Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmastime is here.

Isn't it the worst when bad stuff happens at Christmastime? 
Car accidents, miscarriages, lay-offs, break-ups, death, bankruptcy- the real emergency room scare, ugly headlines in the newspaper kind of stuff. 
It sucks all the time, but doesn't it just really suck at Christmas? 
Like you can't wrap that up and stick a bow on it or cover it in frosting and sprinkles, so it just doesn't belong. 

(Hi, I'm Keri and I'm the worst at blogging. Because nothing says Merry Christmas like this doom and gloom blog post. Nice to meet you.) 

This year, in the midst of all of the Christmas fun that comes with sweet kids, fun plans and presents all hidden away and wrapped up in the basement, we've also seen a whole lot of tragedy come to so many of the people that we love. 

As we've prayed for our friends and grieved for so many from so far away, there's fresh reality in the  miracle of God sending His Son to a world so stained by sin and hurt because His love for us is that deep and that strong. 

Because He knew that we would face days that are dark and rotten. He knew that we would face things that our souls just weren't meant for; things too big and too painful to face alone. 
He knew that we would be assaulted with loneliness. 
He knew that we would see loved ones die. 
He knew that we would have days filled with tears. 
He knew that we would have hopes that were unfulfilled. 
He knew.

So He came. 
God with us, Emmanuel. 
It's no small thing. It's more than a Christmas carol.  
It's a life-giving, perspective changing truth that anchors our souls in hope. 

In the same way that God told Joshua "I will be with you, I will not forsake you," in a promise of strength and courage to Joshua in the midst of insurmountable odds against him, His coming tells us the same thing-
God is with me, and God is with you. 
In the same way that He walked through a fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, He walks the impossible steps of faith and life with us. 

So, like so many saints and sojourners of old,
we experience that tension of grief and pain 
mixed with hope and glory.
And we're needy in this season of advent;
looking to a land and a country that's so much better than the one we have,
rejoicing because God made a way for us in the birth and death of His Son. 
That's Christmas. 

We glory because we have hope-
our Savior King is with us, and He's a warrior and friend. 

"Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you,
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, 
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
Isaiah 60

Merry Christmas, friends. 
Because God is with us. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


It's the first day of fall and summer is officially over. 

As someone who doesn't like pumpkin (don't hate), Halloween (don't hate), or boots that go past my ankles (again, don't hate), I already miss summer. Maybe I'm trashy, but I will gladly take jean shorts and slurpees every single day of the week over pumpkin spiced anything and a sweater. 

How hilarious is it that I married a man who would seriously love it if it snowed
 every day of his life, forever? 

Having said that and lost all my friends, this summer was a great one for me. 
I started drinking water regularly (nope, not joking), quit eating sugar (for real, how weird, right?) and read several really good books. 
And since a lot of people lately have asked me about books and suggested making a book list, 
this is me complying. 

But because the idea of writing up a big huge, top ten or whatever list is daunting and unrealistic during (hahahaha) "quiet time" for my kids. I'll stick to what I've loved lately- this summer.
You're welcome. 

Please know that I read these books as a mom. 
Not a theology student, not someone who has much (hahahaha) "free time," nanny or maid. 
My Bible reading in the morning is pretty much always interrupted and distracted, no matter what time I get up. (I have one of those kids who hears everything and gets up with me no matter the hour.) And I'm okay with that, because I've experienced God's grace as the Holy Spirit speaks over the din of my kids and the chaos of 6:00 am.  
I fervently and emphatically believe that the LORD is so gracious and tender to moms of littles. 
But on the mornings that I'm trying to trek through Ezekiel while kid after kid after kid after kid assaults me with questions about breakfast, weather, TV, homework, books, the dog, breakfast, the weather, TV, homework, books, the dog…. I am thankful for books like these. So I try to read a chapter of something good everyday. 

Much like drinking water, it's been good for me. 

