Category Archives: This is Our Life

Beauty in the Chaos

©Janet Phillips_november23_2015_web-postimage

Beauty in the chaos.

It’s my favorite thing about Asia. Well, that and the food and the weather and the people and the pace of life and the value of relationships and the really good coffee. All of those are my favorite. But this one is perhaps my most favorite.

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There is chaos and there is beauty. An American with virgin-Asia eyes would most likely see only filth, garbage, and broken roads. They would see the absence of road rules, or at least of any of them being followed. They would see peeling stickers on every cement wall along with dogs and chickens and children on the streets where we don’t think they don’t belong. It really can be chaos, at least where our Western preferences are concerned. And yet, there is so much beauty. Hidden amongst the chaos is a stunning and awe-inspiring beauty that leaves you breathless. The trick is, unlike the always-in-your-face beauty of the West, with its manicured lawns and perfect law-abiding drivers, the beauty here is often hidden. Only those with eyes wiling to slow down enough to see get to drink of its delight. The flowers growing over the garbage. The bird landing on the jumbled wires. The crooked smile of the elderly woman offering hot coffee from her make-shift shop on the side of the road.

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Of course, there is the obvious beauty as well—the gentle sway of the palm trees, the birds of paradise framing the doors of buildings, the put-together beauty of the petite jet-black haired woman sitting next to you. But it’s the hidden beauty I long to catch a glimpse of. I know that if I just open my eyes and see, if I look beyond the dirt and the poverty and pot holes that could be mistaken for a swimming pool—if I look beyond those, true treasure is found.

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And isn’t this really how life really is? Pain and hurt and dissapointment make their presence known every chance possible while the beauty goes unnoticed. The radio plays song after song about being sad, broken, and without hope. We put our mental playlist of tragedy and despair and unmet expectations on repeat, all the while the real beauty in life is there, hiding subtly, framing not just our doorways but also our experiences. The beauty…it’s there. Everywhere we go and in everything we do, God gives us glimpses of His goodness. He whets our appetite for the beauty of a sinless world that needs no light but Christ Himself. If we look past the garbage and the broken bottles and the dogs digging for a bite to eat, we will see beauty.

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And isn’t that what we as believers should be? Beauty amidst the chaos? The world lets out its cries of distress and hunger and horror and they long for the beauty. The world longs to find something beautiful, something poking out from underneath the chaos, something beautiful to frame the doorposts of life. They don’t know it, but they are longing for the light of Christ and the true hope that only He can offer. But where is the beauty they so desperately long for? Where are His image bearers? Where are those of us who have been summoned by a Great Grace to let our lights shine? Are we hiding under baskets or sitting as cities on a hill? I know where I spend most of my time—muffled light buried beneath a pile of self-centeredness and comfort-driven ideals.

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It’s been a year and a half since I have walked these dirty Asian streets and searched for the beauty. As the sun made its ascent over the acacia tree in the corner of the soccer field, I refilled my cup with bold Filipino coffee, its steam rising in the yellow light, and I stepped outside the gates of the guesthouse. Camera in one hand, coffee in another, I walked. And I looked. Just as the faded and peeling street signs boldly proclaim the names of precious jewels, the sights and sounds of this same-but-different Asian city boldly proclaimed its own precious jewels. As I saw the flowers and the birds, as I heard the rhythmic swishing of the brooms of the women clearing the sidewalks, as I breathed in the humid morning air, I was reminded of how much Asia reminds me of home. Not my home in America, but the home in my heart—the place that is filled with all sorts of sin and garbage and bitter disappointments and yet bears glimpses of HIs goodness, holding out hope for the life to come.
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Headed to the Philippines


Bags packed, passport dusted off, hotels and transportation booked. My babies have been held and kissed and told they will be missed. My heart is full of expectant wonder and trust in a God whose ways are not my ways and whose thoughts are not my thoughts.

For eleven days, I will dwell in what we hope to be our future home. I will see the sights, ask the questions, take the pictures. I will visit the ministries, experience the school, and drink in the beauty that is Asia.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my family for two weeks. It was so difficult, in fact, I purchased and canceled tickets multiple times. How does a mama leave her little ones and fly across the world?

