Well, you’ve done it.

I should’ve known this would happen. I promise to let you choose the prompts for a whole month, and you go and make this your most voted for word:




That’s why I love you guys.

You’ve become my people. You’re quirky and kind, encouraging and gifted. And a little bit crazy, sometimes.




Look around, and you’ll see the body in this place. You’ll find recent grads and recent retirees. Widows and orphans. Singles, marrieds, and divorcees. Abuse survivors and cancer survivors. Homeschooling mamas and working grandmothers. Students and missionaries, diaper changers and board members.

We are the body, and I adore it.


Photo Credit: Jen Daugherty, faithmustardseed.com
Photo Credit: Jen Daugherty, faithmustardseed.com


So I’ve written you a little love story … It goes a little something like this:



Let me tell you a story.

It goes like this:

Once upon a time, over five years ago, a beautiful woman had a beautiful idea.

She thought to herself, “What can I do with just five minutes?”

Then she didn’t keep her question to herself — she shared it with her people, and they asked themselves the same question.

Then they all gathered together and formed this sort of family, called the Five Minute Friday community. And they’ve been congregating ever since, week after week, for five whole years, even when the address changed and the home changed ownership.

And just as the house key was being passed to the new owner, the builder of the house gave a farewell message with her adorable kiddos. And at the tail end of the video, just as she was about to close the door, one of her boys misheard the word, “Begin,” and yelled out that the word of the week was … “BACON!!”

And the whole family laughed until they cried.

Because this family is one of a kind, they didn’t forget their laughter or their tears. So over a year later, when given the chance to choose their own word, the drew up their laughter and their tears, and they voted for bacon.

Because that’s just how cool (and crazy) they are.



If you’re new to Five Minute Friday, don’t run away! We love newcomers, and can’t wait to get to know you!

Click here for more info about how this fabulous clan works.

AND … It’s your LAST CHANCE to order a limited edition Five Minute Friday tote bag! 

FMF bags 1.2

Limited offer!

Order your bag by clicking “Buy Now” below! Orders accepted through October 31st, 2015.


Can’t wait to read your five minutes of free writing on BACON!

What better way to end off a whole month of free writes, hey?  

Link up here: 

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I thought you were going to be a boy.

Everybody did.

Except Grandma.

She said that as soon as she got off the plane in Cape Town and saw that I was carrying you all tight and compact in the front, she thought you were a girl.  She said she had carried me and my sister exactly the same way.

The day before you were born, I wondered what we would do the next day.  We didn’t have any plans except to wait for you, and your due date was still three days away.

But I woke up before five that Tuesday morning and thought I was having indigestion.  After a while enduring the discomfort, I woke your dad and told him I thought I was in labor.  He said, “Okay,” and carried on snoring.

I rolled over and tried to sleep some more, but it hurt too much, so I said I thought we should go for a walk, like our doctor friend had suggested.  She had said if the contractions continued even during a walk, then it was probably for real.

They did.

We walked through the neighborhood in the dark in our bath robes and had to stop every few minutes so I could double over from the intensity of the contractions.

Back home, I insisted on washing my hair.  Who knew how long it would be before I could wash my hair again?

So I woke Grandma then showered in spurts, holding the wall during the contractions and then and off we went to the hospital.

You took your sweet time — twelve hours — before you got sick of the effort and panicked the doctors into cutting me open to get you out.

And then there you were — our beautiful girl.


Photo montage

Speaking of birth stories, remember how I told you about the Surprised by Motherhood book club over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s?  Well this is the sixth and final week, and I had the privilege of chatting with Lisa-Jo and September McCarthy about chapters 12 and 13 .. one of which includes a birth story. 

You can find links to all of the videos by clicking here

In the video below, we chat about what it’s like to mother a daughter and how we’ve seen God’s love through parenting.

This is Day 15 of 31 Days of Life in South Africa.  Each of the posts in this series has been written as a five-minute free write.  Check out the others who are also doing 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes by clicking here

Losing a


It was the day I had dreaded more than any other.

The day we buried my mom.

Somehow I had managed to get dressed and rote walk my way to the church for the funeral, flanked by my dearest relatives.

The “inner circle” of immediate family congregated in a private gathering space, waiting for other attendees to find seats before we would file down the aisle to the front rows.  As we waited, the somber conversation turned to one of the last times we had all been gathered together in the same church — for my wedding, seven years earlier.

My two uncles, who positively crack me up every time we’re together, started in on a story I’d never heard from that day.  They were due to drive me and my husband in my cousin’s convertible from the wedding ceremony to the reception.  Just after the ceremony, my uncle managed to spill mustard on his tie!  Being an auto parts dealer at his very core, he used nothing else but brake fluid to remove the stain!

