Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Words of wisdom from a 5 year old.

It was a very gloomy, wet and normal day for fall in the Pacific Northwest.  However Jillian didn't see it that way.  She made two statements as we walked to school this morning that I thought would be fun to share.

1)  It is a spoiled day.
2)  I don't like it.  My shoes are getting wet.

Hope you get a smile from this.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Faithfulness via Provisions

I told you I would write more about God’s provision in this season of our lives. It's only taken me three weeks to finish what I wanted to say so, here is goes. . .

Recently, in a down moment, I sent a message to a friend. A portion of their (wise) response to me was:

“… in these times and seasons in our life when were wondering what's going on and things don't make sense - we purpose to assess all that the Lord is doing and how he has blessed us in so many ways. We list everything, and write it down so we can see it.”

So, I thought I would do that here. Perhaps it will be an encouragement or admonition to others to do the same. So, where do I begin . . .

Well, I guess first and foremost, we have a (relatively) happy, smiley, healthy, handsome 18 week old baby boy who brings us such joy!


Many of you know about our concern with finances and Joshua being born early. I had enrolled in an AFLAC disability program intentionally for his birth. I was of the impression that I would received 6 months of pay as long as he was born 10 months after my enrollment date, which in this case was March 1st. So I was hoping and praying that he would come on or after March 1st. He did not. I was devastated. We chose to apply for the cash benefit anyway. And two weeks later, we received a check in the mail for a little over half of our monthly living expenses. It seems that I had misunderstood. For OTHER disabilities, you could be awarded UP TO 6 months of pay but for pregnancy, the maximum benefit was only 6 weeks, which we received despite his birth date being early. At this point any money was better than no money at all.

Prior to Joshua’s birth, we had started hearing information about our church’s annual Men’s conference in Ocean Shores. It was scheduled for March 25-27th. Joshua’s due date was March 12th. We determined there was no way Kenton would be able to attend so soon after Joshua’s birth. But then . . . he came early and the conference was no a full month away. I could handle being home alone with a preschooler and a one month old for sure. But then there was a question of finances . . . again. Kenton got in touch with the church to find out if there were any scholarships available. Eventually he was granted a scholarship, accommodations and a small budget for food for the weekend. When he arrived at his room, he also found a gift card from an anonymous member of the ministry Kenton had been volunteering with at church. (Our awesome online campus that you can check out here: From that moment on, God worked amazing things in Kenton’s heart over the course of the weekend. If you’d like to read more about that, you can read Kenton’s account on his blog here:

At this conference, Kenton was able to make connections with many men from our church. He was invited to attend an informal bi-weekly men’s breakfast on Saturday mornings where he has been able to further grow some of the relationships he began on that weekend away. This has turned out to be an answer to prayer and an encouragement to both of us. Enter Michael Stark. I don’t know that I have ever known anyone like this man. He is a powerhouse of encouragement, energy, hospitality, humor and unbelievable willingness. He’s the kind of guy that you are sure was the class clown in school and would scale the walls if only he had the physically ability to do so but his heart is HUGE!!! He has been encouraging my husband from the moment the park ranger caught them doing donuts on the beach highway in Ocean Shores . . . Woops!  And recently, we have had the opportunity to engage with his family and other friends of theirs, which are now friends of ours, through ‘chance meetings’ and an invitation to the small group they host in their home. It was through these interactions that I met April, the friend whose prayer I wrote about in my last post. These friends & their families have been such a great source of joy and encouragement to us over these last few weeks (see &  Two week ago we had a game night with them that was an absolute blast! 

Another source of great fellowship & encouragement to me was the women I spent 10 weeks with while I was off of work. Because of my leave, I was able to attend the weekly women’s Bible study at my church. We spent two hours a week together learning from God’s word about covenants. These women faithfully listened, encouraged me and loved on me and my little boy (when he would accompany me to the group). It was such a blessing and I look forward to rejoining them in the fall, God willing.

