In Response to “Does Missions Separate Families?”

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I never expected that my recent post “Does Missions Separate Families?” would be so widely-read. But in the past week or so, I have had the privilege of a whole audience I never imagined: missionaries.
From all over the world.

And I just wanted to say to these missionaries and your families: thank you.
As I read your comments, I got just a small taste of your daily reality. Your real thoughts, your real feelings, and the real cost of what you are doing. More than anything, that you are real people.

I couldn’t respond to your every comment. Not because there were so many, but because…sometimes I just didn’t know what to say. Reading your perspectives, and testimonies left me often just whispering, “Wow,” and pushing myself away from the kitchen table, lost in thought about you. I had no words to simply “reply” to all I feel for you.

But this is what I want you to know, if you find yourself here and are now following:
I love what you are doing. I love that you are following Christ and proclaiming Him in the darkest places of the earth. Even when that darkness seems to invade every part of you. Even when you feel completely and utterly, alone. Even when you can’t talk to anyone (in English) and just want to scream at the sky. And even when your families, and showers, and clean sheets, and sanity seem a million miles away.

Surely you will be give one hundred times more in the life to come.

The other day, my brother-in-law in Africa (whom I wrote the post about) emailed us and said protests and riots broke out in their city (due to what happened in France.) The next day, the protesters burnt down eighty percent of the churches. And the day after that, he visited one the smoldering churches just two miles from their home.

There he met two men, who said the protesters tried to burn the church down, while they were still in the building—but they managed to escape. Nearly all the teaching curriculum and bibles were burned.

Listen, I don’t know where you are. I don’t know the threats that lurk outside your door. I don’t even know if you will be able to read this. But this is what I do know—Your mission stands. It is of God. And it cannot fail.

They can burn down your churches. They can burn up the bibles. But they cannot take away the Spirit of the Living God. And He goes everywhere with you. And you go everywhere with Him. And His Word is in your heart, like a fire. And He will not be mocked. And this mission, regardless of what you see in front of you today, is not a failure.

My brother-in-law tried to encourage those two native men, who escaped their burning church, but instead they turned and encouraged him saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” And then went on to assure him that even though their building was destroyed, the Church still remained.

I was later sent this amazing video footage of the believers from their country worshiping in their church the day after it burnt.

They get it. They know where their treasure is. And that He is faithful, and He will do it. “He will not fail or be discouraged.” Isaiah 42:4

He will not fail or be discouraged.
And I guess that’s the only reply I have for you. I’ve searched it out, and these are the most soothing words I can find: He will not fail or be discouraged.

And neither will you.

Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for laying down your lives. And for making our family grow. For the day is drawing near, when we will meet, face to face, every brother, sister, son, and daughter at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and we will all rejoice wildly together at the greatest reward of all. That is, Christ.

For He will not fail or be discouraged.

How To Stay Alive In the Dead of Winter

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Queen Elsa may be able to wear a dress and prance around in the snow–but I for one, cannot. In fact, I actually hate the winter. Where I live, it snows for days on end. And bitter temperatures actually make your face hurt. (If you’re not a cartoon.)

In the last few weeks, I’ve started to feel crazy. Like, I need to get out of my house crazy. I need to go somewhere. I need to feel the sun on my skin, and warm wind blow through my hair. I need an adventure, I need something to look forward to. But when I look at the calendar…January, February, and March look about as exciting as an empty parking lot. There’s just not much going on. (And let’s just face it, the holidays in February and March are like the “B-movie” version of holidays. I mean, green beer, chocolate hearts, Groundhog Day? …Tell me if someone with cabin fever didn’t come up with this stuff?)

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m just sort of waiting for these next few months to be over.

I think a lot of people feel this way. Because “Seasonal Affective Disorder” is real. And those serotonin levels and depression are real. But there’s something else that’s real.

Your spirit.

As human beings made in the image of God, we have been given a spirit part of us. And you won’t see much about this on WebMD. But open the Scriptures, and it’s real. And we were made to fellowship with God. And we were made to experience excitement, and mystery, and desire in His presence.

