Category: life & everyday

Three Ways to Claim Hope in the Middle of the Mess  0

 

 

Whenever I get my eyebrows waxed, I always think of my son, Will.  He’s thirteen now, but the story you’re about to read took place almost a decade ago. Trust me, he has zero opinions on my eyebrows at this stage in life.  Oh, but he used to…

 

I was getting my hair cut, deep in conversation with my hairdresser/great friend.  Peter was in the waiting room with the kids who were sporting fresh haircuts and suckers. We were the only ones there, so after a few minutes, Will decided to take a lap around the inside of the shop.  That’s when he spotted the cart of wax in the corner. In a gesture of kindness,  knowing I’d soon be getting my eyebrows waxed, he decided to wheel it over closer to us. The only problem was that it was plugged into the wall.

And so, inevitably, the cord reached its end and the bowl of wax went flying, splashing the walls, totally coating everything within a 5 foot radius. Including William.  He looked at us with horror and confusion, rooted to his spot.  Because naturally, he had waxed himself to the floor.

 

We rushed to him and stripped him down to his batman underwear, lifting him out of his shoes, making sure he was okay.  He was fine…. albeit very, very (very) sticky. So we turned our attention to the mess. There was wax splashed and splattered everywhere.  And it was drying quickly.  How would we ever clean up the chaos that surrounded us?

 

In a stroke of genius, Peter found an ice scraper in the car and we began to scrape and rub and mop up the coat of wax that (have I mentioned?) was e v e r y w h e r e .

 

Somehow we got it mostly cleaned up.  I have no idea how.   Will went home in his underwear, since we were forced to throw everything else away. I sat at home that night with my tweezers because there hadn’t been enough wax left.

 

When I retell William that story now, it seems almost unbelievable that my pudgy little toddler has turned into a kid taller than me.  He doesn’t remember it and shakes his head at us like he’s sure we’re making the whole thing up.

 

I’m aware as I write on this blog that most of my material begins with a story.  Something I’ve plucked (so sorry… couldn’t resist) out of life that helps me to better understand the intersection between hope and sorrow.  I am always on the lookout for a story and if I pay attention, I find them everywhere.  Jesus finds us in our broken places and that’s where He hands us hope and joy.

 

On that day while the wax hardened as it slowly dripped down the walls, nothing about it spoke of hope.  But as time has allowed me to look back,  I realize that hope doesn’t come flitting toward us in a easy, breathless way.  Hope is a daily, diligent fight.

 

In the middle of the mess, it can be hard not to be swept away.  When the allure of giving up tempts you, here are three things to remember:

 

We need God’s grace the most in the middle our messes.  William so desperately wanted to do the right thing, yet his best effort yielded the biggest disaster.  Have you ever felt that way?  You have the best intentions, you’ve been so careful, yet you’re rewarded with a big mess.  You end up frustrated, hopeless, and vulnerable.  I’m so quick to be harsh with myself when things turn into a hot, sticky mess, but the truth is, Jesus doesn’t ask me to carry that kind of weight on my shoulders.  Instead He says,

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?

Come to me.  

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  

I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  

Walk with me and work with me— watch how I do it.  

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

(Matthew 11:28, The Message)

Perhaps you feel like you’ve been rooted to the ground, looking at the mess of life as it drips and dries all around you.  Perhaps you don’t think you’ll ever recover.  When we take our disaster to God, that’s when we find restoration.  When we quit trying to run and do and prove and rush, and instead hand our mess over to Jesus, we find real rest.  We find His grace and freedom, even in the middle of it all.

 

We must refuse to let the mess define our entire life.  Imagine if William would have let this one incident shape his entire life.  What if I, as his parent, had held it over his head, leading him to believe that his life would be one big problem after another, something else we’d constantly have to clean up? Ha! That sounds ridiculous. And yet, we do the same thing all of the time.  The voices in our head that tell us we’re worthless or we’ve messed up too much shout louder than the voice of who we truly are.  But what if the fight for hope means refusing to look only at what’s immediately surrounding us?  What if we strive to see the big picture of our life?  Fighting for hope means that our everyday life is full of steps backward and forward, forward and backward… but each step moves us closer to Jesus.   We trust God to work the details of our lives into something good, leaning on Paul’s promise in Romans,

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting,

God’s spirit is right alongside helping us along.  

