On falling short, hating our sin and knowing we are loved.

When Bryson was a baby, his heart broke if he sensed disappointment. I cannot explain it. I have two wild child, passionate, dramatic little girls (who, don’t get me wrong, I love for their spirit) that spent their toddlerhood doing all the things and just not giving a rip if you did not like it.But even a pleasant and calm “No, no bubba! You may not put that in your mouth” would evoke sobs. This was long before he was walking….even before he had words. His kinder teacher once confided in me that she hated when he would have to pull a stick (the classroom’s discipline technique which worked like a charm for our sweet boy) because she KNEW the sorrow that would follow. Today my handsome 7 1/2 year old who is looking more like a man-child every day still hates to fall short.

 

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ughhhh….I told you! He’s SO big now!

 

 

 

 

 

As most of you know we have been hotel-living for nearly a month as our home is repaired after a hailstorm. And even though we are incredibly grateful for the way God has provided; even though we are well aware that we are not alone in this as evidenced by the multiple families also in this hotel until their homes are repaired- we are still at the point where we are getting a little stir crazy. We have tried increasing outdoor time so the kids can get our their manic energy but they are missing the space in our home and I have had to make very clear that we can have “no more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

Tonight Bryson forgot said rule and I found him hopping away on the fold out couch.

“Bryson Alexander! Are you allowed to jump on the bed?”

His face shot towards me as his body froze and it was obvious he was overcome with guilt. “No ma’am, I’m sorry.” he said. He laid down, tried to stick his face in the pillow without me noticing and quietly cried. And not even in a grandstanding, “I’m so upset with myself that you aren’t allowed to also be upset with me” type of way (that’s something one of my spicy little girls would think of for sure though, hehe!). I call for him to come to me and he hangs his head down and says “I don’t want to make mistakes!”

He is his mother’s child. I lost sleep as a kid over guilt when I messed up. Sometimes I still do. While I don’t want Bryson to be complacent about his shortcomings, I long for him to know grace.

I picked that big boy up and sat him on my lap. I shouldn’t have. He is almost bigger than me now and he doesn’t actually fit on my lap. But I did it anyway. I love him. I whispered into his ear.

“Bryson, it is not okay that you didn’t follow our rules. We have rules to protect you. You have to trust that when we tell you to obey us it’s not because we want to boss you. It’s because we have a reason. Listen closely because I want you to hear this with more than your ears…I want you to know it in your mind and in your heart and in your soul. You WILL fall short. You will not stop making mistakes. Mommy makes mistakes. Daddy makes mistakes. That’s why we need Jesus. He doesn’t make mistakes and He will forgive ours. You accept responsibility when you mess up, you take the consequence, you make it right by asking for forgiveness from the one that you wronged, but baby….then you accept grace. I forgive you. If you never made mistakes that wouldn’t make me love you more and when you do make mistakes that doesn’t make me love you less.”

As he nodded and wiped his tears it surprised me once again (it happens so much!) the way being a parent reflects our own relationship with our heavenly father.

May we not stop hating our sin. We cannot be complacent. But God’s not in heaven waiting for us to mess up so he can smite us and we don’t have Biblical guidelines just because He felt like “bossing us.” He loves us. And His great love for us should change our hearts in such a way that we long for nothing more than to push forward and finish the race. But when we fall short (and we will) may we find grace in the forgiveness He so generously offers. Because he will continually fill the great gap between who we are and who we need to be.

Tonight, if you have wrapped up this week knowing you “jumped on the bed when you weren’t supposed to again” then own up. Accept responsibility. But know that you are loved and know that God’s great love for you is not contingent on your actions. May you know grace tonight. May that love and grace change everything for you. Goodnight, friends.

He Knows

Once upon a time there was a two week old baby girl who Kevin and I wept for and prayed over while pregnant with our son. We loved her fiercely and longed to provide for her the stability that we knew she needed. “Lord, show us what you want us to do and make a way for us to do it.”

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And He did show us. He did make a way. Because He knew. He knew Layla while she was in her birthmother’s womb. Long before Kevin and I dreamed about building a family, God knew what our family would look like. He knew he would prepare our hearts to be her parents. He knew that, though our abilities were limited, our faith in Him was big and none of what would come after that would ever, ever surprise him.

 

Once God did open the door for us to adopt Layla, it was time for us to take action. We had to step out in faith that He would provide. That He had prepared us. That He would continue to guide us. It was one of the best yeses we have ever said.

That same baby that we wept over and prayed for made her own decision today. Like the decision we made to take a leap of faith and say yes, Layla took a leap of faith and said yes to Jesus. She took action and we are so proud of her.

