Some of the happiest days of my life have been found in my baby years.   I have gotten to have three biological children and I just loved when they were babies.  Their sweet vulnerability, watching them begin to take in the world around them and getting to be the center of their existence through those first months is a precious thing to a mother.   The way that they smell and the softness of their hair and skin alone dictates an affection that is indescribable.  Sure, there are hard things about having babies.  My first son didn’t sleep until he was 2 ½.  Two of my three refused bottles, so I was bound to them in a way that sometimes felt suffocating.  And the very amount of stuff and effort that a simple afternoon out entailed could be exhausting.  However, all in all, and perhaps in a rose-colored way that time affords, it is such a precious period fixed in my memory.

Me and baby Zach, 2006

I do distinctly remember a shift happening in the way that I viewed each of my babies when they turned one year old.  When a room full of adults gathered round to see what this child in a highchair would do with their first access to buttercream icing, things where starting to change.  These little people could now toddle around; they were exploring in an independent way and locks on cabinet doors needed to be installed.  Scaling steps and furniture meant that they were no longer looking to me to give them their stimulating experiences each day – they were taking it into their own hands.  It was time to be weaned.  It was time to come to the table and join the family as a kid; the fragile baby days were being overtaken with rough and tumble toddler years.  It was still precious, but different.

Lilly as a toddler.

Our family celebrated the one-year anniversary of moving to England this week and I am having some feelings reminiscent of my babies’ first birthdays.  When people ask me what it is like to move your family to a new country, I often say, “It is like having your first baby.  You can prepare yourself, gear up, read books, etc., but no one can really tell you or prepare you for what a huge life change it is.”  It has been a vulnerable, fragile year.  There has been the taking in of a new world and a lot of inconsolable crying.  My three oldest aren’t babies anymore and the reality of moving your life in the middle/teen years is more than hard.

Adventure has always appealed to me.  I believe the love of it is in my DNA.  As a kid, I can remember being secretly excited when it would rain on vacation because that meant that we would be doing something unplanned.  I love seeing new places and having new experiences.  I love that my husband is the same way.  We don’t naturally shy away from risks, because the thrill of what might come to be is worth the leap.

However, if I am honest, I had become weary of the adventure at some point during this infant year in a new culture.  My soul has felt so very stretched during the past few years of church planting, adoption and moving across the ocean, that it has begun to feel like it might break apart. Don’t get me wrong, we do not lack any comforts here in the UK – there are oh, so many other places in the world that would have been even more of an adventure!  However, what I am comfortable with is not here.  I have begun to dread looking for something in the grocery store that isn’t to be found.  Improvising is no longer fun after a year of doing it.  I miss seeing people I have known all of my life.   I miss Target.  It is absolutely ridiculous how much I miss that store.  Pathetic, materialistic and so American, but I miss the combination of the smell of Starbucks and those red bullseyes like crazy.

At the same time, I do like England a lot.  At moments, I have actually wished that I was from here, as it is such a lovely a place, I wish it was a part of me and my history.   But, almost daily, I am reminded that I am a foreigner.  My speech betrays me.

Worcester is a beautiful place to live!

In June, our church and mother church (church that planted our church) went on a retreat together.  It was over-the-top great for us because our good friend from our hometown, Tim, was the speaker at the retreat.  His lovely wife, Jen, and their two boys came along too. This visit from friends who we have known and have journeyed with for years was like a gift of the very best kind.  It was therapy to recount our experiences of moving here to these trusted ones.  The first night that they were with us, both Tim and Jen prayed over us.  It was a Spirit-led prayer and by its end I knew that these friends genuinely cared for us and that God had seen us.  He had seen every tear cried, every anguished moment of desperation over our kids’ grief and every hurt that we had sustained as a result of being out of our element.  My theology told me that He had seen and walked us through this but hearing those words out of the mouths of people who hadn’t been here, but who spoke as though they had, validated my faith in the God Who Sees.

