It’s Never Too Late

jenn-evelyn-ann-UYDoE_AyJQs-unsplash (1)He didn’t ask me to tuck him in last night.

I heard the click of his light and waited for the invitation. Silence. Why wasn’t my Eli calling for me?

Maybe he’s praying, or stretching, or reading with a book light? Was something wrong?!

I’ll tell you what’s wrong – my boy is growing up. And I’m not ready.

I crept out of bed and peeked into his room. He looked longer, his jaw a bit wider, with those man-boy feet (now bigger than mine) sticking out from his Star Wars blanket,

“Are you okay!? You didn’t call me to ‘Kentucky’ you in…”

He opened his eyes, cracking a smile. Had he lost all his baby teeth?

“Oh, my goodness! You’re freaking out, I just thought it was too late to call you.” He laughed. Apparently, my mama-meltdown was hilarious.

But something squeezed at my heart, “Never. It’s never too late. You can always call me!”

And just like that, I realized my longing to be understood was much like my Heavenly Father’s. How many times had he sung the same ancient truth over my life- It’s never too late, you can always call on me.

 “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer you; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I” (Psalm 145:18 NIV).

Being a mother reminds me I’m made in the image of God. And although the love I feel for my kiddos is a teeny glimpse of His love for us…there’s nothing on earth more consuming and eternal, besides God himself. It’s that big. At times when I’m desperate for my son to hear my words, God confirms -He feels the same way about me. His Spirit pleads, “Why aren’t you calling on me, daughter?”

He’s listening at the door of my heart while I sit in the dark, cold and unsure. Always present, but desiring me to utter His name, to invite Him to turn on the light. But I make excuses- I’ve waited too long, my need is too great, or the most dangerous…my need is too small.

What areas of your life do you hold back from God’s loving comfort? In what space do you prefer Him not to come? Where have you cuddled under the lie, “My longing is too insignificant for Him to care”? Push these things aside; they’re smothering your access to child-like faith. All we need to do is, “cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.”

P.S. I reserve the right to tuck my “babies” into bed as long as they live under my roof. I’m fairly certain it’s in the Constitution somewhere…or a Dr. Suess book. Either way.

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Summer Tradition: Teaching Our Kids to Pray for the World.

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I’d love to travel the globe with my kids.  I imagine we’d get lost down colorful alleys, pop into every restaurant oozing with the smell of butter and spice…but right now, we spend most our time at soccer practice, and in the school drop off lines. It’s our life stage and I adore it. But I long to instill a sense of passion for the world and all God’s created into my children.

Teaching our children to pray for the world is a powerful act of love.

God’s entrusted us with the upbringing of eternal souls. If we desire these precious souls to be world-changers for Jesus,  they’ll need a love for its people, because “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). How do we do this?

This is one tradition that’s brought us a step closer to God’s heart; one small way to start loving on a global level. I pray it inspires you to have some meaningful fun this summer!

  1. Choose! Each week we take turns choosing a country on our world map. We have a map that you can scratch off the color of each country as you go, but I also love the idea of sticking a colorful pin in a cork map.
  2. Pray! After we’ve chosen a country we open up our book, “Operation World: The definitive prayer guide to every nation by Jason Mandryk. I can’t emphasize how I cherish this book. Here you’ll find all sorts of interesting nuggets about the country. My favorite – the most urgent prayer needs. This is what we focus on. Whatever those prayer needs are (poverty, persecution, government corruption, child exploitation, orphans, lack of natural resources, etc.), we include them in our family prayers over dinner. The book also includes a section of answered prayers for each country!
  3. Give! After our eyes have been opened to the immediate needs of others, the heart is always moved to action. If one of your kiddos shows particular interest in the need of another nation, help them research an organization that they can support through their allowance. My kiddos have even set up lemonade stands in the past to raise money for water wells in Africa.
  4. Cook! We chose recipes from our chosen culture and cook meals together. This can be a beautiful mess at times! Some of my major #kitchenfails include Russian borscht and Ethiopian injera (Yes Eli, I’m sure I followed the recipe. No, I don’t know why it doesn’t look like the picture!)
  5. Learn! We go to the library. I let the kids run amuck and grab whatever books they can find about the country. It’s so fun to share with each other what we’ve learned after we read our books.
  6. Have fun! We plan a fun movie night. If your kids are older, you can choose a documentary. The library has great choices for documentaries for littles too! You don’t have to get super serious about this. When my kids were babes we totally counted “Beauty and the Beast” as French culture (ya know, because of all the baguettes and bonjours in the opening scene). You’re making the effort, no one’s judging you!

