01 Nov

Homeschool Top 10 Things

prayer sticks

I was thinking about how Facebook changes, momentarily, in November. Many people are counting blessings, grace…things to be thankful for. And here it is November 1st.

I have a lot of things to be thankful for…more than a months worth, by far. But today I thought I’d bring you my top ten list.

My Homeschool Top 10 Things (to be thankful for) that make our days easier.

1. pencil sharpener – I don’t think I would have purchased one, as they seem to be kinda spendy. But my grandfather died last year and this was one of the things we got out of his house. Who knew our daughter would take after me in her belief that a pencil only writes well when it is very sharp. The whirring sound is the sound of school work and writing…music to my ears!

2. paper cutter –I can’t draw a straight line and I’ve learned since trying to become this crafty-we-can-make-anything mom that I can’t CUT a straight line either. For a little under $40 we bought one a few years ago. We use it all the time…crafts, projects, ministry, you name it. Great investment, especially if you find yourself wanting to cut more than one of anything.

3. laminator – Another one of those things I didn’t think I would need or buy, but!!! I bought a simple little Staples brand laminator when it was on sale — like super  on sale a few years ago. I’ve been laminating anything I feed through it ever since. It is best to try and find a deal on the pouches and sheets, but you can or just by in bulk (a way to save) because you know you are going to use them. We laminate charts, certificates, worksheets, and all kinds of stuff for school. I have laminated recipe cards, signs, bookmarks and more.

4. dry erase board, crayons and markers – We didn’t buy this one. The board and markers we sort of inherited after a ministry project. And someone along the way gave the kids the dry erase crayons. We use them mostly for math “class”. This year fraction practice for our lil man has been all kinds of fun on the board with different colors and the ability to erase.

5. computers – We have two in our office/school room. This year we have instituted game time after school work is complete — the kids are learning to type, read, navigate a mouse and keyboard all while playing and having fun. We also have formally started using Rosetta Stone for Spanish.

laptop

6. prayer sticks – Admittedly these might be one of my favorite things we do. In an attempt to engage the children in prayer every morning we began prayer sticks last year. I had no idea how much we would all enjoy them. We update them periodically adding new people in our lives or taking out family members that pass away. Each morning we each pick a stick (or two) out of the jar and take turns praying for who we draw. The kids ask to do it everyday and are excited to see who they will get. It is a simple, colorful way to make prayer an active part of our homeschool day.

prayer sticks

7. our “school room” – Half office, half school room — it used to be our dining room (which is now in what used to be a formal living room). Shelves, computers, a keyboard, globe and boxes and bins full of everything we need. There is no table in here because the kids choose where to work; sometimes on the floor, on the couch, at their desks or at a table.

homeschool room

8. room to run – Oh! How important it is for them to stretch their legs. To run, giggle, screech, roll, chase and just play. It isn’t recess for us…it is life. We have school time throughout the day punctuated by periods of play in yard or walks to gather things or investigate nature. The best part of homeschool is all the school stuff that happens along the journey not in a book or in class.

come back to you

9. Paper, Paper and more paper – there are shelves of paper in the school room – white paper, lined paper, construction paper, cardstock, you name it. Creativity is never hindered by lack of material or color. It is fun to see what they make when they get an idea and have the room to cut, glue and create on their own.

10. Chalkboard breakfast table – A few years back we got this brown(ish) little breakfast table with two chairs. I never really liked the color, so this year when we decided to add two more chairs to the set I jumped at the chance to paint it all white. How cute and crisp it all looked…while it dried. Then life began to be lived on it and soon there was nail polish on it, koolaid in the cracks, and some mysterious person drew on it in pencil (that didn’t erase!). My cute white table became a pain the backside and daily chore….it was cute but this mama doesn’t need ONE more thing to clean or look after.

Chalkboard paint to the rescue…..

breakfast table

 

It was so cute!! I began to leave love notes for the family and write scripture on it daily. And when it was all clean (not chalkboard looking) it was quite stylish.

Then our daughter started cursive. The little lines in the workbook weren’t the easiest place to get a handle on the motions. So cursive practice began on the table…big, easy and erasable (3 things I like in ALL homeschool materials!). I had no idea how much we would use it for when I painted it — games (like dots and tic-tac-toe), lessons and school work practice, love notes and planning.

chalkboard table

 

There are many other things that make our days easier and are blessings in this homeschool process, but what I’ve found as I wrote as the list is that many things that I use and rely on I stumbled on. That is why I wanted to share. I would love to hear your top ten or even the number one thing that you use the most or rely on the most in your homeschool life.

23 May

Starts and Ends in the Heart

compassion letter

A picture on the mantle.