So instead of just “cabin fever” and “chemical imbalances”–could it also be that our spirit is groaning for intimacy with God? And that the Spirit of God is also calling out wildly to us?

If you have been feeling restless, and bored, and longing for something more—be encouraged! The Spirit is drawing you. He longs to woo you this winter. To draw you out of yourself and into Him, to explore His depths.

Pretty much everyone loves the song “Oceans” by Hillsong. (If you want to listen, click here.) But why do you think this song is loved by so many different people, of so many different denominations, and levels of spiritual maturity? I think it is because this song is wooing to that spirit part of us. The part of us that was made to commune and fellowship with God. We all have it. We all have a spirit–and we all want the Spirit of God to call us out. And the good news is: He is.

He does.

“You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail.”

God woos in the winter. If we’re quiet enough, to hear Him.

If you are restless, or bored, or depressed–it may be that you are actually hungering and thirsting for God.

And no one can satisfy, or soothe, or thrill like Him. Perhaps our “restlessness” is the prelude to the greatest awakening we’ve yet to experience. For as St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, until we find rest in You.”

Let Him woo you this winter. And He will call your spirit to life. Because that’s what He does. He makes dead things come alive. He makes smoldering wicks burst into flame. And makes stagnant pools flow again.

For as David said, “You make known to me the paths of life, in Your presence there is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

This is how you stay alive in the dead of winter. You stay in the presence of God. And enjoy Him.

Who knows? You may even want to run outside without your coat on. And spin around singing.

Does Missions Separate Families?

 

Selah meeting her cousins for the first time.

 

Tomorrow, my brother-in-law and his family will get on a plane, and fly to Africa. I won’t see them again for three years, except by some emailed photos, or maybe a choppy Skype connection.

I joke that I am going to sabotage their trip to the airport. And part of me really wants to. Because deep down, I really don’t want them to go. I have enjoyed having them and their three sweet girls around the last six months. They were the first to teach her how to have a proper tea party, and make elephant noises, and sing “Let it Go” at the top of their lungs. As they ran barefoot through the grass in the summer, she chased them. As they danced wildly in the living room in the winter, she imitated them. She adores them, as if they were her own big sisters. They take her by the hand, they whisper in her ears, they burst into laughter at her expressions, and pull her in for a second hug. And now, they are going away.

Does missions separate families?

I think the impulse answer is: yes.

They left for Africa three and a half years ago. And in that time, they missed births of new nieces and a nephew. The death of a grandparent. They missed all the Thanksgivings and Christmases and game nights. They missed heartaches and victories. They missed life here, for three years.

And not for an easy life. But for oven-like heat, and dirt, and difficulty. And constant sweating. And risk. Risks of violence and persecution. Risks of disease, and illness. Risks of terrorist groups, and wild animals. Risks of kidnappers, and poor health care when it really matters.

I see these three fearless little girls, whose mom is pregnant with their first little brother, and tremble that he will be born there.

The question inevitably crops up: Why are they doing this?

One night after dinner at our house, as we pulled apart the last remains of the garlic bread, I asked my brother-in-law, “So, how did you…get over all of the fear?” I think he made a few cracks about my fear of Ebola. And then he just looked at me, and said with such simplicity, “I am afraid of some of those of things. I’m actually really afraid of flying. But I’m more afraid of not obeying God.”

And that’s the difference. I see the risk, the danger, the loss. He sees the reward. The gain. The joy.

He and his wife see hell as a reality. And love as a command. And the gospel as real. And they are doing it. They are living it. They really love Jesus. They really believe He’s coming back. And they really love bringing others into His family.

While we feel like we are losing a brother and a sister, they are actually rescuing lost brothers and sisters and bringing them into the Kingdom of God.

While we will miss their daughters and son, they will be rescuing daughters and sons and bringing them into the family of God.

They leave us in order to rescue others, to bring more into the family, the family of God. The family that will live on forever. And the gates of hell will not prevail against this mission. Because it’s the one Jesus called us to.

Does missions separate families?
Yes. For a time.