If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  

He does our praying in and for us,

making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  

He knows us far better than we know ourselves,

knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.  

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for

God is worked into something good.”

As we hold the pieces of our broken life, will we dare to let Jesus breathe beauty into them?  Do we really trust Him to redeem them?  Lift up your eyes and don’t less the mess surrounding you define who you are in Christ.

 

We fight for hope when we allow others to step in and help us through the mess.  Even a decade later, I can remember the look on William’s face, his eyes locked on mine, wondering how he was going to get out of the middle of his waxy predicament.  Our reaction was exactly what yours would have been— we ran to him.  He needed our help.  And yet how often do we stand there, covered in wax, trying to convince everyone around us that we’re fine, fine and we’ll take care of everything, no problem, thanks but no thanks?  When we find our lives in shambles, our natural inclination is to retreat and avoid others, sure that we’ll only be bothering them if we let them see what’s really going on.  “Because grief is one of the most deeply isolating and lonely emotions, no one can carry it for you and no one can cure you of it and no one can relate to the exact degree that you’re experiencing it,” says Lisa-Jo Baker. “It’s a terrible devouring monster, and without people surrounding you, sitting on the sofa next to you, stopping by to chat about the kids or laugh about a story you’d forgotten, you’ll slowly disappear into a sinkhole of grief.” There are times we need to give up our control, and allow others to walk with us through our mess.  We were made to be in relationship with one another, especially in our hard places.  Allowing others to see we’re not really fine, that we actually need others to walk alongside us gives us life.

 

If we are going to be people who live in the intersection of hope and sorrow, we must learn to take a good look at the mess and claim the words of John in Revelation 21:5- “And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’”  You see, on that day as we mopped up the wax, there was plenty that was unsalvageable.  But it’s not the same with Jesus.  The brokenness and mess around you can be redeemed and turned into something good.

 

May you dare to lift your eyes above the mess in your life to see others who are willing to walk this path with you. May you quit letting it define you, instead allowing Christ to redeem your pain and make everything new.  And may you have eyes to see the stories of your own life, plucking hope out of the stickiest of situations.

 

 

Hello.
I’m Sarah and I write about the intersection of hope & sorrow in our lives.  It’s a privilege to have you along for the journey.  If you’d like to receive posts to your inbox along with some extra encouragement just for subscribers you can click here to join me. 

Three Ways I Instill Hope in My Kids  0

 

Her comment hit me like a kick in the gut. She and her husband, along with her kids, rarely go to church and haven’t expressed a commitment to Christ, yet she was talking about how her kids had recently communicated an interest in Jesus.  “I guess we’re doing something right,” she shrugged.  And she left it at that.  That was the end of the conversation.  They weren’t planning on making any changes to their lifestyles or pursuing deeper conversations with their kids.  For them, it was enough to leave the mild interest lie dormant, as she patted herself on the back.

 

There’s certainly hope attached to their style of parenting.  Hope that their kids will turn out okay.  Hope that they will be kind and decent.  Or is there a deeper, more intentional hope as they journey through parenting?

 

I don’t want to be a parent who guesses.  I want to be a parent who instills intentional hope into my children. I want to do whatever I can, even when it costs me or when it’s inconvenient, to lead them to the heart of a perfect, loving, compelling Father.

 

I’ve been sitting with a new friend each week for an hour.  She doesn’t often talk much, but she lights up when she sees me.  We make brownies and play computer games.  She’s in fifth grade.  She struggles with making friends and is trying to make a way in an often cruel world, where popularity trumps everything else in life.   In a moment of honesty, she told me about Madison.  She told me how she built up her courage and spoke to her, even though Madison is one of the ‘popular girls’.  “And she’s been nice to me!” she said, here eyes wide in unbelief. Then she paused.  “She’s different from all the rest of the girls somehow.”  A smile spread across my face and I blinked away tears.  “You should try to find out what makes her different,” I told her.