At the last session of the retreat, Tim spoke on words “advent” and “adventure”.  The word advent means “the coming of someone or something”. The word adventure literally means “we don’t know what will come”.  Tim spoke on the Christmas story in June, because the point needed to be heard. Jesus was coming.  God was doing HUGE things.  A guy named Zachariah wasn’t up for adventure as he needed more proof than an angel appearing to him to know for sure that God was really coming.  In contrast, Simeon had an adventurous faith that immediately believed that God was fulfilling his promise in Jesus.

As I continue to process my own life adventure, I know for sure that God has come.  Our initial big adventure of planting a church in the town where I grew up felt like it had happened by accident, however had I known at the outset what it would entail and how hard it would be, I never would have consented.  It is unimaginable to think of our life without the richness of walking through that with God at our side.  I would never want to part with that experience, all that we learned and my love of those people.  Adopting our second daughter is another adventure that I never would have been brave enough to sign up for had I know how difficult it would be.  If I had known how often I would find myself sitting my car in empty sections of parking lots just crying while we waited to bring her home, I never would have had the guts to send off that first application to the adoption agency.  She is now our shiny-eyed, always-pressing-the-envelope, preschooler who has brought so much joy to this difficult year.  I shudder to think of missing out on the adventure of her.

Meeting Ruby Melat on her first birthday.

This adventure of moving to the UK is not as delicate as it was a year ago or even a few months ago.  Three weeks ago, my husband and I both passed our UK driving tests.  We have logged many months of dread over this.  (I am not being dramatic to say that I would have rather repeated natural childbirth than take that test!)  But here we are, like a couple of toddlers – legally allowed to be mobile after the use of our US license expired this week.  We have finally unpacked all of the boxes.  Our four kids are in three different school (two of which have changed), but we are happy with where they will begin their next terms in September.  Our city is feeling familiar and our house like home.


Sometimes, adventurers in western culture are depicted in magazines and advertisements as invincible, strong, can-handle-anything kind of people.  But just as new parents don’t really know what they are getting into, a real adventurer is just an ordinary person who is willing to not know what is coming.  By being vulnerable before God to the point of willingness to follow him into the crazy hard, this is how to really adventure.  Setting out without knowing how you are going to make it through unless he advents, that is when you are afforded the most amazing view of seeing him come to you in the adventure, because he is the God Who Sees.  And so, we enter the toddlerhood of this journey, up for the next year . . .thankful for what the past year has meant, looking to him to give us the daily grace and strength for it and knowing that no matter what it feels like, living this adventure of faith is the only way to really live and grow.


My Little Square of Dirt

The house that we recently moved into has the typical garden of many British homes.  It is small, but amazingly is an almost blank canvas.  The people who lived here right before us had let it go to weeds and disorder, so it had been rototilled under and was just a square plot of dirt when we moved in this past March.



I come from a lot of women who value flowers and seem to find gardening natural instinct.  I wouldn’t say that I inherited that DNA, however their values have been passed down to me and so I have been showing up in the dirt ever since I have had a home of my own.  I find a sense of satisfaction in watching things grow and am continually amazed how something of intricate beauty can come from a seed, a gnarly root or an ugly bulb.  The garden that I left in Pennsylvania last July, was finally looking like something after I had invested 11 summers into it.  Our move was all kinds of crazy, so I didn’t really mourn the loss or even take a picture.  My mom told me that she went back to it and dug out some of my lilies for her garden which made me smile.

My sweet Mom-Mom next to a rose bush her father planted in 1943.


This new house is older than my homeland and the garden has an idyllic brick wall.  As spring arrived, so did the weeds that were embedded into my square of dirt.  I am not too great at recognizing weeds for what they are.  I inherited my dad’s optimistic view of life, so I find myself always looking to these green sprouts with eyes of hope.  “Perhaps this is some kind of heirloom flower that is magically appearing in my garden, so I will love on you until you prove otherwise” is my MO.  England is still all new to me and while a dandelion is a dandelion the world over, this place does have some weeds that I have not seen before.  The worst of the worst is stinging nettles.  This plant assaults you by stinging and leaving you tingly where you were touched; sometimes for days.  However, while I had been affected by them on plenty of walks, I hadn’t really looked closely enough to identify them when they started coming up in my garden. This will sound ridiculous to any Brit, but initially, I thought that they looked so promising that I actually transplanted some to a more advantageous place. . .that is embarrassing and I am sure that there is a sermon illustration in my foolishness for my pastor husband to grab onto at some point!