Here’s the point: Taking time to learn and pray for others around the world, demonstrates to our kids that we should care; we should care about hearing people’s stories who are different than us. We should be intentional to understand the needs of the world outside America. Our children won’t learn to cultivate a love for all God’s people if we don’t model to them that it’s the heart of Jesus.

Here are some links if you’re interested…

Book:

“Operation World: The definitive prayer guide to every nation” by Jason Mandryk  https://www.amazon.com/Operation-World-Definitive-Prayer-Nation-ebook/dp/B00QKKJ96K/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?keywords=Operation+World%3A+The+definitive+prayer+guide+to+every+nation%E2%80%9D+by+Jason+Mandryk.&qid=1559581376&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr1

World Maps:

Scratch off: https://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Off-Map-World-Cartography/dp/B07B1R327L/ref=pd_sbs_229_6/144-4299772-1090345?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B07B1R327L&pd_rd_r=f6b4d734-8621-11e9-a9ce-814cf5dd9e62&pd_rd_w=VqAvS&pd_rd_wg=qBnYh&pf_rd_p=588939de-d3f8-42f1-a3d8-d556eae5797d&pf_rd_r=WHDSSWKZVHNMC7SXHB44&psc=1&refRID=WHDSSWKZVHNMC7SXHB44

Cork:https://www.amazon.com/Cork-Board-Map-World-Frameless/dp/B01N4J45XM/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=cork+world+map&qid=1559581661&s=office-products&sr=1-3

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More Words. More Mess.

Last week, I had a –how did my walls get this dirty?! – kind of day. Our adoption social worker was coming over to redo our home safety report (because they LOST the original. Yup.)

I can’t even. I found myself, knees pressed to the wood floors, scrubbing off fingerprints…or maybe they’re toe-prints? I don’t even know.

One smudge rallied so hard against my efforts- it was like a caveman painting fighting to not be erased from our home history.

So how did my walls get so dirty? Because people live here; little dirty people and big dirty people. This is our safe place; our “come as you are “place.

Let’s be real- Our safest walls are always the messiest.

When they walk through the doors of this house, I don’t demand they clean up right away. I don’t insist on showers the second they burst through the door from hours of bike-riding, or soccer-playing or middle-school surviving.

I let them rest a bit. Breathe a bit. Eat a snack. Grab a drink. I let them just…be. And although this is a picture of grace, it’s still not excusable for them to intentionally wipe a muddy cleat on my hypothetical white rug, or smudge a happy face on walls with their grubby fingers.

Our home parallels our relationships. The more intimate the relationship, the messier it can get. The safer we feel, the more careless we can become. There are days my hubby comes home and I soil his spirit with careless words, sarcastic comebacks, and hurtful eye rolls. All the junk that’s clung to my shoes and wedged under my skin from the day, I carry straight to my people.

It’s OK…but it’s not OK. We have to take responsibility for checking the condition of our hearts when we enter our safe spaces. We can’t treat our people like it’s their job to stand still and let us wipe our junk all over them.

When my kids come in stinky and tired, it’s true, I let them rest. But eventually, they’re getting in that shower y’all! It’s the same with our attitudes and spirits.

The home is where grace and discipleship should be profoundly weaved together. Healthy homes cannot have discipleship without grace, and grace is not effective without discipleship.

I try to hold my tongue when someone spills in my home. It’s simply human nature to mess up, but even more so, to sin. There’s no value gained by verbally ripping into my family, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues” (Proverbs 10:19).

However, I don’t allow them to walk away without taking responsibility to clean up. When the mess is dripping off the table, soaking my rug, I’ll snatch another towel and jump on the floor with my kiddo to help. At times, the stain is so tricky, I’ll need to explain how I know white wine gets out most anything.  Our kids are still kids. We need to guide them on how to clean up the messes they make.

This same model of discipleship can be used when our kiddos verbally smear their siblings. I’m struck by The Message’s version of Matthew 18, “But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments…”

As parents, don’t we get it?! I know I struggle to remember this! It’s not the words we should be scurrying to mop up- it’s the “vomit” collecting in our hearts. We offer astounding love when we help our kids notice there’s a well from which they draw their words. Harsh words and attitudes don’t pollute the heart; they ooze from a polluted heart.

We all have days that leave our souls caked with mud-like frustration. It’s expected we’ll need a safe space to wash up. But showing someone our dirty hands is different than shoving it on them.

