Ash Wednesday Thoughts

I’ll admit it. I woke up this morning on Ash Wednesday not yet knowing what I was going to “do” for lent. Some people give up something. I’ve done that before. Others add a daily spiritual practice. I’ve done that before as well. As much as I thought about it, and talked to friends about it I just couldn’t decide how to shape my lent.

I’ve felt as of late almost as if I’m in a spiritual desert. So much of my time and energy is spent caring for others that I just haven’t had much left over to devote to my own relationship with God. I’ve been thirsting for God. Thirsting for Jesus. A few friends and I started a Bible study at church and I’ve held onto it for dear life. But it hasn’t been quite enough to fill the seemingly bottomless pit of longing for my God. I’ve noticed myself becoming less patient. More stress-filled. I believe there is a correlation.

So I contemplated what I could do to fix this during lent. And I was just drawing a blank.

Meanwhile I was trying to figure out how to introduce lent to my five year old, and I came across the book Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Easter and Lent. It is a wonderful book and was just what I was looking for. We’ve already had a great conversation today because of this book.

This morning in the early hours as I got ready for the day I was frantically thinking about how I could observe lent for myself. I was carrying the baby and making a mental tally of all the things yet to be done in order to get us out the door. I walked past the nursery and out of the corner of my eye I spotted the sunrise. It caught me so off guard I completely stopped in my tracks. I just stopped and stared out the window. It was so beautiful. Once I regained thought I’ll admit my first one was that I wanted to go get my camera. I wanted to capture the beauty. But instead I just reveled in it. I experienced the moment rather than trying to save it for later. I found my creator in that beauty in that moment and I felt such peace. Trying to capture all that in a picture would be useless. And I thought in that moment about making room for God. Maybe that children’s study could be useful for me too.

Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal and that we are desperately in need of salvation. Seeing that sunrise and just being in that moment helped to bring me closer to my savior. This lent I’d like to focus on moments like that. I’d like to make room for moments like that by clearing out the excess.

I did not get my camera. I stayed in that moment for as long as I could watching the sunrise. Then I turned my back on it and sat in the nursing chair where I could see the bright orange reflected in my baby’s eyes. He stared fixedly out the window as he nursed and I’d like to think he enjoyed it too. Instead of making a mental list of tasks to do for the day, I prayed while he nursed. I made room in that moment and guess what? We still got to school drop off on time!

During the day I tried to see how many ways I could make room for God. There were so many. I still had moments of impatience, but for the most part I really did feel more calm. More centered. If my lenten “practice” of making room sounds vague that’s probably because it is. I’m not really sure how it will take shape. But if I chose to read scripture 30 minutes a day or some other clearly defined practice it would just be another box to check off of my to-do list. Making room will take time and practice. It will take mindfulness, but I think it gets more to the heart of what lent is really about. It will change the way I live and think. It will bring lasting change.

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Fall Decor

20150918_142453This morning Simon woke up with congestion/a runny nose. Despite being disappointed that he didn’t feel well and that I would have to deal with a sick toddler, I felt resigned that we really are entering autumn. It seems like everyone is getting colds!

With Simon feeling under the weather, and Elias being tired from his first week of pre-K, I decided to take the day pretty easy. We had our normal morning routine, but I let the boys watch a movie and rest before 20150918_142621lunch. They chose Tarzan. While the movie is pretty good, I didn’t feel like just sitting on the couch. I had the itch to be creative. I decided to make some fall decor to really bring in the new season!

I had some extra mason jars, and some fake flowers I wasn’t sure what to do with. Then I went online looking for free fall fonts, downloaded, and printed out some letters to mod podge on, and I had myself a fun project that will brighten our home!

With being pregnant and taking care of two toddlers, I haven’t had much energy to do things like this of late. I have to say it feels good, even as simple as the project was. Maybe I’ll get inspired and make something more involved next!



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Restoring My Faith In Humanity

Nathan bought me tickets to the symphony for Christmas. Yesterday, it was time for our date. We heard some Rachmaninov, a stunning violin soloist, and the second half was Beethoven’s 5th symphony.

We go to the symphony once or twice a year, and it is always a very nostalgic experience for me. Music was my life in college. I lived and breathed it. I rehearsed and practiced and performed for hours every day. I loved it, but got completely burnt out, and I rarely even touch my clarinet these days. I’ve always stayed involved in music, though, even if in only small ways. Nathan and I play in the hand bell choir at church. Now that I have my mom’s piano, I play almost every day.

