On Spring and Birds and Seasons

I stepped onto my porch Saturday morning, my winter coat wrapped tightly around me, ready to face sharp winds and cold temps, but was instead pleasantly surprised by the temperature. To my left, two red breasted robins (since my youth a guaranteed sign that spring is coming) flitted in our golden front yard and from somewhere above me a song bird sang. I smiled. I exhaled. Spring is on the way.

Of course in Nebraska that one day really predicts nothing at all. We can see unseasonably high temps one day and be slammed by a winter storm the next. But it doesn’t matter to me. That one morning, that one exhale, that one song bird’s song was enough promise of spring for me to hold on to. Spring always starts in my spirit long before it manifests itself in the natural, and already in my spirit flowers are blooming.

I don’t know that I’d love spring as much if it didn’t follow winter. Indeed it is just as unpredictable as the winter it gently pulls us out of. Warm temps one day, a raging thunderstorm the next, often more clouds than blue sky and always this peculiar feeling that it can turn on you any moment and drop freezing rain or snow. (I remember two years ago when it snowed in May and I almost did.not.make it.) But the timing of spring makes it that much more endearing. We’ve just endured the longest nights and coldest days of the year, but with the drawing near of spring, the days again stretch themselves out and we get sprinkles of warmer temps. The landscape that has long been gray and black, the colors most neglected in my children’s crayon boxes, now slowly yet confidently boasts bright pinks and greens, oranges and purples. It is spring’s stark contrast from the season it follows that makes me love it so much more. It is the promise of newness and growth after so much stale stillness that aligns my hopes with spring.

Conversely, however, I’ve also learned that I appreciate winter more because of the season it precedes. Could it be that each season needs the others to be fully appreciated, and for it’s gifts to be fully realized?

My friend Janalynn is Canada born and winter loving. On winter days when snow is falling in huge clumps from the sky, I am snuggling on the couch in my pjs with a long book, and she is adding sledding or winter walk pictures to her to Instagram page, all smiles and wonder. She is is adventurous in many ways I am not and she sees the true beauty of my least favorite season. This year I’ve challenged myself to try to see winter the way she does: full of opportunity and delight. It was not as difficult as I assumed it would be. With just a little effort I was able to conjure some of the winter wonder I delighted in as a child.

A Wisconsin native, I loved the winter when I was younger. The crunch of the newly fallen snow or frost underfoot, brand new boots, catching snowflakes on my tongue, the delight of “seeing my breath!” for the first time of the season. I never saw winter as inconvenient or debilitating. It meant hot chocolate and more popcorn filled movie nights. It meant visits to Grandmas for holidays and standing near her radiators to warm my toes and hands- a different kind of heat that was comforting and cozy. Winter was snow angels and snow ball fights and winter forts. It was wonder.

Now, as an adult, if I’m not careful, I can see only the difficulties winter brings. Winter can be reduced to scraping my van’s windshields, icy roads, rushing around for the kids lost hats and mittens when we are already running late, fatigue inducing darkness at 5:00 pm and a general grumpiness towards a season that forces me to spend more time indoors than I would prefer. Though it has its challenges, winter is not only the sum of it’s challenges, it is all the fun and wonder Janalynn sees, too. I have learned to quietly respect winter, perhaps in a way close friends “agree to disagree” on important matters. I don’t like winter, I don’t think I will ever truly embrace it, but I have learned to see the value of the season. And? It makes spring so much more wonderful for me. As I set my heart to spring, I am hoping I won’t forget what winter has given me: intentional time to reflect, time to be still, and time to see delight in a challenging season- if I look for it.

Just as we live through natural seasons on earth, we grow and change through personal seasons as well. Some are more challenging than others and in some it is hard not to only see the difficulties. We’ve recently been in a challenging season regarding one of our children’s behaviors. In the past we’ve endured difficult health-related seasons, seasons of extreme grief, and sleepless seasons as we adjusted to being new parents. I have learned to quietly respect difficult personal seasons as well. I don’t like them, I don’t think I will every truly embrace them, but just I am now convinced that there is wonder in every natural season, I also believe there is something to behold in all our personal seasons, too.

If you are struggling to find redemption in a difficult season you are in, perhaps you need a Janalynn in your life to open your eyes to its wonder? Spend time with people who can offer a new (albeit godly) perspective to your same old problem. Look at it through fresh lenses.

Winter is still raging outside- but I am setting my heart to spring. It’s absolutely okay to align your hope with the promise of a new personal season, too. In fact, I encourage it. In many ways, I believe this hope is what gives us the strength to keep going. But while you’re waiting for your new season, don’t miss the wonder of the one you’re in- challenges and all.


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So THIS is Christmas

So THIS is Christmas.

I am up earlier than the kids which is the every day normal. I’m taking some time to breathe in the quiet and feel the weight of the anticipation of this day. THIS is Christmas. We made it. Christ has come. Emmanuel. Praise be to God.

