live well, love God, serve others

The Mercy Seat

A couple of weeks ago I was doing my devotions, still journaling through Exodus, and I just loved what I was reading. I didn’t post it because I thought that everyone would be tired of Exodus, but the Lord keeps bringing it back to mind. I just have to share it with you. I hope that it is as encouraging to you as it is to me. Let’s do this.


In Exodus chapter 24 God calls Moses up on Mt. Sinai to speak with him. Read it. It’s incredibly overwhelming. For forty days and nights Moses communes with God in His presence. While Moses is up there God gives him the Ten Commandments, instructions on social interactions, and instructions on the building of the Ark of the Covenant, Tabernacle and how to worship Him.


In chapter 25 we see the instructions God gives Moses on how to build the Ark of the Covenant. I find it interesting that in this passage God never calls it the “Ark of the Covenant”, but the “Ark of Testimony”. In the instructions for constructing this ark the Lord tells Moses to make a cover for it. Verse 17 says, “You shall make a mercy seat (cover) of pure gold.” Later in verses 21,22 God tells Moses, “And you shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”


I have always thought of the “mercy seat” as a kind of throne. In reality it’s just the lid of the ark of the covenant. But I find this imagery so beautiful. Our testimony, our relationship with God, is truly covered with mercy. He does not meet with us from a seat of judgement, a seat of wrath, a seat of condemnation. No, He meets with us from a seat of mercy. Mercy is the foundation of our relationship with Him. Mercy that is undeserved, unsought, and many times unappreciated. Our testimony before others should be covered with mercy. God’s mercy in our lives should be evident to all.


Later God gives Moses the instructions for the priest’s garments. In chapter 28 verses 29 and 30 we read, “So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgement on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD. And in the breastpiece of judgement you call put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart when he goes before the LORD. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgement of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly.”


I find it interesting that the Lord sits on a seat of mercy and Aaron is weighed down with the breastpiece of judgement as he comes before the Lord on His mercy seat. I think we often think of it the other way around. We think of God sitting on His judgement seat and we come before Him seeking mercy. But the judgement is already on our hearts. We come before God guilty and already condemned. And in His love, our God’s first inclination towards us is that of mercy. What a beautiful picture of God’s love towards us.


Many of us live lives consumed with guilt and shame. We feel heavily the weight of the breastpiece of judgement and it burdens us down day after day. We believe God sits on a seat of judgement and so we fear to approach His throne. Let this passage encourage you. Our loving God sits on a seat of MERCY! He desires to cover you with mercy. Go before Him. Hand over your breastpiece of judgement. Christ came to set us free from that burden. We are free to approach the Mercy Seat and commune with our God in sweet fellowship. Don’t live in judgement any longer. Live a life covered with sweet mercy.

The First Week of Advent

Yesterday we lit our first candle of Advent. This is our third year celebrating Advent, and I have to admit it is my favorite tradition of Christmas. It is so easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Celebrating Advent forces us to slow down and prepare our hearts to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. I honestly think everyone who claims Christ as Savior needs to adopt this tradition into their Christmas celebrations.


Advent is a time of preparation and expectant waiting for the celebration of Christmas and sometimes the Second Coming of Christ. Many different denominations of Christianity celebrated Advent from Easter Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglican to Presbyterians and Methodists. No one knows exactly when it began, but the tradition of focusing your heart and mind on who Christ is and what He has done to prepare ourselves to truly celebrate Christ’s birth is something worth getting into.

Each Sunday for a month leading up to Christmas we light a candle and focus on the meaning behind that candle. Saturday the kids and I used beeswax we bought from a friend’s farm to make our candles. It was so much fun and added more sentimentality to our celebration. Each child chose essential oils to make their candle smell good.

This week we lit our candle focusing on Jesus the Seed. He is the Seed of the fulfilled promises of God and the Seed of our Salvation. As we light each candle we discuss what it means.


When we look back to the beginning in Genesis, after the fall of man, God cursed the serpent because of his deception of Eve. In this curse was hope and a promise for Eve. Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and her offspring (seed); he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” God was giving the promise of a future Redeemer who would one day defeat this evil that ushered sin into the world. Jesus Christ came and crushed the head of Satan when he rose triumphantly from the grave defeating sin, death, and hell. The prophecy was fulfilled. Christ has won the victory and offers His victory to us.


Later in Genesis we see God meeting with Abraham after Abraham obediently offered his son, Isaac, on the alter. God stopped Abraham’s knife and gave him a promise. Genesis 22:18 “And in your offspring (seed) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” The promised Messiah was going to come from Abraham. All the nations would be blessed through the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Later in Galatians 3:29 we are told “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring (seed), heirs according to promise.” We have the same inheritance of faith that Abraham had. The prophecy has been fulfilled. We are blessed through the Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

We also see the promise of God made to King David. In 2 Samuel 7:16 the Lord tells David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” Also in 2 Timothy 2:8 we Paul tells us, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, offspring (seed) of David…” When we see the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter one we see in verse one he is called the “son of David” and then it proceeds to list the ancestors of Christ through David down to Abraham. Jesus will one day come back to earth to rule and reign as King on His rightful throne. It is through Jesus that David’s throne is established forever. Jesus is the Seed of fulfillment of God’s promise to David long ago.


Jesus is also the Seed of our Salvation. We discussed at the lighting of our candle last night how a seed must fall from the plant and die in order to produce new life. I love it when we present an idea to our kids and we see the lightbulbs go off and they just run away with the idea in understanding. We know through the Gospel that Jesus had to die in our place, taking the punishment for our sins, so that He could offer us new life through His resurrection. I love how closely Christmas and Easter are connected. We can not celebrate the cradle without honoring the grave and rejoicing in the resurrection.


As we continue through this week we will sing hymns and carols, bake treats, make crafts, and continue to focus our hearts and minds on Jesus the Seed. I hope that you will take time this week to step away from the business and reflect on Jesus, the fulfillment of prophecy and the Seed of our salvation. 


*We are followoing Slow and Sacred Advent by Jennifer Naraki.  Just click on the link to buy the program from her website.

November is Adoption Awareness Month

November is Adoption Awareness Month. Adoption is, of course, very important to us and close to our hearts. I wish so much it was as important to most believers as it is to God. We are commanded in Scripture to care for widows and orphans in their destress. What does, or should, that look like?


We each have to seek the Lord and ask Him what He would have us to do, but we must all be doing something. I’m gonna get real here, and some may not like it. Feeling sorry for orphans is not caring for them. Simply “liking” a post about orphans on Facebook is not caring for orphans. That one time you sent money to a charity for orphans is not caring for orphans. Sending shoeboxes to kids in Africa every Christmas is not caring for orphans. So, what does caring for orphans look like? How can you get involved and live obediently to the command the Lord has given us.

Our first family picture the day C came home with us.

Adopt... just do it.

I know that not everyone is called to adopt a child into their own family, but I believe there are many who are but just don’t because of finances, fear, uncertainty, the horror of the process, feelings of inadequacy, etc… If you feel even the smallest tug on your heart to adopt, please, search it out. Spend concentrated time with the Lord seeking His direction. There are countless organizations who are dedicated to helping people adopt. The “foster to adopt” system in the US is filled with kids who need loving families. If God is calling you to adopt He will provide for you and guide you. Step out in faith. You will never regret it.

Become a Foster Family

There are thousands of children currently in the foster care system in the U.S. who need families who will take them in and show them the love of God. I know all the excuse, because I used every one of them when we lived in the U.S. And every one of the the excuses are self-centered. Pray honestly about if God would have you provide love and care for these children who so desperately need it. Look into the process locally to see what is involved and what you can do.

Sleeping through his first safari.

Support Foster/Adoptive Parents

But, if you’re not called to adopt, how can you get involved? There are so many ways! First, look around you. Are there people in your church who are foster parents or in the process of adoption? In what ways can you support their family? Because, believe me, they need it! Let me help you with some links to articles that will help you know how best to support the families around you.


17 Practical Ways You Can Support Foster Parents


10 Things You Can Do to Support Foster Families by Confessions of an Adoptive Parent


Supporting Foster Families by Focus on the Family


Each of these articles provide very practical ways that you can support those in the foster or adoption process.

Consider Sponsoring an Orphan

There are children who are living in good orphanages all over the world. The people who run these orphanages do their best to provide more than just daily care for these children. They are trying to give them good educations, life skills, and teach them about the Lord. They run on financial donations and sponsorship. One of the ways they do this is to have people choose one of the children (or care providers such as house mothers) to support financially on a monthly basis. The amount is minimal, but goes directly to the care of that child. Usually you will receive updates on that child’s progress in life and school, and occasionally letters from the child themselves. It is not only helpful to that organization but also very encouraging to that child to know that someone cares enough about them to help meet their needs even from far away.



Lifesong for Orphans is an organization we are close with here in Zambia but they have works all over the world.


Faith Children’s Village is a local orphanage near us that is trustworthy and doing a great job.


New Day Orphanage is another orphanage in Zambia that we have been close to.


I know there are many more, but these are the ones we know personally and can vouch for.




Starting the bonding process before he came home.


Enough can not be said about the power of prayer. I believe we are called to do more than pray for orphans, but it is a vital aspect of our ministry to and care for them. Here are some links to prayer guides from people and organizations who are in it to help you pray effectively.


15 Days of Prayer for Orphans by Lifesong for Orphans


Prayer for Orphans by Knowing Jesus 


This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways that you can get involved, but I pray that it will help you know how to get started. I can tell you from our experience that we do not regret our decision to follow the Lord in adoption. It’s not easy. God doesn’t call us to care for orphans because it’s easy. He calls us to do it so we can be His hands, feet, and heart to them. God calls us to do difficult things so that He can reveal Himself to us through it. God calls us to do impossible things we can’t do so that He can show His power through our weakness and get all the glory through it.


How are you going to get involved? How are you going to start caring for orphans in a way that is real, tangible, and living in obedience to the commands of God?

Walking Through the Valley

I have written in the past about our experience with our miscarriages and stillbirth. Particularly our stillbirth. I have prayed that God would use our children’s lives, no matter how long or short, to bring glory to Himself. God has given me opportunity to use my painful journey to help others who are traveling it too. It has been such a blessing to get to sit with a mother who is hurting and to be able to say that I know her hurt. I have been there. And to get to share with her what God has done in my life as a result of that hurt. I’m on the other side, but I remember being in the depths of it.


As the Lord keeps bringing mothers into my life who have lost children it is becoming more and more apparent to me that we, as survivors, need to do more to help those who are drowning in the sorrow of loss. Just saying, “I’ve had a miscarriage. I’m sorry for your loss,” isn’t enough. Sometimes, when we are so overwhelmed in our sorrow and pain we no longer hear the still small voice of the Father or see the truths that we stood on before our world fell apart.


I want to share with you some things I have learned through walking through the valley of the shadow of death and coming out on the other side that will hopefully help those of you who are in the midst of the pain now.

1. You must grieve.


There is no getting around the grieving process. There is no shortcut. It can not be ignored or denied. We have all learned about the five stages of grief. You have to go through all of them. You need to allow yourself to feel the pain and process through it. We all process it differently, but it must still be processed. The longer you push it away the longer it will take time for you to heal. Grief recognizes the sacred life that you lost.

2. Be honest with God and with yourself.


Most of us feel like we can’t express anger to God. That would be disrespectful! How dare we question God? How dare we doubt God?! God already knows what is in your heart and mind. We can not hide it from Him. The longer we keep it bottled up inside it consumes us and overwhelms us. We can no longer hear the voice of our loving Father. Pour out your heart to Him. The Word tells us that when we don’t have the words the Spirit will interpret the groanings of our heart before the throne of God. If all you do is cry before the Lord and let your heart groan, He knows. He hears. He loves you and wants to communicate to you. Sometimes we aren’t willing to admit our frustration with the Lord because that might make us less spiritual. Open your heart to the Lord and face what is there with Him. This is part of the process.

3. Let God speak to you.


As long as your heart is filled with anger, sorrow, and frustration you can’t hear God’s voice. He is waiting to comfort you and speak to your heart. He hears your questions and feels your pain. He is wanting to reveal Himself to you as you have never known Him before. He will answer your questions in His own way. His answers may not be the ones you want, but they will reveal more of who God is to you. Let Him comfort you. He is the only one who truly can.

4. Stand on the truths of God’s promises.


Truth is truth. All those things you believed about God before you lost your baby are still true. Truth does not change with our circumstances or emotions. That is what makes it true. Sometimes we have to cling to what we know to be true even though it doesn’t feel true in the moment.

The truth is: God loves you more than you could ever comprehend.

The truth is: God always does what is best for you.

The truth is: God has a perfect plan for your life.

The truth is: God loves your baby and it is in His presence in heaven.

The truth is: You can trust God because He is always faithful and good. The list could go on and on and all of it is true. All these truths that are so easy to believe when life is good are still true when your world is falling apart. They sound like platitudes, but in reality they are the foundation and bedrock of our faith. We must stand on them when everything else around us is shifting sand.

5. It’s okay to move on.


Moving on doesn’t mean you forget. Sometimes we feel like if we enjoy life again and let go of our sorrow we dishonor the loss we experienced. We make it not real if we move on. That is not true. Satan wants to keep you in your sorrow so that you are unable to experience the abundant life God has promised you. God is whispering to you to follow Him. He will lead you out of the valley of the shadow of death to lay beside still waters where He can restore your soul. Your baby was real. Your loss is real. Nothing will ever change that. You are forever changed by your experience. There is no going back to the way things were. But God has a beautiful, perfect, fulfilling plan for your future. Don’t feel guilty about embracing that and moving forward. Moving on also gives your child’s life meaning as you use their lives to glorify God and the lessons you’ve learned to help others.

I’m praying for you, sweet momma. I’m praying that as you walk through this valley of the shadow of death you would cling to your Savior. Don’t push Him away. He is he only One who can lead you through. He’s already been there. He knows the way. He IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let go of whatever you’re holding on to; pain, sorrow, frustration, anger, shame… and open your heart to what God has for you. It is beautiful. He makes beauty from ashes and joy from pain. Let Him do His work in your heart.


