Thursday, September 26, 2013

We finally moved...

Well, it happened. Our home closed and we moved out.
It was an emotional few weeks (for me, anyway!) but we did it and you may be surprised to find out that we are now living in a home, with plumbing AND a toilet! Score!!

There were a few reasons that we had difficulty deciding where we were going to live.
Originally, we had talked about living with my parents for awhile and saving money so we could convert their detached garage into a carriage house for our family. This plan seemed fairly on track until we found out that the city we live in does not allow carriage houses and my sister and her family moved back from out of state and needed a place to live for awhile. Since we were still in our home, they moved in with my parents and weren't certain how long they'd be there.
We have also been feeling, for awhile, a stirring of sorts. I really can't think of a better word to describe it, but our hearts are being pulled in directions we don't understand or know. We really feel that this is God moving us; pulling us into something that He has had in the works for awhile. I'm sure if you are friends with me on Facebook or have read any of my sparse posts over the last year or so, you've caught hints of this. These stirrings began at the beginning of last year and led us to a new church family (with which we have fallen completely in love) and while we expected that moving churches was the big thing, I'm now starting to understand it was just the tiny first step into the actual big thing.

Deciding where to live has been most difficult because we can't shake the feeling that God would like us to go to Cuba and become involved with the people there.

Because of this, we have been weary of signing a lease or making any long term or permanent plans, which as you can imagine, makes finding a place to live a bit difficult.
It probably doesn't surprise you that we have more questions than answers right now.
What does going to Cuba actually mean? Visit? Live?
How are we supposed to get to Cuba?
Who do we meet while we are there?
How long should we stay?
What will we do when we are there?
The questions go on and on.
And on.

God, as usual, remains ever faithful.
My sister and her husband moved out of my parent's house and we were able to make a smooth transition from our home to my folks, just a mile down the road from where we had been living. My mom and dad have been very generous with their home - we have taken over not only their spare bedrooms, but their entertainment room as well. We have a bigger yard and more house to roam in than we ever did before. As far as living with someone else goes, it's a pretty ideal situation.

One of the benefits to living with my folks is that we have time to try and figure out the answers to some of our questions, and that is what we plan on doing over the next few months.

We would like to ask that you join us in prayer as we look to the Lord to give us some clear direction for what this next chapter in our life holds. We are spending some of our time meeting with organizations who are looking to get into Cuba (or are already working there) and are looking for what will be the right opportunity for our family. As of now, we are not looking to start a church or begin a new ministry but would really like to come alongside a pastor or ministry and help/encourage as needed. It's a very open ended desire and many ways that it could look, so while we are excited, we are also unclear about what this will mean for our family. There is so much that seems impossible; but we know that if God is in this, all things are possible and we are anxiously waiting on Him to bring the right people to us and point us in the right direction.

If you would like to add our family to your prayers, we ask specific prayer for the following:
*Clarity and purpose as we step out in faith into what we feel God is calling us to do. Once we have some direction, it will help to determine our long-term living/savings needs and goals.
*Opportunity to interact with Cuban nationals so that we may establish relationship and begin to understand and know their culture.
*An ability to learn Spanish (or in my case, remember). Whether this is using Rosetta Stone or finding a language school, we are unsure, but we definitely know that learning Spanish is going to a pretty important part of this!
*As we meet with different organizations and missionaries, that God would impress upon us the role He has for us.
*That our love for Cuba and the people there would grow - that God would instill in us a passion for those there and that we would be completely unsettled until we are doing what He wants us to do.

The other night after meeting with Tom from Dwellings, Mike turned to me and asked,
"So, are you ready for our lives to get wrecked?"
It may seem a funny question, but you know ... I really am. I'm ready to see how God is going to use our lives for His glory. We've spent a lot of time being really comfortable and complacent. Though, as I look back over the last 12 years of our marriage, I see how God has been preparing us for this all along. Quite a few summers ago (too many) we went to visit our friends in Montana. On the way back, Mike and I had a conversation about how God must be preparing us for something. We got out of debt when we never thought we would be able to live without a credit card, we began homeschooling when it was never our intention to do so, we moved to a new church and made new friends when we had been perfectly happy with what we'd had before...
All these little steps, completely wrecking our lives and then rebuilding them into something way better.
So, yes. I am ready to be wrecked. Because I know what waits for us is going to be pretty stinking awesome.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We are the Wheelers

My family. Next to Jesus, they are the greatest treasures this life has to offer. I told a friend the other day that I realize I am blessed. I am married to an incredible man who adores me and God has trusted us with four healthy really fantastic children. With all our trials and difficulties, when we are together, at peace, I feel as if being with them is the closest I'll ever get to heaven, this side of heaven. :)

Finding a photographer who can capture that feeling for me? Nearly impossible. I'm not even kidding. There are lots of very talented people out there who can take great pictures. But finding someone who can capture the very heartbeat of your family? That's a totally different story.

