My dad is dying.

It was hard to type that. It’s hard to say it…or even think it.

But he is. And I’m not. And that’s weird. It feels weird to do dishes and curl my hair and do my homework while my dad is slowly wasting away.
051
He has what we believe is a cancerous tumor in the very back of his mouth on his tongue. He’s refused treatment and is now under hospice care.

A little over a week ago my sister got a call saying he wouldn’t live through the weekend. His tumor had been bleeding and he was very weak. But it quit bleeding and by the time we arrived (less than 24 hours after getting “the call”) he was up and around, drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes like normal.

Like I said it feels weird to move on from those hours we thought would be our last with him.

We spent last Saturday evening and most of that Sunday just sitting outside together. We talked about his dog, the weather, his grandkids. He was willing to chat about anything, except what we needed to talk about the most.

He looked terrible. His complexion told the story of the blood he’d lost the day before. And it broke my heart.

I don’t really know my dad very well and I guess part of my heartbreak is that I never will.

And though it’s hard for me that life goes on…it does anyway. Time does not stop because I am in crisis. I cook for my family. I clean my house. I curl my hair. I try to do homework.

I remember that God is faithful and that He is my hope.

The hardest part about my mission trip to Ghana was coming home. Not just coming home…being home. That first few weeks I was an emotional wreck.

ghana church in sing

My plane landed in the States on a Tuesday afternoon over spring break. My youngest didn’t have school. My oldest didn’t have his homeschool enrichment program to go to. Church was canceled that Wednesday and Sunday due to crazy snow. So aside from my own family…I didn’t see anyone for 5 or 6 days.

I needed the down time and I was grateful for it. But I didn’t realize how cocooned I had been from the rest of my world…from my friends. Monday morning “back to life” was a shock.

ghana clinic in sawla

I got my youngest where he needed to go and was walking with my oldest into the front door of the enrichment program. He went left to go to class and I kept walking right out the back door. By the time I reached it I was in tears.

So what happened that was so traumatic between the front door and the back door?

Questions.

I didn’t know how to sum things up. I didn’t know how to answer honestly. And I didn’t know that I didn’t know. So it took me by surprise. And it was overwhelming.

ghana learning to play the drums

I’ve since processed through most of it and will attempt to answer the following questions in my next several posts.

•What was your favorite thing about Africa?

•What was the hardest thing about being there?

•Did you meet anyone that you’ll never forget?

•What did God teach you while you were there?

•What was the ministry like?

•Do you feel called to go back?

Like I said, the hardest part about the trip was those first few weeks home. But I think I’ve processed enough of the information to share now. Finally!

I grew up in a tiny little town in the Oklahoma panhandle. It was the kind of place that you had to drive 10 miles (across state line) just to get gas or groceries. We had a school, a post office, a cafe…and I think that might be it. Maybe a convenience store. We had one police officer.

I loved living out in the country. I remember snakes, and trains and tumble weeds, being barefoot and catching lots of frogs.

From there my family moved to Las Vegas, NV. I was 10. Talk about culture shock!

In my teens we moved to the suburbs of Kansas City and I’ve been here ever since. (Well mostly!)

Anyway, none of the above is my point. Just a little background to help me get to my point.

I have a love/hate relationship with tornadoes (you would too if you grew up in rural Oklahoma) and a love/love relationship with original art…so I was thrilled when I found this at my favorite thrift store last night!

art - africa and owl barn wood 006

I was initially drawn in by the owl and the barn wood. Not that I actually have a thing for either they just caught my eye. Then I flipped the thing over and saw this…

art - africa and owl barn wood 009

and this…

art - africa and owl barn wood 008

And I was in love. I paid a mere $3.99 and took it home with me.

My favorite thing to do when I find something like this is go home and research the artist online. Unfortunately, I found nothing on this artist. But I still love the piece and it’s found a home in my entryway right next to my favorite mirror.

Isn’t it funny how art affects us emotionally? Every time I look at that owl and that old torn up wood…I feel happy and free…like a little girl catching frogs and running around barefoot in rural Oklahoma. But I also feel a little anxious about tornadoes.  Hahaha, such is life.

Several months ago I looked around and realized a few things that Ieft me pretty discouraged.

  • I have a ton of workout clothes…but I wear them as pajamas because I don’t actually workout consistently.

  • I own several gardening books…but I don’t garden.

  • I own several cookbooks that represent many different ideas on healthy eating…but really I just eat the same old things I’ve always eaten.

  • I have a lot of books on home decor and home improvement…but no real dedication to any of the projects on my list.

