Thoughts for Today: Freedom in the Word

It’s been months since I’ve last been here. A lot has happened. A lot has changed. 

But I’m not going into that right now. There will come a time to talk about all the changes of these last few months, really of the last 10 months. But I’m still sorting those out. I’m still processing them, what they mean for me. What they mean to me. 

So for today, I’m going to share where I’m at. Right now. Today. 

———-

I find it interesting how quickly feelings change. How fast they ebb and flow. How they evolve into something new, something different. Leaving the old behind. 

…And it all transpires in a moment. 

It cannot help but remind me just how fallible this body is. How weak and frail the flesh truly is. 


It reminds me how easily the enemy can use this frailty to crush us.

The ways he can so quickly, so reliably, make us stand still. Leaving us stagnant. Too wrapped up, too stuck, dwelling on ourselves – to remember our freedom.

The freedom that was costly. 

The freedom that comes from Him. From His death and resurrection. 

Freedom that defeats the flesh. 

Freedom that defeats my sin.

Freedom filled with truth and grace. Filled to overflowing with love. 

And when I remember that freedom, I have the power to move forward. 

To move to His Word. The very Word that spoke nothing into something. 

The Word that is speaking to me, today. Right where I’m at.

The Word that envelopes and nurtures me.

The Word that refines me. The Word that gives me strength. 

The very Word growing me, creating me today. 

The Word that gives me the freedom to write here. The Word that gives me the strength and ability to raise up my littles – to guide and nurture them. The Word that gives me hope and a future. 

And friends, that very Word is for you too. They’re there to envelope you in grace and courage. To bring you peace and life. And if you need help finding where to start, I’ve got your back. 

Road Tripping. With Children

For the last six years, we have traveled to Florida with our children. 

In our van. Driving from Illinois. 

It’s technically a 17.5 hour drive. But for us it takes about 30 hours. It’s great. 


And every year, after we arrive home and have re-entered normal society, we are asked the same questions. (And if this was you, please know that we do not mind the questions. And that you’re not alone in wondering.

How did it go? 

How did you do it? 

Well friends, I’m going to be honest and say – I have no idea. 

But really, there’s more to it than sheer determination and will to survive. We’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years. And each year we try something a little new. 

And since we’re friends I’m going to share my tips with you. You’re welcome. 

(I actually share a little more detail in this post: I wrote it let year after our annual Florida vacation. Check out that post for a detailed packing list and more tips: https://gracemountaindiaries.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/this-is-how-we-do-it-family-vacation/)

Pro Tip #1: PACK LIGHT Oh my goodness. If you can find a place that has a washer/dryer in unit or laundry nearby snatch.it.up. 

It is so freeing to only have to pack 3 outfits per person. Because each person still needs bathing suit, hat, sunglasses, jacket, pajamas, undergarments, socks, shoes, beach blankets, lovie…and the list goes on seemingly forever. For our family of 6, including diapers and wipes, we fit everything in one duffel bag and a backpack.

I just want all the hallelujah hands for that one. But I digress…

Pro Tip #2: PACK INDIVIDUAL (TOY) BAGS: I use the kids school bags, but use whatever you like. The key is that they can be closed and that each kid can open it by themselves. Your back will thank you. 

I don’t completely fill the backpacks because the little toys will inevitably fall out all over the floor of your minivan. This will inevitably happen during the treacherous mountain driving section of your trip. It will then start raining and thundering. And your children will be screaming and hyperventilating because their sudden new favorite toy had become lost to the abyss. For all time. Also known as when you stop next. 

Anyway, don’t let that be you. Be like me. I fill ziploc bags with themes of toys: Princess toys in one bag, cars in another. I include a bag of stickers, pencils, and crayons. We bring a few books, coloring books, and notebooks. And a few new toys. Because everyone loves surprises. 


Pro Tip #3: PACK SNACKS Obviously. The best part about road trips is the snacks, right? We bring a giant bag of the kids favorite snacks, even the not healthy ones. (Just do not pack snacks that are: sticky, can melt, or make a giant mess.) Because the time for arguing about health is not when you’re trapped in a metal box driving for 30 hours. It’s just not. 