Last night, at Christmas Eve service, we were given thick white glow sticks. Near the end of service, before we broke those glow sticks, so light would pour out of them, our Pastor prompted us to talk with God about something in our lives we needed broken. Maybe even a way God could break our lives for Him.

Admittedly, I am an anxious person. I have been an anxious person for as long as I can remember. I battled fear while sleeping on the lower bunk of the bunk bed my sister and I shared. I battled it in college and truly struggled with anxiety after the birth of my children. It has been a chain around my feet for many, many years. And last night, as I stood with God in a silent, darkened sanctuary I asked Him, “Break me free” and cracked a glow stick into the night. I have asked before. Many times before, but, this is Christmas.

THIS is Christmas.

Even before I knew God I feared He would let me down. I have always been cripplingly afraid for the safety and well being of the people I loved. I had seen the ugliness and scariness of the world and knew that I was at risk because I had people to lose. Around the age of 8, I started saying this private prayer at night. “God, please keep Mommy and Daddy and Meah safe and well.” Then, because that wasn’t enough protection, I added, “God, please keep Mommy and Daddy and Meah safe and ALIVE, and well.” I also gave God my full name, address and phone number each time. I knew He was there but didn’t know how He knew me or if He knew me at all. But I also somehow knew this: only He was big enough to do what I was asking, so I kept hoping He would.

Years later, in 2008, after officially knowing the Lord for nearly 10 years, I stood in a hospital room where my only sibling, my sister, lay in a bed. I held her hand as she breathed her last breath at the age of 27 and in that single moment, a chasm tore into my soul. Deep and wide.

I had prayed fervently for my sister. I had trusted. I had asked God to keep her safe and alive and well since we were kids. And even now, after all of these years, it is hard for me to admit that I still struggle with the feeling that God let me down in a big, big way. This disappointment has been an anchor for my anxiety. It has told me not to trust in God because He has failed me. It has told my that I cannot believe His promises because He did not answer my prayers. It has ripped a void inside me that only God can mend.

THIS, dear friends, is Christmas.

It is the laying out for all to see the pain and the fear the torn apart things inside of us. Jesus is the good news, but there are so many times this story doesn’t look good at all. Jesus is the good news because He came to be slaughtered for our sins.

He was good news and joy for all the people because He would die a cruel and unspeakable death for all the people so that any person would have the chance to stand before and live with a Holy God. Jesus is only the good news because He endured that punishment for all the bad things. All the ugliness and disappointment and the hate and the chasms ripped deep inside of us. 

And He can heal it all. He can mend it all. He can make us whole. In fact, the Word says He already has. It is finished. We are His.

Even after all these years, after great disappointment, I still believe, thanks be to God, that only God is big enough to do what I ask of Him. And I ask of Him a great and many wondrous things.

So I crack my glow stick and hold it against the darkness and declare today, “I believe.” THIS is Christmas. A Light come into the darkness and: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Take time today, before the presents or after the meal, to crack your glow stick and invite His light into your deepest chasms. Ask Him to venture to the places you don’t put on display: the pains too deep to talk about. THIS is why He came. This is why He is here. THIS, dear friend, is truly Christmas and only He can do what you are asking, what you are hoping for, what you desperately need. It’s okay to be honest about the things that war inside you. It’s okay to be truthful about the ways you feel God has let you down. Then ask God to give you the faith to believe He is still who He says he is.

Go ahead, crack that glow stick and see where His light will go.

Merry Christmas,


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It’s Friday Morning

It’s Friday morning.

I’m usually in a rush this morning. We usually have places to be on Friday so I rush around and get clothes ready for the younger children and breakfast for everyone and pack snacks and pack pacifiers and usually I forget to eat in the rush of it all because we have to be on time and present and ready and available. We have to drop Daddy off at work because the transmission on his truck went out and then get to our classes that we love, we really do. But there’s not much time for sitting or thinking or looking at that interesting leaf because we just.need.to.go!

It’s Friday morning. The toddler, snoring, snuggles up to my husband in one of the queen sized beds in our hotel room. I’m squeezed in on the opposite side. The other three kids-in the other bed- are packed in like those cute little monkeys in the jumping on the bed book. The smallest (most sassy) one is sandwiched in between her two older siblings. I’m surrounded by the wiggling and breathing and tossing of all my favorite people and I just love this Friday morning.

Our first born, gentle spirited but still a little bit wild, turned 8 yesterday. Eight. And I can’t believe I’m watching her grow up so quickly. It really does sometimes feel like just a blink since we brought that little 5 pound 2 ounce girl home. She came into the world with a frown on her face. It’s her favorite detail about her birth story. And now she is mostly just smiles and optimism and flowers and unicorns. No really- she wanted a unicorn stuffed animal for her birthday, which we were happy to provide. She also wanted to swim because she is part fish and so we packed up the family on her special day and went to Omaha for an overnight trip to a small indoor water park and hotel. I watched, with my heart in my throat (we can talk some other time about this anxious Momma’s heart and how Jesus is healing it) as she went down the biggest, tallest, fastest water slide. How she squealed with delight while I prayed like someone who is always a little bit scared that she would be safe.

