#KidsHelpingKids 2016


I distinctly remember the day my six-year old daughter Gracelyn said,

"Dad, I want to have a soccer party and a race." 

There was no special occasion to celebrate, and it wasn't her birthday. She just wanted to invite some people over to our house for a little fun. 

It was one of those moments when I knew I was just supposed to say, "Yes!"


Despite lots of rain and blustery gusts of wind, seventy-five people showed up at our 1300 square foot house for macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, carrots and homemade desserts.

We set up tents to protect desserts, and people from the rain.

A heaven-sent break in the rain occurred, so we played a little soccer, and lined up in the street for what would become the first annual "Grace Race."


After Gracelyn decided it would be an annual event, I asked her if she would like to do anything different next year.

Gracelyn thought for a moment and then said, "Hmmmm, how about if we ask everyone to bring a dollar for kids in other countries?"

The next year people brought even more than a dollar each. One thousand dollars was raised for kids in Syria, Somalia, and Iraq.

 "Grace Race 2016"  #KidsHelpingKids is set for Sunday October 2nd at 4pm at St. Bartholomew's Church in Nashville ( 4800 Belmont Park Terrace 37215). Bring a dessert to share, and whatever dollar amount suits you to support kids in Uganda.

The race is all of about 60 yards, but the fun and laughter last all day long.

Gracelyn will also provide an opportunity for kids to dream about who they want to help.

Let's be honest, there is nothing better than #KidsHelpingKids.

You can make a donation to the Grace Race by sending a check to our non-profit called Outreach Inc.  Checks can be written to Outreach Inc. and are 100% tax deductible. The address for Outreach is 7015 Tartan dr, Brentwood, TN 37067. *we hope to be taking donations online by 9/30.

Team Williams hopes you are having a great year, and that you are "running your race with perseverance."

Blessings - Jeramy, Araya, Gracelyn, Lydia, Abigail, and Tekoa.

Every Parent Needs a set of These!

It’s been 10 months since Team Williams (our family of 6) sold our house, and packed all our belongings into a 7 x 14 trailer to ramble across the country from Salem, Oregon to Nashville Tennessee. We haven’t second guessed our move for a moment, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. If I am honest, one of the biggest challenges in our move is all of the things I miss about living in Oregon.

I miss living an hour from the ocean. There is nothing quite like watching the waves break on the Oregon coast at anytime of the year.


I miss good pizza. Nashville has a ton of amazing food loaded with lots of tasty southern calories, but it has not discovered really good pizza (Walery’s). Nashvillians, I dare you to prove me wrong, especially if you buy.


Believe it or not, I even miss recycling. My Nashville zip code hasn’t discovered those big blue bins that take all our discarded plastics, glass, and Costco boxes so they can be repurposed.

But you know what I miss the most? People.

I miss my friends, I miss my family, I miss the Salem/Keizer community. I was blessed all my life with friends and family who are selfless, loyal, and fun.

In fact, there is a certain group of people I am missing the most right now. Yep, I am playing favorites for a little bit. The group I am missing the most has blessed me without realizing it. They have loved me without focusing on me.

I miss the people that take the time to love my children.

My good friend Craig often says,

“If you really want to love me… love my kids.”

If you are a parent, I am sure you are nodding right now.

If you are a babysitter, mentor, aunt, uncle, cousin, or family member please know that when you love someone else’s children you are giving their parents a gift that is immeasurable.

As parents, we want our kids to become all that God intends them to be, and we know it is going to take a lot more than us.

We need people who listen to our kids when we can’t, and talk to our kids when we can’t find the right words to say. We need people who will pray for our kids, and patiently sit with our kids when they are struggling. We need people who will speak the truth in love, and laugh out loud with joy. We need people who see the best in them when we can’t get past their worst moments. We need people who point them to God who loves them, and to greatness that lies inside them. We need people to remind our kids that we love them, and that we are doing the best we can.

These are the people I have missed the most in this journey (you know who you are). In a new place without family, and without 20+ year friendships I wondered where these people would come from.

Isaiah 55:8 says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts, and my ways are far beyond anything you can imagine.”

This past month God provided in a way that I definitely did not imagine.

I mentor two amazing young men from Centennial high school in Franklin, TN. Their names are Nick Bell and Eli Katina.

They came by our house so we could go for a “walk and talk” when our 9-year-old daughter Gracelyn began telling them all about her school musical, The Lion King.