After Joshua’s birth, medical bills started to trickle in. This is to be expected after any birth but since we had been in Olympia for a year and a half and none of us had seen a doctor. Joshua’s birth and well checks were just the catalyst we needed to finally establish care with a local physician’s office. So, in addition to my pre-natal expenses and Joshua’s birth expense we also had standard appts & related follow-ups for all of us. Add to that a pesky visit to the ER after our dear son (a mere 8 days old) busted open his circumsion incision within hours of the surgery and bled profusely. We knew we were covered by my medical insurance but were of the impression that Kenton needed atleast 100 hours a month to qualify for medical insurance through his work. Through a phone call to the insurance company regarding a completely different matter of a cafeteria style plan for out of pocket expenses (which we had NO idea about), Kenton learned that because of his tenure with the company, he was grandfathered in to an 80 hour a month minimum hours and therefore, we had had coverage through his work since January 1st IN ADDITION to the medical insurance from my work. So, ALL of our medical bills would be dual covered by insurance and went into a holding pattern while the secondary insurance is being contacted. Praise God!!

God also provided for us financially & physically. I already mentioned the gift card that Kenton received while on the Men’s Gathering. One of the women in my Bible Study group (who has chosen to remain anonymous) also gifted our family with a gift card to Fred Meyer at our last Bible Study meeting. Another dear couple of friends felt God leading them to share a portion of their monthly giving with us. This thoughtful gave us a little ‘extra’ to cover our vehicle registration renewals for the year which both came due while I was off of work and allowed us a simple night out for a date without the kids. Something, I know the givers would have approved of. Especially since our date led us to a new coffee shop we had heard of and the givers do greatly appreciate their coffee.

Other paths of provision started early on in my pregnancy and have since come to abundant fruition.  In the second month of my pregnancy, an old childhood friend that I had re-connected with via Facebook had received notice that her husband was being restationed to the other side of the country.  To lightentheir moving load, she started getting rid of things, including a Medela Pump-in-Style  backpack style breast pump.  She offered it up on FB to any takers.  I was the first to respon even though I hoped I wasn't going to be working and wouldn't need such a powerful pump.  This dear friend gifted me the pump for free along with a dozen or so accessories.  This was the first blessing.  With God's help and the assistance of this pump.  I have been able to keep my baby on a strict diet of mama's milk only.  My first day back to work, I pumped 10+ ounces.  The next day it was 12.  I have continued to be able to pump enough for Joshua's feedings while I am at work and some days, a little extra.  I thank God for my ample milk supply and the ability to provide for my little man in this way.  My little man who lost nearly a full pound in the week after his birth and who at last check was nearly 15lbs and 24 inches long, putting him in the 75th percentile for weight and 95th percentile for height for his age.  He still doesn't have his sister's cheeks. . . yet.  But is developing quite the little rolls on his long legs.

Another tremendous blessing came from one of the member of my first FPU class which happened last fall.  This particular woman is the mother of three little boys, I believe.  She had some of their old clothes taking up space in her basement.  When I ran into her one night after a church function, she asked me if I'd be interested in them.  I said sure and we parted ways.  A few months later, after Joshua was born she contacted me and let me know she was moving and could I come get the stuff she had, if I still wanted it. Of course I wanted it.  Baby shower clothing gift were just about to run out and we hadn't had the means yet (except grandmas) to acquire more clothes.  I rushed to her house the next day where her husband loaded up the back of my van with two 32 gallon totes, two large black garbage bags and a few miscellaneous toys and baby items.


When I finally had the opportunity to go through the totes and bags about a week later, I couldn't believe what I found.  There are dozens of baby boy outfits from 6 month to 2 or 3T, including some that still had tags on them.  There were FIFTEEN pairs of shoes, ranging from size 2 to size 7, including three pairs of converse (which I would NEVER choose to afford but would LOVE to have for either of my kids). 


