A Swedish/vintage house tour of the “Torrence Place”

Oh man guys what an awesome reception to expanding this category! I’m so excited to further unpack what true hospitality is (inviting, listening, loving, sharing, giving, etc…) and debunk what it is not (decorating, entertaining, perfect homes, five course meals etc…) It is critical as women and home makers that we get “it”. Oh I just want to rail on right now but this is not the purpose of this post.

I promise you Jesus did not stand at Zacchaeus’ door and sigh….”I told you I was coming over to your house today and you didn’t clean up, fold your napkins into swans, set out an autumn table scape, craft me a name place card, and cook me a gourmet meal. Clearly, you don’t love or care for me.”

Can we set up some ground rules on any house tours I do? I don’t want to seem hypocritical here. I keep saying “It’s not about what your home looks like but the spirit in which you invite others into it and how you care for them.” So why am I showing you photos of decorated homes?

Well….I’ll tell you why.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established, through knowledge it’s rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

WISDOM BUILDS your home, UNDERSTANDING ESTABLISHES it, and KNOWLEDGE FILLS it with rare and beautiful things.

Some other blog posts I’ll focus on the building wise homes and understanding how to establish them biblically part.

That third little nugget of “knowledge fills it with rare and beautiful things”… this is where I want to show a variety of homes that have creatively and very THRIFTILY filled their homes. It doesn’t say “fills it with brand new expensive things” or “fills it with rustic, eclectic things” or “fills it with modern and sleek things” or “fills it with Target, TJ Maxx and Home Goods things.” because we all have different taste, budgets, size homes. My mom still scratches her head when she comes to my house and sees the things I buy and colors I use. DOES NOT COMPUTE. She loves tchotchkes and borders and I love old things with patina and gray walls. Never the twain shall meet but that doesn’t make my house more beautiful than hers, just filled with different treasures.

So let’s get to this already. Can I please encourage you to READ Sarah’s words and not just rubber neck her home? She put a lot of time into answering all my questions so grab a cup of coffee or tea and take your time absorbing words and images holistically.

I’ve known Sarah since she was a pre-teen when I was her fearless youth leader in the late 90’s. I LOVE how God evolves relationships when you stay in the same community as I have for 20 years. I don’t think in 1996 when I was “discipling” her, a pimply teenager and me a pimply college student, that we could have ever imagined one day a friendship of sisterly proportion would emerge. We got married within four months of each other and stood up in each others weddings. We now live out in the country together raising our children in community. We traded in our wayward years, our bad taste in men and weird hair choices for slow mornings over coffee, paint color advice, rearranging furniture in each others houses and times of deep prayer together. I love this woman and you will love Sarah’s blunt and matter of fact story telling about her home and her growing pains on learning what true Biblical hospitality is.

photo (1) Circa 1996-1997ish. You know…bib overalls, doc martin phase? Yikes.

2003....an interesting hair phase for me at least.

2003….what do you mean I’m not a natural blonde.

Take it away Sarah…. (please note that they moved into their house in May and there are MANY things still not done so she was gracious to let me photograph it not at 100% completed)

“I should start by saying I do NOT feel qualified to be some sort of example of hospitality for anyone. All these things are what I desire for our home, but by no means have I mastered the trade. I was super stoked to have Kelly and Ryan take pictures because I knew it would look pretty and because we really needed an updated family photo-HA! But, NEWS FLASH PEOPLE- our house looks like this NEVER.

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Family photo...check.

Family photo…check.

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One of my biggest pet peeves is how unrealistic social media is. I had just had my grandparents over and I said “Quick Kelly! Come take pictures while it is still clean!” No matter what my house looks like, my life is messy and imperfect and some days it is just a boring grind that no one sees. I mean, I am a stay at home mom…it is just NOT that glamorous.

head shot outtake. hashtag real life

head shot outtake. hashtag real life

I do love to keep a clean house and I love to express my creativity in my home as my hobby. I do other things like I have a few friends and go to crossfit…but I don’t DO a lot. This is my choice of what I like to do in my small amount of free time. So while my house may look pretty, I do NOT like to cook- nor am I gluten or anything-free, I do NOT home school, I say NO to a lot of extra activities that busy our family, I don’t sign the kids up for extra sports or activities (yet) and I only get my hair cut once a year. Keeping thing simple is my “thing”.

