Family & Home

My Unmoving Mansion of Rest

Growing up, we often moved as my dad enjoyed building and selling homes. It was thrilling for my sisters and I to participate in all the details. Everything from looking at the architectural plans, painting the wooden staircase spindles, picking rocks from the dirt, and painting our parents bedroom, the latter of which was halted after we turned their wall into a canvas of creativity! Smells of hardware stores and lumber yards still bring me back to happy summer days on the building site. As I poured through home and garden magazines as a little girl, a longing for my own future home began to grow. Would it be a cozy log cabin in the woods or a sprawling homestead atop an evergreen mountain? Daydreams are longings within our heart that are enjoyed and expressed through imagination. I daydreamed often.

Fast forward many years, my husband and I and our little family have moved to four different cities and now have returned to one of them, and nine homes in twelve years! At the flower shop the other day, a clerk asked, “Are you in military service?” Paying for my lavender and aloe plants, I smiled, “No, we are in church service!”

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We have been called to a life of many ministry moves. Each one, intentionally placed within the framework of our story for God’s purposes. Moving a lot was never our intention, but it was always God’s. With another impending move in two years, after further training in church planting, I am coming to a calm contentment that my times are in His hands (Psalm 31).

In Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon writes:

“The Israelites in the wilderness were continually exposed to change. Whenever the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched; but tomorrow, ere the morning sun had risen… and the fiery, cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain… They had scarcely time to rest a little before they heard the sound of “Away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying towards Canaan!” They were never long in one place... Yet they had an abiding home in their God, his cloudy pillar was their roof-tree, and its flame by night their household fire. They must go onward from place to place, continually changing, never having time to settle, and to say, “Now we are secure; in this place we shall dwell.” “Yet,” says Moses, “though we are always changing, Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.”… My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord.”
— Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, February 27th

My heart still aches every time I think about leaving family and friends again. A knot still forms in my stomach as we talk about another transition. When these feelings come, I am comforted by those who have felt a similar call. Missionary to Burma, Ann Judson wrote often of her inward struggle in leaving all she knew to pursue a call to Burma with husband, Adoniram Judson. She wrote,

“It seems as if there was no resting place for me on earth. O when will my wanderings terminate? When shall I find some little spot, that I can call my home while in this world? Yet, I rejoice in all Thy dealings, O my heavenly Father; for Thou dost support me under every trial, and enable me to lean on thee…” 
— Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma, Sharon James, pg. 68

In the New Testament, Paul writes of God now dwelling in the hearts of believers in Christ. The dwelling place of God is now in human hearts through faith in Christ. He has become our home. I am rooted and grounded in love.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
— Ephesians 3:14-19


When the enemy tempts me to despair in the midst of so many moves, I look to my Savior, the One who chose me, rescued me from sin, and gave me a purpose on this Earth. God is the one who gives us the desires of our hearts and he has given us a passion for the calling and work he has prepared for us to do. It is in surrender to God’s will, that the morning of joy dawns and a peaceful contentment arises. Being firmly planted into union with Christ, I am “at home in my God”, and can confidently wander this Earth to serve the One who did not have a home. 

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
— Luke 9:58

As we settle into our new temporary home, with the fresh smell of the woods behind our house, pine needles and little acorns to be swept off the patio, we are grateful. The Lord has been kind to give us a place to welcome friend and stranger, to know and be known, to love and be loved. We continue to daydream of a home and a church and of many people coming to know Jesus. And our greatest dream is that all who enter here become rooted and grounded in Love.

Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God… I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.
— Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, February 27th

Woodland Hollow - A Memoire of our Life and Years at Seminary

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I remember the exact spot along the main street of our town where my husband mentioned to me that he was thinking of going back to school to get his Master of Divinity degree. My eyes widened and I took a deep breath. It was 2014 and we had just had our fourth born child. My husband was already seasoned in church ministry and as a worship and missions pastor, and we were just starting to feel settled two years into our new life in Eastern Washington. The idea of a monumental move to seminary life was both exhilarating and overwhelming. We kept talking and dreaming, researching and praying. A year of preparation later, we were on the interstate driving to our new home, a place I had never been, in St Louis, Missouri. 

