At the end of this month we will be packing up, loading up a Uhaul and heading East! Well… East side of America… but the West side of Florida. We are moving to the Tampa Bay area!

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We have lived here in DFW area of Texas for over 7 years now and when we look back at all the incredible work He’s done in us in that time it’s breathtaking, and it makes me exhausted just thinking about it. Texas has brought us through a journey where we lived in 4 different houses and welcomed children into our family in each one of them. Dan taught high school for 6 of those years and has cultivated the lives of countless teenagers (and he STILL is excited for our kids to get to the teen years!). He’s finished his Masters in Theology and almost finished with his corse work for his PhD in Organizational Leadership and Christian Ministry at Dallas Baptist University. I’ve been so blessed to have been able to be close by to welcome sister/brother-in-laws and 13 nieces and nephews into my family… with more coming! #bringonthebabies

 

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However, for a few years now we have sensed God’s pulling us back to the East coast for several reasons and yet each time we got serious God said No… wait! and so we did. But when the need to establish a southeastern hub for The Identify Network came up and we knew we needed to expand we took it to the Lord and He has given us the green light!!! We could pretty much live anywhere seeing as how we serve churches all over America. We considered several cities on the East coast but there were aspects of them all that kept us continuing to look for the right place to call home for this next season of our lives.

 

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This led us to the Tampa Bay area in Florida. Neither of us have really ever thought we would become Florida residents but we kept coming back to this area. 1. It has a large fairly diverse population   2. The cost of living isn’t out of this world, thus it is a place we could consider just being in our second year of non-profit work. 3. We will have access to many cities and churches on the east coast that we will be able to serve and equip through Identify Network and we will be able to drive to in a matter of hours. 4. It’s a place where Dan’s parents will be able to thrive and would love to call home too. They are going with us and they are such a special and crucial part of our lives.  5. It’s near an ocean. I think when you spend a lot of time researching and speaking into difficult situations and dive into the messes that are worth making in order to love deeply then having a place to retreat to and recharge is important. For us, the ocean tends to be a place where that can happen. And having it pretty much available all the time… sounds perfect! and the kids made me add one more. 6. Winter and Hope, the dolphins from the Dolphin Tale movies, live there. 😉
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Dan and I took a long weekend trip down to Tampa/St. Pete a few weeks ago and quickly fell in love with it’s charming neighborhoods, eclectic styles, bright colors, long bridges and blue oceans. We also felt drawn to the areas of poverty, the number of struggling public schools, and the work of God’s people there.

So, baring God shutting doors, which we have asked Him to if this is not where He desires us to be, we (AND Dan’s parents) are moving to Tampa/St.Pete come the end of November….as in a little over 2 weeks from now.  Our hopes is that God is drawing us there to rejuvenate us but to also to keep stretching us to love deeper, to risk more, to have less, to seek out the hurting and marginalized, to change lives and to change schools. We pray it will be a place of retreat for friends and family and perhaps even strangers, to be in a place often where we need Him in greater ways than we have yet to. I cringe a little writing that even because it’s so hard…. but we’ve tasted and seen that it’s so GOOD!!
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We’ve been asked if we are getting jobs there and honestly, we have considered it but we have decided not to because we feel that’s not what God has asked us to do. It’s tempting though mainly because the work we have been doing through our ministry is HARD…. and it’s HARD raising funding and awareness for such a controversial subject within and outside the church. Faith and sexuality can be so difficult to navigate for a lot of people and if it feels simple to you then I pray that God will put those into your life that help you wade out deeper, where it sometimes feels very muddy and so it forces you to search long and hard for solid ground that is big and secure enough for everyone who is searching for truth.  Each time we consider other forms of employment we realize that God has put PLENTY of opportunities on our plate to serve in this area that we feel so passionately about and has give us SO much Joy in doing it. And whenever we are struggling because it’s HARD,  we go back to what we know He’s asked us to do…. and trust that He will be sufficient and meet our needs as He sees fit.  So we are ALL in!

 

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Be praying for us…. we still don’t know where exactly we will be living once we get there. But we are asking God to place us in the area, neighborhood and school that HE wants us to be in!

We will keep you posted as the adventure unfolds.  If you want to sign up to get our monthly updates on family and ministry news and also encouragement in how to engage our culture with our faith….. sign up HERE!

And we will be serving ALL of the East coast through our Southeastern hub of The Identify Network… so if you’re a part of a Church who wants access to our training or to have us come speak to your staff or church body please contact us. We’d love to serve you!!

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Right up until a week or so before Halloween we were all in agreement on what we were going to dress up as… Harry Potter Characters!! THEN THEN my children discovered this world of Pokemon. All it took was one pokemon card given to one of my kids by some well meaning friend at school. That’s all it took. They were obsessed. DID you know there are like 1000 pokemon characters??? So of course that’s what they then wanted to be for Halloween. Since I hadn’t pulled together any black robes or striped ties or dobby ears yet… I ordered some face paint (TAG face paint is AWESOME!!),  hit the thrift stores around here and we ran with it! A few of these came together mere hours before we walked out the door to trick or treat.

Don’t ask me to Remember the names of these cute pokemons after tonight, it’s a language all of its own, but we pulled it off and the kids love how they look so I’m happy.

#diancie #squırtle #charmander #frogie #piplup  #pikachu

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I think most of us live in families, go to churches, and work in places where if you took a poll about the current election you might find that between all of you it’s like your vote doesn’t matter because you just cancel each other out. HOW can those in the same family, the same church, in the the same FAITH be SO divided? It feels so crystal clear what is and definitely what is NOT most representative of the Kingdom of God.