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The truth is, I do want to learn about hospitality. I want our home to be shared because we were given more than what we deserve. I am in a continual process of letting go and focusing more on our family and our ministry instead of the next creative project I would like to try.

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1-How was “home” taught to you growing up? What things do you find yourself carrying over into your own way of showing hospitality?

The main thing about our home growing up was comfort. My mom sort of “decorated” and kept a clean home, but it was not her thing and not always tidy. She opened it up to many many people (as many as would come) from our church, neighborhood, friends, and family…plus any stray that might need a place for thanksgiving ect… For her, the main concerns were “was it warm (aka cozy) enough?”, “was there enough food?” and “is it conducive to talking and sharing?”. People often came to our home and were at ease and comfortable. Relationships and talking always came first for my mom…way above any to do list or house project or even being on time to everything.

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I found for my personality, this mostly drove me crazy growing up. I like to clean, I like to decorate, I like to get my to do lists done and I like to be on time. So when we were married and had our own home, I wrestled with the fact that I really DO love the aesthetic part of a home but when its super clean and well put together, is that a barrier for people? Do they not feel as comfortable?

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I think the answer for me was MY attitude. I decided that when people are here, it is THEIR time. I no longer care about the dishes or the half painted front door or anything on my to do list. What I love to do in my own time is be creative with my home. And it puts me at ease to keep it picked up (as best I can with 3 kids). But whenever someone walks through that door, I just don’t care about that stuff. I just plop on a couch and I want to hear their story and about their life and I am guessing that is why people feel so comfortable here. I suppose I got from my mom. That and we have a LOT of cozy blankets and we try to have a lot of food (mainly dairy products).

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2- Explain your aesthetic with decorating and how you choose items. Does your profession play into your choices?

I guess as a designer I developed a clean and simple aesthetic. But I do love color. So I think for our home, it is kind of that way. It is a blank pallet (that’s where the Swedish white walls come in) with some color thrown in with textiles and painted furniture.

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I do NOT like matching things. I just want the items I keep in the house to have some significance – I don’t care if they “go” together. The stuff on my walls are all very eclectic. I don’t want to buy some generic painting because I need to fill a blank wall.

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I also use everything…I don’t set aside “nice stuff”. If I get something handed down like an embroidered tablecloth, I am going to use it and not stuff it in a drawer! We have used our good china from our wedding everyday since we were married.

My favorite furniture piece and lighting fixture in her whole house.

My favorite furniture piece and lighting fixture in her whole house.

Lastly, we just basically have collected (cheap or free) a lot of chairs and couches and hammocks- some look nice and others have fabric ripping off and may fall apart at any moment because we haven’t worked on them yet. But we have lots of places for people to spread out, talk and relax.

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3- When you decided to build your own home, what were some of the thoughts or considerations you made in layout and design that represented not just your aesthetic but what you felt God was calling your family to do WITH your home?

God has given us this amazing gift. Never ever in my life would I have guessed that at 31, we would live in a NEW home on a beautiful farm. We know for a fact that this was given not just to us. This home was meant to be shared and to be a place of peace and refuge.

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We also knew we wanted to raise our children in an environment where they could learn to be creative and to be hard working. I am not a home school mom, so I knew that the time when my kids were at home was crucial. I wanted it to be a refuge for them too…and for their friends. I don’t want them to find that somewhere else. I want them to feel comfortable and learn from their family how to work hard and be thankful for all they are given. And learn how to share that with others.

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I don’t know exactly what that will look like through the years- or even how to go about creating a home like that. We have asked God for each step to make that clear…help us to have a home with enough space for those who need it but not something too big and overwhelming and intimidating.

4- What are some of your favorite features of your home when you sit and look around it? Did your years working on furniture with your business at 508 Restoration help you decorate your home?

Our screened porch has been our favorite so far. We had no idea how much we would enjoy it! It is such a gift to eat outside or relax out there in the shade, no bugs or rain to bother us. It is the most calm spot in our home.

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Our floors downstairs are special to us too because they came from the trees that were cleared for this house. Nathan and his brothers and dad and my dad all worked together to mill them and lay them. They are not perfect like a normal new home and we never worry about messing them up or scratching them.

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5- What feeling or feelings do you hope your guests experience when they are visiting or staying over night?