She was safe.

And happy.

And brave.

It’s Friday morning and it’s the day after one of the most fun days we’ve all had together and I can’t help but be tearful thankful for this day. This day unlike most of our Fridays. We are lingering in our pjs in the same space together. We are squished up tight and giggling and eating together. There is a pizza box in the corner of our room and leftover birthday cake. There are smiles on my kids faces. There is beauty in this morning.

It’s Friday morning. We are lingering this morning. Taking our time to get dressed and go to breakfast. We are looking at descriptions of the museums we want to to visit today. Taking much time to decide if the train museum or the art museum will be best today. There are many factors to consider and we have time to consider them all.

There are days we move too quickly but that’s just what needs to be done. And then there are days where everything can move quickly all around us and we can stay still. We can breathe deep. We can slow down. It’s Friday morning and we are slowing down today. We are grateful.

xoxo Latrice

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When You’re Sitting on the Floor in the Hallway Outside your Toddler’s Bedroom

I am sitting.

I am sitting on the floor in the hallway.

I am sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my toddler’s bedroom.

I am sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my toddler’s bedroom because he’s tired. He’s exhausted really. He’s eaten the food. He’s played with the toys. He’s thrown the tantrums. He’s crawled on the backs, under the tables, over the blocks and on top of the trains. He’s knocked over someone’s water and block tower and lunch plate. He’s done. I’m done. It is nap time.

But he won’t go to sleep.

Yesterday, three times I laid him down for nap and three times he climbed out his crib and found me downstairs- wide smile on his face. Two times I frowned and carried him back to his crib with a stern, “Stay in your bed” warning. The third time I sighed and laughed and accepted the new change/challenge this would bring to my life. By child number 4 I’m a lot better at accepting new changes and challenges.

I remember, early on in my motherhood, how something like this could undo me, could wreck my whole day. I like plans and schedules and routines and don’t like it when they are messed with. There’s nothing like being a mom to teach you to thrive when your plans are dashed, routines wrecked and schedules slaughtered.

So here I am, sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my toddler’s bedroom because every time he cracks open his door and smiles wide at me, I lift him up, place him back in his bed and tell him “night night”. As I’m typing this I’ve already stopped to do that 5 times. This is my important work today. Monotonous repetition of the same action again and again until I get the desired result. It will likely be my important work at bedtime tonight and then tomorrow again, and, knowing this stubborn child, for a few more days after that. It is truly important work. He needs his rest (we ALL need his rest) and I need to ensure he gets it. So I will sit on the floor in the hallway outside his bedroom, day after day to see this job get done.

We struggle sometimes with monotonous, repetitive work, don’t we? We want quick fixes and quick gratification for our efforts. Too soon I think we abandon the quiet, simple, sometimes boring but important work because we don’t see it make big enough or fast enough ripples in our waters. Sometime, yes, we need to throw a large rock in the ocean, and sometimes, yes we need to skip a few flat stones and see how far they’ll travel. I’m skipping stones outside my toddlers bedroom today. Training him in obedience. Training myself in patience.

These are good stones to skip. They make long and deep ripples.

I think our nation could use a few more skipping stones. I want to assure you that the stones you were skipping before our nation felt even more flipped upside down than it has in the past are still making ripples. The smiles at the strangers in the grocery stores, the respectful disagreements in your spheres of influence, the faithful prayers you offered for those like and not like you? Those are still important stones. The gentle answer to your spouses anger, the patient endurance of your child’s poor behaviors, the long suffering in hope while enduring that medical condition? They still go far. They are good stones to skip. They also make long and deep ripples.

I hope we haven’t abandoned these stones in fear. I hope we haven’t given up on the basic and sometimes boring work of kindness and hope spreading and Jesus teaching for fear that they aren’t effective anymore. I hope we still know the value of quiet, non-publicized, small circle, down on our knees, not for our glory, WORK. ‘Cause sitting on this floor isn’t glamorous, but it’s necessary.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but so much of the world’s inhabitants feel a little desperate to me lately. They feel a little lost and more than a little afraid. There’s a tide turning and I get the feeling we’ll need large stones more and more- but a lot of important work will be done, too, with those small skipping stones that make those deep lasting ripples.

I went through a drive through two months ago and the man working the cash register sang my total and then handed me my change with some free coupons “just because” with a huge smile on his face. I smiled all day when I thought about him. Such a small stone to skip- repetitive work, serving customer after customer- but he had a song on his lips and a smile on his face and it meant something significant to me. Those small things really do matter.

