When Your Marriage Cries For Margin

 

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I excitedly packed my bag for an overnight getaway with my man in Seattle like I was leaving for a high-end trip for a month to another country.

Although I only needed a change of clothes, a hat, a book and my journal just in case – my heart was beating hard just like my 20-year-old heart did for him.

Just us… what does that even feel like? We both knew it had been way too long of a haul and our marriage was ready for a fuel up.

We’ve had a good routine of lunch dates and occasional get aways for a weekend, with a few big anniversary trips over the years – but the transitional year of wandering the west, left no space or trusted friends to step in to help us out for even one night.

 Did you know that rest and making up for lost time can be as simple as getting away to a hotel only an hour from home?

So often we continue on feeling drained physically, depleted emotionally and suffering from the disconnect of the day-to-day grind.

In reality, we just need to wave the white flag and give ourselves over to each other and stop all the stuff.

I’m talking no words about work, no emails, phone calls, no lists of hard things to talk about, and especially no kids (and we love all five of them dearly).

After conquering down town and the coffee spots, we parked our mini-van at Pikes Market downtown and boarded the ferry on foot just to add to the adventure.

I wheeled my little carry on aboard and it felt as if we were leaving on a jet plane except with clam chowder in tow for the hour-long ride across the water.

We secured our spot at the rear of the boat with a stellar view of the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier showing off at sunset, taking the deepest breathes in a very long time.

You guys, sometimes we all come to a place in our relationship where things “feel” harder than they should only because we aren’t operating on our strongest team game.

Time away together is mandatory for survival and thrival (my new word).

Our conversations took place face to face with no interruption (what?) while standing as close as possible and all tangled up (yes please) like ones in love want too, but don’t get too often enough when they are running a large family operation?

Because we all know that there’s the:

  • loads of laundry to wash,
  • meals to cook and clean,
  • kids with lots of thoughts and questions,
  • things to get done for church ministry work,
  •  a toddler in the mix making Momma constantly tied up,
  • stress creeping in,
  • kids needing to do things,
  • trying to embrace moments,
  • appointments to schedule,
  • frustration building,
  • the yard work,
  • car maintenance,
  • the juggling of budgets and bills,
  • that very real enemy,
  • that lack of sleep,
  • and to do lists for years hanging over our heads.

Yep, that was us.

We took to the small towns that night around the big city and slow-ly put all of the weight and worry and busy on hold – with no chance of picking it back up for 48 hours.

Honestly, we needed the break in January but didn’t know anyone (although had met loads of loving people) well enough to say, “Hey – we are dying for an uninterrupted over-night date, can you hang with our five kids?”

So we did what many couples do when no one is in our lives deep enough to help us  carry the burdens…we waded through six more months of slowly fading into the “who are you” mode of marriage.

Those times when you look at each other and you know there is so much good in the one that you love, but the weight of life has drained the ever-loving grace and joy out of your lungs?

Thankfully my man shared honestly with a friend from church after a meeting, about how our marriage was running on fumes from the long journey to Washington and we really needed some space to just connect.

I love him for doing that for us. What a champ.

Before he even got home from the meeting that night (because that’s how Jesus works), a text message was sent to us with an invite to care for our little kids – so we could check out. I mean how ridiculously kind of them.

Isnt it sweet how God steps in and redeems a rough patch?

Our time was so amazing that I grieved going home – even after just one night. All the feels and fireworks were with us and I even forgot about ALL the kids.

Totally forgot we had kids. Amen.

A lazy morning complete with our favorite late hotel checkout, cold pizza leftovers from the 1 a.m. delivery, and then sitting out on the docks dreaming about the days ahead was the perfect closing ceremonies to the weekend.

Closeness can heal whats been stolen during difficult days.

Your relationship is not beyond renewal – but you have to wave the flag and step into a break with great expectancy.

Go find your people who care about your marriage.

Go find your break.

Go find yourself.

Go find each other.

 

 

 

Saying Yes to Adventure Even When It Scares Us A Little

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We wondered the interstates and National Parks of the west in our mini van, packed full of our family of seven.

Two kayaks strapped to the top, coolers stocked with survival snacking, minimalist clothing crammed in totes, and our hearts were set for adventure.

Our beautiful brick home had sold and our belongings tucked away in a storage unit. We decided to hit the road in search of our new life.

Doesn’t every adventure seeking family need a supportive mom? I chose to give it my all.

