Friday, September 27, 2013

I'd Like You To Meet...Mandee.

Guest Post #3
Brian and Mandee Loudermilk and their four children

Mandee in Africa

I first met Mandee about 15 years ago when we first started attending Heartland Assembly. I remember seeing her go up front at church and sing a song with her mom. She was probably only about thirteen years old at that time. She had such a sweetness and beauty about her even way back then. I was also there several years later, when she married the man of her dreams. She has grown into a beautiful wife and mother of 4 precious children.

Six months ago, she and her family made a monumental decision. They packed up and moved to Africa to minister there with a missions organization called FIRE International. I can only imagine what it was like to leave the only home you'e ever known in Iowa to go to such a different place in the world with four little ones in tow.

Both Mandee and her husband, Brian, have a passion for working with youth both here and in Africa. Brian is the co-director of children's ministry at New Life Foundation with over 450 kids attending. They do chapel there as well as teach dramas, Bible classes, and work on building relationships with the kids. Brian is also Campus Director at the school Hope International where he leads chapel, devotions for the staff, and serves as a counselor when needed. Mandee often substitutes at the school and they both are working on getting a structured children's church up and running at the international church there.

Mandee's favorite place to minister is at the youth prison in town. God has placed within her first and foremost to be a mother to her own four children, but also to be a mother to the motherless.

I am so happy for you to meet...Mandee. Here is her story.

It was our third day in Tanzania.  My friend Mary and I had just picked up all the kids from school and were heading to the market to get some produce.  I looked back to say something to Kayden and my heart dropped.  My crazy, fun loving seven year old was pale with tears streaming down his cheeks.  At that moment it took everything within me to not break down, call Brian and tell him to repack our bags, that we were going back to America.  You see, no matter how prepared I thought I was, I could never really quite imagine what our lives would look like once we plucked our four young children away from the only life they had ever known, and dropped them into a foreign place where the culture shock is daily in your face.

Since moving to Africa last February, I have been stretched as a wife, a mommy, a friend, and even a follower of Christ.  I have had some knock down drag out fights with God in my mind about being here. The first two months we were here, I would sob ever night with such gut wrenching sobs. My sweet husband would hold me and we would listen to worship music and pray for the peace of Christ to fill my heart. I am a person that thrives off of comfort, routine, and security, all of which (for the moment) has been stripped from my life.

BUT, do you want to know the beautiful thing that comes from all of this?  I feel like for the first time in my life, I can see what a wretched sinner I truly am.  All traces of pride, that I didn’t even know existed, are vanishing.  I am seeing in a new and beautiful way, how utterly dependent on Christ I must be. Before, whenever I faced trials, I always had something or someone to turn to.  If I was upset, I could fill it with material things, food, and most certainly Brian would always be there to help me through whatever was going on.  It has had to come to the point here, though, where not even Brian could fill the voids in my heart or bring me the peace I needed.  Only Christ could do those things for me.

I remember one night when Brian was very sick. Unknown to us, he had malaria. We had let it go on too long untreated. He literally thought he was dying and was telling me his goodbyes.  I have never felt panic and fear grip my heart like it did that night. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. Then, there was the still quiet voice of Holy Spirit, bringing comfort like only He can.  I prayed so passionately that night.  I was completely trusting and depending on God to come through for us. Moments like that are so precious to look back on- I can literally see Jesus just sitting in the room with me while I am praying.

God answers our prayers and gives us the desires of our hearts in creative and unique ways.  A moment replays quite often in my mind, when I remember telling Brian as long as I had Jesus, him, and our kids that I would always be happy and okay. Another major desire of our hearts was to be in full time ministry as a family. Looking back now on those two things and seeing where we are now is so amazing to me.  I still have Jesus, Brian, and our babies, and we are in full time ministry. Did I ever think that would mean being a missionary in Africa? No, but God heard the cry of my heart and met my desires. Dying to my fleshly desires is still a daily struggle.  I miss the comfort of my old life, my family, our church family, our house, Target, Goodwill, Pizza Ranch, and the list could go on and on.  I am also growing daily as well though.  It may be baby steps, but it is growth none the less. There is a certain peace that comes from being in the center of God’s will for your life, and for that I am so thankful.

Mandee, thank you so much for for sharing your heart so beautifully. I have so much admiration for you and Brian to walk out what God has called you to do and to love on children in another place. I've read stacks of books about missionaries over the years, but you guys are living it out there everyday.

I asked Mandee how this move to Africa all came about. She shared that seven years ago she felt the Lord had spoken to her heart that she and her family would serve in Africa. She didn't know what it would look like, how long they would be there, or even how it would all work out, but over the next seven years God worked out all the details and now they are there.

