-We went on a 15-day road trip to various places in GA and NC! I could never even list all the beautifully sweet moments that occurred on this trip. For example, it was incredible watching my 3-year-old girl truly push herself while hiking in the Smokies...at the beginning she was asking me to carry her, but half a mile later she was taking the more difficult paths and confidently announcing "I can do it! I can do it!" But I'll write about this trip more at length later. It was seriously awesome.
-While the kids napped in the truck while we were driving, Peter and I sang along to Relient K and we both impressed ourselves and each other with our stellar recollection of the lyrics. (By the way, Matt Thiessen is brilliant.) Little bonding moments like those are super precious.
-Our community group is so big that it's "birthing" into two. This is a huge moment for me because when we first joined our church, Peter and I were the only people who lived east of Tampa. Now there are 22 of us (plus a gajillion kids)! God is building His church and has provided so much community for us even in our suburban town. I feel really cared for by Him about that.
-I took the kids to the Compassion Experience when it came into town (it's free) and it was so eye-opening and well-done! How small our problems seem when we step into the lives of other children who are suffering terribly around the world and really need to hear about the love of Christ.
-Oh, and check out these adorable pictures of my kids doing yoga! Working out is really hard to find time for when you're a mom, so I've been trying to just invite the little people to join me! They either take it seriously or they have to go down for a nap sooner ;)
What I Learned:
-You can make pizza dough out of Greek yogurt and self-rising flour! Ahh! It's so yummy!
-I learned how destructive my pride is. I trust my own thoughts way too much. I tend to get into Mental Courtroom Mode and justify my perfect little self while smashing down everyone else. And how helpful is it when I let my mind wander as such? I can compare its benefits to that of guzzling down poison. Prideful, judgmental, or self-pitying thoughts are so damaging to myself and others. So, praaaaaise God that I have truth! I love feeling chased by God through His Word. The reality of Jesus rising from the dead, victorious over sin and death, is one of those truths that hits me in the face with its potency every once in awhile.
-While spending lots of time in nature I thought much about why in the world God would create such beautiful diversity. From an atheistic/evolutionary mindset I just don't see why beauty would need to exist. Most of our traveling was within one state, but we still experienced a diverse range of plants, animals, geology...we went from a canyon to mountains to a gorge to waterfalls to an absolutely enormous rock. As I was hiking a mountain on some of my extended family's private property, I saw some gorgeous flowers and was amazed that, since only a few family members have even completed this hike, these flowers would live and die without anyone ever noticing them. So why oh why is there so much uncelebrated beauty in the world? Psalm 104 gives us some answers. The Lord rejoices in His works! He delights in what He has made, even when no one else notices it. He's overflowing with creativity and grace and beauty and love!
-We'll start with a seriously sad but also encouraging article from a very surprising source: Sports Illustrated. This longform piece on widower Monty Williams (who I honestly had never heard of before reading this) will most likely make you cry.
-I became a fan of Sean Carter's raw and richly-lyrical music after I saw this video of his Easter-themed "Passion Song." I also adore his rendition of the hymn My Lord I Did Not Choose You called "All Glory to You."
-A couple months ago I finally caved and gave Amazon forty-nine of my dollars in exchange for an Echo Dot. When I first found out about the Echo, I thought it was a worthless gadget for the hopelessly lazy. Well. Yet again I was humbled. The main feature I utilize is simply the fact that it plays music! I'll be cleaning raw chicken juice from my kitchen counter and say "Echo, please play classical music!" and then BOOM! Vivaldi or Yo-Yo Ma starts blasting and I become productive like a fiend.
-I discovered a YouTube channel that points out Easter eggs/hidden trivia in movies and it's shocking! Disney especially is so sneaky and intentional! If you like Disney/Pixar movies you'll want to check out Crazy Nate's obsessively researched videos.
-Andrew Peterson's Holy Week Sonnets were really beautiful to read. Also, I'm just about finished with The Molehill, Vol. 4, a collection of poems, short stories, nonfiction pieces, and more, which is basically written by Andrew Peterson and his friends. My mom and I buy and devour every volume of The Molehill because they're so well-written and always packed with deliciously quirky, entertaining, and thought-provoking material. Love it.
One of the most challenging parts of visiting Georgia is that I don't want to leave. My family and I are outdoorsy and we desperately wish that we could have access to better state parks or simply more desirable nature in general. (Floridian winter, of course, is lovely, but those many long months of summer brutally stifle my love for being outside. Also, the leaves never change colors, and hiking simply does not and cannot exist in Florida.) So I sat in a laundromat in the mountains and I was just feeling bummed about coming home. Plus there are deeper and more serious issues that made me feel pretty discontent with my life. I felt like if all these things changed---at the very least if we moved to Georgia---I would have such a happier life. If only, if only.
Then I was blown away by a verse I wasn't expecting: John 17:3. Jesus was praying to the Father and said "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." If my goal is "the good life" then I'm cutting myself short. Jesus actually offers eternal life. And that starts now, by knowing Him. Though I long for good things, they are not promised to always be available to me. But the best thing is available to me, and even my brothers and sisters who are being tortured in prison have access to it: eternal life, knowing Jesus.