So, while I have some time, while I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my toddler’s bedroom, I just wanted to remind you not to give up that good work. Don’t trade all those small stones for the big ones just because the big ones make bigger waves. We need that small, seemingly insignificant work to change the tide around here. Keep skipping.

xoxo Latrice


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When There is Christmas & Aleppo

There are presents wrapped underneath my Christmas tree. There are sparkly lights all around town. Soft, familiar music plays in the stores and on our Pandora station at home. It’s Christmas. Peace on earth. Good will toward men.

I’m planning a menu. I’m drinking warm drinks. I’m reading my children Christmas books and the Christmas Story. They’re eating chocolate from their Advent calendars. They’re counting down to Christmas. They haven’t a care in the world.

And all the while there are people, even children dying on the streets of Aleppo. 

I’m having some trouble reconciling the existence of these two worlds, tonight. This quiet, magical world with pretty lights and cozy blankets with this chaotic, deadly, dangerous world where violence and death reign.  As I type, my toddler is dancing on the couch behind my back, eating a cookie and laughing. But I just saw a video of a boy in Aleppo who looked about my toddler’s age, with bloodstained hair and face, poking out his lower lip while a bleeding woman asked him repeatedly if he was okay. He just looked at her, lip stuck out. He said nothing but looked like he would lose it any moment. He look scared and terribly sad and something inside of me broke when I saw him. I wanted to scoop him up into my arms, just as I would my own son. I wanted to kiss him and clean him and tell him I loved him. I wanted to promise him he was safe. I wanted to promise him I would never let anyone harm him.

But there are promises I can’t keep. Not even to my own children. Not even at Christmas.

And my heart is breaking for Aleppo.

Jesus knew, even before the night He arrived on earth, that two worlds could exist at the same time. He knew He would bring both unity and division.   He knew that blood would be spilled and lives would also be saved, on His account. He knew there could be tragedy and victory. He knew there could be both pain and hope.

He knew the turbulence He walked into when He traded Heaven’s glory for the lowliness of His human form on earth. He knew the state of the earth. He knew some people were wicked, angry, malicious, envious, conceited, dangerous, threatening and toxic. He knew the circumstances that would surround His own death. He knew the Earth was not a safe place- hadn’t ever been a safe place. Not even at Christmas. Not even when Christ came. God with us. God help us.

And yet? He came. For me. For you. For Aleppo. For all of us. He came for US.

He knew we were lost. Devastated. Broken. Discouraged. Afraid. Alone. Vulnerable. Defeated. He called us sheep without a shepherd- we wandered with no hope. And when He looked and saw us, He had compassion on us.  He knew He was our only Hope. He KNEW we could only hope in Him. So He came and be-came Christ in us, the hope of glory.

He came to give us true hope in a world in which He knew we would have trouble, and pain, and hardship, and heartbreaking tragedy, and mind-blowing grief. He came to give us hope because He knew …

He knew our hearts and eyes would weep for Aleppo.

He knew the latest news would make us catch our breath and hold our hearts and ask God why? Why on earth? He knew we’d wonder how to reconcile a world where God sends His only Son for us but where people also suffer and cry and die in the streets.

Some days I feel so desperate, like I can’t catch my breath. Like there is just too much hurt in the world for anything I do to matter. But Jesus? He came anyway. He knew the state of things, He knew the state of hearts, He knew the cost, He paid the price. And He came anyway.

So I pray anyway. I love anyway. I believe anyway. I trust anyway. When the grief is almost too much to bear, I try to hold on anyway. When I can’t see a way or cling to a hope…

I try to hope anyway.

And He carries me. He carries you. He carries Aleppo. He carries us all. 

And now it’s time we put some action to our prayers for Aleppo. We can’t sit cozy this Christmas, fail to acknowledge the existence of these two different worlds and ignorantly open presents when God wants to presence Himself right in the midst of the hurting. This week, the hubby and I are calling our local Lutheran Family Services to co-sponsor a refugee family. Maybe you’d like to do the same? Or read this post and take one or all of the suggestions. Spread some love? Spread some hope? I have a feeling it’s the beginning of a journey. Maybe for a lot of us.

xoxo Latrice


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How to Be Satisfied Right Where You Are

I’ve been thinking a lot about “more” lately. It seems like it’s something we all want. MORE money. MORE time. MORE stuff. A MORE fulfilling job. A MORE fulfilling life. A MORE fulfilling relationship. MORE space. MORE options. MORE.

Why shouldn’t we want more? It’s the American dream isn’t it? We live and we work and we collect nice things and we reward ourselves with more. The newest version of that phone, the fancy car, the latest fashion line. We eat out, though our fridges our stocked. We buy new clothes, though our closets are full. We get the kids new toys though they could start their own Toys R Us with all the ones they already have. More.

This weekend, there were 5 freezer meals in my freezer remaining from the 20+ I put there in November. As I stared at them, nothing really sounded that great for dinner so I contemplated having my hubby bring something home instead. Something different. Something better.

And then a small voice whispered, “Be Satisfied.”

