Making Your Offline Minutes Count {A Less Digital Life…Day 28}

Today, I’m happy to have my friend, Trina Cress, from Beginner Beans sharing how she balances online time with family life. I first got to know Trina through the blogosphere, but was blessed to get some time face-to-face time and even to share a meal together at a conference we both attended last fall. She is approachable and authentic with a refreshing take on life. If you can’t meet her in person, I hope you’ll take some time to interact with her online at Beginner Beans where she’s finishing out her 31 Days of Lessons from an Epic Beginner.


My husband travels for his job. A lot. We knew this before he took the job, and decided it wasn’t a big deal, because at the end of each trip, he would return; and we knew those times together mattered more than the few he would be gone. So when he returns from a trip, we make a special effort to reconnect as a family. Continue reading

The Cabin Connection {A Less Digital Life…Day 5}

IMG_2062This summer, I was ready to swear off all social media. The net just wasn’t working for me. It seemed like every time I’d step into the avenues that were supposed to be connecting people, I’d instead find people putting themselves on pedestals, sacrificing family values to get followers and turning sacred things into marketplace currency, like the moneychangers in the Temple. So, when some friends said their cabin was available for the weekend AND that the cell reception was unreliable, we opened our hands for the key. Continue reading

I Must Tell Jesus: Other Words to Help You Take Heart in Growing a Family

I Must Tell Jesus

I Must Tell Jesus, by Elisha A. Hoffman

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress He kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for His own.


Tempted and tried I need a great Savior,

One who can help my burdens to bear;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;

He all my cares and sorrows will share


Some recent links to help you take heart in growing your family:

1. Too many days I’ve had to pray for God to edit out my words and actions from the memories of my children. I know the anguish in this post all too well, when Ann Voskamp writes: “She says she’s damaged him. As if you can throw a kid a glare that punches him in the gut so hard you chip off a bit of his fragile soul. Ask me how I know.”

2. When Amanda Williams opened up about her own “verbal storm,” and the realization that she could either get help or destroy her daughter with her words, I think a lot of us mothers breathed a sigh of relief that we’re not the only ones who have felt like we’re over the edge.

3. Here, Amber Haines shares just how vulnerable we mothers can feel while taking care of our children in times of sickness, and how we can find peace when we pour out what we’d think would sustain us, knowing that God is sustaining instead.

4. I’ve had Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” on request at the library since the beginning of the year and it just came in! Here, my friend Anne shares a “Daring Greatly” excerpt about how the look we put on our face when a child enters the room can make or break the scene. Little changes, big impact. I’m really looking forward to reading the book myself!

5. My long-time friend, Tristi, writes about what to do with the imperfections that surface in motherhood (and marriage) as she leads a study of the book, “No More Perfect Moms,” by Jill Savage.

6. Message in a Mason Jar reader, Ali, shares how God taught her to “feed on His faithfulness” as she struggled with infertility. Interestingly, the Psalm she chose to share is one that greatly ministered to me in a time when I was worried about the future and didn’t know whether I should try for more children.


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Take Heart Series ~ Feb 2013This post is part of our Take Heart series. This week we’re talking about everything from infertility to parenting woes.

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Linger Like Bright Light

I’m not much for multi-tasking. I’m no good at tweeting (or doing much of anything) in the middle of spoken conversation. When there are preparations to be made and sick little ones to care for and people to catch up with and celebrations to attend, I find myself spending all my words in person with not much left for the page or screen. Our Christmas ended just yesterday as my brother and his family flew back to the southwest and my husband started back to work. I’m just now thinking back on it…all these little memories that linger like the outline of bright light when you look away.

It’s been a season full of…marveling at the sparkle ~ snuggling ~ watching trains go by ~ sipping hot chocolate ~ strolling through town ~ finding lost sheep ~ anticipating Jesus ~ reading beneath the light of the tree ~ gathering the members of the Nativity scene and waiting along with them ~ growing a baby ~ singing “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” ~ bowing low and looking up ~ spreading joy with beginner spelling: “grama, it is oomost Crismis.” ~ shopping for the perfect gifts ~ celebrating with a classroom full of kindergarteners ~ naughty ~ rare moments of quiet ~ togetherness ~ filling stockings (and emptying puke buckets) ~ fattening up with biscuits and homemade apple butter after two different rounds of the tummy bug ~ roughhousing ~ sweet times with faraway family come near ~ cuddling with the newest cousin ~ building a snowman his own way ~ hosting a houseful of family for a New Year’s sleepover…and even getting a few hours of sleep.

What are some of the highlights from your holiday season?

Gone with the Woods: Clearing the Way for Blessing

We balanced ourselves as we skied down the slippery steps and headed toward the tree line. My hound tugged against the leather leash and pulled me like he was a snow dog making tracks out in the wild. It was as close as we could get to such a thing– our three-acre view of unkempt trees. The sight of the snow cradled on all the branches had lured me out of the house to hike the woods with my dog and my boy.

