Kissing Worms

God has blessed our family with wisdom and glimpses of him, even amidst our mess and hard, from even the littlest in our family. Here are words from my dear husband, Michael, written to Ike on his birthday earlier this week after recently having a fishing day together.

“He taught me how to kiss worms.

Isaac turns 3 years old today. And he continues to teach me a thing or two about life.

Last month we purchased nightcrawlers to go fishing. In the month to follow we kept them on the bottom shelf of the fridge and every day or two would touch one to make sure that they were alive and well. On our third and final fishing trip we had exhausted most of our supply of worms. After catching 10 fish the worms were more of the attraction than fishing. Isaac befriended our final worm, cuddled it tight, and kissed it.

It was genuine. It was real. He wasn’t trying to be funny. He loved that worm and felt that he could care for it in the palm of his hand.

It made me question who are the worms in my life that need a kiss? Does God truly have me in the palm of his hand with all of my messiness? He does…

He saved that Worm by throwing it in the lake. He wanted to make sure it would get to live on.

Happy Birthday Ike. Your vision is breathtaking.”

From our little family to yours, we pray you lovingly find the worms in your life and treat them with the innocence and love that our children often remind us of. And if you are in a season where you feel like a worm, find someone that values you right where you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made… we are all a little dirty.


Got a Refill?!

Refill. Simply put {because you know that’s how I like life – simple}, is “to fill again”. Walking through the house this week, it seems like EVERYTHING needs refilled. From the water pitcher to the hand soap to the shampoo and the list goes on. And then, as I make tea desperately hoping for a few quiet moments while the youngsters play, I realize I too need a refill. And not a typical refill… it’s the soul, life-giving refill that looks different for every person but I truly believe there are two consistent components.

First, but not foremost, community. Sometimes I honestly look here before I look to the main piece… which is backwards but the reality. Do you know we are specifically created for community, fellowship, friendship? We are not created to walk this life solo, without a friend to be spurred on by or a partner to pray with. Community looks different, depending on the season… only a select few have stuck for years… while others are strategically placed on my path, by my Provider, at just the right time. One thing is sure – community is key to being refilled. Sometimes it’s fellow moms, other times military family, yet others musicians… you get the picture. Go with the flow. God’s got the details, right down to who answers the text or the phone or randomly cross your path.

So, I eluded to it in who has the details but here’s the main piece of being refilled: God, Father… the one and only who offers ultimate Peace, Wisdom, Calm, Strength, Energy. Where do you go to refill? The scripture that He has laid on my heart for 23.5 months and going strong {yes, exactly that time period}, is Psalm 139. It reminds me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That my God has known me since before I was even conceived and that He planned each and every one of my days.

So… where do you turn to be refilled?! What pieces of the puzzle do you need, do you need to rebuild, do you need to establish? Whatever it is, wherever you are – simply be refilled. Empty does no good, whether it’s hand soap or a heart. So, go on – refill yourself! {it’s not selfish, it’s a necessity}

SIDE NOTE: How do we refill our wonderful hand soap?!
8 oz. foaming hand soap bottle
2 Tablespoon Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Castile Soap
20 drops Thieves essential oil {from Young Living}
7 oz. water
{OR… if our budget allows, the Thieves Foaming Hand-soap from Young Living is delightful!}

Puzzle Pieces Reunited

Well, it has been more than a year! Survival mode did not fit blogging as much as I had dreamed. But, you know what, that’s ok. I kept life simple by staying unplugged from one more thing.

So much has changed, aside from obvious things. But, we’re rolling along officially 3 months in to this piece of our journey labeled reintegration in a deployment cycle. For those who think it’s all just a honeymoon and that a piece of our puzzle is back and everything fits back to together just the way it did before… I have a news flash. While yes, our puzzle is once again complete, the pieces changed shapes, colors, sometimes even the details. The honeymoon of reintegration is over, and we are back to the simple of day-to-day life which can be far from simple after being physically apart for 15 months.

So, would you reunite with us in community?! Our goal is 2 posts per week. So no, we won’t be blowing your devices up. And, we may even have a few guests join us in sharing this simple life while in community and shining Christ’s light into this world.

2016: Brace for Impact

{DISCLAIMER: there are no whines or tears, simply our reality.}

Seems like loads of dear ones are writing off 2015 rather quickly while I seemingly am clinging to it. Now, it was a rollercoaster {don’t get me wrong and not just for us but many of our closest and dearest} including plenty of counseling, seeking God hard in the hard, celebrations {of life and opportunities}, new friendships, good-byes and see-ya-laters, new beginnings, better wellness, and much more. But, to be completely honest… Thanksgiving has passed; Christmas has passed; and BAM all of the energy we were focusing on having non-deployment focused holidays came to a screeeeching halt and saying goodbye to 2015 is not as appealing for me as I anticipated.

