Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Solid Rock

"It is a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally.  It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand." - M. L'Engle                                                          If grades were given out for the last year I would have pulled in a solid D-.  I don't write this to fain humility.  Only to be honest.  After reading through the written account of this journey I need to clear the air before moving on.  The posts hinted at doubt, confusion, and fears but did little to paint the picture of me flailing about like a fish out of water every time we hit a patch of unknown.  Every time.   

It was as if ten years of very carefully applied ministry make up had to be washed off and I could not recognize the person staring back at me from the mirror.  It is hard to capture in words just how terrifying it is to not be the person you thought you were when the waves come.  The props get pulled down and sand washes away. I was sure much more rock would have been left behind. It is unnerving to stand on the small square of stone left, when you thought there would be a mountain. 

But here is the amazing part.  The part that has plastered a silly smile on my make-up free face.  Even if I had pulled in  solid A-'s and gone through less tissues and late night purge sessions with Jeff, God's love remains the same.  His character remains true even when mine does not.  He promises to provide and protect and guide even if I get helplessly lost during parts of the journey.  The grade book is thrown out, and I am resting in His grace.  Under His grace I get an A.  Undeserved and by His hands not mine.  In that, there is so much freedom.  There is freedom to stop striving for what I thought He had for us.  There is freedom in knowing it is not all about our little family of five anyway.  There is freedom in knowing He loved me before the ten years of ministry and He loves me now. And that His plan is still so much bigger than anything I could dream of.

What the last few weeks have shown me is that He is faithful to wash out the sand and slowly replace it with rock.  He is faithful to take away white knuckled dreams and give us what is better than any desire or sacrifice.  He gives Himself.  We have had beautiful talks with the boys, family, and friends over what is next.  We are excited and resting in what seems to be lining up.  The hushed talks after dinner are not filled with fear, doubt, or striving but with humble expectation.  

There is great mercy in doors closing.  And sweet freedom in realizing He wants every ounce of our hearts rather than straight A's.  There is Joy in finding solid rock and knowing no amount of waves will wash it away.  We continue to paddle forward as a family and we can't wait to share with you what is next on this wild ride.  

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God."  Romans 5:1&2

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When a door closes

The door has officially closed for our family to move to Basque, Spain.  For weeks we have held the news close to us.  We spoke to few and tried to process where we are now.   I would sit down to write an update and instead start reading one of the sixty one posts that became pinpoints on a map for us in this journey.  The pins seemed to stretch out from the safe harbor and lead us to open sea.  Basque, Spain being our destination, 25%, 37%, 63% of the way there.  The mailings, dinners, phone calls and sharing of our hearts.  The Spanish words tapped through out the house.  My favorite one, interruptor de luz.  Light switch= interrupter of the light.  In Spain, I thought, we will not turn off the lights.  The light will just be interrupted until morning.  We spoke at churches, had an amazing banquet, there was even an article in the newspaper.  It is still clipped and pressed between a Basque history book and a Spanish book.  We walked our boys through "I don't want to go", to willingness.  Dreaming and planning.  Funding stayed painfully slow.  Those who gave, gave out of sacrifice and love.  For a long time it seemed we stood before a door cracked open.  And what laid on the other side was something we wanted.  We felt called to.  Called out of fears and doubts to step into something so much bigger than our little family.  

The truth is, we knew God could fling wide the doors.  Many things were talked about to make it work.  Jeff ended with Culpeper Young Life and went back to building.  We went off insurance and I bought probiotics and checked out a book on immunity.  We could have waited longer.  We could have and we would have.  You can almost get comfortable in the quiet place of wait.  You get use to the unknowns.  A red pin stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  But one night staring at the map of these last two years, how far we have come, where the last push pin rests, we knew it was time.  Phone calls to future bosses and mentors confirmed our hearts.  And we grieved.  It was painful and confusing and humbling.

That same night, I told Jeff that I didn't want our boys to see that this humbling place is the result of taking a big step of faith.  How do we explain to others the many variables that all slowly showed it was time to stop pushing forward.  I had thought  that the next blog post was to be of triumph and visas ordered.  The written account of funding reached and us thrilled to finally go.  It can't be this...this redirecting when we are already out to sea and ready to be on shore. Any shore. 

Last week I took Ian to the lake where I collect supplies for my terrariums.
Ian helps me gather the moss and fern each month.  We love our time together exploring the woods and hills with my cake pan and a small shovel.  Each time he holds the treasured mounds of green life so carefully.  His role to to help me find it and hold the the tin as we move along.  When we get back to van he always looks at the pile in amazement.  Always surprised at what we gathered.  "I helped you again mom."  he pipes, and I answer, "Yes you did!  We did it together."  And then he hands me the tin, heavy with broken earth and moss.  With a big proud grin he hands it over because he knows I will make something beautiful with all of it.  He is okay with his small role and he trusts me to do the rest.

The last time we went I took this picture.  Looking at it, I know our story is not over.  It can't be, we are still out in the middle of the ocean.  But I know what we give to God, even when it is painful and humbling or even down right confusing, He will make something beautiful out of it.  We all play small roles in seeking, gathering, and sharing.  He does the creating.  The making new of what is broken.  And there is something incredibly hopeful in that process.

