May 1, 2015

fight for the beauty.


Discontentment, jealousy, comparison, disconnection. Thieves of joy have been cropping up in my heart lately.

It happens slowly, doesn't it? I hardly notice at first. Busyness. Rushing in the morning. Sidestepping my spiritual nourishment. Running on empty. Interrupted sleep. Harsh words. Sharp edges.

When I start to skip my time with God, in His word, seeking His voice, I notice how the smallest things can creep into my heart and cause disillusionment. I find myself comparing my life with the lives of Facebook friends posting all their good things and big adventures. I start to feel burdened by the weight of so many responsibilities instead of empowered by the opportunities fueled by passionate pursuit of God's best. I start to question my abilities and my purpose. I start to feel small in a vast sea of voices and opinions and needs and wants and hurts in this great big, broken world.

Over the past week or so, I've felt a pull to stillness and toward actively seeking gratitude.

Last night, while nursing Charlotte back to sleep, I read this article as tears gently slid down my cheeks. These words were my undoing:

"This is the season of boo-boos and spit up and dirt. It’s the season for 10 minute showers, half shaved legs, and one eyed mascara. You will get lonely. And jealous. And maybe sometimes you’ll begrudge your life and wish you had someone else’s. You’ll get frustrated and angry and you’ll want to escape. This will be the most unglamorous and unappreciated time of your life, and sometimes it just totally sucks. That’s ok. But have peace in knowing that this will be the season you look back on longingly. One day, we’ll gladly give up all the friends in the world to have our babies small again. To be able to fit them on our laps and read them stories and go on adventures and eat pancakes at every meal." - Kristen {When at Home}
Oh my heart, such truth. This is an unglamorous time. This season can be painfully lonely, even when you are never, ever actually alone. Yet, the crux of it all lies in the fact that these days are fleeting and precious. The memories created in this season will go on to build the foundation for the lives my littles will lead. 

Someday, and that day will come sooner than I'd like, they will stop asking me to lay down with them at night and sing songs and tell silly stories. 
Someday soon, they won't need me to kiss their boo boos or wipe their noses. 
Someday soon, they'll put shoes on the right feet and pants on in the right direction. 
Someday soon, they'll stop thinking that hanging out with their momma is cool. 
Someday soon, they won't spend hours digging in the dirt pile I consider an eye-sore and they consider a mound of buried treasure waiting to be discovered. 
Someday soon, they'll stop asking how to spell a word or what a phrase means. 
Someday soon, playing the rhyming game in the car will no longer be considered fun. 
Someday soon, they will run right out that door to conquer this world and chase their dreams. 

If there were ever a time to fight for peace and contentment, it is now.

It is right smack in the middle of these hard and lonely and frustrating days. It is right here in the heart of tickles and giggles and ice cream in the afternoon and dance parties. It is right now when laundry and dishes beckon from indoors while we choose bike rides and adventures outdoors. It is now when my coffee is cold and my calendar is marked two weeks in advance for a night out with the girls. It is now when my sentences are interrupted and my thoughts are scattered. 

It is now. In these beautiful, messy joy-soaked days. Often, we have to stop, count to 10, and look up to see the beauty right there in front of us. Beauty that we would have missed if we hadn't intentionally fought to look for it.

Let's be the mommas who keep on fighting for that beauty.


* I have a brand new Facebook community for Blessings & Raindrops. Join us for discussion and encouragement there!



April 23, 2015

How to love her well {infertility awareness week}

Photo Credit: Alyssa Sieb

For me, infertility was isolating. It was full of heartache and disappointment and, often, bitterness. It was all consuming – emotionally and physically. I couldn't escape the pain. The struggle was fresh and raw each and every month.

Yet, above all of the emptiness and hurt -- a persistent, unrelenting spirit of hope remained.

Hope that this would be “the” month. Hope that this new doctor, this new test, this new procedure, this new medicine would finally work.

As someone who walked this dark road for several years, I can attest to the difficulty of being a good friend to anyone in the midst of infertility. I know it was hard to be my friend during that time. Innocent remarks such as, “so, do you have any kids?” or “you need to soak up all this free time you have now before you get tied down with kids!” sent me reeling. Pregnancy announcements, baby showers, birthday parties, baptisms; even family dinners would leave me in tears. The grief was overwhelming at times.