 

Because I know that Madison is part of a family who is pursuing Christ.  Her parents are raising her to build intentional relationships— in their family, with others that surround her, and most importantly, with Jesus.  And as a fifth grader, without even using words, others know she is different.  Madison’s parents are hoping, too.  But their hopes aren’t fickle like the wind, they are on a clear, straight path.

 

And it makes all the difference.

 

I don’t just want to hope that my kids will be ok…. I want to instill hope in them.  I want to do all I can to show them what it means to have an authentic, growing faith in Jesus.  The difference might seem subtle, but it isn’t.

 

“There are two powerful influences on the planet— the church and the home,” say authors Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. “They both exist because God initiated them.  They both exist because God desires to use them to demonstrate His plan of redemption and restoration.  If they work together they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone. They need each other.  Too much is at stake for either one to fail.  Their primary task is to build God’s kingdom in the hearts of men and women, sons and daughters.” (Parenting Beyond Your Capacity*, p. 33).

 

How exactly do we work to instill a deeper hope in our kids? Here are three quick ways:

I build intention in my own life.  If I want kids who love Jesus, they have to see me loving Jesus first.  If my desire is to have kids who serve others, they have to watch me serving first. If I want my kids to develop habits of faith, they must see it reflected in me first.  My kids have a front row seat to my life— both my best and my worst.  They see where I spend my time and how I love others, how I mess up, and the way I react…. and if they don’t learn it from me, chances are it won’t become part of their own lives.

Peter and I find ways to put them in environments that foster relationships with others who share our values.  Inevitably, there will be times that our kids won’t want to share something with us, and that’s ok.  I certainly didn’t tell my parents everything, especially during my teen years, so why should I expect my kids to? So we surround our kids with other adults who align with our beliefs— coaches, small group leaders, parents of their friends who we know we can trust if our kids ever confide in them.

 I shift my focus to raising adults, not kids. The bulk of my children’s lives will be spent as adults.  And as their mom during the formative years, it’s my job to raise them to be passionate, authentic adults who pursue the God who created them.  It informs my parenting decisions.  When I shift my focus to parenting adults, I can parent with their spiritual formation in mind. I fight for their hearts, not just for their immediate actions.

 

When Eliza entered Kindergarten this year, I didn’t simply hope she would learn to read.  For years we’d read books together and practiced letter sounds. Her teacher sent home books and popcorn words and we reviewed them.  Even so, when I found her on the couch this morning in her little footie pajamas reading a new book alone, I marveled as the words came off her lips with only a little help from me.  I didn’t just hope for the best, though.  It took a group— her teacher, her classmates, and us—  working together to help her accomplish this huge milestone.

 

And now that she’s mastered the basics, I won’t just sit back and let her go for it.  She has years of learning bigger words and deeper concepts.  It’s important that she has the right materials in front of her— not too easy and not too hard— to spark her interest and give her confidence.  There will be ups and downs, but as she grows, so will her ability to read.

 

She’s pretty bright (says the mom), so chances are she’d eventually pick up the concepts of letters working together to form words and sentences.  But why would I just hope for that?  Why wouldn’t I do all I can to foster a love for reading in her?

 

And if I’m willing to do all that to teach her to read, what more can I do to build in her a longing for Jesus, a confidence in His love and care for her?

 

You, as a parent, have been called to one of the most challenging, exhausting, enduring and amazing journey.  It’s as risky as it is exhilarating. But you have been called and God will not abandon you as you seek Him in raising your children.  You can do more than simply hope your kids will grow to love Christ.  You, as the greatest influence in your child’s life, can use your influence to instill deep, intentional hope in their souls.

 

 

Hello.
I’m Sarah and I write about the hope & joy that can come even in the midst of deep grief and sorrow.  It’s a privilege to have you along for the journey.  Do you need some encouragement? Here’s a printable of the verses I hold close to my heart.  

 

 

*Not to be bossy, but if you have children, you reallyreallyreally need to have Parenting Beyond Your Capacity in your regular rotation of books. (affiliate link used)

My Three Favorite Books on Loss & Hope  0

 

After our daughter Annie died, I went through days I could only read a verse or two in the Bible (and plenty of times I just stared out the window, unable to even do that).  But there were also days I had an voracious appetite for anything I could get my hands on.

