l e n t :: a hallelujah recap

Hallelujah!  Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

Lent has come to a close and thus ended my daily blogging adventure.  I had never before made such an intense Lenten commitment – not only did I spend nearly an hour a day above my normal activities taking photos and writing about them, I also abstained, most of the time, from dairy and grains (I of course had homemade deep dish Chicago style pizza with my extended family last night.  Can I get an amen?!).  Nonetheless, a dedicated and difficult season.

I have my favorites of the photos (you can see them below).  I also have the thoughts that have stayed echoing in my mind – opening our house to those in need, continuing on my journey away from a lifestyle dedicated to materialism and comfort, being more aware and intentional with those in my immediately family, knowing that I DO have time to set aside and BE with God (I just proved it to myself nearly every day for 6 weeks).  So rejuvenating and encouraging and exciting!

Honestly, my favorite part of the process was how each post seemed to initiate conversations with someone – a family member, an old old friend, an acquaintance.   Writing has been enjoyable, a great practice, but more than anything I desire the intimate dialogue between a few people.  Thank you to those who responded, who reached out, who challenged, who encouraged, who prayed, and who participated.  I learned from you.

Saturday night, Jeff and I participated in the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.  I’ll admit I was not necessarily excited about what was to come, still a bit baffled that we’re participating in the faith family at St. Johns, wondering how our recent, beloved time in a Vineyard community would be followed with life there.   Then the Easter Vigil hit me not like a brick wall but like a spray of Easter lilies, literally, engulfing me in beauty and sensory sublimity.   My godparents, who’ve loved me well since day one, finally got to stand behind me as a sponsor, hands on my shoulders, praying for the Holy Spirit to fill me and guide me.  The people in the church sang their little hearts out in a way I have never experienced at St. John’s—so beautiful and strong!  And literally the aroma of the rows of Easter lilies…so good.  I am thankful that (and I stand corrected as) God continued to reveal Himself that night, and not just in the Sacrament.

Lent.  What an awesome time to step deeper and deeper into God and God’s calling.  To ask questions and explore creation, beauty, the sublime, the ugly, the unknown and the unseen.  And to think…all this time we spend ends in death-a dark, gruesome, heavy death, but a death only to be trampled over and over and over again by Light and Life.  Can I get a real Amen?


My favorite of the season.
My favorite of the season.

l e n t :: day35_people


I was trying to experiment tonight, with some superimposing magic-ness.  I’m not ready for that.  But while fiddling Jeff asked what my word was.  “People.”  “Well, I’m your every day people aren’t I?”

I enjoy a beautiful house and we both like to practice hospitality on at least a weekly basis.  I would have loved posting a picture of our living room full of people.  But tonight I have my every day people and he often gets sidelined for every week people I unfortunately deem more important.  Tonight, I sign off quickly to invest in my every day person.  A needed lesson and certainly needed time.

Who are your every day people?  How are you investing in them?

l e n t :: day34_remember


I can’t help but hear the echoing voice of Mufasa in that epic scene from The Lion King: “Remembaaah!  Remembaaah!”   Oh, James Earl Jones.  Every time.  Simba chases after the quickly vanishing vision of his father but he can’t catch a memory.

Yesterday I was talking with Jeff and my parents a bit about my Grandpa.  Richard C. Ripberger and I were very close, you see.  My childhood partner in crime, Thomas, my eleven-days-older-than-me cousin, and I would go wherever and do whatever Grandpa wanted us to do.  That Jeff never knew Grandpa has been a strange and difficult reality.  He’s but a memory to me and a legend to Jeff.

The specific memory we shared last night was a time when Thomas and I, at maybe seven years old, literally pushed R.C. by his butt up the stairs in what is now my parents’ house to his then apartment/man cave.  Grandpa had a rare form of muscular dystrophy paired with repercussions from a massive stroke; these combined made walking and stair-climbing rather daunting tasks at times, and by his last years, Grandpa was wheelchair bound.  We were reprimanded for our valiant display of strength and service of course—what if he had started to fall on the way up?  We all could have been seriously hurt!  Thomas and I had originally hesitated at his first request for help but Grandpa was a business man with a woo that could make the pope wear nothing but gym shorts to Mass: he won.

I miss that man incredibly.  And I miss those silly, fun days with Tom.  I hope to always remember them.

Imagine what the disciples must have felt when Jesus was no longer with them.  For three days, confused and hurt, they were at a standstill—what just happened?  Consider how they may have dwelt in memories of weddings, and miracles, and feasts, and reprimands, and invitations.  My Grandpa was just a man, a flawed man, but for them, Jesus!  Their Messiah!  The promised One!  Gone!  Few of us have never experienced the death of a loved one; most know the pain of those first few days of loss and acceptance.  I wonder what the disciples remembered most clearly.  I wonder what they shared as consolation in time together.  I wonder if they, like Simba, tried chasing after an old vision, their eyes off the calling and anticipation of reconciliation.