Gracelyn was totally excited when she saw Nick and Eli, and spent several minutes explaining her role in the play as a zebra She told them how many hours she had practiced, and that she has a bunch of big dance moves to pull off.

Not only did Nick and Eli, listen to every detail, but they looked her in the eyes and said, “Can we come to your play Gracelyn?”

These two 17-year-old high school guys are Division 1 football recruits with workouts, homework, leadership, friendships, and family to juggle, yet they committed to attending the musical play of a 3rd grade girl they barely knew.


It meant a lot to her, but it meant even more to me. They had no idea how important it was to me, that they spent a Thursday night crammed into a tiny chair, in a tiny gym, to watch a group of elementary school kids put on a musical.

God’s ways are far beyond anything we can imagine. God knows we all need a set of guys like Nick and Eli. God knows we need friends, family, youth leaders, and coaches, to love our kids.

How about you? Where are you at in this equation? Are you a parent who is desperate for more adults to love your kids? Are you a parent who is overflowing with thankfulness for the abundance of people that are loving your kids? Are you a mentor, grandparent, cousin, coach, or youth leader who is currently loving other people’s kids?

Depending on what spot you are in you may need to;

Send a thank you, or several, to the people that have made all the difference in your kids’ life. Do it tonight; text, email, Facebook, just do it.

Realize you are making an immeasurable difference in loving other people’s kids. I know it can be exhausting, keep doing it!

 Pray with passion, and keep your eyes open for who God provides for your kids. God’s answer might come as a set of 17-year-old football players who like 3rd grade musicals. 

God’s ways are far beyond anything you can imagine, and you have not been forgotten.

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When was your last Dance Party?


I am celebrating big time right now. This past weekend I crossed the finish line to a race I have been running for 6 years. Yes, 6 years!

My race took me away from home and family on many weekends and evenings. It had me driving up and down the freeway between Salem and Portland every week. It had me sucking down endless cups of Starbucks coffee and using endless hours of free Wi-Fi.

Like a song stuck on repeat, my friends and family members heard me talk about my race, over and over, and over again.

Well, they don’t have to hear me talk about it anymore. This past weekend, I crossed the finish line and finished my race. It was the race of getting my master’s degree at George Fox Seminary.

I am celebrating and so is my entire family.

My nine-year old daughter jubilantly said,

“Yay, daddy can do dance parties again!”

Despite today’s celebration, there were many moments during my 6-year journey that I didn’t feel like celebrating at all.

I often felt like I was chasing the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. My seminary finish line seemed to move farther away from me with every step I took.

In fact, the finish line moved often enough that I managed to pack a 3-year degree into 6 years.

Can you relate? Is there an important race you are running right now?

Maybe you are running the race of getting out of debt, or buying your first house. Maybe you’re waiting on an adoption, or battling a health issue, or working through a difficult relationship.

Do you need some encouragement in your race?

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Whatever race you are running right now, it is an important one. If you are experiencing fatigue, or resistance then this race might be the most important one of your life.

In these toughest moments, please remember that God set this race before you and God will carry you through to the finish.

My friend Bob Goff is fond of saying, “All of Heaven is leaning over the rails, and cheering you on!”

Bob Goff and Family

Who else is cheering you on? Do you have a team of friends and family members praying for you?

I don’t think I could have finished my seminary race without friends and family cheering me on, giving me grace, and echoing “You got this!”

Whatever race you are running, whatever mile marker you are at, I want you to know, “You got this!”

Take a moment right now and imagine what it will be like to cross the finish line of your race. Imagine who you want to celebrate with as you cross the finish line. Imagine what kind of party you want to throw.

I just accepted an opportunity to teach freshman at Trevecca Nazarene University and help students discover who God made them to be, and how they can use that for the greatest impact in this world.

I had no idea this opportunity would be waiting for me on the other side of the finish line. I don’t know what is waiting for you, and chances are that you don’t know either.

All I know, is, it’s probably better than you know so keep going.

Mark and Katie

“You got this!”

1-Please respond in the comments with one word that describes the race you are running right now. I will be committed to pray over every response I get.

2-Do you have a team of friends and family cheering you on? Talk to your spouse, significant other, or friends and enlist a team.

3-Stop what you are doing and write down what you want to do when you cross the finish line? What kind of party will you throw? Who will be there?

