Dear Anna,

Hey there, my sweetheart, my joy. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and you’re supposed to be napping like your brother in the crib next to you. How he hasn’t come to yet bewilders me. I only say this because the clunking from your baby dolls hitting their mini cradle beside your bed is enough to wake even the deepest sleeper. But alas, his slumber hasn’t been interrupted. The noise must be a familiar occurrence to him as you avoiding sleep in the afternoon has become the norm and the phrase please read quietly has fallen on deaf ears.

You missed me peaking in at you a few minutes ago. My displeasure of you still awake left quickly as I took you in. You are breathtaking. I can’t believe you are mine, flesh of my flesh. I watched you ever so gently hug your baby and with the utmost care lay her down to sleep.

Then it struck me, why did you do it all so gracefully, so carefully, so lovingly?

And it’s because of me. Me.

You’ve learned how a soft touch equates to love, from me. You’ve learned a gentle but deep hug is beneficial for both giver and receiver, from me.

And then I wonder what else you’re learning from? It’s almost scaring the life out of me to ponder just how much you watch me, take after me, look up to me. I see so much of myself in you.

But, I hope you didn’t see when I rolled my eyes and shifted my weight to the other hip as we stood in the check out line after 20 minutes of waiting.

I hope you didn’t see me on my phone scrolling Instagram for the millionth time today while you quietly played.

I hope you didn’t see me scoff and sigh at your father after we had that disagreement, even though deep down I know he’s right.

I hope you didn’t see me lose my patience with you when I asked five times already to put your books where they belong.

But, I do hope you see me hugging your father and hearing me say, “I love you, Babe”.

I hope you see me holding the door open for the person behind me.

I hope you hear me say “please” and thank you” when we’re at Starbucks ordering my soy caramel latte and a cake pop for you.

I hope you see me reading my Bible and worshipping Jesus in the mornings.

And I hope you hear my heart when I ask for forgiveness for the mistakes I’ve made, for all the wrong things you’ve seen me do.

I’m not perfect, Anna, and neither are you. We need God’s grace more than we even know. As much as I don’t want you to see me lacking as a mother, a wife, and at life, it’s vital that you do. I make mistakes, I hurt people (remember when you told me I hurt your feelings? Broke my heart), I lose control and patience. We all do.

More than anything, what I pray you do see is me coming to the Father after I’ve made a mistake and asking for forgiveness. I hope you see my repentant heart. I hope you see Jesus restoring me and making me new. And I hope someday I’ll get to see that in you too.

I love you and I am so proud to call you mine.

Your Momma



Often I wonder why God placed us where we are. I get bogged down counting all the people I know who would be "better" suited to be missionaries in a refugee neighborhood compared to us. People who could love better, have more compassion, better pray-ers, people who actually speak the same language as their neighbors, who are more selfless and are willing to give all their time to building up this community. I'm discouraged after I sit and think about all those more "qualified".

And then I hear a voice that says, "But I called you, and you said 'Yes!".

But why?

Why were we called? Why was I called?

I'm so very weak. I'm an introvert who longs for and savors my alone time. I avoid praying aloud at all costs for fear I won't have the most eloquent words and my prayers won't be good enough or the recipient(s) for whom I am praying won't be encouraged. I can only speak one language, however, I'm surrounded by hundreds whose second, third, fourth, fifth language is English. My flesh craves to be of this world desiring what I want and what makes me comfortable. Expressing compassion is not second nature for me. The first born syndrome in me disdains others for not following the rules or is eager to exclaim, "well, that's what you deserve. Fair is fair in my book."

I'm not proud of my actions, my feelings, my vulnerable confessions.

So, again, why with all my weaknesses has God chosen me (us) to live where we do? Ministering to refugees?

Because he chose Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, Esther, Mary, and so many others. He chose Paul who proclaims:

"...'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me...For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

That is why we were sent here. Because His power is made perfect when and where we are weak. As we continue in this ministry our limitations become more and more apparent, and I'm realizing we become more and more qualified. 

I am qualified because I said "Yes!"

I am qualified because I am willing to be used as a vessel.

