Mom’s Summer Loving List

I love seeing people’s “Summer Bucket List” ideas floating around social media. It’s a really fun way to get a glimpse into people’s hobbies and parenting ideals. The lists definitely inspire me to make more of the good stuff happen in our family life. I most enjoy mothering when I’m being intentional and really engaging with my kids. We call our list a “Summer Wish List” simply because I feel less obligated less like I have another to-do list added to my plate. Also because it makes me feel like I am some sort of tutu-wearing, wand-waving, glitter sprinkling, wish-granting, mom-fairy.

The only problem is, by the time the dog days of summer roll around and the Mississippi heat reminds me of the time I fell asleep in a tanning bed, I’ve spent so much energy hosting the neighborhood shaving cream war and getting my kids to run “their” lemonade stand, that I’m pretty much over it.

Well, this year, along with a good ole fashioned, “Mom’s Gonna Make All Your Summer, Summer, Summertime Dreams Come True List” (P.S. Thank you Will Smith for your lyrical genius that will forever provide all children of the 80’s a killer song to blare in our minivans so we can ‘hustle to the mall to get mini-me a short set.’), I’ve implemented a “Mom’s Summer Loving List”. That’s right. A list of refreshing indulgences I can use to enjoy a smidgen of mom time amidst the slip n’ sliding and fort building. Because, I love these things, but I know I need to take time to fuel my soul if I’m going to be the mom God intended me to be.thrive mom

I’ll give you a peek at my list. But because different things energize and nourish different people, maybe you would benefit from jotting down a few “Summer Loving List” ideas as well? Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What did you love to do when you were 10 years old? Could that be a clue about a hobby you might pick up again?

  • When you have a Saturday to yourself, what is your default?

  • What are you jealous or resentful of when you see other people’s lives? Could this give you insight into something your soul is longing for?

  • What’s your favorite thing to do outside?

  • What things bless others that also bless you?

  • What’s one fun book you’ve been meaning to read?

  • What’s one goal you’ve been hoping to accomplish?

Click HERE to read the rest!

When You’re Too Tired To Read Your Bible

You know that feeling you get when you know that you need to spend time reading the Bible, but your brain feels so fatigued and mushy that you default to scrolling through Instagram rather than meeting with the Creator of the Universe?

Anyone?

when you're too tired to read your bible

 

Lately, (as in ever since I became a mom), there’s been this static-like feedback in my mind. It fogs and filters my thoughts all day, evaluating how I can preserve as much energy as possible to get through the day. There are those who can pull off this mothering gig with capacity to spare, but let’s be honest, people. I am over here doing mental gymnastics just to keep everyone alive.

It’s that subconscious static that says, “nope” when I see a big task lingering on my to-do list and “not gonna happen” when I look at the thought-provoking book on my nightstand. And then there is the twinge of guilt that comes when I see my Bible laying on my desk but I feel too tired to pick it up and think. My heart is there, but so is my weariness. And my self preservation. But more importantly, so is an ocean full of grace.

I had a youth pastor who once said, “Kitty, I want you to skip your quiet time and just SEE if God still loves you.” I’ve chewed on that thought for the last 20 years as I’ve slowly begun to believe that Christ’s righteousness is mine. There’s no amount of Bible reading that could make Him love me more or less. I don’t have to read my Bible, I GET to spend time with my Creator.

So, instead of fighting my season of life and drill sergeanting myself into what I think walking with God should look like, I’ve decided to go with it. Go with what feels like a gift and a treat to my soul.

Go with whatever means of grace gently gets the real version of me to the real version of Him.

Sometimes that means a nap as I listen to the Divine Office. Or maybe a prayer walk, listening to a podcast or cooking while the AudioBible plays. Sometimes it’s sitting on the deck in silence or doing my best to bring my whole heart to reading the Bible with my kids at the breakfast table.

This week it has looked like…

Attempting to have my journal, Bible, pencil (I’m a pencil girl all of the sudden…I think that’s what my 30′s have taught me…life is always erasable…but that’s another blog post for another day), earbuds, water bottle and work out clothes laid out so I can get a quick workout in before the kids wake. (So Proverbs 31 of me, right? Actually it’s just so I can eat all the gelato I just discovered at Walmart.) It’s looked like treating myself to a cup of Harney and Son’s Coconut Green Tea as I drop my kids at DAY CAMP (!!!!!!!!???!! HOW HAS NO ONE TOLD ME THE MIRACLE THAT IS DROPPING YOUR KIDS OFF AT DAY CAMP?!??????!!!!!) and then using the totally doable and completely manageable Hello Mornings Bible study worksheets that I printed off when we went to Rome.

