Three Things to Do When You Can’t Plan the Future

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Knowing you may not hold someone you love for much longer leaves the days feeling fresh and fragile. I remember sitting next to my Poppa when he was passing away. I listened carefully for the next breath, knowing any moment the next breath wouldn’t come. I wanted to be with him, inhale deeply next to him, sing to him, pray with him, hold his hand while it was still warm.

I find myself watching our foster daughter with similar thoughts breaking ashore–just allow one more day with her; Father God, give me more than one more breath.

With our baby girl, I can only plan for her needs six months at a time…because that’s how long it is between court dates and decisions. I turned down bigger sized clothing, walkers, and high chairs when she was first placed with us. Now, I’m turning down toddler beds and trikes. I don’t plan for her life past April, our next court date. I find myself thinking, “this may be the last time we (fill in the blank) with this sweet girl.”

I’m waking up. I want to be as diligent and intentional to soak in every life around me, not just my foster daughter’s. We’re not guaranteed one more breath with anyone. Many of us know this truth well. Life can change in a flutter.

This journey has taught me to stand in awe, awakening to each day as one more gift from God. The sunrises are stunning, snoring husbands are cute instead of irritating, stinky soccer socks cause me to pause and give thanks for healthy children, and every baby milestone feels magical. Seriously. Baby girl shoving puffs into her mouth (and all over the floor) makes everyone in this house party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine. It’s so stinkin’ cute.

We’re trying to dig into every day over here. And although we cannot plan out the future, God is teaching me three things we can do: Pray, Prepare & Play.

  1. Pray for God’s purposes.

Instead of trying to force the future into the box I’ve delegated for it—I can lay that all down and pray, “Lord, I ask that your perfect purposes for the future be accomplished in my life and the lives of my loved ones. Let nothing stand in your way.”

  1. Prepare your heart.

God’s plan may not line up with my limited ideas of perfection. We can remember God’s good and always trustworthy. This helps us prepare our hearts to accept whatever the future holds. Since we’ve become a foster family, I often pray, “Lord, please prepare my heart (and the hearts of my children) for whatever lies ahead. Give us peace.”

3. Play with the people you love.

Grab the people you love and take pleasure in them. We may not have tomorrow, but we have today! I’m not sure why we don’t memorize this scripture in Sunday school, but maybe we should make it a thing (especially the part about bread and wine),

“Seize life! Eat bread with gusto,
Drink wine with a robust heart.
Oh yes—God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
Dress festively every morning.
Don’t skimp on colors and scarves.
Relish life with the spouse you love
Each and every day of your precarious life.
Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange
For the hard work of staying alive.
Make the most of each one!
Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!
This is your last and only chance at it,,”  (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 MSG)

Dear Lord,

      I don’t know the future of my children and loved ones, but I pray for it. I ask that you go ahead of them, paving the way for peace and provision. I pray you are parting seas they don’t see. I pray you are planting people of godly influence in their path before they get there. I pray for wisdom when they are pressed against the hard rock of life. I pray for forgiving friends who point them to your love. I pray for protection over their hearts and bodies. I pray faith rises fiercely in their soul when doubt pushes down. I pray for eyes to see your blessings when they feel cheated. I pray they run to you, instead of away, when their hearts are broken. I pray they love bravely because that’s why you made them. I pray your voice reaches them when mine cannot and whispers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I pray they know love because they know you. Amen

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Seeking Answers or Abba?

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The phone rings. It’s just the eye doctor. I send the call to voicemail and surrender to tears.

Please, Father. Give me answers.

It’s court day. I’m waiting to hear if our foster daughter will stay with us for six more months, or if she’ll go back to her biological mother.

I slide my phone over so not to sob over the screen.

I text a veteran foster mamma, hoping she can predict the outcome. She’s can’t say for sure. I text another foster mama. Goodness, how about I just throw the question out to my Facebook foster group?

Someone. Must. Know.

God, please. You know. Let me know, too.

And just like that, I was a modern-day Evedesiring answers more than I desired Abba, my Father in heaven.

Eve had the honor of walking in the cool of the evening with her Father God. She had unimaginable intimacy with the craftsman of her soul. Yet when she was offered the chance to know more—more than the presence of God—she bit.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6 NIV, emphasis added).

Eve traded intimacy for information. Soon after, Eve and her husband “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 NASB).

