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Love that simply gives

“I filled it up. There are more left, but I stopped at 316.”

316?

“Yes. 316 mints.”

A jar. Filled to the top with 316 mints counted out by my daughter.

“You know. For John 3:16-For God so loved the world He gave…and you are giving.”

Or so I thought.

They, however, were never given. Instead all 316 sat on a shelf at work, attracting others to grab a few as they headed back to class.

For God so loved…

My hope was that each time a mint was given, someone felt a little more “loved.” That although the one for whom those 316 were originally intended never received them, others felt love that was offered with no strings attached. Just simply given.

For God so loved the world…

There was a part of me that resented those mints. I could not wait for them to all be gone, and I was determined I would not buy anymore-ever!

When I was encouraged to buy more, I remembered my initial reason for getting them in the first place. So that little “blessings” of love would be handed over to someone who needed it.

Because He gave…

And if He kept giving, certainly so could I. It didn’t matter what happened then, others needed me to give…now.

His one and only son…

He became flesh and dwelled among us. And my flesh was called to do the same. I had been placed in a new neighborhood. I was still called to go and love others, no matter what happened in the old one.

No matter what happened after the 316th mint was counted. It was still love that motivated the giving. Nothing else.

Whosever believes in Him…

No matter where circumstances may have moved me, I was still called to be the one who followed the example of the One. Who helped people feel as if they belonged. Feel cared for. Accepted. So that maybe in the giving, others would believe in Him, because they saw Him in me.

Something different. Someone like Jesus.

Shall not perish…

So that spirits would be quickened before unwise choices are made. To learn love does not fade when certain conditions are not met.

And if that love, belonging and connection comes from a silly mint.

So be it.

I know I would do it again. And again. And again.

All so someone can feel the love of God.

A love that simply gave.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in Loving Others

 

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The growing season

For over a year now, I have grown a deep affection for plants. The reasons and circumstances for this are a story in itself, and a subject for a later time…however, I used to absolutely hate them!

I could not keep anything alive. When my son and I did manage to plant anything, it either became food for the abundance of deer living in our parts, or just never bloomed.

Now, I have them everywhere. I am even known to stop and marvel at them on a walk.

My husband picks them up during trips to the grocery store.

My son has his own garden, that I enjoy watching grow on our patio or the windowsill. And I even like to watch them burst forth through concrete.

Those happen to be my favorite. Because it takes a heck of a lot of strength to grow in concrete, y’all!

What isn’t exactly my favorite is a plant’s “growing” season. It’s sometimes long. Sometimes dark. Mostly frustrating.

This is the season in which nothing is budding on those plants. You water and water but never see a bloom. The leaves are extra droopy. Sometimes the plant isn’t even very pretty to look at. And when you start to compare it to all those other plants? Those that grow and bloom without any fuss? Well, you start to want to give up on this one. It’s a dud. Not worthy of blooming. Just meant to rot away in its pot.

We are much like these plants. We have a “growing” season, too. And they aren’t all the same, but they don’t look or feel much different than that of a plant.

Maybe your growing season right now is in full bloom. You’ve been watered. Been looked after. Encouraged. The crop you are yielding is on full display for everyone to see.

Or…maybe right now you are planted in dry, parched land. Still trying to break through the hard surface. You are in a season of drought. Everything around you feels barren. Your leaves are droopy. Barely hanging on, and there are no buds ready to bloom in sight.

Maybe you are sitting by that big, pretty plant wondering what is taking you so long? When is your season coming?

Feeling like you are covered by a thick slab of concrete.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rain in the fall and the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. James 5:7

God will come to complete the harvest. It may not look like it now while everything around you is dry. Maybe the endless rains he has sent; those trials that leave you drowning in sorrow, feel like they are never going to end.

Be patient. At the end of this growing season, you won’t have to look around you at everything else in bloom. Comparing.

No. When you look, you will see that “winter is past. The rains are over and gone. The flowers are springing up, the season of singing of birds has come; and the cooing of turtle doves fills the air. The fig trees (that’s you, darling) are forming young fruit, and the grapevines are blossoming” (Song of Songs 2:11-13).

Rise up darling! You, beautiful one, are breaking through the concrete. In full bloom.

You, beautiful one, will grow in this season.