Stuff I Wrote:
Things I Love About Stephen, Year 5
On Being Twenty-Five
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For overly-introspective people such as myself, turning 25 can feel a bit terrifying.
I've been a dreamer and free spirit my whole life. I was sure that by the time I was 25 I'd be doing something hugely important. I'm the type of person who is destined for an extremely-adventurous life, I decided. And I was most definitely certain I would've escaped the mires of Floridian suburbs by now. My values may vary drastically from most people my age, but I’m still a millennial through and through…and millennials don’t jive too well with mundanity and doing the same thing for a long time.
It’s weird when you reach the point in your life when you don’t have any more future plans. By the time we were 23, my husband and I marked off everything on the Growing Up Checklist, and here we are with nothing other than “Keep Plodding” on the radar. That’s a weird place to be at 25. And it doesn’t feel too much like an adventure.
But then sometimes, sweet and aromatic whiffs of truth remind me that I’m living quite an adventure indeed.
Almost six years ago I made a promise to a young man that I would love him and be his wife no matter what. We're in a lifelong relational commitment with no “deal-breakers.” Two distinct people have willingly decided to become one. Our passion is dependent on our promise, not the other way around. Learning to love and be loved unconditionally is a pretty huge adventure.
Three times life has been created inside my body and grown into a person who has a mind, a will, a soul. I get to raise up these three people (and hopefully more someday) and show them a love that extends beyond the capacity I thought I had. Day and night, every day, I get to teach them about the world and the universe and eternity. I have the opportunity to invite them to care for people and show the world all the things it’s yearning to see. I get to raise a young man to be a humble servant. I get to raise young women who are fearless, brave, and beautiful on the inside. And, looking to generations to come, I get to invest in these little people who will hopefully invest in more people who will then invest in other people…I really can’t underestimate the value of my job here. So that’s quite a meaningful career.
I get to join a family that is so much bigger than my biological family could ever be…I get to be a member of a church. Loving and serving and encouraging one another, actually walking with each other through job changes and births and miscarriages and joys and difficulties, is totally invigorating.
Cooking and cleaning is the bane of my existence and it feels like an insult to my intelligence. The fact that laundry doesn't do itself just grates on me and boggles my mind with its fruitlessness. But I’m learning that being hospitable is more important than being President. Our culture is determined not primarily by institutions or positions but by people, and I want to know, love, and learn from people. Inviting people not just into my home but into my life is electrifying!
Someday I plan to adopt, and it’s pretty amazing to think that I very possibly have children right now--maybe all over the world—who I will one day get to welcome into my own family. I will get to give them my last name and love them with a love they haven’t yet known. And I'll get to be changed by them. All those thoughts are thrilling to me.
And, most epically, I was in a kingdom of darkness, evil, and confusion and all of a sudden I have been transferred to a kingdom of light and truth and goodness and justice and love and joy. This isn’t flowery rhetoric or wishful thinking; I really believe this. It’s thrilling to know that I am not only loved but treasured by the God of the universe. And that I can know Him! Reflection on who God is and how He loves the world (and me!) is a line of thought that just doesn’t terminate or get exhausted. Knowing God is not just joy and security and hope, but it’s intellectually stimulating.
So, yeah, I’m 25. Three back-to-back pregnancies were unkind to my body and I’m most likely “past my prime” as far as physical beauty goes. One year of college and working at Chick-fil-A are the only things I have on my resume.
But it’s pretty wonderful that the things that really matter in life (and eternity) can’t be named as positions or listed on a piece of paper. I’m super grateful that there’s a beauty for which I can aspire that runs a lot deeper than my stretch-marked skin. I’m learning faithfulness. I’m learning love. So, as much as I’m tempted to find myself in a “quarter-life crisis” underwhelmed by all I’ve accomplished so far, I’m grateful and I’m content.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Psalm 37:3
It's a little scary when your firstborn turns five. That age seems kind of old! I feel like I should’ve taught him so much more, that I should’ve grown in so much more maturity as a mom by now. But God is gracious and this kid is a major gift, so overall I am blown away by who he is and how God has changed me through him. Here are some of my favorite things about my boy!
-He is easily the most tender and compassionate person in our family. If he can tell I’m a bit stressed out, he will say “I’m sorry this is a hard day for you, Mommy.”
-He is humble and repentant. If he does something wrong, he works hard until he makes it right.
-He is truly funny. He hasn’t figured out how knock-knock jokes work, but a lot of times he says things that are so witty I’m utterly taken aback. Though there's plenty of typical-5-year-old-silliness, Stephen is working on a high-quality sense of humor. When his sisters burp or do a toot, most of the time he doesn't respond and just politely pretends it didn't happen. Just to be safe, though, I can never show him a movie like Minions, ha!
onl-He really listens, comprehends, and remembers. Anytime he’s in the workshop with Peter, he comes back telling me exactly what he did and how the machines work and it's so technical that I only understand about 10% of it. When I’m teaching him truth from God’s Word, he’s always asking questions or giving supplemental examples. He just gets it. It’s not like we’re excellent communicators or that we've passed on brainiac genes, because we get a lot of blank stares from the other kids, and that’s okay. Stephen is just naturally a philosopher.