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Guess what trait our kids need to shine?

Do you remember your most recent “proud parent” moment? What was it? Were you watching your little one’s first steps or hearing their first words? Were you at a sporting event or a parent-teacher conference? It is so much fun to see our kids shine.

Watching our kids shine is great, but I don’t think all “proud parent” moments are equal.

I think some moments carry more weight than others, and recognizing the weightier moments can help our kids become who they are meant to be.

My most recent “proud parent” moment was at an assembly when my eight-year old daughter Gracelyn received the grand prize for a book-writing contest at her school.

I was extremely proud of her, and what made this award so special is all she was willing to do in order to finish the book.

On the night before the book was due Gracelyn gave up dessert – yes, dessert! – play time and a little sleep in order to finish her book. There was a crucial moment when it was bedtime and the other girls were brushing teeth and putting on pajamas. Gracelyn was unfazed and totally focused on writing and illustrating her book called, The Adventures of Pompeii.


Araya asked her to join the other girls and start getting ready for bed. Gracelyn pleaded to stay up late and finish her book. Without even looking up from her writing, she blurted out, “I will stay up until 10:30pm if I have to.”

We wouldn’t normally let her stay up that late, but Araya and I both realized we were witnessing a unique trait being developed in our little girl.

On that night, Gracelyn exhibited a trait that West Point has discovered in all their best candidates. It is a trait more important than IQ, personality, or conscientiousness.

It is a trait found in John Wayne, Navy Seals and my daughter.

It's called “Grit.”

Merriam-Webster defines grit as, “firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage.” In her 2013 Ted Talk, psychologist and ‘Grit expert’ Angela Duckworth defines grit as, “having perseverance and passion for long term goals.”

Grit Quote

Duckworth says, “The number one question I get from parents is. How do I give my kids grit?”

Duckworth quickly admits to not having too many answers to this question, but I stumbled upon one thought as I reflected on Gracelyn’s book writing experience. It’s this:

As parents we don’t give our kids grit so much as we notice it when it shows up. We don’t teach our kids grit as much as we fan the flame of grit when it appears in an activity they love to do.

I wasn’t surprised that Gracelyn wrote a book because I’ve seen her read 60-90 minutes every night since she was six years old. Gracelyn loves books. What does your kid love to do?

HobbitI believe every one of our kids is made for greatness, and I know you do too. God has given each of our children passions, skills, and talents that are meant to be used for His good in this world.

 Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do.”

Our kids are masterpieces who are made to do great stuff in this world. But they will never become who God intends them to be, or do what God intends them to do without being “gritty.”

Are you ready to fan the flame of grit? Here are a couple steps in cultivating “gritty kids.”

1-Sit down and make a list of all the activities your child loves to do.

2- Watch for the activities your child is willing to sacrifice for. When you see       him/her sacrificing and showing grit, encourage and celebrate their hard work.

3 - The best way to cultivate “gritty kids” is to be a “gritty adult.” What do you love to do? Is there a God-given work you need to persevere in right now?

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Why I am glad I got caught.

When is the last time you got caught speeding? Do you remember how it felt? I hate that sinking feeling in my stomach when I see those red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. The last time I got caught speeding was this week, but it was a different kind of speeding. I wasn’t even in the car yet. I had a diaper bag and baby in one arm, and my coffee and phone in the other. I was trying to get all 4 kids out the door and into the car for a Costco run.

Things were going slowly, and I could feel my body tensing as I raised my voice and said to the kids, “C’mon c’mon, let’s go let’s go!”

My three girls were hurriedly putting on their shoes and trying to keep up with dad. We all sped out the door, and that’s when I got caught. My eight-year old daughter looked at me and said,

 “Dad, why are you in such a hurry?”

As soon as those words left her lips, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut.

She was essentially pulling me over with the red and blue lights flashing.

She wasn’t mad, or hurt, she just didn’t understand why I was in such a rush. Truthfully, I don’t even remember why I was in such a rush.

We live in a “hurried culture.” I know there is a time for everything; a time to hurry, a time to get-a-move on, a time to work long hours, and a time move fast. However, unless you are an ambulance driver, a pilot, or a Nascar driver you might stop and consider that question my eight-year old asked me.

“Why are you in such a hurry?”

Being in a hurry costs me a lot more than any speeding ticket. Being in a hurry costs me in my closest relationships.