If you have not walked in these shoes, you may wonder how you can best minister to a friend facing such intense heartache. Simply by reading this post, you are showing how much you care for your friend. You are likely seeking practical ways to encourage and love your friend in an authentic, Godly way.

First, I would recommend being careful with your words. Struggling couples find themselves especially sensitive to the words of others. At the same time, I know that the pressure to say the “right” things can be difficult for the loved ones of infertile couples. This doesn’t have to be daunting. Simple changes in the way you phrase common questions can be extremely helpful and prevent infertile couples from feeling put on the spot. For example, when first meeting someone, instead of the question, “so, do you have kids?” try asking something more open-ended like, “tell me about yourself.”

Withhold offering advice to help “cure” infertility problems. Medical issues cause infertility, and “relaxing” will not resolve the problem. Nor will going on vacation, wearing boxer shorts, drinking a margarita or deciding to “just adopt.” Adopting may be a part of God’s plan for your friend, but this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Not to mention that, statistically; adoption does not increase chances of pregnancy. Allow your friend the opportunity to seek Biblical counsel and to work through God’s path for her family without your opinions or stories of what worked for a friend-of-a-friend.

The book, Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake, was a lifeline for me during our journey. Now, when I know of a friend that is struggling with infertility or adoption loss, I always send a copy of this book. The wisdom shared is comforting {it’s always nice to know you aren’t alone in your pain} and biblically sound.

I’m tempted to plagiarize the entire book because it is overflowing with wisdom on this subject. Instead, I’ll just share this well-written advice from Jennifer in one of the book’s “Burden Bearers” segments:
"Communication is imperative. You can have all the general guidelines in the world, but you can best minister to me by getting to know my heart and learning my triggers for rejoicing or heartache. When in doubt, ask me directly.
In some ways, you are in a 'no-win' situation. If you ignore me when it is time to send out baby shower invitations or birth announcements, it may make me feel all the more removed from normalcy. Yet, if you do include me and I’m having an especially hard day, I may feel you have been insensitive. One idea might be to send me the same baby shower announcement that you are sending to all of our friends, but inside include a handwritten note acknowledging that you know this might bring me pain. Let me know that I am free to come or not, as I so desire, but that you love me and are praying for me."
Such wise advice. I love the compassion shown with the inclusion of a few kind words written in love. Rather than ignoring or belittling your friend’s heartache, you are able to live out the Gospel in a beautiful way -- bestowing love and joining alongside her in prayer.

I’d also advise you to not be offended if a loved one does not choose to share their fertility struggles with you. This does not mean that she doesn’t love and trust you. Infertility is an incredibly personal and private struggle. My husband and I didn’t share what we were going through for several years. This decision was made consciously and, in our case, choosing to rely on God and one another for support and comfort strengthened both our marriage and our faith.

If a loved one does share with you, please know that she is placing a deep level of trust in your friendship. Respect this trust and do not share this news with anyone else. She has chosen you to be a confidant, a prayer warrior and an encourager. Do not take this role lightly. Pray diligently. Encourage sincerely. Love genuinely.

Finally, I would encourage you to take some time to explore resources for understanding what your loved ones are going through. A couple of my favorites –

Hannah’s Prayer Ministries – Christian support for fertility challenges.

Empty Arms -- A video that communicates how painful the journey of infertility can be, helping you to understand where your loved ones are coming from.

The Carry Camp -- A community designed to love and encourage women walking through the pain of infertility. 

This is an updated version of a post originally written for The Sieb Fam's: Together Through Pain series.  I'm sharing it again today in honor of Infertility Awareness Week. 



April 17, 2015

The Farm.

Remember when I mentioned that we were starting a local outreach of Feed Their Tummies in the form of a blueberry farm?


It's happening. Tomorrow is planting day. We have been furiously working in the fields to prepare. We have prayed over the rows of freshly turned earth. We have asked for discernment and direction over the course of many, many months. We have researched and studied and ordered crops.