A few letters in a notebook/scrapbook.

 

 

These are the only traces of him here.

And, yet, as I pray for him today tears stream down my cheeks.

Over 4000 miles between us. Worlds really.

And yet, our William…our Compassion child is part of our family…part of my heart.

In my most recent (and last letter) I wrote, “Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Isn’t that so exciting!?! That even before you were born God knew the amazing adventure you would go on with Him — your family, your school, your soccer team, your Compassion programs, your sponsors, and the new adventures that await you.”

How exciting it is for him to be graduating…to be growing up.

And I wonder what I would say if I could hug him and say goodbye. What wise, loving words could I end our season of life with?

Life isn’t fair and it can be tough. But grace isn’t fair and it is Love.

Pray. Read your Bible. Remember, no matter what, God loves you.

Look for Jesus…everywhere.

In the end, the words I left him with were how proud we are of him and how much we love him. Something I hope he knows, he feels and he’ll remember.

As I look back on my childhood and the people who changed my world, I am keenly aware that very few of them ever had that one Pinterest worthy quote or a life changing piece of advice. No, instead, they loved me. In real, tangible, reliable ways the people who affected my life most lavished me with love.

When we signed up to be Compassion sponsors we had so many reasons — to teach our children about God’s love, to connect our kids with kids around the world, to give — even a little — of what God has blessed us with. I had no idea that sponsorship would change my life…my heart.

I had no idea the joy a simple envelope would bring. Or how my heart would skip a beat as I looked at pictures and handwriting — seeing evidence of how much “our” children were growing. Or the overwhelming privilege of being entrusted with prayers of “little” ones. Or the love and concern we would develop for the families of these sweet children God allows us to get know.

But mostly, I never realized how much being a sponsor would show me about God. That in these envelopes filled with translated words and crayon drawings I would find a reminder of what is important. That whispers of truth and prayers said in love change the world. That while I sit here struggling with first world problems, God blesses us — not so that we can get more but so that we can give more.

Our sweet friend will start a new chapter of his life, and I am so happy for him and yet so sad to be saying goodbye.

Many of us think that sponsoring a child begins in the checkbook. Finding the money. Writing the check. But the truth is, sponsorship starts and ends in the heart. It is a Jesus filled journey that brings us face to face with the “least of these”.

And it is there…in this relationship that we find glimpses of God. Echoes of truth in crayon decorated letters. Loaves and fishes miracles as Compassion takes our little and turns into food and clean water; education; medical care; life skills training; and Jesus in love, deed and Word!

 

 

21 May

My Heart Hurts for Them

storm

Tears streak down his face.

Somewhere deep inside I breathe a prayer of thanks. Thank you that this is the injustice he struggles with today…how many cartoons he got to pick.

When mommas hold their breath on the edge of fields of rubble….

When family’s salvage treasures from under destroyed houses….

When storms ravage and life hurts….

Thank you, father, for the tears of innocent childhood.

My heart hurts for them…them. Those who are victims of storms, of fear, of a life that seems cruel. I think of them as clouds hang dark and close over a blanket of destruction that  just a breath ago was neighborhoods and life. Those moments when why can hardly be uttered and God seems so far away…when the air tastes like grief and it is hard to see grace through the debris.

I turn off the tv and close the news webpages. Shielding little hearts and eyes from images my heart can barely take. And then I realize the luxury of these moments. That lunches and backpacks were backed yesterday with love…no knowledge of final goodbyes or last mommy hugs. This day was like any other until death broke in. And my heart screams for the mothers who know a grief I cannot fathom…and I whisper for God to come close…because that’s all I can do.

Here I sit, my babies safe, my home intact.

My heart aches and I want to whisper, why??? 

All I can do is lean into Jesus and know that He knows….that He is there. That it is the Lord’s sovereignty that I praise in the sunshine and question in the rain. And I know that He is God of restoration….as sure as spring comes after a barren and cold winter…as sure as the sun after the storms in Oklahoma…as sure as the stone rolled from the empty tomb.

When hearts ache in the waiting for answers….Jesus.

When life feels destroyed and our security seems broken…Jesus.

When it is dark and the storms loom large….Jesus.

My heart is heavy today…for a land I’ve never walked on, for families I’ve never met.

I whisper prayers…short…heavy…

Lord, please be there.

Jesus hold them.

As sun streams through the windows and little hands push pencils across paper. The dog’s slow breathing moving my furry footstool slowly up and down. The birds (and cicadas) filling the air with siren songs. The sounds of laundry and vacuuming filling in the chorus of normal life. Thank you, Father, for this breath, this life, this love…fleeting though it is.

 

 

 

09 May

Called to Love

daddy heart

If I hear it one more time I might spazz out.

