Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ministry Weekend

When I was a kid, nearly all of our family vacations coincided with a ministry event for my mom. Either that or a fishing trip for my dad. This weekend Curtis had plans to speak at an event for college students on Galveston Island and I seized the opportunity to get out of town with the kids. We've done this before (usually at camps) with less than ideal results, but Jackson and Annabeth are at great ages right now and this was only going to be for 24 hours. So we packed our bags and made our way out of town as soon as Jackson got home from school.

The conference was at the Hilton on the Sea Wall. We checked into our room and then the kids and I said goodbye to Curtis and headed off to dinner. I didn't tell the kids where we were going in case there was a line snaking out the door. We walked less than a block away to the Rainforest Cafe. When they looked up and saw the huge volcano-looking building with a robotic crocodile in front, they got so excited. I can't tell you how fun it was to see their amazement at this very over-the-top restaurant. We sat close to the elephants and Annabeth couldn't take her eyes off of them. During one of the simulated thunder storms she hid underneath the table. I told the kids that I had been in such a thunderstorm when I was on a boat in the Amazon river and it was super scary. I really wanted to cry but sweet Patricia kept talking to me so I would stay calm. Bless her. This is what it looked like before the storm was right on top of us.

photo by Keely Scott

Compassion Bloggers visit Ecuador

We had lava pudding for dessert, which was chocolate pudding with Oreo crumbs that looked like dirt. There were gummy worms on top of it, of course. That also reminded me of the Amazon. Annabeth did great until a person wearing a tree frog costume came to visit us. She dove back under the table until he was gone.

On the way back from dinner, Jackson and I shared an incredibly special moment when he said, "Guess what, Mommy? I'm not afraid of brains anymore!"

*Crickets chirping*

After dinner we got ready for bed and rented "The Secret World of Arriety," which is about tiny people who live in the walls of houses. Jackson was scared of being in his own bed (I'm not sure why this fear is hitting him all of a sudden) so all three of us snuggled in a double bed during the movie. Annabeth played beauty shop with my hair, which nearly put me to sleep. It took Jackson 30 seconds to pass out once the lights were off, but somehow my daughter was revived. She snuck out of bed and made mischief all around the room until about 10:30. And when she did fall asleep...she snored. Like, loud. And then, at 2 AM, I was awakened by a panicked little voice saying, "Mommy! I tee-teed the bed!"

Have you ever slept in a double bed that has been christened by a pee-soaked three-year-old? I really hope you have not. Why? WHY didn't I sleep with Jackson instead? I put some towels under her, changed her clothes, threw off the comforter, and got another blanket out of the closet. Eventually we fell back asleep but it was a rough night with more snoring.

The Jones family really needed a good breakfast to redeem the sorry night's sleep, so we walked over to IHOP, which had a 25 minute wait. Um, no. A kind woman (who I'd kind of definitely raced to the hostess stand) saw us leaving and suggested we go to the Sunflower Cafe. I felt so ashamed! She heaped burning coals on my head. The Sunflower was excellent. I know everyone in the restaurant was especially blessed when Annabeth started yelling, "I'm not a human being!" at the top of her lungs. This, of course, was after Curtis told her to chill out and act like a human being.

Before long we were carrying our chairs, sand toys, and boogie board over the Sea Wall. We found hundreds of tiny bean clams all over the shore. The kids loved watching them dig into the sand. I'm an accomplished hermit crab hunter but I had zero success today. The waves, however, were looking mighty fine and Jackson and I took turns riding them to shore on the boogie board. There were about 10 people trying to surf in that area today, which is kind of weird for Galveston. Anyway, there was no bad smell, no seaweed, no jellyfish, and the water was the perfect temperature. It was a great day to be there.

Soon Curtis had another session to teach, so we went back to the hotel to play in the pool. Bless his heart, Jackson wanted to sit at the bar and order a smoothie. He and Annabeth got to play with some other kids who were also on a mini ministry vacay. Their preferred activity was to sit in the hot tub, which made all of them miraculously calm and still. It was truly amazing and preferable to Annabeth doing her weird donkey kick move (that she thinks is ballet) around the pool deck.