Well, she does it because she has an amazing husband who encouraged her to go on behalf of the family. A husband who knows his wife’s heart speaks in real conversations with real people and with taking photos that show the world through her eyes. A husband who is more than competent and confident in caring for the little ones, making sure school gets done, putting food on the table, and having fun through it all. (And there is a big sister that will ensure little sisters’ hair gets brushed occasionally!) That’s why a mama of six can get on a plane with only one passport instead of eight, with a bag full of books and journals and dreams instead of sippy cups, diapers, and chewing gum. She has a good husband and a good Father.

As I spend this time in the Philippines, learning about what will — Lord willing — be our home starting next summer, my prayer is for a vision for how our family, with its unique perspective, personalities, and passions, will find its place in Davao. Our conviction and desire is to be serving full-time with Wycliffe Bible Translators and play our part on a team that longs to brings God’s Word to a world still waiting.

I’ll be visiting this space quite frequently while I am away. Come for a visit, will you?

The Moment My Life Changed

I still remember hearing those precious words for the first time: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). As a young girl, guilt over sin threatened to overwhelm me. I was utterly convinced that there was no way God could love someone like me. He may be good and loving, I thought, but those character qualities go out only to the deserving. But when I heard those words, the walls around my twelve-year-old heart started to crumble. The love I so desperately desired and sought after was right there waiting for me. God would take my sin and remove it so far from me that it could never be reached again. That was the moment my life changed.

What if I hadn’t heard those words? What if the condemnation and complete unworthiness I felt were never remedied by the power of God’s Word? That hot summer day, a new eternal life began, all because I had access to God’s Word.

I admit it…this road to working with Wycliffe and gathering a group of prayer and financial partners has not been easy. There are days when we have wanted to give up, to quit, to enjoy the wonderful life of church, school, and fellowship we have here in America. However, it doesn’t take long for us to be reminded that hundreds of millions of people have never had an experience like I have, nor the thousands of experiences I have had since. These people, the almost 1800 languages in the world, are waiting for God’s Word. They are lost in their sin, their condemnation, their feelings of complete unworthiness. I think about that moment back in 1989 when God’s Word breathed life into my heart, and I know we have to go. We have to do everything we can to ensure people are given the opportunity to experience the new life that God’s Word brings.

What about you? Can you remember some of the moments when God’s Word spoke to you in a way that changed everything? What would your walk with the Lord look like if you never read your Bible, never heard a pastor speak from the Bible, never read a book written by someone intimate with the Bible? You have been given so much! With over 400 English Bible translations to choose from and thousands of Bible-saturated books and sermons at our immediate disposal, we have been entrusted with a great gift. We have been asked to be stewards of God’s grace.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11.

How will you steward your gift? We invite you to partner with us in our Wycliffe ministry as we strive to steward our gifts to bring the hope of God’s Word to those who wait. What can you do?

1. You can pray for us. Above all, we need people committed to praying for us. We need prayer for strength, wisdom, perseverance, boldness, and trust.

2. You can partner with our Wycliffe ministry financially. We need regular, monthly financial partners to help us meet our minimum monthly budget (set by Wycliffe) and be freed to serve in the Philippines. Click here to become a monthly financial partner.

3. You can sign up for our newsletter so you can stay up-to-date on our ministry progress and plans. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

4. You can pray about going. It doesn’t matter what your professional qualifications are. Teachers, pilots, doctors, nurses, IT professionals, accountants, translators, managers, and mechanics are needed all over the world to aid in the 2000+ translation projects already underway and to give hope for the almost 2000 projects still waiting to begin.

P.S. I realize that I have never mentioned in this space that our assignment with Wycliffe has changed from Papua New Guinea to the Philippines. We announced it in our newsletter, but not here. I apologize. Lord willing, we will be serving at Faith International Academy in Davao, Philippines.

The Perfect Mom

Some mom moments are better than others

Some mom moments are better than others

I smelled the nail polish. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but the scent was strong.

Yes, I had given my seven-year-old permission to paint her nails. Usually I would supervise an activity like that (due to the time it takes to get nail polish off of legs, arms, and other body parts.) But she is seven and she’s spending more time each day as a young lady rather than a little girl. I trusted her to do as I said.

I gave her one instruction: when you are done, put the nail polish away.

I continued making dinner. And then I saw it. The dark floors had camouflaged the evidence, but the leash hanging from the dog (no doubt thanks to the four-year old) made a trail of blue that was hard to miss. Nail polish pooling on the wood floors, the leash painting a series of blue swirls and whirls through the kitchen.

