photography - grandparents and grandkids

We drove all the way down to visit my parents, sister and her family.

We've been fishing, searching streams for frogs and crawdads, shooting bb guns (a talent my oldest didn't realize he had), shooting bows and arrows, playing board games, playing at parks, reading and watching movies.  Good food.  Good company. This small town and these has all been good for our souls.

My dad even cleaned out my car for me yesterday.  He had to use one of those hand held power saws to cut out the tootsie rolls that had melted and harden on to our carpet.  I love my dad.

There is just no one else in the world like family and I can't wait to come back.

"So eat up all the tootsie rolls you want in our car, boys.  We will just drive down and see Papa."

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What changed my faith...

My faith has deepened over the past few years.

A number of variables have contributed to this change in me, but one realization has stood out: To have faith doesn't mean you have to be fully confident and have it all figured out, you just have to have enough faith to take the first step.

I've always been fascinated with Luke 17:6: "He replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."

I first heard this verse as a little girl in Sunday School and though no one told me to interpret it this way, I would think it meant to have real faith you have to fully know that what you believe should happen will. Like when you stand and say to the mulberry tree to uproot and move to the sea, you are 100% sure that it will happen in the way you envisioned. If you have any doubt at all, the mulberry tree will not move because you did not have enough faith or the right kind of faith.

Yet, I am not 100% sure of most things in my life. Yes, there are some certainties, the love for my family and friends never waivers but I am not always 100% sure I am doing this parenting thing right or that I have made all the right decisions regarding my career, family and life.

I still don't have Luke 17:6 all figured out, but now that verse speaks a little bit differently to me. My understanding of faith now is that you stand looking at the mulberry tree in your life and you just have enough faith to take the first step. You ask God to move the tree. You can be nervous, unsure, anxiety ridden, full of doubt, but you still stand there knowing that Jesus is Lord and you ask for the tree to move and have enough faith to put one foot forward. The tree may not move in the way that you imagined or in the time frame that you wanted but despite the fact that you don't know how God is going to do it, you know deep in your heart that God will move that tree by either changing your situation or transforming you.

Life has given me plenty of opportunities to watch God move mulberry trees in my life. In some ways God has answered my prayers and life has turned out how it want it: I am married to a man I deeply love and we are blessed with three amazing kids. But, in many ways life has surprised me. Moving away from my family to live where my husband grew up. Choosing to go back to work and be a part-time working mom over a stay-at-home-mom. My pursuit of writing and photography and chasing the dreams that enrich my life so deeply. My mom having to battle breast cancer and thankfully, winning. Overcoming miscarriages. The journey of parenting and how deeply it moves and transforms me. Friendships and relationships that have grown and deepened or healed and remained true despite bumps.

But all of this has happened through doubt and uncertainty and nervousness. Despite me often not feeling like I have enough faith, God always reveals Himself and moves my mulberry tree into the sea whether it is by changing my circumstances or transforming me.

Because of this realization, I approach faith differently now: I focus only on the next best step.

To have faith I don't have to understand the entirety of religion, why bad things happen and what God is doing in my life and in the world around me. I will never see and understand the big picture the way that God does and that is okay. Thank goodness I don't have to have it all figured out to have faith.

But, I can know that Jesus is Lord and trust that He will reveal the next right step for me. Even when my heart feels unsure and scared. Then I can have enough faith to take the second step, then the third and each foot forward that follows God's leading. Eventually, when I look back I can see how far God's moved me. I can see that He has indeed moved my mulberry tree.

What changed my faith is realizing a whole tree can be moved with a sliver of courage to take the next right step.

I love seeking out inspiration, encouragement and noticing the everyday sacred. What to join me on Facebook or Pinterest? Or sign up for my once-a-month inspirational newsletter and I'll send you a free printable with one of my favorite quotes.

The Best FREE Kid's Craft Ever

Why is this the best craft ever?

Two Reasons:
(1) It was free.
(2) It kept my boys busy for hours.

We made little forests in shoe boxes. My boys kept coming up with more ideas, going outside for more supplies and making these little forests with caves, houses, streams, hiding spots, and people. We used items we already owned so I didn't pay a dime. This was a huge hit.

Miniature Forest in a Shoe Box Materials:
Shoe boxes
Play dough
Any small figures or animals you have on hand (We used army guys.)
Rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers...things collected from outside.
Popsicle Sticks
Any other craft supply you have on hand that would add to the project.


 Just for fun, I had to post these pictures.
It was one of those cloudy, off-and-on-again rainy days.  The kind that makes the day seem really long.  I convinced my boys it would be super fun to get on their superhero capes and take pictures. I even played along and sported the batman shirt I had gotten as a gift.  (Ahhhhh...the life of being a mother of all boys. These are the type of gifts I sometimes get.) 
I let me oldest snap some pictures too.  (He seems to be a budding photographer. Fingers crossed.) Then I ran the Willis Action and Paris Action from A Beautiful Mess. (I bought all three collections and highly recommend the package.)  
Here is all our gloomy day fun...