 When I am in a hurry, I am not as patient.

When I am in a hurry, I am not as creative.

When I am in a hurry I am not the parent, spouse, employee, or friend I want to be.

When I am in a hurry, I am not attentive to the God who loves me.

The problem of hurry for me is very simple. When I am in a hurry I don’t love people very well.

What is it costing you?


When I slow down, I laugh more.

When I slow down, I listen better.

When I slow down, I hear my kids’ hearts, and not just their words.

When I slow down I remember that I am enough, and so is everyone else.

You might be maintaining a great pace to your life right now. I am so glad for you, you know exactly what I am talking about.

You also might be getting that sinking feeling in your gut as you read this.

The great thing about getting pulled over is that it causes us to examine why we are going so fast. It invites us to slow down, to enjoy the ride, to be present to the ones we love, and to be present to the Author of our journey.


  • This is a great night to ask your loved ones how they feel about your pace.
  • Easter is upon us, and I can’t think of a better thing to do this week than ask the God who loves you more than you can possibly imagine, “What do you think of my pace?”

“It is Finished!” and “He is risen!” have a great week.

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Is this Your Wake Up Call? (Pt. 3)


When is the last time you looked long and hard into your spouse’s eyes? Do you remember what you saw?

A few years ago I started to notice a dimming in the eyes of my dear Araya Sunshine. I saw it, but didn’t know what to do to help. I would walk out the door to work with a bounce in my step while she stayed home to take on the beautiful, but difficult challenge of being a mom to 3 very young children.

 She was an amazing mom then, and she is an amazing mom now. 

I was a very engaged dad and husband, but I wasn’t the one at home most days experiencing what every stay-at-home parent knows to be true. It’s hard work, and when I looked into her eyes they were telling me something.

The eyes are a window to the soul.

The beautiful Araya Sunshine was experiencing a drain on her soul. A drain that every stay-at-home parent knows. A drain I didn’t understand, and that I hadn't fully experienced because I got to go pursue my dreams everyday. She didn't get to pursue her dreams everyday.

She was willing to lay her dreams aside so I could pursue mine.

We kept moving forward one-day-at-a-time because we didn't know what else to do. Ever felt that way?

Then one year ago this month Araya and I felt our hearts being stirred to leave Oregon. We started looking at jobs primarily for me, but we couldn't seem to find the right fit for our family.

I asked Araya one morning, “Honey, if you could move anywhere, where would you like to move?”

With almost no hesitation she said, “Nashville!”

Now, this is not the first time I had asked her this question, but it was the first time she had answered so quickly.

I paused for a moment as I heard Nashville roll off her lips, because I saw a new flicker of light in her eyes. I knew I needed to pay attention to that flicker of light. Araya is a wonderfully gifted American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter who loves to interpret music. If you didn’t know, Nashville is known as music city.

We both committed to praying about Nashville.  Later that day I headed to a Men’s retreat, while Araya called some friends in the Nashville music industry to see what work she might be able to do.

On day 2 of the retreat I was introduced to a man named Daniel Harkavy. Daniel is an executive coach and author of the book Living Forward. With courage and humility Daniel challenged us with Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:25,

“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

He said, “Guys, as husbands who love our wives, we need to take nails for them.”

It was a "wake up call" and knew what I needed to do.


Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay your life down for your friends.”

She is my best friend, and I knew to love her was to encourage her to pursue her dreams. I decided in my heart not tell her about my experience, but to simply go with her where she wanted to go.

When I came back from that retreat, Araya and I had dinner to celebrate 14-years of marriage. While enjoying our unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks she told me the results of her phone calls to Nashville.

Door after door opened for her to be able to use her gift of ASL in Music city. She was giddy while telling me of all the connections she had made, and all the job opportunities in front of her.

I just sat and listened with a big grin when suddenly she reached across the table and grabbed my hand.

 She looked me in the eyes, and said, “You know what I love about this plan? My dream is wrapped up in this too.”


Let me tell you her eyes were glowing, here eyes were full, and it was a window into her soul.

Today, nearly 10 months later, we are living in Nashville, and she is still glowing.

I don’t know what my job will be here yet, but I know she walks out the door with a bounce in her step and a sparkle in her eye.  I know I change a lot of diapers, do a lot of vacuuming, and cook a lot of dinners. It’s beautiful, and it’s challenging, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

She is glowing and dreaming like I haven’t seen in 8 years. As I look at her today, I see God’s glory shining in her eyes, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to “Take some Nails.”