You see, 2016, whelp… for me and my crew… will seemingly include a vast rollercoaster. Now, I’m not sure what the longest rollercoaster in the world is but I’m anticipating we will be able to contend with it {seriously}. So, I’ll be here, batting down the hatches and bracing for impact. Impact of the hard and ugly {that come with life in general but really come with deployment}. Impact for being overjoyed by our littles {because they’re simply amazing}. Impact for opportunity in our community, church, and oily world {that we’re humbled to be a part of and excited for}. Impact for intense growth in our faith journey {because despite the hard, He is always good}. SERIOUS IMPACT, folks.

These hills and valleys… there is only One who knows how deep, wide, or long. But that same One knows every hair on my head, and yours {Matthew 10:29-31}. Ordained every day before I {or you} was even conceived in my mother’s womb {Psalm 139:13-16}. Watches over me. Guides me. Comforts me. Protects me. {such a vast array of these references that I don’t feel the urge to narrow one’s thinking} So, I face 2016 bracing for impact… with by my side God… and my crew… and thankful for the now seemingly miniature rollercoasters of the year past.

And, as a side note… I can begin to grasp why many of our closest may be quick to pass off 2015. For those beautiful folks and families, we were honored to walk along side you through your hard. Your tears and smiles and life blessed us and our journey beyond measure. We look forward to enjoying your 2016 with you!

Hunting Woobies

We aren’t really hunters around here. Now, my brother and nephews keep the freezer stocked just down the road. However, us… well, the most we’ve hunted {recently anyway} is woobies. Here’s a tid-bit on our woobie love and adventure {for the sake of joy amidst the hard}!

By definition, a woobie is a military poncho liner. However, in our home, a woobie is a snuggly survival tool adorned on each of us girls’ beds. But, when training, deployment, schooling, or the such roll around for the hubs… his woobie goes with. And, whelp… like mother, like daughter, the 3.5 year old has taken to his woobie.

Alright, but ‘taken to his woobie’ is an understatement {of her lifetime}. She has become as addicted as I am; we each must simply have a woobie. You see, they’re not just a poncho liner… they are an indescribable bliss of a blanket. Not too warm, not too cold, not too heavy, not too thin, breaks the wind, yet breathes nicely.

So, you see, it’s not just a blanket in our home. It’s THE blanket. Or, as E lovingly calls it, her, “woovie”. Despite ice-cold feet she will insist on taking off her socks so she can feel her “woovie” as she snuggles in at night. Then, she nuzzles a piece of it against her face and all is well in night-night land. And should she, for some random 3-year-old reason, end up in our bed {dun, dun, DUN} she STEALS MINE! Now, as for me… it’s the base layer of blankets I use. And it all started 6.5 years ago as an early 1 year anniversary present. You see, the hubs was preparing for deployment and I had come accustomed to his much-needed woobie. So, he heroically went woobie hunting in Omaha {where we resided at the time} and was successful. He even had timely words stitched in it!

And now, as he prepares for the next go… his newest admirer {that he ‘helped make’, mind you} has become attached to his much-needed woobie. Sometimes, it’s the little things… like a slippery woobie that is otherwise perfect {in all aspects of the blanket universe}.

And so it goes… we are wobbie hunting. And, amidst all of that and as we snuggle in to our woobies {as needed each day}, we are forever grateful for the blessing of ultimate comfort and warmth from our Savior. As we dive deeper into this next leg of our journey, and undeniably ‘the hard’, we trust that He will offer more comfort than a woobie can. And, unlike a slippery woobie that inevitably escapes off the bed at some point each night, He will never leave us. But much like a woobie, which provides just the right amount in the universe of blanket bliss, the Lord will provide just the right amount of EVERYTHING on our journey. And that last point, is where we find undeniable joy and strength… that He will provide {not just comfort and warm coziness} EVERYTHING.

Signs of the Toys

Yes, ‘signs of the TOYS’!!! NOT sign of the times {although there seems to be plenty of those these days}. The hubs and I have learned a great lesson over the past year or so of me being a SAHM {stay-at-home-mom} on a full-time basis. There are signs that the toys give him as he walks through the door each day from teaching middle school hooligans {alright, they’re usually pretty good but they’re hormonal middle schoolers, folks!}.

