In 13 Years




It was 13 years ago that I stood in front of several hundred witnesses, promising all sorts of things to a man I realize now, I hardly knew.  I still remember the day – how beautiful I felt, and yet how self-conscious.  How excited I was, and yet how my hands were trembling.  How I loved my veil, and hated my shoes.  How I thought my eye shadow was too dark, and I wondered whether anyone else would notice.  How my heart fluttered at the sight of Pat, all the while my eyes filled with tears at the thought of leaving my Dad.  I recall the conflict of emotions as my very first man walked me toward my new man, letting go of my uncertain hand and ushering me toward adult-hood.

That was 13 years ago.

In the span between, 4 children have been born to us, and we have been thrown into the bigger realities at the speed of life.  There have been good days and bad.  There have been good years and bad.  And whether the sun has shone or the days have been dark, we have learned.

13 years in, I feel like we are barely scratching the surface of what we know of love.  But there are a handful of truths we have absorbed along the bumpy way.


Love is a Verb

I am a words woman.  I faithfully express 20,000 or so on an average day – more if we are disagreeing.  My husband, like many men, does not.  He daily expresses 7,000 or so – less if we are disagreeing.

One of the monuments I built to self when we were dating, is the confidence that I could make Pat a talker.   That with enough coercion, I could make him a chattery girl-friend, who would read my thoughts and intuitively speak to my every insecurity.

emma and elinor

After 13 years, I have grown to recognize that my husband does not need to exhaust the English language in order to demonstrate his love for me.  Rather, like most prefer, he loves with action and intent.  He meets needs with kindness and loyalty.  He steps into many exhausted situations and rescues.  He does this because he equates love with service.

And the simplicity of love = service is the oil that keeps the engine of a marriage running on many a weary day.

Children Rescue

Children are absurd, aren’t they?

I truly think our kids are the funniest beings around, and daily they surprise me with their quick wit and easy humor.  Kids possess a unique ability to dismantle tension through simply not noticing it.

silly kids 2

They take the shambles of a difficult day, and force laughter and light with their jokes and antics.  Their joy and love not only  supports and reinforces our married love, but working toward their mutual good solidifies our unity as a couple.

Our kids save us many days, and I hope we always let them know it.


As You Multiply, You Will be Tempted to Divide

Nonetheless, there are challenges associated with married parenting. The sweet little blessings who share our DNA, mirroring all that we appreciate best and dislike most of ourselves, have a strong and steady hold on us at all times.  As I type this post, our oldest rarely goes to bed before 10pm anymore, and our youngest seems to have taken to moon-lighting, waking up at 3 am with urgent needs like, “My slipper fell off”.

tiny baby

Parenting is not for cowards, and one of the most daunting take-away’s is perpetual exhaustion, which becomes spousal lethargy.  My Dad {a father of 5} once warned us of the temptation to divide as we multiplied our family.  His words have spurred us on in various ways, one of the simplest of which is securing a monthly baby-sitter.

Too many marriages are becoming mathematical statistics, and I do not want ours to be a lesson in division.


You Will Break Your Best Goals Sometimes {And that is Okay}

Pat and I cooed at one another while dating, stating that we would never raise our voices at each other, or our future children.  13 years in, there is a basket in our living room that has the top smashed in because I broke my word and something had to take the rap {or the wrath, in this case}.  Marriage can, and will reach a boiling point from time to time.  But our basket survived, and somehow there is healthy symbolism in its damaged, yet functioning top.


Life is Hard, But God is Good

Marriage has its challenges not so much because it is intrinsically difficult, but because it takes place in the middle of every other part of life.  Better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health is the broader context for our vows.  And being poor {not rich}, facing long-term illness {not health}, living through the worse {not better} years, can be discouraging, and will easily force to the surface the integrity of married vows.

We were not meant to “do” marriage alone, as solitary units.  We have a God who has gone before us and who stands behind us in all of the intricacies of family life.

We trust His goodness, and not our own.  We rely on His grace, because we will run out.

And we rest our confidence in His faithfulness, because He alone will enable us to be faithful, ’til death do us part.







Women of the Word Month: Sign up and Grow!

bible stacks


Having trouble getting in the Word?