I have been scouring garden centers and street vendors for plants at reasonable prices and working hard to turn this block of dirt into something lovely for my family to enjoy when we step out our back door.  Ironically, many would argue that there is absolutely no point in my doing a thing with this garden.  You see, along with the home that we are in comes this amazing communal garden that many would pay to get to spend time in.  It overlooks the river that runs through our city and to say that it is the best place to be downtown would be an understatement.  And yet, I feel drawn to making something beautiful just for my family.


There are a lot of parallels to my life to be found in my new little garden.  Last summer, we left our life.  So often over the past years, I have said under my breath, “I love my life.” I really did, but we were called to leave it.  And we are starting over with what feels like a blank canvas.  And yes, like the garden, we know what to do, we have a good idea of what we are looking for and want to build.  But, we are in a new culture and so we don’t totally know what we are dealing with. On a daily basis, we don’t know if we are using the correct words when we communicate and we don’t always know what is meant by what we hear in return.  There is a level of humbling that comes with starting over like this.  It is tempting to yearn for those lilies left behind. . .


I really wish that my mom, grandmother and aunts could see my new garden, give me their tips and help me with identifying the weeds.  But, they are not here.  In many ways, there are less resources in my life here.  I need to learn to depend on and reach out to people who I do not have a long history with.  I am learning to do this.  A new friend gave me a gift of excess bulbs from her garden –  a sweet picture of all that there is to gain from new friendships.


Settling into this house brings a new season of parenting for us.  Our four precious kids were uprooted from their lives as well and they didn’t get a lot of say in the matter.  That is how life goes sometimes when you are a kid and as their parent, it breaks your heart.  It makes you want to spoil them rotten and let them get away with murder.   As we begin month 11 in this new country, my husband and I are emerging from survival mode and have acknowledged that perhaps we have accidently valued some weeds.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”   Romans 12:19

Cling to what is good. . .In my heart, I know what is good for my kids is time poured into them like water on parched plants.  More than anything, my husband’s and my relationship with them transcends this move.  We are their constants.  They don’t need anything besides us and their eyes on God to navigate their homesickness and acclimation to this new land.

Ice Cream Break!


My British garden is pretty rocky.  It actually has a ton of broken pottery pieces in it from years and years of I do not even know!  Every time I break open the earth to plant something new, I brace myself to see if there is going to be a huge rock that is going to make it impossible to proceed or if I will need to pick through the dirt to provide the best possible chance for the flower to grow.  We have one teenager and one almost teenager and that means a new, complicated place for us. There are some issues that we may have been dealing with if we had never left the US and some that have definitely been made rockier because of this move.  I am learning that time spent in prayer over these young lives makes things plainer and less complicated to me – it is the most valuable parenting resource that I have.  This is what I am praying for my kids as we have faced missing friends, bullying and all of the loss that comes when you move at such a difficult time of life:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”                                                                                                                     Ephesians 3:16-19


And so, I will toil on in my garden and this new life.  I will never stop missing family and loved ones (and those gloriously wide US parking spaces!) I need to focus on the things to be planted in this new life.  I may sometimes smile and nod when I cannot decipher an accent.  There are some things that I will let grow just a little longer in order to decide if they are weeds or not.  But, I will not give up on making this little square beautiful for me and my family.  Because, somedays, you wake up to discover amazing things blooming, like these lovelies pictured below on my garden wall that just appeared last week!  (Anybody know what they are called?!)







Home is wherever. . .

It is New Year’s Eve Day. A day to look back on the year, say goodbye to what you don’t want to take with you into the future and to think about what you want to say hello to in the new year.

This year has been the most tumultuous of my life.  For the first half of it, I felt like I was tethered to my life, like I was floating above all that I knew and loved, because I was preparing to leave it all and move to the other side of the Atlantic.  We spent the second half of the year, in our new location treading water, looking for a place where we could “touch” and find some footing. Both halves of the year lacked the comfort that comes from being rooted and grounded in a home, the familiar and a clear calling.

