I have embarked on a journey of great magnitude and terrible difficulty.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

Okay, I decided to follow Jesus a long time ago, but I think I still am asked daily and even momentarily if I’m still in.   He asks me frequently if I am still interested in following Him into the nitty gritty places in this world, and that, naturally, has to start with my own life.  My own nitty gritty.

As I have mentioned here, and here, I am pretty much past the queasiness of letting Him in on all my ugly secrets, and I am becoming better at just surrendering while I still have the energy to do something positive afterward (as opposed to resisting Jesus until I’m completely exhausted).   If you are not past that feeling or attitude, I recommend you read those other posts first, and then, if you still want to, read this one.

I also hope you know how fully and completely Jesus loves you.  You should read this first if you have any doubts.  I certainly don’t want you thinking you can win God’s love by working hard.  It’s laughable to think He could love you any more than He already does.

So, the journey I have embarked on started with me deciding to go to a local Christian college for a class this semester.  Then, I realized in order to do so I would need to get my act together because, in case I hadn’t noticed, I have four small children, and I am homeschooling the two that aren’t one-year-old twins.  So I started doing FlyLady cleaning and life organization, and I changed homeschool curriculum, and I prayed that if I should not do this right now, I would hear that direction clearly.

I clearly understood God asking me to put it off.  While simultaneously giving me a harder direction.  A journey of great magnitude and terrible difficulty.  What was it?

To love better.  Specifically, to love at home better.  Because, for reasons I don’t really know, it is exponentially more difficult to love the people we’re around every single day than to love people we only see a few times a week or month.  Unfortunately for me, this means it’s harder for me to love my kids (who I am specifically tasked with loving) than to love almost anyone else in the world.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Now, when I say I don’t “love”  I don’t mean that I generally don’t like, care about, or wish well.  That’s not how we feel about our kids.  I mean the Bible’s definition of love, which is that love is:  patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoing, rejoices with the truth, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, it never ends.

I will openly admit that the first two things on the list are enough to stop me in my tracks.  I am not patient, or particularly kind.  Having four little kids allows us, in America, a lot of grace in the eyes of our peers when it comes to patience, and it is an assumption that we will, as over-stressed moms, be impatient with our kids.  However, in keeping with the greatness of the magnitude and terribleness of the difficulty, I have been feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit to address these two shortcomings (I assume we’ll deal with the rest later….If we ever get past the first two.)  Because Jesus manages to be both incredibly gracious toward me, and yet have unbending standards, He doesn’t cut me any slack or make excuses for me.  And, since it’s to Him I owe my present happiness and future life, I endeavor to do what He says.

Since my kids give me ample opportunity to practice patience, and since my sister-in-law (who knows I openly struggle with this lack of Biblical love) sent me information about a Focus on the Family 30-Day Kindness Challenge, I decided the time was right for me to do something about this problem.  I listened to the radio interview.

I did so with four needy little children underfoot, while I was also doing the dishes and one of my littles was doing her school work on the laptop.  It may be a good idea for you, if you decide to do anything positive, to start at a time when you are not distracted.  Of course, when I started listening to the broadcast I was not distracted, but kids have a way of sensing when you least want them around- like when you’re on the phone- and they mill around like hungry cattle, shoving, lowing and whatnot.  Anyway, don’t listen or read when they’re awake or around.  Just a word of advice.

Because what happens when you do your best to ignore them is that they become even more restless and upset, and they have a way of making you restless and upset.  And then you may find yourself, having exasperatedly sent the kids in different directions with snacks and milks, standing at the kitchen sink, crying, because you are such a crummy mom and there’s no point in trying to do these good things because you are never going to get it right every time anyway, and there’s just too much to do each day to worry about one thing more, like being kind, and WHAT IS THE POINT?!

Okay, so maybe this isn’t what you would do, but it is what I did.  I’m always so calm and collected, you see.

So I stopped to breathe, and my thoughts calmed down, and in the quiet space of that moment a different, calm, accepting thought washed over my stressed out brain.  ”You’re my little child.”

Since I have four of my own, and two of them are one-year-olds, I know what this means.  I am God’s little toddler who still has bad balance but crawls up on the table anyway because I also have bad manners.  Sometimes, when He is not looking, I grab dirt out of the potted plant (which is on the table) because I am curious about that brown stuff.  And He, because He always loves me, teaches me not to go on the table and dig in the potted plant.  He loves me unconditionally.  That means, He is patient and kind even when I do not deserve that He should be.  My performance at being patient and kind does not determine the extent of His patient kindness toward me.

I was glad to hear that God loves me so much, and I reminded myself that I don’t need to be perfect, because Jesus was for me.  If I could be perfect I wouldn’t need Jesus to save me; He was perfect, I don’t have to be. But I know that letting the conversation stop there is unhelpful, since sometimes it breeds this attitude that says I don’t need to try any more.  So I told God my thoughts on the matter, explaining that I still felt something needed to be said, only I don’t know what.

He then put an image of my house in my head.  My house, in case you haven’t seen it, is a small 1920′s bungalow style house of diminutive size and, when we bought it, (on foreclosure) severely lacking in proper maintenance.  For a bevy of reasons this house is never going to amount to much, but since we’ve owned it, Tim and I have done a LOT of work on it and it has improved significantly in it’s coziness, appearance, practicality, and state of maintenance.  We’ve worked slowly to make this little, neglected house more beautiful and comfortable by painting everything from picket fence to stairwells, ripping out gross carpeting, putting in new carpeting, finishing the basement, renovating a bathroom, re-roofing and adding eaves, replacing all the windows and painting all the window trim, trimming the trees and planting more, putting in flower beds, vegetables and fruit, building a pergola over the patio, replacing the exterior doors, and generally improving wherever we saw a need and had the time and money to do the work.

And its not finished yet.  There are still the bathroom and kitchen to renovate, there’s trim needed in three rooms, and there’s quarter round missing from all the rooms that have the original hardwood flooring, which ought to be refinished.  The siding is stucco, and the walls have no insulation, so someday we’d like to rip all that off and insulate and re-side.  We’d like to finish our laundry room and make it into a craft room too, and once that’s done, I’d like to make our current office/craft room into a small sitting room, with a big arched doorway into the dining room, and an exterior door going out into the fenced yard.  We have plans for this little place, and it’s not done yet, but it’s ever so much better.  

And that was the point of God’s reminder.  I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to be better.  I need to not get discouraged when it looks hard, and I need to keep trying because God has big plans for my life, and someday He will finish, but not today, and not this side of eternity.



Maybe it’s not a journey of great magnitude and terrible difficulty.  Maybe it’s just a walk with Jesus, who shows me how I can daily become a little better.

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Still More Excellent

Before I went to Uganda I had this blog post that I really wanted to write.  It was burned into my mind by emotion and the power of others’ writing and speaking.  I tried to write it in my mind, which it where I usually start all blog posts, but I couldn’t do it.  I had to write God Loves You first, because you needed to know that you are loved.  And then I had to write Endless Ball of Problems because you needed to know that God is not limited by your flaws.  And then I lost my passion for the post I wanted to write.  No, more than that, I felt restrained… in my mind and creatively and short on time. So I took some notes and didn’t act on them at all.

And I went to Uganda.  I realized at some point that the reason I hadn’t written my little blog post was that God hadn’t showed me the end yet.  I didn’t know this right away, but He did.

Let me begin at the beginning.  It was summer of last year, and I was on Facebook in the evening.  That’s a recipe for frustration if I’ve ever seen one.  Mostly because I have this compulsion to read each and every article, blog post, or news I see on FB.  I’m kind of insane.  This particular evening I read two blog posts that crushed me inside.  One was about the corrupt, harmful, abusive, and neglectful goings – on of an orphanage in Haiti.  The other was about the need for adopters of Eastern European special needs children, due to the severe neglect of these individuals.