 

Before I experienced loss, I thought I had life basically figured out.  When everything changed so suddenly I struggled to reconcile my old life with the new.  I needed solid, Biblical truths to re-establish the foundation for my life.  Jesus used the words of people who had travelled the road of grief to bring healing to my heart.  I am so thankful for the gift they gave to me, knowing what it cost them to write what they did.

 

Today, I like to keep a stash of books on the shelf so at any point I can give them away to friends who are struggling with sorrow and heaviness in their lives. I get a lot of questions from people, wondering what resources I’d recommend. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive list, just click on my Resources page.

 

by Nancy Guthrie
Tattered and marked up, this book was my lifeline for the first year and I still flip through it often.  Nancy writes one page for each day of the year, split into weekly themes like “The Love of God”, “Why?” and “Finding Purpose in Pain”.  Each day is centered around Scripture— verses that have become so integral to my life that I can often turn to the exact page of the verse and topic I’m trying to find.

 

by Jerry Sittser
“Is it possible to feel sorrow for the rest of our lives and yet to find joy at the same time? Is it possible to enter the darkness and still to live an ordinary, productive life?  Loss requires that we live in a delicate tension.  We must mourn, but we must also go on living. We might feel that the world has stopped, though it never does.”  There is such loss in the world, and the circumstances may be different, but what remains the same is our ability to respond to our circumstances.  This book taught me how to allow grace to transform my sorrow, to dare to let joy enter into my vocabulary again.

 

by Nancy Guthrie
I’m excited to share this new book with you!  I know how difficult it can be to say the right thing when a friend is grieving.  I’ve been on the receiving end of hurtful advice (I just wrote about it actually).  But I’ve also been the one who desperately wants to help in loss, but everything that comes out of my mouth sounds ridiculous.  It takes courage to reach out and say something and it’s easy to let fear keep us from saying anything at all.  No one is more gracious than Nancy to help navigate what to say (and what not to say) and what to do.  She addresses heaven and hell and assumptions we might have that may not be scriptural.  There are also lots of quotes from people (including a few from me!) who have lived through the loss of a loved one and can offer advice.  It’s such a valuable resource!
Of course, if you’d like to read more of my journey and what I’ve learned about loss and hope, you can download my eBook for free from iBooks or Google Books.

 

Sorrow and grief touches us all in one way or another.  Going through loss can be so lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.  There are others who have gone before us and have had the courage to share what God has taught them through it.  I encourage you to pick up these books if you are going through a season of sorrow…  or if you have a friend walking through dark times.

 

As always, let me know how I can pray for you.  Drop me a line here.

End of Year Goodness  0

With just a few hours left before the beginning of a fresh new year, I don’t want it to slip away before thanking you, dear readers, for your encouragement.  The words that make it onto this page aren’t always easy for me to get out, but you’ve shown me that Jesus can take our hurt and make it into something beautiful… Thank you.

 

 

If you keep up with me on Instagram you’ll remember…

  • I took my son William to Haiti with me.
  • My youngest daughter Eliza started Kindergarten (she’s pictured with her older sister Kate).
  • We had two really special weddings of people we love.
  • We took a six week sabbatical in our camper, covering over 5,000 miles all through the United States.

Here are the top posts of 2016:

 

December may be (almost) over, but my Advent Series on Hope is still relevant no matter what time of year:

 

What a privilege to being writing for Seedbed’s Soul Care Collective!  My first post, What to do When Words Hurt, was published a few weeks ago, and the next few will come out in January.

 

{Did you download my new eBook?}

I am so grateful to give you this gift, an eBook of my journey through grief and joy. Even in the midst of sorrow, I discovered that I could hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying our daughter, Annie.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Thank you for your support this year. Our family is thankful for you all, near and far, known and unknown. May you find deep peace tonight, remembering you are loved by the One who created you. Whether you ring in the New Year with with a loud party, a quiet fire, or asleep in your bed, may you know that our hope lies in a God who hears, a God who saves, a God who shares in our sorrow.

 

xo,

Sarah

 

Looking for a Little Extra Hope?  2

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I have a disco ball.  Truly, it’s Kate’s, but I insist that she leave it in the dining room.  When the air starts to get cooler in the fall, and the earth tilts just a little differently, I put the disco ball on the table and the room is awash in small dots of light.  It doesn’t work in the summer, just in the winter months.  Small bits of light to remind me that there is always beauty to be found when I search for it.