We hope they are at peace. We hope they find a slower pace and a beautiful and restful place full of food and sarcasm and real life.

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Guest bedroom

Guest bedroom

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6- How do your kids use your house? Any kid friendly advice or things you have discovered to keep the house usable but not screaming “KIDS LIVE HERE”!?

We mainly have focused on the outside. With our kids and any visiting kids, we hope they learn to explore the woods and use their imaginations making bow and arrows (or any type of weapon) and as my mother-in-law would say, it’s always good to have some activities that are slightly dangerous too. Cause why else would they want to come back?! We have several swings, a giant rope swing and paths made in the woods to the creek. Next we are working on a tree house and possibly a zip line.

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We focus on stuff that is fun for any age – boy or girl. I try to teach the girls how to make fairly lands with moss and leaves and sticks and be warrior princesses….or sometimes just run laps around the driveway. It works!

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Of course we have all the junky stuff too like bikes and trucks and balls….which I try to jam all into one spot to keep the plastic to a minimum.

But honestly, our yard looks trashy a lot. It’s ok.

As for inside…I don’t really know. My kids all share a big room and all their toys are all in there with them. The girl side is very decorated because my oldest got that gene and its something we have fun with together. I also have a few toys in the basement as well as an old TV. The main living area downstairs has only one basket of toys for my youngest. Ideally the toys are to stay in said locations…but they pretty much get everywhere and drive me nuts on a daily basis.

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2nd guest bed

7- When Anthropologie approached you and Nathan to feature your stenciled animal line how did you prayerfully walk through your decision to decline the offer? Do you regret your decision?

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At the time, our little 508 business was growing more than we expected. It seemed like the less effort we put into the business, the more opportunities came up. It was supposed to be a hobby for me and now it was turning into a real job for both of us. I felt like God was blessing our business and we loved doing it together- it was good for our marriage too.

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So when I got the call from Anthropologie (and after I peed my pants a little), I thought for sure this had come from God because it is certainly
NOT something we had ever pursued. I asked for a week or so to think it over. We prayed through that decision while starting working out all the details of the contract…I had a few phone conversations with the buyer and it was a wonderful experience. But something didn’t sit quite right.

Then one day while driving down our driveway, it was suddenly clear to both of us that we needed to say NO. It wasn’t exactly clear why but it seemed God was just asking us to trust Him. We just felt like if he was able to bless our business with little effort on our part, what is to stop Him from doing that again one day? Or maybe something completely different?

They are still deciding on what to cover the base of the island in.  Look at dem windows!!

They are still deciding on what to cover the base of the island in. Look at dem windows!!

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That week, after we turned down the contract, my mom was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. I became pregnant with my 3rd a month later. And a month after that we sold our house (where 508 started) and moved into a rental in the country. In 6 months following, we started the process of building a house, Nathan changed jobs and I spent all my time either caring for the kids or in and out of hospitals with my mom. Then a month later, I had our Piper eight days before my mom passed away and then we moved again.

All I can think is that God is so good. He has never left my side. Things like this Anthropologie gig become so insignificant when you are thinking about what your life looks like living in the kingdom. Not to say that stuff is bad-and maybe one day some cool creative opportunity will come again. But He GAVE ME THAT CREATIVITY. It is His. These things are so small in comparison to what He can do with our lives when we give up control.

Looking back, if we had not listened to Him and signed on with Anthropologie, there would be so much about our life (in the kingdom) that we would have had to give up.

We haven’t spent a single second regretting that decision.

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8- How do you extend the “spirit of invitation” to others? Do you have any verses or passages that you pray over your home?

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Finally one of my favorite mottos about your home.

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The Good Home category gets it’s first house tour!

Last spring I was asked by my women’s ministry coordinator to speak at a workshop our church was holding in August. The topic was originally, “Decorating on a Dime.” After thinking about it for a few minutes something didn’t sit right with me. I wrote her back and asked if I could expand the topic. There are ENDLESS websites, FB pages and instagram feeds dedicated to thrifty decorating ideas but I feel we are missing the greater issue of hospitality in our society and especially in our churches. Using what we have dominion over for Gods glory to bless and refresh others….what does that mean? What does it look like to live and use our homes as Jesus would. Whether it be a hut, apartment or a 3500 square foot house we have a space that is ours that we choose to use or hoard. She was totally on board and the workshop became “Cultivating a heart of hospitality and creating beauty on a budget”. I’m about to open a can on this for a few posts.