In the very bottom of one of the boxes were 5 cloth diapers.  That may not sound like much but it's a savings of about $100 that our family didn't have to spend to increase our diaper stash AND it nearly doubled out current pocket diaper collection.  Finally, the pièce de résistance, in the very bottom of one of the garbage bags was a small compact folding travel bed.  I had registered for a similar one before Joshua was born but had not received it.  All of the sudden, it was as if God was saying to me, "See.  I DO see you.  I know your desire, even the ones that may seem petty to you.  I know what you want and need and I WILL provide for you."  I am SO looking forward to using that little bed for Joshua's first camping trip THIS weekend!

Despite the feeling of dryness and God's silence in this season, it is impossible for to deny that God is at work.  Daily there is something that reminds me of His constant presence and awareness in our lives.  As Pastor Jon pointed out at church a few weeks back, despite the storm that the disciples faced on the sea with Jesus sleeping below deck, Jesus was still WITH them.  He had not left them alone in the boat to navigate by themselves.  Jesus is always in the boat.  And based on the provisions in this post and many other incidences in our lives, it is obvious that Jesus is with us in our boat too!  Praise God!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

VERY Wordy Wednesday - Lessons

About three years ago, in the midst of one of my “desert seasons”, God gave me a picture of the back of a jigsaw puzzle. On some of the pieces was written a lesson He was teaching me. I remember wisdom, patience, abundance . . . There was no picture on the puzzle just the brown cardboard backing and the words but I knew that someday, after all the pieces were labeled, I would be able to turn the puzzle over and see the beautiful picture on the other side . . . the masterpiece that God had molded my life to be through all of these little lessons.

The puzzle vision has lied dormant for a while but when I sat down to write this post, I realized that more pieces had been added. Among them are unworthiness, gratefulness, provision, faithfulness and contentment.

Tuesday night on the eve of my return to work, I had intended to have a peaceful and prayerful night out with my husband, sans kids, to prepare me for the next day. What happened instead was the meanest, ugliest, nastiest depiction of the flesh overruling the Spirit. And mere days after Pastor Jon had taught us about these battles and encouraged us to choose to follow the Spirit and not the flesh. I LOST IT! I was so consumed with frustration, disappointment and anger. This WAS NOT the way this chapter was supposed to end and by golly, I was going to let anyone and everyone know it, especially my husband and God. Unfortunately, most of it hit my husband before it ever got to God. (NOT the way it is supposed to happen, I know.) I was mad at God for not giving me what I wanted, like a spoiled child, I threw a doozy of a tantrum. One that I am not proud of.

After my volcano of emotion exploded and I had time to reflect on the desecration I had left in my wake, two things happened . . . 1.) I was made keenly aware of my unworthiness and 2.) I was show God’s faithfulness.

In the moments following my tantrum, as I sobbed in my car, I thought about the way I had felt and spoken about those I love most in my life. At the height of my anger and self pity, I wanted nothing to do with them and as my emotions calmed an unworthiness settled on me. If only they had known how I had felt only moments earlier . . . I was not worthy to be in the presence of my amazing, completely innocent, sweet-spirited children or my gracious, merciful, loving husband. I did not know how I would face my children when I returned home, knowing the ugliness with which I had just responded to life. In that moment I understood more than I ever have, how unworthy I am of what Jesus did for me on the cross.

If I had physically seen the ugliness he endured because of me and my sin and was then called to look in his innocent eyes, how would I have ever faced him? But it is what I am called to do every day, to be in his presence and look upon his face like that of my closest friend. And now, I understood the depths of this even more.

God solidified my lesson and me his abundant grace and faithfulness in the prayer of a friend. I had received a text from Facebook that alerted me to a message I had been sent in the midst of my meltdown. One of my friends, April, had been praying for me for the last few days because she knew my time at home was coming close to an end and that that was not the desire of my heart. Once I had had a chance to compose myself, I read April’s special words of prayer and they struck like a poignant arrow to my very heart . . .