-He knows when someone needs a hug and he gives it. If I'm feeling tired or sick, he loves to rub my head and play music for me until he's convinced I'm asleep. I think part of that, though, is he's trying to get rid of me, because he is constantly insisting I take a nap.
-He’s the king of inventory. If we lose something, he can almost always find it. (That’s probably because he’s the one who had a special plan for the item and hid it somewhere. This has happened with wallets, glasses, laptop chargers, etc.)
-If we lose something and even he can’t find it, he literally stops and asks God to help us find it. He has such a robust theology of God's sovereignty that he knows God knows its location and it's pointless to find something apart from Him. I do not have faith like that.
-He is a fairly extreme introvert, but seeing him grow in bravery this past year has been incredible. It takes guts for a shy kid to look an adult cashier in the eye and say “thank you,” but he is learning to do it even when he feels scared. That is strength, and I admire him for it.
-I love how he loves to match. He always wakes up with an agenda for the day, and he dresses for the occasion with much intentionality. If he wants to be an army guy, he will wear a camo shirt, camo pants, and camo underwear. If he wants to be a superhero, he will wear a Spider-man shirt, matching pants, and Spider-man underwear. Even the unseen details are important to him.
-He has the hope of heaven seared onto his heart. Whether he's hearing about hurting people or a discouraging political situation, he's always talking or singing about the peace and glory to come when Jesus returns and "makes all things new." He loves the reality that there will be no more suffering and only joy, and I'm grateful he reminds me of it.
-I love how he cleans his room. Though he’s inherited my I-hate-cleaning gene, he really applies himself when he actually tidies. He sets out a blanket at his front door as a welcome mat. He hangs clothes and backpacks off any knobs or hangers he can find. He makes the bed beautifully. And he is so proud when he presents his room to me at the end.
-He still prays for ISIS every single day. I think he started this about two years ago and continues to faithfully ask God to change their hearts.
-He treasures his sisters so much. He talks sweetly with them, he comforts them, he tells them what he perceives to be correct math and word pronunciation...he truly cares for their hearts and helps them become better young women. If one of his sisters is crying or whining in the car, he will say something like "I know what that's like because I used to do the same thing...but there's a better way." And his sister will listen to him! When he's gently counseling his sisters, he often knows what to say better than I do!
-I love how he loves to cook. He loves to get out his cutting board and butter knife and make fruit kebabs or special mixtures of various foods. He'll proudly announce, "I'm making Chef Stephen's Best Fruit Salad!", which consists of apples, bananas, and bits of whole wheat bread. I asked him to cater a party and he took it very seriously.
-I love how he is always pondering, always processing. We'll be driving in the car and he'll ask a question like "So does the sun reflect off the moon or does the moon reflect off the sun?" I've definitely become much smarter just trying to keep up with him, ha!
-He's shockingly self-sacrificing. He's one of the most loose-fisted people I know. One time we were leaving Costco, and as soon as he found out it was raining, he immediately removed his jacket and covered Piper with it. I dream of the kind of servant-leader husband he might be for his future wife someday, Lord willing.
-He loves to tease. (You can probably tell this by how silly so many of his pictures are!) Though he can be very serious and has quite weighty matters on his mind oftentimes, he's also lighthearted and enjoys poking fun in the way that makes others feel loved.
-I love how he respects the privacy of others. If he walks in on someone using the restroom or changing clothes, he immediately squints his eyes shut and rushes out of the room. So much modesty and character on that kid.
-I love his skills on the ATV. (I don't love that he's on an ATV, but I do love that he has so much control over the vehicle and some pretty impressive skills on that thing!)
-He has such an awesome entrepreneurial spirit. Whatever his business, he throws himself into his work and tries to give his customers the best experience possible. I ended up wayyy over-tipping him on my foot massages because he was giving me a blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, snack, water, book, music, and more...and he was hiring his sister and paying her generously. He painted his own business cards for his leaf raking business and is constantly trying to sell his artwork to family members and offering them "a special price" such as 2-for-1's or "75 cents today only."
-I love how beautiful he is. He's just a gorgeous child. A genetic marvel, given the brown-eyedness of his parents.
-I love putting him to bed each night. He usually sings me a song he made up, and they're quite amusing if not profoundly theological. He asks incredible questions and he's always making me think.
There is so much more I could say about this precious child, but I'm getting a bit emotional and I'm thiiiiis close to going to his room and waking him up to hang out with me even though it's 1 am as I write. There is still so much room for growth in his character and most of all in my parenting, but I'm so grateful to walk this road with him and be his mama. He is an amazing little person with a huge heart and a brilliant mind.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today