When Mike's parents asked us to vacation with them on the Oregon Coast this last April, I began searching for a photographer who I hoped would be able to do just that: see my family the way I do and somehow manage to translate that into photographs.

Xiomara was the first photographer referred to me and the only one I contacted. When she called me we talked for 45 minutes and I knew that not only had I found the right photographer, I'd met a kindred spirit. She, quite literally, had me at hello.

Words fail when I try to explain what Xiomara did for our family on that very windy day in April. Not only did she take amazing photos, capturing each child's personality and the love Mike and I have for them and each other, she made us feel like rock stars. She had us laughing and enjoying ourselves so much that when the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, our poor kids, constant victims of my need to document life's every milestone, continued to smile and play along. Something they never do for me! 

I am trying to treasure each moment God gives me with our kids. They are small for such a short time, and life isn't often very easy. Taking the time to appreciate each child for who they are and for the unique spirit God has placed in them is not often at the top of my "do-to" list. Going away, on vacation together, helped me to slow down, remember how amazing this life God has given me is, and to really value the husband and kids God has graced me with.

I am so grateful to Xiomara for helping us to relax and enjoy the moment. For capturing our laughter and smiles. For bringing out the best in our kids. For taking the time to capture who we truly are. For being more than a photographer; for being a friend.

These are a few of my favorites from that very special session!
All photography in this post by Imago Dei Photography

I know you'll enjoy all of Xiomara's work so go check it out!

Friday, May 24, 2013

I just don't know

As some of you know, Mike and I are in the process of selling our home. It is a process, and has been a long time in the making, but once the decision to sell was made things have progressed very quickly. The first question people ask when they hear we're moving is, naturally, "Where are you moving to?" Our answer often surprises them. Or worries...or frustrates...or confuses...

We do not know.

We have a plan, but there are a lot of factors that may sway or change our course. We're ok with that, and ultimately, we really have no clue where we'll be living when our home closes. To add to the confusion, we are doing a short sell so even though we have an offer on our home, we have to wait for the bank to approve everything and it is a time consuming process and requires a lot of waiting.

The fact is, this is absolutely thrilling for us. We've made a decision without having a solid plan in place and are stepping out in faith in what we feel is obedience to God. Not having a plan is very unusual for us but we feel as though God has spent the last few years stripping us of those things we find our comfort and security in, that are not Him. While this is exciting for us, the kids see it a little bit differently.

Last week, before church began, the kids were asking about when and where we are going to move. I told them, yet again, that we do NOT know, but that God does. They continued to ask questions.

"Will we take our TV?" Yes.
"Will our new house have an upstairs?" Maybe.
"Will we take the fireplace?" No.
"Will we take our beds?" Yes.
"Can my stuffies stay with me?" Of course.
"But the light switches...will they come, too?" No.

So. Many. Questions.
At one point, Brooklyn began to cry and wailed,

"What if our new home doesn't have a baaaaaaathrooooooom?"
It was comical. I tried to suppress a laugh (unsuccessfully) before I went to give her a hug and assure her that Mike and I will make sure that her basic needs are going to be taken care of.
And the words just slipped out,

"Why can't you just trust that we will take care of you?"

Oh man.

Did the Holy Spirit totally just talk to me while I was reprimanding my daughter?


The kids have never moved before so this is a new experience for them, but I honestly reached a point where I thought, "Have we taken such terrible care of you, have we provided so poorly for you, that you can't even trust us to make sure you have a place to go to the bathroom?"

How many times do I do that with God? How many times have I become hung up on these details that are of no consequence? How many times have I questioned His ability to care for me, or to provide for me, or to love me simply because I can't see what He has in store? When things don't go the way I expect, how quickly do I become despairing and begin to wail and moan that He isn't giving me what I think I need?

