5 Ways to Simplify Healthy Living

brooke-lark-391764Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Five ways to simplify healthy living for your family.

1.  I used to spend hours on Pinterest, cookbooks, and blogs searching for creative, affordable, healthy and exotic recipes for our weekly menu. I started the week inspired, but by Thursday it was macaroni and cheese out of the box! As the babies multiplied, the perfect menu became impossible to sustain. I made an attempt at nutrition with kid-friendly veggies, but our diet revolved mainly around carbs and starch. When one of our teens was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, we radically changed our lifestyle. Eliminating most grains and sugar has helped us gain control. Now, we spend the bulk of our money on quality meats, fruits and veggies, and non-grain flours. We sweeten with honey 🍯. Our weekly menu is no longer a Pinterest board; but I have learned how to prepare in advance and rotate meats, healthy carbs, and spices in a way that simplifies meal planning, shopping, and preparation. We eat chicken, ground beef, and for a treat, lamb from a local farm. Natural doesn’t have to try so hard. 

2. Fitness is not a personal choice. With six children, I simply cannot bring each one to individual sports and activities. When considering an activity, the first question I ask is: “Will this work for the family?” If more than one person can participate, it works 👍 For instance, we found a gymnastics club where kids of all ages can be coached at multiple times and days of the week. Then I joined the gym where my three older children can workout with me for free. We have said “no” to school sports and found this has simplified our lives greatly. Our goal is strength, fitness, and developing an appreciation for sport while not centering life around it. My favorite life-giving activity is taking a family walk together!

3. Water. We don’t buy juice, soda, I don’t make kombucha (I have enough ‘children’ as it is! lol) or green tea. No one misses it. We drink water, Rooibos tea, and coffee. In the summer I treat the kids to Heart & Hydration, which is 3x as hydrating as water.

4. Supplementation and Essential Oils can be a vast and complex system of its own. I have a SHORT list of what our family uses. The kids take one supplement, and I have six essential oils I use in a variety of ways: Lavender, Tea Tree, Lemon, Peppermint, Frankincense, and TruDefense.

5. Forget Balance and Find Rhythm. I find that creating rhythm in each day, week, month, and season is natural and sustainable. Maybe I’ve been successful here and there in balancing it all- but truly, I find that one pruning one branch at a time heals, connects, and nourishes more than mowing over everything with a lawnmower. One area of life often needs more attention than the other. In the spring we want to exercise, be outside, and enjoy strawberries. In the fall, we settle in with root vegetables and books.

I hope this is helpful! Leave a comment with your own tips of simplifying healthy living.

like men who dreamed.


“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed. She is not dead but asleep.” He took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” and her spirit returned. Her parents were astonished.                                  {luke 8:50,52-56}

Our friends are moving to Lebanon. Dealing with the reality of refugees, of crisis, homelessness, trauma, and death. Death, dying, buried. Words we use freely when talking about the gospel. We spent time in prayer together, asking God to provide the needed funds, thanking Him their teenagers also felt a desire to go to the Middle East.

As we said goodbye, Gert glanced around, asked, “Where’s Eden?” Instinctively our eyes went to the back gate. It was open. I ran outside, a quick survey of the backyard and no Eden. The pool gate was open. I ran to look, seeing nothing at the pool, ran inside the house to check the other rooms. Then came the desperate screams. Etian held his sister in his arms. She was limp, blue, and hanging like a trail of ivy over a brick wall. From his arms to my arms to Daddy’s arms.

From the daybed, I hear “Step one, step two, step three. Step one, step two, step three.” I searched for the emergency number, but no one knew what it was. Finally we connected with ER24 but when they asked me, “Where is Kuils River?” I knew they wouldn’t be our heroes that day.

‘We are not going to lose a child today,’ were my only thoughts.

I couldn’t watch as Eden lay on the bed. Verbalising what we were all thinking but didn’t dare to say, Evangeline wouldn’t stop…”Eden die? Eden die?” Cold and blue.

