On Gluten and Sacrifice and Doing the Hard Work

Lee came to me shortly before Christmas and dropped a bombshell. I didn’t see it coming, and when he shared it with me I didn’t know what to do with the information.

I reeled from the news for a few days before heading into denial. From there, I moved into frustration, and shortly after that I worked my way to acceptance.

He wanted to go gluten free.

I know. I know.

After I got over feeling mildly amused by his nutritional conviction, I began to accept his challenge for a new way of life. I could do this gluten free thing. I mean really – how hard could it be?

Turns out it’s hard.

Not impossible, but really hard. Eating a diet that consists almost solely of unprocessed foods that are free of gluten seems like it should be easy. But let’s not forget that I am not a woman who loves spending time in her kitchen.

Our first hurdle was getting the kids on board and, surprisingly, they’ve rolled with the punches fairly well. Although when I denied one of them McDonald’s the other day, I was met with an emphatic, “YOU’RE JUST GOING TO MAKE ME GO HOME AND EAT STUPID GLUTEN FREE FOOD THAT ISN’T GOOD BECAUSE YOU JUST WANT TO TORTURE ME!”

So, you know...we’ve got some work to do.


We have no deep health issue that requires this sort of diet, so I’m offering myself a wide berth of freedom. When we go to restaurants, I won’t even consider trying to avoid gluten. I won’t impose these dietary restrictions upon friends and family when we go visit, because I just don’t have to.

But I admit, I am curious. What will happen if I replace our old, processed foods with wholesome, nutritionally sound foods? How will we each respond if I really put in the effort?

I’m calling this an experiment.

This is hard, though. It requires work, organization, and preparation, and I don’t really love any of those things. But aren’t the hard things worth pursuing? Have you ever noticed that the greatest rewards come from the deepest toil?

My husband meets regularly with a friend where they push and challenge one another to dig deeper into life. What does it look like when we’re willing to live a life of sacrifice?

How do the people around us respond when we’re willing to suspend convenience and comfort, and instead give ourselves fully to serving those around us?

[Tweet “Living a life of sacrifice looks an awful lot like a gluten free diet.”]

Living in sacrificial obedience requires effort and sacrifice. It begs you stand up and work, to think beyond what’s easy and safe. The convenience of tearing open a box of noodles and fake cheese may taste good temporarily, but it really only fills you up temporarily. Are you seeing the metaphor here? 

There’s no nutritional value in comfort food. And likewise, there’s no substantial comfort in living life on easy street.

If I’m going to make any kind of impact on my family’s overall health, I’m going to have to put in the effort. I’ll need to plan ahead, and shop wisely. I’ll need to spend time in the kitchen preparing meals, and researching recipes. And I will have to accept that this way of eating is going to be harder, and will take more effort.

I have to say “Yes” to the effort in order to see results.

More than that, though, if our family is going to make any kind of impact on others, we’ll need to put in the hard work. We’ll need to be ready to say “Yes” to the challenge, remembering one important fact:

[Tweet “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”]

Serving others will be hard. It will require sacrifice.

Bringing a child into your home who needs the love of a family will never be easy. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

Pouring your funds and resources into loving the least of these will require sacrifice. It will require you saying “No” to things that you want, or even need, so that you can say “Yes” to someone else. And make no mistake – it’s hard.

Giving of yourself in a sacrificial way will always and forever be hard. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Discomfort isn’t a sign of a wrong decision.

It may just be a sign that you’re doing something right.

The Good Truth


I like that word.

When I think of the word good, I like to think happy thoughts.

Good is smiling. It’s warm and colorful. It’s happy endings and Christmas mornings. Good is the thing that makes you smile. It’s the light that drives out darkness – the opposite of evil. Good is just so…good.

But sometimes good doesn’t really look like good.

I sat against the back of the pew at church last week and let myself sink into the plush material a little more than usual. I wanted to make myself small, to maybe shy away from the honesty of the message. I wanted to shield myself from the hardness of Truth – a Truth that reveals God to be good.

Even if good doesn’t look good.

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.”

Luke 1: 46-48; 53


We’re now engulfed in the post-Christmas fall out, and I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table surrounded by a holy mess. There’s an open can of dog food sitting next to me, a dirty coffee cup, three dirty glasses, several napkins, and a huge stack of yet-to-be-mailed Christmas cards.

The table is scratched and scarred, an homage to this life I live. It’s well-worn, three out of the four chairs just a few sits from falling apart completely. We need a new table. We keep saying this over and over.

But there’s something about the scarred table that I love.