And now I've used up all my words. So here are some pictures.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

They're Nearly Grown

One thing I'm absolutely horrible at is taking my kids to get haircuts. I think it's because I get so sick of getting my highlights done that I dread having to deal with it. Curtis took over the responsibility of Jackson's hair long ago, but I would never put him in charge of my daughter's glory. (Her hair, y'all.) Anyway, I took her to her preschool "meet the teacher" and upon seeing the other perfectly groomed children, I suddenly realized I had let my son's school preparation overshadow my daughter's. This cannot be! So the very next day I took her to my hair stylist and got a little brave. There were about 5 inches of her sweet hair covering the floor when I took this picture. She looks simultaneously older and younger to me now. I love it.

Here she is with her friends Rory and Tori at a little birthday that night. We were celebrating my friend's foster baby's first birthday. We have loved sweet Miss M since last November and are going to miss her so much when she returns to her family soon. My friend has made an incredible, eternal investment in this little girl's life and I'm so in awe of her. Saying goodbye is going to cost this sweet family so much, but they have done a very good and hard thing. 

Before and after preschool, our dear friend Ellison comes over to play with us. On this day, the girls were both wearing Cinderella dresses and reading to each other. Annabeth likes to read in a language that the Lord alone understands.

*Major milestone alert*  Yesterday I took AB to get her ears pierced. She's been talking about it for a long time and I just woke up yesterday thinking it was the day. So we went to Merle Norman, where generations of mothers and daughters have done this ritual, and she sat down like a big girl.

She picked out some tiny pink earrings, the nice lady put dots on her earlobes, and then the deed was done. She was very calm until about 2 seconds after the earrings went in and then there were tears. It was kind of tragic but I figured there would be tears no matter when we did it. They told me that even the 13-year-olds cry. Here's an after picture. Her feelings were still kind of hurt and the joy of her earrings hadn't arrived yet.

We had lots of fun surprising Daddy, Bibby, and our friends with our new earrings. At one point I told her she had been brave and she replied that she wasn't brave because she had cried. That made me so sad! I told her that it was okay to cry, but that being willing to do it made her brave. I'm super proud of her. I remember so clearly the day my mom took me to Merle Norman to get my ears pierced. It was a full circle kind of moment to get to celebrate with my mom.

It's hard to believe that Jackson is a first grader now! He's only been back in school for 8 days but it feels like he's made this big jump into maturity. Here's his first day of school picture. 

Mom went with me to pick him up and then we had the traditional ice cream cake.

I think this was like the third day of school, but he just looked so handsome. 

That's about it! I have to shower unless I want to look greasy picking up the girls from preschool. It's always fun to look worse at pick up than you did at drop off. ;)

PS - Who is going to LifeWay's Dot Mom conference in Birmingham, Alabama? It's on September 21-22. It was amazing last year and I'm so excited to get to go again. Come if you can! FYI, if that weekend doesn't work, they're having another one in the Dallas area in February.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Unglued Giveaway Winners

BloggerCongrats to the winners of the Unglued giveaway! 

Jana @ From the Fowlers
Jana said...
Thank you for this post. It is such an encouragement to know that there are other moms coming "unglued" out there! I am a mom to 2 girls and a third girl due in December. We recently moved to begin church planting and unglued seems to be the norm for me lately! I'd love a chance to win this book!

Mandie @ Been Blessed Studio 
Mandie said...
I've been hearing such wonderful things about this book...I too live in either the explode or stuff-it mode far too frequently. Can't wait for some Godly wisdom in this area.

Thanks to everyone who entered. This has become a sleepy little blog and it was fun to see so much activity this week! It's clear that Lysa TerKeurst has hit a nerve with this message. For more info or to buy Unglued, visit

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


*Comments are now closed. I'm taking my kid on one last summer adventure today and if I'm not entirely wiped out tonight, I will determine and announce the winners then. I've loved reading your stories. You guys are great!

We put a pool in our backyard earlier this summer. My kids and I love nothing more than swimming together and it has been great for family bonding. Our golden retriever, Beckham, is so happy we're in the backyard with him, he doesn't know what to do. I love seeing him jump in like he's a rescue dog, but unfortunately the water makes him greek, as Jackson says. (Reek, if you were wondering.)

There's a strange phenomenon that happens to Annabeth every time we get in the pool. Within 5 minutes she has to go. I wish I were talking about the kind of go you can deal with by having your kid  find a grassy patch around the corner of the house (don't hate), but noooooo. It's the kind you have to dry off and go inside for. Since you painstakingly waited 15 minutes for your carefully applied scunscreen to soak into your skin, you just blot yourself and your kid with a towel and then the floor gets soaked. Fun times. 