We directed the kids to another room. They obliged. Finally, a pulse, and low, guttural, reflexive groans.  Go time-to the hospital. Our friend Michael drove him to the ER, and the kids and I waited and prayed in the Spirit and prayed Psalm 91 and refused to fear disaster and refused to despair.

I pleaded with our friends to pray. I got to the ER, and caught a glimpse of a towering heavenly figure standing at the head of Eden’s bed. My husband was very much in charge, with shocked eyes wide and red-rimmed. He spoke gently, matter-of-fact.  Eden lay sedated, white, on oxygen. Her X-rays were cloudy, lungs filled with fluid. Nothing felt real.

They said she’s going to be okay, but there was a possibility of brain damage. We don’t know how long she was under. I reconciled with the possibility of brain damage, and all I could think is that she is alive. Our pastor and his wife appeared, and Gerhard took Gert on a walk while Marinda and I went to the ICU with Eden.

‘Mom,’ Gabrielle told me later, ‘the day Eden fell in the pool was the worst day of my life and I’m glad its not that day anymore.’ 

We were confronted by a powerful enemy. Death. On the day of our disaster, God spoke:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; 

he drew me out of the deep waters. 

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

{psalm 18:16-19}

All over the world people prayed. God wasn’t done with Eden yet. Her generation would see greater things than this. The dead shall be raised. She would live to declare the beauty of the Lord, and walk in close communion with him. The Lord said she will come through perfect. No damage, no lasting effects! She will live and declare the glory of the Lord.

God spoke to us through Isaiah 51:3 that she would be called Eden Joy. I remarked to my sister that she was not the easiest of babies, and with a middle name of Joy, I had thought she would be the epitome of happiness and contentment.

We brought her home from the hospital on Friday, and suddenly I knew why her middle name is Joy. When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. {psalm 126:1-3}

I asked Evangeline (3years) what happened to Eden that day. She replied, “Eden fell into the pool, and then she went to sleep.” You see, Evangeline has changed her story. Her reality has come into alignment with the power of God displayed for our family to see.

Eden was not dead, she was only sleeping.


Eden Joy

As we prayed and considered Eden’s name, this is the verse God brought us to. We feel she is a restorer, and have prayed for a great capacity for joy in her life! She is already bringing this into our family. It is a novelty to be closer to the other end of the age spectrum now, with older children to help out and enjoy a new baby in our midst.

Desert 1
Photo Credit: Gert Roets, Upper Mustang, Nepal

These photos capture a glimpse of the first serene moments when the kids woke up to a new baby in the family. My heartfelt thanks to Anne Evans Marais who used her skill and gift to bless us.












Birth Story

Cape Town waves, by Hans-Christian Harder

About two months ago, pregnant with our sixth child, I began to look into something I have previously never considered: a home birth. I was 34 weeks pregnant and becoming increasingly frustrated with my OB who seemed focused on reminding me of all the possible things that could go wrong with my delivery. I’ve given birth five times before, no c-sections, no high blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, no placenta previa, no PPH or any of the other complications possible. My only issue has been that my pregnancies tend to go past 41 weeks! So after been told I was “high-risk” one too many times I decided to look into seeing a midwife and having a home birth.

Surprisingly this was met with complete support from my husband, who as a licensed paramedic wasn’t previously interested in the idea. We considered all the factors (including our 5 minute ETA to the hospital, if necessary), found a highly recommended, experienced certified nurse-midwife from Switzerland, and went shopping for exciting things like ice-packs, linen savers, and homeopathic oils and powders. I talked to amazingly supportive and encouraging friends who’d had home births. I learned some new exercises to help baby enter the birth canal, made some freezer meals, saw two such freezer meals slide out of the freezer, crash on the concrete floor, proceeded to clean up broken glass dishes and cried about throwing away my glass-shard filled food. I read dozens of home birth and water birth stories, got inspired, and then got totally freaked out when I remembered my last labor. Yes, we do forget the pain of childbirth but I can ask any one of you who’s delivered a baby to try to remember…and yes that memory is as fresh as if it happened yesterday, if we want to call it up.