If I look to my right I see a kitchen counter piled high with crusty dishes. Just yesterday, I mentioned to Lee as I cleaned the house for the eleventy-frillionth time that had someone told me early on in marriage I would spend the better part of the rest of my life cleaning, I might have been tempted to run far away.

Because motherhood doesn’t always feel good.

With Christmas behind me, I’m reflecting on where we’ve come in the last year. In a very real sense, there’s been so much good for our family this year. Good that actually looks and feels good.

But there’s been heartache, too.

This time last year, my father-in-law was swinging his final punch at cancer. He fought valiantly through Christmas so that he could meet his newest granddaughter, and then it was time to let go.

It didn’t feel good.

The way it all went down when he passed away still doesn’t feel good. Not to me. I will never get over not being there when he took his final breath. It doesn’t feel good.

Likewise, this week is exactly three years since Putin signed into law the ban on American adoptions, an event that has continued to shape and mark me. Three years ago, every hope and dream I had for my family hung in the balance, and as I wade through the darkness of that time, the benefit of hindsight allows me to now claim God’s goodness.

But at the time, I couldn’t see beyond my devastation, disappointment, and doubt.

And so it is that I must continually embrace the hard truth that God alone is good. He is the giver of good things, though my eyes veiled by this earth tend to miss it.

Last week, Lee asked me what I would say to a younger version of myself. What would I tell the fresh-faced, wide-eyed, newly married, twenty-two year old Kelli to prepare her for the journey to come? I had to pause and think through that question. It’s not that easy to answer.

Of course, the obvious first response was, “Dear child – you will have four children, and they will be awesome. You will love them immensely. But you will also spend the better part of the rest of your life cleaning up after them. Prepare yourself.”

But that was a lame answer.

After some thought, I finally gave my halting reply: “I’d tell her that God’s goodness doesn’t hinge upon answered prayer and fulfilled dreams. I’d tell her that God is good because He is God, and that is enough. The heartache to come isn’t a stain on God’s goodness, but is rather an opportunity for you to lean into it.”

[Tweet “God is good because He is God. And that is enough. “]

As we head into 2016, I pray that each one of you has the opportunity to lean in to God’s goodness; to fully embrace the beauty of who He is, simply because He is God.

May He fill you with good things, and may you all laugh at the days to come.

Happy New Year.

Raising World Changers

I was twenty-five years old, a brand new mom, and I rolled slowly to a stop in front of her house. I picked up my weeks old baby boy and walked to the front door, loaded down with an overstuffed diaper bag, several blankets, and a deep need for someone to tell me I would survive.

When Laura opened the door, she whisked the baby from my arms and bounced up and down with him while I set up the pack and play in a nearby bedroom. Once he was settled and sleeping peacefully, little bum up in the air, she and I sat on the couch, and we just talked.

Her kids were all off at school, and for the first time since she’d become a mom herself, she had extended periods of time alone. Her youngest had just begun first grade, and now all three were in school full days. She and I were both in transition.

Laura was looking at her free time and evaluating how she would fill it. Would she go back to work? Would she get another degree? Would she stay home? She had a lot of options, and just as I was adjusting to life with a newborn, she was adjusting to life with quiet spaces.

For the next eight years, Laura and her husband, Tom, would pour faithfully into Lee and I. They, and another couple at our church who also had children one step ahead of ours, were instrumental in our understanding of what it looks like to raise children in a Christ-centered home.

In fact, outside of our own parents, the greatest impact on our lives since we’ve been married has come from the Hughes and Krosley families.


Last night, Lee and I and the kids sat in front of the TV and watched, sometimes with tears in our eyes, as Tom and Laura’s youngest son, the little boy who had just started first grade on that day so long ago, stood up on a stage and received the Wendy’s Heisman award. 

We were as proud as we possibly could have been.

Not just of Zach, though of course we’re proud of him. He’s grown from a squirrelly little boy into a young man who looks out for the needs of others, and who is one of the hardest working kids we’ve ever known.

But we were also so proud of Tom and Laura. They’ve raised three amazing kids – kids who aren’t just talented, though every single one of them are just that – but they’re also kind, loving, giving, humble, smart, and hard working.

I can boast the same things of Kevin and Pam Krosley, the other couple to mentor us through the early stages of parenting. Their (five!) kids are growing into amazing, talented, godly young people who look out for the needs of others. They’re raising world changers, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the impact these families had in our lives at such an early stage.

Even after we moved away, the Krosleys and the Hughes have continued to invest in us through phone calls, visits, and encouragement. They are still two of the couples we look to for advice, and though we’re watching from farther away, we continue to observe how they raise their kids.