Having difficulty staying in the Word?

This month only, Crossway Publishers is sponsoring a Women of the Word Month.  By signing up, you will receive the following free items sent to your Inbox each day from July 1-31.


  • Daily Devotional – designed to guide you through a survey of the Old Testament
  • Practical Articles – written to encourage and equip you for consistent Bible study from favorite authors
  • Inspiring Personal Stories – from Christian leaders, related to the life-changing power of God’s Word

Feeling a little dry devotionally?

Sign up here to receive a month of solid, daily truth.

For other ideas on Summer devotions, here is a post on 5 Excellent Summer Bible studies for you and a friend.

And here is a 1 simple way to accomplish Summer devotions.


What is your plan for Summer Bible-reading?

If you are struggling to find one, consider Women of the Word by signing up here.

Recap of Gospel Coalition Women ’14

{Photo courtesy of Reformed Theological Seminary}

{Photo courtesy of Reformed Theological Seminary}

After some 8 hours in airports and delayed airplanes, I am finally home from Orlando.  I greeted our children and spent 20 minutes with them before our babysitter arrived – for coming-home day was also our 13th wedding anniversary.  For a Mom who shuttles between Target, school and grocery stores, the past weekend was notedly different.

Here are a handful of highlights from the weekend:

 Room-mate Fellowship

Spending time with my sister-in-law was both fun and helpful.  Fun, because 2 women on the loose is bound to be an adventure.  Whether at the pool, in our room or on the elevator, we managed to experience absurd moments made more hilarious by the sharing.

And helpful, because within the realm of mothering, the need to process is often greater than our time allows for.  But this weekend, we had time to spill our words.  And we did.

photo booth

Challenging Speakers

 Did you manage to listen to any part of the Gospel Coalition livestream?

If so, whose seminar did you most enjoy?

Though I enjoyed the varying angles of each of the plenary speakers, the joy pouring from both the words and the countenance of John Piper, was what challenged me most.  Piper loves, enjoys and celebrates the Gospel.  As he stated poignantly from the stage: “What I want almost more than anything else is to never sin again”.

To hear Piper speak is to be renewed by the beauty of God’s Word.  And to think all the while, I want to be more like that!


The Empty Bookshelves Project

Aileen and I were able to donate a stack of books to a project which Gospel Coalition is under-taking: The Empty Bookshelves Project.  2,000 stacks of books were brought to the conference, to be distributed to pastors overseas.  The purpose of the project is to training pastors theologically, so that they are shepherding their churches in sound doctrine and truth.

book shelves

Most pastors in poor nations lack access to formal seminary training, and often do not have extra funds to purchase books which would assist them in learning.  By the time we left Orlando, all 2,000 book stacks were sponsored and bundled, ready to be distributed.  Praise God!


There is a small group of women who write in varying places.  This weekend we met up for coffee and in-person fellowship.


women who write

 From left to right:

These women are shaping hearts and minds through their giftedness, and it was a privilege to meet {and hug} them, finally.

Writer’s Seminar

On Saturday evening, Aileen and I were invited to attend a workshop for 100 women who write.

Though I knew a handful of book give-away’s might be on the menu, I was not prepared for this:

stack of books

Books were squished into ever crevice of luggage coming home, but books are books – you make room for them!  In the coming weeks, I hope to review many of these for you.

Book Tables

Many publishers were available at the conference with books at 40% off retail. For the nth time, I kicked myself for bringing a tiny suit-case.

book tables

Because of limited space, I made my focus kids books, and I managed to snag a few to read with them this Summer.  Again, as we progress with our reading, I will review and recommend here.

Coming Home

There is nothing like returning to the place where you are loved best and love the most.

my kids

Greeted by hugs and “I missed you” and little cards – this is where the world turns best.

The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference did not disappoint.  It was more than I hoped for.

But it is also good to be home.







Gospel Coalition Women ’14


At the time you read this post, Lord willing I will be packing up my suitcase and hopping a train to the Atlanta airport, en route to Orlando for The 2014 Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference.

According to its mission statement, The Gospel Coalition is a Reformed network of churches, which encourages and educates current and next-generation Christian leaders by advocating gospel-centered principles and practices that glorify the Savior and do good to those for whom He shed his life’s blood. 