We eagerly anticipated my due date, and then saw it come and go. Christmas Day came and went. 41 weeks. No baby.

Finally Monday night I started to have consistant contractions, every 10-15 minutes. I woke to some other definite signs of impending labor and since the contractions persisted I felt fairly certain labor was beginning! I called the friends I had lined up to watch the kids and we dropped them off that afternoon as I prepared mentally to give birth. As the heat of the day increased all signs of labor stopped. Nothing. Sadly we picked the kids back up again and I became that woman who faked labor.

As the sun went down that night, my contractions started again. Every 10-15 minutes, the whole night. I tried to sleep in between but by morning I thought, certainly this is it. So I called the midwife, and she came over about 8:30am. Just as everything stopped again. She shared with me her concerns about having the home birth since my labor didn’t seem to be progressing. She gently told me she would like me to deliver in the hospital, where she could still attend the delivery.

We went in for a non-stress test and saw baby was still happy inside. The midwife did an internal exam and saw that I was only dilated 2cm and not effaced, even after two nights full of contractions. The rest of the day was so hard…I felt like my chances for a delivery without intervention were slipping away. My two main goals with this baby were to go into labor on my own and deliver on my own. As I was sitting for the non-stress test I saw the shelves full of epidural equipment and could just see the scene play out…induced labor not progressing, me getting exhausted and stressed, finally asking for medication, eventually delivering but having to sort through mixed feelings of disappointment at not having the natural childbirth I desired. I’ve had three deliveries unmedicated, two where I got an epidural. One of those was necessary due to my level of exhaustion and prolonged labor due to induction, but the other was me second-guessing myself and getting one more out of fear of another prolonged labor. Part of my strong desire for a home-birth was to be in a supportive environment where I could labor on my own and not be tempted with short-cutting the awesome experience of natural childbirth. If I know relief from pain is sitting next to me on a shelf at the hospital…I am going to go for it!

But since above all of this is the goal of a healthy baby, I agreed to deliver at the hospital. We made arrangements for a friend to come stay with the kids at home.

I considered an interesting comment by my mid-wife, that rarely in her experience do women give birth during the heat of the day. If a client hasn’t called her by 8am, she knows the baby will not be born that day and she is free until evening. This seemed to sync with my experience with labor as well.

At sunset that evening, my contractions re-surged with a vengeance. Every 7 minutes, strong and getting stronger. I dared to hope this was real labor, but kept quiet about it because of the previous false alarms. Finally when I almost dropped Eva while working through a contraction, I told Gert I think this is real labor and maybe we should call the midwife. I chatted with her on the phone, explaining they were coming every 4-5 minutes now and what should I do? So she said she would get dressed and come over, and why don’t I take a hot shower in the meantime to relax me.

While in the shower I had several strong contractions and started trembling uncontrollably. Since it was a hot night I knew I wasn’t cold. By the time Natasha came over, I was nearly in transition. We didn’t really discuss it, but since I was so close to delivery, she decided to assist us at home after all. She helped me find positions to labor in, the one that helped the most was leaning over an exercise ball on the bed with Gert by my side. She used several essential oils to rub my back, apply heat, and generally guide the baby down the birth canal. As I tried to manage the intensity of each surge, she said things to me like “only you can do this, no one can take this away from you,” and “you want this, you want this baby, you can do this.” She helped me breathe, and told me to visualise the baby on the other side of the road, and said I had to go get it. This one didn’t work for me :). First I pictured my newborn laying there in the ditch and then standing up like a toddler about to get hit by a car! But visualising the baby wanting to come down the birth canal and eager to meet me did help.

“With my God I can scale a wall,” the word He gave me in my 8th month of pregnancy, resonated in my mind throughout the labor, especially in the intense time of transition. As I spoke this out loud, I felt His power strengthen both my mind, heart, and body.

