New Beginnings

Park PlayThe Word tells us that His mercies are new every morning. So often over these busy months of serving Father as I care for my family and pour into those around me He has reminded me of fresh mercy that covers each aspect of my life.

The steadfast love of the Lrd never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

This coming week marks new beginnings for our family. The boys will return to their wonderful montessori preschool. The girls will be homeschooling. Abigail is going to start 3rd grade and Annalise will begin Kindergarten. Zoe (now nine months old) will play the role of my assistant teacher. While Father has been my steadfast during a season almost void of routine I am so excited about entering a time of slow and steady work.

The girls and I are going to focus on memorizing the Word and daily habits and disciplines that fix our eyes on Jesus. I’m also going to doing a 14 day course to “Make Over Your Mornings” along with my mom and a few co-laborers. I’m so thankful for Father’s faithfulness over these past few months of transition and work (new baby, new members of Father’s family, Asian preschool for the boys), and I have seen His hand guide me to Him through each stage. That said, I’m ready to press in deeply, to do a practical reset, to truly be a healthy daughter of His, that I might impact my family and my friends and my work.

With joy,


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Zoe’s Grand Entrance

Relief. Joy. Praise Jesus.

Relief. Joy. Praise Jesus.

Monday morning (November 17th) I was extra irritable. Note the extra…at this point in pregnancy the irritable part was normal. I had already been reduced to tears several times by mid-morning. The smoking woman near my children and me. Older boys picking on my little kids. And Matt sensing my frustration and trying to reduce it… I wondered that morning if Zoe may be coming soon.

I took a nap that afternoon and we decided to head to one of our favorite malls for dinner and a walk around Toys-r-us. We brought our jawbone jambox in the car, pumped up the worship music and enjoyed a peaceful car ride while the littles listened to music and Matt and I shared in conversation.

We enjoyed our dinner. During our walk around toys-r-us we found a cool mini-golf set, a soccer ball, a frisby and a couple other small things. I anticipated all of us having fun with those soon after.

I noticed frequent contractions during dinner and in the car ride home. We got the kids to bed and I started timing them. They were 4 minutes a part, but not painful or intense, each lasting about 45 seconds. If I had been confident Zoe was head down we may not have been so quick to head to the hospital. After all it was over a week early and it wasn’t painful at all, just frequent. But I was fearful…which bump was her head and which was her booty…and I was feeling a lot of pressure on my left hip…like she was stuck on it. We didn’t have anything set for childcare because every day was different, but thankfully our friends who had just had a baby the week before were able to watch the kids and make arrangements for us. We headed to the hospital and I texted with our doula.

When we arrived they checked me in right away. Contractions remained consistent until I laid down on the hospital bed. They were able to confirm that Zoe was head down and I was so relieved. They checked me and I was only 1 cm dilated and 70% effaced. I had hoped I was a bit further along, but still anticipated meeting Zoe within a few hours per how fast her older siblings had come. I asked if I could leave and they didn’t want me to. They also knew how fast Annalise and Zachary had come (both born at the same hospital).

We settled in for what we thought would be a long night and called my doula to let her know what was going on. She showed up and talked me through contractions. I wanted to get everything I could out of each one so I created a walking track around my room and squatted each time one would come. They checked me again around 4 am and I was still the same. WHAT!?! So I decided to lay down and get some rest. My doula was scheduled to fly out that morning so she left about 5 am. At 8 am my doctor came and checked me. I was still the same. I asked him if I could go home. He said, “no, baby is coming, you are having many contractions.” He told me to get up and walk. So I upped the Lecrae and got back to walking a track around the room. Contractions remained 4 minutes apart around 45 seconds long, and not painful or intense. At 12:00 he came to check me and I was 3-4 cms. Ok…I thought, it’s been slow to this point, but this is where I usually start moving quickly from. At 2:30 he came to check me again. I was 4 and still only 70% effaced. The 70% effacement turned out to be the real hold-up. Zoe was head down but simply not engaging, which meant all those contractions and all that walking wasn’t doing much to progress labor. He suggested we start pitocin and get me walking again. We called our friend, a labor and delivery nurse, and talked through the options. She agreed that pitocin would help progress at this point and since I had already been up for over 32 hours with just a little bit of rest we needed to move things along. She had a dentist appointment and would come to the hospital right after she finished. At three o’clock they started pitocin and Matt and I walked the halls. Contractions were regular but not intense or painful. Right around 3:30 our friend showed up. She was a huge encouragement, support and offered so much wisdom. I could still talk and move and smile my way through contractions. They began to get a little more intense. I was no longer smiling, but I could joke the minute in between them. My doctor checked me around 4:45 and I was 7 cm and 100%. The head nurse said the baby should arrive by around 7pm (over 2 hours later!!!! —needless to say I didn’t like that). My doctor also said the baby was in the worst possible head down position for delivery. I sat on an exercise ball and began to ask Matt and our friend if there was any option for pain control (this hospital doesn’t have epidurals). I was in a lot of pain. Nope, no options. I was very concerned about her position. I had two more contractions and knew immediately I was fully dilated. I climbed up on the bed and stayed on all fours for several moments just praying she would turn her little head and not be in the bad position. Matt and our friend just thought I couldn’t move. :) Tricked them. (and she did turn to the best position!!!) I laid down and pushed through one contraction. They said I wouldn’t have torn but at the last second I let out a scream. 2nd degree tear. Oh well. She was out. PTL! I immediately saw the doctor’s face, Matt’s face and our nurse friend’s face. Their eyes were huge, but Zoe was crying so I knew she was ok. Why the shocked reaction from them? Zoe’s cord was wrapped around her neck, not just one, but two times. That explains why she was so hesitant to engage her little head and had given us the scare the week before of turning around. She didn’t like how it felt being all tangled up in her cord. My doctor immediately placed her on my chest. She was goopy and perfect and I just said a dozen, “Thank You, Jesus and You are so goods” and just kept kissing her sweet head. I was so relieved. Zoe cuddled up with me and nursed quickly and well (none of my others did that until a couple hours after birth).