Thirteen years later it’s much easier to write this than it would have been 10 years ago. My life has moved forward. I never forget my sweet babies. They are in my heart and on my mind every. single. day. Someone likened sorrow to a rock in your pocket. At first it is heavy and rough and sharp. You always feel the weight of it and whenever you put your hand in your pocket it cuts you. But the more you touch it it the rough edges get rubbed off, the weight becomes familiar. The stone gets smoothed into a thing of beauty and the feeling of it in your pocket becomes a comfort.


This is so true of my experience. I’m on the other side of the valley. The pain still comes, but it isn’t as sharp. The memories are always there. But over the years I’ve learned that the painful days are precious to me. The memories are stored up in my heart and cherished. God has taken my pain and turned it into something beautiful. He offers the same to you, dear sister. It takes time, but it will come. Hold on to Him.

Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

Each and every one of us is called by God to choose where our loyalties will lie and then to stand firm in that decision. We all have decisions in our life that we need to repent of and leave behind. Regardless of our age at salvation we all have to consciously choose to leave in the past certain events in our life and we must choose to move on in the power and grace of the Lord.


I’m still in Exodus. It’s going to be a while. But seriously, guys, I don’t want to move on! What a rich, amazing book about the love of God for His people! I want to savor and enjoy every sweet word from the mouth of my God. I’m in Exodus chapter 14. The famous passage where God parts the Red Sea for His people to escape the pursuing Egyptians. Read it. It’s amazing. But as I was journaling through it I caught a different perspective. One that is so applicable to us all.


Picture this quick summary. The Israelites have fled Egypt after seeing the hand and power of God through the plagues, especially the passover angel. They have peacefully plundered the willing Egyptians and are now following the Lord as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night through the desert. Suddenly God tells them to backtrack and camp in a vulnerable position beside the sea. As they are encamped there the whole of the Egyptian army comes thundering towards them to recapture them. God moves from before them to their rear as a guard all through the night. Then He used Moses to part the sea for the Israelites to flee from the Egyptians. The Egyptian army pursues and God uses Moses to bring the waters down upon them killing them all. Thus proving His power to both the Egyptian and Israelite nations.

I started thinking about Moses. He was an unwilling leader in the beginning with no personal relationships with this Jehovah God. As he followed, sometimes unwillingly, God proved Himself to Moses and brought Moses into a relationship with Him. Moses left Egypt as a fugitive, not willingly. He still had to have had intimate relationships among the Egyptians that were meaningful and precious to him.


If we think about our pasts many of us have passed through terrible and traumatic situations. As much as we hate the situations we have an emotional attachment to it and those involved whether it be an affection for them or hatred. That is one reason why it is so difficult to move forward in life; why we want to hold on to it. Perhaps Moses had the same. He had his childhood friends and all those precious memories. He had those who had genuinely loved him, invested in him, and cared for him. He truly loved and cared for them in return.


Now Moses had chosen to follow a different God and become part of a different people and those people from his past that he loved had chosen not to follow him. They didn’t understand the choices he was making. Perhaps they even tried to persuade him to give up this new life and come back where they believed he belonged. Having seen the work of God Moses had purposed in his heart to follow this God and remain faithful to Him. But he saw people he loved suffering in the plagues. I’m sure people he loved were killed in the plagues, but he had chosen sides. Until this point it was God who was killing them, not Moses. Moses was just choosing sides.

Perhaps some of the people of Israel still had doubts about the leadership of Moses. They knew he had grown up living the life of luxury in the palace. They knew he still had people he cared about among the Egyptian people. Sure, he had lived in exile and come back following the Lord, but the heart has strong ties to those it loves. He had more intimate relationships among the Egyptians than he did the Israelites. How could they be sure of his loyalty?


Now, in this moment God had safely delivered His people on the other side of the sea. The Egyptian army is panicking and struggling in the middle of the sea. Down there, pursuing them, were Moses’ childhood friends. Perhaps even members of his Egyptian family. Sons of people he had grown up with. And instead of God simply sending the waters crashing down upon them he tells Moses to do it. Moses stands there looking on these men he loved in his past and has to choose. Will he obey God and follow Him or not. Maybe he was in fight mode protecting the people he knew were depending on him. Maybe he hesitated and closed his eyes as he slowly raised his arm. We don’t know, but in that moment there was no going back. He was deliberately choosing where his loyalties lied.

Verse 31 tells us, “ Israel saw the great power of the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.” The Lord and the Israelite people saw in that moment that Moses was on their side. He deliberately chose to let go of his past and move on into the life that God had created him for and called him to. I can imagine the sorrow in Moses’ heart as he saw the water crashing down and knew people he loved were dying. Verse 30 tells us the Israelites saw their bodies on the shore of the sea. Perhaps he saw the bodies of men he knew.


This was a turning point for Moses. God brings us all to this moment of decision. He calls us to choose where our loyalty lies. Maybe you have experienced a past trauma you are unable to move forward from. Maybe you are struggling with an addiction that you can’t let go of. Perhaps you are controlled by your emotions and fears. God is calling you to choose to trust Him, let go of your past, and follow Him. But the choice is yours. God will not tolerate divided loyalty in your heart. Once you choose you must stand firmly in your choice. There is no turning back.


When Moses chose to willfully raise his arm in obedience, purposefully chosen to let go of his past and live in loyal submission to God, God proved His power through Moses. You are powerless in the kingdom of God as long as your heart is divided in it’s loyalty. When you choose to step forward in obedience to God, counting the cost and putting your past behind you, God will prove His power in you. You have purpose. You are able to fulfill His will for your life. You are free to move forward into the abundant life God has planned for you. It is a life so much fuller, richer, peaceful, grace-filled, and beautiful than the past that wants to hold on to you.

Please, if you are struggling to let go of the past; if you are struggling to choose where your loyalties lie, follow Moses’ example to us. Count the cost and raise your arm in loyal obedience to the God who loves you more than you could imagine. If only Moses could have read further into the story as we can. It would have made that moment so much easier. But God had amazing things in store for Moses that he could never have imagined. God brought Moses into the most beautiful relationship with Him in all of scripture. Moses saw God do truly miraculous things over and over. Moses stood on the mountain of God in His presence and came down transformed. But it all came down to his choice in that moment. The same is true for you. Choose this day who you will serve and stand firmly in that choice no matter what the consequence may bay. Then watch and see how God will reveal Himself to you. He is just waiting for you to make the right choice. 

Our Family Tree

Those of you who have foster parented, adopted, or raised children that are not your own who come from a difficult background know that most of the time it is very difficult. I’ve written past blogposts about our experiences with this if you want to scroll down through them. During a particularly difficult part of our adoption process I was journaling through Romans and the Lord spoke to my heart about our family through an unlikely passage. It gave me peace and a hope for our future in the midst of a present that was anything but peaceful and hopeful.


All of my theology friends will need to bear with me on this blog post. I know that this is not a theologically accurate application of this passage.   My prayer is that what God whispered to my heart that day would be an encouragement for others going through difficult foster/adoption situations.

The passage is Romans 11:17-19. It would be easiest for me to just give you these few verses. “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”


In this passage the Lord is speaking to Gentile believers and their relationship with Jewish believers. But as I was journaling through it I realized there is a parallel with our family that really encouraged me.


We all have our “family trees”. We usually start with a couple who are the roots and we see how many other families have branded off from that couple. I remember doing family tree projects for school as a child.

Here is what I saw.

My family is a tree.

God is the roots of our tree. We get our life, peace, and our joy from Him. He is Who sustains us and grows us.

Our marriage is the trunk. Our marriage grows out of our faith in and relationship with God.

Our children are the branches. We have three healthy, strong, growing branches. They are producing fruit and thriving. This passage in Romans talks about the branches that were broken off. Our family has some broken branches. If you know our family or read my previous blog posts you know that we lost two babies to miscarriage and one to stillbirth. Those are our broken branches.


But then the passage goes on to talk about a wild olive shoot that was grafted in among the others. Adoption. How beautiful is this??!! Stick with me and you’ll see it. In the passage the wild olive shoot is grafted in and shares in the nourishing root of the olive tree.

My son started out on a different tree.

And not just a different tree, but a different kind of tree.

A different cultural tree,

a different color tree,

a different country tree.

He started out with different roots and a different trunk.

He was a broken branch taken from his indigenous family tree.

God is grafting him into our family tree.

In order to graft a shoot into a tree you have to remove the shoot from the original tree, cut the new tree, and tie them together so they start to grow together. You must damage the shoot and the tree so that they can heal together. This is what God is doing with our family. He broke the branches from our tree so that there would be room for C to grow. He removed C from His family tree so he could grow with us. He cut our hearts for C and gave us compassion and love for him. God has bound us together so that we can heal and grow together.


But even more than the grafting the passage goes on to talk about sharing in the nourishing root of the olive tree. C now shares in the root of our family. His root is God. As God feeds our marriage He is feeding the branches, our children, and C is now our child being fed by God. He is getting the same life nourishing food from the Father as our biological children. Just like our biological children are producing fruit C will produce fruit too. His branch will look different from the others, and his fruit will look different from the others, but he shares the same trunk and the same root. It is just what God intended and designed.

Most importantly we must remember at the end of the passage it says that we do not support the root, but the root supports us. If God is our root we have no fear of decay or falling.

It is not my job to support C.

It is not my job to produce fruit in his life.

It is not my job to make sure he is properly grafted into our family.

It is my job to stand strong on our root, our Creator God Himself.

It is He who supports and upholds our family. He is feeding us, supporting us, and producing fruit in us, and it is a beautiful thing.

Learning to Live with Reality

I have been very blessed to grow up active and healthy. My parents encouraged us to play sports and truly experience life. I remember being forced to do things I was terrified to do and ended up loving those same activities. Being raised that way has shaped me as a person and as a parent. As an adult I have been able to remain active and healthy. Those of you who know me know that I love outdoor sports of almost any kind, and I love activities that get my adrenaline going. I love challenging myself and learning new things.


Growing up I was obsessed with horses. What girl isn’t, right? My aunt always had horses. I remember wanting to be just like her when I grew up. Whenever we would visit her she would let me ride her horses if I would muck the stalls. Seemed like a good deal to a horse obsessed girl. I remember seeing her ride at fairs or in competitions. She rode western and to me was the epitome of a cowgirl. When I met Jamie, my husband, he had horses. I may have taken advantage of our friendship on occasion just to ride his horses.

When we moved to Kitwe we found a stable that offers riding lessons… in english riding. So different than how I grew up riding. We immediately signed our horse crazy girls up for lessons. Week after week I would sit watching and listening to their lessons. The horse crazy girl deep inside me started to reawaken and I decided that instead of just sitting and watching I would take lessons too. Learn new things. Experience life, not just observe it. I loved it! It was amazing how much of my passion for horses was renewed. The feel of the horse beneath me was thrilling. And I was working hard to learn a completely different style of riding.


Last August I was riding a horse I had never ridden before. My instructor was telling me how excited she was to put me on this horse. She just knew I would love him. By the end of the lesson he went completely wild and I had fallen off twice. I knew I had broken my tailbone… been there, done that before. And I figured, give me a few weeks, I’ll be fine, and then this horse and I have some unfinished business we need to work out.

A year later I was still in pain and getting worse. We decided I needed to see a specialist and so I flew to South Africa to see a doctor. I expected he would tell me that yes, my tailbone is broken, but it’ll heal and you’ll be fine. I chalked up my back pain to muscle issues from sitting funny for a year. After an MRI the doctor told me that I had damaged a disc in my spine. I was diagnosed with… da da da da… a broken tailbone AND a bulging, deteriorating disc in my lower back. My tailbone would heal with time, but he explained that my spine would never heal. He then strongly commanded no running, cycling, horseback riding, or any other activity that would jar my spine. I heard my life slip away with those words. He gave me two options: 1. live on pain meds in chronic pain or 2. attempt to manage the pain through diet and exercise. The choice was a no-brainer for me! Diet and exercise all the way.


I immediately dug into research. I’m such a nerd. Not having a good physical therapist to work with here in Zambia I devised a plan based on my research and ran it by an American doctor that serves here with us. He agreed that my plan was probably the best I was going to get here and to go for it. Riding in the car in Zambia is worse than doing the three banned activities all at once due to our lovely roads. So… my first step towards recovery was to quarantine myself to home. Organizing everyone’s lives around that was quite the job. Second was diet. I immediately started eating a very strict anti-inflammatory diet. And third was exercise. I started a strict routine of yoga, stretching, and core exercises in an attempt to strengthen the muscles around the weak part of my spine so I could get back to experiencing life.

The MRI image of my spine with obvious injury.

Praise God my plan has been working. I’m feeling so much stronger. My pain has become mild discomfort. And I’m feeling healthier all over because I’m taking care of my body. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling so good that I jumped back into life. My body very strongly protested that decision. I was in so much pain I felt like I was back at square one. I realized that in the past every injury I experienced would eventually heal and I could go on with life. Not this time. Just because I feel good doesn’t mean I’m healing. It means what I’m doing is working and to stick with it. It was a rude awakening.


It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that I will never be completely well again. It’s hard to realize that my life will be limited from now on. I realized I’ve been living in denial about how life will look in the future. I know that to an extent I will eventually regain some activities, but I will always have to be conscious about how those activities will affect my back. I will be living with a certain amount of chronic pain for the rest of my life. I will have to be careful not to further injure my spine.

My girl jumping. Our awesome instructor. My future goal.

Along with the realization that I have been living in denial came the realization that I’ve been avoiding the emotional and spiritual effects of this diagnosis. I’m coming to understand that I need to accept the reality of what my life will now look like. I need to mourn the loss of my active lifestyle. It hurts to tell my kids that I can’t run around the yard with them playing games anymore. At least for now. It is hard to tell my family to hug me gently. I hate the phrase, “it hurts my back”. I don’t like having to think through every movement. But that is the reality of my life right now.


And then I started to see that I was frustrated with God for limiting me like this. I’m living here, serving him, and I need a healthy, whole body to be able to do that. I have a family to take care of and this doesn’t help one bit. I had plans! I was going to run my first marathon in May. Bye-bye Flying Pig. I was going to teach my kids to snowboard this winter in the U.S. I was going to go on mountain biking dates with my husband. I was going to compete in my first horse jumping competition this year. God isn’t following my plans at all! Boy is he humbling me. My life is not my own. I was fine surrendering my heart, life, home, kids, husband… but I’m finding I never surrendered my body. Well, it’s on the alter now.