It was a while ago, but I remember that something broke inside me that night, and I wept over these children in different parts of the world.  I asked God if we should move to Haiti to act on behalf of the orphans there, or if I should start the adoption process of a special needs child in Eastern Europe.  These thoughts got mixed up with the trip to Uganda, my own desire to write and someday, to speak, and the knowledge that God told my husband 8 years ago that we’re to go to Uruguay someday.  All of this bearing down upon me was extremely heavy.  And it caused a lot of anxiety.  How was I to do all of that in my lifetime?  Not that there aren’t people who haven’t accomplished that and more, but I wondered how I would have time, with all the demands of my 4 children, and how to convince my husband that we should do all this stuff, and on and on.

Finally I was a little frantic and told God, in a scared, demanding, and panicked tone that “I can’t do it all!”

I stopped to breathe.  I asked God what we should do.  He told me to do what He told me to do.  Go to Uganda.  Write stuff.  Prepare for the day when He tells us to move to South America.  Love God.  Love people.  He assured me that He knows all the needs of all the people in the world, and that He is calling people to fill those needs, but some people don’t do all they are called to do.  I need to trust God, and I need to do whatever it is He tells me to do.   I need to be available to God, and willing to do anything He asks of me.  I told Him that if He wants us to adopt or to move anywhere in the world, I will do what He asks.  I know it won’t always be easy, and I may need very loud confirmation of what He’s asking, in order to be willing to fight for it, but if I’m sure it’s what He wants us to do, I’ll do it.

That week one of our pastors talked about praying “Shovel Prayers”.  He pointed out that sometimes we pray and just ask God to give us what we want, but there are prayers we can pray that are like a teenager asking their parents for a shovel for Christmas, because they want to be involved in the work of their parents.  They want to help shovel snow.  Parents are not going to pass up the opportunity to gratify wishes like that.  God also wants us to take up the work He is doing, and He wants us to pray in that direction.

At two or three different times this past summer I heard people speak about our roles in the Body of Christ, and I participated in a short study on the same topic.  If you’re unaware, you should know that all Christians (by this I mean Christ-Followers, as differentiated from people who say they are Christians but don’t actually care to do what Jesus said to do) are part of a huge living entity, called the Body of Christ.  It’s sometimes called the Church, or the Bride of Christ, but all these are just attempts at naming the co-dependent, interconnected nature of all people who have bound themselves to Jesus eternally.

God has given us each a unique role, and He expects us to use our talents, abilities, and interests to accomplish His good work on this planet.  We are to be Jesus’s physical person on the Earth, powered by His Spirit to do, think, feel what He would if He were physically here.  The only difference is that there are millions of us all over the world, and there was only one man Jesus.  (“And you will do even greater things than these…”)  In short, each person is equally important in the accomplishment of God’s beautiful plans in and for this world.  If any person neglects to do what they can where they are, we all suffer.  Paul the Apostle even takes time to mention the parts we don’t see at work, and how they may be the most important.

All of these things pressed upon me this summer, and I felt a little guilty that I didn’t write about it at the time.  But, as I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t.

So I went to Uganda.  Do you know what I saw there?  Every person I met at GSF (Good Sheperd’s Fold) and all the members of our team – with their differing personalities and abilities – got to use their gifts.  Nurses, an ear doctor, moms, sewing instructors, a sewing machine enthusiast, an incredible organizer, teachers, photographers, cooks and bakers, a massage therapist, a woman passionate about everyone having access to clean water, a woman passionate about all women having access to proper hygiene.  So many interests developed over such a great span of time all used to help, encourage, lift, and give hope.  It was truly beautiful.  God knew all the things He wanted to do through us while we were there, and He chose us each individually and carefully, and we each said, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)  I had no idea it was going to be such a blessing to see God’s (sometimes funny) choices at work, but it was astounding!  As I mentioned in Worth It (Uganda Part 3) I spent much of my time in Uganda feeling like God was dragging me around by the hand and pointing out the beautiful things He’s doing.  I felt this as I saw my team and the many staff of GSF at work.

You may or may not be wondering what I am planning to do now.  Now that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has a plan to use my gifts to benefit the world.  And now that I am home from Uganda and don’t have anything else on the radar. Well, whether you want to know or not, I will tell you.

I have been feeling pulled into women’s ministry on some level.  I’m not sure what that will look like, or where it will come into being, but I would love to do it, and a few things have led me to believe I might be good at it.  This is not boasting. In fact, I felt as if God was showing me this last year even though I was not really ready to believe in myself.

In an effort to become ready for that work, I decided to sign up for a class at my church.  My church offers Bible school classes that are accredited through a Bible college in…Nebraska? Somewhere anyway.  I applied to the college and was accepted.

Then, for two weeks I thought and thought about what I had decided to undertake, and I felt that God was gently asking me to put this off.  To be a mom only for a year or two or more right now.  I felt as if He was whispering, “And I will show you a still more excellent way”.  What I desired to do was good, but He has something even better in store for me right now.

I knew that that sentence “And I will show you a still more excellent way” was the last sentence in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, a chapter in the Bible all about spiritual gifts and knowing what they are and developing them.  It is the last sentence before Paul starts in with the love chapter of the Bible “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…”  I was discouraged the day I looked it up in the Bible to refresh my memory of it, but while reading it I felt encouraged and certain that God thinks that my desire to develop my spiritual gifts is a good desire, an excellent desire.  But He has a still more excellent way that I need to learn to walk in.

When I read 1 Corinthians 13, (a chapter, I confess, I sometimes avoid) I am very aware of the fact that I really don’t know how to love at all.  Nor do I know how to listen to God’s voice.  The past 2 months have been full of me making a whole bunch of very small, but added up, major changes in my life that have been very beneficial to me and my family.  Some of these things have been whispered to me for years and I ignored God. I started to work harder and treat my home differently, I switched homeschool curricula, I signed up to take a 30-day kindness challenge and it is showing me what I am like, I started to look differently at my kids to see the maturity in my littles that I sometimes forget is there.  Lily, 16 months old, loves to help.  Caleb, her twin, is in trouble all the time for climbing on things (usually the dining room table)  but when I told him a couple of days ago that I didn’t want him to dig all the Tupperware out of the drawer, he, without a pause, put it all back and closed the drawer!  I have been speeding up my approach to work and trying to eradicate all procrastination, while trying to slow down to see what is right here in front of me, and to learn to listen to the still, small voice of God.

I have been doing very little “ministry” and that is hard for me, because I like to feel like I am doing something big and impactful, but God has directed me to be small right now, and I believe that is important too.  Jesus became small for us, and He changed the whole world.  I hope that God will increase and I will decrease.  And I know I need to be faithful in the small things before God will entrust to me bigger things.

I am hoping that this year (and every year after) God will teach me how to love. Patiently, kindly, without envy,  without boasting, free of arrogance or rudeness, without irritation or resentment, rejoicing in the truth, and bearing, hoping, believing, and enduring all things.  Without fail, to love.

I am hoping that when (and if) He does give me the green light to take Bible classes, that they will just be a beautiful complement to the love He has developed in me.  I am hoping that whatever ministry I undertake will be so infused with His love that people will be fully drawn to Christ, not drawn to me because of whatever talents I have.

I am also hoping that God will help me learn to listen to Him so that I don’t waste my time doing things that He isn’t in, and so that I will stop any wrong action or reaction that isn’t in keeping with His caring, patient, honest style.  I have a long way to go, and sometimes the thought of the work ahead of me is discouraging, but I am trusting that the God who spoke the earth into existence can speak into me a still more excellent way.