 

It’s the first week of December, the month of frenzied excitement and craziness.  I crack open the bin of decorations and the Christmas smells leak out.  It’s the smell of nostalgia. It’s the joy and the sorrow, the hope and the grief, all at once.

 

There’s a tension to this season, isn’t there?  There’s glitter and excitement and happiness spilling over.  But often, there is deep sorrow.  There’s disappointment in the space between what we thought would be and what really is.  Our lists keep getting longer and the weariness doesn’t fade.

 

Every year the tension of December surprises me.  But there is one thing that holds me steady— the story of a baby and the generations of people who made up His family tree.  We get out our Jesse Tree with our funny  homemade ornaments and we  listen to the stories again.  We remember again with David’s words in Psalm 119: 30, “The unfolding of your words gives light”.

 

Because here’s what I need to know every Christmas— I need to remember that life is messy and far from perfect.  I need to know that Jesus knows my sorrow and He cares for me.  I need to know that He hears the cries of my heart when I hang up the empty stocking and put a tiny Christmas tree next to a grave.  I want to know I’m not alone.

 

As we begin the season of Advent, this time of waiting for the birth of Jesus, I’ve written something for you.  Join me over the next few weeks as we discover together the hope held out for us, using people who were in the family tree of Jesus.  People like Abraham, who held on to the promise that God would bless him, even in the midst of unanswered promises.  People like Jonah who discovered that God comes to us in our storms.  People like Mary, who saw that even our emptiness can be used by God.

 

I don’t know where you are this holiday season, but if you are in a place of darkness and sorrow, I want to whisper words of hope to your weary soul.  Though you may feel it, you are not alone.  My heart is with you.  I’ve been there.  But even more importantly, Jesus is with you.  He is near to the brokenhearted and those who are crushed in spirit.

 

So come back here over the next few weeks as we unwrap gifts of those who have bravely gone before us.

 

And if you are hurting this season?  I would love to know so I can pray for you.  Leave a note in the comments or write me an email. We may not be sitting on my couch having a real conversation, but I’m thankful for the ways we can reach out to one another.

 

 

{Hello, Friend.}
There are hard seasons in life.   But even in the midst of sorrow, you can hold tightly to the hope of Christ.  Want to know more? My free eBook tells the story of how I grappled with loss and grace in the days, months and years after burying a child.  You can find it on iBooks or Google Books.

 

The Discipline of Slowing  0

 

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The very last week of our six week sabbatical we dropped off the camper then drove to a small lake cottage.

 

For over 5,000 miles we had driven 55-60 miles per hour, hauling our little camper. We crossed rivers and mountains, two lane back roads and six lane highways through big cities.  We got used to the cars whizzing past us.  We had heard too many horror stories of trying to drive fast with a trailer.  So we took our time, sometimes with sighs because even the short days of driving seemed to drag on longer than we’d anticipated.

 

But a funny thing happened. When we began to go the real speed limit after weeks of traffic flying past us, we were shocked.  We hadn’t realized just how slow we were going and the ACTUAL speed limit seemed out of control.

 

Of course, you know where I’m going with all this. Because it’s September and chances are your calendar looks just like mine.  It’s filled with good things— practices and dinners with friends, meetings for good causes and school functions.

 

As I rushed to get dinner on the table tonight, in between one thing for one kid and another thing for another, I couldn’t help but go back to those lonely Kansas roads.  The ones with no cars and almost no towns and wind that would not quit blowing.  I thought about the early mornings, when Peter and I would take our coffee outside and sit with our Bibles, talking and dreaming while the kids slept hard, way past their normal time.

 

I thought about the bike rides in Wyoming, through the pasture where the cows lazily watched us dodge cow patties as they chewed their grass.  I remembered the night we sat at a Lake Superior beach for hours, waiting to watch the sunset, the kids playing in the sand with a fast food cup and a football, happy and content.

 

We’ve been home just over three weeks and I’m finding this transition time like a tug of war.  Our summer was amazing, but it was for a time.  A sabbatical can’t last forever.  And yet I want to hold on to the slowness, to the savoring.

