sweetness all around

Lots of sweet stuff going on around here. I  just LOVE this. Lily redecorated one of her little boxes. Look what I found inside...
When I asked her about it, she said, "He's my treasure." I could hardly stand it!

And here's a little song that she wrote yesterday called, "Hug Jesus." Talk about melting a mama's heart.

One of the things I love about my kids is that they truly are one another's best friends. I love to catch them snuggling on the couch. Caleb is such a good big brother.
 "Brother and Sister" 
Brother is happy with his toy airplanes; sister is happy with her purse and her lipstick (?)

Preparing our hearts this year for Easter has been so special. Each year, I watch my kids grow in their understanding of how and why Jesus came to rescue us. Sometimes I think they "get it" more than I do and it overwhelms me.

And to add to the sweetness around here, we made Easter shortbread to share with new friends. I had to make a double batch, because I knew that my request of, "Please don't eat any. They're for tomorrow," would never fly with Phil. In order to do this, I had 6 sticks of butter out on the kitchen counter tonight. SIX! This should be illegal.
But it's so worth it! It's my favorite shortbread recipe, hands down. Tomorrow we'll dip them in chocolate. I promised Lily I would wait for her. :)


waiting for spring

from the archives...life in oregon

Lately I've been so lonely for our animals and have wished that I could slip my boots on and go hang out in the field with them. It's partly spring fever.

I know deep down in my heart that spring will be here before I know it. It just doesn't feel like it. As I drive around these parts, I love seeing the vast prairies covered in snow and dotted with an occasional silo on the horizon. It's so peaceful. But as the snow begins to melt here in Minnesota, what lies beneath is the shabbiest bit of landscape I have ever seen. Sorry to offend, Midwesterners. I was told that your spring is breathtakingly gorgeous, because everything here dies in the winter. And so I wait in anticipation to see your spring give birth to life and color all around me.



Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Set Apart Conference in St. Paul, MN, where Ann Voskamp was one of the keynote speakers. One of my dear friends from Spokane flew out here for the occasion with her so-beyond-cute 7 month old baby girl.

Were we ever blessed! Ann's sessions were filled to the brim with truth and encouragement. I could go on and on, but here's one thing I've been chewing on this past week...

She introduced me to the Hebrew word radaph. It means "to pursue, to chase, to attend closely upon."

It's the word David uses in Psalm 23:6 when he writes, "Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow [radaph] me all the days of my life." The first time this word appears in Scripture is in Genesis 14 when Abram heard that his nephew, Lot, had been captured. He wasted no time. He was up and after that nephew of his lickedy-split!

I had always imagined God's goodness and mercy following me around in a sort of "Don't worry, I'm right here. I've got your back" kind of way. But it's a little more intense than that. He pursues me with goodness and mercy.

Ever since we've had sheep, passages like this in Scripture have really come alive to me. I get this whole pursuing thing. One day last spring, my sweet Caleb went out to the field to check on his sheep. He came running back to the house in tears, because a few of his sheep had gotten out and were running up the road alongside the irrigation ditch. We managed to get them back into the field--all except for our ram. Oh, this ram! He and I became good friends that day.

I took off and ran after him. I didn't follow him, by any means. No, I took off in hot pursuit for this guy.


He ran and ran and turned at the bend in the road. When he heard the other sheep bleating in the distance, he tried to get to them by lunging forward and jumping into a ditch full of blackberry brambles. Down he went, disappearing into the brambles. I ran back to the house to put on a long-sleeved shirt and my rubber boots. I looked all over the garage for gardening shears, but all I could find was a small pair of wire cutters. I know. I know. But it was all I could find.

I spent about an hour and a half down in that ditch in an effort to cut my way through to him. He was scared, I could tell. He kept lunging forward, moving deeper and deeper into the blackberries. I found myself saying to him in frustration, "Just be STILL!" Then I had one of those light bulb moments.

Just be still.

I had lots of time down in that ditch to think about this, trust me. You know, all the times God says to me, "Just be still," and I'm not. And then I lunge forward because things are taking too long, or because I get scared. But I love that He still pursues me. He lunges forward, too, right after me. He doesn't have a sorry pair of wire cutters, either. He pursues me with goodness and mercy.

Oh, and the timing of it all! Not by coincidence, I was 2 days away from Good Friday. Two days away from Passover, and here I was in the thicket with this ram of ours. A sobering reminder of the ram God provided for Abraham in Isaac's place and the reality that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed in my place. I was speechless. I've been wanting to write this down for about a year now, but it was all too deep for me. Not until I heard Ann speak this weekend did my thoughts start to form words.