This time was a bit different, though. I found as I listened to and watched the musicians performing yesterday that my faith in humanity was being restored bit by bit. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the evil things humans are doing around the world. It’s easy to forget that there is good in us too. It was amazing to behold…the beauty of the music. It was heartening to know that such beauty was created by a human, and that people are still interested in playing and listening to it. We aren’t only capable of destruction, but are capable of so much more.

Maybe it’s when we are creating such beautiful things that we feel closest to our Creator. In creating beauty we are imitating Him, like a child imitates his parents. Each melody, each pull of a bow across a string, each collective breath from the group on stage brings us closer to Him who created so much beauty Himself.

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Getting The Message

I’ve been writing and thinking about child sponsorship a lot since I got back from the World Vision Child Ambassador conference in October. Being a child ambassador, I have the privilege of matching children around the world with sponsors. Every time I get a new batch of picture folders I see those precious little faces and I just want to sponsor them all. My heart is big enough, but our bank account is not.

When I first interviewed to become a child ambassador, I felt fired up. I felt that it was what I was supposed to be doing. After all, if I can’t sponsor them all, the next best thing is helping to find them sponsors, right? I helped match quite a few children with sponsors in that first year, and then got pregnant for the second time, and this “ministry” sort of lost steam.

I kept getting little “messages” from God. I knew I should be trying harder. These children around the world have no voice to speak for themselves, but are so, so worthy of our attention. I knew I was supposed to be that voice. I was supposed to plant the seeds of hope. But I was busy. It’s not that I stopped caring. I just lacked confidence and urgency I guess.

In October, I went to the conference and came home reignited. Child sponsorship works, and I wanted everyone to know it. I wanted everyone to see these beautiful, precious children. I wanted them to be lifted up in prayer and love and hope. I started right away and I’ve helped match quite a few children with sponsors in the last couple of months.

But even within my new fiery motivation after coming home from the conference, I could feel myself moving back into my old comfortable ways. It goes against my nature to get out there and talk to people, even people I know well. But the point of God’s message for me was not necessarily to convince people that child sponsorship is the best thing ever. It doesn’t matter how many times I am told no, or how many times I have to feel a bit awkward in asking. If I don’t ask who will? The point is….why would God ask me only to do “comfortable things?” I wasn’t getting the message.

In the first batch of picture folders I had, there was a girl from Bangladesh. I looked into her eyes in the picture, and I just really wanted to sponsor her. All of the children are precious, but I just felt a connection with this one particular child. I stared at her picture folder every day wondering if I should sponsor her or not. Could we afford it? Meanwhile, I had written a blog post about child sponsorship, and a friend had contacted me about it. I met with her, and brought my eleven picture folders with those eleven precious children. She chose to sponsor a child that day, and guess which one she chose? Yup. The girl I had been considering. I was so happy that she was sponsored, and I moved on to trying to match the other children.

In mid-December, I received a new batch of picture folders. I had four folders, and again, there was one child who just called to me. I wanted to sponsor that child, but again, was unsure if we could afford it. I thought about it every day. Meanwhile, a friend at church asked me about child sponsorship (again after reading a blog post I had written). Last night, I shared the folders with her, and she chose to sponsor two children, one of which was the child I had been called toward. At first I felt disappointed. I know it seems silly, but my gut reaction was that I had missed my chance. Then I realized how ridiculous I was being, and felt elated that not only were two children sponsored, but their sponsor would also reap the benefits.

All this has finally helped me start to “get the message.” I can’t save all the children in the world. I am not called to do so. This is not about me sponsoring kids or “missing my chance.” What I am called to do is plant seeds. To share the idea that if we all change the life of one child, it will eventually change the world. If I put myself out there to connect children with sponsors, it does way more than just sponsoring one more child myself. I’m not saying I’ll never sponsor more, but I think I’m finally getting the message. My ministry lies in the realm of the uncomfortable. I must stretch myself so that children around the world can be heard and seen and brought out of poverty into the light of God’s love.

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Some Of Our Favorite Kiddos

When I started sponsoring a little girl from Zimbabwe a little over four years ago, I had no idea where that would take me. Now, our family sponsors six kiddos across the globe, and I am a volunteer child ambassador for World Vision, trying to match kids around the world with sponsors in the U.S. I’ve learned a lot in the last four and a half years, and I can honestly say that the experience has changed my perspective on the world and on how I want to raise my children.