Days of driving led us up the California coast where we borrowed my mom’s motorhome to add some square footage to our epic road tour.

It was the kind of dream families talk about for years – but quickly abandon because it all feels so extreme.

Only risk takers jump off the cliff of unknown variables with five children, right?

We jumped – and thankfully, our kids joined in with expectant hearts and eyes wide open to where God was leading us – because He surely was!

My momma pulse began beating a little faster as I worked through the change from living in a home, complete with beds, closets, doors that shut, and a kitchen table to camping in a short hallway (mercy help).

How on earth would I survive, yet alone thrive in such a cramped space with so many people?

I had all the questions. Most importantly…

  • Where would the baby nap so I could have a break?
  • How would our marriage make it with zero privacy?
  • Exactly how long would this be our transitional residence?

I desperately wanted to do this well, because I knew it would matter later. Isn’t it always easier to embrace new things when something in life remains consistent?

We exchanged a neighborhood of kindred souls, backyard swimming nights with friends, and normal routines in Tennessee, for atlas maps, finding local fun and discovering new geography in the Pacific Northwest.

Our toddler set up his play area on the dashboard which turned out to be the perfect spot for cars and play dough.

I embraced the hard conversations with my kids who missed home, and tried to provide an environment of joy and fun that my younger kids could thrive in.

Find joy in a hectic adventure? Yes.

Create fun in a motor home? Absolutely.

It was the evening of our first night at an R.V. park that I felt like we were going to make it.

Cooking tacos in the tiniest kitchen ever, over a little gas stove and chopping the fixings on a cutting board balancing on the armrest of the couch…I knew that as long as we had food and each other – all was well.

My boys came in and out of the four-foot kitchen space like they usually would, and suddenly life felt as normal as it possibly could.

With God’s help, I had everything I needed…

to mother with passion,

to listen to hopes and heartaches,

to gather groceries,

to prepare simple meals,

and to surrender to what was ahead no matter where on earth (literally) we were living.

We parked the motor home at a camp north of Seattle and ended up staying there and volunteering for three months as the job interviews progressed.

Can I mention that it rained without ceasing for those entire three months? God bless all mothers whose homes are decorated with mountains of rain boots year round.

Living out adventure with kids in tow that were in every possible stage of life, stretched my faith and my sanity!

The journey forced me to believe more than ever in a God who not only provides – but desires us to live a rich life, full of wilderness exploring and everyday celebrating.

In the mornings I would use my stealth skills to not wake the baby tucked up next to me, while reaching for the button on the coffee pot hanging under the microwave.

Perching in the corner as quietly as possible, I prayed I wouldn’t disturb the other six. Slowly, I sipped the warmth that would gear me up for yet another day.

Boots were pulled on, hoods secured, and buckets to collect all the found treasures were gathered and brought along for the day.

We were on a mighty mission to investigate and collect all the bugs, slugs, worms, leaves, sticks, and rocks in our new surroundings. Logs were jumped over while eagles soared overhead and we grew to love our stunning playground.

We became actual Olympians in mud puddle jumping.

There were clear streams and wooded trails with canopies of cedar trees that served as the perfect backdrop for a photo shoots just because.

As the weeks passed by, I realized that this adventure was going just fine – as long as I held on to faith. Cooking brownies helped too, and so did lighting camp fires to welcome the night.

Seeking adventure in hard seasons takes work. Choosing to live fully and in the day-to-day, doesn’t have to wait for the perfect destination. It can surely happen along the way.

We landed the job near Seattle and moved into a home on the river, where everyday adventure lives on. We made it – and so can you.

The July That Changed Me

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The adventurous stories of my Uncle Bernie were told so often during my growing up years, that it felt as if he were still very much alive.

I held on to the words spoken by my Dad about the way his brother could light up a room and usher in rolling laughter. Uncle Bernie left a legacy that continues to be passed down today.

Stories of loyalty to his friends.

Stories of care for his family.

Stories of rising above adversity.

You see, my Dad and his little brother Bernie were the babies in their family of nine siblings. Their childhood was exceptional… the difficult kind of exceptional.

Intense memories of being evicted from homes they tried to rent, led them to take up residence under an actual bridge.

Can you even?

Eventually, the family found shelter and work as the parents struggled to make ends meet. With determination, the children gained stability with the kind of hard work that we don’t know much about.