 

We came home to full speed ahead, plus a little more.  And I know this about myself— when I’m moving at a crazy speed, I find it harder to be intentional and purposeful.  Words spill out of my mouth and feelings get hurt. My lists give birth to new lists until there’s a List Pile, which happens to hide the Very Important Paper that doesn’t get sent to school until it’s too late.

 

It seems we’re living in an in-betweeness, processing a sweet season as a family and a trip that helped us really step back and look at our lives.  On the other hand, we’re also starting school and jumping back into our everyday life. Our rhythm right now seems to be off as we try to reconcile the two seasons.
Can I whisper something to you?   I refuse to live in the fast lane.  The squares on my calendar may be full to overflowing, but I’m fighting for the things that really matter.  I’m going to get it wrong more than I’ll get it right.  But I won’t give up trying.
I’ll slow the car down, look in the rearview mirror and pretend there’s a camper back there. Want to join me?

 

Well, hello!
I’m so very glad you’re here.  I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more.  Go here if you’d like to receive posts from me via email. I have a few printable verses I’d love to send you to encourage your heart.   –Sarah

#damaskasontheroad: H O M E  1

 

IMG_8978I know, I know.

 

If you only follow me on this blog, you may be thinking we fell off the face of the Earth somewhere between Kansas and Colorado.

 

Don’t worry.  We didn’t.  And we’re home now. The car may be dusty and road weary, but he made it.

 

Here’s the thing: About the third week into this trip, my words seemed to just dry up. It was so strange. I had nothing.  The only way I can describe it is that at that point our whole family just seemed to take a big exhale and we grabbed onto it for as long as we could. We realized just how stretched thin we were, just how much we needed to realign and we went for it.

 

And it was so good.

 

We’ve been home for a little over two weeks.  We’ve been rooting through all the things we forgot we had and enjoying all the extra room of our house (I don’t have to duck when I take a shower! We all fit around the table!)  But also? It’s like we’re trying to find our family rhythm all over again.

 

School started this week and with it comes the rush to gather supplies and find shoes and get dinner on the table before 8:00.

 

It’s nothing new– it just takes a bit to adjust.  And it turns out that it takes every single one of my brain cells to parent my children, even during the hours they’re away from me!

 

So I promise to keep up with the travel posts until they’re done, but it may take me awhile.

 

While I’m busy catching up at home, here are five fun things I don’t want to forget about our trip:

 

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One of the things I miss most?  Doing laundry in an hour.  Fill all the washing machines, come back and fill all the dryers.  And done.  Why does it take me so much longer at home?

 

 

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If you have a few minutes while you’re driving, here’s a good podcast on suffering and hope with Katharine Wolf (Jamie Ivey keeps me company while I run and do dishes and make dinner.  Love the Happy Hour!).  We enjoyed Revisionist History, too (Malcolm Gladwell is always interesting) and we’re probably the last people on the planet to start listening to This American Life.

 

 

 

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This is how I ride in the car.  Always.  I can’t seem to ever reserve space for my feet. Where would I put all my bags?!

 

 

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I brought plenty of books to read (and got them almost all finished!) but I also read a few almost-released ones that were amazing.  If you haven’t checked out Edie Wadsworth’s All the Pretty Things or Shannan Martin’s Falling Free, I give them both five stars!  Edie’s book speaks of growing up in a broken, alcoholic family, with poverty and violence.  Her style is amazing and it’s easily the best book I’ve read this year.  Falling Free is a book that was written by the sister of a friend, about places that are familiar to me.  It’s a journey of a family realizing that we’re meant for more than building a life of dreams.  Both books reminded me of the healing work of Jesus and the way He leads us to places we never dreamed.

 

 

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We packed pretty light (we even had an empty cupboard!), but even still there were several things we never touched in the camper.  There were also lots of things we didn’t necessarily have room for that we brought.  Like this ice cream.  A friend gifted me with two blessed pints and I allowed myself just a few bites a day and made it last the entire six weeks.  Sometimes if Peter was good, I’d share, but it was a sacrifice.

