Chipping Paint

My husband calls me a serial hobbiest. In other words, my hobby is collecting hobbies. I have a bad habit of starting crafty or creative projects and never actually finishing them. For instance, right now I have a few projects sitting around unfinished:

  • Monthly Crochet Blanket – I have every month’s package anxiously awaiting to be opened but I only got through the first three months or so….starting this time last year. However, I did work on it for about a half hour a few nights ago. Maybe there is hope??? Justin doesn’t think so.
  • Felt Busy Book – originally, I think I started this for my oldest neice’s 2nd or 3rd birthday….she is now about to turn 6. I have had two more nieces since then and I always say I’m doing it for one of them when I pick it back up randomly and work on it for a few days. Realistically, not one of my beautiful nieces will actually see the thing….but hopefully my friends keep having babies so I can eventually gift it! Ha!
  • Organizing pretty much any room in the house….they are all at different stages…
  • Hanging pictures/decor – even though we have been in the house for a year at this point, there are still things I haven’t hung yet. And they are patiently waiting in the corner of the dining room collecting dust… **shortly after writing this post, I DID get everything hung with the help of my lovely husband**
  • Refinishing an old foot board/bench/dresser thing that was left in our old basement – I started sanding it a week month ago – haven’t touched it since…
  • Door project for our basement – yes, we are turning multiple old doors into a wall (or 3) – Justin’s job is the actual wall building. I have to do the prep work on the doors we have managed to salvage at auctions and yard sales. I’ve actually been pretty diligent about this one and I only have three and a half doors left. But it looks like our warm weather is only going to last the next two days…so I better get to work….oh wait, I would rather be writing…

But that’s where the chipped paint comes in. God is funny about the things He uses to remind us of life’s lessons. Tonight, as I scraped paint off of an old door – slowly achieving the chippy paint look I want, He used that process to exemplify how He works in our lives.

Chipping paint, without a stripper, is interesting work. Especially when there are three or four layers on top of the beautiful, original wood. Some paint areas comes off without any problems. I could practically blow on it and watch it flake, but other areas need some more convincing. Sometimes I just have to use the better paint scraper. Other times, I need to push a little harder. And some areas just need you to come at it from a different angle. But through it all – I have to be cautious to not damage the wood face that lies beneath the paint – I want to maintain its beauty.

I think God looks at us this way. He can see the beauty beneath all the layers of paint that have hardened over the years. Some of that paint we put there ourselves, trying to cover our own messes. Some of the paint was left by others – shaping us to what they saw fit or even over splash from some of their own messy repainting.

No matter how many layers of paint, no matter who put them there, God is determined to reveal who we were truly made to be. Sometimes that’s easy – the layers of paint flake off with ease. But, more often than not, God has to use a little elbow grease to get underneath that paint. He has to push us past our comfort, move in ways we weren’t expecting. And that can be painful! When we’re extremely stubborn, sometimes He has to approach it at a different angle, or multiple angles, to get that hard, old paint to chip away.

Varied layers of chipped paint on old wooden door
Photo by Ronald Cuyan on Unsplash

Without the metaphor – what does this actually look like? The sin that almost all of us deal with is pride, right? In fact, if we’re being honest, pride is the root of most sin. And pride can be tough to uncover – it masquerades as other things – anger, control, shame, and so much more. God desperately wants to rid us of that pride. So He gently nudges the obvious signs. But when that doesn’t work, as Proverbs 16:18 says, pride goeth before the fall (yeah, I went a little KJV there…my bad…). He will often hand us over to our own problems and let us “learn the hard way.” Maybe that looks like losing a promotion or making the headlines in a not so positive way. But sometimes that angle still doesn’t get the root of your pride. It stubbornly sticks around, so God has to try a different angle, maybe one that will hurt a bit more (therefore, waking you up). This time, the fall that comes doesn’t just harm you – but it harms those around you – your spouse, your children a business partner….the list goes on. They begin to be affected, very obviously, by the pride you have been dealing with. He allows our own actions to lead to the consequences that will wake us up. Now, because of their pain, you allow that pride to slowly chip away.

He can finally chip off that last stubborn layer of paint and expose the beauty of who you were meant to be. The best part about His process, though, is that He won’t hurt the beauty that lies beneath. Not in the least. His desire is to restore that beauty, render the masterpiece undamaged, unique, and as it was always created to be. Yeah, we’re going to feel some pain in the process – but it’s the kind of pain that leaves you better in the end.

Side illustration – I recently cut my finger pretty badly in the process of chopping cabbage. Typically, that’s dealt with at home. But it would NOT stop bleeding. Unfortunately, I ended up at the urgent care. While I, thankfully, avoided stitches, they had to sterilize the wound and then glue it closed. As the PA preps the swab for sterilization (preventing infection) he warns me that it will sting. Okay, sure – I grew up in the era of peroxide and iodine fixing every scrape, scratch, and blister. No big deal. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, when he applied the swab, I almost swore (which is not something I usually do)! The pain was intense and immeasurably more than I had anticipated. But that pain was intended for my good.

Just as some of the pain that is allowed in your life, is ultimately intended for your good.

Yeah, the chipping paint metaphor isn’t perfect. But as I sat and chipped away at the paint on probably the tenth door in the past few weeks, it reminded me of how stubborn I can be, how unwilling I am to learn the lessons He has for me. Control issues? He has come at that in almost every angle imaginable and yet I still struggle, I still don’t want to let the residual paint chips go. Somehow, I think that last bit of paint makes me better. But He knows that it’s covering up who He made me to be. With that paint left, I’m only a fraction of what He intends.

And He has SO much more for me than I could ever imagine.

I’m also willing to bet that I have more layers of paint than I care to admit. But I’m ready to let Him do the hard work in my life to reveal what is waiting beneath.

Even when it hurts..

P.S. Don’t forget – there is beauty in the process!! After all – I’m about to put a dozen or so chippy paint doors on my basement wall. The process….it definitely has a vibe!