The midwife suggested I sit in the bathroom through a couple of contractions, I think she was hoping my water would break there. She asked if I could feel the head, and I asked her if she wanted to check me to make sure I was fully dilated for pushing. She declined, saying each time you do an internal exam, it sets labor back again, and I would know when I was ready to push. After two more strong back to back contractions I stood up and immediately felt the urge to push. I was standing next to the bed hanging on to Gert when in one gush my water broke and I felt the burn of baby”s head crowning. I pushed once and her head and shoulders came out, the rest of her body quick to follow. Natasha reacted quickly to catch her by the head and leg, unwrap the cord which was loosely looped around her neck twice, and hand her to my shocked self. Labor was over and suddenly I had a baby!

She cried and cried and cried, yet none of the kids woke up. Fireworks were going off all along the beach front, and we watched from our bedroom window. Labouring through New Year’s Eve, she was born 12:30am New Year’s Day, 11 days past my due date. It was a celebratory, joyful, peaceful birth-day, with candles and worship music and my amazingly supportive husband and midwife attending the birth of our sixth baby, in the comfort of our home. I learned so much from this experience, about allowing my body to do what God created it to do without interference and allowing myself to lean into pain, knowing it is birthing something new and beautiful and full of life.

I am so grateful for this birth. God is so good to me. His kindness and hand was with us through it all. He helped me overcome the discouragement of two days of false labor and brought me through a fast and intense labor when at last the time came. I am thankful for all the prayers that helped this labor and delivery commence and follow through without hesitation or stalling. And I am so thankful and in love with our little 8 lb 12 oz Eden Joy Roets.

Hope and Eden

Special Birth Announcement from Anne M

How Do You Find Joy in the Waiting?

My due date came and went. Christmas Eve came and went. Christmas Day is passing by in the Southern Hemisphere. I dreamt last night of the birth of our baby. I am ready.

We are waiting for fulfilment of of God’s promises in our lives. We are living in his fulness, but still not satisfied. He’s promised us so much more. We are still in a season of living in tents, much like Abraham and his family did. Seeing the land from a distance, pursuing it, practicing abiding in his presence, being content walking with the Holy One, trusting him, dealing with our humanity when discouragement or doubt comes.

He’s tested our calling. He’s reminded me how his purpose is to transform us from the inside out. I recall the miraculous sale of our house in Missouri, just two weeks before we moved to Washington State and then on to South Africa. It was past the due date.

I am finding joy in the waiting. We have a house, but something is stopping its release to us. Its past its due date. We have an exciting possibility for a new ministry on the horizon, but can’t apprehend the reality of it yet. We are prepared to cross the Jordan River in our lives. We have consecrated ourselves to the Lord as a family.

Just as this baby’s due date has come and gone without fulfilment, the time will certainly come. God does not bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery. This new life will come, we will see the material manifestation of God’s provision for a home, and we will walk in the complete fulness of his release in our calling, giftings, and destiny. As Gert shared in our newsletter, God will confirm his word and his promises and our response is “let it be as your word says.”

How do you find joy in waiting? It can be a difficult, heart-wrenching time when we are vulnerable to take things into our own hands much like Abraham did with Hagar. What is the secret? For me it is to take one day at a time. God gives us enough sustenance to sustain us daily. Not enough for tomorrow, but enough for today.

Last night we had a precious Christmas Eve service with our family, at home. My oldest daughters planned it. With memories of last year’s 95 degree candlelight service crammed in a stuffy, crowded church with no air-conditioning still sharp in our minds, our sweat dripping just like the wax on the candles we held, the cool, peaceful family atmosphere at home was all the better. I often wonder how deep my children’s understanding of Christ is, as they live immersed in church, missions, ministry, and Christianity. Bedtime prayers and blessings at the table sometimes sound rehearsed and automatic. Last night I heard the most poignant, heartfelt prayer from my oldest daughter as she thanked God for sending his Son to us. A desire of mine to see my family playing music together showed its first fruit as Gert, Chloe, and Hope led the Christmas Carols with their instruments and voices.