I am qualified because I am weak.

And I am qualified because I am unqualified. 

I am unqualified and He gets all the GLORY.


If you would like to hear more about the Urban Eagles and the role the Lord has called us to as missionaries, click here


Looking Forward

I'm pretty sure this is the first year I've really taken inventory. Never have I ever really sat down and soaked in all the blessings from the past year and looked ahead to what the new year will bring. Last year I definitely didn't. Travis and I were recovering from the flu from Christmas and I was in the midst of mastitis while we rang in 2015, plus we had a fresh 2 1/2 month old who enjoyed being awake all hours of the night rather than sleeping like most human beings. Looking to the year ahead was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to get through the day.

This year, however, is different. Both our children sleep through the night now--Praise God from whom all blessings flow!--so I'm not just in survival mode. I actually want to look ahead this year. I'm able to get through most days with my head still on (picture a chicken running with its head chopped off. That was me a year ago), albeit I'm ready to crash at 8 pm, but that just comes with the territory of being a parent. I'm ready to take my walk with the Lord to a new level. I'm ready to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend of which I can be proud. But all these "things" I'm ready to be doesn't just come without effort. Inventory has to be taken. Reflection needs to take place. Looking back to look forward. Despite the sleepless nights and the being sick for two straight months last winter, 2015 served our little family well. I trust that 2016 could be even better. I only say this after I've looked back to look forward. Without reflection, sure, 2016 can still be a great year. But with it, I'm beginning the year with a clear and proactive mind. 

I'm so thankful a mentor recently handed me a list of questions to ask myself as the new year approaches. Questions to get me thinking how I desire this upcoming year to be different than the previous year. I'm excited to share these questions with you in the hopes they'll be an encouragement as you look forward to 2016 as well. I added a few of my answers to the questions below. Most I wanted to keep between the Lord and me. I challenge and encourage you to take some time in the next few days to really ponder over the words below. How can 2016 be different than 2015? 

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
Breathe. Just Breathe. (ok, Faith Hill, you can pipe down in my head, thanks.) Stop for a few seconds...minutes--if I'm blessed with that long--a day to take in the Lord. Pause and let Him envelope me. Breathe in all the good that is He. Really enjoy the laughter of my children. Find the lone flower in the midst of weeds. Gaze at the sunset. Revel in the stars above. Listen to nature. And realize all the above comes from Him alone. Take a breath. 

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
Stay disciplined. With chores, homeschooling, simplifying our lives and home, spending time in the word, working out. And how do I do that? I've come to the conclusion that having a morning routine gives me a better chance of actually staying disciplined. When I am disciplined it makes for everyone else's life to be disciplined. It makes for a happier family. It makes for a purposeful life. One in which you get things done and get to just be rather than just going through the motions to try and get by. 

Below is my current morning routine followed by 2016's morning routine:
-wake up whenever the kids wake up-so no "me" time
-forgo getting changed out of pjs and into real clothes
-maybe make bed but most likely will wait until mid morning (at least it's made by noon!)
-shuffle to the kitchen to make everyone breakfast and coffee; coffee, always coffee
-lounge on couch watching kids play until we have somewhere to be and then scramble to get everyone ready in a matter of 20 minutes. Always late. 

-wake up at 6:30 (hopefully before kids are up since they usually don't wake until 8)
-make bed
-put on bra. This is key.
-make coffee
-start a load of laundry (not everyday, just on days it's needed) and empty dishwasher
-make breakfast
-lounge on couch, get into the word, and just breathe before everyone wakes

So maybe the single most important thing I could do: keep to a morning routine. 

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
My prayer life. It's so weak. I'm so selfish. Confession time: I rarely pray as it is and when I do it's usually all about me and my desires and wishes and wants. So what will I do about it? Last night I was browsing through the website "Desiring God" when I came across this article: Reignite Your Prayer Life. It was perfect. I don't want a step-by-step "this is how you pray". I want something simple. I need something simple because I'm a stay-at-home mom who struggles to pray as it is. So this was perfect. John Piper suggests Pray Through the Bible, "open the bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer". This allows me to dive into the Word and to pray in one setting. It also prevents me from saying the same old things about the same old things. I'm hopeful this is the beginning of a new conversation with Jesus. 