It’s tempting to want to wonder how in the world your parents, your relatives, your best friends, those in your small group at church, your neighbors, your co-workers, can at the same time LOVE JESUS and at the same time could EVER SUPPORT ________ .

If you’re anything like me you might find yourself wanting to back away from those individuals who not only possibly nullify your vote come November,  but whose vote is a vote against what you feel like best honors Jesus. How can the person who shares your faith differ so and be so seemingly indifferent to the things the Lord has put on your heart, but the guy next door who doesn’t really understand or care about the Kingdom of God, but his politics supports and progresses your understanding of what will be best for our faith and families.

Just remember that Jesus continually surrounded himself and dearly loved those who came from various backgrounds. Even though they loved Him they still didn’t “get it” when it came to the kingdom and his purposes. They argued with each other, they misrepresented Him, They were vocal and eager for their idea of what “Christ’s kingdom coming to earth” should look like, but kept getting rebuked because it wasn’t what Jesus had in mind at all. At times the disciples represented polar opposites; a disciple who worked FOR the government (tax collector) and a disciple who HATED the government (zealot)… don’t you wish we had some of those fire side conversations recorded for us. Yet… these are the people He loved with all His heart, and He asked them to do the same for each other.

I think they ALL wanted Jesus to DO something when it came to their broken society/government/culture. I think they ALL wanted CHANGE! They ALL wanted the kingdom of God to reign…..And I’m sure they had various ideas of what that would look like. But, they knew it didn’t look like what they were living in currently.

None of them could predict or make sense of what His plan actually entailed or would require of them.
That was probably a grace given to them.

Maybe they would have tucked tail and ran had they known ahead of time.

God doesn’t look at America with any extra fondness or disgust than He did on Rome. He is still calling those to Himself who hold vastly different views on life and culture. And more often than we think we would get rebuked for our many stances on what the “kingdom should or shouldn’t” look like in our times. But again, He offers so much grace and places His love upon us and makes us brothers and sisters in one heck of a messy family. And over and over in His word calls us to love each other in the midst of the mess.

Trust me, I can relate with the desperate desire of the disciples for Him to CHANGE things in my country!

But I’m reminded that MORE powerful than the dominance of politics, the influence of the media, and the monopoly of the wealthy, IS the humble out pouring of His people’s lives, the countercultural acts of love and justice, the way we love our enemy ( AND our brothers and sisters who feel like enemies because they drive us crazy with their beliefs and convictions) even to the point of having less, losing the argument, being misunderstood and judged, laying down our rights, and overlooking a multitude of sins.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35

If the disciples taught us anything, it’s hard to prioritize the Kingdom of God over the kingdom of our current situations and circumstances, but it’s what we have been called to. One is a greater Kingdom and a much more joy giving goal. It is not with out challenges and it might even cost us our life. It will definitely cost us our comfort, our time, our desire for those around us to see things the same way.

BUT, it is worth it!

This election will be but a teeny tiny blip on the scale of eternity and God is fully in charge of the happenings within.
So…..
Vote knowing it’s a privilege God’s allowed us to have,
Speak up and speak out with conviction knowing that He desires us to cultivate and change our cities.
Share what God is laying on your heart with confidence knowing it’s Him that you’re called to please.
but also LOVE (also read as a patient, kind, long-suffering, bearing all things, believing all things, and never failing) your brothers and sisters in the faith who might also possibly, in the name of God, be voting and speaking and sharing for the “other guy” knowing that He’s commanded us to and HIs commands are ALWAYS for our JOY!!!

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:21

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A few years ago, Gabe Lyons published a moving piece in the Huffington Post about his oldest son, Cade. He said the following:

It’s no secret. People with Down syndrome have been targeted for extinction. In November, the New York Post heralded “The End of Down Syndrome“ and profiled a new, safer test for pre-natal detection. Before this test was available, 92 percent of Down syndrome diagnoses (and many times false diagnoses) resulted in the mothers choosing to terminate their pregnancies. With these new tests, some experts foretell the end of Downs.

Why the rush to rid the world of people like Cade?

Certainly, it isn’t because his disability physically threatens anyone. Rather, Down syndrome children pose a different kind of threat to society — the in-your-face reminder that our aspirations for “perfection” may be flawed. People like Cade disrupt normal. Whether it’s his insistence that everyone he says “hello” to on the busy streets of Manhattan respond in-kind or his unfiltered ability to hug a lonely, wheelchair-bound, homeless man without hesitation: people like Cade bring new dimension to what normal ought to be……

Cade’s life, and those like his, offers an alternative view of the good life.

These individuals alter career paths and require families to work together.
They invite each of us to engage, instead of simply walking by.
They love unconditionally, asking little in return beyond a simple acknowledgement.
They celebrate the little things in life, and displace the stress that bogs most of us down.
They seem to understand what true life is about, more than many of us.
They offer us the opportunity to truly value all people as created equal.

