Category Archives: Faith

Books – my slight obsession and what God is teaching me

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I love books.  I love reading.  I am slightly obsessed with books and reading.  If I were to be a hoarder, I would hoard books. I don’t like giving away or getting rid of any books. My favorite store to be in is a bookstore.  My favorite gifts to receive are books.  As much as I love people and being around people, after times of socializing, I always feel the need to hide myself in my bathtub with a good book. Even in my busiest times of life, I still find time to read.  I love to read!!!

My love of reading began at a young age.  I remember my mom reading me Richard Scary books. They were my favorites, especially “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go.”  I liked searching for Gold Bug and was amused by the funny vehicles like the banamobile and the pickle car.   A book called “The Best Loved Doll” was another favorite.   I enjoyed Little House on the Prairie, In Grandma’s Attic, Anne of Green Gables, and Frank Peretti’s Cooper Kids series  (Just to name a few).  When I was 11 years old my Great-Grandmother gave me an entire collection of Nancy Drew books. I read a book a day until I finished that collection.  For Christmas one year, I asked for some books by my favorite author at that time. My parents didn’t just get me a handful of books, but a boxed FILLED with books by this author.  I was thrilled!

I spent many nights reading well past my bedtime.  I would sleep with my bedroom door open and the hall light on, just so I could use the light from the hallway to read late into the night. Christian fiction was my favorite during my teen years.  I also loved my home school literature books, poetry, and history.  God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew and The Cross and the Switch Blade, by David Wilkerson were two books that influenced my walk with Jesus and stirred in me a passion for missions.

As I entered my 20’s I fell in love with Christian historical fiction like Broch and Bodie Theone’s books and Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Trilogy and Lineage of Grace.  I attended Christian Life School of Theology for several years working towards my Masters degree.   In doing so, I had the joy of reading a non-fiction, topical or Biblical study book each month like Dutch Sheets Intercessory Prayer.  The books A Mother’s Touch and A Mother’s Time by Elise Arndt and The Power of Motherhood  by Nancy Campbell greatly influenced me as I began to raise children. The books The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O Martin and The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, influenced me in my marriage and as a wife.  Smith Wigglesworth’s Biography Ever Increasing Faith inspired me to draw near to God and long for the move of His Holy Spirit.

As I entered my 30s,  I grew hungrier for educational and motivational books.  I love being inspired.  I love the way God uses other people’s experiences and writings to draw me closer to Himself and teach me things. Culture of Honor,  has been one of the most impactful books I’ve read in recent years.

As a homeschooling parent, reading with and to my children is the most important thing I do. Imparting a love for reading in my children is, in my opinion, the greatest educational gift I can give them. More about this to come in another blog post.

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I am trying to de-clutter my house.  A part of that de-cluttering involves giving away some books.  This is very difficult for me!  I typically am in the process of reading several (okay maybe 10 or more) books at a time.  If I love a book, I’ll read through the whole thing in a few days.  If I don’t love it, I’ll read through the first two thirds of that book and then skim the remainder or just be done with it.  Sometimes,  I find a book I like and intend to read it, so I keep it in my pile of books by my bathtub and every so often pull it out and read a chapter or maybe few paragraphs.  My husband laughs at my ways of reading.  I start reading many more books than I actually finish.. (my husband also enjoys reading, but he starts and finishes one book at a time:))

Just for fun, I decided to take an inventory of the books I have recently finished reading or am currently reading.  I’ve got these books piled in various areas of my home.

My bathroom:  (my favorite place to read therefore the biggest stack of books)
Backyard Homestead – By Carleen Madigan
The Church in the Wilderness-Chip Brogden
You and Me Forever – Francis and Lisa Chan
Fervent – Pricilla Shirir
Staying Heathy with the Seasons – Elson  M. Haas
Bread and Wine – Shawna Niequist
Rooted – Banning Liebscher
No Little People – Francis Schaeffer
The Art of Homemaking – By Edith Schaffer
Mr.Brown Can Moo – By Dr. Suess and Kitty’s Clothes – By Amye Rosenberg(For my littles while I’m getting ready)
Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Qutations
And a few magazines – Coastal Living, Above Rubies, DoTerra Living
100 Days of Inspiration – Serene Allison, Pearl , Nancy Campbell,
Dreams – By Dr. Joe Ibojie

My Nightstand:
Keeping the Little in Your Girl -Dannah Gresh
Strongs Concordance
The Reese Chronological Bible
My favorite Bible
The Family Meal Table and Hospitality – By Nancy Campbell (I refer to this time and again for inspiration)
The Shofar Blew – Francine Rivers
30 Days of Praise – By Becky Harling
Why Still Care About Israel – By Sandra Teplinksy
Taking Charge of Your Fertility,The Definitive Guide to Natural Family Planning and Reproductive Health – Toni Weschler
A stack of journals

Current kitchen table books:
The Birchbark House – Louise Erdrich
Meet the Bible – Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn
Various school books

Just so you know, in my de-cluttering, I moved a number of these books to our bookshelf, put a few in our give away box, and kept some right where they were stacked up by my tub, on my toilet, and by my bed.

My favorite books in the last calendar year, hence ones I have actually read all the way through are:

1) You and Me Forever – Marriage in Light of Eternity by Fancis and Lisa Chan
This book zoomed out my perspective on marriage. It challenged Eric and I to truly look at our marriage in Light of eternity. This book is not a feel good, easy read. It brought a healthy dose of conviction to our hearts and minds that provoked us to change. Our purpose is not to live the most comfortable stress free life we can possibly live. Our purpose is to glorify God and together fulfill the plans he has for us. This book was one of a number of things that helped prepare our hearts to start Lighthouse Dance. This book encouraged us to live adventurously for the sake of the gospel of Jesus!

2) Embracing Obscurity – Author Unknown
I actually read this book last year, but have referred to it often ever since. This is probably the most influential and timely book I have ever read.   Embracing Obscurity is so counter-cultural to our world and even the church world today.  Jesus is the ultimate example of humility and obscurity.  This book caused me to examine my heart and put into words so many things that I felt but was unable to articulate for myself.  I highly recommend you read this book!

3) Practicing His Presence – Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach
I read this book sometime during my teen years.  The writers of the letters in this book inspired me to continually practice the presence of God.  I want to think about Jesus constantly.  I want to pray without ceasing. Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach are two men who practiced the presence of the Lord in such a beautiful and powerful way!  Re-reading this book stirred up my passion for Jesus and desire to continually be in His presence.

4) Bread and Wine – Shawna Niequist
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  Each chapter was like a delicious meal.  I love Shawna’s writing style, the stories, the recipes, and the hospitality tips.  I felt inspired to make the most of our mealtimes, whether we have a simple meal of soup and bread, or a hearty meal with meat, potatoes, and a fancy dessert.  Her writing inspired me to be “me” when it comes to entertaining and cooking.  I recently pulled out my Nancy Campbell The Family Meal Table and Hospitality workbook for more inspiration regarding our family table.

5) And The Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler and In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson
I’m grouping these two books together because they are both about Bible Translation.  I read these books to our kids as read-a-loud books last school year.  I hope these books influenced our children.  I know they influenced me!  The stories from Bible translators made me realize to a whole new degree how precious the Word of God is.  These Bible translators laid down their lives to translate God’s Word to people groups who did not have scripture in their own languages.  I learned so much about the work of Bible Translators and have so much respect and admiration for them now!

Reading is AWESOME!  Reading books expands our knowledge, opens our eyes to the world around us, inspires us, challenges us, encourages us, entertains us, and oftentimes draws us closer to the heart of God.

The Lord has been speaking to my heart about the greatest book, the Bible.

About a week ago I asked myself the question, “If you were to die today, or if Jesus returned soon, would you feel satisfied with the amount of scripture you have read?  Do you feel like you know it as well as you hope to know it when you go to Heaven?”   The answer is a resounding NO.  I not happy with how well I know the Word.  I want to know it more.  I want to know God more.  I want to enter into eternity having a thorough knowledge of His story as found in His Word.

God’s Word is so full and so amazing that I could spend a thousand lifetimes studying it and still not see everything there is to be seen in scripture.  I only have one life time to study and I actually live in a generation and a place where I can study God’s Word.

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We live in a generation where we have more access to scripture than any generation before us! The whole Bible and countless study resources are literally at our fingertips every day.  This should make us jump and dance and shout for joy!!!  We are SO blessed to live in a place and time where we can KNOW the Word of God!  To know God’s Word is to know God more.  Why than are we so complacent to really study it out for ourselves?

I waste so much time reading other books, looking at my Facebook feed, or watching Netflix. None of these things are bad in and of themselves,  but I can hear the Father asking me in this season of my life to choose His Word in place of these other things.

I’ve been slowly reading through the Bible again. I’m in 1st Chronicles right now.  As I read through the books of 1st and 2nd Kings I was like, “Whoah”  I don’t remember reading this before!  I was fascinated by the stories of the prophets Elijah and Elisha and learned so much about the Kings of Israel and Judah.  It’s like scripture has been coming alive to me and I’m seeing important truths in stories that I never saw before.

Reading God’s Word on a regular basis stirs up a hunger for more of His Word!  The more I read, the hungrier I get.  The less I read, the more complacent I get.  

Earlier this week I read through a book about prophecy. (I love seeing people use the gift of prophecy and I desire to grow in that area.)  It is a newer book, filled with some stinking amazing stories, and I didn’t want to put the book down. The book had fantastic reviews and though awesome in many ways, I didn’t see it being rooted in scripture. There was scripture in the book, but some of what was there was quoted incorrectly and twisted to fit the point the author was making.  While I took away some good things from the book, the lack of adherence to the totality of God’s word made feel sick, so I threw the book in the garbage (something I’ve done maybe three or four other times in my life.)

I’m now halfway through reading the book Rooted by Banning Liebscher (Founder and Pastor of Jesus Culture).  This book is GOOD!  It’s all about being rooted in Christ and what that process looks like.  He writes a lot about being rooted in scripture.

“If we don’t have our roots in Scripture, we are going to be in serious trouble when peer pressure comes against us to tell us what ‘truth’ is.  Before we know it, we’re going to wake up and realize that at some point we stopped following Jesus and started following the voice of the crowd.  If we are not only to resist the peer pressure and influence of the kingdom – which is our mandate – then we must put our roots down deep in the Word.”

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God is asking us to be ready, to live ready for His coming.  To live ready for what he’s called us to do on this earth.  To live ready to speak a word, give a gift, or to receive someone he wants to send to us.  He wants us to live ready to live and live ready to die.  He wants us to know Him. He wants us to know His heart and to hear His voice.  He’s given us His Word and His Word is ALIVE!

God wants us to read, chew on, and digest His word.  He also wants us to live it.

Right now, God’s asking of me to live His Word means he’s asking me to search my heart. My prayer has been, search me Oh God and know my heart.  Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.  He keeps showing me things I need to repent of, showing me areas of my heart that aren’t surrendered to Him.  God is so kind and He is so good.

We live in some crazy times.  Crazy good in many ways and crazy bad in many ways.  Now is the time to be rooted in Christ!  Now is the time to be rooted in HIs Word!  God is asking me to get more and more rooted in His word.  He’s asking me to get into the secret place and read the Bible more than I have ever done before.  He’s asking me to put away all of those other books and snuggle up close to Him.

My husband and I started Lighthouse Dance this past summer.  We strongly desire this dance ministry to bring glory to God!  Lighthouse Dance is the fruit of many prayers and a vision God placed in our hearts many, many years ago, a vision for missions and arts ministry.  We didn’t know what it would look like and where it would be, but now that Lighthouse Dance is here, our hearts feel full and settled and rejoicing in this new beginning.

There is something about stepping into a new season and entering into a new ministry that causes you to seek the face of God.  My fear of the Lord has increased greatly over the past six months.  I realize that Jesus is our source.  He is our way, truth, and life.  He is the foundation of Lighthouse Dance and the builder of the ministry.  More than ever before, I want to be His, rooted and grounded in His word.  I don’t know the years to come are going to look like.  I don’t know all of God’s plans for our lives, our family, and Lighthouse Dance.  I want to live ready!  I want to live in His Word and I want to live out HIs Word.

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I encourage you to ask the Lord to search your heart.  Ask him to show you areas of your heart that you need to surrender to Him.  Whenever He asks us to surrender it is for our good and HIs glory.