We would love your continued prayers as we seek what is next for our family.  We are still open to Young Life international placement.  For now, Jeff continues to build and remodel, and our family continues to celebrate the majesty of life, and His unknown plans, here in the middle of the ocean.  If you see us in public ask Jeff not me, I still cry and blubber through the story.  If you have given to Young Life Basque, Spain and have not received an e-mail on giving and receiving options please let me know (StbBecca@aol.com) and I will send you information on how to have money returned, redirected, or to simply stay in the YL account until future plans become clear.  I will continue to write and update friends and family through the blog and Jeff will update through e-mail.  Thank you for all the love and support.  We are grateful we are not walking alone.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

FAQ about Team Stables in Basque, Spain

Q:  Where is Basque?
A:  Basque is partly in Spain and partly in France.  We will be in the North West part of Spain.  The Pyrenees Mountains, Bay of Biscay, and France will all be within a short drive away.

Q:  When will you guys go?  (this is after they comment that they thought we had already left, or thought we were suppose to leave this summer)
A:  As soon as we raise a very BIG budget to move and live for three years in Basque, Spain.

Q:  Why is the budget so big?
A:  Basque, Spain is one of the most expensive places to live in Spain.  The town where most of the foundation has been laid for work is one of the most expensive cities in Basque.  Example being a three bedroom, 950 sq ft apartment without a view could easily go for $2,000 a month in rent, unfurnished.  Travel for training, language school, and insurance/expat taxes are also a part of the budget....this answer is really much longer but that is the short reply.

Q:  Are the boys excited?
A:  It depends on which one you ask.  Luke is very nervous to leave all he has known and learn two new languages.  Levi is excited about everything.  Ian just asks "What's Spain?"

Q:  Will the boys do public, private/international, or be home schooled?
A:  We are still praying about this.  The public schools are taught in Euskara and Spanish only.  Ian may do this but Luke and Levi have missed the window in age and ability to pick up a new language as easily.  Home Schooling is illegal.  Expats are allowed with permission, but our hope is that we all integrate in the Basque Country fully.  For the two older boys we are considering a government subsidized private school that offers some English or an American School that may change the location of the city we start up in.

Q:  What will you be doing there?
A:  Jeff and I will be doing full time language school for the first six months and then work with the schools and communities to develop Basque leadership for Young Life outreach and discipleship  in the Basque Country.

Q:  Will you sell your house?
A:  We are hoping to rent our house, but praying about it.

Q:  How long will you stay?
A:  We are raising the first three years before we go.  We are staying a minimum of three years or until Basque leadership is in place and the area is stable.

That usually covers it unless they want to know about the surfing scene, foodie scene, or have us explain again why it is so much money.  We love to answer questions.  We are never annoyed and only sometimes discouraged when they come on the heels of "I thought you guys left already".  Please feel free to ask us any new questions or have go into more detail with any of these answers!
Jeff's email address:  jeffstables@gmail.com
Becca's email address:  STBbecca@aol.com

Thursday, October 3, 2013


"For awhile the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of  Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds.  The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have power over the present.  Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song."  J.R.R. Tolkien

Ian is at the nap skipping age.  He may drop it all together by Winter.  Most days he looks more like the pictures shown here by one o'clock instead of the sleepy eyed yawning child I had a month ago.  The one that asked if it was time yet to cuddle and read has now become a ninja as soon as I say the word rest.  The problem is that come six o'clock when we are all sitting at the table to eat he is a WRECK.  A complete train wreck crashing into our talk about the day as we pass the green beans.

And so for now I am trying my best at one thirty each day to make this wild blue eyed ninja stop a bit and rest that blond head of his. He doesn't know what will come at six o'clock.  He is unaware that the energy will fade and the sun will set before he can keep his heart happy and words sweet.  But I do.

So this season can feel like an enforced rest time for Jeff and I.  We were in go mode for the last ten years.  Filling too much into every hour of every day.  Living and pouring out fully.  Feeling the blessing and the exhaustion of it all.  We were ready to go from "go-time" to "go-harder" mode transitioning to Young Life International.

That didn't happen and while we continue to raise support steadily and slowly we are entering into a very different season.  Since marrying Jeff twelve years ago we have yet to have family dinners every night together until now.  Everything from pumpkin patches to birthday parties or dates were book-ended by ministry.  And now they aren't.  Jeff works hard from eight to six and then we are all together.  And it feels wonderful and strange all at the same time.

We are now just under 70%.  There are many ways the pie can be sliced when figuring out where we are and how far we still need to go.  The budget trimmed and new partners giving has us typing in new numbers to data base with prayers on our lips.  I don't think we have yet to get to the percentage we had hoped any of those times.  This time we were hoping to reach 75% by October 31st and we are just under 70%. I am finally starting to be grateful for this time that I had fought against for so long.  To rest in His timing not just with my words but in my heart also.  Enjoying the evening together and the work that has come in for Jeff.  Thankful that we have gotten to walk through humbling lessons here with friends and family beside us and not an ocean away.  And resting in the knowledge that He knows what the next years hold and we do not.  Trusting Him in the resting at one o'clock in preparation for the six o'clock.  Thank you for all the encouraging and supportive words as we continue to walk this out one percentage at a time.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."  

2 Corinthians 9:8

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


We decided to save money on school pictures this year and take them ourselves.  Luke was easy to convince.  All I had to do was point out that the  forest backdrops were fake and he was ready.  Levi was trickier.  After explaining prices and how much we could save he was finally swayed by me telling him Ian  could be in the ones we take.  The three brothers together.  That did it, he was in.  Done and done.

Sunday afternoon the plan went into action.  I have three incredibly talented friends who do photography.  One of my dearest ones took this family picture two summers ago.  I remember sweating, itching, and threatening the boys through clenched smile.  The picture ended up like this: 

Instead of realizing she is incredibly talented I set out with false, very false confidence.
We ended up in Fredericksburg at the train station.  Three freight trains and one passenger train later we made our way to some cool looking buildings we had seen from the platform.
Noticing I had forgotten step one in having them wear something nice, unstained, and matching I positioned them anyway.
Thirty minutes later I had over forty shots and not one to mail out.  I also promised myself to buy the over priced, fake backdrop school pictures this Spring.  Until then, here are my three boys in all their glory...

