All posts originated by Jessica

Joy Stealers

When I was a senior in high school my uncle Steve was killed in a car accident. The following Sunday I was singing in the praise team at church and I remember my pastor’s wife coming to me and saying that she could just see the joy of the Lord in me, even on a day of tragedy.

All these years later and her words still stick with me. I often think, can others see the joy of the Lord in me?   Can my children? Can my husband? When I think of Joy I think of something deeper than happiness.  While happiness is often fleeting, joy remains when hard times come.  We are not going to be happy every minute of the day, but we can choose deep joy because we have Jesus. We have joy because of His love for us.  We know all of this true.

Yet, if we know this to be true, why on a daily basis do we choose to curl up in our own little sad shell and not be joyful?  One word, idolatry. My husband often says, “the root of all sin is idolatry and the root of idolatry is radical self-centeredness and selfishness. It’s wanting what we want more than what God wants.”

On any given day there are several boxes I like to check off on my “happy list”. My list can vary but the items consistently include- time in the morning to be quiet and read, time to exercise uninterrupted, good coffee beans in my possession, time to get ready and not feel like a slob, a good breakfast, time to pick up said good breakfast, happy children, happy children who are helpful and not arguing. While this is all well and good on the surface it can become dangerous when the very things that contribute to our happiness, begin to steal our joy when they are unmet.

We have a word for the things in life that we allow to give us meaning, value and purpose that we should only derive from Jesus. Idols. What we are saying when we allow our joy to be dictated by the things on our happy list is that they are more important than what we know to be true in King Jesus.

Do I get to be short tempered with my kids because my morning didn’t go just how I like?  No.  Choosing grumpiness is not just selfishness, but idolatry. If I am letting all of my “wants” cause my attitude to be sour than I am no better off then my 1,3,5 and 7 year olds.  Sometimes it feels impossible to reset the day when everything is not going correctly.

Yet, in those moments, rather than being crushed I can lift up my day, attitude and frustrations to my Heavenly Father OVER AND OVER AND OVER. I know that I can’t be the mother and the wife He has called me to be without complete reliance on him.

Friends, we shouldn’t allow our circumstances to be joy stealers! Every day I have to remind myself that the moments of crabbiness, sleepiness and immaturity on behalf of my kids and myself are part of mothering/parenting and this is what I am called to do right now. If I lose joy over little things such as this, how am I any different then one of my children who might throw themselves on the floor when they are upset?

I am begging the Lord for His joy to take over my day and my attitude.  I am asking for His unwavering love to be present when I have let too much of myself in the way.

Quick side note.. as a mom I know that I do need to take care of myself.  I do need to take time to do things that feed my soul which in turn make me a better mother, wife, friend. My point is when you have those moments, soak them up and be refilled!  Other times though lets put aside our selfish ways and love like Jesus.  I pray that the Joy of the Lord flows out of me even if I am in yesterdays clothes, eating cereal and stuck inside playing kitchen for the billionth time.  This is what I signed up for.  Lord, let all of You pour out of me.  I want the Joy of the Lord to be seen in me, even inside my house when the door is closed.


Homeschool Recap 2017

I guess yesterday was our last school day of the year.  It was supposed to be Wednesday but due to family sickness we bumped it back!

The kids have been anxious to have a last day and with a big vacation coming up this seems logical. I see the value in marking an end to something you have been working on for months and months. We used My Fathers World to guide our study though Early American History as well as Kindergarten. This was my third year officially homeschooling and my first year teaching two at the same time. This is the first year where I don’t feel we fully completed everything. Even though part of me wants to keep pushing. I’m beginning to realize this is the beauty of learning, and a big reason I love to homeschool.

If I weave learning into our daily life then learning never ends.

While there is value in taking a break from school, for me just as much as the kids, learning never goes on vacation. So, my plan as we move into the next year is to pick right up where we left off.  It’s not a race and we aren’t on any set schedule.

I also know that as valuable as history, science, and language are, there are many other things that we need to give time to. Summer gives us that opportunity. I want to cook with my kids more without feeling like I’m making us fall behind. I want to explore and say yes to more board games. I also want to give them more space to grow in areas of personal interest. Plus we want to swim! I’m welcoming this change of season and looking forward to feeling refreshed moving into a new year.

A couple of years ago the fact that I didn’t complete every single kindergarten unit with Levi would have drove me crazy. This year I’m going to look at it a little differently. Did Levi learn this year? Yes! Was progress made? Yes! And I am thankful! While we will continue to work, I realize the bigger picture. The books I purchase to guide my teaching are merely that, a guide. While for many who choose homeschooling this is an early revelation, for me it has taken some time to shake off the need to check all the boxes.