Three years later, this May, my husband graduated with his Mdiv from Covenant Theological Seminary with honors. He did it! We did it! God did it! These three years are so full of life, provision, friendship and growth... and Hebrew translations! I told someone that I could write a book on our time at seminary, because God did so much!

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Our little apartment on campus has been such a blessing. At only about 900 square feet of livable space, our family of 6 has lived life to the full. Birthday parties, holiday potlucks, men’s campfire nights, prayer nights with the ladies, and coffee with friends, our small kitchen and dining area has hosted over 15-20 children and 12 plus adults at once. We don’t believe in letting the size of our home dictate how many people we welcome into our home. The Lord provides the space and the food fills the tummies.

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Surrounded by a Viburnum "Korean Spice" flowering bush, we found delight in our  patio, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of community life. A place to be still and quiet before the Lord and a place to watch the sun rise just over the hill as rays of light streamed in through the windows in the morning. The Lord knew exactly what we needed for our family of six. My husband constructed 5 garden boxes where we did a little gardening, although Ferdinand the Squirrel was caught red-handed with a cucumber in his mouth!

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We grew flowers, and grew our imaginations as little woodland friends (pet substitutes) joined us on our patio every day. Perhaps the critters felt that we needed to share the space, after all, Edith Schaeffer would have welcomed them with her hospitality! I remember one bold chipmunk running between my feet to scale the wall as I watched the birds and hummingbirds one summer afternoon! Lizzie the Lizard hasn't been seen for ages, but she made a comeback in our lives when my Kindergartner made a toilet paper roll replica of her reptile-likeness.

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The natural surroundings on campus have been a place of great imagination for the kids, making tree forts and pretending to be wolf children in the snow with their friends! One December turned out to be a lovely warmish day and the seminary kids congregated on our hill and played in the sprinkler like it was summer! At other times, it wasn’t unusual to see a seminary dad and his kids sledding past my window on an early winter morning.

God has provided for us in so many ways, financially, with our health, and in relationships. There were an abundance of trials that went along with this very sweet season of life for our family. We had to continue day by day in faith that God would provide the work and finances that we needed to get by. We were at times inundated with health issues and at other times, completely illness free for months. We watched the Lord provide as checks would come in the mail at just the right time, and we watched God work through our circumstances to push and prod us in certain directions.

There were times where we felt strong spiritual attacks and several times when I would wake up in the middle of the night speaking the name of Jesus aloud as I woke up and bolted upright. I would pray through the night and speak the Word of God aloud.

There were other times I felt the Lord's presence so strongly. And there were days I didn't know how I would make it through with all the responsibilities that were on my plate each day and the various needs of our young family. But like a gentle shepherd, Jesus cares for those with young and He carried me through this season that He called us to.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.
— Isaiah 40:11

When we first set out for seminary, there were many who had concerns if this was good for our family. What we found was, there were many families just like us who were doing just what we were doing, living by faith because of God's call, taking up our crosses to follow Him into the unknown and trusting that He would sustain and provide. We are eternally grateful for this season of life and that it is a part of our story.

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Woodland Hollow is what I named our little patio and home on the beautiful sprawling campus of Covenant Seminary. There was beauty and friendship, kindness and compassion, prayer and healing. There was sidewalk chalk and "science experiments", mud pits and basil-snatchers, fresh sweet tea and read alouds by the campfire, and conversations with expectant mothers as a birth doula. The ebb and flow of life, changing seasons, tornado warnings, summer storms, fireflies and spilled birdseed.

When I think about my favorite places in St Louis, I immediately come up with three:  the Missouri Botanical Gardens, my bedroom desk corner that looked out towards the pine tree along the path behind our building, and our living room couch where I gazed out the window to watch our children, the flowers and the birds as they grew from season to season and year to year in our special corner of St Louis.

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The Year of the Red Sea Road

Its almost magical, that week between Christmas Day and New Years. The kids enjoying their new toys, winter hikes with the family, sledding on the back yard hill with friends, celebrating my husband’s and my wedding anniversary, twinkling lights and taking stock of the year behind, while setting our gaze on the year ahead. It is almost sacred as we take time to reflect, rejoice and celebrate what our good Father has done in our hearts, our minds, our family, our lives in the past year.