Luke and Levi were up first.  After the first few shots I gently explained that Stables' boys are strong and sturdy and that all people can get this thing called a double chin in a picture.  "Lift your chin up a bit and smile."   I lost them at double chin.  They were thrilled to find out they could make them at any time.

 Forget the older boys I thought, lets try all three.  Less control, just let them be together and be natural.  Natural  is Ian shoving a stick in Luke's ear and jumping down ten times to pick flowers.  We did all laugh a lot and I have some great memories captured that do not have one ounce of fake in them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The mighty mushroom

"Restlessness and impatience changes nothing but our peace and joy.  Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands."  -Elizabeth Elliot

Mushrooms don't grow incredibly fast.  The only part we get to see in a mushrooms life cycle is fast.  One evening the grass is spotless, the next morning there are small white mushrooms dotting the lawn.  It is easy to assume it all happened in one night.  It is amazing what you can learn from a curious eight year old.

What we see above ground does happen extraordinarily fast.  But, we see only the "fruiting body" of the organism.  We did not see the weeks and even months of the stem soaking up nutrients, dividing, and pushing upwards.  It happened in the dark so that when it did divide and the white cap pushed through the ground all it had to do was expand.  All the hard work was done.  All the real growth had already happened.

  I came into last year thinking it would sail by quickly.  That once we stepped away from what we were doing here and were willing to step into the something new everything would just fall into place.  I was pretty sure we would be the family they asked to come speak at future Young Life International conferences.  Standing up front as a smiling family with the boys not fidgeting or picking their noses.  Encouraging others that they too could raise support in six months.  I was also certain we would be standing on Basque soil this summer boldly loving others in Christ and learning Spanish as we ate pintxos.  There were moments this year when I felt like we might take the longest to raise support in YL international history. We have come a tremendously long way.  We have raised support slowly and steadily for an entire year.  The names and faces of everyone who has given humbles me.  I know many times my faith has not matched the generosity.  I know the giving was done in love and support.  As the months passed and kids got sick, when asking God  how much longer, and having Jeff go through plans a, b, and c when timelines shifted.

We only have 36% more to go.  It seems a small percent, but it represents a big number that has us on hold.   I know from running that I always falter at the end.  Not at the start of the run or even the middle with side cramps and weary legs.  It is the end when I just want it to be over with.  When I want to show I really can move gracefully with one foot in front of the other, just not in this way anymore.  I am ready to finish the run and see the light. The 36% more is telling us a little more has to happen in the unseen.  A little more preparation underground.  A few more laps around the field.

Jeff is now off Culpeper Young Life staff as of two weeks ago.  For the first time in our marriage we are both home every night eating dinners together.  He is working full time picking up remodeling jobs and doing estimates as we try to tag team raising support.  The health insurance grace period ends in November.  More decisions to make as we press forward.  Jeff is running the race way more gracefully than I am right now.  Carrying the bulk of it all on his broad shoulders.  we are trusting God for provision and timing.  Asking for endurance, to finish the race set before us.

We are hoping to raise 75% by the end of October.  That equals 11% in six weeks.  Or three people willing to give $100 a month and twelve more people willing to give $50 a month. Please pray for us as we move forward in faith and try not to dwell on outward things, but trust in the God of the unseen.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A day in the city

The boys and I woke up last Saturday knowing we needed to get out of the house.  Jeff and some guys were hanging drywall in the basement all day.  Dust, noise, and tools that Ian couldn't play with got us out by nine.  We were going to go to Luray again.  Dressed for a bike ride and creek trekking.  An hour later we ended up at the Vienna metro station with new plans to go to the D.C. zoo.  A trip that involved two shuttle buses, four metro trains, and two long walks to stations.  
I am happy I have a husband who laughs at our adventures and doesn't worry that I am the adult in charge when he is not there.  Grateful that Luke always remembers where we park our van, even in the metro garage ten hours later.  SO thankful that Ian can still fall asleep in a small umbrella stroller.  One that is  propped up on a chair while we eat a Lo mien noodle dinner in front of a sinking sun.  I am still smiling thinking about the look on Levi's face through out the day.  His pink cheeked grin that spreads to each of us.
Jeff grinned too when we came in smelling like the ape house and telling stories of our day.  I was kind of surprised that my creek and forest bred boys can make it in the city. They hopped off buses, and onto trains, and escalators with ease.  The plans changed at least ten times that day and no one ever complained.  We didn't think to, we were having too much fun living it to worry about what was next.  Except for food, we did start to worry just before we found the little Chinese place by the last metro stop.  

I didn't extensively prep them with metro maps and how to be safe in the city.  I didn't tell Ian he would get to ride on a carousel, or Luke that he could fit in T-Rex skull, or Levi that he would learn a massive amount about animal poop to share with his friends.  I didn't tell them because I didn't plan it.  I could never have planned a day like that.

 The day was a gift.  A crazy, wild gift that we unwrapped slowly wondering what would happen next. On the metro ride home I asked the boys if they could imagine doing this in Basque,Spain. With every sign written and  every person speaking in Spanish or Euskara.  They didn't yell no and I didn't get sweaty palms thinking about it.  We just smiled goofy grins at each other while holding onto the metro pole.  On that metro it really did feel possible. 