As we come to the end of 2018, I can honestly say that our move to the UK has been a positive “reset”. Our family has learned so much about ourselves and grown together in so many ways.  Not a moment of the transition has been easy and I would be naïve to think that we are out of the woods yet, but we certainly are in a much better place than where we were a few months ago.

In the last month, we have definitely felt like we have found our place.  The day-to-day in the unfamiliar is getting more comfortable as we learn to find our way (and drive!), shop and do life.  We have seen where we fit and where our gifts can be used in the church where we are working.  Friendships have deepened to the place where we love people in England.  We are feeling blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives.


One thing that is still a bit hard for me is that we are not yet settled in a home.  We are renting a furnished house that is adequate, but isn’t quite “it”.  Our things are not yet with us and we are not permitted to do anything to the place to personalize it.  Things just haven’t gone the way that we had envisioned, so this piece of the puzzle just isn’t in place yet.  There is a part of my identity wrapped up in this missing piece and I have been trying to peel away the layers of what that all means to me.

We came “home” for Christmas and New Year’s.  We spent the week of Christmas in PA with my family and are now in TX with Randy’s family for the week.  When I arrived at the house that I grew up in, I cried.  It felt so wonderful to be at a place that felt like home.  My mom does an amazing job with Christmas.  Decorations that I have loved forever are in their places. There were a million kinds of cookies.  The swinging door still squeaks, the bath toys that I played with as a kid are still under the bathroom sink and I know where the tissues are kept in the pantry.  It is all familiar and it felt like balm on my heart.  Christmas is a sentimental time and so much of what we do to celebrate has been passed down from generation to generation.  The season cannot pass without me thinking about how my grandmother used to decorate her table with a small gift at everyone’s place; something that my mom has carried on.  My favorite Christmas moment has always been reading the story of the first Christmas by candlelight. –  We used to do this at my other grandmother’s home, but now that she is too old to handle the visit, we again carry this on with my parents.


This whole idea of home was magnified as we went through all of our possessions yet again in preparation to send them over the Atlantic in a few weeks.  They have been in storage and some things have already been ruined. Others we knew we also had to part with as there just isn’t the space in the average home in England that there is in the States.  “It is ok, they are just things . . .” was my mantra that day.

And that really is the truth that I am beginning to own.  A home is just a thing.  I come from a long line of women who were master homemakers.  And I have endeavored to follow in their footsteps.  So, now as I face my 40thbirthday in 2019, and I don’t have a home, I feel like a bit of me is not able to be. However, that is a feeling, not a truth. The truth is that what really made being in PA feel like home was lingering over coffee with my parents, cousins running around together, laughing over old stories with friends and my mom crying when we left.  We have never lived in TX as a family, but it feels like home, because of how comfortable it is to be with the people here who we love.

These past months, I am learning to make a home for my family by being their safe place, not necessarily making their surroundings appealing or homey.  I have held all of my kids while they cried through homesick nights, with nothing to offer but prayers on their behalf and a shoulder to cry on. We have had long talks about why we are doing what we are doing.  Is it worth it?  We have seen God confirm in their young hearts that yes, it is. . ., but, we have taught them it is ok to feel a lot and to let it out, because it is hard to re-start your life when you are 9, 12 and 14.  We have a history that is sentimental, precious and dear to us.  But that isn’t who we are.  Past joys are to be remembered and celebrated, but it is the people in our lives who make up what is home.

So, as we face 2019, I resolve to be the woman who is a Jesus follower (He didn’t have a place to lie his head. . .), wife and mother first.  I want to really listen, hug, play board games and be with my people more than I want to feel like a geographical location is home.  That will probably come, but even if it doesn’t, I wasn’t called to be comfortable.   I am called to love and that always feels like home.


Time of Transition


[tran-zishuh n, –sish-]
  1. movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another;change:


For the past 5 months, it has been said that our family is in a time of transition.  I understand that what is meant by that word, but it seems to be a poor description of what we have been experiencing.  “Transition” sound like dancers moving from one side of a stage to the other through a series of choreographed movements.  It sounds like destination has been determined and the means and process to reach it has been mapped out.


“Tornado”, “hurricane” or “earthquake” would be a more appropriate terms to describe our life for the majority of 2018.