1-Take some time tonight to look in each others eyes. Look long and hard. What do you see? How is your soul?

2-Husbands, are there some plans you need to lay aside? Do you know her dreams?

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Need some motivation for those 2016 Goals?


I want to ask you a question that Araya and I asked ourselves this past week.

How are your 2016 goals coming?

 Nearly every year Araya and I set goals, and nearly every year we lose track of them by mid-January. I know we are not alone because statistics tell us that about 40% of the people who make New Year’s goals quit after 10 days.

So, I want to ask you again: How are your 2016 goals coming?  How does that question make you feel?  Ashamed? Depressed? Excited? Hopeful? Courageous? Motivated?

With your answer to that question in mind, let me ask you one more question about your goals.

Is what you are doing, getting you where you want to go?

On December 15th in a post called “Better Together” I wrote about setting 2016 goals with my wife, Araya. We took a new approach by using a great tool from Michael Hyatt called, “5 days to your best year ever.” The process Michael took us through has helped us maintain momentum so far in 2016, and we really believe we are having our best year ever.

Better Together Pic

*I want to share three simple practices that are helping us stay focused on our goals this year.

1We wrote all our goals down with a real pen, on real paper. The power of this exercise is one of the easiest things to underestimate. I am convinced something happens in our brain when we write goals down versus simply typing them out. Writing brings clarity to what you want to do. If you haven’t done it yet, write out your goals.

2 - Put your goals in a place that you will read them 3-5 times per week. After writing your goals down, this might be the single most important thing you do. We live in a world that distracts us with more than 3,000 messages a day. I have been reviewing my goals almost daily, and it has made a huge difference in the daily choices I am making. Just this week we decided to frame our goals and post them in our room.

3 - We adjusted goals that weren’t working. We are already 53 days into the new year. If you aren’t making progress on your goals, it’s time to quit feeling bad about it. Shame has never produced anything good, so have a little funeral for the goals that are duds. Just this week Araya realized there were two goals that she needed to change. She just wasn’t making any progress. One goal was rewritten and the other one got kicked off the list.

I was sitting in my chair this past week preparing to zone out and watch my favorite TV show when a little voice in my head said, “Is what you are doing, getting you where you want to go?” I felt like telling that voice to shut up!

Instead I got up, put on my shoes, grabbed my headphones and headed out the door.

Thankfully I had looked at my handwritten goals that morning; complete 10 workouts per month.


Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint.”

 Handwritten goals that I regularly look at, and periodically revise are the clear vision that helps me get to where I want to go. I can’t wait to see how I feel when December 31st arrives and I have completed 120 workouts!

So, one last time, is what you are doing getting you where you want to go?

You can do it. I know you can!

1-Schedule a time to review and revise your goals this week. Don’t let shame creep in, just celebrate what is great, and adjust what isn’t working. Write them down and review them regularly.

2-You need rest. So if you are tired, by all means rest. But next time you are tempted to escape, veg-out, or put off your goals, you might ask yourself; Is what I am about to do, going to get me where I want to go?





Guess how Valentines, Prayer, and Politics taught me to love better?


On February 4th I got to witness what some would call a miracle in Washington D.C. More than 4,000 people from 130 different countries descended on our nation’s capital for the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast.

What was the miracle you ask?

It wasn’t the number of people in attendance, or the purpose of the event. The miracle was who pulled it off: Robert B. Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama, and Juan “Paco” Vargas, a Democrat from California.

Yes, a Republican congressman from Alabama and a Democratic congressman from California.

These two men couldn’t be from more different places.

They admit they often disagree on policy, but they nearly always agree on prayer. In fact, they agree so much on prayer that every Wednesday morning that’s what they do together.

Robert and Paco, along with many other members of Congress drop their party affiliations at the door and share friendship at the breakfast table. They pray for each other, share life stories and focus on the teachings of Jesus.

In short, these men and women from Congress who often disagree with each other on the house floor, have found a way to love each other around the breakfast table.

My experience in Washington D.C. caused me to ask my girls some questions this morning on the way to our annual Daddy/Daughter Valentine’s day breakfast. #WaffleHouse

“Hey girls, what is Valentines Day about?” I asked.