I really think days like that will prepare the boys for Spain as much as any Rosetta stone lesson or book about cultural adjustment.  To live each day with expectant hope, flexible and ready.  To trust a God that knows the plan.  A God that helps us live out His crazy love story even on the days with too much homework or long grocery store trips, oh those wretched grocery store trips.

I am trying to teach them as I learn.  To not let the mundane eat away at our wonder.  Not let routine erode our delight in God.  Luke still whispers that he is not sure he wants to go to Spain.  I still whisper that it is okay.  God is bigger than our wants or fears.  We are small and our hearts and minds so feeble.  Our sight is so limited but His is not.  So we will stumble through trusting a very big and good God together.  We may even start to have some fun in the process.      

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."  

Psalm 37:23&24


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Learning from my three year old

 Ian turned three this June and adored the summer adventures with his big brothers.  He is still lamenting every morning as they board the bus.  I was a little sad at first also.  This fall my days will not be filled with teaching art or ministry.  After three weeks Ian and I have fallen into a happy rhythm of exploration.  We are going to all our favorite stomping grounds but they are so different without two more boys voicing their thoughts on what to do and where to go next.  Instead of feeling lost without them, Ian has savored every bit of the unhurried, quiet pace.  

  Just the two of us exploring in silence.  The first week out and about I asked questions and would tell him the Spanish words for the things we saw.  Orchestrating the days to be full and efficient.  The park trips following after the errands and phone calls.  Now, they come first and I watch more than hurry along;  listen more than teach. Realizing that maybe this season he will be the teacher and I the student.

I am pretty sure Ian can stare at the lake surface for hours.  Watching fish dart under the dock.  Exclaiming that the water can hold the sky and his face together.  Wondering where all the miniature waves come from that crash into the dock without ever ending.  He could run up and down the green hills again and again just for the sheer joy of running so fast and traveling so far from me.  I ran with him at first and then sat watching for over thirty minutes.  I laughed as I saw the speck of red that is my son turn into a huffing and puffing boy with limbs flying.  He finally collapsed staring at the sky.  Clouds drifted over us as Ian said over and over, "I felt wind in my hair mom.  I didn't know I could run that fast mom."  His natural reaction to the world around him is to watch, experience, and enjoy it.  No rushing, no to-do lists, or even the feeling of accomplishing something useful.  He is just enjoying and exploring God's creation one leaf and rock at a time.

I feel best when there is a long to-do list that I can neatly cross off before dinner.  On days that are less productive I have been known to add *make breakfast or *do dishes to the list just to have more to cross off.  I love fun and spontaneity but never at the cost of productivity.  I have never mastered the art of relaxation or rest.  I read before bed every night but would never think to pick up a book during the day.  I sit to eat a meal with family but would not think to sit down when eating alone.  Ian might just change me by the end of fall.  I have laid in grass and stared at the sky more these last three weeks than the last ten years.  I have watched the waters surface and taken more pictures.  Felt wonder and experienced gratitude for the small things in life.  And I think I am starting to breathe deeper and trust more simply.  Finding myself more thankful for this moment instead of trying to constantly prepare for the ones unseen.  I still write out my to-do lists, but each day they are getting shorter and my ability to stop and rest a moment gets a little longer.

 Hoping you get to be the learner instead of the teacher for a day.  That you will get to feel the itchy after grass sitting feeling and count clouds knowing that the God who created them also created you.  And that we weren't just created to be productive and serve but to rest and thank the Creator of it all.

"Trust in the Lord and do good;  dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  
                Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  
Psalm 37:3&4

Monday, August 26, 2013

What the last six months have taught me

Waiting is part of the adventure.

I am not a fan of waiting.  Not many people are.  But going through photos from the last six months I realized so many of them were of us waiting for something.  Maybe it is because it is the only time we are all still enough for me to capture the moment.  I am starting to be thankful for the wait, thankful for the stillness.  We know now that the adventure began the minute we said yes.

Saying good bye is hard.

  I have perfected the quiet sneaking away to not have to say good bye.  It is a painful blessing to say good bye to people we love.  To love deeply hurts.  It is a gift to get a chance to tell someone what they have meant to you in the time given.  It is worth every awkward gulp crying part of it.

                                        We are blessed.

We are blessed with amazing relationships.  Friends who have offered us adventures and sun soaked fun.  We do not own a pool, kayak, paddle board, or even a dog.  We are so grateful for friends who are brave enough to let three wild boys and two thankful parents crash into their days.

 To love and be loved is the richest gift from God.

 I can't imagine going through this life with anyone else.  I remember thinking twelve years ago that I could not only go through life's joys with this man, but also life's sorrows.  We have had our hearts knit together through both and become more humble and in love because of them.

Stop looking at the numbers...

The man on the bike is my dad.  Doctors said he had six months to live over six years ago.  A disintegrated heart graph would seal his fate before any of us were ready.  I got to see him ride a bike last week.  His heart is weak, but his days are numbered by God and not man.  We are so grateful for every day we get.

Life is good.

Life is good because we love a good God.  Not just when we get to boogie board down creek rapids or bike a new trail.  He is good in the waiting, the disappointments, and grumpy rain days.  We are learning to be thankful not just for the belly laughs but also for the refining of our hopes and dreams.

Monday, August 19, 2013


We just got back from a week at the beach with family.  Toes in the sand, diving under waves, bike rides, and family meals.  It is so easy to rush through days forgetting the biggest blessing we have is in relationships.  How sweet it was to soak in the family time and see cousins giggle way too late into the night.  We are going to miss the summer days but can't wait to move ahead into what God has next.