Dear Lord, I pray that right now you will cover Mandy with your peace. Help her to continue to hope and trust that you are in control . . . I pray that on her first day back, Mandy will feel your presence so strongly that people will stand up and take notice that there is something special in this woman, and that . . . lives will be touched and changed because of her life and her witness . .

Those words that found me in my darkest moment have been words that have brought power to my spirit and sustained me over the course of the last week that I have been back at work. Never in my life have I been lifted up in prayer but so many sweet brothers and sisters than in this season. And God continues to use these prayers and words of encouragement I have been given as a launching point for his faithfulness in my life during this season.

Those of you, who know me, know that contentment has rarely, if ever, been a trait I possess but I believe contentment met me on Wednesday morning as I returned to work. As I sat at the breakfast table with my family uncontrollable tears streamed down my face. My daughter whispered compassionately to me “I’ll always be with you at work, mama.” (wise words she had gleaned from Christopher Robin to Pooh) And as I pulled out of my driveway that morning, I looked back to see my little girl on the front porch, blowing me kisses and signing ‘I love you’ which she had recently learned from the Sprout channel with me at her side. I could not stop the tears and walked into work head down so no one could see my red puffy eyes but I was determined to be the woman April had prayed I would be. The first couple of hours were a challenge but then a fountain of life rose up inside of me and I started to feel . . . good.

I didn’t want to feel good. I wanted to be angry and mad at God. I was afraid that if I have in and allowed myself to feel good and be happy, it would mean that I would be relinquishing my heart’s desires. That I would be giving up the hope of Kenton finding a new job and me being able to stay home with my babies. And then I realized that in order for others to see God in me, I had to be changed. It was God who was giving me this joy and sustaining me because He loves me and He wants me to be happy and content whatever the circumstances. My lifelong discontentment regarding darn near everything was crumbling in these moments and I was powerless to stop it. All I could do was embrace this lightness, this ‘good’ feeling that was rising in side of me, filling every part of my being. I tried to resist but I couldn’t. The Spirit wouldn’t let me. I had to realize that God knows my heart. He didn’t abandon me. He is still RIGHT here in my cubicle with me. And me releasing my negative emotions and embracing the true spirit of his grace does not change my desires and it doesn’t change God’s plan. He still has a plan for our lives that is good. He is working it out in the background, behind the scenes of my everyday life. And because of that, it is easier for me to face every day. I’ve found that things I was most anxious about have been areas where laughter, abundance and provision have reigned. (stay tuned for more about that)

I believe God has given me this time to redeem some things that were last. I believe He’s giving me joy that acts as a light to others so they can see Him through me. I believe He’s working in the heart of my husband and giving my kids precious time with their daddy that they would not have otherwise had. I believe God is continuing daily to grow my trust in Him as I learn little lessons along the way. I believe that my Heavenly Father and His son are being my biggest cheerleaders in this season and I believe this season is serving a purpose. And when that purpose is complete, a new season will begin and dreams will come true!!!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heaviness, Highlights & Hope

My journey as a 'working mom' has often been a challenge for me.  When Jillian was born and I had to return to work, I struggled with guilt.  I felt judged because I had to work and could not stay home with her.  It almost felt as if I was a bad mom because I wasn't home with my little girl.  But Kenton and I arranged our schedules so that I could work during the day, and he would work a swing shift and be home with Jillian during the day. A year later, when I was let go from my position, Kenton and I had a discussion.  By then I had, for the most part, gotten over my guilt and had my first true desires to be a stay-at-home mom and he agreed that would be the ultimate outcome.  Alas, plans did not work out that way and financially, I needed to return to work.  Fortunately God was gracious to me and allowed me to work for a cause I was passionate about (for a short season) and to work for a dear friend and mentor at her Child Safety store.  I worked for Kay for over a year and a half and was so blessed in my time there.   We knew when we moved to WA that I would work full-time so Kenton could finish his schooling and still work at Fred Meyer.  We also knew that we wanted to expand our family.  I hoped and prayed that the timing would work out perfectly for us to get pregnant and have all of the pieces fit into place for me to be able to stay home with both of my kids.