Here is what The Gospel Coalition Women says about the 2014 conference:

A conference for women, all about the Word! Plenary speakers will unfold the book of Nehemiah—the story of God’s people returned to a broken-down city and called to trust God’s Word at a point of great need. It’s about God redeeming a people for himself through his Son. This is our story. We’ll focus on listening to this Word…living in light of it…helping others hear it…worshiping according to it…waiting on the Spirit who inspired it…exalting Jesus at the center of it.

 The Pre-Conference focuses on God’s good purposes in his creation of human beings as male and female. We’ll highlight Scripture’s teachings concerning men and women in the church and in marriage, and we’ll talk about these teachings both theologically and personally.

 Workshops on Saturday afternoon are offered in themed tracks, with topics from theology to sexuality…from evangelism to writing…from the persecuted church to the ministry of hospitality.


The workshops I will attend are:

  • You are What you Read {Rosaria Butterfield}
  • Homosexuality and Christian Faith {Rosaria Butterfield}
  • The Impact of Sexual Abuse and How God’s Grace Heals and Transforms Lives {Ellen Dykas}

What I am excited about:

  • meeting up with writing friends in “real” time
  • attending an evening social for women who are members of the PCA {our denomination}
  • attending a writer’s workshop
  • spending time with my sister-in-law, who is my brother’s right arm and a tireless worker
  • worshiping with Keith and Kristyn Getty
  • floating down the Lazy River at the hotel {no need to explain this one}


 My friend Tara, will be live-blogging the conference.  And the site will be updated frequently with photos and music and speakers.  So, please check out the link here.

suitcase shot

The writing event I am attending will involve publishers distributing books to attendees.  So I hope to have new books to recommend and perhaps even give away in the coming weeks.  You can follow the conference here, or follow my blog page on FB.  I hope to update the page throughout the weekend.

Happy Thursday, all. And thank you, as always, for being here.


Guest Post by Jo: Jealousy and Pink Cupcakes

Many of you met my cousin, Jo when she wrote about her family’s experience in providing foster care.  In fact, those posts were some of the most widely read on this page.  {You can find them here and here}.

Jo is a beautiful and colorful writer.  I asked her if she would be willing to submit another post for the site, but she is currently fostering again – an infant this time – so her hands are rightfully full.

Jo wrote a while back on jealousy, and her relationship with the “J” word.  Because jealousy is a struggle that rears its head within all of us at times, I thought you might enjoy the honesty and encouragement of Jo’s thoughts, as she remarks on jealousy and pink cupcakes.




Today is International Women’s Day. As far as I know it is a day set aside to fight about Cupcakes. Fight is, in fact, built into the day’s mandate: . . . “an opportunity to fight for political freedom, equal pay and working rights.”


Sigh. I don’t wanna fight about cupcakes. I don’t wanna fight red-faced and sign-toting. I don’t know if more fight is what I need. God knows it’s already there, threatening to escape at every opportunity.

On this day of all days, I wanted to honor a friend who embodied all that will not make the headlines on International Women’s Day: humility and quiet kindness.

First, though, some thoughts on jealousy. Is it just me, or does the big ‘J’ seem to be a lurking presence our lives? I think it is. We really don’t admit to it readily because that would be a painfully vulnerable thing to do. Admitting to jealousy is admitting to pride and insecurity, neither of which, any of us would like to associate with ourselves.



I am a jealous woman. I admit it.

What’s worse, it seems like I haven’t made any headway with it. I never expected to beat it entirely, but I had hoped it would crop up less frequently. Instead, it has simply taken on new forms. Where I was once quick to desire someone else’s body, now I quite happily steal their character. I look at a woman of serenity and wisdom and I want to swindle her of those qualities.

Jealousy is easily detectable by the small part of yourself which, rather than rejoicing over what another woman has, resents her for it instead.

Two days ago, I was reminded that the Christian fight is more often about wrestling your self to the ground and learning to unclench fists, open them and turn them palm-upwards.

Jealousy? Defy it and act out against it with extended hands.