The note

I saw the note flutter down out of the corner of my eye.  I turned from doing dishes and opened the backdoor to find the small envelope resting on the grass.  When I looked up to the second story window I saw Luke, then only five years old, peering down with big eyes.  He must have opened the window and squeezed it between the screen and sill watching it sail down to the ground.  I had sent him up to his room to think about how he treated others and not to come down until I came to get him.
My voice had not been raised but I was clearly at a loss on how to soften his heart.

I opened the small card with steam engine on front and read his large mismatched print.  With a heavy heart I climbed the stairs and hugged a still crying boy.  Those are the moments to speak truth in love.  Truth about unending grace and forgiveness that wipes clean.  Truth about love unchanging that is not based on what is done or left undone.  He answered with his typical response of already knowing that.  But then he quickly asked what if I had forgotten about him and had eaten dinner without him.  And, if I could forget him, then maybe I could stop loving him.  I gently reminded him that he was mine, my first son, given by a good God and I could never forget him.  Tears dried and we talked more, I left him alone again to think about love and forgiveness and a heart that is soft.  We all ate dinner as a family that night, the note still tucked deep in my pocket.  The prayers and I love yous at bedtime felt a little sweeter.

Since Shirley's death there has seem to be a number of losses.  Some that are not mine to write about but have affected our hearts.  Others that are ours and are still hard to sort out.  And like most important seasons in life, the answers and reasons are unseen.  The monotone place of wait still rests at our doorstep.  It is so easy to feel forgotten in the wait and unloved in the loss. It seems the biggest fear to battle from small child to grown adult is am I loved?  I found this note again in a big blue jar where I keep all the boys old love notes in. I reread this one, remembering with Luke the conversation we had that afternoon.  This note could have been written to God from me many times this summer.  Written every time my heart ached, or I felt forgotten, or a time line changed; each time I questioned His plan and struggled to receive His love.  And yet, His answer will always be, I have never stopped loving you.  I will never forget you, YOU ARE MINE.  Unending grace and unchanging love.

And I feel it.  I feel His love right now in a place of unknown.  In a place very different than I thought we would be a year ago, I feel His love and joy even in the wait and small losses.  I have no clue what will happen in the next two months.  I do know that I don't have to write these notes to God each night as disappointment spills from my lips or the whys aren't answered.  The cycle of feeling unloved can be met with the truth of His unchanging love.  I can choose to whisper I love you, I trust you, I receive what you have for us instead.  In that there is freedom and joy.  Anticipation that hinges on His ability and not mine.  

If you have time in these last few weeks of summer grab a copy of Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place.  It has held truths my heart was aching to hear this season.  I pray that you feel His love as you read it.  Here is one of my favorite quotes form the book, Corrie's father talking to her about love:
"Do you know what hurts so very much?  It's love.  Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.  There are two things we can do when this happens.  We can kill that love so the it stops hurting.  But then of course part of us dies too.  Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel."

"I have loved you with an everlasting love;I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."Jeremiah 31:3

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Basque Update

We've had quite the summer of fundraising.  Well, mostly Jeff. I show up and talk a little bit but he has done some hard and faithful work.  Speaking at churches and bible studies, meeting with people one on one in between a day of meeting with local HS kids and planning camp trips.  Then came the camps and trips out west to potential partners.  And the biggest event and blessing in many ways, a banquet.  The banquet was a chance to share our hearts and God's love for the Basque people with a larger group of people.  We were hoping for forty and just over a hundred came.  Amazing friends locally helped us pull it off.  High school friends served without payment and an incredible caterer, Aruna of Kababs N More, created an amazing meal.  We felt loved and encouraged and can't imagine not having had that chance to share.  We raised 12% more of our budget in one night which is no small feat.  We are still have 38% to go.  The conversations and generosity have encouraged us deeply.  They have humbled us and made us feel ready to fly out tonight!  The numbers nudge us to the ground.  We still have work to do.  Adding to the nudging is that Jeff is officially off Young Life staff September 3rd.  He is putting together (and looking for) building/remodeling projects to get us through late October as we continue to fundraise.  We see the deadline looming and the needs of our family also.  It is a fine line between responsibility and faith.  We feel we are suppose to walk this part out as faithfully as we can with sacrifice, sweat, and sometime tears until we have reached that time.  Our heart is to go.  We believe God's heart is for the Basque people to hear.  If you feel a desire to give to help make that happen here are the links to give towards The Stables Family, Basque, Spain YL International.  It is a secure site and all gifts are tax deductible.  Our biggest need is monthly partners, small gifts given regularly are better for the health of the mission than a bigger one time gift.  Thank you for walking through this with us and we are excited to see what God does in the next two months!

Click here to give a one time gift
Click here to set up recurring gifts

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


 A knock on the door this morning let us know that our dear sweet friend and neighbor is finally home with the one who created her.  The one who knit her together in her mother's womb and loves her with an everlasting love.  There is a great celebration in heaven today.  Sweet embraces and no more pain.  We are left with beautiful memories.  It is not fun to say good bye.  The boys and I have cried a lot today.  We also have talked about how amazing it is that someone we love so dearly is now getting to see God face to face.  To talk to Jesus and be known completely without fear, shame, or sadness.  A reminder that this life is not a game and the Gospel is not a fairy tale to be told but a truth to be lived out.  She lived a life poured out for others and surrendered to Him.  She was still speaking of His goodness up to the end.  Thank you for all your prayers for her in these last months.  Please pray for her daughter and son and their families.  Shirley was a big woman in a little body and she will be missed tremendously.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


     We have twenty-nine windows and five doors in our home.  I know the exact number because I counted them one night.  The night a raccoon sauntered off into the woods after knocking the cat dish repeatedly into the backdoor at one in the morning.  Jeff was out of town and I counted ready to tell him just how many entries there were for an intruder.  A house with three sleeping boys and one wide awake mom.  By the time he got home days later I was unafraid and grateful again that there is almost as much glass as there is drywall in this house.