He may have promised His rebuilding of the Temple, His trampling over death, but did they get it?  I would bet that Easter hallelujah wasn’t even yet on their sorrowful radar.

What remembrance do you regularly step into?   Does it guide you to a truer future or leave you alone in the meadow?

l e n t :: day29_surround


When we lived in Michigan, our closest family member, at least until Jukes joined the Hope party, was 3 hours away.  Especially once we and our friends started having kids, we would struggle when friends would mention having regular date nights with grandparents watching kiddos: we couldn’t afford to pay babysitters AND pay for dinner!  A luxury.  Or when fellow moms would be having a tough day and a grandparent would give them a 30 minute reprieve.  Gifts galore.  Or on Easter or July 4 or Memorial Day when we didn’t make it to Indiana or New York or Dallas to be with family and we celebrated with a slow day.  We were lonely for close ones sometimes.

Now, I look out my back window and see the house my parents and brother live in.   And I see my Grandma’s house.  Last night, we had to run to Lowes; Mom and Dad watched the girls for less than two hours so our trip would be easy and quick.  Tuesday was BEAUTIFUL outside so the girls and I wondered around the farm and stopped into Gigi’s house for a 15 minute visit playing with Ruff (a stuffed dog) and Roar (Winnie the Pooh, of course).  Then we all jumped in the van for an ice cream run Tuesday night – so fun!  But you know what?  Sometimes it just sucks.  Like having a long chat with my mom tonight and not finding any common ground, like each topic or idea or thought or feeling we each reveal slams against a brick wall and falls to the ground, not even important enough to be accompanied by a crash or a whisper.   These moments the space of Michigan is missed.

I don’t want to remember this right now–I’d rather wallow–but I MUST remember right now that being surrounded is heavenly.  That being surrounded by family is intended.  That being surrounded may be yucky and emotional and difficult but at the end of days, it will be my family filling the pews at my funeral, singing appropriately replaced words to Audio Adrenaline’s “Big, Big House” as I, I assume, will peer on from some celestial realm, wearing all silk, surrounded by work from Klimt and Van Gogh, drinking wine and eating cheese with Jesus.   That no matter how hard I try not to want to, I will always love my mom and my dad and my brother more than anyone besides my hubband and my chilluns, and will always long for nearness to them.  Today’s challenge: embrace the surroundings.

How can you embrace those who surround you?

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.

Psalm 125:2

l e n t :: day11_live


This morning I sat around a sunny table with very dear friends – one taking a journey to open her home, two just settling into new homes, another trying to figure out her next steps to having home, and me soon moving from the temp stay in my parent’s home to a separate home.   I loved hearing their stories.  Such different women with different ideals and varying values.  This morning we lived together.  No, we don’t share closets or refrigerator space but we breathed and shared and asked for input and disagreed and crashed into each other with our good and bad.  We slammed up against windows, soaked up the sunshine, let down our hair, and watched four hours disappear like minutes.  The best kind of living I know: with.

Who did you live with today?  What did that mean to you?

l e n t :: day9_refuge


Perhaps my bed would seem an odd refuge as I am an extrovert and am generally rejuvenated via wine, conversation and art.  Recently, in a counseling session, I was compared to a lightning bolt.  I doubt beds are fond of lightning bolts, due to fire and whatnot.  And honestly, I somewhat despise sleep; we have love/hate relationship since I rarely snooze straight through the night, tossing with deeply personal and generally overly emotional dreams or your average check-the-clock-every-49-minutes insomnia.  With littles, at least with my littles, we’re lucky if sleep is uninterrupted once or twice a week.  But you know to whom my bed is a refuge?  My kids.  Bad dream?  Sleep with mom.  Sick?  Snuggle up with mom.  Sister won’t be quiet and go to sleep?  Go to mom.   Cold?  Mom.  Thirsty?  Mom.  Need to poddy?  Mom.  Want Mom?  Mom.  (Quick disclaimer: Jeff is an awesome,,awesome, awesome night-time Dad – well all-the-time Dad.  But let’s be honest and say that at night even though Jeff is willing and often does much of the work, the girls’ prefer Mama.  Feel free to comment if you disagree, Babe.)  Speaking of Jeff, our bed is also a refuge for Jeff.  He needs a lot of sleep to function and without ample time in those navy flannel sheets, he’s no good come the middle of the day.   He snuggles up with his three (yes, three) pillows and quickly enters ZZZZzzzzville.  I guess I’ve never stopped and thought about how much this chunk of fabric, wood and springs supports our family (pun not intended, but welcomed).  It makes me wonder, what else is an essential part of our rhythms that I take for granted?  How many people don’t have a decently new, warm and dependable place to rest their tired bodies at the end of the day?  All from a bed.