But it also expands them. By inviting the lost into a family. Those who had no family, no hope, who were on the outside and separated from God. (Ephesians 2)

There may be a few empty seats at our next Thanksgiving dinner. But by those seats being empty, it will mean that other place settings are being made ready for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. Because lost brothers and sisters who live across the ocean, whose skin is darker than ours, whose language is different than ours, will be invited into God’s family, and will be called for the first time sons and daughters, and will be given a place at His table forever.

One day we will come together, all of us, those who were far off, and those who were brought near, as one family, with exploding joy.  And there in the presence of Christ, we will see that missions never separated our family at all.

It only ever made it grow.

I Actually Really Love This

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I know it’s good to get away now and then, and I do. I slip out to Starbucks and write, or just stare out the window. But sometimes when we have a baby-sitter and we are at an adult-only party, I’m laughing along at some joke, and somewhere during that laughter, my mind drifts away to her. I feel the pink rubber hairband around my pinky, and think of how like it, I’m wrapped around her finger. I open my purse to pay at the coffee shop and as I pull out my wallet, so does Mr. Potato Head’s arm. My ear bud is wet; she sucked on it this morning under the computer desk.

How is it she goes with me everywhere? How is it, she has become my obsession? I’m tired and moody and yet, I can’t pry myself away. I feel naked without her.

My husband’s home this week on Christmas break, and I will grocery shop tomorrow as usual. And he will probably offer to keep her home with him. And that will sound like a great idea, until I am there. Alone.

I’ll push the empty cart, without her in it. I’ll easily grab the produce and cereal I want without having to pry anything out of little hands. No one will snatch my shopping list from me, or crumble it up, or throw it on the ground. No one will open the dryer sheets and blow their nose on them. No one will scream at the top of their lungs or tell me they have to go potty as I begin to check out.

The secret is: I actually love to have her with me. Even though it can be hard, and stressful, and chaotic.

Life is more fun with her.

I want her with me. I want her smile. I want her voice to fill up the car. I want her blonde head chattering in the rearview mirror. Even when that blonde head will start to scream and whine. Because, even as I’m wrestling her off the bathroom floor, (who knows what they are thinking in the stall next to us), and grabbing her from touching the nastiest box of feminine napkins that is bolted to the wall–I actually really love this. I love her. I love her with me. And I wouldn’t trade it.

That moment she left my womb, on a cold night in January, she entered my heart–never to leave.

I’m not saying taking breaks, or time away is bad. In fact, it is very good. I guess I’m just realizing, it’s not what outsiders would think it is. Those aren’t the moments I live for. They are the ones that help me keep living.

It’s like when you were a kid, on a hot summer’s day, running around playing freeze tag, sweating, screaming and laughing. Then your friend’s mom comes outside with a giant pitcher of Kool-aid. Someone screams “Time-out!” and you pause for a moment, gulping down all the cold liquid you can. And then you stand there, breathing hard, and wiping your mouth, and catching your breath. And the moment you do, someone screams, Time in!” And you run wildly back into the yard.

That is what we mom’s live for. The exhilarating game in the grass, the one that makes us sweat, and scream, and laugh. Not the crumpled paper cup on the picnic table. That was just so we could keep going.

Because underneath all the noise and chaos as we tote around little ones, underneath the shirt stained by ketchup fingers, underneath the the hands cramped from buckling, and unbuckling car seats, is a woman who whispers in her heart,
“I actually really love this.”

My 7 Most Influential Reads of 2014

What we read or meditate on deeply affects how we think and ultimately, who we become. As the year ends, I’ve been thinking about what reads have most shaped me over the last year. The following is a list and brief explanation of some of the most perspective-changing books or blog posts I have read this past year. (I would love to hear what books or blog posts have most influenced you this past year! Please share in the comment section!)

1. The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

A great read if you need help loving sinners (and realizing you are one.)

IMG_0706This book was single-handedly THE most influential read of the year for me. Because: it demolished my pride. And showed me my desperate need for Jesus. It’s a short simple book based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. What I most enjoyed is that the book is written for the (moral/rule-keeping/law-oriented) “older brother,” more than the (rebellious/prodigal/stray sheep) “younger brother.” I had no idea how closely I would identify with the “older brother.” But the more I read of his pride and arrogance and anger, I couldn’t help but whisper, “That’s me, that’s me.” I also felt more love, and mercy, and grace for the “younger brother” figures in my life, and saw them in a totally new light. I saw us as being not so different from each other, really quite the same, because we both are desperate for Jesus. A favorite quote: “The gospel is distinct: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.”

