How to Not Miss Out on Really Living [New Book : New Blog Design : Next 10 yrs Blogging]

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It’s crazy how that goes —

Sometimes you don’t know you’re walking through a door until you find yourself inside.

Sometimes you don’t know how it happens like that: Days can be like red-eye all nighters, but the years go by in blinks. 

And you turn around and it’s all the mirage of memory, and you hurt a bit for just a bit more time.

How can the kids know how you ridiculously want to speed through the hard parts and slow down all the happy and holy parts?  And how can you know how you mix that all up and it isn’t until you can see it all in the rear-view mirror, that maybe you can see it was just that:

The hard times are just the envelope that carry some of your holiest and happiest times.

So when you kids sat out there on the porch together, the early fall rains coming in, and I watched how the youngest with the curls, curled into the oldest?

There was a decade of time right there, made into a moment.  That was us: 10 years. 6 kids.





A decade between the first and the last, 10 years that were the most epic roller coaster your mama’s ever rode.

Nobody tells you that:  Motherhood is seeing the map of your own bones unfold into a whole other person and the ride of a lifetime.

And sometimes all you want to do is go back, get a do-over — sometimes all you want to do is bag up the whole sun-drenched summer of your life —  to retrieve someday in the winter of your life. 

Sometimes you just want to remember the story of who you are again. 

Maybe that’s why we do it too — why us mamas take pictures and freeze frame bits of their lives in journals — so in the dark of fringe hours, the middle of the nights, in the winters, and the forgetting days, we can retrieve the story of our live, who we once were and who we are becoming.  Being a mother is a way of being, not a way of being biologically related.

And Motherhood is a way of loving no matter what the story, because of The Story, until we all know the Story, live the Story, are the Story — till the story ends in His way, for His Glory, and the Story of Forever begins… 

10 years this September, 10 unexpected years I’ve been writing here in this corner, a whole decade of collecting lines of our story, His Story.  So we can go back to what we bottled and taste again of who we are —  to remind ourselves of who we are when we forget. 

Sometimes you don’t know you’re walking through a door until you find yourself inside.

Sometimes you don’t know what He’ll use to heal you, sometimes you won’t know the cost. Sometimes you won’t be prepared for the fire and the heat and the Spirit and the fear-begging-to-be-made courage.

And this, this is always true, what everyone says when they get to the end: I never expected so much joy to come in so many unexpected ways. 

And yeah, when you get to the end, when it’s all said and done, what matters is that you know who you are, that you kids know who you are right in the marrow of your bone maps — that you can find your way Home — no matter what the next 10 years hold, the next 50, the next 100.

We all only have so much time.  

We all only have so much time to Tell the Story and Live the Story and Pass on the Story before we won’t pass by this way again. 

And here’s the thing: Too Busy is a Choice.  And Life is not an emergency — Life is a gift.

And what is living if we don’t make enough time to Unwrap the Greatest Gift












Maybe that is what matters, with the time we have left —  with the 6,570 nights later, 18 summers, and how many Christmases left?

To tell the Story to each other and with each other, to remind us who we are again, and Whose we are, and how it’s all been more miraculous then we could have dreamed, and how to find our way Home?

How much of your life do you leave behind memories the way you want?

To tell our kids just this story, from the beginning of Genesis to the barn of Bethlehem, this story that is our legacy to those who come behind, that is our inheritance that is still to come, the one story that will revive you when you’re right wrung out:

In the beginning —- is when this Story begins. Which is far better than a story beginning with any old “once upon a time.”

This story’s far better than the greatest fairy tale you’ve ever read —- because this story is all true. And this story is our story — your story.

Your story starts with a kiss. The One Real God —- the Father King of the whole universe, He kneeled close and closer, and closer, until His very breath breathed upon our skin and His life and love filled us warm and fully alive!

Your story begins with a kiss —

because your Father King knows the greatest gift that your heart really wants and needs is love —- just to feel the safe, forever warmth of love.

It’s fall now… but before you know it? Everyone will be putting up their Christmas trees. And when you open up God’s love letter to us, the Bible, do you know what you find?

You find the family tree of Jesus, you find the stories that trace the branches of Jesus’ family, the limbs of the tree that go back to this great, great, great grandfather and to that many, many, many great grandmother, and we go all the way back to the very beginning —-  to our beginning.

And when you’re tracing that family tree of Jesus, guess what you find? People who were Big Cheaters, Bad Liars, Weasley Sneakers, Battling Brothers, Fighting Families, and all the beaten-up and broken-hearted. (Ever know any families like that? ahem.)

One of those many, many great, great, great grandfather of Jesus was Jesse. And things got so rotten that his family tree looked more like the stump of a tree just cut right off. But out of that chopped off stump of a family tree?

Comes the miraculous impossible, right out of the stump — a budding branch, a green shoot of a new hope, new starts, new freedom for the whole family — Jesus! (They won’t be expecting that!)

If you open these pages every day of December, much like opening the flaps of a calendar counting down the days to Christmas, and you read the next story of Jesus’ own family tree — and you hang the ornaments from each story on a little ( or big or wide or tall) tree of your own, you’ll have what we call a Jesse Tree —

— a picture of Jesus’ own family tree!





And you’ll begin Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, the most ginormous gift, the most astonishing gift that your heart really wants the most!

If we want our Christmas tree to really stand wondrous and not just fall over in a heap of meaningless, the tree we really need to understand and be astonished by —-  is the wonder of the family tree of Jesus Christ! Because this is our story —- your story.