I know I can relate with her words about when facing trials, "I always had something or someone to turn to." It is so hard when God begins prying my death grip off of things that bring me comfort. I don't think I like it very much. I so relate! I believe that many of you can, too.

Mandee, I love you and your writing. You can follow Mandee on her blog here.
Just for fun,  I am planning to ask each guest blogger for their favorite beauty product. Mandee says that her favorite is anything by Bare Minerals.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kathy Meets iPhone

This past Friday an exciting thing happened for me. My husband and I drove to the cell phone store and I walked out with my very first iPhone!

I listened carefully to the cell phone guy explain all the bells and whistles of my new phone and then before you knew it, we were walking back out to the car. My husband casually handed me my new phone and said, "Here you go." I looked at it and said, "What do you want me to DO with it?" He said, "Just put it in your purse." I sat down in the car, carefully pulled out a piece of paper, and proceeded to wrap my new phone in it. My husband burst out laughing and said, "What are you doing?!" How can I explain this? It was too new, too expensive, too shiny, and too wonderful to just drop in my purse like all the other things that were in there. My purse is kind of like a "no man's land" and I'm not sure I would ever see it again once it sunk to the bottom of that black hole.

I brought it in the house and carefully set it on the counter. My kids weren't put off by its newness at all. "Here, Mom, let me show you this." "Mom, you can do this now." "Look at this, Mom. I can teach you how this works." "What music do you want to put on this, Mom?" It was funny that they assumed I was going to be using it. But really, it took me a little bit to get used to the idea that this wonderful piece of technology was  mine. My kids showed me all kinds of amazing things at such mind blowing speed. I finally sat down on the couch with it and began my learning journey.

"Can you just show me how to use Instagram for now?"

"Sure, Mom. Here's how it works."

And so now, when I'm in TJ Maxx and see something really cute for the house or I see a golden field of corn ( I live in Iowa, remember) shimmering at sunset....I am ready! Let the fun begin. I'm very visual and this is the moment I've been waiting for!

My husband said that he has just bought me a glorified camera.

He also said he lay awake the first night listening to my phone beep relentlessly with messages. He finally got up and shut it off. I told him that my peeps and blogs had found me now and there was no turning back. ha!

He brought my phone down to me this morning and said, "I can't believe you aren't bringing it downstairs with you in the morning." But it's still just too new of an experience. I promised that soon I would be just like him...holding a phone perpetually in front of my face and saying, "Uh-huh" all the time when I'm talking to him.. Oh, I'm just kidding (wink,wink).

But I do love my new phone. And I'm so used to it now. Just take a look.

By next month, I probably won't even be using these gloves anymore!

Linking to:

Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Things To Try

Good morning! I'm linking up to 5 on Friday today and thought I'd share 5 things I'd like to try.

#1.  Okay, I don't want to "try " this. Instead I'd like to have it in my kitchen! A Viking range. I feel all "swoony" looking at this beauty.

Photo courtesy Pinterest

#2. Lift and Luminate at Target.  This was featured in Good Housekeeping as the best face cream.

#3. These boots. But I cannot afford the Nordstrom price. I hope I can find some like these at TJ Maxx?

#4. I had an excellent guest post on my blog this week. I'd love for you to read her story on adoption here She shares her ups and downs in such a moving way. Give her story a try!

#5. And...drum roll please... I am about to own my very first ever...iphone!! I still won't believe it til I have it in my hand. The thing I am most excited about is instagram. I know there are a lot of other bells and whistles, but that is the thing I can't wait to try! There have been so many times that I'm out and about and have thought, "If only I could take a picture of this." I can't wait!

Have a great weekend!

Linking up to:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'd Like You To Meet...Tara. An Adoption Story

Guest Post #2

I love reading a good guest post on other blogs. This one is no exception. Tara and her husband Jon, have worked with us at the church for over ten years. Tara can be explained in one word - SPARKLE. She has a sparkling personality that lights up a room. But she went through a hard time a couple of years ago when, out of the blue, they were faced with the decision of adopting a little girl. Tara shares in a very honest and gut wrenching way, the feelings she had about this process and how God was able to give her a new perspective. It is a beautiful story and told best in her own words.

And so, I'd like you to meet...Tara.

Tara and Jon Downs

About 4 years ago, I happened to be at work and thinking how awesome my life was.  My husband and I had been married for 21 yrs.  Little did I know that one simple phone call was about to CHANGE OUR LIVES forever.