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  1. That space travel really benefitted all of humanity in a lot of ways.  Dan and I were watching Apollo 13 one night together and I commented about what a waste of money and talent just to say we went to the moon. Well, one google search later, I was eating my words and Praising the name of Space Travel and Research!  #cellphonecamera #cleanenergy #scratchresistentglasses #waterpurification #catscans  Just to name a few of the thousands of things that have stemmed from space travel development.The space shuttle Atlantis launches for the STS-135 mission to the International Space Station in the final mission of the space shuttle program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday, July 8, 2011. ( NASA Photo / Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )
  2. Newer doesn’t mean better. I was so looking forward to seeing Pete’s Dragon. I loved that movie growing up. But alas… it fell flat for me. It was meh! Which strangely enough I had this sense it would be as I watched the previews. Let’s put it this way, I enjoyed the preview of Beauty and the Beast more than I enjoyed the whole movie about Pete and his Dragon, a dragon who strangely kept giving me Neverending Story flash backs! This summer wasn’t a great one for movies… I actually left to go run errands in the middle of Independence Day 2, dumb dumb dumb.  Looking forwards to  THIS one… THIS one… and THIS one. petesdragon
  3. When my husband gets home from going to the grocery store it’s kind of like opening a basket on Chopped. It used to bug me to no end when there would be several things I’d never even think of buying but once I realized that his unique and adventurous tastes didn’t cost that much and also provided an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, #blueberrypieoreos  #pepperonciniflavoredchips #grapesherbet NOT SO MUCH. but #hotwingruffles #ohsnappickles YES PLEASE! I started actually looking forward to his discoveries! (Now that you know I’m on to you sweetheart and don’t mind your crazy little purchases, don’t go crazy now! 😉kids-at-central-market
  4. I learned that I tend to post these “Things I learned” posts because it’s easier to write about things you yourself are learning instead of writing from a place of authority or opinion because doing that is scary and vulnerable and opens you up to potential and probable backlash and negative comments… maybe even loss of relationships. Ya’ll I feel like I have SO much I want to write about but I think I’m afraid to. Well maybe it’s 50/50 that, there’s also the fact that at the end of the day of parenting I don’t often have the mental energy to delve deep on things that require the level of depth I would want to apply to those subjects.four-outside-of-cheesecake-factory
  5. How to make the BEST No bake Cookies.   You’re Welcome!  The secret to really great No-bakes is to really make sure the sugar dissolves fully, so stir constantly over medium/low heat to bring to a boil. And EVERY other recipe calls for twice as much oats… but I like mine fudgy and shiny instead of like granola balls.  I drop them using a cookie scoop for uniformity sake. These take a while to set up… but the wait is worth it. Also, adding a packet of instant coffee granules or a dash of cinnamon to the mix makes them super awesome and more of an adult treat.  casey-chappell-final-no-bake-cookie-recipe
  6. I discovered that Luvs diapers work for my two babies!! Not sure if I just wrote them off when they didn’t work for Zoe or Jack AT ALL, so I didn’t try them again… but this summer due to budget cuts I tried them again and they work AWESOME for Abel and Isla! And I love how soft and squishy they feel! Target went and changed their baby wipes… and I’m not a fan, so I feel like I’m searching for my favorite kind of those, amazon wipes are fairly similar so I’m liking those so far.isla-with-crown
  7. My viewpoint on Hell and the gift of Everlasting Life was ROCKED!!  I learned that there is another throughly BIBLICAL evangelical stance on Hell which actually stems from a belief of where Eternal life comes from.  All my life I grew up being taught and embracing the version of Hell that is Everlasting Torment for those who don’t know Christ, and it IS the majority prevailing held belief among evangelicals, BUT there is another theological stance that piqued my interest. After A LOT of research and reading (especially from the ReThinkingHell website.)  and going to the scriptures…I find annihilation/conditional immortality to to be more of an accurate biblical stance. I understand why so many hold to the other, and LOTS of very theologically educated people would disagree strongly with me, but there needs to be room at the table for other biblical understandings.  At first I thought… I could never say I believe this publicly, people will think I’m a heretic.  I can hear it now, “she drinks, she uses the hashtag blacklivesmatter and now she doesn’t believe in hell  she’s gone progressive, she’s a flaming liberal” (no offense to my “flaming liberal” friends 😉 ) ….  But think what you want, the proof is in the pudding (or the texts are in the scripture). I DO believe in a literal hell and coming destruction for those who don’t have the gift of Eternal Life. And I promise you this stance holds firm to the authority of scripture – of which I believe has no error. As with many things (election, the sacraments, church policies, divorce, etc..) really smart theologians can go to the same scriptures and come away disagreeing on very important viewpoints.  But I wanted to put this on here because I think we should never shy away from being women who study the word and think deeply about theology. Really enjoyed and learned a lot from this debate between Chris Date and Al Mohler on THIS particular issue. abstract-hell
  8. Summers that have the Olympics are my very favorite!! I’m not sure if it’s because the year I lost my son the week later started the Olympics a week later and I guess it brought some normalcy to my forever altered life… but it was healing in a way. Since then… I LOVE spending the last of the summer evenings joining the whole world cheering on people who have spent a lifetime doing hard work that no one, save parents, are cheering for. It never ceases to inspire me to set goals and look into the future at accomplishing things that feel impossible today.  I triple dog dare you to watch THIS video of families celebrating their champions and not tear up.  AND if the hype about black americans winning is lost on you… watch the movie RACE and it will really help you see just how far we’ve come. (and yet have so far to go in so many areas still) manuel
  9. Aldi has a great Red wine called Artifakt (Red blend – $8) that I really like! And Trader Joes carries one called Bonterra (Cab- $12) that I LOVE!  I can be sensitive to a lot of wines, they can make my face beet red and hot… but not these two. They are both great and super affordable. bonterra2012-cab
  10. I discovered #HomeschoolRyanGosling blog. Ya’ll… I found this blog searching for a meme… and it was late at night and I needed to laugh and laugh I did. I cried I laughed SO hard!! and the more I read the funnier it got. Dan just sat there and stared at me and wondered if you had to have been homeschooled to get the humor. OH my goodness… it’s just SO funny!!!kinopoisk.ru
  11. I’ve learned that it’s important to HAVE the tough conversations with those we love and call family. Be the one to bring them up… even when it’s awkward. One of my brothers is a Police Officer and one is a Police Chief. I LOVE these guys and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are men who are sold out to Jesus and desire true justice for all. Over the summer we had several in depth good but hard conversations about the perspectives we have on society right now. (see previous blog posts about race/politics) And after having a few conversations we definitely agree on two things that these topics ARE important and that MORE conversations need to be shared between us. The goal isn’t always to agree but to share our hearts and challenge each other to walk in the others shoes and to be a voice for justice in light of the Gospel. Ya’ll… have the conversations. Don’t wait for others to bring it up, ask them what they think or feel or have been experiencing.  Tell them how this is impacting your family and friends. There probably will be hurt feelings, tears, raised voices, shaken heads, misunderstandings, and plenty of problems left without solutions. But bring it up anyway. Don’t push away from the table. It’s worth it. So worth it.isla-with-bottle
  12. If Isla were a cat… Evie would be Elmyra. That kid totes that baby girl around like it’s her job. And Isla has learned to holler when she’s wanting space to, i don’t know, breathe… so of course we all come running to her aid. elmyraevieandisla
  13. Netflix has the CUTEST kids series that came out last month. It’s called BEAT BUGS and it’s a cartoon that features the music of the Beatles in every episode. It’s like Henry Hugglemonster-ish with a much better soundtrack!
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Praying this week for ALL you Believers out there who are having to have awkward conversations with your very Republican parents, family, friends, co-workers when the National Convention gets brought up and you want to have a good conversation with depth, because maybe for the first time issues matter to you more than they have in the past.