“I’m so glad you all are called to that, not us.”

“I’m just not called to that.”

“I’m glad God hasn’t asked me to do that.”

Over and over I hear similar responses to the news that my hunky hubby and I are becoming foster parents. Most of the time I don’t respond…I just let the comment slide by, but….

While their comments still hang in the air I can see and hear Jesus’ words:

“Whoever receives a child in My name, receives Me.” (Matthew 18:5)

But it’s James’ words I want to have tattooed on my forehead (a conversation starter at the very least!):

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans…”James 1:27

When the church relegates taking care of orphans (including children in foster care) to a calling we are deluding ourselves into believing lies over truth and abdicating responsibility to care for God’s children because it looks difficult, thankless and comes with a societal stigma. And the sad truth is, that not only will we some day answer for our apathy and willful disobedience to God’s Word, lives are being lost in the process.

I am not saying that everyone should fling open their doors and become foster or adoptive parents (although I’d challenge many to take a hard look at their lives and see why they aren’t willing to), but I am challenging the church and all the people in it to figure out how they can help.

Adopt – an agency or an orphanage – get your church, your small group, your ministry or your family connected with the people who are caring for the children. See how you, as the body of Christ, can help support them, meet their needs — maybe it is fundraising, maybe it is prayer, maybe it is collecting comfort items or furniture for foster homes.

Pray – go to an agency website, a  state photo listing website or www.adoptuskids.org. Find the profile of a child, print it out and pray for that child. Ask God for a forever family for that child. Pray for their protection, provision, education, health, etc. You may never know, this side of heaven, the answers to these prayers, but they will change a life!!

Support – every community, every church (or almost every), has members who are opening their homes to children (from here in the US or all over the world) who are transitioning into family life, new school, new routines, new everything. Connect with those moms and dads. Find out how you can help — bring over a meal, fold their laundry, mow their yard, get background checked and help with childcare. Carry their burdens (Galatians 6:2)…they are building lives for Christ.

Learn – fire up the search engines, hit the libraries, take a class. Wrap your mind around the scope of the foster care crisis in the states. Become an advocate in your community, in your church, in your workplace for supporting these kids who through NO fault of their own are without parents, without a forever family, without the simple things that so many take for granted.

In a matter of weeks or months our family will expand. My hunky hubby and I are excited at the prospect of getting to parent and love another child (or children). We are humbled that God would call us to something that will change how we look at family and life. We know that our homeschooled children will be exposed to things we might not like (i.e. language or behavior) and they will need to learn new sets of skills and learn to love their new siblings.  But we also see the life changing moments that will come from learning that family loves (period) and that God calls us to love (even those who don’t know how to receive it or don’t act like we think they should).

Eyes wide open. Foster care and adoption will challenge and stretch us in ways we can’t even see yet. It won’t always be easy…it will be tough. There will be tears and triumphs. There will be failures and forgiveness. But more than anything there will be love.

We are all called to love (our neighbors as ourselves — Matthew 22:39 — the second greatest commandment).

May is Foster Care month stand up for love and families today and find a way you and your church can get involved!

31 Jan

Running from Me

happy birthday baby girl feet

She was but a few days, weeks maybe, old. Her soft skin and tiny fingers weren’t even a memory yet, more of a dream still. I had carried her, given birth to her, held her, loved her and now she was gone.

Gone.

And I was looking for meaning.

 

I know he was well-intentioned  this man who I shared my new dreams with. I know he and his family cared deeply for me. They had supported me and loved through a process that made me a woman…a mother…brokenhearted. I shared with him that I wanted to become a social worker. That no one would be able to help other birthmothers the way I could, having walked their road. I was excited. There would be meaning to my emptiness. There would be a reason for all this heartache. (There were MANY reasons I had chosen adoption…mainly wanting the best for my sweet baby girl…but mired in heartache and feelings I didn’t know what to do with I couldn’t grasp those reasons I needed my own. Something that I didn’t give away.)

But there in the face of my excitement came these words, “You don’t want to do that. You don’t want this to be what defines you.”

Those words. Changed. My. Life.

From that moment on I began to run from being a birthmother. I pushed away feelings of love for my daughters. I carried anger and resentment towards their parents. And while I was fairly open with people about the girls I still wore shame. I was busy filling my life and my heart with things to help me forget I was (am) a birthmother.

He was right. I didn’t want to defined by this moment…I didn’t want to be known as the woman who slept around, who kept giving up her kids, who despite being smart made dumb life decisions over and over again. I didn’t want to be a movie of the week kinda girl.

