Do you ever feel like your family is a part of this rat race of life, like there’s never enough time in the day to do all you need to do, let alone do the things you want to do? Do you ever wake up desiring a slower pace, wanting to spend time in God’s Word, and find that the minute your feet hit the floor, the frenzy begins? His Word eludes you, family time seems fractured and feels hurried? Do you ever fail to show compassion and point your children to Jesus, because, honestly, the more important things of life have you feeling filled to the brim, and not in the good-kind-of-fullness way, but in the I-can’t-do-or-handle-one-more-thing kind of way? Do you ever have plans (or, at least, desires) for regular family worship, but the end of the day comes, and the weight of life and the tiredness (and crankiness) of the day sets in?

Raise your hand.

If we were all sitting in a room together right now, we could take a look around. See all those hands raised? This is the story of our lives. Too busy. Too frenzied. Too fractured. Too hurried. Too full. Too weighed down. Too tired.

My hand is raised high right there with you! In fact, I stand waving both hands frantically at all of these things, desperate in certain seasons for something to give. Something to be different.

And, here we are. Something gave. Something is different.

Thanks to an unforeseen entry of an unknown virus, we’re finding work trips, ministry trips, and missions trips canceled, schools closing, sports practices and games coming to an abrupt halt, plans changing, activities suspended for at least the next two weeks. While work and ministry and missions and school and sports and plans and activities are not bad things, we have a tendency to fill all of our time with these things, to fill our lives to the brink, and we can’t handle anything more.

Now, suddenly, these things are taken away. We’re being forced to slow down, to stay in. That’s so foreign to so many of us, that, honestly, we freak out a bit.

An important mention: For some of you, this virus represents more than cancellations and inconvenience. Some of you are in at-risk categories, and your age or underlying health conditions give you great cause for concern. Some of you suffer from mental illness, and the isolation is daunting and unhealthy. Some of you work jobs without access to paid leave, and your financial circumstances are deeply uncertain right now. Know this: your pain, your grief, and your anxiety matter, to me and to your Heavenly Father. My prayer is that the rest of us will see you, rally around you, and support you in this time.

But to those of us who aren’t in these circumstances, those of us who are merely inconvenienced and stuck at home, I offer this encouragement:

What if we’ve just been given a gift? The gift of time, of slowness, of margin, of togetherness. What if, instead of being hurried, we get to slow down and be more intentional together?

Let’s see and treat this time as a gift. Let’s do some things we don’t always get around to doing together. Let’s worship Jesus with our families, in our homes together. Let’s take slow walks, soaking in the beauty of our Lord’s creation together. Let’s open our Bibles and have time in His Word, and let’s encourage our children (of any age) to do the same – that space to do this has already been forced upon us, so let’s do it! Let’s play more games, and watch more movies together. Let’s bake for our neighbors together (after scrubbing our hands, of course!). Let’s write notes and draw in cards to send to out of town family and friends together. Let’s identify those around us who are deeply impacted by Coronavirus and care for them together. Let’s do things together.

And, know this (there are always caveats)…

This time of together will look different in every home. This time of together will bring out the good in us AND the ugly (I am the most patient person in the world until. Until my plans are messed with, until my kids have bad attitudes, until my husband forgets to help in the kitchen).

This time of together will not be easy, and it will never be perfect. But it will be absolutely worth it!

What if 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we all look back on the Coronavirus, and instead of remembering the empty toilet paper shelves (honestly, I’ll always remember and make jokes about this), we remember the time we had together?

This time is a gift. Let’s use it well.

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Have you always been given what you ask for? Have you always been given what you ask for right away? Have you always been given what you ask for in the way you actually want it?

We’re not always given what we ask for, simply because it’s not part of His purpose. We’re not always given what we ask for right away, simply because it’s not the right time. We’re not always given what we ask for in the way we actually want it, simply because His way is so much better than our way.

Even if His way is seemingly horrific…

It was Aug, 2014. I was alone on a soccer field at Pepperdine University, out for a jog, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was one of the most difficult trips I’d ever taken. I was there with Daughter #2, dropping her off at college. My time at orientation was almost over. It was nearly time for me to say goodbye to Hannah. My heart was absolutely breaking. So, I went to that field to run and pray. I wanted the Lord to protect my precious daughter. I wanted Him to surround her with godly friends. I wanted Him to give her everything she needed to do well in Chemistry, so that she could become the doctor He was calling her to be. I wanted Him to keep her pure, and keep her away from anything that was not from Him. So I prayed for these things.