Take Off Your Graveclothes

I love when God moves and gives you confirmation to move forward. You see, I actually started writing this post the last day of October (even made a “mummy-esque” post on socials since it was Halloween. But months later, and after multiple revisions, it still sat in my drafts. Fastforward to the new year and our church is doing a sermon series called “Life to the Full,” based on the very scripture I use in this post. That sermon series is speaking right to the heart of what I’m trying to communicate here, so I figured now was the right time to share.

Our family mission is to cultivate life in those around us by being love. But that life, it isn’t just any old life, it is abundant life! Filled to the max, overflowing, give-you-that-warm-feeling-all-over, head-to-toe love. You see, we believe what Scripture says…

A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

John 10:10

Jesus came so that may have life in abundance!

Do you ever feel like you’ve done what you could to feel fulfilled, but still feel like you’ve fallen short? Like something is missing? Maybe you go to church on Sunday, serve on occasion, and maybe even attend a small group. But, for some reason, it isn’t life giving. Do you go through the motions every day wishing there was more?

Friend, you are not alone. John Eldridge puts it this way,

“There are millions of people who love Jesus but experience Him only occasionally, more often stumbling along short of the life He promised, like Lazarus wrapped in His graveclothes.”

Restoration Year

It is time to take off your graveclothes! It’s time to step into the abundant life He has waiting for you. Yes, you might need to give up something(s), maybe make a job change, or even a move. But I promise you, whatever is on the other side – it’s more than you could possibly imagine.

I know that sometimes the life you have now seems like everything you’ve ever wanted. But, I’m telling you, if Jesus isn’t in it, if He hasn’t led you to that point, than you’re only living a fraction of what could be.

But what does that look like? What does it mean for Him to be IN something? For Him to truly be leading every step of your life?

Think of it this way – I’ve heard a few times recently that people don’t like to attend the one popular church in our area because “I see the same people there on Sunday morning that I did on Saturday night.” In other words, I don’t want the Sunday morning people to know how I behaved on Saturday night.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s the Holy Spirit trying to tell you something. Maybe, just maybe, whatever you’re doing on Saturday night isn’t exactly what the Lord has for you. I mean, if you remember the night before, I’m sure it was fun and full of laughter. And I know you don’t want to give those Saturday night vibes up.

But what He has is better, I promise you, SO much better. This world can only give us fleeting tastes of happiness and joy. He can offer true joy, joy that lasts, even when things are hard. When you take off those graveclothes, when you step out of what the world has you wrapped up in….a whole new world is waiting.

And, no, it isn’t the stodgy, uptight, not-allowed-to-have-fun Christianity that you may have experienced in the past or have seen portrayed on TV.

It is a truly full life. The kind of life that most people yearn for but can’t quite put a finger on what they are missing. Now, let me clarify here that a full life here on this side of eternity is by no means a perfect life. But it’s a life that remains at peace and with joy when the difficulties come.

I wish I could better put into words what it’s like to fully live with Jesus as your Lord, as your King, following in His every step, moving when He moves, resting when He rests…. But there isn’t anything to compare it to because it is truly unlike anything else. When you fully step into where God wants you to be in every way, things become so much clearer. It’s as if you were living without glasses, half blind but convinced that this is what life was. And then someone gave you the right prescription and a whole new world opened up. Or I imagine it’s like the first time a deaf child hears or when someone who is colorblind tries the new glasses that help them see the world the way it truly is. What was life, what seemed normal and somewhat complete, was merely a shadow of what reality is.

When you finally remove those graveclothes, it’s a whole new sense of freedom. Freedom is found when you are living the life you were made for! Because, you, yes YOU, were made for a purpose! You were made for more.

So how do you get to that point? How do you take your graveclothes off and step into the more you were made for? One step at a time. Too often we take a step, make a decision, and then ask God to bless it. We rush into the next thing because we’re looking for that something more. And we hope and pray God keeps up with it all. But the reality is, we should be following in His shadow, following His leading, walking in His foot steps. For every decision you make – from car shopping to job hunting – seek Him first. When a decision is placed before you, don’t make an immediate decision. Take time in prayer, seek counsel, spend time in His word and seek out what it is He wants for you. Do we have free will? Absolutely. Sometimes choices in our life are there because God loves us enough to give us choices. Other times God has a clear path for you that is not only beneficial for you, but for the others affected as well.

Those decisions can often be terrifying (i.e. opening a coffee shop or moving to a different state) but, again, I promise it will be worth it. Our real-life example looks like this: Justin received a job offer in a different state, not quite two years into the adventure of opening a non-profit coffee shop in our community. His instant reaction was ‘no’ and he was certain I would say no. And when he laid it all out in front of me, my gut reaction was most definitely to say no. But something in me stopped and my immediate reply was, “well, let’s see what God is doing before we make a rash decision.” Honestly, there were reasons on both sides to make a rash choice and just move forward. Thankfully, we had learned at that point in our faith walk that we always want to be in step with what God is doing, because things tend to get extra messy when we aren’t a part of what He intends. So we sought Him, we sought wise counsel, and it slowly became clear that moving was our next step.

For so many reasons, that was the hard decision and often times didn’t seem to make sense. But God knew better than we did. Now, I can’t say that I know exactly why we now live in Michigan. There hasn’t been this miraculous revelation that made the agonizing decision process so worth it. But I have seen His hand of blessing multiple times, He has confirmed over and over, in simple ways, that we made the right move. And, ultimately, I can feel that it was the right move because of the abundant life and amazing peace that has followed. Does abundant mean monetary blessings? Or physical blessings? No, it means my soul is right. And when my soul is right, when I am living in what He has for me, there is not a better feeling in this world. In fact, my physical health took a turn for the worst not long after we moved. It was difficult and I questioned things often. But, through it all, I had such a serene peace. Justin and I have both grown so much because of this move. We are both individually better because of it, and our relationship together is better.

So what is God asking of you in this season? Is He asking something big? A job change so you can better focus on your family? Or a move out of state? Or maybe it’s something more simple like giving up over-time to serve at the church or taking the leap to go to school and get that degree or asking someone to coffee.