I encourage you to read God’s Word!  Join me in forsaking other “loves” to pursue the greatest love.   If you don’t like to read, then listen.  There are plenty of Bible apps with audio versions. It’s ok to start small.  Read and meditate on one verse a day or one chapter a day. Listen to preachers like Alistair Beggs who preach through the Bible expositorily.  Ask God to give you a hunger.  When you ask him to give you a hunger for His Word, He will!  He will give you a hunger and then He will satisfy your hunger.

Get an accountability partner.  A friend and I recently started reading through the book of Psalms.  We read one psalm a day and then text each other what stood out to us in each Psalm. This has been so good for me and is helping me to grow!

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2 Timothy 3:16
“All Scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

Psalm 119:1-16
“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”

Psalm 119:105
“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Matthew 24:35
“Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Hebrews 4:12
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

John 1:14-17
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

Psalm 1:2-3
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-14
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontalson your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shallworship Him and swear by His name. 14 You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you..”

 

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The Blessings of a Messy House

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Home is my favorite place.   I love home.   I love the days when I have no where to go, no place to be, but just in my home with my husband and children.  I long for my home to be a place of joy and peace.  I pray that my children will have happy memories of our home and the time shared together here.  I want people to feel welcomed, loved, and encouraged after spending time in my home.

I want to have an organized, clean, beautiful home, but I often struggle with feeling discouraged by how messy and NOT organized my home is.

Laundry is never all done and put away.  The 8 of us produce a lot of laundry!  The moment one load is finished, there is another load to start.  I barely keep up.  (I’m guilty of forgetting to put clothes from the washer into the dryer and the result is sour, stinky feet smelling clothes and towels.  Am I the only one who has done this?!!!)

Toys are everywhere.   We’ve got blocks, baby dolls, puzzles, cars, books, stuffed animals, art supplies, you name it….

We have a lot of shoes.  With each person owning a minimum of 4 pairs of shoes (flip flops, sneakers, boots, and dress shoes)  that adds up to 32 pairs of shoes.

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I tend to toss things in drawers and randomly put things away in my cupboards. So even though the dishes are all done, the table and counter clean,  I still feel disorganized.

Dusting is low on my cleaning priority list, and I’m not the best at cleaning crevices and corners.

My house can go from neat and straightened up to disastrous in a matter of minutes.  Literally, 5 minutes is all it takes.

There is always at least one living space  in our home at any given moment that I would feel embarrassed to have visitors see if they arrived without warning.

Several months ago, I was feeling so frustrated by my never clean enough house.  The books, toys, laundry, and randomness of stuff felt overwhelming and annoying.   Our kids would often hear me sigh and express frustration over our messy house.  One morning, in the midst of my frustration, the Lord spoke to me through His Word.

I came across Proverbs 14:4, “Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”  

A barn without animals is much cleaner than a barn with animals.   But what good is a barn without those animals?  Sure, you can store stuff in a barn, but that is not what a barn is for. What good is a feeding trough without those oxen?  If you don’t have any oxen, you don’t have to clean that trough, or clean that barn, but you won’t have the increase, the harvest, and the profit that can only come by the help of those animals.

My house would probably be cleaner if I didn’t have kids.  I wouldn’t have as much laundry to do.  Dishes wouldn’t get so piled up.   I wouldn’t have toys laying around or little fingerprints on my windows and doors.   But just the thought of my home without children brings tears to my eyes and a pit in my stomach!

My home is not meant to be empty.  It is meant to be filled!  Filled with children, filled with family, filled with neighbors, friends and memories.  With the filling of people comes some mess!  Sometimes a lot of mess.

Laundry, dishes, shoes, dust, and toys, are normal happenings of a living home.   We cannot escape this kind of mess and that is ok!  We aren’t going to look back on our life and think about our messy house (at least I sure hope not!) We are going to think about our family, our friends, relationships we built and memories we created.

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The mess that comes with being a mom is so, so, so good!  It’s a sign of life and fruitfulness.  As I walked past my coffee table the other day, I noticed that it was covered in books.  Toddler books, family photo albums, school books, and a couple of toys.  My first thought was, “ugh…look how messy my coffee table is.  I need to clean it up, sigh…irritation….frustration.” But then, I thought,”Awe…how blessed I am to have children.  I have children who live in our home and enjoy these books. I’m going to be thankful as I look at this messy coffee table, because one day our children will grow up and leave this house, and I am going to miss them.”  After changing my way of thinking, I felt joy and gratitude looking at that mess instead of frustration.

Psalm 113:9 says, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!”   I love this verse and the reminder that comes with it!  

When we have friends over to our home, often times there are extra dishes to wash after they leave, more crumbs to sweep up, or more toys to put away. This is a result of a blessing! Time shared with others even if it results in extra mess, is worth it.   It means we are cultivating friendships, being hospitable, and enjoying life with other people.

Romans 12:9-13 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal,be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (ESV)  

The New King James Version says, “be given to hospitality,”   We can show love to others through our hospitality.  We can honor others through our hospitality,

Hebrews 13 1-2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”   Wow!!!

I am always so blessed when people invite my family to their home.  I feel loved and honored and grateful for their kindness.   It doesn’t matter if their house is perfectly cleaned or not.   The fact that they are willing to open their home and minister to my family through hospitality, is a wonderful gift that brings joy to our lives!

I still experience frustration over my messy house even though I’ve read and meditated on Proverbs 14:4.  Even so, I can confidently say that I am learning to embrace the mess.   I am also learning how to get rid of some mess so that my home is that peaceful, joyful, orderly place I want it to be.

Your level of clean. 

We all have different levels of clean or unclean that we feel comfortable with in our homes.   Some of us like things REALLY clean.  Some of us feel better with a little clutter here and there.   Some of us have orderly closets, cupboards, and toys tucked neatly away.  For others of us, every drawer in our house is a “junk” drawer and we actually prefer a more messy, lived in feel. Every woman is different.  We all have different personalities, likes and dislikes so our houses are all going to reflect those differences.  This is great and as it should be!

Regardless of our individual preferences concerning a clean house, we should ALL work to make our home a place where our husband, children, and guests feel comfortable, cared for, and loved. While we all need to embrace “normal” mess, some of us may need to step it up in our cleaning to make our home that wonderful place, and some of us may need to back down and allow for a little more dirt…

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I have a lot to learn and implement when it comes to caring for my home.   I am not even close to being an expert on this topic, but here are some things I have learned that work for us.

  1. De-clutter!  Less is More!  Less stuff means less mess, less stress, and more time to play, read, and do the things with our children that we really want to do.  I keep an on-going give away bag.  We regularly donate items to the ARC.   If you haven’t worn it in a year, give it away. if you rarely use it, give it away.  If your child doesn’t play with it, someone else will and trust me, your kids won’t even miss it.  Simplifying is the number one thing the Lord is teaching me right now when it comes to housekeeping.   It is freeing to go through my house and let go of stuff we don’t use,  we don’t like,  or we rarely need!
  2. Keep a sock basket.   We have SO many socks in our family.  We used to sort and roll socks and deliver them to each persons’ room when we did laundry.  Somehow this resulted in socks always missing and it seemed like no one could ever find a matching pair when they needed one.  So now, we sort and match socks and put all except for my husbands (his go in his dresser) into a big laundry basket that we keep in our laundry room. Now, we all can always find a matching pair of socks when we need one and there’s much less sock clutter in our house.
  3. Invest in some Norwex cleaning supplies.  This chemical free method of cleaning is the best.   Our kids clean their own bathrooms using Norwex clothes.  I especially like my Norwex floor cleaning system.   I rarely use cleaning sprays because Norwex is so easy and effective to use.  My mom sells Norwex.  You can learn more and purchase products here.
  4. Have specific days for specific chores.  We don’t stick to this 100% of the time, but we try to make Monday our laundry day, Tuesday bathrooms, Wednesday more laundry, Thursday cleaning out the Van, Friday floors and big overall clean up, and Saturday yard work day. This helps take away some of the complaining that comes with asking our kids to do chores. When they know what is expected of them on any given day, they are more inclined to get it done without me asking, and less inclined to complain when I give them a reminder to get their chores done.
  5. Do quick family clean ups.  We do this every day.   We all “speed clean”  the main level, loft, basement, or whatever room(s) need the most cleaning.   We often do this right before dinner.  We all work together as quick as we can to get things straightened up. Many hands make light work.
  6. Teach your children young.  My children start doing chores from the time they can walk. They put away toys, help empty the dishwasher, help clean windows, and help put away laundry.  As they get older they may be responsible for taking out the trash, caring for our animals, cleaning their own bathroom, vacuuming floors, doing laundry, or washing dishes. Chores are a good thing.  They teach our children responsibility, teamwork, servanthood, and diligence.  Our children need to know that they have a part to play in making our household run well.
  7. Give each child a special box.  Our children each have their own plastic storage container in which to keep things that are particularly special to them.  These may be cards, certificates, toys, clothing, or artwork.  We keep these special boxes stored out of reach and add to them only when they have something really meaningful to add.
  8. Be hospitable.  Fill your home with people.  Having people in your home is great motivation to clean.  We do a more thorough cleaning when we know company is coming over.
  9. Cultivate gratitude.    When I was a child, I would often complain about doing housework, especially intense, pre-company housework.   My mom would tell me to be thankful that I could walk and see and that I had hands and arms that could do work!   We need to be thankful for the homes that we have, no matter how big or how small, and teach or children to be thankful too!

Titus 2:3-5 says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  

We need to encourage each other in the wonderful job we have as mothers and keepers of a home.   Older women especially need to encourage younger women.   We need the wisdom, advice, and help of others as we seek to make our homes the place God wants them to be.

The greatest kingdom work can happen in our home!

Jesus said, ““You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 10:43-45)

This perspective can bring us joy and freedom in our role as wives and mothers!   We have the joy of serving our husband, children, friends, and even strangers through the work we do in our home.   When we wash dishes, do the laundry, make good meals, we are doing the greatest work in the kingdom!   We are serving!!!   Ultimately, we are serving Christ!

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When we keep a clean home no matter how big or how small, we are providing a place for kingdom work.  So often we think that a church building is the center for kingdom work. While in many ways this can be true,  (I love worshipping in my church building with other brothers and sisters), kingdom work should happen wherever we are, all throughout our week.   Many churches around the world meet in homes.   Many of the early churches of Christianity met in homes.

At the beginning of Romans chapter 16 Paul greets a number of people from different churches in Rome.  He greets Pricilla and Aquilla and the church that meets in their home.   This is awesome!   Our church has small groups that meet in homes.  We share a meal with other families and then study scripture together and pray for each other.   The people who host these times of fellowship are serving Christ as they serve others by opening their homes.  I am so grateful for them!

This past weekend we visited some friends from Cheyenne.  They invited us to have lunch with them.  They also invited a friend of theirs from India who is currently attending CSU to join them.  We enjoyed a Mexican meal together in their home.  This family welcomes the nations into their home!  I was inspired as I watched my friend and her family serving and loving this young man from India while at the same time loving and serving my family and providing an opportunity for kingdom work.

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Our temporary, earthly homes are just that. Temporary and earthly.  Heaven is our eternal home.  But when our earthly homes are dedicated to the Lord they become places of rest, refreshing, joy, ministry, hospitality, love, evangelism, discipleship, accountability, laughter, redemption, and so much more!

I encourage you to dedicate your home to the Lord.  My home is not a perfect place and yours will not be either.  My home is not immaculately clean. It is not always free from strife, sin, or sorrow, but I thank God for my home and acknowledge that it belongs to Him.   I thank Him for the opportunity to serve from and in my home, and I pray that I will grow in that thankfulness and servanthood with every passing day.

I believe that when we look at our homes from a kingdom perspective we will be more inclined to hospitality.   We will be more inclined to keep our home clean, to rejoice in cooking and cleaning, and we will be eager to entertain others.   When we acknowledge that our homes belong to the Lord we will see Him do great things!

Ask the Lord how you can serve Him with your home.   Ask Him how you can better serve your husband and children,  Ask Him who he wants you to welcome into your home for a meal, for a time of prayer, or for a time of fun and games and then invite them to your home.  No matter how big, or how small, your home can be a place of ministry.

May God help all of us to embrace the blessing of a beautifully, messy house that comes from having children and being hospitable! 

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Will You Trust Me?