And, then Hannah’s favorite song began playing through my earbuds.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

So, I prayed those words over one of the people I love most in this world.

Not long after pouring my heart out over Hannah, it was time to say goodbye. I wept as I reminded her face-to-face one last time to stay near to Jesus. He is a faithful God who can be trusted. I told her for the 20 millionth time how I much I love her. Then, reminded her how much He loves her. “This will be great. You will do well. You are safe in His arms.”

Saying goodbye and leaving her at Pepperdine University was one of the most difficult things this mama has ever done.

Then I joined the throngs of parents who were walking out of the gymnasium, weeping and waving goodbye. I got to the doors that were held open for all of us, turned one last time, waved and blew Hannah a kiss.

Father, she is yours. She’s always been yours. I am trusting you to walk with her closely.

What I was asking for when I was praying Hannah’s favorite song over her was kind of an easy path. I wanted the Lord to take her deeper with very little pain, constant wise-decisions, and an illumined path as far as the eye could see.

What I was asking for when I was telling the Lord to give Hannah what she needed to call upon His name, and to keep her eyes above the waves. What I was asking for when I was reminding the Lord that His grace abounds in deep, deep waters. What I was asking for when I begged the Lord’s sovereign hand to guide her, and for Him to remind Hannah He’d never fail her. What I was asking for when I cried out to the Holy Spirit to lead Hannah where her trust was without borders, to go wherever He would call her. What I was asking for when I called on Jesus to take her deeper than her feet could ever wander, and to make her faith strong in His presence. I don’t know exactly what I was asking for, but I can tell you what I wasn’t asking for…

I wasn’t asking that my daughter be raped. I wasn’t asking that she be bullied and threatened. I wasn’t asking that she feel lonely. I wasn’t asking that she feel so ashamed that she keeps silent. I wasn’t asking that she feel abandoned by God (the One I’ve promised her whole life is in control, is good and faithful and can be trusted). I wasn’t asking that she get sick with a rare, horrible disease that would require withdrawing from school, getting 5-hour infusions every couple of weeks for who knows how long (we’re at 3 years, 6 months). I wasn’t asking that on the one-year anniversary of rape, Hannah suffer a PTSD response, her first of many seizures, nearly dying on Thanksgiving Day. I wasn’t asking that she suffer from this seizure disorder for the next year, be in and out of doctors’ offices, take a trip to Mayo Clinic, endure countless tests on her blood, her brain, her thyroid, her heart, before finally being diagnosed with Conversion Disorder (this PTSD response). I wasn’t asking that she sit with a District Attorney, sharing her story. I wasn’t asking that she be living full-time with us again, trying to cope, trying to live, trying to trust, while all of her friends continued pursuing their dreams. I wasn’t asking that she “lose” years of her life, of her education, then watch as everyone she knew completed sophomore, then junior, then senior year of college.

I. Was. Not. Asking for any of these things.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

I wasn’t asking for this.

But, this. This is where the Lord took our sweet Hannah. This was the path He laid out for her before the beginning of time. A path that was directly in answer to a mama’s prayers.

Our Lord called Hannah out upon the waters where her feet failed. He was there for her to find in the depths of the oceans. Hannah’s faith faltered, but He who authored it, has continued to perfect it – her faith stood, because HE was in those depths with Hannah. She called upon His name (and we called for her, standing in the gap when her strength was failing), and He faithfully kept her eyes above the waves. Those waters rose, but the Lord gave rest in the midst of the struggle, reminding Hannah time and time again that she is His.

His grace was abundant in those deep waters. His sovereign hand did guide her, even as failures and fears crept in. The Lord has proved faithful, once again – He has not failed my daughter yet. We stand sure that He never will fail her!

When I was praying that song over Hannah, I didn’t know what was coming. I wanted something very different than what the Lord gave. Yet, the Lord stood ready, saying YES to this mama. He said AMEN to taking our Hannah out to the depths. Sitting on this side of things, I see how He was answering – working and moving, never slumbering, never tiring of carrying our daughter through the depths.

The hard work of healing has not been easy. But, it’s in the hard that we have found Him deepening Hannah’s trust. The Holy Spirit has certainly led her to where her trust is without borders, and that is what I asked for. Her faith has been made stronger, stronger than I ever imagined it would be. And, even on the days when Hannah wanted nothing to do with the Lord, He never quit. He never gave up. He continued to pursue. He continued to show up. It was this presence, Jesus’ presence that brought her to the place she is today.