The Vietnam War called my Dad and Uncle Bernie off to serve our country and I’ve always wanted to show meaningful thanks for the difficult road they journeyed.

It was the summer that we took our own family to Washington D.C. for the 4th of July, that I got to experience the weight and deep blessing of freedom.

My Dad always wanted to visit the Vietnam Wall to see the name of his little brother Bernie. I promised I would find his name, touch the reflection, and tell my own sons the story of determination in his life, ending far too soon.

I made my way to the memorial directory with tears gaining momentum. The book was about 7 inches thick, showing decades of weathered and tattered pages under the protective glass.

It was almost too much to bear, touching the book and feeling the loss of the tiniest names representing such enormous heartbreak.

It took some time to find his name. Silence and sniffles hovered as we searched for it in the pouring rain with the tiny hands of my own growing boys turning the pages.

We made our way to the wall and I completely fell apart.

I sobbed for my Daddy who dealt with the pain of war in his own heart and grieved a brother who did not return alive from the battle they fought together.

His name was engraved up high, so my husband lifted our son on his shoulders so he could trace the letters of his name.

Bernard Lee Holzknecht.

My Uncle. His brother. A husband. Their Son.

I also saw my own middle name etched within his and somehow gained a dose of courage, sharing my name with him.

After we finished talking to our kids about the meaning of the reflection of their little hands and faces on the wall, they stepped away so I could have a few moments alone.

I felt God nudging me to call my Dad to share the gratitude going on in my heart, that held such a special place in his.

I knew it was the important thing to do…so with my shaky voice and soaking wet face I grabbed my phone and dialed my Dad’s number in Alaska.

“Hello?”

“Hi Daddy, it’s me Jenny and I’m at the wall.”

Tears from a grown man are precious, aren’t they? Especially the Daddy soldier kind.

“Oh honey, thank you. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for honoring my brother.”

I could barely get a syllable out, let alone a sentence.

“Dad, I am so sorry and I want to thank you for serving our country and passing down a legacy of love and hope to my family.”

We shed tears together as I described the scene at the memorial and how hard it hit me to see the name that made all the stories I’ve heard for my entire existence come to life, for someone who lost his.

Every 4th of July since that moment, has a taken on a magnified meaning of the gift of freedom which is now engraved on the hearts of my own kids forever.

 

Living Calm in the Chaos + Keeping Our Cool

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Sitting in the corner of our couch, looking out over the river and sinking deep into a few minutes of silence – was the exact moment when my middle school son decided he should join me.

After bouncing around, he finally got comfy and began to unfold his hopes and dreams for the rest of his life. Don’t you love boys talking through life? I know he may not always share EVERYTHING with me, so I lean in as much as possible and try not to feel the guilt when I can not.

I love him. He is the kid that has an idea and must see it through to the end – that very second…do you have one of those?

I quickly tried to hide my disappointment in the lack of calm I longed for, and gave him my weary, wide-eyed – but loving attention.

I love a busy home and I know I’ll miss it when life slows down – but for me, a break is necessary in order for me to regroup. You?

If they happen to catch me in a “Super Mom” moment full of grace, strength and tranquility – I can handle five or six voices with really BIG things to say at the same time. Amazing, but a rarity for sure.

The actual norm looks like me directing conversational traffic with all the hand motions.

STOP to you,

GO to you,

HUG to you,

PAUSE to you,

HUSH to you,

BACK UP to you,

SLOW WAY DOWN to you,

SPEED UP to you.

I try my best to embrace all the words and hearts and dreams and disappointments without causing any major accidents!

It’s a lot to juggle honestly, and I only do it well if I’ve had some time to gather my own heart.

Chasing calm, means understanding ourselves and the truth of God’s word so we aren’t left feeling consistently overwhelmed.

“The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless his people with peace.” – Psalms 29:11

But how on earth, when there are a zillion and one things that contribute to the chaos?

There is the chaos of family,

those busy mom schedules,

the world issues coming at us,

parenting hardships,

constantly working on marriages,

the fun kind of running around chaos (including racing to Sonic Happy Hour),

and of course the one that just might be the biggest culprit…hormones.

Yes – those.

The new baby kind, the after baby kind, the broken-loss of baby kind, the middle-aged kind, or the empty nest kind… all of them welcome themselves into our days uninvited and very much in charge. They have the ability to stir up some inner chaos that catches us by surprise.

I am learning that my ability to handle the chaos of whatever is at hand, can be directly related to two important realities.

