How to Live Out Sisterhood When You Live in the Mommyhood.

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I have one big brother; and he is all brother. When we were kiddos, his love language was messing with me. I believed his Every. Single. Word. Stuff, like-

At the age of 12, I’d be sent to live on an Indian Reservation to make bead necklaces for the rest of my life–because I was a girl.

And…

Dr. Pepper was called “Dr. Pepper” because you were supposed to pour red crushed peppers in before you drank up.

I’m relieved my parents forgot to send me away, and eventually, I traded sucking red crushed peppers through stubborn straws for my beloved non-fat, with-whip, mochas.

My whole life I’ve had the ‘fun’ of knowing what it means to have a brother…but not a sister.  Last week my daughter received a letter with the precious words crayoned,

“Ciana, you can call me Sister”.

I read it over and over, and all the feel-goods sprinkled over my spirit. My cousin’s daughter had written them. She’s adopted from Uganda and understands more than most, love makes a family. And God is that love. We enter a loving relationship with God; strike down genetic laws; and become sisters with other believers. But it doesn’t always feel that way.

If someone at church referred to me as ‘sister’…I figured they’d forgotten my name. Honestly, there are times when hearing it from random ladies makes me roll all my eyes. Why can it feel so patronizing? When it’s stripped down: we may be sisters in God’s family, but we often struggle to treat one another that way.  It’s not on purpose! We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re overwhelmed keeping precious little humans alive and forget to really pray when we say we will.

When someone in a family struggles, it affects the whole household. If something is lost, all grubby fingers dig under the couch cushions to find it. If one kiddo hurls their body into the mini-van late, all the kiddos run like hyenas to get to class on time. If you’re in a healthy family, your lives are intertwined. But if you don’t live under the same roof, this gets tough. I think of the letters between Ciana and Milla.  At such a young age, they’re making an effort to keep their lives intertwined. And that’s the key…they’re intentional.

True sisterhood speaks these words:

When you struggle, my spirit will wrestle in prayer for you.

When you’re lost in an area of life, I’ll search God’s word for answers with you.

When you feel you’ll never make it to the finish line, I’ll carry your heavy diaper bag.

But how can we authenticate our spoken words of sisterhood when life is so….much?

Here are three things I’ve found to be practical, powerful & completely do-able:

1. Fast together.

When a friend lays out a deep concern over coffee, I offer to fast with them for a week over the issue. Fasting doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can simply mean going without something you enjoy and replacing it with specific prayer.  I typically choose to stop eating sugar. The struggle is so for real. Every time I’m all cravy, I stop right there and pray for whatever unique trial my friend is dealing with.

2. Pray at the same time everyday together.

Most likely, you don’t see your friend every day. So set an alarm on your phone to remind you both to stop what you’re doing and pray. I had a friend who was struggling with her husband when he came home from work. We set our phones to alert us to pray thirty minutes before he got home. When we were done praying, we would simply text, “Amen,” to each other.

3. Dedicate a prayer journal to your friend.

 I love to do this! I buy thin journal packs at TJ Maxx or HomeGoods, sharpie a friend’s name on the cover, and fill it up with prayers over their life. Some fill up faster than others and I don’t do it every day. Sometimes I’ll take a quick picture of the cover and text it to my friend saying, ‘You were just covered in prayer.” I imagine when I go home to Jesus; my children will find them and deliver them to my living friends.

I’m praying these practical tips spur your relationships to a deeper level. It’s not easy when you’re in the jungle of ‘Adulting’. But that’s why it’s so important, isn’t it? We all need to know someone is genuinely in the thick with us. We all want someone to take the time to say, “Friend, you can call me Sister.”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

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The Strength We Sometimes Forget

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When I was a kid, some lady bundled me in winter clothes and threw me into a swimming pool. I think she was my swim teacher…or an escaped mental patient. Either way, the struggle was real.

I don’t recall having any legal representation or signing a waiver.  I just heard the zip of a puffy jacket, felt my feet lift off, and everything went silent as my head sunk under water. I tried to kick, but the snow boots cemented to my feet were SOO-AAA-HEAVY. Luckily, I had freakishly strong arms.

I fixed my eyes on the side of the pool. My muscles were burning. My mom was cheering. She saw an ability in me I didn’t know I had. If I wanted to make it to that edge, I had to forget about the weight on my feet and focus on my strength.