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

If you're where I was last December, without the slightest idea even of what year is coming to a close, IT IS OKAY. Even just a skim through this list might bring new perspective, might bring a little light to the end of the tunnel. Wherever you are in your life just looking forward to the task in front of us--not even to tomorrow--is all that Christ asks of us. So be encouraged, friend, we made it to a new year! 

**Happy 2016!**


These questions come from Don Whitney: Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.

The photos were taken by Carly Jones.



Ludington, Michigan has always held a special place in Travis' heart, and in the last 11 years, my heart as well. This is where Travis' family has been vacationing for generations. This is where his love for fishing really started and hasn't let go. I always say if he wasn't in ministry he'd be fishing for a living. This vacation is where he lives out his favorite pastime twice a day for seven days straight. A fisherman's dream come true. And for me, it's less about the fishing; it's where Travis proposed to me to be his wife on the beach of the Lake 11 years ago. After 7 years of vacationing elsewhere we finally returned to a place that holds so many memories.

After almost three months Anna still talks about our "new house" in Michigan and the big fishy Pops caught. I forgot just how amazing Michigan is, so much so I really don't want to vacation anywhere else. Who needs the beach of Florida when the R&R we received on a secluded, peaceful lake was everything we needed?

The "Evergreen" house was the perfect home for us for that week in late August. It felt more like fall. After 90 degree temps for the previous three months I did not mind one bit that our vacation was filled with 60 degree temps and precipitation. It was almost more relaxing that it rained most days.

Every morning while Theo slept and Anna played quietly, the boys out fishing, I'd sip my coffee and sit and marvel at the serene Hamlin Lake just 50 yards from our living room window. 

It wasn't just the four of us in that little house by the lake. We also went with Travis' dad, better known as Pops, and Travis' brother and sis-in-law (I'd rather call her one of my best friends because an "-in law" doesn't do our relationship justice) Troy and Carly.

Pops surprised Anna with her first fishing pole. She loved that thing and picked up casting right away like a pro.

She was super excited to catch her first fish, if you can't tell.

She was so sweet with each fish she and Travis caught. She'd want to hold every one. She'd pet it, tell it "it's ok, you're ok", give it a little kiss, then throw it back in the water. Every time. I about died.

Travis was over the moon getting to share his love of fishing with his daughter. The fact that Anna took to it and loved it so much brought Travis so much joy (especially since his wife doesn't take to it at all). 


I know Travis can't wait to be able to share his love for fishing with Theo too but for that week he was Mommy's buddy. I didn't mind at all. Fun fact: Theo perfected his walking skills that week. What happened to my baby?! 

A few nights after we arrived Travis caught his biggest fish ever. A muskie that he says was at least 42 inches. Here's the thing, he and his dad weren't able to ever get it in the boat to be able to take a picture and measure it correctly. This fish still haunts him three months later. A few nights later, Travis' dad was out in the boat by himself and caught the sister of the one Travis caught. He wrestled with it on the line for 20 minutes before he finally was able to pull it in. He ran up to the house, struggling to hold it because of how heavy it was, so we could capture it on camera. Carly, Anna, and I were sitting on the couch in the living room when we saw Travis' dad rushing onto the porch. As soon as Anna saw it she exclaimed, "OH MY GOSH, That's a BIG FISH!" She was right, it was bigger than her! She looks so proud of her Pops in this photo :)

When the guys and Anna weren't fishing we slept, walked around the resort grounds, took boat rides, toured the little towns of Ludington and Pentwater, spent time on Lake Michigan's beach and walking to the lighthouse, ate ice cream at our favorite dive House of Flavors, and Anna experienced her first time playing putt-putt. She absolutely loved it!

I'm so thankful for the man holding my Littles there. He made this whole vacation possible. Anna and Theo love their Pops, for sure. 

And then there's these goofballs. I couldn't imagine having spent this vacation without Troy and Carly. It made all the times the guys were out fishing for their lives while the girls and Theo stayed in that little house that much better. 