Saying “yes” to God sometimes means saying “no” to other things. But those yeses make all the difference. One “yes” to Him can literally be the difference between life and death.

Take the next step. Take off your graveclothes. Step into LIFE!

What can you do to truly grow close to God today and allow Him to become the Lord of your life and not just a piece of it?

As noted above, our church is currently doing a sermon series very similar to what you’ve read here, so it’s a great place to dive a little deeper. You can find the series on most podcast services by searching @thejchurch

The Reality of Depression

Depression.

It’s a fickle thing.  Always there but not always present.  Sometimes visible, other times very well hidden.  But lurking, waiting to appear when it so pleases.

When it does choose to appear, it can be all at once – a burst of anger or intense emotion.  Or, in my experience, much more subtle…

It creeps in bit by bit, like streams in a forest that trickle through the undergrowth.  Slowly, they join into creeks that gurgle a bit.  Then these creeks join into rivers that sometimes flow smoothly but, occasionally, become raging rapids that threaten to drown anyone who doesn’t have sure footing.

What happened slowly and quietly, is now a life-interrupting problem.  And navigating those rapids is difficult.  One wrong move, and you are tumbling through a tumultuous current, trying so hard to get your feet underneath you, to catch a breath of much needed air – all while scuffing sharp rocks and inhaling gulps of blistering cold water that burns your lungs.

When you finally find your footing, things are still shaky.  Barely able to breathe, lungs still burning and unable to fill up with much needed oxygen, you try to focus on what’s around you, but it’s all too much.  Everything is blurry and it’s difficult to move.

But you keep going.  Because you have to.  The world is still turning.  And though, every once in awhile someone notices you’re a little off, most people are oblivious to the fact that, moments ago, you almost drown.  And that the current is threatening to pull you back in at any moment.

Goodness, you’re not even aware of how truly close it is until it sucks you under.  Before you know it, that raging river has turned into nasty brackish water; full of salt, burning the wounds created by the rocks and river bottom.  

For a moment, you are floating, calm and surreal, all seems well in the calm bay you have found yourself in.  But it fools you.  For the current is pulling you around the bend, straight into an angry ocean.

Here, the waves are stronger than the rapids.  Here, you can’t tell which way is up.  Sunlight disappears and there is only water pulling you lower and lower.

You become numb.  You feel nothing.  There are no tears or uncontrollable sobbing.  But no joy either.  Here, in the depths of the dark ocean, you feel absolutely nothing.  

What used to make you cry doesn’t even make you twitch. What used to bring joy and pleasure is dull and lifeless. Every day goes on like the one before. No hope of change. No light.

My friends, please know that this is NOT the end. There IS a tomorrow. It may not be the next day or the next day but…

…tomorrow is coming.

For those of us who know and believe in the One True King, depression will never be the end-all-be-all. It isn’t what God desires for us and it certainly isn’t what He intended for us. Like many other things this side of eternity, depression is part of the brokenness of this world. It was never meant to be this way. So for that, we pray and hope in “Your Kingdom come.” Because His Kingdom WILL come. We can rest in the hope that this broken piece of our world will not last forever. When His Kingdom is made full and complete, depression and anxiety will be no more. Wholeness and love are all we will know – life forever in the glory and beauty of His presence. No more gasping for breath, no more nearly drowning.

Can you imagine?

For today, hold onto that hope, hold onto that promise – even when it feels like that hope is all you have left – hold on.

Tomorrow is coming.

Family on Mission

Family on mission. I feel like that counts as a “buzz phrase” these days. Everything is all about mission statements and core values and vision. From business, to ministry (including churches), to side hustles, families, and more, this idea of having a mission, a focus, is consistently pushed. And for good reason.

Craig Groeschel puts it this way, “Everyone is going somewhere. But not everyone is going somewhere on purpose.” Me, my family – we will end up somewhere, but are we going to get there on purpose? Are we going to get there together? I hope so. And if I’m hoping, then I should be doing everything in my power to make sure that we are working together for a common goal with common values.

Justin and I have often talked about having a family mission statement. In fact, way back at the beginning of our ministry voyage, we were mentored by an organization called As Family We Go started by Rend Collective (I talk more about that here). And that kind of became our motto: As family we go…whatever we do, whatever God calls us to, we are doing it together, as a family. So, we threw around some ideas, talked about some values…but that’s it. All we did was talk. We never finalized, we never implemented.

Fast forward four or five years and we move to Michigan. Here, after a series of God moments and the Holy Spirit’s leading, we found a new church. The values and mission they have established were encouraging and lit a tiny spark for us to look at that in our own lives again. So we talked….again… but didn’t do much more than that.

Meanwhile, Justin is pouring everything he has learned in the past decade or so into his new job – with a huge emphasis on company culture: mission, values, etc.

And then our church hosts a “discover your calling” event. I decided to go. It was eye opening. We walked through our past experiences, our current passions and giftings, and essentially walked away with some sort of purpose (or mission) statement. I was excited. It wasn’t exactly new information for me (I think for most people it isn’t), but it was rejuvenating. It helped me reframe the season of life that I’m in, helped me see that I AM living out my calling, even if I’m “just” a stay-at-home mom now (I don’t say the word just here lightly…but, sometimes, let’s face it, it’s how I feel…).

That excitement stirred me to sit down and go through the process with Justin. Once he had personally gone through it, we came together and walked through what that would look like for our family, together. While we never had anything officially written on paper, we realized that we were, mostly intentionally, living out a mission together as a family already.

Maybe that’s the case with you. Maybe you don’t necessarily need a mission statement or a list of values. Maybe your family already operates with a set of values and you’re working together to accomplish the goals of God’s Kingdom. But maybe not. Maybe you’re stuck in the American dream, fighting hard to earn that next promotion so you can afford that new car, or that boat, or the down payment for the lake house you’ve been dreaming of. Maybe you’re struggling with keeping up with the Jones’ next door – after all, they just re-sided their house and added a gorgeous backyard space where even you want to spend most of your day. Don’t you deserve that at your own house?

