Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kingdom Cares, Part 2

Back in the early years of this blog I introduced you to our friends, the Sullivan's, and the beginning of their ministry in Ghana, Africa. They were beginning to raise money for a beginning project. Over the years, God has taken the willingness of Jake and Janel and grown it into so much more. 

In the last two years, it has been impressed on Jake that singular donations are great but what is needed is sustained giving. He gathered people in the Kingdom Hoops gym one morning that January and laid out the history of Kingdom Cares International and the vision for what was next. He asked us to join in giving $100 a month to this, naming it the 1200 Club. Bill and I joined and read updates throughout the year. 

A year later, we gathered again in the gym. I was full of questions but my main two were: What about women's education and other such root needs? And what about the local people, the local businesses, using local people and not always bringing in Americans to do the job that they can? (I'm sorry that these are not more elaborate or eloquent questions. I hope you get the idea.)
Right off, Jake made a laundry list of concerns that could have been straight from my brain and said those are all good things and they are not neglecting them but for him, when he goes to Ghana (and now Chad), he sees God moving him to a place where he is compelled to share the Gospel. The Gospel brings eternal change. The Gospel brings hope and peace in spite of dire circumstances. Again, needs are not ignored by any means but in meeting those needs, it is for the Gospel. This is very close to what I once heard David Platt share. (I can't even begin to direct you to where I heard that. It was a live broadcasting of some conference several years back. All I know was that I was eager to hear him speak but instead only caught this small bit while giving Luke a bath. #momlife) Back to Kingdom Cares, when I heard this, I nearly stood up and applauded. 

As for my second question, Jake shared example after example of working with the people there and the successes and failures. It was an up-close look of what is working and what needs assistance. We aren't superheroes there to swoop in and save the day. Instead we are givers, listeners, discerners and come-along-siders. 

Out on a run this week, I was lead to pray once again for Jake and the now Acts 2 Collective. Specifically I was lead to pray for wisdom for him and for those in leadership. I communicated this to him and also expressing my continuing concern that the ministry there continue to come alongside the people and that God would raise up people from within. He responded with affirmation that yes, indeed God is raising up some "unreal leaders in Africa!" 

Now I will confess something to you: In the past couple of years, I have become more outright skeptical rather than critically informed about ministries. (Again, I apologize if I'm making up words and hope you'll understand despite my vocabulary.) As I have learned more and more about what helps and what doesn't for poverty, and while it has been very good and highlights the need for better ways, the opposite has also taken root in my heart. Jake didn't point this out from my text and possibly didn't even perceive it, but the Lord revealed it to me. And here is what I was challenged to do: To pray in faith that God is directing specifically Jake and Acts 2 Collective where He wants them to be. God wants my prayers but He can certainly act without my skepticism or approval. 

I confess this to you because that's just my nasty heart. Nor will I use this as a means to sell you that this is an approved organization worthy of your dollar. 

Kingdom Cares has made a change and is now Acts 2 Collective. God is raising up leaders. God is seeing the broken. God is moving. Janel has written quite a bit recently about it all and I encourage you to read more on her blog along with the Acts 2 Collective website. I will post links below. 

Acts 2 Collective
Team Sullivan 

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Garden, 2015

I think it's year three of my gardening adventures. I remember once upon a time having big gardening dreams. Bill bought me a subscription to Fine Gardening. I have a huge book filled with all manners of gardening knowledge. My gardening ambition was boundless.

And then I had my first real garden. 

That sounds much more dramatic than what it actually is. If the idea is to get some soil, plants some seeds or seedlings, maintain some sort of regular watering and watch it grow and produce, then that's what I did. That is, me and the Lord and a few children.

Even though I start prepping my garden beds and planting later than I should, I have no end of joy loosening up the soil, smoothing it out, and tucking tiny, precious seeds of hope in the blank, black canvas. 
See? It's a bit much.

My gardening plan involves index cards and roughly sketched garden layouts for rotating crops and what shouldn't be planted next to what. Strawberries are taking up a good end of this bed which I proceeded to fill in with basil, cilantro, tomatoes with radishes planted in between and jalapeños.