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“Will you trust me?”   I’ve heard this question often, especially in recent months.  My family has been through a significant season of change.  We left a church we loved and called home for 18 years.  We left a ministry that we had poured our heart and soul into.  We surrendered hopes and dreams, plans and desires to the Lord because we knew He was asking us to.   After months of prayer and for many reasons, we knew the Lord was leading us to “step out of the boat”…. The decision to step out of the familiar comfort of the known into the unknown is not easy, (it’s actually very, very difficult) even when you know it is what you need to do.  I like to have answers.  I like to have a plan.  I like to know where I am going, what I am going to do when I get there, and what I need to do to be prepared….but right now, I don’t know all the wheres and whats, but I “trust” my Heavenly Father’s plan.

My Heavenly Father is asking me to rest and wait patiently for Him. He’s asking me to commit my way to Him. He’s asking me to delight myself in Him.  He’s asking me to dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.  He is leading me beside green pastures and quiet waters.  He’s restoring my soul.

Three months ago, the kids and I were walking in our ditch to see a fort Judah had made. (We have a big ditch that runs through our land.  Usually it’s dry, but because of all the rain we had, our ditch became a little creak all spring.  It was great fun for our kids to explore and play in the water.) As we were walking, we came across a balloon caught in one of our bushes.  It looked like a balloon from a baby shower, and it had writing on it.   I picked it up and began to read aloud the messages written on this balloon.  On one side was written,  “Our Angel Baby Haven.” On the other side were messages from a mommy and daddy who had lost their baby boy. Their baby had died and they were releasing him in their hearts by releasing this balloon into the sky.

My kids and I immediately felt grieved and began to pray for this mommy and daddy.  We prayed that God would comfort their hearts.  We prayed that they would come to know Jesus. We prayed that they would be encouraged and strengthened and surrounded by love in their time of grief.  Judah ran to our house to tell Eric about the balloon we found, the baby who died, and the parents who needed prayer.   Judah let go of the balloon and when he did, it floated to the top our family room ceiling.   I thought to myself, “This is kind of strange…to have this balloon, a symbol of death and letting go, resting in the peak of my vaulted ceiling.  Why Lord?”

We decided we would pray for those parents every day until the balloon lost its air and came down.  I decided not to view the balloon as a strange presence in my house, but as a sweet reminder to pray.  That night, as I pulled out the book I was in the middle of reading I realized it was entitled, “Bridge to Haven.”   This novel, written by Francine Rivers is a prodigal son sort of story.  The main character in this book leaves home to pursue love and fame only to find herself hurt, broken, ashamed, and without hope.  She comes to know Christ, He redeems her life , brings her back to Haven and makes all things new.   Jesus is her bridge to Haven.

This got me thinking about “Haven.”  Haven means, “a place of safety or refuge.”  True safety and refuge can only be found in Jesus.

When we put our trust in Him, we find refuge for our souls.

The next morning we learned that a close friend of ours had a miscarriage.  We cried for this family.   We grieved the loss of the dreams that these parents had for this baby.   We prayed for them, asking the Lord to comfort them and strengthen their hearts.  When I looked up and saw the balloon for baby Haven, I thought of these dear friends and prayed for them as well.

“Why God?”

“Will you trust me?

When I was 12 years old, my father gave me a poster with a picture of a strong hand holding onto the ropes of a swing.  A girl is sitting on the swing, her long blond hair blowing behind her, a huge smile on her face.   Written across the poster behind the swinging girl is written Proverbs 3:5-7 in small print.  At the top of the poster is written, “Will you trust me?”   At the bottom of the poster my dad wrote, “The heavenly Father is fully trustworthy.”

All growing up and into my adult years I’ve struggled with fear.   All sorts of fears.  I knew God’s love, but still I struggled with fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of what might happen, fear of what might not happen.  Learning to allow God’s perfect love to cast out fear and learning to trust in the Lord has brought tremendous joy and freedom in my life.

We all need to trust God every single day.   None of us have all of the answers.  None of us knows what a day may bring.  We ALL go through seasons of change, sickness, hardship, death, trials, and challenges that can either lead us to a deeper trust in our Heavenly Father or cause us to push Him away.  In those seasons of life when we realize how much we need Jesus, how much we need to trust the Lord, we don’t have to be disheartened.  We don’t have to be discouraged or depressed or fearful.   Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”

I am blessed as I trust in the Lord!  I am happy as I trust in Him!   I may have moment of tears.  I may have moments of pain or fear or doubt.  But over all of those moments, greater than any loss, is the wonderful knowledge that my life is held in my Father’s hand.  My heart belongs to Jesus. He is trustworthy.  He is faithful.   He is the God who redeems and provides and fulfills and satisfies. I can smile at the future!  I can laugh at times to come!

Noah trusted God and built an ark.

Abraham trusted God and offered up Isaac.

Moses trusted God and went before Pharaoh.

Joshua trusted God and marched around Jericho.

Daniel trusted God and faced the lions.

Esther trusted God and went before the king.

David trusted God and saw his enemies defeated.

Hosea trusted God and married a harlot.

Mary trusted God and carried His Son.

Jesus trusted God and said, “Not my will, but Yours.”

Countless men and woman trust God every day and lose their lives.  They die for the sake of the gospel. They die for Jesus.  Some die a living death.  They daily take up their cross and follow Jesus. They surrender their lives to Jesus and allow Him to transform them into His image.  This living death can be painful!

Some die a physical death.  Every year, thousands of people around the world are persecuted or martyred for their faith in Christ. This has become all to real in the past year with images of the beheadings of believers broadcast all over the internet.  We have brothers and sisters around the world who put their trust God knowing that to live is Christ and to die is gain.

I love the story of Peter.  Jesus asked Peter to follow him.  Peter, who was a fisherman, left his nets and he followed Jesus. This rough and gruff, outspoken dude who, like each of us was seriously flawed and imperfect, left everything.  He left his boats, his nets, his livelihood and IMMEDIATELY followed Jesus.   He knew the voice of His Father.  He knew the voice of the one who called His name.   Peter didn’t know where he was going.  He didn’t know what he was going to do or say, but He knew WHO he was going to follow.   This Peter would one day walk on water.  This Peter would one day be a fisher of men.  This Peter, who often did the wrong thing and said the wrong thing would stand with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration and be the first to preach the good news on the day of Pentecost.  This Peter who denied Christ 3 times would one day give his life for Jesus by dying a martyrs death, hung upside down on a cross.   Peter trusted God.  Peter’s life was transformed!

How is God asking you to trust him?  What is he asking you to do?  What is he asking you to surrender to Him?  Will you trust him enough to give Him your life?  Will you trust him enough to let go of that thing you are holding onto.  Will you trust Him enough to believe that His Word is perfect, true, and infallible?  Will you trust Him enough to free you from your sin and transform you into His Image?  Will you trust Him enough to rejoice in the hardships and smile at the times to come?   Will you trust him enough to say, “not my will, but yours be done?  Will you trust him with your hopes, your dreams, your future?

Our Heavenly Father is Fully Trustworthy.  

I’m learning to trust more and more each day.  I’m learning to let go of fear and trust my Heavenly Father.  When He asks me if I trust Him, often my answer is “yes”  but sometimes I have to say, “I don’t know”  or “not fully.”

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be safe.”   (Proverbs 29:25)

There’s a lot of crazy and scary things going on in this world and in this nation right now.  In the days and years to come,  we are going to face sufferings and persecutions that will require us to trust in God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  We will see God’s faithfulness and experience his grace in the midst of these hardships, trials, and persecutions to come!

I am trusting God with my family, my church, and my dreams.   I have dreams that I hope come to pass. But you know what?  Even if they don’t, I will trust the Lord, and I will praise Him! He is worthy to be praised!  I’m alive to know Christ and to make Him known.   I only want the dreams that are God’s dreams to come to pass in my life, and I KNOW that what the Lord purposes, He will do!

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  (Job 13:15)

I pray that we will trust in the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, knowing full well that He will direct our paths!   I pray that we will delight ourselves in Him and in His Word!   I pray that we will trust Jesus to be our haven, to be our refuge in the good times and in the bad. I pray that we will stand firm for Jesus and for the truth.  I pray that we will be willing to surrender whatever He asks us to surrender!   I pray that we will grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and be ready for His coming!  I pray that we will be like that girl on the swing, a smile on her face and joy in her heart as she trusts the hand that holds her! Our Heavenly Father is trustworthy.  Will you trust Him?

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Thunder!

DSC05987Yesterday we celebrated the 4th of July.  Our family enjoyed fireworks as a part of that celebration.   We enjoyed the lights, colors, and booming sounds of fireworks set off all around Lake Providence. We shouted and cheered with joy as we watched the the show from our boat in the middle of the lake.

This morning we all woke up to the sound of the most intense thunder we have heard in many years.  There were flashes of lightening followed immediately by the cracks and booms of thunder so loud and so powerful it literally shook our beds!  The thunder crashed, roared, boomed and rolled for hours and hours producing an enormous amount of rain.

At dinnertime, we all shared our high point and low point from the day.  Josiah’s high point was that storm.  He told us that as much as he enjoyed the sounds and sights of the fireworks last night, they didn’t even compare to the power and majesty of the storm we experienced this morning.  That storm reminded him of the intensity of God’s power and the beauty of His glory!

Emmy shared with us a passage of scripture she had read today.

Job 36:24-37:5

“Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him;
Nor can the number of His years be discovered.
For He draws up drops of water,
Which distill as rain from the mist,
Which the clouds drop down
And pour abundantly on man.
Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds,
The thunder from His canopy?
Look, He scatters His light upon it,
And covers the depths of the sea.
For by these He judges the peoples;
He gives food in abundance.
He covers His hands with lightning,
And commands it to strike.
His thunder declares it,
At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
Hear attentively the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
He sends it forth under the whole heaven,
His lightning to the ends of the earth.
After it a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.
God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend.
The cattle also, concerning the rising storm.”

Psalm 29:3-4 says,

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

Revelation 4:5 says that from God’s throne proceeds lightnings and thunderings and voices!

God’s glory is greater than anything we can imagine!  His voice is powerful!  His Word is true! Our God is mighty!!!

The next time you are in a thunderstorm, remember that God is the creator of that storm and HIS voice is mighty!  HE is mighty!   He is King.  He is ruler of the universe!  He is to be feared and to be praised!

 

Our 20+ Year Valentine Tradition

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Today is Valentine’s Day!!!  We give gifts of chocolate and flowers. We make cards and decorations in the shape of  hearts.  Images of cupid shooting his arrows of love come to mind.

Valentine’s Day is so much more than hearts, and candies, gifts and romantic encounters.

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, married love.  It is also a day to remember a man who laid down his life for the sake of marriage.

While there is some speculation and legend surrounding the history of our modern Valentine’s Day.  We do know that Valentine was a priest who was martyred in 269 AD.   He ministered during the reign of an emperor named Claudius The Second who persecuted Christians.  This emperor decided single men would make better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage.  Valentine, compelled by the Holy Spirit and obedience to God’s Word, did not follow the emperors decree, but instead, began to perform wedding ceremonies in secret.  When these secret ceremonies were found out, Valentine was beaten, stoned, and put to death by beheading.

Wow….  We don’t normally hear this story.  We know there is some history, some romantic theme surrounding Saint Valentine, but martyrdom?  Martyrdom for the sake of marriage?  This is serious history.  Sobering history.   I don’t believe that the history of the times of Saint Valentine will repeats itself exactly….. But the fight for marriage, Godly marriages, Biblical marriages, still rages on and always will.  When a man and women unite together in marriage, they become one flesh, a beautiful, powerful picture of Christ and His love for the church. Satan does whatever he can to destroy marriage as God intends it to be!

Valentine’s Day can remind us that we need to stay surrendered to God’s Word and His will even in the face of opposition.  Even to the point of death.  I am inspired by this man who gave up his life for the most sacred covenant made between human beings.  I am grateful to be able to honor Valentine’s sacrifice, honor his life, and honor married love every year on February 14th!

For over 20 years I’ve been participating in a Valentine’s Day tradition started by my father.  It’s super fun, light-hearted, and meaningful.   We call it the “Valentines Hunt.”  I looked forward to this tradition every year growing up.  When Josiah became a toddler, Eric and I continued the tradition with our family.

Here’s what we do.   We take 10-12 Valentine’s Day cards and create a clue hunt with them. We’ll start out by giving the kids a card with a Bible verse on it.   They have to look up (or for little ones, we read to them)  a Bible verse that has a clue leading to the next card.  These hunts could revolve around scriptures of a particular theme such as; love, joy, food, music, etc..or they could come from a particular book of the Bible.  For example, this year all of our verses came from Proverbs.