The guys showing the lengths of their biggest fishes caught. Sorry Troy!

We can't stop talking about Michigan. It will live long in our hearts as one of our best vacations. We've already promised ourselves that we need to make it an annual trip, one that our children will grow up cherishing just like their father did and his mother did and her father did. 

Photo credit for a few of the above: Carly Jones


Homeschooling Continued

I had a lot of great feedback after I posted about the curriculum Anna and I are using for our homeschooling. I'm so very thankful for that! ABC Jesus Loves Me has been a wonderful resource as we've navigated through Anna's first year of preschool. It also can be overwhelming as I've heard from a few friends who visited its site. They provide a ton of ideas and it can be a bit much when you're first starting out. And actually in the past few weeks it was getting to be too much for Anna. We've had to slow our roll a bit. But that's what I like about ABC Jesus Loves Me. I don't feel bound to do exactly what it says. I can pick and choose activities from the week and if we get to them, great; if not, I'm not upset. I don't devote too much time to planning--which is something the site even suggests. They encourage you not to spend so much time planning you miss the time spent with your child.

To help those of you who have thought the website is overwhelming, this is how I plan:
The curriculum is broken up into 5 weeks at a time with a review week during the fifth week. I take a few minutes at the beginning of each unit to look over the following five weeks (mainly so I can see which books I need to reserve from the library that we don't already have at home) and then each week spend 15 minutes at the beginning picking activities based on what type of week I think we'll have. Most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays we're at home in the mornings so these are the days I'll plan at least one to two activities. I make sure I know what songs I'll be teaching and make sure the supplies we'll need are readily accessible. I try to stick with activities that have supplies we already have at home-saves time and money! Each evening I'll look over what's on the agenda for the following day and that takes less than 5 minutes. Like I've said in previous posts we only spend about 30-60 minutes (as long as Anna can stand) on formal lessons. If we don't get to an activity or if something else comes up during the mornings we usually do "school", I don't stress. A lot of the times I'll teach her a new song while we're driving and repeat it randomly throughout the day. Most of our reading of books occurs before nap and bedtime and whenever she asks throughout the day-which is often. She's also started this thing where she takes at least 20 books to bed with her and just reads for an hour before she naturally falls asleep surrounded by and laying on a plethora of books. We're doing life together and I realize as we live our lives she's learning so much just by being with us. I plan formal activities to spur on her creativity and imagination, to get her thinking about things other than babies and dollhouses and princesses.

One of the main reasons we're homeschooling is because we believe free play is so very important. Sharing, playing well with others, listening and obeying, being respectful and honest, we strive for these over Anna mastering her ABCs and 123s. I'd so rather have a day where she just plays all day, but why not throw in a few activities to get her thinking about more? and to find out just how much she knows and can know?

I know I haven't posted much lately about our homeschooling experience but I'd like to continue sharing with you what we're doing. I get inspired and encouraged when I read about how other families are homeschooling and I hope we can be an encouragement to you who've decided to go that route too! 


As of Lately

I've been emotional lately. I stop myself before tears stream down my face because, really, who has the time? Big events are coming my way, ready or not.

It all started with Theo walking. WALKING! Yes, I said walking. Who does he think he is? He was barely 10 months old when he decided it was time, and I could do nothing to stop him. In the past few weeks I've started to wonder where my baby went. I feel like I've missed something. Have I taken enough pictures and video? Did I cherish the time when he wasn't mobile or when he was just crawling? Am I reading and singing enough to him? I never EVER in a million quadrillion years thought I'd say this but I'm actually enjoying his middle of the night feed. While most babies his age are sleeping 7am-7pm (and when I say most I mean only a handful) my little guy still enjoys a nightly meal around 3 am. I should be upset, right? I mean, he's old enough to cry it out and sleep through the night, but that time for us together is the only thing I feel still makes him a baby and I'm holding on tight to that one. He'll be one in less than a month and a half. I feel like life has gotten a whole lot faster with him around. When Anna turned one it was definitely a fast year but this past year, where did it go?! We're closer to him being a toddler and no longer an infant and I don't know if I can handle that right now. Even though he's constantly on the move and getting into and climbing everything he is still a big mama's boy and loves cuddling and giving open mouth kisses, and I wouldn't mind if it stayed that way for a very long time.