These are not lessons I’ve learned. I’m not looking back retrospectively. I’m in the very depths of it right now. I’m having to say with each twinge of pain that God’s strength is perfected in my weakness. Every time I have to say no and limit myself I pray that God would find some way to work through my inability to work. And as I come to accept the fact that I will never heal I am reminding myself that God has a perfect plan in this. He has always been faithful and I can trust Him now. My life may look different than I desired, but it is not over. God still has a rich, full, rewarding, satisfying future for me that will bring all the glory to Him. My dream of playing rugby may be over, but someday I will run that marathon and jump those horses. And right now I can keep serving my Savior and my family in the capacity God has given me. This is all about Him anyway, not me.

The charm from my necklace from my first miscarriage.

The Blessing of Loss

Loss is a reality of life in this sin cursed world that can not be avoided. Loss brings with it the process of grief.  We all hate loss and grief, and we avoid it at all costs.  We shelter our children from it.  We try everything we can to prevent it.  When it comes we live in denial of it.  We stuff our feelings away and ignore the grief we are experiencing.  We distract ourselves so we don’t have to think about it.  We refuse to acknowledge it and put on our best Pollyanna imitation, the eternal optimist.  We can not imagine in any way that there is blessing in loss.  


I’m writing this today from the perspective of miscarriage and stillbirth.  Those are the biggest losses I have experienced in my life.  I have also moved internationally and experienced the loss of home and family.  I’ve experienced the loss of family members to death.  I’ve lost freedom and activity through injury.  The list could go on for all of us.  But it was through the loss of my babies, my most painful loss, that I also experienced the greatest blessing.  My prayer is that some of what I share from my experiences and walk with the Lord can be translated into the areas of loss and grief in your own life. 


the process of grief is a blessing

This is going to sound crazy, but I have come to discover that the processing of grief is a blessing.  I think it is very important to acknowledge that we all process loss and grief differently.  Some of us grieve privately.  Internally we hold sacred the experiences we had with each loss.  Others grieve publicly.  They have to share their experiences with others in order to process.  I grieve privately.  I need to get alone with God and process through what just happened.  Hearing other people’s experiences overwhelms me.  Even having to deal with other people’s comfort and emotions about my loss overwhelms me.  I need first to get my feet back on solid ground before I can deal with everything and everyone else.  And so I have to dive into Scripture and spend deep, intimate time with my Savior.  I set my feet upon the Rock.  Only then can I start looking outwards and at the circumstances around me.  This has been a huge blessing to me.  It continually brings me back to the Anchor of my soul.  It keeps me in complete dependence on Him.   

grief itself is a blessing

We must give in to the grieving process.  We must acknowledge and embrace the loss we have experienced and then process it.  We must allow ourselves to feel the pain and work through it.  Grief itself is a blessing.  It forces us to surrender to our Sovereign Creator God.  It forces us to acknowledge that we truly have no control in this life.  He is God and I am not.  We are put into a correct prospective of Who God is and who I am in relation to Him.  Many times we respond in anger.  “How dare God take that away from me!”  “I don’t deserve this!”  “It’s not fair!”  But when we finally surrender to God and His perfect plan for us there is freedom and peace unlike anything we have ever experienced.  


My "mommy" bracelet

experiencing God's love and best is a blessing

As we come out on the other side of the grieving process we learn more about the depth of God’s love and His best for us and for our children.  He walks every step of the grieving process with us.  He bottles our tears and holds them close to His heart.  He hurts every hurt and sobs every sob, and He holds us close. He is much more intimately understanding of loss and grief than we are.  My hope is for my child, my family, my self.  I had plans and hopes and dreams for my baby.  God took all that away. How could God take away my baby?  How can that be good?  We can not define “good” and “love” by our own standards.  They must be defined by God’s standards.  I fully believe that God showed His greatest love and ultimate best for my babies when He took them straight to Heaven and saved them from a life of sin, pain, loss, grief, and struggle here on earth.  That is love.  That is good.  Being a mother and having my babies isn’t about me and what I want.  It is about what is best for my children and God’s purposes for them.  Skipping this temporal life and jumping straight into eternal life…  It’s better than good.  That is God demonstrating His love to me and to my child.  


hope is a blessing

The next, and biggest, blessing comes out of my relationship with God.  Because I have acknowledged my sin before a Holy God, asked His forgiveness, and received the payment that Jesus Christ paid on my behalf for the punishment of my sins I have a relationship with God.  I have His presence and leading through this short life and eternity in Heaven to look forward to with Him, and my babies.  I will never have to wonder about whether my babies will be saved from their sins or be lost to an eternity of punishment in hell.  They are already with the Father in Heaven.  And I may miss out on watching them grow for now, but I will have eternity to get to know them and enjoy them.  


changed perspective is a blessing

Loss changes our perspective.  It usually goes one of two ways.  We can become pessimistic and focusing on the loss we live in anger and resentment, or we can focus on life and hope and live in joy and peace.  A friend once said that her body had carried more death than life.  I completely understand where she is coming from, but my heart broke.  Life is eternal, death is but a moment.  God used my, and her, body to create an eternal life, a forever soul.  A miracle in every sense of the word.  It is beautiful and precious no matter how long or short the physical life lasts.  Physical life isn’t really life.  Our souls are life eternal.  My babies physical lives may have lasted only weeks or months, but they are living forever.  LIFE!  Life is what my body has carried, and hope is that sweet some day when I will kiss their faces and dance with them on streets of gold in worship to this God who loved us and gave us His best.  


pain is a blessing

Do the hard days still come?  Absolutely.  Does it still hurt?  Terribly.  Over the years this pain has become a blessing to me.  It has been 16 years since my first miscarriage.  It has been 13 years since my stillbirth.  The fact that they happened hasn’t changed, but my memory has.  Memories fade.  I used to hate the difficult days.  I hated the pain and the aching in my heart and arms for that one child I happened to be grieving for that day.  But as the years go by those hard days have become precious to me.  A blessing.  They are a reminder that those babies lived in me.  They are a reminder that the experience was real.  And they are a reminder of the hope of seeing them again.  My aching heart and arms will hold my sweet babies close someday.  What a blessing!  


My daughter Grace

remembering is a blessing

I think it is also important to memorialize each loss in some way that is meaningful to you.  Some people remember their due dates, the dates they miscarried, they name their babies, they buy jewelry to wear in memory of their babies, get tattoos in honor of them.  I remember dates if there is something with it to help me.  I’m not a detail person.  With my first miscarriage my baby died the day before Thanksgiving.  I remember that.  My second miscarriage I remember what was going on but not the exact date.  I don’t remember either due dates.  I didn’t name either baby.  But I have stored up in my heart the experiences of them all.  I wear a bracelet in memory of Grace, my daughter who was stillborn.  We celebrate her birthday every year together as a family.  I have a picture of her on my bedside table.  We visit her grave when we are in the US as a way of remembering her life and how it has impacted our family.  These memorials are a blessing.  A reminder that these children are a part of our family.  Who we are and who our family is has been drastically shaped by their existence.  


My first Grace Bracelet. I wore it every day for 12 years before getting a new one.

it's impact on my family is a blessing

Loss and grief are a very real part of our family.  My children have known all their lives that they have siblings in heaven.  Grace died when Lorelei was almost a year old.  She has no memory of Grace’s pregnancy and the pain of our loss, but she has always known that she has a little sister in heaven.  Grace has always been present in her life.  One time when Lorelei was little I was pushing her on a swing.  She kept asking me to push her higher and higher.  Then she asked me, “Do you think God pushes Grace on the swings in heaven?”  So innocent.  So sweet.  I told her, “I think God does push Grace on the swings in heaven and He pushes higher than anyone.”  Because of our losses all of my living children have grown up with an eternal perspective.  They’ve seen me on my hard days and lovingly comforted me.  They know there are days I wish God would send Grace down for just a few minutes so I could hug and kiss and snuggle her, days when I just want to hold Grace.  Days when I’m struggling and they ask what is wrong and I answer, “I just miss Grace.”  The loss of their siblings and the presence of that loss in our family was a catalyst in their salvations.  Heaven has always been a part of our home because half of our children are there.  God has used that in such beautiful ways that I would never take it back.  Not for one moment.  I want them to know that loss is real and unavoidable, but it is also a blessing.  


You may have never experienced loss on a devastating scale, but some day you will.  You may be in the depths of grief at this moment.  You may be on the other side, but still struggling and questioning.  I’m praying for you. I’m praying that God would show Himself to you in very tangible ways.  I’m praying that God would reveal to you the blessings of loss.  I’m praying that what God has brought me through would be a blessing to you and bring glory to Him.  Accept loss and grief as the reality of living in this sin cursed world, but also accept the blessings that God brings about from it.  He makes beauty from ashes.  


Continuing on Moses' Journey of Faith (and ours)

It is amazing to me how journaling through Scripture has opened my heart and mind to so much as God speaks to me through His Word.  It’s beautiful.  It’s exciting.  It’s rich, and real, and wonderful.  Every day is a spiritual adventure just waiting to unfold.  


I’m still in Exodus.  And I haven’t gotten very far.  Like I said before, I’m a slow journal-er.  I like to take time to meditate and think over things.  But I have made it to chapter four.  Chapter three is Moses’ famous burning bush experience.  It continues into chapter four when he departs for Egypt.  


If you’re like me you’ve heard countless sermons on this passage.  A lot of assumptions are made, and I’ll be making some as well.  But after this I don’t really agree with all the assumptions I’ve heard.  I’ve been told that Moses’ was taught of the God of Israel while he was growing up in Egypt and believed in Him.  I’ve been told that his biological mother continued to have an influencing presence in his life as he grew up.  He obviously knew his biological siblings.  At least his brother Aaron.  I’ve been told that Moses willingly accepted this call and stepped forward in faith.  And if you’ve ever watched the animated movie you will see much that is not in the biblical account.  I know, I know, it’s just a movie.  But it shapes the way we remember and think about Scripture.  


As I’ve been journaling through there are some things that have really jumped out at me that I want to share with you because I think we can all relate to them in one way or another.  I’ve already written about Moses’ initial encounter with God as God introduces Himself to Moses.  As we get further into this encounter I want us to think about where Moses is coming from.  He grew up a prince of Egypt in the palace.  He had Egyptian tutors.  He was taught Egyptian religion.  He probably saw the court magicians practice magic before him.  But he knew he was not Egyptian.  He probably was taught about the God of the Hebrews, but maybe he just lumped Jehovah God in with the other gods that he was taught about and maybe worshiped.  In this passage he does not identify himself as a Hebrew.  I’m making assumptions like all the preachers we’ve heard, but realistically thinking through his formative years in a practical way and looking at his reactions in this passage I think this is a reasonable assumption.  Here’s why I think this.  


In chapter three Moses encounters God in this burning bush.  God speaks to him very clearly out of the bush.  God introduces Himself very clearly.  (Scroll down a few posts and you’ll see my previous writing about that encounter.)  Throughout that encounter God introduces Himself as Yahweh multiple times.  


Now we are in chapter four and Moses is still tossing doubts at God.  God uses miraculous signs to prove to Moses His power.  If we jump ahead into chapter seven we see the court magicians replicate one of these signs.  If Moses had seen their work as he was growing up in the palace there is a possibility that theses signs were not as impressive to him as they would be to us.  Of course God would have known that and it would have been part of His plan in communicating with Moses.  But it would not have had the faith building effect we may expect it to have.  It clearly surprised him, but no where does it evidence a production of faith in Moses.  It seems to simply prove that God is one of the gods he was taught about as a child.


Then we see, after continued doubts, in verse 10 that Moses addresses the LORD, Yahweh, as “Lord”, sir.  And throughout the rest of this encounter Moses never once addresses God as Yahweh, just as sir.  There is no acknowledgement from Moses that he believes that this is the One True God.  This leads me to believe that this was Moses’ first real encounter with Yahweh God.  I don’t think he is a true believer yet, but he is intrigued.  


As for what God is asking him to do… now that seems very difficult for him.  Moses ran from Exodus a fugitive fleeing for his life.  He wandered through the wilderness until he ended up in Midian.  There he met his wife and father-in-law.  He has made a comfortable life for himself and his family in Midian.  Perhaps he had planned to grow old there and watch his family grow around him.  It seemed he had no plans of going back to Egypt or reconnecting with his biological family.  The way God says in verse 14 that his brother, Aaron, would be happy to see him could indicate a ruptured relationship between them.  Who knew how long his life would be in danger in Egypt?  Who knew if his family would accept him if he went back?  There was no reason to go back.  Now he meets this God who wants him to go back and confront the very things he worked so hard to leave in the past.  


Because he doesn’t have true faith in this God he is trying every way he can think of to get out of this.  “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘ The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  He is curious about this God but also knows he needs to clearly identify Him before Pharaoh who believed in multiple gods.  He also says, “the God of YOUR fathers”, he is not identifying as a Hebrew.  This God is not yet his God.  Then, “But behold, they will not believe me…”  Finally, “Oh, my Lord (sir, not Yahweh), I am not eloquent…”  It seems to me he’s looking for a way out.  He’s not sure he trusts this God and he doesn’t want to confront his past.  


Moses eventually comes to the place where he has to obey, but it is a faithless obedience.  It seems to be more of a testing obedience.  A Cosmic Power has addressed him and given him instructions.  Now he is going to see if it is true.  He doesn’t even give his father-in-law the true reason for his leaving.  He passes it off as a family visit.  He takes his wife and children and heads out for Egypt with the staff of God in his hand.  His first two steps of obedience: take the staff, and go.  


I can see him in my mind.  He grimly grasps the staff in his hand as he turns to take one last look at his safe, comfortable home.  He turns with his jaw set and determination in his eyes as he leads the donkey carrying his wife and children into the unknown.  Even though God told him what was going to happen this is a God he doesn’t know or trust… yet.  His was a testing obedience.


Many of us come to our relationship with God in the same way.  Sometimes God is the God of our parents and we have given him little thought other than what we are forced into at church or school.  Sometimes people believe in a Cosmic Power, but when they meet the true God it takes time to truly believe.  Perhaps you don’t believe in a God at all.  And when He finally reveals Himself to you you need proofs to truly believe.  


I think this also speaks to many of us as we step out in uncomfortable ways in obedience to God.  We have our comfortable home, our church, our job security, our family has put down roots, and our relationship with God hasn’t gone much further than our salvation experience.  We go to church because we are supposed to, but our bible collects it’s dust between Sundays.  And suddenly God speaks to us and tells us He wants us to let go of it all.  Maybe He is calling us to missions, a new way of life, a new job, or maybe just a real relationship with Him.  Maybe He is calling us to confront a past we have been working years to leave behind.  Maybe it’s both at the same time.  