So you start talking and all of the sudden you don’t sound very Republican to them any more…. in fact all this talk about black lives mattering, religious freedom for muslims, embracing refugees, being against reparative therapy for gays, caring about transgender people, not joining in on the Obama bashing, pro-life meaning more to you than just being pro-birth, if you’re honest gun laws probably do need revisiting, and even… gasp, maybe we should care about the environment long term. 

You can see it on their faces… you know the look, they don’t say it… but they are thinking it. You’ve turned liberal. You’re probably a democrat. You might not even be a Christian anymore, for all they know the church you go to is probably one of those wacko ones. What is happening to their daughter, friend, co-worker????

You start to feel like you wish you could gather up the words you just spoke and leave the table or get off the phone.

Don’t. Let me encourage you to pray for humble boldness and a genuine heart that is willing to have the conversations even when others think you’ve jumped the tracks.

Honor those who have different opinions than you but don’t fear their opinion either. I know this is really difficult when it comes to parents, because they can see disagreement as disrespect sometimes, but press through and trust that God is able to work in their hearts as well. It may not be that they ever fully agree with you. But over time they hopefully will see that your life is lived out with a coming Kingdom in mind. That those ‘controversial, wacko, liberal’ sounding views ARE really about trying to usher in heaven here on earth… not the opposite.

Jesus was willing to be misunderstood in so many things He said and did in his ministry. It’s not enjoyable or easy but so can we.

So, for those of you out there who feel really out of place on both sides of the political arena when talking about economy and social matters and you choose to speak up for what you feel are Kingdom economics and that all people are Image bearers…. Know you’re not alone.
Know that the Spirit dwells within you, and He will guide, comfort, convict, embolden, and humble you. It takes all of those to walk in such a manner that others don’t see in us a polictial party or label but they see a person who wants to see God’s glory made much of here on this earth, not just this nation, for all eternity, not just our lifetime.

‪#‎Isaiah58‬

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Now what? You ask. What can we do to help be the Change that is needed? You ask.

Well, once you understand the facts and let it change your perspective and step into another persons plight…. Then, friend everything you DO will be part of the solution. Because what you do will be intentional with the framework of bringing justice and freedom to all.

It SHOULD Impact….

The people you interact with, the moments you speak up instead of let ignorance or prejudice rule.
The church you choose to be a part of.
What programs in that church you are a part of.
Where you work, who works with you, who works for you.
What street you live on. *when buying a house does anyone ask where they can buy in order to Better the neighborhood? even at the expense of your resell value to help the houses next to yours gain value?
Where you send your kids to school, how involved you get in your local schools, *how much weight is the score of the school vs. your impact on it or the reality within it?
What you teach your kids, what you talk about with your kids.
How you respond to inconvenience and to cultural things that are uncomfortable to you.
Having good but hard discussions with the law officers you know.
Using our access to access higher authority when someone we know has been abused or falsely accused. Demand attention.
What you post on social media. It may cost you followers, but it may gain you some friends you never knew you needed too.
Where you grocery shop. How you treat people there.
Who you invite over to dinner, what you talk about over dinner when your older relatives are over.
How you spend your money. How you give away your money.
Who you vote for, * local judges seem insignificant but are actually HUGE steps in Big changes!! know who they are!!
How involved you get in politics.
What you watch on tv and what movies you choose * so many movies are out there that are so powerful!
Looking into getting involved in foster care, being a respite family, a safe family, casa.
Adopt, and put ‘open to any race’ on your application… or better yet, find out what is most needed and commit to that ethnicity.
Volunteering in after school programs, hospitals, homeless shelters, food banks, and pregnancy centers.

It will mean talking to anyone and everyone you encounter in the course of your day to day life and having a deep commitment to justice for all even at the expense of your own comfort, “success”, peace, feeling of safety, security, convenience, and maybe even the expense of some relationships.

You asked!  

you make me brave

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jack and ezra chappell | white privilege

 

White Privilege: Often I think we get the wrong picture in our head when we think of this term. I wanted to share something that has helped me understand it more.