  1. My closeness with God.
  2. The condition of my hormones and emotional state at the given moment.

Please tell me I’m not alone here!

I must, must keep those 2 things in mind when deciding how I really feel about the rise of chaos. There definitely are days when the feelings are legit and other times when they have grown out of an unkept heart. Have you been there?

When I learn how to recognize the overwhelmed feelings, I can handle the over the top crazy days with strength.  

Lets be the ones who are brave enough to call the chaos what it is and seek a calmer spirit as we move throughout our days with the people we love the most.

I don’t know about you, but chaos makes me crazy and calm keeps me cool – and my people enjoy me much better that way!

 

* Day 6 Brave Moms + Strong Families Challenge: Last day! If you’ve been following along the past 3 weeks, we’ve loved having you join us.

List the things that bring you the most chaos in your daily life.

Write down 2 things that would help you find some calm in your day!

==> It could be as simple as…

  • watching less news,
  • spend some 1 on 1 time with your child,
  • reading a Psalm from the Bible,
  • taking a social media break,
  • or making time for yourself each day – even if it is 10 minutes to let your heart mend or your mind finish an entire thought.

 

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Joyful In the Messes + Thoughts on Spilled Milk

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The memory is faded, but I still remember. Those seven o’clock nights of my growing up years sitting around the dinner table on occasion, when everyone was home from basketball practice and student council meetings.

There were a lot of things my Dad handled like a champ – but spilling milk at the dinner table was not one of them. 

Now that I am a mother to five trying to get dinner on my table, I get it. A flood of milk dripping through the cracks of the table on to the floor (we had carpet under my childhood table) was not a peaceful way to ease into the evening!

My sister and I were sent to our rooms a few times while every towel in the house was gathered to soak up the mess.

I remember thinking, “This is not a big deal. There are worse things than spilled milk. I won’t get this upset when I have kids.”

Ha. Ha. If I had carpet under my table – I would not be a fun person to eat dinner with – period.

While the event itself really isn’t a big deal…the way we choose to handle the disruption is right?

Finding joy in the middle of a mess is not for the faint of heart. It takes skill, patience, and even a little pre-prayer to make sure we don’t go into over-reaction mode.

So guilty of that.

Just this week, my 2-year-old decided that time-out on his little boat bed was the perfect time to shake out an entire bottle of baby powder. He came out to tell on himself, “Momma – I made a BIG mess…”.

Why yes he did. Mercy Jesus – I am waving the white flag of surrender!

In that moment, the siblings were dying of laughter because his little nose was white, his  short little legs were ghostly, and there was a fresh smelling cloud billowing out of his bedroom door.

I had to present some form of semi-serious tone because, “please lets not make this a regular activity” – but it was so funny!

Our joy is dependant on how we see the messes of life whether they are little or large.

For me, messes of all magnitude can be seen as:

  • major distractions
  • annoying work
  • memorable moments

and we are all capable of responding in all three of these ways right?

Well, there was also that time when our Dad spilled HIS milk at the table and we sat there and held our breath – and then burst into hysterical laughter and sent our Dad to his room!

Spilling milk is minimal compared to the messes in relationships, the mess of unplanned medical bills, unexpected home or car repairs, the mess of parenting, or the messes of poor health.

I’m not sure why – or how God built this into my heart, but I’ve always measured the mess according to its actual stress load. I tend to not sweat the small stuff, and super over-react to the biggies.

“For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.” – Psalms 63:7

Honestly…waterfalls of spilled milk or dust clouds of baby powder really don’t bring about a happy and grateful heart. Neither does broken friendship, marriage struggles, or difficult children.

There is absolutely a time for sadness, frustration, and heart-break. It’s not all butterflies and unicorns – I know. But the small-scale messes really don’t have to send our smile on a n extended vacay.

We hold the potential to find joy even in the piles of toys and emptied out drawers of perfectly folded laundry.

Having a heart of compassion and grace in those high intensity mess moments is something we receive from the heart of God – who makes it possible to see life through His lens of value and grace.

I surely don’t have what it takes to keep it chill and full of smiles on a regular basis. I need major help. MAJOR.

I’m not sure what or where your messes are this week. Can we offer value and grace to those who make life messy?

Value. The word that says we have immeasurable worth – despite our shortcomings.

Grace. The word that we all desire from others in our life – and yet are slow to offer it to the rest of the mistake – making world.