As Easter approaches, it's all I can think about--our ram in the thicket and this beautiful picture of being pursued by my Good Shepherd.



My Grandpa and Grandma in Downtown San Francisco, walking home just after they had sold their car to buy things they needed.

She loved Patsy Cline, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Joe Montana.
She loved living in San Francisco.
She loved dancing with my Grandpa in her kitchen.
She's my Grandma and she passed away late Saturday night.

After I got the call, all I could do was lay in my bed, clutch the phone and stare off into the darkness.
I couldn't cry. Not until my little sister called me at 2:00 a.m.
Then I felt a few tears run down the side of my face.

I'm not quite sure how to grieve yet, because I am truly happy for her.
She was in so much pain, hardly being able to breathe.
My Grandpa died almost 5 years ago and she's been so lonely for him.
They were married for 60 years. Sixty years!
I know she trusted Christ as her Savior, so to imagine her with Jesus, not in pain and with the love of her life makes me truly happy.

My Grandma was Italian and she made the best mostaccioli.
The first year Phil and I were married, she hosted Thanksgiving.
We had the usual antipasto--olives, salami, pepperocini, cheese and foccacia bread--then came the salad, and then Grandma's mostaccioli.
Phil ate and ate and ate. I don't blame him-- it's good stuff!
But then out came the turkey and all the fixings.
I'll never forget the look he gave me, as if to say, "What?!"

"Didn't we just eat dinner?" he asked.
"No." I said.
"Then what did we just eat?"
"Um, that was the pasta. We're Italian, remember?"

Pasta with every meal. Pasta with every meal.

So tonight I made mostaccioli for my little family.
I thought about Grandma as I boiled my noodles and stirred the sauce.
I also thought about the wooden plaque she hung above her stove in every house she lived.
In fancy blue letters it said, "There's no Sauce in the World like Hunger." 
Yes, and there's no pasta in the world like Grandma's.


social injustice

I've had a little fire lit under me recently. It's a little spark, but the more I think on it, the more passionate I become about it. It's the whole social injustice movement. I'm a Christian, and I believe I have a responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to care for the hurts and the needs of others. Mostly this comes naturally to me, because I'm a mom. To prove it, I have 5 or 6 boxes of band-aids under my bathroom sink. Hello Kitty, Tinkerbell, Cars, Scooby-Doo--take your pick. I don't like suffering and I want to help fix anyone who suffers. But here's what is troubling me--more and more mainstream Christian authors and musicians are popping up with a cause to alleviate and/or abolish social injustice and human suffering, but when I visit their websites, or hear them speak on the radio, I hear about providing clean water or putting an end to human trafficking. Rarely do I hear or read anything about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with any of these people.

As we approach Jesus' return, the human condition is moving along a continuum from bad to worse. Christians all around the world are rising up to show compassion to those who are suffering; but truthfully, the BEST thing we can do for those who are suffering is to point them to Jesus Christ--then offer clean water to drink and help to make sure they're safe.

Here's what concerns me. I feel like this movement, this good cause, is shifting us over a few degrees into dangerous territory. There's a lot of time, money and emotion being spent on ending human suffering right now and I think this is very clever of the devil. Just 1 degree off and we end up far from where we set out to be. He knows this, and it's easy for us to be fooled in this area because Scripture encourages us to help people in Jesus' name. I just wonder what would happen if our time, money and emotion was spent on sharing the Truth of the Gospel first, and then focusing on meeting physical needs. I don't want to sound insensitive to those who don't have clean water to drink, but it's more important that they be given Living Water, as Jesus said in John 4, so that they may have eternal life. It's more important that those caught in the horrible web of human trafficking be set free from sin's power so they don't have to suffer for eternity.

These influential Christian authors and artists have more power than they know. Their cause is good. But their passion and energy are wasted if they are meeting only physical needs of the people. This past week, I kept thinking about what Paul wrote to the Galatians.

" I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all."

He rebuked the Galatians for sharing another gospel that was not the Gospel. This good cause is another gospel if Jesus' loving sacrifice and the hope of eternal life take a backseat to ending suffering here on earth.

God help us not to be so caught up in this social injustice movement that we fail to see that these suffering people have souls and not just bodies. They need eternal life. They need Jesus.