If I am tired, but my things are already all laid out, it’s comforting to see that I thought of my future self and cared for myself in this way. My spiritual nourishment is also 100% more likely to happen because there are less chances of me breaking my leg as I tiptoe like a ninja and army crawl around in the dark, so as to not wake the fam. (Yes I did wear my clothes wrong side out to the gym twice this week.)

Lately I’ve showed up. Many weeks I simply have not. But reading the Bible even when I’m weary has made all the difference. For example, I’ve been struggling with contentment all summer and Monday’s study had one simple question, “Read Colossians 1:15-20. What attributes of Jesus do you see in this passage?” This was exactly what I needed to set my mind on for the week. I mean…

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all thingshold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,making peace by the blood of his cross.

When I am seeing Jesus as more beautiful than myself or any set of desired circumstances my heart and my mind are changed.

Seriously. I had to type it out just so I could remind myself of the vivid comparison and truth.

Jesus

And then there was Matthew Henry’s take that got me all fired up:

Verses 15-23 Christ in his human nature, is the visible discovery of the invisible God, and he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. Let us adore these mysteries in humble faith, and behold the glory of the Lord in Christ Jesus. He was born or begotten before all the creation, before any creature was made; which is the Scripture way of representing eternity, and by which the eternity of God is represented to us. All things being created by Him, were created for him; being made by his power, they were made according to his pleasure, and for his praise and glory. He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are upheld. Christ as Mediator is the Head of the body, the church; all grace and strength are from him; and the church is his body. All fulness dwells in him; a fulness of merit and righteousness, of strength and grace for us. God showed his justice in requiring full satisfaction. This mode of redeeming mankind by the death of Christ was most suitable. Here is presented to our view the method of being reconciled. And that, notwithstanding the hatred of sin on God’s part, it pleased God to reconcile fallen man to himself. If convinced that we were enemies in our minds by wicked works, and that we are now reconciled to God by the sacrifice and death of Christ in our nature, we shall not attempt to explain away, nor yet think fully to comprehend these mysteries; but we shall see the glory of this plan of redemption, and rejoice in the hope set before us. If this be so, that God’s love is so great to us, what shall we do now for God? Be frequent in prayer, and abound in holy duties; and live no more to yourselves, but to Christ. Christ died for us. But wherefore? That we should still live in sin? No; but that we should die to sin, and live henceforth not to ourselves, but to Him.

An attitude changer, right? Give me a little kids camp, a little Crossfit and lotta Christ and I’m a new human!

Jk, just Jesus :)

i need jesus

What about you? What helps you most enjoy Jesus?

What environment makes you most clearly see your depravity and your preciousness to Him?

How do you embrace your season of life in tandem with your relationship with Christ?

**********

P.S. Because of my neurotic obsession with resources, friends know they can ask me for personal Bible Study, devotional book and small group study ideas any time. Since many of you have asked recently, here are my faves:

And seriously, if you were nodding your head with me at all, please listen to Paige Benton Brown’s podcast The B-I-B-L-E why sometimes it’s not the book for me..it is sooo good.

**********

Okay, I want to hear your ideas for enjoying the presence of God throughout your day! xoxo

Pin It

Show Your Real

My friend, Courtney asked our writing group (which sounds way cooler than I mean for it to) asked us if anyone would be interested in guest posting for her series, “Show Your Real.” Her hope is to encourage people to be honest about the reality of our lives- good or bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often surface-y interactions of social media.
Check out all full guest post series, the Show Your Real related posts or the hashtag to spread the #showyourreal love. 
I love keeping it real, so I happened upon the perfect opportunity to show MY real just recently…warning…unfluffed decorative pillows lie ahead…

There are two types of people in the world.

Those who leave their master bedroom doors open when people come to their homes…018

…and those who cannot. It’s not that they will not, it’s just that they cannot.