It’s time to unshackle.

Maybe I’m sensitive about this topic but in its various shades this topic is on women’s minds continually and satan can pluck our mind and heart strings like a concert cellist.

DO more, BE more…WHY ISN’T YOUR LIFE AND HOME PIN WORTHY?

Whats wrong with you, you inferior woman/wife/mom/homemaker? Can’t you whip up a gluten free, nut free, dairy free feast while homeschooling your four children and making sure they have engaged their five senses in tactile crafts using glitter, paint and markers? Haven’t you curled your freshly colored hair and put on your boyfriend jeans cuffed just so, booties, army inspired jacket, perfectly plaid flannel with your scarf tied in the latest trend? I hope you built that rustic shelving unit and spray painted some animals gold, turned your porch into a fall scene out of Martha Stewart? Did you get an hour to work out today? I hope you implemented the five steps to keeping your husband hooked when he comes home from work. (Please note some of these examples I actually do or love but NEVER EVER in the same day. Heck..week. There is NO SIN in them. It’s the pressure to accomplish them all in pin-worthy, instagram post fashion STAT)

IT. IS. MADNESS. Make the bad man stop.

I had a friend tell me once that she didn’t invite me over to her house because it wasn’t “pretty and creative enough” and she didn’t want me to see it. WHAT THE WHAT????? Man that is a slap in the face to both of us.

1- It insinuates that I show up with a clip board and check list grading my friends homes. Yeah….NO…I’m sorry you didn’t make the cut. I refuse to play, eat lunch or breath the same air in this drab home. NOT EVEN CLOSE. So hurtful.

2- It shows that she is bound mentally by a measuring stick that only a beautiful and creative home is one worth inviting others in to. What a shame, what a lie that is!

I was sad for me, I was sad for her. Something has to stop ladies! She literally put up a ten foot wall to our friendship. It wasn’t going to go any farther. What a disservice.

I was THRILLED when I saw that “She Reads Truth” started a study on October 27th on HOSPITALITY!!! Oh my word…if you are not currently doing a specific study PLEASE PLEASE click over to this one and do it! For the record I asked my friend, Sarah about doing an interview/house tour the week prior to SRT releasing this study…..so I’m totally pumped they are giving me some serious back bone to this topic. I mean here is a taste of some pinables. Ddddddddddaaaaaaannnnnnnggggg and Yes please!

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And a small excerpt from SRT.

““In our culture, the concept of hospitality has lost much of its power and is often used in circles where we are more prone to expect a watered down piety than a serious search for authentic Christian spirituality. But still, if there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality. It is one of the riches biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to our fellow human beings.”
Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos. Phileo meaning “brotherly love,” and xenos for “strangers.” God’s original design for hospitality is extending ourselves in love to strangers. It’s not only hosting dinner parties on special occasions with people we know, but embracing a posture of the heart to welcome even—and especially— those we don’t.”

I happen to have some pretty savvy decorating friends in my life. Its their HOBBY. It holds their interest and is a source of creative expression and relaxation. Can I say that again? It is a source of creative expression and relaxation for them. Much like someone who paints or someone who bakes extraordinarily tasty and beautiful desserts. I do not look at a painting and scoff ” I can’t paint that well I’m not even going to hang that painting in my house because it’s better than what I could do.” My friend, Candace, is an exceptional baker; her goodies not only taste incredible they look like they are out of a magazine. Come my children’s birthday time I can sit and pout in the corner that I have horrible baking instincts or I can ask her to not bring a present but please make my child’s cupcakes for me. DO YOU SEE WHERE I’M GOING PEOPLE?

So I’ve wanted to expand the category of The Good Home by adding some house tours. I appreciate these homes because they are so interesting to look at, creative naturally/organically and I feel SO WELCOME in them. My friends also pay next to NADA for what is in their homes or they just flat out make it. Now were talking. I love that my friends have TOTALLY different taste, that’s what makes the world go round.

That’s the crux right there….THE SPIRIT OF INVITATION is on the table. Come weary and heavy Kelly and find some rest on my couch. Just scooch the toys onto the floor, kick that wrapped up dirty diaper I forgot to throw away off to the side and just rest.

