Friday, March 23, 2018

Why we all want MORE and what to do about it.

I’m heartbroken. The church I grew up in is going through yet another split, families and staff leaving or let go. Relationships shattered. The body of Christ in pieces. Sheep left grieving over a divided flock. I love this church, the people still in it and those who used to be there.

One time, my normally-passive older son, gave his younger brother what he thought was “fair warning” and then punched him in the face. Something about Legos.

I confess. Multiple times a day, I impulsively check my book’s rating on Amazon. Unfortunately getting published won’t fulfill all of my dreams. Somebody else’s book is always hitting the best seller list over mine.

We all want more. 

The conflict, comparison, and discontentment that results are a product of misplaced desire.  

Because they refused to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. God miraculously provided manna from heaven every day. It wasn’t enough. They craved meat from Egypt. They grumbled and complained. They desired what God had not provided. (Numbers 11)

The Levites were set apart by the Lord to serve in and guard the tabernacle instead of going to war. They ministered before the congregation, but that wasn’t enough for some of them. They desired the priesthood and confronted Moses and Aaron. And the Lord caused the ground the swallow them up. (Numbers 16)

Even Aaron and Miriam fell prey to desire: “Has the Lord indeed only spoken through Moses? Has he not spoke through us also?” And the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy for seven days. (Numbers 12:1-16)

“It’s a terrifying reality,” as I heard a pastor recently say, “that people can believe in God, and yet still love themselves more.” 

Misplaced desires will ruin you and those around you. Misplaced desire ruins families, marriages, and churches. It causes fights, divisions, and quarrels.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to the Israelite believers scattered among the nations, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.” (James 4:1-2)

The problem is that misplaced desires is something we ALL struggle with, from those living in poverty to the most wealthy, from the lowly to the most powerful. Every person thinks of themselves first. Without the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts day by day, we are destined to be swallowed up by our desires, as the ground swallowed up those Levites.

I often have to ask myself why I want The Marvelous Mud House to be a bestseller. Is it because I want His glory or my own?  I need the message of contentment in the story as much as anyone else. 

Moses was the humblest man alive because he knew that nothing here on earth compared to the glory of God. The only true place that we can put our desires is on our good shepherd. Only the good shepherd can lead and fulfill his sheep. Even when they are broken and hurting, biting each other and bleeding. Our shepherd, the Lord, will continue to guide, lead, protect, discipline, and comfort us, when we place our desires at his feet. 

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; 
my hope comes from him. 
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; 
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." 
Psalm 62:5-6

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Guest Blog Post by Dr. Jason Peters, CEO of Hope Haven Rwanda


I couldn’t help but notice the variety of faces as we bounced along the dirt road to Hope Haven Rwanda in our dusty Toyota Hilux. Shouts of “Mzungu! Mzungu!” flooded through our open windows as children grinned and reached out their hands excitedly. In the midst of the chaos, there was a special connection between us as we exchanged glances, waves and smiles.

The word “Mzungu” has its historical roots in Niger-Congo languages and is thought to have initially referred to people of European descent who “wandered” or “explored.” The interesting thing about “Mzungu” is that it can be used in an affectionate or insulting way. Like some English words, the meaning of the word is often dependent on the nature of the relationship and the context in which it is used.

The variety of humanity is both stunning and beautiful! Do we see every person we encounter as created in God’s image, what the Church Fathers referred to in Latin as the “Imago Dei?” When we view people as intrinsically valuable, as image-bearers of God, we are able to develop healthy reflections of the intimacy shared by our Triune God.

When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples on the night He was betrayed, He challenged them to reflect God’s love in the way they loved each other: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Jesus calls us to treat everyone we meet with deep respect, to treat them as we wish to be treated, and to convey His love to them as fellow image-bearers of God.