I do the same thing. Most the time, my appetite to know what God has planned overtakes my desire to walk with Him. When He doesn’t share His plan with me, I run from Him. Sometimes I flee in anger, sometimes in shame, sometimes dragging grief, but always looking for someone else to tell me what the Lord won’t.

The trouble is, the moment we pull ourselves from the presence of the Lord, anxiety rises. We do crazy things (like sew dresses out of fig leaves), and our joy deflates. Because only in the presence of the Lord is the fullness of joy. Only by spending time with Him will He make known the path of life (Psalm 16:11). And, yes, waiting for answers is exhausting, but “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB).

I turned my phone on silent, closed my eyes, and prayed, “Father, help me to pursue your presence over understanding your purposes. I want you, Abba, more than I want answers.”

I know now that answers, knowledge, even wisdom, do not give peace.

Peace is not a revelation; peace is a person. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 

It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11 NIV)

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Exodus 33:14 NIV).

Hitting Rock Bottom

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I turned to Aaron last night and said, “If she goes home in April, I don’t think I’ll survive it, baby.”

Taking my hand, he said, “We’ll get through it.”

The depths of human emotion are astounding. As soon as you reach the bottom of the well, your soul strikes a geyser, emotions rush to the surface, shattering the limitations of how you thought you could ever feel, or give.

The number one comment I’ve received after becoming a foster mom is, “I could never do that. I could never love a child and then give them back. It would be too hard.”

I know some of you’ve said those very words to me. You know the first person to say this to me?

Me.

About a gazillion times before you opened your mouth, so don’t sweat it. I’m pretty sure my head will pop off like a Barbie doll when/if she isn’t with us anymore. So…there’s that.

I try not to think of that.

Oh, yes, sweet friends. You’re right, it’s hard.

Loving a child like they’re yours, but they aren’t is like trying to settle untamed land. I’m unsure which attachments to let grow wild and where it’d be wise to put up some fences.

Is she supposed to call me, mommy? I’m not her mommy.

What do I say when someone says, “Congratulations”? She’s not adopted. In fact, she’s with us because of traumatic circumstances.

Knowing we’ll probably only have her for a season; the knowledge breaks and heals, gives and takes away. I don’t know how to feel, so I feel everything. It’s fascinating and difficult. Please, pray for me.

Some days lunge at me like a ginormous octopus. Emotional tentacles are yanking my gut, trying to reach a new understanding of what God’s love is really about. How can it spread in so many directions at the same time, with the same purpose? Is it even possible for me to love like him?

I promise I’m trying. I’m finding I don’t know how to successfully love my foster daughter, her birth mama, her birth daddy, her paternal grandma, the two social workers, three investigators, three lawyers, and the judge equally.

I’m failing.

Somewhere down the line, I’ve come to believe that if I love one too much, it will interfere with my love for the other. What if I love too hard, will the wells eventually dry up?  I don’t want to find myself cracked and parched, unable to love brave again.

The word tells us, “For God loved the world, that he gave his only son,”(John 3:16)

In other words:

He loved, so he did a very hard thing;

He loved, so he gave what was most precious to him;

He loved, so he endured.

He loved, so he hung, his lips cracked, his mouth parched.

The veil was torn. His body was buried. But it wasn’t the bottom of the well.

When the world thought Jesus hit rock bottom, a bigger rock rolled away, and the fierce love of God rose up.

I’m learning we can’t put boundaries and borders upon God’s love. We’re the ones slapping labels on His callings: Too Hard. Not Worth It. I. Just. Can’t.

Of course, we can’t! Love wouldn’t be holy if we could accomplish it on our own. Only through Jesus, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

After our last failed adoption, I was convinced a piece of me would never feel again. I was wrong. The death in that experience gave birth to a new depth in me I didn’t know existed. Under the surface of that suffering was an understanding that God’s designed us for more. More perseverance, more strength, more wisdom, more hope, more fight, more courage, and abundant love.

He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

We’re made in the image of God. So our love story on earth should look a bit like his.

Because he loves, we’ll do hard things. And because he’s with us, we’ll get through it.

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When Hope Hurts

artem-kovalev-86365-unsplashOur bird mamma is back. Penelope- the one that’s decided our rotting patio cover is the perfect place to build her nest. I love this crazy, determined, cutie-pie bird.

The irony is not lost on me. I feel like I’m observing a bird version of myself. All the hopes of my heart to adopt over the past five years seem overshadowed by the decay that surrounds them. Five years of broken expectations. Four failed adoptions —  one international, three domestic — chipping away at the strength of my spirit.

