Confidence and Poppies

flowers3I am sure you are wondering about the new name I gave my blog.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to call this place where I record the happenings of our lives and the things Father has done for us.

Confidence.  Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  As I think on my life and look back at who I was vs. who I am becoming, I see how I am constantly being sanctified.  It is an ongoing process that will continue until the day I am made whole by Him in Heaven.  I am confident that whatever I may be going through is being used by God to glorify Himself, and that, my friends, makes every joy and trial I walk through worth it, because HE is worth it all.  So, I can run through this life, head held high, confident that my obedience is leading me closer to Him.

Poppies.  Last year, the girls and I read a book called In Flanders Fields. It is a poem written about the First World War and talks of the red poppies that grew over the  graves of fallen soldiers and how the poppy became one of the world’s most recognized symbols of remembrance.  For days, then months, I couldn’t get those red poppies out of my mind.  I would see a poppy and remember.  I would remember the lives lost for our freedoms.  I would remember Chloe.  I would remember the way the Lord has been faithful to us.

The poppy has become a symbol in my heart to remember.  I have always been drawn to the papery thin, dainty flower, but now I just can’t help but to love it, so I knew somehow, some way, the poppy had to be a part of my blog name.

And there you have it.  Confidence and Poppies.  Remembering that Jesus is the King of kings and being confident in His ability to complete what He has started in my life.

 

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The Thirteenth Chance

Another book review because the amazing authors out there who have written books for me to lose myself in deserve praise shouted from the rooftops!  That, annnnnd they let me read their books early if I tell all my friends what I thought about it.

51-6lwixfjl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Amy Matayo is an author whom I became acquainted with when I read a novella collection that one of my favorite authors was part of.  Then I won a copy of Amy’s novel, Sway, and was hooked on her writing.  This newest book, The Thirteenth Chance, was one I couldn’t put down!

But I’ve also learned that bad decisions don’t make a bad man.  Everyone has a past full of mistakes they would like to undo, and everyone has a future full of errors ready and waiting for them.

I love it when a feel-good novel brings home hard truths that we all need to hear.  Messing up is a part of life, but forgiving is the part that we all struggle with and need to work on.

In this book, a professional baseball player, Will,  who has plenty of mess-ups in his past, enlists the help of his goody-two-shoes, elementary school teacher neighbor, Olivia, to help him straighten out his reputation.  Neither one of them expects the chain of events that follow that first fateful meeting in the dark of night, with Olivia wearing blue flannel pants while wielding a screwdriver.  Amy Matayo has managed to capture with hilarity the antics of an ordinary woman who is content to be herself and the reactions of the man who finds her irresistible even when nothing in him wants to.

Did you know you can physically feel your self-image detach itself, suspend in front of you, and fall away?  Well you can.  You really can.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this novel.  I had to try to explain to those around me why I was laughing more than once, and the joy that bubbled up in me because of Amy’s skillfully written words stayed with me long after I put this book down.  You won’t regret your decision to read this book!  Truly.

You can get it on Amazon tomorrow, September 26th!

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My Hope Next Door

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I met Tammy’s pastor husband the first time we ever visited China. He was from Southwestern and participating in the same short-term trip that we were.  He and Cam became friends, and years later, when I learned that his wife had written her first novel, I had to read her work!  I have been hooked ever since.  Tammy has the ability to take real life scenarios and create a story that is not only believable but one that you can imagine yourself living.  I pre-buy all her books and read them on release day.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.  They make me feel.  I experience every emotion and leave the book, every book, thinking about how I can live my faith out a little bit more.

You want me to believe some holy power has turned your life around?  Well then, Katie, show me the difference.

This book, My Hope Next Door, follows in the footsteps of it’s sister novels.  Katie Stone grew up in a small town where everyone knew who she was.  She didn’t make the best choices and when she returns, years after leaving, to help care for her family, she comes face to face with her reputation.  As she tries to live out her new faith and let her present self rewrite who she is today, she is met with a wall of resistance, from both others and herself.  Her neighbor turns out to be a guy she hadn’t treated well in high school, but through an unlikely friendship with him, they both navigate through past pains and find their way to a second chance they couldn’t have dreamed of.

I know you think hiding is your best option.  But trust me, you have to feel something in order to heal.  Ignoring pain only makes it worse.

This book challenged me as a follower of Jesus to take a closer look at the people in my life, both past and present, and determine whether or not I am judging them for their past.  We are all sinners in need of grace, and I need to freely forgive both others and myself.  It isn’t an easy task, but I do think it is one that is required of us.  I love it when a fiction novel can speak to my heart and allow Father to refine the places that are in need of Him!

September 13, 2016 is the release date for My Hope Next Door.  You can pre-order this novel on Amazon, and by following that link your purchase will also donate a portion of the sale to the Board that supports us overseas.  You can actually add an Amazon smile element to your Amazon account and support us with every purchase you make!

