The hardest part about being a Mom…

I vividly remember the weekend that I knew something had to change. We were away at an adults only weekend with my college besties and their husbands and Josh (my hubs) announced he was headed out to ride jet skis with the guys. Immediately, I was so anxious, I was almost shaking. Please hear me, my man wasn’t about to ride out into a turbulent shark infested ocean. It was a lake in the middle of Oklahoma without so much as a whitecap. I grabbed him, white knuckled, and begged him not to go. I just knew he would die. My girlfriend’s husband looked right at me, and with the tact that only a dude could muster, he said, “Stop it Maddi. He’s a grown ass man.” How in the world did I get to a place where I was scared of everything, all the time? Gosh I’m thankful for that call back to reality.

I wasn’t a scared teenager. I was actually fairly reckless. But two kids and four years into motherhood, it felt like the ground had fallen out from beneath me. Our youngest had spent a week in the hospital with Pneumonia & RSV. We all caught her pneumonia. We lost our precious baby when I was 11 weeks pregnant. My husband was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Over the course of a year, I went from care-free to a Mom who spent my free time googling every symptom I  spotted in my kids, convinced we were all one diagnosis away from dying of a deadly disease.

As one could only assume, my butt ended up on a counselor’s couch. I spent the next few months there untangling the trauma I had experienced. But fear had made room in my house, like an unwelcome guest, it showed up with boxes and moved on in. I would imagine some of you think I’m nuts right about now. But others are just nodding your heads with tear-stained cheeks. I’ve become convinced that nothing steals a mother’s joy like fear.

   Fear of failing our kids – fear of losing our kids – fear of our kids experiencing pain – fear of  not being enough – fear of being too much – fear of dropping the ball – fear of missing the important moments – fear of being anything less than excellent – fear of sickness – fear of disaster – fear of accidents – fear of fear – fear of being misunderstood.

   Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

    It’s the sign hanging in my living room so I can preach it back to my heart day after day. Slowly, through time in counseling, prayer, friends and a patient husband sowing into my life, I began to find my way out.

I remember sitting with a friend, who was a short season ahead of me, and telling her, fear is this ugly terrible black pond. I saw in her life that she was wading in knee-deep and then turning around and getting out.  But I was stuck in the middle, treading water, and I couldn’t figure out how to get out. The water was too thick. The unknown was too scary.  My dear friend, wisely told me, “I’ve learned that thanksgiving is my way out.”

The shower became my hiding place. When fear would wrap its grip around my throat, I would get in the shower and cry. Out loud I would talk with my Rescuer, “You’ve told me to be anxious about nothing. But talk to you about everything. To thank you and ask for what I need. And you promise to give me peace and protect my heart and mind from fear.” My feelings told me to be afraid, but I was learning that my feelings were great indicators but terrible dictators. I was in charge of what I would believe. In the scalding hot showers, I would just start in with the thank you’s. “Thank you for water. Hot water. Dinner. Hot dinner. Grass growing. Kid’s laughing. A husband to fight with. A husband to make up with. Sweet moments with the kids before bed time….” and so the list went on.

Before I knew it, when the crap would hit the fan, and a kid was naked and screaming about socks feeling funny, and another one needed a bottle, I was talking with my Rescuer all day, out loud, “Thank you for this little one’s loud voice. May she learn to use it to defend the powerless. Thank you for baby hands and hot coffee. Thank you for new morning mercies and your forever friendship. Thank you that you promise to listen every single time I call out to you.”

Years have passed and the black pond of fear still calls to me. Daily. Sometimes every single minute. I have four little bitties who need endless amounts of everything from me. My baby ate a penny a few months back and I recently had to spend time on the phone with my insurance company convincing them that I was in fact in the room, she wasn’t in the care of a negligent babysitter, and they do need to pay her ER bill since it was all my fault. (That was a two beer and a glass of wine kind of night) Immediately, I could feel it – fear of failing my kids –  and yet thanksgiving (not a fourth glass of wine) is still my way out. “Thank you Daddy that You were there and saw what I didn’t. You helped the penny pass without surgery. But if she needed surgery, You would have met us there and your presence would have been our comfort. And if the worst case scenario were to happen, You would have brought her home, and one day soon, we will live with You there, together forever because of Your goodness.”

I don’t think that courage is the opposite of fear. I’ve come to believe that the opposite of fear is faith. Faith is a tunnel I walk through. It carries me from the grip of fear straight to the throne of the Risen King. I think thats why scripture reminds us that “Without faith it is impossible to please God. Because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith – I get to choose what I believe.