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Worth It (Uganda Part 3)

Okay, so if you know me, you know that I love to do things the “right way”.  I have been reading the Bible a long time (because it is the right thing to do) and I know that all followers of Jesus should be very unselfish and others-centered.  This is what the Bible says. I have been praying a long time for the opportunity to be used by God to do good things in this world He made, for the people He loves, because it is good to help others.  When God told me to go to Uganda I was incredulous that of all the places I had on the list of “want-to”s God would send me to one of the fewer places on the list of “don’t want-to”s, but since the reason I was going was all for others, I thought it was fitting.

As I mentioned in this post , I felt sure that while I was reluctant to go to Uganda, and certain that it was some sort of joke that God would send me, God made it clear that He was sending me to bless me, and it was no joke.

While I was in Uganda it didn’t feel like any joke.  The students we taught to make feminine hygiene products were serious, careful, attentive learners.  The head of the tailoring ministry was repeatedly and genuinely grateful that we came, and told us on many occasions that we were changing lives, that we were a huge encouragement to them, and that we were answering prayers.  It was not a joke.

I went into things with a mindset of: “Okay, God, show me what You want me to see.”  ”Do what you want to do through me.”  ”Teach me what you want me to learn.”

What did I see?  Beautiful, strong, dignified, graceful, faithful people.  Potential for the nation of Uganda to prosper and truly thrive, and that the people already thrive in the best ways – they understand God better than most Americans ever will.  That is the best thing a person can experience, and I believe that to truly know God is to thrive.  No matter your circumstances.

What did I do?  Well, not a whole lot, really.  Somehow when I boarded the plane for Uganda I left most of my detailed, organized, driven spunk behind.  I basically spent the whole week asking people what was happening next, where I should go, what I should do, and what time it was. In retrospect, I think this was largely due to jet lag and being thrown off my normal routine, but I didn’t realize this while there.  I did have the opportunity to meet and get to know a lot of lovely people, I got to hear some of their stories, and I got to help teach some women how to sew on a treadle.  I also got to tell a group of about 100 women (mostly Muslims and Hindus) about Jesus.  But I can’t really take a whole lot of credit for any of that, because of the general haziness of my mental state. Basically, I felt like God was leading/dragging me around by my hand, saying, “Look at this!  Isn’t it cool?  And here – do this….wasn’t that great?!  And over here, I have this great surprise for you!  Did you know I’m like this? Well, I Am!”  There was so much to take in I didn’t feel particularly useful.  But I also felt like it wasn’t really necessary for me to excel because God clearly was without any help from me.  :)

What did God teach me?  The biggest takeaway I have from the trip is that God really loves me.  That He really did send me around the world to bless me.  I got to be a blessing, but not because I am so fabulous, but because He chose to let me be part of the fabulous blessings He was waiting to give to the Ugandans.  I got to see God in beautiful ways, maybe not new to me, exactly, but bigger and brighter and more obviously caring than I had had the opportunity to see Him before.  I learned that God is eagerly waiting to answer prayers.  That He is Able.  That He doesn’t discount or diminish my little contributions, but that He really wants to expand my reach through prayer.  No matter my lack of ability at the time, He wants me to talk to Him about what I saw and who I met, and He wants to carry on the impact of my visit for eternity.  I do not live in Uganda, nor do I think I should at this time, and I can’t work in the lives of the people there to disciple, encourage, or build them up much more than I already have.  But God lives all over the world, and has people He wants to use to disciple, encourage, and build up others.  If I ask God to work in Uganda, He will.

I came home and between the effects of jet lag and PMS (It was lovely. You wish you were me.) I was really struggling.  Finally I had to confront the feelings I had that I had gotten So. Much. Benefit. from the trip and left such a small mark.  I felt guilty for having so much fun in a country that is so poor.  I felt guilty for not doing more, and having no intention of staying long to continue to work there. I told God how I felt.

I heard the Holy Spirit saying, “Who do you think you are?  Who are you to say that it’s not worth it to Me to send you halfway around the world just because I love you and I knew you would enjoy it?  Who are you to say that if you leave no positive impression at all that I can’t use that for the good of every person you met?  Who are you to think that just because you are home again, that I am not still working in Uganda?  Who are you to think that the prayers you pray for these people will not be heard and acted upon?  Who do you think you are?  I hold the power.  Not you.  And, incidentally, I really love you.  It was worth it to Me.”

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Endless Ball of Problems

I imagine myself like a ball of yarn sometimes.  Only, this ball of yarn is comprised entirely of problems.  I used to pull on the loose end and think, “Well, if I just unwrap this little bit here, I’ll get into the part of me that isn’t a big, hairy mess. ” So I’d unwrap a little and just discover more of the same.  Like a magician who pulls a colorful scarf out of his mouth hand-over-hand…forever. There isn’t anything in me that’s actually good, and the further I look, the more bleak it gets. Especially since once you unroll the yarn all you have is a huge, loose, tangled up, mass of string.

I decided to just wrap myself back up again because at least I can be a neat and tidy problem, but there’s nothing that can be done with a big messy problem. Things have to at least be sorted out, you know?

To be honest, I never used to unwrap myself very far.  I think deep down I knew that once you unroll the ball of yarn there’s nothing there. Yarn isn’t rolled onto something, it’s rolled onto itself. Problems on problems.  So I was tightly wrapped to be an orderly, manageable mess.

However…. somewhere in there God took a look at my life yarn and He saw potential in it all. He saw where there could be beauty too.

He grabbed the end of me and started unwrapping.  I freaked out. There was no way some outsider was going to unravel all my hard work! I did a lot of winding to make this neat ball out of my snarl!  I tried to roll away. Into a corner. But He kept just grabbing me and putting me in  His yarn bowl- a place where I could freely roll.  I tried jumping out and rolling under the furniture in hopes that I could go where He couldn’t reach me, but that too was a bust.  (He’s got insanely long arms.)

Eventually I got tired and gave up. If He wanted to unravel this mess, fine! He was going to have to deal with the consequences!  I allowed Him to start unrolling me, but I did so grudgingly.  In a, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!” Warning sort of way. I was scared that if He started undoing me He too was going to end up with a huge, unmanageable mess in His hands, just as I had. And I was scared that He’d see something in there that made Him rethink His first decision to handle my life at all.

But what happened instead surprised me.  He didn’t end up with a snarl, nor did He decide to quit once He saw a little more.

He just started knitting.  (That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Why is always such a surprise!?)  He didn’t worry about the endless problems, the rough and the smooth and the uneven parts.  He just knitted. Very calmly.  He didn’t unravel more than He could work with at any given time, so it wasn’t a huge mess when He worked at it.

“I got this.” He assured me.  I’m just a ball of problems, so I had trouble believing this, but eventually I started to see that not only is He untiring, calm, and large, He’s also a very good knitter.  He actually takes balls of problems and makes beautiful things out of them.  I’m always surprised by this.

The time came when I decided it’s best if I just hang out in His yarn bowl. That way I can be unraveled with the greatest ease and speed. No more trying to roll away.

I became willing to pass through His hands. To be seen, to be felt, to be examined and known. To be woven by His plan into something colorful and textured and unique.  To be made new.

I’m hoping someday He knits until He uses me all up and there is nothing left. At that time I know all that will remain is the art in His skilled hands.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

“Not to us, Oh Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your loving-kindness, because of Your truth.” Psalm 115:1


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God Loves You

God loves you.  That’s right, I’m talking to you.  You and nobody else.  Forget about the people that you think I might be talking about, other than you, because I’m not talking about them right now, just You.  God loves you.