We do try to ration snacks. They mainly stay hidden by a pillow until snack time (Yes, it’s a real time. It happens around 9:30/10. Some call it second breakfast.) and for before lunch when we’re trying to get that last 30 minutes to the rest stop. I include small snack containers, with lids, in the snack bag. This way snacks can be filled and tossed to the back of the van. Easy peasy. 

Oh and never ever give your kids free access to water. We keep them by us, hidden on the floor and hand them out for sips, as needed.

Pro Tip #4: PACK SEPARATE BAGS TO GRAB ‘N GO: Pack separate bags for every need. So we have a cooler and one bag specifically for rest stop lunches. It holds our (my kids) favorites: Nutella, bread, and fruit snacks. It also holds necessities: water bottles, paper towels, wipes, paper plates and plastic silverware (all kinds – because you never know what makes it in the cooler from the fridge). 

We also have a separate bag for the overnight stop. It has everyone’s pajamas, undergarments, diapers, wipes, toiletries, and a change of clothes. 

Pro Tip #5: KEEP CHANGE OF CLOTHES EASY TO REACH Always, always keep diapers, wipes, a change of pants, and underwear in the pockets of the car seats for those just in case moments. You never know when they’ll happen and it’s best to be prepared instead of being the people unpacking your entire car searching for one change of clothes. Seriously. 

Pro Tip #6: BLANKETS Strange, I know, but stick with new. Bring blankets and lovies. Leave one easily accessible by each seat. That way when it should be nap time or bed time, you can declare it. You tell everyone to grab their blankets and toy and go to sleep. We turn the radio to the front speakers and ignore any sounds coming from the back of the car. I promise, they’ll fall asleep and you get a few more hours of driving in.  

And that’s it. We don’t stop a lot on drives that are destination drives (like Florida). We don’t do a lot of screen times either. Instead we talk to the kids about where we are, where we’re going next, and let them be. They’re kids and they’ll find weird things to do while you’re driving. I promise. 


What are your favorite road trip tips? I’d love to hear them – leave them in the comments!

On Your Last Day of Kindergarten

Today was a beautiful day. I enjoyed time laughing and gardening. Walking and playing with my daughter. My sweet ‘Goose.’ 

And all of a sudden it hit me. This is the end of half day school. Of these quiet moments. Moments that seem stolen away from the ever present ticking of time.


Moments filled with hugs and little girl giggles. Of snuck in ‘girl time’ in a house filled with boys. Moments filled with words and stories. Moments brimming over with love. 

Moments where our dreams come true with our eyes open. 

… A phrase I learned today from my six year old. As I pulled her along in our little red wagon. She imagined herself as a princess (because she is…in all the good ways.) being carried along in her royal carriage. Dreaming with her eyes open. 

Yet I cannot mourn the changes. Because we’ve had all of this. Dreams in the here and now. Dreams with our eyes open. We’ve had this time of wonder and hugs. 

And it isn’t leaving. But it is changing. 

She will spend ‘girl time’ with her friends. Giggling at boys. Her reading audience will include more than teddy bears and me. She will grow and change.

And she will flourish. 

She will begin to share her giftings with those blessed to be around her. She will share her kindness and compassion.  Her strength and gentleness. Her intelligence and persistence. 

And I get to watch. Encouraging her. Reminding her of truth. That she is brave and strong. Created with a purpose. Made with a spirit of courage and strength. 

Praying that her dreams come true while her eyes are open. 

The Grace of Absence

I’ve been pretty absent around here. I’ve written post after post to explain why. But I never hit publish. Something was always missing. 

So here I am. Months since last sharing. Months since my last monthly look back. Months since naming a season.

And the longer I’ve been away, the harder it’s been to come back. Because I should feel bad for all the things I haven’t shared here. 

But instead, I feel joy at the time I’ve spent reading with my little ones. Sitting with them. …Even the time I’ve spent washing clothes and dishes. 

Because friends, it’s been a long four months. A season of late nights and work on the weekends for my husband. A looooong “busy season.”

And instead of feeling that weight and over committing myself, I’ve followed after what God set before me and let go of the rest. 