The spirit of invitation say: “I want you here, I delight in your presence, I want you to feel cared for”. This invitation has happened to me in third world countries where there was not one “pin worthy” thing in the house and yet I will never forget the honor and love I received sitting on their floor or the one chair in their one room house. Nothing is more humbling than being served hot tea out of someones only glass dish and a huge dinner you know cost them their last penny and with sheer and total delight they chose to do this. The selflessness I have received in my life makes me want to cry.

And so consider this the “introduction” to these segments on The Good Home. I am thrilled to show Sarah’s uniquely decorated home that meshes her Swedish heritage, vintage treasures and her incredible talent of refurbishing furniture all rolled into one. They built this house with one thing in mind…using it for others.

Here is a small sampling of what’s on deck for next week when I roll out the full tour and her interview. If you are feeling up to it…tell me what you struggle with when it comes to using your home and resources. What holds you back or what lie to you fight?

I told Sarah she has that urban meets country hot mom down pat.

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Much much more coming early next week!

Grape by Grape

Catch the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vine, for our vines have tender grapes.- Solomon 2:15

I was switching the wash a couple Mondays ago when out tumbled two pawns from a chess set into the bottom of my washer.

Clink, clink….my heart sank. You have to be kidding me, not again! This time from the church.

It seems Bennett has bestowed upon himself the power of the five finger discount in the past few months. Don’t mind if he do….

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The most frustrating irony is he isn’t stealing anything of great value. I mean if you are gonna steal…let’s get something of value here! (is joke) It’s just junky trinkets that line the edge of pockets and sticky little palms.

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To make matters worse he is continually shoving little doo-dads from our house into his book bag or pockets and bringing them to school. He’s gotten in trouble for it a few times this year and yet and yet….his little mitts the next day swipe another Lego guy, a rock, or rubber band and in it goes into the pouch of his back pack.

Sigh….

To make matters the MOST worst. He lies about it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. WITHOUT. BATTING. AN. EYE.

That, my friends, about does me in. These are heart issues and although “mad” usually happens first with me, “sad” is quick to follow. I mean today it’s plastic beads, what’s next? Gum at the grocery store and in no time grand theft auto?? The plastic bear is his gateway drug into a life of criminal activity I just know it!!!

In all seriousness my mind goes there and I have to metaphorically slap myself across the face and get it together. Bennett is a GREAT kid whose making incredibly dumb, selfish and carnal decisions. He’s always been impulsive. Do first, think later. Somewhere under the blood of Jesus He will use that for something glorious. Right now it is his achilles heel. Total shocker…my kids aren’t perfect.

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I mean it’s CRAP! Dumb plastic nothingness but it holds incredible significance. Trust has been broken in a big way. We have hit the red button alert to crack down on him at every turn. It stinks… I literally pat him down every morning and open up his book bag and inspect it. He has to write page after page of lines in a legal pad with verses about stealing. He had to write to our church an admittance letter for stealing the chess pieces and hand it to an elder and apologize in person. Nope…not enough to deter the behavior.

We walked into the school yesterday with the first two beads I found and he had to apologize to the teacher. He cried, I cried, it was awkward, I was sad, he wouldn’t ask for forgiveness and complete the circle……so we had to move on to writing a letter last night and searching the house for the rest of his loot.

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This was my morning today. He’s been lying since about the beginning of the school year about getting to pick out of the teachers “treasure box” for good behavior (choke that ironic lie down why don’t ya) and so he has been bringing home these pop beads and teddy bears consistently the last month. ALL STOLEN, snuck home and lied about. “Treasure box” indeed.

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My heart is so sad. I held him in my arms today and we talked about the word integrity and character and what it means to be a man of your word and be trustworthy. We prayed together. It felt like one of those moments you really penetrate into their skulls and awaken them to kingdom truths.

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We walked to the car to drive to school (after his pat down of course). He hops in the back row and stupidly draws attention to himself by saying “I want to see what you packed me for lunch today.”

I’m grunting getting Rhett wrangled into his seat and buckled in. “Why do you want to know? Please don’t pull everything out of your back pack I can tell you what I made you.”

Blink, blink his doe eyes went and then I saw it. His bawled up fist trying to scoot the zipper open.