We have spent the last 13 weeks, since Joshua's birth, hoping, praying, seeking, applying, interviewing and believing for a new, full-time job for Kenton.  He's had three interviews, with two nos and one we're still waiting on.  He's sent introductory letters to businesses in the IT field and the coffee industry in an attempt to network.  He's prayed, fasted and continually check in for the job we're still waiting to hear a final decision from.  But today ends a faith-building season for us.  Tomorrow, I return hesitantly and with faith to my job with the state. This outcome has made both of our hearts heavy.  We have cried out to God many times asking "Why?" and holding on to hope that the situation would change, even if it meant coming down the wire, the 11th hour of our wait but as of yet, we have not received the answer we had so been hoping for.

I don't mean to be dramatic, I just want to tell the truth.  I feel as if I could cry at the drop of a hat today for shattered dreams.  But, my new mantra is  . . .  fake it 'til you make it.  And for me, that will be the faith that an answer that will bring provision and abundances that we so desire with come SOON.  It's hard to stand on faith like that in the midst of what I'm facing but stand is what I will do.

Despite the end of this chapter not being written the way we would have hoped.  I have been encouraged and challenged to reflect on the blessings of this season.  The highlights if you will.

We smiled

 We slept

We spent time with friends & family


We went to Anderson Island

And to the beach

 And we celebrated Easter as a family

And most importantly, we loved on each other!

So, despite the fact that our 13 weeks of my leave have come to an end, the time was indeed well spent and I will choose to be grateful for it.  We have experience financial provision, spiritual provision and provision of fellowship with new friends. I will also choose to face my cubicle and co-workers tomorrow with faith and hope, which I know will be a little bit harder to come by.  So, if you think of me tomorrow, say a prayer.  God is the only thing that will get me through to the next page of the story and I am more convinced now than ever that the story is a good one!  (Romans 8:28) 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4 going on 16

 A scary thing happened tonight.  A moment that stopped me dead in my tracks and nearly took my breath away.  Everyone said that life with two kids was harder than life with one was.  And I venture to say that our #2 is not quite as easy going as his sister was or maybe that's just hindsight talking (or four years of aging, who knows).  Thankfully, despite my concerns and the 4 1/2 years that Jillian spent as an only child, she has taken to big sisterhood with not apparent jealousy issues.


She is almost always willing to help out with her little brother.  She reads recites stories to him, sings him all kinds of original (made-up) songs, shooshes him when he's fussy, volunteers to feed him if ever there is a need, and even jumps at the opportunity to change his diapers.  But, she IS four and like her mother, appears to be in love with the sound of her own voice (and thinks everyone else should love it too).  It feels like she talks and asks questions incessantly (many of which she already knows the answer to) and with no concern whatsoever that her brother (or the dishes, or the laundry, or the grocery shopping) is also screaming vying for our attention.  Needless to say, this high level of over stimulation and a decent amount of sleep deprivation have been taking a pretty major toll on Kenton and I (probably more me than him as he was actually in attendance the day they taught patience in 'life school' and I was not).  Especially the last couple of weeks. 

It was a challenging moment like this tonight that reality took advantage of and slapped me right across the face.  Joshua was hungry and had been none to shy to let me know (as it should be.  He's only 8 weeks old for goodness sake).  As I sat on my bed, nursing my newborn son.  My 4 (going on 20) year old daughter who was talking up another annoying storm and was dressed like modern day popstar (as her father had pointed out earlier in the day).  She was staring out my bedroom window and something about the adhesive style earrings she had recently unearthed from her sticker box, the 'Daddy's Angel' t-shirt that's just a little bit too small & the baggy, hot pink fleece sweatpants that are 4 inches to long (not helped by how low they were sitting on her tilted hips in that moment) flashed my mind forward twelve years.  And for a moment, I saw her at 16 with attitude abounding and me wishing I was still looking into the eyes of my innocent, adorable, clever, spunky, energetic, beautiful 4-year old girl.