Or maybe you’re just surviving the day to day – get to work, make sure the kids are fed and that they don’t unalive themselves, pay the bills, make dinner, go to church, rinse, and repeat. So often we just go through the motions. But the reality is – you’re still going to end up somewhere. Don’t you want to get there on purpose?

Take some time today and truly evaluate what your purpose is – what is God calling you specifically to do? Because we are all called. We have all been give the great commission – to go and make disciples. But how has God equipped you, through experience, passions, giftings, etc., to do that as only you were uniquely created to do? Then, take it a step further – how does your spouse, your family fit into that? How can you become a family on mission together?

To get your gears turning, I’ve included our families mission statement and values below:

Cultivate LIFE in others by being LOVE.

  • Courage – Do It Afraid
  • Integrity – Do the Right Thing
  • Compassion – Get in the Mess

A quick Google search will give you hundreds of other examples and Focus on the Family has put together a great how-to guide here.

Where God Leads

For those of you who know us personally, or for those who have followed along on this blog journey for some time – know that we were called to (and did!) start a coffee shop with the intention of building community and connection, a place to belong.

Well…not long after opening, a little less than 2 years (most of that in COVID land), we felt God calling us elsewhere. And it made no sense. In fact, 3 months later, I still can’t give a solid reason as to why He did.

I do eventually want to share how successful and amazing the coffee journey was (and yes, that coffee shop is still going strong). But, for today, I want to share the story of why we aren’t there anymore…

A few days before Easter 2021 (yep, mid pandemic), as we were prepping for our annual Egg My Yard fundraiser, Justin received a phone call that would forever change the trajectory of our lives. It was a job offer, quite honestly, out of the blue…and out of state. We didn’t ask for it, we weren’t looking. Justin sat down to tell me and was shocked when I replied, “let’s see what God is doing…” He was absolutely certain I would reply with a big, fat, non-negotiable “NO!!” We have learned over the 10+ years of our marriage that when these things happen, when one of us expects the other to respond a certain way and they don’t, that we need to lean in.

The next few weeks consisted of us telling some very trusted friends, family, and mentors so that they could be praying for discernment. My heart and gut both said to stay. I didn’t want to leave my family, I didn’t want to take my children away from their grandparents and cousins, I didn’t want to leave my friends and the amazing community we had surrounded ourselves with. Start over? Where we knew very few people? Where I literally knew no one in our phase of life? Um……no….

But we kept praying. And the more we prayed, the more God spoke to our hearts. We continued to seek wisdom from mentors in our lives, we talked through all of the things that didn’t make sense (and still couldn’t make heads or tails of it). It took months and a final decision wasn’t made until shortly before October. It was time for us to move. Literally.

Why didn’t it make sense? We had just started a ministry that God had been calling us to for the past 4 or 5 years. We had relentlessly given most, if not all, of our free time in the past 4 years to ensure that the plan God placed in our hearts would come to life. We had sacrificed much only for COVID to derail our best efforts at building community. But we kept moving forward, we kept going. And just when things seemed to be getting back on track, this bomb was dropped in our life. Not to mention the people we would let down or upset or offend in the process…. What would people think?!?!

Not only that, but we had a fantastic community of people surrounding us, pouring into us, loving us, and so much more. It was something we had longed for, for so very long. Why would we leave that?!?

I’m not sure I have ever wrestled with something so much.

But little by little, God kept nudging and confirming that moving was our next step. There weren’t neon signs or jaw-dropping moments, but it was a still small voice confirming our direction.

I struggled so much with not being able to explain why. I wanted to be able to say we had this huge ministry opportunity God was calling us toward. But Justin was taking a secular job and I would be staying home. It sounded lack-luster in the realm of God’s calling. And it sounded very much like we were taking a better opportunity and leaving for money or riches. But I can say with confidence, that had Justin’s offer been less than he was currently making, we would have still gone – we were that convinced that God had placed this all before us. Part of me still fears that people think otherwise, which I have to let go of….

What I know now is that God has confirmed continually that we are where we are meant to be. I still don’t have the big “why,” maybe we never will… But I do know, for a fact, that He is working this all for our good AND He is working this for the good in all that we left behind: the ministry, our friends, our family, etc.

I do grieve what was, especially what I thought my life was going to look like, but we are fully embracing this new season. There are certainly days I wish that we could be back in the trenches of coffee ministry – I had some incredibly amazing conversations about faith (and other things) and we made some fantastic friendships that never would have happened otherwise. It was hard to pass the baton on. It was like taking my 2-year-old and leaving them, permanently, in the care of someone else, with no say whatsoever how they would be raised. Letting go was hard. We had gone through the labor process and the trial filled land of infancy. We had survived! I was so excited to see how God was going to move now, now that we were almost on the other side of the pandemic and entering a new season. I don’t get to see that play out the way I wanted to….

BUT, I 100% believe God has used that shift to fulfill dreams we wanted but hadn’t quite reached. From the beginning we had wanted multiple churches involved (not just ours) and we had started in a space much smaller than we had hoped. While we had tried to pull others from different churches to be on the board, we just couldn’t get a firm commitment. Our volunteer base had originally been very diverse: many churches, unchurched, etc. But during the height of the pandemic that drastically changed, and we were operating mostly with a bare bones crew, all from the same church.

Now, now it looks SO different. And I can’t take any credit! The board is made up of MANY different churches as well as the volunteer base. It’s exciting to see some of the people who had been on the fringes become a part of making our that community better! AND, they are moving to a bigger space that is OWNED by the non-profit, not just rented. Because my dad is still very involved, I also know that they have had many things donated for that space and some miraculous financial situations take place in a time when everything is still so uncertain.

It’s still hard for me to hear about it sometimes. I think that’s grief. It’s so bittersweet. I am beyond excited to see God bringing visions we had 4 years ago to completion today. I’m a little sad that we aren’t a part of it. But I am thankful for the season we are in.

I think God knew we needed rest more than we realized. Building a ministry (almost literally) is no joke. Add two kids (one of them born right in the middle of that), making a living, my chronic illness, a pandemic, other responsibilities, and so much more….I’m honestly not sure how we survived. It had to be by the grace of God.