Be Satisfied.

So we ate from the abundance of what we already had and we were satisfied.

This obsession with more is as old as man. Of course we know Adam and Eve were surrounded by the abundance of God’s perfect creation when they ate the one thing God asked them not to. They wanted more. They were convinced that God was holding out on them. They would not be denied.

And the Israelites, living in the desert, complained about the bread God RAINED DOWN FOR THEM from heaven. Heaven-sent provision! Heaven-sent wonder! But they wanted MORE. If they could have, they would have returned to slavery to get “it”.

I think somehow I’ve been convinced that all of my life is about striving for more. We don’t see ourselves in this house forever because some day we’ll have a better one. We won’t always drive these cars because someday we’ll buy better ones. Someday the hubby will have a better job. Some day I’ll have a better life. Someday I’ll have all the things that will truly make me happy. Some day we will have arrived.

But what if, right now, God is begging, what if God is pleading- “Be Satisfied”? What if right now, I have the abundance I think is only coming? What if right now, I truly have everything I need?

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…”

“Be Satisfied.”

It is becoming clear to me that this drive for more is fueled not by discontent with what we have, but by a misunderstanding of WHO we have.

Adam and Eve doubted God, so they sinned against Him. The Israelites questioned God’s intent toward them, so they grumbled and made new gods to worship. And we? We don’t recognize the abundance we have in Him. If we did, we would live from that abundance and be satisfied. If we wanted for more, we would want only for more of Him. We would understand what Jesus told us: our Father God already knows what we need and so our job is simple- seek Him first and He will add everything else. We need only to strive for His kingdom. We need only to seek His glory.

But. We underestimate what God can do. We underestimate WHO God is. And? We question His motives towards us. So we strive for other things that maybe can fulfill. We live for other things that maybe can give temporary life.

However, when the noise dies down, when I turn my discontented heart to God and truly look to Him- when I truly seek Him, contemplate His love for me, remember His character, remember the ways He has always come through- I realize again and again that He has never forsaken me. He will never forsake me. He will not abandon the work of His hands.

My sister? My brother? Be Satisfied. For right now there is overflowing abundance in His hands. At this very moment, there is overwhelming provision in His grace. He is a good Father Who gives perfect gifts. And He? He is the best gift of all. Seek Him first, seek Him now, seek Him always, and Be Satisfied.

Your life is right now. Maybe without “all of the fancy stuff” but never without “All of the Holy One”.

The next time you want for something that is beyond your means to possess? The next time your heart grumbles with envy? Whisper to yourself, “Be Satisfied.” For you already have more than you will ever truly know.

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”– Isaiah 55:2

xoxo Latrice




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The Only Words from Which I’ll Never Walk Away

I’ve been gone a while.

No you didn’t notice because you were busy living your life. And I was busy living mine- just away from the screens and the typed words for a while.  A friend of mine and I took a week away from the media- social and otherwise- anything that added to the tightening in my chest I started feeling on election day. We took a week from all of that but I haven’t written in a month. Not since the day before the election.

After that day it was hard to breathe. It was hard to listen. There was so much noise. So many opinions and fears and so much anger and so much hate. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t write.

There’s a scene in a movie, The Secret Life of Bees, where a character gets so weighed down by the pain and the sadness in her world that she weighs herself down with rocks in a pond and doesn’t come up again. That scene broke me because I’ve felt weighed down before. I’ve experienced desperation that feels inescapable. I’ve felt so lost and so broken and so heavy.  After the election, I started to feel weighed down again, and all the posts and the articles and the noise felt like rocks on my chest. I was fighting to keep my head above the water. And all that time I kept asking myself, What can I say? What should I say?

The truth is, I didn’t want to talk.

I didn’t want to talk politics.

I didn’t want to talk race.

I don’t want to talk about anything. Period.

But it’s hard for a writer to stay away from words.

So I said yes when a friend invited me to dinner with a group of women who wanted to talk about post-election fears, questions and concerns.

I said yes to meeting with this diverse group of women, and we talked about mushroom caps and nursing babies and black hair care and black heart care. We talked about the church and it’s role in reconciliation. We talked about love and it’s role in healing. There was laughter, there were tears, there were honest questions and honest answers.

You know what? While we talked something inside of me loosened. The tightening released and I breathed a little easier. While we talked, some of that weight came off. It was like someone was heaving those rocks off my chest.

I left that night feeling like we’d taken a step. I don’t know how far, but we took a step and I’m grateful.

I’m still feeling pretty fragile these days. Still avoiding political posts and articles because I’m far too frail to read them right now. I’ve been snuggling pretty close to Jesus these days. Breathing deeply- inhaling all His love and peace and His Words. His Words. It’s hard for this writer to stay away from His Words. 

“…I have overcome the world.”

“Be anxious in nothing…”

“Casting all your cares upon Him for He cares for you.”