Maybe you are in the thick of parenting and playing and picking up all day. You might be living in such a hard – messy place that joy is nowhere to be found.

Keep an eye out for things that are from God – for you. Keep a list! It helps to see that there is joy happening in the midst of the mess. Lists of things that bring us joy don’t remove the pain, or the frustration – but they do help us to realign our heart of gratitude with the God.

Day 4 Challenge => Brave Moms – Strong Families

Take some deep breaths this weekend as we encounter messy homes, messy kids, messy relationships, and messy SELVES.

*Make a Joy list of 10 things that bring you joy! It can be as simple or as deep as you wish. Joy is a choice and sometimes we have to dig deep beneath the surface to live joyful lives right?!

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Staying Hopeful in the Hard Stuff => When Belief Takes Work

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a believer in God working in my life. I just knew that He had a plan all along and was going before me, marking my path.

Even when the foundation shook beneath me as a little girl, hope came easily after wading through the divorce of my parents and seeing that God could be fully trusted in every detail of my story and theirs.

Fast forward to doing life with my own family where hard times come and go and God is still present and dependable.

It was in the middle of a very difficult season of waiting on God to reveal His relocation plan for my own family of 7, that my faith was exercised more than ever before.

My man of 20 years and I worked SO hard to stay focused, make memories, work as a team, and hold on to hope for the blessing we believed was “just around the corner”.

But you know how that goes… one corner turns to the next and then a leads to a long straight-away with no end in sight. It was an adventure of total faith and required us to sell out to surrender.

Isn’t it rough when we trust but we actually get burned out from believing so hard?

Our struggle was partly because it was pouring rain for months and we were living squished in a motor home (although such a blessing and had its hilarious moments) – but mostly because our hope was running on empty with a capital E.

I trusted in the God who called us out of our cozy ministry full of loved ones and our beautiful home…but I didn’t know how to find joy every single day during that journey, like I wanted too. You know the times when we are determined to feel good, do good, and be good – but we fail?

Those Days.

Well, the tension grew as our fun, free-spirited selves were running on literal fumes. Sometimes (okay everyday) we avoided the hard conversations and checking in on each other grew to a minimum because…SO much over the top hard stuff!

I am not proud of the moments where we lost our focus and the strong faith we ventured out with, started to give way to fear. I am forever proud of how we held on tight and did not give up.

  • Fear lies to us and says we are failures.
  • Fear pushes us around and paralyzes us.
  • Fear asks the question, “what if?”.

Maybe your hard season includes a crazy transition like ours. It may be that you are trying to live hopeful in your;

everyday marriage,

your health,

your parenting,

your waiting,

your job,

your ministry,

or your friendships…but it all feels so overwhelming.

My husband likes to remind me that we have an enemy…and its not each other! He’s right – we have an adversary who does not want families to thrive in hard seasons at all – especially when we are walking in obedience!

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the
rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over
this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in
the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

The devil was in hot pursuit of Gods beautiful plan for us and there were times when that voice was turned up. I had to choose to dismiss the lies and the fear and surrender once again to the love of my God, full of promise, truth, and hope.

When we say yes to Him, we say yes to hard moments that yield tremendous growth.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 
– Exodus 14:14

But the best newsflash, is that we have the power of the Living God within us when we chose to trust in the work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection from death to life! There is nothing that causes the enemy to slither back into his hole, like calling on Jesus for help and claiming hope!

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in
the Lord.” – Psalms 31:24

We came out of that rough patch stronger (because you always grow through a trial) and regained hope in the testimony of His faithfulness.

Sometimes we have to experience our desperate need for Jesus to carry us in the unknowns, before we can really make it to the other side shining brightly right?

Are you in a hard season where the road seems to never end? *Sigh* I hear you…

  1. When fear sets up camp – kick that junk out. Remember that there the real growth and purpose is in the journey, not just the destination.

  2. When you hear the lies of the enemy, fight back with truth. Pick one of the verses above and write it out over and over, so you can say it out loud and push the enemy back into hiding.

  3. Go ahead and call your hard season what it is… HARD! Then make a list of the ways God has given you glimpses of hope in the midst of it.

I have found that the roads with the deepest potholes… the ones that almost blow out your tires? Those roads seem to be the ones with the views worth traveling.

Hold on to hope my friends and if you want…there are 2 ways you can join the Brave Moms Strong Families challenge.