I’ve never been able to shake the memory of this day. Not because it was mildly horrifying, but because I made it to the edge of that pool. Even though I’d been thrown into an unknown circumstance, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens…

I did it.

I knew I could do it again.

How many times has it felt like God has thrown you into a cold pool with a Patagonia jacket and a pair of UGGS?

How many times has it felt he’s standing on the side watching you struggle for air?!

It can feel cruel.

Feelings lie.

God sees the strength in us we forget to claim. He sees HIS spirit in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 6:10-11) He wants us to see this truth, too!

He won’t allow the world to throw us in a pool and watch us drown.

He knows this…but he needs US to know this. We can’t fathom how the power of God can propel us through the waves, unless we’ve endured numerous storms.

It has nothing to do with our freakishly strong arms, but everything to do with our fiercely strong God. When we are weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11) How can we claim this, if we haven’t lived this?

I’ve experienced God’s supernatural ability to carry me through some goopy gunk. I know on a profoundly personal level, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We all find ourselves floating in unknown circumstances, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens.

We all have a choice.

We can focus on the weight pulling us down, or focus on our strength– Christ in us.

Focus on Him, and we claim our holy ability to endure and press on.

We begin to trust we can survive deeper waters, swim a little farther, stay in the fight a bit longer. We begin to believe God keeps his promise to never leave us nor forsake us. He will always deliver us to His perfect will…even if it takes wearing soggy snow boots to get us there.

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Tending to Hope Among the Decay

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She’s waiting.

I’m worried.

If one more soccer ball crashes against our disintegrating patio cover, it might collapse. At our house, that’s every 2 minutes.  I’ve learned not to judge other mammas. But, seriously. Why did this sweetie choose such a precarious place to nest her egg?!

We named her Penelope. She’s the best little mamma, tirelessly tending to the hope beneath her. She wants to be ready when life breaks through. Her delicate frame flutters about, eyes watching for the slightest movement. She rests, but not for long.

Her focus is constant.

My focus has changed.

Instead of wishing we’d tear down our patio cover and replace it with beautiful wood, I’m praying it stays up. I’m rooting for the budding life, cupped in splintered hands. My eyes go straight to the nest now.

I no longer look at the defective, but at the life I’ve detected.  I love sitting under my creaky shade, cup of coffee in hand, watching for new life with my feathered soul sister.

We’re so eager to tear down things that aren’t perfectly lovely in our life. We don’t want to look at rickety boards and chipped paint. We don’t want to have awkward conversations and squint to see potential. Nurturing hope is intentional work. The world doesn’t have patience for this. It preaches,

If your marriage is struggling, tear it down.

If your friend betrays you, close the door.

If your dream shreds easily, throw it out.

If your ministry doesn’t grow, give up.

STOP.

This is the world’s way. It is not God’s way.

Don’t bring in the demolition crew so quickly. Look for life. Even if the promise is huddled in a fragile shell.

When the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, he asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

And God did know.

He spoke to the bones, “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:6b)

Ezekiel saw dry bones. God saw an opportunity for a miracle. Anyone can bring death to a situation. Only God can bring life.

Walking away from a valley of dry bones is not God’s way.

Breathing life into them is God’s way.

Raising the dead is His way.

Letting a baby bird hatch in a termite palace, is His way.

Hover over these truths. Be patient. Keep praying. Ask for God’s spirit to breathe into every situation.

Try not to focus on broken boards framing the circumstances…choose to find the nesting egg, the dry bones that God can bring to life.

Always tend to the hope among the decay.

If you do, you’ll be ready to welcome new life like Penelope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

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Church and State Separated by a Foot

 

feet1-3“I HAVE TO GET BAPTIZED! LIKE…RIGHT NOW!’

The rambunctious audience hushed. It was a stuffy 98 degrees, egg salad stench elbowed it’s way down the aisle. I might throw up. But this. Every annoyance slipped into the background. My eyes welled up, looking at this 10-year-old girl who had just catapulted off her seat.  She was serious and passionate. Having given her heart to Jesus just weeks before, she meant business.

Emily, if you want to get baptized, we’ll make sure it happens!

You may imagine this took place during Sunday school. Nope.