It’s my instinctual reaction to yell, don’t you dare say that! or apologize right now! But I’m praying for patience and wisdom. Maybe the question I should really pull my kiddos aside and ask is, why do you think you just said that? And instead of demanding a flippant apology, challenge them to think, why do you think I’m asking you to apologize?

If we don’t teach our kids, (and ourselves!) how to ‘heart check’ in the midst of bubbling emotions, we’ll be spewing all over our beloved home asking, how did our walls get so dirty?!

God’s word beautifully reminds us that our words have the power to give life.  Check out these Bible verses for inspiration: God’s Word Marked by Love

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Rescue

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Lord, search my heart, show me who I am without you.

I imagine picking up a pen…

Today, I lost it with my kids.
Yesterday, I wished I had a bigger house.
Sunday, I blamed my husband for my big mess up.

I quickly realize, there aren’t enough hours to visit all my failings. My mental scribbles expand:

                                                   Wanting More.
                                                   Ignoring God. 
                                                  Nasty Words.

My mind runs out of paper. But just as well; paper can’t hold the weight of the words. I imagine writing on massive stones:
                                                   Envy.
                                                  Disobedience.
                                                 Complacency.
                                                 Arrogance.
                                                Selfishness.

I see my desk covered with papers. They’re tumbling off, pressing against the walls and pouring out the windows like an avalanche. The stones have shattered my mirrors and cracked the tile floors.

My heart is sinking from the pull of my words; from the burden of my sin. But God shouts through the condemnation:

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”(Colossians 2:13-14)

A man is coming. He’s collecting my papers…one by one.

A man is coming. He lifts the heavy stones, balancing them on his back.

There’s something else on his back too.

A cross.

He leaves my house and painstakingly searches for my neighbors. They have a collection of papers and stones… just like me.

Not everyone lets him in. They sit atop their stones clutching their mass of papers and weep.

It breaks my heart. I know it breaks His more.

Now the man begins his climb. I know the story. You know the story. He carries his cross. I imagine him bearing the stones and crumpled papers scribbled with black sin.

He doesn’t drop anything. Not a single thing.

He grips my written sin; the soldiers hammer nails through his hands.

Flesh pierced. Paper torn.

My selfishness: Nailed to the cross.
My arrogance: Nailed to the cross.
My apathy: Nailed to the cross.

Blood flows, drenching the papers in his hand, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against me.

I watch every sin of my life nailed to the cross.
He took it all away, having nailed it to the cross.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
He took it all away.
Amen.

The only stone remaining was rolled away.

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Facing the Emptiness

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I have baby onesies with no pudgy legs to fill them. I have space where I hung dresses for a job I didn’t get.

Having empty space in our lives, doesn’t mean we’re called to endure emptiness. Once a woman wept outside an empty tomb and was met by the hope of the world.

Remember Mary, the shamed woman whose heart was seen by Jesus? In Him, she was most likely cherished for the first time. Then she witnessed the desire of her heart mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross.

Mary’s new identity was mercilessly pinned to a piece of wood. Her hope was in Jesus. And now it hung lifeless for the whole world to see.

Our desires may be holy and epic!  For me, wanting to adopt is that one desire I feel I’ve been watching die a gruesome death. It’s out of my hands.  All I can do is stand aside and feel the fool for believing. Have you ever felt this way; that God entrusted you with a longing but it seems it’s a no-go?

I’m guessing Mary may have felt this way. She proclaimed the hope of the world had come, and the next day they rolled a stone sealing His grave.

Still, she knelt outside the tomb, where her unmet expectations lay buried and dead.

Dying to self is a true death.  And it’s OK to treat it that way. As long as we don’t forget: We worship a God of resurrection!

Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, terrified and confused to find it hollow. She pleaded with the angels, asking where they’d taken him. (John 20:11-18). It’s not that she wanted Jesus to be dead, but it’s what she expected.

Sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on the hollowness of a situation…we miss the hallelujah!

We’re so much like Mary. If we’ve watched a desire of our heart be abused and buried, we visit the grave expecting it to stay that way forever.

We forget what hope looks like. When this happens, we can miss it staring us in the face.

Hope looks like Jesus.

Hope is Jesus.

Mary didn’t even recognize Him when he appeared to her outside the tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener!  (John 20:15) She was seized by the fact things didn’t remain irredeemable. The world was whispering, “What’s the point? What you hoped for is still dead.”