As I open the pages of my new monthly planner, and sketch out the timeline of events, work, schedules, studies that are on the list to work towards this year, my heart is grateful… and dependent. It is dependent on the “I AM”, the LORD, to sustain us, to move us forward in His will, in the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. It is always about Him, and never about me. It is always His work, and my joy to receive. As I commit these plans to the Lord, He leads me to a theme.

Over twenty years ago now, when I set off on my own, a young adult spreading her wings wide to land in the hills of a small town called Comfort in the rolling bluebonnet-laden hill country of Texas, the Lord began impressing on my heart different themes for the two semesters I was at a Discipleship Bible School. It was amazing to see how God used those themes in my life and to form me. Other years, I have had perhaps a word or theme. As we enter our final semester at seminary, I reflect on the themes God has laid on my heart and look forward to this year’s theme!

When we arrived here in 2015, the theme was that of The Good Shepherd. That theme actually rolled over into 2016 as well. 2017 has been the Year of Stepping Stones as we continued to take steps of faith in various directions to see where God is leading us. Some doors closed, others opened wide, and others are in waiting. I completed my first year of work as a Birth Doula attending 8 births and assisting women as their labor coach. I wrote a piece on Planting Seeds of Wisdom in our Children’s Hearts and a biographical piece called Soul Into Blossom: The Life and Work of Lilias Trotter, in the print issues of Deeply Rooted Magazine (Issues 11 & 12), as well as a piece on Building Intentional Friendships for Family Life Canada. My husband wrote and recorded a full length album with a collection of friends called Gateway Hymns. One of the songs won a song-writing competition and was recorded by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project featuring the voices of Josh Garrels and Liz Vice. Meanwhile, my husband has been continuing to work towards his Mdiv degree after a decade of pastoral ministry. Our children have been growing by leaps and bounds  in so many areas of their lives. It has truly been a year of Stepping Stones.

As I look toward 2018, the Lord has led me to a song this year. Red Sea Road, written by Ellie Holcomb, Christa Wells, and Nicole Witt, speaks of letting go, all to follow Christ in where He is leading us. In God’s Word, we are called to speak truth to our souls, and especially in the Psalms, to sing to our souls. This is what this song speaks to me in this season of transition. In five months, we will, Lord willing, be packing up our earthly possessions to be transplanted into our next location of God’s calling.

 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Exodus 13:17-18

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Exodus 14:19-22

The Lord led His people along the Red Sea Road, the path He made before them, to lead them and give them victory. God calls us to follow Him, and that requires a cost, indeed the giving up of one’s own plans, desires, and expectations. But it is in the letting go of our lives that we find them, it is in saying with Jim Elliot, missionary to Equador, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

So we’ll sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a red sea road – Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb

As we continually surrender our lives, we know our hope is not in the things of Earth, our hope is in Christ. With our hope in Christ, we are able to let go for we have found our true home, it is Christ Himself. May we always be willing to let go of things we were never meant to keep in our grasp, so that we may live free in the will of God and trust His perfect leading.

Our eyes are fixed, Oh Lord, on You. Our gaze is set directly forward (Proverbs 4:25). You have led us to the Year of the Red Sea Road.

Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road – Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb

Our Redeemer is Writing a Story

It was February 6, 1917 in Orenburg, Ukraine, when a young single woman went into labor and gave birth to a baby girl. She named her Eleanor. Her name meant “sun ray, shining light” and that is what she was. Eleanor brought sunshine and light to a very dark world and a bleak existence. Her birth mother raised her the best she knew how to on the streets of Orenburg. She was what they called a “waif”.

During this time, laws were almost non-existent and adoption was a much easier process. At some point during the next few years, a Christian couple adopted her as their own. They also adopted a son. I’m sure Eleanor’s birth mom was relieved and thankful that her daughter would be provided for, with food, a safe and warm home, a chance at education, and a better life. As her daughter left with her new family, this young woman knew she would probably never see her again. And Eleanor would never know her father or see her mother again. But she would know what it was to be adopted, what it was to be loved, and what it was to have the narrative of her life story take a very miraculous turn.

Who is the author and finisher of my faith, my redemption, my adoption as a beloved child of God? It is Christ, full of self-sacrifical love poured out for me, for you. His Word is His message, given in love for you. The Holy Spirit is your comforter sent to seal you, walk with you, and bring truth to your mind and heart.