We step out with a testing obedience, not a faith filled obedience.  But God clearly says in 1 Samuel 15:22 that he delights in our obedience.   Nowhere is faith mentioned.  As we step out in obedience God proves His faithfulness to us.  Through God’s proven faithfulness our faith grows and we experience Him in new ways.  It’s a cycle of growth and faith.  As we look at the beginning of Moses’ relationship with God we can clearly see many of our own experiences.  We can relate.  


I’m excited to continue through this book to see how God grows Moses’ faith and Moses’ relationship with God grows and becomes real.  How about you?  I want to challenge you.  No more dusty bibles.  Grab a notebook, a pen, and dive into God’s word.  Let Him speak to you. My prayer is that as God speaks to you, you will step out in obedience and would experience God as your faith and relationship with Him grow.

Life Lately and Answered Prayers

Whew!!  Life has been crazy the last few weeks.  As a result we are a bit overwhelmed, exhausted, and looking forward to visiting the US in December even more.  Allow me to share.


Three weeks ago the girls competed in their first official horse jumping show.  They did AWESOME!  They’ve been working and training for it all year long.  After my back diagnosis mid July I have been sticking close to home and focusing on exercise and diet to manage pain and build strength.  This was the first week I went out two times.  I felt it!  But the girls performing so well in their first show was a huge answer to prayer. 


L with Bambam

J with Louis

Our church has outgrown our current venue.  For the last few years the local VFW hall has allowed us to meet there on Sunday mornings rent free.  It’s been a tremendous blessing and many members of the club have started coming to our church as a result.  A while back our church was granted the rental lease of a dilapidated cinema just two blocks from our current location.  It’s been a huge undertaking for our congregation to renovate the cinema to meet our needs as a church.  


Last weekend we had a professional sound technician come up from South Africa to install our new sound equipment.  We had planned a worship team rehearsal on Friday, a huge worship service on Saturday, and church all at the new location on Sunday.  The sound equipment didn’t arrive when planned so we rearranged our schedule and ended up with a Saturday practice and church and worship service on Sunday.  Whew!!  It was amazing, but exhausting!  A huge answer to prayer.


Our worship service at our new venue. When the work is finished we will be moving in.

During that week our small generator and L’s bike mysteriously disappeared from our back porch!  The dogs had been out since we last used it and I had been home most of that time.  After a search of the property we realized it had been stolen.  We had the police out and filed a report.  A few days later the local neighborhood watch called us and told us that they had picked up our thief soaking wet.  He had attempted to steal the water pump for our well, but our dogs found him.  They chased him into our pool and he barely escaped them.  He admitted to stealing our generator and bike as well.  Caught “wet” handed.  A huge answer to prayer!


Mom and Dad had been traveling for five weeks through Zambia and Malawi teaching local pastors.  They had planned a week in Mozambique doing the same, but Mom became sick with her first case of malaria.  They chose to come home, and I’m so glad they did.  Dad ended up with malaria.  So did W, Jamie and I.  This year has been the easiest year we’ve had with malaria since moving to Zambia.  That’s a huge answer to prayer.  Mom and Dad coming home and getting the rest they needed instead of pushing through is also a huge answer to prayer.  


This past weekend we had our second Youth Camp for our church.  The topic was Guarding Your Heart in an Unguarded World.  We had an amazing time.  The lessons were deeply rooted in scripture and God used it to change hearts and lives.  The games were crazy fun.  The food was amazing.  And L won the Christian Character award for her team.  The whole weekend was a huge answer to prayer.  


Awesome obstical course at camp complete with mud pit

This week Jamie has traveled to South Africa for the Sola 5 conference.  The rest of us are all here on the old homestead holding down the fort.  I’m excited for what God is going to do while he is there, but we always miss him desperately when he is gone.  Thankfully it’s not very often.  Usually the kids really struggle when Daddy is traveling and it comes out in attitudes and behavior.  Today was the smoothest day we have had in a very long time.  I’m so thankful for the kid’s good attitudes, helpful spirits, and obedient hearts.  It was a huge answer to prayer!


The kids decided to make applesauce all on their own. It was delicious!

I’m so thankful that in the midst of chaos and business we are seeing God work all around us.  This is why we are here; to live well, love God, and serve others.  In the exhaustion there is fulfillment and satisfaction knowing that we are exactly where God wants us to be and doing what He has put us here to do.  


Now we look forward to a bit of rest.  And as December approaches we look forward to spending some restful time with family and friends in the US.  There is a season for everything under heaven.  This has been a season of business and we are looking forward to a season of rest… hopefully.  

Parenting IS the Gospel

 When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby I started praying for their salvation.  Before that I was so consumed with getting pregnant that I was only praying for their existence.  Ten weeks into that pregnancy God chose to take my baby to heaven.  It is a gross understatement to say that it hurt.  Through that loss God revealed Himself to me in so many amazing ways.  He also brought me to the point of rethinking the purpose of being a parent, and that has drastically transformed the way we disciple and raise our living children. 


I started asking why?  Not really why my baby died, although that was there too, but why have children in the first place?  In the beginning I had this crazy obsession… you know, “the baby bug”.  I just wanted a baby to love and a family.  When God took that from me I had to wrestle through where my baby is.  (The book that helped me the most was “Safe In The Arms Of God” by John MacArthur .)  Why would God allow that in my life?  Would I ever have any children?  What is the purpose in having children at all?  


I found that the answer to all those questions is two words:  THE GOSPEL.  Plain and simple.  The Gospel.  The whole purpose of having children is to lead them to our Savior and disciple them to be warriors for Him.  Every decision I make as a parent has to be founded on the gospel.  


There is so much that goes into being a parent.  It can be exhilarating and joy filled as we watch that first step, first day of school, etc.  It can be disappointing and frustrating as we deal with discipline issues and the pain of our own failures as parents.  The day to day of parenting life can easily distract us from the purpose of it.  We get lost in the commotion around us and forget to be intentional.  


So what does living the gospel as a parent look like?  First, your relationship with God has to be the most important thing in your life.  You must daily spend time with Him in His word, praying, meditating and memorizing scripture.  We, as parents, must let the gospel transform us day by day.  Our kids see it.  They watch our lives to figure out how they are to live.  We must live the gospel in front of them every day.  Even in our failures we must live the gospel.  Make things right and let God work in us and through us despite ourselves.  


I believe we must speak truth into our children’s lives.  One resource that has helped us tremendously is “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  If you have read it, live it.  Even as a grandparent or aunt or uncle read it and live it with the children in your life.  Our children need to understand that they are sinners.  Even from an early age, they need to understand that when they disobey mom and dad they also disobey God.  They must understand that it is God who put mom and dad in authority over them and that must be respected. They need to know that discipline is ordained by God for the punishment of sins.  We don’t discipline behavior we discipline heart issues and help our children work through them step by step.  They need to hear from the very beginning that their sins are an offense to a Holy God.  Tell them the gospel each time we discipline them.  Keep it simple and short, but make sure the gospel is in there.  


It is important to each our children that they need to learn how to repent and make things right with those they offend and with God.  Getting punished is not enough.  Saying, “I’m sorry” is not enough.  We need to live out in our own lives how to repair broken relationships, even in the little offenses, and then walk our children through how to do the same.  When we taught our children to apologize we also taught them to apologize to God, ask forgiveness, and help in doing it right the next time.  How we discipline our children is a huge deal and very important to their understanding the gospel.  


From the earliest moments we must be teaching them good character habits and how those relate to God and our relationship with Him.  Charlotte Mason has much to say about teaching strong character traits to our children.  I also got a great list from the Duggars blog with scripture and wonderful definitions included.  We go through one a month, but if I could go back and do it again we would have started with character training from the very earliest moments I could.  We live good character before our children and then teach them what it is, how to live it out in their own lives and why it is important to God.  


As my children grew older they knew the gospel in its simplest form inside and out.  They knew that they were sinners.  Their sins separated them from our Holy God and deserve punishment.  Jesus came to take the ultimate punishment for their sins by dying on the cross for them.  And they have to choose to accept the sacrifice of Christ for themselves.  In time the Holy Spirit changed that head knowledge to heart knowledge and they chose to receive Christ as their Savior all on their own.  But it was those early years of faithfully speaking gospel truth into their hearts and lives that laid the foundation for their conversion.  It doesn’t end there, though.  Now God uses the gospel to transform us day by day as we develop our relationship wth Him.  And so we teach them diligently how to have a living, active, true relationship with their Savior God. 


I hope you’re catching a big theme in this.  We must live the gospel every day before our children.  We are living examples of His love for them.  But we must also be speaking the gospel daily.  Every choice we make for our children needs to be based in the gospel.  How will this draw my child closer to God?  What will my child learn about God from this?  And then talk it through with your kids.  “Repetition is learning.”  As we live and speak the gospel into our children’s lives the Holy Spirit connects those moments to their hearts until they reach the point of conversion.  


I know you would all agree with me.  The eternal salvation of my children is the most important thing in their lives and mine.  After losing my first baby I decided that I would rather lose my children early and know they are with the Savior than to raise them here on earth and lose them for eternity.  I would rather never have children than give life to an eternal soul that would reject Christ and live forever in hell.  I know those are strong words, but this is what brought me to the transforming point of believing that parenting must be the gospel.  Without it there is no purpose in having children at all.  


We are not responsible for the salvation of our children.  I understand this.  But we are responsible for clearly and consistently living and communicating the gospel with them.  Each child will make their own choice.  But when I stand before God I want to stand there with the confidence that I did everything possible to lead my child to Him.  I want no regrets.  And so I am praying for you and your children just as I am praying for me and mine.  I want this to be an encouragement to you.  This should also be a call to action.  We are in this together.  Find ways to encourage the other parents around you.  Brainstorm together ways to live and share the gospel with your kids. I would love to hear any ideas that have helped you.  Share with me resources that have shaped your parenting.  Send me an email or leave a comment here.  I’m always wanting to learn more.  If you would like I will share some of the resources we compile in a future post.  


It was one of those days.  One of those days where it seemed like our fervent prayers and best efforts all seemed to be wasted.  Hours, days, months, and years of trying to shepherd his heart, but it doesn’t seem to change a thing.  Consistent biblical discipline that doesn’t seem to make a difference.  Not one hour of this day went without a battle.  I was so frustrated, deeply disappointed, so very sad, exhausted, and, I have to admit, I was very angry.  And I was done. Through.  FINISHED!  I hit a wall.


What were we thinking?!  We can’t do this.  It’s too hard.  It’s not worth it.  All these battles are just tearing us up, not building us up.  And it’s not even changing his life.  As much as I hate to admit it I started wondering if we could just give him back and be through.  We tried.  We did our best, but it didn’t work.  And so, on that day I went to bed utterly defeated.  

God’s Word is like sweet nectar to the starving, thirsty soul.  The next morning I woke up and started praying.  What passage was I going to journal through today?  And as I prayed I remembered the preaching on James chapter 1 in church, and a friend who is trying to memorize the entire book of James.  So, James chapter 1 it was.  I got to verse number 4 and I had to stop.  “… the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have it’s perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  


ENDURANCE.  That one word hit me hard.  I love to run.  I’m kinda weird about it.  And when I’m training for a race it takes endurance.  I hit a wall.  A point where I am frustrated, disappointed, sad, exhausted, angry, and done!  I want to quit.  What was I thinking?  I can’t do this!  It’s too hard.  it’s not worth it.  I just want to get a milkshake!  But, when I push through that wall there is victory, freedom, joy, accomplishment, and a new understanding of myself.  


God was showing me the same thing applied to this precious child.  We aren’t adopting him only for his benefit, but for ours.  The “testing of [my] faith” that will produce endurance in my life.  Wow!  So simple, yet it was just what I needed.  Endurance is going to have it’s perfect result in my life.  But what about his?  Can I trade my “perfect result” and give it to him?  That would make life so much easier!  


And written in my margins was the quote, “When duty becomes delight, burdens become blessings.”  Being his mother had become a duty and a burden in my life, and it was miserable.  I remembered back to the beginning when I was so idealistic and thought with the right love everything was going to be wonderful.  Being his mother was a delight and a blessing.  


Endurance.  The one simple, yet incredibly difficult, word that turned my heart and mind around. I was tired.  I AM tired.  I was frustrated.  In many ways I still am.  I was disappointed.  Yup, still am.  I was so very sad, and yes, I still am.  And I was finished!  No more!  Done!  Quit!  See ya!  But not anymore.  The dear Lord had changed my perspective.  Endurance.  I need to stick it out.  Keep being faithful.  Not grow weary in well doing.  Allow endurance to have it’s perfect result in my life.  His heart and his behavior may not change, but mine has.  I need to focus on the delights and the blessings, not allow myself to be overwhelmed with the frustrations.  But I would still like to get that milkshake.  

P.S.  This was written some months ago as we were struggling through a particularly difficult time with our son.  My prayer is that my experience will be an encouragement to some of you doing through difficult times.  

Praise the Lord, I can say that we have seen dramatic improvement in our son through the work of God in his life.  And I'm seeing dramatic improvement in me through the work of God in my life.


Homeschooling can be such a touchy topic.  Let me just start by saying that I grew up in the public school system in the US.  I had many amazing teachers who inspired, encouraged, and pushed me.  There are still many amazing teachers in the school systems today who are doing the same day after exhausting day.  I am so very thankful for them.  They are shaping lives in very important ways that they may never realize or see fruit from.  They are faithful, hardworking, sacrificing, and ministering to the souls of their students, not just their minds.  Thank you for all you do.  


I also want to point out that every family and every family situation is different.  Some are very happy with their kids in traditional school.  That is perfect for them.  Some wish they could do something different but jobs or finances just won’t allow it.  Others homeschool but with vastly different philosophies and methods than we do.  That is wonderful.  We each have to do what is best for our families.  There is beauty in that.  And I cheer you all on.  We are all in the trenches of parent-hood together.  We need to encourage each other, not judge each other for doing what we believe is best for our families.  


When my oldest child was still quite young my husband and I started discussing our educational desires for her.  We had our own lists of pros and cons for public school, private school, and homeschool.  We spent a lot of time in prayer and I spent a lot of time in research.  We knew that we wanted to eventually move to Africa as missionaries and so we decided to jump into homeschooling.  


