Lessons from Brookie

I swam with manatees the other day! It was the first time I've even seen them in the wild since moving here to Florida. We were at one of the beaches here close to our home. The water stays shallow for quite a while and I was out a bit with Brooke in the inner tube. The water was so clear that day and we were enjoying all the fish swimming around us and collecting seashells off the ocean floor.

I looked back toward the shore and noticed a man pointing in our direction and I turned to see what looked like a large (very large!) clump of seaweed. Then I noticed that it was moving right toward Brooke! I grabbed her quickly and I think it probably would have hit her if I didn't move her in time.

After the shock wore off, I had two reactions:

I was disappointed that I freaked and didn't stay closer to touch it.

Now, I'm a bit nervous about the fact that I was oblivious to the existence of a large sea animal right next to us! What if it had been a shark?

When we first moved here, we enrolled the kids in a surf lesson. We asked the surf instructor about the "shark factor". She explained that sharks don't eat people, they don't hunt people...they want fish. If you happen to be in the path of the fish, you might get "hit". She then went on to explain the wisdom of checking in with the lifeguards, staying away from piers and jetties where people fish and the importance of the "fishy" smell that exists sometimes. These are all warnings that the presence of sharks might be greater.  I've also reminded all of our children of how many people we know that have lived here their entire lives and we have yet to meet anyone who's been bitten by a shark.

I know all of this, but when we returned to that same beach, I have to admit that I felt fear. 

It's interesting that out of all of our children, Brooke was the one with me in the water that day. I used to say that Brooke was "born cautious". This cautiousness, however, had become full on fear by the time she was 2 years old. She hated being outside. She would scream at the shining sun, at the wind in her face, if dirt touched her hands. She went into full panic if she saw any kind of insect. She was terrified of Chuck E Cheese, Mickey Mouse, Red Robin. Any costumed character would create a huge physical reaction...lots of crying, screaming and shaking. It was true fear.

We took her to the beach for the first time when she was three. I was nervous as we were preparing for the trip...I knew that it could very well be miserable for all of us if she spent the entire time terrified and screaming.

Our first day on the beach, I held her under the umbrella for the majority of the day. Every little while I would carry her around...letting the sun touch her face, touching her fingers or toes in the water. We pointed out the birds in the sky. I would hold sand in my hand and let her touch it. By the second day she was ready to sit on a towel and touch the sand. She would stand at the edge of the water if we held her hand. Slowly, she became more comfortable. By the end of the week, she was comfortable being at the beach. She still didn't want to be in the water, but she could spend the day with us and enjoy herself.

That is the trip that turned things for her. It wasn't immediate, but from then on she was more willing to try new things. She gradually became at peace with the world around her.

Now, many of these fears have dissipated. She hugged Mickey Mouse for the first time last fall. When we go to Disney now (which is only 2 1/2 hrs away from us!!), the character greetings are a high priority to her. Now, she loves being in the water. She is my nature-lover...always observing God's beautiful creation all around us. I was shocked when one day this spring, I picked her up from school and she was telling me how "cool" it was to see a hissing cockroach in her science class!

I love that I get to watch her grow and explore and figure out what she finds fascinating. When we returned to that same beach a few days after we "swam with the manatees", she was the first one in the water. As I watched her run and splash, I was met with a choice:

I could choose fear or freedom.

And isn't it the same for all of us? We can stay on the shore, where it's safe...clean...where we feel in control. Or we can jump in and fully experience all that awaits us. The joy and excitement that come with jumping in, over, under the waves. Then, if we go even further, past the breaking point, we find the place where we can float. The peace that comes with floating on the water, gazing up at the blue sky with sun kissing my cheeks. It's such a wonderful place to be!

So it is with our relationship with God! It's meant to be exciting and joy-filled. Adventurous! And when we relinquish control...when we go deep enough...we are able to float. Float over the waves. Float amidst all the "dangers" that lurk beneath. Not that the dangers aren't there, 

But it's that our trust in the One who overcame all will conquer the fear that could keep us captive.

"There is no room in love for fear. 
Well-formed love banishes fear. 
Since fear is crippling, 
a fearful life--
fear of death, fear of judgement--
is one not yet fully formed in love. 
We, though, are going to love--
love and be loved. 
First we were loved, now we love. 

He loved us first."
1 John 4:18-19 MSG

We are loved. I am loved. You are loved. And the One who loved us first...JESUS, Who loved us first has come so that we are no longer crippled with fear. We can leave it at the shore and jump in...






{Parsley Farms}

Thank you so much for all of the kind words, emails and comments regarding my previous post. I'm so thankful when the Lord speaks and uses this quiet little blog to bring hope and joy!

In that post I mentioned that we are about 5 months into our new home in Florida. We searched for about 6 months and when we saw this one, we knew it was it.

Okay, so Brad knew this was it. I had my heart set on a home just a few miles away from this one that, crazily enough, was even more of a fixer than this one. I'm soo thankful now that we didn't go that route!