We laughed yesterday as what was supposed to be a free outing to view a Lego display would cost us R800 ($80). We agreed to skip it and walked through a market with free food samples instead, enjoying the beautiful city of Cape Town we are blessed to live in.

After 18 months of living here we finally saw Cape Town from the vantage point of Table Mountain. Our dear friends Susie and Hans unexpectedly blessed us with this gift. In missions, the hardest thing is sometimes to say no to our kids. No, we can’t do this, or no we can’t do that because our budget doesn’t allow it. Even harder when we live in place like Cape Town, with endless sights and activities. Its a lot easier to have a low profile when you live in the sticks.

There is no chance to work an extra shift for overtime pay and no leftover at the end of the month, ever. But then the blessing of the Lord flows in, unexpectedly. And we can say, “Look how God has blessed our family! Wasn’t it worth the wait? Isn’t he good to us, to allow us to experience this incredible gift?”

I found joy in our church’s Sunday morning Christmas service. After laughing at the total blackout in the sanctuary and realising it wasn’t another power outage, I was so grateful to sit anonymously in the dark and avoid all the “Are You Still Pregnant” comments: You’re still here? (yes, where am I supposed to go?). You haven’t popped yet? (I’m not a balloon). You’re huge! (This stopped being a complement when I was 7).  The service was full of scripture and song and little else. Just what Christmas should be, in my book.

So these are ways I have found joy in the waiting. I am even grateful we could provide a normal Christmas morning for the kids, complete with homemade cinnamon rolls, instead of tending to a newborn.


African Penguins on Boulder Beach


Christmas Eve Service, Roets Style


Large Puff Adder found in our friend’s garden, a few minutes before we arrived. These snakes cause hundreds of deaths and loss of limbs in Africa each year…fascinating to view in its cage!


Gabrielle and Gert with this year’s Christmas theme: LEGOES!!


Christmas Morning comes so very early, doesn’t it?


SO BLESSED with this gift for our new baby! An Ergo!!!


On top of Table Mountain


So hard to get a picture of this busy girl! She loves her new baby doll.

Kids Need Structure During Vacation

We had a pleasant first three days of school holiday. A fun excursion up Table Mountain (I am working on a post about this!), a day of playing computer games and watching movies (not allowed on school days), a nice hike in the Helderberg, a friend’s birthday party. Then everything fell apart. The arguing, not listening, unkind speech, and even outright disobedience brought on some very real threats from their mother (me) to start school again. Then it dawned on me…while I might be able to impose my own self-discipline, my kids aren’t there yet. I love a long, relaxing morning with no where to be and nothing to do, not bothering to make breakfast or take a shower but for my kids this is too much freedom. I saw their increased anxiety without their usual boundaries and structure.

This is a strange time for all of us. We are excited for Christmas, anticipating a baby, wondering and waiting to hear if we will get the house we want. I have as much energy as this snoozing cat laying next to me and my feet swell up the moment I get up to do something.

Eva has burst through to a maddening two-year old stage where she cries about the wrong sippy cup, wanting her sister’s dinner instead of her own, and screaming for more toothpaste or more grapes or to take yet another bath for the day. She wants to go ‘potty’ but the moment I put her there she cries to get off and then refuses her diaper. Her favorite words are ‘no’ and ‘daddy’ and ‘kitty.’ None of our other children have been this attached to Gert and I get such satisfaction and amusement and delight when she calls for him instead of me early in the morning!

So back to the structure. Last night, after a day of the kids squabbling, we had a family meeting. We challenged them to come up with a plan on how to promote kindness, peace, respect, and obedience in the family again. They came up with a chart to keep track of their behavior, each one giving themselves a ‘mark’ if they are unkind, teasing, etc with a loss of game time for a total amount if points.