 

We continue to shake our head at how amazing our summer was. We still shake our heads that we were able to pull this thing off.  But we did it and we had a blast!  As I process all the ways God was faithful to us, I just get so excited.

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#damaskasontheroad: Western Kansas & Colorado  2

I certainly felt that by this point in the trip, we’d be tired of living in a camper, longing for our own beds and a little space to spread out.  But it turns out we are camping people!  Who knew!? We often laugh at our little baby camper next to the monster motorhomes driven by people my Great-grandpa’s age (If my son cannot ride in the front seat until he’s 14, surely there should be a law against 103 year olds basically driving houses down the road?!)

 

We’ve had our share of little mishaps, but we’ve powered through each one like the experts we are (not).  We backed into a pole and bent our bumper a bit (just a flesh wound).  We also sliced our water hose, causing waves of water to gush through the camper (there was a bit of yelling, but we mostly held it together). Once in a while, when our old suburban we’ve lovingly named Grandpa has had enough, he’ll just refuse to turn on.  But Peter baby-talks him and sprays some concoction in the keyhole, and eventually Grandpa decides to cooperate.  Praying and laughing have gotten us through it all.

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After a day of insane wind (note the leaning bikes) on a two lane highway through nowhere Kansas (we seriously cheered whenever we saw a car or a house), we pulled into a little valley, ready to be out of the car, wondering if we would ever see human life again.  We spent the evening climbing rocks and shaking our heads that after hundreds of miles of flat fields, there was this.

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We pulled out the next day and drove to Colorado Springs.  Everything changed so rapidly– suddenly there were mountains and red rocks and people everywhere.  It was like a big playground and we really loved it.

 

We climbed Pike’s Peak… on a train.  It was only 37* at the top! The lack of oxygen was a little unnerving, but it was nothing a dozen doughnuts couldn’t fix.  My headache was mostly caused by an 11 year old boy who didn’t have the fear of heights I believed he should have.

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Then we explored the Garden of the gods.

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Our kids really got into their groove in Colorado.  Traveling and being gone had caused some anxiety, but it completely disappeared on this leg of the trip.  It may have been because basically everyone in the state is high. With marijuana being legal, it just seems to float in the air.  I’m kidding. Sort of.

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We took a morning to visit Compassion International, and we even got to see Sean who led our trip to Ecuador a few years ago.  The statue of Jesus was such a sweet part of their lobby, intentionally made so that kids would crawl into His lap.  Somehow it just seemed weird to yell, “Stay off Jesus!” and “Be careful.  Don’t fall off of Jesus and get hurt!”, so I held my tongue.  We also visited Whit’s End (if your kids are into Adventures in Odyssey, you’ll know what I’m talking about) and drank root beer floats.  The kids were disappointed that the elevator to the Imagination Station only took them to the bookstore and not to 500 B.C.

 

We are so thankful for this time away.  Slowly we feel the weight peel away as God leads us. It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from a Sabbatical, especially one filled with busy kids and many miles of driving.  But as we travel we feel God’s favor on us so heavily and we do not take it lightly.  He has been so good to us and He has been so faithful.

 

Up next: Peter’s hometown of Buffalo, Wyoming

(For some reason, it seems that my pictures may be loading upside down.  I’m so sorry.  Please be assured, they were all taken right side up.)

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How to Develop Compassion in Your Kids  1

 

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Somewhere in unknown Kansas, we stopped to stock up on groceries and have a quick lunch in the camper.  It was while we were eating our sandwiches that Peter saw a man in the parking lot, sitting against a light pole.

 

We were unloading our groceries almost an hour later when Peter noticed the man was still there in the same spot.  Without a word, he disappeared and returned with the man, asking him if he needed some food.  The kids and I scurried around, tossing out chips and apples and granola bars.  We made him a sandwich and gave him some water.

 

We listened to his story of riding his bike from Georgia to Wyoming and how he was now headed back south.  Along the way, his original bike had fallen to pieces. I noticed he wasn’t wearing shoes.

 

We don’t always have the eyes to see people for who they are when our lives are too caught up in our own plans.  We miss it so easily because we’re  being too efficient or we’re too scared.  Our minds are occupied with the task at hand and the ten tasks we must scurry to finish. But Jesus used a barefooted man in a Wal-Mart parking lot to teach us that being compassionate is a sweetest of gifts. We just had to slow down enough to see it.