It’s that bad.

show me your real

A few months ago, my friend, Ruth, who also happens to be one of my husband’s bosses, came in town. The regional directors were taking us out to dinner so she and I thought we’d hang out for a few minutes beforehand. We were short on time and I was a sweaty mess from the day, so the only way we were going to be able to actually visit was if she sat in my bedroom while I got ready.
I’m typically a fairly laid back hostess, I want people to see my real so they are set free to bare their own, but something in me knew that the state of my bedroom had gone from slightly unkempt to completely horrific during the few days our bosses had been in town.
As we walked down the hall past my perfectly vacuum-striped childrens’ bedrooms, everything in me wanted to keep the door shut and not let Ruth see the real someone-might-need-to-call-the-hoarder-hotline deal.
Ruth could sense my internal struggle as I warned her of the craziness she was about to see and she softly said, “Kitty, I love you for who you are, not what your house looks like. You are more valuable than your hope of perfection.”…
Read more HEREbowdenisms.
 What real might you share online to foster greater authentic community and encouragement? I’d love to see or hear about YOUR real!

 

 

When You Go On A Mission Trip And No One “Gets Saved”

We’ve been home from Italy for two weeks! I can hardly believe it.
197

As I’ve washed the laundry and put away the luggage, I’ve reflected on our 5 weeks overseas. It was an incredible adventure, not without it’s challenges, but such an opportunity. I’ll never forget the quality time spent as a family learning to do life and ministry in another culture, the amazing team of students and professors who joyfully and faithfully served with us, and the fruitful ministry we had with Italian students.italian students1

I’ve shared these three things with friends and family when they’ve asked, “How was your time in Rome?” and shortly following the “fruitful ministry” part, people tend to say, “That’s so great. Did you see any students trust Christ?”

Totally a valid question. Especially for people who financially invested in our work. I’ve always done ministry in places that were ripe for harvest and I’ve typically been able to report a strong number of conversions. This has made me feel like a rock star missionary and in the past I would have been ashamed to report a goose egg conversion rate as a result of our work.

This time, I find myself saying that even though no one “got saved” the trip was incredibly fruitful.

cathedralSure, we longed to see someone’s life changed by the love of Jesus. Sure there were days when we were feeling like, “what on earth are we doing here??” But as we learned, Christian leaders in Italy have found that on average, it takes a European 2 years of hearing the Gospel and seeing it played out before their own eyes to surrender to Jesus.

Much like a chain with many links, each link represents seeds of truth planted and favorable relationships with Christians. These who are generations removed from the church need multiple exposures to the mind-blowing, life-changing concepts of God’s love, man’s sin, the sacrifice of Christ and how to place your faith in something you can’t see or touch.

While in Rome we initiated over 500 spiritual conversations with students and professors, yet did not meet one person who claimed to love and follow Jesus. But, you know what? The trip was fruitful because Christians were faithful to what God had asked them to do and because we serve a God who seeks to save the lost. 

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

Our team nervously raised the funds necessary to fly to a foreign country, were taught and trained each morning and then walked on campus 3-4 hours each day to strike up conversations with Italians who THANKED them for talking about matters of the soul. These young missionaries articulately and lovingly presented the Gospel to over 300 students, most of whom had never met a person who actually believed what the Bible taught. Though no one “got saved” It was incredibly fruitful in the seed-planting, link-adding department.evangelism

But, here’s the thing. Even if our team had done a crummy job at obeying God’s call for them, God is faithful to Himself and to His redemptive plan from Creation to the fulfillment of times. He will bring His Kingdom and rule to earth because of or in spite of our participation. 

Deuteronomy 7:7-9 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

Each semester and every summer we are asked to turn in statistics about the steps of faith we take in ministry. We record things like, how many spiritual conversations we initiate, how many times we are able to fully present the Gospel, how many conversions happen, how many laborers are sent into the workplace or mission field, etc.