And yet, the harder I pushed to forget where I had been, to ignore what I had chosen (both bad and good), to prove I wasn’t that woman I was becoming that woman.My decisions were more and more erratic. My choice of men was, well let’s say, um, AWFUL! I bounced from job to job hoping for some kind of fulfillment.

And then, I met Jesus.

(I know it almost sounds cliche, doesn’t it? But the overwhelming, redeeming love of our Savior is never cliche, so stick with me!)

As Jesus began to work in my heart, I started to soften and see my life through a different lens. Yes, I had made many, many poor choices in my life, BUT God had a plan for two little girls, for two families to be complete, for my life to have meaning.

Something amazing happened as I began to see myself as a Jesus girl. I began to understand that what I was running from was me.My shame.

My guilt.

My heartache.

And when I learned to lay them down at the foot of the cross. God began to move in me.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to h
im are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame. Psalms 34:4-5

We’ve all made poor decisions,we all live lives marred with sin (sometimes mine was just more noticeable than others), we all need the grace and love of Jesus to help us put down our old ways and seek Him to become different, better women!

My sweet, amazing oldest daughter is 15 today. I knew her when her fingers were tiny and gripped my pinky, now those fingers play the piano and write beautiful poems. Her little legs that once kicked my belly button from the inside now make her a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field.

 

And I’m sure her eyes, so deep and beautiful are still gorgeous and carry a hint of an impish spark (after all she is related to me!!).

This past year, God took this busted up girl who spent much of her life running from herself and offered a tremendous dose of grace. I’ve gotten to know my amazing, loving, funny daughter via facebook, texts and letters. We have an amazing relationship that is hard to define, but is exactly what we both need. When I wrote a blog last year for her birthday I wrote to her, reveling in the memories of what it was to “know” her. This year, I know her and I’ve been able to tell her I love her (and receive her love). She has healed places in my heart that haven’t seen sunlight or hope in, well, 15 years. Through words of a very wise, very caring young woman (my daughter!!), God has offered me healing and hope.

But, do you see that if I was still running there would be no healing? The truth is God has a plan for us — to redeem our pasts (and our sin) and to use us in ways for His kingdom that we couldn’t ever imagine. But, not one ounce of healing, not one ounce of redemption can come when we refuse to set it down. When we try to ignore our pasts (locking it away) it leaks out like a dripping pipe…slowly eroding our hearts, our hopes, our dreams and changing who w

e are. When try to run from our pasts it is like trying to run from your shadow on a sunny day. Our pasts are what make us.

Oh, but they do not have to define us. Our past, our sin, our shortcomings only define us if we choose to let them. If we choose, instead, to be defined by Christ it changes everything. Christ takes that past and allows us to see where God was in it and how it can be used in the here and now. For me, part of God’s plan allows me to share my experiences as a birthmother with people (other birthmothers, pregnancy center volunteer trainings, and more). And for me, part of God’s plan was healing…a little at a time. I will never be the mommy who raised my two little girls (they have incredible mothers who God chose for them), but I do get to be a friend who loves them, prays for them, cheers them on and loves them in a special way that few will ever understand!

 

And that my friends is what Jesus’ plan for me looks like (well, part of it…).

What do you need to set down? Is God calling you to come to terms with your past (your sin) so that He can use it for His glory?

 

 

30 Jan

An Exercise in Sinking

Exercise in Sinking

Peter sees an opportunity and jumps at the chance (Matthew 14:28). “Tell me to come to you on the water.”

Tell me. If it is your will, my Jesus, tell me to come to you.

Peter has a reputation for being impetuous and hurling headlong into situations. But here, we see Peter reach out to Jesus, God walking on the water. In perfect submission, “Oh Lord, I want to do this but tell me if is okay first.”

Oh, and what does Jesus say?

Come.”  Come to me. Join me in the extraordinary. In the impossible. In the things that only I can do.

Discipleship builds faith. Stretches your faith muscle.

Peter had no hope of walking on water on his own. Did he? It was only through Christ’s power. It was only through Peter’s faith in the One that he loved that he had any hope of succeeding. Any hope of walking on water, any hope of the extraordinary lay in Christ’s power alone.

Christ says come, not only so that Peter could experience God’s power through this water walking, but that he would also know his own weakness, his own dependence on God.

Peter got down out of the boat. Sounds simple enough. But, oh how its not. The side of that boat was likely 3 to 4 feet tall (that’s like standing on your dining room table at home). The waves are tossing the boat around. The water rises and falls. Can you imagine what it took to get out of that boat?? To step over the edge and lower himself down to step onto the water. Faith, friends.

 

Faith. Peter believed that Jesus’ power was enough for him – that it would hold him, keep him safe, allow him to do the impossible.

Peter gets out of the boat and what happens next??