I learned this year to be more free with my kids in their learning. When math was becoming a very frustrating time every single day, I set the reset button. I took a several month break from our typical curriculum and switched to a story form math. Is my child “behind”? Possibly. I don’t really know. Yet, last week that same child has picked up her previous Math book and has been thriving, it is being understood and there are even smiles!

I also learned this year about the concept of a morning time, which my kids like to call “cozy time”. It looked a little different every day, but it was a general time to come together either at the dining room table, the living room or outside to read the Bible, memorize verses together, read poems, sing hymns, draw, read a chapter in a book, learn about a piece of art. This concept is becoming popular and I thoroughly enjoyed implementing into our day.

Overall I would say I saw a big shift in my teaching style this year. I see the value in having good books all around us. I see that my relationship with my children is more valuable than butting heads day in and day out over a math assignment. I know now that taking a “break” from something is necessary. I can tell when we need a day without any books because there is too much to learn outside. This year was not perfect or easy but I am thankful for grace and how God fills in the gaps where we feel we fall short.

Marriage 12 plus years in

It’s funny how after 12 plus years of marriage I can still feel “new” at this whole wife thing. I mean, how long do you have to live in a role to have it figured out? One would think twelve years is long enough to work out all the kinks.

Why is grace so hard to give to my husband? When I have a decent day with my kids, why do the struggles I have come out in resentment towards him when he comes home and I refuse to be loved? Why is welcoming the praises difficult, when choosing negativity isn’t?

I have an idea, and it’s not new or original. Our family is under attack by an enemy who wants to destroy us. I wake up in the morning and try to squeeze in as much Truth from the Word as I can before little ones awake. I read of grace and truth and the Love of the Father, and I can FEEL IT and I KNOW IT! I feel embraced by truth and grace. I count my gifts and I pray to be a blessing. Then little ones awake, the day really gets going. I strive and I strive and I fill needs. I push down frustration and I clean messes. I make meals and I sing of Jesus love with my kids while we unload the dishwasher. I teach and discipline and then my dear one comes home and it is like I just can’t do it any longer. Without even trying, a wall is built between he and I because I’m tired and I’m broken and it’s just hard.

Twelve plus years in and we are still learning how to communicate. We probably will always be adjusting. I am begging the Lord for His grace. I pray that I hear the words of my husband and that I stop to let him hug me. I am praying that I look for opportunities to put my hands on his tired shoulders. I want these walls torn down. Resentment is not what I want filling my heart. The kids and I talk almost daily about the fruits of the Spirit. We talk and pray that our hearts would overflow with peace, love, joy, kindness, goodness and self control. We have some amazing days and then we have some very real days. I couldn’t ask for a better man to go through hard things with. I pray that I wouldn’t only think that is true, but I would believe it and say it.

Sweet Spots

Yes… I do post lots of pictures of the best moments of my day. Why? Because I think we need that reminder sometime.

Real life in my house is always messy, lots of sibling fights, short remarks I make to my husband after a long day with the kids. Real life is me trying to keep my eyes open to make it through another lesson… Opening the fridge at 5:30 and thinking what on earth will I make for dinner when remnants of school and snacks liter the kitchen ( along with ALL the Tupperware on the floor… By my 14 month old😉).

I get so tired and the kids are needy and I’m needy…

But then a great moment happens and I snap a picture because right along with the crazy is the beauty. We just have to stop and recognize it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those mothering. To those serving, loving and giving day after day.

Don’t forget to find the beautiful in the mess. I’m not trying to hide my mess from anyone. Just trying to remember all the sweet spots.

Choosing what is real

As I sit in a coffee shop I’m pondering authenticity. In a world where fake is everywhere, it can be difficult to decipher what is real.This coffee shop doesn’t mess around. My plate came out with bread that went through a slow process of refinement by the hands of people I can see as I write. The eggs and bacon…(oh the Bacon!) are freshly fried. Even the jam is perfectly crushed from fresh fruit. It is wonderful.

Does it cost a little more? Yes. Did I have to wait? Of course.

In this moment though, I wonder why I would ever want to settle for less. What is there to gain from rushing through life? Why do we choose to fuel ourselves, mind, body, and soul with things that aren’t real?

I challenge you to experience something real today.

Get outside. Have a conversation with someone in person. Make something from scratch and actually enjoy the process and the mess. Write something by hand.

Don’t settle for a high-fructose filled life, when God made sugar and called it good! Seek to find the “real” amongst the everyday.

When I take the time and search for what is real amongst the fake, I am constantly reminded of Christ, His goodness, His Love, His Mercy. I am reminded of the gifts He gives us every single day.

