My Trouble with Easter…

This time of year is, by far, the most significant for Christians. The death and resurrection of Christ is why we are able to freely have a relationship with Him. It’s why we hold the promise of Heaven. It is a holy time. And I struggle with it every year.

For awhile I felt like it was enough to just not participate in “The Easter Bunny” in our house. You know, because Jesus already shares Christmas with Santa. And while I can reconcile that giving and receiving gifts can be done in remembrance of the greatest gift we’ve ever been given at Christmas time, I have a hard time with fitting a bunny into the sacrifice of God’s only son and His miraculous resurrection.

Every year we take communion as a family around the dinner table on Good Friday. And then for the rest of the weekend we shop for Easter outfits, go to church, and have a big dinner and an Easter egg hunt. Mind you, we talk plenty about the meaning of Easter…and up until this point that has been enough. Because it’s all in good fun and I know I participated in all the secular traditions of Easter and still grasped what it meant growing up.

But it’s beginning to grieve me a little. We are so selfish by nature. We want to do what is fun, what feels good, and we certainly never want to feel left out. And yet when we make the decision to follow Christ we are commanded to die to self. To take up our own crosses and follow Him. There is a constant tension between those two things. How can I help my children understand that? Is it enough to combine this time of year with secular traditions so long as the kids understand? Because if I’m being honest, I have a hard time meditating on what He has done for us when I am busy putting together Easter baskets and trying to find the right outfit for Sunday morning. Should we be complacent and just let the kids have some extra fun this time of year or are we missing out on the opportunity to give Jesus the honor He deserves. Should we be spending Easter weekend in quiet, simple meditation of who He is and what He has done without all the distractions? Should he at least get one holiday, the most significant event we celebrate as Christians, without all the extras? Should we stop buying new Easter outfits and instead give away the money we would have spent in remembrance of the great sacrifice given on our behalf? Is it awful that part of me cringes at the thought of not having an Easter dress? What does that say about my heart?

These are questions I am constantly asking myself. And I don’t have the answers. This year, when we have our Easter egg hunt at home, we will have the kids hunt on each other’s’ behalf. Layla will hunt for Bryson’s eggs. Jordyn will hunt for Layla’s eggs. Bryson will hunt for Jordyn’s eggs. And hopefully, instead of selfishly thinking of getting more and more for themselves on a holiday that is totally and completely about sacrifice, they will think of each other. Maybe Bryson will see a purple egg and remember that’s Jordyn’s favorite color and stick it in the basket. Maybe Layla will see a football print egg and remember that Bryson loves sports. And, for a while, they can think about one another because we were so well thought of by our Father in Heaven when He gave His Son. But is that enough? I don’t know. I suspect I will be wrestling with and praying about these things for many years to come.

 

What about you, fellow Christ-followers? Do you struggle with these things? Have you found a middle ground that you feel secure in or do you constantly battle as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until the next blog…be blessed!

The Journey

A blog post about our experience with a mom who has utilized Safe Families for Children.

The Journey

I was born in the plains. My walk forward is one step in front of the other. It is seldom surprising. I am grateful for this walk. I try to remember when the rare storm comes through or when the ground gets a little rocky that I am blessed…that if I keep moving forward it will improve. And it always does.

But not her.

She was born in the valley, surrounded by mountains. Where she lives it storms daily. So her walk is muddy, uphill, exhausting. She knows nothing of a flat land that can be navigated mindlessly. She knows heavy-breathing and two steps forward only to lose her footing and slip right back.

And I don’t know why.

I don’t know why I was born to walk a walk full of sunshine and spectacular views of the sky and she gets rocky terrain and darkness all around. And when she tells me about her journey I want to scream that it isn’t fair.

But I don’t. Because she already knows. And she is screaming it inside already.

So I tell her she can do it. That the uphill climb has made her calf muscles so strong…that her experiences have made her so wise. She has endurance. She is a survivor. But every part of me wishes I could bring her over to the plains. Because if she ever made it here, I know she could teach the rest of us flat-land walkers so much.