I squished a lot in this bed. Parsnips, green beans, peas, spinach, lettuce, two kinds of carrots and cucumbers. You might know that some of these are early season plants while others are planted a little later but because I started so late everything went in at once. There is no succession planting, early crop/late crop plants here. My motto is "Plant late, shove everything in."

This is about a month later looking at the same bed but from the opposite direction. Some things are actually growing although I've managed to drown them in too many grass clippings. I can tell you for certain is that waiting for parsnips to germinate is dumb and I cleared that space up and re-planted it with more green beans. I'm learning that in my small space, you've got to earn your right to stay and they didn't. And while we're at it, here's a list of vegetables no longer welcome in my garden: zucchini (I'll just ask a neighbor for some), onions (once the leaves bend over they're done growing and that's just not sturdy enough for me), potatoes (oh, I do love a homegrown potato all mashed up but they take up a lot of space for so little). I've benched broccoli for the moment and I'm afraid to say it because I love homegrown peas but they might be benchwarmers for a year or two.
The other bed looking the other way has some very sickly looking jalapeño plants, now that I look at them. It might explain why they produced so poorly. The tomatoes are coming in the best yet. And the strawberries in the back are ok. They have one more year or I'm reclaiming their space. You can tell how thick the grass clippings are. Lesson learned there. 

That's an old iron headboard next to the garden (and another one leaning against the fence that I've yet to place somewhere). The cucumbers did well this year and climbed up the bed. I feel it one of my gardening victories.

 Oh gosh, cilantro! I'm so proud of you for growing this year but you came on strong before the tomatoes were ready and that's just not right. I don't know what to think because it seems this is the story of all my friends' cilantro as well. I'm letting the strawberries creep in on your space.

That's the end of my garden pictures. I know it's an abrupt ending but that's kind of how it went with my garden. All on. All off. Now my garden looks sad. A few tomatoes hang from weakened stems, hoping someone will find their green-ness appealing. There were some red ones left to be picked but someone has a smart dog who knows when her invisible fence collar is off and helped herself to all the ripe ones. Yes, I know it was you, Lucy, because you get super guilty looking when I come around and also you left red poop all over the yard. But to redeem her, she's taken a fancy not only to tomatoes but to green beans. 

We were able to pick enough for us to eat fresh for meals without being overwhelmed. I did make a few refrigerator pickles with some of the cucumbers with this recipe. It was my best year for tomatoes and I canned over 20 pints of salsa with them. I planted six jalapeño plants and I barely got any from them whereas my friends had two plants and were almost overrun with peppers. I can't imagine my life if mine produced like theirs did. I hardly watered this year because of the abundant rains the Lord provided which in turn gave me a lush garden. (All I need now is a collection of Russian nesting dolls.) (Please, someone tell me you get this.)

I don't even know what is going on with this picture with the black border.
This was our last big harvest. Audrey is holding all the carrots but Ben pulled them. 
As though it isn't obvious enough, no one is going to be asking me for gardening advice. But for once, I'm okay with just letting my garden do its thing and not try to coax it into perfection. Which is what my friend Deanna told me the first year. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

They're Back to School, 2015

Whether I get to the summer's stories and pictures is yet to be seen. What should be noted is that we all survived. Yay, us!

It always goes like this: June is sort of detoxing from school and busy schedules and then we do different schedules and swim lessons, etc. July evens out even more. There is a lot of sleeping in and any sort of schedule I had hopes of implementing this summer have been shelved. August is sort of like July except I do a little more shopping for school supplies and underwear and the like. The problem with August is that we can't really handle this kind of laid-back schedule much longer. We need a change. I don't necessarily want to school to start but we can't keep this going the way it is. So, school it is.

The 2015-16 school year has started with no changes in buildings which is very nice. The kids weren't nervous and already feel comfortable. Well, Audrey was a little nervous.

Luke is in 4th grade this year. He seems to have a great teacher. But Ben will be quick to quip that all teachers are nice the first day of school and the second day are ready to buckle down. 

Speaking of Ben, he's in 7th grade. The class schedule changes a bit more for him than it did in 6th grade, going more class to class. He's taking Home Ec (it's not called that anymore though) and thought it was dumb until he learned he'll get to eat the food they make. I guess we'll see how much is edible from 7th grade boys. Of course, they'll eat just about anything. Ew!