And it is by the grace of God that R&P Coffee Co. continues today (in a bigger way!) and that we, as a family, get to more fully depend on Him in this brand new and uncomfortable season.

So… this probably doesn’t give you the “why” you were looking for when you started reading…but hopefully you can see our heart; hopefully you can see how God was involved every step of the way. We wouldn’t have done ANY of this without His leading.

Listen for His voice, pay attention to His movement in your life. What is He doing? Where is He leading? Join Him! I promise you won’t regret it. I don’t.

Unmet Expectation

Sometimes life isn’t what we expect. I had dreams as a child. I wanted to work at Sea World and be a marine biologist who got to work with Shamu and the dolphins (super glad I didn’t go that route). I had dreams as a teenager and as I moved into young adulthood. I dreamed of being a pilot and taking the Gospel into remote villages of South America or Africa. While that dream didn’t pan out either, for soooooo many reasons….one did. I became a mom.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to have my own children, to teach them, to play with them, to love them. I was a nanny for a few years after college and absolutely loved it! We made tin foil rivers for ice cube boats, had backyard picnics, went to the park as often as we could, fed the ducks and geese with our leftover bread from lunch (don’t judge), caught leprechauns, and had movie days when they were under the weather.

Real life as a mom doesn’t exactly look like that. I mean…for me… Yeah, I see those moms on social media, on Pinterest. And there are SO many days that I compare myself to them and fall so, so short of what I see. But, for one, it isn’t real life. I don’t see the imperfect of their lives because social media allows us to filter all of that out. And, second, life looks different as an adult than it does through the eyes of a child. Being a mom seemed glamorous and fun.

The reality? There will always be dishes and laundry. It is literally never ending. In fact, there is a stack of clothes on the couch waiting to be folded and an ever growing pile of dishes next to the sink because I SERIOUSLY HATE DOING DISHES! Meals need planned, groceries need bought, the house won’t clean itself, appointments have to be made and canceled and rescheduled, and so. much. more.

Not my actual sink (mine is MUCH worse). Photo by Kelly Moon on Unsplash

21-year-old-me, newly married and hopefully expectant, expects today-me to also plan daily crafts (obviously found on Pinterest), cook organic food, make my own cleaners, create awesome memories that they will never forget, homeschool, volunteer on the PTA (for homeschool kids?!?), take them to sports, volunteer in a ministry, and a million things I’m sure I’m forgetting that I wanted to do…

And let’s be honest – on a good week – not all of that is possible! Or healthy! Why did I think it was?!?! But life threw me another curve ball called chronic illness. I have good days and I have bad. But those bad days mean that more has to be crammed into the good days. I barely have time to do the necessary things let alone all of the “extras.” I spent almost a full year in therapy dealing with this. And I came out on the other side with a much better grasp of reality. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. When I have a really great day, I trick myself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’m getting better and the next day, and the next, and the next will also be good.

But then something as simple as a blood draw cripples me to the couch. Yes, a blood draw. For a routine check-up. Well, it was a blood draw where I had to be poked 3 times because I have awful veins….but still only one or two vials. That was at 2pm….I wasn’t back to the land of the living until the next afternoon. And the world keeps turning. We still have to get homeschooling done, there is still laundry waiting to be washed, dried, or folded. And that insane pile of dishes isn’t going to wash itself.

Today we got a doozy of snow storm. At least a foot in daylight hours. Justin is away on a work trip. I talked to him about hiring someone to deal with the driveway, but we both thought I should try – after all, exercise is something I’m lacking and need to add to my wide-open schedule (ha!). So while the kids were out building snow forts and collecting icicles, I put on as many layers as possible and trudged out into the snow. An hour later I was 1/3 of the way done and could barely stand. I paid for it the rest of the day. We didn’t finish school and we had cereal and waffles for dinner because I was not going to cook.

As I looked outside at the sadly shoveled driveway (now covered with a new inch or two of snow) and watched my kids eat cereal while watching the 2nd movie of the day….I felt like a failure. Who am I kidding? I still feel like a failure. I still have to figure out how to get our driveway taken care of before tomorrow evening so Justin can even get into it, I have to catch up on school tomorrow, I still have dishes to wash and clothes to fold, and I can already tell my body won’t like me tomorrow. And in the back of my head all I can hear are the words to “Surface Pressure” from Encanto: “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service.”

Worthless. I look back at the mom I thought I would be and the mom I actually am and I don’t measure up. At all. 18-year-old-Bri would be highly disappointed in me. For not pushing through. For not having it all together. For not having a spotless house. For not being able to shovel the driveway when my husband isn’t home. I am fragments of what I wanted to be.

Every day. Well, every bad day, I have to remind myself from one moment to the next, that my worth is not found in what I do. It isn’t found in footprint art that I’ve never done with my own kids, or in coming up with creative activities every day. It isn’t found in my physical ability to withstand a blood draw or a driveway shoveling. And, past-self, it isn’t found in your grades, accolades, or rewards…

My worth comes in the fact that I am loved by God. He created me, He formed me, He fashioned me, and He loves me more than I know. Everything that I struggle with on a daily basis is already on His heart. I am lovely, I am worthy, because He loves me. There is freedom in that. Freedom from disappointment and expectation.

I’m not writing this to say I have it figured out and the weight of expectation (from self and others) doesn’t bother me. I’m writing this to get out of a funk, to overcome the negative inner thoughts, and focus on the Truth. I’m writing this as a reminder that I am who God says I am. I am not defined by a diagnosis or bloodwork. I’m not defined by social media or Pinterest. And I am *not* defined by what’s checked off on my to-do list at the end of the day.

So tonight I will go to bed wrestling between the overwhelming freedom of Love that Christ has given me and the grief and disappointment of unmet expectations. But where do those thoughts come from? The enemy. For he has come to “steal, kill, and destroy.” He wants to steal my joy, kill my hope, and destroy any sense of freedom I have found. On many days, he wins. On occasion, he wins the battle, and I wallow in self-pity or self-hate. BUT, and this is the a BIG but – we already know, he already knows, that he is defeated in the end. He WILL NOT win the war.