I ordered my curriculum that I had carefully researched.  I set up a little desk for her with all the school supplies I remembered having to buy as a child.  And I sat her in that little desk every day and we did workbook after soul sucking workbook.  She was learning, but we were both miserable.  My youngest child was two and my middle was three, so chaos reigned in our home.  In my mind I had to replicate a school classroom in my home for her to be “educated”.  At that time it wasn’t possible and very nearly killed us all.  


I had to let go of my view of education and understand that education is not the same thing as learning.  I started researching how children learn and the different stages of childhood development.  I started researching the different methods of homeschooling.  Through the years we have evolved in the way we teach our kids.  I’ve had so many moments of “I wish I knew then what I know now”, and “if I could go back and do it all over again”.  


I have a strong conviction that as a parents our purpose is to disciple our children into people who will live well, love God, and serve others.  These priorities can only be accomplished with time and intentional effort.  I also believe that God gave them to us as parents to do this job.   We only get to raise our kids once.  We need to make sure that we take every opportunity God provides us to invest into our kids hearts and lives.  I know we all as parents have this conviction and do our best to fulfill it in the ways God enables us to.  For us, God has enabled our family to be able to homeschool and so we believe this is best for us.   


I love being with my kids every day.  I love watching them grow and develop and hear their thoughts and their hearts.  Then I love being able to speak scripture and truth into each of these areas.  I love getting to instill in them a lifelong passion to learn new things and teach them the skills to teach themselves. This is the philosophy behind our homeschooling.  Character development and a passion for learning.  All our curriculums are chosen to strengthen these two areas.  All our extra curricular activities are chosen to strengthen these two areas.  If it doesn’t, we don’t do it.  


There are many practical reasons for why we homeschool.  We live in Africa and the government school systems are not up to US educational standards.  We don’t have the finances to enroll our kids into an international school.  But beyond all this, we love being able to be an intimate part of our kids education and development.  It is a joy and a blessing that we do not take for granted.  

Embracing the Wilderness

Journaling through the book of Exodus has made this book just come alive to me.  I strongly suggest that if you don’t journal through scripture that you start.  It’s such an exciting experience with the Lord.  It’s looking like it’s going to take me forever to get through this book, but I’m willing to take it slow and soak in all God has for me.  God speaks through His word.  He reveals so much of who He is through the book of Exodus. 


At the end of Exodus chapter two we see these words in verse 25, “God saw the people of Israel - and God knew.”  This verse alone is life changing.  The same God who saw the Israelites is the same God who sees us.  You and me.  He sees our sorrows and our joys. 


But those last three words of Exodus 2:25, “and God knew”.  Such enormity wrapped up in three simple words.  God knew their sufferings.  God knew their pain.  God knew what was happening.  God knew His power.  God knew His plans.  God knew exactly what He was going to do and what was going to happen to His people.  


We have the same God today.  He sees your life and He knows.  Everything.  Past, present and future.  He knows!!  Such hope and joy in three tiny words!  No matter what we are facing right now, God sees and He knows.  He has a plan for our sufferings.  Part of His plan is the revelation of Himself to us as we experience Him in our hard times.  


As we enter into chapter three we see how God reveals Himself to us through times of suffering.  This is the famous account of Moses and the Burning Bush.  I haven’t even gotten through all of it, but just what I’ve journaled so far is comforting and exciting.  


Moses is shepherding his father-in-law’s flock.  As he is climbing Horeb, the mountain of God, God reveals Himself to Moses in a bush that is burning but not consumed by the fire.  It piques Moses’ interest and he decides to investigate.  Then God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush.  


He says in Exodus 3:5-8, 

“Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’  And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.  

Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters.  I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivities, and the Jebusites.’”


Through this conversation with Moses God is revealing so much of Himself to Moses and to us.  It’s incredibly exciting.  Let’s look at it and be amazed together.  


He starts out by revealing His holiness.  One of the most important things we must understand about our God.  Understanding and believing His holiness is a foundational aspect of understanding more about Him.  He is perfect in all ways.  He is without sin.  He is unique, above all others.  When we see God’s holiness and understand who we are in relation to Him all we can do is what Moses did, hide our faces in our sinfulness and shame.  This is the beginning of a true relationship with God.  Understanding and admitting that He is holy and I am sinful.  


Next God reveals His faithfulness.  As the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob He has faithfully kept His promises to them and will continue to be faithful to His chosen people.  The God that provided a child to an old and barren couple just as He promised is the same God who keeps His promises in our own lives.  The God who brought Isaac down from the mountain of sacrifice and provided a ram in his place is the same God who is our Jehovah Jireh and will always provide for us.  The same God who wrestled with Jacob in the wilderness and saved him through the son he believed was dead is the same God who protects and sustains our lives.  He has been faithful throughout all history and He will continue to be faithful now and for all eternity.  We can trust Him.  


We have a God who sees, hears, and knows our sufferings.  He is a sympathetic and just God.  We are never alone in the difficulties of life.  God is always there with us.  Most of the time in scripture when we see the word “know” it means much more than an intellectual awareness, it means an experiential knowledge.  God doesn’t just have an intellectual awareness of our sufferings.  He experiences it with us.  He sees our circumstances, He hears our cries and prayers, and He experiences our sufferings with us.  We are never alone.  


Our God is a God of mercy and grace.  We have a God who withholds the punishment we justly deserve and instead bestows upon us blessings.  Just as He came down to deliver the Israelites out of the hand of the Egyptians He comes down to deliver us out of our difficult circumstances.  The Israelites had been slaves for a very long time.  God delivered them in His perfect timing.  Now was the time.  He doesn’t always deliver us when we want Him to, but because He is faithful He will do it when the time is right and we can trust Him in it.  


We serve a God of hope and blessings.  He promises to deliver the Israelites out of slavery and take them into a land of blessing.  As we come to know our God and follow Him he leads us out of slavery to sin and self and takes us into the freedom of hope and blessing.  We look forward to the someday of our Promised Land, but as we wander in the wilderness of this life, following Him, we can enjoy the blessings God pours out on us and live with hope of the coming blessings and joys.    


God is powerful and purposeful.  He has a perfect plan for each of our lives.  He revealed His plan for the Israelites.  He would deliver them from Egypt and take them to a land of blessing.  He also purposefully mentions the inhabitants of the land of blessing.  He knows that entering and possessing that land will not be easy.  He has a plan.  Not an easy plan, but a perfect plan.  He is going to walk with His people every step of the way through the wilderness and go before them into every battle to possess this land He has promised them.  We can trust God’s plans for us.  We can walk with Him knowing He goes before us to prepare the way.  


This is just the beginning for Israel.  And it’s an exciting beginning.  As God leads them through the wilderness to the Promised Land He is going to reveal Himself to His people as He never has before.  They are going to see Him in mind blowing ways.  It is truly awe inspiring.  While they were in Egypt the Israelites could only see their suffering and oppression.  God delivers them, but doesn’t immediately take them to the land of blessing. He takes them into the wilderness where there will be no distractions and complete reliance upon Him.  And it is in this place that He shows them who He is.  


The same is true for us.  Many times it is a spiritual wilderness.  Sometimes it is a physical wilderness.  God takes us through these wilderness experiences so we come to a place of complete dependence upon Him.  And it is in these times that He reveals Himself to us as never before.  We get to truly see Him and know Him.  He never promised that our lives would be easy.  If you honestly look at scripture He promises the exact opposite.  But He also promises that we will not walk through the wilderness alone.  He walks beside us and goes before us revealing Himself to us in ways that make the wilderness holy, beautiful, and precious.  


We need to embrace the wildernesses that we journey through in life.  As we embrace them we must keep our eyes and our hearts open to experience God in new and exciting ways.  The wilderness is desolate, but it’s the perfect place to see God.  Faith is not a feeling.  Faith is believing God is who He says He is even when we don’t feel it.  Faith is trusting in His promises.  Walking through the wilderness with God strengthens our faith and broadens our understanding of who He is.  The wilderness is a precious place. 

The Rest of the Story

The story of surrender in Moses’ mother’s life doesn’t end with the basket in the river.  As I journaled through the rest of the story this morning the Lord just kept on speaking!  Let’s look at the last few verses in this part of the story.  


Exodus 2:7-10  Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call for you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”  And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.”  So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  And Pharaohs daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.”  So the woman took the child and nursed him.  When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.  She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”


Again… wow!  This mother is one amazing woman; an example to all of us.  God returned her son to her for a short time.  She knew she was going to have to surrender him again.  Let’s put ourselves in her place again and see what God has for us to learn.  She did not get the full story at once as we did.  All she knew was her God’s faithfulness in that moment.  


I can imagine that as she rushed back home with her precious baby she was wracking her brain trying to think of ways to hide and keep him.  But that would be impossible.  He was the only boy baby among the Hebrew people.  As he grew it would become obvious.  And so she had to surrender again to the God who had just proven His faithfulness to her.  She saw how He had saved her baby from the river.  God’s answer to her desperate prayers had strengthened her faith.  The very fact that her son was alive and returned back to her for a time gave her confidence that God had a big plan for this child’s life.  


And so, for the short time she had, she prayed over him, spoke truth over him and to him even though he was too young to understand.  I’m sure that many months before she had circumcised and named him on the eighth day of his life in obedience to the Law.  And she continued to follow God’s Law and their customs in his life as long as she would have him.  She stored every moment in her heart knowing she will have so few of them.  Just like for us, the time passed quickly, but she continued to nurse him for as long as she could.  


Then came the day of surrender.  The day of his adoption.  As she placed him into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter she was placing him again into the hands of the Lord.  How her heart must have broken.  She was not only surrendering his physical life this time; she was surrendering his eternal life as well.  If he had died in that river a year before he would have gone to be with the Father, but now she was surrendering her son to be raised in a pagan household to worship false gods.  


For the rest of her life her heart and her arms would ache for this special child.  But she had resolve and faith in her God.  She would pray every day, all day, for him.  She would lay her broken heart, empty arms, and her child at the foot of God’s throne and trust in Him, her faithful God.  


At the moment she surrendered her son into Pharaoh’s daughter’s hands he was given a new name - an Egyptian name.  Moses, because he was drawn out of the water.  The very water he was named after was a god to the Egyptian people.  To the Hebrews it was a water of death, sorrow, and misery.  Later it would be a key element in the final showdown between God and Pharaoh, and Moses would be a key player in that showdown.  But in Moses God defeated the death, sorrow, and misery of this river to give life out of it.  He is going to use this child, named after this river, to oppose and defeat this river god, and deliver His people.  God had a plan, but this mother could not see it.  She just had to trust in Him.  


We don’t hear anything else about Moses’ mother.  I’m assuming she died before Moses’ surrender to the Lord and the deliverance of her people.  She never got to see the fulfillment of God’s plans, not just for Moses, but for her other children as well.  She trusted God with the most precious people in her heart in the midst of the unknown.  She could not save her child by holding on to him.  She could only save him by surrendering him into the hands of God.


How true is this for us as mothers here and now?  I have heard mothers tell me that they are afraid to surrender their children to the Lord because if they do something bad might happen.  I completely understand that crazy momma bear love we have for our children.  We would face death, the very gates of hell itself, to save our children… but we can’t.  We are under the delusion that as long as we hold on and hold them close we can keep them safe.  But this is not true.  It is truly a delusion.  


Mommas, we have a loving God; a faithful God.  Our God created all that there is with the breath of his voice and sustains it all with His will.  He is the Creator of our children and His love for them is far beyond anything we could ever comprehend.  He created them with a purpose and plan for their lives.  And then He gave them to us for a short time to love them, care for them, and raise them to love and serve Him.  Our children are not truly ours, they are His.  The only way we can keep them safe is to surrender them into His hands.  


Let’s be mothers of faith who teach our children who God is through our actions and our words.  Let’s be mothers of resolve as we daily raise our children through the good and difficult times.  Let’s be mothers of surrender who place our children in the hands of the Father.  We may never see the fulfillment of God’s plan for our children, but we can trust Him to complete the good work He has begun.  We can not save our children by holding on to them.  We must surrender them to our faithful, loving, sovereign God.  Let go, mommas, and watch God do His thing.  It’s beautiful.  

Moses' Mother

I recently started journaling through Exodus and I’m really excited about it.  There is something about journaling through scripture that gives me time to think, and process, and for the Lord to speak to me.  It takes me much longer to get through each book than I anticipate, because I will get caught up in the Scriptures and what God is showing me that I take my time and soak it all in. I’m in Exodus chapter two, and I’m so excited about what God is teaching me I just wanted to share it with you.  


It’s a story we all know well.  The Israelites are slaves in Egypt and have grown in number and in strength.  The Pharaoh is concerned about the strength of his slaves and so attempts to curb their population by having the midwives murder every baby boy born to them.  The midwives fear God more than Pharaoh so they arrive late at every birth and the baby boys are saved.  (I loved this part of the story!)  Fast forward a generation and Pharaoh has again decided to curb the population of the Israelites and orders every baby boy thrown into the Nile River.  


It is here we meet Moses’ mother.  Let me share with you Exodus 2:1-6

Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman.  The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.  When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bullrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch.  She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the bank.  And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.  

Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river.  She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it.  When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying.  She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew’s children.”


Wow!  What a woman! As I was reading this I couldn’t help putting myself in this mother’s place.  To be expecting a child at this time would be a very difficult experience.  You would have no idea until the birth of that child whether you would be able to raise your daughter or be forced to murder your son.  I can imagine as a mother she had been devising this plan since she realized she was pregnant.  Think about the dread and fear that must have been in her heart when she gave birth to a baby boy! Thankful that she had a plan, but she also dreaded the implementation of that plan.  


And so, with the words, “It’s a boy” she resolved in the depths of her very being to save her chid and put her plan into action.  She had her plan in place for how to hide the child and I’ve no doubt her family agreed and helped her.  Perhaps she had neighbors and friends who were in on it as well.  I’m sure there were many moments of near discovery those first few months.  But all of them with joyful, yet heavy hearts working together to protect this tiny child.  They had no idea they were delivering their deliverer.  