One morning,  I was listening to my voicemail. It was someone from our church asking if we would consider adopting a six year old little girl.   I then proceeded to casually erase it and texted my husband to give him the heads up.  I was thinking, "NO, life is good.  I've been singing praises about how good my life is right now."  I was swollen with pride and happiness. But Jonathan's reply? It was...YES.

I tried every excuse in the book ... there is no room... it's a girl- we have boys!  We stopped at four children for a reason.  Our savings is for ITALY for our upcoming 25th wedding anniversary... a bigger car... all this will cost money..."NO!! I'M DONE!"  Jonathan's reply...YES.

Later the following week, we met with all the powers that be in starting this process.  I struggled even up to the adoption day itself...."Please God, is there a loophole to get me out of this? I'm screaming inside...I feel like I am drowning...can anyone hear me? I want out of this, God...find someone else. I never asked for this."

I was so numb by my own struggles that I could not even hear the struggles of a 6 year old girl trying to fit into a house full of boys.  I went to any class that would help me understand her world.  She was experiencing unsettling thoughts that no 6 year old should. She was constantly worried about her next meal. Because of the background that she had come out of, it was important to her to know that there would be a next meal. But I was also dealing with her lying, stealing, hoarding,  anger issues,  hitting, and even damaging our home. I was struggling with her ADHD.  She and I butted heads by the hour.  My husband and I fought more. My boys were constantly angry.  I was always sleeping with one eye open. I would jump at every movement she made and spent my time blaming my husband and his YES reply.

My home was in chaos and my identity as a "great" mom was shot all to heck.  Furthermore, I couldn't stand to be in the same room as my husband.

Ironically, my closest friend happened to be adopting her niece the exact same time as our adoption.  I thought, " I'll talk to her about my struggles."  But rather than helping, we ended up with a double drowning. We fueled each other's fire of frustration which caused us to both sink and dislike our situation even more. We both sincerely wanted to do the right thing - but it was hard.

I kept asking myself, " WHY am I refusing this gift from GOD? " I was kicking it away and yelling for him to take it back,  "LORD, what were you thinking?"

I felt like I had to try and talk to others about what I was going through. But that seemed to only backfire. I felt that I was condemned, judged, and told it was my fault. How could I not embrace this little girl? Seriously, I so wanted to hit a few people.  Everyone was so masked by the word adoption. In the movies,  every ending ends with tears of joy while running through a field of daisies.   BUT, not in this house.  We were all licking sandpaper and slowly forgetting what happiness meant. I secluded myself from friends, family, church... the whole world.  Putting on make-up was not an option anymore and sweats were where it was at.  I was exhausted.

My friend, who I mentioned earlier, has a son who needs just a bit of extra love and attention.  I adore hanging out with him. Through some special services he retains, I was able to sign up and take him on outings.  With these services, I had to take training classes myself every month.  I was eager to go, not just for him, but for this new addition to our family and for my own sanity.

During one night of training, the teacher was talking about the parents with special needs children. They would be encountering struggles and heartache for many years to come.  She gave us a story to read which I will share below.   I sat at my table after hearing this story and began to cry. All I could do was cry.  I  kept crying until class ended. Then I cried during the 25 min drive home. I wasn't even sure why I was crying.

My senior Pastor began asking how I was doing. I would just smile and say, "Fine."  My husband and I are leaders in our church and meet periodically with him.  Then the time came for a meeting with Pastor Dave. I finally explained what I had been feeling while he listened. After listening, he simply said, "You are in mourning, and guess what?  It's okay!"  He hit the nail right on the head.   I cried as much as I did that night of the training.

 He had told me about some of their struggles and his own mourning which he had faced in his life with their special needs daughter.  He told me, "You are not going crazy.  You are normal. This mourning  will come in phases. Be prepared - it may cycle again."  That was it! My whole family was mourning a life we had been living.  SHE was mourning a life that was taken away. Whoosh!! Then I knew. We can get past this. For the first time that day, I hugged that little girl so tight. She had to tell me to let go!

Are we singing happy endings?? Not 100%, but I'm just excited that now I have a desire to work for that little girl who God so purposely placed in my arms. And when I have my bad days, which I do, I pull out this short story, read it, and then cry a happier cry.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND by Emily Perl Kingsley
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability-to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine what it would feel. It's like this--
When you are going to have a baby, it is like planning a fabulous vacation trip --to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, Michelangelo's David, the gondolas in Venice. You may even learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" You say.  " What do you mean, Holland??  I signed up for Italy. I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. Its just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
Its just a different place. Its slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around...and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills...and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "YES, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things...about Holland.

I love the honesty with which Tara shares her story. I love her, her sparkle, and the way she walks out her faith, don't you? Thank you so much, Tara. I know you will touch every person that reads your story.