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*Join us over at the FB group page for helpful chats, Q&A, and encouragement over  these 3 weeks HERE.

*Subscribe to the Brave Moms Strong Families Challenge HERE! 

 

 

You Do You [A 6 Day Brave Moms – Strong Families Challenge]

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If you are the mom to a house full of noise, a grandmother investing in her family, the friend of a mom (we see you – helping us keep our cool), or an empty nest momma who is cheering for grown kids…you know that perfect never comes – but today is waiting right?

We’ve all been there, holding on for the “right time” to do ______________.

I’ve traveled the road called “maybe later” and have spoken the same things as you have, I’m sure!

I’ll get to it when I’m not sleep deprived.

I will work on that issue when I’m in the right mood.

Eventually, I will have the margin to parent better.

In a few weeks, I’ll have that hard conversation.

I’ll start taking care of myself when I’m not so stressed.

One day, I’ll be happy when I have deep friendships.

My marriage will strengthen when our kids are grown.

I’ll stop comfort eating ALL day when summer gets here!

Mercy HELP!

It’s all too much – but you know what? We can hang on to God’s truth and live today in a way that pleases Him and adds value to the family we’ve been entrusted with.

My blog friend Mari (and the very first person to let me guest post on her blog over 2 years ago), at Inspired By Family Magazine has invited me to be a part of a great challenge for Moms!

We are hoping to encourage y’all (while speaking to ourselves obviously) to live bravely with great passion and in truth as we walk in our mothering roles.

The two of us will be hosting a 6 day challenge to share insight, hope, courage, and the real stuff. We would love to have you stop in for some really great conversations!

You can also join our Brave Moms Strong Families Facebook Group by clicking HERE! You’ll find Mari and I sharing encouragement throughout the week, maybe even a video chat each week, with space for Q & A fun sprinkled throughout the 6 day challenge.

The Brave Moms Strong Families Schedule

Since we know summer can be a hectic we decided to spread the challenge out over 3 weeks!  Mari and I will take turns pulling up a chair and sharing words that are near to our hearts with y’all.

You can check back HERE to get the updated posts and links as they go live.

June 21st- Living Intentionally as we Understand Our Value

23rd- Living Hopeful in the Hard Stuff

28th- Living Authentically with What We’ve Been Given

30th- Living Joyful in the Messes

July 4th- Living Fearlessly from a Heart of Truth

July 7th- Living Calm in the Chaos

We can’t wait to walk alongside you guys and journey toward God in our passion, purpose, and potential to live brave today. Lets GO.

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Subscribe to our Brave Moms Strong Families Challenge today!

Pressing On When We Don’t Have All the Answers

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There are a couple of things that you’ll want to know about me. First, is that I hear God loud and clear in the mountains! Secondly, my favorite thing about taking a road trip is not the talking…it’s actually the not talking.

With the baby of the family strapped in the cars-seat and entertained by…not me, it is a recipe for a scenic glory with headphones, notebook, and favorite pen!

We returned home from the Cascade mountains last week and my jaw never came off the floor. Roads that I had not traveled before in my 41 years of living, had me holding my breath around all the windy turns.

Sitting in the back seat next to the napping toddler, we rounded a corner that showed off  a huge-normous mountain topped with jagged rocks that formed the peak.

Like they always do when I am struck by mountains, the tears streamed down my face. I quietly said, “Jesus what is it about this picture that has taken my breath away?” And He answered with one word.

“Mystery.”

That was IT. There was such a mystery about the elevation and hidden places at the top of this mountain that couldn’t stop the gaze. I continued the conversation, “Tell me more.”

He whispered these words to my heart.

“I want you to be about embracing the mystery of who I am – what I am doing and how I move around you.”

Clouded with the teary stream, I saw a picture…

of the unseen,

of the unfinished,

of the hidden mysteries that only God has authored.

I knew the mountain tops were there…but they were not visible. Instead they stood behind the hovering mist of cloud cover and fog. I knew the message He was telling me, and it was this:

We don’t get to know the things of God. The things hidden deep in His love, deep in His itinerary for our lives, in the way He has plans for this world. Sometimes He reveals and answers, other times He shows us beauty that is partially hidden – hoping that we will embrace and trust the mystery of who He is and what He is doing behind the scenery.

Instead – we as believers in Jesus Christ, get to live AMAZED and in AWE by it.

Oddly, I find a rich – unexplainable comfort in the mystery of God and His Spirit that leads me.