As an American missionary, one who is often driven by numbers, crowds, changed lives, heart-warming stories, and progress in general, it’s easy to buy into the American Christian Dream and forget that God asks me to be faithfully surrendered, faithfully holy, faithfully joyful and relentlessly loving. I tend to want results because results glorify me. Yet, God wants faithfulness because faithfulness glorifies Him. The hidden, quiet, devoted acts of obedience are the sweetest gifts we can offer to our King. And, man, I am glad that He is in charge of people’s salvation and not me.337

Next time we think about our own ministry and legacy, support missionaries, or walk away from a church service ready to evaluate the effectiveness of Christian work. Let’s try to pause and reflect on the things God cares about, and I bet we’ll be hopeful and faith-filled knowing that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

*********

If you’d like to hear more about our Summer Mission to Rome, Italy, you can read about it here: Week 1Week 2Week 3+4Week 5

For further encouragement about faithfulness vs. results: 

Psalms 36:5  Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 89:8  O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD,  with your faithfulness all around you?

Psalms 119:90  Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.

Lamentations 3:22-23 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new  every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the  fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and  he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But  the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against  the evil one.

Hebrews 10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will  find refuge; his faithfulness is  a shield and buckler.

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Psalms 40:10  I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;  I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;  I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

Proverbs 28:20  A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Luke 16:10  One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

**********

Week 5: Rome Summer Mission

So many people are beginning to kick off their summers and I feel like we’re wrapping up ours! We have had the most challenging and wonderful adventure here and we are so sad to see it come to a end.

Week 5 has definitely been the most full week of all. Our focus was wrapping up on campus and having final appointments with Italian friends. We are still so encouraged by our students’ hard work and faithfulness in ministry. They have gone hard in the paint to the very last day.sharing

It was great to have had Gigi here for our last week on campus so Joel and I could be more free to serve. She was so kind to babysit so we could meet with students and be the extra set of hands we needed.

611

We put Gigi on a plane Tuesday and our team took the train to Salerno for our debriefing time. We rested, processed alone and celebrated together all that God has done. Things like…

“Throughout the time of applying and raising support God taught me to trust Him.”

“I have been reminded of the amazing mercy and sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection. I had been taking it for granted for far too long.”

“God led us to Italians who wanted to ask questions and were excited to have spiritual conversations.”

“I saw transformation in the way I view reading the Bible and the importance of daily time with God.”

“God gave me joy and peace amidst my fears of being in a different country.”

“Because of this trip I am seeing God in a completely new way. This trip has brought to my attention a side of God that is caring. I am learning to see Him as a Father.”

Tonight is our last team meeting and will work through the challenges of re-entry and have a time of encouraging each team member.

271

Tomorrow we board our flight to America and with that come all the emotions.

Sadness because our time is over just as we were really starting to thrive and make progress in ministry. Thankfulness because our team faithfully and joyfully shared the Gospel every day on campus.Hopefulness knowing some plant, others water and God causes growth.Peacefulness knowing that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Oh, and happy because, well, like EG said, “In America, people will speak English and my feet won’t always hurt.” Just saying. 
615

 

Week 3 & 4: Rome Summer Mission

I love fresh new beginnings. Arriving in a city, setting up life, taking in all the interesting sights and sounds. And endings, they bring a satisfying sense of completion. A job well done or at least lessons learned. But the messy, daily-ness of the middle? That’s where the real growth happens.

Weeks 3 & 4 of Rome Summer Mission have been just that, daily-ness filled to the brim.

097

At this point in the trip the fun honeymoon phase has worn off. We’ve had to be more intentional about giving grace to each other and seeing the beauty and richness of every day life overseas vs. just being tired and annoyed by say, my children who are still petting all the stray dogs, playing with trash, eating unidentifiable greenery and yes, still licking the handrails.

Beauty of every day life:

167Petting stray dogs:

191

The stark contrasts of culture are starting to fade into the background and the new norms are surfacing. “Our” park, “our” bus route, “our” metro stop, “our” Italian friends, etc.

Our team times each morning have become more authentic and our students have bonded beautifully. Not to mention, D and EG literally think the college students are their best friends. We host the team several evenings a week and every Tuesday morning for prayer. (Sometimes snacks for prayer = massive servings of bacon and eggs, because, well, shockingly, after 4 weeks, bacon and eggs sound better than a Nutella stuffed croissant…? It happens.) It’s my kids’ highlight of life to get to be around these sweet students who love them so well.

We all worked together to host an Italian + American Karaoke Night and invited all our new friends to come sing, dance, eat American food (who knew 2 pans of brownies would require 4 hours of labor and 60 EURO?!?) and experience the love of Christ in the context of community. browniesWe invited everyone to the downstairs of our hostel which drew a crowd of students from Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Canada and Utah!