I wrote a loose schedule for us to follow on these long, warm, summer days of waiting. We are also studying and memorizing Colossians 3:12-17. Before we put on our Armor of God, we put on the underarmor of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Notice I said we…I am working on this too. It’s so tempting to give into irritation because I am so big and uncomfortable and swollen and feel like I may never go into labor!

The kids know I have their math books at my fingertips and so far today is a little better then yesterday. Last night we read about St. Boniface, the missionary who brought the gospel to the German pagans who were busy sacrificing children to the god Thor, worshiped in the form of a Thunder Oak. Boniface stayed the hand on the would-be priest executioner and saving the child’s life, declared that nothing would happen if they were to cut down the tree instead of making a blood sacrifice. When his claim proved to be true, he pointed to the evergreen trees, proposing to cut one down instead, and used a small fir tree as a tool of evangelism.

“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Isn’t this beautiful insight into our tradition of the Christmas tree? Now you can hang decorations and lay gifts under without assuming it’s just another pagan custom. Read the full story of Boniface here.

The freshly implemented Vacation schedule, subject to change. So far it’s working better to have devotions in the evening, which feels more ‘Christmas-y’ anyway.


The kids’ action plan. As you can see, a couple misdeeds today.


My beautiful, darling, daughter. Her days as baby of the family are numbered…


My not so darling budding 2 yr old…


Homeschooling Awards Ceremony

We finished our 2014 school year on Wednesday! Woohoo! Feels so good to take a break. We love homeschooling year round and I enjoy ending the school year in December. It’s a natural break and transition. The kids worked so hard this year that we decided to have a little Awards ceremony and honor their achievements. The older girls also entered a writing contest in the States and Chloe received an honorable mention out of hundreds of entries.

Next year it’s Classical Conversations all the way as we start the first community in South Africa. A few months ago when my American friend Jennifer and I introduced the concept of classical education we had three moms mildly interested. At our meeting a week ago, the final count is 17 families with 37 children enrolled! My Essentials class has grown from 3 students to 11. I feel overwhelmed at tutoring this class with a newborn and possibly a move in our near future but I do feel God has called me to do it. I keep reminding myself that I want my kids to have the benefit of this homeschooling community, including this rigorous English Grammar and Writing course, and that is why I’m doing it.

So for now, it’s time to enjoy the change of pace as South Africa shuts down for the holidays. I am ready for our Christmas baby to come and we have said goodbye to some precious members of our OM team as they return home to pursue God in a new way. I’m enjoying our proper Christmas tree after last year’s bizarre branch creation. We have our Christmas shopping done and I am improving at letting go of dearly-held traditions that just aren’t necessary when you are having a baby. I am reflecting on Mary’s journey as she prepared to give birth to Christ, and my attitude has changed from not desiring a Christmas baby at all to understanding the beauty of it.







Undocumented for several months now, I need to reconnect with my blog. I’m reaching the end of my pregnancy (37 weeks today!) and God is helping me to quietly process the logistical, relational and spiritual challenges we’ve experienced the last four months. We’re being re-directed in ministry after laying down a great dream and an unexpected move came up with extenuating circumstances, all while I’m in my third trimester, homeschooling the kids, and pioneering the first Classical Conversations community in South Africa.

Some of these challenges are old ones. Yet I’ve learned something key regarding tests. I used to refer to tests from the Lord as pass/fail…and if you don’t pass it, it will come around again, bringing on a sense of failure. God revealed to me that when he is trying to teach us something, he will do so through many means. And the important lessons are usually repeated! If I can summarise what I’ve learned:

If I don’t hold on too tightly to my own plans, it won’t hurt so much when God changes them.

We are continually called to love each other deeply from the heart. This is not easy.

God does ask us to walk through things too much for us to handle. How else could his power be made perfect in our weakness?