A few gifts I’m thankful for today…

  1. alone time with my eldest daughter.
  2. a long talk last night with my husband even though our kids were still awake
  3. sunshine in the early morning after several mornings of rain
  4. being outside of my house for a little bit this morning and reminded of life happening outside my walls
  5. hot coffee in a ceramic mug
  6. learning with my kids on the back porch

Everyday we choose. Everyday we choose to either seek after what is real, or settle for what is false. Today, and hopefully tomorrow, I choose real.


To my 20 year old self on my 30th birthday…

So you are turning 20.  I remember it well.. Living in that tiny apartment.  You felt so lonely.  Matt was taking lots of classes at the seminary and you wondered if it was worth all the time you were spending alone.  (Heads up.. It totally was).

You are still feeling uneasy in your new city.  It’s not quite been a year since you moved.. And man was it a hard year.  Your parents divorced and the pain has been unreal.  You aren’t sure if life will feel normal again. (Heads up…It totally will)

During this last decade, I’ve learned that life changes and it changes fast.  I know change doesn’t come easy for you, but embrace it.  Big things will come if you open yourself up to something different and new.

So heads up… You are actually going to move again; no not 1/2 a block to a different apartment, (the pool is awesome!), but to a small town to plant a church.  I know you are thinking.. Plant a church?!  We haven’t even talked about that.. But God has a plan for you. You will plant a church and meet some amazing people.. You will learn so much about ministry and what it means to offer hospitality and listen to people who are going through hard things.  You’ll even start to understand why you have experienced certain trials.. Just so you can speak truth, love extravagantly and have a good ear.  You will buy a house, Matt will finish seminary and you’ll even have your first daughter.  (First?! Oh yes.. Just the first one)

The road will get bumpy and through some hard praying this season and this church will close.  It will be hard, but you will have a peace.  God will still be at work.  You will learn that growing and gaining wisdom doesn’t come without a price.

You’ll move out of that first house a bit more west with your now 3 year old daughter; 1 year old son and a new baby girl in your tummy.  (3?!). Those early days of feeling lonely are getting much better.  You’ve begun to realize your need for community and an amazing group of people live close by.  You feel a deep calling from the LORD to go.. So you go.

Side note… Embrace community! It’s much harder having friends as an adult but it is worth the effort.  Put yourself out IMG_0275there.. Open up and let people in.

Life is crazy.  Life with three children is a lot.  You will love to be home but your relationship with Matt will struggle.  In these long days you will have to learn more than ever to seek the Lord together and put your relationship as a top priority.  He needs you.. Not your leftovers. Love him well and remember what started it all.  Encourage him. Listen to him. Hug him tight.

Raising kids takes a lot physically and mentally .  Enjoy it though.  Soak up the story times, cuddles, rounds of Bingo and kitchen play. By the time you are almost 30 Your first little girl is  going to be in second grade , Your son a kindergartner, your Ruby girl  will be 2 1/2 and little Evie, 3 months.  (Yes you will have 4 kids!). You will need breaks though.. Don’t feel guilty about going to get a little time for yourself now and then.  You have to take care of yourself to be a good mom.  Surround yourself with people who are an encouragement to you.  You need that more than ever during these years.

Also, your day is going to be filled with difficult moments, although it will feel like your day is ruined, just take a deep breath and keep going. I know you feel any negativity ruins the whole day.  It doesn’t have to.

God is going to stretch you.  You will not always understand.  Seek the Lord… Love your husband.. Enjoy watching your kids as they grow and learn (did I forget to mention you will homeschool?!) Your 20s will be your best yet. Enjoy them.. Don’t waste them.  Be teachable. You don’t know everything yet.

There is so much more I want to tell you, but…You need a few surprises!image


Yourself.. On the day you turn 30

The Move

IMG_20160602_174000We live in a great house; Midcentury modern, open floor plan, wood floors, lots of light, plenty of space. We live in a great house in a great neighborhood; brick paved streets, awesome neighbors, short walk to amazing coffee and Allen Fieldhouse, (Rock Chalk), and close to the highway. We live in a great house, in a great neighborhood, in a great town; Lawrence, Kansas; home to Kansas Basketball, incredible food, (like this, this and definitely this), (and this and this) great church plants, and dear, dear friends. And we are moving…

Three years ago, Jessica and I moved to Lawrence with the expectation that we would spend at least ten years in this house, in this neighborhood, with these friends, raising our two, almost three, and now four kids. We expected our family to live out the mission of God in our neighborhood, planting roots and seeking the good of our city together with other sojourners who wanted and were lead the same.