 

I watched the kids listen to his stories and I was so thankful for a husband who saw a need and responded.  I was reminded of what I’ve said before: It has to be in us before it will be in our kids.  The best teaching moments come to us when we don’t have a chance to prepare— they’re our everyday acts of obedience.

 

We, as parents, must take the time to cultivate compassion in our own lives so it will leak into the lives of our kids.  Not because there’s an obligation, but because we are called to genuinely care about others.

 

A few days after we met Paul in the Kansas parking lot, one of my kids took some money and bought something extravagant for the little boy we sponsor in Haiti.  I wish I could tell you the whole story, but it isn’t my story to tell.  So you just have to take my word for it— our kids may look like they don’t care about others.  They may seem like they’re self-absorbed, but as we model Christ’s love, they will develop compassion.
There are countless deep needs all around us.  May we, as parents, have the eyes to see them.  May we have the wisdom to extend compassion… and may our hearts leak into our kids’, even on the days we feel like we’re losing the battle.

 

May we have the courage to help others, simply because every person on the planet has value in God’s eyes.

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#damaskasontheroad : Kentucky & Kansas  4

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If you’ve been following me on instagram, you’ll know that we’re two weeks into our six-week sabbatical.  We’ve had spotty internet for much of it and I’m not going to complain.  The break has been lovely.

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Here’s a picture I snapped of our camper one night as the kids were getting ready for bed.  The good news is that campers are really small and quick to clean.  The bad news is that it takes about 10 seconds to trash it.  So this isn’t a perfect picture, and I certainly wasn’t going to turn around and post the other half, but I’m thankful for the imperfectness of it all.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Except maybe sometimes I wish the kids would voluntarily pick up their clothes.

 

(If you’re interested, we have a 28 foot camper.  It has a bunkhouse in the back with 4 bunks.  We took one of them out to make space for our clothes and I also made curtains for each bunk so the kids can pull them shut each night and have some privacy.  That alone has saved our lives.  We also have a full bathroom and kitchen. The bed Peter and I sleep on is a pop-out and we like the great breeze we get every night.  I made some cosmetic changes, because I abhor camper decor and I figured if we were living in it all summer we should at least like being in it.)

 

We spent the first week of our trip sleeping in guest rooms.  First, a few days in Kentucky with our close friends on my favorite road.  We lit sparklers and perfected the back flip and laughed until the tears ran down our faces.

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Then we drove to Kansas, to spend a few days with my Aunt Cheryl.  She spoiled us with amazing food and showed us that Kansas doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets (it was so beautiful!).  She took us to a Salt mine– 650 feet underground– and it was the coolest thing ever.  We loved the history and were so impressed with the size (over 150 miles of tunnels!).  Road salt.  Who knew it could be so interesting!?

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I have a stack of books to plow through and I’ve made a dent in several.  Here’s my pile (I’m 100% sure it will take me a year to get through this pile).

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And here’s Peter’s (He’s a little more practical).

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So far I’d recommend them all, but I’ll try to go into more detail when I finish.  There are so many good books in the world.  Kate also has a backpack FULL of books that she has been lugging around everywhere, just in case she might need all ten at once.  That girl cracks me up… she’s a lot like her mother.

 

On our way to Aunt Cheryl’s we noticed a particular odor in the camper.  We figured it had sat in the hot Kentucky sun for a few days and it just needed a good airing.  But as we drove, it got worse.  During one stop, after I took the kids to the bathroom, I saw the camper door was open and Peter was throwing things out.  When I got closer, the stench made me gag.  Apparently, one day he had checked the freezer to make sure it was working and a few things had slipped out when he opened the door.  He thought he had picked it all up, but had inadvertently left a package of raw hamburger that had slipped under the couch.  And there it sat for the next 3 days, baking, until we found it.  You cannot even imagine the stench.  I guiltily left it in the rest stop trash can… so if you stop by a Kansas rest stop and notice a particular smell, please accept my deep apologies.

 

I’m so glad you’re following along. We’ve appreciated all your comments and notes along the way.

Until next time….

 

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