And if I know anything by now, I know that what I water grows. If I water my fear they will get the flu, I just get more scared. If I water my fear that I am not a good mom, I only see more evidence of that. If I water my fear that God isn’t going to come through for us in the end, I just keep trying harder to meet everyone’s needs. But if I water my faith in His goodness, I start seeing seedlings of it everywhere. They grow into flowers and all of a sudden, I’m following Him into the hard and messy because I am just sure that HE WILL SHOW UP. AND BE GOOD AT BEING GOD. AND BE KIND. AND MERCIFUL. AND SO VERY FAITHFUL.

I’ve noticed lately that on my cell phone video’s of the kids and I, I am laughing, like, a lot. Theres this verse in the Bible, in Proverbs 31, about how a godly woman can laugh without fear of the future. I used to tell God that I thought she sounded like a straight up idiot because there was plenty to be afraid of and that woman didn’t know that Dr. Google would always always always bring bad news. I didn’t pray fervently to become her. I actually still think she sounds a bit intense. But over the last 5 years, God broke something in me. He’s becoming strong in my weakness. I laugh more lately because I am convinced that HE IS PERFECT LOVE and He will always kick fear in the butt.

My oldest just asked what I was writing about. Laughing a little, I said, “I am writing about how I used to be a really scared Momma all the time but now, because of God’s kindness, I am not as scared.” She just rolled her eyes and walked away. And I really think we are all going to be ok. B68E3B33-ACD0-4458-90AC-D8C0FAE8C29D

 

 

Advertisements

A Weekend in Our Life

Without fail, every time one of the kiddos gets a puke bug and I’m stuck up holding the barf bucket all night, I get lost in re-reading old blog posts about our family. Not because I’m a narcissist – at least I hope not – but because it always reminds me how friggin fast these years are flying by and it gives me hope that the puking will cease. My favorite blog posts to go back and read aren’t the ones that are more popular – they are our Week in the Life posts because I forget the little moments that make up our ordinary. (Check out a few old ones here and here)

This year feels like my life is crazy and being spent herding cats so a Week in the Life post felt out of reach. Instead, I documented this weekend with my phone camera and put the pics together for a Weekend in Our Life post. Enjoy! Or don’t because we both know I will next time a kid turns green in the face : )

Friday February 1, 2019

c7QMtVkRRfKamCTo%XLY1QSometime around 1, Abi cried and came to our bed and I grabbed this picture because sweet snuggly Daddy’s arms are the best place to sleep.

9WwdusUgRa+8Qi4rntjPQQ

Josh let me sleep in because I spoke at Cru on Thursday night and got home late. So he woke me up with a cup of coffee at 7 am and asked for help with the girl’s hair.

Got the girls off to school by 7:50 and Josh had an hour at home before his work meetings started for the day. He played with Abs and Micah while we talked weekend schedules, caught up on life, and I vacuumed up dog hair off all the floors.

Josh left for work at 9 am and Jackie brought over baby Chloe at 9:30 for a visit. She is THE SWEETEST!!! We chatted and chased babies for the morning.

Micah turned on Incredibles 2 at some point around 11 because he thought we were boring.

Sh88vnofTsC69jeGsHq17Q

Rebecca swung by around 12 for a quick cup of coffee and Chloe snuggles.

hL4NoSSBQzmuhU2ZuTnkyA

Micah’s movie ended and he wanted to snuggle the baby. He adored her and said, “Wow hers eyes is soooooo beautiful.” Then I gave him candy and bubble gum because he is insanely sweet.

EaRDQM%vR1yhVoFsB51bsA

Josh got home from meetings around 2 and grabbed a quick turn loving sweet Chloe before heading to his home office.

7Pt8SYqnR1ya387y%cPNbg

Jackie and Chloe took off and headed home around 2:30 and Abs wanted some blueberries. Josh left to pick up the girl’s from school and we knew they would be super excited because they both had friends coming home with them for a fun playdate and pizza dinner.

Sj4uyi1PSkybwXU1HLmcHA

Lydia and her friend Jules got dressed up in TuTu’s right away and made a play dough bake shop. The girls are usually pretty great about letting Micah hang too. He usually plays Puppy and makes them call him Scout. Josh worked on his phone on the couch for a while, answering emails but keeping me company at the same time!

iHYtcAjwSmaLoBdsFJ1%ZQ

At 5:15 pizza got delivered and two sweet KU students came over to join us. Nate and Paige were so fun and even played silly dinner table games with us and read books to the littles.

8Y03tAAKSg6rbQrjtcln2w

Micah talked the big girls into watching Incredibles 2 again. (Thanks for the movie, Netflix!)