Loves you.  When He sees you, he smiles.  A big, warm, tender smile.  He delights in watching you and hearing what you have to say.  He’s quiet sometimes, but I’m beginning to think that’s because he’s so focused on you that he likes to listen more than talk. He’s proud of you too.  Proud like a daddy.  A really proud daddy.  Or maybe proud like a grandfather.  I imagine him getting out his wallet and showing all of his golfing buddies your picture for the thousandth time, and I imagine them all groaning, “Not again!  Every time we get together it’s all about your precious kid!  We know you’re crazy about them, let’s just golf already!”  But I imagine that he shuts them up and continues to tell them all of your merits anyway.  Because he’s crazy about you.

When he sees your sadness, I know it hurts him.  I know he’s just desperate to give you a big hug and tell you how much it saddens him to see that someone hurt you.  Or that you hurt someone else and are struggling to know how to move on from that.  He is right there with you in that pain.  He understands pain so well.

But he doesn’t like to live in sadness.  Really, he’s so joyful.  Sometimes he tells you to cheer up because it’s going to be okay.  Because he really is in control of all things and he really does love you enough to work things out for your good in the long run, and he really does care enough to go to great lengths to keep his promises.   And he’s pretty awesome at exceeding all of your expectations just to surprise you.  Because he’s joyful and playful and creative.  And he loves you.

God also believes in you.  You know, that you can do amazing things because you have a ton of unique characteristics that make you totally unlike any other person in the world.  Different personality, interests, taste, talents, and past.  After adding the perfect ingredients to make you just the way you are, God hand-mixed the dough that is you, and smiled.  ”This one’s gonna be good.”  Your looks, mindset, heart, and life are just as he planned.  No random stars aligning in the universe, or chance or whatever, when it came to making you, he was intentional.  Because he loves you, he believes in you.  He has good works set apart for you to do that no one in the world can do as well as you can.  He thinks you have unlimited -and largely untapped – potential.

Not only does he believe in you that you can do amazing things, he’s also rooting for you.  Cheering you on to greater and greater.  He wants you to succeed.  To achieve great things and be happy and most importantly, to love deeply.  He’s hoping you will break through the things that set you back, and run on to victory, and when you find victory, he’s hoping you will find joy there too.  He’s not just sitting on the sidelines and screaming at you either, he’s running alongside you and encouraging you and patting you on the back, saying, “You can do this!  I am here with you and I will not let you fail!”  And he’s running tirelessly with you to refresh you with the water he brought along, and the sugar water to energize you for the length and toughness of the terrain.  He’s not making you go this alone, he’s working harder than you to see you succeed.  He’s doing the carrying, and he’s talking while he’s running.  All you have to do is focus, knowing that he will not let you fail.  If you fall, he will pick you back up.  He will see you through to the end.  He is on your side and is fully committed to your victory.

He loves you.  He forgives you too.  Very eagerly.  You may think that because you messed up one too many times, or in that way, that he is angry with you.  That he’s holding a grudge against you.  But he’s not.  He’s not keeping track of your wrongs.  He’s forgiving you as soon as you come to him with, “So, I messed this one up again…” God is rushing you with a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek, and while you pause to take a breath in the middle of your rehearsed “I don’t deserve to be your kid anymore…” speech, he is yelling to everyone that you’re back and we all need to throw you a big party because you are restored to the place you had before. He’s not concerned with the fact that you don’t deserve to be his kid anymore, your opinion on that makes no difference to him.  He’s just glad you’re back.  Because he loves you.

He desires intimacy with you too.  To know your heart and your thoughts, and to be invited into the sticky places of your soul that you are ashamed of.  That you think if people knew about they would reject you automatically.  He actually likes being invited into that.  He already knows it’s there – he sees all – but he really wants you to trust him enough to invite him into your ugliness.  He loves you as you are.  And he also desires to bring a little or a lot of his light into those hidden spaces to make them less.  I don’t think they’ll ever really go away in any of us (this side of heaven) but I think they are less powerful over us if he is there too.  Like a couple of newlyweds who begin to open up to each other in trust, God tenderly invites you to open up to him.  Without shame or fear of rejection, just…honestly.  Slowly, if that’s what it takes, but actually. Because he loves all of you.

And he doesn’t just love you, he likes you too.  He really, really, really likes spending time with you.  He actually gets jealous when you spend too much of your time doing things without inviting him.  But not because he’s petty or needy, just because he likes you. He enjoys your sense of humor.  He likes your taste.  He likes hearing your opinion, and sometimes he likes to change your opinion to help you become even more awesome.  He thinks that your quirkiness and individualism are just right, and sometimes he gets confused that you would want to be someone else.  I mean, don’t you know he really likes you as you are? Don’t you know he made you who you are?  And if he made you who you are, don’t you think that you remaining who you are is important to him?  I used to think that in order to live pleasing to God I needed to be someone I’m not, but the more I get to know God, the more I wonder if it’s more important to God that I live as I am, but with him.  You know, in his company.

God loves you.  He knows you’re not good enough to be in his presence, so HE came to YOU.  He did the good things you’re not good enough to do, and he invited you into his goodness.  If you came into agreement with him about your lack, and you agreed to let him meet you where you are, He claimed you for eternity and put his soul into you so that you can know him forever in full oneness and intimacy with him.  Just as we in America pay earnest money when we put an offer in on a house to show that we truly are serious about buying that house, God put earnest money on you.  But not money.  He put HIMSELF in you to show his seriousness.  He is completely sold out on this idea of hanging out with YOU forever.  So sold out, in fact, that he even went so far as to die for you.  I mean, what more could he do for you?


“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:31-39, emphasis mine)

God. Loves. You.

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I recently became aware that I’ve been holding onto regret about some decisions I made in Milwaukee a decade ago.  Someone asked for prayer about self-forgiveness, and I agreed to pray (and have been doing so) but I literally had no other help to offer.  God has dealt with a ton of garbage in my life – and continues to do so – and I try to remember the steps he’s taken me through to eradicate these problems.  I like to share what I learn to help others know God better and live a fuller life.

But I literally had nothing to offer.  This state bothered me.  Not because I couldn’t offer wise counsel or suggest things that might help, but because it pulled back the curtain covering how I felt about my Milwaukee summer.  The request for prayer revealed something I’ve been struggling on and off to give to God.

I just wanted to forget (for the most part) that I had gone on summer project, and I really wanted to forget the words I’d harmed with, the way I’d overspent money entrusted to me, the way I’d become hard-hearted about the things I saw around me and didn’t know how to reconcile, and the general way that I allowed myself to ignore the Holy Spirit instead of submitting myself to God completely.  I wanted to forget all of that.

I was praying in the middle of the night a couple of nights ago (long story, which I’ll save for another time) and I was contemplating why it was so hard for me to pray for my upcoming trip to Uganda.  I literally have barely prayed about the trip at all, and that is not like me.  I tend to smother my life in prayer.  Prayer is just talking to God about things, I like to talk a lot, so I tend to talk to my heavenly Dad because he’s always near.

Uganda is not something I’ve been praying about though.  This is not good.  In talking about this to God I realized that I’m afraid I will make the same types of mistakes in Uganda that I made in Milwaukee.

I have been struggling to forgive myself for Milwaukee, and it is causing me to be afraid I will mess up in Uganda.  Realistically my response to the fear of messing up should be “Of course you will mess up!”  But we never think that clearly.  What I do know is that when I asked God to help me learn how to forgive myself, he brought to my mind that beautiful verse (a favorite, I confess) Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those called according to his purpose.”

