Wednesday, May 25, 2011


    While reading Organized Simplicity, I was challenged to come up with a Purpose Statement for our family. It was to be something that simply described our purpose in a way that would apply equally at any time and place, whether we're here or there, with small kids or big kids. Part of the reason that author Tsh Oxenreider invites readers to do this is that it serves as a filter, something by which we can measure our choices. Does doing this activity, or making this purchase, or spending this time bring us closer to living in harmony with our purpose?

    Erik and I gave it some thought, and here's what we came up with:
  • To be illumined by, and shine forth, the love, joy, and peace of Christ, intertwining our life in the life of the Church.
  • To nourish both body and spirit, and allow time and space for learning, discovery, and creativity.
  • To enjoy being together, as well as doing together, while blessing others with our time and resources.
    I found this exercise  to be helpful in defining what we really want the essence of our life to be. It's proved useful as I've been sorting through bookshelves and closets and boxes, making decisions about what stays and what goes. And, as our ideas come together for future plans, it's nice to keep this at the forefront of our minds, to picture how this could look in different places and situations. 

    If you've ever put your family purpose into words, please feel free to share! And if you haven't, I'd encourage you to do so! 

    In other, completely unrelated news, my dear friend Rae, has just published her first novel. It's available today, and you can read the exciting details on her blog, I traveled in India, Nepal, and Thailand with Rae and her husband ten years ago. They now have four kids and still call those countries home. She is a great writer and I'm so excited for her. Please take a moment to go congratulate her, and order a copy of her book! 

Monday, May 23, 2011


The kids playing on the beach in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico, 2010.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."    Mark Twain
    As a young adult I agonized over decisions, desperately wanting to do "the right thing." My mom, in her wisdom, would often remind me that God's will for us is that we become like Jesus, and if our hearts are willing, that can happen no matter where we are. Maybe, she would say, whether I chose path A or path B wasn't the important thing. 

    I've been thinking a lot lately about what sort of life we're living. While I love my home, the security of Erik's job, and the comforts we're used to, this is not the kind of life I would have chosen. When we got married we planned to go overseas, and I'd have argued with you if you'd told me we'd be living in suburban America, driving a minivan, and shuttling kids to dance recitals and horseback riding lessons. Again, I love my life, and am so, so thankful for the opportunities we have here. Don't get me wrong. 

    But I'm ready to move on. I've often said to Erik, as we've talked about different ideas, that if we don't do something else, I'm going to regret it. If our kids never live in another country, I'm going to feel like we didn't give them something that was important to us. If all we do is live a middle class American life, I will wish we'd have stepped out and taken a risk in order to do something else.

    A dear friend posted this morning how she and her husband and four kids are moving into a two bedroom apartment. Part of me leapt with excitement at the thought of it. No, I'm not romanticizing the idea, but try as I might, I fail to live in the simplicity I desire. I commented on her post that I feel like I'm suffocating in too much space and stuff. I love that my kids have their own rooms, that we have space dedicated to school, an extra table for crafts and projects, a dining table that can expand to sit lots of extra people. But honestly, it overwhelms me. I spend too much time trying to manage it all, when what I want to be doing is hanging out with my kids, enjoying more time with friends, exploring, and pursuing creative endeavors that have to wait because I can't see the surface of my desk. 