This scene played out on the side of the road, in a 20-year-old trailer…outside a Public School.  This is my first year teaching ‘Chapel on Wheels’. If you’re not familiar, public school kiddos get permission from their parents to trek out to a hot, crowded, sometimes smelly, propped up, blessed trailer.

Church and state are separated by 12 inches out on the curb.

All across Orange County, kids give up their lunch recess to participate.

Why?!

To hear about Jesus.

To know they’re loved.

To believe they matter.

Last week, a woman from South Africa peeked in utter confusion, Is this a Church?!

Well…kind of. For 45 minutes…it’s church to these kids.

She threw her hands up, AH! Can you believe it?! They took God out of schools and kicked him out on the street!!

It made me laugh out loud. It does sound ironically sad. But believe me, God can’t be kicked out of any place. Satan is such a liar. It’s both laughable and infuriating.

Joseph was told there was no room at the inn for Jesus to be born. (Luke 2:6-7)

Guess what?

No room, did NOT mean, No Jesus.

He still came.

We may not like the thought of our precious King being born in stable. Many grieve that there is no longer room for Jesus in the Public schools. But guess what?!

No room, does NOT mean, No Jesus.

He still comes.

People we love may fix a ‘NO ROOM FOR JESUS’ sign atop their relationships.

No room, does NOT mean Jesus hasn’t come for them, either. He may be waiting a foot away from their heart-wrenching defiance.

Joseph and Mary didn’t go far from those that denied them space. They stayed close to the walls that kept them out, confident Jesus would be delivered.

At times, God will call us to remain near to walls, circumstances, governments and friendships that have no room for Jesus. I want to encourage you to stand strong and don’t give up on them! God knows you love them. He loves them more. He passionately desires to be delivered into their hearts. He may be asking you to be the midwife. Jesus is coming!

A stinky stable didn’t keep kings, wise men and shepherds from coming to see Jesus. And apparently, a stinky trailer hasn’t kept rowdy 5th graders from him either! God can do his thing anywhere.

‘KEEP OUT’ signs are really ‘KEEP PRAYING’ signs.

We can sit outside public schools, government buildings, brothels, broken relationships, fractured families and pray. No wall, no law, no enemy can keep Jesus out.

I say this confidently!  Twenty kids accepted Jesus as Lord in our funky little trailer this year. I never imagined this happening. Emily is getting baptized, along with other kids from Chapel on Wheels this Sunday. We didn’t have to go into the schools. We simply had to nestle ourselves up against the cold curb and deliver Jesus. He came.

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

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Encouraging Facts:

Chapel on Wheels (aka Released Time), came to LA in 1942. Yorba Linda started the program in 1953, starting with just 3 schools and 1 trailer. NOW, the Placentia/Linda School District has 7 trailers, 21 schools and a staff of 52 volunteers! The program averages 356 students in our local community. So awesome.

Mamma Crossroads & Pinterest Fails

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The night before Micah’s class party, I noticed an unread message in my Inbox.  The Class Mom was thanking me for volunteering to bring the Carrot & Celery Turkey Cups…

Turkey Cups?! UGH! I thought I’d signed up for carrot and celery sticks.

Apparently, I didn’t scroll down to the bottom of her previous email. I’d missed the Pinterest example she’d attached. How could I make such a rookie mistake?!

If having elementary school kiddos has taught me anything, it’s ALWAYS scroll to the END of email messages. For real. Read. The. Whole. Thing.

If you don’t, you’ll miss crucial sentences:

  • Please have your child dress like his/her favorite super hero
  • RSVP yesterday or your kids won’t get a party favor
  • Shhhhh! It’s a surprise!!

It was too late to make a frantic Michael’s run. A crazy-lady-mental- inventory would have to suffice:

Plastic cups.

Brown paper.

I THINK I have orange paper.

But those eyes…no way I was cutting teensy-tiny circles this late.

I’m pretty sure I have sticky googly eyes in the closet. Although, I’m not sure why…

Ah, yes…I had googly eyes. But not one was the same size!

I was at a Mamma crossroads: Do I use what I have, or just throw in the towel?

Isn’t life like that? We don’t have the ‘perfect’ thing to offer, so we’re tempted to offer nothing.

If it’s not mismatched googly eyes, it’s a house that’s too small for gatherings, only an hour a week to write or lasagna that’s not as good as mom’s.

So why help in the classroom?

Why invite people over?

Why write a blog?