IMG_3837

Micah started crashing, aka kicking sisters in the face, so we read books until Katy and Jules parents stopped by to pick them up at 8.

hF0cVXjqSASvnYItY521BQ

Girl’s showered quickly and we read a bedtime story. (Currently reading Pilgrim’s Progress )

Saturday February 2, 2019

CNXiL0BRRaqpLCc8IgA

Abs, Josh and Jack our puppy woke up at 5:45 am.

W9oiYe1bTSeolKG7SD5UVg

My alarm went off at 6:15 and I went straight for the coffee. I woke the kids up at 6:45 and they got dressed and made themselves breakfast (I have a soapbox speech about the kids making their own meals sometimes if you ever want to hear it….nah, you probably don’t).

Our friend Sara came over at 7:45 and we headed to a women’s conference at Eagle Creek in Lee’s Summit. My SIL and BIL and cousins attend there and Sara’s sis is the youth pastor. Josh dropped she and I off at 9 and took the 4 kids to our fam’s house for a cousin playdate.

OlsxN8ckRWGlFLvo1CXVVg

I sent Josh a selfie and instantly regretted it because CRAZY EYES.

fullsizeoutput_6321

I got to talk to the youth girls about God’s embarrassing, absurd, relentless love for them. What a privilege.

IMG_3840

Around 11 Josh sent a picture as proof Abi was still happy.

IMG_3838

After the conference was over around 11:45 we left with my sweet SIL Natalie and headed to David’s office – Cornerstone Dermatology (go see him! He’s the best!) – where he and Josh were hanging some new artwork.

IMG_3839

We made a Starbucks run, totally for me, but we shared and brought the kiddos vanilla steamers. We headed home around 1:15 because Jack the pup needed to be let out to pee….: )

+zvJr5ovSX6JF%3Xx2jodg

Ruth and I snuck away to Josh and I’s bedroom to watch Harry Potter 4 and we cried when Cedric died. Then we talked about how Heaven is the sweetest promise and how thankful we are that Jesus took the sting out of death for us. We are always trying to find one-on-one time with each kid and man is it hard to carve out but its so special when it happens.

Dinner was a hodge podge of chips, carrots, sandwiches and yogurt tubes and I threw it together while the kids whined because the movie took too long.

frMInnFnQvafZ3qaq8SChw

Not much to say here except crazy hair girl needed a bath.

TT5yzLpqQfe%cYjrOL0dig

I started feeling reeeeaaaallllll tired but it was only 6:45 so I tried to decide if I wanted wine or coffee to make it a few more hours. Wine won. But I didn’t have any….so…..

4gVMSSQPTOKcVZiLO+UKdw

At 7, while Josh got down the littles, I ran out with Lydia to get supplies for her 100 day of school project and WINE.

Home by 8. Enjoyed the much worked for drink and headed to bed – Josh was already asleep! LOL. Dude, the days are long around here.

Sunday February 3, 2019

Woke up Sunday morning around 7 to find that Lydia had already completed her project. Girl is going to run the world some day because she hits the ground running before 6 daily.

UQN2A6YxTkuRoBN48%jPEg

Josh headed to the gym at 8 and I opened the amazon package that was supposed to be Abi’s valentine present…but let’s be honest…it was more for me than for her….Ladies and Gents, I present to you, bell bottom striped overalls.

HLCoskm+Ql2zccwfNT5g3Q

Church at 10:30. Always so good for my soul to be with family. Let out at 12 and I begged Josh for a cheeseburger.

IMG_3878

IMG_3882

Made the cutie booty kiddos smile in the parking lot. I ADORE THESE SWEET ONES!!!!!!

buDysTqxQLqh3+LPIk2s7g

Headed home and decided to clean the garage a bit because the weather was so nice.  But fed Abs a bottle and she wanted to snuggle. Josh sent me a text from the garage “Where are you???” I sent him back this with the shoulder shrug emoji…..

Finally joined Josh and helped out. Kids played with neighbors. Came inside at 2:30 and put Abs down for a nap and the kids helped me make cookies and fruit with dip so we could feed students later and share with friends.

8ao3ELNKR0mIuNMOkKo9zg

3:50, loaded up family 30 min late and headed to our friend’s house to play watch the Super Bowl. The game was VERY unexciting so the kids decided we should all surf down the stairs on mattresses for some excitement. Gosh I love these friends and their fun kiddos.

Left before the game was over at 6:20 to make it home in time for Bible Study with some friends from Haskell FCA.

puAhPRRmTmiYXPII%5uGCQ

Josh got kiddos showered and put to bed while Ali, Nicole and I read Philippians 1 and talked about what it means to follow Jesus. These girls are GOLD.

They headed home around 10 and Josh and I talked till midnight – thanks to my 7 pm cup of coffee I had lots of energy.