One girl said, “St. Valentine!”

Another girl yelled, “Jesus!”

The last girl said, “Love!”

I came back with, “Great answers, girls. Who are we supposed to love?” And mostly in unison they replied “Everyone!”

“Yeah, but what about people we don’t agree with? Do we love them, too?” I asked.

In the rhythm of a whack-a-mole game I heard, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”

“So how can we love them?” I asked.

First I heard “Pray for them.”

Next was, “Give them a hug.”

Lastly I heard, “Love them more.”

“Love, Prayer, and Hugs.”

IMG_1108I felt real joy as I gathered around the breakfast table with those girls. They get it. They really get it.  And it took me to one the clearest teachings of Jesus;

“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

 The world tells us to put down, push down, demean or ignore the people we don’t agree with. We don’t have to agree with every policy, view, value, or religious tradition someone holds in order to love them.

If a bunch of politicians in D.C. can love each other when they don’t agree, and if some little girls in Tennessee think we should love each other when we don’t agree, then maybe it can really be done. I might be a little partial but I think the girls came up with some pretty good advice.

“Love them, pray for them, give hugs.”

Our kids listen to everything we say and they watch everything we do. I am a dad of four kids, and when I say they listen to everything, I mean EVERYTHING. We are teaching them how to love even when we don’t know it.

What if we gave more hugs and less criticisms? What if there was more prayer and less judgment? What if we offered more love and less hate? 

  • When is the last time you talked with your kids about how to love the people you don’t agree with? Do it today.
  • When is the last time you prayed with your child for an “enemy” at school or on TV? Do it today.
  • When is the last time you chose to give that family member, co-worker, or frustrating person in your life a hug? Do it this week. 

This Family Connects! (Guest Post by Lucy Shaw)

Some people make an impression the first time you meet them. I first met Lucy Shaw when she was a freshman at McNary High School in Keizer, Oregon. From day one it was obvious that Lucy lived life "on purpose", and loved with great purpose. She is still doing that today as a wife and mom to three boys.  The way "Team Shaw" does family life has inspired "Team Williams" to live with even more purpose around the table. Enjoy Lucy's post my friends, I trust you will be as encouraged as I have been. As I set the dinner table for my family of five, I look down to notice three dime-sized divots carved out of the beautiful dark wood.  My three boys and husband make their way to the table and I say,

“Take a look at this you guys!  I think a rat has been here, chewing on our family table!”  My five year-old, Teak, immediately replies, “I DID NOT do that with my fork!”

That farmhouse table with the divots in it has become a sacred place for my family.


Much like my five year olds ambiguous confession, that table is a place where our vulnerabilities and truths unfold.

Our table is the space where we intentionally make connections with one another.

With three boys at differing stages of development Ty (10), Teak (5), and Beau (19 mos.), it can be challenging for our family to find consistent ways to connect.

Our oldest son wants to play a board game, our middle son cannot sit still for the duration of the game, and our youngest son wants to chew on the game pieces. Maybe you can relate?

One intentional move that has worked for our family to connect, has been to gather around our dinner table and each reveal a “Woo” and a “Wow” from the day.

The “Woo” represents the low point of our day, and the “Wow” highlights the best part.

This simple prompting has been a way for Chris and me to connect with the day-to-day events of our children’s lives, and ultimately to connect more deeply to their hearts.  We recently added another question to the “Woo and Wow” routine:

“How did you see or experience God today?”

It absolutely floors Chris and I to hear how our children translate their experience of God in the simplest places of life.

Sometimes it is in the beautiful clouds, a kind smile, an answered prayer, or even laughter at recess.

My oldest son Ty, recently gave an answer to the “God” question that stopped me in my tracks. He thoughtfully responded,

Ty and mom

“I saw God today when I was out in the naturescape at school.  I was building a little birdhouse.  It occurred to me that God paid attention to every detail when He made me, just like I was giving thought to exactly how I wanted my bird house to be.”

Ty’s answer was definitely my “WOW” of the day!

Not every day is a “WOW” day and sometimes we report that we did not see or experience God at all that particular day. Do you ever feel that way?

Maybe It is the unanswered prayer that you have prayed for years. Maybe it is the exhaustion you feel at the end of the day when the “to do list” is still unfinished. Maybe the grind of your job leaves you feeling worn-out and dry. Maybe you are experiencing deep hurt over a relationship that won’t heal.