“Bennet please don’t tell me that you are trying to sneak a toy in your bag you found in the car.” FOR THE LOVE….please tell me your hand is empty!!!!

drum roll please….

“No I’m NOT!!!” (he is a rotten liar praise God!)

I reach back and pry his hand open freeing up the Lego guy that was about to be smuggled to school. My indignant expression rivaling his guilty one.

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RIGHT AFTER OUR FREAKING PRAYER TIME. I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. What is going through his six year old mind is beyond me. I was dumbfounded. I had to pull the ole “I’m going to talk to daddy about what we are going to do about this.” I knew my flesh would totally rule over sound parenting in that moment.

It was an awkward seven minute ride to school as he hid behind his backpack every time I looked in the rear view mirror.

Remorse? I hope so. Mad he was caught? Probably.
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And so we are here. This is life with us. Our imperfect kingdoms crashing into one another. The bending of wills and the shaping of character. I don’t think Lyle the Kindly Viking is having the impact I was hoping for in his toddler years. We’ve left the Veggie Tales world of raising children and now we are getting into the weeds of character building and I need to get on my discipleship A game with this kid.

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I’ve spend a lot of time reading commentaries about the verse I put at the top.There are SO many takes on what Solomon is referring to in this passage. Are the grapes chastity, hope, peace, little sins, literal grapes because she lived near a vineyard?

I’m going to give my take on it. I’m noticing so much of my discontentment in my days are found in me rolling the red carpet out and welcoming my little fox to come and take my joy, my truth, my peace a little bit at a time. I think satan is no fool and he starts very young sending in the foxes to steal from our children as well. We have a job to do to teach our children to protect their “tender shoots” and chase the foxes away.

I learned a few things in my reading about foxes in general. They are silent and mainly solitary. they have an incredible sense of sight, smell, and hearing. They exhibit tremendous cleverness in going after their prey. They are very cunning, devious, and capable of misleading its pursuers with utmost skill. The very poster child of slyness. Ironically, foxes are incredibly cute and we see these small, sleek creatures and underestimate their calculated ways.

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Grape by grape. Isn’t that more satan’s speed? He’s such a bastard like that. I have no other word or title I can give satan but that. Lest you think I’m just a brass woman with loose lips bastard also means “an unpleasant or despicable being”. So really I am being nice with that word.

Do we just fall into affairs? Gamble our life savings away? Murder out of jealous rage or covetous hearts? Walk away from our faith or churches? Spend ourselves into insurmountable debt?

Nay nay….that’s like burning your vineyard down with a blow torch. It starts with that fox burrow near our heart and mind. Are you standing there with a gun and a shovel or are you dismissing that cute little harmless fox? What’s wrong with a nibble here or there in your vineyard? The rest of our lives is pretty God honoring. Kind of.

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A flick of the finger scrolling on Instagram or Facebook, viewing others lives, sends a jealous thought racing through your brain and scatters a seed of discontentment. Water it or stomp it out?

A harmless bout of flirting at work or church over a personal story. Harmless? It’s just words right? No action taken. The tender root of your marriage having razor sharp teeth bit into it. That’s actually a strategy of a fox to bite the shoot which causes the entire branch to wither and droop down. Easy pickins.

I’m SO TIRED I can’t go to church or make small group or fellowship with other believers. I gotta get on top of my rest and besides I had too much going on this weekend, I need some time to myself. Logical? Biblical? Ramming one week of your life into the next week without a moment of fellowship and Sabbath before the Lord. No fuel in the spiritual tank. Nibble, nibble…a grape here and a grape there.

I’m not gonna beat a dead horse here. I could toss out endless examples of subtle choices and thoughts we have that steal. STEAL our joy, hope, truth, and holy ambitions. Satan does not always come in like a lion. He sends those foxes in to starve our souls and confuse and compromise our minds so that he has a weak and lame sheep to devour and devour he will.

You, me, our precious children.

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My Bennett is listening to something in his mind about these objects even though he can’t articulate it to me.

“Pssssst….” the fox slyly whispers as he rubs his bushy tale along Bennett’s tender vine. “It’s just a small bead, it’s not a big deal.” “The other kids got a prize this week but you didn’t, just take it.” “I wonder what it feels like to take something?” I honestly don’t know what grape the fox is taking. A bitterly uneven exchange of Bennett’s contentment and satisfaction for the sin of lust, greed, or covetousness. So little for so much grief. Please don’t be foolish parents and say “That’s just kids stuff..things kids do” or “They will grow out of it.” Your naivety or blind-eye is to your child’s detriment. This is serious stuff when it flows from the heart.