 

2. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A great read if you want to see God everywhere, and see His hand in all things. 

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/636/62057002/files/2014/12/img_0707.jpgThis was some of the best writing (in a Christian book) I have read in…well, ever. Voskamp writes beautiful, poetic prose–but there is a heartbeat behind it too. This book is about being radically grateful for your everyday, messy, chaotic, seemingly train-wreck life. Voskamp was dared to come up with 1,000 things she was thankful for, and in the process, she takes her readers on her journey of her transformation. To be honest, I was annoyed with it at first. It seemed too sticky-sweet to me. But the further I read, I found out, this is the secret to joy–and there is no other way to get it. Readers are challenged to start their own joy-journey of making a list to one thousand. (I’m only on #86) but I can testify to the power and release of joy in naming the gifts God has given me. If you want to slow time down, be happier, and cherish the life and people God has given you, I suggest reading this book, and actually taking the challenge. It could literally change your life. It’s beginning to change mine.

3. Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming by Jeanne Harrison, Loving My Lot

A great read if you are a new or experienced mom who needs to stop comparing with other moms and permission to be yourself. 
jealousy2This was the blog post that first welcomed me into motherhood (and blogging) as I know it. It is an honest, and hilarious account of one woman’s attempt to try to keep up with all the other mom’s. I first read it when my daughter was just months old, and it just made something break in me. I could suddenly breathe. (I was set free by a blog post. Hallelujah!) But it’s true, a giant weight was lifted off of me, and I could suddenly be myself, and start to enjoy motherhood as the woman God created me to be, and not as the one I thought I needed to be, because “she” was.

4. The Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins

A great read if you want to shirk your household duties, get lost in a futuristic world and become perplexed over the realities of where our culture is heading if we don’t pay attention. 
hunger gamesI think it must have been in response to reading #3 that I even picked this up at my library, and gave myself permission to enjoy something that was…for once, fiction. I was so gripped by this story that I burnt every meal for a week (my husband can testify) and became so consumed with thinking about it, I was even dreaming about it. (I admit, it was slightly dangerous for me, and turned me into a horrible home-maker.) And yet, it also opened up my eyes to life outside my home and my imagination of what our culture could be like someday. It is an intense story, if you don’t know it, and I believe is meant to show us a picture of what our world could become. It certainly shaped my outlook on the culture and vanity and excess we have in our country.

5. “Ten Big, Daily Reminders” by Matt Reagan @ Desiring God

A great read (daily) if you need to need help remembering what is true and not being swept away by your emotions or circumstances.

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Sometimes I lose my bearings. I am a small-picture person, and I quickly lose sight of God and the big picture. Going through this list tremendously helps me get my focus back on God and reality. It’s just ten simple truths that give me solid framework for how to think, and help direct my thoughts away from fear, anxiety, or distraction. I can’t tell you how this has set me free from self-pity, expectations, and joylessness. Reading this list, (especially #5), made me realize I don’t deserve any of the blessings I have, not one. Thank you God!

6. Six Lessons In Good Listening by David Mathis @ Desiring God

A great read if you need to become a better listener, spouse, or friend. 
full_six-lessons-in-good-listeningThis is about how to listen well to people. Because when you listen well, you know how to love better, and speak better, too. I printed it out and highlighted all through this one. And then I realized I was actually a horrible listener. It made me start to think about what my marriage, and relationships would look like, if I really listened more carefully. I plan to take this one into the new year, as one of my goals is to be a better friend. And to listen well.

7. My First World Problems by Sasha @ MomLife Now

A great read if you haven’t thought about life outside America for awhile. 
img_20931I didn’t realize how powerful this was the first time I read it. But days, weeks, and even months later, I still find myself thinking of the message: Am I complaining about a “first world” problem, when there are millions suffering in much worse conditions? I am sure there is much written on this subject, but this was the first that made me start to really think. Now, when I begin to open my mouth about a problem with my cell phone, or that the grocery store was out of the toothpaste I like, this little voice comes back: “Is this a first world problem?”