Our priorities were:
1. Good public elementary school
2. Our own swimming pool (or easy access to one)
3. 4-5 bedrooms

Pretty reasonable, right?
I'll go on.

Our dream items:
1. Hardwood floors vs tile
2. A large garage
3. An outdoor shower
4. A cabana bath

We got ALL of these with this house!
The only downside: we're a bit far from church/work and the beach. But the drive from our home in Colorado was MUCH further from the beach than from this house *wink*

Okay, and the fact that it needed A LOT of work. Not like major construction...a handful of pretty large projects and then a really long list of "small", but very time consuming ones.

I'll fill you in on details, including before and afters, in the coming weeks. For now, I'll leave you with this:


With love, from Florida

It's kinda crazy reading back over my last published post...a letter from Brad explaining as best he could about the transition that was ahead of us. We had no idea what this journey would look like...how it was to unfold. How could we have?

Nine months later, we are...thankful. Peaceful. Joy-filled.

We're five months into our new home: a foreclosed fixer upper that is beautiful and difficult and so-far-from perfect but somehow simply perfect for us.

We spent our first school semester homeschooling our five children, followed by another semester of homeschooling three (ok, threeish...alright, alright...two and a half. I turned Micah over to playing a few months ago!). We are in the final stretches of registering and landing all five children in schools here in this beautiful town that I still can't believe we live in.

We're part of a growing, thriving, healthy, exciting ministry. After spending much of 17 years in the same place, in the same home even, we are in the full throws of adjusting and stretching and growing...making mistakes and having moments of comfort.


It's such a warm, fuzzy, wonderful word.

When I think comfort, I see myself cuddled under a blanket with a fire burning nearby...in our old home in Colorado.

The same home where our now-12-year-old learned to walk.

The same home where Brad and I experienced so many early-marriage-newlywed bickerings and made so many memories.

I think of unexpected visits from forgiving friends who caught me in my sweats (or...pajamas) mid-day more times than I care to admit.

When I think comfort, I remember walking into gatherings and prayer meetings at our church...in the same room where we had said "I do" years before.


The very opposite of stretching. Comfort could very easily turn into settling.

And that's what Colorado had become for me. After years of asking the Lord to move us somewhere warm, somewhere near water, somewhere with humidity and salty air, I had settled. I was completely content to view the beautiful mountains of Colorado every day. To watch our children experience kindergarten and graduation from the charter school one mile away from our home. I was digging deep...growing vulnerable with friends in new ways. I had found avenues of ministry, ways of living out some passions that were fun and fulfilling and rewarding. I had what seemed to be a clear path in front of me.

Until it wasn't clear anymore.

In the beginning, it was so hard to imagine that God could actually be moving us on to a new thing. We were full of questions: had we done something wrong? had we not stewarded well? how could it possibly be God's plan to move us away from the people we loved so dearly? our family? a church home that we loved so dearly?

But in the end, it was His plan. It IS His plan. He has more for us to do. New adventures to explore. More growth for us to experience. More relationships to develop.

In this God-adventure, calling does not equal comfort. 

He is more interested in the journey than the destination.

He is after our hearts, fully given over to His plans and desires.

And sometimes He has to kick us out of the nest in order for us to stretch out and fly.

I had come to this conclusion before we even knew where the next place was. I am so thankful that He cares so deeply about my heart...about my growth...that He is willing to watch me struggle. He is willing for me to be confused, upset, even angry at His plan. Because He knows that in the end, it brings US CLOSER. This struggle brings me closer to HIM.

I once heard someone say, "You're happiest when you're at the center of God's will." However, I believe it is entirely possible to be in the center of God's will and very unhappy about our circumstances. 

God's will does not always equal happiness. He does not walk with us to make us happy. 
He walks with us so that we may become more like Him. 
So that our vision becomes His vision. 
So that our passion for people goes deeper than our personal happiness. 

We were at the center of His will back when Brad wrote that letter almost a year ago. And we weren't happy about it! There was nothing happy about choosing to leave the people we loved so much. 

But there is a peace that comes from walking with Him. From following Him into the pain, into the unknown. There is a peace that goes far beyond happiness and comfort...and this peace leads to a deep joy and satisfaction. It leads to such inner strength and amazement as we watch His plans unfold before our eyes.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." James 1:2-4 MSG



Not deficient in any way.

What we all desire, right?

This is what I contemplate now...here, where God has given me those deep desires I had hidden in my heart. As I walk the beach and taste the salty air and watch my kids splash in the ocean. These seemingly fleshly desires that He that He wrapped up and handed me. I am still amazed at how much joy can come out of so much pain.

So friends, let us press in. Let us lean into ALL that He has for us, even when it's difficult. Let these present tests and challenges, this pressure...let them do their work. So that we may become...



Not. deficient. in. any. way.