Thirty four ways to let the light in.  Light that streams in from the back each morning as I fumble to fix coffee and bowls of cereal.  The light that pierces through the row of tall pine trees out front to signal the end of another day.  The only thing I will miss more than our backyard of clover and woods is the windows that surround me with light.

     We are still in a season of wait.  Our hands have become much busier.  The purging of clutter turning into packing of things to save and store.  Jeff is speaking at churches, sharing the heart and vision of Basque while wiggling boys sit too close to me in unfamiliar pews.  Letters and thank you notes start each morning and Saturdays are filled with catching up with old friends.  But the wait is still hemmed in with the knowledge that the unknowns out number the known.

     I still feel my stomach go into knots when someone at the park or in the grocery store asks when we are going and what will we do for schooling for the boys.  I still feel my mouth twist into a half-hearted smile as I answer that we are still not sure. I am sure in His provision and His timing.  I am completely  unsure of me handling it with grace or without some presence of fear heard in my voice as I reply.   I am asked these same questions and many more by Luke and Levi.  I answer the same but each time recounting all the things we were so unsure of when we moved to Culpeper.  Letting them remind me of how each was answered.  They were too young to ask questions then, to have fears, or see the messy process. But they have lived the answers through the years.  This time we walk through it all together.

Each time we talk I feel it shed light in their tender hearts and my  aching one.  Not a bright spotlight that reveals all.  But a soft one that filters through.  Strong enough to make it through a thick forest of trees and leaves and cast itself onto us.  Strong enough to remind me that spotlights are rarely given when stepping out into the unknown.  Strong enough to remind me that our job as their parents is not just to sit on the front stoop and watch the sun sink safely into the pines but to awake each morning trusting the God that raises it.  Each day that is filled with family and friends who help cast that same light when fears spill out.  That softly point out the lies that confuse and the truth that sets free.  I hope you get to see His light filter through your circumstances this week.  

"Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling."  Psalm 43:3

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not left behind

  As the youngest of three and a true daydreamer, I was given a healthy fear of being left behind.  I was never good at keeping up with two much more focused and braver siblings.  Often, the gap between our strides would widen until I would realize how far behind I was and rush to rejoin them.  Ian is not a daydreamer, he just is a lot younger than Luke and Levi.  He did not come in the nicely spaced
two years of his older brothers. Or even a reasonable three or four year spacing. It was the summer Luke was seven and Levi was five that Ian came into our lives.  And pictures changed from Luke and Levi side by side, to Luke and Levi with Ian far behind.  The gap is slowly closing as I take snap shots
of their adventures. 

I use to worry that Ian would be lonely.  He would feel like an add on child.  Feeling foolish for thinking we looked like parents that didn't have their act together. Not like the other families that planned and provided just the right spacing for siblings to share bus rides and friends.   I didn't know I had the expectation that all my children would be grouped tightly together until it didn't work out that way.  

Funny that is how expectations work, they are silent until met with something different.  Then the loud voice of discontentment, what ifs, and why not echos through my thoughts.  Fear becomes louder than hope.  
I love this picture because it reminds me that our expectations and fears are wrong.  Ian loves to be in the middle ground.  He enjoys watching his big brothers charge ahead, call him forward, and rests in knowing I am safely behind watching it all.  He doesn't look ahead panicked that his stride does not match theirs.  He certainly isn't concerned that I am behind and not beside.  He is enjoying his own pace and making his own set of tracks, his own ripples.

It is so easy to get caught up in our expectations or someone else story that we forget to trust God's timing, spacing, and path set specifically for us.  When we fixate on how God unfolds life for others we begin to think He is withholding from us.  We can miss the blessings of the middle ground, the ripples and steps of them, because we are wishing to be further along or in a past that feels safer.

I am grateful for two older boys who are fearless and charge ahead in adventures.  Thankful for Ian  following the trails they have blazed and often times creating his own.  He is a reminder daily
 that expectations and time frames that disappoint at first, end up strengthening
our trust and faith in the end. A reminder that looking down at the steps taken
now is better than fixating on the future or wishing for the past.
To rest in the knowledge that we are not left behind and we are never alone in the journey.

"You will keep in perfect peace

all who trust in you,

all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"

Isaiah 26:3

Hold on

"When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit and trust the engineer."

-Corrie Ten Boon

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shirley is home

"It is important to identify the many ways in which we think, speak, or act with fatalism and, step by step, to convert them into moments of faith.  This movement from fatalism to faith is the movement that will remove the cold darkness from our hearts and transform us into people whose trust in the power of love can, indeed, make mountains move."

-Henri Nouwen

It took me five days to walk across the yard to Shirley's house.  Eight to surrender to the idea that I cannot be the hands to help.  Not the way she needed.  It was eight days ago that her daughter was moving clothes back into her house.  I left the groceries in the van and ran between the yards, Ian bouncing on my hip, to make sure all was ok.  "She is coming home on Monday." The words broke a smile across my face.  A smile that eased into concern as she explained that nothing had changed.  She was not getting better.  She just could not handle one more night away from home.  One more night in the long term care facility with florescent lighting.  The smell of sanitized sickness.  The noises that echo off the hard floors and bare walls.  She wanted to come home to green trees, and soft sheets and surrounded by the full life she lived before all this happened.  