“Be strong and courageous…”

“Fear not, for I am with you…”

“For God so loved the world…”

“Peace I give to you…”

Oh they sustain me, they ground me, they fill me and empty me all at once.

When I have nothing to say, He has said it all. When the words this world offers weigh me down, His words lift me, they draw me in, squeeze me tight.

They are the only words from which I’ll never walk away. They are the only words I’ll ever need.

Maybe all the other noise is too loud for you, too? Maybe the posts on social media and the news, and yes even the blogs are too loud and heavy? Maybe you need to snuggle close to Jesus and tune out all of the other words? They are the greatest words you’ll ever hear.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…”

John 1:1-2 (emphasis added)


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Why It’s Okay to Start Advent Early This Year

There’s a rumor going around that America is going to hell- and both presidential candidates are holding a hand basket that will take it there. I can’t recall another election season that has had so many people simultaneously sighing and crying and saying, “This is the best we can do?” Our entire country is collectively holding its breath in uneasy anticipation of tomorrow’s election results. It’s like watching die-hard sports fans root for their favorite team in the big game, except this time defeat means more than a loss of pride, it means possibly losing everything they’ve ever stood for. It is a critical time in America.

Yet, I woke up this past Saturday morning feeling unmistakable joy and anticipation for Christmas.

It’s a bit early for Christmas joy isn’t it? We haven’t even loosened our belts to accommodate all those extra calories at Thanksgiving yet. The weather is still deciding between fall and summer and people are still getting frowned at for playing a little Christmas music here and there. For goodness sake, election day is tomorrow! How can I be focused on Christmas?

But it wasn’t dreaming of Christmas decorations that lit my heart Saturday morning. It wasn’t the gifts or the trees, or the cookies or the parties. It wasn’t Christmas “season” at all- it was the Christ. Just Christ. Just Jesus. Just, Emmanuel. He is all I’ve ever needed. He is all I need still.

The dictionary definition of Advent is “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event”. The Christian Theological definition of Advent refers to the coming of Christ and is marked on the calendar as the four weeks before Christmas, starting on a Sunday.

I love advent season every year. I love choosing an advent Bible reading plan, love our special advent readings and activities with the kids every night. Love singing songs and setting my heart to Christ’s coming. I love trying to relive the joy and wonder of that first Noel by pouring over that story in Luke.

But I realized something Saturday morning when God woke me up with Christmas on my heart. Maybe this advent season I don’t need to set my heart on waiting for Christ to come. Maybe this year I need to set my heart on the truth that Christ is already here.

We no longer need a star to guide us. We don’t need a chorus of angels to sing. We don’t need to read the prophecies and wonder if this is true. Emmanuel is already with us. He has already come to the earth. He has already made a new way. He has already conquered. He has already won. He is already purposefully involved in the lives of His people on every continent. In every nation. He already reigns supreme. This Advent season we don’t have to sit back and wait for Christ’s coming. He is here!

I think God wants to start Advent season in my heart a bit earlier this year. I think He wants to fill me with expectation and hope and wonder at what God can do and is going RIGHT NOW. I don’t have to wait for the miraculous. I don’t have to wait for communion with Jesus. I don’t have to wait for a new way.

In light of all the things that feel “on the line” and “in the hands” of this election, I think God wants to draw me close and remind me that there is no authority higher than His, no dominion greater that His, no ruler stronger than He- right now. There is no election more important than our election as His sons and daughters. There is NO ONE worthy to lead us save the One who made us. None but Jesus. It is true today and tomorrow and forever.

No matter who wins tomorrow- Jesus has already won. We- His sons and His daughters- we’ve won, too. Will there be hardship and trouble? Jesus said there would be. But He also overcame it all. Already.

And so today and tomorrow and forever, and in this season of waiting and expectation, may my heart be stayed on Emmanuel. May my fears be swallowed in His peace, may my worries be drowned in His rule, may my strength be rooted in His love, may my hope be sure in His authority, may my life be a testimony to His grace.

Presidents change, leadership shifts. But the work I am called to do, the people I am called to love, God’s ultimate plan of reconciling people to Himself- none of this changes no matter who is in the White House and I can do this work right now and tomorrow and always, on this earth.

Take heart. Jesus is no longer coming. He is already here. And He reigns matchless and  supreme forever and ever.

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An Invitation into our Homeschool Day

If you were to ask people who know me well  to list the things I am passionate about, education would definitely make that list, underneath faith and family. I haven’t yet talked about education on this blog so I figured I’d introduce the topic with a look into our homeschooling day, since “how” we homeschool is something I am asked about quite a bit. So come on in! I’m inviting you to visit our school for the day!

The morning starts for me before the sun rises. I make my way downstairs and spend some time journaling, praying and reading my Bible- enjoying the only time most of this day that the house will be quiet. Then I throw a load of laundry in, check my meal plan for the day to make sure nothing needs to go in the crock pot, then look through our school plans and ready any materials.