MYSTERY.  We aren’t Him and we don’t always get to know all of the answers. The pressure if off and we can choose to trust (way easier said)!

What I saw that afternoon was a picture of the power that lies within me from the Holy Spirit and a strength that inspires me to press on when I can’t see the entirety of the picture before me.

I can’t possibly re-count all the conversations in ministry over the years and within our own family, about why God doesn’t always reveal the full picture!

I believe He loves to see us step out and trust,

or slow down and wait,

or be risky and jump,

or find patience in praying.

Each opportunity a chance to grow our character and strengthen our faith.

So…that scene raised my blood pressure and shook my soul – but hang on…there was more.

The road followed the base of this mountain and while I was looking up we came around the side and strings of waterfalls poured out from the dead center.

WHUT? I mean it was not even real.

So now I am crying like someone just gave me the sweetest gift. There He was again.

“You can’t know all that I am doing for you and with your life – but BEHOLD springs of life will flow from your embracing my mystery.”

In this moment, I am talking in a loud whisper totally amazed at this whole situation, but He continues…

“Let my spirit be the absolute center of your life and breath. Do nothing without me as your source of everything.”

I thought I was doing that? But we never fully are right…because there’s that sin problem.

He leaves me with this blessing and its for you too.

“I will flourish and grow you and make your path beautiful. I am pouring my love over you. Look nowhere else. Listen to my voice. Go with me. Write it down. Tell my story in your life.”

Those things that we are pressing for an answer about, He is aware and never stops keeping watch over us.

Join me in welcoming His mystery and pressing on through the times of uncertainty with the joy that only He can give to us.

This Thing Called Motherhood And Why You Matter

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The second he closed his eyes, his tiny hand grew limp and let go of mine. I tip-toed out of his room, carefully avoiding freshly built train tracks, perfectly lined up hot wheels, and the pile of wet clothes from our sprinkler play.

I had to smile at how much I love being a mom. Honestly, even on the bad days – I’m crazy about it.

This thing called Motherhood is my whole life.

No matter what else I venture out to accomplish in my days – my children will always require encouragement, time, and heart.

I’ve been showing up to this gig for the past 17 years and have grown to respect my mission and the responsibility God graciously handed me.

After having tiny ones grow into men (insert a bathtub of tears).

After piles of papers and years of waiting to travel across the world to welcome a little one through adoption – and spending days on the phone with government offices.

After having four babies take up residence in my body for nearly 4 years of my life and remaining in an unending season of “uncomfortable”…and loved every minute of it.

After the sacrifice of sleep, of a clear mind, and the deprivation of hair cut appointments and lunch dates with friends.

After suffering the loss of miscarriage before our eyes had the joy of meeting, feeling confused, and hurting for answers (I wrote this for you).

After walking out some post baby depression that rocked my world (I am SO sorry if you’ve been in this place. I wrote this for you and this for those wanting to help).

After ALL of that history, our stories are packed with purpose.

You are a seen Momma.

I escaped to my chair outside near the rush of the river and the sun in full glory. God met me there and brought to mind the value of our roles as mothers and the true purpose behind our mission from conception to graduation and on into grown up years.

He reminded me that our assignment as mothers is to be present in the time we spend with our kids, parenting their hearts, guiding their steps, and trusting them to God.

We get to be the first, longest, loudest, and probably the most repetitive voice on earth in the life of our kids. They thrive with our cheering, correcting, and counting the days together like each one matters.

The homework (us pretending to get it).

The cooking (and how fast it is devoured vs. how long it took to make it).

The sports (all the practices, games, and capri suns).

The tears (all of the defeats).

The cracking-up (and how funny farts are always- why?).

The driving (how we slam the brakes from the passenger seat).

The friends (how we love the good ones like our own).

The heart breaks (how our hearts shatter with theirs).

The victories! (and how excited we get for those wins).

The souls (how we talk to God about them and pray for their whole life).

The stories (all the times we fell asleep in toddler beds).

The play mobile (and how we step on it).

The injuries (serenity now).

The pep-talks (when we cheer for them but really are speaking to ourselves).

The disagreements (when we can’t take another sentence and say things like, “no more words”).

The eye-rolling (when daughters try to take over).

The birthdays (the home-made cakes we attempt right before the party).

The driver’s license (how much of a basket case we are the first go-round).

The talking (talk to momma all day long…we just might not be 100% listening).