The first clue was Proverbs 1:8-9, “My son, hear the instruction of your Father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck. ” Our kids began running to different locations based upon where they thought the next clue would be located from clues written in that scripture.  Emmy guessed it right away and found the next card located in my bedroom closet where all of my necklaces and hair “ornaments” are hanging up.

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This next card contained Proverbs 3:24, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”  Judah immediately knew the next clue card would be located in a bed, and sure enough, he found it in his bed.

Proverbs 12:10 led our children to our garden shed where food for our animals is stored.

Proverbs 18:20-21 a really quick find, led our children to our fruit basket.

Proverbs 24:13-14 led our children to our honey container.

Proverbs 11:1 led them to the kitchen scale tucked away in a drawer.

Proverbs 10:26 led to toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Proverbs 19:24 led our children to a stack of bowls.

Proverbs 5:15 led them to our laundry room sink.

And finally, the last clue, Proverbs 17:6 led our children to Gramma and Papa’s house down the road where their Valentine treats awaited them.  This year, each child received a chocolate sucker from Sunny Jims Candy, clothing, and a pack of gum.  Last year each child got a $5 dollar bill and some candy.

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I create a new hunt, with new verses and hiding locations each year.  It takes about 30 minutes to create these hunts.  On each card I write the verse reference that will lead to the next clue card, and I also write down where that card needs to be hid (for example, I wrote fruit basket at the bottom of the card that needed to be put in the fruit basket.)  I also number my cards in order to avoid confusion if one is found out of order in the hunt.

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Why do we do this? Because It’s fun!  It’s something to look forward to, AND it teaches our children the Word of God.

God tell us “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

This Valentine’s Hunt is another way we can incorporate the goodness of God’s word into our lives and into our family!

I encourage you to start your own Valentine’s Day Hunts!  Show your children that God’s Word is fun, good, AND rewarding!

Check out this Adventures in Odyssey episode all about Saint Valentine.  It’s called “The Last ‘I Do.'”

My husband is such a good father!

My husband is such a good father!

She melts my heart.

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Handsome Judah in his new sweater.

Handsome Judah in his new sweater.

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On our way home from Gramma and Papa's.

On our way home from Gramma and Papa’s.

Valentine's Day date with my man.  Horsetooth Rock.

Valentine’s Day date with my man hiking Horsetooth Rock.

 

Traveling With Children

DSC01207aOur family loves to travel!!!  We love going on outreach trips and vacations together.  We love the memories we create on these trips whether by plane, by van, or by RV.  Traveling with children requires preparation, planning, and work, but it is SO worth it.  We grow closer to each other through these shared experiences, and we grow in our love for various missionaries around the world.

This past October we went on a family trip to India. My mom, sister, brother, and close friend joined us on this trip.   It was an incredible experience!   We learned so much and grew in so many ways!

We get so comfortable in Colorado.  It’s easy to forget the struggles of people all around the world.  We get caught up in our own lives, our own problems.  Travelling puts things into perspective and gets us out of complacency.

We recently returned home from vacationing at our Fish camp in Lake Providence, Louisiana for part of Christmas break.  We enjoyed watching movies, finishing a puzzle we started last summer, playing games, reading, fishing, and just hanging out together as a family.

Eric and I have learned a lot about traveling with children from our many family adventures.  In this post, I’ll share some travel tips and hope to encourage you to take your family on outreach trips and vacations.

Before any of our children were born, we prayed that they would be good travelers. Ever since Eric and I were young teenagers we have wanted to travel around the country and around the world using arts in ministry.  We love to learn about what God is doing through people around the world and get so excited about different cultures, languages, and foods!  We didn’t want our childbearing years to be devoid of travel and adventure, so we decided our children would travel with us and we would experience the world together as a family.   Eric works hard to provide for our family to be able to take these trips.   Travel is a priority in our home and something we feel called by God to do during our time on earth as we raise our children. It is by the grace of God that we have been able to travel, by His grace that our travels have been blessed, and by His grace we will continue to be able to travel in the future.

I have seen our children grow closer to each other through our vacations and outreach trips together. Traveling with our children allows us to have large chunks of quality time together. We are so busy in our normal every day life. When we get away from the normal, routine business, we are able to bond and grow in new ways.   Outreach trips and vacations provide our children with plenty of time and opportunity to get to know each other better, see each other accomplish new things, and have fun together.  They’ve got their best friends right there experiencing the same amazing, difficult, fun, frustrating, exciting, boring, delicious, scary, powerful, beautiful things we experience when we travel.

Our family trips have made a huge impact in how our children relate to other people. Our older children feel comfortable talking with people of any age and ethnicity. They are able to freely communicate with people who are different from themselves.  They do not judge people based on skin color or the amount of money they have.   I was amazed watching our twelve year old daughter confidently  speak to a large group of women at a school in India.   She bravely taught a baking class to elementary school children, figuring out what to bake and how to communicate with the children, all on her own.  Our 14 year old son taught keyboarding and enthusiastically prayed for people.  Our 8 year old daughter made friends with local children and helped us wherever she could.  Our 5 year old participated in the art class Eric taught.   Tirzah who is cautiously courageous and learning to overcome shyness freely danced in worship.  This fills me with joy!   I want our children to have hearts not just for Colorado and their circle of friends, but for the whole world!  Taking our children on these trips helps make this happen.

Traveling is an educational experience.  Whether or not you home school your children, traveling is a wonderful way to teach your children about geography, culture, history, architecture, art, music, speech and so much more!  Our children have not just learned about Israel, India, and France, and Southern United States from a textbook. They’ve been there, met the people, tasted the food, and experienced the culture firsthand.  We look at maps, read books, watch videos, and talk about the places we are going to before we go there.  Traveling has been an integral part of our children’s home school education.

So, here are my tips for travelling with children.

Packing.   We pack as light as possible.   On most of our trips we are able to do laundry which helps me out a lot.  I pack clothing that is light weight, comfortable, and easy to wash and wear. I pack our suitcases based on who will be sharing a room together and rarely does anyone get a suitcase all to themselves.  Any item in question is probably best left at home.   Fewer items to keep track of means less stress and less mess.   Ziplock bags are helpful for organizing socks, undies, and toiletries.  Each child gets their own back pack in which they can pack whatever toys, activities, or personal items they want during travel.

Travel by plane.  Our children, for the most part enjoy travel by plane, especially international flights.   Those international flights are long, but they also provide meals and unlimited movies and games, and those little bags that include an eye mask, ear plugs, and a toothbrush and toothpaste.  This is all very exciting for kids.  (I find it to be exciting too:))  Waiting in checkout lines, going through security, and time spent before boarding our plane provides great opportunities to learn and talk about patience.  Teamwork is put into practice as everyone pulls suitcases, carries car seats, back packs, pushing elevator buttons, etc…  Eric and I have learned that pairing up a younger sibling with an older sibling works well for travel by plane.   Our younger children travel almost perfectly when sitting next to an older sibling.  We’ve received many comments from flight attendants regarding how well behaved our children are.  Pairing those younger children with their big brother or sister makes the whole experience more of an adventure and opportunity to be “big”.  We monitor what they watch, are right there for whatever they need, but have the older siblings help with their earphones, drinks, etc.. I always try to pack a variety of snacks for each child’s back pack when traveling by plane.  If our children are bored, they’ll pull out a snack, if they get hungry, I can remind them they have their snacks in their back pack.  Snacks are a must!

Travel by van or RV.   A couple of years ago we bought a used Class C RV.  I have a love/hate relationship with our RV.   RVing is an adventure like no other.  There is something wonderful about a house on wheels.   Something delightful about having the whole family packed into this tiny space that goes just about anywhere you want it to go provided there are good roads to travel on.   I love having all of our items tucked away in the little drawers and cupboards.  I love my cozy, comfy little bed, our tiny RV tv, and meals served and eaten on picnic tables at various campgrounds and RV resorts.  I could go on and on about RV resorts.   We spent 3 weeks traveling up the east coast from Florida staying at a number of different places.  Oh it was fun!   But with RVing you never know what is going to break, when the AC is going to stop running, a tire is going to go flat, the toilet get clogged, etc. etc. etc….  Our children still talk about Eric getting his hand stuck in the toilet on our first RV trip.   He manually unplugged our clogged toilet.  (We had not yet learned proper RV toilet usage and the result was major yuck!)  There are plenty of things to do in an RV.  Our children read books when we travel by RV or Van.  They watch movies on our little RV tv. They color, and talk, and we listen to music or audio adventures together.   Of course the Ipad is always a great boredom buster when it’s loaded with fun and educational apps and games.

Items I recommend for travelling with children:

Snacks and plenty of them.  Goldfish, dried fruit, gum, beef jerky, crackers, fruit snacks, string cheese, suckers, and popcorn are some of our kid’s favorite travelling snacks.

Activity books like Melissa and Doug sticker and coloring books. Tirzah is especially a fan of the faces book.  We also enjoy Color Wonder books.

Audio adventures like the Brinkman Family Adventures.  This series is our current favorite. We’ve listened to season 1 and 2 and LOVED it!  All ages will enjoy the  adventures and stories of the Brinkman Family in this audio series.  If you are thinking about taking a family outreach trip, you should totally listen to this audio series!

An EtchASketch.  We brought one on our last RV trip and our kids all used it and enjoyed it.   Sometimes it’s just good to put down the “devices” and use an old fashioned toy.

Ipods and Ipads.  Our older children enjoy playing games and listening to music when we travel.

Yarn.  Our older girls love to knit and finger knit.  This non-messy activity is also productive and creative.

Remember less is more when traveling.  (with the exception of snacks)  Children can entertain themselves more easily than we think they can. Even a cup and a spoon can be entertaining to a toddler when travelling. (I’m serious!)  Your kids should be able to fit all their personal items, toys, and activities in their own back pack or bag.

Behavior dos and don’ts:

We don’t allow fighting.  Our children argue every day, but we don’t allow them to get into full blown fights.   Traveling together provides our children with the opportunity to grow closer to each other.  They learn to work things out, get a long, help each other and enjoy each other. A perk to having a big family that travels together is that our kids don’t really miss their friends when we travel. They are each others friends.   They have playmates every where we go.  I am extremely thankful for this.

Our children need to be respectful of the people and places we go.  They need to pick up after themselves, say please and thank you, be patient, and cooperate as a team.  They are not allowed to make fun of people or customs that our different from ours.  They need to participate in whatever it is we decide to do and have good attitudes.

Traveling with babies.   Rarely have I traveled without a baby.   My number one recommendation for travelling with a baby is a good baby carrier. My favorites are the Ergo and Sakura Bloom ring sling.  I wear my babies and toddlers wherever we go.  They are calmer, happier, and more easily adjust to new environments when they are worn close to mama or daddy.  Our little ones are also safer when worn in a carrier.  People are far less likely to reach out and touch a baby that is worn in a sling than a baby who is in a stroller or being carried.   I pack a nursing cover up so that I can feed them whenever they want and this almost always puts them at ease. For the most part our babies go with the flow. When we travel in the RV or van, our little ones are all safely buckled into their car seats.  Older siblings are almost all that our babies need to keep them entertained.  They take in all of the conversations, questions, and noise.  Only when they are hungry, sleepy, or in need of a diaper change do they usually cry. Once they are old enough for solid foods, I pack fun snacks for our babies and toddlers like crackers or healthy cookies.  For me, the most difficult part about traveling with babies is sleep adjustments.   New rooms, new beds, different schedules make it more difficult for our babies to fall asleep and stay asleep.  This means more time slept in my arms, more night time breast feedings, and less sleep for me.   I have learned to rely on the Lord for His strength, nap when I can, and know that our babies will adjust after a few days. Like I said earlier, it is worth it!

High Point Low Point.  We try to maintain our family Bible times when we travel.  We don’t want to take a vacation from our relationship with the Lord, so especially in recent years and on all of our mission trips we have a devotional time and also do “High Point Low Point.” We share one high point and one low point from the day.  We all enjoy hearing what each other has to say.  This isn’t something we do everyday in Colorado, but something special for vacations and mission trips.  Oftentimes, I am surprised by what my husband and children share.  This is another way we grow closer to each other and learn more about each other when we travel.

Road Games

On road trips we play games like, Eye Spy,  the Alphabet Game,  the John Deere Tractor Game (We made this one up.  It’s a sort of eye spy John Deer tractor game involving a complicated scoring system that can get pretty intense).  So fun!  These games are good for keeping the driver alert on a long road trip.

 My Number One Tip.  Stay Calm, Have Fun. Happy Mama equals happy family. 