I've been told that raising children is a refining process that reveals much of your own sin. Over the years I've thought this meant that I would see how selfish I am (it has) or how impatient I am (yep...that, too) or whatever other sin I think I am struggling with. I didn't think it would be revealed how little I trust my Father to take care of me.

In that moment with my daughter, I felt a deep compassion for her and a need to just hold her. I heard myself saying,

"Mom and Dad are going to be there. We'll be with you. We'll take care of you. That will never change."

I could feel God saying the same things to me.

I don't know how our story is going to play out. I don't expect that we will always be comfortable, or warm, or honestly, that we will always have a toilet to pee in. God has never promised us those things. But He does promise to never leave us and that He does work all things for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I'd like to think that means having a toilet, but ... you never know. I do know He has it all planned out and I am thankful that even when I'm crying out to Him because I just cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on, He can gently chuckle and put His arms around me and whisper to my heart,

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:3,4

So, no. We don't know where we're going to live.
But God does.
And by God's grace, I'm content to rest there.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Today was a wonderful day.

To my shame, I don't often take the time to really sit back and think of all the ways God has shown up in my day. As the sun was setting today though, I realized what an amazing blessing today has been and I just felt the need to share my joy with others.

I will never tire of these blue skies!

1 - The sun was shining and it was warm. This kind of weather is so good for my soul.
2 - Today was our last day of homeschool co-op until the Fall. I really can't explain what a blessing the women of this co-op have been to me. Each Monday of co-op, I come home feeling full and encouraged. While I look forward to having a little down time from having to get out of the house so early each week, I will sorely miss the women whom I have come to cherish so so much.
3 - I left my cell phone in my friend's car yesterday afternoon. She returned it today, but I had almost 24 hours without it and I realized how much I enjoy the quiet. I am thankful for the reminder.
4 - A friend whom I love dearly but don't get to really visit with often enough, had sent me a text asking if we wanted to have a play date while my phone was away. To my great joy, when I finally was able to respond, she was available still and we had a great visit! God spoke through her to get through my hard heart. I treasure her so much!
5 - Mike is at refresher today and was home at 5 p.m. We get to go to bed together tonight and wake up together in the morning. A week of "normal" work shifts is wonderful.
6 - We stopped for dinner and I met an amazing homeschooling mother of six. From the time our conversation first began I knew she knew Jesus and she gave me hope and encouragement that she had no way of knowing I needed.
7 - My sister cleaned my house. It is sparkling and wonderful and I could kiss her (and probably will!)  for taking care of me this way!
8 - I got to read my Bible. I'm still working on making this a habit that I stick with, but God is so gracious and patient with me even just a few verses feed my hungry soul.
9 - I'm still on a high from having spent the weekend with the women from my church. While it wasn't what I expected, it was more than what I hoped for and God affirmed the love I have for our church family.
10 - The blog post from Imago Dei photography of our family session went live today. You need to check it out. Xiomara did a stellar job; we were brought to tears!!

I'm determined to take stock of the little blessings more often. I have a feeling if I were to look, I'd see God a lot more often in my day. I'm so thankful He's always there.

What are some of your blessings today?!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dry Bones

"And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live ... Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD." Ezekiel 37:14

I snapped this picture of our kids dancing on the beach last week when we reached the Oregon Coast. We arrived just before sunset and the kids could not be slowed as we headed toward the shoreline. As the sun was going down they were laughing and dancing and singing together.

We needed to get away as a family. This last year has held some major changes for us and things have really ramped up during the last few months. All of the changes have been really good for us and we see God's hand clearly in them all. Still, change is never easy and it has taken it's toll, especially on our kids. Since before Mike went to Honduras in March we have been going non-stop and we needed time to get away and really connect as a family. Seeing the smiles on our kids faces and feeling the tension in our shoulders ease away as we stepped out of our car into the cool ocean breeze was such welcome relief.

Have you ever heard a song and it instantly brings you to tears? There's just something about music that moves the soul, isn't there? In trying to describe how our lives have changed during the past year, I can never find the words. I am so thankful that I heard this song last week. It spoke right to my heart and is, what I consider to be, the theme song for our lives right now. It is the song our children were singing as they danced on the beach during sunset and the passage of Scripture it comes from is now etched into my heart.