Nail polish. On the floor. With no top on. BLUE.

“KATIE!” I called. Er, um…screamed.

I was sick. I was tired. My throat hurt so much I could barely swallow. My husband was out of town and the rain hadn’t stopped falling in a week and the natives were restless. Of course this is the day the blue nail polish would decorate the house.

She came upstairs and I gave her the look, one she didn’t yet recognize.

I’ve gone to tremendous effort to stop any and all yelling in our home. I fail occasionally, but the truth of it is that God has given me victory over the tone and volume of my voice. I rarely yell.

Many years ago I yelled at one of  my kids for something. It might have been Alaina and she was only four or five. I yelled and I let my eyes sear into her. And what I got in return was a look of sheer terror. From my little girl who made a little girl mistake.

And in that moment, I vowed to learn to take control of my mouth. Yelling is not okay in our home. Not for me. Not for the kids.

And yet there are times, like when the rain won’t stop and my feet are cold and my husband is out of town and sickness has invaded our home and the blue nail polish is everywhere, yes, there are times the volume of my voice matches the frustration in my spirit. And shamefully, I let the words fly unrestrained.

With blue swirls around my feet and covering the dog leash, it felt good to yell. The sinful part of me wanted my little girl to know how upset I was and I was thrilled to let the emotions find a place to land. “I gave you ONE instruction!” my voice bellowed. Then, when the words ran out and the tears on my girl’s face covered her freckles, I couldn’t let enough be enough. We sat in silence as I made her watch me clean up every last bit of that nail polish. I scrubbed harder than I needed, just to make a point.

And in that moment, I realized once again why I need Jesus.

I’m not a perfect mom. Not even close. But that’s not the goal, is it? No one is the perfect mom. None of us get it right all the time. We can (and should!) work harder. We need to learn to love our children (Titus 2). We need to take control of our mouths and our spirits. I hope I am a better mom next year than I am now. I want to be better, but I have no hope of being perfect.

I let my emotions cool down, simmering slowly rather than a full-on boil. I finished dinner, fed the little ones, took some ibuprofen, gargled some salt water, and climbed into bed. A few minutes later, I paused my show and called for Katie. I didn’t say anything. I just pulled her under the covers with me and I stroked her hair while we watched. When our show was over and it was time for her to brush her teeth, I pulled her little body—her weight reminding me she isn’t so little anymore—up onto the counter and I looked into her eyes.

“Katie, you made a mistake. And so did I. But I want you to understand that the goal isn’t to never make mistakes. It’s just not possible. If we never made mistakes we wouldn’t need Jesus. And oh how we need Jesus! He died to pay for these mistakes of ours. We should try to be better, but until we’re in heaven, we won’t be perfect. You WILL make mistakes. You’ll make lots of them. Part of it is because you’re just a kid and the Bible tells us that foolishness is all tangled up in your heart. Part of it is your are just human, like me. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to choose to do wrong. And mom will probably get upset. I don’t expect you to be perfect. It just won’t happen. But we have Jesus. He will help us make better choices and fewer mistakes and He has already paid for the mistakes we just can’t avoid. I’m so sorry for yelling. I was upset but I didn’t handle my emotions correctly, did I? I LOVE you. You know that, right? Nothing you do can separate you from my love just as nothing we do can separate us from God’s love. There is not one thing you could do that would make me stop loving you. Nothing. I might not be happy with you and there might have to be consequences, but that is not the same as me not loving you. You’re my girl and you always will be. Will you please forgive me? I was wrong. I made wrong choices. I’m sorry.”

Eyes bright blue and tears streaming down, she hugged my neck tight. And I knew…this is it. This is what this parenting thing is made of. Like marriage, it’s two sinners leaning into Jesus. Because without Him, it’s all just a big mistake. But with Him, we can offer love and forgiveness and say, “I’m sorry.” I will never be the perfect mom. But I have the perfect Jesus and He lives within me, enabling me to act like Him more each day.

My kids see it all. My good side, my bad side, and all the other sides I try so hard to hide. They know I mess up. They know I make mistakes. But they also know their mama will come to them, offer a sincere apology, and promise to love them always.