I’ve learned that when mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. When I’m frazzled and angry, this effects everyone’s mood. When I’m uncomfortable or irritated, it rubs off on the whole family. It’s important especially for us wives and mothers to have fun and be joyful on family vacations.  I have my moments.  Things do not always go as planned.  There will always be problems on every trip.   Your attitude about those problems can be contagious and affect the experience for everyone.  Eric and I get into arguments when we travel just like our children do, but we do our best to stay connected and resolve things quickly.  Eric’s likes to remind us of Rick Steves quote, “Be fanatically positive, militantly optimistic.”  On this note, make sure you buy a travel guide especially for family vacations.  For a $15 book you can save a ton of time and money!

With God’s help we try to remain peaceful when stressful situations arise.  When the kids throw fits, the best thing I can do is to stay calm, love them and get through the fit.  On a recent trip passing through customs, one of our children decided they didn’t want to co-operate with the customs officer.   This child refused to look at the officer, began to kick and scream, and go into one of the biggest public fits any of our children have ever thrown.  Inside I was frazzled, horrified, embarrassed, did not know what to do, and felt like crying.  Most of the people in the lines behind and next to us smiled graciously at us during this fit, but there were a number of people who looked at us with shock and disgust and I could just imagine what they were thinking.   Granted, it was 1:00 in the morning after an extremely long and exhausting day for us and our children.

We FINALLY made it through customs and our child fell asleep a short time later.  This experience required me to stay calm and also made me realize I had some work to do in training this little one in the area of obedience even when tired! It is important for me to follow my husbands lead when we travel.  If I begin to get critical and discontented the whole family is effected.

We pray A LOT whenever we go on trips.  We pray about where to go, when to go, and then we pray often, every day while we are travelling.  Prayer for protection, favor, fun, blessing, health, and strength.  I also ask others for prayer.  Every time we take a trip I thank God for what He is allowing us to do and pray that we will be a blessing to the people we encounter. Prayer is so important.  You cannot underestimate the power of prayer in preparation for a family trip.

I encourage you to travel with your family!  Whether it’s a weekend away in a nearby town or a short term outreach trip, your family will be enriched and refreshed when you take time to enjoy each other and serve God together away from the familiarity of home.  You will grow in your relationship with the Lord.  You will become a more patient, compassionate parent.  Your children will be changed (in a good way).   And you’ll probably long to take more family trips.

Keep in mind that you can do fundraising for outreach trips.  Fundraising letters are one of the best ways to raise support.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for money.  You’re giving others the opportunity to be a part of your outreach trip when you ask them to give.  God makes the way and He provides!

I also encourage you to check out the Brinkman Adventure series.  These audio adventures are based on real life stories.  Your whole family will enjoy listening to each episode designed to draw you and your children closer to the Lord and give you a heart for people around the world.   You can even download each season for free if you cannot afford the suggested donation of $17.

Here are some pictures from our recent family trip to India.

 

We experienced powerful times of worship in India.

We experienced powerful times of worship in India.

Tirzah, Judah, and Isabelle dancing and hoola hooping at the Worship Arts Festival.

Tirzah, Judah, and Isabelle dancing and hoola hooping at the Arts Festival.

Dancing at the festival.

Dancing at the festival.

I love dancing with my girls!

I love dancing with my girls!

We did a few leaps outside of the most beautiful school on earth.

We did a few leaps outside of the most beautiful school on earth.

Emmy taught the school baking club how to make chocolate chip cookies.  This was the first time any of these children had tasted chocolate chips.  We brought several bags with us just for this class.

Emmy taught the school baking club how to make chocolate chip cookies. This was the first time any of these children had tasted chocolate chips. We brought several bags with us just for this class.

Josiah taught cording skill to the keyboarding club.

Josiah taught cording skill to the keyboarding club.

Isabelle and a friend.

Isabelle and a friend.

Our handsome Judah.

Our handsome Judah.

Eric teaching art to the art club students.

Eric teaching art to the art club students.

We were gifted with jasmine wreaths upon our arrival at the school.

We were gifted with jasmine wreaths upon our arrival at the school.

The local market.

The local market.

So many colors, smells, and sounds.

So many colors, smells, and sounds.

Ruthie, delighted with her bangles.

Ruthie, delighted with her bangles.

Spices and lentils.

Spices and lentils.

Ruins at the top of our hike.

Ruins at the top of our hike.

Amazing place to wear my baby:).

Amazing place to wear my baby:).

Washing on the street.

Washing on the street.

Eric and I both noticed this guy from our bus window in Calcutta.

Eric and I both noticed this guy from our bus window in Calcutta.

A boy and his monkey.

A boy and his monkey.

One of my favorite experience in India, our visit to a slum church in Calcutta.Here we arpiled up o  n tPastors ss

This baby girl did fantastic!  She loved being in India, surrounded by our family and lots of Indian children who lovingly pinched her cheeks.  Our babies bring great joy wherever we go!

This baby girl did fantastic! She loved being in India, surrounded by our family and lots of Indian children who lovingly pinched her cheeks. Our babies bring great joy wherever we go!

Why I Love Dance

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In just a few days, my family will be travelling to India.   Suitcases, back packs, travel snacks, vitamins, essential oils, baby carriers, and all sorts of other items are lined up in my bedroom right now ready to be organized into all of our gear.  It takes a lot of planning and creativity packing for a family of 8.  I’m almost done, and I am so excited!   We will be doing various things in India like; teaching dance, art, and drama at a worship arts festival; teaching baking, dance, art, and dental hygiene at a local primary school; visiting a slum church and Mother Teresa’s ministry in Calcutta, and spending quality time with our friends from India who we love so dearly.

India is a land of diversity.  It is a land of color, sounds, smells, delicious food, and beauty. Ever since visiting India four years ago I have longed for the day when we could return. After God and family, my greatest passion in life is the ministry of dance. I am filled with joy and expectation as I think about what a blessing it is that we get to share the love of Jesus to people in India through dance…..

India is a land of dance.  There are cultural dances, religious dances, and celebratory dances. The different states and geographic regions have their own dances.  Dance is an integral part of Indian culture and religion.  In preparing for our trip to India, I learned that there are over 26 different hand movements alone in Indian dance!  The footwork and movement of dance in India is beautiful.  I believe God wants to pour out his Spirit upon dancing believers in India.  I believe He wants to anoint the dancers in India to dance upon injustice, to bring freedom to captives, to pour out healing and joy upon this beautiful and mighty nation.   Please pray for our family and our team. Please pray for the Lord of the Dance to surround us and surround people with His perfect love. Please pray that we will continue to have His heart, His vision, and His dreams for dance.

Sometimes I can’t fall asleep at night because I am so excited about the many ways God is using the ministry of dance!   I am full of dreams, creative visions, and inspiration from the Holy Spirit when I think about dance!  A high point of my week is my Wednesday night dance small group called Illuminate.   I have a particularly difficult time falling to sleep on Wednesdays after dance because I am always so encouraged and excited about the work of God’s Spirit!  I LOVE the women in this group more than words can say!  They are all unique, beautiful, STRONG women who share a passion for dance and for Jesus.  God has orchestrated our friendships and all that He does during our times together each week.

Dance ministry not only impacts dancers, but it impacts their families for the Kingdom of God!   This past Wednesday was amazing, even miraculous!   There are many powerful dance testimonies that I could share, but my heart is still pounding from what happened just a few days ago.  Our group of dancers pray for and care about each other.  We also care about and pray for each other’s families.  This week, one of our dancers asked us to pray for a family member.  As we were prayed, I felt like we were supposed to pray in tongues for this person.  I also felt like there were dancers in our group who had not yet spoken in tongues and that God wanted to manifest that gift to them.  I shared this with our group.  Some of our dancers then testified about their experiences with speaking in tongues.  I was amazed by their testimonies, encouraged, and felt my faith rise! The dancer asking for prayer had never spoken in tongues before and she was ready.  We surrounded her, laid hands on her, and praying in tongues. One dancer began to sing in tongues, and much to my delight, a few moments later the dancer we were praying for broke out into the most beautiful song in tongues that I have ever heard!  It was heavenly and miraculous!  I believe the Lord was whistling for and wooing her family member to Himself as she sang in the Spirit.  Hallelujah! That dancer went home and DREAMED in tongues!

Now the story doesn’t stop here, which is why I am SO extremely excited!  We also prayed for 3 of our dancers who have scoliosis.  My sister Hannah was healed of scoliosis so she led that prayer. One dancer felt her back move and the tension go.  That healed dancer has since prayed for her mother’s back and her dance student’s backs!   Glory to God!

My three year old Tirzah is small, but mighty.  SHE is a dancer.  She loves dance.  If she is angry or agitated, all it takes is for me to put on some good music and let her flow with dance and she’s back to her joyful, strong self.   Tirzah nearly drowned when we were in Lake Providence this summer.  Tirzah’s siblings and Jesus saved her life and she knows it.  A couple of weeks after this experience, Isabelle age 8, (while I was at dance!) led Tirzah in a prayer to ask Jesus into her heart.  Tirzah was so excited to tell me all about it when I got home.  Yesterday, I took Tirzah and Ruthie on a walk.  During our walk I began to speak in tongues.  I told Tirzah that she belongs to Jesus and is filled with His Spirit, so if she wants to speak in tongues too, then she can.  Tirzah replied with, “Mom, I don’t know how to do it!”  I said that was ok, we could just pray and Jesus would fill her mouth with His heavenly language.  The next thing I know she is speaking in tongues, jumping up and down, giggling, and saying, “I’m doing it!  I’m doing it”. Ever since then, she’ll bubble into tongues every few hours!  This is MIGHTY Tirzah and fruit from what happened in my dance small group on Wednesday night!  Praise the Lord!

My first memory of dance comes from a photograph taken of me at two years old.  My hands are raised, eyes closed, relatives all around me.   I am worshiping Jesus with my dance. I’m unashamed.  I’m pure.  I’m free.   I’m having a precious, intimate moment with Jesus, who I already knew and loved at that young age.

My choreography “training” began way back in the mid-80’s as I created workout routines to my favorite Carman (not Carmen the musical, but Carmen the guy) album.  Yes, I am that old!!!   My record player was awesome.  I listened to Psalty, Strawberry Shortcake, and most importantly Carmen on that thing.   I do recall, the bicycle move being a favorite of mine and showing up a lot in my routines….

I began taking dance lessons when I turned 11.  I joined the “Bigger Beginner” class.  (Awesome name, right!?!)  Honestly, I didn’t like that first year of dance very much.  (Perhaps the name of my class had something to do with that? lol)  My blossoming body felt awkward and immature. I wasn’t a fan of my costume, and I didn’t feel lovely.  The next year I was “advanced” to the “Beginning Teen” class.   I’ll never forget the moment I fell in love with dance.  During our Spring Concert my class danced to the song “Moon River.”  I wore a beautiful red, orange, and yellow costume.  I felt strong and graceful, and I thought to myself, I LOVE dance!  I was hooked.

From there, I went on to take ballet, jazz, and company classes.  I loved performing at schools and nursing homes.  When I turned 15 years old,  I applied to be a teacher helper.  I was beyond excited when my application was accepted.   During those first weeks of teaching I wrote in my journal asking God to help me dance for His glory and His glory alone.   I asked him to work in me through Jesus and to help me build the self esteem of my students through dance.  I grew up in a Christ centered studio where modesty, purity, and integrity were taught and encouraged. The scripture, “Not unto us, but unto you, O Lord be the glory.” was written on every concert program.

The summer after my junior year I went on an arts and worship outreach with the Covenant Church. I went on this outreach to minister with singing, and Eric with his trombone.   What I discovered during this outreach was the power and beauty of worship dance.   There was a dancer on this outreach.  She ministered not only with technical dance, but with worship.  Her body was an instrument of worship!  I was amazed and inspired and hungry for more!

During my 20’s I coached a performing company called Thoxa. (means praise and glory).  This group of young teenagers captured my heart.   I loved choreographing dances for them, encouraging them in their relationship with the Lord, and praying for them every week. A handful of those young ladies are still in my life.  They are now in their 20’s, teaching in the Rez Dance ministry, dancing with me in Illuminate,  and pouring their lives into others through dance.