I nurtured my family. I cared for them. 

I worked on myself. I continued reading my Bible and re-read the New Testament. And have completely fallen in love with it. 

I cared for our home. I’ve organized and sorted. Marveled after how much the children have grown. Organized donations. Cleaned and tidied. 

I enjoyed reuniting with neighbors as spring weather came upon us. 

I traveled. Celebrated my husband’s birthday, rejoiced with a friend getting married, attended a women’s conference, saw friends and family, and learned about other cultures while serving women. 



I planted our garden. Trimmed back spring growth. I pulled weeds and planted new flowers. 

I continued my practice of daily gratitude. And realized that it has not only changed my heart, my perspective, but my behavior as well. 

I volunteered at the kids schools. Bug day. Check. (So wish I was joking about that one.) Valentine Party. Check. And I attended even more events. Mothers Day tea. Check. Open house. Check. Book fair. Check. 

We took a family vacation. We shared close quarters. Packed light. And enjoyed ice cream outside every day. 

But most of all, I’ve had fun. I’ve laughed and cuddled. I’ve taught new responsibilities. And I’ve watched my little ones flourish and grow.

How was your May (and March and April)? Mine was/were pretty wonderful. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram for regular pictures, updates, and maybe even a little inspiration. 

A Letter to All Those Boycotting Target…From Your Friend

Oh dear friends. I am going to be honest. 

My heart is hurting. It’s broken for this world. It’s sin. It’s fallen-ness. It’s separation from God. From holiness. 

But even more than that my heart is breaking for the people. People alone. People confused. Hurt people. Fearful people. Because this isn’t how we were created to live. It isn’t the image we were made to reflect. 

And that brings me to the reason for my letter. 

This is not about whatever you, or I for that matter, believe about gender identity. It simply isn’t. 

Instead, it’s about addressing the fear. The people. The hurt. The anger. The words. And even the hate — whether intentional or not. 

You see friends, I understand fear. I understand the deep seated desire to protect your children, your family, your loved ones. I understand our desires for safety and protection. Truly, I do.

But I think we allow those desires to infiltrate our faith. Our peace. We allow our desires, our sense that we are due safety to supercede the most important commandments God gave. 

Jesus tells us that the most important, the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might (Matthew 22:37-38). How can this be done? What can we do to love God well?

Well friends, we can obey. Obeying God, praying, reading His Word, trusting Him. Giving offerings and sacrificing. That. That’s how we can love God well. 

And that means remembering God’s sovereignty. It means remembering that all we have is His. It means remembering His faithfulness. It means remembering that He is our strong refuge. Our strength. Our courage. 

Jesus, in the very same breath, goes on to tell us the second most important commandment: to love others as ourself (Matthew 22:39). 

Pause for a minute. Allow that to sink into the very depth of your soul. What does that mean? Who do we need to love? Just those we understand? Those like us, those with similar beliefs? 

Or. Or are we called to more? To the hard and uncomfortable. Are we called to grow and move outside of our comfort zones? To a place where we love all. Not of our own accord, but through the Holy Spirit. To a love that shows Christ. 

Because friends, that’s our job. We must be the light of Christ to those around us. We are called to love those in the world as Christ did. 

And that doesn’t look like fear. It doesn’t look like angry Facebook posts. It doesn’t look like boycotting. 

Instead, it looks like compassion. It looks like engaging and learning. 

It looks like Jesus. Stepping away from the stones to throw, and stepping forward. Moving closer. In love. 

Because friends, people are important. They are immortal. Eternal. And that’s a reminder each and every one of us need. The very ones you are rallying against are people. People with an eternity. And if you love Jesus as much as you claim, then frankly, that should matter. A lot. 

So instead of loving yourself more than those around you, remember this. This isn’t about you. It’s about others. It’s about eternity. 

So what are you going to do about that? I, for one, suspect that boycotts and Facebook posts aren’t the answer. (I would love to hear from you, but if you forget your manners, please expect your comment to be removed.)

The Fullness of February: A Look Back

I almost missed looking back on February. I’m not sure why. I feel like March has lasted forever. No end in sight. 

Except there is an end. And it’s today. 