We studied the animal footprints and tried to guess what had hopped or galloped through before we  walked the path. “I’m making Elliot tracks,” my little boy told me, stomping his feet into the deep snow. Hoover jumped up and over every fallen trunk along our path, diving in and out of the powdery surf like a dolphin in deep waters, pure glee. He was made for this, except for the leash in my hand.

I forced out the breath that I’d been holding. It billowed into a small cloud and veiled my view. It’s all a vapor. I paraphrased the verse and kicked at a rotted log. That beauty around me would soon vanish to the tune of a Komatsu PC300 excavator shaking our sacred ground and ripping out comfortable trees by their roots.

“These trees won’t be here next winter,” I said trying to break the news to Elliot without letting my sadness leak through, “We have to enjoy them while we have them.”

My husband and I had dreamed of buying a bit of that land and fencing it off for our crazy hound and our boy to run around on. A boy needs a place to ramble and we thought if our dog could run like he was meant to, then just maybe our home could be more serene. No more dog paws ice skating across hardwoods at the sound of our little boy’s outbursts. No neurotic scratching at the bowl and drooling for food when it was right there in front of him. No more yelping at the top of his lungs for half an hour if we dared take the bark collar off. That land next to us would be the answer to all of our problems, we  dreamed. But then the sign had gone up: a public hearing to discuss land use, our beloved three-acre view in question.

By next fall, the working men surrounded us with their loud voices and loud machines and it felt like they were clawing at my gut when they cut on those trees. I walked out to the backyard to let the guys know to Beware of Dog. We hadn’t yet put up the signs. I muzzled the beast every time I sent him out into the yard, but in case the contraption came loose I wanted them to be on guard. I could just picture them doing the same as our neighbor Frieda, dangling their arms over the fence and getting chomped.

“Aww. We won’t give him any trouble,” one of the workers said. They knew a thing or two about hunting dogs. “That guy over there’s got some Bluetick pups in the truck,” they said, filling me in on the little cousins to my Treeing Walker.

The next day, somebody rang the doorbell. I gritted my teeth. The bell sent Hoover into a frenzy like it made a Pavlovian dog’s stomach growl. I stepped out into the entry and closed the glass door behind me before opening our front door to see who to thank for setting my dog off. Standing there, a soft-spoken working man in a baseball cap held out a book to me. A gold-filament silhouette of a hound dog sparkled on the black-as-a-tomb fabric cover while my own dog circled and clawed and yelled out through the sealed entry. Pages were dotted with the words of another man who had, once upon a time, started something new, perfecting the chase, the persistence, the bay and bark. While I was worried about losing the woods next door, God was using that very plot of land to prepare a place for a redemption story, bringing to my welcome mat the grandson of the man who started Hoover’s breed in the 1930s.

After another winter and spring and another bite (this time with Elliot as the victim) and what seemed like a thousand people saying “No”, “Sorry” and “It’s time to give up”, I cracked the black book open, desperate. I peered inside the front flap, grabbed the phone and pressed in each of the handwritten numbers. I waited for that soft-spoken voice to answer and then I howled out my story, tears flowing. The next day, he showed up in front of our house with a dog crate on his truck. The working man was a God-send, making things work for us, bringing a wayward hound back to the roots of the both of them, back to the very property where his grandfather cultivated the breed, where Hoover, the hooligan hound, could become who he was made to be: White River Hoover, the hunting dog.

There is a house blocking my view now. It’s been planted where the trees once stood. But my stomach doesn’t sink at the sight. It’s not that I don’t miss the woods, but what happened there has given me a new view, a view of the Spirit sprinkling serendipity into my difficulty, of Him acting behind the scenes to work all things together for good. Soil churned and upturned next door was the substance God used for bringing peace and balance to my home.

The land had to be cleared for it to happen, for my path to cross with the houndsman’s, for Hoover and all of his anxiety to be gone with the woods. I shouldn’t have been surprised even if I was amazed. It had happened before, this emptying out to make room for the new. I had to let go of flimsy dreams as I filled a cardboard box with mementos to get rid of: a hand-cut crystal vase, a container of apology letters, and a framed picture of a mountain drenched in the deluge that almost sent me careening down slippery rocks. It is hard for a writer-type to let go, to toss out the evidence, to permanently delete the details of a study in love and human behavior. But I knew I had to make room for the new, for the man who would someday be my husband to woo me without all those artifacts on display. He did so, and I can’t believe I didn’t clear the land sooner. Later, we’d learn the same lesson together, that when friendships crumble without explanation and all attempts at salvage wind up back in the junk pile, the Spirit helps us to let go and wait for what He has dreamed up for us. We turn our palms down and release our burdens, and then raise our hands up again, ready to receive, knowing that He withholds no good thing. We can trust Him to redeem the void, to use the empty places.

I’m still awestruck about all that God did in my 2011. What about you? What has been cleared from your life to make room for the new?

James 4:14
Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster, p. 31
Psalm 84:11