I also plan to ask every lady that does a guest post to share their favorite beauty product. What is Tara's?
*Beauti-Control Powder Foundation

This is the Tara we all know and love. Who knows what she is doing while everyone else is looking at the camera?

Linking up to:   and

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How To Get Inspiration for Your Home

Many years ago, we lived in a small mobile home located at a faith-based ministry. When the trailer was brought onto the property, it wasn't much to look at. There was lots of brown paneling, an ancient stovetop and oven, and very old carpet. But with the help of the students and staff at this ministry, it was transformed. All of the brown paneling was painted white, new carpet was installed, new countertops were added in the kitchen, and two rooms were added on - a master bedroom and living room.  Somehow, they even managed to give us a cathedral ceiling in our living room! It may have looked a little odd and misshapen on the outside, but it was very nice and fresh on the inside. Previous to this time, we had lived in an apartment in the ministry building. I was over-the-moon happy when I learned we would be moving into that trailer. I was overjoyed to know that I would have my own washer and dryer, my own "hallway", a bathroom with a bathtub (avocado green - but I loved that tub for washing our little kids), and a yard! I was very, very grateful for that home. My older kids still have very fond memories of living there (9 years total in the trailer). It was our happy home. But you know, home is really wherever we are together with our families.

But even back then, I dreamed of a "someday" home that would be our very own. We even inquired about a potential fixer-upper that was located a short distance away on Division Street. But the timing just wasn't right.

I began a folder of ideas with photos from magazines. I still have this particular photo that I would look at and dream of our future home.

Please forgive the quality of this photo. It is about 18 years old. Even though the decor might be a little dated, I still like the basic bones of this room. It still says something to me.

Then in 2002, after 14 years at the ministry, we moved to a nearby city to pastor a church. It was time to purchase our very first home. We had a wonderful real estate agent who found  a home for us on the first day. (Thank you, Chad!)  As soon as I walked inside, I thought to myself, "This is the kind of house I would like to live in." I didn't know if it was even possible or affordable. But somehow, God worked it out.

We moved into that brand new home in April.  How I loved that house! I constantly felt like I was playing a magical game of "Let's Pretend".   I couldn't believe we were living there with an actual garage, sidewalks, an upstairs AND a basement, a patio (oh my gosh!), new appliances, new everything! I hosted a big Thanksgiving our first November in that home and many more holidays after that. We lived there for five years. I can honestly say that I lovingly cared for that home.  I knew God had provided it and I never forgot that.

 There was yet to be another house in our future, but that story is for another post.

In the meantime, here are a few other photos I've kept forever in my file. Nowadays with the internet and Pinterest, I don't rip pictures out of magazines as often as I used to. I still look at some of these from time to time. Sometimes you may not know what you like. But if you start a file either from magazine photos or a virtual one on Pinterest, you will start to see a theme. It can give you a better understanding of what you like in a home. I do that for holiday ideas, also.



For instance, these are two photos I've "pinned" recently. I really like the animal print and touches of black in both photos. But I'm still trying to convince my husband about the animal print. He hasn't been talked into, I mean, he hasn't seen my point of view yet. lol Just a few touches, Dave, nothing drastic.

Traditional Home

This one, too, shows how the animal print rug works well with a more traditional room.

Here are a few more photos that I've had for a long time.

Pottery Barn and BHG

I love the top left photo, not only because of its Christmas theme, but because of all the light coming into the room from the beautiful windows. The two photos on the right (top and bottom) are appealing to me because of the size of the furniture and the fabrics.

And what's not to like about this picture? A green runner, candles, colorful branches, and lots of pumpkins...pretty easy.

Martha Stewart

I hope that helps a little when it comes to making your own home special. I still have a lot to learn, but it's been fun seeing ideas and then implementing them here in my house.

No matter where you find yourself living right now, whether an apartment, mobile home, rental house or wherever, you can make it beautiful and special. There are many good ideas out there that don't require a lot of money as much as a little ingenuity.

Linking up to:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'd Like You to Meet...Jennifer

Guest Post #1

 I'm so excited to be doing my very first series! I was thinking recently about all the amazing women I am fortunate to know. As it says on my bio, I am a pastor's wife and because of that, I have had this wonderful opportunity of meeting so many interesting women. I'd like you to meet them, too.

The very first lady I'd like to introduce to you is Jennifer. She attends our church, Heartland Assembly, where she has been the women's director on two different occasions. She is currently the Director of Medical Services of Informed Choices - a crisis pregnancy center.

She has also been a guest on the radio program, Focus on the Family, and has spoken at many regional events in our area and across the country.