The plants have arrived.


We have been frantically watching the forecast. As of yesterday, the rain chance for Saturday was 100%. Today, it has gone down to 50%. We are trusting that God has a big plan for these fields. Rain or shine, we will get the plants in the ground and we will wait for the BLOOM.

I shared a little more on the Feed Their Tummies blog about The Farm. I thought I'd share some of that post here, as well. {Read the full post HERE}.

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When the land was purchased, there weren't ideas for how it would be used. No grand visions. No knowledge as to why we were being offered such a great deal on the property.

Now, we know. 

Now, we know that God would bring an agricultural expert into our lives as a great friend and mentor. Now, we know that God would give Dave a vision for the land. Now, we know that this land would become a field - ripe for planting. A field full of the exact nutrients in the soil necessary for blueberry fruit to grow.

I asked Dave, "why blueberries?"

I half-expected a simple answer about how we loved the fruit. Instead, he said this: "Blueberries are a crop that will yield fruit over a long period of time. If you nurture them and properly care for them, the investment will span decades. Just the way we are investing in the lives of the children in our program. We aren't looking to solve long-stemming issues of hunger and poverty with a short-term investment. We are committed to the long-haul with these kids. We want to sow seeds of truth and righteousness and love. The fruit that will result will be long-lasting: eternal. "

Now, we know that this land will become the Feed Their Tummies Blueberry Farm. The yielded fruit will generate profits to feed vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned children in our program.

Now, we know that this farm will not only benefit the children across the globe, but also families right in our own community. Now, we know that God would bring a partner organization to come alongside us through The CALL: an organization committed to mobilizing Christian families to foster or adopt children in our state.

"One of the most common struggles Foster Parents face is helping the children in their care learn to enjoy healthy food options. By providing the families an opportunity to get the children involved in picking the blueberries and making the berries readily available to the Foster Families, this program will help get children in foster care excited about eating fruits and vegetables and improve their nutritional intake and overall health."
— Ann Meythaler, NWA CALL coordinator

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We are praying that God uses this project to His Glory. These are not just blueberries. This is not just a farm. This is more, much more. This is an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. To literally feed the hungry. To feed tummies. To heal hearts. 
Love always wins.

** I'm linking up with today Suzanne Eller’s #livefree linkup where the conversation topic today is BLOOM.

April 13, 2015

on mission.


While we were waiting for Sylvie to come home, I was clinging to God each day, in each moment. It was my only choice. Life moved on all around me while I begged for Jesus to be near. Oh, how He was. How He showed me such mercy and grace and abundant love during that painful time. As hard as the waiting was, I felt closer to God than ever before in my life. I heard from Him, I felt His nearness, I earnestly devoured His Word.

Today, in this season, I often look up and realize that days have gone by without the pages of my Bible being turned. Life moves on all around me and I just move along with it. 

I know this is perfectly normal. Life isn't meant to be lived solely on the mountaintop or in the valley.

But, here's the thing: this may be normal but it's not okay. I don't want to be disconnected or stagnant. I want to seek Him with my whole heart and mind and soul. I've tasted the goodness of His love and I don't want to go back to living life in auto-pilot.

For several weeks now, I've been seeking clarity on an upcoming trip, asking for direction and discernment. Quick backstory: Dave and I had both planned to visit Haiti this summer with one of my absolute favorite organizations, Help One Now, alongside some of my absolute favorite people. It felt like exactly what God was calling us to. The chance to get back to serving and loving on the "least of these."

Yet, the stress and anxiety of leaving our kiddos was keeping me up at night. I knew the boys would be fine without us. Yes, they would miss us but they have a blast with Nana and Papa. I was very concerned about Charlotte. She is in a "mommy" phase right now. As in, if mommy isn't around, I'll just scream until I vomit. You can understand my concern. Also, Sylvie. Dave and I recently went away for a few days for our anniversary and the aftermath of the trip was brutal. Sylvie had a very hard time with us being gone - much more so than we anticipated.