I once heard it described more like a Monopoly Game that was started by our great grandparents. (much longer ago than that but for this illustration we are going with four generations)
Four gentlemen sit down to play, 1 black man and 3 non-black men. But once they started playing they said to the black man, “oh, you aren’t allowed to have a turn and actually the guy next to you gets your turn and to use your game piece, so basically he gets to play twice as much but you can’t play at all but you’re still in the game.” SO the game continues…. Then the next generation sits down to play and they say to the black man, “We are SO sorry for how our dad’s treated you, of course you get to play, as long as everyone here is okay with you playing. And sorry but you can’t buy any properties or buildings. And we pick up where our dads left off financially.” So the game continues…. Then the next generation sits down and says “We are SO sorry for how our dads treated you, you are allowed to play no matter what, and you can buy properties in certain locations (if there are any left to buy) and wait, you owe the banker quite a bit still from your dad spending time in jail and/or claiming bankruptcy. And don’t try to cheat to get ahead, we are watching you.” Somehow he’s able to buy a property and even buy a house, he’s heard of other black men buying a lot more but he’s still happy with what he has. so the game continues… Then we sit down to the game, We say, “we are SO sorry about how our dads and granddads treated you. You are free to play just the same as we are, no restrictions, no boundaries, YOU are equal in every way to us. We want you to have the same opportunity to win this game as we do.” Then the black guy looks at the board and sees his one property and his one house, not really much money has been saved… He brings up the fact that the deck seems already stacked against him, and that it’s really not fair and that he doesn’t have the same opportunity as they do. “you don’t want the property I own and there’s no way I can buy, much less afford the rent of what you own” We look at him and say, “quit being a victim, stop complaining, It’s not our fault our dads did what they did. We already apologized for how they played, but we won’t apologize for having all we have. Just play the game and make something of yourself.”
And so the game continues…..

* This is not a perfect analogy, it’s just something that has helped me understand what people are talking about when they say white privilege. There’s really a lot more we benefit from than just this illustration provides, but again… it helped me. Nothing takes the place though of reading actual facts and stories of black history. It changes you. It changed me.

HERE is a great link to a BUNCH of data compiled.

It is a great resource of stats that is FULL of systemic issues that we CAN do something about?  The data are organized into 12 categories: Police, the War on Drugs, Prison (Mass Incarceration), Criminal Justice/Courts, Education, Employment, Wealth, Workplace, Voting, Media, and Housing.

Don’t let this information overwhelm you to the point where you can’t let it sink in as reality, but also don’t let it paralyze you into thinking you can’t do anything about it. You can. 

Read, Listen, and…. then ACT. It will take a willingness and commitment to listen, compassion, involvement, time, sacrifice, creativity, deep thinking, money, political involvement, incarnational living, life on life discipleship, being pro-life not just pro-birth, doing what the bible says is true religion, and a heart of boldness and humility….and oh, it will takes years if not our whole lifetime!

But WE CAN DO SOMETHING! We must!

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Every now and then I join up with Emily Freeman and we talk about what we learned the previous month. It’s been so helpful for me because it’s made me develop a habit for noticing and being aware of the things that happen or that are new and make me think.

April is my very favorite month in Texas!!!! I actually really REALLY like Texas during the Spring. ( I tend to tolerate this state the other months of the year.) It’s the month I feel most alive. It’s the month I keep the door open and drive with the windows down. It’s the month of Bluebonnets!!! It’s the month Abel was born.  I just love it.

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I LOVE Cabbage.  Roasted (I drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cajun seasoning!! SO good!) , in soups, or Slaw, in a box, with a fox… it’s definitely become one of my favorite veggies. And I totally prefer Cabbage/slaw on my taco over lettuce. And yes, I just learned that in April.

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My oven is on a tilt…. actually I think my whole house is. I didn’t know that until I baked a sheet cake for small group the other week. The cake was very thick on one side and thin on the other… but all of it was delicious!! I made the  Pioneer Woman’s Texas Sheet Cake.  and it was Divine!!!

What’s worse than doing Laundry:  Doing it with Unscented Laundry detergent. In an effort to try to minimize chemicals in our home I have been using unscented soap. And I have discovered that it zaps what little joy there is to be had in doing laundry right out!! I want to be mindful of how many household chemicals we use but this is just one area I can’t sacrifice in.  What’s your favorite laundry soap?

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The BEST Lice remedy: Zoe got lice back in March and I used Rid shampoo but it didn’t seem to get rid of the problem completely. (and with lice… you want COMPLETELY!!)  Besides the fact that getting rid of nits in her curly afro hair was such a pain, I wanted to use something on her that I knew wouldn’t hurt her hair and would help me with the nit issue.  Thus researcher Casey kicked in… ya’ll, me in research mode is cray cray. But this time I found what I was looking for. A magical formula that would be a one step fix all for her itchy head! Helps with killing lice, itchiness, loosening the nits, and taking care of the hair.

You will need:

a bottle of coal tar oil shampoo (I use Neutrogena T-gel Shampoo, Selson Blue I think would work too) and a bottle of cheap conditioner,

A bottle of Tea Tree Oil and a bottle of Eucalyptus oil. (I had both of these already) and white Vinegar.

Now, I whipped this up in my Blender. (you just want to wash it well afterwards but it worked like a charm for me)

I used 1/4 bottle of shampoo, 1/2 bottle of conditioner, 3/4 cup of vinegar, 25 drops each of both essential oils. Blend.

When you use it just dampen the hair with water,  dump it on… It made a lot so I just used as much as I could on her. Leave it on hair for 5-10 minutes, then rinse it out really well. Dry the hair with a towel, brush/comb then use a nit comb.   * With Zoe’s super curly fro I combed through with a big comb… then blew dry it straight, sectioned it off and flat ironed it small section at a time THEN went through it with a nit comb.  Flat Ironing it also works to kill any nits that are on the hair.   Then I let her wear a pony tail for a few days.  So far…. so good.