I know my child’s every need is met in ridiculous abundance even. There is no grave need that propels his hands to take. It is in his mind and heart. A battle in the heavenlies over my sons integrity and kingdom character and I refuse to not stand at his vineyard with my pitchfork in hand.

I also refuse to turn a blind eye at my own vineyard. Take up your weapon people. The battle is real. It isn’t usually the big and obvious sins that sweep in and destroy, it’s the tiny little ones that crack the foundation, rattle our cages, and redirect our path off the straight and narrow.

Fight…please keep fighting.

(images of Bennett courtesy of the awesome and dear Sara Ernst )

Thimbles or Buckets

We decided to brave an “after church meeting” last Sunday. We are at that dicey age with Rhett where technically we can push him past his nap but do we want to? How will one pay for it in the end? One never knows until one pushes a three year old past his breaking point. It was a ministry team meeting and well…being a 20 year member…. it’s really good to attend these meetings.

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It only cost me one gigantic poo blow out when I picked Rhett up after the meeting. The kind you have to gather yourself, blink back your incredulous tears and make a plan. It was clear when I lifted to “check” that the shirt was already collateral damage. We left church with a shirtless, shoeless, one pound lighter Rhett and me with pit stains and the sneaking suspicion I smelled like a sewer. This was the last straw…we are officially potty training the last 7 days (bites fingernails nervously…it’s going “okay”)

But back to the meeting. A large portion of it contained prayer. Imagine that! We talk about ministries in our church then wait for it…wait for it…we pray over them. It’s good stuff. We were sitting at a table with a couple of younger guys, one of them being a dear, dear friend of ours. We joke that he is my emotional twin but male and 14 years younger. Eric and I process and assess in very similar ways. I get him and he gets me. We will probably write each others eulogies one day. I kid but not really.

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For his age, Eric, is a seasoned man of the word and his prayers have a maturity that leave me in tears many times. He was praying about one of our missions initiatives when these words tumbled out of his mouth.

“Help us not to be satisfied with the run-off of you God but instead that we will go straight to the source and receive you fully.”

Yes, yes my heart cried! I discretely pulled my phone out to jot down this juicy steak of a line and then snuck my technology back in to my purse. I couldn’t shake those words for a few days.

Because that’s me!!

I play in the brooks and the puddles of God’s goodness and mercy. I lick the dew off the rocks and open my mouth for a raindrop to desperately fall onto my parched tongue and dried up heart. I pat and play in the mud and try to sooth my broken heart and fragmented mind with a little moisture of God. AS IF THAT’S ALL HE IS OFFERING ME. I foolishly say that I’ve been “refreshed” by the Lord and I’m “good” but really I know I’ve settled for a few trickles of run-off. I’m spiritually dehydrated and my soul is malnourished.

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An instagram of a spiritual saying can make me take pause for 10 seconds or so. Mmmmmmm I say to myself. That was good. That shall carry me through today. That’s all I have time for on this busy day. I’ll just ponder those few words and feel satisfied. A crumb I will make into a meal to nourish my hunger.

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Maybe it’s a blog post of friends that bleed their guts out onto the computer in beautiful and raw ways.( I love this woman, you should immediately follow her. She is my friend and an endless encourager through her words) They pour some from their cup into my cup. I drink it up but it doesn’t satisfy to my marrow…why…because I am simply relating to their human experience, humor, drive to know Jesus, and love of a Holy God. HOWEVER, posts like those beckon me a little deeper to The Source. A virtual linking of arms to come…let’s go deeper…together.

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Imagine, if you will, the woman in Napoleon Dynamite being shown the clipper ship by Uncle Rico. She exhales her southern drawl,covetously looks at the ship, and the following words tumble out of her mouth: “I want that”!

That’s the magnetism I feel towards The Source when I read well written raw blogs, listen to sermons, read books that make me stop after a paragraph because of the intensity of truth, bathe my afternoons in worship music or keep my nose in God’s word.