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I’ll be honest, when Layla told us she wanted to be baptized, I was hesitant. Although I was the same age as Layla when I was baptized, it was different. My family had gone from not serving the Lord to finding Jesus and it changed everything. There was a clear line between before we were saved and after. We were baptized at the same time, shortly after accepting Jesus and it was easy to understand because I knew what it was like to not know Jesus. But from the day Layla came to stay we have told her about who Jesus is to us. How we believe he had perfect plans that lead her to us. Layla doesn’t know that clear before and clear after. Her Mommy and Daddy have known Jesus much longer than she has been alive. She didn’t get to see the way that God changed our lives when we accepted him. I was afraid that because of that, she wouldn’t fully understand what she was doing. And I didn’t want her to make the choice to be baptized simply to please us.

My fears were all for nothing. That sweet girl loves Jesus for herself. She started telling me about how hard it gets when her brain goes too fast and she feels like she needs to calm down and that she talks to Jesus and He always calms her down. She told me how she sings to him in her room at night because she just loves him so much. She has her very own relationship with God. And while I hope we have modeled it well, I am confident that we have not forced it. Today Layla said her very own yes. She was just a tiny baby in need of stability and now she is a big girl making her very own choice to follow Jesus. And I can’t even explain how beautiful it was to watch her Daddy, who became her Daddy because of adoption, participate in Layla’s baptism symbolizing that she is adopted into the family of Christ. Wow.

Recently a hailstorm ripped through our small town leaving softball sized holes in roofs and windows. Our home is not livable and we’ve lost a lot of our belongings. We are in an extended stay for what we hope will only be a month. It has been a roller coaster. But all I can think about is the way heaven is rejoicing today. Nothing else matters in comparison. All I can think about is how important it is to live this way:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

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God knew her. And God knows us. He knew that the vivacious little girl who grew in our hearts instead of my tummy would make the big choice to follow Him and He knows the plans He has for her. He also knew exactly where my family would be on this day. He knows all about our current trials and current victories.He knows what is coming next. As we continue to strive to store up our treasures in heaven, as we continue to walk alongside our kiddos showing them that God is always, always enough, we find peace in the promise that He knows. Nothing surprises Him. And He is good.

The One Year Mark

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There are these defining moments that happen in life. You don’t have any say over when or how they come. The only thing you can control is your perspective on them. These defining moments change everything and suddenly your life becomes divided into two categories: before this moment and after this moment.

Exactly one year ago today, our family experienced one of those moments.

I sat in the Suburban waiting to pick Layla and Bryson up from school. Jordyn hadn’t yet started school and so her and one of our little Safe Families friends napped in the back. I remember everything. The sky was bright blue and absent of clouds. It was warm until you hit the shade and then there was a tiny chill. The breeze was strong and cool, but the sun shining brightly meant Spring. I was parked in front of the church and waiting for dismissal. There was an extra pair of sunglasses in the glove compartment that I would be extremely relieved to find once the tears started falling. But before the tears, everything was normal. Then my phone rang. It was my sister.

Gynafer and I had a habit of sending each other pins from Pinterest. Sometimes they were silly. Sometimes ridiculously sarcastic. Sometimes mildly inappropriate…sorry….we just think we’re funny. But they were always entertaining. Like this:

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You may not laugh so hard you cry when you read this like my sister and I did. You could be thinking that this just isn’t that funny. But you would be wrong. Gynafer and I wheezed over the phone together with no words exchanged for at least five minutes upon sharing this pin. Just laughter. Pain in your gut, breathtaking, body shaking laughter. Because sisters.

 

 

Obviously when her number flashed across my phone I just knew that she was calling to laugh about the most recent pins exchanged. But that wasn’t what this call was about. This was one of those moments.

Before there were sleepless nights in prayer for Dad or lunches in the hospital. Before oncologists and radiologists. Before HulkStrong hashtags and Faith Over Fear fundraisers. Before all of that, there was the call from my sister. Boom. My life was split between life before that call and life after that call.

I couldn’t will myself back to normalcy. I couldn’t claim my father’s cancer into nonexistence. I couldn’t talk my way or write my way out of this season. Like I said before, you don’t get to choose when or how these life altering moments happen. But you DO get to choose your perspective.

And the perspective that I’m choosing is joy.

One year ago today everything changed. And I am not the same person. I don’t think any of us are. But serving a God who NEVER changes (who is never unprepared or caught off guard) means that, no matter the outcome, it is well. I know this to be true when not an inch of my flesh is in agreement with me.

I have learned so much this year about living in the present and about how there is always something to be grateful for. I’ve learned about God’s sufficiency and life’s fragility. But mostly I have learned that joy isn’t contingent on circumstances. That you can choose joy even in the midst of your deepest sorrows. That joy can exist right in the center of your immense grief.  God has been so generous with joy in this season. He has been so faithful and so near. In this entire year there has not been one moment that He has abandoned us or forsaken us. And for that reason, it’s been a very good year.