And now, my sweet baby Zoe is one month and one day old. She is a champion sleeper, giving me a 6 hour chunk and then a 3 hour chunk like clockwork the past 2 weeks consistently. She is a great eater and is over 8 pounds now and even grew an inch in length since her birth. Her siblings adore her and always want a turn to hold her, and at the very least for me to lean down so they can kiss her on the head. They love bedtime when she comes by to say goodnight to them. So so sweet. We are humbled and thankful that Father has given us our precious Zoe Praise. It is our prayer for her that like her name (Zoe means life) she would live a life of praise. Psalm 63:3 Because your love is better than life my lips will glorify you.

So thankful. ~Karissa

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Zoe's first smile.

Zoe’s first smile.

Smiling sisters enjoying an impromptu science experiment.

Smiling sisters enjoying an impromptu science experiment.

After having several weeks to ease into real life things are returning to “normal”. Now, normal is relative when you are living temporarily in a foreign country nearby the foreign country that you call home across the world from the country you are a citizen of. And normal is relative when your husband is with you around the clock because you aren’t at home where he has daily work and min responsibilities outside the home.

All that said, our current normal looks like Mommy getting up at a descent time in the morning. It looks like homeschool being back in session. It looks like singing and playing and prepping meals and washing dishes. And diapers…did I mention diapers? It looks like bath time, kicking the soccer ball, playing with play-doh.

Here is the kicker, the nugget I have been rolling around in my mind, the place I have been seeking grace for…

Sometimes the real work is to smile. How easily I find myself overwhelmed and frowning. I get sucked into negativity as I handle the need for constant correction, discipline and redirection.

Super silly brothers. Look at those grins!

Super silly brothers. Look at those grins!

Proud big brother.

Proud big brother.

IMG_8185And my heart is weighed down with the struggles. This child needs extra academic time. That child is struggling to eat consistent meals. This child is a whiny mess all the time (a couple might fit this category actually – wink wink). That child struggles to understand instruction and is slow to obey. This child is consumed by anxiety. When you have half a dozen kids you are dealing with dozens of issues. While the joy is multiplied and the action is non-stop the concerns are also off the charts.

When I find myself frowning under the weight of it, I tell myself to smile and as I force it out I’m sometimes overwhelmed to the point of tears at how heavy it all feels. But over the last week of asking Him for grace to live IN HIM, and knowing that joy is an external fruit of abiding, I have watched Him begin to make it easier for me to smile. Not to ignore but to overlook the mess, the sin, the issue for a moment and accept the joy, the gift, the grace and extend it freely to my family.  You know what’s incredible about it…as I smile I see healing. I see the issues being diminished. I see grace for the moment. I see the heart…His, mine, theirs. What is truly important comes back into clear view.

I’m reminded to live victoriously each moment of each day. Yes, the battle is real and intense, the needs and responsibilities are great. But He is so much bigger and His truth will reign in my life and my family. I don’t think it is by accident that all the precious smiles pictured were captured this week while these thoughts were percolating.

Smile. ~Karissa

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Roots and Fruit

1891163_10152455456737945_8365211655120590171_nNearly every other question our new friend posed the other morning my answer consisted of something like this… “Well, my parents did a great job of including us in the ministry.” And, “I watched my parents follow Father away from comfort and the American dream.” And, “My mom always included us in serving others.”

One of the bullets he made on his list of take-aways was Roots and Fruit. What better picture to accompany my thoughts on this topic than my dad working with apples and my mom catching fish!!! :)

When asked about why I order my day a certain way, or how Matt and I came to the decision to do things as a family rather than individually much of it is because of the example my parents set.