We left a life, namely a church, that we had invested everything into for the past 12 years. There were so many beloved people to whom we said good-bye.  Our house took what felt like forever to sell and consumed so much energy before we finally got an offer only hours before flying out for England.  The transition away from our former world was exhausting, trying and anything but smooth and planned out.


Setting up life in England has involved hours spent on the phone trying to get companies to service us without a UK bank account (which you cannot get without a UK address). Buying a car alone took over a week. Our rental house has given us a place to feel like we have a place where we belong. . .temporarily.  We have made countless trips to grocery stores (the fridge is oh, so very small) where we have forgotten to bring our own bags, only to have to buy more.  No retail location gives bags out here and it feels like an opportunity designed to make you feel stupid when you forget yours.  We have registered with the NHS (National Healthcare System) and even have an emergency room visit and doctor’s visit under our belts (nothing serious, just a 3-year-old who dislocated her elbow one late night and a chest infection.)  Randy has been driving on the opposite side of the road like a champion.  Meanwhile, every day that passes where I don’t have the guts to get behind the wheel, makes me fear that I will never actually have that freedom again.  The looming UK driving test is daunting to both of us.  All in all, we have been in survival mode, but we are surviving.


It felt like everything came to a head or perhaps we entered the eye of the storm this past week with our children beginning school.  New schools in a new culture, all of them not knowing a single soul on that first day.


I should have seen the clouds gathering when we frantically purchased uniforms the day before school as one of our kids didn’t get a place until that day.  (We had been begging for a space for him all summer, but the school wasn’t sure they wanted to give it to him until they met us.  Um, thanks.)  The night before school started we realized that we had to finally purchase an iron and ironing board because these uniforms were legit.  We are talking ties, blazers, dress pants and dress shoes.  I am in awe of the fact that my boys are putting these things on and wearing them without flipping out, but they are being so cool about it, that I am resolved to conceal my wonder of it all.  As I ironed at 10 p.m., I realized that we had accidently bought girl shirts for one of the boys.  Deep breaths, prayers of thanksgiving that there is a tie to cover the pearly buttons and a blazer to go over the feminine cut of the pocket and prayers that he will not notice. . . His brother pointed it out right before we left the house the next morning.


Without going into details, the first day of school was abundantly HARD for all of our kids and an absolute nightmare for one of them.  Someone once said that “motherhood means having your heart walk around outside of your body” and I have never felt the truth of that statement more than this week. I wish so badly that I could have somehow saved them from what they inevitably had to walk through.  Looking back, I feel like we did a poor job of preparing them.  I usually tend to operate under the philosophy that if you throw enough enthusiasm at the unknown, it will turn out.  We were excited that the girls were going to the same school and that the boys were too. We were excited about the neat uniforms. We were excited about how engaging and kind the staff members of the schools were.  The school that the girls are attending has alpacas. . .how could this go wrong?  What we failed to consider was how like “fish out of water” the kids were going to feel on those first days.  They were going to feel all alone.  Cultural differences were going to be magnified.  Coupled with memories of the schools and friends that they knew were under operation in Pennsylvania, they were set up for a dismal case of homesickness, alienation and sadness.


After hearing of their first day experiences, I cried. . . a lot.  My heart just broke over the pain that they had experienced.  The teacher of the child who had the worst day ever, called and I cried to him.  I have only a slight handle on British culture, but I do know that crying on the phone to a complete stranger isn’t in keeping with the attitude of a “stiff upper lip.”  By the time we reached Friday, I felt like I had jet lag again, because I was so emotionally exhausted.


So, we are transitioning . . .that word also has connotations of me staying the same, while changing locations.  However, I am beginning to believe that this is a recreation of a whole new life.  My faith in God as my Creator who is in control of all things has been an anchor for my soul for the majority of my existance, but never as much as it is now.  In Genesis one, it says that His Spirit hovered over the earth that was without form and void and then He created this magnificent world.  I am beseeching His Spirit to hover over this life and create a new thing from what feels like chaos.


“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;  they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like garment they will be changed.  But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”                                                                                                           Hebrews 1:10-12


There have been moments where it has felt like my whole world has disappeared, but it breathes new life into me to remember that my Creator is always the same and that He has no end.  This physical world will one day pass away and he will roll it up like laundry.  He is the rock who sets the foundation of my life; even with all of its stormy, changes.