The plan was for us to all fly to Florida together, stay for a couple days to get settled and then Dave and I would fly to Haiti from there while the kiddos stayed behind with my parents. If you're doing the math, you've concluded that this would be Sylvie's second ever plane ride - the first of which was that time she left everything and everyone she has ever known to fly here. And, similar to that first flight, the people who loved her would leave her in a new place. Yeah, soooo, I'm not an attachment expert but I feel like that is a recipe for disaster.

This morning, after praying about this for weeks and receiving the same message from multiple places {God knows I am a little slow and need to hear from Him several times to get the point}, I've decided to stay behind.

I feel peaceful in this decision yet I'm also sad to miss out on the experience. Now that I've made the decision, I can see that the answer was clear. Yet, I wanted to go and do big things for Him. For the Kingdom. I wanted to serve. I wanted to be reminded why we work so hard on Feeding Tummies.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

I wanted. I wanted. I wanted. 

This servant-heart thing is not about what I want. It's about what He wants. He has placed these little hearts in my life. Little hearts that need to be shepherded. Little hearts that need to feel safe and loved and secure. Little hearts that need to be taught who He is. Little hearts that need to learn how to drown out the loud clanging and flashy desires of this world and learn to seek the still, small whispers of His Truth.

The other day, I happened upon these words by Jennifer Ebenhack and what a confirmation they were for my soul:

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"I have been created, gifted, and trained specifically for these children, today. I am their mother, for "such a time as this" (Esther 4:14).
No, you and I aren’t in the times of Queen Esther, and our roles feel much less glamorous than hers, but can we stop for a moment and try to grasp the times in which we live?
Never before has the family been so brutally attacked by western culture. Never before have godly men and women been so few… so ridiculed… and, around the globe, so persecuted.
We mothers are the keepers of our homes. And while we may long for some noble calling that others will applaud on Facebook or in an auditorium, the battle is raging in our family room.
We’re not just soccer moms, homeschool moms or working moms.
We’re called to be warrior moms.
We’re called to use our gifts, talents, passions, and time to save our marriages, to save our kids, which can in turn save our churches, our countries, and our world.
Your day will come, as mine recently has, when you see your children’s desperate need for Jesus. When it hits you like a lightening bolt: Nothing in the world could be more important than this job I am doing today.
Yes. We long to do greater things than making another dinner. But out of obedience, we serve. We are here. We are present. And when our kids’ hearts break, when the moment comes that they’re ready for His Spirit to work, we will gasp in wonder. We’ll fall onto our knees with the heavy knowledge that God prepared and equipped us for such a time as this. This calling is worth it all."  
Jennifer Ebenhack
{read her full post HERE}:
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It's not always easy to follow Him. It's not always an adventure - sometimes, it's a sacrificial way of living that allows Him to work in and through you in the midst of very ordinary circumstances. Sometimes, it's seeking Him while surrounded by piles of laundry and dishes and homework papers. Sometimes it means putting aside the desire to go and serving and loving right where you are. The greatest mission field can look a lot like our very own homes.

Today, I'm choosing to place on the full armor of God and become the warrior mom I am called to be. On mission. In my home. For their hearts. 




April 4, 2015

10 years.

Dave and I just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.


To celebrate, we snuck away for a couple of days to nearby Kansas City.

I didn't tell Dave where we were headed. I gave him one hint: it was somewhere exotic. That was just to throw him into thinking that we were headed to a beach. But, the thing is, we have a lot of kids and we couldn't bribe anyone enough to watch them for more than a 48-hour period. So, Kansas City is was! And, because Dave didn't know where we were headed, he wore THIS shirt. We realized over lunch that it was a tad bit inappropriate. 

We spent the time exploring new parts of the city together, lingering over long meals, reminiscing over our favorite moments from the past decade and enjoying the complete bliss of having nowhere to be and nothing to do. There were many moments when we would look at each other and laugh remembering that this freedom to eat lunch at 3 in the afternoon or drink our coffee while it was still hot was what life was like before kids.

I can't find digital copies of our professional photos but I did find this gem taken by my aunt. That is true love right there. Yes, that's right, he is pushing my armpit fat down into my dress for the photo. And everyone is waiting patiently for the bride. How sweet. 
I also found this one from our ceremony. The sun was a little bright. We look slightly insane. Somehow our professional photographer managed to capture a few decent images where we didn't look like we were seizing. You're just going to have to take my word for it because I'm too lazy to scan those photos in. That's a lot of work. And, this shot is so much funnier anyway. 