Our children are now the same ages that the Hughes and Krosley kids were when we first met them. We’re in the trenches, and some days I’m certain that I’m failing miserably. Other days I take, perhaps, a little too much pride in my children’s outward talents, forgetting that the character of the heart matters above all else.

But we constantly come back to the lessons we learned from the Hughes and the Krosleys. We learned from them the value of focusing on who God has created each one of these children to be, beyond their gifts and abilities. We’ve learned to focus on the fruits that we see developing in our kids: the compassion, and mercy, love for others, and hearts for service.

Were it not for these two families who invested in Lee and I as parents, I’m not sure where we would be. I think back to the days when those dear friends were in the same trench that we now find ourselves, and I remember that it wasn’t always easy or pretty.

They fought for their kids, they prayed over them, and they dug their heels into the process, all the while letting us see what it takes to raise our own world changers. Transparency goes a long way in mentorship, and we hope to pass that torch along to others who may be a step behind us in child rearing.

And so this is my public thank you to the couples who have shaped and molded us, who have loved our kids and let us be a part of their journey. We’re proud to be called your friends.

And Zach Hughes, we are SO proud of you!

Love Wins. Light Wins. Prayer Wins.

The television droned on in the background as I prepared dinner, my eyes ever trained on the flashing screen. I was taking in the horror against the juxtaposition of my children laughing and dancing in the room next to me. The pictures of death a back drop to the sounds of life.

Like everyone else, I watched in horror at the unfolding of events in Paris on Friday night. I did not, however, feel either shock or surprise. Because evil has been lurking in the periphery for some time, and we’ve allowed it to trickle in to our vicinity.

Oh, what charitable people we long to be, but charitability combined with passivity leads to tragedy.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to extend my hands to the people of this world. I want to open my home to the hurting and the deprived, and I would give all I had to the children whose tears bleed through my computer screen. I am not an unmerciful woman, though for much of my life I’ve been painted as such.

On the contrary, I feel deeply. Mercy and compassion cut to my core. I am not one prone to hold on to anger. These are all strengths passed down to me from my parents, and nourished by God Himself, and for them I’m grateful.

I’d rather bask in the grace of forgiveness and mercy than wallow in the darkness of anger and hurt.

But there’s a measure of protectiveness that settles upon a mother’s soul when her children dance and sing, and the world burns just beyond her borders. I will call out evil for what it is, and I will condemn it, and by God I will support the fight against it. And here’s the kicker:

I am not unmerciful in my condemnation of evil.

prayforparisIn the wake of one more wretched attack, the world has rallied yet again. Only nowadays these rallies take shape via social media. Because what else can we do but voice our horror and our pain, and support the cry for swift retaliation?

And for those of us who cannot fight back, what more can we do but pray?

In the days following the attacks, I’ve seen more than one article calling people out for using the hashtag #prayforparis.

“The world doesn’t need your hashtags!” they cry, and maybe they’re right. Maybe the world doesn’t need my post or my photo layered with blue, white, and red stripes. After all, a hashtag and a filter are nothing more than symbols. They mean nothing in the wake of disaster and death.

The carnage in the streets is not revived by mere symbols. And yet…

There is power to be found behind a symbol, if we’re willing to follow through. Will I simply post #prayforparis, or will I drop to my knees and pray for Paris? Will I pray for this world, and for the people who are grappling for security and safety in a land the explodes around them?

It feels so monumental, praying for the world. Dear God, I pray for the world?

What does that even mean?

No, I must pray for them by name. I have to pray for the city of Paris, that life, and laughter, and beauty, and love return to the weeping streets. I will also pray that God would comfort the hearts of His people.

[Tweet “Each country has a name, and that name is not lost on the God who formed the land. #prayforparis”]

And I can move on – each country has a name, and that name is not lost on the God who formed the land. I believe this. I believe in all the good things of this world – in the beauty of laughter and dancing, of friendships, travel, family, children, and above all things, I believe in love.

And I also believe that evil will always be lurking in the shadows, waiting to snuff out those beautiful gifts. Because evil cannot stand the light, and all those things bring light. Evil hates light – that is why it’s evil. It can only exist in the dark places.

So get up, world! Let not evil darken the doors of our hearts! Let not the darkness snuff out the beauty of laughter and love. Evil may look like it’s winning, but it cannot claim victory because light won’t be chased away. I know this for a fact.

[Tweet “So get up world! Let not evil darken the doors of our hearts! #prayforparis”]

As I set dinner on the table, my nine-year-old danced out and looked at the television. She froze as the images pushed into her youthful consciousness.