 
 

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“Feeding” a different beast

This past summer I spent the entirety of my time off in a period of self-care and healing. Working on and loving who God had created me to be. Part of that was understanding just how much I was loved. Through that process, I spent a lot of time in His Word, writing down a number of verses that spoke to my identity in Christ.

Thirty-one verses from God to remind me how awesome I was. That I could flip back to on those days when I didn’t feel so awesome.

But had I? Had I used them?

For about 2 weeks now there has been this on-going battle in my home over social media, whether or not to let the middle have Instagram to be exact. In the same 2 week span I’ve listened to parents who have struggled with setting limits with their own children over media usage, watched kids seek attention in negative ways, and even discussed the ways in which social media makes them “look good.”

Then yesterday in my own journal I wrote this:

I’ve been very distracted lately, Lord. It’s been hard to find my center. I’ve been distracted by people. By work. By media. By the news. And when I sit alone in this chair, I can’t filter it all out, and I get discouraged by what I have seen and heard all day. It’s hard to feel like I am succeeding in Your Wisdom when I am distracted by all that looks anything but kind, but instead looks ugly and dark. 

No, I hadn’t flipped back to those pages. I had scrolled through Pinterest looking for all the right words to make myself feel better when I felt ripped apart by mean ones. Vented on Facebook about crappy people, and the need to be more kind, but had I sought truth from His Word? Had I looked to Him to remind myself whose I was? No. I was distracted by my feed. And when I wasn’t distracted by those voices and trying to feed my soul with feel good videos, I was distracted by all the stories of evil lurking in the world. Discouraged all over again.

I can’t make media go away. It’s here to stay. It’s getting into the hands of kids at younger and younger ages.

But I can choose not to be distracted. Not to reach for it to validate what I may be feeling in the moment. Instead of reaching for His truth or calling out to Him.

I can set the example at least in my own home with my daughter. And, yes…maybe even for others. Because whether they want to admit it or not. They are watching. And what message do I want to send? That love comes from Him? Or how many likes, hits, streaks (whatever), retweets I get on a given post?

That every time I have an issue or have something to say it needs to be shared? Without consequence? That is why I write. To remember. But not everything is Facebook worthy. Not everything needs to be said out loud. Or should be posted for the world to see.

I want girls to know their worth cannot be measured by the number of likes they get on a picture. That life is also unfiltered, unaltered, completely messy, and not usually a highlight reel. That bodies come in all sizes. Even “pint-sized…,” like me. And most of us, yeh, we don’t “wake up like this.” I want boys to know that they are more than a rating scale. That God thinks they are a perfect ten. Even the ones that don’t fit in anywhere right now. That it is OK, more than OK to be nice. To be a gentleman. To stand up for a woman (or a boy) being treated badly. That’s the kind of man I would want in my corner!

That is what I will be sharing from now on.

Unfiltered. Some days with no makeup on. Some days in my pjs. Maybe days my face will be tear-soaked. There will be highlights and lowlights. It will not be perfect. It will be flawed. Guaranteed.

But fearfully and wonderfully made. Molded and made new. Loved by God in all its mess.

Just like you.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2019 in Broken, Yet Beautiful, On Purpose

 

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Let my words be sweet

“Because she is a crybaby. That’s why she is crying.”

Where did these words come from you ask? They were uttered from my youngest. The answer from the lips of my son after his sister had asked why tears had filled her mom’s eyes.

And, of course, after these words, I began to cry even more. Thinking…Where did he get that word from? Where did I go wrong? How did this word come from this one? The one who sees his mom love without limits and at all costs? Who forgives and forgets each time his anger turns to aggression? This is what he has learned?

We don’t call people “crybabies” in our house. We don’t use the “r” word. “Stupid” and “dumb” are banned. A curse word may fly every now and then, but hurtful words for the most part are not a part of our general conversation. We have taught our kids to use kind, gentle words when they speak to each other. To others. To use words to build up. Not to tear down.

But, I can’t always shield them from what they may hear in this world. I’ve seen the word “crybaby” used to describe anyone who dares to stand up to injustice. I’ve even been called one before this day when I’ve been caught crying after being hurt by people I care about.

So…would our children, my child learn something different, or learn to speak loving and kind words if we took time to use our words to build up while they watch?

Keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Psalm 34:13

I had been spending a lot of time over a number of days thinking about words. My children had spent a number of days passing harsh words back and forth amongst each other. I had contemplated the ways in which words had been used to hurt, deceive, and divide people over the course of a year. I had been hopeful that over that year mine had shown and spoken something different.