I saw this when a dear lady I know made an early morning phone call just to tell her friend all about the lovely thing she’d heard said about her the evening before. She explained that she’d felt compelled to do it for several reasons. One of which was that she rightly assumed that these were not the kinds of calls most women receive. Her next reason for calling was because her first instinct upon hearing her friend praised was to feel jealous.


What an example she is to me! She took a sober look at herself and then defied the inner-responses she sensed were there by acting in complete opposition to them. That there’s the way to fight. I love you sister. I do not want to grab all of your outstanding moral fiber and run for the hills.

I just want to be more like you.

18 Summers

{Photo courtesy:}

{Photo courtesy:}

Upon missing a day of blogging this week, the inner-perfectionist within deflated a little.   In the span of 5 months, I had yet to miss M/W/F post.

Until this week.

My oldest daughter’s birthday happened to land on Wednesday.  Which happened to be a day that I was spending the night at my Mom’s house, so that we could celebrate “the big 12″ together.  We found ourselves busy catching up, visiting a toy-store, eating ice cream and talking some more.  Writing just never factored in to the busy fun of that day.

I am sure by now, you have seen the “18 Summers” tag floating around Facebook and Pinterest.  The State of Idaho has launched a campaign to encourage parents to embrace the Summer as a time to invest in and enjoy their children.

18 summers 2

After all, there are only 18 Summers in any child’s life.

With simple calculation, this movement reminds me that there are merely 6 Summers left with my oldest.


This little-turned bigger girl is at camp this week, on her own.  And for the next few Summers, the theme of “on her own” will likely become more resounding.

Because we are raising them to be confident leaving us, right?

goes by fast

Six Summers left mean that 12 are in the past.  I don’t love a fraction of 2/3’s behind, to remind me that there are things I would do differently.

But there are many memories left to make.

And so if the laptop stays dusty this Summer, so be it.

If the house remains suspended in constant upheaval {which it is}, oh well.

If our routine hangs crooked for a handful of weeks while we live together without boundaries, who really cares?

Time is running out with each handful of hot, sunny days.

And I don’t want to waste them.

Here is a sweet reminder from the Idaho 18 Summers campaign to embrace the coming, un-structured days.

To a busy Mom, the lazy days of Summer really are not.

The bulk of family memories boil down to hard work and scrupulous organizing.  Which at the most exhausting moments can raise the question: Where is my vacation?

I hope you find encouragement in considering the short amount of time we are actually entrusted with our children.  The days will fly by until one Summer there is an extra seat at the dinner table, and extra room in the car.  And at that time, I imagine there will be a few pangs of sadness.  They are gone, making their own memories.

These Summer days with little ones might be long, but the years are truly so, so short.





1 Simple Method for Accomplishing Devotions in the Summer

rise and shine

Oh, Summer!

I love its loosened pace.  I love its wide open days with space to choose what we do, where we go.  I love its switch-up in routine which allows for rest and healthy change.

But, I do not love what Summer does to my relationship with my Bible.

The moment school is out it is as though all of my self-will is tossed in the trash, alongside the kids’ end-of-year paperwork. My discipline goes on vacation as of the last weekend in May, and I struggle to corral it for 8 solid weeks.

Do you share in this tension between rest and laziness?

Sally Clarkson asserts that a “wise woman surrounds herself with other wise women”.  And it was a wise friend who once shared with me a method for accomplishing simple, daily Bible reading which has helped me since, when life gets chaotic and frazzled.

A Study in the Psalms

A few years back, I went through a period of struggling with crippling depression.  And for over a year, I was nearly emotionally immobilized.  It was awful.  In fact, so pervasive was this depression that I clearly recall journalling, “Today I laughed”.

Thankfully, God taught me more through this period of darkness than I could ever learn in the sunshine, so I am indebted to His mercy.  But, it was difficult.  And I was mentally worn by the struggle to daily “rise and shine” and put on my Mom-armor in order to face the tasks of a busy family.

It was in this period, that my wise friend recommended a study in the Psalm as a means of refreshing myself in God’s character.

my cup overflows

Each day, she suggested, take a Psalm and read it until you have written down 3-5 characteristics of God’s nature.  And then pray to know and believe these characteristics.