Quick preface: I am sort of a book snob and do not like fluff.  I want something that's gonna provide some meat and at least a little challenge.

So, first up this summer was Jesus + Nothing = Everything, by Tullian Tchividjian. 
Everyone should read this book. I think I quoted just about the whole thing on Facebook as I read it (yeah, I'm one of those people), but as a church kid, as a perfectionist, as a mom, as a human being on planet earth, this book was tremendously powerful. The themes of identity, grace and freedom honestly brought joy and life to some long, hot and impatient summer days that just felt weary. 
I'm already excited to read it again. 

For the past several months, the Holy Spirit has been continually bringing Ricky and I back to the beautiful idea and reality of abiding and resting in Him. I feel like I've been living in John 15 for this season, and it's been incredibly fruitful (see what I did there?) and just plain good. One of our missionary friends suggested this book at just the right time and I am so glad she did. Aren't missionary friends the best? Everyone should listen to the missionaries and glean all the wisdom they possibly can, right? 
Anyhoo, I had never really thought much about Sabbath beyond Old Testament knowledge and the little bit of Hebrews 4. This book challenged so many of the ways that I consider time, duty and rest. As someone who prays for my kids and husband daily, it was incredibly valuable to stop and consider (and pray over) the season that we're in as a family. Practically, that's helped us in prioritizing some everyday decisions and some longterm goals and decisions as a family. And now I'm totally making this book sound so dry and so boring, when it's so not- Mark Buchanan is a great author and story-teller. Reading this book was like coming up for air, in a really good way.  

Some other oldies but goodies I hit up were The Ministry of Intercession, by Andrew Murray (one of my favorite books on prayer, ever); and Spiritual Leadership, by J. Oswald Sanders. These guys are like timeless old friends. 

For fun, and especially in light of so much that's happening in the Middle East right now I have loved this book so much I've bought several copies for friends: Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World, by Tom Doyle. This is a series of true stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions, and eventually them coming to Him for salvation. I love this book- it's exciting and it's been a huge encouragement to me as I pray for Muslims that we know here in America and Muslims that we don't know all over the world. (This was another suggestion from a missionary friend who serves in the Middle East.) 

So there it is.
And quiet time has turned into fight over the lego birthday cake time, so this is me peacing out. 
What are you reading? 

Monday, August 18, 2014

the cat's in the cradle.

I've been thinking an awful lot about time and seasons lately.
I think it's partly because it's back to school season and in just a few short days I'll be bidding three out of four little benders good-bye while they wear backpacks that look way too big for them, and shoes that still look shiny and new. The times, they are a-changin'.
I've also been watching the Wonder Years a lot lately and that'll do it every time. 

For the past week or so, this verse has been gnawing away at me in a way that's good for my soul.

"Teach us the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom."
"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." 
 psalm 90:12

I've been simmering away in this idea of being a person who's able to discern the seasons of life rather than watching life tick by; as Mark Buchanan said, 
"Teach us that this is not just another day of the week, but the day that the LORD has made.

When I actually stopped and considered that I was a little bit wrecked. 
I forget that every day. 
Literally, every day.

I'll just be honest right now and level with you: 
I'm one of those people who always has a plan. 
I might try to fool you with my easy-breezy "it's all good, I'm easy, no worries, it happens when it happens" lingo (with some maxi skirts, messy hair and folk songs thrown in), but at the core of me is a type A, organized, git 'er done nut. 
I walk fast, talk fast, drive fast, cook fast, and if it were a thing, I'd parent fast. 
Slowing down is really hard for me, and one of the biggest hurdles for me to hurl myself over in having kids is simply being flexible. 
I like lunch to happen at lunch time. And naps to happen at nap time. 
I like my Bible time to be regular and uninterrupted.
If bedtime is late I might kill someone. 
I like to be on time for the times that I've set up.
I vacuum on Monday.
I run errands on Wednesday. 
I workout at 9:00am for half an hour- it's t25, and I have a schedule. 
Every day is, in my mind, broken up into these chunks of time, that if everything goes according to my plan, will end up with me having some me time- lately spent sewing, reading, selling my clothes on Facebook, or anything else that's more fun without kids. 
I'm a time hoarder.