I think that in order for me to forgive myself I need to trust that God is working even my mistakes out for my good.  I can step back from the guilt and shame and say, “It’s not pretty, but it will be reconciled and redeemed by Christ.”  I can also apply God’s grace to the situation, and he asks, “What made Milwaukee any different from any of the other times in your life when you messed up?  I forgave you past, present, and future!”  He sees it all the same.  Sin is sin is sin.  The things I did wrong in Milwaukee are no worse than the things I do wrong in my house every day.  Public or private, he’s working to eradicate my sin and make me holy. He does that by a) responding with grace when I fail to live up to his beautiful standards, and b) teaching me from my mistakes.


Later I was assessing how I felt about Milwaukee now that I’d had this lovely moment of Holy Spirit clarity, and I realized that the actual word ‘Milwaukee’ still makes me cringe slightly.  I asked God what I should do.  He indicated that I should thank him for the summer spent there.

“What?! You want me to thank you for it?!”



“Because I’m working it out for your good.”


Sometimes we need to trust his ability to turn bad into good so much that we go so far as to thank him for the bad stuff. For the mistakes and guilt and the things not going as we hoped or dreamed they would.  Sometimes we need to remember that he isn’t leaving us there in the yuckiness, and that he’s not going to let us remain the same after recognizing our part in the bad situation.  Sometimes we need to thank him for the work he has done, and the work he has yet to do in us.  And we need to thank him that in 10 years of earnestly avoiding a replay of those things we regret doing, we’ve actually changed. He has caused us to be different people than we were 10 years ago.  Still deeply flawed, and still unworthy of his generous love that isn’t based on our worthiness, but different than we would be if we hadn’t gone through our difficult times.

God loves us so much that he allows us to go through difficulty to shape the way we see, love and serve others and himself.  If we didn’t go through difficulties we wouldn’t know what our weaknesses are. When everything is going just as we want it to it’s easy to be kind and loving and patient, but it’s things like stress and regret that bring out our not-so-pretty sides.  Bad decisions and difficult life phases bring out the worst in us so that we can know what God already knows is there.  That we’re flawed and sinful human beings that need his help to be better.

Also, if we were perfect all the time there wouldn’t be room for God’s grace and love to shine bright in our lives.  In 2 Corinthians 2:9 Paul writes, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  God’s capacity for grace can only be demonstrated in lives requiring that grace.  I can be thankful for and positive about my summer in Milwaukee because it brings glory to God by showing his great ability to forgive and make things right.


As I was praying in my bed that night, after God had showed me so clearly that I’m to trust him with my difficult times and regrets, I asked him, unthinkingly, “So, do you ever regret the cross?  Do you ever cringe at the memory of it’s pain?”

The Holy Spirit laughed, “Regret?!  It’s the only way I get to know you!”

Initially I was swept up in the Holy Spirit’s laughter. How ridiculous that Jesus would have regrets!  Then I started bawling.  That Jesus would think about that horrible time and just be glad that he gets to know us forever.  Can you believe that?  Knowing us makes him glad he went to the cross.  I can’t comprehend that love, but I am going to try to trust God with my future and my past more completely.  Even when I mess up and do stupid like a pro, I’m going to try to remember that he still loves me, loved me in the moment I messed up, is teaching me from my past, and will continue to love me and remain faithful to me even when I am not faithful.  Thank you, Jesus.

Ultimately the story of our lives aren’t about us and our unfailing success as Jesus-followers, or even our ability to become, against all odds, “good” people.  The over-arching story that includes all of our lives is about Jesus and his willingness to look past all that we do wrong and value us anyway.  He values us because he is good, even when we’re not.  His love is bigger than our failings.  If he forgives us and believes we can do good, we need to trust him and let the past be another opportunity for him to show his power to work good out of a bad situation.  I need to trust that even when I do, say, or think the wrong things in Uganda he is going to make that good in the long run.


As I was pondering all of these things I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 22.  This Psalm David wrote that has become such a beautiful series of prophecies with the overall message that Jesus never abandons us, and he came for unity with the whole world.

David might not have known that the poetry he was writing was prophetic.  He was writing about his own pained and broken experiences in that time of intense hardship.  I wondered as I meditated on this Psalm if, sometime after writing it David looked at God and said, “Will you redeem this time in my life?  I felt completely abandoned by you, and I know now that you never abandoned me, but it felt that way.  Will you take this excruciating time and make it good somehow?”

I wonder if God thought for a moment, then smiled gently and said, “Oh yes.  I have a great plan to make it good.”  He then nudged Jesus, who is sitting next to him, with his elbow and leaned in to whisper to him.  Jesus listened to the plan and noded slowly in agreement.  “Yeah, I’m down with that.”

God looked Jesus in the eye and said, “Are you sure?  It’ll by necessity make the experience more difficult.  More painful.  The piercing, mocking, your bones will be dislocated.  You’ll be beaten.  You’ll also feel completely alone and like I abandoned you.”

Jesus looks thoughtful a moment. “Yeah, but if we do it, it’ll be glorious.  I mean, no one else could take that ugly situation and make it so perfectly beautiful!”

“Alright” God looks certain.  “That’s the plan then.”  And he smiled again at the thought of redeeming us to himself.

God uses our pasts to shape our futures for his glory and our good.  Thank you, Lord, for Milwaukee.




Sometime after writing this I was praying about it, and I asked God of I did right to write about David’s involvement in the story of Jesus in this way. (Of course it was fictitious, but I still worry about these things.)  God indicated that I had it backward.  That David was allowed to suffer so he could better prophecy about Jesus, not that Jesus’ life and death was shaped by David.  David shared in the sufferings of Christ, not the other way around.


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Plastic Grocery Bags

Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit speaks to me too quickly.  The Bible says that love “hopes all things” and “believes all things” and sometimes I think the Holy Spirit hopes and believes I’m quicker on the uptake than I really am.  Ideas I didn’t think occasionally fly through my mind and I’m forced to chase after them to really comprehend them.

The best way I can describe this is to say it’s like someone chasing an empty plastic grocery bag on a windy day.  The person runs and stomps, only for the wind to carry the bag a little further, at the last possible second.  These individuals always look foolish but hopeful they will prevail in the end and land on it. Sometimes the whisperings of the Holy Spirit require me to run them down, stomping wildly.

I assume it’s the Holy Spirit feeding me these thoughts only because when I do land on them, I’m most often surprised.  Sometimes not enjoyably.

By this time I assume you know I am going to Uganda, and that I wasn’t sitting around wishing I would get to go to Uganda, and in fact, the thought of going anywhere in Africa that didn’t include pyramids and Petra was distasteful to me.   But I am going because I heard God laughing at me and telling me that he is indeed sending me to Africa.

Six months ago I didn’t love Africa one bit, and I certainly didn’t want to go there.  But I know that God does love Africa.  I have known this truth ever since I was a youth praying over my own hard-heartedness toward that place that is clearly struggling, but which I knew God created. He made it clear to me at that time that he does, indeed, dearly love Africa and all of it’s inhabitants.  Since he made it clear to me, I have not doubted his love in this respect.

Unfortunately, this did not change me much.  I have prayed for Africa over the years when I have heard about a tragedy or thought about the struggles that some or many or most of the people there are faced with.  But my heart was not there, nor was I working to help the people there in any way.  Asia? Yes.  South America? Yes.  Africa? No.

But I knew that God isn’t satisfied with me just knowing he loves the people there.  He wants me to actually love all people.  To have a heart beating with compassion and open arms reaching to help all people around me.  The desire to know people.  To have very deep and personal relationships with all kinds of people. The desire to aid even if I don’t have access on a personal level.  He desires that I care what happens and do what I can to give hope and healing.  Not just for Americans or Asians or South Americans.  All people.  God wants me to love unconditionally like he does.