So go!  Right now, go order this novel (and just do yourself a favor and get all her other ones too!).  If you love to read fiction, you won’t be sorry.

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Texas, sweet Texas!

After what feels like months and years, we have landed on sweet Texas soil!  We were met by family with posters and sweet smelling roses and have reveled in being with them for the past two days.  We have talked and hugged and shared meals and our hearts are full and happy.

Jet lag has hit, and I realized real fast that I had forgotten how awful it can be!  The first morning we were here, I rolled over and looked at my iPad for the time.  I wasn’t thinking about how the time hadn’t updated yet, so I mistakenly thought it was 4:30 am.  I laid back down and made myself be still for another half hour before getting up.  At about 6, Cam and I went downstairs and made coffee and tried to be quiet.  I think we were pretty unsuccessful.  At 7, I think we stopped our attempt at being super quiet.  When my sister-in-law made her way to the kitchen in her super gracious, loving, way, I realized that my time was off.  We had gotten out of bed at 4am.  Oops.  We did get to experience the donut shop before 7am though!

Our hearts are overflowing with gratefulness for our family.  We have truly been shown Father’s love and care through them all.  Relationships have picked up right where they left off and the grins haven’t left our faces!

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Nine days.

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We are nine days from locking our front door and not re-entering for 5 months.  There are action packers and suitcases all over my bedroom and chaos in my head.  Trying to figure out what to pack and how to pack is overwhelming and the reason for many, many naps in the past month.

In the midst of my life getting packed away, the thoughts that are running through my head have bordered on crazy.  I have moments of sadness where I am not ready to leave China.  There are so many new possibilities in this new city that I am excited to explore!  Then there are moments of fear where I am so scared to be back in America because what if I never want to return to China?!  What if everything is different and friendships have changed too much to recognize?  What if I am so different that I am unrecognizable?

Yesterday I had a deep moment.  Just one.  The door opened and I admitted that this life isn’t the life I would have chosen.  That nothing about it is what I want except for the part where I am doing what Father tells me to do.  I don’t like the furniture in my house.  I would never have picked out my kitchen table.  I wouldn’t choose to live on the other side of the ocean from the people I love.  I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to learn Chinese!  There are things that happen where I want to scream, “You are NOT a good, good Father!!”  But, because these are the realities in my life, the life that was chosen for me by the One who makes the best, most informed, decisions, I realize that I long for heaven more than I ever have before.  I am daily reminded that I was not made for this life, but for eternity.  My job is to invite people to the party of worshipping the One True God!  If He had given me everything I ever wished for and granted me the life I had dreamed about, would I want to be with Him the way I do now?  Would I long for Him?

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This morning when I checked Facebook I read an update on my sweet friend’s daughter’s fight with cancer, her words struck me.  She wrote out the words to “I Surrender All” and the phrase in the middle that says “worldly pleasures all forsaken” hit me in the face.  Daily I have to lay down what I want for what He wants.  My sin nature tells me there are better things in life than what He is giving me, but that simply isn’t true.  I want to forsake worldly pleasures for eternal ones.  I want to want what He wants.  He is a good, good Father.  ALL the time.  I may have to step back, outside my circumstances, to recognize His goodness, but it is always there.  Without fail.  He is faithful.  He is kind.  He is loving.  He is good.

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Resident of Haikou

haikouIt’s officially done and over.  We have moved and spent the last few weeks cleaning, organizing, napping, breaking down boxes, wondering how we have accumulated so. much. stuff, napping again because of the overwhelming feelings of a task too large, and settling in.

I can now say our home feels like home again!  The kitchen has been reopened for business and lots of sugary things have been coming out those doors.  My girls have decided baking is fun, and who are we to squelch their learning and practicing of such an important art?!  Ha!

We have explored the area we live in and find it to be beautiful and convenient to get around.  We have discovered a local bakery run by a foreigner who knows her way around an oven.  We have had pizza and bagels and apple pies while sitting in comfy chairs listening to praise music.  I do believe the girls and I have found our homeschool hangout!

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And because of all the treats, Cam and I have started running again and much to our delight found that there is a running track that follows the coast.  So, as the sun rises above the swaying palm trees, we can comfortably jog on the padded path as we watch the waves roll in.  I can’t really imagine much that can top that for exercise!  Well, besides NO exercise.

Now that we are unpacked, it is time to pack again for a 5 month voyage to AMERICA!  Yes!!

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Kids and Moving.

movingMoving with children at home is like trying to clean up glitter after a girly craft time.

It doesn’t go well.

There is something about rolls of taps and endless bubble wrap that brings out the creative beast inside my children. The giggly creative beast.  They have been wholly unproductive in packing but have certainly kept the joy bubbling forth in our home!