After the time away, we realized we really missed our little buggers. Coming home after a couple of days away was such a joy. This life is full and I am always even more grateful when I have a little time to step back and see it from a distance.



To commemorate our ten years of wedded bliss, my sweet friend, Monica, shared the nicest post after asking me a few questions about love. She pulled hilarious photos from my Facebook page and wrote the kindest words about our little family. You can read the article HERE.

Happy Easter weekend, friends!



March 24, 2015

love well.

It's Spring Break week and we purposely have nothing planned.

I've become fiercely protective of my time lately. In the past, I would over-schedule our minutes so that we would run from one "fun" activity to another. The inevitable result was an overly tired, frazzled momma and exhausted littles. All of the "fun" turned sour.


I have been intentional about carving out white space on our calendar this week. Space that allows for spontaneity. Space that allows for long, slow meals on the patio - thank you, gorgeous spring weather. Space that allows for skipping rocks, building bonfires and making mud-pies. Space that creates room for memory making. Space that refreshes and restores.


The time will be filled with trips to the park, craft projects covering the kitchen table, meals shared with friends, slow mornings, building train tracks on the patio, baking muffins, and late night ice cream treats.



I'm grateful for these days where the gorgeous weather brings us outdoors. The hours slow down. We take the time to linger and lift our faces to feel the warmth of the sun on our cheeks.







I would never (ever) say that I have this whole simplicity thing figured out. It's an ongoing battle to wisely choose how to spend these moments I'm given. I have to fight the urge to be productive when I know I need to pause. This past week, I was forced to slow down when a nasty cold bug hit our house. I spent the majority of my days rocking my congested baby and not much else. Our house was a disaster, the dishes piled high and the laundry overflowed, emails went unanswered, my to-do list went unchecked. But my baby needed the comfort of her momma's arms. The end. The other stuff didn't even compare.

She was finally feeling better on Sunday, the breeze carried warmth and our afternoon schedule was free. It was a perfect day at home with my loves.





Let me be clear: I am not encouraging irresponsibly. Or laziness. Or a lackadaisical approach to commitment.

I'm suggesting an intentional commitment to loving well. I'm learning that time set aside for pouring into my loves is an investment of significant, eternal value.




The passing of Kara Tippetts this past Sunday hit me hard. I've never met Kara but I have been forever impacted by her life. Another Congo momma is a close friend of Kara's and "introduced" me to her through her blog last year. I was immediately captivated by the way she chose grace in the midst of a hard, impossibly hard, story. I read her words and continually prayed over her family. Her unwavering faith, her ability to love so very well, her honesty and her courage transfixed me. Her story reminds me that the fight for love and kindness and simple joys are worth every ounce of our energy. A life covered in grace and a home full of God's peace are the impossibly beautiful gifts amidst the messy, brokenness of this life.

 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. {1 Peter 4:7 MSG}



March 16, 2015

spring has arrived.

Spring appears to have arrived to our little corner of the world. Windows have been opened and cool breezes fill our home, freshening the stale winter air. 

Yesterday, we hurried outside to get our hands in the dirt and place shoots of green life in the ground. Mounds of winter coats and snow boots were abandoned for short sleeves and rubber mud boots.



As I watched little hands cover new life with fresh dirt, I was reminded of the words Amber Haines shared at a women's retreat I attended last year. Her message was focused on holding onto Hope in the wait. My aching, weary heart clung to every word.


Amber said something very powerful in her message that resonated with me in that particular season, "Winter always comes before Spring. Every time." 


Don't you just love that imagery? The words Amber shared were a calming balm to my heart. At that time, I was desperately longing for the cold, lonely winter to end and for the joy of spring to arrive. 



Planting a few bulbs in the newly thawed earth may seem simple, ordinary. Yet, I saw the miracle of that beautiful moment yesterday. I saw the joy that had come. The answered prayers. Spring had indeed arrived.