When the child became too old to hide she knew it was time for phase two of her plan.  She had carefully woven herself the basket she was going to use; not too small knowing he was going to grow, not too big because his very life depended upon concealment.  Praying as she wove each strand, hoping with all her heart that she would never have to use it for it’s intended purpose.  Maybe she had finished it months ago and used it to hide him around the house so he would feel comfortable in it before she had to surrender him.  But now the time had come.  She meticulously daubed it with what she knew would make it waterproof and safe.  She tested it in a tub of water praying over every step of her preparations.  


Maybe she chose a specific day.  Maybe she woke up one morning and knew deep in her heart that it was time.  In my mind she bathed him gently and carefully as her tears mingle with the bath water.  She nursed him one last time cherishing his gentle breath on her breast and the sounds of his sucking.  She counted one last time his precious fingers and toes.  She memorized his sweet chubby cheeks and tiny nose, storing them up in her heart.  Then she wrapped him tightly in soft clean blankets praying over him and committing him into the hands of the only One who can save him.  She rocked him to sleep so he will be quiet on the trip to the river.  All this time her heart breaking yet hopefully trusting in her God.  Solemnly she placed him in the basket.


Perhaps she had chosen the spot in the river many months before.  Each time she walked past praying over it.  She chose it strategically, praying and hoping for the salvation of her child.  Perhaps she knew the princess would be sympathetic towards her child.  She would have watched and known the schedule of the princess and knew she would be there that day.  With fear and faith mingled in her heart she opened the basket for one last glimpse.  One last kiss, soaking in that sweet baby scent as she firmly closed the lid and sets the basket in the river among the reeds.  She made sure it is hidden to passers by, but visible to the princess’ bathing spot.  She left her daughter as guard, kissed her, and reminded her to be diligent in her watch.  With one last look she rushed home to pray and wait.  


How heavy her heart must have been.  But what faith she displayed!  What an incredible woman!!  Mommas, this is how we must approach our parenting.  With the same faith and surrender.  We must be intentional about the way we raise our children.  We must make wise choices for our children.  We must fight for our children and protect them, raising them in the world but not of it.  And with faith, sometimes fear, we must surrender them into the hands of the only One who can save them.  His plans and purposes for our children are far beyond what we could ever imagine.  He may not use them to deliver His people from oppression and slavery, but He will use them to lead others to the Deliverer of their souls.  Even in the hard and hopeless times God has a plan that we can trust and follow.  There is always hope in Christ.  


Mommas, let’s be women filled with intentional faith for our children.  Let’s be an example of determination and strength as we rely on the Lord.  And then, let’s surrender our children into the hands of the Lord and watch with hope as we see His plans for them fulfilled.  Our God is faithful and good.  Surrendering our children to Him is the best thing we could ever do for them.  

Conservation Hunting

Conservation hunting. Some people would try to say it’s an oxymoron, but it is in reality a very valid and important part of our taking care of the earth God has given us. Overpopulation of herds of animals in a confined space such as a wild game preserve or game farm is a dangerous problem for everyone involved. There is increased territorial fighting among animals that leads to life threatening injuries, insufficient food resources for all the animals that leads to starvation and sickness, the spread of diseases among herds that leads to slow and miserable deaths. There is increased danger for the people who live and work in these areas as they come into contact with these animals more often than they should and when provoked they can become deadly. The earth itself becomes overburdened with providing food and water for these overpopulated herds. Everyone suffers.


Oxford defines conservation as: the prevention of wasteful use of a resource; preservation, protection, and restoration of the natural environment and of wildlife. In a situation as previously stated to let things remain as they are would not be within this definition of conservation. It is a wast of a resource. It is allowing the natural environment and wildlife to be destroyed.


How can hunting be called conservation? Let’s take a look at it. In Genesis 2:15 God puts Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend it and take care of it. Later in verse 28-30 God tells Adam that He is giving him control over every thing that moves on the earth. This was before the fall of sin in chapter three. There was no death, hunting or eating of meat when God gave this command to Adam. God expected Adam to take care of His creation… to conserve it.


Sadly we do not live in the world Adam lived in when he received these commands. We live in a world of sin and death, but we still have the same mandate from God. We are to take care of His creation and conserve it. God has given us one earth for us to live on and enjoy for His glory. Caring properly for His creation and the resources He has given us brings glory to Him.


I won’t get into the theological details, but later in scripture God gave His people permission to eat meat. He commanded them to offer sacrifices to Him and to eat a portion of that meat. The deaths of those animals was a proper use of the resources God had given them. Without going through the step by step I’m going to jump back into the topic of hunting.


God has given us the mandate to care for these animals of the earth. When they are underpopulated and endangered we should protect them and take care of them. But the same is true when they are overpopulated. Responsible hunters who work along side of game management and conservation work to control herd sizes so that the animals can thrive in their environment. The taking of select animals can create a stronger and healthier herd over time. The smaller herds then nourish the environment instead of destroying it. Where we live local people can not afford to eat red meat regularly. This conservation hunting also provides much needed meat to the locals and strengthens them. The smaller herds also provide a safer place for the people caring for them to live.


As missionaries we are always teaching our children that every person is created in the image of God. Each life is precious and Jesus died to save each of their souls. Everyone should be treated with respect and given the opportunity to hear and see the loving salvation God offers them. But we think it is important to teach them to take care of this beautiful Earth God has provided for them and hunting is a part of that.


We are thankful that we are able to partner with amazing game management personnel here in Africa to help them take care of the animals put in their care. Because of the nature of conservation hunting, not trophy hunting (which we also do), usually the cost is very little. We buy the meat we keep and the rest is kept by the people thereby also helping the people financially. It’s a fun and exciting way of being part of the conservation of resources in our local area. And another reason we love living in Africa!


This is a story of how God poured out His grace in our lives in a tremendous way, completely transformed who we are and our view of Him, altered our future for all eternity, and blessed us more than we ever thought possible.  This is the story of Grace.  Our Grace.  An experience we never would have chosen, but never want to give back.  This is a story of pain and heartache, but also a story of joy and hope.  And I pray that this story would bring glory to God and touch those of you who have experienced similar circumstances in your life or know someone who has.  


As many of you know, over the years my husband and I have had two miscarriages, one stillbirth, three heathy children, and adopted one child. That’s our family in a nutshell.  It has not been an easy journey, but it has been one very worth taking.  Even a journey we would willing take all over again.   


I’ll start at the beginning and try to make it as short as possible.  We got married in January 2001.  Jamie was finishing up college and I was working full time.  We had no money… and I mean, no money.  A year after we were married we decided to stop preventing pregnancy, but not try either.  Just going to leave it in God’s hands.  Ten months later I was pregnant.  We were so nervous and excited.  We went for our first doctor appointment and then told the family.  A week later the Lord took our baby Home with him and my pregnancy ended in miscarriage.  Our hearts were broken.  It was the day before Thanksgiving and we were struggling.  We decided to start trying again right away.  A year later I was still not pregnant.  A few months and an ovulation test later we were pregnant again.  Our nervous, anxious hearts surrendered this baby to the Lord knowing it’s life was in His hands.  After a dream pregnancy and delivery we held our precious daughter, Lorelei, in our arms and wept.  I was ready… we were ready to do it again, right away.  


Three months later we were pregnant again.  This pregnancy started with a move to a different state as my husband took an associate pastor position.  I started spotting and put myself on bedrest (or as close as I could get) the day we moved.  I knew that if the Lord wanted to take this baby Home I couldn’t stop Him, and if I was still pregnant after we settled in I would find a good high risk OBGYN.  A few weeks later, as far as I knew, I was still pregnant.  The Lord directed me to the most amazing doctor.  The baby had a heart beat and seemed to be perfectly healthy.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief.  


I was so excited!  I had wanted to have my children as close in age as possible so they would grow up close together.  Thirteen months apart seemed perfect to me.  We settled into our new home and church enjoying our baby in our arms and our growing family.  It was time for my 18 week ultrasound where we would find out if we were having a boy or a girl.  I woke up that morning with a heavy heart.  I felt the Lord whispering to me that this was not going to go as we had planned, but perfectly as He had planned.  Little did I know He had whispered the same to my husband.  


At the doctors office they took me back by myself to do the medical check-up part of the ultrasound and then they were going to bring Jamie back for the gender reveal.  As soon as the ultrasound technician put the wand on my belly she quickly turned the computer screen away from me, and I knew.  Something is wrong with my baby.  Possibilities started pouring through my imagination.  I knew we could handle raising a special needs child.  We could even enjoy raising a special needs child.  


The ultrasound technician called my doctor in.  One glimpse at the screen and he said, “Amanda, we have a big problem.  I need to get you to see a specialist right away.  This is too big for me to handle.”  I was so thankful for his blunt, humble honesty.  They called Jamie back and started to show us what they had seen on the screen.  Under-formed and missing internal organs, missing brain matter, serious issues with our baby’s development.  

The next week we drove to the capitol to see the specialist. They did ultrasounds and tests and then told us they would inform us in a week.  That week we had planned a vacation at the beach with family.  It was a much needed distraction but also time to prepare our hearts and process.  Our family knew everything we knew and were so kind and encouraging.  Finally the results came back.  Our child had a very rare genetic disorder.  Unless the Lord chose to do a miracle this baby would not survive outside my womb.  It made every moment beyond precious.  I treasured and soaked in every kick and movement.  I prayed continually all day, every day, that God would heal my baby.  Jamie would lay his head on my belly to feel it’s kicks and soak them in as we would pray.  Countless people were praying along with us.


Nine weeks later the doctor confronted me with a choice I never thought I would have to make.  This baby was growing much faster than it should have been and I had no amniotic fluid.  At a certain point it would become life threatening for me to carry this baby and we would have to decide when to take it’s life.  When that time came we would have to do a c-section because the baby would be too large for me to deliver naturally.  We couldn’t make such a heart wrenching decision!  This was our baby!  We discussed and prayed and decided that we would leave that decision up to the doctor.  When he said it was time… it was time.  


Day after day, week after week we had prayed continually.  Weekly doctor appointments with no good news, long trips to the specialist where nothing new was determined.  The Lord had not given us peace that He was going to heal our baby, but He had given us His presence.  He went into every ultrasound with us and held us through it.  His Spirit gave us strength and understanding of the hope He had in store for our precious child.  And so we crawled up into our Father’s lap, buried our heads in His chest, and let Him comfort and carry us through.  It was all we could do.  


A week later I lay in bed while Jamie was getting ready for work.  I had another doctors appointment that day.  I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  It had been a very long ten weeks.  It was painful to be pregnant without amniotic fluid.  I couldn’t enjoy or care for Lorelei as I had hoped for because I was always in pain.  I couldn’t do anything.  I was done!!  I couldn’t handle it anymore.  After Jamie left I laid there and cried begging God to do something, anything, because I couldn’t handle any more.  


At the doctor that day we encountered a scenario that we had never imagined.  I was going into early labor!  We were so thankful that we wouldn’t have to decide to end our child’s life.  I immediately went into preparations for delivery.  My doctor had explained that because of the genetic disorder her body could fall apart during labor and that would kill me so we opted for a c-section.  We may not get to have her with us for very long, but we wanted to hold her body whole.  Through research we also learned that life outside my womb before death would be an agonizing experience for the baby.  We started praying for a stillbirth.  We knew our baby wouldn’t live long and we didn’t want to watch it suffer.  We wanted our child to go from my womb to the arms of God.  I didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so I bought a white crocheted blanket and a dear friend quickly crocheted me a baby hat to match.  


Around midnight it was go time.  We rushed to the hospital preparing for a c-section and praying for a stillbirth.  Labor went too fast for the c- section and I had to deliver naturally.  My heart was broken.  But God was so good to us.  Our daughter died during delivery.  She didn’t suffer one second, but went straight to the arms of God.  Her body stayed in tact so we were able to hold her and take pictures and have the closure we so desperately needed.  After a scare the Lord preserved my life.  Through it all He poured out His grace in our hearts in ways we could never have anticipated.  


During the ten weeks of pregnancy after Grace’s diagnosis God’s people rallied around us.  We had people praying for us daily all over the world.  Our families held us close and walked through it with us.  To be honest, I was never afraid.  The entire time I had peace.  I knew my God was in control.  I knew His plan was perfect.  I knew I could trust Him.  God’s grace became tangible the day we held our baby girl.  On the outside she was perfect in every way.  Her tiny fingers and toes, her soft skin.  Before she was born we had decided to name her Grace, just Grace, because of what God was revealing to us through her pregnancy.  We wanted her name and her short life to be a testimony to our merciful, loving, Gracious God. 


Two weeks from today we will celebrate her 13th birthday.  Every year we celebrate her birthday as a family.  We bake a cake, look through her pictures, read her story, and imagine what our family would be like if she had lived.  We discuss what it would be like to grow up in heaven.  The other children know they have a sister in heaven and it has made heaven more real to us all.  


Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her.  She is in my heart, a part of me.  She always will be just like my other children are.  Most days thoughts of her are sweet, but every once in a while I just need her.  Holding my other children doesn’t calm the hurt in my heart and arms.  I wish God would send her back down to me, just for a few minutes, so I could snuggle and kiss and love on her, then I would give her right back.  I used to hate those days, but they have become precious to me.  Over the years memories have faded.  I forget so much of that experience that sometimes I wonder if it was all a dream.  But then the hard days hit and it makes her real to me again.  That makes the pain precious.  Someday I will hold her in my arms in the presence of our Savior.  Until then, my heart holds her memory and the hope of that sweet someday.







Our New Home

Putting Down Roots

The missionary life is a life of changes.  Constant changes.  We change friends as people constantly come and go.  We move constantly even if it’s just changing houses in the same city.  Our ministries are constantly changing as well.  New ministry partners come, others leave and not just missionary partners, local partnerships as well.  The economy is usually unstable and so that brings constant changes. Many of us are also changing languages throughout our day.  Along with all the external changes we are constantly changing internally.  We are growing, learning, changing as we adapt to the culture we live and work in.  It’s kind of a theme of mission life.  


I grew up in a small town just outside of Cincinnati Ohio.  My husband grew up in the neighboring town.  Our parents grew up there.  Our grand parents grew up there.  For most of my life I went to the same school and church, lived in the same house, had the same friends.  Life was routine.  There was constancy and we had roots that went down deep.  


When we surrendered to the Lord and He called us to be missionaries we knew that our children would grow up very differently than we did.  No small town America with Founder’s Day carnivals and Easter parades.  No growing up with cousins and your best friend since kindergarten.  But we believed that the life we were entering was the best one for our children because God had called not only us, but our children to it as well.  We still believe that.  