I had not anticipated to walk into Bible Study at all on Wednesday night. I am usually the one serving in some capacity. This night was supposed to be no different. But, as God often does, He had other plans. So, I walked into the room and heard this:

“People can hurt. They can frustrate. But, they are also our greatest treasure, and you and your words are very important to some other person.”

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Isaiah 50:4

The world. Satan and his crafty adversaries. They had convinced me that my words were failing. That I had nothing of worth to say. That any wisdom God had given me to comfort had been useless.

He had put me in that room right where I needed to be on this night to prove otherwise.

Here’s the thing:

Words have infinite power. They can heal a wounded soul. Or inflict tremendous pain. The words spoken to self or to others have the power to breathe life into a heart, or break one. Words of love and forgiveness can build or repair something beautiful. While words of hate and contempt can destroy it. Once spoken, whether sweet or bitter…they cannot be taken back.

Choose wisely.

Choose words that build beauty.

Choose words that give life.

Choose words of love.

Choose the words of Christ.

Be compassionate and careful. Especially with those you care so much about. Choose words that if repeated back the only thing you would hear are sweet, loving words softly spoken back to you.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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It’s lonely out here…

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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“In ministry, I have found that our own thoughts can be quite dangerous. We start second-guessing what we should have done, what should have been said, what could have been changed, or why we did one thing over another. The quiet times mulling over our thoughts can create sadness, discouragement, and sometimes even anger.”

This. From a fellow student of ministry in an ordination class I am taking. A class that for several weeks I have struggled to keep up with honestly. I’ll admit it. A class I am struggling not to fail.

This student had described exactly what I had been wrestling: loneliness, worry that I had goofed up, doubt. This need to have it all together. And, then the desperate want to just fall apart.

As pastors and shepherds, we are called to encourage. To guide. To lead others to know Jesus and His love in a way they have never known.

Yet, there are days I feel deeply discouraged and terrified that if I say the wrong thing I’ll guide and lead someone astray.

As His ambassadors of love, we are givers of grace, forgiveness, and apologies that we often have to swallow to give when we are the ones who have been hurt, because after all we are that “Christian pastor.” When what we want to do is scream at the abuser, lash out at the persecutor, or just plain scream at God for allowing the hurt at all.

We love even when it doesn’t make sense. And, most of the time it doesn’t make sense. Because it didn’t make sense for Jesus, either. And, we desperately want others to know this kind of love.

We follow His will despite doubt, fear, intimidation, and the flaming arrows of Satan.

And, on top of that we worry about every conversation. The devil beats us down about every flaw. He does one heck of a number on our heads. And, we often have very few we can talk to, because most look to us for the wisdom.

It’s lonely out here.

So, we offer the encouragement we so need ourselves.

For me…it’s twofold. Not only am I a shepherd. I also have the role as a counselor to children as my “day job.” I am looked to as their guide. The one to provide sound advice. Steer them in the right direction. Provide them with the “right” tools. Be an encourager. Sometimes even just safety, security, and even love.

But, I agonize over whether that guidance was right? What triggered that meltdown that I didn’t catch in time? Did I make a decision that may have caused hurt? Said something that triggered some emotional response?

Worried that one misstep could royally mess them all up.

It’s lonely out here.

But, the children still need guidance. Safety. Security. Love.

So, the encourager uses the words she needs to hear herself.

Can I offer a little advice? From a pastor? A counselor? A never-ending encourager?

If you have a champion in your life, throw that champion a floatie. Offer some words of encouragement for all those times they have saved you.

Because, it’s lonely out there. And, well…sometimes the encouragers need a little saving, too.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Mercy, Ministry and Education

 

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So that no one walks alone

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“I’m bored.”

“She’s an idiot. Why does she want to go to the pool so much.”

“You are the worst brother ever. You don’t ever want to do anything”

“You are stupid. I am sick of sitting by this stupid, stupid pool, stupid head.”

When they are not fighting over who gets the hour of free time. They fight over whose turn it is to go first.

When I am not rock-paper-scissoring these fights, I am dragging one kicking and screaming out of said pool after he has smacked me in front of everyone for asking him to sit down, and not ask me one more time when it is time to leave the “dummy” pool with “dummy Hayley.”