I am grateful for my husband’s initiative to start our family studying the book of Proverbs as this has been a well of life, insight, and direction through our circumstances. I am thankful for the muscles of faith developed in Gert and I, and our children, as we pray for another new house and prepare for another move. I am floored by the avenues of blessing towards this unborn baby. We did not foresee reaching the threshold of six children and yet the prayers, vision, prophetic words, and material provision has exceeded any other pregnancy. I feel that because we said yes to God for what in our minds is an extreme step of faith, he is releasing a new store of blessing to us. I feel entirely overwhelmed that we will be parenting an almost-teenager all the way down to toddler and newborn. Yet I know the grace of God will be with us as we walk through the unique needs of each child. We are sustained.

This blog post feels rough and clumsy, uncertain but moving towards confidence. Much like how I feel as we make decisions about where and how this baby will be born and where we will live. I am excited about new possibilities and leading towards a midwife and home birth and peering around the corner at the possibility of buying a house.

Thank you to Susie Squirrell and Hans-Christian Harder for these great pics of our kids! 🙂

Evangeline, 22 months

Evangeline, 22 months. She says “yay!” for yes–keeping the team spirit alive in our family.

Gabrielle, still a sweet spirit

Gabrielle, still a sweet spirit


This is a frequent sight these days


Exploring the backyard


Et is the one who has changed the most lately. Do you even recognise this boy?


Gleefully playing in the hole he dug, before discovered by his dad…

Stay Open to the Graces

Jerry Sullivan greeting Daisy

The Grim family lost a dear friend this week. The kind of friend you are lucky to ever have, even once in a lifetime.

This man, known as Brother Jerry, walked a path of Christlikeness few people ever find. He was that figure in my childhood that led me to understand Christ’s mercy, His friendship, and His sacrificial love: From the way he treated animals to the way he treated the mentally-ill alcohol-addicted wanderer to the way he was a father to Indian children starving for love and attention on the reservation where we lived.

He lived a humble life as a carpenter, fasting on Fridays, keeping dominion over the earth through his garden and attempts at growing grapes to make wine. His occasional stutter only enhanced his ability to tell a good joke–usually involving a Catholic Priest and an Irishman.

As a child this man appeared to me as nothing short of a complete wonder. Who else brings an industrial sized doughnut machine to a dilapidated tavern on a poverty-stricken Indian Reservation and turns the place into a family activity center? Or hides cute little puppies in boxes on Easter Sunday for children to find and bring home to their unsuspecting and unenthusiastic parents?

He always had time for me to visit after school, for a card game or weeding in the garden or letting me tag along in bringing communion to shuts-ins. In my childishness I remember being a little jealous when he met this beautiful woman named Ilene and got married, thinking he wouldn’t have time for me anymore. Little did I understand how one’s capacity for love only grows when you are in Christ. Along with Jerry’s life, I am thankful that he met this gentle woman, Ilene. She added a richness and depth and grace that brought him so much joy and completion and it is a testimony to me how they served the Lord together.

Jerry finished his life well. He kept the faith; he fought the good fight. He pursued righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. He took hold of that eternal life that God calls us to. I rejoice that he is with our Savior now yet my heart aches for his absence here with us, and especially for his wife.

Jerry brought the Kingdom to Earth. He rested in the grace of God and as he frequently reminded me, he stayed open to the graces. Many people strive to live great lives, attempting great things for God. Every other person is hailed as some kind of hero these days. But few men walk in true godliness, masculinity, humility, and quiet servanthood as did Brother Jerry. Living next door to this great man of God shaped much of who I am today. I am so thankful for his life.

All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me

All Your Waves and Breakers Wash Over Me
photo credit Susie Squirrell

I’m inspired by a friend tonight who courageously shared the trial she and her husband are walking through in Mexico. Each heart knows it’s own sorrow and I’m of the vantage point it is good for us to bare our souls in our struggles. In James it says to consider it pure joy when we go through trials, because the testing if our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish it’s work so that we can be mature and complete not lacking anything. So clearly trials are an expected part of our walk with God. I can’t be the only one who feels pressure to share only the glorious, miraculous things God does. And he does do glorious things, in his rich and passionate love for us.