It has been exactly one year since that defining moment. I am grateful for every single one of the days that happened between then and now. And I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I guess the point of all of this is just to say that I know WHO holds tomorrow. And He is good. Whatever our lot, I am more confident than ever that He is good.

 

The Slow Work

Last week a great woman went to be with Jesus. It always amazes me how we are able to feel such conflicting feelings at the same time. So much joy in the thought that she is in the presence of Jesus. Excitement at the thought that she has reunited with the son she lost many years ago. Sadness that the world lost such an authentic and kind person. Grief because for some reason it never stops shocking me that this life is so temporary and goes so quickly. I’m a thinker and I spent the majority of the evening she passed trying to sort through all those thoughts. Mostly I just thought about Chris and the impact she had on our family. And I felt grateful.

There were many dinners, many nights out for ice cream after church, many afternoons at Chris and Danny’s house when I was growing up. We shared a vacation in Daytona and had all sorts of adventures at Busch Gardens and Sea World. Chris was intentional. “Let’s get together soon!” were not empty words she just threw around like most of us do. When I was a senior in high school, Chris and Danny didn’t just show up to graduation, they were at the Baccalaureate service that happened the week before (which, let’s be honest, is totally one of those boring obligatory family-only events). Family. Because they chose to be. Chris was like a sister to my mom because she put in the time and the effort to slowly build a relationship.

Long after graduating high school Chris continued to be intentional. She let me drive her minivan because she knew driving made me nervous and said getting comfortable in a big vehicle would help me feel more confident in a smaller vehicle. She picked me up from the University of South Florida my first week there and took me to Target to buy dorm essentials. She gave me plenty of babysitting jobs so I’d have a little extra spending money. When Kevin and I got married she made all of the food for our reception brunch. She surprised us at the very last second and told us we didn’t owe her anything. Being young poor college students, that was a huge deal. When word got around that we were adopting Layla while pregnant with Bryson there were certainly some raised eyebrows and questions about whether or not we actually knew what we were doing (we didn’t by the way….but it was okay because God did.) Chris didn’t have time for any judgement nonsense though. She called me and said “I have a double stroller for you! Come get it! You guys are gonna do awesome!”

When we picked up that double stroller Chris didn’t say the new parenting clichés like “sleep when babies are sleeping!” or “get them on a schedule!” She had two pieces of advice that stayed with me. First was, just relax. You were made to do this. Second was “As hard as it may be to believe, one day your kid is going to throw a temper tantrum in a Walmart. When that time comes you’re going to tell them that if they don’t stop you’re leaving. You HAVE to be willing to follow through. You have to be ready to leave your groceries behind and go home. Because if you don’t follow through, they will notice.”  It was so easy to take her advice because of the years and years of her being intentional with our family. Even after we moved to Texas she was still sending great tools in the mail to help us in our parenting journey. In fact, sitting next to me right now is a stack of “Story Keepers” DVDs she sent for us to use to share the Bible with our kids.

I am just one person who was impacted by Chris. There are so many others with similar experiences. Chris knew how to do the slow work of building trust and respect. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot since she left this world. We live in such a fast moving society. We look for instant gratification. If we don’t see immediate results, we are often just on to the next thing. I think we’re getting it wrong when we do that. It’s about the slow work. The seeds you sow that you may not even be around to watch bloom could very well be the most important ones. Jesus himself did slow work. Yes, he went from town to town teaching. But he had his disciples. He poured into them intentionally. He took time to know them and to be known by them. Because of the love that was slowly built in those relationships, the disciples went on to do great things long after Jesus’ time on earth was through. I want to emulate that in my life. May we each find ways to do the slow work of discipleship, of relationships, of making a difference even if the results are slow to come. May we sow into people’s lives and not need a pat on the back or an “attaboy” to continue the slow work of being intentional. Just like Chris did.

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Guest Blogging-Safe Families

I am a guest blogger today for the amazing Lori Harris as part of her “What She’s Doing Now” series.

Lori is an inspirational woman who lives out Biblical Hospitality daily. Stop over and say hello….you’re really gonna like her!

What She’s Doing Now: Jesika Knight

 

Until the next blog…be blessed!

Date Box-Your Relationship Matters

*I received a complimentary Date Box to test and review, however, all opinions are my own.

I spend a lot of time in my little corner of cyberspace talking about Safe Families and about putting action behind words. I have shared stories about hard moments and rewarding moments that come along with caring for those in crisis. However, there is an important part to our ministering to others that I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about….and it’s KEY to serving well!

We are able to serve as a family, because we are stable. We are a messy and imperfect family, but we are wholly committed to each other. And you know where that starts? God first, and then our marriage.

If Kevin and I were on shaky ground- if our marriage was full of bad communication and resentments and baggage, if I didn’t trust him or he didn’t trust me…there would be no way we could invite little ones who have been through hard things into our home. Do we need to have a perfect marriage to serve well? No. Which is good. Because fairy tales are fake. But we do need to have a solid foundation when we invite someone to shake up our already wild home.