Soon the 5 and 4 year-olds will be up, like conjoined twins they operate on the same rhythm. I’ll kiss their faces and feed them a morning snack of fruit or yogurt since they won’t be hungry for a larger breakfast for at least an hour. They scamper off to play as the sun, shy at first, now boldly lights the morning sky.

I have some time to go shower and dress since our rule for school days is that the teacher and her students are always dressed and ready. I like that our dress code helps us respect the work we do here and also prevents us from having to run around and dress quickly later in the day should we decide a spontaneous trip to the library or zoo or park is necessary to our studies. After dressing, I call the 4 year-old away from an epic Octonauts action figure battle long enough to wrap her unruly curls in a tight pony tail. Then I wake my late sleeping 7 year-old with the promise of food and request that she come downstairs dressed for school. The toddler is singing in his crib but my husband will bring him down diapered and dressed before he leaves for work so I smile at his song and head down to the kitchen to make breakfast.

After breakfast and chores, there is no real structure set in place thanks to the wild toddler. It’s quite difficult to sit and teach just about anything with a toddler climbing on the furniture, or throwing a tantrum or generally destroying things, so our morning structure is loose.

Both the 5  and 7 year olds  have “chosen work” for the day- a concept I learned from my years in a Montessori classroom and implemented in our school. Their chosen work is just the daily lessons I choose for them (mostly based on our curriculum) that they must complete with me before the end of the day. Their basic lessons include reading, copy work (writing) math and math facts, art, music, science and history. However my 7 year old also has grammar, narration (re-telling or narrating a story) dictation (writing what you hear) and poetry memorization. Some days we use a check list to mark off what they’ve completed.  All of their other explorations and lessons are self led, though I often add items to their chosen work that reflect where their curiosities have been recently.

For instance, we spent a morning recently learning about hydrofoils after my 5 year-old discovered them in a book. Last week my 7 year-old  was curious about how the human ear works, so this week we will read books and watch You Tube videos about the human ear until her curiosity is satisfied. Then she’ll label a diagram of the ear and write a few sentences about what she’s learned, and file her work in her school binder’s “Science” section. A few weeks ago we studied Odysseus and the Cyclops. We colored and labeled maps of ancient Greece and recorded Odysseus’ journey back home after the 10 year war in Troy. My five year old was so entranced by the story that we didn’t move on to study ancient Rome until we had gotten more books about Odysseus from the library, including learning about the Minotaur and the Cyclops in more depth. He still feels sad that all of Odysseus’ men died, but is happy Odysseus finally got to see his son and wife again.

We work throughout the whole day to complete their chosen work, but art and music lessons are online so they can and must complete them independently before lunch. The bulk of their chosen work is completed in the afternoon while the toddler naps.  My 4 year old has work boxes she can choose from if she desires, but often she works on her own “projects” while the others do their chosen work. She is reluctant to start any formal schooling with me unless she initiates it and I never force her to do anything academic. Just yesterday, however, she got out some paper and her markers and started writing her letters and numbers, squealing with delight and rushing to show me every time she made a new letter or number. She has learned so much just from observing the lessons of her siblings.

Since most of their academics must wait until the afternoon, much of our morning, after chores and music and art lessons, is choice time: they can do whatever they choose. This is very exciting for all of us! It is during choice time that I really start to see their personal interests. One week my five year-old spent most of his choice time outdoors practicing with the new hand saw I gave him. He cut down wild branches and thick weeds all over our yard and then planned a project to build with them. Another week he spent many free hours building complicated structures out of our wooden blocks. For a few days he was quite enamored with learning about electricity using our snap circuits, and taking things with batteries apart all around the house and putting them together again to see if they would still work. I love that he has time to explore his interests at length. I love that he is learning to work with his mind and his hands.

All of them often choose to be outdoors for most or all of choice time, but on cooler days play dough or painting or sensory tubs get lots of use. My oldest enjoys making books or writing movies and will spend much of her time perfecting illustration techniques or asking how to spell certain words. I play with the toddler or read him books or he plays with his siblings while I fold laundry and make lunch. We very much enjoy our free choice mornings.  Directly after lunch is when our day gets much more structured.

With the toddler strapped in his chair, we finish lunch and then read our daily devotional. We are currently using a book written about the real life stories of missionaries around the world. After that we begin either our history or science work, still seated at the table. We study history twice a week and science twice a week for about an hour each time, not including the additional reading we do at other times. (Our history curriculum is a book in story format that we have on cd so we listen to our history chapters in the car during the week.) History table work usually involves map work, narration and dictation, and a project. We made terra cotta pots for our unit on ancient Greece. Science usually involves diagramming or drawing, a project, a video, and lots of reading. All papers are filed in their school binders for review and keepsake. If the toddler can play in his high chair during this time we let him, or else he is released and plays with toys around the table or “helps” me with the project we are doing.