Oh, you may recognize this sweet girl as Audrey and I'm here to break the news that she is a senior this year. That's right, a senior. She was nervous and excited to start her senior year. (I stared at this picture most of the day.)

And here they all are. They're going to have a great year!  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


This may be the weirdest post to come back to blogging with. I'm not sorry for that. 
I've also read that the first X number of words is what captures most peoples attention to propel them to read the rest of your post. I don't care. 
It might turn out that I'm not actually coming back to blogging but rather had a temporary burst of blogging energy. Fine. 

This is my little place in cyber-history and I think I'll do with it as I please. I like writing on here. I like sharing about my life. But I want you to know my life is not all roses and sunshine or unicorns and rainbows or whatever happy pictures come to your mind. And I want you to know I don't share everything. (Well, sometimes I share about pre-race nerves and what that does to me and it might be TMI for you but it's real and let's be honest, everyone does.) Please don't get into your noggin' that our life is perfect. It's not. I share the happier things because 1) they are easier to write about and the harder things are harder to write about and 2) the hard things are usually struggles that need time to work out before words can be applied to them (or at least for me anyway). Finally, who takes a picture of themselves having a meltdown? No one that I know of. The closest I get to that is a selfie of me taking a nap. (Let's discuss naps later.)

So anyway, I know you're curious about my running and did I ever get back on the motorcycle and what has happened to the children. I'll probably share about more food that you want to know because it makes me happy even though the only two things people ever ask me about is my monster cookies and scones. 

I'll admit, this feels pretty ambitious of me. I'm quick to realize school has been in session only four days and my think time (sans kids) has grown significantly and so my brain is in happy overload. (It's an introvert thing.)

But I have had a few key conversations with people to help me put some pieces in the right order about blogging and life and so on. I am super grateful for them because they are answers to prayers.

Golly, it sounds like an acknowledgment page of a book. With a lot of expectations. Nope. What I really should say is "I overthink a lot of things but I have patient, gracious friends who help me sort my life out." The end.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prom, 2015

A girl. Her date. A fancy dress. Her friends. A beautiful day. This is our Prom Story.

Audrey was asked by her boyfriend to prom with a cheesy breakfast pizza prom-posal to which she said yes (and I said thank you because I had just finished up a long run and was starving). 
Then she and I dress shopped. If you recall from last year, we discovered prom dresses can  cost more than yours and mine wedding dresses did. That didn't change this year. However, armed with that knowledge we explored more avenues, found some disappointing dead-ends and walked away from more than one gorgeous but over-our budget dress before finding one. And we found shoes. And she already had jewelry she was willing to wear again. And the next day we ordered flowers. It was like a prom miracle!
Her date had to do some shopping too and oh the angst we (meaning the rest of us enduring her woeful tales) went through discovering how stores display their ties and that we (meaning her) don't like patterned ties but stores don't... blah, blah, blah... He (meaning first his mom and then her) finally found both a suit and a tie that coordinated. Bless us all!
The day of prom a pile of girls came over and overtook her bathroom and bedroom and street parking. There was hairspray, nail polish, curling irons, bobby pins, hairspray, makeup, jewelry and hairspray aplenty. It was as if Claires, Ulta and a department store dressing room collided. Their small group leader did the girls' hair while I consulted, helped make adjustments and fed them. Then all at once they scattered to pick up dates or be picked up and off we went for pictures. 

 We all met up again, this time with the boys and flowers and parents and siblings for pictures. These are the order of pictures that were on my camera and there is no use arranging them in any other order. 

I snagged this one testing out camera settings and lighting and such.
 This is one of the best candid ones. You see Audrey's natural gift for drama- some girls just have it. Also, let's note the tall boy's hair- some guys just have it. 
The three friends. 
 What the guys do while waiting for all the girl pictures to be taken.
 I'm really grateful someone suggested Audrey and I get a picture together. You see, I dressed up extra nice for the occasion. Not really. It was also the weekend of the Zumbro races and I didn't run it because of prom so I wore my shirt in honor of my friends who were. (I'll be back in two years, Zumbro, in two years.)