  • And last…and this is the one that’s changed…I have tons of resources on missions and teaching kids about missions..but had never been on a mission trip.

simply in season

When I made these observations my initial thought was, “I live a totally fake life in my own head. The kind of life where I workout, eat healthy homegrown food, have a lovely home and serve people in the name of Jesus worldwide.”

Doesn’t that life sound great? It does to me!

That’s why I’ve decided that I’ve got to make some changes. I don’t want to live a fake life. Don’t get me wrong…I have a great life…but I know that there are things I want that I’m just too lazy to go get.

Going on the missions trip taught me a few things. (More on that later.) One of the things I learned is that the extra effort you put into something that seems difficult is worth it.

So this is me…putting in a little more effort and praying that a little turns into a lot more effort.  No more lazy bones! No more fake life.

Loving God and loving missions have always gone hand in hand in my heart. When I became a Christian 14 years ago I didn’t know that it would mean falling in love with the whole world…but it did and I’m glad.

So, I’ve spent the last 14 years supporting missionaries prayerfully and financially. I’ve read about missionaries (Gladys Aylward is one of my favorites.), served on the church mission board and spent a few years teaching kids about God’s work all over the world.

And now…God has given me the opportunity to go to Ghana, Africa on a short term mission trip. Here’s a photo my husband shared on facebook with the caption, “My wife is going to Ghana!”
my wife is going to Ghana
This was such a long shot. I had less than 8 weeks to raise the money needed, get my passport, get my shots and get my visa, but God has provided every step of the way.

For example, I found out about the trip January 11 and was required to raise the first $1500 needed by January 31st. So of course I started fundraising right away. I was worried because 2 days before the deadline I woke up still needing to raise over a thousand dollars! The next morning I woke up needing $650 and the morning of the deadline I still needed $461. But the money kept pouring in little bits at a time. While I slept the night of the 31st God met that first goal.

I could tell you several more stories along the same lines. God has been so faithful in every detail.

Psalm 37:4 says
Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.

That verse tells my story. God puts the desires in our hearts and then He is generous enough to grant them! Like my friend Alicia said to me, “Your heart has always been in missions, now your body gets to go too!” Thank you God!

According to Eric Liddell,  “We are all missionaries wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ.”

I am praying that I will be a blessing and bring God glory wherever I am and wherever I go. And I am praising Him and doing a happy dance in appreciation of His generosity.

I’m going to Ghana!

I wake this morning with melancholy in my heart. My youngest is sick so we canceled dinner plans that I’d been looking forward to. I’m way behind on my homework and my house could use a good cleaning. My dad is not well and I don’t know how to help him. And I’m secretly terrified of the mission trip to Ghana, Africa that  I’m going on in 4 weeks.

My laundry list of worries and fears seems long today.

I know what my real problem is. None of the above. Not that those aren’t real problems. They are. But my real problem, my underlying problem, is that I’ve been neglecting my morning quiet time with God.  And I miss Him.

A friend once told me, “It’s a predictable pattern.” And he’s right. When I stop soaking in God’s Word and living and breathing prayer…I forget who I am and I forget whom I serve. And I begin to take on all these problems on my own. They pile up fast. Life can be overwhelming. It happens every time.

We’re not meant to live like this.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
John 15:4

It’s time to stop the pity party.

Today I chose Christ. Today I remember. Today I will not be anxious.  Today I will rest in Him. Today I will remain in Him.

I unexpectedly became a college student last week. Four hours before class started I called the director of the program and worked out the details.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time! I’ve taken traditional college classes before.

The program I’m enrolled in is a one year ministry training program and our first class is Practical Christian Living. We’re studying spiritual formation.

As we study the spiritual disciplines I’ve realized how fortunate I am to have a strong spiritual mentor in my life. He is so good at pointing my back to God when I am so focused on my own problems that I’m overwhelmed. And he’s encouraged me to practice the spiritual disciplines in an authentic and organic way.

It’s easy to start thinking of the spiritual disciplines as a checklist. Prayer? Check. Study? Check.

I don’t think this is what God is looking for. I thinking He’s looking for interaction and dependence on our part. It’s easy to perform a ritual and check it off the list without ever really encountering God.

Ken Boa (the writer of my textbook) says, “Spiritual disciplines are good servants but poor masters; they are useful means but inadequate ends.” I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I pray and study and worship etc. because I love Jesus and want to live my life with Him! But I don’t feel bad if one season is more focused on Bible study and another is more focused on prayer.

I do have to be careful to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s leading in me. If I’m not intentional about listening I can become distracted and lonely for the Lord. But I think this weakness is also a strength. I like having to be attentive to God.

What about you? What are your thoughts on spiritual formation? Or what adventure does God have you on right now?