397

Nothing says Italian + America Karaoke Party like the theme song from Beauty & The Beast in Italian.

392

Or “Let It Go” sung by a pajama-clad 5-yr-old. Looks like we will need to research some performing arts opportunities in Oxford. 382It was so great.

The next day we took a day trip to Tivoli, a small town just outside of Rome, to help the students catch their breath from the busyness of big city life.

536

Ends up every country has their version of the Vanderbilts. 
531The greenery was a sight for sore city eyes. It was refreshing to be away from the hustle and bustle, even if just for 8-9 hours.

Oddly enough, as we arrived back in Rome, we all had an interesting sense of “home”. We knew the fruit stand owners and the waitresses at our favorite cafe knew us by name. Having set up daily life in our little corner of the city had made us feel at home in a place so different from our norm. It was a great feeling. 
315We spent Sunday having a “Funday” as a family and explored the “Central Park” of Rome–Villa Burgese.

324 We didn’t stop laughing on our 4-person bike ride.It was one of my favorite days together here. sharingWe went back to life on campus Monday and have spent all this week having second and third appointments with the students we’ve met and shared Christ with. We’ve learned so much about ministering to Italians and it’s grown our hearts for them in huge ways. I think THEY are why Rome has begun to feel like home. And I know God is doing a great work in the hearts of many of these students. Seriously, I love these girls. studentsAnd if Rome didn’t feel like home, you’d better believe seeing some wonderfully dear friends who were traveling and stopped in Rome made us so happy!

Grayson was in my Bible study for 4 years and her husband was an intern with us at USC.

857

David worked at USC and he and his family are dear friends from our time in Columbia. david

Kelsey came to know the Lord through Greek Impact, met and married John and they are on staff with Cru and a church planting organization in Columbia. oneals

Kelly and I have had a special bond since she was a senior in high school. She became a sharp student leader within Greek Impact at USC.kelly

And if those wonderful friends weren’t enough, look who came to visit this week?!?

583

I mean, the woman endured 2 canceled flights, sharing a hotel room with a perfect stranger, soaking wet luggage and setting off the security alarm 18 times with the pancake mix we requested her to bring…something about a white powdery substance and customs. I’m not totally sure. All I know is Bisquick-bearing Gigi’s are just what you need by week 4!!!

694

So far, we’ve sent Joel to campus and we’ve braved the metro system alone to show her around our favorite eateries and we even rocked the Colosseum, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and…
663

…eaten all the gelato we’ve seen!!!696

Cue all the gelato comas. 699797Alright! We have 10 days left and are expecting God to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or imagine in our lives and in the lives of the students we are working with. Please join us in praying for revival in Rome!

How To Make A Date Night Happen…without hiring a sitter!

image

Mr. and Mrs. Hurdle, here. We were attempting to have a “date night in” tonight, but then we called an audible and decided the most loving thing we could do for each other was to put a movie on for the kids and let one parent get an early start on some beauty rest… lame but it’s reality at the moment.

We really want to be consistent and intentional about dating each other, but we struggle on the follow-through. Especially now that we have the kids home for the summer and tend to naturally default to a good ole fashioned family night vs sitters and sleepless nights.

With that said, I love learning from others who do make it work! I hope you enjoy hearing from Bri, a friend whose marriage I’ve admired for years and who is one of my most treasured friends. Enjoy!

How To Make A Date Night Happen…without hiring a sitter!

I am thankful for friends who spur you on in your marriage, Amen? Kitty and I have had many discussions about how to stay connected with our husbands during this critical season of raising little ones. I love when she texts me every so often and asks, “What are you doing today to move toward your husband?” It’s so helpful and so refreshing to keep that kind of discussion going.

After almost ten years of marriage, and two kids, ages 7 and 5, we have found that it is shockingly easy to drift apart for certain seasons. Babysitters are so expensive. Family commitments are becoming more frequent. And husband’s stress at work keeps increasing. But not surprisingly, we find that if we prioritize face to face time with each other, all those other things feel ten times more manageable.