I’ll be honest.  Packing turns me into mom-zilla and giggles may be my food source.  I know they aren’t doing what they were told when the giggles get loud.  I have found them hiding in boxes, jumping on the bed, free-falling onto the mattresses that are now on the floor, turning boxes into shoes, and popping the bubble wrap.  They turn everything into an adventure full of fun, and as I step back and see the opportunities I have missed to join in the joy, I am ashamed.

Kids have it right.  This life is the only one we have, and we need to do everything in our power to turn our work into fun and our grumpiness into laughter.

Thankfully He gives us new mercies everyday, and tomorrow I am going to embrace my inner child and let the giggles and dances spring forth!

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Everyone needs a little bit of Krabi

krabi1When Jeff and Leslie emailed and told us they were going to be back in Asia, we started trying to figure out how we could make our schedules cross paths.  At first, it seemed impossible, but things eventually came together and we were able to meet up with them on a beautiful beach in Thailand.

*as a sidenote, I just love that Ellie still brings her baby doll with her wherever we go.  I caught her showing Abby the city as we passed through it.krabi2I didn’t know what to expect of Krabi, so I googled it, and the images I saw couldn’t be real, so I closed them down and settled on being surprised.  Imagine my supreme surprise when those dreamy pictures became reality!  It took us 3 flights, a van ride, a scooter ride, and a boat ride to get to our vacation spot, and it was worth every. single. minute. of travel time!krabi3Thailand is one hour ahead of China, so my mornings began really early (I am an early riser to begin with!) as my body adjusted to the time change.  I caught the sun rising over the ocean and palm trees our first morning as I sat on the balcony with my coffee and Bible, and it took my breath away.  Then, after a breakfast spread fit for a king, complete with lattes made to order, we spent tim in the beautiful pool and sunshine.  I think my time on Krabi could have ended here, and I would have left feeling like I had the best vacation ever!krabi4But then, the sun completely rose and we saw the sparkling blue green water and fine sandy beaches and I knew the best was yet to come.  Milkshakes with real ice cream and frappuccinos served in a coconut were frosting on the cake.krabi5We stayed in swimsuits all day and didn’t bother with things like make-up, shoes, or combing our hair.krabi6The clouds.  The trees.  The water and sand.  I felt like we were living in a postcard.krabi8Add to the fabulous scenery good friends, and we had a combo that couldn’t be beat!krabi9Well, I thought it couldn’t be beat.  But then we rented a boat for the day, and not just any boat, but a wooden boat on which we could pretend to be on the Titanic.  Only smaller and still alive.  This boat and driver took us wherever our hearts desired, and they desired crystal water and tropical fish.  So we went snorkeling around different little islands and used our lifejackets for chairs as the curious yellow fish came up around us.  We had a picnic on the boat with cheese from America (because Leslie knows we love cheese!), crackers from Indonesia (another gift from Jeff and Leslie and their travels), Nutter Butter cookies imported from America and Oreos from Thailand.  It was a multi-cultural experience.  Ha!

Being in Krabi felt like living a dream.  We get to travel a lot for various meetings and work related events, so we are fortunate to be able to add side trips inexpensively.  Times like this are a gift from our loving Father who delights in our joy as we delight in Him and His masterpieces!

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Why Chiangmai is worth your vacation days