At Hope Haven Rwanda, we want to promote a culture of love and respect within our staff, faculty, students and the families that we serve. My prayer is that every time we hear a child cry out “Mzungu!” it is a term of affection because they sense that our team loves them, that we want to listen to them and to honor them with the dignity that they deserve as image-bearers of God. This is a critical part of our mission to transform Rwandan families through a holistic approach to education and discipleship, actively demonstrating the love, hope and truth of Jesus Christ. 

No matter who we are, or where we live, we are deeply loved by God and we are called to love others deeply. In the fast-paced bustle of daily life, how can you be used by God this week to hear the heart of someone in need? May God help us all to be willing to listen to His promptings and to love and serve whomever He places on our path.

Dr. Jason Peters is a follower of Jesus, husband, father of five, speaker, author, and CEO of Hope Haven Rwanda ( Jason has traveled to 48 countries around the globe to meet with Christians and to help share their stories. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, is a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel and was host and producer of the national award-winning I Am N video curriculum.

Please check out Hope Haven Rwanda HERE!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mud House Mama: Vanessa Jones

A thoughtful writer friend of mine gave me the inspiring idea to write features about “Mud House Mamas,"  women who embrace God’s incredible heart for the world, live their lives accordingly, and boldly share that passion with others.

As I considered writing my first post for this, I was compelled to tell you about this woman! 

She is soft spoken, wise, gentle and kind. I first met Vanessa when she worked as a summer camp counselor at New Life Ranch. I was pregnant with my first child, and scared because I just found out I might have gestational diabetes. If my husband couldn't make it to the appointment with me, the first person I thought of asking was Vanessa. She was a comforting person, a balm to the soul. 

And yet, as I would soon discover, surprisingly so fiercehearted

Growing up, I always imagined that women who chose to go to the mission field to places like Kenya, must be loud, passionate, strong, warrior type women. She wasn't the personality I thought would be headed to Africa. I was wrong. 

Several years after our meeting, Vanessa married my brother, an aspiring medical missionary doctor. Together, they survived his medical school years, and the birth of 3 boys. Then they packed their belongings in 12 suitcases, and moved to Kenya.

While Kyle serves at Kapsowar Hospital, Vanessa is cooking meals from scratch, homeschooling their now four children, hosting guests and visitors from around the world, and leading Bible studies with women in Kenya. She has supported and come alongside Kyle starting a medical clinic and a Christian school in the remote Lodengo area four hours down a dangerous winding mountain road from their home. Her children are growing up to be compassionate, energetic, souls who love Jesus.

And last week, Vanessa saved my brother’s life. While on vacation at a hotel in Kenya, Kyle hit his head on a faulty designed water slide and went unconscious. Thankfully, Vanessa saw the accident, quickly jumped in and yelled for their 12 year old son, Hudson to help her get him above and out of the water. Likely the scariest moment of her life were those 2 minutes he lie unconscious at the poolside, and the 30 minutes he was confused afterwards. (He’s recovering from a concussion, but doing well now.)

My sister-in-law is a fiercehearted HERO. I’m delighted to name her the first “Mud House Mama.” She loves the Lord and the people of Kenya with her whole being. She is living for Jesus and changing lives! I am forever grateful for her impact on my life! (and my brother's :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Free donuts and an Invitation to the Movies

He was probably there for the free donut. 

We were too. 

My son and I bought two more donuts and a chocolate milk. 

From across Krispy Kreme, I watched him drinking coffee, eating his donut, and looking dejected. 

Lonely. Bored. Clothing tattered. Was he homeless? 

After our donuts, I planned to take my son to see The Greatest Showman

A crazy thought popped into my mind. Would the homeless looking man enjoy this movie too? Should we ask him to join us? No, that would be crazy. Unsafe. The thought wouldn't leave me. I mentioned it to my son. 

Who PROMPTLY turned and STARED at the man. Just briefly. From across the doughnut shop. 

Now we had to invite him to the movie. Otherwise, he might think we were staring and talking about him unkindly. I suddenly felt very brave. 