It's super easy for me to reminisce and pine for "the good ol' days" pre-kid, when I could do what I wanted when I wanted to- whether it was a road trip, a job, reading a book, trying a restaurant, or taking a long shower without hearing anyone's screams beyond the closed door.  I'm great at longing for the days that I hope are yet to come, that in my optimistic mind, are filled with new places, Ricky Bender, friends and fun.
But it is not super easy for me to just enjoy the day. Like this one. Monday. Right now. 

"Teach us the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom."
Can you imagine how convicted I've been lately?

Mysterious illnesses pop up at nap time.  
Pants get peed in at the worst times. 
Little people who pepper me with questions all day, and actually want me to answer so badly that they'll stand there and keep asking the same question until I do, surround me like lions surround a kill.  
Hugs when I'm busy.
Bandaids and kisses when I'm on the phone. 
Reassurances of love and affection (or food) at those rare moments that I actually have a minute to hang out with a friend. 
We haven't even gotten to the age where there's sex questions, make up or boyfriends yet. 
Kids are not convenient. Ever. 

Now throw this quote in there, like the cherry on top of the conviction sundae, 
"My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that interruptions were my work." (Henri Nouwen)
dang it. 

You guys, I am not gaining a heart of wisdom as I consider the brevity of life. 
I am not discerning the seasons with my kids.
I'm having a hard time really even noticing them some days. 

Do you ever feel like that? 
It could easily just be me. I'm sort of a jerk sometimes

It's been my prayer and hope lately to let the Holy Spirit apply these words to my heart, and teach me in wisdom. 
And can I just tell you, it's been a good, precious and valuable thing. 
I've noticed lego creations and pirate princess birthday parties, where I usually see a mess. 
Lotta twirls around in a circle on her tiptoes every time she gets dressed. 
I never noticed that. 
Fin cracks up at every single one of Caleb's jokes and then spends the day trying to retell those jokes. 
She's really, really funny. 
And it's good to be their mommy.
Right now. 

The old people at the grocery store and the folk singers are right, y'all. 
Enjoy these days because they go by so fast.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."
Prov. 19:21


Thursday, May 22, 2014

EM Bounds

There are very few books that have changed my life in the same way that EM Bounds books on prayer have- I'm a lover of books, especially a lover on books dealing with prayer; and pretty much everyone who writes about prayer goes to this guy for their quotes (okay, and the Bible.) 

I've always thought it was super weird that EM Bounds- this spiritual giant in my eyes- served in the confederate army (some say as a chaplain, some say as a general). Like whaaaaat? Abraham Lincoln and EM Bounds were on opposing sides? 

Then I found this this morning: 

Edward McKendree Bounds (1835 - 1913) was a powerful preacher and a well-known minister during the era of America's Civil War. Although he was against aligning himself with either side in that war, having refused to join the Confederate Army initially, the Union Army nevertheless arrested him as a Confederate sympathizer because he pastored a church in Brunswick, Missouri, which was Confederate territory. He was released about a year and half later whereupon it became impossible for him to minister the gospel within the arena of war unless he was given official sanction. Thus, he enlisted as a Confederate Chaplin in the Missouri ranks. He became an immense source of comfort for both Confederate and Union soldiers alike, ministering to either side as the Lord gave him opportunity. It is recorded that one night before a major battle, Bounds was holding a gospel service for a large contingent of Confederate troops encamped along a river. On the other side of the river was the Union Army. When the Union troops across the river discerned that Bounds was holding a service, they began to yell across the river and ask for prayers for various comrades who had been wounded or who were otherwise in need. The Confederate side, under Bounds, warmly received these requests, and yelled back across the river with names of their own injured, thereby soliciting prayers from the Union side. Such was the effect that E. M. Bounds had upon all he ministered to. 

How's that for unity in Jesus' name to God's glory? 

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling…" 
(ephesians 4:4)

Maybe we shouldn't freak out so much when we disagree about ultimately dumb stuff. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

jovie's grace.

You know those mornings where you wake up feeling super rested and ready to take on the day? The kids are still snoozing while you make your tea, and you sit down with your Bible in a silent, sleeping, peaceful house? You dig into the word for some meaty and wonderful insight from the Holy Spirit (complete with tears and notes in your journal), totally uninterrupted by anyone screaming or clogging a toilet; and then your precious wee ones tumble down the stairs bright-eyed with sweet smiles and darling bedhead, excited to have whatever cereal you decide to pull from the pantry. As you pour the cereal into their bowls, maybe you're even met with a chorus of "thanks, mom!" The sun is shining,  birds are chirping- the whole world is your oyster! 

Yeah, me neither. 
Instagram lies, friends. 

I'll probably be blaming the time change of two weeks ago for our grouchy attitudes on through the summer, but seriously? My kids are a hot mess lately. 

I've composed this haiku about Jovie just for kicks:

Hot tears. Disaster.
Fists pound. Voice ragged. Distress.
"Mom! Fin looked at me!" 

That was this morning. 
All morning. 

Finally, after three timeouts and multiple forced apologies (from Jovie, to Lotta and Fin) I realized that this girl and I needed to ask Jesus for help. 

Why am I so slow to do that?

We sat down in her room and held hands. I asked Jesus to help us to be kind to one another, to give us good words to share with each other, and for Lotta and Finlee to love Jovie and vice-verse. Then Jovie prayed. 

"Jesus. I have a sad heart today.
Please give me a happy one.
I love you.
The end." 

I didn't want to let her little hands go.  
I focus on the doing; she pours her little heart out to Jesus. 
And my four-year old just ripped me a new one.

It. Is. Hard. To. Be. A. Parent. 

I almost missed that. I almost chose timeout (again) over bringing my kid to Jesus. 

I'm not telling this story to brag or boast in my awesome parenting skills, because I am lame. The chiefest of lame sinner moms, right here.  I miss most of these opportunities. I tell Caleb stupid things like "you need to just change your attitude and get over it," a hundred times a day. I wish I was the "hey buddy, let's ask Jesus to give us a right heart in this right now" mom, but I'm just not there. Especially when it involves homework and chores. 

My precious little people need the same new mercies and grace to deal with their day as I do. Who hasn't ever met the day with a sad heart? Jovie does. So do I. Where my wisdom says "just try harder to be good," the Holy Spirit would remind us "my burden is easy and my load is light;" the difference between a sad heart and a happy one. Only the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. 

My kids have got children's ministry, Bible time and worship songs coming out their ears; and I praise God for that. We've got shelves and shelves of amazing books, rich in testimony and theology. But none of that takes the place of the gospel, communicated and demonstrated daily in our home. 

Lord, that we would hold little hands and pray precious prayers with our kids. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

veggie tales truth.

This morning I did dishes with a "beautiful cupcake ballerina." (It was Finlee.)  
At lunch I ate chicken strips with three princess cowgirls. 

The dress-up bin in our house gets more use than any of the other bins, and I absolutely love it. 
We have these little girls who are vibrant, passionate, creative and hopeful. 
Why not be a princess doctor with a tutu, sunglasses, Lightening McQueen backpack and cupcake beanie? 

I know I would. 

I've been thinking and praying about the memory verse we're doing with the kids at church this week, and on Thursday I realized that there was a really kind word straight from Jesus to me- like these memory verses aren't just for the kids. 


Our memory verse is a classic, tried and true Sunday School fave: I Samuel 16:7:
"People judge the outward appearance, but the LORD sees the heart."