But he is not one to mess around. God’s ultimate goal is to conform us into the image of Christ, and I think his most effective way of doing this is through trials. A missionary spoke to me once about having a Doctrine of Suffering, and as I look around our broken world I see that suffering is a principle of our faith, something we shy away from but is an inescapable reality. It opens the way to glorious resurrection. We should not deny it’s power or the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

My husband and I are visionaries. We are pioneers and see things black and white. We like to bring about change and influence the culture, wherever we are. We joke about having the Jeremiah anointing–to tear down and uproot, to rebuild and plant. We have been told we come on too strong. But apart from the ‘we’ I am non-confrontational by nature, I seek to bring harmony and peace, I am sensitive (sometimes too much so) and I want to encourage. Times of emotional stress and conflict are extremely hard on me. When one thing goes wrong, everything is wrong.

My gut feeling is that many of these qualities are not negative in themselves, but they need to be tempered by wisdom and humility. God is testing our character, our integrity, and our conviction of his word. We came to South Africa riding on the hope and expectation of starting a leadership school here. We are not the kind of people to have a Plan B. It’s all or nothing. In short, we considered our calling into missions to be specifically, at this time, to train others to go to unreached people groups.

In our minds, this took the shape of a program, a school with structure and commitment from students, where we could train and disciple and develop leaders to be fruitful and influence the course of nations. When our proposal for such a leadership school was turned down flat, we were quite stunned. What do we make of that? Isn’t the favor of God supposed to swing the doors wide open? Did we not hear correctly from God in coming to this place? Should we even stay in South Africa?

At this time of confusion God providentially arranged for us to go away for a week on a retreat to a quiet town by the sea. I had early mornings with my Bible searching out answers, soaking in the character and nature of God, and somehow God put my heart at peace. We returned home and I was feeling strong and ready to tackle the last trimester of my pregnancy and focus on the kids’ schooling, and support my husband as he goes back to the drawing board with our ministry plan to put our ideas for training into a different “on-the-job” model.

When I find out we have to move again. In two months, maybe three. I have 2.5 months left in my pregnancy. Raise your hand and wave if your want to move your family on your due date!! Yeah, not so much. I felt very close to what I would describe as an actual panic attack. I haven’t had many of those. And not only that, my husband will lose his supplemental income that has enabled us to afford medical insurance and make it without being short every month.

After phone calls and hours scouring the internet for houses and advice that we need to live in the city instead of a suburb to be closer to our team, we are no where closer to finding a house to live in. One realtor told me for every house that opens up for renting he has 30 people standing in line waiting for it. He ended the phone call by saying ‘sorry, just can’t help you. Good luck.’ A house for sale is on the market a matter of days before it’s sold. It’s the most unreal housing market I’ve ever seen.

I recognize the dark place I was in and am still struggling through as the work of the Enemy, bringing discouragement and doubt and desire to pack my bags and leave. I want to be organizing, preparing, settling in to get ready for a new little one…not putting things in boxes…again…

Now, for the life-speaking, peace-sowing, faith-steadying, words from my Great God, as he spoke to me over the weekend and gave me courage to share this blog with you.

YET he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

Our dream is not dead–but God may manifest it in a different way. I am reading Romans 4 every day, as you will too if you listen to the podcast below from Bill Johnson.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Romans 4:18


From Psalm 42… Remember what God has done in the past.
Speak to your soul–put your hope in God!
Thirst, long, go and meet with God. We instinctively turn to Him.
Allow God to break you. All his waves and breakers have swept over me.

So this is where I am today. I see refugees in Iraq and Syria with only the clothes on their back and a donated meal and maybe a mattress and I feel some perspective. We don’t have it so bad. I know God will not forsake us. David says in Psalms he has never seen the children of the righteous begging for bread. I don’t believe God will put us on the street. I just somehow need to transfer this knowledge to my heart and live in the hope and promises of God.