 "Excuse me sir. Hello. How are you?" 

"Okay I guess." 

"My son and I are about to go see a movie. Would you like to join us?" 

"Oh no, no, I couldn't do that." he said waving his hand across his chest. 

"Are you sure" big smile. 

"No no, I couldn't." he said. 

"Okay, well, have a nice day." 

My son may always remember the day his crazy mother invited a stranger to the movies. 

I will always wonder how our invitation made this man feel. Did it make him feel less invisible to the world? Brighten his day a little?  We may never know. 

If I could go back, I would do it differently. Introduce ourselves first. Sit down and get to know this man's name and his story. Maybe he would have felt more comfortable with us inviting him to a movie. Maybe we would have made a friend that day. 

If you live in the Tulsa area (we don't), and feel like swinging by Krispy Kreme (who doesn't!?), would you do me a favor and keep an eye out for this man? If you find him, tell him we're sorry. We're sorry we didn't spend more time talking to you. For not asking your name first. We'd love a second chance. 

My son would love to meet you, properly. 

Book a Reading of The Marvelous Mud House

"When you have a relationship with the Lord, 
a little seems like a lot." 

—3rd grade students after hearing The Marvelous Mud House

I love to share my children's book, The Marvelous Mud House with children at schools, churches, and libraries! Book readings with discussion afterwards take 20-30 minutes. Below are the responses from some of the schools and churches I have done readings for: 

Our school had the privilege of not only getting to see a beautifully illustrated book, “The Marvelous Mud House”, the author actually read it to our students.  April Graney has written a wonderful book that children of all ages will enjoy.  As I looked around the auditorium while she read her book to the students, I observed that they were totally engaged and listened as she shared. Our students range in age from 4 years to 12 years old. Each child loved the book, which was evident by the way they stayed attentive throughout the story and by the rich questions they asked at the end of her presentation. “The Marvelous Mud House” crosses cultures in a beautiful way and teaches some great life lessons about contentment with what you have, less can actually be more, working with a good attitude, and sharing with others who have a need. We hope she will write another book and come back again!

Libby Jeffers
Teacher, Chapel Coordinator

Mingo Valley Christian

      "Our Kindergarten through fourth graders loved  Mrs. Graney ‘s read aloud of The Marvelous Mud House. By evidence of their comments and questions, students engaged in perspective, empathy, and problem solving during the read aloud all the while experiencing “the God who provides” in a new way. Our students and team greatly enjoyed the experience and learning that Mrs. Graney brought to us, and hope to partner with her again in the future."

Ryan Schmuck
K2 Coordinator
Fellowship Bible Church, Lowell, AR

"The Marvelous Mud House is a delightful book which opens the hearts and minds of the reader to the possibility of joy and happiness while living in needs.  When reading aloud, April Graney has an engaging manner that pulled my students into the world of Kenya.  She interacted with the students and graciously answered the questions and listened to the comments of my little ones.  The Marvelous Mud House would be a great addition to any classroom and an excellent resource to start a discussion about having an attitude of gratitude and way we can make a difference in the world." 

Mrs. Karen Hodges
Elementary Teacher
Cookson Hills Christian School

  You may contact me for book readings or speaking engagements at:!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Planting Gratefulness in our Children's Hearts: Lessons from my Dad