And so, I did.  My journals from that year are some of my most prized possessions, because they tell a story of faithfulness.  And I can literally read back and watch my faith and confidence in God growing, with each page.  For the sake of example, I drew up a quick graphic to illustrate how I worked my way through the Psalms.

Below is an example of 5 characteristics of God I jotted down from Psalm 1.



This Psalm-study method of recording God’s character became valuable to me for 2 main reasons:

1.  Time – A few minutes of concentrated study is often more helpful than an expanse of time with lofty goals.  There are times and seasons, and a Psalms study is a great exercise in a busy or interrupted season.

2. Focus – A few minutes anchored in God’s character instantly reduces self-focus for the day.  Being reminded of who He is transforms my thoughts.  My thoughts become more like His, less like mine.  And then my actions more easily follow suit.

If you find yourself struggling with a plan for quiet time this Summer, I would recommend a Psalms-study.  It is everything devotional time needs to be in an interrupted season – simple, quick, attainable.

But it is also powerful.  Because in solidifying our minds in Christ’s character, we become strong and better equipped for life as it unfolds.  And even in the unpredictable, “lazy” days of Summer, I still desperately need His grace.


The Dad Factor: The Best Gift Ever

dad kind

My children are excited to give their Dad a gift we found him for Father’s Day this year.  And they are counting down the days til we present him “the best gift ever”, as my oldest called it.

The gift we found him is fun.  I would not call it the best, but it is fun.  Yet without fully realizing it, my daughter’s best gift ever may just be the man she presents our fun find to.  And here is why.


Nancy Pearcey recently noted an article from the Washington Post, in which the author sets the record straight as to statistics regarding women and abuse.  Though the subject of abuse is a painfully common one, there are distinctives that bear emphasis.

As the Post article states, the simple statistical truth is that:

Women and girl from homes with married Dads, are safer.


The article begins by acknowledging a very real problem:

Across the United States, millions of girls and women have been abused, assaulted, or raped by men.  

But then it goes on to clarify the contexts for the presence of much of this abuse:

This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers {emphasis mine}.

The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.


Father’s Day is coming.  And on this day, we will take a moment or two to pause and acknowledge our Dads – why we love them, and why we are thankful for them.  Our families might grill hamburgers and have the kids deliver hand-made cards.  And we will spend a little extra time doting on the men who make our worlds go ’round.

But this Father’s Day, my heart is thankful for a fundamental truth which is often obscured in the shuffle of raising a family:

That simply by coming home each night to us, my husband is doing his job best.


When he steps in the door each night, he immediately begins “doing” all sorts of things: helping with homework, cleaning up dinner, disciplining when I cannot “get through”.  But none of these functions are helping us so much as his being there, is.

I confess that far too easily my voice is raised impatiently as we juggle family needs and tensions.  And truthfully, I am good at missing the forest for the trees.  Making mountains out of miniscule household-task molehills, I ignore the bigger picture: He is protecting us best by his dedicated presence.  Not by loading the dishwasher.


This Father’s Day, simple statistics are enabling a deeper love for my husband.  His is an ordinary life.  A quiet life.  A mundane life.  But he knows a great truth: It is not about him anymore.  It is about them.

And he wants to give them “the best gift ever”, which is a healthy, safe and protected child-hood.

And he is.

Astounding Suffering & Amazing Grace: The Willis Family

he heals

The best Bible study I have ever completed, is Disciplines of a Godly Woman.  I know that I have “plugged” this study on the blog before, but for good reason.  It is that good.

One of the more challenging chapters to read however, was on suffering.  And how we train our minds and hearts to contend with pain that is so unexplainable and deep, we cannot find a simple “way out”.  The chapter begins with a story I wished never to read, but one that has marked my gauge of suffering since.

scott and janet willis

Scott and Janet Willis were driving along an Illinois interstate one afternoon, their 6 children tucked into their seats in their van.  Ahead of them, a transport truck drove, not noticing that dangling from its rear was a heavy metal bracket, holding the truck’s mudflaps in place.  The bracket broke loose and the Willis van ran it over, puncturing the van’s gas tank.

The van exploded into flames and within a handful of moments, the Willises lost their children.  Five children died immediately, and the 6th lived until late that evening, but then succumbed to his burns.