Where is your daily refuge?  What is a place of centrality for you or your family?

Able To Be Led

Today I am thinking about being led.  And how we can be led.  Or let ourselves be led.  My generation, specifically those in the Sonlight Curriculum followed by Hope College worlds (read: bubbles), has been encouraged to be leaders, changers, great thinkers, SAVE THE WORLD KID OR YOU’RE WORTHLESS kinds of individuals but at the great loss of humility and the ability to be led.  Yes, ability to be led.  Ability, by definition, is the possession of the means or skill to do something, and to be led takes means and skill.  Funny, as I thought we had to study to lead, not to be led.  I have spent my whole life learning to lead and now, I am trying to figure out how to let go of the leadership.

When I think of “being led”, my mind first goes to marriage.  At different points growing up, my parents were quite influenced by very conservative circles that taught fairly strict male headship; I can remember coming home for a visit in college, preparing to leave to spend time with high school girlfriends as my parents readied for bed.  “Do you think it’s ok for you to be going out once your father is asleep?” Mom asked.  I’m pretty certain I just laughed and said, “See you in the morning!”  So, for as old fashioned (which is a good movie by the way!) as this particular episode is, it encourages me to ponder these ideas of being led by those we love and trust most.  Before Jeff and I were engaged, I remember one of the first experiences I had in what I believe to be hearing the Lord clearly: “Follow Jeff wherever he goes.”

And then five years later...they're back!
And then five years later…they’re back!

I repeat—I was taught to be a leader!  I was taught to think, and challenge, and make strong decisions.  I did not need a husband to help with that.  But this partnership, this having someone to make decisions with, to support and be supported in times of change, has made me want to need him.  Explain that one.

This year we were invited to 14 weddings –and we are actually able to attend 12 (We love you, friends, but still.  Whew.).  Over and over I hear wedding vows and sermons about joining in this lifelong partnership and covenant with the one we love.  I instinctively cringe when someone tells the woman to follow or submit.  But why?  Why do we think that allowing someone else to lead us makes us weak?

I submit: when we allow someone else to lead us, we embrace our humanity, and in it find beauty and rest.

We felt led to be married.  Best decision I ever made—even for someone who never wanted to marry a missionary or anyone under 6ft tall.  We felt let to have children early in our marriage.  I was exhausted for nearly two years straight but I cannot begin to explain the love and gratefulness I have for my not-so-little Raena J.  I felt led to leave a work position that held much promise.  I like who I am now so much more.  We felt led to list our house and move to Indiana.  Still waiting for that verdict.

These are not decisions I would have made on my own.  In fact, these decisions challenged much of what I thought was the plan for my future, or what I thought was best.  But these times of decision making create humility.  When we invite others to lead, we create respect for the insight of others.  And allow others to speak the truth we cannot see or see yet.page-0

The best definition I have ever heard for humility is that God is God and I am not.  Amen.  As a believer in Christ, I am challenged to let God lead me.  To quite my own shouting of “I can do it myself!” that have echoed off the walls of my life since I was two and allow someone to sooth and push me in ways I would not have imagined in my small scope.

On the farm, high speed internet isn’t available. (Do I hear all my fellow Netflix addicts gasping?  I plan to read all the books my parents own while we live here.  Side note – Jeff checked all few hundred of the classic literature titles I read in high school to discover he had read only 14 of them.  #homeschoolwin.) Anyway, with streaming no longer an option, I have all my music on shuffle, not updated since 2007, and am bombarded by Zorac’s big head and overcome with sadness from a highschool love screaming infidelities.  But then, Chris Tomlin, albeit not my first choice of CCM, if I choose it at all, smoothly slips out the tinny speakers: “All the way my Savior leads me.”  How ironic.  He leads by still waters.  He leads in His truth.  He leads in His righteousness.  Psalm 61:2: Lord, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

And so, I begin a new kind of education that Sonlight or Hope did not teach:  I want to be able to be led. I want to possess the skills necessary to let others lead me.  I want to reach rocks higher than I.

Pictured Rocks on our honeymoon
Pictured Rocks on our honeymoon


SIDE NOTE:  Thanks to all who have been encouraging and asking me to write!  But I need a little guidance (lead me?); what would you like to see?  I can of course just spill my messy thoughts, I can share family updates, but I’ve also considered a bit of a Scripture series because there ain’t no words better than the Word.  And the current polarization of our culture is continually pushing me back to the Word as I search to understand how to live. I was given the privilege and challenge of co-preaching a few weeks ago with my mentor and I LOVED writing that sermon (you can listen here if you want).   Comment below or shoot me an email.