Now that Elias is four, he is really starting to show a more active interest in who these kids are that I talk about all the time. He wants to see their homes on our world map. He wants to know how old they are. He wants to know what they like to do. I pray for these kiddos every day, and Elias prays for them many days as well. I want him to have a worldly perspective, to feel compassion, to see how lucky he is, and to learn from these kids that we are getting to know through letters.

P1200969I decided that these kiddos need a more prominent place in our home so that we can think of them even more often. I saw a whiteboard for sale at Costco for only $19.99 and picked it up. My husband hung it last weekend, and now every time I walk through my kitchen I can think of our sponsored kiddos, and so can my children. Each time we receive a letter, I’ll post the new on on the board, and the old one can go in the binders where I keep all of the correspondence we receive. It’s been really great so far, and already opened up a lot of conversations with Elias.

If you’d like to sponsor a child today, you can go here:

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Women of Faith: A Few Reflections

This weekend, the Women of Faith conference was in Portland. If you’ve never heard of Women of Faith, you can go here. I had actually never heard of it until a World Vision Child Ambassador event last January. Then, a few months ago when World Vision asked for volunteers I signed up. It sounded interesting to me, and I always love an opportunity to help get kids sponsored.

I didn’t really fully understand what I was signing up for, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’ve spent about 18 hours out of the last 30 volunteering for the event. About 23 hours if you count transportation to and from the event. I’ve been on my feet most of the time, and I only got three an a half hours of sleep last night.

330 kids were sponsored during the event (about 25 or 30 of which I personally helped sign up – I lost count). Seeing the precious faces of these children go home with excited women was inspiring.

I did get to watch some of the speakers at the conference. The women who spoke have amazing stories to share, and they know how to preach, to inspire, to share the gospel. I felt some of those evangelical heartstrings that developed back when I was in college stirring. While I may prefer a more liturgical style of worship, the ladies really know how to get to the heart of Christianity and God’s message for us.


The night before the conference Nathan asked me what it was going to be like. I answered, “I don’t know but there are probably going to be lots of flashy lights and people shouting ‘Jesus!'” I was right on both accounts. Worship at the event was interesting. The musicians were very talented. But to me, it felt like more of a rock concert than worship. Lights flashing everywhere. Shallow lyrics. Music so loud I could feel vibrations in my chest. Spot light on the stage. I believe worship should be focused on God, and should not be focused on creating an emotional experience for the participants. It should not be focused on the singers or the band. Perhaps for some people, flashy lights and loud music glorify God, but I just felt that it was being used to try and manipulate me. As I sat there, unable to participate in singing because I did not know most of the songs, I felt like an observer, not a participant. I’d like to believe that it’s just because there are different preferences for worship styles, and that’s ok, and I pray it’s not because I have hardened my heart toward it. I’d like to believe that no matter what disagreements we have about how it should be done, God accepts whatever we offer to Him in worship.


I met a few really cool people who were volunteering with me. It’s always fun to meet and share ideas with people who share my passions. I may even work with some of them again at other sponsorship events. When I was little, I was probably the shyest person I knew. Now, it doesn’t bother me at all to meet new people, or get out there and speak to strangers about sponsoring children.


When I got home, the boys were really happy to see me, and I them. It’s interesting being a mother, when being away to do something for myself is equally so good for my soul and so difficult. I hope that by volunteering I am showing my boys that I am a strong, loving woman, and I hope I am helping them develop compassion and empathy for others across the world.


The theme of the conference was “Survival to Revival” The final speaker said something that resonated with me. You’d probably have to hear the whole talk to get the full impact of what she said, but here it is anyway: “revival is when your hope in Christ is bigger than your disappointment in life.”

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One Child At A Time

Imagine with me for a moment.

Ring Ring

Your phone is ringing. You dig it out of your purse or your back pocket or wherever you keep it these days. You answer with a quick “hello.”

Who’s on the other end?

It’s God.

He tells you that you’ve been reassigned. You no longer belong to your family. You were no longer born in the United States. You are now a 9 year old girl in Bangladesh.

You are kid just like any other. You crave love and friendship. You like to play and to help out. Yet your life is so very different from the one you just left.