Ian wiggled on my hip and I let him down to pick clovers.  She asked if I could help. Shirley needs twenty four hour care and split between two siblings with full time jobs and families of their own it is hard to know what to do.  I fumbled with words spilling out unorganized.  I couldn't.  I wanted to, would love to, but...my life is too full now.  Too many needs pulling me into too many directions.  I am often feeling overwhelmed with life now.  And I am already dreaming of more cold streams to swim in with boys and adventures in woods.  Adventures far from my own house full of dirty clothes and needs that never end.  She understood.  I felt the lurch in my stomach, the tightening of the chest reminding me I am not enough.  I cannot fix this or even offer the help they need right now.

I saw the ambulance bring her Monday.  Watching through my window.  I stayed home and my chest tightened again.  Each day looking out across the yard as kids asked for help, needs were met, games played.  Evenings smearing into mornings.  There were always cars.  Always people.  I didn't want to intrude.  To let down.  To show up only to say all that I could not.  My mom called twice to see if I had seen her yet.  Excuses tumbled out of me.  Saturday only one truck was in the driveway.  Jeff was home and all was quiet.  With a heavy heart I trudged through the patch of grass carrying clipped flowers and cards.  Small gifts in the face of great need.

I knocked and creaked open the glass storm door.  Her hospital bed set up in the closed-in sun room.  The room she would watch us sled in the winter and watch the boys run through the sprinkler in the summer.  Her bed was facing the road and the stoop where she would sit each evening after the yard work.  Behind her the now green cherry trees, as close to the outdoors as she could get.  I walked in and she smiled.  Her son pulled up a chair and left us alone.  It is still hard for Shirley to talk.  Muscles are weak and saying a few words leaves her breathless.  She still always asks about the boys, the neighbors, which flowers are blooming outside.  She still can only move one hand and her toes.  She still smiles and says this too is God's will and she is trying to trust Him and His plan no matter what it holds.  Most of all she still longs to get up and walk and drive to church and help others.  But there are no tears this time.  And her cheeks hold the pale pink of life.  Her children are doing for her what she has done for others her whole life.  The giving without receiving, the loving as water poured out and not held back and rationed.  

And as we talked I felt foolish for thinking my hands were a part of the answer in this new stage.  I was to sit and listen.  To tell stories of the boys and read words of Life.  To take Ian and make sure he does not try to climb on her bed to talk close.  To remind her that she was made in love with a purpose of love and that lack of movement or speech does not hinder that plan.  And to leave after a visit thanking God for each step taken back to our house.  For each moment given to live and love the ones around me.  Without fear of their needs or my weakness.  But with a full knowledge of His grace and mercy.  

Please continue to pray for Shirley.  Doctors do not know what the recovery will look like. The time frame of recovery or if it is even possible.  She is living each day with grace in bed surrounded by flowers in glass jars.  Nights are the hardest.  Waking up from dreams that are good she said can be harder than waking up from bad ones.  Loss of freedom can be more crushing than the pain.  Pray that the boys and I will not waste the time we have.  Walking across the small side yard to share stories of cold creeks and frogs caught.  Flowers picked  and some love we are so richly given.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who morn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:3-5

After I wrote this Luke came over with me to see Shirley for the first time since her stroke in March.  He was convinced it was better to remember the old Shirley.  Terrified to see her in pain and not able to move.  We sat and talked.  We remembered all the visits he made on his own to her house.  His shoulders relaxed and his smile deepened.  By the time we left her house he was filled with deep joy, deep compassion, and most of all hope.  The blessing of loving another.  There is no better gift to give the boys.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ian is three

 He makes us laugh out loud at his antics.  He reminds us that we still don't know what we are doing.  He helps us to live in the now, every sweet and hard moment of it.  He stretches our hearts deeper and our minds wider.  We cannot imagine Team Stables without our #3.  Happy Birthday Ian!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Waters

  "Character grows in the stream of the world's life.  That chiefly is where men are to learn to love." 

 -Henry Drummond

Luke and Levi's favorite spot in the creek pictured above is where the deep swimming hole leads to a small drop off and then to shallow rapids.  The small rapids are strong enough and just deep enough to carry you down the rocky bottom until you find your footing again to stand.  Their backs bear the scratches of many trips down the creek.  Often they would perch right in the spot where it flows from calm to turbulent- their backs against the cool, still waters and feet dangling in the foam and swirl of the drop off.

There are two questions a person will ask us when they find out we are moving to Basque Country, Spain.  Number one is do we speak Spanish.  No.  No we do not.  The little bit I remember of High school Spanish is now mixed in with the little bit of Russian I remember from college.  Jeff took French in High school and the boys have watched Diego a few times.  The second one is when are we moving.  We had originally said July.  May seemed too naive with the budget we had to raise.  A winter leave seemed too hard on the boys with the school year half over.  It is hard to explain to someone that the leave date is completely based on when we raise a Young Life Missions budget for the three years minimum in Europe.  When we raise it, we go.  No one I know has that as part of their job description here and to reply with that seems a shielded request for funds.  The add on question seems to be "Are you excited?"  That answer can change as fast as the waters pictured above.  In still waters it is a yes!  When footing is lost and plans stalled it can whisper into I am not sure...

I am still shocked by the seasons of deep gratitude and trust dropping off suddenly into worry, doubt, and fear.  I can go weeks confident that God is in this.  I would much rather have the story and confidence of this all moving quickly and smoothly.  Much rather have this months calendar filled in with packing, passports, and tickets ordered.  It is so tempting to feel like God is only in the easy and the blessing... and miss His presence in the struggle and the wait.