Okay, now what what reads have most influenced, or changed your perspective this year? Anything you plan on reading this coming year? I would love to hear! (And I’m sure other readers would be glad for the referrals as well.)

Happy New Year and Happy Reading! May this year’s reading, whether fact or fiction, book or blog, or anything else you put before your eyes, shape you more and more into the image of Jesus. And may your eyes open further to His light, and your heart move closer to His warmth.

Love,

Rebekah

“May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing in Your sight. O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

She’s Longing For A Child This Christmas

This goes out to every woman whose heart aches to be a mother, but finds herself still in waiting. May these words soothe your soul if you are in this place, or otherwise break your heart for those who are. This guest post was originally published on MomLife Now by a beautiful writer named Sasha and I am honored to share it with you:

She’s Longing For A Child This Christmas

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Christmas can be the most joyous time of year. The pitter patter of little feet running out on Christmas morning. The squeals and shouts, the laughter and excitement. . .

Not everyone will feel such joy. For many this day is a sharp wound. Piercing deep in the mother who has yet to hear herself called by this name. She who has tried and tried again, only to see another negative stick, another baby lost in the womb. The adoption at a standstill–again.

To you, dear momma, I have been thinking about you. My heart unable to push you to the back of my mind. With every visit to Santa’s lap I have ached for you. I felt the hot tears fall onto my pillow last night, brushing your searing pain. The emptiness which tries to engulf you.

But what good are my tears to you? I tried to make them worth something. A prayer.

~~~~~~~~~~

God of the childless mother,

She may not have a little one who calls her “momma” just yet, but she is a mother still. Your definition of the word starts with the heart, and hers, tenderly longing, is tenderly felt by you.

I see her as she smiles lovingly on my own child, helping him pick up his cheerios just spilled across the floor. I see her as she acknowledges my shy little girl, telling her just how beautiful she looks this morning. What an incredible mommy she will be. I feel such joy for the soul who will be so blessed as to call her such.

Today though, her own soul, it’s so wounded. So desperate.

Meet her at her desperation. Give her the patience–the miraculous patience–she needs.

I see so many “mothers.” Mothers who leave their children, who neglect them, beat them, shame them. They keep on having more babies. Babies who will live through hurt and suffering. Then, I see her. She who would love her child more than life itself. God, why is she the one having difficulty? She who deserves so much to be a mother! If I struggle with this question then I know she does too. I know her hope fades thin.

Revive her hope. Hope for a day when she will find herself face to face with the child you have destined for her. Mothers come in all different shapes and sizes. Show her the path to take.

When all seems hopeless, bring your hope. When all falls dark, shine your light. When life slaps much too hard, bring your arms of comfort. Hold her God. For although a mother is her desire, your daughter she is first.

Christmas day, which could bring such pain to her tender heart. May it be a day of hope, of sweet longing for the future. A reminder that one day she too will hear the pitter patter of little feet–feet running straight to her.

Hold her tight this Christmas. She needs you.

~~~~~~~~~~

“The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” ~Deuteronomy 33:27


Sasha is a wife and mom of two who loves to open up about the realities of motherhood at her blog, MomLife Now. For more from Sasha, you can also follow her on Facebook.

Christmas is for Desperate People

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To My Daughter on Christmas,
I realize Christmas may seem a little confusing right now: This week you saw a glowing tree magically appear in our living room. (Then you were yelled at for touching it.) We went to the mall story-time and you got paper antlers and jingle bells to wear. Christmas music blared and as we strolled away, you saw a very long line of kids waiting to sit on an old man’s lap. Later that night, I dressed you in your new red and pink reindeer pajamas–but you kept calling them, “puppies.”

I know you are not yet two, but even at twenty-seven, this holiday can still make your head swirl. But someday, I hope you can see what Christmas is really about, and that is this: Christmas is for desperate people.

Last night, as you pulled all the ornaments within your reach off our Christmas tree, you kept pointing to one in particular you called, “baby.” We haven’t talked about this “baby” yet. But He is the reason we have Christmas at all.