As a nine year old girl in Bangladesh, you have a 66% chance of being married as a child. There is a 28% chance that you will never get to attend school to learn to read and write. 5.3 million children just like you are engaged in child labor. Child labor and trafficking are prevalent. Desperation and fear overwhelm your parents, and therefore you as well. Your children will probably suffer in the same ways you do if nothing is done to help lift you out of poverty.

One day you receive a letter. It says in it that someone who has never met you…someone you never knew existed…from halfway around the world…cares about you. Someone out there wants to help you go to school and stay out of factories and brothels. Someone out there wants to write you letters and see you smile. You are now a sponsored child through World Vision.

You will exchange letters with this sponsor and get to know him or her. Slowly your desperation will turn to hope. Your fear will turn to confidence. You will go to school and get health care and be educated in child rights.

“Sponsorship is the most powerful way to fight extreme poverty and prevent exploitation. One by one by one, children grow and flourish.” (Taken from a World Vision Pamphlet)

I was lucky enough to have lunch with a friend today. She has always been interested in sponsorship, and asked me to tell her a bit more about it. She sponsored a nine year old girl from Bangladesh today. Together, they are beginning a journey of hope and love and change.

Will you change the life of one child today? Visit my sponsorship website here:

Or better yet if you are in the area, meet up with me and we can talk about it together. I have 10 children I am trying to match with sponsors!

*The idea for the phone call from God was taken from a speaker, Jeff Brown, at the Child Ambassador conference I attended a few weekends ago.

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The Things You Don’t Think Of

Parenting is hard. But not for the reasons you think….

I’m sure there may come a time when this will change (maybe the teenage years), but right now I feel like parenting is more about dealing with the things I don’t think of rather than dealing with the kiddos disobeying something I’ve already taught them.

Case in Point:

The other night we were at a potluck I had organized for all the volunteers of the food pantry at our church. Elias was sitting between his dad and a really wonderful man who just happens to be the junior warden of the church. I’m not sure what drew our attention, but both Nathan and I looked up at the same time to find Elias licking this man’s arm.


Licking someone else’s arm?

Who does that?

We’ve tried to teach our kids about boundaries and personal space, but I guess I’ve just never said, “don’t go around licking people.”

It’s amazing the things we take for granted. Kids have to learn everything, and its easy to forget that they need to be taught. Luckily, the recipient of the lick took it pretty much in stride.

We’ve talked a lot more about personal space, and licking in particular in the last couple of days since then. But I can only wonder what it is going to be next. My children are amazing. But they are human too. They will undoubtedly make mistakes again soon and I only wish I knew what they would be.

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I Don’t Know How You Do It All

I feel like one of the number one phrases I hear these days is “I don’t know how you do it all.” My first thought when people started saying that to me was, ” me either.” Because I do do a lot of stuff.

I am the administrator of the food pantry at my church. I’m a board member of my MOMS club. I am a member of the outreach committee and the bell choir at church. I am a child ambassador, actively trying to match children around the world with sponsors. I am taking continuing ed classes for my teaching license. I am the mother of two young boys. I drive them around to preschool and swimming lessons and play groups and awana and rec classes and all sorts of other things. I manage the finances and cook and go grocery shopping and take care of the house. I write letters to our sponsored kids and plan and host parties for many different organizations. And more. And more.  I do do a lot of stuff.

But after I thought about it for awhile, I realized that while I do do a lot of stuff, I don’t do it all alone. The only reason I am able to do all this stuff is the amazing support I receive from those around me. There is no way I could do all of this stuff if my parents weren’t so willing and available to babysit for me. My mother-in-law babysits as well every Thursday night so we can be in the bell choir. I have the most supportive and encouraging husband, who helps out around the house when I need it or stays with the boys for a whole weekend so I can go pursue one of my passions at a conference in Seattle. He lets me go have nights out with the ladies and is an excellent example for our boys.

I also realized that I wouldn’t even be involved in a lot of these things if I didn’t feel God’s call so strongly. I was created for these things. Created with compassion and patience and skills I need to make it through the day and to help others whether it be middle schoolers in the summer or kids across the world or my own two boys.