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Shower Cleaner Tip: One of the household chores I hate the most is cleaning the shower/bath tile walls. Not only is it a lot of work, I feel like I’m inhaling a billion strong chemicals.  Well, I read a tip a while back that said to wash your shower with dish soap and a washcloth!  So I did and the dish soap cut right through everything that gets on the shower walls and it smelled good and not like I’m breathing in a cloud of fumes… and those walls sparkled like a newly washed wine glass when I was done.  So… that’s my go to method from now on. Your welcome!

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FRESH AIR is my favorite NPR show: I love NPR…. I wish, I wish, I wish Christian radio was more like NPR. I feel like Christian Radio these days is like going back and drinking a frappuccino after you’ve developed a taste for good strong black coffee. (I also learned how to spell frappuccino just now… never would have guessed the u in there.) I really enjoyed THIS episode of Fresh Air on the 30th of last month as they interviewed Tom Hanks.

Bridal/Baby Shower Trend: Speaking of showers….  I found out this month about a new (to me) trend that’s being included on invites.  It says to Not wrap your gifts when you bring them.  And, I think I have mixed feelings about it.  Pros: Saves time and money, Lets people spend more time on visiting with each other instead of opening gifts. Great for brides/expectant moms who are more introverted and don’t like being the center of attention. Cons: gift wrapping can be so much fun and pretty, opening gifts allows giver to see the joy on the guest of honors face and words. It’s a way to focus on the reason we are there to celebrate.  What do you think about it?

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Reading:  My friend Abbey Smith’s Blog. I LOVED this post on Beyonce’s new album. My favorite paragraph was:

Why don’t the Christians write songs about their bad marriages? Their fear? Their anger with the government? He says that his suspicion of Christians stems from this unwillingness to be emotionally real. And I whisper “Amen” as I think of the angsty songs I listened to sitting in that dark cemetery. Secular songs because there was no Christian music that mirrored back at me my grief and confusion and pain, no Christian soundtrack to make me feel seen and known and safe in my process from heartbroken to healed.

Watching: We watched an episode of United Shades of America the other day where the guy went and visited with the KKK. It was sobering and I think my mouth hung open most of the time I was watching it.

Listening: Well, I listen to my Hope for a Weary Heart Playlist on Spotify pretty much everyday… but when My Story by Big Daddy Weave comes on… mmmm-mmmm I love the words to that song!!

Enjoying: Two Soft Boiled Eggs sprinkled with pink salt on Trader Joe’s Soft Wheat Bread every morning for breakfast!

Wishing for:  A stand up desk…. or THIS would do. 🙂

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Can you believe this kid is THREE Now?? OH my goodness. He’s so awesome!

Here’s posts of the things I’ve learned in the past!

 

 

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  • LindsayMay 4, 2016 - 5:05 pm

    I love your blog, Casey. It’s so much fun, funny, helpful…write on, mama. Write on.ReplyCancel

  • BrittanyMay 4, 2016 - 9:04 pm

    OMG – the no gift wrap shower IS FOR ME!!!! I feel like I show up half the time with it unwrapped (& mortified) anyways.

    And absolutely AMEN about NPR & podcasts! I’ll have to check out Fresh Air! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • STEPHANIE MURDOCKMay 6, 2016 - 11:03 pm

    Casey! I love this!!! Another thing you can wash your tub with is baking soda…natural and get gritty dirt off!! There are so many songs that are good for grief or lamenting (an art we have so lost!)

    Here are some that help me grieve: The Valley Song by Jars of Clay-when death like a gypsy comes to steal what I love.

    Out of the Deep-Psalm 130 by Julie Bernstein-got me through many a nite when I was out of prayers.

    Held my Natalie Grant

    Misty Edwards-love her little bird, you won’t relent, finally i surrender these aren’t about grief but I like to put my earbuds in at nite or on youtube repeat so they sinking in my brain all nite!

    Miss you friend…!

    I use Norwex no chemical soap for our laundry 🙂ReplyCancel

learned in february

  1. Dexflex comfort ballet flats are my go to all time favorite shoes. I mean, like wear right out of the box shoes! I wear them out and then just go to Payless Shoe Source and buy a new pair. I even tried to find higher end ballet flats…. but none could compare with the comfort of these! Right now they have cute gold pairs too… perfect for spring!
  2. Dr. Suess Day at school (which is usually on his birthday March 3rd) is doable when you have four kids in elementary school. Dr. Suess WEEK however…. is stressful and makes me feel like I need to hold a fundraiser or ask for sponsors or something. You should have seen the look on my face when Jack’s teacher said… “Hey, Monday is Wocket in my Pocket Day… so lots of Pockets!!!”  What the heck???  I think I muttered something like… “okay, because pockets all over outfits are so easy to come by”
  3. I’m pretty positive that Dairy gives me sinus infections. As much as I like drinking lattes or Brahms hot fudge sundaes whenever lately I’ve had several dairy things close together… bam! sinus infection!
  4. That being said my new drink of choice at the ‘bucks…is  a Iced Tall Decaf Americano with a splash of soy! (I know, soy is not ideal… but it’s the lesser of several evils. I may eventually do almond milk, but… for some reason it doesn’t carry the flavor as well as soy)
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  • Cynthia StuckeyApril 15, 2016 - 8:03 am

    How on earth did I miss this in February? Even if I’m commenting on old news– I LOVE the Iced Americano– and that is sad about Dairy, but I’m glad you discovered it now. And yes, the thought of Dr. Suess week makes me want to break out in a rash. All that planning into outfits, etc. every day! Maybe next year you should do a fake go-fund me account just for humor’s sake. 😉 XOXOReplyCancel

“Get that pervert out of our Christian school, he has no business being around or teaching our kids. He needs to be fired!” (and he almost was)

“We need to go wash our sheets that he slept on because we don’t want our family to get AIDS.”

“Dan, do not talk about your past with people here, because you and I both know the minute you do, your ministry here is over.”