At the church.

On my wedding day. 

I knew nothing of any of this, until that afternoon as we sat waiting for my mom’s funeral to begin.  Of course by that stage, we were all laughing, and kept laughing as my uncle concluded, “The stain came out … the only problem was the smell!”

I looked around the room, and it felt scandalous to wipe tears of laughter from the corner of my eyes.  Just moments before a funeral.

My mother’s funeral.

Moments later, our pastor and lifelong friend corralled our thoughts toward the service.  Just before we formed a procession to enter the sanctuary, he said, “Okay, here we go. And I want you to sing these songs with gusto! She would’ve wanted that!”

It was true.

My mom had a lot of time to think about her own funeral, and she had insisted that there be lots of singing.

Joyful singing.

She knew exactly where she was going when she died, and to her, that was reason to rejoice.

It sounded like a good idea, but there was just one minor problem: in my past experiences at funerals, the lump in my throat had grown so large I couldn’t even swallow, let alone get any sound to come out.  How much more so during my own mother’s funeral.

But to my great surprise, the Lord again gave grace, and when the music started, I stood there in the front row, looked straight up at the huge wooden cross hanging in the front of our church, and I sang.

I even smiled while I sang.

It was a smile on a tear-stained face, and the tears are spilling over even now as I think about it —  but it was a genuine smile, as I thought about the infinite joy my mom must be experiencing now, doing what she loved best for all eternity.


Lisa-Jo Baker and I chatted about this theme of how it’s possible for it to be “well with your soul” even in the midst of incredible sadness.  It’s a topic that comes up as we discuss Chapter 5 of her book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

This is Week 2 of Lisa-Jo’s online book club, and she’s got a great video chat with Christie Purifoy on Chapters 3 and 4 that you won’t want to miss, as well as discussion questions and some encouraging passages of Scripture, all right over here:





Related post:  When You’re Going Through a Deep, Dark Valley


Welcome to the first week of Lisa-Jo Baker’s online book club!  For the next six weeks we’ll be chatting and discussing all things motherhood as we go through one of my favorite books, Surprised by Motherhood.



Here’s how it will work over at Lisa-Jo’s blog:


Every Monday: Discussion video posted on the blog – feel free to leave your questions in the comments.

Every Monday Night: Live Q&A discussion with the author on Twitter using the hashtag #surprisedbymotherhood

Every Wednesday: Questions and Answers posted on the blog. (Check out this week’s post here!)

Every Friday: A Free, Useful, help-you-hold-onto-your-sanity Printable posted on the blog for all book club readers.


This past Monday Lisa-Jo chatted with her friend Lisa Milman about the Intro and first two chapters of the book.

A video of their conversation and a summary of the topics they discussed can be found here:


A recap of Monday’s video and highlights of the Twitter conversation are in a separate post here, where Lisa-Jo talks about the writing process, breaking up with yourself and the freedom to grieve.


When I heard that Lisa-Jo was hosting this book club, I decided to offer the same topic as a Moms Seminar in real life at my church.

Today was our first gathering, and I had a lovely time with five other moms.  We talked about expectations, challenges, encouragement and failures.  One comment that a friend of mine made had to do with the thanklessness of our task as mothers.  She brought it up after I was sharing about my own struggle with a constant desire for affirmation and recognition.

As we all know, the vast majority of motherhood is one long string of thankless tasks.  At times, it can be easy to do them with a heart full of discontenment and drudgery.  Nobody notices.  Nobody expresses gratitude.  We just do the work because we have to do it.

Today this friend of mine talked about the freedom that comes when we give up the desire to be thanked for the tasks we accomplish.  If we surrender that expectation and desire to be acknowledged, we can see our job as part of the process of sanctification.

That was my food for thought for the day.  🙂

Below you’ll find a brief summary of other topics we covered during our time together.


Intro: Why I Wrote This Book: Because You Are My People

Favorite quote from the intro:

“… I’ve discovered three things about motherhood.  One, motherhood is hard.  Two, motherhood is glorious.  Three, motherhood is hard.” (pp. xiii-xiv)


What unhelpful parenting advice have you received?

What do you wish you had done differently as a mother?

Where are you getting encouragement now, as a mom?


Chapter 1: Motherhood is a Superpower

Favorite quotes from Chapter 1:

“It was like discovering a superpower — becoming a mom for the first time.  It has led me to believe that motherhood should come with a superhero cape along with the free diaper bag and samples you get when the hospital sends you, otherwise defenseless, home.  … But the feeling fades.” (p. 3)

“Motherhood becomes the first test, other than federal taxation, that I thought I was truly going to fail.” (p. 4)

“I didn’t know it then, but I was grieving.  I was grieving the loss of a stage of life I’d loved, and I needed directions to navigate into this new one.” (p. 6)


Questions related to Chapter 1:

In what ways do you feel that you have failed as a mother?