The Lord healed (and continues to heal) Hannah – she’s been seizure free since Nov, 2016. She took a step toward independence last summer, moving out of our family home and into an apartment with big sis, Laura, and Laura’s husband, Stephen. She’s been working to pay for her own car, phone, food. She’s courageously started back to school, Colorado Christian University (CCU) online, fighting back to full-time this semester. She’s getting married in just over a month.

I remember standing at her bedroom door more times than I can count between 2015-2018. I’d place my palm on that door and just pray. It was not how I pictured her college years. But, today, I call Hannah, and she prays for me. Today, I am being encouraged and lifted up by a 23-yr-old who has a deep love for Jesus, and an amazing depth to her.

This precious daughter of mine is now lifting me up.

A depth that came because the Lord took her to places I would never have taken her.

It’s taken many years of mama-hood for the Lord to get me to this place. Still, it’s hard. They’re my babies.

But, no matter what comes. No matter what our babies face. His way is so much better, even if His way is seemingly horrific. When we pray over our babies, whether they’re still in the womb waiting to make an entrance, or they’re in the middle of teenage angst, or they’re 30, doing well, or they’re 30 and have walked away from the Lord. When we pray, we’re entrusting them to the ONLY ONE who can be trusted completely with the bodies, minds, hearts, and souls of our babies.

I left my daughter at Pepperdine, having said these words to the Lord –

Father, she is yours. She’s always been yours. I am trusting you to walk with her closely.

He was faithful. He was good. He was true to His Word. He may have answered this mama’s prayers in hard ways, but now I see how astoundingly beautiful those hard ways were.

We’ve always prayed over Hannah. We will continue to pray over her, for her, with her. Even if His answers don’t come in a way we actually want.

I had no idea that as I prayed Oceans over my daughter, my Lord was saying, Yes and Amen! to everything I prayed.

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Reading time: 9 min

I know. I know. Some of you might disagree with me (I almost disagree with myself). But, these were the words Jesus spoke to my heart the other day.

I was headed to church early to serve as a greeter at the South Doors. I love to welcome faces I recognize, new-to-me faces, young faces, old faces. I’m a people person. I’m also a morning person. I was looking forward to getting up and walking out the door before any of my people were even awake.

I’m also a planner. The night before I prepped some food for me to take to church to eat after greeting duties were over. That food prep included two strips of heavenly bacon.

Bacon. Bacon. Where’s the bacon? I smell bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon…

I think we all have a little inner Beggin Strips dog in us. If you don’t, I’m sorry.

So, there I was. First one up (per usual). Being the first one up has its advantages. Peace and quiet top that list for me. Most nights I lay my head on my pillow and think, We should move out to the plains, set up some tents, and charge an entrance fee. 

We’re an absolute circus. *eye roll*

Being the first one up also has its disadvantages. I open all shades, curtains, (and windows, as needed). I reset the thermostat. I start laundry. I straighten up from the night before, which often includes cleaning a messed-up kitchen.

I start the coffee.

I had grumbled to my husband about this on Saturday. Graciously, he listened. And on Sunday morning, he got up with me (he’s not a morning person, so I know this was no easy feat). He announced he was making coffee for me. It made me smile. He was trying.

I got ready for church. I was running a few minutes behind (also per usual). I whisked downstairs, grabbed my made-for-me-by-my-husband coffee, then opened the fridge to grab my already prepped, to-go breakfast. My banana and my banana bread were there.

I was frantically searching. “Where’s my bacon?”

I whipped my head around in time to see the guilty look on my husband’s face. “Umm…I thought that was mbacon.”

I eye-rolled and sighed big time. “Are you kidding me????? You are totally THAT employee. The one who eats everyone else’s food.”

I don’t think I was mad. Just absolutely irritated!!!!!! I didn’t even raise my voice (much), but I remember the frustration I felt in my heart as I turned away from him, and pointedly said, “I’m going to have to start putting my name on my food!”

And, with that…I walked out the door, on my way to kindly, lovingly greet my church-going family.

Since it was a quiet car-ride (hallelujah!), I had some time to process and pray. My praying started off as grumbling — Lord, it would have been easier for me if I had just gotten up alone, and taken care of myself this morning. 

*Note: for time’s sake, I’ve left out a few details (B pouring himself coffee in the last clean to-go cup as I came down to do the same, me being in a hurry and him being in my way, stuff like that). The stolen bacon was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

My grumbling continued — I could have come downstairs, gotten my coffee, used that to-go cup, gotten out the door on time, AND…

I WOULD HAVE HAD BACON!

Now that I think about it, it’s embarrassing how stuck on that bacon I was.

In that moment the Lord did His usual — gently, firmly reminded me of His Word.

What are you constantly reminding your kids to do?

Love Jesus. Love others.

Why do you remind them to do these two things?

Because that’s what you call us to do.

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 22:34-40 NASB

I realized in that moment that I had missed an opportunity to love others. I was so caught up in my time, my needs, my bacon, that I’d neglected to love my husband.

*sigh*

Relationships are more important than bacon. 

It’s hard to admit that THIS is less valuable than relationships. 😉

The Lord simply responded, Yes.

It took a few minutes (it’s bacon, people), but I *finally* called my husband to apologize.

May we be a people who recognize the importance of living in relationship. May we be a people who do two things well…

Love Jesus. Love others.

 

 

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Reading time: 4 min

As I spend some time in the book of Jeremiah this morning, I’m reminded of the work the Lord does in my life and in the lives of my children.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…” ~Jeremiah 18:1-6

If we are His people, then we are also like clay in His hands. He is constantly molding, shaping, re-forming His own. He does this for (to) me. He does this for (to) my children.

As Mom of six, there are things I want to protect my children from, pains I want to take away, trouble I want them to avoid, betrayal I want them never to feel, sickness I want to heal, sins I want them never to struggle with.

want my children to be clay in my hands.

But, there is only ONE Potter, and I am clay in His hands, so I cannot possibly be potter, let alone the Potter. Clay is molded. Clay does not do the molding.

What do I do with this realization when it comes to parenting?

I let go of the “best” I want for my kids. I trust in the work the Potter is doing. I surrender my will and my ways, believing that the things, the pains, the trouble, the betrayal, the sickness, the sins are all a part of the shaping the Lord is accomplishing.

And I pray. Pray that my children will be mold-able; pray that they will be soft to the things of the Lord; pray that they will seek and pursue and listen to His Word; pray that He will be faithful to draw their hearts to Him; pray that He will strengthen them to say NO to the things of the flesh, and say YES to the things of the spirit; pray that He will continue to chase after each one of my kids.

I am marred. My children are marred. But just as He is re-forming me, He is re-forming them.

Friends, our Lord does beautiful work. He is shaping our children as seems best to Him. May we trust the shaping He’s doing. After all, there’s truly nothing better than His best.

 

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Reading time: 2 min

My husband and I recently returned from Costa Rica where we spent 9 days with 20 students and several other leaders building homes, and participating in ministry through soccer. It was an amazing trip. One that most of us will not soon forget.

The Lord used us to come alongside Casa Vida, a local church, and Mercy Home Ministries. He used us to build two homes, including one for a family who lost everything (except their Bible — that’s a whole other story!) when their home burned to the ground. He used us in outfitting local teams with matching jerseys they would not otherwise have been able to afford. He used us in providing socks, cleats, soccer balls, and goalie gloves for the kids (and some adults) of Tamarindo and surrounding areas.

The Bible that survived the fire

I am astounded that the God of the Universe and everything in it would use us to join in the work He is doing. Jesus doesn’t need us, but He graciously invites us to be His hands and feet to a broken, fallen, desperate world.

We spent mornings in the Word, and evenings debriefing about the day and what we were feeling. As I listened to some of the ways the Lord was moving in these high school hearts (and the hearts of their leaders), I was encouraged. I was also PROUD. And, therein lies a danger. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the “good” that we’re doing. It’s so easy for us to pat ourselves on the back feeling puffed up with pride about traveling to a poorer-than-the-USA part of the world and showering them with our gifts. It’s also easy for us as parents to watch our kids go on short term missions trips and feel that same pride about how they’re serving.

There’s also another danger in short term missions. The danger of leaving home, serving for a week or two, and feeling like I’ve done my duty for the year. I’ve served. Now I can go back to my life and the way things were, putting service on the back-burner.

BUT…

Serving does NOT just happen in Costa Rica.

Jesus does NOT just use us in Costa Rica.

Serving begins at home.

Jesus uses us in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our schools. He uses us to be His hands and feet with those closest to us, then working outward.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. ~Galatians 5:13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. ~Romans 12:9-11

Fellow parenting companions, we must learn to lay down our agendas in order to serve those nearest and dearest to us. We must rely on His help in order to do this. We must also teach the next generation to do the same. The natural inclination of our hearts is to self-serve, so let’s be intentional today. Look for one way (or more) to serve in your home, then in your neighborhood, church, or kids’ school. As you do this, encourage your children to look for one way (or more) to serve in your home, then in your neighborhood, church, or school.

May it be said of us that we live lives of service.

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Reading time: 2 min