But I have to believe that these paths were chosen for a purpose. That her walk is not in vain and neither is mine. So, from my path, I shout to hers.

“Don’t give up! You can do this!”

Sometimes she hears me. Sometimes she doesn’t. But I shout anyway. It’s all I can do. I want her to make it.
And if she does…the view from the top of that mountain will be beautiful.

Please pray with me that she makes it. And if you, like me, were born in the plains…will you find someone…anyone…who is climbing uphill from a muddy valley and join me in the shouting?

Until the next blog…be blessed!

On Happily Ever Afters…

When I talk about Safe Families, specifically when hoping to generate interest in getting others involved, I so badly want to share stories with happy endings. It is my gut feeling that, if I could wrap all our stories of experience up in a bow, people would jump on the opportunity to join this ministry. We like things neat and pretty don’t we? Isn’t it way more fun to labor when you can look at “your work” and see a job well done? The problem with that is that this is not “our work.” It is God’s. And His work usually doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty bow. It’s usually messy. Like, nailed to a cross messy.

Not neat and pretty.

The truth is, that even if one of our Safe Families Moms finds a job, gets hired by people willing to give her a chance and then gets out of the shelter, that it is not a Happily Ever After story. That apartment? It’s in a scary part of town, y’all.  And she’s a single mom who works late and lives alone with her children and she will be vulnerable to that harsh environment indefinitely. The childcare she can afford? It means her kids diapers aren’t changed all day and they spend the entire day in front of the t.v. The stuff she has seen? You don’t even want to know.

The truth is, that while you may be able to take a day off or find a friend to babysit if your little one is running a fever, she can’t. And her line of work means that she will get fired for not making it in. She is one bad day away from unemployment. She will feel replaceable and like she is always right on the cusp of ending back up at the shelter. She will work longer and harder than most of us and still come up short at the end of the month. That insecurity of basic need will bleed into her ability to form healthy relationships and into her ability to trust. Her stubborn pride built up by her survival instinct to only count on herself will hold her back over and over and it will kill you.

The truth is, you will push harder than you’ve ever had to, trying to hold on to a friendship with a Mom that has never had anyone reliable in her life before. You will say over and over again “I’m here.” And sometimes she will believe you. But most of the time she will be waiting for you to fail or give up on her. She will believe that all you see her as is a project to fix and that if you can’t fix her, you’ll move on. And at first that will offend you. But then it will break you. Because in your life, relationships are second nature. And in her life they are non-existent. You will call and text for weeks before she breaks down and decides to tell you what’s going on. When you are pretty sure you are bordering on harassing her, she will say thank you for not giving up. Because in the real world, texting every day with no response is being a stalker. But in crisis world, it’s just a necessary tool to communicate.

The truth is, it’s pointless to get involved in this work looking for any certain result. There is no formula or equation to solve the problem. This is not about solving at all. We walk alongside.  We embrace the mess and the brokenness and trust Jesus with the rest. Gathering it all up and then laying it at his feet instead of trying to sort it out ourselves. In a great majority of the lives that become intertwined with mine through Safe Families, I may not get the pleasure of seeing a Happily Ever After. The Happy Ending may not come until Heaven does.

The truth is that I have come to embrace all of this. That, in my personal life, it is refining me. By nature, I am a perfectionist. A planner. I want to know all of the details and how everything is going to work out. None of those things work well with crisis. And so I have become more calm, learning to go with the flow. Every day I am accepting the truth that perfection is the most insane thing to pursue. There is only One who is perfect. And it is silly to think we could ever know all of the details. God holds every moment in His hands and He is the only one who knows what is in our tomorrows. This planner? She could get a call at any moment that there is a baby to pick up. Today could be a quiet day, and tomorrow my world could be rocked with another family. Their story will instantly become part of mine. There is no planning for it. I will no longer allow myself to be anxious for tomorrow or too eager to see what is next. I will spend my days taking one step at a time behind my Father, following wherever He leads.