He walks on water.

He WALKS ON WATER.

My version has four words. Four measely words for the impossible, amazing walking on water.

And Peter didn’t head off for shore or walk circles around the disciples still sitting in the boat. No. Where did he go? Peter walked toward Jesus.

Storm raging all around Him. Faith focused on Jesus. Peter walks toward Jesus.

And, oh, if that was the end of the story. That Peter did the impossible with God by submitting his plans to him and stepping out in faith. Oh, what a grand story that would be, huh?

But that’s not where it ends.

vs. 30-31: But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

When Peter saw the wind and he was afraid.

Why? Because he took His eyes (and his mind) off Jesus.

It is the same wind and waves, Jesus walked on as He called, “it is I, don’t be afraid.”

It is the same wind and waves Peter stepped out onto and into when he got out of the boat…and yet. He was afraid.

We do this don’t we? We take our eyes off God and begin to look at the world around us – war, famine, unemployment, divorce, illness, the brokenness of people. We begin to look around us and we begin to fear. The goodness of God. The mercy of God. The grace of God is pushed out by “what ifs” “oh nos” and “how comes”.

And we begin to sink. As Peter did.

As Peter began to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Peter cried out! Friends, that’s prayer. Peter opened his mouth and cried out to the One whose power could hold him up.

Do you cry out as you begin to sink? Save me. Or do you take a few more steps…will it to happen…try to do the impossible under your own steam and your own power. And then when you are up to your neck cry out, “save me”.

The awesomeness of Jesus is it doesn’t matter when we cry out does it? One step, five steps, after weeks of trying to do it on your own? Jesus will answer us the same way He answered Peter.

Immediately.

Immediately Jesus the spoke to the frightened disciples in the boat. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand to save Peter.

Immediately.

Jesus could have let Peter flounder. Let him learn from his own mistakes. But he didn’t. His love and compassion are ever present, ever ready. All we have to do is seek Him, call to Him.

I have felt like I am sinking lately. Drowning in the weight of the tasks God sets in front of me, weighed down by the heartache of recent hurts and overwhelming heartbreak over the state of so much in our world. And as I sit here this morning on this overcast, gray morning my heart hangs heavy. And my own words echo back to me (the ones above) from part of a talk I was privileged to deliver last fall.

When you are sinking? Do you cry out to Jesus? When?

I’ve been try to walk on water, I suppose, but really it is more an exercise in sinking. I can’t do this water walking without Jesus…it is His impossible, amazing that He invites me into. And when I watch the waves (the seemingly insurmountable in my life) and listen to the wind (the voices of critics, insecurities and other people’s faith issues) I sink. We can only do this life in Christ if we are striving to live in Him. Eyes on him…heart focused on him…walking toward him…. Anything else is just an exercise is sinking.

How about you? Are you struggling with something this week? Look to Jesus, focus to hear Him above all else! He will reach out…save you…touch you…love you. You have to choose it first!

27 Dec

Dig Deeper

Why study Scripture?

I could spend hours digging through Scripture. Finding words, definitions, promises, stories….TRUTH. But I have come to realize that so many women (people, really) just don’t get it. Reading the Bible is just staring at words on page…no connection, no love, no life-change….just words on a page. And, oh, if I could only help people get into the Bible and discover God’s love verse-by-verse!!

To that end this past November, “Dig Deeper” was born. An evening of discussing Bible study techniques, sharing tips, tools and apps…and getting into the Word. It was a lovely evening with some wonderful ladies as as we sought to see the Word on the page.

 

Several people on Facebook have asked to see the list of resources we came up with, so here they are. Bookmark them. Use Them. Share Them. Have some that aren’t listed? Please leave them in the comments below for all to share in.

(Oh, and if you are local, please let me know if you’d be interested in attending a Dig Deeper workshop…trying to gauge interest for the spring.)

Free Websites:
Software:
*Logos
*Glo
Apps:
*Logos
*FaithLife Study Bible
*Glo
*Blue Letter Bible
*Elevation Church
*Mars Hill Church
Scripture Memorization:
07 Dec

Cure for Christianapathy

cure for christianapathy

(My thoughts on how we can embrace our roles as Christians as whisperers of warming grace or how we can choose soul-deadening, Jesus stealing, Christianapathy….began here. You might want to start there…)

The list of verses lays on my desk. Weeks’ worth of emails and prayers, hopes and expectations, now nothing more than a piece of scrap paper. When the idea came bright and full of promise I knew it could be life changing. I handed them the challenge…memorize scripture. I handed them tools…dry erase boards and weekly emails. I even offered motivation (because for many of us being closer to God, fighting sin, comforting others, and conforming to Christ’s image is not motivation enough)…prizes.

And yet, nothing…reasons, excuses, life…stuff got in the way.

We who memorize songs, recipes, gossip, lines to movies, plots of television shows, breeds of dogs, clothing designers, punchlines and so much more. We who claim Christ only when we can look up His truth, because excuses block us from hiding it in {our} heart. (Psalm 119:11) Not even prizes or nudges to our competitive spirits can save us from this Christianapathy.

I growl and groan. My disappointment is audible, palpable. And yet, even as I sigh I’m not sure who I’m disappointed in. Them. Or me. Do I work to memorize the Word that lives and breathes…that Word that saves, corrects, shapes, molds, reveals, loves…the Word that is my Jesus? Not like I should. Did I really think that I could lure people into making an investment…into changing for their own good? Perhaps…a dangerous, unfulfilling game, really. If Jesus isn’t their motivation…if He isn’t my motiviation…then why?

This list lays on my desk….a new reminder of an old flaw…this indifference to the things of God. A nudge to an apathetic soul that chooses entertainment over the eternal.

And as we wait on entertainment and memorize the vapid, we waste our energy on so many things that aren’t significant…aren’t of or for Jesus. We find to do lists, tasks and stuff that needs our attention. We stand in line for movies but want to help or serve only when its convienent and easy. We hop online instead of kneeling to meet with Jesus. Commutes, cleaning, sports, work, shopping, tv, cooking, family and trivial wants top our to do lists when Jesus said, “only one thing is needed“. (Luke 10:42)

The dictionary says apathy is a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern.

The Bible says it like this “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)

Spit you from my mouth….you who are lukewarm…you who are apathetic.

That we would know the life abundant Christ came to give us. (John 10:10) The life that is full of Christ — full of the Word…full of Truth…full of service…of sacrifice…of love. That life…that Christ-life…is one that is to be embraced…pursued…lived. Not one that we sit through…wait for…or ho-hum our way through.

Abundant life is exciting life. But embracing that life does not mean comfort or ease…it means running hard after God into places that will challenge, that will require us to grow (in wisdom and knowledge that come from Christ and the Word), that will require us to take a stand and speak up. Abundant life is vibrant and full….like spring full of flowers, buds, green grass and emerging life!!

The cure for soul-deadening, Jesus stealing, Christianapathy comes like all things great and glorious that God offers us…it is a choice. A choice to follow God.

A choice to invest in the things, the people, and the habits of our Savior. A choice to embrace this Jesus-filled life of abundance with enthusiasm, passion and worship…after all that’s what we were made for!

 

05 Dec

Christianapathy

christianapathy

From deep under a pile of blankets I stare out the window. Winter pushes on the windows and walls…cold air rushes through cracks and closing doors to gnaw away at our warmth and comfort…no snow, no beauty. The trees bare and lifeless against the backdrop of brown fields and life shriveled into crusty, crunchy leaves. Winter has arrived with its tale of bleak days and cold hands strangling dry, hard earth.

January will come…day after day…bare landscapes, cold weather and I will forget that spring will come. It is easy to forget when you don’t focus on the promise. It is easy to view life through windows and closing doors…safe, protected, shut away. The short days of winter, when the sun leaves too soon and the night lingers too long, bring an apathy that shrugs at life…that forgets that winter ends and new life begins….that accepts with no enthusiasm that new blooms wait for a whisper of warmth.

Winter will end, spring will come. Birds and buds…flowers and green shoots will remind us that winter ends…that hope lives. The warmth of spring sunshine and a sweet-scented breeze will warm us from winter blues.

But I begin to wonder about the apathy we choose….

 

I watch it spread, this soul-deadening winter…this place where we choose to wait…to watch life through windows and closing doors…this space where we choose inaction over Love.

She tells me of her loss…of her family’s loss and how the only expressions of sorrow, of sympathy and love have come in a form when one can push send. Her body language is tight, closed off, and cold…her sorrow looms large. “When did people stop caring for others?” her question hangs huge over my heart. When their souls are aching…shouldn’t we be the warm breath of Life?

The lines on her face tell stories of life and worry. The cigarette hangs loosely from her lips as she recounts the tales of those on the fringe of our midst. Tents, shelters, addicts, those without heat or lights. Referrals pour in, but the money is short…the doors always just barely staying open. A battle to help the least with but a little from a few. When there is hunger, homelessness, need…shouldn’t we do for them as unto Him?

With splashes and sputters the water pours from the tap. A sight, a sound, a precious resource I take for granted. Every. Day. As I wash dishes I think of the words on the radio. Water filters. (from Compassion) So simple this water…that quenches and cleans. How would we live without it? How do they live without it? And I wonder…when they are thirsty…shouldn’t we bring them water…Living Water?

So many stories of them…those people whose suffering seems distant and faceless through windows and closing doors…those people…those people…the ones we choose not to help…sure that someone else will send a card, open their wallets, share the Gospel…love.

Like the bleakness of winter we surround ourselves in this sad, dark envelope of Christianapathy. We shrivel and whither like late season leaves and think that going through the motions of showing up at church, singing when the praise band strikes a tune or praying over a meal make us glorious and life-filled.

I watch as beautiful, talented, passionate women sit by and wait for someone else to plan, someone else to encourage a hurting friend, someone else to stand up for Jesus. I, too, am guilty of indulging in this Christianapathy….warm Bible studies, over steaming cups…the world rolls on outside the window…suffering women search for friends, for security, for Jesus….

The world is cold, the darkness presses in on all sides, and here we sit holding the Word…the Light; we hit send instead of speaking the Word to souls drowning in meaningless noise; we choose comfort and waiting on someone else to do it when Jesus said, “whatever you did for one…you did for me; and whatever you did not do for one…you did not do for me.”

We choose this soul-deadening practice of comfort zones and wasted opportunities. We choose winter and bleak landscapes, when the promise of Hope and new Life was His breath into our lungs…breath pours out Words and grace…a whisper of warmth for blooms that await.

We are the promise of spring. We are the promise of new Life…we breathe grace and love. We can embrace our roles as Christians as whisperers of warming grace or we can choose soul-deadening, Jesus stealing, Christianapathy.

03 Dec

Wonder and Whispers

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The sky begins a faint glow…the horizon painted with yellows and pinks. The morning begins to kiss back the darkness with possibility and hope. An old song sung of new possibilities fills the trees as the birds announce the coming of the sun.

I sit in our nearly dark house, breathing in the stillness that dawn offers. A stillness steeped in mystery and possibility. A breath where sleep still lingers and the day unfolds, where to-do lists lie in wait, and the heaviness of yesterday’s sin has melted away. Hope rises with the sun.

And yet, here in the living room I sit in a pool of light. Oh how the Christmas tree glows.

These moments, these still, glowing, decorated moments of peace are perhaps my favorite all year. There’s something magical about a Christmas tree all lit and lovely. Each ornament a shadowy, glimmering tale of cheer, memories, love and Christmas.

It is here, in these moments I remember the wonder. The awe.

Christmas is mysterious and magical when we give it room to be. When celebrating Jesus grows and moves and fills the room around me, I remember what it was like to be a child with eyes full of sparkling lights and a heart full of Christmas wonder.

Here in the living room I sit in a pool of light. Oh how Jesus glows in me.

Beyond the horizon the world is waking. Coffee is percolating. There is bustling and hurrying. To do lists dictate and schedules overcrowd hearts. And even as the sky begins to grow light I feel the world pressing in, trying to crowd out the peace that dances here in a pool of light.

We do that, don’t we? We let life bump us and swirl us around like a twister with its own agenda. We fill up calendars and gasp for air. Christmas becomes a list of things to be done and people to check off. We fill the space around us with noise…lights…distractions…and we miss the glow of Jesus that beckons us to breathe in peaceful, heavenly possibilities.

And here we are in the this month called December. The weeks where retail shouts of good deals and time running out. The weeks where calendars fill up with obligations dressed in red and green. The weeks that are meant to build to a crescendo of love culminating on the day when Love came down become weeks that we rush through, surviving it all…barely.

Oh, will you pause with me? Will you set out to make this season different? Will you greet each day with breath??

Like those predawn moments that whisper of sun-kissed promises as old as our Creator, Christmas whispers too. The lights, the trees, the carols…they are all meant to remind us of the One who clothed Himself in humanity so that He could clothe us in righteousness. Reminders. That’s what the symbols we become numb to are…reminders of Christmas…of Jesus…of love.

My sweet sister, look for Jesus this December. Find Him in quiet moments. Whisper His name when your heart wrestles with busyness. Allow the things of this tinsel-covered, holly-decked holiday to whisper I love you.

30 Nov

Love-Shaped Holes

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There’s nowhere to hide when it hangs in your living room.

The one with her name on it.

The one he carved.

 

The one from her favorite store.

There they hang.

Here I sit, a puddle on the floor. Tears flowing down my cheeks, the cold bitter sting of grief.

Christmas has come. It didn’t ask for permission or pause to breathe in my hurt. It has arrived full of sparkle, tinsel, child-like glee and memories that bear painful witness to the holes in my life.

Scented candles, yummy baked cookies, cold crisp air that begs for snow. Yet, it is hard to breathe when grief hangs heavy.