See, a long time ago, the world was full of desperate people. And it was dark, and sad, and in need of a Rescuer. Remember how I told you I used to cry because I had to wait a very long time for you to be born? The earth was waiting for a baby too. But this was no ordinary baby. He was the Rescuer. He would rescue people from death, and despair, and darkness. Because the people loved darkness, they kept running further and further away from God. They didn’t know His love yet. What they needed to see, was a God who would run towards them. A God who would come close. At any cost.

God had been silent a very long time. But two thousand years ago, in a barn, in the starlight, in the straw, His teenage momma pushed out His warm, slippery, little body. And the moment this “baby” let out His first cry–the silence was broken forever. Between God and men.

And as His mom held Him on her chest and felt His skin against hers, she breathed out His name, “Jesus.” “Immanuel.” It means, “God is with us.”

And He was.

God had come. Skin to skin. Breath to breath. And soon, blood for blood. For the desperate. For the sinners. And that’s what that “baby” means. That was the beginning. Of God coming close to us. Of us being brought close to Him. Forever.

Sadly, some people don’t really know why we have Christmas. They try very hard to be happy and make it mean something, but they don’t know that the only reason to be happy is that the Rescuer made a way for us to be saved from going to a very bad place, and that we can be close to God now. Forever.

I’m telling you this because you are going to see big presents and flashing lights, and hear Christmas carols, and there will be cookies, and ugly sweaters, and people rushing around buying gifts. There will be little Santa’s and big inflatable ones, and reindeer, and movies, and ads for toys, and itchy dresses, and family photos. And I give you full permission to enjoy those things. But those are extra. They are not the main thing. Christmas is about Jesus.

And He came to save people enslaved to sin. To free people from addiction. He came to cleanse sinners in His blood and clothe the naked in His righteousness. He came to take shame away. He came to feed the hungry with good things, to make rich the poor, to set captives free. He came to give Living Water to the thirsty, so they may not thirst any more. He came for brokeness and unhealable pain. He came for the lowly. And for those who thought they were really holy. He came for people who would break their marriage vows. And for all the people who would be wounded by it. He came for girls that would take off their clothes for attention, and men who would take off their rings for satisfaction. He came for people with cancer, who would be healed in the life to come. He came for abused people, and sexually confused people. He came for depressed and anxious people, and those paralyzed constantly by fear. And shame.

And He came for people like me. Because, though you don’t know yet, you will know soon that: I am desperate. And I say this with tears: I desperately need Jesus. I need Him. He is life to me.

Me and your dad: we are desperate people. We are weak and sinful. We get angry. We do bad things, we think bad things. But in Jesus, we find an invitation to come. Not because of who we are, or what we’ve done, but because of who He is, and what He’s done. Are you desperate? I pray one day you will be.

Because of this you can be sure—He is coming back again. Not as a Baby this time, but as King. And He’s coming for the desperate. And only for the desperate. “For all those who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8) And when He comes back He won’t appear as weak and lowly, but exalted and glorious. King of the earth. He will ride in on a great white horse, wearing many diadems, and He will be called: Faithful and True. On his robe and on his thigh will be written: King of kings and Lord of lords. And all the armies of heaven will ride in behind Him. And all nations and people will fall down before Him. And when He lifts His voice, the only ones who will rise will be, the desperate. Desperate for Jesus. And they shall enter the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and be satisfied forever. And nothing shall separate them from His love.

For God himself will be with them.

Immanuel.

So if you want to celebrate Christmas, my dear, we shall. We will celebrate the only way we truly can: as desperate people. As those who long for His appearing.

Love,
Mom

Photo Credit/Teamaskins

When All I Wanted For Christmas Was You

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This Christmas season my almost-2-year-old daughter will “help” decorate: She will yank on the Christmas lights, and break ornaments, and stick her fingers in the cookie dough.

But it hasn’t always been this way. There were many quieter Christmases at our house.

I remember just a few years ago, my husband and I were putting up the tree. And as I pulled out lights and ornaments from the red and green storage bins—I found our stockings.

I guess it’s just instinct to reach my hand inside. Maybe a stray Snickers bar? Some leftover Christmas candy? I immediately felt something in mine.