Wow, that weekend went by fast! Ok, off to get Micah from preschool and I guarantee you that my boy is going to beg for a cheeseburger so I need to grab a healthy snack on my way out the door to try and convince him otherwise….Thanks for stopping by!

Things I’m Loving….

A convo I often have with girlfriends is, “What are you loving lately? What new things do I need to know about your life? Or what products do I need to know about?  What shows or songs should I check out?” Every now and then I post a few on the blog to share with friends….

So here is my December 2018 version of things I’m loving….

JP – I really like this hubs of mine. Like a lot. Time alone is really hard for us to come by so at the very top of my list is alone time with him when it happens! 

IMG_2676

Everything Harry Potter – It all started back in college when I read the Harry Potter books and fell madly in love like half the other people on planet earth. Then last summer we let our kids watch the first movie and we went to a Harry Potter themed cafe in Greece and they fell madly in love. Now we are making our way through the books while reading aloud to the kids some nights after dinner. So it only made sense that Halloween this year that our whole family would be HP characters. And being the bestie that she is, Stephanie and her kiddos jumped in on the fun in a heartbeat. I think I look through these pics once a week still and smile ear to ear. So you can pretty much guarantee that some of the kids Christmas presents will be Harry Potter themed because I cannot be stopped.

IMG_2874IMG_2872IMG_2873IMG_2875IMG_1620

Zennis! – Ruth and I like to sneak away with books to Starbucks because we are both bookworms through and through. A few friends told me that I should check out Zenni Optical when we found out she needed reading glasses. We love them and the price was lower than anywhere else!

IMG_2953

Thrifting – In Heaven, I hope my job is buying junk at thrift stores and fixing it up to go in people’s homes. So on Black Friday when there was a half off sale at one of my favorite spots I bought this little house for 1 dollar and turned it into an advent calendar for the kids. It makes me insanely happy. However its December 5 and the amount of screaming and yelling thats happened the last few days to decide which of the three oldest kids gets to move Santa to the next box points to me being an idiot for thinking an advent calendar would be fun for all. (PS if you are ever in Raymore, MO check out the Bargain Barn!) zBXRT6CoQ6KKFKrMNQKBVQDFwuIAQaQ7+SsJO6xX3Mhw

My new Aldi Sweeper – Guys, I bought this thing on a whim at Aldi and Micah fell in love. My boy sweeps all the floors for me multiple times a day and thinks its a blast. And this has been going on for weeks. Now I don’t know how I survived without a cordless sweeper!
Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 2.01.00 PM

Big Sisters- They are the best. When Josh was out of town last week and Abi kept waking up at 5, Lydia took a turn one morning entertaining her without me even asking. She just said that Abi crying made her sad so she hopped in her crib with her. And Ruth takes Micah on all the bike rides lately. Gosh I love these kids and their love for each other. 4z1sNL3uQWi5cva8p+yc5QRH+ZrOQ4Q2ux4tPvzUQGqgTiDdR9sqTVWOaFS0AujQLgWbWT7vZ5R%iAXYh1YDhg3g

Advent!- I love advent. Let every heart prepare Him room. Yes, please. We are having fun with our morning devotionals most mornings and the kids are learning new words like “almighty” (See my last post for a link for free advent ornament download)  IMG_3130

Lastly, just please give me all the paper white and amaryllis bulbs. My paper whites got their first bloom on our first morning of advent and my amaryllis bulb has a tiny green shoot that grows a little every day. If you have any friends that could use a pick-me-up these would be the best ever thoughtful gifts for them. They are inexpensive but beautiful! za7U4XHsR+ysbBv7o9PZsA

Ok what about you, friends? Anything you are loving lately that I need to know about?

Christmas traditions that don’t make me want to pull my hair out…

   I don’t know if you have heard…Christmas is coming! Ha. Its not likely you haven’t noticed. Reminders are everywhere. Stores are lined with all the things and all the parents are listening to our kids tell us all the presents on their Christmas list.

   Friends, I am so here for it! I am a holiday fanatic. I love them all. Any reason to celebrate and I AM IN. I remember years ago when our oldest, Ruth, was a baby and Josh and I had so much fun brainstorming all the ideas for Christmas traditions our family would start.

   As more and more kiddos have joined our family we have tried to stream line our Christmas traditions – we skip the ones that don’t have sentimental or significant meaning to us and we go big on the ones that do! I know this looks different for everyone, so I thought I would share our family’s favorite Christmas traditions:

IMG_0924

Advent

Advent is the season of four weeks leading up to Christmas that Christians in some denominations celebrate the coming of King Jesus. I love celebrating Advent with my kids because it builds anticipation and gives us extra time to linger in the miracle of our savior putting on flesh and coming to save us. I created these advent ornaments with different names of Jesus and verses from the Bible for our kids. You can download them for free and print them to use too if you want! Just click here. We read the verse, pray, and color the picture before breakfast each morning in December. Watching our kids prepare room in their own hearts, seeing them sit in the wonder of our King coming to dwell among us is the most special part about the whole season to me.