It happens like clockwork. I've done everything in my power to try to persuade my daughter to go before getting in the pool, but no. I don't want to! I don't need to! I can't! I don't like it! I feel certain that I will see a flock of feathered pigs soaring over the backyard on the day she finally cooperates.  Early in the summer I made the risky move of telling Annabeth that since she refused go before, I would spank her if she made us have to get out because she needed to go. Five minutes later I could tell she needed to, but she was fighting it because she didn't want a spanking. Ugh! Trying to control a preschooler's bodily functions is simply maddening! I had to take back my threat so that we didn't have a problem in the pool. 

This scenario made me come unhinged a few of times, but Annabeth pulled the stunt so frequently that I had to learn how to deal with my frustration in a wise way. 

It's oh-so-fitting that our pool was the setting in which I devoured Lysa TerKeurst's new book, Unglued. I was tested many, many times while reading about our human tendency to come emotionally unglued. At one point I couldn't find my book and Annabeth told me she had thrown it down under the lounge chair. It was resting in a small puddle of water. Jackson was playing with a water gun, and that's probably all I need to say because you can guess how that went down. 

Coming unglued is something I have struggled with for a long time. Lysa says raw emotions can make you come unglued in two extremes - by exploding or by stuffing. I can easily recognize that I do both of those things. I tend to explode in my home or with my family and I tend to stuff in public or with those I'm not related to. I've been through three bouts of Christian counseling in my adult life and two of them were because of this issue. The first time was for exploding and the last time was for stuffing. 

So Unglued pretty much made me feel like Lysa had been reading my mail. But she is such a woman of grace (and humor) that I didn't mind too much. I could relate to just about every story she told on herself. And oh, if I had the time to share all of mine! Help me, Lord! 

I sent Lysa a text message the other day saying, "I'm loving Unglued!" Except I typed it wrong and it read, "I'm living Unglued!" Eek! With Christ's help, not anymore. Thank You, Lord, for giving this message to the Church so that we can learn not to live unglued.

As a participant of the blog tour for Unglued, Zondervan gave me a free copy of the book for myself and two to give away to my blog readers. Yay! If you'd like to win one of the books, just leave me a comment and make sure I'll be able to contact you. If you want to share an unglued story, I'd love it. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Cracked Goggles

I can't stop thinking about a video clip I saw of Michael Phelps' swim coach last night while I watched the Summer Olympics. Bob Bowman said he had purposely created chaos and caused many things to go wrong on competition days through the years so that Michael would be prepared to handle anything. He said he'd stepped on Phelps' goggles right before a race so that they'd fill with water. (Phelps went on to win a gold medal in Beijing with goggles filled with water.)  He'd even hidden his goggles before. He'd also caused them to get a late start to a competition so that Phelps would feel frazzled by the time they got there. Bowman had made Phelps miserable at times so that he would become steadfast and unshakable. This obviously bore good fruit, seeing as how Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal last night and officially became the greatest Olympian of all time. 

Curtis and I have definitely had some curve balls thrown our way this year. Some of them have been directly related to our church and others have been more personal. The hardest ones have been a combination of both. There have been times when I've thought, "Lord, what is going on here? Why are such weird things happening to us all the time?" Please trust me when I say that some of these things have been weird. I've always had a weird life but a few of these situations have been BEYOND. God has repeatedly reminded me of the words in 1 Peter 4:12, which says, "Dear friends, don't be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you." 

When I saw the interview with Bob Bowman I was deeply affected by it. It was obvious that Phelps' coach, who loved him and had his ultimate good in mind, had done him a huge favor by allowing him to go through all sorts of crazy trials. In that moment I thought of the most recent things we've gone through and I felt God's love for us. It was an incredible reminder that our Father is purposeful and loving when He plots our course. The minor irritations and the major tribulations are given to us - for us - to help us finish (and win!) our races.  

"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing," (James 1:2-4). 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We Love Summer!

Jackson has been attending a VBS in our area this week. He whined and groaned about going, but I reminded him that last year he'd gotten in our car after the first day and said something to the effect of "This was the greatest day of my life." This is a seriously amazing VBS, people, but my 6-and-a-half-year-old is suddenly too cool for certain things.  Guess what he said as soon as he got in the car on Monday? "This was great, Mom!" And I got an apology!