It’s like going from ankle, to waist, to shoulder deep in the waters of my Savior. I don’t need to lick the dew off a rock when I am invited to plunge the depth of His love.

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I attended the Beth Moore Simulcast on Saturday at my church. Beth never disappoints. It takes me about 20 mins to adjust to the volume of her voice, being called “girlfriend” and the active way she wants this introvert to talk back to the screen in endless “repeat back to me” moments. But oh that woman loves Jesus. She loves His word, she loves women, and story telling, truth that is uncomfortable and prayers that come from the gut. She was handing out cups and cups of living water all day long and I was drinking it by the gulp-fulls.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 4:13-15

She said a simple, yet profound truth about our process of going to God. We constantly ask God to REVEAL himself. “God I need you, come to me, answer me, be near to me, give me wisdom, help me through this trial, etc…” and HE does. He comes near, He draws near, He IS near offering every spiritual gift, wisdom and comfort because He is a God of love and compassion. GREAT is His faithfulness. He is also a HOLY God so when we ask Him to draw near and we are steeped in sin then He will expose that darkness in our heart and mind, He will not co-habitat with it. So his drawing near can crumple us to our knees into full repentance. The only path back to Jesus.

HOWEVER….

We sit there with our arms out to receive. Oh how blessed it is to receive from the living God. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink, drink.

BUT THEN WE STOP….

Do we not know that we have not closed the circle? God asks one thing of us after we have received from Him and that is to RESPOND! What are you going to do with my revelations, my refreshing, my wisdom, my correction, my truth, my mercy, my goodness? Who will you declare your freedom, comfort, answered prayers, forgiveness, emancipation, or redemption to? How different will our lives look if we RESPONDED back to God and were brave enough to say “What would you have me DO in response Lord?” and then we DID IT!

We are a selfish people. We LOVE to receive. Gimme, gimme, gimme but whoa to the one that is asked to take action. We are quick to shove our taking hands back into our pockets. Do we not know that the even greater gift is when we walk out our obedience in action? Blessed is he who is not just a hearer of the word but a doer.
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I once had a friend tell me, “Kelly you can’t help but be passionate about those in bondage being set free. It’s your story. It’s your experience with Jesus being pulled from the miry pit. You feel compelled to share your story and to see others restored before the KING in the same way.”

I think it’s why I cry so easily when I tell my story…never out of shame but out of desperation for others to GET IT, to KNOW my Redeeming God, my redeemed marriage, my life this is not easy but is gloriously fulfilling because I have broken free from my bondage. I don’t want people to waste another minute in captivity. My response is to help lead others to freedom in Christ.

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Why do we not RESPOND to Him? What does that look like to continue to walk out this process past receiving?

OK…let me stop for a moment and ask something. When you think about going to The Source for the living water He offers, do you come holding up a thimble or a five gallon bucket? Do you believe He WANTS to refresh you? Do you believe He CAN refresh you? Do you believe You DESERVE to be refreshed by the Holy God?

I think if we take a moment to close our eyes and picture ourselves entering into the waters with God do we picture ourselves sheepishly loitering around the shoreline, not making eye contact, weakly holding out a thimble to be filled? The run-off will be fine please and thank you.

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Maybe we feel worthy enough to go up to our waist and hold up a cup to the Almighty God. This is good, I’m not that thirsty, I’ll be alright with a cup full.

Or are we swimming with a flat out urgency, bucket in hand, STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE?

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This visualization exercise exposes one thing only…our broken theologies about who God is and who we are IN Him.

If you can’t say that I charge directly to the source then there is some sort of break or lie in your view of God or self.

When I read the following verses I see a generous invitation to COME as you are, drink as much as you need from his ENDLESS store house of living water, and NEVER thirst again for FREE. It isn’t too good to be true. It is for the righteous or unrighteous. The bound or the unbound. It is for all.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Is 58:11

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” Is 40:12

“They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Ps 36:8

Do you drag your bucket back out from The Source so that you may begin handing out that refreshement to others? Do you hoard the water for yourself because you don’t trust that the offer will be extended again. Do you stand there paralyzed receiving but not responding.

Link arms with me “girlfriend”…grab yo bucket and wade into the deep end because we are going to receive our fill and in response to our encounter with our Savior we will GO and do likewise. I don’t ever want to go back to the shoreline. I can’t go back to the shoreline.

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