When I am not battling fights at the pool, I am battling them at the cabin, in a tiny room over whether they will play Monopoly or Clue, or even play a game at all. Whether Hunter is “boring,” or Hayley is once again “dumb” for even liking board games.

We were only away two days, and if the kids were not entertained every second they did not know what to do. They fought like 2 rabid pit bulls. Mommy could not please both, because neither of them seem to like the same things, and if they do it’s definitely not at the same time. The schedule Mommy tried to impose to ensure both got ample time at each activity of their choice is not working. Mom is frantic, has lost her cool, and then some, and needs something to sustain her.

Coffee can only go so far. And, after I head back into the pool. After the curly-headed monster has screamed a couple “nos” at me, and slapped at me again. As he stands there kicking at the fence and grunting, I realize that as I sit back down, I may be surrounded by a ton of people, but I am utterly and helplessly alone.

I don’t have anyone here to help carry this load when I can’t split myself in two.

No one is reassuring me that my parenting decision was not one that will scar him for life.

That my daughter won’t resent all the time her younger brother takes from her.

Instead, this frantic mom wanted to find a corner, and kick at the fence herself. Or, at least find a small hole to crawl into. I was embarrassed, frustrated, feeling under appreciated, and then it happened. The tears I was trying so hard to fight, finally just fell.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Until, one mom saw the tears falling as I sat on the side of that pool. As I sat trying to hide them neatly underneath the big hat I wore.

“What are your kids names? Are they coming back in a few weeks for camp?”

I explained that yes, the oldest one surely, but that curly-headed monster…more than likely-no. He had autism, and with it some issues that he just couldn’t get over that kept him from enjoying it.

“Oh, my oldest has Aspergers. I totally understand. It’s hard.”

There it was. Relief.

Someone who had seen my mommy moment. My “I want to melt right here and disappear” moment, and reached out.

And, even if this Mom didn’t understand what I was going through in that moment, she tried.

I know God is with me. I know in those moments when I feel alone, I can call on Him, and He will be there.  However, he has wired us for human connection.  And, there are times I desperately need that. And, I am pretty sure you do, too.

And with this connection comes His desire for us to share each other’s burdens. To walk with a mom who is having a hard time. So she isn’t sitting at the pool feeling so alone.

It will take us out of our comfort zones. This I know is true, but it will also breath life into some desperate soul wanting to give up. Hope into a weary parent who sees only their failings.

“I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” Matthew 25:43

In a world that appears to be hurting and hiding it well, reaching outside your comfort zone, provides light to someone who may feel all alone in their struggles. May give someone the ability to reach out next time they feel like giving up. Screaming. Or running for the hills. Most importantly, it shows them the love of our Savior.

We are called to be that light to others as a community of believers, but the question is- are we? Are we like that Mom at the pool, willing to see the tears that fall, and get a little messy with them? Or do we steer clear, not wanting to have anything to do with that? When we ask someone how they are doing, do we really stop and wait for their answer? Or, are we offering fly-by conversation out of obligation, an “I’m asking how you are because I have to’s” with no desire to really know? Jesus certainly never stopped to wonder if someone was worthy of his time when he saw others hurting, or marched on intent on getting to his next stop. Neither should we.

Let’s be a little more messy. Jump in, walk with someone a while, and leave people a little less alone. You could be just the friend someone needs that particular moment or day. You could be the hope that Mom needs to just keep going. The reason someone’s tears suddenly disappear. The reason someone doesn’t melt into a puddle at the pool. It may take some time. It may be uncomfortable, but it will ensure that no one ever walks through their mess alone.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Autism and Faith, Loving Others

 

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Mom: One beautiful, slimy, mess

Mom: One beautiful, slimy, mess

I have a confession when it comes to the idea of the “perfect” mom. It has to do with my kitchen. Well, let me be honest, the downstairs portion of my house. The parts of the house that people can see.

See, I have this deep hatred of slime-making. For about 4 months this summer and fall my kitchen became a slime-making factory. Which means that glue, Tide, and glitter stuck to my counter and floor for 4 solid months. It also meant that my kitchen, the first part of my house that people saw when they walked in, was a mess. My counters looked like the dough boy had taken a poo, and Tinkerbell had blessed it. The stuff just would not come up. I eventually banned the slime, so my kitchen could be “perfect” again. So people could think I had my stuff together. So they could think I knew how to take care of my household. That I was the “perfect” mom. Had a Neat. Tidy. Well organized. Spotless. Glueless. Glitterless kitchen. “Perfect.”