So here I am, reflecting. Remembering. Remembering faithfulness and hope. Remembering the power of community. 

February was a quick month. It was a month that began with phone ‘dates’ and play dates.  And ended with seeing my new nephew, time with our small group, and mornings spent with friends. 

  
Perhaps more than being a quick month, February was a full month. Something I think I will be seeing more of in these coming months. And something that I think should be celebrated, when done right. 

You see, I believe in rest (so much that I’ve been nicknamed sloth in the past). But I also believe that Jesus asked us to serve others. Abundantly. He didn’t ask us to do only our favorite things. Or to love others by doing the minimum. He asked us to go the extra distance. To stretch outside of the comfortable. To love, and live well. 

February, of course, held Valentine dances and parties with the kids. Moments that are big and important in their eyes. Moments that allow us to love well, oh so easily. 

   
   
It held frequent play dates and coffee dates. February held moments with close friends that I only see once every few months. Moments that fill my soul. 

February, literally, held babies. February began with cuddles with my sweet niece and ended with my darling nephew. Meeting him this month is one of my very favorite moments from February. I don’t think there is anything quite so beautiful as a brand new baby. Especially one that has been hard sought and fervently prayed over.

   
   
February also gave us opportunities to serve others. We brought the older kids to Feed My Starving Children. It was an incredible time, working with others, to make a difference in the world. A time to teach our children generosity and love. We had friends at our house for mornings and for nights. We made dinners to celebrate new life. 

  
And oh how we celebrated. We celebrated friendship. We celebrated new beginnings. And we celebrated with my brother (in law) and his family as they began a new journey in Texas, planting a church in Austin. We celebrated life. 

And I celebrated my completed Bible reading. It was a joy. It was also a 3 month plan that took me 6 months. But it was a time that strengthened my heart. My soul. It strengthened my love for the Word. And it was a beautiful time of growth in my own life. And so as I jump back into reading the New Testament, I do it will joy and excitement. Anticipating God’s movement in my life and the way He will use my quiet time with His Word.  

February was certainly a full month. But it was filled with moments to love others well and to be loved well. It was filled with life. 

I know it’s a little far away, but go back and look at your February. What moments can you be grateful for? 

The Ugly Motherhood Moment

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend Hope Spoken. If you’ve never heard of this women’s conference, you should check it out. 

It was a beautiful time away. A time of quiet. A time of rest. A time of community. A time of worship. A time that left me feeling refreshed. 

  

And so you can imagine my shock when I stepped foot back into my house. My home filled with the ones I love. Filled with love. And need. Constant need. 

Gone were the quiet, peace-filled days. Gone was the endless food, prepared by other hands. Gone was the incredible fellowship. 

And it was replaced by boogers. (Literally. I’m not calling my kids boogers. Though it may or may not be true.) It was replaced with shouts. And screams, let’s be real. It was replaced by exhaustion. It was replaced by rough mornings. Tough moments. Tears. It was replaced with strain. 

I thought the weekend of rest would prepare me for re-entering real life. The #Momlife. 

But instead. Instead it was ugly. Instead I was ugly. 

Ingratitude reared its ugly head. And if I’m honest, it stuck around for longer than I’d care to admit. 

As the days continued, thanklessness followed. So I pushed into my daily practice of gratitude. I served my family. I cleaned, organized, shuttled. Though my heart struggled to catch up to my actions. 

And it’s taken those small moments to urge me back to gratitude. The moments of sweet smiles and messy kisses. The moments of toothy (and toothless) grins. The whispers of love as the lights are turned out. 

Well, it’s taken those small moments and wise friends. Friends that remind me of truth, of who I am. Friends that remind me why I chose motherhood. And friends that remind me that the struggle, the mess, and even the ugly are normal. Friends that point me back to the Word: “But He said to me, ‘ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, than I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) 

Though it was a struggle for a few weeks, I am thankful for it. It was a reminder to walk with Him in gratitude. An example of how to come back to the richness of His grace. 

And a great reason to plan a trip back to sunshine-y Texas ASAP. ;) 

Have you had an ‘ugly mom’ moment, day, or week? How did you escape it?