The scenario has a few endings. So… hubby walks through the door and:

1.) Toys are all in their place! WOW! AHHH… clutter-free. Oh, ooppss, WHO hasn’t mopped these floors. Ah, where did THAT dust bunny come from?! How did THAT scratch get there?! Vacuum, where is that mechanism hiding?! {the stories bare floors tell around here can overwhelm}
MEANING: The kiddos and I have been running errands like crazy banchies and didn’t have time to enjoy our home and the blessings within. So… usually a stressed mommy and possibly under-napped children. Not to mention stories left untold, blocks left un-built, cars that didn’t get any miles put on them, music left unsung and un-played, bikes left in a lonely heap, and the list goes on. Yes these days are necessary but beware… they can become all-consuming, thinking we need to keep up with all the ‘freebie’ activities, catch the sales right when they hit, keep ourselves fed as mommies, serve our community and church and world, and the list goes on.

BUT… hang tight, here’s another sign of the toys!

2.) Toys are SCATTERED. And I mean SCATTERED. Not a crevice left untouched. Not a marker in its place {new masterpieces littered around}. The bookshelf is bare. There are simply remains of a sky-high tower {or so the 3-year-old thinks}. Watch your feet or you may go racing across the hardwood with a HotWheels. Don’t step on those musical instruments! Alphabet magnets in the bathroom? Cans of beans in the living room. And downstairs… well, let’s go fishing for the fish for the fish game! Need to mow the lawn, whelp, it will take a game of chalk hunting {unless you want colorful lawn clippings or puffs of calk as you go along}. Alright, alright, I make my point about the BEAUTIFUL mess!!!
MEANING: Well, this one is DUAL-point so, watch out! Take note of ‘the vibe’. EITHER we’ve been super productive and forgot to pick-up as we went along OR I’ve been overwhelmed and decided it was easier to join the crazies!

ALL scenarios are a blessing. And ALL lead to a simple fact:

NOT dirty dishes
{without a dishwasher}
clean laundry
{although both of the later are great accomplishments},

There are a couple of scriptures that I do my best to let the Lord empress on my soul every day about raising hearts {especially on the chaotic days}:

Psalm 127 (ESV) Particularly the passage referring to children as “arrows in the hand of a warrior” and “blessed is the man who fills his quiver.”

Ephesians 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.

{NOTE: there are 75 references to ‘heart’ in the book of Proverbs (NIV) alone… and 77 in the ESV translation!}

If I’m not engulfed in RAISING HEARTS then WHAT am I doing in the mission-field of being a mom {that mission field thing is a WHOLE other blog} with God’s children He has placed in my/our care?!

So… go, on – let the dishes pile for a day {yes, it can be a bit more stress the next time}, leave the toys scattered in every corner, and RAISE HEARTS {maybe hearts that will serve and creatively help catch-up with dishes}!

Blessings all! Go, let the toys be a sign of raising hearts!

{P.S. The picture… it’s real life, yo! Aside from the fact that I can’t get it to rotate correctly and the hubs is sitting on the couch waiting for some face time. A dear friend and I that live hours apart desperately needed to catch-up via a phone call last week. So… the littles were quiet and I sat on the kitchen floor and nearly 2 hours later… happy hearts! Also note the under-groomed dog and the pajama-clad daughter.}

Checklist of Roller-coasters

So, day by day, we really try NOT to get suckered into the ‘Debby-downer’ side of ensuing deployment, all the known and unknown. BUT, let’s just be real. There is a check-list. A check-list like none other (even more detailed than our first go-around 6 years ago), it’s all-encompassing: military, civilian, husband, daddy, son, friend, wife, kiddos, family, and so forth; covering all of the certainties, possibilities, and what-ifs.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
{makes it an opportune time to grow, yet again, in the wisdom from Matthew 6:25-34 ESV}

Dare I state the obvious that it feels good to check things off ‘to-do’ lists. EXCEPT when your checklist is on the deployment roller-coaster. And, such was the case this last week.

First, and ‘final for-now’, Veteran’s Day celebration at hubby’s NEW school – CHECK!

Then the final ‘for now’ series of concerts for hubby’s 6th-8th graders (including one of our nephews) – CHECK!

Holiday plans (near and far) – CHECK!

Then we moved into the weekend, preparing for yet another week apart due to training, when:

Fairly impromptu family photo session. …sigh… CHECK!

Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was long overdue. BUT… it’s one less ‘major’ thing on the check-list and one step closer to being one step further apart.

It was the happiest, most smile-filled, and yet depressing afternoon we’ve had in a while. Luckily, we had this AMAZING photographer {Millie B Photography… Amelia Benjamin is TALENTED, folks!!!} on our side  keeping it real, capturing giggles and sentiments {mind you, amidst a cold snap rather than 66 degree weather}. Then, we drove our separate ways for the week… and the phone call came… and the HARD HIT… and we each had a minimum 2 hour drive remaining, headed opposite directions.