After science/history they gather around the coffee table with coloring pages, or note booking papers, to listen to whatever audio book we’re enjoying at the moment, which now happens to be the original Peter Pan.  I lay the toddler down for his nap then straighten the kitchen while they listen. My husband comes home for lunch around this time so I talk with him as well.

After quite some time with the audio book, my preschooler will take her nap while the oldest two and I complete the rest of their chosen work. This could take just one more hour or 2+ hours depending on which lessons need to be completed and how smoothly this time goes. I try to complete chosen work with my 5 year-old first as he still gets tired in the afternoons and will rest when his work is done. After chosen work with both children is complete, our school day is done! My 7 year-old chooses a quiet time activity and I take a “break” checking email, social media, or attempting to rest before the toddler wakes up.

This is what most of our school day will be like each day Monday through Thursday, unless we have a field trip or take a spontaneous trip out of the house for some reason. We participate in a homeschool co-op on Friday mornings, where the kids take classes and I teach, so we do not have school at home on those days.

Thanks for coming along today! Any questions about our school day? Hopefully soon I will write a post about why we chose to home school in the first place. Until then-


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From the Memoirs on a Thursday: Frost in Wisconsin

There’s something about the first frost each year that takes me back to my childhood in Wisconsin…

Sissy and I are bustling about our two bedroom apartment, getting ready for school. Daddy adjusts the tie around his neck and grabs his briefcase before stooping down low to kiss our faces. “Frosted over last night and it’s going to be cold today. Sure you don’t want to wear those long underwear I bought you?”

I giggle, partly because his thick mustache tickles my face, but mostly because he said underwear. Sissy, almost three years older than me, just rolls her eyes and declares, “No one wears long underwear, Dad! That’s weird.” I wonder if when I get to middle school I will roll my eyes and make declarations.

Daddy shrugs and kisses Momma goodbye, then leaves for work. I slurp down my Cream of Wheat while Sissy spoons oatmeal, and then I remember! My new purple boots! Right there near the door! I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to wear them and now, maybe now that all of that crunchy white frost masks the ground I have my chance. Momma sees my stare and smiles. “You can wear your new boots today, Trice.” I smile and nod.

We’ve never said it out loud, but Momma and I have an understanding. Maybe the small things that make me happy make her happy, too, because she always knows when I need to wear new boots, or splash in one more puddle, or wait just a little longer for one more shooting star. Carrying my bowl to the sink I rush to brush my teeth.  If I hurry, I can beat the school bus by 10 minutes today and have more time to play in the frost.

Glancing in the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth,  I frown at my tight braids and wide eyes. Howard, the only other black kid in my grade, says I have the neck of a turtle and buggy eyes. Daddy says not everyone will like you and they’ll come up with a thousand reasons why, but not one of them matters as long as you like yourself. I look in the mirror again and wonder if I like myself? I hate the two french braids Momma insists I wear, “because I’m a wild child and my hair is always wild”. Then I smile. I like being a wild child. I like Momma and Daddy and even Sissy with her eye rolls, and I like myself, too. Stupid Howard. Daddy says we should try to make friends since we’re the only two black kids. I don’t see what that has to do with anything.  I make a mental note to beam Howard with a snowball on the playground when we get our first good packing snow. Of course that will earn me a spot on the wall during extra recess on Friday, but it will be worth it when he discovers he’s been beamed by a turtle with bug eyes whose got a heck of an arm to boot.

Smirking, I rush to the door and to my new boots! Sissy laughed at the shoe store when I chose purple boots, after she declared that “No one wears snow boots anymore.” She opted only for a new pair of high tops. Dummy!  I got high tops and boots. And purple is my favorite color. I pull the first warm boot on and tighten the velcro strap, wiggling my toes; then the second. Then I pull on my purple coat and gloves, leaving my scarf for last. Wisconsin autumns moving into winter are fiercely cold in the mornings, while the sun is still warming up, but I leave the scarf off my face so I can see my breath outside.

“I’ll be at the bus stop!” I yell and slam our apartment door behind me.

Outside, a cold wall slaps me in the face and my eyes water. Then I take a deep long breath and inhale the cold, “winter is on the horizon” smell. It’s one of my favorite scents.

Rushing down the huge, outdoor wooden staircase to the lower level, I skip across the pavement and finally into the open air and grass. Frost! Everywhere! I step onto the grass and savor the delightful crunch as one new boot and then the other make their acquaintance with this new ground. I slowly make a deliberate, winding path all the way to the bus stop at the far end of the lot, stopping for a moment to watch my breath swirl in front of me. I lay down in the grass and blow warm air on a nearby, frost laden leaf. It doesn’t change at all, so I pull off a glove and warm the leaf in my bare hand. The frost melts and the leaf bends and partially crumbles in my hand.

There will be no warming for the other leaves scattered about the ground. For months, starting now, the ground will continue to harden and the air will get colder. Lake Michigan will freeze and my winter adventures will begin.

I can’t wait.


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