So, friend, keep fighting with me. I’ll fight harder on your bad days and vice versa. Let’s stand strong, no matter what sort of battle we are facing. Know, KNOW, that you are loved, you are worthy, and you are never alone. Keep reminding others of that too. They need it.

I need it.

The Burdens We Carry

Have you ever run into someone who was rude or oddly quiet? Usually we take offence or assume something negative (I think it’s in our sin-nature). But, what if that person is just genuinely overwhelmed by something they can’t talk about? What if they just don’t have the words to express what’s going on?

We so often see this in children. They don’t know how to express the big feelings that are inside of them, how to communicate what their minds are thinking and bodies are feeling. So it comes out in tantrums or withdrawal or biting or misbehaving in any number of ways. And we easily forget that they are just trying to communicate. Trust me, I forget all the time. My temper runs hot and my patience short when it comes to their big feelings….

And, adults, well, we expect them to have the whole “feelings” thing figured out. But do you? Because I sure don’t. I’m a hot mess. Especially when I’m wrestling with something or overwhelmed with any number of things life has thrown my way. We make excuses for ourselves but forget that others are dealing with similar things. Yes, sometimes those things are self-inflicted. But, often times, they aren’t. But should it matter if the things we struggle with are self-inflicted or not?? Even those self-inflicted struggles are sometimes consequences we recognize but cannot change. Knowing it is our own fault definitely doesn’t make the struggle easier…

But, I digress…the point of this post….well, one of them… is that you never really know what someone is struggling with. I, somewhat, write this selfishly. People see me and often see a chipper 30-something momma who has it all together. But I am FAR from that. Currently, I am struggling with the weight of a life-changing decision, numerous health issues (including chronic pain) that are yet to be solved, side effects from medications that *might* help, looming depression from said issues, and the constant needs of a 6 and 3 year old.

It is SO easy for me to wallow in self-pity, to grab the blanket, hide from the world, and believe that my life is sooooo difficult. And, yeah, my life isn’t a walk in the park right now. It is heavy and messy and difficult. But so is your life. So is the life of your neighbor, the brother or sister who sits three rows back in church, your actual sibling, and so on… They may not have my struggles. They may not have your struggles. But, heaven knows, they have struggles.

Shouldn’t we all try to be a little more patient with others?? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? What if they were dealing with what you are? Would they handle it the same? Would it be a breeze? Or would it break them? We cannot know.

What I do know is that my hope is in Jesus. As I sat down this evening, wanting to curl up on the couch and disappear, I opted to, instead, read from the Word of God and listen to some worship music. I’m SO glad I did. Nothing changed in that time. I still have the same struggles. But my burden was lightened as He took on some of that load. As I wrapped up my reading, the song Another in the Fire came on. It was exactly what I needed to hear. He doesn’t promise to take away the fire but He DOES promise to be with me through it. No matter what I face, He is by my side. And, sometimes, He is holding back more than I am facing and I don’t even know it.

There is another in the fire…

Today was a hard day for me. But it was a day of rejoicing for a sister in Christ. While she was in the fire for some time, today was the day that fire went out. And I am rejoicing with her.

As for me, just as Radshack, Meshack, and Abednego said – my God will save me. But EVEN IF HE DOESN’T – I still believe.

I was going to end here, but I think I need to add: It is okay to not be okay. Yes, I know that the Lord is with me, but that doesn’t mean the fire doesn’t hurt. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have to wrestle.

So, if you see me and I seem quiet….if I don’t say hello or I come off as short or rude, please be patient. My heart is hurting. Most days, I carry it well. But some days I’m just exhausted…

Be patient with me. I’ll do my best to do the same for you!

Victory is Sure

I found this poem in a keepsake box of mine, written by me. I felt like I should share it. I’m fairly sure it was written after a break up. BUT, there are definitely still things to be gleaned and applicable to my life today. How difficult is it to get our heart, mind, and soul to work as one? Especially in times of chaos. But I think that’s where true peace comes in. How do we bring our heart, mind, and soul together? By giving them over to the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. Which is much easier said then done. But every day I’m trying…

Blank pages fill to brim
As my emotion overflows again
All is well, nothing amiss
But I feel as though the world collapsed
Like nothing is sacred anymore
I give my heart away
Each time thinking it will be different
That Godly standards will be met
Foolish human error won't intervene
But letting my heart believe is a deceiving my mind
It knows better
It remembers the pain, the embarrassment
Its like a battle within my own being
Pulling one way, pushing the other
Spears and swords than bullets and bombs
Blood is shed
But victory is sure
I don't know which will take control
The heart?  The mind?
I hope the soul.

But maybe once I stop to rest
Give up my need to be the driver
Pull over, switch places, close my eyes
Then maybe, just maybe...peace will win
Sheaths and guns will disappear
A new victory will surface
Heart, mind, and soul will work as one
So I can fulfill my purpose...

Entering a Pandemic

It has been over 6 months since I last wrote… and a LOT has happened since then – let me briefly catch you up:

The Good – We officially opened R&P Coffee Co. between Thanksgiving and Christmas and it has been amazing (that story starts here)! We easily met more people in our community in the 6 weeks after opening than we had in the 6 years we lived here. I have sooooo many things to share – but that’s for another day!

The Bad – My struggle with depression intensified a bit with opening the shop. While I did have a peace with all that was happening, change is always a challenge for me.

The Ugly – Well….I hate to state the obvious…but we entered a global pandemic. Less than 3 full months into operating a new business/ministry, still struggling with the adjustments, and the whole world got flipped on it’s head. Needless to say, the whole depression issue got much worse.

BUT…it did get better.

I wrote the following on my typewriter on the day they announced that schools were closed for 2 weeks (over 2 months ago…):

As I sat on the couch, it became clear that I was not okay. I was not myself.