Be still my heart...and time.
Anna will be three in less than two weeks. Let me just say there is such thing as a "three-eenager" because we got one. We've got ourselves a sassy, strong willed, little princess. I never thought I'd have one. Let me just stop myself right there. I know my mom is rolling on the floor laughing as she reads this because that is exactly what she had in me. My former 3 year old self has come back to haunt me through my daughter. She's constantly singing, playing in her own world, reserved in crowds but jumping off the walls in her own home, loves everything pink and sparkly and super girly but loves her cowboy boots and fishing with her Daddy. Dresses for days, I mean all.day.e'ry.day. She didn't wear a pair of shorts one day this summer. And if she wasn't wearing a dress, she was wearing pants with her tutu over them. Since I'm dealing with a mini-me I've decided to chill out a bit. The control freak in me wants to control the control freak in her and I have a feeling I'm going to lose. So I've decided to let go and let her have her fun. And I'm having more fun too.

These days are fleeting. I so wish they'd just slow down.
On the same day Anna turns three I will turn 30. Thirty. I think I'm somewhat in denial because I'm not experiencing a quarter life crisis like I feel most people do. I'm actually totally okay with it. Or maybe I just haven't had time to really think about what that means. Thirty. Maybe it's because I'm exactly where I wanted to be at thirty. I love my life. Jesus is at my center. My husband and I have a great marriage. I have two beautiful children who bring me so much joy. I have wonderful friends who bring laughter to my soul. My extended family, while far, we still see each other frequently and I cherish those times. I love where we live and can't imagine having different neighbors that we do now. I'm excited to see what this next decade brings. Thirty, you're looking good and I don't care who knows it!

Grays are shining through my hair but I don't care! It's a sign of wisdom, right? ;)
As the next few months fly by I hope I can stop for a few minutes and cherish all that is around me. As Theo begins to talk and Anna learns new steps in her ballet class and I enter a new age bracket I hope the small moments don't get away from me and I can see the beauty in life of simply being present.


Week Two

Second week down, and already when I ask if Anna wants to do school she says no. Hmmm, maybe I'm going about this the wrong way!... During the middle of the week I stopped saying we're doing school and instead I would start something by myself relating to school (painting, play dough, sorting blocks, reading our little Bible) and more often then not she'd wonder what I was doing and want to join. She's still only 2 so of course she doesn't want to "do school", she just wants to play! And I definitely want to encourage that. I recently read an article (I read it from Facebook and now I forget who posted it so I can't link it up) about the differences between German children and American children. I loved it, and now I want to pack my family up and move to Germany. Not really, but I am ready to be different than what I've witnessed here in America. I had a friend tell me that her son's kindergarten teacher told her that school (and she's referring to kindergarten too) is for learning, home is for fun. I'm sorry--what?! I thought learning was supposed to be fun?! Shoot, I still have fun learning! In Germany the main purpose of kindergarten is to play and socialize. Everyday children are expected to play outdoors, rain or shine. One of the main reasons we're deciding to homeschool is because we want our children to find joy in learning. We both attended public school and feel like the joy of learning was stripped from us at an early age. I went to college for education and the schools I observed, did my practicums, and student taught in most days were spent teaching to test. Most of my fellow collegemates were encouraged and wanted to change what they saw. I greatly admire them for that, however, for me, I turned the other way and knew I didn't want my own children to attend schools where testing was the priority. So homeschooling is our only option at this point. Which I love so far--granted, we're only in week 2 of pre-K, ha! Ask me again in a few years ;)

Check out what we learned this week. We're following the ABC Jesus Loves Me Two Year Old curriculum.