Around 6 years ago, the owner of the studio I grew up in retired.  I thought that I would continue to teach at that studio, doing what I had been doing for many years, but I heard the Lord tell me my time there was also over.  I didn’t want to accept this.  I didn’t want to believe I was hearing God tell me I was done dancing there.  This had been my life, my heart, my joy.  But I knew my Father’s voice, and I had to obey.   That summer, I started Illuminate Dance Company at Resurrection Fellowship.  Both of my sisters were a part of this group along with several other close dancer friends.   Illuminate was wonderful.  It was where God wanted me to be.  It was not the same as a studio, but it was right.  That year, I wrote out a vision that was burning in my heart, for a future dance ministry.  I had a dream in which I saw 100 dancers looking at me. A little girl in the center looked in my eyes and said, “We are here because our parents know that you are going to teach us good dance.”   When I woke up, I prayed in awe, wondering if this would come to pass.  Wondering if I would someday see 100 dancers participating in the ministry of dance!

That next year, I was blessed to be able to start a dance program at our church with weekly classes for children and adults.  We taught ballet and jazz all with a worship focus.  My husband and I felt led to make these classes free with only a costume fee.   Myself, along with the other women in Illuminate Dance Company taught these classes.  That first concert a little over four years ago had 100 students participating.

Flash forward to now.  Rez Dance has 22 teachers, 40+ classes meeting every week, 3 dance companies with a couple more in the works and well over 300 dancers!!!  We teach ballet, hip hop, jazz, contemporary, choreography, special needs, boys, dramatic, prophetic, and performance dance all for the glory of God and the purpose of training boys and girls, women and men to worship the Lord and minister to others with their bodies, through the gift of dance. We have been able to go on dance outreaches to the Children’s Hospital, nursing homes, and various other outside of the church events.  We took a team to Israel, Lake Providence Louisiana, and now India!   Dance is God’s idea, His thing, His vision, and His gift for such a time as this! 

Our God is a dancing God.  Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God in your Midst, the Mighty one will save.  He will rejoice over you with gladness.  He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.”  That  second word for rejoice, the Hebrew word giyl, means to go around in a circle, to leap for joy, to dance, to tremble as accompanied by the leaping and palpitation of the heart!   This word found in others scriptures gets me so excited!  Isn’t this awesome! God dances over us!  He spins and leaps wildly with love for us.

Dance is a form of worship.   Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise His name with dancing.” When the ark of the covenant was brought back to Jerusalem David danced before the Lord with all of His might.   When we dance before the Lord in worship we offer our bodies to the Lord as a living sacrifice.   We declare that He is Lord and we open up doors for the King of Glory to come in and inhabit our praises!  We can dance before the Lord in the privacy of our homes or in corporate worship settings.  There is freedom and joy that is released when worship is expressed through dance.

Dance is a form of intercession.   Some of the most powerful times of intercession I have experienced have been during dance. In the battle of Jehoshaphat, God told Jehoshaphat to send out the worshipers ahead of the army.  By the time the army got to the enemies camp, the enemy had been defeated, wiped out!  I have seen answered prayers time and time again after times of intercessory dance.   God told Satan that he would bruise woman’s heal, but she would crush His head.  I believe our dance tramples on the lies, plans, and schemes of the enemy.

Dance is a form of prophecy.  When a choreographer creates a dance, he or she is speaking a message with the movement created.  When this movement is created in partnership with the Holy Spirit it becomes prophecy.   When a dancer dances listening to the voice of God, being led by Him, she dances prophetically.  Exodus 15:20 speaks of Miriam and says, “Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all of the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.”  Miriam was a prophetess and a dancer!   I have seen lives changed through prophetic dance.  

Dance is a language.  Dance is an expression of the soul.  Dance is a path to freedom.   Dance brings joy.  Dance is healing.  Dance brings healing to the deepest parts.  Dance can get to untouched parts that have never been exposed, never been spoken to before.  Dance is reviving.  Dance is celebration.  Dance is powerful.  Dance is the visible image of hidden truths, hidden words.  Dance builds bridges.  Dance builds dreams.  Dance stimulates the mind.  Dance is created by God. God is a dancing God.  Dance is therapeutic.  Dance produces confidence. Dance tramples shame, doubt, and fear.   Dance brings victory.  Dance is an expression of victory.  Dance demolishes depression.  Dance brings justice.  Dance releases mercy. Dance is brave!

I have seen people come to Christ through dance.

I have seen people healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually through dance.

I have seen people experience financial breakthrough through dance.

I have seen women go from surviving to flourishing through dance.

I have seen walls come down through dance.

I have seen marriages restored and rejuvenated through dance.

I have seen wild prayers answered through dance.

I have seen friendships blossom and grow through dance.

I have seen people receive gifts of the Spirit through dance.

Dance for Jesus is pure. It’s holy. It’s strong. It’s relevant. It’s excellent. It’s unashamed.  It’s powerful. It’s mighty.  It’s creative.  It’s anointed.  It’s humble.  Dance is God’s idea.  It’s His gift.  It’s His vision.  HE is the dancing God!

I encourage YOU to dance.  If you see yourself dancing when you close your eyes in worship, then do it!  Dance your heart out before the Lord.  Look to him and be radiant with your face unashamed!  Dance in worship.  Dance in intercession.  Stomp your feet, spin, twirl, jump.  It doesn’t matter if you have dance training or not, if it’s in your heart to dance, then dance! If you live in Colorado, feel free to check out Rez Dance:).

If you want to learn more about worship, intercessory, or prophetic dance, then read the book Encountering God Through Dance by Saara Taina.  If you are a dancer or a parent of a dancer I encourage you to read this book!  You need to read this book!  It will open your heart and your eyes to God’s purposes and vision for dance.

I also encourage you to join a group of other believers who share a similar passion as you.  We flourish and thrive when we do the things God calls us to do while at the same time being connected with other believers.  Find your place, the place where you can grow and where you can also minister to others.

To God be the glory and honor and praise!  May His name be exulted among the nations through dance!

My first memory of dancing for Jesus.

My first memory of dancing for Jesus.

Dancing at an IDF base in Israel.

Dancing at an IDF base in Israel.

Another picture from Israel.

Another picture from Israel.

Josiah doing some jump roping,  He and Judah both take hip hop classes.

Josiah doing some jump roping, He and Judah both take hip hop classes.

Dancing in a Parade in Lake Providence, LA.

Dancing in a Parade in Lake Providence, LA.

Beautiful Emmanuelle dancing to a song called "Trinity"

Beautiful Emmanuelle dancing to a song called “Trinity”

Prophetic Dance called "Wings"

Prophetic Dance called “Wings”

Illuminate, Captivate, and Chara Dance Companies performing "To Our God"

Illuminate, Captivate, and Chara Dance Companies performing “To Our God”

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This little Tirzah princess recently asked Jesus into her heart and got baptized in the Holy Spirit.  She loves dance!

This little Tirzah princess recently asked Jesus into her heart and got baptized in the Holy Spirit. She loves dance!

Dancing in Maui

Dancing in Maui

“Isa’s Song” was was my first Rez Dance, Illuminate Dance Company dance.

“Roar from Zion” is a dance we performed in Israel.

“Spirit Break Out” is a dance we will be doing in India.

To see more videos you can go to our Rez Dance YouTube channel.

 

I am a Queen (and so are YOU)

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A few weeks ago, our 5 1/2 year old Judah came running into my room first thing in the morning to tell me he had a dream. He told me that his dream was AMAZING.….He dreamed that he was outside on our deck looking at stars. God lifted him up and took him to another part of our deck near one of our trees and told him, “Your mother is a queen and she is going to be a queen for the rest of her life.”   He saw me dressed in a royal gown with a crown of jewels on my head. After telling me the dream, Judah, looked at me in a way he has never looked at me before. With adoration in his eyes he giggled and hugged me.  He kissed me and said, “You were a REAL queen.  I wonder what that dream means?”   He told all of his siblings the dream. He told Eric the dream, to which Eric responded with,  “Your mommy IS a queen.  She is queen of our house and you need to love her and honor her….”   Judah proceeded to hug me and stroke my hair and look at me with wonder the whole rest of the day.   This got me thinking.

If you are a woman who belongs to Jesus.  If you are a wife.  If you are a mother.  Then YOU are a QUEEN.   A queen is one who is married to a king.  A queen is a woman of power and authority. A queen is seated in high places.  God is King of all Kings.  Jesus is God in the flesh. We are the Bride of Christ, therefore seated in Heavenly places.  Our King says that those who overcome get to sit with Him on His throne.  He also says that if we endure, we will reign with Him.

Before Judah’s dream, I had been hearing the Holy Spirit tell me, “You are training for reigning.” I’d be doing little mundane tasks for our family or for our church and I’d hear again, “You are training for reigning.”  I wondered what this meant.  Now, I am beginning to understand.

My home is my kingdom.  My home is the place where I rule and reign.  My husband is the king of our home and I am his queen.  Under the Lordship of Jesus, together we make decisions for our family.   Together we decide who and what we will allow in, and who and what we will keep out.   We protect (as best as we can with God’s help) our little kingdom.  As I clean, cook, and organize the affairs of our household I am being the Queen of my house that God has called me to be.   Now, my castle is not perfect.   My days of ruling are filled with changing diapers, often wiping pee off of floors (accidents happen), endless loads of laundry, dishes often piled up, yard work always to be done, etc., etc., etc,….  Chickens and goats have been known to get my house.  (poop happens)  My children throw fits.  I sometimes throw fits.  My hair is often a mess.  My children’s hair is often a mess (gum happens….).  I’m not the picture of punctuality, nor would my home ever be featured in a Real Simple or Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Don’t look too close or you’ll see dust lining my bookshelves, smudges on my windows, crumbs underneath my fridge and stove.  You get the picture. (I am working on being cleaner and more organized…)

BUT….My home is more than a house.  My home is a training ground.  I am raising arrows to go out of my home and into the world, to be light and love, to make a difference for the good and glory of God!  My home is a dwelling place.  A place for God’s name to be lifted up.  A place for creativity and fun. My home is a haven, and I, queen of this home, am at the very heart of it. I am responsible for teaching my children the Word of God.  I am responsible for feeding, clothing, and caring for 6 amazing blessings.   I am a leader in every sense of the word.   I am an organizer, a planner, a nurse.  I am a teacher, a negotiator, a counselor, a chauffeur.  I am an event coordinator, a therapist, a mentor, a guard.   I am an art critic, a visionary, a fashion consultant, a journalist, a personal shopper, just to name a few.  My words bring life.  My words bring death.   My actions and attitudes affect the atmosphere of my home and of my kingdom.

I am a humble queen.   I don’t rule over lords and knights or people in high positions.  I don’t rule over large domains of land.  (Although through intercession I believe we can take dominion of lands!)  When I speak, I don’t have the audience of hundreds or thousands.  I have a house, 5 acres of land, and 6 children.  But only God knows how much land the six of them will possess! Only God knows where they are going to set their feet!  Only God knows who these 6 children will reach and what THEIR kingdoms will look like.

Sarah had one son.  She had Isaac.  Isaac means laughter.   Sarah laughed at the promise of her son.  She was too old…..too wrinkled…..too worn.  Sarai means ‘princess’.  Sarah means ‘princess of a multitude‘  When God promised Abraham a son He changed Sarai’s name to Sarah.  Sarah belonged to God.  She was HIS princess, His love, His choice to be the the mother of nations. Kings of peoples would come from her!

I am like Sarah.  Though I am too selfish, too messy, too flawed,  God chose me.  He chose to love me and to make me the mother of children.   Whether you have one child or ten.  Whether they are from your womb or adopted or spiritual children.  YOU are God’s Sarah.  You are His choice and His love.  You are HIS pick to be queen of your home and of your kingdom.   We care for our homes and children, not as a slaves , but as daughters of the King and as the Bride of Christ.  Our “humble” work may feel like endless exhaustion.  It may seem like sacrifice and striving. But God says, to she who endures, to she who overcomes, “YOU will sit with me on my throne.  YOU will reign with me.”

In Mark 10:13-15, Jesus told His disciples, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.  For such is the kingdom of God.  Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter it at all.”  I’m doing kingdom work.  I am receiving children God has for me. I am humble queen to my family as I serve them, train them, and pray for them.  My children will not be little forever.   My days of being queen of my home with little ones underfoot will someday come to an end.   But when that time comes, I will not stop being a queen.  I will be a queen for the rest of my life.  YOU, will be a queen for the rest of your life.  Our kingdoms will grow as our little ones grow.  Our territories will enlarge as they venture out into this world. Those of us who are faithful in little will be made faithful in much.  Life on earth is short! Eternity is long. Our time of training here on earth as mothers is training for reigning in eternity.  