I'd like you to meet.....Jennifer.

Jennifer Ridgeway

I feel very honored to be a guest writer for Kathy’s blog, as I am a fan and read it regularly.  I am blessed by the way she expresses the grace of God in such relatable, yet profound ways as she writes.

Like Kathy, my life has had many twists and turns and ups and downs.  I remember imagining what my life would be like when I was growing up.  I’m sure all of us do this as children and teenagers.  Do you remember how you thought life would turn out?  I tend to be a positive, at times idealistic person, and  never imagined some of the battles that I would face as an adult.  I never imagined that I would find myself in a marriage ravaged by a spouse’s addiction, I never imagined that this addiction would lead to multiple marital separations  and ultimately divorce.  I never imagined that I would watch my children go through the pain of watching their family split apart or that I would be a single mom. 

In the midst of trials and struggles, one of the amazing gifts God has graced me with is my children.  I have two beautiful girls, Jocelyn, age 10, and Makenna , age 14.  I am so thankful that they are being raised in a spiritual environment that teaches them how to hear from God and that they, as believers,  have the same Holy Spirit that the adults in their lives do.

My daughter, Jocelyn, has always been very intuitive/prophetic.  In her childlike manner, she has consistently given me some of the most encouraging words I’ve ever received.
I remember one day, when she was very young, we were taking a road trip, and I had really been hurting.  Our family was struggling financially and I was exhausted from working the night shifts at the hospital.  My marriage was beginning to crumble, and I was losing hope that any of the promises I had received from the Lord would ever be fulfilled. 

Jocelyn, sitting in her car seat, was busily drawing.  She suddenly handed me this picture with bright eyes and a smile and said, “Look mama…you’re stuck in a mountain, but Jesus made you stairs.”

I looked at the picture and tears filled my eyes.  I felt like the little figure in the picture….stuck and surrounded by obstacles too big for me to move out of the way.  This picture was a reminder that I didn’t have to move the obstacles myself, and that I was not alone…….Jesus  made me stairs.  He had provided a way to move beyond the things that seemed to bind me and wanted to rob me of hope.  My trust needed to be..not in what I saw, or where I found myself, but in Who He was for me right in that place.  Just like Peter, as he walked on the water toward Jesus, I could continue to move forward over what seemed like impossible circumstances if I kept my eyes fixed on Him and the path He was leading me on. 

God is so good. I find the stairs He has made for me when I walk in intimacy with Him and place my trust only in Him.  I  must agree to let Him light the path I am to take and not allow sin or shame to hinder me in this journey with Him.

 What do some of these stairs look like?  As I have walked on the stairs He has made for me, He has lead me through the steps of forgiveness, healing and deliverance.  These steps are not always comfortable to walk on, but a necessary part of the journey.  He is now taking me up the staircase of knowing my identity in Him, that I am seated in heavenly places with Christ and have authority to release His kingdom in the earth.  He is showing me  that I don’t only overcome the mountains I feel stuck in, but in Christ, I can conquer them.  As I  walk on the stairs Jesus has made for me, I  actually become thankful for the mountains and obstacles I have faced because God has used them to strengthen me, equip me, and  show me Who He really is in my life.

My girls and I have been very blessed and God is restoring so much in our lives right now.  I am thankful that He is a redeemer and is in the full time business of creating beauty from ashes.  I’ll leave you with a recent favorite picture that Jocelyn made for me.  It says it all. 

Thank you, Jennifer. I love the way you share your heart! It is so beautiful  how your daughter has ministered to you. I have heard Jennifer speak and I know how God has used her to minister hope and healing to other women.

I thought it would be fun to ask each lady for her favorite beauty product or tip. I'm just like that. I enjoy learning about what other ladies like to use.

(Jennifer's favorite beauty product? Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter)

Linking up to:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5 Things I Liked Today

I didn't know much about Etsy shops until lately. I haven't ordered anything from there yet... mainly because I have a very handy husband. lol I think he could recreate about anything! I really want to see if he could make the wooden "Joy" sign down below. I love it!

Here are a few things I saw today on Etsy that really caught my eye. Wouldn't the banners look nice hanging over your mantel?

Etsy - Fall sign funkyshique  Thanksgiving - butterflyabove  Joy Banner - SweetThymes  Joy sign - lovinmyboys

And won't it be nice to see these red cups again? I always like these. They just make me happy. I celebrated September 1st with a pumpkin latte. September 1st is a day of celebration to me. It means my favorite time of year is here.

Courtesy: Pinterest

Can someone bring me a sweater, please?

Happy September everyone! The greatest days are just ahead!

Linking up to: