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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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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Want to Build Something New in Your Life? You May Not Be Ready.

621704I was a cheerleader. Not the cool kind. When a routine called for the splits, I’d lower my skirt to hide the fact I was several inches away from nailing it.  I couldn’t do a toe-touch. I’d routinely jaunt across the quad with my skirt unknowingly tucked up under my backpack.  Yeah.

One of our important cheerleading jobs was painting the “run-thru” for the Friday night football game. This was serious stuff. We had to make life-altering decisions like: What should it say?! What colors should we use?! If we use too much paint, will it be too hard to tear?

A stampede of sweaty teenagers ran through this thing before they’d compete. It signaled the battle of Friday Night Lights had begun; they were ready to face their opponents and build a legacy.

God asks us to do the same thing at times. He’ll require we charge towards a stronghold before announcing, “You’re ready to step on the field.”

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…A time to tear down and time to build” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3b).

Sometimes we must tear down before we can build up. The Hebrew word for ‘tear down’ in this verse is parats. In the tense used it means, to break or burst out (from womb or enclosure). So another way to understand this is, there’s a time to burst out from whatever you’re stuck inside of.

We’ve got to break-through in order to build.

I found the same Hebrew word used nine other times in the context of increasing blessing or territory.

“The little you had before I came has increased (parats, break or burst out) greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been” (Genesis 30:30a)

There’s a blessing when we press past our comfort zones into new territory.

What’s stopping us from making that phone call, having the hard conversation, going to the adoption seminar, applying for that job, taking the first step towards healing our marriage? Maybe we’re too busy staring at the daunting banner in front of us, forgetting we have a banner over us.  Moses declared, “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15). We are to lift up His name and bravely march forward.

Perhaps we’re too prideful thinking we can run through the banner by ourselves? Listen, it took a herd of sweaty young men to burst through our epic signs. Call the counselor or friend. Get in a small support group or Bible study. If you have a stronghold or complacent spot in your life, gather some people around you and address it. Life is moving forward with or without your participation.

Maybe we’re unwilling to put effort into breaking through our fears, selfishness, insecurities or haunting grief.

It’s a shame really.

Because there’s an epic battle going on among us, and we weren’t made to stand on the sidelines. God can heal and equip, and he passionately desires to do so.

Let’s do the hard work of identifying the banners holding us back. Let’s be brave and learn to run full force at them, knowing on the other side is where we’re called to be living our lives. On the field, with our brothers and sisters, co-laboring with Christ to build things that are “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8-9 The Message)

We’ve got one life on this earth. One. Get in the good fight for the kingdom. Ask God to show you which areas you need to have a breakthrough and CHARGE!!

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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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