But what I pulled out of my stocking was not candy. It was a another little stocking. Almost like a…baby stocking. I’m not sure where it came from or how it got in there. But as I held it in my hand, a pang of sorrow filled my heart. I couldn’t help but think of the little baby I had desired for so long. As I touched the fabric gently in my fingers, warm tears rolled down my cheeks and the Christmas lights blurred around me.

I longed for the little one I could one day hang this stocking for. The patter of little feet. And the sound of laughter.

My husband sat down on the couch next to me and pulled me into his chest, holding me in his arms. More tears came then.
“I just thought,” I said, as tears streaked slowly down my cheeks, “We would have a baby by now.”

“I know,” he whispered and stroked my hair with his fingers. “I know.”

It seemed like forever then, the waiting. The not knowing. The trusting. The wondering if God would answer. And when.

Tonight, that little stocking hangs on our mantle. For two years it’s hung. And the one for whom it hangs sits with me here on the couch and lays her sleepy head on my lap. And as I slowly stroke her blonde hair with my fingers, hot tears run again. And Christmas lights blur. Selah.

My Precious Selah,
Our nights aren’t silent any more. They are loud with screams, and cries, and laughter. But when you go to sleep, and me and Daddy are left alone, sometimes I sit and remember the time before you. And I grow silent once more, in awe and reverence…because of what God has done. And I think about the way He came close to me during the years of silent nights, and my silent cries for you. When your name was but a whispered prayer. A dream in the night.
Selah.

You were worth every minute I waited for you.

Mom, Interrupted

mom interrupted photo

Sometimes I try to find some privacy in the bathroom. But then the door bursts open like a saloon and my daughter stands there like the Texas Outlaw about to put the rectal thermometer in her mouth. “Noooooo!!!” I leap off the commode.

I get interrupted. A lot. It’s the reason my hair is never quite straightened in the back. And why the laundry sits around the house in baskets. And why I have far more drafted posts than published ones. (I can’t finish a post, let alone a TEXT message without getting interrupted!)

No one told me about this before I became a mom. That your life will be full of interruptions from now to forever. I had this crazy notion that “staying home” that my house could look like the pages of an Ikea catalogue and I’d be structured and disciplined and have these great routines for cleaning, and cooking, and writing and working out. But as it turns out: I’m a mess.

This sweet and fiesty almost-2-year-old is able to completely disarm me. Disarm my agenda. With whining, and crying, and throwing her food on the floor, and taking all the Kleenexes out of the box…and coloring on the leather couch and throw cushions with a permanent Sharpie. (Seriously?!)

I try to wake up early…but then she gets up earlier that day. I try to make dinner…but she wants to “help.” I try to write…but there she is…on my lap again, pushing buttons, touching the screen, and making me the slowest blogger in history. She needs playtime and stories, and kisses, and cuddles, and me. All of me. So dinner is late again, the grocery trip gets postponed, the workout gets shortened or nixed, the post goes unpublished another day. And I get frustrated because: I want to do more. I want to be more.

Sometimes I marvel as I scroll through Pinterest and click on the pretty ideals that could only ever happen in a galaxy, far, far away. Who has time to make this? I read blogs so much better than mine, and cringe that it’s been..16?..Really? 16 days since I last posted? There go all my followers.

I feel the crumbs under my feet on the kitchen floor, and see the diaper pail overflowing, and that there are still dishes in the sink, and there will probably always be.

I look around and see that my life…is not a high-resolution photo. It is a blur. Because nothing holds still enough. Or comes into focus. Everything just seems to be slipping, falling through my hands. And spilling onto the already sticky floor.

And just when that whisper comes back into my ears that I need to, “Do more. Be more,” and I’m determined to really buckle down and start being more militant about my time and schedule and accomplishments—I stop and remember:

Jesus was interrupted.

Constantly.

He could not walk through a town without beggars calling out to him, women tugging on his coat, crowds pressing in on Him, and even…little kids climbing onto his lap.

But what did He do? Did He brush off their hands? Give them something to go occupy themselves with? Lock Himself in the bathroom saying, “I just need a break!”