Really, the fact is that I don’t do it all. On the outside it may appear that I’ve done a lot of stuff recently, but our power bill? It was about fifteen dollars cheaper this month even though it should be getting higher in the fall and winter. Why? I did so little laundry that the dryer hardly ran. I had poor Nathan digging around for clothes to wear. I’m not always so behind or disorganized, but in at least that aspect of my life, I was this month!

For me it is not really about doing a lot of stuff. It’s about living life to its fullest. Just because I am a mom of two young boys doesn’t mean my life as a person is over. Thank you to everyone who makes it all possible!

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Defend Childhood

Four years ago I made the decision to start sponsoring a child through World Vision. I’m not really sure anymore how or why I chose to start sponsoring at that point in my life, and I don’t even remember how I chose World Vision. Ever since then, though, I have become more and more passionate about child sponsorship in general, and about World Vision as an organization.

Our family now sponsors five children across the globe. There’s Ruramai from Zimbabwe. She was the first. Her mother exchanged letters with me in the beginning because Ruramai’s English was not strong enough. Ruramai’s mother and I were pregnant at the same time and we rejoiced together at the birth of our babies. I sent Ruramai a special gift of $100 for Easter. World Vision worked with her family to determine what they most needed. I was amazed at the pictures I received of them with their two new goats, school supplies and uniforms for Ruramai and her brother. Ruramai soon started writing to me herself. She told me she wants to be a teacher, just like me. That she prays for me and my family each day. She is such a beautiful young woman now of 13. My experience was so positive that I decided to sponsor another child. Daniela from Bolivia. Daniela had this million dollar smile with her front teeth missing. She told me all about the rivers and the beautiful land that surrounds her. Not long after that, my first son turned two and I wanted for him to learn about the world and all of its people. We started sponsoring Esdras from Honduras, who was born the exact same day as Elias. Esdras has sent us handprints, and Elias has sent him stickers and crayon scribbles. Someday he’ll write the letters. The love for our “neighbors” was growing and growing, but I wasn’t done yet. For some reason, I really felt called to sponsor a child from Armenia. Maybe it was because it was winter and I just couldn’t bear to think about kids cold without blankets. Tigran from Armenia joined our family. Finally, when my husband got a big promotion at work, we decided to be thankful by sponsoring another child. We started sponsoring Abrahan from Peru.

I wish I could sponsor all the kids who need someone.

I had never felt God’s call so strongly in my life as when I made the decision to become a child ambassador for World Vision. Changing the lives of these five children through being their sponsor…giving them hope and love…it was great, but it wasn’t enough. Being a child ambassador means that I try to match children who need sponsors with people here in the U.S. who will sponsor them. It was something so outside of my comfort zone, yet I felt so strongly that it is what I should be doing. God’s call is interesting in that way. But I knew that all He needed was a willing heart. He needed someone’s hands and feet to work through. So I interviewed and I became a volunteer child ambassador.

I did a lot at first. I talked to family and friends and members of my church. I got twelve kids sponsored. Changed 12 little precious lives. (Well I didn’t do it…I just helped get it started). But somewhere along the way I forgot what it was all about. I got busy with a toddler. I had a second child so there were two kids under the age of three. And I started worrying that I wouldn’t be able to do it. How could I convince people to give their precious money? What if they said no? What if I looked like a fool? I don’t have a lot of time anyway. I really wanted to connect kids with sponsors, but somewhere in there I just got lost.

This weekend, though, I went to the World Vision Child Ambassador conference. I was hoping it would help reignite my passion, and give me some tools and courage to get going again.

The conference was an amazing experience and I learned a lot. But I realized something unexpected while I was there. God isn’t asking me to convince people. He isn’t really asking me to do anything except be a willing body. I can give of my time and my passion and He will do the rest. Tools and training are important, but what is more important is listening to God’s call and being willing to follow. All I need to do is provide opportunities for sponsorship, and not worry about the outcome. The child sponsorship model works.

I learned a lot this weekend about child slavery and child labor. About kids who never really have a childhood because of poverty or cruelty. I learned about families having to make impossible decisions and it was all so hard to hear. It was hard not to feel overwhelmed by the terribleness of it all, especially with two young children of my own. How is it possible that we were all lucky enough to be born here and they were born there?

But I was also reminded that I am one pillar in the lives of my sponsored children. Just one pillar of hope and love in the many that World Vision is providing kids all around the world. I can help defend childhood one child at a time, and I can help others do the same.

Sponsoring a child will change you if you let it.

Will you join me?

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