It’s hard to give from areas we feel less than. The enemy hisses in these shallow spaces, God can’t use this, don’t even bother.

Really, Satan?!!

 Because, I remember a boy who offered five small loaves and two small fish. Jesus used it to feed multitudes. (John 6:9)

I know a story about a widow who offered a little oil and a handful flour. God never allowed her jars to run dry. (1 Kings 17:7-16)

There once was a man slow of speech and tongue. He was hesitant to offer his voice. God used him to stand against Pharaoh and set his people free. (Exodus 4:10)

As a Mamma, sometimes all I can offer is a pile of dirty dishes, never-ending laundry, sick kiddos and pets I forget to feed. We all have moments like Moses saying to God,  Are you sure you want this? I don’t have much to offer you.

Offer it anyway.

He sees every scrap of bread, shaky insecurity, dirty sock and mismatched googly eye we raise up to him.  He’ll use it! He delights in making small things significant.

God gives us joy when we give from our shortage, rather than our supply.

This creates space for God to show up, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. Jesus fed hungry masses in response to a boy’s meager offering. He provided security for the widow’s child when she presented a handful of flour. Moses set people free, laying bare his shortcomings, trusting God to use them.

The kiddos and I giggled up late finishing those silly cups.  Life isn’t always dramatic. Those awful turkeys didn’t set any captives free, but God handed us back layers of laughter that overflowed into the classroom the next morning.

We used what we had. It was enough for God to turn into joy.

A Marked Life:

Share how God used something small you offered and multiplied it into something unexpected! Click on ‘Comments’ on the top left.

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Sometimes, All You Can Do Is Hang On

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If I look down, I’ll fall!

And then…my kids will tumble off…

If we survive, we’re doomed! I didn’t pack any snacks or hand sanitizer.

Welcome to me…unhinged in a National Park. Fear of heights is a relatively new blessing. Something short circuited when Aaron and I were newlyweds. On top of the Sacred Heart church in Paris, a strong wind blew. I stopped. Dropped. And rolled into the fetal position.

We kept the shovel he used to scrape me off the floor as a souvenir.

Ever since, I imagine myself plunging to my death at the slightest heights. My sweet husband thinks I’ve lost my mind. I don’t even allow the kids to walk next to the mall railing on the second floor.

It freaks me out.

What if they decide to climb over and jump to Santa?!

It could happen.

If anyone fell off this cliff in Sequoia, Santa wouldn’t be there to catch us.

I decided the best way to prevent a tragedy, was to glue my face, arms, legs and stomach to the cold stone; like a flattened fruit roll up. This offered room for other hikers to push past.

Yes, this was a good idea

Mommy! Aren’t you going to the top with us?!

Nah…Mommy is going to smell this rock for a bit.

People were staring. Some tried to help, Do you need a tissue? Essential oil?

I don’t reminisce over this snapshot often.

However, I’m a visual learner. I’ve been asking God to teach me by showing me. During worship on Sunday, God brought this distressed picture of Jenna to the forefront.

There I was, clinging to the side of the cliff.  When I looked down, I was seized with fear. When I looked up, the clouds were crushing me. But, just like in Sequoia, if I kept my face towards the rock, I knew I would be OK.

He was clear.

This is what you look like, Jenna. You’re panicking. Stop looking away from the rock.

We’re living through a season of great unknown in our adoption journey. I don’t know how to stop shifting my gaze in every direction. I’m looking for answers.

Will this break me, Lord?

Will any good come out of this?

God is the fire by night, the cloud by day. But he is always the rock.

There is no Rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2)

King David was protected by the rock, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge …’(2 Samuel 2-3).

The Israelites were pursued by the rock,  “…for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

God’s people were given sweet provision from the rock, “He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag” (Deuteronomy 32:13 )

There’s no shame in taking a season to stop and grasp to the rock…the rock that is Christ.

We were made to climb with Jesus.

Honestly, there are days all I can do is cling to Him.

God knows. He gives grace if we’re not ready to forge to the top. But, it’s those pesky what ifs that pry our fingers from our stronghold. We glance down and imagine our broken bodies at the bottom. Even more, our shattered expectations of what God should’ve done.

I have a choice. I’m learning to train my thoughts to press back into the solid rock. My arms wrapped tight around Jesus.

Yes. This is a good idea.

I may look like a crazy-lady-pancake fastened to my faith. I’m not ashamed.