It’s on those days that our family has been encouraged by a visual picture that I borrowed from the pastor and founder of Axis Ministries, David Pritchard.

Through a family tragedy of his own, David wrote, “…Regardless of how much of the moon we can see, even if the moon is completely covered by clouds; we know the moon is always round.  In the same way, God is always God no matter what.”

The farmhouse table for my family of five is a sweet spot in our lives where we connect with each other, connect with God, and allow vulnerability to dance. 

We celebrate the WOWS together, sometimes even claiming the day as a “Wow-Wow” day. We also love each other through the “Woos.”

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…”

It is in our connecting time around the table that we can boldly claim through the “Wows” and the “Woos” that “the moon is always round and God is always God.”

1) Do you have a consistent connecting place for your family or roommates? Do you have traditions that shape your opportunities to connect with each other and connect with God?

2) How can you and your family intentionally be on the lookout for God?

3) When there is no other task left at the end of the day but to enjoy the people you love the most, gather around your table and be brave enough to share the real deal.

  • A special thanks to my friend, Morgan Tyler, for teaching me the ways of the “woos” and the “wows!”


Is This Your Wake Up Call? (Pt 2)


Have you ever had a wake up call that changed you forever? Maybe it was in your business, your marriage, or your parenting. Psychologist and leadership expert Dr. Henry Cloud says,

 “There are certain awakenings that people have in life that once they have them they never go back to the old way of doing things. And when that happens they are never the same.”

One of my wake up calls came this fall as my wife (Araya) and I switched roles after moving across the country. She had always been the primary caregiver to our four children, and now it was my turn. Click here for part 1 of this series

My second wake up call is encapsulated in this quote by my former pastor John Stumbo. One Sunday John simply said this,

“I used to think the goal of parenting was to have well-behaved kids. Now I know the goal of parenting is that kids would know they are loved.”

well behaved kid John quickly followed those words by saying, “I only wish I would have learned that sooner.” Well, thanks to your honesty John, the rest of us can learn it sooner.

I don’t know if that quote is profound for you, or not. What I do know is that if I want my kids to behave a certain way; I can make them do it.

I can power up, get loud, send them to their room, and take away privileges. I can make them learn to be patient, learn to ask nicely, learn to speak kind words to their siblings, learn to clean up their rooms, and learn to respect their elders. You get the idea and I am sure you have a list too.

Is this list bad? No.

Do I desire my kids to learn all these things? Yes.

If my kids win the “manners of the year award” and have every other parent in town compliment them yet not know they are deeply loved, have I succeeded? I don’t think so.

My second wake up call of these past five months has been this: If my kids are to know they are deeply loved, I must know the way to their heart.

Prior to Araya and I switching roles, I was typically not home at nap time, or when the kids got home from school. I missed a lot of what led to those messy pre-dinnertime breakdowns.

I would often walk in the door to one of our girls consistently throwing tantrums fifteen minutes before dinner because she was hungry. My typical response to her was to tell her she needed to wait with the rest of the family. I mean, we are only talking fifteen minutes, and anyone can wait fifteen minutes.

 This NEVER worked. I mean NEVER. I got stern, I sent her to her room, and it didn’t help. If anything it only got worse.

Did the other girls have a problem waiting? Nope. The important thing is that this girl is not the other two girls. I needed to know the way to her heart.

The gift of being at home with her ever day after school has allowed me to see that she is not trying to be rebellious or difficult.

One day I simply said, “Honey, what can I do to help you?” through a few tears she said, “How ‘bout a cheese stick.” I said, “sure.”


Seriously? All the girl needed was a cheese stick?

The way to her heart was a cheese stick!

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”

I could have demanded that she wait just like the rest of the family, but I needed to speak to her heart. Her whole life flows from her heart.

If she knows she is deeply loved now she’ll trust me later when we are talking about much bigger things than cheese sticks.

 And isn’t that what we want and desire as parents? Isn’t that what we yearn to see with and for them?

I know it is for me, and I have a hunch it might be the same for you?

1-What is the goal of your parenting? Is it that your kids know they are deeply loved?

2-If you have children, take some time this week and write each of their names at the top of a paper. Underneath their names write down all the ways to their heart you can think of.

3-If you don’t have children write down your partners’ name, or your roomates’ name. Underneath their name write down all the ways to their heart you can think of.