CM1We love Chiangmai, Thailand!  Every chance we get to go visit, we are filled with excitement and anticipation for all the wonderful things we have found to love in this city.CM2Last May, we spent a few weeks in Chiangmai and visited the zoo.  Somehow, we missed half of it, so this year we went back with some friends who actually know how to see all the animals.  You’d think it was a no-brainer, but we somehow managed to miss most of them last time.  She let me hold her baby any time I wanted to, so I practically stole him for the week.  I think he was my favorite part of Chiangmai this time!CM3There are a ton of really odd things in Thailand, but we have learned that a lot of them are worth checking out.  This trip we went to the PooPoo Paper factory.  They turn elephant poop into paper and you get to participate.  Ellie stirred the poop soup, and we watched how the poop is cleaned, dyed, and turned into paper.  CM4It was a super fascinating process, and worth the $3 entrance fee to learn about.  Of course, they rob your wallet at craft time and in the adorable souvenir shop.  CM5Being a part of the paper making process in such a green way is something I hope my girls remember forever.  Most things can be recycled into something new if you use a little creativity.CM6Next up on the tour of Chiangmai was an Umbrella factory that makes paper umbrellas.  This was a different place than the one we went to last year.  This place was visited by Princess Diana, and we got to see the umbrella made to honor her.  We learned about Princess Diana in school this year, so the girls were able to make some connections, which made my teacher heart jump in excitement.  We also went to another Celadon factory (different than the one last year as well).  Celadon is a beautiful pottery handmade on site.  They are mostly pale green or bright blue unless they have been hand-painted.  I love it!CM7Sticky Falls is a place that was on our list of places we wanted to visit at some point, but hadn’t had the opportunity to go yet.  This year, we went with another mom and her kids (the same friend we went to the zoo with, so I had lots of baby holding time!).  The rock is limestone, so it is naturally gripping.  Unlike most waterfalls, you can climb right up the white rock without slipping.  It was gorgeous day of being in the outdoors that reminded us of how creative Father is!  I left feeling filled with thanksgiving at His perfect gifts.CM8Visiting Chiangmai without repeating the 3d museum wasn’t going to happen, so we took an afternoon and went back to immerse ourselves in the eye-catching illusions.CM9Faith’s personality shines through every image we captured.  She is turning into quite the comedian, always doing something that makes us giggle.  She isn’t afraid to be goofy, and it blesses my heart every time she does!CM10I played around this year so that I could text Cam pictures of all he was missing out on by being the studious student that he is.  As a sidenote, I am so proud of Cameron.  He will be graduating with a Master’s degree from Southwestern in December.  He will get to walk the stage while we are home, and it is a true testament to his ability to multitask and work hard.  So proud.CM11I love how one picture can capture every single girl perfectly.  Gracie is happy to sit all day reading or drawing.  Ellie can’t sit still for long at all, and Faith wants to be an actress.   One picture, three personalities, posed without any thought at all.  I love it.CM12I can’t get over how real the red platform in the sky looks.  It makes my belly tickle just looking at it!  And the pandas.  Pandas are so Chinese that we can’t pass by anything panda related without stopping and saying “awwwww”.  I love my long legged dangling girls in this one.CM13I am not a cat lover.  I appreciate their cuteness and the softness of their fur, but their attitudes are so unpredictable!  If they didn’t shed or turn on you without notice, I would love them.  The 3d cat was so much better than last year’s Catmosphere.   CM14Our friend from China joined us in Thailand for a few days of vacation, and my girls were on cloud 9!  They love being with friends, especially hip, single friends who make them feel like they could rule the world.  I was thinking of going on a magic carpet ride back to the beach, but I think I’d hate the beach without my Prince Charming, so I just went to the next really awesome piece of art instead.Cm15More cats.  I told you.  UN-PRE-DICT-ABLE.  You just never know about these sneaky creatures.

In the midst of all our activities, we ate.  A lot.  If you know us well, you know we love to eat.  We had bagels, hot dogs, pancakes, Auntie Annes, donuts, banoffee drinks (think banana Laffy Taffy married to iced coffee.  SO good!), root beer and Manao, burgers, Mexican food…I could keep listing, but I am starting to feel like a glutton.  And the need to go run.

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When prayer doesn’t seem to work

All prayer is to change the human will into submission to the divine will “as thou wilt.”. . . Practically then, I say, Pray as He did, until prayer makes you cease praying. Pray until prayer makes you forget your own wish, and leave it or merge it in God’s will. The divine wisdom has given us prayer, not as a means whereby we escape evil, but as a means whereby we become strong to meet it. “There appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him” [Luke 22:43]. That was the true reply to His prayer.’

Frederick W. Robertson

There are times in my life when I wonder if praying really matters.  If it can change anything.  If it really makes a difference.  Last week I read this quote and my prayer world was rocked.  I had always prayed with the mindset of asking Father to change things.  To make the bumps in my life fit a little easier and feel a little smoother.

I have held onto to the doubt for fifteen years that when I really needed Him, when I prayed the prayer that if given the right answer would make my world right again, He failed me.  He didn’t want to give me what I really wanted, what would have made my life better and whole.  I have struggled so many times with my prayer life because of these doubts, never pausing to truly realize that while I was praying for a miracle, He was working one in my heart.  It was a different miracle, but it was one that passed all understanding.  I remember someone asking me one time how I was doing it.  How are you still smiling when your baby is in a casket in the next room?  I remember telling her that He gives us what we need when we need it, and He was giving me abundant peace.  That was His answer to my heart’s plea.  While I was asking Him to breathe life back into Chloe, He was breathing life into me.  He was filling me with His Holy Spirit power and making my heart beat in tune with His.  He was giving me strength and making my wish become the same as His.

I didn’t clearly recognize any of this until last week, but now I can see His hand, His love, His faithfulness, and his oh so powerful strength carrying me through every moment.  I am quick to fall prey to the enemy stealing my peace even now, fifteen years later, and have to constantly capture every thought and doubt and make it obedient to Christ, but this has changed me.  As I have prayed this week for myself, my family, my friends, I have prayed from a different angle.  It has made such a difference in my heart to know and feel that when I pray, I am inviting His strength to make whatever comes okay.  He has my world under control, and all I have to do is sit back and be obedient to whatever He tells me to do.  He is going to work all the details out perfectly and if I will just allow Him, He will turn all my wishes into the same wishes He has already designed for me.

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