My dad had the questionable habit of picking up hitchhikers in the mid-eighties, especially in winter.
One icy school morning, my little sister and I snuggled up in the back seat of our station wagon, while my dad pulled over to invite a stranger into the front seat. A few miles later, Dad dropped us off at school with a kiss and headed down the road to take the traveler wherever it was he needed to go.
It seemed completely normal.
Except that evening at dinner, Dad told us about Sam, the hitchhiker he picked up that morning. “He can’t afford milk, so he just eats his cereal with water,” my dad explained. My nine-year-old heart melted.
The next day, my dad took me to a grocery store where he let me load up brown paper sacks with whatever I wanted: milk, eggs, bread, and deli meat. I added pop tarts for good measure. It felt a bit like Christmas morning delivering those groceries to Sam.
My dad planted gratefulness in my heart that day.
As we enter this season, I want to plant seeds of gratefulness in my own children’s hearts that they will carry with them throughout their lives. My parents did this for me in a million small ways. Like careful gardeners, they tended the soil of my heart, planting truths in three ways: thoughts, words, and actions.
Gratefulness start with true thinking. In a culture where truth is relative, my dad taught us to look to the Bible for truth. Biblical truth affects everything in our lives from our view of ourselves, our relationships with others, our possessions, and true contentment and joyful living. My dad embraced a worldview that teaches us we are forgiven, fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who delights in us. It made him so grateful. My dad picked up hitchhikers because he loved the Lord with his entire being, and he believed every person was made in the image of their Creator, worthy of the love and grace of God. As a parent, this kind of thinking is essential for us first if we want to plant gratefulness in our children’s hearts.
Gratefulness can be taught with words. My dad’s relationship with God bubbled out of his heart and came out of his mouth. He couldn’t help teaching us thankfulness. He understood that real treasure is found in the Lord, and not in possessions. He taught us Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven….for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” My dad loved reading us Scripture at night before bed. I remember being slightly embarrassed and a little proud of him when he did this even when I had friends over to spend the night. Reading and discussing biblical truths with our children plants seeds of gratefulness in their hearts.
Gratefulness can be modeled with actions. Not only did my dad talk about gratefulness, he modeled gratefulness through a giving spirit. We sometimes need to talk to our kids about how kids around the world don’t have enough to eat, or don’t have parents to love and care for them. But to foster gratefulness, we also need to involve ourselves and our children in the joyous and life-giving work of building the kingdom of God. We need to put them in places where they see needs up close. We can do this through our local church, ministries helping the poor and homeless, mission trips, or just caring for those in need around us. Those seeds of gratefulness take root when we help our kids take action on what we are teaching them.
As I was working on writing this post, my dad ended up in the hospital with a broken sternum from a high fall out of a tree he was trimming. I spent two days there with him observing his grateful spirit, never once complaining, always kind and thankful. While the pain medication sometimes made him forget what day it was, he still took effort to learn the names of all the nurses and show them appreciation. He told a housekeeping worker as she emptied the trash, “Did you know that your job is one of the most important jobs in this hospital?”
Dad is now home recovering. I’m thankful for the lessons he and my mom taught me throughout my life, as those seeds he planted in my heart have grown into harvest. Our kids need us to do the hard work of planting seeds of gratefulness in their hearts. I’m still learning this from my dad, as I hope my kids are learning it from me.
This post originally appeared on All Mom Does Blog here.

April Graney is the author of The Marvelous Mud House, a whimsical true story about finding contentment and joy based on her family’s trip to Kenya. Her passions are pointing her own five children towards the grace of God, serving in ministry at New Life Ranch in Oklahoma with her husband, and teaching children and parents about God’s heart for the world and those living in poverty. She enjoys early morning runs with friends, growing tomatoes and herbs, taking naps, drinking coffee, blogging and attempting to be an artist. She has a master’s degree in Biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary, and has taught Bible study methods to teenagers, and spoken at leadership camps, and mother/daughter retreats. Follow her blog at

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Q&A about The Marvelous Mud House

One of my favorite things to do is talk to children about the true story behind The Marvelous Mud House! First, I want to know what they learned from the story. I love to hear their responses like "be content with what you have and help others" and "people are more important than stuff" and "God always hears our prayers." Then it's question time! Here are some of the most asked/interesting questions children have asked me after hearing this whimsically told true story:  