There are lots of things Kevin and I do to keep our marriage strong. We talk a lot. We do a couples devotional. We pray for each other and sacrifice for each other. We have lots of fun as a family. One of the hardest things to do though, with 3 kids of our own and random babies and toddlers coming and going, is to take the time to do one on one activities that are more interactive than crashing on the couch together with a good movie at the end of the night (although, don’t get me wrong, that’s one of my favorite things to do!) Now we know about Date Box, though, and we are hooked!

Date Box is a monthly subscription helping couples rediscover date night. Each month they create a fun, unique date night and send you everything needed to enjoy it! They do the hard work of planning and putting it all together so that you and your spouse can simply enjoy a fun night.

It was so exciting to hear the doorbell ring and have a date night delivered right to us! We were able to take a sneak peak while the kids were awake and then plan a night to enjoy the box after their bedtime! For homebodies like Kevin and me-this is the BEST! So convenient and so fun!

First of all-the packaging was adorable! Date Box really goes all out! Everything was beautiful and so fun to open. We found the enclosed insert that explained our date night theme and it could not have been more perfect-Selfless Service. It was an ideal theme for our marriage because selfless service is something we are both committed to. The insert explained that we would get to focus on showing love by serving each other through a  relaxing spa night at home. They included a code for a massage tutorial, massage lotion, romantic music, organic chamomile tea and even chocolate!

The people at Date Box literally thought of everything. In addition to providing fun things for a relaxing date night, they also enclosed a booklet about why serving each other in marriage is vital. To go along with it, there was a beautiful embossed journal that I absolutely loved and Kevin immediately surrendered (because, serving!).

We all know that subscription boxes are a thing now. You can have make up, food, even razors shipped to your house once a month through various companies. This box is by far the most valuable I’ve seen. All of the excitement that a subscription box offers along with the opportunity to be intentional about time with your spouse.

If you are loving this idea like I am, I have great news!! Date Box has given me a promotional code to share with you! Go to https://www.getdatebox.com/ and use code KNIGHT25 to get 25% off of your first month! Be sure to let me know what you think of your date night! I’m sure you’ll love it as much as Kevin and I did!

Until the next blog…be blessed!

 

 

 

Hosting #21

Tomorrow marks 4 months since we picked up our current little house guest, baby R. She is our 21st hosting (CRAZY!) in the almost 3 years we have been with Safe Families. Our time as her host family is coming to a close and we are so excited about watching this family reunify! We are also excited to show her mommy, A, that we meant business when we said we would stick around long after the hosting.

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Baby R was 5 months old when we met her young mommy in a Starbuck’s and became fast friends. At that time, A did not have a stable place to live, spending much of her time in her car. She did not have any form of income, she was overwhelmed and teetering on the edge of sanity as she tried to juggle homelessness, family tensions, past abuse, full time college courses and a baby with literally no stable support system.

Fast forward and baby R is now 9 months old! She is pulling up on everything, scaling furniture, saying “mama” “dada” and “banana!” She has grown in size while her mommy has grown as a woman. For every milestone we have watch Baby R achieve, we have seen development in A as well.

Baby R will go home to an apartment that her Mommy worked hard to get. A will get her associate’s degree this summer. She has learned valuable lessons about managing money, about raising a baby, about the importance of taking care of your spiritual and mental health in addition to your physical health. But most importantly, we have been able to give her the gift of an extended family and she has given us the gift of growing our ever expanding circle of loved ones.

Has it been perfect? No. Has it been easy? Not even a little easy, friends. Has it been worth it? YES. YES. YES. For every second that fear has struck my heart because of the drama that inevitably comes with serving those in crisis, there have been many more seconds of my heart filling with pride and joy watching Baby R grow into a big girl and watching her Mommy grow into a woman.

There have been late nights and frantic phone calls and tears in these last 4 months. And we couldn’t have done it without our “people.” Our tribe. Our safety net and support. The ones who give us grace when we just can’t seem to get out of the house in time because our house guest just isn’t having it. The ones who respond to the “please pray right now” group texts. The ones who pick up extra clothes for a baby they’ve never seen or buy Christmas presents for a young mommy they will never know. You know who you are. But there is no way you could ever know how much you bless us over and over again. You are just as much a part of our work with Safe Families as we are. We could not do it without your selfless service and dedicated prayers. My heart will forever be grateful. Just thank you. Yes, YOU!

Will you join me in praying that this reunification is a successful one? That sweet A will feel confident in her ability to parent full-time again, that baby R will continue to grow and learn and develop close bonds with her mommy? We are so excited to see what God has in store for A and her baby girl and I hope that in a couple of years I’m able to update you guys on the huge progress that I have big hope they will continue to make!

Until the next blog…be blessed!