I am thankful that, even in the midst of uncertainty and change, God can use His Word and music to comfort, challenge and excite us. I am thankful that not only does He use it for my own soul, but for my kids' as well. Watching them dance and sing this song as they marveled at God's amazing creation was more beautiful than there are words for and gave me peace, knowing that while God is awakening His Spirit inside of Mike and me, He isn't leaving our kids behind. He's bringing them right along with us.

(Want to read more about the Valley of Dry Bones? Find it in  Ezekiel)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Whole30 Meatballs

When you ask my son Judah what his favorite food is, he'll begin listing everything meat. (He'll actually list pizza first, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to pretend he begins with meat.)
"Meatballs. Meatloaf. Beef." (I just asked him and that's honestly what he said.) He's like his father in that way.
So, ground meat formed into any shape is always a win at our house. However, I usually stuff it with things like breadcrumbs and cheese and a little bit more cheese and it. is. fabulous. Alas, cheese and breadcrumbs are now on the no-no list but the funny thing is ... the meatballs taste just as amazing without them. Surprises await me around every corner!
I served these with spaghetti squash and in anticipation that my kids wouldn't be too happy about it I also roasted some broccoli in the oven. My intuition was correct - their squash went cold and was met with tears. Oh well. I'm thankful for the broccoli back-up!

2 lbs ground meat (I used beef because it is what I had but any ground meat will do.)
2 whole eggs
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder (fresh garlic would be good too...I was feeling lazy)
1/2 ish cup broth (beef, chicken, bone...whatever you got!)
(adjust all the spices to your family's taste preference. I honestly just tossed them in there until I felt I had the amount that I would like.)
Throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mash it all together until it's all combined. Then form it into balls. (Wow...I sound like a food genius, don't I?! "Form it into balls..." So technical.) You should have around 15 or so.
Heat a large pan over medium high heat. If you are using a lean meat, like chicken or turkey, or even lean ground beef, add a little coconut oil to the pan. Once the pan (and oil!) is hot, add the meatballs. Brown evenly on all sides. Don't worry about cooking them all the way through, just get that nice crusty brown on the outside. Once the meatballs are brown, add your stock to the pan. Turn the heat down to low, and let the broth simmer until it is absorbed into the meatballs. Your meatballs may be done cooking before this happens, and in that case, you've got (thin) gravy! Yummy!
Now eat them and if you can get away with it ... make your kids eat spaghetti squash. It really is yummy!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Food stuff

In an effort to reset our systems, Mike and I have embarked on the Whole30 program. We have a few reasons, but our biggest motivator is that our seven year old, Judah, has been having migraines. After a CT scan revealed nothing (thankfully!) we decided we needed to do something drastic to help his body heal. I suffer from migraine headaches as well and know that sugar is a trigger for me and over the last few months I've been eating way too much of it.
After a few long conversations with a good friend about the changes she's made to her diet over the last year and how her health has improved, I was certain that the paleo (or caveman) diet was going to be the direction our family needed to go. After making that decision, my friend suggested we begin with the Whole30 in order to break our cycles of food addiction and cravings. 

Black coffee on morning number 2. Not as terrible as I'd anticipated!

We are only on day 4, but already I've struggled coming up with meals. It's tough to realize that I've totally been in a food rut - chili, chicken and noodles, spaghetti, tacos...repeat. It's not bad food, but it's the same week after week, and cooking and coming up with new recipes is totally out of my comfort zone.
But, thank God, for the internet and Pinterest! So far we've had some winning meals and I've been spamming my Instagram newsfeed with pictures of what we've been eating, knowing that there will be a time (probably next Tuesday) when I have no idea what to make for dinner and will need to look at the pictures to help get my creative juices flowing again. I've been asked for the recipes by a couple of people, so I thought I'd share the ones we've enjoyed here. (Please excuse the photos as they've all been taken with a phone or iPad and quality isn't the greatest).

Tonight I made my variation of this coconut curry recipe I found on Pinterest via the PaleoPot. (I heart you, Pinterest.) Honestly, if the kids eat it AND Mike and I like it, then it's going to be something that goes into the rotation.