You guys…the world’s opinions on how we should mother or how pretty we portray our family life to friends, small groups or the online community, will not matter as we launch young adults into the world. 

None of it.

What matters is how we actually showed up in the lives of our kids day by day.

You are a valuable Momma.

All of the days I’ve completely failed my kids, Jesus picked up the pieces and rescued me (and them) from myself.

Raising up the next generation will impact for decades to come because we did the hard labor of serving others before ourselves.

Carry on beautifully this Mother’s Day,

you exhausted first, second, and third time moms,

you mother’s making cold de sacs cool,

you moms praying to see a heartbeat,

you moms of teens oozing life,

and you now empty nester moms (come over if you are missing the chaos!).

Your hard work carries deep meaning and should be compared to no one else.

You are a chosen Momma.

Enjoy your nap, your day off, your cute handmade cards and re-gifted presents from small daughters, the hugs from teenage sons, and the gift of doing all the normal stuff for those who call you Mom.

I am proud to be on this journey with y’all.

XO ~Jen

 

 

 

 

When Momma Misses Out On Easter

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The family was up early getting ready to celebrate Easter morning like usual.

Clothes laid out,

hair fixed a little more carefully,

and sifting through all the treats left out for five kids on the dining room table.

I was finding the fun in new white jeans, a bright blue shirt, and finally some sandals in Seattle (praise), while Jesus and I were having a chat about the way He emptied out that grave.

Looking into the bathroom mirror while shaking my head at the way He appeared to His people, I thought about how much I would have LOVED to be there! Can you even?

Don’t the holidays have a way of rolling in and catching our hearts by surprise?

I don’t know about you, but I usually bank on having my “moment” with Jesus at some point in the chaos of the seasons.

You’ve been there…

Like the Christmas you weren’t prepared for, that snuck up on you and you caught a fresh glimpse of God. Maybe because you were too busy to notice Him the entire season – but all of a sudden you were there standing in the delight of the baby Jesus in the manger.

Your heart soars with joy right?

Or maybe it could be the months and hours of planning out that first birthday party! The exciting ideas, dreaming of perfect themes, and drafting up the guest list is great fun.

It all keeps us so distracted, that we don’t feel the weight of our baby moving from tiny to toddler…until that first bite of cake.

This Easter was different from any other year to date.

In years past, I (and maybe you too) anticipate Easter Sunday like no other Sunday. God has a way of gut punching my spirit and waking me up to His resurrected reality – and I so look forward to THAT moment.

All of the heavy and hard stuff comes into view and Jesus removes the doubt and fear and replaces it all with a rich hope.

This particular morning He spoke powerful reminders to me.

I heard Him say, “Jenny – we have been walking out this reality for a solid year haven’t we? Aren’t you glad that today feels like a normal celebration for your heart?”

And then it hit…For the first time ever, I didn’t feel differently about Easter this year because I had been living in the power of Jesus of Nazareth EVERY single day.

For better or for worse – I had been walking with Him.

Maybe you have lived your entire life close to Jesus like it is Easter morning on replay… I definitely have not.

Easter didn’t feel different, because I had been practicing the presence of Jesus more constantly than all of my forty-one years on earth. 

The big brothers gathered the little ones, jumped into the mini van, and we headed towards Seattle.

Mountains,  jam-packed with towering trees shouted praises to King Jesus! Fog settled up in those forests adding mystery to His resurrection.

I was enjoying the drive, but my 2-year-old was sick with a nasty cough and relentless waterfall of a running nose. I had hopes of keeping him with me for the service – but we all know how that usually turns out…so I made my swift exit to the van.

Honestly – any other Easter I would have felt so heartsick that I missed my chance to really worship, to relive the words of scripture, to sing my heart out, and praise like I hadn’t all year-long.

I definitely made up for the singing as we drove back along the scenic route, and even detoured for ice cream. Win!

Even though the timing of sickness caused me to miss our first Easter at our new church,  it was a strong day of recognizing the actual power of Christ in my day-to-day living.

Jesus used these moments to lift my eyes and dial back to all the ways He has demonstrated His sacrifice and rising from the dead power this year.

We don’t have to wait for that perfect message, that favorite song, or the “just right” vibe to draw in to all that Jesus has for us.  

We get to offer Him our highest praise Monday through Sunday all year round. May we be the ones who don’t hold out for the big moments to enjoy His powerful presence.