But here I sit, day after day, choosing to knit my nest together with God’s promises, while everything around me threatens to cave in.

What is your my nesting egg? The desire of your heart that you believe God planted? Have you asked God to remove it if it’s not his will? I have. Over and over. Yet it remains. And even when the lies of the enemy are crudely constructed, attempting to cover up the promise that God’s plans are to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11a), His truth still is not obstructed. I can still feel it. Besides, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b–25 ESV).

I may have to grope clumsily in the darkness for a season, but it’s there. Because God is eternal and God is hope.

What is eternal cannot be extinguished.

Did you know the biblical word for hope, tiqvah, literally translates to cord, hope, and expectation? It’s used in the story of Rahab. She’s instructed to tie a scarlet cord (tiqvah, hope) in her window to remain unharmed. (Joshua 2:18). Hope protects us. It’s a holy signal to the enemy that he can’t touch us. It’s the scarlet cord we unabashedly display over our doorframe that cries out, “I belong to King Jesus!”

Grasping it like a rope, I’ve tried to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV). I still struggle, asking God, Why are you making us wait so long for the desires of our heart?!

In all transparency, my hands have grown weary and calloused from clinging to the rope for so long.  It hurts. My hopeful waiting has been seasoned with suffering. But isn’t this part of the blessing? Callouses give us the ability to endure situations that would naturally tear our hearts wide open. It takes time and endurance for callouses to form.

In high school, I cursed the callouses that formed while trying to learn to play the guitar. However, the first time my fingertips were tough enough to press on the strings to play a worship song, I was flooded with understanding. The momentary discomfort I’d endured made it possible for me to sing a new song of praise. I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is a perfectly holy reason for every situation. We are called to hope (Ephesians 4:4), and that means we are called to wait. Not just to wait but also to look.

In fact, the Hebrew root of the word hope is ka-va, meaning to wait, to look for. Faith-filled hope is active. When I find myself wrestling with discouragement, I’m really wrestling with my passivity.  Hope requires that we’re eager watchmen on the tower of our days, scanning the valley for signs of life. Just like Penelope, who is oblivious to the rot around her because her eyes are on the tiny, yet wildly adored, promise beneath her. She waits. She watches.

She constantly tends to the hope among the decay. Sweet Jesus, teach me to do this!

The idea of becoming foster parents was like realizing there was another egg in the nest we’d never noticed! It’s only through the sustaining grip of God’s love that we kept diligent watch over the ragged nest perched in our hearts. I praise God for the gift of hope. I thank Him for reminding me that hope is my protection, my courage, my confidence, my calling, and my strength! I raise my hands in praise, calloused as they are from clinging to hope, to the one that gives life to His promises.

But 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 NIV)

God’s word is always the best source of encouragement! Click here for a beautiful printout of verses celebrating hope in Jesus:God’s Word-Marked by Love-Hope

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Inviting Grief to Dinner

tamara-bellis-125877-unsplash (1)The Southern California rain surprised all humanity this year, giving my kiddos a false sense of hope, “Mommy, do you think they’ll close the schools because it’s raining?!”

Um, no. That’s not a thing.

The brown hills by our house have exploded into yellow flowers. They press on their tippy-toes waving hello. Maybe California should cancel school, offering a day to admire the new life with neighbors. Because when it comes to new life, we really go out of our way to celebrate it don’t we? If we desire the company of new life, we’ll find she always brings a guest.

Life and death sit side by side. So often we shoo the experience of grieving to the “obligatory guest” table. No one wants him at the party…but sooner or later, he shows up. I photographed weddings for years, and I promise you, there’s always a wacky relative in attendance (psssst… it’s your uncle). One wedding reception, the exuberant uncle was on the dance floor, flat on his back, pretending to look up the bride’s dress. Yeah. Sometimes grief acts like that guy.  Meaning- he has no sense of social awareness. We find ourselves asking, who invited him anyways?! 

But it’s not his fault. When we shove the process of grieving far into the burrow of our lives; he’s forced to rear his head at the most inconvenient times. Can you relate? The checker at Vons asks if you have bags and you burst into tears because you left them in the car. If grief wants your attention, he’s ruthlessly successful. I’m finding that depriving him the attention he craves, only makes him fervently jump up and down.