“Don’t you wish he lusted after women? Wouldn’t you want that?”

“If we had known he would have ongoing struggles with same sex attraction we’d never have given you our blessing to get married. We wanted better for our daughter”

“You know he’ll never amount to anything important in the Southern Baptist Convention because of his past. There will be so many churches who will never have him on staff because of this.”

“It’s tough in a normal marriage with normal kids… I can’t imagine how hard your marriage is and add on to that having 6 adopted kids (so issues there).”

“I feel sorry for women in marriages like that (where one spouse struggles with SSA), I wouldn’t know what I would do if my husband didn’t love me”

“Dan, if you would just love Jesus more than you love yourself then you could stop being same sex attracted today.”

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All of these statements were said to us or about us by well meaning believers… believers who I call friends and family. Thankfully God has surrounded us with a ton of amazing people who see through the lens of the Gospel and who have come along side of us and who speak life giving truth and grace over our lives and marriage.  I do not share these so that you will feel sorry for us or be offended for us. Rather, I want to point out that, while these statements aren’t ones I’ll soon forget and they do hurt, I know that often they stem out of fear and a man centered view of life.

I wanted to take some time to blog about my marriage. Not to set anyone straight or to prove anything but just in hopes that it will encourage you where you’re at in life, especially when that life doesn’t look anything like you once thought it would.

I’ll never forget our first date when Dan shared with me about his recent departure from a life that involved having a boyfriend and an identity that was wrapped up in his sexual preferences. We both knew that neither of us were ready to pursue something serious at that time and I’m so glad that God gave us the next four years to cultivate a friendship that would be the bedrock of our marriage to come. I remember journaling one time during those 4 years… “while marriage might not be in our future it’s clear that God’s hand is obviously on this guys life and I can’t wait to watch it unfold.”

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God was gracious and gave us chemistry together. But I will say over and over that it was our walk with God that ignited our hearts and pulled us together. Chemistry without a Greater Love is something that can fade and prove weak when it comes to weathering the storms and temptations life throws at us.

On our wedding day we went into marriage with eyes wide open and hopeful hearts. We didn’t know what would come our way by way of trials and temptations…. honestly, we didn’t fully know how the experience of intimacy would go. I think we just trusted that God was leading us into covenant and He was big enough to handle all of our fears and whatever marriage together would bring. Both of us had taken the time to pray and seek wisdom when it came to getting married and neither of us felt pressured into getting married to prove anything. 

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Now, like most marriages, I think we went into marriage with great optimism and hopeful that our sin struggles wouldn’t rear their poisoning heads. BUT of course marriage is fertile soil for conflict, selfishness and unmet expectations. Both of us have struggled with sexual temptations. I would be lying if I said that Dan’s same-sex attraction hasn’t impacted our marriage, because it has. But, so has several of my ingrained patterns of sin. Often sexual sin gets the spotlight while self righteousness or laziness or a host of other sins slips under the radar of others looking in. When left unchecked, oh how that can do great harm to a marriage as well. However, the problem is not when Sin is in a marriage but when a sinners heart is hardened to the Holy Spirit or lacks the belief that we have a Savior who wants us, in all our sin and shame, to run to Him. When we choose to identify with him because of being united with him, we begin to experience not the absence of struggle but joy giving freedom in the midst of it! As we continue to say yes to Christ, our yes to each other deepens and our covenant with Christ is the basis of our ongoing covenant with each other.

Everyday we have to choose each other, say yes to each other. Everyday we have to die to ourselves. Everyday we have to see marriage for what it truly is; a shadow, a temporary shadow of what is to come. You see, marriage isn’t ultimate. It’s not the end all. It’s not a mark of christian maturity. It’s not better than singleness and it’s not forever. It’s a daily outworking of a true and better picture that will one day be our eternal reality.  It’s a catalyst for refining and accountability and togetherness. It is matrix for joy and pleasure! Dan and I find that when the focus is Christ in our marriage then those blessings abound.  God transforms our natural desires for pleasure, for comfort, for ease, for a life that makes much of ourselves into desires that find pleasure in holiness and putting others before ourselves, that finds fulfilment in the struggle of living out a life that isn’t primarily about our needs and wants, that finds great comfort in trusting the sovereign creator of marriage and abundant joy when every aspect of our lives strive to make much of our Savior!

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I didn’t marry the kind of man my parents prayed I would, I didn’t marry the kind of man I prayed to marry. Because I didn’t pray that I would marry a sinful man who would teach me what it looks like to fall on his face in repentance. I didn’t pray that I would marry a man who would be tempted in a way that would force him to battle shame and guilt with the truth of the gospel (where there is NO place for shame or guilt). I didn’t pray to marry someone who we feared if churches or schools would shun him if they knew his story of coming to faith and his ongoing struggle for purity and holiness. I didn’t pray to marry someone whose story and call to ministry would give me eyes to see the marginalized and outcast.

I’m so glad God didn’t give me exactly what I prayed for. He gave me so much more!  The theme of loving the giver of all good things instead of idolizing the actual good things started with my marriage and has resounded again and again in grief, in parenting, in ministry and in so much of my day to day walk with Jesus.

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I’m sure we will get plenty more of well meaning questions and concerns in the years to come. Hopefully, it’s not by our wisdom, or any system of sanctification we’ve found, or by our experience that we will respond. Rather, we will respond that it’s God’s wisdom, and sovereignty, and His power that we can stand and say that He was made strong in our weakness. He made beauty in the brokenness, His mighty hand lifted us out of darkness and into the light, He made sense of the confusion, He gave us an identity that is rooted in something far greater than any identity we could take on otherwise!