Yet, this life we were building in the pursuit of all this good, increasingly brought us out of alignment with each other, our kids, and ironically the mission we feel called to.

The thing about great old houses in great neighborhoods is they aren’t cheap and they are prone to breaking. The thing about having four kids is, they aren’t cheap and they also are prone to breaking. The way God built, is building our family requires a lot of bandwidth both housesalepicin terms of time and resources. Over time, the combination of a growing family (and growing medical bills, living expenses) and a house in constant need of updating and repair, lead us to a situation where me having secondary employment wasn’t just a nice bonus, but an absolute necessity financially.

Over the last four years, in addition to my work with the North American Mission Board as a Church Planting Catalyst, I have been incredibly blessed and humbled to serve four different churches in an interim pastor capacity. God has been incredibly gracious in each of those situations, both to myself and the churches we were involved with. In each, God has brought growth and healing for myself and the churches involved and each stop has allowed us to stay afloat financially. Yet, in the intervening months when I wasn’t serving a local church as interim, our family fell off a cliff financially. This cycle has repeated itself yearly over the last four years and has combined to place us under a mountain of debt and stress. Additionally, and more importantly, for the majority of the last four years, our family has worshipped in different locations on Sunday mornings, as some churches have been at a considerable distance to travel with four young children and I have missed precious time at home when local church responsibilities have required my presence.

For me to continue leading my family in worship with them, as well as spend the time I desire with each of them as they grow, things had to change. If you remember, here; Jessica and I shared an expression of the Mission God has called our family to and for us to complete that mission requires time; time from and with both of us. In short, our current life was increasingly out of alignment with the goal and mission of our family.

At the end of the day, while we love our home, it’s not the idol that defines our identity and it’s not the most important thing in our life. Rather, our home is a useful tool in our God called work of building “a family of missionary servants“. Our hope is that again soon we will own a home that we can joyfully work on together and for that place to be the place our children remember growing up. IMG_20160602_173918It is also our hope to serve a local church as a family together, not separated as has been the case for too long.

So, for the time we have remaining in this house we’ve made a home, instead of sadness and mourning, we choose to live in thankfulness and gratitude. And instead of fear and unknowing, we choose joyful expectation of what God has ahead.



Family Mission

*This post is coauthored by Matt and Jessica

I (Jessica) admit I like to be organized and have a plan. I plan and write down everything… And this always proves to be helpful.

We (as a society) make lists for the grocery store, house projects, ideal vacation spots… So it always amazes me a little when people mention they are mostly “winging” this family thing.

I think it comes somewhat out of nowhere.  You have a little baby and the days revolve around feedings and nap and then all of a sudden you realize that these kids are not so little.  They are becoming real people with their own unique thoughts and ideas. They have eyes and ears that are picking up on much of our day to day rituals.  I know that time moves so quickly and that the years are already going fast and so being intentional with each day as family seems necessary.

A couple years ago Jessica and I (Matt) decided we needed to develop a family mission statement.  While we are not a business or a church, we are seeking for our life and family to emulate and reflect certain values and goals. We decided getting those things on paper was very important. So, here’s what we came up with…


We are family for the good of the city

In the coming weeks we will unpack the specifics of each part of the above statement, but to give a bit of a preview, this is some of what we mean.



We are a family

We are a family who in love and humility spurs one another on to Christ likeness. Proverbs 27:17 and Hebrews 10:19-25

We are a family who chooses to operate with grace, forgiveness and accountability. Ephesians 4 and Matthew 18

We are a family who views children as a blessing and not a burden.-Psalm 127

We are a family who expects our children to honor and trust.-Ephesians 6:1-3

We are a family for the good 

We are a family who loves God and loves others – Matthew 22:34-40

We are a family who celebrates the power of the ordinary and the every day. Romans 12:1-2

We are a family who expects to work hard and to do our best – Colossians 3:23.

We are family who will seek the Lord and will remain teachable – Matthew 6:33-34 and James 4:6-10.

We are a family for the good of the city. IMG_20160520_140711

We are a family who strives to model and practice servant hood – Philippians 2:5-11

We are a family who loves and cares for the neighborhood, people and city in which we live – Jeremiah 29:4-7

We are a family that believes our health and well-being is linked to the health and well-being of our neighbor-James 2 and Matthew 25

We are a family who will be involved in the mission of God in the places we live, work and play. Matthew 28:18-20, John 20, and Romans 12:1-2


Now, we could choose to not worry about any of this, but this is our ONE life.  We want to honor the Lord and grow our family to follow after Him, and having this mission codified helps to keep our family headed in the same direction.