    Over the last few years, something has been stirring in us. Erik and I have been discussing questions like:
  • If we could do anything we wanted, what would it be?
  • What steps would we need to take to get there?
  • If we took the risk (quit a secure job, sold our home, etc.) and it failed, what's the worst case scenario? And how likely is it to happen? Would it be worth it?
  • Are we letting fear hold us back? 
    I am inspired by reading of other families who've have left everything in order to pursue the things that are truly important to them. There are homeschooling families who travel the world, learning as they go. There are minimalist websites, people who aim to own only 1oo thingsminimalist clothing challenges, and families who have simplified their lives to an extreme so that they can spend more time together doing what they love. All of these people, these ideas, inspire me. I never feel so free as when I'm traveling with nothing but a backpack, or, since having kids, a couple of suitcases. There is something liberating about not having a ton of stuff to care for and keep track of, to pick up and worry about. 
    Like my mom always told me, the aim of this life is to become like Jesus. For me, it's to love and serve my family unselfishly, and for us together to love those around us. I know we can do that here, but I also believe God has given us a longing for something that's a little outside the box. Our desires include living simply, having more time for relationships (even if it means less resources), and experiencing other cultures. I don't know how it will all come together, but we're starting to take some steps toward "sailing away from the safe harbor." It's a bit alarming that our oldest is 8 1/2 years old already. I feel like we're just getting started, and then I realize he's halfway to where he could be setting off on his own adventures. The time is so short, and there's much we want to do! 

   I'm not agonizing over these things, but I am excited about the possibilities. I trust this seed of desire has been put there for a reason, and as we step out in faith and in letting go, that God will lead us. Let the adventure begin! 


Monday, May 16, 2011

My Mama

My mom loving my kids.
    It was only a little story told to encourage and inspire, but a week later I'm still thinking about it. The gist of it was a couple men standing around discussing their favorite Bible translation. The first extolled the King James Version, for the reverence and majesty it preserved. The second liked the NIV, for it's simplicity. The third man thought for a moment, then stated that he preferred his mother's translation. The other two men looked at him, a bit surprised, and asked which version she'd helped to translate. The man simply answered "my mother translated the Bible into life."

    I couldn't help but to think of my own dear Mom as I heard this story. I can easily say that so much of what I know in life, at least what's  really worth knowing, I've learned from her. Here are a few of the ways she's translated God's love into life:

    She put her family first. My mom served us night and day, year after year, in little ways and big ways. I really don't remember her having hobbies or interests that didn't revolve around her family. What she did, she did for us. And not only for us, but with us. I learned to sew on her lap, a skill I later was able to use professionally. I learned to cook at her side, another skill I've used not only to pay the bills, but to bless people all over the world. I learned to care for babies, to love my husband, to be a good friend, from hanging out with my mom. I never felt like an interruption into her life. Day or night, I could go to my mom, and she would welcome me.

My Mom with a newborn Pearl, 2010
    She loved God, and naturally shared that love with us. It was common for her to sit down for a few minutes and open her well worn Bible. When I was afraid, which was often, she would read me Scriptures of comfort and peace. She prayed with us and for us. (I've written here about her Bible, and one of the ways she's prayed for us.)

    She loved others. There was always room at our table for some lonely soul; a traveling salesman, an older person with no family, a troubled teenager. If they couldn't come to us, it was common for her to take a meal to them. We never had a lot, but there was always enough to share. She's always been full of mercy, quick to help bear the burdens of others.

    I wrote these things in the past tense, but they're still true. Even though her five children are grown, she still pours her life into us. We're all married with our own families, eleven grandchildren for her to love. And love them she does. It blesses me so much to see the relationship my kids have with their grandma. I can still count on my mom to be there for me, day or night. (And yes, I do call her in the middle of the night sometimes, to ask a question about a sick child, or to have her to pray with me.) She still seeks God, she still prays for us. She comes over and helps me when I'm overwhelmed, or sick, or just because. She still cares for those around her, serving the poor of our community, feeding the homeless, loving the unloveable. She still cooks amazing meals for her family and friends, and there is always enough to share.

My Mom with a newborn me, 1975
    She has translated the Gospel for me, into life. She has showed me what this looks like, to live a life empty of self and full of Love. I'm so thankful for the gift she's given me, the gift she continues to give. She would probably want me to point out that she's far from perfect, so I will. But she is remarkable.  

   I struggle each day with emptying myself, with giving up the things I desire in order to serve and love my family. I falter through each day, getting impatient, apologizing, laughing, crying, seeking to translate God's love into life for my own children. By God's grace, I hope to do it half as well as my Mom has.

    Thank you Mom, for all you do and for being who you are. I love you so much. Happy Mother's Day!