“I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:8

I have been thinking about a sermon that my husband taught one time from Mark 4 about how Jesus told his disciples that that they were going to go to the other side of the lake in a boat.  During their trip, a storm arose.  Jesus was sleeping and they woke him up.  “Don’t you care that we are going to drown?”  My kids have said that to me this week in so many words. . .I am not the Creator who can command the waves to obey, but I know that Jesus is in our boat.   We will weather this hurricane of change.  Transitioning, we are not, but we will make it to the other side.



Home. . .It is a word and a concept that I have been thinking about a lot about lately.  We left home for a new adventure and while that sounds exciting (and it is), no one could have prepared me for how devastating it can feel at moments not to have a home.  I am the wife, the mama, the woman who has had the word homemaker tattooed to my soul for over 18 years.  I am almost 40 years old and I feel too old to feel this vulnerable.  I have big kids who are feeling just like I am and expressing it to me and I don’t have a ton to offer.  We all agree that we actually like this new place a lot, but not being in the familiar all the time leaves us feeling shaky at best.  We are not even a month into it, but the “what have we done” moments have been many.  It feels like we have freely given away something precious without really knowing what we were doing.   I believe with all my heart that we are supposed to be here, but you are supposed to count the cost and no one can count the cost of giving up home.  It just can’t be done, because you can’t understand the cost until it’s too late.


Tomorrow morning, we move into a house that we will rent for 6 months.  It will be good.  It has a hot tub, so it has to be good.   It is furnished. . .with other people’s stuff. What if I hate the mattress?  (Who else has slept on that mattress?)  It is a perfect scenario while we figure out our new surroundings and


I have been so tempted to get materialistic about how to make this rental home.  I went shopping at thrift stores and discount stores for an afternoon trying to find items that would make this place feel like home.  I returned with a pizza cutter, because when the pressure was on, it was the only item I could decide on.  I was able to be sure about just that. . .so silly.  The things that would make this place feel like home are in warehouse on the other side of the ocean and they won’t be coming over until we are sure about where will live permanently.  Getting by in the meantime is not going to feel like home because of something that I can buy.


What is home?  It is where you are comfortable.  It is where you know that you accepted and safe.  It is where you have what you need.  In this new culture, every time we encounter something new that we were not expecting, that feeling is challenged.  When we call to set up car insurance only to learn that you can’t unless you have a bank account here, but you can’t have a bank account until you sign a permanent address, you don’t feel accepted.  You make a comment that is misunderstood because you used a colloquialism from your country and you feel like you don’t have what you need.  When English speaking people use words that you have never heard before, it feels uncomfortable – not in a disdainful way, but in fish-out-of-water sort of way.


This week, we had the opportunity to join our new church in their annual Holiday Bible Club.  That is VBS where I come from and it has always been my favorite week of the summer.  There, for 4 hours each day, we felt at home.  It is not because it was done just like the US, but our family felt accepted, wanted and welcomed.  Some things were different than what we were  used too (bacon buddies to start off the day, anyone?), but I didn’t feel uncomfortable because I was so comfortable with the purpose of sharing God’s gospel and love with children.  It opened my eyes to what home means.



So as the homemaker of this tribe, I am realizing that my chief job is to dispense grace.  That was what was going on at HBC this week, to me, my family and all of those beautiful kids.  That is where home is going to be found in the coming months.  I have found myself trying to maintain routine and order to the negligence of grace and it is ugliness.  It is not bringing home to this place.  (There is no order or routine to be found anyway when you are going on week four of living out of a suitcase.)  My husband and my kids need to be comforted, feel accepted, safe and have what they need (which has very little to do with matching silverware.) Deep breaths, cups of tea, movie nights, long walks, a listening ear and a continual reassurance that our eyes are fixed upon God above for everything thing we are feeling and missing.  That is what my precious family needs from me during this time where we are not yet at home.   Familiarity feels like it is a long way off, but home can be found among us where grace abounds.

Home is wherever God is and God is ever with me. – Rebekah Lyons