And the truth is I am so thankful for this process. So thankful for this ministry. I had hoped to change lives but my life has instead been changed. And I don’t even care about pretty bows and Happily Ever Afters anymore.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Abide.

She stole a quiet moment from the loud, busy seconds of her ordinary life. She rested her face against the corner of the mattress, arms outstretched along the bed with palms up in surrender to her God. She met Him there and He met her. He was always there.

And she remembered:

There was a time when she loved His church more than she loved Him. A time when, if faced with serving Him all alone or having a group of likeminded individuals to make her feel good, she would have chosen the latter. And if she was honest, a heaven with no Jesus, as long as it had everything and everyone else, would probably have been just fine. There was no talk about “Loving thy neighbor.” She instead learned to stick close together with your fellow believers because there are a lot of bad people and this is a dark and scary world and you WILL fall if you venture off. But her God pursued her relentlessly and there was no comparison. Her heart became His, perhaps for the first time in all of her years claiming Him. And she grew brave.

But then there was a time when she wanted to denounce the church. Watching hurt and lies  come out of what was once a body of people she loved too much. There grew resentment in her heart so deep she thought she would throw off the name “Christian” altogether and hope that her God would understand that she was still a Jesus-follower. She loved Him. She was no longer fond of the people who claimed Him. Could she be Jesus-follower without the Sunday morning ritual? But this: Can you love a man and hate his bride? Would that not cause a great divide? A barrier? How could she tell her God she loved him with her whole heart and then denounce the bride of Christ? Shouldn’t she love them simply because they are His, too? And so there came a time for repentance and then a new love that grew for the church. An opening of her eyes. She stopped seeing the man who judged, the woman who gossiped, the Pastoral staff that lied. She saw brokenness, fear, pride. A reflection of herself. “Me, too” she realized, “That’s my sin, too.” And she grew humble.

And then there was a time of tasking. At first, because God’s great love had moved her to action. But then, because she wanted to prove something to Him. “Love me. Accept me. Think higher of me than what I really am. I am enough! You see God?” She screamed in her service to Him. But all of that moving, moving, moving just to earn something she had already been given freely was exhausting. And she fell on the floor, weary and achy from the never enough. She knew she had failed. “What now?” She thought. But He picked her up off the floor, wiping her tears and said “You have spent your entire life earning things from people. I am not people. I am your God. There is nothing for you to earn…my son paid your debt, my love.” And she grew confident and content.

And now she is learning to just be. To walk in the gifts He has given her. Not comparing every one else’s gifts with hers. Not needing to look back and say “Is this enough, God?” And she has learned to steal away, finding quiet moments in the beautiful chaos of her life, arms outstretched and heart surrendered saying nothing but “I am still here, God. I am still only thinking about You. Still loving you. I am here and I am Yours.” Abiding. Until heaven comes she will abide. And in that, everything else is as it should be.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:4

May we remain in Him.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

The Grandmother

It was a cold and windy morning and I watched her breath in the air as she spoke. She was tough and opinionated and unafraid to question me. I was intimidated by her good old-fashioned boldness but I answered her questions the best I could and tried to assure her that he would be safe with me. She knew one thing: she wasn’t handing her grandbaby off to anybody until she was sure they knew Jesus. So I hoped she would see that I meant it when I said I did.

She put his carseat in my car and we strapped him in. Then, a second later, her tough facade disappeared and she broke down. I don’t know if it was because she felt safe to be real once she knew I was her sister in Christ or if it was just all too much for her to take. But there she stood, right in the middle of the Target parking lot; hair flying around in the bitter wind with tears running down her tired face.