In that moment, I was convicted regarding the tone I too often take with her and the frustration that comes FAR too easily to my spirit these days when she is around.  I desperately want to treasure these moments with her more than I do because to the best I know, these moments DO NOT LAST.  I do not want to feel so pushed to the limit so often that all I do is curtly say her name with an ever apparent irkedness (like that?) in my voice.  I'm not sure how I'm going to get there but I'm sure it has to be one moment, one hour, one day at a time.  And hopefully, this brief glimpse into the future that I had tonight, will alter my perspective just enough to not snap at her the next time when all she wants in the world is my attention . . . and a new pet shop friend.  ;-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


For those few (and faithful) readers of my blog, you probably already noticed that I did not do too well with the April blogging challenge I issued myself.  And really, unfortunately, I have no good excuse as to why I did not blog.  I suppose I was just a little over zealous or over ambitious.  I did have wonderful intentions (as usual) to write all kinds of posts and have them scheduled to post for every day in the month of April. Thus the random shower shots post. It was supposed to be amongst many other posts but alas, there were none, or atleast few.  That is not to say that there was nothing to write about however.  There were plenty of things I could have written about. Like the trip we took this month to the 'Big D' (and I DO mean Dallas, Oregon that is) so that Joshua could meet his Great Grandma Freisen or GG as we like to call her in our family.   Or the awkward spring torrential hail storm we had that threw Jilly into fits and giggles. Or our trip to Oregon to introduce Joshua to good friends there who had yet to meet him.  Or the impromptu trip we took to Ocean Shores the weekend before Easter.  And of course, there IS Easter.  All of these things I might still post about.  But tonight there is something else spurring me to post . . . .

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shower Shots

In the fall of 1997, me and three other young ladies rented a brand spankin' new duplex in North Ellensburg.  When we came over to sign our lease papers, construction had just finished and our new home still smelled of fresh drywall and paint.  As we reveled in the newness of it all, we enjoyed some taking some pictures around the place and thus, the shower shot was born.  From that point on, my best friend Tammi and I got into the habit of taking pictures in the shower for special occasions and it has become a wonderful tradition.  Here are a few of our shower shots, including the very first one. . . .

Tammi, Sandy, Emily & me

On my wedding day

At the Evening of Elegance

Mid-construction on my first house

Both of us pregnant, at Tammi's baby shower for Tori

Before the wedding of our friends, Nichole & Aaron

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Wild Pacific Northwest

Last spring we decided to splurge a little and purchase our family a joint membership to the Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek.  For those of you who do not know what Northwest Trek is, it is a 725 acre park located northeast of Olympia in Eatonville.  The park consists of lakes, trails and more then 200 North American animals call it home.  They offer a free tram to tour the park.  While on the tram tour you are likely to see bighorn sheep, deer, Roosevelt elk, woodland caribou, mountain goats, bison and more.  
Our membership was set to expire at the end of last month and we still had not made it to NW Trek so we intentioned to do it atleast once before the membership ran out.  The day was perfect for the trip and we set out with sack lunches for the drive, picked Jillian up from preschool and headed out with (mostly) blue sky overhead.
By the time we arrived, there was a chill in the air but our excitement held the chill at bay.  The park is absolutely beautiful and extremely tranquil.  We boarded a 2:00 tram with our tour guide, George and headed out into the wild.  
The first animal we found, aside from some ducks that were swimming in the lake was a bison:

Then we moved on to Elk, Moose and Black tail dear

We also so Big horn sheep and Mountain goats on our journey:

The tour ended with a glimpse of the "bonus animal", a friendly, lake dwelling turtle:

After de-boarding the tram we headed on to the walking exhibits where we saw Eagles, Bears, Foxes, Bobcats, Lynx, Cougars, Racoons, Wolverines,  River Otters and Beavers:


We had a great time admiring all of the wildlife in the park and left at closing to head home. Jilly and I appeared to have had enough excitement for the day as we both promptly fell asleep on the trip back to Olympia.