Is The Marvelous Mud House a true story? 
Yes! The Marvelous Mud house is based on our family trip to Kenya in 2013! While we were there we met Mama George and her family! We were so impressed by her and the people of Kenya! Even though they lived simply, their lives radiated such joy! When we returned home, we decided that our lives needed to change! We wanted that joy and simplicity, found not in things, but found in being content and sharing with others. Our children really did work and save in order to send money for George to attend high school. When we sent word to Mama George that we wanted to help George go to school, we learned the incredible fact that she had been pointing her son to the Lord to trust him for provision for school! George actually was in the middle of studying for a big test to get into high school, but he kept asking his mom, "why should I even study, we don't have the money for high school?" and Mama George kept telling him to work hard and trust God to provide! I was so excited to hear this, that I couldn't sleep one night, and so I got up and wrote the first draft of The Marvelous Mud House

How much does school in Kenya cost?
The great thing is that the government has tried to make primary (elementary) education in Kenya free! But there also fees for books and supplies and uniforms that still sometimes keep kids from being able to attend school. Secondary education (high school) is not free to students in Kenya, and this is where we helped George. We have 5 children, and so they split equally the $500 a year for George to attend high school. They have supported George for the last 4 years, and he graduated from high school in November!

Did the trip to Kenya really affect your children's hearts the way the story says?
Our children are much more content with what they have and more aware of the needs of the world after our trip to Kenya. After our trip, they began saving and working to help George attend school. They busily started babysitting, raking leaves, mowing lawns, running lemonade stands, and even saving their birthday money to help George! Our boys are currently 10, 12, and 14, so I have to say they are still normal kids. They still occasionally ask for a Lego set they see at the store! But if they want something, they know they have to work and pay for it themselves. While they work to send George to school, they also put money back in their own savings accounts for the things that they want. My own heart was impacted too! Being in Kenya helped me realize that we have a lot to learn from these beautiful cultures, and that my willingness to live more simply and content can allow me to give more to the needs I see around me. 

Did Mama George really sing the song in the story? 
I was so inspired by the prayers of Mama George and her faith in trusting God to provide for her son, that I wrote the song to signify the heart of this beautiful woman. There was a lot of singing in Kenya wherever we went. My first morning there, when I woke up, I thought I heard music. I went outside early before anyone else in the house was up. I sat there for over an hour listening to the most joyous singing drifting towards me from somewhere in the valley. It turned out to be children singing at the boarding school before church on Sunday! 

Why is George's mom named "Mama George"
George and Mama George
An interesting tradition in Kenya is that when a woman has her first child, the people around her start calling her the name of her first child with "mama" before it! So, my firstborn is named Anna, and in Kenya people would call me "Mama Anna!" 

Did you draw the pictures in the story? 
While I would love to take credit for the artwork because it is so beautiful, I do not. My publisher found and hired an amazing artist, Alida Massari, to do the artwork for The Marvelous Mud House. Isn't it beautiful?! 

How long did it take you to write the book? 
I wrote the original first draft of the story one night when I couldn't sleep. It was a lot shorter. I sent it to all kind of friends to get their feedback, and I rewrote and rewrote the story over the course of about a year. I probably wrote 10-15 versions of the story before I felt it was ready to try and share with a publisher. If you want to be a writer, follower your English teacher's advice and "revise! revise! revise!"

What animals did you see in Kenya?
We saw LOTS of animals! Mostly, we saw zebras, camels, goats, elephants, and giraffes. There was a very mischievous baboon who tried to get into our car to get our food! Our driver had to shoo him away! We also got to hold chameleons, which was really fun and cute! We went to an elephant orphanage where we saw elephants drinking out of big baby bottles.

Where can I get a copy of The Marvelous Mud House?
I'm so glad you'd like to have a copy! The book is available in Lifeway Stores! It is also available on Amazon, Walmart, and almost anywhere books are sold online right now! I love to do book readings at churches, libraries, and schools, so if you come to one of my book readings, you can also purchase one directly from me and have it signed at the same time! If you would like me to come to your church or school, I'd love to set that up! My January schedule is filling up quickly, so email me to set up a reading soon at!