 I hear truth of God being in the hard, the messy, the waiting and wresting.  God was with Jacob and David.  With Mary and Martha.  In their victories and their sorrow.  His plan and truth is not dependent on my emotion or circumstance.  His provision and protection is not dependent on how the water looks on or below the surface.  So this week I am finding my footing again.  Remembering why we felt the stirring to go in the first place.  Remembering how He brought us to Culpeper, Va and trusting He will lead us out at the perfect time.

We are hovering just over 50% raised to go to Basque Country.  We also have received a matching $50,000 pledge.  This matches immediately the annual total of a 3 year pledge. A $100 a month pledge, is matched by a $1200 one time gift up to $50,000.  Jeff has currently taken over the lead in fundraising and speaking at churches.  We are hoping to leave by this Fall, 2013.  Our summer will be spent going through Rosetta Stone with the boys and traveling to speak about what God is doing in us and in the Basque Country.  Filled with wilderness adventures, and swimming in creeks.  Learning to be grateful in the calm waters and finding our feet in the currents.  A friend shared  a song with me this week and it has been my solace, Where Feet May Fail.  If you have a few minutes here is the link to hear it:

Hillsong UNITED Oceans, Where Feet May Fail:

May you be blessed in knowing He is with you in the still waters and in the waves.  In the receiving and the waiting.  And that we will not be swept up in our fears but find our feet firmly planted in the truth of His love.  

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you;  when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."
Isaiah 43:2

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Mess

"A two year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it."  -Jerry Seinfeld

This is Ian's last month being a two year old.  The last weeks.  I know that it will not change him overnight but the changes will happen as quietly as the sun slips into the horizon each evening.  The phrases he picks, the way he talks to me.  He says each word as if a mini hurricane is propelling the syllables out one by one.  He is left breathless after a story told.  When he is done, eyebrows up, he is watching to see if I understand.  Watching to see if my eyebrows will go up too, repeating the story.  

When we have had a full day, after friends and family have shared life with us, the sun sinks and Ian clings near to me.  He holds his face close to mine and says, "mommy don't share Ian now."  I love that.  I love that there are moments that I don't have to share him.  No school bus to catch, or friends that are more exciting.  But the days are short.  I don't want to waste the days cleaning and prepping for the smooth running moments and miss the messy ones.  The messy ones where the kitchen is undone from making muffins and the floor is smudged with mud. Three sets of feet now run barefoot in the backyard.  Screeching  when they find a frog or toad.  Bringing it close to me as if it was a bundle of daffodils.  The mud smeared onto his cheeks and small hands proof that catching the frog was no easy feat.  And the mess mingles in with the joy, the wearing out and the giving.

The truth is, what overwhelms me about life is also the vehicle in which the most joy flows.  The mess of it.  I am constantly putting back into order what has been scattered in a day.  It would be easy to demand order.  It would be easy to keep shoes tied tight, the hose off, and frogs in the woods.  The house would look much better.  I would look less weary by seven o'clock.  But the joy would trickle out instead of gush. The bone tired exhaustion of some days are also the same days saturated in joy. The mess and joy cannot be separated in life.  And the magazine pictures that show it all clean and pristine, also show frozen smiles for a camera crew.  So, I will try to remember tomorrow, as I scrub the mud from the floor and find the two year old tracker of the mud at the sink, that these moments are sweet.  That very soon the days of scrubbing will turn into days of remembering.  

I hope you get to smile at a mess today.  That the mess will be a reminder of blessing.  And that we can all stop looking for the blender top for a moment.

"Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  James 1:17

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


"Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into tranquil joy."      -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We are cleaning out the basement, closets, and corners of a house well lived in.  And the best find so far has been the old bent box of dusty photo albums.  Jeff hauled it up from a corner of the basement, placed there for just a moment and then forgotten.  I wiped down the covers, the dust thick.  And as I flipped through them time stopped.  Faces, eyes squinting at the sun.  My sister, brother, and I with the California hills behind us.  The years skip forward and high school is relived in moments, fingers pausing at the friends I have lost touch with. I flip another.  My first dorm room.  Tapestry hung above the bed and a look of anticipation and fear.  And then the countless ones of friendships made, trips taken, experiences that welded hearts together.  The first ones of Jeff and I dating, the ones of us broken, and then the wedding day.  They flood through my heart and mind as I remember what I don't ever think about much anymore.  That I didn't just end up in Culpeper, VA married with three boys.  And Jeff didn't just come up with a crazy idea to move us all to Basque, Spain.  Each picture held a clue to how we got here to this place.  And to see it unravel dusty page after dusty page steadily filled me with gratitude. 
 Gratitude for parents that loved and spoke into my heart.  For an older sister and brother who shaped me.  Friends who helped me understand what it is to give and receive.  For a man that loves me, the good, the bad, the tiring.  And the three boys smiling at me in each photo.  Teaching me what life is about.  And I am so glad it is not all about me. I wouldn't trade a single snapshot for a better composition.  For better lighting or faces.  They tell a story I am so grateful I get to be a part of.  That feels a lot better than being afraid of what is left to written.  Gratitude rests in the remembering.  And to remember with a heart and mind that sees  clearly.  That each moment, day, and year had a purpose.  Some refining and stretching, most just living through the small joys given.  And none wasted.  The perspective of seeing snippets of life lived so far, how much has been given.  How much has been GIVEN.  It is hard not to thank the Giver.
I hope you get to pull out an old picture album this week.  To go through the slick pages of memories, years lived.  And to see how God was weaving His love story throughout.  That each face in each picture was a part of something so much bigger than you.  That your heart will grow heavy with thanks by the time you flip the last page and reach the pages to be filled.

"What shall I return to the 


for all his goodness to me."

Psalm 116:12