What did the snail say while riding on the back of the turtle?  Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

What did one lawyer say to the other lawyer?  We are both lawyers.

What do you call a poodle who likes to take a bath?  A shampoodle

What is smarter than a talking bird?  A spelling bee.

My family loves to laugh and we’re always trying to one up each other with a new (clean) joke! But it wasn’t always this way.

I personally always thought of myself as having very little sense of humor. I can’t think of a single movie that would be considered comedy that I love and I can’t stand slap stick. Also, I mostly don’t get it when other people are joking…I’m usually thinking, “Huh?” I guess I’m just slow that way.

In my old age (late 30’s) I’m finally starting to get sarcasm. And that has been quite fun.

Maybe that’s what sparked the desire for more. I just remember looking around one day and realizing that we (as a family) didn’t really laugh together a lot. It made me sad.

So I got a big fat joke book and read it cover to cover. Then I wrote down all the jokes I thought the kids would like and put them in a big bowl in the middle of the kitchen table. Each night we would take turns choosing jokes and cracking each other up. We had so much fun!!

It amazed me that with just a little effort, laughter and humor could become part of our lives and change the way we interact with each other.

So often we think, “This is just the way it is.” But it’s not always. Sometimes, this is just the way we’re allowing it to be.

I love that we have the option of taking charging and setting out a big bowl of jokes on the kitchen table!

I am a terrible housekeeper! If you know me you’re probably laughing because you know it’s true. I almost always have dishes in the sink, laundry piling up and a stack of books strewn across the couch or kitchen table or both.

I’m not bragging.

No really, I’m not. Believe me, if I’m having an, “I’m a failure” moment, 9 times out of 10 it’s because my house is trashed and I’m totally overwhelmed by it.

So being the bad housekeeper that I am, I find myself constantly looking for a “better system”. I can’t tell you the number of chore charts I’ve filled out for my family and I. And they always work out for a while…and then I slack off…and they don’t work anymore.

But I think, I’ve finally found the perfect solution to conquering my mess! We call it the Twenty Minute Tornado (or the 10 minute tornado if we’re pressed for time).

I’m sure I didn’t make this up but I don’t know who to give credit to so I’ll just share how it works in my house.

Step 1: Eat dinner at the kitchen table. If this doesn’t happen then a lot of times the tornado doesn’t either. So you could say this is the most important step.

Step 2: After dinner set the oven timer (for 10 or 20 minutes) and announce that the tornado has begun!

Step 3: Everyone cleans as fast as they can until the timer goes off.

We have pretty specific chores that everyone begins with, dad in the bathroom, kids take out trash and recycling and clean the kitty litter box, mom does dishes. Once those chores are complete everyone pitches in as needed. The ultimate goal is that with the 4 of us working together our living room, kitchen and bathroom will be spotless when the timer goes off.

We’ve been doing this for almost a year now and I can’t talk enough about how well it works. The kids like knowing that they only have to clean for a short amount of time and I like knowing that I don’t carry the weight of it all on my shoulders.

If we’re going out for dinner we will often do our 20 minute tornado right before we leave and it is so nice to come home to a clean house. (Sometimes we forget, see Step 1).

So, what”s your favorite housekeeping tip?

It’s back to school day!

My youngest starts 4th grade today at a private Christian school down the street from our house. My oldest is in 7th grade, still homeschooling and attending a homeschool enrichment program 2 days a week. Today is the first day of the enrichment program.

So both boys have a new start today with the new school year.  And I begin mothering them, guiding them and praying for them on their new adventures.

I can sometimes get so bogged down with making lunches, washing laundry, helping with homework and double checking back packs that I forget what the other side of mothering is all about.

On one side the daily management of our homes matters. Last year I found myself buying fast food for breakfast and sending my kids to school with dirty jeans on far more often then I’d care to admit. (I can’t believe I just admitted it at all actually.) So I’ve committed to doing a better job of managing my home this year.

I want my boys to start each day with confidence and strength, not watching me scramble to get it together.

On the other side, I know that mothering is more than clean clothes and nutritious meals.

I thought I would make a short little list of a couple of the things that mothering means beyond the day to day duties, but I quickly realized that it’s impossible to sum it up.

There is so much to being a good mom…knowing when to solve problems and when to just listen, knowing when to cuddle and when they’re not in the mood, balancing discipline with grace. I could go on and on.

Parenting is such a big job, such a tall order. It can be overwhelming. We can sometimes feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.

The good news is, it’s not. We serve a capable God…who is more than willing and able to succeed where we fail!

So as this new school year begins and each of us get a new start, the most important commitment I’m making is to be my children’s most diligent prayer warrior and to trust God’s promises for them and for me!