God answered my question. Can any good come from this?

Yes.

God’s protection,

God’s pursuing love,

God’s sweet provision.

This time, I’m not gripped by fear, but faithfulness. I’ll be brave enough to climb again soon.

For now, I’m just going to hang on.

 

A Marked life:

If you don’t feel strong enough to climb, it’s OK to cling. 

There is no Rock like our God!

 

 

Barefoot Parenting

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My friend’s eyes spied my daughter climbing through our side window, cradling a rabbit.

Yup. Our children use windows like doors.

Realizing this may not be the norm for most families, I let out a raw laugh,

Didn’t you know? We live like animals around here!

Her face lit up, Oh, we don’t have screens, either!

Ah, a kindred mamma spirit.

But, I did notice your kids don’t wear shoes very often…

She listed various times and events she’d witnessed my shoe-less children. It was a completely non-judgmental, endearing encounter. We giggled as she collected her cuties.

I didn’t recall half of the times she mentioned.

I kept saying, Really?!

Oh yes, last week when you picked up Micah, no one had shoes on then, either…

Really?!

Apparently, there’s a crack in my parenting I wasn’t aware of.

The door shut. Jesus help me. I am truly raising animals.

My head sunk back. The admission slipped out in a single breath, Jesus, there are so many holes in my parenting.

His spirit whipped back sharp and clear,  It’s Ok. I can make them Holy.

God isn’t surprised I’m not a perfect mom. If my kids do miraculously grab a shoe…they can’t find the other one anyways! Still, I imagine he delights in watching their naked toes running through grass and tiptoeing through Target.

He must’ve been pleased with his servant Moses, barefoot before the burning bush and Joshua, a mighty warrior, barefoot before battle. “Take off your sandals,” he commanded them, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15) Holy translates to ‘set apart’.

Before both men where commissioned into their own form of battle, they were asked to remove their shoes. Well, my friend, parenting is a battlefield!

God is asking us to take off our shoes, too.

In ancient culture, removing one’s shoes had great significance. It could signify many things: reverence, submission, redemption of property, transfer of power, showing the legality of a purchase. It was also symbolic of giving up one’s rights.

Yes, God can make the holes in my parenting holy. However, I need to give up my parental rights to the perfect father.

There are areas I can’t reach in the hearts of my children; no matter how hard I strain to touch them.

The tears I don’t see,

The pain they don’t share,

The lies they believe,

The innocence I can’t protect…

These places are holy ground. They must be set apart for the Lord.

Because let’s be honest, we’ll never know the whole story of what happened at school that day. It isn’t possible to intercept every cruel word and relationship thrown at them. Sometimes, things slip between the cracks.

No matter how hard we try, there will be days our kids aren’t wearing shoes at Costco.

Sometimes this happens, because ALL the time, we are just human. Human parents, stomping around in our big ‘ole boots, thinking we got this parenting thing all figured out.

We think we love our kids more than God. Mamma Bears, you know this is true. This lie violently twists and tightens around our sandals, making it feel impossible to ever take them off in submission.

I’d lay down my life for my children in a heartbeat!  But, their Father in heaven already did.

I can’t beat that. I can’t love them like God does.

When we yank those sandals off, the rocky terrain of faith may bruise and bloody our sensitive soles.

Praise God, we have a savior who kneels down and cradles those steadfast Mamma feet. He gently washes and restores. Tenderly fitting them with readiness and peace, he prepares us to follow him into battle.(Ephesians 6:15)

He will even help us find that other stinkin’ shoe!

God’s ways are better for our children, because his love is bigger.

No parenting class, yoga pose, discipline strategy, special smoothie or supplement will help us to fill in the tender areas we fail as parents.  I want to be a generation of parents bowing before the great I AM, taking off our shoes and declaring, “Only through His strength, can we battle for the lives of our children!”

He is the only Father that can comfort their silent whimpers, mend their broken spirits, heal their bruised hearts, and whisper directly to their souls, You are loved, you are seen…when we cannot. We must intentionally dedicate them to the Father who never fails.

Parenting is holy ground.

I want to be barefoot before the Lord.

 

A Marked Life: Next time you see bare feet…

  • Ask God to continually fill in the spaces you can’t reach.
  • Take off your own shoes as an offering.
  • Trust his ways are better, because his love is bigger.