The changes mentioned above are what is a daily norm for our children.  We have moved seven times in the last eight years.  One of those moves was from a house to a camper while we traveled around the U.S. raising support to move to Zambia.  One of those was an overseas move when we moved to Zambia.  One of those was cross country when we moved from southern Zambia to northern Zambia.  In the last three and a half years we have changed houses three times.  (Four if you count the time we spent living with a friend while we searched for a house of our own.)  We changed cultures and languages twice.  We adopted a son in the midst of this.  Along with change comes instability and insecurity.  


One of the verses we have clung to through all these changes is Psalm 121:8 “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”  No matter where the Lord takes us He goes before us, with us, an behind us.  


In the last couple of years we have been praying about where the Lord would have us long term, or even if He has plans for us anywhere long term.  We longed for a place to settle in and put down roots.  We longed for space and nature where our kids could run, play, and explore.  We longed for a sanctuary where we could escape the chaos of life and be restored for the work of each day.  At the same time we had chosen contentment wherever the Lord had placed us.  if it wasn’t in His plan for us to have a place of our own we had dreamed about we were okay with that.  This earth is not our home.  We look forward to our final destination.  


Last November the Lord miraculously made our dreams come true and with that He answered many prayers.  Through the overwhelming generosity of His people He provided us with our own home!  Through that we believe He answered our prayers about the long term.  We have a place to settle in and put down roots.  I hope the grandkids enjoy visiting us here.  We have space and nature where our kids run, play, and explore every day.  We have the sanctuary where we escape and are being restored.  Along with that we are using it for God’s glory for the ministry.  This house has an amazing history I will have to share with you sometime.  


We serve an amazingly intimate God.  He knows and feels the deepest longings in our hearts and He delights to fulfill them within His plan and will for us.  I sit here looking out the window at a tree house soon to be fixed so our kids and others can come and enjoy it.  The massive trees outside my window make my heart happy, and the variety of wildlife that comes with them is so satisfying.  My struggling little garden (I have a very brown thumb), small herd of chickens, and growing pack of goats (our first kid was born last week) are a delight I never thought I would have.  


My children have a place of security and stability.  They can settle in and run free without having to worry that we might move again in the next year.  This has quickly become their home.  My husband has a place where he can relax, study, plan, and prepare for the demands of life and ministry here.  I have a place where I can breath deeply, dream of the future, and settle in for the long haul.  All that combines for a long term, effective ministry here in Zambia.  


I can not express my deep gratitude for those of you who have encouraged, prayed, given, and blessed us through this house.  I wish I could bring each of you here and share with you what  delights us and brings us joy about our hew home.  The biggest is that we can use it for the glory of God as a place of restoration, encouragement, and discipleship for others.  I look forward to sharing with you all the ways God is gong to use this house and property.  Today I breath deep and say thank you.  



If you want more glimpses into our life here in Zambia I’m on Instagram as Zambiasmith.  If you want more information about our ministry my husband is Jamie Allen Smith on Facebook.  

Don't Blink

I think that all mothers have an idealistic picture in our hearts and heads of the kind of mother we aspire to be.  I know I do.  I remember watching mothers with their kids before I had my own and being judgy and thinking, “My kids would never…”  Fill it in.  Anyone else out there willing to raise their hands with me??  Lord, forgive me.  Whew!  


The truth is, being a mom is hard.  There are countless blogs and websites and songs, plays, symphonies, movies, musicals, paintings, books…  not sure about all of those, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  I think that because mothering is difficult many women start to wish this stage of their lives by.  “I can’t wait until my kids are in school.”  “I can’t wait until my kid is in college.”  “I can’t wait until my kids are out of the house.”  We have all heard it if we haven’t said/thought it ourselves.  I get it.  What we are really wishing for is a break.  A breather to relax and just rest. 


I think that we need to refocus as well.  As difficult as being a mom is it is also fleeting.  When our babies were born we had people tell us, “Don’t blink!”  How right they were.  As children we always wanted to be older.  As early teens we just wanted to drive.  Then we wanted to graduate high school and go to college.  Then we wanted to finish college and get married.  You know what I mean.  All of those were stages of life that centered on ourselves.  Now we are in a stage of life that isn’t all about us.  We are so used to longing for the next stage that now that we are in one of the most difficult we are wishing it away.  


This may be the most difficult, longest stage yet, but it also the most important.  We have the privilege and responsibility to shape the next generation for God’s use in this world.  We have a house full (or seems to be full) of little minions that steal our peace, time, sleep, spouse, food, and independence.  It won’t last long even though it feels like you’ll be in that stage forever.  That precious baby we held for the first time in our arms with tears in our eyes dreaming of the future is now that mouthy teenager we just can’t seem to connect with.  You’re almost done, Momma.  Don’t wish her away.  


Savor it.  Savor it all.  Every dirty diaper.  Every puky sickness.  Every tear and sniffle.  Every sleepless night.  Every tender kiss on the cheek.  Every pretty weed filled bouquet.  Every crayon drawing.  Every laugh.  Savor it.  All of it.  Don’t blink.  Not once.  Because you will never get to do it again.  We only get one chance.  


The stage we are in seems endless.  One day it will end.  Every stage ends to open into the next one.  I didn’t blink.  I did my best to savor every stage we have gone through.  Maybe losing half of my babies helped me savor the ones I got to keep.  My little minions are all grown up.  I miss them terribly.  Now they’re turning into teenagers.  I miss the little kids that they used to be, but I want to fully embrace who they are becoming.  I want to keep my eyes wide open.  I don’t want to look back some day and realized that I blinked and missed something.  



It takes a lot of hard work.  It takes a lot of patience.  It takes a lot of time.  It takes intentional effort.  But it is so worth it.  All of it.  The good days and bad are worth it all.  Be present, Momma.  Hang in there.  Stick it out.  Savor it all.  This stage will end and another will come.  Don’t wish it away, but find ways to enjoy it.  We are blessed to be mothers.  

Let's Keep Our Marriages Strong

I’m all about embracing the stages of life God brings us through.  I don’t want to live stuck in the past or dreading of the future.  I want to live fully in the here and now.  But as I am on the cusp of entering my 40s I’m starting to see some things about this stage of life that are causing me to become wary and concerned. 

One of the biggest is watching Christian marriages fall apart because of unfaithfulness.  Couples who I have watched truly love each other through the good, bad, and ugly have fallen apart and ruined their families. 

What is going on?  Why is this happening?  How can we prevent this?


As I’ve been journaling and observing the situations around me I’ve been praying deeply.  One thought has struck me pretty hard.  Stick with me while I explain my thought process.  


When we were young (especially if you grew up in my circles)  we were always cautioned to guard our hearts and to live in obedient submission to Christ and His Word.  We were told to have dating standards to protect ourselves and our future spouses.  We were held accountable and chaperoned.  Many of us did pretty well keeping our relationships right with God and others.  


Then we grew older, got married, and started families.  I think many of us reach a point where we look at our past successes and think we have got it all down right.  We have been faithfully married for 20ish years.  Our kids are turning out okay.  We are faithful to church.  We’ve got this.  It’s smooth sailing from here on out.  And then we let our guards down.  


When we let our guards down Satan creeps right in.  We let go of the small things first. 

We aren’t in the Word like we used to be. 

The kid’s sport schedules fall so often on Sundays, but missing a little church here and there won’t hurt.  We’ve gone to church all our lives.  Then other things start to slip. 

We’ve been happily married for years.  We are secure in our relationship.  We start letting slip the guards we’ve put in place to protect our marriage. 

Perhaps we are allowing influences into our hearts through media that we would have never allowed before we were married. 

All these things work together to weaken our defenses and suddenly we find ourselves in a place we never thought we would be in.  A broken marriage and broken family.  Regrets you will have to live with the rest of your life. 


First and most importantly we must maintain our relationship with God.  We must be in God’s Word every day.  We must be memorizing Scripture.  We must apply all we are learning to our lives.  Every day. 

We must be spending time in prayer with the Lord.  Resting in His presence and communicating with Him. 

We must be faithful to church and developing christian relationships where we will be fed, encouraged, and held accountable. 

We need to be doing devotions and praying with our spouse, encouraging each other in our walks with the Lord and our faithfulness to Him.  


Second only to our relationship with our Savior our marriage is the. most. important. relationship we have.  A good marriage doesn’t just happen.  And a good marriage doesn’t just stay good.  It takes constant work and constant tending. 

Through the years we grow and change as individuals.  We must be constantly studying our spouses and learning them. 

Continue to fall in love with your spouse over and over again.  Focus in on the good qualities they have and communicate that to them. 

Our love languages or the way we understand them shift as we go through different stages of life.  We need to be aware of this and adapt to it. 

Our communication needs change as we progress through life together and communication is vitally important for every marriage.  Be aware and adapt. 

All the guards that we put in place to protect our marriage are every bit as important now as they were when we were first married.  They are always important.  


Let’s stay strong!  If you’ve let things slip over the years take them back.  Invest in your relationship with God.  Invest in your marriage.  Those are two things you will never regret.  Be a living example of the mercies of God and His faithfulness.  


I am blessed.  I have a great marriage.  17 years into this it couldn’t be going any better.  But I don’t want to blow it.  I don’t want to ruin my marriage.  I don’t want to ruin my family.  I want to stay diligent and look back a the end of my life knowing that I have no regrets.  I lived life to the glory of God.  





Making Friends

In the right circumstances and with the right people friendship can be wonderful blessing in our lives.  But in different circumstances and with different people sometimes friendship can be hard. There are tons of wonderful blogs and articles about living internationally and the revolving door of friendships. And the reality is that it is hard.  Very hard.  Living internationally also means that there is a smaller pool of “friends” to choose from.  We live in a very small community that is constantly changing.  And the reality is that it is hard.  But regardless of where we live the friendships can be complicated.  

We have been blessed with amazing friends here in Zambia.  Friends who we would never have met State side.  Kindred souls who strengthen, bless, encourage, support, confront, and love us.  Friends who it is easy to be friends with.  We also have friends who are not so easy.  The differences are greater than the commonalities.  They are friends we have to work to be friends with.  

I would love to say that since we are adults we know how to do this friendship thing just fine.  We know how to get along with anyone.  But that isn’t always true.  

As parents we all desire for our kids to have good friends.  One of my daughters has been blessed with a few really good friends over the years.  One of my daughters struggles to find a good friend.  But my kids have encountered more hurtful “friends” than good ones especially as they get older.  

Our kids live watching us. They have the same friendship struggles we do, but on a much more immature level.  They are looking to us to understand how friendships work and how they are to develop relationships.  We are the ones who must teach our children to be good friends.  

I’m seeing that many of us as adults don’t know how to be good friends.  Many people don’t know how to be kind to others with no strings attached.  There are others who always take and never give.  Some who don’t realize that most of the things they say are hurtful.  There are people who always focus on themselves.  The ones that are always judging.  The list could go on.

We raise what we are. (Realize I’m speaking out of a place of conviction not condemnation.)  If we as parents are manipulative our children will be manipulative.  If we as parents are takers our children will do the same.  If we are self-centered our children will be too.  

We need to have a realistic view of who we are and how we treat others.  I know our view of self will always be partly skewed.  But there are ways of broadening our understanding of who we are.  There are two simple ones that pop off the top of my head.

  • Be in Scripture.  Honestly ask the Spirit to reveal to you who you are in light of what you read in God’s Word.  And then be willing to repent and submit to what He reveals to you.  
  • Ask someone who will be honest with you about how others perceive you.  Ask those same friends how you could be a better friend and more relatable to others.  Sometimes it’s not your closest friends who can honestly answer this.  They’ll be too nice.  You know the people who will tell it like it is.  Brave up and go to them. 


We have to live the way we want our kids to live.  

I want my kids to love others because God loves them.  Period.  For no other reason.  With no expectations.  

So, that’s how I have to love others.  

I want my kids to be the givers.  To live life with open hands.  To look around them for the needs of others and then do what they are able to meet those needs.  

I have to be a giver.  

I want my kids to be encouragers.  I want them to uplift and bless the people they come in contact with.  Like grandma always said, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.”

I need to be an encourager.

I want my kids to be grace givers.  To be that we must realize that we are recipients of more grace than we could ever deserve.  And we need to extend the same amount of grace to others that we want them to extend to us.  

I have to be a grace giver.  

We all want our kids to be good friends to others regardless of how others treat them.  It’s not always easy.  Many times it hurts.  But they will never know how to treat others with love and respect unless we exemplify that for them with our lives.    








Aging with Grace

Aging Gracefully…  It’s a thought that has been on my mind a lot lately.  Being back in America and seeing all the commercials about anti-aging serums and lotions and treatments, etc. makes me want to look like all the women in the commercials.  And I think, “Whoa!  Wait a minute!  Aren’t I too young to be thinking about this?”  

But then I look in the mirror and see those few stray grays that refuse to blend in.  The beginning of crows feet at the corners of my eyes.  Neck wrinkles??!!  Already??!!  I look tired… and old…  My body no longer wants to lose weight after giving birth to 4 children.  It likes its chubbies.  And I think, “I want to age gracefully.” 

I have to ask myself, what does that mean?  What does that look like?  How does that manifest itself in my walk with the Lord and my daily life?  As I think about those questions I realize that I have to stop.  I have to stop comparing myself to the advertisements and other women.  I have to stop looking so closely in the mirror.  I have to stop focusing so much on my outer self, and I have to start looking at my heart.  

Aging gracefully is not all about looking like that older woman in the commercial with the body that is still in proportion, the stylishly cut grey hair, the trendy yet age appropriate clothes and hoping I look like her when that time comes.  It’s about living every day to it’s fullest for my Savior and my family.  It’s about not worrying about how chubby and frumpy I feel in pictures.  It’s about not criticizing my appearance around my kids (or at all - not easy).  It’s about accepting the aging yet taking the best care of the only body the Lord has given me for His use and glory.  It’s about abiding daily with my Lord and letting His fruit grow and show in me.  It’s about living peacefully with the changes the different stages of life bring, savoring and enjoying each one.  It’s about making memories with my family.  

When my children look back on their lives at home I want them to remember a mom who enjoyed life, made the most of every opportunity, was present in the moment, connected with them and built relationships with them.  And as they grow and go on to their own lives I want them to live that way too.  I want my husband to look back on our parenting years with fond memories of a family who loved life together, not of a wife who was always complaining about being fat and tired.  