The Bible Theme: God Made the World Around Me, Creation Day 3
This week we continued learning about how God made the world around us. We read about God creating the land and the plants on the third day. We read from The Beginner's Bible pages 9-12. We continued our Creation Day Book by making Day 3. We glued brown and green construction paper to make trees and plants, and Anna painted the water blue. We planted poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and cilantro seeds and talked about how plants need sun, water, air, and dirt to grow. We've been watering our plants everyday. I glued uncooked curly pasta to construction paper to look like flowers and had Anna paint on the pasta. We're continuing to recite our creation fingerplay and have added "On Day 3, God created the land and the plants". I'm realizing if it's not with music it's harder for her to remember but if it is to music girl's got it down! So everything we're learning we're putting a beat behind it.

Starting to paint her water that turned into a snake. 
On Day 3 God created land and plants--and according to Anna, snakes.
My little flower girl planting her first flowers.

Verse: Genesis 1:1-In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 
Tune: Are You Sleeping? 
Same verse as last week. I love that she's already memorized a Bible verse! 

Song: The B-I-B-L-E
When I first introduced this song I was surprised to hear her pick it up so quickly. I asked if she'd ever heard that song before and she exclaimed "yes, at church!". We sing it together before we read our Bible story.

Color: Blue
We started the week with a color walk where we looked for blue objects. Anna found blue trash dumpsters, blue letters on license plates, blue cars, and my blue shirt. Anna knows her colors really well. This week it got to the point where I'd ask her to find the color blue somewhere and she'd just say "no". Stubborn much? 

Letter B
I printed out a block letter "B" and we dipped her thumb in yellow paint to make bumblebees on the "B". After the paint dried I added wings, stripes, and stingers with marker. We talked about how bumblebee starts with the letter B. Throughout the week we looked for the letter "B" around the house and while we were out. (I failed to mention last week that the two year old curriculum doesn't focus too heavily on letters. The objective is for the child to learn to say the letters of the alphabet correctly.)

Bumblebees start with "B"!

Information: First, Middle, and Last Name
We continued reciting Anna's full name plus Mommy, Daddy, and Theo's full names. 

Self Care and Manners: Say "Please"
Anna knows "please" really well. She knows that if she whines and doesn't say "please" we won't listen to it. However, this is something she definitely still needs to work on. I'm trying to get better at saying "Anna, I will be happy to listen to you when you say "please" first and in a big girl voice." 

Number: 1
We counted to 1 on our button counting card. I love how every time I ask how many buttons there are she says "just 1". She knows the number 1, she knows how to count to 1, and she knows how to find 1 object. Bring on the number 2!

Shape: Line
We made lines, er snakes ;) out of play dough. We put Anna's wooden blocks in a line. I drew vertical lines on a piece of paper using a highlighter. On one end of the line I added a green dot and the other I added a red dot. Then Anna traced each line starting at the green dot down to the red dot (this is prewriting activity). I glued uncooked spaghetti to a piece of paper and had Anna use blue (color the week) paint to trace down the spaghetti.

Book of the Week: When the Elephant Walks by Keiko Kasza
We would read this book in the morning, before nap, and at bedtime. It was an easy book for Anna to read along (recite) since there weren't a lot of sentences. We also made an elephant mask one day using a paper plate, cardstock paper, and paint. We didn't have gray paint so I mixed blue, brown, and white. I wasn't sure if it'd come out gray but I'd say I did a pretty good job guessing!

Motor Skills: 
Fine Motor: Sorting Activity
After borrowing this sorting toy from a friend I quickly realized that Anna has already got this motor skill down. She still enjoyed it but I wanted to give her more of a challenge so I switched our activity to one I found from a friend's blog (Katie's Chasing Vowels). I love that it's super simple to set up and with items we already had around the house (pipe cleaner, beads, and paper). The child strings the appropriate amount of beads onto each pipe cleaner. It was great for counting and for fine motor skills. It turned into Anna pouring the beads into a cup and less about the counting and stringing.

Gross Motor: Jump forward
While I played music each morning Anna worked on jumping like a frog, kangaroo, and "runny babbit"--she said this one day on accident and thought it was the funniest thing so we've continued calling it that. I love how she cracks herself up because she sure cracks me up!

Two weeks down and so far we're having a great time. I love seeing how fast and how much Anna's learning. My baby girl is officially a big girl now *sigh*