2 cans coconut milk (we use Native Forest)
3ish tablespoons red curry paste (I found one that is Whole30 approved at Whole Foods)
3 chicken breasts (mine were frozen)
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
1/2 head of cabbage
salt, to taste

Dump your coconut milk and curry paste into a crock pot. Mix together until the paste is dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Cook on high for 5-6 hours (if your chicken is frozen. Seriously, I'm no crock pot genius, so you'll have to use your discretion on this!). Once the chicken is cooked through, use two forks to shred it. We served ours with green onions and I would have loved to add a little garlic chili sauce (Sriracha anyone? Yum.) but alas, it isn't Whole30 approved. However, the dish is great on it's own!

Today for lunch we made hamburger patties with this salad. Yum. The salad was just romaine lettuce with apples, avocados and pecans. I wanted to add more flavor than just some olive oil (and again...wanted to get the kids to eat it!) so I used a variation of a vinaigrette that my cousin showed me a few years ago.

1/2 c olive oil
1 tsp dry mustard
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed
juice from one lemon

Chop your garlic, dump some salt on top of it (about 1/2 tsp. or so) and using your knife smash the salt into the garlic.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice and dry mustard. Add the smashed garlic and pepper.
I think the correct way to do it at this point is to slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl while you are vigorously whisking the lemon juice but I just added the olive oil and the lemon juice mixture to an old salsa jar and shook it for a minute or so until it was all mixed up.

Happy eating!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Road to Honduras

There are times in life when everything changes. Sometimes it happens suddenly and all at once and you are caught completely off guard; other times it's a much longer process, years of small coincidences and happenings here and there until you reach a point where they all connect and it all makes sense. When it all comes together, you aren't surprised at all, because as you look back you can see how everything has been leading up to this moment the entire time.
In our marriage, we have had many seasons of change and many of them have seemed completely unrelated. Yet, I sit here today, looking back over our almost twelve years of  marriage and I can say that I was very wrong. All of these changes have indeed been connected and have been shaping and molding the direction of our life together.
A season of change is once again upon our family, and while on the surface it appears to be happening quickly and out of the blue, I believe it has been in the works for a long time. Without boring you with a long (I mean really really long) post about what has been happening in our lives and hearts for the last year, I'll just skip ahead to right now. (Trust me, though, the long post is coming ...)
Through our church, Mike has been given the opportunity to head to Honduras with nine other men and with a non-profit organization called Dwellings that provides homes to those in developing countries. They will be building a home for a woman named Jessica and her three children. To say we are excited about this opportunity is an understatement. We feel that this is simply the first of many things that God is leading us to do as a family. While we aren't totally sure what that means, or how it is going to play out, we really can't wait to walk down this road and see what awaits us.
The team that is heading to Honduras is responsible for raising $12,000 in order to purchase the materials and build the home for Jessica. So far they have only raised about 30% of that so the next few weeks will be a frenzy of work and faith in order to see the funds come in. When Lincoln, our oldest son, heard that Mike was going to Honduras and that they needed to raise money, he decided he wanted to help. He's recently learned how to make para-cord bracelets and decided that he wanted to sell some in order to help raise money for the trip. Oh my goodness, how I love this boy's heart!

The last two days he has been busy working away to make bracelets to sell. He and Mike made a trip to Hobby Lobby and Lincoln picked out the cords and set to work as soon as he came home. It really has been a blessing for this momma's heart to see her son work so hard at something that is so selfless. I'm really proud of him!

Lincoln decided he would like to sell at least 30 of these bracelets in order to raise the amount of money he'd like to be able to donate. He sold his first two this morning (thank you Erin!!) and the smile on his face was too much.

So, Internet, in order to help Lincoln reach his goal, I'm turning to you! 
He is making bracelets in three colors and three sizes. Desert Camo, Green Camo, and Pink Camo (uh...boy, much?!) and they come in Adult L, Adult M/Child L, and Child M. For reference, an adult large fits Mike and the adult medium/child large fits both me and Lincoln, and the child medium fits our two younger children. $4 from the sale of each bracelet will go to the Road to Honduras trip (the other $1 will cover shipping and product costs.) When you place your order, please remember to put in your shipping address!!
If you would like to bypass the bracelet and donate to the mission directly you can do so HERE. Each donation made directly to the trip is tax deductible. However, if you'd like a killer para-cord bracelet then place your order below!
Thank you for your support for this mission. I am excited to keep you all updated on how this trip opens doors for our family and global missions in the future so stay tuned!!