Roots. Legacy. Fruit. I am so thankful for my parents and the way they raised me. They made serving Father a way of life. And although it was often also a job or postition, they never treated it as such. I saw them serve with joy and order their life as to Father…not a list of rules or check lists.

10392417_10154791310635002_1809042183753376538_nPractical tips to include the whole family in fishing for men:

1)Enjoy your relationship with Father. Oh friends, I have been in the stages of transition nearly constantly for the past 8 years. Between having my first baby and the sleepless nights and emotions that followed, to moving overseas when she was 15 months old, learning languages, having more children, adopting more children, traveling here and there and everywhere and moving 4 times in 6 years. Whew. There are so many things that can cause fatigue and burnout and apathy. Cling to Jesus. Trust Him to be the rest-giver. Don’t seek relief or refuge in media or food or comfort. The joy of the Lord truly is strength giving. My mom confessed to me shortly after I had Abigail that she felt she had wasted some time with Father when we were quite young. Looking back she realized she could have pressed into Father, memorized the Word, and grown so much. That said, I have so many memories of her well-marked good book and time spent in her special prayer closet. She says now that the crazier the stage the more intentional she has to be. These stages of new babies and moving and more babies DO NOT look like time spent with Father during college or young married life. I used to spend hours a day reading the Word, memorizing, studying, journaling. But by being flexible and including the kids you can have rich, deep and life-giving time with Father.

2)Pray together as a family. Matt closes nearly every prayer he leads with our children by saying, “And let them SEE YOU!” Our kids always join in together loudly, “See You!” When we ask Father for opportunities to share in front of our children, when we lift up friends that they know and love, when we talk about His heart for people it is contagious! Their little hearts respond with so much purpose and focus and joy. It is truly beautiful and it sets the tone for those times when we are out with the people.

3)Raise the bar of expectations. Our children truly take joy in being a helper for daddy and mommy. Abigail knows that when I’m talking to a friend is a great time for her to lead her little siblings in a song or a game that keeps them entertained. Annalise has such a little heart to pray. If something is going on she will often be aware and tell me right then or later that she was praying for that friend, or that need. Our boys, still young and more inconsistent in behavior than the girls, know how to interrupt mommy politely by touching my arm and waiting. We also make a huge effort to make sure that basic needs are met when we are out and about. If our children are thirsty, hungry, or bored we cannot expect them to handle it with maturity. Aside: I have had more conversations with friends about Father due to my children’s behavior (both pleasant and not) than any other reason. Even, and sometimes even more, when my children deal with conflict, or I deal with a discipline issue others see a difference in how I handle my children. What an awesome opportunity.

4)Have fun. Play together. Laugh together. Just be together. As I mentioned in the post Fun in the Village make time out serving and with locals fun and super special. Special activities, stickers, toys, and treats can make all the difference. I have special memories going with my dad early on Sunday mornings (like several hours early) to Fellowship. On the way we would stop at a little donut shop and he would let me choose one and sometimes get a flavored steamer too. Then we would go together and I would help setting up chairs, and putting out bulletins, and other odds and ends that needed to be done.

Those of you who lift us up: please ask that we would follow Father and His Word in the way we parent. Ask that we would have wisdom to deal with stages, heart issues, and growing pains as we seek to introduce our children to their loving Father.

Those of you who live a life similar to ours I would love to hear about what your favorite ways are to encourage your littles to serve and how you set an example of obedience in front of them. Also, be encouraged in your efforts as you hear about the fruit that has come out of my parent’s obedience.

Today at lunch Abigail noticed my necklace that I hadn’t worn in a couple years. Stamped across the front it says, “by grace alone”. She asked me to explain what that meant. I told her that I am saved by grace alone, a free gift. And that I live each day by grace alone. “I mess up every day, but JC forgives me and loves me and gives me so much grace.” She gave me a long hug and said, “I’m so thankful for grace.”

Heart full and thankful… Karissa

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Fun in the Village

IMG_6516I’m going to be honest. The village is not my favorite place to go. It’s simply not a comfortable place to be. However, many of the precious people who have our heart live there. So we go.

The village is dirty and dusty. The food is not always clean, and there is very little variety. There are so many animals. They are fun to look at but we have heard many a horror story of children losing an eye because of a water buffalo’s whipping tail or of children being bit by guard dogs. There are times our shoes are caked in water buffalo patties and the time that my little boy was given a drink of moonshine. All that to say, the village is definitely not the most relaxing place for this mom of many littles to go.

Several things we have learned:

1)When Matt visits a village on his own for the first time people are skeptical of him. (strange foreign man, is he here to steal our daughters? what is his purpose?)