Once a Month - June

This month of giving just cracked me up. 

It reminded me of my 3-year-old's last birthday.  We had put thought and effort into buying him a few nice new toys and then as an afterthought, I also picked up three $1 blow up dinosaurs that stand about a foot high each.  Those blow up dinosaurs was all our son wanted to play with.  He ignored his real presents.

We had similar type of giving experience this June.

June was crazy busy.  Between wrapping up my teaching and my own kid's school and activities, the first two weeks of June were exhausting.  Then we were out of town for over a week visiting my Grandma.  In the midst of the busyness, I never planned a service activity for our family in June. (We are working as a family on giving more.  If you want to know why or more, click here.) 

But, when we on our road trip, waiting for our food at a restaurant, a glass jar on our table caught our attention. A local church was collecting food donations.  God nudged our heart and we gave what we could.  The kids had so much fun stuffing money inside of the jar.  Honestly, in the past I have put way more thought and effort into our month's service/giving activity.  This moment was a like the $1 blow up dinosaurs that my youngest preferred over the gifts I spent time and money one.  The little jar in the middle of our restaurant table was our kids favorite chance to give. They happily talked about helping to feed people in need and joyfully gave.

Two thoughts struck me:
God can always meet us right where we are at...even when we drop the ball and even when we let our life get too busy.

It is okay to keep it simple.  Our kids are just kids.  Simple to them is sometimes preferred.  It is often me that makes things too complicated or too much work. There is much joy in simple.

Happy 4th of July!

Dream Big

 I am a dreamer. Even though I am crazy busy in the demanding role of motherhood, I am still a dreamer...

And why shouldn't I be?  I believe in a big God.

Matthew 19:26 says, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Dreams are often laid on your heart by God.  The kind of dreams that you know you could be really good at.  The kind of dreams that get you excited.  The kind of dreams that often push you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow.  The kind of dreams that seem like you are being magnetically pulled towards. The kind of dreams that feel in your heart like God is trying to get your attention and nudge you in a direction that He wants you to follow.

Ted and Dorothy Hustead were dreamers.

When we were in South Dakota recently, we stopped by their Wall Drug store after a sweltering hot day at the Badlands National Park for some of their free water and juicy burgers.  As we waited for our food, I read the pamphlet on the table giving history of the store.  (You can read the same story HERE.) Ted and Dorothy Hustead had a dream of owning a drug store in a small town with a church they felt like they could worship at.  They wanted to share their gifts and reach others through their store.

After much prayer by themselves and their families, they felt led to buy a small drug store in Wall, South Dakota.  They town was small and poor and there seemed to be an unlikely decision.  But they felt God's nudging.

The Hustead's decided to pursue their dream for five years.  They would watch all the traveler's on the highway drive by their store and wish they would stop by for a break and some refreshment. But nobody did.  When their five unsuccessful years were almost up, Dorothy had an idea.  She suggested to Ted that they put signs up with a catchy little jiggle that advertised free water on the highway for any of the travelers that wanted to stop by their store.

And that is when it all began.  Every day, thousands of visitors enjoy their store.  It is a huge wonderful store that is a reprieve from long road trips and the South Dakota summer heat.

The Hustead's story is a great reminder to follow the dreams you feel God has laid on your heart.

I don't think that follow your dreams means that you are always going to achieve what you envision, but I don't think you are always suppose to.  I think dreams are more about who you become when you step out in faith to follow God.  Failed dreams might lead you to more gratitude and confirmation that you were in the right spot when you started.  Or something else might intrigue you and you might get off on the road to your dream before you reach it. Or the end result of your dream might be different than you expected.  But, still...dream big....

Are you hesitating?  If you feel it is God's leading and the nudging in your soul that you are suppose to do something, maybe you should just go for it...

God is bigger than your dreams will every be.  And He promises to lead us: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you" (Psalm 32:8, NIV).

Dream big.  Listen to God's voice in your heart. Seek His guidance. Step out in faith. With God, nothing is impossible.
See all the fabulous blogs I have linked up with HERE.

South Dakota

 We tend to road trip a lot each summer. My family is spread out all over America and to visit means we spend time in the car. My favorite thing about our road trips is being away from all of the distractions of home. We connect on a deeper level. Our kids say cute things, we laugh a lot and enjoy being around each other.
 It is of course not perfect. Between these pictures are some whining (and not just from the kids), wrong turns and repeated questions of "When are we going to get there?" 
But these moments...
these moments I look forward to all year.