Rejoice dear mothers in the good work of motherhood God has called you to.  You are not JUST a mother.  You are not JUST a wife.  You are queen of your home and of your family.   You are impacting generations to come.   You are making a difference not just in your home, but in the nations, for eternity!

I encourage you to listen to this song called “Who But You” and remember that when you see your little children, God sees generations….

Some pictures from our 2010 trip to India.

With Emmy and Isabelle in India from 2010.

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We got to teach at a school in India.  Will get to go there again October 2014.

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I love this place!

I love this place!

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Cooking Indian food when we got home.  It's my favorite!

Cooking Indian food when we got home. It’s my favorite!

My home.

My kingdom, My home….

 

I love my siblings….the real reason I went skydiving

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Today I went skydiving!  Yes, I actually jumped out of a plane 12,000 feet up in the air, free fell for 50 seconds, then enjoyed soaring above the earth for another 5 minutes after our parachute opened.   It was an exhilarating, thrilling, massive adrenaline rush, yet at the same time, surprisingly peaceful experience.   The moment the door to the plane opened, I felt like my heart had moved to my throat.   The moment we stood in the doorway, ready to jump, I thought to myself as I saw the ground so far below,  “Am I really doing this? Am I going to die?   Oh my goodness, Jesus help me!”  My tandem instructor counted to 3 and next thing I new I was falling.  Head back, legs tucked behind me, arms outstretched, it’s the closest thing to flying imaginable.  I loved it!!!!

Why did I skydive?   Am I a natural thrill seeker?   Nope, I am definitely not.   (Unless you consider child birth thrill seeking.  I am still of the opinion that natural childbirth is the most thrilling, exhilarating, and powerful experience I’ll ever have.)

Was this on my bucket list?  No, I don’t even have a bucket list.   I have dreams, but skydiving, though something I thought maybe I would like to experience at some point in my life, was not even close to being in my plans for this year until a few weeks ago.

I went skydiving today because I love my siblings, and I love creating memories with them.   I also went skydiving because God is teaching me to be brave and this experience required a whole new kind of bravery, but that’s for another blog post….

My sister Hannah’s birthday was last week.  Her birthday desire was to go skydiving. She asked me and our brother Micah and our sister Kaitlyn to go with her.  I told her I would think/pray about it, do a little research, and yes, probably go with her!  Kaitlyn and Micah were immediately in.   How could I not participate in this epic sibling event???!!!  AND, I thought, if Michelle Duggar (mother of 19 kids) could do it, than so could I!

If my parents did one thing right in raising us kids, (They did a TON right in raising us) they taught us to love each other and value our relationships as siblings.

This is what this my post today is all about.  Siblings.  How to nurture healthy, strong, sibling relationships in your home.

There are eight of us in our family.  Eric and me and our six children.   This makes for 28 relationship combinations in our home!  WOWSERS!!! No wonder things seem crazy sometimes.

I come from a family of six and so does my husband.  We both happen to be the oldest of four children.  I have one brother and two sisters.  Eric has one sister and two brothers.  Interesting, huh?   These opposite gender siblings all happen to be the same age (the last two siblings are a year a part, so not exactly the same age…)   If all of the Stover children had married all of the Holmlund children we could have started a new race and called it the Stovlunds.   Something to think about:)….lol…

I have always been close to my brother Micah who is 2 1/2 years younger than me.  We rarely fought with each other. I have memories of mischief with Micah including trying to turn our bedroom into a swimming pool by dumping cups and cups of water on the floor while our mom talked on the phone.  I remember being so confused as to why the carpet was all wet, but the water level not rising.  Mom gave herself a good timeout before dealing with us when she finally found out what we were doing.   Micah and I spent hours hiking the hills behind our house,  playing Nintendo, playing in dirt, going to various youth group events together, and of course, he was the chaperone of choice when Eric and I were dating.   Micah is awesome, but awesome doesn’t even begin to describe the incredible man that Micah is.  I am so thankful he is my brother and a part of my life.

As a child and teen, Kaitlyn who is 5 1/2 years younger than me, confused me.   Kaitlyn was loud, and bold, and full of fire.   I didn’t understand her childhood outbursts whether it be an outburst of joy, sadness, or pain.   I didn’t understand how Kaitlyn could do what she did or ask for what she wanted without worrying about what people would think. Kaitlyn was witty and passionate and fearless.  Me, not so much, but I wished I could be.  Though I loved her dearly, I didn’t treat Kaitlyn with tenderness or kindness like a big sister should.   Thankfully, that changed as I entered my college years.   I came home for breaks and realized how much I loved and enjoyed Kaitlyn. I repented for the way I had treated her and was finally freed from my jealousy.  Over time, we truly became great friends!  I adore Kaitlyn!!!  I am her biggest fan!  Kaitlyn brings me joy! Those characteristics that confused me in my youth, are now the very things I value in Kaitlyn and make her the strong leader that she is today.

Hannah was my baby.  She was born when I was 11 years old.   I actually told our mother that Hannah was mine.  Kaitlyn and Micah were hers, but Hannah belonged to me.   I know that this is not true, and Hannah is very much my mother’s daughter, this just shows how much I loved and cared for Hannah.  I loved holding her, playing with her, teaching her, praying for her, caring for her, etc…. Our relationship hasn’t always been easy, but I have enjoyed watching Hannah grow up and become the beautiful, wise, humble, Christlike woman she is today.   Hannah is a tremendous blessing to me, my love for her goes deep,  and we are also very close.

Eric and I want our children to get along.   We desire our children to honor, love, value, and respect one another.  We want our children to feel safe with each other.  We want our kids to grow up realizing what a gift from God it is that they have siblings.   We expect our children to treat each other with kindness, and we continually remind them that they can be best friends.   Oh, there are PLENTY of arguments, tears, and misunderstandings in the Holmlund household. But for the most part, our kids really love each other and enjoy being in each other’s presence. Even to this day, they frequently ask for ANOTHER sibling.

I want to share some things that we do in our family to help nurture and protect our children’s relationships with each other. Many of these things I learned from my experiences growing up in the Stover house.

We don’t allow our children to be mean.  They are not allowed to call each other names, physically hurt each other,  mock each other, or put each other down.  By nature humans are inclined to be mean from time to time.  Our kids are not flawless in this regard, neither am I, but once it begins, we nip it in the bud.  Tirzah somehow heard the expression, “You’re a loser.” (Probably from a movie)  She quickly put that phrase to use and told Judah, “You’re a loser.” Does she know what this means?  Probably not, it just feels good to say, right?   Well, Tirzah has learned (actually, she’s in the process of learning)  that saying things like this are not acceptable in the Holmlund house.  Those are unkind words.  We have the fruit of the Spirit and kindness is one of those fruits.  Our kids are freer to be themselves and grow close to each other when they know that meanness is not allowed.

We make up.  Almost every time I got in a fight with my siblings my mother made us hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and say, “You are my sister/brother and I love you.”  We groaned, and twisted, and acted like it was such a horrible thing to do, but really, I was thankful my mom made us make up and state our love.  We also had to say 3 nice things about each other, also while holding hands.  We don’t do this every time our kids get into a tiff, but we do it from time to time (I have a feeling I’ll be using this “make up” tactic here more in the future, because it’s sooo good!). Our kids also groan at this, but often giggle, and I know that it helps them get back their connectedness after an argument.  We apologize to each other for wrong doings.   We apologize and forgive and then we move on.

Bible time.  Our family devotions encourage sibling unity and love.  Putting Jesus first in your home, reading the word and praying together is, in my opinion, the number one way to develop family and sibling unity.

Homeschooling.  I realize, not everyone reading this blog homeschools, so I want to preface what I am about to say by stating that I do not believe there is one right way to educate your child.  We are all called to different things depending upon our family and situation. My husband went to public school, for the most part had a good experience, and he and his siblings all love each other and are close.  Our family has chosen to homeschool.  We love homeschooling for many reasons, one of them being the amount of time we get to spend together as a family.  Our big kids get to see many of the hilarious and adorable things our little kids do throughout the day.  Our little kids get to be held by, hugged and kissed, and cared for by their older siblings often.   Siblings close in age have plenty of time to play together.   I love reading history books and novels as all of our children are gathered around our kitchen table, or comfy on our family room couch.

Travelling together, building memories.  I asked our children what they think helps them to be close.  Isabelle and Emmy both said going on family trips.   We go on a lot of trips in our family whether it be mission trips or family vacations.  We love travelling.   We pair older siblings up with younger siblings when we fly on planes.   On road trips our kids are all packed in close in our small, class C RV.  We make a lot of memories together.  Fighting and isolating is pretty much not an option when we travel.  Our children love eating new foods, swimming together, working on projects together, and serving together when we go different places.  We creative special memories when we travel together.   Shared new experiences keep us close and foster intimacy between our kids.

Teamwork.  I often tell our children that our family is a team.  Laundry gets done faster (usually) when done as a team.  Cleaning the kitchen, doing animal chores, yard work, gardening, you name it, is easier and funner when done as a team.   Our children are protective of each other.  When one of us is blessed, we are all blessed.  When one of us is hurt, we have compassion for and care for each other.   We love each other and support each other.   In April, our supplemental homeschool program called Olive Tree has a graduation program for all of the children involved.  Eric and I will shout and cheer loudly and wildly for our kids when their name is called and they walk across the stage.  They smile and blush and are proud to be Holmlunds.

Prayer.  I pray for our children to be close.  I pray for their hearts to be soft and not jealous.  I pray that they value each other.   I pray that they will be lifelong friends.  I pray that they will encourage each other and support each other even when they grow up and leave our home.

We prioritize our family.   Our children all have friends close to their age.  They all love play dates and hanging out with other kids.   This being said, our kids never seem desperate for play dates or sleepovers.   They truly are each other’s best friends.  I’m not just saying this because it sounds good.  It is the truth.  Whether it is Josiah and Emmy hanging out, Emmy and Isabelle, Judah and Tirzah, or Tirzah and Ruthie.  They are all friends.  We make our family time a priority over time with peers.  They go to youth group, dance classes,  and Olive Tree.  They have play dates with neighbors and friends.   But on those nights that we don’t have planned activities, we make sure we are home together as a family. My mother continually reminded me and my siblings growing up, that friends may come and go, but Lord willing, siblings you’ll have forever.

Love your kids all equally and differently.   Praise and encourage your children’s unique and individual giftings.  Be careful of putting labels on your children or comparing your children to each other.  My mom used to say, “There are no shy Stovers.”  Even if a couple of us were more introverted and a couple more extroverted, shyness was not allowed because we are the light of the world.  We are Jesus to people around us.  I LOVE that my mom told us this!   I tell my kids the same thing, “No shy Holmlunds.”   If you have a “difficult”  child.  Look for and call out that child’s good qualities.  My husband has been so helpful to me in this area.  Our kids all have VERY different personalities.  Some are easier to relate to and handle then others, but not one is better than the other.  They are all different and they are all wonderful!

Grace.  Our kids are not going to get along 100% of the time.  They are going to have disagreements, arguments, and fights.  They are going to say stupid things to each other. Often our kids feel frustrated by their disagreements or they feel badly about the way they have treated each other.  I remind them that even their daddy and I have disagreements and get angry with each other.  The important thing is to forgive each other and to move forward after those disagreements.   While we need to foster an atmosphere of kindness and respect, it is impossible to expect our children to be perfect.   I have found that our kids are freer to get along, make up, and be each other’s friends when they experience grace from me.

I encourage you to help your children honor, value, and love each other!  Ask God to help you foster an environment of unity in your home.   Raise a standard against discord and meanness. Don’t be afraid to set new rules regarding how your children should treat each other.   Have fun as a family!   Be free to prioritize family time above everything else.  Declare your family name to be a name that your children can be proud of.

I would love to hear how you nurture and protect your children’s relationships with each other! Please free to comment with your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.   I look forward to reading what you have to say and learning from you!   Our families are all good works in progress.

Below are some pictures from my memory making, epic experience, skydiving with my siblings.

Here we are moments after we first arrived at Mile High Skydiving Center in Longmont, CO.

Here we are moments after we first arrived at Mile High Skydiving Center in Longmont, CO.

4 of our awesome friends also went skydiving to celebrate two birthdays!  They jumped in the plane right before ours, so we got to see their descent.  Having them there, made the experience all the more fun!

4 of our awesome friends also went skydiving to celebrate two birthdays! They jumped out of  the plane right before ours so we got to see their descent. Having them there made the experience all the more fun!