No. Because Jesus never saw interruptions as “interruptions.” He just saw moments. He just saw God-directed opportunities. And He just saw people. In need of love.

And it seems, the moments of “interruption,” were Jesus’ deepest moments of ministry, the moment God came through. “Let the little children come,” He said. And when he looked at them, and pulled them close, I wonder if He might have whispered in their ears, so quiet that no one else could hear, “You. You are the I’m here.”

They were not keeping Jesus (the King of the World) from accomplishing some superior goal: they were the goal. They were the mission.

He gave himself—freely. Not begrudgingly. Consider the interruption of the woman who wept at His feet and dried them with her hair, and the father that plead that his daughter was going to die, and the centurion whose servant was sick, and the blind man who so desperately wanted to see. They all “interrupted.” And they all found grace.

Real hearts were healed. Real tears were dried. Real skin was touched. The moment of interruption…became the moment for ministry.

Is it any different as a mom?

What if I saw the biggest accomplishment as my time interacting with her while she is awake? And not as the psycho cleaning lady, while she is asleep? What if I lived embracing the “interruptions?” Instead of despising them? What if I saw the interruptions as an opportunity to show love? To show God? A God who is not too busy to be interrupted.

Because that’s what Jesus did.

Is this not the reason I was sent? Is this not the mission? My ambition?

This morning, there’s a little girl in pink monkey pajamas, with wild blonde bed head, and oatmeal on her cheeks just waiting to burst onto the scene with all her interruptions.

And maybe, just maybe, the “interruptions,” aren’t really interruptions.

Maybe the interruptions are the most important moments of all.

The moments God comes through.

The moment I pull her onto my lap and whisper in her ear, “You. You are the reason I’m home. The reason I’m here.”

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How to Love Your Friends

Selah and Friends

Selah loves her friends. (Both living and non.) And anytime my husband or I try to pray before a meal, she interjects with a long list of her every friend, cousin, neighbor, uncle, and inanimate object within eyeshot. It’s cute at first, and then we kind of look at each other and try to get her to a good stopping point. She simply can’t help herself.

The other night, when I was rocking her in my arms before bed and praying out loud for her to be safe, and strong, and the angels to protect her, she just kept whispering the names of others:  Rory.  Blakely.  Grandma.  Pap Pap.  Baby Ben.  Baby Bo.

I stopped mid-prayer and was moved with wonder: She just keeps naming everyone she loves. That’s what prayer is for her. 

For me…prayer is often a long list of my wants, my needs, my goals. How often do I really pray for my friends?

The next night, before I could even verbalize this to my husband, we got into bed and shut out the light and he said, there in the dark, “Let’s pray for our friends.”

And he started doing just that: praying for our friends, and their needs. And as we prayed, their heartaches became our heartaches. And their cries, became our cries. And the more we prayed, the more I loved them. Every single one. Our friends. The people God has planted in our lives. And by the time we were finished, I felt like a root in my soul was extended out further. Like arms reaching. In friendship, toward them. Because I loved them, and I loved their cries. And they were all precious to me.

And to my friends, I have not loved you nearly enough, nor cherished you as I ought. And Selah has taught me this. To love deeply. To hug tightly. And to name out before God the people you love. She has shown me quite simply that, “A friend loves at all times.” Even meal times. Even bed time. For, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It just looks different than I thought. It’s not always a bloody martyr walk. Sometimes it’s just making their cries your own, through a simple prayer. And opening your heart to love them, the way God does. And I know that loving people isn’t about “just” praying for them. (I know that it’s meeting actual needs like making meals, and helping out, and physically doing things for them.) But…I think when it comes down to how to love our friends—it’s a good place to start. To simply: start praying for them. Truly. Sincerely. Because something mystical happens when we pray for people, we just supernaturally…love them more. And if we can love them more when we’re not with them, how much more when we are together, will we be prepared to listen well, and love well, and lay down life, the way Christ did for us.

Because He is our example in all things, even friendship. And He really loved, and really liked His disciples, His friends. And not only did he feed them, and wash their feet, and break His body for them…but He prayed for them. (John 17) And in doing so, He loved them.