Silence – CHECK.
Heavy heart – CHECK.
Tears – CHECK.
Soft words – CHECK.

That moment, that hard right there… THAT is where HIS comfort was {and is} found.

His strength.
His peace.
His love.

A great Psalm came to mind through this week – 84. I hadn’t visited it in a while but it’s power remains. Needless to say, it lit my fire a bit. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you take your head knowledge, get over the mental hard of things, and turn it into heart knowledge. He has poured more strength, peace, calm, direction, motivation, energy, and unspeakable goodness into me and our home this week. May this Psalm hydrate your valley as it has ours and remind you that should we {simply} trust, He will lead us through the valley by His strength and blessing.

Psalm 84 {click here for the whole}

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise!
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.

10 For a day in your courts is better

    than a thousand elsewhere.

12 O Lord of hosts,

    blessed is the one who trusts in you!

{NOTE: in my study Bible, it is stated that there is no known Valley of Baca but that this reference is more towards the dry spells we journey through.}

{NOTE: this image is courtesy of the Examiner… fitting enough, from an article about the Valley of Baca mentioned in Psalm 84 – check it out, it’s short and some great insight!}

Our Cycle…

Did I scare some of you off? Whelp, keep reading, I promise it won’t get too interesting for even a 3 year-old to hear. Our cycle… not our motorcycle, bicycle, tricycle, Popsicle (ok, that’s a stretch), or even a woman’s ‘monthly cycle’… but… the deployment cycle.

We honestly don’t know why deployment has a ‘cycle’, it’s much more like a roller coaster! But, it is upon us once again. Last time, we had been married just 3 months when we received official word, 8 months by the time he left home, and 11 months by the time he left country. Many a season has come and gone since then… we’ve moved, bought a house, got a dog, renovated aforementioned house into our home, been blessed with 2 amazing kiddos, said good-bye to (seemingly too) many friends as they joined Jesus, career changes galore, all the while being filled more and more with God’s light and glory.

But, I digress… we’re officially in the deployment cycle again. It’s going to be ok, really (or so I keep meditating on). We just feel like our understanding is at square one with this cycle (once again)… kids change everything. As much as this cycle could disappear into a cloud of smoke at nearly anytime between now and ‘boots on ground’, we know one thing – we have to prepare like there will be ‘boots on ground’. Prepare our hearts, minds, bodies, home, children, family, friends, dog, seemingly our world, to be separated by time and space but NOT to be separated from Christ.

My ‘sisters’ in Bible studies have been bombarded by my mentioning the impact that Psalm 139 has had on my journey since June. So, once again… I find comfort in the whole but also specifically the following:

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
        all the days ordained for me were written in your book
        before one of them came to be.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
        test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
        and lead me in the way everlasting.

In the end, here we go. Basics to put on the record of THIS deployment cycle: married 7 years, 1 dog, 3 year old daughter, 16 month old son. Not going to try to hide it… I may need a bit more of God’s oil for my ray of light and that may mean I borrow from those near and dear every now and again. And, despite all of these realities, there is one that shines brighter – God’s glory and plan.

Jeremiah 29:11

In His Love & Light,

His Lighthouse’s Simple Beam

A song has been on my heart, in my soul, and reverberating through my mind for a few months now: “My Lighthouse” by Ireland’s Rend Collective.

Really, just a blurb on this. If our Father God is our lighthouse and the true source of light who equips each of us with a purpose to bring others to Him, then aren’t we yet a simple beam of the lighthouse’s lantern?!

As a simple beam of this lantern in His lighthouse we are called to continually shine, in all circumstances (and for a lighthouse, especially in the raging storms). No, we don’t have to plaster a smile on our face and it won’t always be easy to shine His light. Nor do we have to provide the oil to maintain our beam of light but rather grow in dependence on Him. And, this makes me think that we must be in constant check to see if our wicks are long enough to reach Him, the source of oil, especially when wading through a storm.

Consider an excerpt from Psalm 84 (NIV):

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

Now ponder a snippet of insight surrounding these three verses from my Life Application Study Bible: “No specific valley has been identified with Baca. Because Baca can mean “weeping,” it may have been a symbolic reference to the times of struggles and tears through which people must pass on their way to meet God.”

Turning to Him amidst your “Valley of Baca” ensures your wick is long enough to reach the oil and enable you to continue to shine! Let Him be your caretaker and oil and in-turn be a simple beam of His lighthouse through calm days and raging storms. May our wicks be long enough to reach Him at ALL times.

P.S. I really must applaud God for the talents he gave to Rend Collective and their entire staff (recording, video, you name it)! What well-balanced and dare I say, much appreciated, unconventional to main-stream instrumentation. Not to mention the creative and outside-of-comfort zone set for the video!

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