I might sound crazy right now, but I'm just gonna level with you when I say this: 
I do not usually remember that or live like that. 

I am a mom. I feel (and usually look) like one. 
Maybe I only put mascara on one eye. 
Not stylish. 
I probably just yelled (or am currently yelling) at one of my kids.

And I realized this week that while I spend much of my time thinking of the things I either need to do, or the things that I don't do well enough; I haven't spent very much time just remembering that God loves me. 

I know it sounds simple and I sound a little bit nuts, but isn't it so good to remember that the God of heaven and earth rejoices over you with singing? That in the midst of laundry, whining and dinner planning God has thoughts for you more numerous than the sand? While we might experience every single emotion under the sun throughout the day, we have a high priest who sympathizes with us, all because He loves us. 

Savor that, friends. 
You might be wearing old jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, wishing that you had more time to workout because you hate how your pants fit. 
Maybe you wish you were just a little more organized, 
more spiritual, more patient, more educated, 
better at budgeting, better at cleaning, better at planning, 
with more ability or money or passion, 
but God loves you. 

He designed you with the very gifts and talents that you need for right now. 
He thinks of you and understands the difficulties of your day. 
He has a plan and hopes and dreams for your life, and He's not done. 
God loves you in a way that's vast, passionate and sure. 

God made you special and He loves you very much. 
Bob and Larry were right. 

I know that we have a jillion things going on, and lots of people to remember stuff for and think about (and I need to put mascara on the eye I missed), 
but no matter how things appear on the outside of things,
the LORD sees your heart, He cares and He's working. 

"She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; 
Her husband also, and he praises her; 
Many daughters have done well, 
But you excel them all.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."
(prov. 31:26-30)

Saturday, January 4, 2014


I'm not really one for New Years Resolutions. And seeing as how it's January 4th and I missed the boat   on all that (we all had the death-flu for daaaaaaaaays), this works out. 

I'm going to be extremely honest (and a little self-deprecating) right now and just hope that you understand and will still like me at the end of this (hopefully short and sweet) post. 

I love clothes. 
All of them.
I'm not a hoarder or anything (I mean, come on); I get rid of stuff pretty often, but I love to buy clothes. 
If you know me, you know this is true. 

Stripes (swoon), plaid (oh, big swoon), corduroy (be still my heart), floppy hats and beanies and scarves and skirts and skirts and more skirts and cardigans and dresses and denim (oh, so much denim). Flowers and tribal and neon…. we're like a happy little family. 

Did I have a rough day with the kids? Forever 21 can fix that. Am I excited for a family vacation? I'll celebrate at H&M. Anxious? Target! Frustrated? Old Navy! Hungry? The Gap! Super pissed off at the world? Anthropologie for sure. (Only Anthro for that.)

My TV keeps telling me that I'm doing that I'm doing the right thing. And yes, that chunky cable knit sweater will make all of the problems of life just fade away into the (charcoal grey, please)  background. 

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think my TV is wrong. 
Because self-gratification hasn't solved any of my problems. I just feel bloated. 

I've been chewing on this chunk from 2 Peter (1:5-9) for the last 6-7 months: 

"But for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins." 

It would be very easy for me to make an "I'm just gonna try to do better at this stuff and smile more" resolution for 2014, and that would be nice. But I'm getting to a point in life where I need some of that meat and potatoes hearty resolve to make a change and be active in actually denying my flesh, laying down my life and taking up my cross. It's a good practice (and one I've sorta lost in there somewhere) to say "no" to yourself. Even in something as silly as not buying clothes. (Gotta start somewhere, right?) 

So there it is: 
2014. No new clothes (shoes, hats, bandanas) for me. 
If I want something new, I can thrift it or make it. 
For the whole year. 

Please be my friend and hold me accountable. 
Because you know what happens when May rolls around… tank tops and sundresses and wedge sandals….