 And then someone's heels had to get stuck in the soft dirt. 
 Better lighting, more relaxed kids.

 We snapped picture after picture of friends, family, flowers before some final group shots.
 That lasted like two seconds. 
 The Grand March went swiftly along considering how many students participated and soon we were taking final pictures. All day, while the flurry of prom preparation whirred in the basement, Bill was prepping bikes and packing the camper for a race he and Ben were leaving for right after the Grand March but thankfully he cleaned himself up and loved on his girl. 

 They had a really nice night eating out, going to the dance, making good choices for themselves and for their friends, going to after prom and winning gift cards and giant tubs of candy, playing lazer tag, coming home super late and sleeping all afternoon the next day. 

The end.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Gift

We had glorious weather earlier this week. A parent chose to drive their car with the top down to pick up kids from school. I saw them and despised them. Them and they're fancy top-down car. Who are they anyway?

And then it struck me how my heart was so evil over such a nice thing to be able to have and to be able to do.

He was despised and rejected by men...He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn't value Him. Isaiah 53:3
 I've often pridefully thought that if I had been there in Jerusalem three thousand years ago, I wouldn't have turned against Jesus. I wouldn't have shouted with the mob "Crucify Him!!". But in that moment when my own sin flared up before me I knew I was a part of the crowd. 

But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. Isaiah 53:5
Today is the day we wrestle with the truth. It's heart versus heart. Jesus came for this very reason. Of all the days, this is The Day.

And this is also The Gift. 

This is where it doesn't make sense. We'll work to justify it, to reason it out but it always comes out lopsided. It was meant to be that way and it makes it even more beautiful.

You could again turn and despise it but don't. 

Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while he is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive. Isaiah 55:1, 6-7


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Favorites: Podcasts and Their Hosts, Super Bowl Food

Here are some favorites for you this week. 

Podcasts: I love a good podcast. You know I already listen to Another Mother Runner and Trail Runner Nation. Amidst my podcast queue is The Big Boo Cast hosted by two women, Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle. Both are from the South and have the most delightful accents. They talk all manners of things: fashion, makeup, crackers and dip, football, furniture, music, etc. It's literally like listening in on their phone conversation. (I linked it to some podcast listing site but I download all my podcasts from iTunes.)

Blogs and Books: Besides their blogs, both Sophie and Melanie have written a couple books each. I wanted to tell you about Sophie's latest "Home is Where My People Are" a couple weeks ago so you could pre-order it but, well, things don't always work out as hoped around here. In any case, whether you did or did not read her first book "A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet" which I shared last March during Spring break and you so need to read it, I believe you will really enjoy her second book as well.

Melanie has written two books and her third will be released soon. "Sparkly Green Earrings "is about mothering. "The Antelope in the Living Room" is about marriage. "Nobody's Cuter Than You" is about friendship. Pick the first two up and pre-order her third and be prepared to share them with your friends. 

Super Bowl Food: As you know the Super Bowl has come and gone. I really enjoy the food that accompanies the game. I inquired of my Facebook friends what they were eating and the most common answer was wings. Nice choice, friends. Here at the Ward household we went with burgers. The kids always like burgers and they really like it went I make them into sliders, too. I leave the burgers pretty plain as far as construction goes. Then I fancy them all up with toppings. I draw on Ree for slider inspiration. While searching for tomato toppings I found one using sun-dried tomatoes and cooking them down into a tomato jam. Oh yeah! A great way to use up those tomatoes I preserved last summer. (Also, I am really digging Foodie with Family's blog. Her food is solid, the recipes are right on and her writing is real and entertaining.) An avocado basil dressing, caramelized onions and caramelized mushrooms finished off my burgers. I nestled in some potato wedges, too.

I'm going to call it good today, friends. There are so many links today that I'm going a little nuts. 

Can you spare a minute to tell me what you do about Super Bowl food? It seems that I feel the need every year to make something new. Every year I love coming up with something new just for the party. Do you do that also? What recipe won your Super Bowl party this year? 

Last year it was these Tator Tot Nachos Supreme. 

I just made a Super Bowl Party Food board on Pinterest.

I'll stop now.

Don't forget to leave a comment.