“What happened?” she asked. I explained as best I could while muting the TV. She looked up at me, bright blue eyes swimming with compassion.

“We should pray for them,” she whispered.

So we did. And we will. 

Love wins. Light wins. Prayer wins.

Every time.


One Small Box


I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.

But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.

Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.

I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?

I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.

And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.

Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.

We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.


We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.

But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.

We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.

“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”

“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.

“That will only help a couple of people.”

And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.

A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.

Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.

$38/month for our sponsored children is small.

My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.

But it all feels so small.

I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.

“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”

My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.


I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.

My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.

My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.

[Tweet “Small can be big. It just needs a little boost.”]

Want to be small with me today?


A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:

Provide relief for Syrian Refugees

Sponsor a child through Compassion International

Host a child who needs to see a picture of family this Christmas

Throw a Shoe Cutting Party 

Being “Good” in a Drowning World

We spend most of these early, formative years with our children in the throes of training. Once we get them past the lumpy, squishy infant months where our main objective is merely to keep them alive, we move into the toddler years where, well, the objective is still to keep them alive. But a considerable effort is spent on teaching them life basics like sharing, saying please and thank you, asking and not demanding.

Then we move into the elementary years, and this is when solid life training begins. This is also where I think many American families begin to break down the training in the wrong ways.

This is the stage we are currently in, and as we navigate these extremely important years with our children, I’ve had to really evaluate what it is I’m trying to teach them. The American lifestyle, as dictated by the American Dream, demands that we teach our children to be “good.” Study hard, pay attention, get good grades. Be nice to others, don’t be a bully. Think of your future. Prepare for college. Say please and thank you, and keep on sharing your mountains of toys.

drowning world

But the Lord has been whispering new lessons to my heart these last few years as we’ve navigated some bumpy life roads. I don’t want to raise “good” kids who do all the things needed to get into college, then get a job, and then from there make a “good” living for their families.

What a box we’ve created for our children!

While there is wisdom in teaching our children to work hard and prepare themselves academically for the future, we cannot put so much stock into those things that we make them the gospel. We can raise “good” kids in Christian homes who grow up with strong moral guideposts…and little passion for the world around them.

While we place in our home a proper amount of respect on good morals, I’m challenged to take my kids a step further. What does it mean to have integrity? How do we live a life of action, rather than one of complacency? Rather than waiting to be served, what if we were the ones who served?

I fight the urge to place my children inside the American shaped box – the one that dictates they find a solid job with a steady 401K, and a savings account that will give them the chance to retire at 60. None of those things are bad things, of course. We live inside those bounds ourselves. The point is, I don’t want that to be the emphasis of training in our home.

I want my boys to know that there is more to being the provider of a family than simply holding down a good job. I want my daughter to know that there is more to being a wife and mom than simply cleaning and preparing meals and kissing skinned knees.

There is a whole, big world out there filled with needs. Children are washing up on seashores, precious little chubby arms limp and lifeless from the life stealing waters. I cannot sit on the sidelines and merely cheer my children on to comfort and apathy  when the world around us drowns. Action is required, and my children need to be aware.

I want to be a family that thinks of those desperate needs first, far above living a “good” life. And not because we have to, or we should, but because we can. 

For a long time, Lee and I operated under an umbrella of fear when it came to giving and serving. We only did those things that fit well inside what was comfortable for us. Then God took everything comfortable away, and we came face to face with our own brokenness, our own weaknesses, and our own short comings. For so long we had brushed those things under the rug.

We were “good,” and we thought this made us good enough. It’s easy to live a “good” life. It’s easy to say and do the right things. It’s easy to live in apathy.

But it’s uncomfortable to care about the needs of the world.

I’d much rather not see the picture of that little boy on the beach. But apathy is a dangerous place to dwell, and if I don’t push myself through it, then my children cannot be expected to, either.

And so it is that the more time passes, the less I’m less concerned with raising “good” moral kids.I want to raise children who have a deep and passionate dependence upon Christ, who see the needs of the world and don’t shrug it off as someone else’s problem, but who stand up and ask, “What can I do?”

This is a hard lesson to teach children who’s bellies are full, rooms are stocked, and who swim in more opportunity than they can possible process. This is a hard lesson for a mom to grasp when she has money in the bank, a full pantry, and more opportunity than she can possibly process.

But it’s not a fight I’m willing to concede. I don’t want to merely raise moral kids – I want to raise passionate kids who aren’t afraid to take risks, to drop everything to help a neighbor (near or far), and who realize that they are only worthy because God has given them everything they need through His Son.

If you would like to donate to help with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, do so here, or here. 

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