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Now, I know that many reading this might be in marriages where your spouse.. or you isn’t finding your identity in Christ. That their/your sexual desires are running rampant and are causing great harm to your marriage. That everything in them/you says this marriage isn’t what you were made to feel/experience and that it feels more like a prison than a place of happiness. And please know that I don’t minimize the impact that same sex attraction or having a homosexual orientation has on a relationship. But I do know there is hope. And that hope is found in a body of believers who will point you to the only One who can change hearts and make sense of the brokenness. You need people in your lives who will not place shame and guilt upon you or your marriage and will speak the gospel into your life.  You need a family who will be there when things fall apart or when plans go so painfully opposite from what you ever dreamed.  If you don’t have that kind of church…. contact us through the Identify Network. We want to be here for you and point you towards His Gospel and His People! 

 

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  • Anita DrumFebruary 16, 2016 - 5:57 pm

    Hey Guys! I appreciate your transparency.ReplyCancel

  • Angie LerewFebruary 16, 2016 - 6:31 pm

    Wow! So well said & I am so inspired by both of you! We continue to pray for you guys! Love you!!ReplyCancel

  • VanessaFebruary 16, 2016 - 6:35 pm

    You two, I thank you so much for your testimonies. I thank you so much for your bravery in writing this and sharing this. Hugging you from China!ReplyCancel

  • GretchenFebruary 16, 2016 - 10:32 pm

    I knew Dan in high school. I have fond memories and he was always so kind.
    What a beautiful family! I happened upon this and I’m grateful for your transparency. This is the Gospel lived out.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer O'BrienFebruary 17, 2016 - 8:27 am

    Casey,
    I am so thankful for you and Dan and your ministry. I have had some friends who struggled with SSA, it was heart breaking. Thank you for standing up for the Lord! This is such a needed ministry and testimony! Love you both!ReplyCancel

  • JohnFebruary 18, 2016 - 7:55 am

    After seeing a close friend live an openly homosexual life, then become a believer and struggle with SSA as a Christian, it has changed my view on sin, sanctification, and God. I was taught growing up in church that homosexuality ends at salvation. This is a lie. Just like any other sin, God is the one to wash us and clean us from our sin. And from what I have seen, sexual sins in general, never fully go away, but require a daily dying to sin. God is glorified not when we are strong and think we can handle everything on our own, but when we are weak and crying out for his love, strength, and forgiveness.ReplyCancel

  • ReneeFebruary 18, 2016 - 9:01 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I have always found it strange how fixated Christians seem to be on the sin of homosexuality. Why is it blown so out of proportion to everything else? So your husband struggles…as does mine, as do I. We all struggle with sin and temptation and I think we need to do away with the “scale” of rating sins from: not to bad to worse.

    Oh, and we have 5 adopted children!ReplyCancel

  • JustinFebruary 21, 2016 - 5:52 pm

    I hope Dan is truly happy with the choices he has made. Because it sounds like people who are going through “SSA” need to embrace their inner-selves, not reject them. The idea that you need to sacrifice everything that makes yourself you is something I cannot fathom, especially when they continue to struggle with it for the rest of their lives. Live happily yourself instead of unhappily something you’re not. The greatest thing you can do in your life is be true to yourself and live an uplifting life to inspire others to do the same. It disheartens me to see all of my brothers and sisters languishing in chains of social acceptance when all they need to do is center themselves to break them.ReplyCancel

  • Jerry ReiterJuly 25, 2016 - 11:53 am

    Casey, I am glad you are happy now with Dan. I have spoken to him recently. I was in the same situation in many ways. I was honest with the woman I would marry at the beginning of our dating. I had been born again at 14 and had no clue what a gay person was (having been born in the 1950’s and being in a devout Christian family) when I realized with horror that I was same-sex attracted (in spite of being athletic, popular and never molested). I became Spirit-filled at 15 after a year of daily bible reading. At 16 I started therapy with a fine Christian man who was a licensed professional. I joined the ex-gay ministries and was advised to wed a woman. Unlike most of the gay Christians in the ex-gay ministries, I was able to enjoy making love to my wife. We had 2 sons and raised them to adulthood. Our older boy studied youth ministry in NY. My wife and I met in Christian college and I went to seminary after many years as a news reporter. I came to know many of the most visible Christians who were no longer calling themselves ‘gay’ but all admitted to still being same-sex attracted. In 2013 I was on the TV show where the leader of the worldwide ex-gay ministry network, Exodus International, apologized to the LGBT community and announced they would close down. Soon afterwards, many national and international ex-gay leaders admitted nobody became heterosexual. After that, every major, decades-old ex-gay ministry from the US to Australia faded into history. I found a new guy I thought would fit my wife, and I was right. They are happily married and we are friends now; the love remains. Studies show the longer a gay man is married to a woman the more intense his same-sex attractions grow (I found that when I began reading secular psychology books). Perhaps you guys are the exception to prove the rule, but my point is that I encourage not advising gays to wed opposite sex spouses. Over 9 of 10 mixed-orientation marriages end in divorce, and all of them endure some pain, confusion and questioning. As my ex-wife put it, “I know you love me, but I also know there is a part of you that I can never have.” The reason I write to you is because you and Dan go to churches where gays and lesbians are not allowed to wed someone of the same sex. Advising them to wed someone of the opposite sex will not help hardly anyone. Yet, lifelong celibacy is not possible for most humans, regardless of orientation. This is why so many churches are becoming LGBT-affirming. If you Google the list, you may be in for a surprise. Have you ever visited a LGBT-affirming church?ReplyCancel

  • WhitneyOctober 5, 2016 - 2:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart. My husband of 4 months also struggled with SSA. I knew it going into the marriage. Reading your journey, as well as life with your children, gives me hope.ReplyCancel

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