Maybe that’s what it means to be the perfect mom.

I Almost Forgot

©PreparingtheSoil | Almost Forgot


“…stop rushing to get the to do list done because it never leaves. The kids do.”

It was a rough summer. Even after I started feeling myself again, we had some other issues that took up most of our time and energy. The unrelenting North Carolina heat didn’t help matters much. The summer is mostly a blur as I try to figure out what exactly we did.


We’re normally a happy, do-stuff-together type family. We love to camp, hike, and be outside. We like to let the kids get dirty and have fun. We like days with no schedule, yummy-not-so-good-for-you treats, and finding critters that the kids beg to bring home as pets.


But this summer?

I almost forgot.


I almost forgot what it felt like to be me. To be us. To let the kids run free, get wet, and be kids. I almost forgot what it felt to walk a few paces behind my family as my camera captures the little moments I want to remember forever. I almost forgot what it was like to be intentional in just watching. Watching my kids love each other. Help each other. Encourage each other. I almost forgot about all the little ways they show their love and how blessed they are all to have one another. I almost forgot about the way their individual personalities shine through during unstructured play: the adventurous ones being adventurous, the introverted one enjoying the peaceful scenery, the little ones entertaining themselves with the same activity over and over (and over).

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On Saturday, though the to-do list was longer than anything that had any hopes of being accomplished, I knew we needed it. We needed time. Time together. Time outside.


We chose something close: the local river that runs through the county. An access point is just ten minutes from our home. We walked. We let the kids play. They got wet and dirty and full of sunshine. I watched them and I remembered. I remembered who we were and what fills our souls. I am so glad I remembered, because I almost forgot.

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Oh the bliss! May I never forget the little moments. The watching. The seeing who my family is.

 As another writer so eloquently mentioned:

“…stop rushing to get the to do list done because it never leaves. The kids do.”

The Mom of Littles


I’ve been parenting little ones for more than twelve years. That is a long time with have babies and toddlers and little people who need you to do most everything for them.

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I have loved it. Truly. It’s been more work than I ever could have imagined it and I am not immune from the desire (and secret plans) to run away and go on a cruise all by my lonesome self, but all in all, I have loved it. When life gets hard, I know I have little people who will make me laugh on a regular basis.

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That said, I am also really enjoying the new stage of having some older kids. Imagine…kids who can get their own water, wipe their own bottoms, and have a real I-can-follow-it conversation! Older kids are so much fun and it is so miraculous to watch their personalities start to shine.
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But alas, I am the mother to littles and bigs. And that can be tough! Sometimes I feel that the older kids get the short end of the stick because the little ones just need me so much. Sometimes I feel the little ones are getting neglected because the big kids need me more for school and because they can actually play a game that doesn’t involve Candy or Lands or Shoots or Ladders.

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So, as if the guilt of motherhood isn’t enough on its own, I get a double whammy! If I am being intentional with my older ones, I fear the little ones are missing out. If I cater to the little ones, I fear losing the heart of my older ones. It’s true, we do a lot as a whole family and the bigs and littles integrate their activities all the time. And yet, I always feel the need to clone myself so I can be all things to my kids (some for good motives, some for prideful ones).

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Every once in a while, our family takes the divide and conquer approach the the half dozen toe heads running around. This past week, Jason took the older three to Camp and I stayed home with the littles. It was a tough decision, and one we didn’t come to lightly, but in the end we felt it was best for all involved.


And let me tell you….it was great and amazingly difficult all at the same time. I sat there most of the week thinking, “I don’t know how you mamas if all little ones do it!” And then I remembered that I was in fact one of those mamas not too long ago and I somehow survived, with great kids to boot. I just forgot how much work it is and how little reward. It’s not that the bigger kids do the work for me when they are home, but rather, the dynamic is just so different. They want to play with their younger siblings. They want to listen to ALL. THE. WORDS. They want to help little ones get dressed on Sunday and buckle seat belts in the car.


Hard as it was and as much as I was missing conversations with people over the age of seven, it was also wonderful. It was so nice to not have a divided heart. I was able to just simply be with the little ones and be greeted with princess kisses in the morning and pleas for water spraying on the trampoline in the afternoons.


They are just so sweet and little and fun to be around. This season will be over before I know it and I want to soak it in as long as I can.