The shelves sat half empty, but as I walked through the aisles, as I heard the whispers and saw the face masks, it became very clear to me that the world would be different now. No matter what, none of us would be the same. It wasn’t about not having bread or milk, or heck, even toilet paper, it was the fact that history was, no is, being made. Tomorrow we will wake up to face a future that no American has experienced before. We may be entering an era much like the depression. Fianances are going to be hit hard. The economy is rapidly tanking in a way we have never seen. Or it could blow over and we will look back at this as a time we overreacted to a bad cold.

But today, I was going to remember how it was. I was going to remember the way I could pick up my phone and connect with anyone I could dream of in a matter of moments. I have to remember the look of joy as my kids had their season’s first ice cream, or the giggles as they spilled some in the midst of sharing even though I’ve reminded them 100x that sharing isn’t the best idea right now. I want to remember the hope of opening the coffee shop and wanting to make a difference right here where we are. I want to remember the innocence of my children – they have no fear, no worrries, no second thoughts. They haven’t been to the store and heard the hushed whispers of the unsure or seen the terror of a group of teens (maybe 20 somethings) wearing face masks and debating how they are best going to spend their $50. Would it be name brand medicine (all thats left) or their favorite snacks? My children don’t see the overwhelmed widow who is staring at the empty shelves and wondering what tomorrow is going to hold. They are oblivious to the severity of the week’s events. All they know is that they get more time to play at home, that Mommy is home a bit more – and that’s all good for them.

My thoughts are jumbled, jumping around like the jumping beans I used to play with in grade school. One moment I think its all silly – we’re going to wake up and realize it was all an overreaction – like when I get angry at my husband for not rinsing the dishes. I say something ridiculous, we end up fighting all night, and then realize it was all over a dish, a simple, silly little dish. But then I look at the world around us and the turmoil that are already facing and I fear that we have underreacted. I fear that we haven’t done enough. In two weeks, I hope I’m not laying on the couch finding it difficult to breathe while my kids lay in the other room coughing and hacking because we’ve been carrying around COVID-19 this whole time. And while I’m 95% certain we would all survive, what about all of the immune compromised individuals I ran into in that time frame? The eldery? Those currently undergoing chemo or on other life-altering drugs? There is such a fine line between being smart and being fearful. Just as their is a very find line between being selfish and common sense.

We may never know the direct impact we each have had with our choices. But the consequences remain despite our knowledge. Just because we don’t see the consequences doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. Just because I don’t see the elderly couple in despair in the canned good section of the grocery store or the new mom staring at empty diaper shelves, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Every choice we make has ripples of impact.

It is an easy time to forget that the world is so much larger than just us. Do I bunker down or do we go out and help? What is tomorrow going to look like? What about a month from now? Or 6 months? Or even a year from now? I have a feeling our lives are going to look completely different for so many reasons. Our healthcare system is probably going to be getting an overhaul and be seriously backed up dealing with the side effects of now. Anxiety is heightened, depression , inflammation, and lots of other things. All the non-essentials are going to be pushed to the side for now and its going to take some time to catch back up. We already have 6 month waiting lists for things like genetics, infectious disease, or even rheumatology. It’s only going to get worse. We have ORs being turned into ICUs! Surgeries are being postponed so that we can care for the critically ill. I keep pinching myself because this has to be a dream. Or a movie. I’m just an actor in a new version of The Truman Show, right?

Not to mention, our economy is going to take a long time to get back on track...

I don’t know if I will ever forget this feeling of the unknown, of how unsure I am of the next week, of how much I truly have to depend on the Holy Spirit for peace. And I’m not just pretending to do that because of the stress I put on myself. Now, I HAVE to depend on Him, on His Word, because almost everything is out of my control. I literally, maybe for the first time in my life, have no clue what tomorrow holds. I don’t know if we will have enough food or enough money. I don’t know if we will all stay healthy or if we will still be able to keep our jobs or our house. My head tells me to be afraid, but my heart know that God is here. He is still in control, He is holding my hand, my heart, and my family in the palm of His almighty hand.

It doesn’t mean that it won’t be difficult, but it does mean that the worst thing, the very worst thing, death itself, in a way, is actually a gift. If the worst happens, it will be the best day of my eternal life. My head just wants to know what comes between now and then. How hard will it be? How many people will I lose before it is my turn? Will I outlive my children? Will my parents outlive me? Will I get to see my children grow? Or what about little things – will we get to go to the beach this year? Will Justin and I get to travel next year? Or ever? How different will our lives be in 2021 – after the virus? What will we have endured? Who will we have lost along the way? Will everything we’ve worked so hard for at R&P suddenly be gone? I don’t know.

And while my mind is constantly playing these questions on repeat, I really do have a peace that surpasses all understanding. For, as cliche as it might be, though I do not know what tomorrow holds, I do know who holds the future. He loves me, He loves my parents, my grandparents, and my children more than I ever could. And He is working all things for our good and His glory. I may not be able to see Him weaving all of the mess together, but I have an assurance that He is. He always has, He always will. Until eternity He is weaving a tapestry that will shout His name, show His love, and open our eye in wonder. I just have to trust Him in the meantime. And today, I am. I hope that stays the same tomorrow and the next day and the next. I hope I remember to rely on His peace in the coming chaos like I have in today’s turmoil.

He is good. He is God. I am not.

And neither is COVID-19 or the media or the fear that has caused complete chaos at Walmart.

The irony in all of this – I type all of these thoughts on a typewriter made by Smith (….wait for it….) Smith-Corona! Ha!

It will be okay.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard or that it won’t hurt. It simply means that God is still on the throne.

He loves you.
You matter.
And you are never alone.

I look back on these words and some of the concern has disappated, some has not. I still have some of the same thoughts, added with a mixture of confusion on how to move forward.

But the Truth still remains and I am so very grateful for that.

One thing I have learned during this season – grace. Grace for others is SO crucial!! We all have different opinions and we cannot think less of those who think differently. We’re all just trying to do our best. We must LOVE FIRST as Jesus Himself exemplified. Show grace, love others, put your faith and hope in Christ, and keep taking the next step forward.

