that I heard from Sally Clarkson was how they had worked in their family to define a family culture.  It wasn’t a focal point of her teaching but the phrase has been mulling around in my head for weeks.  In a society where “family” isn’t even a value and often people’s schedules are crazy full and crazy busy, there is little time to define family.

When we married just two years out of high school, we adopted many family traditions of our families (which is wonderful).  But it wasn’t until at least 6 years later that we realized we might want some traditions and things of our own that made us…us.  It felt weird to try and forge new things and some didn’t fly.  Some were awkward and forced.  But the ones that actually flowed from our collective hearts, hung around.  And now, 11 1/2 years into our totally unique, one-of-a-kind family, we’re continuing the journey.

Only it’s more intentional now and we’re a little older.  So if we seem weird or the way we roll doesn’t make sense, it’s okay with us.  Normal was never our goal but we certainly lacked the courage to go against the flow quite so much in our earlier years.

This week it meant cutting down a bit more on our weekly activities.  To be honest, for a little while I felt like if we could afford more activities, then we should do them.  Why not?  But in some lengthy quiet moments these past weeks and hours spent reading on global poverty and looking at hundreds of sweet faces on the Compassion website, sitting weeping at my computer (3 times this week)…maybe one more activity isn’t actually worth it.  Maybe that doesn’t even line up with what we say our priorities are.  I’ve always prayed that God would give me glimpses of His heart and let me love even a little bit like Him.  If these past weeks are a glimpse, then I think He cares more for the poor and marginalized than I have.   And that truth has stung.  A lot.

All I really want is say to yes to Jesus and to actually live out my faith in a way that means something.  Still figuring that out.  I want our family to do our part to make Jesus look good by the way we love people.  It’s pretty simple actually, I just complicate it – all the time!  With saying yes to a large family too, it means saying no to other things.  We believe wholeheartedly that the trade off is more than worth it.  But that’s just us.  Like I said, not normal (grin).  As we purposefully limit spendy fun things for us and our kids, I think the other places our money is meant for will quickly rise to the surface.  And as we wonder together “What is our family culture?  What makes us…US?”, especially this weekend as we go camping (IN THE RAIN!), I am totally looking forward to the continuing conversation.

I think I have (a lot) more to say and ponder about this topic.  So you might here from me again on it!