Camping With Friends


It was the second annual Phillips-Ransom camping trip. It was great.

We met them back in 2008, six kids between us. With a half dozen each now, we are a site to behold. Dear friends, knitted in heart by common ideals, dreams, and life plans. What a joy it is to spend a week just doing life together.

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Lots of sitting by the fire, cooking, eating, walking, talking and playing. With a newborn in tow, our time was more laid back than last year, but it was just what we needed. Good friends, good fellowship.

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All I Wanted

PTS | All I Wanted


All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to go camping.

This was my twelfth Mother’s Day. And after all these years, I know myself and my family very well. I have no need of breakfast in bed (seems silly when I wake hours before everyone else!) I don’t need to be showered with gifts (we have far too much stuff as it is). I don’t need a fancy Sunday lunch (we had our favorite New York Style pizza because it’s what we all love).


All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to be with my family, doing what we love best: camping.

Back in February, after returning from a camping trip to the Everglades, I wrote this:

LOVE camping…what I love about camping is that it strips all the extra stuff away. I don’t worry about doing laundry. I don’t worry about cleaning up. I don’t worry about checking email. I don’t put on makeup and I often don’t even bother changing clothes. When all of those little tasks are taken away, you are just left with time. Time to read, time to play, time to sleep, and time to talk. We did all of those things.

Yep, it’s all I wanted.


Camping takes all the things I love best and throws them together:

family time
being offline
taking pictures
watching my kids play
lazy schedules
simple but yummy meals
playing outside
being in God’s creation
time to snuggle and read
warm fires in the cool breeze
seeing kids explore and imagine


We left after church on Sunday and stayed two nights. Staying fairly local (a state recreation area just 45 minutes from home) meant more time to play and less time to drive. It was perfect. The kids played and explored. They founds bugs and lizards and a turtle. We swam in the lake and hiked for miles. We watched a blue heron who visited a number of times. The kids got dirty, sandy, and sweaty. I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day Gift (though the dozens of post-it notes with all the reasons they love me covering our dining table on Sunday morning comes pretty close!)


I’m thankful for these twelve years of being a mama and all the joy these kids bring to my life.

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That’s a Wrap {Birthday Season 2015}

PTS | That's a WrapIt’s finally done…birthday season 2015. Eight birthdays in three months (seven of those being in eight weeks) is exhausting.



People often ask if we just combine birthdays since they are all so close. And we always say, “No!”

There are many perks to being in a large family. I love it and wouldn’t ever want to change it. However, there are hard things too. Out of necessity, a lot of things in our life have to happen as a group. But birthdays? Those are a day to celebrate an INDIVIDUAL and to make that person know how thankful we are they were born. We want to celebrate the joy they bring to our life and look to the future and pray expectantly for good things to come. We take each birthday to make the day all about that one child, showering them with love, yummy food, and a few gifts.

Our tradition has been to let the kids choose the meals for the day (it used to be dinner, which is what my parents did for us, but somehow over the years it has crept into choosing all the meals. And of course, they often pick the hardest or most time consuming!) We also let them give input on decorations. They each have the choice of a family activity or a party. Over the years, we have only had three parties (two of them this year!) We love doing things as a family and that is most often their choice.

This year was a great year of celebrating each of our children (and my birthday and Jason’s birthdays fall right in the middle of all that!)  As much as I love the fun and creativity that comes with birthday season, I am usually quite happy to see it go. Now I have until the end of January before I have to plan another birthday!

Here is birthday season 2015 in review!








TDD | On the Porch Swing

On The Front Porch

TDD | On the Porch Swing


I love having a front porch. The missionary house where we are staying has a big, beautiful front porch, complete with white rocking chairs and a porch swing.

As the nights get longer and the school year end gets closer, I am being more lax in bedtimes and instead trying to enjoy the beautiful spring weather in the evening. It will be blazing hot soon enough.

Last night that meant a few rounds of hitting the softball with the big kids while the little ones played happily on the porch.

I wish they could stay this small forever. But since they can’t, I want to fully enjoy this moment now. Little ones are a lot of work and exhaustion is common, but there is nothing like their sweet smiles and squeals of glee.


I haven’t worked in iMovie before, but I had some time in between answering math problems and I played around a bit. I love these two!

And if you want to see some sweet and spunky photos of Bethany, you can see them on my photography blog.


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