So I am excited to share with you today the single most beneficial way that my husband, Mike, and I have managed to stay connected this past year. It’s a simple thing really…. we have a standing commitment to at-home date nights every Friday night. But we do it a little differently than you might think. We actually take our kids out to dinner with us first! Yep. You read that right. We go out to a restaurant and bring the kids along with us for an early(ish) dinner together.

Why, might you ask, would we include our kids for a portion of date night? The reason is pretty strategic (and somewhat selfish to be honest)… First of all, it gets them all loved and filled up with that critical quality time they desire. And because of this, they are very easy to get to bed later. And secondly, not having to cook and clean up a meal for the entire family makes ME so much more relaxed and able to focus on Mike the rest of the night.

I try to look nice for this dinner by the way. Nothing over the top, but I like to wear something cute and fix my makeup before we go so I feel pretty for my man. And of course, it’s always nice for your kids to hear their father tell their mother that she looks beautiful. We choose a restaurant that Mike and I actually want to go to (ehem, not Friendly’s or Red Robin). And we have a no devices rule when we’re out together. No phones, tablets or games at the table. This has been beneficial for so many reasons. The kids learn how to behave in a restaurant. They learn to read menus and place their own orders with the waitress. And guess what… we talk the whole time!

After dinner, we head home and we put the kids to bed right away. Then Mike and I put on our pajamas (or something more exciting than that, wink wink), grab some snacks and after-dinner drinks, and go to our basement where the nice big flat screen tv is located. I know watching a movie together isn’t super exciting for some people, but Mike and I hardly ever watch tv together so it feels like a treat to us. We are working our way through the 2015 Academy Award nominated films right now. This alone time in the comfort of our own home has been so fantastic. We’re just not in a season where going out on the town all night is very appealing. It’s more the simple joys that fill me up…. no cooking, pajamas, a couch, and my husband. That spells ‘luxury’ to me!

Date Night = Great Night

I encourage you to think out of the box when it comes to connecting with your spouse. We know our kids won’t be coming with us to Friday night dinners forever. So it’s an easy modification to include them for this season. Regardless of how connection happens in your marriage, it’s a rhythm of intentionally moving toward each other on a weekly basis that feels so good.

I would love to “meet you” over at my personal blog, Woven, where I like to photojournal our little life in words and photos. Please come say hello!

image*****

Could they be any cuter? I hope this post encourages you to make the most important things happen. Even if it’s creating a standing coffee date with a friend, there’s great delight in making what matters most happen! Happy dating, yall!

 

Week 2: Rome Summer Mission

imageTwo weeks down and three to go! I feel like this photo from our Mid-Project Retreat sums it up perfectly. Magnificent scenery and smiles all around with an occasional torrential downpour and short-fused parents learning to flex and obey.

It has been a great project so far. Joel and the staff are working hard to lead the charge and students are faithfully building friendships and sharing their faith. The kids and I are homeschooling in the mornings, enjoying the park near our apartment, hosting the team for meetings and meals and joining them on campus as we can. image It really is going beautifully, but I WILL say that city life is kicking our tails.

It’s the little things really.

Like waiting on Bus 61 that is supposed to come to our neighborhood every 15 minutes, but that rarely shows up and has now earned the name, Cuss 61. image

Or getting chewed out by grocery store employees for not first weighing our fruit and printing out price tags before we get to the cash register. Cue hot tears of frustration. Forgive my fruit faux pas, guys.I don’t even use the suggested plastic produce baggie in America, so it’s highly unlikely that I will wear the recommended plastic gloves. And HEAVEN HELP US ALL  if I hand the money to them, forgetting that they STRONGLY PREFER for me to put it in the little money dish for them to pick it up from vs. take it from my hand.

Brief episodes of harshness is so culturally fine and they totally move on knowing it’s not at all personal. Meanwhile, my harmony-loving self has spent 3 days not being able to shake getting screamed at (in English–which, mind you, is much, much worse than being screamed at in Italian) by a man who scolded and belittled me for bringing my kids into his restaurant to go potty during a thunderstorm.

Let’s just say it really is wonderful to learn a new culture and enjoy the beauty of new surroundings, but it ain’t all Colosseums and gelato.image imageIt has been really fun to watch the kids embrace city life and learn a few great life skills.