Multiple times we have come to a point where we could go two (or three or four) different directions; and if we hadn’t spent anymore time thinking through who we we were as a family than what we wanted for dinner, we would have had a much more difficult time making decisions.

Life is so unpredictable and while spontaneity and “winging it” has its moments, the direction of our family is not something we can afford to leave to chance.


shadowMy oldest daughter raced down the hallway of our hotel in a rage.  She felt “shorted” and was refusing to come into our room with us.  It was 4 pm and our day had been filled with many emotional breakdowns from each of the kids.  I was tired and hungry and ready to relax, but now once again I had to “parent”.  I wanted to yell! I started back down the hall and somehow gained enough composure to direct her back towards our room in a way she responded to.

I wish I had all the answers.  I’m amazed how right when I seem to have one stage “figured out”, moments later I am slapped in the face with something new and seemingly more difficult.  Matt said that sometimes parenting four kids can feel like a twisted version of “Press your Luck” with the accompanying whammies coming in the form of a very fussy 2 month old,  an unreasonable toddler who shrieks a lot, a preschooler who is grumpy and hard to please and finally, the grade schooler with extreme attitude flare ups. It’s all hard.  I hate not knowing if I’m saying the right thing or handling the situation in the way that will reap the best results.

During our family devotion today we were read these words in James 1:23-24 “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was”.

This got me thinking..  In the difficult moments (Which seem to be so often) am I forgetting what kind of person I am? Am I a hearer and not a doer?
I might not always have the right answer.  I might not always know what I should say to move past where we are, but in my moments of uncertainty as a parent, am I still a reflection of Christ? In my discipline, is there love? In my truth, is there kindness? In my redirection, is there self control?

This morning we shared with the kids basic skills to help us remember our reflection of Jesus; reading God’s word and prayer. Yet, if these skills are so “basic” how do we as parents so often forget? I  have been convicted about how often I am in prayer for my children.

It can become so easy to excuse each emotional moment our kids have as a “stage” and just assume it will pass. Yet, when we do this we fool ourselves into believing we have no control over the situation and worst of all miss out on opportunity to bless our children and grow ourselves. Friends, we are not powerless, we need to pray.

When your toddler is struggling with tantrums, pray that God will help her to learn to obedience.  When your 6 year old is emotional, pray that she will have peace.  When your preschooler is moody, pray that God will fill his heart with joy that can only come from Him.

Pray when you get ready in the morning.
Pray when you brush your daughters hair..
Pray during a diaper change,  while folding laundry or cooking dinner…
Pray while you lay next to your child or when you give them a bath..

Friends, let’s be a reflection of Jesus, not just in our hearing, but also in our doing.

Monday Morning

I admit mornings are hard for me.  Not necessarily the getting up, but my expectation of what I hoped the morning would bring.

In my mind the morning brings exercise, devotion, shower, and a house clean and picked up, ready for the day. Yet, the reality most mornings is a 2 year old who gets up early every day and wants to be held, a nursing baby and typically a couple rather grumpy kids.  It’s usually a little crazy getting breakfast on the table and then there are beds to be made, a dishwasher to unload and breakfast spills to clean up. The kids need help getting dressed, they want my attention and are ready to play, the baby wants to nurse again and we should really start school.

It’s already 930 or later and my expectation of an ideal morning is not a reality once again. Or is that the case?  I’ve said before I chose these kids and in doing so I chose messes and much less time for myself BUT i also chose so much more. I chose those early morning snuggles with my little ones.  I chose getting to feed my family and make memories around the breakfast table.  I chose teaching children how to get up and get ready and begin their day in Gods word.  I chose to educate my kids.  Forming habits in my kids takes time. It takes consistency.  It takes repeating these steps every morning.

My kids are watching me as well.  How am I responding when things don’t go exactly my way?  I know how my kids respond.  I’ve been guilty so many times for getting upset at my kids for having a bad attitude and yet.. How was my attitude that day? So maybe your morning isn’t going how you prefer.. It is Monday after all.  Do what you can to adjust.  If there isn’t time to be in Gods word, pray or turn on a worship song.  If there isn’t time to exercise, plan to take a walk later on.

If you don’t have time for a shower…Put on fresh clothes and some mascara! 🙂

The day isn’t over at 9:30 AM.  This whole parenting thing isn’t a sprint.  There’s no way to get everything done in a short amount of time.  It’s much more like a marathon.  So, set a steady pace for yourself for the day, make some goals and enjoy. There are going to be bumps and detours.. Frustrations and even tears.  That’s just part of the adventure.  The reality of unmet expectation serve as a great reminder of our deep need of Jesus.

So lean on Him, hug your kids, turn on some music and Have a Happy Monday everyone!

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