I want to experience life, not just realize one day that it passed me by as I was worrying about my forehead wrinkles.  Since I’m going to have wrinkles I want them to be from laughing and smiling with my friends.  If I carry around those extra pounds I want them to be because I enjoyed that cheesecake while listening to my daughter pour her heart out to me.  If I’m going to look tired I want it to be because I was up late enjoying being married to my husband.  I want to enjoy this life the Lord has given me to the fullest investing in what is most important, the lives of those He puts around me.  

First Jumping Demonstration

The girls have finally reached the point with their horse riding skills where they can start to compete in jumping shows.  They’ve been working so hard week after week.  Sometimes even riding with malaria (mom fail).  I’ve been so proud of them.  They have a tremendous instructor.  She works beautifully with the girls and really pushes them to do their best within their skill level.  

Today the stables hosted a jumping demonstration.  

No competition.

Minimal stress.  

Lots of fun.  

It was wonderful practice for the girls jumping show in August.  They had to go over eight jumps (competition will be 10), perform before a crowd, perform before judges, and get the general feel for how a show will go.  

J was so nervous she almost backed out, but ended up doing an awesome job! My concern was that she wouldn’t remember what order the jumps went in, but her instructor went into the arena with her for support and she really did well.   

L was nervous as well with it being her first demo.  She went out there on her own, remembered all the jumps, had fun, and did so good!!   

Now to keep working so that they are ready for their upcoming competition.  I think they’re going to rock it!  

And of course I forgot my camera… Grrr.  

Next time… 


J jumping on Louie

L jumping on Alaska

Learning to Love

As we have entered into this adoption journey I had many expectations.  Most of which have proven accurate.  I expected that it would be a journey filled with many road bumps and reverses, and it has.  But I also expected it to go as the website so clearly and simply described step by step.  We have taken many of the steps over and over again.  I expected it to take time, but not this much time.  I expected extortion and corruption, and we have experience that!  But I expected a Spirit filled response that would bring the offender to repentance as they saw Jesus’ love lived through me.  Not even close.  I expected there to be growing pains in our family as my biological children adapted to having a new sibling.  That one has gone pretty much as I expected.  I expected there to be issues with bonding and attachment with our new son.  Boy, has that been true, but not in the ways I expected.  I expected that hurting, resentful, mean child that lashes out and makes life horrible for everyone.  The one that throws awful tantrums screaming, yelling, and flailing about.  

On the surface the “bonding” looked like it was going beyond our expectations.  In our first six months we were amazed at how easy it was.  But then we got a deeper look.  In reality the Lord did give us that hurting, resentful, mean child that lashes out and makes life horrible for everyone, but in a passive aggressive manner.  One who sits and simmers but doesn’t explode.  One who manipulates situations like a master con artist.  One who can torture the sibling sitting next to them while looking completely innocent and the victim while making the offended child look like the bully.  One that will exasperate us to no end without a shred of remorse or repentance.  We were given a child with “indiscriminate affection” who would go with a stranger in a blink of an eye and never miss us… even a year and a half later.  We were given a “trauma child” just as we expected who doesn't exhibit his trauma as we expected.   

I don’t read every book I lay my hands on about adoption, but only those that are recommended from people I respect who are speaking from their own personal experience.  And the ones I have read have been tremendously helpful.  But, as we were given this deeper look into our son and our family I found myself at a loss.  I have not found the resources out there to address the heart issues that we are battling with our son and as a result with our family as a whole.  

Let me explain.  For five years our son had to take care of himself.  For his very survival he had to love himself best, take care of himself best, make himself the most important person in his world.  He had to learn skills to get his deepest “love language” needs met.  He had to be self reliant emotionally and physically.  He has no concept of family or interdependent living.  He does not know what it means to truly love another person, only how to manipulate them to get his needs met.  He doesn’t know what it means or what it looks like to look on others as better than ourselves, or to treat others the way we want them to treat us.  

Most of the books I have read are very good at helping us communicate our love to our son, and they have been invaluable.  But I guess I just assumed that as we communicated our love to him he would just automatically learn how to show love back.  And he didn’t.  And at times I feel used and manipulated.  Our whole family does… except him.  As my oldest child put it, “The more love I show to him the more he uses it to hurt me.”  So, how do you teach a child what family is and what love is beyond living by example.  Where are the books on that??!!  

Then the Lord pierced my heart.  I’ve had the Book I’ve needed all along.  He wrote it just for me and my son.  He wrote it for this very situation.  I need to pour over it and take notes from it just like I did all the other books on adoption.  His Book is the ultimate book on adoption!  And so here I am.  My Bible and my notebook.  Begging God for wisdom.  Praying for the Spirit’s filling in my life each day to love this little boy and deliberately teach him how to love others.  Praying for the Lord to speak to his heart, in ways that I can’t, that he’s not alone anymore.  He has a FAMILY now.  A place where he is safe and loved and can let go of his self love and care and start caring for and loving others first.  Praying for watching eyes and attentive ears to see the situations that arise where I can best teach him that love is a choice and an action.  To help him make those choices and choose those actions.  And patience… boy, do I need patience.  Patience with him when he’s loving only himself.  Patience with my other children when they get fed up and react wrongly.  Patience with myself when I get fed up and react wrongly.  

Most days I feel as though I am talking to a rock.  A heart as hard and cold as stone.  A mind as hardened as a sun burned brick.  But I have hope.  I have a God who melts the hearts of stone and fills them with His love.  I have hope that as we live love before our son the Lord would be revealing His love to him in the ways he needs it most.  In ways we can’t understand.  And as we journey through this together God is revealing his love to each of us in ways we would not have experienced otherwise.  He gives us a perspective of His patient, steadfast love for us as we choose to patiently, steadfastly love our son.  Just that alone makes it worth it.  So, we will keep pouring over Scripture to learn more of what love is and how to love.  We will keep trying to live in ways that communicate love to him and to each other.  We will keep trying to take intentional opportunities to teach him how to love.  And we will keep trusting God to work His will and His best in our lives.

Aren't Your Kids Missing Out?!

I find it interesting the questions people ask me about raising my kids in Africa.  Some examples...

Aren't your kdis missing out?

Do your kids actually like living in Zambia?

What about social interaction?

And the list goes on...

Raising kids on the mission field certainly has it's own unique challenges, but it makes up for it in adventures, experiences, and seeing the world first hand.  

My children are growing up with a global perspective.  Their world is so much bigger than what is going on in just one country.  They are concerned about what is going on in the world.    

They are learning compassion first hand every day all around them.  They are constantly being presented with the need to help others and healthy ways to do that.   

They are growing up simply and slowly.  Their lives are not complicated by trivial matters, and they are not being pressured into growing up too fast.  They are learning what is really most important in life and savoring childhood.

They are growing up multi-culturally.  They have friends from all over the world.  Different cultures.  Different languages.  Different traditions.  Different colors.  They appreciate the differences and learn from them.  They are soaking all of this in and it is forming them in so many ways.    

Do my kids miss out?  Yes.  But so do your kids.  We can't give our kids everything, but we can teach them to appreciate what God has given them and where God has placed them by exemplifying that in our own lives.  

God is using all of us to raise our chilren right where He has placed us  for His glory.  He has individual purposes for each of our kids.  As parents we are called to invest in our children and disciple them no matter where we live.  We have the privilege of encouraging them to seek God and follow His plan for their lives.  

It's not about WHERE we raise our kids, but HOW we raise our kids.  Let's lead our children to the Savior and be faithful as we watch Him grow them into who He has created them to be.  

I am blessed to raise my kids in Zambia, but more importantly I am blessed to raise my kids.  And you are too.  Let's enjoy it and savor it.  We only get to do it once.  


Six Plates

As I was making dinner the other night I counted out six plates and pulled them down from the cupboard I flashed back to memories from the past. 

My husband and I always wanted a large family.  In 2005 a very rare genetic disorder changed the direction of our family.  We lost our daughter in a still birth.  The odds were not in our favor to have healthy children.  So after three healthy miracle babies, two miscarriages, and one still birth we prayerfully made the difficult decision to be done. 

Five plates.  That was it.  Every dinner setting five plates.  In my heart I wanted more.  For some reason six plates seemed like the perfect number.  The number that should have been.  Many summers our nephew would come spend some time with our family.  I got to set six plates for dinner.  It felt so good.  When he went home and we went back to five plates it was really sad for me.  I kept wishing he could just stay with us and round out our family.  The empty seat at the table many times causing me to imagine what could have been.

For six years it was five plates.  And for all those years I had been praying.  Just one more plate.  One more soul to love and nurture.  One more little body to snuggle and love.  And finally God said, “six plates”.  He brought our precious C into our lives.  Another soul to love and nurture.  Another body to snuggle and love.  

This sixth plate came cracked and broken.  People had not been careful or gentle with it.  Our hearts broke as well as we started to see the effects of these cracks in his heart and life.  And our prayers grew.  Our love grew.  As a family God is using us to mend these cracks.  I look at my other plates whole, shining, healthy, thriving and my heart aches even more for my little plate cracked, hurt, and confused… but slowly mending.  It’s a long slow process.  In the process we get small cracks in our own plates as well and we surrender ourselves into the Potter's hands and He gently mends us.  My son’s plate will never be the perfect, shiny plate my momma’s heart desires for him.  But I know my God, the Great Potter, can take something broken and mend it into a beautiful piece of art that reflects His glorious love and mercy.  

That is my prayer for all my plates, but especially for my boy.  As his hard heart tries so desperately to protect itself, and his behavior works so hard to push others away I see that broken plate trying to mend itself and protect itself from more cracks and breaks.  I know the Great Potter is standing there with open hands waiting and wanting to pick him up, clean off the pieces, and make something magnificent.  I can’t force him into the Potter’s hands, but I can lead him there.  And so I pray daily that through my love, care, discipline, and even frustration and failures God will reveal Himself to my boy so that he can be made whole.  And as a family we will reveal the beautiful creativity of our Great Potter.



This is Resurrection Sunday, you guys.  This is what it is all about.  Identifying with Christ in His death, burrial, and resurrection.  It's beautiful.

I have to admit, when we moved to Kitwe I was aprehensive about working with an international church.  I loved worshiping with my Zambian brothers and sisters in Christ.  But God is working and moving.  He is using this church to meet a long unmet need.  A place for international expatriates to gather together to worship.  We have been blessed to see so many saved.  Countless others brought back into fellowship that had been hurt by other churches.  Many baptized and discipled to greater places of growth in their relationships with God.  

 It's beautiful!  I love my church.  I love my family.  I love watching God work.  I am blessed. 


Check us out!

Preparing My Heart

This weekend is one of my favorite holiday seasons.  

Passover.  Good Friday.  Resurrection Sunday.  

Christmas is my other one.  

God Himself, Creator of all things, humbled, clothed in human flesh, came for me.  He lived for me. 

And as we remember this weekend, He died and came back to life for me.  

For you.  






But why celebrate? 

Because of my sin.  

My disgusting, revolting, twisted, evil heart.  My pride standing in puny rebellion against an almighty, all powerful, all knowing, all loving, eternal God.  My sin that deserves the wrath and eternal punishment of that holy God.  

Your sin and rebellious heart too.  

He looked into eternity future and saw us.  

Right now.  

This moment.  

He saw our sin and our helplessness.  

And so He came here through time and space.  He lived and suffered as we do, yet without sin.  In His great love for us He took on Himself His wrath and eternal punishment for our sins.  

By taking that on Himself he pardoned me.  He set me free! He made me His own. 

Then, this is the best part, He overcame sin, death, and the grave by coming back to life giving me His eternal life!!!


It is so important to me that our family truly focus on the meaning and importance of this holiday.  I want my children to know what their Creator did for them.  I have to admit, we don’t do the Easter Bunny, or Santa for the same reason (seriously, no judgement on those that do.  Not trying to start anything.).  We focus on Jesus alone.  In the week leading up to Easter we read through the Scriptures leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection.  We learn and sing hymns that teach us of the cross and eternal life.  We try to do meaningful crafts and bake.  Every year we try to make Resurrection Cookies. And yes, we do color Easter eggs.   


And it seems like every year something comes up to try to hinder us taking the time to focus on Christ and prepare our hearts for Easter.  A crazy schedule, travel, one year I ended up with a burst appendix and ovarian cyst that required emergency surgery here in Zambia the week before Easter.  This year I’ve been struggling with malaria and giardia, just feeling sick and yucky and lacking any energy to do more than the absolute basics.  Along with being physically weak I’m feeling spiritually weak.  Sin is pushing in hard.  I’m fighting hard and winning… not always, but most of the time.  But I don’t want to miss this season.  I don’t want my kids to miss this season.  I want us to savor it in whatever ways we can.  


And so my encouragement to you is to do the same.  

Savor this Passover Thursday reflecting on Christ’s preparation for the Cross and prepare your heart as well.  

Savor this Good Friday when Christ paid the ultimate price for your sin and spend time in confession.  Let God cleanse your heart and purify your soul.


Savor this Resurrection Sunday!  Rejoice!  Celebrate! 

Hello, I'm Mandy

I'd like to introduce myself to you.  


I've been happily married to this amazing man for 17 years.  These are my four kiddos.  L is 13, J is 11, W is 9 and C is 8.  Obviously one of these is not like the others.  C joined our family through international adoption.  On this blog I'll be sharing about being a wife and mother, our family adventures, and our adoption journey.


I live in Zambia, Africa where my husband is the director of missions at Central Africa Baptist College and is a co-pastor at Kitwe Church.  I love living in Africa and raising my children here. I'll be sharing our life here in Zambia, our ministry experiences, and about living and raising our kids internationally.  


I am blessed to homeschool this crazy tribe and I love it. I would describe our homeschool style as a mix of intrest led learning and unschooling with a mix of the Charlotte Mason approach.  Homeschooling in Africa has it's own challenges, but also it's own adventures I would love to share with you.


And most importantly I am a daughter of the King of Kings.  I deeply treasure my relationship with my Savior and thoroughly enjoy Him.  It would be my pleasure to share with you the things God is teaching me as I journey through being a wife, mother, missionary, and homeschooler.  


I would love for you to join me on this journey.  My prayer is that what God is doing in and through my life would be an encouragement to those who join me.  Let's journey together and see what God does.