Your story began before the foundation of the world when you were chosen to become adopted as sons and daughters of God. Your story is intertwined with God’s narrative through the Old Testament, through the 400 silent years between the prophets of God and the coming of Christ, the Prophet, Priest and King. Laced through all these generations is the promise that your Redeemer is coming. He was coming for a people. He was coming for you. If you are in Christ, you are a part of that people.

Our life stories are filled with brokenness and sin, of our own doing and the doings of others. Wounded by words, actions, and inaction, or struggling with sickness and disease, we at times feel like our lives are a narrative we’re simply trying to survive. We fight for joy and we fight the lies of the enemy. A million types of pain, suffering, and brokenness around the world threaten to undo us.

What will it look like when we get to the other side, where the lion will lay down with the lamb, and where we can rest under the shade of the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations? You will hear the ending of your story, your final opus. And guess who will be speaking.

The Way, the Truth and the Life will be speaking. Jesus, Himself, the One with nail scars in His hands will speak restoration into the broken pieces of your story. Your past is not who you are and your wounds are not your identity. If you are in Christ, your identity has been bestowed upon you from the Giver of Grace.

“We will feast in the house of Zion, we will sing with our hearts restored.” -Sandra McCracken

Your finished story will include a redemption so complete, so whole, every wound healed, every false and hurtful word erased, every disease vanished… our hearts restored. Every false assumption or accusation will fall powerless to the ground. Every mocking voice of judgement will be silenced, every misunderstanding brought to the light… our hearts restored.

This hope of future glory should shape the way we live in community today. Hope helps us to dwell in the land of the living because it points us to a future reality where we will love perfectly and be loved perfectly by others. It helps us to have grace and forgiveness for others, because we know they too will be made whole, if they are in Christ, and their stories will have redeeming love written across them, as well.

I long for that day, when I see Jesus face to face. I’ve daydreamed about it over and over these past forty years. For now, I pray and I long. My grandmother, Eleanor, is with Christ, in His presence. Her beginning was filled with brokenness and without hope in this world, but the Redeemer came and rewrote her story. As she lay on her bed in her final hours, her grown children, Christ-followers, surrounded her bed and sang hymns of worship to our Redeemer as she breathed her last and went home to be with the Lord. Her heart restored. Our confident hope as Christians is that one day, He will hold each of our faces in his wounded hands. He will look into our eyes. Our Redeemer will write the end of the story… and it will be only the beginning.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

Prayer for a New School Year

In a couple short weeks, we will be returning home from an incredible summer back in the Pacific Northwest. The sand will be removed from all our shoes, our summer tans will be fading but still visible, freshly pressed uniforms will be donned and pencils sharpened for a new school year. How exciting to start anew!

Whatever educational model your children receive (and there are a bazillion models, so pray, pick one, and carry on!), you have the opportunity to give them, this year, a covering of prayer that God is ready and willing to bless as you lay before your Good Shepherd your children’s school year. There are unique things to pray for in any educational context, whether it be a public school, a Christian private school, a homeschool, a co-op, a fine arts school, a traditional school, a charter school, and the list goes on. Christians are in every one of these types of educational settings and parents need to cover their children in prayer.

Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street. Lamentations 2:19 ESV

Growing up, when our mom or dad dropped us off at school, they would pray for us and our day. And on the occasion that they forgot to pray, we would remind them. It became so second nature to us that we needed that knowledge that our parents had prayed over us for the day. My mother-in-law has been a part of a mom’s prayer group for over 30 years. Even to this day, though all her children are grown and grandchildren abound, she still prays once a week with these women and continue to pray for their adult children. What a gift and legacy it is to give the gift of prayer, a daily bringing our children to the Lord and requesting His work in their lives on their behalf.

A year ago, I was asked to send out weekly prayer emails for our children’s school. It is a joy to know that many of the parents are reading through the list of students and teachers for that week, and praying for each of them by name. Prayer groups like this have lasted for generations. Let’s be “torchbearers” of light for this generation.

“Prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer.”
― Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

If you are interested in starting a Christian prayer group for your educational context, school, or network of moms, Moms In Prayer International has great resources, tips, and assistance in getting a group started in your area!

“Mothers around the world come together to passionately pray before God for the lives of their children in more than 140 countries. Imagine the impact of God answering prayers for a generation of children throughout the world.”
Moms In Prayer International