My whole fam came with to support me!

My whole fam came with to support me!  They were VERY patient and found some creative things to do during the wait…

My sister Kaitlyn's husband Joel and son with my Eric and Ruthie.  Note, they both are wearing their babies in ergos.   Thankful for my wonderful husband who let me skydive!  He's the best.

My sister Kaitlyn’s husband Joel and son with my Eric and Ruthie. Note, they both are wearing their babies in ergos. Thankful for my wonderful husband who let me skydive! He’s the best.

I AM brave.....and scared, and excited, and nervous, and ecstatic, etc.....,

I AM brave…..and scared, and excited, and nervous, and ecstatic, etc…..,

Our mom and dad came to support us.  I think they had almost as much fun as we did just seeing us make this memory together.

Our mom and dad came to support us. I think they had almost as much fun as we did just seeing us make this memory together.  That’s my dad in the purple shirt next to our Isabelle.  About to ride over to the airport.

Getting suited up!

Getting suited up!

Kaitlyn, me, Micah, and Hannah.  We are READY!!!

Kaitlyn, me, Micah, and Hannah. We are READY!!!

This is our plane.  Sitting packed in tight next to my siblings and our tandum instructors is an experience I'll treasure.  Looking into Kaitlyn, and Micah, and Hannah's eyes and seeing their excitement, knowing together we were doing something none of us had ever done before was amazing...Thank you Hannah!!!!

This is our plane. Sitting packed in tight next to my siblings and our tandum instructors is an experience I’ll treasure. forever.  Looking into Kaitlyn, Micah, and Hannah’s eyes and seeing their excitement, knowing together we were doing something none of us had ever done before was indescribably awesome…Thank you Hannah!!!!

This would be me in the sky getting ready to land!

This is me in the sky getting ready to land!!!

I did it!

I did it!  Relief, awe, satisfaction, joy, and thankfulness flooded my mind and body as my feet hit the earth.  So much FUN!

We siblings embraced in a joyful and adrenalin filled hug moments after we all landed safely.

We siblings embraced in a joyful and adrenalin filled hug moments after we all landed safely.

I love these siblings of mine. Our love for each other is deep, is fiercely loyal, faithful and true.  I pray my children will love each other like the four of us do!

I love these siblings of mine. Our love for each other is deep, is fiercely loyal, faithful and true. I pray my children will love each other like the four of us do!

Show Me Your Friends

IMG_5176Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.  My husband and I heard this quote in a movie years ago and it’s stuck with us ever since.  I think about friendship often.   I need friends.  I need good friends, and so do you.

We were created for relationship.  We were not created to be alone.  We were created to feel, to communicate, to embrace, to share, and to “do life”  with the people around us.   We were not created to be loners, to be friendless, to be isolated.  Scripture begins and ends with relationship.   In the beginning God created the earth, the Spirit hovered over the waters, and when God said, “let there be light.”  He was speaking Jesus! (Glory!!! Revelation my husband shared with me about a month ago.)  Think about that!  Trinity.  At the end of this age Jesus will come for His bride, the church, and we will worship the Lord together, for all of eternity.

My husband is my best friend.  Eric and I have known each other since we were young teenagers. He knew me back when I wore pink canvas shoes that matched perfectly with my pink and purple shorts, my purple shirt, my hot pink lip stick, and my crimped hair.  I knew him before he had any facial hair, when the hair on his head was dyed 3 colors, and he wore saggy pants.  When we hooked up we were quite the combo….  Eric knows me better than any one else knows me, and I know him better than anyone else knows him.  I share most everything with Eric; struggles, joys, laughter, hurts, fears, accomplishments, insecurities, victories, you name it.  He’s safe.   I’m safe.   We love each other and are committed to each other.

The past couple of weeks have been challenging.  I could give you a list of everything that’s gone on, all the good stuff, all of the bad stuff, but I won’t.  I’ll just tell you that multiple times I felt like quitting.  I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, disorganized, taken for granted, hormonal, like a failure…..blah, blah blah….. My house was a mess.  By a mess I mean a total mess.  I’d never seen my children’s bedrooms so disastrous.  I wish I had taken pictures as proof.  My bedroom had piles of clothes from our trip to Lake Providence still on my floor waiting to be put away a week after our return. I don’t want to even talk about the toilets or my fridge, or our big white van…yuck…gross…. Kids were more “difficult” than they had been in a long time, and I was behind in getting things ready for a new year of school and dance.

I had those familiar feelings of NOT ENOUGH swarming through my body and my brain.   You should just quit homeschooling.  You’re not good enough to lead Rez Dance.   Make a blog post, are you kidding?  You’re no example.  What a horrible home-maker you are.  You are not doing enough…. you’re not pleasing enough….again, blah, blah, blah…you get the idea.   Negative thoughts. Negative self talk.  Ugh.  Not okay.

Then….I had a melt down.  Not pretty.  I  cried and I screamed. (yes, I screamed) I was not ok….

So…my amazing husband took me with him while he ran errands.  He let me cry in privacy of our van.  I talked to God.  I asked Him for help, and then, I texted a couple of my good friends.   Here’s where I get back to friendship.   Eric’s my best friend, but sometimes I need more than Eric, I need my girl friends, and Eric needs me to have these friends.

I have some really good friends.  They know me well.  They know my struggles and my strengths. They rejoice with me when I am blessed, and they cry with me when I’m hurting. They speak truth to me.  They pray for me.  They don’t share my crud with others.  They don’t laugh when I fall.  They don’t get offended when I speak truth to them.  They are kind.  They are fun.  They are all different. My friends don’t all have six kids, nor do they all home school.  3 of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away.   They are not all 35 years old, and they don’t all share the same movie, music, and clothing preferences.  Like me, they’re not perfect, but they long to be like Jesus.  One of my best friends I’ve known since I was 5 and a few others have become close friends just in the past couple of years.

When I text or call a friend for prayer, they pray.  They speak scripture or words of encouragement to me and I find myself strengthened and my perspective gets back on track. My friends can’t fix me or my problems, but they point me to Jesus, my husband, my family, and my purpose.    My life is richer and fuller because of my friends.

God has a lot to say about friendship. Here are several verses from Proverbs.

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

“He who has friends must show himself friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

“He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of the enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

“As iron sharpens iron.  So one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Jesus had friends.  Those twelve disciples were his friends.  Peter, James, and John were his closest friends.  If you look at the gospels you’ll find that Jesus had a whole lot of friends and he had different circles of friends.

So what happened when I texted my friends?   They prayed for me.  They spoke truth to me.  They reminded me to reject that “not enough” lie.   They spoke scripture to me.  They encouraged me. They pointed me to Jesus.

I have to admit, I had another crying fit this past weekend.   To be honest, it was a pity party and I was out of line, in the flesh, and NOT seeking Jesus.  One of my best friends whispered in my ear and said, “Melissa, you’re being a jerk.”  “Melissa, you are out of line.”  “Melissa you’re speaking whatever foolishness comes to mind and you need to stop.”   Hold up. What?!!!   The Holy Spirit, one of my best friends (It’s true!) told ME that I’m being a jerk.  Oh crud….but you know what, Hebrew 12:5-6 almost immediately came to mind.  It says, “My Son(daughter) do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens and scourges every son He receives.”

I’m loved by my Father God.   When my husband, my girl friends, or the Holy Spirit speaks truth to me, I need to listen.   They speak truth and correction to me because they love me and they care.   I don’t want to stay stuck in my flesh, stuck in my pity party, stuck in my disorganization and overwelmedness(is that a word?).  I want to flourish, thrive, and daily be transformed in the image of Christ.  I need my circles of friends to do this!  I need friends to grow!

Over the past two weeks my house has become cleaner.  Bedrooms are organized.  Laundry is put away (at least until the next load comes out of the dryer).   My fridge is clean.  My toilets will be soon:).   I said no to some things I needed to say no to and yes to some things that needed a yes.     We are getting back into the routine of homeschooling.  I apologized to my kids for saying some things I shouldn’t have.  I apologized to Eric for being a jerk. Most of all, I apologized to the Lord for thinking foolish thoughts, speaking lies, and for not putting Him first.

Who are your friends?  Do you have friends?  Do your friends point you to Jesus?  Do they encourage you when you are down? Do they love you for who you are.  Do they speak truth to you? Are they faithful?  Do they support your marriage, your dreams, or your other friendships?   Do they pray for you?

What kind of friend are you?  Do you gossip? Do you get jealous of what your friends have or do? Do you get offended when they speak truth to you?  Do you judge and criticize your friends or do you build them up?  Do YOU pray for YOUR friends?  Are you faithful?   Are you kind?   Are you there for them when they need you?

You won’t be close to everyone around you.  You won’t share the most intimate details of your life with every friend that you have.  You’ll have different circles of friends and each circle is important and valid.   But you do need a few close friends.  A few “kindred spirits”.  A few “bosom buddies”. These are the friends who you are safe to share your heart with.  Safe to share your struggles and dreams with.  These are the friendships you need to nurture.  These are the friends you call or text or get together with when you need some prayer and encouragement.  These are your iron sharpens iron friends.  Two are better than one friends.

Where is a good place to find friends?  Here are a few ideas.   I highly recommend church small groups.  This can be womens or mens ministry groups, or couples groups.  At our church this means dance classes, art classes, and other common interest groups that meet every week.   MOPS is a great resource.  If you home school, find out if your community has a home school group where families go on field trips together and encourage each other.  You might find a good friend in a neighbor.  Once a month our family invites a bunch of other great families we know for a great big time of fun and fellowship where mamas can connect and all the different age groups of children can play.

I encourage you to look at your current friendships.  Which friendships do you need to grow? Which friendships do you need to lay aside?   Be the friend you want your friends to be.   If you don’t have those close friends ask God for them.  Daily ask Him for good friends.   Don’t stop asking until He provides and I promise, He WILL provide!   Be on the lookout. He cares about your friendships even more then you do. And don’t forget.  God is your friend.  Jesus is your friend.  The Holy Spirit is your friend.  Listen to their voice and let them do their mighty, precious work in you.  God loves those whom he disciplines:).

I’ll close this post with my very favorite verse regarding friendship.

“Two are better then one because they have a good return for their labor.  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls, but has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered.  Two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

*Note to parents.  Our children’s friends are so influential as to who they become and what their future is like.  Help your children pick their friends.  Help them pick friends who encourage them in relationship with Jesus.  Teach your kids to be good friends.  Teach them what qualities to look for in friends.   None of their friends will be perfect or act godly all of the time, but as a parent, take note of how your child acts when they’ve spent time with their friends.  This will tell you a lot about which of your child’s friendships you should nurture.  Don’t be afraid to say “no” to certain friends in your child’s life.   You’re their parent for a reason.  Part of our job as parents is to protect and train our children for their future.  If your children need good friends, pray for those friends and be on the look out for them.  Again, God WILL provide.   I could make a whole new blog post just on the faithfulness of God to provide friends for us and our children when need them.   I’ve cried out to God many times for friends and friends for my kids.  He’s come through every time.  He will for you too.

P1000044This man is my ultimate best friend.  I love him so much and I enjoy sharing life with him.

This man is my ultimate best friend. I love him so much and I enjoy sharing life with him.

My family members are some of my closest friends. Above is my mom, my sister Kaitlyn, and my sister Hannah on my 30th birthday.

My family members are some of my closest friends. Above is my mom, my sister Kaitlyn, and my sister Hannah on my 30th birthday.

Me on the right, my childhood best friend Katie on the left with the crown.  We are still friends.  Though we live hundreds of miles a part, we text each other for prayer and encouragement.

Me on the right, my childhood best friend Katie on the left with the crown. We are still friends. Though we live hundreds of miles a part, we text each other for prayer and encouragement.

This old picture is from 1994.  These girls, Angela and Jessica are two of my forever friends.  These girls have been with me though a whole lot of stuff.   I thank God for them in my life!

This old picture is from 1994. These girls, Angela and Jessica, are two of my forever friends. These girls have been with me though a whole lot of stuff. I thank God for them in my life!

Some of my dance friends.  I love these gals more than words can say.  We all share a passion for dance, for worship, and for teaching.

Some of my dance friends. I love these gals more than words can say. We all share a passion for dance, for worship, and for teaching.

This picture my sister Kaitlyn took at my niece's 3rd birthday is just too cute not to post. Just picture them in 10 year.

This picture my sister Kaitlyn took at my niece’s 3rd birthday is just too cute not to post. Just picture them in 10 years.