I've been hurting for alone time since school got out in May, but I think I'm adjusting to it. Thanks to VBS, I had several hours completely to myself yesterday and it was almost a foreign feeling. Those hours had to be spent in the hair salon and I think everyone who's forced to see me on a regular basis is glad.

Annabeth goes to day camp twice a week and on those days Jackson and I try do something special together. So far, we've been to Splashtown twice, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, an ice skating rink, a trampoline park, and we've spent a lot of time in the pool. We've grown a lot closer this summer and I've just been eating up this time with him. 

On the way to Splashtown last week, I had to access my inner boy-mom, so I started a burping contest with the help of a Dr. Pepper. (This was an hour after I'd danced oh-so-elegantly in the living room with Annabeth.) I truly believe that I won, but Jackson insisted that his series of three rapid burp explosions outdid me. He can now burp on command - someone give him his man card. 

After school got out in May, Annabeth definitely had to adjust to not being the only kid at home most days. Whew! It was a little rough while kids re-established their pecking order. Annabeth was in Dora withdrawal while we searched for shows on Netflix that they both liked. Shaun the Sheep, anyone? 

Getting Jackson ready for VBS every day this week has made me appreciate the slower pace of our summer days. We've done a lot, but it hasn't felt rushed. We're about four weeks out from the start of first grade and I'm NOT ready. Maybe I will be by then. But I love not setting my alarm, I love staying out late with the kids if we want to, I love living in our bathing suits, and I love not having so many school papers accumulating on every surface of my house. I know lots of moms miss the structure of the school year, but I guess I'm not one of them.

This is Annabeth and me after church. The kids always get to run around with the balloons used in the kids ministry.

Curt and I went to the Coldplay concert with my sister and Colin. It was quite a show.

That is Chris Martin doing part of the encore a few feet away from us.

My children are growing gills.

Earlier this summer we visited Galveston with some friends.

The best way to get kids to leave the sea shore is to promise them a visit to LaKing's.

Splashtown day.

Ice skating day. (Those are soccer socks, not tights, FYI.)

We took the kids to see Brave.

Annabeth continued enjoying her 3-D glasses for a few days after the movie.

We visited the Blue Bell Aquatic Park and then got some $1 ice cream at he Blue Bell factory.

We spent a week in the Hill Country with some dear friends.

Annabeth got to feel what it's like to have sisters. She loved it.

We watched fireworks from a pick up truck.

I got to see an old hotel that my mom, sis and I stayed in 1998. It was a Twilight Zone experience that I should probably write about someday.

Disclaimer: The hour I've spent blogging has resulted in both my kids being put in time out and me way overreacting to Annabeth trying to put a yarn necklace on me while I was trying to spell check. Awesome. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One Down, Twelve to Go

The 10th anniversary of my college graduation passed by quietly this month as I tried not to notice. I would have gotten excited about it if there had been a reunion with the roomies, but since there wasn't I remained in a blissful state of denial.

After 10 years I'd kind of forgotten what it feels like to pine for the last day of school. I've never run a marathon, but the last few miles must feel like the squeeze of the end of school. My boy has had a great experience  in Kindergarten but mama is tired! I've been counting down the months, then weeks, and now days since spring crept in in February. The last day of school is finally upon us and I'm celebrating my kid's accomplishments as well as the end of having to set my alarm for 6 AM. Yes!

Dear God, please let Jackson learn to sleep in. In Jesus' name, amen. 

It's already blazing hot here in Houston during the afternoon, but the evenings are so nice. We've taken advantage of every opportunity to play outside till sundown, to the detriment of our mosquito-bitten ankles and pleasant daytime dispositions. Last week we had to force ourselves to put the kids to bed earlier because we'd been having too much fun and they we were cranky and tired.

But as of 3:00 today, we are free! Free! Free! Free!

Curtis and I are so proud of Jackson. He's a great little reader, he likes math, and he's exceeded my expectations for his conduct and self-control at school. We've had to work really hard on fine motor control, but he's made great improvements this semester. I feel more proud of him because he rose to the challenge than if he'd breezed through every single thing. He had a couple of tough experiences that pretty much every kid goes through at some point, although I never would have expected them in Kindergarten. God saw us through those things and I trust that He used them for His purposes. Jackson has learned so much. Is it possible that I have learned even more?