How have you experienced that grieving process, that saying “goodbye” to your former life before you became a mom?

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thankless tasks of mothering, how do you remind yourself that all of those acts of service are building love?

How can you be a “Natalie” to someone else who is in the throes of motherhood?




Chapter 2: Why You Can’t Possibly Know What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Favorite quote: “…motherhood is a rollercoaster of highs and lows.” (p. 16)


Questions related to Chapter 2:

Which of your expectations of motherhood have been met, and which have been completely different from anything you ever imagined?

What are some of the highs and lows that you’ve already experienced in your role as a mother?


Psalm 121 graphic

Scripture Passage for Encouragement:

Psalm 121

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Be encouraged, tired, weary moms — your help comes from the Lord.  He watches over you, both now and forevermore.

After last week’s Five Minute Friday announcement, my inbox just about had a coronary from the sudden exertion it endured, and I nearly drowned in a flood of emotion and gratitude.  I never could’ve anticipated such a warm and gracious welcome, and am ever so honored to be part of this priceless FMF community.

Thank you.

As I prepare to carry this torch, I thought maybe I should introduce myself a bit before you find yourself sitting in my virtual living room next week.

Let’s see, where to begin …

Firstly, I’d say it’s safe to assume that Lisa-Jo asked me to take over Five Minute Friday so I’d have something else to write about besides how much I adore Surprised by Motherhood.

(Kidding.  I’m totally kidding.  The real reason she asked me is because I drink copious amounts of tea and know how to make a lekker melktert.)

(So can you, you just don’t know it yet.)

As Lisa-Jo mentioned, I’ve kind of lived her life in reverse.  I spent the first two decades of my life on the shores of Lake Michigan before moving to Cape Town, South Africa.  I thought I was going for six months, but the Lord kept me there for ten and a half years, then sent me back to Michigan with a husband and three kids.




If you were to ask my South African husband how we met, he would tell you I was stalking him.

I would tell you that’s his version of the story.

When I’m in Michigan, my heart pulsates with the comforts of home,

but it quickens when it beats Africa.



If you met my sister, she would probably tell you about the time I biffed while climbing a non-moving escalator in Chicago, bloodied up my shin and sent her into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.  Or maybe she’d tell you about the time I fell off a treadmill while trying to take my pulse and walk at the same time.

(Try not to be envious; my coordination comes naturally.  If it were a skill that could be taught, I might just share the secret.)

Ice cream, chocolate and sushi are my favorite food groups.

My parents divorced when I was seven.  When I was 21, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the Lord took her home a month after my 30th birthday.  She was 59, and I’ll never be the same.

I’ve homeschooled my three kids for the past five years, and they make me laugh every day.  Somehow they drive me crazy and keep me sane all at the same time.  Every night when I cover them up before I go to sleep, I plead silently, “Lord, save them in spite of me.”

And last but not least, I’m thrilled that you’re here and so look forward to getting to know you better as we begin this new chapter together.

Last week the prompt was FINISH

This week is Lisa-Jo’s last week hosting, and the prompt is BEGIN. 

Next week we’ll be linking up here, and I can’t wait to read your brave, beautiful words.

Now, for five minutes of free writing on the word, BEGIN.


I finished a book this week.

It was a good one.

One of those novels that has you thinking about the characters as you drift off to sleep, and waking up wondering what’s going to happen to them next.

Those are the good ones, but also the worst.  They’re the worst because they’re so good.  So good they sting a little when there aren’t any more pages to turn, and the back cover claps shut with stark finality.

You scold it a little, for ending.

But it stays with you, the story.

It lingers, as if you’ve lived it yourself, and can’t quite climb off the page.  Like you’ve clambered to the top of the slide at the playground and can’t bring yourself to slide down, because the rush will be over with a thud in the dirt.

But there’s beauty in the end.  There’s beauty because it’s not the only book on your nightstand.  You’ve been waiting to start that other one, too.



You have a feeling the next one might not be as good as this one.  Or maybe it’ll be decent, but different.  A whole different genre, perhaps.  A new voice to get used to.  New characters to meet and understand.  So you mourn for the book that goes back on the shelf and ticked off your list, but you take a deep breath, open the new cover,

and begin.


To Lisa-Jo, for authoring such a memorable and lasting legacy called

Five Minute Friday.

Your voice lingers here and permeates the air

as we set that book on the shelf and pick up this sequel.

Here’s to a new chapter, friend.