Because Jesus doesn’t cut off all the Big Cheaters, Bad Liars, Weasley Sneakers, the battling brothers, the Fighting families and the broken hearted from His family tree — Jesus makes families just like this —- perfectly His!

Jesus adopts all the messy people and all the broken people and all the imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart, and He gives you His family name and His absolute happy perfectness and He makes you alive and fully free.

Christ could come this year right to your Christmas tree…. to look at your family tree and say:

“I am your Rescuer and I will win you free from all the brokenness and sinfulness and sadness and I’ll be the Gift, and I’ll take you. Will you take Me? Will you want Me?

Who says yes? Who doesn’t want to miss Jesus this year?

Who wants to wake on Christmas morning with a heart that wants the Greatest Gift the most? Who wants Jesus the most?

Jesus in the manger’s feed trough who makes Himself bread for us who are so hungry.

Jesus the Savior in swaddlings who rescues us from the blackness we can’t get out of unless we hold our Jesus, Light of the World.

Jesus, who makes precisely what none of us can but what all of really want the most: Christmas.

Come and don’t miss Jesus and unwrap His story, the most unbeatable, unstoppable, unfailing love story — a story that is better than the best fairy tale —- because it’s all true.

Come and be kissed by God and loved into the happily ever after and unwrap the greatest gift of the safest, warmest love you’ve ever known.”

~Introduction to Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas

It’s possible to miss it.

To live like you’ve missed the whole story, to spend all the years, all the wonder years, all the amazed days of grace, in between the bills and the the forgotten dish molding at the back of the fridge, and you can spend your life on a blur of things that leave you bankrupt.

To rush through the birthdays and the kiss goodnights and all the Christmases — and straight-out miss the love story that whispers who you really are and who your family really is and who Grace really is.

Things can change.

Before it’s too late, before we’re completely burnt out, things can be different. We could Unwrap the Greatest Gift  and let our story, ourselves, be changed. We can get weary enough of being weary to have the strength to reach out for the gift we’ve always really wanted.

We can say no to whole seasons of performing and say yes to whole lives in His presence.

Because don’t we know it: Presence makes your life into a greater gift than Productivity.

His presence with us and ours with Him ….  and our presence with our kids, ushering them into His Presence…  Sometimes you don’t have to know the way back or the way forward – you just need to know The Way.

I thought that watching you kids out on the porch, the rain dripping off the edge of the roof — No one will bring back the years. But we can always restore ourselves to the Story that says there is forever… there is always forever. 

Shalom looks tired there on the swing, but I can see it…  she’s trying not to close her eyes — Don’t I know it. You and me both, girl. Trying not to close our eyes, trying not to blink.

Because in a blink, they’ll be all grown up. But we have now…. 

And I blink it back and mamas know what they want, what could really be: We could make living loved our family tradition.

And there are these words about Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and unwrapping the fullest love story that just keeps coming for us

And there is smiling thrilled for all that is still to come in the Story and whispering “Yes… yes!”




The #HappySecretComing — is Here!

There are secrets that shouldn’t be kept secrets.

Like love stories.



(And! If you’re looking for a one of a kind Christmas Experience, come to the farm for the 4 Sundays of Advent?)

An Advent Small Group/Family DVD Study — an experience in the woods, in the snow, in the barn?

(more on The Greatest Gift 4 Weeks of Advent DVD Experience  coming soon!)


The #HappySecretComing that was meant to be shared –

is all His love, written about in this little book I wrote this year from scratch for your children and grandchildren

(published with Tyndale, who sends every single dollar of profits away to spread the Gospel around the world):

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas

All new Just-For-Family-Read-Alouds  across 160 fully illustrated, full colour pages

written for every night of Advent, to change your family’s Christmas, to change your family — change you.

This is the book I’ve been dreaming for our own family for the last 10 years! 

25 completely new Easy, Romping Family Read-Aloud readings for the whole family for every night of Advent.

25 simple action points. 25 FREE (wondrous) ornaments to download for the younger kids to colour during the read aloud.

While The Greatest Gift is a brand-new, fresh take on the Jesse Tree Advent for adults

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is an entirely brand-new,

rompingly-awed take on the Jesse Tree Advent tradition for Family Read-Alouds.

(read inside the book right here)

PreOrder now – and you order the best Christmas ever:

Christmas for your whole family like you’ve never experienced it — 

but you’ve always wished for.

@ Amazon : @ Christian Book : @ Barnes & Noble : & @ your local bookstore


Why Unwrap the Greatest Gift  this Christmas with your family:

 If Ann Voskamp cooks likes she writes about Christmas, everyone in her family must weight 1000lbs. Fantastic! ~Andy Stanley

To walk through Advent with Ann Voskamp is to read The Greatest Story Ever Told written in the words of one of the greatest storytellers of our time.~The Nester

“No-one unveils Jesus like Ann Voskamp.”~Christine Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign, and author of Undaunted

Ann Voskamp on Christmas is Monet on sunsets   —   made for each other.”~ Max Lucado, pastor and best-selling author of  You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

Christmas for your whole family  like you’ve never experienced it — 

but always wished for:

@ Amazon : @ Christian Book : @ Barnes & Noble : & @ your local bookstore

P.S. More surprises coming next week… The girls, Hope & Shalom & I, are packing our bags and heading out on a jet plane to be #FarmGirlsIn…?? Come travel with us to ? next week?

And more beautiful Christmas surprises we have prayerfully planned, “relief surprises” for your own sane & sacred Christmas  coming soon….  Here’s to all that He has for us all in the next 10 years!