A hospital attendant, Janet said, told her that Ben knew he was dying and asked her to hold his hand. She couldn’t, because of his burns.

How does anyone live through horror like the Willises have endured?

At a hospital news conference, Scott, a Baptist minister, told reporters that his children “were given of the Lord, and we understood they weren’t ours. They were his, and we were stewards of those children. And so God took them back.”

It wasn’t magic thinking, Scott said. And it wasn’t a roll of the dice. It was God’s will.

Do you find this stalwart belief in God’s sovereignty convicting?  I do.

Last week, the kids and I were watching America’s Got Talent, and we were particularly interested in a large family of 12 children, who performed a fun routine of singing, dancing and instrumentation.


We were amazed to realize later, that these 12 are Willis grand-children.  Of the 3 Willis children who did not perish along the Illinois interstate that day back in 1994, there are now 32 grand-children.

There will never be a way for Scott and Janet Willis to out-run or out-live the pain of losing their precious children.  Until Heaven, that loss will mark every one of their earthly moments.

And yet, I am grateful that their story teaches and reminds of a God who gives.  Who gives life.  And who gives children.

And who has given back to Scott and Janet Willis, 32 beautiful people to love.

His ways are beyond understanding, His paths beyond tracing out.  And in it all, He loves.

Ian and Larissa: {When Love Didn’t Give Up} & Giveaway!

ian and larissa graphic

The story of Larissa and Ian has been shared in several places in the Christian world.  But Desiring God has been doing a particularly excellent job of keeping those interested in Ian and Larissa up to date with their progress.

To those unfamiliar, Ian and Larissa are a married couple whose story is unlike most of ours.  They have encountered many trials, and have persevered in a tenacious, Christ-like love.

Ian and Larissa were like any other college-aged couple – enjoying the carefree fun of dating  – until the day Larissa received a troubling phone call.  Her boyfriend, Ian, had been involved in a car wreck.  Larissa immediately began to pray that God would spare Ian’s brain, as she drove to the hospital to be with him.

ian and larissa before accident

But Ian’s brain had been traumatically injured.  And for several hours he was in surgery, as doctors worked and Larissa prayed.  Miraculously, Ian pulled through surgery and began to make progress.  Brain-activity tests showed him to be gaining ground.  Larissa made the decision to move in with Ian’s family, so that she could become a part of Ian’s daily care.

The two continued to date, though Ian was unable to talk.

“We just prayed that some day marriage would happen.  We watched all of our friends get married, and that was challenging.  But we just tried to hold out hope that that would be us some day”.

And it was.  Eventually, step-by-step Ian re-gained the ability to communicate enough.  And he and Larissa began to pursue engagement.

I think what helped me, Larissa states, is knowing that Ian would not have left me, if the roles were reversed.

ian and larissa wedding color

Ian and Larissa were married.  And they began to build the foundation of a marriage, though with a unique set of challenges.

We are able to love each other with just a more Christ-like love I think, because of Ian’s disability.  And we are able to understand that picture a little bit better than if you were healthy, Larissa offers.

Agree? she asks Ian.  Yes, he states firmly.

In the past 3 years, Ian has made continued progress.  He is able to walk on his own, enjoying increased freedom of movement.  And he and Larissa move forward in building a solid, married love.

ian and larissa couch

When asked: How have you seen God at work in your marriage? Ian is quick to respond, A better question would be, how have I not seen God at work in my marriage?



Ian and Larissa have been at work writing a book, sharing their adventures and experiences in seeing God’s faithfulness to their marriage.  Entitled Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up, the book releases August 28th of this year.

ian and larissa book

In honor of their dedication and perseverance, and in conjunction with my birthday which is also 8/28, I have pre-ordered 2 copies of When Love Didn’t Give Up: Eight Twenty Eight – one for myself and one to give away.

If you would like to be entered for this giveaway, please leave a comment at the end of this post.  Or, click over to the Facebook page and leave a comment there.  I will leave the giveaway open until Friday, as Summer fun has slowed blog traffic down.  And please take 8 minutes to watch Ian and Larissa’s beautiful story on the video above.  It is well worth a few moments of your time.

Happy Monday, all.