When it became clear to me that I was being sent – against my personal desires for comfort and enjoyment – to Uganda, I thought it was some sort of joke from God.  He has a great sense of humor, and I wasn’t so upset about being told to go that I couldn’t appreciate his humor in this instance.  I heard laughter and I assumed I was being laughed at in a, “What do you think will happen if we add Julia to the mix?”  ”That will be hilarious!” “She never saw this coming!” sort of way.

But one day I was getting myself ready for bed at the end of a normal, tiring day of chasing 4 small kids around.  I was brushing my teeth.  I was sleepy.  I was also thinking about Uganda, and the craziness of me actually planning to go there, and I had an empty plastic grocery bag thought.  It zipped through my foggy tired-mom brain way too fast for me to actually appreciate.

felt a light bulb go on, I knew the idea was fresh and new, and I knew it wasn’t me.  I literally thought, “Wait! What was that thought?!” And I chased it down.  What my mental foot eventually landed on was this:

“What if God isn’t laughing because He thinks this is a funny joke, but because He has such a huge blessing in store for you there?”

I couldn’t contain my surprise.  Or my shock.  As tears rolled I thought about my Daddy in heaven, loving me and thinking of ways to bless me that I would never have thought of.

God dearly loves Africa.  God dearly loves me.  God wants me to love Africa dearly.  God wants to bless me, so he is sending me to this place that he dearly loves.

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Uganda (part 2)

November last year I attended my first Days for Girls sewing event, as detailed in this post.  Before leaving that day I pulled myself together enough to talk to Shannon and her right hand lady Dee, to give them a few more details about my treadle sewing machine history.

In case you’re unaware, my mom – known on the Internet as Damascus Annie – is one of the world’s treadle sewing machine experts, and she had me treadling before I ever used an electric sewing machine.

As I spoke with Shannon and Dee I told them that I’m good at sewing on a treadle machine, but my mom is the one they should really be talking to about getting their hands on a sewing machine and how to use it.  She’s an expert. And she’s a teacher.  They were excited about this.

I went home ruminating on the whole crazy thing that had happened – God telling me to get involved, going there and finding out that they need treadle sewing machine users, and then hearing that I was being sent to Africa – and I wondered a little if I was just making the whole thing up.

At bed time I was able to tell Tim about it.  I started at the beginning and when I got to the part where I was hearing God say things, he laughed. I told him I think it’s wild that my skill set, which is rarely in demand (treadle sewing skills, folks!) is actually needed somewhere for something.  Truly needed. That has never happened before.

“So I’m not just crazy – you also think these circumstances and what I think the Holy Spirit was saying are clear indicators that I should maybe consider going to Uganda? ”  I was glad he had laughed instead of giving me the, “I think she’s crazy, but if I say anything she may become violent” look.  I’ve certainly gotten that look before.

“Yes, I think these are pretty clear signs.” He was still smiling.

“If I go, you’ll have to take care of all the kids.” He was smiling a lot less now. But he’s still amazingly supportive.

A week later, early in December, I saw my mom.

“Hi Mom, do you want to go to Africa with me?”

Mom laughed.  ”Yeah right. ” She thought I was joking.  I was half joking because I thought the chance of my mom going on a trip to a place that might not have electricity but likely has malaria is about 1%.  But I was half serious too. She picked up on it.

“Why?” She braced herself for the catch.

“Because they’re teaching women in Uganda how to make reusable feminine hygiene  products on treadle sewing machines, and they don’t know how to treadle.”

Mom’s swift mind was going. She was already thinking of all the pros and cons. I kept talking.  In 15 minutes she knew everything I knew. I used all my powers of persuasion and every story I’d read on the site to get her to see the immense benefit the kits are to the women and girls that receive them. I also pulled on the knowledge gleaned from reading “Toxic Charity” to convince her that it was the best way to help the economy of Uganda, so by the time I got done talking her answer had changed from “Yeah right” to a very reluctant, “Maybe.”  That alone was a Christmas miracle.

I missed the December DFG sewing event, but I made it to January’s.  I stayed late to talk to Shannon and Dee about the trip because I knew nothing about it at all. I didn’t even know if there was space open for more people to go, to be honest.  Shannon was super busy, so I cornered Dee.

“Uh, Dee?” I didn’t even know where to start.  How do you invite yourself to go on a trip across the world with someone you only met once before? ”So…you and Shannon had mentioned that you’re going to Uganda?”

Dee practically cut me off with her response. “Oh! You’re coming too!”  Her eyes were big and excited. Dee is nothing if not enthusiastic.  All of her body language managed to rejoice in the thought of me coming to Africa with them.

I’m pretty sure I told her at this point that I didn’t know anything whatsoever about the trip except that it was planned for the fall of ’16, and I thought I stomped on her enthusiasm by saying I hadn’t decided for sure yet if I was going to go.  (This might not have been true, but I felt like I hadn’t fully committed yet.)  She got out her planner to tell me the dates, cost, general plan, etc.

Shannon walked up.  Dee turned to her and said, “Julia is coming to Uganda with us!”  She was very happy about this.  Maybe I hadn’t stomped on her enthusiasm as hard as I’d hoped.

Shannon says, totally straight faced, nodding, and as if it was completely obvious from the beginning, “Oh yeah, I knew she was in.”

I was incredulent,  ”Wait now, don’t get to decide this? I just found out when it is and stuff. I have not committed yet!” I  needn’t have said anything.  They ignored me anyway…

I eventually told them that I was in the process of convincing my mom to go too, but that they’d better pray about it a lot, because Mom isn’t the type to be all gung-ho for discomfort.  I described the Christmas miracle and told them that if there was ever an initiative that got all of my mom’s passions and interests engaged at once, this would be it.

That evening at home I called my mom. She put me on speaker phone so Dad could talk too. “So Mom, are you coming to Africa with me?”

Dad shouts out, “Yes!”  He’s as enthusiastic about adventures- even ones he’s not invited on- as Dee is.

Mom is less enthusiastic.  She’s talking slowly.  ”Well, I hadn’t really thought about it at all through Christmas, but this week I’ve thought about it a lot.”  She proceeded to ask a ton of questions, some that I had answers to, some that I didn’t.  The talk turned from the trip plans to how we’d actually go about teaching people how to sew stuff on treadle machines, which type we’d be using, and so on. She also, sometime in the middle of our conversation, started to say “we” about the sewing instructors.  These were clear signs of her intent but just to make sure, I asked her before hanging up -

“Mom, are you going to go with me?”

“Yeah, I don’t think I can say ‘no’ to this.”

I smiled. I am happy my mom is going to be with me on my adventure. It’s going to be crazy and scary and tiring and stretching, but the company is good. We’ve both become very excited about the prospect, and I really hope there are no trip cancelations in our future.

Now we just wait and prepare. Those two activities have been both stretching and rewarding, and they’re only going to become more difficult.  So far I’ve  submitted a lot of paperwork, “helped” with a garage sale (I use the term “helped” loosely because I had my 4 kids with me), worked at DFG events, attended a Ugandan dinner party, gotten sucked into IF:Gathering and IF:Table – my new loves, made some new friends, read a book to help prepare mentally, attended a few trip meetings with our team, and volunteered to help with some fundraising.  It certainly has not been the mellow year we were expecting.  :)  Oh well.  God is good, and if He wants me in Africa, that’s where I want to be.