She told me it was hard. So hard. Four grandbabies at home. She’s full time caregiver and she never imagined it would be this way. And so, in the middle of a parking lot with a person I just met, I forgot that we were strangers and grabbed her tight and let her cry in our embrace. I prayed right into her ear, hoping the words would reach deep into her soul and that she would feel peace.

She wiped her tears, kissed her grandson goodbye and got into her car. I immediately felt the weight of what she just had to do. This is heavy stuff. I am so thankful for a God who is enough when I am not. Will you join me in praying she finds rest? That she will feel confident that we will love him well and keep him safe? That she has peace until this sweet boy is back in her arms?

Until the next blog…be blessed.

My Word for 2014 (a blog assignment from Compassion International)

My little one cries with a torn paper in her hands.  Right now her biggest 3-year-old problem is that her big sister ripped her artwork. Her feelings are real as tears run down her cheeks and so I do the only thing I can. I grab some tape and get to work trying to get those pieces to fit back together. At first she continues to cry, but as I focus in on some of the tinier pieces she gets quiet and starts to watch.

DSC_0289

And soon she is squealing with delight saying “It’s gonna be beautiful!” and I think to myself that right now I can come to her rescue by kissing boo-boos and taping artwork and then all is right in her world again. These are the most magical moments of motherhood.

But my wheels continue to turn, because that’s just how I roll. And I go from enjoying this simple moment to battling with the sinking feeling in my gut that this moment is fleeting. One day she will come crying to me with broken things that are much harder to fix. Broken things that I will be unable to mend. And my heart begins to ache at the thought of not being able to kiss her boo boos away forever.

And the wheels turn faster. It’s quite a talent I have, really.

Today I texted with a mom who has become apart of our lives through Safe Families for Children and she is working so hard to get out of the shelter she is in with her little girls. She is a great mom and such a hard worker, but she was not born into circumstances which put opportunity in front of her. She’s fought an uphill battle for so long. She is tired as she continues to march forward and it just doesn’t seem fair. And I am reminded what bringing people in crisis into your life can feel like . It means feeling like you are standing on the front lines in a war and deciding it is your responsibility to care. So you run to one injured soldier and there are huge gaping wounds but all you have are small bandages…so you do what you can but know it’s not enough and then you look up  to see so many more who have fallen while you were trying to clean up the first mess. And it makes your heart so weary.

And so I say in my head, as I hand the taped up paper to my now-happy little girl, “I won’t always be able to fix her problems. And if I can’t fix her, how will I ever fix anyone else?”

And I hear a still small voice say, oh so lovingly, “You won’t. You don’t have to. I will.”

And He will. We wait around for God to show up when things start to unravel. But He is omnipresent. He has already shown up. He just waits for us to show up. And if I have shown up, no matter how ill-equipped, then that is enough.

And so all of this leads me to my word. I am so thankful that Compassion International does this yearly assignment for it’s bloggers. Because resolutions have always been a huge fail for me. But focusing on a word has been a great way to go through the year.

My word for 2014 is:
REST

This year has been full of my eyes being opened to the very real issues of poverty and crisis and hurt. God has changed my heart and shown me that the least of these are my brothers and sisters and that should inspire action. While I am so full of love, I often wear myself out trying to figure out the mess that comes along with loving people well. I have these moments where I try so hard to fix it all myself that I leave God out of the equation until I come running to Him all broken and exhausted because there was no way I was meant to carry a burden that heavy on my own.

In 2014, I want to focus on resting in who He is, knowing that what I am capable of doesn’t matter nearly as much as His strength and His ability. And I will continue to work and fight and love when it hurts, but I won’t take a step alone. I am looking forward to finding more rest in Him. And it is my own sneaking suspicion that He will be able to get a lot more done through me with me fully trusting Him instead of trying to figure out how to solve things on my own.

As a wife, as a mother, as a daughter of the Most High…as a boo-boo kisser and homeless person lover…as a woman full of big feelings and big dreams, I will seek after rest in Him.

What is your word?

Until the next blog…be blessed!

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