Soon Annabeth will start a twice-a-week summer day camp that our family has enjoyed the past two summers. Jackson and I have big plans to paint the town together. I'll miss having alone time, but I'm looking forward to making some great memories with my son. He's been begging me to take him to Splashtown since January and I plan to oblige.

First day of school.

Last day of school. 

Happy summer, everyone!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mother's Day Interview

About two weeks ago I looked in Jackson's backpack and found a paper scroll with a ribbon tied around it and a little cellophane bag with hearts on it. My first thought was along the lines of "What little girl is trying to make a move on my son?" When I asked Jackson what it was, he got this funny look on his face and told me it was nothing. Yeah right! "Did everyone get one of these?" "No," he said. My blood pressure was on the rise. I calmly let him know that we were going to open it together right away and he yelled, "Nooooo!" What in the world? "It's for Mother's Day!"

Well that makes a little more sense now, doesn't it? 

So the day finally came when I got to open the gift he made me at school. It was a shrinky dink in the shape of Jackson's hand, tied onto a ribbon. I rocked it as a necklace to church. My friend Amber's son made her a bracelet out of the legs of his Lego men. This is the stuff motherhood is made of. 

Here's what was on the scroll. I've never laughed so hard in my life.

My Mom 

My mom's name is Amanda

She is 32 years old.

My mom likes to be with me

Her favorite food is chikin

She shops at Targit

My mom loves when I hug her

(Very good and very tame so far.)

The best thing my mom cooks is toste. (My poor family!)

If my mom could travel anywhere, she would go to the beche

I love my mom because she loves me so much

My favorite thing about my mom is her body


All I can say about that humdinger at the end is that when Mommy and Daddy don't think the kids in the back seat are listening to them flirt with each other, Mommy and Daddy are very wrong! Ha! 

I'm thankful for these two turkeys who have made me a mama. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Village Moms

They say it takes a village to raise a child. This is something I've been thinking about a lot since our beloved Mrs. Mary Helen passed away this year. I believe with every fiber of my being that I have the world's greatest mom. Melissa and I didn't have any reason to go looking for extra women to mother us, but God surrounded our little family with a handful of Jesus-loving women who were like colorful sprinkles on the incredible homemade iced sugar cookies that our mom made.

I'm thinking of Johnnie Haines, who was my mom's best friend and running buddy for as long as I can remember. We spent more time playing at her house than anywhere else, except for church. Maybe. She's always  kept us laughing with her wit and sass and she's taught me a thing or two about raising a son. God bless her for not knocking my head off when I reveled in tattling on her boys.

I'm thinking of Kathy Kolkhorst, whose daughter was my very first friend in kindergarten. She displays Jesus in her joy and she never stops serving others. She was always an outspoken lover of Christ and she helped influence me to follow Him. (She gave me my first Psalty tape!) God bless Mrs. Kolkhorst for all the carpooling and for leading our Brownie troop for years.

Then there's our dear Mrs. Mary Helen. What a precious saint of God. That woman would bring sacks of groceries, boxes of baked treasures from Three Brothers Bakery, and huge Ziplock bags of homemade cookies to our house when Mom was out of town speaking. Normally she would only be gone one night, but Mrs. Mary Helen wanted to spoil us. And that she did. Her kindness and love were warm and comfy like a perfectly worn-in blanket. She was beautiful on the outside with her pretty white hair and her sweet smile and oh- so-stunning on the inside with her generous spirit.

Women like Aunt Johnnie, Mrs. Kolkhorst, and Mrs. Mary Helen made up our village. Melissa and I were shaped, in part, by the small and large deposits they made in our lives.

I think Village Moms have two important roles - to hold up the arms of other women as they do the work God has given them, and to collectively teach Village Children about the love of Jesus. (As Lindsee said so well, Village Moms don't have to be called "Mom" to be a mother.)  I can hardly put into words how my Village Relationships have blessed me.  Experiencing life in community with church members in our neighborhood has been rich. This year I've learned how to support other moms and how to let myself be supported. It's a beautiful thing!