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Uganda (Part 1)

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and a lot has happened.  Last spring we found out that my third pregnancy was twins.  That was a scary surprise, and we began to prepare ourselves for the worst.  We already had a one year old and a three year old and a roommate.  The roommate moved out, and we redecorated and re-purposed rooms to make space for the coming babies and for possible helpers.  My mom freaked out just a little (she had had twins at 30 weeks that were a crazy load of stress for about 10 years). I freaked out a little and went on to read every blog post I could find about how to prepare for and what to expect with multiples.  And we worked really hard all summer.  We decided to get everything in our lives as ready as we could, and we’d plan to spend the year after their birth just taking care of kids.

That was the plan anyway.  What has actually happened in the past 6 months has been tons of kids and.  And ministry.  And dinner get-togethers.  And church.  And building deeper relationships with friends. And painting and carpeting rooms.  And visiting family. And diving into the Word. And knowing Jesus more. And reading.  And attending conferences.  And…planning a trip to Uganda.

You see…our babies were/are good.  God was/is with us.  He had heard our scared prayers and caused our babies to be good little babies.  We had received the discipline he had for us after Naomi was born (you can read more about that here), and we’d changed so that we were ready to take on the larger responsibilities of 4 kids under the age of 4.  Everything that we thought about what it would be like to have twins has become an amazing picture of God’s goodness and mercy.  Our twins were not premature.  I did not need a C-section.  They were not in NICU.  The first year of twins has not been like hell, as some online said it would be.  It did not take 6 months to sleep train them, as I thought it would.  They almost never wake each other up by crying.  They do not even share a bedroom with us anymore.  It has not been as expected.

After the church plant we’d been heavily invested in for the past 6 years finally dissipated, we took a year off of conventional church and were just meeting weekly with some of our best friends for dinner and some sort of casual Bible study.  No one in our group being particularly driven to organize these weekly events, we eventually just started watching (online) the sermons from a large local church after dinner.  Then, when we resigned ourselves to the reality that with 2 babies we wouldn’t want to host weekly,  and our friends – also expecting again – wouldn’t either, the guys just mutually decided we’d all attend this large local church.

To be honest, I didn’t want to.  I love tiny church.  The kind where you can greet each person by name as they walk in the doors.  It’s like family.  I didn’t want to go to the large church and be just one face in a huge crowd, able to get lost, to have no accountability, no group of close friends to chat with each week.  But because I didn’t have a better plan, and because I really love my husband and will follow him where he goes, I went to Big Church.

It didn’t take long to adjust and start to love the sermons and music, and to pick out people that we knew.  We also got to know some of the childcare workers pretty well because our “big” kids always pitched huge crying fits when we had the audacity to leave them in their care.  It was great.

Six weeks after the twins were born was missions week at Big Church. After talking at length about God’s call on his life to pursue full-time mission work, Pastor Joe told us to go out in the lobby to look at the different tables that were set up with information about all the places Big Church was involved in the world.  The lobby was crammed with people that had filed out of the sanctuary and were just crowding around the different tables.  Tim gave me both of the babies in their car seats, after we agreed he should go get our “bigs” from the childcare room.

This happened when I was right in front of the table labeled “UGANDA” and “DAYS FOR GIRLS*”.  Not being interested in anything like that, I turned my back on it.  You see, just a couple of months earlier I’d told my sister-in-law (who LOVES Africa) that I was really glad that God made people like her that love Africa so much, because I didn’t want anything to do with Africa.  I’d always, since I was a young teen, had an aversion to the place, and I had no desire at all to go and get my hands dirty in the seemingly endless problems that exist there.  I turned my back on the table because my heart was turned away from the continent.

I looked through the crowd toward South America and East Asia, but remained rooted to the spot, even when I thought about wandering around the lobby a little. I felt a little as if the Holy Spirit was nudging me to turn around, but I refused on the grounds that it was Africa, and “We both know how I feel about Africa.”  Then, over the clamor of voices all around, I heard, clear as can be, “So what we really need is women who sew.”

I sighed and turned around.  Sometimes you know it’s God talking to you.  A woman named Shannon was telling a lady about how Days for Girls sews reusable fabric feminine hygiene products for girls who otherwise don’t have access to them.  These products can keep girls in school an extra week each month, reducing the drop-out rate. This in turn leads to a better educated population, improves the overall prosperity of a nation, and much much more.  These products are truly considered a godsend to the people receiving them.  Shannon had an email sign-up sheet so we could get info about the sewing events and what ways we could help, including providing supplies for the kits.

I signed up.  I resolved to go to the next sewing event taking place in 8 days, and I made a mental note to buy girl’s underwear for the kits next time I was at Walmart.

Before Tim and I had even left the church I already had objections.  Why were we making, in the US, things that women could make in their own countries with less expensive materials?  Were we hand delivering them? That seemed inefficient and wasteful.  Couldn’t it dignify women to make these and sell them in their own neighborhoods?  I had read Toxic Charity, so I knew what harms and what doesn’t.

All week as I was taking care of my kids, washing dishes, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and otherwise not using my brain for much, I was pondering Days for Girls and what they were doing.  I was praying about how I’d felt God’s nudge to get involved, but wondering if I really should.  Each time I prayed I heard 2 answers: “Just wait.” and “Go to the sewing event.”

So I waited, and I went.

The sewing event was crazy busy.  I saw that Shannon wasn’t going to have any free time, so I just took my sewing scissors and sat down at a table where a group of women were cutting on the line.  I figured even if I didn’t know anything about the construction of these things I could cut on the line.  The table I was at was rather quiet, and I am a chatty Cathy, so when we ran out of lines to cut on I went to a different table where the ladies were talking more and pinning.

At the pinning table a lady (whom I shall call Chatty Pinning Lady) was indeed chatty, and asked me a number of questions about myself including if I sew or not.  I do sew, and I told her so.  We eventually ran out of things to pin, so I had to go back to the cutting table.

Some time later I saw Shannon scanning the room very intently.  She walked past me, where I was sitting on a low cafe chair, and Chatty Pinning Lady marched over to me, pointed an accusing finger down at me and told Shannon in a strident voice, “SHE sews!”

I looked up guiltily, my eyes wide.  I had dreaded being asked to sew. Shannon turned and her eyes bored through me, as if her thoughts were having trouble collecting themselves.  She asked, “Do you?”

“Yes” I answered, cringing slightly.

Shannon continued to look down at me intently. I felt a bit like a school kid being scrutinized by a teacher.  ”Do you want to sew?”

“Not really” I reply. I’m shrinking in my little chair.

“Why not?” Shannon now looks confused.

I nervously look from face to face above me and start blabbing (It’s my default. Don’t judge.)  ”Because at home I use a really, really old sewing machine. You know, the kind with the pedal-” I am now treadling my feet in the air- ”and I don’t want to break your fancy electric machines,” I say.

Shannon is still staring. Chatty Pinning Lady is now looking confused.  She asks, “It has 2 foot pedals?”

“No” I say, and I continue the blabbing, saying something about one pedal with two feet.  My feet are still going strong. Someone behind us shouts out, “Treadle!”  And I nod affirmatively.

Shannon hasn’t blinked or broken eye contact all this time.  ”You treadle? Well that’s good, because when we go to Uganda to teach the women there how to sew these themselves we need to know how to treadle, and right now we don’t know how to do that.”

My forehead instantly breaks out in sweat (thank God I have bangs) and I start in with a very nervous and very high-pitched laugh.  I reply, “Well that’s good that you’re going to be teaching them how to make these themselves.  It’s better than having us make them forever.”

Or something like that.  I don’t quite remember, because what I was thinking was, “Oh God.  You’re going to send me to Africa, aren’t you?” and He laughed and said, “Yes. Yes I am.” And really, that was much more memorable than what was coming out of my mouth at the time…


*If you want to know more about Days for Girls and the positive impact of reusable feminine hygiene products, please visit to learn why I have chosen to get involved, and why you should too.