  1. IMG_1485IMG_1162

IMG_7255

Presents

IMG_1336

We do 4 Christmas presents for each of our kids. Something you need, something to read, something you want, and something to wear. Our kids know what to expect and it helps my husband and I stay grounded and not go overboard. We try to reach into this and teach our kids a lesson each year so we always sit down as a family an talk about how we don’t have any actual NEEDS the way that most of the people around the world do. We have food, shelter, and clothing and so many people don’t. So for the last 3 years our kids when given the option have opted out of their “need” present and we have picked a cause as a family to donate money to instead. One place our kids love to give to is: https://www.chinaorphans.org

  1. IMG_1527IMG_1539

Santa/St. Nicholas

We have always told our kids that Santa is SO fun to pretend. Just like Mickey Mouse and Barbie. We love Santa – he’s so fun! We’ve just chosen to tell them he isn’t real. But we do tell them about St. Nicholas. We watch the veggie tales movie about him and read stories about him. Tradition tells of St. Nicholas leaving gold coins in stockings of people in need. So Santa doesn’t leave any presents under our tree but our kids get gold chocolate coins in their stocking every year. I am confident in our choices here but it has made for an awkward moment or two when well meaning older people stopped toddler Lydia in the store and said, “what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas little girl?” To which she would joyfully yell, “Santa is dead!” UGH we had follow up convos about keeping that to ourselves… But they still love to use their imagination so here they are last year sleeping by the tree waiting for Santa to come on Christmas Eve.

IMG_1541

White Christmas

It’s pretty simple. Just our family favorite Christmas movie. So we always watch it the day or two before Christmas. Its. Just. So. Good.  (We also LOVE the cartoon Prep and Landing and always have a movie night with our besties to watch it over Christmas break)

IMG_1489

Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade

We live in Lawrence and every year there is an old fashioned Christmas Parade with beautiful horses on Mass St. Its this coming Saturday and we will be there! It is the most hallmark-movie-like thing you will ever see. We love it and we have fun memories of going as a family every year. Ps. the horse poop stinks as bad as you think it would.

IMG_1217IMG_7108IMG_7096IMG_0309IMG_1136

Hot Chocolate Christmas Light Rides

Probably 3 times during December my husband and I will surprise the kids once they are in their jammies and ready for bed with a surprise thermos of hot chocolate and loading in the van for a cruise around our town looking for all the decorated houses. The kids get SO excited. We belt out Christmas carols and ohhh and aww over all the lights.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

Maybe one day when our kids are older, more sophisticated, and less…well…clumsy we will graduate to making our own cookies but until then, we use Graham crackers, store bought icing, and candy and go to town making our own gingerbread houses. The kids love it and we do too! Here’s a link to instructions if you need them!

IMG_7331

A Feast For the King

Heaven is going to be the best celebration ever. And we feel like any time we get the smallest taste of Heaven here on earth, it surely delights God. So we want to celebrate Jesus’ birthday up big time. On Christmas Eve we prepare a whole spread of appetizers – tons of them – and we get all dressed up set up a fancy table to eat. We play Christmas music and light candles and feast with joy knowing that our Redeemer has come. After church we break out the karaoke machine and sparkling cider and keep the party going. (Plus we have found that leftovers on Christmas are our jam!)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_0461IMG_1504IMG_7360IMG_1514Mom & Dad Devos

Advent is such a precious time tuck away with God – Bible in hand – to remember and process that I was once lost and alone and now I am found and kept safe in all of His promises. Here a few resources Josh and I love for our daily advent time: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus Devotional, Greatest Gift Book, & Come Let Us Adore Him.

Stockings

Ok so this year, we are trying something new. We exchanged names as a family to fill each others stockings. We wanted our kids to get in on the big picture of ‘its better to give than to receive’. Each kid will get a private night out of shopping with mom or dad and 15 dollars to fill a stocking with. Lydia has Ruth, Ruth has Mom, Mom has Micah, Micah has Dad, Dad has Lydia – and Abi is totally getting a stocking full of baby food because she will be pumped. I will let you know how it goes – might be a new family favorite or might go downhill fast!