Twinkling lights, flickering candles,  brightly wrapped packages of every shape and size. Yet, it is hard to see when tears blur your eyes.

And as if haunted by memories I’m scared to forget I try not to remember. The faintest trace of a memory and I blink it away…don’t want to remember what it felt like to hold you when my arms still ache from losing you.

I don’t know Christmas without you….perhaps the truth is, I don’t want to.

And my eyes drift to the ornaments that remind me of my why…of our why…of the reason for the season. {as cheesy as it sounds}

The one who hung on a tree, for me.

The one who died on a tree, for me.

And I beg in my heart, Jesus help me to see you as enough. To hold you higher and greater than I hold my grief.

Help me to celebrate you…YOU.

As our children decorated the tree this week, their laughter and excitement nearly hurt my ears. Oh, for just a bit of that bottled!! They meet each Christmas carol, twinkling light, box of decorations, wrapped package and Christmas card with wild abandoned.  Their excitement and love are contagious as they hurl head long towards Jesus’ birthday and the gifts He gives us.

And, even as I grieve, I want that. I want a childlike spirit that chooses Jesus’ joy over tears. That embraces memories and adventures with the same excited passion.

And again, I ask you, my Jesus…will you help me to celebrate You?

Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:4 promise there is comfort yet for me {for us…those who hearts have love-shaped holes}….Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Oh, the sweet promises of Savior who comes close.

As I sit at the foot of my tree, hands clenched, eyes burning, tears falling, I know.

I have a part to play in this mourning-comfort equation. These clenched hands that hold grief like a blanket over a raw and scared heart…they have to let go. Open hands receive grace…receive Jesus…receive Comfort. Letting go of grief, letting go of mourning, allows my sweet Jesus to pour into my hands the blessings of Christmas…of grace…of Himself. And those love-shaped holes in my heart are filled with memories of people who were gifts for a season and promises of greater love and reunion in eternity.

And as I open my eyes, I see…

You see, my grief-filled reminders hang on a tree that stands in remembrance of gifts Jesus gave us. That my grief hangs on our Jesus tree is not lost on me. That this picture of what He has given me is bigger than my heart can take in. This life — full of grace-filled memories, love -filled relationships, God-blessed breaths– this life!! Grief hangs on my tree. So do memories — of trips, travels, loved ones, little hands, my hunky hubby. So do dreams — of  travel, of some days, of my girls, of writing, of ministry.

You see, this Jesus tree, it is a reflection of my life and I can sit and stare for hours at one spot, one piece.  And that piece will become overwhelming, all-consuming for me. Too much. But it is when I back up and see it as piece among many…as a part of whole…not the whole. I remember….I see…

There is much to be celebrated even when grief hangs heavy….especially when grief hangs near. There was life lived in those love-shaped holes, and there is life to be remembered and love to honor. There is grace to share.

And, there, in the midst of it all…holding it all together…making it all stand apart…is Jesus. And I know He knows how my heart feels….for He wears love-shaped holes on His hands for me….

28 Nov

A Tradition We Happened Upon

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It was just the two of us…so in love that the rest of the world just faded away.

Him and me. That green-eyed boy who made me his wife.

 

Our honeymoon was an amazing, extravagant cruise around the southern Caribbean.

We wanted something to remember the trip by…each island…each excursion…each time he introduced me as his wife…each place we celebrated this gift of marriage. We found a Christmas ornament on the first island we visited and thus a tradition began. At each island on our trip we found a Christmas ornament that said where we’d been. They were the beautiful highlight of our sparsely decorated tree that year.

 

Reminders of that trip for years to come….

We do it (or try) on every trip we take now. A Christmas ornament to hang on the tree, something that whispers of trips and love, memories and laughter. And this year, as our kids excitedly yanked each ornament from the bins we heard the “ooh”, the “aw”, the “remember”!! The memories began coming to life and played across the screen of our Christmas decked memories.

Princesses and Pirates….and a magical family trip.

 

The trip to Louisiana that was a walk through family history.

The last trip to a family vacation spot before illness and time changed our family landscape.

 

 

 

There are dozens more ornaments from all over…trips where we forgot suitcases, grieved for loved ones, and enjoyed the scenery. Trips that filled photo albums and family stories. And as each year passes and the Christmas tree bears more and more memories can you imagine the stories, the time…the love? That our yesterdays will decorate our tomorrows is a gift I didn’t know to ask for, to plan for, to give or to receive.

Tonight, as I sit in the glow of the Christmas tree and remember all the moments, all trips, all the Christmas, all the love that shines  into my life I’m sure I will be overwhelmed by it all. Gloriously, gracefully, happily overwhelmed by a tradition we happened upon.

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