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Today I am writing in the first free time I’ve managed since the birth of my second daughter, Naomi.  She is almost 7 weeks old, but as anyone who has had a baby knows, life is crazy for a while.  It’s doubly crazy when you also have a 2-year-old.   Life has been difficult in many ways this winter, including in the areas of our finances, sickness, my crazy postpartum hormones, parenting alone since Tim had to work away from home, and lack of sleep.

I don’t know about you, but when I go through difficult times, I get really whiny at God.  I sort of assume that since he says he’s merciful, compassionate, and tender that he will give me what I want when I ask it as some sort of proof of his claims.  This winter I didn’t ask for stupid stuff, but I asked to not be sick any longer, and I asked that my toddler will sleep at night in spite of her teething, and my newborn in spite of her newborn-ness.  I asked that the nursing would go super smoothly and that I wouldn’t have to monitor everything I do quite so closely, and I prayed that Tim will stop coughing all night.  I prayed that someday we can get a raise – even a little one, and I prayed that I wouldn’t feel depressed or full of blind rage for no apparent reasons.

But God didn’t give me what I asked for.

And this made me really frustrated.  And my attitude became, “Well, since you aren’t listening, I will just get along on my own then.”   I know that God is listening, but somehow I felt like his back was turned to me for  a few weeks or a month or so.  It didn’t matter what I asked, he wasn’t going to give it to me.   It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening, it was like he didn’t want to be.

So I started to try to tune in to what God wanted me to do, say, and learn.  What he wanted me to think.  I prayed differently for a week or so, no longer asking for things, but asking him to revive our relationship.  He didn’t say a whole lot that week either.

Maybe I should tell you now that I have been reading 1 Peter.  By this I mean that in the past 3-4 weeks I have read 1 Peter 18 times.   A friend and I get together for accountability, and one of the things we hold each other to is reading 25-30 chapters of Scripture per week.  I thought we’d decided on 1 Peter, my friend thought we’d decided on James, then the holidays hit so we didn’t meet for 2 weeks, and now I am reading 1 Peter again for a couple weeks because my friend has only read it 5 times.   Anyway, 1 Peter, if you’ve never read it, has a LOT to say about suffering.  How good it is.  How we ought to be joyful through suffering, how it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing bad, etc.  Maybe it’s just because I’m going through a season, but I felt like each time I read through 1 Peter, I found the words “suffering”, “difficulty”, and “trial” in even more verses than I had the last time I read it through.

But last Sunday at church our pastor Eric was delivering a message very badly when he stopped abruptly, prayed, and started telling us, with deep vulnerability, that he is a mess, and the reason he was giving the message (on embracing good change and embracing the difficulties associated with change) was because he doesn’t want all of us to avoid doing what God wants us to do the way that he has avoided it in the past. He didn’t want us to think he’s a hypocrite, but that he wants better for us. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.  Everyone was listening.  He followed his notes less closely after that, and I thought the Holy Spirit was speaking through him very clearly.

The message was good.  One of the best I’ve heard from him, and maybe ever heard.  Convicting and real and to the point.

At one point Eric told all of us that he has financial problems.  He spends his money unwisely, and sometimes he has trouble paying his bills.  He told us that he will do this and then cry out to God to rescue him from the difficulty, but God won’t, because sometimes Eric is better off learning from his mistakes and making the changes that need to be made.  I interpreted this to mean that sometimes it’s wiser for God to let us deal with stuff than for him to just deliver us from the situation.

Then Eric said that he’d gone to a quiet place as a sort of retreat, and while there, God had told him something.  What God told him made everything in the past month click in my brain like an epiphany.  God said, “I don’t owe you anything.  When I sent Jesus to the cross, my obligation ended.  Everything else I do for you is just bonus.”

So that day I was too busy after church to have time to process what I’d learned.  But the next day I took nap time and started journaling my thoughts to God.  Here is what came to me as I scribbled in my spiral-bound notebook.


I haven’t known exactly how to connect with You lately, but I feel like You’ve been trying to teach me some new lessons.

1) You don’t owe me anything. Just because I ask You for something doesn’t mean You have to give it to me. Nor, if You don’t make my life peachy and perfect, are you somehow neglecting Your end of some unspoken bargain.  I don’t deserve You, and I can’t boss You around.

2) Life is difficult. I need to get over it. Difficulties, problems, trials, etc. will all shape my character, but if I’m not careful I’ll let it shape me into a bitter nag.  Instead, I should be mindful of Your sovereignty, of heaven, and of Your instructions to be joyful because in the long run my faith will be stronger for having experienced those trials.

3) I need to stop whining.  Difficulties and trials are much less horrible if I am less self-centered and more cheerful. It’s a bit if a mind over matter deal, and if I just face the problem, it goes much better.

4) I need to adjust my expectations.  I can’t expect everyone to do and be how I imagine or hope or plan that they will be.  I think this will help me become less reactive and more relaxed.  Not that I want to let everything slide in life, but that when Kira acts 2 years old, I will not be surprised and angry.  I can discipline with a clear mind that is not clouded by anger.  Or when I don’t get enough sleep my attitude isn’t constantly, “I only got 3 hours of sleep, this day isn’t going to go well.”  Which makes my expectations for my own behavior very low.  I expect Kira to act like an adult, and Naomi to act like someone on a schedule, but I don’t act that way myself.

5) I need to keep a clear focus on You and act in a way worthy of  Your gift of salvation.  Even when things are difficult and stressful and hormonal, I need to be calm, thankful, and focused on Jesus’ example of willing suffering.  I need to not be a martyr (“Oh poor me!”) but realistic (“The world is a challenging place, and it doesn’t revolve around me”).  Lord, please help me change my thinking.

6) I need to stop being so selfish.  I can serve Tim more, boss him around less, and have less.  I can be thankful for what I have instead of wanting more.  I can stop being annoyed when people don’t consult me before doing things I’d prefer they didn’t do.  I can sleep less and be happy.  Eat less and be happy.  Clean more – or clean less – and be happy.  Selfishness kills happiness.

7) I need to stop trying to eliminate discomfort (pain, difficulty, trials, etc.) from my life.  I spend a lot of time and energy trying to eliminate discomfort, and it’s not getting me anywhere.  In fact, it’s making me a discomfort to be around.  When difficulty, pain, trials – even feeling inadequate – happens, I should embrace it joyfully and let it teach me greater humility, joy, thankfulness, and dependence on You.

Lord, thank You that I “missed” a “much-needed” nap to get this out of my head, figure out what You’ve been trying to teach me, and write it down.  So what if I’m sick, up at all hours of the night with my newborn, and life’s been a crazy ride lately?  I’m glad You love me and care enough to teach me.  Please keep allowing difficulty in my life so I can become someone You truly want to spend eternity with.  I love You.”

After writing that journal entry, I have felt much better, and have been dealing with the stresses of life much more cheerfully and calmly.  I have not been crazy angry or crying all afternoon.  I have been getting a little more sleep sometimes, and less at others, but have been handling it well.  I have been letting Tim sleep when Kira wakes up in the middle of the night if I hear her first.  I have been ok with not making as much money as I would like, and have even committed some of our money to helping a family I know that is going through much more than I have been lately.  Tim and I have been getting better slowly, and the nursing is going ok too.  Ok, the nursing must be going really well since Naomi grew 2 pounds since birth, is an inch longer, and has a 40 cm head.  :)  Even though life isn’t better in every way, I am better.  And honestly, I am wondering what sort of things God is going to teach me through the trials of my future.  Hopefully, I will act less like a toddler that God is putting in timeout than I have in the near past.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

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