So, if you are on the hunt for ways to celebrate our coming King or you are going nuts trying to figure out what your yes’ will be this year – maybe some of our favorites will be a good fit for you. But I am sure others won’t! Thats ok! And please share the wealth… leave a comment and let me know what your favorite traditions are too!christmascard2017

When life stinks a little…(or a lot)

As the kids and I drove home from a late night Target trip for baby formula, I rolled down my window and felt for the first time this season, the crisp autumn breeze that will carry winter in on its tail. I loved it and hated it at the same time. I love fall and all the things that come with it. Sweet September has been a month full treasures for our family. But winter is coming and knowing that the darkness will be thick makes me want to curl up in bed and hibernate.

I’ve been reminded this week that there is no sure foundation for me outside of the Gospel. Maybe with the change of seasons, a new unknown, God brings a reminder of what I can count on. When I try to find security, identity, or peace in my performance, my possessions, or my relationships, I wind up feeling homeless. But when I make myself at home in the good news of the Gospel, I can rest with a full heart.

Thursday morning I read a Proverb, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (14:4)  And scribbled next to the tiny font was a note I had jotted down years ago, “The Gospel thrives in the messiness of my life.”

My girlfriends and I met for coffee later that morning and shared our messes. I’m so thankful for them. We are all juggling ALL the things. We talked about kids with anxiety and husbands we love who drive us a little crazy (and being married to us  isn’t exactly a walk in the park – ha!). We talked about houses and cars and jobs. We talked about being tired and overwhelmed and confused. The proverb I had read that morning was swirling through my brain.IJeUEkq5Q2S5VMdDH90zlA

Oxen or cattle basically stink. They are messy and smell like literal sh**. Frankly, there are some things in my life right now that smell exactly the same. Broken cars, hard parenting, sleepless nights, anxious thoughts, empty bank accounts, and the list goes on.  To be honest, I spend a lot of time praying that they would all get better, easier, lighter.

But with a strong ox, comes a large harvest.

I’m being reminded that I need the mess. It’s a must. A mandate. I don’t even think God calls it a mess. I think He just calls it life lived well. It doesn’t stress him out or exhaust him. He isn’t plugging his nose wishing it would get cleaned up.

In the mess of the stable, two thousand years ago, in the midst of the sh**, is where He chose to arrive on the scene. He clearly isn’t offended by it.

The Good News that I am loved dearly by God, spoken for by the precious blood of His Son, and set free to live in his tenderness meets me and keeps me in the mess. The Gospel is where I am truly at home. Dirty dishes piled on my counter, utter mom fails, harsh words, a muffin top that won’t go away, and some really abrasive words and thoughts, they are all safe and sound wrapped up in the loving arms of Abba, who is so busy loving me that He doesn’t have time to be disappointed I can’t clean up my mess.

When my Bitty wrote me a story this morning, all of her ‘S’s were backwards. I wasn’t annoyed or disappointed in her lack of perfect penmanship, I was delighted by all of her. I have a million backwards ‘S’s in my life right now and I bet you do too. I just wanted to invite you this morning, to quit trying to fix them all. And quit trying to sweep your mess under the rug! Right here, this is where the Gospel is alive and well. This is where the love of God meets us and keeps us. This is where we can cozy up to God and tell Him all the things and ask Him all the questions. No need to clean it up or make it Pinterest perfect. No need to hustle or hoard. Just rest here. Or come over and rest with me in my mess if you would rather! As long as you don’t mind the smell of my mess, I promise I won’t mind the smell of yours either.

And as always, here are a few pictures of life lately….thanks for stopping by!

IMG_2391YIdfILmlRjeg0U5T+F9a5w4xO3CzrRSr+36476TZiWVwIMG_2497IMG_1431

 

 

 

 

Back to School

After a whirlwind July & August, all of a sudden school is back in session and I can’t believe how quickly my kids are growing up.

IMG_2015The first to go back to school was our BIG BOY. He was SO excited. He loves learning! And we are so thrilled to be back at our beloved preschool after a year off last year. His sweet teachers have known him since he was 2 days old. I have a feeling he is going to be loved on BIG time this year.
IMG_2017Micah’s teacher sent me a picture on his first day just to calm my worries and show me how happy my baby-errrr- big boy was.
IMG_2049Next up, KU is back in session. Our littles wanted to go with us to Union Fest to tell all the new freshman that they can be a part of Cru!
IMG_2039Our crazy clan. 5jZmFZtLR42Ufd+clGAMYQSome back to school shopping with our Burgess fr-amily. 194Wu%+2QrOuf8p4HZnFmALydia and Baya have BFF necklaces and it makes my heart want to explode. IMG_2076Abi and I got to go to Haskell with Dad and invite students to FCA. IMG_2077Abi thinks Daddy is just about the greatest.IMG_2086And yesterday my big girls started 1st and 3rd grade. I didn’t have time to cry because it was a mess of a morning! I didn’t buy back to school lunch stuff. Lost water bottles. Their new skirts were WAY too big and falling off. Closed toed shoes are all thats allowed at school but they were all too small… oh well. The chaos kept my tears away! And none of it mattered much anyways. They were thrilled to be back. IMG_2085Ruth preferred a picture outside and requested no hugs or kisses in front of friends. I begrudgingly obliged because she is sweet as can be. IMG_2087Bitty was so so so excited to get back to her girlfriends. She came home talking a million miles a minute and telling us ALL the stories. IMG_2091They gave me lots of snuggles yesterday after school and I was really happy about it. IMG_1880And now I get two whole mornings a week alone with this precious chunk and I am so thrilled. Today we celebrated by going to her 8 month check up and now she is snoozing after a booster shot. Post shot naps are the BEST because they are always extra long. So this Mama is munching on some granola, catching up on work emails, and updating the blog while Micah watches some after school tv.