My outward appearance could once again measure up to the standards that others deemed appropriate. That others decided made great mom material.

Here is the thing about outward appearances: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Since I banned slime those months ago, I have been put through some fires. Those fires have made me become more present, and more cognizant of what makes me who I am, and less worried about who others think I should be. More focused instead on who God has made me to be. It has also made me more observant of the high expectations the world places on others. The expectations that have nothing to do with what God measures.

I noticed something this weekend as I spent time with my family at the local carnival. Without spending time through the lens of my phone for once, I spent time observing those around me. In line for one of the rides was one mom whose look was unconventional. She had piercings in her ears, in her nose, in her eyebrows. Her hair was shaved on the sides, with long braids adorning the hair she decided to leave. Her child had a shaved, poofy mohawk, and she held another child in her arms. Her appearance didn’t bother me at all. What bothered me were the looks she got. She wasn’t an inattentive mom. She was lovingly sharing a snow cone with the kid she was kissing and holding in her arms. She had her other child securely beside her in a wagon. She never took her eyes off her children. She was like any mom enjoying a Friday night out with her man and their kids. What bothered me were the stares. Like she could not be a mom and look this way.

So, then I wondered, what about me? Pink hair. Nose ring. Tattoos. Mom. Grandma, too. Guess, this isn’t what we should look like.

Or what about the kids that didn’t happen to have parents there. Oh my gosh the shame. You mean they were not being helicoptered all night? You mean they were being treated like we lived in the 80s? Where in the world were those parents? No wonder they were scurrying around, hitting each other on the heads with inflatable hammers, and running around pretending to swim with donut swim tubes. It must be their lack of home training. And I must lack it too since I chuckled, and remembered being a kid. Before life got too heavy. Remembered being a kid. One who had clear boundaries at home. Who wasn’t allowed to jump on furniture. Who definitely got in trouble if I dared to hit my brother with anything, even something inflatable. But would do it every chance I got if my mom wasn’t looking.

 

But, as I chuckled. I saw at least five more snicker.

So. What about me? The same goofy kid about 30 years ago? What about my kids who swing unsupervised in the park, while yes…mom may spend some time on her phone? Because, well…she wants a bit of a break. And, just doesn’t want to swing today. What about my kids who wrestle on the floor, sometimes have to be reminded not to run out in traffic, and still forget that sand should never be thrown on another families beach towel? Guess we deserve a snicker, too.

My kids thankfully don’t care about my tattoos. They don’t even think twice when I come home with pink hair or a nose ring. And because of this they don’t think twice when they see these things or any difference in someone else either. And, that is great. What they need is a mom who understands that life is messy. And the new mom in our lives, the one raising our grandson, needs this message, too. That we don’t need to be neatly pressed, and perfect all the time to be beautiful and relevant. That sometimes we just need to get in the kitchen and let them make slime.

And, I did just that a week ago with 5 preteen girls. Yes, I lifted the slime ban. And for once I didn’t fuss about the mess. I didn’t constantly go behind them and wipe up the counters, and a week later I am still wiping up cornstarch off my floor, and I don’t even care.

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 I don’t want my kids to see me stressing over the state of my kitchen. I want them to embrace mine and their differences. The ways in which God made them perfect. I want them to see me laughing in the kitchen as their friends tear it up making slime. I don’t want them to worry that someone is going to comment in the Starbucks line that they are too young for coffee. I want them to be happy that their mom treated them to something special that day. And, I never want my daughter to lose the passion she utters when she tells me and the rest of us: “Who cares! Who cares what anyone else thinks!”

It’s OK if our life is a little slimy. If our kitchen is a little messy. If you can’t eat off your floors. If the laundry has been sitting on your bed, unfolded for days. If your youngest is the loudest one in children’s church, and you are the pastor. If you have pink hair, short hair, long hair, nose rings, or like no jewels.

Whatever the differences. Whatever the preferences. However God made you. However God made me. I want my kids to remember I was present. I was laughing. I was completely imperfect and OK with it. Because, God knows I am perfect, and that I am the perfect mom for them.

And he made you the perfect mom, grandmother, wife, aunt, daughter, niece, and mentor, too.

Body and soul, I am marvelously made! Psalm 139:14, MSG

Go! Embrace and be present in your slimy, yet perfectly imperfect marvelously made mess today!

 
 

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