Family First

I wrote this months ago and found it in my drafts tonight.  I’m leaving it as is.  Enjoy!


I know I have mentioned this before but…I always feel the need to write when it is the absolute last thing I should be doing.  And I am convinced that God prompts me to write because He knows what’s good for my soul.  While my to-do list might be neglected, my soul gets a bit of refreshing.

This post has been gnawing at me for at least a couple of months.  After the initial light bulb moment, I just didn’t make the time for it.  And then the longer that went by, I just didn’t feel that spark anymore.  But it just keeps coming back in one way or another.

Family.

The way family functions, the way family is viewed has changed decade after decade.  And family means something different in each culture, even for each person.  For some, the word “family” can evoke strong emotions – positive or negative.  For others, it just doesn’t mean a whole lot.  In America, “family” means a lot of different things.

For us, family is everything.  Well, almost everything.  Our everything is Jesus.  And then after that, is family.  But we can’t truly understand family without first understanding Jesus.  His sacrificial, relentless, overwhelming love sets the bar pretty high.

But why am I talking about family?  You see, my initial want to write this blog was because of a passionate response to a bit of criticism received.  There are a few people (maybe more) who don’t think we’re doing enough for the coffee shop (that story starts waaaay back here).  We aren’t sacrificing enough time or “giving it our all” because we aren’t working on the shop in every free moment we have.  And I get it.  I want to see this thing happen so very badly.  It needs to happen.  Our community needs it.  And it seems like every day that goes by is a day wasted because we aren’t open yet.

But early on, at the beginning of this journey, we decided (based on Biblical knowledge and wisdom handed down from respected elders) that family has to come first.  While we are 100% certain that God has called us to the mission of this community and this coffee shop – the first mission he gave either one of us was our family.  If we don’t handle that well, we will never be able to handle the rest that He has given us.

Generations past (and some current), particularly men, worked long hours, missed bedtimes and first steps, were up before sunrise and not home until after sunset.  And they accomplished much.  I wouldn’t have a lot of what I do today if it wasn’t for the hard work of many men and women before me.  But we cannot sacrifice our family, our missional unit, to accomplish things on societies timeline.  First of all, God’s timeline looks different.  And second, I truly believe, that if we are faithful in our marriage and with our children, that He will bless our endeavors elsewhere.

I don’t want to wake up 15 years from now, with a thriving coffee shop that has truly turned our community upside down and changed hundreds of lives, but with a broken marriage and children who don’t truly know who Jesus is because their parents never had the time to be Jesus in their lives.

So for today, and hopefully every day to come, our family comes first.

Now, I need to clarify a few things.

  1. That doesn’t mean that our family is all that matters.  I think the American dream has made that a reality today and turned the family into a bit of an idol.  Our family is our priority, yes, but in a Biblical sense, that just means that we are on mission together.  Yes, while our children are little, that means a bit more time at home than I would sometimes like.  But as they grow older, it means them tagging along and participating in the mission that the Lord has given our family.  When He called Justin and I on this voyage, He wasn’t leaving our kids out of it.  He called us as a multi-generational unit that also includes our parents and grandparents (if they so choose to participate).  Which leads me to my second point…
  2. “Our family” doesn’t just mean my husband and kids – it includes our extended family as well.  This is Biblical!  Multi-generational ministry is all throughout the Bible.  And its a beautiful thing.  Take a look at other cultures even…  It isn’t rare to find multiple generations of Hispanic families living under one roof.  Breaking the family unit down even further only increased the isolation that the enemy has been pushing on our society for ages.  Less people to do life with, less people to engage in healthy conflict with, leaves less opportunity to learn what being Jesus really means.  (Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke have some fantastic resources on multi-generational ministry.  Specifically, check out the podcasts here and here.)
  3. “Our family” doesn’t just mean blood relatives.  We also have what we call our “framily,” our friends who are also brothers and sisters in Christ, or our church family.  These are the people who we are breaking bread with on a regular basis.  And since relationships are what we believe to be the key to turning our community upside down, it is important that we maintain and cherish the ones that we currently have.  That means spending time with these people outside of meetings and church service!!

Time is precious.  We don’t want to waste it or get it wrong.  It would be so easy to say, “well, this is what God has called me to” and throw every precious second we have at this project.  And there are days and weeks that we do.  But if those days and weeks turned into months and then a year or two….or five or ten….  what happens to all of the other things mentioned above?

Regardless of whether or not you think we are doing enough, I want you to know that we are constantly evaluating how best to balance the priorities that God has placed in our lives.  With jobs and a home and other responsibilities it isn’t always easy.  And, I’ll be honest, we don’t always get it right.  And if I’m being 100% transparent, I’m personally struggling with depression, which makes ALL of this so much more difficult.  It is a struggle some days to just make sure my kids are fed.  But we keep striving forward, we keep going one step at a time.

But I didn’t share all of this to prove myself.  In fact, that’s a large part of the reason why I waited so long to write this – I wanted my motivation to be pure.  I shared this because I hope it stirs something within those that read it.  I hope it helps you to reconsider the priorities in your own life, the calling that Christ has placed upon your family, or how the American dream has negatively impacted our culture and our families.

It’s time for a change.  It’s time for families to really start acting like families.  Church, I’m talking to you!  Stop isolating yourself, stop pushing others away – embrace the mess that is community by learning what it truly means to be a family.

Family, Multi-generational, Mission, First, Community, Coffee for Community, Better Together


We love you guys.  And I am so thankful that you stuck around to read through another one of my ramblings.  For those of you who are curious, the shop is actually coming along quite well.  When I first wrote this, the guys were just starting to work on the flooring at the shop.  Now, we are just days away from our inspection!!  Which, hypothetically means, we could be open within a couple of weeks!

Please be praying that we stay in step with Him, that we don’t fall behind or jump ahead.  Be praying that He provides for all things in such a way that all the glory belongs to Him.  But more importantly, be praying that He is already preparing the hearts of those this place is meant to impact, that our community would be stirred to life, that change would be noticeable.  You guys are amazing and we wouldn’t have made it this far without you.  ❤