I hope everyone else has had a great time getting back into the swing of school! Thanks for stopping by to read about our four favorite kiddos!

Our Big Fat Greek Summer

We have officially been back in the US for 3 days and we are slooowwwlyyy recovering from jet lag. As we take it easy at home, I have been trying to process how fast the last 6 weeks in Greece flew by!

I know its nutty to try to sum up 6 super full weeks in 1 blog post but I’m gonna go for it!

IMG_1222

As I look through the pictures I am about to share, it strikes me that it looks like we took a 6-week-vacation and I want to clear up how NOT TRUE that is. We worked our tails off this summer loving and caring for our American students as well as going on campus meeting Greek students. It was both our honor and joy to do our job! However, I find it inappropriate to share pictures of private moments with people whose stories aren’t mine to divulge, so instead, I mostly share pictures of my sweet family.

So even though you can’t see pictures of our ministry this summer, you can rejoice with us that our students and staff initiated LITERALLY THOUSANDS of spiritual conversations with Greek college students! We had the privilege of building friendships with Greek students. We met precious Orthodox and Protestant followers of Jesus who we got to connect with the ministry there. We also met hundreds of atheist who had strong opinions but respectfully dialogued with us about considering the possibility that Jesus loves them. Thank you for your prayers while we spent time in Athens this summer. In heaven we are certain you will meet Greeks that you prayed for! Here are some fun team pictures:

IMG_0297IMG_1234

On to a quick recap of our amazing summer in Greece…

Travel

Our travel from Kansas to Greece with four small kids was about what you would expect. Very little sleep, a few cranky moments, but overall the kids did great. We left the states at 6am and arrived in Athens 21 hours later but it was only 10am. That first day was struggle town and I nearly had a panic attack when we landed and I saw my kids trying to navigate the chaos of the city.  But sleep was a gift that night! And it all got better from there.IMG_1105IMG_0273

City Life

After a few days, the kids had mastered stopping at every intersection to look for cars and staying back when the metro was arriving full steam ahead. I also learned the greek number for 911 and it calmed by mama heart down. Ha. Praise Jesus I never had to dial it.IMG_0275keeping kids alive on the metro is no small task…IMG_0282

We lived in a neighborhood outside of Athens city center called Zografou. We loved having a quiet(ish) dead end street to live on off one of the major streets called Papagou. Right across the street was a bakery and we quickly made friends with the women who worked there. They were such treasures. They loved our kids and always helped us when we had questions like, “Where is the closest park with actual grass?” (really rare) or “Is this beach we are headed to actually open and operating?” (we had a bad experience early on)IMG_1112Our favorite stop for Gyros IMG_1202IMG_0292A pic off our kitchen balconyIMG_1181IMG_0288Cooking for students is my favorite no matter what country we are in. Some of our best days were spent with a full house and filling student’s bellies!

Learning a New Culture 

I loved watching my kids handle learning a new culture with grace and joy. We spent lots of walks through the city singing together quietly “Lord, I need you, Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. ..” while trying to find a certain restaurant or open market to buy food. The grandmas in Greece took a special liking to our family because it is EXTREMELY rare to be in your thirties and have four kids in the city. They would squeeze my kids cheeks while spouting off some old wives tale about being too pretty while pretending to spit on them. It didn’t phase the kids too much and only a few ladies actually pried Abi out of my arms to snuggle her and kiss her cheeks. I’m so full of gratitude that my kiddos got to learn about people who are different than them and handle situations differently. What a gift for them to be able to love others well even when their lives are very different.

IMG_0279Our students took language classes and Ruth joined in! IMG_1378Living life with our co-leaders was so fun! IMG_1376IMG_1133Chocolate waffles are life.