For example, the art of taking a selfie. (Nailed it.)image How to ride the Metro and read a city map. (D is better at directions than me. I consistently rely on him to get me home from our Metro stop.)image How to stick close(ish) in a crowd. (Let’s just say, my children have been described as “free range children”. But they are learning, nonetheless.)image And most importantly, how to find chicken strips and french fries in a land flowing with pasta and pizza. (We may or may not have broken down and gone to Hard Rock Cafe.)      imageSo while we are trying not to cuss at the bus, offend the neighborhood, take things personally or lose sight of the mission, we are asking God to help us learn and grow and depend on the Him.

We are also learning that Nutella-filled croissants cover a multitude of city-life sins. image

 

Mud Stories Podcast

For those of you who are new here, WELCOME! And, for those of you who’ve been here since the beginning, well, bless your heart. You’re very kind to have stuck around.

If you’d like to hear our story from the beginning and some of what God’s been teaching me, my new friend Jacque Watkins interviewed me for her podcast Mud Stories. Click HERE or the image below to listen along!

“Mud Stories is a podcast dedicated to bringing you inspiration in your muddiest moments, hope to make it through your mud, and encouragement for you to know, you are not alone.”

Mud Stories

I’m so thankful to Jacque for hosting me. Here are a few of my other favorite Mud Story episodes.

Hope you are encouraged in the thick of whatever you find yourself in today! 

Week 1: Rome Summer Mission

image

Greetings from 7 hours into the future, our first day on campus and my attempt to blog via a cell phone. We shall see how this goes. Ciao, nonetheless!!!

I’m not sure how the passengers around us felt about a full rendition of Frozen, complete with song and dance, but to us, D & EG were rockstar travelers. They were so excited about their first airplane ride that they didn’t complain about  it lasting 8.5 hours. EG’s favorite part was “the blast off” and D was amazed that “God made all this. He’s a smart dude. He’s 100% smart. My Daddy isn’t even that smart!”

image

As we made our approach to Rome, we were greeted by reports of a fire in baggage claim and the potential of being reroute to Milan, but thankfully, our plane and luggage arrived safely. Thank you for your prayers! The ease of travel with the children was a direct answer to prayer.

My initial reflections are as follows:

1. I am all of the sudden really good at Spanish which does absolutely nothing for anyone in this country. Also, I am responsible to keep two small humans alive in a city in which I can’t navigate any form of transportation  nor can I communicate anything past “BAMBINO NECISITO POTTY NOWO”…we’re working on this one.

2. Speaking of the potty…we are also working on a few cultural norms.

image

3. The child you think will really struggle is having “the best day of his life” every day and the kid who could eat pasta and pizza every meal in America suddenly has an aversion. Also, meltdowns are universal and my children in Rome are the equivalent of Buddy the Elf in NYC. image

4. My Fitbit hasn’t seen this much action since ever. And I wish it could track how many more calories I burn when I’m lugging 9 liters of acqua and trying to convince my children not to pet the stray dogs or pick all the trash up off the street. Bless them.

5. College students are amazinly resilient. But even they have jet lag. The kind that eerily resembles the stupor of a sleepless mother. It made me feel saddistically understood.

image

6. Italians don’t smile a lot. (Perhaps they are hangry bc they don’t eat dinner till 9 pm, that’s my best guess.) And we are those strange Southern people showing up for supper promptly at 5, wearing bright clothes and smiling at peoole like we are at Disney or something. But, in all seriousness, I thought it was shocking to see the wear and tear of city life combined with the hopelessness of spiritual depravity, economic struggle, a dying country and a culture of suspicion.

7. Italians use their hands very aggressively in conversation. Which explains why  I got smacked in the face within an hour of being here. Funny how a casual stroll by some fierce “girl talk” can leave you with a busted lip.

8. The darkness and spiritual need here is great. Today, after Italians asked us, “Why are you here?” we were answered with responses such as, “I’m an atheist.” Or “Well, im not perfect.”

9. One must pace themselves on the amount of gelato one enjoys in one day. Regardless of how many badges one’s Fitbit is giving oneself.

10. Did I mention I have to keep two small humans alive? It’s a new found level of dependence and all I can say is “Christ within me, Christ before me, Christ behind me. Kids, HOLD HANDS AND QUIT LICKING THE HANDRAILS!!!”

image