But the world lies. There’s always a resurrection!  Whatever’s  lifeless, looks different after revival.

Jesus looked different. He was glorified. (Philippians 2:20-21) I think it’s why Mary didn’t recognize Him right away.

It’s the same with the desires of our hearts. It’s not that they aren’t lovely, but God has something planned to take our breath away! Something we haven’t considered. Something impossible.

This. Is. Faith. Standing outside a graveyard and believing resurrection will come.

We’re completing our Foster Certification. Something mind you, we said we’d NEVER do. God, through the past five years of loss and frustration, has been tirelessly crafting our powdered dreams into something completely different than what we expected to see. The idea of becoming Foster Parents was our equivalent of Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. We initially flipped out, “Where have you taken our dead dream?!!” I just wanted to remain face down, ugly crying like Mary.

Sometimes, it’s easier to sit in disappointment then to step into the unknown. This is a big unknown for us! But I know the sweet face of hope. I refuse to mistake Him.

We’re approaching a desolate space and expecting the impossible to happen.

We’re expecting God to resurrect all that was lost.

We’re expecting desires to look different.

Standing right in front of us, could be the glorified, holy, resurrected will for our lives.

God has the tender ability to resurrect ANY situation in our life. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration:  God’s Word-Marked by Love -Resurrection

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Someone’s Going to Get Hurt.

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Once, I swung open the front door of my mini-van, jumped inside, heard a growl, peeked over my shoulder and found myself face to face with two black dogs.

Seriously, who the heck put their stinkin’ dogs in my mini-van?!

Um. Yeah. Not my mini-van.

It’s a bit terrifying how long it took to realize my mistake.

No one in the van was happy…and somebody definitely peed a little.

Here’s the deal: Don’t climb into someone else’s mini-van uninvited. It doesn’t matter how much it looks like yours. Same goes for our lives. Someone may appear to have a similar life, outlook, circumstance, parenting triumph or woe – but until you’ve entered in, you’ve no clue what’s really going on inside.

Never assume. It’s a waste of time. And don’t barge in. It’s too risky.

Wait to be invited.

This can be so tricky. Especially if the door of their life appears wide open.  Dusty goldfish are pouring out, the leaking juice box under the backpack has puddled next to a runaway credit card. You just want to offering a suggestion…right?! Stop. There could be some snarling teeth in there. Someone’s going to get hurt.

I can’t tell you how many friendships in my life have been strained because we’ve felt judged by one another.  It makes all of us shut down and pull away. Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Have I established mutual trust with this person?

If you haven’t known this person long, and you get all up in their business, it can feel like judgement. It may not be your heart! But remember, they don’t trust you yet. It’s not fair to expect them to know your intentions. Be wise and hold your tongue. But love them like crazy. Be a constant in their life.

  1. Has this person indicated they want your opinion?

I have friends who I know don’t want my opinion- even though they love and trust me. Bummer is, I’m still prone to give it. We’ve got to know our audience y’all.  It’s hard for this Italian/Irish girl to shut it down! I’m learning at the speed of molasses – I need to discipline myself in this area.

Does your friend let her kids watch rated R movies at the age of nine…guess what?!

That’s not your mini-van!

Or maybe a friend doesn’t believe in vaccinations, or home-school, or private school, or public school, or any school!!

Yeah. That’s not your mini-van either. Get out girl!

It’s hard to be a mom these days. Everyone and every book out there hisses, “You’re doing it wrong” or, “You can do it better.” Our generation has trouble trusting God can equip us properly.

We turn to the next, “How to…” book, before we turn to God’s book.

We ask Siri before we ask the Spirit.

I believe the enemy’s in this; undermining our God-given instincts to parent our children well. He uses social media, articles and most aggressively- he baits us to tear each other down. We don’t need to be another blasting horn of judgement towards our sisters! God’s heart is for us to, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Don’t know how to do this? I think it starts with less worrying about getting into someone else’s life, and inviting them authentically into your own. Living out grace is a powerful witness and gift; loving people regardless of their parenting choices. If a friend does ask your opinion, it’s a safe place to practice honesty. Any fiery pups in her mini-van should know you well enough not to snap.

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P.S. If you feel convicted that God truly wants you to speak into a certain area of someone’s life, be obedient! But pray over it. Then pray again…and then three more times. Be sure it’s from the Lord and not your inner-conscious.  When this happens, frame the conversation cautiously and with grace, “I’ve had you on my heart lately.”  That’s it. Then pray God leads the conversation.