I love that several times a week, my kids get to see how my girlfriends love and serve Jesus. Yesterday some of us Village Moms had a semi-spontaneous prayer session (not because we were that spiritual but because we were that needy for Jesus). Three little preschool girls ran circles around us while we prayed and one precious 9-month-old foster daughter sat, bounced, and rolled right in the middle of us. Some of our praying was done with eyes open and there were no few distractions, but my heart was so full.  I know one day Jackson and Annabeth will talk about how Mrs. Crista, Mrs. Lisa, Mrs. Debra and so many other godly friends lived out their faith in front of them.
It is good to be a mother. It is good to bless children, whether they're yours or they're in your village. It is good for children to be surrounded, protected, loved and taught by a community of God-fearing women.

There is a Village in India where young girls are being rescued from a future of certain enslavement and exploitation in brothels. As Our Own, a Christ-centered adoptive care ministry, is working tirelessly to provide rescue and lifelong after-care for these precious children. These girls don't age out of a program and get launched out on their own - they are daughters for life. The girls are living, breathing evidence of God's power to redeem. Their destiny is changed from one of destruction and misery to a life of love, security, education, and hope in Christ.

In honor of the Village Moms who loved me, carpooled me, coached me, cooked for me, prayed for me, bought Girl Scout cookies from me, gave thousands of hugs, listened to prayer requests on behalf of my pets, taught me in VBS, and celebrated birthdays with me, I am making a Mother's Day donation to As Our Own. In honor of the Village Moms who are now walking beside me as I mother my children, I am giving sacrificially to see my beautiful little sisters in India thrive and flourish.
Will you be a Village Mom for our girls in India? They may never see our faces, but they will know our love and concern. It takes a significant amount of financial resources to provide the level of adoptive care that As Our Own gives. Will you make a donation in honor of your mom or of a Village Mom who made a difference in your life? Doing so will make a dramatic difference in the lives of these young girls who are so loved by God.

Happy Mother's Day, friends. Thank you so much for your support.
All my love,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This will be my last post about Australia, and it's about the reason we went. 

Hillsong Colour Conference, Sydney, 2012

Some sisters we met at our hotel in the Sydney suburbs.

Mom being a goose. 

I LOVE this picture.

Donna (from Hillsong Sydney), Vera (from Hillsong Kiev), and Mom. Incredible ladies. 

Three cheers for Brooke Fraser! Beautiful inside and out. 

Pastor Bobbie introducing her granddaughter. The whole Houston family is heavily involved in the church, which was very cool to see. 

Mom and me with JD from the worship team. He is such a neat guy who loves Jesus. He's the one who jumps around and dances a lot, in case you've ever been to a Hillsong Live/United concert.

Pastor Bobbie facilitating discussion. She is wonderful! I loved her.

Chris Caine bringing it. 

This was like Day 13 in Australia and the Texans were really hurting for some Mexican food. We were introduced to Mad Mex and it effectively held us over until we could get some cheese enchiladas at home.  It was very similar to Chipotle. 

A view of the community around the Hillsong main campus (Hills Campus). 

Mom speaking for the last time.

Mom and Priscilla at the after party. It was bittersweet! There was so much to thank God for, but we fell in love with the people of Hillsong and hated to say goodbye to them. 

Mom with our host, Tom Bachtle, who is a great man of God, a humble servant, and a skilled leader. 

There's no way I can describe what it meant to me to have two weeks with my mom. I had the best time with her. We loved, loved, loved getting to hang out with Priscilla, Christine, and Pastor Bobbie. I can't even count the number of meals we got to share. One thing I regret is not taking notes during all of our conversations! Ha! I tried really hard to soak in all the wise (and crazy and hilarious) things they all said.  Each one of those women took time to speak into my life and encourage me. One thing God showed me in Sydney is that I was trying to give Him parameters for what I was okay with Him doing with our lives and in our church. (It doesn't work that way, does it?) I was also carrying a large burden of fear that was hindering my faith and stealing my joy.

Lastly, Christine and her husband lead an incredible organization called A21 Campaign. They are rescuing and providing aftercare for victims of human trafficking and also seeing traffickers prosecuted. Frankly, they are kicking butt. I was literally sitting next to Christine at dinner one night when she got news that more traffickers had been sentenced. I will never forget her visible reaction of gratitude to God and relief for the women who had been hurt by them.

God is doing all kinds of things all over the world with all kinds of people. Aren't we glad the picture is a lot bigger than what we can see around us?