Surprise Visitors

A few weeks in to the summer, Grammy and Grandpa Fieleke surprised us and told us that they were coming to visit! WE WERE SO THRILLED. Having them come visit was definitely one of the highlights of our summer. It was so fun introducing them to American students and our Greek friends. And our kids were beyond excited to show them all the Greek foods and culture that they had fallen in love with. IMG_1639IMG_0481IMG_0496

Making Memories

Basically, any time we had a day off, we headed to the coast. The Aegean Sea was breathtaking and it was the place our kids were the happiest. It was shallow for such a long ways out that we never had to worry for their safety and the water was crystal clear. On days where Josh had a morning or afternoon free, we would take time to explore the city as a family. One thing that the Lord did in my heart this summer was remind me how precious it is to be present in the moment – in the US I am the queen of multitasking. But something about being overseas and being fully present with Josh and the kids stirred in me a fresh desire to slow down my life here in the states.

IMG_1220IMG_1309IMG_1322Sweet birthday girl Ruth! IMG_1368Many afternoons were spent in courtyards chasing pigeons. IMG_0314IMG_0328IMG_1528IMG_1479Ermou StreetIMG_0468IMG_1602My kids consumed a ridiculous amount of soda this summer…IMG_0278Mars Hill! IMG_0280Our first time finding grass! IMG_0281IMG_0283IMG_0284IMG_0285IMG_0286IMG_0289IMG_0290IMG_0291IMG_0295IMG_0296IMG_0299IMG_0301IMG_0303IMG_0307The day I forgot my baby carrier…I improvisedIMG_0308IMG_1677IMG_0309IMG_0310

Amazing Hydra

And as our summer mission ended, we sent our American students home on a plane and got the amazing opportunity to travel with our co-leaders for a quick family vacation. Once you are in Greece, travel, food, and lodging are very inexpensive. So for about the same price as a Branson vacation, we were able to take a ferry to the Greek Island of Hydra for 3 nights! Hydra is the most amazing place I’ve ever visited. The island has ZERO cars or bikes, so you can only travel by foot or donkey! It is majestic. Our time there was such a sweet gift from the Lord and we truly showed up in the states feeling refreshed.

IMG_0311IMG_0312Literally the best day of Micah’s life. IMG_0313IMG_0314His dreams coming true riding a donkey through the city…IMG_0315IMG_0316This girl waited all summer to buy a hat and she wore it every minute from this point forward.IMG_0317Heaven must be something like this..IMG_0318IMG_0319IMG_0320The view from the roof of our Air bnb.IMG_0321IMG_0322IMG_0323Dad life. IMG_0324IMG_0325IMG_0326IMG_0330IMG_0331IMG_0334He is officially a threenager.
IMG_0335IMG_0336IMG_0337IMG_0338IMG_0339IMG_0340IMG_0341IMG_0342IMG_0343IMG_0345IMG_0347IMG_0348IMG_0349IMG_0350
IMG_0352If visiting Hydra isn’t on your bucket list, now is a good time to add it. IMG_0353IMG_0354

Faithful Friends  

IMG_0356Our co-leaders Meredith and Colin and their baby girl Selah – we had so much fun with them this summer!
IMG_0359IMG_0361

I might tear up trying to put words to how precious these friends are to us. Meet Anahit and Giannis, Greek national staff with Cru (its called Agape in Europe). A few years back they were in the states raising support and stayed with us for a few nights. We have been friends ever since. It was such a honor to be with them. I am convinced they are Jesus’ favorite. They are faithful, oh so faithful, to serving Him. They long for every single Greek college student to know Jesus. And while they worked their butts off, they still made every effort to make us feel so special. They brought meals, loved our parents well, made our kids oh so happy, and always checked in to see what we needed. Our last night in Athens was July 4 so they showed up in stars and stripes with a meal for us and spent the night eating and having fun together. I told Jesus I long to be their next door neighbors in heaven and I think it will delight Jesus to see that prayer through.
IMG_0360

Home at last….

Traveling home was friggin exhausting.
IMG_0362

But we made it! And my AMAZING MAMA was waiting for us at the airport to surprise us when our flight landed in KC at midnight. She made adjusting back home so easy and fun. The woman even organized my kitchen to surprise me! Super JuJu!!!

IMG_0333

Well there it is. Our summer in Greece. I had to leave so many details out. Like the time Ruth got stabbed in the leg with a kalamaki skewer, and the time Josh shoved a pick-pocket…oh well…

If you are ever close by, come over for a real life cup of coffee and we will share all the silly stories! Thanks for stopping by and reading some about our summer. Thank you for praying for the people we got to meet and share the Gospel with this summer! We are grateful for you!