I’ve decided it’s best to offer him a space to be heard.

Learning to set a place for grief at our table is a grueling and powerful act of faith. But it needs to be done. Joy is painfully birthed out of sorrow. When we pull the chair out from under him and ask him to leave, we’re telling him he’s not important to our story; that he has nothing of value to add to the conversation. When in reality, God often uses our grief to scoot our chair closer to joy.  God wants to speak to each of us through our sufferings.

Many believers experience guilt over admitting they’re sad. The idea of feeling guilty for grieving is not biblical! We’re taught we should rejoice in our sufferings, to always be happy because we have Jesus. There’s truth here. However, the rejoicing does not negate the suffering- it accompanies it.

God has filled me with inexplicable joy over our new journey to be foster parents. But honestly, it’s the grief of failed adoptions that brought us here. It’s impossible for me to separate my new joy from my concurrent grief. They’re powerfully intertwined. Have we forgotten that Jesus wept three times in scripture? Each time, coupled with an occurrence of great joy: before the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:35); right after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); and in the garden before his own death and resurrection leading to the salvation of mankind (Hebrews 5:7).

It is possible to sit next to joy and grief at the same time. It’s healthy to look grief the face and “talk it out” or “cry it out” or slap him in the face. Whatever you need to do to acknowledge they’re times he’s going to come to dinner and you can’t ignore him. We’ve got to deal. But we’re not alone. God’s table is big. It may mean we pull up more chairs for counselors or sisters in Christ to help us mediate the conversation. Or, maybe we need to excuse ourselves for a “prayer break,” or take a moment to wash our wounds in The Word.

As we become more intentional in setting a place for grief, we can’t lose sight that where God allows sorrow, he assigns great joy.  “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)

God’s word beautifully reminds us that he’s with us in our suffering. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration: God’s Word-Marked by Love- Suffering

p.s. If the voice of your grief is consistently louder than the voice of your loving Father, you may be experiencing depression. They are not the same thing. Please feel free to message me and I would be honored to help you find a counselor.

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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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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.

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)



Breathing in the Unknown

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I kept banging around the bowl trying to corner him, “Seriously fish! Trust me!”

Talking to my blue fish has become the norm these days. He’s the kind of guy who’d never leave dirty socks on the floor. And, he never asks things like, Mommy, why do you laugh like a seal? He’s such a gentleman.

Each week he graciously swims into my net to be transferred to clean water.

But, yesterday! He gave the biggest attitude. He wouldn’t get into the net and it wasn’t funny! If he didn’t want this water, he was welcome to the toilet I’d scrubbed earlier.

I crashed my net against the glass again, “I don’t want you to get sick!”.

My heart winced. I was on the verge of being sick too…spiritually sick. I knew it, and God was getting my attention. I was all bent out of shape over this fish not letting me save it from poop water, as I defiantly swam in my own.

I recently expected God to move in a certain way in my life…and he didn’t. I was heartbroken.

I’d rather be submerged in disappointment, then be transferred into God’s perspective of my circumstances. I was over it. Over praying. Over crying. Over…whelmed.

Still, here was God, trying to rescue me, “Seriously child! Trust me. I don’t want you to get sick!”

God’s love has never failed me. He’s carried me like, a Father carries a son, out of every Egypt and wilderness I’ve faced. Why was I banging my head against the bowl trying to escape rescue?

If I enter into God’s saving net, He’ll raise me up into a pocket of air called the unknown.

Let’s be honest, breathing in the unknown, can hurt.

I got that stubborn fish in the net, he wriggled in desperation, gasping, until I plopped him safely in clean water. When we’re scooped up into God’s purposes, we don’t have to mimic a suffocating fish. If it feels like we can’t breathe, it’s because we’re choking on lies.

Here is the truth: God isn’t going to flush us down the toilet.

We can enter into the unknown, clinging confidently to the known.

We know our God is good!

Abandoning the mire and surrendering to hope, elevates us to a new atmosphere. Like those who train to climb Mt. Everest, it will stretch and challenge the lungs of our faith. The air is thin and burns our chest.

Yet, our Father teaches us a new way to breathe. Instead of gasping on lies, we deeply inhale his promises.

One by one-

He loves us. He lifts us higher.

He fights for us. We grow stronger.

He’s with us. We have peace.

Our mighty God will always deliver us to a place of hope and beauty.

“There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” -Deuteronomy 1:30-31