2)When we visit a village as a family for the first time we are warmly received. Not only do we appear more normal, but our new friends get to observe how Matt and I interact with one another and how we parent. Those two things are huge in our first introduction of Father and pave the way for Matt to return for quality time and conversation at a later date.

3)Our kids LOVE the village. The first time we visited the village none of us were prepared. And. It. Was. Not. Fun. By the end of our day we had experienced car sickness, whiny and out of sorts kiddos, strange foods, new customs, and we were all done. We have learned to make it super special. Our children *almost never* eat sweets and candy. But on village days we bring lolly pops for each of them and some to share. We bring small change for the kids to pick out a special toy or hair accessory in the village junk store. We bring crayons and paper and stickers to play with and to share. We talk about all the animals we see. We bring extra special snacks (and sometimes a bag of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in case meal options seem inedible).

4)Village trips remind me of our purpose and of the great need. Often in the village we see the ancestor worship up close. We also see the deep rooted superstitions. Visiting the village we truly go back in time – no or little running water, outdoor “toilets” (holes in the ground), and little understanding of the modern world. These places, which are now just 10 and 20 minutes outside of our town are truly the “ends of the earth”. Knowing Father’s heart and joining Him in His purpose is a huge encouragement and challenge and reminder to me to keep sharing and to keep pressing into Him on behalf of this people.

IMG_6528As a result of learning the above things we make a goal as a family to visit the village and/or market town 2-3 times a month. That may not sound like much, but when homeschooling, pouring into a couple women in town, and spending time with our neighbors that is what is practical for this stage of life for me. Matt of course goes out many more times on his own.

Those of you that lift us up: would you ask Father to make these times effective? Also ask that He lead us to the places He is ready to work and to the specific people He is preparing to know and serve Him.

For those of you who live similar lives to ours: find ways to include the entire family in the work. Make it super fun and special for your kids. Know that these times as a family do not take away from the focus but cause even more open doors and keep your family healthy. Know also, that your children will begin to see Father’s heart for people. One of the sweetest moments ever was Abigail running up to me, listening to a bit of my conversation with a new friend, and saying excitedly, “Mommy, are you telling her the good news??”

With joy, Karissa

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Encouraged to Share

IMG_0047This morning we had a conversation with a new friend. He and his family have been serving overseas for over 20 years. After we talked he left the room and came back a few minutes later. He had written down bullet points of what he had taken specifically from me as we were talking and encouraged me to write it out and share it with others.

Well, as you all know I enjoy writing. I also love to share the journey I am on in obedience and growth with Father. Obviously, I go in stages of busyness and don’t always write it all out. But, I’m going to take his challenge and begin to write and share about our overseas life and things I have learned and put into practice. May it hold me to place Father has brought me. May it encourage those who serve. May it give those who pray for us more insight into our lives.

And a note to women in my shoes. We don’t all wear the same size. What works for me, for my family may not work for you. That said, I do think there are some principles that Father has taught me that can encourage you, be applied in your stage and bring joy to your life and service.

Tip Number 1: Stay in Love with Jesus.

My walk with Father, my worship of Him, my joy in salvation must permeate every part of me. Oh there are seasons. Seasons of apathy in the desert. Seasons of joy and abundant spring. Seasons of winter where the growth is happening underground or deep within. Late summer seasons where the abundant harvest is obvious. What must stay in place through every season are the disciplines Father calls us to and time and time again I watch my heart follow suit. One of my favorite quotes comes from Andrew Murray’s book, “Waiting on G-d”. It’s not here with me now, so I can’t look over it but the point it makes is this: all of your disciplines and spiritual practices have one point and that is to put us in a place to hear and know and follow Father. The reading and studying and meditating on the Word are not a legalistic thing to check of the to do list. That time is vital to combat the enemy’s lies and set my heart in tune with Father. Time spent in prayer, listening to worship music and making my own melody of praise is paramount for my attitude and joy in the L0rd. My monthly spiritual day retreat is hugely important during a stage of life that literally leaves little time for true Sabbath rest. Fellowship with the body has to be maintained to remind me that I am not alone. Acts of service and obedience to open my mouth to declare the truth are vital in keeping my focus on Father and others and not on myself. I’m much less likely to throw myself a pity party when I am focused on Father and others than when I get sucked into a narrow view of myself and my own struggles.

With joy and all because of Jesus, Karissa

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Counting Fun

photo 2I didn’t have much energy this morning but Matt was out for the day and I had to do something fun. It was really Zachary’s fault. He got into my cabinet and found a dice game. I decided to let the littles play with dice and do some counting. Everyone got a cup and a dice, and six connecting blocks. We sang “shake it up baby now” and rolled the dice. Then we counted the dots on the dice and counted out that many blocks. Abigail had two dice and two colors of blocks and did some adding. photo 2-1It was really a fun activity and they played with it for nearly an hour! :) Thankful. Karissa

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